Three locations with spooky histories and a mystical atmosphere
As the poet Sheryl Crow once said, “Everyday is a winding road.” While it feels the world is flipped upside-down, I am trying to keep Sheryl’s words alive in these times. I’m going for daily walks, finding new things to feel paranoid about, and I think I believe in aliens now.
RVing with Rex wants to keep your day feeling like a winding road. Today, it’s Halloween and everything ghostly! Just for today, look away from the Earth and into the ghost world clad in a white nightgown, holding a candle, and dragging chains through the moors of the mind.
The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve and later Halloween and initiates the season of Allhallowtide which lasts three days and concludes with All Souls’ Day. Over time, Halloween became largely nonreligious as it evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes, and eating treats.
If you’re looking for a safe yet totally creepy way of ringing in Halloween why not try an out-of-the-box idea like a haunted road trip? Eerie drives through roads known for ghosts, apparitions, and mysterious disappearances aren’t exactly for the faint of heart but they could make for the most memorable Halloween ever. From a road that’s said to be home to a vanished Boy Scout troop to the street adjacent to Area 51 that’s known as “Extraterrestrial Highway,” America is full of winding highways and dark back roads that are spine-tingling and hair-raising.
Even if you’re not so sure about actually hitting the road and getting close to a few spirits, you can keep reading and live vicariously through three of the most haunted haunts in America. And if you do venture to any of these spots, just know it’s a surefire way of getting in the All Hallows’ Eve spirit.
For the Halloween season, celebrate the spooky environments that make both a great location for a ghost story and an excellent place to go camping. Nearly every horror film or scary book depends highly on a spooky environment. Pick out your favorite scary story and it likely takes place on a foggy coast, a dark lake, a swamp, a territorial prison, a ghost town, or in the dense woods.
While there are reasons why these places fill us with fear or dread, they can actually be pretty cool locations to camp. In addition, the folklore and spooky mythology surrounding these locations make for even better campfire stories.
Swamp folklore runs the gamut from voodoo practices to the Swamp Thing. This type of landscape is so difficult to maneuver through and contains creatures such as owls and alligators, so there is no wonder that they make great spooky stories. The Okefenokee Swamp between Georgia and Florida has inspired stories such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon and is said to be a hotbed for UFOs and ghosts. What some people may not realize is that these swamplands are really beautiful.
You can see the beauty at the Okefenokee Pastimes Cabins, RV Park & Campground in Folkston, Georgia. The park offers historic-style cabins for rent, pull-through sites with full hookups, private tent sites, and a day-use dog kennel. The campground even has a Starfield for their Saturday night stargazing events.
Arizona’s Wild West past and haunted history gives us reason to go hide under the covers. Ask yourself if you’d want to be locked up in anything called a “territorial prison” and then jump ahead a hundred years to haunting the hell out of the place—like 100+ inmates, you died inside those walls. Not one to shy from a locking people into hot, dark places, Arizona has designated Yuma Territorial Prison a state historical park—easily one of the creepiest in the nation, and one of the most haunted spots in Arizona.
Guides report feeling chills when they pass Cell 14, where an inmate doing time for “crimes against nature” killed himself. In the so-called dark cell, prisoners in pitch-black solitary went mad chained to ring-bolts in the walls.
Its whiskey spirits with a side of ghostly spirits at Buffalo Trace Distillery’s ghost tours. One of the biggest and best-known distilleries in Kentucky bourbon country, most visitors are unaware that Buffalo Trace has ghostly ties, let alone nighttime tours through the Stony Point Mansion.
Ghost tours are an hour long and take place at 7 p.m., led by guides who wax poetic on supernatural spirits said to frequent the grounds. The most notable is Colonel Blanton who died in the on-site Stony Point Mansion which feels like a real life version of the Clue board game. At the end of the ghostly portion of the tour, guests will get to taste a series of Buffalo Trace’s potable spirits.
Stay strong, be brave, and listen to Sheryl Crow, who also said, “I’m gonna soak up the sun/I got my 45 on/So I can rock on…” Is this relevant?
Have a great weekend!!
Werewolves howl. Phantoms prowl. Halloween’s upon us now
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?
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.
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 18 recall notices during October 2020. These recalls involved 9 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (6 recalls), Jayco (3 recalls), Braxton Creek (2 recalls), Newmar (2 recalls), Thor Motor Coach (1 recall), Pleasure Way (1 recall), Airstream (1 recall), MCI (1 recall), and Keystone (1 recall).
Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2018-2020 Coachmen Sportscoach and Forest River Legacy and 2018-2021 Berkshire motorhomes built on a Daimler Trucks (DTNA) chassis. The tire valve stem extension for the inner wheel may come in contact with the outer wheel rim opening and become damaged.
Forest River will notify owners, and DTNA will make repairs as necessary. The remedy for this recall is still under development. The recall is expected to begin October 28, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-800-547-0712 or DTNA customer service at 1-800-547-0712. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-1228. DTNA’s number for this recall is FL-861.
Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2014-2016 Vengenance BVGF312A, BCKT24PACK14, BVGF312A, BVGF315A11, BVGF316A, BVGF316A11, BVGF320A, BWZVGF312A, BWZVGF316A and BWZVGF320A trailers. The Federal Placard may indicate an incorrect amount of water for trailers with the 100-gallon option, allowing the trailer to be overloaded. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 120, “Wheels and Rims-Other than Passenger Cars” and 567, “Certification.”
Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will install a new placard that reflects the 100-gallon tank, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 21, 2020. Owners may contact Forest customer service at 1-260-499-2100. Forest River’s number for this recall is 17-1193.
Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2018-2021 Wildwood, Salem, and 2020 Sonoma travel trailers. The break-away safety switch may not be wired to constant power, which can cause the trailer brakes to not activate in the event of a trailer separation from the tow vehicle.
Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will rewire the breakaway switch, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a schedule for recall notification. Owners may contact Forest customer service at 1-909-873-3777. Forest River’s number for this recall is 67A-1230.
Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021 Salem and Wildwood recreational trailers. The flame on the cooktop may become inverted, due to the cooktop not being isolated from the furnace return air.
Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will add sealant to the gaps in the paneling that are allowing the return air from the furnace to cause the inverted flame, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 6, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-534-3167. Forest River’s number for this recall is 72-1232.
Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Dynamax Isata vehicles. Inadequate warmup protection can cause a lack of oil film on the engine connecting rod bearings while the engine is reaching operating temperature. This can result in engine damage and connecting rod failure, which could potentially puncture the engine block.
Forest River will notify owners, and FCA dealers will reprogram the engine calibration software to enhance the engine warm up protection, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 6, 2020. Owners may contact FCA customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-1234. FCA’s number for this recall is W57.
Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021 Coachmen Sportscoach and Forest River Georgetown motorhomes. The P2K Bunk Bed System motor may fail, causing the bunk to fall from the stowed position.
Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will replace the bunk motor, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 11, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at Sportscoach 1-574-825-8212 or Georgetown 1-574-206-7600. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-1237.
Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2016-2018 Jayco Seneca, 2016-2019 Jayco Greyhawk, 2016 and 2018-2019 Jayco Redhawk, 2017 Jayco Envoy 200 Series and 2018-2019 Entegra Odyssey, Jayco Esteem, and Jayco Greyhawk Prestige motorhomes. The mounting brackets for the leveling system hydraulic pump and reservoir may fail allowing the components to contact the ground.
Jayco will notify owners and dealers will install an additional support bracket, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 30, 2020. Owners may contact Jayco’s customer service at 1-800-517-9137. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9901519.
Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2021 Jay Feather X213 “J3” Baja type recreational trailers. The tire size and Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) information on the tire and certification labels may be incorrect, possibly resulting in the vehicle being overloaded. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”
Jayco mailed the corrected labels to owners. Owners have the option to replace the labels or have the repair performed at a dealership, free of charge. The recall began October 6, 2020. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-617-776-0344. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9901523.
Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2019-2021 Entegra Aspire, 2020-2021 Anthem and Cornerstone, and 2021 Reatta, ReattaXL, and Jayco Embark motorhomes built with Villa power seats. The power seat wiring may become chafed due to poor routing, and no protection, or melt from exceeding the 14 gauge wire amp capacity.
Jayco will notify owners, and the dealers will place the seat wiring in the loom and secure it with wire ties, free of charge. The remedy regarding the switch and exceeding the amp capacity is still under development. The recall is expected to begin November 29, 2020. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-517-9137. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903521.
Braxton Creek RV (Braxton) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Bushwhacker 10FB and 2021 Bushwhacker 10SS travel trailers. The lag bolts are of an insufficient size and may pull through the floor, causing the floor to separate from the frame of the trailer.
Braxton will notify owners, and dealers will bolt the floor onto the frame using 3/8″ x 2″ bolts and washers with a lock nut, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in October 2, 2020. Owners may contact Braxton customer service at 1-260-768-7932.
Braxton Creek RV (Braxton) is recalling certain 2020 Bushwhacker and Bushwhacker Plus travel trailers. The tire data sticker incorrectly states that the tires should have 65 PSI. The tires have a maximum pressure of 50 PSI .
Braxton will notify owners and will send new tire labels with the correct PSI information, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in October 2020. Owners may contact Braxton customer service at 1-260-768-7932.
Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2021 Canyon Star and 2018-2019 Ventana motorhomes built on chassis supplied by Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). The tire valve stem extension for the inner wheel may come in contact with the outer wheel rim opening and become damaged.
Newmar will notify owners, and DTNA facilities will repair the vehicles, free of charge. The remedy for this recall is still under development. The recall is expected to begin November 17, 2020. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300. Newmar’s number for this recall is 20V-529.
Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2021 Essex, Dutch Star, Mountain Aire, and London Aire motorhomes. The front leveling jacks may not be fastened correctly to the chassis, possibly causing the jacks to fail to support the weight of the motorhome.
Newmar will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and repair the leveling jacks as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 28, 2020. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300.
Thor Motor Coach
Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2018-2021 Aria, Palazzo, Tuscany, and Venetian motorhomes built on a Daimler Trucks (DTNA) chassis. The tire valve stem extension for the inner wheel may contact the outer wheel rim opening and become damaged.
TMC will notify owners, and DTNA dealers will make the necessary repairs. The remedy is still under development. The recall is expected to begin November 15, 2020. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-800-524-5210 extension 104 or DTNA customer service at 1-800-547-0712. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000204. DTNA’s number for this recall is FL-861.
Pleasure Way Industries Ltd. (Pleasure Way) is recalling certain 2019-2021 Tofino motorhomes. The electronic control center circuit board may be damaged from voltages over 18 volts, causing damage to the circuit board.
