4 Amazing History Destinations

Use this list to plan your next getaway to one of the most beautiful historic places in the US

History is best understood by walking the ground where it happened, says filmmaker Ken Burns.

“You feel the presence of what went on before. We go to these places because we’re aware that the ghosts and echoes of an almost inexpressibly wise past summon us.”

Despite what the History Channel tells you, there’s more to the past than Truck Night in America, Pawn Stars, and UFO Cover Ups.

There’s history everywhere you look—maybe even in the city you are in right now. But, not all can be as historic as, say, Old City in Philly. And that is why we consulted our history books—and my journal from 20+ years of RV travel—and power ranked America’s most beautiful historic cities.

Freedom Trail, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Boston, Massachusetts

Walk into history and experience more than 250 years of history on Boston’s iconic Freedom Trail—the 2.5-mile red line leading to 16 nationally significant historic sites. Preserved and dedicated by the citizens of Boston in 1951, the Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond. 

Freedom Trail, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Step inside the places where the American Revolution was launched, from pews and pulpits, private homes, and public offices, with fiery speeches and midnight rides.

USS Constitution (Old Ironside) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Today the Freedom Trail is a world-renowned, signature visitor experience attracting over 4 million people annually to visit Boston’s 17th-, 18th- , and 19th-century sites.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Charleston, South Carolina

One of the oldest cities in the country, Charleston is often described as a living museum. With a whopping 97 properties listed on the National Register for Historic Places, history is ingrained in every aspect of Downtown Charleston—right down to the horse-drawn carriages.

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Stroll Broad Street’s federal period homes or King Street while snapping photos of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (1752) and Charleston County Courthouse (1792) along the way. From the historic mansions that line the Battery promenade near the waterside, Fort Sumter-facing White Point Garden to the cobblestone streets and gas-lit alleys of the French Quarter (yes, Charleston has its own French Quarter), you can’t escape all the history that’s packed into the heart of this city. And when history is this beautiful, why the hell would you want to?

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Galveston, Texas

Galveston offers one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country. Not to be missed attractions include the Broadway Beauties—1895 Ashton Villa, 1892 Bishop’s Palace, and 1895 Moody Mansion—which portray early 20th century family life among Galveston’s elite.

Ashton Villa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Grand 1894 Opera House ranks among the nation’s finest historical theaters, the Texas Seaport Museum and 1877 Tall Ship Elissa highlight the history of the Port of Galveston, and The Great Storm documentary details the 1900 hurricane which killed 6,000 and changed the Island’s history. The Ocean Star Offshore Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum and the Railroad Museum in the restored Union Depot combine to enhance Galveston as a wonderful historic destination.

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Founded in 1607, Santa Fe is America’s oldest capital city and also houses the oldest public building in the country, the circa-1610 Palace of the Governors which was originally the seat of government for the Spanish colony of Neuvo Mexico. To wander the Downtown Santa Fe Plaza is to immerse one in traditional adobe structures in what is one of the country’s most uniquely picturesque urban experiences. There are time-warped old buildings and churches including the stunning Loretto Chapel famous for its miraculous staircase and San Miguel Mission, reported to be America’s oldest church built between 1610 and 1626.

Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But, history’s not the only thing going down in Santa Fe. The city’s unique cuisine and renowned art galleries are as integral to the area’s charm as anything from a dusty old history book.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

The lack of a sense of history is the damnation of the modern world.

—Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)

Ready to Talk Like an RVer?

Are you ready for an RV lifestyle?

Learn all the terms used in the RV world and lifestyle. Here’s a few to get you started.

Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been RVing for years, you’re bound to have questions. And we have answers at RVing with Rex.

Gray Water

Waste water from sinks and showers. Gray water is stored in a specific holding tank separate from fresh water and black water.

Gray and black water drain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Black Water

Waste water from the toilet system. Black water stays in a holding tank until it is emptied at a dumping station.

Back-in sites © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Back-in Site

A camping space that requires backing in an RV as opposed to pulling through.

Pull-through site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Pull-through Site

A camping space that allows an RV to enter from one side and leave from the other, eliminating the need to back the RV out of the site.

