When we departed for our RV journey, at "O-Dark-Thirty", we left with fingers crossed and 2 feverish children. For the most part, we are glad we took this adventure; we tried something new and showed the kids a beautiful part of the country. We also shared stories about Steve's dad's love of camping and the outdoors. Would we do it again? Probably not, and that's o.k. Maybe it should be that special to be forever called, "The One and Done". We have some pretty funny memories to cherish for a lifetime. I'm sure the kids will be talking about me flying towards the back of the RV and landing on the bed for many years to come!
Our itinerary was Fredericksburg to Knoxville (University of Tennessee) to Memphis (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital) to Nashville (Vanderbilt University) to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg (Dollywood, time permitting, and, there wasn't) and back to Fredericksburg. We made some little pit stops along the way to break up the trip. My favorite surprise was stumbling onto the Bush's Beans Factory Museum and Cafe - a nice interactive set of displays for the kids!
If you love camping and have always wondered whether you should try an RV, I say go for it. Your camping skills will give you the foundation you need to have an enjoyable RV experience. Preparation is key (Steve has a lot of experience with RV camping and I'm proud of my time as a Girl Scout). Do your research about driving routes, packing lists, parking restrictions (we didn't tow a car with us), and campgrounds.
It takes you a lot longer to drive in an RV because pushing 70 MPH usually gives those things what Steve liked to call the "Alabama Shakes." Your trip will take you even longer when you find yourself at the Firestone in Hermitage, TN for 3 hours due to a tire problem. We are thankful for the kind soul who told us, "your tire is about to blow!" And, packing things like duct tape will help close the loose drawer/cabinet that keeps flying open during the drive. Steve's toolbox saved us many times - the carbon monoxide alarm going off at 6:30am was not in our plans!
Driving all of Tennessee was a recipe for overextending ourselves, but we didn't see that until it was too late to make any changes. We have a formula for our spring break trips and we had missions to accomplish! And, that drive time did give the kids a chance to feel better - our RV was a Rolling Clinic. So, for a week timetable, I would suggest a shorter distance. I admire those driving RVs cross-country - I would like to know the shortest time someone has done that trip.
You may already be thinking that this type of vacation isn't for you and that's totally understandable. Or, maybe you are still wondering about renting an RV? I suggest that you consider whether anyone in your family would be comfortable driving/being responsible for the RV, whether you are o.k. with the set-up, clean-up, etc. that is required for the RV, and are you sensitive to small spaces, shared bathrooms (reduced privacy)?
For us, visiting the awe-inspiring campus of St. Jude's was critical for us and our kids to remember to serve others and give thanks every day. Something that I feel pretty confident in saying is part of the RV culture: being part of those communities. At every campground, we were met with kind and generous people always ready to lend us a hand. At our final location in Pigeon Forge, we were at a larger family campground where children rode their bikes everywhere and readily introduced themselves to each other, asking to play basketball, baseball, etc. I loved seeing that in our youth -- they were TALKING to one another. No electronics. No distractions. This is what will bring us back if we ever decide to try it one more time.
Now that our spring breaks have come and gone, it feels like we'll wake up one day soon and summer will be here. I hope that everyone is feeling the spirit of new life and renewal that the season offers. Who knew that an RV could make me feel so grateful?
"Give Thanks for the Healthy Kids in Your Life, and Give to Those Who are Not."