The Ultimate Guide to Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The craftsmanship and history behind America’s bourbon distilleries that reside along the bourbon trail

Good morning and Happy National Bourbon Day. Might as well use the occasion to clear up a few things about America’s classic spirit.

  • All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. For example, whiskey that’s made in Scotland is called scotch
  • Among other requirements, bourbon must be distilled from a mash that’s at least 51 percent corn along with malt and rye
  • Kentucky produces 95% of all bourbon

Got it?

The fact that bourbon distilleries give away free samples of their product on their distillery tours isn’t the only reason I visit these landmarks—it’s the history!

Kentucky is an often overlooked and beautiful tourist destination that offers way more than just bourbon. There are also thoroughbred horses, a ton of civil war historical landmarks, and renowned hiking and rock climbing destinations. But you’ve come here for one thing, to learn about the bourbon trail, so the bourbon trail we will cover.

Wild Turkey Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail now consists of 18 whiskey distilleries. Some of them are new kids on the block and others have been around since bourbon’s inception. In fact, if you visit every distillery on the trail, you’ll probably hear more than one say it’s the oldest. This is because there are no definite records of how generic “whiskey” became bourbon. So distilleries are known to take liberties to be seen as the oldest and sell more bottles of bourbon at the end of their tours.

The bottom line is, if you’re a fan of bourbon, it doesn’t matter which distillery is the oldest. Each distillery on the bourbon trail (new or old) makes a fantastic product. Each one brings its own unique aspect to the buttery-brown spirit.

Whispering Hills RV Park at Georgetown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Very few people visit every distillery on the trail since it encompasses nine different cities/towns—some 70 miles apart. I’ve mapped out a bourbon trail itinerary that includes the distilleries we’ve visited during our several visits to the Bluegrass State. This guide will help you choose the ones you want to visit the most. There are some important logistics to note before we get into our guide.

Grandma’s RV Camping in Shepherdsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home Base

It’s up to you where you stay during your trip but I suggest you set up camp near Louisville and Lexington. Being the two largest cities in Kentucky they provide the most options when it comes to campgrounds, food, outdoor recreation, and other non-bourbon-related offerings. Two excellent options for RV camping are Grandma’s RV Camping in Shepherdsville (20 miles south of Louisville) and Whistling Hills RV Park at Georgetown (20 miles north of Lexington). We’ve also stayed at My Old Kentucky Home State Park Campground in Bardstown.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Transportation

If you’re planning on trying the samples at the end of the distillery tours (and why would you not?), you’ll want to make sure you have a designated driver. Kentucky doesn’t mess around with driving drunk and the last thing you want is a DUI. Alternately, check out local tour companies with different bourbon trail tour packages.

Woodford Reserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tours

When planning your trip, keep in mind that you don’t have to go on every tour that each distillery offers. In fact, to be able to get in as many distilleries as possible, I’d suggest you don’t. Each distillery tour takes about an hour. In peak season (spring/summer), they can take even longer due to the high volume of visitors and COVID protocol.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can get a good idea of any distillery’s history by strolling the grounds open to visitors and visiting the gift shop. If you decide to use a tour company for transportation, they can tell you everything you need to know about each distillery. We suggest saving the tours (and saving money) for your favorite distilleries. Now, break out your favorite whiskey glass, pour your favorite bourbon, and you’re ready to learn about Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.

Note: Many of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail have limited tour schedules or have canceled tours altogether, due to the pandemic. Check each distillery’s website for tour availability and safety guidelines.

Jim Beam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home Base: Louisville (Shepherdsville)

Jim Beam

Leaving Shepherdsville and heading southeast to Bardstown your first stop is in Clermont at the home of one of the world’s most noted whiskeys—the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. Although it’s now owned by Japanese mega-conglomerate Suntory, the seven-generation family-owned company’s rich history is still evident. The Jim Beam name dates back to before Kentucky was even a state. Their German immigrant ancestors settled on the land to grow corn that would soon after be used to make their original-recipe whiskey. You would be remiss to pass up on one of its most influential brands.

