OUR CROSS COUNTRY ROAD TRIP

APRIL 2     THRU     APRIL 16

ADDISON, NY     TO     MONTEREY, CA

DAY 1 MON 04.02.2018

Monday marked day 1 of the trip. We spent the last couple days in Addison, NY visiting with Leslie’s family and picking up the new van, of course! Boy, does it look good.  The plan for Monday was to head down to Richmond, VA to spend some time with Leslie's sisters.  We were able to leave by 730am and got in around 2pm. We enjoyed a nice relaxing evening walking along the Virginia Capital Trail and having dinner at Conche Republic

Here are a couple photos from the day...

Photos From Day 1

After a night sleep at Lauren's apartment (that's Leslie's sister), we are planning to leave Richmond about noon and head to Shenandoah National Park. It's about an hour and a half drive from Richmond and our original plan is listed below. Our itinerary may end up being slightly different because I found out my cousins from New Jersey are in. I will update the page again within a couple days (WiFi dependent)

Tuesday starts the explorations back on our own.

DAY 2 TUES 04.03.2018

 

After a night sleep at Lauren's apartment (that's Leslie's sister), we left Richmond at 12:30 and headed to Shenandoah National Park. It's about an hour and a half drive from Richmond and our original plan is listed below (plus actual plan) is listed below. Our itinerary ended up changing slightly because I found out my cousins from New Jersey are at the park at the same time as we are!

Enter via Swift Run Gap Entrance

Head North to South River Falls Hike

Swift Run Overlook

Bottom Something Overlook

Rockytop Overlook

Jones Run Falls Trailhead [3.5mi out & back hike]

Blackrock Summit [1 mi easy overlook]

Horsehead Mountain Overlook

Moorman’s River Overlook

Crimora River Overlook

We chose to drive up to the Swift Run Gap Entrance so we could start there and head south. We replaced the Jones Run Falls Trail with the South River Falls Hike so we could meet up with the family, however, if you head to the Swift Run Gap Entrance and head South, you will be able to do everything minus the South River Falls Hike. There are a ton of overlooks on the drive. I did some research in advance and chose the ones we stopped at based on pictures online and the distance of how they were spaced out on the map. They are fairly easy to see from the car, so it’s not difficult to choose which ones to stop at as you go!

South River Falls Hike: We met up with Chriselle, Mike, Zoe, and Max for this hike. We parked at the South River Falls Trailhead and from there it was a 2.2 mi out and back hike to the overlook. The hike can be stretched to about 4.5 miles or so if you take the loop. The out and back starts downhill and of course ends uphill. It's so woodsy and there is a nice river flow along the way to the waterfall overlook.

The Overlooks: There are a ton of overlooks on the drive. I did some research in advance and chose the ones we stopped at based on pictures online and the distance of how they were spaced out on the map. They are fairly easy to see from the car, so it’s not difficult to choose which ones to stop at as you go! Below are photos of each one we went to.

Swift Run Overlook

Rockytop Overlook

Blackrock Summit: This one is a 1 mile RT hike to the overlook. This was perfect because we wanted to do a hike but didn't have a long time to spend in the park. This one gets you an amazing view but doesn't take much time. It's a pretty flat trail.

Horsehead Mountain Overlook

Moorman's River Overlook: It was about 6pm and we were ready for dinner. This looked like the perfect pull-off for that...

Crimora River Overlook: The sun FINALLY started shining and gave us this beautiful sunset to enjoy at this last overlook we stopped at!

There are of course plenty of other hikes to do, however, the plans above were selected based on the fact that we allowed ourselves about a half a day at the park. I really wanted to do at least 1 waterfall hike and 1 hike that leads to a scenic overlook.

 

Lodging: I called the VA DOT to confirm overnight parking is allowed at rest areas. We drove 2.5 hours to the Radford Rest Area and spent the night there. It was really not so bad, especially having the van. We took advantage of our memberships at Anytime Fitness for showers in Salem, VA along the way!

ANYTIME FITNESS: 35 Spartan Dr, Salem, VA (on the way to rest stop #3)

LODGING: Radford Rest Area [37.099291, -80.519943]  (2.25 hr S of Shenandoah)

DAY 3 WED 04.04.2018

 

It was time to switch National Parks. Off to Great Smoky Mountains. *TIP: If you are going at this time of year, call or check their twitter page for current road conditions/closures. After making a big list of potential things we could do Wednesday, here’s what we ended up with...

Lunch: BBQ in Gatlinburg

Get a spot at Elkmont Campground

2 lookouts – check map

Laurel Falls Hike [2.6 mi RT]

Lodging: Elkmont CG

By the time we knew we were taking cross-country road trip, all campground reservations were full for any campground we were interested in reserving at Great Smoky. Each site does have several first-come first serve spots so we were hoping we’d be able to get a spot and our first choice was Elkmont. Since we were able to get one, we planned to do one big hike (Charlie’s Bunion) on Thursday before heading to Nashville.

