Chile Peppers 101

From sweet bell peppers to spicy jalapeños and the super hot Trinidad Scorpion, chile peppers are popular around the world

Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

New Mexicans today like their ancestors revere the fiery chile cultivated centuries ago in Pueblo and Hispano communities up and down the Rio Grande from Taos to Vado.

Chile peppers in Mesilla Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The varieties consumed today trace their lineage to an heirloom variety, the 6-4, bred in 1894 by Fabian Garcia at Las Cruces’ New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, known today as New Mexico State University (NMSU). His pepper rated 1,786 Scoville Heat Units. Today’s most popular chile varieties—Rio Grande, Sandia, and Big Jim—clock in at from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville Heat Units.

Dried chile peppers in Las Cruces Craft and Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chile shares the State Vegetable honor with frijoles (pinto beans). The State Question, often heard at restaurants when customers order a dish that includes chile is: “Red or Green?” 

Flame-roasted green chile is typically spicier than dried, rehydrated, and ground red chile. In addition to traditional green and red chile Mexican dishes, chile-infused foods run the gamut from green chile chicken wontons and green chile chocolate bars to green chile wine and green chile milk shakes.

Dried chile peppers in Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the most revered among chile-loving New Mexicans is the green chile cheeseburger which has been elevated to superstar status in the Land of Enchantment. In 2009, the state’s tourism department initiated the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail. Each year, chefs compete to see who wins the state’s Best Chile Cheeseburger crown.

Chile peppers in Mesilla Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to Las Cruces can enjoy cheeseburgers adorned with chopped or “slabs” of green chile grown locally as well as revered chiles from sacred ground zero in Hatch some 33 miles north.

Dried chile peppers in Las Cruces Craft and Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From sweet bell peppers to spicy jalapeños and the super hot Trinidad Scorpion, chile peppers are popular around the world for their various shapes, sizes, colors, and heat levels. According to New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute that popularity goes back thousands of years.

Chile peppers have chemical compounds called capsaicinoids. When humans or other mammals eat or even touch capsaicinoids it sends a sensation to the brain that the pepper is hot. In addition to food purposes, capsaicin is used in pain relief patches to relieve muscle aches and pains.

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, chile peppers are used in a wide variety of cuisine depending on the heat level produced. The bell pepper, or the sweet pepper, has no heat at all. Those can be used fresh in salads or cooked in various dishes. Mild to hot chile peppers include poblanos, New Mexico chile pepper varieties, and jalapeños. Those can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked and used in traditional Mexican dishes and salsas.

Chile peppers in Mesilla Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Further up the heat scale are tabascos and similar peppers used in hot sauces. Habaneros and chiltepins are considered very hot. Anything above one million Scoville Heat Units including the Bhut Jolokia and the Trinidad Scorpion are considered super hot.

Dried chile peppers in Las Cruces Craft and Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“There’s a lot of people out there who love that burn,” Danise Coon, a senior research specialist at the Chile Pepper Institute said. “We can make sauces out of those kinds of peppers but they really are incredibly hot. The good news, every one of those is edible. As long as it’s a true capsicum, it’s edible. Even if it’s an ornamental chile pepper, it’s edible.”

Louisiana hot sauce © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chile peppers tend to be rich in vitamins A and C and have other nutritional values as well. The purple pigment present in some peppers is produced by anthocyanin, an antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage in the body. Red chile peppers are rich in carotenoids and is considered good for eye health.

Dried chile peppers in Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A green chile pepper compared to a red chile pepper isn’t going to be as sweet,” Coon said. “Once you get into the red stage, it’s going to produce more sugar so it’s going to be a little sweeter.”

Tabasco hot sauce © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fun Chile Facts

  • One fresh, medium-sized green chile pod has as much Vitamin C as six oranges.
  • One teaspoon of dried red chile powder has the daily requirements of Vitamin A.
  • Hot chile peppers burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body which speeds up the metabolism.
  • Teas and lozenges are made with chile peppers for the treatment of a sore throat.
  • The Capsaicinoids (the chemical that make chile peppers hot) are used in muscle patches for sore and aching muscles.
  • Wild chiles are easily spread by birds because birds do not have the receptors in their mouths to feel the heat.
  • Born somewhere in the Amazon where the borders of Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil merge peppers were one of the first cultivated plants in the Western Hemisphere. Chile pepper remnants found at a pre-agricultural site in Peru are evidence that the pepper was the first spice used anywhere on Earth.
Tabasco hot sauce © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Delectable chile-con-carne… composed of delicate meats minced with aromatic herbs and the poignant chile—a compound full of singular saver and a fiery zest.

—O. Henry, The Enchanted Kiss

April 2020 RV Manufacturer Recalls

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall and may create a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?

