How Four Generations of RVers Have Passed Down a Love of Adventure
Plus, learn how Abby Holcombe will be continuing the tradition!

By: Peter & Kathy Holcombe

Some of my earliest memories are sitting around the dinner table with my parents and grandparents and listening to them share legendary stories about days gone by and their travels in their camper across the country. 

In the 60s, they would load up their truck camper and spend their annual two-week vacation in the forests of Northern California. My dad was a lively storyteller, and we would all hang on his every word as he recounted one epic adventure after the next from his childhood camping trips. 

My Grandparents - The OGs (Original Generation)

By far, the most notorious legend in our family was the year that my grandparents met their siblings at the Klamath River for two weeks of family adventure and relaxation. It seemed this particular camping trip was one giant misadventure, starting on the first morning when my grandparents awoke to the clanging of pots outside of their camper window. 

My grandfather peered through the curtains, only to find himself nose to nose with a giant black bear on the other side of the glass, who was mid-heist with a full slab of bacon in his mouth. My grandfather ran outside in a heroic attempt to save their bacon, and retreated almost immediately back into the RV with an angry bear hot on his heals, unwilling to part with his newfound slab of swine.

Needless to say, according to my dad, the whole family would have likely starved to death if it weren’t for the blackberry patch they found across the valley. 

Sometime during the legendary campout (circa early 1960s) with my Uncle Emory at the stove, and my dad standing watch over the fire. My cousin Glen is on the far left.

Later that afternoon, my dad and his cousin, Glen, went out on a hike and failed to return in time for dinner. The whole family searched frantically for them for hours, scouring the entire valley that surrounded their camp. My grandparents returned to camp just as the sun was setting with the two boys still nowhere to be found. My grandfather, in one last ditch effort to find them, walked down to the river (the only place that was off limits to the boys without adult supervision) only to find Glen and my dad both face-down in the river. 

He charged into the water frantically grabbing the boys who both let out a scream that reverberated across the canyon walls, believing they were being attacked by a monster from the murky depths of the river. My grandmother likened the sound of the boys’ cry to the rabid scream of a mountain lion. My grandfather was also yelling; first in surprise to find the boys kicking and screaming with all their might, and then in anger at them missing dinner and scaring the whole family to death. 

My dad claimed it was the worst tongue lashing of his life, and very much deserved. They boys were marched back to camp, much like prisoners headed to the guillotine, to explain their tardiness to a very angry family. The two ten-year-olds sheepishly explained that they had found some hallow grass that allowed them to breathe while underwater and had lost track of time exploring the underwater world of the Klamath River. 

Ironically, Glen went on to become an expert scuba diver who explored underwater around the world for most of his adult life. After hearing that story at the age of five, I made it a point to investigate all the vegetation wherever we were camping hopeful to find the magical breathing grass that allowed my dad to swim all afternoon under water. I also made sure to always return to camp in time for dinner.

A family camping trip in the old orange truck camper (circa 1977). From left to right: Kathy Holcombe (age 4), my mom (Mary White), Cousins Ruth Walters and Glen Strout, and my grandfather Earl Farris.

My Parents - The Next Generation and My Introduction to the Wonders of RVing

The love and warmth that was shared through those family stories around the dinner table are some of my very favorite memories of my family. I remember laughing until we cried at all of the misadventures of lives well lived: each one full of love, adventure, and many, many fond memories. 

As a child, those stories inspired a curiosity to explore the world around me, first in the woods and water that surrounded our home, and later across the country and beyond. When my Grandparents upgraded to a Class C RV in the 1970s, that original bright orange truck camper from my dad’s youth was passed down to my family, and my dad introduced me to the wondrous world of RVing.

My Uncle Dick, cousin Debbie and Grandfather on a family camping trip circa 1969 (before I was born). The old orange camper that was handed down to my family is on the left.
My grandparents, Leola and Earl Farris in front of their camper that took my cousins and I across the country in 1978.

