The Yuma Crossing

Discover Yuma’s storied history as a Colorado River crossing point

The Colorado River State Historic Park (formerly Yuma Crossing State Historic Park) sits on the bank of the Colorado where river captains once sailed from the Gulf of California to unload supplies then kick up their heels in the bustling port of Yuma.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is located on a portion of the grounds of the old U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot established in 1864. This site is significant in the history of the Arizona Territory. The City of Yuma, through an Intergovernmental Agreement, supports operational costs at this Park. The purpose of the Park is to protect its historic structures and interpret the diverse history of the site.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean vessels brought supplies around the Baja Peninsula from California to Port Isabel, near the mouth of the Colorado. From there, cargo was loaded onto smaller steamships and brought upstream to Yuma. The depot operated from 1864 until 1883, when the arrival of the railroad made the long steamship route unnecessary.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the original structures from that time are still standing. Made of adobe, essentially mud and plant material, they have survived well in Yuma’s dry climate. In fact, since their original construction, the buildings have been used by the Weather Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Signal Corps, the Border Survey, and the Yuma County Water Users Association as recently as the late 1980s.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colorado River State Historic Park tells the history of the Crossing from prehistoric times until the present set in the backdrop of the old Quartermaster’s Depot. The area is also recognized as a key location in the cultural development of western history by the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the eyes of the Native Americans, entrepreneurs, steamboat captains, fortune seekers, and the military, it answers the questions of how the early emigrants survived or failed, living in one of the most rugged and isolated places in the world.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hernando de Alarcon, who accompanied Coronado on his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola, passed this site in 1540. Padre Kino saw the present location of the Quartermaster’s Depot in 1683, and Padre Graces established a mission directly across the river and was later killed there by the Indians in 1781.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yuma began to experience the American westward surge when countless immigrants crossed by ferry from Yuma on their way to the California gold fields in 1849. In 1850, a military post was established at Yuma, and when rich placer gold strikes on the Colorado River precipitated a gold rush in 1858, Yuma experienced a boom. In 1871 Yuma incorporated and became the county seat of Yuma County.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Major William B. Hooper established the Quartermaster Depot on a high bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Supplies were brought from California by ocean-going vessels traveling around the tip of the Baja Peninsula and then north as far as the mouth of the Colorado River.

Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At this point supplies were transferred to river steamboats and brought up river to the Quartermaster Depot which served as a storage yard and a military supply center for fourteen military posts in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern Utah, and West Texas. The Depot maintained a six months’ supply of ammunition, clothing, and food at all times.

The depot operated from 1864 until 1883, when the arrival of the railroad made the long steamship route unnecessary.

Today, Colorado River State Historic Park preserves the history of the facility while providing additional information about Yuma as a Colorado River community and the engineering behind one of its impressive canal systems.

Back In Time, Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While visiting the park we found Back in Time, a delightful little pie shop and tea room tucked away in one of the buildings. We bought a whole pecan pie to enjoy back in the motorhome. The pie was incredible with an amazingly flakey crust. Sandwiches, a mixed greens salad, and three tier tea service are also available. The lady that runs the shop is very friendly and helpful, not to mention that she is also an excellent cook!

Worth Pondering…

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

—René Descartes

January 2021 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?

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.

Camping at Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 6 recall notices during January 2021. These recalls involved 5 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Jayco (2 recalls), Thor Motor Coach (1 recall), Escape Trailer (1 recall), Heartland (1 recall), and KZRV (1 recall).

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Greyhawk, Greyhawk Pestige, Redhawk, Redhawk SE, Odyssey, and Esteem 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 a new support bracket, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 31, 2021. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903528.

Camping at Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2016-2020 Seneca Class C motorhomes. The mounting brackets for the leveling system hydraulic pump and reservoir may fail, allowing the components to contact the ground.

The remedy for this recall is currently under development. The recall is expected to begin February 15, 2021. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903529.

Camping at Pechanga Casino RV Park, Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2018-2019 Hurricane and Windsport motorhomes. The overhead cabinets located above the driver and front passenger seats may detach and fall onto the seat occupants, possibly causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

TMC will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the overhead cabinets, and reinstall them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 5, 2021. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000208.

Camping at Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Escape Trailer

Escape Trailer is recalling certain 2020 19, 21C, 21NE and 5.0 RV trailers equipped with Dometic 3 burner cooking stoves. The stove’s saddle valve securing bolt may be overtightened, possibly damaging the O-ring seal and causing a continuous gas leak.

Escape Trailer will notify owners, instructing them to visit a Dometic repair center that will install a remedy kit of gaskets, washers, thread locker bolts, and two round orange labels, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 10, 2021. Owners may contact Escape Trailer customer service at 1-604-703-1650. Escape Trailer’s number for this recall is E012020.

Camping at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heartland

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC (Heartland) is recalling certain 2021 Mallard M180BH recreational trailers. These units had incorrect axle, rims, and tires installed during production.

Heartland will notify owners, and dealers will replace the axle, rims, tires and the spare tire, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 12, 2021. Owners may contact Heartland customer service at 1-877-262-8032.

Camping at Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

KZRV

KZRV, L.P. (KZRV) is recalling certain 2021 Sportsmen Classic, Escape, and Sonic recreational trailers. The microwave circuits were improperly connected to a 20amp circuit breaker instead of a 15amp circuit breaker.

KZRV will notify owners, and dealers will replace the 20 amp circuit breaker with a 15 amp circuit breaker, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 16, 2021. Owners may contact KZRV customer service at 1-800-768-4016, extension 154 or 153. KZRV’s number for this recall is KZ-2021-01.

Please Note: This is the 24th 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

Explore Tucson Naturally

A southern Arizona city, Tucson spreads across the Sonoran Desert in a valley surrounded by jagged mountain ranges that provide ample scenic backdrops

In Tucson, there’s plenty to do, naturally. You will find outdoor adventures for all ages and abilities. Hike or bike in Saguaro National Park, Catalina State Park, or Tucson Mountain Park. Experience the dramatic Sonoran Desert up close at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, or explore another galaxy at a world-renowned observatory. Venture out on a four-wheel-drive tour, or take a horseback ride into the Santa Catalina Foothills.

Tucson Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The city of Tucson is surrounded by five mountain ranges—the Santa Catalinas and Tortolitas to the north, the Rincons to the east, the Santa Ritas to the south and the Tucson Mountains to the west—which feature a wide variety of hiking trails for all skill levels. Ranging from nearly flat strolls through the cacti to steep scrambles up forest trails, Tucson’s hiking opportunities have something for everyone.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The giant saguaro cacti grows nowhere else. Growing very slowly, it may take 50 years or more for branching to begin. These symbols of the Southwest have lent their name to Saguaro National Park, its two units bracketing Tucson on the east and the west. The Rincon Mountain District is located to the East of Tucson and the Tucson Mountain District is located to the West. Both districts have their own visitor center, scenic drives, and hiking trail systems.

