19 January 2012

After a lengthy hiatus (nearly two months!) visiting family & friends in Kansas, we’re thrilled to finally be back on the road full-time for 2012!

We spent most of the Fall learning to move about more slowly (half of our nights were spent in just two states, Vermont & Maine) and enjoying the benefits of the more deliberate, intimate pace (falling in love with Burlington, VT; visiting friends; driving less!). We stayed in New England as long as we could, just to catch Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, a dream of Jessa’s and a real treat for the whole family. Jack, dressed as a wee-yet-convincing Darth Vader, marched up & down the cobblestone streets, stopping at centuries-old mansions where the fully-costumed owners fully delivered on both the treats & the tricks (the backyards often serving as stages for rather macabre theater)! It was definitely a memorable Halloween for us all. But come November 1st, New England basically shuts down for the winter (at least as far as RVers are concerned) so reluctantly, we retreated southwards.

Our new love for slowness wouldn’t have us dart straight back to Kansas, though. We took the opportunity to visit friends in New Jersey & Kentucky, to explore the great battlefields of Gettysburg and to drive the length of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive. We even set out to enjoy the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, but found ourselves there a few weeks too late: the trees had all but completely shed their leaves, and with nighttime temperatures dropping below freezing, boondocking became an expensive (burn lots of propane) or uncomfortable (sleep in the cold) proposition. We bailed on that plan, saving it for warmer & greener days, hopefully sometime later this year.

Our plan for 2012, insomuch as we have one, is to stay as far south as possible until things begin to warm up, then work our way north along the Atlantic coast, ultimately revisiting some of our favorite New England finds later this summer. I project that far into the future cautiously, knowing that our plans tend to change quite unpredictably.

Alas, our current bearing is south! Today we’ve dropped out the bottom of Kansas headed as plainly as we can for the Gulf of Mexico, somewhere in Texas. Our first stop is Dripping Springs State Park, near Okmulgee, Oklahoma. We’d planned to make it twice as far today, preferring to eschew Oklahoma entirely, but the state parks here entice & deliver! (Jessa & I’ve vacationed in Oklahoma state parks several times, often en route to Texas, and have enjoyed them immensely, unexpectedly.) Tonight we’re camped on a little rise of land jutting sharply into Okmulgee Lake. There are a dozen-or-so paved, waterfront campsites on a small, dark loop, and we had our choice of them, the only campers in the entire park so far as we can tell. We got here a little late in the day, just catching the vapors of what I can only imagine was an amazing sunset from this point-of-view. Hopefully we’ll wake early enough to watch the sun rise from the other side of our trailer. Oh, the perks!

We have a few other planned stops on our descent to the Gulf, not least of which is our favorite happy hour in Plano, TX: The Fish Shack. We stumbled across this place completely by chance a couple of years ago: it just happened to be the only restaurant we could walk to from the hotel Priceline had chosen for us. It sits unsuspecting amid a sea of asphalt, but delivers in a big way: fresh fish, calamari & other seafood, unbelievably perfect hush puppies, and what I suspect is a uniquely rare opportunity to get Kona Brewing’s Fire Rock Ale straight from the tap on the mainland (Kona is brewed in Hawaii!). The atmosphere is beach-casual; if not for the huge asphalt parking lot that surrounds The Fish Shack, you might actually believe you were sitting on the water, somewhere a few hours south, along the gulf coast. The owner, Frank, is always around, taking orders & checking on people. He recognized us as the Kansans who’d been there once three months before, and then made a special effort to put a K-State basketball game on TV for us! We’ve only been a half-dozen times (twice on the same day, even) but it already dominates any itinerary that would lead us into the state of Texas.

We’re researching other things to see & do in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio areas as well, before we take up the long drive east. If you have suggestions, please drop us an email!