6 Reasons to Make Your Next Trip an RV Road Trip

Getting there is all of the fun

U.S. Route 163 cuts through Monument Valley; it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road cruising past the enormous sandstone formations. Head north and continue to Arches and Canyonlands national parks, or go south and explore the Grand Canyon.

Comedian Steven Wright once said, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Substitute the word “driving” for “walking” and you’ll see why RV road trips are a great way to see, experience, and enjoy the US and Canada this summer. Road trips offer travelers the advantages of being self-contained and allowing them to explore on their own schedules. Simply put, road trips offer freedom—freedom to come and go as you please, for as long as you like.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where road trips really shine are flexibility and spontaneity. You are on your own schedule. If the sunset is transforming into a show-stopping event, you can wait for it. If you discover a scenic trail meandering through a red rock canyon or an old-growth forest, you can spend the rest of the day captivated by it.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life on the open road in an RV is about discovery, and re-discovery—of your surroundings, a new route, and of yourself. Choosing to take an RV on an adventure opens up a wide variety of experiences, including convenience and comfort.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No need to make plane reservations. When you have the time, just fill up the tank, load up the RV, and hit the open road!

Here are my six reasons to consider an RV for your next outdoor adventure:

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Plan – Or Don’t

The fantastic part about an RV trip is that planning is mostly optional. Of course, you have to move, but when and how quickly is your decision. You have everything you need with you along the way, so dining and lodging needs are taken care of. Road tripping is universally appealing to both the trip planner and the wanderer.

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having said this, some planning is suggested especially to secure a camping site for the night or duration of your stay. With an increasing number of people living in and working out of their RVs, securing a camping site usually required some advanced planning.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Maximize Vacation Time

Rather than a point-to-point visit to a destination, the travel to and from becomes a series of micro-experiences. You have shared meals, sleepovers, and quality time with family and friends during your RV journey. Your travel days are no longer consuming valuable time you could be adventuring—they are the adventure.

Crystal River, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Eat, Sleep, Drive

The RV vacation gives you control over your pace, timing, and expenses. A well-stocked kitchen offers treats for everyone. Comfortable beds ensure that road warriors are rested for the next day. This flexibility provides more time to be spontaneous.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Stop Spontaneously and Stay

Every good road trip passes signs such as “World’s Largest Ball of Paint” or “Hogeye the Dancing Hog.” Why hurry? Park, have a snack in the RV, hang out for a while, and explore the unknown. When your road trip includes an RV, getting to know the kitschy side of the county or simply stopping at every country store or fruit stand becomes a possibility.

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Make Unexpected Connections

Nothing says “welcome” like seeing another RV at a campground or RV park. Pulling up in an RV automatically invites you to be part of an adventure-loving community. Road travel encourages some social time (if you want it!).

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Flexible Schedule

When your schedule is flexible, taking the time to converse with local shop owners and other like-minded travelers offers new perspectives on destinations and can open you to experiences you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

Enchanted Rock State Recreation Area, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

It’s not just a drive.

It’s an experience.

Exploring Canada’s Unexpected Wine Valley

The Okanagan Valley is British Columbia’s largest and oldest wine appellation and has experienced unprecedented growth over the last two decades

Imagine a valley floor filled with a 90 mile-long lake, wildlife including big horn sheep, cougars and rattlesnakes, rainfall of less than 12 inches a year but with the greatest concentration of wineries and orchards you can imagine.

Welcome to the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia, Canada’s most western province.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving through the Rocky Mountains we enjoyed the spectacular mountain scenery and lush pine forests. Now we are in Canada’s only desert.

As we approached Armstrong from the north we saw an amazing visitor attraction called the Log Barn 1912. This is operated by a Mennonite family and it is a combined restaurant, store, tourist attraction, and great place to stop.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Try their old-fashioned sausage, butter crust pies, and Gouda cheese, watch the goats climb the special goat walk, and check out the many other attractions from an Indian tepee to a model dinosaur.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heading south to Vernon and into the heart of the valley, vineyards start appearing on the hilly slopes but it’s not until you reach Kelowna that it becomes obvious this is serious wine country. The city is home to outstanding golf courses, scenic trails, museums, and plenty of beach and water-based fun but visitors flock here for wine tourism.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grape cultivation and wine consumption date back 6,000 years so this wine country is just a baby in comparison. It has only been in the last 30 years that wine production has been taken seriously here. Now there are over 120 wineries and many have sales and tasting outlets open to the public.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The vineyards are often side by side with orchards of cherries, apples, pears, peaches, and apricots, many with fruit stands offering fresh picked fruit to the public.

