The prior year we drove across the USA from California to North Caroline. This year we spent six months in Asheville, then ventured up the east coast to Maine, down to New York, drove across the country with several stops in South Dakota, ending in the state of Washington with two side trips including one house sit in Canada. Big breath to say all that!
For additional photos please also see my husbands photo site – https://tomgrahammedia.com
Note the service we use is called Trusted Housesitters a UK company located in England. After several years of full-time sitting, Trusted Housesitters invited us to become Brand Ambassadors. If you email me I can send you a special code, you can not get from others! Email – [email protected] Thank you for being here!
Asheville, North Carolina – December 2017 to July 2018 (26 ½ weeks)
Wow, a six-month house sit. The owners and son left to go on a six-month around the world cruise – an incredible journey. The house was amazing, once owned by a Silver Olympic Medalist for cycling. The house also came with 3 dogs (2 Great Pyrenees – Apollo and Moses and 1 King Charles Calverly – Gracie) and 2 cats (Preston and Cheesecake). I call it my full-house (like in the game poker).
We could have stayed in the house, not gone anywhere and would have been happy, it was so comfortable to be there. But we did get out and about. There are lots of outdoor places to go exploring and Asheville’s downtown has so much to do.
The first week we were there, we were in the jacuzzi and there was a fire across the way from us. Embers landed in the yard. The fire was a house being renovated and it burned to the ground, it was about half a mile away, but seemed way too close.
There was also a swimming pool, during the winter there was a pool cover over it, which the smaller Great Pyrenees – only 95 pounds, would like to go out and spring up and down on it. In March, the cover came off and oh it was so nice to have a chance to go swimming whenever we wanted to.
Our friends from Flat Rock came up to Asheville and we met up a couple of times at delicious restaurants. I also wrote an article for a magazine about the New Belgian Brewery, went on a tour twice – the tour is free and you get to sample several of their beers. One of their popular beers is Fat Tire. I wrote two more articles for the same magazine. I even had lunch with the editor. Sorry to say the magazine is no longer in business, but it was perfect for me at the time.
I was a guest on the TV show “Jet Set TV,” how cool is that.
We were also surprised by how many “sweet” shops there were in Asheville – there were a couple of chocolate factories, popcorn shop, potato chip place (oh so many flavors), lots of donut shops, and more. One of my favorites was a double decker bus – called Double D’s Coffee & Desserts. We would go get coffee (for Tom) and tea and sit on the upper deck and watch the world go by.
We went to Little Switzerland, drove parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway (including stopping at the highest point of the parkway), and the Looking Glass Waterfall.
If our kids would move to Asheville it would have been very easy to move there. We like the art district, the downtown, all the nature (including several beautiful waterfalls), and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
After six months (seven if you include the prior Asheville sit) it was hard to leave all our furry new friends.
Linville, Virginia (and Luray Caverns) – July 2018 (1 night)
On our way from Asheville to Linville we went to Roanoke, to see Black Dog Salvage, a place featured in a TV show with the same name. If you are in the area it is well worth a stop. The shop is full of unique items to decorate your home.
The Airbnb we stayed at was off the beaten path, we selected it because the car was full of our stuff and we didn’t want to have to unload it – lol. The owner was a mushroom farmer in his spare time, which he wanted to show us.
After leaving Linville on our way to Washington, DC we stopped at Luray Caverns. We took the tour and the caverns were amazing. They actually held organ concerts way underground using the stalagmites and stalactites to make the musical notes. We were surprised at how many caverns there are throughout the east coast.
Washington, DC – July 2018 (5 days)
We could see the nation’s capital building from our house sit! Could not have been a better time to be there, during the fourth of July celebrations. We visited many of the memorials like Lincoln Memorial and sat at the Capitol building to watch the fireworks.
We also rented motorized scooters and journeyed up and down the National Mall. The Smithsonian museums are free and we went to several of them. We did have one very little dog to take care of – Rosco. He was pretty old and I would carry him in and out of the apartment complex we were staying in.
There is a new observation deck across the river that we visited. It has the best views of Washington, DC. It is called – The Observation Deck at CEB Tower in Arlington, Virginia.
