Our year of Living with a capital L

Our New Year’s post reflects our favourite experiences, people and places of the past seven months. The list, as you might expect, is quite long. The accompanying slide show is also a bit of a time commitment (sorry!). To understand how difficult it was for us to distill our memories and experiences here are some statistics of our journey thus far:

7 months / 203 days on the move

40,491 km / 25,159 miles travelled

20,000+ photos taken

20 friends and family prevailed upon for lodging, visitations, meals, bathroom and laundry facilities

6 national parks

25 provincial / state parks

2 county parks

36 private campgrounds

2 campgrounds we paid for and then left right away

7 motels / hotels

3 house rentals

6 ferries

2 row boats

2 motor boats

2 burros

6 bikes

2 buses

2 street cars

2 tow trucks

7 mechanics

2 rental cars

7 border crossings

6 provinces

21 states

54 cities / towns / villages

3 countries

Check out our video of the past 7 months by clicking here:

Some of our most memorable experiences in the past seven months:

  1. After selling our home on May 9th Tina, Mark, Mackenzie and Jakob not only welcomed us into their home but generously provided us with a room so that we would have a home base.
  2. Papa Gibb provided us with home base number two in Amherstburg.
  3. We started our road trip with a visit to Elia and Margot in Guelph. Unseasonably cool, they invited us in to sleep in their home. It was at this point we agreed that if we were offered a bed on this journey we wouldn’t turn it down.
  4. After many invitations we finally visited our friends Lise and Steve (and Gibby) in Red Wing and John and Lily (and Eenie, Meenie and Minie) in Cherry Valley. Too long coming and so very enjoyable!
  5. A mandatory stop at Eigensinn Farm to see our dear friends Nobuyo and Michael was made more special because we got to see Nobuyo’s mom upon her arrival from Okinawa.
  6. We stopped in Ottawa for a visit with old friends John, Chantal and their son, Maxime. We carried and enjoyed food from this visit in several other provinces along our way.
  7. Camping on a terraced site overlooking the St. Lawrence at Des Érables in Malbaie, Québec. La Malbaie, formerly Murray Bay, is where Christian’s parents met.
  8. Having a whole beach on the St. Lawrence to ourselves at Camping Chalet Bel-Air in Câp Madeleine, Québec. We watched the sunset while eating fresh, boiled lobster.
  9. Visiting the Jardins des Metis and seeing the extraordinary art and horticultural installations
  10. Driving the winding, hilly roads of the Gaspesie in Québec, always with the St. Lawrence to one side.
  11. Forillon National Park and all the porky pigs (porc épics). Wink wink Helene et Michèle!
  12. Our campsite overlooking Perce Rock. Awesome. Campground: immaculate, 5 star clean.
  13. Camping by the Bay in Black Point, NB on the eve of a hurricane. This place scared us! And not because of the impending hurricane!
  14. Riding out Hurricane Arthur in a motel in Bathurst, NB after THE most entertaining diner breakfast ever at the Coffee Stain.
  15. Leaving Bathurst the day after the hurricane we dodged arcing hydro lines on a closed highway.
  16. Visiting the Hopewell Rocks and walking on the floor of the Bay of Fundy.
  17. Standing on the point at Cape Enrage feeling the force of the wind and sea followed by an exceptionally wonderful bowl of chowder.
  18. A simple meal of oysters, fresh spinach, carrots, strawberries at Laurie Provincial Park outside of Halifax. We were so happy to eat fresh produce again!
  19. Visiting Andrea Rahal at Inkwell Modern in Halifax and seeing the new home of our beloved first printing press, the Vandercook SP15 .
  20. A surprise reunion with our friends Ray and Meaghan who happened to be on holiday in Halifax while we were there. Meeting their son, Cooper, for the first time! And learning the good news that another Jones Fenwick baby would be entering the world shortly.
  21. Seeing our friends Mike, Graidhne, Quintin, Ellemijn, Marley, Leni and Ray in Chester. Spending a whole day with Mike exploring Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and shopping for an incredible seafood feast we would all enjoy that evening.
  22. Celebrating our friend Katherine’s birthday with all of her (and husband David’s) friends for an entire weekend which included local lobster, an author festival, beach time, fireworks and the Pictou Lobster Carnival.
