By Mitch R.

Valerie and I have now been on the road for close to four months, the length of a school semester, so it’s a good time to evaluate the best of what we have seen, experienced, and accomplished since becoming full-time RVers. If our trip were to have an interim report card, this is how we would evaluate some of our goals:Love Shack US map

1. Exploration — We’ve visited 27 states: MA, CT, NJ, NY, PA, MD, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, AL, TN, KY, IL, MO, IA, NE, WY, UT, NV, CA, AZ, CO, KS, AR, and FL. We also visited NH in our RV before starting the full-time journey, which makes 28. We’ve traveled over 12,000 miles in the RV, plus over 5,000 more in our “toad” (towed vehicle). We’ve stayed at 36 RV parks in 14 states, visited six National Parks, numerous state parks, national forests, and even several Navaho parks.

Grade: A. We realized after the first month that our itinerary was too ambitious, so we slowed our pace. Even so, we’re still finding places we wish we had more time to explore further. Holidays and the kids’ college schedules often drive our itinerary but going forward, we’ll strive to stay longer in fewer places.

2. Finding where we want to settle — Before the trip, we identified at least ten regions to explore as potential future homes, including Las Vegas, Palm Springs, San Diego, Sacramento, Phoenix, Tucson, Santa Fe, Austin, Tampa, and Charleston.

The white sands of Casino Beach, Pensacola.

The white sands of Casino Beach, Pensacola.

Grade: C–. So far on the trip we have only seen Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tampa, so we haven’t narrowed down the list much. On the contrary, we’ve added places that weren’t on our list to begin with (like Pensacola). But we are enjoying our present living situation so much that we aren’t too concerned with what comes next. Carpe diem! By April we’ll have visited the rest and will have more data.

3. Friends and family members visited — We count 59 so far: Jean Marie (Park City);

We rented a boat on Lake Tahoe with Val's dear friends from high school, Trish and JoAnn.

We rented a boat on Lake Tahoe with Val’s dear friends from high school, Trish and JoAnn.

JoAnn and Trish (Lake Tahoe); 20 or so members of the Party Dix of ’86 (Reno); Chris, Tom, Bill, Mary Jo, and Dawn (Las Vegas); Dan, Tanya, Amy, Francoise, Gail and Roger (Phoenix); Kathy, Adam, and Veronica (Denver); George (Memphis); Pete, Cindy, Sue, and Don (Nashville); Richard (Clemson); Rick and Carole (West Palm Beach); Ellen (Miami); Marion, (Hollywood, FL); Karl, Medon, and Paula (Ft. Lauderdale); Bill and Christina (Miami); Deane, another Mitchell, and Garrett (Orlando); Greg, Doug, another Greg, and Mayra (West Palm Beach), and countless new friends. Did we forget anyone?

Grade: B. While we’ve caught up with 59 wonderful people, some of whom we haven’t seen in years, and it’s been phenomenal, we have missed seeing others due to time constraints or schedule conflicts. We hope to see many more in future months, and we’ll give it a higher grade when we can check more of those boxes.

Best of the Bestest

Best (fill in the blank) — People often ask us, “What’s the best thing you’ve seen so far?” That’s so difficult to answer. The trip has given us so many experiences already! But if you absolutely forced us to pick, here goes…in the tradition of the Oscars and high school yearbooks, we present our list of superlatives by category to help break it down:

Favorite vista and scenery – Monument Valley in Arizona and Utah. This Navajo Park is so isolated and hard to get to, but so worth it — better than the Grand Canyon or any other National Park so far. The scenery and location of Goulding’s RV Park in Monument Valley was amazing. Plus, we took the Hyundai Veloster four-wheelin’! Grade: A+.

The Hyundai Veloster (or Valoster as we call it) did fine on the 17-mile dirt road (if you can call it that) winding through Monument Valley.

Unreal scenery! The Hyundai Veloster (or Valoster as we call it) did fine on the 17-mile four-wheel-drive-only dirt “road”–if you can call it that– winding through Monument Valley. The toad didn’t do so well in Valley of the Gods, where she got a scrape on her plastic underbelly. This is when we learned she HAD a plastic underbelly. PLASTIC??

Southermost Point marker

Key West…our fave! We’re coming back to the southernmost point in the continental U.S. again next year for sure. (P.S. It’s actually 94 miles to Cuba, but who’s counting?)

Favorite place to have fun – Key West, FL. We spent almost two weeks here and plan on staying for seven weeks next year — great people, great atmosphere, great weather, great nightlife, and a relaxed “island time” pace. Ten miles north of Key West, the Bluewater Key RV Park is definitely the most beautiful place we’ve stayed to date. Grade: A+.

Bluewater Key

The idyllic Bluewater Key RV Resort: a private dock and thatched-roof living area all to yourself.

Favorite tourist experience – Graceland in Memphis. Neither of us were big Elvis fans, but this was the best house tour we’ve ever experienced in our lives, hands down. The collection of memorabilia is impressive, but more importantly, each visitor is provided with a personal iPad loaded with additional photos, movie clips, songs, and interviews with people from Elvis’s life that brings the tour to a whole new level. We walked away impressed with the man’s achievements and talent and amazed at the impact he has had on American pop culture. Read Val’s previous blog post for more details. Grade: B+.

Longest stay in one state – Florida: Oct 21 – Dec 8. We planned to chase eternal summer (Grade: F!!), but we saw snow as in Utah on Aug. 24! In early October, we drove through it in Colorado. We retreated to Florida to stay warm, but one night in South Beach in early November, the temps dipped to 50F (the chic SoBe crowd wore fur coats). However, our last stop in the state, Pensacola, FL, in early December, saw temps in the 70s, making us very happy “glampers.” We’re braving cold weather again briefly to take our kids skiing and snowboarding in Utah for Christmas, after which we’ll finish winter in the warm southwest. Grade: Pass. We’ll be back.

warm coats in SoBe

Some of the random South Beach crowd wearing parkas and shaggy coats on Nov. 2. Even SoBe gets cold!

Longest stay in one city – tie between Las Vegas and Key West at twelve days. We love both places and plan return to both! Grade: A for Awesome! See you NYE 2015 in Vegas!

In our next post, see Part II of our Interim Report Card.