Yellowstone National Park

Previously, we featured one of our favorite Greenwich Moms—DJ April Larken—as a Meet a Mom interview. Her story about launching a successful second career as a DJ—with stints opening for Flo Rida, Kesha and Lauryn Hill, and a client list that includes Valentino, Porsche and The Plaza Hotel—seriously inspired us. So  when we heard that she was piling her family into an RV for a Griswold-meets-Greenwich style cross country trip? We knew we had to follow along and then get all the details! Here’s what April shared with us about her trip with her husband, Jasper (9) and Ella (13):

What was the basic rundown of the trip?
We drove in an RV across America. We camped for 3 weeks in an RV, from Greenwich to Las Vegas. In total we drove 4000 miles, with 20 destinations, 16 states and 6 National Parks. [Ed note: See itinerary below for more specifics!]

How long were you away?
Three weeks—just the right amount of time. Ella my teenager was missing WiFi (there’s no WiFi when you’re camping!!) and I was missing hot showers.

Casper Wyoming – the Oregon Trail

What spurred the trip?
In the spring my DJ business got shut down due to COVID—I lost almost the whole year’s gigs in one day. It was shocking to see what I’d worked so hard to schedule for my business fall apart so suddenly—it was really heartbreaking. Then both of my kid’s sleepaway camps got canceled, something they’d been looking forward to all winter. For the first time ever, our summer was unexpectedly wide open; we had zero plans. No work, no camp and nothing but time. I’m a big fan of the “you’ve only got 18 summers with your kids, so make them count” theory and I wasn’t about to let COVID turn this one into the worst summer ever. We’ve always wanted to drive across America but never had that kind of time or freedom before. Our usually busy lives would never allow us to take a three-week road trip ever so I grasped at the unexpected opportunity and started planning the adventure of a lifetime!

How did you decide where to go and what to do?
The kids got out the map of America and started circling states they wanted to see. It was the best quarantine activity! We had so much fun planning this trip as a family every day. We put many, many hours into it. It was important to personally connect everyone to the journey by giving them stops that they helped choose and plan for themselves. We spent a few days on each state—learning about it and deciding what we’d like to do there. Everyone had their special interests in mind and requested destinations and stops along the way. Ella wanted to ride horses on a real working ranch, Jasper wanted to see the “wild west” aka cowboys and covered wagons, Jonathan wanted to try fly fishing in the Colorado Rockies, and I always see the National Parks that I never got to as a kid (we did six).

Zion Mountain Ranch in Utah

What were your favorite stop?
Bryce Canyon in Utah was jaw dropping! I mean wow. And there was an island of Ohio in Lake Erie that felt more like the Florida Keys than the Midwest.  And the rodeo in Jackson Hole was a cultural experience like no other.

Did your kids have the same favorite?
Ella absolutely LOVED the Zion Mountain Ranch! My little animal lover was in heaven with all the horses, dogs, donkeys, chickens, ducks and bison roaming free. Jasper my science nerd went crazy for all the hot springs and geysers in Yellowstone. He specifically requested the Grand Prismatic because of its technicolor rainbow effects. When we got there his mind was blown by that and Old Faithful. Jasper loved camping, too. He really connected with nature on this trip. The Boy Scout in him really had a chance to shine. Living in an RV in the woods… he loved it!

What’s one thing you wished you did differently?
We were first time campers so there were many things we did wrong! We’d never even been in an RV before let alone live in one for 3 weeks, so there were MANY lessons learned along the way. We constantly referred to the instruction manual when it came to driving that monster! Going up steep hills in the Grand Tetons and mountains in Colorado was tricky, as was preparing for the extreme heat in southern Utah (107!) and the freezing nights in Montana (42!) We’d never cooked on a campfire so we’d wished been better prepared for that. No one tells you that camp grounds have only fire pits for cooking and that’s not a BBQ. You need wood to cook! Also the water tanks and sewage removal in the RV is super complicated and needs constant monitoring! We learned all about that quickly! Jonathan was the master of water tanks by the end of this trip.

Coralville Lake in Iowa

What advice would you give other moms planning on doing a similar trip?
Do it—and while they’re still young! You will never regret it. A road trip with your kids is an incredible way to make memories and to see America. They learn about the country with their own eyes and not in a book. The different landscapes and cultures that vary so drastically from state to state is all great learning experiences for your children and what a fun thing to do together. They saw American Indian reservations and real live cowboys! We are East Coasters so New York/New Jersey/Connecticut is home—but once you leave this part of America by car on the road, you see so many things that you never knew existed… like FARMS. You can drive for six hours and see nothing but cornfields in Nebraska and Iowa and the prairies and plains of Wyoming and then the orange deserts in Arizona.

Do you have any plans for another trip like this?
Yes! We are like pro campers now! My little guy is totally hooked on camping and has already started planning our next road trip. We’re going to Maine this time …. so I guess “Larkens Head West” is going to change to “Larkens Head North”.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Regarding the camping and RV experience, RVs very so much from company to company but I do recommend renting one. It is so much better to have the roadside assistance and the advice only one phone call away. We called for help many times with our stupid questions about how to drive and use the RV. I recommend going with a class C if you have a family of four or more. Another thing that varies drastically are the campgrounds while the well-known KO A’s in America are the standard because they are reliable and clean there are many other campgrounds out there that are privately owned and are a little more luxurious than the others. For example you can find an RV park that has much larger spaces and lots of privacy and private bathrooms and gorgeous views. For me this made a world of difference it made us look forward to getting to each campground knowing they were going to be individual and different. Also you can choose your spot before you arrive by going on to the campsite maps this made a big difference for us you can look at the map and choose the site that’s on the water, has a Mountain View or has more privacy than others.

Larken Family Road Trip Itinerary

NYC to pick up RV at El Monte 

Connecticut pack up RV

New Jersey (drive)

Pennsylvania – spent 2 nights on Lake Erie @ Virginia’s Beach 

Ohio – spent 2 nights in Sandusky @ Lighthouse Point 

Ohio – Cedar Point roller coaster  park   

Ohio – Put in Bay, South Bass Island 

Indiana (drive)

*Indiana Dunes National Park 

Illinois (drive)

Iowa – spent 1 night in North Liberty @ Scales Point

Nebraska – spent 1 night in Ashland @ Eugene Mahoney State Park

Colorado- spent 2 nights In Breckinridge @ Tiger Run

Colorado- fly fishing on Blue River 

*Rocky Mountain National Park 

Wyoming – spent 1 night in Casper @ Harvest Host’s  Historic Trails West

Wyoming – covered wagon trip on the Oregon Trail

Wyoming – spent 1 night in Dubois @ LongHorn Ranch 

Wyoming – fishing on the Wind River Dubois 

Montana – spent 2 nights in West Yellowstone @ Under Canvas 

Montana – Diamond P Ranch horseback riding 

*Yellowstone National Park 

Montana – kayaking on the Madison River 

Idaho (drive) 

Wyoming – spent 2 nights in Jackson Hole @ Fireside 

Wyoming – Jackson Hole Rodeo

*Grand Tetons National Park

Wyoming- Rafting on the Snake River 

Utah – spent 3 nights in Mt Carmel @ Zion Mountain Ranch 

*Zion National Park 

*Bryce Canyon National Park 

Arizona (drive) 

Nevada – spent 1 night in Las Vegas

Return RV to El Monte LV

Fly home to NYC 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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