As I write this we are fast approaching the two year mark (August 25, 2017) of full time RV traveling. During this time period we have managed to live continuously in a simple, 21-foot travel trailer with no slide outs. Our living space has been tiny and cramped, but our wonderful United States has beckoned us with plenty of room to get out and explore. And explore we did, spending time in 36 states. Mark and I don’t count the states we just drive through or spend a night in on the way to something else. We have to spend at least several days and see something of significance in each state. Most states we have spent at least a week in, some we have spent a month or more exploring. From time to time we are asked what our favorite states or places have been. We enjoyed every state we visited and found many interesting things to occupy our time. But some just hold a more special place for us. So, I thought I would list the states that were standouts during these past two years and why we enjoyed them so much. (Not necessarily in order of preference).
As we traveled around Maine I couldn’t help but ponder that this might be the most beautiful state of our trip. The coastal scenery is continuously stunning with interesting rock formations, forests with fields of green meeting the seashore and many small islands in the bays. We found interesting little seaside villages, harbors full of lobster boats and lighthouses. I love the water, so Maine was especially intriguing to me. I enjoyed several boat trips including a kayak class with L.L. Bean’s outdoor program; a lobster boat trip out of Portland learning about trapping lobsters and helping with the process; and a boat trip to Petit Manan Island to see Atlantic Puffins for the first time. We were able to mark off another National Park by visiting gorgeous and popular Acadia. We stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds called Sunset Point along the waterfront which lived up to its name with some colorful evening skies. If requested, the owner even delivered freshly steamed lobsters to the RV’s. Other favorite eating experiences included lobster rolls and everything blueberry – wild berries fresh from the field, blueberry ice cream and pie.
Mark and I were happy campers while visiting Louisiana. We loved everything about the state and I often thought it was the most interesting one of our travels. We enjoyed learning about and experiencing the unique music, culture, history and food. We became enamored with Cajun and Zydeco music and made it a point to visit live music venues as often as we could. But if I had to list my favorite part of exploring Louisiana, it would have to be the swamps. There is nothing quite as captivating as a good swamp and a few alligators makes it even better. I could never tire seeing cypress trees with lots of hanging moss in dark mysterious waters. We even had a small swamp at our RV Park (but alas no alligators). Visiting Louisiana was a little like being in a foreign country since the French Cajun culture is still strong. Eating was an adventure in Louisiana as much of the food was different than we were used to. We chuckled at our first lunch plate diner when it seemed we weren’t familiar with many of the menu offerings. Louisiana also had one of our favorite camping experiences, right along the Mississippi River!
3. SOUTH CAROLINA
I loved visiting the South. I can still remember the sadness I felt when we were leaving South Carolina, knowing I was leaving the Deep South with its swamps, huge oaks trees, hanging moss and beautiful gardens. Our visit in South Carolina was a little briefer than the other states on this list (about two and a half weeks), but we saw some memorable things while here. Most of our visit centered around the city of Charleston, which became one of my all time favorite cities. Charleston is a great place to walk and explore with unique and beautiful historic architecture. In the environs of Charleston were historic plantations with amazing gardens like Magnolia and Middleton. We timed it right because the gorgeous azaleas were blooming. We also got to visit the only tea plantation in the U.S., tour the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier where my dad served while in the Navy and marked another National Park off our list – Congaree, the park of tall trees. We also visited one of the largest oak trees in the U.S. – Angel Oak which is over 400 years old.
Virginia has a lot going for it. The state is exceptionally beautiful with some of the best scenery of our travels. The historical attractions are top notch. Some of our favorite historical places of our RV travels are here including Jamestown, Yorktown Battlefield, Jefferson’s Monticello, Madison’s Montpelier and Colonial Williamsburg. We visited another National Park – Shenandoah and explored the Blue Ridge Parkway with its amazing views. We were able to stay at an RV park right on the Parkway. Along the Blue Ridge we also listened to Appalachian music – one of our favorites was Floyd Country Store where music jams with flatfoot dancing is a weekly occurrence.
There was a lot to interest us while visiting Pennsylvania. We began in Philadelphia where we had a memorable week with our daughter Shannon, son-in-law Jonathan and grandsons Luke and Levi who flew out for the visit. For those that love colonial history, which we do, Philadelphia was a place not to be missed. There were also fun museums to explore with the grandkids (like the Franklin Institute for science), a colorful Japanese balloon festival, great food at historic Reading Terminal Market and a lot of walking. After Philadelphia, we spent a few weeks in the Lancaster area which was a great introduction to the delights of Amish country. Then it was on to Gettysburg where we got to meet up with our son Matt and daughter-in-law Emma for several days of camping together and exploring Gettysburg Battlefield and town. This battlefield was a great finale after visiting a number of Civil War sites throughout the South. While in Pennsylvania we also visited one of my all time favorite botanical gardens – Longwood, toured two snack factories and explored George Washington’s winter headquarters at Valley Forge.
