2016 Year in Review

2016 flew by and was absolutely packed with adventure. In the past year we’ve seen ourselves grow more comfortable in the full-time travel life, spent a lot of time with family, and traveled to many new cities and states. Despite a few stressful moments, 2016 was a pretty great year! Here’s the 12-month recap of trips we took, people we saw, and adventures we had!

January //

January 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • January found us still in Louisiana with Ryan’s family after enjoying a wonderful holiday season with them. We helped his parents move into their beautiful new home, saw his youngest brother Kennan become the third Rogge boy to become an Eagle Scout, and said goodbye to his brother Landon as he headed off to Officer Candidate School for the Marine Corps.
  • While lots of work happened in January, we did make time for some fun adventures. Ryan and his brothers went to WizardCon New Orleans; we saw Breaking Benjamin at House of Blues New Orleans; we visited Rosedown Plantation; and Ryan installed a new refrigerator in the camper!

February //

February 2016 Our Streamlined Life

March //

March 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • If February was epic, March was … well, what’s a bigger word than epic? Basically, March was just a continuation of our favorite road trip to date.
  • We kicked off the month at what is surely the most gorgeous state park in all of Arizona; were spoiled rotten in Cave Creek; fell in love with Prescott; found our new favorite wine in Jerome; were awed by the Petrified Forest; visited dear friends in northern New Mexico; and were sobered by the Oklahoma City Memorial.
  • Oh yeah — we also saw the Grand Canyon. NBD.
  • And somehow, by Easter weekend we were back in Virginia to see Ryan’s brother Landon be commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps. It was such a proud moment for our family, and a blessing to be able to spend Easter with them (as well as my sister Katharine, who joined us from Illinois).

April //

April 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • We kicked off April with a long weekend of business (a wedding) and pleasure (a sweet hotel) in the Charleston area.
  • Finally settled back in Virginia, we settled into what we didn’t realize would be one of the rainiest springs on record in the DC area. (And I quote: “From April 27 to May 11, D.C. logged measurable rainfall on 15 straight days, the longest streak on record by five days.”) All  I know is, 15 straight days in the camper, surrounded by muddy footprints, watching the rain pour in buckets from the sky, had us both screaming, “What fresh hell is this?!”
  • But all that rain did have one positive effect: When the rain is falling, the river is rising, and Ryan got to experience some pretty sweet whitewater on the Shenandoah River, which is usually more of a pleasant paddle than the epic torrent it became.
  • At the end of April I headed to the Atlanta area to see my baby brother graduate from Army basic training. My brother Adam joined us from Texas, and we had a great time traveling with my parents.

May //

May 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • As the rain continued in May, I was so ready to escape. Ryan was hard at work ziplining and rafting, but I jetted off to Colorado Springs with my mom! Ostensibly we were traveling to bring my brother’s car to him at Fort Carson, but we had a great time road tripping together, visiting my sister along the way in Illinois, and even (barely) outrunning a tornado in Kansas! And in Colorado Springs we got to visit the Air Force Academy, see my brother’s Army digs, and spend some time in the Garden of the Gods.

June //

June 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • June 6 was our eight year anniversary and we headed to Niagara Falls for a fun and relaxing getaway (after spending a few days visiting my family in New Hampshire). We had a great time exploring Niagara’s parks and drinking lots of Niagara wine!
  • Another highlight of my year also happened in June: visiting Chicago with my sister Michaela. We had such a fun time running all over the city — I absolutely fell in love and can’t wait to go back soon with Ryan!

July //

July 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • We didn’t go anywhere in July … instead, the fun came to us! My parents and three youngest sisters stayed at the campground with us for a week of ziplining, whitewater rafting, hiking, and campfire relaxing. They rented a cabin near our camper and we all had a great time. (The picture above is from when my dad and I hiked Maryland Heights — the best view of Harpers Ferry!)

August //

August 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • Ryan and I parted ways once again at the beginning of August. I headed to New Hampshire to spend a week with my family; Ryan traveled to southern West Virginia to do some disaster relief work for the flooding that happened there earlier in the summer.
  • And then we headed to Maine for two glorious weeks! We hiked. We ate blueberry pie. We tent camped. We loved every minute of it. And on the way home, we visited with my family again and stopped off in New Jersey for a few days, too. It was a great way to cap off the summer.