Heaven Hill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heaven Hill

Continue your journey to historic Bardstown—the Bourbon Capital of the World and an Official Gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Heaven Hill is the world’s largest family-owned spirits producer making brands such as Elijah Craig, Larceny, Henry McKenna, Fighting Cock, and Evan Williams. The Heaven Hill distillery has been family-owned and operated since 1935 making it fairly young for a distillery of its size. With some help from a notable Kentucky distilling family member, Earl Beam (Master-Distiller from 1946-1975), Heaven Hill got its operations off the ground. Heaven Hill produces more than 400,000 barrels annually and has won multiple world spirit awards. At the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center you can choose from their tour options and enjoy your samples in their barrel-shaped tasting room.

Old Talbot Tavern © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wind down in Bardstown as you peruse the shops and start planning your nightcap destination. Take a stroll through the past at the newly renovated Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Don’t miss an opportunity to dine on classic Kentucky fare in the Old Talbott Tavern (fried green tomatoes is recommended), have a nightcap in the “world’s oldest Bourbon bar”, and even spend the night if you feel so inclined.

Barton 1792 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barton 1792

The sprawling Barton 1792 is an old-school distillery with an old-school charm. The tour is informal, the buildings unadorned. The distillery’s flagship brand pays tribute to the year Kentucky gained statehood. Rye recipe bourbon, 1792 is handcrafted in small batches, aged 8 years, and bottled at 93.7 Proof. It is very high in rye, so it’s going to give you a lot of spicy flavor upfront. Buttery on your tongue and oh so smooth as it goes down the back of your throat. It has a long finish. Our glasses seemed to empty themselves. Can you tell it’s one of my favorite bourbons?

Willett Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Willett

We moved on to Willett Distillery, where Johnny Drum, Willett, Noah’s Mill, and other small-batch bourbons are made. Production here is 20 barrels a day, compared to Beam’s 5,000 or so. Entering the fermenting room, we noted seven uncovered 10,400-gallon tanks of bubbling brew—beer before liquor, literally.

Maker’s Mark © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maker’s Mark

From Bardstown we headed 25 miles southeast to Lebanon and Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is quite possibly one of the most recognizable whiskey brands in the world thanks to the six-generation Samuels family recipe and its distinctive wax seal on every bottle. On the tour, you’ll have the option of sealing your very own bottle in wax which is a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else. Trust me, it is great fun!

Four Roses © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home Base: Lexington (Georgetown)

Four Roses

The beautiful Four Roses Lawrenceburg distillery reflects the story of the brand. The bourbon was named after founder Paul Jones Jr.’s romantic gesture of giving a four-rose corsage to his sweetheart before a ball in 1884. Now the distillery boasts gorgeous Spanish architecture and a mellow vibe.

Wild Turkey Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild Turkey

After visiting the Four Roses facility, we headed to their neighbor, the ever-intriguing Wild Turkey, another distillery on the trail with a ton of heritage and family influence. Their main claim to fame is Jimmy Russell, the world’s most tenured master distiller. He’s been crafting bourbon for over 60 years. He now makes bourbon next to his son Eddie who has more than three decades of experience.

Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey joined Jimmy and Eddie Russell as Creative Director in 2016. The relationship very quickly turned into an opportunity to collaborate on both marketing campaigns and product development. This is most evident in Longbranch bourbon which carries McConaughey’s name and is refined with mesquite from the actor’s home state of Texas to form a unique flavor profile.

Buffalo Trace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buffalo Trace

It’s not clear why Buffalo Trace and Barton 1792 were pulled from the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA) and thereby out of the bourbon trail in 2010. It’s likely because at the time they were Kentucky’s largest bourbon producer and didn’t want to pay the dues (more about that at the end). A part of the bourbon trail or no, the Buffalo Trace distillery is considered a Mecca for bourbon lovers around the globe. The facilities are enormous and house a total of 19 brands of bourbon. If you can’t make their highly informative and still free tour simply strolling around the grounds and picking up a rare bottle of whiskey in the gift shop is worth it.

Woodford Reserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Woodford

If you’re looking for Kentucky majesty, you’ll be hard-pressed to find grounds more beautiful than those of the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles. Woodford can claim that it is the “oldest” distillery in Kentucky because it’s been located in the same place since 1812. Other distilleries have moved their operations over the years. Because of this, Woodford Reserve is a national historic landmark.

Woodford holds special significance for me as being the first bourbon distillery visited and one of only two distilleries we have visited on two separate occasions, the other being Maker’s Mark.

