We decided to leave our home in New Mexico on December 14th, 2022. Our daughter Rachel and husband Ozzy invited us for Christmas and we decided to make the journey in our van. This way we could bring our dog, Billy Goat and make some stops along the way there and back. Our normal routine is to clean up and pack up and head out in the late evening. We stay overnight in the van at the rest area outside of Las Vegas, NM. We can get an early morning start from there.
Making our way North we drove through familiar territory stopping for breakfast at a roadside rest stop on 412 after Springer. Lunch? Can’t remember but it was a local park. We camped for the night at Mushroom Rock S.P. in Kansas. There was room for our van to park level but not much more. Super quiet and the mushroom rocks were brilliant. Nice find!
The next day we realized we had an issue with the van (terrible front wheel alignment) so we headed to Omaha, Nebraska where we thought a Mercedes dealer could help. While Paul went in search of options, Billy Goat and I ran around Wehrspann Lake in the Chalco Hills Recreation Area. Thankfully the van was fixed and we could continue on. We stayed overnight ar the Cedar Rapids rest area. Clean Bathrooms but a bit noisy.
The next day, Paul’s birthday, we drove towards Madison, WI. We had a nice breakfast at a rest area and then arrived mid day to Anne and Pat’s. Paul wanted to deliver some gin to friends he met in Prague…then we went to dinner with Anne, Pat, Carrie and George. We cuddled up and watched Love Actually and drank more wine and ate chocolate. Billy and Maeve are the best dog cousins now. So cute.
I always wish we could hang in Madison longer but we really needed to head out to mom’s. We bought some food to make a nice dinner or two. Mom looked good and we enjoyed spending three relaxing nights at her place. We decided to depart Wednesday morning early beacause of bad weather arriving.
The drive started out well and we made in to Ohio without any issues. For dinner we stopped at the Biker Brew House microbrewery inside a Harley-Davidson dealership. It was a bit strange yet we enjoyed the Quizo that everyone was doing and the baked goods from the table next to us. Oh, and the beer was very tasty. We camped for the night a little ways further at a Park and Ride in West Middlesex, P.A.
The worst travel day was on I-80 in PA heading to Lansdale. We hit a snow storm and of course traffic accidents and visability made it slow going. It added at least 3 hours…
Lansdale and Philadelphia, celebrating with friends and family for a few weeks. Hikes in parks, soaking at the Russian-Turkish Bath house in Southhampton, running in the Wissahickon, food, cheer, music and making memories.
After a really nice farewell dinner at Nancy Bea Miller and Paul Down’s home, we slept outside in our van for an early departure. Heading south now, we stopped at the Barton’s (Hannah’s maternal grandparents) home to chat and share a late lunch. We found a place to rest overnight in Elizabeth Furnace N.F. (Virginia). We could hear the rushing water through the night as the river was nearby. In the morning Billy Goat and I ran up a trail and back. There was so much moisture in the air I had to take some layers off.
Our plan was to drive a long distance on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we ended up with road closures due to fallen trees, etc.. It turned out okay and we made it to Stone Mountain S.P. in North Carolina for the night. The campground was very quiet with only one other camper. The Big Sandy Creek was right outside the windows for a pleasant sound. Paul had some stomach issues and spent a good part of the night in the warm, clean bathhouse. Paul and I decided to do a hike in the morning and we are so glad that we did. The over 4 mile trail was spectacular with a large waterfall, a huge stone mountain, and then a climb for an expansive view of this part of the Appalachian chain.
We arrived in Asheville a bit late in the afternoon bit still got to see some of the beautifully preserved historic downtown buildings. The Grove Arcade with its shops and glass ceilings, the Woolworth Walk that still has the old soda fountain and now houses many artists. Then we headed to the River Arts district to grab a beer from The Wedge and enjoy a delicious dinner at All Souls Pizza.
Driving a bit out of Asheville we boondocked by the Pigeon River in the Pisgah N.F. Big parking space that we found on ioverlander. Up and out early, we waited to have breakfast at the Dandridge Dock in TN. There was a pull off that was better than the dock area. We did a long driving day and then grabbed take out from Betty B’s in Forest City, AR. Really good, authentic barbeque place. Boondocking again we parked in the Shefield-Nelson Dagmar WMA in Arkansas even though it felt a bit dark and creepy. The full moon rising didn’t help much.
The morning brought the sounds of gunshots. I put on my florescent vest and headed out for a quick explore run with Billy Goat. Cool marshy woods with a river, lake and miles of trees. Less scary in the day light and kinda cool looking. Would be a good movie setting.
We had another long drive day and ended up in Brownwood, Texas. We parked the van and splurged on a nice dinner at The Turtle restaurant. We made reservations earlier for Brownwood Lake SP so we could pull right in and go to sleep. In the morning I had a long run (18 miles) planned so I got up early and started out on park trails. There were some great rocky ridge trails but I preferred the 3 mile loop that I repeated a few times. Surprisingly it turned out okay and I felt pretty good. Paul made me a big breakfast after a shower and we made our way out towards west Texas.
Since we had no real options for where to sleep I went on ioverlander and found a rest area in Pecos county highly reviewed. Normally we try and avoid them but it turned out to be really nice. We could park the van towards a field and the noise from trucks overnight was minimal. Plus it was super clean, beautifully maintained, had a nature walk and a small museum.
For a real treat we stopped at Balmorhea, SP to swim with the fishes in the spring fed 1.75 acre pool. The water is always at 72-76 degrees so even though the air temperature was cold, we could swim for quite awhile.
Arriving in New Mexico we made a reservation for 1:30 pm at Carlsbad Caverns N.P. Not very many people there on a Monday and the caverns were super quiet. You feel as though you stepped into another world or alien planet.
We spent a little money to camp at Brantley Lake, S.P. for our last evening on the trip. The New Mexico wind picked up but it felt soothing. The morning brought a gorgeous sunrise that we watched through the van windows.
A very sunny, windy ride home the next day and a quick stop in Roswell for an alien encounter ends it all. After about 5,000 miles we arrived back home in Galisteo.