2017 In Review -> 5,247 Miles Of Tip-To-Tip East Coast Explorations
Christmas has passed (thanks so much for all the greetings in the last post, folks!), and New Year is just around the corner so it’s finally time for my annual round-up post!
This was our 8th fulltime year on the road, and it was undoubtedly one of our most exploratory to date. Family considerations kept us East this year, so we decided to do something we’d never done before, we planned an entire year of travels along the East Coast. It became 5,247 miles of tip-to-tip exploration from the very bottom of Florida to the very top of the Maine Coast. We covered 10 states, made 43 stops and even did 2 forays into Canada. It was quite eventful!
For those interested in the detailed stats, our travel pace matched our typical slo-mo style, averaging only ~122 miles per drive, exactly the way we like it. Of the 5,247 total, a whopping 1,243 miles were driven in Florida, 500 miles in New York State, and only ~355 miles were completed in Maine. Our longest drive was 279 miles (which happened on our way south) while our shortest was a measly 5.8 (in DC, when we escaped to my friends driveway).
Rather unusually, almost everything we did and saw was new-to-us this year, and we had the chance to discover areas we’d only dreamed about for years. It was an epic route and one that I’d be totally happy to do again.
It Was Our Most Intense Family Year
It was an intense year of family time too, both in the best and the worst of ways.
Our hardest month was July, when Paul’s mom passed away unexpectedly. It was a heartbreaking moment in our travels that marked a profound change in our lives (we’re still recovering from it today). She’ll travel with us in spirit forever more.
Only a few weeks later however, my sister got married in the UK, which became one of our most joyful and uplifting moments this year. I can honestly say it was a wedding of dreams. Then, my dad came back with us to the USA and we caravanned together with Paul’s dad & stepmom through Boston and Maine, an amazing adventure and a memory we’ll treasure forever more.
All in-all it was a crazy emotional few months filled with both tears and joy.
It Was The Year We Saw The Most Lighthouses
This is probably a stat that only fellow “lighthouse nutters” care about, but this was also the year we saw the most lighthouses!
There’s such an intense concentration of lighthouses out East that you can barely throw a stone without hitting one. From the tropical waters of South Florida to the curving, crazy coastline of Maine, this is where you’ll find the oldest and grandest of ladies in the USA. Each individual state might not have that many (it’s actually MI who has the most), but when you put them all together you get quite the package!
We saw ~30 lighthouses this year (including our very first Canadian Lighthouse) and could easily have seen many more, and we did it by both land and sea. Plus I dragged my dad along to many of them too. It was a good year for lights 🙂
Winter In South Florida (Jan – Mar)
We started off our year in Florida. My family came out to celebrate Christmas with us in Miami, so we got to deep-dive in and explore the city like true tourists. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the city and, although it was sweltering hot most of the time, it was also a ton of fun.
We stayed around for several months after they left, knocking around South Florida.
Our first trip took us to a buggy exploration of the Everglades which was stunningly beautiful, but also buzzingly unbearable (the mosquito meter read “hysterical”!). We didn’t stay long!
Then, out of the blue we got offered some reservations in the Keys for March (from a blog reader who couldn’t make it), so thanks to his generosity we got to spend 6 amazing weeks in the Florida Keys! It was something I’d dreamt about for years and although it took a little while to settle in, it turned out to be everything we’d hoped for.
We started our tropical vacay in the Upper Keys (Key Largo) followed by a a few weeks in the Middle/Lower Keys (our fav) with side-visits to Key West and the trip of a lifetime on a sea plane to Dry Tortugas. Our friend Jill came out to join us for part of it too. It was a superb month and a half!
Right around the end of April we finally started to head north, but before we left Florida we made one more stop, a geek-out stay on the Space Coast with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. We even got to see a rocket launch! It fulfilled our geek hearts.
Spring In GA & VA (April – May)
Our fist stops out of FL were two places we’d always wanted to visit, Crooked River State Park and Savannah. It was sweltering hot the whole time we were there (and we had a bit of a cat scare too), but we loved both places.
We rocked north from there, stopping for a few days with a blog reader before heading for a month into yet another place we’d always wanted to see, the spectacular (and wonderfully dog-friendly) Shenandoah Valley. We dedicated a whole month to exploring this stretch of VA, staying in 3 different spots so we could fully appreciate the stunning beauty of this particular corner of the Blue Mountains. Spring was the perfect time to be here (not too hot, not too cold), and the mountains were even prettier than we imagined them to be.
We finished the month of May in Washington DC while Paul flew home and I stayed with friends.
Early Summer in the Finger Lakes (June-July)
With Memorial Day done and over (always a marker for fulltime RVers), Summer was starting to rear her head which also meant it was time for us to head further North.
Our first stop was a historical exploration of Gettysburg, something I didn’t really think I’d enjoy, but ended up loving! From there we stopped a few days in a really nice COE park in N.PA before we embarked on our “real” summer plans, TWO whole glorious months exploring the Finger Lakes region of New York!! Oh land of peaceful lakes, waterfalls and wine, THIS was something we’d planned for and looked forward to ever since the year started.
We ended up staying in 5 different places in order to maximize our explorations, starting with a lovely county park near Ithaca, followed by a stay on Seneca Lake. Both places were awesome and packed with so many waterfalls, gorges & wineries that we literally overflowed with things to see and do.