Delauder's BBQ: Everything about this place worked out perfectly. We arrived in Gatlinburg just as lunchtime approached. As we arrived, there was one parking spot (no trouble for the van) and the place was in this quaint little shopping area. Mr. Delauder was there smoking his meat and is super friendly. The food is amazing. The prices are very reasonable. The portion sizes were perfect. I went with the 2 meat platter that comes with 2 sides, and a roll (ribs, pulled pork, fried mac & cheese, and baked beans). I would absolutely recommend the ribs and pulled pork. The baked beans were incredible. The mac n cheese was awesome as well. Another reason this worked out so perfectly was because it was still about 5-10 minutes outside of the touristy part of Gatlinburg which was as busy as NYC on NYE. It was insane and I couldn’t believe it. We never would have found parking for the van. If you come to Gatlinburg, Delauder's BBQ is a must!

Elkmont Campground: I had my eye on this campground because it was the most centralized. I had a list of potential: things we could do Wednesday afternoon and this would allow us to be closer to many things. We ended up driving to a couple of lookouts and more excitingly, hiked to Laurel Falls. The campground itself was just like any typical campground and it costs $21. *TIP: When the ranger left the station, she put up the “Campground Full” sign but I can vouch for the fact that the campground was not full. So if you’re looking for a spot, maybe check even if that sign is up.

Lookouts: These photos were from a couple of the pull-offs along the roads. [Photos to be added soon]

Laurel Falls: This made the cut of my original plans. It was also the most convenient hike that we wanted to do that was near the campground. It’s a 2.6 mi RT out & back hike that features a gradual uphill climb on the way out. The waterfall at the end is pretty rewarding and you can scramble down toward the lower part and check out the other drop below. There are 2 small parking lots. They were full but parking on the side of the road is allowed (in designated areas – avoid part of the road that specifically says no parking).

It was about 7pm when we finished the hike and it just begun to get pretty cold. After that we just headed back toward the campground, and stayed inside with the doors closed to keep the cold air out. We made some venison hot dogs & sausages and went to bed!

DAY 4 THURS 04.05.2018

 

Things did change in terms of our original Thursday plans. The overnight temperatures reached the 20s and since we had to fly to NY to pick up the van, we did not bring any of our cold weather gear. We wore pretty much all the clothes we brought and each had a blanket to use. I was freezing. I woke up in the middle of the night and was so happy to find out it was 5am and that we at least made it through the night without being too cold. We turned the van on and headed up toward Newfound Gap Overlook (where the Charlie’s Bunion hike begins). Here’s what we ended up doing on Thursday...

Newfound Gap Overlook

Cades Cove Loop

Picnic Lunch...somewhere

(Drive to Nashville)

Dinner @ Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

Broadway Street (live music at Nudies)

Lodging: Cracker Barrel Inn

Newfound Gap Overlook: We woke up and it was freezing. I started the van to get the heat going. We went to the bathroom and took off for the Newfound Gap Overlook before sunrise. After about a 40 minute drive from Elkmont, we arrived to Newfound Gap just as the sun was starting to come up (elevation ~ 5,000’ & temperature 26 deg F). The plan was to make some tea and breakfast here (while letting the van warm up on the drive). As the sun began to rise, I saw several photographers setting up and I realized we just accidentally got to this spot that is a gem for a photo! I set up next to another photographer and got the shot below.

After we ate our eggs and the sun had come up, the thermometer still only read 27 degrees and that’s when we decided to bail on the hike. We did not have the gear with us to be comfortable hiking up to 6,600 feet in weather that cold. I was pumped we got to experience the view at Newfound Gap and with tons of other stuff to do at the park, we decided to head over to the Cades Cove Loop (to hopefully see bears).

Cades Cove Loop: This is an 11-mile one-way loop. There are places to cut off midway through if you don’t want to do the whole 11 miles. The brochure describes this as a great place to see wildlife. We saw a bunch of deer and turkeys. We were hoping to see bears (a lady the night before said she had seen 10 bears since Monday in that area) but we didn’t. The loop offered great valley views with the mountains in the background. There are several stops along the way for hiking and lookouts. There was 1 waterfall hike of 5.5 miles about halfway through, however, we did not want to make time for that based on how the day had been going.

