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Glenwood Springs family travels across U.S. in new home: an RV

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“Everybody pick up 10 things!”

Suddenly the RV starts shaking. The door opens and Eddy the goldendoodle bounds out with 8-year-old Maddy Kellogg, her arms laden with dozens of river sandals. Laughter erupts from behind mangled window shades.

Minutes later the Kelloggs are sprawled in their tiny and tidy, albeit weathered, home. Seven-month-old Coby crawls across the laps of 18-year-old Grady and 19-year-old Kerry. Toddlers Elly and Emmy slather sunscreen on mom Susie and dad Dan.

Brody, a 16-year-old aspiring photographer, talks about his exciting swim through the gnarly Pine Creek hole on the Arkansas River the day before. Kady, 14, beams with pride at making the junior kayak finals at Salida’s storied FIBArk festival. Maddy brags that she can roll a kayak. Cardy, Dally and Kenny are finding podiums in grom kayak contests across the country. Even 6-year-old Rowdy is ready to boat.

So, in case you didn’t count all those names, that’s 14. All of them living in a 30-foot RV, traveling the country, kayaking and stamping lasting impressions at every river community they visit, or, really, invade. Early on a Saturday during FIBArk, the Kelloggs are still dozing. Their hardly gleaming RV is almost hidden by bikes, boats and wet gear. In a matter of minutes, everything is tidy and ready for a visitor.

“Everyone picks up 10 things. That’s 120 things in a few minutes,” Susie says with her signature giggle.

In the last six months, the Kelloggs have rolled their circus through Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Next month they will hit California and Oregon. Nine of the 14 Kelloggs compete in kayaking, and many of them are sponsored paddlers.

“Kayaking has changed our lives for sure,” says Susie, who kayaked the Fractions section of the Arkansas River last year while she was 5 months pregnant with Coby and swam from her boat three times.

“That turned into a traumatic paddle trip.”Kayaking was the trigger that launched the Kelloggs into the grandest of experiments. It’s a mangle of complications and complexities, living with 12 kids on the road. A cooler of food can evaporate in seconds. The juicer spins for hours every day, creating a nearly river’s flow of fruit and vegetable smoothies. Hospital visits are not uncommon. The gear for nearly a dozen paddlers can pile high. Playtime, kayak time, feeding and simply moving around requires near algebraic calculations.But somehow, the Kelloggs make it look like a simple life. An easy life, filled with family and laughs and playing.

“The whole catalyst for this was to spend more time together as a family and just have fun,” says Dan, his legs whitewashed with Emmy’s sunscreen. “It doesn’t come easy for us … but it’s all about making a choice, and we are choosing to be happy. Sure, there are challenges, mostly things that are unexpected. But that’s life. You just have to roll with it.”

“Just relax,” says Susie, obviously celebrating that exact moment, with kids sprawled across her in a not-rosy-smelling RV. “Enjoy your children. Enjoy them for who they are. It’s so fun! Hey, what’s that in his mouth?”

Last fall the Kelloggs shed their stuff and sold everything. The house in Glenwood Springs didn’t sell, so it went on the rental market. Kerry handles property management. Dan spends a few hours a day in the driver’s seat, banging on a keyboard positioned on the steering wheel, working as a freelance information technology consultant. Susie home-schools the almost-always-damp kids between river sessions.

Come bedtime, it’s a free-for-all, with wall-to-wall Kelloggs splayed across every inch of RV.

“I do miss a bed,” says Grady, who often struggles to wedge his 6-foot-2 frame among his dozing siblings. “I usually get the floor and then everyone tramples me.”

The family is working with potential producers about a television show that would follow their adventures. They are somewhat ambivalent about it. The experiment isn’t about fame. But at every stop, they run into people who are inspired by them. Parents gape at the seemingly endless stream of suntanned kids pouring from the RV. Naturally, they field nonstop queries every time the RV stops rolling.

“I don’t think we realized the effect we were having and once we recognized that, that we were inspiring people to get out and shed their shackles and enjoy life, I think that changed our tack a bit,” says Dan of his family’s willingness to work with a television producer.

Maybe a show — think “The Brady Bunch” meets “Little House on the Prairie,” the “On The Road” edition — can provoke change and excite parents to do something similar, Dan says.

“We aren’t saying everyone should sell everything and live in an RV,” Susie says. “Freedom is different for everyone. This is about being free to follow your own dream.”

Jason Blevins

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Comments
  • comment avatar Janzo July 23, 2013

    Wow, awesome!

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