  23. Newfoundland!!!! All of it! Every cove, tickle, harbour, bay, pond, peninsula, cape, island, mountain, valley, ferry, flake, stage, trail but mostly, the people! We didn’t even mind breaking down at the top of Newfoundland at L’Anse aux Meadows, again, because of the people! Oh, and then the food!!! Cod. Fresh cod. Eating Murray McDonald’s amazing meal at the Fogo Island Inn while enjoying THE most spectacular and changing view imaginable; the best and absolute freshest salad ever prepared by Tim Charles on Fogo Island; the salted caramel ice cream at Growlers is something we still dream about; Jeremy Charles’ made us smile inside and out, twice, at Raymond’s; enjoying the fresh, just picked and delicious food at the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove while watching whales play in the ocean; the cinnamon buns at Rocket in St. John’s; brunch with Erin and JJ at Mallard Cottage. Oh, and did we mention the people?! Especially Dulcie (and Graydon, Andrea, Taylor, Jakob), Selma and Abraham, Eileen, Julia, Joshua, Murray and Judy, May, Kai, Fraser, Pauline, Tim and Heather, Officer Andrews, Jane and Jamie, (Don Johnson, Angelina Jolie and Linda Evangelista in Port Union), Erin, JJ, Jeremy, Jeremy, Ryan, Nushka and Steven.
  24. Meeting our friends and neighbours (okay, former) Nicole, Craig, Owen and Emry in Inverness, Cape Breton.
  25. Our campsite in Meat Cove at the tip of Cape Breton overlooking the Atlantic Ocean which put on a spectacular show the whole time. The chowder was quite amazing too!
  26. Meeting up with our friend Oyster Boy – Adam, Sandra, Miles and Kathleen at Colville Bay Oyster Co, PEI and meeting the warm and welcoming Johnny Flynn. Oh, and did we mention oysters? Delicious? Absolutely!
  27. Developing a hole in our fuel tank between PEI and NB caused us to stop at the Beetle Shop in Belfast, Maine. We love Belfast! And we never would have stopped if it weren’t for the leaking fuel tank.
  28. Visiting our favourite beach in Maine…Ogunquit. Icing on the cake: Nunan’s Lobster Hut and Harbor Candy Shop.
  29. Running out of gas on an uphill off-ramp in Kensington, New Hampshire. Saved by a great guy named Jim! Followed up by a most entertaining ice cream stop with Rachel for Peace.
  30. Being part of our niece Mackenzie’s move into her Cornel University dorm and spending the weekend with Mackenzie and her family in Ithaca, NY. We are so happy to be able to picture where she is spending all of her time while we are travelling North America.
  31. Quality visits with our family in Toronto, Midhurst, Port Hope, Guelph and Amherstburg (timed perfectly to meet our new wee cousin, Andrew!) before taking off for part two of our travels south of the border. We got our Harriet and Jakob fixes!
  32. Finally seeing Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob!
  33. Meeting Jennifer and Earl from Indiana at Ohiopyle State Park.
  34. The Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. Breathtakingly beautiful for all 100 miles. Loved site A14 at Loft Mountain, right on the Appalachian Trail overlooking the valley.
  35. The view from Campfire Lodgings in Asheville, NC. Thank you Campfire Lodgings – we are still finding Marmorated Stink Bugs in our van!!!
  36. Meeting Dean and Julie from Illinois at Campfire Lodgings.
  37. The BBQ at 12 Bones which tasted even better because we shared a table with Bruce.
  38. We cooked the best, happy steak we’ve ever had over a wood fire at Campfire Lodgings. We literally oohed and ahhed over every bite.
  39. Santee State Park, Santee, South Carolina. If it weren’t for the scariest road we have ever found ourselves driving on to get there we might have left this campground in the dark of night and driven an unknown number of miles to get as far away from it as possible.
  40. The Bible Belt. And everything about it. A church every 500 feet.
  41. James Island County Park outside of Charleston, SC: met the cutest family ever! Ryan, Hillary and Olivia from Charlotte.
  42. Charleston, SC. Utterly charming. Plus we met Will and Grace at Butcher and Bee. We sampled spirits (we weren’t driving!) at Highwire Distillery and donuts at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts (yum!). The fact that the campground offered a shuttle into Charleston makes it tops in our books.
  43. The Angel Oak Tree in SC believed to be in excess of 1,500 years old.
  44. Carolina Cider Company. The. Best. Pecan. Pie. Of. All. Time. Thank you!! We will be back.
