We traveled over 12,000 miles in just over 100 days and the most important thing we took from all those miles is the endless beauty and goodness that this country has to offer; so much that it easily over powers the hatred and negativity that our society is all too consumed with.
Over the past 3 months we’ve made it our goal to stay away from reading or watching too much news or social media, it was just too distracting and sometimes too depressing. With no cable, and in most places no cell service, it really wasn’t very hard to disconnect. Now, some people might think that our “ignorance is bliss” attitude was indeed ignorant, but when you travel across this country and see so many beautiful things and meet so many good people, its hard to watch and read one negative story after another. What we saw in the news seemed to be contradicting the country we were experiencing, and we didn’t need it fogging up our view of things. Our disconnection from everything but the world around us forced us to reconnect with new places and new people. We’ve seen places that brought us to tears and met people who, without even knowing, made lasting impressions on us.
In the end, it’s all about getting out there and focusing on the beauty in everyone and everything around us.
We settled down in Idaho this week after poping in and out over the last month or so. We’ll be resting our heads in Sun Valley for the winter while we work to save up for whatever adventure comes next.
*After leaving Georgia our travels were a whirlwind and we had little to no internet connection in most places. Now that we are settled I’ll be sharing some stories about all of the amazing places we’ve been since we left.
After coming back from Florida we spent one more weekend in Georgia before hitting the road. We took to the mountains to celebrate my birthday and have one more fun filled weekend with Paul’s family (baby goat included). Paul’s brother rented a beautiful cabin in the mountains and we hung out, hiked to some waterfalls, checked out the local flea market, where we all walked away with a little something, and did some gold panning. It was a nice way to end our time in Georgia, Paul really made it a nice birthday making a huge Paul breakfast, a nice steak dinner, and he tried his best to make a cake.
It rained on the drive down to Florida, it rain every day we were in Florida, and then it followed us home and rained some more.
After spending about a week in Georgia we headed down to Florida. We left the camper at Paul’s brother’s house because we had a place to stay in Florida and we also thought we might try to do some car camping. We headed down just in time to celebrate my cousin Micheal’s birthday for the weekend. My Uncle Bronco and Aunt Sue were kind enough to let us stay a few days, and it was nice to be able to take hot showers, do laundry and just relax in the pool in between the rain. My cousins Micheal and Bronco were both in a fishing tournament so we spent some time Saturday at the weigh-in having drinks and eating dinner. We were hoping to celebrate Micheal’s birthday that night too but he did enough celebrating out on the boat that day.
With everyone being off on Sunday we took the boat out, getting some fishing in and spending the day on an island in the river. We spent our lazy Florida Sunday, BBQing until the rain came back in again. It was a lot of fun paddle boarding, listening to music, hanging in the hammocks, and watching the dolphins swim by. Our weekend went by fast but we were happy to have been able to see everyone, aunts, uncles, cousins; and Paul was finally able to meet most of them for the first time. We even got some suggestions from Jeff on places to stop on our way out West, here we come Arkansas (thanks Jeff).
We were hoping to spend more time in Florida and explore the Everglades and Keys but with all the rain we decided to get away from it and get back to Georgia and our Camper.
After leaving the Smokey Mountains behind we headed for Crawford, Georgia. Crawford is a small town outside of Athens. Paul’s brother, his wife, and their two kids live on a small farm in Crawford and we parked the camper right next to their house and hung out for about a week.
Memorial Day weekend wasn’t spent hanging out in the pool or down on the beach, but fishing in their pond and smoking a big piece of pork in the wood smoker. Our days in Georgia were long and slow, but in a good way. Georgia gave us the time to relax, and get things done, we worked on the truck and camper, got some mail out, and caught up on all of other things we needed to do.
We spent Saturday night driving up into the northern mountains of Georgia to go to an auction. It wasn’t a car auction or an antique auction, but a farm animal auction. There were pigs, horses, mini ponies, donkeys, bunnies, chickens, and lots of other birds. Paul’s brother frequents the auctions and wanted us to experience it, and it was an experience. As people were bidding on animals, we ordered cheese fries and sodas from the snack stand, allowing us to really sit back and enjoy the show.
