EAST COUNTY — Jim and Kathy Keebler’s style of camping typically couldn’t be more different.
Jim Keebler has paddled his way down more than 500 miles of river alone on a canoe and thinks few things are better than sleeping in the bed of his truck, beneath an open, starry sky.
Kathy Keebler, on the other hand, jokes she needs her necessities to survive.
“My idea of camping is coffee, the hair dryer, the air conditioning and the bathroom,” she says, laughing. “I’m a really good camper with all that.”
But, after a 25-day, 4,700-mile road trip in their new RV, the couple couldn’t be more in sync about their new way to travel together — in their Class C RV.
From June 14 to July 9, the Keeblers drove from their home in the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club to the northern tip of Minnesota, during a road trip to see family, friends, cities and nature.
“This was the first opportunity we’ve had, just Kathy and I, to get away,” Jim Keebler said.
SMALL PLANS GO BIG
The Keeblers, who both work in education — Kathy as Braden River Elementary’s clerical assistant and Jim as a college professor — knew they wanted to travel together this summer.
So, the couple, who had an RV more than a decade ago, began talking about purchasing a pull-behind trailer.
They visited an RV dealership and were ready to move forward with their plans. But, on a whim, Jim Keebler asked if there were any Class C motor homes available.
With only 7,700 miles on the odometer and a good price, Jim Keebler said the decision was easy.
“It’s the way to travel,” he said. “A travel trailer is nice, but if you are going to be moving every day, an RV is nice.”
The couple began planning their venture across nine states — making to sure to work in a mixture of seeing friends and family with exploring new sights and cities.
“I wanted her to go up to see the North Shore for years,” Jim Keebler said. “We knew when we had to leave and when we had to come back.”
THE GRAND ADVENTURE
The couple headed north with a skeleton of a plan. Jim Keebler picked activities on odd days, while Kathy Keebler picked on even days.
The Keeblers made their first dinner stop in Jonesboro, Ga., at the original location for Chick-fil-A, called Truett’s, before camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
They continued through Ohio to Wisconsin, admiring the picturesque farmland, and stopped for a look at the start of the St. Croix River.
Then, they headed to the northern part of Minnesota to see an area called the Iron Range, because of the coal and taconite that is produced and shipped there from the Port of Duluth-Superior, on Lake Superior.
“The most interesting (part of the trip) for me was the shipping industry,” Kathy Keebler said. “I was so interested. Now I want to go to some more ports.”
They enjoyed a “tall hike” to see Gooseberry Falls nearby, as well.
They stopped in Grand Marias, Minn., known for its quaint shops and trips to the Boundary Waters, and also visited the Naniboujou Lodge, which was built in the 1940s.
“It’s completely painted on the inside,” Kathy Keebler says. “It was amazing.”
Other stops included Split Rock Lighthouse, near Lutsen, Minn., and sweet treats from Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, Minn.
“I had chocolate mint pie for breakfast — a big chunk,” Jim Keebler said.
Kathy Keebler got a piece of coconut cream pie to go, after finishing an egg-salad sandwich.
“It’s the institution in the area,” Kathy Keebler said of the restaurant. “I would go back (just for the pie).”
Throughout the trip, they stopped by to visit Jim Keebler’s grown children and grandchildren and their old friends. They also stopped in Winchester, Tenn., to see Kathy Keebler’s father and enjoy a Southern-style fish fry. The visit also helped celebrate Kathy’ Keebler’s 56th birthday, which was July 8.
“We took little side trips wherever we went,” Kathy Keebler said of the trip. “It was a good blend of everything we wanted to do.”
HOME SWEET HOME
Kathy Keebler chronicled her adventures daily from the comforts of the RV, from which she filled a notebook stories and pictures for students at Braden River Elementary; students and staff at the school are keeping summer journals.
The couple returned to the East County July 9, spending two nights at the Pleasant Lakes RV Park.
Although glad to be home, they joke their RV bed is so comfortable it’s like sleeping “on a marshmallow.”
The Keeblers said their next trip will be to St. Augustine in October.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].