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2023 Trips in Review

I visited 37 states this year and got many new updated state signs as well as Capital photos. I visited 107 national parks and continued my Priceline VIP Platinum with 56 hotel rooms and car rentals in 2023. I ended up taking 15 flights and tried to get a Powerball and Mega Million ticket this year as a cheap souvenir from each state.

Due to work demands, I made many smaller weekend warrior 3-day trips throughout the year. The longest trips of 2023 were the collective trips of getting back from Iowa on October 1st and leaving for New Mexico for the hot air balloon festival from October 4th-10th then Texas Oct. 12-16th  which I saw the Ring of Fire eclipse and then October 27-30th I did a fall trip to Smoky mountains and North Carolina for fall colors. All those trips combined made for a very fast-paced October.

Southwest Rapid Rewards was 283,841 at the start of 2023 and ended with 228,144 points. I earned 52,002 points during the year. I redeemed 85,788 points on flights this year mostly to Texas a couple of times as well as New Mexico.  

Alaskan Airlines Reward miles were 156,590 miles at the start of 2023 and ended with 157,092 as I focused on points with Southwest this year.

I expect 2024 to have less travel than 2023 and more targeted adventures. My goal in 2024 is to get more Northern Lights photos, maybe Iceland or Alaska again. I would like to visit at least 60 national park sites in 2024. I would like to do fall photos in the Colorado and Wyoming mountains next year. I have never been out there for fall color before.

Since I have done all 50 states, my first trip in January will be to the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands followed by a trip to Texas for the national storm chaser summit the following weekend. I also plan on flying to Austin, Texas to witness the April 8th total solar eclipse with Ohio being my backup plan.

Previous year comparison
2022 was 26 states and one Canadian province
2021 was 37 states plus D.C. and 2 Canadian provinces
2020 was 24 states due to COVID restrictions and work demands.
2019 was 42 states and 4 Canadian provinces and the year I finished all 50 states.
2018 was 28 states and 7 Canadian provinces.
2017 was 21 states and 2 Canadian provinces.
2016 was 22 states and 6 Canadian provinces

February 2023

I flew out to Dallas and then drove to Oklahoma City to go to the National Storm Chaser Summit. Then drove to Ohio afterwards for the Ohio Weather Symposium. I also visited Reelfoot Lake for Bald Eagle viewing. I saw a lot of eagles, had no idea it was such a hot spot with over 400+ eagles.   

March 2023

I flew to Dallas and visited many famous graves in Dallas, Waco, etc. I went to Waco Mammoth National Monument, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, SpaceX Launch Facility at Boca Chica Beach, and Padre Island National Seashore. I visited the Alamo in San Antonio for the first of two visits this year.

April 2023

6 days and 1,549 miles. I came with a 14-page itinerary and accomplished about 98% of it. I feel like it was a productive, fast-paced adventure.

I was in all 5 Everglades visitor centers, Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and De Soto National Memorial. I did two airboat rides, two sightseeing boat tours in the Everglades, and a boat tour in Biscayne National Park. I got to hang out with three friends as well. I was in Miami, Key West, Fort Myers, Tampa, and Orlando.

I flew to Miami and spent a few days in Key West and visiting a ton of famous graves all over South Florida. I did a  Boca Chita Key Heritage Cruise to view Boca Chita Lighthouse and silt houses and then did a Ghost Hunt & Robert the Doll Experience in Key West. I took a seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park which is a great experience. I highly recommend doing that.

I hit up the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the official state art museum of Florida, located in Sarasota, Florida on the way to Orlando. Admission was free that day and would be well worth the cost of admission. I visited De Soto National Memorial afterward.

May 2023

 I Flew to Dallas and drove to Big Thicket National Preserve, Cane River Creole National Historical Park,   Natchez National Historical Park, Vicksburg National Military Park and Poverty Point World Heritage Site in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi as well as many famous graves along the way.

My annual storm chasing “chasecation” was May 22-30th  with 5,109.4 miles (zero cruise control) in 7.5 days on the rental car.

9 states (Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas) I was only a few miles away from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska but didn’t cross the border.

I took 2,855 photos with my camera and 349 photos & videos with the drone. I got one, maybe two tornados in Encino, New Mexico. I went with 12 pages of #ItineraryInsanity and completed pages 1-4 and page 6. 

I visited and got National Park cancellation stamps and got my history on at the following parks

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, Gateway Arch National Park, Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, George Washington Carver National Monument, Fort Scott National Historic Site, Harry S Truman National Historic Site, Brown vs Board of Education NHS, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Fort Larned National Historic Site, Nicodemus National Historic Site, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, Pecos National Historical Park, Fort Union National Monument, Capulin Volcano National Monument, Rocky Mountain National Park

I also visited state parks and places like Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak is a fun drive and the view is amazing from there. I got to watch the sunrise from the Garden of the Gods twice.

I also did a late May visit to Ohio to see friends and family as well as visit The Bicycle Museum of America which has always been an interesting place on my list to go to.

June 2023

On June 3rd, I took much of the Natchez Trace Parkway to Tupelo. I visited in the Tupelo area, Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center, Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield, Tupelo National Battlefield, and Elvis Presley Birthplace. I flew my drone in the Tennessee River to where the tripoint of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee meet.  I visited Shiloh National Military Park and then Savannah, TN which is the catfish capital of the world.

I visited Meriwether Lewis’s grave on the Natchez Parkway as well. He is the Lewis in the Lewis and Clark fame and ended that day with a ghost hunt in Duck River, TN.