Seabreeze RV Park, Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

Hacienda RV Park, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality. NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

NHTSA announced 8 recall notices during April 2020. These recalls involved 4 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (3 recalls), Thor Motor Coach (3 recalls), Keystone RV Company (1 recall), Newmar (1 recall),

Forest River

Lakeside RV Park, Livingstone, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2022 StarCraft Starquest ST93079 school buses. The wire harness may contact the vehicle frame, resulting in chaffing of the wiring for the fuel pump and the anti-lock braking system (ABS).

Forest River will notify owners and Ford dealers will inspect the wire harness for damage. If no damage is found, dealers will apply anti-abrasion tape over the area and ensure clearance to surrounding components. If damage is found, dealers will splice in new wire and apply anti-abrasion tape over the area and ensure clearance to surrounding components. All services will be performed free of charge. The remedy for this recall is still under development. The recall is expected to begin May 29, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-800-348-7440. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-1156.

Forest River

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021 Starcraft Bus AllStar ST93109 transit buses built on a Ford chassis. The wire harness may contact the vehicle frame, resulting in chaffing of the wiring for the fuel pump and the anti-lock braking system (ABS).

Forest River will notify owners and Ford dealers will inspect the wire harness for damage. If no damage is found, dealers will apply anti-abrasion tape over the area and ensure clearance to surrounding components. If damage is found, dealers will splice in new wire and apply anti-abrasion tape over the area and ensure clearance to surrounding components. All services will be performed free of charge. The remedy for this recall is still under development. The recall is expected to begin May 29, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-800-348-7440. Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Forest River’s number for this recall is 55-1154.

Forest River

Coastal Georgia RV Park, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2016 Rockwood Lite RLT2604WS and Flagstaff Lite FLT26RLWS recreational trailers. Due to insufficient clearance between the front tire and slide out actuator, the tire may contact the slide out bracket and become damaged.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will install a lift kit that will provide the proper clearance between the tire and the slide out bracket. Damaged tires will be replaced. These repairs will be performed free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 27, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-642-8943. Forest River’s number for this recall is 10D-1159.

Thor Motor Coach

Pala Casino RV Resort, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2020 Tellaro 20AT and Sequence 20A motorhomes. The dinette/booth seat belt reinforcing brackets may be missing. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 210, “Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages.”

TMC will notify owners, and dealers will install the missing brackets, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 19, 2020. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000187.

Thor Motor Coach

Rain Spirit RV Resort, Cottonwood, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Aria 3401, 3601, 3901, 3902, and Venetian G36, J40, L40, M37, R40, and S40 motorhomes built on DTNA chassis. The brake caliper mounting bolts may have been insufficiently tightened.

DTNA will notify owners, and DTNA dealers will inspect and repair the vehicles, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 19, 2020. Owners may contact DTNA customer service at 1-800-547-0712 or TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867.

Thor Motor Coach

Las Vegas RV Resort, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2020 Chateau 31W and 31WV, Quantum KW29 and LF31, Vegas 24.1 and Axis 24.1 motorhomes and 2020-2021 Four Winds 24F, 28Z, and 31E motorhomes built on a Ford chassis. The rear axle differential may have an insufficient amount of fluid, possibly resulting in a failure of the rear axle assembly and a driveshaft separation.

Ford will notify owners, and Ford or Lincoln dealers will inspect the rear axle differential fluid level and adjust it, or replace the rear axle as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 24, 2020. Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332 or TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000188.

Keystone RV Company

Irvins RV Park, Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2018-2020 Crossroads Hampton 371FKL recreational trailers. The Federal identification Tag may incorrectly indicate the tire pressure as 6 PSI when the correct tire pressure is actually 80 PSI. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of 49 CFR Part 567, “Certification.”

Keystone will notify owners and will replace the Federal Identification Tag, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin June 1, 2020. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 20-376.

Newmar

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

Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Essex and London Aire, 2019 Mountain Aire, Ventana LE and Ventana and 2020 Kountry Star motorhomes built on DTNA chassis. The brake caliper mounting bolts may have been insufficiently tightened.

Newmar will notify owners, and DTNA dealers will inspect and repair the vehicles, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 19, 2020. Owners may contact DTNA customer service at 1-800-547-0712 or Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300. Newmar’s number for this recall is 20V-127.

Capital City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Please Note: This is the 15th in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

4 Texas Road Trips: These You Have to Take

No matter how often you traverse this great state, there’s always something new to see

We know COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting RV travel plans right now. For a little inspiration we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

They say everything’s bigger in Texas—and it should come as no surprise. The state itself is the largest of the lower 48.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Which perhaps is one reason Texas road trips are so popular. Whether you’re looking for a good time in the big city or a wilder, more remote adventure, you’ll find something fun to discover in the Lone Star State.

