The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.
Natchez Trace was a discovery. Which only means it wasn’t planned for. My wife and I had driven as far as we wanted to in one day. We were heading west on I-40, about half-way between Nashville and Memphis. We planned to spend our first night at a truck stop, which would have been free. But it turned out to be much too noisy and hectic for us. We wanted to sleep some, and this didn’t seem like a likely place it could be done. So we got out the map of western Tennessee and located Natchez Trace State Park alongside Interstate 20 twenty miles further in the direction we were headed.
We were pleasantly surprised. It was about 5 miles off the expressway, set deep in pine woods. And it was deserted. Not only was no one at the check-in station, there were no envelopes, or any other means, for a late arrival to pay for their stay. And not only that, but the campground was totally deserted. No other campers. Yet it was definitely open. There were no signs announcing the park was closed, no gates were locked or barricades erected. The shower house was unlocked and there was running water. I did see one man on a horse. He rode up on a dirt road out of the woods, then out of the park. So we were on our own. We set up camp. First, and only time so far, I’ve had a campground entirely to myself.
Still daylight, we hiked the dirt road the horseman had ridden on.
We walked a mile or so into the woods, then it started getting dark. I enjoy hiking, and these woods were lonely and quiet. We didn’t even see or hear any animals. It was nearly pitch black by the time we got back to our campsite. Still no other campers, or anyone else. So we retired for the night.
In the morning a woman showed up to clean the shower house. We told her what had happened, and she replied someone should have been here to check us in. She told us not to worry about it, to just go on. And that’s what we did. So our first night on the road ended up being free after all. And it was much more peaceful and relaxing than a truck stop. A good way to begin our trip.