Further on, there’s the Kettle Valley Railway in Summerland and an old paddle-steamer at Penticton.

The old paddle-steamer in Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Penticton is nestled between two scenic lakes with sandy beaches. Okanagan Lake to the north and Skaha Lake to the south offer a myriad of summertime activities to cool you down while you relax.

Okanagan Lake at Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With over 60 wineries within a 20 minutes’ drive, local farmers markets, over three miles of golden sandy beaches, and many wonderful festivals and events throughout the year, the Penticton area has something for everyone.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oliver is appropriately known as the Wine Capital of Canada because it has the highest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the country. Where there are no vines, there are fruit trees on lush rolling hills.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prior to the development of the wine industry, almost all of the agricultural land in the Oliver area was planted first to ground crops and later to fruit trees such as cherries, apples, apricots, and peaches.

Today the Wine Capital of Canada is one of the best wine-growing areas in North America. The sun, the soil, the climate, and the topography have created special and unique terroirs that are evidenced by their thriving vineyards.

Tinhorn Creek Winery in Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With dozens of wineries and more popping up every year, being thrifty with time is essential. With many wineries in their toddler years, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards presides as one of the most mature residents. Established in 1993, the winery is one of the best known from the region and, perhaps, all of British Columbia. Its roster of award-winning wines is impressive.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We visit a couple more wineries in the area before continuing to Osoyoos, the southern town just north of the U.S. border.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before becoming a wine destination, the Okanagan was a family holiday spot, best known for its “beaches and peaches”—the lakes with their sandy shores, boating, and waterskiing as well as the countless farm stands offering fresh produce and fruit.

The beaches and peaches—and cherries, apricots, apples, and pears—are still there, and the Okanagan still welcomes families.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But now the RV also comes back loaded with cases of wine.

Where to Stay: Desert Gem RV Resort, Oliver; NK’mip RV Park and Campground, Osoyoos; Walton’s Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

My Tilley Hats Go RVing

I am an expert on Tilley hats. Well, maybe not an expert, but I sure have a lot of experience with the hats that I own!

RV travel is about seeing new places, experiencing life from a different perspective, taste testing local cuisine, making new friends, experiencing a random moment, and enjoying my good looking and highly functional Tilley hats.

Even though they are supremely endurable I’m the proud owner of four Tilley hats. I recently added another two Tilley to my arsenal for the sake of color variety or just because!

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What makes a Tilley hat so great?

Tilley hats are an excellent example of form follows function in that the shape of the hat is primarily based upon its intended purpose or function.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They have a number of features that indicate someone put a lot of thought into the design. They look great, are comfortable, and pretty much will last your entire lifetime (guaranteed).

Tilley LTM6 Airflo Camo (Source: Tilley)

Tilley hats are exceptionally well designed and handcrafted in Canada with a dash of style and flair. Tilley hats are versatile and lightweight, strong and durable, wrinkle-free and packable, and nearly indestructible, although your family dog could prove otherwise. Tilley’s are designed and engineered for outdoor adventure and are great for RV travel and camping, so you are ready for an unexpected turn on the road ahead.

Tilley Airflo showing inside label (Source: Tilley)

The label on the inside of every Tilley says a lot: “The finest in all the world. Insured against loss. Guaranteed for life. Replaced free if it ever wears out. It floats, ties on, repels rain, blocks UV rays, won’t shrink and comes with a four-page owner’s manual. Handcrafted with Canadian persnicketiness.” Tilley has a sense of humor and makes an awesome hat.

Tilley LTM2 Airflo Olive (Source: Tilley)

The label also includes washing instructions: “Machine-wash or hand-wash (cool water). Wash frequently to ensure sweat will not permanently discolor fabric. Reshape and dry (DO NOT machine dry), then re-stretch over knee.”

My two new Tilley hats are a broad brim style LTM6 Airflows in olive and in camo.

Tilley Airflo (Source: Tilley)

Tilley’s hemp fabric has a linen-like appearance and feel. The strongest natural fiber it is resistant to mold and mildew, and to salt water. It has a UPF rating of 50+, the maximum UV protection rating given.

