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Family Guide


planning the perfect road trip A special supplement to RN&R


RN&R Family Guide


A special supplement to Reno News & Review


BIG PICTURE LEARNING SCHOOL Ramblin’ man Welcome to 2019 SpRiNG Family Guide


readers. Welcome to the Reno News & Review’s 2019 Spring Family Guide. Watching the warm weather roll in after a long, dreary winter has got me thinking about spending some time outside of my stale routine. As Reno sits at the confluence of two interstate highways, a day’s drive from some of the most popular destinations on the West Coast and surrounded by miles of breathtaking Sierra Nevada landscape, there’s no better way to celebrate summer’s imminent arrival than by hitting the road. That’s why this guide is full of ideas for planning the first road trip of the year, whether it’s the full-on Griswold trek, or just a quick day-trip to some new scenery. On page 8, RN&R contributor and local mom Jessica Santina put together some handy tips for taking a trip with kids in tow. Jessica wrote a similar piece for our Nightlife Guide a few weeks back, and while we don’t want to pigeonhole her writing talents, her connections to the Reno Mom’s Blog mean she’s got great advice when it comes to planning potty breaks, slingin’ snacks, and describing fun destinations for the whole family. For my own contribution, I spent some time with a few young people who are applying the road trip mindset to their full-time living situations for both fun and financial freedom. Find out what life on the road—or specifically, two modified school buses—looks like on page 13. After that, its all about the essentials, and what are the absolute musthave’s for hours at a time in the car? Check page 11 for a road trip checklist of the essentials (food, gas, knowledge of the destination, etc.) courtesy of camping guru and RN&R contributor Kris Vagner. Then let our Editor-inChief Brad Bynum tell you about the most crucial drive-time element—the music. As a dad who’s heard enough squabbling over the stereo in his time, he has thoughts on how to keep the peace with kids in the car. As Special Projects Editor, my job also includes talking to random Reno citizens for our Streetalk column, which you can find on page 3 of our regular edition. Listening to people recount their favorite road trip memories for this week’s edition reminded me of one of my favorite trips—when I spent a week in my Subaru Forester on my way up to Casper, Wyoming, to watch the 2017 solar eclipse from the line of totality—and got me excited to make some new plans soon. Hopefully, this guide will have have the same effect on you. Happy trails.

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Who picks the music? No Family Road tRip is complete without at least oNe FiGht oveR coNtRol oF the steReo by Brad Bynum | br adb@ n ew s r ev i ew . com


early a decade ago, a journeyman percussionist named Thor Harris, who’s played with Bill Callahan, the Angels of Light, Swans and other bands you probably haven’t heard of, published an online article titled “How to Tour in a Band or Whatever.” It’s a list of 21 rules of the road written by someone who has obviously spent a lot of time on it. The rules aren’t, like, safety regulations or, like, a dress code, but are rather a few guidelines for people to help maintain their sanity while engaged in the world’s most unnatural lifestyle: touring musician. But Harris’ rules are applicable to any group of people crammed into a vehicle for an extended period of time—be it a punk band trying to get to the next gig or a family on a road trip for whatever misguided reason. It’s a wise-but-funny, profanity-laced, candid article that went viral among musicians. Rule number one: “Don’t complain.” Number two: “If you fart, claim it.” Number seven. “Eat oranges. Cures constipation and prevents colds.” 16. “Don’t wander off. Let someone know where you are.”19. “Fast food is poison.” Some of the best ones are pretty Not Safe For Family Guide. So, you’ll have to track it down. It’s on the internet. But, for today’s discussion, the most important rule is number 13: “Driver picks the music.” Simple, right? An elegant solution to an age-old problem. Try telling that to my kids. Any further than four blocks from home, and the kids start forgetting rules. Rule number one—“don’t complain”— is almost always the first to go. “Driver picks the music” is often the second casualty. So, “complaining about the music” is a favorite road trip game—more popular than I Spy and License Plate Bingo combined. And, yeah, the whole “the rules are for your own

