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

Nat, Zach, and Cincy

We camped at beautiful Four Mile Creek State Park while visiting Niagara Falls.  Our campsite faced Lake Ontario, so we’d parked Island Girl with her windshield in and open to a view of the lake.  And on the day of our departure, we were rewarded with a brief glimpse of a tiny Toronto skyline, only visible on clear days.

toronto  001That morning we were supposed to get an early start on our long drive from Buffalo to Cincinnati and were all set to go.  Best laid plans.

Well, it rained pretty hard the night before and the person driving Island Girl, who shall remain nameless, took a “shortcut” out of our campsite.  Said unnamed person thought it would be easy to drive around to the next vacant campground and avoid backing out.

That’s when I heard an unhappy sound while returning from my walk with Angel.  And I looked up to see Island Girl facing out on the campsite next to ours.  And what was the sound?   Tires…stuck…in…mud.  And 29,000 pounds on top.  Oh boy.

Fortunately, a gentleman I’d met while walking Angel came by to let me know that he’d been stuck in mud a few days earlier and the campground staff sent a tractor to pull him out for free.  So I went to the office and asked for help.

cincy 001cincy 002A short time later the tractor came by, and after a few adjustments pulled us right out.  But now we were running an hour and a half late!  Oh well, it could have been much worse.

And the campground gets BIG points for the free tow (we tipped of course).

cincy 004Fortunately, the rest of our trip was far better.   We had an uneventful 500 or so mile drive to Cincinnati.  A longer drive than we usually do in a day.cincy 014

After a late arrival, we headed to town to our niece Natalie’s and her fiancée Zach’s townhouse.  They live in a cool urban setting near downtown Cincy called Over the Rhine.  This neighborhood boasts among the world’s largest collections of Italianate architecture, rivaling similar neighborhoods in New York City, Vienna and Munich in size and scope.   It’s also one of the largest historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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We all went to dinner at a gourmet hot dog (read that not too cheap) restaurant.  I don’t often highlight restaurants on the blog, but I thought the Senate was well worth the prices.  And I actually ordered poutine, which turned out to be the best poutine I ever had (apologies to Canadians, and especially Quebecois).

cincy 017Late the following morning we went to Findlay Market, the state’s oldest continuously running public market. We just love farmers markets.  Hector loves to cook so we decided to eat in the next two nights, and bought lots of fresh ingredients for our dinners.cincy 009

cincy 015That day we’d not brought Angel along so we headed back to the campground to freshen up, take Angel for her walk and feed her.  And returned for a fabulous dinner cooked by the chef extraordinaire, Tio Hector, with assistance from our niece Natalie.  Afterwards we went to a blues club and another nightclub for some music and a little dancing.

cincy 025cincy 020cincy 028cincy 023The next day we brought Angel along for a whirlwind tour of Cincinnati; a brief driving tour of the city and a walk on the riverfront.

cincy 024cincy 026cincy 027cincy 021cincy 018That day we had lunch at another noteworthy place, Terry’s Turf Club, a very cute old-fashioned diner with great food and lots of cool neon signs.

cincy 041Then more touring to a lovely park followed by cooking at home by the chef and his assistants, and the Broncos football game, which Hector was very excited to see.cincy 016

cincy 044Our little “grand-nephew”, Calvin the cat did not take well to Angel’s visit, and hid downstairs most of the time.  He ventured hesitantly up the stairs one time, got to the next to last step, and headed back down.  Such a cutie.

Cincinnati was quite a surprise for us, it is a medium sized city but has big city amenities.  We had a really fun visit with Nat and Zach and as a bonus got to discover a little bit of Cincy.

~ Brendacincy 042