Friends, Family, and a National Park

We’re going back in time to share our 2017 car camping adventure through the Southwest! While our trip ended up being shorter than planned, we had some amazing adventures, including several new national parks and getting to be on one of our favorite TV shows! Thanks for reading along!

Building The Hitchenette and outfitting Franklin the Tahoe with a new camping rig took several weeks longer than planned. So instead of hitting the road shortly after New Year’s, it was January 19 before we had Franklin packed and pointed south.

Headed South | Our Streamlined Life

No two people have ever felt so ready to hit the road!

Our trip south would be a slow one. We had plans to zig-zag our way down the East Coast, seeing friends and family along the way. (In fact, we didn’t realize it at the time, but it would be a full month before we even got to try out our new camping gear!)

Our first stop was New Jersey. What was planned as a quick weekend with friends turned into almost a two week stay. Our friends were renovating a condo they planned to turn into a rental property, and we were only too happy to lend a hand.

New Jersey Reno | Our Streamlined Life

Next stop, northern Virginia, where we caught up with college friends in our old hometown of Leesburg, and enjoyed late night tacos and wine with more friends outside Washington, DC.

From there it was another quick drive to Jacksonville, North Carolina, where Ryan’s brother is stationed at Camp Lejeune. We had a great time checking out the Marine Corps Base, enjoying a few margaritas, and even getting in a not-too-chilly mid-January walk on the beach.

North Carolina Beach | Our Streamlined Life

Our next stop was checking off a new national park (our first new park since the previous October!).

Congaree National Park | Our Streamlined Life

Congaree National Park is quiet in winter; we had the Boardwalk Loop Trail almost all to ourselves! The downside was that there were almost no critters to be seen, and we were too early to enjoy a ranger-guided canoe tour of the park. (That’s definitely going on the future to-do list!)

From Congaree we began slowly heading west, this time for more urban adventures. Our next stop was Charlotte, North Carolina for a wonderful night of food and drink with friends.

Charlotte Skyline | Our Streamlined Life

We had a truly amazing meal at Stoke (still one of our best meals of 2017), followed by rooftop drinks enjoying the Charlotte skyline at Fahrenheit.

We had one more stop to make before Louisiana … because clearly, Alpharetta, Georgia was a great place to cheer on the Patriots during Super Bowl LI!

Patriots Win | Our Streamlined Life

Fortunately for us, the Patriots won — and we cheered quietly enough that none of the neighbors stopped by to tar-and-feather us.

After 2.5 weeks on the road (without a single night of camping yet!) we reached Louisiana, where we settled in to spend some time with Ryan’s family. We caught up with the grandparents and cousins … spent some time by the pool … and put in some quality work time before our anticipated upcoming Internet dry spells in Texas. We also had a chance to visit the national wildlife refuge outside New Orleans where Ryan’s great-uncle volunteers!

Big Branch Marsh NWR | Our Streamlined Life

On Monday, February 20 we pointed Franklin due west. It had been a long slow journey south, and while we cherished the wonderful times we’d been able to spend with friends and family, we were truly itching for the simple life: camping, natural vistas, and the open road. Clearly, Texas was the place for us — and we were eager for our upcoming adventures of beach camping on the coast and an extended stay in our (tied-for-first) favorite national park — Big Bend!

Author

I’m the oldest of 12 crazy kids and two pretty awesome parents. My love of travel developed during my early years traveling the globe as an Air Force brat. I’m a runner, a writer, and a reader, and I love cooking up good food and cozying up our camper.

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