A Backcountry RV Roadtrip in SE Idaho – Quiet Splendor!

April 2016 – In our RV travels we prefer to take small back roads from town to town instead of zipping past everything on the interstates. As we left the Moab area in Utah to head north into Idaho, we scoured the map to find some skinny roads through the farmlands that would take us through the valleys between the mountain ranges.

RV roadtrip past snowcapped mountains of northern Utah

Wow! We left the red rock canyons of Utah behind and headed into northern Utah.

Our minds were still reeling with the incredible and world renowned landscapes we’d enjoyed at Canyonlands National Park (North and South), Arches National Park, Dead Horse State Park and even the roadside stop of Newspaper Rock after coming up through the (appropriately named) Valley of the Gods. But we were astonished by the beauty of our surroundings in this lesser known area as we looked out our truck’s windows.

RV roadtrip through Farmland and mountasin of northern Utah

We knew the farmland around in Logan, Utah, was gorgeous, but this was incredible!

Route 89 heading out of Ogden, Utah, was a little fast paced for our tastes, so we snaked our way through the farmlands on Route 23 and then on Route 36. The views in every direction around us were breathtaking.

Farm and mountain scenery southeastern Idaho

It’s scenery like this that gets us off the highways and onto the backroads of America.

This is farm and ranching country. Horses grazed in the pastures and cows dotted the fields all the way to the mountains in the distance. It was early spring, and newborn calves bounded behind their mothers.

Views from the RV southeastern Idaho mountains

Horses and cattle didn’t seem to notice the views — all they saw was breakfast!

We had traveled through this part of the country several times before, spending time at Bear Lake and Logan Pass in Utah and driving north through Afton Wyoming on our way to and from the Tetons. Despite two visits to the Tetons, there are places there we still haven’t seen. However, we decided to stay on the Idaho side of that stunning mountain range on this trip.

RV camping by southeastern Idaho lake

The lakes were as beautiful as the mountains.

And the scenery we were seeing was plenty glorious enough, and the roads were very peaceful!

RV roadtrip through southeastern Idaho mountains

Not a bad spot to live!

The skies, however, were not peaceful at all, and rumbling in the heavens got our attention.

RV camping southeastern Idaho

The skies began to look a little threatening.

A stormy day that had been promising rain all day long suddenly ended with a spectacular sunset that had us running out of the buggy and down to the shore to take photos.

Southern Idaho sunset on lake

Cloudy skies sometimes bring awesome sunsets. This one was exceptional, especially after a gray day!!

As we were busily snapping away at the sky, I heard a loud splash and looked down at my feet to see a beaver swimming right past me.

What luck!

I managed to catch him surrounded by the sun’s vivid magenta reflection in the water before he dived out of sight.

Camping sunset beaver in Idaho lake

A beaver swam right by me!!

We were doing this little backroad RV roadtrip in a season that fell somewhere between winter and spring, which gave us lots of unpredictable weather. Nasty weather makes for great photography, however, and we continued on our farm road journey on Route 38 under pretty clouds at dawn.

Malad City Idaho sunrise

Reflections at dawn.

Later in the day, however, those clouds got angry once again. We watched a massive black cloud forming in the distance as we drove. Suddenly the cloud was upon us. Fortunately, just at that moment, we saw a huge roadside pullout with a big red sign that said “Stop!” And stop we did!!

RV travel southeastern Idaho_

Yikes! A huge black storm cloud made us pull over and stop!

No sooner had we run back into the trailer and closed the door than the heavens opened up. It rained buckets. It rained so hard the raindrops seemed to be bouncing off the ground. Thank goodness we had our house with us!

We made lunch, and afterwards we soon got drowsy from listening to the rain pelting our roof. So, we crawled under the covers for a nap! When we awoke, the skies had lightened and Nature gave us the “all clear” and go ahead to continue our journey on Route 37.

2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually_

Four hours later, after a good nap, the skies began to clear.

We continued north, and after all this time on the backcountry roads of northern Utah and southeastern Idaho, when we arrived in the town of American Falls, we felt like we’d landed at an enormous city.

We watched long trains crossing the train bridge in town. One was so long it had three engines on the front and two on the back!!

Train crossing bridge in American Falls Idaho

In American Falls we saw a long train with five engines!!

The storm clouds continued to threaten and were moving very fast above us. I’d gotten a kick out of setting up a timelapse video of the clouds moving across the canyon walls of Dead Horse Point State Park a few weeks earlier, and this seemed like a perfect chance to try that technique again:

From American Falls, our journey took us north along Route 39 to Route 26 and through Atomic City which we had enjoyed on an earlier trip to the otherworldly Craters of the Moon National Monument. But instead of seeking out moonscapes, on this trip we had snowcapped mountains in mind and on our agenda.

