The Cedar Keys in Florida are a small group of islands located in the Gulf of Mexico about half way between Tampa and Apalachicola in what is known as, “The Nature Coast.” It is also called “Old Florida,” due to the lack of development and ubiquitous strip malls. Cedar Key is a small island town of less than 1000 residents that support themselves clam farming and with a modest tourist industry. This place is every bit of the old fishing village one can conjure up in imagination; weathered piers and fish shacks, with well worn boats built for a singular purpose. A small group of artists also call the island home, establishing a collective and adding a hard to miss funky charm. The pace is slow, the work is hard or long, and there is little more than nature to provide entertainment. It is frequently compared to what Key West was during the time of Hemingway.
Life is too short to hang onto unpleasant circumstances that can be changed. While change can be scary and takes work, the willingness to do so often beats the willfulness it takes to remain stuck in state of familiar, yet comfortable dis-ease. In 2013, we stepped off into the unknown that we hardly planned for, and ended up finding adventure and making new discoveries along the way. I guess it could be said that 2013 was a pioneering year.
As a non-retired couple living and travelling in an RV fulltime, we are bucking convention and it has allowed us to have an outsider’s view on ourselves and the culture we live in. We have been able to recognize the many good hearted, creative and adventurous people doing inspiring things, and have seen cultural ills too. There are many different Americas, each is unique and worth taking the time to appreciate.
In 2013 we crossed the country, staying at more than three dozen campgrounds along the way. Below is list of our favorites. These are, of course, subjective to our tastes and preferences. We prefer scenery and proximity to cool stuff above all. We enjoy the luxuries of a full service campground from time to time, and when stationary for extended periods, but we are happy to rough it a little for a great trail or view. We also appreciate a good value, expensive campsites really have to be something special to impress us.
Campgrounds with excellent scenery from the site:
This New Mexico Park is enchanting. It has sweeping vistas of the “wild west” and is surrounded by an ancient lava flow. The park has a nice hiking trail through the flow so visitors can get a closer look at the unique fauna. Camping here is a memorable experience. New Mexico parks have nice amenities, well maintained and inexpensive, less than $20. Each site has water and electric, concrete pad and a shade pavilion with picnic table.
Welcome to South Carolina! This is the home of the Palmetto and Spanish moss, Antebellum history, southern hospitality, and Charleston.
We have settled into our second workamping gig at James Island County Park, and we could not be happier. The park is only five miles from Charleston’s historic district, and is about the same distance to laid back Folly Beach. The park itself is the jewel of the local park system and is 600 acres of loveliness. The campground is luxury compared to our site in the Outer Banks. We especially enjoy the hot showers, nearby laundry, and the fast, free WIFI. The park has 6 miles of newly repaved trails that meandered through the semi-tropical foliage and marsh, two lakes, 50 ft. climbing wall, kayaks, fishing pier, play grounds, water park, and a lot of places to find solitude. This is a beautiful place to be.
Our first small plane ride over our campsite and our resident volunteers site at Pea Island NWR.
At the start of our adventure, we hadn’t planned on spending so much time in the desert, largely because we were unaware that there was so much of it in this country. As easterners, when we thought of the desert, the image of brown, scrubby and barren came to mind, a waste land. Never did we think that it was colorful, filled with life, delicate with ever changing landscapes and vistas around every bend. Nor did we know that it would attract us, and spark a desire to want to better understand its mysteries.
Death Valley National Park
The Garden of Eden comes to mind when exploring Yosemite National Park. In late April and early May, when we were there, the waterfalls, streams and rivers are at full flow. The rushing water sounds like thunder, and rainbows in the mist fill the air. The bright green meadows, newly budded deciduous trees and flowering Pacific Dogwoods in the valley create a lush and sumptuous scene. Animal life is active; birds of prey soar high above, deer and bears are seen drinking from the streams, while the smaller forest creatures scurry about comfortable with their human guests.
Left to Right: Upper Yosemite Falls from Big Meadow, Vernal Falls, Big Meadow
California’s fabled Route 1 is one of the most scenic drives in the world and it does not disappoint. Our trip on this classic drive almost never happened. Several people cautioned us about taking an RV up this stretch of road, sufficiently spooking Alayne, and nearly resigning us to take the 101 instead. However, this is a drive I have always wanted to do, and after talking with a few fellow RVers, who had taken the trip in larger rigs than ours, we regained confidence and headed up the coast.
California Route 1 has many different personalities. At times it is an in-town freeway, sometimes a two lane country road, and at others, it clings to the sides of cliffs with sharp switchbacks and steep drop-offs. It is these changes that make the 1 always interesting.
Arizona exceeded our expectations. After spending more than a week in New Mexico, we thought we had experienced the most varying landscape of our trip. However, Arizona is not one to be upstaged by its neighbor.
We entered the State in dramatic fashion from southeast Utah, which upon entering you are immediately in the one of the most photographed western landscapes, Monument Valley. Monument Valley is a place of towering monoliths of weathered rock standing like sentinels in the rugged arid vast expanse. They are seen from at least 30 miles away and greet you with a strong, quite solitude, even when you get to the park and among the tourist bustle of the visitor center. This is a Navajo Monument, and this being the case all of the prices are inflated, but the views from the road are free and almost as good as inside the park itself. After leaving, the scenery calmed down a bit, perhaps in homage to the almost surreal visual experience awaiting us at the Grand Canyon.
Monument Valley – Left and Right Mitten