Van Life Diary – February 2019

Van Life Diary – February 2019 Edition – Ruhls of the Road is spending 2019 on the road, living out of a van and experiencing as much as we can! We want to hike every national park mountain peak, snorkel the heck out of every amazing swimming hole, camp on the countryside, and share the whole journey with you! We are going to create a page from scratch every month to share the journey

Where We’ve Gone

Key West, FL — Ft Myers, FL — Ocala National Forrest, FL — Devil’s Den, FL — Garden of Eden Trail, FL — Orange Beach, AL — New Orleans, LA — Baton Rouge, LA — Lafayette, LA — Beaumont, TX — Houston, TX — Hot Springs, AR — Buffalo National River, AR

Fast Facts

  • The humidity is RIDICULOUS in the Southeast. We were NOT as ready for it as we should have been. Talking DAYS in a row of 100% humidity. Not the best to sleep in when you don’t have a fan circulating air…
  • Coastal highways and country roads >>> Freeways. Especially in Florida. Why? 2 reasons:
    • Tolls. HAVE to avoid the tolls on the Florida turnpike when you can
    • See the coast and country while you can! It is such a more pleasant drive. Might take 15 minutes longer, but it is so worth it!
    • Bonus reason: 55-60 mph is best for gas mileage!

Blogs from the Road Trip

How To Avoid Eating Out While Traveling

We just finished an AMAZING time in the Florida Keys. We spent an entire week making our way through the Keys living in our van, having the time of our lives doing it. We had this entire vacation without eating out.

We did excursions, went kayaking & stand-up paddleboarding, did walking tours of Key West, saw EVERYTHING we wanted to see, and didn’t spend a fortune doing it!

The number one main reason we didn’t break the bank? We did not go out to eat at ALL on our entire trip. This post is relevant to ANYWHERE you travel, not just the Florida Keys! Anywhere you go, you can save money and eat better by cooking instead of eating out. Heck, you can use all of this advice for eating at home, even!

We Found a Blueberry Farm to Stay At!

Our very first Harvest Hosts experience was at a Blueberry Farm in Central Florida! We had an absolute blast meeting locals, eating yummy blueberry jam, and exploring the grounds learning about blueberries!

Blogs from the Road Trip

How to Camp for Free All Across the United States

When we started our year-long adventure living on the road, we knew we had a nut to crack: free overnight parking. We had renovated a van, now we had to figure out how & where to park it every night!

We knew that if we broke the budget every night with a hotel or campsite, we would be penniless within 2 months. Thankfully, we learned SO much about free overnight parking, and now we want to share that information with YOU!

Without further ado, let’s figure out where YOU will be parking YOUR van or RV on YOUR adventure on the road!

Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring

Devil’s Den is an incredible cavern in Central Florida. However, if you plan on making the trip, we would advise getting SCUBA certified! It was an extremely cool place, however the snorkeling area just scratches the surface. The real treasure is down below. We need to get our certifications and head back!

Blogs from the Road Trip

Road Trip Florida's Hidden Gems - All Inland!

Florida has a TON to offer on any vacation. Warm weather, unbelievable sites, and of course beaches. But many people miss Florida’s hidden gems!

One of the most unforgettable experiences you can have is road-tripping through Inland Florida. The coast of Florida is beautiful, but it is also very touristy. The non-coastal part of Florida is SO SO cool, and much less packed.

The adventure awaiting on this road trip will beat a coastal trip every single time. You’ll go biking, hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, exploring, picnicking, and SO much more! Let the road trip begin.

If you’re charting your course, make sure to put at least a few of these (if not all of them) on your road trip route!

Super Bowl Feast

As luck would have it, the Saints got robbed and were not in the Super Bowl. The referees bleaux it. Because of that, we weren’t rushing to get to New Orleans for the Super Bowl (we know it was in Atlanta, just wanted to be in NO while their team was in it for the atmosphere!).

