We started yesterday on my dream vacation – traveling across the good ‘ole USA together as a family. I guess you could say that it’s a bucket list trip – something I’ve always wanted to do. We’ve been talking about it for 3 or 4 years now, not knowing if we could ever really pull it off. Our daughter is going to be a senior and we knew that this was the last opportunity to make it happen as a full family unit. Also, our youngest is a 4th grader. Did you know that 4th graders and their immediate family get into all National Parks for free for a year? https://www.everykidinapark.gov/
So many things had to come together to make this happen – mainly permission from the Board of our ministry for Jimmy to take a month off, a new-to-us van that could actually make it across the country, and a lot of extra money to pay for such a trip. God granted all three! We got the Board approval to be away a month, we had a supporter of our ministry who knew nothing of our trip idea give us the money to buy a used van (mind-blowing still), and we worked late every night and on weekends making cedar garden beds to save the money for this trip. The funny thing is the cedar wood supply in our area is drying up, just in time for us to make the money we needed for the trip. God has always been so gracious to provide for our needs and even our dreams. When it all fell in place, we knew we had to go for it.
Back to the trip, I’ve spent the last three months planning our trip on a free app called Roadtrippers. It’s excellent! I’ve spent most of the time planning the trip using the online desktop version. I had to upgrade to the Plus version this week to get more than 50 waypoints.
All six of us picked a spot that we wanted to see and we brainstormed family and friends that we knew around the country. We knew that in order to be able to afford this trip, we’d have to stay with family and friends, camp a lot, and spend a few nights in hotels to keep our sanity and proper hygiene (at least for us girls). I just put these spots in the Roadtrippers app and it started to form our basic route. The app also shows you hotels, campsites, attractions, restaurants, and more along your route. If you want to do this with your family, I’d recommend planning earlier than I did. Most of the campsites at the National Parks fill up very early – some even a year in advance. By God’s grace and by checking every day for cancellations, just last week I was able to get campsites in Yosemite and Yellowstone! God is good to us!
As for packing, we knew it was going to be a challenge! We borrowed a car-top carrier and a cargo rack for our hitch so we could keep as much as possible outside the van. A friend who’s a “car guy” recommended air shocks. We’d never heard of them. Basically, you install them on your back tires and pump them up like you do your tires when there is going to be a lot of weight in the car. I wish we’d have known about them earlier. We packed camping gear, food, clothes, pillows, air mattresses, and a RTIC cooler (great Yeti cooler knock-off) that I found (in my favorite color no less) brand new on Craigslist. Woohoo!
Yesterday, we left an hour and half later than hoped but that’s pretty good for our family. As we left, we decided to stop to splurge on a GoPro so we’d have it for our trip. We drove the 4 ½ hours to our first stop, Burnsville, NC. My dad and his wife have a place on top of the mountain, about 45 minutes east of Asheville. All of our meals are being cooked for us, the beds are super comfortable and clean, and I got to use the jetted bathtub and fancy bathrobe today. I told my husband that this is the best it’s going to get. It all gets crazier from here.
Today has already been an exciting day. My husband went for a run in the morning. Shortly after, we got a phone call from the neighbor saying that there was a yearling black bear coming up the road in front of the condo. Of course, newbs (my sons’ new word) that we are, we grabbed our phones and headed outside. My stepmom, daughter, and son were a few steps ahead of me. As I came to the top of the steps, I saw a black blur run behind the car and then the bear stop at the edge of the walkway just 35 feet from me. We locked eyes and he literally charged at me. I jumped back down the 6 steps and ran in the door, not looking behind me. My stepmom, daughter, and son went up the steps to hide from the bear, and the bear just stopped, turned around, and kept running up the hill. Where was my GoPro when I needed it? Now I have a great truth for the 2 Truths and a Lie game we play with my high school basketball game – “I was charged by a bear.” Sounds impressive! My husband still thinks it’s so funny – he says I’d just be a good snack. I was expecting bears in Yellowstone but not in Burnsville. After that, we had to go rescue my husband on his run. What if he got eaten by a bear on our 1st day of the trip?
Next, the boys went to play golf with Granddad in the on-and-off rain while the girls visited my stepmom’s community garden.
It has such a pretty garden trellis and gate. It reminded me of Winnie-the-Pooh. We just had to get a picture.
After that, the girls headed into town to a few consignment shops and lunch. We ate at a place called “Pig and Grits” – not exactly the dainty places we usually go with Grandee. They had signs about bacon all over the restaurant. I’m still waiting for someone to get me the bumper sticker that says, “I Love Bacon.” It’s my favorite food. My daughter and I split the brisket and this to-die-for Molten Mac and Cheese in a mini kettle. Here’s the description: “mac & cheese topped with pulled pork or smoked chicken. bacon. green onions & sc gold sauce.”
Not sure what the “sc gold sauce” is but it was a gold medal winner. What’s the best one bite of anything you could have? This Molten Mac & Cheese Kettle would be near the top of the list for me. My husband would have loved this place. He wants to hit all the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives across the country. I heard later that my one son who is a regular proponent of fairness couldn’t believe that we got to eat out and he got a peanut butter and jelly.
As I write, my daughter is asleep on the bed and the boys just came in from their round of golf. Dad said that the 3 boys and my husband only lost 4 balls at each of the 4 holes they played. Not bad.
Today, nobody was a snack for a bear so I think that overall, it was a good day.
I just got a voicemail reminder about our next adventure – white water rafting in Tennessee.
We need to be there at 12:15 p.m. Let’s hope we make it out alive tomorrow.