That day, we were originally going to stay at a friend's friend's house in Atlanta, but the tensioner thing set us back a number of hours, and we would have arrived far too late. So we stayed at a rest stop on the SC-GA line. The next day we headed for Pensacola.
The first night we stayed at a free campground near an Air Force base, on the "redneck riviera" (we figured out why they call it that) which was absolutely beautiful.
A park ranger informed us the next day that we were supposed to have a permit (free) to stay overnight, but she wasn't mad nor did she immediately force us to leave. The next night we stayed at Fort Pickens campground, closer to actual Pensacola, which was right on the Gulf. This was not free, but was about $25, and we met some awesome characters there.
At this point, a bunch of friends from CO wanted to go to the Dunes with us in CO, so we moved our plans to maximize time there. We drove through New Orleans, and spent the night in a Walmart lot in Katy, TX, and enjoyed the National Beer of Texas.
"Get off my lawn!"
We went to a nice state park in Austin the next day, called McKinney Falls State Park, but didn't go and see the city because UBER and LYFT were banned in the city just days prior, plus we were exhausted. So we went for a swim in the falls, almost got bitten by rattlesnakes (because we messed with Texas) and enjoyed the size of the lone star state.
We then headed northwest, aiming for Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX by the end of the next day. Unfortunately, it decided to rain all day, making driving annoying, and Cadillac Ranch a no-go due to the dirt (mud) lot that we would probably get stuck in, and the fact that spray paint doesn't work if the cars are wet. So we headed directly for the free campground I found online, on a large lake (man made, I think) northwest of Amarillo.
This place surprised me, honestly. There were hardly any rules other than "be nice and respectful of the place" and it had free hot water showers and flush toilets. Not only that, but all the fixtures were new, within a year of when we were there. This campground wasn't particularly near anything, but if you find yourself in the area near Amarillo, definitely stay here. I believe it was called the Sanford-Yake campground in Fritch, TX on Lake Meredith. The hot showers, cool night and silence recharged us, as my bus doesn't have hot water, and it had actually been relatively cold outside those few days.
The next day we headed to the Great Sand Dunes park in Colorado, via some smaller state / US highways rather than the interstate. We cut through the top right corner of New Mexico, and upon a unanimous vote, stopped in Trinidad, CO for some of the Devil's Lettuce and some fuel. We climbed up to the 8,500 foot altitude at which the dunes sit, and upon doing so, almost had our windshield destroyed by tire shrapnel from a massive blowout from an oncoming semi truck. After the adrenaline shakes went away, I checked my tires and pressure to make sure that wouldn't happen to me. We made it to an area just outside the park and found a mediocre (at best) park to keep the bus for the night, and we went into the national park the next day, where they charged us admission as a family of four in a minivan.
This place is so weird but so cool, huge mountains of east coast beach-like sand backed by snow-capped mountains. We climbed up to the top of them, which is very difficult to do, and found a different campsite for the next night that would accommodate us and friends' vehicles. It was further from the dunes, but cheaper and more remote, and having grown up in the city, I generally prefer more remote. All 8 of us enjoyed ourselves and somehow managed to not piss anyone that night. Some girls next to us staying in tents left before us in the morning, without putting out their fire or staking down their tents properly, and they almost blew away. We took care of it for them, but that type of ignorance caused a large forest fire near Boulder this summer that resulted in a few thousand people being evacuated and a number of homes being destroyed.
Rare photo of me in front of my creation:
Since then, we've taken the bus out on some weekend adventures up in the mountains, but nothing too long distance, what with work and summer classes. Next planned trip is to High Plains Raceway in Deer Trail, CO, where some friends and I are getting paid to staff corners at the track for flags and such, and taking the bus to stay in.
Enjoy the rest of your summer, fall classes just began today for me!