2020 has definitely been one for the books for many reasons! For us, the end of this year marks our first year of traveling full-time in our fifth wheel. We moved out of our apartment and into our RV during the summer of 2019. We stayed stationary those first several months as we adjusted and finished out a few commitments in the area.
It wasn’t until the end of October 2019 that we had the opportunity to finally hit the road! If you’ve followed our travels and adventures for a minute you’ll know that we love a good beach day. So in true Outdoorish fashion, we headed straight for the coast. We made out way from Austin, TX down to Freeport, TX. We had booked a month at Blue Water RV Resort but knew almost immediately after arriving that we’d want to extend our stay. This resort is located in an amazing spot- it’s out away from everything and is so peaceful. They have sites that back up to a canal that leads out to the bay as well as sites that have beach views or sites that back up to a wetlands area.
I think what makes this place so special is the friends we made while we were there. We were lucky enough to meet two other couples that were work camping there that were close to us in age. We meet other full-time RVers on the road all the time, but meeting people our age is more rare. Between Friday night movies and Saturday morning breakfast hosted by the park we really got a chance to connect with like minded people. On a couple occasions, we had a game night/potluck with all three couples which was a blast. Making these kinds of connections makes leaving and saying goodbye even harder! Rachel & Logan and Mel & Levi if y’all are reading this- hey guys 👋🏼 we miss you!
So on January 4, 2020 we left Blue Water and headed north a little to Conroe, TX just north of Houston. We stayed at the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails park since we had just purchased a membership. This was our first experience staying at a Thousand Trails park. For being the first park we stayed at, it left a good impression with us. At the front of the park is a newer section with paved concrete sites and nice fire pits – we were lucky enough to grab a spot in this section. The rest of the park is nice too- there’s a mixture of pull through and back in sites, a nice pool & hot tub, a club house, and a kayak launch out onto the lake. In the club house area, there was a little restaurant that served both breakfast and lunch. We really enjoyed getting breakfast here – the donut breakfast sandwich was our favorite and what they call the “hangover” special is pretty tasty too.
January 11, we made our way out of Texas and headed for Lake Charles, LA. When we arrived at our site in Sam Houston Jones State Park, we were in for a treat. Since we arrived on a Saturday, the weekend crowd was already there, setup, and in full party mode. We found our way to our site only to find two cars parked in it. After tracking down the owners and getting them to move their vehicles, we proceeded to try to back into our spot. Now let me tell you, we had quite the time trying to back the RV in. This is a smaller state park and the sites are sort of small and the roads a little narrow. If you don’t know, we have a 40 ft fifth wheel, and we were still pretty new to backing it in. So we tried, and we tried, but between the trees, the tight roads, and how people had their vehicles parked it was just going to be difficult to back in. So, we decided to make this back in spot a pull through… yes we were those people 🤣🤦🏻♀️ There was not a spot behind us, just grass, so we circled around and pulled through. If we had done this from the start, we could have saved so much time!
Sam Houston Jones State Park is gorgeous! The park is home to tree filled lagoons and mixed pine and hard wood forest that sits on 1,087 acres. There are a few trails to choose from as well as a boat launch on the Calcasieu River. Despite it raining most of our stay, and both of us feeling a little under the weather (sinus problems as usual) we really enjoyed our stay here. We made it to town a couple times and ate some really delicious food. The first place we ate at, KD’s Diner, is a cute little mom & pop diner open 24/7. At the recommendation of our server, we ordered the Rafferty (breakfast), Nate’s po-boy, and a cup of gumbo to share. We really loved the Rafferty, of everything we ordered, this was probably our favorite. The other restaurant we ate at was Darrell’s. This place was awesome! It’s a sports bar & grill that’s known for its’ delicious po-boys (specifically the Darrell’s Special). The Darrell’s Special comes on their freshly baked hot and buttery buns with ham, turkey, roast beef, and roast beef gravy. We got ours topped with jalapeño mayo, lettuce and cheese. Their website says “unless you’re using 10 napkins, you’re doing it wrong”. We found that to be true! 🤣 A huge stack of used napkins replaced where our sandwiches once sat by the end of our meal. Philip and I have differing opinions when it comes to which place we liked better. He preferred KD’s while I like Darrell’s better. They were both fantastic though, and you really can’t go wrong visiting either place!
