Miami family crosses country on Fortune 500's dime
Here's Manny Ruiz's family vacation by the numbers: 40 states, 34 days, 10,000 miles, three kids. And the best part: more than $15,000 in corporate freebies to pay for most of the damn thing.
Chevrolet agreed to lend the Miami family a car for the trip, a 2010 Traverse they've dubbed the "papimobile." Sprint provided three Android phones, including one for the oldest child. ("AT&T could have had our business," Manny says. "But they were asleep at the wheel.") The Kennedy Space Center even agreed to a free tour.
Our favorite among the contributions: McDonald's Corp. will provide as much food as Manny and his family can eat — morning, noon, and night. Each day, the Ruizes will tweet their dining location, and as many as four families can join them for a free meal.
"We can pretty much eat at whatever McDonald's we want," says Manny, a 40-year-old Cuban-American.
There is one small problem: He, his wife Angela, and their three kids — Briani, 1, Elena, 6, and Jonathan, 10 — "really like vegetables." Oh, well. They'll mostly eat breakfast there.
It's all part of Manny's grand social media scheme, which is on display at his website, Papiblogger.com.
Its slogan: "Your guide to creative parenting tricks." The journalist and PR guy gives moms and dads tips on everything from potty-training junior to excising pornographic scenes from movies.
Not long ago, he came up with the plan to drive across the nation and describe the trip on Twitter, Facebook, and his blog. Manny's wife is Mexican-American, so the trip will have a Hispanic flavor.
Of course, everything isn't paid for. They plan to visit the Oregon hotel where The Shining was filmed and Café Du Monde in New Orleans. And they're still working on other sponsors.
"We have a positive message that we want to convey," Manny says. "Latinos are misunderstood in some cases... We are pro-Latino and pro-family."
So, is he gonna visit the anti-Hispanic center of the universe, Arizona? "Absolutely. God made Arizona, didn't he?"
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