Hike Smart: How to Stay Hydrated on the Trail

Water, water, water! The magical liquid that keeps us alive!

Hiking a ridge, a meadow, or a river bottom, is as healthy a form of exercise as one can get. Hiking seems to put all the body cells back into rhythm.

—William O. Douglas, Justice, United States Supreme Court

As the weather warms up, hiking starts to be the go-to weekend activity. With amazing trails in parks across the country, it’s a perfect time to lace up your boots and explore the diversity of landscapes and views. RVingwithRex.com has you covered with tips to hike safe and have fun this summer.

Did someone say water? Bring more water than you think you’ll need, every time. Pre-hydrate before you head out starting the night before a hike. Drink throughout the day and always over-prepare. When you’ve finished half of your water supply, it’s time to turn around—no matter where you are on the trail.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan ahead! Before you hike, check and download any trail maps or guides you might need. Take a GPS with you and make sure your phone is fully charged. If you’re hiking alone, let someone know where you’re going and about how long you’ll be gone. Most parks have rangers available to help you pick the trail that’s right for you.

Maintaining body fluids is essential for sweating so you must hydrate before, during, and after your hikes. Limit the amount of caffeine drinks such as coffee and colas because caffeine increases fluid loss. Avoid alcoholic drinks—they also cause dehydration.

When engaged in strenuous trail activity or when hiking in hot environments, drink at least one quart of fluid per hour. Providing a portion of fluid replacement with a carbohydrate/electrolyte sport beverage will help retain fluids and maintain energy and electrolyte levels—however, uou need to alternate sports drinks with plain water.

Continue drinking after hiking to replace fluid losses—thirst always underestimates fluid needs, so drink more than you think is necessary.

Hiking Peralta Trail, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rehydration is enhanced when fluids contain sodium and potassium or when foods with these electrolytes are consumed along with the fluid. Make potassium rich foods a regular part of your diet including:

  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Dried apricots
  • Citrus fruits
  • Lemonade
  • Orange juice
  • Tomato juice
Hiking Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Assess your hydration by looking for these signs:

  • Low volumes of dark, concentrated urine, or painful urination
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Dizziness

Continuing to hike in a dehydrated state can lead to serious consequences including heat stroke, muscle breakdown, and kidney failure.

Bring sun protection, like a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Consider wearing long, lightweight sleeves to protect you from the sun and help keep your body cool. This will help you enjoy your hike and enjoy the memories.

Did I mention water? Don’t get caught without enough to keep you hydrated throughout your hike—you need water for the return trip, too. Bring salty snacks or electrolyte tablets to help stay alert, too. Bananas, granola, dried apricots, and peanut butter are all great options.

Hiking along the Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why hydration is important

Around 70 percent of the body is made up of water and it is vital for essential bodily functions and biochemical processes. We lose water through urine, breathing out water vapor, and through sweat.

Why is this so important when we’re hiking? When we hike the body uses water as a coolant. The body’s temperature rises, triggering the body’s cooling mechanism and signalling to the brain to increase sweat production to help prevent overheating. As a consequence, blood volume drops, less blood returns back to the heart, the heart pumps out less blood, and less oxygen returns back to the working muscles. This results in an increased heart rate, onset of fatigue, loss of energy, and eventually exhaustion.

Hiking Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Research shows that a loss of fluid equating to 1-2 percent of bodyweight while exercising can impact significantly on ones ability to continue on the trail. And it doesn’t stop there. Progressive dehydration can eventually lead to cramps, headaches, and nausea, heat exhaustion, and eventually to potentially fatal heatstroke.

This makes it important to replace lost fluids as quickly as possible and ensure you’re properly hydrated before, during, and after your hike.

The best way to hike is to be smart, be prepared, and check in with yourself.

Every trail can be your favorite if you have a great time.

Hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The role of sports drinks

When we sweat, we don’t only lose water. We also lose electrolytes including chloride, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium and at the same time, glycogen stores become depleted. Sports drinks contain differing levels of fluid, electrolytes, and carbohydrates and are optimised to effectively replenish these supplies during and after exercise.

Hiking Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When and how often should I be drinking?

There’s no cut and dried or easy answer to this. How much you’ll need to hydrate on your hike depends on a number of factors including age, gender, amount you sweat, temperature, intensity, and distance. That said, there are some basic guidelines you can follow:

If you wait until during your hike to think about hydration, you’re on a straight path to becoming dehydrated. Nor is gulping down water an hour before your hike ideal—your gut can only absorb so much water and you’ll end up heading out bloated and uncomfortable—not to mention making needing a bathroom break more likely during your hike.

Instead, aim to stay continuously hydrated as part of your day to day lifestyle. For most people that means drinking around 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily (around 6 glasses of water).

Worth Pondering…

As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

June 2023 RV Manufacturer Recalls: 11 Recalls Involving 8 RV Manufactures

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?

It’s always important to keep up with the latest recalls, no matter how small the issue may appear to be. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes the latest information on recalls from minor to major defects each week. NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

When a manufacturer or the 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.

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 11 recall notices in June 2023. These recalls involved 8 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Jayco (3 recalls), Triple E (2 recalls), Forest River (1 recall), Winnebago (1 recall), Keystone (1 recall), Tiffin (1 recall), IFP (1 recall), and Grand Design (1 recall).

Bellingham RV Park, Bellingham, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Melbourne and Melbourne Prestige motorhomes. The instrument cluster may fail to display any information when the vehicle is started.

Dealers will update the instrument cluster software on the affected vehicles, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed June 30, 2023. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is Daimler 23V-204.

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


Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023 Jayco Greyhawk, Redhawk, and Entegra Coach Odyssey motorhomes. The bolt that secures the rear axle rotor to the wheel-hub may be improperly tightened, possibly resulting in wheel separation.

Dealers will inspect the rear axle serial number, and if necessary, remove and inspect the rear axle rotor and hub assembly. If any bolts are found to be loose, the rotor and hub assembly will be replaced, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed June 30, 2023. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267.


Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023 Jayco Swift, Swift LI, Entegra Ethos, and Ethos LI recreational vehicles. The solar panel may detach from the Pop-Up roof and become a road hazard.

Dealers will install new brackets, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed July 17, 2023. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903586.

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Triple E

Triple E Recreational Vehicles (Triple E) is recalling certain 2023 Unity U24MB, U24cB, U24FX, U24MBL, U24RL, U24TB, and Wonder W24FTB, W24MBL, W24RL, W24RTB motorhomes. The 2-stage regulator may be improperly crimped, which can cause a gas leak.

Dealers will perform a leak test, and replace the regulator, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed June 9, 2023. Owners may contact Triple E customer service at 1-877-922-9906. Triple E’s number for this recall is CA#10318-1.

Triple E

Triple E Recreational Vehicles (Triple E) is recalling certain 2023 Unity U24MBL and Wonder W24MBL motorhomes. The cable that connects the air conditioning to the junction box may have been cut during installation, exposing the wire to the metal junction box.

Dealers will shorten the wiring at the point of the cut, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed June 12, 2023. Owners may contact Triple E customer service at 1-877-992-9906. Triple E’s number for this recall is CA#10323-1.

Butterfield RV Resort, Benson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023 East to West Della Terra and East to West Silver Lake travel trailers. The furnace may have been installed incorrectly, causing the cold air return to invert the cooktop flame and resulting in a gas leak inside the cabin.

Dealers will pull out the furnace as intended to allow for proper cold air return, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed July 5, 2023. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-264-6664. Forest River’s number for this recall is 500-1644.

Flag City RV Resort, Lodi, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2020-2023 Winnebago Shell, 2021-2023 Winnebago Inspire, 2022-2023 Winnebago Vista, Adventurer, Forza, Journey and Itasca Sunstar motorhomes. The seat belt attachment may have been improperly tightened. As such these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 210, “Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages.”

Dealers will inspect and tighten the seat belt attachment fasteners, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed June 16, 2023. Owners may contact Winnebago at 1-800-537-1885. Winnebago’s number for this recall is 175.


Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2021-2023 Arcadia travel trailers. The backer board behind the cabinet for the wardrobe may not have been installed during production.

Dealers will inspect and if necessary, install steel brackets to stop the slide room when opening, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed July 18, 2023. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 23-444.

Okefenokee RV Park, Waycross, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. (Tiffin) is recalling certain 2022-2023 Phaeton, Allegro Bus, and Zephyr motorhomes. A fuse will trip during an a/c compressor failure, causing a loss of power to the chassis.

Dealers will inspect the chassis controller, and install a harness and inline fuse as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed August 4, 2023. Owners may contact Tiffin customer service at 1-256-356-8661. Tiffin’s number for this recall is TIF-131.

Portland Fairview RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Imagine Fiberglass Products Inc. (IFP) is recalling certain 2021-2023 L’Air Trillium Heritage 1300/4500, and Lion 1300/4500 travel trailers, equipped with certain SDS2 2-Burner Drop-in Cooktops with part number 3032AST. The internal aluminum burner tubes that connect to the gas valves may fracture and cause a gas leak.