While we were in Louisiana, we also celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary as well as Philip’s 27th birthday! As I mentioned before, we were both a little under the weather this week so we just enjoyed each other’s company at home 🥰
On January 18, we arrived at our next location – Madisonville, LA which is just north of New Orleans on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. We spent the week under the massive oak trees at Fairview – Riverside State Park. This is a gorgeous park that was donated to the state after Mr. Otis (former owner) passed away. You can tour the historic Otis house, walk the nature trail, and even fish from the boardwalk. As quaint as this state park is, we were a little unlucky and got a swampy / muddy site that made taking the dogs out a little interesting. I would carry Butters outside until we reached an area that wasn’t completely mud. I then carried her back inside so the whole RV wouldn’t become a mess. Nelson on the other hand is a little heavier than Butters so I had to admit defeat and let him get a little muddy. We’ve learned it’s a good idea to keep wipes by the front door so his paws got wiped off within seconds of entering the RV.
We couldn’t be this close to New Orleans without getting a few beignets. So we made the obligatory stop at Cafe Du Monde for some tasty treats! While we were filling up our gas tank the night before we left, Philip ran in and got a king cake. Yes, we got our king cake from a gas station cause we’re classy like that 💁🏻♀️🤣 To us it tasted like a cinnamon roll with icing on top. The little plastic baby on top of the cake was a little creepy…
January 25 marked our next new state in the RV- FLORIDA Our stay at Pensacola Beach RV Resort was one we had been looking forward to, especially with some less than ideal situations the weeks leading up to this one. We had booked a standard site but when we arrived the resort realized we were not going to fit into the site they had planned to put us in. They ended up upgrading our site at no additional cost and it backed right up to the Santa Rosa Sound. The resort is right across from the beach and is walking distance to many shops and restaurants. Even though it was cold and rainy most of our stay, we made the most of it and still got in a few visits to the beach. It’s important to note that if you’re traveling with dogs, Pensacola Beach has two designated dog beach areas. Aside from those two areas, dogs are not allowed on the beach. While we were at the resort we decided to get our RV washed since it had never been washed before 😬 For $320 they washed and waxed the entire RV including the roof and washed our truck as well. Would we do it again?? Probably not. For the price we feel they could have done a better job 🤷🏻♀️ we will most likely just do it ourselves from now on.
Our next stop in Florida was Tallahassee. We arrived at the Tallahassee RV Park on February 1. It was a cold, cold week and most of the things that looked half way interesting closed before Philip got off of work in the evenings so we mostly did a whole bunch of nothing! We did eat at a pretty good restaurant that was right by the RV Park. We also visited Publix for the first time and we were pretty impressed. It’s pretty high up on our list of favorite grocery stores now 😂
As we continued to head further south into Florida the next campground we stopped at was a Thousand Trails park. We arrived at Campground Southern Palms in Eustis, FL on February 8. I have nothing significant to say about this park other than there were lots of old folks playing shuffle board all the time. We visited Wekiwa Springs State Park which was stunning. If you get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. We didn’t get a chance to swim as it was a little chilly but walking around the park was fun nonetheless.
On February 15, we made our way down to Ochoppee, FL. We got pushed into our first week of dry camping at Monument Lake Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve when we couldn’t find anywhere to stay on President’s Day weekend (of all holidays 🤷🏻♀️). For those who aren’t familiar with Big Cypress, it’s right in the middle of the Everglades about halfway between Miami and Naples. The campground is so quiet and peaceful. The lake was right out our front door and looked like the perfect place to cool off on a hot Florida day…. except for the gators lurking right along the shoreline 😱😱 This was our first experience with gators up close and in the wild. Some of them were just feet away! We definitely had to keep a close eye on the pups that week!
February 22 we were set to leave the everglades and head to Hollywood KOA for a few days when we found out the pull through site we booked was now going to be a back in site 🙄 This was a small, tight park and we had good reason for booking the pull through. I could rant and rave about how awful this place was (which is where my dislike of KOA’s probably comes from) but maybe I’ll save that for a whole separate post since there’s too much to dive into right now. Bottom line is: this is a terrible campground in a kind of sketchy area. Would not recommend! Luckily, our stay was only for 4 nights.
