Finally getting out of Indiana felt freeing. As we drove across the bridge from Indiana into Kentucky through Madison, IN it became real. We were heading southward chasing warmer temperatures.
Josie had the biggest adjustment. After 7 months of riding in the passenger seat of the RV while I drove separately, she had to find a new way to ride. At first she looked at me like I was crazy when I went to sit in the front passenger seat. It was like she was saying, “this is my spot”. It took a little rearranging and shifting from spot to spot.
I made her bed in a couple of different places but now she has settled into the new seating routine. She will sit on the couch for a bit looking out the window. But her favorite spot is right between our two seats. She loves being near her humans. Then on occasion I let her sit up in the seat with me looking out the window (that’s actually her favorite spot). When she gets to the laying down mode I have her move back to the center spot. I guess in her mind when the “house” is moving she needs to be in the cab area mostly.
Glad we got all that sorted out. I must say I’m really enjoying riding along and being the navigator. All of us riding together is much easier, more enjoyable and saves on gas.
Red River Gorge
Our first stop after leaving Indiana was the Red River Gorge. Many people have told us about this place but we never made the trip down to explore. Although this would be a short stay it was worth the stop. What a beautiful part of Kentucky. It was our longest drive yet at 5 hours. We took a longer way down mostly on back roads to avoid interstate traffic. For us we value our sanity and we are not in a rush. I can say we were happy to arrive as we have really been enjoying the slow travel way. Our normal mode of travel involves about 1.5 to 3 hours of driving time then parking it for a week. The colder temperatures were forcing us to change up our travel style.
We arrived on a Monday evening and found a nice large and level site. At $10 a night it was a perfect stopover spot. Koomer Ridge Campground in the off season is wonderful. There were 5 other campers there and it’s right off the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway.
It was still cooler in Kentucky but during our stay at Red River Gorge we were treated to a decent day in the 60’s with the sun shining. This was our only full day at the Red River Gorge and it was perfect for exploration. This geological area has 100 arches in varying stages of arch formation. We checked out a lot of the park via car and some on foot. Driving along the main road all around the park, 715, we made stops from there to explore areas on foot. Our first stop was the Chimney Top Rock and Princess Arch area. Both were short hikes with beautiful views. It was nice to get back to hiking since our last time was the middle of October!
Sky Bridge was next. There were plenty of arches and spots we missed as we were on the whirlwind tour of the Red River Gorge area. Before setting out for the day, we picked some spots we wanted to stop at during our only day to explore. Sky Bridge was worth the stop for sure. This hike was a bit longer but still a relatively short hike. We hiked on top of the arch and below. It was neat to see it from both perspectives. I should have taken a photo from the top of the arch but I was concentrating on walking across it and not falling over the side. No guard rails here so watch your step.
From there we knew we wanted to go through the Nada Tunnel. This one lane tunnel goes straight through the mountain. On this particular day, there was road construction going on blocking off the road. Not to be deterred we drove all the way around to enter it from the other way. Note KY 77 goes through the tunnel and Tunnel Ridge Road, 39 goes over the tunnel. There was construction on this side too but we were able to get through. It was worth the drive as the tunnel was pretty cool. Don’t try and drive your big rig through it. It’s rather narrow and all jagged rock throughout.
We finished out our day driving tunnel ridge road and hiking part way out to Gray’s Arch. Daylight was fading fast so we didn’t make it all the way down but we were able to see the arch from higher up on the trail. It was a complete day with hikes, lunch outside (with a sweatshirt), beautiful drive through the Gorge Geological Area and a vow to come back to spend more time.
Next time we will kayak the Red River and check out more of the arches. But for now we are on a quest of chasing 70 degree weather. Thus far its been elusive as we were too far north in early December. The next day we departed for North Carolina to visit family.
Rocky Gap Welcome Center
With another longer day of travel ahead of us we made the mistake of not planning our next stop. We figured we would just wing it and find something along the way for an overnight stay. However, that proved to be a problem as this time of year some of the campgrounds have shut down for the winter months. Leaving later than we should have, we lost daylight and looking for an easy boondocking spot in the forest was out of the question. After making a stop to look at our map we found a Welcome Center/Rest Area in Virginia right over the border from West Virginia. They had spots for RV’s and trucks to park overnight. And that’s just what we did.
There were 10 spots for RV’s. Upon arrival we were the only ones there. However, as the evening wore on the remaining RV spots were quickly filled in with semis. The next morning I took a photo of the truck parked next to us from the side to show their large size compared to our 31 foot rig and Jeep. Ralphie was the only RV in the lot that night. It was not a quiet or restful spot, as some of the trucks idled most of the night. It worked in a pinch. However, it was convenient right off the interstate, easy on and off. Plus it was well lit and we felt perfectly safe.
Lesson learned, have a spot picked out before departing and leave earlier when it gets dark by 5 pm.
Butner Hunter’s Camp
The next day was an easy travel day as we only had a couple more hours to go. The spot was already selected and was just north of Raleigh. Shane found this spot and it was perfect for a few days while visiting his brother and girlfriend. It is exactly what it sounds like. A camp for hunters and it is only open during hunting season. All we had were GPS coordinates so we hoped we would be able to find it. If not our back up plan was the nearby state park. Always good to have a back up plan. Turns out the GPS coordinates were spot on. We found a nice large site and tucked Ralphie in amongst the trees. There were a few other tent campers. Nice quiet spot with groceries and restaurants nearby.
The best part, we finally found 70! The weather was nice and warm upon our arrival. For the first time in what seemed like forever we could have the front door open. I switched into sandals and my feet smiled (I swear).
Andy and Kaylee came out to stay with us for a night and we had a blast catching up with them while enjoying a campfire. Josie patiently waited for their arrival just before the sun set.
Our time spent here was peaceful and quiet. Plus a free spot to camp – bonus! In our first week out of Indiana we spent a grand total of $20 to camp. This is our goal now, to find as much boondocking as possible. With a solar set up it no longer makes sense to pay for an electric site. Free camping for the win!
Over the course of 4 days we drove a total of 12 hours. We were happy to finally be south and parked for a few days to recover from faster travel than we like. What can I say we love slow traveling.