7 Best Road Trips from Most Any Large City

Storybook towns, lakeside villages, nature preserves, and more await just a short drive from Metro-America

Cities can sometimes feel like endless stretches of concrete—especially in the hot summer months—and your city is likely no exception.

Fortunately, there’s a whole world out there beyond the city limits. While it doesn’t always feel like it, there are so, so, so many worthy escapes within a few hours’ drive of Metro-America. Storybook small towns with a down-home feel, lakeside villages with entirely different way of life, and even places where you can connect with nature among meandering creeks and lush trees.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s really important for people is their comfort level in traveling, so we have something at each end of the spectrum. If you’re still concerned about getting out there, go on a road trip or go camping and still have that seclusion and privacy.

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

Pack your car or RV with some picnic accessories and some hiking gear and head out. You’re within driving distance of some truly great, out-of-the-ordinary places that make for wonderful road trips. Here are seven of them.

Wolfsboro, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

Nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee and surrounded by the pristine beauty of forests and mountains, Wolfeboro is a quintessential New England community with a rich heritage. A visit to Wolfeboro can be whatever you want it to be: a fun-fi­lled family weekend or a quiet respite from hectic city life. You can explore, hike, boat, fish, golf, picnic, or dream. You can do everything or nothing at all in Wolfeboro—“The Oldest Summer Resort in America”.

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

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons—longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. In the place called Tsegi, their homes and images tell us their stories. Today, Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyons.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante spans many acres of America’s public lands and contains three distinct units, Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyon. From its spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau, to the wonders of the Escalante River Canyons, the Monument is a diverse geologic treasure speckled with monoliths, slot canyons, natural bridges, and arches. 

Medora, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Medora, North Dakota

Interested in American presidential history? Then visit tiny Medora, located in the dramatic wilderness of the state’s Badlands region. The town is the gateway to walks and camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Don’t miss a hike to the Badlands Overlook for views of North Dakota’s famed natural landscape.

Bernheim Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With over 15,000 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone, no matter what your interest. At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees. Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads, or bicycle around the Arboretum. Over 40 miles of trails weave their way through the forest at Bernheim.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island. The 4,600-acre preserve includes three miles of undeveloped beachfront. This wildlife management area exhibits many characteristics common to sea islands along the southeast coast: pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands, and a barrier island with a beachfront. Only this tract has been left undisturbed.

General Sherman, world’s largest tree, Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Aside from being home to the world’s largest tree (by volume) and protecting vast areas of towering inland redwoods, a big part of Sequoia’s appeal is that it isn’t all that crowded. Take a stroll under the big trees in the Giant Forest, view wildlife in Crescent Meadows, climb to the top of Moro Rock.

Eleven Mile Range, Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

—Helen Keller

Is This The Summer Of The RV?

States across the U.S. are starting to open back up. What does that mean for when, where, and how to travel?

With the unofficial start of summer behind us and months before the kids go back to school—or not—many would-be-travelers with canceled plans are looking for ideas to travel safely. “Safe” does not mean the same thing to all people: While one person might be comfortable in an RV park because they have personal accommodations, another might find the campground itself too crowded for personal comfort.

Sea Breeze RV Resort, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In any typical year, the end of May marks the official start of road trip season. But 2020, as we’re all painfully aware is not a typical year. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just wreaking havoc on people’s health and livelihoods—in just a few months it’s all but decimated the travel industry as well. Airplanes are grounded, cruise ships are docked, hotels are closed, and several states still have stay-at-home orders in place. 

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But for those of us who prefer road travel in our own vehicle over flights and cruises, the news isn’t all bad. According to recent headlines from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNN, LA Times, and many others, the American road trip is about to make a grand, splashing comeback. (Though, if you ask me, road trips never went out of style in the first place.)

Spirit River and Mount St. Helens, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer vacation will look at lot different for many families this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of the RV. The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options while personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven. Recent studies have shown travelers feel more comfortable in a personal vehicle where they can control the scenario, unlike shared transportation.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The RV Industry Association says RV sales have increased 170 percent when compared to this time last year. Some dealers are reporting sales at any all-time high.

