The Stewart 6 Go West —>Part 1: the nitty gritty

Howdy friends! I hope summer was wonderful and your bucket lists got checked off! We did almost everything! Not sure if we will check off the last few things or just leave them…because technically summers not over until mid-September 😉

I’m not sure how many posts it will take to share about our wild cross-country adventure we took last month….but here goes! I promise (as always!!) to be honest about our trip! It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine people. I know. Hard to believe. But I’ll give you all the details you can handle! 😉

We’ve been wanting to take a trip back to Washington for awhile now (we hadn’t been since we moved away in March or 2014). Last summer we were slightly occupied and  Christmas/winter was out too. So after we got settled into our KC home we decided this summer it needed to happen. Way back in like May, we booked our RV with Cruise America. We briefly looked into local RV dealerships to see if they rented out RVs, but didn’t get much info back, so we went with Cruise America. I will give my full honest opinion about that decision later.

So why didn’t we just fly there you ask? Most people probably would. Here are our reasons for not: 1.) I am not a fan of flying. Add 4 children to keep track of/keep happy while flying….just thinking about it makes me want to have a panic attack. Not mention we have to bring so much crap gear….flying seemed like a logistical nightmare. Also I did not want to see the faces of people when we boarded a plane. So much unhappy faces all around. 2.) We love road trips. I’m pretty sure our kids do too…but we love the process of getting to our destination. So much cool stuff to see and do and you miss it all when you fly over it. 3.) While we love road trips, the thought of 10+ hours in our SUV for days on end made our faces twitch. Plus it would be hard to make meals on the road and no one wants to eat that much fast food…or take all the kids into sit-down restaurants every meal. Also bathroom breaks. Public restrooms=possibility of a nervous breakdown for me. And when our kids needed to go, as long as it was a pretty safe road/area, they got up and went! It saved sooo much time! 4.) Once we got to Washington, we didn’t want to have to stay in a hotel, nor did we want our parents to have to make room for all of us and or crap gear in their homes. Plus camping along the way there/back was generally cheaper than hotel rooms. You also don’t have to unload your luggage/kids/food, etc. everytime you stop for the night. Winning. So factor in all those reasons our best option was rent an RV. About a month before our trip, we booked any campsites we needed as well as planned out our routes and places of interest to stop as see! Nathan bought a US Map on Amazon so that we could hang it up in the RV and at home after the trip. We plan on charting out previous trips we’ve taken so we can see where all we’ve been and where we still need to go!

The red line is on our way to Washington, the blue is on the way back to KC…and in true family-of-six-sponatious-fashion…the last leg of our trip ended up not looking like it does on the map. The green dots are places to spend the night, and all the funny little pictures are places/things to see 🙂

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And then the packing. About 5 days before “take off” I started gathering things in plastic totes…dishes, paper goods, cooking supplies, laundry detergent, dish soap were in a tote altogether. Snack food I gathered in reusable shopping totes. We had a pile in the garage of things like camp chairs, pack n play, bikes, and other camping gear. Also a box of diapers and wipes. I started duffle bags for everyone. Since we would be doing camping in the PNW and Yellowstone, I knew we would need things like jackets and pants…those are easy to pack when you’re not needing to wear them during a humid heat wave in KC. I also started a secret tote of things for kids to do on the road.

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The secret tote included some new toys for the little twins but it mostly had things like: magnet toys/cookie sheets, school worksheets, stickers, sticker books, paper, manipulative, and a few new books. Those yellow and green plastic containers were to keep stray pieces of things corralled so that there weren’t Lego pieces, crayons, and puzzle pieces all over the floor.

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And then came the day to pick up our RV! Nathan and I had watched all the instructional videos that Cruise America wants you to watch so we felt we sort of knew what we were doing.

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We picked it up at a local UHAUL place that rents these out. When we arrived, it wasn’t ready yet and a gentlemen was inside with a drill and some other tools…I can’t really recall what he was repairing, the sink maybe? Apparently the RV they set aside for us had a flat tire and fixing up this one was faster. Now I realize I’m a type A person and my standards on cleanliness might be slightly extreme…but the RV was not clean, and I’m pretty sure anyone would agree with me. Mud in the shower, sticky counter tops, suuuuuper smelly fridge, floor not swept, and it was obvious this RV had been around awhile. One light didn’t work, a cabinet wouldn’t close, molding/trim falling off in places,…we didn’t expect perfect, but this RV hadn’t been maintained very well.

I wish I had taken more pictures on the inside…but as soon as we got it home, we sort of hit the ground running getting it packed up, so pictures didn’t even cross my mind! So sorry! But if you look at the above picture you can see the compartment door on the bottom left of the RV…that is a huge storage space and it was so great to have! We fit a lot in there without filling it! Grill, strollers, pack n play, water bottles, cooler, extra food, beach toys, canopy…it really was a great space.

