Our trip so far…. learning lessons… making lemonade



It is August 27th! I can’t believe we have been on the road over 3 weeks. So. much. has. happened. We are learning so much and I knew this recap of our trip so far would be very difficult so I decided to hash this out in the top 10 lessons learned so far.

#10: It takes so much longer to get anywhere than you think it does.

When we left home we planned to get to our half way spot in Rapid River, MI around dinner time or a little later. According to our trusty GPS it would take about 6 hours or so and we would be sure to be on the road no later than noon. Well, we didn’t get out of Freeport until almost 2:00 because of one thing or another when doing last minute checks. Boy are we glad we stayed an extra day rather than rush to leave Saturday like we originally planned. Oh and when your GPS says it takes 6 hours – in RV time that means 8-9 hours. We arrived at our campground around 10 at night. We set our RV up for the first time in the dark – success!

#9: Always make sure you double check reservations at a non-office campground.

We parked our RV for the week at South Shore Campground in Cornucopia so that we could go back and forth to our cabin and spend time with Brandon’s family and say our goodbyes to them. All in all it was a good week, but didn’t really feel “real” as far the RV life is concerned. I got a couple days to myself at the RV which was amazing and peaceful but as far as all of us living and being in the RV…. this would come. When we pulled into this campground we found a spot that had no reserve marker (as directed) and we paid our money, putting it in the slot up front and claimed our spot for the week. The next morning I had a note telling me that I would have to move my RV one night when someone else already had it reserved. Oy! That was a major pain, but lesson learned, always call and talk to the RV owners of campgrounds like this so that you know the spot you have is secure. We packed up, we moved and we moved back. Oreo the traveling cat was in for a bit of stress, but he handled it all well!

#8: Technology is great, but please, please have a paper map and enjoy the journey when you are lost.

This is a tough one because it hurts to even write. We were so excited to head to the boundary waters for our first official week in the RV! We had an awesome campground all booked and ready. Golden Eagle in Grand Marais, MN – a beautiful location near the famous Gun Flint trail, only 4 or 4 1/2 hrs from our location in Cornucopia. I had booked the place quite a while ago and in the hurry of us leaving and too much to tell, I quickly did a google search to plug in the address in my GPS so that we could be on our way. Once again 4 hours turns into 6 (we haven’t learned this lesson yet) and we were getting tired and ready to hit our destination. When we were on our last turn in toward the RV park something was sitting right with me. We were in Minnesota, the sign said Golden Eagle, but something didn’t seem right. When we pulled into the office and it was closed my stomach started to tie in knots. Scrambling through my notes and paperwork I saw the real address and knew that was not what I had punched into GPS. We were at a completely different Golden Eagle 6 hours from the Golden Eagle where we were supposed to be!

My heart sank.

I tried not to cry.

It happened. It was done. There was no turning back. We found someone to help us and lead us to an available campsite with the knowledge we would sort everything out tomorrow.

And sort it out we did. My husband was able to re-group and make a decision on what we would do instead. We would head to Voyageurs National Park (who knew that even existed?) and still get our “water” paddling fix and we would fore go the boundary waters. That still. hurts to write.

The Golden Eagle in Perham, MN where we ended up turned out to be a really nice place. It had a pool which the kids were excited about and other kids there which was fun for them. We stayed there for a few days to get over the big mistake that will not be mentioned again. And yes, we have a nice atlas in the car with us now. :)

voyageurs-canoeing#7: Know yourself. Know how much you can handle and stick within your means.

Once Brandon recovered from my mistake he made a new plan which took us to Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. Who even knew about this park? We knew here we could still get our “paddling” fix and a back country camping experience.

And boy did we. We set out with the four of us and our 4 very packed backpacks in a canoe with strong headwinds out of the north (straight where we were paddling). We were told it would be easy to find a campsite – “Just look for the signs!” they said. So compass and map in hand we paddled and paddled and paddled. We were told it would be 3 to 3 1/2 miles to where we intended to go, but all said and done we estimate we paddled about 6-8 miles that day.

4 hours later we finally found a campsite and it was NOT easy to find. We ended up almost giving up when a couple kayakers spotted us and told us just keep going a little further and we would find it. Sure enough – we did. We set up camp and Brandon made us a wonderful dinner and we fell asleep talking and watching the stars.


voyageurs-tent-set-upWell…. sleep is relative I am sure because we were in SO much pain from our paddle that day. We are a pretty in shape bunch but that was a rough paddle. I woke up every time I moved with shooting pains all through my body and a pounding headache.

