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936Pennies Roadtrip

The Real Numbers Behind Our 7-Week Road Trip As a Family of 5 (And Counting)

October 5, 2017

I didn’t know if we would actually do it–if this grand scheme would really happen. It seems like so very long ago, only a few months in reality, that I felt the pressure of our home not selling, and our window of opportunity closing. I questioned whether we would actually get to take this trip of a lifetime we had always dreamt of.

And so here, the day after we returned from a seven week road trip to the Pacific Northwest with our three (and counting) kids and our Labrador retriever, it all still feels a bit like a dream. Did we really do this crazy thing? Sell our home and pack our life into hardly 200-square-feet of mobile space and hit the road for nearly two months? We did. And we are forever changed because of it. Or rather, each of us, and we as a whole, are more of who we were always meant to be.

During our three-day drive home, my husband and I began talking through the numbers that went into this trip, and how much they speak of the experience. And so here they arethe real numbers behind a 7-week road trip as a family of 5 and counting.


The Trip Statistics:


7 Weeks

2 Adults

3.5 Kids (Ages 6, 4, 2, and a new little one coming in March!)

1 Labrador

20-foot travel trailer (25 feet when the beds are popped out)

3,600 Miles traveled

Our Trip In Numbers:

Cost of our trailer: $8,700 (Which we will sell for the same once we are back in a house)

Living expenses for seven weeks (Includes groceries, eating out, gas, utilities, rent–or camp site fees–, household items, entertainment / outings):  $6,422

What those same living expenses would have been at home (for 7 weeks):  $6,914

Savings of: $492

Number of times the car and trailer were towed: 1

Number of things Grayson replaced on the car throughout the trip: 4 (Fuel pump, wheel bearing, spark plugs, battery)

Amount spent on fishing gear and licensing: $287

Number of fish or crabs of legal size caught: 0

Number of places we stayed: 7

Longest we stayed in one place: 3 Weeks (Orcas Island, Washington)

Shortest we stayed in one place: 1 Night (Middle of nowhere truck stop in Wyoming)

Friends’ yards we camped in: 3

Number of new states visited for Eryn and the boys: 3

Amount spent on utilities for a family of five for seven weeks: $40

Spent on coffee: $179

Miles Grayson ran in the woods: 74

Number of ferry passings: 10

Number of mountain passes: 5

Average gas mileage while towing: 8 miles to the gallon

Lowest gas mileage while towing: 4 miles to the gallon

Number of date nights: 1

Number of “Is-this-urgent-care-worthy?” injuries: 4

Number of trips to urgent care: 0

Days we ran our friends’ Bed & Breakfast while they took their own adventure: 5

Souvenirs purchased: 8 Books, 3 Pieces of art for a total of $166

Writing Numbers:

(Because this was also a work trip)

Manuscripts finished: 1

Magazine article submissions: 4

Blog posts published: 10

Interviews conducted: 2

Chapters for new book written: 3

Not knowing exactly how to project and budget for a trip like this, we ended up going over what I thought the trip would cost. However, when all is said and done, living on the road cost us a bit less than our regular living expenses. And really, what mattered to us was the time cost. We spent 7 weeks of the 936 weeks we have with our kids exploring mountains, beaches and waterfalls.

They asked great questions and we pondered the same kind of questions ourselves as we watched sunsets over the Puget Sound. We talked of God’s grand creation, what makes up a life that matters, and what is truly important when deciding how we spend our limited days. We invested seven weeks that we will never get back–but I wouldn’t want them back. They have done their job and played their roll in leaving us never the same because of our journey.

Traveling with kids is not easy or cheap–but I stand here on the other end of seven weeks living all squished together with my favorite people and I implore you–do it! If not for seven weeks, then seven days. Or start this weekend by packing a cooler and heading to a nearby nature area for an entire day. These days are painfully limited, but we can stretch them. We can expand them and pack them full of moments with legacy power, leaving us never the same again.


