The Dream is Real

It’s happening! We were able to arrange for the rental of the small camper trailer that we wanted, and so our cross-country road-trip plans are go!

Of course, all this is subject to change as situations change – but we have backup plans. If heading out west as we originally planned isn’t possible (or safe), we may end up going somewhere closer – maybe just up north into the Adirondacks of NY, or maybe even up to Acadia National Park in Maine. Or, worst case, there’s plenty of parks right here in NJ. (Though our overall goal is to go somewhere new.)

Still, it’s exciting to think about. This sort of trip has been on my bucket list for ages – and although it’s not quite the full “around the entire country” trip I dreamed of, it’s pretty close.

We’ll be taking a teardrop style camper trailer – one of the bigger ones, a NuCamp T@B 320 CS-S with a wet bath (so, toilet & shower in one unit) and the hinged back with outdoor galley.

We’re planning on mainly staying at RV parks with full hookups for power, water, and sewer – no boondocking for us, I think. We’re not quite ready for that. Though I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of trying a night or two, if we find someplace.

Because of world circumstances, we are staying very flexible with our plans – we basically are going to “wing it” the whole way, with the exception of the one big National Park we’re planning on visiting. There are plenty of campsites and RV parks along the route we’ve chosen, so we’re reasonably confident that we can find someplace wherever we are.

For the first half (and more likely 2/3) of the trip, we’re basically just going to be trying to cover as much distance as possible – getting out of the Northeast and across the Midwest (I was born in the Midwest; I know what it’s like). Once we get to Colorado and the mountains, that’s where the real fun will begin!

I’ve only been among the Canadian Rockies before, and have spent almost no time in the Western states (aside from one trip I did down to the desert Southwest – to the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas). So the whole area is somewhat foreign to me – I’ve previously only seen it from the air as I flew over. But I’ve always been enamored of the landscapes of the West – perhaps because they are so different from the gentle rolling hills and forests of the East. But whatever the reason, I look forward to seeing them… and seeing them from my own car! Nothing quite brings home the vastness of the world as driving across it – and I am always eager for new perspectives.

Still, this trip is a ways off yet, so I will keep planning and preparing as I can, and hope for the best!

2019 Summer Road Trip

Who plans a summer road trip just to see a bridge? We do!

So, this past Memorial Day weekend my wife and I embarked on one of the longest road trips we’ve ever done – driving down the east coast to Cape May, NJ, and then along the shore to the Chesapeake Bay, over the bay and back up north via Richmond VA, Washington DC, Baltimore MD, and of course a large portion of the NJ Turnpike.

The idea for this road trip stretches back years and years – when my wife first heard of the “Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel” and decided she’d like to see it someday. So back in January of this year we decided that it was time to finally make this trip, and we started planning and booking hotels.

Eventually we settled on the long weekend of Memorial Day, plus an extra day for traveling (Friday – Monday). We’d drive down to Cape May NJ and explore the town a bit before catching the ferry over to Delaware, where we’d spent the night in Ocean City in Maryland before heading down a bit further to Chincoteauge in Virginia, and then finally onwards to the bridge/tunnel – with a final overnight in Richmond, Virginia, before the long drive back home.

The trip started a little bit late on Friday morning, mainly due to the fact that my wife had been in Ottowa, Canada, during the week and due to severe thunderstorms had been delayed there overnight Thursday – meaning I was picking her up at the airport very early that Friday morning, instead of early the prior Thursday evening as originally planned.

However, we got on the road and made good time down the Garden State Parkway to Cape May, where we stopped at a brewery (Cape May Brewing) for lunch & some very nice beer (with a suitable wait before heading out again).

Cape May ferry
A beautiful day for a ferry ride

Then it was the roughly 90 minute journey across the Delaware Bay via the Cape May ferry to, uh, well, Delaware! But we didn’t dwell long in Delaware, setting our sights on Ocean City Maryland, where our hotel awaited us.

Ocean City was a bit of a shock for the both of us – we’d never been anywhere like this, and we’re not used to this sort of tourist-focused area. “It’s like another world,” we kept saying to each other as we drove down the main road, past hotels, mini-golf courses, and other curiosities.

Nevertheless, we had a good nights sleep there and set out again the next morning to explore the barrier islands via the parks on Assateauge Island: Assateauge State Park and the Chincoteauge National Wildlife Refuge.

These islands were beautiful to explore – though I wish there weren’t so many people there (and that I’d had the right equipment on hand to qualify for driving on the beach) and we had a few very nice walks (and one not-so-nice walk that took us through the woods that were filled with mosquitoes after we’d mistakenly decided to forego bug spray). We even saw the famous wild horses (or ponies) of the island – though I didn’t stop to take their photos, as there were too many other people around.

Sunset over the bay
Sunset over the bay

One stop we did make along the way was at Wallops Island – because I, as a huge space nerd, couldn’t help but stop at the NASA installations on Wallops Island.

We spent the night at Chincoteauge before pushing on to the main event: the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel.

It was at this point along the road trip that my car, the Keithombile-E, really hit its stride as far as fuel efficiency was concerned, topping out at 41 MPG – a remarkable feat for an angular SUV that weighs nearly 4,500 pounds! That little 2.1 liter twin-turbo diesel can really sip fuel when on flat roads with almost no stopping. (In case you can’t tell, I was very proud of this achievement!)

We only got a photo while it was at 40.6; it hit 41 MPG shortly after.