Brooklyn, New York – July 2018 (12 days)
Our son and his family went on a cruise and we took care of their four cats, Cricket, Asher, Louis, and Jack. We always enjoy coming back to NYC. We even lived in Manhattan for almost two years just before we started our house sitting travel journey in 2014/2015.
We love to hang out at Times Square and meeting up and visiting with friends and family. Central park was beautiful this time of year.
Londonderry, Vermont – July 2018 (9 days)
The home we stayed in was unbelievable – the homeowners built the home themselves, from cutting down the trees, planning, designing, and so much more. There was also an old query that was now filled with water and had trout living in it on their property. They had three dachshund dogs (dad, mom, and kid – Harley, Heidi, and Moski). Taking them for long walks on the owner’s property was perfect. Oh, we feed the trout too. One of the best locations.
We had a chance to go to the original Vermont Country Store, a must visit if you are in the area. We also went and found several geocaches and covered bridges.
The owners had gone to Mexico to get a lot of dental work done – it was still cheaper to fly to Mexico and stay in a hotel, then have the work done in the US – sad face.
Great owners, great property, amazing house, and fun dogs.
Bradbury Mountain, Maine – July 2018 (3 days)
We went camping! We bought a new tent when we were in Asheville and we finally had a chance to use it. A wonderful change from our normal routine. We randomly picked a campground, and we were very lucky to have found an amazing location in Maine. Not far away (and we didn’t know this at the time we made our reservation) was the flagship store for LL Bean – it is open 24 hours a day, everyday of the year and is huge! It is in a cute town that was wonderful to explore.
From the campground we were able to hike to the top of Bradbury Mountain, which offered dramatic views – you could see forever. I bet it would be amazing to see in the fall. The tent we bought was large and easy to put up. The campground had firewood, so we were able to have fires both nights. It was invigorating just sitting in our chairs and enjoying the wooded view.
Cambridge, Massachusetts – July / August 2018 (5 days)
This was a great location to explore famous places like Harvard University. As we were wandering, a wild turkey showed up – crossing a busy street – Yikes, but he made it, got on the sidewalk and kept on walking.
We went to the Harvard Book store and had lunch at Border Cafe. The cafe had the best Mexican food we had in a long time. I think since we left California!
We took care of one cat named Nelson, he was perfect. No fuss, no muss and lots of cuddles. His owner is a writer for a TV show and shortly after our stay she moved to Hollywood!
Boston, Massachusetts – August 2018 (3 weeks)
Oh my we explored so much of Boston, it was amazing. Last time we were here was over 30 years ago and we had a five month old baby with us at that time. From our location it was only half a block away to jump on the above ground street cars and get to the heart of Boston.
We went to Faneuil Hall, followed the Freedom Trail, the Public Gardens (1837), Boston Commons, Paul Revere House, the USS Constitution – also called Old Ironsides, the Old South Meeting House, Chinatown, and more!
The three bedroom apartment we stayed in was the largest apartment we have been in. It actually felt like a stand alone home even though it was on the second floor and it was beautifully decorated with many antiques. The building is so old the apartment also had a bedroom for a butler – small room of course.
The weather was perfect, the food was wonderful, the dogs (Gobi and Dash) were cute, and it was great to have three weeks to explore Boston. One funny thing – the dog collars on the two dogs had been switched, just before we got there, so I was calling them by the wrong names for the first week!! Yikes. One day the owner said, after I sent them a picture, that the names were reversed – geez. I switched the collars and started calling them by their correct name – guess what, they were excellent before but they liked being called by their proper names.
Next we returned to Brooklyn, New York for one night to visit our son and his family before starting a house sit in Sunnyside Gardens, New York.
Sunnyside Gardens, New York – August / September 2018 (4 weeks)
Sunnyside Gardens is a nice area of New York City with a straight shot on the subway into Manhattan. We had a four week house sit in a comfortable home in a great location. We were close to where our son worked, so we were able to meet up with him many times for lunch.
One unexpected thing was that it turned out I was allergic to the cat’s (Claire) medication. I have never itched so bad in my life. I tried dozens of things and nothing worked. I was so itchy that I couldn’t sleep. After several days our son gave me one of his allergy meds and they worked!! I was worried until then.
