Heart Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

Our Year in Review, One to Remember

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our day that we cannot remember all the wonderful things that happened over the past week, month, or year. I do not want to live in the past, but I would like to take this time to reflect fondly on our adventures for the year. In retrospect, 2023 was chock full of delightful experiences. We hope you enjoy looking back at the highlights and find inspiration to incorporate more travel into your lives in 2024.

By The Numbers

View of Mt Rushmore through a tunnel on Iron Mountain Road
View of Mount Rushmore from Doane Robinson Tunnel. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Although the van and RV life movement is widespread, Julie and I decided to take another path. We love our home, family, and pets. It is challenging for us to be gone for long stretches. So, we typically take a monthly trip and create content at home. Keeping this in mind, here are the numbers for 2023.

Countries Visited: 2 

While most of our travels have been within the United States, I attended a press trip in Canada.

States Visited: 11

Julie and I spent time in 11 states, plus 1 district last year. We, of course, drove through a few other states. I am only listing states that we indeed visited or spent time exploring.

We had adventures in California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, DC, and Wisconsin.

Days on the Road: 60

We spent 60 days on the road last year. While we love what we do, we spend more time creating content than many people realize. Each trip is a blast, and all those hours creating stories and videos are absolutely worth it.

Miles: 16,220

The name Miles with McConkey represents more than just the literal miles traveled. It is about the journey, the things we learn along the way, the physical miles, and life’s milestones. It would be remiss of me not to report our actual miles traveled. Julie and I logged 16,220 miles in 2023.

Flight Legs: 29

While we accumulated some of those miles by car, many were in the air. We had 29 flight legs last year in between our adventures.

National Parks Visited: 2

It is certainly not a secret that national parks are one of my primary passions. Due to some alluring opportunities, we scaled down our national park visits last year. We still visited Joshua Tree National Park in California and Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

2023 Travel Recap

Let’s step into the time machine and reminisce about our 2023 travels.

Marvel Day at Sea

Heroic Encounter with Star-Lord and Root
Heroic Encounter with Star-Lord and Groot. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Julie is not a fan of cold weather. After staying home the entire month of January, she convinced me to take a Disney cruise. Admittedly, I was worried two adults would feel out of place on a family cruise. With so many entertainment options for adults, my fears quickly evaporated.

Marvel Day at Sea is a mini comic con on the water. The cruise offers tons of entertainment and activities for kids of all ages (adults). Throw in a day at their private beach with tropical drinks and tasty fare, and you have an unforgettable vacation.

Yes, a Disney cruise is a bit pricey. The saying “you get what you pay for” applies here. You receive unparalleled service fit for royalty from the ship’s crew. 

If you have kids, it is the perfect family getaway. For adults traveling without kids, do not let your fears keep you from taking a Disney cruise. You will find plenty to do on this rewarding journey if you are a kid at heart.

California Dreaming

Cellhouse Entrance of Alcatraz
Cellhouse entrance of the main prison on Alcatraz Island. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Two of our daughters joined us on part of a trip to California. The four of us enjoyed Disneyland’s rides, attractions, and food. Disneyland may be smaller than Disney World, but it offers smaller crowds, more comfortable temperatures, and better food. We highly recommend it if you are a Disney fan and have never visited Disneyland.

After a few fun days with Mickey Mouse and his pals, Julie and I drove to Joshua Tree National Park to see the strange trees and surreal rock formations. The combination of odd landscapes, bouldering, and hiking is a rewarding experience.

We then drove north to San Francisco. The city has so many iconic experiences. I never considered it an outdoor adventure, but it has many parks and places to enjoy nature and views of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. 

Touring Alcatraz Island was one of the highlights. Everything about Alcatraz was a joy, from the ferry ride to the prison tour and observing unique plants and birds.

DC Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in Tidal Basin
Cherry blossoms at Tidal Basin. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

You likely have seen images of the bright pink and white flowers surrounding the Tidal Basin. Visiting the Washington, DC cherry blossoms is something we recommend everyone experience at least once in their lifetime. 

We enjoyed the colorful, fragrant blossoms while admiring the area’s memorials and monuments. There are also plenty of free museums to explore along the National Mall. It is an excellent combination of history and natural beauty. 

