JEFF AND DEBBIE DIX, DREAMERS, DIX.HITE + PARTNERS
Our dream to live our winters in Florida and summers in Oregon began 13 years ago when we purchased our home away from home in Bend, OR. Before then, and plenty of times since, we have crossed the country from the Southeast to the Pacific Northwest and back again. For the past 8 years or so, we’ve done these cross-country trips with a camper in tow and our Golden Retriever, Sunni Blue. Sunni is happiest in the back seat of our truck and often climbs up into her seat even when the truck is parked in the driveway. Now that we’ve both retired (or transitioned to “Dreamers” as the firm likes to say) our longtime dream has become a reality.
Each year we loosely plan our road trip based on given criteria and our bucket list of people and places to visit and revisit. Without going into too much detail, this season’s trip was planned to be somewhat direct while still providing a relaxed driving pace. Our goal was to FOLLOW SPRING and enjoy campsites in state parks, national parks and forests whenever possible. Each day’s journey would be as important as the destination since we would be spending much of each day on the road.
So, here’s what we did:
May 15-18: three nights
St. Augustine, FL
We began our trip camping on our daughter’s driveway…
May 18: one night
Lake Hartwell, SC
…and visiting a family member at his new winter home.
May 19: one night
Lake Powhatan Campground, Asheville, N.C.
This is now one of our all-time favorite camping spots. Our site 44 came with a private meadow and full hook ups. The N.C. Arboretum, Blue Ridge Parkway, and loads of mountain bike trails are all close by.
May 20: one night
Brown County State Park, Nashville, IN
We really enjoyed the drive through Indiana on SR 160. The picturesque farms and the bright yellow Butterweed in the untilled fields gave us plenty to daydream about as we drove toward the park in South-Central Indiana. Brown County State Park is the largest state park in Indiana and has the largest Tulip Tree (in full bloom) that either one of us has ever seen. The nearby town of Nashville is the center of the Brown County artist colony, home to the Brown County Pioneer Village, and former home, studio, and gardens of the famous artist T.C. Steele.
May 21: one night
Mississippi Palisades State Park, Savanna, IL
Our drive through Illinois took us right through Champaign/Urbana where Jeff graduated from University of Illinois with his degree in landscape architecture and where our daughter was born. Needless to say, it has changed a lot since we lived there almost 40 years ago. Then on to Savanna for camp. We broke camp early the next morning and headed 45 minutes down the road to Galena for breakfast. It’s a charming town on the Mississippi River with 19th century architecture and was the home of Ulysses S. Grant.
May 22: one night
Great River Bluff State Park, Winona, MN
We spent most of the day traveling alongside the Mississippi River, through Wisconsin and into Minnesota on The Great River National Scenic Byway. It was interesting driving through dozens of river towns and seeing the full flood plains firsthand. At La Cross, WI we crossed the river into Minnesota and our campground. This was our first night of boondocking (camping off the grid). We were prepared and survived quite nicely, thank you very much.
May 23: one night
Big Sioux Recreation Area, Brandon, S.D.
This campsite was nice, but the area in general was soggy from the recently flooded Big Sioux River. It was a cozy, rainy night then up early for our drive across South Dakota.
May 24: one night
Custer State Park, Stockade Lake North Campground, Custer, S.D.
We arrived at the park early afternoon which allowed us to take our time driving from one side to the other where our campground was located. It was a beautiful drive (with remnants of snow) which gave us a good overview of the park, we would have loved to have stayed for a few days to take advantage of the hiking trails, scenic drives, Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills region. We stopped in the town of Custer the next morning for a great breakfast at Bakers Bakery & Cafe and a quick drive-by viewing of the Crazy Horse Memorial.
May 25: one night
Bighorn National Forest, Wapiti Campground, Cody, WY
With mountain passes, snow covered peaks and wildlife sightings (lots of Pronghorn) it was another beautiful drive crossing Wyoming. This cozy campground on the North Fork of the Shoshone River was positioned perfectly to enter Yellowstone’s East entrance the following morning. We were in the middle of a holiday weekend without a reservation for the following day, but we weren’t too worried.
May 26: one night
Norris Campground, Yellowstone National Park, WY
Many of the campsites within Yellowstone are first-come, first-served, so it’s advantageous to arrive early and find a site before exploring the park. We chose the Norris Campground and were pleased to find a site available that would accommodate our rig. As it was, we had to disconnect and park the truck beside the trailer in order to fit. We had a river view and watched the Bison from our camp. And oh, did I mention we saw a grizzly (from a distance) on our way in? We took the afternoon to explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Yellowstone River. The next morning, we continued our drive through the Norris Geyser Basin, exiting through the west entrance into the town of West Yellowstone.
May 27: one night
Three Island State Park, Glenns Ferry, ID
Not only is this a very nice campground, but its location (about 6 ½ hours from Bend, OR) makes it a perfect stop either coming or going. We’ve stayed here four or five times before and prefer to travel scenic Highway 26, despite the extra hour of travel time between here and Bend. Three Island State Park is located on the Snake River and is home to the Oregon Trail History & Education Center where you can learn about the fascinating history and the Oregon Trail in Idaho. Three Island Crossing is designated a National Historic Trail. Did I mention the tornado warning?
May 28: five months
So, we made it once again and SPRING IS STILL IN THE AIR. Mission accomplished!