On Fighter Jets, Living Books, A Month on the Road, and The Biggest Jellyfish in the World

September 18, 2017

Deception Pass (Take 2)

September 6 – 14

The sound was deafening. I was certain they were about to take a crash landing straight into our campground. After a week spent outside of Seattle, we were back at Deception Pass. This being our second stay here, we were well used to the fighter jets rumbling across the sky at all hours.

The Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, was a few miles away from where we were staying. And tonight the jets were out well after the campground “quiet time”. My husband and I sat peacefully in the camper reading, the boys fast asleep, when the jets began roaring just over the treetops of the campground. My husband and I jumped up and ran outside, watching the lights of the jets dart across the black sky. It was exhilarating.

Our first week at Deception Pass, I met a woman at the campground playground. Our kids played together on an old wooden ship while she and I talked. Her husband worked on the air base, and they lived there at the campground in their fifth-wheel RV. She was obviously more seasoned than I am when it comes to tiny living, yet we shared the same feelings and sentiments over how good it feels to pare down and live simply.

During our second stay at Deception Pass, we met another family who lives in their RV while the dad works on the air base. They are a fellow homeschooling family, and she and I shared struggles and hopes for tiny living and home education. Connecting with old friends and meeting new ones–these have been one of my favorite parts of our trip.

What we are eating:

Lox grilled cheese (gluten-free) at San Juan Cheese Restaurant

Instant Pot gluten free gnocchi soup

Steak, potatoes, green beans


We are becoming very comfortable cooking in our tiny kitchen!

What we are learning:

I am a person who does best not leaving home in the morning. I love slow mornings.

My husband can still run a sub 8-minute mile. He’s a stud.

How to replace the awning on an RV

I am finally learning how to enjoy reading fiction. We are reading through some of the classics–Living Books, as Charlotte Mason called them, timeless fiction or non-fiction with lessons for all ages–before we begin reading them with the boys. On the topic, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in For the Children’s Sake, says, “The adult, whether teacher or parent, has to be able to enjoy and understand what he or she is reading with the children” With the purpose in my mind of learning the messages in these brilliant books, and enjoying them with my children, I am loving reading them.

Started reading:

Wind in the Willows (Favorite quote so far: “By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”)

936 Pennies manuscript – final read through before it goes to press next month!

Questions of the week:

Zeke: “What do krill eat?”

Ellis: “How do octopuses walk?”

It felt good to be back on the Puget Sound. This place has quickly woven itself around my heart. We took a day trip on the ferry over to Friday Harbor where we found delicious food, intriguing antiques, and a cozy little bookshop.

Grayson took all three boys on a hike through the woods down to the beach. With our first rainy days, we found ourselves grateful that we bought everyone a new rain jacket for the trip!

My highlight of the week was when we explored the Ben Ure Spit at sunset. We all learned how to identify different types of clams and cockles as we made our way around the Spit. The sun began to descend around us, and we watched the tide come in and begin to fill the tiny creeks throughout the spit. A perfect, unrushed evening.

At a bookstore in Coupeville, Zeke picked out a Beachocomber’s Guide to Sea Life. He set out straight to the beach and identified a stranded Lion’s Mane Jellyfish–the biggest type of jelly in the world, which he now tells everyone about. I am pretty sure he believes he found the (one and only) biggest jellyfish in the world.

Our final stay at Deception Pass had a refreshing pace about it. After a month on the road, we finally felt like we were settling in and able to rest. The week was marked by family hikes, home (or trailer!) cooking, beach combing, and bookstore exploring. I pray Deception Pass–Growler fighter jets and all–will always hold an important place in our family history, with many more visits to come!

Devotional Living With Intention Peace Plan Roadtrip

What Life On The Road Has Taught Me About Balance In Life. And That There Is None.

September 14, 2017

It’s a funny thing, taking off on a two-month road trip with one of your greatest goals being to find deep rest–only to discover that living in a 208-square-foot space with your husband, three young boys, and pregnant self, is not exactly restful. Imagine that.

