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  • Writer's pictureSam Hageman

Road Trip: The Continental US, Part Three the "Southern" Midwest.

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

15,000 miles, 48 states, 42 tanks of gas, 34 days, 2 cars, 1 engagement.

June 6, 2017:

(27) Cheaha State Park/Talladega National Forest, Alabama:

We spent the morning exploring Cheaha State Park & discovered the hotel had a restaurant right on the cliffs edge of the Mountains. We had to wait a little bit for the place to open & we encountered some locals who we talked with while waiting. They swore we had to go to the Alabama Gulf Coast beaches because we had “never seen” a beach quite like that, even stating, “does Michigan even have any beaches?!” As many Michiganders probably did when they read that, we rolled our eyes & informed them that Michigan was the Great Lakes State & had the most freshwater lakes in the country, offering us tons of sandy & rocky beaches. Neither of them believed us or knew where Michigan was. However, they still swore their beaches were the best (although we did not check those beaches out, no ocean beach will ever trump freshwater beaches). After the restaurant finally opened, we sat down for breakfast right at the window. Although the fog was rolling through, it was a beautiful sight & a decent breakfast. We were not able to go everywhere we wanted in the area, but if we had time, we would have loved to check out these trails: Forest trails (Chinnabee Silent Trail 6.0, Lake Shore 2.0, Cave Creek Trail 4.0, Nubbin Creek Trail 4.0, Odum, Scout Trail 4.7, Pinhoti Trail 110.0, Skyway Loop Trail 6.0); Waterfalls.

(28) Rock City, Georgia:

We drove 2.75 hours north to Rock City, Georgia. Let me start by stating I wish we did not waste the $20 each & avoided this tourist trap. The park is dog friendly & allows dogs everywhere on leash, the park is open from 8:30AM to 5PM, has tons of walking trails, a 180ft suspended bridge, & man-made Lovers Leap Mountain waterfall.

Although the suspension bridge was cool & the waterfall was cool, especially when you were on top as you could see multiple states, there were some major downsides. One of the biggest was the fairytale land thing they had. The whole little building/cave was terrifying & creepy. The place was packed & offered very few places to escape people. I recommend skipping this, you are not missing anything.

(29) Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky:

We then drove quickly away from Rock City 3.5 hours to Mammoth Cave. We set up camp once we arrived on the gravel pad set up for tents & ate dinner. After we ate we headed to the visitor center & took the small trail nearby for a quick sunset hike. Mammoth Cave has 70 miles of pet-friendly trails & allows dogs on leash everywhere but caves or buildings. While we were hiking a deer started to follow us through the woods, but as we continued down the trail it continued getting closer & closer to us. It was not distracted & did not care about anyone but us. We were the only ones with an orange dog, so we think that is why it followed us. We think it was the deer thinking Dexter was one of them,

because the deer eventually came so close we could touch it. Dexter did not react until it got within a foot of him, then the deer booped Dexter on the nose with its nose & ran farther away. It followed us for a little longer then eventually left when Dexter barked at it a bit. Outside of the little adventure with the deer, the trail was nice & woodsy.

June 7, 2017:

The next morning, we packed up camp & went for another quick hike in the woods to let Dexter get some energy out before we left for Indiana. If we would have had more time, we would have checked out the Green River Bluff Trail & North Side Trails.

(30) Indiana Railway Museum, Indiana:

Being from the Midwest, we are very familiar with Indiana. It is one of the most boring states out there (as much of the southern Midwest & plains regions are). There was not much in southern Indiana for outdoor recreation, so we opted for Indiana Railway Museum 2.5 hours away from Mammoth Cave. Dogs were

allowed on leash everywhere in the museum & trains, so long as they were well behaved. The museum was closed when we stopped by, but there were some trains outside that we could look at/explore. However, it was hot we did not spend much time there & headed to Illinois.