Lady Bird Johnson in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, when you’re talking about a land area of almost 270,000 square miles, you’re going to want to do some planning before you take off on the nearest Texas highway. If you’re looking for the best road trips in Texas, read on! We’ve got plenty of options to keep you entertained, deep in the heart of this beloved state.

San Antonio

Mission San Jose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the San Jose Mission to the Alamo, this city—technically known as The City of San Antonio—is known for its fabulous, historic architecture. With a mix of Spanish and U.S. cultures, the Mexican and Tex-Mex food is more authentic than found almost anywhere else in the country.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a lot to do in San Antonio, from visiting sites like the Memorial to the Alamo defenders to touring the River Walk or Natural Bridge Caverns. You can also spend days enjoying family-fun destinations like SeaWorld and Six Flags or join a ghost and vampire tour. There is no lack of diversions to explore in this city.

Fayette County

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Praha, one of the “Painted Churches” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Etched in the eroded headstones in the cemeteries at the “painted churches”—quaint little chapels with exquisite, spangled interiors—are the names of Czech immigrants who flocked to the area starting in the 1840s. Over 80 percent of the Czech Moravian families that settled in Texas at some time lived in Fayette County before they spread out across the state.

Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For starters, Czech out the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. Vitáme Vás is the Czech equivalent of “howdy” and you’ll certainly feel welcome. Another must-see stop is the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site.

Kolaches at Weikel’s Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The early Czech settlers brought with them the kolache, an open-faced pastry traditionally prepared with a sweet filling which is now beloved across the state. One of the best spots to grab a kolache is Weikel’s Bakery in La Grande.

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beaches, islands, bays, and ports—there are many opportunities to engage in the variety of available water and wind sports. Arts, music, museums (such as the USS Lexington battle ship), and other cultural activities (like the Texas State Aquarium) make this Texas road trip enjoyable for those who desire a more relaxing time than their water-adventuring counterparts.

Texas Hill Country

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With unending panoramic views, this beautiful area is something that has to be experienced to be appreciated. Ride a tube down Comal, Guadalupe, and San Marcos Rivers or go fishing and floating in the many lakes. With nearly 100 RV Parks and campgrounds, there is room for everyone.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country is also home to some famous wineries and is a great place to get a taste of some homegrown vino. Come through during the springtime to be treated to some epic Texas wildflowers, including the bluebonnets it’s renowned for.

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

From historic architecture to modern amusement parks, from deluxe resorts to rustic campsites, there is a lifetime of activities to enjoy in the state of Texas. Whether you live there or just plan to visit, it is almost a certainty that you have not seen everything this state has to offer. With so much to explore, you may never want to leave.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas history is a varied, tempestuous, and vast as the state itself. Texas yesterday is unbelievable, but no more incredible than Texas today. Today’s Texas is exhilarating, exasperating, violent, charming, horrible, delightful, alive.

— Edna Ferber

The Charms of Julian

There is always a reason and a season to visit Julian

Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Julian is a small mountain community in Southern California located at the intersection of California highways 78 and 79, about 50 miles northeast of San Diego and 100 miles south of Palm Desert. This historic gold-mining town is nestled among oak and pine forests between the north end of the beautiful Cuyamaca mountains and the south slope of Volcan Mountain. Take a step back in time to the days of Julian’s beginning rooted in the 1870s gold rush and discover the charms of Julian.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original mining-era buildings in Julian are now home to unique shops—but my interest lay elsewhere, in the gold mining history of this small town and the famous apple pies of the region.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Confederate veterans from Georgia headed West to seek their fortunes in a new, mostly unsettled land. Among these were cousins, Drue Bailey and Mike Julian, who found a lush meadow between the Volcan Mountains and the Cuyamacas to their liking. The town was named Julian, in honor of Mike, who later was elected San Diego County Assessor.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town was never big, at the most it boasted a population of about 600. Rumor has it that Julian almost became the San Diego County seat.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A cattleman, Fred Coleman, found the first fleck of gold in a creek in early 1870. It was San Diego County’s first and only gold rush. The gold rush was short lived, near over in less than a decade. But the pioneers stayed and turned to the land for their livelihood. While many crops were planted and animals pastured, the rich land and mountain weather proved to be ideal for apples and orchards cropped up around the town.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apples continue to be produced in Julian. Their sweet, fresh flavor lures thousands to the mountains each fall, when visitors will find fruit stands overflowing with crisp fruit, homemade cider, pies, and other delicacies.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At 4,235 feet, Julian’s high elevation provides clean air, blue skies, and four distinct seasons, unusual in sunny Southern California. The first cold spell of fall prompts a blanket of color as the trees prepare for a winter of gentle snowfalls. Sledding and snowball fun add to the season’s activities.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its tiny, four-block-long Main Street is home to country stores, wineries, bed and breakfasts, galleries, and fine restaurants.