Full hookups © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Full Hookup

Campground utilities that include 30/50-amp electric service, city water, and sewer connection.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)

The maximum operating weight allowed for an RV, including fuel and propane, holding tanks, gear, and passengers. For a towable RV this includes: the maximum allowable weight at the trailer axle(s), plus the hitch weight. For a motorized RV, this includes: the maximum allowable weight at all of the axles.

GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating)

The maximum operating weight of a motorized vehicle combined with the maximum allowable weight it can tow.

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

The maximum permissible weight on one axle of the RV.

Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)

The permissible weight that an RV can carry.


The distance between the center lines of a vehicle’s primary axles.

Motorhome interior with galley (left) and desk and pull-out table (right) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


Kitchen of an RV. Name is borrowed from the boating industry.

Basement bins for storage with access from either side of motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


Storage compartments below the floor of an RV that can be accessed from outside.

LP Gas/Propane

Liquid Petroleum Gas is used to fuel appliances such as stoves, ovens, water heaters, refrigerators, and furnaces.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dump Station

A safe location, often at a campsite, to empty black water and gray water holding tanks.


An RV that includes the basic necessities needed for boondocking or dry camping without electrical, water, and sewer hookups. A self-contained RV usually includes a fresh water tank, dry-cell batteries, inverter, and generator or solar panels.

Reefer and microwave © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


Slang for an RV refrigerator.

Boondocking at Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


Boondocking is camping without hookups. Power will come from your generator, deep-cell batteries, and solar power system. 

Deep-Cycle Batteries

Deep-cycle batteries are designed to discharge power at a slow rate for an extended period of time. In RV applications, deep-cycle batteries power the comforts of home like your cooking appliances and lights. Add distilled water when the electrolyte level falls below a half-inch above the plates. Do not overfill. keep the water level an eighth of an inch below the battery’s internal vent-wall.


Converts 120-volt Alternating Current (AC) power into 12-volt Direct Current (DC) power.

Dinghy/toad attached to motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


A vehicle towed at the rear of a motorized RV.

Backup Monitor

A camera in the back of an RV that connects to a digital monitor in the dashboard to give the driver a better view of what’s behind them, when reversing or when towing on the road.

Worth Pondering…
May the joy of today, bring forth happiness for tomorrow.

Murphys: Charming Queen of the Sierra

Its nine miles up Highway 4 from Angels Camp to the neighboring mining town of Murphys, founded in 1848 by John and Daniel Murphy

Murphys’ rich and colorful past came alive in 1848 when John and Daniel Murphy established a trading post and gold mining operation in the area that is now their namesake. They were part of the first immigrant party (Stephens-Townsend-Murphy) to successfully bring wagons over the Sierra in 1844, paving the way for westward migration.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It is reported that the brothers took two million dollars in gold ore from the Murphys Diggins in one year’s time, making them millionaires before the age of 25.

During the first year, 50 tents, several lean-tos, and two blockhouses were erected, and by 1850, the camp had a population of 1,200. In 1852 there were 3,000 people, close to the present-day population.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Murphys was one of California’s richest diggins. During one winter, five million dollars worth of gold was taken from a four-acre placer area, and the town grew prosperous despite the usual cycle of devastating fires and rebuilding.

Once a hodgepodge of miners’ tents and lean-tos, Murphys has aged well.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The picturesque village is known today for its many natural attractions including caverns for public viewing, a charming Main Street with friendly merchants and unique shops, spectacular wineries, and art galleries.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A stroll down tree-lined Main Street transports visitors back to the mid-1800s with buildings bearing thick stoned walls, iron shutters, and pastoral gardens. Its leafy streets are lined with white picket fences, oaks and sycamores, eateries, and tasting rooms.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Sperry & Perry Hotel—now known as Murphys Historic Hotel & Lodge—opened to guests in 1855. Ulysses S. Grant slept here; so did Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, and Charles Bolton, aka Black Bart, the poetry-writing bandit who successfully robbed 28 Wells Fargo stagecoaches before his arrest in 1883. Locals line up along the saloon’s bar. In the morning, follow the divine smells across the street to Biga Murphys Bakery.