Woodlord Reserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Does a Distillery Get Featured on the “Official” Bourbon Trail?

It’s not entirely clear how distilleries are selected to be featured on the bourbon trail. You probably already know that there are more than 18 distilleries in Kentucky. Currently, there are close to 100. For a distillery to be considered a part of the bourbon trail, they have to be recognized as a Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA) member. The KDA is a non-profit association established in 1953 to ensure that its members followed the best distilling practices.

Woodford Reserve Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Overall, 37 members of the Kentucky Distillers Association operate one or more distilleries in Kentucky. However, when it comes to who gets picked for the trail, it is probably left to closed-door KDA dealings.

Worth Pondering…

I love coffee in a cup, little fuzzy pups, bourbon in a glass, and grass.

―Tom T. Hall

12 Unspoken Etiquette Rules of RV Camping

Are you practicing good RV campground etiquette?

RV camping in the great outdoors is a great way to spend time with your family. Whether you are in a fifth-wheel, travel trailer, or motorhome, knowing these unspoken etiquette rules of RV camping will make your next adventure go smoothly for your family and your campground neighbors.

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

Be a good neighbor

Whether camping in an RV or tent, being a good neighbor will set the tone for your stay. Following the rules of campground, etiquette is an easy way to ensure that everyone can camp together in harmony.

RV camping at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know the rules

RV parks and campgrounds have rules for everyone’s comfort. Some RV resorts have more rules than others. Upon check-in, your host will go over those rules or hand them to you to read.

RV camping at Windcreek Casino RV Park, Atmore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t cut through other campsites

Everyone pays for a designated site to park their RV. Respect your neighbor’s space by not walking through their campsite.

Keep it quiet

Most campgrounds have designated quiet hours. These hours take effect typically around 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Be respectful and turn down your music and keep noise at a minimum. If you are getting to your campsite after hours, do the minimum to set up. You can always finish setting up in the morning.

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

Don’t overflow

Be respectful of each other’s space by not overflowing your own RV camping site and into your neighbors. If you bring a bunch of gear, like bikes, chairs, and outdoor games, make sure it fits inside your site.

Keep it clean

No one likes a dirty site. The campground caretakers do their best to clean up before you check-in, but sometimes there’s trash left on the ground or in the fire pit. Follow the old camping adage of “leave no trace” and double-check that all your trash is picked up before you pull out.

RV camping at Cochise Terrace RV Park, Benson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hook it up correctly

Full hook-up sites have sewer, water, and electric connections. If you are using the sewer and water hookups, make sure that you are using the ports designated for your site and that your hoses are in good repair. A leaking sewer hose is unpleasant and unsanitary.

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

Keep track of your kids

Most RV campgrounds are family-friendly and, yes, kids deserve to have fun too. However, the fun shouldn’t be at the expense of the neighbors in your campground. Make sure they’re supervised when roaming about and know the campground rules.

RV camping at Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leash your pets

Many RV campgrounds are pet-friendly, but you’ll want to double-check the pet policy before you arrive. Most campgrounds require that your pets be leashed and under your control, both for the safety of your pet and other campers. Many RV campgrounds require that the leash is no more than six feet long and that your pet is secured when not leashed (like in a crate or pen).

RV camping at Smokian RV Park, Soap Lake, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t leave a barking dog

Dogs bark—that’s just a fact. However, not everyone is a dog lover. Being in a new area can be an adjustment for your pets due to new people and changing surroundings. Try to teach your pet how to behave around the campsite. If you have a dog that barks non-stop when left alone, consider taking him or her with you on hikes, or don’t bring them on your RV trip.

Worth Pondering…

Cherish yesterday, dream tomorrow, live today.

The Best RV Camping June 2021

Explore the guide to find some of the best in June camping across America

But where should you park your RV? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Here are 10 of the top locations to explore in June. RVing with Rex selected this list of 5 star RV resorts from parks personally visited.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in April and May.

Jackson Rancheria RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jackson Rancheria RV Resort, Jackson, California

New in 2008, Jackson Rancheria RV Resort is part of a casino complex. Big rig-friendly 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Wide, paved interior roads with wide concrete sites. Back-in sites over 55 feet with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range. Amenities include walking trails and dog parks, a heated pool and spa, and laundry facilities. We would return in a heartbeat. Reservations over a weekend are required well in advance. Jackson Rancheria is conveniently located in the heart of Gold Country.