Finally though, at long last, we approached our goal: the bridge. We’d known that it was going to be big, but we were not quite prepared for just how big it was. We had already decided we’d cross the bridge 3 times: once going up, then back, and then across one last time. The first crossing was done almost entirely in silence as we took in the experience: over the first span, then on to the artificial island in the middle of the enormous Chesapeake Bay, the into the tunnel, then back onto the bridge again, then another artificial island and tunnel combo, and then the final span.

Selfie just before the start of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel

What a marvel of engineering! It’s a shame that the islands are closed at the moment (they are adding a second tunnel in each direction) – because apparently there was a restaurant you could stop at on them, and I wish we could’ve done that – it would’ve been very cool!

After our first round-trip over the bridge we stopped off at Cape Charles to visit another brewery (and completing the “cape-to-cape” portion of our trip).

Cape Charles Brewing Co. Beer
This brewery had some very good beers!
Oversized cans of beer from Cape Charles brewing
The beer was so good that we bought a few cans to take home with us. And did I mention the cans are HUGE?

We filmed our final crossing (my wife did all the picture-taking and filming since I was driving), and then it was onwards to Richmond for our final stay of the trip.

Although the hotel we stayed at in Richmond had a fancy roof-top bar, we didn’t make much use of it – we were both very tired by the end of the day and so we went to bed rather early.

We got up early the next day and started out on the long push for home – roughly 5 hours straight from Richmond, VA up to Morristown, NJ. With the holiday weekend ending we didn’t want to delay for too long lest we encounter bad traffic – which we had thus far mercifully avoided.

Once again, my faithful Keithmobile performed admirably, making the trip home an easy one. We only had to stop once – and that was for me, not for the car! We arrived home safe & sound (and relatively early in the day – about 12:45pm), and that was the end of our epic roadtrip!

Final MPG: 38.1
Final MPG for the second half of the trip: 38.1 MPG. Not too shabby!

All in all it was a great trip – we hit very little in the way of traffic, we got to see a lot of neat places, and we were comfortable the entire way. We were glad to be home, but we were just as glad we did this trip. Now given the success of this trip, who knows… maybe another road trip will be in our future? We’ll see!

Traveling around the Southeast

Not as photogenic as the southwest, but still pretty fun!

I recently did a little bit of traveling around the southeast US – namely, Florida and Louisiana – and of course I took a whole bunch of photos while I was there.

You can view the whole collection here, but here’s the short version:

mother alligator

baby alligator closeup

I went to Florida and saw some alligators, both big and small.

the everglades

I saw the Everglades.

view of the 7-mile bridge

I drove across a LOT of long (and short) bridges.

keith and the southernmost point marker in key west

I stood at the (almost) southernmost point in the continental United States.

bourbon street lit up at night

Then I jumped over to New Orleans and experienced Bourbon Street in the French Quarter at night.

steamer natchez (side)

Then I took a steamboat ride on the only remaining truly steam-powered passenger paddle steamer left on the Mississippi River.

sunset aboard the natchez - port side, looking aft

sunset and the city of new orleans

Did I mention the steamboat ride was a leisurely 2-hour cruise at sunset?

wall of graves

Then I saw a neat cemetery.

st charles tram

And rode on an old tram train.

houmas house from the front

Before finally visiting some beautiful old plantations…

bocage plantation at dusk

…VERY beautiful plantations…

having some light snacks at bocage plantation

…one of which we stayed in overnight!

amanda in the red room in the morning

As you can imagine, it was a very fun trip and we saw a lot of neat things and places. If you’d like to see more pictures (along with comments about what I was doing at the time), feel free to check out the full collection over on Flickr.

Traveling around the Southwest

Vacation pictures from a trip around the Southwest US.

I recently took a little vacation to the Southwest US, and of course I used this opportunity to take lots and lots of pictures.

You can view the full collection of photos here, but be warned – there are a lot of photos. If you’d rather not spend all day looking at all those photos (and keep in mind, those are just the GOOD ones – I actually took a lot more than that; it took me nearly 3 days to sort through them all) then here are some highlights:

our plane for the ride to the bar 10 ranch from las vegas

I flew on a very small plane.

keith gets ready to shoot-1

Did a little skeet shooting at a ranch.

keith and helicopter

Took a helicopter ride…

into the grand canyon by helicopter

…down into the Grand Canyon.

getting the raft ready for our first day on the river

Got on a raft.

shooting some rapids

Went through some rapids.

my wet foot

Got soaked.

keith's adventuring pose on the raft on day 2

Did some adventuring.

my bed

Camped out.

beautiful clear blue skies and gold canyon walls on the 3rd day

Saw the Grand Canyon from the bottom.

keith at the hoover dam (nevada side)

Saw the Hoover Dam.

flower snail

Spent some time in that crazy place known as Las Vegas.

keith the adventurer

Did some more adventuring in canyons (different ones this time).

sunrise with filter

Saw the sun rise from 8000 feet above sea level.

keith does his adventurer pose at zion national park

Did lots of hiking.

the virgin river in the zion narrows

Did some hiking through some very narrow places.

grand canyon panorama 1

Saw the Grand Canyon (from the top this time).

grand canyon rim at sunset

Both at sunset…

the sun rises over the rim of the grand canyon

…and at sunrise.

All in all, a fun trip. And a great chance for me to really use my camera and try and take some interesting photos (different from the photos I usually get to take around home).

The full collection of photos is available (and nicely organized) over on Flickr, if you care to look.

Road Trip!

I’m going to be away for the next week, taking a whirlwind road-trip tour of New England with some people who’ve never been here before (hint: they’re from Australia!). Should be fun!

I’ll also probably have lots to say about the rental car we’re using to lug ourselves around in… but for now, it’s a secret!

I’ll be back Saturday October 11th, so hang in there!