2016 In Review – 8,128 Miles Of Barriers, Challenges & Amazing New Experiences
I’ve spent the last few days finalizing our 2016 travel maps and putting all our driving & campground review stats into an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a tedious (and somewhat geeky, I admit) process that I do every year mostly for my annual blog round-up post, but it also ends up being rather fulfilling too.
You see no matter how slow the year might have seemed, or how many obstacles were encountered or how many plans were trashed, every time I look at the final result I’m almost always amazed at how much we’ve managed to accomplish. And this is true every year we’ve traveled (and pretty much every year of my life before that too).
I guess it’s kind of a metaphor for human existence. At some point we all feel like we’re just plodding through the day-by-day, but in the end a beautiful story is produced. It’s satisfying to know that little fact, and it’s a good reason for everyone to look back on their year and celebrate their joys and progress, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem at the time. But I digress into the philosophical….
A Year Of Constant Barriers & Challenges
There’s no doubt that this year was our most disruptive year since we started on the road 7 years ago. We made no less than 5 different meticulous plans, every one of which was trashed by something we hadn’t expected (at all) and every one of which led us in a direction we didn’t originally expect. While we were “in it” we felt like we were playing some kind of crazy whac-a-mole game. We’d encounter a barrier (stress, stress), switch everything around to take care of it (plan, plan), manage to wiggle our way out of it (deep breath) only to be immediately thrown into another problem (stress, stress)….over and over!
It started with Paul’s unexpected family issue in April which meant that Paul had to fly home for an unpredictable amount of time. That forced us to cancel all our Canada summer plans and prompted me to get a solo volunteer job in WA for June, just in case I needed to run alone for a while. It was an intensely unsettling time with many (many) unknowns, but in the end it all worked out faster and more painlessly than we expected. Phew!
While Paul was gone our cat got diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Ugh! This led to a stressful 6-month saga (it took 3 med dose changes to get her stabilized, and endless finagling to manage her side-symptoms) right up up until we were able to give her I-131 treatment in NYC in October. A month later we found out (joy of joys) that she was CURED. We were overjoyed, but what a roller-coaster!
Just a few weeks after our cat got diagnosed Polly completely tore her ACL on the beach in WA. Oh no! This prompted us to start a frantic search for a TPLO surgeon after which Paul drove 22 hours in 2 days to get her operated. We then spent a whole month carrying her in and out of the RV, and re-vamped ALL of our summer/fall plans to work on her rehab. After 3 months of hard work we were able to get her back to 95% and 6 months later I can finally say she’s back to where she was before the accident. It was a long, long road, but we made it!
By late fall with Paul’s family OK, and the cat and dog finally back on track, we got another kick in the butt when our tow pins got pulled and our car smashed into the back of the RV. It was the end of a long year of mishaps, and led us to re-plan the entire rest of the year so we could take care of the repairs. As of today our RV is back to her old self, our car is within days of coming out of the shop and our tow bar will be here shortly. Soon we’ll be back to “normal” again, but honestly what a year!
But The Barriers Also Opened New Experiences
What was amazing and surprising about our year was that every one of these barriers was accompanied by fortuitous openings and new experiences. It was almost as if the winds of malice were followed by the winds of serendipity, good fortune following bad the entire year long.
Spring Along the CA/OR Coast
Right around the time Paul’s family issue came up, we were in the midst of our Spring travels along the CA coast. It was a drive we’d done many time pre-RV, but never gotten around to doing in “the beast”. Together with Paul’s dad & stepmom we traveled over 800 miles of gorgeous coastline from Ventura to Pismo Beach, wine’ing from Paso Robles to Petaluma, doing the twisty road to amazing Fort Bragg and re-visiting some of our old-time favorites in Oregon. The family issues forced us to do the trip much faster than we had planned, but also gave us the opportunity to experience the entire coast during some of the nicest Spring weather we’ve seen. It was near-perfect.
Summer In Cape D, WA & Sun Valley, ID
Once we reached Portland OR we said goodbye to Paul’s Dad & stepmom (our longest caravan ever!) and Paul headed off to take care of things in Miami. Amazingly everything worked out and he was able to join me when I started my solo volunteer job at Cape Disappointment, WA in June. It’s not only a beautiful place that we never tire of, but it was a job that I ended up having a blast doing. Plus it gave us a fixed spot to take care of Polly right after her ACL surgery.
The dog then directed the rest of our summer plans. Because of her injury we discovered Sun Valley, ID not only the best place in the country to get her TPLO surgery, but a place that we ended up LOVING. By pure luck we were able to secure the entire month of July in an RV park there where we not only took care of Polly’s follow-up and rehab, but also explored an amazing area we would never otherwise have discovered. What a find!
