Day 4 and 5 BIG BEND National Park

JAN/FEB 2022 RV ROAD TRIP! DESTINATION KEY WEST FLORIDA

Amazing! We weren’t quite sure what to expect, where to stay, or which end to approach the huge park from. We definitely made the right choice picking Marathon, Texas for our base camp for our two, which turned into 3 night stay. More about Marathon later

This National Park is over 800,000 acres. We left our base and drove over 300 miles in one day to make a big loop around the park. We could have spent several more days and not seen it all. This would make for a good jeep expedition as there are many off road trails that we wouldn’t want to take in the truck and scattered campgrounds. The main roads follow the Rio Grande.

The main road south from Marathon
Take a quick ride through some of the park. THE Rio Grande! we didn’t expect to get that close, but we drove “The River Road” or FM 170 which parallels the Rio Grande for 120 miles. The road snakes around the river and into some amazing rock canyons and up into the mountains that are just breathtaking. And there was almost no traffic.
The Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande River.

No picture can do this justice. I walked across the river into Mexico. (Sorry Mom). I couldn’t go as far as I wanted because no pets are allowed and David and the dog were back at the truck. I wish I could have waited for better sun angles on the canyon walls and hiked further in. Next time!

And we had to have a little bit of this……

We would love a jeep expedition here. We stuck to the main paved roads except for the trek across the Old Maverick Road which was a washboard dusty rocky road. It was a nice shortcut and no problem for our truck.

The best surprise of the stay was charming little Marathon, Texas. “Where the Big Bend and the dark sky meet”. The Big Bend region offers the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states. There are several large telescopes available for stargazing. They have star parties almost nightly!

The tiny RV park was basic, but the surrounding grounds with tiny rental cottages, tent area, cantina, Spanish courtyard, and star gazing tools were some of the best we’ve experienced.

Downtown Marathon was just as charming

And then Lotti puked on the passport book and my camera….. the end of an otherwise perfect day. 😕 the little heater in the bathroom should have it dried out in no time and ready for the next National Park or Monument. Up next should be The Alamo!

Day 6 and 7 We remembered the Alamo.

JAN/FEB 2022 RV Trip Destination Key West

We couldn’t see much coming across Texas to San Antonio due to the fog. It’s so cold and dreary here. We spent Saturday night at an unusual Harvest Host, The Texas Air Museum near downtown San Antonio. What a gem! The all volunteer staff were very friendly, and so proud to share the collection of military flight memorabilia. We took the tour and then settled in to one of 2 grassy Harvest Host sites out in front of the building.

This is unbelievable! There was a large display containing the stories and accomplishments of underage military men and women in World War 2. (just boys and girls!) Most had lied about their age, but some were signed up by their parents where age wasn’t questioned. The youngest we saw was was twelve. One 13 year old went on to become an admiral in the Navy.

Wow!

Hmmmmm. I think we could use this. We need another trailer…..
Images of The Mission Grounds

We disconnected the trailer and took a very short drive downtown to see the Missions of San Antonio National Historic Park, including The Alamo which is most famous from the battle in 1836. They were originally built by Spanish Colonists mostly around the 1700’s.

You just can’t visit San Antonio without seeing the Alamo! It’s really tight driving and parking downtown, and the Alamo is now surrounded by the city skyscrapers which is pretty startling when you drive up to it. We managed a good parking spot one block away.

There it is!

AND, we can’t go to San Antonio and not go see our good friends Barry and Sally! We had a great visit and we’re treated to some really good BBQ (of course!)

Now on to Houston tomorrow. Are we ever going to get out of Texas??

Days 8, 9 and 10 Goin’ back to Houston

JAN/FEB 2022 RV Trip Destination Key West

We’re still in Texas….. it’s really big

Buc-ee’s!!

Our first stop in the Houston area was for fuel, which turned into an hour and half at amazing Buc-ee’s. I’d been looking forward to this. It’s sorta like a truck stop, but no big trucks allowed. It’s quite an experience. We picked up their beef jerky and pulled pork sandwiches, and stayed clear of the fudge.

Houston’s freeway system is nuts! I’m sure the locals appreciate it, but our navigation devices were even arguing with each other.
Heading into Downtown Houston

Our Harvest Host site was right downtown near the stadium. Equal Parts Brewery provided a nice level field behind the brewery for 5 rigs. We decided to try an Urban setting and we’re right in the heart of Houston. It was different. The staff was very friendly, and we had a nice view of the inner workings. Turns out brewing beer is pretty complex.

