Writing our annual year-in-review article each December is always a fun endeavor. For us, it’s a great opportunity to simply reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve done. Looking at our travels in this manner really allows us to assess just how much (or little) we have explored the world around us and what we learned along the way.
Some years, we are amazed at how varied our experiences are. In other years, we realize that we had much more of a theme to our travels than we intended. This year, my biggest takeaway is that we definitely didn’t travel as much as we usually do.
That is due mostly to the fact that at the beginning of the year we were under a big push to finish writing our soon-to-be-published guidebook on RV travels, Moon USA RV Adventures. Regardless of how little we traveled, we still had a good variety of experiences that ranged from the southwest to New England. We also had our first-ever experience of doing two separate trips independently.
So, let’s dive in and take a look at just what we explored over the past 12 months.
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New Year’s at Home
We actually started 2022 at home for the first time in several years. In December 2021, we finally took our much-delayed trip to Hawaii (postponed from June 2020), where we finally achieved our goal of visiting all 50 states! We spent a full week on Oahu, exploring the entire island and enjoying a warm Christmas on the beach.
From there, we spent two busy days on Maui, where we drove the Road to Hana and explored the coastal area of Haleakala National Park. Our return flight left late on December 30 and we arrived home, exhausted, just a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Sadly, I’m pretty sure we were both asleep before the ball dropped.
I’ll admit, as we get older we are more and more ok with that, though! If we’re tired because we’ve had a few busy days exploring and seeing the world around us, that’s way more important than watching a clock click to midnight just like it does every night.
Writing a Book
We spent the next couple of months finishing up our book, Moon USA RV Adventures, which is set to be released on February 28, 2023. For the first time in many years, we did not travel for our week-long winter break in February. Instead, we were writing away, putting the finishing touches on the itineraries and other information included in the book.
While we have a lot of experience writing blog articles, we quickly found that writing a book is much different. The process was a lot more detailed and, in some ways, more tedious than we initially expected. Still, we are excited about the finished product!
The book is for new and experienced RVers alike who are looking for guidance and inspiration for their RV travels. We include 25 different itineraries, ranging from five days to more than a month. Each itinerary includes driving directions, things to see and do plus information on where to eat and sleep. We’ve done our best to remove the hassle of researching and planning your trip so that you can just enjoy the journey.
Most of the routes are trips we’ve taken ourselves, with first-hand recommendations on museums, hiking trails, restaurants, grocery stores and campgrounds. New RVers will find basic information to get you started, while experienced RVers will, hopefully, find inspiration for new places to go and things to do.
The book will officially be released on February 28, 2023, but is available for preorder on Amazon now.
April – Southern Arizona
Our first trip of the year took us to sunny Southern Arizona for Spring Break. We flew into Phoenix, then drove to Tucson where we explored Saguaro National Park and several other national park sites.
The Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona is the only place you will find the iconic saguaro cactus, the unofficial symbol of the American West. But you’ll find many other types of cacti, including organ pipe cactus.
In Tucson, we spent a full day enjoying scenic drives and hiking trails in the two units of Saguaro National Park. One word of warning: watch the temperatures carefully when hiking in the desert! Even with relatively mild early-Spring temperatures, we found the heat almost unbearable at times.
Other park sites in the area include Coronado National Monument, Tumacacori National Historical Park and Organ Pipe National Monument. Each of these parks tells the story of the history of the people who have made these lands home over the years and persevered in a wild and varied desert landscape.
Closer to Phoenix, the small Casa Grande National Monument preserves a large adobe structure built by the Hohokam people nearly 1,000 years ago. While you won’t find the sweeping desert views here, we always enjoy learning about the innovations of the people who first found ways to survive in this harsh landscape long before the comforts of modern society.
We ended our week with a very relaxing two-night stay at the Boulders Resort & Spa in Scottsdale. This was one of our favorite uses of the free-night certificate that comes with the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend credit card.
June – Athens and Crete, Greece
We started our summer by chaperoning a 10-day school trip to Greece with EF Tours. While we don’t normally like group travel, it is certainly the easiest way to travel with students. And EF Tours makes it an enjoyable experience that we highly recommend to teachers and students!
Our trip started in Athens, where we visited the Acropolis and Olympic Stadium and got to see the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We also took a day trip to Delphi, where we wandered through the ruins of this ancient temple and then enjoyed lunch on the coast.
