It’s estimated that there are a million plus fulltime RVers out there, traveling North America and living pretty much fulltime in their RVs. And those ranks are growing more and more every day. Jennifer and I have noticed this in our travels. We are meeting more fulltimers on seemingly every trip and many of them are families.

Mom and Dad work from the road, the kids are educated on the road and the families are thriving, seeing all the wonders of North America, together.

Does this idea intrigue you? Then stick around. We talk to an expert who has helped hundreds of families discover the joy of fulltime RVing. She’ll tell you who this is for, who it is not for and how to test if out for you and your family.

Also this week, your RV Lifestyle questions, RV news of the week and a great off-the-beaten-path report from the Burketts.

Show Notes for Episode #240 May 1, 2019 of The RV Podcast

WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK

JENNIFER
April showers bring May flowers. Well, now that it is May we’re sure hoping the steady dose of cold, wet, soggy weather we’ve had in the Upper Midwest lately will indeed give way to May flowers soon.
MIKE
Especially Tulips as Holland, Michigan and its famed Tulip Time Festival is where we’re headed next week. 
JENNIFER
This week, we’re still outfitting and organizing our RV for the summer travel season. People can check out our Thursday video on the RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube for an update on just what we’ve been doing.
MIKE
What are we doing here? Catching up, mostly. I’m editing, writing and organizing all the video photos and stories we’ve collected in the road over the past four months. We have family to visit and some yard work to do to get our home up here ready for the warm weather.
JENNIFER
I’ve been trimming rose bushes. Mike’s been trimming trees… largely so they don’t scrape up against our new RV, which we just purchased a few weeks ago. We’re also hard at work in our next Seven Day Adventure Guide eBook, to join the ones we’ve already done on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the southern part of Utah.
MIKE
The next guide should be ready in the next two weeks. It’s about one of favorite places to explore by RV… Colorado. Like the others in the series, it will suggest seven must see attractions, tell you routes to follow to get there, where to stay and what to do in the area. We price these guides very low, at just $7 each and being eBooks, they not only give you a curated guide for the trip, but they link to all sorts if other resources that will help you in your RV journeys as you visit the area. Colorado will be the next one. And we have a whole bunch mire planned.

RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK

 JENNIFER
A woman at Grand Canyon National Park last week falls to death – fourth such death in a month
Another visitor fell to death last week at the Grand Canyon National Park, bringing to four the number of deaths there since late March. Officials are warning visitors to stay on clearly marked trails and not get too close to the edge.
MIKE
Baby birds discovered living in a nest in the front of a Winnebago  RV after family stopped just 3 weeks to camp 
A family making their way north from southern Florida had quite the surprise last week when they made a pit stop in Naples, heard sounds from the front of their RV and discovered three baby birds in a nest in their grill. The family spent three weeks camping around Homestead, which apparently was enough time for the parents to build a nest in there, lay eggs and the eggs to hatch.
JENNIFER
Man spends $10,000 on RV but never given title, says he was duped
A man in Arizona says he paid $10,000 to an RV dealer and drove off the lot with his purchase, but never given the title. Now five months later, he still has no proof the RV is his. The dealership went out of business and without the title he can’t get the RV permanently registered. He’s hired an attorney but the owners of the now closed Scottsdale RV dealership in Phoenix are nowhere to be found.
MIKE
What you need to know before visiting popular Zion National Park this spring
If you are heading to Zion National Park soon, be sure to check to see what parts of the park are open. An unprecedented number of trail and canyon closures mainly due to weather related issues is squeezing the park’s numerous visitors into an increasingly smaller space, rangers say, causing new challenges. If you are planning to head to Utah this summer, be sure to get a copy of our Seven Day Adventure Guide to Utah…. It’s an ebook you can instantly download. It only costs $7 and gives you great tips in seven awesome places to visit in Utah, including Zion. Go to https://rvlifestyle.com/utah for more info.

 This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping  

LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

Hi Mike and Jennifer, My wife and I are heading to do the UP tour (we bought your guide) around May 16. (just happens to be my birthday)  We are from Wisconsin.  How do we find places where we can dump the black tanks? What is your advice for finding dump sites when your traveling? 
Tom and Barb

We suggest the AllStays Camp and RV App, which lists Campgrounds, Truck Stops, Rest Areas,  RV Dealers and service Wastewater Treatment Plants where RVers can dump.

RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK

Time now to talk about fulltiming in an RV as a family. No longer is the fulltime life something just for retired RVers. More and more people in their 30,s, 40s and 50s are doing so, many with young children.

