From the pages of I RVing: Summer 2023


Great geysers and grand canyons are just a few of the national wonders your family will love. But behind each American journey is a bigger purpose: Shaping who your kids become.

Within the first five minutes of my conversation with Jamie Goncharoff, he made sure I knew certain things. He was a prior Marine; he used to be a volunteer firefighter; he paid his own way through law school by working the overnight shift at UPS; and he’s not very impressed by people who say they’ve seen the Alps. “So many people go to other countries without seeing the beauty and diversity of America,” he says, before adding begrudgingly that the Alps (which he has seen) are, “great by the way.” Sticking it to the Alps and the people who visit them is not really his point. It’s just that he’d rather know, “Have you hiked in the Rockies? Have you been to the five national parks in Utah?” You see, Jaime is a patriot, and he has the impression that his fellow countrymen and women are missing out on something truly special.

The numbers support that gut feeling. The average American has visited only 12 states, and, according to a YouGov poll in 2022, only three percent have visited 45 or more. Jamie Goncharoff, on the other hand, visited the entire Lower 48 before graduating college. That experience was so powerful, he did it again after getting married. Except this time, he brought his entire family with him. “We had a goal to have our kids see 7 ALL-AMERICAN in the 48 states before they graduated high school. So every Fourth of July as our kids were growing up, we would celebrate freedom in a different part of the country. Because fireworks are fireworks, but when you see them behind the heads of Mount Rushmore, they take a different hue.” When asked what drove him to make that commitment, his response is crystal clear, “I wanted our kids to be able to love America, and appreciate the natural beauty, the diversity of our people, and our culture.” See, for folks like Jamie, RVing isn’t just one of America’s greatest pastimes.

It’s a picture of what makes America great. “It’s freedom. You can stop wherever you want. You meet people, you stop at local stores, and you appreciate the beauty of America. Freedom is the hallmark of America. With RVing, it’s having the freedom to move, stop, live, sleep, and eat—on your timetable. You’re not checking into a motel at three in the afternoon and sleeping in somebody else’s bed and kicked out at twelve o’clock. You have the freedom to come and go, to experience things, and to meet people.” Not everyone may be ready to commit to seeing the Lower 48. To see some of our nation’s most glorious treasures, you can take it one trip at a time. Here, Jamie rides shotgun with us as we offer our take on the seven greatest American road trips. Take them, and you’ll have experienced some of the best of what the ole U.S. of A. has to offer. (Whether you’ve seen the Alps or not.)

Leg No. 1

Following the Founders’ Footsteps

  • Starting Point: Bar Harbor, ME
  • Overnight: Philadelphia, PA
  • then Boston, MA
  • Finish Line: Washington DC
  • Travel Time: 12 Hours
  • Why Go:  Expensive lobsters, the birthplace of American government, the Freedom Trail, free history

Start your romp from sea to shining sea by taking in the sights of our first coast at Bar Harbor in Maine (or “Bah Hahba” as the locals say it). Then take in the BosWash Megalopolis—home to history’s raucous tea party, our nation’s first national capital in Philadelphia, and DC, with free educational opportunities at every turn. Jamie recommends you start with a great view: “Take a hike up Cadillac Mountain [outside of Bar Harbor] in Acadia National Park and absorb the breathtaking views from the highest summit on the East Coast. Then land at sea level and enjoy the world-renowned crustacean of Maine, the lobster, found everywhere—from downtown Bar Harbor to the local McDonald’s where you can enjoy a Mobster! In Philly, visit where our country memorialized the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Relive 1776 at Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, or walk a couple of blocks and see where Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.”

Leg No. 2

Coca-Cola, Disney, and the Florida Keys

  • Starting Point: Atlanta
  • Stopover: Orlando
  • Finish Line: Key West
  • Travel Time: 12 hours, 50 minutes
  • Why Go: Coke Factory, Disney, Hemingway, our nation’s southernmost tip

We like to think that a truly ‘Merican road trip should enjoy at least one healthy dose of capitalism. This leg has two, starting with a visit to Atlanta’s fantastic Coca-Cola Factory. From the heart of the Dirty South, head even souther to Disney, another of America’s most iconic brands. Disney (and all of Orlando) is super RV-friendly, with Fort Wilderness being their official RV park. Disney crams every type, shape, and flavor of American into an overpriced-but-totally-worth-it place they call the Happiest Place on Earth. After that, you’re due for some time in one of the chillest locations on Earth: Key West. Motor on south, cross the Overseas Highway, and then arrive at Hemingway’s favorite retreat. John Steinbeck says: “For it is my opinion that we enclose and celebrate the freaks of our nation and our civilization. Yellowstone National Park is no more representative of America than is Disneyland.”

