New Mexico

We hoped to get as close to the border as we could.  As we drove on the Texas heat started to fade away and we came to the reality that although we ran away from winter didn’t mean it was gone.  The more north we drove the chillier it got.  We couldn’t have been luckier to find our camping spot for the night.  On Free Camp Sites website I saw there was a free RV park with hookups in Littlefield, Texas.  The Waylon Jennings RV park is a little Oasis before you leave.  A donation by the city in memory of Waylon Jennings offers a week free of camping with full hookups and then after that just ask for a suggested donation.  Being that we are huge country music fans we were excited about so many reasons.  We didn’t have time the next morning to stop to see the Waylon museum but don’t think we didn’t stop for some photos and to pay our respects.  
We crossed over to New Mexico very soon after leaving Littlefield, that’s how close to the boarder it is.  We knew we wanted to head to the Santa Fe area and had some ideas on what we could see but nothing was set in stone yet.  
We got in just before evening and took the camper into town.  The small and narrow streets of downtown Santa Fe are not caper friendly so I would recommend unhitching but Santa Fe its self-was very friendly.  We made friends with store owners and they let us and Hank come in to check out their wears.  We had a found a Harvest Host spot for the night an Alpaca Farm called _____ just a few miles outside of Santa Fe.  The owner an amazing older man showed us around the farm and told us if we wanted to check out Santa Fe that we were free to unhitch the next day and stay one more night.   That was a lovely surprise and made our exploring so much easier.  The next morning we set off early camperless and free to drive those crazy roads around the Southwest.  We decided to take the high road to Taos and then hit the Low road on the way back.  A crisp but sunny morning made for the perfect day of exploring old churches, Hotsprings, and small towns along the road.  Google maps not always a friend to travelers set us on a rocky road but then the defeat of not being able to cross lead us to an amazing hot springs at the bottom of the hill.  There we found some folks already enjoying the hot springs.  A young couple with a dog just like us.  And as we started to talk to them we found out we had so much more in common.  They like us had sold everything they own and packed up their dog in a van to explore.  Foxy the van is their name so look them up and say hello.  

There is always to much to see and never enough time. Especially in our jaunt across the west to our new job in Northern California.  We had to make some deep cuts to our must see if the list.  And serious FOMO was inventing us both haha.
A must see for anyway coming to Santa Fe though is Meow Wolf.  We had heard stories about this tripped out paradise and we had to see what the hubbub was about.  
We had a stressful afternoon so this place is just what we needed to take us out of our heads.
Ok, how do I describe Meow Wolf.  Here is what I know (some of this is subject to word of mouth so…) What I heard is that one of the guys who started the show Game of Thrones bought this huge building and gave it to an art collective and said you have a lease for 10 years do what you want with it.  So a group of artist got together and built this tripped out paradise.  You walk in to what seems like a hip museum.  Then you go in through a door and are transported to a house.  With a kitchen and bedrooms and normal everyday stuff. But behind ever door even the fridge you are transported to a different dimension.  Take a look at our Facebook here for a view.   This place is amazing for all ages and is worth every penny.

As we headed back to the Alpaca farm we came across this guy we had seen riding horseback around Santa Fe.  We had to stop and get the load down of this man of mystery.  
On a beautiful horse sat this bearded man and two amazing little pups off leash just trailing behind.  And here is the skinny.  His name John Wayne, for real.  Originally from Michigan, one year he got on his horse and rode it all the way to Santa Fe and settled some roots in New Mexico. And every year he does an annual ride with his furry little friends to commemorate his journey.  We felt so very lucky to have caught him on this day, on his annual ride.  

You might say no way did all this happen in little old Santa Fe but I think it’s a great snippet of what this Southwest town has to offer.  Great food, amazing history and some crazy tripped out arty folks that make everything alright.

Short but sweet was our time in New Mexico but magical it was for sure.
We left early the next morning for Mexican Hat Utah pumped to see what the rest of the West had for us.

Fresno, California

We made our way into California with ease.  We had a goal of the coast, to the place where Jerimiah grew up.  We had just enough time to get the hometown tour before we had to be at our new jobs in Northern California.  

