Hope Over Land and Sea: 8000 miles, 9 weeks, NC to Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Badlands and more in 2023.

HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
Let’s Go on an Adventure” is my current punch line to the old redneck joke, “Hey Ya’ll watch this!” This is my story and I hope you enjoy the experience and laugh, cry, curse along with me as you read about our adventures.

Prequel

When did you first start YOUR Overland adventure? I suspect like myself, you started gradually, reading about someone else's adventure, or watching their Youtube channel, or tv series! I have been camping, well GLAMPING for 20+ years now in the family travel trailer. We purchased it as a family in 2005 or so and pulled it back and forth to the beach for a few years before deciding that it was cheaper to simply store it at the campground and have them put it on the campsite when we were on our way.

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The first camper was a 28’ Timberland Riverside and the current beach camper is a 38’ Salem Hemisphere with 3 slide outs.

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Our definition of camping, or “roughing it” was a poor wifi connection, the cable tv being fuzzy and the campsite has too many ants / sand spurs! We stored our camper at a big campground on the beach and went several times each year. We tended to cook our breakfast in the mornings on the electric griddle, lunch was a sandwich and chips and then for supper we headed out to find a nice restaurant. This is a far cry from Overlanding but there are millions of folks out there doing this each year and is a gateway drug to more serious adventures.

We upgraded our camping game by purchasing a THIRD camper, this time a 1990 Country Coach, 40’ diesel pusher motorhome. My wife and I wanted to see the country and having our bathroom in the rig allowed us to travel further with less stops and spending less time in public bathrooms as the pandemic was subsiding. Her health over the years had been poor including a stroke when she was 33 years old. The ability to move around, sit on a couch, recliner, etc. made traveling long distances possible. We live in NC and took trips down to FL to visit with my mom and then the next fall out to TX and back to visit Waco, the home of Chip and Joanna!

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Finally our last big trip was in the summer of 2022, we headed out on June 3rd up to the Amish country in eastern PA. Our nephew has traveled with us on our trips to the beach and other vacations and he came with us on that 2 week trip. He loves steam trains so we visited every train related destination from Casey Jones restaurant on our 22nd Weddng Anniversary (VERY romantic dinner with our nephew!) to the infamous Horseshoe Curve in Altoona. We spent a few days attending the Bantam Jeep Festival and finished our trip by spending a week in the Niagara Falls area.

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Only a few weeks after getting home from that trip, on July 5th, we found out my wife’s Ovarian Cancer had returned and had already progressed to stage 4, beyond the point of treatment. As we found out the extent of her cancer and started to plan for the end, one of her requests was that I keep traveling with our nephew and showing him new and exciting things! She passed away about a week later in August of 2022 and in honor of her wishes I started planning the next big trip with my nephew!
 
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HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
Where the Over LAND part of our adventure begins!

The first big decision was that the 40’ motorhome was really too much rig for my nephew and I but we did take it out to the Jeep Jam in Pigeon Forge a few weeks later. It was our first trip without my wife and it was a bittersweet experience but allowed us to look to the future and make big plans. Arriving at our campsite well after dark and then taking him out to eat “supper” at 11pm at the Waffle House. This is a good example of the type of planning I am capable of on my own!?
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After getting back home from our TN adventure I listed the motorhome for sale and started looking at something I could pull behind our Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe. With a tow rating of 3500 pounds I wanted something small and light but still enough room that each of us could have our own sleeping space. I found myself looking at the Aliner campers and there was a great deal on a 2021 Scout near Memphis TN and I drove overnight and bought it and camped on my way home at SFWDA Dixie Run in Windrock TN.

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If you are counting, at this point I own FOUR campers, this is getting a bit out of hand!? Luckily for me the big diesel pusher finally sold in December.

Once I had identified the camper, the planning started for “EPIC JOURNEY 2023!” The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Badlands were the primary destinations and I started booking campsites as soon as those were available.

The trip would be just over 8,000 miles long. Over 9 weeks, 15+ states, starting the first week of June and ending in early August 2023. The goal was to hit as many National Parks as possible during the trip including some of the least visited, Voyageurs and Isle Royale. By the way, it turns out that if you want to visit either of these you need to do a bit more planning, they require reservations for the Ferry services AND actual tent type camping gear, no Jeeps and campers!

My other travel tip that I would offer up is not only do you need to make reservations at the big destinations as soon as they are available, you also need to consider where you want to camp around major holidays! I found myself scrambling for a place to stay the week of Independence Day and found a small family owned campground in Hot Springs Idaho just a few days before the 4th and was VERY happy to have a place to park.

