Monday, 21 July 2014

USA - It's A Wrap!!

Here's a cool idea!! Why don't we drive ALL the way around the outside perimeter of the United States?? This is how our time away this past winter was spent!! From December 30th until May 24th, to be precise!! Covering 18,116 Kms (11,322 miles). We crossed the border southbound at Blaine WA and exited northbound at Calais ME.

Where to start? We have been asked many questions about our time away in the US (and Canada). I will concentrate this wrap-up on the US territory portion.

We are fortunate, as Canadians, to live next to this powerful, diverse nation. Without much exception, every person that we had the pleasure of meeting was kind, sincere and welcoming. Yes, some were quirky, but aren’t we all? At times, we were so far from what we know as home but we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. We are allies, we are friends, we are neighbours. We are thankful……
Would we do it again?  Probably not. That is only because it was a huge undertaking .  An absolute immense amount of driving is required. An immense amount of planning as well. It was, for us, a once-in-a-lifetime trip. A real “one of”.

Planning:  In the words of our kids “Don’t uber plan the trip…..” We quite excelled at this instruction and aspect. We really tried to only plan 3 days ahead. Of course, other than the “big” events or cities which required a bit more planning. For most people “planning” is just a natural part of life. In doing a trip like this, we felt that getting away from long term planning was essential . By only planning a short time ahead you get an opportunity to switch gears and change directions a bit if need be.

Camping facilities:  We used Passport America, a lot. It saved us hundreds of dollars on many RV sites. Not on all, but many. It was well worth the $60 investment. For the most part, the average site cost anywhere from $25 to $40. That adds up over a month. Approximately $900-$1,000 per month for a RV spot. We are not boondockers. Sorry, but not something we are comfortable with. I suppose we could have saved lots of money if we had been comfortable with that idea. To each his own, some can and our hats are off to them.  Also, a short note on the campground bathrooms….yup. Some were great, many were below average and some memorable ones should have had the health department called!!  My theory is that ANY campground manager/owner should have to use their own bathroom for a week or two so they understand what it is like……good or bad!!

KOA in South Padre Island TX
Tidy but small spots.... 
McDowell Mtn Regional Park in Fountain Hills AZ
(The full moon made it all the more beautiful!)
 
Sam Houston Jones State Park, Lake Charles LA.
(One of the bad bathroom winners!!)
 
Somewhere in Yuma AZ
(another bad bathroom winner!!) Plus some of the regulars would
just pull their cars right into the spot by our chairs, park
and run into the laundry...NICE!
 
Beautiful in Manatee Springs State Park, FL
 
Surreal Spanish moss in Savannah GA
Beautiful facilities all around....
 
The Depot Travel Park in West Cap May NJ
Very nice but expensive laundry!
 
Liberty RV Park, Jersey City, NJ
(next door to New York!)
 
Fuel/Gas: We drive a small vehicle. Our VW Westfalia camper van, Euri,  averaged approximately 23+ miles per Canadian gallon (19.7 miles per US gallon). That is a great number. Our gas bill was about $650 per month. Another thing in considering a trip like this. What kind of gas mileage do you get with your rig? Just a consideration…..

Travel/Medical Insurance: Yes, we do carry this. It is a bit pricey with “one of us” being over 60 years old but we feel that it is very important. Just not a risk we are willing to take, being in the very expensive US without it. We use BCAA (like AAA). They offer a good rate.
 
 Now, onto the fun stuff, like highlights of where we were, etc. 

Favourite large city: Doug and I vary on this somewhat.  His favourite place was, without a doubt, Nashville TN. He says if he lived there, he would have to join “Honky-tonks Anonymous" to keep him off Broadway and all the great bars!!  My favourite was Washington DC. So many wonderful monuments and such a celebration of the humanity, past and present…..
Doug's Nashville TN tour:
 

Could not have been complete without our
Nova Scotia buddies, Jerry & Paula Gale!!
 
 

Who could forget the joy in fried bologna sandwiches at
Robert's Honky-Tonk??
 
Last minute Grand Ole Opry tickets!!!
 
 
Nancy's Washington DC tour:
 
Lincoln Memorial....

The Reflecting Pool with the
Washington Monument in the background.
 
Vietnam Memorial..."The Wall"

Korean War Memorial....
 
Arlington VA National Cemetery.
 
  
Favourite small city/town One of our favourites is an amazing little town, Grayton Beach, FL (panhandle of Florida) IT is a beautiful coastal area and is called the “forgotten coast”.


 
 
Still under the Favourite small city/town category is Key West , FL is probably, hands down, Doug’s (and my) favourite. It is very touristy but somehow, it has a certain charm that was not lost on us.

  



 
The famous Mile "0" marker. You can't
drive any further south in the USA than this!
 
Also making the cut as one of our favourite small city/town was Bar Harbour ME.
 
 

 

 
 
Bar Harbour from up on Cadillac Mtn....
 
 
Favourite geographical areas: The outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina. The Blueridge Mountain areas of Tennessee, the panhandle of Florida. The coastline of Maine/Acadia National Park. The Florida Keys.

Outer banks, Avon NC....
 
Blueridge Mountain area of Gatlinburg TN
 
The Panhandle of Florida....
 
Overlooking Acadia Nat'l Park/Bar Harbour ME
 
Florida Keys....
 