In an effort to keep things more contained, those renting RVs aren’t looking to hit the road and travel to crowded areas. RVshare said its study found 93 percent of respondents want to avoid crowds and 65 percent want to be surrounded by nature. We could see a far greater number of trips to national and state parks and wide-open spaces.

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

Perhaps playing to Americans’ stir-crazy feelings of confinement, they’re planning to take longer trips, too. Almost half of those surveyed planned to get away for a week or more than 10 days. But, if you’re thinking about taking the plunge on an RV and socially distanced vacation, just know you’re not alone. Quickly, isolated areas could become the next popular destination.

Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadtripping is a great way to explore some of the most beautiful places in the country while still avoiding big crowds, and after being cooped up at home many are understandably antsy to hit the road again. Remember to be mindful of risks, both to yourself and others.

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

As we venture out consider that some of our fellow travelers are still adjusting to a new normal. To ensure everyone enjoys their chance to travel, keep these common-sense guidelines in mind:

  • Before heading out, check the status of the area you plan to visit
  • Phone ahead to determine under what conditions a park or attraction has reopened
  • Check the rules for recreation ahead of time for the specific area you’re planning to visit
  • Avoid high-risk activities like rock climbing or backcountry activities as law enforcement and rescue operations may be limited
  • Select low-traffic locations and times
  • Consider visiting less-traveled locations at off-peak hours to avoid potential crowding
  • Practice physical distancing outdoors by staying at least 6 feet apart
  • Avoid crowded locations where physical distancing may be difficult
  • Plan ahead, as services and facilities will be limited
  • If you are feeling even mildly sick, you should remain at home until you feel better
Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If we learn anything from these last few months, it should be to behave respectfully toward any people you encounter or communities you visit during your travels. Be kind, act responsibly, and leave it better than you found it.

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

Worth Pondering…

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

—Okakura Kazuko

Choose Your National Park Campground Carefully

How to find a suitable camping site in a National Park?

The rustic accommodations of national park campsites get us closer to nature than private campgrounds outside the park. But opting for that primitive experience often puts RVers in the middle of that classic Goldilocks conundrum.

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

Without good planning, you just don’t know if a campground can accommodate your home on wheels. If you can count the number of times you have spent an entire afternoon jumping from one site to another, trying to find one that fits, you’re not alone.

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

As the owner of a 38-foot motorhome, I’m somewhat envious of truck campers, camping vans, and small motorhomes able to tuck themselves in a cozy gem of a campsite that could never accommodate our rig. The truth is, bigger is not better when it comes to RVing in national parks. The smaller your rig, the more campsite choices you have, including some amazing backcountry campsites where large rigs could never tread.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona/Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many owners of RVs larger than ours are successful at squeezing into the pint-sized campsites at national parks, but we prefer to avoid being the afternoon entertainment when we arrive somewhere. 

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

The best RV type for national parks is a unit that’s 30-feet or less including the toad (or tow) vehicle. The short, narrow parking sites in most national park campgrounds make navigation difficult in anything larger. That’s not to say your 40-foot motorhome won’t ever be able to camp in national parks, it just means that you’ll need to work harder to find a suitable campsite.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to find the best national park campsite for your RV

If you’re one of America’s nine million RV owners and desire a national park experience, reserve a spot as far in advance as possible at Recreation.gov. Wherever you roam in the national park system, the RV-friendly spots are always the first to go. Spontaneous travel offers some amazing benefits, but showing up at a national park’s campground without a reservation is a recipe for disappointment.

From Joshua Tree to Arches and beyond, planning pays off for national park RV camping and it’s easier when you know the answers to these questions:

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort, Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will the campground accommodate my needs?

If your RV is self-contained with holding tanks, toilet facilities, and perhaps solar panels, you can go just about anywhere. But if you’re in a more basic rig without them, a designated campground with water and bathroom facilities is pretty much a necessity. And if you rely on generator power, you’ll need a campground that allows their use. Not all do in the national park system, so always verify that the one you want to visit has generator hours and other creature comforts you desire.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is the length of my RV?