Pleasure Way has notified owners, and dealers will install an over voltage protection device that cuts off voltage to the circuit board. The recall began September 23, 2020. Owners may contact Pleasure Way customer service at 1-800-364-0189.
Airstream, Inc. (Airstream) is recalling certain 2021 Basecamp 16 trailers. The information printed on the Federal Certification and Tire Placard is 255/55R18 – 50 PSI, when the correct information is ST225/75R15E – 80 PSI. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims” and 567, “Certification.?
Airstream will notify owners, and dealers and will install corrected labels, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 22, 2020. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-877-596-6505 or 1-937-596-6111 ext. 7401 or 7411.
Motor Coach Industries (MCI) is recalling certain 2019 D45CRT-LE coaches. The seat belt retractors installed in the last row of the passenger seats may not function properly, preventing them from being used. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 208, “Occupant Crash Protection” and 209, “Seat Belt Assemblies.”
MCI will notify owners, and the seat belt manufacturer will modify the seat belt installation for the last row of seats, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 23, 2020. Owners may contact MCI customer service at 1-800-241-2947. MCI’s number for this recall is SB 490.
Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2020 Hideout 290LHS recreational trailers. These vehicles were incorrectly built with 3500 pound axles and ST205/75R14D tires and rims rather than the 4400 pound axles and ST225/75R15D tires and rims as specified on the Federal Identification Tag.
Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will replace the incorrect axle, tires, and rims with 4400 pound axles, ST225/75R15D tires and matching rims, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 27, 2020. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 20-388.
Please Note: This is the 21st in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls
It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.
Six significant ways that COVID-19 has impacted the RV lifestyle
It seems like we’ve been dealing with the various effects and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic forever, but it’s really just been in the United States and Canada since February. There were reports of coronavirus infections prior to that time but community spread was first proven about eight months ago. It just feels like eight years.
What follows is an analysis of the impact COVID-19 has brought to the RV community. I’ll also offer several tips to help you navigate these impacts.
First Impact: Campgrounds and RV parks close temporarily
On Tuesday, March 17th, a Florida state campground ranger knocked on a camper’s door, stood back, and informed them they had to leave the campground and park by that Friday. Everyone camping in the Florida State Parks was being evicted—no exceptions.
Numerous accounts of campers being forced out of their campgrounds and RV parks surfaced coast-to-coast. As RV parks closed, many snowbirds, full-time, and other far-from-home RVers were stranded. Our future RV park reservation was cancelled and we were left scrambling.
Closing campgrounds and RV parks was the first major impact of COVID-19 facing RVers. For us, it was the red flag warning that this virus was not something that we could ignore. By mid-March, national, state, county, and private campgrounds were closing coast-to-coast due to an increasing number of COVID-19 shut-downs and shelter-in-place orders.
By late April, Campendium reported 46-percent of their listed campgrounds were closed due to the pandemic. Essentially half of the possible campground sites across the continent were shut down. Over the course of the following four months, federal, state, and local authorities lifted and adjusted coronavirus-related orders allowing RV parks to reopen. By mid-July, Campendium reported just 9-percent of their listed campgrounds remain closed. Although they have not updated that information, it’s likely to have further improved.
We’re all hopeful that the worst of this wretched experience is behind us and RV park closures do not return. Don’t let what happened to us happen to you. Have a Plan B campsite plan ready, COVID or not. The best made plans can occasionally fall through on the road. Things do happen.
Second Impact: High RV demand
Seemingly every journalist who could locate their laptop has published an excited article on how RVing is the “best socially-distanced travel alternative to flying and cruising”. It’s as if every network, newspaper, and knucklehead blogger simultaneously discovered RVs and decided to join the Go RVing marketing team.
Having read a few of these articles I have no doubt that most of these reporters have never stepped foot in an RV and are probably bored out of their minds working at home. You can almost hear them mutter, “Maybe I could get an RV and get out of here”.
This coverage has triggered unprecedented demand for RVs from the general public while ill-preparing newbies for life on the road. Obviously this has been an unexpected godsend for the RV industry but it’s not all roses and sunshine for those of us who already love the RV lifestyle.
Third Impact: Tight RV supply
RVs are flying off dealer lots and showrooms across the United States and Canada. Inventory is currently the lowest they’ve ever seen. And RV manufacturers hampered by COVID-19 shutdowns and related supply shortages are struggling to keep up with the extraordinary demand the pandemic triggered. You can still find RVs on dealer lots but selection is limited.
If you want a new RV that’s not in stock at your local dealer place an order as soon as possible. Otherwise, it may be a long wait before they have what you’re looking for on their lot. With the high demand and the short supply of new RVs, interest in pre-owned RVs is also high.
Fourth Impact: Stretched RV service
For years the RV industry has struggled to find qualified service techs. When the pandemic created a tremendous surge in new customers, it exacerbated already tight service availability. Service has been further hampered as customers, managers, and service techs are required to maintain social distancing and a variety of safety protocols.
When you require RV service, call for an appointment as early as possible. When you call, be prepared for an appointment date further out than you would prefer as dealers work through an increasing service demand.
Fifth Impact: Strained RV park availability
The surge in RV popularity has also dramatically increased demand for campgrounds and RV parks. This demand may subside once people feel safe flying, cruising, and staying in hotels again. COVID-19 has allowed a host of newbies to discover the magic and fun of the RV lifestyle but not all will stay with it.