A year-round getaway, Julian has a wide variety of activities for visitors. Enjoy a cool summer evening riding down Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage or explore the many gems that dot Main Street.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy a tour, sample wines from the local wineries, visit the historical museums, ride a horse through serene meadows or hike to the top of Stonewall Mountain for a panoramic view that goes on for miles. Julian has something for everyone’s taste regardless of the season.

The entire township of Julian is a Designated Historical District. Its image as an early California frontier town with pioneer store fronts, historic sites and guided tours of Eagle and High Peak Mines accounts for much of its modern appeal.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Housed in the restored walls of the Treshil blacksmith shop, Julian Pioneer Museum offers artifacts from the Julian of yesteryear―wall to wall photos of local pioneers, examples of mining equipment, an old carriage, clothes, and household items. You’ll leave with a taste for what life was like when the town was established.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unlike other gold rush towns, Julian never became a ghost town. Maybe it’s just too pretty to leave. Whatever the reason, today’s Julian exudes small-town charm and country friendliness.

I enjoy visiting Julian for its laid-back charm, historical buildings, beautiful surroundings, and the delicious apple pies.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During our recent visit, we bought four pies, one each at Julian Pie Company, Mom’s Pies, Julian Cafe, and Apple Alley Bakery. It’s all for the sake of science; taste testing required to determine a favorite. And, that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…

Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.

―Yogi Berra

Power of Nature: Arches National Park Offers Endless Beauty

Visit Arches to discover a landscape of contrasting colors, land forms, and textures unlike any other in the world

We know COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting RV travel plans right now. For a little inspiration we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

With towering red rock formations, natural stone arches, and 77,000 acres of land to explore, Arches National Park lives up to its name. The park is minutes from the city of Moab. Deciding what to see can be somewhat overwhelming as the crescent-shaped rocks seem to be everywhere. So far, there are 2,000 confirmed rust-colored natural formations in the park.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best times to visit Arches National Park are April-May and September-October. The National Parks Service states on its website that traffic can get congested and parking can be a problem from March through October. However, we visited in late October and the park was not overcrowded, parking was not an issue, and it was cool but comfortable.

Delicate Arch is the most famous and popular arch in the world and is seen on TV and in photographs many times over. People come from all over the world to get a glimpse of this iconic stone. Visitors cannot see the arch from the car, however—there are a couple of viewing points to see the arch without a long walk. If you are hiking to the arch, allow at least two to three hours. At Delicate Arch is a historic homestead from the turn of the 20th century, Wolfe Ranch. On the hike the homestead can be seen, as well as Ute Indian petroglyphs.

The Windows Section of the park is an area where Turret Arch, Double Arch, and North and South Windows are located. These are some of the largest arches in the park.

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Balanced Rock can be seen from the road and those wanting a short hike can walk around it and get views of the Windows Section.

Devils Garden is home to a variety of arches that are connected by hiking trails. Landscape Arch is located at the end of the Devils Garden Trail. Possibly even more delicate than Delicate Arch, this 290-foot sandstone spiderweb makes you feel like you might be the last person to see it intact. It’s an easy 0.8-mile hike from the Devils Garden Trailhead with numerous other arches you can add on to your hike.

Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers are seen shortly after passing the visitors center and making your way up the steep winding road. The canyon walls of Park Avenue stand tall with the thin, statuesque rocks resembling a big-city street lined with skyscrapers. You can walk among massive monoliths and towering walls and see views of the nearby La Sal Mountains. Beyond the viewpoint, the trail descends steeply into the spectacular canyon and continues one mile to Courthouse Towers.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether your visit is for one day or a week, taking the scenic drive is the best way to see the highlights. Driving all the paved roads in the park would take about 4.5 hours with time to stop at each viewpoint.

If you only have a short time to drive, go as far as you can and it is easy to turn around and go back to town or make your way to the next destination. Maps are available at the visitors’ center.

Hiking opportunities are abundant. Hikers can spend days on the trails which vary in length and skill level ranging from a 50-yard nature trail to a several-hour hike.

Moab offers visitors many places to camp, eat, and play. Outdoor activities include Colorado River rafting, canyoneering, golfing, rock climbing, slick-rock biking, and more.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Moab and Arches visitors can go to Canyonlands National Park. Also close by are Dead Horse Point State Park and Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Worth Pondering…

Time, geologic time, looks out at us from the rocks as from no other objects in the landscape.

