VAIL — Susie and Dan Kellogg have logged close to 100,000 miles in their 36-foot 1999 Georgie Boy Cruisemaster, hauling their brood of 12 kids — teens to tots — across North America. Since 2012, the perpetually moving Kellogg clan has cultivated three world-class kayakers who recently made the U.S. Freestyle Kayak team and defined the art of raising rippers on the road.
The tight family has spent most of the last five years living in their RV, a monumental achievement in and of itself. And somehow, they have grown even closer while developing top-shelf talents in paddling whitewater.
With the assumption that parents across the planet could learn from Dan and Susie, here’s a dozen areas of focus the ever-laughing couple has developed while navigating adventures with the Kellogg Show.
“The first one is faith,” Susie says. “It guides everything we do and who we are. If you have faith and believe in God, then there’s the 10 Commandments you follow and that pretty much sums it all up for you.”
Susie Kellogg, courtesy of Kellogg family
Dally Kellogg watches his older brother Brody throw a gainer off the cliffs along the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River in June 2016.CURIOSITY
“Our kids are incredibly curious. They are always seeking quality over quantity, and they are trying to be the best they can be in everything. It’s just endless learning for them,” says Susie, who home-schools her brood. “Their curiosity fuels a lot of their education.”
That includes all the places they go, Dan says. Some of the older kids will research the history of an area to share with their siblings, who then dive into exploring each place they visit.
“They just spend hours searching for anything and everything,” Dan says.
“Our kids are not afraid of failure. They fail and fail and fail, and then they get a little taste of victory and they fail a dozen more times,” Susie says. “They are not afraid to put everything they have into something.”
That definitely includes kayaking. Kenny, 17, and Dally, 15, raced in the GoPro Mountain Games Steep Creek Race down the thunderous Homestake Creek, one of the steepest, most demanding stretches of whitewater in Colorado. It was the first time down the creek for both of them. They didn’t win. But they didn’t swim from their boats, either.
“They aren’t afraid of placing last or anything like that. Their winnings come internally. Their sense of accomplishment is inside themselves,” Susie says.
“Successful people learn to fail faster and it takes a certain number of failures to succeed,” Dan says. “Our kids definitely are tackling that.”
“If there was anyone who wasn’t able to drop everything and travel around the country in an RV, it was us in 2012,” Susie says. “I was pregnant and we had 11 children. We just decided, screw everything, we are going to do this and we are going to do it now because who knows down the road what’s going to happen. Our kids learned to be unstoppable. They chase their dreams. They are incredibly resilient and adaptable to change and they just charge right through barriers. We call ourselves unstoppable.”
Things change when you roll with 12 kids and a dog. Plans get blown up and remade daily.
“We are not always on the same page,” Dan says. “Sometimes we all have to compromise.”
Susie Kellogg, courtesy of Kellogg family
Kady Kellogg, 18, coaches her little sister Maddy, 12, on her way to second place in the cadet girls division of the USA Freestyle Kayak Nationals competition in Columbus, Ga., in April.
“We taught our kids to really assist each other in everything they are doing,” Dan says.
That’s evidenced with the paddling prowess of Kenny, Dally and 18-year-old Kady, all of whom have found spots on the U.S. Freestyle Kayak team. The trio learned from their older siblings Grady and Brody, powerful paddlers themselves. Now Kenny is teaching 4-year-old Coby, who was skateboarding, riding bikes, paddling a kayak and snowboarding by age 3.
“They really coach each other,” Dan says. “They help each other in all things, including home schooling, and really anytime anyone needs help, there’s a lot of us ready to help in any way we can.”
Watch a kayak competition with the Kelloggs, and their skills include impressively swift gear changes. At the recent Paddlefest contest in Buena Vista, Kenny, Dally and Kady shared a single kayak.
Sharing comes with life in a big family.
“Everyone doesn’t get their own this or that. Everything is shared and they learned that early on. Sharing is essential,” Dan says.
Well, except for food, Susie adds.
“Sometimes it seems like they will never see food again,” says Susie, noting how some kids have become “food police” when it comes to portioning shared meals and desserts.CONSERVATION / ENVIRONMENTALISM
With 12 kids, “we buy only what we need and we use everything we buy,” Susie says. The Kelloggs have become experts at recycling and conserving water, especially when on a prolonged trip. And the clan is known to fill their kayaks with trash they collect as they descend rivers. They practice a strict “leave no trace” ethos everywhere they go, dismantling fire rings and making sure no one can tell that a posse of 14 stopped for a night.
“They have an appreciation for all these beautiful landscapes and places and they want to see them cared for and available for other people when they come out,” Dan says.
This is pretty easy to teach when everyone competes in individual sports like kayaking.
“Where there is a lot more loss and failure than winning, they understand how it feels to lose and they are extremely compassionate toward their brothers and sisters when they don’t do well,” Susie says. “They’ve all been there. They have real humility and empathy.”
Kady Kellogg, courtesy of Kellogg family
The Kellogg family carves time from each day for school work and code writing.
A handful of the Kelloggs are sponsored by gear makers. Those companies require updates, social media and content.
“They know there are no handouts and nothing comes easy. They have to be self-motivated to achieve. They know if they are going to have something, they are going to have to work for it and earn it,” Susie says. “It’s not coming any other way.”
The same goes for training. With Kady, Kenny and Dally set to paddle in the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships in Argentina in the fall, the trio is laboring to fund not only their trip, but train for the competition.
They’re not forcing the kids to train hard, Dan says. “If they are going to train, it’s because they are disciplined enough to go out and earn their success. We aren’t making them do anything. They know they have to want it.”
Dan, a software developer, is teaching the older kids his craft. They have to write code for several hours a week to earn money for gear and travel.
“If they make a deal with you, they are going to follow through,” Dan says. “They have learned the importance of honoring their commitments and being dependable.”
When you see the Kelloggs playing, they go hard. They are in the trees, splashing in the river, scaling rocks and chasing each other. It’s a circus. But when you see them in a restaurant, they are polite and proper.
“They are really mindful of the people around them. Our kids are wild and crazy, but they are also very well-mannered and very well-behaved,” Dan says. “We have taught them manners, and it’s one of those things a lot of people today are missing. They understand there is a time and place for everything, and they can go into any environment and understand how they should act.”
Follow the Kelloggs’ adventures at kelloggshow.com.
Dan Kellogg, courtesy of Kellogg family
The Kelloggs pose before putting in on the Colorado River in June 2016.