Where would we wished to have spent more time:  There were many areas that we wanted to spend more time in. Sometimes you just do not have time to stay in a certain area. You can plan to come back to that spot on another trip perhaps. For us, we pretty much knew that we would not “pass this way again” so we always tried to get the most out of each spot, even if we were just passing through.
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico was fantastic and we both felt that we could return to those caves again and again. The mountain high desert camping in Scottsdale, AZ was amazing (the January full moon helped out!).  There is loads of hiking to do in this area too. How about viewing the Louisiana swamps, alligators included? Incredible for sure!! The Keys in Florida is such a beautiful area. We could not get enough of it – even though the gnats seemed to have gotten lots of us in the way of bites!! The Cape area of Massachusetts. I think we could come back to this area and spend lots of time too. We never stayed at, but we both loved, the Gulfport/Biloxi , MS area. Despite the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy, it was beautiful. Always, and near to us here, is the coastline of Oregon.  We love Oregon but haven’t spent nearly enough time there.  Washington DC, also but then I already mentioned that!
Weather: Our very real challenge was pretty much the weather. We did this trip in what was, undoubtedly, the WORST winter the US (especially the South) has seen in 30-40 years. We thought that if we had had a $1 for every time someone told us this fact, we would have been rich!! The thing is, if you let the weather stop you from doing a trip like this, you will never get it done. Some days, we were a bit discouraged waking up to the cold (frozen water lines in the van twice in New Mexico) but usually, we just kept our “eyes on the prize” and pushed on through. At the end of February, Florida was, at times, colder than Vancouver but by the time we reached the lower part of the west coast and the Keyes, it was nice and warm. Once we started up the east coast, the weather just became a minor inconvenience from time to time. Don’t let the weather stop you!!! 
RV Style: There is also no perfect RV. Our  VW Westfalia van (Euri) has no bathroom, no furnace and no hot water, just cold water. When we stop, we have to turn the seats, move all the bags to the popped up top, etc. but, the up side is that our gas budget was in check and we could park anywhere, including Beacon Hill in downtown Boston!! Parallel parked no less!! Again, preferences and choices are different for everyone.

Euri, parked in Beacon Hill, Boston, MA


So, that’s a wrap. We loved our time in the US and thank everyone there who had any part in our trip. As I said above, we were made to feel welcome and we are thankful for such good neighbours!!

We are also thankful to all of you, our family and friends. Thanks for following along on this portion so closely. Thanks for all the encouragement as we took on a pretty big challenge! If I haven’t answered a particular question you may have, feel free to send us an email at: dnbeglaw@gmail.com.


Here's from us to ALL of you!!!
 
Peace….
Thought for the Day: Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.... 

13 comments:

  1. Nice wrap up. Definitely a big undertaking, but you had some great moments.

    What we learned from your experience? We couldn't travel (and live) in a vehicle that small when there's a good chance of not decent weather. Pretty sure I would have given up, so kudos to you!

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    1. Thanks! Coming from a pair as well travelled as you two, we will consider that a compliment of the highest regard!!

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  2. Really enjoyed your summary!! Funny how some of your favourite places were ours too!!

    You guys must have a wonderful relationship also.

    Would love to hear what your future travel plans are. We are planning a one month stay this winter in Texas.

    Can't be away too long from the Grand Babies ... ha ha.

    Take care, and best wishes ... TnT

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Hope Texas treats you better than it did us this winter!!

      I really had a hard time putting in just a few highlights. There were SO many great things! I am now working on the Canada wrap up!!

      Thanks so much!!

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  3. Great blog post! I am sure that was a very hard post to do considering all the miles covered and all the things that you saw and did. So glad that you stuck to it and completed the journey.

    You did a great job and now you have a ton of memories! So glad that we got to see you guys in June. BTW, thanks for the leftover lasagna, it has been great on the busy Friday nights where we don't get to eat until at least 9pm. It was delicious and please send me the recipe! :-)

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    1. Thanks Ruth!! We are feeling pretty darn good about getting it all finished but more importantly, we feel really darn good about the memories!!

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  4. Terrific blog post Nancy and Doug. I know how much work went into this. We laughed when we saw the picture of the bologna sandwich in Nashville and we're so happy our paths crossed so we could share that special time with you two. Like they say....it's the little things. What a ton of memories you have to draw on over the years ahead. Enjoy them all and kudos to you for completing your journey. We know it wasn't easy at times but you always took the high road. We like that about you two! :-) xo xo

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    1. Thanks for the nice words P&J! So many memories and they constantly pop up to make us laugh (...or cry!!) Glad you were on that road with us for part of the way!

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  5. Wow, that's such an accomplishment. I'd love to do something like this once my husband retires. We had a Westfalia for a while and then moved up to a tent trailer. I'd like to get a smallish trailer with a bathroom, my only real requirement as I get older. Loved the pictures!

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    1. Thanks Christina. We certainly love our Westie, Euri! Get out those maps and start planning!!

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  6. It was a real treat to read about your travels. You two and Euri make an excellent threesome.

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    1. Thanks Peter! It was nice to know we had friends in our back pocket!!

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  7. You guys are amazing!!!! You should celebrate big time because you went "Out of the Box", not many people can say that!
    We are very proud of you!!!!!
    Love you lots

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