Unique from any other wine region, you can literally do wine country on foot in Murphys. There are over 25 wineries here and 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphy’s historic downtown. Picturesque vineyards and destination wineries are nestled in the nearby rolling hills.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ironstone Vineyards, on the outskirts of Murphys, attracts visitors year-round with wine tastings and events such as the daffodil festival in the spring. Explore the seven-level winery, its extensive wine caves, museum, and outdoor mining exhibit, before you grab lunch at the deli and picnic on the grounds.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Then, belly up to the elegant 1907 bar to sample Ironstone’s Obsession Red Blend, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. You can see a fully restored 769-pipe theater organ, originally made in 1927 for Sacramento’s now-defunct Alhambra Theater.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Don’t miss the 44-pound specimen of crystalline gold leaf, which, its sign claims, is the “largest single piece of gold mined in North America.” Ironstone also has weekend gold panning, concerts, and fly-fishing classes.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For a more intimate tasting, drive a few miles north of Murphys on Sheep Ranch Road to bucolic Stevenot Winery. In the tasting room, buy a bottle of Tempranillo, a medium-bodied red wine, and assorted chocolates in the gourmet section.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Also on Sheep Ranch Road is Mercer Caverns. It has all the awesome cave accessories: stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, and columns. It’s 161 feet, down several flights of stairs, to the bottom. When you emerge from this dark hole in the ground, consider a visit to something soaring high above ground—the giant sequoias.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You’ll find them 14 miles up Highway 4 from Murphys in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. It’s both humbling and thrilling to prowl among the planet’s largest living things. Tourists from around the world follow the well-trampled trails through the North Grove.

Worth Pondering…

My travels led me to where I am today. Sometimes these steps have felt painful, difficult, but led me to greater happiness and opportunities.
—Diana Ross

Plenty of Sand and Amazing Landscapes on this Grand Circle Tour

The American Southwest is famous for incredible scenery, red rock pinnacles and formations, brilliant sunsets, and deep canyons

This is uncommon land, for an uncommon experience.

Get your camera ready for this scenic route from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and other scenic wonders of the American West.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hoover Dam/Lake Mead

An engineering marvel, the Hoover Dam tamed the mighty Colorado River to provide hydroelectric power and much-needed water for the parched Southwest, creating Lake Mead in the process. Just 25 miles outside Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreational Area offers more than 550 miles of shoreline and year-round outdoor adventure. Whether it’s swimming, water skiing, boating or fishing, it’s all possible in this spectacular setting.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Zion National Park

Unlike most other Utah parks, Zion is a canyon viewed mostly from below. White and vermilion cliffs tower all around, some reaching nearly 8,000 feet. The main canyon was cut by the North Fork of the Virgin River. It is narrow, less than a quarter-mile wide. But it is deep, flanked by towering sandstone palisades 2,000-3,000 feet high that often draw rock climbers to its walls. The six-mile canyon drive ends at a formation known as Temple of Sinawava, where the canyon begins narrowing to a slot only 30-40 feet wide.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bryce Canyon National Park

Discover a massive array of red rock spires that extend hundreds of feet into the air. Known as hoodoos, these totem-like formations rise in a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters. Explore deep canyons on foot or drive around the high elevation loop road and look out for Bryce’s bristlecone pines, the world’s oldest trees that date back 5,000 years.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Glen Canyon/Lake Powell

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based and backcountry recreation amid scenic vistas and geologic wonders. The second largest man-made lake in the U.S., Lake Powell is without doubt the most scenic, stretching 186 miles across the red rock desert from Page, Arizona to Hite, Utah.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Monument Valley

You’ll marvel at the 250-million-year-old red rock formations, the magical light, the starry night, and the Native American history that infuses this iconic landscape. Drive the 17-mile scenic loop road on your own or hire a guide to delve deeper into the storied region and to access off-limit sites. Camping at The View Campground offers the RV traveler a great opportunity to capture the incomparable sunrise and sunset hues. Don’t forget your cameras!