It’s a dream that a lot of people have. So much so that our guest this week is not only a fulltime RVer with her family but she and her husband, Nathan, both work from the road, all the while educating their young kids as they travel across the country, hiking, sightseeing and exploring everything from big cities to remote wilderness areas.

She is Ashley Logsdon, a blogger, podcaster and  family coach devoted to helping families live out their dreams, by coming up with a real plan that will allow them to live fulltime in their RV.

Ashley Logsdon

If that description sounds somewhat familiar…how to live the life of your dreams … it may be because some of that is what we talked about last week in episode 239 with Dan Miller, the self-help business entrepreneur and New Your Times best-selling author.  If you missed that I urge you to go back and listen to it.

Well, this week, our guest, Ashley Logsdon,  just happens to be Dan’s daughter and she also works for him…from the road…in an RV. Ashley joins us now to help us understand just what fulltime family RVing is all about.

Here’s the full transcript of the interview with lots of links and resources listed at the end:

Mike Wendland:         Tell us about your life right now. A husband, kids and RV; you’re a full-time RVer. What’s your RV in? And walk us through that, and then, how the kids are educated? How old are the kids? Introduce everybody to your family.

Ashley Logsdon:          Wonderful. Okay. Well, we are originally from Nashville, Tennessee. And in October of 2016, we decided to hit the road full-time. My husband and I have been married for 15 years this June and we have three girls. They are 12 just turned 12 last weekend, 12, 9, and 6. They have been homeschooled since the beginning; and when we hit the road, we really moved into that unschooling model. And unschooling is one of the many different variations of homeschooling that’s out there, but essentially means, that when you ask our children, “Where do you go to school?” They say, “Everywhere.” And we say, “Who is your teacher?” They say, “Everyone.” And we believe in a lifelong learning approach for the whole family. So, we are learning right alongside them.

Ashley Logsdon:          And in the two and a half years we have been on the road, we have hit all 48 states. We still have Alaska and Hawaii, and we are making plans, at least for Hawaii, next. We’re holding off on Alaska. We’re ready for a lot of warmth, and we’re a little bit more limited with the Alaska travels. But yeah. We hit all 48 states before our two year nomadaversary on the road.

Mike Wendland:         The nomadaversary. I like that.

Ashley Logsdon:          The nomadaversary, yes. And we’ve had a blast and we have met so many families, full-time families, just like us along the way, which has been really great, too, because this is something that RVing is not just one demographic; and at one point, it was kind of that understanding that it was more the retirees. And with my generation, you have a lot of people that are saying, “I don’t want to wait for one day to do these things because I know that one day doesn’t always come.” There are those relationships that are severed, or the health that’s declined, or you just forget how to have fun. And we want to incorporate that.

Mike Wendland:         Tell us what kind of an RV you’re in. I would suspect you’re in a towable. Are you in a towable?

The family’s travel trailer RV is in the background. To Ashley’s left is the truck camper that goes on their tow vehicle that she uses as her “office” when working and that the family uses as a boondocking, tailgating base when exploring

Ashley Logsdon:          Yes, we are in a 29 foot travel trailer, and we were in a Jayco White Hawk. 2012 Jayco White Hawk, and it’s a bunkhouse. So, we’ve got the four bunks in the back of it, and then we actually also added, ours is a little bit of a unique setup here because we have a travel trailer, but then we also have a pop-up camper on our truck. And so, that’s what I’m in right now. This is my little mini office so that I actually do have a place that’s separate from the family for doing things like this, and also something that we can rent out, and do some quick boondocking, and more off-roading things that we can’t take our travel trailer on.

Mike Wendland:         Well, let’s talk about what this life that you have out there is like for you and your family. What are the benefits? The joys, the satisfaction that would that cause you to do this? What are those joys? People are listening to this and they’re saying, “Yeah, do I really want to do this?” Well, tell us why you do it and what you get out of it.

Ashley Logsdon:          Yes. Well big aspect of it was that we did want to travel. And so, this was one of those bucket list items; and it will always remain one day until you put a date on it. And so, we started to look at what did we want to have our life look like? And I’m a marriage and family coach, and so, I talk with families about having an intentional family and kind of creating a family vision for what you want your family to look like. And especially, when your children are young, you tend to kind of go into that chaos and reaction mode, where you’re just reacting to whatever curve ball your children are throwing your way.