We’ve been to Houston many times, mostly for work. We both have friends here. We made a quick stop at Sunstate for David to check in with AJ.

Thanks to my Hertz/Herc/Hirg (??) friend Craig and his wife Mary for a welcome dinner out. We had a nice relaxing visit and proved that we can leave our fiesty dog back at the RV park with so issues for over three hours. We don’t think she barked and howled while we were gone.

It seemed like we circled around downtown Houston several times in the couple of days we were there. Harvest Hosts only allow one night stays, so we spent the second night at the Trader Village RV Park on the Houston Flea Market grounds. It was HUGE, but there was no event in progress so it was pretty quiet.

We were checking the maps, trying to determine how to visit Galveston without too much back tracking and yet another pass around Houston. Well, what do you know? There’s a ferry! And it’s free!!

There are some beautiful buildings and homes on Galveston Island. It’s obvious that all building is done planning for hurricanes and tsunamis. In 1900, a category 4 hurricane ripped through Galveston killing an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people. The city is less than 9 feet above sea level. It’s pretty obvious that homes are now built to withstand the storm surges. Everything is built on stilts, even the schools and churches. The city was pummeled again by major hurricanes in 1961 and 1983, but they caused much less damage.

Typical houses on the island

This is a vey busy port. They have up to five ferries at a time running back and forth taking travelers on SH87 between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula.

The birds like the free ride
Even churches are on stilts. Many of the homes and other buildings appeared to be recently rebuilt on Bolivar Peninsula. It was due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
2008 Hurricane Ike devastation.
It seems that most of these homes have been rebuilt.
Hmmmmmm. Curious about this place.

Yes! Finally, Louisiana!

Day 11 and 12 Camping at the Oil Rig

JAN/FEB 2022 RV Trip Destination Key West

Another successful Harvest Host camp experience.

“Mr. Charlie”, the first offshore oil rig was built in 1954. After it was retired in the 80’s, it was eventually moved to the current location in Morgan City on the Atchafalaya River. It’s now serves as an educational museum and training facility.

We are really enjoying our Harvest Host experiences. The grounds at the rig were huge and we were the only visitors. (Lots of frisbee action)

We arrive yesterday afternoon, too late for the 4 o’clock tour. We just took it easy, slept in and went on the 10:00 tour. As usual the camp site was free. The tour was $7 each.

We had a beautiful sunset.
Careful though, there are alligators on the banks here. It IS Louisiana Bayou country.
There is a 30 foot flood wall surrounding the property and down the coast line. We did soon realize that we were on the wrong side of the wall in case of a flood or tsunami. 😬

Take the “Mr. Charlie” slideshow tour. It’s hard to imagine living and working on a rig for weeks at a time.

I am on this trip!

After the tour, we were on the road again. It was a quick drive over to our next stop, New Orleans!

Crossing the mighty Mississippi!
The entrance to the RV park.
Nice way to tow your “Toad“

Our RV park is downtown, actually in the French Quarter. We’re within walking distance to Bourbon street and more. It was a little tight getting off of the I-10 and into the city. The park is amazing. It’s even better than expected. The spots are huge, but ours is literally right under the freeway.

Location, location, location!

We will be here 3 nights. Many pics to follow!

Day 13 and 14 New Orleans!

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

This is where it all happens….

It rained all day our first full day in New Orleans. We drove around anyway in our big truck which was not made for these little tiny one way streets. Excuse the picture quality. It’s impossible to get good shots out of steamy wet windows.

We love big bridges!

Day two was much better! We took an Uber to and from the RV Park to Bourbon Street which was only .7 miles. We aren’t that lazy, we’re just staying safe. We weren’t expecting anything festive in the city on a quiet Sunday but it was Betty White’s would be 100th birthday! We were glad to be able to experience the parade atmosphere. Everybody loved Betty. Even the marching band was playing “Thank You For Being A Friend”.

Lots of Bettys are here today

When I’m close to the gulf or any ocean, I always feel claustrophobic like I’m below sea level. Wait…. We are below sea level. – 4 feet. 😳

The city is really old and crowded but beautiful in its own way. It would be a very different way of life than what we’re used to. And I prefer about 1200 feet above sea level! And where do all of these people park???

