Imagine visiting Mount McKinley, Pearl Harbor, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Niagara Falls and Disney World all in one trip.
Add in scores of historical sites, presidential libraries, sports venues, museums and natural wonders in every state in between, and you’ve got the last year in the life of the Martin family.
Randy, 41, and Heidi Martin, 43, spent nine months planning a family trip of a lifetime. The couple, from West Palm Beach, Fla., took sabbaticals from their jobs and sold their house and belongings, all to show their children, Kristi and Kyle, all 50 states.
“Seeing all of America and seeing just how good people are in America, and the different regions and cultures of America,” Heidi Martin told TODAY’s Kerry Sanders in a report that aired Thursday. “I just wanted them to see what it's founded on.”
The family set off on June 10, 2012, and traveled by recreational vehicle for 13 months, ending their trip on July 20 back in Florida. The family logged more than 67,000 miles, driving across the Lower 48 states, flying to Hawaii and sailing to Alaska, the last state of their journey.
When they arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska, Kristi and Kyle, ages 14 and 12, celebrated by kissing the dock, a moment captured in a photo posted on the family’s Facebook page in June.
Along the way, as the kids participated in online classes for school, the family soaked up the nation’s history up close, with stops at the U.S. Capitol and U.S. Supreme Court, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and the Grand Canyon.
“We got to learn a ton about politics,” Kyle Martin said on TODAY. “Places I see in the textbooks. We got to cross the Mississippi, we got to actually go on battlefields George Washington walked.”
The Martins shared the highlights of their trip. “My favorite memory was some of the snowed-in times we had,” Randy Martin said on the show.
“Philadelphia was just awesome,” says Kyle Martin, who posed at the Liberty Bell with his family last year. He also enjoyed Washington, D.C., where the Martins also spent time at the National Cathedral and the National Mall.
"Boston was cool,” says Kristi. That’s where the Martins stopped by Fenway Park and walked the historic Freedom Trail.
And New York City, where the family visited major sites like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the United Nations and Central Park, “was pretty intense and pretty amazing,” mom Heidi Martin says.
Among Randy Martin’s best memories was “flying down into (the) Grand Canyon.”
The family kept followers up-to-date with photos and videos on their website, thattripusa.com. They documented the famous people they met, the states where they saw the most snow, they best pizza joints and restaurants and the various forms of transportation they took, including hot air balloon, cog train and horseback.
The family concedes that a year in an RV could get tough at times. A July 3 Facebook post mentioned a “nasty family flu bug.”
“You have to have a close-knit family to survive a trip like this,” Randy Martin said on TODAY.
“When the toilet gets clogged and we're not doing well together, that was terrible,” Heidi Martin said.
But the trip was a good decision for the Martins, and they have no regrets.
“I don't want us to have to do it when we're 60,” Heidi Martin says, “because I'd be sitting there the whole time saying, ‘Oh, wouldn’t the kids have loved this?’"
“Just get out there and show them America,” she added. “It's amazing.”
Her husband added: “I hope I've shown my kids if you have a big dream, you can do it.”
The couple, whose website lists several sponsors, say they spent about $264 a day on the adventure.