Travel trials, tribulations and tidbits

This is the final segment to wrap up the first chapter of our RV travels.  The previous segment with our statistics is here.

As we reviewed the 422 posts that we published along the way, we recalled many fond memories and also came up with some fun tidbits that we thought were unforgettable, surprising, scary, stressful or fascinating experiences.  Compiling this collection made us pause and reflect on how many wonderful experiences we’ve had while on the road.

We faced our first major challenge just as we started the journey at Pleasanton, CA.  A hydraulic failure left our jacks and slides extended, and we learned a lot about that system during the next 3 weeks that it took to get it fixed (under warranty, fortunately).  Since that time we’ve dealt with many minor water leaks, a dead video camera, an intermittent engine cooling issue, refrigerator problems and other things that we consider part of the joy of moving around in a big complicated box.

Here’s some upper-body exercise – over 300 turns to manually retract our hydraulic rams, then the same thing on the other side!

Most exasperating experience – Intense itching and a month of discomfort due to chigger bites.  I had never heard of chiggers until they attacked me as I sat in the grass for a picture in Peru, Indiana.  Here are the details of that nightmare.

Chigger Bites
Just part of one area – itch, itch, itch

Scariest moment – When I slipped and fell, hurting my knee – not while hiking, but just walking on level ground!  No hiking for a month!

Lowes Travels

Most stressful incident – We got locked out of our RV during a tornado watch while camped at La Grange, GA.  Surprisingly, this particular post has more hits than any other we’ve written.  Maybe the bad guys want to know how Steve broke into the RV?

Holiday Campground
Only one other camper was there that day at Holiday Campground, La Grange, GA

Most frightening night – Hunkering down at Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama provided a sleepless night, as a long line of violent thunderstorms passed over us and dumped a record-breaking 15 inches of rain and over 7,000 lightning strikes per hour in the area.  We’ll never forget that night.

Gulf Shores State Park
The morning after the storm.  The water had risen from 50′ away from Betsy to 10′ away

Most nerve-wracking drives Due to bad GPS data and heavy traffic on the I-10 causeway approaching New Orleans, we missed our exit and got lost.  Then panic set in as we had a close call with a locomotive while crossing train tracks.  Not a fun drive!

Another hellish drive was on I-95 S coming  from Connecticut and passing thru the Bronx, New York to the New Jersey turnpike.  Here‘s that story.

Atchafalaya Basin Bridge
This hours-long jam at the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge was the beginning of a bad day near New Orleans

Then there was the time when Steve heard a loud hissing noise coming from the back of Betsy as we drive into Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We couldn’t find the source of the problem and had to have our first repair in a foreign country.

Checking the cooling system
What the heck is making that noise?

Another scary drive occurred near our last stop in Kansas, at Sabetha.  We very nearly got stuck in mud as we approached the campground, then the owner directed us into a site where we got totally stuck.  Fortunately, the owner pulled Betsy out of the mud with one of his tractors when we left.

This guy owned a bunch of tractors and just had to pick the right one for the job

One of our most stressful drives was the stretch between Salem and Bend, Oregon.  Not only was it a narrow and mountainous road, but a huge storm hit as we drove, sending rivers of water down the road as high winds tried to push us over.  And nowhere to pull off the road.  It was intense!

Bend, Oregon
A leak in the windshield required a towel during this nerve-wracking drive toward Bend, OR

Most spectacular drive – This one has to go to the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff, Canada.  None of the 14 All-American roads we’ve driven can quite stack up against this one, and it should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Ice fields Parkway
Its a wow driving on Ice fields Parkway

Proudest moment – Steve is quite the handyman, doing not only all of our coach repairs but also making changes and upgrades to improve our life on the road.  I was very proud of him when he completed the installation of our residential refrigerator, by himself, during our stay in Bonita Springs, Florida.

installing a residential refrigerator
Out with the old, in with the new

Most fascinating underground tour – Who knew there’s a huge salt mine 650′ beneath the plains of Kansas?

Strataca, Kansas

Most sobering historical guided tour – Having learned the Gettysburg address in school many years ago, we were amazed to actually be where Abraham Lincoln delivered the speech. Here’s a glimpse of our 24-mile, two-hour tour of the historic fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Most distinctive waterfront – There is no other colorful waterfront town that we’ve seen like Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia .

Old Town Lunenberg

The “I’ll never do this again” experience – I learned that one while Halibut fishing in Ninilchik, Alaska.

Halibut Fishing
Deep-sea fishing with the other tourists/anglers.  Do I look like I’m having fun?

We’ve hiked so many trails that at this point we can’t really pick favorites, but we agreed these stand out:

Most challenging – Among the many trails we followed around the country, our climb to the top of Picacho Peak in Arizona may have been the most challenging.

