Larry LaRue

Lacey-area family of four hits the road with Airstream and a dream

Heather and Jeremy Clarke were looking into a new, bigger home for their family — maybe even one with a water view — when inspiration struck.

Road trip!

Instead of moving themselves and their two young children into a house bigger than their 2,000-square-foot home near Olympia, the Clarkes downsized.

They bought an Airstream trailer with 180-square feet of room inside, and a Ford truck to pull it.

“We started wondering, ‘Why are we not willing to bite at any of these houses?’ ” Heather said. “We asked ourselves what it was we valued. We loved travel. The kids have been from Alaska to Florida.

“We knew we were going to do something like this at some point, maybe at age 55 or so. Then we started thinking, ‘Why wait?’ ”

Heather, 34, and Jeremy, 36, couldn’t think of a good reason.

Son Liam, 7, and daughter Hadley, 4, still love being with their parents. Jeremy, a social studies teacher at South Sound High School in Lacey, will home-school the kids four days a week, using museums and national parks as classrooms.

And Heather can maintain her online livelihood with a laptop computer.

She is, after all, the Queen Bee.

For six years, she’s had a website dedicated to couponing. She also has taught courses in Tacoma on how to maximize the impact of coupons.

“I can remember when I had (only) 20 page views in a day, I was excited.” Heather said. “Last year, it gave me a six-figure income.”

Their plan is both flexible and detailed.

“We’re going to drive about four hours a day on drive days,” Jeremy said. “That won’t wear the kids out, and we’re in no hurry. We’re taking a full year and we’re going to see the country.”

What does that mean to the kids?

“Disneyworld and Disneyland,” Liam said.

“More time with my family,” Hadley said.

There will be a learning curve.

“There are things we didn’t know about the process — like how to back the Airstream up,” Jeremy said. “There are videos all over Youtube. Heather backs up, I stay behind her with a walkie-talkie.

“I haven’t thought of nightmare scenarios, but I know it could turn into one. We know things will break, probably several times.”

Heather has added to her couponing site, starting up a blog called “Take That Exit.” The plan is to write about everything from campsites to the day-to-day joys and trials of travel.

“I’m going to get Jeremy to blog a little, and the kids are going to keep travel journals,” she said.

Their home is sold with a closing date later this month. The family pulls out on June 14.

So far, the most difficult aspect of the whole grand scheme has been downsizing.

“We have a small storage unit, and other than that, everything we own is going into the trailer or the truck,” Heather said. “That’s not much stuff.”

Slimming down on possessions was a cruel reality for Jeremy.

“I sold our outdoor grill,” he said, clearly bothered. “And I had so many T-shirts from this occasion or that event. I didn’t even wear most of them, but I’d kept them forever. Gone.”

The kids each get a box of toys, and they will split bunk-bed berths in a shared room.

“I got the top bunk, and I have a little window above me where I can see the stars,” Liam said.

There was a trial run in April — a short camping trip to test the trailer, truck and their own mettle. Everyone enjoyed it.

Now comes the trip of a lifetime.

“We’ll follow the sun,” said Jeremy. “We’ll start crossing the northern part of the country, spend time on the east coast and come home through the southern part of the country.”

What things are the couple most excited to see?

“Washington D.C.,” Jeremy said.

“I want to see my grandfather’s grave in Minnesota, and Arizona in April,” Heather said.

Along the way, there will be stops to see family. Lots of family.

“Between us, we have family in Florida, Missouri, Minnesota, Alabama, Arizona, New York ...” Jeremy rattled them off.

Those breaks will be welcome.

“We’re still learning about life in an Airstream, and there are groups online to help us figure things out,” Heather said. “Will the kids have enough room? Well, their backyard will be every national park we visit.”

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