Scott and Jill hiking in Gros Ventre Wilderness outside Grand Teton National Park.

I guess it’s fitting I’ve chosen today, a holiday named for a martyr, to explain how our blog died. Or, more accurately, how I killed it.

It’s Valentine’s Day, 2011. Jill and I have been back at our home in Phoenix for a month. We traveled to 35 states (and one U.S. territory) during the past year, but our blogging stopped back in October, somewhere near the Texas-Louisiana border.

We never documented our travels across the Deep South, Atlantic Coast, New England, Great Lakes, Northern Rockies or Pacific Northwest. We failed to chronicle chance meetings with benevolent strangers and rewarding stays with old friends. Encounters with rattlesnakes, gray wolves and grizzly bears went uncatalogued. Ruminations about regional food, mountain trails and camping gear went unshared. The whole promise of the blog, inasmuch as there was one, went unfulfilled.

Scott in one of the tunnels of the Castillo de San Cristóbal Spanish fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The fault for this rests with me.

Last January, a week before we set out on our journey, two of our closest Phoenix friends treated us to a sendoff dinner at Jill’s favorite restaurant of the moment. At meal’s end, after the plates were cleared but before the last sips were drained from our glasses, our friend Stephanie — who is notorious for posing big-picture, put-life-in-context questions — leaned across the table, locked her eyes to ours, and asked, “OK, what is the one thing you hope get out of this trip?”

Jill and I paused, considering the scope of the question. I answered first, saying that I looked forward to leaving behind workaday responsibilities for a life lived spontaneously. I said I hoped to attach personal memories to names on maps, to see at least one new place every day and to temporarily approach life with abandon. It was a stream-of-conscience ramble that could have been distilled to six words: I just want to have fun.

When Jill sensed that I was done, she waded into her own reply. She said she looked forward to practicing her art in concert with mine — that we had spent our respective professional lives taking photographs and writing words, but we had never worked on a project together. She said she hoped we could develop story ideas for magazines, which might — who knows? — lead us to new careers as freelance travel journalists.

“Wow,” said our friend Laura flatly. The perfect yang to Stephanie’s yin, Laura is notorious for making cold assessments and sharing them (among friends, at least) with minimal reheating. “You do realize you have completely different expectations, right?”

If we didn’t before, we did then. After we parted ways in the parking lot, I’m sure Laura must have turned to Stephanie and confided, “They’re doomed.”

We weren’t. But our blog was.

Jill's square feet in an Eno hammock at a state park in Bardstown, KY.

The best blogs are written by journalists and aspire to journalism; their intent is to enlighten and, sometimes, entertain. Other enjoyable blogs are written by regular folks and aspire to sincerity; these blogs bridge distance between family and friends in a more artful way than Facebook, with journal-like writing and digital snapshots.

Jill and I hoped our blog would fall somewhere in between. But I wasn’t sure we could pull it off. Correct that: I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Not every week. For a year.

It’s not like Jill and I didn’t discuss this. I told her that I worried our different styles of working — her: passionate, ambitious, headlong; me: reflective, meticulous, meandering — might clash out on the road. This worried her, too. At the least, we worried I would slow her down; at the worst, we worried I would drive her nuts.

I ended up doing both. As the country unfurled before us, day by day, I struggled to keep up with my end of the blog bargain. Worse, I lost the desire to try. This devastated Jill, who worked her ass off to build the blog and was proud of the posts we’d done so far. She felt a responsibility to our followers and regularly checked our blog stats, tracking how many hits we were getting each day. More than once I caught her doing this in the car, on her iPhone, as pastoral countryside passed by outside her window and the CD we were listening to began to repeat.

As the blog posts fell farther behind our travels (we blogged about California from Florida), Jill’s anxiety and my guilt swelled in direct proportions. However much fun we were having  each day — and we were having lots — the subject of the blog seemed to worm its way into our conversation come nightfall. It had become a weight, a thing, a cumbersome monkey stretched across both our backs.

Jack didn't think canoeing the boundary waters of Ely, MN was a good idea.

The blog needed to die, but I couldn’t kill it. Not alone. Like some sort of doomsday device, the blog’s detonation required two keys. I do not recall the precise moment Jill finally turned her key — maybe it wasn’t a moment at all, but an incremental process — but I’m thankful she did it. We traveled lighter thereafter. Had we not amputated our figurative 12 legs, I’m not sure our literal 12 legs could have keep moving.

When friends chided me about the dormancy of the blog, I used to joke that I was on the verge of emblazoning a T-shirt with the words “FUCK THE BLOG” and wearing it every day. When people ask me if I’m going to write a book about our yearlong honeymoon, I tell them that, if I do, it will be titled “How a Traveling Couple Learned to Stop Blogging and Start Living.” Jill realizes my jokes are a means of conversational deflection, but she does not think them funny. The blog is a more sensitive subject than either of us have ever let on. (Until now.)

Despite the blog’s premature death, it was responsible for some of the most memorable days of our trip. Once, just to catch up on a few posts, we decided to stop in Natchez, Miss., and spend several days working on the blog in a motel. Only we didn’t stay in a motel; we stayed at the Mark Twain Guest House, on the shores of the Mississippi River. Our room sat atop the Under-the-Hill Saloon and had once been part of a brothel. It was furnished with a four-post bed and an antique card table. Each morning, Jill sat in the former and I sat at the latter, blogging away. The room’s big windows and french doors afforded views of the river, and we opened both to let in the breeze. Around sunset we would walk the dogs along the Big Muddy, and we whiled away the nights listening to the stories of the saloon regulars.

We had similar stop-to-blog experiences at a roadside hunting lodge in Mobridge, S.D., and a lakeside motor lodge in Detroit Lakes, Minn. At the latter, I never even cracked open my computer. I chose to read a book by the lakeshore instead.

Tilson Boshears, 3, convinces his dad to jump in the lake on Halloween. The lake temperature was 64 degrees.

Just because we didn’t blog about every place we traveled to doesn’t mean I’ll forget them. I won’t. And just because the blog didn’t turn out the way we thought it would doesn’t mean this past year wasn’t the best year of my life. It was.

I’d like to say I have no regrets about our decision to abandon the blog, but that would be a lie. I regret not compiling a full record of our time on the road. I regret not finishing what we started. And, most of all, I regret letting Jill down. Jill loved reading my blog posts. I should have kept writing for her, if for no one else. I guess that’s what I’m doing at the moment, because I don’t know that anybody really cares about one more dying star out here in the infinite blogosphere. But Jill does, and I think she could use a little closure. It’s the lamest Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever given her. (Which is saying something when you consider the list includes a used tire and a plush hedgehog.)

The one silver lining in all this (for me, anyway) is that while I stopped immortalizing our adventure in words, Jill never stopped documenting it in photos. She has thousands of them. Maybe tens of thousands. It will take her months to sort through every one. If you’re wondering whether she will post the best of those images here, the answer is no. She has a new blog, one that I can’t bog down with my sludgy prose. You can find it at jillrichardsphotography.blogspot.com.

As for this blog, maybe I’ll finish it one day, for the sake of posterity or future progeny. But I’m not making any promises. If there’s one thing I learned from this once-in-a-lifetime journey, it’s that I really suck at this whole enterprise.

On the flip side, I’m damn good at honeymooning.

A late-night campfire in Wyoming.

— Scott