Longest – Sometimes we get in over our heads when hiking or walking, and the one to Hoover Dam in Nevada from our campground at Lake Mead clocked in at 14.1 miles.

Most exhausting – Hiking on a rainy day is never in our plans, but when we’re halfway through our trek and the clouds open up we just have to grin and bear it.  Our hike on the Flat Top Summit Trail at Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina was one of those.  We looked like a couple of drowned rats when we got back to the car.

Extreme points we’ve reached in North America

Farthest north – Arctic Circle, Alaska.  To get here we endured a 19-hour guided bus tour, and what an adventure is was during our many hours on Alaska’s Dalton Highway.

Pose at the Arctic circle sign. We made it!

Farthest south – Key West, Florida, lots to do here and what a party town it is!

Southernmost Point of USA

Farthest East – Louisbourg, Nova Scotia  and we happened to be there on its 300th anniversary of its founding in 1713.

 Fortress of Louisbourg
French guard at the Fortress of Louisbourg

Farthest West Anchor Point, Alaska, what a great time we had here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Anchor Point, AK

Northwestern-most point in the contiguous U.S. – Cape Flattery, Washington.

Cape Flattery

Highest point in North America – we landed on the flanks of 20,320′ Denali Mountain on skis, a totally thrilling trip not to be missed!

Glacier landing
Steve chats with the pilot after a glacier landing on Mount Denali

Lowest point in North America – One of the lowest places in the world at 282′ below sea level, Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park was fascinating.

Death Valley National Park

Largest National Park in the U.S. – At more than 13,000 square miles, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park requires a plane ride just to get to the middle of the park in a reasonable amount of time.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Yukon Alaska
We flew into Wrangell-St. Elias NP, it could take a lifetime to explore it all

Largest lake in the U.S. – Lake Superior made us feel like we were on the shoreline of an ocean!

Most awesome gondola ride – We took a thrilling ride aboard the Peak2peak Gondola in Whistler, Canada, which holds two records; the longest free span between ropeway towers at 1.88 miles, and the gondola with the highest point above ground, 1,430′.

Peak2peak Gondola
The 1.8 mile gondola is the only one in the world that connects two mountain peaks

Just for the heck of it fun tidbits – Mile zero’s

Ice field Parkway
Mile 0 of Highway 93 – Jasper, Canada to Wickenburg, AZ


Mile 0 of US 1
Mile 0 of US-1 in Key West, Florida

And the beginning and end of Alaska Highway.

And that wraps up almost five years of our RV travels!

What’s next?

We’re opening a new chapter in our RV life in 2017.  Completing visits to all of the states, our goal will now be to narrow our search to one or more places where we’d like to stop and park Betsy for long periods of time.  Our travels will be more laid back and less structured, likely focusing more on the western states.  At least that’s the plan as of today, but who knows?  Our blogging will taper off somewhat, and we’re pondering a format change for our site.

As we look forward to another year of adventures, we want to THANK YOU for “jamming on down the road” with us!




  1. This was a fantastic wrap up! You two were one of our first sites to follow since we love to hike. You helped us find a great hike in the Florida panhandle! You’ve given us ideas for some great hikes for when we can venture away from the east coast!
    Congratulations on a fantastic 5 years -we’ve been with you for three!

  2. Great wrap up, some of those places are very familiar to us. I agree on the best drive, nothing compares to the Columbia Icefields Parkway. Thanks for all the tips, can’t wait till we see you again.

  3. What a wonderful job you two have done with your blogging. Just love reading them. Hope you find the perfect spot to park Betsy and call home, exactly what you are looking for. Congratulations on your five years of fantastic adventure. What an incredible experience it has been for you and may you still find many more places to explore!

  4. Have enjoyed the journey with you, very interesting, thanks so much for sharing, enjoy your next chapter in life!

  5. 300 turns…oh my gosh. How many days did it take till you could feel your arms? lol
    Egads….that doesn’t even resemble a knee. Glad you are healed and hiking again.
    Paul changed out our refrig in the MH to a residential refrigerator. That is a big undertaking.
    I remember you doing that hike up to Picacho Peak. What a hike.
    Cape Flattery, Washington is beautiful.

    After all your fabulous travels, I am not sure how you can pick a place or two to settle for awhile. We have enjoyed riding along with you on your adventures. Wishing you many more exciting new experiences.

  6. Wonderful wrap up of all your fantastic experiences. I’m so glad you decided to share it with all of us. Sounds like now is the perfect time to take a breather and plan out your next book. You and I are overdue for a rendezvous… hmm, we’ll need to come up with a plan 😉

  7. I have followed you for all these posts and thanks for letting me re-live them. I especially remember the post about the train tracks in New Orleans. Every time we would come to a track, I would tense up and say-“remember we need lots of room!”. We have sold our fabulous Beast, but I will continue to live the RV life through your posts! It’s been a great time and looking forward to more!

