Arkansas to New Mexico

Arkansas —> New Mexico 876 Miles in 2 days (wow!)

There wasn’t much on our list to see in Oklahoma or in northern Texas so we decided to just continue heading west. We left Arkansas and hightailed it through Oklahoma, a state filled with ranches that make more money from the oil wells on their land than they do from the cows. We slept in a Walmart parking lot in Checotah. Checotah, Oklahoma is a small town of about 3,000 with signs all over letting you know that it is the birth place of the one and only Carrie Underwood. Sleeping in a Walmart is a right of passage to any new road traveler, and Paul was itching to check it off our list.

Walmart’s aren’t terrible to stay at, if you can find a quiet one…good luck. When you pull into a Walmart you go inside, ask if you can spend the night in the parking lot and if you can, the manager will tell you where to park. We parked on the side of the building and lucky for us it was the night of landscaping and street sweeping until 2 AM. So while Paul slept soundly, I stared at the ceiling and listened to what sounded like a street sweeper doing doughnuts in the parking lot at 40 mile per hour. There was also a lovely train that went by a few times, and did i mention the mass of stay cats chasing summer bugs all around the parking lot lights. Ahhh…Walmart parking lots, what dreams are made of. In all seriousness though, for a quick overnight when you’re tired, you can’t beat a free spot at Walmart, it’s also a good time to stock up on anything you might need.

After a sleepless night in Oklahoma I was determined to find somewhere to sleep other than a Walmart. Before leaving New Jersey I bought a membership to Harvest Host. $40 for the year and they give you a list of farms, museums, wineries, breweries and other (usually agricultural based) businesses that allow you to camp on their property for free. I looked up what we had around us and found a winery just outside of Amarillo, Texas to stay at for the night. Our night at the winery was much more peaceful than our night at Walmart.

After a night in Texas we headed out to New Mexico, following the old route 66 until we hit Santa Fe. Route 66 is unfortunately dead and gone through this stretch of highway, businesses and entire towns have been abandoned because of the interstate that replaced the famous highway back in the 80’s. No one is taking the time to stop and check out any of those old route 66 roadside attractions, the interstate has you zipping right past without even realizing it. Of course we had to stop at some of the iconic places along the way like the giant cross as you enter Texas, Cadillac Ranch, and The Big Texan Steak Ranch.

So, what did we learned after this big push to make it out west? Well, we came up with a new and very important rule that we lived by for the rest of the summer. Our new rule, no driving for more than 4 or 5 hours a day, after that we start to annoy each other and get cranky. Driving anymore than 4 or 5 hours didn’t let us see as much as we wanted to either, we felt like we were passing by too much and with the added weight of the camper we were going no where slow anyway.

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Hungry Mother State Park, Marion, V.A.

After a slow drive down to Virginia we arrived in Marion where we spent 4 nights at Hungry Mother State Park. For the first 2 nights the campground was very quiet with only about a quarter of the sites filled. The park isn’t too big, but it has a some nice trails, a beach for swimming and a boat ramp for non-motorized boats.

After a quick set up at the camp site we drove about 20 miles west to pick up our friend Purdy at a general store that seemed to be in the middle of no where. Purdy is thru hiking the Appilachian Trail and just passed the 500 mile mark on the trail. Paul and I hosted him for a few days in the camper. We cooked him hot meals, watched movies, and gave him a bed to sleep on, making him a very happy camper.

Our fist two days were spent hanging around the town of Marion and relaxing at the campground. Friday we decided to head down to Damascus, Virginia for a thru hiker festival called Trail Days (post to follow). We spent our last night in the camp enjoying their hot showers and laundry facilities before we had to pack up and head south to the Smokey Mountians!

We did it!

We started living our version of the American dream this week. Wednesday was an emotional good bye and we spent the first few hours of our trip pretty quiet, processing the fact that we are actually doing this. It wasn’t until we started to see the mountains of Virginia that we actually felt like it was real. 
Our drive down to Virginia was thankfully uneventful. The camper and the truck handled the ups and downs of the mountains well. 

Farewell Friends & Family

It’s finally here, our last week of work and last full week in New Jersey, we really can not believe it.

We would not be able to take this journey and make such a big leap if it weren’t for our friends and family. We needed and wanted to say “thank you” and “goodbye” to as many people as we could. We have had the help and support every step of the way, from my mom for putting up with us for the past year as we worked our butts off saving money and working on the camper, to the countless number of friends and family who came by to help us with each project. My Aunt Barbara who generously gave me all the curtains in the camper. Our friend Nick who helped us demo the camper and find all the water damage. Paul’s dad who helped with the wood pallets project and putting all the cabinets back in. Paul’s cousin Freddy who not only helped but let us borrow his tools. My Uncle Ernie who was great in helping us with finding a truck and giving us advice when it came to maintenance on it. The list really goes on and on. We were given some really awesome gifts as well, a tire repair kit, an emergency battery pack to jump the truck, a small air compressor, gift cards, wine, coffee, some cool camping gear, and little things to remember New Jersey and everyone we love.  We love our friends and family!

Last weekend my Mom was kind enough to throw Paul and I a going away party, making it much easier to see everyone that we wanted to see before we left New Jersey. Paul and I invited our friends and family only a few day before the party and we were so grateful to everyone who showed up. We shared stories, ate, drank and said our goodbyes. The outpouring of love and support that we received last weekend, and throughout this entire experience, was overwhelming and grounding for both of us. We have had lots of friends, family and neighbors come by to wish us safe travels, many bringing thoughtful cards and generous gifts that we totally were not expecting.

Another unexpected part of this whole experience has been the negativity and lack of understanding from some. As I’ve said, we have the most amazing family and friends who have made such an effort to wish us well, but we also have those around us (a small handful) that don’t understand why we are making the decision to do this and can’t figure out why we would leave our jobs. We’ve been called “stupid” and we’ve been doubted, but this only strengthens our love and gratitude towards all those rooting for us, so thank you all.

Happy Trails,

Morgan & Paul

 

Our Maiden Voyage

Last weekend we took our camper out for the first time. Before hitting the road for a few months we thought it would be a good idea to at least get a trial run in and work out the kinks. We decided to go to the Poconos because it wouldn’t be too far from home in case anything major did go wrong. I am happy to say that nothing major did go wrong, we realized what things we were missing though (pots for the kitchen, outdoor lights, a bike rack, etc.).

We stayed at Otter Lake Campground in East Stroudsburg and it was really a perfect place to spend our first weekend. The large park surrounds a lake, and while there are a lot of RVers the spaces are separated nicely and tree-lined. Otter Lake offers fishing, bingo, there’s a baseball field, a few tennis courts, and 2 pools (indoor and outdoor). The park was dog friendly and everyone was happy to be where they were.