Chattanooga, Tuscaloosa, New Orleans

[This is part of my vanlife series. I've spent 7 months and 25kmiles on the road in 2 years, exploring and rock climbing around the US]

Where has time gone? We've got a month left and so much more to see! 3 months seemed like a decently long time to be on the road, but we're rushed on time. Between driving, sightseeing, friends and family, and finding small towns to explore, we haven't had a true rest day--there's always something keeping us moving.


After Charleston and Savannah, we made our way to Chattanooga for climbing, then downwards through Alabama and Louisiana. The sport climbing in Chattanooga was pretty darn good, in-between the Red and the New. The routes tend to be shorter and are more technical than the Red and less technical than the New.

Foster Falls, one of the main climbing areas:
Foster Falls Chattanooga

We spent a rainy day on an overhanging section that was really Red-like, easy-moderate powerful and pumpy. I only did a single lead climb that day (twice), since I had a minor breakdown the first time and took 2 hours to recover mentally and do it again to prove it to myself that it was absolutely fine.

I've realized that the overhanging sport climbs aren't my favorite, even though they're the safest for falling. I hate the pump, and I find that they're often mind-numbingly the same move. My eyes gloss whenever anyone says the crux of the route is "pump management." With more vertical technical climbs, there's more variety of movement that engages me. I can work on footwork or route reading rather than hauling ass with the only goal of beating the pumpout.

Castle Rock Chattanooga rock climbing

On the other end of the spectrum, I pieced together Rad Line 12d in the Castle Rock area on top rope in no time. It's truly a rad line worthy of projecting if we had more time. It starts nearly vertical laybacking up a dihedral, with a moderately powerful pull over a small bulge that leads to powerful flat sidepulls and rounded face crimps, and finishes with a bolt of non-trivial moves.

Camping was surprisingly hard to find around Chattanooga. We ended up at Shellmound RV camp for $17/night, 30min from most of the sport climbing, in a huge overflow camping field. We woke up to a single frosty morning then the weather uncomfortably warmed 30 degrees:
vanlife camping vanlife camping vanlife camping


From Chattanooga, we headed south through Birmingham straight to Tuscaloosa. I hadn't heard of Tuscaloosa before this trip, but a friend's daughter was accepted to University of Alabama, so we checked out the city and campus for her. It's a pretty awesome city worth a evening's stopover. The UofA campus is huge and opens onto lively cute street for a few blocks. There's definitely better and worse areas of the city, but there's a young hipster vibe in areas. In good tradition, we stopped at a local brewery (Druid City Brewery) in a back alley, where we met the brewmaster and listened to open mic night. The brewmaster left us with a courtesy 22oz porter, "safe travels", and a camping spot for the night!
Druid City Brewery Tuscaloosa Druid City Brewery Tuscaloosa

New Orleans

From Tuscaloosa, we headed down to New Orleans, which honestly was the most disappointing city so far on the trip. We've been used to small towns and camping, or cities that have personality, and NOLA was rather touristy and dirty, and the food left a lot to be desired and a lot less in our wallets. It was fully worth the stop since we've both wanted to see it, but for southern cities you can do better.

Some of the more awesome areas of NOLA are the Frenchmen Street and the Garden District. NOLA Brewery has a ton of taps, including lemon basil wheat, pear wheat, and a mint green tea ale.

Then there's Bourbon St. Here's some photos so you experience Bourbon St and skip over it if you visit:
Bourbon St New Orleans Bourbon St New Orleans Bourbon St New Orleans

We got out of town to visit the Insta-Gator Alligator Ranch, where we got hands-on with how alligator populations are managed and preserved.
Insta-Gator Alligator Ranch New Orleans Insta-Gator Alligator Ranch New Orleans Insta-Gator Alligator Ranch New Orleans Insta-Gator Alligator Ranch New Orleans

Next: the big T!