2020 - The Shake Up/Shake Down

We made it!  The summer at the lake went off without a hitch.  We were full at the campground every weekend and the time just flew by.  We left for Florida in October, and settled in the Pensacola area.  We absolutely LOVED our beach time. We made some side trips to the Springs area in Central Florida and fell in love with them.  We are already planning next winter.  I don't know if we can ever go back to living in Iowa for the winter again.  

We will begin our trek north again in April, and until then, we will continue going to the beach everyday. We really just can't get enough of it.  

The kids have done so well with online schooling - there were a few hiccups, which is to be expected and I am so proud of how resilient they are.  Hanna is planning on going back to Iowa with us, graduating, and finding her own niche in the world.  We are excited to support her as she begins to transition into a life a bit separate from us.  What a privilege it has been to share this last year with her traveling and spending all this time.

Lexi and Maia are still full time online students, and I am so thankful for the way our school district handled this year of craziness.  We are planning to enroll in online schooling with them next year, and spend next year traveling in Florida some more.  It is our hope to get a volunteer gig around the springs area or along the gulf side beaches, so wish us luck. 

Johnny, Ciara, and the Twins ended up transferring to homeschooling again with the dual enrollment option.  We absolutely love our special needs support teachers at their brick and mortar school, so they meet weekly via zoom with the support staff to help me nail new techniques and problem solve anything the kids are not understanding with us.  It is the best of both worlds!

Covid really shook us up, but it has allowed us to really look at what works for our family and build on our strengths.  2020 had a lot of wins in it for us. 

We hope you have been able to find the silver lining in all this, and feel free to drop us line. 


Moving Back into the Camper

I will be totally honest with you.  The first month was HELL!  We had been in a 2000 sq ft home for two years, and moving back into the camper was a struggle, and that is putting it lightly.  In fact, the first month I walked around saying, "I don't think I can do this for the summer.  I think I might kill someone. We are not going to all make it through this together". 

And then something clicked.  Well, a lot of things clicked but one thing was I remembered this learning curve we went through when we first started traveling, and sure enough, as I reviewed my old notes, we had those same feelings.  I noted it wasn't until about the third month that things started to look up - so I guess we did learn something since this chaos only lasted about a month. 

Initially we decided to move back into the camper - before covid hit - so we could be at the campground full time for our contract and save back up to buy a house in the fall.  Then in March Covid hit, and we stayed the course, then in July school announced a return to learn plan fully online, and we talked with a few real estate agents who all confirmed if we can wait a year to buy to buy a house, it will be more of a buyers market. So after putting lots of pieces together, and rearranging, we are going to stay in the camper until ?????  

There are so many things I love about camper life. I love my cozy bedroom.  I love that the kids are outside all the time - riding bikes in the rain, afternoon naps in the hammocks outside, my outdoor kitchen, and the list goes on and on.  Yes, I will totally take more days like these.  So for now, we are making the most of our smaller quarters, and learning new tools and ways to communicate in close proximity.  

Life is Good.  


We are Hitting the Road Again

We are heading back out on the road.  While school the teachers and schools have been awesome - Covid-19 has put a change in how schooling looks.  Our school will be returning to learn in an online format, so rather than being stuck in a brick and mortar home when we don't have to, we are heading south for the winter. 

We will begin our trek as soon as we close down the campground here in Iowa the middle of October.  We are going to make our first long stop in Knoxville TN for two weeks.  John is excited to hit some rivers and do some bushcrafting.  Then we will take about two more weeks getting down to Pensacola Florida where we will stay until Christmas time. 

We get to be in our happy place for the holidays - YEAH!

We are all very excited about putting some miles on the beast again - it seems like just yesterday and yet it also seems like forever.  I will keep you posted!  AND if you have any suggestions of places we should stop and see on the way - please let me know.  We have not taken this route before, so we are super excited.

Here is to quarantining on the road. 


Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

It had been the worst of times, it has been the best of times.  When we are given lemons we make lemonade.

We were displaced for eight months while the RV industry figured out who should take responsibility for making things right, and in the end we are the only ones who can make things right.

As most of you know, in April of 2018, we were heading back to Iowa from wintering in the Gulf Coast area with their seven home-schooled special needs children.  Just north of Memphis, John, looked back to see the bottom of our 5th wheel RV falling apart.  We pulled over at a no facility rest stop completely unprepared for what would happen next.  

After sitting on the side of busy interstate 55 for over seventeen hours, we decided it was time for us to get a hotel.  Christine thought we were well prepared for this type of thing, since she had planned and bought extensive road side insurance for the RV, an added extended warranty from a third-party RV insurance company, plus we still had the original RV warranty because the camper was only three years old. However, it became apparent very early on that there was a clause for everything, and the insurance and RV industry had no problems taking the money but had no intention on being responsible for making things right.

“I get it”, says Christine, “Stuff happens, things break, I totally get it but then make things right.  That is all we are asking for – is to make things right. If just one person would step up and do the right thing, have some human decency, the whole situation could be changed around”.

