This was written in March of 2015 right after we finished our family vacation down south…
Home has never meant so much to me as it has these past few days. We recently ended our “vacation,” and we wanted to share with you how it went. This blog is more than just dry tidbits of how to live as an entrepreneur; rather, it is a written journey of what we learn and go through in real life, so we will be sharing from time to time some random adventures that we go on starting with this one. (I hope they get better from here!)
I truly hope you will laugh with us as we share this with you. Please don’t see this as a big complaint (trust me, there was complaining), but that you will see this as a funny adventure that only God can so humorously and graciously plan for us.
We had plans to stop at a few places on our road trip down to Florida and back. We bought a big 1998 32’ Class A RV about a month before we planned to leave.
Let me tell you, I LOVED our RV. It was bigger and newer than I thought we would get. It had a slide-out, which meant that there was plenty of room for the boys to play Legos and trains inside when we were parked. It had a bathroom with a tub, lots of sleeping space, and the best view when driving down the road.
We bought it with plans of maybe living in it in the future if we did some traveling around the country. Let’s just say, we’ve been scarred forever, and before we even got home, we made plans of cleaning it up and selling it the week we got back.
Anyway, before we rewind back to the beginning of the trip, let me give you a few pointers if (after you read this) you still want to buy an RV.
- NEVER ROADTRIP IN SUBZERO TEMPS!!!!
- MAYBE TAKE A 100-MILE TEST TRIP TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING WORKS!!!
- FOR YOUR FIRST TRIP WITH A BIG “BUS” LIKE WE HAVE, PLAN AN EASY ROADTRIP ON FLAT GROUND IN THE SUMMER WITH NO WIND, ICE, SNOW, RAIN, MOUNTAINS, OR HILLS!!!
- LASTLY, MAKE SURE IF YOU GO, THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE TAKING WITH YOU!!!
All right, I think I covered all of the bases, so back to our original plan. In order, this is what we were going to do on our road trip. We planned on it lasting about 10-12 days. We started out with our family of four, my sister, my niece, and my mother in law. I also want to say that TRUCK STOPS ARE A GODSEND, AND I WILL NEVER LOOK AT THEM THE SAME!
Ok, continuing on:
- Leave Thursday morning, drive as far as we can, and then sleep for the night.
- Continue to drive to North Carolina to drop my sister off at her friend’s house where she will stay a few days and then fly to my other sister’s college in Louisville.
- After a quick drop off in North Carolina, we would then head to South Carolina to visit family for a few days.
- Drive to Florida and spend a wonderful vacation, visiting friends in the sun and warmth.
- When done getting tan, relaxing and hanging out with friends, head to Louisville to visit above sister for a day or two.
- Then head to northern Indiana to pick up a puppy for mother-in-law.
- Head home.
That doesn’t sound too bad right? We planned on taking our time and not sticking to a strict schedule. We had everything packed, and ready to go Wednesday night, so the only thing we had to do on Thursday was get in and go!
Because there were so many things that happened on this trip, and because I don’t want to write a novel, I will break it down for you in chronological order (like I said, this is a long post, and there’s more than 30 steps…). Are you ready?
- Attempt to start the RV in -20 degree weather Thursday morning. Spend over an hour charging it and jumping it.
- Drive a few hours only to realize that our generator didn’t work which meant that we couldn’t watch any movies on our brand new flat screen that we bought. This also meant that we could not use the microwave- something that we planned on using a lot as we drove, so we didn’t have to make so many stops to eat out. Not the end of the world thought right?! We stopped 3-4 times over the course of the day to try and get the generator going but had no luck. We ended up stopping at a truck stop in Wisconsin to heat up our Plantation Hotdish (yes, we’re from Minnesota).
- After that stop, we finally felt like we were on the road again and ready to make some headway. (O Wisconsin, you’re beautiful, but you take so stinking long to drive through!)