Dealers will install a regulator support bracket, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed in June 2023. Owners may contact IFP customer service at 1-519-804-8751. IFP’s number for this recall is 2023-01.

Hidden Lake RV Park, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Design

Grand Design RV, LLC (Grand Design) is recalling certain 2023 Momentum toy haulers. The Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) label is incorrect. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”

Dealers will remove and replace the label, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed July 12, 2023. Owners may contact Grand Design customer service at 1-574-825-9679. Grand Design’s number for this recall is 910036.

Please Note: This is the 52nd 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

Best RV Roadside Assistance Plans for Peace of Mind

There are RV roadside assistance programs with just about every level of coverage throughout a wide price range. Yet which RV roadside assistance program is best?

Whether you live your life on the road and your travel coach is your home or you’re a weekend warrior using your RV for short trips with the family, a roadside assistance plan is an absolute must and it’s important to have the best RV roadside assistance plan possible. We’ve never been without one… and we wouldn’t be without it, despite the fact that as we step into our 26th year of RVing, we’ve only very rarely used it.

Roadside assistance plans are like a type of insurance, though they’re not insurance. So just what is a roadside assistance plan, who needs one, and what are the best RV roadside assistance plans available to us?

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is an RV Roadside Assistance Plan?

There’s RV insurance and then there’s an RV roadside assistance plan. The two are not the same, they don’t provide the same type of coverage and they exist independently of one another even if they’re offered by the same company.

Let’s take a look…

Perhaps your RV insurance policy’s collision coverage protects your RV if it’s damaged in an accident and liability coverage addresses damages and injuries on the road and when your rig is parked. Medical bills and vehicle repairs may be covered here and comprehensive insurance covers your rig in case of theft, vandalism, fire, weather-related incidents, collisions with animals, etc.

That’s very different from what roadside assistance offers. The so-called insurance offered by roadside assistance is a sense of peace of mind should your RV be disabled due to a mechanical failure or if your rig runs out of fuel or has a flat tire or a dead battery.

A roadside assistance plan may send a tow truck out to tow your rig to the nearest repair facility (depending on your plan’s details) or to change a tire right where you’re stranded. It may send a truck out with enough fuel to get you to the nearest fueling station.

Roadside assistance plans exist to help you if you’re stranded by something that renders your rig incapable of moving to a location where you can obtain the assistance to get back on the road.

You may opt for roadside assistance coverage through the same company that provides your RV insurance (or through an independent company) but they’re different plans and provide different types of reassurance. While an RV insurance plan provides insurance coverage, a roadside assistance plan provides assistance—at the roadside.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What should I look for in an RV Roadside Assistance Plan?

There are a few factors you’ll want to look into prior to settling on a roadside assistance plan. Let’s review those briefly and then I’ll take a look at some of the best RV roadside assistance plans available.

Does the plan cover your RV?

You’ll first want to be sure that the type of RV you have is covered by the roadside assistance plan you’re considering. There are plans that will cover any type of RV but there are also plans that will only cover non-motorized RVs. If you have a travel trailer, that plan might work. If you’ve got a Class A diesel pusher as we do you’d need to find another plan.

You’ll also want to make sure the plan includes coverage for any other vehicle type you’re RVing with. We tow an SUV, for example. Perhaps you carry a motorcycle or other type of vehicle. Details are important here, so before signing on with any RV roadside assistance plan, make sure the plan applies to your particular situation and will cover the vehicles with which you regularly travel.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Allowable towing distance

This can be very important and sometimes it’s hidden in the fine details of a plan. You’ll want to sort out the towing details in advance of committing to any roadside assistance plan. It’s great to do something like this via email so that you have responses in writing to fall back on if necessary.

Some roadside assistance programs will take you to the nearest service station regardless of whether they’re capable of working on the type of rig you have. You may wish to have the ability to choose where your rig will be towed to and you may want to sort out other details such as whether they’ll provide a flatbed (if that applies to your rig) or whether they’re capable of towing a motorhome that weighs 18 tons, like ours.

Check out the fine details of the plan in advance, rather than being disappointed to learn that your needs aren’t covered at the time when you find yourself stranded. Not all plans are created equal.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Specific provisions

If you’re interested in a plan that offers emergency fuel delivery, you’ll need to make sure that’s in the plan you’re considering. How about assistance in the case of a lockout or a plan that provides for tire changes on the side of the road? How about a jump for a dead battery or even delivery of a new battery if you’re stranded on the side of the road?

Might you one day need the services of a professional who can use a winch to pull your rig out of a ditch? Is it conceivable that you could get stuck in sand or mud?

You need to be absolutely certain that the roadside assistance plan you choose will be able to provide what you need to pull your rig out of an unexpected situation.

The services provided by roadside assistance plans are all in the details and you’ve gotta sort out those details in advance.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


A good RV roadside assistance plan needs to be reasonably priced. This isn’t something you’ll use every day, after all. Or even every week. In fact, you may never use it in the course of a year but peace of mind is valuable (priceless, even) and these plans are very important for helping ease concerns of getting stranded.

That said, the cost shouldn’t be excessive, nor does it need to be. Some plans do cost more than others but in general, it’s because they offer more. So, when you’re evaluating roadside assistance plans take cost into consideration while paying very close attention to the features offered by the plan.

What are the best RV Roadside Assistance Plans?

Let’s take a look at the best RV roadside assistance plans for your peace of mind. These are plans you’ll buy, hoping you’ll never need to use them. They’re also plans you’ll be grateful to have if you DO find yourself in need of roadside assistance.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Coach-Net has been providing assistance to owners of towable RVs and motorhomes for more than three decades and their reputation is excellent. Coach-Net is the roadside assistance plan I know best… because it’s the plan we use.

Coach-Net offers a couple of different plans—one for drivable RVs like ours at a cost of $249/year and a plan for towable RVs at a cost of $179/year. The features of the plan are excellent and coverage includes your entire family of drivers (including your dependent children ages 24 and under). Coverage extends to your RV and all other personal vehicles owned, rented, borrowed, or leased. This means that even if you’re not driving your RV you’ll be covered by Coach-Net in whatever vehicle you’re driving.

We haven’t had to use our Coach-Net plan very often in the past 26 years but I can say that when we needed the plan it was put into action quickly, carried out professionally and effectively, and we were extremely grateful to have it. We feel its well worth $249/year for the peace of mind and the service provided.

Now to the details of that service…

Coach-Net’s Premier Motorized Plan ($249/yr) offers 24/7 roadside assistance that includes towing your disabled vehicle to the nearest qualified repair facility with no out-of-pocket expense to you and no mileage or dollar amount limits. It also includes unlimited tire assistance such as changing a flat tire or delivery of a comparable tire for towing your vehicle to a repair facility (which may be necessary if they are unable to source an exact replacement for your existing tire but need to get it moved until they can).

This plan also includes delivery of fuel and emergency fluids to your disabled vehicle, unlimited battery boosts, and lockout assistance that includes locksmith services or assistance in unlocking your vehicle or obtaining a replacement key.

Coach-Net provides a concierge-like service that will assist you in obtaining the first available appointment at the closest qualified repair facility and they’ll provide winch out or extraction services up to 100 feet off a maintained road or in a commercial campground equipped for camping vehicles.

You’ll also receive up to $2,000 reimbursement for vehicle rental, food, and lodging made necessary by the disablement of your RV due to a collision that occurs more than 100 miles from your home.

Discounts on tires, RV products, hotels, motels, and camping are also offered as are a number of other features and coverage can be obtained for trailers, tow dollies, boat trailers, and utility trailers.

Coach-Net offers a number of other services, all of which you can check out on their website.

While we’re most familiar with Coach-Net’s services, there are four other RV roadside assistance plans that are highly reputed for excellent service. Below we’ll provide a brief description of services.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


One of the most popular RV roadside assistance plans is AAA Plus RV. Many drivers already have AAA for their personal vehicles and adding AAA Plus RV is a natural inclusion. Additionally, in order to buy AAA’s RV roadside assistance plan, you must already have a AAA membership.

AAA offers a couple of different RV-specific plans. The first is the AAA Plus RV plan and the second is their Premier plan. In general, the Plus plan will run you somewhere around $140 annually while the Premier plan will cost around $210/year. These prices include AAA coverage for your car or truck but you’ll need to obtain additional coverage for each driver in your household.

Unfortunately, cost varies from state to state (and province to province) and there may even be coverage differences from state to state. This makes the services somewhat cumbersome to navigate for a general post like this one but typing in your zip code on their website will bring you to some information pertinent to your state and making a phone call may be even more helpful.

AAA Plus RV does offer towing to a service station (your choice) though this may not be available to you if you camp in very remote locations so this is something you’d want to check directly with AAA in your state.

RV coverage also includes fuel delivery, flat tire and battery services, locksmith, and winching services.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Progressive Roadside Assistance

Progressive’s 24/7 roadside assistance is extra coverage that you have the option to add to your existing RV insurance coverage through them.

Towing services are limited to anywhere within a 15-mile radius, however, if there isn’t a repair shop within 15 miles, they’ll tow you to the nearest qualified repair shop. You can choose to have your vehicle towed to another shop (other than the closest one) but you’ll have to pay for the additional mileage.

