Travel Destinations & Stories

The Mystery Castle – Arizona

We visited a bizarre mansion with a history of secrets and heartache in the city of Phoenix, AZ. The “Mystery Castle” took 20 years to complete and was built for a little girl named Mary Lou Gulley. 

The Story

Here is the strange, yet true, story of one of the most unique places in the West. Mary Lou was born in 1923. She spent her childhood in Seattle with her parents, Boyce and Frances. Her father took Mary Lou to the beach often, where they loved to build sandcastles. Mary Lou always got upset when the waves came in and washed her castles away. Her father told her one day he’d build her a castle of her own to live in.

In 1927 Mr. Gulley up and left his family with no reason why, or where he was going or if he would ever return. Over the next 18 years, Mary Lou received occasional letters from her father, but he never sent for his family and the mystery of his whereabouts persisted. Then a telegram arrived in 1945 with the news that Mr. Gulley had died in Phoenix.

The Letter

Soon afterward, Mary Lou and her mother received a personal letter written by Mr. Gulley just before he passed away. In the letter, he explained that he’d left them because he’d been diagnosed with tuberculosis and told he only had six months to live. Afraid that he might infect his family, and also dreading the prospect of making them watch him struggle through a miserable death, he’d kept the illness a secret and departed for Arizona, hoping the arid climate would ease his suffering.

While the letter shed light on Mr. Gulley’s departure, it also presented the grieving family with another mystery. Mary Lou learned that her father had left her a desert mansion he’d spent the past 15 years building.

She and her mother immediately traveled to Phoenix, anxious to learn more about the project that consumed Mr. Gulley’s life. As their car pulled up to the imposing structure with parapets, balconies and turrets, Mary Lou suddenly realized that her father had fulfilled his promise by building her a castle to live in. The massive home contained 18 rooms with 13 fireplaces, a chapel and a dungeon.

The Trap Door

Mr. Gulley left instructions that the castle was theirs to keep on the condition that they obeyed one peculiar request. In the basement, between the chapel and the dungeon, was a room Mr. Gulley called “Purgatory.” On the floor of that room was a trapdoor, which Mary Lou’s father forbade her to open until Jan. 1, 1948. Though confused by the secrecy surrounding the trapdoor, she honored his wishes.

As Mary Lou explored the twisted hallways of the 8,000-square foot castle, she began to learn more about what an epic undertaking it had been for her father. When Mr. Gulley arrived in Phoenix, he made his home in an old railway car and began planning the castle on a 40-acre plot of land.

Building Materials

With little money for building supplies, he roamed the valley with his mule looking for odds and ends that could be used in the construction. Many items came from the local dump. Others were found at swap meets. Old glass dishes were used for windows. The floor of one room was made with discarded blackboards from a schoolhouse. Other parts of the castle featured auto parts, wagon wheels, telephone poles, and train rails. This was the most fascinating part of the “castle” to me. So much discarded trash is what made this very unique, and crazy, yet livable castle.

Fun Fact: Some of the hodgepodges of components were held together by mortar with a unique ingredient: goat’s milk.

Treasure

While waiting for the day when she could open the forbidden trapdoor, Mary Lou discovered plenty of other surprises left by Mr. Gulley. On one occasion, she removed a loose stone from the wall and hundreds of coins poured out. In other hidden spots, she found necklaces, cash, gold nuggets, gems, and personal notes from her father.

MysteryCastel3

Mrs. Gulley contacted Life magazine and told editors about the family’s castle, with its mysterious trapdoor in the Purgatory room. A crew was sent to interview them and document the opening of the trapdoor on the appointed day. Everyone involved wondered what might be inside. Treasure? A secret chamber? A corpse?

What Was Below The Trap Door?

With her mother and the Life magazine crew anxiously looking on, Mary Lou opened the trapdoor on Jan. 1, 1948. Gaping below her in the darkness was a 9-foot pit. Mary Lou bravely descended into the pit and found gold, cash, letters from her father and a photograph taken of him just prior to his death. Carefully sifting through the items, Mary Lou noticed a small piece of paper. It was a valentine she’d made for her father when she was a young girl.

Life magazine published their article about the Gulley family on Jan. 26, 1945, with this rather wordy title: “Life Visits a Mystery Castle: A young girl rules over the strange secrets of a fairy-tale dream house built on the Arizona desert.” With this headline, the name “Mystery Castle” was born.

Tours

Following the notoriety brought on by the article, Mary Lou and her mother began offering tours of their home. Curiosity seekers came from near and far, and Mary Lou willingly presented the castle’s quirks and shared stories of its murky past.

MysteryCastel7

Frances Gulley passed away in 1970 and Mary Lou continued living in the castle and sharing stories with visitors. She felt it was her legacy and she never wanted to be separated from it. 

After several decades in the Mystery Castle, Mary Lou passed away in 2010. Like her father before her, she took many secrets to the grave. What strange discoveries did she make in the castle and keep to herself? Did she suspect that the castle still held undiscovered treasures hidden by her father? Had she hidden any items of her own?

Mary Lou’s obituary, which identifies her as the “resident princess and proprietress of the Mystery Castle,” is a striking representation of how thoroughly the castle captivated her life. After providing a summary of how her ailing father constructed the dream home for his daughter, it announced that before her death, Mary Lou had created the Mystery Castle Historical Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that would “ensure the Castle and the spirits of her father, mother … and the other keepers of the Castle would live on.”

The final line of Mary Lou’s obituary is an invitation to anyone who has ever wanted to come face-to-face with a mystery: “The Castle remains open to the public so that all may explore the wonders that lie behind its magical doors.”

To this day … No one really knows if Mary Lou really found all the treasure her father left, or perhaps … maybe she left her own? This was one of our favorite things to go see. We love mystery and unique stories like this. If you’re ever in Phoenix, don’t miss this!

Thank you for coming to our little corner of the internet. We hope this sparks your own adventure, and we hope if you want to check out The Mystery Castle you find it as intriguing as we did.

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Some of the writing above is exerts from Grant Olsen with KSL News 2013

RV Organization, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons

Gift Ideas For Full-Time RVer’s

Gifts Ideas For RVer’s … From RVer’s!

What a year! 2020 and 2021 were definitely a bit challenging huh? If you’re looking for the perfect holiday or “just because” gift for someone who lives tiny, we gathered a few of our friends and put together a list of suggestions.

