The family finally parks their camper van, settles in Bellevue


BELLEVUE, Iowa (AP) – Candy Sinar opened the door to her family’s RV and walked inside.

His gaze lingered on the compact kitchen area with its restaurant-style cabin. Wooden signs with Bible verses and uplifting quotes adorned the walls, and colorful magnets from various American cities lined the refrigerator.

“For six and a half years it was my home,” she said.

“It was very comfortable,” added her husband, Paul, with a smile.


As of 2015, the couple and their two children – Emily, now 17, and Tyler, 13 – have been living on the road in their 420 square foot motorhome. Originally from Texas, they rode the country’s highways for years but eventually settled into a tiny house in Bellevue after falling in love with the river town.

The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reports that Paul and Candy had considered living in a full-time RV as a retirement plan. But after quitting their jobs in Christian ministry and starting a business, the couple decided it was time to give it a go.

“We love adventure and we love to learn new things,” said Candy.

They looked for other families who had been successful in mobile life, then sold their home and bought a 42ft motorhome. The children’s bunk room would also serve as Paul’s office for the mobile media production and marketing company, with the “master bedroom” and bathroom to the front of the deck.

July 17, 2015 – a date the family now calls their “nomad birthday” – the quartet and their black lab, Tipper, hit the road.

Over the next six years, they visited 36 states. They’ve been through more, but the family only counts a state if they stay at least one night and “do something fun,” according to Paul.

They explored national parks, historic sites and museums. These tours were often part of the children’s ‘road school’, a mix of online and experiential learning programs.

“They learned about the Civil War by visiting Gettysburg,” said Paul as an example.

Emily remembered visits to the homes of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., and Tyler especially enjoyed the Badlands. Paul and Candy remembered seeing a total solar eclipse in rural Nebraska.

During the winters, the Sinars returned to Texas to visit family and friends they met through Fulltime Families, a national group of RV families.

Although Emily and Tyler said it took a while for them to adjust to their new lifestyle, they enjoyed the chance to explore new places.

“Every day you look out the window and see a new backyard,” Tyler said.

They also cherished the family ties created by life in a motorhome.

“Being in such close quarters, although it can sometimes be a lot, actually brought us together,” Emily said. “We’re all best friends now, and it’s great because we see each other all the time, and we’re really happy about it.”

The Sinars had no plans to move to Bellevue until 2018, when, during an overnight layover in Bellevue State Park, Candy tripped over a crack and broke her foot. The overnight stay became a six-week residence as she healed, and the family fell in love with the small town.

They returned to Bellevue over the next two summers and visited area attractions ranging from Maquoketa Caves State Park to the Dubuque Farmer’s Market. This year, they parked for almost six months at the Off Shore Resort, where Emily found a summer job.

As they fell in love with Bellevue, the family also began to think about ending their days on the road. Booking campsites had become more difficult, said Candy, and Emily turned to the university. If they were going to settle down, they felt Bellevue would be the place.

“In everything we do we have been very aware of how the Lord leads us. He has brought us alongside other families and individuals on the road going through difficult times, and we really feel like God has led us into the community of Bellevue, ”said Paul.

In October, a Bellevue house goes up for sale and the Sinars jump at the chance. They briefly traveled to South Texas to see family and friends before returning to Bellevue earlier this month.

Friends from previous visits have donated furniture to spruce up the new home, and now family members are adjusting to whatever space they suddenly have available. Their 1,500 square foot home is more than three times the size of their old home. Tyler’s room alone would fill about two-thirds of the motorhome.

“We all have our own bedrooms, but for some reason I always want to be here with everyone,” Emily said, gesturing around the living room.

Still, they all look forward to the rhythm of their new lives, from volunteering at the Bellevue Community Cupboard to Thursday nights at River Ridge Brewing.

And the motorhome will stay parked in the backyard of the Sinars, ready for weekend trips or extended vacations.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen from here on out, and we’re just part of the game,” Paul said.


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