No better way to start the new year than to reminisce about 2016 and plan a trip (or two) for 2017.
Some quick stats for 2016
Miles traveled in Abby: ~ 13,800
Time spent in Abby: ~12 weeks
Longest stretch of time in Abby: ~ 4 weeks
National Parks/Monuments visited: 18
State Parks visited: 13
BLM lands camped on: 8
Private campground: 6
Family members/friends imposed on: 6
Canadian Provinces visited: 2
States visited: 22
Home brews: 12
Home brews dumped: 1
New pieces of brewing equipment purchased: 2
Looking back 2016 was a chaotic year. We didn’t travel in California as much as we had hoped when we were living there. Our move to Colorado involved two too many visits to emergency rooms. We didn’t spend as much time in any one of many amazing locations as we would have liked. But we had a lot of fun and saw some truly amazing sights. We’ve watched Alex grow and develop an enjoyment of the outdoors.
Our 2017 RV travel schedule is complicated by the fact that Jess is now employed. The copious free time of unemployment has vanished. We also need to consider visits with family so Alex can continue to develop a close relationship with his Mimi and Papa and uncles and aunts and cousins. We also hope to change our trips slightly. Instead of the wheels are always rollin’ mentality where we average 250 miles of driving per day of a trip, we want to focus on a deeper exploration of an area.
This means we will have to stop using a shoe horn to add destinations into our itinerary that are *only* 150 miles away. We will have to leave some amazing destinations off our list, for a future trip (or when we win the lottery).
And to add to the list, we found a house that we liked and are in the final stages of the purchasing process. Remodeling fun also awaits us in 2017 (and 2018 and 2019).
We took Abby and Alex on their first international border crossing. Well, at least Abby’s first border crossing with us. We went to Canada with the motorcycle group that Dave is a member of; this trip is biannual tradition for at least 20 years. Unfortunately, we did not take Dave’s motorcycle on this trip. The logistics were rather complex and we decided it would be easier if everyone was in Abby.
The drive from Delaware to Saint-Alphonse Rodriguez, Quebec took two days. Our first day’s destination was the Lake George Battlefield Park, in Lake George, NY. We arrived literally right behind another member of the group. Following tradition, we ate at Adirondack Brewery, a short walk away from the campground. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the Hot Biscuit Diner in Ticonderoga, NY. Despite having his own breakfast, Alex decided Jess’ biscuits and sausage gravy looked tasty and needed two spoons to get it into his mouth fast enough. Another bonus of the route that we took from Lake George to Canada was the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stop.
We crossed into Canada at the I-89 border crossing. As we approached the crossing we realized we didn’t know what lane to chose. Looking at the pictures on the signs (since all the writing was in French. Quebec, perhaps you are ignoring Canada’s dual language law?), we determined we were not a bus and not a car. But what were we? We selected the lane that looked the most like us, which had a truck shaped picture above it.
We pulled up to the booth and the border agent started speaking to us in French. Dave inquired if he spoke English, which the agent responded in the affirmative. He asked for our passports and Dave did not hear what he said. When Dave asked the agent to repeat himself, the agent inquired if we spoke English. Things were off to a good start.
The agent asked us if we were carrying any weapons (knives, guns, pepper spray). We had the bear spray in the RV from our Western trip and we declared that because the agent seemed like he would classify that as a weapon. The agent inquired, ‘For the spraying of bears?’. We bit our tongues and refrained from replying ‘Bears and snarky border crossing agents.’ Satisfied that bear spray was for protection from bears, the agent then asked us what our commercial load was. When we declared none, we received a lecture that we had used the commercial truck lane and were actually classified as a ‘minivan-camper’ and should always use the car lane. Well. Lesson learned. After a few more minutes of our tongue lashing, a real commercial truck pulled in behind us and the agent directed us on our way.
We arrived at Saint Alphonse-Rodriguez and set up camp at a children’s camp. This camp is traditional in the sense that all campers are exposed to a wide variety of activities – canoeing, archery, art, and a ropes course. What really surprised us is the area, which was not experiencing the best fortunes two years ago, is booming. The group found out that the children’s camp will be in operation for one more year, and then it will be sold to condo developers. It was rather fitting that the weekend was gray and rainy.
With the weather, we did not have the opportunity to paddle the lake and critique Canadian lake houses. There is always, however, Staner’s. We purchased some smoked meats, cheese, and bread. We walked down the street to the gas station for the wine. It was a relaxing afternoon as Alex napped. Later in the evening we participated in a beer tasting arranged by one of the members and got to enjoy some beers we normally wouldn’t have chose for ourselves. Alex enjoyed running around and visiting with all the different people. There were a couple of parrots and a dog that he enjoyed playing with.
Returning to the United States was much less eventful than Canada. We chose the proper lane. The border agent did board Abby to obtain a visual of Alex. The agent was slightly incredulous that we were only bringing back a sticker, but accepted the explanation that we ate and drank all our other purchases while in Canada.
