-----> Plan your RV trip with our NEW State By State Guide To State And National Park Campgrounds. <-----

Monday, March 2, 2020

RV Road Tripping From FL To NM And Back

We bought our trailer about a year and a half ago when we realized that if we wanted to fulfill one of our retirement goals of visiting every National Park on the US mainland, traveling with some type of RV was the easiest way to accomplish it.  We have years of camping experience, in a tent, so we are very comfortable with the amenities of a campground which are way different from the amenities of a hotel. We had never had the experience of traveling with a trailer before, though, so this was something we had to figure out before we made our first trip to visit the parks.  You can read all about what we learned on the travels we made, before we were confident enough to make this month-long trip, by clicking on the links I added to the end of this post.

We started planning this trip because I really wanted to visit Texas and especially San Antonio.  We found out that we could visit three National Parks if we traveled a few hours west of San Antonio and could visit one more park, Hot Springs National Park, in Arkansas on our way back.  We planned for being on the road, plus stopping for gas and the bathroom, from 6-8 hours each traveling day. Some stops would be made just because we couldn't get to a destination in one trip.  We wanted to camp at state parks because they are less expensive than private campgrounds and also have more to offer in the way of hiking trails and natural surroundings. After mapping out our route, finding state parks closest to the major highways and reserving campsites, we were ready to go!

We started out from our Central Florida home where we have our trailer stored in a secure space, in a fenced-in lot, we rent from our community.  We pay, for the year, what it would cost to keep it in public storage for a month. So we planned our camping trip, and all trips, to start here. And we did plan every one of the 9 stops of our trip, meaning we were obligated to show up at a certain place at a certain time on a certain day.  Many people, like the couple we met at our San Antonio stop, who were on a one to two year road trip, are traveling a lot more freely than we did and decide as they travel, where and when they would like to stop for awhile. If they can't make it to their destination in a day or if the campgrounds in the area are all booked up, they park themselves at Walmart, Pilot and Love's gas stations and many other places that allow overnight parking.  For our first extended road trip, we were more comfortable booking all our accommodations beforehand. We may get a little more relaxed in the future. Possibly for the cross-country trip we are hoping to do.

Stop 1
Pensacola, Florida

Blackwater River State Park
Milton, Florida
(Read more about this campground here.)

Originally we planned for our first stop to be Chipley, FL.  We were very excited to see that we would pass by Pensacola on our way from Chipley to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and we could, possibly, finally meet the adorable granddaughter of one of my best friends, Heidi.  After talking to Mallory, Amelia's mom, and finding out that they would definitely be able to meet us as we passed by, we decided that if we drove another 1 1/2 hours we could stay over in Milton, Florida which was only a few minutes from Mallory, Roy and Amelia.  This would give us more time to spend with all of them!

Some of the highlights of our vacation was being able to meet and catch up with people we don't get to see very often.  We have not seen Mallory and Roy since their wedding and never met Amelia, who's almost 5. But, thanks to Mallory and Facebook, we have watched her grow up and when we did finally meet her, we didn't feel like we were meeting her for the first time.  She is a pip, like her Ommie said she was, but she is the sweetest pip we ever met!

Stop 2
Lake Charles, Louisiana

Sam Houston Jones State Park
Lake Charles, Louisiana
(Read more about this campground here.)

This was a stop we needed to make because we couldn't get all the way to San Antonio from Pensacola in one day.  We camped only 2 nights (we thought about only doing 1 night but it would have made the trip too hectic) on these quick stopovers compared to 3 nights when we reached a destination we wanted to explore.  Well, after we found out how much there was to do in this area, we were sorry that we didn't have more time.

What we did get to do was the Creole Nature Trail, but we did a shortened version of what we would have done if we had more time.  There were lots of trails to walk along. We only had time to do two. One we chose was the Wetland Walkway Trail that had this warning sign posted at the start of it.  Needless to say, I jumped at every little sound I heard on this 1 1/2 mile trail.

(You can read more about Lake Charles, Louisiana in an upcoming post.)
(You can read more about Lake Charles, Louisiana here.)

Stop 3
San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio/Alamo KOA Holiday
San Antonio, Texas
(Read about this campground here,)

Texas had been on our bucket list for a long time before we finally got here.  Especially San Antonio because of the Alamo and River Walk we heard so much about.  

