Writing this year in review article feels a bit cliché, but it also feels good! It is fun for us to look back on the new places we visited and relive the fun we had. We also enjoy reminding you, our readers, that you can pack a lot into your year, even with a full-time job!
New Year’s on the Road
We started our year in Monroe, LA as an overnight stop on the way home from Texas. Unfortunately, this was not a fun trip for us, as it was for a funeral.
Driving 15 hours in one day from Atlanta to the middle of Texas was not easy. We learned that we don’t necessarily like putting in that many hours at once. But, it’s what you do when you have a friend in need. And we’d do it again if we had to…but we hope we never need to!
February: A Week at Disney World
Thankfully, our next trip was a fun one…a very fun one! Over our Winter Break in February, we took two of our nieces to Disney World. We spent almost a full week camping at Fort Wilderness and visiting all four theme parks.
This was the first visit for the girls and we had a blast spoiling them! Disney World is always fun, even as an adult, but oh so much better with kids.
March: Macon Cherry Blossom Festival
March took us to Macon, GA for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival for a weekend. We enjoyed the festival, though it was a bit underwhelming. Unfortunately, the Cherry Blossoms hadn’t quite started blooming yet, which was disappointing. The bed race, however, was unique and fun to watch!
While in Macon, we also visited Ocmulgee National Monument, which preserves a prehistoric Native American site. We have traveled all over the country visiting national park sites; we were very happy to visit this one only a couple of hours from home.
April: School Trip to Italy
Our only international trip of the year was chaperoning a school trip to Italy. Yes, we were technically working literally the entire trip, but it was amazing! We even managed to see some sights on this week-long trip that we didn’t see when we spent a month in Italy in 2013.
Highlights of this trip were a gondola ride in Venice, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome and the views from Piazzale Michaelangelo in Florence. We traveled with several other teachers and about 30 students and parents with EF Tours. Every bit of our trip was amazing – and we typically hate group travel!
April: Historic Banning Mills
In April, we spent a weekend at Historic Banning Mills just outside of Metro Atlanta. Nestled in the woods only about an hour outside of Atlanta, it felt that we were in the middle of nowhere. The ziplines over the trees and river were long, exhilarating and, sometimes, a little scary (in a good way)!
The treehouse room that we had was unique and cozy if a bit rustic. We especially liked the jacuzzi tub in the middle!
If you are looking for a getaway with some fun activities near Atlanta, we highly recommend Banning Mills! It even has an RV campground for those on the road.
June-July: American West Road Trip
The summer months took us on the road to California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado for nearly two months. We bested 2016’s “longest road trip to date” by at least a week and several thousand miles!
Our first trip in the camper to our “happy place” out west was great, though needing to deal with camper maintenance on the road was not. Taking the bad with the good is part of what makes travel so exciting!
September: Orlando, FL
For our September Break, we spent a week in Orlando with friends and family. Visiting the same place twice in one year is rare for us, so we definitely looked for ways to make it different.
After many visits to Disney World, we finally took the plunge and went to Universal Studios! Grant enjoyed all the movie stuff and REALLY loved the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as we both knew he would. While we enjoyed Universal, it is not a place we’ll be eager to return to.
We did visit Disney World, again, though only Epcot for the annual Food and Wine Festival. Any visit to Epcot is fun for us, but the Food and Wine Festival is our favorite time to visit, by far! We also were there with my sister to celebrate her 35th birthday.
October: Gaffney, SC
This trip took us to two battlefields in neighboring South Carolina. Cowpens National Battlefield and King’s Mountain National Military Park both commemorate Revolutionary War battles. Both sites are bare-bones in what they offer but provide some good trails. Seeing the terrain at King’s Mountain really gives you a feel of how difficult the battle must have been on both sides.
The second part of this trip was having the opportunity to winterize the camper. Since our camper is stored at a facility without electric or water hook-ups, we have to take it to a campground to get it prepped for winter. Yes, you have to think about freezing pipes even in a camper!
November: Southwest Georgia National Historic Sites
Here again, we finally got to visit a couple of sites that are not just close (about three hours away), but also more-or-less on the way from our house to my hometown, where my parents live. Meaning we have driven VERY close to these sites MANY times over the years, yet never stopped.
Well, this Thanksgiving, we finally made a point to visit Jimmy Carter NHS and Andersonville NHS. These sites are both interesting, though vastly different. The Carter site preserves and shares the history of President Jimmy Carter. The Andersonville site is a memorial to all American prisoners of war, on a site that was one of the worst Civil War prisons.
While it is difficult to say we enjoyed Andersonville, we are glad that we finally made it to both of these sites. And, we are still left wondering why the closest sites are sometimes the hardest to get to!
At the end of this past summer, we realized we had visited 41 states together and set a goal of getting to all 50 by our 10th anniversary in July 2020. This trip adds two more, taking us up to 43 states together in eight years.
As usual, we are visiting national park sites…this time in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. On this trip, we have confirmed that New Jersey does have some redeeming qualities – there are more trees than a lot of people would likely expect. Also confirmed…New Jersey is not a place we are eager to return to – there are just too many people and too much congestion!
On the other hand, Delaware and Maryland (at least the non-Baltimore/DC areas) are reasonably nice and pleasant. And it’s a good thing we don’t hate this part of the world because there are several national park sites around here that aren’t open right now, so we know we’ll be coming back sometime.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles on the sites we visited on this trip!
Looking Ahead to 2018
As we look ahead to 2018, there are still a lot of question marks as to where we will visit. We anticipate our summer trip will take us to the Pacific Northwest, adding Oregon and Washington to get us up to 45 states together.
We are also in talks with Grant’s dad and stepmom to do a family cruise, along with his sister and her family, to Alaska this summer. This is still in the early discussion/planning stages, so we’ll have to wait and see how this unfolds. We actually did an Alaska cruise for our honeymoon, back in 2010, but we are still excited about this trip!
That is really about all that is planned at this point, which is a little unusual for us! We almost always have several trips in the planning stages at one time. It seems that 2017 finally got us visiting several sites close to us…maybe we will continue that trend in 2018. There are still tons of sites in the South that we have yet to visit.
As always, if you have any suggestions for us, we welcome them! Otherwise, stay tuned to see where we end up.