It’s not always easy to know what to get us! Birthdays, Christmas, or just want to tell us you’re thinking about us! Especially if you don’t live our type of life, and don’t realize we really don’t have the room for stuff. So many extended family members struggle with this. So I decided to collaborate with a few new and long-time full-time RVers and put together a list that might help. The common theme I hear from almost everyone was they wanted experiences, not things. And so many of them wanted those experiences with their families. So buying a movie ticket, for example, is wonderful, but buying a movie ticket for yourself to come along was even more wonderful.

Homemade baked goods were definitely on almost everyone’s list! If your full-time RV family member is going to be around during the holidays they want cookies!  A lot of full-time travelers don’t have the larger ovens to cook more than a few cookies, and a lot of times our ovens leave a lot to be desired.

But gift cards were the #1 request. As much as we know it seems impersonal to give a gift card, they are really the top request. Here is a list of helpful requests from Full-Time RVer’s

Gift Cards / Certificates

  • Restaurant (chain)
  • Walmart
  • Hair Salon (Chain)
  • Fuel
  • Amazon
  • Visa/Mastercard
  • RV Park reservation in an epic spot (maybe surprise them and meet them there)
  • RV Park reservations in gift-givers location so a visit is more possible
  • A gift certificate to somewhere in the RVer’s route (restaurant, safari park, concert, live play, etc)
  • Museum membership or gift card in an area they will be
  • Zoo gift card or membership in an area they will be 

Membership Renewals

  • Coachnet
  • Cosco
  • Sams Club
  • Good Sams

Other RV gifts and Gadgets

Thank you to the following full-time RVer’s who volunteered their ideas for this blog.  Please follow the links to their websites. 

Kelly Beasleywww.campaddict.com

John & Laura Hebardwww.hebardstravels.com

Lisa & Dan Brownwww.alwaysonliberty.com

Mark Emerick – The man too busy for a website

Julie and Sean Chickerywww.Chickerystravels.com

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Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in South Dakota. Best Kept Hidden Secrets in South Dakota

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates. 

South Dakota is the state we chose for our domicile as full-time RVer’s. We decided we should probably know a little about the state since it was now our state of record.

Fun Fact – Did you know that South Dakota purchased the building designs from Montana for their capital building for $15? So the capitol building in Pierre is exactly the same as the capitol building in Montana. 

Our Top Picks for the 9 Hidden Gems in South Dakota. 

South Dakota has a ton of amazing, popular wonders to see. Don’t miss the Badlands! I won’t go too much into this as it’s a very popular place, but can I just say WOW! To think about the early settlers coming upon this area and trying to cross it is remarkable. Imagine what they thought as this area came into sight. It is one of the most scenic places of color, beauty, and history. 

Wall Drug

Do you know the story behind this place? Wall Drug started simply enough when Ted Hustead purchased the South Dakota town of Wall’s drugstore in 1931. But it was Ted’s wife Dorothy who hit upon the idea that changed not just the drugstore, but the entire 231-person town of Wall. The idea: ice water. In an attempt to attract people, Dorothy Hustead put up a sign advertising free ice water to parched tourists on their way to the attraction. It was a big hit. From then on Wall Drug grew under its own strange power, adding a bizarre assortment of fiberglass animals, including the iconic Wall Drug jackalope, giant dinosaurs, and an array of taxidermy jackalopes.

Wall-Drug-Jackalope

Wall Drug now has billboards as far away as 500 miles. If you are a honeymooner, veteran, priest, hunter, or truck driver, you can also get free coffee and donuts. They still give out ice water too. Some 20,000 cups a day. Though we don’t personally travel with our kids anymore, as they are now grown adults with their own lives, this is a super fun place for kids. Every 30 minutes the dinosaur inside comes to life and gives you a little show. Seriously make sure you spend a day in this little eclectic town. The little unique shops are really fun! 

Corn Palace

It happens to be raining when we decided to visit. The Corn Palace is built out of concrete, not corn. However, each year, the entire exterior is redecorated in murals made out of corn and various other local grains and grasses. These decorative facades are redesigned annually around a different theme created by local artists.

Decorations from years past are displayed inside the building itself. We didn’t venture inside, but it’s a pretty cute little town surrounding the Corn Palace. We were there in May of 2017 and it is all about Rock of Ages. Super cool! 

Roughlock Falls State Nature Area

Spearfish Canyon – This trail is handicap-accessible and winds its way slowly to Roughlock Falls, a breathtaking waterfall that flows into Spearfish Canyon from Little Spearfish Creek. Spearfish Canyon highlights an outdoor wonder that is impressive and unique to the Black Hills. From Spearfish, take 14A (Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway) to Savoy. The trail begins near Spearfish Canyon Lodge and is signed and accessible from the lodge parking lot.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Speaking of Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway – This is a breathtaking 19-mile stretch of US Highway 14A. Gradually climbing from the town of Spearfish on the northern edge of the Black Hills, this canyon is one of the gateways into the heart of an ancient mountain range. Spruce, pine, aspen, birch, and oak trees cling to the hillsides. Spearfish Creek flows along the canyon bottom, acting as a natural guide for the scenic byway.

Getting There: To start at the northern end of the byway, take either Exit 10 or Exit 14 off of Interstate 90 to Spearfish and hop on 14A. To find the southern end, take Highway 85 east from Wyoming or west from Lead/Deadwood. When you come to the Cheyenne Crossing junction, head north on Highway 14A and let your scenic drive begin. Before you go, check out some of the reviews on where to pull off and what to check out on the Byway. It’s different depending on the season you go. 

Devil’s Gulch

You just must take a drive here!! Located in Garretson – The ravine where Jesse James supposedly performed an impossible jump to evade capture. We just think it’s an amazingly beautiful area.

Thunderhead Underground Falls

A waterfall 600 ft. inside a mountain is a spectacle of nature. Unfortunately, this place closed down in May of 2017. Seriously just days before we were there. We’re keeping it on our list though!! Keep it on your radar to see if it ever opens up again. It’s one of the most unique and different things to see for sure. 2021 Update: We’re looking to visit this again, and it appears it’s still closed. I hope it does open up someday!! Please let us know if you hear of it opening up!

Awesome for kids (and kids at heart) Splash Central Waterpark in Huron with plenty to offer with its water slides, pools, and lazy river.

Falls Park / Sioux Falls

We think this has become popular, but it’s definitely a place to put on your list. Falls Park (or Sioux Falls). We highly recommend spending a few hours here.