RV views on Salmon River Idaho roadtrip - nowcapped mountains

Snowcapped mountains were what we were after.

We hooked up with Route 93 and followed it northwest to the village of Mackay. What a sweet town! Mackay, Idaho, is flanked by two gorgeous mountain ranges, and we walked around town with our heads tipped back to take in the beautiful views.

Mackay Idaho main street

Downtown Mackay, Idaho.

Our RV roadtrip had brought us through some remote and quiet lands. To give you a sense of size and scale, the town of Mackay, which was a major landmark on our trip, has a population of 494!

No wonder the local cinema can offer happy birthday wishes to a resident!!

Main Street Cinema Mackay Idaho

In a small town, your birthday can put your name on the marquee at the cinema! How fun!!

Makcay, Idaho, is on the opposite side of the mountains from the much more well known, busy and trendy community of Sun Valley to the west, and it is “opposite” in spirit as well.

“We like having a mountain range between us and Sun Valley!” One local said to me, laughing.

We meandered the few streets, and admired the rustic, crusty and aging barns and buildings tucked between some of the homes.

Crumbling Barn in Mackay Idaho

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Old barn Mackay Idaho RV roadtrip

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This part of Idaho is wonderful for RVing, and it has been popular with RVers ever since RVs were first built!

Antique travel trailer RV

We saw a cute antique trailer in a yard. Cool!

Discovering special places that don’t get top billing in the tourist literature is one of our favorite things about this full-time RVing lifestyle. International tourists flock to the major cities and the National Parks. And why not, they’re spectacular! But the roots of America are in the small towns across the country.

Old store front Mackay Idaho

Get your stretchy suspenders here!!

We were so glad we had chosen a route that we had never taken before through this familiar region. Every sight along the way was new and exciting!

RV camping Salmon River Idaho

Getting off the beaten path is our favorite aspect of RVing.

If you are have an RV road trip planned between northern Utah and southern Idaho, consider getting off the interstate and exploring the smaller roads. It’s a very beautiful part of the country!! More info below…

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Our route through the Northern Utah and Southern Idaho farms and valleys

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Georgia’s Antebellum Trail – Milledgeville, Eatonton & Madison

May, 2015 — As we scouted around for a good route to travel north through the middle of Georgia from Thomasville to North Carolina, we came across the Antebellum Trail. This route passes through several pretty and historic small towns in Georgia that have strong roots from before the Civil War. We were on the hunt for statuesque antebellum mansions, and all the towns on the Antebellum Trail boasted at least a few.

Antebellum mansion with rhododendrons in Madison Georgia

Roses bloom in front of an elegant antebellum house in Madison, Georgia.

There are seven towns and cities on the Antebellum Trail, and we ended up visiting three of them: Milledgeville, Eatonton and Madison. In each of these towns, caring homeowners and historical societies have lovingly preserved these elegant old homes.

Antebellum house in Eatonton Georgia

Matching double-decker rotunda porch wings! (Eatonton, Georgia)

And thank goodness they have, because old wooden homes just don’t stand up to the elements all that well. For every four or five true beauties that we gazed at on these lovely old town streets, we saw a forlorn one that had succumbed to the ravages of time.

Crumbling antebellum house in Milledgeville Georgia

Occasionally we came across crumbling relics.

There is a majesty to the tall columns and proud, imposing front porches of these antebellum mansions, and it seems that the number of columns that lined the front of the house made a statement about the wealth of the people that lived within. We read little signs on plaques that referred to the home being a “four column house,” or a “six column house.”

A four column antebellum mansion in Eatonton, Georgia

A four column mansion in Eatonton, Georgia

And then, of course, there were the people that built their house with columns going all around the outside. Wow!

Stately antebellum mansion in Milledgeville Georgia

Aw, heck, why not have columns on all sides? (Milledgeville)

There were inviting front porches everywhere we turned, and straight-backed rocking chairs adorned many of them. Even the simplest historic homes that just had a few posts holding up the porch roof rather than a row of grecian columns still had a row of rockers out front.

Rocking chairs on a porch in Milledgeville Georgia

Straight-backed rocking chairs grace almost every front porch.

Milledgeville was in high spirits when we visited. We just happened to arrive on First Friday, a big downtown party that takes place on the first friday of every month. Impromptu bands made music in the street, and all the merchants and bistros threw their doors wide open. Throngs of people filled the sidewalks.

A band plays at First Friday in Milledgeville, Georgia

We pulled into Milledgeville on First Friday, and bands were playing on the sidewalks!

If this weren’t enough, there was an antique car show going on at one end of town. As we walked towards it, we heard music coming from the large lawn across the street — the front lawn of the Georgia College and State University campus. We walked over and discovered it was a spring outdoor concert. One group of kids after another got up onto a makeshift stage and played jazz tunes and big band music. What fun!