Don’t rely on the RV manufacturer’s sticker to tell you the length of your rig. That number usually only factors in the interior length dimension of the RV rather than the exterior measurement from front to back bumper. Your toad, or tow vehicle, adds additional length that impacts where you can camp.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To find out your actual length, measure your RV. You want to know the total number of feet for your RV and secondary vehicle, if any. Measure from the front bumper of the first vehicle to the back bumper of the second one. If you have bicycles or a cargo box hitched to the rear, add those in too. Also measure the height from the highest point on your roof, and total width with slides extended, if applicable. Many campsites have thick tree canopies with limited clearance for high profile vehicles.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is the maximum RV length for the campsite I want?

You’ll see that number for every campsite on Recreation.gov, but it only refers to the vehicle being parked at the site. You may or may not be able to fit a second vehicle on the parking site. Before reserving a spot, contact the park to get a better idea of the campground’s ease of use for an RV like yours.

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

Do parking hazards exist?

Even when site dimensions look acceptable, natural obstacles may prevent you from maneuvering into the site. If there’s any question about fitting into a site, look carefully at Recreation.gov photos or download a Google Earth map to confirm that you can navigate that space without scraping a tree or boulder.

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

If you’re already at the campground, observe and note if the rig’s back end will hang over the parking site or encroach on your neighbor’s landscaping.

Many RVers will say that a small rig is best for one location while super-sized RV owners may say they don’t have a problem accessing that same spot. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

Worth Pondering…

Our wish to you is this: drive a little slower, take the backroads sometimes, and stay a little longer. Enjoy, learn, relax, and then…plan your next RV journey.

RVs Could Be the Answer to Your Summer Travel Plans

The coronavirus is making people rethink what a summer vacation looks like

As the country began locking down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus the entire travel industry was severely impacted. On April 7, the Transportation Security Administration recorded the lowest number of U.S. flyers screened in the agency’s history when it dropped to below 100,000—a 95 percent decrease from the same day in 2019. On May 20, the TSA screened 230,367 passengers, compared with 2,472,123 on the same day last year.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers spent $1.1 trillion in the U.S. in 2019 which supported nine million jobs and generated $180 billion in tax revenue. One-third of coronavirus job losses in the U.S. are connected to the travel industry.

RV Park at Rolling Hills, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While many summer travel plans have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus, one form of travel might be a viable way to go: RVs. As of May 19, bookings on RVshare, an RV peer-to-peer booking platform, were up 1,000 percent from early April. Yes, 1,000 percent.

SeaWind RV Resort, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the pandemic has halted most forms of travel, families are looking for safe ways to get out-of-doors after months of home isolation. But for some people—about a million, to be exact—living out of an RV is the norm.

Buckhorn RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many analysts expect summer 2020 to herald the return of the Great American Road Trip as travelers explore destinations closer to home in the comfort of their own vehicle. Mark Wong, an exec at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, told CNBC, “Road trips—the drive market—will be this summer’s trend. Travelers will be more comfortable hopping into their own RVs or rental units than commuting in mass transportation.”

Along Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nicholas Devane, owner of RV rental company Texino, told the LA Times he was doing good business until having to shut down because “I think corona is making people rethink what a vacation looks like. What is their ability to travel without going through airports? Camper vans and RVs are a great way to do that.”

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RVshare survey found that 77 percent of respondents were looking to make travel plans within the next three months. Sixty-five percent of travelers said they want to be in and around nature including locations like a national park (65 percent) or a lake (47 percent).

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVillage offers a place for RVers (and wannabes) to talk to one another. Whether you are considering purchasing an RV for an upcoming vacation, deciding to leave your conventional home behind, or have been on the road for years, about 3,000 crowd-sourced groups are available to field RV-related questions and discussions. Over 11,000 new RVillage accounts were created in the past month alone pushing RVillage to over 220,000 users.

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

During the pandemic RVers also use the platform to help plan their next move safely. People are talking to each other and asking what’s open and what’s not open. What are best practices right now if you want to go with your family? Where to avoid? How does social distancing work in the RV?

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

Even before the pandemic, the RV industry had been showing significant growth. According to RV Industry Association data, beginning in 2009 RV unit shipments increased year over year through 2017 although the number began dropping in 2018 (down 4.1 percent) and even more in 2019 (down 16 percent). RV retail value was over $20 billion in 2018, the latest year for which a figure was available.