My perspective on “rest” has shifted in monumental ways over the past few weeks. I feel as though humankind is constantly in search of the “balanced life”. I have been, anyways–on pursuit of a balanced life for years now. Can we really find a balance, when the circumstances of life tip from one side to the next so constantly? Only now do I see that rest and balance depend not so much on our circumstances, but on the state of our heart. Rather, I am coming to believe that this “balance” is more about finding a right relationship between rest, play, and work.

Issaquah, Washington

September 1 – 6


We parked our camper in the yard of some (very gracious) friends. Grayson knew them years ago from Bible school. It was so good to fellowship, break bread, hike, and share stories together over the week.

“Zeke, there is so much that I want to tell you about here.” Four-year-old Ellis told his big brother from the back seat. The day before, Daddy had taken just Ellis out to Seattle for the afternoon. And now Ellis played tour guide as we all ventured into the city, telling us all the details of the Space Needle, the tour cars that go into water, and the bike shop where they had discovered vegan donuts that he could eat. He sounded as if he had always lived there, just like his Daddy did for three years, two decades ago.

We watched the boys learn about combustion, what plants astronauts grow in spaceships, and what butterflies eat while exploring the Pacific Science Center. Then had lunch at Gasworks Park, where Gray took me eight years ago on our honeymoon.

We woke up on our fifth morning to ash falling from the sky. The hills of the Columbia River Gorge, where we stayed two weeks ago, are ablaze in fire.


Rest takes time.

When you are around someone who is doing something you want to do in life, ask them all the questions. Don’t waste time or shy into small talk. Interview them. Learn from them. And in so doing, make friends.

Apple crumble needs sugar. Not honey. That’s just how it is.


Started Reading:

For The Children’s Sake: Foundations of education for home and school, Susan Schaeffer, Macaulay

The Dark Tower And The Gunslinger, Stephen King



Gluten Free Marionberry biscuits from Issaquah Coffee Shop

Breaking bread with friends: Grilled pork with potatoes and green beans. Instant pot minestrone with ceaser salad. Apple crisp with ice cream. Chicken and rice with vegetables–so thankful for friends feeding us.

Found gluten free, vegan cookies, local strawberries, blueberries, and peaches at the Issaquah farmers market.

As I observed our friends over the week, and how they homeschool and lead their children, I was humbled–and honestly amazed. This work, rest, play thing–they seem to get it. Their home was calm–well, as calm as it could be with three extra little boys running around!

I think that this trip is giving me the crash course I wanted on rest this year. I wrote it in my journal at the beginning of the year:  “Get really good at work, rest, and play.” Of course, back then I had no thought of this trip, or the opportunity I would have to learn deep rest through two months on the road. But here I am.

It doesn’t come from our surroundings. It comes from a deep understanding of when rest is most important, and a habit of placing work on hold for more lofty things. It comes from holding fast to Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:28, “I will give you rest.” It comes also from a never-giving-up pursuit of that rest, as the author of Hebrews instructed, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest”.

It comes from finding the most purposeful work, the kind that fills us up while serving others. It comes from knowing how to walk a trail in the woods long enough for tasks to fade from our minds, left behind with each step forward in the dirt. It comes from knowing when to untangle the mess of thoughts in our mind, and go play with our kids–Or that playing with our kids is exactly how we untangle that mess of thoughts.

It comes from time–rest does. Time practicing it, pursuing it, and never giving up on it.


936Pennies Adventure Roadtrip

Maybe 208 Square Feet Is All We Need – Our Second Week On The Road

September 6, 2017

Our Second Week of Life on the Road

Deception Pass, Washington. August 24 – September 1


It was not exactly our smartest parenting moment.

We had thought it a brilliant idea, only moments later to realize we had set a trap for ourselves. “Let’s let them decide.” My husband suggested from the driver seat. We were leaving Newport, Oregon, where we had settled for a few days to watch the Total Eclipse. Heading North out of town, we ran into stand still traffic, a line of eclipse chasers headed back to life and work. “We could cut east for a while, head to the Columbia River Gorge, then back to the ocean later.” Neither he nor I could decide, so we bounced the idea to the back seat. “Boys, do you want to go see some waterfalls for a few days? Or stay at the ocean?”

