Saturday, April 26, 2014


I'm glad that I have this chance to write a post looking back on our winter trip - 2013/14. Last year I missed out because we didn't have wifi at Jubilee Regional Park and by the time we went into Lloydminster for wifi I didn't really want to sit at the Home Depot doing the research. We did have a good year though - our 3 1/2 months in Mexico was much fun.

I did do a post the year before however which you can find here at Thoughts on our 2011/2012 USA Tour

And this year? Well, here it is. 

What a trip. I think I say that every year. Looking back always leaves me breathless - going over the pictures all in one go.

It wasn't our best winter south. Of the five I would put it fourth - only one winter worse then this one. A whole other story!

If you are late to the party - we weren't even sure we wanted to travel south this past winter. It was 50/50. Unfortunately we couldn't find a place to rent quickly (and the prices scared us off) in Castlegar so we decided to hit the road.

But it wasn't trouble free. The combination of missing the Appalachian colours, the cool and unpredictable weather and our mechanical issues meant that we weren't loving being on the road.

On the other hand, there were many bright lights that kept us from totally loosing our way. And the breweries? Well, they became islands in a stormy sea for us. Places to drop anchor and relax for an evening. With their friendly atmosphere and welcoming nature we felt like Norm at almost every craft brew we entered.

In the end, the Wood Clan made the most of it and are thankful for another safe trip seeing such beautiful sights and meeting wonderful people - we made some good friends this trip as we always do - internet friends included of course!

How the trip started out - hmmmm - hopefully Rufus can endure Cassia this trip! At least we were traveling in style with our newly renovated van.

We are particular fans of our silhouette shots - we have them from one end of the USA to the other. This was early on in the trip at the beginning of our trek through Yellowstone.

And we finally made it to Old Faithful.

We found the best pizza ever in Dubois Wyoming. 

I have to say that Cassia is up for almost anything - these pools were COLD. Guess most kids are like that …..

Happy to be back in Idaho Springs, Colorado which we had stopped in and discovered in the spring on our way home. Here we are on our way to Tommyknockers. 

Jumping ahead to Rolla Missouri and the Public Brewing House where Derek spent the afternoon learning how to home brew. Here we met a great couple that we still keep in contact with - Daniel and Jennifer - avid home brewers.

On the blog we show you a lot of pictures of the places we visit but actually we spend quite a bit of time in the van. We have been known to have a kitchen dance party or two.

Who cannot forget the five weeks we spent visiting with our friends in Hendersonville, North Carolina in addition to housesitting. Thanks again to Curt and Debbie for providing us with a respite - and the comforts of home - for a while.

It was all good until the weather started going this way….

We did stick around long enough for Cassia to be totally traumatized by meeting Santa. She still talks about the fact that on the trip she wasn't a fan of meeting Yogi Bear or Santa.

We began our trip down the Natchez Trace the way it should be started….

Our 444 mile trip down the Natchez Trace was cool but quiet. We stayed overnight at two of the free campgrounds having them to ourselves. 

We pulled off for Christmas Eve spending it in Tupelo, Mississippi. 

Following a great visit - as always with Pastor Jerry and his wife Barbara in New Braunfels, we were headed to Mexico. Sadly, we decided at South Padre Island that it probably wasn't the best plan and so continued west through Texas.

The Gage Hotel in Marathon was a highlight which just goes to show that something good can come out of a bad - we ended up staying the night because after our tour of the town we came back to a flat tire.

And who can forget our one week of boondocking in theTerlingua/Study Butte area. This is my favourite picture of the entire trip.

And my second favourite picture - mainly because it represents how much we enjoyed our boat ride at 
Elephant Butte State Park. A big thanks again to Shane who offered us a free ride and once again showing that there are some great people out there.

We were happy to return White Sands National Monument. Derek and I had been back in 2006 but it was nice to visit with Cassia. Kids + sand = a good thing.

Looks like our craft beer drinking was rubbing off on Rufus - what a booze hound.

A winter south wouldn't be the same without our annual stop at the Shell Gas Station just outside of Gila Bend.

And a stop at the Lowe's in Buckeye for Cassia to visit her Desert Cassia bush.

We made quick work of the space between Buckeye and the California coast. It was unanimous that Carpinteria was our favourite coastal town. Beach + playground + craft brew = priceless.

One of my favourite days was the one we spent exploring at at Pigeon Point Light Station SHP.

We certainly made some serious progress on our craft brew sticker collection - right?! So, what is your guess on how many craft breweries we visited this trip? Yup - I counted them - I'll let you know below.

And finally - after five months we were once again crossing the border.