Hubbell Trading Post © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hubbell Trading Post, Arizona

The squeaky wooden floor greets your entry. When your eyes adjust to the dim light in the “bullpen” you find you’ve entered a mercantile. Hubbell Trading Post has been serving Ganado selling goods and Native American Art since 1878. Little has changed in more than 140 years at the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo Reservation.

Visitors also can tour the Hubbell house; browse the visitor center (built in 1920 and used originally as a school); and see barns, corrals, wagons, and other historical farm equipment, as well as a variety of farm animals, including Churro sheep.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Petrified Forest National Park

Most visitors come to see the ancient tree trunks, which are preserved by minerals they absorbed after being submerged in a riverbed nearly 200 million years ago. And they’re quite a sight: Over time, the huge logs turned to solid, sparkling quartz in a rainbow of colors—the yellow of citrine, the purple of amethyst, the red-brown of jasper. This mineral-tinted landscape also boasts painted deserts and striated canyons.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Grand Canyon

The Colorado River cuts through the American west to create one of the natural wonders of the planet. A total of 277 miles long and up to a mile deep, it’s a geological masterpiece, with amazing vantage points along both the North and South rims. Over millions of years, the river sliced the landscape into sheer rock walls, revealing many layered colors, each marking a different geologic era.

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

La Conner: Charming, Picturesque & Quaint

Charming. Picturesque. Quaint.

These words get thrown around a lot when talking about La Conner.

La Conner is a quaint waterfront village in northwestern Washington, nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River. The channel gives La Conner much of its color and atmosphere, a distinct seaside ambiance that comes from watching the fishing boats and pleasure craft navigate the channel out to the San Juan Islands. Crowning the channel is the Rainbow Bridge—the Golden Gate of La Conner.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located 70 miles north of Seattle and 90 miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia, La Conner is a 15-minute drive from nearby Mount Vernon and Anacortes.

Picturesque little La Conner is a unique combination of fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, browse through unique shops and art galleries, visit the beautiful tulip fields of Skagit Valley, and experience the peace and quiet of a charming old fashioned town.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner was settled in 1867 as a trading post. In 1869, John Conner purchased the trading post built by John Hayes, another early settler, on the west side of the Swinomish Slough and established a post office. In 1869, all the town plus 70 acres was deeded to John Conner for $500. To honor his wife, Louisa A. (LA) Conner, the town’s original name of Swinomish was changed to La Conner in 1870. La Conner was briefly the county seat before Mount Vernon.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner was a bustling commercial center by the turn of the century. Much of the boom’s era architecture has survived, earning La Conner’s historic district a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The design of new, in-fill buildings is carefully controlled. The village is authentic.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The rich floodplain of the Skagit Delta has been farmed since European settlement. The area’s bulb industry got a boost when blight attacked European bulbs in the 1920s and ’40s, and many of the farmers who plowed into this opportunity were Dutch.

La Conner is home to a diverse mix of cultures and backgrounds, including the Swinomish Tribal Community, Shelter Bay residents from across the Channel, fishermen, farmers, and artists.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner dates from a time when Puget Sound towns were connected by water and not by road, and consequently the town clings to the shore of Swinomish Channel. La Conner reached a commercial peak around 1900 (when steamers made the run to Seattle) and continued as an important grain- and log-shipping port until the Great Depression. It never recovered from the hard times of the ’30s, and when the highways bypassed the town, it became a neglected backwater.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The wooden false-fronted buildings built during the town’s heyday were spared the wrecking balls of the 1960s, and today these old buildings give the town its inimitable charm.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Beginning in the 1940s, La Conner’s picturesque setting attracted several artists and writers, and by the 1970s it had become known as an artists’ community. Tourism began to revive the economy, and the town’s artistic legacy led to the building of the Museum of Northwest Art, dedicated to the region’s many contemporary artists.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Adding still more color to this vibrant little town are the commercial flower farms of the surrounding Skagit Valley. In the spring, tulips carpet the surrounding farmlands with great swaths of red, yellow, and white. The acres of color are a must-see. 