sanity” argument doesn’t hold much water with them. Any rule—and every rule—is just a dumb dad rule. And “driver picks the music” seems like an especially fascist rule when the guy spouting the rules is the guy driving— and all-too-convenient when most of the other people in the car aren’t even old enough to get a license. And it’s not like I try to pick out music just to annoy the little jerks—aged 11, 12 and 12. Well, usually not. (Oh, and there’s also a 17-month-old, but he’s pretty open-minded about music.) I usually try to pick stuff we all can agree on: the Ramones, Led Zeppelin, ABBA. We also all like hip-hop, but, man, you never really notice all the cuss words until you try listing to hip-hop with children. Had to have a very candid conversation about how there are certain words that rappers can say regularly that children should never even think. And here’s the most frustrating thing: they don’t really know what they want to hear. Even though they’ve been exposed to a wide range of music their entire lives,

“‘Complaining about the music’ is a favorite road trip game—more popular than I Spy and License Plate Bingo combined.”

they’re still formulating their own tastes and trying to do it in a way that differentiates them from their parents. So, they don’t know what they want to hear, but they know they don’t want to hear whatever I want to listen to. My 160-gig iPod has “no good songs.”

So, every once in a while, I’ll let one of them take charge of the radio dial. Most recently, it was Josephine, my 12-year-old stepdaughter. She clicked around for a while before settling on a hip-hop song I didn’t recognize. I asked her if she knew who it was. She did not. She just liked the beat. The rapper on the

track was really, really lousy—he sounded like he had never actually heard a hip-hop song before, but someone else had described rap to him so he was giving it a shot. He was a rapper from the uncanny valley. Unexpectedly, the next song was an emo/pop-punk tune with a repetitive refrain—something about how it was uncool to be trendy. Then the DJ came on and started talking about Jesus. “Did you know you put it on a Christian station?” I asked her. “So?” she responded. “What if that’s what I like?” “You can like whatever you want to like,” I said. “Just wondered if you knew.” She let out an exasperated grunt, and started flipping around the dial again.

Sometimes, especially on long road trips, the kids drift off into their own private universes. They put on headphones and play handheld games or listen to music on their phones. This means that us grownups up front have total, undisputed control of the stereo— which is nice. But I like it even better when they stay tuned into what we’re listening to, and even if it’s for just a few minutes, they just let themselves enjoy whatever we’ve got on, drop their preteen pretensions, and join their lame parents in big family singalongs of “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or “Burning Down the House.” Because that’s what I want them to remember.


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Tips FoR TakiNG The kids oN a GReaT ameRicaN Road TRip by Jessica santina


hen my brother and I were kids, we were always taking road trips. Some of my fondest memories involve listening to my parents’ ’70s music from the backseat of their car, rolling down the windows, watching strange new towns and roadside stops fly past and finding obscure cities with funny names on the road atlas. We ate sandwiches from the cooler at rest stop picnic areas and, though we wouldn’t be caught dead doing it at home, we napped in the backseat, loving that feeling of waking up in a brand-new place. Now as I welcome summer and the approaching two months of my daughter’s summer break, I find myself longing to crank Doobie Brothers’ tunes (because, you know, nostalgia), roll the windows down, pack a cooler, and hit the open road. Unlike hopping in the car with your partner and playing it fast and loose with the schedule, the iconic family road trip is a carefully orchestrated dance of cooler-and-snack-bag packing, game-and-activity bringing, playtime arranging and budget calculating, and it is not for the loosey-goosey or faint of heart. Merging my own tried-and-true tips with those from the moms I know who are experts at this stuff, I now offer the following advice for having an epic family road trip.