  8. Great summary post, MonaLiza!! Love reliving so many areas we felt the same way about seeing:) You sure accomplished a huge feat over the last five years…congratulations. Enjoy just traveling wherever the wind blows:) Spending a longer time in locations certainly is nice. We are looking forward to reconnecting in Tucson!!

  9. Wonderful recap of your adventures. I’m glad I saw this on my feed. There are so many blogs out there it’s easy to get lost. I wish I could say my travels were as extensive as yours. What a great adventure and so spread out. It seems like you have hit all the major boundaries. The chiggers story is one I can relate to. While my grandparents were from areas that has chiggers and I had heard about them, I never had the pleasure, until Tennessee last year! It was miserable for months. Have you heard of Avon Skin So Soft? Works great for mosquitoes too!

    Looking forward to your next chapter. Maybe we will cross paths. I’m hanging out in the Southwest this year.


  10. Awesome post MonaLiza. Congratulations on your accomplishment. Soooo many memories…
    I hope Moab will be on the list for “longer” stays.

  11. My favorite RV blog… what a great job on the wrap up! I will miss your regular posts but I will know that you and Steve are out enjoying the next chapter. Have fun!

  12. Thanks so much for sharing your journeys with us, especially those of us who have yet to hit the road. I’ve really enjoyed traveling vicariously with you and adding dozens of places to my planned trip. Your photos of all the different birds were always a highlight. Wishing you many more happy trails!

  13. Awesome wrap up of your travels so far. I like that you included the challenges along with the highlights of your travels… it shows that even though stuff will still go wrong (life is life, after all, even in an RV), the incredible opportunities and experiences you get to have make it absolutely worth it. Awesome post!

  14. It has been a great adventure following your travels. I hope to send time in Canada this summer at Jasper, Banff, Glacier and Yellow Stone national parks. Also do some camping in Yosemite and Zion. Thanks for the beautiful photos and your stories! Enjoy your freedom!

  15. We totally agree with you on the Icefields Parkway, MonaLiza. I personally think it is the most beautiful road in North America.

    I guess I should feel fortunate that our slides only require 180 turns!

  16. You guys have amazing memories. I’m trying to remember where we even went our first year and even with our limited travels, we’ve been so many places my mind swims and we haven’t done half of what you have I don’t think. Really great to see all these tallest, farthest, most. Not the knee so much though. Glad you full recovered from that. I’m very excited to see what you do with your 2017. Don’t be a stranger.

  17. I know you guys had a great adventure…!!! I wish we had know when you were heading down I-5 and we could have met up in Redding – but we probably wouldn’t have made since highway 299 has been closed 2 East of us for weeks – due to a rock/mud slide. We do need to get together before too long though.

    Martin & Bobbie

  18. How fun to read this great wrap-up of your adventures, the high and the low points! You guys rock—you planned out your travels so well, and managed to do an amazing job of exploring North America in your five years of travels. I know it will feel good to slow down and linger awhile in your favorite places. Looking forward to seeing where your adventures take you now, and also looking forward to catching up with you guys on the road. Big hugs!

  19. Wow, that’s one heck of a summary! Sounds like you’ve had more than your share of misadventures, but that photo from Icefields Parkway is pretty incredible! Hope to cross paths in 2017 or beyond! -Mike & Kathie @ Life Rebooted

  20. What an amazing time you’ve had. I only started reading last year, but really enjoyed those posts. You’re an inspiration! Look forward to whatever comes next.

  21. Reblogged this on Follow the Tumble Lees! and commented:

    People tell us all the time they wish the could do what we’re doing, living on the road and seeing the USA. This is one of the first couples we started following on the ‘net as they love to hike as they travel. They’ve just concluded their retirement dream to not only see all the contiguous states but also much in Canada and even trekked in Mexico. Their map is great and they’ve included lots of stats as they wind down. We hope to get back to blogging as we hit the road again.
    We’re in Jacksonville, Florida so that’ll be our next post.

  22. What a great post MonaLiza! It must have taken you forever to put it together but what wonderful conversations it must have triggered. Thanks for reminding us of some of our favorite posts as well, it was fun reading them when they were live and just as much re-reading them now. Looking forward to crossing paths with you two this winter. You’ll be easier to see now that you aren’t such a fast moving target!

  23. WOW!!!!!!!!!! What an adventure.

    You weren’t too far from me when you were in LaGrange GA and Gulf Shores, AL.

    One of the favorite places I have visited was Wickenburg, AZ.

    I’ve lived in LOTS of states and travelled through all but about 5. My parents LOVED to travel.

    I have the travel bug but won’t be able to travel much for a few more years. I enjoy reliving some adventures through your adventures, thank you for the posts and pictures!

  24. Wonderful memories … it’s been great following along on your travels … and I’ll be along for the ride as you start the next phase.

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