Tracing History – Natchez Trace Pkwy

It was hot and humid late August in Tennessee.  We stopped in Nashville to stock up at Costco since we were going to be out in the country right off of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  I love pulling up the RV right into the large Costco lot shopping and putting the groceries right into the fridge!  What we didn’t know is that part of the Parkway was closed for some reason.  In a car that would be mostly ok but in a 36-foot Motorhome pulling a smart car not so OK.  It required a turnaround possibly u-turn. It was not even marked ahead of time nothing written on the thousand trails website! (See the video for full information. It did say it would be closed for a while on the sign.)

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The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile long drive through 10,000 years of History.  (NPS Gov Website referenced) From Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN  you can bike, camp, tour, hike and more recreational opportunities abound in this area.

We were intrigued by the ominous story of Lewis and Clark’s Meriweather Lewis and his suspicious death.  While we did not have time to drive the length of the parkway, there is a ton to see in each area!

Along Natchez Trace Parkway TN

I would caution those in RV’s to make sure to check the height of the bridges and make sure to have ways around the low clearances.  We had a bridge right outside the thousand trails campground entrance that was 11 feet tall while our RV was 12 feet 10 inches tall.

Check out these links for more information:

https://roadtripusa.com/the-great-river-road/mississippi/natchez-trace-parkway/

http://www.scenictrace.com/

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ms-natcheztrace.html

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-Mara

 

Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park KY

After a failed attempt work camping at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY in August 2016. (I hurt my foot and decided to leave – longish story but not that interesting)  We moved to the closest Thousand Trails campground and that happened to be this one to regroup and decide where our RVing adventures would lead us next.

The thousand trails campground is located right inside of Mammoth Cave National Park.  So after my foot was mostly healed, I could not leave the area without some exploration of Mammoth Cave.  The area is full of rolling hills and known for their underground passageways that have been explored and mined for hundreds if not thousands of years.

This was a really really hot and humid August summer day in central Kentucky.  The kind of day that is really meant for sitting in a pool or drinking some ice tea on a front porch somewhere.  What was the most remarkable thing I remember about the tour?  Standing outside on that hot day and having a cold breeze taking over the air. It was a dose of mother nature’s air conditioning.  It seemed to just pour out of the entrance.

The tours vary in length and activity level.  I chose a moderate cave tour with stooping and and a ton of steps (at the end over 155 steps to reach back to the outside trail)  I was able to complete the hike within the cave even with a swollen foot from my short stint at my work camping job.  They give you plenty of warnings at the pre – hike lecture and if you need to change your choice at that point you definitely can.  Just be honest with yourself on your level of comfort in the dark and what you can handle physically.  It is a long way up and a crew to come down and get you out of the cave can take hours!

Here is the link for more information:  Mammoth Cave National Park Tours

Take a look at the video I attached.  Please subscribe on YouTube Subscribe here! for more updates and companion to the blog here at firesidetraveler.com!

-Mara

Just look up! Albuquerque Int’l Balloon Fiesta 2015

900 Ballons at Mass Ascension Oct 3 2015 ABQ
900 Ballons at Mass Ascension Oct 3 2015 ABQ

Albuquerque is known for it’s rich cultural heritage, amazing sky, and some of the best artists in the world. Also, known for the Breaking Bad series (which you can take a tour in an old RV) However, people spend 10 days here in the first part of October for one thing… the world’s largest festival for Hot Air Balloons.  Visitors to Balloon Fiesta park in Albuquerque are treated to a spectacle (on a good day) of over 900 balloons floating peacefully through the desert sky.

Dawn Patrol Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2015
Dawn Patrol Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2015

I recommend going on a weekend to experience the full splendor of the balloons.  You need to get out of bed and get to the park no later than about 5:30 AM for the Dawn Patrol. Look for the green flag flying to signal the captains will be taking off.  About eight to ten balloons take off as the sun starts to rise.  They are the first few to check the prevailing winds.

Dawn Patrol taking off Oct 3 2015
Dawn Patrol taking off Oct 3 2015

Then there is the Mass Ascension.  There is only one thing to say….WOW!

ABQ Balloon Fiesta 2015 Mass Ascension
ABQ Balloon Fiesta 2015 Mass Ascension
Up on the Bluff overlooking Fiesta VIP EAST lot
Up on the Bluff overlooking Fiesta VIP EAST lot

There are all shapes and sizes!  A carousel, a dog, a clock, Darth Vador and Yoda!

Hot Air Balloons Mass Ascension
Hot Air Balloons Mass Ascension

We were fortunate to get an RV boondocking spot in the VIP East Lot right next to the bluff overlooking where the Balloons inflate and take off.  Oh yeah, did I mention we were in the front row! Full view of the field!  These spots do not come cheap at around $80 per night without hookups, however, rolling out of bed with that view is priceless!  There are a few other RV camping lots around the park. See the website  http://www.balloonfiesta.com/event-info/event-schedule for more details.  Camping spots sell out quickly and open up for reservations for 2016 at the end of October.

Kuma at the fiesta
Kuma at the fiesta

Let’s talk about the Albuquerque box for a moment.  According the Balloon fiesta website “The famous “Albuquerque Box” in the ballooning community is also a terrain-influenced feature. During the Fall months the predominant wind direction in the lower atmosphere is from the South or Southwest. The southwesterly wind occurs quite often during the afternoon in the Albuquerque area. However in the mornings, especially during the mornings after a fairly cloud-free sky overnight, a significant temperature inversion is present where the coldest air is near the surface. This cold and dense air from the higher terrain north of Balloon Fiesta Park “pours” down the valley through Balloon Fiesta, thus the surface wind in the morning hours is typically from the North while the wind direction above the surface remains from the predominant southerly direction. This wind from the North near the surface and from the South above the surface forms the infamous “Albuquerque Box”. When the sunlight comes over the Sandia mountain range and heats up the lower atmosphere the temperature inversion is lost and the entire atmosphere mixes, thus the southerly wind from above extends to lower altitudes and the Albuquerque Box dissipates.”

What does this mean?  Well, we had the Albuquerque Box on Saturday Morning October 3.  The balloons go up from the field and go to the south when they rise they go back over the field to the north and descend and come back south.  The result the balloons go over the field and come back and go over again!

Thor with Balloons Above!
Thor with Balloons Above!
Our motorhome at Balloon Fiesta VIP EAST LOT
Our motor home at Balloon Fiesta VIP EAST LOT

Balloon fiesta visitors are treated to a fireworks show most weekend nights with the most amazing ground show I have ever seen. Make sure to pick up some collectible pins to trade or take home as great souvenirs.  Each session is has a fee (one in the morning until 11am and one in the evening starts at 3:30pm). The cost is $8 at the gate or you can find discount tickets and local retailers or print them from Costco.com.

I have called this great city home a few times in my life.  Questions are welcome!

I can’t wait to show you an amazing time lapse video David made of the fiesta!  Stay tuned!

-Mara