how to live, travel and explore the world from your van


Travel and Camping Diary United States

We have taken hundreds of trips from our home base in Cocoa Florida since 1995. Individual trips are from one week to as long as 5 months in length. When I first published the RV for Sale Guide and now the book Vanabode, I created individual pages complete with travel advice, pictures and our personal opinions of each place we traveled to. The links below lead to those pages in chronological order. If you prefer to see the them listed by state please see the Destination Guide.

1994 Gatlinburg Tennessee for Thanksgiving, hot tubs and mountain hikes

1995 Las Vegas married, stayed at Hacienda which was imploded and saw Starlight Express by Andrew Lloyd Webber, played Blackjack 21 for first time. We would return years later for a long base time in order to develop a new site called MyRealVegas.com

1996 Biloxi, Mississippi stayed at President Casino which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina
New Orleans stayed at Radisson, rotating restaurant on top of the Hyatt Regency that had a great chocolate dessert buffet, zoo, aquarium, street car, Bourbon St., and riverboat cruise. Took many blackjack and "just have fun" trips to Biloxi. We drove 12 hours one way most of the time from Cocoa Beach but also took the Biloxi Tour Bus. Sometimes we slept on a futon mattress in the back of Kelly's Volkswagon Fox wagon to avoid expensive hotel fees. This was the beginning of my Vanabode thinking into how best to travel.

 

1996 Tennessee wedding anniversary trip, white water rafting, slept in Kelly's Volkswagon Fox wagon,
hiked Bald River Falls and Tellico Plains, visited Atlanta and Biloxi

1996 November, bought first camper a 1979 23 foot Starcraft RV, sold much of our belongings, put the rest in a storage facility, then renovated the camper and it became our home. If our friends and family were not worried before they were certainly worried now. Don't expect a lot of support from your normal friends and family on going Vanabode.

 

1996 December, stayed at the beautiful Las Vegas Stardust (now imploded), saw Enter The Night, ate in the sky at the Stratosphere restaurant

1997 Busch Gardens Tampa Florida stayed in a campground, then to Biloxi again

1997 Florida Keys picked up my dad and drove to Fort Myers Beach to get my kids, Sarah, Joshua and Benjamin. Drove all night and slept in Key Largo. Then drove to one of the keys and played around during the day. Cool sleeping at night, cold water year round, fish everywhere. Drove to Key West. Saturday night drove to Ft. Myers and went to the Locks.

1997 Florida canoed St. Mary's River in Florida at Trader's Hill, fed a stray dog so many hot-dogs it collapsed on its side and could not walk, then to Georgia, Fernandina Beach, Cumberland Island, St. Mary's, Jekyll Island

1997 Fort Myers, Bonita Beach, Sanibel Island, Estero Bay, Captiva Island, canoed daily, swam the Locks

1997 Canoed the Suwannee River in Florida, swam in two crystal clear springs bubbling up in the river, Biloxi

1997 Ft Myers Canoed Telegraph Creek, saw baby alligators, horses, cows, turtles, otters, and llamas. Camped across the river from the Locks at W.P. Franklin Campground. Sarah and I petted and fed horses.

1997 Mountain trip with all 3 kids, Saint Mary's River in Folkston GA, made a fire that night and went canoeing next day. Drove to Amicalola Falls State Park in north Georgia got there in the pitch black of night and our old rv could barely make it up the mountain. Saw a black bear getting in the trash bins, hiked the falls,saw deer, then drove to Tellico Plains with an off-road swimming trip to Coker Creek Falls. Camped Bald River Falls, swam and floated the waterways, Sarah got stung by wasps. Went to Trout Hatchery, then Gatlinburg. It rained all day but we were able to walk around that evening, grilled hot dogs for lunch then went to Chimney Rock for super dangerous hike. Then back to Florida's Manatee Springs, swam, fished, saw owls, made a camp fire.