After 4 dreadful days at the worst KOA, we finally made our way down to the Keys for a week full of fun! We arrived at Fiesta Key RV Resort on February 26. One of the first things we did was make the trek out to Dry Tortugas National Park. Dry Tortugas is an island 70 miles west of Key West. It’s home to the historic Fort Jefferson, made up of 16 million bricks and surrounded by the moat wall.
Another place we recommend visiting is Theater of the Sea in Islamorada, FL. Theater of the Sea is home to sea lions, sea turtles, fish, sharks, stingrays, alligators, and birds. The neat thing about this park is that there is always a show taking place. You just head to the show that’s starting and then head from show to show. I got to play ring toss with a sea lion, which was probably our favorite show there. However, the highlight of our time at Theater of the Sea was getting to feed sea turtles! The endangered sea turtles at this facility are considered non releasable because of injuries, birth defects or buoyancy disorders. They are so adorable! We got to feed them and even scrub their back ☺️
The RV resort had a kayak launch so we got to take our kayaks out onto the ocean which was a first for us too! We even towed butters behind our the kayaks in an inflatable cooler holder One night after we had finished kayaking, we headed to the hot tub to relax. Another couple joined us and we all got to chatting. Kim and Jim were so fun to hang out with and they even ended up going down to Key West with us where we went out and did an all day water sports adventure. It was a blast! We got to jet ski, parasail, snorkel, ride a banana boat, play on the giant inflatables, and eat lunch all out in the ocean 🤩 This was such a fun day with our new friends and one we won’t soon forget!
On March 7, we left the Keys and headed to Miami. We stayed at yet another Thousand Trails Park, Miami Everglades RV Resort. At this point in the year, we were starting to hear more and more about the corona virus. We continued on business as usual. We visited Robert is Here Fruit Stand and got some amazing smoothies and bought some exotic fruit to try that we’d never even heard of before. Just down the street from the fruit stand is the Everglades Alligator Farm, where you can see gators in all stages of life- from babies all the way up to the big guys. They also offer air boat tours which we thought was so fun we went a second time 😂
All you plant lovers will appreciate this one… a succulent and cacti farm just 10 minutes from the RV park #winning. We got to Isaac Farms right when they opened on Friday morning (because they closed right when Philip got off work and he wasn’t about to leave me unattended in a succulent shop lol). There were rows and rows of never ending succulents and cacti. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven – it was just my kind of place 🙌🏼 I got a cactus and several succulents which I’m happy to say are still alive and thriving.
The next day, March 14, we headed to Clermont, FL to another Thousand Trails park (we really made good use of our membership this year 👍🏼). Orlando RV Resort is not actually in Orlando but just outside it. It’s only a 30 minute drive to the Magic Kingdom so we considered doing a couple days at Disney. But corona had other plans. This is when things started closing down left and right, toilet paper and hand sanitizer disappearing off the shelves. All the amenities at the RV park got shut down. There was literally nothing to do and nowhere to go. I think we maybe left the RV park once or twice that week only to go out to get gas and groceries.
March 21 we left Clermont and drove to DeFuniak Springs, FL. Right as we got parked into our site we heard a gushing of air coming from one of our tires 😱 We were just glad to have safely made it to our spot. Since the tires we had were just the ones that came stock on the RV, we decided it was time to just go ahead and upgrade them all.
Later that week I got a call from a campground we were supposed to be heading toward in Texas cancelling our reservation because of shelter in place orders. The panic inside me started to set in. To ease my anxiousness, Philip went and talked to the folks in the office to see if we would be able to extend our stay. They had one spot available and we decided to take it. This would mean replanning and configuring our whole route. It was worth it though to not have to worry about places cancelling on us and we could hunker down for a bit to see where things would go. Twin Lakes Camp Resort was such a perfect place to be “stuck”. The campground is situated between two lakes and had docks that over looked the water surrounding the park. It really is a peaceful park and the people who run it were so nice and accommodating. Bonus was that they did keep their pool open and we were usually the only ones there in the evenings after work.