Many weekends, my family would hitch our boat up to the old camper and meet my Grandparents and friends at a nearby lake where we would spend long summer days fishing and swimming, and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire. 

But the real magic of that old truck camper was when it was parked in our driveway at home. Starting at the age of six, my friends would come over to spend the night (and sometimes the weekend), and that camper would become the grandest of playhouses. We would fill it with stuffed animals, flashlights, blankets, and boxes of cereal, then disappear into our own little world for an entire weekend. 

We had complete independence out there and whiled away the hours daydreaming about growing up and all the wonderful things that awaited us when we were big. That old orange camper stood sentry around us, protecting us against the darkness and keeping close our secrets and stories and dreams. 

When I was six, we took that old camper to my Grandparent’s house and slept in it in their driveway on Christmas Eve. I swear to this day that I heard the jingle bells on Santa’s sleigh as he delivered presents to my entire family that night. 

The next summer, my grandparents loaded up my two older cousins and I to drive us from California to Texas. We stopped and slid down the slick rock water slide in Oak Creek Canyon. It was the first time I had ever experienced the Arizona desert with its giant red sandstone formations. Even at the age of seven, I understood the grandeur and majesty of the desert southwest. And all of those experiences cemented a love of travel and adventure in me that I have carried throughout my life.

My cousin Debbie sliding down the slickrock in Oak Creek Canyon outside of Sedona, AZ, circa 1978.

My Generation - RVing at the Next Level

Eventually, adolescence kicked in and I spent less time with my family in that old camper and more time with my friends. And it wasn’t until I met Peter, just after my 21st birthday, that the spirit of travel and adventure from my youth reignited into an inferno. 

Peter introduced me to a whole new world of adventure that included rock climbing and mountaineering, kayaking, backpacking and mountain biking. We spent every free second of our twenties camping out of the back of a 1996 Toyota Tacoma and venturing into some of the most remote areas of North America. ALL we wanted to do was travel and climb and kayak around the world.

Kathy, Matt Johnston, and Peter camped out at Ingraham Flats on Mount Rainier, on their two day ascent in 1999.
Peter’s 1996 Toyota Tacoma loaded for adventure near Grand Teton National Park circa 2009.
Kathy climbing the north ridge of Piz Badile in the Bregaglia Range in Switzerland on their honeymoon in 2001.

Just months after my 30th birthday, we welcomed a vivacious bundle of joy, Abby, into the world and promised that we would show her the world and instill in her a love of wild places. 

Thankfully, she was an easy baby and was agreeable to try almost anything. Just before her 10th birthday, we sat her down and asked her how she felt about moving into a Winnebago and traveling around the country for a year. She asked a few questions, begged us for a phone to keep in touch with her friends, and said “Let’s go!”. So, we loaded up our family and business and hit the road.

Abby always wanted to do what we were doing. Even at 18 months old she wanted to wear a harness and climb with the adults.
At age 4 we got her a little red kayak. Here she is on the South Fork of the South Platte River near Deckers, CO, at age 5.
By age six, Abby was tackling harder rapids on the Colorado River outside of Moab, UT.
At age seven, Abby was a full-blown river kid and already had several multi-day river trips under her belt. Here she is navigating the Colorado River with her best friend Tucker Dog.

And for the past nine plus years, it has been one extraordinary experience after another. So many incredible moments that it is almost impossible to pinpoint a single legend that sums up what RVing has meant to our family. 

Our best moment could have been the time when we drove to Alaska and watched grizzly bears feasting on salmon from the dinette in our View, or maybe the time we went rock climbing in Yosemite only to get caught in a perilous storm which left us scrambling for our lives.  

A definite contender was the year that we shipped our Winnebago Revel to Europe and visited over 18 countries (from the UK to Croatia, and Italy to the top of Norway) in six months. 

Honestly, any one of those would be the experience of a lifetime by any measure, but I think the truly remarkable thing about our experiences in the RV are the million small moments that we have spent together - dancing to an eclectic local radio station that we discovered during a game of radio roulette, watching the sun stretch out its long tendrils across the desert lighting the whole valley in front of us ablaze, or cresting the horizon and discovering a new favorite place that we never knew existed. 

