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

The Land of Sweet Tea and “Honey”

sweet tea 001sweet tea 030sweet tea 002sweet tea 069sweet tea 033sweet tea 032We’re back in the South; in South Carolina, in an area known as the “Low Country”.  We don’t really think of Florida as part of the true “South”.  Having lived in Atlanta many years ago, I’m savvy enough  to order “Unsweetened Tea” instead of “Iced Tea” while we’re here.

We chose to stay on St. Helena Island in South Carolina, which is right by the town of Beaufort.  Beaufort, South Carolina (not to be confused with Beaufort, North Carolina) was one of the filming locations for several movies, including “The Big Chill” and “Bubba Gump”.  Hilton Head, our original destination idea, sounded very touristy, and St. Helena Island sounded like a much more laid back place.

The island is home to Penn Center, one of the first schools for the children of freed slaves and also where Martin Luther King drafted his “I have a dream” speech.  And much of the rural and agricultural land on the island is still farmed by native residents, many of whom are descended from slaves.

Our campground was located in the woods, with various creeks and short trails by the campsites.  One  red cardinal who hung out at our campsite discovered himself in our car and RV mirrors and kept “fighting” with himself.   We’d hear “whack, whack” and turn around to see him pecking one of the mirrors, nutty bird.  But he always flew away when he saw either of us get up to get the camera so we didn’t get a photo.   A good area for critters. While at the campground, we got to take Angel on a short trail called the “Bunny Hop Trail” a couple of times.  Alas, Angel didn’t find any bunnies.

sweet tea 014sweet tea 015We spent a nice day in Savannah, a beautiful southern city.  It was a quick tour, but we were glad to see this city again.  The old town is lovely, with 22 of the original 24 squares still intact.   In one of these plazas is where the “Life is like a box of chocolates” scene from “Bubba Gump” was filmed.  Some of the architecture reminds me a bit of New Orleans, but it definitely has its own character.  And there are many beautiful live oaks covered in Spanish Moss along the streets.

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Ahh ... sweet Magnolia

Ahh … sweet Magnolia

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The Cotton Exchange

The Cotton Exchange

sweet tea 020sweet tea 021sweet tea 022sweet tea 010sweet tea 011sweet tea 012sweet tea 009sweet tea 019sweet tea 003sweet tea 067Then, near St. Helena, we discovered Hunting Island, a barrier island which is now a state park.  This is considered a semi-tropical island and is very lush with lots of palm trees and tall oaks throughout. And there is a very pretty lagoon that runs into the ocean a few miles down.  Another great chance for paddling!  So we took Fuego and Caribe down to the lagoon and spent an afternoon paddling. sweet tea 037

sweet tea 055sweet tea 052sweet tea 060sweet tea 059sweet tea 058sweet tea 036sweet tea 047sweet tea 040sweet tea 043sweet tea 038Which led to another discovery that Hector and I named “Other Wordly Beach”.  The beach was littered with driftwood and fallen trees which gave it the other wordly look.  We’d never seen anything like it.  This is one of the things we love about our journey, discovering unexpected places along the way.  This gorgeous little island is definitely one of the nicest discoveries.

sweet tea 044sweet tea 049sweet tea 050sweet tea 045sweet tea 048sweet tea 046sweet tea 039sweet tea 051sweet tea 053sweet tea 063Hunting Island also has a beautiful lighthouse, which we visited near sunset, so it was too late to go inside, but the grounds and the setting were beautiful.

sweet tea 066sweet tea 064sweet tea 065sweet tea 027sweet tea 031We also drove around Beaufort and took a walk around the old town.  There are some wonderful examples of antebellum architecture and what I call “Southern mansions” from the 18th century around the town.

sweet tea 028The town has lots of restaurants, shops and art galleries and a very scenic waterfront.   They are all very proud that a resident of St. Helena Island, Candice Glover, is one of the finalists on American Idol, and there are lots of businesses and other spots throughout the town featuring Candice and wishing her luck.

sweet tea 025sweet tea 068An interesting, but brief stop on our journey.  And some things haven’t changed; I’ve already been called “honey” several times, love it.  Being back in the South brings back lots of memories.  Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, I’m not only an Island Girl, but also a Southern Belle.

~ Brenda Lusweet tea 024