Family stops in Md. as part of yearlong journey in U.S. Kansans gave up home for life on the road

April 07, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Marlene and Craig Graham are doing what thousands of Americans dream about.

Sick of the rat race, they sold their home in Wichita, Kan., jettisoned the lifestyle a $150,000-a-year income brings, bought a $30,000 van and embarked on a yearlong, 50-state road trip with their children, Courtney, 12, and Collier, 4.

On July 4, after the fireworks, as spectators waved goodbye at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in Wichita, the Grahams hit the road. They will return this July 4.

Maryland is the 35th state on the tour -- not only for them, but for thousands of people who are along for the ride via the Grahams' Internet site (http: //www.usatrip.org), the two articles a month Marlene Graham writes for the Wichita Eagle and the videotaped reports Courtney does for WAM! America's Kidz Network. So popular is the Web site that Marlene Graham is 600 e-mail replies behind.

She has no regrets about selling off her community newspaper; Craig Graham doesn't miss 21 years of selling real estate.

In Maryland, they've seen College Park and Cumberland. Yesterday they toured Fort McHenry. They were unsure if they'd get to Aberdeen last night, where -- like nearly everywhere they've visited -- they have a standing invitation to stay with people they've never met. They're thinking about a second day in Baltimore today, Annapolis probably tomorrow. They always tour a state capital.

They've met a dozen governors. They've been on CNN and the front page of several newspapers. They may appear on the "Today" show in New York.

They have 15 states to go, mostly the North Atlantic coast and some of the Midwest.

"Now the states are smaller but they're filled with so much history," Marlene Graham says.

That's good for Courtney, who is keeping a journal on what she's learning about the nation's geography and history. She squeezes in other subjects but says no textbook compares with waking up in majestic national parks or standing where George Washington reviewed his troops. In a variation on home schooling, Courtney learns her lessons from her parents in the van.

Along the way, they've stayed and dined with dozens of people, who are so enchanted by the Grahams' journey that they have welcomed them into their homes.

Like Mark and Sue Hoffman, campus pastors at Chi Alpha Campus Ministries at the University of Maryland College Park. At the Monticello, Va., visitors center, they saw the Grahams' van and got to chatting. "I invited them to stay," says Mark Hoffman. The Grahams spent five days at the Hoffman residence last week.

Pub Date: 4/07/97

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