Closed….. due to Covid. Darn.

The cemeteries are really spectacular. All are buried in crypts above ground due to the water level. There are cemeteries like this all over the city dating back hundreds of years. We’re not sure how all of this has withstood all of the hurricanes. The entire city is in a bowl surrounded by sea walls and levies.

Yes, that’s the I-10 right above us.

Our RV park had beautiful large individual spaces. But IT WAS LOUD! Probably the loudest place we have ever stayed on the road. The traffic never stopped. It was a constant roar all night long. We were there 3 nights and didn’t get much sleep. Can’t beat the location though. We highly recommend it!

Day 15 Gulf Shores and Fort Pickens

JAN/FEB 2022 RV Trip Destination Key West

Leaving New Orleans, we crossed the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway which is two fixed bridges spanning almost 24 miles. This is the longest bridge over water in the world!

And first we had to cross the shores of Mississippi and Alabama and enjoy another fuel stop at Buc-ee’s! We’ll spend more time in the Northern part of these two states on our way home.

Mobile Alabama (I think…)

The Gulf Islands National Seashore spans 150 miles. We chose to access the Fort Pickens area so that we could also see the fort. The RV park turned out to be better than expected. We agreed that this could be a spot we’d like to spend a week. There are miles of hiking and bike trails, a cute town and beautiful beaches. The beaches have the whitest sand I’ve ever seen.

Getting that below sea level vibe again 😬
Privacy, please!
Beautiful sunset through the trailer window

Fort Pickens was a short distance further down Santa Rosa Island. We had a nice self guided tour. It was pretty amazing, and surprisingly intact considering it dates back to the 1800’s. It was one of the few forts in the South that remained in Union hands throughout the American Civil War. It remained in use until 1947. It also survived a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Leaving the island we were pretty impressed by the bridge construction. Barges we’re loaded with bridge components. It’s amazing that theses massive bridges are built over water. We see this everywhere in the Gulf.

Day 16 Tallahassee

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

If only……. This would be so fun to convert to an RV. This is the finest old milk truck we have ever seen, in THE best automobile collection ever.

We had another Harvest Host success with our stay at the Tallahassee Automobile and Collectables Museum. The grounds were beautiful with plenty of room for many rigs. There were only two others this night. Lotti had plenty of frisbee action.

Free parking for the night. But we did spend $15 apiece to tour the museum.

I WANT THIS MILK TRUCK!!

And David wants this ‘66 Nova!!

Sigh……

They had a huge doll collection, but not one Betsy McCall doll. Hmmmmm…… I think I could help them with this.

This museum is the collection of one individual. All items are owned by this museum founder. None of this is on loan. That makes the collection even more amazing. We were intrigued as to how one person could ever amass such a collection. Who IS this guy?

Check out this video if you LOVE car shows.

Here’s another one of our favorites.

He also had an old hearse that carried Abraham Lincoln to his final resting place.

And guns, guns, and more guns.

This one’s special. 357 Magnum.

Day 17 and 18 and 19 FAST FORWARD!

Clearwater, Pine Island, Tampa Bay and Fort Meyers

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

Darn! Missed the turn off for this one….

The plans have changed. Instead of arriving in Key West on February 1st, we’ve moved the start date up to January 23rd. Long story….. so we picked a couple of convenient KOA Campgrounds in Clearwater and Pine Island for nights 17 and 18 and made it quite away down the coast putting us near the Everglades.

Leveling the 5th wheel without disconnecting the truck…..
Draw bridge rising for a jet ski! 😁

De Soto National Memorial

Collecting Passport stamps and trying to check out all of the National Parks and Historic sites forces us off the beaten path and into interesting little communities we wouldn’t see from the major highways.

Yikes, we still have some “old man’s beard” stuck in the awning….. not all visitor center parking lots are RV friendly.

For three years we’ve been talking to the Tampa Bay Swim Spa dealer. Since we were going to be in the neighborhood, we had planned on stopping by the factory to check out their spas. Salesman said “Just look for the giant rubber ducky!)

Call us crazy, but we just drove to Florida and bought a swim spa! (well, put down a deposit anyway.) Hope all goes as planned.

Big Cypress Natural Preserve

No need to worry about the alligators in the swamps, the panthers will get you first! Yes, they actually warn “Panther Crossing”.