We went to one of our favorite places several times – Times Square, even our son met us there a few times. We also went to Central Park. Being August it was beautiful. Did you know there are “talking statues”? We went and found two of them in the park. We also made it to the new location of the Hershey Store in Times Square, much bigger than the other one and full of so many yummies to choose from.
We did go exploring to see other areas we have not been to in Manhattan. We even tracked down and found a piece of the Berlin Wall. Now September, we went to the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center. We also went to Macy’s. This department store is so big and old. The store also has some very old wood escalators.
Then after four wonderful weeks we started our cross country journey back across the country.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – September 2018 (1 week)
35th House sit This was the first time we had been to Pittsburgh, it was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Spent a great week exploring. We even saw a live Opera performance for an “outdoor bring your own lunch” event. It was quite impressive.
We also stopped at the MilkShake Factory, established 1816 – oh darn, we just had too. The “Cool Globes” were on display throughout downtown. They represent ways you can help the environment.
We walked along the rivers, saw the Pittsburgh Steelers Football Stadium, Point State Park Fountain, and went to the Fort Pitt Museum. There were tons of Pittsburgh Steeler clothes and memorabilia everywhere.
Just down the street from the apartment we were at, was a self-driving car company. We often saw cars driving around by themselves – smile. Well they did have a human monitoring the car.
This was the first time we never met the owner in person, it was all done by texts. She had two fun cats Alex & Phoebe. This was a loft in a big old factory building – very well done and we could certainly be happy living there.
Next stop after a nine hour drive was a one night stop in Peoria, Illinois. The next day we drove eight hours to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota – September / October 2018 (3 days)
What a wonderful surprise Sioux Falls was. We loved our time here and the falls are beautiful. We had a guided tour by the local tourist office, which was very informative. The city has a “sculpture walk.” Each year they accept sculptures that are placed around town and people vote on them. At the end of the year they announce the winners and sell the sculptures, making room for new sculptures.
There is a large park at the Sioux Falls waterfalls. You can spend a lot of time wandering and enjoying the massive falls. Really something to see in person. I did write an article about Sioux Falls, the city, for a luxury website.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn overlooking the river. You can also walk along the river. If you are coming from the east coast it is a great place to stop on your way to Mount Rushmore or the many other things to do in South Dakota.
Custer State Park, South Dakota – October 2018 (5 days)
We thought, since it was October, we might be able to camp again. We did for one night but it was way too cold and they had a snowstorm coming up in their weather forecast. So we took the tent down and were very lucky to be able to rent a “heated” cabin in the same campground.
It was cold but the days were clear and beautiful. We were able to go to Mt. Rushmoor which was a short drive away. This was amazing to see in person. In the gift shop there was a gentleman that worked on building Mt. Rushmoor, it was interesting to talk with him.
Each year in Custer State Park they round-up all the buffalo in the park. They had completed the round-up the weekend before we got there. As we drove through the area they had just started to release them back into the Park, so we saw lots of Buffalo up close and personal – it was awesome. Probably the best time of year to see them. We also saw antelope and lots of prairie dogs. What a day.
On the drive to the park from Sioux Falls we stopped at the “Corn Palace” (in Mitchell, SD) and Wall Drug store, two famous stops along the way. There is also a rest stop on I-90 just before you get to the Missouri River that makes a good place to stop. There is a large sculpture of a Native American Indian woman there that is impressive.
Spokane, Washington – October 2018 (2 weeks)
Spokane was another surprise with a river, Spokane River, going right through town, and several waterfalls. Going to Riverfront Park is a must stop when you visit Spokane. They even have a skyline ride that goes down over the falls and back, which we did – great fun.
This was a house sit for three cats – Mr Darcy, Walton, and Holly, that gave us a chance to visit a friend from high school. It was so good to have this time to get together. We went to the Spokane Comedy club where the comedian picked on Tom a lot (was funny), and had milkshakes and sundaes at the “Milk Bottle.”
We were here for two weeks but it went really fast.
Seattle, Washington – October 2018 (3 days)
Wouldn’t you know, we had free tickets to go to the top of the Seattle Space Needle and it was super foggy. We went and explored the first Starbucks, and the Public Market most of the morning, hoping the fog would lift.
