Category Archives: Travel Posts

Monterey, CA and Big Sur

We spent the last few days just north of Monterey, at the Marina Dunes RV Park. The park is small and next to Hwy 101, so we had a bit of road noise, but the location was great. It was across the street from a beautiful beach and only 10 minutes from Monterey and Carmel.

We enjoyed walking across the street, sitting on the beach and catching a beautiful sunset.

The Monterey Aquarium had been on my bucket list for quite some time, as numerous people have recommended it. I’m glad I finally took the time to visit it, as it is fabulous. Our first stop was the fish feeding show.

Our favorite exhibit was the Jellyfish.

After visiting the Aquarium we strolled through Cannery Row, where we came upon the monument below. Author John Steinbeck is at the top of the rock, with friend and marine biologist Ed Ricketts toward the bottom. The other individuals represent those who once worked in the bustling canning industry on the row.

We then stopped by the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove. This lighthouse has been active since 1855.

In the evening we made our way to Carmel Beach for sunset.

Once the sun set we walked up the street and had a romantic dinner at Carmel Bouchee. We had visited this restaurant 6 years ago, shortly after we became engaged.

We were fortunate to have one day where there was little wind and clear skies. We took advantage of it and spent the day traveling along Hwy 1 from Carmel to McWay Falls, in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Here are some pictures I captured along our way.

Bixby Bridge

McWay Falls
At the far upper right corner you can see Rocky Point Restaurant, where we enjoyed lunch.
The day ended with a beautiful sunset.

We are now on our way to Yosemite National Park. Unfortunately, it looks like we might get a lot of rain during our stay. More on that later……

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From Los Angeles to Paso Robles, CA: Mar. 3-12, 2019

After spending two weeks in Indio we headed to the LA area for a short stint, as Charlie wanted to visit with a high school friend he had not seen for 45 years. On the way to our campground we stopped by the Nixon Library. We spent a few hours there, found it very informative and well done.

Charlie and I sat behind the desk in the Oval Office and got a feel for what it would be like to be the president :-).

Our campground, Walnut RV Park, was located in Northridge. It was a small campground that, for us, served the sole purpose of being the closest place to Charlie’s friend where we could park the RV. We originally had reservations at the Malibu RV Park, but that park was damaged by the wildfires that tore through Malibu last Fall and it isn’t scheduled to reopen until mid summer. We were quite disappointed.

In the picture below you can see the Malibu RV Park to the left. Note the blue tarp and burnt trees.

This is a picture showing the scorched mountain region around Malibu and a roped off area of where a house once stood. It is really sad to think about what the residents had to endure as the fires raged, especially up in the Paradise, CA region.

As I mentioned earlier, our main reason for visiting the area was so that Charlie could meet up with an old friend of his. Don, and his wife Penny, had us over for a great dinner. Don works in the film business doing sound editing for movies. We were able to see a small portion of what he does, as he was in the process of editing an upcoming movie called Ford v. Ferrari starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon. It was fascinating to see how voices and sound effects are added, accentuated, tweaked, etc. to impact how the movie is viewed.

Per Don’s suggestion, we had lunch in Santa Monica at The Lobster. We sat at a window table which gave us a beautiful view of the Pier, beach and ocean. The food was excellent!

Our last day in the area was spent at the Reagan Library. It is a beautiful facility on top of a hill in Simi Valley. We absolutely loved this library. The Air Force One jet and Helicopter used during Reagan’s tenure are at the library and you are able to tour them. Charlie was imaging what it would be like to be the helicopter pilot.

I was imaging what it would be like giving a speech to everybody from the President’s pulpit.

The Pompeii exhibition was at the library while we were there. They displayed true artifacts, including wall-sized frescos, marble and bronze sculptures, jewelry, and full body casts of the volcano’s victims. The transformation that occurred in this city within minutes of the volcano erupting is almost unimaginable. Seeing this exhibit brings it to reality.

From the LA area we drove up Hwy 101 to Paso Robles. This was our first visit to the area and we absolutely loved it. We found all of the people to be extremely friendly. The city still has a small town feeling to it. We visited a few wineries and enjoyed some great food at the local restaurants.