Day 20 The Everglades and Biscayne National Park

We’ve made it to Miami! Two nights at the Miami Everglades RV Park and then on to Key West. We’ve made it clear across the country!

Just a little creepy…..

We found what seems to be an old KOA Campground that has morphed into “The Miami Everglades RV Resort”. The shape of the office looks familiar. 🤔

We had a spot in the resort right up against and under “the tree”. It came with a squirrel that was determined to get in, on, or under our trailer. Im sure he saw that big orange bag of dog food in storage.

The drive through the Everglades National Park was beautiful, but we didn’t see any alligators, or panthers!

She would really like to see inside those Amazing Mangroves.

It seemed like the entire area was popular with kayakers who were gearing up to paddle out and camp in the swamps. But what about the alligators and snakes??? There wasn’t much to see from the road. It’s hard to believe there is dry land out there that you can camp on.

We did find some dry ground at the visitor center.
Lotti calls time out….
Biscaine National Park

Going to Biscayne National Park did give us a reason to drive though the outskirts of Miami which had horrible traffic with some very rude drivers from New York. All of the rude drivers seemed to be from New York. Coincidence?

We’re welcomed back to the “Resort” for the night, then on to The Keys!

Day 21 Driving down to the Keys

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

The last 110 miles! The famous Overseas Highway is an amazing driving experience. The bridge system includes 40+ bridges connecting 100 tiny islands or “keys”. The original road was built on the former overseas railroad system that was completed in 1912, but heavily damaged and partially destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.

The new highway and bridge system were built in phases from 1944 to 1978, and it is still continually being worked on. Most of the old bridges are still standing and long stretches are open for pedestrians and bicycles.

Eventually the Florida Keys Heritage Trail bike path will connect the old bridges and stretch 106 miles along the length of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West, the southernmost point of the continental United States. The trail is also part of a larger effort called the East Coast Greenway, which will link multi-use trails from Florida all the way to Maine!

Of course there needs to be a turtle hospital

We’re here!! Boyd’s RV Park. This is the only RV Park on Key West Island, and they have done all they can to fit as many rigs as possible into a very small footprint.

That’s a bad place for a palm tree. We’re in, but we may not be able to get the trailer out. We’ll worry about that later.
There we are!

We’re finding that most have been here for weeks or months. It’s a very laid back party atmosphere. The Christmas decorations are still up! We made our reservations a year in advance and still had some minor issues with the dates. We got the problem more or less resolved, and will be here for 6 nights instead of the 7 originally planned. 🙄

We can visit the entire island on bikes, but we have to drive the dog across town (3 miles) to access the only dog park big enough to throw a frisbee.

She’s not impressed with the locals……

Day 22 t0 28 We’re Tourists in Key West

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

Boyd’s RV Park, our home for the week was just lovely. Lovely but very crowded. The nicest spots were actually the tent sites on the outer loop. Right on the water, these spots are spacious and beautiful.

These spots have no hook ups and are for tent campers, small vans, rooftop tents, etc. It’s amazing how many motor cycle riders are traveling and tent camping across the country.

If we had kayaks……
If we had a boat……
Our yard
They also have pastel 20 foot Conex boxes. Very tiny houses!

We took a 14 mile bike ride on this island that is only 4 miles long and 1 mile wide!

This video of the ride out to the pier gives the illusion that we had a nice peaceful ride with no traffic. Ha!! I also have an eight minute video of us trying to cross the main highway to get to the main bike path. OMG! But we actually met another couple from Mesa AZ and had a nice conversation while stuck in the median for over 5 minutes!

We made it to the “Southern Most Point” in the United States but didn’t want to wait in the long line to get the picture. But we were there!

We tried again in the truck. No luck, no place to park.
And Santa Claus was following us
The Hemingway house
Walgreens moved into the old downtown cinema??
Amazing murals
Shrimp boats are out
Oops
The life is too short bus
There’s an International Airport that takes up a good portion of Key West Island. The planes take off straight up!

Time to move on…. Leaving Key West

I’m wondering if the cars used to drive on the upper deck above the train? Yikes!

Day 29 Harvest Hosts Are Amazing

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

Life on the farm

Our first stop for the night after the Keys was a beautiful 2500 acre working Accursio Farm in Miami that offers free RV dry camping for the night. As is with all Harvest Hosts they would like for you do purchase something that they offer but it’s not mandatory.