A rapid decline in human empathy was apparent early on.  Our personal RV insurance company (Progressive), wouldn’t take responsibility because it was a manufacture failure and they only covered ACTS of GOD.  The extended roadside and warranty agreement with a third-party company (Coach Insurance) wouldn’t cover expenses because again, it was a manufacture defect.  The RV warranty through the manufacture (Forest River) didn’t cover the damage because it was a frame failure from the company the RV manufacture purchased the Lippert frames from.  Lippert frame manufacture didn’t cover anything past their one-year warranty agreement between them and the RV manufacture (Forest River). So there we sat, in a hotel room with no one wanting to pay for our unplanned trip interruption, which Christine had purchased on two different policies, and expenses were increase rapidly. 

We found ourselves up a creek without a paddle. We traveled to Iowa every summer so the kids could receive their medical check-ups and therapies from the University of Iowa.  As most of you know, John and Christine adopted the children from the foster care system, and there were lots of appointments to keep.  Getting appoints at the Center for Development and Disabilities could sometimes take months of planning, so we had no real choice but to leave our beloved traveling home in Arkansas on the side of the road and head north to Iowa.  After days of the RV sitting on the side of the road, John, on his own, without the help of Progressive, towed the damaged RV fifteen miles to a safe off-road storage location, and we began or trek back to Iowa.

Days slowly turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. The RV was our home.  We were a full-time traveling family, and we were now without our home.  John reflects back on the beginning, “At first it was fun, we pretended we were on a vacation.  Staying in a hotel, then setting up camp in a tent.  You know, really roughing it”.  It was all fun and games until the infamous Iowa spring weather hit full force.  The rain, the high winds, the tornado warnings, all in tents with special needs kids who had been on high alert, having daily trauma triggers for weeks was beginning to take its toll. Christine says, “We began seeing behaviors we hadn’t seen in years.  It was like years of doing deep, hard heart work had flown out the window.  We were stuck in a really hard place”.
After weeks of the camper sitting at the storage location off Interstate 55, with all our belongings, Progressive, with our roadside insurance found a company to tow the damaged RV to a repair facility (RV City) in Sherwood Arkansas. Once our RV arrived at RV City, things only went downhill.  RV City did nothing to help facilitate the lengthy process that would begin the repair of the RV; in fact, the only proactive help they offered was to sell us another RV and incur even more debt.  Once we firmly made it known that we were not buying another new RV, the constant lack of communication in the beginning, then turned into complete avoidance and was totally unacceptable. RV City took a bad situation and threw salt in our wounds.  Again, Christine says, “I understand we aren’t their only customers.  I even understand that our camper is taking up space in their lot.  I totally get it but why couldn’t they make things right.  Why couldn’t they just communicate with us?  Why couldn’t they communicate with Lippert, the frame manufacture?  Why couldn’t they treat us like they cared about us?  Why couldn’t they have thought about this beyond their bottom dollar?”

Finally, after several months of living in a tent, leaving messages with no return communication from RV City, and from frustrated Lippert representatives, we decided we would have to move into a house until everything was settled.  We needed a roof over their heads.  After unplanned down deposits and expensive rental agreements, we moved into a house after living on the road for 4 years.  We also had begun to accumulate debt again, we had no choice but to begin living off credit again. Our whole lives had been turned upside down, and not once did any of the parities involved try to make things right.

Lippert finally agreed to repair the frame as a “goodwill gesture” for a frame failure with a known fix.  Twice workers with Lippert were sent to RV City to assess damages, twice RV City did not have the camper prepped, and therefore, the representatives could see nor assess the extent of the damage.  RV Cities lack of compassion, sense of responsibility, or empathy for doing the right thing added months of emotional stress, mental health damage, and monetary expenses to our already trying days.  Finally, after seven months of what felt like hostile negations, and a Lippert contracted welder standing his ground, RV City uncovered the damaged frame and allowed the wielders to preform eight hours of labor. Seven months for eight hours’ worth of work.  Then another month worth of sketchy communications with RV City, and we finally got the all clear to come pick up our camper with a big kicker to boot.  See, the phone call came the week before Christmas, and we were told that we had three days to drive twelve hours during the holidays to pick up our camper or else RV City would charge us twenty-five dollars a day for storage fee.  Yes, you read correctly, after having our RV for seven months, with three days warning RV City proposed a twenty-five dollar a day storage fee.  After multiple phone calls and several stressful days, RV City finally extended us a week’s leeway.  So on the days between Christmas and New Year’s, John made the lone trip twelve hours away to pick up our treasured home, which we lovely call The Beast. 

Now, eight months later, over 27 thousand dollars of debt, and several new therapists, we have our RV back amid a cold winter’s day but again, not without difficulty.  You see, when John arrived at RV City, instead of being greeted with compassion and celebration for a long-awaited reunion. John was not greeted at all. The Beast was sitting in the parking lot, in a large mud puddle that had to be wadded through to get hooked up. It seemed as if everyone tried to ignore that anything had ever happened. In fact, when John went in to try and get some issues corrected, the workers actually looked the other way, and completely ignored him. When John went to hooked up the RV to the truck his connection cable was so severally damaged that it is was unusable.  While the cable was being repaired, John noticed that the connection cable allowing the camper to be hooked up to electric was missing, which RV City said, "We have no idea what happened to it".  John arrived at RV City at 4 pm with joy in his heart and left at 6:30 pm with sadness and disappointment.  John then had to set up camp in the dark, and the cold with no way to plug into electric.  Again, a little empathy and decency would have gone a long way.  

