One of the very first things that my master did after he rescued me was take me on a 15,000-mile road trip across the United States. We went to my home state of Texas, but we skipped the Deep South–until last week, that is! We just returned from a leisurely, 3,500-mile drive from PA down to the Gulf of Mexico and back. I can’t wait to see Maine this summer– when I do, I will have been to all of the lower 48 states (and my master will have seen them all).
The big difference this time, of course, is that my master has stopped speaking. Given that his goal was to spend time alone with me, this wasn’t a problem. I’m used to his quietness by now. We camped our way along backroads, as per usual, checking out national forests and state parks that caught our eye. We were also looking for signs of Spring.
Our first stop was in Watoga State Park, in West Virginia. They had a beautiful fishing area and a lot of cabins, which is where we stayed that first night. There were very few people there, and the weather was quite chilly and damp. The cabin was cold, and the fire didn’t actually help too much, but I am good at cuddling, so I was just fine.
The next day, we drove around in West Virginia and ended up in Kentucky. I highly recommend U.S. 219 if you want to see one of WV’s twistiest roads– and, if you’re in WV, then you cannot skip the New River Gorge. Thankfully, we’d been there before, as it was incredibly foggy this time.
In Kentucky, we stopped and stayed for a rainy night at Bee Rock Campground in Daniel Boone National Forest. Thankfully, my master was prepared with a large tarp and there was plenty of wood that was dry enough to burn. We decided that KY was quite nice and worth the slow drive over to Land Between the Lakes (LBL), which is a narrow strip of land straddling KY and TN that is lodged between Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake.
LBL is very cool and worth the visit. I highly recommend going when the gate to the Elk and Bison Prairie is open, as we were not able to see the elk this early in the spring. The Bison were out, though, and the small herd made me think of one of my favorite places ever– Yellowstone.
At LBL, we found herons and interesting shores. There are plenty of campgrounds, and I imagine that this place is quite the tourist destination in the summertime. There did not appear to be many places to get snacks, though, so take plenty of food with you if you’re planning on staying long.
The next day, we drove down into TN and cut across to Memphis. I’m assuming they have built a pyramid on the Mississippi because of where Memphis got its name. Either way, it was no Egypt. It was cold and rained off-and-on, and my master (being the human that he is) opted for a $30 Motel 6 across the muddy water in West Memphis, Arkansas.
The weather looked poor for a venture into the Ozarks, so we saved the rest of Arkansas for some other trip, and cut back across the corner of TN so we could drive down through the state of Mississippi. In MS, we took the interstate and got pulled over– something about the white line. My master always punches in the cruise control under the speed limit, so it was rather confusing at first. The officer was nice, though, and he came up to my side of the window and petted me even though I smell bad. He told us to have a nice day, and we were moving again.
The state of Louisiana wraps around the southwest corner of Mississippi, where are a lot of options for Wildlife Management Areas and camping spots. We found a very nice campground, called Clear Springs, in Homochitto National Forest. We’ve seen campgrounds in almost every state, and this was definitely one of the nicest.
We chose to camp in the primitive camping area, which was a mile or so from the RVs, so the forest was filled with the noise of birds, not generators. There was a network of trails, a stream down the hill, and a fishing area below the RV camping sites.
The next morning, we walked down to the fishing area and my master and I wandered around looking for interesting plants. We found some beautiful azaleas that appeared to be native.
Next, we took an incredibly long, slow drive to the Gulf of Mexico. We drove through Louisiana and stayed off the interstates, so we knew we’d be in for a rather lengthy day. Our goal was to reach Grand Isle State Park, the park that’s as far south as you can go in the state of Louisiana without drowning.
(Note: As of this writing, the park is indeed open, despite what their web site may or may not say.)
The Gulf Coast was indeed beautiful, and worth the trip. Highway 1 is a slow drive, though, so when you go, plan ahead to vary your speed from 35 m.p.h. to 45 to 55 to 45 to 35 and back again over and over and over. The bridge at the end of Hwy 1 is woth the drive, as the engineering allows people to drive out into the Gulf where vehicles probably actually should not be going.
In Grand Isle, there are plenty of places to get food, and the state park at the end of the island has little shade but a wonderful view of the Gulf and its oil drilling platforms. I highly recommend stopping at the marinas and enjoying the hospitality of the very nice humans who work at both of them. If you have any questions, they are more than willing to answer them for you.
I had mixed emotions looking out at the Gulf, as there was no way that I could go there without thinking of the oil platforms that loom off the coast in the waters that supply so much of the food chain.
From Louisiana, we drove the Alabama and Florida coastlines over to Pensacola Beach, FL. The beaches of Florida are not very dog friendly, but my master did track down one designated dog beach at which I could play. Oddly enough, there were no other dogs there. I managed to splash some sand on a few humans, though, and then it was time to hop back in the car.
Our goal was to make it to Apalachicola, but when we were stopped at a red light in Panama City, FL, a huge jolt rocked the car. My master quickly realized we had been rear-ended and that the offender was driving away! What happened next was very odd and a good storyline for a comedy movie.
First, the world’s slowest car chase ensued, complete with my master honking his horn non-stop for about a mile. When he finally managed to get the offending car to pull over, it contained a family that spoke no English. They pulled their car into a hotel where they knew the employees–but they didn’t speak English, either. And, of course, my master doesn’t speak at all.
So, things were a bit complicated, and there was a lot of handwaving, crying, “I’m sorry”ing, and note-writing. The family called their brother, who manages a nearby hotel, and after that, things got a lot better. The father finally stopped crying, the mother finally stopped apologizing, and the brother called the police in order to get a police report stating that the father was at fault.
The police officer came promptly, and he was extremely nice and very adept at managing the communication flow between all the humans. I stayed in the car except for when my master let me out so I could check out what was happening.
At the end of it, my master got out some bungee cords and helped the family who hit him secure their front bumper. It was bustend on both sides and nearly dragging on the road because they hit him so hard. Our Subaru is tough, tough, so we were good to go!
It was interesting to watch it all unfold, and after all that stress, we were both exhausted. Thankfully, the brother of the man who hit us put us up in his hotel for free that night. Behind the hotel, there were some banana trees flowering.
Having seen the deep South, been to the Gulf, and gotten ourselves hit, we decided it was time to head north. First, we had to make it through Atlanta before we could rest for the night. There were two accidents and a shooting, and the traffic was a bit heavy, so it took quite some time to get through the downtown area.
Our stop that night was in Gainesville, Georgia, where we visited my cousin Lexie (who actually isn’t too fond of me– something about a little tiff we once had). It was barely spring in GA, but we found some plants coming up in the subdivision’s woods where Lexie’s house is located, and trees were flowering.
I slept on Lexie’s bed most of the time– just to spite her– and I made sure to keep a close eye on my bag of food in case there was any retaliation.
From Georgia, we wanted to stop in the Smokeys and take the Blue Ridge Parkway, but a major storm was headed across the US, and we decided to take the interstates north back to PA. We grabbed a quick night’s sleep in Staunton, VA, and then we were back in PA the next day by noon– and I’ve been napping ever since!
All photos (c) Ada Mae Compton, 2013. Give credit where credit is due if you lift these pics. Oh, and you can click on any pic to enlarge it. I always try to upload high resolution pics, so it might take a minute for them to load.