With the summer of 2016 officially over, I’ve had some time to reflect on what has been aptly labeled my Summer of Funemployment. You read that right… I did what most people can’t (or won’t) do, and have taken a few months off work. This extended time off allowed me to do what I truly love, exploring the beautiful sceneries of the Mid-Atlantic.
When you work eighty hour weeks and have no time for yourself, your family, or your adventures, it tends to drive you nuts. A few common questions I’ve been asked is “how can you afford it?” and “aren’t you worried you won’t have a job at the end of your time off?” sometimes you just have to cross certain bridges when you get there. Those that know me know I act on impulse and I’m VERY spontaneous. Having a little bit of money saved and the will to do whatever it is to make money here and there apparently twerking is my night job with Cabell will get you further than you’d imagine. One thing I’m very thankful for is choosing to learn a skill that can literally take me anywhere.
I started turning wrenches ever since I could remember, and definitely used that skill to help fund my adventures this summer. Also, I’m very lucky to have the support of friends and family who have supported my decision and my adventures along the way! Now, I’m definitely not encouraging you to get up after reading this and going to your boss and telling him to shove it (but it wouldn’t hurt), but I strongly recommend you take as much time off as you can during your favorite time of year and explore! From a 4 day weekend to a month off, you can cover a lot of ground once you leave your 9-5 and hit the road! Here is a recap of my Summer of Funemployment!
With a fridge full of beer food, roof top tent packed, and cookware carefully selected, which includes a magic bullet blender for frozen adult beverages, we were ready to head down to the Country 500 at the Daytona International Speedway that took place Memorial day weekend. The 3-day concert included artists like Luke Bryan, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Kid Rock and many other country artists. Upon arrival, we headed to the beach for some rest from a twelve hour overnight drive.
Between the civics and bro-dozers spotted driving on the sand, there was no need to air down or prepare for any type of recovery. The event was not only a concert, but also had numerous attractions and food/beverage vendors. One of the attractions that caught my eye was the Toyota “off road” course. The course was pretty much a dirt pit where Tacoma’s, 4runners, and Tundra’s did donuts and climbed a very “steep” man-made obstacle. I tried to get the guys to show me the crawl control features and other actual off road techniques the trucks are capable of, but I suppose that isn’t “bro” enough for this kind of event. Anyways, they also allowed you to drive one of the trucks on their course if you took a breathalyzer test and blew a 0.0 but we all know that’s not possible in Daytona.
Later that summer Gabby (my woman) and I headed to Davis, WV on a Friday night where we camped near the Blackwater River for the weekend. We enjoyed a small hike to the waterfalls and some trail riding where Alex specifically said not to go alone since there’s a possibility of getting stuck, but, since I don’t drive a Jeep, that warning was irrelevant. While in Thomas, WV, we stopped at the Purple Fiddle for lunch and grabbed some amazing coffee from TipTop for dessert, both are two places I highly recommend visiting if you’re going to be out there. On our last day we met some locals that took us up fire road 18 and showed us around. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to stay at the Cooper House this time but we definitely will once the colder weather makes its way here.
Exactly four days after coming home from West Virginia, I decided to take a trip to the panhandle of Florida to visit some friends. My first stop was Savannah, Georgia. While I was there, I had the pleasure of having dinner at the Cotton Exchange on River Street followed by delicious ice cream at Leopold’s with Gabby’s family. My plan was to find a National Forest, State Park, or some kind of free and isolated camping within an hour drive from Savannah to camp out at before continuing my trip south. The Altamaha Wildlife Management Area in Brunswick, Georgia is where my quick, unplanned research led me to. Without any reviews or knowledge of the area, I took a leap of faith and chose to make Altamaha WMA my home for the night. The site was what exactly what you would expect from camping in the south, hot, humid, lots of bugs, and shell casings all over the place.
The following day I continued my trip towards the panhandle of Florida on I-95 south to I-10 west. I stopped near FSU for lunch and continued westward. For the four days I was in Niceville/Destin I had the pleasure of staying at a friend’s house. We enjoyed some beach time, paddle boarding, and even rented a pontoon to spend all day near Crab Island drinking beer enjoying the great outdoors. Unfortunately the weekend came to a sudden end (as it always does) and it was time to go home.
Since I had nothing but time and some gas money, I decided to make my way towards the Osceola National Forest. I was a little skeptical of where to camp out when I got there because one of the campsites marked on their map was occupied by a few families that looked like they’ve been living there for a while, so I carried on. Between the sighting of a bear way too close for comfort and the invasion of snakes at the campsite I was planning on staying, I decided to take a look on the map and find the network of trails that led to Georgia.
Most of the trails were overgrown, and they definitely left some pinstriping on the Taco. After exiting the National Forest I had no idea where I was going to sleep that night. With a storm fast approaching and few options, I B-lined it to Richmond Hill, Georgia to one of our favorite campsites: Fort McAllister State Park. It appears that every time we camp there, a massive storm moves in and dumps a few inches of rain on us. Last time we were there in 2015, it stormed so bad that I-95 was shut down and flooded in SC. Although, with some Founders Centennial IPA in the Whynter fridge, I was able to survive the torrential downpour in the TJM RTT. Half way through Netflix and chillin’ by myself, Arex Kang sends me some coordinates to check out a site for the DRT Summer Campout and the following morning I proceeded to Southwest Virginia.
Packed up and ready to go, I plugged in the coordinates and headed up I-95 towards Stuarts Draft, VA. The site the GPS led me to was quite spacious with a panoramic view that I will forever save as a go-to spot in the area! Leaving the following morning, the Tacoma was dragged along a ten mile stretch of trail exiting the camp area. The weeklong trip down south ended with breathtaking views off the Blue Ridge Parkway, delicious carrot cake, and coffee at an overlook. Unfortunately we weren’t able to use the site for the Campout (due to a last minute hindrance).
The Dirt Road Trip Summer Campout. What happens at the campout stays at the camp out…
If you have not had the chance to make it to one of the DRT campouts, I suggest you pick up the slack and keep your eyes out for the release of the dates and RSVP info. Words cannot describe the amount of fun we have at each campout and the most recent one was as special one. From the last minute location change to a metric ton of rain, we were still able to have a hell of a time! Luckily this time no one locked their keys in their truck BUT I had a pretty sweet cuddle session with Alex.
From Strasburg to Harrisonburg there are not many places to camp off the beaten path, unless you know someone that lives off the Seven Bends of the Shenandoah River. Party With The Pig is an annual cookout hosted by a friend’s family that I’ve been lucky enough to attend the last few years. Everyone camps out on the property and enjoys each others company (including food and drinks). The weekend consisted of a HUGE pig roast barbeque, smallmouth bass fishing, sun burns, and one hell of a good time!
The last trip was definitely one for the books. DRT and gang rented a house in OBX for a 4 day weekend of fuckery fun. Bags packed, fridges full, and an appetite for the ocean breeze, we headed from the house in Corolla and headed up to the Carova 4wd beach and literally spent 85% of our time on the sand. The lingering taste of summer coming to an end didn’t sour the mood but in fact gave us an appreciation for the adventurous summer we all had in our own ways.
Between quick day trips to GWNF, to weekends trail riding and camping, to multiple trips down to Florida, we’ve put about 13k miles on the Tacoma since the end of May up to the last day of summer. Every single mile that turned over on the odometer was a memory made. I cannot thank those that have been through all these adventures (lots of them not written because some of yall have work to do and now have spent twenty minutes on the toilet at the office reading this) with me and have put up with my boredom on days that I have absolutely nothing to do.