Winching services are provided within 100 feet of a road or highway—they’ll pull your rig out with a motor-powered cable or chain.

They also provide the typical battery jump-start, fuel delivery (delivery and service are free, you pay for the fuel), locksmith services, flat tire change (as long as you can provide the spare), and up to one hour of on-scene labor if your car is disabled.

Progressive notes that there may be a limit to the number of roadside events a policy covers and in some states (i.e. North Carolina and Virginia) roadside assistance coverage is subject to limits noted in your insurance policy.

I can’t offer you a precise cost of Progressive Roadside Assistance due to its integration with your motor vehicle insurance policy.

But, you’re probably starting to see the importance of reading the fine print… and then reading the finer print. It’s very important that you understand the coverage you’re buying before you need to use your roadside assistance plan.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Escapees Roadside Assistance

If you’re already a member or plan to become a member of Escapees RV Club, you’ll be entitled to purchase an Escapees Roadside Assistance plan for your RV for $109/year. This gives you unlimited access to all of the features/services provided by the plan.

Escapees offers unlimited roadside assistance coverage that includes towing of your disabled RV to the nearest repair facility suited to your needs, a mobile mechanic (you’re responsible for the cost of any needed parts and labor), tire change service (even if you don’t have a spare in which case a similar tire will be mounted for towing to the nearest repair facility), fuel delivery, lockout services, battery jump-starts, winching, trip interruption, and a variety of other features.

Escapees Roadside Assistance even offers technical assistance (24/7) from RVIA/RVDA and ASE Certified Technicians who’ll have a conversation with you to try and troubleshoot the issue(s) you’re having. Should they be unable to troubleshoot the issue successfully in this communication, emergency roadside service will be sent to your location.

The roadside assistance program will cost you $109 annually. This is in addition to your Escapees RV Club membership which is $39.95 for residents of the United States and $49.95 for residents of Canada and Mexico.

Escapees RV Club offers a number of amazing features and is well worth your time to check out.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Good Sam Roadside Assistance

Good Sam offers three roadside assistance RV plans: Standard ($129.95), Platinum ($159.95), and Platinum Complete ($239.95).

These plans vary widely, so I won’t post all of the details here.

While we’re sure Good Sam offers very good roadside assistance in many situations, their website notes that they’ll get you the right tow truck for the size of your rig. That may be true, but I feel I should note (particularly for folks with larger diesel RVs) that I’ve heard stories about tow trucks arriving on scene that were too small to handle a large Class A or diesel pusher. This issue may have been remedied but I suggest that if you have a large Class A motorhome and you’re interested in Good Sam’s roadside assistance program, you confirm your precise expectations with them ahead of time and ask if they’d be able to assist you appropriately.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) Roadside Assistance Plan

FMCA is another terrific RV club with a multitude of great benefits including the ability to opt into their roadside assistance plan. You’ll pay $159 annually for a driveable RV and $129 for a towable rig.

The general FMCA membership is $60 for the first year and $50 per year thereafter so if you’re not already an FMCA member you’ll want to figure that into your annual cost as well.

FMCA’s roadside assistance covers your RV, your tow car or other vehicles, and your spouse and children age 25 and under. They offer towing to the nearest qualified service shop no matter the distance. You can opt for the services of an on-scene mobile mechanic.

In the case of a mechanical issue that leaves you stranded, FMCA’s plan will allow you up to $300 a day for five days as trip interruption compensation. And as with all of the other plans, you’ll be entitled to tire and battery services, fuel delivery, lockout services, and winching.

FMCA’s general membership is worth checking out and if you’re interested in that, then the roadside assistance program might interest you as well.

A roadside assistance plan is an absolute must © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you need an RV Roadside Assistance Plan?

The answer to this question really has to be based on your own evaluation of your circumstances. But, for us, an RV roadside assistance plan is a must and we wouldn’t be on the road without it. Again, we’ve rarely used ours but the peace of mind it offers and the services we have at our fingertips should we need them makes our annual fee well worth paying for sure.

Remember that if you break down, depending on where you’re located, what type of tow truck has to be sent to rescue you, and how far it needs to tow your rig, you could very quickly find yourself paying more than an annual fee for any one of these excellent RV roadside assistance plans.

Worth Pondering…

I’m still learning.


Look to the Stars: How to Stargaze in National Parks This Summer

Stargazing season is here! Enjoy the night skies at their brightest at National Parks stargazing festivals.

When you look up at the night sky, what do you see? Innumerable stars, a planet or two, even a bright meteor? Depending on where you are, you may see greater or fewer celestial objects in the night sky because light pollution can drown out all but the brightest stars and satellites.

To really take in the beauty of our solar system, you’ll want to visit the darkest places in the U.S. for some truly unforgettable stargazing. Of course, you’ll want to plan to go on a clear night, so you have the best chance of seeing the stars.

National parks are helping visitors make the most of this time by hosting stargazing festivals. The festivals include various nightime events in addition to stargazing.

These events are happening now and in the weeks and months ahead so bust out your stargazing kit and get going!

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exploring night skies

Many of the last dark skies in the country lie over the national parks. As over-lit skies become the norm, the public is seeking out star-filled skies. Many park visitors have never experienced the unfettered views of a starry night sky and are surprised to witness such a beautiful sight. Others may come to parks specifically to enjoy stargazing through telescopes, walking among a natural nighttime scene, or camping beneath the stars. A park ranger can not only connect you to the plants, animals, and geology of a park but also guide you through the night sky.

Several national parks have regular stargazing programs or night appreciation events. Examples include the bat flight breakfast at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, star parties or moonlight hikes at Bryce Canyon, telescope viewing at Rocky Mountain National Park, and the observatory at Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dark Sky National Parks

National parks are becoming night sky havens since they have less exposure to light pollution. Dozens of national parks are designated Dark Sky Parks because of their “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights.”

National parks with the official Dark Sky Park classification include:

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll notice Utah is a big hitter when it comes to stargazing. So many incredible places to not only see during the day but also to be mesmerized by at night!

That’s why I have articles on the Best National Parks for Stargazing and These National Parks Are Hosting Free Stargazing Festivals This Summer.

I’m a little late writing this article as the first two events have just passed. But these annual events are held at similar times annually so you can start planning those for next year. 

In the meantime, there are four amazing stargazing festivals at national parks in the near future. And, national parks often host many stargazing activities and events throughout the year so check for those whenever you plan to visit.

Let’s take a look at the national parks stargazing festivals 2023.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon Star Party, June 10-17 (Check in a few months for 2024 dates)

Grand Canyon National Park is known for its breathtakingly beautiful rugged terrain. But it also hosts some of the most beautiful night skies around.

The event is free, but you must still pay to enter the park. The park fee is valid for the North and South rims for seven days. 

The event starts at sunset although the best viewing time is after 9 pm. Most telescopes are taken down at 11 pm although some folks still share theirs after that when the skies are crisp and clear.  

Check this out to learn more: The Grand Canyon Is Hosting a Star Party This Week—and It’s Totally Free

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festval, June 14-17 (Check in a few months for 2024 dates)

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah. This park has such excellent night sky viewing that it earned its dark-sky designation in 2019.

Come view the reddish-colored hoodoos during the day and then return for its spectacular nighttime views.

Their annual stargazing event includes lectures, star stories presentations, and guided stargazing sessions. They also have a performance by an Arizona string quartet called Dry Sky Quartet and other family-friendly activities. 

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Annual Badlands Astronomy Festival, July 14-16

South Dakota is home to Badlands National Park which boasts exciting fossil beds and unique geologic formations. In partnership with NASA South Dakota Grant Consortium, the festival typically includes guest speakers, telescopes, sky viewing, and a guided The annual Astronomy Festival partners with walk through a scaled solar system model.

Badlands is an amazing National Park. That’s why I wrote these articles:

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah Night Sky Festival, August 11-13

Shenandoah National Park is a gorgeous gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. In fact, this almost 200,000-acre park is so breathtaking that I have done several posts about it! 

The other great thing about this park is its location. It is only a 75-mile drive from Washington, D.C. So if you will be checking out the nation’s capitol, it’s an easy trip to make.

You can view its cascading waterfalls, wildflower fields, and quiet woods daily and then stay for its spectacular nighttime views.

Their annual stargazing event hosts public stargazing sessions, ranger talks and other lectures and presentations, and family-friendly activities. The guest presentations will include a span of topics including space travel, space weather, and our future in space. 

The event is free with park admission.

Check this out to learn more: Shenandoah National Park is Hosting a Night Sky Festival This Weekend—and It’s Free

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 Great Basin Astronomy Festival, September 14-16

The Great Basin National Park might be for you if you prefer to avoid crowds. It is one of the least crowded national parks. The 77,000-acre park in eastern Nevada also has a research-grade observatory.

This fall, you can attend their stargazing event which usually includes constellation talks, guest speakers, and observatory tours. They also have a photography workshop for all you photo bugs out there.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree Night Sky Festival, October 13-14

Joshua Tree National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). That means it is the perfect spot to stargaze all year!

