You Did WHAT On Your Summer Vacation?!


Wanderlust: Noun. A strong desire to travel


Not everyone has it. Some people have it, but don’t realize it until something forces their hand. And I’ll be the first to admit, the traveling lifestyle is NOT for the faint of heart! But as I talked with Steve Benson and his family, it’s clear they have wanderlust. In fact, that word came up more than once while we chatted.

“I didn’t even know what wanderlust was,” Steve tells me, but he continues saying they’ve really fallen in love with their mobile lifestyle. You see, Steve, wife Nichole, son Zaccheus and daughter Evangeline have spent their summer crisscrossing the country in an RV. 14 weeks, thousands of miles, a couple of blown tires and a lifetime of adventure all rolled up in an ultimate road trip.

But how does a family actually do such a thing? Nichole says that “Evangeline kept telling me ‘I’m going to be in 9th grade!’ This is the last summer before the kids are really growing up. I was working 60 hours a week as an application architect…was coming up on my 10th anniversary and decided to do this to reconnect with the family.” So she quit and they decided to do this crazy trip!

To make this happen, they had to have the right rig. For the past few years, they’d rented a motorhome and gone on vacation, but that limits off-site exploring since the RV is also the vehicle. Steve had been part of the off-road hobby for many years, so he was comfortable towing a trailer, plus that would allow them to have a vehicle to explore with while leaving a trailer behind at a campsite. They started shopping for a towable RV…turns out, it didn’t take long.

“We bought the second one we looked at,” says Nichole. “We bought it on the spot!”

They had a Durango R/T at the time, but Steve wondered if that would be enough to comfortably tow. “We had budgeted for a motorhome and the trailer was a lot less money,” he says. “So, Nichole gave the OK to get the SRT®.”

This is where I interrupted and asked if she has a sister…

Think about it, though; for all the same reasons the Durango SRT is a monster on the street and on the track, it’s also an outstanding tow vehicle: an 8,700-pound towing capacity, HEMI® power for days, gobs of torque to pull, a long wheelbase for stability and huge brakes when it’s time to slow down. This SRT is their fourth Durango and Steve says that it’s the right vehicle for the job, “I have NO complaints.”

The family has definitely had some adventures this summer and the excitement started right out of the box. Steve says, “Our first trip was to the Black Hills, where we got caught in a hail storm.” That took out the Durango’s windshield and left damage all over the truck. “I bought the tech some beverages (yes, that kind!) to have him work through lunch,” says Steve, and the tech got them back on the road ASAP.

Steve tells us about other memorable stops:

Washington, D.C., where they got a tour of Ford’s Theatre. “The park ranger comes up on stage, no music, no movie, just the ranger on stage telling us about the theatre. He shared details we haven’t heard before about what happened. The planning involved to do what Booth did. What lead up to that point. We were sitting in the balcony, right next to the President’s box. It was quite moving.”

Mesa Verde, Colorado: Steve says, “The park ranger that lead us on the tour, his name was Chief Night Eagle and when he ended the tour, he broke out a flute he made himself. The music sounded just like music we have heard before when thinking of a Native Indian ceremony. It was moving for all of us.”

Lake Tahoe: “We rented a boat on the lake. We spent the day on the lake tubing and exploring the lake. We have lots of lakes in Minnesota, and I have been on many of them. They are nothing like Lake Tahoe. The lake is so clear. At fifteen feet deep, you can still see rocks on the bottom. A relaxing, family bonding, end to our trip. We hit Bonneville after Tahoe, but that was more fun for me than it was the family!”

Malibu Beach: “Malibu felt the most like home during our trip. Granted, we do not live in California, but we have been to Malibu and Santa Monica enough over the past fifteen years that we know where everything is, where to eat and where to park. It felt good to be there. This was our first time staying at the Malibu Beach Campground. I can’t express enough how great it was to stay there. It’s not so much the amenities, it’s all about the location. It felt like we were right on the ocean when sitting outside our camper. Our bed is on a slide-out out the back of the camper. It felt and sounded like we were right on top of the ocean. The sound of the ocean waves crashing on shore. Amazing. We always stop at Dukes in Malibu. The food is great, the location is great, and the Hola Pie, there is nothing like it. The waitress gave us two spoons with ‘Hola Pie’ forged onto them. Two more small trophies for our 2018 trip.”

You’ll see the decals on the Durango SRT; they were part of a charity rally and raised lots of money for a school that helps deaf children.

Speaking of kids: I asked the Benson children what it was like to be so close together for so long. Evangeline says, “It got a bit tight at times, but it’s been really fun.”  Zaccheus told me about the Challenger Game, “When we see a Challenger on the street, the first one to shout ‘Challenger, called it!’ wins!”

Steve mentions that “The Dodge and Mopar community have been much more welcoming than other brands. The Durango SRT is pretty rare, so when people see us coming, they know it’s something special.” Steve also wants to thank Dodge of Burnsville in Burnsville, Minnesota, for their help. Plus, other folks on their team, including Solar Shield, Smoke Signals Charity Car Shows, Sled Head Racing and Gonzo Brothers Landscaping.

An Epic Road Trip by the Numbers:

  • 4 Bensons: Steve, Nichole, Evangeline and Zaccheus
  • 1 Dodge Durango SRT
  • 1 Forest River RV
  • 13,300 total miles: Minneapolis to the East Coast, across to the West Coast, then back to Minnesota
  • 30 states
  • 2 Canadian provinces
  • 1 smashed windshield (hail storm)
  • 2 flat tires
  • 61 total days on the road

This epic journey was all about reconnecting with family and after 14 weeks on the road, it’s safe to say “mission accomplished.” We talked about wanderlust earlier and Nichole admits that she “could definitely see us becoming RV full-timers someday.” Obviously, we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg in this story, but if you’d like to be inspired by the Bensons’ trip, their super fun attitude and their family, check out their Instagram feed @3RowSRT.