California however is very large and takes such a long time to get to the coast.  We were so lucky to have a friend along the way.  With a shower, hot food and cold beer. 

We met our buddy Jim through his son.  A Vagabond who had made his way to Chicago on a Sportster Motorcycle.  Jermiah and I had many years of riding next to Jim, Partying with Jim and Hosting him at our Chicago Apartment.  A Friend who had become family quickly over the years.

The trip was quick but we got all the essentials in. The next day we woke early and haded for Pacific Grove the Home of my love Jerimiah.

 

Zion National Park, Utah

We had been gifted an Annual National Park Pass and wanted to take advantage of it every chance we got.  Sion was about 4-5 hours away and we heard it was clear of snow so we wanted to try our best to see as much of it as we could.  We needed to be in California soon but we could at least spend the day there.  We made it there mid morning, it was sunny but not too hot or cold.  National Parks do not allow animals which is very sad but they Zion does have a small area you can hike with them next to the parking area.  So after Hank got a good sniff of the land and stretched his legs we prepared the camper for his daily nap and headed to find something that was hideable for us.  We are not hikers at all.  Although I love yoga I have the endurance of a snail and Jerimiah has years of skateboard injuries that makes his knees sore and achy.  We did our best to find a trail that was up to our level.  We picked Hidden Canyon.  

I admit I was the worst hiker ever.  I complained the whole time, asking every hiker if it was worth it.  Is the view that great? Is it any different then where I currently was standing?

There was narrow passages, chains to hold has you climb sandy "walk ways".  Jerimiah supported me and said if I wanted to quit we could.  I was to stubborn to give up.  There was a women with a new born baby hiking by us.  If I gave up and she continued I would hate myself.  Every stranger was so supportive.  "You can do it, just a little bit further".  " The view is amazing, you need to keep going".  

Looking back at the photos now I start tearing up.  I am so glad we didn't quit.  I am so glad we hiked to the top and did it together.  There was no "end" the trail kept going and going but once we got to the top we felt fairly satisfied we had seen everything we could. 

We got down the trail in the nick of time.  Storm clouds loomed around the Mountains and the top was nowhere we wanted to be.

Now, this next part we could have planned a little more.  We were in Zion and we wanted desperately to get to Vegas.  We wanted to be in California as quickly as we could be.  

We had found a campsite that was free and set our sites on that. Well, to make a long story short we somehow got lost on a Mountain outside of Vegas and drove straight into a snowstorm on said mountain.  Pitch black on a mountain in a snowstorm at midnight after driving is nowhere you want to be.  Thankfully Jerimiah is an amazing driver and got us off that Mountian without any problems.  We found a Walmart parking lot and made camp for the night.

 

 

Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe bend and Powell Lake - Arizona

When you venture to the West it's not often you're super close to other attractions you want to see without driving 5 plus hours, so when you are you have to take full advantage.  Mexican Hat, UT is only about 2.5 hours from Antelope Canyon so we dipped down into the North part of Arizona to check it out.  We did very little research so we were a little bummed when we pulled into the Upper part of the canyon and realized it was too expensive for our budget.  But apparently there is a North tour and a Lower tour of the canyon and the South tour was in our budget only costing $25/person.  You have to take guided tours now because the canyon can flood very quickly without warning and had injured a tourist in the past.  I didn't mind getting a tour though it helped to know what we were looking at.  It was breathtaking to be emersed in the earth, to see how millions of years had formed around us.  We learned the history, the heritage of the culture and the people who once had free range of the canyons.  We highly recommend checking it out.

While in Arizona we decided to drive about 11 miles to the West to see Horseshoe Bend.  A small meander of the Colorado river is the most epic natural beauty I have ever seen.  I had never had nature made me feel so small.  You park and walk just over a mile to see this emerald river curver around sandstone.  The colors and the feel you experience here are like no other.  No photo could ever capture how it makes you feel.