The area around Paso Robles is just beautiful. I’m sure when the grapes are in full bloom that it is a spectacular sight. We may have to come back for another visit.

We found dinner at Fish Gaucho to be very good, especially the double boned pork chop. Our favorite restaurant though was The Catch. We dined there twice and sat at the bar both times. This gives you a front seat to all of the cooking excitement. The owner, Chico, is the chef. I snapped this picture of him from my seat at the bar, at the end of the evening.

Now, if you like Bloody Mary drinks, then I’d suggest La Cosecha Bar.

We visited the Hearst Castle twice during our week long visit. This was because on our first visit it ended up pouring down rain while we were up at the castle. Therefore, we were unable to see any of the grounds or the views. During our second visit we had beautiful weather. In the end, we took the Grand Rooms Tour, the Upstairs Suites Tour, and the Cottages & Kitchen Tour. We are now Hearst Castle aficionados.

The Hearst Castle architecture is stunning. The house can be seen, sitting on the mountain top, from quite a distance away.

Hearst collected art from all over the world. His collection is outstanding and on display throughout the castle and grounds. The pool is unbelievably gorgeous and the views are breathtaking.

Along Hwy 1, just down the road from the Hearst estate, are beautiful views of the coastline.

While in Paso Robles we stayed at the new Cava Robles RV Resort. We really liked it. There are over 300 sites and while we were there only about 30 of them were occupied. There were more families with small kids at this resort than we had seen elsewhere. That could be due to the fabulous pools and the fact that they have a cafe/bar on-site. Within a couple of weeks the park expects to fill up and remain that way through September. I’m glad we hit it on the off-peak time.

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Indio, CA

We recently spent 2 weeks in Indio, CA, just outside of Palm Springs. We had a great time visiting with friends and enjoying some outdoor activities.

During one chilly, but partly sunny day, we made our way up to the Joshua Tree National Park. This is an interesting park in that it encompasses two ecosystems. A portion of the park resides at or above 3,000 feet. This part of the park, in the Mojave Desert, is where the Joshua Trees are found. The Joshua Tree is a type of Yucca that grows predominantly in this area.

The part of the park below 3,000 feet, in the Colorado Desert, features natural gardens of creosote bush, ocotillo, and cholla cactus, as well as wildflowers. These wildflowers bloomed following some recent rain.

I spotted a few hummingbirds around the flowers.

Keys View, the highest peak in the park at an elevation of 5,185 ft, is a great place to capture a panoramic view of the Coachella Valley. The temperature, while we were at Keys View, was in the low-30s.  The view was a bit hazy, but nice.

Back in Indio, we hiked a 5-mile trail called East Indio Badlands. Charlie used his drone to capture the environment. You can see why they call the area ‘Badlands’.

Although, we did find some wildflowers here too.

We took an interesting day trip through Borrego Springs and to a small mountain town called Justin. We headed south on Hwy 86, along the Salton Sea, to S22 (the Borrego Salton Seaway) and turned westward.  Hwy S22 rides along the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument range. We came across some RVers dry-camping with some great views. We may have to try this at some point.

While driving around Borrego Springs we came upon these life sized metal sculptures. There are 130 sculptures inspired by creatures that roamed the desert millions of years ago. The artworks include prehistoric mammals, dinosaurs, horses, and even a 350-foot-long serpent.  It was not a great day to take pictures when we were there. To see better photos or to read more about the sculptures check out this article: https://www.desertusa.com/borrego/bs-art.html

We found wildflowers, and some butterflies to go with them, in the desert area around the town.

From Borrego Springs we drove south on S3 (Yaqui Pass Rd) to Hwy 78. These roads are surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, making it a very scenic drive. We continued on Hwy 78 to Julian, where we found snow on the ground. Julian is best known for great pies. We couldn’t leave the town without one. While we were in the Julian Pie Company shop I spotted a news article on the wall. It was about how Liz Smothers, the owner of the shop, taught her pie-making techniques to Mike Bulsey so that he and his family could return to his home state of Michigan and open up the Grand Traverse Pie Company. Being from Michigan I am well aware of the great pies served up at GTPC and was happy to learn a little bit about its beginning.

