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Penn Township family lives out adventure on Travel Channel's 'Trip Flip'

| Sunday, June 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Travel Channel
'Trip Flip' host Bert Kreischer p[oses with the Grosses — Corri, Phoebe, AJ, Tim and Lyla — in front of the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore.
Travel Channel
'Trip Flip' host Bert Kreischer shows the Gross family the next stop on their treasure map and Orlando adventure.
Travel Channel
'Trip Flip': Traveler AJ goes kayaking at The Plantation on Crystal River in Florida.
Travel Channel
'Trip Flip': AJ (left) and Corri (right) go kayaking at The Plantation on Crystal River in Florida

Friends and relatives know the Gross family as always being up for something new and exciting.

“We love adventure!” says mom Corri Gross of Penn Township, Westmoreland County.

But none of their many adventures, as fun and exciting as they were, comes close to their experience as the first family to be selected for an episode of the Travel Channel's “Trip Flip,” she says.

The 30-minute episode of the series, in its third season, in which they star will air at 9 p.m. June 11. In the episode, Corri and her husband of 15 years, Tim Gross, are joined by their three children, AJ, 11, Phoebe, 8, and Lyla, 6.

The show's concept when it debuted had the host, comedian-author Bert Kreischer, billed as a “professional fun-seeker,” randomly finding two people on vacation and persuading them to flip/change their trip to a new and different one.

These days, Kreischer seeks out potential travelers in public places in cities across America and invites them to go on an adventure with him. The Gross family was at the Carnegie Science Center in March.

After discovering their likes, dislikes, dreams and desires, Kreischer puts together an action-packed, customized itinerary for them. The Grosses were given a few weeks to prepare and were told they would be going to Florida in April with Kreischer, but were given no details about what they would be doing or where.

“It's dangerous telling a serial overpacker to overpack,” says Corri Gross, laughing.

“We've been to Florida several times, but we've never gotten to experience it like ‘Trip Flip! It was amazing,” she says.

First, the Grosses hit the high seas aboard a pirate ship off the Tampa Bay coast. On board, they discovered a treasure map, including intriguing clues, which detailed their route across the state on a tricked-out RV with Kreischer and crew.

Next, they found themselves in unexpected locations, snorkeling in search of manatees, discovering a dream beach, sampling alligator meat over a campfire, spending a giddy night in a Stingray tree tent and uncovering a mysterious skeleton key that opens the front gates to Universal's Islands of Adventure. At Universal, the Grosses were told the family had the park to themselves for the morning.

“I am not the type of person who would jump at the chance to be on TV,” says Tim Gross, who negotiates corporate contracts for a large manufacturing company in Pittsburgh. “That being said, I am so glad we did get picked. It was one of the best weeks of my life. We got to do so many awesome things, ... and made memories to last five lifetimes. How many families get to experience Universal Studios all to themselves?”

Kreischer, quickly dubbed “Uncle Bert” by the children, “made everything 10 times more fun,” Tim Gross says. The experience far exceeded what their expectations had been, Corri Gross says.

“It was a million times better, truly the adventure of a lifetime, the perfect trip for us,” she says. “Just being able to watch our kids experience this adventure and the joy on their faces was the highlight for us. Now, we feel like we are part of the ‘Trip Flip' family, and our kiddos were the first.”

AJ, Phoebe and Lyla give the experience rave reviews.

“It was the most amazing week of my life, I can't pick out one specific thing, because everything was awesome,” AJ says. “Universal was probably my favorite. I don't think my friends really believe that I did all that and that I will be on TV.”

The “funnest” part, says Lyla, was the obstacle course and “hamster balls” on the beach. “I've always wanted to go inside one of those, and it was awesome.”

“When we signed up for the show, I just knew they were going to pick us,” Phoebe says. “I really like that we got to wear wet suits. Uncle Bert was my buddy and let me ride on his back. He was so funny.”

Each day brought new and unexpected opportunities, Corri Gross says. “We kept thinking, ‘How could they possibly top today?' Then, they would!”

She was able to face one of her greatest fears by swimming through an underground cave. “I'm a tad claustrophobic, and I don't like caves above ground. But I have a competitive side, and I just felt like I should take advantage of this adventure of a lifetime. I'm so glad I did,” she says.

She hopes that the producers will continue to want to use young families on the show, “I think kids bring an added dimension of real to any experience,” she says. “We felt 100 percent comfortable to be ourselves. They said we set the bar high.”

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or rrutkoski@tribweb.com

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