Tucson Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 20,000 acre Tucson Mountain Park is a cacti-lovers wonderland with its sprawling forest of saguaro. An icon of the Sonoran Desert, the saguaro cactus can grow 60 feet tall and has an average life span of 150 years. There are other species of cactus here as well including fishhook barrel cactus, staghorn cactus, pink flowering hedgehog cactus, Engelman’s prickly pear cactus, teddy bear cholla, and chain-link cactus.

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North of Saguaro Park’s East Unit and part of Coronado National Forest, Sabino Canyon is a popular recreation area. Carved into the Santa Catalina Mountains by its namesake stream, the canyon is a desert oasis supporting riparian habitat including willow, ash, oak, and Arizona sycamore. A paved road runs 3.8 miles into the canyon, crossing nine stone bridges over Sabino Creek. It begins at an altitude of 2,800 feet and rises to 3,300 feet at its end.

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sabino Canyon Tours offers two tram routes that provide access to Sabino and Bear Canyons. Along both routes riders are free to get off at any of the stops along the way. Sabino Canyon tram is a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8 mile tour into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The trams have nine stops along the tour with several restroom facilities and picnic grounds located near Sabino Creek.

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The extensive Santa Rita Mountains trail system is easily accessed from Madera Canyon’s campground and picnic areas. Detailed trail information and maps are available at the trailheads. Hiking trails vary from paved, handicap-accessible nature trails, and gentle walking paths in the lower canyon, to steep, expert trails leading to the top of 9,453-foot Mt. Wrightson.

Old Baldy Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The challenging and popular Old Baldy Trail is a 10-mile trek (round trip) leads to the summit and climbs more than 4,000 vertical feet topping out on one of the most spectacular summits in the state. The views from the summit are, to say the least, breathtaking. The Super Trail is longer but has a more moderate gradient. The trails form a figure eight making it possible to put together a number of different loops using different portions of each.

Sky Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climbing more than 6,000 feet, the Sky Island Scenic Byway begins with forests of saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert and ends in a cool, coniferous forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Prepare yourself for breathtaking views and a climate change that would be similar to driving from Southern Arizona to Canada in a mere 27 miles. One of the most scenic drives in southern Arizona, the byway provides access to a fascinating land of great vistas, natural rock sculptures, cool mountain forests and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts.

Sky Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Forest Service has done a great job with the road and attractions along the route including campgrounds, picnic areas, trailheads, pullouts, vista points, and interpretive overlooks. Dozens of hiking trails offer access to the mountain’s backcountry canyons and ridges.

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area. Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”. There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.

The Ultimate Guide to Interstate 10: 32 Delightful Stops

This coast-to-coast highway spans America from Southern California to Florida

Interstate 10 is the southernmost cross-country highway you can take in the US. It runs about 2,500 miles from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida, and passes through major cities including Phoenix, Tucson, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, and Mobile.

This southern US route is perfect for full-timers or snowbirds who don’t want to stay in one spot all winter. Interstate 10 passes the RVer’s haven of Quartzsite and lots of scenic parks, wildlife refuges, RV resorts, and campgrounds.

These are 32 of our favorite stops along the way that you will want to take the exit for.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs, California 

Palm Springs and its many neighboring cities are in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, once an inland sea and now a desert area with abundant artesian wells. Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago because what was then just a village in the desert was a popular weekend Hollywood getaway. Today, the village has grown and consists of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Continue eastbound and you’ll reach the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. This vast park has a rocky desert landscape best known for its twisty Joshua Trees. Joshua Tree has several trails you can hike for closer views of the trees and various desert plants. The hikes range from easy, doable trails for the entire family to more challenging treks that should never be attempted on a hot day. There are numerous options for camping in the park including Jumbo Rocks, Indian Cove, and Cottonwood campgrounds.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite, Arizona

Not far from the Colorado River, this dusty Arizona outpost expands to hundreds of thousands as RV folks arrive every winter for the largest rock hound exposition in the United States and free camping. Quartzsite attracts over a million and a half visitors each winter who converge on this sleepy desert town of 1,900 people in a wave of RVs during January and February when over 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, and everything else imaginable create one of the world’s largest open air flea markets.

Papago Park, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phoenix, Arizona

This state is beloved for its awesome sunsets and one of the most unique ways to watch an Arizona sunset is by viewing it through the famous “Hole-in-the-Rock” at Papago Park, a naturally-formed opening in the red butte. Papago Park offers great hiking and a wide array of recreational facilities. Comprised primarily of sandstone, the area is known for its massive buttes. Papago is also home to two of the region’s most visited attractions, the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona

Jutting out of the Sonoran Desert some 1,500 feet, you’ll see Picacho Peak for miles as you drive along Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Travelers have used the peak for centuries as a landmark and continue to enjoy the state park’s 3,747 acres for hiking, rock climbing, spring wildflowers, and camping. Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak and, often in the spring, overlook a sea of Mexican poppies and other wildflowers. Enjoy the beauty of the desert and the amazing views. The campground includes 85 sites with electric hookups.

Tucson Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucson, Arizona

Surrounded by mountains, Tucson is a beautiful city set in the Sonoran Desert. With many historic sites and cultural attractions, Tucson is a place to unwind and explore. Highlights include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, El Presidio Historic District, Mission San Xavier del Bac, and Old Tucson Studios. You will also discover hiking trails, and afterwards, you can find a bite to eat at one of the many wonderful restaurants Tucson has to offer.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Warm days and cool nights make winter an ideal time to visit Saguaro. The park has two areas separated by the city of Tucson. The Rincon Mountain District (East) has a loop drive that offers numerous photo ops. There’s also a visitor’s center, gift shop, and miles of hiking trails. The Tucson Mountain District (West) also has a scenic loop drive and many hiking trails including some with petroglyphs at Signal Mountain.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone

After getting its start as a silver mining claim in the late-1870s, Tombstone grew along with its Tough Nut Mine becoming a bustling boomtown of the Wild West. From opera and theater to dance halls and brothels, Tombstone offered much-needed entertainment to the miners after a long shift underground. The spirits of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Brothers live on in the authentic old west town of Tombstone, home of Boothill Graveyard, the Birdcage Theatre, and the O.K. Corral.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Willcox, Arizona

This southeastern Arizona town attracts visitors who come for its wineries and tasting rooms, to hike in Chiricahua National Monument, and to see the sandhill cranes. The majestic birds winter in the Sulphur Springs area. Thousands of cranes roost in Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, a shallow lake that is a flurry activity at sunup and sundown when birds depart and return in a swirling cloud of feathers.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesilla, New Mexico

Home to a mere 2,196 people, the town of Mesilla in Southern New Mexico is a fascinating place to visit. Here you’ll find well-preserved architecture, history worth delving into, and high quality restaurants. The plaza is the heart of Mesilla and that’s a good place to start exploring. The San Albino Basilica dominates one side of the plaza. This Romanesque church was built in 1906 although its bells are older, dating back to the 1870s and 1880s.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Shaped like giant waves, the dunes in the park are part of the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The area was once part of the Permian Sea where an ancient lake evaporated and left the gypsum deposits behind. If you just want to see the dunes without getting dusty you can drive the eight-mile-long Dunes Drive. But the best way to explore is by hiking, horseback, or biking—and don’t miss out on the thrill of sledding down the soft white sand (you can bring your own plastic snow saucers or buy them at the gift shop).

Franklin Mountains State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Franklin Mountains State Park, Texas

Shortly after crossing into Texas, you’ll reach El Paso and Franklin Mountains State Park. The park’s trails attract hikers and bikers while the mountain peaks and cliffs attract rock climbers and photographers. The Aztec Cave Trail (a steep 1.2 miles) and Tin Mines Trail (about 6.5 miles) are worth exploring. The campground has a few RV-friendly sites but the sites are unlevel and have no hookups. You can also find more camping options in El Paso.

Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas

The 4,000 acres of wind-sculpted sand dunes found at this Texas state park resemble a landscape straight out of the Sahara. The Harvard Oaks that cover more than 40,000 acres here seldom rise above 3 feet in height, even though their root structure may extend down 90 feet or more. The park offers an interpretive center and museum as well as picnicking and camping and many visitors’ favorite activity, sand surfing.

Caverns of Senora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Caverns of Senora, Texas

The Cavern is over seven and a half miles long with two miles of trails developed for tours. There are five levels of the cave that vary in depth form 20 feet to 180 feet below the surface. The Cavern is known for its stunning array of calcite crystal formations, extremely delicate formations, and the abundance and variety of formations. You’ll find helictites, soda straws stalactites, speleothems, stalagmites, and cave bacon. The cave is a constant 71 degrees with 98 percent humidity which makes it feel about 85 degrees.

Guadalupe River at Kerrville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country

Call it kitsch appeal, call it hokey, but the Texas Hill Country is one fantastic region. There are small German towns including Kerrville, Boerne, and Fredericksburg nestled in the rolling hills. There’s canoeing, rafting, tubing, and kayaking along the numerous rivers, and LBJ Ranch and Luckenbach. When Waylon Jennings first sang about Luckenbach, the town in the Hill Country where folks “ain’t feelin’ no pain,” it instantly put this otherwise non-place on the map. The population is about 10, and all that’s here is the old General Store, a town hall, and a dance hall.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guadalupe River State Park, Texas

Next, you’ll want to stop at Guadalupe River State Park where you can camp by the river and spend your days enjoying various water activities including kayaking, tubing, swimming, and fishing. The campground offers big-rig friendly sites with power and water hookups. From here it’s less than an hour to San Antonio.

Mission San Jose, San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio, Texas

From the San Jose Mission to the Alamo, this city is known for its fabulous, historic architecture. There is much to see and do in San Antonio from visiting the missions to the Alamo and 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.

Black’s Barbecue, Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart, Texas

This flavor-packed smoke town is a must-stop. Dubbed the “BBQ Capital of Texas,” Lockhart is one of the most legendary barbecue destinations in the world. Order meat by the pound and sausage by the link! Barbecue sauce? Some places have it, some don’t; in the best of them, sauce is inconsequential. Beef is what matters. Your itinerary includes at least tackling the Big Three: Black’s Barbecue (open since 1932), Kreuz Market (est. 1900), and Smitty’s Market (since 1948). Proceed in any order you please. 

Shiner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shiner, Texas

Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week where visitors can see how their popular brews get made. Founded in 1909, the little brewery has recently undergone a major expansion. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”

Schulenburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Schulenburg, Texas

Located at the intersection of Interstate 10 and US 77, Schulenburg may be best known as a reliable stop for a kolache fix. But with its roots in German and Czech settlement, this little town offers numerous cultural attractions including the Schulenburg Historical Museum, Texas Polka  Music Museum, the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum, and the spectacular painted churches. The area has the rolling hills and the beautiful bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes in the spring.

St. Mary’s Catholic Churcj (Praha) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Painted Churches of Fayette County, Texas

The Painted Churches of Fayette County are a sight to be seen. Go inside a plain white steeple church and you will find a European styled painted church of high gothic windows, tall spires, elaborately painted interiors with brilliant colors, and friezes created by the German and Czech settlers in America.

Blue Bell Creamery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brenham, Texas

Blue Bell fans travel from all over to see the making of their favorite ice cream. At The Little Creamery in Brenham, visitors can watch the manufacturing process from an observation deck. The self-guided tours conclude with $1 scoops from the parlor. In addition to regular favorites, the creamery also serves special flavors like Cookies ’n Cream and Pecan Pralines ’n Cream and the newest flavor to temp your taste buds, Fudge Brownie Decadence.

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island, Texas

Galveston Island is home to numerous attractions including Moody Gardens, Schitterbahn Waterpark, the Historic Pleasure Pier, dazzling Victorian architecture, and 32 miles of sun-kissed beaches. Come to the island to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Or come to the island to go fishing or look for coastal birds. No matter what brings you here, you’ll find a refuge on Galveston Island. Just an hour from Houston, but an island apart!

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana

The Creole Nature Trail meanders 180 miles through three National Wildlife Refuges. The main route is U-shaped with spur roads along the Gulf shoreline and angling into other reserves like Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge and the Peveto Woods Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary. This is the Louisiana Outback with plenty of wildlife and bird watching.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Back in 1799, Acadian pioneer Firmin Breaux Breaux built a suspension footbridge across the Bayou Teche to help ease the passage for his family and neighbors. In 1817, Firmin’s son, Agricole, built the first vehicular bridge. Breaux Bridge and crawfish have become synonymous. Restaurants in Breaux Bridge were the first to offer crawfish on their menus and it was here that crawfish etouffee was created.

Tabasco factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Avery Island, Louisiana

Lush subtropical flora and live oaks draped with Spanish moss cover this geological oddity which is one of five “islands” rising above south Louisiana’s flat coastal marshes. The island occupies roughly 2,200 acres and sits atop a deposit of solid rock salt. Today, Avery Island remains the home of the TABASCO brand pepper sauce factory as well as Jungle Gardens and its Bird City wildfowl refuge. The Tabasco factory and the gardens are open for tours.

Billy’s Boudin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scott, Louisiana

The city of Scott’s motto is “Where the West Begins and Hospitality Never Ends” and that’s pretty fair. Its close proximity to Interstate 10 makes its quaint downtown district accessible to visitors for local shopping, art galleries, and boudin―lots and lots of boudin. The title “Boudin Capital of the World” was awarded to Scott by the state of Louisiana about five years ago. You can find the rice and meat-filled sausage staple at iconic joints like Billy’s Boudin and Cracklin, Don’s Specialty Meats, Best Stop Grocery, and NuNu’s Cajun Market.

Bay St. Louis

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

There’s St. Louis, and then there’s Bay St. Louis which dubs itself “a place apart.” Here, beach life meets folk art. Catch the Arts Alive event in March when dozens of artists’ studios collide for a community-enriching arts festival that features local works, live music, theater, literature, and lots of food.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile, Alabama

Don’t be fooled by the beautiful skyline reflecting off the bay; Mobile is more than just incredibly good-looking. Mobile is more than 300 years old, and that fact alone ensures there must be a lot of history associated with a city of that age. The many museums and historical homes help tell Mobile’s story. Eight National Register Historic Districts make up what is known as downtown and midtown Mobile. Explore the mighty WWII battleship USS Alabama. Visit the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum located at Hank Aaron Stadium. 

Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dauphin Island, Alabama

Dauphin Island provides a getaway atmosphere with attractions aimed at the family.Dauphin Island Park and Campground offers an abundance of recreation offerings and natural beauty. The campground is uniquely positioned so that guests have access to a secluded beach, public boat launches, Fort Gaines, and Audubon Bird Sanctuary. The Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab allows visitors the opportunity to explore the four ecosystems of coastal Alabama—the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the barrier islands, and Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Alabama

I-10 only spans about 66 miles through Alabama, but it is worth taking another detour to camp by the beach on the Gulf Coast. This state park has a uniquely designed beach pavilion and the largest pier on the Gulf of Mexico. There are almost 500 RV sites available at the campground including full hookup sites that can accommodate large rigs. The campground also has modern bathhouses, laundry facilities, a swimming pool with a splash pad, and bike rentals.

Orange Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flora-Bama (Florida-Alabama state line)

One of America’s top beach bars, The Flora-Bama Lounge is located uniquely on the Orange Beach, Alabama and Perdido Key, Florida line. About half an hour south of Pensacola this honky tonk has long been a landmark on its famous location. The Flora-Bama has five stages for live music and features bands of country, rock, dance, and beach music. Check back in during the annual interstate mullet toss in late April where competitors line up to see who can throw a fish the furthest across the state line.

Worth Pondering…

Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind.

—lyrics by Thomas William Cochrane, recorded by Rascal Flatts

Remembering Hank Aaron (1934-2021)

The Hall of Fame slugger, known as much for his graciousness as his 755 home runs, died at age 86

Baseball is but a game. The consequences of wins and losses are trivial but for the emotions of joy and sadness they leave on their fans. Those who play it well are renowned for their ability at this skill-specific endeavor. They are master craftsmen. When age and illness take them, we lose part of our youth and hold onto the memories of how they could excel in their sport.

Among the nearly 20,000 Major League Baseball players, Hank Aaron was one of the very few who transcended the game. He was bigger than baseball. He was a beacon for civil rights, of humility, and of honest work ethic. The Braves organization announced his death at age 86 on Friday (January 22. 2021).

Hank Aaron Stadium, Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aaron was one of the best to ever play this game. Aaron died as the all-time home run leader, at least among all players who played the game fairly. No one ever combined hitting for average and power over a more sustained period. Aaron played 23 seasons. He came to the plate almost 14,000 times. He hit .305 with 755 home runs and 6,856 total bases—more than 700 total bases beyond everyone else. The gap between Aaron and No. 2 on the list, Stan Musial, is more than 12 miles worth of bases.

Yet the numbers, great as they are, do not tell the story of the impact of Aaron. He is the most important baseball player in the 74 years since Jackie Robinson stepped on the diamond at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1947. It was also that Aaron conducted himself with hard work, class, and humility.

Hank Aaron Stadium, Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even when his glory days as a player were over, Aaron continued to dedicate himself to unselfishness, to helping others. He was a longtime executive with the Braves who grew the team’s minor league system. He established Chasing the Dream, a foundation that provides grants to children age nine to 12 to seek advance study in arts, music, dance, and sports.

In Mobile, Alabama, a home museum and a stadium complex honor Hank Aaron. Any time a famous figure’s childhood home is relocated to serve as a museum, you know that person is important. It’s even more compelling to learn that Henry Louis Aaron’s home is the only one ever relocated to honor a professional athlete.

Hank Aaron Stadium, Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum is the original Aaron family home built by Hank’s Dad, Herbert, in 1942. Originally, 25 feet by 25 feet, it consisted of just three small rooms. Later additions in 1962 and 1972 expanded it to its current seven rooms.

Hank’s mother, Estella lived in the home from 1942 to 2007. In 2008 it was moved from its original location to Hank Aaron Stadium. In 22 months it was restored to its original glory with the Grand Opening being held on April 14th, 2010. Seven MLB Hall of Famers and the Commissioner of MLB Bud Selig were in attendance.

Hank Aaron Stadium, Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2013, the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum was voted the 8th Best Baseball Museum in the Country—that directly speaks to the legacy of Hank Aaron. Memorabilia for this Museum comes directly from Hank Aaron, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and the Negro League Museum.

“Hank” Aaron was born on February 5, 1934, in Mobile. He was the third of eight children. His family could not afford baseball equipment so he used materials found on the streets—mostly bottle caps and sticks. His boyhood idol was Jackie Robinson who in 1947 became the first African-American to play baseball in the major leagues.

Aaron’s high school had no organized baseball team, so as a teen, he played outfield and third base for the semi-pro Pritchett Athletics and then for the Mobile Black Bears. As a junior in high school, he earned $3 a game, the equivalent of about $30 today. Aaron quit school, and by 1952, when he was 18, he was playing for the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns, earning $200 a month. He also received harsh lessons as a black man in a white society.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breakfasting with the Clowns one morning in Washington, D.C. in a restaurant behind Griffith Stadium he was more than startled “hearing them break all the plates in the kitchen after we finished eating,” he later wrote. “What a horrible sound. Even as a kid, the irony of it hit me: Here we were in the capital in the land of freedom and equality and they had to destroy the plates that had touched the forks that had been in the mouths of black men. If dogs had eaten off those plates, they’d have washed them.”

To endure that kind of prejudice, he needed great mental strength, a quality he believed came from his parents. They instilled into their children “Faith in God, personal integrity, dignity, and a humble spirit,” according to a plaque in the museum.

In 1953 Aaron was playing for the Jacksonville (Florida) Tars in the South Atlantic League. The team’s new owner, Samuel W. Wolfson, replaced the Tars with a minor league club named the Jacksonville Braves which was affiliated with the Boston (soon to be Milwaukee) Braves. Wolfson brought in Aaron and two other black players thus integrating the team for the first time. At the end of the season, the 19-year-old was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Honoring Hank Aaron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then the call came from the majors. During a spring training game in March 1954, Milwaukee Braves left fielder Bobby Thomson fractured his ankle. The next day, Aaron made his first spring training start for the Braves. The new left fielder even hit a home run that day. Aaron signed a major league contract on the final day of spring training and was given a Braves uniform with the number 5.

On April 13, 1954, Aaron made his major league debut. “Hammerin’ Hank” had an astonishing 23-year career. He remains on many top-10, best-ever batting lists. Not to mention the fact that he hit 755 home runs. Hank Aaron’s other achievements include batting .300 or better for 14 seasons; first player to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits; 2,297 RBIs, the most in history; and selected for 25 all-star games, played in 24.

Back in those days, I was a huge baseball fan. First, a big fan of Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox and am still partial to the Red Sox. Then a big fan of Hank Aaron and the other stars of the Milwaukee Braves—pitchers Warren Spawn and Lew Burdette, catcher Del Crandall, third base Eddie Mathews, and first base Joe Adcock.

Worth Pondering…

Failure is a part of success.

—Hank Aaron

Rockport-Fulton: Charm of the Texas Coast

Rockport-Fulton has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for many years

Find yourself in Rockport-Fulton and discover why Rockport-Fulton is the Charm of the Texas Coast. You’ll find a sandy beach, a birder’s paradise, a thriving arts community, unique shopping, delectable seafood, unlimited outdoor recreation, historical sites, and great fishing.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life around Rockport-Fulton changed dramatically August 25, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Cat 4 hurricane, made landfall directly across the area. Rockport’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey three years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bay setting, and frequent festivals feels fresh again.

Rockport-Fulton following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Three-hour whooping crane tours depart Fulton Harbor and motor eight miles across Aransas Bay to get a close-up view of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the centerpiece of Rockport-Fulton’s ecotourism offerings. The Aransas refuge is the winter home of the only remaining wild migratory flock of whooping cranes in the world, an endangered species with a local population of roughly 280. The flock’s numbers had dwindled to about 15 birds in the 1940s, but the refuge—created in 1937 as a haven for migratory birds—provided a patch of safe habitat for the cranes to recover.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the summer when the whoopers are at their Northern Canadian breeding grounds, boat tours offer dolphin-watching and sunset cruises. There are plenty of birds to see in the summer as well. The tours also provide a thumbnail introduction to Coastal Bend ecology and industry.

Texas Maritime Museum, Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A mixture of sand and pebbles that stretches for several hundred yards, Rockport Beach is a park set on a small peninsula next to Rockport Harbor. Thatch-roof umbrellas on wooden posts offer bits of shade and a grass lawn provides space for covered picnic tables and a playground.

Aransas Pathway Center, Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding, history, kayaking, and hiking and biking trails come together at Pathways Center, the principal information center for the new Aransas Pathway projects. There is also a deck for relaxing and observing Tule Creek and the adjoining Shellcrete Birding and Nature site. A bridge connects the north and south sides of Tule Creek and the nature site. This facility functions as the trailhead for Pathways eco-tourism projects in the Aransas County.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For many visitors to Rockport-Fulton, the estuaries of Aransas and neighboring bays are most notable for their prime sportfishing and duck hunting. Sportsmen from Texas and beyond have made Rockport-Fulton a destination since the railroad arrived in 1888. Aransas and San Antonio bays, together covering more than 350 square miles, are famous for their redfish, trout, flounder, and drum.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ironically, it was turf—not surf—that put the Rockport area on the map in the second half of the 19th Century. The Fulton Mansion State Historic Site recalls the region’s ranching history and tenure as a shipping center.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In pursuit of distant markets for their beef and cattle byproducts, George Fulton and his associates developed cutting-edge methods of refrigeration for meatpacking and shipping. The meatpacking industry fizzled in the 1880s when the railroad arrived and shippers found it cheaper to move live cattle by rail. However, the infrastructure continued to sustain a profitable but short-lived turtle meat industry, satisfying big-city demand for a delicacy of the time period—sea turtle soup.

Fulton Mansion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Because the Fultons had lived in the eastern U.S. for a while, they knew about the latest innovations and conveniences you could have in a home, so they built it with three flush toilets, hot and cold running water, central heating, and gas lighting.

The Big Tree following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Fulton Mansion is worth a stop to see the mansion’s stylish French Second Empire exterior and the verdant grounds shaded by large live oak trees. In fact, the majestic live oaks along this stretch of the Coastal Bend are a worthy attraction in and of themselves. Some are individually famous, such as the gnarly, millennium-old “Big Tree” at Goose Island State Park and the Zachary Taylor Oak where Taylor camped in 1845. Other stands of wind-sculpted oaks near the shoreline are remarkable for their shape—angled, twisted, and reaching inland from decades of prevailing winds and salt build-up on their seaward edge.

Goose Island Stat Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come evening, after a day of exploring Rockport-Fulton’s coastal scene, a fitting way to reflect on the experience is from the shade of one of these magnificent live oaks. As the bright orange sun sinks into the horizon, a gentle breeze blows ashore, it’s simple to understand why Winter Texans love this stretch of the Gulf Coast.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

Good Sam Releases 2021 Top Rated Parks

Assessment of the top rated RV parks and resorts

Searching for that perfect camping experience? Search no more. Good Sam has released its newly minted list of top rated RV parks and resorts. For 2021, a total of 153 Good Sam Parks scored flawless 10/10★/10 ratings based on the Good Sam evaluation system, a three-number rating of a campground’s amenities, cleanliness, and environment/visual appearance. Each category is rated on a scale of one to 10, and a star is added for exceptionally clean restrooms. These parks listed by state and province along with other helpful RV-related content in their 2021 edition of the Good Sam Campground & Coupon Guide.

Having visited 36 of these top parks, I concur with the majority of the 2021 Good Sam’s ratings and present my Top 20 RV Parks and Resorts for 2021 in two categories: My Top RV Parks that Received a Perfect Rating by Good Sam and My Top RV Parks Not Receiving a Perfect Rating by Good Sam.

My Top RV Parks that Received a Perfect Rating by Good Sam

Arizona

Vista Del Sol RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vista Del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona

This area has needed a new 5-star RV resort and in November 2015 a new Roberts resort opened with paved streets. The 88 wide concrete sites are terraced both back-ins and pull-in in the 65 foot range with paved sites and patios. The pull-in sites face to the west-northwest with views of the hills and mountains as well as Bullhead City, Laughlin, and the Colorado River. Resort services include Wi-Fi, two pools, one spa, fitness room, billiards/game room, daily activities, Doggie Park, gated entry, and clubhouse with commercial kitchen and serving area for groups.

Canyon Vista RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona

Canyon Vistas RV Resort is nestled at the base of the Superstition Mountains in the Gold Canyon area southeast of Phoenix. Enjoy a morning walk or bike ride or keep in shape at the state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Meet your friends for a round of golf at the pitch and putt course followed by a cool drink on the covered veranda. Go hiking, boating, and horseback riding in the nearby mountains. Other amenities include ceramics, wood carving, lapidary, pickleball, computer lab and classes, quilting and sewing room, pools and spas, tennis courts, and pet area.

California

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort, Borrego Springs, California

Nestled within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course provide 163 spacious RV sites. Try your hand at tennis or challenge yourself to a game of pickle ball. Relax your muscles with a soothing massage or a soak in their hot mineral baths or go for a round of golf at their 9-hole championship course. The resort offers large pads with ample space and privacy between sites along with double pedestals between each RV site allowing you to plug in and camp from either side. Big rig-friendly, the resort offers 90 spacious pull-through sites 35 feet wide and 70 premium back-in sites averaging 40 feet by 80 feet.

Durango RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California

Big-rig friendly, Durango is a 5-star resort located on the Sacramento River. The park is well laid out and designed. Most sites are pull-through, 70-90 feet in length and 30-35 feet wide. In addition there are 11 riverfront sites and 21 water-feature spaces (fountains); these sites have utilities on both sides of the concrete pads enabling fifth wheels and travel trailer to back onto the sites and motorhomes to drive forward maximizing the view and water features. In addition, there are a number of buddy sites.

Louisiana

Cajun Palms RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana

New in 2009 with paved streets, Cajun Palms offers long pull-through sites that range in length from 55 to 75 feet. Not to be ignored are the back-ins to the lake in the 55-60 foot range. Pull through and back-in sites have 20 feet of space between each concrete pad. A full service resort, Cajun Palms features numerous traditional as well as high tech amenities. Accommodations consist of over 300 deluxe RV sites and 25 cabins. RV sites have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp, 70+ channels of digital cable, and on-site water and sewer. 

Oregon

Seven Feathers RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville, Oregon

Seven Feathers RV Resort is situated on 23 acres of well-maintained lawns and landscaping. All sites have level, concrete pads, and patios. Whether you choose to relax on your patio, enjoy the heated pool and hot tub, work out in the fitness room, shop in the Gift Boutique, meet friends in the Gathering Room, or take part in the night life of the Seven Feathers Casino—you can expect an enjoyable stay. The RV resort offers 182 full hookup sites with 30/50 amp electric including 102 pull-through sites and 78 back-in sites, six log cabins, and three yurts.

Tennessee

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee

Two Rivers Landing is a luxury RV Resort nestled along the banks of the beautiful French Broad River. A 5-star resort with 25 river front (drive-in sites) and 30 river view (back-in sites), Two Rivers Landing offers 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV conveniently located centrally. Interior roads are paved; individual sites are concrete, 70 feet in length and 22 feet wide. All sites surrounded by beautiful landscaping. This is resort living at its best.

Texas

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, Mission, Texas

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is one of the most unique RV Resorts in South Texas and is part of the 2,600-acre Master Planned Community of Bentsen Palm Development. Bentsen Palm Village is located in South Mission at the entrance to World Birding Center headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Bentsen Palm Village offers over 250 large pull-through and back-in sites, full hookups, rental cabins and casitas, and native landscaping. Super Sites offer a 10×12 storage building that can be locked and secured.

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas

This upscale resort makes for a perfect home base to explore the Texas Hill Country. All sites are paved, have a paved patio and offer satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and instant-on phone. Relax around the two heated swimming pools/spas. While staying in the park, check out the “Club” section, a unique approach to the RV lifestyle. You’ll definitely want to make this resort a repeat stop on your RVing agenda.

Washington

Columbia Sun RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington

Big-rig friendly, Columbia Sun RV Resort is a new 5-star resort that opened in 2013. Spacious sites, manicured grass on both sides, and wide paved streets. Washington’s Tri-Cities area—Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland—is a great area to visit to explore the outdoors while still being close to shopping, dining, and wineries. The Columbia Sun Resort has a heated swimming pool, hot tub, fitness room, game room, dog runs, sports court, and a playground.

My Top RV Parks Not Receiving a Perfect Rating by Good Sam

Alabama

Bella Terra RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bella Terra RV Resort, Foley, Alabama

This upscale resort on the Gulf Coast isn’t short on luxury. Expect to find an upscale Class A motor coach ownership resort with paved interior roads. Lot sizes range from 3,500 to 4,500 square feet with paved pads approximately 16 feet x 75 feet and a paved patio. Select from pull-in facing the nine-acre lake pull-through, or back-in sites. Cable TV, Wi-Fi, telephone, and 200 amp service capability. Amenities include a 6,000 sq. ft. clubhouse and zero entry infinity pool with Jacuzzi and patio overlooking the lake. Inside you will discover a theater room, fitness center, dry sauna, pedicure/massage room, and lounge/bar area.

Lake Osprey RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta, Alabama

A new destination luxury RV resort, Lake Osprey is located near the sugar-sand beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast. The resort offers 147 RV sites located within a nature preserve next to Soldiers Creek Golf Club. Each RV lot has an extra-long 16-foot x 75-foot concrete pad, lighted pedestal, and lake or courtyard view. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and laundry.

Arizona

Wahweep RV Park and Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wahweep RV Park and Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona

Centrally located at Wahweap Marina, the campsites are about one-quarter mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. The RV park/campground offers 139 sites with 30 and 50 amp service, water, and sewer. Sites accommodate up to 45 feet. 

Sonoran Desert RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona

After a day of rolling through the dramatic and diverse Sonoran Desert, you can roll your rig right into this oasis in the desert. Formerly, Gila Bend KOA, the campground offers 100 foot full-hookup pull-through sites. Relax by the heated pool or just soak up the desert views and dark evening skies from your site. Fido will love the 4,000-square-foot Canine Corral with three separate corrals. Amenities include Wi-Fi throughout the park, laundry facility, putting green, heated pool, and recreation hall Ranch House with 2,500 sq. ft. veranda.

California

Orange Groove RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Orange Groove RV Park. Bakersfield, California

Orange Groove is a unique full service RV park and resort. It’s a 40-acre orchard on the eastern edge of Bakersfield where you park your RV between rows of beautiful orange trees. Easy-on, easy-off (SR-58 at Exit 119), the 177 pull-through sites are 65-feet and 90-feet long plus extra wide which makes coming and going a breeze. You just pull right in, pick an orange and enjoy. This park is a popular overnight stop for snowbirds. The nearby California Fruit Depot offers free samples, good quality, and excellent prices for Medjool dates, oranges, grapefruit, pistachios, and more.

Georgia

Creek Fire RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia

About 20 minutes west of Historic Savannah, Creek Fire is a new RV resort conveniently located ½ mile west of Interstate 95 at Exit 94. The park offers 105 RV sites, all suitable for big rigs. Site options include back-in and pull-through, gravel and concrete. Interior roads are asphalt. The park is adding 100+ new sites, two new pool features, rally building, pool bar and restaurant, market, and gym. Resort amenities include canoe, kayak, and boat rentals; 1 mile nature trail around the lake, tennis/pickleball court, bocce ball, and full shower and laundry facilities.

Idaho

Ambassador RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho

Ambassador RV Resort is a 5-star resort that is easy-on, easy off (I-84 at Exit 29) with 188 full-service sites, pool, spa, sauna, and 5,000 square foot recreation hall. Features 30-foot x 85-foot short term pull-through sites, 35-foot x 75-foot long term pull through sites, 45-foot x 60-foot back-in sites and wide-paved streets. Pets are welcome if friendly and owner is well trained.

Louisiana

Reunion Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reunion Lake RV Resort, Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Reunion Lake RV Resort is a gated resort with top-rated facilities and service and all-concrete roadways. Built around a scenic lake the park offers an adult pool with swim-up bar, poolside cabanas, a lazy river with tiki bar, giant hot tub, fitness center, family pool, basketball and pickleball courts, fenced-in dog park.

New Mexico

Hacienda RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Hacienda RV Resort is located off the I-10, exit 140, in Las Cruces, 1.5 miles from Historic Old Mesilla. Hacienda offer paved roads leading to 113 spacious RV sites with a variety of sizes and layouts with many boasting breathtaking views of the Organ Mountains. Relax in the large outdoor patio with a wood burning fireplace or enjoy the comfortable southwestern community clubhouse with an indoor fireplace, workout facility, and gift shop. Choose from pull-through sites (55– 59 feet), back-in sites (34–36 feet), extra-long back-in sites (52–53 feet), and extra-long, big rig pull-through sites (69–130 feet).

Washington

Columbia Riverfront RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington

A quiet getaway on ten acres of beautifully maintained property right on the sandy beach of the Columbia River, Columbia Riverfront is big-rig friendly. With a view of the Columbia River out our windshield, our pull-in site was 45 feet in length with room for the toad. Pull-through sites in the 85-95 foot range are also available. Interior roads are paved and sites are crushed gravel and level. Columbia Riverfront is located 22 miles north of Portland, Oregon, in Woodland off I-5 (Exit 22); west 3.25 miles on Dike Access and Dike roads.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

Fascinating Hopi-inspired Pueblo Amazes

Cabot Yerxa followed his heart and created an iconic place

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he used re-purposed materials and a little ingenuity to build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day.

Cabot’s Hopi-style pueblo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the structure’s architecture is a unique sight to behold, there’s more to see here than Cabot’s Hopi-style pueblo. Inside, the house has been turned into a museum with rooms filled with Indian artifacts, artwork, and memorabilia. One not to be missed artifact is Waokiye, a 43-foot sculpture of a Native American head. Waokiye is one of 74 heads in the “Trail of the Whispering Giants” collection.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabot’s pueblo spreads an impressive 5,000 square feet, divided into 35 rooms and adorned with 150 windows and 65 doors. What a sight it is to see!

Cabot Yerxa was an incredible man often described as a visionary, artist, writer, builder, architect, adventurer, explorer, collector, idealist, and entrepreneur. He was a human rights activist concerned about the legal, economic, and cultural crisis for Native Americans. Cabot was a highly degreed Mason. Masons believe in independent thinking and self-actualization. Cabot was also the president and founder of the Theosophical Society in 1946-47 in Desert Hot Springs.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before settling in the California desert, Cabot Yerxa led an adventurous life traveling to Mexico, Alaska, Cuba, and Europe. In Paris, France he studied at the Academie Julian art school.

In 1913 (at age 30) Cabot homesteaded 160 acres in what is now Desert Hot Springs. Pressed for water, he dug a well with pick and shovel, discovering the now famous hot mineral waters of Desert Hot Springs. Nearby, he dug a second well and discovered the pure cold water of the Mission Springs Aquifer. These two wells, hot and cold, give the area its name—Miracle Hill.

Cabot Yerxa started building his Museum and home in about 1941 at the age of 57, although collecting the materials he needed to build the Pueblo started years before. The Hopi-inspired structure is hand-made created from reclaimed and found materials. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabot was inspired as a young boy when he first saw a replica of a Southwest Indian pueblo at the Chicago World Fair. Much of the material used to build the Pueblo was from abandoned cabins that had housed the men who built the California aqueduct in the 1930s. Cabot purchased these cabins and deconstructed them to build his Pueblo.

Much of the Pueblo is made from adobe-style and sun-dried brick Cabot made himself in the courtyard. Cabot modified his formula and used a cup of cement rather than straw to make his bricks.

Waokiye, Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Artist Peter “Wolf” Toth and his wife, Kathy, lived on and off at the Pueblo for almost six months while he created Waokiye. The 27th Giant in the series, Waokiye was created using power tools for the rough finishing and completed with a #5 chisel and a hammer. Including the pedestal, the entire statue is over 40 feet tall, weighs over 20 tons, and overlooks the Museum and city of Desert Hot Springs.

Waokiye (Y-oh-kee-ay), means “Traditional Helper” in the Lakota Sioux language.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Waokiye was completed in May 1978. At the dedication ceremony Toth simply said, “The American Indian is a proud and often misunderstood people…even as a young boy I had admiration for my Indian brothers and perhaps this monument, and all the others, will bring awareness of a proud and great people.”

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Toth was an immigrant to the United States from Hungary. His family fled from the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. In learning about the Native American culture, he empathized with the tribes’ situation. He saw parallels to the violent repression of the Magyar people he experienced in Hungary.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Toth started his project, The Trail of Whispering Giants, to highlight the struggle of the American Indians for justice and recognition of their human rights. The series has over 70 statues remaining throughout the United States, Canada, and Hungary. They represent all humanity and stand against injustice to all people. This philosophy is a mirror of Cabot Yerxa’s 50-year commitment as an American Indian Rights activist.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

—Arthur Ashe

A Cheaper Mini-Vegas

Laughlin is a more relaxed Las Vegas. They’ve created a niche with Nevada-style gaming, but without the high-speed lifestyle of the Las Vegas Strip.

While flying his plane over the Colorado River in 1964, Don Laughlin saw a world of potential in a strip of Nevada land across the river from Arizona’s Bullhead City. At the time the area was home to less than a thousand people. He took a big risk invested it into an old boarded-up eight-room motel. From there, success took over.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That motel added casino games and eventually evolved into the Riverside Resort with two massive towers. The town itself—about a 90-minute drive from Las Vegas—became official when postal services were established.

Don Laughlin is still going strong at 88 years and living in a penthouse at the top of his resort. The town that shares his name is now home to nine casino hotels, 10 if you include the Avi Resort about 15 miles south on Native American land. 

Laughlin’s population is approximately 10,000 while Bullhead City and its unincorporated area boast a population of about 42,000 permanent residents. An estimated 14,000 Nevada and Arizona residents currently work in Laughlin’s hotels and casinos. Multi-million dollar Laughlin housing developments have rushed into construction to keep pace with the business boom.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stretch your legs while exploring Laughlin on foot at the Riverwalk. Well maintained and offering fantastic views of the city and the Colorado River, the Laughlin Riverwalk is a great way to get from one casino to the other while soaking up sights like Don Laughlin’s Riverside to the boats sailing by.

The coolest way to get around town is by water taxi. These small boats, piloted by certified captains, zip around on the river from one property to another. Most casinos have their own dock and if you stand around on one, a water taxi will show up fairly quick. A single ride is $5, although wristband deals are available for unlimited rides.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If someone directs you to anything described as a “nightclub,” be warned it won’t be anything like Vegas. They’re mostly lounges with live bands and line dancing. Bikini Bay Bar & Nightclub is really a sports bar with pool tables and drinks served by girls in bikinis who dance on countertops. It’s probably the closest thing you’ll find to a strip club in Laughlin—and oddly enough, it’s at the outlet mall. 

One local gem is Losers’ Lounge, a two-level drinking spot where the walls are decorated with framed photos of “losers” throughout history like OJ Simpson and Tonya Harding. The gallery stays surprisingly up to date—recent additions include Bill Cosby and Lori Loughlin. 

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No trip to Laughlin is complete without a detour to Oatman, a Route 66 ghost town in Arizona that has become a bit more touristy over the years. The new escape room at the local jail is fun. But be sure to visit the Oatman Hotel for lunch. The restaurant has buffalo burgers and the walls (and even parts of the ceiling) are covered with dollar bills.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the real draw is the burros roaming Oatman whose ancestors were brought in to work during the mining days. A few unwritten rules to follow: first—burros and dogs don’t mix. Second—don’t feed the burros carrots, which are high in sugar and do a number on the digestive tract. You’re more than welcome to feed them alfalfa squares, sold in bags for a dollar. Finally—when the burros are in the middle of the road (which they frequently are), they have the right of way. Cars have to wait, no matter how long it takes. No honking, revving engines, or doing anything else to encourage them to move along. The burros own the town!

For another out-of-town excursion, Jet Boat tours travel nearly 60 miles down the river from Laughlin to Lake Havasu. You can hang out in the town for a few hours and check out London Bridge, a historic structure that actually spanned the River Thames and was brought over brick by brick. Along the way, the boat travels past the California town of Needles, the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, and vantage points that can only be seen from the water, including petroglyphs in Topock Gorge. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And if you’re looking for a selfie station take a photo with River Rick. Or at the Losers’ Lounge. Or at any one of the other gems in Don Laughlin’s little resort town.

Worth Pondering…

The road is there, it will always be there. You just have to decide when to take it.

—Chris Humphrey

Snowbirding in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert offers an impressive array of colorful flora and fauna, scenic drives, and outdoor recreation—all a stone’s throw from the urban sprawl of Phoenix

The central Arizona region of the Sonoran Desert is a lush landscape full of exotic vegetation, unusual wildlife, colorful wildflowers, and even a few rivers and lakes. Best of all, this natural beauty is very accessible for RVers staying within the Valley of the Sun. It is no wonder that snowbirds flock to Arizona every winter to escape the northern blizzards and enjoy the wonders of the desert.

Phoenix is the sixth largest city in America, and it sits on a massive, flat expanse of land that is dotted with ancient volcanic mountain peaks jutting up from the desert floor. Many of these areas have been set aside as recreation areas for the public and there are extensive hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trail systems in every direction from the heart of the city.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For decades, Phoenicians have taken to the outdoors on the popular trails at South Mountain, Camelback Mountain, Papago Park, and at the Maricopa County Regional Parks. These trails are wonderful places to commune with cactus wrens, cottontail rabbits, and the many species of cactus, especially the saguaro cactus that stand tall with their arms raised skyward.

Usery Mountain, A Maricopa County Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For RVers wintering in the area these urban trails make for an ideal excursion but the real treasures of the Sonoran Desert are but a short drive and just a few miles farther east of the metro area. Many snowbirds use Mesa or Apache Junction as their home base for exploring the wild side of Arizona’s deserts and spend many a happy day discovering the gems of the Sonoran Desert that lay just beyond their RV site.

Along Bush Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A favorite day trip is a drive along the Bush Highway which winds between state routes 87 and 202 northeast of Phoenix. This stunningly scenic drive follows the scenic Salt River through some of the most eye-popping landscapes in central Arizona. Although this state isn’t known for having four real seasons when autumn arrives in late November and December, the whole area erupts in vivid fall colors and nowhere are they more vibrant than along the Salt River.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A little farther east on the Bush Highway is an entirely different habitat where the Salt River was dammed to form lovely Saguaro Lake. With a marina at one end of the lake, the boating community is very active on weekends with locals in their small power and sailboats.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tourists can enjoy the water aboard the Desert Belle, a double-decker boat that gives guided tours down the long, skinny lake into the canyons where the desert hillsides rise up from the shore. What an ideal place to take a selfie to send to friends back home who are shoveling snow!

McDowell Mountain, a Maricopa County Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For RVers who wish to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, there are four outstanding public campgrounds with paved loops, sites large enough for big rigs and electric and water hookups: McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Usery Mountain Regional Park, White Tank Mountains Regional Park, and Lost Dutchman State Park. Each has an RV dump station to empty the holding tanks at the end of your stay.

The beauty of staying in one of these parks is that there are great hiking trails and gorgeous Sonoran Desert scenery right outside your door. These are all popular spots for RVers during the winter months, and advanced reservations are highly recommended.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in Apache Junction, Lost Dutchman State Park marks the beginning of the incomparable Apache Trail (State Route 88), a scenic drive that goes through some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring Sonoran Desert terrain in the state. You’ll need to leave your RV at the campground and take your toad on this route. A significant portion of Apache Trail is unimproved though the first 20 miles of the byway is paved and winds between hills and valleys filled with saguaro, prickly pear, and cholla cactus. After passing the vivid blue waters of Canyon Lake, you’ll encounter the little town of Tortilla Flat, population 6. Shortly after leaving town, the road turns to gravel for the next 20 miles and continues its weaving path through exquisite desert landscapes and passes a breathtaking viewpoint high up on a plateau.

If the word “desert” has always evoked images of camels and vast sand dunes for you, take your RV to the Sonoran Desert in central Arizona and discover the color and vitality of this unique place.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever.

Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.

Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”.

There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.