Every year, the park and non-profit organizations Joshua Tree Educational Experience (JTREE) and Sky’s the Limit. Observatory and Nature Center partner to bring this incredible stargazing event. 

The Night Sky Festival is a ticketed event and has a limited capacity. It is usually located just outside the park limits at the Sky’s The Limit Nature Observatory and Nature Center. Tickets go on sale in early summer. 

Daytime can be pretty incredible, too, in Joshua Tree.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More Night!

National Park Observatories

Chaco Culture National Historical Park Observatory

The Chaco Culture National Historical Park Observatory gives the public exceptional views of the night sky from its New Mexico location. Astronomy is an integral part of the park’s interpretive programming that connects park resources to the celestial knowledge of the ancient Anasazi people who settled the area. Park lighting is retrofitted to keep skies dark and reduce light pollution, and star programs are anticipated attractions.

El Morro National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Basin Observatory

Did you know that NPS has its own astronomical research observatory? Inaugurated in 2016, the Great Basin Observatory is the first NPS research-grade observatory to be based in a national park. Located in one of the darkest areas of the country at the border of Utah and Nevada, the observatory offers near pristine, unpolluted views of the night sky. The NPS observatory works with astronomy researchers across the country to advance our understanding of cosmic phenomena. Its telescopes can be remotely programmed to focus on any cosmic body or event from little known debris clouds and planets to the Milky Way and solar eclipse.

Rock Creek Park Planetarium

The NPS Rock Creek Park Planetarium in Washington, DC is another park venue that educates people about night sky phenomena and light pollution issues. Located within the Nature Center, it uses high-tech Spitz software to project the image of the night sky onto a large, dome-shaped ceiling. Rangers lead visitors on a journey of exploration into the solar system, galaxy, and beyond. Monthly, evening stargazing programs are also offered and give information about the seasonal night sky.

Worth Pondering…

I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly—or ever—gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe.

—Brian Greene

23 Must-Have Items for your RV Roadside Emergency Kit

This list of 23 emergency preparedness items that every RV must have will make sure that you’re set up for success on the road

Anyone who takes a road trip of any distance or duration should be prepared for potential roadside emergencies. But, RVers who tend to travel roads unknown with some frequency while carrying heavy loads in their home-on-wheels need to be well prepared for unexpected events that can occur based on weather, tire blow-outs, and other breakdowns. And they can (and often do!) happen in the most remote areas. This is why having an RV roadside emergency kit is so important.

In today’s post, I’m giving you 23 ideas of things to carry in your RV roadside emergency kit.

A well-equipped roadside emergency kit can save a call for roadside assistance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What do I mean by RV Roadside Emergency Kit?

To me, an RV roadside emergency kit contains items that one might find a use for in the event of a roadside emergency. The emergency could be anything that leaves you stranded on the side of the road (or anywhere, really) such as a tire blow-out, a mechanical breakdown, a weather event, mudslide, fire, illness—anything that impedes your ability to continue traveling down the road to your destination.

Is a fully stocked roadside emergency kit on board? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are some of the most important things to have in an RV Roadside Emergency Kit?

I’ll preface my list of 23 items by saying that this list is likely to contain numerous items that you already carry in your RV when you travel. That’s great—if you’ve already have the item onboard, check it off your list! You’ll have it when you need it.

However, if you don’t, give some serious thought to whether or not you feel the item belongs in your RV roadside emergency kit.

This list doesn’t cover all potential situations but it’s a list of 23 items that I feel are important to have for emergencies.

1. Road reflectors

A good set of road reflectors is an inexpensive but very important piece of any RV roadside emergency kit. Reflectors are designed to make sure you’re seen along the side of the road before someone is on top of you.

Set your road reflectors a distance ahead of and behind your rig to give oncoming traffic advance warning of your presence. You’re already having a bad day—don’t make it worse!

2. Tools

A basic tool kit is important for every RVer to carry. Your tool kit is likely to already contain the tools that you find most useful and like the rest of us, you probably add to that tool kit from time to time as you complete new repairs and projects. If you’ve been looking to compile your tool kit, you’ll find some ideas in my post, The RV Tool Kit Every RVer Needs

However, the  bare minimum that should be in every RV roadside emergency kit (and every vehicle, for that matter) is a good, durable multi-tool with some basic tools.

What’s in your roadside assistance kit?© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. First-aid kit

You can create your own first-aid kit or buy a pre-made kit but having a first-aid kit on board your RV is an absolute MUST.

Contents of a first-aid kit should include adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic solution or towelettes, bandages, calamine lotion, cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs, gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes, first aid manual, petroleum jelly or other lubricant, safety pins in assorted sizes, scissors and tweezers, and sterile eyewash.

Familiarize yourself with the items in the first aid kit and know how to properly use them. Check your first-aid kits regularly, at least every three months, to replace supplies that have expired.

The Mayo Clinic is an excellent source for first aid information to help you during a medical emergency.

If you travel with pets, pet first aid manuals are also available.

4. Work gloves

A strong pair of work gloves is an important piece of any RV roadside emergency kit to help protect your hands during any emergency mechanical work or tire changing, etc. The last thing anyone needs when they’re stranded roadside is an injury that makes the emergency even more urgent!

A quality pair of work gloves with a good grip will serve you in an endless array of circumstances.

You’ll drive with confidence having a roadside emergency kit on board © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. ​​Spare fuses

A variety of extra fuses that can replace any that have burned out in your RV is an important part of an RV roadside emergency kit.

Depending on which fuse is blown, you could be disabled in some fashion. Being able to replace a blown fuse right there on the spot can be the difference between a very minor headache and a migraine.

6. Air compressor

An air compressor that you can use wherever you are is a fantastic item for any roadside emergency kit.

7. Slime

Also in the tire emergency category, a couple of cans of Slime can repair a punctured tire long enough to get you to a service station where you can deal with the issue.

There are also tire repair kits available but the Slime is more user-friendly and gets the job done.

I don’t recommend using Slime every time your tire goes flat but if you don’t have a roadside assistance plan or you’re so far out in the boonies that they won’t come to help you, the Slime will get you rolling to someplace you can get a more permanent fix.

What’s in your roadside emergency kit? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Flashlights and headlamps

Chances are good that you’ve already got some good quality flashlights and headlamps onboard the rig but they’re extremely important so we’re including them on this list.

A good flashlight is handy if you’re stranded on a dark roadside, if you need to walk any distance in the dark, and for any work you may try to do on the rig yourself in the dark or in other poor lighting conditions.

Headlamps are fantastic flashlights that leave your hands free for working or carrying items. You’d be amazed at the number of times you’ll pull out a good headlamp when doing a repair or a DIY project.

So…flashlights…whether they’re in your hands or on your head—these are important items for your RV roadside emergency kit!

9. Portable power bank

Having a portable power bank that’s always charged and ready to go is an important asset to any roadside emergency kit.

A fully charged portable battery bank ensures that if your phone runs out of juice, you’ve got a handy way to power it whether you’re walking a distance for help or you have no power available for some other reason.

It’s also important to note that many smartphones/cell phones lose power in the cold. So, if you’re walking in cold weather and are trying to get help using your phone, it can go dead much faster than you’d expect and it won’t reboot until it warms up. This won’t happen if it’s connected to a portable power bank.

10. Jumper cables

No one likes having to jump-start a battery but the day will probably come when you have to. Aside from having the best RV battery under your hood, make sure that you have a set of decent jumper cables. You don’t want to be that person who asks someone for a jump and if they have jumper cables.

Don’t be caught without this inexpensive essential.

What’s in your roadside emergency kit? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Jump start

You may carry jumper cables in your rig’s basement but a battery jump-start box can get you out of trouble even if you’re in some very tight quarters or if there’s no one around with a vehicle capable of giving you a jump.

These compact boxes usually have an integrated flashlight so you can see to connect it properly and they do an amazing job of jumping even the biggest rigs. They’re also great for charging devices and usually have a USB port or two handy for just this purpose.

12. Reflective vest

If you have to walk in the dark or you’re broken down in traffic and you need to alert oncoming vehicles (by laying out your reflective triangles noted above!) or if you need to direct traffic around an accident, you’ll want to have a reflective vest.

A package of two for two travelers is a great idea so that you’re both equipped to be seen, day or night.

13. Fire extinguishers

This one needs no explanation. If you don’t already have at least one fire extinguisher in your RV, get one TODAY. Depending on the size of your rig, you may want to keep one accessible at the front and a second at the rear or one inside the rig and one in a bay, accessible from the outside.

Fire extinguishers come in various sizes, including small cans without hoses. No matter what, you need to carry a good quality fire extinguisher in your rig because you never know when you’ll need to extinguish a blaze quickly whether in your galley kitchen or during a roadside emergency.

What’s in your roadside emergency kit? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Safety hammer

Safety hammers allow us to break a window in the event of certain emergency situations. You could use the hammer to break out a window of your own rig in an emergency or to get to someone else who’s been involved in an accident you encounter in your travels.

This safety/emergency hammer has an integrated knife for cutting a seat belt off of someone who needs extrication from the belt to escape the vehicle.