The waterfall, one of the best in South Dakota, is the crown jewel of the 123-acre park. Falls Park also protects some of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings. The falls themselves are about 100 feet tall, and 7,400 gallons of water drop over them each second. 

Hippie Hole

HippieHoleme

Hippie Hole (funny name, right?) This is one of the most amazing hikes in the Black Hills (we think) You can approach the waterfall from two directions, a short hike (our choice) down Battle Creek from the small parking area found off of South Rockerville Road or from an extremely strenuous hike off of Hwy 40. Once you reach the water from either direction, it is all worth it.  You can jump from the waterfall, float in the pool, or just sunbathe on the rocks. The hike is about 1/3 of a mile, and it’s a great place for playing in the water, jumping off of a cliff, and taking in the scenery. From Rockerville, head south on S Rockerville Rd, or head north if coming from Highway 40, until you come to Foster Gulch Rd (gravel). Drive about a mile until there is a marked road to the right and then another right about a mile later, after the next cattle guard. Stay right on all forks and the road comes to an end at a parking area.

Have you visited a hidden gem you’d love to share? We’d love to hear it! Please share your favorite off-the-beaten-path places with us!

Looking for the best RV Camping in South Dakota? Check out the epic places we found by clicking the button below!

Here are some more blog posts we think you’ll love!

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Hidden Gems in Iowa
Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, RV Camping, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Iowa. Exploring the Our Top Hidden Gems.

Wait – Do people go to Iowa? I hope so!! I never see anyone talk about the beauty in Iowa, and there are so many amazing things to see! You’ll love it! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. If you love boondocking, you’ll find a suggestion or two at the end of the blog.

Fun Facts – Did you know that Iowa is home to the world’s largest Bull named Albert?  And Iowa’s largest frying pan? Does that mean there is another “largest frying pan” somewhere else? I mean, who knew? 

Exploring our Top Hidden and Most Unique Places to Visit in Iowa

There are some really interesting and popular things to see in DesMoines. So if you’re going to Iowa, you’re probably heading there. But also check out our list of Off the Beaten Path places. 

Masquoketa Caves

Located in the state park with the same name, you’ll fall in love with the beauty here! Opened back up in April of 2021! With more caves than any state park, Maquoketa Caves is one of Iowa’s most unique outdoor attractions. And you’ll love the campground at Maquoketa Caves State park! This little state park is definitely grand when it comes to caves and you’ll learn about the cave history, and explore the gorgeous area. It’s well worth a day trip (or make it two).

Ice Cave Hill Park

ICE HILL

Decorah’s remarkable ice cave is located near Dunning’s Spring. While Iowa enjoys four seasons, you will find that the ice cave is frozen all year long, due to its glacial location. It’s a short hike up to the cave, and while the cave is small, it is a sight to see. Even in the Summer heat, be prepared to be cold in there. I wouldn’t even suggest taking a jacket though, as you’ll be in and out of there pretty quick.

Devonian Fossil Gorge

meFossil Gorge

This once hidden gorge was revealed by the floods of 1993, and it’s a fascinating place to stop if you’re in the Iowa City/Coralville area. Bring your cell phone!! You can take a free guided tour. There are instructions on a sign in the beginning. The gorge is actually a 375-million-year-old ocean floor with incredible fossils that are older than the dinosaurs. To get there, take I -80 Exit #244, go north for 2.6 miles on Dubuque Street NE, then east 1.3 miles on West Overlook Road to the Coralville Lake and Dam.

Dunning Springs

Located in Decorah, Iowa. There is a 200-foot waterfall located just minutes from downtown. Not a long hike at all, and bring your lunch. It’s beautiful!

Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge

A warning to the weak-kneed: This narrow bridge does its swinging eight stories high.

meLoversLeapBridge

Directions: Columbus Junction is about 35 miles south of Iowa City, down Rt 218. Take a left onto Hwy 92 which turns into Oak Street when you get to town. Turn right onto Third Street (there’s a bright blue sign pointing the way), and the bridge is on the right where the road bends.

Historic Squirrel Cage Jail

mesquirrel-cage-cell

No, this isn’t a jail for squirrels. But this is a super great concept. This rotating jailhouse in Council Bluffs is one of the only jails of its type left in existence. Tour the inner workings of this unique jail built in 1885 and learn about the prisoners it held.

Wildcat Den State Park

We really love to explore state parks. The natural beauty of Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine will truly take your breath away. The park features an extensive trail system, with 75-foot cliffs and amazing rock formations. The park also has several historic structures to explore. Located at 1886 Wildcat Den Rd., in Muscatine

Fenelon Place Elevator

Fenelon Place Elevator

When you get to the top of the Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque, you’ll be able to see not one…not two…but THREE states! Take a ride on the shortest, steepest railway in the world that elevates passengers almost 200 feet in the length of one city block.

The High Trestle Trail

The High Trestle Trail is a nature lover’s paradise and a work of art. It is a half-mile, the 130-foot-tall bridge gets bathed in blue light at night. Bike, walk or jog across the bridge, located near Madrid, for a one-of-a-kind experience. The 41 steel “frames” over the bridge represent support cribs within a historic coal mine. 

High Trestle Trail

After dark, the bridge comes alive as blue lights illuminate a section of the steel cribbings, which mark the location of the main river channel below. From April through October, the bridge is lit from sunset until midnight. From November through March, the lights turn off at 9 p.m.

Matchstick Marvels Museum

Located in Gladbrooke, Iowa. If you’re looking for something to do inside that is different and unique, this is the place! Patric Action of Iowa has been building detailed scale models with wooden matchsticks for nearly 40 years. In that time he’s created around 70 elaborate designs, from the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Wright Brothers’ Flyer. Each model is comprised of hundreds of thousands of two-inch matchsticks, which Acton has spent hours shaping, warping, and gluing together with careful precision in an impressive one-man operation.

This is such an amazing art form. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 12, and under 5 is free. The museum is open from April 1 through November 30, seven days a week from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is handicapped-accessible.

Roller Coaster Road

Are you up for a wild ride?

If anyone gets car sick in your group, definitely skip this one! Just outside of Harper’s Ferry in Northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County is Roller Coaster Road (Yes, it’s actually named that!). These thrills are typically reserved for the theme park, but here you can try it out in your car. Just remember to drive safely!

