So, here we are: 2017 is almost entirely in the history books while 2018 awaits. Wow, this year really flew, even more so than last. And it was a great year – not for the planet, or humanity, or intelligent life, obviously, but for the Chapter 3 gang, it was pretty good. So, I wrote this very long post that chronologically recapped our year of travels but Kevin was like, “It’s good, but I don’t think many people are gonna want to read that whole thing” and I thought: “Dammit, Kevin…” But…. the guy had a point. No one wants to read thousands of words about our past travels. Hell, most people don’t want to read thousands of words about anything. The Kardashians didn’t become billionaires because Americans are reading a lot. Hell no they did not. And reading long, chronological, year-in-review posts is not what people come to this site for in the first place. What do people come here for? I have no idea. Seriously. I have no idea.
But I wasn’t going to toss that article in the trash because a) it took forever to put together and b) I can’t remember crap, so it will help me a year from now when I’m like: “We were in Maine? Really?? I don’t remember that at all…”
So, if anyone wants to read a very long, detailed, recap of our 2017 travels, they can find it here…
Otherwise… 2017…. Let’s discuss…. (in an abbreviated fashion)
We began our year in St. Augustine, Florida where we’d spent the holidays with Kevin’s folks and extended family. We then made our way west, stopping at several beautiful Florida state parks, New Orleans, and Galveston before hitting our westernmost point of the year: San Antonio, Texas. By the end of March, we’d also visited Austin and Dallas.
As winter turned to spring, we started back east, stopping in Hot Springs, Memphis, and Nashville before meeting up with friends in Lexington for some bourbon tasting. We then attended the Kentucky Derby before starting back toward Virginia in order to attend a wedding and visit our friends and former colleagues in the D.C. area.
As it got warmer, we chased the nice weather up the East coast, stopping in Gettysburg before landing in lovely Vermont. We then crossed New Hampshire before starting an extended stay in Maine. From Northern Maine, we crossed the border into Canada and spent the rest of the summer touring the Canadian Maritime Provinces.
As summer turned to fall, we started west across New York State, Ohio, and into Indiana, where we stopped so we could attend the Chicago Marathon. After the race, we headed due south, stopping for a second time in Nashville, before coming to rest here in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
2017 By the Numbers
Number of miles added to Barney in 2017: 8,847
Number of miles added to the Xterra in 2017: 10,003
Number of states visited (camped at): 18 (Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Alabama.)
Additional states driven to or through: 2 (Maryland, Mississippi)
Number of Canadian provinces visited: 3 (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia)
Total number of campgrounds stayed at: 56
Government operated (ie: state and county parks): 18
Privately operated: 37 (11 of which were “transit” stops – meaning we stayed two nights or less while on our way somewhere else)
Other: 1 (Getting warranty work done)
Best and Worst of 2017
Kevin: My favorite memories were hiking the South Bubble Trail and Beech Mountain Trail at Acadia National Park in Maine. The South Bubble Trail was physically and mentally demanding, and represented the first time we’d had to tackle a challenging trail.
The Beech Mountain Trail was less physically challenging, but it had the benefit of traveling through several different environments before rewarding us with fantastic views from the top (including the featured image at the very top of this post).
Both were fun hikes that made us feel like we were really hiking rather than just strolling through the woods….
Laura: My favorite memory was the day we took a very long, scenic, drive up to the northernmost point of Nova Scotia. Once we got off the main route, we found deserted roads and quiet viewpoints from which to take in the spectacular scenery.
When we finally reached the top of Cape Breton Island, we found a tiny restaurant perched on a cliff overlooking a small beach full of neat rock sculptures. A light lunch, a beer, and a walk by the ocean completed the day perfectly.
Dixie: “My favorite memories were when my grandparents came to visit for Thanksgiving and Christmas and gave me tons of attention and ALL the treats. I mean they know how to hook a puppy up. They just give me whatever the hell I want!! It’s like Christmas and my birthday every time they’re here! And yes, sometimes all those treats lead to me having an upset stomach, but whatever… Look how happy I am!!
Least favorite memory:
Kevin: Having to deal with Dixie’s diarrhea
Laura: Having to deal with Dixie’s diarrhea
Dixie: “Don’t look at me. Talk to grandma and grandpa.”
Least Favorite City:
San Antonio: This really was likely a result of timing more than anything… we were there during Texas Public Schools’ spring break so there were about a million people at every site, and it was just a bit overwhelming. Our campground was also one of our least favorites, so there just wasn’t much to love about our visit. We would give the city another shot though.