After that, we flew to Crete, the largest of the Greek islands. Here, we toured more ancient archeological sites and a couple of museums and, of course, enjoyed some time on the beach. While we generally prefer seeing and doing as much as we can, getting some downtime on the beach was a much-needed chance to relax!
Exploring the small cities of Heraklion and Chania, along with a few even smaller towns in between was a real treat. Yes, Athens was fantastic and shouldn’t be missed. But, when in Greece, you simply must plan to spend some time on the islands and enjoy a much slower pace of life!
Before heading home, we spent one last day on the Athenian Riviera, where we visited the Temple of Poseidon and the natural spring of Lake Vouliagmeni.
We have now chaperoned two international trips and I will be leading a trip over Spring Break 2023. Introducing students to new cultures is always fun and rewarding. And, of course, it’s a great opportunity for us to have some amazing experiences as well. That said, it is still work and we were very ready for our own summer vacation when we got back!
June and July –
Yellowstone National Park
Two days after returning home from Greece, we headed West with our camper. We had been dreaming of this trip for several years and had it actually planned for a full year. It was our summer to finally spend a full month in Yellowstone National Park!
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for us.
On Day 2 of our four-day drive West, the historic flooding in Yellowstone started. Our first thought when we heard there was some flooding was that we were glad we still had a couple of days until we arrived and figured all would be fine by then.
As we got more news, we realized the situation was much worse than we initially thought and started altering our plans. First, we planned to just spend an extra day in eastern Wyoming to give the flood waters time to retreat. It didn’t take long before we realized that wasn’t going to be long enough.
By our intended arrival day, which happened to be my birthday, we made the extremely difficult decision to cancel the entire reservation and throw together an alternate trip. At that point, the park still had not made any announcement as to when they would be able to reopen to visitors. We knew we couldn’t just sit and wait to see what would happen.
Four Corners Region
After much consideration, we made a decision that still surprises us: we went to the desert Southwest in the summer. Typically, we avoid the desert in the summer. We just don’t like hiking and camping in extreme heat. Honestly, though, the temperatures for most of the trip weren’t all that bad.
The new trip started with a return to Dinosaur National Monument, where we enjoyed a day of rafting on the Green River. We also explored some of the primitive roads and backcountry areas of the park.
From there, we headed south to Moab, where we spent time in Arches and Canyonlands national parks and enjoyed a fabulous day of hiking at Dead Horse Point State Park. After that, it was time to take a deep dive into some of the amazing history and beauty of the tribal lands in southern Utah and northern Arizona, right around the Four Corners region.
Monument Valley was every bit as remote and mesmerizing as the movies show it. We learned more than we ever thought possible at the many Navajo and Ancestral Puebloan national park sites of northern Arizona.
But that’s not all. In Colorado, we spent several days at Mesa Verde National Park, where we got to tour a cliff dwelling and many other Native American structures. Finally, we explored a few other Ancestral Puebloan sites in eastern Utah/western Colorado and visited the not-at-all-developed Yucca House National Monument, which we enjoyed more than you might guess!
It really was a fantastic trip that we never would have guessed would be enjoyable in the summer. Somehow, though, we didn’t encounter extremely high temperatures of the upper-90s and even over 100 until we wrapped up our time in eastern Colorado and made our way to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma and across the Texas panhandle.
September – Acadia National Park
In September, we took a trip with my sister and mom up to Maine to visit Acadia National Park. We had previously been to Acadia on our very first summer RV trip in 2016 but it was a first for both of them.
We spent several days driving the scenic roads, wandering through Bar Harbor and, of course, enjoying popovers at the Jordan Pond House. Temperatures were cool but not too bad – other than the wind, that is! And, we got to see the first hints of fall leaf colors but avoided the crowds that gather as the fall colors hit their peak in mid-October. We also got to very briefly visit Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in the northern part of the state.
Overall, it was a great trip and we really enjoyed seeing the sights. More importantly, getting to share the experience with my mom and sister was something we will never forget.
October – Paris, France and Waco, TX
Just a few weeks later, we headed in different directions with Bonnie flying to Paris for a training experience with EF Tours, while Grant took the time to explore Waco, TX.
As mentioned previously, I will be leading a school trip to London in a few months, so I got to join in on an international training trip. Yes, we got to explore Paris, including stops at the Eiffel Tour, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre-Coeur and even a tour at the palace of Versailles. But, we also learned great tips and best practices for moving around with a large group and helping first-time travelers navigate airports, new cultures and all the other experiences that come with travel.