- That day we made it until about 5am when our RV just shut down on the interstate near Dayton, Ohio. (There’s always a sinking feeling when that happens, but trust me, you start to get used to it when it happens multiple times) Now let me say, it is not a very happy place to be when you’re stuck on the side of the interstate with cars and millions of semi’s racing past you in the dark when your hazard lights do not work because the battery is completely dead! Luckily, the state trooper showed up and put cones down so nobody would run into us while driving by (FYI, state troopers in Ohio are very friendly and tell funny, random stories).
- We called our roadside assistance, and they hooked us up with a tow truck, and our troop was escorted to a hotel in two police cars because we couldn’t all fit in the tow truck. We then spent the day at the Hampton Inn (with a pool…that’s always important with the kids!) and even enjoyed a continental breakfast with waffles (which is also very important!)
- After getting a new battery put in, the repair shop said we were ready to get back on the road. By this time, it was already past suppertime, so we were ready to head out of Ohio and make up for the last 12 hours. Well, we got a few miles down the road, and it shut down again (pardon my non-technical auto terms), but Ken was able to start it right back up. By this time, my sister started wondering if she should just rent a car and head to North Carolina since she only had a few days to visit. That ended up not working, so we decided to just go for it and head down the road.
- I don’t think that was the best idea….
- Somewhere around 2:30 am in the mountains of West Virginia about a half an hour of Charleston, we stopped to get gas….and after filling up, the RV wouldn’t start….again. (sinking feeling). Because we were beginning to get the hang of this, we called roadside assistance, and they hooked us up with a tow truck for the second time.
- By then, it started snowing (aka an ice storm) in the mountains, on the West Virginia Turnpike (which means roads where millions of semis drive 100mph around sharp curves and up and down mountainous roads). This is what I mean when I say MAYBE PLAN AN EASY ROADTRIP ON FLAT GROUND IN THE SUMMER WITH NO WIND, ICE, SNOW, RAIN, MOUNTAINS, OR HILLS!!!
- We also were running out of propane, which meant that we would not have heat before long, and the temperature was in single digits. It took almost 3 hours for the tow truck to come, and in the meantime, we tried to keep the kids sleeping while we packed up some things to bring with us to the hotel while the RV got fixed. We thought this would only be a day, so we didn’t pack much.
- The towing company made arrangements with a driver to pick us up in his car and bring us to a hotel. Boy was that the most expensive taxi ride that I hope to never take again not to mention having my life flash before my eyes as the driver drove at speeds way to fast for those weather conditions! We also just so happened to pick the spot in the country that was less than twenty miles from where a major train accident had happened only days before which meant that ALL THE NEAREST HOTELS WERE BOOKED!!! So we headed to the next town, which happened to be Charleston where hotels abounded.
- After stopping at two or three hotels because they either didn’t have a pool and hot tub or continental breakfast (sorry, we had to be picky if this was going to replace our Florida vacation dreams), we settled with the Sheraton in downtown Charleston. I don’t know what it is with that part of the country, but lots of the hotels DIDN’T HAVE HOT TUBS!!! We were hoping for just an hour of relaxation but instead we played in the cold pool with the kids (my youngest spent more time in the warm shower that you’re supposed to rinse off in than he did in the actual pool!)
- By this time, it was Saturday evening, and we found out that the RV repair shop was not going to have the right part until Monday. We spent the night at the hotel and had to check out and head to a different one Sunday morning because the one we stayed at was booked.
- Let me tell you, WE ARE SO GRATEFUL FOR HOTEL SHUTTLE SERVICES!!! They were so gracious to us (actually I think they just pitied us after hearing about our long lost dreams of vacationing in Florida). Just for the record, we really thought it would be fun to travel with our RV- it was new way for our family to conveniently travel and it WAS exciting. Anyway, the hotel shuttles went above and beyond and even picked up dinner for us at TGI Fridays, brought us to our RV where it was getting fixed so we could grab more clothes and food, they brought us to different hotels because they were booked for the night, and they brought us to the mall so we could hang out somewhere other than our room. We are truly grateful for these people!
