ANOTHER EPIC JACKSON FAMILY TRIP FROM TENNESSEE TO COLORADO FOR THE GOPRO GAMES
I have always had the desire to travel. I remember the 4 and 1/2 hour, 222.5-mile trip from my childhood house in Woolrich, Pennsylvania, to my parents’ hometown of Leetonia, Ohio, starting in the old Appalachian Mountains and twisting through to the open farms and rolling hills to my grandparents’ house.
As I got older, whitewater kayaking became my primary passion. By the time I was 20, I had moved to Bethesda, Maryland and was training full time with the USA Team in hopes of becoming a team member myself. The kayaking events we competed in took me to Europe and around the mountain areas of the US. I was beginning to see parts of the US and the world I never knew existed and my passion for travel was fueled once again.
At 24 I married my wife Kristine (then 18) and made the USA Team for slalom kayaking and the following year my daughter, Emily, was born. Traveling around the country started getting harder as the long drives in a car were more taxing with a young child and two Dalmatians. Kristine started staying home for more of the training camps and other trips that we enjoyed so much together just a year or two before. I made the Olympic Team in 1992 and did much of my training in Barcelona without my young family. In 1993, we had our second child, Dane, and I also won my first World Championships. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to keep the family together and truly enjoy the trips that I planned for kayak training, racing, and pleasure.
A good kayaker friend of mine had an RV that he traveled in and recommended that I consider RVing. I hadn’t really thought much about it at the time. However, in 1997, when the kids were 4 and 7 years old, Kristine brought up the RV option as a better way to travel and keep the family together and happy. After a few long discussions about it, we both agreed that it was worth a try. We didn’t dabble, however, we went “all-in”. We had a yard sale and sold everything we owned over a weekend in October of 1997. We purchased a Type A motorhome and planned on spending a year or two in it to try it out. We realized that we could cut our monthly expenses by about $1,100/month if we lived in an RV and that was precious cash for a full time kayaker. That was the beginning of being spoiled….
We had no idea how awesome traveling in an RV was going to be. From the moment we pulled out of our suburban neighborhood in Bethesda, we felt free and like we were on an adventure. Life was simple. We had less stuff, less stress, and more freedom than ever before.
The first thing that we noticed that we hadn’t considered is that in a motorhome not only can you go from point A to point B, but the big advantage is that you can go on to point C without having to go back to A. We also realized that being in an RV feels like being at home…your own bed, your own refrigerator, cabinets, couch, etc. You can leave it packed up; you are not living out of a suitcase. A cup of coffee in the morning, cooking breakfast, and climate control are things that you appreciate and they go everywhere you go. Cleaning the RV is even a breeze and we have what we call “15 minutes of cleaning” which takes the RV from cluttered and trashed, to spic and span.
Fast forward to 2015: I have now won 4 world championship titles in freestyle kayaking, and my son Dane is now the Current World Champion, while I was 8th in the last one. My daughter, Emily, has won a junior and senior world freestyle championships, gotten married, had her first child and now lives in her own RV. Kristine and I have our third child, KC, who is now 6 years old and loves the RV. I also started my own kayak company called Jackson Kayak and it is now 11 years old and a major player in the industry.
What about RVs? I now have a slightly larger RV than my first one, but the concept is the same. I also have a log home in Tennessee on 20 acres, where we spend about 5 months a year. The rest of the time? You guessed it, in our RV, or traveling internationally for kayaking and fun. After all of these years in an RV, we have decided that if we had to choose between an RV and a house, the RV would win every time. An RV comes with a changing landscape and the flexibility to be anywhere at any time without leaving home.
We began our most recent trip from our home in Tennessee to the GoPro Games in Colorado on Wednesday, May 20th. The excitement of loading up our whitewater kayaks, gear, bikes, disc golf discs, board games, and favorite movies was just as high on this trip as any I can remember. Sure I brought my computer and phone, and was able to stay ahead of my workload using modern day technology.
The drive started off with 82-degree weather. We passed through “Music City” (Nashville) on 40 West and headed North on 24, to 57, to 64 to 70 in Missouri. Everyone was anxious to get to Colorado and put some miles in on day 1. At out first gas stop, I got out and was shocked as the temperature in Illinois was only 50 degrees, windy, and wet. Whoa! We had our air conditioner running in TN and now had the furnace set at 70 degrees to keep us warm. Our coffee maker suddenly was a hot commodity as the hot beverage was appropriate and it was the desired caffeine delivery system for the long drive.
We drove all of the way to the middle of Missouri and stopped at a rest area at about 10:30 pm. My 6 year old, KC, brushed his teeth and crashed immediately in his bed, which is the fold out couch. We didn’t bother to extend our two slide-outs as we were just going to go to sleep and didn’t need extra walking around space. Kristine and I both were tired and happy. Our first night in the RV on our Colorado Tour.
I woke early, made some coffee and started driving, in hopes of making it to Buena Vista, Colorado before it got dark. We got through Kansas City before traffic and then it was wide-open territory. You truly appreciate the importance of mid-west farming when you drive through what is a seemingly endless amount of it. Flat and wide open, Kansas has its own charm and we always seem to find something new each time we travel through it. This time a sign on the highway read “Ray’s Old Fashioned Soda Shop” in Quinter, Kansas. We needed fuel, so I pulled off the highway and less than a mile off was Quinter Town Center. It had the feeling of a small, quaint mid-west town like Mayberry, and Ray’s delivered what we hoped. Jane, the 60’s something owner operator, with an authentic 100 year old soda shop set-up in her pharmacy made us some amazing milkshakes. I had chocolate, of course, while Kristine had a pineapple-malt, and KC had a homemade root beer and a chocolate cone. It was a step back in time, and a perfect distraction on our cross-country drive. Jane came out to check out our RV and meet Rocksey, our Dalmatian.
Colorado! The main attraction for our trip was getting to “Colorful” Colorado, of course. It starts off flat, like Kansas, for a couple of hours before getting to the mountains. Things change quickly, however, once you hit the mountains…
Go RVing is following champion kayaker, Eric Jackson, on his journey to the GoPro Mountain Games. In his next post, Eric continues his RV journey throughout Colorado! Have any questions for Eric? Ask away in the comments or @GoRVing on Twitter.