Day 21 Blue Springs Missouri to Colby Kansas

The long journey over the midwestern prairie. We drove through Kansas City, which is in Missouri not Kansas.

We avoided the toll road to Topeka, travelling on a state road. Once we left Topeka it got very rural with not much around.  Onece we past Salina it got very flat.  Our choices of places to stay were getting more limited as we got into western kansas, as the towns are much further apart.

Eventually arrived at Colby in the evening. Colby has a population 5000 people and is nearly 1000 metres above sea level.

Windgenerator in Kansas

Day 20 Paducah Kentucky to Blue Springs Missouri

We spent the day driving across the south-western corner of Illinois, and almost right across Missouri. Tonight we’re staying just outside Kansas City, Missouri, and tomorrow we’ll see the prairies of Kansas State.

Lovely day, weather-wise, after the heavy rain of yesterday afternoon. A bit cooler than we’ve been used to, and Spring is just starting to show here, with many trees still bare of leaves.

We drove over the Mississippi River at St Louis – narrower than it is at New Orleans, but still a very impressive river. We stopped to have a look at the Gateway Arch, which is the tallest man-made monument in the United States, the tallest stainless steel monument in the world, and a very impressive, imposing monument. There’s more information about it, plus some photos here

Gateway Arch

Adelaide Avenue in St Louis

Day 19 Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Paducah Kentucky

We left camp in the Smokies, driving through the are north, which was very green and beautiful.  Along the sides of the highway, there were fields of wild daffodils, and many blossom trees – spring has only just started in this part of the US.

It was then back on the I-40, which we last left in the Texas Panhandle (north texas). All was good, we drove through Nashville Tennesse without dropping below 50 mph (80 kph), which tells you two things.

1. That the USA Interstates are very good at getting you through large cities with no congestion.

2. We are not country music fans.

Then it started to rain. In the 19 days we have been in the USA, we have seen two cold fronts sweep across the country. Both times there have been severe thunderstorms and tornados. Yesterday a tornado almost completely wiped out a town in Wisconsin. However this is just normal life in the US. They get severe storms and tornados often.

So we were on the I-24 heading north, and it rained more and more and more. The traffic slowed and slowed. It was hard to see the tail lights of the semi-trailer only 100 metres in front. It was very, very heavy rain. We heard on the radio, some areas received 3 inches of rain (75mm) in only an hour or two. There were tornado watch warnings for Tennesse and Kentucky, areas that we were driving through.

The rain continued on and off (although not so heavy) until we got to Paducah Kentucky.

Day 18 Atlanta Georgia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We left after a warm Atlanta Night. We drove to the nearest Publix Supermarket (they have nice food) to get supplies for lunch and dinner, and then headed to the REI for another sleeping bag. Our sleeping Bags have not been quite warm enough, and we need another good bushwalking grade warm sleeping bag, so we got one on special at REI.

We headed out the I-85 north towards North Carolina. The roads were excellent, with even what we thought would be rural areas having dual carriageways. It was another warm day 85F. We crossed from Georgia into North Carolina following the US-23. we joined the US 441 and reached Cherokee, on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited park in the whole of the USA. This is alson the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We visted the Oconaluftee Visitor Centre and got some history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park are some of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountain Range. The Smoky Mountains park was creted in 1934 by buying land from existing farmers and loggers. Some of the money to buy the land came from a donation by John D Rockerfeller. We drove up the Newfound Gap road, and then west to Clingmans Dome, at 2024 metres. From the carpark you still had a steep climb of another 100 metres and 800 metres walk to the summit, which in the somewhat thinner air at that altitude, a little taxing.

The views from the lookout over the Smokies, was good, being pretty clear. We descended continuing along the Newfound gap road, and made our way to Elkmont campground. The campground (which has 260 campsites), was mostly empty, and we camped in a nice spot next to a stream. We had to pack the food into the boot of the car, as this is black bear country, and we have to be careful.

Judy at the Lookout on the Clingman dome

Smoky Mountains


Camped at Elkmont campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Day 17 Jacksonville Florida to Atlanta Georgia

Very looong driving day due to roadworks and a lot of traffic on the I-75. So we took a couple of detours off the main road and saw a bit of Georgia that we wouldn’t have seen from the freeway.

