Week 6 is our last week of life off the road. It was a very low key week from a travel perspective so we have been itching to get back in the RV and start moving west. Of course it has been amazing to visit family and friends, but we took this plunge for the adventure and unknown and we are certainly not ready to slow down just yet. We wrapped up our visits with Ashley’s family in Wisconsin and for our last stop before entering back into RV life we stayed the weekend at a beautiful farm house in La Farge, Wisconsin with some friends from Georgia who love us so much they flew out to see us. This is also our first official week with Jack, Ashley’s 10 year old little brother and Evelyn’s uncle, he is tagging along with us for 3 weeks before we fly him home from Montana.
Head Water Farm – La Farge, Wisconsin
Head Water Farm was a beautiful farm house we rented for the weekend. We had friends coming up from Georgia to visit and figured instead of all packing into the camper we would rent a home for the weekend. We opted to rent in a small town on our route west in La Farge. This turned out to be a great choice!
The home had so much offer the game room above the garage, with ping pong and foosball we had too much fun and may have gotten a bit too competitive at times. A small creek flowing through made for fun in the water, we walked up the creek, built a dam, splashed around and caught craw dads. Evelyn was enjoying throwing her water bottle into the stream to watch it float down, unfortunately she secretly threw it in as we were leaving and we never saw that bottle again. We had a great fire pit for s’mores, cooking hot dogs and of course general pyro activities.
We couldn’t have picked a better final stop before wandering west with no more rest stops with families or time in homes without wheels, it is time we get back to what this trip was all about.
While staying in La Farge at the AirBNB we knew we had to make it out to Lacrosse to see Ashley’s best friend Ashley, yes that’s right they share a name. We had an outstanding visit, we had a chance to go into the downtown area where our Ashley got a pair of hiking sandals before we made our way to the river walk. Lucky for us they were having a river festival so Evelyn and Jack got to listen to live music and jump their hearts out in a bounce house. To wrap it up we strolled over the the Lacrosse farmers market and had lunch. We wish we had more time in the area, but our time was drawing near and the road was calling our names!!!
Ashley’s little brother Jack is joining us for this week and the next 2 weeks of our journey west. He is an amazing kid and he and Evelyn love each other more than anything. He will keep us entertained, keep Evelyn worn out and let us in on what the kids are up to these days. We hope to repay him with a strong dose of the traveling spirit and an appreciation for this amazing country we’re blessed enough to live in.
Week 5 was our last stretch of familiar territory. Staying in Ashley’s home town, surrounded by family and taking some time to prepare for the road ahead. As far as travel goes on our journey we didn’t move an inch, however we were on the move non-stop. We spent plenty of time with family, a few days enjoying Milwaukee, some time upgrading the RV dining space and Ashley did some meal prepping while she had her relatives full-size kitchens at her disposal.
Summerfest – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
If you don’t know what Summerfest is, it is the world’s largest music festival! It lasts 11 days, with 11 stages and 800 bands come to play, lucky for us we were just in time. Now an event like this can get a little bit interesting at times which is why we went on a Thursday at noon on their advertised “family day”. Evelyn loves music and dancing so we were forced to stop for a few minutes at each stage and bust some moves, we even danced some to a “battle rap” if you can imagine that. We dug in on a huge turkey leg, some mozarella sticks and introduced Evelyn to the joys of Lemonade for the first time, let’s just say she’s hooked. If you’re ever in the Milwaukee area in early July make sure to put Summerfest on your list!
Miller Park – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
When we’re in Milwaukee we always make time for a trip to Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. The great thing about the park is that it’s open even when it’s not a game day! There is a TGI Fridays that is open year round, inside the park overlooking the field, so we always make plans to go there for lunch when we’re in town. Evelyn got to spend some time out on the balcony checking out the field, watching some players practice which was pretty cool and she also tested out some gear in the team shop! Brad took some time to fly the drone over the stadium, but didn’t quite work up the nerve to fly down into it… we thought that might cross a few lines.
Miller Brewery – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Miller Brewery is a great stop for anyone looking to see not only how Miller drinks are made, but how they get from Milwaukee to the rest of the world. You get a look at the production, packaging and shipping lines of the brewery as well as a look into the past. With a brief history of the founder Frederick Miller and a look at the Miller Caves where they used to keep the beer cold in underground caves surrounded by ice before modern chill facilities and packaging that no longer requires refrigeration were created. Most importantly you get free beer! You are your choice of 3 drink samples to have on site at their beautiful outdoor Beer Garden, and their “samples” are very generous.
