The journey through 26 states and 14 U.S. national parks began with a simple thought for Sarah Sawyer and her boyfriend, Ben Waggy.
“One day we started talking about how cool it would be to travel in the RV, leave our jobs and do something different,” Sawyer recalled.
Sawyer, 38, a native of Dracut, was living in Vermont at the time and “Large Marge” (as Waggy’s RV is nicknamed) was gathering dust on his property. If they were to leave everything behind and do this, Sawyer and Waggy figured they needed a way to make money while traveling.
Using Waggy’s mother’s Sumptuous Syrups of Vermont, the couple developed a small business called Shaved Ice of Vermont and began selling shaved ice while on the road. Soon, with their savings and necessities, they took off on the trip of a lifetime.
This month, Sawyer and Waggy, 44, celebrated 365 days of life on the road. In an interview Monday from Shoshone, California, the couple shared a few of their memorable experiences.
“What stands out for me is just that anything’s possible with hard work put into it,” Sawyer said of their year-long journey. “Going back to stepping out of the box and realizing that you can do something different and live a non-traditional way of life.”
With each stop, Waggy said he has learned just how vast the U.S. is.
“I feel like I spent a lot of my days amazed,” he said. “And I didn’t get that when I was working 60 hours a week.”
Sunset selfie in Florida
Sawyer and Waggy were unlucky in their pursuit of Florida panthers late last year while driving their Jeep through the Big Cypress National Preserve in southwest Florida. They had spent days searching for wildlife in the preserve, which encompasses approximately 729,000 acres of freshwater swamp ecosystem and is home to a wide variety of plants and animals.
The couple hoped to spot at least one panther, but instead found alligators everywhere.
By then, the sun was setting and they decided to snap a selfie. Sawyer recalled posting the photo on Facebook with a caption along the lines of being caught in their true element.
“That being said we spent all of our free time out in the Jeep,” she said. “Any shots in the Jeep is when we’re really happy and in our true element.”
On July 1, Sawyer and Waggy asked someone to snap this photo of them by Burney Falls in California. Sawyer smiled radiantly, placing her hands around Waggy’s side. He smiled, too. Behind them was the looming, 129-foot Burney Falls. The endless cascade of water is neither the highest nor the largest waterfall in California, but Waggy described it as magnificent.
“One of our favorites,” Waggy said, adding that he grew up with waterfalls in his backyard and enjoys their power and beauty.
Sawyer likened it to paradise.
“We’ve seen a lot of waterfalls on our trip, but this one felt like we were in a different country,” she said. “It felt extra lush and tropical.”
That evening, the couple brought their grilled chicken and salad dinner to eat by Burney Falls. The crowd was gone by then, so they said they relished having the waterfall to themselves.
“The picture surely doesn’t do it justice,” Sawyer said.
Hiking in Washington
Sawyer remembers feeling shocked at how warm it was at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state.
“It was just so beautiful,” she said of the weather on Aug. 10. “The park is filled with wildflowers. It is gorgeous.”
At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier can receive 700 or more inches of snow each winter, according to the National Park Service.
“We hiked up to get even closer up to the snow line — where the snow begins,” Sawyer said.
During their hike, Waggy recalled seeing butterflies everywhere.
“It was a really magical day and we stopped at several waterfalls in the area,” he said. “It was definitely the highlight of our trip.”
After the hike, the couple drove down the mountain road and stopped at a pull out to ask someone to take a photo of them.
Sawyer and Waggy sat on a ledge, hugged and smiled for the camera. Both were dressed in summer clothes, and Sawyer’s sleeveless shirt read “HAPPY” in bold. Trees poked through the landscape behind them. In the far distance, the snowcaps of Mount Rainier glistened.
They hadn’t planned on crab fishing on the morning of Sept. 8, but when Sawyer and Waggy noticed a small marina on Nehalem Bay in Oregon where you could go crab fishing, they decided to give it a try for the first time.
“We just piled in and parked the RV and stayed for a few nights and became friends with the owner rather quickly,” Sawyer said.
After renting a couple crab rings from Kelly’s Brighton Marina, the couple said they spent the whole day catching crabs. They also made new friends.
“It was delicious,” Waggy said of eating the crabs once they were cooked. “I’ve had Eastern crab, I’ve had blue crabs, but I’ve never had Pacific Northwest Dungeness crab.”
Sawyer said she made chowder from what was left of their catch.
“It was all around a wonderful experience,” Waggy said. “One I never dreamed of having.”
The couple was asleep in Waggy’s RV near Sequim Valley Airport in Sequim, Washington, when they awoke to a mysterious whooshing sound outside. It was just before dawn on Aug. 27 and Waggy said he ran out of the RV to see a hot air balloon being inflated.
“It was a rush of air at the door,” he said. “It went extremely close to the RV and it was pretty amazing.”
For Waggy, the moment captured in pictures was another to add to their collection.
“And breaking out of the ordinary,” he added.
See Sarah’s jewelry online at https://www.etsy.com/shop/wyldflowercreations
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.