Zeke, our six-year-old, enthusiastically answered, “Waterfalls!” a split second before his younger brother, Ellis, yelled, “Ocean!”. Their littlest brother–he is pretty sharp for his age–but having no idea what we were discussing, his vote didn’t quite count yet. And so we had a tie. After a coin toss, we found ourselves waterfall bound, and my mama heart tore just a bit as little Ellison sniffed back tears from the seat behind me.

The little guy is so patient. For four days he eagerly explored the forest and waterfalls with us, but I knew all along that his young heart was set on salty waves and sunsets over the horizon. When we arrived back at the Pacific a few evenings later, his daddy scooped him up from the dinner table and took him to the beach to catch the sunset. He came back all smiles and pockets full of shells.

Besides not putting our decisions to a vote in the backseat, here are a few other things we have learned from our second week on the road:

“Work can wait. Life can not. This takes time to learn and relearn.”

Drape blankets over the toddler’s bed, and he might actually nap in the afternoon.

If you don’t reserve a campsite months in advance, be prepared to up and relocate every few days, landing wherever has a spot for you.

Just like at home, we will do what we make time for. Changing your location and lifestyle will not automatically lend to a slower pace of life. We must carve out and designate time for that which is most important to us, or it will not happen.

What we are eating:

Smoothies (Glad we brought our blender!)

Fantastic fish tacos at Seabolts Smokehouse

Dinner of Tilamook white cheddar, smoked salmon dip, and smoked Cajun salmon (after another trip to Seabolts Smokehouse…)

Instant pot minestrone

Egg burritos. Thanks to a friend in Idaho who introduced us to “eggs” Ellis can have. Later that day he told me, “Today was a great day.” “Why is that buddy?” I asked him. He replied, “Because of eggs that don’t hurt my tummy.”

Another crab boil in the Instant pot

Instant pot clam chowder

Gluten free pastries!

Ellis did not want to try out our new kayak on the lake, because he “had never tried that before.” Once we convinced him to get on, we couldn’t get him off the thing.

We took the boys to explore Fort Casey on Whidbey Island. Grayson grew up exploring that old military base with his own brothers. We laid in the grass as a family and watched kites glide across the sky next to the Puget Sound.

The boys made friends at the campground with:  Aaliyah, Ellie, Kaden, Ashley, and Gracie the Parrot.

Grayson ran many of the trails that he’ll be running a 50k race on in December.

The boys took their very first ferry ride! We spent the day on Orcas Island, introducing them to Moran State Park, and catching up with friends until we nearly missed our ferry back to the mainland. We were the last car they allowed on the last ferry of the night before turning people away.

Questions of the week:

Ellis:  “How do hurricanes happen?”

Zeke: “Is the ocean in the middle of the world?”

It felt good to settle in the same area for a week. Without all of the bouncing around, we had more time to devote to reading, writing, running, and simply being together. This trip is already teaching me so much about the importance of a right relationship between rest, play, and work. But I would have more time to process that during our next week, when we settled closer to Seattle, camping out in our (very gracious) friends’ yard…


Family Roadtrip

What It’s Really Like To Live In A 200-square-foot Travel Trailer With Our Three Boys And A Dog

August 29, 2017


I can hear them cling-clanging against each other in his pockets as he runs down that trail: the seashells he has spoken of collecting for three months now. The darkness begins to envelope him, but only for so long before the sun sneaks through a crack in the trees, those trees dripping with moss that I have dreamt of introducing my boys to for years. They stand a million times taller than the boys’ small frames. They duck in and out of this natural playground, running wild among ferns and Cedars more majestic than any tree they have ever seen. It is day five on the road. Day five of two months that we will spend living squished together in a travel trailer exploring the Pacific Northwest.


That first week was full of anticipation and discovery and a hefty dose of doubt. Selling our 1,400 square foot home and moving into a 200 square foot home on wheels—with my husband, three boys, my own pregnant belly, and our dog—has proven to be more of an adjustment than I anticipated. It took us a full week to really begin figuring things out–to start figuring each other out.