15. Air horn

Air horns are often overlooked as an emergency kit item but they can be extremely helpful in an emergency situation. Not only would an air horn allow you to call attention to yourself if you need help, but if you’ve had an accident that has left your rig precariously positioned in the roadway and you need to alert oncoming traffic, an air horn can be just the item you need while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

16. Electrical tape

There are many uses for electrical tape. But, one example is your rig breaking down on the side of the road, leaving you stranded. You pop the hood and look around, and find that a rodent has apparently set up shop in your engine compartment at some point and has chewed on some wires that are deliciously encased. You use your electrical tape to wrap a section of wire (if you’re lucky), start up the rig, and drive it to the nearest service station.

There are a lot of reasons why electrical tape belongs in your RV roadside emergency kit. Toss some in there today.

17. Collapsible shovel

If your rig gets stuck in sand, mud, or snow, having a small shovel on board can be very helpful.

The ability to dig your self out of a sticky situation is important. A small shovel—especially one that’s collapsible for compact storage—is a great thing to have on hand. (And if you happen to have something like kitty litter on board, don’t be afraid to use that for traction!)

What’s in your roadside emergency kit? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Antihistamine

If you’ve got severe allergies to ANYTHING (nuts, bees, etc.), you should be carrying a prescription epinephrine pen (or Epipen) in your emergency kit.

Even if you don’t have severe allergies, EVERY emergency kit should contain Benadryl or the generic form of diphenhydramine in case anyone on board the RV has an allergic reaction to something.

This antihistamine is inexpensive and everyone should have some on hand because severe allergic reactions can’t wait for a trip to a store (if you can find one open) and if the reaction occurs when your RV is broken down on the side of the road, you’ll have no way to obtain the simple drug that could be the difference between life and death. Always carry antihistamine.

19. Emergency food and water

All roadside emergency kits should contain extra food and water—just in case. You can keep a few gallons of emergency water onboard your RV (accessible from the outside if possible) and you should also have some non-perishable foods on hand.

Specific foods are a matter of personal preference but they should be nutrient-dense and able to be stored in the vehicle or RV even in heat/cold. Store them in a solid container that isn’t accessible to rodents!

Many people keep high-protein bars, organic jerky, or a certain amount of freeze-dried foods onboard at all times.

20. Wheel chocks

If you get stuck or become involved in an accident, your RV may be perilously positioned on an incline or a decline. In an emergency, wheel chocks can be an important part of your kit.

You most likely have some wheel chocks for the purpose of leveling your RV, but if you don’t, a set of these are highly advisable and could be very useful in an emergency.

Ice scraper and snow brush for snowy conditions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. Ice scraper/snow brush

“But we don’t travel where it’s icy or snowy.” We’ve heard that one before! An RV emergency kit means being prepared and a combination snow brush and ice scraper is a good thing to have.

22. Tire pressure gauge

Checking tire pressures before a trip is one of my RV checklist items. Not all tire pressure gauges are equal. If you have large RV tires, your tire pressure could be well over 100 psi.

If you have the room, consider buying an air compressor. These can be invaluable if you have tires with high PSI ratings that most gas station pumps won’t work on and for those who like to take their campers off-the-beaten path, the ability to air down and then air your tires backup can be a game changer.

Take good care of your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

23. Duct tape

Duct tape, gorilla tape, Rhino tape, gaff tape…it doesn’t matter. Just have a strong tape onboard!

I’ve seen Duct tape used to fix just about everything. I also carry Rhino tape.

Worth Pondering…

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

—Charlie Brown, from Peanuts

The 14 Most Beautiful U.S. Landmarks to Visit This Fourth of July

When you can go to the beach all summer why not try something new and more meaningful on Independence Day?

The Fourth of July holiday is rapidly approaching promising crowded beaches, sunburns, and lots of travel traffic. Take your weekend in a new direction and visit American landmarks on the anniversary of its birth. Celebrate the natural, industrial, and historic wonders of the US by visiting these iconic sites. From the Grand Canyon to the Alamo, this list of 14 American landmarks proves America has much to offer.

So many great places—so little time. 

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World alongside the likes of the Great Barrier Reef and Mount Everest, the spectacular gorge stands alone as perhaps the most iconic symbol of the stunning beauty of American. The Grand Canyon encompasses a 277-mile stretch of the Colorado River about the distance from Boston to Philadelphia. It is up to 18 miles wide and more than 1 mile deep standing as the world’s greatest example of the erosive power of water. 

“The extent and magnitude of the system of canyons is astounding,” wrote U.S. Army explorer Joseph Christmas Ives, the first European American to explore the canyon in 1857-58. The Grand Canyon still astounds visitors today. 

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah Historic District, Georgia

The colonial south lives today amid the verdant squares of Savannah, a nearly 300-year-old city that enjoyed a rebirth following its haunting, captivating portrayal in the 1994 bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Visitors love Savannah for its charming thoroughfares including the iconic cobblestones of River Street, delicious restaurants highlighting the best of southern fare such as Paula Deen’s flagship eatery The Lady and Sons, and its historic squares such as Chippewa Square featured in Forrest Gump.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

The centerpiece of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains is nothing less than the tallest peak in the northeast (6,288 feet). More famously Mount Washington habitually witnesses the globe’s most severe weather—due to its elevation and its location at the convergence of several major storm patterns. 

Mount Washington’s brutal wind and cold is proclaimed locally as a testament to the hearty nature of Live Free or Die state residents. The summit held the record for highest wind speed ever recorded (231 mph) for several decades and reached a record low temperate of -50 degrees Fahrenheit in January 1885. The Mount Washington Observatory recorded a wind chill of -103 degrees as recently as 2004. The mountain today is a popular attraction for tourists who ascend the top via hiking trail, precarious auto road, or popular cog railway.  

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

This geological oddity is an American wonder for its natural beauty and sobering role in the history of modern warfare. White Sands National Park includes 275 square miles of glistening gypsum sand—the largest dune field of its kind on Earth surrounded by the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range. The park today offers spectacular vistas and touring by automobile, hiking, biking, or pack animals.

It was on this site in July 1945 that American scientists led by J. Robert Oppenheimer first unleashed the power of the atomic bomb, a victory of American ingenuity and industrial power amid World War II. The achievement also had lingering ramifications for mankind. The Trinity test at White Sands was a prelude to the atomic attacks the following month on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan that ended World War II.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

The rugged and wild parkland is celebrated for its rugged badlands, free-roaming bison, and its namesake’s Elkhorn Ranch on the Little Missouri River. Stargazing is a popular activity in the isolated park hundreds of miles from the nearest major city, with weekly events and viewing parties highlighted by the August annual Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

The stunning human cost of preserving the nation is best seen in this sprawling battlefield in rural south-central Pennsylvania. Gettysburg pitted about 160,000 men in a pitched three-day battle that turned the tide of the Civil War in favor of the Union. Some 50,000 soldiers of both sides were killed or wounded. It remains the largest battle in North American history. 

Visitors today can stand where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine to fix bayonets and charge down Little Round Top to save the southern end of the Union line or walk in the footsteps of brave Confederates slaughtered during Pickett’s charge on the decisive day of battle or tour the vast battlefield by exploring the hundreds of haunting monuments that dot the landscape today. 

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established by the United States Congress in 1934 and formally dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. It was the first national park to be endowed with land and other expenses paid in part with federal money; previous parks had been entirely funded by state or private donors. The park is divided between the Blue Ridge Mountains which are a subdivision of the broader Appalachian Mountain chain and the Great Smoky Mountains part of the larger Southern Appalachians.

The national park is notable for its mountains, waterfalls, biodiversity, and spruce-fir forests. The park also houses several historical buildings that were part of early European-American settlers’ settlements in the area. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Alamo, Texas

Remember the Alamo! It was the battle cry of Texas freedom fighters during the decisive Battle of San Jacinto led by Sam Houston against Mexico in April 1836. And it is a memorial to the doomed defenders of the Spanish mission turned Texas fort; they had tried without success to hold off Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna in late February and early March of that year. The Alamo became a bloody battlefield and a hallowed final resting place for those who would never leave these grounds alive.

On the 13th day—March 6, 1836—the Alamo finally fell and its defenders became American legends. The aftermath has inspired Americans for almost 190 years and the battle cry “Remember the Alamo?” has been repeated over and over again.

The Breakers, Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newport Mansions, Rhode Island

The wealth of the Gilded Age springs to life in Newport where the nation’s titans of 19th-century industry built ostentatious summer homes on the cliffs where scenic Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The Breakers owned by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt II is probably the most spectacular built of limestone in the ornate style of an Italian palazzo.

Newport’s legacy as a playground of wealthy lives on today, amid its charming and busy downtown waterfront. The city is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame and hosted the America’s Cup, the world’s premier sailing race, for decades. 

Middleton Place, Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston plantations and gardens, South Carolina

The antebellum South both its beauty and the disturbing legacy of human bondage live on today and its vast collection of some 2,000 plantations many of which are centered around historic Charleston and open to visitors. 