September //

September 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • Come September we breathed a giant sigh of relief to get back on the road! (Editor’s note: Despite all evidence above to the contrary, it totally felt like we spent a housebound summer after being parked on the mountain for four months. Apparently that was less true than I thought!)
  • The first leg of our journey had us running alllll over West Virginia. (We absolutely loved Morgantown, the Gauley River, Charleston, and Pipestem State Park.) And we rounded off the month with two trip highlights: visiting the Biltmore in Asheville, and finally making it to Great Smoky Mountains National Park — one of our new favorite national parks!)

October //

October 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • Ryan’s birthday is October 4, and we celebrated it with rock climbing in Chattanooga. By this point we were on the return leg of our journey, and chasing fall into Kentucky: we spent a night in Nashville, explored caves in southern Kentucky, drank lots of bourbon, and rounded out our Appalachian adventure with Bridge Day back at the Gauley River.
  • After a quick stop at home base to get some maintenance done on the car and to say our goodbyes in Harpers Ferry, we were officially New England bound. Our stop-off in New Jersey was perfectly timed for some of the best foliage we’ve seen in years … and we also got in some history by visiting a few national park sites! (Read our guide for visiting all four of New Jersey’s national parks in a day here!)

November //

November 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • After a busy early fall, November was time to hunker down and get some work done. We parked the camper at my parents’ and settled in to enjoy the remnants of fall and take care of business.
  • That said, November wasn’t all work and no play: we enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with family (even our military brothers joined us — mine from Fort Carson and Ryan’s from MCB Quantico!) … went into Boston for our traditional Sam Adams brewery tour … and visited Louisa May Alcott’s childhood home and Minute Man National Historical Park.

December //

December 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • In December, the coziness continued. We decorated the camper for Christmas … and even got a little snow! The month was busy with Christmas shopping, Christmas cookies, and general good cheer. Family started coming in from around the country and we celebrated a fun holiday weekend with plenty of presents and lots of good food.
  • And here we are wrapping up 2016 grateful for a wonderful year bookended by January in Louisiana and December in New Hampshire, with lots of glorious adventures in between. (And you’d better believe a not insignificant part of our month was spent making travel plans for 2017. That post is coming tomorrow, but I just have to say — it’s going to be awesome!)
  • And just for fun, here’s our 2015 Year in Review!

Happy New Year, friends! Tell us in the comments: What were your highlights of 2016? (Feel free to share your blog recaps … we’d love to read them!)

2016 Year in Review Header | Our Streamlined Life

Road Trip Recap: Appalachian Adventure

Road Trip Recap Appalachian Adventure

I love posting these recaps of our trips because it’s such a fun way to look back on our adventures and see all the ground we’ve covered. This trip definitely looks different from some of our previous trips — more on that below!

Appalachian Adventure By the Numbers:

Total travel days: 41 (September 6 – October 17)
States visited: 7 (Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky)
Nights camping: 41
Nights in hotels or with family: 0 (!)
Campgrounds visited: 12

First of all — this trip was fun. In some ways it was more mellow than other trips we’ve done (no crazy off-roading, lots of KOAs) but in some ways, it was definitely an adventure (all the whitewater and all.the.bourbon). We definitely enjoyed getting to know a part of the country we’ve neglected. And we picked a great time of year to do it — let me tell you, West Virginia, Tennesee, and Kentucky in fall are gorgeous. The trip was also a study in contrasts; we stayed at both the swankiest campground we’ve ever visited (Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA) and the sketchiest (Camp on the Kentucky RV Park). We spent quality time in four states, and traveled through three more.

Every extended trip we take, it seems like we experience something new — and this trip was no different. This was the first extended road trip we’ve taken where we pulled the camper with us, and it was pretty eye-opening. First, we learned that it’s a lot easier to be lazy with a camper than when car camping; this trip definitely saw us doing a lot more TV watching and lounging indoors than we’ve done on previous trips. We also learned that pulling the camper is a little bit stressful, slows you way down, wreaks havoc on your gas mileage, and puts a major damper on spontaneity. Yikes! This trip was a bit of a test run, as we’re planning some pretty extended on-the-road time for 2017, and it was certainly instructive. So we’re taking it as a lesson to figure out how to improve for the future.

