I have always wanted to visit Savannah, Georgia and I got it into my head when we acquired our adorable 12 foot trailer, Rapunzel, that we should haul her there and back. We’ve done a long 3 week road trip with Rapunzel before when we drove with her out to upstate New York and back. But 3 weeks felt rushed and remembered being tired by the time we returned home. This time I convinced my husband we needed to block out a full 5-6 weeks for the journey so that we could take our time and not feel too pressured to move along in each place. Except for the whole getting through Kansas and Oklahoma part of the trip it was our goal to not spend more than 3-4 hours on the road between locations and I think we did a pretty good job of that. We also brought along a real legit road atlas and ignored our GPS as much as we could to explore the longer route of the back roads. I highly recommend skipping the Interstates when possible on a road trip.
We left Denver in the afternoon on February 18th this past year and we arrived home in the evening of Sunday, March 27th. We weren’t strict with ourselves and figured we would spend the night at a hotel a couple of times throughout the trip but we actually never wanted to. Well, except for maybe one night in Natchitoches, Louisiana when a tornado level rain storm came through and our camper leaked all night long. We kind of wanted to abandon Rapunzel that night but we managed to make it through the entire trip every night in our cozy little beat up 1964 travel trailer and it has got to be some of the happiest times in my whole life in there. Rapunzel has no bathroom and no working refrigeration so we generally stayed at campgrounds for access to restrooms/showers with random nights spent at truck stops, parking lots, and whatever safe looking places we could find along the way. I cannot rave enough about allowing yourself time to explore and embracing your inner dirty hippie along the way.
We were on the road for 39 days and managed to travel through Wichita, KS where we stopped and had breakfast with my Aunt and Uncle before moving along to Oklahoma. I briefly stopped in at the Osage Nation Museum where the cutest little grandma talked my ear off for an hour before we moved along to Arkansas. (My grandma was from Oklahoma so it was particularly sweet for me to hear her speak in her little Tulsa accent) Highlight in Arkansas was Hot Springs where we stayed at a campground that had a shuttle bus to Oaklawn where Geoff and I drank and tried to figure out how to bet on the horse races. We took the back roads down to Louisiana shouting hello to what we coined “Road Dawgs” (the random dogs chilling out along the roads throughout the south) as we slowly pulled Rapunzel along. We ate the best food we’ve ever had while we were in Louisiana starting with Maglieaux’s on the Cane in Natchitoches. After surviving the rainstorm night from hell as mentioned previously we moved along closer to New Orleans but first stopping to check out the Acadian architecture at the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette. We had it in our heads to stop by and check out a tour at McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce company at Avery Island but decided the ticket prices were too steep for our taste and opted to bike around the Jungle Gardens instead. Quick little side note about biking around, it was the best idea ever to force Geoff to buy a bike and bring it along with the cute little Schwinn his great aunt gave to me. We saw so much more than we ever could have by just walking around. You’ll see it in the photos below that mine is adorable and Geoff’s is incredibly awkward looking but it’s because he bought a folding bike which was nice since they both fit inside the back of our Dodge much better that way.
Sunset with Geoff and Rapunzel at the Cajun RVera in New Iberia, LA
After the storm I had to get this shot of the First Baptist Church in Natchitoches, Louisiana since it looked so pretty.
Roque House: Natchitoches, LA
Riding bikes through the Oak Trees with Spanish Moss at Avery Island’s Jungle Gardens.
Oh how I wish I could grow these here.
We wanted to go check out the Magnolia Plantation where they still have the slave housing intact. It was a miserable rainy day when we went with not a single soul there but us. It definitely fit the somber mood when reflecting back on this ugly history.
Classic Creole house from the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, LA
This is from Oak Alley Plantation. You might recognize it from scenes filmed in Interview with the Vampire. I enjoyed touring it, but I do think there should be way more focus on the slaves that created it.
Maybe a little too gleeful looking at a Plantation, no?
We rolled into New Orleans and that’s where I discovered that I really love that place. I figured I’d be into it, but I realize now what all the hype is about after visiting myself. Probably more than half of my photos are from New Orleans and literally every single meal we had there was over the top good. We biked all over there, including the French Quarter, City Park and even up by Lake Pontchartrain and other less famous neighborhoods with a bunch of signs all screaming “I pay my taxes, fix the roads!”
(The roads were bad, can’t blame them for being mad about it)
I could go on and on about New Orleans but I won’t in the interest of brevity. Still, special shout out to my old derby mates Cat and Sheriff for hanging with us and helping us enjoy New Orleans even more. I’ll be back!
We spent a lot of time just biking around and enjoying the scenery. Oh and eating. Lots and lots of eating.
Went on a nice tour and got to see the back courtyard of the Pharmacy Museum. (We forgot to schedule the tour for when the museum is actually open. Oops)
In the beautiful courtyard behind the Pharmacy Museum in New Orleans
From a different NOLA Courtyard
Since we were on a tour we got to go inside the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 which now requires that you be a part of a paid tour to go in and see it.
That ridiculous pyramid is where Nick Cage is going to be laid to rest.
So much door inspiration!
We biked all over City Park and beyond too where we discovered this abandoned Snack Shack.
