Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  Our 2016 began in a hotel room in Effingham, Illinois.  After a wonderful couple of weeks back in Illinois and Wisconsin visiting family and friends for the Christmas holidays, we are now making our way back down to San Antonio, Texas, where Charley’s been parked out next to our friends’ shed since we left him there back on December 2nd — it truly seems like ages ago!

As I did last year, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back to see where all we’ve traveled and how much more of America we’ve seen.  To that end, here’s our Out There By The Numbers  tally as we closed out 2015:

  19 months on the road
  53,904 miles driven
  44 states visited

  745 miles hiked
  176 miles biked
  29  miles paddled
  176 different places stayed
  14 nights in a Walmart parking lot
  2,949 gallons of fuel for Charley

In this past year we’ve driven 32,652 miles, visited 19 more states, hiked over 500 miles, stayed in 104 different places, replaced Toad’s four tires and one of Charley’s, and chalked up visits to a whopping 25 national parks including 6 of the 8 up in Alaska during a fabulous 5-week trip up there.  Incidentally, Alaska is now my favorite state in the Union!

I am being a broken record here, but we are extremely blessed to be able to travel around like this to see this great country of ours and visit spectacular national park units that are each fabulous in their own way.  We are filled with gratitude each and every time we set foot into an NPS Visitor Center and place yet another stamp in our passport books.  It is most often with awe that we look out at the grandeur of whatever park unit we are visiting, and we continue to remember in the back of our minds the story of how these parks came to be.  If you haven’t seen it, make it a point to watch the PBS series, The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns and David Duncan.  We would bet that you, too, will come away from that series wanting, as we did some six years ago, to get Out There yourselves.

Enough, for it’s time to hit the road again.  We wish everyone a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!  It’s been an amazingly-fabulous year for the Jolly Adventures and we hope it has been the same for each of you.

Signing off from Effingham,


A Holly Jolly Christmas Down on the Farm

Our massive Cards Against Humanity gameSnacking around the kitchen tableDecember 25th was, indeed, a holly, Jolly Christmas — pun certainly intended!  As has been the tradition for the Jolly family since, well, forever, the four Jolly sons and their families have gotten together down on the farm in Chenoa where they grew up to celebrate Christmas as the big, happy family that they/we all are.  As in all the years past, there was plenty of love, laughter, food, drink, and this year a new item was introduced to the party — Jello shots!  As all the “kids” are now 20- and 30-somethings (there are 9 in that generation), the social activities have definitely changed over the years.  It’s been great fun to watch this younger generation grow and mature, and through weddings and engagements a couple of new family members have been added to the party.


Another new tradition was started this year: a present exchange that involved rolling dice to determine what you did with the present in front of you — i.e. exchange with the person on your left, trade with someone wearing Christmas socks, trade with someone older than you, everybody pass to the right — and as an added dimension, many included ‘and take a drink.’  A role of 12 on the dice indicated that everybody had to do a Jello shot and shout “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!” — it was a loud, raucous game that was a lot of fun.  Another game was that crazy one involving eating Jelly Bellys, but not the good flavors — this game features flavors like smelly socks, toothpaste, boogers, and dog food!  Thanks to Debbie for organizing all of the family fun!


The annual Christmas cheeseballOne tradition that is not new is the big reveal of the annual Jolly cheeseball.  Tim crafts these gems each year, and they’ve ranged, as you can see from the photos, from snowmen to Christmas trees to ears of corn, and two years ago, a wedding ring which was accompanied by a real diamond ring offered to Kara from Kyle.  Our regular readers may recall that a year ago we were all in Florida for Kara and Kyle’s wedding, and to think, it all started with a diamond ring in the shape of the annual cheeseball!


Indeed it was another Holly Jolly Christmas…!

O Holy Night

Claire & Kyle hosting their first holiday gathering on Christmas Eve

Fred got an Ansel Adams photography book -- and note the fabulous TV fireplace

Christmas presents!Christmas is now over, but as this blog is also the journal for our life on the road, I wanted to capture and share a few bits of our wonderful Christmas holidays so that friends and family members who check in with us regularly here on our website can see what all we did.

We started our holiday festivities at Claire & Kyle’s on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  We had a delightful time with them, noshing on their tasty nibbles and washing them down with Claire’s Christmas cocktails made with Prosecco, pomegranate liquor and pom seeds in the glasses — fancy and delicious!

