From the Pacific Northwest to the southern state of Florida.
We took our time traveling over countless miles and wandering through fourteen states to reach our final destination of Tampa, Florida. When we left Washington on September 21st, we had a goal of reaching the Tampa area by the first part of March.
Many would say, that is a long time to travel across country, but when you live on the road — it is just one day at a time, one destination at a time, one mile at a time. You will have specific dates and specific locations you need to incorporate into your plans, you then decide to either beeline it or take your sweet time getting there while enjoying the journey to the destination. That is what we did.
We had a few specific destinations on the route we wanted to visit, otherwise our plans were based on a whim of where to next. As usual, weather played a big role, often dictating changes to our routes.
As we got closer to the final destination, I noticed travel fatigue started to hit and a deep desire to just reach our last stop took hold. I was ready to just stay put.
Since I wasn't sure when exactly we would reach a destination, I wasn't able to plan too far ahead. Unfortunately, that meant it has been more difficult to find places to stay as we got closer to Florida. It was still Snowbird Season, meaning most places were full. I knew I was taking a huge chance, but sometimes life is not always planned. I just had to go on faith that we would find something or accept that we would spend a lot of nights in truck stops.
Gems Along the Way
The route from Washington to Florida had some beautiful twists and scenic turns. We picked up a National Park Passport and made it goal to get as many stamps as possible, not sure why we didn't discover it sooner. We journeyed back in time visiting historical places.
And, we discovered new campgrounds that became favorites.
Curt Gowdy State Park - Wyoming
This gem of a park is nestled in the foothills just west of Cheyenne and on the edge of Medicine Bow National Forest. The campgrounds are spread out with a focus on the lake and reservoir. In the summer, I imagine the lake is bustling with activities while the loud hum of boats and jet skies fill the air, but in the Fall, it was peaceful and quiet. A relaxing oasis that fed the soul with gentle quietness.
Some of the sites come with electricity only, a few with electricity and water, and the rest provide no service. There is no dump station in the park, so keep that in mind. There are bathrooms (vault toilets) spread throughout the park providing the basic needs. The sites are spread out so neighboring sites are nearby but not close. The sites come with a priceless feature no matter the location - A VIEW. Whether it is a view of the lake or the surrounding hills, nature provides a beautiful show.
There are a variety of trails weaving the way around the park, an invitation to stroll and enjoy each step. Cruise around on a bike to explore the many offerings within the park or enjoy the solitude of floating on the lake in a canoe or small boat. No matter how you experience Curt Gowdy State Park, it will be a memory to cherish for a lifetime. Visit the website.
Chatfield Dam State Park - Colorado
We stayed in D loop, a newer loop, which offered full hookup and large sites, most of which are pull-through. Well maintained and clean, you could see the pride in each campsite. No wonder it is a favorite with the locals. I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice building in our loop with clean bathrooms and showers. I was even more pleasantly surprised to find a nice size laundry room in the building.
This large park offers a variety of outdoor activities; miles of trails for walking or bike riding, fun on the water, fishing or bird watching, a model airplane park, wildlife viewing areas, a corral for horseback riding, and so much more. Visit their website.
Lost Dutchman State Park - Arizona
This state park made it to the top of our Bucket List of places to stay and the top of list of favorite campgrounds. We were in the new loop with electric and water. Nice sites with lots of space in between others. And the VIEW - that alone makes the park worth it. They take great care in this park, keeping the sites clean and well-groomed. The trails are marked and most are easy for just a stroll through nature. Quiet at night and just about dark enough for night skies. The Rangers here are friendly and helpful. Definitely a park everyone should stay at, at least once. Visit their website.
Twin Peaks Campground in ORgan Pipe Cactus National Park - Arizona
STUNNING! And tied with The Lost Dutchman State Park for favorites. We needed a night stay on the way to Tucson. As soon as we pulled in, I fell in love with it and so regretted we could not stay longer. I love campgrounds with a good layout and this campground had it. All sites are pull-through. Easy to navigate. Privacy in between sites. Gorgeous use of the landscape. Lovingly cared for. Fun and informative ranger programs. Clean bathrooms. Solar powered showers in some of the buildings, but wait until the sun as a chance to warm up the water. Dump station is there, but you have to drive all around the campground to get to it. A must stay.
Visit their website.
Too Many Favorites to list
Each place we visited was just as incredible as the last. There is a quote, "it's not the destination, it's the journey" but that quote is wrong. For me, it was the destinations that were the best part of the each journey.
These last five months was more of a journey of self. After two years on the road, we discovered more about ourselves and finally became more comfortable with some of our newfound skills.
We also decided it was time to change.
I had envisioned spending the whole summer in one spot. Enjoying a sense of peace and quiet. Savoring our little slice of Island Life nestled amongst the trees, with its peek-a-boo view of the bay. Summering on the southwest side of Fidalgo Island. To being stationary for a while and reclining into a day-to-day routine that did not involve packing and unpacking, sightseeing, and lots of driving. I was looking forward to having the time to start and finish some much needed projects inside and outside of Betty Jo.
