2015 was a year of extraordinary adventures for us as we gallivanted around North America in our ninth year of full-time travel. Looking back at our year of RV voyaging, it is astonishing to re-live the wide ranging experiences we had on the road.
Gas prices were at an unbelievable low at the start of the year at about $2.79/gallon in Arizona, so we realized this particular year would probably be a great one to travel a long distance. After pondering Alaska versus Nova Scotia as destinations from our starting point in Arizona, we decided to head to the northeast. What a boon it was to watch fuel prices decrease all year long, hitting $2.09 a gallon when we returned to Arizona at the end of the year.
Our big travel loop took us from Arizona to New Mexico, Texas and Florida during the winter and early spring followed by Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia in the later spring. Summer saw us in Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire and Upstate New York, and the fall months took us from Kentucky through Oklahoma and back through Texas and New Mexico to Arizona for Christmas.
Our year began in Quartzsite, Arizona, where RV snowbirds gather every year in the desert. From there we took a quick trip to Lake Havasu for the annual celebration of all things hippie and groovy at the VW Microbus rally.
After enjoying the Quartzsite RV show and stopping over in unsung Florence, Arizona, we watched with awe as the sandhill cranes took wing in Willcox, Arizona. Then we paid a brief visit to the eastern side of the Chiricahua mountains. At White Sands National Monument in New Mexico we romped in the soft, blindingly white sand, and in Roswell we had endless close encounters with aliens.
But our experiences became truly out of this world when we arrived in Big Bend National Park where we found mountains and rivers and deserts to play in. A bizarre ghost town and a daytrip across the river (and border) to Mexico capped off a wonderful stay in the area.
And what a surprise it was to find that Big Bend National Park encourages boondocking on their land!
The Caverns of Sonora, a few hundred miles east of Big Bend on I-10, gave us a chance to explore a truly gorgeous underground world in a massive cave, but a scary ice storm on the highway as we made our way from there to Fort Worth jolted us back to reality.
2015 turned out to be a year of major repairs and upgrades on our trailer, and we had no idea of what was to come when we did our first big trailer upgrade in Fort Worth, Texas. We replaced our trailer’s electric brakes with electric over hydraulic disc brakes. This turned out to be a perfectly timed upgrade, as the traffic, hills and chaotic driving in the northeast tested our trailer’s braking system again and again for the rest of the season.
In Texas, we made a quick stop at the cool Casita Travel Trailer plant before spending a few days at Rainbow’s End RV Park just north of Houston where we learned about many incredible facets of the Escapees RV Club. From there we dashed east along the bottom of the country, enjoying several interstate rest areas that rivaled state parks along the way.
We stayed in Sarasota for a month to overhaul the electrical system on our rig and embark on the second major trailer upgrade for the year: new batteries, a new converter, new inverter and new wiring for all of it. What a fabulous improvement these upgrades have given to our solar powered life.
One of our more unusual discoveries this year was The Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, a one-of-a-kind estate where we found fabulous art created by the European masters from the Middle Ages to the 19th century that had been collected by one of the founders of Ringling Brother’s Circus.
I flew to Massachusetts for a week and reveled in the delights of the seaside town of Rockport before we packed up the buggy in Florida and began our long trek to the northeastern states.
Then we hit Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina where we saw elk, mountain vistas and Indians. We hopped on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway as we chased down the stunning wildflowers (rhododendrons!) and waterfalls that lie along this route.
A little further north we found an incredible bicycle trail in Galax, Virginia.
We loved the fabulous free bluegrass music jams in Floyd, Virginia, and enjoyed even more free jam sessions at the Blue Ridge Music Center which is situated very close to the picturesque Mabry Mill in southern Virginia.
Chasing more waterfalls, wildflowers and rhododendrons in Virginia, we continued bee-bopping on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway as we headed north and climbed to the top of a precipice in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
From northern Virginia, we faced a challenge as we took our big rig onto the tiny, congested roads of the northeast. Scampering through Pennsylvania and across the Catskills in New York (making a mental note to come back some day to visit at leisure), we dashed through Vermont and New Hampshire, landing at last at Narrows Too RV Resort just outside Acadia National Park in northern Maine.
Acadia National Park was a true highlight in our summer travels. We drove the spectacular and little known Schoodic Scenic Byway past quintessential New England views of anchored lobster boats and other aquatic beauty.
We also caught a glimpse of the more upscale side of the New England yachting scene with a fun factory tour at Hinckley Yachts.
But it was Rockefeller’s sweet Carriage Roads throughout Acadia National Park and the utterly charming mail boat ferry ride we took to Maine’s Cranberry Islands that made us fall in love with the area.