We ate real southern food tonight at Mary Mac’s Tea Rooms in Atlanta, founded 1945. Great food, huge serves and we finally got to try some cornbread and grits! Greg had Roast Turkey with cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce and a Root Beer, I had Roast Pork (sorry Tom, there was no crackling) with cornbread stuffing and gravy, and washed it down with a Mint Julep.

I remember reading historical novels where Southern ladies drank mint juleps and always wondered what they tasted like. Turns out it’s just bourbon with ice and a large sprig of mint. Those Southern ladies were probably all pissed by 5pm!

Dinner at Mary Macs Tea Rooms

Mary Macs Tea Rooms

Day 16 Orlando Florida to Jacksonville Florida

So we’ve reached the turnaround point of our trip, and now we’re heading back across the country to LA. We drove to the east coast and stopped to dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean, so that we can say that we really did go right from the West Coast to the East Coast. The water felt quite warm, and there are plenty of people on the beaches over here on the East Coast. Gorgeous weather too.

We made our way up the coast, stopping at St Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European-established city in the US. It was founded by a Spanish explorer in 1565. We wandered round the Castillo de San Marcos fort and the old streets in the centre of the town, where we saw the original city gate, the oldest wooden school in the US and a few other old things that have been around since before Australia was discovered. If you’re interested, here’s the Wikipedia article

We’re staying in Jacksonville tonight, then heading north to Georgia tomorrow.

Space Shuttle launch pad and vehicle assembly building across the water from Titusville Florida

How the americans handle beach traffic. Hundreds of cars, thousands of people over many kilometres of beach, all controlled and orderly. Smyrna Beach Florida


Feet in the Atlantic Ocean

Day 15 Orlando Florida

Harry Potter at Universal Studios

Hogwarts Castle

Drinking Butter Beer at the 3 Broomsticks

The ride that Judy did

Day 14 Grayton Beach State Park Florida to Orlando Florida

We spent most of the day driving from the campground we stayed at last night to Orlando Florida. Much of it was spent on the I-10, then we headed south towards Orlando. As we got closer to Orlando, we had to avoid the tollroads as most of them don’t accept cash payments at a tollbooth – you have to have an e-ticket-thingy, or phone to organise a credit card payment. It ws easier to just keep away from tollroads.

And the main reason we’re in Orlando, Florida? To go and see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Watch this space tomorrow!

One of the many excellent rest areas along the USA interstates. The Florida ones have been even better

Continue reading Day 14 Grayton Beach State Park Florida to Orlando Florida

Day 13 New Orleans Louisiana to Grayton Beach State Park Florida

Unlucky day 13. We left New Orleans at a good time, to make Grayton Beach early in the afternoon. However at Mobile Alabama, we holed a tyre (or tire in the USA), fortunately right outside a tire shop. However they did not have a replacement, although they tried to fix the old one, but could not. They spent some time helping us, and charged us nothing. We then went to another one, but also no luck. However they sent us to a third, which did have a replacement.

The whole episode took about 3 hours, and we didn’t arrive at Grayton Beach until 7pm at night (losing another hour crossing into the eastern time zone in Florida. We then found someone had already taken our booked campsite, but they moved on. We think they were just hoping no one would turn up.

Its a nice State Park. The americans do know how to setup camping areas. Its not exactly wilderness camping (Water, 50 amp power point for powering your 10 metre long RV), but it is nice.

campsite Grayton Beach on the Gulf of Mexico

Grayton Beach on the Gulf of Mexico Florida. Calm and the water was warm.



Day 12 New Orleans Louisiana

We drove down to Venice, which is near the mouth of the mississippi, at the southern end of a long peninsula. As we got further south the land got lower and lower, and the sea closer and closer. At Venice the port is only half a metre above sea level. We kept thinking that when Hurricane Katrina hit, it had a 6 metre storm surge in front of it, which would have put this whole area under water. Many buildings are elevated on stilts, and we went past the new High School, which is being built all elevated.

When we returned to New Orleans we visited the Lower Ninth Ward, which was the area most affected by flooding from the failure of the levees. The Lower Ninth Ward is mostly abandoned. There are boarded up shops, and at least half the houses are boarded up and abandoned.

One of the many,many abandoned buildings in the Lower 9th ward of New Orleans, still with FEMA rescue marks

There is a good explanation of what the various numbers and letters mean here


parked on the levee on mississippi watching ships sail upriver

Greg getting money from the Drive-Thru ATM

Thunderstorm and Tornado warnings while we are staying in New Orleans