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner is one of those places in Washington State that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. La Conner offers four seasons of activities with interesting and fun activities nearly every weekend, all year long, including Arts Alive! in November, Christmas boat parade, and the Classic Boat and Car Show in August.

For nearly 150 years, La Conner has had a special place in the hearts of its residents and visitors; we expect that it will continue to be one of Washington State’s most-loved historic communities for generations to come.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

I must go down to the seas again,

To the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star

To steer her by.

—John Masefield

8 Wild and Beautiful State Parks

Discover these lesser-known natural wonders

America’s state parks may keep a lower profile than the renowned national parks but that doesn’t mean they’re any less of a worthwhile destination. With 8,565 designated areas spanning over 18 million acres of land, there’s an incredible range of outdoor experiences to explore—including some real standouts that deserve to be on your RV travel radar.

Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

This state park in southeast Utah has drawn comparisons to the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. With breathtaking views into Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River 2,000 feet below, Dead Horse Point is a highlight for hikers and photographers exploring canyon country.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Catalina State Park, Arizona

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invites camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. Commonly encountered species of wildlife include javelin, coyote, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and various reptiles.

Lackawanna State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania

The 1,445-acre Lackawanna State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania, ten miles north of Scranton. The centerpiece of the park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through forest. Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming are popular activities. The campground is within walking distance of the lake and swimming pool, and features forested sites with electric hook-ups and walk-in tent sites. Rustic, modern, and full service sites are available.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky

“We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home, for the old Kentucky Home far away.”

Federal Hill is the centerpiece of My Old Kentucky Home State Park. The house has been restored to its mid-19th century appearance and young women guides dressed like Scarlett O’Hara, lead tours. Built between 1795 and 1818, Federal Hill was the home of Judge John Rowan. Just outside Bardstown, the house and estate had been the home of the Rowan family for three generations, spanning a period of 120 years.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Boasting South Carolina’s only publicly accessible lighthouse, Hunting Island is a popular stop on the coast. It has five miles of beaches, a saltwater lagoon, and 5,000 acres of marshland and maritime forest, plus one hundred campsites. Local wildlife includes loggerhead turtles, which nest in the summer, alligators, and hundreds of bird species.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Custer State Park in the beautiful Black Hills of western South Dakota is full of lush forests, quiet and serene meadows, and majestic mountains. Few truly wild places remain in this country. Custer State Park is one of them. Nearly 1,300 bison wander the park’s 71,000 acres of mountains, hills, and prairie, which they share with a wealth of wildlife including pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, big horn sheep, mountain goats, coyotes, wild turkeys, a band of burros, and whole towns of adorable prairie dogs.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

The largest state park in the contiguous United States, Anza-Borrego is flanked by rugged mountains on three sides and the Salton Sea to the east. Its 650,000 acres contain spectacular desert vistas, a variety of plant and animal life, and numerous archaeological, cultural, and historic sites. Lush oases with graceful palm trees lie hidden in valleys where water bubbles close to the surface.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Myakka River State Park, Florida

Myakka River State Park offers a variety of experiences: Day-trippers come for the airboat ride, tram ride, canopy walkway, and stop at the water-front café. Adventurers head for the 39 miles of hiking trails, excellent paved and unpaved biking trails, or kayaking on the scenic river. Given you need ample time to see and do it all, you can camp in one of 80 camping sites.

Worth Pondering…

Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.
—Robin Sharma

How to Choose the Right RV and the Right RV Dealership?

Your first step in purchasing an RV is to ask yourself what you would like to do in your recreational vehicle

Recreational vehicles are a great way to see the country and allow owners the freedom to travel.

They are great for weekends and extended vacations, but they are a major investment. And purchasing an RV is considerably more complicated than buying a car.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Your first step in purchasing an RV is to ask yourself what you would like to do in your trailer or motorhome. Do you plan to use it for family trips to a nearby lake or for extended travel across the country? Or as a second home in the winter and travel south to a Sunbelt state where it’s sunny, warm, and without snow? Perhaps you’re thinking of selling your home and living full-time in an RV.