1997 first of the big trips, lasted for months. Took kids to Jungle Larry's in Naples Florida and canoeing in Telegraph Creek Fort Myers. Stayed at W.P. Franklin locks campground run by the Army Core of Engineers. Then drove through Florida Panhandle to Biloxi, to Hot Springs, Arkansas and stayed on a lake with a dam. Took to rollerblading Hot Springs. Swam and fed fish at largest man made lake in the state, Lake Oauchita State Park. Drove to White Mountain in Ozark Mountains. Swam and the fish were nibbling us to the point we were laughing hysterically. Oklahoma Cities Cowboy Hall of Fame was great. Slept at the mall, went to Oklahoma Zoo next day. On to Amarillo, Texas where we ate at the world famous Big Texan. Albuquerque New Mexico next on the Sandia Peak Tramway which was the scariest and greatest ride I have ever been on. Hiked to the top of Cibola Mountains. Played blackjack at casino where we spent the night. rollerbladed around old town, went to two museums. Bandalier National Monument was stunning especially if you like American history. The cliff dwellings of the Anasanzi Indians were something special indeed. Next Taos New Mexico where we went white water rafting on the Rio Grande. This city has the best art scene I have ever been to. Played around in a drum store, shopped in Taos and got some nice jewelry, sheep skins, gifts. When leaving Taos we stopped on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and dropped a peach. It took about ten seconds to hit the bottom as we were super high up. Worth seeing for sure. Really enjoyed the train ride on the Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad. It got dirty because we sat in some of the open roof rail cars on the train outside and the coal burning chips and ashes would blow back and settle on us. The scenery was worth it. Ate one of the best steaks I have ever had in Durango Colorado then on to Mesa Verde National Park. Went through Ute to one of the most extraordinary places in the world: Lake Powell. Hit the North side of the Grand Canyon and was not impressed. It is just too big to see with little day hikes and car camping. The South rim is much better. On to the greatest city in the world Las Vegas for our 3rd visit. Gambled in Mesquite and then on to Zion which is probably one of the top ten most scenic and interesting place in the United States. Stopped at Bear Lake in Garden City, Utah and drank the famous raspberry shakes. Salt Lake City Utah was a boring crowded waste of time. Hiked Grand Teton National Park and saw a bison with a broken hip on the Snake river. On to Yellowstone National Park in Cody Wyoming. Had fun swimming in the Thermopolis Wyoming mineral hot springs pools. Spent the night in Denver Colorado, upbeat atmosphere. Stayed at an RV park in Kansas that had massive fields of sunflowers in bloom. Visited Janice & Jim near Springfield. Went to Sams Town to play blackjack and hit Biloxi Mississippi for the same reason on the way back home. Ate a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts with my wife and caught a movie in Tallahassee, returning home, September 23 1997

1998 Kelly and I graduated from commercial tractor trailer 18 wheeler school and drove the big rig over 600,000 miles in 19 months together delivering flowers in almost every state. On this adventure we learned many of the skills that I would later incorporate into the Vanabode lifestyle, traveling cheaply and having more fun per minute than most any other lifestyle.

1999 We tried to settle down so we bought a townhouse in Palm Bay Florida. Took another long trip taking in Houston Texas and El Paso where we crossed the border into Juarez. Here we bought lion sculptures and various other I have been to Mexico "can't live withouts". We hit Albuquerque's Sandia Peak again because it it just so beautiful, cheap and fun. Stayed in Camel Rock and Indian Head Rock Casino parking lots. Then to Las Vegas and Reno. Spent a starry night in a pitch black rest area off of a two lane road. Then to Redwood National Park, up the coast of Oregon a bit and then headed home going through Eugene, Newberry National Volcanic Monument near Bend Oregon.

2000 - 2002 Both of us went back to college trying to be like other people and bury our adventurous ways, During these two years we took 3-4 day trips only.

2003 While working for NASA my wife Kelly went to Alaska with her mom and I went to Las Vegas looking for real estate opportunities. NASA flew us to Hilo Hawaii and Oahu Hawaii with our friends Victoria and BJ. We stayed with Toni and Matt of the band Big Toe for a few days too.

2004 After 4 years of living like everybody else, and missing the travel centered kind of lifestyle we enjoyed during our earlier married years, we sold our townhouse and moved into a class A 34' Georgie Boy motorhome. We then took Joshua and Ben on a 5 week trip from July 1 to August 6. We traveled from Florida to Alabama to Mississippi to Louisiana to Texas to New Mexico to Arizona to Utah to Nevada to California to Idaho to Wyoming then Nebraska to Iowa to Illinois to Missouri to Arkansas to Tennessee to Mississippi to Alabama and home to Florida. You can see details from this important rv vacation trip which taught us many valuable lessons.

2005 Took a nice long 100+ day trip starting in July to New Smyrna Beach Florida and stayed at an RV park for the pool and showers since it was hot and we were in a huge 34 foot motorhome. It is nice to camp so near our house in Cocoa for logistical reasons. Checked out Daytona Beach and the Ocala National Forest, Salt Springs Elite Resorts, biked on trails in forest with bear tracks everywhere, and swam in pool and hot tub every night. Left for Marietta Georgia, then Buford Georgia staying with family, then onto Franklin Tennessee just south of Nashville where we took in some great biking in the Percy Warner Park. Then hit St. Louis Missouri where we dared tour the Gateway Arch and then to Overland Park Kansas where we stayed with Janice & Jim. Then to Sturgis South Dakota where we took in two weeks of incredible outdoor motorcycle related fun. Then we hit Glacier National Park in Northern Montana and what an incredible place this was. Saw more top shelf wildlife in 2 weeks than we saw in a month at Yellowstone. Ended the trip in September in Las Vegas with an extended seriously fun stay at Circus Circus RV Park right on the strip. Hit some great Arkansas wineries on the way home to Florida. Headed to Fort Myers from Cocoa to hang with my son Joshua in November and stayed until end of March of 2006. Used the RV park across from Shell Factory and also stayed in Sams and Books-A-Million parking lots for much of the time when not at our Cocoa house.

