Travel America Park Irvine CA

Jeb Kendrick and Jeannie Ralston have breakfeast outside camper on a table overlooking Flathead river. (Photograph by Rob Kendrick)We don’t have a firm plan; with plenty of campgrounds to choose from, we’re following our whims. Robb and I know this proximity to our teenagers presents the risk of meltdowns—which explains the case of wine I’ve packed—but my hope is that distance from the Internet will draw us together again. That once more I’ll be a mom fully plugged into her kids’ lives.

“Where you from?” the man at the next campsite calls out, a standard greeting in the RV world. We’re in Grant Village campground, on the shore of Yellowstone Lake. The man, who introduces himself as “Wayne from Wisconsin, ” sits in a camp chair under an awning extending from his motor home. He’s traveling with his wife and three sons, who right now are riding 
bikes by the lake.Bison at sunrise in the Lamar Valley Next to him sit a full-size grill and a table covered with a floral tablecloth.

“You’re traveling in style, ” I say.

“We’ve done this a time or two, ” he answers as he rises to add charcoal to the grill. “The idea is to make it feel like home. Home on the road.” The best part of RVing, he says, is the absence of are-we-there-yet questions. “In a way, we’re always there.”

Jeb fly fishing on the Big Blackfoot River outside Missoula Montana.The conversation follows what I’ll learn are standard RVing contours: where we’ve been, where we’re going. When he hears we’re hiking the next day, Wayne insists we buy bear repellent. I’d seen signs recommending the spray, so after our dinner of hamburgers and s’mores cooked over our fire pit (Wayne and family grill salmon), we walk to the campground’s shop to pick up a canister—and a tablecloth.

The next day we drive up Grand Loop Road for a two-mile hike to Cascade Lake, a pool in an alpine meadow in the center of Yellowstone. The boys stay close behind Robb, who has the bear repellent secured to his belt. We’re taking turns carrying the backpack with our lunches because it may attract bears. “We’re playing bear roulette, ” Jeb says as he slips on the pack.

In addition to the Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone is known for its wildlife. Lamar Valley, which we’d visited earlier, is called North America’s Serengeti for its gray wolves (reintroduced in 1995), moose, elk, bison, and bears, both the grizzly and black varieties. Up to 1, 200 bears live in the park—one for every three square miles, I calculate.

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