Green Meadows Farm – Waterford, Wisconsin
Green Meadows Farm was a very nice petting farm just outside of East Troy in Waterford Wisconsin. This farm had a wonderful difference from most others in that many of the small animals such as cats, rabbits, guinea pigs were being fostered and were up for adoption, so you could come in and pet them and fall in love and if you were a good candidate you could take them home. It was also great because they had a dairy cow being milked and they would allow you to milk the cow under their supervision. Jack did a great job and Evelyn almost tried, but then smartly thought better of it. We enjoyed our day there spending time with Ashley’s mom and brother!
We haven’t talked much about food on the blog yet, but if you don’t know Ashley is an amazing cook! We eat about 90% of our meals in the RV and typically only eat out on a busy travel day or when we stumble across something we just have to have. So it really helps that we have such wonderful food served up for breakfast, lunch and dinner! While we were in Wisconsin with family Ashley took advantage of her Aunt Dana’s full size kitchen. She prepped huge batches of Eggplant Parmesan which is our favorite meal and for dessert, Tiramisu, we just freeze meal size portions separately and pop it in the freezer… ASHLEY FINISH THIS SECTION UP IM BUTCHERING IT
When we originally gutted and renovated the RV before hitting the road we thought our Ikea dining room table and chairs would be perfect, the table could be opened half way to seat 3 and save space, or opened fully to seat 6, the chairs and table could also be folded all the way down for travel. This sounded perfect for space efficiency in such tight quarters. However after just 1 month on the road we realized the constant folding, and unfolding, not to mention tying them down for each travel day just became a burden. So while we had some down time this week, with some help from Ashley’s dad and his friend Carl we brought to life a new vision for the dining space. Ashley hit the ??? store and bought a beatiful slap of Ash wood and a lower cabinet as well as some table legs. We then measured and cut everything to fit with the legs supporting one end of the table and the cabinet supporting the other end. Ashley then sanded and stained the table top which turned out amazing! We screwed the table to the wall and floor and got a set of stools from Target to finish the job. We now think this functions 100% better and looks and feels much cleaner!
When you’re RV’ing with a toddler there are different challenges that come with the territory. You want to make the most of your time and for the parents that means being prepared which can make your travels a lot easier. We aren’t going to cover the basics like diapers and wipes, clothes and a crib, we want to dive into the items specific to being in an RV with a small child. We are frugal, but there are some areas we do spend money because the price is well worth the value these items bring. Here is a list of the top 8 items we recommend when taking to the road with a baby on board.
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This is an absolutely outstanding bottle for children, it doesn’t spill even a drip when turned over (unlike other bottles it actually doesn’t leak). It can also handle being dropped, thrown, chewed on and pretty much anything else a typical kid does to bottles. Take it from an SLP (Ashley) that the big bite valve mouthpiece that Camelback offers is exceptional for children moving away from sippy cups and into straws. They also come with fun designs for kids so it doesn’t take much convincing to get them to use it. You can find the a bottle just like the one we have by Clicking Here.
For us a baby monitor is a must have, your child is in a new place constantly and getting used to their new space so you will want to keep an eye on them. We definitely recommend a monitor with not only audio and video but also a temperature gauge. The temperature gauge is a big deal because the temperatures from room to room in an RV can vary greatly depending on insulation and heating/AC ventilation in that room. For us that means Evelyn’s room gets much hotter and colder than the rest of the house, therefore we need to adjust the thermostat based on her needs even if that means we are a little too hot or cold on our end. Lastly, look for a camera and monitor that are battery powered, this will allow you to dry camp for longer and more comfortably knowing that you aren’t draining your RV battery bank. This Babysense Monitor is perfect it offers a rechargeable battery that will last around 10 hours, displays the temperature in the child’s room and of course everything else you expect in a great monitor.
The Remote Temperature Gauge can be used if you don’t have the room temperature displayed on your baby monitor. This device simply shows you the temperature of any given room based on where you place the thermometer. This can also be useful for knowing outdoor temperatures as well as refrigerator and freezer temperatures. As mentioned before the temperatures can vary greatly from room to room in the RV and unlike a brick and mortar house outdoor temperatures will have a much greater impact on indoor temperatures. The ThermoPro Gauge is great because it is very affordable, is dependable, battery powered and allows you to add additional thermometers as needed.