Laredo fifth-wheel trailer by Keystone RV at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

What sizes and styles do you prefer? Will you buy a new or pre-owned RV?

The more time you plan to spend in your RV, the more carefully you need to consider your purchase. There’s no right way to camp. Some people are shopping for an RV with a clean bathroom and comfortable beds that will keep them warm and cozy at night. Other campers are seeking a smaller version of their sticks and bricks house, with all the creature comforts of home. Will everyone be able to eat a meal, play a board game, or watch a movie? Think about how you want to live in the RV, and make sure the floor plan will support that dream.

Coachmen Apex travel trailer at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised—and a little overwhelmed—at how many options there are out there. Once you have settled on the type of RV you are looking for (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll still have to decide the size and floor plan that will suit you best.

Thor Motor Coach Tuscany Class A motorhome at The Motorcoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

While you’re trying to determine how you want to use your RV, do some homework. Use the Internet to browse RV brands and styles. Be aware that all manufacturers are not created equal.

If your friends or neighbors own an RV talk with them about their vehicle and their experiences.  Look through the interior; examine various options so you can understand what is available.

Thor Motor Coach Hurricane Class A motorhome at Gila Bend KOA, Gila Bend Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A key factor is size. If you are only planning to use it sporadically, then size might not be an issue. But if you plan on living out of the vehicle for extended periods of time, then a larger RV may be more comfortable. Be aware that some older campgrounds and RV parks have restrictions on size.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star with interior features that include a computer desk, pull-out dining table, and recliners with foot rests © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Additional features can make your ride enjoyable. Choose items that would make your trip as comfortable as possible.

Every RV is a bit different than the next, and some options will be more important to you than others. That’s why it’s important to have a list of “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” before you even start looking. Here are a few features that may or may not be on your list depending on your RV lifestyle:

  • Large awning
  • Outdoor TV
  • Power and automated systems for stabilizing jacks and levelers
  • Smart technology to power mobile devices
2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once you become more acquainted with the marketplace, start visiting RV dealers. After all your research, you should be better prepared to speak with the salespeople clearly and confidently.

One of the greatest benefits of RV travel is being able to use the bathroom and have lunch in our RV kitchen while at rest stops. If this is also important to you, make sure you can access everything you will need even with the slides in. Can you access the bathroom, open the refrigerator, and get into the bedroom? Ask the salesperson to bring in the slides for you to make sure the travel mode will work for you and your family.

Outback travel trailer by Keystone at Quinta Oasis RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Most dealers have an on-site service department. Most RV repairs are specialized and different from regular vehicles.

Like all vehicles, RVs need maintenance and repairs from time to time. When you need to repair or maintain your vehicle, it is essential that you deal with professionals. You will need experienced and excellent customer service. Be aware that all dealers are not created equal.

From the old to the new at Midtown RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

After all, your RV is an enormous investment. Don’t trust it to just anyone.

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer. Yes, great customer service matters.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

Canyonlands: Colorado River and Canyon Vistas

The Green and Colorado Rivers trisect the Colorado Plateau, etching Canyonlands into distinct districts

People who live in the West are indeed blessed. They really don’t have to travel very far to visit one of America’s great national parks. In California, there’s Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon. To the west in Arizona, there’s the Grand Canyon, and north in the state of Utah, you can also find Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Most of us who tour national parks, probably have explored two or three of the five mentioned Utah parks. The one that is least visited, Canyonlands, is the one that is unusually interesting in that it most resembles the Grand Canyon in structure. That’s for obvious reasons, most importantly, the Colorado River runs through it and over eons carved out the canyons that we come to see and enjoy.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There are other similarities as well. The Grand Canyon is divided by the Colorado River into the two sections, the North Rim and the South Rim. Most people visit the South Rim, which is all about the viewpoints that look down into the canyons. Canyonlands is the same.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There are three separate regions for visitation, technically divided by the Colorado River. In the south, one can travel to The Needles and The Maze regions and to the completely separate north, the Island in the Sky region. Most people visit the easily accessible Island in the Sky, and here, too, it’s really all about peering down to the canyon vistas.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The odd thing about Island in the Sky is you take Highway 191 north out of Moab, drive past Arches National Park and you fully expect to see a big sign, that if it could speak, would loudly scream, “turn here, turn here.” Instead a little sign whispers, “this way, this way.”

