As you might remember from some of my previous posts, for Spring Break this year Aaron and I decided to plan a week-long RV adventure with all five of the kids.
We started with grand plans - Utah, Grand Canyon, California - and then scaled back as we considered some of the basics such as this being our first time renting a RV, not knowing how it was all going to go, etc. We spent a bunch of time talking about closer places to go here in Oregon and ended up deciding on spending half of our week at Sunset Bay State Park and half at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park. Our thought process was that we would drive to the one that was farther away first (Sunset Bay) and then have a quicker drive home at the end of the week (in a car it takes about an hour and a half or so to get from Eugene to Honeyman - just outside of Florence - depending on traffic). We reserved our campsites in advance online through Reserve America.
We rented the RV from a local RV dealership - Guaranty - and it was a pretty easy process all around. We chose the 2015 Itasca Spirit 31H because it included enough sleeping spots that each of the five kids could have their own space at night. It was a really good choice for this group.
I loved the suggestions that many of you gave for our trip in the comments this post. Thank you again for sharing your experiences.
Aaron and I picked up the RV on Friday afternoon and brought it over to my house and started loading it up before the kids were picked up and dropped off. The dealership had actually asked us to pick it up on Friday (our reservation technically started on Saturday) because it was going to help them with the scheduling and walk-throughs with other renters. Picking it up the day before we left made it really easy to pack (it still took a few hours) and make sure we had everything before we took off on Saturday morning.
Before we left, I jotted down a few of the things I was looking forward to on the Notes app on my phone:
- Taking photos
- Hanging lights outside the RV
- Being together // connecting
- Hiking // walking // being outside
The photos I'm sharing in this post are a mix of iPhone and Canon 5D.
Of course I had to do a camera-on-the-dash-self-timer-shot before Aaron started driving.
And as you can see, Simon and all the kids were pretty darn excited about embarking on this adventure.
It took 4 hours or so to get from my house to Sunset Bay (we stopped for lunch along the way).
Here's a look at our campsite at Sunset Bay State Park. This is close to my parents house and we had them go check out a spot for us that was close to the showers and bathrooms. They did a great job picking a spot that fit what we were looking for this time.
Keep in mind, this is spring in western Oregon. Spring Break for us never means sunshine necessarily and it most often includes rain. It's how everything stays green of course. We knew this going into the adventure so we were ready for it to rain or be sunny (or a crazy mix of both as it turned out).
We were pretty happy to see the sun when we pulled into our spot.
As soon as we started unloading the kids were off to explore on their bikes. I'm so glad we decided to bring the bikes. We went back and forth a bit and ended up renting the bike carrier attachment for the back of the RV and then stored the girls bikes underneath in some of the storage areas. Next time it will be more awesome for Anna because she will be done with those training wheels.
The first thing Simon did was get a map so he could explore the entire campground.
Walkie-talkies came in super handy to keep track of these guys.
We brought along a bag of coloring books for the girls as well as a basket of books and some Playmobil people.
These two are quite the pair actually. They are just a little over a month apart (both 6) and they really enjoy each others company most of the time. We intervened a few times for little arguments here and there but for the most part they were just so darn happy to play with each other for six days straight.
We did choose to bring along electronics, mainly for the mornings.
We did have one day where it rained buckets and buckets and we stayed in the RV the entire day.
I'm not going to lie, that day was rough.
But we all made it through and the next day was overcast and warmer - which was much, much better than pouring down rain.
We're Oregonians, we make it through.
This is a beach that Simon has been to many times before with my parents. I love watching him explore.
After a couple nights at Sunset Bay we packed up and drove the short distance to my parents house before making our way to Honeyman. My parents were actually in Seattle visiting my new niece Olive so we missed getting the chance to see them but we did take advantages of their hot showers, wifi, and awesome stairs down to the beach.
As you can see, the blue sky appeared again.
I love how kids don't really care how cold it actually is outside.
Grandma and Grandpa have cool stuff to explore.
Audrey and Anna wrote a note to my parents while we were visiting their house:
After we finished up a load of wash, showered and had lunch we started the drive to Honeyman. It's about a 2-hour drive between the two in a RV.
Aaron and I had picked out our spot at Honeyman on that weekend we stayed at Washburne State Park around Valentine's Day. At Honeyman we wanted a spot close to the showers/bathrooms, close to one of the trails to the sand dunes and close to the playground. This spot also worked out great.
Honeyman is the second largest overnight camp in Oregon and is located basically right next to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - 40 miles of wind-sculpted, shifting sand dunes.
Really it's just an awesome place to run and jump and get your photo taken and then roll down giant sand hills.
Not everyone could fit at the table at the same time so when the weather was nice some ate outside or we did it in shifts.
We did end up planning out our meals which definitely made things simple. I brought the crock pot for chili and for meatball sandwiches. We did grilled cheese (or tuna & cheese for some) one night and burritos another night and hot dogs on another night of course. We did bring a little more food than we ended up needing, but it wasn't too crazy over the top. We did sandwiches most of the days for lunch and cereal or oatmeal (or toast for Simon) for breakfast.
I ordered a tube of glow stick bracelets and brought them out one evening. For the win.
The weather kept getting better as the days went by. Honeyman is on a lake which makes for some fun swimming spots - especially in the summer when it really gets warm enough.
Of course, the kids didn't seem to mind.
These four played and played and played. Simon explored and then sat down to chat with me and Aaron.
One of my favorite memories from this trip will be reading Harry Potter (Goblet Of Fire) out loud to the kids a couple evenings.
Aaron's oldest son Isaac (just turned 10) has read them all multiple times so he and I engaged in some fun trivia - including Simon when he was interested.
On Friday morning we packed up and drove home, getting back in time for the other adults in the kids lives to come pick them up. We spent the next couple of hours unpacking and then cleaning the RV before driving it back over to Guaranty and then falling into my bed after a very full, fun week.
On Saturday we drove up to Portland to celebrate Aaron's sister's birthday (check out this awesome Tiki Bar called Hale Pele next time you are in town). We also celebrated making it through the RV adventure.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. I'm someone that already likes camping and will definitely sleep in a tent again in my lifetime. But add in a warm, dry place to cook and sleep that's not a tent - I'm totally sold.
As with any vacation (or life experience, ha) there were some challenges. Personalities colliding. Agitations. Fairness stuff. Discussions about this and that and he said and she said. Tears shed. Escalations. I had a few moments where I lost my cool and needed a break. I think we all had a few of those moments. Lots and lots of sweeping (even with a shoes off in the RV policy). Moments where we felt like all we were doing was cleaning up from one meal and starting on the next. Moments that tested communication abilities all around.
Real life stuff comes along on vacation too.
There was also a lot of laughter and silliness and exploration and independence building and fresh air. There were smores and glow bracelets and bike rides and new friends at the park and jumps off the dunes. There were two families coming together, in all our imperfections, figuring it out one moment at a time. Expanding hearts bit by bit.
PS | Don't forget that the Spring Sale is happening now with 40% off my digital products and 25% off all alphabet stickers. Shop the sale here. Also don't forget to sign up for my new 12-week online workshop Type - signing up before April 6th gets you 20% off the full price.