(31) Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest, Illinois:

After 3.25 hours of driving, we ended up in the Shawnee National Forest. Even though it was a summer day the forest offered a lot of shade to stay cool. We hiked the Garden of the Gods rock formation & it was beautiful. The rock formations & the thick forest were very

enjoyable. The Shawnee National Forest is very pet friendly & allowed dogs everywhere on leash. The forest offered miles of trails, some waterfalls, & the rock formations. We would have explored more had it not been so late in the day already.

(32) St. Louis/Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri:

Due to exploring in Illinois longer than planned & after 3 hours of driving, it was already dark when we arrived in St Louis. We grabbed some food & headed for the La Quinta hotel to eat, do laundry, & go to bed.

June 8, 2017:

When we woke up, we got some breakfast then headed to Gateway Arch National Park. We went to see the Arch & walked around the park for a little bit. Gateway Arch allowed dogs on leash through most of the park & was a nice walk in the morning.

(33) American Kennel Club Museum, Missouri:

We then drove to the AKC Museum. Dogs are allowed everywhere for free & each person costs $6. It was cool to check out the museum & the history of dogs. Dexter was happy to get a treat from the lady at the front as we left as well.

(34) Stax Records Museum/Memphis, Tennessee:

We then drove 4.25 hours to Memphis for some BBQ & to visit Stax Records Museum. We checked in & dropped Dexter off, then headed to Stax. We got there less than an hour before they opened, but thankfully the person there was nice & told us to take our time since

we were from so far away. The Museum is $13 per person & shows the history of Stax Records, from Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MG’s, & more. Garrett was thrilled to see it & very excited to walk through some music history. Once we finished there we went & grabbed Dexter, then headed to downtown Memphis.

We ate out on the patio of Central BBQ to eat then walked to the Mississippi River at the Ashburn-Coppock Park. We watched the sunset & then headed back to the car. We dropped Dexter off again & headed to the Stage Stop Bar for a blues jam. Garrett brought his tenor with him & played with a bunch of the locals. It was a good time & a highlight of the trip. Sadly, the Stage Stop is now closed, but it was a grand time for all the local musicians. Then we headed back to the LaQuinta to hit the hay.

June 9, 2017:

(35) Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas:

After Tennessee we headed 3 hours south to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Pets are allowed on all the trails on leash, which allowed us to take Dexter throughout the park. We enjoyed exploring the park, but Dexter was a little concerned when he went to drink the spring water & it was hot. He backed away from it quickly & then asked us for water. We then walked in the downtown area for a bit to get some ice cream to cool down a little then headed back to the car.

(36) Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi:

We drove 4.5 more hours to spend the afternoon at Vicksburg National Military Park. The park is fairly large & allows for dogs to be on leash on trails, but no buildings. You can drive through most of the park to tour everything. We followed the driving tour for most of it but got out a few times to explore Michigan’s participations in the battles. After touring the park we headed to our hotel for the night, got some food, & relaxed before heading to bed.

June 10, 2017:

(37) New Orleans, Louisiana:

The next morning we headed 4.5 miles to Louisiana & took the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (almost 24 mile causeway across a lake) to New Orleans. A buddy from Garrett’s college had moved down there, so we met up with him at a Pride Parade he was playing with. The parade was a hoot & a fun place, Dexter was thrilled by all the treats he received. We then went to dinner at one of our friends’ favorite local spots then to the New Orleans city park to walk around for a while. We hung out until sunset then walked over to Morning Call for some beignets to wrap up our night. As we were exhausted, we went to bed once we got to our La Quinta hotel.

June 11, 2017:

The next morning, we explored the French Quarter & were going to try Café de Monde, but the line was ridiculous & the wait was an hour or more. So, we found another restaurant outside the French Quarter to eat outside (as it started to down pour right when we arrived). However, once we finished the rain stopped & we headed to the car for the next stop in Texas.

(38) Dinosaur Valley State Park, Texas:

We drove 8.75 hours to Dinosaur Valley State Park, only arriving shortly before sunset. We then headed to our campsite, set up camp, & went to sleep in the dry 110 degree heat. Little did we know things were about to get much worse…


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