Whew — have we been doing a lot of driving! We went from Dallas, TX to Prescott Valley, AZ in the last three days, a total of 1050 miles. The temps have really dropped, and it snowed the day we arrived in Albuquerque. We are hightailing it to the southwest because Joel and I have become thin skinned living in California. While in Prescott Valley, we had a very enjoyable visit with Joel’s mom and grandmother. His mom went all out making us a breakfast and dinner feast, and we had a very lovely day chatting and sharing stories. His grandmother is in her 90s and still so physically and mentally active, she is a true inspiration.
With all the driving we have been doing, the dogs have been real troopers and we have been very fortunate to have safe travels so far, a testament to Joel’s conservative driving.
Out intent in heading to Dallas was to visit the Gas Monkey Garage, the location of one of Joel’s favorite shows. We stayed at a KOA located in Arlington, just outside Dallas. Somehow we got so distracted with all the estate sales in the area (there are TONS of them), that we ended up skipping out on Gas Monkey all together. We did manage to take a drive down to Waco (about an hour South) to visit Chip and Joanna Gaines shop, Magnolia Market. They have the popular show, Fixer Upper, and we love their style. The Market did not disappoint! Super cute decor items, a bakery (cupcakes!), food trucks, a giant play field, and loads of charm. I am really glad we took a break from estate sale shopping to check this place out.
Of note, we are really starting to experience winter weather. Yikes, has it gotten cold! The heater in the Airstream is noisy to keep on all night, so we purchased a nice space heater which seems to do the trick. On our last day in town, we saw the forecast that rain was coming and packed up the night before. Luckily we did, when we woke up the next morning, it was pouring and freezing cold. All we had to do was disconnect our water, electricity, cable, and sewer connections and we were on the road. We’ll be traveling hard core the next two days, Amarillo and Albuquerque (where it snowed this morning) before we reach Joel’s Mom’s house in Prescott Valley, AZ.
Twining! We were parked next to another Airstream at Huck Finn’s Mississippi River Campground in Memphis. However, it was pretty cold and windy (before the big storm) so we really didn’t spend too much time down by the river which seemed to be a constant flurry of activity between the barges and trains. There is a lot of manufacturing in the area, and the smell of a paper mill is not very pleasant 😳.
Yes, we were in Memphis and did not visit Graceland! Is this actually illegal? I don’t know, but the reviews were not all that great and Elvis was more of my Mom’s gereration and even she didn’t give it a good review – so there you go. We did try the famous barbecue and it was good! Oh my gosh the seasoning on the outside of the chicken, sweet potato fries, baked beans, pulled pork – it was all so yummy. Sometimes I think we are just eating our way across America.
These pics were taken by the Mississippi and in the giant Bass Pro Shop in a huge triangle building downtown. The shop incorporates a hotel, restaurant and general store. It has giant ponds with all sorts of fish, ducks and even alligators – we just can’t seem to escape the alligators!
Our last night in town a huge winter storm blew in from the Gulf of Mexico. We got about 3 hours sleep as the wind and rain pummeled the trailer. The dogs refused to stay in their own bed and by 6 am we were packing to leave. Actually leaving was a bit hair raising as well. The rain was coming down so hard and pooling on the freeway, we saw several bad spin-out accidents. Worse yet were the big rig drivers who saw no need to slow down and would barrel past us at 80 miles an hour in zero visibility. On top of it all, tornado warnings. Boy were we glad to get through Tennessee and Arkansas.
Joel was very excited to visit the home of Andrew Jackson while we were visiting Nashville. It was a very interesting day and I really like the following quote that is attributed to him: “I was born for a storm and the calm does not suit me. ” Let’s just say, I can relate!
Andrew Jackson served as President about 30 years prior to the Civil War. Even then, South Carolina was stirring up trouble and there was some talk of succession. President Jackson was determined to hold the Union together and selected a Vice President from South Carolina. However, the tensions were so high that the Vice President resigned within months. Jackson was the only President to pay off the national debt and establish a national banking system. His home is preserved in amazing detail, including original furnishings and decor (the wallpaper is almost 200 years old!!!).
You cannot visit Nashville without making a trip to the Grand Ole Opry and I was super excited to see the musical How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The performance was great, the actors were spot on and I loved the costumes and set design. The Grand Ole Opry complex is enormous, encompassing a huge hotel, multiple stages, gardens and even stables for the horse drawn carriages. They put up a ton of lights, a large nativity scene, ice sculpture and sledding, bonfires for s’mores – it’s a very festive and happening holiday scene.