2006 I ran the Walt Disney ½ marathon with my wife Kelly and then headed back to Las Vegas from Florida to continue building the website. Went through Phoenix, stopped at Quartzsite for a huge rock and gem show with thousands of vendors, then to Lake Havasu, and to Laughlin for a night or two before heading home to Las Vegas. Laughlin is highly recommended for those loving the dry climate and wanting to be left alone in a beautiful place that still has major infrastructure like chain retail stores and libraries and fun riverfront casinos. Headed back to Las Vegas, bought an investment condo to work out of temporarily until the website was done. Took my son Ben to Zion for the summer. Later we spent 50 days in Southern California from Tijuana to Los Angeles then to San Diego, and to Santa Ynez for wine tasting. Los Angeles winery had great food, the museums and art galleries were worth it. Spent lots of days at the beach, with lots of driving the car because the RV had to be parked at a campground inland. This is where we got more serious about figuring out a way to travel more easily, more cheaply, and with more fun per minute. You cannot do California well with a large motorhome. Vanabode instead.

2007 Sarah came to visit us in for a week and we sold the big motorhome and got the van. We custom outfitted the van for undercover Vanabode camping and I got right to the testing and strategizing so I could write this book for everyone who loves to travel but can't figure out how to make it happen.

2007 Took Ben with us during June and July to California to Lake Isabella, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park then in August and September we Vanaboded California's coast and inland empires including Paso Robles incredible wine tasting country, Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, and then to San Francisco for two weeks, Point Reyes, Mendocino Coast, drove to Ft. Bragg for Kelly's birthday horseback riding trip on the beach and in the mountains, did some wineries, farmers markets, hikes. Went through Yosemite but it was too hot and too crowded to enjoy. My son Joshua learned the Internet way of making money from home and then in October we bought an investment house in the desert. We still call Cocoa Florida our home but my CPA said to invest in real estate so we thought we would use the house a little while we develop the MyRealVegas.com site. That's the real reason for coming out (plus we love great food) but since we will be Vanaboding the rest of our lives I did not think it was a bad idea. I prefer to Vanabode strictly with no house but I do like living in Florida near the beach so we will always base out of Cocoa or Fort Myers where my kids live.

2008 Drove back to Florida to take care of kids, visit family and friends, and write travel diaries of new destinations in May, hit the astonishing state of Utah again, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches National Parks we took I-70 through Colorado with major snow storms and icy roads sending people off zero guard rail overpasses 1,000 feet to their death. I was glad I was diving my van and not a massive rv. Then to Indiana to cover the Hoosier National Forest where my Uncle Manuel and Aunt Frances were hanging out. Yulia & Simon hosted us in Baltimore Maryland where we visited the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry, U-Pick strawberries, and had the best crab cakes I have ever had from a pizza and seafood restaurant, visited coastal town of Havre de Grace and ate at a great Irish Pub, took Metro to Washington, D.C. then traveled to Virginia Beach where my Aunt Faye and Larry hosted us a few days. Atlanta hosted by Julian and Myra, and Carol and Andy and Bill and Marie. Daytona Beach hosted by Helene and Max. We enjoyed San Antonio Texas and the music and food scene in Austin Texas. Had serious inner city bike rides too along the waterways. Spent over 4 months in Florida having been home after being on the road so long made me homesick and our house was needing some serious repair. Vanabode trip of 10,112 miles in 69 days with average daily spend of $50.13 and $3459 total spend. Interested in motorhome verses Vanabode travel budgets see full time rv budget.

2008 Bugsy died in August when Todd was tiling our house. In September Helene came to visit. October Kelly's Mom and Sue visited, then we went to Joshua Tree

2009 Short California trip to further test Vanabode strategies, Vegas to Huntington Beach, La Jolla

2009 Short California trip covering Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, Los Angeles County Botanical Gardens, Santa Monica Beach, Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

2009 June we flew to Florida to see family, friends, beach, and get some home time in trying to finish my first edition of the Vanabode book, and to witness the birth of my grandson Israel.

2010 Took a trip into Goldfield which was only has a population of about 400. In the early 1900s this was a a gold rush boomtown with residents like Virgil and Wyatt Earp.

2010 There are many sandstone formations out west but the Valley of Fire is just pure eye candy. It's between the Utah border and Las Vegas.

2010 Spent the day on Mount Charleston watching people ski and snowboard. We also saw lots of families with small children making snowmen while driving throughout the forest.

Check out the destinations pages for more on travels after 2010 (and details of the prior trips).




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