Has another year rolled by already?

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Yes, and what a journey it was! Our second year of living on the road is winding down as 2013 comes to an end.  We pause to reflect and look back at where we’ve been, the many new friends we’ve made, the old friends we’ve reconnected with and the challenges we overcame as we rolled along.  We started this year in Arizona, traveled across the southern states and the gulf coast, then headed all the way north to the northeast Canadian Maritime provinces. Finally, we came back down through the eastern seaboard and the outer banks to winter in Florida, where we are now.  Betsy accrued 9,000 miles and we stayed at 79 RV parks with no major mechanical problems – we can’t hope for much better than that! As shown below, our route going northeast is marked with fuchsia pins, while the purple pins show our trek back down south.  We are now more than halfway through our goal of visiting all 49 states, after adding 23 to our list this year.  We estimate it will take a couple more years to check out the last 20 states, then we’ll decide if we want to do it all over again!

Here are some highlights of our fantastic 2013 travels:

~ Betsy’s woes – While we enjoyed the many perks and benefits of our home on wheels, the constant movement and shaking brought some challenges.  Along the way we dealt with minor water leaks, a dead video camera, an intermittent engine cooling issue, fluctuating refrigerator temperatures, an out of the country repair and getting locked out of our coach.  Our hellish approach into New Orleans, the stressful drive around New York City and getting stuck briefly on the New Jersey Turnpike were driving realities that we prefer not to go through again, but on the upside – we survived!

~ Weather, weather, weather – As we all know, the eastern section of the U.S. is famous for its humidity and muggy days. And yes, we sweated a lot and had to ratchet up the frequency of showers.  This was our first experience with severe storm warnings involving tornadoes and thunderstorms, and we even had visits from park hosts reminding us to be prepared.  We were doused with some torrential rains as well – all part of the experience.

~ History lessons galore – Traveling east of the Mississippi means experiencing the rich history belt of our country. We are not really history buffs, but we found ourselves immersed in the stories of our founding fathers as we visited their historical homes in several states.  We enjoyed so much learning more about the american revolutionary past in Boston, and enhancing our understanding of the civil war in Gettysburg.  We topped off our history lesson during our wonderful visit to our nation’s capital.

~ Tasty local/regional cuisine – Our appetites were satiated so many times with great local foods, from the cajun and creole cuisine in Louisana, to the cheeses in Vermont, to the succulent lobsters in Maine, to the barbecues in the Carolinas, the hearty southern comfort foods in Georgia and Alabama and the freshest mussels at Prince Edward Island.  And we won’t soon forget the many unique and refreshing local brews we enjoyed along the way!

~ Natural and man-made wonders – The eastern states may not have the majestic mountains or amazing gigantic rock formations of the west, but we explored and enjoyed its unique collection of beautiful and diverse natural wonders.  These included the mighty Niagara Falls, the hundreds of barrier islands along the Atlantic coast with its rugged cliffs and miles of white sandy beaches, the fabulous Acadia NP, the haunting swamps in Louisiana and the dreamy moss draped live oak trees in Georgia and Florida.  We discovered several hidden gems that were not regular tourist destinations.  We were amazed by the high rises in Manhattan, NYC, the White Sands Missile Range in Alamogordo, NM and the Apollo/Saturn rockets and space shuttles at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

~ Traveling abroad – We took Betsy across the border to explore the Canadian Maritimes, and were wowed by the picturesque coastline of Nova Scotia, the colorful fishing hamlets of Prince Edward Island and all of the astounding natural beauty in New Brunswick.  I took a “time out” to fly all the way to the Philippines to visit my 95-year-old mom and play tourist in the Philippines.  At the end of the year, Steve got some time off from driving Betsy as we hopped on a really big boat to cruise the southern caribbean (more to come on that).

~ Friendships – One of the wonderful rewards of traveling on the road is the many new friends we meet along the way.  Some are like-minded folks we meet at RV parks or other places along the way, others become friends via our blogs.  Blogging has become a great instrument in connecting us to wonderful people – folks with similar interests and a lust for adventure.  We cherish all of our new friendships, cheers!

Reconnecting with our friends to catch up and reminiscing about good times – it was so nice to hang out with these great people during our journey this year!

As we look forward to another year of adventures, we want to THANK YOU for “jamming along” with us and turning our memories into travel references and inspirations to see these many places.  We have many more to see, but we hope you’re enjoying our tales from the road.  We’ll strive to continue sharing our stories in an interesting way as we experience and capture them. We wish you a great year ahead, good health and safe travels!!!

