August 21, 2017 (by Angela)
On July 1, 2016, we pulled out of Green Acres Resort RV Park in Savannah, Tennessee, embarking on our first big RV road trip. Little did we know what wonders the next 14 months would bring. It has been a dream come true – at least for me.
What? According to this blog, Jim, Chewie, and you have been living and traveling in the 5th Wheel since the fall of 2014. How could your real adventure not begin until last summer?
If you read our older posts, you will realize that we were newbies, and all of the travel we did from the fall of 2014 until the spring of 2015 was getting our RV legs under us; we had on-the-move training in how to travel and live in a camper we towed. We spent a couple of weeks doing “shake down” camping. Then, we found a spot to sit tight for about a month as we got possessions sorted out (and learned we did not need half of what we initially loaded into the camper – I know we were over weight). Jim and I took a family visit trip, and then we headed south for warmth. Along with getting used to the RV-living lifestyle, we were also trying to get situated for Jim to move from being an employee to being self-employed. Both of these transitions took about the same time, so by March/April 2015, we were set to do both. Lucky for us, Jim’s 2nd project as a self-employed consultant was a long-term contract in extreme northern Mississippi, and Green Acres is the best park in a 50-mile radius of where he was working. As a result, we stayed the entire time at Green Acres, which was only a couple of hours from both of my parents.
On June 30, 2016, Jim’s work on that project ended, and we had planned for him to take a month off, so we could actually travel. The vehicles and camper had all been serviced as needed, and we were ready to enjoy the truly nomadic experience. We zipped through Tennessee and Kentucky pretty fast. It was on this trip that we had our first few boondocking experiences through Harvest Hosts. (The very first of these was in Portland, Tennessee.) Jim and I spent a week in Ohio – central between the Amish Community, Akron, and Cuyahoga National Park. Next, we spent a week near Lake Erie. Our third week was spent along the St. Lawrence River in Upstate New York, after a brief stop at Niagara Falls and Buffalo. We wrapped up our month by staying a week in Vermont while attending the Escapade, the annual Escapes RV Club event. Actually, we had to cut our stay a day and a half short.
Folks took Jim at his word in that he’d be available August 1st, and we moved quickly back to an area outside of Cleveland, Ohio. We’d planned to attend a wedding there, but Jim had to fly to Alaska for work. I played and went to the wedding during his first two-week work trip there. The weekend Jim came back, we scurried as quickly as we could to Tennessee. I stayed there, and he came back every two weeks until he finished the project in Alaska. He got home, and the next day we headed for Arkansas; he needed to be on client site the following Monday – the first Monday of October. On January 21st, with the Arkansas project completed, the three of us needed warmth, so we headed south. When we left, we didn’t know if we were going deep into Texas or to Florida, but what we did know was that we had to get south fast because Arkansas was too dang cold in January. (We did get a reprieve in December when we went to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cozumel, Mexico via a cruise.) Once we got to Texarkana, Texas, we’d figured it out while there.
Jim acquiesced to my request that we go to Florida, and with no advance reservations, we winged it across the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and into the Panhandle of Florida. Getting an affordable campsite deeper into Florida during the winter without advance reservations was more difficult, but working together, we finally found the one that would work for us. We spent the month of February in sunshine and exploration. By the end of the month, Jim decided it was time to start looking for the next project, but we continued to roam while he began the process. We spent a week in southeast Georgia, and then a few days in South Carolina. It was as we were setting up in the South Carolina state park that Jim got a good lead on what might be the next project. In anticipation of something coming together soon, we decided it was time to make our way back to Tennessee, but not in a hurry.
We spent another week in north central Georgia; Madison, Georgia is a gem. Next, we spent a week in central Alabama before making our way back to Green Acres. It was at Green Acres that Jim got the go on the project he’d anticipated. The next week he’d need to be in Pennsylvania for what was supposed to be a 13-month job. We moved to Athens, Alabama for the next week, and he flew out of Nashville. I could use the extra time as I still had family stuff to address. Each week, when he’d come home, we’d move the camper closer to Pennsylvania, where we expected it would stay until early Fall. We (actually Chewie and me – Jim would be there only briefly) stayed in each of the following locations: Goodlettsville, TN, Elizabethtown, KY, Milton, WV, and East Sparta, OH. The next week would have put us in our Pennsylvania home-on-the-roam until Fall. That is not what God had planned, and we know now that on multiple levels it was to Jim’s benefit that he did not stay on the Pennsylvania project.
Not knowing what would be next, we decided to take the opportunity to continue traveling while he looked for the next gig. Jim, Chewie, and I camped in a combination of Harvest Hosts sites and campgrounds over the next few weeks, and we got to spend quality time with family, too. We stayed in Morrow, OH, Starlight, IN, Boonville, IN, Metropolis, IL, and Mountain View, MO. It was in Mountain View that Jim got nibbles on the next job, but we continued on. We had friends to visit in western Missouri, so we stayed in Wynadote, OK, just inside Oklahoma and not far from our friends. While there, we learned that Jim had the potential of two jobs and would need to fly, so he and I found a spot to sit still for a month in Carthage, MO. Hindsight being 20/20, we now know that a week would have been fine, but he did get one of the jobs. After Jim made a one-week trip to Montana, he began working part time remotely for a hospital there.
Jim and I made a decision to take advantage of the opportunities his remote work afforded, and we travelled on, usually staying one week in a place, though occasionally a bit longer. We camped in Coffeyville and Hesston, KS. In Nebraska, we stayed at Henderson and North Platte. Lusk, WY was a wonderful stop. There was so much to see and do without impeding Jim’s work, as he’d also picked up a hospital in IL for whom he was working part-time remotely, that we stayed two weeks near Rapid City, SD. In North Dakota, we stopped in Dickinson and outside Bismarck. Park Rapids and Owatonna were our camping locations in Minnesota. We stayed in the Amana Colonies RV Park in Iowa, though Jim had to drive to IL for work for part of the week. Last week, we camped south of Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, WI, and today I type this from St. Ignace, MI. Wednesday, I hope to visit Canada and use the Canadian National Park pass I obtained for the free park entrances during 2017.
Last week, Jim agreed to take a project that will require that he fly in and out of a major city in the Northeast; we are not taking our camper there for a job that is expected to go well into the cold months. I also need to spend a few months at home in Tennessee to be with family. We begin our journey back to Tennessee on Saturday, but our first night back in Tennessee, if all goes well, will be September 2nd. That’s almost exactly 14 months since we left last year.
It has been a whirlwind and a blessing to be able to travel as we have. Below are a few pictures of the travel memories. Below the pictures is a re-cap of the places to which we have BEEN to date since July 1, 2016.
States visited: (Camped in 28; Jim’s work only in 3): TN, KY, OH, PA, NY, VT, WV, AR, TX, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, IN, IL, MO, OK, KS, NE, WY, SD, ND, MN, IA, WI, MI, MA, MT, AK
Lakes and Major Water Ways: Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, St. Lawrence River, Niagara River and Falls, Mississippi River, North Platte River, Ohio River, Tennessee River, etc. Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean, (Jim – Pacific Ocean)
Countries other than USA: Mexico, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Canada