Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina has always held a special place in our hearts. Anna and I met in Raleigh at North Carolina State University. She was a driven young Zoology major with dreams of a medical career. I was an immature 24-year old Navy guy, floating through my second chance at college, and too busy going to bars to worry about doing anything more than meeting the minimum academic requirements of my Naval Officer Commissioning program. The semester that we started dating, I made the Dean’s List and by the time we graduated, I had pulled my grades into respectable territory. Needless to say, Anna changed my life (for the better). I’m fairly certain that I changed hers too, but probably, for the worse…

We had wanted to get to Raleigh during our East Coast Swing, but weren’t sure we could pull it off while trying to do everything we wanted. Our compromise plan was to travel from Western North Carolina to Virginia via the Blue Ridge Parkway and try to work in Raleigh during the month of April in between D.C. visits. However, we were on the fence about this plan—something about it felt too forced and non-organic. So, after realizing that the NPS campgrounds on Blue Ridge Parkway were still closed in March, and the opportunity for a Raleigh Instameet with Dave and Rosa of This is Our Next (@thisisournext) popped up, we decided that the Fates had spoken and jumped into the new plan.

We have been following one another on Instagram for quite a while and had been part of a long-standing, multi-Airstream Family Instagram direct message (DM) conversation for several months. Also, a couple other Airstream friends had met up with Dave and Rosa previously and commented that we HAD to meet-up with them sometime. Well, here was our opportunity…

On Sunday, March 26th we departed Asheville and headed east towards the “Triangle.” We managed to find a campsite at the Crosswinds Campground in the Jordan Lake State Recreation Area and Dave and Rosa would join us on Monday.

No Alcohol Jordan Lake Raleigh North Carolina

Oh, oh…Never a good sign…

big big trip Duplex Campsite Jordan Lake Crosswinds Campground North Carolina airstream

Hanging out at Jordan Lake with the This is Our Next crew. This Duplex Campsite was the awesome!

We shared one of Crosswind Campground’s “Duplex Sites” and it worked perfectly for our two-family, two-day stay with the This is Our Next Crew. Our huge campsite had ample outdoor living space and was about 100-yards from the campground’s beach area.

big big trip eno hammock jordan lake big big trip Duplex Campsite Jordan Lake Crosswinds Campground North Carolina

Everyone had a swinging good time at Jordan Lake outside Raleigh!

During the two days we hung out with our new friends, revisited old haunts around campus, ate some North Carolina BBQ, enjoyed a couple of campfires, surreptitiously drank too much alcohol, and stayed up way too late telling stories and laughing (directly related to the over consumption of booze). Adults and kids strolled over to the beach area and spent one afternoon goofing around. I inflated our Botê Zeppelin Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) and the kids, Dave, and I had a great time playing around on it in the lake.

big big trip nc state wolfpack mr wolf mrs wolf raleigh north carolina

Owen with Mr. and Mrs. Wolf on the N.C. State Campus.

Big Big Trip BBQ NC State Raleigh North Carolina

Many college meals were eaten from this BBQ joint just outside of Raleigh.

big big trip nc state wolfpack brickyard raleigh north carolina

The N.C. State Brickyard

After an exhaustive couple of days, on Thursday morning (March 30th) we all said goodbye. Dave, Rosa, and their girls were headed back to Raleigh-proper and we were headed north towards Virginia and D.C., for our Family Spring Break.

big big trip Duplex Campsite Jordan Lake Crosswinds Campground North Carolina airstream

Group Photo

In the end, it was a great decision to ditch our Blue Ridge Parkway plans and head east to Raleigh. Not only did we get to show Owen our alma mater, but we had a fantastic time with our wonderful new friends. It goes to show that you always need to keep your options open and not be afraid to change plans as new opportunities arise.

big big trip nc state wolfpack mann hall civil environmental engineering raleigh north carolina

Hanging out in front of Mann Hall.

big big trip nc state wolfpack state college smokestack raleigh north carolina

The NC State Campus.