Best Food Experience
Franklin Barbecue: Franklin is THE most popular barbecue place in Austin. People sometimes stand in line for 4 to 6 hours to eat there. We weren’t even planning on trying to visit, but, we walked up on a lark and got in in less than an hour… AND the kitchen staff sent us home with a free to-go bag of extra food. It was awesome.
What most people see at midday….
What we got to see…
Most Disappointing Food Experience:
Lockhart, Texas: This town is known for its barbecue and is, supposedly, the best place to go for real Texas Barbecue. We had high expectations for it, but we just weren’t feeling it. It was fine, but we had more fun at the less pretentious restaurants closer in, and the food was just as good, if not better, than anything we had out in Lockhart.
Vermont. No question about it, we just loved everything about this low density, high ratio of cheese-to-humans state. Good food, good beer, good maple syrup, and everything is gorgeous…. Love it!
Least Favorite State:
We didn’t have one. While there were a couple places that didn’t really grab us, we can’t say we spent enough time in any of them to fairly assess a question like this.
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, AL. I have a whole post coming about this park, but suffice to say, it combines everything we love about state parks with all the amenities we usually only see at private parks. Plus it’s affordable and in a fun location.
Favorite National Park/Monument/Historic Site:
Acadia National Park. While we visited numerous state and national parks, national historic sites, museums, and monuments, Acadia was our favorite. We spent hours exploring the park and only saw a tiny fraction of what was there. The views are fantastic, the hikes were memorable, the carriage roads were unique, and there were a ton of options to keep us occupied. We loved it.
Hitch Itch Sets In….
We’ve spent two months in Gulf Shores and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our relaxing stay; it was just what we needed after our overly hectic fall. But, as we wind down to the end of our reservation, we are feeling ready to move on. Our eight week stay here has been our longest by far (our lengthiest reservation before this was just two weeks), so we’re definitely feeling the pull of the road. However, we’re also cognizant that the weather is having a significant impact on our desire to go.
While our first month in Gulf Shores was ideal with daily temperatures in the mid 70’s, our second month was much less appealing. Over the past several weeks, we’ve had a fair amount of rain and cold that has seriously limited our ability to take advantage of the park’s best features – the beaches, trails, and lakes that provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. And yes, there are people who go out biking when it’s 40 degrees and raining, but we are not those people… Our willingness to exercise can be graphed on a straight line between 68 and 72 degrees. Any colder, and we’re inside drinking beer. Any warmer, we’re outside drinking beer. Our bodies are temples. Temples that only get exercise when it’s nice out.
Of course, I’m just kidding (kinda), but the weather really can have a huge impact on our lives, and when it’s cold and raining out, and we’re stuck inside a small RV, and it gets dark at 5:00 p.m….. a change of scenery starts looking mighty appealing. None of this is to say we regret our choice to stay here for such a long time. We really have enjoyed it. I just think if the weather had stayed warm and sunny, we would be dreading the idea of leaving, whereas, right now, we’re feeling ready to hit the road in search of toastier temperatures.
Speaking of moving on, currently, we have a general game plan mapped out for the year, and I’ve booked most of our reservations through May. Of course, all plans are subject to change at any time. Just in the past year, we extended our stays in Grayton Beach, Galveston, Vermont, Bar Harbor, and Gulf Shores. All except for Bar Harbor were because we loved where we were and didn’t want to leave (Bar Harbor was related to Dixie’s health issues). But we know that not every year will be as smooth as this one and, eventually, we’ll have to reschedule things because life will go off course. It’s just part of the deal.
With all that in mind, the plan for the time being is for us to jet out of Alabama on the first of the year and head to New Orleans for a couple days before continuing west. We’ll then cross Texas before heading into Arizona, where we’ll spend several weeks. March will begin with a visit to Joshua Tree National Park and end with a lengthy stop in San Diego. By late April, we hope to start touring some of the big Southern Utah national parks – Zion, Bryce, etc. before heading east into Colorado. I’ve got a couple alternative scenarios for the summer and fall, but I haven’t booked anything just yet. Every time I think I have things figured out, I change my mind, toss the plan in the trash, and start over.
Happy New Year!
Anyway, as the clock runs down on 2017, we want to thank all of you for hanging out with us. We really do appreciate folks taking the time to read this blog, subscribe, comment, and hang out with us on social media. It truly does make this whole experience a lot more fun.
In the meantime, we wish everyone the very best in 2018! See you on the other side!