The Kelty Kids Carrier has been an absolute game changer for us. With our daughter you never know if a hike will be an awesome day or a complete melt down. With this back pack she loves it every time… okay almost every time, but some days just aren’t hiking days for Evelyn Kate. She loves sitting up high and being able to see what’s in front of us, plus if she gets tired she can rest her head on our back. This model also has plenty of storage space so it serves as an actual pack for anything you need, but for us it holds diapers, wipes, water and plenty of snacks to keep Evelyn a happy hiker. It’s really easy to get her in, and pick her up, you only need one person, plus now we don’t have to wait on our little distracted walker to keep up we can complete a hike and do it as a family!
Our RV came with one 12V battery when we purchased it, this is good for opening and closing the slides and awning, and using a few lights, but for actual power usage the one battery just doesn’t do much. So for very little cost and a very simple DIY install we added 2 more 12V batteries so that we now have a three 12V battery bank. While this still isn’t huge, it’s enough to get the job done for our needs when camping without electricity. This allows us to comfortably keep a light on at night, keep Evelyns baby monitor and camera plugged in and run the air purifier in her room for white noise and air circulation/cleaning. We can run that setup for all 12 hours of Evelyn’s sleep each night for 3 nights straight without issue. We could also use that battery bank for anything that runs from a standard wall plug, such as charging all of our devices like cameras, phones and computers. To convert the power from DC power (what the batteries output) to AC power (what your devices and outlets run off of) you will need a DC to AC converter which you can pick up at Wal-Mart or you can get the one we use on Amazon here. We like this one because it has multiple outlets and allows USB charging.
Your check list for a DIY Battery Bank just like ours:
When traveling with a small child one of the most important and stressful things are making sure they sleep well. A good air purifier is perfect for helping in this area. The air purifier not only creates white noise, but also circulates and cleans the air, and when Evelyn isn’t sleeping it still works great for cooling us down on a hot day and making sure the air quality is top notch.
You may wonder why not just get a fan? Do you really need an air purifier? Well if you you’re not aware wild fires are a major issue. You may be able to avoid the fires themselves, but avoiding the smoke is much more difficult. If you plan on making your way into Montana, California, Washington or British Columbia having a HEPA certified filter will keep the air in your RV pure. The impact of smoke in the air is much more apparent in children so if they’re playing outside a lot then you’ll quickly notice they are coughing more and have considerably less energy. You may not be able to change the air quality outside but you can control the air quality in your RV and give the family a save haven. It’s not just the Pacific Northwest either, as I write this article there are currently wildfires in California, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming and that’s just in the US.
When it comes to items having multiple functions we are on board, it saves space in the RV, keeps us healthy and saves money in our wallets. We use a HEPA Certified Air Purifier and this is absolutely perfect for us. We did attempt to find battery powered, rechargeable fans, but none of them had enough power to create any real white noise or air movement. You can take a look at the exact purifier we have, but really any good True HEPA certified purifier rated for your RV size will do.
A vacuum cleaner is a must have for traveling in your RV, and if it’s battery powered that’s even better. After a mountain hike, or a day at the beach there is plenty of dirt, sand and everything else being tracked into your RV. When you’re living in a small space the last thing you want is for it to be dirty. You can’t just get any vacuum though because they use a ton of power so if you’re dry camping a plugin vacuum simply couldn’t be used. Luckily there are powerful, portable and battery powered options. This is the one we use, it’s powerful, has a long battery life and is half the price of a Dyson!
When you’re on the road, constantly visiting new places your little one is going to need a great pair of shoes! First and foremost they need to fit well and be comfortable, they also need to be easy to put on and take off, it helps if they clean up easily and if they are water proof then you’ve found a keeper. For us this is the Keen! This serves as an all purpose shoe for Evelyn. She can walk on rough rocks, walk through creeks and streams or just wear them out to dinner, either way she is always on the move and these shoes make it much easier on us.
Week 4 was amazing, we traveled over the Mackinac Bridge, through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then south to Wisconsin (GO PACK GO!!!). We checked another Great Lake off the list, went hiking along waterfalls, went on a couple of boat rides and spent the 4th of July with family all in one week! We finish this week in Ashley’s home town where we will end up spending some time in homes without wheels… lame.
Munising Tourist Park – Munising, Michigan
Munising Tourist Park was a quiet campground on the Northern coast of the Upper Peninsula, located right on Lake Superior. We booked our stay here a little last minute so they told us that half of our stay would be at one site and then we would have to move to a different spot. This is a minor inconvenience of having to put the RV back on the truck, re-park, re-level and hookup power and water. However, when we arrived we went to the front desk and asked if anything had opened up and it had. Not only had a spot opened up, but that spot happened to be considered the best spot in the park. We were parked directly in front of Lake Superior, right beside the walkway down to the beach on an oversized lot. We had multiple families stop by and ask us how far in advance we had to book to get such an awesome spot, some of them had booked months in advance and were parked 200 yards from the lake. I half expected this very persistent woman to offer us money if we traded sites with her! We enjoyed picturesque sunsets, campfires beside the lake, and the sound of the water lulling us to sleep each night. So if you’re ever in the area be sure to try your luck with a last minute reservation at Munising Tourist Park!
