Personal Commentary

Two years Out There!

06/01/14 -- Leaving Anne G's house to get Out There
With our final load of “stuff” we are off. Destination: OUT THERE!

Mi casa as of June 1, 2014
Mi casa as of June 1, 2014

It was just a little over two years ago that Fred and I loaded the last of the possessions we thought we would need for the next two years into our Subaru.  We took delivery of said vehicle less than two weeks before and named him “Toad” because we were going to tow him behind our RV.  The rest of what we own had been moved into storage following the sale of our downtown Chicago condo and move a few days prior.

On the morning of June 1, 2014, we said ‘goodbye’ to our dear friend Anne who had put us up for the previous couple of nights because at that point we were truly homeless.  Feeling about 98% excitement, 1% fear, and 1% remorse [What have we just done!?!] we drove out to the ‘burbs to where “Charley” our 30’ motorhome was waiting for us and already contained six or seven loads of stuff plus two mountain bikes we had previously taken out to him.  We hooked up Toad to Charley and off we went!  Destination: OUT THERE.

If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in the photo series.  To close the series, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.

We had seen Ken Burns’ and Duncan Dayton’s The National Parks: America’s Best Idea series on public television in the fall of 2009 and felt our calling.  And even though we had only known each other for six months, we thought, wouldn’t that be cool to go Out There and see every national park?!   We hatched a plan that once we could retire, we would, and then we would set out to visit all 59 of our national parks and as many of the other national park units — monuments, historic sites, battlefields, seashores, etc. — as we could.  We very soon decided that little weekend visits weren’t going to do it for us; this was going to be a serious endeavor to see and really embrace each and every one of the parks.  In other words, it would require us to hit the road for a couple of years and take this journey on full time.  From Acadia to Zion, we wanted to hike in all of them… or sea kayak… or snorkel… or whatever was required to really experience each one — no fly-by-to-tick-the-box visits for us!

So in these past two years we have seen 49 of the 59 parks and more than 100 other national park units.  We’ve driven nearly 70,000 miles between Charley and Toad, and have flown to Alaska, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands to visit the parks in these places that are farther afield.  We’ve stayed in more than 230 different places, including 15 quick overnights in Walmart parking lots!  We’ve been in 49 of the 50 states.  We’ve hiked nearly 1,000 miles and will surely reach this milestone and then some before we finish up our journey.  We haven’t biked as much as we thought, but our mountain bikes have had a good ride around the country on the back of Charley!  Our paddling is yet to come as we have two big river trips scheduled this summer and early fall — that will bring us up to more than 300 miles on the water.  I’ve written 300+ posts here on our blog, and Fred has contributed another 30+, many of which feature his incredible photography.  I’ve sent over 200 postcards to family members and friends who we’ve missed dearly but understand our desire to be free and easy gypsies on the road.

Our complete story can be found by clicking HERE, and more about Charley can be found by clicking HERE.  You can also see where we’ve been under Our Itineraries on the main menu.  To see which ten national parks we have yet to visit, click on Map of our Parks on the main menu.

We initially thought that our journey would take us about two years to complete, but here we are, just over the two-year mark with more of America still to see — one more state and ten more national parks to be specific.  So we’re extending our journey out through the end of October to finish our goal of all 59 parks, at which time we’ll return to the Midwest and look for a place to set our circus down.

In reflecting back over our last two years, I am filled with gratitude… awe… humility… wonder… inspiration… and I’m not sure that there are enough superlatives to describe this experience.  Perhaps by the time we finish and I pen my reflections on our complete journey I will have more eloquent words to share.  Until that time, I hope that our blog posts have done justice to our visits and the overwhelming beauty of the national park system.


A wedding and an anniversary

Something really big happened to us this past weekend — our daughter got married!  Our hearts were overflowing with pride, joy, and love as Claire married Kyle.  From the moment we met him we could see the sparkle in her eyes and knew that he was special.  He’s truly the man of her dreams.

I’ve elaborated on Facebook for our friends so I’m not going to share much more about this family event here on our travel blog, but suffice it to say that our weekend back in Chicago was dreamy!  The ceremony was short, sweet, funny, and meaningful, and the reception was one for the decades!  And now Kyle and Claire are Mr. & Mrs.!
Claire's Wedding Collage
That shared, we had another big event this past week but our time commitments with the above-mentioned wedding prevented me from posting about it.  But now we are back from the wedding festivities and almost fully recovered from all of the hullabaloo, so now it’s time to go back and mark our big anniversary — WE HAVE BEEN ON THE ROAD FOR TWO YEARS!!  My next post will share some reflections and photos from these past two years….


Claire & Kyle
The ‘selfie’ they shared with us last night

We got the news to beat all news last night – Claire & Kyle got engaged!!!  After dating for two years and a few months, Kyle got down on one knee and popped the question to Claire.  Of course, she said, “yes!” and with that, we are now among the many happy family members who are thrilled for this wonderful, beautiful, exceptional couple.