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens features what it calls “America’s last large-scale Romantic-style garden”.  Middleton Place, named for Declaration of Independence signatory Arthur Middleton claims “America’s oldest landscaped gardens” across 65 acres. Boone Hall dates back to 1681 and is famed for its Avenue of the Oaks with its moss-covered limbs forming a photogenic canopy along with an array of brick homes that housed slave families. 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

This monumental sculpture of four U.S. presidents, each of their faces an amazing 60-feet tall, turned a remote area of a remote state into a beloved symbol of the national narrative. Law school student William Andrew Burkett summed up the purpose of the monument in 1934 in a winning essay he submitted to a contest hosted by Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum. 

“Almighty God, from this pulpit of stone the American people render thanksgiving and praise for the new era of civilization brought forth upon this continent,” Burkett wrote, his essay immortalized in bronze at the park. Mount Rushmore attracts some 2 million visitors a year and is a prominent place in the nation’s cultural lexicon with its images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln staring stoically across the American continent.  

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona and Utah

The spectacular images of eroded sandstone buttes rising from the red rock of the Colorado Plateau along the Arizona-Utah state line are firmly ingrained in America’s natural and cultural landscapes. Monument Valley was forged by tectonic forces some 250 million years ago. It was inhabited by Navajo for centuries who set aside the land as a park within the Navajo Nation in 1958. 

Its stunning landscape has reached audiences around the world as the backdrop of classic western movies such as Stagecoach, the 1939 John Ford flick that made John Wayne a star. More recently its jagged cathedrals of stone framed war hero and shrimp tycoon Forrest Gump as he abruptly ended his famous silver-screen jog across America on U.S. Route 163 hear Mexican Hat, Utah.

Lake Champlain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Champlain, New York and Vermont

The “Sixth Great Lake” has loomed large in both Native and European American history. Lake Champlain divided the Mohawks to the west and Abenaki to the east while British and continental forces fought for control of the 107 mile-long lake throughout the American Revolution. 

Lake Champlain today is a perfect place to enjoy the pristine wilderness and especially the fall foliage of northern New England or search for Champy. The mysterious Loch Ness monster-like creature was first known to the Abenaki allegedly witnessed by French explorer Samuel de Champlain himself and reported by dozens of other witnesses in the centuries since. 

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

America’s newest national park has long been a symbol of an Appalachian Mountain state so beautiful it’s known around the world as Almost Heaven. New River Gorge achieved its federal designation in December 2020. The park is celebrated most notably for its spectacular New River Gorge Bridge. It was both the world’s highest auto bridge and longest single-span arch bridge when it opened in 1977 though it has been surpassed in both global superlatives since. 

The park offers many recreational opportunities along with insight and exhibits exploring West Virginia’s coal mining history and culture. Among the figures celebrated: coal miner and son of slaves Carter Woodson who recorded the stories he heard digging ore and turned them into a published legacy as the “Father of Black History.” 

Worth Pondering…

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.

—Albert Einstein

National Pralines Day: June 24

Do you say pea-can or puh-cun, pray-leen or praa-leen? National Praline Day is June 24 and it is time to celebrate the smooth, sweet candy!

National Pralines Day on June 24 celebrates a nut-based creamy confection that can be enjoyed in an assortment of ways. Pralines are a smooth and sweet treat made with nuts, sugar, and sometimes cream. They can be used in cookies, candy, and as a paste and they’re often made with pecans or almonds. The name is believed to have been inspired by French sugar industrialist and French diplomat César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin who used a powder called pralin made by grinding sugar-coated nuts.

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

History of National Pralines Day

During the seventeenth century, France’s Marshal du Plessis-Praslin was responsible for the fame and name of the praline but many believe that it was his chef, Clement Lassagne who was the true creator. 

In one account, the idea for pralines came from Lassagne’s children who snacked on the leftover almonds and caramel from earlier culinary projects which inspired the idea. In another, the children had caramelized almonds over a candle and Lassagne followed the scent and discovered the magic of the mixture. And in yet another, Lassagne’s apprentice accidentally knocked a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramel.

Pralines were brought from France to New Orleans by Ursuline nuns in 1727. They oversaw young women called casket girls who under the request of Bienville were meant to marry New Orleans’ colonists. The casket girls were taught the art of praline making along with academics and domestic work for the purpose of becoming good wives to the settlers. Pralines became part of the local tradition in New Orleans and now they’re an essential part of creole cuisine. 

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In the nineteenth century, the ingredients switched from almonds to pecans because of their availability in New Orleans and cream was used to thicken the texture. Women in the French Quarter who sold pralines were called Pralinieres and selling pralines gave free people of color job opportunities when work was limited. Instead of being indentured servants or kept-women, women of lesser means were given more autonomy thanks to this alternate avenue of income. The praline expanded into other parts of the country and they became popular in Texas and Georgia as a favored southern confection but it all began in The Big Easy.

Pralines haven’t changed much from their original form. The ingredients still consist of pecans, dairy, and sugar and some have added vanilla and maple for more flavor. People have experimented with pralines in many different ways but the original is still just as loved as it was back then. The creamy sweetness of this confection still holds its own amongst many other tasty treats.

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

National Pralines Day timeline

  • 1600s: Marshal du Plessis-Praslin’s chef Clement Lassagne invented the praline by mixing cooked caramel and almonds
  • 1727: Pralines are brought over from France by Ursuline nuns who used young women to create them as they were molded for marriage
  • 1800s: Free women of color were permitted to sell pralines as Pralinieres offering them more economic security and better opportunity
  • 2000s: Pralines have remained very similar to their origins and are considered an essential part of southern culinary tradition
Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How to celebrate National Pralines Day

Make pralines: The best way to celebrate National Pralines Day is to make them yourself! Making pralines is not as hard as it seems. Get some butter, sugar, corn syrup, and pecans, and you are all set. Follow a recipe online or in a cookbook to get the perfect mixture of ingredients.

Visit a praline shop: Search for a local praline shop and sample all the treats they have to offer. From traditional flavors like pecan and chocolate to more unique combinations like peanut butter and bacon, you are sure to find something that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Make a praline trail mix: Mix together some chopped nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips with some crushed pralines for a delicious snack that you can take on the go.

Go to a walking tour: A trip might be in order to truly appreciate the pralines American origins. Learn about the history of pralines on a walking tour in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the birthplace of pralines in the United States. The best part of it is that afterward, you can treat yourself to more pralines!

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

5 fun facts about National Pralines Day

1. After the praline: Chef Lassagne opened a sweet shop in France called the Maison du Praslin that’s still around today.

2. Three pralines: The three main types of pralines are Belgian Pralines, French Pralines, and American Pralines.

3. The Belgian praline: Belgian pralines have a hard chocolate shell with a softer or liquid filling.

4. Belgian names: Belgian pralines are also called Belgian chocolates, Belgeian Choclate fondants, and chocolate bonbons.

5. Sweet like candy: In New Orleans, pralines are sometimes called pecan candy.

Worth Pondering…

It was always easier for me to show love than to say it. The word reminded me of pralines: small, precious, almost unbearable sweet.

—Jodi Picoult

Weird and Wondrous Scenic Byways

America’s most scenic drives? Let’s start with these three.

Turns out that taking the scenic route can pay big dividends for both traveler and towns along the trail. Look no further than these popular byways for proof.

Byway: a secluded, private, or obscure way; an out-of-the-way path or course.

—American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

Maybe nothing is as quintessentially American as a road trip. Whether an arrow-straight highway through a vast desert or a hairpin one-laner wrapped around a mountain pass, byways connect us to a variety of landscapes and cultures.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For 100 years, special journeys have earned special recognition identifying trips that invite slow meandering through breathtaking scenery and intriguing cultural landmarks. Federally-recognized routes are collectively called America’s Byways and they encompass epic road trips like Route 66, unique communities like Amish Country, and awe-inspiring geology like Volcanic Legacy. For history buffs, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia all have trails that trace various campaigns or battles as part of the Civil War Trails network.

There are other trails too, featuring food, music, literature, and kitsch that have exploded in recent years. California’s wine country trails through Napa are well known as is Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. New Mexico’s Green Chili Cheeseburger Trail which includes nearly 70 restaurants throughout the state was voted Best Food Trail by USA Today. Mississippi’s Gulf Seafood Trail spans 360 miles and Louisiana’s Cajun Boudin Trail appeals to lovers of spicy sausage.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These itineraries are an expression of locality, a place-based celebration of what makes towns and regions unique. They foster pride in local citizens and assist in preserving natural, cultural, and historical resources. They are also a tourism draw, a way to entice travelers to savor quirky and sublime off-the-beaten-path (read: rural and small-town) destinations.

Economic studies show they can have a significant impact. The iconic 2,451-mile-long Route 66 demonstrated an annual direct economic benefit of $132 million in 2011. The less-known and shorter 103-mile Flint Hills Scenic Byway in Kansas generated $464,000 annually. According to the National Park Service, 15.9 million visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2021 spent an estimated $1.3 billion in local gateway regions supporting a total of 17,900 jobs.