Make RV park reservations as far in advance as possible to increase the likelihood of obtaining the site you desire. Once again, have a Plan B campsite or overnight location in place.
Sixth Impact: Travel restrictions
As of this writing, the United States and Canada have agreed to extend the border closings to non-essential travel through November 21. Furthermore, some U.S. states have their own specific travel restrictions and may require self-quarantine for 14-days.
Needless to say, these restrictions are not exactly what, “Go Anywhere” RVing is all about! As the COVID-19 situation improves these travel restrictions will change. Be sure to research any possible travel restrictions along your route before setting out and keep an eye on them as you travel.
The Bottom Line: COVID stinks, but we can adapt
The impacts of COVID-19 are negative and positive, sometimes at the same time. We are pleased to see the RV industry doing so well. At the same time that strength and interest in RVing has brought its own challenges. These six impacts should be temporary but they cannot be ignored.
In summary, anything and everything related to RVs—including the availability of units, service, campgrounds and RV parks, dump stations, national and state parks, BLM lands, and even rentals are all experiencing higher demand than ever before. As RVers, it’s important to understand these new realities and ways to deal with them.
Nothing lasts forever and this too will pass. RV manufacturers will eventually meet the increased demand, and that demand will subside to normal. RV dealers will eventually work through the increased service need and that too will return to normal. RV parks will expand and new parks will emerge as the reservations return to what was prior to COVID. And yes, RV travel between Canada and the United States will resume.
We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems!
This might just be the “Best Little Day Trip in Texas.”
Etched in the eroded headstones in the city cemetery and the cemeteries at the nearby “painted churches”—quaint little chapels with exquisite, spangled interiors—are the names of German and Czech immigrants who flocked to the town starting in the 1840s. With its rich heritage, it’s no surprise that La Grange is the hub for celebrating the Czech culture in Texas. 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. La Grande is on the Colorado River between Houston and Austin on Texas Highway 71.
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. This museum gives visitors a feel for the culture and early days of Fayette County when thousands of Czech immigrants populated the area. The museum has clothes, relocated homes, and lots of musical instruments. Crank up the Polka, baby!
Another must-see stop is the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site. Located on 40-acres of land on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River and La Grange this park holds two historic sites and a ton of beautiful nature. One site is Monument Hill honoring the Texan heroes who lost their lives in the Dawson Massacre and Mier Expedition where Texans were forced to draw beans for their lives. The other stop is the stone ruins of the Kreische Brewery, one of the oldest commercial breweries in Texas started in the 1860s and the house of the Kreische family which you can tour.
The Czech immigrants incorporated different aspects of their culture into the town, perhaps the most apparent being the architecture of the buildings standing in the town square. In the center of the Square sits the most recognizable building in La Grange, the Fayette County Courthouse the fourth structure to house county business since 1838.
This stately temple of justice was designed by 27 year old James Riley Gordon of San Antonio and constructed in 1891 at the cost of $99,407.04. The architecture of the courthouse is Romanesque Revival style which was popular during the mid to late 1800s.
Honor Texans who have served and sacrificed at the Texas Heroes Museum. The museum is in the Fayette County Old Jail that operated from 1883 to 1985. Located just off the Square, it is a beautiful Victorian Gothic rusticated limestone building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside is a portion of an original jail cell, bunk, and a wash basin and commode combination. Sheriff’s memorabilia include badges, handcuffs, a hanging rope, Sheriff Will Loesin’s gun holster, and photographs.
Learn about the volunteers from Fayette County who were killed in the Dawson Massacre and the Black Bean Lottery and are now buried in the nearby Monument Hill State Historic Site. Learn about Texas Heroes like Sam Houston, Audie Murphy, Chester Nimitz, and Chris Kyle. See how uniforms, helmets, and other gear have changed over the years. Over 1,000 books are in the museum’s reference library.
The early Czech settlers also brought with them the kolache, an open-faced pastry traditionally prepared with a sweet filling which is now beloved across the state.
Just as the Czech koláč became “ko-lah-chee” on the tongues of Texans, kolache fillings evolved over time. Many Texans first experienced traditional kolache flavors that include poppy seed, prune, apricot, peach, and cream cheese. As the pastry grew in popularity bakers developed new flavors from lemon and pineapple to Philly cheese steak and the distinctly Texan sausage known as Klobasnikies (Pigs-in-a-Blanket) even though no kolache would contain meat in Eastern Europe.
One of the best spots to grab a kolache is Weikel’s Bakery. Here you find cinnamon rolls, strudel, cream cheese pound cake, pecan sandies, and cookies of all kinds, plus a repertoire of a dozen kolaches. The kolache is Weikel’s specialty, the shop’s motto (on the highway billboard): We got’cha Kolache.
Don’t worry—you don’t have to squeeze every flavor into one trip… Weikel’s will ship these goodies anywhere in the country!
Texas Spoken Friendly
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.
You are in a great place when it is the site of the California Gold Rush
The discovery of gold in 1848 led to the establishment of hundreds of instant mining towns along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Most mining camps were nothing more than temporary encampments established where a section of a creek was panned or sluiced until the gold ran out. Permanent towns developed in areas where more extensive operations spent decades tunneling deep into the hills. Many of these historic and picturesque towns still exist, linked by California Highway 49, the Gold Rush Trail.
The original mining-era buildings in these towns are now home to unique shops—but my interest lay elsewhere, in the gold mining history of these towns and the robust wines of the region.