During the holidays in late 2022 I spent a month staying with my Mom down at her townhome in Florida, we took a cruise together in early December. On the first night of the cruise we went to the Dining room and were chatting and noticed a lady sitting by herself reading a book and enjoying her meal. We talked about the fact we were not really sure that we would want to be on a cruise by ourselves.

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My dad had passed back in 2019 and my parents had been married 53 years so traveling alone was something Mom had been facing for a few years at this point. I was now considering life as a widower and I was not sure what my travels would look like outside of the trips with the nephew or Mom..

However I got to test this out only 24 hours later when Mom got sick and was diagnosed with COVID. I tested negative and had no symptoms so they moved me to my own cabin and I found myself a day or so later in the same dining room, reading my Kindle, eating supper alone. Over the remainder of that week as I toured the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas it became obvious that I really wanted to find a traveling companion. I had truly thought I would be independent, but I had come to understand the verse “man was not meant to be alone.”

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HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
After returning home in January 2023, the trip planning started in earnest and I made a few modifications to the Aliner. I knew we would be camping in a few remote locations with no hookups so I mounted a dual fuel generator and a 100 amp hour Lithium battery. To give me peace of mind for campsites off the beaten path I installed a 3” lift kit sold by Aliner and BF Goodrich KM3s on the camper.

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I replaced the dorm fridge in the camper with a 12v Iceco JP50 quart refrigerator, and bought a Blackstone 17” griddle. To increase the storage and offset the weight of the generator, I had a reese hitch cargo carrier welded to the rear bumper with atoolbox for all the miscellaneous junk you need with you at the campsite.

We did a trial run camping trip in mid April and found out that camping in the mid 30s required a small heater, MrBuddy to the rescue! The 100 amp hour battery kept the fridge cool for those 4ish days but the 4” mattress / seating cushions lacked the comfort I was hoping for overnight. I added another 4” of foam egg crate foam on top and that was the best money spent by far for a good night’s sleep.

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With only a few weeks left before we headed out, I decided that having cold drinks in the tow rig was really nice and trying to open the camper and get into the cooler there was too much work. I bought a second 12 volt fridge, this time a smaller BougeRV model. I plugged it into my Jackery 500 and wedged all fo that into place behind the driver seat of the Wrangler. This worked fantastic, I kept 2 liters of my goto, Diet Mtn Dew and cold snacks with us in the Jeep at all time. However, about week 6 or so of the trip the BougeRV quit working. After defrosting and starting it up a few days later it sorta worked the rest of the trip but gave up the ghost after I got back home. They did replace it for free but I am not sure yet how long the new unit will survive.
 

HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
Remember that bit about “man is not meant to be alone?” After getting home from my soloish cruise and spending time with Mom, I decided to start thinking about, maybe sorta dating or finding a friend, companion?

Honestly I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do. There are a million dating apps and websites and in my profile I described my situation and the fact I did not know where I wanted to go from here and started chatting and started going out on a few "dates?" I was surprised at how many others were in similar situations, having lost their spouse in their 40s and 50s and now looking for what was next in their lives.

I was a bit conflicted about dating, when was the right time, about the mourning period and started reading up about life as a widower. What I found in my research is that men that were involved in longer, happier marriages such as mine are usually the first to look and ultimately get married again.

I started chatting with Shelley in the middle of January and we went on our first date on January 18. We went out twice more that same week and over the next few weeks it became very obvious that this was someone I was truly meant to be with. After six weeks or so I fully embraced the idea that we had been brought together for a purpose. That we were like a stained glass window, where broken pieces are combined to make something beautiful.

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As we got closer and closer to this EPIC trip, I had grown very close to Shelley and had already decided we were a great match and so we started talking about wedding plans and timing.

So this leads me to the next travel tip, meeting your future wife and then LEAVING her for 9 weeks to go camping with your nephew, only to arrive home about 3 weeks before the wedding is not something I would highly recommend!?!!

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I do think it allowed us to grow stronger as a couple by being apart and appreciating each other and our time together up to the time leading up to the trip. Thank goodness for Facetime, Starlink and the ability to hang out and play board games together via BoardGameArena.com as those technologies kept us close even when we were several time zones apart.

She had spent time with my nephew as well and they had grown very close and she understood that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to go on this adventure together.

So enough of the back story… Let’s Go on an Adventure!!!

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I will be adding to this over the next few weeks as I can write and edit each section of our journey, I hope you enjoy this and appreciate any feedback about the story, pictures or suggestions about the content.

I am not sure if I can "insert" new content in line or if this goes to multiple pages, if you (the reader) will have to scroll down to find the next place the story picks up.

