This place was truly an experience, not just a destination.  We didn’t realize how bad we all needed this.

With our two precious shipments (dog and household items) now aboard the big green landship, it was time to embark on our cross-country trip.  We had a long trek north to cover ground in Florida, but there was a mental catalyst in making the left turn onto the I-10 to finally head west.  So, we set our sights on a Cracker Barrel parking lot just beyond Jacksonville to rest for the night.  The girls got the full experience – from the quaint country shop with quirky gifts to southern comfort food.  The WIFI was even strong enough to catch up on Mandalorian episodes from the parking lot – what more could we ask for?  The staff was kind and welcoming, even offering to give us a map of their other locations so we could stop when we needed.  Thank you Cracker Barrel!

Goats and mushrooms in Louisiana

Goats and mushrooms in Louisiana

Chad found a farm in southwest Louisiana on the Hipcamp application that sounded too good to be true so we had to go check it out for ourselves.  We knew we had to push west to get back by the end of the month but driving 8 hours a day consecutively without enjoying some of the sights along the way is no fun.  So, we extended our drive time that day and booked 2 nights here, thinking this would offer us some rest and rejuvenation.  After 12 hours on the road, we arrived at the gate of Snow White Sanctuary Campground just after sunset.  The host and the perimeter dogs came out to show us where to park and plug-in, give us a brief run-down on the property, and welcome Quincy into their pack.  We were exhausted and cold (still acclimating from the tropics), so we ate a quick dinner and jumped into bed, excited for the coming day.

Quincy is my alarm clock out here, so the next morning after her familiar grumbling and panting I bundled up, leashed her and we stepped into our beautiful oasis.  Once her dog pack came out to sniff the new kid in town and I had checked out the landscape, she was free to explore.  We met the rescue pony and horse, saw the goats and ducks from afar, but the most intriguing creature by far was the potbellied pig.  She didn’t quite know what to do with the cute little snorting bundle!  Soon enough, the rest of the crew was awake and ready to be put to work.

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Our hosts, Ocean and Alyssa, only purchased this property a year ago and now run an AirBNB and campground on their beautiful 24 acres of wilderness.  They also host WWOOFers  (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Fams) who help offset the daily workload in exchange for room and board.  They truly model sustainable living, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and living off the land.  What a paradox after the drive through the smoke stacks of the petrochemical refinement industry in nearby Lake Charles.  The best part is that they are incredibly welcoming, willing to educate vs preach, and encourage partaking in any aspect of helping out on the farm.  They did make it clear, however that if all we wanted to do was sit in our rig or on one of their hammocks and relax, that was entirely acceptable – enjoy and be happy!

By noon, the girls had already milked Dixie the goat (helped), bottle fed Noah the baby goat, fed the rest of the animals, brushed the horses, observed the bees who were surprisingly still active in their bee hive boxes despite the cold, foraged through the forest for mushrooms and other medicinal herbs (led by the goats of course), and now were onto the challenging task of removing the invasive plants that grow in the ponds disrupting the delicate ecosystem.  I’ve not seen them so happy and engaged in a long while.  It was a true joy as a parent to sit back and watch them come alive with other people.  I think this is one challenge that we’ve had to face as a nomadic family living in small spaces – we’re always together.  That sounds like a dream to many families that attempt to balance demanding jobs, school, and extracurricular activities with quality family time as we used to.  We’ve found however, that living in small spaces and traveling around together means boundaries must be set if we are to still enjoy this cherished family time.  Furthermore, maturing kids need to have space and opportunities to make their own decisions and make a difference in the world outside of their family.  To see Teagan’s excitement in discussing the intricacies of mycology and the medicinal properties of mushrooms with Alyssa, and Kellyn’s determination as she cleaned muck from the pond for hours wading in adult sized gators just warmed my heart.  Even Quincy, who is showing her age and slowing down, picked up a bone and buried it like a pup before going for an accidental swim in one of the ponds.  This place was truly an experience, not just a destination.  We didn’t realize how bad we all needed this.

After chores were done…the morning and afternoon ones at least…we had an opportunity to see Ocean’s art studio.  From vibrant abstracts to detailed black and white portraits of iconic pop culture figures, his studio boasts a wide array of paintings that were very visually appealing.  Of course, we’re never very good at just looking, so we’ll be putting up some new art on our walls to remind us of this experience.  M-P, the WWOOFer, rallied the kids to help feed and tend to the horses for the evening before joining us around the campfire.  We ate early and cooked s’mores over the campfire while enjoying meeting some of the other traveling families that were stopped here for the evening.

I cannot overemphasize how much we enjoyed this experience.  If you find yourself near the Louisiana/Texas border and are up for a welcoming stay with kind, inspirational people, make the trip and enjoy life in their beautiful oasis!  Also, don’t forget the stop along the way at Insane Sausages…you heard me.  We had to try boudin balls while in the area just for the experience.  And yes, I learned how to pronounce boudin correctly!

A most gracious thanks to Kelly and Judy, and Neva and Rich for welcoming the entire kit and caboodle into your homes, rejuvenating us along the way!  We couldn’t have made this trip without the additional stops, and we can be a lot to take in…especially with our new wheels.  Thanks for the laughs and for your overwhelming generosity!  Thank you also to Detrik for the much-needed advice for road tripping in a large profile vehicle.  The Allstays application has helped us out in locating places to park, fuel and avoid due to height restrictions – muchas gracias!

The HelmsMistress continues to write on Wednesdays but we’ve dropped the HelmsMistress title in her writings and she’s just writing…from her point of view.  We just did more than 6,000 miles across the US in a race to get the bus registered and legal in California…what a massive road trip in the big green bus.  Our bus did great and we’re jazzed to be able to get some rest and look forward to more travels in our bus.  

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