 

 

Posted in 2017, Airstream, Campgrounds, Navy, North Carolina, South | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Asheville, North Carolina

In 1993, during my first summer at N.C. State, I went on a backpacking trip into the mountains of North Carolina. I remember it like it was yesterday. There were four of us who packed up our gear and drove from Raleigh to the Linville Gorge Wilderness on a warm and bright Friday afternoon. We hiked into the depths of the gorge and spent the weekend exploring the steep switchbacks and meandering riverside trails. The next morning we hiked to the top of nearby Table Rock Mountain and soaked in the gorgeous views of the surrounding wilderness. On our way down we somehow lost the trail and spent several hours bushwhacking downhill, following one small stream and then another, finally reaching the river. We spent that night sleeping under the stars on a large boulder in the middle of the rushing Linville River.

That wasn’t my first time in the backcountry, but I can still recall the wonder and awe I felt as a flat-land Michigan native in those gentle worn mountains and the precipitous gorge. I had been a boy scout. I had hiked and canoed in both the Adirondacks and the White Mountains. I had spent a week skiing the French Alps of Chamonix and two more weeks exploring Europe by foot and train. However, it wasn’t until that weekend in western North Carolina that I truly I fell in love with rugged mountains and wild rivers. Over the next three years, I would spend many weekends in North Carolina’s wild places and would grow fonder of them with each visit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains are also special to Anna. As a young girl, her family spent many vacations camping in and among the Smokies and visiting local towns and tourist attractions.

Since those early days in North Carolina, Anna and I have traveled around the world. We’ve walked the city streets, the sleepy backroads, and the rugged trails of the Far East, the Middle East, and Europe. We’ve hiked in many places throughout the country, from the east coast to the west. However, western North Carolina will always hold a special place in our hearts because of its role in nurturing our love of the wild outdoors.

Of course we had to return to Western North Carolina while we were Big Big Tripping around the east coast. The Great Smoky Mountains and Asheville were always high on our list. With a few weeks to spare before our D.C. Spring Break rendezvous, we departed Nashville and headed east towards Cades Cove Campground in the Smokies.

Prior to this visit, my exploration of Great Smoky Mountain National Park was confined to the North Carolina side. Anna had visited Cades Cove as a child and I was excited to finally see the Tennessee side of the park.

We exited I-40 near Knoxville and followed the sinuous Tennessee backroads to the park entrance near Townsend, TN.   We turned southwest on the Park’s Laurel Creek Road and climbed into the Cades Cove area of the park.

big big trip airstream great smoky mountain national park

Driving across the park, from Tennessee to North Carolina [Great Smoky Mountain National Park].

As it was still March, only one of the campground’s loops was open. Even though it was a popular Spring Break weekend, we managed to find several campsites that could accommodate the 30-feet of the Big Big Trip Adventure Vessel.

Also, because it was Spring Break for many area schools, there were a number of families and lots of kids milling about the campground. Owen quickly fell in with several different pods of kids. As it had been a few weeks since he had good social time with other kids, we decided to let him play and minimize the touristing during our stay at Cades Cove. While we did venture out of the campground to the Cades Cove Visitor Center and the Cable Mill area one afternoon, and I attempted to catch some wily trout with my fly rod on another, for the most part we hung out at the campground and let Owen run amok with the other kids. He needed the playtime and we needed the down time.

big big trip great smoky mountain national park tennessee north carolina newfound gap

On top of Great Smoky Mountain National Park at Newfound Gap.

On Tuesday, we packed up and drove through the park towards the North Carolina side. We climbed over the 5,046-ft Newfound Gap, crossed the Appalachian Trail, and stopped to enjoy a cloudy but spectacular view of North Carolina to the east and Tennessee to the west. We descended from the gap and followed the Oconaluftee River to the east side of the park. We spent a few hours exploring the Mountain Farm at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and also finishing up Owen’s GSMNP Junior Ranger Badge, before continuing our journey to Asheville.

big big trip Oconaluftee Visitor Center Junior Ranger National Park

Owen taking the Junior Ranger pledge at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center [Great Smoky Mountains National Park].

