Exactly a year ago today we set off on our first ever road trip. The nostalgia is hitting hard – mostly because we still haven’t looked at all of the pictures. Between his phone, my ipod, and an actual camera we had many pictures from three devices spread out over all of our computers. So we’ve got them all together and wanted to talk about our first (and maybe best) road trip.
Yes we’re still in Spain but this is our travel blog (you know, not just Spain) and we wanted to post about our big trip from last year.
We’re going to divide it by region to talk more in depth. We’ll link to places we went because we want this to be not only a trip of nostalgia but recommendations to anyone planning a road trip along the I-20. We called it our “Down South” or “April Trip” as we had never been in the south and figured April was a great time to beat the crowds and the heat (we were mostly correct about this).
States Seen: 8
This was a trip across Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia – then back again.
National Parks Visited: 14
- White Sands (NM)
- Fort Davis (TX)
- Big Bend (TX)
- Jean Lafitte French Quarter Visitor’s Center (LA)
- Chalmette Battlefield (LA)
- Fort Pickens/Gulf Islands National Seashore (FL)
- Big Cyprus (FL)
- Castillo de San Marcos (FL)
- Andersonville (GA)
- Horseshoe Bend (AL)
- Vicksburg (MS)
- Carlsbad Caverns (NM)
- Pecos (NM)
- Chaco Canyon (NM)
- Fort Hanock, Texas (sorry Texas) – why? Pathetic border crossing
- Uvalde, Texas (we’re SORRY Texas!) why? “honey capital of the world” are there fat happy honey bees buzzing around? No there are just chain restaurants, big box stores and a double-wide drive through for Whataburger.
- The Alamo (again, Texas, we’re so sorry) Why? We just don’t get it. You stand in line forever, all the tourists are breaking the rules of being quiet and respectful. But they have a forced photo session before being ushered in to what is mostly a gift shop. For something that is supposed to be hallowed ground this was a kitchy Disneyworld thing. Again. We’re sorry. Never forget.
- San Antonio River Walk – (last one, Texas, we swear) we don’t hate this place but we don’t get how much everyone loves it. It’s just a restaurant district. Once you’ve eaten there is no purpose in being here. Again we’re sorry Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas and thus you have a statistically higher chance of having more overrated places.
- Bourbon Street, New Orleans– There are all these scammers obsessed with shoes “betcha I kno’ wha’ you go’ dem’ shoes” or spraying foam and crap on your shoes so they can clean them and force you to pay. Then it’s just drinking and debauchery. Which, yeah, is the point -but that doesn’t make it fun unless you’re smashed. And if you’re completely smashed you’re probably going to get scammed with your shoes. It’s an endless cycle that you can’t win. Introvert tip: just get smashed in your hotel.
- Florida’s Manatees (well Florida’s Advertising)– pretty much every brochure has manatees on it. This is fine. But nowhere does it say that manatees are only present in Florida for like a month. You can’t advertise something so heavily and then not say mention that huge detail. When we casually asked a guy at a Manatee Freaking Preserve he got angry with us and lectured us for 15 minutes about the fact that “I don’t know if you know this, but animals migrate” so “we shouldn’t expect the manatees to be here. Come back in December.” It’s a bait and switch. Come for the manatees, get lectured, and get shamed into seeing an ancient archaeological site since you’re here.
- Nature Botanical Preserve (Florida Keys) Supposed to be a “hike” or at least a nature walk. The mosquitoes were thicker than a bowl of oatmeal and we literally had to run away from the place. Also there were people leaf blowing the “hiking trail” so any nature was lost to that (both sound and natural ground cover)
- Terlingua, Texas/Big Bend National Park. Why? Gorgeous desert. If you think desert is just dunes and cacti prepare to be surprised. Also a no nonsense national park that is still nature. People die here every year- no matter how much national parks try to protect you Big Bend likes to remind you that nature is still nature.
- Fort Davis, Texas – one of my favorite NPS sites. Huge, took us hours to explore. Tons of details and tons of exhibits. Fort Davis is also just a nice, quiet, small town
- Anahuac, Texas (see, Texas, we aren’t shitting on you. We like parts of you). This place was full of characters. We loved all the encounters we had with people here. It was truly the south. Also, there isn’t much to do but we found fun just walking around the town and looking at the signs/parks.