Industrial hemp is an outstanding fiber, useful in textiles, high strength cordage, and papermaking. As a farm crop it is relatively pest-free, does not deplete the soil, and requires little fertilizer.

Tilley LTM8 Airflo Mesh (Source: Tilley)

The tough-as- nails hemp fabric makes up into a truly high performance hat. This is possible because Tilley make the hats very well, of outstanding material, enabling them to offer their lifetime guarantee of replacement if the hat wears out.

Since hemp is a natural fiber the hat tends to fade after a few years of wear—and becomes “uniquely yours as a result.”

Tilley logo band box (Source: Tilley)

The Tilley Airflo version, made from Nylamtium fabric, a strong water-and-mildew resistant nylon, provides lightweight protection from the sun while blocking UV rays and also repels rain.

The polyester mesh around the crown is a distinctive feature that helps air circulate inside the hats, keeping you cool on warm summer days.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What about my other two Tilley hats, you ask? My original Tilley, a 15+ year-old classic cotton hat is in semi-retirement, and my newest Tilley is somewhere in the bowels of our motorhome, location unknown!

There’s one other hat that I wear from time to time, and that’s my Shiner Bock baseball cap, just to remind me that it’s “five o’clock somewhere!”

Tilley Endurables, the Canadian company long recognized as the maker of high quality outdoor hats, was started in 1980 when Alex Tilley needed a good hat for sailing and couldn’t find one, and decided to make one himself. He spared no effort, sought advice from a milliner, sailmaker, and hat maker, and, as he says “got it right”.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Only afterwards, when he saw that he had an outstanding hat, did he decide to sell it through stores. The sale of the original hat, and expansion into a range of hats and travel ware, has benefited from Alex Tilley’s imagination and insistence on outstanding quality.

Worth Pondering…

“Why do you always wear a hat?”

” ‘Cause it fits my head.”

—Robert Redford, in The Horse Whisperer

Utah Runneth Over With National Parks

America’s southwest is home to lots of jaw-dropping scenery—how do you decide where to go and what to see?

The days are getting warmer, there’s more daylight hours, and school will soon be out. A great formula for a summer vacation, for sure.

BUT, where to go and what to do?

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you enjoy wide open spaces, room to stretch your legs, and unlimited opportunities to observe Mother Nature at its finest—consider UTAH.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a state that is 13th in area, Utah has an amazing number of locations managed by the National Park Service. These parks include seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, one national historical site, and five national parks. It is these “crown jewels,” the BIG FIVE, we’ll briefly describe in today’s post.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the southwest corner of Utah is magnificent Zion National Park. Highway access is prime at this incredible park, as I-15 rims the park on its western edge. SR-9 runs through the southern portion of the park, and 12 miles east is the community of Mt. Carmel Junction.

Located at the park’s southern entrance, Springdale offers numerous visitor facilities.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV camping is available inside the park at South Campground (117 sites) and Watchman Campground (176 sites) near the south entrance of Springdale. Reservations are strongly suggested as both campgrounds are full every night during the reservation season. Several private RV parks are available a short drive from the park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To help ease traffic congestion, a shuttle service runs from early March through October. There are two shuttle loops. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale. The Springdale Shuttle will take you to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion is all about hiking, and the beauty of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This famous drive runs from the visitor center to the famous Temple of Sinawava.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is located northeast of Zion.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. The most famous of these is the Bryce Amphitheater (pictured above), which is filled with irregularly eroded spires of rocks called hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion). Their colors vary, giving the area unusual hues during the changing daylight hours. The largest collection of hoodoos in the world is found in Bryce. Descriptions fail. Bring your sense of wonder and imagination when visiting Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park has two campgrounds, North (99 sites) and Sunset (100 sites), located in close proximity to the visitor center, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and Bryce Amphitheater. Sites fill by early afternoon during the busy summer months.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive to Rainbow Point (18 miles one way) and stop at the 13 viewpoints on your return trip. Hiking trails are numerous. Since park elevations reach over 9,000 feet, even mild exertion may leave you feeling light-headed and nauseated.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah’s high desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape you see today.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands preserves the natural beauty and human history throughout its four districts (Islands in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, Horseshoe Canyon) which are divided by the Green and Colorado rivers. While the districts share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Island in the Sky is the most accessible district, offering expansive views from many overlooks along the paved scenic drive, several hikes of varying length and a moderate four-wheel-drive route called the White Rim Road.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is available in the Islands of the Sky District at Willow Flat (12 sites) and Needles District at Needles Campground (27 sites).