Picnic Lunch: After we finished the Cades Cove Loop, we exited the park and started our drive toward Nashville. About 20 minutes outside the park we found a picnic area across from Cades Cove Cellars where we cooked more venison and veggies before continuing the drive to Nashville.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken: One of the things Nashville is known for is its hot chicken. I used to think it was the BBQ but it seems the hot chicken is the thing to get here. We decided to try Hattie B’s. We called in our order and were glad we did because the line was long. We ended up eating there. We both got the chicken tenders with mild spice. I got the potato salad and southern greens. Les did the baked beans instead of potato salad. The food was really good. The basket definitely filled us both. Nothing against Hattie B’s, but next time I would like to try one of the other many places that also have it. *TIP: Call ahead and place your order because the line can be long!

Broadway Street / Nudies: I was definitely worried about parking the van in downtown Nashville. After driving down Broadway, we came across a lot that had a few spots. It was very tight but I was able to squeeze the van into a spot. We paid $15 for 3 hours (it would have been $10 for 1 hour). We walked up and down both sides of Broadway but we spent most of our time at Nudies. We could hear live music from just about every place we walked by and hands down, Cullen Greer and Maggie Ray were by far the best. They were covering a wide variety of country and rock songs and they were phenomenal and I hope they both make it. Credit to their band as well. I’m not going to get into specifics of Broadway but if you’re coming to Nashville as a tourist, walking along Broadway is an absolute must. I can’t say which bars are the best but on this particular night, we enjoyed Nudies the most.

Cracker Barrel Inn: The Cracker Barrel doesn’t really have an Inn but they do allow overnight parking! We called a location about 10 minutes South of downtown Nashville and they confirmed that they allow it and parked the van in their lot (#vanlife). We had no issues and were out by 6:30am.

 

It was really cool to think that we woke up at Great Smoky Mountains NP and were watching live music in Nashville by the end of the day. Onto Friday...

DAY 5 FRI 04.06.2018

 

We woke up before the alarm at around 6am. I had an idea (to keep on our gym schedule the best we can) to drive over to the Anytime Fitness lot to make for coffee/tea and oatmeal and then workout. We did exactly that. By 10am, we wrapped up the gym and got the rest of the day going...

Breakfast at Biscuit Love

Walk around Hillsboro Village

Walk around The Gulch

Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Grand Ole Opry for concert

Lodging: Cracker Barrel Inn

Biscuit Love: If you have read my post on Portland, OR, you’ll see how much I loved “Pine State Biscuits” which was one of the best breakfasts I ever had (The Reggie Deluxe). Biscuit Love reminded me of that place and was comparable. We were able to find parking about a quarter mile away and the line was not too long (expect a line). We probably waited about 15 minutes before skipping a few spots at the line since we were willing to sit at the bar. I ordered the Nasty Princess which was a biscuit topped with hot chicken, gravy (for days), and a fried egg (it doesn’t come with the egg but you must add it on). It was delicious and we felt so full after. Oh yeah – I almost forgot to mention we split an order of bonuts. Yes, bonuts. Bonuts are a fried biscuit dough, lemon mascarpone, and blueberry compote. #UltimateCheatMeal #WhenInNashville

Hillsboro Village: We had 20 extra minutes in the meter so we walked around the neighborhood a little bit. People seem to also love the Pancake Pantry but I did hear a local in line say that it’s only worth it if there’s no line. I can’t speak for that place but it didn’t catch my eye quite like Biscuit Love. The neighborhood was petty cool and I got the hipster vibe from it.

The Gulch: There was a Biscuit Love here as well but the line was much longer! This is the neighborhood that you will find the wings at. It has more of a downtown feel to it but there are several lots that have the first hour of parking for free (at least during the day on a Friday). We didn’t need to spend much more time there. This neighborhood also features the live music venue, The Station Inn, which we were interested in but did not make it to on this trip. We walked by and it looked like a hot spot.

Gaylord Opryland Hotel: This place was like nothing I have ever seen before. Words or pictures don’t do it justice. It’s about 20 minutes Northeast of downtown but if you have a chance, come here and see it for yourself. *TIP: Parking is $29, however, you can park for free at the mall, movie theater, or outside the Grand Ole Opry and it’s about a 10-15 minute walk from there.

Grand Ole Opry: I really wanted to see a show here or at the Ryman (who wouldn’t?). I didn’t want to pre-order tickets just in case we didn’t make it for the right night. By the time we arrived (2:00pm on Friday) to the Grand Ole Opry, there were still SRO (standing room only) tickets available. We snagged some and I was getting super excited about the show. After getting the tickets, we went to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, and then hung out in the van for an hour or so before the show. The show was amazing. There were 12 artists in total who performed (which is somewhat normal here).

Walmart Inn: First time staying at a Walmart parking lot. There were plenty of other RVs and trucks parked in the huge lot overnight and again, we had no problems here. 

