As many of you who follow our blog know, we relocated from Dallas, TX to Seattle, WA last November. It was NOT your typical move (to say the least). (more…)
By now, we’re at our destination in Seattle, and I’ve completely bit the dust on any real-time posts….
Our 13th day on the road started with a sunny California blue sky and ocean views, and ended in San Francisco, but first, we had to make it along the Pacific Coast Highway.
We left Morro Bay and headed north towards San Simeon to see where the local elephant seals sun bathe. We hit a good sunny day and there must have been over 100 on the beach. The main seal lion viewing area has a huge parking lot with plenty of room for any size RV.
Then it was time to hit the Pacific Coast Highway. I’ve had anxiety over this drive since the beginning. I know people have done it, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of driving the Airstream along those roads. Looking back, I wish I would’ve taken more photos of the drive so those of you who haven’t done it, could get an idea of what it was like, however I wasn’t really breathing, or my eyes were probably closed, most of the time. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like to drive or even ride in cars, which makes this whole situation of ours very humorous, but I did take one or two photos while we were pulled over (NOTE: Going south to north, there are very few places to pull over that are big enough for the Airstream. There were many more larger turn-off areas going north to south.)
There are two places on the road where it’s actually not even two lanes, but one, and you have to alternate who travels on that part of the road (the northbound folks or the southbound folks). To remedy this, the brave and fearless construction workers were building a viaduct-type bridge that was suspended over and out above the ocean. It completely freaked me out and I found myself alternately saying “Deke look at that! Oh wait, don’t look, you’re driving! But look its so crazy!”.
Special PCH notes:
We drove the entire length of the Pacific Coast Highway, from south to north with a 27 ft Airstream and a Ford F250. We had no problems with towing, but there are definitely some tight spots and at times we did need to veer into the southbound lane to avoid rocks that were jutting out from our side. I, personally, wouldn’t recommend doing this drive with something much bigger, although we did see one or two 5th wheels and one motorhome.
Fill up on gas before you start. I can only remember one gas station in Big Sur, and if you have a smaller trailer, like 22 ft or smaller, you can probably pull into Deke’s favorite place, Nepenthe for some lunch and an amazing view. Deke will probably have some follow up on the subject since he’s the one that did the driving. Lucy has nothing to say on it, she slept through the whole thing.
Leaving Painted Rock Petroglyph State Park was sad… we wanted to stay, but the state of California was between us and the Pacific Northwest, so we needed to get on the road.
I decided at this time Deke had done enough driving for a while, so I bucked up and drove us out of the park and into CA, about 3 hours away. If you know me, you know I hate driving, so this was a big deal. Thankfully, there was a date shake stand nearby to help me get through it.
There were also some interesting things to see along the way like sand dunes —
After the second border patrol search, I gave up and let Deke have the wheel again. Good thing too, because we soon hit some serious rain as we turned into Palm Canyon Campground at the Borrego Desert State Park. Borrego means bighorn sheep in Spanish — and yes, they apparently wander the hill, but we didn’t see any. It’s the biggest state park in CA, with miles and miles of dune buggy worthy desert, cultural sites and hiking, and one fabulous feature…..
Before we get to that, we saw a lot of sand and rocks,
found a beautiful campground spot,
and after a 2 hour hike, found this: an oasis.
In a nutshell, Palm Canyon is a beautiful campsite, with about 40 RV sites and 50 or so tent sites. It’s a clean park, with a spectacular view at any site you pick, and apparently a hot spot with the Airstream crowd (we counted 5 one day). The highlight is definitely the hike to the oasis — it’s longer than most we’ve tackled and definitely takes some skill (you’ll climb boulders and balance on logs while crossing a creek).
And take some water, which I didn’t, so here I am literally drinking from a stream.
And after some more climbing, you see an oasis in the distance and you realize all those old movies actually had it right! And if you’re feeling good, you can climb over some bigger boulders and actually go inside the oasis:
and see the waterfalls:
On the way back from the oasis, we met up with another couple doing the hike — he was a undercover State Park inspector checking out the trail. Where do I sign up for that job?
Side note: As we drove through AZ to CA, we passed by the Salton Sea. Deke and I drove around the sea a few years ago while visiting Palm Springs and Salvation Mountain, and never thought we’d get the chance to do so again, so we smiled when we saw it. If you’re going to Borrego Springs, you might want to check it out, especially if really odd out-of-the-way spots are your thing. If you can, try and watch the documentary on the Sea as well, John Waters is the narrator and it’s great, weird, funny look at the area. Salvation Mountain was our main destination on that trip, I’ve had it on my wish list for about 10 years, since grad school when I worked on a folk art environment exhibition. It’s right next to Slab City, so if you have an RV, you should probably check it out, although at times the road is rough and definitely fill up on gas before you go. Stop at Salvation Mountain and talk to Leonard. He’ll give you a tour — he’s a sweet, sweet man.