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Almost next door, is smaller, unusual, Arches National Park. It is located 5 miles northwest of Moab. Visitor services including several RV parks.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks. This red-rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 18-mile scenic road passes the many outstanding natural features. Parking is limited at all destinations, and popular trailheads like Delicate Arch and Devils Garden may fill for hours at a time, especially on weekends and holidays. Tent and RV camping is available at Devils Garden Campground (51 sites), 18 miles from the park entrance.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park’s main driving tours include the paved Scenic Drive and two long, mainly unpaved, loop tours through the park’s Cathedral and Waterpocket Districts. The Scenic Drive starts at the park Visitor Center and provides access to Grand Wash Road, Capitol Gorge Road, Pleasant Creek Road, and South Draw Road. The Scenic Drive is a 7.9 mile paved road with dirt spur roads into Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 71-site Fruita campground is the only developed campground in the park, located south of the visitor center in the Fruita Historic District.

Utah national parks bring superlative sights like no other state. It’s one of the few where someone can look at a picture and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s Utah.”.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

Williams: Gateway to the Grand Canyon & Much More

Cowboy shootouts. A bear and bison park. Historic Route 66. Welcome to unexpected fun in this gateway to the Grand Canyon

The opium dens, bordellos, and other landmarks of Williams, Arizona’s, rough-and-tumble past are long gone. But some kinder, gentler vestiges of this town’s Wild West era remain. And that’s fortunate for Grand Canyon-bound visitors seeking a fun, full-service spot as a base before and after a trip to the canyon’s South Rim, 56 miles north.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town of 3,000 residents, considered the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is also home to the Grand Canyon Railway, an excursion train that traverses the scenic, high-desert plateau between a historic depot and the canyon.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even if you’ve been to Williams before, you might not be aware of these surprising facts and how they can enhance the visitor experience.

On the Right Track

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon Railway takes passengers on one of America’s most picturesque train journeys. Departing each morning from the station beside the RV Park, the train chugs north out of Williams for a ride up and over the massive Colorado Plateau.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At just over two hours, the journey gives RV travelers the chance to take a 65-mile shortcut and leave the driving to the engineer. It’s a perfect way to arrive at Grand Canyon National Park rested and relaxed without worrying about navigating an RV through the twists, turns, and often dense traffic that concentrates at the park’s south entrance.

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams boasts the final stretch of Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (on October 13, 1984). The original “super-highway,” as Route 66 was known in 1926, spanned more than 2,300 miles from Chicago to Long Beach, California and opened up the West to road travel. (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 singer Bobby Troup marked the day Route 66 was bypassed, October 13, 1984, by plunking out the 1946 tune on a piano in the middle of America’s most iconic byway—called “The Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in his classic novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the town’s Main Street is a National Historic District. Its storefronts house curio shops, an old-fashioned soda fountain, and classic diners and motels, which preserve a bygone era.

Shootouts On Main Street

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a nightly shoot-out downtown at 7:00 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day in which classic Old West “outlaws,” the Cataract Creek Gang, get killed (civic boosters prefer the term “plugged”) as hundreds of “witnesses” (i.e., visitors) look on. The costumed bad guys—cowboy hats, spurs, and all—bounce back and come back the next day to perform their evil deeds again. And get plugged again.

See the Forest and the Trees

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams is surrounded by the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest. You can explore the Kaibab National Forest’s 1,100 miles of U.S. Forest Service roads via mountain bike, all-terrain vehicle, or four-wheel drive. Elevations range from about 3,000 feet to 10,418 feet on top of Kendrick Mountain. Hikers can explore more than 300 miles of trails, some along the rims of the Grand Canyon.

Where the Wild Things Are

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bearizona Wildlife Park on the eastern outskirts of Williams is a rare spot where you can see bears, bison, wolves, and other North American critters, seemingly wandering free in the 160-acre facility. Guests view them from the comfort (and safety) of their cars through three miles of Ponderosa pine forest in the drive-through park.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A separate 20-acre walking area set up like a more conventional zoo is home to otters, beavers, porcupines, and more. The park also features a Bearizona Barnyard petting zoo, a special exhibit of “kindergarten” bears not old enough for the adult enclosure, and a high-country raptors show of hawks, owls, falcons, and other birds of prey.