If you need another reason, Washington, DC, serves plenty of cherry-flavored concoctions, including lattes, teas, donuts, and more. Yes, we are guilty of sampling many of these.

Asheville

Exploring Biltmore Estate
Exploring the Biltmore grounds. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Julie and I often drove through Asheville when visiting our son in South Carolina. However, we never actually took the time to explore the city. In late April, we decided to stay and play in Asheville.

The city is renowned for the Biltmore mansion. Touring the estate is worth your time if you have never seen it. Upon entering the grounds, it feels like a national park. The sprawling, perfectly manicured lawns teem with towering, mature trees and colorful blossoms. 

You will find hiking trails, botanical gardens, a winery, restaurants, and more. Plus, the mansion blew away our expectations. It is far more extensive than we imagined, each room unique and immaculately maintained.

For those who love nature, Asheville offers many excellent hiking trails. The area provides a unique combination of city and natural recreation. We fell in love with the forested hills and waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Vancouver

Bicycling in Vancouver, BC
Bicycling in Vancouver. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

I had the opportunity to visit beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, on a press trip in May. The gorgeous city offers breathtaking mountain, sea, and forest landscapes. One of the highlights was a ferry ride to Bowen Island, where I took a kayak tour and savored tasty fare and beverages with a view.

Vancouver is a port city for Alaska cruisers. Unfortunately, many cruisers skip Vancouver, not knowing what they will miss. Julie and I are guilty of this. We sailed out of Vancouver the year before but did not spend time here.

The city has much to offer regarding natural beauty, food, culture, and entertainment. Please learn from our mistakes. Plan to spend a day or two in Vancouver if you sail out of its port.

North Lake Tahoe

things to do in Tahoe City - kayaking
Kayaking on Lake Tahoe. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

We have heard tales of Lake Tahoe’s stunning mountain and lake views. Julie and I visited North Lake Tahoe in mid-June to see it ourselves. The breathtaking vistas exceeded our expectations. It is on par with any of our national parks. 

If you love skiing, visit in winter. Summer offers mountain biking and water sports. The scenery is excellent year-round. Whether you seek adventure or a peaceful escape in nature, it is a fantastic place to visit. Natural beauty is off the charts here.

Our highlights included an e-bike ride, kayak tour, and hand-feeding chick-a-dees. Charming towns dot the crystal-clear lake surrounded by snowy peaks. We discovered many rewarding eateries and activities in and around Tahoe City.

South Dakota

Custer State Park sign
Julie wanted to touch a bison. This is the closest she got. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The Black Hills of South Dakota have been on our travel list for a while. We made that dream a reality in August. If you love scenic drives, do yourself a favor and visit the area known for Mount Rushmore

While we enjoyed the monument, nearby Custer State Park delivered beautiful landscapes and unique wildlife in spades. Plan to spend time driving and hiking. It is worth every minute. We saw more wildlife here than in any national park, including bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorns, prairie dogs, burros, deer, and wild turkeys. 

Our most terrifying and exhilarating moment was getting stuck in a bison jam. One bison decided to rub against the front of our car. For a second, we thought he might climb up the hood and tear us to shreds. Thankfully, he scratched an itch and moved on. Talk about a close encounter!

We were disappointed that the Wind Cave National Park elevator was undergoing repairs. So we could not see the cave. 

Fortunately, Badlands National Park was open. We enjoyed the scenic drives and took a couple of short hikes in the park. Although wildlife was less plentiful than Custer State Park, we spotted bison, prairie dogs, and bighorn sheep. The surreal landscapes and exotic wildlife make for a fantastic national park experience.

You can learn from our mistakes here, too. Consider visiting in any month other than August. Badlands National Park hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit during our visit. That is the reason we only took a couple of short hikes.

Door County, Wisconsin

Ridges Sanctuary in Door County, Wisconsin
Boardwalk trail in The Ridges Sanctuary. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

One of the year’s most pleasant surprises came in the form of a press trip to Door County. I’m embarrassed to admit I had never heard of the place. If you are unfamiliar with Door County, as I was, it is a peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. 