Here are the numbers:

By the way - I only keep tabs on the amount of milage we make and how much we spend on gas. Oh - and how much we spend on overnights. I try to keep a tally of the rest but it never works out - this year I gave up trying. 

total miles driven: 11,121 miles (17,897km!!) from Lloydminister Alberta to our most southern point in the USA - South Padre Island - and back to Chilliwack BC.

total gas cost: $3,681 (ouch!) that is a whopping 86 gas stations visits. Since we have to pay cash at gas stations in the USA that was a lot of trips into the gas stations for me (except for Oregon of course). If you like those kinds of stats that is an average of 33¢ per mile. I think last year was 30¢ - so that's what we get for pulling the trailer this year. This year I didn't keep track of the price of gas - the lowest was probably the $2.99 in Missouri and the highest in California at almost $4.00 per gallon. I'd say the average was probably around $3.50 per gallon. Still better than the cost at home right now which is $1.39 per litre = $5.56 per gallon!

total propane cost: $110 pretty good - right?! Considering that is for running the fridge, stove and furnace for five months - and it was a cold winter!

total overnight cost: $246 also pretty good considering we were gone for 152 nights and that number represents paying for 16 nights which is an average of $15 per night. Thanks again to Home Depot, Lowe's and the various craft breweries where we spent most of our nights.

and a drum roll please…….

total craft breweries visited: 44 that was fun! And hey - not that costly because even though it looked like we drank a lot we didn't - really. Usually one flight and a pint. I'd say that we got out of most breweries with a tab under $20. 

Those are the numbers: 

The highlights for us I think were: 

+ Kansas and Missouri - we had never been to these two states and from what we saw they are very nice places with lovely people - we certainly enjoyed the lower prices of most every thing in Missouri. We found the cheapest gas there at $2.99 per gallon.

+ The Natchez Trace - although cool it was a nice way to spend Christmas.

+ South Padre Island - I was last there back in 1994 so it was nice to return - it hasn't changed much. It was misty but it was our first trip to the beach since Mexico.

+ Terlingua/Study Butte - what can I say -  we LOVE that area!

+ El Paso and Gordon Lightfoot - definitely one of the best parts of our winter. I'm glad that after driving through El Paso on the interstate for several years we made the trip downtown. Not once - but twice - to see Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot at The Plaza with the tickets we won on Facebook.

+ New Mexico - we had been to New Mexico a few times here and there - it was nice to spend two weeks getting a really good look. Albuquerque and Taos were highlights - Santa Fe was not. Some great craft beer in New Mexico with Taos Mesa and Sierra Blanca as our favourites - although really - it's best not to have to choose. 

+ The California and Oregon Coast - well, it started out with good weather. Looking back I could have done without the #1 Highway experience but at least now we can say we did it. Highlights were definitely Carpinteria and Morro Bay. If we had had more time I think that Cambria would have also been a fav.

+ The Redwoods - those are some BIG trees - totally worth all the talk about this area.

+ The Columbia River Gorge - for a place that started out as a place to kill some time we truly came to appreciate all that this area has to offer - even during a cool and wet spring.

And the low points:

- all of our mechanical issues - sheesh - about $1,500 worth - batteries, alternator, voltage regulator, fuel filter and two tires. It got so we spent most of our time holding our breaths wondering what would go wrong next.

- and those places we had high expectations for that fell flat. I'll be nice and not mention any names.

That's looking back - next post I'll tell you about what is ahead. 

Sorry Cj - one more night! 



  1. Thanks for the great summary with pictures. I follow your blog daily. It's good to know the "ups" and "downs" of traveling, and not everything being great. It was frustrating for your family but good for someone like that is planning their first trip. I am thinking if two adults, a child and a fairly large dog can travel in a van and keep sane, then I can travel with a bloodhound and two basset hounds in a truck camper. :)

    1. Hi Steve! You're welcome! Travel definitely goes up and down. I try not to dwell on the down but they are there. Ya - if we can - you can!

  2. Thats a great summary of your winter travels, and I think we followed you all the way.
    We enjoyed ours too and especially meeting up with you in California.

    1. Thanks George! Meeting you guys was also top of the list - the road seems lonely without meeting up with others - fellow bloggers is just that much better!

  3. Now that's a wrap! I am tickled to see my state of Missouri was top on your list. If you ever come back this way, maybe you can pop in for a stay with us. We are in Jefferson City. We will find you some more breweries!

    Safe travels!

    1. Thanks for the invitation Patti! Never say never - right?!

  4. Great memories in the life you are building! And that you have this blog to look back on! Happy wishes for your summer!

    1. LOL! I didn't realize it was on David's account! That was me, Teri! =)

    2. Too funny! Derek and I do that too! Darn! Super great memories!

  5. just found your blog..will have to go back and do some more reading!!!

    1. Hi Sue! How exciting - welcome! Enjoy! There is lots to see and read about - it's been a crazy three years!

  6. We take the ups with the downs and mmake the most of it You stretched the budget a little but had a good time. The memories Cassia is xstorong away are priceless!

    1. Ha! Too funny Croft! I had to lean in close! Our budget always get a bit of a work out that's for sure! I'm so hoping we continue to do right by Cassia providing her with great memories - travel and otherwise.

  7. Sorry for the typos, it is my first day with my new Samsung galaxy and there is a learning curve that I am sliding off.

  8. An interesting winter to be sure!! And 44 craft breweries...??? I was thinking 30 or so, I must have missed several!!! Darn boozehounds.....poor Rufus has nothing on you 2!!!!! lolol

    Safe Travels..........

    1. You said it BlackSheep! Well, Bend did add on 12 in one go which probably doesn't count. True - oh so true!

  9. What wonderful memories being made for the Wood's clan! Can't wait to see what's next!
    Connie in PA

  10. Great memories in the life you are building! thanks for posting this


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