2013 … A Dream Year

angel  004What a year!  We traveled a total of 9,448 miles in Island Girl, from Florida to Maine to Canada, then south and west reaching Arizona by the end of the year.  We visited 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces.  In October we reached a couple of milestones:  one year of fulltiming and one year of blogging.

Whew!  Here’s a month-by-month recap of our dream year:

January – visited with friends and family in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.

February – stepped back into nature at Everglades National Park.

March – a nice long stay in Funky Key West for ocean fun and an awesome air show.

April – a busy month: first north and west to the Gulf Coast of Florida for more family time, then back east to the John F. Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, north to St. Augustine, and north again to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and the low country of South Carolina, and finally to Atlanta to see old friends.

May – visited the Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Washington, D.C., then ended the month in New York City and upstate New York where we visited more family and friends.

June – a quick stop in Boston and then on to beautiful Maine.

Here was our route for the first half of the year.

July – crossed the border into Canada on the 1st, and spent the month in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Discovered absolutely astounding people and places.

August – visited idyllic Prince Edward Island, buggy Kouchibuguac National Park in New Brunswick, then over to Quebec to the gorgeous and oh so French Gaspé Peninsula.

September – visited the St. Lawrence River in Quebec where we saw an amazing number of whales and concluded our fantastic Canadian summer in charming Quebec City, then crossed the border back to the U.S. to enjoy the beautiful Vermont autumn.

October – continued leaf-peeping in Vermont, then began our westward journey with stops at Niagara Falls, then Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky,St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, visiting friends and family along the way.

November – a stop in Denver, where the journey began, to get annual checkups for all and check in with friends and family.  Then south to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

December – another busy month.  Traveled around New Mexico, south to Albuquerque, then further south to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and Las Cruces, then crossed the border to Arizona and ended our most unforgettable year in Tucson.

And here was our route for the second half

Some things we learned:

We ran a little hot this year, with an average stay of 8 nights at our 45 stops, not complaining, it was fabulous, but we’d like to slow it down a bit this year and try staying longer in each place.

We set a goal of no more than four hours driving time between stops and for the most part kept to it; averaging 185 miles per trip, but a couple of the trips were still way too long.

denver  038We stayed too far north too late into the year, and plan to head south earlier next year to avoid frigid cold and snow (although the falling snow was beautiful).

Crossing from the east coast to the west coast really took a toll on us, we were tired puppies by the time we reached Denver, and plan to stay in the West next year.

Our planning paid off in some fabulous campsites, on the other hand, we discovered that it’s best to have a balance of planned and unplanned stops.

Re-connecting with family and friends, and making new friends along the way has been one of the most important parts of our journey.

NYE2014  002And we learned to be grateful each and every day, we are so fortunate!

We wish you all a very Happy  and Healthy New Year in 2014!

~ Brenda, Hector and Angel


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Boston as seen from the JFK Library and Museum

“And so, my fellow Americans:  ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  from John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, and one of my father’s favorite quotes.

boston jfk  001boston jfk  022I was seven years old and in Puerto Rico when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  And yet I remember it vividly.  I remember the moment he was shot shown on television.  I remember how upset my father,  who was a World War II veteran, an uncompromising U.S. patriot and a lifelong democrat, was.  And I made it a point to learn more about this President and grew to admire him as well.

So it seems appropriate that I spent part of my birthday at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

boston jfk  010Unlike other presidents, President Kennedy had little input on his library.  Before his death, he selected a site for his library next to Harvard University, his alma mater.  He also made the decision to include effects of both personal and official nature, not just the president’s papers, to represent a complete record of the Presidential era.boston jfk  002boston jfk  004

After his death, a committee including family and friends was formed, initially discussing plans for a memorial.  They ultimately decided that the library would be the only memorial to the President.  The committee also boston jfk  003engaged many who had worked in the White House during JFK’s presidency in the development of the library.

Then, after many years of delays, including problems in freeing the Harvard site for construction and opposition from Cambridge residents who were afraid that visitors to the library would create too much congestion in the neighborhood, the location was changed.  Jackie Kennedy, who had final approval of the architect and location, chose a new site in Dorchester, near the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

boston jfk  019boston jfk  023The final product is a striking building by I. M. Pei on a point across the water from downtown Boston.  This location commemorates President Kennedy’s love of the ocean, but also is next to a scholarly resource to honor his wish that it be so.boston jfk  011boston jfk  008boston jfk  021boston jfk  012
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boston jfk  014boston jfk  018boston jfk  016The library does feel like an outsider’s view of this presidency, but it’s still quite impactful.   And it’s a story of someone who was a catalyst for much important work that has continued, but ultimately it’s a story of a legacy unfulfilled and of what might have been.

There is also an exhibit dedicated to Bobby Kennedy.  It covers both his role as Attorney General and his later run for office. Another sad chapter of possibilities lost.boston jfk  017boston jfk  032

boston jfk  028boston jfk  030After leaving the library, to lift my spirits a bit, I asked Hector to take me to the Boston Public Gardens for a walk and a ride in their adorably corny Swan Boats.  A very beautiful green space with a lake, but, unfortunately, it was too windy and the Swan Boats weren’t running 😦boston jfk  029boston jfk  025boston jfk  026boston jfk  031

boston jfk  027boston jfk  035We had dinner nearby and walked over to the area where the Boston Marathon bombings took place.  This terrorist act had a particularly personal feel to us, because between 2002-2007 Hector ran ten marathons.  I accompanied and was a spectator for eight of those.boston jfk  033boston jfk  039

boston jfk  037boston jfk  040boston jfk  041boston jfk  036A marathon is an expression of the human spirit and heart.  I know how hard Hector worked to reach the goal of finishing one, and then to improve his personal best.   I know how proud he was each time he finished one, though he was a middle of the pack guy.  And I know how much it meant to him when friends and family came out to support him.

When Hector ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. he was injured.  I tried to talk him out of running it, but he’d worked so hard, he said he had to try.  So he finished but he had a particularly slow time.  What a meaningful gesture when a young marine salutes each runner who reaches the finish line.

We lingered at the finish line for a while.  That’s when we saw a couple of ladies coming in just before the marathon course was about to shut down.  One lady was jogging slowly and when a small crowd started to cheer her on she started trotting.  The next one was walking and you could see the determination in her face.  And the crowd went wild.  And she made it.

So while I think that the top finishers are very exciting, I think the human spirit is at its best in the runners in the back of the pack, and I admire them the most.

boston jfk  038And I think they might not make it if not for the spectators that come out to lend their love and support to them.  And that’s why this heinous act in Boston was so incredibly sad.  But seeing how people helped each other after the bombing and looking at the memorials gives me hope.

And I believe that the spirit of those that were lost lives on, just as John F. Kennedy’s spirit lives on.  And the spirit of those who were severely injured in Boston but are determined to come back stronger is already inspiring us.

~ Brenda

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