Road trip reimagined: There’s never been a better time to rev up your RV and hit the road
Author Jack Kerouac’s On the Road immortalized the free-spirited, romantic independence of the American road trip. While those days have long passed, its escapist appeal endures (especially as things continue to open up)—and few modes of transport offer the allure, comfort and pivot-potential of the iconic RV.
“We travel whenever the mood strikes us. And you have time to take a look at different places along the way,” says Ann Saxon, who, with her husband Brody (and their adorable labradoodle in tow), has been traversing the country for nearly a decade in their luxurious 28-foot Land Yacht Airstream.
“What’s really nice about the Airstream is the flexibility,” says Brody. “If you’re having a good time in Savannah, for instance, you can stay a few extra days.”
From the bucolic to the bustling, their adventures have run the gamut: exploring horse country alongside the Kentucky Bourbon Trail; encountering giant owls in Abbeville; taking in sunsets on Navarre Beach; watching boats come down the Mississippi River while en route to Michigan (their farthest trip has been to the Great Lakes); even meeting fellow Airstreamers in Austin for an LSU game. Their favorite place remains their most frequented one, the town of Bay St. Louis in Mississippi (where Brody also loves to sail).
The Airstream community is a close-knit one with engaged forums and genuine connections: Ann recalls how years ago, after communicating virtually with a young couple based near Austin, they invited her to read at their wedding.
“It’s a great way to travel with your family. When you are together for long periods of time, you have to work together and those bonds create great memories,” says Ann. “I really think there’s something to be said for this slower pace of travel.”
This relaxed mode of travel has witnessed a surprising resurgence as Americans sought safer alternatives to crowded airports since the onslaught of the pandemic last year, with RV sales hitting record highs.
“The RV industry right now is experiencing the greatest growth that I think we have ever had,” says Jeff Hilliard, co-owner of Miller’s RV and a 29-year industry veteran who hits the road regularly with his wife and their four children. “It’s been especially fun to see people who have never experienced it come in, from millennials to retirees.”
He points to the ultimate appeal of RVs: being able to travel from the comfort of your home, literally. Even if the weather poses an obstacle, he says, “The beauty of the motorhome is you just turn left, because you have something completely self-contained.”
This summer, we’re taking to the roadways with a renewed spirit of enthusiasm. While the flexibility of RV travel appeals, it’s the journey we’re looking to savor. So whether you’re headed out by RV or car, here are five road trip-worthy destinations where adventure awaits:
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
This under-the-radar Gulf Coast destination (rebuilt post Katrina) charms visitors with its seaside attractions–from sailing and kayaking to fishing and relaxing on its sandy white beaches. Restaurants offer plenty of seafood favorites (rightly influenced by the flavors of New Orleans, which is only an hour away)–whether it’s an oyster house, barbecue smokehouse, roadside grill or crawfish hut. The historic train depot is home to the Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum, dedicated to the acclaimed folk artist (who began painting in her mid-60s). For a taste of local eateries and shops, head to Old Bay St. Louis, located off Beach Boulevard. The Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast (the Saxons’ preferred RV park) offers full hookups and facilities, a clubhouse, waterfront views and access to an Arnold Palmer-designed championship golf course.
Distance from BR: 116 miles (1 hour, 50 minutes)
Often overshadowed by the likes of Austin and Houston, the island city of Galveston still offers an impressive array of enticements. Amongst its famous attractions is Moody Gardens, a 242-acre conservation and wildlife destination featuring a glass-domed Aquarium Pyramid and a Rainforest Pyramid, plus an onsite spa, golf course and 4D theater. The 2,000-acre barrier island ecosystem of Galveston State Park has hiking trails, paddling, surf fishing and birdwatching (more than 300 species have been documented). There’s also a thriving downtown arts scene, 19th-century opera house, and Schlitterbahn, the area’s largest water park. The Saxons recommend Dellanera RV Park, which offers RV hookups, recreation facilities, picnic tables and barbecue sites alongside sandy beach property.
Distance from BR: 302 miles (4 hours, 30 minutes)
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
A drink to be sipped and savored, bourbon may just be the perfect pairing for the relaxed pace afforded by RV travel. As the birthplace of bourbon (where 95% of the world’s bourbon is made), Kentucky has been distilling “America’s only native spirit” since the 1700s. With nearly 40 distilleries across the state, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail was established in 1999 (though not all feature officially on the trail, which spans 70 miles). In 2021, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour was launched to spotlight the state’s natural beauty. Distillery highlights include Four Roses, established pre-Prohibition; Castle & Key, recently revitalized and known for its connection to Marianne Eaves, Kentucky’s first master distiller; and Bulleit, a relative newcomer which makes bourbon based on centuries-old family traditions.
Distance from BR to Louisville: 760 miles (10 hours, 50 minutes)
Named for the “narrow gauge” railways (which have smaller cars and locomotives) that travel the rural areas of Wales in Great Britain, this RV resort, campground and park is located in Silverhill, Alabama. The park’s most beloved feature is the charming light rail that travels the length of the countryside park area. Typically open to travel on throughout the summer months, the private train is often decorated to delight the kids during holidays (adults are welcome to take a ride too). Other family-friendly amenities include access to the beach, water slide, catch-and-release fishing pond, picnic site, pool and lounge areas. In the past, it’s also been a popular site for live bluegrass music, which they plan to bring back this year.
Distance from BR: 228 miles (3 hours, 22 minutes)
Closer to home: Louisiana RV Parks
From cypress trees and magnolia forests to freshwater lakes and majestic bayous, Louisiana is graced with an abundance of natural beauty. With a multitude of RV parks to accommodate visitors, locals hardly need to go far to experience the best in both luxury comforts and the great outdoors, as Jeff Hilliard of Miller’s RV points out: Reunion Lake RV Resort in Ponchatoula offers a swim-up tiki bar, lazy river, lakeside campground and poolside cabanas along with activities like kayaking and paddling; while Cajun Palms RV Resort has a tiki bar, resort-style pool, fishing and waterfront views, onsite clubhouse, state-of-the-art theater and golf cart rentals.
Distance from BR to Reunion Lake: 54 miles (51 minutes)
Distance from BR to Cajun Palms: 41 miles (40 minutes)
This story originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of inRegister.