We love the desert and it doesn’t get much better than the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona. I could happily explore desert plants and wildlife for hours which we did at Saguaro National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Sabino Canyon and Catalina State Park. Ever since I first saw saguaro cactus 🌵 when Mark and I traveled from California to Tucson in the mid 1970’s, they have been one of my favorite plants. I never tire of seeing them with all their different sizes and shapes. Since we were visiting Arizona in the springtime, it was an added bonus that so much of the desert was blooming, especially after a heavier than usual rainfall season. Arizona also had some of our best birding experiences and I added some new birds to my life list. I also got to visit some new birding areas like the town of Portal and the Chiricahua Mountains in the Southeastern part of the State. Our favorite RV park was Tucson’s Rincon Country West which was mega RV living at its best with so many activities offered it was impossible to be bored. We expanded our interests and had fun during our five weeks here.
I think Mark and I were surprised how much we enjoyed our time in Ohio. It wasn’t that we had low expectations before visiting the state, it was just that everything we did seemed to exceed our expectations. Ohio also gets my vote for being the friendliest state of our travels. The people were laid back, eager to start up conversations with us and genuinely interested in our travels. Ohio had a really good mixture of interesting nature experiences, scenery and history. It was here I probably had the best birding experience of my life at Magee Marsh on Lake Erie. Seeing about twelve new warbler species close up and other life birds like Scarlet Tanagers and Trumpeter Swans was a fantastic experience. Ohio calls itself the state of presidents as eight were either born here or got their start. We visited the homes of three of those presidents – Garfield, McKinley and Taft. We really enjoyed our time in Ohio’s Amish country, the most beautiful of the Amish areas we visited. We explored Cuyahoga National Park for the first time where I was able to bike along the Cuyahoga River. Several favorite museums were visited in this State including Cleveland Museum of Art, the Warther ship and train carving museums and the Air Force Museum in Dayton. We saw Huffman Field where the Wright Brothers tested their first airplanes. I also really enjoyed the beautiful and unusual scenery at Hocking Hills State Park with its caves, gorges and waterfalls.
Michigan is one of the most beautiful states of our full time travels primarily because so much of it is located on the Great Lakes. (Coming soon, I still have blogs to write about the time we spent here in the month of July). It was in Michigan that we visited the best museum complex of our travels – the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village located in Dearborn. At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore we had a great nearby camping spot and explored one of the best outdoor areas of the state with one of the most scenic drives of our travels – Pierce Stocking. I enjoyed short hikes to overlooks of Lake Michigan, wandered over sand dunes and took a couple biking trips. It was here we had the best pie and grilled cheese of our travels at Cherry 🍒 Republic, a place for everything cherry. In the Upper Peninsula we stayed near the town of Munising and explored the majestic Pictured Rocks National Seashore on Lake Superior. It was a place of waterfalls, lighthouses and two different boat trips to see shipwreck remains and the Pictured Rocks from the water. It was also fun to learn about the unique culture (Yooper) of this area. Before leaving the State, we also visited the Keweenaw Peninsula where copper mining was once king.
I won’t forget the first time I walked on the pier at St. Andrews State Park near Panama City and saw the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I was awestruck by the color and the white sand beaches. We saw a number of beautiful beaches on the Florida panhandle, some at Florida State Parks like Grayton Beach which were great places to visit during our stay. This is the state of my birth and I was able to visit for the first time since leaving at six months of age, the town of Pensacola with its naval base and famous air museum. Florida has one of my favorite cities of our travels – St. Augustine located on the Atlantic Ocean. I haven’t written a blog article about this city yet, but still hope to at some point. Claiming to be the oldest U.S. city, I loved all the history, buildings, attractions and beauty of this place. It had one of my favorite RV parks located within walking distance of the beach and the intracoastal canal. Florida was another great state for wildlife sightings with lots of birds at our campsite, state parks and wildlife refuges. Plus, at Wakulla Springs State Park we saw manatees for the first time.
I hope you enjoyed this look back at some of our experiences exploring in the past two years. It was a hard post to write because we have enjoyed so many wonderful places.
Stay tuned for posts on our stay in Michigan!