At one point during the auction Paul and his brother took a walk outside to see some of the animals that would be coming up, and that’s when Eric set his eyes on a one day old baby goat. As soon as they locked eyes Eric knew it was meant to be, he wasn’t going to leave the auction without that goat. We played with the goat and asked the farmer who brought him everything we could about him (what he ate, was it healthy, how to care for him, etc.). When baby goat got on that auction block it was Eric vs. some lady in the back, they went back and forth a few times until finally we walked away with a $80 baby goat.
As soon as we paid for the goat we headed out the Tracker Supply to buy some kid milk. We drove the hour and a half back to the house with baby goat sleeping in my lap. The rest of our time spent in Georgia was spent having lazy days on the farm, fishing, eating, doing maintenance on the truck and trailer and playing with baby animals.
After a week in Georgia we left the camper at Paul’s brother’s house and headed down to see my family in Florida for a few days.
We made it to the Smokey Mountains. The drive wasn’t too bad except for the road into to campground, which consisted of a 5 mile long dirt road with switch backs (my butt is clenched pretty tight on drives like that). We made it and got a beautiful camp spot right next to the creek. There were no hookups at this campground so we needed to relay on our golf cart battery to power our lights and the propane tanks to cook and keep the refrigerator cool. Overall we had no problems and it was a nice test for when we want to do more boondocking out west. We didn’t use the shower because filling the tanks with water and then heating it up with the propane would have wasted propane and weighed down the camper with all the water, and with nowhere to dump it we decided it was best not to take showers in the camper. (we paid $5 at a local campsite to use their hot showers, & it was totally worth it.)
After setting up camp we meet our neighbors who were fly fishermen and offered to take Paul out fishing with them later in the week. We drove about a mile down into the valley to look for some Elk before sunset, we found plenty grazing in the fields and even saw a bear walking along the tree line. Elk were reintroduced to the park in 2001 and have been thriving since. They like to stay low in the valley and because our campsite was in the most secluded part of the park the wildlife was abundant.
Day 1- We drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to one of the parks visitor centers and explored the nearby farm museum. The farm museum consisted of old buildings that had previously been on property before it became a National Park. After talking with a park ranger we decided to explore the city of Cherokee, an Indian reservation that reminds me more of the Jersey shore. There were tons of tourist shops, mini golf, amusement rides, ice cream shops, mining for gems stands, and tons of other Cherokee themed shops. We checked out the Cherokee museum which was very well put together and super interesting, local members of the Cherokee tribe work at the museum and are happy to answer any questions. After our stop in Cherokee we headed to Bryson City, not much of a city but a really cool little town with lots of shops and cafes. Bryson City also has a train that you can ride through the Smokey Mountains. Paul found a fly shop, got his fishing license and they even had a small fly fishing museum in town (boring).
Day 2- It rained the entire night before and on and off for most of our second day in the park. We got a late start but decided to stay close to camp and do some hiking and fishing. The camper still held up well with our battery life and propane. We ran one light at a time at night when we needed it and only used the propane to keep the refrigerator cool and do some cooking. Boondocking for us isn’t going to be a problem.
Before bed we decided to take a drive to see if the elk were out, they like grazing at sunrise and sunset. We stopped to look at a herd grazing on the side of the road and it wasn’t long until they were surrounding the truck. As cool as it was to see these animals up close, it’s unfortunate that they’ve developed these behaviors because of people feeding them from their cars.
Day 3- We spent our third day in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a cool little music and arts town with tons of breweries and some amazing restaurants. We walked in and out of the stores and spent some time using the Wi-Fi in a local pub to pay bills, upload pictures and do all of the stuff we didn’t miss doing.
Day 4- Our last day in the park we drove up to Clingman’s Dome, an observation deck on top of the highest point in the park. On a good day you have 360 degree views and can see for 25 miles, we weren’t so lucky. As we drove up the mountains the fog got thicker and thicker and visibility was nonexistent. Once you get to the parking lot of Clingman’s Dome we still had a 1/2 mile hike up hill. We did the hike, stood in the fog and rain for a few minutes and then headed back down. At the bottom of the hill there was a gift shop where Paul decided to do a good deed for the day and give some AT thru hikers a ride. (*Note to self: always ask where they’re going first). The 3 hikers were looking to go to Gatlinburg, we found this out on our way down the mountain, and although we had no intention of going to Gatlinburg we thought it was a good excuse to see the town. Once we got into Gatlinburg we realized seeing it was all we needed to do. We dropped the hikers off at an outdoor store and drove right through the town. It was busy and crowded with lots of chain restaurants, shops, and touristy stands.