Everyone seems to be interested in how people who travel full-time in RVs plan their route and decide where to go. It’s one of the most popular questions we get asked — right behind “What’s your favorite place?” (To which we reply, the Colorado mountains, Maine coast, Arizona in the winter, New Mexico in the spring, oh…and Utah, Oregon, the Florida Keys, Montana, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and…umm, l guess we can’t pick a favorite).
As for the route planning question, our answer is that it depends. It depends on the time of year, whether we’re visiting a popular area where we need reservations, and if we are working around any specific engagements. In general, we tend to have some sort of plan for the next few months. Sometimes it’s full of reservations and set in stone dates, while other times it’s a bit more free and loose.
Right now we’re in loosey goosey planning mode. Meaning that we have a specific destination (Tucson, AZ for the week of Christmas), a general route (southwest!) and a list of places we want to visit along the way. Actually, we don’t have a list, have we a map. A shared Goggle map where we add all the places we might want to stay or visit.
We plan to spend the next 6 weeks or so in Kentucky and Tennessee. A few weeks ago I asked for recommendations in the area and you all responded with some great ideas (thank you, thank you, thank you) that I added to our already crowded map.
Of course, we won’t have time to visit all these places. I think we have 10 state parks marked in Tennessee alone. The good news is that none of the public campgrounds around here take reservations this time of year, so we don’t have to worry about making specific plans, and can easily add on days if we really like a place, or the weather is exceptional. Which is exactly what happened last week at Battle Run Campground in Summersville Lake, West Virginia.
We arrived on Sunday morning to find that this Army Corps of Engineers campground that boasts something like 90 waterfront sites, had all but two loops closed for the year (they close the whole campground on Columbus Day). Bummer. We also discovered that the lake was undergoing its annual winter draw down which means that the water level was really low. Double bummer.
We did get a waterfront pull-through site, but our view had a pretty high ratio of exposed muddy bank to water. So we paid for three nights and figured we would move on mid-week.
But then we got out on the lake for some kayaking. Despite the low water, this large lake, which is actually a river dammed for flood control, was absolutely gorgeous. We spent 4 hours one calm afternoon paddling around looking at the cool cliffs on the edge of the lake.
The excellent kayaking, combined with a perfect weather forecast led us to extend our stay until Friday. With lots to do in the area it was a good choice. One day we drove around to the other side of the lake and hiked the Long Point Trail to an overlook on the edge of the water.
Anther day we visited one of the main attractions in the area — the New River Gorge Bridge. This massive structure has an impressive set of stats, including a 1,700 foot arch that marks it as the fourth longest single span arch bridge in the world (the top 3 are in China), and a height of 876 feet making it the third highest vehicle bridge in the U.S. (the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado is number one). But perhaps the most impressive stat is that this bridge turned what used to be a 40 minute, twisty turny drive down into the gorge, across the river, and back up the other side into a one minute crossing. On top of all that, it’s pretty cool to look at.
In addition to being an engineering marvel, the bridge is big tourism draw. You can learn the history of the bridge and surrounding area at the visitor center, hike the trails along the rim of the gorge, take a guided Bridge Walk on the catwalk under the bridge, or participate in the annual Bridge Day where hundreds of crazy people BASE jump and rappel off the side of the bridge. Since we didn’t time it right to do any bridge jumping (kidding) we took the tame route with a hike on the ridge of the gorge instead.
We also drove the old road down to the bottom of the gorge and crossed over the old fashioned way. It was a scenic route, but I can’t imagine having to cross that way on a regular basis.
So far our lack of planning is working out for us. After a long winter and summer on the very populated east coast where we couldn’t get into anywhere without a reservation, we’re enjoying the freedom to come and go as we please. Up next — a few weeks of (mostly) unplanned fun in Kentucky.