The next part of the story we will drive to Arkansas, then Oklahoma and Texas, working our way up the 'canyons' list from Red Rock to Palo Duro before we head out to Sedona and the Grand Canyon.
 
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Rovertrader

Supporting Sponsor
Indeed, thanks for sharing!! Your avitar certainly echos your story!! Anxious to hear more….
Would love to hear more- perhaps via pm- about your thoughts and experience on Isle Royal, as it’s one of, if not the least visited National Park.
 

HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
Alas we were not able to make it to Voyageurs and Isle Royale due to lack of planning on my part! Both of those you need to think through logistics ahead of time.

Isle Royale camping is ONLY tent, whatever you can carry and take with you. Think back packing style and there is no "day trips" available. You are taking the ferry one day and coming back another day so that is why this is visited so little! My goal is to go back in our sailboat the summer of 2025 so we can spend several days on (or offshore) camping and exploring.

Since we were not doing Isle Royale, we changed our driving plans and missed Voyageurs as well for this trip, but it is on our radar for our sailboat trip!

Here are the National Parks, Historic Site, etc. that we did make it to!

Sam and Shelley - May 2023
Cape Hatteras National Seashore &
Wright Bros N Mem

Sam and Tanner - Summer 2023
Red Rock Canyon State Park - Hinton OK
Palo Duro State Park - TX
Petroglyph NM
Petrified Forest NP
Coconino NF (Sedona AZ)
Grand Canyon NP
Mesa Verde NP
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
Arches NP
Canyonlands NP
Grand Teton NP
Yellowstone NP
Devils Tower N Mem
Badlands NP
Mount Rushmore N Mem
Wind Cave NP
Theodore Roosevelt NP
Minuteman Missile NHS
 

HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
NC to Arkansas

Our first destination was the Tom Sawyer Campground which is located in West Memphis Arkansas, located right on the river of the Mississippi and across the river from Memphis TN. We headed out on Sunday afternoon about 6pm and took I77 up to I81, west to I40 across TN. This was our first, and last rainstorm driving and camping trip for the next 9 weeks!

We ended up just west of Knoxville, “Cracker-docking” and had to set up in the rain in the dark, fun times! If you have looked at the Aliner, it is an A frame pop up, so this means I am quickly popping up the center sections, jumping inside and folding up each of the two sides as quick as possible before the interior gets soaking wet.

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It is possible to do, and thank goodness the wind and rain was not quite blowing sideways at this point so we had a minimum of water on the inside. The next morning I had to work for a couple of hours so my iPad and I walked down to the McDonalds a bit after 6am (Cracker Barrel was not open yet) and I ate first breakfast, first coffee and grabbed second breakfast for myself and the teenager about 9 something.

We packed up the camper and for the first of 53+ hours on the trip, my teenage nephew logged hours on his learner’s permit, driving and towing the camper.

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We made it to Tom Sawyers’ RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas mid afternoon and setup camp and took some cool pictures and video of the barges before heading back into town to explore the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid, then over to Beale St to get some food at BB Kings and watch the live band.

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The campground is located right on the Mississippi river and I would recommend them if you are wanting to visit the Memphis area. They are on the Arkansas side but a quick trip across the bridges and you can go see Elvis.

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Next up will be Arkansas to Oklahoma
 

HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
Indeed, thanks for sharing!! Your avitar certainly echos your story!! Anxious to hear more….
Would love to hear more- perhaps via pm- about your thoughts and experience on Isle Royal, as it’s one of, if not the least visited National Park.

I wish we had ended up making it to Isle Royal, but there is not really "day trips" there, you take a ferry one day and can come back the next day. But you need to prepare for overnight / tent / backpacking type camping and I did not have anything like that with us for this trip! Hoping to go back in 2025 and try again from a sailboat!
 

HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
Arkansas to Oklahoma

Our next day we drove into Hinton Oklahoma to our first of many “canyons” for this trip. Red Rock Canyon State park is a really great stop and they have showers which are paid for with quarters and camping inside the canyon itself is a neat experience. I would not recommend going down with a long camper, as the switchback entry gets really tight and very steep. I am not sure what their official recommendation is but I would not have taken my 40’ diesel pusher down there with or without towing the Jeep behind it.

Red Rock Canyon State Park is the official name for this area, however to make reservations you will actually need to go to Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park which is a .com address. This is about an hour west of Oklahoma City and about 15 miles south of Interstate 40, exit 101, Sugar Creek Casino.

The only reason I know about this hidden gem is a trip to my family’s namesake, Hinton Oklahoma in the mid 80s. My Grandfather came to visit us while we were living in Moore OK and it really tickled him to have a town named after our family. He had been to Hinton WV several times but I still remember the picture of him and my grandmother posed next to the Hinton Telephone Company sign. Emily and I recreated that picture on our Texas trip in the fall of 2021.