Another benefit of RV travel during a pandemic or any other time is the ability to have everything you need for travel within your own space.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Sir Richard Burton once put it, “man wants to wander, and he must do so, or he shall die.” That being said, traveling around the U.S. isn’t going to be a cakewalk. Different states are in very different stages of easing the pandemic restrictions. Ultimately, we need to know what is going on where. That means don’t travel to an area that has an active shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. Period! Don’t travel if local communities don’t feel ready to welcome travelers, either.

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

Worth Pondering…

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

—Benjamin Franklin

7 Simple Tips to Live Longer and Healthier

Turns out extending your lifespan is pretty damn easy. Just follow these definitive, scientific, time-tested methods.

Over the past few years there has been an ever-increasing obsession with biohacking and life extension. Biohacking is the process of making changes to your lifestyle in order to “hack” your body’s biology and feel your best. It doesn’t have to involve being a mad scientist and running crazy experiments with your body—but for some people it does.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A biohacking movement is growing in popularity in Silicon Valley where tech execs track what they eat, ketone levels, and body composition on a daily basis. They also fast for days at a time increasing their risk of missing out on critical minerals.

James Island County Park, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many medical professionals and scientists are skeptical of these practices due to their mistaken idea that medicines and medical therapies have a greater impact on your body than following nutrition principles.

Lady Bird Wildlife Center, ustin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aubrey de Grey, chief science officer at the SENS Research Foundation, a Silicon Valley–based longevity institute, recently told the New Yorker that by doing things like optimizing his mitochondrial mutation, “I can drink as much as I like, and it has no effect. I don’t even need to exercise, I’m so well optimized.” Perhaps? And then again, perhaps not?

These biohackers seem to have forgotten that there already exists a proven method to extend both the quantity and quality of your life: adopting a few healthy, lifestyle habits.

Utah Lake State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’ve known since the mid-1960s that lifestyle behaviors have an outsize influence on health and longevity,” says Michael Joyner, a researcher and expert on health and human performance at the Mayo Clinic. Since then, evidence to support the positive impact of healthy living has mounted, he says, even as more people try to find the elixir of youth.

Woodfield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider research published in 2011 in the American Journal of Public Health demonstrating that adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors—regular exercise, a wholesome diet, no smoking—can increase lifespan by 11 years. Or a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal that found a healthy lifestyle reduces one’s chance of all-cause mortality by a whopping 61 percent.

Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Exercise

If exercise could be bottled up and sold as a drug, it would be a billion-dollar business. Decades of studies show that just 30 minutes of moderate to intense daily physical activity lowers your risk for physiological diseases (like heart disease and cancer) as well as psychological ones (like anxiety and Alzheimer’s).

Truth BBQ, Brennan, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Eat Real Foods

Avoid stuff that comes pre-packaged. People who eat lots of ultra-processed foods are more likely to develop heart disease and die sooner than those who stick to foods in their original form, two studies published in the BMJ conclude. Consuming lots of these foods has long been linked to an increased risk of a wide variety of health problems that can lead to heart disease or an early grave, such as obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and cancer.

Billy’s Boudin, Scott, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eating healthy has little to do with your ability to resist buying junk food or ordering a pizza—it has everything to do with how much you educate yourself about your body. That’s an important reason why eating healthy is difficult: We lack the self-control to learn about nutrition, longevity, and how our bodies function. 

La Posta, Mesilla, New Mexico

3. Avoid Supplements

Americans spend more than $30 billion every year on dietary supplements. A 2016 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association cited more than 20 years of research and concluded that “studies evaluating dietary supplements have yielded predominantly disappointing results about the potential health benefits, whereas evidence of harm has continued to accumulate.”

2019 Dutch Star motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Sleep 8 Hours at Night

If you’re not getting enough zzzs each night (usually between 7–9 hours) and suffering from sleep deprivation, you’re putting yourself at risk for a host of health problems including a higher risk for chronic disease, a weakened immune system, trouble concentrating, irritability, and out-of-whack hormones. Regardless of what the biohackers may tell you, you simply cannot nap your way to optimal health and functioning. It’s only after you’ve been sleeping for at least an hour that anabolic hormones are released.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Enjoy Coffee

Coffee is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, and phenylindane, a recently identified compound that researchers think may help fend off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Drinking coffee has also been linked to reduced risks for several cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Drink your coffee without sugar or processed syrups.