While I was in Paris, Grant took the opportunity to fly to Waco to explore a few of his favorite things: the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the Dr Pepper Museum and the Balcones Distillery. Yes, he actually spent an entire weekend in Waco and didn’t go to Magnolia or any of the other Fixer Upper/Chip and Joanna Gaines-related sites.
In the process, he also earned the promotional Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. With this pass, we’ll get buy-one, get-one fares on Southwest from early January through early March 2023.
We both enjoyed our trips but we learned that we definitely prefer to travel with each other!
November – Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Western Pennsylvania
We started our Thanksgiving Break by spending the weekend with our good friends Billy and Shannon of Newby Farm + Vineyard on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Over the years, we’ve thought about this trip many times but the timing just never worked out. While a weekend wasn’t nearly enough time to visit all the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, it was a great start!
The most valuable lesson we learned? Start planning early! Seriously, if you want to actually take tours or do any guided tastings, you need to make reservations at least a month or two in advance.
Still, we had a great time and definitely found some tasty beverages!
From there, we continued north to visit the five national park sites in Western Pennsylvania. The most well-known of these is the Flight 93 Memorial, which was every bit as emotional as you would expect it to be. While it’s not a happy site, it is worth a visit if you’re in the area.
The other sites are somewhat obscure but each provides an opportunity to learn about unique pieces of American history. From an innovative way to get canal boats over the mountains to a tragedy of a failed dam and on to the beginning battle of the French and Indian War, these sites share pieces of history that you likely won’t learn in school.
And, as a bonus, we were able to make a quick stop at the newest named National Park: New River Gorge NP in West Virginia. We didn’t have time to do much more than check out the visitor center and snap a few pictures, but it was a great introduction and we look forward to going back one day.
Christmas – Northern New Mexico
Our final trip of 2023 is taking us West, once again! I suppose this year’s theme could be the American Southwest. This time, though, we’re only going as far as New Mexico. And, it’s a non-RV road trip as there simply isn’t time to tow the camper that far before we have to return to work.
We initially planned to visit a few of these sites two years ago. But, at that time New Mexico had several restrictions due to COVID-19 that forced us to change the itinerary. So, we are looking forward to finally checking out the national park sites around Albuquerque, Los Alamos and Grants, NM. We hope to also make it to Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks.
Of course, you never know what’s going to happen when you travel in the winter, so we’ll see how well we can stick to our itinerary. The areas we are visiting are prone to snow but not super equipped to handle it. Too much snow could cause closures and delays, so we’ll just have to hope that the weather cooperates.
Just a few hours after leaving home, we hit some unexpected snow in northern Mississippi. Thankfully, it was fairly light and didn’t cause any major problems, only slowing us down for about an hour. I just hope that’s a good sign that any snow we do get won’t be too much of an issue.
Stay tuned to see how this trip goes and what all we see and learn.
Looking Ahead to 2023
So, what are we planning for the upcoming year? As mentioned previously, we will have the Southwest Companion Pass for a couple of months at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, you can’t actually lock in your companion and start booking things until the window opens on January 4. So, hopefully, we’ll know exactly where we are going with that pass soon!
We tentatively are planning a long weekend in Las Vegas and a week-long visit to San Francisco. That really all depends on what flights we can get, though.
For Spring Break, we’ll definitely be heading to London as the group leader (Bonnie) and chaperone (Grant) for another school trip. It’s been more than 25 years since Bonnie was in London and Grant has never been, so we are definitely looking forward to some new experiences there. And, it’s always great to help students see the world and learn new things!
Beyond that, we’re really not sure. We’ll likely spend our summer on the eastern side of the United States. Perhaps we’ll return to the Washington, DC area and see some of the many national park sites in the mid-Atlantic. We do know that we will finish the summer by attending a travel blogger’s conference in Eau Claire, WI, which we are really excited about.
Who knows… maybe this will be the year that we finally visit all of the park sites in Georgia. Yes, it’s true that we’ve somehow visited all of the parks in many states but our home state isn’t one of them!
One thing we are definitely looking forward to is the release of our first book, Moon USA RV Adventures! We hope that it will help RVers of all types discover new adventures and see some of the best parts of our country. Stay tuned to social media and our emails for more information on that.