We are still in Yuma, AZ and wanted to do an end of the year blog recap. We have been traveling around for four and half years. This blog helps us stay in touch with family and friends but also serves as a diary of our travels for us to look back on.
We began our summer travels in Florida, moving the first of May north to Georgia where we visited some of Bill’s cousins. Then on to Alabama where I was bit by a tick while hiking. After passing through Mississippi and a corner of Tennessee we reached Little Rock. At that point the tick bite caught up with me and I became very ill, resulting in a visit to Urgent Care and several weeks of medication. In spite of my misery we managed to tour Little Rock, visit the Clinton Presidential Library, the Arkansas state capitol building, and made a day trip to Hot Springs.
Then it was on to Bentonville to spend time with my dear Aunt Shirley and her family.
After Bentonville we continued on to Missouri where we stopped for several days in Branson. We enjoyed the Missouri state parks, including a tour of Onondaga Cave. We really enjoyed our time in St Louis, so much so we extended our stay. We loved visiting the Gateway Arch, the Anheuser Busch Brewery where we saw the Clydesdales and the fabulous St Louis Zoo. We visited Grant’s Farm where we both rode a camel for the first time and toured the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site and Museum.
We enjoyed visiting Hannibal, Missouri and seeing all the Mark Twain stuff before heading to West Branch, Iowa to tour the Herbert Hoover Birthplace and Presidential Library. While in Iowa we stopped in Forest City at the Winnebago factory to have some repair work done and tour their factory. While in Forest City we drove to the site of the Buddy Holly plane crash, “the day the music died”.
Next up was Minnesota, a new state to visit for us. We toured The Spam Museum, an Eagle Center, some Locks and Dams along the Mississippi and enjoyed many of Minnesota’s beautiful state parks including seeing glacial potholes in Interstate State Park.
We found Duluth to be an interesting city on Lake Superior and enjoyed walking along their waterfront.
From Duluth we drove north along Lake Superior, enjoying the amazing scenery of three state parks, two lighthouses and beautiful waterfalls. We also made the short drive into Wisconsin to see Big Manitou Falls, the highest falls in Wisconsin and fourth largest waterfall east of the Rockies.
The beauty of Grand Marais exceeded our expectations and while there we saw High Falls, the tallest waterfall in Minnesota, learned about the Grand Portage and visited the Grand Portage National Monument.
In Ely, MN we toured the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, our first underground mine tour where we descended 2,341 feet below the surface of the Earth. We also visited a Wolf Center and Bill attended the Ham Radio yearly Field Day.
Next up was Voyageurs National Park, the only national park in Minnesota and only accessible by boat. We had a great, but chilly boat tour of the park. We stopped at the Kettle Falls Overlook, one of the few places in the continental U.S. where you look south to Canada.
While in Baudette we made the long drive to Angle Inlet, the northernmost point in the contiguous United States. It was quite a day, passing through Canada to get to this small Minnesota village. We checked into customs remotely by phone entering and leaving!
In late June we visited Itasca State Park where the mighty Mississippi begins its flow to the Gulf of Mexico. Bill walked across the Mississippi!
Hard to believe we have covered what you just read in two months. We amaze ourselves sometimes!
After the Fourth of July we visited the Mall of America, Minneapolis and St Paul. The traffic was terrible and the one way streets difficult and confusing to maneuver. I will remember those two cities as having some of the unfriendliest and impatient drivers we have encountered. We enjoyed seeing the statue of Mary Richards, St Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, Viking Stadium, the state capitol building, Peanuts cartoon statues, and Minnehaha Falls made famous in Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha”.
Then it was back to Forest City, Iowa for their annual Winnebago Rally where we enjoyed attending seminars and spending time with other Winnebago owners.
After the rally we drove to Des Moines where we visited the Iowa state capitol, one of the prettiest we have ever visited. While in the area we made the drive to Winterset to visit the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum. Winterset is also the setting of the novel and movie “The Bridges of Madison County”.
We left Iowa and entered Nebraska, another new state for us. We visited Bill’s cousin in Papillion and toured Omaha. Omaha was great and we visited the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters, the Pioneer Courage Park and the Gerald Ford birth site. In the nearby town of Ashland, Bill was amazed by the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, the largest collection of Cold War aircraft. Lincoln was another interesting city and we toured the Nebraska state capitol building, another beautiful capitol. We made the drive to Homestead National Monument of America where we learned about the Homestead Act and early homesteaders.