July 2023

I drove to Alabama to visit Russell Cave National Monument, Little River Canyon National Preserve, and Freedom Riders National Monument

August 2023

I went to Arkansas to visit some national parks and famous graves as well as get a new photo of the Arkansas state capital. I went to Fort Smith National Historic Site, Pea Ridge National Military Park, and Buffalo National River.

I also went to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky and hiked to where Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee meet up. I visited the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge. Lots of history about the atomic bomb there.

On August 17-20th I drove to Cleveland, Ohio, took a ferry to Put in Bay and then Columbus to get better capital photos and River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Michigan and the Michigan Capital building, Gerold Ford Presidential Museum, and South Bend, Indiana

September 2023

2,182 miles in 5 days over 10 states. (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE) Visited the capital buildings again at DE, RI, CT, NH, and ME. All but NH and ME were under renovation.  I flew to Portland, Maine for a New England tour. One of my favorite areas of the country for photography and things to see and do. Started off with sunrise at Portland Head Light, went to Eartha: World’s Largest Rotating Globe, the Desert of Maine and a better photo of the Maine State House for my capital collection.

I spent a day in Acadia National Park with breakfast at Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast, a tradition when in the area with sunset at Bass Harbor Head Light which is another tradition.

I drove to one of my favorite restaurants in the country, The Common Man in Concord, NH and got sunrise photos of the capital there then went to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park,  Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

I drove to Delaware to find the capital was under renovation but got some famous graves in the area and got the New Jersey and Connecticut capitals as well.  I spent some time in Rhode Island eating at Top of the Bay Restaurant which is a favorite and visited the capital in RI as well as Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, Roger Williams National Memorial, Lowell National Historical Park, and Minute Man National Historical Park.

I got famous graves in all the states I visited on this trip as well.

I ate at all my Northeast favorite restaurants, I’m not much of a foodie so I’m sure there are many other places but Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast in Bar Harbor, ME, The Common Man in Concord, NH, Top of the Bay in Warwick and Vincent’s in Merchantville, NJ and Nathan’s Famous hotdogs really made me happy.

At the end of September, I drove to Iowa via the scenic route. I went to Illinois first with Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Joseph Smith Historic Site, Herbert Hoover National Historic, Effigy Mounds National Monument, Pipestone National Monument, Missouri National Recreational River Headquarters, and Homestead National Historical Park

October 2023

October was a very busy month for traveling. I was in New Mexico and Arizona from October 4-10th and Texas from October 12-16th 2023 and then Smoky Mountains, North Carolina, and South Carolina from October 27th – 30th.

New Mexico and Arizona on October 4-10th Trip Summary

2,683 miles on the rental in 5 days

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was the main goal, a lady asked me about going to split the cost and I have wanted to photograph this for years. I used the opportunity to see a lot of other places as well. I came two days earlier so I could pack in as much as possible. Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is amazing and highly recommend going for the mass ascension, just something you don’t see elsewhere.

I visited and got National park cancellation stamps at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, White Sands National Park, El Malpais National Monument, Petroglyph National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve, Aztec Ruins National Monument.

I hit up other places such as Shiprock, Meteor Crater, Very Large Array and of course got a bunch of famous graves.

It was action-packed most days, on the go from 4am to 9pm especially with the balloon festival.

Four-day Texas Trip Summary October 12-16th 2023

1,580 miles total

340 miles on first car

1,245 miles on the second rental car

I got Ring of fire eclipse photos in San Antonio, and went to two national park places for stamps Amistad National Recreation Area and President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site.

Was in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Waco, Del Rio, Hope and Texarkana, Arkansas on this trip.

I ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant Abuelo’s for dinner too.  I also went to Klipsch Audio History Museum next door and each room had a different decade and speakers. I was really impressed with how good the 50’s speakers sounded like. All of them were awesome.

I got lots of famous graves, visited glass restrooms which is an unusual experience, and visited the only federal building in two different states.

I put 1,003 miles on a rental from October 27-30th going to all the visitor centers in the Smokey Mountains, driving the Tail of the Dragon road, I also visited Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina and Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in NC.  

November and December

I went to Ohio for Thanksgiving weekend and other than two drives to Huntsville to eat at Texas De Brazil  I have stayed close to home for the rest of the year.

National Parks Visited in 2023

North Atlantic Region

Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park

Acadia National Park

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park

Lowell National Historical Park

Springfield Armory National Historic Site

Roger Williams National Memorial

Minute Man National Historical Park

Mid-Atlantic Region

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Southeast Region

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park – Oak Ride

Cowpens National Battlefield

Kings Mountain National Military Park

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Camp Nelson National Monument

Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Obed Wild & Scenic River

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Everglades National Park

Biscayne National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Natchez Trace Parkway

Tupelo National Battlefield

Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield

De Soto National Memorial

Big Cypress National Preserve

Natchez National Historical Park

Vicksburg National Military Park

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument

Shiloh National Military Park

Russell Cave National Monument

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Freedom Riders National Monument

Little River Canyon National Preserve

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Midwest Region

William Howard Taft National Historic Site

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Homestead National Historical Park

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Pipestone National Monument

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

First Ladies National Historic Site

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

Hopewell Culture National Historic Park

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

Gateway Arch National Park

Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

George Washington Carver National Monument

Fort Scott National Historic Site

Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Nicodemus National Historic Site

Fort Larned National Historic Site

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Missouri National Recreational River

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Southwest Region

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

Big Thicket National Preserve

Padre Island National Seashore

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

Poverty Point World Heritage Site

Pecos National Historical Park

Fort Union National Monument

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Buffalo National River

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

El Malpais National Monument

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Valles Caldera National Preserve

White Sands National Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park (Los Alamos)

Amistad National Recreation Area

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

William J Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site

Rocky Mountains Region

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Rocky Mountain National Park

Western Region

Petrified Forest National Park