My last two posts of 2019 were to share my list of firsts for the year as well as a wrap up of my travel year. They were fun posts to write. But, after the fact, they are a single succinct place to find the highlights of my year as a traveler. After writing last year’s I was sorry I hadn’t thought to do it the year before but vowed to do it every subsequent year.

I am absolutely sure you will not be surprised when I report that this year’s posts are leaner and lighter due to a lot of non-movement.

If you want to see the difference a year can make, go back and look at last year’s posts:

Word of the Year: Pandemic

Every dictionary picks a word of the year. Back in April, I predicted the word of the year would be social distancing because it was something most of us had never heard before and were suddenly using with regularity, even excess.

Merriam Webster dictionary recently declared pandemic as their word of the year. They had 11 words they deemed runners up. Here is the article if you want to read it. It’s interesting. I laughed that malarky made the list, a word often used by Joe Biden. Laughed, mostly, because it’s such fun to say.  

The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, declared that, much like the year, this was an unusual one in that they couldn’t settle on just one word. So, they declared it to a be “Words of an Unprecedented Year.” Their list included everything from bushfire (remember all the Australia fires we started the year off with?) to Black Lives Matter, from reopening (which we started talking about when things closed down in late March) to acquittal (after President Trump’s impeachment hearings).

Black Lives Matter sign outside a brewery.
One of the many words of an unprecedented year as declared by the Oxford English Dictionary.

But guess what also made their list? Social distancing. I feel like I should get partial credit for my prediction.

So, what does the word of the year have to do with the list of firsts?


The COVID-19 pandemic, obviously, is the reason my 2020 list of firsts is a short one. First came the stay-at-home orders followed by the closure of so many of the places I enjoy visiting in my travels (like museums, Visitors’ Centers and wineries). Then the reservations and plans I made from May through October starting falling like dominos, from state park reservations to a workamping assignment to RV rallies. For a while it felt like every time I opened my email, another cancelation notice awaited me.

It practically goes without saying that the pandemic itself was a first for me. For all of us it was a first, except for people over 100 who were around during the two-year 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic which took out 50 million people, or one-third of the population at that time.

Likewise, all the things that came with the pandemic were firsts: stay-at-home orders, wearing masks in public, social distancing, avoiding people as much as possible to reduce the risk of infection.

COVID sign outside a business. It reads, "City requirement to have a face covering in all businesses! Smile with your eyes!"
This was one of my favorite mask signs. It was outside a Trader Joe’s. Smile with your eyes.

Okay, enough of the downer firsts. I am happy to report that the year wasn’t entirely a non-starter. Even in the year of the pandemic, I managed to experience other firsts.

Tasted for the First Time

At the RV Entrepreneur Summit at the end of March (which, after most of us had arrived was cancelled and went virtual), we had a potluck and someone shared moonshine pickles with the group. You might remember, I tried moonshine for the very first time last year. It made the 2019 list of firsts. But pickles in a moonshine brine? Nope, this was a first.

Did I like them? Hmm, not so much. Actually, I didn’t hate them. I ate what I was offered plus drank the juice. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to consume them again.

Similarly, at a distillery (also a first, but more on that in a minute), I tried green olive infused vodka. Wasn’t a big fan.

Six tiny tasting cups and a regular sized cocktail (white Russian) on a bar counter.
While I was tasting the green olive vodka, I may have tried a few more.

I tried spaghetti squash for the first time. Yes, I know, I kind of live a sheltered life. I wanted to try it for years but it seemed so complicated to make. It’s not. And it was great. Definitely will make it again in the future.

As well, I tried boxed wine for the first time. Now this is a little different because it’s not about the wine itself but about the receptacle. Boxed wine always struck me as inferior (cheap and trashy comes to mind) but one day when I was wander through the store isles, I came upon the boxed wine section. I talked to the clerk who said it tasted fine so I decided to give it a try. It surprised me and was really good.

Black Box brand of boxed wine next to a fish sculpture of the same size.
Boxed Wine. Who knew how tasty it is? It might inspire you to “drink like a fish.”

And the best part? The price. Without all the glass packaging, the cost goes way down. The box I bought (Black Box brand which someone recommended) was $22 (that’s $5.50 a bottle) and the packaging said it was the equivalent to four bottles and that it would stay good for a month. Now, I shared it with two other people. It may not be realistic for me to buy for just myself (except when my wine-loving sister visits me!) but it’s good to know.

Small bunch of finger grapes.
Any guesses what these are?

I’d never seen anything like them. They’re grapes. Even though they look like mutants, they are two-bite grapes and so delicious. Just like regular grapes. A couple of months after I tasted them I watched a cooking show and they had an ingredient called finger grapes that looked exactly like the ones I tried. So, I tasted finger grapes for the first time in 2020.