Boondocking

  • Big Creek Lake WMA (Polk City). We love Wildlife Management Areas. We also stayed at one in Colorado. Don’t pass these by: GPS: 41.819025, -93.756061
  • Hawkeye WMA. GPS: 41.792561, -91.71432 Gravel road is about 3 miles long but totally accessible. Big rig friendly! 

Here are a few more blogs we think you’ll love!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

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How To's and Why Not's, RV Camping, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons, Travel Destinations & Stories

Top 20 Phone Apps For RV Travel

LETS TALK APPS!

As full-time RVer’s who travel, we rely on a lot of different apps and websites to give us all the information we want or need. From weather to boondocking. And dump stations to gas stations. There is so much more to just getting in your RV and driving to your next location. New apps are coming out all the time, so I’ll try to update this often!

Our Top Weather Apps

There are a lot of great apps out there for the weather. We don’t care what you use, but please use a couple of them. They can literally save your life.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 6.35.43 PM

This is really above all the most important part of your planning. Weather can make traveling in an RV very unsafe if you aren’t careful. We actually use several different apps to check the weather. Remember to check them all! They can be different. Predicting the weather is known to be quite the guessing game. 

Boondocking / Campground Apps

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Free Campsites – This is actually our first go-to. But our rule of thumb is we always check more than one app when looking for boondocking places. All the apps have very different information. Plus, we read the reviews, and those are also different on each app. We love all the different filters you can use on this app. Very helpful. 

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Allstays – This is another top choice. Allstays also lists other information. Check your filters on the app. You can find water, dump stations, propane stations, etc. (This is the only app we pay for. I believe it’s still about $10 to purchase. Well worth it)

Campendium – Another very highly recommended app. We use these top 3 more than any other apps. Using more than one source of information means you won’t be stuck somewhere you aren’t comfortable. We find there really is a lot of different information from one app to another. 

We also use the following if we find the need to dig a little deeper.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 6.59.08 PM

Useful RV Life Apps

After 5 years of full-time travel now, we have discovered some amazing apps. But there are even more! So if you find one not on our list, please let us know! Good thing our phones hold a lot of apps, right?

Gas Buddy

This app can help you find the type of gas/fuel you need and will show you prices. Very useful app for any sort of travel, but especially RV traveling. 

The Best RV Apps

Sanidumps RV Dump Locator

I love this app!  With the Sanidumps RV Dump Station Locator app, you’ll be quickly directed to the nearest dump station, or you can locate one at your next stopping point. We personally try to find free places to dump our tanks and this is a great resource. 

Google Maps

You probably already have this app on all of your phones and tablets, but if not, be sure you have it before your next trip. I personally love it for “pinning” my location and sending the GPS coordinates to someone who might be meeting us later. I also love the live traffic conditions. 

Roadtrippers

This app accesses your location and provides you with a list of nearby attractions you may be interested in. There are sections such as hotels, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, etc. Check it out! It’s a great tool!

iExit

I think this is one of our most-used apps when on the highways. They make it so easy to find what’s coming up ahead and make plans to stop. If you’re looking for something in particular, you will know well in advance what is coming up. Restaurants, hotels, rest areas, or gas stations just to name a few. 

Now, let’s have some fun! What are your favorite travel activities? We have a few favorites.

Geocaching

Here’s a fun one! Who loves Geocaching? If you don’t know what Geocaching is, check out my blog about that.Geo-What? What is Geocaching, and How Does it Work? Bringing Free and Family Fun Together. It’s basically a world wide scavenger hunt. Gets you out there hiking and walking and you’ll look at the world a little different after you start playing this game. And the kids will love it! Our kids grew up playing with us, and still play to this day!

UDisc

This is somewhat a new one for us. This last Christmas our daughters got us Disc Golf sets and we’ve really enjoyed playing. This app lets you find places to play around where you are.

Ingress

Our friends got us completely hooked on this game. Why? Because it takes you to places you wouldn’t have ever noticed. Murals on walls, hidden historical finds and so much more! Explore the mysterious world around you with the Ingress Scanner. Interact with real-world landmarks to collect valuable resources from Portals to empower your Faction.

We hope you found some of these apps helpful! And we’d love to know what apps help you get out there and stay out there.

Here are a few other blogs we think you’ll love:

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

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Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Florida. Our Top Hidden Gems!

america-2746537_1280

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each post will also include a link to our free camping locations.  

Our Top Pick of the 14 Most Interesting Hidden Gems in Florida

Last week we had more people contact us through our blog than any other week in the past. Most said they had received a link from a friend. So we want to thank everyone who is sharing our blogs! It truly means a lot to us, and we are glad you’re liking them enough to share.  If this is your first time, welcome! We look forward to getting to know you all. 

Before we get into our tops picks, here are a few super amazing things to see that are not on the roads less traveled or off the beaten path but definitely must see’s while you’re in Florida. Dry Tortugas, Manatee Springs and Devils Den are our top pics for the popular places.

We love the amazing beaches and clear waters of Florida like everyone does. But if you’re looking for something just a little different to do, here’s our picks. 

Crystal River

Crystal River is a coastal city in western Florida. Kings Bay, which is fed by springs, is home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, sheltering manatees year-round. Boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge offer views of the marine mammal and the natural springs. This is an awesome day trip! I was a little taken back that you can’t just walk into this place on your own. We had to buy a $10 trolly ride in. I didn’t question it, as it wasn’t that big of a deal. But well worth the trip!

Kayaking in Florida

Check out or 2021 kayaking at Weeki Wachee Spring here!

Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva River are a paddler’s paradise with 16 miles of continuous, crystal clear spring water that will take you for a meandering ride to the St. John’s River and beyond. Canoes and kayaks are at home in this vast, natural wonderland of birds, bees, and subtropical forests. Bring your camera. FYI: There is no access to Rock Springs Run or Wekiva River from the Rock Springs Run State Reserve.

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Tubing/Kayaking at Rainbow River – About 2 hours north of Tampa, you’ll find Rainbow River. I mean just look at this place!! You can bring your own tube, or rent one, but it’s a super fun float experience for you and the kids. Kayaking this is great too! It’s more of a float though. 

Bioluminescent Kayaking

If you do nothing else water-related, do this!! Super cool Kayaking trip at night!! This night tour takes you to Florida’s Indian River Lagoon to see that waters light about with a bright blue-green glow.  You light it up with the splash of your kayak paddle.  Some companies offer regular kayaks, family rafts, and the spectacular clear kayaking bioluminescence experience.  Tours depart every night throughout the year. 