Nestled in these foothills is the unique wine district of Gold Country. Touring the unique wineries along historical Highway 49 took us back in time. The majority of the area still looks stuck in gold rush times, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t produce sophisticated wines perfect for the modern-day wine enthusiast.
Using Far Horizon 49er Village RV Resort in Plymouth and Jackson Rancheria RV Resort in Jackson as our home bases, we explored the Gold Rush Trail and Gold Country wineries along California Highway 49.
Gold country has always been audacious and rip-roaring. No surprise—its wines are too. Most wines need time to rest, relax, and mature. And really, don’t we all?
For most of the above, we recently embarked on a tasting getaway in the foothills of Amador, El Dorado, and Calaveras counties where some vines date to the late 1800s and all the wines seem amplified with a flavorful dose of the American West.
The most common adjectives for the area’s potent reds are big and robust—zinfandels, syrahs, and barberas that howl at the moon. Roughly 40 wineries in Amador County alone offer sips.
Amador County’s major wine area is the Shenandoah Valley in the northern part of the county near the small town of Plymouth. Stylistically, zinfandels from the Shenandoah Valley tend to be fuller, riper, and earthier with a characteristic dusty, dark berry fruit character, hints of cedar, anise and clove spice, and scents of raisin and chocolate.
Amador may have developed its reputation around Zinfandel, but Shenandoah Valley winemakers have branched out over the past 20 years and now produce wines from grape varietals originating in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, offering red, white, and rosé wines as well as excellent ports and dessert wines.
Wineries within five or 10 minutes of Plymouth include Bella Piazza Winery, Terra d’Oro, Borjón Winery, Helwig Winery, and Cooper Vineyards, one of California’s most charming family wineries and a personal favorite.
El Dorado County’s Grace Patriot Wines, a family-run business, provides not only award-winning wine, but history to the area. Their scenic property lies a few miles east of Placerville in an area known as Apple Hill for the abundant apple orchards scattered across the landscape.
The winery and adjacent vineyards sit at an elevation of 3,000 feet, with an amazing eastward view over the Sierra Foothills and onwards toward the High Sierras on the far horizon. The tasting room looks out on to the patio and frames the timeless scene through its windows and the grand double doors through which visitors enter.
Our visit to the winery was memorable, as we had the opportunity to taste through their portfolio of wines. We took three of our favorite Grace Patriot wines back to our motorhome to enjoy during the winter.
At the heart of Calaveras County’s wine country is an old-school Main Street with a new-world vibe. Unique to any other wine region, Murphys is a wine-lover’s dream with delightful tasting rooms and excellent restaurants in an historic downtown. You can literally do wine country on foot in Murphys. There are over 25 wineries here and 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphy’s Historic Main Street.
Picturesque vineyards and destination wineries are nestled in the rolling hills throughout the county.
Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words,
Out west, the landscapes are vast and beautiful. There’s no place better to check them out than at these National Parks.
Magnificent mountains, diverse forests, and unusual geological features are among the significant features found in the National Parks of the West. These extraordinary landscapes are great places to enjoy outdoor recreation, to learn about nature and history, and to savor a scenic driving tour.
These areas give you a chance to get back to nature, explore the wilderness, and gaze up at pristine night skies. The western United States has a plethora of National Parks and each one is distinct and unique. We don’t expect you to visit all 12 straight away, we’ll give you some time…
It’s iconic. It’s dramatic. It’s historic. One mile deep and 277 miles long, the Grand Canyon is a mesmerizing force of nature. One of the world’s seven natural wonders, it’s almost overwhelming to stand at the South Rim at dusk and watch rose-hued rock faces turn a fiery burnished bronze.
Arches National Park is characterized by its pinnacles, rock fins, and 2,000 gravity-defying arches. The spans of these natural stone wonders range from three feet across to 290 feet in the case of Landscape Arch, but the most famous of all is the 52 foot-tall Delicate Arch—so iconic it appears on Utah license plates.
Arches’ nearby neighbor, Canyonlands invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves.
Unusual, elaborate cliffs and canyons shape the landscape of Capitol Reef. The Waterpocket Fold, the second largest monocline in North America, extends for nearly 100 miles and appears as a bizarre “wrinkle” in the Earth’s crust. Red-rock canyons, ridges, buttes, and sandstone monoliths create a 387-mile outdoor retreat for hikers, campers, photographers, and rock climbers.
The park’s namesake tree, the Joshua tree, is an admired inhabitant that resembles something you might find in a Dr. Seuss book. For years, novice and expert climbers have ventured to the park to climb giant, sculpted slabs of rock while hikers explore the vast desert terrain.
At first glance, you might wonder where the forest went. Stone log fragments litter an otherwise drab section of the high desert. However, this span of desert was once a lush, green, forested oasis with 200-foot conifers and was ruled by dinosaurs. Of the 50,000 acres of designated wilderness, the brilliantly-colored petrified wood, impressive fossils, and the Painted Desert incite the most excitement.
Mesa Verde is the only national park dedicated solely to human endeavor and houses some of the largest and most important cliff dwellings in the world. Built by the Ancestral Puebloans, the known archeological sites number more than 5,000 and include mesa-top pueblos and masonry towers, as well as intricate, multi-storey dwellings wedged beneath overhanging cliffs.