Lucero Olive, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Use Olive Oil

Think of olive oil as “liquid gold”, such are its benefits with improved heart health topping the list. A four-and-a-half year clinical trial involving 7,000 older adults at risk of heart disease found that those eating an olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet had 30 percent fewer instances of heart attacks and strokes as well as improved lipid and cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Olive oil consumption has also been linked to a slowing of the progression of breast cancer, reduced bone mass loss, and better blood glucose control. Use it to cook or dress multi-colored vegetables.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Enjoy Nature

In Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, Wild, her mom tells her that the cure for much of what ails her is to “put [herself] in the way of beauty.” Turns out she was right, at least according to the latest science. Time in nature is an antidote to the ill effects of stress and in some cases even helps cure anxiety and depression and enhances creativity. Though the exact causal mechanisms are not yet known, researchers speculate there is something unique about nature—perhaps related to the fact that we evolved to be in it—that puts both our bodies and minds at ease, promoting physical and psychological restoration and subsequent functioning.

New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Each day I will rise and greet the morning sun, for it is a good day.

—L.M. Montgomery

COVID-19 Road Trip: Best Places for RV Travel this June

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb, pack the RV, and travel again.

June takes its name from Roman origins. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the ancient Roman goddess that reigns over marriage and childbirth which may explain why June is such a popular wedding month.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The summer season officially arrives and the sun is out longer than ever––providing hours of daylight for exploring a new area. To visit a destination in June is (often) to see it at its joyful best. If you’re looking for a destination worthy of your June vacation days consider places with generally good weather this month.

Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By now, it’s clear that the road trip will be the most popular form of travel this summer. Though it is not without risks, it has the potential to be one of the safest forms of travel in the current COVID-19 era especially if you target wilderness areas, camp, and keep to yourself as much as possible. So, where should road trippers look to explore? Here are a few ideas.

Kentucky

Bourbon Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yeah, the bourbon and fried chicken in Kentucky are superb but so is the adventure. Kentucky has a unique geography that has turned the state into a honeycomb of caves and rock formations. It is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s largest known cave system.

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you prefer sunlight, there’s Red River Gorge Geological Area which has the most sandstone arches outside of Arches National Park not to mention hundreds of sport-climbing routes. In between these two superlatives, you have 49 state parks including My Old Kentucky Home, massive lakes, and, yeah, really great bourbon and fried chicken.

Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With five national parks and an uncountable amount of nooks and crannies, Utah is one of the best states in the country for a road trip. That said, considering that the State’s national parks suffer from overcrowding when they are fully operational, don’t expect complete solace or unlimited availability when they are only partially open (especially Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon). As an alternative, head to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or Glen Canyon Recreation Area where you will find it easy to disappear (in a good way).

Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking for open space, Texas might have more than anyone. Keep an eye on the reopening status at Big Bend National Park. Normally, it’s one of the most out of the way national parks but maybe time is now not as much of an issue as it usually is.

Big Thicket National Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise, consider heading to the southeast part of the state towards the Louisiana border where four national forests—Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Angelina, and Sabine—hide between Shreveport and Houston.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Young Theodore Roosevelt had the world to choose from. Where did he come to satiate his yen for wild open spaces? North Dakota. The state’s badlands, wooded valleys, mighty rivers (featuring the Missouri and the Little Missouri), and rolling hills are the perfect backdrop for “the strenuous life” that T.R. endorsed. Whether that manifests as an epic bike ride on one of America’s finest off-road trails or a session of walleye fishing in a quiet lake is, of course, up to you.

New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s been a long time since Breaking Bad, but it’s time to get reacquainted with New Mexico. On a normal road trip combining Carson National Forest with a couple nights in Santa Fe would be an ideal pairing. But for these times I suggest something more remote, perhaps the sandstone cliffs of El Malpais National Monument or the unexpected, rugged mountain terrain of Lincoln National Forest. Perhaps no road trip to New Mexico should skip some time spent in Gila National Forest which covers much of the landscape in the southwest and leads into Arizona.

Arizona

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona’s favorite tourist hot spots are trickling back to life with safety protocols in place as the state’s economy continues its reopening this month. The Grand Canyon seems poised to continue its gradual reopening which will no doubt draw many road warriors to Arizona. Nearby Lake Powell will also be a big draw in the next few months and between the two there’s plenty of room to find your own space via hiking, biking, and boating. Check out the two million acres of forest within the boundaries of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the red rock formations of Coconino National Forest, or the big, desert cacti of Tonto National Forest.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in March, April, and May. Also check out our recommendations from June 2019.