—John Burroughs

Discover Arizona’s Extraordinary Verde Valley

Located in the ‘heart’ of Arizona, the Verde Valley is ideally situated above the heat of the desert and below the cold of Arizona’s high country

The Spanish word verde means “green,” so the name may seem like a misnomer for arid Arizona. Yet, in the central part of the state, approximately 90 miles north of Phoenix, lies Verde Valley with nearly 80 percent of its land set aside as national forest. The valley encompasses about 714 square miles of red rock formations and lush canyons fed by the Verde River.

In the Verde Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the shadows of Mingus Mountain and in the heart of the Verde Valley, Cottonwood offers a distinctive historic district lined with shops and restaurants on its Main Street. History is alive in nearby Clarkdale whose homes and buildings still reflect its early copper smelting heritage. Four specialized museums focus on Native American cultures, international copper art, and local railroad and town history.

Wine tasting in Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cornville/Page Springs offers wineries, tasting rooms, and a relaxed take on some of Arizona’s most pristine high-desert scenery. Camp Verde, located in the geographic center of Arizona, is rich in history and offers a variety of recreation and outdoor activities to experience and enjoy.

With so much to see and do, where do you start? Here are five attractions that are a sure thing. And, here’s a quick tip: The word “verde” is pronounced so that it rhymes with “birdie.”

Verde Canyon Railroad, Clarkdale

Verde Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park the RV and board the train as you embark on a spectacular journey accessible only by rail. Keep your eyes on the scenery as the engineer takes you on a four-hour, 40-mile round-trip excursion between two national forests, through a 680-foot tunnel, and past ancient ruins and towering red rock buttes.

Gaze at the remote wilderness through large windows as you sit comfortably in climate-controlled passenger cars complete with rest rooms. Or choose to enjoy the open-air viewing car for fresh canyon air and an amazing 360-degree panorama.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is located adjacent to and across the Verde River from the community of Cottonwood. Offering over 100 spacious sites, the campgrounds give access to the park features like trails, playground, lakes, and the Verde River. The campground consists of four loops that each have varying numbers of spots available for you to stay.

Most campsites are RV accessible with hookups. Many of the pull through sites can accommodate RVs up to 65 feet in length. There are three lagoons within the park that offer great fishing and a place to watch the area aquatic wildlife and birds. Dead Horse Ranch is a great place to stay while you explore the natural beauty and rich history of this popular Arizona region.

Tuzigoot National Monument, Clarkdale

Tuzigoot National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Sinagua people began building the limestone and sandstone hilltop pueblo around the year A.D. 1000. They expanded the settlement over the next 400 years to involve 110 rooms housing more than 200 people. Then, in the late 1300s, the inhabitants began to abandon the pueblo. By the time the first Europeans arrived, Tuzigoot had been empty for nearly 100 years. It’s believed the citizens joined what are now the modern Hopi and Zuni tribes or stayed nearby and became the ancestors of people now belonging to the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Camp Verde

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The name of this incredible settlement really is a misnomer. Montezuma Castle was named in the 1860s by people who mistakenly thought the Aztec emperor was somehow affiliated with it. Truth is it was built by the Sinagua people who lived in it and then abandoned it before Montezuma was born. Montezuma Castle, built directly into the side of a cliff, rests 50 feet above the valley floor. Standing five stories tall, the castle has 20 rooms and covers 3,500 square feet.

Montezuma Well, Camp Verde

Montezuma Well © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And as they say, wait—there’s more. A second, detached part of the park, known as Montezuma Well, is about 11 miles northeast of Montezuma Castle and has its own extraordinary features. First, Montezuma Well is not actually a well. The water in it is continuously refreshed by subterranean springs in an enormous limestone sinkhole measuring 368 feet across.

An astounding 1.5 million gallons of water per day flow here. Even more amazing, the water fell as rain on the nearby Mogollon Rim between 10,000 and 13,000 years ago. For years, the water has been slowly seeping through the rock until it reaches an impenetrable layer of rock and then is forced back to the surface.

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

National Parks Week: 3 Scenic Park Drives Everyone Should Do at Least Once

From Great Smoky Mountains and Petrified Forest to Zion National Park these scenic drives are worth the trip

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has impacted RV travel right now. As RVers, travel is our way of life and, if you’re like us, you’re feeling the frustration of being limited to one location without the freedom to travel. 2020 is certainly presenting new challenges and now, more than ever, we realize that the freedom to travel is something we can’t take for granted. Now is a great time to start thinking of places you’d like to go—especially bucket-list destinations.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Park Week is celebrated each year in April as a reminder of America’s rich heritage of lands set aside for preservation and enjoyment. Taking a scenic drive through the national parks is a perfect way to appreciate their beauty and timelessness so we have selected a few favorites.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lovers of the outdoors might take advantage of hiking and camping in the parks while others want to experience the beauty of the parks in a more relaxed way. For everyone a road trip is an ideal start. The parks are often remote so prep the RV, fuel up, and plan your outing with these tips.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest national park in the East, Great Smoky Mountains is also America’s most-visited national park. Wildlife, forests, hiking trails, streams, wildflowers, and more than 90 historic structures make this park unique and popular. The hazy morning mist gave the mountains their name and waterfalls throughout the park including one that you can actually walk behind attract hikers to its more than 800 miles of trails.

