On October 1st, we were in Michigan preparing to head south after spending a phenomenal Summer along the Great Lakes.
By November 1st, we were in North Carolina discussing whether we should call it quits and settle down.
Our trip between Michigan and North Carolina was full of long days, short stays, heavy traffic, irritating campgrounds, and all the other things that have been getting on our nerves. By the time we arrived in Asheville, we found ourselves easily frustrated and pretty well drained. Not surprisingly, I spent a lot of that week writing my recent article about travel burnout. That issue is real, and we were in the midst of a serious bout of it.
What’s more, we were in the early planning stages of a huge trip. For many RVers, it is THE bucket list journey. It will put all our prior mileage to shame and require us to travel in a completely different manner than usual.
Come Summer of 2020, we’re heading to Alaska!!
Super exciting, right? Of course! Who wouldn’t be thrilled to experience the midnight sun, watch glaciers calve, and snuggle with grizzlies??
But, if you haven’t consulted a map recently, you might have forgotten just what all this means.
Why you gotta be all the way up there?? Jeez….
And Alaska is far no matter where you start, but we’d be beginning the year in Florida, as far away as one can possibly get. And, as we know from prior experience, it’s not just a question of miles. Springtime travel means avoiding shifting tornado alleys in the south, crazy springtime winds in the west, snowfall in the mountains, and winters that just won’t end up north. And, as we learned on our trip from hell last Spring, when you’re tackling big mileage over short time periods, stuff breaks and things go wrong much more frequently.
Beyond all that, we knew our travels in Alaska would be very different. Not only will we be caravanning with friends, but, for the most part, we’ll be traveling without reservations. (I’ll have lots more to share about Alaska in future posts.)
So, as I sat in North Carolina, working on my planning calendar, trying to figure out how we were going to get from Florida to Alaska, I started weighing options. On the one hand, we could head west before heading north which would allow us to visit several places that are still on our must-see list – places like Big Bend, McDonald Observatory, Carlsbad Caverns, and Arches National Park.
On the other, we could stop acting like morons and make good decisions for once in our idiot lives.
I mean, really? How hard is this???
It’s not hard.
Quantum physics is hard. Latin is hard. Understanding why Kylie Jenner is a billionaire is hard.
Not driving around like a doofus when you’re already burned out from driving around like a doofus is not hard.
So, after an hour or two of discussion, I joyfully hit the “delete’ button on all the trip planning I had done and started over with a blank piece of paper.
And on that gloriously blank piece of paper, I wrote: “Austin.”
Why Austin? Because:
… and yes, it’s centrally located, and yes, it’s got nice Spring weather, and yes, there’s lots to see and do, and yes, we’ve enjoyed our prior visits immensely…
But, mostly, it was about the tacos.
So, we decided that instead of driving all over hell and creation in the lower 48 before really driving all over hell and creation in the upper 49th, we would just hang out in Austin, wait out the bad weather, and eat tacos. Genius!!
But then I started thinking about our camping options in Austin and quickly realized it would be more of the same. Another crowded campground, another overpriced parking space, more watching this tank and that tank and some other tank while working on the never ending RV maintenance list.
That didn’t sound very appealing at all. We needed a break. A real break. From all of it.
So, after careful consideration, we decided that’s exactly what we’d do. After more than 3.5 years living in this tin can 24/7/365, we’re taking a break from RV living entirely. We’re putting Barney in storage and setting up in an Air BnB. Turns out, for not much more than we’d usually spend on camping fees and gas, we can rent a small, fully furnished house right in Austin.
It’ll have real walls, y’all!!!!
The only downside is we’ve only got two months to work with. We would have preferred three, but the window for Alaska is short, so we need to start making our way toward the Canadian border in May.
In the meantime, once we move into the rental, we’re looking forward to working on some projects we haven’t had time to work on, getting back on a regular exercise schedule (to offset the taco issue), planning this crazy Alaska trip, and being completely anti-social. We feel very fortunate to know very few people in Austin and we’re going to work hard to keep it that way. Haha. Just kidding. Actually, not really. After spending the last several months catching up with everyone on the East Coast, we’re all socialized out. Once we get to Austin, we’re making like monks and taking a vow of silence.
How will this all go in reality? We have no idea. But as soon as we figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.
As soon as we booked the Air BnB, it felt like a huge weight came off. And soon after that, we headed to an even more therapeutic place – one of the best campgrounds we’ve ever visited.
Gunter Hill Campground is the campground by which all others should be measured. This Army Corps of Engineers park is located just outside Montgomery, Alabama, it offers full hook ups, and the sites may as well come with a unicorn butler who cooks you breakfast and rubs your feet.
Look at this!!!!!!
Sadly, we only had two nights here, but any time at all in this beautiful land of enchantment is valuable.
Grayton Beach State Park
The magic continued at our next stop, Grayton Beach State Park, located on Florida’s gulf coast, just east of Pensacola.
Santa Rosa Beach is stunningly beautiful – powdery white sand, perfectly clear turquoise waters, protected dunes…. Dreamy stuff any time of day:
Grayton’s campground, which is about a 10 minute walk from the beach, is even better. There’s a loop of full hook ups and a loop of partials, the former being a bit more open while the latter feels more natural. We snagged a site in the full hook up section and were in heaven.
We loved it so much that when the opportunity presented itself to extend our stay by moving to a different site, we jumped at it.
All told, we spent 12 nights at the park, wandering down to the beach to catch midday and sunset views…
taking the dog for leisurely hikes along the park’s pretty trails,
and enjoying the beautiful views everywhere between…
In a state full of superb state parks, Grayton remains one of our favorites.
After pit-stopping at Suwannee River State Park, we made our way to St. Augustine, visiting Kevin’s family for the holidays and taking in all that St. Augustine has to offer – which is a lot.
In addition to burying them in Amazon packages, bringing over tons of laundry for their “adult sized” washing machine and dryer, and making use of their garage and tools for various projects, we spent Thanksgiving in the sunshine, let Thor get some extra attention from the grands, and checked out several local businesses.
And just prior to Christmas, we all headed downtown to take in the “Nights of Lights” festival via the city’s trolley. The festival – wherein local businesses, government buildings, and parks in the historic downtown are decorated in beautiful white lights, starts in late November and goes through early February. While St. Augustine is always an appealing city to visit, winter is an especially beautiful time.
We had a great time visiting with Kevin’s family. It was nice to just be able to hang out and spend quality time together. We visited with some RVer friends as well, but I’ll add that to the next post since this one is getting rather wordy already.
Coming up, we head inland to hike, kayak, and swim in some of Florida’s lesser known but gorgeous state parks, we head out to the coast to visit the incomparable Kennedy Space Center, and we bid a fond farewell to an old friend – because it turns out nothing lasts forever, not even a trusty Xterra.
Where we stayed:
Gunter Hill Campground, Montgomery, Alabama
Grayton Beach State Park, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida (2017 Review)
Suwannee River State Park, Live Oak, Florida (2017 Review)
Stagecoach RV Park, St. Augustine, Florida