GORHAM – Millions of people are on the road this Thanksgiving week to spend a few hours or days with family and friends. The Dunn family, too, is on the road – but they won’t be back after the holiday.

On Nov. 5, Brian, 45, and Tanya Dunn, 44, and children River, 14, Mercy, 10, and family dog Daisy left Gorham in an RV to see the sights throughout the country. They won’t be back for a full year.

The family took two years to plan the trip. They intend to travel through the 48 contiguous states plus Alaska.

“We don’t have any apprehensions,” Brian Dunn said in The Gorham Grind three days before they headed out onto the highway.

“I’ve always wanted to do with the kids what my husband and I did in our 20s,” Tanya Dunn said of the time when they toured the country in a 1976 Ford van.

The family appeared on TV in Boston before embarking on their journey. Their son, River, a Gorham High School freshman, is a cancer survivor. The Massachusetts-based Magical Moon Foundation, whose mission is to support children and families facing cancer, arranged for the TV appearance. The family is working with the foundation and plan on attending events where they can hand out some literature “about our son’s mission, which is spreading awareness about the importance of healthy choices and healthy living for cancer prevention,” Tanya Dunn said.

They are proponents of buying food at local farm markets. They also promote eating kale, which is a source of a chemical believed to block cancer cells.

After seeing family and friends in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, they’re in Charleston, S.C., house/pet sitting through Thanksgiving.

On the road, their RV will be recognizable as the one with the “Eat more kale” sticker.

“That’s us, the Dunns,” Tanya Dunn said.

The down-turned economy prevented the family from selling their home in Gorham. So, they rented the house out for a year, and those payments will cover the mortgage. But, she said, they would have liked the cash to buy vehicles.

“We financed $27,000 total as we didn’t have the cash because we did not sell our home,” Tanya Dunn said.

They bought their home-away-from home, a 2004, 30-foot, fifth-wheel RV and are hauling it with a gas-powered 2006 Chevy Silverado. She said fuel would be the biggest expense.

The family will live, work and study while they cruise.

They took their bicycles but unloaded most of their personal items as they prepared for the trip.

“We sold or donated most of our stuff,” Tanya Dunn said. “It’s a relief not to have so much stuff to keep track of,” she said.

“Live simply so others may simply live,” Brian Dunn said, is their family motto.

A graphic designer for TransFormit in the Gorham Industrial Park, he will perform his job on the road.

His wife, a waitress, quit her job at Blue Burrito Cafe? in Westbrook.

Their two children will keep up with their Gorham schoolwork via computer. The couple made arrangements with their children’s teachers and principals.

On the road, mom is schoolteacher, part-time driver, map reader and cook.

“But I’ll do the grilling,” Brian Dunn said.

Utilizing email and Skype, River Dunn said he would stay in contact with his high school friends in Gorham.

“I’m going to miss him a lot. We’re really good friends,” high school pal Ryan Bertin said.

River is looking forward to seeing the Grand Canyon and western ghost towns. Mercy Dunn, a Grade 5 student at the Great Falls Elementary School, wants to visit Arches National Park in Utah and see the space needle in Seattle.

On the road, the family will dine together for breakfast, lunch and dinner – “without rushing out the door,” Tanya Dunn said.

“The most valuable thing is the year we’re going to have together,” her husband added.

Brian Dunn said a truck-drivers organization has agreed to look out for the family on the road. The family has a phone number to contact the group in case of an emergency. The family so far has reported a few incidents, including a flat RV tire, faulty bicycle rack, dangling taillight, nearly running out of gas and a stowaway mouse that obviously took advantage of absence of the family cat, who was left behind with friends.

Tanya Dunn said everyone at home for the most part is supportive of their adventure.

“Many think we’re crazy,” she said. “Those who know us know that’s how we fly.”

The Dunn family of Gorham – Brian and Tanya with children River
and Mercy – gather  in Gorham Village before embarking on a year’s
adventure on the road.(Staff photo by Robert Lowell)

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.