Stick to the plan

When Reno Moms Blog contributor Danielle Sanford was growing up, she was one of five kids. “We had a lot of family in Minnesota, so we would road trip from Reno to Minnesota every summer, stay about two months and then drive back,” she recalled. Her mom meant business when it came to packing for six people to spend two months away from home. “Since she wanted to do it in two days, we were only allowed two drinks for the whole trip because it would minimize bathroom stops,” Sanford said. Now that she is a mother of a 4- and 5-yearold, she’s developed less-stringent trip-planning schemes. Today she uses this one, inspired by her sister: She breaks trips into four-hour chunks, with a strategically planned stop at a park (identified well before leaving home) in between, allowing the kids to get their wiggles out and the whole family to stretch their legs. And she’ll find hotels with pools, if possible, to end the day with some swimming. Anna Thornley—a Reno mom of four kids, ages 3, 5, 7 and 9—stuck to similar planning when she and her husband took the family on a five-week road trip last summer to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Mount Rushmore and, finally, her family’s farm in Illinois. “Every day was about eight hours in the car,” Thornley said. “We had a cooler in the back and snacks I could reach without getting out. I had looked at the maps and found where we’d be halfway and would find a park or something where the kids could run and we could eat the sandwiches we’d packed.” Reno Moms Blog contributor anna thornley got creative while entertaining her four children during a family road trip to her family’s illinois farm last summer. courtesy/anna thornley.


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She picked up free paper maps from AAA, which made it easier to see the full scope of the trip and plan accordingly. To save money, the Thornleys packed their own breakfasts and lunches to eat on the road, saving their dining dollars for dinners only. To save on lodging, they rented the affordable, clean cabins at KOA Campgrounds, which provided pools, free-to-use bikes, mini-golf courses and more. Lynnette Bellin is a Reno mom of two kids, ages 9 and 13. Over the recent two-week Washoe County school spring break, she bravely embarked on a road trip as the only adult with her two kids and her two nieces, ages 12 and 14. She chose hotels that offered free breakfasts and which were near their chosen attractions, to save on parking fees. They aimed to eat out only once a day. But the journey was entirely of the kids’ making. “If they wanted to take a break, we took a break. They weighed in on what we would do and where we would stop every day,” Bellin said. “I found that trip was more enjoyable. We’d see a fruit stand and randomly pull over, and it made them super happy.” In fact, while her original impression had been that a crew of older kids would mean nothing but staring at phones, she was impressed to discover that everyone pitched in—the 14-year-old navigated, and everyone carried their own things and packed their own sandwiches.

Roadside TReasuRes

Megan Fikes, a Reno mom of two boys ages 5 and 8, says her husband is a whiz at finding eclectic roadside stops to break up their frequent trips to visit family in Las Vegas. “In Goldfield, he found this car cemetery where people have painted this beautiful graffiti art on the cars,” she said. “It takes about 15 minutes to see the whole thing, but it’s a fun little stop that gets us out of the car.” And here’s a tip from me, based on my own experiences with family: If treasure hunting is your thing, try geocaching. There are multiple apps that offers maps and hints for where to find caches. It’s a little treasure-hunting opportunity that gets your family out of the car for a bit and safely exploring new places together.

Fun and Games

The alphabet game. Find the letters of the alphabet, in order, on signs you pass.

The license plate game: Find the letters in your name or find the most states. Whiteboard games: Bellin says that a simple whiteboard and dry erase marker led to hours of fun playing Hangman and Dots and Boxes.

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Smartphones and tablets may be game changers for today’s road trippers, but there’s something to be said for, you know, seeing the country and talking to each other. That’s what the Great American Road Trip is all about.

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Try these great ideas for passing the time with your loved ones: •

Fikes suggests a deck of cards like TABLETOPICS to get interesting conversations started. “They have random questions like, ‘You’re stranded on a desert island. What three things would you want with you?’” she says. “It’s fun to hear what the kids come up with.”

• Radio and podcasts. Thornley was impressed that her kids never reached for screens; instead, the family listened to the radio throughout their trip, taking note of the unique advertisers, events, or songs that were popular in each place. And Bellin had fun finding podcasts that appealed to her car mates.

Get crafty with Legos. Sanford discovered a YouTube video that inspired her to turn a metal lunchbox into a Lego kit; stick a Lego board to the inside wall and pack the pieces in the lunchbox.

Alphabet stories. Someone starts a story with a sentence beginning with A. The next person’s sentence has to start with B, and so on.

Engage with your fellow road trippers. Sanford had fun sharing with her kids the challenge of motioning at truck drivers to honk their horns, or waving at other cars to see who would wave back.

And, of course, what family road trip would be complete without a game of I Spy?

