Several months ago, I decided that another road trip would be a great use of my time away from school.  The winter and spring months were used to fill in the two weeks I would take to get out to Denver.  Trips like these on the horizon can get you through the monotony of certain days.

Today begins day seven of the trip, and I haven’t posted once.  Figured I should start at some point.  Here’s where we’ve been so far…

Day One:  After a marathon day of cleaning and packing, I made my way to Janice’s so she could join me on this adventure.  We drove to Long Beach Island, New Jersey to visit with dear friends who just welcomed twin boys into their family several weeks ago.  I’m always impressed by those who can juggle life and manage to take care of babies, especially when you consider a three year old and two dogs are part of the family, too.  (There are times I can barely take care of myself!)  We enjoyed catching up and just hanging out.  It was the perfect way to start out the trip.

After dinner, we made our way to Atlantic City to spend the night.

Day Two:  We made our way towards the Washington, DC area early in the morning.  Having been to the Air & Space Museum out by Dulles, I knew Janice would enjoy the space artifacts.  A quick picnic lunch on the curb outside the museum, and we were ready for a short visit wandering around the massive building.

Once we departed, our final destination for the day was only a short distance away.  Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive is simply beautiful.  One day I will hopefully return to see the park in greater depth, as the turn outs were our level of commitment that afternoon.

When I first asked Janice if she wanted to join me on the trip out to Denver, I made it clear that camping would be a part of the trip.  As her camping experience is not quite developed, I wasn’t sure if it would be the tipping point to say no.  Several days later, Janice said she’d be up for the adventure.

We set up camp and cooked dinner.

Day Three:  The sounds of the birds in the morning at this campground is what led me to book the exact spot Debra and I camped in three years ago.  While Janice slept, I made coffee, listened to the birds, and made eye contact with the many deer who passed by the campsite.

After breaking down camp, we drove out of the park and made our way south towards Asheville, North Carolina.  The campground was located at the top of a mountain, which required driving up a steep unpaved road.  I have absolutely no idea how the massive RV’s make this trip!  After setting up camp, we drove into the city to explore and grab dinner.  Asheville has a very young and creative vibe.

Day Four:  We ventured out early to see the River Arts District before our tour of New Belgium.  I am continually amazed by creative people who manage to either make or supplement an income by selling their creations for others to enjoy.  One day I hope to do the same.

A tour of New Belgium was the driving force behind visiting Asheville.  Besides making some really unique and delicious beer, I am impressed by the company’s roots, its stewardship of the environment, and its business practices.  If you did not know, they became 100% employee owned in 2012 after there was speculation that the current owner would sell to a mega-corporation.  Every person seems so thrilled and excited to be working for New Belgium.  The beer tastes even better as a result.  The tour and the new brewery were impressive.

After the tour, we visited Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium to taste a sour beer.  Afterwards, we strolled around Asheville some more and grabbed a bite to eat.  (We may have picked up some take-out dessert, too.) Our evening consisted of laundry and waiting to watch the sunset from the campground.

Day Five:  After breaking down camp, we returned to Pennycup Coffee for some breakfast.  Locally roasted coffee always tastes better!  Janice and I then drove into Great Smoky Mountain NP to head towards the Clingman’s Dome observation tower.  We first stopped at a visitor center that had a farming museum, before driving to Clingman’s Dome.  I’m By the end of the day, my Fitbit says I climbed 51 flights of stairs.  That sums up the paved trail on the way to the top.

After leaving GSMNP, we listened to the audio tape of Wonder for a few hours.  During this time, I added a new state to my “States Visited” collection.  Kentucky was beautiful, especially the countryside as we took back roads for a great deal of the time heading towards Mammoth Caves NP.  (A new National Park for me, too!)  When we arrived in the park, we saw a sign that said “Road ends in water.”  As we turned the bend, the sign was accurate.  There was a small three car river ferry waiting to carry us across.  Janice and I both were beyond intrigued!  We then set up camp, cooked dinner, then called it a night.

Day Six:  We went underground today!  Our morning consisted of hiking four miles for four hours underground in interconnected caves.  Having been to many national parks, this was certainly one of the most unique experiences I have yet to have in a park.  Our guide was very knowledgeable.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

When we finally resurfaced, we made the decision to end our camping trip short as there were forecasted thunderstorms for several hours overnight and in the morning.  We cooked lunch, packed our gear, and drove towards Nashville to stay indoors.  After getting ready, we wandered around the streets of Nashville for a bit.  We grabbed some dinner, saw some love music, got coffee, then called it a night.  Truth be told, Nashville is not my favorite of places.  This was my third quick visit here, and the endless parade of party-goers is simply too much for me.

Final Thoughts:  I am glad I’m on the road again.  The sense of freedom and uncertainty has a calming effect on me.  I look forward to the next few weeks.

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