After leaving Tennessee, we made a beeline to Atlanta, Georgia. Robby’s niece had recently been the recipient of a liver transplant and we were eager to see how she was recovering. We were also keen on visiting the Atlanta Aquarium, which is the world’s largest aquarium and lives up to the hype. After a brief reunion with JJ, a contracting buddy from our Iraq days, we drove out of Atlanta and headed east towards Athens. Robby has a bunch of family spread across Georgia and we wanted to link up with as many of them as possible. Thankfully, his Aunt Lynn had the perfect location for a family reunion, BBQ style. After getting our family fix, we drove from Georgia to Florida for a bit of downtime. We needed a small break from our constant traveling to get some much needed things taken care of: ordering supplies for our 8 month follow on expedition and getting a bunch of travel immunizations. Plus our good friends from Iron Mountain, MI were coming to visit us to squeeze in a bit of beach time. Our time in Florida passed way too quickly, and we were on the road again for a final push north up the east coast. First stop was Waycross, Georgia for another family reunion. Then onward towards Brunswick when disaster struck. Big Bertha (our RV) has been phenomenal on our road trip thus far, but she started having transmission issues. So we had to cool our jets for a while to get her fixed up. After several days of waiting it out in Brunswick, we were finally on our way again and drove straight towards Charleston, South Carolina. What a beautiful city – we loved our self guided walking tour of this picturesque town but definitely would not advise a visit in August. The heat and humidity combo was unbearable! Charleston was a great stop as we have lots of friends in the area and it was great to catch up with some folks we have not seen in years. After a few days here, we drove towards the Great Smoky Mountains and stopped for a quick reunion with one Christie, one of Becky’s WP sisters. Our time in the Smokies was pleasant, with cooler temperatures, tons of waterfalls, and loads of scenic vistas. From the Great Smoky Mountains, we traveled on the Blue Ridge Parkway and had a bunch more waterfalls to check out. After exiting North Carolina, we entered Virginia and took the back roads to visit Mabry Mill and the Natural Bridge. The Skyline Drive of the Shenandoah Valley was quite pretty, but we were saddened to learn of the major abuses of eminent domain that took place to create the park back in the 1920s and 1930s. Not one of our country’s finest moments! From Shenandoah, we drove to see Connie, our friend from our Istanbul – Singapore trip. From Timberville, we drove to Gainesville to see Veronica and Rob. V was Becky’s sponsor back in Germany and it was so great to reconnect as it has been almost 17 years since we last hung out. From Gainesville, we zipped over to Chantilly to see Kelly (our buddy from Iraq), and then drove to Springfield for some time with our Antarctica friends (Therese, Tom, Jessie and Greg). So much fun to hang out with them and boy did we eat well! Therese was an amazing hostess – driving us to Washington DC so that we could explore without having to worry about where to park Big Bertha and treating us to some amazing eats. Always so wonderful to hang out with her! We did manage to squeeze in a few DC visits to our army friends (Josh & Bernard) as many of our buddies ended up in the DC area. After a few days in DC, we were ready to continue our road trip up north so we left Springfield and drove onward towards Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Our road trip is quickly winding down and we will be sad to see it come to an end!
21 Jul: Drove from Chattanooga, TN to Atlanta, GA. O/n at Chelsea’s apartment.
22 Jul: Visited the Atlanta aquarium. Reunion with JJ and drove towards Athens. O/n at Aunt Lynn’s.
23 Jul: Family reunion/BBQ at Aunt Lynn’s. O/n at Aunt Lynn’s.
24 Jul: Drove from GA towards FL. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
25 Jul: Research at the library. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
26 Jul: Fixed RV generator. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
27 Jul: Research at the library. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
28 Jul: Breakfast with the DiCarlos. Friends from Michigan arrived. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
29 Jul: Beach time. Visited the lighthouse. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
30 Jul: Visited the Marine Science Center. Said goodbye to friends. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
31 Jul: Ordered supplies for upcoming expedition. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
1 Aug: Worked on travel plans. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
2 Aug: Worked on travel plans. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
3 Aug: Research at the library. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
4 Aug: Lazy day. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
5 Aug: Saw 6 manatees by the pier! Spent day at the health clinic getting travel jabs. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
6 Aug: Wasted day trying to get more jabs. Will wait until Ecuador as it is too frustrating to do here. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
7 Aug: Finalized upcoming travel plans. O/n at Ponce Inlet.
8 Aug: Drove from Ponce Inlet, FL to Waycross, GA. O/n at dad’s.
9 Aug: Family BBQ reunion. O/n at dad’s.
10 Aug: Reunion with family. O/n at dad’s.
11 Aug: Departed Waycross, GA. Reunion with family. RV transmission on the fritz at Brunswick, GA. Reunion with friends in Brunswick. O/n at Motel 6.
12 Aug: Towed RV to Sterling Transmission for repairs. O/n at Motel 6.
13 Aug: O/n at Motel 6.
14 Aug: Picked up RV. O/n at Motel 6.
15 Aug: Departed Brunswick, GA and drove towards Charleston, SC. Walking tour of Charleston. O/n at Dave & Michelle’s.
16 Aug: Reunion with Lew. Visited the Magnolia Plantation. Reunion with Chris, Ken, Michelle, and Dierdre. O/n at Dave & Michelle’s.
17 Aug: Reunion with Bill & Maria. Departed Charleston, SC and drove towards Blythewood. Reunion with Christie. Departed SC and entered NC. Drove towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. O/n free camping at Waynesville Walmart.
18 Aug: Drove to Smoky Mountains NP. Visited Soco Falls, Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum, Cataract Waterfall and Clingmans dome. O/n free camping at Waynesville Walmart.
19 Aug: Drove to Sliding Rock (free before 10 am). Dipped in the pool at Looking Glass Falls. Hiked to Skinny Dip Falls and the Lower Falls of Graveyard fields. Drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stopped at Little Switzerland and the Linn Cove Viaduct. Departed NC and entered VA. O/n free camping at Bristol Walmart.
20 Aug: Visited Mabry Mill and the Natural Bridge. O/n free camping at Staunton Walmart.
21 Aug: Departed Staunton and took the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Visited the Harry Byrd visitor center for the backstory of how Shenandoah came to be and hiked to Dark Hollow Falls. Drove towards Timberville for a reunion with Connie. O/n at Connie’s.
22 Aug: Drove to Meems Bottom Covered Bridge, and visited the Virginia Civil War Museum at New Market. Drove towards Gainesville for a reunion with Veronica and Rob. O/n at V’s.
23 Aug: Morning flight courtesy of V at the Warrenton-Fauquier airport to Lake Anna. Reunion with Kelly in Chantilly. Reunion with Therese, Tom, Jessie and Greg in Springfield. O/n at Therese’s.
24 Aug: Tour around Washington, D.C. Visited the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korea, MLK memorials and walked around the Capitol. Stopped by the 17th Street Festival at Dupont Circle. O/n at Therese’s.
25 Aug: Drove to Arlington for a reunion with Josh and Jenn. Drove to Alexandria for a reunion with Bernard and met his fiance Lilly. O/n at Therese’s.
26 Aug: Therese drove us to DC so we could visit the Library of Congress, Supreme Court and have a tour of the Capitol Building. Lunch at Peking Gourmet. Departed Springfield, VA and drove towards Gettysburg, PA.