After an early dinner, with pie, we headed back to Indio. We got to the Coachella Valley Lookout just as the sun was setting. You can see Palm Desert in the distance.

Each Thursday night Palm Springs has a street fair. We really enjoyed our evening, walking along the streets, checking out what the local vendors had to offer. The food options were amazing.

We had a mini reunion with some fellow Mountain Falls Resort owners (our home base resort in North Carolina) while in Indio. We enjoyed many dinners and cocktail hours with Kurt & Michelle Ling, Bob & Sue Grote, and Steve & Carol Aasheim. It was great to spend some quality time with our Mountain Falls neighbors.  

We also had the opportunity to catch up with friends Deb and Terri, who own a brick and mortar house in Palm Springs. They also own a house in Albuquerque. This means we will see them again at the end of our road trip, when we attend the Balloon Fiesta. We enjoyed some great conversations and dinners with them. Out favorite dinner was at the famous Copley’s restaurant in downtown Palm Springs. The restaurant is located on part of the former Cary Grant estate.

While in Indio, we stayed at Outdoor Resorts. This Class A Motor Coach Resort is very nice, as seen from these photos.

Our next stop is in the Los Angeles area for a few days. We’ll be visiting the Nixon and Reagan Presidential Libraries. More on that later…..

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Lake Havasu, AZ

Last week we enjoyed some time in Lake Havasu. We stayed at the Lake Havasu State Park. We liked the park for its location and the sites, like at most of the other Arizona State Parks, are spacious.

Sunrise at Lake Havasu State Park

We arrived from Tucson around noon. We parked the RV, unhooked the Jeep and took off for the Nellie E Saloon (better known as ‘The Desert Bar’).

There are two ways to get to the bar. One way requires that you have an high clearance off-road vehicle, such as a Razor.

The other way is also off-road, but most vehicles can make it via this route.

There is always a band playing on stage and we found the food to be very good. They only accept cash so if you go there be prepared.

http://www.thedesertbar.com/

While in Lake Havasu we hiked a couple of trails at SARA Park. (https://golakehavasu.com/activity/attractions/parks/sara-park/) We hiked the 5 mile roundtrip Crack-in-the-Mountain trail. This trail is fun as you have to snake through a mountain, use a rope to shimmy down a 6 foot sheer incline and maneuver over waist deep water on wobbly metal planks. At the end of the trail you end up at the Colorado River where you can dip your feet in the water. It was too chilly for that though.

On another day we hiked ‘The Lizard Peek’ trail. There is a 600 ft elevation gain to the top of the peek, which overlooks a Lizard formation made out of stones. Can you find the lizard in the picture below? It looks pretty small when you are 600 ft above it.

Once you reach the peek of the mountain you are surprised to find a picnic table there. While there we met some fellow RVers.

In the picture below you can see a couple of hikers making their way back down from Lizard Peek.

The hike getting up was a little interesting at times and required some fun rock climbing.

Below is a picture from the top of the mountain.

I mentioned that we met some fellow RVers while at the top of mountain. Well, they invited us over to their RV park (at SARA Park) one evening to view some fantastic fireworks. It just so happens that we were in Lake Havasu during the Pyrotechnic Convention. The show lasted for an hour. Aside from being pretty darn cold, it was quite enjoyable. I captured this photo with my iPhone. While not a great photo, you can see the large number of fireworks going off at the same time.

For those that may not know this, the London Bridge was purchased by Robert McCulloch from the City of London back in the 1960s. It was dismantled and shipped to the US where it was reconstructed in Lake Havasu. Each brick was numbered so that it could be replaced in exactly the same location.

Along the coastline of Lake Havasu you will find numerous miniature lighthouses. They are scaled-down replicas of lighthouses found along the East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes. They are actually functional and are used to alert boaters of the lake’s coastline. Funny fact: the city of Lake Havasu, in the landlocked desert state of Arizona, has more lighthouses than any other city in the entire country.

A few other notes about Lake Havasu:

We’ve never seen so many RVs in one area. They seem to be everywhere. The city of Lake Havasu is surrounded by BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and RVers can dry camp anywhere they find a spot. If you don’t mind dry camping then it would be almost impossible for you to not be able to find a spot to camp out for a few days.