After a trying day, John had to drive another twelve hours home in the cold and rain. Unexpected added expenses during the holiday seasons, and now to find storage and winterize the Beast rests on heavy hearts.

Truly where has human decency gone.  Not once over the whole eight months did we raise our voice out of frustration or anger, never threatening for punitive damages, nor did we ever act out with anything other than understanding and grace.  And to be treated with such openly passive aggressive behavior from businesses that rely on customer service, such disgrace in the end, it is easy to see the loss of humanity.  It is easy to see how capitalism has undermined decency.  It is evident that a sense of doing what is right has been lost.  What is to happen to the good and decent actions of a few?  Will all be lost to corporations and individuals who are just looking for a buck?  We have chosen to look on the brighter side of this whole experience.  Finding the golden nuggets.  Choosing to make lemonade out of lemons.  But it had been hard work that could have been made easier with just a little compassion, or empathy.  We can only hope that leading by example is enough but only time will tell.


Winter Is Coming.

WOW!  What a journey the last four years have been. It is hard for me to settle into the idea that we will not be heading south in the next couple weeks - it seems bizarre - every cell in my body is preparing for the descent; yet my mind is the only thing that believes the truth. 

If you haven't heard the news, in April our 5th wheel suffered some sever broken welds to the frame, and had to be left at a service center in Little Rock AR.  Our RV is still there, and no closer to being taken care of.  the whole situation has been horrible, and we decided to move into a townhouse for a year.  I am pretty sure, at this point, even when our camper does get repaired, we will be here for a lot longer than a year. 

 The kids are settled in school and with six out of seven loving it, which I think is pretty good odds, living life between these four walls in seeming okay.

Mentally I have accepted that winter is coming, and even went out and bought winter jackets, snow pants and boots - the kids are all set for this new adventure called "Winter With Snow".  I am also finding that I am settling into fall.  I am beginning to layer my tank tops with sweaters, and even wearing SOCKS - who knew. 

I am also finding I have more time to write, which I am loving.  I am setting up a daily practice, and hoping to start on a few projects I have had on the back burners for years.

I am going to savor this time, and look at the bright side - I jokingly say, "Our camper evicted us because she knew that was the only way I would have ever done anything differently".  I was definitely not ready to settle down, but hindsight is 20/20 and I can see now that some of our family members are ready to sit tight for a bit. 

So here is to new adventures, and bright futures.  Cheers!


Holidays in Biloxi & Moving On

I planned to blog more while in Biloxi, Ms, and . . . you see how that went.  We always stay so busy here, and I just don't get everything done on my wish list.  Now that we are gearing up to head out - I will be able to take some stolen moments, and keep you all updated.

The weather has been great in Biloxi - up until now, and we are getting the usually January cold rainy weather.  The ramblers are getting thin blooded, and dreaming of warmer climates.  Tucson, here we come!

We are starting the dreaded trek across Texas - it just goes on and on for days and days.  I have a few side stops on our list that we haven't visited before, so that will help break up the endlessness.

Hope you all had a fantastic holidays, and see you on the road!

Good Bye 2016 and Hello 2017


Hammock Sleeping

About a month ago, the girls and I switched from our beds to hammocks.  This spring I went on several backpack trips, and I discovered I love sleeping in a hammock.  Then the kids and I took a week long primitive camping trip, and we all took to sleeping in the trees like the Greeks over 2000 years ago.  We loved it.

When we got home and had to sleep in our beds, we were not happy.  Some of us decided sleeping outside in the trees was preferred.  With several thunderstorms looming, I spent the better part of a day researching how we could hang our hammocks inside.  I was a little leery since the RV walls are constructed differently.  After lots of researching, I came to the conclusion we had to do the old trial and error method.  I bought eye bolts and hung the hammocks.  Then I picked the child who weighted the least, and cheered them on as they cautiously crawled into the hammock.  YEAH! It held!  We tried the next one, and so on until we had all tried them out.  Nobody came crashing to the floor, and the eyebolts only caused minor creaking from the walls. There have even been times when the twins crawl into my hammock and cuddle - three of us hanging from those two little eyebolts in these RV walls - quite an accomplishment if you ask me.

I feel like I am sleeping better, and the research done by the Swiss, confirms my experience.  The study showed the participants fell asleep faster, slept deeper, and helped alleviate pressure point pain.  Separate sleep studies show that by getting quality sleep we are better readers, have more energy, and have increased learning abilities.  Plus it is just fun.  The gentle swaying brings back memories of easy, lazy days, and today, it was nice to take my "bed" outside for a beautiful Fall nap.