Instead, we were at Orange Beach on the Gulf Coast of Alabama! And living on the road is absolutely no excuse to not go all out for the Super Bowl, food-wise of course.

We fired up brats, buffalo chicken dip, homemade guacamole with chips, and a big ol pot of chili! And we only felt a little sick the next morning…

We Met Baby Goats!

We stayed at Golden Acres Ranch, which is a BEAUTIFUL Harvest Hosts site in Florida. We were fortunate enough to stay at a time when they had just birthed a few baby goats on site! It was an amazing experience getting to meet these little guys!

Also, we had this picture in our mind of baby goats as little jumping beans that scream all the time. We were right! They literally do not stop hopping around! And they totally make the scream from that old Taylor Swift music video edit.

February Van Life Costs

Ruhls of the Road’s Library

Zach’s Fourth Book of the Year – The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

This one is part of a trilogy! Starting with Child 44, which was recently made into a movie, The Secret Speech takes the baton from that book and carries it along.

This novel is a great page turner, one you will get lost in as the story twists and turns, leaving you on the edge of your seat! As much as you can be while comfortably reading a book wrapped up in a blanket.

Zach’s Fifth Book of the Year – A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

This book is part self-help, part spiritual-awakening, part non-fiction story-telling, and I absolutely love it. It was a part of Oprah’s book club, so it has to be good right!

Fair warning, this book is very dense. There is a LOT of information in it, information that I’ve had to read two or three times sometimes as I made it through. But I will see that I feel much more satisfied with my life, and as a result happier on a daily basis, as a result of reading it!

My favorite takeaway: You cannot plan out your happiness. You cannot say that you will be happy once you get X, or after Y is over. You can ONLY be happy in the present moment. And every moment spent not in the present will be less happy.

Blogs from the Road Trip

Epic 4 Days in New Orleans - Free!

We took a trip to New Orleans and spent an entire week exploring things to do in the Big Easy on a budget. We were EXTREMELY surprised (and pumped!) to find SO many amazing things to do in New Orleans for FREE!

That’s right. I said we found a TON of things (a long-weekend’s worth even) to do in New Orleans for free. It costs exactly $0. Less than a gum ball.

Now, of course, at many of these places you can spend money. And we encourage you to do so at a few places, because it is a blast and we’d feel bad about partaking in a few of these free things without at least buying a drink or two.

After all it is New Orleans. And if you splurge a few bucks on a daiquiri or a grenade then no one is going to judge you. You can even hit the streets with those in hand!

Photos from New Orleans, Louisiana

We spent about a week exploring New Orleans! We are currently working on a blog post about how to plan a 4 night trip to New Orleans packed with FREE activities!! That’s right, New Orleans for FREE!

We will make sure to let you know once that is posted, but in the meantime here are some pictures we took in City Park, Bourbon Street, and on the Mississippi Riverfront!

Photos from Arkansas

We stopped at a few places while road tripping through Arkansas and were FLOORED with how pretty this state was! It seemed like there was another natural wonder around every single curve in the road!

We started at Hot Springs National Park, a very small park but one with beautiful sites. From here we took to Pinnacle Mountain State Park right outside Little Rock. This peak is the tallest in site, and therefore had a stunning view from the summit. We then headed north to Ozark National Forest, and specifically the Hawksbill Crag Trail, which was absolutely incredible. We finished our Arkansas road trip at Buffalo National River, where we came upon a grazing & bathing herd of elk!

Arkansas…keep doing you!

Off to Next

We are spending the better part of March hanging out with family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We have a wedding in mid March in Stillwater, MN, and will be seeing all the family and friends we can from now until then!

After the wedding, Julie is taking her nursing Boards in Minnesota on the 21st of March…wish her luck!! And right after that we are road tripping back towards Houston! We will be spending the rest of March in Houston hanging out with our nephew JP…we can’t wait!!

March is a BIG family month and we are SO excited to see everyone!

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