  45. Savannah, Georgia. If only all cities were this well conceived. Ogelthorpe was a visionary.
  46. Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House. A one of a kind dining experience. Boarding house reach, heck ya! Make sure you reach for the fried chicken! Loved meeting Jon from Denmark in line and then sharing a meal.
  47. The Low Country Boil at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island. Worth a trip just for the signage.
  48. The live oak boulevard at Wormsloe Plantation. We love the live oaks but this boulevard is something to behold.
  49. Okefenokee Swamp. Imagine camping in Jurassic Park with pine cones the size of footballs. Who knew we could love a swamp so much?!
  50. Our sunset swamp tour lead by a pistol packing ranger and shared with a bachelor party from NYC was eerily beautiful. It was however topped by a daytime tour by our friend Milo and his grandsons Dylan and Drake.
  51. Arriving at St. George Island, Florida as a massive storm slammed the coast. We sat up drinking gin and tonic with LeaAnn and Alan from Lake of Ozarks, Missouri while our cell phone made scary distress signals indicating potential tornadoes, etc. It was one of the most fun nights of the trip.
  52. Visiting Seaside, Florida, the backdrop for the movie, ‘The Truman Show’. It is more real than you may think.
  53. Meeting, getting to know and spending time with Ken and Paula from Memphis. And their pups, Jack and Tara! And of course, Darrel and Maria from Bogalusa, Louisiana.
  54. The Concert at Topsail Preserve State Park which we knew nothing about beforehand. Just made us happy that we are doing what we are doing!
  55. Lunch at Lambert’s of Alabama, Home of the Throwed Roll.
  56. New Orleans: The amazing bike tour led by Kristine Baccharach of Crescent City Bike Tours; an exceptional and generous dinner at Cochon made all the more enjoyable because of a visit with the chef himself, Stephen Stryjewski; first time drinking Sazerac; learning the history of Second Line, Mardi Gras, Indian Chiefs and their costumes – thanks to Sylvester at Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme; beignets at Café du Monde; seeing and hearing Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers perform at the Blue Nile on Frenchman; eating an über delicious muffaletta sandwich at Butcher with Michelle and Lyle.
  57. Boudin, cracklins and boudin balls at Best Stop in Lafayette, Louisiana. Who knew?! It’s not called Boudin Capital of the World for nuthin’.
  58. Learning the history of Tabasco Sauce on Avery Island.
  59. Millions and millions of little, tiny ants at Buescher State Park in Texas.
  60. Austin, Texas: met for the second time and learned the names of Ted and Julie from Baltimore (first time was at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans); met Michael Laderoute, for the first time, travelling from our old Roncesvalles neighbourhood in Toronto to Mexico; saw the Jitterbug Vipers perform at the historic Continental Lounge.
  61. Lunch at Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, Texas – purported to be the best in the USA. It was pretty damn good! Leftovers – priceless.
  62. Met and bought cowboy hats from Boo and Casey in Luckenbach, Texas. Plus, plenty of tips re: Big Bend National Park for free!
  63. The petroglyphs at Seminole Canyon State Park.
  64. The alternator in the van gave up the ghost in Marathon, Texas. We holed up in the historic Gage Hotel for 2 nights waiting for a new one. All the while a massive rain storm raged.
  65. Decided to try to meet the alternator in Alpine. Made it half way. No cell reception. Rarely a passing vehicle, none that would stop to help, pouring rain. Della Shackelford, newly re-elected Treasurer of Brewster County (update: just found out that the votes were recounted and Della lost her seat to the republican by 17 votes!), not only stopped, called around until she found a tow service. Ryan Skelton saved the day, towed us to Alpine. The next day Buddy installed the new alternator and we were on our way….
  66. Big Bend National Park, Texas!!!! Loved this place!! From the Rio Grande River to the Chisos Mountains to the Santa Elena Canyon, breathtaking natural beauty. We met some great folks: fellow Torontonians Anna, Andrew and baby Lucy; Janet and Phil from Colorado; Sandra from Florida; Mike from Arizona and Ryan from Texas. Making our way through foot deep mud to be rowed across to Mexico by Carmelo, transported into town by burro and then led through the Mexican town of Boquillas by young Imperio.