When Justin was stationed in Puerto Rico, we had only been married for a few months, and I took off work and flew out to spend our first married Thanksgiving together. There was a similar lake there, and it’s definitely something to see. 


  • We get so many questions on our kayaks I wanted to share the ones we have. These fit behind the theater seat in our RV and are the size of a large hiking backpack. Very small and we’ve truly enjoyed them!! Click HERE to see what brand and model kayaks we have. 

Bulow Plantation Ruins

We love history, and especially the kind of history we can see and touch. There are several Sugar Mill ruins in Florida.  Bulow Plantation Ruins The ruins of this antebellum sugar plantation are the end result of a Seminole attack during the Florida Wars of 1836. More than 20 years before Florida became a state, a South Carolina man named Charles Wilhelm Bulow bought up almost 9,000 acres of land bordering a tidal creek along the central coast, not far from present-day Daytona Beach.

If you’re a diver, check out Vortex Springs. Justin is a certified diver, but Stacy is not. We’ve heard this is an unbelievable place to visit. 

Washington Oaks State Park

Located in Palm Coast – Florida is known for the flat, white sands as far as you can see. The Rocks is a mile of unusual geological formations, caves, nooks, and crannies in the water-worn coquina rock.

meThe Rocks

Whether or not the rocks appear depends on the recent weather and tides. If there has been a number of nor’easter-type storms, then you can be pretty sure that the rocks will appear.

Coral Castle

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Located in Homestead – This may or may not be on the more popular side of things to do, but I had to include it. A mysterious castle built as a monument to lost love. The castle contains many wonders including a sundial, a stone rocking chair, a 500-pound heart-shaped stone table (a “Valentine” for his lost love), and a 9-ton gate made to spin with just a light touch. It’s just a really unique story behind this “Castle” (plus, if you have kids, I think they’d love this unique place). When Ed Leedskalnin was jilted by his sweet sixteen the day before their wedding, it was to send him on a mysterious and marvelous path of creation.

Cruger-DePeyster Sugar Mill Ruins

meCruger-dePeyster Sugar Mill Ruins

Don’t bother trying to pronounce this. Or maybe it’s just me! Do you like ruins as much as we do? So because so many of our blogs have ruins listed. We love the history and stories behind them. Despite being made of a seashell mortar, the crumbling remains of this historic Florida mill are still standing. 

Ghost Town of Ellaville

We love the mystery behind abandoned towns. What causes people to just leave an entire town? This really eerie ghost town is located on the banks of the Suwannee River. 

I don’t think I’d go out of my way to go see this, but if you’re traveling close enough to this area, check it out. Again, the story and the history behind this place is fascinating and sad. Directions: On the western side of the Suwanee River. Drive west on Highway 90; the sign for Ellaville can be seen as you cross the river.

The Lewis Spring House

The Lewis Spring House

Who doesn’t love the artistic houses of Frank Lloyd Wright? The Lewis Spring House is best known for being one of only two pod-shaped houses designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well the only private residential home in Florida designed by the famous architect. What’s more, this unique residence is directly tied to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Check out the Fallingwater House in PA too. We listed it on our blog HERE

Falling Waters State Park

Waterfalls are hard to come by in Florida, but this state park is home to Florida’s tallest natural waterfall, which rushes 73 feet down the wall of a massive sinkhole. If you’ve read my blogs you know waterfalls are my favorite places. Plan your visit to coincide with recent heavy rain, so there will be lots of water. Don’t underestimate State Parks as being some of the most amazing places to visit. 

Ravine Gardens

meRavine Gardens State Park,

Another State Park – Located in Palatka – This little-known park in North Florida doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This park with manicured gardens, footbridges, and trails created in the 1930s is magical during the springtime when thousands of azaleas are in bloom.

Here are some more blogs we think you’ll love!

There are still so many places we want to explore in Florida and hope to do that after the holidays this year. Please share your own Off the Beaten Path places with us. Looks like we’re heading back the winter of 2020/2021 so come back soon! More exploring to find!

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay while you’re traveling in Florida? Check out our ever changing, always updating list! Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Florida!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It means a lot to us!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

Finding the hidden gems in Florida
Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, RV Camping, Travel Destinations & Stories

17 Hidden Gems in North Carolina

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures, and all with GPS coordinates. 

North Carolina is home to the world’s largest chest of drawers, and of course the world’s largest hammock. But wait! There’s more! 

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I won’t lie! Driving the very small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was absolutely stunning! We actually ended up between two closed ends of the Parkway. It was closed for the season, but we entered from a camping area that we were at and drove both ways until the barriers. 

North Carolina has the most waterfalls we’ve ever seen. I’m a waterfall junkie. As I’ve mentioned in so many of my other blogs, two places make me feel the most me, and the most at peace. Waterfalls and slot canyons. Especially the ones that are less popular. 


Our Favorite Waterfalls


Soco Falls

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This is a breathtaking double waterfall between Maggie Valley and Cherokee. Off Hwy 19, you’ll see a sign and a small parking area. A short walk takes you to an observation deck, or you can take a short walk down to the falls. 

Juney Whank Falls

Located in Deep Creek, this is a lesser-known waterfall.

There is a footbridge to get up close and personal. It can be accessed from the Juney Whank loop trail at the Deep Creek Entrance. The 90-ft. fall is named after Mr. Junaluska “Juney” Whank, who’s rumored to be buried somewhere in the Deep Creek area, particularly near the fall.

Crabtree Falls

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Blue Ridge Parkway. Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, is a popular attraction located in Nelson County, just six miles off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 27. Crabtree Falls features a series of five major cascades and a number of smaller ones that fall a total distance of 1,200 feet

Dry Falls

There is nothing dry about Dry Falls. Dry Falls is also known as Upper Cullasaja Falls and is a 65-foot waterfall located in the Nantahala National Forest, northwest of Highlands, North Carolina.

Grassy Creek Falls

Many visitors to the DuPont State Recreational Forest have visited Wintergreen Falls on the Grassy Creek. However, most are not aware of another waterfall on the same stream, named Grassy Creek Falls. These falls are nearly 2 miles downstream of Wintergreen Falls, not far from High Falls Covered Bridge.

Secret Falls

It’s an easy half-mile hike, but there are no signs to the parking area. So, this remote area is mostly visited by locals.