Alex and Abby met for the first time when Alex was just shy of three months old. It was not love at first sight. Alex was tired and cranky and didn’t seem to appreciate the test drive. But good parents that we are, we overrode Alex’s objections and purchased Abby.
August 2014: Alex’s first trip in Abby was an overnight shakedown run to Pequea Creek Campground in Pennsylvania. It was on this run that future thoughts for organization started to present themselves. But nothing too disastrous and we were only an hour away from home.
October 2014: Alex and Abby had more time to bond on their next trip to Cooperstown, NY area over Columbus Day weekend. We dragged Alex not to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but to Brewery Ommegang. That’s just how we parent. We were fortunate because Alex was still at a stage where he slept – a lot. And wasn’t super mobile so he perfectly content to hang out in his car seat at the table while we ate and chatted. We stayed at Beaver Spring Lake Campground, which had full hook ups. This was very fortuitous because the overnight lows were high 20s. No water lines froze despite our lack of an arctic package. Alex seemed to enjoy himself on this trip and it was deemed rather successful.
Novermber 2014: Alex took his first trip to Cape Henlopen State Park. This is a beautiful campground area, with some spots very nicely shaded. Being late in the season, the campground was sparsely populated, save some tent campers who were competing in the ‘Skate the Cape’ event weekend. Looked like a fun event; everyone that we interacted with was extremely nice. A drawback at Cape Henlope is the park staff don’t want RVs parking off of the pavement; there are only a few spots that don’t resemble parallel parking. It would be nice if one could be trusted to use their own judgement and park on the hard pack sand, but I am sure experience has taught the staff that most people overestimate their or their vehicle’s abilities. Review the park map and choose wisely. While there are water hook ups, some of the spigots are at least 50′ away from the spot they are assigned to service; pack two sanitary water hoses just in case.
June 2015: 2015 started out relatively quiet with a trip to Cape Henlopen and the Outer Banks as a quick weekend shake down runs ahead of a busy summer travel schedule. After that the travel season became very hectic. First, was our trip to the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE the weekend of June 18 – 21. We had been debating on going, but when they announced Paul McCartney was headlining, we decided to go for it. Alex seemed to have a really fun time; we introduced him to the WeeRide which he loved. He had a strong dislike for his bike helmet initially, but once he made the connection between the helmet and going for a bike ride, all was okay. Alex enjoyed snoozing in the hammock and got to “see” Paul McCartney in concert. Never fear, he had ear protection on whenever we were on the concert grounds.
June/July 2015: Less than a week after we returned from Firefly, Abby spirited all of us (including the dogs) off on a 3 week western adventure. This trip started with failed turbo resonator, but there were no more mechanical failures on the trip. Alex had a great time playing in dirt and “driving” the RV.
September 2015: Abby took Alex on his first trip out of the country! We drove up to Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, in Quebec. It was a fun trip. We were only a little bit nervous at the border crossings because Alex’s favorite phrase at this time was ‘uh oh’. We didn’t think it would be wise to answer the border guard’s question with ‘uh oh’.
October 2015: Just when Alex and Abby were going to have to say good-bye to each other for a few months, we decided to throw two October trips into the mix. The first was over Columbus Day weekend to the Mansfield area of Pennsylvania. Dave rode his motorcycle up and Jess drove the RV. Alex and the dogs got a bonus visit to the farm to visit Mimi and Grandpa. We stayed at Tanglewood Campground which was very family friendly. Costume parade for the kids and what we heard was a very well done haunted trail ride.
We decided to take a trip to visit all the remaining Northeast states before we moved west. So Alex and Abby hit the road together again to Acadia National Park in Maine. This was the most dog-friendly park we have visited where dogs are allowed on most trails. Our creature triple feature had a great time. Abby was challenged with no hook-ups and short, cloudy days prevented the solar panels from recharging the batteries. We needed to run the generator to charge the batteries. Except we overestimated our propane levels and couldn’t find anywhere to fill up since it was the end of the season and most places had closed down. To add to the challenge, the coach batteries weren’t recharging from the engine. Thus, a very delicate game of cat and mouse was played between propane and battery levels. This trip happened to be the trip that the transmission failed; while Abby didn’t see Alex home to the door, she did arrange a ride for him in a big rig.
December 2015/January 2016: And we can’t forget the cross-country move! Alex and Abby had lots of quality time together as we meandered across the South and up the Pacific Coast Highway to Davis, CA. Check out our detailed blog posts chronicling this journey. There are many more than the one linked, check out the archives or the category ‘Travel Diary: 2016 DE to CA’.
One of our greatest concerns with all the traveling we do is making sure Alex is having fun. We can’t know for sure, but he always gets excited when he sees Abby and wants to climb aboard. All said and done, we let this picture speak volumes.