We wanted to take the Blue Ridge Parkway from Oconaluftee to our next destination near Asheville, but the western terminus of the Parkway was closed for maintenance. Therefore, we ended up taking the less-scenic Highway 19 through Maggie Valley and approaching Asheville via I-40.

Asheville, North Carolina

It had been well over 20-years since the last time we were in Asheville and we had scheduled a full week to explore Asheville before driving north to D.C. I had managed to score reservations for three nights of full hook-ups at the Lake Powhatan National Forest Campground, but couldn’t reserve the additional nights because of the weekend. However, with several walk-up only dry camping sites, we assumed we would be able to snag a site for the weekend.

We pulled into the campground in mid-afternoon and made our way to our assigned spot, only to discover someone still parked in it. After some swearing head-scratching, we tracked down a scrum of campground hosts. Several phone calls and more swearing head-scratching, gained us an unoccupied Host site that would be our home for the duration of our reservation. On Friday morning we were able to move into an available walk-up site for the weekend.

big big trip Smokey the Bear Asheville

Owen give Smokey a Thumbs Up! [Lake Powhatan Campground].

While we were in Asheville, Dash (yes, we have a dog…and it’s a Schnoodle) got sick with a GI bug of some sort; no doubt a result of the “samples” he always manages to score on campground walks.   After a L-O-N-G Friday night and Saturday morning of taking him out every 45-minutes, we finally threw in the towel and took him to an emergency Vet. By 8am on Saturday, everyone was home and on the mend. By Sunday, thankfully, he was back to being himself. We were very grateful to the folks at REACH Animal Hospital in Asheville for getting him back into happy camper shape.

big big trip airstream dash the dog schnoodle asheville reach emergency vets north carolina

Here’s our recovering Schnoodle taking a snooze after his trip to the doggie ER in Asheville.

Overall, Lake Powhatan is great little campground. Located about 20-minutes from downtown Asheville, it’s convenient for exploring Asheville and the surrounding area. There is a decent mix of full hook-up and dry sites with several that are set aside for walk-up availability.

big big trip lake powhatan bridge Asheville

Anna’s Uncle Grant helped to build this Lake Powhatan bridge in the 1970s as part of the Young Adult Conservation Corps.

Bottom line: We love Asheville. We had a wonderful time and spent our week exploring the eclectic downtown area, meeting up with Anna’s relatives, a little fishing and visiting a few breweries.

Good Vibes in Asheville

Good Vibes in Asheville

 

Asheville has an awesome beer scene. During our stay we visited three different breweries (one local and two national).

Wicked Weed

One night we had dinner with Anna’s Aunt and Uncle at Wicked Weed, a great little brew pub in downtown Asheville. The food was fantastic and the beer was brilliant. They had a wonderful variety of Belgians, Sours, and a few interesting experimental beers on tap.

New Belgium

New Belgium Brewery Asheville beer

New Belgium Brewery Asheville

We visited the New Belgium brewery on a sunny Friday afternoon. Located just outside of the downtown Asheville area, New Belgium has a full production brewery (that gives tours) with a huge tasting room and a large lawn area for playing or relaxing. Although they don’t serve food, there was a food truck parked next to the patio and lawn area. We had a great time hanging out in the grass, tasting several different beers, and watching Owen play with a group of local kids. We wanted to take the tour, but they were booked solid during our visit. New Belgium Asheville definitely gets two thumbs up from us.

Sierra Nevada

sierra nevada asheville brewery beer

The Sierra Nevada Brewery in Asheville.

Our favorite brewery experience was Sierra Nevada. Located several miles outside of the downtown area, Sierra Nevada boasts beautiful grounds, great beer, and awesome food. A beer lover’s paradise, Sierra Nevada is a destination in and of itself. We enjoyed lunch and beer during an afternoon visit and then returned with Anna’s brother and sister-in-law for dinner and beers on a Saturday night. We wanted to take the guided tour, but kids weren’t allowed, so we had to settle for the self-guided walk on the Visitor Corridor above the brewery. Sierra Nevada is a must-see if you like beer and you’re in Asheville. The food is absolutely fantastic, the beer is delicious, and the atmosphere and ambiance are unparalleled. Two thumbs WAY UP.

