As Christmas rolled around, we stopped back through Knoxville, TN to surprise family with a visit. We also celebrated six months on the road as full time RV-ers, reminiscing the highlights of our journey and making (vague) plans for our trip through summer.
We left Knoxville and its 90F weather behind and returned late fall right after a heat wave of 94F weather cleared the city. We were lucky for the majority of our trip to have pleasant weather. We welcomed the cool and allergy-free air of the Canadian Rockies, the endless blue sky in Montana, the cool breeze off the coast of Washington and Oregon, and the crisp air of New England in the fall.
We began our trip in July, driving a little over 2,000 miles through TN, KY, IN, IL, WI, MN, and ND to get to our one and only reserved RV park in Banff, Canada. We also explored Jasper, Canada. From there, we crossed back into the US through magnificent Montana, where we drove the daring Going-to-the-sun road in Glacier National Park. Yellowstone was one one of our favorite stops, offering a plethora of attractions – from mountain roads, to geysers, to wild life. Wyoming offered us vast views of the Tetons and delicious local fare. South Idaho was a drastic change from the coolness of the mountains, keeping us going forward, past the desolate sizzling hot and dry high desert toward the green forests of Oregon. We discovered and tasted the wines of Dundee Valley in Oregon, witnessed my first whales, then traveled to the Pacific coast, to lovely Astoria. Back inland, we visited Tacoma and Seattle, and took a week to explore the Olympic Peninsula. We wore out our dogs while walking through Victoria, Canada, and made some new friends on the ferry connecting Port Angeles, OR to Vancouver Island, Canada.
We drove South along Oregon’s coast and looped back around through Salem, OR and then Washington state before heading East, across the country, right in time to avoid the first major snow storm of the year. Initially, we wanted to cross back through South Dakota, but historic levels of flooding of the Sioux River banks rerouted us through ND once again. One unexpected bonus, though, was discovering Thodore Roosevelt National Park in SD, a red rock canyon featuring bright yellow fall colors and the rare pronghorn antelope. We crossed into Canada and I finally got to see the famed Niagara Falls! But the best part for me was reconnecting with my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. We visited Montreal and were charmed by Quebec City, which reminded us of France.
Back in the US, we rode on Canada Old Highway crossing Maine, which displayed awe-inspiring fall colors. And, of course, while in Maine, we made sure to have as much lobstah as we could! New Hampshire in the fall was absolutely picture perfect! We’ve never seen such vibrant fall colors as we experienced on White Mountain National Forest and especially along the Kancamagus Highway! We took the dare-devil path up and down the notoriously foul-weather Mt. Washington. Vermont gave New Hampshire a run for its money and I absolutely adored strolling through the quaint villages of Woodstock and Wallingford. In Massachusetts, we visited with dear friends and walked through posh and quiet Martha’s Vineyard, post-tourist season.
We discovered that New York state is categorically different than New York City, and took a walk back in history on the grounds of the Woodstock Festival. For more history, we stopped through Philadelphia, then at Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia.
Back in Tennessee, we hung out with llamas and learned how to spin llama wool before heading to Knoxville, to see family and friends for Thanksgiving. After a cold spell, we were craving some sunshine, so we took a week to explore the beaches on the Emerald Coast before heading back to Knoxville for a brief surprise family visit for Christmas.
For the New Year, we chose fun-filled NOLA (New Orleans) where we will plan our route across Texas and into the Southwest, where we will be for the remainder of the trip.
Here are some things we learned along the way, in no particular order:
- Change can be intimidating but it is cathartic.
- Cleaning up house is also very cathartic, even if it can physically break you (I managed to hurt my shoulder while packing and moving 🙁 ) – but it’s all worth it!
- While traveling in an RV, things will constantly shift and break.
- One actually needs very little to live a good life.
- Having the freedom to explore and move with the weather is very rewarding.
- It is always great to reconnect with old friends and family all around the US and Canada, not having to choose between seeing them and taking a vacation.
- RV-ing teaches you to take things slowly and as they come; patience hasn’t been my biggest forte, so this trip has been good training.
- I can compromise on some things, but a good cup of coffee isn’t one of those things; one of the first things we retrieved out of storage was our giant coffee machine, with a built-in grinder and stainless steel carafe.
- Downsizing and making my own schedule freed up time for me to focus my energy on a few essential things: exploring new places, reconnecting with friends and family, spending quality time with my husband, reading (!!), and writing. My husband has even picked up a new hobby (guitar), and has time to practice his Romanian.
- It’s OK to move on when a place is no longer offering inspiration or if it makes you feel like you are just treading water; life’s too short to be wasted.
- One year isn’t nearly enough to see everything that’s worth seeing in the US and Canada!
- Sometimes a detour can offer delightful rewards and hidden gems in the form of nature, food, or experiences.
- I can give up a lot of things but not traveling!
All in all, this has been a good year, an adventurous year, and I feel thankful. I look forward to seeing the Southwest and to whatever the next phase in life might bring us.
I wish you Happy Holidays and A Happy New Year!