It was just a short walk back to the produce market. We picked up a few items including the best corn on the cob we’ve had in awhile. I’m glad we brought the air fryer. It roasts the corn perfectly!

Lotti Da is smiling. She likes farm life!
This is just amazing

Never mind that there must have been a rave somewhere out here in the boonies. It was off in the distance, but the music didn’t stop until around 4 a.m. 😬

Florida is very flat, and big! We’ve had enough of the crowded beach towns, so we avoided Miami and the beaches and headed up the inland farm roads. It was a little bumpy at times, but we enjoyed the farmland. Who knew?

Sugar Cane is a prominent crop. (We think, someone told us it’s sugar cane). And just like in another parts of the country, they burn the fields after harvest before replanting.

Why? Anyone?

Time for a break, and suddenly there was Port Mayaca Lock and Dam on Lake Okeechobee which is HUGE!! Nice surprise!

No, that’s a lake, not the ocean.
Plenty of room for action…..

By 1:30 we were already at our next Harvest Host in Fort Pierce. This one is the beautiful The Summer Crush Vineyard and Winery. They host concerts and events regularly, and today was a car show.

They have 24 Harvest Host free RV sites. Of course they are counting on guests joining in on the wine tasting and purchasing a bottle or two. Seriously, we really need to start consuming some wine if we’re going to be staying at wineries!

We did purchase tickets to the car show. 7 bucks apiece. What a deal. Sorry no pictures of the cars, we took a nap. 😴

Can’t beat this!

Tomorrow we are off to St. Augustine for a couple of days. We have no reservations, we’ll see how that goes!

Day 30 and 31 St. Augustine and The Forts

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

We happened to score 1 night at the Anastasia State Park which was highly rated and supposed to be wonderful. What? We wondered around in the dark and creepy man-groves. The lanes were so tight there is no way we could back in to our spot. Had to get a refund and move on.

Back on the internet, I frantically was able to secure 2 nights at the St. Augustine KOA! Premium spot also! Whew!

Nice waterfront spot, but the signs warned us to watch out for alligators and snakes. Also leave the snapping turtles alone……. It is Still Florida.
Yay!! We think Greyhound busses are cool. We don’t see them anymore.
The St, Augustine Light House

The bridge into St. Augustine

The old gate entry to the city.

A little history: “Beginning in the 1500’s, many European powers, including Spain, France, and Great Britain were fighting for control in the New World. In 1565, Spain established St. Augustine to protect its Gulf Stream shipping route and anchor its claim to La Florida (roughly today’s Florida and parts of surrounding states.) By the early 1600’s, British colonies encroaching from the north threatened the city. The Spanish built nine wooden forts before constructing the massive stone fort that stands today, preserved as part of Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Constructed between 1672 and 1675, this structure never fell in battle.”

This fort was in amazing shape for its age.

This city is really beautiful. We were really surprised what we found here. The streets are tight, but it was definitely worth taking a drive up and down all of the one way streets.

Part of the Flagler College Campus.

*

But wait! It gets better. You can drive on the beach!

😎😎😎

And the beach is empty! Where are all of the tourists? This is sooooo much better than Key West!

The other fort, Fort Matanzas is just down the beach. It’s a really small fort on the other side of the inlet. Unfortunately the ferry boat doesn’t run on Monday or Tuesday.

Day 31 Fort Pulaski and More

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

We had a short travel day from St. Augustine to Savannah that turned out to be a great day for historic sites. So much happened in this area. We’re using the Passport Book to lead us to these obscure off track forts and National Historic Sites.

The goal to get all of the stamp cancellations has taken us to places we would have never been aware of. We do love the roads less traveled, especially when they provide a good history lesson. 🇺🇸

We left St. Augustine and continued up the coast into Georgia. Finally out of Florida!

One more fuel stop at Buc-ees!!

The Timucuan Historic Preserve was our last stop leaving Florida.

The Georgia Seashore! Not to be confused with the Florida Seashore. When they say Seashore, they mean miles of swamp and intertwining rivers. We rarely ever get right on the actual shore of the Atlantic and have seen surprisingly few beaches.

More “shoreline”
We made it to the 80! Our plan is to follow the 80 all the way back west. This old US Highway Goes coast to coast, starting in Tybee Island, Georgia and ends in San Diego.

