It's hard to believe but a little over 24 months ago, we pulled up stakes in Delaware and became asphalt adventurers.
Us, two years ago: October 17, 2017
During this time, we have seen and done so much that whenever I sat to chronicle our travels, fond memories, too numerous to count, would flood my mind.
But I do know this: Our second year has been even better than the first!!
To date, we have:
(1) Visited 34 states:
...Year One Travels...
...Year Two Travels...
Side note: We silently chuckle whenever someone asks if "we plan on visiting all 50 states".. Until they build an RV that can float, we would have to say "No"!
(2) Stayed at 117 different campgrounds:
(3) Put almost 60,000 miles on my truck:
(4) Have not received one speeding/moving/parking violation!
5) Have had no problems with our awesome 2016 RAM truck!
(6) Faced some very interesting weather patterns:
(7) Seen many fascinating and unusual things
(8) Have come to loathe scooters and their drivers (who think they own the sidewalks):
(9) Been on hundreds of great hikes:
(10) And.. met hundreds of wonderful people and made many new and lasting friendships.
And I don't know how one can ever go back to a "normal" sedate lifestyle after having so many excellent adventures!
OUR FAVORITE PLACES:
Lorraine and I tried to make a list of our top five most memorable sights, but with each revision the list kept growing. So we've painfully narrowed a lengthy list to our 10 most memorable sights (in descending order). Our lists differ slightly so there may be two entries for each category:
Lorraine's Choice: SHENANDOAH N.P.
Lorraine and her family camped here often when she was young. There are challenging and easy hikes, most culminating with beautiful views. Wildlife abounds. Visitors see bear, snakes, and deer. The drive along Skyline Drive offers amazing overlooks and breathtaking scenery. The "warm and fuzzy" memories plus the beauty of the lush mountain side and the expansive valley views made this her choice for number 10.
My Choice: DRIVING ALONG "HISTORIC ROUTE 66"
Sadly, most of Route 66, the "Main Street of America", is gone. It has been torn up, shut down or merged with other roadways. The highway that once brought easterners west and westerners east, was eventually declassified as an official "highway" in 1985. Thankfully, portions of the road that pass through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been preserved as a National Scenic Byway and aptly named "Historic Route 66".
But there are still stretches along this mythical road that give you a glimpse into her former glory days:
It is easy to see why generations of travelers got their "kicks on Route 66"!
Lorraine's Choice: BIG BEND N.P.-- TX
Big Bend, in far west Texas, is the largest, yet least visited of all National Parks and gave us our first exposure to the quiet beauty of "desert" terrain.
As you drive through this massive park --it is 25 miles from the park entrance to the park's Visitor Center-- you are treated to a variety of cactus, dry river beds, amazing rock formations and spectacular overlooks.
This park has something for everyone.
My Choice: MESA VERDE N.P. -- CO
This park contains many Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, notably the Cliff Palace:
This is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Puebloans made this location their home for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300 CE, before mysteriously abandoning it. There are over 600 cliff dwellings in this park and nearly 5,000 known archeological sites. When our tour guide said it took the inhabitants over twenty years to build the Cliff Palace, I nudged Lorraine and whispered: "They must have used Lowe's!" [For those unfamiliar with our Lowe's fiasco, it took them 18 months to renovate the kitchen in our former home!]
As I walked around these dwellings, I was awed at the archeological prowess of these people who had to cart building material (wood, stone and mortar) by hand, up ladders and into place. The fact that these buildings still stand fifteen hundred years later is a testament to their abilities.
Although, I have to say, even though these people were skillful and prolific builders...
They couldn't draw to save their lives!
Lorraine's Choice: WEST COAST OF MICHIGAN
Whether your looking for lighthouses, hiking trails, sand dunes, charming small towns, beaches, lush orchards and vineyards, hunting, swimming, fishing boating, blueberries or tulips, you will find it in western Michigan. We spent almost two months in this part of the state and were amazed at the diversity of delightful experiences one can have in this region.
When we were in the town of Holland, our daughter and her new husband flew in to spend a few days with us!
My Choice: GRAND TETON N.P., WY
All the beauty of Yellowstone at half the size! In one day alone we saw grizzly bears, antelopes, buffalo, elk and wolves!
Lorraine's Choice: SEDONA, ARIZONA
What do John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart and Ralph Macchio have in common?? They have all starred in movies filmed in part in Sedona, Arizona! This desert town near Flagstaff is surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. It truly is an enchanting place with sunsets that will leave you speechless.
While there, our son Jordan and his fiancee flew in and we had a chance to spend a few enjoyable days together.
My Choice: BREAKING BAD TOUR -- ALBUQUERQUE, NM
As a huge fan of the t.v. show, this has been on my bucket-list since I first learned of it over a year ago. It was a lot of fun and our tour guides (actual extras on the show) were very knowledgeable. The tour lasted about three hours and we saw many of the sights used in the tv show.
Lorraine's and My Choice: ALBUQUERQUE BALLOON FIESTA -- NM
This was another "bucket list" item. If you plan on visiting the ABF, make your campground/hotel reservations well in advance. We made our reservation about six months ahead of time. One of the cool things is that you can walk around the infield and watch the various crews prepare their equipment.
The Fiesta is very well organized and seeing so many colorful balloons was an amazing experience. We attended two morning and one evening (Night Glow)
Lorraine's and My Choice: SILVER LAKE SAND DUNES, MICHIGAN
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Silver Lake Sand Dunes was one of our favorite places to visit. The cool sands of these massive dunes were fun to transverse. If you would like to read my blog post about our visit, click here.