Aside from being home to the world’s largest tree (by volume) and protecting vast areas of towering inland redwoods, a big part of Sequoia’s appeal is that it isn’t all that crowded. Take a stroll under the big trees in the Giant Forest, view wildlife in Crescent Meadows, climb to the top of Moro Rock.
Drive along the Badlands Loop Road to experience magnificent craggy buttes, pinnacles, and spires that seem to surprise the surrounding prairie grasslands. This Mars-like landscape has several accessible trails and overlooks including the Pinnacles Overlook, Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, and Fossil Exhibit Trail.
Just two trails (and an elevator) exist for hikers hoping to explore Carlsbad Caverns on their own. The Big Room Trail, the largest single chamber by volume in North America can be accessed via a 1.25-mile trail or a .6-mile shortcut. The relatively flat terrain weaves through a series of curious hanging stalactites and passes through park gems like the Hall of Giants, Bottomless Pit, and Crystal Spring Dome.
Home of the hoodoos, Bryce Canyon is much more than a single sandstone canyon. Here, you’ll find the largest concentration of eroded auburn spires, or hoodoos, on Earth. Sunset, Sunrise, Inspiration, and Bryce viewpoints are the spots to hit for the best views in the shortest amount of time.
Just when you thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, Zion comes along and blows your socks off. Carved by the Virgin River, the landscape is a geological masterpiece, defined by its canyons, plateaus, and soaring sandstone cliffs. But it’s the variety, not just the magnitude that gives the park its grandeur.
The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.
Here are some lessons for life to be learned from the pandemic. Many we probably should have known all along, but the current situation has brought them out again in sharp relief.
We all thought this was a temporary thing. But here we are. People are already calling this the “COVID era” as if they are reading about it in a history book. But we’re still going through it.
For us the social distancing and handwashing aren’t that bad. We got used to that stuff quickly. The tough part about this era is that life has changed permanently for many folks.
Rifts are created between people with different beliefs on wearing a mask. Complete industries are swept away and will probably never be the same. The world has truly changed.
In this article, I’m sharing life lessons I’ve learned from observing these changes. Hopefully, these short reminders will make life during this era easier for you.
It’s hard on everybody
I know your life is hard. But so is the life of your neighbor. That puts us all in the same boat. So go easy on yourself and others.
Nothing is forever
It seems like this will last forever. But everything dies. And so will pandemics.
Make the best of your time
Accepting circumstances doesn’t mean we give up. Make the best of it. To be clear: Worrying and thinking about stuff that’s outside of your control is NOT a good use of your time. Yes, easier said than done. I know.
Take a breather
Take a moment for yourself and breeeeath…. Aaaah. Yes, that’s the feeling.
Exercise every day
Go for a walk or hike. Stay in shape. If you’re not injured or ill, it’s your duty to take care of your body. Never take this lightly.
Get off social media
Social media is a waste of your time. Always! Pretty much so!
Reading is a better use of your time. We all have reading lists with hundreds of books on them. And we’re not going to live 200 years. That means you need to make some tough choices. Which books will you read before you die?
Learn new skills
Technology is improving and changing so fast that we’re not aware what’s going on. We just learn it after the fact. But that may be too late. Stay on top of your game and keep learning new skills you need to do good work.
Keep a daily journal
The COVID-19 pandemic will probably be one of the weirdest times of our lives. Don’t you want to document this? Even if you never read it again, it’s still worth writing because it makes you a better thinker.
Inspiration comes from within
“I need to go to Sedona for inspiration.” Or replace Sedona with any city or place. Why do we think inspiration comes from the outside? Look inside!
Good food improves your mood
Looking for something a little out of the ordinary and adventurous? Try a Philly cheesesteak, poutine, crab cake, gumbo, alligator, jambalaya, boudin, étouffée, crawfish, Texas BBQ, green chili cheese burger, tamales, chimichanga, or hushpuppies. On the sweet side, try Key lime pie, kolaches, sweet potato pie, goo goo clusters, apple pie, pecan pralines, Ben & Jerry’s, or Blue Bell ice cream. Take your taste buds for a tour!
Objects will not make you happy
STOP BUYING CRAP ONLINE! You need to tell yourself that after a few too many useless purchases.
More money is not the answer
I’m not going to lie. Having a little bit of money will lighten the load. So start that online business or side-gig you’ve been thinking about. But don’t expect that money will make you happy. It just solves your money problems. Nothing else!
Do work you enjoy
Just because you need to survive, don’t say yes to the first available job you encounter. And also don’t start some kind of soulless online business so you can make a few bucks. Find something you enjoy—and that pays the bills.
Appreciate what you have
Grass is always greener on… So here’s a reminder: If you’re reading this on your smartphone in the comfort of your home, life isn’t so bad!
Do something altruistic. It’s fine to give money to charity. But I’m not talking about that. Talk to your elderly neighbors, hold the door for someone, do a small kindness. Small things have a positive impact on people.
Change is good
Life is hard when your job is no longer there. But remember, change is a part of life. And in the long-term, it’s good. We just don’t see the sunshine when we’re going through a storm.
Stop consuming. Start creating.
The world never changed for the better by doing nothing. Right now, our biggest challenge is paralysis by consumption. We’re over-consuming everything: News, food, clothes, entertainment, you name it. To get through this era, we need more action. So stop sitting there and go create something. Without creation, there’s no progress.