Fort Pulaski. The best of the best.

This is by far the most beautiful and well preserved historic fort that we have ever visited. We took the self guided tour and we’re amazed by the beauty of the structure as well as the surrounding seashore.

Inside the fort
On the upper level. There once were many more cannons.
Don’t jump Lotti Da!
We were wondering why they would build the fort so far from the waterway. 🤔
I get it……
This is sad. 2/3 of the 630,000 casualties of the civil war were from disease, not battle.

We drove on down to the tip of Tybee Island to the actual start of the US 80. We had to get the picture! It was a charming little beach island town and we got a better view of the a nice little light house.

On to Savannah Georgia!

Day 32 through 35 Savannah, Georgia!

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

We were able to get a great camp site at the Fort McAllister State Park for a few nights so that we could take our time touring Savannah. We dropped the trailer at the camp ground and took a quick drive to the city to get an idea of the surroundings.

The problem with sight seeing in an old city in a full sized pickup is that you can’t maneuver easily and you can’t see. My pictures from the first day weren’t worth saving. We regrouped and went back the next day. Much better!

The best way to see an old city is taking the guided 90 minute open air Trolly tour. It was a great!

Savannah is famous for it’s beautiful Mansions, churches and city squares. There is a college located in multiple old buildings here. SCAD is the Savannah College of Art and Design. Students and and alumni have worked together to repair and restore hundreds of homes and other buildings in the city.

Mansions, mansions, and more mansions. Every home has a story. Many are now museums.

Beautiful row houses….

Duplex?

The city is laid out around a series of town squares or parks. Each square is named after a famous person from the past. Most have some kind of statue or memorial in honor of its namesake. That is why all of the pictures you’ll see of downtown Savannah are lined with trees. I’m sure the tree canopies are much more lush and green in the spring and summer, but it is still very beautiful this time of year.

Winter tulips

Our tour guide offered insight into what it’s like to live in this area. It seems to be a very warm and friendly town for the locals. They have a lot of tradition and festive celebrations all year.

The commercial and shopping streets in the city are all in walking distance of the residential areas. It was very clean and well kept. The “River” streets were still very original with the old stone stairs and walk ways. It would be a fun place to walk and hang out. If we wouldn’t have had the dog with us, we would have taken advantage of the hop on hop off trolley and made a day of it.

Paula Dean has restaurants here! She also lives in Savannah.
Hey, wait! I think I know that guy!

Forrest Gump was filmed here. The park bench where he sat and waited for the bus throughout the movie has become kind of a destination. It’s like “standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona”.

He got on our bus 😁 That was fun!

The churches and cemetery were even more beautiful.

It was definitely worth the drive to get here! It’s a very unique city. We think we’ll be back!

Full time job keeping the trees trimmed.
Tiny house.

And back at our campsite inside the Fort McAllister State Park, Lotti had a new friend! Sophie was a great playmate for a few days. And we were actually staying at another historical fort!

We’ve had a change in plans….. instead of turning west, we’re headed north to Charleston South Carolina! Fort Sumter!

Day 36 and 37 Charleston, South Carolina

JAN/FEB 2022 RV TRIP DESTINATION KEY WEST

We intended to turn west at Savannah, until we realized just how close Charleston is! Just 100 miles north, The mansions were calling!

(When I was around 12 years old, I saw Gone With The Wind for the first time. I think I saw it 5 times! My friends and I decided we were going to all live together in a southern mansion when we grew up. Right……. And I made a note to self right then that my first child would be named Ashley. And that did happen! 🥰 And I still have the note.)

I already did the research knowing we were heading toward Charleston and on toward Atlanta. Could we find Tara or Twelve Oaks? Nope. First of all, those two plantations were totally fictional. Author Margaret Mitchell did suggest this actual property for the concept.

Leave it to Hollywood….

The entire movie was filmed on sets built for the movie. All of the outdoor garden and war scenes were filmed in and around Los Angles.

Dang.

All of the sets were torn down and stored in an obscure warehouse that was only recently discovered. So, here lies Tara and Twelve Oaks:

No Tara, but the bridges are magnificent!

We did start seeing beautiful houses on the river as soon as we crossed the bridges in Charleston.

As well as lots of supply chain action.

Waterfront property at the local KOA!

The Passport stamp book led us back into historic sites.

