Our most asked question when we get back from traveling is , “How many miles did you guys drive?” Last year, we had no idea, so this year we took notice of how many miles were on the Odometer.
Well we got a really early start, left Raquette Lake at 7 am headed towards New Jersey to visit my Dad and Rosemarie before hitting the road for the next 6 months.
The traffic in the metropolitan area was pretty bad and because we have the van we’re not allowed to go on the parkway‘s so that added about an hour onto our trip. Around six hours later we arrived at my dads house for a nice lunch date at Patricias of Holmdel. The food there is just unbelievable and the portions are gigantic. We got to see my dad‘s latest creation. He is currently fixing up a PT cruiser and turning it into a mini pick up truck it looks so cool.
Our next stop was Charlottesville Virginia where we heard about this great stereo place and we were in the market for a new stereo for the van. The name of the place is Crutchfield and we heard a lot of really great things about it through the Sprinter Facebook page that we are members of. Unfortunately because they are such an amazing place it was a 2 to 3 month wait to get our stereo installed. So we decided to give it a try and see if we could actually install it ourselves. They have an amazing tech support line that you could call if your having trouble with the install.so we figured let’s try it and see what happens. We started the installation at 11 am, and after 12 calls to the tech support line, we finally were finished installing at 5:30 pm and the good news is we are still a couple and still together and willing to continue traveling together in the van. I would imagine that an install like that has broken up many marriages over the years. I still can’t even believe that we did that. And besides that we are confident enough now to answer any questions that anyone else might have regarding stereo installations.
After the install we totally needed to unwind and do something enjoyable. Greg went to the Monticello’s website and found out that they were having a special event tonight! Perfect timing!! They usually close at 5:30 but tonite was a special event. There was a special light show with music and food plus it was only 40 minutes from the KOA Campground we are staying at. They lit up Thomas Jefferson’s house like a laser light show to music. Everyone sat on his lawn with picnic blankets and enjoyed the show.
The next day we took our time in the morning and left the campground at 11 to head to the Overland Expo. We had seen this Expo on YouTube when it was taking place in the west and then we found out that they also do it on the East Coast so we bought a couple of tickets and headed in. There were over 200 exhibitors plus classes, food and live music. It was a really good time. We couldn’t believe how huge some of these overland vehicles were!! They are like RV’s on steroids.
We left the Expo at around 2 cause we were going to head into the mountains of Virginia to George Washington National Forest. Wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to find a spot to camp. The National Forests offer free camping which we love. It’s our favorite kind of camping. We found a small campground called Orinoco. This used to be an old CCC camp.Enough room for about 10 campers with 2 pit toilets. That a fancy word for outhouse. We found a nice spot and went searching for some firewood. There’s a nice creek behind us too which means unlimited water which is great for us as we only carry about 10 gallons of water in the van.
I purchased a new pot for this years journey. It’s a 2 quart cast iron pot that I can set right on the fire. Greg bought me a trivet for Christmas from the Townsends website. The Townsends is like a colonial show where they dress up from that era and cook outdoors and build cabins and stuff. They make cookware used in the colonial days. I couldn’t wait to use these two items! Rosemarie made us some soup which was perfect for me to test out my new cookware on the fire pit. It worked as planned and the soup was delicious. We roasted some marshmallows and went to bed.
We have absolutely no cell signal here, not even with the booster. Not even a dot for either one of us. We purposely use two different carriers. Most of the time, either one or the other works, sometimes both, but mostly in the National Forest, it would just be one cell signal and then we would share a Hotpot with each other. It’s interesting to be without a signal. We have become so accustomed to googling things and just looking at our devices throughout the day that when we don’t have them, we are like, “Hmmm, now what?” It kind of forces you to occupy your time and makes you think more and do things that you wouldn’t normally do. Like read a book. Lol. I’m currently reading a Stephen King Book called “Doctor Sleep.” It’s like a continuation of the Shining. Greg just got back from reading a sign saying there’s Trout in this creek here so I’ll probably do a little fly fishing here in a little while after we eat breakfast.
Nothing! Not even a nibble as far as fly fishing. Got my hook caught on several branches and rocks but no actual fish. Greg says he can see the fish swimming down there. I guess they just aren’t very hungry.
We took a long bike ride up the mountain to see if we could find a cell signal up there. No luck on that either. I’m loving my new Costco Jensen electric bike. I never would have made it to the top if I had my regular bike. Plus this small bike fits much better in the van. I also got a new barbecue that we tested out for lunch. This Coleman Barbecue worked great and comes apart for cleaning which is what we need. We didn’t want the van smelling like cheeseburgers especially in bear country. Lol
Next day we headed into town to do some grocery shopping. Wanted to make sure we loaded up on supplies before heading into the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a great road that takes you up and down the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina at a speed of 45 mph. You wouldn’t really want to go any faster than that.
