Lake Ouachita, Arkansas & Nashville, TN – 2018 Summer Road Trip


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Spending our summer driving across the United States with 3 kids, 2 parents, 1 fifth wheel and a whole lot of excitement – join the fun and follow along each day on Instagram.

Weekly updates also posted here. Welcome to Week One! (If you’re watching the video on a mobile device, use two fingers to stretch the screen for best viewability.)

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To kick off our road trip with an abundance of fun, I unintentionally planned our first day of driving to coincide with the start of Memorial Day weekend. It took us nearly three hours to get 100 miles out of Phoenix, on what we’d already planned to be the longest driving day of the entire trip.

Barefeet In The Kitchen Summer Road Trip - day one

How on earth I didn’t realize it was Memorial Day weekend is beyond comprehension. Living in a giant metro area, we rarely, if ever, plan travel around major holidays.

Traffic getting in and out of the valley is always horrible at those times. Thankfully, we’re already laughing about it. At the time though? It wasn’t very funny.

Our destination the first day was Santa Rosa, NM. We reserved a site at Santa Rosa Lake and while the lake is only 8 miles off the interstate, it took us almost an hour following a dark and curvy road to find the site.

We finally arrived at 11pm (because oops, late start and horrible winds slowed us down further) and we set up in pitch dark.

As a result of it being a holiday weekend, the lakeside campground was party central when we arrived despite the late hour. Let’s just say, we went to bed that night with the comment that future camp sites could only improve from here.

We’ll learn through my mistakes this time, right?

Barefeet In The Kitchen Summer Road Trip - Camping Cheese Board

Our next stop was Oklahoma City, technically the KOA in Choctaw, OK. We were much smarter for the second day of driving and we left Santa Rosa super early in the morning and arrived in OKC with plenty of time to rest and swim.

This was a great location for an overnight stop and we’re looking forward to spending a couple nights there on the way back home.

My go-to dinner option for long days on the road is almost always a cheese board full of our favorite snack foods. (For a complete list of our favorite cheese board ingredients, check out How To Make A Cheese Board and this Meat Lover’s Cheese Board.)

I love having these ingredients tucked in the refrigerator and pantry for the days when we simply aren’t up for cooking.

Barefeet In The Kitchen Summer Road Trip - Lake Ouachita

After a night in OKC, we were off to Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. Many of you recommended that we stop there on our trip. (I even heard from a couple people who said it was their favorite camp spot in the U.S.) I completely get it now.

The views are gorgeous and we could’ve happily spent a week or longer at that beautiful lake.

Sean and Sam spent one afternoon hiking along the lake. (They highly recommend the steep four mile hike up to the lookout point.) The younger two kids and I took the much easier hiking trails around the campsites, lake area, and visitors center.

The kids swam in the lake, we skipped hundreds of rocks, took a sunset cruise tour of the lake, and basically made the most of the gorgeous weather and scenic views for the day and a half that we were there.

Barefeet In The Kitchen Summer Road Trip - Ouachita National Forest

We left Arkansas and headed for Nashville for a couple of nights. We were thrilled to arrive at the Nashville KOA mid-afternoon on Thursday, leaving us plenty of time to get to Puckett’s for dinner. I think I ordered about half the menu and we tasted everything that came highly recommended.

If you’re a die-hard Mac ‘n Cheese lover, the Piggy Mac is going to thrill you. (That’s smoked pulled pork served in a creamy cheesy macaroni skillet.) The fried chicken and chicken fried chicken were heavenly too. We couldn’t resist trying the Redneck Burrito and let me tell you, THAT deliciousness will be happening in my kitchen as soon as we get back home.

Oh, and on the dessert must-try list, that would be the deep fried brownie sundae. Take an amazing brownie, batter it in cookie dough and deep fry it. Top that crispy fried fudgy hot brownie with ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream and you have a fried brownie sundae. I enjoyed it greatly, but that’s definitely not on the must-make at home list.

Barefeet In The Kitchen Summer Road Trip - Nashville Parthenon

Nashville was high on my list for this road trip as I remembered visiting the Nashville Parthenon as a teenager. I was super excited to share that experience with my mythology loving kids and it did not disappoint.

Side note, if you have a Percy Jackson loving kid in your life, the Parthenon is a must-see for any trip through Nashville.

Barefeet In The Kitchen Summer Road Trip - Athena at the Nashville Parthenon

We’ll drive to Augusta, GA tomorrow, where we’ll spend this coming week with my brother’s family. We’re very much looking forward to a week spent relaxing and visiting with family.

I’ve had several people ask for tips for traveling in an RV / fifth wheel camper and for info on how I organized all of our things. Is that something you’d be interested in seeing a post about?

If you’d be interested in seeing a blog post with a peek inside our camper, leave a comment here or shoot me a note.

I’ll be back next Friday with another note from the road. Until then, I’m wishing you a beautiful week full of things that make you smile!

For the rest of our summer road trip story, check out these posts: 

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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8 Comments Leave a comment or review

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  1. Vicki Skonieczny says

    Hi Mary, Yes, I’d be very interested in how much you brought and how you packed all your essentials. A peek inside your camper would be fun. But I am most interested in what you and your family are eating when not eating out. What types of meals are you preparing and what does a typical day look like for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thanks and have a memorable vacation.

  2. Debbe Bohlen-Edenburn says

    Glad you’re having an awesome trip…We will be traveling soon with the 5th wheel we bought, so I’d be happy to see how you organized yours.. .
    Thanks a lot…

  3. Barbara says

    I would love to hear more about how you planned for this trip as it is on our bucket list to travel the U.S. in a camper also. Especially the packing and planning of meals. How you figured out your itinerary Etc. So excited to follow along with this journey of yours.

  4. Julie Krogh says

    Would love to see the inside and any travel info for packing organizing for traveling in a trailer

  5. Laura Oblinger says

    I somehow missed this post until today! Looks like I need to plan a Nashville trip… Looked up the Puckett’s menu, and I am in love. I would also really like to see a post on RV / fifth wheel traveling. I grew up traveling in an RV, and my husband and I are saving for our own for travel when we have kids. Honestly one of my favorite ways to travel!

  6. Patricia Wax says

    I certainly would be interested in meals and recipes you planned when you did not eat at restaurants. Pictures of your 5th wheel camper would be great as well. We take short camping trips with our travel trailer with our kids and grand kids and I am always looking for new meal ideas. Thank you for doing this and happy camping!!