Hello from the sunshine state! As you may already know, we decided to road trip down to Florida for the winter! I’ve already begun working remotely, and Kyle picked up a seasonal position at Home Depot! All the ducks are finally in a row. (If you haven’t read our last blog post with the big announcement, check it out here!)
Instead of driving straight down 95 the whole way, we decided to meander down over the course of a week, both to treat ourselves to a little adventure and also to explore some new cities! My cousin Alycia also came along for the ride for a chance to get out of New England for a bit!
The Long Haul to Virginia
We decided to leave early Friday morning and make the long haul portion of our road trip from Western Mass to Northern Virginia. This was partially because of Covid restrictions, and partially because we had the energy to on the front end of the trip. We stopped only for gas and lunch and managed to get to our first campground in Harrisonburg, VA a little after dark.
Our first campground was Harrisonburg – Shenandoah Valley KOA. Figured it would be best to be able to go to a solid hookup campground for our first night so we could get comfortable and figure out all our systems and kinks! We heated up some Thanksgiving leftovers, made a little fire (just to burn some cardboard boxes) and then spent the night drinking wine and decompressing from the long day.
After a great first night in the camper, we packed up early and dropped Roo (our camper’s name) at the local Cracker Barrel so we could do some exporing for the day.
ProTip: You can leave campers at Cracker Barrels and Walmart’s if you ever need to checkout before you’re done exploring the area.
We drove to the north entrance of Shenandoah National Park, bought our America the Beautiful Annual National Parks pass (thanks Alycia!) and started carving up the Skyline Drive!
Naturally we stopped at every scenic spot possible, taking in the views of the Shenandoah Valley! We also made a stop at the visitors center to stock up on collectors pins and stickers, then continued on our way. Some of the stops were more stunning than others but none disappointed!
We realized half way through the trip that we weren’t going to make it over the entire Skyline Drive in our allotted time, so we cut it short and gave ourselves time to hike down to Dark Hollow Falls. It was a steep but short hike but the waterfall was beautiful, even with the limited waterflow of the season.
After a few more stops at scenic lookouts along the way, we exited the Skyline Drive and picked up the truck and Roo to continue our road trip.
First Harvest Host Experience
Night number two brought us to Ridge Valley Alpaca farm for our first Harvest Hosts experience! Harvest Hosts is a yearly membership that gives you access to farms, vineyards, breweries and museums across the country that will let you stay with your camper for free, in exchange for buying something or supporting their business somehow! I love this concept for several reasons: We get to stay in some beautiful locations, meet local people, save money by not staying in campgrounds, and get to meet and learn about local people!
If you’re interested in signing up with Harvest Hosts, click my link HERE and get 15% off your first year membership!
Janis from Ridge Valley Alpaca farm greeted us at the top of the hill and helped us back into the spot they had saved for us! We got there right before sunset so the views were STUNNING from the top of their farm. She then let us look around in the store a bit and told us all about the wool process and the products that came from her Alpacas.
The next morning we woke up early and she let us go into the stable with her while she bottle fed one of the babies. Janis then explained more of the process, how they separate the male alpacas, what happens when a Mother alpaca refuses to mother her baby and how they got started! Such a fascinating experience, and their dogs were the best!
Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway
The people from the farm were kind enough to let us leave the camper on their property while we ventured up onto the Virginia portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This particular road wasn’t a part of the National Park like Skyline Drive was so it was either shut down for the season, or because we were there on a weekday. So we just bounced around a bit, exploring both the Yankee Horse Ridge area and then hiking a bit of the White Rocks Falls trail before time forced us to cut it short. The area will be worth the return trip to explore when we have more time.
Once we picked up Roo, we started the big drive over the Fancy Gap to North Carolina. We didn’t get far before we pulled into a truck stop and were told that our bald tire “would be blowed out by the time you get to the bottom of the Fancy Gap.” (Read that again in a southern twang! haha) So we swapped out our spare tire and ventured on with our road trip.
Harvest Host #2
Night number 3 brought us to a brand new winery over looking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Serre Vineyards just opened a few months ago and were kind enough to let us stay in their parking lot, and buy a couple bottles of wine after hours! We also sat by their fire and ate s’mores that they gave us. Such a great experience.
This time we shared the parking lot with a couple in a camper van but they seemed kind and kept to themselves! It’s nice to have a variety of places to stay along a road trip so you’re not always in campgrounds.
North Carolina Blue Ridge Parkway
After a rainy night, the weather cleared up and we were able to drive up to the beginning of the North Carolina section of the parkway. Sadly there weren’t any visitors centers open but we were able to explore this music ampitheatre area which we had completely to ourselves! In the summer they host a lot of concerts up there which would be a really fun thing to do.
