In the upside down world of retirement where lack of demands leads to stress over what to do and where one's schedule can quickly fill up faster than it ever did when the occupied sign was lit outside your door, traveling takes on a similar counter-intuitive logic of its own. When face with a fixed monthly budget (more like a target in my case), long days and long mileage are a financial disaster. Too much money on gas, increased reliance on fast food and less time to score a free place to spend the night. How to make those travel dollars go farther? Lately, it's been to go slower.
Welcome to the wonderful world of camping in America's National Forests, picnic lunches at all those underused picnic tables and FINALLY getting caught up on my reading. It's kind of nice in its own way. The National Forests are more geared toward hunting and fishing. There are a lot more houses than hiking trails so finding an appropriate spot is more of a challenge but it's doable (just look for the official campsites on a roadmap and then improvise). All of this is to explain my choice of route from New Orleans to Joplin.
Pensacola Beach was just to relive a nice memory. Not as much fun this time since the spray from the surf forced me to cover my tent and miss out on some nice stargazing.
DeSoto National Forest (South of Hattiesburg, MS)
Homochito National Forest (East of Natchez, MS)
Kisatchie National Forest (Homer, LA)
Ouachita National Forest (Hot Springs AR)
Then it got cold and rainy and I had saved enough to justify a night in a motel although quite frankly I would have been fine with another night outside. Arkansas isn't the alps but the western mountains were a nice change and I wouldn't mind a return trip to hike the 244 mile Ouachita (pronounced like Wichita with a WATCH IT) Trail. Another even slower trip for another time.