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising, Michigan
Pictured Rocks is a stunning array of cliff faces rising out of the waters of Lake Superior. The best way to view the cliffs are from the water so we booked a cruise and enjoyed a family outing to remember. We eased past the many formations including the PaintedCoves, Miners Castle and Lover’s Leap. It was absolutely beautiful. Evelyn had a lot of fun, but in her own little world. I’m not sure she even noticed the cliffs around us but she did enjoy showing off for the families around us, eating snacks, and playing on her blanket on the boat’s deck. Not quite what we had in mind, but as long as Evelyn is happy and enjoying the ride we’re happy too!
Miners Falls – Munising, Michigan
Miners Falls was the reward for hiking the short but sweet Miners Falls Trail. It was a 1.5 mile round trip hike which is perfect for Evelyn, she is still a little slow and gets distracted quite easily, a stick, a bug, even a light breeze can completely take her mind off of the trail, so a short hike can take hours. Despite our little hiker, we did make it to Miner’s Falls, which was much bigger and beautiful than we had imagined, Evelyn repeatedly yelled “FAAAALLLL” and we took the drone out for a flight and got some great footage. There were a lot of waterfalls in the area that we would have loved to explore, but we’ve accepted that we can’t see everything.
Ashley decided to surprise the family with an outing on Lake Superior by calling ahead and renting a pontoon for the afternoon we arrived. We knew the weather could be a little dicey, but we took our chances and it appeared to be a beautiful day for a boat ride. We packed up snacks and blankets and were off onto the lake. Everything went great until we got about 20 minutes in… a couple of boats road by us waving a bit frantically for us to turn around. I shrugged it off and figured they mistook us for another boat, Ashley didn’t think so at all. So we stopped the boat to assess our surroundings and see what the issue may be, all seemed normal, waters were calm, but interestingly there wasn’t another boat in the water. We turned on our marine radio (where the Coast Guard communicates to boaters) and the Coast Guard was issuing a warning for all small boats to return to shore due to an incoming storm that was quickly approaching. Ashley was a little stressed and I decided another 5 minutes wouldn’t hurt, so in the midst of Ashley’s wave (pun intended) of concern I took the drone out for a quick video before we raced back to the shore and safety. We got a full refund due to our short trip but we still had a good time, so it was a free adventure-win win!
In order to get from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the Upper Peninsula you cross the spectacular Mackinac bridge. It’s a 4.9 mile long suspension bridge and it’s known to sway, lucky for us it was a calm morning when we crossed so no sweat. With LakeMichigan to the West and Lake Huron to the East crossing the Straights of Mackinac was a pretty amazing drive and something we had been looking forward to since arriving in Michigan.
East Troy, is a small town in Southeastern Wisconsin. This is where Ashley spent most of her childhood and was a great stop to catch up with family and share this journey that we’re on. Lucky for us East Troy also boasts a classic small town 4th of July parade and we rolled into town just in time. Ashley’s Dad always goes all out for the 4th so we were guests at the celebration including swimming, grilling, games, and a massive jump house for the kids. Ashley’s Dad also lives right on Main Street so the parade starts about 1-block from his house and goes right past his front yard. It was amazing after eating too many brats and desserts we watched the parade march by and Evelyn loved it. Dancing with the bands, watching the horses trot by, collecting all the candy and popsicles you can imagine, and getting sprayed with water by some of the floats. East Troy always has a 4th to remember and it didn’t let us down this year!
Week 3 was relaxing, especially compared to our first 2. We were stationed in Holiday Park Campground in Traverse City, Michigan for the entire week which made for more down time as well as time to explore the area. We did everything from climbing more sand dunes at Sleeping Bear, to eating ice cream sandwiches at The Little Fleet, an amazing food truck hub downtown.
This is one place we can agree is worth coming back to in the future… we don’t say that often.
Traverse City, MI
Traverse City was an interesting place… in a good way. It was a small city with a big city feel, at the same time very local, welcoming and trendy, it’s the kind of place that made you feel cool just for being there. All the shops sold Michigan-made goods and most of the restaurants boasted their locally sourced ingredients, it was nice to feel like you were part of the community. We rode bikes along the lake front, went to the Saturday farmers market, spent some time on the beach, walked along the harbor, and ate some amazing food!