Scenic Drives

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 270 miles of road, mostly paved, offer a variety of scenic drives. Guide booklets are available at the park’s four visitor centers. Cades Cove is one of the most visited areas of the park and it can be accessed after a scenic 25-mile drive from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail nearly six miles of winding one-way road through the forest includes views of mountains, rushing streams, wildlife, and historic buildings.

If You’re Not a Hiker

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A waterfall called the “Place of a Thousand Drips” can be seen from the car at Stop 15 near the end of Roaring Fork Nature Trail. Meigs Falls can also be seen from the parking area on Little River Road near Cades Cove.

Petrified Forest Road, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This national park features trees dating back more than 200 million years that have turned to stone by absorbing minerals from the water that once surrounded them. The park also includes fossilized flora and fauna, petroglyphs, wildflowers, colorful rock formations, and wildlife. Hiking trails allow visitors to see the petrified wood, petroglyphs, and fossils.

Scenic Drives

Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trip from one end of the park to the other is about 28 miles. There’s so much to see from the Painted Desert in the north to the southern half of the drive where most of the petrified wood lies. Hiking trails along the way take visitors close to the sights. Starting in the north at Exit 311 off I-40, stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center to see an 18-minute film, hands-on exhibits, and a short walking trail.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your next stop should be the Painted Desert Inn now a National Historic Landmark and museum. Originally built with petrified wood, the Inn has been restored and in summer there’s an ice cream parlor, a reminder of the Inn’s days as a popular stop on Route 66. Continue south to the Rainbow Forest Museum near the park’s southern entrance for paleontological exhibits and access to several hiking trails, including the one to Agate House.

If You’re Not a Hiker

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 28-mile drive passes through a variety of environments, colorful rock formations, and scenic pullouts with spectacular views. At the Crystal Forest Trail, petrified logs can easily be seen within steps of the parking area. It’s possible to spot wildlife along the drive as well.

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is known for spectacular scenery that includes colorful mountains, peaks, sandstone formations, canyons, waterfalls, cliffs, and wildlife. Zion’s popularity has led to vehicle limitations and two shuttle routes for transportation through the park from March to November.

Scenic Drive

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 54-mile route starts at the intersection of Highway 9 and I-15 about nine miles east of St. George and ends at the Mt. Carmel Junction. From November until March, you’ll be able to drive the entire route but from spring through fall the Zion Canyon section is closed to cars. Take the free shuttle which makes nine stops and takes about an hour and a half..

If You’re Not a Hiker

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion’s shuttles are ideal to see the breathtaking scenery. Stops include the Zion Human History Museum, Zion Lodge, and Canyon Junction where guests can enjoy 360-degree views.

Worth Pondering…

However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure. —Michael Frome

Have Camera—Will Travel

Don’t miss the moment for the photo

Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Many people work their entire lives for that day when they can pack all of the time they have left in the world into an RV and leave everything behind.

Amador Flower Farm, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some travelers draw up a meticulous plan, map a route, schedule events for each day to keep super busy and fun-filled with the camera being just another record keeping tool. Some pack to the max and travel heavy bringing all the comforts of home on the road—the armchair traveler who shoots from the armchair. Those who travel lightly with only a small bag with room for camera give evidence that they have roamed beyond their comfort level.

Along the Colorado River in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV travel can be high art. The journey, like life, will always end and I must reassure myself that I was here and will be leaving some day. Was I here? Let me look at my photos. Time is running out—moments few and far between, only photographic memories to carry me through to the end.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What does it mean when we capture a moment or scene that we want to remember? Perhaps it’s a wish to stop time in that moment and repeat the most pleasant experience at a future time.

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

What is real—the landscape or bird we photographed or the facsimile of its moment created with our camera? Which is more enjoyable—the moment we snap the shutter or the moment we revisit that captured moment?

Roseate Spoonbills at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the pursuit of a timeless photo, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. That is, to miss the moment for the photo. While focusing on the image we miss the grandeur of the scene before our eyes. We can scrutinize over every detail while neglecting the people who are there with us sharing in nature’s spectacle.

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yet, over time, we begin to discover that the endearing value of nature photography lay not in the final image itself but in everything behind it and beyond it. In the effort—the effort we exert to be in the right spot to capture the image. In the memories forged along the way; the memories preserved decades later through the photo. The lasting value lies in the process itself.