Ashley Logsdon:          And we wanted to get a handle of that and be intentional about creating this story and the life that we wanted as a family; and travel was a big part of it. So, we saw because we have a dog, that this was something that was an easy way for us to travel and not have the complication of dealing with pets, because we can take our dog along. And we’ve gotten involved in a community of full-time families to really get to know a lot of other families like this.

Ashley, Nathan and their three girls

Ashley Logsdon:          And one of the things that we’ve really seen is just the positive impact on the kids in doing a lifestyle like this because we’re forced to be present. We’re forced to be there and be involved in our children’s daily activities. I mean, we live in less than 240 square feet. We don’t have much of a choice in the matter. So, we were able to really get intentional about what type of life we wanted, and choosing joy and being together and playing together and figuring out how can we function together, and work as a team in such a small space.

Mike Wendland:         That takes me back to the very first thing you said as you described that, and you talked about family vision. And I know from your website, that that’s really the first step, isn’t it?

Ashley Logsdon:          Very much so.

Mike Wendland:         And talk about how somebody who’s listening to this that their family, “Is this right for us?” How do they come up with that family vision?

Ashley Logsdon:          Well, one of the ways that we start, and I have a full process on the website of how to walk families through doing this, but we start by just kind of doing a brain dump of those things that you want to do. And I read a book a while back that really kind of got us started on this path and it was talking about laying out your goals, but even deeper than laying at your goal, is what’s the feeling behind the goal? And so, we took that into what is the feeling we want home to be like for us? What do we want family to look like? What feelings and emotions do we want when we walk in the house?

Ashley Logsdon:          And we did that. We drew pictures, we wrote different words that came to mind; and when we were doing ours, I had a three-year-old in the mix. So, it wasn’t that this was all people who were even of reading and writing age, but we talked about it as a family and we made it super simple. It’s six words. So, it doesn’t have to be so complex because sometimes, people will go down this path and they create a mission, and then, it’s shoved in a desk drawer somewhere and forgotten about because it was long and complex.

Ashley Logsdon:          So, we made it very simple; and for us, it’s explorer, respect, listen, connect, learn, and love. And everything goes back to that. And when you create a family vision, much like a business mission statement, when you create a family vision statement, then all of a sudden, it’s not me as a mom going, “I told you to be nicer to your sister,” but it is us going, “Hey, we created this as a family. This is what we want our family to be like. What is our family vision?” They go through it. “Well, does that show respect? Do you feel like this fits with what we agreed on as a family?” And then all of a sudden, they’re taking ownership and responsibility for their actions versus just being told what to do because mommy or daddy says so.

Mike Wendland:         Yeah, of course. That takes us to the next challenge that everybody looks at, and that is unfortunately for many, it’s financial. You work from the road. There’s your office that we we’re interviewing you in right now, which is a pop-up on top of the tow truck. You take your travel. I love that.

Ashley Logsdon:          Yes.

Mike Wendland:         But help people understand perhaps the costs of this? And then, how do you make enough on the road to live out that family vision?

Ashley Logsdon:          Alright. I am a big fan of multiple streams of income. So, I do not have all my eggs in one basket. I have a variety of income that’s coming in. One of the aspects of doing it is my marriage and family coaching with Mama Says Namaste. I also help run my father’s business, 48 Days; and we work with coaches to help them become a coach. We work with entrepreneurs. So, I’m very involved in my father’s business and I do coaching on personality styles and business as well as at home.

Ashley Logsdon:          So, I have both of those. We’ve also looked at some other options. When we hit the road, we weren’t ready to sell our house. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to do with that. So, we listed our house on Airbnb. And now, we do Airbnb in short term rentals and that is another part of what pays for our party.

Ashley Logsdon:          We also, in the process of us going through and figuring out what worked for us, we ended up creating a course; and it’s The 90 Day Family Road Trip course. And that course, I cover things like the pros and cons of what RV took to get, but also, I go a little bit deeper into that marriage and family aspect of saying, “What are your expectations?” And “How are you going to pay for the party when one person is wanting to hit every big city and every cool foodie restaurant and the other person just wants to quiet walk in the woods?” Getting on the same page and laying that out.

Mike Wendland:         Help us with a typical day, and there are no typical days. So, don’t that answer. That’s what most people say, but give us a day that helps us understand what this family party, this life on the road, this family vision is like for the Logsdon family.

Ashley Logsdon:          And I liked that you specified for the Logsdon family.

Mike Wendland:         Right.