The Reconstruction Era National Historic Park

This national historic park in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, established on January 12, 2017, recognizes the historic significance of the years between 1861 – 1898, from the early Civil War through the start of Jim Crow segregation. During this time period, the United States debated questions such as “What does freedom mean? What are the rights of citizenship, and who can be a citizen?” The country grappled with how to integrate millions of formerly enslaved African Americans into society, and how to build a more united nation with free and equal citizens. Consequently, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments were passed, permanently abolishing slavery, defining birthright citizenship and guaranteeing equal protection under the law, and prohibiting voter discrimination based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Penn School

The Charles Pinckney NHS

The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is located on 28 acres of land that was formerly Snee Farms. Snee Farms was a 715-acre rice and indigo plantation that Pinckney inherited from his father in 1782. Charles Pinckney was a principal author and signer of the United States Constitution and a four term Governor of South Carolina. None of the original structures remain from when Pinckney lived on Snee Farms. The site is currently home to an 1828 Lowcountry coastal cottage that serves as a museum and visitor center. The Park grounds boast ornamental gardens and towering canopies of live oak and Spanish moss. Exhibits tell the story of Charles Pinckney and his contributions to the U.S. Constitution, of the United States as a young and emerging nation, and of 18th century plantation life for free and enslaved people of Snee Farms.

Fort Sumter, South Carolina

There’s Fort Sumter through the fog and rain, and no ferry that will take the dog.
On a clear day….

Downtown Charleston

Not Tara, but we toured a beautiful plantation! Magnolia!

We chose this plantation tour not because it was the most beautiful mansion, but for the grounds. We were told this plantation is totally original. No improvements or renovations have been done and the grounds are maintained but left untouched. We couldn’t go in the house due to limited tours (Covid!). Even though it’s winter and not in full bloom, the 400 year old trees were amazing and we can just imagine all of these flowers in the spring and summer.

We took the self guided Magnolia walking tour. Watch our little video of the beautiful grounds.

Day 38, 39 and 40 Harvest Host Perfection!

We have very few plans for the 2,500+ miles as we head west for home, so we’re letting the Harvest Host directory app and the Passport Book suggest activities and places to stay. It’s paying off big time!

Congaree National Park

Wait…. What?????

We drove quite a bit out of the way to be able to say we’ve been to what has to be one of the more obscure of the 63 National Parks. We’d never heard of it. But since our goal is to visit every National Park we couldn’t pass it by. Maybe it’s because we’ve been traveling around in the same kind of swamp land for much of this trip that we weren’t especially impressed.

Shame on us.

This Park is a unique and special place. It is the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States and home one of the largest concentrations of champion trees. Champion trees are trees that are extremely large or tall for their species.

Is Congaree National Park worth visiting? 

With Congaree National Park, you need to change your scope of reference. With most parks, we enjoy massive sweeping vistas. In Congaree, you need to think on a smaller scale. There is a quiet beauty to this area. Pick an area along the boardwalk and stop moving and just look around you. On a wide glance, you will see an old-growth forest with some of the largest and tallest trees of their species. Keep looking and you will start to notice smaller details and wildlife. The area has amazing biodiversity.

It’s a small park so you can hike and/or kayak the entire area in one day.

Old history
Not us but could have been ….. 😉 we’re blaming the dog for lack of participation.
Thank goodness for those passionate enough to make things happen.

Harvest Hosts ~ Stable View Farm

This place was so incredibly special. We could have stayed here for days. The owners of this 1,000+ acre working horse stable are very accommodating. They have continuous events happening on the property and plenty of rental cottages and stables for visiting horse people. We’re happy that they’ve also opened up the property to free overnight RV stays through Harvest Host. We bought a hat and other goodies. We want to remember this place.

We know nothing about horses and competitive events, but they had beautiful “cross country” courses and jumping arenas. Their event calendar is heavily booked, and they also host weddings.

And the dog was welcome to run free!

This beautiful building is a barn!

Lotti made many friends! Her best day EVER!
Hey look! Another Mal!
Lots of these….

Next stop, Auburn, Alabama.

It was a 268 mile day, one of our longest yet. Most of these pics are through dirty windows, but you’ll get the general idea.

We love these little historical main streets.
We’re in Georgia, again!
What’s this?
The coolest building you’ll find anywhere in the National Historic Parks. Art Deco!
Right here! 17,000 years of continuous human history.