We did encounter some not so fun weather during our stay here. Within 2 weeks we had 3 tornado warnings. Two of those were at 2 am and the other was while Philip was trying to work. Luckily all 3 times we were able to take shelter in the campground’s activity center and nothing touched down near the campground. We didn’t get out much during our month long stay, but got a few projects done around the RV 👍🏼 Finally our month was up and we felt comfortable enough to move on.
April 30, we finally left Florida after spending 3 months in the state. Philip’s dad had been working on getting electric and water setup in the area next to his house for us to stay at. During our stay in Tennessee, we worked on finishing a couple projects and also replaced the carpet on our slide out in the living room. During this week we had stakes out in the yard so the dogs could play. This ended up being a huge mistake. I first noticed something wrong when I saw a brown spot on my stomach that wasn’t there before…. upon further inspection I noticed it was a tick 😭 After I freaked out and made Philip pull it off with tweezers, we inspected the dogs for them as well and were horrified. By the end of the week, we had a whole bag filled with ticks 🥴 We’ve since switch the pups to tick collars that only have to be changed out every 8 months. This is awesome since we were bad about keeping up with the monthly tick treatments.
May 9, we headed to Memphis and spent the week hanging out with Philip’s brother’s family. It was awesome getting to hang out with our niece and nephews who we hadn’t had much chance to spend time with. We also got to visit their property and see the house they are working on renovating!
Park City, Kentucky was the next stop along our route. On May 16, we arrived to Diamond Caverns RV Resort located right inside Mammoth Cave National Park. The national park itself was open when we visited, however the cave was closed for tours while we were there (it has since reopened but space is limited!). It actually rained quite a bit while we were there, we did get one sunny evening of hiking in though! The struggles with our internet and cell service were real in this park. This was the first time we’ve really had issues with our service on the road (we were basically in a total black out zone).
Memorial Day weekend we headed up to Indianapolis, Indiana our home state! This weekend normally is buzzing with excitement for the Indy 500 but as with most things this year got rescheduled. This actually worked out in our favor a little bit since we were staying on the south side of the city at Lake Haven Retreat. My family lives north of Indy and Philip’s mom lives south. This RV park ended up being almost half way between the two. We got to see my parents and hang out with them a couple days and also see Philip’s mom and help her get a few things done that she needed help with. It was so nice getting to visit with our families, even if it was only for a couple days.
May 30, we left Indianapolis and headed east to Wilmington, OH (near Cincinnati). We had to take a round about way to get to our campground because of construction. Once we arrived, we checked in and were given a map to get to our site. What should have been an easy 5 minutes to get to our site and get setup soon turned into an hour because the sites weren’t clearly marked and the person who checked us in gave us the wrong directions to our site. We then had to get turned around so we were going the correct way through our pull through site. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but this was an older park that was very tight but had claimed on their website that they were big rig friendly. We had issues with several of the turns in this park with our 40 ft. fifth wheel and one of the employees even had to move pavers out of the way in order for us to make the turn into our site 😅 Once we finally got in a settled, we headed to the office to talk to a manager. We wanted to share our experience so that this wouldn’t happen to someone else too. The front office employee refused to get her manager and said she was outside and we could go talk to her. We walked out the door to a crazy looking lady drinking a beer 😳 We asked if she was the manager and when she said she was we explained what all we had just been though. She was very argumentative with us and never offered an apology to us. So long story short if you’re ever in the area and are looking for an RV park, avoid Beechwood Acres (especially if you have a larger rig).
So after that whole fiasco, we were feeling pretty hungry. We decided to go to Philip’s favorite place in Cincinnati – Skyline Chili! Cincinnati style chili is probably unlike any other chili you’ve had before. It almost tastes a little sweet and has a hint of cinnamon or nutmeg to it. I know, it sounds weird but trust me it’s good! Every time we’re up in the area, we always grab a few cans of it from the grocery store!
While we were in Wilmington, we also got to visit with our friends Drew & Libby and meet their lil guy, Cooper, for the first time. They got to come see our RV and have lunch and then we got to see their new house they were just moving into that week! It was so fun getting to hang out with friends we hadn’t seen in a couple years ☺️