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American Story: Family with 12 kids roams US full-time in RV

The Kellogg family of Glenwood, Colo., would like to remind us that “work” and “life” are not the same words. They discovered that simple truth when they were on vacation last year and decided to do something that most of us only dream about: They bid goodbye to car pools and work cubicles, sold their house and bought an RV.

A lot of folks do that when they retire, but Dan and Susie Kellogg still have kids at home. Enough to field a football team:

Kerry, 19

Grady, 16

Brody, 15

Kady, 14

Kenny, 12

Dally, 10

Cardy, 9

Maddy, 7

Rowdy, 5

Emmy, 4

Ellie, 3

That’s 11. “Hah!” laughed Susie. “Dan thought our family was complete.”

Then baby Coby came last November. “OK, I guess now maybe we’re done!” Dan deadpanned.

She’s traveled 18,000 miles of US (at 4 miles per hour)

The Kelloggs aren’t just a family: They’re a crowd, determined to live full-time in an RV. “We wanted to get rid of the mortgage,” Susie said. “Get rid of the car payments and breathe.”

That's tough to do in tight quarters, so each kid took only a couple of favorite things. “One of them wanted to bring the trampoline,” Dan chuckled.

They left their mountain home with little more than expectations and hope. This is the kind of family who would have been first in line on the Oregon Trail; they would have fit right in with the folks in covered wagons. The Kelloggs set off for the same reason the pioneers did: Freedom -- from ordinary lives.

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The Kelloggs kayak together. "Every single day is a weekend."Bob Dotson / Today

“This is what freedom is,” Dan said, waving his hand at the open road. “You go after it.” They head in whatever direction will make them smile.

Cutting-edge technology makes this pioneer lifestyle possible: Dan doesn’t need an office to be a software engineer. But with limited space, food must be bought every day.

“Hey guys, who wants OJ?” Susie called, plopping fresh oranges in a blender. She was answered with chorus of “We do!”

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Dan leaned out the door and called, “Come on, Rowdy.” A 5-year-old came running. It was his turn in the RV’s only bathroom, busier than a bus station. To ease overcrowding, kids camp when they can.

“How do you handle the chaos?” I asked Susie.

“We do try to lead and not bark.”

A TODAY crew films the Kellogg family in action.Bob Dotson / Today

That’s something Dan and Susie learned when they started dating back in college. These days, they home-school their kids. Mornings are for study. Afternoons are set aside for exploring.

Susie watched her kids skip rocks in a stream. “I want them to live life in the moment and not be living for tomorrow or ‘After my kids are grown,’ or ‘Thank God it’s Friday.’” She paused to watch a boy climb a tree. “Every single day is a weekend.”

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At first her oldest daughter Kerry, 19, didn’t buy that: “I thought that going in an RV wasn’t normal and was weird!” But she quickly realized: “We can do anything we want now. Anything. And nothing is holding us back.”

Kerry passed up college to start her own company, creating art for clients on the Internet. Most days her office is a picnic table.

When the family moves, all but the youngest kids have jobs to do. “And if it doesn’t get done,” Susie said with a grin, “we’re not going.”

The journey has brought the Kelloggs closer, and not just in the packed RV. Spend a day with the family and it becomes obvious they care deeply for each other.

Dan watched baby Coby fall asleep in a brother’s arms. “I just want our family to stay this close forever,” she said. Even when life twists and turns and pulls them apart.

“I have no idea how all this is going to work out,” Susie admitted. But the Kelloggs don’t dwell on the uncertainty ahead. Just the possibilities.

To follow the Kelloggs' travels, click here.

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