The next morning Brandon made us pancakes and we pondered our paddle back. The winds were supposed to die down, but instead they were stronger and now a headwind out of the southeast – again, back where we were paddling. I was feeling chilled and huddled by the fire while we were all contemplating being rescued (but mind you, there was NO cell service anywhere out there!)

Just then a fishermen floated over telling us we should not try and paddle back with a full canoe like we had. “Meet me at the dock at noon and I’ll take you back.” Thank you God!

voyageurs-exhausted#6: There’s always a way out of a bad situation.

The kayakers… and now Lane (our fishermen who took us home so we wouldn’t have to paddle back)… if you need help it is always around the corner. You just need to keep your eyes open and be willing to ask for help.



Another highlight – the kids earned their Junior Ranger Badges. They worked for these!

#5: Being sick in a move-able 350 sq ft box really sucks.

By the time we arrived back at our camper I felt terrible and had a temperature of 102+. The body aches and chills were in full force. And for the next 8 days it would be relentless. I haven’t been this sick in I don’t know HOW long. I mean I just do not get sick. But boy I was out for the count. My boys were amazing taking care of me and Brandon was left to do everything. I often thought before we left on this trip, I wonder what it will be like when someone gets sick? Well I had no idea it would be ME and so SOON.

I needed to rest, but we were on the move to the Mall of America so I had to push through for the boys (this was a main destination request of theirs) and I did my best. By the time we reached our next destination I was able to really rest for two straight days which helped a lot. Oh and the trip to urgent care and the round of antibiotics.

#4: The cheapest campgrounds are not always the best campgrounds.

I know this seems obvious. We are members of Passport America and the Good Sam Club which allows us 10% to 50% off campground fees around the country. Some of them are wonderful, but a lot of them do exaggerate their amenities just a bit. We are doing our best to look at reviews, map the locations, look at pictures, etc but the best thing you can do is see the place, but at times that can be too late or you are just too tired from traveling and just want to set up “home”. We are learning what we need and desire for each place and probably our #1 is leads me to the next….

#3: Wifi is our best friend.

We spent the better part of a week in a place that did NOT like Verizon and had NO wifi service at our campsite. Brandon was able to sit in the car up at the camp office in order to send some emails and do a little work, but it was not ideal. As we work out the bugs in the first part of this trip, we realize without wifi we cannot work and the kids will have trouble doing school work. This poem written by the daughter of a friend of ours is so cute and perfect…just how I feel.

#2: We are NOT on a year long vacation.

For some reason we have to keep reminding ourselves of this. Brandon still has to work, the kids still have to go to school and we need to have somewhat of a structured life. We are just doing it on the road. But so far it just feels like we are supposed to be on vacation and seeing and doing everything that comes our way. Like Wall Drug! and the Bad Lands! We must hike that! Bike that! See that! Do that!

But its not realistic.

There have been feelings of guilt for not doing everything we can…. and we have been exhausted from trying to do it all. Already.

But we are learning. To slow down. To be ok with spending the day working, reading, swimming at the pool and having a nice family dinner.

#1: Its ok that we haven’t figured this whole thing out yet.

The most important thing in the world to me is my boys and my husband and our family. That we are healthy and happy and growing every day. We knew this trip would take some time to get figured out and we also knew there would be some “detoxing” involved with escaping the mold everyone lives in from day to day. Its what we craved and what we wanted. But it is a journey and we have to always remember that it will take time. It hasn’t been easy so far, but as long we are together, we can do anything. I really do believe that.

* For another take on our trip so far (post coming soon) head on over to my husbands blog!



  1. Tammy!!! I’m bummed you are having some rough experiences, but I’ll admit- I’m still slightly jealous of your family’s amazing adventures. (:
    I hope things smooth out for you! Love you bunches!

  2. We live in an RV too, I do ER travel nursing where we stay in one location for three months. I like the pace, and wouldn’t really want to go much faster from location to location.

    Nothing wrong with down days where you just chill and accomplish nothing but relaxation. Isn’t that why you started this journey in the first place;)

    We joke about how much free time we have. It borders on obscene.

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