After this we headed over to see another “bucket list” item Niagara Falls. Despite the crowds, the falls blew us away, and we also enjoyed the surrounding area,both on the Canadian & US sides. Our final destination was the “Grand Canyon of the East”, stunning Letchworth State Park where I dragged my butt out of bed inhumanly early to catch a rare sunrise shot. It was worth it 🙂
This took us to the end of July and our good friends Sue & Dave who most graciously offered to host us and the paws while we traveled to the UK for my sisters wedding. The wedding was amazing, but sadly this was also when Paul’s mom passed unexpectedly. It was incredibly tough and ended up being one of the most emotionally hard months we’ve ever had on the road.
Late Summer in MA & Maine (Aug – Mid-Sept)
My dad came back with me from the UK and we spent 5 days exploring New York City before we re-joined Paul and “the beast” near Cooperstown to start the second half of our summer travels.
Our first stop was Boston, MA where Paul and his dad achieved a lifelong “bucket list” item by attending a Bostons Red Sox Game together at Fenway Park! It was an awesome experience which I re-created with my own dad the following evening. Plus we spent several days exploring downtown and immersing ourselves in the awesome history of the Freedom Trail. Boston has a intimate charm which is so unique.
From there we were Maine-bound, where we planned to spend over 2 months slowly exploring the coastline. It was the pinnacle of our 2017 travels and an experience we will never forget.
We started with beer & lighthouses at Boothbay, spent several days during the eclipse exploring hip Camden (both by land and sea), and then settled in for an ENTIRE month by Acadia National Park. This 100% dog-friendly, coast-spectacular National Park delivered everything we had dreamed of from crazy scenic hikes to lighthouses (galore) to everything else. We had one of the best waterfront sites that we’d had all summer, and totally dug how dog-friendly everything was. Plus we were thrilled we got to spend such in-depth time in such a beautiful place with family.
My dad flew home a few days after we arrived at Acadia National Park, but Paul’s dad (and stepmom) stayed on in their RV for a few more weeks. We finally all parted ways around the beginning of Sept which was bittersweet. This was the first summer we’d spent with everyone together, and although it was packed (and at times a little crazy) it was probably the best summer we’ve ever had on the road. Time with family is precious indeed!
Early Fall In Maine (Still!) (Mid-Sept – Mid-Oct)
With the family gone and our time in Acadia NP up, our initial plans were to start heading south again, but the weather was so unusually warm that we decided to extend our stay in Maine into Oct and head north instead!
So we motored up to the border with Canada and landed in the teeny town of Lubec. This little spot captured our hearts and allowed us to knock off yet another “bucket list” item by allowing us to visit the easternmost lighthouse in the USA (yeah!). It also gave us the chance to do a second foray into Canada, see another beautiful lighthouse and explore some outstanding (and very remote) nature. We loved it!!
We decided to finish our Maine explorations in what was probably the most remote and serene place we experienced all year, on the stunningly quiet Schoodic Peninsula. It was a week of absolute bliss, which ended with a bitterly cold, but fabulous sunset. It was the perfect adieu to a state we totally fell in love with.
Later Fall In MA & NYC (End Oct)
From there we started the long trek back to Florida, but not without a few significant stops along the way.
First up was Cape Cod, yet another “bucket list” place (we had a lot of them this year!). We enjoyed a wonderful end-of-season visit, getting to know the famous Cape Cod lighthouses and exploring this wild and diverse place.
From there we rolled into New York City, the second time we’ve traveled there in “the beast”. We had another wonderful few days there packed with sightseeing and fun. We’ve loved every visit we’ve done here and late October (when we went) is literally the perfect weather-window to be there. I can never get enough of the Big Apple!
Early Winter In The South (Nov-Dec)
By the time we left NYC it was already the very end of Oct, so we took a pretty fast route south.
We stopped for a few days in Washington DC, then unexpectedly found fall colors in a random stop at a State Park in VA. A hot (and extended) summer had delayed colors all over the NE so we had missed them the ENTIRE way down from Maine, but we finally found them! It was a neat little gift from nature.
From there we stopped for some “beastly TLC” (annual service) at Cummins in NC, followed by a re-visit to two of our absolute FAV southern cities, Charleston SC and Savannah GA. Our second visit to these cities was even better than our first, thanks to beautiful, cool November weather. We enjoyed the amazing Christmas lights at James Island County Park, met-up with old RV friends in Savannah, and finally got to see Fort Sumter (where Paul participated in the flag-raising ceremony!). It was awesome.
Our final stop of the year, right before we ended up in our winter home (we’re parked next to Paul’s dad) was the Coastal Florida town of Jupiter. We were back in the tropics and enjoyed several days in the area visiting the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, hiking the trails in the park and taking Polly to the wonderful nearby dog beach.
That’s it! Our entire year in a nut-shell. I have to admit that before we started I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy spending a whole year our East, but it really was a treat. We saw so much beauty, and experienced so many memorable moments with family and friends. We fell in love with the Finger Lakes and Maine, enjoyed exploring several big cities in greater depth and still managed to find remote and wild corners of nature that spoke to our souls. Despite the emotional ups and downs, it was truly an amazing year. I will treasure it!
Coming up next -> Our top campgrounds of the year