Lorraine's and My Choice: BRYCE N.P. - UTAH
Bryce National Park is different from any of the other national parks we visited. I think the National Park Services says it best:
"Red Rocks, Pink Cliffs, and Endless Vistas -Hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) exist on every continent, but here is the largest concentration found anywhere on Earth. Situated along a high plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase, the park's high elevations include numerous life communities, fantastic dark skies, and geological wonders that defy description."
Every where you turn you are met with sights that will take your breath away.
Lorraine's Choice: YELLOWSTONE N. P. - UTAH
Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-square mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. Mostly in Wyoming, the park spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho as well.
Lorraine enjoyed it because it features dramatic canyons, crystal clear rivers, lush pine forests, hot springs and geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful (erupting approximately every 45 minutes). It's also home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope.
My Choice: LITTLE BIG HORN BATTLEFIELD N. M. - MT
This is the battlefield where Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer met his fate. Growing up on a steady diet of John Wayne-esque movies, I tended to always believe "the cowboys" were the good guys and the "Indians" were the bad guys.
Along this journey, we've had the chance to visit many of the battlefields dating to this period where the unfettered westward migration of settlers collided with native American resistance.
We've quickly come to realize that this history happens in layers. It can't be described in such simplistic terms as "good guys" or "bad guys" (although there were certainly many "bad" individuals involved). It seems minor infractions by one side were countered with a massive over-reactions by the other. Which led to an over-reactive response. And so on, and so on..
It has been truly heartbreaking to come upon an event (such as the Sand Creek Massacre) that could have been solved peaceably if not for the actions of a few "glory-seeking" (and blood thirsty) military and political leaders.
This is George Armstrong Custer:
Growing up, I was very familiar with the story of "Custer's Last Stand". How Custer bravely attacked a large body of aggressive "Indians" who were wreaking havoc on innocent settlers.
Well, without going into the minutia, it didn't happen exactly as Hollywood portrayed it. At Little Big Horn, there was a gross miscalculation (and betrayal) by Custer (who's military career was fading), a gross misunderstanding of life-on-the-reservation by our politicians, and a band of Lakota, Sioux and Cheyenne who were forced by hunger to leave their designated reservations in pursuit of fertile hunting grounds. Many small actions led up to one large reaction.
And hence, the Battle Of Little Big Horn.
To be able to walk the land, to see where so many brave soldiers and native Americans warriors fell, to see the topography of the battlefield, to learn of the infighting among the leadership of the 7th Cavalry, to see the grave markers of wounded soldiers killed as they tried to crawl from the battlefield, to see where Custer (probably) fell and, to learn about what events led up to and transpired after this totally fruitless and unnecessary battle, impacted me greatly.
There was also memorials honoring the fallen native American warriors.
This was a sad time in American history.
Lorraine's Choice: ZION N.P. - UT
Zion National Park in southwest Utah is one of the most popular parks in the nation. And there is good reason for it. It offers spectacular overlooks, challenging hikes with epic views or more relaxed trails that take you to picturesque waterfalls, and massive red rock canyons. This park seems to have something for everyone. The downside is, this is also what makes Zion one of the most crowded parks in our national park system. We would recommend visiting in the off-season, after the chance of snow (and snow melts) has passed and before summer vacationers descend.
It is indeed a park that is a feast for the young and old alike.
My Choice: MOUNT RUSHMORE N.M. - S.D.
Mount Rushmore was one of the most personally impressive man-made sites we've visited. Not only was it built during a time of big audacious ideas, it represents what drew my grandparents here from Portugal, and inspired my father to become the first member of his family to go to college.
America was founded by men (and women) with "big ideas". Although each had their own personal flaws, our founding fathers created a system of government that has inspired generations to come to our shores. My only regret is that my parents were never able to visit this monument. This is for you, mother and dad.
One last note, if you do visit, make sure you walk all the way around the monument to the back side. Visitors who make this strenuous trek are treated to a view others rarely get to see:
Lorraine's and My Choice: ANTELOPE SLOT CANYON - AZ
Antelope Slot Canyons topped both our lists. It is by far the most captivating and magical site we've visited. Only accessible by guided tours, the two "slot" canyons (Upper and Lower), were carved from the top down by rainwater rushing along these Navajo-sandstone hills. Over time, the passageways eroded deepening the corridors and smoothing hard edges to form its characteristic "flowing" shapes.
The walls of the canyon are different shades of orange and purple. Mother nature truly out did herself here.
The canyons, located in Page, AZ are about a three hour drive from the Grand Canyon and WELL worth the trip but make reservations before you go.
OUR JOURNEY, THE DOWNSIDE:
I'd be lying if I said this journey has been all sunshine and lollipops. Going from a 4,000 sq foot house..
to a 350 sq foot RV..
..has not been without it's challenges. Lorraine and I have determined that one year of married life in an RV, equates to ten normal years of marriage!
Personally, I have missed the "community" we had in back in Delaware. We lived in a great [draft-free] house, on a great street, with great neighbors. I miss having family close by. Miss my friends. Miss being able to go to the gym. I miss the path along the Chesapeake Canal where I used to jog.
I miss our favorite hangouts "where everybody knew our names". I miss consistent internet access and water pressure. Yes, I truly miss the comforts we had spent decades building.
But when it's all "said and done", I love this life. Even with its challenges and its ups and downs. This journey has blessed us with memories beyond our wildest imagination. The adventures we've had, the magnificent things we've seen, the wonderful people we've met have made this trip the crown jewel of my life.
In year three, we hope to travel up through California, Oregon and Washington. Then perhaps across Canada and down into the New England states.