2019 held a lot of firsts and some amazing discoveries. Here are some of our favorite experiences from the past year.
Friends and Family
We were thrilled to spend 2019 with so many family and friends. We met dozens of new RVing friends at our first Xscaper’s Annual Bash and hung out with old friends who’ve made new lives in Asheville, Atlanta, and Denver. A good friend even included one of our stops on his summer road trip so we could spend some time exploring Wyoming together. And, we spent a few weeks hanging with family in Indianapolis and Denver, plus Brian’s mom and our daughter flew into Tucson for the holidays. We’re looking forward to more friends and family in 2020!
Connecting with John and Brenda of GeoAstro RV was one of the best things we experienced in 2019. Though technically, we met on January 30, 2018, we didn’t start getting to know each other until the first part of 2019. John and Brenda RV around the country giving FREE astronomy presentations on BLM land or in National Parks – or where ever they happen to find themselves under dark skies. They have telescopes that not only provide fabulous views of the night sky, but also of the sun. They love science and discovering new outdoor places – and good food – as do we; so there are plenty of great conversations and experiences with these two.
In 2019, we hung out stargazing with them in Quartzsite, Lake Havasu, Tucson (twice), and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We also helped them start the Escapees Birds of a Feather (BoF) group RVers with Telescopes. You can join the Facebook group whether you have a telescope or not, and the RVillage group if you want to meet up with them (us) to share knowledge on astronomy and astrophotography. To join the RVillage group, you need to be a member of Escapees. They also hold public stargazing events through RVillage where you don’t need to be an Escapee or have a telescope. Just search in Get-Togethers for GeoAstro and they should come up. You can also check their website, which has their itinerary.
One of our favorite experiences with John and Brenda is when they brought us in as volunteers for the Dakota Nights Star Party at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We had a blast helping out with that and getting to know so many more amateur and professional astronomers. You can see more about that in our August 2019 video or in Best National Park Ever!
Celebrating our 1-year Nomadiversary
On March 17th, we celebrated our one-year nomadiversary. We couldn’t believe it. It’s really been one of those “it feels like forever and nothing at the same time” things. We went out to dinner – of course, it’s St Patrick’s Day – and toasted our journey.
Mammoth Cave National Park
I loved this park for the trails around the cave more than the cave itself. Don’t get me wrong. Mammoth Cave is huge and cool, with tons of exhibits inside. I just really enjoyed walking the trails with the early spring sun warming my cold post-Indiana frigid winter bones. The nearby town of Bowling Green has a river cave tour that was totally cool too!
Click to read more about our Mammoth Cave National Park experience and check out the Lost River Cave tour below.
I was stationed in Montgomery, Alabama, for two years and visited the Gulf Coast of Florida a few times, but never made it to the Atlantic Ocean. I even flew into Washington D.C. for a couple of long weekends and never made it to the Atlantic Ocean. In the spring of 2019, we had made plans to visit my friend, Tamara, in North Carolina and I decided I couldn’t leave the area without putting my feet in the Atlantic Ocean. We were so close!
We had a whirlwind two weeks staying in Yemassee, South Carolina, which was a great hub for day trips to Charleston, Savannah, and Hilton Head Island. On Hilton Head, I was finally able to sink my feet into an Atlantic Beach and feel the water swirling around my legs. It was stormy with lightning in the distance, so we didn’t swim and got under cover just as the rain started dumping. Phew!
Charleston and Beaufort
A sub-fav experience of the Atlantic Coast visit was our time in Charleston and Beaufort, South Carolina. Charleston, because of the Angel Oak, the incredible waterfront, and the beautiful old architecture. Beaufort, because it’s a lovely small town on a sparkling river with friendly people and excellent restaurants. We have plans to return to both places in 2021.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is currently my favorite of all the National Parks and wins for overall best experience of the year. Here, you can experience free-roaming bison and wild horses, along with short or long hikes along expansive vistas, fantastic events such as free astronomy presentations or Medora the Musical, plus museums, shops and restaurants in town – and not nearly as many people as Yellowstone or other popular national parks. We have plans to return here in 2020 because it was just that awesome.
Watch the video below and read our article, Best National Park Ever, for more about our experiences in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Devil’s Tower, Spearfish, and The Badlands
Wow. Well, let’s just say that western South Dakota really – pleasantly – surprised us. I’m including Devil’s Tower (Bear’s Lodge) in this even though it’s in Wyoming because it’s close to the border and it was part of this particular region.
Devil’s Tower has been on Brian’s unofficial bucket list since he first saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a kid. I’d wanted to see it because it’s also a sacred site known as Bear’s Lodge. Neither of us was disappointed and we enjoyed a fantastic hike all the way around the monolith.
Spearfish was just a place to stay on the north side of Rapid City where we could easily check out the town of Deadwood. We found out after we arrived that Spearfish itself is a nice little town with an amazing scenic drive into a canyon showing off multiple waterfalls even in September. Kevin Costner’s Tatanka is just north of Deadwood, which is something else we discovered after our arrival. As much as we were disappointed in the town of Deadwood, we were thrilled with Spearfish and its offerings. We’d definitely stay there again and explore a little more.
We explored the southern Badlands after moving to the south side of Rapid City. The austere beauty of the area was awe-inspiring. The best I can explain the feeling of standing on the edge of the canyons is vast quiet.
All together, these three experiences made for an unforgettable visit to South Dakota. We wrote three separate articles about this area. You can start with Discover Devil’s Tower, then click the link for 3 Stunning Waterfalls – Spearfish Canyon, and finish up with Beautiful Badlands National Park.
White Sands National Monument
Magical. Truly. Another one of those places that is explained by quiet vastness. Standing high up on a sparkling white dune of the finest powdered gypsum sand, watching the sun set over the mountains is cool and eerie all at once. Sure, others are on nearby dunes; but they’re far enough away and the space is so open that it seems like they’re miles off in the distance. Every now and then a muted child’s laugh breaks the feeling of solitude as they careen down the slopes on their sled.
Click to read more about our magical experiences at White Sands National Monument.
Day of the Dead in Las Cruces
Oh my gosh! We spent only a few hours at the Dia de Los Muertos celebration in Las Cruces and fell in love – with the tradition and with the pretty and historic suburb of Mesilla where the festival was held. Even with that short time, the experience was wonderful and we hope to repeat it soon. The highlight was being welcomed into the night-time procession bringing the light to the departed ones in the cemetery by laying the candles at the gate.
Click to read our article devoted entirely to Las Cruces, including our Day of the Dead experience.
Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum
Part huge botanical desert garden and part wildlife sanctuary; this outdoor museum is nothing short of spectacular. The website says it takes 2 to 3 hours to explore. I went through quickly in five hours and took my time during a seven-hour visit – and I still haven’t seen everything it has to offer. Brenda and I have both said we’d volunteer or work there if we lived in the Tucson area.
The Desert Museum is, by far, my favorite place in Arizona – though we’re planning to tour Biosphere 2, which could potentially equal the museum. Even if I eventually see every exhibit and animal, just hiking around the property is relaxing and I’d never be bored during the Raptor Free Flight shows. These are where their educational (non-releasable) birds are trained to fly over and around the gathered crowd. Literally, you could have an owl or hawk’s wingtip touch your head as they follow their trainers back and forth.
I’ll have an article out about this amazing place soon!
There you have it – my top 11 favorite experiences of 2019. Make sure you get at least one or two of them on your bucket list!
Thanks for joining us as we live the journey…and have a very happy 2020!