I’m not sure why Canyonlands can’t attract the attention it needs, but if you blink you will miss the turn sign. Catch it and you head west through the break in the rock wall that has followed you since Moab.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The road will eventually twist and turn, climbing all the time until you find yourself at the top of an extensive mesa, a high plateau as flat as a pancake and going on and on until it ends, which it does abruptly to sheer drops of 1,000 feet or more. That’s where you are heading, the numerous, scenic spots where the mesa ends and you can look out and over the surrounding canyons.

Possibly, the vistas are better at Canyonlands than the Grand Canyon because the canyons aren’t so intensely jangled. At Canyonlands, the canyons are deep below, wide and grand, while the views seemed to go on forever.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Island in the Sky formation is essentially a stretch of lands that ends in a triangle. To the west are the Green River formed canyons, and to the east are the Colorado River formed canyons. At tip of the triangle is where the Green and Colorado rivers come together.

The high plateau is mostly grasslands, but the elevation rises to anywhere from 5,500 feet to over 6,000 feet at the Grand View Point Overlook. As the elevation ascends, the grasslands devolve and once you arrive at the park, the landscape is red desert spotted with juniper trees and other gnarly plants like pinon pine.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The park begins at the Visitor Center, which is quite sparse and not at all elaborate like nearby Arches.

There are some really strenuous hikes in the parks, but remember you are literally at the top of an existent world and many of those hikes descend precariously. The Murphy Loop trail drops 1,400 feet, while the Syncline Loop features boulder fields, switchbacks, and a 1,300 foot elevation change. Even for the experienced hiker these are hard, full-day journeys.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The typical day visitor to Canyonlands will make two relatively short hikes. The easiest is the Mesa Arch trail, a loop that starts at the road and at mid-point puts you at the edge of a canyon. The reward on this hike is a horizontal arch that at first glance doesn’t look like much, but once you get close enough to actually be under the arch you realize that’s as far as you are going to proceed, because you are at the edge of the ledge. Then continue on for the rest of the loop. All in, it’s about a 30 minute walk.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The highlight for Island in the Sky is the Upheaval Dome, which conversely is actually a 1,500-foot-deep crater. According to one theory, the “dome” was formed by a meteor crashing into earth. However, it’s not just the geology that makes this stop interesting, it’s also the best short hike in Island in the Sky.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The classic Canyonlands overlook is Grand View Point, where you can see the meeting of the Green and Colorado rivers, but it’s anticlimactic after the exhilarating walk to Upheaval Dome.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.

—John Muir

Least-Visited National Park Service Sites and Why Each Is Worth a Visit

Celebrate the beauty and natural wonders of America’s National Park Service sites at these lesser-known locations

Among America’s 418 National Park Service (NPS) sites, some stand out as must-sees for most RV travelers: Blue Ridge Parkway, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and Natchez Trace Parkway all come to mind as bucket-list sites.

And indeed, these and other parks welcome millions of visitors each year. Yet there are many other lesser-known parks equally worth your time—parks with extraordinary wildlife and unique natural features that mere thousands of visitors experience annually.

Here, we’ve rounded up ten of the least-visited national parks and make a case for why each one is worth a visit. Some are little-known, others are obscurely located, but all celebrate the beauty and power of America’s natural wonders—and, as a bonus, can be enjoyed with fewer crowds.

Cowpens National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cowpens National Battlefield

2018 visitor count: 189,410

Cowpens National Battlefield commemorates a decisive battle that helped turn the tide of war in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. On this field on January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan led his army of tough Continentals, militia, and cavalry to a brilliant victory over Banastre Tarleton’s force of British regulars.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

El Malpais National Monument

2018 visitor count: 154,368

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails.