After Asheville, we planned on taking the Blue Ridge Parkway into Virginia, before heading to D.C., but realized that many of the Parkway campgrounds were still closed for the season. So, after talking to Dave and Rosa of @thisisournext, we amended our plans and headed east towards Raleigh and another impromptu Airstream Instameet.

Posted in 2017, Airstream, Beer, Campgrounds, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Junior Ranger, North Carolina | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tennessee

While Anna spent the first couple years of her life in Tennessee, my experiences in Tennessee were more spartan. While I extensively explored western North Carolina during my undergrad years at N.C. State, with the exception of a couple of trips on I-40, I had never ventured in Tennessee. Originally, we planned to drive the Natchez Trace north into Nashville before turning east towards North Carolina, Virginia, and our Spring Break plans in D.C. However, as our plans in Texas evolved, we decided to take the more conventional interstate route, giving us the option to sprint towards D.C. in case we started to run out of time. So, after Hot Springs National Park, we packed up and headed towards the Volunteer State. First stop on the agenda? Memphis.

Memphis

Other than researching various campground options and planning a couple of days to visit Memphis-proper, we didn’t give our visit to Memphis much prior thought. This seems to be a common theme for us as the Big Big Trip progresses?!?! However, there were a few things we knew we wanted to experience: BBQ, Graceland, and the National Civil Rights Museum.

For lodging options, we didn’t look much beyond the nearby Navy campground in Millington, TN, located about 30 minutes north of downtown Memphis. As we had made tentative plans to meet up with two other Airstream families in Knoxville later the following week, we only planned on staying in Memphis for three days. However, Mother Nature would throw us a weather-related curveball that altered our plans.

civil rights, memphis, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlifeOn our first full day, we bundled up and headed downtown to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. Situated in downtown Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum is located on the site of the Lorraine Motel where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968.

lorraine motel, civil rights, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Visitors to the National Civil Rights Museum travel through the history of the U.S. civil rights movement, starting with slavery era resistance movements and working their way through the Civil War, the end of Reconstruction in the south and the subsequent rise of Jim Crow laws, and culminating with the major civil rights events of the last century.

Our visit was enlightening, moving, sad, and sometimes painful. Also, it was disturbingly poignant given that it’s been almost 155-years since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, 152-years since the passing of the 13th Amendment, 149-years since the 14th Amendment, 147-years since the 15th Amendment, 53-years since the LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 52-years since he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sadly, regardless of these landmark civil rights laws and actions, civil rights (racial, religious, ethnic, and sexual orientation) are still a pressing issue today.

Although she grew up and went to school in this town, Anna was never taught anything about the Rock Hill Nine…A sad and troubling commentary on local educational priorities in many areas of the country

A big part of the reason behind the Big Big Trip is to expose Owen to our world and our history—warts and all. Shielding him from the warts would be wrong. On our drive to the museum we tried to prepare him for something we were sure would be hard to digest. We discussed the Civil Rights movement in broad terms. We tried to relate the civil rights movement back to the things we had seen and done over the past months. From our visits to the Charleston slave markets, the Louisiana plantations, and more recently to LBJ’s ranch in Texas, Owen has absorbed a lot of history (and a lot of warts) and I think he was able to put some of what he saw at the Lorraine Motel into the proper context. However, I could tell by his questions and his demeanor that he was both saddened and confused by the things he saw and I don’t have a good answer for that…in fact, as we look at the world around us we find ourselves asking a lot of questions of our own and sharing in some of the same sadness and confusion.

The hotel room where where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968.

Because of a developing weather system that was scheduled to dump several inches of snow on the southeast, our Airstream Instameet was canceled. We ended up sheltering-in-place in Millington, adjusting our Nashville reservations, and canceling our Knoxville plans.

airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Snowstorm in Memphis

We had front row seats for the Peabody Ducks, but you have to be quick to catch them with a camera!

