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Barry and Julie Morris in front of their camper (or "the Lair") at their Asheboro home.   Photo by Ella-Brooke Morgan

On the road with the Morrises: 100-day journey covers much of the USA

By Ella-Brooke Morgan

Special to the Randolph Hub


ASHEBORO — Julie and Barry Morris' house is ordinary from the corner, but once one turns onto the street, the large camper in the driveway comes into view. 


The "couple's camper," which functioned as the vessel for their Odyssean 100-day journey, wasn't part of the original plan. The Morrises, who were married in 2017 and retired in 2020, initially bought a "pop-up" camper for some light tent-camping but "wanted to be more comfortable and make some longer trips." 


The longest being a recent circuit of the upper United States covering 23 states, nine national parks and 37 campgrounds.


Traveling for long distances and periods was not something foreign to the pair. 


Julie, who grew up in California, noted how it was important for her dad to take his children on trips. "He always tried to create experiences and memories," she says, reflecting on how she instilled that value in her children. 


Barry, who was part of a military family, "traveled all over the place as a child. … We were either in Northern Virginia or Germany.”


A relative's wedding, a visit with a brother — these circumstances, and an amalgamation of connections dispersed across the continental U.S. — made it feasible for the Morrises to blend time with loved ones with sightseeing. Taking inspiration from YouTube videos and podcasters, the 100-day trip — and the ones following — was outlined using lists that the couple followed "almost religiously."


Julie, who adopted the role of "the planner," plots the stops and makes the reservations while Barry does the driving. "We were just learning on the fly," Julie says. They had a bit of a trial run during their "shakedown" trip, a short trip to Jordan Lake. There, they had an opportunity to navigate unfamiliar obstacles in a less high-stakes setting, such as dumping the holding tank. "That was my biggest thing [to get used to]," Julie says.


But they couldn't have been prepared for the challenges they'd encounter during their longer expedition. 


Within the first 10 days of their 100-day journey, they broke down going over a high pass in Colorado, about a quarter of a mile before making it to a mountain peak. The couple confronted a blown radiator hose and rain that devolved into sleet and flurries, all while being stranded on Highway 160, but were met with the kindness of a towing company from a small town. "It was our first big test," Barry said. 


"Through love, we stayed calm and worked together as a team to solve the problem," the Morrises wrote on their Facebook page. 


When the Morrises post about their excursions and the hardships that have come with them, friends interested in beginning a similar adventure tend to look the other way. "They'll say, 'I don't think this is for us.' It wasn't really for us, either. We just had to work through it," Barry says. 


The art of being flexible is something the two have mastered — or being "good at pivoting," which entails rearranging reservations or changing routes. Various car troubles and a broken bike axle, among other things (all documented), prove the reality that these trips are far from easy. But ultimately, "it's what you make of it," the Morrises say.


And they have certainly made the best of it. From the sapphire-blue Crater Lake ("It was gorgeous, ice blue") to staying at a horse farm where animals and humans alike are rehabilitated (the Morrises stayed there through Harvest Host, a program like Airbnb for travelers) to a canoe trip down the Missouri River, the couple has squeezed the most out of their time. 


Regardless of the stunning spectacles they witnessed and the adventurous experiences they had, the Morrises are inclined to talk more about the people they met along the way — including but not limited to a biological and cultural anthropologist, a USC professor instrumental to the Human Genome Project, and a Vietnam veteran-turned-painter.


"We met such incredible people, some that are now really good friends at this point," Julie says. They fondly reflect on the conversations that took place; they were of different nature than the two had ever partaken in: Profound and extremely empathetic. One such exchange that the Morrises remember with warmth was a discussion between an investment banker and other intellectuals on the topic of "Free Britney." 


To many, it may appear that the couple doesn't have much more to see, yet their bucket list remains long. "We'd like to do a Southern trip," Barry says, describing the route he and Julie would like to take that would be reminiscent of the 100-day trip but repeated on the southern part of the U.S. They enjoyed the multitude of activities they took part in on the road; still, they sometimes find they would like to linger a little longer at a particular place. 


"We think, 'we're going to have to come back and do more of this' at every place we go," Julie says. 


The maps, or practical keepsakes they've accumulated, from their visits paint a picture of hundreds of moments spent in nature and together, an existence admired — and potentially emulated — by others. Their Facebook page, "Adventures of Big Bear and the JuJuBee," shares those moments more publicly. The couple sports their matching shirts at the beginning of each trip, which says, "Does this make me look retired?" accompanied by a picture of a camper.


"We've inspired other people in different ways … go camping, do something, ride a bike," Julie says. "Don't wait to do the things you love."


The Morrises embody that statement wholly and aspire to see all 50 states, but they don't want to stop there. "We've talked about going overseas once the pandemic settled down," Barry says.


Traveling, which, to the Morrises, partially served as a refuge from COVID, was affected by the pandemic through closures and delays. However, that didn't hold up the two; they could always figure something out. "[It didn't bother us.] We were having too much fun."


Ella-Brooke Morgan is a high school senior who is serving as an intern this year.