Late Summer/Early Fall Through ND & The Great Lakes (MN, MI)
Polly’s ACL rehab took us even further too. After we were done in ID we drove directly East, passing through the remote roads of North Dakota. Here we explored stunning Teddy Roosevelt Park and the Enchanted Highway, beautiful spots in a state we’d never really thought to explore before. It was a “fast taste” of ND, but gave us enough to want to come back again in the future.
Further East we hit Minnesota/Michigan, our early fall destination and final spot for Polly’s rehab. We settled in for 6 weeks of Great Lakes exploration, covering over 1,000 miles of amazing sights from the eastern tip of Duluth through the rock formations of the Upper Peninsula, the locks of Soo City, fairytale Mackinaw City, relaxed Tawas, gorgeous Sleeping Bear Dunes and upscale Traverse City.
We saw many “bucket list” lighthouses during this part of our year too, something we’ve been wanting to do for years. And thanks to good RV friends we were able to stay almost a month in Ann Arbor and finalize Polly’s rehab. It not only allowed her to finally recover, but it introduced us to (yet another) awesome area we would likely never have discovered on our own.
October in New York City, NY
The cat pretty much routed all the REST of our year travels. Her I-131 treatment was what finally promoted us to go to New York City in October, a place we would otherwise never have taken “the beast”. It ended up being one of the absolute highlights of our year.
We both fell head over heels in love with the energy and vibrancy of the Big Apple, and had a total blast exploring the city and enjoying her many iconic sights. Despite having to route everything we did around radioactive cat pee, we had an absolutely unique experience that I am SO thankful for. We’d come back here in a heartbeat!
End Of Year Along The East Coast
The NYC diversion for the cat also completely changed our late fall travel plans and prompted us to take the Eastern Coastal route down to Florida instead of the in-land route we’d planed at the beginning of the year. We completed over 1,000 miles here which allowed us to see the wild horses of Assateague, MD, the iconic lighthouses of the Outer Banks in NC and experience the southern history and intimate charm of Charleston, SC. Plus we were able to connect with good friends along the way. It’s a drive I’ve always wanted to make and I’m so glad we got to do it.
Even the car accident led us somewhere new. Thanks to a good repair shop in Lakeland we were able to explore the beer capital of FL. Hey, it wasn’t much but you gotta take your wins where you can get ’em 🙂
And We Even Completed A Few PLANNED Things Too
In between all the craziness we completed a few things we’d actually planned to do too. At the beginning of the year we finally downsized our storage unit, something that we’d thought about doing for years but kept putting off. It was a long and very busy 3 weeks during which we learned lots more about storage and selling stuff, but we got it done in the end.
Also we upgraded our RV with 600AH of Lithium batteries and 1500 Watts of solar, another thing that we’d drooled about doing but just never gotten around to.
We didn’t do much “pure” boondocking in 2016, but we spent a large part of our year on partial or no hookups which meant we got to exercise our new system quite extensively. It was a big investment (and perhaps not one we wouldn’t have made if we’d known ahead of time how $$$ the rest of the year would turn out), but we haven’t regretted it. Our new system rocks and lithium batteries are beyond cool!
The Numbers & Maps
That’s the story, here’s the numbers stuff. In our 7th year on the road we drove 8,128 total miles, experienced no less than NINE new states and stayed in 58 different spots. Many fulltime RVers drive WAY more than we do (way!), but we’re slo-mo travelers by nature so this was more driving than we’ve done since our very first year on the road. Despite this “crazy” pace we kept our drives pretty reasonable. We had only 3 drives that were longer than 300 miles and our average drive was a very relaxed 143 miles, just the way we like it to be.
As with every previous year of our travels I’ve exported our travel data to uMaps and posted the updated map to our “Travel Maps” page. You can also access 2016 directly by clicking the map below or from this link. For those who haven’t explored my travel maps before, every single pin on the map is linked to the blog posts which were done in that location, so you can click around and explore my entire year of blogs directly from the map. It’s a nice feature for those of you (like me) who are more visually oriented. All my yearly maps are done this way.
I’ve also uploaded our 2016 campsites into the master Wheelingit Camping Map. This map contains every single place we’ve camped in the last 7 years and is color-coded by camp type (green = free campsites, blue = public parks, pink = private parks, light blue = marina parks). Each pin is linked back to a campground blog review, so you can pick a site and click the detailed review directly from the map. Again, nice for those visually oriented like me 🙂
That pretty much wraps up our travel update for 2016. I know the year isn’t over (yet), but we won’t drive again until next year so I expect this will be the last of it for now. As usual I’ll do another post updating our top camping spots for the year, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime here’s saying a (happy) goodbye to 2016 and hoping 2017 goes just a “tad” more to schedule.