Ultimately, we would end up spending a week in Memphis. Beyond the great BBQ we enjoyed at Central BBQ and the Blues City Café on Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum remains the highlight of our stay. We also managed to fill up our extended week with front row seats for the marching of the Peabody Ducks, a lot of schoolwork, random errands, and visiting some of the other local attractions. After a week in Memphis, we were ready for some new scenery so we packed up and headed west to Nashville.

We spent a memorable afternoon visiting the Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium, a wonderful Memphis natural history and local history museum complex that is also affiliated with the ASTC.

Nashville

We really never had great weather in Memphis, but we arrived in Nashville on a sunny and warm Wednesday afternoon. Since it was mid-March, our only viable campground options were a cluster of private RV Parks just north of the downtown area with a KOA and Jellystone being two of the prominent options. Since we said we would NEVER again stay at a Jellystone, we picked the nice, but pricey, KOA.

We spent three nights in Nashville, giving us two full days to explore the city. There were no real highlights from our stay, but we did manage to work in a visit to the American Pickers store (Owen’s and my favorite TV show), stroll the downtown area, and stop in the lobby to use the bathroom briefly visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. Anna and Owen also had the opportunity to meet up and have a reunion with one of her old Camp Gravatt Friends.

american pickers, nashville, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Owen loved the American Pickers Store in Nashville!

Overall, we had a nice, although quick, stop in Nashville that was just enough to whet our appetites for more. Nashville is definitely somewhere we want return to and spend a more time exploring without our kid.

We departed Nashville on Saturday, the 18th of March and drove east to a weekend in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Posted in 2017, Airstream, Nashville, Tennessee, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Quick Trip Through Arkansas

We left Texas on Sunday morning, March 5th, bound for Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Since Google told us it was only a two-hour drive, we decided to ease off I-30 at the Hope, AR exit and visit the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site. Since it was fairly early on a Sunday, we were the first visitors of the day, and only visitors during our 60’ish-minute stay.

clinton, hope, arkansas, bill clinton, president, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

We spent about 20-minutes touring the home where Bill Clinton lived until he was five years old and spent the rest of the time looking through the small NPS visitor center and museum while working on Owen’s Junior Ranger booklet. Owen completed the Junior Ranger badge requirements, and we made like young Bill and headed northeast towards Hot Springs, Arkansas.

 

michelin, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife, hot springs, national park

As I was pulling out of Hope, I managed to hit a curb with the front curbside trailer tire. When we stopped to fill up with diesel at the I-30 interchange, I noticed that we had a large fresh gouge in the tire sidewall. The tire looked ok; for the time being it was holding air, but clearly wasn’t reliable beyond a few hundred miles. I ended up finding a tire dealer and replacing it after we got settled in at Hot Springs.

 

Hot Springs National Park is one of the more unusual National Parks we have visited. Surrounding the downtown area of Hot Springs, the National Park area is made up of many of the historic bathhouses and the surrounding hills that are responsible for the springs. Through concessionaires, the National Park Service still operates a couple of the bathhouses. Anna even availed herself of their services and took the waters one morning.

hot springs, national park, beer, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

A National Park with a Brewery!

 

We stayed at the National Park’s Gulpha Gorge Campground, located a few miles outside of town. Gulpha Gorge ranks on the higher end of the National Park campgrounds in which we’ve stayed. With FULL HOOK-UPS, a low National Park price, and a scenic riverfront location, we could not have asked for a better place to stay.

Owen did his first successful BIG hike while at Hot Springs. We hiked the 2-1/2 miles into town from the Gulpha Gorge Campground.

While the main attraction at Hot Springs National Park is Bathhouse Row, there is a nice wilderness area with hiking trails, a scenic loop road, and a tower. The downtown area is an easy walk from the campground via the hiking trails that traverse Hot Springs Mountain. In fact, on our last full afternoon in Hot Springs, Owen and I hiked into town to turn-in his Junior Ranger booklet. Anna met us with the truck and after the awarding of the Junior Ranger Badge, we all walked next door to the Superior Bathhouse Brewery to celebrate both his Junior Ranger Badge and his successful hike over the “mountain.”

 

Another Junior Ranger badge!

