One year ago today we took off on our amazing RV adventure. We’ve driven 8,500 miles, visited 20 states, experienced serendipity, and learned so much about the beauty and history of this country.
Some sweet surprises: Too many to list, but off of the tops of our heads -- Padilla Bay, WA; Canyon de Chelly, AZ; Henderson Home near Parkersburg, WV; Lake Chicot, AR; LIncoln National Boyhood Memorial in Indiana; and the Kentucky Derby Museum. Plus, after learning again and again of the importance of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to the history of our country, actually seeing the confluence of those two rivers had an emotional impact.
A smattering of other things we’ve learned, seen, experienced:
We can now hook up the tow car in way less than the three minutes it takes to warm up the transmission in preparation for towing.
We’re probably going to buy kayaks before we come back to the Pacific Northwest -- touring kayaks for exploring gentle lakes and rivers, not white water.
Writing a blog makes me pay more attention. Afterwards, I do some research and we learn even more.
We love saguaro cactus. They have great importance to Native American culture and the desert ... and they just look so cool.
People are interesting and, in the vast majority of cases, very kind. Unless they are driving on the freeway.
If any of our grandkids visit us in Tucson, we are taking them to the live prairie dog exhibit at the Desert Museum. So cute! Actually, the Desert Museum is a “must do” for any visitor to Tucson as are the two Saguaro National Forests.
Camping on the water is especially lovely and we’ve had impressive ring-side seats to, among others: The Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Columbia and Snake Rivers; Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound, Pacific Ocean, Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, Washington’s Lake Chelan; Indiana’s Chain of Lakes; and Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake that make up Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky.
Someone in Washington told us they loved to visit Utah, but that when they told people that they often heard “Utah? What’s in Utah?” OMG...how about Arches, Zion, Bryce, the Uintas, and one our favorites: Capitol Reef National Park, for starters. When it comes to magnificent beauty, our adopted home state is amazing.
Vicksburg National Military Park was overwhelming. The Civil War (or as it sometimes still referred to in the South, The War of Northern Aggression) still impacts southern states as learning Vicksburg’s history makes abundantly clear.
We stayed at 23 state parks in 13 of the 20 states we visited. The most visits (four each) were in Texas and Washington. Our best overall state park experience was in Texas -- easy reservation system, low prices, vastly different beautiful landscapes from the Gulf to the hill country. Washington State had some breathtaking scenery, but charges a lot -- about $40 a night, which is expensive for even a private campground in most states we’ve visited.
We’d stayed at seven free campsites: two Walmarts, three wineries, one BLM site, and one Indian casino (not counting homes and/or offices of Don and Trudy, my Mom, and friends Sandy and Carl in Nebraska, Ohio and Ohio respectively); 6 federal parks and 4 military bases.
When you turn 62, get an “America the Beautiful” senior pass. A lifetime pass costs $10, and gets you into all national parks for free and half off on camping fees. Best deal around.
Longest time we spent in one place: Tucson, AZ, where we spent nearly 3 months at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. It’s been voted the best military “FamCamp” for several years running, and if you stay there you know why. We’ll be back there for at least part of next winter.
About three months ago, Bev quit compulsively writing down every cent we spent. We pay for most everything on two credit cards and I just keep track to make sure we're under our self imposed limits.
Fighter jets are loud, but Bev still runs outside of the rig to look when an especially loud one goes over. The loudest and biggest displays of fighter jet power we’ve seen are at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station where jets buzzed the campground and (oddly enough) where we are at the moment: the Columbia River RV Park, near both PDX and the home of the Oregon Air National Guard Base. And, of course, there was that one weekend when air show pilots were practicing at Davis Monthan.
During granddaughter Mia’s first visit to the Salt Lake City zoo, she walked around with her hands over her eyes. When she came home, all she had to say about the zoo was “elephants scary, lions scary, monkeys scary, “ etc, etc. After being in the south, I know just how Mia felt and I can emphatically say “alligators scary.” Maybe I’d get used to them but I doubt it.
Bridges are not only feats of engineering, but can be beautiful, and we’ve crossed many.
Big cities are fun (our favorites: New Orleans and Portland) but small towns rock. Think Rabbit Hash, Kentucky; Muscatine Iowa; Niobrara, NE.
Friends and family are gracious. Thank you Don and Trudy; Bob and Suzie; Carl and Sandy; Cathy and family; Jim’s Yakima friends (Pat, Cindy, Buddy, Nancy, Geoff, Gail, Rich, Barbara); Season, Lee and kids; Paul; our Salt Lake family of friends; and of course Ash, Shad, Mia and Marshall who are watching over our house while we are gone. And Mom! Don’t forget to dig out the basement so we can park underground next time we are in Ohio.