Traveling with the camper definitely changed our travel style. In the past we’ve often rolled into off-the-beaten path campgrounds, cooked dinner over the fire, went to bed early, and rolled out with the sunrise. This trip we averaged 3.5 nights per campground — unheard of for us! — and definitely traveled more slowly. We actually spent six nights each at two different campgrounds. Now, I know that for many full-time travelers that’s nothing, but for us, that’s the definition of S-L-O-W travel, which definitely had its pros and cons. (One thing that hasn’t changed: we’re still terrible at making reservations in advance. We actually got turned away from our very first full-to-capacity campground on this trip! I guess after 18 months on the road, it was bound to happen eventually.)

Now, without further ado — here is the official link roundup/recap of our Appalachian Adventure! We loved our time in the mid-Atlantic mountains, and we hope you enjoy reading about it, too.

Car trouble, camping in Coopers Rock State Forest, and excellent beer! (Morgantown, West Virginia)

Whitewater, whitewater, whitewater! (#GauleySeason kickoff weekend)

Books and burritos in West Virginia’s capital city! (Charleston, West Virginia)

Our new favorite West Virginia state park! (Pipestem Resort State Park)

Yeah, we’d like to be a guest of the Vanderbilts … (Asheville, North Carolina & the Biltmore Estate)

It’s America’s most-visited national park for a reason … (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Celebrating Ryan’s birthday in “The Gateway to the South” (Chattanooga, Tennessee)

One night in Nashville + our new favorite campground! (Nashville, Tennessee)

Caves for days! (Mammoth Cave National Park)

Three days. So much bourbon. (The Kentucky Bourbon Trail)

We didn’t jump off a bridge — but other people did. (Bridge Day, Fayetteville, West Virginia)

If you’re interested in reading more of our road trip adventures, check out our 2015 Road Trip recap here (where we travel from the East Coast to the West Coast and back) and our 2016 Road Trip recap here (also known as our Great Southwest Adventure)!

Bridge Day Weekend 2016

So, if you’re not familiar with Bridge Day, its a giant festival at the New River Gorge at the end of Gauley Season that is essentially a huge celebration of the one day a year when base jumpers can hurl themselves off the bridge. I’d been wanting to go for several years, but didn’t plan far enough out to actually be able to jump now that we finally made it. Womp womp.

However, a lot of my friends were in the area for Bridge Day and to go rafting, so we took it as an opportunity to relax a bit, check out the festival and watch some jumpers, and party with the raft guides. Not a bad consolation prize. We parked back over at Cantrell‘s, did some laundry and camper cleaning on Friday, then enjoyed dinner and a movie out while we waited for everyone to get into town.

Saturday was Bridge Day. We drove the mile into Fayetteville, planning on taking the shuttle down to the Bridge. However, after waiting for over a half hour, we realized we were young, healthy, and impatient, and decided to walk it. There were people EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t believe how busy it was, given the fact that only a few hundred people were permitted to jump.

There were vendors from all over the state–food, clothing, merchandise, outdoor gear, more food, even political parties (largely ignored, I should add). We made our way down to the bridge, and were greeting by a gorgeous view.

The Gorge really is spectacular, and incredibly deep. It’s really hard to get a sense of the scale in pictures. So that’s what the jumpers were jumping into. Here’s what they were jumping off of:

A 10×10 platform/diving board into the abyss. I like to do crazy stuff, and even I was a little intimidated by it–though I’m still gonna do it one day! Here’s a collage I made of three different crops of the same picture to give you an idea of the scope of the jump. Can you see the jumper in all three?

Like I said, it is WAY down there.

We watched those guys for a while, and finished walking the length of the festival, which is on both ends of the bridge. However, it was still unseasonably warm, into the high 80s/low 90s, and we were ready to go cool off. We made our way back to Fayetteville and the truck, where we snapped this picture of Rebecca with the beautiful mural on the side of the Fayetteville museum.

After drinking all the liquids we could find, and hiding out in the ac in the camper for a few hours, we were rejuvenated, and ready to go play. We spent a great evening having bonfires, telling rafting stories, and eating and drinking with a large group of friends new and old at a beautiful cabin they’d rented at the Carnifex Ferry Cottages. We were even treated to one of the best sunsets we’d seen the whole trip.

With the weekend — and the trip!! — over and done, we packed up our tacos and headed north for some fall foliage!

OSL Hits the Bourbon Trail!

Having finished up our exploration of Mammoth Caves, we continued on north, to the land of bourbon! Our plan was to explore Louisville and Lexington, and visit as many distilleries as we reasonably could in three days.