Coming up: San Juan, Puerto Rico Southern Caribbean Cruise *******************************************************************

Finally, sunshine in the sunshine state, Florida

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Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco

An obvious perk of being able to take your home with you is the ability to move away from any place that is icy, snowy or just plain cold.  During the past few months we’ve been hanging around the beaches of the Carolinas and Georgia as we headed south.  And just like the Canadian geese, we’ve migrated toward warmer weather and lots of sunshine.

Canadian Geese

Hey down there – follow us!

And where could that be?

Welcome sign, Florida State

We’ve arrived at our winter destination – the sunshine state of Florida – where we’ll be wandering around for the next four months. This will be the first time we’ll stay in an RV park for a whole month.  Our plan is to slow down and move around this big state, beginning in eastern Florida near Orlando for December.  We’ll spend January with friends in Bonita Springs on the gulf coast.  In February we’ll stop for a week each in the Miami Everglades, Key West and Ft. Lauderdale.  Finally, in March we’ll head back west and cruise up along the panhandle.   At least that’s the plan at the moment, no telling if or how it might change along the way.

We spent Thanksgiving weekend at St. Augustine, which of course can be a crazy time to be anywhere.  With a cold snap lingering and the weather being crappy, we thought folks might just stay home to watch tv or something.  Wrong!  The shopping crowd was out in full force when we arrived at the historic downtown.  The cold and wind didn’t stop these crazy shoppers from enjoying the holiday spirit.  Oh wait, we were there – does that make us crazy too?

Downtown St Augustine

St. George Street , old St. Augustine

We joined the crowd, doing a little shopping and wandering around the old streets.  But only after filling our tummies for the first time with a delicious and authentic Cuban lunch and a glass of sangria.  Yum!

Since we were in an urban setting, I had to settle for people watching instead of bird watching, as we enjoyed our sangria.

St George St. Old St Augustine

Next we took our own walking tour of the “oldest city”.  The city of St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest permanently occupied European settlement, having been founded by the Spanish in 1565.  We didn’t delve too much into the city’s history, instead we chose to simply enjoy the feel of the history by strolling the narrow old-world streets.

Old City Gate, St Augustine

These gates were once the only entrance into St. Augustine.  They were built in 1808 as a line of defense, in conjunction with a wall that surrounded the city.

Alcazar Hotel ça 1888, Lightner Museum

Lightner Museum, formerly the Alcazar Hotel (ca 1888)

Even if history was not our center of interest this time, we couldn’t help but appreciate the rich heritage that makes St. Augustine a unique city.  Strolling along the narrow streets, we noticed that the street patterns and architectural ambiance reflected Spanish origins.

Aviles St, St Augustine

The oldest street in St. Augustine, Aviles Street

Historic Flagler College

Historic Flagler College, formerly the Hotel Ponce De Leon

Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco

A reproduction of Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco, created in City of Aviles, Spain

The following evening we headed back to the city, as St. Augustine was said to glow at night with holiday magic – from the ground to the rooftops.  The town boasted being selected by National Geographic in 2011 & 2012 as one of the ten best holiday lighting displays in the world.  The Nights of Lights features millions of tiny white and colored lights that create a magical atmosphere in the old city.

Night of Lights

Steve shows off his cool Holospex shades

Donning the Holospex glasses provided by Holly Jolly Tours, we saw the city sparkle to life as all of those lights were transformed by the glasses into snowflake shapes.  We have to say this was a pretty cool tour and a good way to get into the holiday spirit, as the trolley cruised around town blaring classic Christmas tunes for everyone on the streets to hear.

Night of Lights, St Augustine, FL

Regular lights sparkle and glitter like snowflakes when viewed through the Holospex glasses

We joined in the revelry, yelling Christmas greetings to passersby and singing Christmas carols as we toured around town – and we were sober!  We were glad the forecasted rain did not materialize to dampen our holiday spirit.  Hopping off the trolley tour, we were greeted by folks who served us hot apple cider and cookies – yum, again.  We continued walking on our own, admiring the millions of lights that transformed downtown St. Augustine into a holiday wonderland.

Night of Lights, Plaza de la Constitucion

Night at the Plaza de la Constitucion

We enjoyed a fun holiday stop at St. Augustine.  Now, back to our hideaway to live a quieter life with wildlife as our main entertainment.

Next up:  Lake Monroe, FL and a vacation from our vacation!