DAY 6 SAT 04.07.2018

 

It was time to get up early and leave Nashville. After doing my research, the internet told me Nashville is more known for its hot chicken and Memphis is more known for the BBQ. Since we would be driving right through Memphis, we waited on the BBQ til Memphis…

 

The day was not full of a lot of other than driving but here were the plans...

(Leave Nashville)

Central BBQ in Memphis

Walk around Hot Springs, AR

Lodging: Cedar Glades

Central BBQ: I can't compare this place to other BBQ in Memphis cause we didn't save any room to try multiple places. I can say that this place was delicious and I am glad we chose it for my rack of ribs. Leslie isn't a big rib fan so she got the pulled pork. This meal is something I was definitely anticipating and it didn't disappoint. We went to the location on Summer Ave. It has a nice homey feel and lots of parking, especially in the back.

Hot Springs, AR: When you think of a National Park, this is not what you picture. The park is the town! We almost skipped coming here because it was a little off course but we had the time so we did end up making it. By the time we had got here, the sun had begun setting and we were freezing. The temperature was in the 30s so I think we have gotten too used to the California warmth. I would have loved to have come here on a warm day and spend a little more time enjoying the town. The only place we did stop in was Superior Baths Brewery. We sat down and enjoyed a beer while trying to figure out the best place to sleep for the night (because of the cold).

Cedar Glades Park: This is a free campground that I found on freecampsites.net. I had read at one point that the gate for the park closes at 8pm but we arrived later than that and the gate was still open. It was pitch black when we got there but we were able to figure out where to go based on where the other 5-6 campers were set up. It didn't look like designated campsites but again, it was dark when we got there. There were 1 or 2 spots that people had set up tents but mostly campers. This place is where things didn't go so well for me. That evening I woke up in the middle of the night (it was only 11pm) and I was feeling nauseous and I had the chills. Let's just say it was a rough nice. Leslie was super awesome but neither of us got any sleep. I found out a week and a half later there was a recall of 200 million eggs from a farm that we bought eggs from. I had Salmonella.

DAY 7 SUN 04.08.2018

 

I woke up feeling just as crappy as I did the night before. Not realizing at the time that it was Salmonella, it was tough to figure out why I got sick. I was in no mood to get any photos of Cedar Glades.

 

We had planned on getting up and doing some hiking in the naturey part of Hot Springs, AR but I was in no way going to do that. I was not even looking forward to driving. I didn't want to do a thing. We were both exhausted and I was sick to my stomach. Nothing exciting happened on this day. We pushed through and drove 422 miles to Elk City, OK and stayed at the Super 8 for the night. After the night we had before, we both needed a warm place to sleep and a night off from the van. I stopped twice along the way for hour-long naps.

 

Again, nothing exciting happened. We did also make a stop at an Anytime Fitness for Leslie to workout and for showers. The goal at this point was just to get to Monument, CO to see our friends, Addy & Derek. 

DAY 8 MON 04.09.2018

DAY 8 MON 04.09.2018

 
 

(Leave Elk City, OK)

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

Monument, CO to hang out with Addy & Derek!

Lodging: Addy and Derek Inn & Suites

It was another day that wasn't too exciting. We still had 530 miles to Monument, CO so it was another day spent mostly in the van. I had the best sleep of the whole trip that night but was still feeling a little tired. My stomach was starting to get better and we had some breakfast at the Super 8 before getting started with the drive. The bonus was we were switching from Central time to Mountain time so we were to gain an hour. We did make one stop and here were the plans for the day...

It was another day that wasn't too exciting. We still had 530 miles to Monument, CO so it was another day spent mostly in the van. I had the best sleep of the whole trip that night but was still feeling a little tired. My stomach was starting to get better and we had some breakfast at the Super 8 before getting started with the drive. The bonus was we were switching from Central time to Mountain time so we were to gain an hour. We did make one stop and here were the plans for the day...

(Leave Elk City, OK)

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

Monument, CO to hang out with Addy & Derek!

Lodging: Addy and Derek Inn & Suites

Cadillac Ranch: When I saw this attraction online, it only put us 10 minutes off course, so I figured we'd stop and check it out. It is a unique piece of art located in the middle of a field. The cars are covered in spray paint and we saw others bringing their own spray paint. There was also plenty of extra spray paint bottles people had left behind that still had plenty left in them. It's a short walk out to the Cadillac's and worth checking out if it's not out of your way.

Cadillac Ranch: When I saw this attraction online, it only put us 10 minutes off course, so I figured we'd stop and check it out. It is a unique piece of art located in the middle of a field. The cars are covered in spray paint and we saw others bringing their own spray paint. There was also plenty of extra spray paint bottles people had left behind that still had plenty left in them. It's a short walk out to the Cadillac's and worth checking out if it's not out of your way.