And we’re off!

And we’re off! … To the in-laws. Nothing like planning an epic 10,000 mile family road trip and making your first stop at the in-laws. Kind of like a Mars mission stopping at La Guardia first. But their house is a nice stopping point on the way to Charleston, they have a pool, and we can relax while the kids play with their cousins.

But first, if you aren’t follow this blog, now is a great time to subscribe. Do this on the right hand side or bottom of the page (particularly if you’re looking at this on a phone). Also, check our out Instagram feed for more pics and brief updates: @dontmakemeturnthisvanaround

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Tropical Storm Alberto gave us a brief window without rain to snap this shot before we hit the road. What you can’t see as clearly is that in spite of everything we learned in our trial runs: we packed too much stuff.

When we originally dreamed of this trip, it was going to be us in a minivan taking a trip up the east coast (in hindsight, we would have never fit all of our junk in minivan). Then Monica was driving our trusty Sienna when she was hit in an intersection near our house. She was unhurt, but the van was totaled. I hope the poor guy who hit her (avoiding a truck running a red light) sees we’ve made good of the mishap. As we looked for a replacement vehicle, our dream began to grow. It was Monica – not me – who peered into the dark corners of the internet and typed “conversion van” into the search window on Craig’s list. To find an immaculate 2002 Dodge Ram Van with only 17,000 miles on it, just a ten minute drive from our house, was a sign from the universe.

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I’m convinced all the best campsites on Instagram are posed. We did not sleep here. That Coleman lantern doesn’t have fuel in it. The tent is empty. The van is real, and it’s spectacular. (Credit: Cathy Salustri)

We began telling people about our plans, and the scope of the trip expanded. Instead of cruising up the east coast, we decided to head west. We love the Pacific Northwest and have several friends there. Then we decided to start this blog. We don’t really think we’re that adventurous… it’s not like we pulled our kids out of school and sold our house. But we envisioned our blog – and the trip – to be a way to shine a light on the rare condition that in so many ways has altered our lives – and show how we’ve taken that challenge and found a way to create an unforgettable summer experience for our family. In 2016 Vascular Ehlers-Danlos became a permanent fixture in our life. Surgeries. Medical bills. Insurance forms. Disability paperwork. Trips to Cleveland Clinic – five in 18 months. Dizzy spells. Migraines. Fatigue. This is not a phase. This is my life.

We approach this trip with excitement. But there’s also a huge amount of apprehension. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to leave the proximity of my hometown surgeons who’d already saved my life multiple times. But that’s no way to live. Before this trip, Monica and I spent hours collecting essential medical records in the event that I need treatment on the road. As we travel, the location of the nearest major hospital will be something I often consider (something I’ve come to do naturally).

And if we’re being extremely honest, we are more nervous about life 24/7 in tight quarters and strange places with our two kids. The sound of two children bickering can bring on frustration and hopelessness that is out of proportion with reality. On the flip side, I try to remind myself, that when we travel, our kids tend to behave better than at home. Given space to roam, they become independent and cooperative beings. Seriously, they should be sent to interact with alien life. In sixty days on the road, we’re going to have to plan for some low points, and find ways to decompress. For my wife, that’ll mean miles of running as she preps for the NYC Marathon. For me, that’ll mean writing, reading, listening to music, and enjoying the grand vistas the west offers.

My promise to you is that I won’t sugarcoat our journey. I don’t think this would be fun or interesting if it weren’t real and honest. So buckle up. Next stop: Before we go west, we must go east to Charleston, SC – after the in-laws. If you’re new, poke around and read some our past posts. Our most read post gives a little of my backstory. Another popular one gives a glimpse of traveling with our two kids. And (for some reason) our most viewed post goes bikini shopping with Monica.

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It’s raining for the better part of two weeks in Florida. The green is a sight to behold. I decided to take a pic out the front window every 100 miles. This is mile 200.

Never miss a post by clicking the FOLLOW button or entering your email address on the bottom of this page! Do it now! We also have a public Facebook page. Be sure to “like” it for more pics that don’t make the blog, and post updates. Instagram is linked to this page. If you don’t see it, you’re not looking hard enough. 

“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Check out Jon’s periodic column, “So How’s That New Book Coming?” at Creative Loafing – Tampa. His 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at jkilewrites@gmail.com. Monica is a freelance grant writer, non-profit consultant, tour guide, and connoisseur of 70s rock lyrics.


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