So, what does this new life of ours really look like? Here is a sneak peek from my journal of our first week!

Newport, Oregon. August 18 – 21


We saw gray whales on our very first day at Yaquina Bay and Depoe Bay.

Willy learned sand. Dipped his bare toes into those tiny grains and never looked back. Sat on the beach at Seal Rock as the boys ran wild among the waves. I watched Ellis wander that shore all by himself, lost in his own little world. Or maybe not lost, but finally right where he has dreamt of being.

Zeke had his finger hugged by a sea urchin at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The Total Eclipse took my breath away—one of the most stunning experiences of my life. Zeke called it “incredible”. Ellis asked, “How does God do something like that?”

Currently reading:

The Journals Of Lewis and Clark

Wild and Free

My Side of the Mountain with the boys

What We’re Eating:

Quinoa “oatmeal” in the Instant Pot

Granola, yogurt, fresh berries

Grilled salmon, home fries, and sracha ketchup at Newport Café

Way too much takeout because of limited propane in the RV…


What We’re Learning:

We need to be fair to each other. This is a huge transition for all of us. When the boys would talk each other to sleep at home, we had half a living room, a kitchen, a hallway, and a door separating us. Now we have twelve feet and a curtain. We need to be patient, and wise with our discipline.

I cannot write later what I do not see now. Stop writing. Start seeing.

Don’t leave your RV canopy out on a windy day at the shore. You might just come home to your canopy ripped in half.

Questions Of The Week:

Zeke:  “Do skunks have belly buttons?”

Ellis: “What’s a ‘hy-pop-i-sis’ (hypothesis)?”


Columbia River Gorge. August 21 – 24


Ran into Eclipse traffic—everyone trying to get back to work and life. So glad our trip has only just begun! We cut East to leave the traffic behind. Saying goodbye to the ocean for a few days to go search for some waterfalls.

Stopped at a river pull-off. Baby’s (and my) first time cliff jumping!

Snagged the last campsite available. Time to stay put for a few days.

Learned how salmon use fish ladders at the Bonneville Dam. Grayson came here as a boy.

Picked blackberries with Zeke. He told me we don’t need to eat the food in the camper—we can find all of our food instead. Quite the little forager. Tried making crisp only to discover the oven in the camper does not work. Learned how to make berry crisp in the Instant Pot! It is delicious.

Saw our first huge waterfall.

Went into the city for a day, to which Zeke says: “All this noise is freaking me out!”

Portland had me thinking about stories. Who are all of these people and what brought them here?

Finally did laundry.

Zeke made friends with the campground host. She invited him to come do the morning round with her to check on all the guests.

What we are eating (So good to have propane and RV hookups!) :

Homemade macaroni and cheese

Berry crisp with foraged black berries

Crab boil in the Instant Pot!

Best ever pulled pork hash at the Hazel Room in Portland


Glad we brought our:

Instant Pot!

What we are learning:

If the internet is spotty, don’t fight it in the name of work. Give up and go read a book.

Check your gray water tank level before it overflows into the bathtub….


Zeke’s favorite from the Gorge stay:  Watching salmon at the Bonneville dam

Ellis: The displays at the dam museum with the buttons.


So, how was our first week?

The truth is that among all these adventures of our first week—amidst all of the dream-come-true moments, there were a whole lot of ugly ones. Cranky kids and even crankier parents made for some very rough mornings. And yet so much of our dreams are made up of struggle—it really could not be any other way. The struggle it takes to reach a dream makes the arrival so much more sweet—like when we pulled up and caught our first glimpse of the Pacific just in time for sunset, after a long few days of travel and trials. Dreams just wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful without the hard parts.

After that first week which involved 1,700 miles on the road and five different camp spots—we were feeling very ready to settle down for a bit. It seemed funny, this desire to “settle down” while in the midst of a two-month road trip. But it was exactly what we needed. And that is exactly what we would find when we arrived at the Puget Sound the following week…