Ashley Logsdon:          Because it is very different for us than what it will be for others. What I do and how we created what our lifestyle is going to be like was looking at the unique personality styles of every person in our home, which is the biggest aspect of my coaching, both professional and personal in 48 Days and Mama Says Namaste, but also, looking at what our family vision is.

Ashley Logsdon:          So, we’re coming to our lifestyle based on what we have decided from who we are and what we want our family to look like. And I happen to love working really, really, really hard to get everything accomplished at the beginning of the week. And so, Mondays and Tuesdays are my heavy Internet days. There are times I will put in a 10 or a 12 hour day on those two days because I feel more on top of things and ahead for the rest of the week to do a little bit more of crowd control maintenance and screen emails.

Ashley Logsdon:          We also do this because then, I know I have two days out of the week, I need great Internet because I do all of my coaching calls and all of the conferencing interviews are all done virtually with video calls. Because of that, we make sure that we’re in a great place for Internet on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of the week then is a little bit more fluid. On Wednesday mornings, the girls will have fun and they do a Spanish class virtually through Skype with a lady in Venezuela. She teaches them Spanish online; and they will hop on and do a little bit more Internet things on Wednesday when they aren’t hogging mine and when I can sit there and help them as well.

Ashley Logsdon:          And then usually, Thursday through Sunday is the majority of the time where we are out and about. We’re biking, we’re hiking, we’re doing Junior Ranger programs, exploring local venues. And we do a lot of free things. We do tailgating, well, we used to tell get out of the back of our car and now we’re going to tailgate in our pop-up camper kitchen here. And we’ll go out and we’ll spend a day where we picnic and we’re at parks, where we’re getting free access with our fourth grader pass, and things like that. So, we can go for several weeks without having any expenses other than potentially gas and campground fees.

Ashley Logsdon:          And even with that, with the memberships that we have through Thousand Trails, is one for example. We may not be paying for our campground fee either. So, we kind of go back and from not spending much at all to when we get into a place that maybe is a great foodie town. For example, since we love great restaurants, we may save up and not eat during a food desert area, and then we’d go over to a big foodie area and we’d go out, and we really enjoy a great meal or a great activity that we’ve heard about.

Mike Wendland:         Now, of course as you said, this is unique to your family.

Ashley Logsdon:          Right.

Mike Wendland:         I kind of have done the same thing as our business, and this is for us turned into a business, Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday, they’re 12, 14 hour days, but then the rest of the week is mine to go get more content for the following week, but it’s great. But as I listened to this, I know a lot of people are honestly saying, “Wow, I want that,” but there are also some saying, “I don’t know if that’s for me.” Who is this lifestyle not for, Ashley?

Ashley Logsdon:          One of the biggest struggles that people can deal with in this is decision fatigue, because you are deciding and constantly where you’re going to go camp, what it is you’re going to do, being flexible with the weather, and maybe having to reevaluate plans because of weather or sickness, or because a friend is going somewhere.

Ashley Logsdon:          So, this is not for someone who really gets themselves very worked up about change and transition. I would say you definitely want to be willing to be flexible in this lifestyle. And it is not for any family or anybody beyond a party of one, it’s not for anyone who has not clearly communicated what their dreams and expectations are of this; because when you go into it with different expectations, it doesn’t matter how great your road trip is planned out, if you’re on two different wavelengths, it can be a miserable ride.

Mike Wendland:         It is. So, you have a million resources. We could spend an interview a week talking about your coaching program, talking about how couples get along on the road, and how family disputes are settled, and all of that stuff. I will link. There’ll be also a transcript of Ashley’s interview in the shownotes, and we’ll put links to as many of them as we can. But Ashley, talk about the help that’s out there on the road. You mentioned that you’re seeing more and more families, there’s a community there.

Ashley Logsdon:          Yes.

Mike Wendland:         You’re not alone out there at all. Your girls are taking Spanish from a Spanish speaker in Venezuela. I mean, that is awesome. Walk people through those feared limiting things that they may have about it and how rich your life can be because of the communities that you’re involved with.

Ashley Logsdon:          Yes. Yes. Right. So, the biggest things that we hear that are holding people back is, number one: Spouse isn’t on board, which of course I’m dealing with getting on the same page with expectations. Then you get your finances, which looking this multiple ways to generate income. And then the third one is, well what about community? I’m scared of finding community on the road. And this is where there are so many great membership groups that are out there now.

Ashley Logsdon:          I just saw research, I think it was Kampgrounds of America last year, they said there’s over a million full-time RVers as of 2018. Over a million full-time RVers on the road. And there are a lot of great organizations. You’ve got Escapers, Escapees, RVillage, Fulltime Families, Boondockers Anonymous. You have so many different communities. The Air Streamers, Motor Coaches. And the reason why you get involved in a community like this, a lot of times is because of the face-to-face meet-ups that you get.