Nashville is also home to a lot of shopping! We had fun visiting Antique Archeology, the vintage store owned by Mike and Frank of American Pickers., one of Joel’s favorite shows. They had great stuff, but way out of our price range. No worries though because we found lots of great Christmas decor at other shops and the Airstream is beginning to look 👀 a lot like Christmas 🎄.
We visited the 18th century Moravian village of old Salem, one of the most authentic colonial sites in the US. The Moravians are a group of Eastern European Protestants who first arrived in 1753 and relocated to this area they later named Salem, which means “peace.” These early settlers were skilled cabinet makers, tinsmiths, gunsmiths, gardeners and cooks. A large portion of the town has been preserved, including the original late 17th and early 18th century architecture. There are also costumed interpreters, horse drawn carriage rides, shops with handcrafted items, restaurants, a tea shop and bakery. The late fall colors were in full bloom and the town was so picturesque, that I spent most of my time enjoying it rather than actually taking pictures!
We are staying nearby in High Point, NC at Oak Hollow Campground, a stunningly beautiful lake front location. In fact, we were lucky to get a prime spot with our own private dock. The sunsets have been gorgeous and we are really enjoying the wildlife. Please check out my “Campground Reviews” page for a full review.
We LOVE Charleston!!! The stunning double expansion bridge pictured above is the longest of its kind in the US. We crossed just as the sun was setting and were surprised to find it’s free! After so many toll roads in Florida, this now seems like an anomaly 😕. The bridge crosses Charleston bay right by downtown where we spent the day exploring the stunning architecture (I believe I heard they have over 500 churches), food, shopping (don’t miss the outdoor market), and horse drawn carriage rides. Also, amazing vintage and antique shopping abounds and somehow we are going to have to find more space because we couldn’t resist picking up a few treasures.
There is so much Revolutionary War (our emancipation from the British) and Civil War history here. I swear I am not a history buff, but when you are here you cannot help but be absorbed into the stories of the early years of our nation. I find this to be especially true now that the election is over and there seems to be so much political unrest. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. We took a ferry to visit Fort Sumpter, strategically located at the mouth of Charleston bay, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The weather has cooled down a bit, so be sure to bundle up for the boat ride.
Above are pics of the first submarine created and used in warfare during the Civil War. It was used by the South to sink a Union battleship. The South was desperate to get supply ships through the Union blockade of Charleston harbor and were actually able to sink a warship by jamming a torpedo into the side of the ship using this submarine. Keep in mind the technology was so basic that they had no air supply without surfacing every 2 hours and the whole thing was powered by men turning a large crank that would spin the outside propellor. The sub was mysteriously lost after it successfully targeted a Union ship and was not found again for almost 130 years. There are a lot of fascinating stories about how the Hunley was developed, tested, lost, and finally found at www.hunley.org.
Okay, now for he food – OMG – they seriously know how to cook in the South!!! I am not a fan of the southern classics such as grits, fried okra, collard greens, etc., but they got me to try and like – no love – whatever it is they did to a brussel sprout that made it this charred wonderful decadent treat!! Also, the best friggen’ fried chicken I have ever eaten in my life! Fresh biscuits with local honey, jams, and benigets that are better than Cafe du Monde. I am going into a food coma now – catch up with you later…
One of my favorite books, Savannah Blues, takes place in the historic district of Savannah and Tybee Island, so these two spots were on the top of my list when we arrived in Georgia. For our visit to Tybee Island, our timing was not the best. Hurricane Matthew passed through only a few weeks earlier and they were still in recovery mode. It was also very windy that day, but we persevered and visited the historic lighthouse, the beach, and had lunch at a local seafood joint. None of it was terribly memorable, so we’ll move on quickly.
On our way back we stopped to visit Old Fort Jackson, which was built at the direction of Thomas Jefferson in 1812. The Fort is built of brick, has a moat with a bridge and is really old with a musty smell to it. It has several ancient cannons which Joel seemed to get into, especially since they fire them off daily -boys and big guns – oh brother!
