On the road again!
We finally started heading north after the first week in June. Our journey out of the south might have started way sooner but we wanted one more week in Cabbagetown (which still wasn’t really enough to do all the visiting that we wanted to do). So we decided to stay through the Cabbagetown Reunion Festival (more about that in our next post). There is nothing better than being in Cabbagetown and spending the day wandering about from a festival in the park to friends’ homes to wherever the wind blows us. Unfortunately, because we spent so much time in steamy Atlanta and were hot to get to cooler climates we ended up skipping a few more friends we wanted to visit after we left Cabbagetown. But eventually, the chilly fall air will send us back south and we will swing by those spots on our quest to stay warm.
This summer we have pointed Ballena Blanca in a new direction – the northeast. I have never been further north than New York City and Greg’s travels north were either a very long time ago when he was a child or for business back in that other life years ago. Heading to this region of the country would allow us to drop in on some of my family in Pennsylvania and visit my Aunt Eunice, check a major national park, Acadia, off our list, and chill out in Massachusetts for a couple of weeks while we housesit the lovely dog, Maya, for our nomad friends, Mark and Liesbet. You may remember Mark and Liesbet from when we traveled with them late last year and earlier this year. Since spring they have been staying temporarily at Mark’s parents’ house in a room above the garage (where we are now with Maya). And are currently visiting Liesbet’s family in Belgium.
After leaving Atlanta we stopped briefly at Greg’s parents’ house in North Carolina before hopping on a small portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway en route to my cousin’s house in Pennsylvania. We spent 4 days visiting with family before heading east and landing in New York State where hung out in the Hudson River Valley for a while. Eventually, it was time for our housesit and we drove to Newburyport, Massachusetts to reunite with Mark and Maya (Liesbet was already in Belgium).
Traveling in the northeast is very different from traveling in the west. There isn’t much free camping in this portion of the country and the pay-camping can be ridiculously expensive. We have resigned ourselves to paying when it isn’t too costly and to take advantage of the few free options when they are convenient – Walmarts, National Forests, and our Boondockers Welcome subscription*. But all this takes more planning. Out west we could head off in almost any direction and know that there will be someplace we can stay nearby. Here, we have to figure out where we are going each day and how long we are going to be there to reserve Boondockers Welcome sites or a spot in a campground.
What we have been doing has changed a bit too. The northeast is also more densely packed and unlike in the west where we have enjoyed time just roaming out in the natural world, here we have spent more time exploring history, visiting museums, and going on tours.
Friends in Cabbagetown
Our visit to Cabbagetown was way too short. Although we had many offers to stay in people’s homes we stayed in the van in a friend’s driveway. It is just so much easier for us to stay in the van. We don’t have suitcases so moving our stuff and keeping it organized in someone’s house can be difficult. Sometimes we lose or forget things. But it’s always nice to know we have the option to stay in a friend’s home and if it had gotten unbearably hot we might have used it.
A trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
We seldom spend the money to visit botanical gardens but in Cabbagetown we are lucky, our friend Debbie is a member of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and always has free passes. Every time we go I am reminded of how outstanding these gardens are.
And our total expenses for June were…
Here is the breakdown of categories…
It wasn’t a very thrifty month.
We needed to have Ballena Blanca’s front brakes replaced. It was expensive. But they wear out. And we have to have them.
Gas was a big expense. Gas prices are higher and we drove a lot of miles – all the way from Atlanta to Newburyport, Massachusetts. We also did lots of driving while we were visiting the Hudson River Valley.
And, of course, there was that camping expense we don’t usually have. We paid for nine nights of camping which averages to $18.36 per night – not too bad. If you spread that cost over the whole month it’s $5.51 per night – better than rent.
We spent a bit of money on Entertainment. There was some eating out while we were in Atlanta and we ate lunch out a couple of times while we were in New York State. On our journey from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts we visited lots of museums, old houses, and took an excursion on a steam engine train. But our biggest (and totally worth it) expense in Entertainment was our new National Park pass! Greg turned 62 in June which made him eligible for the lifetime senior pass. Yes, we have bought our last park pass. For $80 we get all the benefits of free entry to national parks and other federally managed attractions as well as a new bonus! Half-price camping at federally managed campgrounds. For life! In June we already saved $20 on camping and will be saving even more on the eight nights of camping we booked in Acadia National Park later this month. Those eight days would have cost us $240. We are saving $120.
Health was mostly up because Greg got another year’s worth of contacts. I will also need to have an eye exam and buy contacts in the coming months. I miss my younger eyes.
A couple of lost and broken items accounted for most of our gear total. I also bought another patch to go on my exploring hat. And, of course, our NY Times subscription and knitting supplies.
The biggest surprise expense was the toll to cross the Hudson River. There are five toll bridges in the Hudson Valley. In order to skirt them, you would have to drive all the way to Albany (a bit out of the way). When we approached our first bridge I saw that the toll was $1.75. Ok, I thought, we can handle that. But no…if your vehicle is taller than 7’6″ (we are about 9′) the toll is $6! I realized then that we’d have to plan our crossings carefully. In the eight days we spent in the valley we crossed the bridge twice.
A few things we didn’t spend money on – water and laundry. Staying at pay campgrounds has the small perk of free water. And visiting friends and family for the last four months means that we haven’t had to pay for laundry either.
I imagine that the expenses will continue to rack up. We have decided to splurge while we are in the northeast. We have our eight nights in Acadia and a Puffin Tour scheduled. We are meeting a friend in Boston and have booked an Airbnb for six days. No doubt we will try to pack a lot in those six days and won’t hold back too much on the spending. After that, we will head to Vermont for maple syrup, cheese, chocolate, and whatever other food and drink the state is famous for.
Camping spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway
We decided to take the scenic route on our way to Pennsylvania and spent three days camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The campsites were $20 but on day two Greg got his senior pass so we only paid $10 per night on the second and third days.
A few stats you might be interested in
Camping/sleeping totals (all camping is free unless otherwise indicated):
7 – nights in a friend’s driveway
3 – nights in a National Park campground (paid $40)
7 – nights inside a house
5 – nights at Boondockers Welcome locations
6 – nights in a state park (paid $125.25)
1 – night in a National Forest
Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 31.
Number of miles driven: 2385 (this makes our May gas cost about 21¢ per mile)
To see all of our expense reports, click here.
If you are interested in reading other expense reports from nomads who really know how to live cheaply while still having a good time, check out the blog from our friends Mark, Liesbet, and Maya at Roaming About.
* Boondockers Welcome is a subscription service. For $30 a year (the fee is now $50 – we are locked in at $30) we can request to spend the night in driveways or on the property of other Boondockers Welcome members. It is a great free way to have a safe place to park while you travel and a great way to meet other interesting travelers. Click here to learn more about Boondockers Welcome.
** All pics are click to enlarge.
A stop at the Germantown Library
We had lousy internet at our campsite at Mills Norrie State Park in the Hudson River Valley so one day while we were out we stopped at the Germantown Library. There was an outstanding display of yarn art on the library grounds.