We chatted with them briefly last night, and emailed a bit more today.  Claire shared with us that this morning, as the snow was falling in Chicago, they sat at a coffee shop and talked about their future, as well as their hopes and dreams for their big day.  Could life be any better for the two of them right now?  We think not!  We couldn’t be more thrilled for them, or for us, for we are now ‘inheriting’ one uberly-awesomely-amazing son-in-law, Kyle, to go with our bright and beautiful Claire.

Claire and Kyle – there aren’t words to tell you how pleased and happy and excited we are for the two of you.  You two were undoubtedly made for one another.  We’re so proud of you… we love you… and like everyone else in your great big happy family, we are elated to now be on this engagement journey with you….

Happy New Year! Our Year in Review

Well actually, this is our year in review since June 1, 2014, the day we ‘launched’ on this two-year road trip.  The above map shows our overnight stops from the time we left Chicago seven months ago to our current location – a hotel in Jupiter, Florida, where we rang in the new year with some of Fred’s Navy buddies.

I’ve been tracking some fun statistics and updating them from time to time on the sidebar of our website.  Here are our stats as of December 31st.  I can’t believe we’ve driven over 21,000 miles!  Math wizard that I am, that equates to over 3,000 miles a month!  [Now you know what a statistics geek I really am!]

 # of miles driven:  Charley = 7,870  &  Toad = 13,382

 # of miles hiked = 236

 # of miles biked = 116

# of miles canoed/kayaked/rafted = 25

# of different places stayed = 71

# of Walmart parking lot overnights = 8

# of states visited = 25

# of gallons of gas for Charley = 1,174

We set a goal to hike 1,000 miles and bike 1,000 miles while we’re Out Here, so you can see we have some catching up to do!  We’re not really worried, though, as nearly 70% of the national parks are in the West, and we haven’t gotten to those yet – we anticipate doing a lot of biking and hiking in the next year-and-a-half.  I’ll spare you all of my other statistical analyses and observations, but it shouldn’t surprise you that I have done some other number crunching.  :)

I’ll wrap up my year-end summary by saying this:  there aren’t really words to describe how incredible this journey has been, but descriptors like awesome, amazing, grand, splendid, remarkable, tremendous, astounding, and marvelous are a start.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… we are so blessed to be able to make this trip together.  Our good health allows us to be active and not needing to see doctors regularly.  Our families and friends support us in being away from them.  We haven’t been without a few troubles (two flat tires – one on Charley and one on Toad), a few challenges (arriving at a couple of campsites after dark), and a few difficulties (our smart phone GPS that doesn’t zero in on our destination and we have no idea where to go), but throughout everything, flexibility, laughter and knowing that we have each other and we’re doing this together keeps us on the road.

We look forward to 2015 – a year that will find us moving slowly west, then north – way north to Alaska.  We will spend 6-7 weeks up there beginning in July as there are eight national parks in that state that we need to visit.  Those stories and all the rest of our adventures will be featured on these pages throughout the coming year.

So until then, Happy New Year!  We wish you all good health and plenty of happiness.

xo –L&F

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas

After traveling for seven months and covering 25 states, we’re taking a pause down in Florida.  We’re with most of the Jolly family who are gathering down here for the joyous occasion of Kara and Kyle’s wedding on the 28th; the rest of the family is due to arrive in a day or two.

Following the wedding, we’re heading over to West Palm Beach for a much-anticipated reunion between Fred and some of his Navy buddies with whom he served while onboard the USS Albany in Gaeta, Italy, some 35 years ago!

Our blog posts have kept you updated on the rest of our many adventures this year.  As we’ve been traveling, we’ve thought about you all – our amazing friends and incredible family – and now during this holiday season, we want to wish you and your families a very MERRY CHRISTMAS.  May the magic and spirit of this holiday season be with you in the coming year.

Sending lots of love,

–Fred & Laura; Charley & Toad; and our two traveling pets (thank you, Suzanne)

Merry Christmas from Fred, Laura, Charley & Toad

Nature’s Winter Weather Predictor

Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Little did we know before reading someplace that this little guy has powerful weather predicting capabilities!  According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the more of the 13 segments the woolly bear caterpillar has that are brown, the milder the winter.  What do you think?  Folks up here in New England are finding these cats with lots of black and saying it’s going to be a long, harsh winter.  We hope not!  But Charley and we will be south by then….

Shorter & shorter I go….

My new short do - oh yeah, and my lobster dinner!
My new short haircut – oh yeah, and my lobster dinner!
Pixie Haircut Laura
Me at Camp Evergreen – Summer 1967

I got whacked!  I asked for short, and I got it!!

Heck, I haven’t had this short of hair since I was a little girl with my pixie haircut!  Actually my current haircut is even shorter!  I did want low maintenance….  :)