Leg No. 3

Country Music, NASCAR, and the American Spirit

  • Starting Point: Nashville, TN
  • Swing By: Louisville, KY
  • Finish Line: Indianapolis, IN
  • Travel Time: 4 Hours
  • Why Go: Music City USA, bourbon trail, baseball, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Nashville might be line-dancing away from its countercultural country-western roots, but it’s still one of the best places to enjoy live music in the entire world. After you’ve boot scooted and boogied, take I-65 North to reach the southern start point of the Bourbon Trail and its 43 distilleries that celebrate “America’s spirit.” (Just don’t oversample!) Swing by Louisville (pronounced “LULL-vull”) and enjoy America’s favorite pastime at Louisville Slugger Park on your way to Indianapolis. The time is right and you’ll be joining the 325,000 people who visit Indy for the Indy 500. If you haven’t RVed at a big car race, there aren’t many American experiences like it. (Family bonus: Indy is also home to the largest children’s museum in the world.)

Leg No. 4

Unworldly Wonders and Giant Impressions

  • Starting Point: Bozeman, MT
  • Swing By: Deadwood, SD
  • Finish Line: Rapid City
  • Travel Time: 7 hours 50 minutes
  • Why Go: Yellowstone, the Old West, America on a Mountain

Travel from Yellowstone to Rushmore is epic. Yellowstone is unlike any place on earth, with magnificent heights like its 10,900-foot Electric Peak and mercurial depths like the 50-meter deep Grand Prismatic Sprint, the largest hot spring in the U.S. Yellowstone is the most national of parks, with more natural diversity in its 3,471 square miles than most countries altogether. From there, stop by Deadwood, a town that is a replica of the gold rush and the U.S. westward expansion. Then finish at Mount Rushmore, an awe-inspiring marriage of American creativity and engineering.

Teddy Roosevelt says: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Leg No. 5

Purple Mountains and Red Rocks

  • Starting Point: Denver, CO
  • Finish Line: Moab, UT
  • Travel Time: 6 hours and 30 minutes
  • Why Go: The Rocky Mountains, Red Rocks, Arches

It’s hard to overstate the dramatic beauty of the Rockies. They are one of those American vistas that has to be seen, or hiked, or skied to be believed. Being near to both the enormity of mountains and the eternal nature of the land can change your perspective on life. (See for yourself on Page 15.) Then there are the Mighty Five National Parks of Utah. Each is worth a visit, but finish in Moab—the perfect launching point into either Canyonlands or Arches, with their weird and memorable natural landmarks. Jamie says: “With RVing, you feel the land. You’re not just flying over it. You get to experience things and make choices like taking the back roads.” (We suggest taking them.)

Leg No. 6

Pacific Waves, Tall Trees, and Big Sur

  • Starting Point: Petaluma, CA
  • Finish Line: Big Sur
  • Travel Time: 4 hours
  • Why Go: The Pacific Coast Highway, the tallest trees in the world, the Pacific Ocean

You don’t have to be an aficionado to appreciate the rolling hills and quaint towns of the northern San Francisco Bay wine country. It’s an unusual amalgam of agriculture and high-net-worth culture. Thinking about that juxtaposition will keep you busy while being slathered in relaxation and world-class food. Then there’s the Pacific Coast Highway where every curve holds a
new breathtaking ocean view. At the southern end, you coast into the remote and organic calmness of Big Sur. You could stop for a round of golf at Carmel-by-the-Sea, but we’d suggest
heading straight into the woods, which ooze with fairy-tale romance. Jamie says: “If you had to visit one state in the country, I’d say go to California. The diversity of the people, from Death Valley—which is nature’s junkyard—to the beaches, to the redwoods, is unmatched.

Leg No. 7

Your Safe Bet for a Grand Finale

  • Starting Point: Las Vegas, NV
  • Swing By: The Hoover Dam
  • Finish Line: Grand Canyon
  • Travel Time: 2 hours
  • Why Go: The world’s biggest party, the world’s biggest drainage ditch

Vegas is one, big party. You can find just about anything you’re looking for in the Neon Capital of the World. America was built on risk and reward, and Vegas is still playing that game (even if the house has the big advantage). Out of Sin City, head east to finish our most American road tour at the grandest of canyons. Between Vegas and the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam stretches from Nevada to Arizona in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. When Jamie, his wife, then-10-year-old Sarah, and then14-year-old son Jamie Jr. arrived there, they all knew that crossing it would check off the last of the Lower 48. The plan was to park and walk across the dam to check it off. But leading up to this big moment, Sarah had made a deal with her dad to trick her older, faster brother into getting out of the RV early.

Then Jamie could drive ahead and give her a head start in the sibling race to the last state. “It was always a competition between them,” Jamie Sr. says, “Who would get into each state first? They’d always be wanting to sit at the front of the RV as we crossed the state line to claim first place.” But when the time came for her final masterful maneuver, Sarah changed her mind and ultimately followed her brother as they crossed. Later, her father asked her why she let her brother win. “She said, ‘Daddy, that wouldn’t be right.’ ” Jamie remembers, “For her, it was about fairness, competition, not getting special treatment. She knew it wasn’t about winning or losing; it was how she played the game. And that’s living up to the ideals of being American.” Today, Jamie Jr. proudly shares that his daughter is a schoolteacher; his son is a Marine officer. Each continues to live up to those ideals— about what they learned from their parents and about who they are as Americans. All while traversing the greatest country in the world.


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