 

Our stay at Hot Springs was limited to three nights and that felt just about right. Arriving early on our first day and having two additional full days to explore gave us enough time to visit the sites, take the waters, work on school, and run some errands without feeling rushed.

 

Cheers to a great stop at Hot Springs National Park!

On Wednesday morning, March 8th, we hitched up and headed towards Tennessee. We considered stopping in Little Rock to visit the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, but navigating the city with the trailer looked a little daunting after the recent curb-rash fiasco. Also, during the school year, reservations are required to visit the school and we hadn’t put that much planning into our potential visit. So, regretfully, we bypassed Little Rock and rolled into Memphis later that day.

Posted in 2017, Arkansas, Beer, Campgrounds, Hot Springs National Park, Junior Ranger, National Parks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You may all to go to Hell and I will go to Texas.” – Davy Crockett

We almost said no to Texas. Other than BBQ and the braggadocio of Texans past and present, we had no idea what to expect. Initially, our plan included only a two-night stop in Houston for the Johnson Space Center, a week in Austin, and perhaps a short stay in San Antonio. That was it, just a quick dipping of the toes into Texas before heading towards Spring Break in D.C. However, as we worked our way around the Gulf of Mexico, the plan began to morph. In the end, we would skip Houston and spend a little over three weeks exploring the Hill Country and east Texas somehow loving almost every minute of it.

While working our way through Mississippi and Louisiana, we added a couple of beach stops to our Texas itinerary, as well as six days in San Antonio. To make these new plans fit, we chopped some time off our Texas-to-D.C. plan and eliminated our Houston visit after reading several mediocre reviews of the Johnson Space Center.

galveston, texas, tx, ferry, gmc, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

After spending our first night in Texas at the Orange, TX Wal-Mart parking lot, we headed southwest towards Bolivar Peninsula and rode the Port Bolivar-Galveston ferry across the mouth of Galveston Bay. While this route added mileage to the trip, it was a picturesque drive and eliminated the Houston I-10 traffic. Also, it gave us the opportunity to tuck into a beachfront county park for the weekend.

 

 

We spent two nights parked at the San Luis Pass County Park, just across the Bluewater Highway Bridge from Galveston Island. Since it was almost 30-miles back to Galveston, so we spent the weekend hanging out in the park, walking the beach, paddling around on the SUP, and enjoying a few beers in the Texas sunshine. You can see our review of the campground here. On Sunday morning (11 Feb), we headed down-island and then inland towards Austin.

We had a wonderful 210-mile drive to Austin. Other than a short 15-minute stretch on I-10, we managed to avoid interstates and used the awesome Texas backroads, highways, and that wonderful Texas invention—the Farm-to-Market Road!

The Texas Farm-to-Market (FM) roads were started in the 1940s as a means of connecting the outlying agricultural communities with the markets in larger towns. Larger and better maintained than the usual state or county roads you find around the country, the Texas Farm Roads are significantly smaller than an interstate and a great stress-free way to see the real Texas.

Once we arrived in Austin, we set-up our homebase at McKinney Falls State Park and had a great week exploring the city, catching up on errands, meeting up with my nephew and his daughter, and eating BBQ…LOTS OF BBQ.

austin, texas, tx, capital, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Outside the Texas State Capital

 

While we were in Austin, I remembered the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas and talked Anna into visiting it—I am a history and a Pacific war nerd. Anna and Owen frequently pay the price for this. Fredericksburg was a little far for a day trip, so we decided to adjust our drive to San Antonio and stop en-route. We would leave Austin early, drive to Fredericksburg and have lunch after visiting the museum and the town. We would leave Fredericksburg in the early afternoon and still make it to San Antonio before rush hour. This excursion would only add about an hour and a half of total driving time to the day.

 

fredericksburg, texas, tx, nimitz, world war II, world war 2, pacific, admiral, chester, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Located far from the Pacific Ocean, Fredericksburg is a cool little German town in the heart of Texas hill country. Upon first glance, it seems an unlikely choice for a museum honoring the Pacific Theater of World War II. However, one of Fredericksburg’s most famous sons is Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Theater (screw that MacArthur guy!) during World War II.