The Colorado River and Lake Havasu make this area a desert Oasis.

Overlooking the city of Lake Havasu

If you like ice cream, then try out Scoops. They have the best homemade ice cream in town.

Somebody has humor in town, as seen by this phone booth.

If we ever return to Lake Havasu I think we will look to stay at Arizona’s Cattails State Park, which is between Lake Havasu and Parker. It is located on the Colorado River, is away from the city traffic and has beautiful scenery and hiking trails nearby.

The weather during our stay was surprisingly chilly, in the 50s and low 60s. We had one day of non-stop rain, which came with flash flood warnings. The cooler weather made hiking nice though. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Lake Havasu.

We are now in Indio, CA for the next 2 weeks. More on that later.

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Tucson, AZ: Feb 2-9, 2019

We arrived on Saturday at the Tucson KOA to overcast skies and chilly temps. It was not the Arizona weather we had been looking forward to. It rained nearly all day on Sunday, which was fine with us since it was Super Bowl Sunday and we planned on hunkering down anyway to watch the game.

Charlie spent much of the day on Monday at the Pima Air & Space museum while I ran some errands. He enjoyed touring the museum, except for the portion outside where he had to walk through mud to see the planes.

Tuesday’s forecast remained cold and the winds were picking up so hiking did not seem like a good idea. Considering this, we decided to explore the Kitt Peak National Observatory ( https://www.noao.edu/kpno/ ). Now, one would think that going to the top of a mountain where the wind speed was 20-30 miles per hour and the temperature was hovering around 30 degrees, would not be the wisest choice. I might also add that the mountain top was in the clouds. When we arrived at 9:00 am we were the only crazy tourists there. We signed up for the telescope tours and then strolled through the very informative museum until the first tour began. The Observatory is an easy hour drive outside of Tucson. The Observatory offers 3 telescope tours. The first one we took was to the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. This particular telescope is used primarily during daylight hours to study the sun and other close stars. The second tour was to the 2.1-Meter Telescope. This telescope originated in 1964 with a mirror made of a new material at the time, called “Pyrex.” The telescope has been instrumental for researchers to understand dark matter in the Universe. The last tour was to the 4-Meter Mayall Telescope. This telescope is the largest optical telescope on Kitt Peak. The telescope is currently being reconstructed for a multi-year research project exploring dark energy.

When we were not touring the telescopes we were learning a lot from our guide back at the visitor center. It was a very interesting day and we were very happy that we went. If you decide to take the tours make sure you take a lunch with you, as we did. It is an all day event and there is nowhere to purchase food on the mountain.

Click on a picture to activate the slideshow:

After a day of getting educated and excited about telescopes we decided to tour the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona (https://mirrorlab.arizona.edu/) on Wednesday, since it was again supposed to be wet, windy and cold outside. The Mirror Lab is currently casting eight 8.4 meter segmented mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope which will be installed in Chile. There is no other lab like this one in the world. The hour and a half tour included about 45 minutes of information in a classroom setting followed by a tour through the mirror lab. We learned a lot about telescopes and how the mirrors are fabricated. We highly recommend taking the tour if you ever have the opportunity.

After our mirror lab tour we stopped by the University of Arizona’s Planetarium and Mineral Museum. We enjoyed the Planetarium show and even found the Mineral display to be quite interesting.

Finally on Thursday we got some sunshine and temps in the 50s so we headed over to the Saguaro National Park – East. We took the 8 mile loop drive in the park to check out the scenery and then we drove a few miles outside of the park for a hike. We took a 5 mile roundtrip hike from Douglas Spring. The weather was perfect and the trail led us to a small ‘waterfall’ where we sat and had lunch. I’m always amused with the tall cactus figures, as you can see from the pictures below.

In the last picture, in the distance, you can see snow capped Mt. Lemmon. The road to get up there was closed due to ice and snow so we did not get an opportunity to venture up there.

For our last day in Tucson we hung out around the RV, for the most part. We also had to take our 4 week old Jeep Wrangler to Safelite to get a crack in the windshield repaired. It looks like new now. Hopefully it stays that way.

