The Year in Review – 2020

2020. A year that was like no other. While counting down to the New Year has, for many of us, seemed like a tired and cliched tradition, this year I was truly glad to see the clock cross midnight on the First of January. I welcomed  2021 with open arms. 

Yet, the beginning of the new year is a good time to stop, take stock, and see where we have been, what we’ve experienced, and where we hope to be heading in the future. So as I’ve done every year since starting this blog, it’s time for the “year end review,” where we’ll recap the most popular posts from the past twelve months, do a status check on the vehicle fleet, and share some updates about this blog.

Let’s begin with the ten most popular blog posts from this past year, as determined by the most individual visitors to each post:

The Top Ten

10. Fort Mott

2012 Honda Accord coupe parked in front of earthwork defensive fortification.
Slotting in at number ten is this exploration of a historic fort that guards the entrance to the Delaware River in southern New Jersey.

9. Woke Up This Morning

White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of home from The Sopranos
Next in line is the tour of filming locations in New Jersey for The Sopranos. Fun fact: If you listen to the podcast The GM Shuffle, hosted by Adnan Virk (a former ESPN anchor) and Mike Lombardi (sports columnist and former NFL general manager), check out the episode from October 2nd, 2020, entitled “New York Giants History of Losing, Colts vs. Bears .” As they are both huge fans of The Sopranos and reference it all the time during their podcast, I emailed them a description of the fun adventure my wife planned for my birthday. Fast forward to the 39:50 mark of the show – Adnan and Mike read my email on air, and called my wife “the wife of the year.”

8. Adirondack Back to Back

Rondaxe Tower atop Bald Mountain.
Two consecutive weekends spent driving to the Adirondacks and then back to New Jersey, which included a climb to the top of Bald Mountain.

7. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Dingmans Falls waterfall.
Seventh place involved our adventure in the Delaware Water Gap in northwestern New Jersey, including exploring two amazing waterfalls.

6. Weekend Wanderings

View of dirt path in park, with wooden fence made of logs on one side of path.
With much of the nation shut down in response to the pandemic, this post detailed several hiking trails throughout central New Jersey.

5. Memorial Day Meanderings

White egret beside grassy field.
Checking out amazing wildlife, hiking through woods and beside a beach, and introducing a new friend with a high mileage Honda Accord… our Memorial Day adventures were the fifth-most popular post of the year.

4. An Artistic Scavenger Hunt

Mural of dancing figures pained on cinderblock wall.
How do you explore art when museums are shut down? With a scavenger hunt to find public art throughout your county.

3. The Art of Photography

Lights and boardwalk along river at sunset.
Rather than a road-trip, this post delved into my lifelong hobby of photography, along with some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.

2. Deserted

Two-story wooden building beside trees.
In second place is our exploration of an abandoned town in central New Jersey. Equal parts fascinating and creepy, The Deserted Village was a memorable stop, as was introducing another new friend who drives a high mileage Honda, and a unique Acura dealer commercial!
  1. Hemlock Falls
Hemlock Falls, with waterfall against granite hillside.
There is some irony that the trip where nothing went right was the most popular post of 2020. From closed roads, to waterfalls that should be described as “water trickles,” to hordes of tourists, this was the trip that we hoped to forget. Instead, you, my dear readers, decided that this post should be the most-viewed post of the year, redeemed, in part, by an interview with an Acura owner who takes his SUV to places most would fear to tread.

The Honda and the Jeep

2012 Honda Accord coupe parked in front of Quiver Pond.
Not a bad look for nine years old and over 165,000 miles!

Despite pandemic restrictions that severely curtailed my driving for much of 2020, the Accord still managed to add over 19,000 miles to the odometer this year. Now sitting at 165,000, the Accord remains as fun to drive as the day I bought it. A safe, comfortable long-distance cruiser, the Accord transforms into a fun vehicle for carving up mountain roads once you mash the gas pedal to the floor. Although for the most part the Accord only required routine maintenance, one large repair this summer significantly inflated the cost of ownership this year.

Excel spreadsheet that shows various repairs from the past year.

Just… ouch. Overall, maintenance was pretty affordable, aside from the significant repair incurred in late June. The primary seal on the oil pump was leaking, necessitating not just that repair, but also a new timing belt, as oil had spilled onto the belt, beginning to degrade it. On the positive side, the car will not need a new timing belt service (typically a $1200 job) until it has 250,000 miles on the odometer. Looking back over all my years of ownership, the cost of ownership for maintenance and repairs is $0.08 per mile, which is less than the average reported by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 2019 (the most recent year that data was available). Repeat after me: it’s still cheaper than a car payment.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee in front of Quiver Pond.
The Jeep proved its mettle several times this year in driving conditions that would have stopped lesser vehicles.

With my wife working from  home for the past six months, the Jeep saw even less time on the road than the Accord, only accumulating around ten thousand miles by the end of the year. That said, the times we did use it made up for all the time in the garage: several trips to the Adirondacks, drives down muddy trails, and plowing through snow-covered roads.

Excel spreadsheet with listing of repairs from 2020.

2020 represented the cheapest year of maintenance costs for the Jeep. The Jeep spent a little time at the body shop at the beginning of the year, as a misaligned tailgate was causing a small rust spot to form on the bottom of the panel. While overall these costs look affordable, there is one important outlier: in July, the Jeep required a new power steering rack. Fortunately, this was covered by the extended warranty my wife got when she purchased the vehicle. Otherwise, we would have been looking at a repair bill of $2,200. I like our Jeep a lot, but in approximately 60,000 miles, it has needed new lug nuts for the wheels, an oil pressure sensor, an oil filter housing, a software reprogramming, and a new steering rack. Hopefully, these early repairs are only outliers, and the vehicle will roll big mileage without any further issues.

Onward!

Blog Updates

Stats of blog - POSTS 172, VIEWS 14,688 VISITORS 5,052 BEST VIEWS EVER JULY 27, 2020

Since March of 2016, this blog has existed to chronicle my road trip adventures. 2020 was, by far, the year that saw the greatest amount of traffic to the site. The site was viewed over 4,500 times – a 36% increase from the previous year. There were 2,004 unique visitors to the site – a 31% increase from 2019. During the past year, there were thirty-five blog posts over the past twelve months. Since the blog began, over 5,000 people have stopped by to check out our adventures, and the site has been viewed over 14,600 times. To everyone who has taken some time out of their schedule to read these writings… thank you! I hope you continue to find this blog enjoyable as periodic entertainment.

And thank you for coming along on this year-end-update on the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.

6 thoughts on “The Year in Review – 2020

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