After we got back, we packed up Roo, and drove to a nearby Cracker Barrel for parking lot lunch and some sunlight. (Also finished up the rest of our wine but don’t tell anyone!) After this we sadly had to say our goodbyes to my cousin Alycia and then continue on with our road trip. Our fourth night destination was a campsite in McDowell Nature Preserve.
That evening, we drove to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for their Christmas lights experience. Kyle was like a little kid on Christmas! Then we walked around downtown Charlotte, checking out the parks and art before heading back to the campsite for the night.
We were lucky to be able to venture down to the water in the morning at this nature preserve and get some beautiful views with the morning light. This campsite was a really nice one and conveniently located too!
Charleston, South Carolina Charm
On our way from Charlotte, NC to Charleston, SC, we stopped at Congaree National Park for a lunch time adventure! This National Park is one of the newer and smaller ones so easy enough to experience in just a few hours time. We did the boardwalk trail around the park, giving us the chance to see all of the swampland vegetation and trees. The visitor’s center wasn’t open sadly but all of the trails were accessible. I would say it was worth the stop along the road trip!
From there, we drove to our campground for the night, Jolly Acres Campground! This was the quintessential southern campground with some real twang and Trump signs galore. Regardless, it provided a nice home for the night while we explored the Charleston area.
We drove in twice, both at night and the following morning. The first night we stopped at Lewis BBQ for some great Carolina bar-be-que. We then walked it off by exploring the city at night. We checked out some of the parks along the water and went up and down the cobblestone alley ways.
The following morning we drove back in and got to check out the City Market area where we got some Byrd cookies and some biscuit breakfast sandwiches. We also had an opportunity to see some of these same beautiful homes and parks in the daylight.
The city of Charleston is beautiful but we’d like to go back again some time to see it fully open and thriving!
Savannah and Southern Hospitality
After our day in Charleston, we made the long-haul drive to a Pecan farm outside of Savannah. For some reason this drive took forever so by the time we got there, we basically got some food and relaxed for the night.
This was our 3rd Harvest Hosts experience and by far our favorite! Ricki welcomed us onto the property with open arms, a hot off the oven pecan pie and a tour of the two farms! She told us all about the pecan trees and the process, how they lease the farm out to people, and all her sheep and alpacas that she loves. She knows every single one by name!
We decided to stay two nights at the farm so that we would have a full day to explore Savannah and it was well worth it. We started out the day by walking the grounds of Wormsloe Historic Site. If you’ve seen the photos of the path with the tunnel created out of large oaks, then it’s probably from this spot. The path wound around the grounds for about a mile and gave us plenty of history and beautiful views.
Once we drove into the city, we tried to see it all. We started the day at the City Market with some breakfast sandwiches and a wine tasting, then ventured down to the River Street area to explore the Christmas market and newly opened JW Marriot hotel.
From there we walked to the distillery for a tasting before ubering back to the other side of the city to explore the other half of the River Street area. We decided to get lunch at Treylor Park which was DELICIOUS and centrally located. We sat our in their biergarten and kept our distance.
For the second half of the day, we drove around and checked out other parts of the city. We walked around the beautiful Forsyth Park and took pictures of the fountain, drove up and down the most “beautiful street in America” to see the row houses, and then checked out the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. What I love about Savannah is the grid of parks located every few blocks throughout the city. It makes it so beautiful and comforting to both residents and visitors alike.
Historic St. Augustine, Florida
We finally ventured into the state of Florida for our final night. Kyle found us a fancy little campsite right near the beach in St. Augustine which worked out perfect. The campsite at Ocean Grove RV Resort worked out great and was our most level site yet!
Once we got settled, we ventured into the main city area for Friday night and got to explore an uncrowded Castillo de San Marcos before venturing over to the shops and restaurants area. It was fine at first but quickly filled up with too many people (and too many not wearing masks) so we got some food to go and ate it out on the beach instead.
The following morning we road our bikes to the beach across from the campground to watch the sunrise. This felt like the perfect conclusion to our road trip. Before we made the trip to Clearwater, we ventured back into St. Augustine for a few more hours, doing tastings and tours at both the winery and distillery and then treating ourselves to a delicious meal at the Columbia Restaurant. Can’t wait to head back to St. Augustine someday to explore it more post-covid.
In the perfect finale to the trip, we crossed over the causeway into Clearwater right at sunset and parked the camper at Kyle’s mom’s house just before dark. All of the places that we stopped at along our roadtrip easily deserved more time to explore but by doing our trip this way instead of a quick haul down 95, we created some awesome memories for ourselves and rewarded ourselves for all the hardwork and sacrifice we put into selling the house this year.
Cheers to making the best of 2020! Until next time my friends…