- So Monday rolls around, and Ken calls the RV repair shop in the morning only to find out that the wrong part was delivered (sinking feeling again). This meant that we would spend another night in a hotel. DID I MENTION THAT PART OF THE REASON WE TRAVELED WITH THE RV WAS SO THAT WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO PAY FOR HOTELS????!!!!
- The hotel we were at was, you guessed it, booked for the night, so we called around and got shuttled to The Holiday Inn, which had a large pool, a hot tub, and a kiddie pool! We were livin’ the good life (except for the fact that the first two days the pool was either closed for repairs or sooo cold that we could barely dip our toes in). But we got a room with plenty of beds and a kitchen, and the hotel had continental breakfast (no waffles though) and a parrot who sat in the lobby that we would visit many times a day to say hello. I guess you take what you can get.
- By now it was Tuesday. At least 4 out of 6 of us had been sick (I was more ill than I had been in years), we were wearing the same two outfits for the last few days (and no, they were not the many pairs of shorts and flip flops that we packed in hopes of wearing), and the RV repair plaice who said it would be fixed by noon did not look promising.
- My sister, who completely missed the opportunity to visit her friend in North Carolina, decided to rent a car and drive to Louisville to visit our other sister before she missed that opportunity too (thank the Lord we were in a big city with an airport and rental car place nearby). Bless your heart dear sister for enduring this (interesting, unexpected, kind of awful) journey with us. So that afternoon she was off and free like a bird. She arrived in Louisville three hours later, and I can’t imagine how overjoyed she probably was.
- Meanwhile in the hotel, Ken decided to treat his mom and I to a massage. The lady agreed to come to our room and set up her table for us. Let’s just say that every event on this trip has been, for lack of a better word or to keep from cursing, different than we expected, and the massage was no different. She had the strongest hands and fingers that I’ve ever experienced and gave the deepest tissue massage a person could have asked for. I’m not saying it wasn’t nice; it was just, well…deep. I guess we were stressed?!
- That night our hotel was booked, so we were shuttled to yet another hotel, The Comfort Inn (yes they had a pool and a hot tub and waffles if you were wondering). However, they did not have a shuttle service. We really needed to get a few essentials at Wal Mart down the road (actually it was waaaay up the road…. at the top of a hill.…that we walked up….oy!) Needless to say, we called a taxi to drive us back to the hotel.
- The next morning, you guessed it, we were not able to stay past noon because they were booked. It was already Wednesday, and Ken called the RV place about ten times that morning making sure THAT IT WILL BE FIXED BECAUSE WE ARE NOT PAYING FOR ANOTHER HOTEL!!! We got shuttled to the mall for the second time where we spent the remainder of the day.
- Ken was still in contact with the RV place, and by 8pm that evening, we were picked up in a super comfortable Lincoln Towncar and brought to our RV! I apologize, taxi driver, for my niece puking all over your back seat. Whoops!
- We actually thought we were getting out of West Virginia! (Sorry, West Virginia, but maybe we will have better memories when we actually plan to stay with you for five days!) The state was beautiful, and the people were kind, but because of their 30 degree temps which was about 20 degrees below average for that time of year, it was cold and icy, so we couldn’t even get out to enjoy it.
- To our luck, it started snowing, and DRIVING AN RV IN THE MOUNTAINS, IN THE SNOW, AT NIGHT IS NOT IDEAL, so we needed to find a place to pull over and stay the night. We had one problem though- remember how I said that we were running out of propane? Well, we still didn’t have any, so in order to stop and avoid staying at yet another hotel, we needed to find a place to fill up. This is usually a truck stop, but finding one that has someone available to help you fill up is the tricky part. The first one we called didn’t have propane. We called a second place, and they had propane; however, they didn’t have anyone to fill it until 7 am, and we needed it right then and there at like 12 am! Well, we thought about it, then called back and told them our situation out of desperation, and I think they took pity on us because the guy said that he could fill it right away.
- We stayed the night at the truck stop somewhere in Virginia, and by early morning we were back on the road. We made it to South Carolina later that afternoon, and let me tell you, it felt sooo good to finally have reached a planned destination. We enjoyed such a wonderful time with family just hanging out, eating home cooked meals, laughing, and playing outside in the “warm” 45-degree weather. We can’t wait to come back soon (most likely by plane or even a dependable car)!
