And the Great Wendland Family Roadtreking RV Vacation is off and westbound, headed to Colorado and the American southwest in a caravan of two Roadtreks, a travel trailer and an SUV.
You can follow the trip and see where we are in real time through a little map widget down on the right hand sidebar of this blog. We'll be posting daily reports, photos and videos right here. And, of course, we'll be updating via Twitter and Facebook as we go.
Meet the Family
Since you'll be seeing and hearing about the six adults, two kids and three big dogs we have traveling in two Roadtrek Class B motorhomes, one Gulf Stream Travel Trailer and an SUV, I thought it might be good to introduce them to you. I should also point out that my third child, Scott, with his wife, Lauri and my four grandsons, live in Georgia and are not on this trip with us. Jennifer and I will be heading down to visit them next month.
This trip to Colorado and the Four Corners area is made up of:
Mike and Jennifer Wendland, and Tai, our 70-pound Norwegian Elkhound. You already know us. We're on our second year of traveling North America in our Roadtrek and all our travel so far have been just us. We've wanted to share some of the adventures with our family but were stumped on how it could happen until Jim Hammill, president of Roadtrek, suggested to me a few months ago that all I had to do was tow a travel trailer with our Roadtrek eTrek. I had never thought of that. When I later shared Hammill's suggestion with Jennifer, she immediately invited our our Michigan children and their families. It made no difference that we didn't happen to have a travel trailer at the time. The fact that a travel trailer was the breakthrough solution was all Jennifer needed to hear. Now we could do a family vacation. Well, as of this week, now not only have a travel trailer, we bought one from American RV in Grand Rapids. Why did we buy one? Because with such short notice, all the decent rentals were unavailable from nearby dealers and American RV gave us such a great deal that we figured, hey, once the trip was over, we can always sell it and end up having it cost us out of pocket not much more than it would have had we rented one. So, we are now the proud owners of a brand new and very cool 2014 Gulf Stream Amerlite Super Lite 19BHC which we will tow with our 2012 Roadtrek eTrek motorhome.
Wendy, Dan, Hua Hua and Rachel Bowyer, and Charley, their 60-pound Goldendoodle – Wendy is our firstborn. She is also a journalist by training, having worked and won reporting awards at the Flint Journal and the Detroit Free Press. She is now a fulltime stay-at-home Mom, homeschooling Hua Hua, 10, and Rachel, 7, who she and Dan adopted from China. Dan is a music teacher in suburban Detroit. Wendy grew up camping. As a family, we had a pop up camper, a 13 foot travel trailer and tents. This trip to Colorado and the southwest is all her planning. She has long wanted to visit the region and has mapped out a route that will take us first to Colorado Springs, then Mesa Verde and the Four Corners region of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the Black Canyon at Gunnison and the Rocky Mountain National Park. Wendy and her family will be driving our 2009 Honda Pilot SUV.
Jeff and Aimee Wendland and their 125-pound dog, Sequoia – Jeff is our youngest child. He is the SEO Project Manager at Market Pipeline, a web design and development company in Kalamazoo, MI. Aimee is a teacher. Jeff also helps me with this blog and runs the Roadtreking Store website that sells Roadtreking-themed clothing and Class B motorhome accessories. He and Aimee love camping and the outdoors. Most of their experience has been in tents. Jeff has been curious about Class B motorhomes and Roadtreks in particular. So he and Aimee and Sequoia will be traveling in our caravan in a borrowed 2010 Roadtrek SS Ideal that we are privileged to use thanks to some friends at Roadtrek. This will be the first time they have traveled and camped in a motorhome and I'm betting he is going to be hooked.
Trying to keep together as we head out promises to be a challenge. We all have GPS. I've brought along some walkie-talkies and we have mobile phones. Saturday night's destination was the Amana Colonies and an RV park on the edge of town. The park had no shade but was pancake flat. We had a wide open area all around us and the camground even provided free hardood for campfires.
The Amana Colonies are pretty fascinating places. They were basically religious communes, founded by German immigrants. The leaders chose the name Amana from the Song of Solomon 4:8. Amana means to “remain true.” Six villages were established, a mile or two apart, across a river valley tract of some 25,000 acres – Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, High Amana and Middle Amana. The village of Homestead was added in 1861, giving the Colonies access to the railroad.
Farming and the production of wool and calico supported the community, but village enterprises, everything from clock making to brewing, were vital, and well-crafted products became a hallmark of the Amanas. Craftsmen took special pride in their work as a testament of both their faith and their community spirit. The Amana villages became well known for their high quality goods.
Today the seven villages of the Amana Colonies represent an American dream come true; a thriving community founded by religious faith and community spirit. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, the Amana Colonies attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, all of whom come to see and enjoy a place where the past is cherished and where hospitality is a way of life.
Evocative of another age, the streets of the Amana Colonies with brick, stone and clapboard homes, flower and vegetable gardens, lanterns and walkways, recall Amana yesterday.
When we checked into the RV park, they gave us tokens good for a pound of homemade German bratwurst at a local meat shop… our first stop before hitting the road this morning.
We drove a tad over 500 miles to get there and enjoyed our first campfire of the vacation and a gorgeous, starry night in the midst of the vast cornfields surrounding the community. We had a communal dinner of salad, grilled chicken, pasta salad and some hot dogs and, naturally, S'Mores after dark.
We're booked at the KOA in Gothenburg, NE for Sunday and then the Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs, CO for a couple of days.
After that, it's down through the mountains to the southwest, doing boondocking as we can. Hiking, photography and as much wilderness deep-breathing as possible are on my agenda.
If you are anywhere near us, we'd love to meet in person. And please pass along your suggestions here as to what we should see.
Here we go…