Holiday Park Campground – Traverse City, Michigan
Holiday Park was a nice campground just off the main highway, but far enough that there wasn’t road noise, which is a priority for us. We booked this campground for their advertised “high-speed internet”…which ended up not working for our entire week which was problematic because Brad works remote, and we are constantly uploading videos and pictures for the blog and vlog which use a ton of bandwidth and take a considerable amount of time. On night one we connected and had full strength service, but wait, it was less than 1mb strong, rendering it completely useless. We attempted to upload 1 video and the estimate was 36 hours to complete. Brad ended up commuting into the city (10-minute commute) to work from coffee shops. We learned our lessons, don’t trust campground wifi as advertised.
Fish Town – Leland, MI
Leland, Michigan is locally referred to as Fish Town, so much so that when we walked
through the shops you couldn’t even find a Leland, MI shirt-they all just said “Fish Town”. It was a very small fishing village jutting out into Lake Michigan. There were endless boutique specialty shops to buy hand made candies, cheese and ice cream. We took this opportunity to get Evelyn her weekly ice cream cone and got mom and dad their weekly coffee… okay twice daily coffee. There weren’t too many activities to do in town, but it was well worth meandering the shops and appreciating the history of this historic fishing town.
Side note – on our way back to Traverse City from Leland we passed through a town called Sutton Bay and had a wonderful roof top terrace dinner at Boone’s Prime Time Pub, we had it all to ourselves, mainly because we eat dinner at 4pm. This was a delicious finish to a nice day.
Iris Farms – Traverse City, MI
The Iris Farms may have been the best stop of the week and they were definitely the most unexpected. Ashley always talks about wanting to visit a cut your own flower farm, but we certainly hadn’t planned that into our trip. However, fate intervened and on our way to the Sleeping Bear we stumbled across the most beautiful landscape of blooming Iris flowers, needless to say we didn’t make it to Sleeping Bear that day. We stopped and walked the expanse of color through the fields taking pictures, watching Evelyn smell the flowers and eventually left with a bouquet of our own which of course took a very picky Ashley a few hours to accomplish.
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes – Glen Arbor, Michigan
After visiting Silver Lake sand dunes last week we figured why not see what Sleeping Bear had to offer. Sleeping Bear’s sand dune was one massive mountain of sand, by the time we reached the top we were exhausted, Evelyn was trying to sleep in the sand and we were just trying to make sure she didn’t get a mouthful. The drive in and out of the area was absolutely gorgeous, if we had a few more days we would have come back to do some hiking and biking, but even with a year long trip you can’t even come close to doing it all.
Friske’s Farm Market – Ellsworth, Michigan
Friske’s Farm Market was a Harvest Host location that ended up being yet again a great stopping point on our drive north into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They are known for their apple orchards, but we enjoyed their pizza the most, with local and fresh ingredients it’s the best pizza we’ve had since visiting Chicago! They also had local dairy farm products so we grabbed a quart of chocolate milk for the road-in those cute glass jugs. We had a scenic orchard all to ourselves which proved to be a great place to rest our heads in preparation for the final push into the U.P
If you didn’t skip down to this part you will recall us mentioning how awful the internet connection was at our camp. Because of this I (Brad) resorted to commuting into downtown Traverse City each morning, grabbing a $1 cup of coffee at Brew coffee shop and then, like any decent millennial, I sipped that cup of coffee for 4 straight hours while I enjoyed blazing fast internet. While I may have felt slightly guilty, that didn’t stop me from enjoying a bit of people watching, working, and a great cup of coffee.
Lucky for you and great for us, we have broken down and purchased a DJI Spark drone. This little guy will fly for 15 minutes getting you and us some of the best aerial footage $400 can purchase. However we got the extended warranty…and why would we do this? Well I read the fine print and after speaking with the associate found that this covers crashes, water damage and anything else as long as I can bring the drone back to the store. To me this means I don’t have to be extra careful or practice “safety first”, I can fly low, fast, and far just as long as I can go retrieve it after a crash. This will be fun!
The morning we were loading up to hit the road we realized just how important your tongue jack is. If you’re not aware, the tongue jack is the thing at the front of the RV that lowers and raises the trailer onto and off of your truck. Well as we prepared to connect the trailer to depart-ours broke, this meant we literally could not put the trailer on the truck and therefore could not leave. We didn’t dive into this trip without knowing stuff like this would happen, so we kept a level head and called the highest rated mechanic that worked on RVs. He told us that it would be about $300 plus parts to come tow the trailer, fix it, and tow it back to our campground, frugal as we are we immediately researched what was needed to fix it ourselves. We found a few YouTube videos, went to Menard’s, picked up a new tongue jack and some stabilizers to support the trailer while we replaced the tongue jack. All of the cost us a whopping $48 and I kid you not we had the trailer fixed ourselves within 1 hour of knowing we had an issue. Score!