- By this time, Florida was long out of the question as we had already wasted 5 days and a lot of money fixing our RV, staying at hotels and eating out. After our last lunch together, we headed back on the road. By this time, it was Saturday, and we were unexpectedly invited to a friend’s house in the back hills of Tennessee for supper.
- GUESS WHAT?! We made it to Tennessee with clear skies and no RV breakdown! This was the first time on the trip that we didn’t experience anything unplanned. And let me tell you, THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS ARE ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!! Somewhere in Tennessee, we met up with a lady in the mountains who Ken contacted from craigslist, and we picked up a part to fix the RV generator. Nothing like a good (craigslist, not drug) deal in the mountains of Tennessee!
- That evening we arrived somewhere in Tennessee where we parked at the bottom of the driveway only to climb up the BIGGEST HILL I HAVE EVER SEEN A HOUSE SIT ON! I considered our house that we live in “a house on a hill”, but mine looked like an anthill in comparison with this Mount Kilimanjaro of a hill. We were so thankful to be invited into our friend’s home and enjoyed a home cooked meal, made up for many long lost years with good conversation, and before the night was over, we were headed to Louisville.
- We arrived in Louisville late Saturday night and planned on going to church in the morning with my family. They picked us up (driving a 32 foot RV and parking it on the side of the street in downtown Louisville was not something we were going to risk), we went to Krispy Kreme and headed to church. Sister, why did we think it was a good idea to sugar up the kids before a long church service?!
- Anyway, church was beautiful despite the crazy kidlets, and I completely understand why she loves everyone there so dearly. People, church is about love, and this church exemplifies that so well. The remainder of the day, we enjoyed each other’s company at Boyce College and Bass Pro Shops (Grandpa’s choice).
- Our plan was to spend the night, and then head home and pick up the puppy on the way, but we were so anxious to get home that we left later that evening. Let me rephrase that, we TRIED to leave later that evening. On the way out of town, we needed to get gas, so we stopped at a gas station right outside of the city. However, the brakes locked up on us as we were leaving the gas station (sinking feeling once again). This meant that we could not drive.
- We spent over an hour googling the problem and trying to figure out what was wrong. In the end, Ken got under the RV and disconnected the parking brake system which meant the rest of the way home we could not use our brakes when we parked (so we either found a flat place to park, someone had their foot on the brake the entire time we were stopped, or we put the leveling things down to keep us planted). It wasn’t the end of the world, but it just added to everything else. Not to mention that Ken’s life flashed before his eyes as he disconnected the brakes and noticed the entire RV start to roll as he was under it! I guess that parking lot was not as level as he had thought. Luckily it just rocked back a tiny bit otherwise it would have crushed him. Yikes!
- I’m sorry, this post grew and grew, and I should probably wrap it up soon. We finally got on the long awaited flat roads of Indiana where we uneventfully parked for the night and slept a solid few hours. We woke up Monday morning, picked up the puppy, drove through Illinois and Wisconsin, and we finally arrived back home in frigid Minnesota around suppertime. And man, it never felt soooooo good to be home.
I am exhausted just writing about our adventure! Let’s just say that our RV is in great working condition now; however, we are selling it due to major scarring and shattered dreams. We joke that nobody will ever want to vacation with us again, but hey, we’re up for practice!
When I said earlier to MAKE SURE IF YOU GO, THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE TAKING WITH YOU, I really meant it. I couldn’t have asked for better people to travel with. I’d say we all handled our circumstances pretty well, and now we can look back on it and laugh at the memories we created (though it may take 10 years to laugh about this…we’re still deeply scarred!)
All three kids did amazing, and they honestly didn’t know anything was wrong for the most part. They loved the pools, sitting in the front seat of the RV, and all the other random little things. We truly tried to make the best of it, and we learned A LOT of tips for future traveling!
Until next time,