As the pictures show, we had fun exchanging Christmas presents before making our way downtown where Tom joined us for dinner at Beatrix.  We then attended the very beautiful service of Lessons and Carols at Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue.  As always, it was a moving and meaningful service celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

It’s tough having so many family members living in different places, and so while we couldn’t be with all of them, we were sure thinking of them.  This is my family up in Wisconsin on Christmas Eve.  I know we were all together in spirit….

My Wisconsin family on Christmas Eve
Daniel, Mom and Kirsten in the front row; Kyle, Elizabeth, Natalie, Kelsey, and Timmy (Kelsey’s boyfriend) in the back

Our Thankful Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving meal is prepared!
Fred, Kyle, Daryl, Jennie, Jackie, Kristen and Rachael – ready for our Thanksgiving feast

What a blessing it has been to be with Jackie, Daryl, Jennie, Rachael, Kristen, and our nephew (my sister’s oldest son) Kyle to celebrate Thanksgiving!  Indeed, we all have so much and are so grateful for our many blessings!  We missed being with other members of our family who weren’t with us, but we toasted them, prayed for them, then proceeded to enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving dinner!

We Wisconsinites were really looking forward to the Packers / Bears game.  Unfortunately only one of us was happy with the outcome — that would be my husband, the Bears fan.  But we did all enjoy seeing Bart Starr make an appearance to celebrate the retirement of #4 at Lambeau Field and Brett Favre’s induction into the Football Hall of Fame this year.

Slowin’ down in San Antonio

Home Sweet Home in San Antonio
Home Sweet Home for the Thanksgiving holiday in San Antonio

November 21 — After a couple of long days of driving down through New Mexico and across a lot of Texas, we arrived at my college roommate’s home just north of San Antonio.  As you can see, it’s not a bad place to be taking a little break from the road where we plan to unwind and celebrate Thanksgiving.

With a nice big kitchen in which to cook — actually big everything here in this house; we are in Texas, you know…! — I am running “Auntie Laura’s Cooking School” with Rachael (9th grade) and a couple of her friends, and Kristen (7th grade) for a few days as we lead up to Thanksgiving.  Jennie, their oldest, is away at college this year — wow, are we getting old; Jackie has a daughter in college!

Like the last time we were here, the thing I am enjoying most, besides the company of friends, is sitting down together at the dinner table for family meals.

It’s sure nice to have a home here in Texas to come to to slow down, unwind, and enjoy some family time….

July 4th with Family

Leavenworth, WA

We so cherish the time we get to see friends and family when our travel adventures bring us anywhere near them, and so it was once again this weekend that we got to take a Time Out from our national park visits to spend some time with a branch of the Jolly clan who lives in Washington.  Niece Kristen (Fred’s brother, Jeff,’s daughter), her husband Kevin, and their two sweetheart girls, Lauren and Kaelin [you may recall they were the perfect little flower girls in Kara and Kyle’s wedding in Florida back in December; see Kara and Kyle say ‘I Do’ post] introduced us to the wonderful little Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Washington, a couple of hours east of Seattle.  Continue reading

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

Ready for Christmas in Southport

Ready for Christmas in SouthportDecember 8-12 — Even though it doesn’t snow down here in the Carolinas, that doesn’t mean Santa’s sleigh doesn’t land on rooftops and Santa doesn’t come down chimneys to deliver toys to good children in 50 degree weather. No… we’re pleased to report that Christmas preparations and traditions still take place, despite the lack of snow, down here in North Carolina.

This past week we enjoyed a very relaxing visit with Daddy & Joan down in Southport.  It was wonderful visiting with them and it really looked and felt like home, which is special particularly this year since we have no home of our own to decorate and host friends and family at Christmastime.

Christmas in the SouthIt was a low-key visit – just the way we like it.  We read, walked, photographed, visited, and, of course, ate and drank well.  We took advantage of their carpet cleaner one afternoon and Fred gave a good cleaning to the couple of sections of carpet inside Charley – it almost looks like new!  A good mopping and scrubbing down, washing the duvet & duvet cover and all of our clothes… we are ready to keep on keepin’ on!  We’re not sure when we’ll get back here next, but we sure enjoyed this visit, and Charley sparkles, shines, and even smells clean!

Thanks, Daddy & Joan, for a great visit!

Christmas decor in the marsh