Coronado National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Coronado National Memorial

2018 visitor count: 103,218

In the Coronado National Forest bordering Mexico, Coronado National Memorial celebrates the achievements of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who led the first recorded European expedition to America, in 1540. The attraction for most visitors is the rugged and scenic terrain, which is crossed by several hiking trails.

Tuzigoot National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tuzigoot National Monument

2018 visitor count: 98,090

Tuzigoot is a small national monument that preserves the remains of dwellings of the 12th century Sinagua Indians. Tuzigoot comprises a cluster of buildings, on top of a small sandstone ridge close to the Verde River valley.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

2018 visitor count: 62,995

The Hohokam people built these structures when they were near the height of their power some 700 years ago. The monument preserves 60 prehistoric sites, including a four-story earthen structure. Interpretive walking tours and exhibits are available.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cumberland Island National Seashore

2018 visitor count: 55.650

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, full of pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches, and wide marshes. Walk in the footsteps of early natives, explorers, and wealthy industrialists.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

2018 visitor count: 260,375

With its multiple stems the organ pipe cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ.

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert.

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hovenweep National Monument

2018 visitor count: 40,574

Hovenweep is one of those out of the way destinations that are easy to miss. Hovenweep preserves six villages once inhabited by the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people. These structures at Hovenweep are numerous and varied.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

2018 visitor count: 39,361

Founded in 1876 by John Lorenzo Hubbell, this is the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Reservation. This site in Ganado is part museum, part art gallery and still a functioning trading post, virtually unchanged since its early days.

Worth Pondering…
The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

6 Perfect Destinations to Take Your RV This Spring

Winter has finally come to an end, which means road trip season is here

Spring is so close we can taste it, making us yearn for the open road and adventurous, memory-building destinations that allow us to let loose our inner-trailblazer.

All signs are pointing to a spring RV excursion! And to get rolling, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite destinations that are ideal for the RV adventurers.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

San Antonio, Texas

Arguably, the state’s most beautiful city, San Antonio has much to offer. Fantastic museums, San Antonio River Walk, La Villita, HemisFair Park, Tower of the Americas, El Mercado, King William Historic District, and, of course, The Alamo are but a few of its highlights. And if you like the Alamo, you’ll love the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a string of several 15th- and 16th-century Spanish missions in and around the city.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Fiesta San Antonio (April 18-28, in 2019) started in 1891 as a one-parade event as a way to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. It has grown into a celebration of San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Admire the grandeur and wonders of the Grand Canyon, a powerful and inspiring landscape that overpowers our senses through its immense size. You won’t find similar mixtures of color and erosional formations anywhere else. The canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and about a mile deep, according to the National Park Service.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A universally recognizable iconic destination, Grand Canyon National Park is a true marvel of nature. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming.

Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the country. People come for the more than 800 miles of recreation trails that wind through breathtaking scenery, and beautiful wildflowers. In fact, the park is home to the largest number of flowering plants of any park in the country—more than 1,600 different species.

Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

On the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains, tens of thousands of horny, synchronous fireflies put on a psychedelic fireworks show. They gather near the Elkmont Campground (approximately 6 miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center), flashing simultaneously as part of a two-week mating ritual that lights up the entire forest and draws spectators from around the world. Visit between late May and mid-June, and make reservations in advance.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Explore Colonial Williamsburg in the city of Williamsburg. You’ll be highly entertained as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg and viewing free outdoor entertainment like re-enactment actors firing cannons. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Historic Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And the Jamestown Settlement and the Battleground of Yorktown are just a stone’s throw from the city.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner is a unique combination of fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, browse through unique shops and art galleries, and visit the beautiful tulip fields of Skagit Valley.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree is a diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. The park is home to two deserts: the Colorado which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as ocotillo and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The different elevation throughout the park cause flowers to bloom at different times, with the low elevation flowers blooming earlier than higher elevation flowers. Catch a glimpse of the teddy bear cholla at the low elevations and head to higher ground to see blooms in April May.

Worth Pondering…

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there.