It was still a Chilly spring up North and we heard we might run into snow and we had little to no cell reception to look up the weather. We thought it best to stay the night by Powell Lake.  We found a state campground at Lone Rock and made camp for the night.  Surprisingly there were quite a few campers and we, of course, made the craziest campground friend, even hank made a puppy buddy for the night.  We spent the night keeping dry under our neighbor awning in exchange for the warmth of his rig we brought out our record player for some entertainment.  We spent the night listening to tunes and sharing travel stories till it was time to rest for the next day's adventure.

 

 

Mexican Hat, Utah

Heading West we were soon finding out Winter hadn't shed itself just yet. We were totally spoiled being snow birds for the winter and had a harsh reality as we hit those desert winds.  The drive to Mexican hat was barren and depressing mixed with striking beauty.  We would be in the middle of nowhere when we would look over and see the most beautiful pack of wild horses.  The trip is about 340 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Mexican Hat, Utah.  In a car that is 5 hours but with a trailer its about 6-7 hours.  We made some stops at some antique shops to stretch our legs and found some sweet lil gems.  We got into Mexican Hat just as dusk was hitting.  We had a found and off the grid spot in Valley of the Gods and wanted to get set up before it got to dark.  We had to have a quick beer first at the Swinging Steak, one of the only restaurants for miles and places Jerimiah had stayed at years back on a bike trip across the country.  As we pulled into Valley of the Gods I couldn't have been more nervous and excited.  Like many off-grid places, it is free, barren and you have to be so many feet from the road.  So we took the Frolic deep into the desert and found a spot that seemed just perfect for us.  The colors of the desert never impressed me to know.  The dusk sun had played so many blues and reds all around us.  We walked around and around and there was no one in site.  After dinner, we got bundled up outside to drink a couple beers and look at more stars than I had ever seen.  
We all were getting a little cold so we cuddled up in the Frolic to go to sleep.  Right as we were sound asleep Hank did his job as a guard dog.  His low growl woke us up and we all sat up listening to the footsteps outside the camper.  What could it be?  We were the only ones out there, or we thought.  Jermiah and Hank did some investigating but in the pitch, black nothing was to be seen and still is a mystery to us now. 
The next morning we woke up and made some breakfast and I got out my yoga mat.  As I stretched and inhaled that cold desert air that was so pure I felt alive.  It was so beautiful and so quiet it was deafening.  I had never been somewhere so quiet.  
We hadn't unhitched so packing up went pretty quick. We decided to take the other way out since we saw The Valley of the Gods road made a horseshoe and got us back to the road.  However what we didn't see were the crazy gravel turns and dips it made.  But once again Jerimiah proved to me he can drive the crap out of that Van and Camper.  He zipped around the curves with no fear and soon we were on the road headed to Antelope Canyon in Arizona. 

Saying Goodbye to Texas

Leaving Texas takes forever.  To decide your path away from Austin you need to think about what you want to see and how long you have.  
We had been offered a job in Northern California and had just about two weeks to see as much as the Southwest before we needed to start work. We made a list of the things we could see the people and places we could stay at and look at our map.  Before we left Austin we met an amazing florist.  Not your average florist, fully tattooed bearded man who can create such beauty with just a few items in nature was our biggest help.  He sat us down with a map and drew out a great path for us, a route he took with his family many times.
We would go out through Lubbock and then hit Northern New Mexico, Utah, Arizona a lil Nevada and then to California.  
Serious FOMO set in, so much and so many things to miss.  But like we knew from being on the road so long we can always come back, we can always return.  
The day we left Austin was warm and beautiful.  Everyone was still sleepy from the Little Darlin opening the night before.  And we were still on a high from such an amazing night.  We were able to work helping them with opening night and that meant we had a little money to get us to the next spot and we were able to spend our last night surrounded with amazing new friends we were very sad to leave.  

Austin, Texas

Before we came into the city I got a little Texas surprise.  My friend Poala and her guy and our favorite Uncle Jill Becker came to do a little camping with us outside of Spicewood.  Travis lake has some amazing spots to camp at and even though it was rainy and we couldn't swim we had a great time in front of the campfire chatting away the night.  Even cozyed up in the camper to watch a movie when the rain hit. 