In landscape and bird photography, the means do not merely justify the end. The means are a worthwhile end in and of themselves.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The classic adage states that it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s of greater importance. With that in mind, the next time you find yourself on a drive along a scenic byway or on a hiking trail…stop. Stop to appreciate the effort you’ve put into arriving at that moment. Stop to appreciate that you’re in the thick of life, capturing the scene in front of you through your camera. Stop and take a moment, to appreciate the moment.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What do we remember most about our RV travels? Creating little pieces of realities with our magic box, or breathing, seeing, and experiencing a moment-in-time so different from what we see in our daily experiences?

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is reality so tenuous that we have to question whether or not we have even experienced it? There is a rainbow—let me confirm it—click. Our experience of the rainbow and the captured moment are two separate and distinct events. Or possibly three or four and many more since recalling the experience and revisiting the image are all different points in time.

Hoover Dam, Arizona and Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before the camera, we sketched, painted, or wrote about our travels. Before the written word, we sang and spoke of it in verse—like photographs, language stood in for reality and represented what we saw and experienced.

Stowe Community Church, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We have spent less than 200 years perfecting the modern camera. It has come a long, long way. It is time now to turn our attention to what is ultimately responsible for the making of photographs—the photographers themselves.

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picture it in the camera inside your head. Yes, your mind is a camera. Back up your images and check your reality—take your camera along on your next RV trip.

Worth Pondering…

Happy Trails

—Roy Rogers

Towns along the Gold Rush Trail: Amador City & Sutter Creek

Gold! The cry went up from Sutter’s Mill and brought tens of thousands stampeding into California from the four corners of the world.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has impacted RV travel right now. As RVers, travel is our way of life and, if you’re like us, you’re feeling the frustration of being limited to one location without the freedom to travel. 2020 is certainly presenting new challenges and now, more than ever, we realize that the freedom to travel is something we can’t take for granted. Now is a great time to start thinking of places you’d like to go—especially bucket-list destinations.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel back to the Gold Rush era on Highway 49 where charming mining towns dot the route, surrounded by the panoramic vistas and bubbling streams of the western Sierra Nevada foothills

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 changed the course of California’s and the nation’s history. Although most of the mining camps faded after the mines closed, tourism has brought some of them back to life. 

Amador City

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of California’s smallest incorporated cities, with a population of just over 200 residents, Amador City is a little city with a lot to offer.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original mining-era buildings are now home to unique shops including Victorian clothing, custom quilts, local handmade gifts, a kitchen store, shops offering unique house and garden items, garden art, and antiques and books from the Gold Rush Era. You will also find wine tasting, an old fashioned soda fountain and lunch counter, an artisan bakery, and gourmet lunches and dinners. 

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Imperial Hotel (from 1878) affords visitors an opportunity to stay the night and enjoy Amador City’s Gold Country small town way of life.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It all started several hundred yards upstream from today’s town site. Jose Marie Amador, a wealthy California rancher, mined along this nameless creek in 1848-1849. There, gold outcroppings were discovered on both sides of the creek. The Original or Little Amador Mine and the Spring Hill Mine were probably the county’s first gold mines. Soon, the creek, the town, and a new county carried Amador’s name.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the “easy” gold was mined out on the upper part of the creek, mining and encampments gradually moved to South Amadore where French Gulch flows into the creek. This is the current site of Amador City. Founded in 1853, the Keystone Mine was the city’s most famous gold mine and a major reason for the town’s growth. It reached a depth of 2,680 feet and before closing in 1942 produced an estimated $24 million in gold.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone’s early years were plagued with production and ownership problems; luckily, a rich new vein was discovered in 1866, enabling the mine to yield a monthly gold production average of $40,000, making the Keystone one of the most lucrative California mines. In those days there were an estimated four to six thousand residents in Amador City.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amador City’s oldest structure, built around 1855, is the center portion of the Amador Hotel. Up Main Street is the stone Fleehart Building (now the Whitney Museum) was the Wells Fargo Building and dates from the 1860s.

Sutter Creek

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town takes its name from the creek, and the creek takes its name from John A. Sutter. Sutter owned the saw mill in Coloma where the first Mother Lode gold was found in 1848. Unable to stop the tide of gold-seekers flowing over and destroying his lands, Sutter decided to follow the call of gold, trying in vain to recoup what the Gold Rush had taken from him. He arrived where Sutter Creek is currently located in 1848, and upon finding a likely spot, began mining along the creek.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A small settlement began to grow, centered around a cloth tent where the miners met on rainy Sundays. The place eventually took the name of its most prominent citizen, and was called Sutter’s Creek, Sutter, Sutterville, and finally, plain old Sutter Creek.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Sutter wasn’t a miner, and many of the other miners in the area didn’t much approve of his using servants to dig for gold. He left the area a short while later, returning with his men to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. Sutter would never mine again.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sutter Creek achieved prominence as the supply center for the many mines that circled the town. It was hard rock mining more than placer mining that helped the town to boom. Mines owned by Alvinza Hayward (the Gold Country’s first millionaire), Hetty Green (at one time the country’s richest woman), and Leland Stanford (at one time California’s governor and the founder of Stanford University) included the Union Mine (later renamed the Lincoln Mine) and the Old Eureka Mine. Sutter Creek remained a full- fledged mining town, boasting some of the best producing deep rock mines in the Mother Lode.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the town’s locals mine the visitors who come from around the world, drawn by both history and small town hospitality.