We booked this KOA because of the bus that stopped right outside the campground.  We thought it would be more convenient to take public transportation into the city rather than try to find parking.  It, also, gave Soko a break from driving for a couple of days and it did turn out to work out really well for us.

We booked as soon as sites became available to reserve and it was a good thing because the campground booked quickly, as all accommodations in this area did, because of the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.  We hadn't planned to go to a rodeo but it sounded like this one was not to be missed so we bought tickets before we left for our road trip and we are so glad we did. We had a great time at our first rodeo!

(You can read more about San Antonio, Texas here.)

Stop 4
Big Bend National Park, Texas

Rio Grande Village RVPark
Big Bend National Park, Texas
(Read more about this campground here.)

This is the first National Park that we get to check off our list of "parks to visit when we retire." I must say that we loved this park and it is now at the #1 spot on our list, knocking Grand Canyon National Park down to #2.

We hiked on five amazing trails and watched the sunset, along with many other campers, on the overlook of one of them.  Each trail had it's own unique terrain, were beautiful and absolutely breathtaking. We saw sights we have never seen before and the wildlife we saw for the first time in our lives, were an added treat.

If, after we see every National Park on the US mainland, we have the time and energy to do it again, this park will be on the top of our list.  Our thought as of today, anyway, because I know we haven't been to the top-rated parks yet. This opinion could change. We can't wait to see if it does!

Grapevine Hills Trail
(You can read more about Big Bend National Park, Texas here.)

Stop 5
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Brantley Lake State Park
Carlsbad, New Mexico
(Read more about this campground here.)

When we were planning our road trip we were excited that Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and the nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park, was a doable trip if we were going as far as San Antonio.  I was happy that Soko would be able to explore the caverns because I imagined that they would be very interesting.  I was not going to have anything to do with going into the caverns, however, because I have very bad claustrophobia. I couldn't imagine traveling miles under the ground by elevator without having a panic attack.  

The closer we got to the day we would making the trip to the caverns, the more I wanted to see them for myself.  I thought that maybe if we took the Natural Trail in I could turn around at any point and exit the caverns. That was the plan until we talked to the park ranger who told us that there would be a point in the Natural Trail that would get closed in and dark but our other option, the elevator ride, only took a little over a minute. He told us that the caverns, 750 feet under the ground, were lit and were big open spaces with high ceilings.  I might be able to do this I thought. I am so glad I did. I just convinced myself that I was at Disney World in an attraction Walt thought up and not underground. It really did look man-made so it was easy to keep myself calm this way!

(You can read more about Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico and Guadalupe Mountains National Park,Texas here.)

Stop 6
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

Cedar Hill State Park
Cedar Hill, Texas
(Read more about this campground here.)

It was so fortunate for us to know people who live in this area.  Cristina, my sister's cute niece, who we have known all her life and Matt, her very friendly husband, were so helpful in giving us great ideas about what we could do, see and eat in Fort Worth.  We really appreciated getting suggestions from people who live or visited the places we were traveling to on this road trip.  Especially when it comes to places to eat.

We definitely knew we wanted to have authentic Texas barbeque while in Texas and the Lundy's were nice enough to join us at one of their favorite restaurants.  Heim Barbeque started out selling their delicious food from a truck and got so popular and busy that they had to open a restaurant, then eventually two restaurants.  

We met Cristina and Matt at the restaurant on Magnolia Street in Fort Worth.  The boys ordered the meats, sausage, brisket and pulled pork and me and Cristina ordered the brisket sandwich that came sliced or pulled and we chose pulled.  We had the Loaded Mac N' Cheese, Twice Baked Potato Salad and coleslaw as sides and shared Bacon Burnt Ends and Emma's Banana Pudding for dessert. I've been dreaming about having that banana pudding again ever since then!

(You can read more about Dallas/Fort Worth here.)

Stop 7
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Lake Catherine State Park
Hot Springs, Arkansas
(Read about this campground here.)

The picture I had in my head of Hot Springs National Park was not even close to what it actually looked like.  First of all, it was in the middle of the city, unlike any other National Park we had ever been too. And secondly, I thought we would see hot springs flowing all over the park but actually the park collects the water, 700,000 gallons a day, for use in the public drinking fountains and bathhouses.