Fill ‘Er Up

Remember when gas station attendants wore jumpsuits? Remember when there were gas station attendants?

Pete’s Route 66 Gas Station Museum (101 E. Route 66) does. The cheerful red and white vintage building contains car-culture memorabilia harking back to another era. It’s open daily in summer.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort in Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.

—Major John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons

North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There’s also a place where the buffalo roam, and that place is Theodore Roosevelt National Park

North Dakota, when not being depicted as bland and uninspired, is generally cast in a bad light. Whether it’s fiction or real life, the spotlight’s seldom kind to NoDak.

But there’s also a place where the buffalo roam, and that place is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Named for the 26th President, it’s perhaps the most underrated National Park Service area, a prairie companion to the Badlands known for its diverse wildlife.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt is unique among the scenic parks in that it preserves not only an extraordinary landscape but also the memory of an extraordinary man. It honors the president who probably did more for the National Park Service than anyone before or since.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in the Badlands of western North Dakota. There are three units to the park. The South Unit entrance is in the town of Medora off of Interstate 94 exits 24 and 27. The North Unit entrance is on Highway 85 approximately 14 miles south of Watford City. The remote Elkhorn Ranch Unit sits roughly in the middle of the North and South Units and is accessed via gravel roads.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This austere landscape is home to a surprisingly dense population of wildlife. Bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, wild horses, and bighorn sheep inhabit the park, as do numerous smaller mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And perhaps best of all is the shortage of human beings. This relatively isolated park is hardly ever crowded (753,880 visitors in 2016), so you can experience the gorgeous loneliness of the badlands much the way Roosevelt did more than a hundred years ago.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt first came to the Dakota Territory in 1883 to hunt bison. A year later, devastated by personal tragedy, he returned to grieve and lose himself in the vastness. Inspired by the rugged and colorful landscape of the plains, he became a cattle rancher and, in this broken land, found adventure, purpose, and wholeness. Although his ranch ultimately failed, his love for the rugged beauty of the land brought him back time and again for the rest of his life.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roosevelt credited his Dakota experiences as the basis for his groundbreaking preservation efforts and the shaping of his own character. As president 1901-09, he translated his love of nature into law. He established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He worked with Congress to establish five national parks, 150 national forests, and dozens of national preserves—over 230 million acres of protected land.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On April 25, 1947, the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park was established as a tribute to the president. It was designated as a national park in 1978 to conserve the 29,920 acres of wilderness.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A visit to the South Unit would bring you to the visitor center located at the entrance of Medora which has an information desk and a short movie about the park history. The visitor center also has a small museum. The Maltese cabin owned by Roosevelt stands adjacent to the center.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For those wanting to enjoy the sights and sounds of this amazing natural landmark, a drive along the Scenic Loop road is a must. The loop offers scenic overlooks and a range of trails to explore. One can stop at the Wind Canyon or the Scoria Point to glimpse into the beautiful world of the park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For people desiring to enjoy hiking, there are 100 miles of fascinating trails along the park like the Ridgeline Trail and the Coal Vein Trail.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park offers two campgrounds along the Little Missouri River: Juniper with 50 camping sites in the North Unit and Cottonwood with 78 sites in the South unit. While no hookups or showers are available, there are facilities like water, picnic tables, fire pits, and paved pads. The campgrounds are usually available on a first-come, first-served basis. Campsites of various configurations (walk-in, pull-through, and back-in) can accommodate tents, trailers, and motorhomes. 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Far from the bustling urban centers, the park offers a perfect getaway to people who would love to enjoy the solitude and beauty of the place which has remained unchanged from the days Roosevelt described it as a “chaos of peaks, plateaus, and ridges”.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I have always said I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.

—Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

RV To Canada This Summer

Explore the great outdoors and breathtaking natural beauty of Canada during the day and relax in your RV at night

Your friendly neighbor speaks your language and knows your favorite sports team.

Dollar dollar bill y’all. Canada has its own dollar— nicknamed the loonie, slang for its $1 coin whose backside depicts a floating loon.