We did not eat out at all in Tucson because early on I discovered a fantastic market nearby that had the freshest seafood. Yuri, the fishmonger at Rincon Market, has fresh fish delivered up to 4 or 5 times a day. During the week I cooked up Halibut, Ahi Tuna, Scottish Steelhead, and Scottish Salmon. Everything was exceptional. One evening, after our long day of tours, we stopped by the market but I decided I was too tired to cook so we grabbed a bottle of wine from the market, sat at their counter and ordered dinner. I had salmon while Charlie had New York Strip. I highly recommend the Rincon Market https://rinconmarket.xyz/

We are now on our way to Lake Havasu for a short week, and then onto Palm Springs, CA. On our way we are stopping over in Eloy, AZ for a Chinese New Year celebration with friends. More on all that later…..

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Chiricahua National Monument

We left Fredericksburg TX and drove 9 hours to Las Cruces, NM. Our friends suggested the St. Clair Winery and Bistro for dinner. It is just down the street from the Hacienda RV Park, where we were staying. I’m so happy that they suggested it because we thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance, food and wine. We highly recommend it. https://stclairwinery.com/las-cruces/

In the morning we drove to Wilcox, AZ for the sole purpose of visiting the Chiricahua National Monument; https://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm

As soon as we arrived at the Lifestyle RV Resort in Wilcox we unhooked the Jeep and drove the 37 miles to the park. There are no towns or services between Wilcox and the park, but it is a scenic drive.

We got to the park mid-day and decided to just do a short hike up Sugarloaf Mountain for a 360 degree view. It is a short 0.9 mile hike up to the top, with an elevation gain of 470 ft.

The following day we arrived at the park just before 9:00am to catch the shuttle up to Echo Canyon. We then hiked the Echo Canyon Trail and the Upper and Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trails back to the visitor center. It was a scenic 2.5hr walk through the rocks. When we started our hike it was barely 40 degrees on top of the mountain. When we ended it was nearly 50 and partly sunny. Perfect weather for a hike.

In the afternoon we decided to take a scenic drive over the mountain via the Pinery Canyon Road. This road is not maintained in the winter and you drive it at your own risk, but since there wasn’t any snow we did not have any issues.

The only negative with taking the canyon drive was that we ended up on the other side of the mountain, near Portal, AZ and had to drive an hour and a half back to our RV park. Portal seemed like an interesting place with beautiful mountains to hike, but we didn’t have time to explore. Maybe another time.

We are now heading up to Tucson for a week. More on that later…..

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Fredericksburg, TX

We spent the last 5 nights in Fredericksburg, Texas a town founded by German settlers in the 1800s. We visited the area a couple of years ago, but only for an afternoon, as we were on a day trip out of San Antonio. We decided to return for a longer stay to explore the Nimitz WWII Pacific War Museum and enjoy some of the wineries in the area.

It took a day and a half for Charlie and I to explore the museum. It is one of the best museums we have ever visited. http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/

There is a focus on music in the town and many restaurants have live bands each night. We stopped by Hondo’s and listened to a band called the ‘Almost Patsy Cline Band.’ They were pretty good, but it wasn’t my favorite genre of music.

When I was about ready to fall asleep to Patsy Cline music we decided to go across the street where a more hip hop band was playing at the Crossroads Saloon. We had fun dancing to the music.

One morning we took a recommended scenic drive west, along TX337 to Medina, Vanderpool and Leakey. In Medina we stopped at a fantastic Apple Store. We bought a piece of apple pie which was about the best I’ve ever tasted.

The area between Medina and Leakey is very scenic with rolling hills and country ranches.

Back in Fredericksburg we toured the Vereins Kirche museum. The building housing the museum is a replica of the original building built by the founders. We learned a lot about the challenges the early German settlers had to overcome as they established the town, and how the small town grew over the years to become what it is today.

If you visit Fredericksburg, we suggest the Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant. It is fantastic!

Not too far from Fredericksburg is the Lyndon B Johnson National Historic Ranch. We visited the ranch during our last trip to the area and really enjoyed it. We did not revisit it during this trip, but highly recommend it.

While in Fredericksburg we stayed at the Fredericksburg RV Park. It is a quiet and clean park just a half mile from Main street. The park worked well for us and we’d stay there again.