Secret Falls

The trail is blazed with blue rectangles on trees and is easy to follow. There’s one lone stake in the small parking area at the start of the trail that says “Secret Falls.” The wooded hike is easy enough for the entire family. There are 2 easy creek crossings (one has a log bridge), a brief uphill section, and a series of stairs after you reach the falls area. Just 6.5 miles from busy downtown Highlands is this hidden oasis that is definitely a secret to many. Secret Falls (also known as Big Shoals Falls) is a gorgeous 50-ft. waterfall on Big Creek that cascades into a serene pool, deep in the Nantahala National Forest near the Georgia state line.

Clingmans Dome

Located in Bryson City – A concrete tower with a spiraling walkway winding 375 feet to the top crowns the highest mountain in the Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s definitely sad to see what we think is Pine Beetle damage though. Still an amazing view.

Historic Fort Fisher

You can visit this awesome place without any sort of military ID. It’s open to everyone. And it’s free! We really enjoyed walking around the grounds, and on this particular day, the fog really started to roll in which was pretty cool to watch. Fort Fisher was a Confederate fort during the American Civil War. It protected the vital trading routes of the port at Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1861 until its capture by the Union in 1865. We really enjoy all the history we’ve learned as we travel.

There is a small little campground located on the actual military facility that we stayed on. It was very reasonably priced ($25 per night). Beautiful, large paved spots, and very clean.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Located in Bird Island – According to most stories, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox was first erected after the Kindred Spirit saw a mirage of a mailbox on the shore during low tide.

Although the vision wasn’t real, they were inspired to plant a mailbox with a communal notebook so that visitors could leave proof of their having been there. The use of the mailbox quickly caught on and visitors flocked to the island to sit on a nearby bench, look out over the water and write their own personal message inside the mailbox’s journal.

The House of Mugs

House ofMugs

I’m not sure I’d go out of my way for this, but if you decide to go, bring a coffee mug!! A cabin completely covered in coffee mugs, where visitors are welcome to leave one of their own—if they can find an empty nail. There’s no charge to see the Sisk’s collection, but donations are welcome. To see the Cup House, follow NC Route 90 north/west out of Collettsville for about half a mile and turn left onto Old Johns River Road.

Clyde’s Critter Crossing

If you happen to be in or near Pittsboro, you might not want to miss Clyde’s Critter Crossing. It’s a bit eclectic and bizarre but definitely check it out if you’re in the area, or passing through. I won’t spoil it for you. But the kids will love it. 

Emerald Isle

Yes, I realize this is a very popular place – in the summer! But we visited in December, and as you can see from our picture, it was pretty warm still and the beach was virtually empty. Though we know this isn’t much of an “out of the way” place, we highly recommend visiting off season. It was amazing!

Chimney Rock State Park

State Parks are really under-rated. We love them! This is a beautiful state park, and you just gotta see the views from Chimney Rock. Wow! There are a lot of steps to the top but you won’t regret the view once you make it to the top!

Pilot Mountain

Pilot Mountain has two distinctive features, named Big and Little Pinnacle. Big Pinnacle (also called “The Knob”) has high and colorful bare rock walls, with a rounded top covered by vegetation, reaching approximately 1,400 feet above the surrounding terrain. Visitors can take a paved road to the park visitor center and campgrounds, then up to a parking lot on the ridge. 

Fort Macon

This is also a state park. Another really awesome part of our history. I have to say, as soon as I sent the first picture to my daughter (who is spiritually sensitive) she immediately felt lots of death. Without even knowing where we were. The Battle of Fort Macon was fought there during March and April 1862. Fort Macon is made up of 2,379,546 bricks – more than any other U.S. fort. Five-sided Fort Macon is constructed of brick and stone. Twenty-six vaulted rooms (also called casements) are enclosed by outer walls that are 4.5 feet thick. This is open year-round, but again, we tend to travel off-season to many places that would typically be crowded. We saw one person coming in as we were leaving in early December.

Helen’s Bridge

Located in Asheville – Legends have it that the mansion was once home to Helen, a woman who lived here with her daughter.

A tragic fire claimed the daughter’s life and when Helen couldn’t bear the misfortune, she committed suicide by hanging herself from the bridge. To date, the bridge is known to be haunted by her spirit. Personally, we just think it’s a really scenic bridge.

Great Flat Water Kayaking

Merchants Millpond State Park

MEMerchants Millpond State Park

Southern swamp and hardwood forest mingle at Merchants Millpond State Park, adorning the landscape with massive bald cypress trees, beech groves, Spanish moss, and exotic wildlife. Please be forewarned, there are gators and snakes and … and … and … Ha! The cypress trees and quiet and frogs croaking and birds singing is just one of the most peaceful flatwater floats. 

Here are a few more blogs we think you’ll love!


BOONDOCKING


Our first pick isn’t technically FREE boondocking. But it is dry camping none the less. It cost us $2.50 a night, we were backed up to a beautiful stream we could listen to, and it was really epic!! Here is our video with some more information. In fact, there are several places in the Pisgah National Forest to boondock. 

  • We are very fond of horse camps. All the ones we’ve been in have had plenty of room for us. Hence the horse trailers must be able to fit too! Badin Horse Camp is also located in Troy, NC. GPS: 35.442526, -80.04055. This area can get a little crowded on weekends due to horse owners wanting to ride the trails. 
  • Yates PlaceTroy NC National Forest campground – GPS: 35.364606, -79.989031 – Open all year, great Verizon and ATT service. Beautiful forest views. 
  • 2020 Update! We boondocked at Oyster Point Campground. It is true boondocking with no hookups, but it is a managed campground with a camp host, water on site, and pit toilets. It does cost $10 a night, but we really liked the location. The sites are huge! Here’s a picture of our site from the front and then once we backed in. Awesome Verizon and ATT signal.

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Pennsylvania. Cool and Hidden Places to Visit in Pennsylvania

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different. We also love finding the road less traveled and taking it. But, we certainly can’t explore them all, so we’d love you to share your own off the beaten path stories with us. Each series will include our favorite free and paid RV camping areas in each state.

