Adventure Rigs!

One of my favorite things to come across as we traveled were cool vehicles, mostly custom, that other people were traveling in. We’ve seen some pretty crazy things driving down the road and I wish I was able to capture them all but here’s a glimpse at a few of my favorites…

 

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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.

12,000 Miles, 102 Days, 1 Amazing Country

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.

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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.

 

Happy Trails

Crawford, Georgia

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.

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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.

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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.

​Cataloochee Campground, Smokey Mountains National Park, North Carolina

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.)

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The road into our campground. EEk!

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.

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Sunset at the Campground.

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).
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Top of the mountains

 

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bottom of the mountains