Week 2 has been amazing in unexpected ways. We had a feeling Indiana would be miles of farmland and flat roads, we knew the Lake Michigan coastline would be beautiful and we expected the campsites to be peaceful and relaxing, that all held true but the unexpected is what made week 2 so awesome.
This week we made it from Elizabethtown, KY up to Montague, MI. We’ve had great weather, picture perfect views and maybe a couple of problems but that’s what makes it fun!
Simmons Winery – Columbus, IN
This was a Harvest Hosts location, which tends to mean it’s a great one
night stay. We camped on a large open field just outside of the winery’s restaurant which gave us plenty of space and beautiful views. We ate dinner at the restaurant which was outstanding, and Ashley enjoyed a wine tasting after dinner. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer break location on our push north.
Grissom Air Museum – Peru, IN
We aren’t flight or plane enthusiasts to say the least, but this proved to be an entertaining stop. We were given a great camp site directly under one of the planes on display. Evelyn hasn’t loved planes due to their being loud and next to invisible overhead, but after this stop shes definitely more… on board. We toured the museum and got the chance to sit in a plane and helicopter which made for an experience we definitely wouldn’t have tried out on a typical vacation.
Lucky Lake Campground – Montague, MI
Lucky Lake was an outstanding campground. We had a campsite about 3 times the size of other campgrounds, full hookups and located right on the lake.
It was quiet, but located about a mile off of the interstate so we could get to local spots easily. We had looked at things to do in the area as we were here for 4 nights and we stumbled across a petting farm which we thought would be fun for Evelyn for a couple of hours. It ended up being a blast for all of us and we went 2 days straight and would definitely go back.
Lewis Farms, New Era, MI
This is surprisingly one of the best places we’ve been on this trip. It’s not an amazing scenic location, it’s not a big city or major attraction, but it was so much fun for the family!
We walked in hoping to let Evelyn pet a few goats and maybe see a donkey or two and we were definitely taken by surprise. Lewis Farms had camels, rabbits, alpaca, DEER (our favorites- they had the cutest whiskers and ate the food so gently out of your hands), chickens, wallaby, peacocks, lemurs, birds- I hope we aren’t missing any. So the animals were fantastic, but just as entertaining were all of the rides and activities for kids and families alike. Tether-ball, rubber duck races, see-saws, carousel, train ride, many wooden jungle gyms for the kids to explore and the giant JUMPING PILLOWS! We all had too much fun on the jumping pillows! And I can’t forget to mention their great little bakery with breads, doughnuts, danishes and cookies- all very reasonably priced. They also sell some local goods and produce which is always fun to check out.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart, Michigan
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are easily the most inspiring location we have seen so far, and possibly for quite some time. We were so impressed we went two days in a row. The first day we walked up the dunes and explored with Evelyn, there were absolutely amazing views. We took a few stops for pictures and a few more stops to catch our breath. The second day we paid for a dune ride at MacWoods and couldn’t have been happier. It was $36 for the whole family for a 45 minute ride into, through and over the dunes, we sped down huge dune hills and out along the Lake Michigan coast. Evelyn loved every minute of it and we would recommend this stop to anyone traveling through Michigan.
While in Elizabethtown we had been smelling a foul odor like rotten eggs outside of the RV but only towards the front. This was the opposite end of the black tank (sewage holding tank) and was also closest to the dump facility. We asked some local campers and they assured us it was definitely sewage and not from our RV so we rested assured we were good to go and while we are newbies, this odor was some other suckers problem. As we drove North we made it to
Indiana, we were setting up for the stay and… the smell was back! Now we are feeling about 100% confident this is us and it’s probably a sign of trouble. With some quick googling we found that the rotten eggs smell typically comes from an overheating battery. We found that one of our batteries was definitely overheating and quickly disconnected the batteries. Luckily we found an awesome service center close to Lucky Lake, we called ahead and made sure they could help, we stopped by for about 30 minutes and they diagnosed it as a bad battery, quickly replaced it and had us back on the road for $150. Not ideal but also not a big deal.
