As the calendar flips to December, we, like most people, look back on the past twelve months and start thinking about the next twelve. As I scanned my prior posts and photographs to put this article together, I was honestly blown away by how much we’ve seen and done this year. It’s been a spectacular experience and we’ve loved nearly every minute. I’ll summarize our numbers at the bottom but, overall, we visited 18 U.S. states and 3 Canadian provinces over the past year.
January saw us finally break free of the east coast and head west into the great unknown. It was like Manifest Destiny, except we were just trying to get to Texas for barbecue.
We started across the Florida panhandle, stopping at three gorgeous Florida state parks along the way, and immersing ourselves in the beautiful forests, rivers, lakes, and beaches of this largely unspoiled region of the sunshine state.
Additionally, we’d been a bit apprehensive about leaving our friends and family behind on the east coast, but we quickly met some of our fellow RVers and found comfort in the knowledge that there were lots of awesome people out on the road.
February brought us to the Big Easy and we had an absolute blast.
It was everything we’d hoped it would be. Historic, walkable, and fun…
We stuffed our faces with a truly obscene amount of food, and it was worth every last calorie.
We also faced down our first tornado. In the very last place we ever expected to see one of these terrifying storms, there it was….
We’ll be ok if we never go through that again.
We then made our way to Galveston, Texas where we marked Mardi Gras with new friends…
Spent time with old friends….
and visited the Johnson Space Center where we got to see some incredible NASA history….
We were pleasantly surprised by Galveston. We were not expecting the quantity or quality of interesting artwork and architecture we found as we wandered around this historic beach town.
March was all about Texas, as we toured San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. San Antonio, which marked the westernmost point of our travels for the year, failed to wow us, but given that we seem to be the only ones who don’t love it, we’d be willing to give it another shot.
Overall, Austin was the big winner for us – an incredibly fun stop that was equal parts nature…
Oh, the tacos. They were magical tacos.
And what was even better than the magical tacos? The barbecue…. Franklin Barbecue – a place we almost wrote off – ended up being the site of one of our best meals all year. We were soooo lucky to avoid the lines but still get the goods.
Somewhere along the way in Texas, we were also introduced to Buckee’s – which provided proof positive that everything really is bigger in Texas….
Dallas offered a bit more history. I visited the JFK Museum at the Texas School Book Depository…
as well as the George W. Bush Presidential Library (I’ve been visiting all the presidential libraries as we travel. I’ve just hesitated to write about them on here because….well…. politics….BLECH!!)
April started off with us meeting our friends Celena and Shoam for the first time. We all happened to end up in the same state park campground in the middle of tiny Atlanta, Texas, so we met for drinks around the campfire. We hit it off immediately and have hung out several times since.
We then stopped in Hot Springs, Arkansas where we learned all about this non-traditional National Park…
In Memphis, we had two major goals: visiting the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel…
and seeing Graceland.
Next up was Nashville, our biggest surprise yet. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in this ever-more-popular southern city and made plans to return, even before we’d left. With tons of venues for live music, great food options, and a full scale replica of the Parthenon, what’s not to love?
By the end of the month, we’d made our way to Lexington, Kentucky where we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery
made friends with the local equine community…
and toured some of the area’s best bourbon distilleries with dear friends from Virginia.
May began with a less-than-stellar visit to Louisville – lots of rain, hellion neighbors, and a 24 hour bug that took us both out of commission made it a pretty rough stay. But, the sun came out just in time for the Kentucky Derby and we had a blast at this bucket list event.
Louisville was the beginning of a rather rainy spring and, at times, as we traveled into West Virginia and then back to Virginia, it felt like the gray skies would never lift…
Luckily the rain held off for our friends’ wedding and everyone had a great time.
After the wedding, we went home for a couple weeks. It was really nice to catch up with our friends and colleagues…
before the nightmarish Northern Virginia traffic chased us off….
June saw us head back north again to get Barney all gussied up before the end of his warranty. On the way, we stopped in Gettysburg to take in some history and enjoy the peaceful countryside.