When Justin retired from the military in 2010, we moved back to his home state of Pennsylvania. We bought a home, settled in a beautiful area, and started our path to what everyone perceives as “normal”. The rest of the story can be found on our About Us page. We lived in Lehigh Valley, and if you haven’t been in that area, there is so much to see and do just in Lehigh County. 

intercourse

The history in PA is stunning! But It’s hard not to stop, giggle and take a picture with some town signs in Pennsylvania, with names like Intercourse, Blue Ball, Provocative, and Virginville popping up across the countryside. Another favorite is “Bird in Hand” located near Lancaster, PA. Not to mention just the crazy, hard to pronounce, city names. Very dutch, that’s for sure! 

Fun Fact: Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the banana split.

Gettysburg

If you haven’t been to Gettysburg it’s full of history and beauty. Highly recommend it!! It’s not really an unpopular or unknown place, so I won’t go into too much detail but it’s a beautiful place to walk around and for the kids to learn the history. Did you know you can download a driving tour app on your phone for $10? Totally worth it! It’s the best interactive historical information I’ve seen in a long time.

Saylor Park

Coplay (Lehigh Valley). Loved this little “park”. There is such great history on these cement kilns. The 90-foot kilns were a marked improvement over prior methods and helped make Lehigh County the center of the Portland Cement Industry at the time. Portland cement enabled the construction of bridges, subways, and buildings that transformed America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is open year-round and has a beautiful, paved walking trail that goes for miles. We walked to the train bridge, which is no longer in use here at the park, but another great piece of history. This is a great day trip option and free to check out.

Bethlehem Steel

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If you like the history of the old Bethlehem Steel company, you’ll love walking around this area. Many photographers come to take wedding pictures, engagement photos, senior pictures, or family pictures here. Makes for an amazing backdrop. 

Presque Isle

Like most people in and around Pennsylvania, most are not aware of the beach just outside of Erie called Presque Isle. Presque Isle is a peninsula that stretches along the shore. While you may generally think of driving south to head to a beach, you may never consider driving ‘north’. Well, now you can, especially considering that Presque Isle has everything to offer that any other popular beach would have, such as boating, fishing, and swimming.

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When you can’t get away for too long, you can drive a short distance and spend the day at Presque Isle. Relax on the beach or enjoy yourself by immersing yourself in all that is offered to you at Presque Isle. Imagine just going a short distance for the day only to return home refreshed and rejuvenated.

Columcille  Megalith Park 

This place was so amazing we did a whole new blog post about it. A land of myth and mystery located in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. A park rooted in Celtic spirituality and inspired by the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland …. Click here to read more

Mutter Museum

Located in Philadelphia if you aren’t into odd and strange you might want to skip this. We happen to have a daughter who is double majoring in Forensic Science and this is really right out her ally. The museum consists of thousands of medical tools, along with, pathological and anatomical specimens, which have been preserved.

mutter-museum

Some might find it too gross to stomach, and others (like us) find it absolutely fascinating and informational. The human body is remarkable. Many of the tools and specimens once belonged to influential people in the medical and science fields. Even though you may not have a particular interest in medicine or science, one thing is clear, you will not be able to say this museum was dull. 

Eastern State Penitentiary

Thrust into the middle of urban Philadelphia is what looks like a great castle, a massive and haunting building. However, these walls weren’t built to keep Crusaders and robbers out, but to keep them in. This castle is a prison. I would highly recommend the self-guided tour. They give you some headphones and you are thrown into the story of the penitentiary. We also took the regular guide-led tour but preferred the self-guided, pre-recorded tour. Really fascinating. This is also where Al Capone’s cell was. This place was one of my favorite places to photograph.

Centralia

Have you heard of this town even? A toxic ghost town sitting on top of a massive coal fire that has been burning since 1962. As of 2007, Centralia had nine residents. When we were there, we saw no sign or residents who seemed to live there. Also, we didn’t see smoke coming up from the main street now known as Graffiti Highway. We are not ok with any sort of vandalism, but this particular highway is one of those abandoned iconic places where it is truly a work of ever-changing artwork. We would have liked to see the smoke coming up from the big crack in the middle of the road. I hear it’s intermittent and possibly the fire has put itself out after burning for over 50 years. We also read somewhere that this street was featured in the horror movie Silent Hill. 2020 UPDATE – Sadly, we just found out this place was having some major crime events, and therefore has been buried in dirt, and is no longer available to visit. I hope you got there before this happened. It was a great part of our history!

Fallingwater House

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Over the years, I think this has gotten more popular, but I still run across people who haven’t see this or haven’t ever even heard of it. Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic home dangles over a Pennsylvania waterfall. 

Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle

This is not your typical boring museum. Take the kids!!!! They will LOVE this place. Hanging from the ceilings are baby buggies, and boats along with about a million other oddities. It’s a very strange, and unique type of “museum”. This Eccentric concrete mansion and museum designed and built by hand from the inside out. This place is nothing shy or sensory overload.

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It’s absolutely impossible to see this place in one visit. Or at least to remember seeing everything there is in there. The story on why it was built completely of concrete is kinds of interesting too. It’s a fantastic place to take family or senior pictures, so if you’re interested in photography, it’s definitely an amazing place for portraits. I’ve had both my kids here several times to take photos. 

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Mercer Museum

Penn’s Cave

PenCave
Penn’s Cave

Another place that has definitely gotten a little more popular, but again, still worth a mention if you’ve not heard of it. Boats take visitors through Penn’s Cave, a quarter-mile subterranean waterway with ornate limestone formations and a bat colony, all underneath a working farm. Penn’s Cave is located in Centre Hall, PA.

Longwood Gardens

I believe this place is amazing all year round, but I’ve only ever been at Christmas. If you haven’t ever been here, and you’re going to be around during the Christmas holiday season, make sure you put this place on your list. 

Archbald Pothole – Worlds Largest Pothole

So I put this on the list because it’s definitely off the beaten path and strange. I, personally, wasn’t real impressed. In fact I couldn’t find any pictures that I took to share even. Ha! It was just a big hole in the ground, where most people are now throwing trash. But since it’s different, and something interesting to see, if you’re in the area, you can say you saw it. Ha!  The pothole is believed to have been formed around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago by whirling glacial waters combined with sand and stones.

Lehigh Valley and all through PA you will find Covered Bridge self guided driving routes. Take one!! You’ll never see so many covered bridges! 

