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Family Promotes the RV Life While Exploring the U.S.

Category: UNSPECIFIED
Source: Fresno Bee, California
Publish Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Summary: Their goodwill trek for the RV industry will take them north on a tour of the Pacific Northwest that will include major cities, national parks and a host of little towns in between. Since 1996, Herzog and his wife, Amy, have visited all 48 states in the continental United States and have logged more than 80,000 miles in an RV.

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Guy Keeler

------------

cbmc_fbesno003all

e.g., registered nurse

Fresno, CA

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MADERA -- Singing about spacious skies and amber waves of grain produces a beautiful image of America. But Brad Herzog of Pacific Grove likes the pictures that emerge when he hits the road and starts connecting dots on highway maps.

"There's so much to see in this country," he says, relaxing outside a 38-foot Winnebago at the Country Living RV Park during a Monday visit to the central San Joaquin Valley. "No matter how many trips you take, you can never see it all."

Herzog says it's those dots -- communities big and small across the fruited plain -- that blend together like a pointillism painting to reveal a view of America that is different from the melting pot metaphor often used to describe the country.

"Towns are just dots in an atlas," he says. "But up close, each stands out boldly, and every one has a story."

Herzog and his family are on the first leg of a 50-day road trip as the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association's national "Explore America" family. Their goodwill trek for the RV industry will take them north on a tour of the Pacific Northwest that will include major cities, national parks and a host of little towns in between.

Since 1996, Herzog and his wife, Amy, have visited all 48 states in the continental United States and have logged more than 80,000 miles in an RV. Their journeys have produced a pair of travel books, with a third on the way, and now are serving as a summer classroom for their sons, Luke, 6, and Jesse, 5.

The Herzogs' initial road trip lasted 101/2 months. They were living in Chicago at the time and were tired of the cold, windy winters.

"That first trip was our 48-state home search," he says.

The Herzogs settled in Pacific Grove, on the Central California Coast, but still find the open road an irresistible Pied Piper.

"There's always something different to see," Herzog says. "You can take a different route. And you get a new perspective when seeing things through the eyes of your children."

The mistake many tourists make, he says, is treating travel merely as a journey from point A to point B.

"They forget how much fun you can have in between," he says. "In an RV, you can explore the country instead of just passing through. Looking through the windshield is like watching a movie of America playing in front of me. Anytime I want, I can stop the film and enter the picture myself."

Herzog's first road trip led to publication of "States of Mind" (Pocket Books, $18.95), a memoir in which he wrote about the search for virtue in towns with names such as Harmony, Calif.; Justice, W.Va.; and Paris, Ky.

Sales of the book, published in 1999, languished until Herzog appeared as a contestant on the television program "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in 2000.

"I won $64,000 on the show, which was nice," he says. "But I also got to describe the book for 30 seconds to an audience of 30 million."

In 24 hours, the book moved from 122,000 on the Amazon sales list to seventh and eventually peaked at No. 2, right behind Harry Potter.

The success of the first book led to a second, "Small World" (Pocket Books, $17.95), which chronicles Herzog's visits to American communities with international names such as Prague, Neb.; London, Wis.; and Congo, Ohio.

Herzog's third travel book, with the working title "Greek to Me," conveys thoughts on heroism as he travels to a college reunion in Ithaca, N.Y., through a host of places with names drawn from Greek literature and mythology.

Although rising fuel prices have made RV travel more expensive, Herzog still sees it as a bargain.

"The money we save on lodging and food makes up for what we spend on gas," he says. "I don't know what kind of mileage I'll get with this Winnebago (on loan from the company), but for a house, it gets great mileage."

More importantly, RV road trips allow in-depth looks at the American landscape.

"Small-town America is changing," he says. "I want to capture snapshots of it before it's gone."


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