Icefields Parkway connecting Lake Louise and Jasper © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How you’ll spend it: Canada surely seems to be having more fun these days—add the 25 percent currency discount and you’re off, eh? They’re like Americans, kinda. And Americans are kinda like Canadians, eh?

Okanagan Lake and SS Sicamous in Penticton, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Canada-United States border is the longest international border in the world. Eight Canadian provinces and 13 U.S. states are neighbors along the 5,525 miles of border that run from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. Of the 119 border crossings, the Ambassador Bridge, between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, handles around 8,000 trucks and 68,000 travelers daily, making it one of the busiest land border crossings in North America.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia

In quiet contrast, the Hyder-Stewart border crossing, which connects the communities of Hyder, Alaska, and Stewart, British Columbia, has no U.S. customs station. The rough-and-tumble road is used predominantly as access to up-close bear watching in Hyder.

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sometimes the border officers ask only a few typical questions, but other times they ask many questions or even reword a question and ask it again to see whether you give the same answer. It is important to always answer questions honestly, politely, and succinctly and to keep your dialogue with customs officers as simple as possible. Always remove sunglasses. Only answer questions you are asked. And never argue or attempt to be funny. Customs officials have all the power.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you are a full-time RVer, don’t share that fact unless officers ask. If you are asked, be prepared to prove your ties to the United States. Telling a customs officer you have no fixed address could delay your journey.

Rocky Mountain Goats in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upon entering Canada you may be asked:

  • Where were you born?
  • What is the purpose of your trip?
  • Where are you going? What is the address of the place where you will be staying?
  • How long are you staying in Canada?
  • Do you have any alcohol or tobacco? If so, how much?
  • Do you have firearms, pepper spray, mace, or drugs?
  • Do you have gifts or goods that you will be leaving in Canada? What is their value?
  • Do you have any fruit, vegetables, or meat?
  • Do you have large sums of money with you? More than $10,000?
Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel with a passport, because you must present proof of citizenship. You will also require a passport when returning to the United States.

Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If children or grandchildren travel with you, they need proper identification. A notarized affidavit is required if you travel with minors and the adult does not have full legal custody.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveler’s medical insurance is highly recommended for U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, even for brief visits. No Canadian health-care provider accepts U.S. domestic health insurance, and Medicare coverage does not extend outside the United States.

Mount Rundle in Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highway distances and speeds are posted in kilometers per hour; gasoline is sold in liters; and temperature is measured in Celsius. The easiest way to convert mileage to the U.S. system is to multiply the number of kilometers by 6 and move the decimal point one number to the left. And so, if the posted speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour, it converts to 60 mph.

Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rockies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Because fuel is sold in liters, don’t be fooled by what appear to be bargain prices at the fuel pumps. There are 3.785 liters to the U.S. gallon. So, if gasoline costs $1 per liter, the price is $3.785 per gallon. As for temperature, 30 degrees Celsius is hot; the Fahrenheit equivalent is 86 degrees.

Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though Canada and the United States share a North American lifestyle, subtle differences between the two countries have led to rules and regulations pertaining to those differences. By doing a little research ahead of time, you can get behind the wheel of your RV, turn the key, and enjoy a Canadian adventure.

Elk (Wapati) in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go see your long-lost cousins.

Worth Pondering…

Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.

―John F. Kennedy

Explore the Black Hills

If you’re into camping, hiking, wildlife, or big adventure, the Black Hills is the place for you

The Black Hills of western South Dakota have long been a favorite of RVers. We came to this area to explore the natural side of the Black Hills—the plants and animals, geology, and natural history that existed before the trappers, miners, and homesteaders came—and we weren’t disappointed.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving an RV in the Black Hills is challenging. Most roads are curvy two laners with plenty of up-and-down elevation changes. Those driving larger rigs should plan routes carefully or better yet, locate yourself in a nearby campground or RV park and drive your toad. Also be aware of restrictions caused by tunnels on several roads.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving through the Black Hills takes you through some of the most rugged, distinctive, and beautiful land in America. It’s hard to stick to the main road in South Dakota’s rugged land of canyons, cliffs, and caves.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Black Hills are home to some of the most majestic scenery you can imagine, from the winding Spearfish Canyon to the mountain lakes that surround Rushmore—rivers, mountains, caves, and more make it ideal for hikers and climbers and everybody in between.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those in-betweeners include the bikers who throng the otherwise placid Sturgis every year, and gamblers who flock to Deadwood, a living museum of gold mining days. Small towns like Spearfish and Belle Fourche give you a chance for a little culture.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Black Hills is basically a gigantic, serene cluster of small towns amid enough crazy geographical features to populate an entire planet, all scattered within an hour or two of one another. Not bad for a place most often associated with having a gigantic wall of presidential heads looking over it.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Black Hills are home to the giant stone faces of Mount Rushmore National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is the land of Deadwood and the final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and hundreds of American Indians killed at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. It’s also steeped in a rich gold-mining history.

