Time period: April 24 – May 17, 2009
Miles Driven: 1593
After weeks of no firm plans and trusting in nomadic serendipity to guide our journey through Arizona and New Mexico, after Carlsbad Caverns we were back on route to our next planned destination – Austin, Texas.
Austin is where Cherie grew up, and her brother now lives – so it’s a frequent stop over point for us as we criss cross the country visiting friends and family.
Our specific timing for being in the area was to rendezvous with Cherie’s parents in nearby San Antonio for her father’s USS Robert E Lee SSBN-601 Submarine Reunion, which he organizes – and was finally stepping down as president.
Anxious to be stopped for a bit, we opted to violate our own intentions of only driving a few hours a day and made the drive from New Mexico into Austin in one day. It seemed the right thing to do after weeks of overwhelming beautiful and amazing views. The scenary in west Texas just can’t compare. So we got on I-10 and made good time getting into Austin in time for Tex-Mex food for dinner with Cherie’s brother, Ken and his wife, Kristina.
We stayed at McKinney Falls State Park in South Austin, which proved to be the perfect place to stay to be close by but on our own. It was beautiful, affordable and close to everywhere we needed to be. We spent the week catching up, meeting with other nearby Oliver Travel Trailer owners, socializing with Ken & Kristina in the evenings and Ken even took Chris rock climbing at the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Cherie’s parents arrived and came up to Austin for a family dinner, and they also got to meet Orion (our Oliver Travel Trailer) and Kiki for the first time.
New Braunsfels & San Antonio
And then we relocated down to New Braunsfels to Landa RV & Campground, where some of the NuRVer crowd was supposed to still be lingering, but they had all departed by the time we arrived. Oh well, we’ll catch up with them some time down the road. The advantage of staying here was that it was closer to San Antonio for attending and helping out at the reunion.
Cherie helped her father with organizing the troops for an Eternal Patrol Table Ceremony, as well as handing out awards. She even got to pin a ‘Submarine Angel’ on her mother – making mother and daughter the only submarine angels for the USS Robert E. Lee. Afterwards, Elvis hit on her mother during a performance.
East Texas Driving
From New Braunsfel, we started our northeastward trek towards spending time with Chris’ family up in St. Louis. We stopped in Round Rock for lunch with Digital Nomads moderator, Bill Bivins, and then overnighted near Lexington, TX at the property of another fellow Oliver Travel Trailer owner, Doug & Geneva. Awesome folks, and we have so appreciated the little community that the Oliver Forums have provided for us in our travels.
Eastward on, we decided to use our Texas State Park pass one more time, and overnighted at Martin Creek Lake State Park.
Louisiana and Arkansas
And then dipped into the northern corner of Louisana (just so we can mark it as a state visited this year, in case we don’t get back), and then decided to aim for making it into Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.
We found ourselves at the beautiful Gulpha Gorge campground, and in the morning indulged ourselves in traditional baths the Buckstaff Bathhouse. It’s quite surreal to have a bath, scrub down by your attendant and a massage at a national park, and definitely an experience to remember. It was a strange combination of being in a hospital setting and being processed through the various steps, and being at a spa. We both came out relaxed and refreshed.
From Hot Springs, we took scenic highway 7 through the Ouachita National Forest. As dark approached for the evening, we saw a sign for a national forest campground along the Buffalo River and made a spontaneous decision to search it out. Down a dirt path we went, and in the darkness of both light and knowledge of what was ahead, it seemed to go on forever until we reached Erbie Campground. It was a full moon night and misty out, and we were all alone – quite enchanting! Kiki and Chris went out for an early morning hike down to the river.
And then it was onward into St. Louis the next day, arriving at Chris’ parents house where Kiki got to meet her Aunt-Dog-Molly for the first time. We caught up on more projects, had a second rendezvous with fellow technomad Ben Willmore as he was passing through, had concretes at Ted Drewes, explored Forest Park and Grants Farm.
All before the next leg of our adventure – starting with a trip down to the Oliver Travel Trailer factory in Hohenwald, TN.