Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our Gypsy Travels :: The Maiden Voyage :)

Finally here I am writing about our first trip! I say first because there will be more, oh so many more after this! In fact, when we got home we made some pretty big changes in our lifestyle, and made some big decisions about how "Our Gypsy Travels" will fit into our life from now on (more about that next week).

Our only real plan was to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway and play it by ear from there. We headed out with a popup from Alabama, and before it was over we had been through seven states (and a district Molly says). We went from Alabama to Maryland and had a blast!

Our travel rules are simple:
-Have fun
-Spend as little money as possible, but see the most we can
- For every busy day we take a day of rest
-If we have seen all we want to see we need to "move on"
-Always leave a place better than you found it
-Try to only eat food that we prepared (that kinda went along with the money thing)

Day 1: Our maiden voyage began on a Thursday morning, the 13th of October. We were all excited and ready for our new adventure! We decided the week before to start at the Blue Ridge Parkway. This weekend was said to be the best as far as fall color goes, "peak color" they said, and it was perfect! Our plan was to make it to the first National Park on the Parkway, Mt. Pisgah, and camp. The last hour of the 10 hour drive was pretty bad. It was raining, cold, dark, and we were completely worn out...we pulled into Mt. Pisgah at 8pm and set up camp in the dark. Ben wrote in our travel journal (he is such a funny sarcastic writer) ""The last hour of our drive was rainy and miserable. We all wanted to die. The drive was so long that Tim asked "When are we gunna land." The best thing about Mt. Pisgah, they have a shower!

Day 2: Ben wrote "Woke up cold!!! Had eggs and turkey bacon, then straight to town for more blankets and Claire a hot-suit." Ha! Yes, it was cold! We left weather that was still in the 80's, we were in shock. Claire's "hot-suit" was a fleece bear suit. We ate hot wings cooked over the fire and Molly made some of my Granny's famous fried taters. It was a feast! We went to a camp fire talk about bears too that was very interesting, and slightly un-nerving. The girls and I walked to the bath house a little louder after that talk! We waited in line for showers, there is only 1 for girls and 1 for boys, but we are grateful). Good move. :)

Day 3:We woke up warm!! We went on a guided hike with Ranger Lou. In talking to her we found out that she and her husband have been on the road in their fifth wheel for the last 12 years. We had hobo stew for dinner, so good. That night in the camper we played UNO and the loser had to sing everything they said until bed. Ben lost! Ha! I laughed so hard I cried!

Day 4: Pancake breakfast and coffee by the camp fire. We already had a fair amount of dirty duds and we wanted to head to Biltmore the next day so we headed to town and found a laundromat. Now that was an adventure! Who knew that a laundromat could be such an interesting place for the kids? We got a few snacks at the Dollar General next door and headed back up the mountain. On the way back to camp we drove to Looking Glass Falls. It was beautiful! We waited for the showers again so that they wouldn't kick us out of Biltmore. :)