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RN&R Family Guide


A special supplement to Reno News & Review

Roadtrip checklist

KNow beFoRe you Goby

by Matt Bieker | ma ttb @ ne wsr e v ie w.c o m


ormer RN&R Arts Editor and current contributor Kris Vagner loves camping. Extended famly trips are one of her usual summer activities, but in her years of planning trips all over Nevada and beyond, she’s left more than a few things behind. “For me, summer is all about starry night skies, crystal blue lakes, desert and mountain hiking trails, and, best of all, lounging in a camp site with my family and friends,” Vagner said. “It’s the loveliest, most peaceful thing going—unless you forget the lighter. Or the breakfast foods. Or the mosquito repellent. I have forgotten all of those things, but that was in the distant past, before I wrote—and spent a few summers refining—my trusty master checklist.” Years of trial and error on Vagner’s part have resulted in the following list, lightly editted with some classic road trip essentials, for our readership to consult before leaving the driveway. Vagner also stresses that this list is intended for family trips, and she probably wouldn’t consult it for solo backpacking treks or the like. Still, the following necessities will suit most travelers and their families well on the open road •

The List: Gear





□□ Tent

□□ Cooler

□□ Coffee

□□ Socks

□□ Toothbrushes

□□ Tarp

□□ Stove

□□ Canned□milk

□□ Pajamas

□□ Toothpaste

□□ Hammer

□□ F □ uel□(butane, firewood, lighters, matches, etc.)

□□ Oatmeal

□□ Underwear

□□ Deodorant

□□ Spare□tarps

□□ Bread

□□ Shoes

□□ Soap

□□ Spare□car□key

□□ Dish□rags

□□ P □ eanut□butter□and□ jelly

□□ Jacket

□□ Hand□sanitizer

□□ Spare□tire/tire□jack

□□ Paper□towels

□□ Trail□mix

□□ Swimsuit

□□ Tissues

□□ Road□flares

□□ Cutting□board

□□ Dinner□items

□□ Towel

□□ Earplugs

□□ Breakfast□items

□□ Hygiene□products

□□ J □ umper□cables/jump□ starter

□□ U □ tensils□(knives, forks, spatulas, serving spoons, etc.)

□□ Shirts □□ Shorts/pants

□□ Medications

□□ Fire□extinguisher

□□ Hat

□□ Dish□tub□(for washing)

□□ Cards

First Aid

□□ L □ ighting□(lantern, flashlights, spare batteries) □□ Pillows □□ Pocket□knife/hatchet □□ Sleeping□bags/pads □□ Chairs/table □□ W □ ater□storage□(bottles, Camelback, etc.) □□ Rope/bungee□chords

□□ Dishes□and□mugs

□□ Aluminum□foil

Entertainment □□ Boardgames

□□ Toilet□paper

□□ Binoculars

□□ Maps

□□ Book

□□ C □ ar□charger□for□ phone/electronics

□□ Speaker/stereo □□ Cds/car□playlist

□□ Sunglasses

Inclement/ Emergency □□ Ponchos

□□ F □ irst□aid□kit□(bandages, antiseptic, pain relief, treatment for poisonous plants etc.) □□ Sunscreen □□ Bug□repellant

□□ Walkie□talkies


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On the bus To some youNG people, liFe oN The Road meaNs a chaNce aT adveNTuRe—aNd escape story and photos by Matt bieker m at t b@ ne w s re v i e w . c o m


aybe it’s a soul-sucking job, a dead-end relationship or just the prospect of another day in the same old routine, but the urge to hit the road and leave it all in the rearview mirror might be familiar to anyone who’s ever felt stuck in life. While a life of freewheeling adventure on 3000 miles of American highway makes for a nice office day dream, an increasing number of young people have found the prospect of living in a vehicle more desirable—and in some cases, more practical—than traditional housing. According to the yearly report from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, RV sales of all makes and models have risen by an average of 10 percent every year since 2012, with Americans spending over 20 billion dollars on RVs in 2017. The RVIA also indicates that millennials spend more on RVs than other Americans, followed closely