The following three road trips are some of the most popular in the country. Not only are they fun to travel, their organizers have learned some best-practices for coordinating this kind of visitor experience that they share below.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, Louisiana

Louisiana’s prairies, marshes, and shores teem with wildlife and a drive along the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road gives visitors a chance to experience nature’s bounty up close. Signs along the route mark common spots for alligator crossings. This remote terrain, often referred to as Louisiana’s Outback, is readily accessible and includes four wildlife refuges as well as 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches. Other features include untouched wetlands, small fishing communities offering fresh seafood, and ancient cheniers (sandy ridges studded with oak trees rising above the low-lying coasts).

Sulphur, which sat on a major deposit of the mineral for which it was named, has a rich history of sulfur mining in the area. Driving south on Highway 27 towards Cameron Parish notice a gradual change in the landscape from prairie lands to coastal marsh. Cameron Parish has more than 700,000 acres of wetlands—and Hackberry, appropriately, is a hub of shrimp and crab houses along Kelso Bayou, the once-rumored hideout of legendary pirate Jean Lafitte.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here, the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is a prime wintering ground for waterfowl. The Wetland Walkway, a 1.5-mile loop walk into the marsh, is home to alligators, birds, and other indigenous critters. Gators are plentiful here and can grow up to 14 feet. Further south is Holly Beach with opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and hunting for shells.

Turning west takes you along Highway 82 toward the Texas state line. Providing a nearly continuous view of the Gulf of Mexico, this stretch takes you to Peveto Woods Sanctuary—a 41-acre island that sees more than two million birds each year. Turning east takes you to the car ferry across the Calcasieu Ship Channel and into the community of Cameron.

Lake Charles offers a fusion of city life and the outdoors. It is a prime spot for casinos, Cajun cooking and shopping at the Lake Charles Boardwalk. A highlight is the Charpentier Historic District with Victorian-era homes both designed and built by carpenters.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby is the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for wintering waterfowl and a great place for nature photography. Depending on the time of year, the Cameron Prairie Visitor Center as well as Pintail Wildlife Drive are excellent locations to spot alligators as well as a host of birds and waterfowl including roseate spoonbills.

At Highway 27’s intersection with Highway 82, turn east. Along this marshy stretch look for cranes, pelicans, and in warm weather an occasional alligator. Past the town of Grand Chenier lies the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. A drive along the refuge’s four-mile Price Lake Road gives visitors a close-up view of this coastal marshland and its inhabitants. Or, if you turn west you will head towards the community for which this parish was named, Cameron.

A FREE personal tour app of the Creole Nature Trail is also available in iTunes and Google Play (just search Creole). The app is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, and Japanese.

>> Get more tips for driving Creole Nature Trail

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail of the Ancients, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah

This 480-mile route looping around the Four Corners area is the only National Scenic Byway dedicated to archaeology. It is full of riches: the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument which has more than 8,000 recorded archaeological sites, the highest known density in the U.S. The trail also connects five additional national monuments, tribal businesses, and small towns.

The Trail of the Ancients, federally designated in 2005 can be tricky to navigate. While the three state sections have the same name, the marketing and educational materials are separate. Much of the trail is remote and GPS systems are not reliable. Some of the cultural sites are on dirt tracks off of gravel roads causing visitors to question whether they are on the correct route.

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colorado just installed 95 wayfinding signs along its 116-mile stretch. They also have a detailed physical map produced by National Geographic available at the Colorado Visitor Center in Cortez. Curious travelers can access more than a hundred short stories while on the road through the Autio app.

Small businesses and remote parks benefit from their placement on the trail. The increased traffic brings more visitors to stops like the Yellow Car Winery and Dolores River Brewery. And while much of the experience focuses on archaeology there are a lot of hands-on experiences. Visitors can explore a kiva at Lowry Pueblo, grind corn at the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument Visitor Center, and examine an Indigenous study area at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

The Trail of the Ancients is immersive where visitors can engage. It’s not just a selfie stop.

>> Get more tips for driving Trail of the Ancients

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Country Byway, Ohio

Take a break from the fast-paced world of cell phones, computers, fast cars, and demanding schedules and enjoy the simple life found along the Amish Country Byway in Ohio. At first, you may feel as if time is standing still but you’ll soon discover that the Amish folk are highly enterprising and productive. They have simply chosen to maintain their traditional beliefs and customs continuing a lifestyle uncomplicated by the ways of the modern-day world.

As you travel the Amish Country Byway sharing the road with horses and buggies you will experience first-hand the Amish way of life. You will also take in plenty of beautiful scenery and have a wide variety of recreational opportunities to pursue.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Country roads crisscrossing Holmes County are roughly equidistant from Cleveland and Columbus but couldn’t be more different from Ohio’s urban strongholds.

When driving the Byway, the word charm keeps coming to mind. It’s such an appropriate word to describe the experience that you’ll even see it appear on a sign. You’re not hallucinating. The tiny community of Charm is home to a handful of restaurants, gift shops to browse, and of course, the charisma its name suggests.

One of the Byway’s highlights is a visit to Guggisberg Cheese, home of the original Baby Swiss. Immigrating from Switzerland in the 1940s, Alfred and Margaret Guggisberg established their Ohio facility in 1950; the cheese is so exquisite that it won U.S. first prize in 2019 out of over 2,500 entries from 35 states. Today you can tour the factory and of course take home some
championship cheese of your own.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Millersburg is the Byway’s anchor village and feels a lot bigger than its population of 3,200 would imply. As Holmes County’s seat, it maintains a quaint small-town feel despite the solidity of its historic brick and stone buildings. Stop here for lunch, a brochure at the Holmes County Tourism Bureau, or a glimpse at the mesmerizing Millersburg Glass Museum.

Returning to rural landscapes, views of gentle, tree-specked hills roll away like a dream as you listen to the timeless clip-clop of traditional buggies sharing the roadway. The Amish Country multicultural community life depends upon and draws from the Byway, its path forged and designed by early settlers.

As you honor local culture, realize you are visiting a settlement where one of every six Amish lives worldwide. With fervent religious convictions to ground them, the Amish way of life enriches and influences the entire community and those who visit. As you’ll quickly learn in these parts, simple does not equal boring.

There is no one source to research every trail or itinerary in the country but the National Scenic Byway Foundation is dedicated to education about the almost 1,000 official state and federal byways. Their website, travelbyways.com is a helpful resource for the real—or armchair —taveler who wants to explore some uniquely American places.

>> Get more tips for driving Amish Country Byway

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Brief History of National Byways

  • 1922: Completion of Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Parkway, the first state scenic byway. Its rest areas and scenic pull-offs make it desirable to travel at a more leisurely pace.
  • 1938: The Great River Road became the first national byway designated by an act of Congress. It originally spanned five states along the Mississippi River.
  • 1988-89: Two separate byway programs designated 137 National Forest Service Byways and 54 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Back Country Byways.
  • 1992: The Federal Highway Administration launched the National Scenic Byways Program. Federally-recognized Scenic Byways must have at least one intrinsic quality: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, or scenic. More selective All-American Roads must have at least two intrinsic qualities and be considered a destination unto themselves.

More on scenic byways:

Worth Pondering…

Look for chances to take the less-traveled roads. There are no wrong turns.

—Susan Magsamen

These Travel Quotes Will Inspire You to Hit the Road

Looking for inspiration to hit the road? I have put together 65 of the best road trip quotes to inspire you to get in your RV and drive!

Expanding your horizons! A desire to explore the unknown! Connection! Adventure! These are the tenets that unite travelers in that shared experience so many of us know and love.

Maybe you’re the kind of traveler who likes to throw away the map and get lost or perhaps you’re the type that prefers to have an itinerary with a carefully curated list of things to see and do. In any case, dreaming up future trips is half the fun, and allowing your imagination to run wild with fantasies of backcountry drives or long walks through cobblestone streets is always a joy.

Whether RV travel has been a regular part of your life or you’re just now itching to explore, there is no shortage of inspiration to help fuel that wanderlust. Here are 65 quotes about travel to inspire your next road trip.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adventure is worthwhile.

―Aesop (620-564 BC)

To travel is to live.

—Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)

Travel in the younger sort is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.

—Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.

— Paulo Coelho

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.

—Lao Tzu (6th century BC)

We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.

—Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I was here, I saw this, and it mattered to me.

—Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.

—Ray Bradbury

My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.

—Diane Arbus

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.

—Lawrence Block

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space.

Born To Be Free, words and music by Mars Bonfire

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

Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

—Terry Pratchett

To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.

—Charles Horton Cooley

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.

—Anatole France (1844-1924)

One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.

—Andre Gide

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to control it.
—John Steinbeck (1902-1968)

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body.
—Anthony Bourdain

Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near.
—Paulo Coelho

When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.

—D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you miss the sense of where you’re going and why.

—Eddie Cantor

“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 (1832-1898)

For the born traveler, travelling is a besetting vice. Like other vices, it is imperious, demanding its victim’s time, money, energy and the sacrifice of comfort.

—Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

Life is 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

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long
Come on. Give me give me give me give me yeah

—recorded by Tom Cochrane from his second studio album, Mad Mad World (1991)

Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

The road goes on forever the party never ends…

—Joe Ely, musician

Experience, travel—these are as education in themselves.