Jim Thorpe

The town of Jim Thorpe. Absolutely, 100% my favorite town to visit. I’ve been there numerous times, in every season, and I love it there. We’ve done white water rafting there, a train ride, bike riding, and just exploring the unique, one of a kind shops in the town. You can drive up to the top of the town and look out over it. It’s just a beautiful, old town and an amazing place to spend the day. There is the Old Jail Museum there which I have not visited. But there is a handprint on Cell #17 that they have tried to wash off, paint over and it still keeps coming through. Haunted? You be the judge. If you’re going to Jim Thorpe, take a hike up to Glen Onoko Falls. We have not been up there yet, but it’s definitely on our list. Make sure you drive (or walk) up the trail that overlooks the whole city. Incredible views looking down on the whole town. There is also an amazing bike path, an old steam engine train ride, and of course, white water rafting in the summer.

UPDATE! We hiked Glen Onoko Falls! Beautiful, but dangerous hike. This trail has been closed several times for deaths relating to falling. Please be aware of your footing, and always wear appropriate shoes. I can’t tell you how many people we saw hiking in flip flops, and taking chances here you just should not. There are a few rock scrambles on this trail. Also, there are two trails. We took the harder trail up, and the easier trail down. Do your research to find what is best for your skill level. This steep, tree-covered path for hikers features multiple waterfalls & scenic views. Definitely worth the hike!!

Have you seen our other “Off the Beaten Path” blogs? Please check them out and please share!

Have you seen some unique and wonderful places in PA? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts below, share our content with your friends, and don’t forget to check back often. We are always updating our blog!

RV Camping in Pennsylvania

Click the button below to see our favorite RV camping, both free and paid, in PA.

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Live Simply – Give More – Expect Less!

How To's and Why Not's, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons

Full-Time RVing and Haircuts ~ How To Find A Hair Stylist While Traveling

“How do you find a hairstylist if you’re never in the same area?” This is a question we get asked a lot. After over 4 years on the road, I won’t say it’s always been easy for sure. We’ve done the big chain places, and frankly have been pretty let down. No offense to the big chain places, but personally I’ve not visited one where I thought they were confident in what they were doing, and I’ve never walked out feeling it was a very good haircut. AND … I’m not even picky! 

Tips & Ideas

Meet up or ConvergenceAsk in a group setting about hair stylists. It’s possible you may be sitting right next to a professional hairstylist who also happens to be a full-time RVer. 

Aveda Salons – Aveda Salons – I’ve heard this over and over again from RVers. Aveda Salons are always completing updated training, and I’ve not heard of one person getting a bad haircut at the Aveda Salons.

Google – I think this one is pretty obvious, but look up and read the reviews of the local hair stylists. See if you can find names of stylists at the local places that might seem to be the best according to the reviews.  I actually did this in West Virginia for my daughter. She hadn’t had a chance to get back to Pennsylvania to our hairstylist last summer and was in need of a haircut. We did find a very good hairstylist in her college town. I have to say for the small trim she received, and the $80 (plus tip) price tag, it might have been better to do a bit more research. But this place had great reviews! We just weren’t expecting the price tag for a trim. Literally a wash and trim! 

Book a Blowout – These are relatively new places that have popped up over the last few years. That’s when you just make an appointment for a wash and style. This is the safest way to get a feel for a salon without making any major commitments. If you’re going to be there a bit, and love the style you just got, make an appointment for a cut and style the following week. 

Ask a Stranger – Sometimes this can be awkward! But can also make someone feel really great. If you see someone in the grocery store or laundromat who has a similar style hair cut you’re really wanting? Ask them who their hairstylist is. People are always willing to share that information. And not only did you make that person’s day because you obviously loved their haircut, but you might have made a new friend. 

Social Media

We’re almost always learning from Facebook groups or Instagram. If you see someone with a similar style you like, ask them where they got it done. If you’re in a large RV Facebook group, ask if anyone has any suggestions in or close to the town you’re in, or the one you’ll be going to in a few weeks. 

Let’s not even mention what happened in 2020! How many of you went a year or more without a haircut? It was tough! I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair for about 3 years now, but he’s even less picky than me.

We would love to hear how you solve this dilemma and what tips you have for finding haircuts on the road.

Here are a few blog posts we think you’ll love!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

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Boondocking / Dry Camping, How To's and Why Not's, Travel Destinations & Stories

Boondockers Welcome ~ Why You Need This App!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Isn’t this what our parents always told us too? As full-time RVers, we use several different memberships to find the best overnight camping where we want to be. Boondockers Welcome is one of our favorites. Because we love to boondock, and this also gives us a chance to meet new people. We love this concept!

What is Boondockers Welcome?

Simply put, Boondockers Welcome gives you a platform for people who want to stay in a certain location but may not be able to find an RV park nearby. Amazing people offer their property up for typically 1-4 nights for free. Sometimes they have water and electric hookups as well. Boondocking opens up a world of new camping opportunities. What you might lack in services will more than be made up for in experiences. You don’t need high-dollar solar panels or big expensive batteries to boondock. We personally boondocked over a year with no solar and only a very small battery bank. Disconnect from the campground, and fill up the freshwater tanks, charge the batteries, and connect with nature and our hosts instead.

Host or Be Hosted

HOST: This site works based on the generosity of those who can host, so if you can, please sign up as one! You don’t need to be able to accommodate every possible RV size or be available 12 months a year – even if you can only host smaller Class B rigs during the summer months when you’re at home, that’s perfectly fine! Your property, your way! Hosts get all the amazing benefits of meeting fellow travelers, plus they get a 50% discount on a guest privileges subscription just for signing up. And even better, every time you host a member, you get credit for 3 free months of guest privileges, which you can activate whenever you’re ready to travel.

HOSTED: Create your profile. Fill in some brief information about yourself, including photos if you wish. Potential hosts will likely look at this after you contact them, so try to share a bit about yourself without divulging any sensitive personal data. Once you’ve found a few potential hosts that look like they’ll fit your needs, send them a stay request through the secure messaging system, letting them know the dates you’re looking for. All messages are sent immediately. Then enjoy your stay, and leave a review!

Look Who Has A New App in 2021!

We’ve been waiting for apps to come out for a while. We are super excited to see these released! Click below to download your new app!

Cost

Boondockers Welcome is one of the most affordable memberships. At this time, it’s $50 for a whole year! If you don’t know what to get your camping family for Christmas, this is a perfect membership that gives them such a beautiful gift! Boondockers Welcome offers gift certificates.

Boondockers Welcome allows you even more freedom and opportunities to meet some amazing road family members. If you stay just one or two nights for the entire year, you’ve paid for your membership.

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