by retiring boomers. However, social media content like #vanlife offers a rose-colored glimpse at a subculture of young Americans choosing remote destinations over roommates and paying gas bills instead of rent—no cushy RV required. To a few young Truckee Meadows residents, their vision of a life on wheels comes in the form of a modified school bus. Lorelei Neft is a 25-year-old who, at the end of last summer, decided she needed a change. “I was having, like, a quarterlife crisis,” Neft said. “I had just walked out of a job working at Renown and, like, using my degree, and it sucked. I was within, like, a month of being unemployed—not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I was like, ‘I just need to travel. I need to get out of here.’ So, obviously, the rational choice is to

buy a school bus and to convert it into a tiny home.” After abruptly quitting her job at Renown Health Center, Neft spent a month abroad in India. When she returned to Reno, she decided to embark on a project that would give her the minimalism and freedom she felt was missing in her life. She began converting the 22-foot-long mini school bus she had purchased a few months earlier into her new home. “When I really sat down and focused on when I was really happiest in my life. ... It’s always been, like, when I studied abroad, or when I backpacked in Japan,” Neft said. “And, so, I basically really hastily came up with the solution that I need. Like, why not convert a vehicle into my home so I can take my home with me wherever I want to go?” Neft budgeted $10,000 for the entire project. She specifically wanted a mini bus for its diminutive size, and found one in New Jersey, where they are more common than on the West Coast, for $3000. Along with another $3000 to ship it to Reno, plus a few fees and taxes, Neft had a little under $4000 left for the basic construction of water lines, insulation and a battery-operated electrical system, as well as amenities like a full-size bed, gas range and cabinet sink, and solar shower with water-less toilet. “I knew I wanted to design the inside, so I could have done a van build, but I wanted to be able to stand up,” Neft said. “So that was an important factor aside from the school bus aesthetic.” The aesthetics of her home are important to Neft, who’s designing the entire space to look like a brick house on wheels—complete with wooden front door and Astro-turf “backyard” on the roof. She and a contractor friend installed hard wood floors and a stately thrift-shop armoire, and she even considered adding a wood burning stove before deciding it was overkill. She believes her mobile-cottage design also has practical benefits, like potentially renting the bus to Burners every summer at an

coNTiNued oN paGe 15 Lorelei Neft is currently renovating her 22-foot-long mini bus. When it’s finished, if all goes according to plan, it will look like a cottage on wheels.


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On the bus coNtiNued FRom paGe 15

increased rate for the creative additions. “The couple that I babysit for, they bought, like, a $20,000 motor home, and it was a nice motor home, and they rented it out for Burning Man for two years at, like, $12,000 each year,” Neft said. “It paid for their RV for them. When I got [the bus] I asked if they would help me draft out a contract.” Aside from freedom of movement, cost was Neft’s other biggest motivation in living in her bus. After paying upwards of $800 a month for a studio apartment for the past few years, she decided that renovating the bus would be cheaper in the long run than buying a ready-made RV (which would be more expensive, less spacious and less customizable) or continuing to pay a traditional rent. Even with her initial $600 registration fee, insurance fee, gas,

said. “And I think that people get confused on whether or not it’s just like, you’re afraid or you’re escaping all for negative reasons as opposed to thinking about it like, ‘This is just who this person is, and they like running away.’”

Change of plans

To Nick DeRaedt and his full-size, solar-powered adventure bus, changing life plans come with the territory. He originally conceived of his bus four years ago for similar reasons as Neft—a thirst for new and challenging scenery and an unwillingness to resign himself to a stale routine. “I did the whole, like, I went to college, I got my 9-to-5 job right out of college and I started working in an office and I was like, ‘Dude, I’m miserable,’” DeRaedt said. “If I want to go work tomorrow for, let’s say McDonald’s or whatever … and Nick DeRaedt and Marisa Stephens designed their $25,000 adventure bus with both freedom and comfort in mind for themselves and their pets.

