A young family has one place left before their nearly five-month-old daughter Evelyn becomes one of the youngest people to visit all 50 states. However, the life-changing journey almost didn't happen.
“I was told I couldn’t have kids,” Jenna Woods told Fox News in an exclusive interview. “So then when we found out I was pregnant with Evelyn, it was a shock.”
Jenna and Ryan Woods, high school sweethearts from Modesto, Calif., were living in downtown Los Angeles working with a distillery – and getting restless – when they learned they were expecting.
“We are so used to being entrepreneurs and making our own schedule,” Jenna said of the couple’s past, after having starting two successful businesses in the Central Valley before moving to L.A. “So when I got pregnant, we started researching how to best spend my maternity leave and gain a little independence back and that’s when we got the idea for the 50-state challenge.”
The pair quickly began researching RVs and planning their cross-country adventure – during which they came across Harper Yeats, another baby who attempted the same feat. (Yeats visited all 50 states in under six months.)
“When we discovered the Yeats, it kind of gave us a timeline and a goal,” Jenna said. “It helped us plan a little bit because now we have this schedule to stick to.”
Jenna and Ryan said they did not set out “just to beat a record,” but were inspired by the Yeats’ story and wanted to have a similar experience for their new family after Evelyn was born on January 26.
But the California natives, who had never driven an RV before, decided to give themselves another challenge, too.
“We also have our dog, Bleu, who is a good dog, but it can be difficult because he and Evelyn have different schedules,” Ryan said to Fox News.
The family, who stay on budget by rarely eating out, consuming a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, and staying at free rest stops overnight, officially kicked off the trip on March 17 — though Ryan explained the group had visited Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Arizona when Evelyn was one-and-a-half months old, to kind of test the waters.
“We had to be back in California for Evelyn’s check-up, so we went out on a 2000-mile trek for the first leg, and then went back to L.A. before officially starting the trip in March,” they said.
Though the couple, who set up an Instagram account and blog to share their experiences, said they faced many difficulties during the trip — especially learning how to navigate a 24-foot RV with two adults, an infant and a dog — they highly recommend the journey to all families.
“It definitely has its challenges, but to get to watch Evelyn view the world with her own eyes is incredible,” Jenna said, who also confessed that Evelyn has been a "very happy" and easy-going baby. "If she was a colicky baby, it would be much different."
The couple said watching Evelyn reach these milestones, while also learning more about each unique state, has been very rewarding.
“We were able to capture her first laugh on camera, and it was on the River Walk in Boston. And that just made it more special,” Jenna said.
The couple makes it a point to take a photo of Evelyn in front of each state sign. They also spend at least one night in each state and take part in one experience. But the two say there were some clear standouts for favorite sites.
“We loved Manhattan, and Yellowstone,” Jenna and Ryan shared. As far as Evelyn’s favorite, Jenna said she was a big fan of Yellowstone, too.
Though there was one state that the couple did have some difficulty in.
“West Virginia,” Jenna shared, explaining that they had a rough time due to the lack of GPS and some problems with the roads.
But the biggest takeaway of the trip, the couple said, was how different each state is.
“There is so much beauty in America that gets overlooked,” Jenna said, explaining how diverse the landscape is across the nation.
Another concept that the couple had to relearn on the road is time.
“Feeling of time has changed,” Ryan, who does the driving, said. “Now a six-hour trip doesn't seem like that much.”
The couple hopes their journey can be inspiring to other families and people who are “looking for more of a sense of purpose” in life.
Now, after checking-off all but Alaska — the family plans to complete the trip by June 20 — Jenna and Ryan are already planning their second journey back through all 50, calling it “Twice by Two,” where the couple plan on spending two weeks in each state.
“We hope we can inspire other families to get out there and travel,” Jenna said. “There’s always a way to make it happen.”
“You have to pull the trigger,” she continued. “There’s never a convenient time, but if travel is important to you and you have a passion to explore, you have to just go.”
Once Evelyn crosses Alaska off her list, she will join the ranks of the youngest 50 staters -- including Harper Yeats and Liberty Weeks, who completed the 50-week challenge by 42 days old -- a record recently acknowledged by the All Fifty Club organization, which was formed in 2006. Harper Yeats was listed as the previous record holder.