Mount Rushmore National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Starting in the northwest, State Route 14A takes you through gorgeous Spearfish Canyon, a deep, narrow gorge carved by Spearfish Creek. The canyon has its own ecosystem of lush waterfalls, giant limestone cliffs, dozens of caves and, in the fall, a beautiful palette of colors.

Keystone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several scenic drives wind through the area, thanks to the efforts of Peter Norbeck, a conservationist who was South Dakota’s governor and a U.S. senator many decades ago. He helped establish Custer State Park and oversaw a tremendous undertaking in road construction. Norbeck explored the park on foot and on horseback, savoring the beauty of the Black Hills. His first road was completed in 1922 and named Needles Highway, for the spiky granite formations that stud the horizon.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Needles Highway boasts more than 600 rock-climbing routes up granite spires that rise up out of the limestone. Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rockies at 7,242 feet above sea level, stands in the distance. A leisurely hike to the top takes about two hours one way and is well worth the time.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Iron Mountain Road was Norbeck’s next road project, connecting the park with Mount Rushmore to the north. The drive takes visitors along a series of pigtail bridges, so named for a corkscrew configuration that allows for sudden changes in elevation without disturbing the natural landscape. The road is designed to make you slow down and enjoy the scenery.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the world’s largest known caves, Wind Cave National Parks has many unusual formations and a variety of minerals are found in the cave. The cave is best known for its outstanding display of boxwork, an unusual cave formation composed of thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northwest of Wind Cave, the even larger Jewel Cave National Monument ranks as the second longest cave in the U. S. and the third longest in the world, with 173 miles of explored passageways. Jewel Cave is distinctive for its sparkling crystals, and particularly for a long ribbon of crystal called cave bacon that hangs from the ceiling.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, it made me feel humble, like a beggar, just lucky to be here at all, even briefly.

—Bridget Asher

Operating an RV: Departure and Setup Checklist

Checklists can make your RV arrivals and departures easier and safer

If you’re new to RVing, you’re smart to wonder about how to drive and operate your RV properly. It’s your home away from home, and should be treated as such. And RVing with Rex has you covered with answers, tips, ideas, and more, so you can hit the road with confidence.

From inspecting and maintaining your RV to knowing how to depart from a campsite and set up procedure upon arrival at a new campground or RV park, having a plan helps everything run more smoothly and ensures you’re informed and in control every step of the way.

Camping at Irwins RV Park in Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Below is a Departure and Setup checklist to help get you started. It is meant to be a starting point for your own list.

Departure Checklist

Lower antenna and satellite dish

Retract awnings

Camping at Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Return slide-outs to their travel position

Secure loose items inside cabinets

Close and latch shower and closet doors

Close and latch oven, stovetop, and refrigerator doors

Camping at 12 Tribes Casino RV Resort in Omak, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Close and latch all internal doors (bathroom, bedroom, etc.)

Close roof vents and windows

Turn off propane-powered appliances

Close propane tank valve

Camping at Meaher State Park near Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clear the RV of trash

Stow steps, hand rails, etc.

Close and latch external door(s)

Check tire pressure on all tires

Camping at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Disconnect all hookups (electricity, sewer, water, cable, satellite)

Remove stabilizing jacks, raise leveling jacks, and store leveling blocks (as applicable)

Hitch trailer to tow vehicle or dinghy/toad to motorized RV

Camping at River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Test hitch connection by driving forward

Check signal lights, 4-way lights, brake lights, headlights, and fog lights

Do a final walk-around

Check mirrors

Checking in at the office at Whispering Hills RV Park near Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrival and Setup Checklist

Once you’ve arrived at your campground, RV resort, or final destination, it’s time to park, set up, and relax. Here are some basic pointers.