Plus there are campgrounds and tons of hiking trails all along the Parkway. Our first campground was called Otter Creek. We were able to drive around the camping loops in search of the perfect spot. It’s so nice when they let you do that instead of them just picking the spot for you. We found a great spot right on a creek. Had a little lunch and then headed on a hike that ran along the creek and crossing over the creek as well. Crossed over the creek seven times. Some were bridge crossing, some were rock crossings and some were tunnel crossings which were pretty cool.
It was a really nice hike. I think around 5 miles in total.
Next day we headed out and only drove another 30 miles or so to the next campground. We pulled off into practically every overlook. The elevation today was around 3500 feet so lots of really nice viewpoints. We had lunch on top of a mountain and then continued on to the campground. This one was called Peaks of Otter Campground. Haven’t seen any Otters, but did see a few deer. We hiked over to the Lodge. This is a part of the National Park system so the landscaping is exceptional. A beautiful lake, a few gift shops, restaurant and amazing views. We walked clear around the lake and then hiked a little further on back to the campground. After dinner, which was amazing by the way, we went in a bike ride to check out the other loops of the campground and to see how far we could go towards a farm in this area. The roads are extremely hilly here so not exactly an enjoyable bike ride. We did the best we could and before you knew it, it started getting dark. Don’t want to be on these roads in the dark, that’s for sure. It is pitch black out here in this area.
This is our 4 TH day with no internet or cell signal. Yesterday when we got to the top of the mountain, we had a signal so checked our emails and texts and social media. Hopefully tomorrow’s campground will have a signal as I am still unable to load any pictures onto the blog. Just a lot of typing and no pictures to match until I find a spot for uploading.
So today we drove an entire hour and 30 minutes to our next destination which is southern Virginia on the border of Virginia and North Carolina. We decided to stop at an RV park because we are both in need of showers and figured we would do some laundry as well. This place is called Paradise Lake and we got a nice spot right on the lake. In my opinion this is probably the best spot in the campground. They even have soft serve vanilla ice cream which was such an added bonus. As far as the cell signal goes, I have an entire one whole dot. I’m going to attempt to upload some pictures soon wish me luck, here goes nothing.
Next day we drive to the National Forest in North Carolina. The first campground we stopped at was completely full. This is a pretty normal occurrence when you have no reservations on a Friday night. The next campground which was just another thirty minutes down a dirt road was also full except for one spot which we immediately grabbed. We were right next to the camp host at site number 20. Sites were pretty much on top of each other but in this situation you can’t be choosy.
The next day we left there, checkout was at 2 pm, and we drive through the National Forest dirt roads in search of some dispersed camping. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s basically pullouts off the road with usually a fire ring. It’s free camping. On the west coast, it’s super easy to find a dispersed camping spot, but on the east coast, not so easy. We found a couple of spots in the Yates area of the National Forest but they seemed a little Janky so we decided to continue on.
Once we got a signal on our phones, we pulled over to check the maps and see the possibilities. I noticed that “South of the Border” was about an hour away and off we went. I love the Hokeyness of the giant Pedro statues and all the neon and the giant gift shops that sell nothing that I would ever buy. It’s just a fun place to kill time and spend the night. Back in the day, this place was a pretty exciting pit stop between New York and Florida. Today it seems pretty run down. Still enjoyable but definitely run down.
October17. We drove another two hours to the Santee coastal reserves. We had been here last year in the Springtime on our way back up north from Florida. They have very primitive camping here for free. No bathrooms, no water. Just campspots with picnic tables and fire pits . We got a nice spot tucked away from the other spots. Great privacy. Greg cleaned off the solar panels and we have a nice sunny spot. Our amp hours have been keeping our batteries fully charged which have in turn been keeping my ice pops frozen.
Another van dweller pulled in next door to us. Looks like they also had a self build van just like ours. We woke up in the morning to the beat of some major bass techno music coming from our Vanlife neighbors. I can’t even imagine how LOUD it must have been inside that van cause our van is extremely sound proof and our windows and doors were all closed cause it was pretty chilly here this morning. They too did not have any windows or doors open and they weren’t even that close to us. Maybe 40 yards away. It was just bizarro world. When they did finally come out of the van, Greg though maybe he heard like a German accent or some foreign accent. They also were in there 20’s. Maybe they thought they were on top of a mountain by themselves. I just don’t get people sometimes.
We took advantage of the cool weather and did lots of biking and hiking while here. Had to make sure to wear full hunting season gear.
Well when we were here last year in the spring, we saw tons of alligators. This time of year we didn’t see any gators, but snakes instead. It’s very different hiking here south of the border compared to what we are used to.
From deep into the woods of South Carolina, we headed to the big city of Charleston. We found in an app called IOverlander a parking garage with a roof big enough for a tall van like ours. In this kind of heat that is a bonus to be parked in the shade for the day, otherwise sleeping can be brutal.
We walked all over this city. According to my Apple Watch, we walked over 8 miles. We had a great lunch at a local seafood place.
It’s a beautiful city here right in the water with gigantic sailboats in the distance.
Today we are heading to Georgia. I’ll start a new blog post for that state and the rest of October. Hope you enjoyed the first edition of the 2nd year of Vanlife. I’m a little rusty so there’s probably gonna be tons of typos.