Day 5: Biltmore, the biggest house in America, was AMAZING! We stayed all day! The kids were so excited, we saw it all! When we headed back to camp that night we decided that we had done all we wanted to do in North Carolina. It was time to move on. Within an hour of being back at camp we were packed and back on the road. Shenandoah or bust! Loft Mountain National Park, we heard you have showers, here we come.
Day 6: Ben wrote "Arrived in Shenandoah at approximately 3AM. Crap-load of deer on the road, really cool. Set up camp in stealth mode with the diesel running for cover. Slept till 10AM. Hung out at camp, cooked spaghetti, gathered firewood on the Appalachian Trail and played some dodge ball. Shenandoah means serious business about bears (all wildlife). Tim and I took a shower tonight. $1 for 5 minutes, genius!" I love that man! Our camp was only about 200 yards from the AT, so cool. we took a lazy day since the day before was so full. This was my favorite campground, each site had it's own private yard. I loved it.
Day 7: We woke up with rain so the girls and I got us a $2 shower (10 minutes!). We met some biker/gypsy/campers who had rode there from New York! They were raising money for veterans by playing in a bluegrass band. One guy played the washboard for us! Who knew? We headed to town. Our friends from New York moved to Virginia just 6 weeks earlier. They were only about two hours away so we met up with them and let the kids play. It was so much fun hanging out with them! We got back to camp at around 12:30 AM.
Day 8: Woke up with rain again and more on the way, so we decided to move on! Ben said that he had always wanted to see Washington, DC and it sounded great to us, so 30 minutes later we were on the road to DC. We arrived in Greenbelt National Park at around 3PM. Setting up camp in daylight is awesome! We had a lazy day hanging out at camp. We saw a painted hippie camper on the way in and Ben looked at me and said "By the time we leave you will probably know those people." What?! The kids were missing family back home, but they were still having too much fun to head home. We got in touch with some friends in DC! Yes! They are going to tell us what we needed to see and they wanted us to come for dinner. AWESOME. Oh, and Greenbelt has showers!!
Day 9: Up and at'em! Our friend Nate got us to the metro under his building, and helped us buy day passes and set us on the right course. We went everywhere, the Air and Space Museum, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial (my favorite), the White House. when it all shut down for the day we went and had a wonderful dinner at Nathan and Amanda's house. After dinner Nathan took Ben and the three older kids back out for a personal night tour. Amanda, Claire and I stayed behind, baked apple pie and talked. The kids loved their tour! They didn't get back until almost midnight! They all said that it was even better at night. I have to admit, the pictures were pretty, but I was happy to be in that nice warm apartment. I gave Claire a real bath in their bath tub! She loved it! We got back to camp around 12:30. Awesome day! We decided to try to get further south so that the drive home didn't take two days, next stop the Great Smoky Mountains.
Day 10: Ben wrote "Woke up after a long day site seeing. Hung out at camp all day and chilled and ate left overs from Nate and Amanda's. We were all showered, packed up, and ready to head to the smokies and up walks this old hippie man with a guitar . Of course we had to hang out with him a while! We played a few songs and hung out a little while before leaving and driving through the night." And the first thing I thought when I saw his painted hippie camper was "Ben was right! Ha!" We had a blast and then we hit the road.
Day 11: We arrived in Look Rock at around 5AM and got 3-4 hours of sleep.  We had a nice relaxing day at camp and tried to catch a nap. Fail. Ben took the big kids to Look Rock Tower at sunset while Claire and I stayed back at camp and read some Grace Livingston Hill. We were all asleep by 8pm. Nice. :) By this time in the trip Claire had begun crawling like an old pro, and she was learning to pull-up on the side of her play pen. Man, a lot can change in two weeks!
Day 12: Look Rock doesn't have showers so we broke out the shower tent that we brought along. The whole trip I dreaded using that tent with the 4 gallon water bag and shower head. I thought that I would freeze and hate it. Well, I didn't have an option that day, there were no showers. We used the tent and it was so much better than a public shower! Wayyyy better! We filled it half full with hot water from the fire and the rest with cold and it was a nice relaxing private shower that was clean. Next time, I'll definitely be using the shower tent more than public showers. The kids have never seen Gatlinburg before and they had some money from Nanna to spend, so to Gatlinburg we went! The kids loved it! They spent their money and we ate dinner out for the first time. No Way Jose's in Gatlinburg, you guys rock. We were so full when we left that our clothes were tight!
Day 13: Our last day in the camper. We were sad to leave, but excited about seeing family. We headed out after eating sausage and rice cooked over the fire. We were home before dinner and when we walked through the door we all said the same thing "Oh my goodness! This house is so big!" Nanna and Papa were there within an hour to see their babies. Maybe coming home isn't so bad. :)

We learned a lot about us on this first trip. We learned that you don't need a lot of stuff or space to live happily, that we didn't miss having power as much as we thought we would, the shower tent is the way to go, kids adjust amazingly to life outdoors when all of the indoor "stuff" isn't there to distract them, cooking over the fire makes everything taste better, that we should never leave home again without bikes, next year we need at least a month, and that good clean fun can be fairly cheap. Next year, we go west in a ??? :) Be back soon with some exciting news along this thread. xo, Sam

P.S. If you would like to make fun of my Old school music choice, I'm game. :) Die hard Steven Curtis fan!


Anonymous said...

your video is blocked due to copyright violations?? I was hoping to view it...

Samantha Caffee said...

Oh no! It's playing for me fine. Here is a direct link, maybe that will work...

Samantha Caffee said...

Samantha Caffee said...

I got it fixed. Apparently the songs that I bought from Amazon were not allowed to be on you tube. Bummer. I had to re-upload the video with no music.

Cherishing My Days said...

How wonderful, Sam! I am jealous of your trip, but so happy for you that you guys got to create such wonderful memories. This is how I have told my husband we should live. So far he's not on board. Lol.

Christine said...

Come to Montana:) What a fabulous and inspiring trip!

Laurie said...

So cool! What a delightful family you are. If you're heading West I would suggest Jackson Hole and Yellowstone and then a drive down through Utah on your way back. You'd go from the absolute wildness and ruggedness of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone to the beautiful red rock and amazing formations in Utah ending in Zions National Park. If you need an itinerary, I can give you the coolest places to visit!!

24sieben said...

You guys rock! We've always wanted to do something similar but only took a few shorter trips. And were put off because it it was fun, yes, but also quite exhausting. We decided to wait a year or two until the littlest one is a bit older. Man, I'm envious!

kids dresses said...

The video is playing good. Maybe you have some difficulties because of your connection. The article is just an inspiration and it tells good morals and attitudes

andreak said...

Love your trip down memory lane. The pictures are beautiful and tell a great story! Claire is getting so big. I love the pictures of her in her zip up suit.

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