Before we left on this trip there was some debate about whether or not tethering to our smart phones would give us adequate internet. We’ve used them before for work and never had issues but a year around the US is a little different. We went through potentially getting MiFi devices, internet boosters/extenders and other devices we’d never heard of and knew nothing about. Being frugal, we opted to wing it with our cell phones. Our backup was to find the nearest free WiFi coffee shop and deal with the drive, if things got really bad we could research and buy a device on the road. However, using our phones as hot spots has not been an issue at all! From Florida to Michigan so far and they are great. This is on the Verizon network and we are limited to 20GB of tethering data but that is plenty for work. I’m currently averaging 2GB per week. Be aware that RV campsites that advertise “wifi” usually have unstable-at best connections, from our experience thus far.
Well week 2 is good to go but Week 1 videos and pictures are all stored on a hard drive that decided that it no longer agrees with my computer… or any other computer for that matter. I’m confident we will retrieve the content but for now our trip begins with Week 2. That’s alright though, it’s life.
Week 1 we are running on excitement and positive thinking. The whole experience is still so new to us. We’ve done all of the textbook reading, googling and trying to learn what we will need to know, but now we are on the road, living, eating and sleeping in an RV.
Devils Den Prehistoric Spring – Williston, FL
Devils Den Prehistoric Spring was our very FIRST stop! Only 2 hours from home, but somewhere we had never been. Given that this was our first time ever staying at a campground we really didn’t know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised, it was Memorial Day weekend, but the crowds were minimal, the RV slips were spacious and we were given a pull through which is always nice for a newbie.
I worked in the morning, while Evelyn and Ashley explored the shady campground and that afternoon we all went to the springs to take a look. In order to reach the spring you walk through a small cave and down 60 feet of stairs which lead directly into the crystal blue water. A giant hole in the roof of the cavern allows light to pour into the cave causing the water to glow. The water is cool and the cavern was beautiful.
The first thing to know is that snorkeling gear is required, that means snorkels, goggles and fins. I already had goggles and a snorkel so the fins were $15. The 2nd thing is that if you are bringing small children or kids who don’t like cold water you might want to consider a wet suit as the water is in the low 70s with no direct sunlight. There are other things to do as well, walking paths, yard games and a swimming pool which is fun for families. Devil’s Den is worth a stop for a night or weekend especially if you’re already in the area.
Horse Creek Winery – Sparks, GA
Horse Creek Winery is a small winery just off the I-75 in Sparks, GA. This was a Harvest Host location so it made for a great overnight spot on our trek north. We aren’t exactly wine experts so we can’t say much to the quality of the wine, but everyone can agree that the wine slushies tasted great! The only downside was that you are truly right off of the interstate so the road noise is considerable. If it were just me and Ashley it wouldn’t have been mentionable, but with little Evelyn getting acclimated to her new crib it definitely gave mom and dad some anxiety.
Visiting Family in Villa Rica – Villa Rica, GA
After a 2-night test run we made it to Brad’s hometown where we made some adjustments and relaxed with family and friends. We dropped the RV at Brad’s parents farm, and setup shop at Ashley’s grandma’s house down the road.
I roped Cadon into helping out with the first ever black tank dump (that’s the sewage tank) at the local Pilot truck stop. He wasn’t too impressed when I accidentally sprayed him with the dump station water hose… while it’s technically clean water you just never know what people do with those hoses when their cleaning out their tanks.
Overall we had a good pit stop as we started our transition into life on the road.
Solace Farm – Coalmont, TN
Solace Farm, another Harvest Host, was definitely an experience. It started with our drive to the farm…up Tennessee mountains and beautiful country roads, eventually becoming
rough gravel roads, which then became narrow dirt roads. As we approached what Google Maps called our “destination” we realized that Google must be wrong (blasphemy, I know). There were no driveways. No street signs. No sign of life. There was, however, a small sign that read “Solace Farms” and WAY off in the distance- down a long, winding, gravel and dirt path-there was a small home and shed.
We drove right past that path and decided to call the host-knowing that we must have arrived at the wrong destination. They answered right away, and assured us that we have arrived… crap…now we have to turn around. After nearly jack-knifing the trailer and putting our F-250 to the test, we successfully turned around and arrived at our home for the night.