Worth Pondering…

There are not many places in the world where you can get to the beach in an hour, the desert in two hours, and snowboarding or skiing in three hours. You can do all that in California.

—Alex Pettyfer

Utah Wanted All the Tourists. Then It Got Overrun.

As red-rock meccas like Moab, Zion, and Arches become overrun with visitors, I have to wonder if Utah’s celebrated Mighty Five ad campaign worked too well—and who gets to decide when a destination is “at capacity”

Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Utah had a problem. Shown a photo of Delicate Arch, people guessed it was in Arizona. Asked to describe states in two adjectives, they called Colorado green and mountainous but Utah brown and Mormon. It was 2012. Anyone who had poked around canyon country’s spires and red rocks knew it was the most spectacular place on the continent—maybe the world—so why did other states get the good rep? 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state tourism folks hired an ad firm called Struck. They created a rebrand labeled the Mighty Five, a multimedia campaign to extol the state’s national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. By 2013, a 20-story mash-up of red-rock icons towered as a billboard in Los Angeles. Delicate Arch bopped around London on the sides of taxicabs. The pinnacle was a 30-second commercial that was masterpiece. It was like they took natural features that have been there forever and parks that have been there for decades and putting it together with a new brand.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mighty Five campaign was a smash. The number of visitors to the five parks jumped 12 percent in 2014, 14 percent in 2015, and 20 percent in 2016, leaping from 6.3 million to over 10 million in just three years. The state coffers filled with sales taxes paid on hotels and rental cars and restaurants. The Struck agency brags that the state got a return on its investment of 338 to 1.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And then, on Memorial Day weekend of 2015, nearly 3,000 cars descended on Arches National Park for their dose of Wow. All 875 parking places were taken with scores more vehicles scattered in a haphazard unplanned way. The line to the entrance booth spilled back half a mile blocking Highway 191. The state highway patrol took the unprecedented step of closing it effectively shutting down the park. Hundreds of rebuffed visitors drove 30 miles to Canyonlands where they waited an hour in a two-mile line of cars. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since then, Arches has been swamped often enough to shut its gate at least nine times including the most recent Labor Day weekend. Meanwhile, in Zion, hikers wait 90 minutes to board a shuttle and an additional two to four hours to climb the switchbacks of Angels Landing. There, visitors sometimes find outhouses shuttered with a sign that reads: “Due to extreme use, these toilets have reached capacity.”

Moab is the gateway to Arches where famous landmarks like Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, and the Windows are reached by a single dead-end road. More than any other town, it has borne the brunt of the tourism spike.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the county population has grown in 30 years from roughly 6,500 to 9,500 and where there were a dozen or so small inns there’s been an enormous growth in lodging: there are now 36 hotels and 2,600 rooms, plus 600 overnight rentals, and 1,987 campsites. There’s no way to track how many people occupy each, but on a fully booked holiday that’s at least 15,000 people vastly outnumbering the locals. Traffic jams extend from tip to tail, and the two-mile drag down Main Street is a 30-minute morass. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe we can think of the Utah Office of Tourism as Dr. Frankenstein and its Mighty Five campaign as the glorious creature run amok.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course neither the tourism folks nor the Mighty Five campaign can take full credit for these booming figures or for the onslaught of tourists. Other factors helped. In 2016, the Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday launching its own ad campaign; between 2013 and 2016, park visits jumped 21 percent nationwide. The past six years have seen a recovery from the recession, low fuel prices, and a continued reluctance by Americans to travel overseas. And social media creates its own viral marketing.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Utah is a victim—or beneficiary—of the global phenomenon of overtourism that has wreaked havoc from Phuket to Venice and Machu Picchu. The rise in disposable income, the advent of discount airlines, and innovations like Airbnb and TripAdvisor made travel easier and cheaper.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I don’t want to just be a curmudgeon who mourns the passage of time and fights any change to the way things were. I will never be young again, I get that. But maybe, one way we tap into the eternal is to see how that which is not made by human hand will outlast us all, just as it preceded us. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

A man can worship God among these great cathedrals as well as in any man-made church—this is Zion.

— Isaac Behunin, 1861