Around this time last year, Alan and I were suddenly in the midst of swapping out our vacation plans for the spring of 2019. The year before, I had begun planning a camping loop through the states in the southeastern quarter of the U.S., not realizing that we would be out of town (WAY out of town) on the day Anya, our son Ryan’s girlfriend, graduated with her Master’s Degree after years of hard work. We consider Anya our “bonus kid” since she and Ryan have been together for more than six years. After learning the date of her graduation on Christmas Day in 2018, we rang in the New Year of 2019 by cancelling most of the reservations we already had in place for our spring 2019 travels. Luckily, plans for the new trip – a journey through a number of Eastern states and all the way down to the Florida Keys – not only fell into place quickly, but also felt completely “right.” I hadn’t yet achieved that level of comfort with the original plans for touring the southeastern states so, it seems, this trip was meant to be.
|Looking forward to the adventure ahead!|
Because our two kids still live locally, and three of our four collective siblings live within an hour of our home, we don’t have to travel much to see members of our immediate families. Alan’s brother in Florida is the only sibling who lives any distance away and we had planned to make the trip south to visit him and his wife in 2020. After switching our 2019 and 2020 plans, it was simply a question of what destinations and activities would be filling our playbook in between our house and theirs.
There are very few adventures that Alan and I find more appealing than a road trip. So much to see! So much to do! By the time we left home in mid-May of last year, our dance card was full. For those of you who prefer shorter posts or become easily bored or distracted, let me answer the question posed in the title of this blog post right now: The Big Switcheroo worked out WONDERFULLY! While our trips are often geared specifically toward exploring State and National Parks, the Big Switcheroo turned into an excellent adventure combining family, friends, State Parks, National Parks and, of all things, Disney World.
|Walt Disney's "castle in the air" became a reality - and a playground for millions.|
Although I refuse to make any promises, my intent is to focus my blog posts for the foreseeable future on last spring’s travels from the northeast to the southeast. I’m sure I could give you a quick overview in one long post, but the journey was so delightful and filled with such a variety of people, places and experiences, that I don’t want to gloss over any of it. So please do come along for the ride and share the fun! Because this trip really was fun!
|Do you know whose slogan this is? If you guessed Pilot/Flying J, you're right!|
When we swapped out our travel plans, there was only one item that was not up for change or debate. We were holding tickets to a Grand Ole Opry performance scheduled for Tuesday, May 14th, in Nashville. Not only were we holding tickets, but our friends Kathy and Albert (who had retired to the Nashville area) were holding tickets, too, and we were all looking forward to getting together for a visit and seeing the show. Did I mention that Anya’s graduation was on Saturday, May 11th? Eternally optimistic, Alan and I assured ourselves that, “We can do this!” Immediately after Anya’s graduation and the celebratory luncheon that followed, we skedaddled back home to pick up the ready-to-go travel trailer and hit the road.
|"An open road is an unwritten adventure." I said it and, yes, you may quote me.|
One of the reasons we love RVing is the freedom that it allows. The freedom to come and go as we please, traveling as far as we want, stopping for a break when we need one, fixing a quick lunch on a travel day without spending time or money in a restaurant. Many of these advantages apply to automobile road trips, too. But, I have to say, that the ability to jump from the truck to the travel trailer and pull on my jammies without have to lift a single bag or suitcase has spoiled me to no end.
|Psst! The Cabela's in Hamburg is just up the hill from the Russell Stover Outlet - yum!|
That Saturday afternoon and evening, we made it as far as Cabela’s in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. Alan simply parked the truck and we were home. We fixed a little something to eat at the dinette, and fell into bed after a long, busy day. The next day, our packing routine consisted of making the bed, putting the jammies in the closet and the toothbrushes in the cabinet. Ya gotta love it. Speaking of love, I may not go so far as to say I “love” Cabela’s, but we really do appreciate the sincere welcome the company and its staff extend to RVers. We try to support them when possible by grabbing a bite to eat in their restaurants, purchasing outdoor necessities there and bringing home souvenirs from their stores. In this case, we arrived after closing and left before they opened the following morning, so our appreciation, although sincere, was non-financial in nature. (For additional information and, without a doubt, my opinions about Cabela’s, you can double back to an earlier post entitled “Cabela’s – More than the World’s Foremost Outfitter” – link HERE.) Since there was a conveniently located McDonald’s near the Cabela’s in Hamburg, we didn’t even have to make coffee in the morning. A quick stop for a cup of our favorite McCafé coffee and we were on the road again. Ain’t life grand?!
|The first "campground" of the trip!|
Do any of you enjoy a friendship so old that you share decades of history, have countless stories to tell about shared memories, and pick up right where you left off no matter how long it has been since you’ve seen each other? Well, I’m blessed with several friendships that fit that description, but the award for the longest running friendship I have goes to the one I share with Peg. Peg and I met in first grade, and that was . . . wait. That’s almost frightening. Let’s just say it was many, many years ago and leave it at that. Peg and her husband, Bill, live in a small town in Virginia, just off the Appalachian Trail. In fact, it was Peg and Bill who opened their home to our nephew, Ben, when he hiked the AT several years ago.
Peg’s life and career have taken her to many different states across the country. But whenever we get together with her and Bill – whether it has been back here at home or in Wyoming, Ohio, Connecticut or Virginia – there is much fun to be had, many stories to be told and countless smiles to be shared. When talking with Peg about our travel plans, she immediately offered a “campsite” at their home. It’s just our kind of “campground” – it’s in a quiet location surrounded by nature with the friendliest of hosts and beautiful views. And you can’t beat the price! (I believe this kind of camping is called "moochdocking.") Our Creek Side was parked in a lovely creek-side site (sorry, couldn’t resist) and our brief overnight stay included supper in a local restaurant and breakfast the next morning with Peg, Bill and their friends at the locals’ favorite gathering spot. Thank you, both, for your hospitality! Be sure to give all the critters an extra ear scratch on our behalf!
|A view from our tranquil "campground"|
After an all too brief visit, we were on our way again, keeping an eye on both the clock and the calendar. We had a date in Nashville that we just couldn’t miss. But, before that, we squeezed in a quick visit with Jay Bush and his best friend, Duke, at their family complex in Dandridge, Tennessee.