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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Vacation From Our Vacation

The past two weeks feel a bit like the movie What About Bob, where a psychologist prescribes his clinically anxious patient a vacation from his fears. Hilarity ensues! We prescribed ourselves a vacation from our vacation and hit the North Carolina coast for some sun and swimming.

As much as this trip probably seems to be blissfully free of responsibility, it turns out that traveling like this is a lot of work. There is constant planning and navigating of unfamiliar areas. And the driving. So much driving! Not only the driving, but towing the camper is an additional stress, especially through a city where people are constantly trying to get around you (even if you are doing the speed limit) and pulling out in front of you because, perish the thought, they should be stuck behind us! On top of that we experience car and camper breakdowns that need immediate attention and require us to very quickly become experts on things like water pumps, air conditioners, water tank valves, and hitches. I'm sure anybody who has been on a vacation and then needed another vacation before returning to work can relate. We were just a little worn down and needed to re-focus.

Excited to visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we arrived at the Oregon Inlet Campground at Cape Hatteras National Seashore on Thursday, August 14. The Atlantic Ocean was just behind our campsite and was bath water warm, so we spent the afternoon swimming and beaching. It was perfect! We then drove as far south on the cape as we could, stopping at the very tip for dinner and a beer. Because we spend most days outdoors on this trip, we thought we would be immune to sunburn, but it turns out we are not. It wasn't that bad, but it prevented us from seeing too much sun for the following couple days.






Friday we went to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, the site of the first powered flights. We caught the end of a Ranger talk and walked the length of the first four powered flights by Wilbur and Orville. We spent the next couple days hanging out on the Outer Banks exploring and eventually venturing back to the beach with an umbrella for shade.












Refreshed and ready to keep on trucking, we headed west through North Carolina, overnighting at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area before continuing on to Lake Powhatan Recreation Area in the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville. We toured around Asheville, taking in the spontaneous hula hoop party in the park, eating delicious food, and drinking delicious beer.







We spent last Wednesday exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. While it is not officially a National Park, it is a road surrounded by a swath of land on either side and maintained by the park service, connecting Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the south to the Shenandoah National Park in the north. It was a Civilian Conservation Corps project to encourage people to explore the outdoors and remains the longest linear park in the country.

If we hadn't had a map or GPS, the park would have given us the impression that we were out in the middle of nowhere, rarely intersecting any other roads and void of human civilization. We drove north, stopping at the Visitor Center and the Folk Art Center. We kept on heading north, stopping at some overlooks to glimpse the beautiful vistas of the mountains and valleys. We stopped at the Craggy Gardens picnic area for lunch and a short hike through rhododendron groves and fields filled with bees. We then climbed the Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail which was, surprisingly, not very craggy at all, but did have gorgeous 360 degree views of the area.










From Craggy Gardens we went north to Mount Mitchell State Park. Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi and the park road takes you practically to the summit. We walked the short path to the summit (where a man is buried very prominently), took in some more pretty views, and then headed south back to camp.







We loved the Asheville area, but it was time to move on. We continued our journey west and south with our next destination being the Atlanta area. We stayed at Stone Mountain Park, which felt like a mix between an amusement park and a campground. The reason we were in the Atlanta area was to visit a good friend of Ryan's, so we spent very little time at the park. We filled our days with socializing and visiting. We had the most wonderful time and are so, SO grateful to them for opening their home and their family to us. We look forward to seeing them again soon!

Saturday began our journey north back to Batavia for a super short layover to take care of a couple things. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were all travel days. We overnighted at Od Stone Fort State Park in Manchester, Tennessee, and at an Army Crops of Engineering Recreation area near Benton, Illinois. We also had the joy of hitting up Ryan's favorite pizza place in Champaign and lunching with a dear friend on the way through.

We will only be here for a very short while and will be hitting the road again soon, this time heading west to Colorado. We will go back for the remainder of the southeastern states when it is cooler. Much cooler. See you on the flip side!

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