This bathhouse, the Buckstaff, is the only one that has remained opened, since they started being built in 1877, when the others all closed down by 1985.  

(You can read more about Hot Springs, Arkansas here.)

Stop 8
Nashville, Tennessee 

Cedars of Lebanon State Park
Lebanon, Tennessee
(Read more about this campground here.)

The only real plans we had for our visit to Nashville was seeing the Grand Ole Opry and checking out Broadway, Nashville's honky-tonk strip.  So we asked local resident, and one of the nicest house guests we ever had stay in our home, what he thought we might want to see while we were in his neck of the woods.  Justin gave us a few suggestions and one was a favorite place of his dad's.

Marathon Village is made up of buildings once owned by Marathon Motor Works, and you can view old tools and machinery displayed in the halls.  Now they house work studios for a thriving creative community, spaces for events and is also filled with unique shops.

The shop we went to see was Antique Archaeology.  We love those guys from the show American Pickers and as we looked at their junk...I mean treasures, we could imagine how excited they were when they first saw this stuff in someone's shed or attic!  

(You can read more about Nashville, Tennessee here.)

Stop 9
Jackson, Georgia

High Falls State Park
Jackson, Georgia
(Read more about this campground in a post coming soon.)

Sadly we finally made it to our last stop, more than 3 1/2 weeks from when we started off.  We couldn't make it to Florida from Nashville in one trip so we found a park in between the two states.  We wound up here in Jackson, Georgia.  We thought it would be a good place to relax and didn't worry about trying to find something to do here but I did check because we wouldn't want to miss out on anything.  Good thing I did, because I found outlet shopping only 15 minutes away from the campground!

There is nothing like the feeling of freedom.  Jumping into the trailer and taking off for a month to explore America The Beautiful, made us feel truly carefree!  We are ready to pack our bags and do it again!!

You might like to read these posts before you hit the road!

This post was featured:

Pieced Pastimes


  1. Enjoyed seeing your pics, looks like you all had fun! Thanks so much for linking up with me at my #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 10, open March 1 to 26. All entries shared on social media if share buttons installed. I invite you to my Themed Linkup 12 for Crock Pot and Instant Pot Recipes, open February 28 to March 10 if you have any appropriate posts. Won’t you join me at my Short Story Prompt Party for fun and creativity? Open March 2 to 9. Just start typing, see what you come up with! Remember, no story is too short! The prompt is: I woke from a long nap to see…

  2. I enjoyed reading about your National Park visits and activities along the way. So exciting that you got to see a rodeo and visit the Antique Archeologist store! I'm visiting from Friday Features OMHG.

    1. It is such an adventure to experience new things, foods and places. We can't wait to make another trip soon!

  3. That sounds like a wonderful trip! Your goal to see all the National parks reminds me of a book I read called Dear Bob & Sue by Matt and Karen Smith. In it they chronical their journey to all the national parks as a series of letters they wrote to their friends Bob and Sue.

    1. I think that I will have to read that book!! Thanks for sharing that!

  4. We have just finished our stint at travelling around Australia. A torn knee saw me being housebound and we now have our fifth wheeler up for sale. We are hoping to get a small motor home without too many steps and go away for weekends now.

    1. I'm sorry about your knee but glad for you that you got to see all of Australia. We love our small motor home, I hope you will enjoy yours!

  5. My husband and I also want to visit all the national parks when we retire. Enjoying your posts and looking forward to seeing your photos of Big Bend. Patty from Kentucky

    1. I hope that you will find plenty of info at our blog to help you enjoy your national park adventure. Thank you so much for stopping by. Photos of Big Bend will be in a blog post coming soon!

  6. Loved reading your post on Suzanne's features this week on Pieced Pastimes. My husband & I traveled across country in 2016 and saw our first rodeo in Cody, WY. We hit several national parks, and loved UT's parks so much (Bryce and Arches, particularly) that we went back in 2019 and did all 5 of UT's parks. I have posts on my blog if you're interested. Life is Good and I love seeing how you're enjoying it.

    1. Thank you for sharing your blog info. I would love to see your posts on Bryce and Arches. I have friends that loved those parks as well. They must be beautiful. I can't wait to see for myself!