After that we headed into the city.  We had been offered a great spot from our friends Mimi and Brian by their new bar Little Darlin.  We offered our hands to help them build out their new restaurant bar for a place to park the Frolic.  

We spent the next week or so staining chairs and building horse shoe pits and helping anyway we could.  Benefit we were able to hang with some of our Texas nearest and dearest and enjoy a little bit more of the city.

I had a great friend Patrick from Chicago I wanted to see.  He has the sweetest little family and I was very excited to spend some time with them.  We had a nice little Texas family that grew a little every day.  Whether it were a afternoon at the Yellow jacket with or a night at some honky tonks drinking cheap beer and making friends with old timers.

But as many things with this trip we have to leave for the next opportunity.  Jerimiahs sister had found some work for us in Norther California and it was to good to pass up.  So after Little Darlin was to open we were gonna hit the road for the West.

The next few days we spent planning out journey out West and just what we could see and helping get this new place up and running for our friends.

We were so honored to be asked to help out opening night of Little Darlin and man I have to say it was good to be behind a bar again.  And I will say having some work before we left was just what we needed.  

I couldn't have asked for a better Texas send off then to be surrounded by such amazing people.

We miss you dearly Texas and we will be back to see you real soon.

For all who check out Austin please check out our friends at Little Darlin, and tell them Stef and jermiah sent ya.

Spicewood, Texas

Leaving Louisiana was harder than we thought it would be.

We had fallen for that Cajun life and would have loved for the time to explore more.  We however had a date with Willie.  That is right we had tickets to see good ol’ Willie Nelson for Jerimiahs birthday and that was not something we wanted to miss.

 We had arranged to stay with our friends Dan and Felice outside of Austin in Spicewood, Texas out there in the hill country.  So we had a drive ahead of us.

We crossed the border into Texas on 10 and pulled into the first rest area we saw.  It was time to stretch and find a restroom.  Also for us camper folk you have one more item on that check list.  Open the camper and make sure everything is as it should be.  This time as I opened the door I knew nothing was where it should be.  It was a freaking yard sale.  The bottom of the cabinet above our dinette had busted out and everything that lived there was well everywhere. 

There was no way I could pick it all up and pretend it was fine by the time Jerimiah got back.  As I saw him approach I tried to ease him into what had happened.  And after a few choice words we just laughed to started to pick up and repair the mess.  For its as our friend D’Wayne says ‘After I pitch a fit, I still have to fix the shit’.  No use to getting upset cause when you’re on the road you just really don’t have time for it. 

We had found a Harvest Host spot on a vineyard as close as we could get to Spicewood and got in just as night fell on the Texas sky.  We knew when we arrived at the vineyard there was a wedding doing on so we found a spot far from the house and set up to have a beer and listen to the music from the party.  It was pitch black and we couldn’t see what we were parked next to but we could should hear it.  Our neighbors were a talkative bunch and Hank wasn’t having it.

Although we couldn’t see it we knew we had parked next to the Texas Cattle Ranch and by the sounds of it they were right on top of us.

The next morning even though the night had broken we still couldn’t see a thing.  The fog was so thick it looked like the set of a scary movie.  We could still hear our friends next door but it was hours till we could see them or see well enough to drive on out of there.

We were just a couple hours from Spicewood and luck for us the traffic around Austin was nothing to worry about.  We got in early afternoon to our friend’s ranch.  As we drove down the road to their house I could see their adorable little ones jumping up and down excited to see us. 

We found a lovely little piece of land on the back of their property for the Frolic and got out to meet all that lived there.  Not only did we have to adorable littles Fiona and Calvin but we had Two donkies Themal and Louise, Two pups, two kittens, two goats and a handful of chickens.

Hank couldn’t have been more excited.  The property was all fenced in so we let him out to explore.  We hadn’t ever seen him so happy, ears flopping in the wind as he ran with free range to just go anywhere. Dan and Felice are old friends and it was so nice to be able to spend some time with them again. And we are forever thankful for them and their kindness of opening their home to us.The next month went by so fast. 