We ended up staying just over the Indiana border at Charlestown State Park, and we LOVED it. It was huge, peaceful, right on the river, and the bathrooms were some of the nicest we’ve encountered. The sites were surprisingly private, the people were nice, and we just found the whole place very relaxing. There are quite a few trails, picnic areas, and even a boat launch! This would be a really fun place to stay for a week or two at a time — you’d barely have the leave the park!

Buuuut if you wanted to get out and poke around, it was less than half an hour to downtown Louisville — and that’s where we started our journey down the Bourbon Trail.  A bit of background: I love bourbon. I have a number of favorites that I drink regularly, and I was beyond excited to see where it was all made. However, Rebecca has not historically been a bourbon drinker, generally shying away from brown liquors. However, right before we got to Louisville, she had asked to try one of my favorite bourbons, Basil Hayden — and she loved it!

Obviously I was super excited to try to find some other bourbons we could enjoy together! We decided to kick off our visit to Bourbon Country with a trip to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which had tremendous reviews online, and was right in downtown.

And let me tell you, the reviews did NOT exaggerate. It was an awesome and very interactive tour. They had lights and displays and recreations — it was all very dramatic and very well done! The basic idea was that they showed you how bourbon was originally made in the 1700s, and progressed you through the advances in both science and public policy over the past hundred or so years.

At the end, they took us into a 1960s themed bar, where we tasted the Evan Williams Black, the Evan Williams Single Barrel (which Rebecca really loved), and the Evan Williams 1783.

After enjoying that tour, we walked down to the waterfront to enjoy the sunshine. It was a beautiful day, and Louisville is a beautiful city!

We then meandered over to the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, a store and tasting room also right in downtown. There we did another tasting, and I found out that the Jim Beam brand owns some of my favorite bourbons, including Basil Hayden! Among others, I was able to taste a very strong bourbon I’d never had before, Bookers,which I enjoyed tremendously.

The next day, we headed for a new campground, and on the way, visited two new distilleries: Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey. This was a very different experience from the downtown tasting rooms: as soon as we got out of the car at Buffalo Trace, the air was completely saturated with the smell of bourbon. It was awesome. Buffalo Trace had beautiful grounds (as did all of the distilleries we ended up visiting), and they had a great tour and tasting.

Say hello to Thunder, the Buffalo Trace mascot!

I also discovered that Buffalo Trace owned many of my all-time favorite bourbons, including Blanton’s (often seen in the show Justified, which you should definitely watch before visiting Kentucky), and my favorite daily bourbon, Eagle Rare.

Ohhhhh yeah.

After that tour was over, we moved on to the next stop on our way to the campground: Wild Turkey. I was excited for this one for a few reasons. 1) Wild Turkey Rare Breed is one of my favorite bourbons; 2) we only drink it at Thanksgiving; and 3) Thanksgiving was coming up in a few weeks! I was ready to get in the turkey-day mood early.

Another bonus tip for Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey — they have plenty of room to park your camper! We rarely take the camper to tours and such, but we had it with us this day, and it totally wasn’t an issue. The tour was great, the staff was really nice, and they had a gorgeous rustic tasting room that we went to at the end of our tour for our tasting. The view was even tremendous:

After we finished there, we headed on to our campground: Camp on the Kentucky. And guys, I don’t like to write negatively on here — generally if we don’t like something, we just don’t mention it. BUT, since one of you may use this post as a guide for your own Bourbon Belt trip, I’m gonna go ahead and say it: Do yourself a favor and find another campground. The roads there are very narrow and super windy, which isn’t fun for towing, it’s way out of the way, there’s no cell service, the place is kind of run down and vaguely creepy, the people weren’t tremendously helpful or friendly, the bathrooms are pretty nasty … just don’t do it.

However, they DID have a super late check out time (3:00pm!), which we took full advantage of. The next morning we left the camper at the campground and headed off to round out our trip by hitting two more distilleries: Woodford Reserve, and Four Roses.

When we arrived at Woodford, we were immediately impressed by how gorgeous it is. The grounds were carefully planned and manicured, and the buildings were very rustic and elegant. It reminded us both of the small Virginia town of Middleburg where we used to live — it’s a very monied horse town with a carefully cultivated rustic charm.

Anyway, our tour guide Rob was fantastic — actually my favorite of our six Bourbon Trail guides — and the tour was great. At this point, a lot of it was review from our previous tours, but he still made it very interesting, and we still felt like we learned.