- Creole Nature Trail (Louisiana) From the moment we started at the Welcome Center to the moment we finished we loved this drive. It’s a beautiful drive, the center is interesting, the alligators are plentiful (and peaceful). We loved the little nature walks and shell hunting.
- Avery Island/Tabasco Factory Of all the food and factory tours we went on this was the best. They let you go at your own speed and look at everything. The museum was really concise and they start at the very beginning (like growing the pepper). It goes through the whole process. Plus the on site restaurant is worth it. The free samples are also fantastic.
- Santa Rosa Island/Fort Pickens – we loved the history of this place. It has seen most of America’s wars – the War of 1812, Civil War, “Indian Wars” (Geronimo was imprisoned here for a while), World War 1, and World War 2. Most of it is walk able and completely explore-able. If you get tired of the historical sights and museums you can just jump in the ocean right there.
- Scout Key (Florida Keys) this was a secret snorkeling place (or diving if you want to see an underwater ambulance. Don’t ask). A local recommended it and it was fantastic. Saw barracuda, urchins galore, parrot fish, and others.
- Le Bleu’s Landing (Sulphur, LA) Recommended as a local joint- this place was banging. We were the only people there from out of state (and probably county) we couldn’t pronounce half the things on the menu but they treated us right and figured out what the hell a “boo-deen” is (bu-dan apparently is how you say it)
- Casey’s Cove Convenience Store (near Steinhatchee, FL) Down home country food in a super folksy environment. This is a local greasy spoon in a gas station. The anti-Obama stickers adorning the sign just make this place so much more colorful. Hamburgers are awesome, service great. Hella.
- Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory (Key Largo, FL) Went here twice, once on our way into the Keys and once on the way out. Didn’t know you could even put chocolate on key lime pie but… you can. And should. Cute little sitting area in the back. Good coffee.
- El Meson de Pepe (Key West, FL) Cuban food served for Americans (as opposed to below). Cool old-timy signs, waitresses dressing the part, chickens running around at your feet. Got a couple sample platters to try everything and everything was good.
- La Nina Cuban Market/Restaurant (Marathon, Florida Keys) There were no signs in English and they spoke no English. Got cuban sandwiches and some random pastries we pointed at (turned out to be a guava empanada). Awesome.
Notable Food (American food yaaaaasssss)
The south is where it’s at for food
- Cinnamon Horchata Blue Moon Beer (not strictly southern food but this was a staple on the trip)
- Purple Haze Beer by Abita -local beer from Louisiana made with raspberries. Loved the label art of all the other selections. The Purple haze looked like the bad guy from the Princess and the Frog
- Deep Fried Pickles
- Sweet Tea
- Tex-Mex food (so. much. cheese. Yes.)
- Boudin – didn’t know what this was. Couldn’t even pronounce it correctly. Turns out its a Cajun sausage ball
- Deep fried okra (honestly pickled okra is better, still happy we tried it)
- Chicken and Waffles
- Alligator sausage (made from alligator tail)
- Gumbo. Obviously.
- Cafe Du Mond cafe au lait and a beignet. Can’t beat a classic from the classic restaurant.
Notable RV Parks/Camping Spots
- Palmetto Island State Park (Louisiana) – all the google images show massive snakes but we didn’t see any. We did see alligators, though. Interconnected ponds with a kayak “trail” (wish we had had a kayak). Nice showers, a great book exchange. Saw our first armadillo and drifted off to sleep listening to boars rustling around next to our truck.
- Fort Pickens (Florida) – good enough facilities but it was so nice to park and just take a walk. We had no idea all the historical sights that were nearby. It was really fun to walk a few minutes from the truck and be standing on some World War Two artillery battery. Walk across the street for the beach. Walk a few miles and you’re at Civil War stuff.
- Long Key State Park – holy crap. The most beautiful place we’ve ever stayed. Unfortunately if you want to do anything the water is boiling hot (because its so shallow) and with a fear of urchins you have to wear shoes. Also snakes. But we still recommend it because it’s really nice and super pretty. Everyone gets a waterfront view and that’s great.