Taking our RV further downeast, we were delighted by a series of lighthouse sightings, first the candy-striped West Quoddy Head lighthouse and then the red crossed East Quoddy Head lighthouse at Lubec (Maine) and Campobello Island (Canada).
These lighthouses were just a warm up for the incredible evening we experienced after we crossed the border for real into Nova Scotia and watched the setting sun play upon the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse in south-central Nova Scotia.
The Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island had a rugged beauty all its own.
At this point, in early July, we turned around and began the long journey back south and west. Our first stop was cute (and remote) Eastport, Maine, followed by the fun town of Bangor where we spent precious time with very special friends.
While we were in Bangor, we underwent the first major repair of the year when we got our trailer’s rear axle replaced. The original axle had been bent by the bad roads in Nova Scotia, and we were extremely grateful that our newly minted RV warranty came to the rescue.
From Maine, we zipped west to the White Mountains in New Hampshire where we summitted Mt. Washington, the tallest peak in the northeast. We did it the easy way by taking The Cog Railway.
The rural countryside of the Finger Lakes was lovely, and we were just delighted when a pair of fawns and a fox paused at the edge of the woods to check us out.
A rainy daytrip to exquisite Watkins Glen State Park proved to be an ideal way to see this jewel, as the overcast light and flowing waterfalls were perfect for taking photos.
From the Finger Lakes, we dropped south along the Ohio River until we spotted a pretty town on the far shore that turned out to be the unusual and historic town of Maysville, Kentucky.
From the brick streets to the wonderful old buildings to the towering flood wall that holds back the Ohio River when it swells to threatening heights, we were enchanted by Maysville, Kentucky.
A stop for a beer at O’Rourke’s Pub introduced us to a warm community of newfound friends who went out of their way to make us feel welcome and special in their town.
We toured tobacco farms, ran local running races, saw a fabulous car show, enjoyed free music concerts, learned about Freemasons, checked out the historic village of Washington and even met the Mayor.
To our utter astonishment, all this fun we were having landed us on the front page of the local newspaper!
This was a glorious introduction to Kentucky, and we had high hopes of seeing more of the state and to swing through Tennessee as well, but our refrigerator died and the closest place that could do a quick repair was in Indianapolis. So, off we went to get a new RV fridge. Again, thank goodness for that RV warranty, as this repair was covered too!
With the beer sufficiently cold in our fridge once again, we headed to Missouri and visited the incomparable Spacecraft Manufacturing plant where luxurious, ultra rugged and fully custom fifth wheel trailers are designed and built.
Continuing west and south through Manhattan Kansas, we arrived in Humboldt, Kansas, just in time for their unique Biblesta celebration that unites the entire community as they share, retell and re-enact the stories of the Bible.
This quiet celebration in rural Kansas and a fun fall festival in Welch, Oklahoma both took place not long before tragic world events unfolded in Paris, and it was a bittersweet moment when we reviewed our photos later and reflected on our memories of peaceful Paris, Texas, set against the ongoing chaos in its namesake City of Lights in France.
Continuing west, we found a town full of unusual metal art in Tatum, New Mexico, saw a rock garden of aging missiles in White Sands, New Mexico, and discovered Nature’s unique stone artwork at the City of Rocks, New Mexico.
When we crossed the border into Arizona, we had come full circle, ending an extraordinary year of RV adventures on the road. Autumn was in full regalia and it felt wonderful to be “home” as we explored Mt. Graham, the area around Roosevelt Lake and the ancient Indian Ruins at Tonto National Monument.
After arriving in Arizona, to our utter astonishment and chagrin, we had to turn to our RV warranty for a fourth time in as many months. We replaced our trailer’s entire suspension system (shocks, leaf springs and axle hangers) which had failed badly due, in part, to weak springs on our new trailer axle, and had left the coach’s tires nearly touching. I haven’t shared that story here — I just haven’t had the heart to write about another round of trailer repairs as of yet — but believe me, we sure were glad to have that warranty. This last repair brought us to a total of over $6,700 in repair reimbursements that were all covered by our $1,904 contract.
Repairs aside, as we look back on this magnificent year of travel, we feel truly blessed to be living this life, and we know just how fortunate we are. We feel grateful for and awed by every day that dawns. Throughout 2015, and in an all our years of RV and sailing travel, we have been the lucky recipients of many deeply fulfilling and truly life changing experiences.
This memorable year of RV travel was very different from all of our prior years because we covered so much distance and were on the move for so long. We drove our truck a total of 19,837 miles, about half of which was towing our trailer. We stayed in 108 different locations, 50 of which were one night stands and only three of which lasted 3 weeks or longer.
What a rush!!
Thank you 2015!!
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- 2013 - A Year of Transition: Goodbye Groovy, Hello Buggy! - Our last year in Mexico on our sailboat
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