When I was little, I used to love getting postcards from faraway, exotic places that said “Greetings from Tahiti” or “Greetings from the Grand Canyon” or “Greetings from Detroit” (when you grow up in Cleveland, pretty much any place is exotic in comparison, even Detroit). Living as expats for 12 years, we’ve been fortunate to travel in all sorts of faraway, exotic places around the world. Having the opportunity to see old castles in Europe, mosques in Tunisia, beaches in New Zealand and Buddhist monks in Thailand, I’m afraid we got a little bit blasé about the wonders of our own country. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes you forget how wonderful your own home is until you’ve been away for awhile.
We’ve been traveling around the States now for six months now and, let me tell you, America is pretty darn exotic in her own way. Wow, we’ve seen so many amazing things as we’ve traveled from Oregon down to Florida. It is mind-blowing how “Greetings from the USA” postcards we’ve seen up close and personal. Who needs to win Powerball, when karma deals you a wonderful opportunity like we’ve had on our USA road trip. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a winning Powerball ticket, but you get my drift.
We’ve been so many places on our road trip so far, that I thought it was time to do a little “Greetings from…” wrap-up of where we’ve been and what we’ve seen during the first four months of nomadic wanderings (from mid-October through mid-February). We’re still on the road, so there’s probably another “Greetings from the USA” update in the future!
The first part of our road trip started in the middle of October when we left Idaho and headed to Oregon to visit my family. From there, we got all outfitted to hit the road with a tent, sleeping bags and a butane stove. We started off driving down the Oregon Coast. Our favorite pick on the coast – the Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor.
After that it was down to the Redwoods in northern California. Even the pouring down rain couldn’t detract from these amazing giant trees. Next we meandered through the old mining towns in eastern California and stayed in dodgy hotel or two.
And then things got really amazing. Armed with our "America the Beautiful" pass ($80 to visit all the National Parks, Preserves and Monuments you can cram into a year), we saw the best that California has to offer including Lassen National Volcanic Monument, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks and the Mojave Desert National Preserve. It seems like you could spend a lifetime in the National Parks in California and still not see it all. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if you forced me to, it would probably be Yosemite. I felt awe the first time I looked down into the Yosemite Valley. That doesn’t happen very often.
After California, we made our way to Utah where we were taken aback from the dramatic landscapes and stunning National Parks including Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands and the Arches. We loved our time in Utah – some of the best hikes we’ve done on this trip happened in the Beehive State.
One of the must dos for me on our road trip was seeing the Four Corners area in the Southwest. I don’t know if was a result of reading too many Tony Hillerman novels when I was younger or taking anthropology classes, but I was really excited to see the lands of the Navajo and Hopi peoples, as well as ancient Puebloan sites at Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde. And no trip to the Navajo Nation would be complete without trying Navajo tacos. I’m sure they’re not fattening whatsoever.
While were were in the Southwest, we also saw some other great National Parks including the Carlsbad Caverns, the Petrified Forest & Painted Desert and, of course, the Grand Canyon.
After a while, we realized that we’re just too old to sleep in a tent anymore. If you’re of a certain age, then you’ll know that a long walk to the toilets in the middle of the night in the pouring down rain isn’t any fun whatsoever. So, after hitting a couple of the highlights in South Dakota (Wind Canyon National Park and Mt Rushmore) and spending some time in North Dakota with Scott’s family, we picked up our 13’ Scamp travel trailer in Minnesota in mid-December and hit the road again.
Driving like crazy to outrun a snowstorm and reposition ourselves down south, we spent our first night camping in our Scamper in Oasis State Park in New Mexico. What bliss to be able to sleep inside, cook inside and have your own toilet! Then it was off to Texas. Our first stop was Guadalupe Mountains National Park for our first experience dry camping in a parking lot. That was followed by our first night staying at an RV park in Alpine so that we could stock up before heading down to Big Bend National Park on the Texas-Mexico border.
From Big Bend, we began our trip traveling along the seaboard in search of our next boat. We spent a couple of days at the Padre Island National Seashore followed by a week at an RV park in Kemah. Kemah was an ideal base from which to explore the greater Houston area, as well as look at boats. Before we headed out of Texas, we had our very first (of many) overnight stays at a Walmart parking lot. Say what you will about Walmart, but you do have to love their policy of letting people stay free overnight, not to mention their chocolate cake slices.
You can’t go to Louisiana without paying a visit to New Orleans. Who could possibly drive through the state and not stop for some beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde? But before we headed to the Big Easy, we spent a few days at Grande Isle, a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico and home of shrimp for only $4 a pound. Delicious in a spicy marinara sauce served over pasta!
After a couple of days passing through Mississippi, we crossed into Florida on January 15th and have been in the Sunshine State ever since. We started off in the Emerald Coast (the part of the panhandle that runs from Pensacola to Panama City), spending time camping at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Pine Log State Forest and even a municipal parking in Panama City.
Then we headed down the west coast of Florida to enjoy the wonderful wildlife refuges and state parks along the way including Hagen’s Cove, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, the Crystal River area, Manatee Springs, Myakka State and Ochlokonee River. Oh, and let’s not forget there was a whole lot of dry camping at Walmart parking lots!
We continued down south, stopping first to boondock at Babcock-Webb Wildlife Preserve, before camping for a few days at Collier-Seminole State Park and using it as a base for exploring the Everglades and Naples area. And finally, we hit the Florida Keys! Which, given how booked up everything is, was no small accomplishment.
On our way back up from the Keys, we stayed overnight at the Miccosukee Casino parking lot. Nice of them to offer free parking for RVs – of course, they hope you’ll hit the casino while you’re there. You’ll be glad to know that we resisted the lure of the flashing slot machines (at least that time). While we were at the casino, I started adding things up and realized that we had been on the road for four months and that it was already the middle of February. Wow, how time does fly - and there’s still so much more to see.
Since putting together this "Greetings from" recap, we've been having some more amazing experiences in Florida. Who knows where we’re headed next. Someday, maybe we’ll be able to send this “Greetings from” postcard.
Want to know more? Check out our United States page which has links to our posts grouped by each state we’ve visited.
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