I had found some work on a food truck in Austin for SXSW.  Just another wonderfully odd job to add to our ever growing list.  I had worked in the food industry for years but never on a food truck so I was excited.  DFG Noodles (Damn Fin Good) and that they were.  The owner was so impressive with her amazing food and running her own business.  If you are in Austin find them downtown or at any fest you will be so very happy you did.  Jerimiah had started to work with Dan in his Motorcycle shop and was in heaven.  Not only did he get to be around bikes all day but spend time with a friend he hadn’t seen in years.  They now have a store front in Spicewood so check them out here at DC-Choppers.

We fell hard for Hill Country.  Not only is it beautiful but the people are so kind.  It was a place we put in our top three places we would like to call home.  We took many drives to Luckenbach. Texas.  A small Texas town famous for its country hit had our hearts even before we got there.  So small we almost missed it, in fact we drove right past it first time there.  But every time we went it didn’t seem that small.  The characters that gather there, the music that is played there are all bigger than life its self. 

We took full advantage of our part time Spicewood residence and got to go to Willie’s house for Easter, only something locals get to do.  We went to Poodies (willie’s old managers bar) on the regular.  We enjoyed the swimming holes the hiking the winding roads, we loved it all.We were very close to Austin and some amazing friends we hadn’t seen in a long long time.

As I write about it now I miss it so very much, I miss those people so very much.I miss hearing the kids laugh as we ran and let Hank chase us, I miss having wine with Felice on your beautiful porch and cooking with her.  I miss giving Dan tons of hugs I know he hates.  I miss Austin and all honky tonks.  I miss uncle Jill, Patrick and his amazing family, I miss Little Darlin and every amazing person that became our fast group of friends.

We stayed in Spicewood throughout March and when April came we knew had to push on.  We got an amazing offer from our friends in Austin to stay on their property and help them open a new bar in South Austin. 

 

We packed up the Frolic and although not far we headed into Austin for a couple more weeks of that Texan life.  Again we are so very thankful for Felice and Dan, Fiona and Calivn.  We hope to one day offer you the same kindness you all offered us, we miss you guys so very very much. 

Lake Arthur, Louisiana.

It's an amazing feeling when we meet a family who resembles what you grew up with.  Unconditional love and an open door policy is something I know well and hope I always give to those I know. The Sonnier Family from Lake Arthur, Louisiana opened their home to us on the word of their son Byron who we knew from Birmingham.  We were on our way to Texas and had just left Baton Rouge so Lake Arthur was a perfect half way point.  We got into town late afternoon and the sun was setting on the Bayou.  Very quickly we realized this was a part of Louisiana we had not seen yet. Lake Arthur is set is Southwest Louisiana and is way more Cajun than the East side.  The Sonnier Family instantly was ready to show us the real Louisiana.  They brought us to a traditional Cajun spot called D.I.'s.  Now when I say traditional I am not just talking about crawfish I am talking about a straight up Cajun band, who sang in french and had a stand-up bass and fiddle.  We sat at a giant table with more food than I could imagine eating, watching local couples dance.  The sense of community here was amazing, so many families here eating and dancing and catching up with one another. 

We got back to the Sonnier's house and as we were about to go to bed so we could get an early start they offered to show us the real Louisiana if we wanted to stay one more day.  We had to get to Texas but we could afford one more day for sure.  

The next morning we got up early and walked around town with Hank.  The town was so quiet and the water on the lake so still.  The Sonnier's first took us to Leo's childhood home.  This was something out of the movies for sure.  This old Southern farm was littered with old alligator bones and the most beautiful donkey's I have ever seen.  The Sonnier's Louisiana tour took us to the Gulf of Mexico where we watched Hank first encounter with the ocean.  We could have watched him chase the waves for hours.  We ate Boudin, hurricanes, saw real alligators it was amazing.

