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2020 Hindsight: The Wordy Explorers' Travel Year

2020 Hindsight: The Wordy Explorers' Travel Year


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 01/01/2021
Posted On 01/04/2021 12:00:00

Destinations | Camping | Travel Blogger Year in Review | RV Vacations | United States | Gulf Coast | Alabama | Arizona | California | Colorado | Florida | Kansas | Louisiana | Missouri | Nebraska | Oklahoma | South Dakota | Texas



As 2020 rode off into the sunset, our fifth year as retirees is officially in the books. During the past year, the Wordy Explorers Travel Blog turned 2 years old and we also celebrated the third anniversary of adopting "RV There Yet?", our RV.

Little did we know how much use we'd get out of the RV this year! As 2020 progressed, our planned cruises and international trips evaporated into the world's COVID-filled air. With the RV, we always had a place in the United States to eat, sleep and retreat to anytime we felt that social distancing was impossible. This allowed us to explore some of California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota that we hadn't originally planned.

Just as we have in previous years, we counted the number of nights that we spent away from our Austin, Texas home. With so much uncertainty early in the year, we anticipated a significant drop in this number. After adding the days that we spent on our planned trips (the Gulf Coast including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas plus a rescheduled visit to Arizona) to our late additions, our final count surprised us. We slept away from home on 189 nights during 2020, nine nights more than in 2019!

For the first year since we retired (and even many years before), we never stepped foot on a cruise ship nor in an airplane. Additionally, 100% of our travel was domestic (all of our international travel was cancelled or postponed). Except for 6 nights spent with family and 1 night in a hotel (due to needed car repairs), we slept in "RV There Yet?" every other night that we spent away from home!

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Although we spent a great deal more money on RV vacations than we budgeted for, camping tends to be less expensive than the total cost of visiting destinations by air or cruise ship. Thankfully, our total expenses for 2020 travel were well below the budget that we set for ourselves. (We are constantly keeping an eye on our travel dollars in order to stretch them as far as possible. Since we retired rather early, we are keenly focused on ensuring that we don't outlive our savings.)

To see a summary of what two early retirees accomplished in one year on their quest to see the world, we welcome you to take a look below. Along with photos, we've included a month by month review and brief summary of each trip on this Travel Blogger Year in Review.


Map View of 2020 Travel Year in Review

Map View of 2020 Travel Year in Review

January 2020: Kansas City / Parkville, MO (1 night)

After watching the Longhorns win the 2019 Alamo Bowl on New Years Eve, we spent New Years Day with Scott's family. We saved the 12 hour drive back to our Austin area home for January 2nd!

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January - March 2020: Manatees, Mardi Gras & Missions RV Adventure in the Southeast USA (42 nights)

Planning for our first RV journey of the year started over 9 months prior to our departure. Since we had experienced Rio's Carnival in 2018, we wanted to be a part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

We left home a month before the start of our stay in the Big Easy to take advantage of Florida's winter weather (and try to improve our manatee sighting record). After two nights in Broussard, LA, we drove through Mississippi and Alabama to get to Santa Rosa Beach. From there, we traveled as far south as Fort Myers before turning north and then west. We stayed at a total of 7 campgrounds in Florida and successfully completed our mission to see manatees (and so much more) during this first leg of our trip!


Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Swimming with Manatees in Kings Bay

Swimming with Manatees in Kings Bay

Falling Waters State Park

Falling Waters State Park

Although we were only at Gulf State Park Campground for 2 nights, we got to add another sticker to our map. During our first stay in Alabama, we explored parts of this huge state park on bicycles - our first ride in over 20 years!

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Our longest stay in any one place of the trip was next - in New Orleans. We enjoyed returning to some of our favorite places like Cafe du Monde, but the highlight of this visit was experiencing Mardi Gras firsthand. We saw walking, rolling and truck parades, daytime and nighttime parades and parades both in and out of the French Quarter. Mission Mardi Gras was checked off of our list!


Historic Dynasties: Krewe of Endymion

Historic Dynasties: Krewe of Endymion

Krewe of Endymion Parade

Krewe of Endymion Parade

Morning Stroll by Jackson Square

Morning Stroll by Jackson Square

Rex, The King of Carnival

Rex, The King of Carnival

Before returning to Austin, we made quick stops in Beaumont and San Antonio. We had previously explored the Alamo, but it has taken us way too long to see the four nearby Missions.


San Antonio's Mission Concepcion

San Antonio's Mission Concepcion

We returned home just days before COVID-19 dominated the news. Within about two weeks, restrictions on businesses were put in place, and another week later, our home city was under a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.

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March - May 2020: Travel Cancellations and Postponements

One of the most difficult decisions that I've made was to postpone a trip to celebrate my mom's 85th birthday near Phoenix, AZ. Our RV journey had been planned for over a year, but less than a week before our departure date, we scrapped the plan due to lockdowns being imposed. There was so much uncertainty about travel and the last thing that we wanted to do was to put my family at risk.