 

We fell in love with Fredericksburg almost immediately. If you’re a history buff, the museum is fantastic all by itself. However, if you’re a fan of lovely and charming small town America, you’re going love Fredericksburg even more. In fact, after just a few hours, we decided that we liked the town so much we needed to come back and spend more time. On the trip down to San Antonio, we once again adjusted our downstream schedule and managed to add a few Fredericksburg days onto the schedule after the beach.

Pacific War, Fredericksburg, Navy, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

The National Museum of the Pacific War

 

We spent our week in San Antonio exploring the Missions, wandering around the touristy downtown Riverwalk area, and enjoying TexMex. We also spent an afternoon at San Antonio’s DoSeum, a fantastic three-story children’s science museum. If you’re in San Antonio and looking for something interactive and fun for the kids, I encourage you to visit the DoSeum.

san antonio, texas, tx, doseum, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Owen Conquers America at San Antonio’s DoSeum

 

[Pro-Tip] We have been members of Seattle’s Pacific Science Center for several years. Because the Pacific Science Center is a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC.org), we enjoy reciprocal membership at several hundred museums around the country via the ASTC’s Passport Program. In the past ten months we have visited almost a dozen children’s and science museums free of charge. If you’re traveling with kids, definitely look into this program.

 

alamo, san antonio, texas, tx, missions, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Owen is giving the stink eye to all the Tourist-Trap nonsense in front of the Alamo

 

While the Alamo looms large in Texas lore, it is only part of the state’s complicated history. Before the Alamo was the last stand of several Texas patriots, it was one of hundreds of missions built throughout Texas by the Spanish. The National Park Service’s San Antonio Missions National Historic Park does a wonderful job of walking (or biking) the visitor through the role that these communities played in Texas’ development. The city does a marvelous job linking the missions together via the River Walk and associated bike trails, as well as running a bike share program that makes it easy to visit the missions as well as get around the downtown area. Also, while it may be blasphemy to my Texas friends, it should be noted that the Alamo is not part of the NPS site and is probably the most underwhelming of the San Antonio Missions. We felt like we had to visit the Alamo, and while I’m glad we did, it wasn’t really that enjoyable due to the swarm of tourists that were ALWAYS buzzing about grounds. When they weren’t taking getting their pictures taken in front of Davey Crockett’s last stand, they were wandering across the street to visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not, or one of the dozen other tacky tourist draws reminiscent of Myrtle Beach. If you’re going to San Antonio, the Alamo is a must see (I get that), but PLEASE don’t make it your only Mission experience.

Visiting San Antonio’s Missions was our Mission!

 

San Antonio was great. While we enjoyed Austin, we really had a good time in San Antonio. A little less Hipster’ish, San Antonio was more our speed and a little more authentic. Before arriving, San Antonio wasn’t that prominent on our radar and we hadn’t planned on enjoying it as much as we did. I’m sure it’s a miserable place to live in the heart of the summer, but we would definitely come back in winter for another visit.

Mission Accomplished! Another Junior Ranger Badge added to his collection…

 

Back in New Orleans we began to hatch a meet-up plan with Brea and Shannon of Alumalarkey fame. I had been obsessed with the opportunity to beach camp on Padre Island National Seashore for over a year following several Instagram posts by some fellow Airstreamers. Somehow I managed to convince Brea and Shannon that this would be fun. So on February 22nd, we departed San Antonio, met up the Alumalarkey crew, and sallied forth in our Airstream caravan onto the shifting sands and fickle tides of Padre Island National Seashore.

padre island national seashore, boondocking, beach, camping, gmc, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

The Three Most Important rules of Boondocking? Location, Location, and Location!

 

We had planned on spending three nights “dry” camping on the beachfront, but plans quickly changed after the second night. “Dry” camping became “wet” camping when high tide combined with an unusually strong southeasterly wind to set Brea and Shannon’s outdoor living accouterments adrift. Both managed to pack-up in record time and rapidly executed a 4-Lo egress from our prime beachfront real estate! Potential of afloat Airstreams aside, we had an AWESOME seashore adventure. While Owen and their two boys presented their best arguments towards a more laissez-faire, Lord of Flies’eque method of parenting, the adults sat back and enjoyed the show.