When we got to the Needle you could not see the top, it was still foggy. The Space Needle was just finishing a major renovation, so we went up anyway. They have added a see through floor around most of the level that revolves. You can sit there and watch the elevators come up and down. If we looked straight up, it was clear blue skies, but looking down you couldn’t see the ground. The man working there said he had never seen so much fog. Glad we went, but next time – no fog please.
We stayed in an Airbnb that I would not recommend. He had converted a very large basement into several rooms to rent out. The room actually was okay, but we all shared one bathroom and someone kept leaving the door closed even when no one was in it – a bit frustrating. Plus the owner was sick but it was a good location and like I said our room was nice and big, so it worked.
Bainbridge Island, Washington – October / November 2018 (3 weeks)
An island – yep and it was a lot of fun. We took a ferry to get back and forth. We went to a driftwood beach that was fascinating to explore. It was fun to be able to look across the Puget Sound and see Seattle and Mount Rainier.
We went to several coffee shops because it turned out that the house sit didn’t have reliable wifi. But it got us out and about to explore more of the island. It was a pretty area and we enjoyed being there.
I was interviewed by Travel Itch Radio – with Dan Schlossberg, this was a live interview on the radio – what was I thinking – but it went really well.
We did take a side trip to Edwards, Washington via ferry to visit Tom’s Aunt and cousins. The dog, Firefly, we were house sitting with even came with us. It was very interesting to take the various ferries back and forth from here to there.
Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada – November 2018 (3 days)
We were able to get a comp room on the Gold Level at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, Canada. (In exchange for writing an article for a luxury website.) It is often called the Castle of the Pacific Northwest. The Fairmont is famous for its location, luxury, and afternoon tea. Even the Queen of England was served afternoon tea here.
Getting there is a story all by itself, the short version, we had an upcoming house sit in Port Angeles, Washington. They happen to have a ferry that goes from there to Victoria. So we drove to their house in Port Angeles, left our car there, then the owners took us to the ferry, and we took the ferry to Victoria. We even saw whales during our ferry crossing.
Talk about luxury, being on the Gold Level means you have your own Gold Level dining area, private entrance, concierge, and luxury rooms. In the dining area, we were able to get breakfast, sack lunch, dinner, evening tea and coffee, and dessert. Yummy.
Victoria is the capital of the British Columbia, Canada. There is much to do here. One thing we wanted to do but did not have time for is going to the famous The Butchart Gardens. Maybe next time.
The highlight of our stay was having afternoon tea at the Fairmont. Our server is one of the ones that served the Queen of England, she was delightful. The chef came out to share with us a chocolate that he created. A very special afternoon.
Delta, British Columbia, Canada – November / December 2018 (2 weeks 3 days)
From our house sit in the Delta we were surrounded by nature, including Bald Eagles. We took the opportunity to go on a nature walk with a local photography group. We saw Eagles and an owl hiding in a tree that was so beautiful.
We went to the Christmas Market in Vancouver, BC, Canada that had great handmade items, delicious food, and Christmas spirit. They also had a cute Christmas Mug, that was an inexpensive souvenir that will be fun to get out and enjoy every year.
The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is free and a great experience. The woman in front of us was too scared to cross the bridge, we finally were able to go and it was beautiful.
Next stop we went to the top of Grouse Mountain via gondola. It is a short drive north of Vancouver with amazing views of Vancouver. Since it was Christmas time there were real reindeer and an ice skating rink.
The dog, Sadie, was so adorable and the two cats, Lily and Hobo, too. We were able to go for walks along a long jetty that made our walks a pleasure.
Side Story – Canada almost didn’t let us in their country! The morning when we woke up we were in Victoria, Canada, took a ferry to Port Angeles, Washington to pick up our car, and drive to Canada. When we got to the Canadian border they asked us the last time we had been to Canada – the answer was that morning – for some reason they did not like that. Also the car was full because we still had all our camping gear in addition to all our luggage – remember we had been traveling for 14 months! They made us go to a secondary inspection, where we were able to convince them (after some time) that we had no plans of moving to Canada. We were in! It was almost as difficult to get back in the USA – oh my!
We did return to Port Angeles, Washington for Christmas and New Years, see the next part of our adventure Year 4.