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.
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 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.
A long weekend in “sunny” Florida.
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.