Finally came the fun part: the tasting! This was probably my favorite tasting, and it was definitely Rebecca’s favorite. We first tried the Woodford Reserve, a wonderful, very full and smooth bourbon. Then we tried Rebecca’s new favorite drink: the Woodford Double-Oaked. It was created to be a sort of dessert bourbon, so it is richer and sweeter, almost like a port. Even better, it was paired with pecan-topped chocolate-dipped bourbon balls, which were absolutely heavenly.

Once we were done, we headed over to Four Roses — but honestly, we probably just should have stopped. We were kinda bourbon-ed out, the tours were giving us mostly the same info, and we were really just ready to move along. So honestly, I don’t feel like we can give you a really honest perspective of Four Roses, although we weren’t wowed. The whole place was under construction, it was difficult to hear the tour, and like I said, we just weren’t into it, through mostly no fault of theirs.

We returned to our campground, grabbed the camper, and continued east to our final Kentucky destination — Fort Boonesborough State Park outside Lexington. This park ended up being a huge treat and special surprise for me. When I was young, we had a really cool book about Daniel Boone, and I was super into it. I had a fake coonskin cap, and a fake black powder rifle, and one year my mom even made me and my brother these great faux-calfskin frontiersman outfits. I devoured books about Daniel Boone’s adventures, and ran around the woods. It was awesome.

Anyway, Rebecca found and booked this campground, and while I figured it was named after the old fort, what I DIDN’T realize was that there was an actual recreation of the old fort! And as it turns out, it looked EXACTLY like the one in the book I’d had as a kid! I was beyond excited. I remembered the Siege of Boonesborough very clearly, and when we drove up, I walked Rebecca through the whole thing. Believe me, it was scintillating. My mom, who homeschooled my brothers and I, was so proud.

And even better, the campground itself was really nice — and was in full swing of hosting a massive camper shindig for Halloween! Everyone had their sites WILDLY decked out with all kinds of creative Halloween stuff. It was a lot of fun.

This is one of the tamer examples.

The campground even had clean, on-site laundry facilities within view of our campsite! (Our fellow full-timers know what a big deal that is. :-)) We spent a very pleasant night there; the next morning, we toured the fort, and then started back toward the Gauley River for Bridge Day Weekend to wrap up our trip!

 

Our 2017 National Parks Wishlist

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Our 2017 National Park Wish List

Yesterday, we shared our five favorite national parks of 2016. And because planning ahead is just as much fun as looking back, we thought we’d share our 2017 national parks wishlist — all the epic parks we’re hoping to visit in the coming year. (We are dreaming seriously big this year!)

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Eight of the 59 national parks are located in Alaska, and it was reeeeeeally hard to pick just one to make the list. But take a look at that view and it should be pretty self explanatory why we can’t wait to explore a few of Denali’s six million acres.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

It seemed like last summer all the cool kids were in Glacier, and we had a serious case of Instagram jealousy. (It’s called the Crown of the Continent for a reason!) And its proximity to Banff National Park in Canada only bumps it higher on the list.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

I couldn’t make a national park wish list without getting some beach action in there, and since we’ll be in California this spring Point Reyes seemed like an obvious solution. The camping situation looks on point — and how gorgeous are those bluffs?

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Ahhhh, Utah. We were so sad to leave you off our southwest adventure last winter after lingering too long in Arizona. But we vowed we’d be back for you — and your jaw-dropping national parks are a big piece of the draw. It was hard to pick just one (clearly, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands are all crazy beautiful too) but I can wait to see those arches for myself.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

It’s an eight-thousand-year-old volcanic lake. What more do I need to say? We should be in Oregon by late spring, and we can’t wait to seeing those blue blue waters in the United States’ deepest lake with our own … four eyes.

Bonus #1: Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

If I’m being honest, Dry Tortugas is actually #1 on my personal national parks wish list. But with no plans to visit Florida any time in the near future, it seemed futile to put it any higher on the list. In spite of that, I’m still dying to explore the 19th century Fort Jefferson (accessible only by boat or seaplane!) and snorkel in those ridiculous crystal clear waters.

Bonus #2: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

We have seriously neglected the Midwest in our travels, both in terms of states visited and national parks. But there are some crazy beautiful national parks wayyyyyy up north (Isle Royale and Voyageurs both look awesome, too) and I’d love to get up there. It’s possible we’ll pass through here in the fall after we’ve left Alaska!

Hopefully we do better checking parks off this list than we did on last year’s list! Tell us in the comments: What’s on your 2017 national parks wish list?