Little did we know that the cancellation of our RV trip would be the first of many for the year. We had tentative plans to drive to the Dallas area in late April to see the Texas bluebonnets with family who would then spend some time with us in Austin. That trip, along with an early May road trip back to New Orleans followed by a short cruise with friends from Utah also vanished from our calendar.

During the period of the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order, there was a lot more activity in our community. Artistic neighbors were striving to put a smile on the faces of others. On our daily walks, we admired chalk art on sidewalks or driveways and were always on the lookout for painted rocks hidden by one of the neighborhood rock fairies. A couple of photographers even did socially distanced photo shoots!


Chalk Art in the 'Hood

Chalk Art in the 'Hood

Surprise Gift from the Rock Fairy

Surprise Gift from the Rock Fairy

We'd rather be in Hawaii right now!

We'd rather be in Hawaii right now!

It was in late May that we pulled the plug on our African Safari planned for August. Thankfully, the company that coordinated our itinerary for most of the trip allowed us to roll our deposit over to 2021 (fingers crossed!). We held off on making changes to our flights hoping for cancellations which would allow us to get refunds rather than airline credit. Although it took too many phone calls and emails to count, by mid-December we finally received 100% of the money that we had paid for flights.

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June 2020: Break Away from Self-Isolation on the Texas Gulf Coast (11 nights)

Once the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order was lifted in our home city, we took a couple of day trips. Unfortunately a mural hunt in Austin plus a few sites in the Texas Hill Country didn't satisfy our yearn to get away from home.


Hunting for Murals in Downtown Austin

Hunting for Murals in Downtown Austin

We chose to put "RV There Yet?" to use again - this time on a week long stay at Galveston Island RV Resort. Traveling in our "home away from home" gave us a place to hide out if we felt that others weren't wearing masks or respecting social distancing recommendations.


The Lazy River at Galveston Island RV Resort

The Lazy River at Galveston Island RV Resort

Leaving our Mark on Galveston Island

Leaving our Mark on Galveston Island

Fortunately, we felt completely safe - and even extended our getaway. As our Galveston stay ended, we headed to Rockport, TX where we stayed for an additional 4 nights at Circle W RV Ranch.


Exploring Rockport, Texas

Exploring Rockport, Texas

July - September 2020: South Dakota, Colorado & the Midwest US (57 nights)

Instead of meeting in Africa, we invited Scott's brother Todd and his wife Julia to join us on an RV adventure in South Dakota. It was our first time to have others stay with us in "RV There Yet?", and their first RV trip! Scott and I started off with a week in northwest Louisiana followed by short stays in Oklahoma and Kansas. We then made our way to the Kansas City area for five days of visiting with family. It was from there that the four of us headed to South Dakota.

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We camped at four different locations in southern South Dakota and saw so many of the state's famous attractions. Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, Spearfish Canyon, Badlands National Park and Wall Drug did not disappoint. Exploring small parts of cities including Sioux Falls, Custer, Keystone, Hill City, Hot Springs, Sturgis, Rapid City and Deadwood was time well spent. We even made it to Devils Tower in Wyoming!


Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

Posing on the Avenue of Flags at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Posing on the Avenue of Flags at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Custer State Park

Custer State Park

Roughlock Falls in Spearfish Canyon

Roughlock Falls in Spearfish Canyon

Greetings from Sturgis

Greetings from Sturgis

Full Throttle Saloon

Full Throttle Saloon

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

Deadwood's Main Street Shootout

Deadwood's Main Street Shootout

One of Many Billboards Advertising Wall Drug

One of Many Billboards Advertising Wall Drug

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

After completing our whirlwind tour of South Dakota, Julia and Todd returned home to get back to work. Scott and I continued on to Nebraska and then back to Kansas. Rather than head south toward Texas as originally planned, we decided to extend our time in the cooler temperatures of Colorado.


Sunset over Chimney Rock

Sunset over Chimney Rock

Kansas' Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Kansas' Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Our planned one week stay at Spruce Lake RV Resort turned into 10 days. We had a one night hotel stay plus two Uber rides (the only hotel and ride services used during the entire year) due to a necessary car repair. Two national parks (Rocky Mountain and Great Sand Dunes), exploring Estes Park and Colorado Springs and soaking in thermal waters occupied most of our time.


The Stanley in Estes Park, Colorado

The Stanley in Estes Park, Colorado

Elk, The Favorite Residents of Estes Park

Elk, The Favorite Residents of Estes Park

Sunset over Rocky Mountain's Bear Lake

Sunset over Rocky Mountain's Bear Lake

Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunset over Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunset over Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Nearing Pikes Peak Summit in Colorado Springs

Nearing Pikes Peak Summit in Colorado Springs

Touring Garden of the Gods by Segway

Touring Garden of the Gods by Segway

Sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Greenhouse at Sand Dunes Pool

The Greenhouse at Sand Dunes Pool

After 2 1/2 weeks in Colorado, it was time to finally return home. Since New Mexico was discouraging visits, we drove straight to Texas staying in Amarillo and Abilene for our final five nights.


Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch

September - October 2020: Going West for a Delayed Birthday Celebration (36 nights)

We felt that it would be safe to finally celebrate my mom's 85th birthday in early October (over 6 months belated). We started with the itinerary that we had planned for our March trip and modified it due to closures. (The RV resort that we usually stay at near our Gilbert, AZ family was not accepting short term visitors. Tucson's airplane boneyard tour was suspended indefinitely and the state of New Mexico was still requiring self-isolation and self-quarantine for most arriving visitors.)


Viewing the Airplane Boneyard Through the Fence

Viewing the Airplane Boneyard Through the Fence

In addition to spending a week with family, we hit 2 national monuments (Chiricahua and Organ Pipe Cactus) and 2 more national parks (Texas' Guadalupe Mountains and California's Joshua Tree). Bookending our trip in Texas State Parks, we did some sandboarding at Monahans Sandhills and, although we missed the peak foliage changes, we hiked at Lost Maples.


Sandboarding at Monahans Sandhills State Park

Sandboarding at Monahans Sandhills State Park

Hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Hiking in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Chiracahua National Monument

Chiracahua National Monument

Joshua Tree at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree at Joshua Tree National Park

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Monkey Rock at Lost Maples State Park

Monkey Rock at Lost Maples State Park

November - December 2020: Gulf & Southeast Coasts Winter Getaway (42 nights)

Our final trip to be called off was a bargain priced Caribbean cruise departing from Miami. As we knew there was a high probability of cancellation, we planned an RV journey that would get us near the cruise port - just in case. If the cruise did depart as planned, we'd be there and ready to go. If not, we'd appreciate our first winter holiday getaway - hoping for warmer temperatures than at our Austin area home.


"RV There Yet?" Decked Out for Christmas

"RV There Yet?" Decked Out for Christmas

After 2 nights in Lafayette, LA, we spent 5 nights in Perdido Key where we enjoyed Thanksgiving together. On our way to Florida's southeast coast, we spent a week at Camp Gulf in Miramar Beach followed by several nights in Inglis (more manatees!).


Thanksgiving Day at Perdido Key RV Resort

Thanksgiving Day at Perdido Key RV Resort

Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park

We enjoyed friends, beach and sun during our longest RV stay ever (18 nights) near Ft. Lauderdale. Our final week of 2020 was spent in Florida City where we planned a trip for almost every day of our stay. Hiking at Everglades National Park, exploring Big Cypress National Preserve, touring Vizcaya Museum and snorkeling at Biscayne National Park are just a sampling of what filled our days.


Miami Beach Lifeguard Tower Tour

Miami Beach Lifeguard Tower Tour

Manatees at Everglades National Park

Manatees at Everglades National Park

Alligator at Big Cypress National Preserve

Alligator at Big Cypress National Preserve

Touring Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Touring Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

How to Learn More about Destinations that We've Visited

If you're interested in reading more about any destination(s) that we visited in 2020, our Search Engine can help. First, select from posts (our original content), curated posts (an assortment of helpful articles from others) and/or postcards (original photos from our travels along with a brief introduction). Next, type in the name of the city, state or specific site in which you have an interest and "search".

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Your result will be a list of articles matching your search criteria. If your search doesn't yield any results, please let us know. We strive to post helpful information on all of the destinations that we have visited since our retirement (and even before). We are always open to modifying our posting schedule in order to help out a fellow traveler!

What's on the Horizon for The Wordy Explorers in 2021?

In addition to putting "RV There Yet?" to good use for more adventures in the USA (not sure where yet!), we have tentative plans for the following in 2021:
  • Adding two more states to our RV sticker map - Georgia and South Carolina;
  • Returning to Bahia Principe Luxury, an all-inclusive resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, to celebrate our 15 year anniversary (when safe to do so - so we may have a delayed celebration);


    Bahia Principe Luxury Runaway Bay

    Bahia Principe Luxury Runaway Bay

  • Relaxing in Zanzibar, Tanzania before our rescheduled National Park Safari from Arusha to Nairobi followed by Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park;
  • Exploring Tel Aviv, Israel; and
  • Wrapping up our travel year on a Western Caribbean Cruise.

We were also hoping that we would find bargain fares on last minute cruises from Hawaii to French Polynesia and back again in April. Based on current restrictions limiting the duration of cruises to/from US ports, we are anticipating that it won't happen.

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We invite you to create a User Account and opt in for an e-mail subscription now so that you don't miss out on our upcoming adventures. Our commitment is that we will send no more than one e-mail per week.

The Year Ahead

What travel plans have you made for 2021 and, of your planned destinations, which are you most excited about and why?



2020 Hindsight: The Wordy Explorers' Travel Year





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