Retrospective on our 2017 travel experiences

We traveled a LOT in 2017. I have documented our day-to-day experiences under the labels of “Third Trip North” (TTN), “New England Tour” (NET), “Second Trip West” (STW) and “Second Trip East” (STE). From the time we left Florida (14 Apr 2017) to the time we returned (20 Nov 2017) – 220 days – the longest we stayed in any one place was 3 weeks in Plymouth MA. We towed the RV 11,426 miles and stayed at 64 different RV parks where we spent about $11,700 in campground fees. We visited 16 states that we had never been to previously, completing our lower-48 map. We put just over 20,000 miles on the truck.

A LOT of travel.

Now, two months after completing the journey, I want to reflect on what we did. I particularly want to identify the highlights and lowlights. Fortunately, there are many more highlights than lowlights. It was a great 7 months of travel.

In chronological order, some of the more memorable highlights were:

Swans at Savannah KOA

Swans at Savannah KOA

  • TTN:
    • The KOA Savannah South campground with its huge population of geese.  It was like living in a zoo. A fun zoo.
    • Seeing Savannah again.
    • Visiting family in VA.
  • NET:
    • Visiting family in Plymouth. In particular, getting to meet nephew Brad’s wife and children was a treat.
    • Doing some great genealogical research in Plymouth MA.  Pilgrim Hall was awesome!
    • Having Jett’s sisters visit us several times in several places during the NET.
    • 11 nights at Normandy Farms Campground in Foxboro MA. A great, great campground.
    • Wandering around the quaint shops of Newburyport MA.
    • The Escapees Chapter 3 Rally at Newfound Lake NH. The rally was smaller than we expected, but spending time with other Escapees is always fun.
    • Being treated to a 2-hour guided tour of the Wells ME region by a couple that we met at the campground.
    • The family 4th of July (with lobsterfest) at Lucas Pond in Northwood NH.
    • Participating in the Make-a-Wish festivities at Saddleback Campground.
    • Playing some EMASS Senior Softball League games and seeing David Ortiz (“Big Papi”) at one of them.
    • Visiting some fascinating cemeteries in Amherst and Springfield MA.
  • STW:
    • Visiting some of Jett’s childhood homes and actually digging into death records in Watervliet NY.
    • The beautiful campsite on the banks of the Mohawk River.
    • Boldt Castle.
    • The Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls.
    • Greenfield Village in Dearborn MI.
    The banks of the Mohawk

    The banks of the Mohawk

    • Visiting American Jewelry and Loan, home of Hardcore Pawn TV series.  Tacky and smaller than we expected, but still great to see.
    • My 50th high school reunion in Madison WI. It was great to catch up with old friends. But how did they get to be so old?
    • Visiting some of my ancestors’ gravesites in WI.
    • The Field of Dreams baseball field.
    • Badlands National Park.
    • Wall Drug and the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall SD.  Wall Drug lived up to the hype and the museum was surprisingly moving.
    • Mount Rushmore National Monument.
    • Deadwood SD.
    • Teddy Roosevelt National Park.
    • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
    • Yellowstone National Park. Seeing Old Faithful was a treat, but the biggest highlight was being stopped by a herd of about 300 bison.
    • Mount St Helens.
    • Seeing my sister and brother-in-law in Tillamook OR.  Great people, wonderful town.

    Yellowstone bison

    Yellowstone bison

    Snake River

    Snake River

  • STE:
    • Catfish Junction RV Park and the Snake River.
    • Salt Lake City and Temple Square. I feel I have a much better understanding of the Mormon faith after the visit.
    • Truck problems in Salina UT.  Yes, I am including this as a highlight because the truck failure resulting in very few real problems for us and in fact gave us a couple of very nice, unexpected days at a tiny RV park in Salina.  I think we were extremely fortunate in where this problem appeared and I have to feel good about that.
    • Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Moab UT. This area is amazingly beautiful.
    • Completing our 48-state map in KS.
    • Sunset near Port St Joe

      Sunset near Port St Joe

    • Choctaw KOA and Casino.  One of the best RV parks that we have seen anywhere and a first-rate casino.
    • Visiting family in Austin TX.
    • Seeing, first-hand, the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Rockport TX.
    • The Johnson Space Center in Houston.  Great tour, great museum.
    • New Orleans.  I finally got to see the Big Easy and it didn’t disappoint.
    • Silver Slip Casino and Beachfront RV Campground in Waveland MS.  This is a very nice casino and a wonderful, inexpensive campground.
    • The Gulf Shores AL area.  Beautiful beaches, good restaurants.
    • The Port St Joe area of Florida. Interesting restaurants and shops, beautiful beaches. Laid-back attitudes.

Lowlights:

  • TTN:
    • Putting a small dent into the truck’s gate by backing into the pin while at KOA Savannah South.
    • The weather in April and May. We barely missed the closing of I-95 due to flooding but had to endure soggy grounds and cold, wet weather all the way north and to the end of our stay in Plymouth MA.  It was a miserable period of weather.
    • Puncturing the front basement door while hitching up at Lakewood Camping Resort in Myrtle Beach. Lesson: either back in straighter or put the gate up before completing the hitch.
    • The Bear Creek Campground at Lake Compounce. The campground was fine, but being the only campers was downright spooky.
  • STW:
    • The winding, undulating roads in upstate NY. Jett’s stomach hated them.
    • The ridiculously overpriced site at Niagara Falls KOA.
    • Having the Google Maps miss a low bridge south of Buffalo, resulting in a 10-mile detour.
    • The rustic site (and overall creepiness) at the Woodside Lake Park, Streetsboro OH.
    • The God-awful trip from MI to WI via downtown Chicago.
    • The Corn Palace and Mitchell SD in general. A complete waste of time.
    • Putting a dent in the RV when I foolishly tried to squeeze it into a parking place at Yellowstone National Park.
    • The snowfall and freezing temperatures at West Yellowstone.
    • Breaking a valve stem while setting up in Ennis MT and almost losing a tire the next day while traveling on the interstate.
    • Missing out on Glacier National Park due to forest fires.
    • Coeur d’Alene. I feel bad listing this as a lowlight as it is a very nice little town, but my expectations were very high and I didn’t see anything to justify the anticipation.
    • Failing to meet up with my nephews and niece in Tillamook.
  • STE:
    • Truck problems in Salina UT, making it necessary to skip Bryce National Park, Zion National Park and Monument Valley.
    • The 200-mile detour to avoid the 11,000 foot pass on I-70.  I couldn’t get the courage to attempt it, with the truck still questionable and the weather very iffy (possible snowfall).  We missed out on Denver, too.
    • Brownville TX and the Rio Grande Valley region.  I really thought that I would like this area, but it fell flat. The Breeze Lake Campground in Brownsville was a trainwreck.

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