Photos/Matt Bieker

“I was like, ‘I just need to travel. I need to get out of here.’ So, obviously, the rational choice is to buy a school bus and to convert it into a tiny home.”

loRelei NeFt food and miscellaneous costs, Neft estimates her monthly expenses in the bus will be under half of what she used to pay in rent alone. “My aunts and my cousins ... they just don’t get it,” Neft said. “‘Why didn’t you just buy an already made motorhome?’ Like, ‘Why don’t you just get some roommates?’ and it’s like, I cherish my alone time. I don’t want to live with anybody else. I want the ability to choose where I live.” Neft currently works at Sol Cannabis Dispensary and rents a room from the same friend helping her finish the bus. Her only priority now is to save enough money to finish the bus and pay off some student loans before hitting the road sometime next year. After that, she said, she might start by visiting a few of her favorite national parks or taking the bus across Canada and back. Having options, she said, and not necessarily a plan, is the entire point of her life on wheels. “I think I have the natural characteristic of wanting to do what I want, when I want to do it,” Neft

then the next day quit just because I’d have enough money saved up, and just travel and do whatever I want. … The bus would allow me to do that.” He originally bought the 44-footlong bus with a friend as a shared investment. Soon after, however, the friend had to back out and DeRaedt assumed most of the responsibility for the project, which he financed through his job as a wilderness firefighter. His timeline for repairing and building out the bus was pushed back as firefighting kept him busy, but the steady source of income allowed him to make some design choices with the help of his longtime girlfriend Marisa Stephens. “My mom … you know, she looks at me as a professional since I’m a teacher. So, she’s like, ‘You’re a professional. You shouldn’t be living on a bus,’” Stephens said. But the bus, which started as a rough and ready mobile-basecamp, instead took on a degree of comfort reminiscent of most modern homes.

DeRaedt’s original bunkbed concept evolved to include a collapsible queen-sized bed, walkin shower, full sink with linoleum countertops and dish racks, plus a wood-burning stove. They even built a deck on the roof. “I’d run all the pipes and all the plumbing, kind of figuring out how that all works,” DeRaedt said. “The only thing on this whole bus that I had outside help of, like, an expert on was the installation of the solar kit.” DeRaedt estimates he’s put about $25,000 into the bus, and even though it remains fully equipped with a log cabin interior and custom paint job, he and Stephens have never used it for a primary living space—except when they want to. “My other biggest logistical issue was just parking,” DeRaedt said. “I mean, it’s great if you have an RV spot, but the whole point was to live out of it, and then I just didn’t know where to park. So, like, now I bought a house because I needed it, and I bought this house again with it in mind like, ‘Where I can park this bus?’” The couple found that if they weren’t driving the bus, they’d still have to pay for land on which to park it. With DeRaedt’s recent

acceptance of a job as a firefighter on federal land and Stephen’s teaching career to consider, the couple made the decision to buy a house in Panther Valley to serve as a home base until their seasonal employment allows them the time to take the bus on its first extended trip. “I always make this joke that I’d rather have a small house with a big garage, because my garage, I want to fill up all my toys to go out and live life,” DeRaedt said. Now, instead of an ascetic life on the road like he originally pictured, DeRaedt and Stephens have the option to go wherever they want in their downtime, and even included beds and a litterbox in the bus for their cat and dog. Even when it isn’t moving, though, the couple say it’s a favorite hangout spot when they have friends over—and they’ve been introduced to like-minded community of travelers through social media. DeRaedt and Stephens shared the building process on a Facebook page called “Born to Explore” dedicated to the bus, and when DeRaedt casually asked one day how much his followers thought the bus might be worth, the response was staggering. “I just put out an idea, like, ‘Hey, what do you guys think this


is worth?” He said. “I had, like, 40 people comment on it and all these things. It was great.” DeRaedt and Stephens have no plans to sell the bus and hope to get on the road sometime after the upcoming fire season, but also think they see why the simplicity of life on the road is so appealing to their online audience—a decidedly millennial mix of wanderlust and existential dread. “It starts racking up when you have house payments, car payments-like, you can’t leave, you’re stuck in this circular motion where you have to go to work because you have to be able to pay these bills,” DeRaedt said. “And I feel like a lot of people started realizing there’s almost no part of that anymore where you’re truly enjoying yourself.” “I think with where our world is going, it’s just so different,” Stephens said. “I mean our president and, you know, the environment— everything. There’s so many things where you’re just like, ‘Who knows what’s going to happen?’ You just have to live every day like it’s your last, I guess.”

RN&R Family Guide