The greatest gift that RVing has given my family was TIME, time together in an increasingly busy and chaotic world. We were able to be there together for all of it. 

Watching grizzly bears feast on salmon from the safety of our Winnebago View was most certainly the experience of a lifetime (circa 2016).
The Holcombe Family standing on Pulpit Rock above the Lysefjord in Stand, Norway circa 2019.
Abby on a week-long kayaking trip around the Isle of Rat, Croatia, in 2019.

Abby and the Future Generation

Our daughter, Abby, has truly thrived over the last nine years, and I attribute most of that to the experiences she’s had throughout our travels. Because we could live anywhere, we chose to pursue one of our favorite things: whitewater kayaking at the best rivers, at the best time of year. And it just so happened that was where the best kayakers in the world were spending their time as well. 

As a result of that, Abby has kayaked with the best of the best for most of her life. The world’s finest enveloped her into their fold from the age of seven, mentoring and encouraging her, as she learned to kayak. And because of that, when we drew a highly coveted permit to kayak the Grand Canyon in 2017, she had the skills and confidence to navigate the colossal rapids within the canyon in her own little pink kayak and set the record as the youngest person to kayak the entire length of the Grand Canyon, all 280 miles of it over 26 days at the age of 12. 

That experience gave her the confidence to pursue larger goals both on and off the water. Spending so much time throughout her formative years with world champion paddlers made it easy for her to believe that she, too, could become a world champion kayaker. And she did in Nottingham, England in 2022. 

Abby navigating Granite Rapid in the Grand Canyon on her record setting decent in 2017.
Abby celebrating her win at the Freestyle Kayak World Championships in Nottingham, England in 2022.

So, what happens when a girl who has seen and experienced so much in such a short amount of time grows up and sets out on her own? Will she head to college to study something that will give her a life of structure, stability, and success? Will she rebel and get an apartment in an urban metropolis? 

At 19, it is obviously too soon to tell what or who she will become. But for now, I am watching her drive away, down a dusty desert road in her own Winnebago + Adventure Wagon van, headed out to pursue adventures of her own, kayaking her way across the country just like she has for most of her life. 

Except this time, she is the one making the decisions on where to go and what to do. She will be the one behind the wheel, making her way from one extraordinary destination to the next. And she is so ready for this. She’s armed with her daddy’s keen eye for photography and her mom’s gift of storytelling and is Winnebago’s newest Brand Ambassador

Stay tuned to Winnebago's blog and on her personal Instagram to follow Abby’s adventures as she begins her life as an adult, one that is not so different than her childhood … chasing adventure over the next horizon in a Winnebago. We can’t wait to see where her new adventure van takes her!


Abby behind the wheel of her Winnebago + Adventure Wagon about to head out on the beginning of her own life of adventure.


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User commented on May 13, 2023 12:39 PM
An exciting and wonderful adventure of a real multi-generational family with the love of travel. The look and comfort level may have changed over the years, but the experience is still there.
User commented on May 31, 2023 6:58 PM
What a grand history and legacy you have! Way to honor it in so many ways!
User commented on May 31, 2023 7:22 PM
A wonderful family story! And now Abby is continuing the traditions You have past on to her.
User commented on June 1, 2023 4:57 PM
Time, that most precious commodity, and what a gift to spend Abby’s youth all together with lots of family time exploring the world. Wow! Simply priceless memories here ❤️ I believe you DO have your father’s gift for storytelling and hope Abby has it too. Well done!
User commented on June 1, 2023 8:48 PM
KATHY - You are a truly gifted writer and I enjoyed the hx of how you became a traveler. And Abby is as beautiful now as she was those many years ago when we met for lunch in Anderson. Pete and I touch base infrequently and he seems to be adjusting as we all must. If you and Peter get close......
User commented on June 7, 2023 9:43 PM
Thank you for an awesome article! Your family is such an inspiration, and we are so happy for you. Vanessa & George