—Euripides (480-406 BC)

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

—Michael Frome

Now more than ever do I realize that I shall never be content with a sedentary life,
and that I shall always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.

—Isabelle Eberhardt

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.

—Pat Conroy

Once a year go somewhere you have never been before.

—Dalai Lama

Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

—René Descartes (1596-1650)

Two roads diverged in a wood, and

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

—Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken (1873-1963)

The minute I step foot in the motorhome, I feel at ease. I don’t have anything else to think about except taking care of my family.

—Actress Jennie Garth

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.

—Ursala K. Guin

Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.

—Peter Hoeg

Every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels.

— Nikos Kazantzakis

“Where are we going, man?”

“I don’t know, but we gotta go.”

—Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1922-1969)

The open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.

—William Least Heat Moon

St. Martinsville, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My travels led me to where I am today. Sometimes these steps have felt painful, difficult, but led me to greater happiness and opportunities.

—Diana Ross

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.

I travel for travel’s sake.

The great affair is to move.

—Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet

And whither then, I cannot say.

—J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Your road is everything that a road ought to be…

And yet you will not stay in it half a mile, for the reason that little, seductive, mysterious roads are always branching out from it on either hand, and as these curve sharply also and hide what is beyond, you cannot resist the temptation to desert your own chosen road and explore them.

—Mark Twain (1835-1910)

One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.
—Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

—Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.

—Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher (4 BC-AD 65)

The journey is my home.

—Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.

—Freya Stark (1893-1993)

Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think.

—Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

—Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the road again, goin’ places that I’ve never been, seein’ things that I may never see again, and I can’t wait to get on the road again.

—Willie Nelson, On The Road Again

Why I travel: to learn and grow, to challenge myself, stretch my limits and foster an appreciation of both the world at large and the chair waiting in front of the woodstove back home.

—Tim Patterson

The time to prepare for your next expedition is when you have just returned from a successful trip.

—Robert Peary (1856-1920)

The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.
—Agnes Repplier (1855-1950)

When you travel you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak….You begin to be more accessible to others, because they may be able to help you in difficult situations.

—Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

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

Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.

—Confucius (551-479 BC)

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

—Scott Cameron

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

—Edward Abbey (1927-1989)

Life’s an open road.

—Bryan Adams, Open Road

Stuff your eyes with wonder…live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

—Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

—Martin Buber (1878-1965)

Canyons of Senora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.

—Tim Cahill

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
—Henry Miller (1891-1980)

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

—Miriam Beard (1876-1958)

Change of Seasons

The summer solstice is today

‘Tis the solstice…and you know what that means! Well, I hope you know what that means because I don’t.

Well, literally it means that it’s the longest day of the year so pack in all the activities you can. You’ve got all the time in the world. Visit a museum, set out on a cross-county RV road trip, run a marathon, make pie from scratch, go to an indoor surfing fitness class, head out on a hike, climb a mountain (any mountain will do), swim across the lake (any lake will do), brainstorm what to do with those extra minutes of sunlight. Now is your chance!

Helena, Montana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today is the summer solstice, aka the longest day and shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Forecast: burnt hotdogs, fireworks, and sunniest warm day you could even imagine.

It is the day on which:

  • The Northern Hemisphere has its longest day
  • The Northern Hemisphere has its shortest night
  • The Northern Hemisphere has the most direct intense solar radiation
  • The sun will be directly overhead at noon as viewed from the Tropic of Cancer
  • Any location north of the Arctic Circle has 24 hours of sunshine
  • The North Pole has been receiving 24 hours of sunshine every day since March 21—yes, the past three months

Today is the summer solstice, aka the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day of the year. In terms of astronomy, the June solstice marks the sun’s northernmost point in our sky for the year. The sun rises the farthest north on the horizon—and is highest in the sky at local noon.

For the Southern Hemisphere, it marks the longest nights and shortest days. After this solstice, the sun will be moving southward in the sky again.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a solstice?

The word solstice comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and stitium (still or stopped). Ancient cultures knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. In fact, they built monuments to follow the sun’s yearly progress.

The solstice is a time to recall the reverence and understanding that early people had for the sky. Some 5,000 years ago, people placed huge stones in a circle on a broad plain in what’s now England and aligned them with the June solstice sunrise.

Creek Indian houses, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We may never comprehend the full significance of Stonehenge. But we do know that knowledge of this sort wasn’t limited to just one part of the world. Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazed toward the two pyramids, you’d see the sun set exactly between them.

Today, we know that the solstice is an astronomical event caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and by its orbital motion around the sun. Indeed, the Earth doesn’t orbit upright. Instead, our world is tilted on its axis by 23½ degrees. Through the year, this tilt causes Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres to trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. In fact, our planet is closest to the sun in January during the the Northern Hemisphere’s winter.

Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park, Globe, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where should I look for signs of the June solstice in nature?

Everywhere! For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is as fundamental as the length of the day. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of almost all light and warmth on Earth’s surface.

Living in the Northern Hemisphere, you might notice the early dawns and late sunsets and the high arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might see how high the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And, also be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the solstice, it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year. And in to the out-of-doors, you know the peaceful, comforting feeling that accompanies these signs and signals of the year’s longest day.

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

Is the June solstice the first day of summer?

No world body has designated an official day to start each new season and different schools of thought or traditions define the seasons in different ways. In meteorology, for example, summer begins on June 1. And every schoolchild knows that summer starts when the last school bell of the year rings.

Yet June 21 is perhaps the most widely recognized day upon which summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere and upon which winter begins on the southern half of Earth’s globe. There’s nothing official about it but it’s such a long-held tradition that we all recognize it to be so. It has been universal among humans to treasure this time of warmth and light.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is the summer solstice a time to celebrate?

People around the world celebrate this sunny late June day in different ways ranging from sunrise gatherings to bonfire-lit revelry and sauna relaxation. Keep reading to learn about some of the most interesting summer solstice traditions around the globe. You just may get a few ideas for how to celebrate on the big day. Before you make any decisions, though, check out what the summer solstice means for your zodiac to make sure those plans will align with the universe’s larger plan for you.

Perhaps one of the most coveted seats in the world for the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice traditions is on the grounds of the Neolithic structures at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Ingeniously designed to showcase the ascending light of the solstice, the sunrise on this occasion aligns perfectly with a circle carved in stone at the site. Theories of its origin vary but both mystical seekers and history buffs convene here on the solstice to witness an architectural wonder built, some say, to worship deities of the Earth and the sun. Stonehenge is one of the ancient mysteries researchers still can’t explain.

Another wonder of ancient architecture, the pyramids of Chichén Itzá on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula are a wonderful place to celebrate the longest day of the year. The precise construction and engineering of the pyramids create a visual display twice a year in which the central pyramid of El Castillo is bathed in pure sunlight on one side and full shadow on the other. Thousands of spectators come from near and far to celebrate the summer solstice in view of this ethereal spectacle in which the pyramid appears to be cut in two.

Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The indigenous people of New Mexico paid close attention to the sun. In addition to the Pueblo-built sandstone buildings of Chaco Canyon, the state is also home to the Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec. Ancestral Pueblo people had a strong relationship with the cosmos. They built the back (north) wall of the monument to perfectly align with the rising and setting sun as it touches the horizon during both the summer and winter solstices. Despite its name, the Aztec Ruins National Monument was not built by the Aztec people (that was just an incorrect guess from early settlers) but instead by the Ancestral Pueblans. It took approximately 200 years to build these structures which date from around the 12th century.

Despite holidays at all times of the year, the summer solstice is when Swedes really celebrate. Is it so surprising that inhabitants of one of the world’s most northerly countries want to celebrate a day full of sunshine and warmth? The Midsummer (or Midsommar) Festival takes place across the country. The day is brimming with ancient agrarian symbolism from walking barefoot in the morning dew for good health to ringing floral crowns around women’s hair to celebrate beauty and fertility. If you want to join in the fun of this summer solstice tradition, stock up on pickled herring for a snack and strawberries topped with whipped cream for dessert.

Hovenweep National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why doesn’t the longest day have the hottest weather?

People often ask, if the June solstice brings the longest day, why do we experience the hottest weather in late July and August?

This effect is called the lag of the seasons. It’s the same reason it’s hotter in mid-afternoon than at noontime. Earth just takes a while to warm up after a long winter. Even in June, ice and snow still blanket the ground in some places. The sun has to melt the ice and warm the oceans and then we feel the most sweltering summer heat.

Ice and snow have been melting since spring began. Meltwater and rainwater have been percolating down through snow on tops of glaciers. But the runoff from glaciers isn’t as great now as it’ll be in another month even though sunlight is striking the Northern Hemisphere most directly around now.

So wait another month for the hottest weather. It’ll come when the days are already beginning to shorten again as Earth continues to move in orbit around the sun bringing us closer to another winter. And so the cycle continues.

Soap Lake, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bottom line: Time to celebrate! Ah, the summer solstice. It’s the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, and the official kickoff for warm-weather festivities.

Worth Pondering…

This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath.

—Margaret Atwood