The closer we got to the farm the more we noticed…first was a pack of boys playing, a 2 year old wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shoes (and I mean nothing else) alongside 2 older boys around 6 and 8. The 2 older boys were barefoot and you could see they were at ease with the outdoors. The children were surrounded by animals free roaming the yard, 4 dogs, a few turkeys, cats and ducks. There were also plenty of penned animals, cows, alpaca, sheep and goats. Ashley was hesitant and ready to put the truck back in drive…
The parents came out to greet us and showed us around the property, they were extremely friendly. They explained that they had made a decision to not only live self-sufficiently, but also completely off grid, including solar with a small battery bank, composting toilets and well water, no a/c, clothes dried on a hanger. They were no-nonsense when it came to the farm so it was primitive to say the least. No cutting the grass, no landscaping, no repainting the barns or worry about appearances- if it wasn’t functional it wasn’t happening. We learned so much about a lifestyle that was unfamiliar to us and were able to experience this together as a family-this is a huge part of why we are doing this. The take-away for us is that stepping out of our comfort zone led us to an unforgettable family experience. It may not be exactly what we expected or intended to do but it was something that brought us closer while exploring together.
Cross Roads Campground – Elizabethtown, KY
Cross Roads Campground proved to be the most comfortable location we have stayed at during week 1 (except for when we had our 2 bedroom suite at grandma’s house). This was about 2 miles off of the interstate-far enough that there is no road noise, but a quick drive to restaurants, grocery, and the much needed Home Depot. The grounds had nice playgrounds for Evelyn and a catch and release fishing pond. Evelyn had a field day feeding the fish bread and we were actually able to catch some brim with our hands to show them to her. This was our first time doing laundry outside of our home, but it was a very clean facility, everything worked great so this made for a refreshing finish to our first week on the road.
Propane: Good for Cooking, Bad for Breathing
Night 1 of our travels went well, no issues with setting up the travel trailer, no rookie mistakes, nothing we had failed to think of or prepare for. We slept well, Evelyn was up and down a little during the night but we could live with that, when she woke up in the morning our normal routine began. Evelyn’s milk, our coffee, breakfast, and play time…
Ashley went and got Evelyn from her crib while I warmed her milk on the propane stove. After Evelyn was fed and ready for the day I remembered something interesting I wanted to tell Ashley- I noticed that the stove top has a pilot light, when I turned off the burner a small flame stays lit… I guess so you don’t have to use the starter every time-
Ashley with her motherly instinct had already been on the lookout for anything that might be askew, and instinctively knew that it wouldn’t make sense for an RV to use a pilot light. She immediately started inspecting the stove. After taking a closer look at this “pilot light” she removed part of the stove to reveal that this small flame was actually coming from a connection where the propane line from the trailer met the propane line for the stove.
We immediately turned off the propane tanks, opened all of the windows and took Evelyn outside. The ever-burning flame was a minor issue compared to the fact that a small propane leak had been entering our small home for the past 24 hours. The fix was easy, but we simply didn’t know the problem existed.
We disconnected the propane from the stove and used a gas line sealant tape from Home Depot to secure the connection, we also went ahead and replaced the propane detector just to be safe. Lastly, we checked every other propane connection on the trailer including the hot water heater, furnace and refrigerator to make sure no other unknown leaks existed. Luckily no other issues were found so we can sleep sound knowing that we aren’t inhaling propane anymore.
When it Rains it… Rains Everyday for the Entire First Week
We were already complete newbies, sleeping our first week ever in an RV, being on the road with an 18 month old and learning to live with our new confined space in a completely new area. To top that off it rained every single day for the first 7 days. We were looking forward to enjoying the outdoors, and we did, but we had to keep our shoes outside or under the RV to keep from tracking in mud, couldn’t use the camp chairs or keep the awning out… at the end of the day it’s a small price to pay and completely temporary. The sunshine will be appreciated!
Baby Evelyn is a Better Passenger Than Expected
Evelyn historically has not been a great passenger in the car, even quick rides to get groceries can become hectic. So we were pretty surprised when on our first 4 hour drive we were riding with a perfect angel, it’s like she just knows it’s going to be a while and settles in. Now the long rides are a little different and we come prepared with endless snacks, mixed fruits and vegetables, cheerios, sandwiches and whatever else might keep our little munchkin at bay. She also has her choice of iPad, DVD player, coloring books, stuffed animals and all of her favorite toys and if all else fails mom is always there to chat and play games until the commute is complete. The bottom line is the travel days are much easier than expected now that Evelyn has decided to enjoy the ride with us.
Cashew is Adjusting
When you have a toddler sometimes the pets take a back seat. In all of our planning we knew Kitty Cashew would need food, water a litter box and a comfy place to sleep, but we didn’t really take into consideration how this transition might impact him. So for the first couple of days he wouldn’t leave our side, constantly in need of attention, shedding fur, heart racing and panting with anxiety. We did our best to make him feel comfortable and now at the end of week 1 is happy and at home in the RV. It’s so nice to have him on the road with us, we’re glad the whole family is adjusting and jumping on board for the journey.