Check in with campground office/park ranger station

Obtain directions to campsite

Electric, water, sewer, and cable TV connections © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upon arrival at your site, do a walk-through, and determine best location for RV and toad/tow vehicle

Drive into campsite (pull through or back in)

Check parking job (space, alignment with hookups, clearance for slide-outs and basement bins)

Level RV

Connected to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lower leveling jacks until RV is supported

Unhitch RV and park toad/tow vehicle

Extend steps and restore hand rails and slide-outs to their parked position

Open propane tank valve

RV connections with caution warnings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connect to hookups (electricity, water, sewer, cable, satellite)

Extend slide-outs

Raise antenna and satellite dish

Sealed sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up outdoor gear and awnings

Return items to their parked storage positions

And now to kick back and relax © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.

—Franklin P. Adams

Ultimate Checklist: 20 Summer Experiences

Twenty Ideas for Summer Fun

Summertime is a fantastic time to collect new life experiences while enjoying the RV lifestyle. The longer days, the warmer nights, and the magical hours at dusk make summer ideal for exploring more of the expected and unexpected, from coast to coast.

There’s no shortage of ways to spend your summer in the US and Canada. Here are just a few ideas. How many can you check off the list?

1. Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This gorgeous gash in the landscape has a spectacular feature: you can drive through it! The forested canyon floor ranges from a mile wide at the top end to 2.5 miles at the mouth, and up to 2,000 feet deep from the creek to the top of the sheer red cliffs.

2. Scenic Byway 12, Utah

Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most beautiful stretches of road in the US, Scenic Byway 12 spans 124 miles in Utah’s red-rock country.

3. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Alabama Gulf Coast near Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Shores is a coastal, resort community known for miles of sparkling turquoise waters and stunningly white sand beaches. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, and crab.

4. Custer State Park, South Dakota

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer State Park in the Black Hills encompasses 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain and is home to an abundance of wildlife including a herd of 1,300 bison, pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros.

5. Ajo, Arizona

Ajo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A century ago, fortune seekers flowed into Ajo to dig copper, then stayed and built a lovely company town. Though the mine has gone bust, Ajo still shines—with Spanish colonial architecture, easy access to nature, and a growing arts scene.

6. Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, Cedar Breaks National Monument looks down into a majestic geologic amphitheater, a three-mile long cirque of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone.

7. My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Federal Hill is the centerpiece of My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Built between 1795 and 1818, Federal Hill was the home of Judge John Rowan.

8. Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the town of Mesilla is home to a mere 2,196 people, it’s a fascinating place to visit. Here you’ll find well-preserved architecture, history worth delving into, and high quality restaurants.

9. Newport, Rhode Island

Ocean Drive at Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are plenty of things to do in Newport but the seaside city really shines brightest during the summer. After all, the million-dollar mansions that Newport is known for were built as warm-weather retreats, for those perfect days spent on yachts and lawns.

10. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Okanagan Valley at Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Framed by desert hills, lakes, vineyards, and orchards, the Okanagan Valley is considered Canada’s only true desert.

10. Shiner, Texas

Shiner Brewery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Speaking of beloved beverages… Shiner is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed.

11. Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on the beach in Waveland (adjacent to Bay St. Louis), Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands, and the Gulf of Mexico.

12. Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Jasper Mational Park in the Canadian Rockies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Canadian Rockies stretch 900 miles northwest from the Montana border. The lakes and peaks combined create gob-smacking scenery for summer travel.

13. New River Gorge, West Virginia

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent.

14. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park protects some of the best-preserved archaeological sites in America, including cave dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people.

15. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases.

16. Fort Ticonderoga, New York

Fort Ticonderoga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From living history to behind-the-scenes programs, battle re-enactments, workshops, seminars, and seasonal activities, there is always something happening.

17. Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a scenic train ride to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, on the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

18. Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, Louisiana

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site explores the cultural interplay among the diverse peoples along the famed Bayou Teche.

19. Helena, Montana

Helena © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helena was founded in the gold rush of 1864. Visit the Pioneer Cabin, hop on the Last Chance Tour Train, or wander historic downtown Helena.

20. Corning, New York

Corning © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as America’s Crystal City, Corning has long been at the forefront of all things glass, from innovative technology and science to the remarkable creations found at The Corning Museum of Glass. But artisan glass is just one of the reasons Corning is so fun.

Worth Pondering…

It’s not just a drive in your RV.

It’s an experience.