The historic district of Savannah is beautiful and very interesting. We did a trolley tour, I know – super touristy and kind of nerdy – but a lot of fun! We had Arthur as our tour guide and he was very funny, personable and knowledge about the local history. I will not go into a recitation here, but trust me – take the tour! Also, Old Savannah Trolley Tours allows dogs on their tours, which we knew in advance so we brought Belle and Lulu along for the ride. We stopped at Daily Bread for lunch and their sandwiches on freshly baked bread were divine! I seriously fell in love with the historic mansions with their live oak tree shaded cobblestone streets and am planning our move – once I win the lottery 🤑 (pesky little detail).
p.s. We had swans at our KOA campground!
We got into town late on a Saturday afternoon and found that the KOA we planned to stay at was booked for the night. We earlier joined an organization called Harvest Hosts, which allows RVers to stay the night for free at a network of farms, vineyards and agri-tourism locations. This is how we wound up staying in an old hay field in Savannah, GA. Our host, Cherri Keller runs Kellers Flea Market (www.ilovefleas.com) and was such a pleasure with her sweet Southern Georgia charm. Joel and I love flea markets, so that was an added bonus for us to shop at the next day. Unfortunately, (because we have no room!!!), we did not leave empty handed….ughhh!
The old farm was so cute, decorated with antique hit-n-miss engines, old automobiles, tractors and weathered wood shacks topped with tin roofs. I love the two antique teapots and brand new Kenneth Cole boots that I found. They have a mix of old and new items and don’t miss the yummy southern breakfast cooked up fresh at Janie Arkwright’s Kitchen – I am still thinking about the best bacon! Ever!!
We spent 6 days at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground and it is by far our favorite RV campground! There are so many entertainment options (see the Campground Review tab for a run down) and the park is gorgeous, you would swear you really were wilderness camping with all the trees, wetlands, trails, wild animals scampering about and it’s pretty darn quiet. We camped in the 500 loop and found it to be close to most the activities, but far enough that the only outside activity sounds we could hear were the faint whistle of the ferry boat and nightly fireworks around 9 pm.
Even with our extended time in Orlando, we dedicated only one day to a Disney theme park, the Magic Kingdom. We were just here in May, but always enjoy the rides, food (especially the giant Mickey-shaped sugar cookies dipped in chocolate), and getting some exercise in with all the walking. Disney is in full holiday mode and the park is decked out for Christmas with a giant tree, decor and gift shop goodies. It still feels too early for me!! The best part of the day was the Cinderella castle light show and fireworks- a definite “don’t miss!”
While in Orlando, Joel really wanted to go to Gatorland. To be honest, I wasn’t that enthused about it. We had already seen alligators in Louisiana and Florida, I thought that we had our gator fill. Apparently not. I was ready for a ho hum afternoon, but it was way more fun than I expected. The “gator jumping” show was just starting when we arrived and it had more production value than I would have given it credit for and that pretty much sums up the rest of the day. We even got to feed gators some turkey dogs (a food I am sure they enjoy in the wild), and the people who work there were very pleasant and informative. Worth the $26 admission for an entertaining afternoon.
We stayed at Fort Meyers Beach Resort which sounds like it is on the beach – right? Nope. Actually, a ways away from the beach and the day we made the trek, it was cloudy, windy and all around not good beach weather. So Plan B – finding something else to do – lead us to Calusa Nature Center. Calusa is a 105 acre non-profit park that has a museum, miles of nature trails including a raised wooden walk over swamp lands, a Planetarium, and various birds and reptiles.
I have never been to a Planetarium before, so that was an interesting experience. You sit back in chairs and look up to a domed ceiling where the stars, planets and galaxies are projected. We watched a film about space exploration and it was a surprisingly educational experience. However, we enjoyed the nature walk the most. Being able to traverse an actual swamp over a raised walkway was really beautiful, especially all the cypress trees with their “knees” (part of their root system) sticking out (see pics below).
Now, for a swamp joke:
Two alligators are sitting on the edge of a swamp. The small one turns to the big one and says; I don’t understand how you can be so much bigger than me. We’re the same age, we were the same size as kids… I just don’t get it.”
“Well,” says the big alligator, “what have you been eating?”
“Lawyers, same as you,” replies the small alligator.
“Hmm. Well, where do you catch them?”
“Down at that law firm on the edge of the swamp.”
“Same here. How do you catch them?”
“Well, I crawl under a car and wait for someone to unlock the door. Then I jump out, bite’em, shake the s*** out of ’em, and eat’em!”
“Ah!” says the big alligator, “I think I see your problem. See, by the time you get done shakin’ the s*** out of a lawyer, there’s nothing left but lips and a briefcase…” 🐊🐊🐊