We all know our great country is made of 50 states and we have all heard of people that have seen them all. We WANT to be those people! Years ago, we decided that our goal was to take the kids to all 50 states before they graduated (luckily we didn’t specify what they were graduating from😊).
So, began our travels. Of course, at first there were only 2 Js when the idea began and traveling with 2 was fairly simple and could be really affordable. Fast forward several years and with 8 Js, planning is more intense and costs are dramatically increased. Our return on investment is high and I do embrace the challenge of planning an amazing trip on a budget.
At this point we have been to 38 states with plans in the works for 7 more the summer of 2019. We are running down to the wire with the “graduation” deadline for J1. But, he doesn’t hold this against us and promises he will come “back” for the trips (Ha).
Visiting 50 States to us meant more than “driving through”. We committed that we would do some type of activity in each state. There have been museums, amusement parks, scenic overlooks, hikes, and roadside attractions. We have searched out common places, unique places, places recommended by locals, and even places we just accidently came across.
Three years ago, we embarked on a new type of travel and rented an RV. A simple 29-foot Class C with no slides and headed to the Southwest. We were novices. Sure, we had camped in tents and even had a pop-up trailer for a while; but, this was something totally new. There were a few glitches along the way – like not being able to disconnect the water hose at the first campground and discovering what wind feels like in the middle of nowhere when the speed limit is 80 (not for the motion sick at all). However, there were some really great things along the way.
This first trip led us to Cadillac Ranch; White Sands National Park; Roswell New Mexico; Tombstone, Arizona; a stop in Phoenix for MrTB4M to actually work; a visit to the Grand Canyon; The Hoover Dam; and Las Vegas. Now let me tell you this – to all those who complain about driving in traffic…..MrTB4M drove the RV straight down the Las Vegas strip without missing a beat. Not only did he drive down the strip, he did it more than once!
RV life was good -we could cook when we wanted; kids could use the bathroom when they needed to; there was more room than the van. Now the first time we stopped to “hook up” (the RV) it probably took an hour and I am pretty sure MrTB4M might have had a few choice words for us all, until finally we had it done. Now the next morning when we were ready to leave was a whole new story – another 40 minutes to disconnect a few hoses and cords and be on our way. By the end of the trip these set ups and break downs were 10 minutes tops and everyone old enough to help – did. The ride home we thought we be smooth sailing – until the 2-year-old came down with a stomach bug. MrTB4M drove and we all cleaned up puke for 14 hours☹ and crossed our fingers that no one else would get it.
We arrived back in STL and immediately we were ready to go again. That is except for J3. It was not something he enjoyed at all. He swore he would never make another RV trip and we promised that he would. Well in 2017 we won – and off we went again. This time it was a 31-foot Class C with 2 slides.
This time we went to Wall Drug; Mount Rushmore; Devil’s Tower; Jewel Cave; The Battle of Little Bighorn; Glacier National Park; Craters of the Moon National Park; and Yellowstone.
The thing about this trip was we knew where we were going, and that was it! We had no reservations and no real time line other than when we would be back. The planner in me did not enjoy this aspect; and trying to make reservations in the middle of nowhere when you lose cell services is absolutely no fun. But, somehow it all worked out and even J3 might have enjoyed himself.
If we had the chance to do this trip again, we would have added longer time at Glacier and Yellowstone. We just couldn’t cover the areas we wanted to and missed large parts of each place. Perhaps our biggest disappointment was that we never saw a bear. We did see some amazing sites and the outdoor Mass at Glacier Park was magnificent. Experiencing Mass in the outdoor amphitheater with the lake and mountains in the background was something we will never forget.
Of course, we also won’t forget that on July 1st we were hiking in shorts and t-shirts through snow that covered our shoes and near some paths the snow was packed several FEET deep; that there was ice in the caves at Craters of the Moon when the temperature outside was nearing 100 degrees; that the bison blocked our road through Yellowstone; or the history that spoke at the Battle of Little Bighorn Battlefield.
It is trips like these that really make us focus on being on FIRE so that they can happen more often. We want the TIME to spend with the family doing things that make memories and bring us closer together.
While we work towards that, plans for our next big trip are in the works. We have 7 states to visit in the northeast and can’t wait to begin the adventure.