After New Orleans we spent a little longer in the car than we had since Oklahoma and took highway 90 all the way over to Pensacola. I would have loved to go up into Mississippi and Alabama some more but in the interest of time we had to move along closer to Savannah. After briefly stopping by the beach at Sunset in Pensacola we thought we’d try to make up some time and get on over to St. Mary’s on the east coast but ran into some issues just outside of Jacksonville. We discovered a hole forming at the base of the trailer and noticed the body of it was separating from the base. With visions of our trailer being ripped apart by highway wind we spent a whole day in the parking lot of Home Depot and Lowe’s buying supplies and trying to figure out a way to reattach the section that was coming apart. Our amateur repairs were not the best but they seemed like they would at least get us home.
After the delay we were eager to get back to having fun and continued along to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach before moving up to a campground at St. Mary’s, Georgia. We were super pumped to hop on the ferry to Cumberland Island and see the magical wild horses among the ruins of the Carnegie family’s old mansion. From there we continued on to Savannah which was the other big highlight of the trip for me. It was the city that inspired this entire road trip and anyone who has ever read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil can’t wait to visit it.
I think more American cities should have copied the idea of having the whole town laid out on a bunch of beautiful park squares. It was perfect for us bike riders and I also enjoyed the “to-go” drink phenomenon here. (Apparently they have the go-drink in New Orleans too but I didn’t even think to do it there) What a perfect town for it since you can take your full beer with you as you stroll along and admire the old architecture and beautiful parks. We made sure to hit up Tybee Island for a day of bike riding around (yes, that’s pretty much all we did everywhere we went) and also almost got Rapunzel stuck in one of the world’s most famous cemeteries (oops) Quick tip, leave your trailer somewhere else before heading down the road to Bonaventure. Even little 12 foot Rapunzel could barely maneuver that old skinny road. Shout out to our tour guide Shannon Scott who really knew his shit and brought some great stories to life during our afternoon admiring the old pretty cemetery. Oh and do not miss Mrs. Wilke’s Boarding House for a meal. It’s the only one you’ll need all day and so worth the wait in line.
(Note, below is Geoff working on the door somewhere in Tennessee, not in the aforementioned Home Depot parking lot:)
It was eerily quiet when you walked off the ferry onto Cumberland Island. Even with the other tourist spreading out and walking off it felt very abandoned here.
The abandoned ruins of Dungeness on Cumberland Island
One of the wild horses!
Riverfront in Savannah
A darn good writer once lived here…
This has got to be one of the most over the top houses I’ve ever seen. I kind of love it. Gingerbread House in Savannah, GA
From our time at Bonaventure Cemetery…
From the sculptor John Walz who made quite a career out of sculpting for tombs and headstones in this famous cemetery.
Inside the Tybee Island Lighthouse
We opted to skip checking out Hilton Head since all I think of is rich golfers when I think of that place and continued along to Charleston which I’ve dubbed “The New York City of the South” due to its fancy feel and way more overpriced places. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it there. It was absolutely gorgeous and I loved riding my bike around. After Charleston we moved north to Myrtle Beach where we stayed in the biggest RV park I’ve ever seen in my life. I did not know that RV Parks like that existed. When we were in Louisiana we stayed at one called “The Cajun RVera” which was dead due to the time of year but had a huge pool and lazy river and I thought was pretty fancy for an RV park and this one in Myrtle Beach made that one look like a podunk place. I was not impressed with the no hanging hammocks rule but at night we could hear the waves crashing as we fell asleep so that kind of made up for it.
Charleston has to be one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen.
This is the alley in Charleston I fell in love with. I could have photographed an entire session there!
Walkway from our parked RV to the beach at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
From there we made our way over to Asheville and hit Lake Lure on the way over (Lake Lure is famous for being the place where they filmed some of Dirty Dancing). We had a blast hanging out in Asheville for a few days and then moved along to camp for a few nights in the Smoky Mountains. We chased some waterfalls there and relaxed before traveling to my other big Southern Tourist Trap that I wanted to hit: DOLLYWOOD A very significant thing happened at Dollywood. Geoff, who hates roller coasters and hasn’t ridden one since he was a teenager (has not even ridden the Sidewinder at our own Elitches) decided suddenly that he was going to join me on the roller coaster rides so that I wouldn’t have to wait in line by myself. What a Dollywood miracle! After Pigeon Forge we drove out of our way to go to the Museum of Appalachia because it was a place I thought looked really neat and wanted to see. I’m so glad we did. It would take days to be able to sort through all of the interesting stories and items they have there. We stopped by Chattanooga shortly and essentially ended the sightseeing portion of our trip in Nashville where we ate some very delicious hot chicken at an out of the way hole in the wall joint. The last time we drove home through Missouri we had crappy luck in St. Louis and got stuck for all of Labor Day weekend. So this time we took an alternative route to Kansas City so we could skip the cursed St. Louis. Lo and behold no random car troubles this time and we coasted back to Denver with the help of various podcasts. (Shout out to This American Life and My Brother My Brother and Me)
Below: View of Lake Lure from Chimney Rock in North Carolina
So pretty and so different from our Rocky Mountains…
While we camped at the Great Smokies we took ourselves on a fun waterfall tour. Here is Mingo Falls near Cherokee, NC
Crossing over to Tennessee from North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains lived up to their name. I could barely see in front of me there.
Cabin from the Museum of Appalachia
Apparently these old barns are famous for advertising to tourists to go check out Rock City near Chattanooga. I was excited to find this one on highway 19 between Cherokee and Bryson City.
And this is what I found when we went to “See Rock City” haha
I know I’ve left out so much but no one needs all of the details. I hope these photos and the highlights inspire someone else to go make their All America road trip happen!