Ashley Logsdon:          And so for us, we got involved with Full Time Families. We joined that as a member and after three months on the road, we went into our first rally. And at that rally, we met over 85 families that were all full-timing. We spent a week getting to know these people and from that point forward, we never traveled alone unless we wanted to. And that community has been so helpful. We have friends literally all across the country, friends that we travel and caravan with, that we do meet-ups with. There are 22 families right now boondocking in Moab, just as a spur of the moment thing where they all wanted to go there and they’re all hanging out.

Ashley Logsdon:          So, we found so much community just in the different organizations. And then even in that now, I have become a kind of a start here resource for full-time families, and I worked directly with them and we’ve put on a conference for people brand new to the road. So, really kind of getting to know those newbie families and finding that even as a wonderful niche for myself to be able to connect and kind of help to foster and create that community as it’s coming in.

Mike Wendland:         A big part of this is the personalities involved. We’ll put links to them, but just a few brief words, you help them with the personality tests that will help them understand that. And then, you have all these guides available, but you also do personal one-on-one coaching with families to help them. Just briefly, how does that work?

Ashley Logsdon:          So, the personality assessment. I use the personality assessment that is DISC, is the one that there is. There are 10 that are out there. The one that my father and I both swear by in our businesses has been DISC because of its simplicity. And the whole point of doing an assessment is not to have a right or a wrong, or to have any sort of judgment around it. All it does is just open the door to self-awareness.

Ashley Logsdon:          And so, it is the basis for what I use for all of my coaching. And the first step in the coaching process, we do them all through Zoom. So, you get audio and video, and you get recordings of it; and I can screen share, we can look through your profile. And it’s simply looking at it and saying, “Does this resonate or does this not?” “Okay, so now let’s highlight. These are your strengths. And when your fears are triggered-”

Ashley Logsdon:          And we talk about what those fears are based on your personality style, when your fears are triggered, then those those strengths can turn into a very negative reaction. So, how to get intentional about pulling out the positive, and figure out what triggers the negative, and also what keeps you motivated? Because there are different motivators for different people.

Mike Wendland:         I know when we talked with your dad last week about making someday today, and this is almost part two of that in the sense that we’re taking another step closer to that, but for those who try it and it doesn’t work, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Ashley Logsdon:          Exactly. That’s why we actually did the course instead of it being the full-time family course, it was The 90 Day Family Road Trip because what we saw is that 90 days is this substantial amount of time to take off. It’s realistic enough even for a summer vacation. We actually just had an interview with a family that they’re literally taking three months to travel around and that’s it.

Ashley Logsdon:          So, 90 days is a great window of time to try something. And the deal is we say, “Either way, it breaks that glass ceiling of what you think is possible. It opens the door of possibility to a whole new level.” So, yeah, it really can be a win-win because anyway you look at it, it’s only a mistake or a failure if you don’t learn anything from it. And this is an opportunity where you can really learn and grow as a family on what really works for you.

Mike Wendland:         That’s awesome and it is so exciting. As we’ve traveled now, we’ve been doing this for seven years and we have noticed really over the last two or three, this sudden influx of younger people, of families who are full-time, the kids are learning on the road, and just the joy they have. And I want to end this interview with that one word, joy. Tell us about yours and about those who you have helped coach into this a full-time life on the road with the family.

Ashley Logsdon:          Oh, man. Joy is such a fabulous thing to be and I want to be a joy seeker in life. And so, that’s what we look for in everything, is that ability to let go and really be intentional about what you’re holding onto. And I choose every day to find joy and to seek joy. And that may be as simple as going outside and taking my shoes off and sticking my feet on the bare ground and just getting grounded and soaking in that moment.

Ashley Logsdon:          Or it may be cuddling up in a hammock with my children or going on a hike and seeing some epic views. And so, I feel like joy is so important, not just for having a good time, but our overall health and wellbeing and longevity in life. And so, it is something that we all have the opportunity to find, but it’s a choice to go out and seek it. And so, we do it every day

Mike Wendland:         Choose joy. And one of the great ways for a lot of us is living on the road; whether we’re retirees or solos, or as we’ve talked about today in this episode, families. Ashley Logsdon, I can’t wait to run into you guys out there on the road and spend some face time with you, besides the internet.

Ashley Logsdon:          Yes.