Upon leaving Nebraska we hopped over to Independence, Missouri to tour the Truman Presidential Library and Museum. While staying in Independence we made the short drive to Kansas City to tour the very impressive National WWI Museum and Memorial. We finished our day in Kansas City with what else but some great Kansas City barbecue!
Another new state to us was Kansas and during our stay in Topeka we visited yet another state capitol building and also toured the Brown v Brown Board of Education National Historic Site, the only national park named for a U.S. Supreme Court case.
While in Kansas we continued exploring presidential libraries by visiting the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home.
One highlight of our summer was making the drive from northern Kansas back into southern Nebraska to see the total eclipse of the sun. We had a very long drive that day as we dodged the clouds and chased the sun to get a good view, but it was well worth a day of driving.
After the eclipse trip we next spent time in Hutchinson, Kansas where we visited the excellent Cosmosphere and Space Center with one of the largest internationally acclaimed space artifact collections in the world. We recommend this space museum for all to see.
After Hutchinson was Dodge City, once nicknamed “The Wickedest Little City in America”. As we continued through Kansas we found a geocache at the tri-state point where Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado meet. Cool! The next day after crossing into Oklahoma we found another tri-state marker where Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico meet. Cool again!
It is now the end of August and we are in Raton, New Mexico where we stayed several days at the NRA Whittington Center, enjoying the New Mexico scenery and Bill used their firing ranges.
After Raton, we drove to Eagles Nest, elevation 8,238 where even in early September we had nightly temperatures in the upper 30’s and low 40’s. We drove the beautiful Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and visited the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, used in several movies was magnificent. Also while in Eagles Nest we drove to Angel Fire where the TV series “Lonesome Dove” was filmed and had an emotional tour of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Next, in northern New Mexico we marveled at the gorgeous red rocks and geological beauty of this area. Truly breathtaking!
In Los Alamos we visited Valles Caldera National Preserve where we drove around a caldera and visited the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
As we continued heading back south we visited Santa Fe and its capitol building as well as the nearby Pecos National Historical Park with fascinating archaeological excavations. We also visited the amazing Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument where we hiked in a slot canyon.
October brought a bucket list item and the highlight of our year, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. We camped with the Escapees Boomers, worked really hard helping crew a balloon and both enjoyed our first hot air balloon ride. Our good friends Peter and Beth from Florida flew in to join us, adding to the fun.
While in Albuquerque we also visited the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and toured Old Town Albuquerque.
After Albuquerque we needed a rest so we stopped at Valley of Fires park, possibly the youngest lava flow in the continental United States. We also visited several Pueblo mission ruins as part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. We also had a nice visit with Bill’s cousin Julie and her daughter.
We hadn’t originally planned on visiting Carlsbad Caverns but since we were already so close we decided to drive over for several days and toured the massive cave.
After Carlsbad we stayed several days in Alamogordo where we toured the New Mexico Museum of Space History and beautiful White Sands National Monument. What an awesome place!
The end of October found us in Arizona with a short stop in Willcox. While there we made the drive to Chiricahua National Monument where we took some amazing hikes with beautiful views. We really loved this place!
We spent a week in Benson, AZ where we drove to nearby historic Tombstone. We took a stagecoach ride and enjoyed the Old West town.
In November we settled in Tucson for a week where we drove through the east and west sections of Saguaro National Park, enjoying the magnificent saguaros. The Mount Lemmon Scenic drive had amazing scenery.
Bill met up with two amateur radio friends in Tucson, we visited Old Tucson where many movie and TV shows were filmed, and visited the nearby Titan Missile Museum, once an active intercontinental Ballistic Missile complex.
We spent Thanksgiving in Casa Grande and while we were there we drove to Phoenix to tour the Arizona state capitol. Bill celebrated his birthday in Casa Grande.
Late November we spent several days at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We enjoyed hiking in the desert and earned a neat pin for hiking five miles. We drove along the Mexican border, amazed at the lack of a border wall between our country and Mexico.
December 1st we drove to Yuma where we had our yearly physicals and met up with some members of the Escapees Boomers for several dinners. Bill has been enjoying getting together with the Yuma Amateur Radio Club. Christmas Eve we had a social at the park and I fixed Christmas dinner for us Christmas Day.
We are in Yuma until January 17th when we head to Quartzite AZ.
It has been a great year! We feel very blessed to travel this wonderful, amazing country. We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!
Happy Happy New Year to all!!
What a great year! Happy New Year and safe journey in 2018. It was fun looking back at your travels and some of the same places we have visited. Heading out to Santa Fe in May and will see those two parks you mention for sure.
Our best to you both!
Jack and Karen