Toutle River RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Toutle River RV Resort, Castle Rock, Washington

Toutle River RV Resort is a 5-star resort built-in 2009. Toutle River has some standard features such as a general store, clubhouse, and heated swimming pool as well as unique, exciting amenities you won’t find in other places. They have red cedar barrel saunas, a disc golf course, a jumbo-sized croquet court, and a karaoke pavilion. There’s also a free do-it-yourself smokehouse for jerky and fish as well as an orchard on-site with apples, pears, cherries, and plums that guests are welcome to pick. The park offers 306 full hookup RV sites many offering 6,000 sq ft or more and up to 100 feet long. Masonry fire pits and BBQs are located throughout the park and all premium sites feature a fire pit, BBQ, and park-style picnic tables. These are truly beautiful sites. Conveniently located near Mount St. Helens National Monument, Toutle River RV Resort is located off I-5 at Exit 52, easy-on, easy-off.

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

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee

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

Wahweep RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Centrally located at Wahweap Marina, the campsites are about one-quarter mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. This RV park/campground is a great place to enjoy the off-season solitude of Lake Powell. The campground offers 139 sites with 30 and 50 amp service, water, and sewer. Sites accommodate up to 45 feet. The season is an ideal time to visit nearby attractions including Rainbow Bridge, Antelope Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, and Horseshoe Bend. 

Galveston Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island State Park, Galveston, Texas

With both beach and bay sides, Galveston Island State Park offers activities for every coast lover. Hike or bike four miles of trails through the park’s varied habitats. Stop at the observation platform or photo blinds, and stroll boardwalks over dunes and marshes. Twenty camping sites are available on the bayside of the park. Each site offers 50/30 amp electricity, water, a picnic table, and nearby restrooms with showers. These sites are for RV camping only. Additionally, 10 sites are available for tent camping only.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park, Hunting Island, South Carolina

Hunting Island is South Carolina’s single most popular state park attracting more than a million visitors a year as well as a vast array of land and marine wildlife. Five miles of beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon, and an ocean inlet are all part of the park’s natural allure. The Hunting Island Lighthouse is the only one in the state that is publicly accessible. From the top, guests can stand 130 feet above the ground to take in the breathtaking, panoramic view of the Atlantic Coast and surrounding maritime forest. Camping is available at the northern end of the park near the ocean. 102 sites offer water and 20/30/50 amp electric service. Campground roads are paved while the sites are packed soil. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; others up to 28 feet. The campground is convenient to hot showers with restroom facilities, beach walkways, and a playground.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park, Williams, Arizona

Set in the mountain community of Williams—Gateway to the Grand Canyon—the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park is the ideal place to unwind and relax. The park has three types of RV spaces: select from pull-through, buddy spaces, or back-in sites. All spaces are 50-amp and large enough for big rigs. Each space comes with high definition digital TV provided by DirecTV, wireless Internet, and access to the indoor swimming pool and hot tub at the adjacent Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. The property has coin-operated laundry machines and a common picnic area with gas grills and a fire pit. Take the historic train from Williams into Grand Canyon National Park. Adjacent to the historic train depot, Grand Canyon Railway RV Park is just two blocks away from Route 66 and downtown Williams.

Reunion Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reunion Lake RV Resort, Ponchatoula, Louisiana

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

JGW RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

JGW RV Park, Redding, California

Our home base while touring the Redding area was JGW RV Park, a big-rig friendly resort located 9 miles south of Redding on the Sacramento River. This beautiful 5-star RV park offers 75 sites with water, sewer, and 30/50-amp electric service centrally located. The majority of pull-through sites are back-to-back and side-to-side. Our site backed onto the Sacramento River. Interior roads are paved and in good condition with concrete pads.