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this trip. You will not find chain brands here. It is a land of local eateries and accommodations, abounding with kind people, delicious cuisine, and natural beauty. Although a relatively small peninsula, it harbors five Wisconsin state parks

The area boasts delectable cheese and cherries. Do yourself a favor and eat the cheese curds and anything at all with cherries. You will find your heaven.

My favorite memory is riding a ferry through Death’s Door to explore Washington Island and a second ferry to Rock Island. Death’s Door has claimed over 275 shipwrecks. Do not let that fact scare you. The ferry ride is an absolute delight. Washington Island offers many adventures, from unique beaches to parks to a lavender farm. 

I cannot recommend Door County enough. Many visitors decide to make Door County home. After visiting, it is easy to see why.

Cocoa Beach

Preparing to explore Kennedy Space Center
Getting ready to explore Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Julie and I visited Orlando many times in the past. Yet, we never included Cocoa Beach or the Kennedy Space Center. During a press trip in late September, we had the chance to check both off our bucket list. The Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort gave us the royal treatment and is an excellent base for exploring the area.

Kennedy Space Center is larger, more spread out, and comprises more outside attractions than we realized. The Chat with an Astronaut experience is a thrill. 

However, our top highlight was observing a rocket launch from Cocoa Beach. We stared in awe as a fireball slowly climbed to the heavens. About a minute later, the sound finally reached us. The whole thing was surreal.

New England in Autumn

Mount Washington summit sign
Standing at the summit. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Some of our best adventures have been fly-and-drive road trips. We especially enjoy scenic drives in autumn. So, that is precisely what we did in October. We flew into Boston and then took a delightful road trip through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Salem has been a place of interest for a long time. That was our first stop after landing in Boston. Yes, it was crowded and corny, but a lot of fun. 

We enjoyed exploring the quaint town and learning about the area’s rich history. Beyond the witches, we ate goodies from America’s oldest candy shop and learned about the region’s maritime history. 

New Hampshire and Vermont proudly displayed vibrant fall colors as we drove through charming towns and rolling mountains. Fall drives in this part of the country are as good as advertised. 

Our most cherished memory here was riding the Mount Washington Cog Railway to the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. You could literally see clouds blowing around you at the summit. It is something we will never forget.

After touring these beautiful states, we headed to Cape Cod for a few days, where we embarked on challenging but rewarding hikes to discover some historic lighthouses. We encountered seals on the beach on one hike, while another required jetty jumping during low tide. These are some of our most memorable hikes of all time.

To close the trip, we savored mouthwatering cannolis and walked the Freedom Trail in Boston. We somehow managed to squeeze in a pit stop at the Samuel Adams Brewery. The trip provided diverse, gratifying experiences.

Disney World

Disney Springs Hangar Bar menu at Christmas - O' Ham N' Cheese Trees
O’ Ham N’ Cheese Trees. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Our year’s final adventure was a family trip to Disney World. Julie and I have many fond memories of family vacations. Even though our kids are now adults, we still cherish vacations where we can all spend time together. So, this trip meant a lot to us.

Even though the trip was in November, we saw the Magic Kingdom decorated for Christmas, ate festive treats, and watched the famous holiday parade. I prefer visiting Disney World near Halloween or Christmas rather than in summer. The temperatures are typically more comfortable, and the park has a unique vibe.

One of our favorite activities was sampling foods and drinks from around the world in EPCOT. We also toured Disney Springs to find all the themed Christmas trees and sample the Hangar Bar’s holiday menu. We thank our four kids and two sons-in-law for joining us on this adventure.

Future Plans

Standing in the Highland Lighthouse tower in Cape Cod, MA
View from the Highland Lighthouse. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Thank you for being so interested in our journey. We hope our adventures inspire you to include more travel in your lives. Travel is truly one of the most rewarding things we can experience.

What lies ahead for Miles with McConkey? Forgive me if I leave you in suspense as we plan our adventures. I will share that we plan to:

  • visit more national parks
  • take a northern expedition
  • relax on a tropical island
  • visit a prominent wine region
  • hop across the pond

Please stay tuned. Many exciting adventures await on the horizon!

Featured image credit: Miles with McConkey

Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
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