Georgia Collete & State University

There was an outdoor music concert at Georgia College and State University too!

As we wandered back to the truck, we noticed lots of college students dressed to the nines walking around. It turned out that tonight was their big Senior Formal. The smell of perfume and cologne wafted over us, and we marveled at the shiny shoes, snappy ties and slinky dresses. Oh, to be young and sexy!

College Kids on a roof in Milledgeville Georgia

Hey — what’s going on up there?

Meanwhile, some of the underclassmen seemed to be cutting loose with a prank or two. Many of the old homes around Milledeville are student housing of one kind or another, and I spotted a pair of boys climbing out of a window onto a rooftop. This was going to be quite a night!!

Coming down a few notches to a much lower key, we visited nearby Eatonton, a tiny town with just a few cross streets.

Downtown shops Eatonton Georgia Antebellum Trail

Peaceful Eatonton, Georgia

Exploring the outer edges of town, we went down one side street and noticed we were about to drive under a very low train bridge at just the last second. “Will we make it?” Mark looked at me wide-eyed. I hopped out to see. Just barely!!!

Low bridge in Eatonton Georgia

Going under the limbo stick!

The Civil War is still felt in this part of the south, and we read plaques in every town that talked about General Sherman’s 1864 “March to the Sea” where he barnstormed across Georgia from Atlanta to Savannah, mowing down everything in his path.

Civil War Memorial Eatonton Georgia

A statue commemorating all the Confederate soldiers
that fought in the Civil War

On the other side of the grand Eatonton Courthouse in the middle of town we found a statue of a very different sort: Brer Rabbit!

Brer Rabbit in the Briar Patch Eatonton Georgia

On the flip side — Brer Rabbit!

Eatonton was the birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris who compiled a collection of stories about the wily Brer Rabbit (“brother” Rabbit) whose cunning and wits saved him (usually) from various scrapes. Harris’ stories were told by the fictional Uncle Remus, but he had heard them himself as a boy from the slaves on the plantation where he grew up.

Writer's Museum Eatonton Georgia

How many towns have a Writer’s Museum? Tiny Eatonton does!

Harris wasn’t the only famous writer from this area, and The Writer’s Museum on Eatonton’s town square is dedicated not only to him but to Flannery O’Connor as well. We knew little about either writer when we walked into the museum, but by the time we emerged we just had to check out Flannery O’Connor’s homestead on the outer fringes of Milledgeville.

The narrow road into the estate is so well hidden that we almost missed it, but the home and grounds within told the intriguing story of this young, brilliant writer who succumbed to lupus at age 39 in 1964.

Flannery O'Connor Homestead Milledgeville Georgia

Andalusia Farm — home of 20th century writer Flannery O’Connor

She wrote her most famous works while living at this house between the ages of 27 and 39, and due to her decreasing mobility, she spent much of that time inside where she enjoyed the views from the large windows.

Flannery O'Connor Home in Milledgeville Georgia

Flannery O’Connor suffered from Lupus, and as she became less mobile she stayed indoors more and more.

When we got to the trendy town of Madison, we were most impressed by the dramatic courthouse which stands on a corner facing outwards towards the heart of town.

Courthouse Madison Georgia

Madison has the most flamboyant of the courthouses we saw on the Antebellum Trail

At the visitors center we were told we should visit Madison’s new city park, and when we got there we saw why. It is a beautiful brand new city park for outdoor events and gatherings that was dedicated in 2009 but that looks as though it might have been around when General Sherman came through!

The Town Park in Madison Georgia

Urban revitalization in the small town of Madison — a wonderful new outdoor park that blends right into the historic look-and-feel of the town.

Our stay in Georgia was brief, but we thoroughly enjoyed sampling each of these unique towns and wandering at a leisurely pace along the Antebellum Trail. If you are taking your RV on a north-south route through Georgia, the Antebellum Trail is a wonderful way to go.

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Into the Great Wide Open – Nevada to Oregon

May, 2014 – We left the pristine alpine beauty of Lamoille Canyon outside Elko, Nevada, and promptly embarked on a 500 mile journey north and west to Oregon across some of the most remote and desolate landscapes we have ever seen.

Getting off the interstate (I-80) at Winnemucca, we knew we were entering less charted territory when we noticed that the town’s spelling was “Winnemocca” on the statewide map of Nevada in our Delorme Atlas but was “Winnemucca” on the close-up map.

Open Roads of Nevada

A wide open road in northern Nevada

We wanted to get gas and had seen signs on the interstate for big travel centers in Winnemucca but we never found them.

Instead, crossing the back side of Winnemucca to get onto our remote road to Oregon, all we saw were three small gas stations that looked very hard to get into.

So, we kept going. Continue reading