Today was a bittersweet day as we handed the keys of our motorhome to its new owner. After seven years, close to 100,000 miles, and far too many memories to count, we close this chapter of our lives (at least for the time being).
Seven years ago we could not have imagined the journey we were about to embark on. When we loaded up our first RV, fittingly a Winnebago Journey, we were excited about the possibilities.
We were not disappointed.
From coast to coast, and north to south, we’ve visited all 48 lower states making friends, reuniting with family (and friends), seeing the sights, and discovering hidden gems.
People often ask us, “what was your favorite place you visited?”
It’s tough to answer because the country is so diverse. For shear beauty, we both agree that Glacier National Park wins hands down. The hike up to Avalanche Lake is fun (we’ve done it twice), and the payoff is a gorgeous lake surrounded by towering mountains.
Most spectacular for us was Niagara Falls. The power of the water cascading into Lake Ontario below is breathtaking. We’ve visited the falls twice also, and experienced them from all angles – on both the US and Canadian side; from the deck of the Maid of the Mist cruising down below; and standing on the “Hurricane Deck” directly in front of the falls where you feel the power of the wind and water cascading down behind you.
Niagara Falls is a must see.
Our National Parks and Monuments are truly incredible. We had no idea how beautiful Utah was until we visited the parks there. Zion, Bryce, and Arches wowed us completely.
We’ve visited quite a few others, from Acadia National Park in Maine and Everglades National Park in Florida, to Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Redwoods National Park in California, Grand Canyon in Arizona and quite a few more. They all have their appeal, and are all very different.
And then, of course, there is Mount Rushmore.
Absolutely amazing. It should be on everyone’s list to visit. We were blessed on our first visit to meet Donald “Nick” Clifford, the last living person who helped carve Mount Rushmore. We were able to spend quite a bit of time with him as he told us of the challenges he and the other workers faced carving this incredible structure. It was a great experience to meet him and hear a first-hand account.
Wildlife was plentiful too wherever we went.
Bears, Bison, Alligators, and even Zebras and Giraffes. Unfortunately we never spotted a Moose.
There were far too many museums to name. The quirky, like the Museum of Clean, and the disappointing, like the H.R. MacMillan Space Center (Canadian Space Museum) in Vancouver (what did the Canadians contribute to space exploration?).
The museums could be exhausting, but we relished them — even the small town museums like the one in Polson, Montana. We’d read and read and learn. We loved learning more about our nation’s history, as well as the local history of towns we visited.
In Clearlake, Iowa we stumbled upon the Surf Ballroom which had a section dedicated to the memory of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP Richardson (The Big Bopper). The Surf Ballroom was the last venue played by those three before they died in a plane crash.
Then there was the Wizard of Oz Museum in Kansas, National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, Mardi Gras Museum in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Billy Graham Museum in Charlotte, NC, Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and of course, the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC.
Too many to list them all!
Working in politics nearly our entire lives, the Presidential Libraries were a particular draw for us. All of them had a unique appeal and were interesting. We learned the most at the Eisenhower Library. He was an amazing man who not only planned and executed D-Day during WWII, but as President got our interstate highway system built and launched NASA.
Favorite was the Ronald Reagan Library. Worst was the Clinton Library.
One of the best is not part of the national archives. It’s the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. Worth a trip.
There were many emotional experiences as well. Finding a photo of Cathy’s dad at the Submarine Force Museum in Grotten, Connecticut was one that stands out in particular.
Cathy knew her dad served on a submarine during World War II, and that his sub was in port at Pearl Harbor on that infamous day. Fortunately, he was on liberty and missed the Japanese attack, but returned to assist in the clean up in that awful environment.
He never talked much about the war, so we were excited to find his name listed in the commissioning class for the USS Muskallunge — a different submarine than she knew about. As we read and researched we learned of the bravery of the men who served aboard the Muskallunge. The submarine was hit with depth charges and limped into port in New Zealand.
Cathy never would have known about that part of her dad’s experience had we not stumbled upon that photo.
Other moving experiences included Gettysburg, the National World War II Museum, and the US Civil Rights Museum. All left us very somber when we exited.
We toured Battleships and Submarines, a Minuteman Missile silo, and an offshore oil drilling rig. We visited stops along the Underground Railroad, and spent time at a graveyard of slaves – no headstones just rocks to designate the locations of the bodies. It was sad.
We also enjoyed the sports museums along the way. We loved the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and were wowed in Cooperstown, New York at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
We caught a Michigan game in Ann Arbor, SF Giants Spring Training in Phoenix, and a Sacramento Kings game when we visited our old stomping grounds.
There has been plenty of amazing entertainment along the way highlighted by a wonderful fourth of July in Branson, Missouri. What a fun and patriotic town. From the waterfront concert headlined by Christian recording artist Sandy Patty, to the exhilarating show at Dolly Parton’s Dixieland Stampede, to the incredible production of “Jonah” at the Sight and Sound Theater, we enjoyed every moment.
Branson should be on everyone’s list to visit.
As we traveled we had the opportunity to see many concerts (The Temptations, Four Tops, Asia, Kansas, Bob Seger, and Stevie Wonder, to name a few).
We saw plays (Beautiful, Jonah, Samson, Ain’t Too Proud), and we even saw some comedians (Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Leanne Morgan).
We visited towns that had been the settings for movies, like Seaside, Florida, the setting of the Jim Carrey movie, “The Truman Show.” We took pictures of locations from the “Breaking Bad” show filmed in Albuquerque, NM, and even found the plane used in the filming of “Con Air.”
Of course our best memories are of times spent with family and friends.
Reconnecting with so many after years apart was truly amazing. We also made new friends who we would meet up with again and again during our travels, and then there are the friends and family who visited us and sometimes joined us on the road.
We said goodbye to two of our fur babies during this time, Hannah and Muffy, and welcomed our new “kids,” Mandy and Bella.
Looking back, it is amazing how much we’ve seen and done, and yet, there is so much still left unseen. It’s hard to fathom how big this country is; how many cities and towns, each with their own stories and characters.
There are 63 National Parks, and 360 national “sites” such as monuments, seashores, recreation areas, and historic sites. In addition, more than 35,000 museums exist in the country.
To say we’ve barely scratched the surface is an understatement.
We never even ventured much into Canada nor up to Alaska. Perhaps someday.
For now, we both agree it’s time to shift our focus. There’s still a world of travel that awaits, and as we settle into our new life in our new home, we’ll plan. And we’ll travel – just differently.
As we often say in the RV world, “see you on down the road.”
– Jeff & Cathy