Hopefully we’ll also feel a new sense of appreciation when we get to act normal again. And hopefully that, and the other lessons we pull from this over time, will stick around for a long time. Let’s hope we’ll be smart enough to remember these life lessons over the long-term.
To re-create yourself anew in every moment in the grandest version of the greatest vision ever you had about Who You Really Are. That is the purpose in becoming human, and that is the purpose of all of life.
Step into the past and experience the lives of one of America’s oldest cultures, the Pueblo people
Most of the national parks in the Southwest are about the landscapes, but Mesa Verde in southern Colorado is more cultural than natural. There’s still plenty of rugged scenery, but there are also more than 5,000 archaeological sites contained within Mesa Verde’s boundaries.
Mesa Verde, Spanish for “green table”, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects these sites, some of the most notable and best preserved in the U.S.
These master builders constructed elaborate complexes tucked into sandstone cliffs. Some held just a few people, while others, such as the Cliff Palace and Long House, have 150 rooms and could have housed up to 100 people.
Unique in the park system, Mesa Verde is the first and only park created for the protection and preservation of archaeological resources and is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Colorado. Conde Nast Traveler chose it as the top historic monument in the world, and National Geographic Traveler chose it as one of the “50 places of a Lifetime— the World’s 50 Greatest Destinations”, in a class with the Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China.
Mesa Verde does not lend itself to a hurry-up visit. It takes time to savor the magic of its eight centuries of prehistoric Indian culture. As a vintage slogan at the park advises: “It’s a place where you can see for 100 miles and look back in time 1,000 years.”
The intricate architecture is as awesome to behold today as it was when cowboys and ranchers first saw it. Two men looking for lost cattle, Richard Wetherill and Charles Mason, came upon the most spectacular site, the 150-room Cliff Palace, in 1888. Mesa Verde National Park was established 18 years later, in 1906.
The best way of acquiring a feeling for Mesa Verde is to follow the 6-mile Mesa Top Auto Loop Road which traces Pueblo history at 10 overlooks and archeological sites.
But for an intimate look at the kivas and actual living accommodations take the short hike from the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum to Spruce Tree House, the only major Mesa Verde site available for self-guided tours. The paved trail leads to the 114-room, eight-kiva structure—the one initially discovered by Wetherill. One popular feature is a reconstructed and roofed kiva visitors can access by ladder.
Tickets to tour other popular larger structures—Cliff Palace, Long House, and Balcony House—must be obtained in advance at the Far View Visitor Center (15 miles south of the park entrance). Tour groups are limited in size.
Immediately south of the Visitor Center, a farming complex dates to about 1050. Two large surface pueblos—Far View House and Pipe Shrine House— and smaller settlements make up the complex.
From Mesa Verde’s entrance a two-lane paved road winds upward 2,000 feet through piñon-juniper forests and canyons. At Park Point, on the northern edge of the mesa at 8,600 feet, the visitor is treated to a panoramic view of the Montezuma Valley to the west, and the Mancos Valley, framed by the 14,000-foot San Juan and La Plata mountains to the east.
At Far View, the road divides. The west fork leads to Wetherill Mesa and a number of major cliff dwellings, including Long House, second largest at Mesa Verde. The south fork leads to Park Headquarters on lower Chapin Mesa and the major cliff dwellings of Cliff Palace, largest in the park, Spruce Tree House, Balcony House, Square Tower House, and others.
Near Park Headquarters is the outstanding Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum. With scores of exhibits and five unique dioramas, the museum provides a comprehensive overview of the area’s ancient people.
Mesa Verde offers great camping just 4 miles inside the park at Morefield Campground. Because there are 267 sites, there’s always plenty of space. The campground rarely fills. But if you want one of the 15 full-hookup sites, reservations are a must.
Our brief visit whetted our appetite for more. In the words of another time traveler from the future…I’ll be back.
(The cowboys’ discovery of Cliff Palace) was the beginning of the mystery which is still a mystery. Who were these people, where did they go, and why?
Lodi Wine Country is one of California’s major winegrowing regions, located 100 miles east of San Francisco on the eastern edge of the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta, south of Sacramento, and west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
It is named after the most populous city within the region. Lodi is characterized by a rural atmosphere where wineries and farms run by 4th – and 5th generation families operate along-side a new group of vintners who have brought creative winemaking and cutting-edge technology to the region.
Lodi has been a major grape growing region since the 1850s when prospectors drawn by the California gold rush began to settle the area. Today, Lodi comprises 18 percent of California’s total wine grape production―more than Napa and Sonoma counties combined.
Twenty years ago there were eight Lodi wineries. Today there are over 80, hundreds of Lodi-labeled wines, and approximately 100,000 acres of premium wine grapes.
Lodi is predominately a red wine-producing region, with approximately two-thirds of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. However, with over 75 varieties in commercial production, Lodi offers a vast portfolio of interesting and unique wines.
Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World, producing over 32 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel. Many of the region’s most distinctive wines come from the thousands of acres of “old vines”—some dating back to the 1880s. An estimated 2,000 acres are unique pre-Prohibition own-rooted vines.
Cabernet Sauvignon is prevalent along the eastern edge of the Lodi appellation. Although a part of the local landscape for over a hundred years, Petite Sirah has seen a recent rise in popularity. A relative newcomer, Lodi Syrah has quickly become more prominent.
Winemakers have also begun to explore the broad range of emerging varieties originating in similar climatic regions of the Europe, including Spain, Italy, Southern France, and Portugal such as Albariño, Tempranillo, Verdelho, Sangiovese, Viognier, Carignane, and Touriga Nacional.