Mike Wendland:         Thank you for being our guests. We’ll link to all of your resources and keep seeking joy.

Ashley Logsdon:          Thank you.

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE INTERVIEW

Visit Ashley’s website at: www.MamaSaysNamaste.com/familyadventure – that’s where the majority of everything travel-related is focused, including this free webinar and her 90 Day Family Road Trip course

Also, travel-specific coaching for families can be found at www.MamaSaysNamaste.com/FTF

Her family vision page is www.MamaSaysNamaste.com/familyvision, and her podcast is the Mama Says Namaste podcast, which can be found on all your favorite podcast apps. 

You can find her on Instagram with all her travels at @FieldTripGypsies and marriage/family insights at @MamaSaysNamaste. 

Ashley is also very active in the group called Fulltime Families, which is a community that helps educate, encourage and  support fulltime RV families as they stray from the beaten path and create unique and remarkable lives for themselves. Here’s a link to that group – https://www.fulltimefamilies.com

The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new  motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT  

By Tom Burkett

When I was in high school, a friend and I used to go out for a Saturday, first on bicycles and later in the old cars high schoolers drove back then.  We’d turn down a road we didn’t know, and when it ran into another, we’d agree which way to go.  If we couldn’t agree, we flipped a coin.  I remember late one sunny morning we came across a farmer in knee-high boots standing in a large mud puddle, swearing.  Of course, we stopped.  It turns out he had built a pond to grow shrimp, and the drain was plugged up.  We helped him for an hour and then went on our way, richer by as much sweet corn as we could carry on our bikes.   That’s still my favorite way to travel—to go, it doesn’t matter where, but go slowly enough that it’s easy to stop, and with enough time to stay as long as you want. 

I love contra dancing, and when I went to a recent dance weekend in Cincinnati, I got Patti’s blessing to just keep traveling after the dancing ended.  I wanted to drive the Ohio River to Wheeling, West Virginia.  After a couple of quick highlights in the city suburbs,  I got out of town on the road called the Ohio River Scenic Byway.  Not too far along, in Ripley, was a sign marking the home of John Rankin, a noted Ohio abolitionist.  It perches high above the river where a lantern in the window would signal clear or dangerous passage for those crossing the river from Kentucky.  The sign there referred to another building in town, once a factory owned by a freed slave who held several patents and employed escapees from the Southern states.  All the buildings were closed on a cold spring day, but I spent more than an hour reading displays and peering in windows to satisfy my curiosity.

An old iron furnace

Ten miles down the river, and across in Kentucky, stands a gleaming statue of the Mothman.  The story of this winged creature with red eyes was turned into a feature film, and the two-block downtown offers a museum and the chance to purchase a t-shirt or coffee mug or a plastic likeness.  As if the Mothman weren’t enough, a historical marker across from the museum tells the story of the Silver Bridge collapse in 1966.  Forty-seven people lost their lives when a single link of chain failed from a defect measuring barely a tenth of an inch.

That chain may well have been forged right around here, because in the early twentieth century, this was iron country.  Pits and furnaces and factories dot the landscape, some well preserved.  The nearby city of Ironton grew up with the industry, and its residents were apparently as stout as the goods they produced.  Outside Tanks Memorial Stadium you’ll learn that this successful early semi-pro football team moved to Portsmouth, Ohio to become the Spartans, then to Detroit to become the Lions, one of the eight founding teams of the NFL.  It was here the first known Thanksgiving Day professional football game was played, a tradition Detroit continues to this day.

The Mothman Museum

I spent four days traveling the river road.  With an OK from small town police stations, I slept in city parks and ballfield parking lots.  I had breakfast at the local diner, sometimes with the old men who spend all morning drinking coffee.  I heard stories of the great Ohio River floods.  More than once someone dragged me away from the table to walk the main street and point out a notable disaster or civic accomplishment. At night I listened to the barges pass by, unseen.  And in every town, every single town, there were things to discover.  In one, it was the annual cardboard boat races.  In another, the tavern where Daniel Boone fought a flatboat deckhand to decide, once and for all, whether woodsmen or rivermen were tougher.  In a third, the submerged remains of a house in which all the members of a religious sect drowned when they insisted God would protect them from the steadily rising water.

I kid you not when I say that these are a fraction of the fascinating, moving, and inspiring stories I heard over those four days.  My time ran out before I reached Wheeling, and I turned homeward somewhere short of Marietta.  I may never finish  that trip, but there’s always another one waiting, out here off the beaten path.

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