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Sometimes on the Way to the Dream You Get Lost and Find a Better One

Several people have asked us about Driving Down a Dream’s “plans” or chosen “route.” For those who are aware of my OCD tendencies (or CDO, if you’re hardcore OCD and need to have it alphabetized) there was some genuine shock when I mentioned that we didn’t have a “plan.” We had a general idea based on hitting the top 3 bucket list items: 1) Experience a New England autumn 2) Visit NYC 3) Visit Harry Potter World (Universal Studios) in Florida

Frankly, I didn’t have a lot of time to put together a well-thought out route either. It was a relatively short span from the moment the idea popped into our heads to hitting the road full-time. It felt like a HUGE accomplishment to finally embark and think we could survive comfortably as a family of 6.

Our first few weeks were filled with A LOT of adjustments and learning: adapting to smaller living quarters, the ins and outs of towing and setting up our fifth wheel, the lack of wifi connectivity, and ALL that family togetherness.

On the flip side it felt wonderful to feel a little “foot-loose & fancy-free” and begin deprogramming from “normal” or “expected.” Despite typical growing pains we started to catch glimpses of what this experience would mean for our family in the long run...stronger family bonds, more belly laughs, and seeing Jeff much happier in his element of “Outdoor-Loving-Mr.-Fix-It” mode vs. a life-sucking accounting job.

In our naivety we were fortunate to find places to stay in the final weekends of summer. And then…something reminded me of Labor Day weekend. All of the sudden we needed a teensy bit of a plan so we could make reservations at an RV park. Labor Day weekend is the last big hoo-rah for many seasonal campers. If RV parks were booked we knew we could look to State Parks. State Parks are usually a cheaper alternative, but have trade-offs (i.e. no wifi). Many full-time RV families also have the ability to “boondock” or “dry camp” (no water, power, or sewer connections). We were having a horrible time with our RV battery set up and weren’t prepared for “boondocking.” We NEEDED access to full hook ups. I started by making calls to RV parks. EVERYTHING was booked for Labor Day weekend. EVERYTHING.

Imagine my panic when I discovered the Colorado AND Nebraska State Park systems were booked for Labor Day weekend! Two entire states! First come, first serve sites are always provided, but without a guarantee or reservation SOMEWHERE I wasn’t going to sleep easy.

I started to have a pity party. Some adjustments were tough and unexpected. In some ways the girlie-girl in me was already sacrificing enough for my family to have this once in a lifetime experience...public shower stalls, Laundromats, and no alone time – to name a few. This temporary lifestyle already resembled camping too much, and I was bound and determined to not go without basic amenities.

This perceived “bump in the road” set off all kinds of alarms…”Whitney, what were you thinking? You - trying to be plan-less? Embracing a new lifestyle AND new mindset. HA! The success of this entire voyage is up to YOU! You HAVE to plan. Or no one will have fun. Or worse…your family will suffer and regret this crazy adventure.”

Consequently, I spent HOURS researching and coming up with a “plan” for the next leg of our trip…RV park reviews, things to do, things to miss, places to eat, cheap or free entertainment options, Trip Advisor, Mapquest, travel times, pit stops…you get the idea. And this “plan” was going to be followed, by golly. And then we, no I, would have the comfort of not having to “dry camp” EVER. *Cue HUGE, uproariously, LOUD, “get over yourself” LAUGH!

Durango, Colorado to planned stop #1 = Glenwood Springs, Colorado. 250 miles. 4 hours 40 minutes travel time. No big deal, right? Wrong. We have learned the hard way that you need to automatically tack on at least an hour to any travel time calculated by GPS or Mapquest, if you’re towing. Now add the elevation of Rocky Mountain roadways and our travel time was easily doubled.

The mountainous climbs with elevations of 9000+ feet were taking their toll on the truck. I didn’t even enjoy our quick stop in Telluride to let the truck cool down. I was on the horn trying to secure reservations. The day dragged on. We all needed a break for supper and to restore circulation to our extremities. We hit the road again, or so we thought. We made a wrong turn! Jeff had to make his first U-turn on a random farm road. The sun was setting. Defeated, we knew we wouldn’t reach the planned destination until dark. Fatigue + setting up in the dark = recipe for disaster. Ha!

I canceled our reservation and we decided we would wing it and just have to stop at any available place along the way. And then the Grand Mesa National Forest* happened…

The visitor center was closed. No info. No cell service. We had to just take a leap and hope the narrow forest road would take us to a RV campsite. Thankfully, it did. And thankfully we found a spot and got the trailer set up before it got too dark. BUT, this meant boondocking. No hook ups. No power. No water. We would have to rely on the allowed generator hours to charge our struggling batteries for the furnace, refrigerator, and lights.

With my best game face, I told the kids we would make the best of it! The weather predicted a 40 degree low – in August! With extra blankets we collapsed in our beds for the night.

And then in the morning we awoke to THIS…

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And then we hiked to THIS…

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And then we ate delicious food in the warmth of our “home” while it rained...

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And then we stayed up LATE with the older kids playing games. And laughed and laughed. And a new tradition was born.

And then my OCD was healed a little. We weren’t following a plan. We were stripped to the absolute basics and we were ok. In fact, we were thriving.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,

and to have my senses put in order.”

~John Burroughs

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* Jeff has lived in Alaska. He said this area - Island Lake, Grand Mesa National Forest - reminded him of the Kenai Peninsula. Very lush! We highly recommend it!

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