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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Norfork, Arkansas

Almost a month was spent on the East Coast, we were ready to start the long haul out West, and our first stop was Arkansas.

After my Aunt’s husband recommending the Buffalo River area we decided it would be a nice stop on our way. It was never an intended stop on our trip, but then neither were any other places from here on. The green rolling hills and steep cliffs along the rivers were beautiful. Our campground was on the White River, recently bought by an awesome brother and sister team, who are working hard at fixing up the joint. The campground property backs right up to the river, which only a few weeks before had flooded out the land between their main house and the river.

We seemed to consistently be reminded this summer of the unapologetic forces of nature.

In our few days spent in Arkansas we visited the Blanchard Springs Caverns in the Ozark National Forest (Paul loves cave tours) and they were the biggest and most beautiful cave systems we visited. With large rooms and over a mile walk from one end of the system to the other, they were beyond impressive. After exploring the insides of the caves we took a drive to the top of them and explored the forest and natural springs surrounding them. Paul’s father and his wife were making a drive back to New Jersey when they decided to stop by and spend a few days with us, we fished, ate catfish and almost left with a dog, I’d call it a good stop on the journey.

My favorite part of Arkansas were the fireflies at night. At the time we were in Arkansas the fireflies were mating, and during their mating periods they do these crazy in sync light shows to attract mates.  The thick trees of the Ozarks were the perfect backdrop for this amazing light show each night. Growing up in New Jersey we always had fireflies around in the summer time, but I had never seen this many moving and blinking at such a pace. Paul and I spent each night in Arkansas sitting in the middle of the road and just watching as the fireflies seamlessly blended with the landscape of the night sky.

The thick green Ozarks, like many other east coast forests, were something I was about to unexpectedly miss as we moved westward…

We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends

So much of what we have done already could not have been done if it weren’t for our family and friends. We’ve had friends and family help each step of the way, and as newbies to this we are grateful for any and all help.

This past weekend was beautiful, it didn’t feel like February at all. New Jersey got well into the 60’s and we were able to get a lot of work done on the camper. This weekend we were able to get the floors in and it made a huge difference, I can’t wait to be done and see the side by side photos of the progress.

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Columbus, New Jersey

I’m happy that Paul and I are able to enjoy all of the great places in New Jersey before we leave. New Jersey has so much beauty, it’s not all the smog, pollution, and traffic that Newark and the surrounding areas have to offer. We’ve been able to do so much in Jersey this summer, getting to the beach, camping and hiking in the mountains, enjoying all of the fairs and festivals, and I was even able to get Paul to see Bruce Springsteen for his first time. We’ve been making progress with framing out the rest of the trailer’s kitchen, and we have been saving as much money as we can, like squirrels getting ready for winter. Over the weekend we enjoyed some time at the Columbus Flea Market in Columbus, New Jersey. If you are in New Jersey, New York, or eastern Pennsylvania you gotta check it out.

Columbus Flea market is located right off the New Jersey Turnpike. The market has several buildings and loads of outdoor space for daily vendors. The best time to catch the outdoor vendors is on Saturdays and Sundays when the weather is nice. We went on Saturday and the overcast skies seemed to have scared a lot of vendors away for the day. After exploring some of the outdoor vendors, head inside. Inside you can find loads of stuff, from airsoft guns to clothes & shoes, from packaged goods to delicious homemade foods. There is a lot to see at this Flea Market, they have a produce and fish market and some really great stores with good prices, but my favorite part of this Market is the Amish Market.

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The Amish market is a deli, bakery, pretzel shop, ice cream shop, sweet shop and two stores selling homemade goods. While the goods and foods here all come from the Amish in Lancaster, Pennslyvania, the people working here are not Amish. After doing some research I found out that the Amish work closely with their Mennonite neighbors to sell goods, and help bring money into their community. The Amish Market is open from Thursdays to Saturdays, and they serve breakfast and lunch daily. While Paul opted for some tacos at the other end of the flea market, I treated myself to a chicken lunch. This lunch was huge, a half chicken, green beans, mac and cheese, and a homemade lemonade came to $8.50, and it ended up being my dinner too. We usually stock up on all kinds of goodies at the bakery, but Saturday we stocked up at the deli. We were able to get some farm fresh bacon (3 different kinds), sage sausage stuffed mushrooms, and a stuffed pork loin. We never leave this place hungry.

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If you ever want to have a fun day…check out the Columbus Flea Market. Enjoy a few more pictures below…