House Tour: Mark and Katie's Cross-Country T@B Trip

House Tour: Mark and Katie's Cross-Country T@B Trip

Alejandra Valera
Sep 26, 2008

Name: Mark Cognata and Katie Mancine
Location: Anytown, USA
Type: T@B RV with U-Shaped Floorplan
Years Lived In: Since August, 2008.

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Mark Cognata and Katie Mancine live life in a sort of contradictory state. They have a living space of 10' 3" by 5' 9", while simultaneously making over 5,984,685 square miles their home. Since the end of August this year, Mark and Katie have begun traveling the country wanting to "Go out and relearn what America is about."

What began as the ubiquitous "What do I do after college?" question, slowly morphed into an idea for a cross-country trip. They write on their blog Wanderful, "After many enthusiastic (read: inebriated) discussions of how to harness our creative instincts into meaningful outpourings, we arrived at a concept. What else could feed our mutual longing for excitement and discovery but an American road trip!" With three years of planning, their trip was finally coming to fruition. Mark and Katie gave up their apartment in Montclair, New Jersey, where they had been living for four years, sold most of their belongings, packed up their chihuahua, Mister, and gave it a go.

For Mark and Katie, one of the main questions was not where to travel, but what to travel in. After looking at various options, Katie fell in love with the T@B RV. Katie and Mark began writing to the T@B company offices in search of sponsorship -- which at first, was met with silence. Katie remarks, "As soon as they e-mailed us and said 'No', I knew we were getting somewhere since they were now acknowledging us!" With much convincing and pleading on Mark and Katie's part, the fine folks at T@B decided to lend them one of their beauties.

So far, their trip has taken them to Cleveland; Amish country in Pennsylvania; Monticello, Illinois; Providence, Rhode Island and Grand Rapids, Michigan among several other places. We had the opportunity to meet with Mark and Katie last week to discuss their trip and future plans. As the fabulous aqua beauty pulled up to our home, we were instantly smitten as well.

Getting ready to shoot the T@B...

We spent an evening, during their stop in Chicago, taking photos of the T@B (which they plan to decorate with regional items they find throughout their travels) and talking over dinner...

What has been the most interesting thing of your trip so far?
Seeing the landscape of America unfold in front of me is continually mesmerizing. I can't tell you how many times per day my jaw drops at an unexpected marvel -- a yellowing field of soy in Central Illinois, or an old building with a slanted roof in Milwaukee, or the uncommonly high proportion of stop signs in a small town in Michigan. Each new day promises the amusement that comes with a new discovery. My favorite part of the road trip is simply experiencing delight everyday.

Have you felt homesick at all?
Not at all. The T@B is home. It's felt like home since the first day we got it and camped in a Wal-Mart parking lot. When we went to pick up the T@B we didn't realize that we needed an electrical hookup on the car, and no mechanic was available to install it until the next morning. We cautiously pulled the T@B to the Wal-Mart across the street and set it up for the first time. Once inside we felt so comfortable that, after a few minutes, we forgot that around us was a busy parking lot with customers constantly driving in and out. We slept easily that evening, knowing we were home.

Behind-the-scenes at the photo shoot...

Talk about Smallest, Coolest -- this T@B makes me want to travel. Tell me more about it; what's your average day like?
Most of the day is spent exploring away from the T@B. At night we use the dinner table like a desk and spend long hours writing, editing, and researching. After all our work is done we convert the table into the bed, play with Mister for a long time, stare out the window, play a game, read, or just fall asleep. There's an attachable screen room that we've been itching to put up, but we haven't really stayed in one place long enough to justify breaking it out. Sometimes we will attach the Thule table on the exterior hooks of the T@B and sit outside. I like those moments to sit peacefully in the campground and let nature do its thing.

It's actually kind of fun converting the dining room table and benches into a bed every night. As we change the settings, I like to imagine that James Bond's interior designer would be totally into our furniture.

How has Mister been handling the trips?
When we lived in the apartment he didn't get to see us very much, and he only went outside a few times a day. On the trip, he gets to experience our adventures with us. He's getting a lot more attention and a lot more exercise now. When it's time for bed he cuddles up extra hard with us, as if to say "Thanks for including me."

Mark and Mister in Wicker Park...

I know your travels are still quite young, but do you have any places in mind you would want to revisit?
Chicago, definitely. We want to go to Michigan again, this time to see the Upper Peninsula. We missed out on Lincoln's Cabin when we were in Illinois. We kind of sped through the first couple of weeks of the trip, but now we're taking it slower and savoring our surroundings a little more.

You've said you hope to be on the road at least until December. What's on your agenda after that?
Katie and I talked today about working for a few months when we get back to New Jersey in December. We'll save as much as we can and use that money to fund another travel expedition. We thought about venturing out of the states, but there will be so much more of America to be seen that we might do a second cross-country trip to catch what we missed the first time. I usually read a good novel twice. It gets better the second time.

While it may seem as though their trip is all fun and leisure, Mark and Katie would like it to become something more. They are also using their travels to canvas the country and see where they could possibly stay and help out a community -- perhaps in some sort of volunteer capacity.

And after Chicago, where is the road taking Mark and Katie? They tell us "We're attempting to see all the northern states before it gets too cold. We're in Wisconsin now, and we'll probably go through Minnesota and South Dakota next. When we finally reach the west coast we'll go south through California, then up and down the central and southern states in as logical an order as we can."

Even though road trips are on the decline, Mark and Katie were both surprised by how many people do want to travel the road, "Everyone we talk to is totally interested in taking their own road trip across America. It must be a shared American characteristic."

Katie enjoying the view...

Be sure to keep an eye out in your town for Mark, Katie, Mister and the T@B. You can follow their adventure on their Web site Wanderful and they'll be visiting other AT cities, as well.

Photos by: Mark Cognata, Katie Mancine and Christopher Barrett.

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