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This is one of the first campgrounds where the Starlink strugged to stay connected, the steep walls, overhead trees, limited the view of the sky. This is something to remember if you are relying on the connection for work, you will want to book campsites with as few trees as possible.

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We only got to spend a few hours there that evening, it was a one night stop and we had just missed the closing of the swimming pool. The weather was overcast and we hiked down one of the side canyons and found a sketchy log “ladder” that allowed me to get up onto the ledge, maybe 6-8’ from its lowest point.

My nephew wisely declined but I decided to get the view from on high! This is one of those places that you could easily spend several days exploring and this area's history is really interesting how the settlers camped here in their covered wagons while making their way west.

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The showers were the first I had ever encountered where they had a lockbox to insert quarters to start the shower which was on a timer. I cannot really recommend the bathroom facilities as something to look forward to, but we did scrounge up enough quarters for him to take a shower and I decided to try out my Geyer Systems portable shower kit.

I will say taking a shower outdoors in your swimming trunks with campers walking by is not something I am looking forward to again in the future but at the end both of us were cleaner. I am currently eyeballing a shower enclosure to mount on the side of my Gladiator for privacy for the Summer 2024 Adventure! Currently accepting sponsorships for consideration, ha!

Spoiler Alert, plans for this year, leaving June 1, back home mid August, FL, TX, NM, AZ, CO... IL / MI, IN (Gencon), OH/KY and then home.

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With that done, we packed up the next morning, next stop, Cadillac Ranch, and then camping in Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the USA!
 
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Hourless Life

Well-known member
Love y'all's story! Thank you for sharing it, for the rawness and transparency of your journey to this point. But also for the hope and the continuing journey. Also the photos are extra special. So many good memories for you. Love the photos of your nephew too just being involved and experiencing this along with you! So awesome to see how overlanding has been used in y'all's life for love, healing, and hope. ~ Eric
 

HopeOverLandandSea

Active member
Welcome to Texas!

So our next destination is Palo Duro Canyon. When we arrived in early June 2023, they had just gone through a heavy rain season and most of the canyon was closed off due to flooding. There was just a single campground near the entrance that was still open and they switched my reservation to that location.

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Breakfast time!

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I can highly recommend this campground as something to add to your list and you will also want to consider attending the TEXAS Outdoor Musical show in the evenings! A MUSICAL is not something you would normally think about taking a teenage boy to but he really enjoyed the show. Especially all of the horses that are part of the cast and the incredible backdrop to the stage itself.

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Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the USA and what I think is really unique is the fact that you can drive down into the canyon for camping, hiking, horseback riding and the musical. This was Tanner’s second canyon of the trip so far, we are working our way up the chain. Once he saw the Grand Canyon the rest were a bit anticlimactic so you may want to keep the “biggest and best” for last!?

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Naturally if you are driving along Interstate 40 through the Texas Panhandle, it is almost a SIN to NOT stop at Cadillac Ranch. We did not bother to buy any paint ourselves and with the recent rain the ground was really wet and muddy near the cars themselves.

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Something else I want to recommend for Amarillo is the Texas Air & Space Museum! We spent a couple of hours there and the guide actually takes you out on the tarmac. We got to visit several of the bigger planes and helicopters and went inside to sit in the cockpit.

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Visiting this museum prompted some really interesting conversations about future career paths for my nephew. He has always been interested in trains but afterwards he expressed interest in the area of aviation.

We live near Greensboro NC and Honda has been building airplanes there for over a decade now and BOOM supersonic aircraft is just starting to build their plant nearby. The museum guide also mentioned the Civil Air Patrol and how my nephew could join and get his private pilot license which piqued his curiosity.

Next door is the Bell Helicopter facility and they are also the builder of the CV-22 Osprey, which is a very unique plane with rotating wings and propellers. I believe they specifically were working on a contract for the Marines. We saw several planes taking off and landing and they were incredible to watch but protect your ears they are LOUD!

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After leaving Amarillio we are now west bound with the hammer down. On the hood you can see my modified Starlink, I paid for the “in motion” plan during this trip so I was able to get a full signal going down the highway. The mounts are SeaSucker brand, they held up well and I am still using them.


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Something I told my nephew to watch for as we drove across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas was to watch the size of the trees along the highway. They keep getting shorter as you drive west until they disappear altogether by this point in the panhandle area. Quite a change for someone who grew up on the east coast.

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New Mexico is our next stop at our first Harvest Host location. Some hiking to see petroglyphs and a rattlesnake!!
 

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