  67. Meeting Roel and Anja from Holland in Lajitas, Texas. Staying up late drinking wine and eating hot dogs.
  68. Marfa, Texas: Freezing at the Tumble In RV Park; meeting Buck at the Wrong Store; meeting Sarah and Lynn from the Chinati Foundation (we met Sarah’s mom at Lockhart State Park two weeks earlier).
  69. Seeing Marfa Prada.
  70. Driving up to City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico and then parking amid the massive volcanic outcrops rising up sixty feet from the earth. It very nearly brought us to tears.
  71. Visiting the Rotunda and Throne Rooms at Kartchner Caverns in Arizona.
  72. The Glass Cottage in Tucson. We stayed here for 6 glorious nights.
  73. Tucson, Arizona: meeting shop owners Salima and Roberto from Desert Vintage and Bonnie and Crystal from Bon. Each one was so lovely; Café Poca Cosa where we had the most flavourful and complex Mexican food; the Desert Museum and the Saguara National Forest – where we realized just how beautiful the desert can be; the chocolate covered donuts at from La Estrella Bakery…mmmmmm
  74. Visiting the Cold War era Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Arizona.
  75. Camping on the edge of the Queen Mine in Bisbee, Arizona. At night the view towards the town reminded us of Amalfi, Italy. Improbably good and unexpected treat of Pho at Thuy’s Vietnamese Pho.
  76. Thanksgiving at the Picacho KOA in Arizona where we met fellow Canadians Eric and Lesley.
  77. Driving past the Imperial Dunes in California and watching hundreds or maybe thousands of dune buggies which looked like dinky cars dwarfed by massive sand hills.
  78. The Casita in University Heights, San Diego which we called home for almost two weeks. Owned by a wonderful couple named Lynne and Jim. We missed it and them before we even drove away.
  79. Lunch at Letycia’s lovely home in Coronado with old friends and neighbours from Christian’s hometown of Almonte. After many moons Christian, Rory and Kim got caught up, we met Letycia and Carol and then walked around Coronado, the beach and the Del Coronado Hotel.
  80. A day in Tijuana, Mexico with Derrik from Turista Libre. Exhiliarating and immersive tour of off-the-beaten-path Tijuana. The swap-meet high in the hills was the high point, pardon the pun.
  81. The Crazy Tostada (Tostada Loco) at Marisco’s Food Truck was the best thing we ate in San Diego. Thanks to Sharon, our pal Dave Rose’s sister for the recommendation!
  82. Camping on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Carlsbad State Park the morning of a huge wind and rain storm. The van shivered in the wind and the rain literally came through the pop-up. That was a first. And hopefully a last.
  83. The view from our campsite at Crystal Cove State Park was nothing short of spectacular. The sunsets were our entertainment for the three nights we camped here.
  84. We stopped at Outdoor Resort Palm Springs RV Resort (what’s with the name?) where we were told that our van was 1. Too small and 2. Too old. and 3. Christian surmised…too ugly. This was a first.
  85. Joshua Tree National Park. You should visit this intensely beautiful place! Like U2 we still didn’t find what we were looking for but we sure did enjoy trying.
  86. Christmas in Palm Desert with the Campbell-Laxdal family. Our old friends from Toronto spent Christmas at her parents’ home in Palm Desert and they very kindly included us in their family festivities. Two nights in a bed with adjoining bathroom was a pretty sweet Christmas gift.
  87. Visiting the Palm Desert Costco and spending nearly an hour in the (Vintages section) wine and spirits department was a revelation and a colossal pleasure.
  88. Travelling the east coast of the Salton Sea and visiting Bombay Beach, Slab City and Salvation Mountain was probably the most interesting Boxing Day we have ever shared. Meeting Randy from Arizona, originally from Windsor, Ontario was a bonus, thanks for the lemons and chocolates!

What a journey so far! We are incredibly grateful to all of our friends and family that have hosted, supported and shared with us throughout 2014. We continually meet people that amaze, intrigue and delight us – many of whom we call friends. We learn and absorb everywhere we go and never want that to stop. The natural beauty of Canada, the United States and Mexico inspires and awes us. Imagine, we now have 2015 to look forward to….