Beach traffic was heavy and a little reckless, so we took matters into our own hands!

 

These guys owned the beach!

 

Lord of the Flies

 

Following our maritime escape, we parted ways and headed inland. With a spare night on our hands, we opted for a full hook-up recovery night at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, followed by a pre-planned stop at an Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) campground on Canyon Lake. We eventually made our way back to Fredericksburg and spent three wonderful days exploring the town and the surrounding area. Highlights included the nearby LBJ Birthplace and Ranch; the small honkey-tonk “town” of Luckenbach, Texas; and a couple of nearby wineries. We also strolled downtown Fredericksburg and soaked in the Texas Hill Country.

No Bullshit! We really enjoyed Texas…

On March 2nd, we said goodbye to Fredericksburg and began our journey northeast out of Texas. As we rarely travel more than 200-miles on our travel days, and the fact that Texas is a Big-Ass-State, we planned to break up the drive and spend two nights in Waco and one night near Texarkana. We wanted to stop at Waco because of the nearby Waco Mammoth National Monument. We chose Texarkana because it was about halfway to our next destination, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.

luckenbach, Texas, tx, waylon, willie, airstream, travel, nomad, liveriveted, fulltime rv family, myrivetedlife

Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas with Waylon and Willie and the boys. This successful life we’re livin’, got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys…

 

Anyhow, to make a long story short, when I was changing reservations around to support Fredericksburg stop, I managed to screw up our Waco ACoE campground reservations. The end result was that we missed our two reserved days because we were screwing around in Fredericksburg.   We could only get a campsite for one night.

We hadn’t done much Waco research beyond the National Monument and it turns out there were a lot of things we could have, and would have loved to have, done. Adding insult to injury, Dash (yes, we have a dog) had cut his paw on the beach at Padre and it appeared to be infected. We needed to get it looked at and Anna had made an appointment with a veterinarian located near the campground. With only a few hours to visit before things closed, we dropped Anna and Dash off at the vet and Owen and I rushed off to visit the Mammoth site.

Waco Mammoth National Monument was one of the coolest small National Park Service sites we’ve visited. We grabbed a junior ranger booklet and took a one hour guided tour. The tour is the only way to see the Mammoth “dig” site, which is the location of over 25 fossilized Columbian Mammoth skeletons, including a family group of females and babies. The park rangers were excited and well-informed; the tour was fantastic. We had a great time and brought the Junior Ranger booklet home to work on that evening—we would stop back at the monument on our way out of town the next morning. Anna’s visit to the vet wasn’t nearly as exciting.

 

In hindsight, we should have skipped the original ACoE campground and moved to another nearby one that had two nights of availability. In the heat of a problematic check-in with an unhelpful campground host, combined with brain-numbingly long Texas travel day, we didn’t think things through adequately. Lesson learned!

An additional byproduct of my botched reservation job was an extra night with nowhere to stay. Because it was approaching a weekend and the Hot Springs National Park campground was first-come first-served, we needed to tuck in somewhere for that extra night and wait out the weekend. We had already reserved one night at a Texarkana ACoE campground and adding an additional night was easy. While the campground was perfectly adequate, the stench from the nearby paper mills and the dearth of Confederate Flags made for an interesting stay. However, since there wasn’t anything to do in either the campground or Texarkana, and I had good internet connectivity, I did managed to finish our taxes!

On Sunday morning, the 4th of March, we departed Texas and headed northeast into Arkansas and Hot Springs National Park. Farewell to Texas, for now. We thought you were great, and anticipate seeing your West (best?) side!

Posted in 2017, Airstream, Austin, Campgrounds, Fredericksburg, Gulf Coast, Junior Ranger, LBJ National Historical Park, Navy, Padre Island National Seashore, San Antonio, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, South, Texas, Uncategorized, Waco Mammoth National Monument, World War II | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment