All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
One of the most beloved lines from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is this bit of wisdom imparted from the wizard Gandalf to the young hobbit Frodo. In the first book, 1954’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Frodo inherits a cursed ring and realizes he must take a frightening journey to destroy it. After confiding to Gandalf that he wishes the task had fallen to someone else, the wizard reminds Frodo that no one gets to dictate what challenges they face. Rather than lamenting unavoidable hardships, time is better spent focusing on the choices within our control, and making our time on Earth (or Middle-Earth) meaningful.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in March and April. Also check out my recommendations from May 2021 and June 2021.
Great Smoky Mountains
Established in 1926, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is comprised of the ridge upon ridge of seemingly endless forest on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. Called the Smokies due to the ever-present morning fog, this mountain range is world-renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and its history of southern Appalachian mountain culture. With nearly 80 historic buildings, spectacular displays of wildflowers, and abundant wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers myriad activities to enjoy.
Observing wildlife is one of the most popular things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains. With a wide variety of animals including approximately 1,500 black bears, the park is a biologist’s paradise. Over 17,000 species have been recorded at the park and experts estimate that there are thousands more to discover. Fishermen can try their hand at catching brook, brown, or rainbow trout swimming throughout the 700 plus miles of fishable streams in the park.
Waco’s bad rap as a hotbed of cult activity has all but been erased by the flurry of excitement around HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” and Chip and Joanna Gaines’ modern farmhouse empire. Visitors can shop the Magnolia Trail or take a guided tour of homes and retailers featured on the show—you can even stay in Airbnb homes the duo remodeled (or ones that have been done in a similar style).
Antique shops and airy cafes aren’t the only things Waco has to offer. Sightseers will want to tour one of the many historic estates in the area like the Earle-Harrison House & Pape Gardens, the East Terrace Museum, and the Earle-Napier-Kinnard House. Lovers of natural history will want to check out the Mayborn Museum on the Baylor University campus while nature lovers will want to get into the great outdoors and hike or cycle the trails at Cameron Park.
Founded in 1968, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum is the official hall of fame, museum, and archives for the Texas Rangers, the oldest law enforcement agency in the United States and a symbol of the American West. The museum also is the headquarters for Ranger Company F.
While in Waco, take a tour of the Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute, a place that serves up history, nostalgia, and Waco’s favorite authentic soda fountain drinks. Most people agree: there’s nothing like a cold Dr Pepper float on a hot summer day, especially when enjoyed in the ambiance of a classic 1950’s soda fountain.
The City Different
In recent years, Santa Fe has emerged from the desert as an oasis for incredible food, art, culture, and natural beauty in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Nicknamed “The City Different,” New Mexico’s capital city serves as a thriving creative hub; for proof, look to the trippy installations at Meow Wolf, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the classic Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. (One might argue that a day trip to El Malpais National Monument or El Moro National Monument could be equally inspiring.)
Santa Fe is also home to many a tasty snack. We’re not just talking Hatch chiles—though those should be enjoyed, too, specifically in a cheeseburger at Shake Foundation and atop world-class Tex-Mex fare at a classic joint like Tia Sophia’s. And don’t skimp on the booze—this is allegedly the birthplace of the margarita, after all. Hit up Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, which boasts a 60-year legacy and more than 200 varieties on its binder-like menu.
The Charm of Cottonwood
Located in the heart of Arizona and the heart of wine country, Cottonwood is ideally situated above the heat of the desert and below the cooler temperatures of Arizona’s high country. Surrounded by the red rocks of Sedona to the northeast and Mingus Mountain to the southwest, its lower elevation makes it a perfect spot for your next Arizona adventure.
Old Town Cottonwood is known for its Main Street with over 60 businesses including charming boutique hotels, wonderful restaurants, shops, antique stores, and wine tasting rooms. The Verde Valley Wine Trail runs right through town and has more stops here than anywhere else on the trail. Sit back and sip, savor, and enjoy the fruit of the vine in Old Town.
Cottonwood is also home to Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Less than two miles from Old Town, this landmark has earned a reputation as a favorite fishing hole, bird lover’s paradise, and hiker’s dream. Its trails meander through sycamore and cottonwood trees along the banks of the Verde River making it a jewel in the center of Cottonwood all year round. Visit Cottonwood, the heart of Arizona wine country, where everyone is welcome!
Czech out La Grange
You’ll discover a fanciful cache of history and culture in the Central Texas community of La Grange, a town steeped in German and Czech culture. Much of the town’s history is encased in dignified old architecture laid in the late 1800s. The three-story Fayette County Courthouse is a masonry and stone Romanesque Revival structure with a clock tower over the main entrance.
Though many of the original buildings in La Grange are more than a century old, a number of them have been renovated and serve as creative outlets, blending history and modern-day function. The Texas Quilt Museum opened November 2011 in a two historic 1890s buildings, which provide a stunning showcase for both antique and contemporary quilt art with their high ceilings, brick walls, and original hardwood floors.
Mesa Top Auto Loop Road
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.
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. From remains of early pithouses and masonry villages to multi-storied cliff dwellings, archeological sites along this loop show how early Pueblo architecture evolved.
Along the road, you’ll find short, easily-accessible paved trails to view twelve archeological sites. Short trails along the Mesa Top Loop lead to surface sites such as pithouses and pueblos; overlooks of cliff dwellings tucked into alcoves; and viewpoints where you can enjoy the beauty of the landscape that was home to generations of Ancestral Pueblo people.
Highlights include Square Tower House Overlook, and views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point View and Sun Temple. The Mesa Top Loop Road is open daily, 8:00 am to sunset.
Charleston to Savannah
Lined with massive oak trees that drip with Spanish moss and elegant antebellum plantations, the two-hour drive between two of America’s favorite southern cities makes for a fantastic road trip. Stroll the charming cobblestone streets of Charleston, South Carolina, and wander past secluded gardens and historic buildings that boast intricate iron-wrought balconies. Seek respite in the scorching heat of summer in the cool shades of Waterfront Park.
Explore the Historic District by horse-drawn carriage in Savannah, Georgia, and embark on leisurely strolls along the Savannah River. Shop and indulge in the regional cuisine on River Street where historic cotton warehouses have been converted into trendy boutiques and restaurants making sure to sample fried green tomatoes and hearty plates of shrimp and grits.
The Giant Peach Does Exist
You can’t miss it as you drive down I-85 in South Carolina. The Peachoid, as it’s called, is a massive peach-shaped water tower. In Gaffney, the Peachoid is more than a water tower. According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.”
Without a doubt, the best known, most photographed water tank in America. It is painted to match the kind of peaches grown in the area using 20 colors and 50 gallons of paint.
Lackawanna State Park
The 1,445-acre Lackawanna State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania ten miles north of Scranton. The centerpiece of the park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through the forest. Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming are popular recreation activities. A series of looping trails limited to foot traffic wander through the campground and day-use areas of the park. Additional multi-use trails explore forests, fields, lakeshore areas, and woodland streams.
The campground is within walking distance of the lake and swimming pool and features forested sites with electric hook-ups and walk-in tent sites. Campground shower houses provide warm showers and flush toilets. A sanitary dump station is near the campground entrance. In addition the park offers three camping cottages, two yurts, and three group camping areas. The maximum reservation window is 12 months in advance to the date.
Indian Creek Scenic Drive
Amidst the red rock of the Moab area, the Indian Creek Corridor scenic byway leads to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Traversing across high sage plains, the route eventually leads to Indian Creek and Newspaper Rock Recreation Site.
This Utah Scenic Byway traverses a high altitude (6,000 feet) sage plain before plunging into Indian Creek Canyon on its way to Canyonlands National Park. Along the way it passes the Dugout Ranch, one of the oldest operating cattle ranches in southeast Utah. The byway accesses Newspaper Rock BLM Recreation Site and cuts through the Canyon Rims BLM Recreation Area, a vast landscape of desert and low elevation mountain terrain with hiking and four wheeling opportunities.
When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; fresh violets open every day; to some new bird each hour we listen.