Saw for the First Time

Like the finger grapes, I saw petroglyphs for the first time. After wintering in Deming, New Mexico, I returned to Albuquerque (after being there for 10 days the previous fall for the Balloon Fiesta) for a week before I headed east for the spring and, not yet canceled RV Entrepreneur Summit. While in Albuquerque, I met a friend who lives there for a hike. We went to the Petroglyph National Monument which is right in town. After a stop at the Visitors’ Center, we went on one of the three hikes which best features the petroglyphs.

Stayed for the First Time

You might not truly consider this a first but I’m counting it. I’ve stayed in both public and private campgrounds in my travels. But I never stayed at a KOA campground until 2020. Normally, I find them overpriced and they don’t generally have monthly rates so it hasn’t ever made sense for me to stay at one.

However, a KOA was the closest and most convenient campground when I had to vacate Horsetooth Reservoir in between my two work weeks as a HistoriCorps volunteer. So, off to a KOA I went.

A Bit of History

KOA was an early private campground. The idea came about in the early 1960s when Montana man noticed lots of station wagons and RVs (which were relatively new at the time) parking overnight at gas stations, churches and along the side of roads. He converted his land to a place where they could park, adding bathrooms, electric hook ups and a little store.

Four years later, in 1966, the first KOA franchise campground opened in Cody, Wyoming. You can probably guess many of the guests of both the original KOA and first franchised KOA were traveling to visit Yellowstone National Park.

And, just for the curious, KOA stands for Kampgrounds of America. The founder was not permitted to register “campground” as part of the name so he changed the C to a K. The logo has not changed since the company began when the founder asked a Montana artist to create it. The iconic red X with black triangle under represents a tepee with the door open. The black dot above the X represents smoke from a welcoming fire billowing out of the tepee’s apex.

KOA logo, a place I stayed for first time in 2020.
Hasn’t changed in more than 50 years.

Things I Did for the First Time

Embarrassingly, I used my Instant Pot for the first time in 2020. Yes, the same Instant Pot that so many RVers talked about that I bought mine even before I went on the road more than three years ago. Guess what? Now I understand what all the fuss is about. I love it, especially for cooking dried beans. It also happens to be how I made my first spaghetti squash.

One goal I created for 2020 was to attempt more slow travel. It’s something, I admit, that I struggle against since I’m so goal-oriented it can be hard for me to appreciate the journey in my focus to get to the destination. I made two such attempts during early 2020 with plans for a couple of others. The later ones, of course, did not materialize.

While slow traveling, if I can, I stay at a Harvest Hosts location. In doing so in 2020, l stayed at a type of place I never had before. I went to my first distillery. It was great fun (it’s where I tried the green olive vodka) and I loved parking next to their grain bins.

White van and trailer in front of six silver grain silos.
A great place to overnight.

Speaking of Harvest Hosts, when I was at the underground museum in Kansas, I rode a double decker elevator for the first time. And actually, I should go one step farther and say before I rode it, I first learned that there was such a thing as a double decker elevator. Never heard of them before that.

This last first that I did was a direct result of COVID. In fact, I previously never imagined I’d ever do this. But 2020 proved to be the year of things we never imagined, right? Primarily because of COVID and secondary due to all the wildfires in the west (at the time I made the decision), for the first time since I started life as a full-time traveler three years ago, I winterized my trailer (how to winterize will be a future post) and it now sits in a storage unit awaiting spring.

Funny, Not Funny First

Now to the final item on my 2020 list of firsts. And this one is funny if it had happened to someone else. Not funny since it happened to me.

I’ve said before how I prefer to shower in campground bath houses since my RV’s bathroom is both tiny and wet bath. The downside to this system is that you must take everything you need to shower to the bathhouse with you. No worries, I use one of those cleaning supply caddies. It lives on the bathroom floor and so it’s easy to grab when I head to the bathroom knowing everything I need is in there.

Except a towel.

Yep, in 2020, I took myself to the bathhouse, showered and, after I emerged, I realized I forgot to bring a towel. Now, it’s not the first time it’s happened but the couple other times I realized it before I got in the shower so walked back to the rig to get it.

This time I had to drip dry which wasn’t too bad except my hair. Luckily I had on both a shirt and a jacket so the shirt became what I wrapped my hair in.

Silly. And, like I said, almost funny. If only it was a story someone else was telling about what happened to them.

Well, despite everything, we have very nearly made it to the end of this crazy once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) year. May 2021 be brighter for us all.

Would love to hear you list of firsts for 2020.

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