Worth Pondering…

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
—L.M. Montgomery

What Will Travel Be Like This Summer?

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb and travel again

Will this be a normal summer? Definitely not! The #stayhome brigades are shaming travelers but summer travel may be what the country needs. With the traditional start of the summer travel season—Memorial Day weekend—behind us, what can we expect from the travel industry?

La Connor, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you choose to travel by air, expect higher fares and new procedures at the airport before you even board your flight. More than 6,100 planes are currently parked on runways from coast to coast. Many of those planes will not be returning.

Montpelier, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers should be prepared for something new at the airport: Temperature checks for every departing passenger in hopes of preventing those with COVID-19 from boarding. What’s still being decided is whether the TSA or individual airlines will conduct the checks. Either way, expect to be charged an extra fee to pay for them.

Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s also a logistical problem that will need to be addressed. If you’re going to practice social distancing, and everybody has to get their temperature taken, there are some airports that are worried that the lines might stretch more than a mile.

Upper Colorado Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The warm greeting you’re used to receiving when you arrive at a hotel will likely be out the window. The idea of having contact with a bellman, or room service, or any other human being is getting withdrawn. Expect the check-in process to be done online. Some hotels already allow you to unlock your door with your phone.

Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the hotels to create an image in which you feel safe and secure, they’ve put the word hospital back in hospitality. For instance, Hilton Hotels have partnered with the Mayo Clinic to create a branded cleaning process for its rooms. When it comes to housekeeping, staff will not enter your room unless you make a request. Hotels still offering room service will leave your meal outside your door for you to bring inside.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many things you’re used to finding in a hotel room will likely disappear. Pens, paper, magazines, that extra pillow that used to be in the closet, coat hangers—kiss them goodbye. Necessary items such as the TV remote, the telephone handset, and water glasses will likely be enclosed in some kind of wrapping with a seal.

Applegate River Valley, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard to forget the awful stories of cruises wrecked by the coronavirus earlier this year including that of the Diamond Princess which was quarantined for two weeks in a harbor in Japan. The cruise lines have a very steep hill to climb based just on optics and public perception. They have a problem because a lot of folks think of a cruise ship as nothing more than a floating petri dish.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A no-sail order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires at the end of June but cruise lines are required to submit a detailed anti-coronavirus plan to the CDC for approval to sail again. Few cruises—if any—will likely happen during the remainder of this year but expect a turnaround next year as people who love cruises are very loyal.

Woodstock, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise ships which emphasize loads of shared experiences need to make major changes. Expect to see them change with limits of people in the pools and the Jacuzzis and a buffet in which you will never go near the food. You will point to what you want, and a uniformed staff member will plate it for you. Prices may not increase initially because the focus will be on getting passengers to return. But eventually, prices will likely rise.

Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, demand for recreational vehicles, whether to buy or rent, will go through the roof. Families will want to travel together and an RV gives them the opportunity to be in their own self-contained quarantine-mobile, if you will, to rediscover their own country.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many families will stock up on groceries ahead of their RV trips so they don’t have to stop at any restaurants along the way. Camping will be big at the national and state park level. State parks will be rediscovered because the national parks will be full. You can count on that.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wherever you live you have many options. Take a look at the map and consider a 3- or 400-mile radius from where you live. You will be surprised at what’s available that’s not crowded and will offer a wonderful travel experience at an affordable cost.

Medora, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aim for a small town that doesn’t have big high-rise hotels, theme parks, or a crowded beach. Social distancing is almost the definition of a small town anyway. You’ll learn about American history, you can go antiquing, and you’ll have a better chance of having a better experience within the boundaries of what’s acceptable social distancing.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing permanent except change.

—Heraclitus, ancient Greek philosopher 

May 2020 RV Manufacturer Recalls

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

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

The Lakes and RV Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a recall?

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

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

NHTSA announced 5 recall notices during May 2020. These recalls involved 3 recreational vehicle manufacturers— Forest River (3 recalls), Jayco (1 recall), and Heartland (1 recall).