We have been back for three weeks now and I am feeling - ANTYSY! This surprised me, how much I needed to be on the road. I had a little inkling of being antsy while we spent a month in one location in Florida, but there was so much to see that it didn’t really take hold. Now, however, in a place familiar to us, it is hitting and hitting hard. I find myself craving to hitch up and just go. I have to often work hard to calm the antsy down. We had planned to do some short trips over the summer, but I was craving more than that…I wanted to hit the road and never turn back. Life doesn’t always cooperate and allow what we want to happen, as much as I want this, now is not the time.
The practical side of me says to be patient. To take this time to take care of business. I tell myself to be grateful. With gas prices soaring, the wild weather of Mother Nature roaring across the country, I tell myself this is where we are meant to be and to ride out the storm. The road will still be there come Fall. But still…the twinges of antsiness pinches me, reminding me — I am not finished, not yet.
For now, I will satisfy myself with short jaunts, looking back, and planning for what is to come.
In the meantime… Here is a look at some of our favorite spots.
Route 66 - Building Excitement
After months of being stagnate, a moment of excitement bubbled inside. We had been mostly stationary for a little over three months as we wintered in Florida and South Carolina. My travel-day-anxiety reared its ugly head as we left Charleston to hit the road, but once the routine set in, it calmed down.
We traveled up Hwy 55 into Missouri, heading towards Hwy 44 and Route 66 on Sunday, March 6th. A storm was due in that evening so we wanted to travel while there was a break in the weather. Our first stop was in Pacific, Missouri for the night. Just a little west of St Louis, this is where we would start our trek west.
As we got closer to the St. Louis area, excitement washed away any cares. We were finally getting close to our journey on one of America’s nostalgic road trip treasures. I was very young when Route 66 was a big deal and I put it in the back of my mind to someday visit. The idea of doing Route 66 got lost over the years - family, jobs, life, all pushed it away. Then in 2021, the opportunity to hit the road happened. We divested ourselves of all our belongings and purchased an Airstream. Here it is a year later and we are finally adding the Mother Road to our lists of places we have traveled
Our blog is called, Stories from the Front Porch, so it only seemed fitting to start this adventure at the World’s Largest Rocking Chair on Route 66. Chairs, for me, represent stories passed on for generations and what better start to this story than the World’s Largest Rocking Chair on Route 66. The chair was erected on April Fool’s Day in 2008. It weighs 27,500 lbs and is 42’ 4” high. It was once the largest Rocking Chair in the World, but lost that honor to someone in Illinois in August of 2015. It is now the second largest in the world
We drove briefly through Cuba, Missouri on our way to the chair, captured a few photos but it was freezing cold so we didn’t make too many stops
Our next stop - the township of Uranus. A brief stop for some Uranus Fudge and a few photos.
There is a Route 66 Welcome Center just before Marshfield (if heading west, if eastbound it would be right past Marshfield.) They have a huge parking lot and invite visitors to rest.
Our last stop for the day was the town square in Marshfield, MO where a replica of the Hubble Telescope is displayed. Dr. Edwin Hubble's hometown.
We ended our first day at the RV Express RV park in Marshfield, MO, just off hwy 44.
An Airboat ride
“I want to ride on one of those someday.”
As we grow older our childhood dreams fade away, forgotten as life takes over. Since I was a child I wanted to ride on an Airboat and when we hit the road with Betty Jo (the Airstream) and ended up in Florida, I remembered that dream and made plans to make it come true.
I wanted the “experience” of being on an Airboat, not a quick tourist ride. I searched and located a company committed to providing their customers with an experience — not just a ride. Their mission is to invite you to discover the beauty and the nature of the Everglades and absorb its beauty. There are no “touristy” shows, no crowded boats — just you and nature — the way it was intended.
Our guide is the sixth generation in the area and was passionate about the Everglades and introducing people to it. We picked the company, Down South Airboat Tours, because of their personalized service and because they also have access to parts of the Everglades than most of the others in the area. It was worth every penny.
The ride was more than the thrill of skimming along the water on a fast boat. The natural beauty was beyond anything I could have imagined. I was mesmerized with what this earth truly has to offer — and how much we need to respect and appreciate it.
I was surprised by the diversity of the area — from grass to forest to swampland. And by its beauty and my reaction to it.
The Everglades is an intricate system of subtropical wetlands, lakes, and rivers, originally covering more than 4,000 square miles (10,000 square kilometers) from Lake Okeechobee to the southern tip of Florida. However, due to development, the Everglades has been reduced to less than half of that size,
While sometimes thought of like a giant swamp, the Everglades is technically a very slow-moving, shallow river. Because sawgrass marsh dominates this river, it was traditionally called the “River of Grass.” In fact, Native Americans living in the area called it Pahayokee, meaning the “grassy waters.
The Everglades: River of Grass
It was more than a ride on an Airboat — it was a history lesson, a deep appreciation for the area and its diverse offerings to the world, and a memory to be treasured for many years to come.
When we started this journey with Betty Jo (the Airstream) we knew there were a few places we wanted to visit, but as the journey unfolded, so did the dreams of where to next. We did not start with a Bucket List — it just evolved and keeps evolving — as does the journey.
Safe travels to all, and may you find your Bucket List dreams do come true.
As we roam the roads and highways, looking for that next fantastic stop, keep track of our travels in our Airstream - Betty Jo