After a quick visit to Connecticut, we made our way into Vermont where we fell madly in love with this stunningly beautiful, low density, high ratio of cheese-to-humans state.
We then traveled east through New Hampshire, spending a couple days visiting with family, eating seafood, and checking out the southern Maine coastline with them, before continuing north.
July began with a week in Boothbay before we headed up to Bar Harbor and our first major National Park, Acadia. We loved everything about Bar Harbor, but our best times were spent exploring the gorgeous grounds of the park itself.
When Kevin and I were discussing our favorite experiences of the past year, he noted that this hike was one of his. The South Bubble Trail was physically and mentally demanding, and represented the first time we’d had to tackle a technically challenging trail.
Another of his favorites was the Beech Mountain Trail that we hiked with Melinda and Eryk.
While less technical than the Bubble Trail, it had the benefit of traveling through several different environments before rewarding us with fantastic views from the top.
Unfortunately, while still in Maine, things got a little rough for us when Dixie started having some balance and coordination issues.
Since we weren’t able to get her an appointment at a veterinary neurologist until August, we went ahead and crossed the border into Canada while we waited for her appointment. We spent a week in charming Saint Andrews by the sea, thoroughly enjoying this cute, bike-friendly town and its breathtaking gardens.
August saw us back in the U.S. to get Dixie looked at before heading off to Canada once more. In New Brunswick, we marveled at the massive tidal changes all along the Bay of Fundy…
as well as the pristine, deserted beaches of the Fundy Trail Park.
In the meantime, we were struggling to get Dixie back to normal. The steroids the vet put her on to address her apparent bulging disc really messed up her stomach. It was weeks before we could get her back on track.
In the meantime, we spent ten days touring idyllic Prince Edward Island…
before heading to stunning Cape Breton Island on Nova Scotia.
As August came to a close, we found ourselves driving our most scenic route yet to the northernmost point of Nova Scotia.
When we arrived, we found a small restaurant with delicious seafood chowder and a million dollar view….
This day was my personal favorite of the year. Lazily driving along lightly traveled scenic byways, stopping every couple of miles to take in the spectacular views, and winding up at the northernmost point of this surprisingly large Province, was just awesome. A light lunch, a beer, and a walk on the beach, completed the day perfectly.
September began in the definition-of-quaint town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
and included a visit to the almost-too-perfect fishing village of Peggy’s Cove…
before we migrated back to the U.S.
We made quick visits to Massachusetts and Connecticut to take care of some appointments and see family before heading back to Vermont for a couple days of blissful running around.
After Vermont, we started west across New York. In the Finger Lakes Region, we sampled lots of wine, stumbled upon a wonderful grocery store where most everything was made locally, and enjoyed some fairy tale waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park.
In October we visited Chicago to watch our sister-in-law, Jen, run her 21st marathon before heading south to the border of Indiana and Kentucky.
In Charlestown, Indiana we enjoyed some down time after a very busy period of travel and explored the remains of the Rose Island Amusement Park that last welcomed guests in the 1930’s.
We then headed back to Nashville and were happy to find the magic had not worn off. It was just as fun as we’d remembered.
November & December
November brought us to Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama, a park we adored from the get-go. In fact, we loved it so much, we almost immediately turned our one month reservation into a two month reservation. I mean, when this is the view from your front door every day, what’s not to like?
In addition to the spacious, full hook up campground, there are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails….
and some pretty stellar white sand beaches….
Additionally, being within driving distance of Pensacola, meant we were able to watch the incredible Blue Angels practice and then perform for the NAS Air Show.
And it meant we could spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with Kevin’s parents.
All in all, it was a perfect place to wind down our incredibly fun year of travel and make plans for 2018.
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)
Number of campgrounds stayed at: 56
Government run: 18
Private run: 37 (11 of which were transit stops – meaning we stayed two nights or less while on our way to somewhere else)
Other: 1 (Getting warranty work done)