KOA’s are my go-to campsites when I need something guaranteed to be comfortable. These situations usually arise when we’ve been on the road for 8 hours and don’t want to mess around with electric that doesn’t work, unlevel spots or just an unclean park. The high price tag of a night’s stay, most of the time, justifies the hassle-free-ness of it all. Our first KOA experience was in Hope Springs, Arkansas last year — again, another great place.
I knew we’d be a little tired once we hit Kentucky on our way to Alumapalooza, so the Louisville KOA was in the right place at the right time. If we had two days to spare, I would’ve booked us another night here — it was that nice. The campground is set off from the highway, and then off from the main road you take to get there — no traffic noise here. The long, and sometimes, winding road, takes you through what looks like a state park-ish area where you find the main office.
The spots are gravel, large and pretty level. We had to use one leveling block and so did the guy next to us, but overall, thumbs. Our spot was very shaded and the whole place was quiet. We even got our bikes out to ride around the area.
Just the facts:
- Louisville South KOA
2433 Hwy 44 East
Shepardsville, KY 40165
Toll Free: 1-800-562-1880
- About $40-50/ night.
- 33 tent sites, about 55 water and electric and about 90 full hook up sites (we were in 319 if you’re looking at their map).
- They have a very big pool, laundry, fishing, propane filling station and a dump station. They also have a lot of stuff to do for kids and free wifi.
[slickr-flickr tag=”koalouisville kentucky”]
As I mapped out the route to Alumapalooza, I couldn’t help but notice that Memphis was a comfortable stopping spot (450 miles into the drive). I also couldn’t help but think about all Memphis has to offer…. Sun Studios, the Civil Rights Museum and of course Graceland. I have fond memories of growing up with Elvis music playing throughout the house and wondered– how have I never been to Graceland?? (Deke took the trip with his folks when he was younger. Lucky.)
I felt this was an absolute must stop on our trip, so I called to get tickets for the tour and found out that Graceland also has an RV park where I could sleep, be within walking distance to The King and buy souvenirs! It’s like they knew we were coming….
Graceland RV Park and Campground
The Graceland RV Park and Campground is really nice — Elvis is giving it a big thumbs up from his mansion in the sky. It has some great amenities — a pool (although its probably one of the smallest pools I’ve seen in a while), a bathhouse with the usual, plus washers and dryers, a nice outdoor covered patio that can fit several large groups and has charcoal grills built in on one side. There’s also a tiny pet walk (not a fenced in area, but more like a big yard to walk in) that borders a larger wooded area with a playground for the kids. Each spot is gravel and has a grassy 6 ft wide yard area with a picnic table. Most spots are pull throughs, although it looked like there were 5 or 6 back in sites along the edge of the park. And some spots have large trees for shade.
Separate from the RV full hook up sites, located on a grassy knoll behind managers office, are a few primitive tent camping sites. We saw a few motorcyclists parked up there with their tents and even an SUV with one of those triangular campers.
The park is located right behind Heartbreak Hotel (where you might see this guy ) which is adjacent to the official Graceland parking lot. It takes about 5 min to walk from the campground to the ticket booth where you can board your shuttle bus to the mansion. The campground, in conjunction with Heartbreak Hotel, also provides shuttle service to Beale Street for $5 each person, each way. If you’re going to tie one on while on Beale St, the shuttle is probably a good idea, otherwise, there’s plenty of cheap parking all over downtown Memphis (and by cheap, I mean under $5 for several hours).
A free shuttle is provided to Sun Studios — but, again, Sun Studios also has its own free parking lot. Each destination is about 20 min from the RV park.
The Civil Rights Museum is in a really nice up-and-coming part of town called the South of Main Historic District. Personally, Ive become a bit obsessed with MLK lately, so this was a great stop for me. The area has several restaurants from tapas to sushi to oysters and is just a nice place to walk around. The big attraction at the museum is of course the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. King was assassinated (you can actually go into the hotel, which I didn’t know), but they also house an incredible archive of the movement.
I loved Memphis and would definitely come back for a trip in the future. I might even consider staying at the Graceland RV park simply because its quiet and well kept and the people were very friendly.
More Photos of Memphis
Here are our Graceland shots, just in case you wanted to see more!