Life is slow and easy in Lodi. The locals not only make you feel welcome, they appreciate you being here. After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour by driving to Galt about 8 miles north of Lodi on Highway 99 for their large outdoor market (weekly, Tuesday and Wednesday).
From its roots as a farmer’s market at the old Sacramento County Fairgrounds in the 1950s, the Galt Market of today is an expansive open-air mall with diverse products available. With over 400 vendors offering merchandise for sale, the quantity of items available is staggering. The Galt Market covers ten acres of great deals with all the adjacent parking lots reserved for customer use.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seafood are displayed along ‘produce row’―an aisle 100 yards long with spaces on both sides of the aisle overflowing with offerings from both local and distant farms.
Returning to Lodi we oriented ourselves to the area briefly exploring the historic downtown area and stopping at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center situated on the picturesque grounds of the Wine & Roses Hotel, Restaurant, & Spa, and wine-tasted at the nearby Abundance Winery, a family owned and operated boutique winery.
Our following day began with a delightful wine tasting experience at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi where roughly 30,000 cases of wine are produced in eight hours. Despite its capacity, Woodbridge’s intimate Visitor’s Center focuses on its family tradition and pours several small lot, winery exclusive wines.
The seven wines we tasted are available only at the winery. The staff was friendly and informative enhancing the experience. The $5 tasting fee was waved as we purchased a bottle of petit syrah.
We drove to Hutchens Street Square Performing Arts Theater and Conference Center, home to the weekend’s annual Sandhill Crane Festival. The cranes winter in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta wetlands west of Lodi.
Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.
There is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone
In April, military officials released footage of three Navy videos that they say show “unidentified aerial phenomena” or in layman’s terms, unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The videos which were released previously by a private company show the objects which were not identified flying quickly through the air. They were recorded by infrared cameras.
The videos were published by the New York Times in 2017. Two had been recorded in 2015: the other was captured in 2004. One person is heard on a clip saying that an object could be a drone.
From 2007 to 2012, the Pentagon had studied UFO encounters but was stopped because other programs needed funding. But the former head of the program said: “There is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone.”
“These aircraft—we’ll call them aircraft—are displaying characteristics that are not currently within the US inventory or in any foreign inventory that we are aware of,” Luis Elizondo said in 2017.
These physics-defying aerial phenomena elevated the UFO conversation from Bigfoot Reddit forums to Bloomberg opinion columns. Here are a few prominent people saying we should take UFO sightings more seriously:
1. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Twitter: “The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed.”
2. Economist Tyler Cowen for Bloomberg: “Humanity has a long history of being caught unawares by outside arrivals, and so we should pay more attention to that bias in ourselves.” He cited the “technologically superior” Spanish invasion of the Aztec empire as an example.
3. Political scientist Alexander Wendt to Vox: “Whether it’s alien life, who knows? It’s a plausible explanation. My point is that we should be agnostic about this and simply study it scientifically. Let’s do the science and then we can talk about what we found.” The overarching argument: Strange phenomena should be investigated, whether the end goal is to protect ourselves from cone-headed extraterrestrials or just to learn something new.
+ If you want to learn something new…here are a few of the UFO sightings taken seriously by the U.S. government. Mysterious lights. Sinister saucers. Alien abductions.
Between 1947 and 1969, at the height of the Cold War, more than 12,000 UFO sightings were reported to Project Blue Book, a small, top-secret Air Force team. Their mission? Scientifically investigate the incidents and determine whether any posed a national security threat.
> Here is one of their most fascinating cases along with the latest on alien abduction insurance.
The Roswell ‘UFO’ Incident
In the summer of 1947, a rancher discovered unidentifiable debris in his sheep pasture outside Roswell, New Mexico. Although officials from the local Air Force base asserted that it was a crashed weather balloon, many people believed it was the remains of an extraterrestrial flying saucer; a series of secret “dummy drops” in New Mexico during the 1950s heightened their suspicions. Nearly 50 years after the story of the mysterious debris broke the U.S. military issued a report linking the incident to a top-secret atomic espionage project called Project Mogul. Still, many people continue to embrace the UFO theory and hundreds of curiosity seekers visit Roswell and the crash site every year.
What Really Happened at Roswell? Click here, for the rest of the story…
Alien Abduction Insurance Policy
Did you know you can purchase alien abduction insurance? Seriously! According to a Geico blog post, a London-based firm has sold over 30,000 policies throughout Europe. Like other insurance, alien abduction policies can be used to cover medical or psychiatric care, lost wages, or additional damages caused by an alien abduction. But, contrary to many life insurance policies, these insurance claims can be filed if abductees are considered missing and never return.
If you’re a believer and alien abductions are a concern, you might be interested in learning more about this. However, you should consider that filing a claim will require proof of the occurrence. This would likely include providing specific information about the aliens and spacecraft involved, a detailed description about the incident, passing a lie detector test, providing video footage and alien signatures, and including statements from a third-party witness. Also, coverage will only include a single abduction so if you have “frequent flier miles” on alien spacecraft, you won’t benefit from a policy.
$10,000,000.00 ALIEN ABDUCTION INSURANCE
The “Perfect Policy for Anyone Who Thinks They Have Everything Covered
You can’t be turned down regardless of your Age or Frequent Flyer Status. Only if you don’t …*