We left the day after school got out! It was June 2011- TWO WEEKS....One THERMAL COOKER...One mom with five kids... 5000 MILES! Our Road Trip across America!

I thought, "Hey, Why not take the kids on a road trip by myself across America...for two weeks!" I know INSANE....but would you believe me when I say, WE NEVER ATE OUT ONE TIME! We ate healthy meals everyday, and besides the cost of gas, and a few campgrounds at $10 a night, and some groceries(which I would have bought anyways)...we did the whole thing for less then $800! That is six people driving over 5000 miles of America for less then $1000! We saw friends and family as went, and we even splurged one night to get a hotel for my sons Seventeenth birthday! It was all possible with Saratoga Jacks and a sense of adventure!


DAY ONE... It was epic alright. DAY one was an Epic Disaster!

We had the Car all loaded from the night before. Jack was so worried (He wasn't coming along for this road trip this time...) he had double and triple checked every valve, pressure, gauge, gizmo something or other he could, to make sure the car was in excellent road ready shape. He checked it so many times that the last time he checked it he forgot to put back on the Radiator cap. (MALES all over the world are groaning at this news!) So come morning, I made Teriyaki Chicken on top, and rice on bottom in the thermal cooker...said our prayers, and kissed Jack goodbye. He took off on a motorcycle to his own adventures, and I didn't get but a few miles down the road before I realized SOMETHING was terribly wrong. The car started to severely overheat, and I pulled over, to discover, my head gasket just blew. His over zealousness actually put us in danger. On the side of the highway I waited for rescue for hours, until my uncle could get to us with his truck which could take us...and all our stuff back home. The car ended up being towed. And By the time we got home, all sufficiently sunburned from our hot roadside breakdown on a June summer day in the Utah dessert...I was never so happy and grateful that dinner was hot and ready. We thanked goodness we were all safe, sat down and ate, and came up with a plan B. We repacked the Suburban, instead of the car, and went to bed early to start again the next day.

DAY TWO: Got up early, said our prayers again! This time while the kids ate cereal, I made Hawaiian the thermal cooker...and then HIT the road! Since we hadn't prepared the Suburban for cross country travel, we went and had the oil changed on the Suburban, and a couple other things checked in the first half of the day...and then off to Colorado we went. Drove for eight hours, crossed the Rocky Mountains into Wyoming, singing along to TRAIN at the top of our lungs....and somewhere in the middle of Wyoming the kids decided they were hungry. The older kids worked together, while I drove, and they served up the Chicken Gravy over the rice with toppings Hawaiian Haystack meal into plastic bowls and passed the food around the truck, so we wouldn't have to stop. They were excited to see their friends, and didn't want to pull over for nothing...since we were a day late already! I even managed a bowl and spoon in one hand, while we drove on, watching the moon rise on the warm summer night heading towards the mile high city...and the thought, "wow, if we got stuck in the car crossing a mountain pass in winter (which often happens in the Rocky's) It would sure be great to have a hot prepared meal in the car like this!" We arrived at our friends house....and we stayed up late just to catch up, and it was as if years hadn't gone by since the last time we saw them! We were only going to stay one day before moving on, but had so much fun we decided to stay two.


We ended up running around in swimsuits, playing in their neighborhood pool and enjoying the renewal of our friendships. What is better in summer! In the mornings we would get water to a boil in the thermal cooker making our famous ziplock omlets for breakfast, and then we made yummy soups from the same BOIL (saving fuel) as soon as our omlets were done, we would throw away the ziplock, and add the ingredients to the boiling hot water, letting it boil for a couple minutes..then we put the soup in the thermal unit, letting it slow cook all day. Dinner would be ready  when we got tired of running around. One day we did My Famous Five Cheese Tortellini Italian Sausage and Tomato Soup, and another day we did a Chili. Since Dinner was always started and cooking by 10 am, the rest of the Time was spent enjoying time together and not fretting over feeding all fourteen of us. The stress was off our hosts to cook and clean up after a large group. We had so much fun...they begged us to stop by and spend another few days with them on our way home...which we decided to do! So it wasn't too hard to say goodbye, knwing we would see them again soon!


I called Jack and had him send me a text of an address of a campground just outside Omaha, Nebraska...that was $10 a night, near historic Winter Quarters, and decided that is where were going to stay the night that night. After breakfast, I made Instant Mashed potatoes in the large pot, and meat and gravy beef tips in the upper pot before we left Colorado, and then we drove all day until we got to the campgrounds, right before sunset. It was along a beautiful waterfront, and while I and Our oldest son set up our tent, the other kids chased fireflies, which they had never seen before. Lightening bugs became an instant favorite moments of every day once we got East of the Missouri River, and later near the Mississippi river. We had dinner that night and went to bed early. The next day, I surprised the kids with Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast, we took a walk along the river, and broke camp while I made two packs of instant Bear Creek Cheesy Broccoli Soup in the big bottom pot (adding a whole head of fresh Broccoli chopped up to doctor it up), and I also started a cheesy Au Gratin potatoes box side dish in the top pot. We then drove to Winter Quarters Nebraska Pioneer Museum and enjoyed the whole experience. After hearing about the long hard muddy days the Pioneer Saints had experienced crossing the plains, I kept thinking how much they would have loved to have a thermal cooker with a hot meal already ready when they finally stopped after a long hard day on a wagon train...i felt so grateful. After we left Winter Quarters we were crossed into Iowa, and drove four more hours east, arriving to my friend Adele's House in Bettendorf. She needed help packing for an upcoming move, and we were so glad to arrive, have a great place to stay the night. We showed up with a big bag of store bought dinner rolls in hand, and some hot cheesy broccoli soup. We had early dinner with her family, and spent the rest of the day with her packing up her basement.


NAUVOO, Illinois

To be Continued...



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Redefining Eating Out