Then as we drove down a dirt road we came across the most amazing thing to date I have ever seen.  An alligator graveyard.  Thousand and Thousands of bones, skulls and teeth.  I can't explain why it was there or what it was.  Leo told us it had been there forever and before the hurricane, the collection was much much larger.  Even when I look back at these photos I can't believe we were there. 

We had to be getting on our way, Texas was calling our name and we had tickets for Willie for Jerimiahs birthday.  Before we left we got a little help from some extends family welding up our ever problematic sway bar.  

It was a sad goodbye, we loved this town and we loved this family.  We hope to make it back soon to visit.  

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Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 We left the Trace heading toward Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Our friends from Our Wild Abandon had virtually introduced us to Penni and Dave, who had invited us to stay with them. The drive was only about 130 miles so we had plenty of time.  We had made our way down the Trace eating and stopping by all the amazing historical spots the trace has to offer.  It wasn't too long before we were in Louisiana.  We had heard amazing things about St. Francisville, LA.  They small Southern town is littered with old plantations, some even haunted.  As we headed down the beautiful Hwy 61 the scenery changed and we were soon surrounded by beautiful trees.  As we entered St. Francisville we looked right to a tunnel of trees and a beautiful gate, we wiped the Frolic around and entered.  There was an older man at the gate who told us this place was called Afton Villa, an old plantation that had burned to the ground and was made into a beautiful garden.  

We were so curious we thought nothing of paying the $10 entry fee, we needed to see what lay beyond the tunnel of trees.  As we came down the path I began to feel I had entered a secret garden.  I had never seen such a place,  not even in New Orleans did I feel so Southern.  As you look around the beautiful gardens you really can picture what life was like when the house still stood.  

 

We were very excited to be back in Louisiana.  We had come for my birthday in December when we were staying in Alabama and had gotten just a taste of what they place was about.  We were excited to see another part of big L.A. We knew nothing of Baton Rouge, we barely knew who we were staying with but we were excited. This is the kind of adventure we have grown to love and a way of life we have grown accustom to. We had messaged Penni our host to let her know we were on our way  for we were making a good time and were approaching Baton Rouge fast.

When we finally come down here small little tree lined street we saw the cutest lil lady waving her arms about, that must be our host Penni.  She guided us to her drive and unlocked the gate to her yard where we would be parking.  Now I thought I had been to the most magical place just hours before at Afton Villa till those doors swung open.  Beyond the doors of Pennis gate where the most amazing collection of vintage trailers, a pink vintage VW bus, and the cutest backyard I have ever seen.

 She gave us the tour, pointing out all her trinkets and ideas of just what else she would like to do.  She explained that the porch we were now sitting on was also a stage, and in the summer, she has what she calls Bee Nice concerts.  She has invited musicians to perform here and opens this magical place to the public during the summer.  

Instantly we felt her wonderful energy and knew we were at the right place.  We messaged our friends from OWA and let them know we had made it and already loved Penni.  We had only planned to stay the night but Penni offered us a place to stay a little longer if we would like to explore.  

We settled in and began to explore Baton Rouge.  It was hard to leave Penni's yard, her lil oasis had everything I would want and I for sure add some things to my list of our future home.  First an outdoor shower! A shower when traveling is always an amazing thing but an outdoor shower with a stain glass lamp shade over a rain shower head is absolute heaven.  Second her deck/stage was an amazing place to sit and read or a great place for me and Hank to practice our yoga poses.

 We made our way around Baton Rouge stopping at local vintage stores and dive bars and even made a historical stop off at the old Baton Rouge state capital.  (I will list some of our favorites below here.) We also had to make a stop for beignets and Cafe Au Lait at the Coffee Call. 

It was going to be hard to leave Penni and Dave's, they have a wonderful home and are people that just make you feel at home like you have known them for years.  We said goodbye and pointed the Frolic west.  We had more road to travel and Texas was calling our name.  I do hope I get to go back to Baton Rouge soon if only to give Penni one great big hug. 

Below you wil find links to some of our Baton Rouge Favorite places 

Coffee Call                                  Capital Building                                     Phil Brady's              

Radio Bar                                   Time Warp Boutique                              Honeymoon Bungalow