The National Prison of War Museum

We’re stuck in Civil War mode and we’re surprised to see that this Museum is in honor of prisoners from all wars. Wars with no end…. It’s really sad.

From Hanoi….
The grounds are huge. There were 20,000 prisoners here at one time during the Civil War.
We’re in Alabama, again!

We spent one night in this very strange RV park on a rolling hill perched right above the Auburn University Women’s Softball Complex. It was a great view of all 5 fields. Nothing happening now. It was pretty quiet.

Go Tigers….

The Tuskegee Air Museum NHS

The title of “Tuskegee Airmen” refers to the men and women who were involved in the “Tuskegee Experience ” – the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly, maintain and support combat aircraft in the 1940s. Their rich history lives on and inspires many to this day. The Tuskegee Airmen were trailblazers, pioneers and leaders in the fight against fascism and racism. These men and women were the crème of the crop, many of whom already had bachelors and masters degrees when they first began flight training in July of 1941. These men and women fought two wars and won both of them with skill and bravery.

We’re trying to stay on the 80, sometimes it’s really confusing.
We’re in Mississippi, again!
Not sure which city 😬
There were miles of beautiful pecan groves, even in winter.

Patch of Heaven Farm in Raymond, Mississippi.

Ahhhhh, another perfect Harvest Host.
Yep, plenty of this. And no leash required.

All Harvest Hosts have something that they produce for sale. It can be wine, vegetables, eggs, or PUPPIES!! We didn’t even ask how much. These are purebred “Goldens”.

Sunrise on the farm. (ignore the cell tower)
More on this later….

Vicksburg National Military Park

Vicksburg National Military Park preserves the site of the American Civil WarBattle of Vicksburg, waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863. The park islocated in Vicksburg, Mississippi flanking the Mississippi River. It also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign which led up to the battle. Reconstructed forts and trenches evoke memories of the 47-day siege that ended in the surrender of the city. Victory here and at Port Hudson farther south in Louisiana, gave the Union control of the Mississippi River.

We’re in Louisiana, again!

Day 41, 42 and 43 Natchez Trace and the Mississippi River

3 days camping on THE Mississippi River!

We scored a great spot in the River view RV Park in Visalia, Louisiana. It was just as we imagined it would be. We could just sit and watch the barges being pushed by all day and night. Obviously going upstream took considerably more horsepower than barges riding the current downstream.

It’s amazing how many loaded barges are linked together for the ride.

Check out where the river bank has been recently fortified. Yikes, I checked on the river fluctuations. Currently the river is at 38 feet, mild flooding is at 48 feet, severe flooding is at 58 feet. It was at 48 feet 30 days ago. We didn’t want to look up when and how often the breach effects our camp spot.
If we had a boat……
Sea walls have been built and rebuilt many times.

The Town of Historic Natchez

The Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway was first a Native American pathway, with archaeological evidence dating back 10,000 years. In the early 1800s, it served a vital role as a road home for Kaintucks, men who floated down the Mississippi with goods to sell, sold their boats as lumber and then walked hundreds of miles back north. The advent of the steamboat would change all this, but in the meantime, “stands” were developed up and down the Natchez Trace to put a one-night roof over travelers’ weary heads.

How is it that we have never heard of this historic trail? We were ready to unload our bikes and ride the trail until we realized it’s not just a bike trail. You can ride bikes, but it’s “share the road” with automobiles. We only drove 20 miles up the trail to the Mount Locust Stand. We’re going to come back some day and ride the entire trail to Tennessee . (Maybe a jeep expedition would work here). It’s over 400 miles of history on a nice slow drive. What little we saw was amazing!

Lotti got a “participation trophy tag”. 😁
Meanwhile, back at camp…..
Arrow marks the spot of our RV spot. We crossed the river again to get a pic from the other side!
There we are!

Time to get on the road again.

The Oakland Plantation

Another passport Stampbook destination, little Oakland Plantation didn’t disappoint.

The Burger King sign kind of ruins this shot of little downtown Many.
We’re in Texas, again!
Or is this downtown Many? These little towns all look alike.
It’s Davey Crocket country! (David was actually named after Davey Crocket, thanks to his 5 year old brother who insisted. They had to change his birth certificate. ) 🙂 True story.

The Waco Mammoths

The Waco Fixer Uppers