Why did we have a cooler you ask? An RV has a fridge, so why the cooler? Well, when we picked it up, they turned on the propane for the fridge and said it should take about 6 hrs to get all the way cool. 5 hrs later, we noticed no difference whatsoever. We made sure the RV was level. Still didn’t seem to help. Nathan called Cruise America to report the problem. The gentlemen he spoke with said he’d check into possibly getting us another RV or they would give us $10/day for ice and someone would call back shortly. Hour and a half later, no call. Nathan calls again….no one was checking up on anything. Nathan asks to speak to the customer service manager…there isn’t one. There isn’t even a customer service department. And the gentlemen was not terribly friendly about this whole scenario, and kind of acted like this was our problem, not theirs. The offer of $10/day for ice was all the help we got. After looking at some reviews on Google, turns out a lot of people have been unhappy with Cruise America for their lack of a customer service department. However, when they are pretty much your only option for renting an RV, what are you going to do? Leave a bad review but that’s about it. So back to the fridge…I put a box of baking soda in it and that seemed to dramatically reduce the smell and after leaving the RV sit all night long level, the fridge did seem coolish. We didn’t want to chance the fridge not working at all so we put all our dairy in a cooler and hoped for the best! The fridge did work after all….just took like 12-14 hrs to get cool instead of 6hrs. The fridge thing was certainly annoying, (I mean it’s one of the top 3 reasons we chose renting an RV for this trip instead of driving a car) especially when we were met with a little bit of attitude from the Cruise America rep over the phone…but it did not deter us from our grand adventure!! So after writing out that whole piece of our experience with Cruise America I will tell you, we will not be using them again and I will not recommend their services to anyone. Check around with local dealers first. Sometimes “snow-birds” rent out their RVs during the summer when they aren’t using them. Check out as many options as you can before you land on Cruise America. If they were our only option….we would still look for another 😉 And I was truly hoping when we started planning this whole trip that I could say amazing things about them…but I can’t. I’m sure some people have a great experience with them…but I can’t imagine how helpful this company would be if there was a problem bigger than a fridge not working.

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Back to the trip! In this post I’m going to mainly focus on the “How” of the trip and the next few posts I’ll be talking about the “Where/What”.

How did we keep busy while on the road in the middle of nowhere you ask? Great question. I knew keeping my older two occupied wouldn’t be too much of an issue. The little twins however…I really didn’t know what to expect. They love sleeping in their beds, moving around, pushing things…so I knew keeping them happy would be a challenge.

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A&H spent most of the time at the table doing schoolwork, using magnet toys, coloring, doing stickers. Occasionally we would let them lay down up top and play their kindles.

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The Stewart 6 Go West:: Part 1||eventuallycomplete.comE&J definitely had their moments of unhappiness, but overall, they did really well. They seemed to get used to their confinement fairly quickly. Also having big windows around to look out was new and cool to them…also big siblings to entertain them. At each stop we would do our best to let them crawl around and get their wiggles out. I would try and bring out new and interesting things for them to do. Also lots of snacks. We tried movies a couple times, but that doesn’t hold their attention for too long. And of course sometimes, we just had to let them be unhappy.

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Since their schedule was all thrown off, they did get a lot of napping in!

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Where did everyone sleep? The big kids took turns on the top bed and the futon/couch, the little twins shared the dinette bed, and we had a queen size bed in our master bedroom area. I failed to get a picture of the master bedroom area…my apologies! But here’s what the sleeping situation looked like:

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We knew there wouldn’t be enough room to fit 2 pack n plays in the RV because then no one would be able to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night, so our solution was to get a toddler bed railing for the dinette bed. It worked really well!

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And everyone slept great….as soon as they actually fell asleep that is. The little twins thought it was super funny to stick their fingers in each others ears and sing and climb on each other and laugh, and then she would kick him with her brace and he’d cry…and about 20-30 minutes later, they would finally be asleep. They also woke up considerably early. But hey, everyone slept all night long, and that’s what counts!

This is me trying to wash some dishes while E&J are supposed to be trying to sleep…

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Little turkeys.

How did we bath the babies? The baby bathtub actually fit perfectly into the shower! And A&H took showers in there too,…so it was great to have that!

Me giving Miss J a bath while Mr. E crawled around by our bed. The door behind me is the toilet and sink. We used our bed to change them…it really was a great set up!

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Here’s E&J getting some wiggles out on our bed during one of our stops:

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I think that about wraps it up for the “How” and “Why” of the trip! Even though we weren’t thrilled about the service of the company we used, we really had a great time and don’t regret getting an RV at all…in fact we are hoping the Lord directs us to an RV for us to purchase someday in the future! As much as we love Journey, and she’s so super cute, we realized we are RV people. Plus, the 6 of us would never fit in her. That doesn’t mean I won’t look for some rad vintage RV to fix up and make awesome…I could never own a brand new RV with a flat screen TV or something…we have to camp in style! 😉

Stay tuned for my next few posts, those will be about the trip itself! We went to so many cool places, I can’t wait to share it all!

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Press on!

Jaimi