Forest River

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

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2020 StarTrans P/S2 ST93036 transit buses equipped with Freedman GO-ES foldaway seats. The seat belt retractor block out zone may have not been set correctly, potentially resulting in a seat belt that may not properly secure the occupant. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 209, “Seat Belt Assemblies.”

Forest River will notify the vehicle owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the retractors, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin June 7, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-800-348-7440 or Freedman Seating customer service at 1-800-443-4540. Forest River’s number for this recall is 05-1158.

Forest River

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Vibe trailers, models VBT16RB-OR and VBT17DB-OR. The roof vent for the refrigerator may be missing.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will install a vent on the roof for the refrigerator, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin June 22, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at (503) 831-5413. Forest River’s number for this recall is 22-1166.

Forest River

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

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019-2020 XLR Micro Boost trailers, models XLT25LRLE-79 and XLT27LRLE-79. The fasteners used to attach the ramp door may loosen and cause the ramp door to detach from the vehicle.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers or authorized service centers will replace the fasteners for the ramp door, free of charge. This recall is expected to begin June 24, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-642-0432. Forest River’s number for this recall is 79-1161.

Jayco

Buckhorn Lake Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2020 Jay Flight SLX Travel Trailers manufactured in the Idaho facility. The propane supply hose connection to the refrigerator may be improperly tightened, possibly resulting in a propane leak.

Jayco will notify owners, and dealers will conduct a leak test at the refrigerator connections, repairing them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 29, 2020. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9901509.

Heartland

Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC (Heartland) is recalling certain 2020 Mallard, Prowler, Trail Runner, and Wilderness trailers equipped with a bumper-mounted spare tire carrier. The U-bolt that secures the spare tire may break, and cause the spare tire to detach during travel.

Heartland will notify owners, and dealers will replace the spare tire mounting U-bolts, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 14, 2020. Owners may contact Heartland customer service at 1-877-262-8032.

Please Note: This is the 16th 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

Quarantine on Wheels: Families Turn to RVs to Save Their Summer Travel Plans

The summer getaway theme of 2020 is staying safe, healthy, and in control

It’s become clear that far-flung international travel isn’t going to be as common as it once was for quite some time. Four-hour wait times to get on a plane will be the norm with as much as twice that to get out of the airport when you arrive. That’s before you take into account that most international travel will require 14-day quarantine on arrival and once you return home or consider which borders will to be open to tourists from our continent. (For example, it’s looking more and more like Europe will only allow internal tourism for the rest of the year.)

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With international travel pretty much off the books for the rest of 2020, it’s time to look to the highways and byways of the good ol’ US of A to get your travel fix (assuming you’re lucky enough to get a couple weeks of vacation this year and feel able to afford it). That means the Great American Road Trip is back in a big way. A chance to see the ever-changing nation in a time of massive upheaval, use your tourist dollars to support struggling communities, and get a little elbow room as quarantine winds down. A chance to stay socially distanced without going stir-crazy.

Along Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a recent GasBuddy survey 36 percent of respondents are canceling trips that require flying and 24 percent plan to make shorter trips by distance. 31 percent are planning to take a road trip. Not to mention, gas prices are the cheapest they’ve been in almost 20 years, AAA says.  

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not a surprise that summer vacation will look at lot different this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of RV travel. A recent survey of 4,000 U.S. and Canadian residents by KOA showed the pandemic sparking interest in camping especially among first-timers and younger generations. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Once it is safe to travel, it’s likely the camping market will get a greater share of leisure travelers’ trips in 2020,” reads the May 11 report measuring the effects of COVID-19 on the campground industry. (The study showed camping drawing 16 percent of leisure travelers for the rest of 2020, up from 11 percent before the pandemic.)

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In March, as RV buyers evaporated and manufacturing plants—mostly in northeastern Indiana—closed, the RV industry pivoted toward crisis management. Dealers and manufacturers sent vehicles across the country for use as isolation units, housing for critical health care workers, command centers, and mobile testing labs. 

Along Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California ordered 1,309 to house the sick should hospitals be overwhelmed. Louisiana state police ordered nearly 100 for command posts. A dealer in Texas sent RVs across the state to municipalities. Florida health officials retrofitted RVs as rolling testing labs. 

Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 418 businesses that make up the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association pushed federal and state lawmakers to keep RV manufacturers and dealers open as essential businesses to meet this new demand. 

The generally accepted plan for reviving the country’s tourism industry starts with people traveling closer to home. It’s not likely vacationers will be jumping in planes anytime soon, so the RV industry is hoping more people start looking at self-contained motorhomes and trailers as a way to vacation while distancing and controlling their own environments. 

Wind Creek Casino RV Park, Atmore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV production was strong in January and February with shipments pacing ahead of 2019. Even after the collapse in mid-March, the RV association reported a slight increase in shipments for the first three months of 2020 over last year. After a dormant April, the industry is seeing a revival in May, driven in large part by a surge in demand for RV rentals.

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

The 3,000-plus members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in recent years have seen a majority of their RV visitors traveling within 150 miles of their homes. This most certainly will be the case going forward in the age of COVID-19.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The association’s latest survey of private campground owners estimates there are more than 1.2 million private campsites across the country and owners plan to add more than 60,000 this year. Private campground owners are preparing for wary visitors by scripting specific plans for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining distancing. Most communal facilities including pools, gyms, and game rooms remain closed.

The MotorCoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As restrictions begin to ease we will see people get outside, stay closer to home, and be as safe as possible. The RV is a self-contained way for them to do that.

It’s like everyone was in a holding pen and as things begin to open up, there is a definite and growing demand for RVs and RV travel.

Rio Grande Bend Golf and RV Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course, of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why NOW is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel Bucket List

Have you been dreaming of destinations that you’d like to be quarantined in?

As we travel again, having had time to consider how much we miss traveling and exploring, will we do anything differently? Will we make better use of our time by ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind?

I posed the above question in an earlier post titled, Why Do You Travel? Many of us, I suggest, travel for the wrong reasons, putting the ‘where’ ahead of the ‘why’. We have a perfect opportunity to change all that with a new travel paradigm.

Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A renewed and surging interest in travel suggests that many people (including myself) are starving for travel and as it becomes safe to travel again, many of us will embrace it— and we should. But will we travel better than before?

Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This pandemic is not the first major disruption to travel and besides other outbreaks from SARS and Swine Flu to MERS and Ebola there have been volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires. But because this is so widespread and long lasting, I for one will emerge with a newfound sense of seizing the moment.

World’s Only Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is short enough without one not knowing when the next shoe will drop. A lesson to be learned is that if there are things you want to do in your life, you should put a plan in place and Just Do It.

In terms of travel, this is not a new idea since the pandemic. Each trip we create is by definition unique. What all of our trips share in common is the belief that any journey worth taking should be a rich personal story set within the larger narrative of life itself.

Lady Bird Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Why Do You Travel? I concluded that in this time of reflection we can make the most of the opportunity to plan our future travels by first asking why rather than where. Because travel is so freely available we tend to rush through this question.

Fort Jackson State Historic Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of travel that puts the where ahead of the why follows a predictable blueprint that hasn’t changed since the days of the Grand Tour; we visit the Louvre, tour the Pantheon, and ride the London Eye. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re meant to do.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is why you need to think about what you really want to do and see? Create your own Bucket List and do it in multiple categories that could focus on family trips and personal passions that could include an interest in history, architecture, food and wine. Then plan a realistic timetable to accomplish your goals.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic, time is the one thing we have in abundance which makes travel planning even more desirable. This forced break is the optimal time to begin planning those big trips that require considerable research and forethought. We may also see tighter restrictions in place in terms of visitors to some of the most coveted sights which makes advanced planning even more important.

Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This multi-year calendar approach makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Bucket list sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Masters Tournament, Rose Bowl Parade, and Superbowl benefit from booking a year out.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, some trips can be done by just about anyone while others require a modicum of fitness and mobility that may mandate simply not waiting too long. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or heli-ski in Rocky Mountains, these should be closer to the front of your list.

Fort Frederica National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But besides these logistical issues the biggest reason to plan a multi-year bucket list calendar is to ensure you do what you want to do while you’re physically able and in a way you can afford. Since the world is just too big and diverse not to explore, use some of your downtime and emerge from this crisis with a better sense of all the things you want to do and see with the time you have remaining.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

—Hilaire Belloc