top 5 travel recommendations from 2014

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Colonial Williamsburg Capitol travel blog

The Capitol building in Colonial Williamsburg.

Looking back on 2014, some of it is a little fuzzy. Change was definitely the word of the year. To recap, we put our house on the market in the spring, sold it in June and then had 40 days to cut our possessions in half, pack and move what we kept into storage. Scott and I headed out in the RV in early July with no plans other than to see a lot of the country and visit with friends and family. Road trip!

That whole sell-pack-and-move-in-40-days thing is the fuzzy part.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park.

We stayed in Colorado for the first month, moving from Steamboat Springs to Twin Lakes to Taylor Park Reservoir. Since then, we’ve camped in Wyoming, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Missouri, Ohio, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, West Virginia, New Mexico and Arizona, and been through many more states. Our accommodations have included state parks, national forests, campgrounds, RV parks, one driveway and three Wal-Mart parking lots.

There have been fancy sites and no-frills sites, free sites and expensive sites, beautiful sites and not-so-beautiful sites, sites on the beach and sites in the city, and sites in the mountains and sites in the dessert. I’ll catch up on my campground reviews one of these days.

Hummingbird wars at Taylor Park

Hummingbird wars at Taylor Park.

We’ve visited national parks; toured museums, historic districts and a prison; tasted local beers, wines, ciders, chocolates, seafood and cheese; walked on beaches on both coasts; attended one graduation and two weddings; spotted moose, seals, whales, coyotes and hummingbirds; spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with the kids; and spent time with our parents, siblings and lots of friends and family members. We celebrated our 28th anniversary, Scott’s 50th and my 51st birthdays.

Some of it has been easy and some of it has not. Scott and I travel well together and enjoy exploring new places. The RV we picked for this journey has worked out quite well. I wish we had a little more kitchen storage; honestly, who doesn’t? Three months into the trip, I stopped wondering where I was when I woke up. I realized that as long as I’m next to Scott, everything is probably okay!

The not-so-easy parts have been pretty consistent: the dog and my knees. The latter will take a turn for the better soon; I’m having a knee replacement in a couple of weeks. The former? Well, I don’t know how that one is going to be resolved. In an unrelated matter, does anyone want a dog? There’s cash involved.

With more than 18,000 miles and 26 states under our belts since July, we’ve been to some pretty amazing places. I can’t pick just one favorite, so here are my top five travel recommendations:

Springhill Winery

One of the many perks of camping in the Willamette Valley.

Willamette Valley, Oregon —  Spend a month in Oregon in the summer. There are plenty of things to see and do in the Willamette Valley, and its central location makes it a perfect hub to explore the whole region. Go to Crater Lake National Park and stop at the Rogue River Gorge on the way. Eat the fish tacos at Sharkbites in Coos Bay, the chowder at Mo’s in Newport and the salmon stuffed with crab at Vault 244 in Albany. Hit the chocolate-cheese-wine trifecta in Central Point; the Ledger David tasting room, Rogue Creamery and Lillie Belle Farms Artisan Chocolates are next door to each other. Bingo! Take a drive on the Cape Arago Highway to see lighthouses and the seals. Go whale watching at Depoe Bay.

Colonial Williamsburg Garden at Governor's Palace

Colonial Williamsburg Garden at Governor’s Palace.

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia — Love history? This should be on the short list of beautiful, historic destinations. We visited on a sunny October day, and the fall colors against the blue sky were spectacular. There are more than 20 guided and self-guided tours, plus museums, reenactments, shops, gardens, taverns and restaurants. Get a multi-day pass so that you have time to experience it all. One day is not enough. Eat at the King’s Arms Tavern. Tour the Capitol. Visit the weaver, blacksmith, shoemaker and the magazine. Sit for a while and just enjoy the scenery.

Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park, Maine — Go here the first week in October. Book your trip early because everyone else wants to be there then as well, but it’s worth braving the crowd to see the fall colors. Book a carriage ride while you’re at it; they’re very popular. The park issues a weekly guide that includes the cruise ship schedules, so you can make the best use of your time. Watch the sun rise or set on top of Cadillac Mountain. Take a picnic to enjoy while you’re there. Stop at the Jordon Pond House and hike around the pond. Try the popovers. Don’t miss the Schoodic Peninsula. Have a pint at Leary’s Landing Irish Pub, breakfast at Café This Way and a meal at Geddy’s, all in Bar Harbor. Tour the Atlantic Brewing Company and try the ribs at the onsite Mainely Meat BBQ. Eat at Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard at least once.

Williamson Orchard and Vineyards in Caldwell, Idaho

Williamson Orchard and Vineyards in Caldwell, Idaho.

Idaho — Explore this state! We were both surprised by Idaho. Our visit was solely based on convenience; we chose an RV park in Caldwell because it was on our way. Turns out, the Snake River Valley wine region is right there and lake-side McCall is just two hours away. There are lots of wineries to tour. Try the ice wines at the Koenig Winery and Distillery, the pink lady apples and Homestead Red at the Williamson Orchard and Vineyards, and the Snake River Valley Sauvignon Blanc and the Almond Roca Cream at Ste. Chapelle. For some reason, they’ll ask you whether you want the small bottle or the large bottle of that last one. Get the large bottle. With just four days there, we didn’t make it to Coeur d’Alene or Boise. Stay longer and see more of this beautiful state. We will next time.

Chihuly exhibit at Denver Botanic

Chihuly exhibit at Denver Botanic.

Colorado — I saved my favorite state for last. If you haven’t been to Colorado, go. If you have been, go back. If you live there, get out and see more of it. I’ve been fortunate to have grown up visiting my grandparents in Chipita Park and then to live in Glenwood Springs for more than 12 years, but there are still a lot of places I want to see. Some new-to-me experiences this year: camping at Twin Lakes and going to the Denver Botanic. (The Chihuly exhibit made the botanical garden even more beautiful.) I recommend both. Go to Denver for some culture and to the mountains for some adventure. If you’d like more suggestions, just ask in the comment section.

So, what’s next on our adventure? We’re staying put in Arizona at least through February so that I’ll be here for rehab after the knee surgery. If all goes well with the right knee, I might go ahead and have the left replaced a few weeks later. I’ve found a surgeon I like a lot, and he won’t replace both at once. If that happens, we’ll be here through March as well. After that, I’ll let you know when we figure it out.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more Tales From the Empty Nest. Happy New Year!

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2 thoughts on “top 5 travel recommendations from 2014

  1. Idaho, eh? 🙂

    If you go back, no need to go to Boise. Perhaps it’s changed over the years, but we used to drive through there (and sometimes stay the night) and I have no love for this town.

    However, Northern and middle Idaho is beautiful!

    And I totally agree with the Willamette Valley! It’s a wonderful place and absolutely gorgeous in the summer. It’s a little too dark and gray for me during the winter.

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    • Notice I didn’t say “spend a month in Idaho!” I could definitely spend more time in the Snake River Valley and McCall, and I’m sure I’ll love Coeur d’Alene. We were 20 minutes from Boise and didn’t make it there, so it obviously wasn’t as appealing to us either.

      I love, love, love Oregon in the summer, which is the only time I’ve been there. I don’t do well with rainy and gloomy, either, so it’s a seasonal obsession. 🙂

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