We are now on our way to Wilcox, AZ to visit the Chiricahua National Monument. We’ll stop on our way in Las Cruzes, NM for the night. Following a couple nights in Wilcox we move onto Tucson. More on that later……

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Galveston, TX

Galveston was not in our original trip plan. However, once we learned that friends of ours, Jon and Cathy Kling (www.rvgreenboard.com), were going to be at the Jamaica Beach RV Park for the month of January and that Jon would be willing to build me some new cabinets in our RV, we headed that way.

Jon converted 5 paneled spaces to cabinets, giving me a ton of more storage space. I’m quite excited that he was able to do this, especially considering that we are embarking on a 10 month road trip.

The weather ranged from the low 40s, with wind and rain, to the mid 50s. We only had a couple days of sunshine. On one of those nice days we joined Jon and Cathy and took a tour of the Oceanstar Oil Rig. We found it fairly interesting. It is hard for me to imagine working on an oil rig for any length of time.

Down the street from the Oceanstar is a Train Museum, which we also toured. The museum is done very well, offering a lot of interesting history and things to see. It was also enjoyable strolling through all of the trains.

While walking around the old district of Galveston we came upon an old fashion ice cream and candy store called La King’s Confectionery. It brought back memories of similar stores visited in our youth. I wish my 5-year old grand-daughter was with us, as she would have LOVED this store.

We only went out for dinner once, and it was great. We highly recommend Gaidos if you are ever in Galveston. We enjoyed a great dinner with Jon and Cathy.

Not too far from the Jamaica Beach RV Resort is Allex’s Seafood Market where I picked up some locally caught fresh shrimp and Red Snapper. I then made a very yummy dinner.

While at the Jamaica Beach RV park we also had an opportunity to catch up with some fellow Atlanta based RVers, Lisa and Ricky Gonzalez. We saw them for the first time in years last week at the Tiffin Service Center in Red Bay, Alabama. Turns out, they were also heading to Galveston. Small world.

Well, we are back on the road, heading to Fredericksburg, TX. More on that later…

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Lafayette, LA & Tabasco

We stopped for a night in Lafayette LA, on our way to Houston TX. We arrived at the KOA just off I-10 shortly before sunset. We ventured out to see the Old Town district, but did not find anything interesting there. We went a little further down the road and stopped for dinner at a small restaurant called Steve & Pat’s Bon Temps Grill. The food was fairly good and the local atmosphere of the restaurant was great.

In the morning we drove over to Avery Island and toured the TABASCO Museum and Factory. TABASCO was invented back in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny on Avery Island. Today, his descendants run the company which provides the spicy red sauce to nearly every country around the world. We enjoyed learning about the history of the family and the famous sauce.

Following our TABASCO tour we headed back to the RV, packed up and prepared to work our way to Houston. However, right before we got back on the road we received a call from our kids, whom we were to meet in Houston. They were on the plane in Atlanta preparing for take-off when our five year old grand-daughter, Kensie, had a seizure. She had never had such an event. Long story short, Kensie had a Febrile Seizure. She is doing better now, but their trip to Houston was cancelled. Since our primary reason for going to Houston was to see the kids and they were no longer going we changed our plans and went straight to our next destination; Galveston, TX. More on that later……

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Natchez Trace Parkway

We pulled out of the Tiffin Service Center yesterday afternoon and decided to take the Natchez Trace Parkway towards Jackson, MS. If you are not familiar with this parkway it is a 444-mile federally protected scenic drive through three states. Back in the day Indians, slave traders, soldiers and settlers traveled along a similar route. We have travelled on different sections of this road, from Nashville to Jackson, at various times. It is always an enjoyable and peaceful ride. Often we were the only people on the road.

We stopped at the Jeff Busby campground (CG) on the Parkway, just before sunset. The CG was completely empty. Not sure if it was because of the government shutdown, or the season. The RV sites were up a hill and designed primarily for smaller campers. We could have parked in one of the sites, but it would have been tight so we decided with everything shut down and nobody around we would just park in the entrance parking lot for the night. That worked out great.

In the morning I took a very nice 3/4 mile walk up the hill to an overlook. The views and trails were very nice.

In the morning we got back on the parkway and drove to Lafayette, LA for the night. More on that later.

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