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort, Salem, Oregon

With a combination of 24 back-in sites (35 feet long x 20 feet wide) and 115 pull-through sites (75 feet long x 14 feet wide) available year-round even the biggest rigs will have no issue finding a suitable spot. All sites include electric (20, 30, and 50 amp), water, sewer, wired and wireless Internet, and coax television hookups along with a picnic table. Park amenities include a fitness room, seasonal pool, and year-round spa, laundry facility, secure showers/bathrooms, and book library. The resort is located a short distance off Interstate 5 at Exit 258.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Lewis Carrol

Memorial Day 2021: Escapes in Kentucky for Bourbon, Horses & History

Experience the flavors, sights, and traditions that define the Bluegrass State—bourbon, horses, and history

COVID fatigue and the cabin fever it has produced will surely boil over Memorial Day weekend. This year, 37 million Americans are expected to hit the road and travel 50 miles or more from home, according to AAA. That number is about 60 percent more people than traveled last year when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“As more destinations open and vaccines are administered we’re seeing an increase in consumers who are ready to get out and enjoy the unofficial start of the summer travel season,” says Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “The pent-up demand for travel could also be a sign of things to come this summer as more people feel comfortable hitting the road.”  

If you’re looking to get out of town for a much-needed vacation, Kentucky has plenty to offer. Outdoor adventure, history, horse farms, mouthwatering eats, bourbon, culture, arts, and the sweet sounds of bluegrass music (all with some Southern hospitality!) make the Bluegrass State the perfect place for a Memorial Day weekend road trip.

From the world’s longest known cave system and thundering waterfalls to impressive sandstone arches and the “Grand Canyon of the South,” there’s a lot to discover across Kentucky.

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The tourism and hospitality industry plays a critical role in helping generate revenue for Kentucky’s economy,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “As our nation continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of safe vacations and travel has become critically important.  Kentucky is fortunate to have an immense landscape of outdoor recreation and beauty which has positioned our tourism industry at advantage to recover from these unprecedented times.”

With that in mind, here are a few places to visit in Kentucky as you plan your Memorial Day getaway starting with a short and picturesque drive to Lexington. 

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Horse Farms in Lexington

There are many reasons to make Lexington your warm-weather Memorial Day weekend getaway destination. The second-largest city in Kentucky, Lexington is known as the “Horse Capital of the World.” For starters, the folks at visitLEX.com have created country/bluegrass, hip-hop/R&B, and rock playlists for you to listen to as you explore the city and beyond.

If you’ve never toured a horse farm, now is the weekend to do it and Lexington is the place. Explore Horse Country by touring the homes of champions, seeing new foals frolic in their pastures, and learning about the care of Kentucky’s signature athletes. There are more than 400 horse farms in the area with over 25 offer tours (by reservation). 

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or take the self-guided tour of Keeneland Racecourse’s historic grounds. A historic racecourse Keenland is the world’s largest and most prominent Thoroughbred auction house. Morning Work tours and Backstretch tours are also available by reservation. Because of concerns surrounding COVID, Keeneland continues to limit the number of guests in each tour.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trot over to the Kentucky Horse Park for an enjoyable, educational experience for horse fans of all ages and disciplines. Take in a show, wander the grounds to visit horses in the barns, and be sure to stop in at the International Museum of the Horse which catalogs the history of the Thoroughbred industry.

Just north of the crossroads of I-75 and I-64, the city of Georgetown is home to one of the most picturesque Victorian downtown areas in the state, retired racehorses, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, a Japanese friendship garden, and Ward Hall—one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the South.

Old Friends © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a little more than a decade Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown has put a new face on the concept of equine aftercare.  Founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, the organization has grown from a leased paddock and one horse to a 236-acre farm with a herd of over 200 rescued and retired horses. A variety of tours are available; due to public health COVID guidelines reservations are required.

Old Talbott Tavern, Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bourbon Capital of the World

Bardstown, known as the Bourbon Capital of the World is one of the most beautiful small towns in the U.S. Bardstown offers small-town charm paired with delicious bourbon. Serving as an Official Gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail the town is the perfect spot for a bourbon excursion. Consider starting at the Bourbon Heritage Center at Heaven Hill Distillery to learn about the story of bourbon in the area then continue the journey at Barton’s 1792 Distillery, the oldest fully operating distillery in town, as well as Willett Distillery.

Maker’s Mark © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Bardstown you’ll head 25 miles southeast to Lebanon and Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is quite possibly one of the most recognizable whiskey brands in the world thanks to the six-generation Samuels family recipe and its distinctive wax seal on every bottle. On the tour, you’ll have the option of sealing your very own bottle in wax which is a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel back in time at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, a 19th-century estate with costumed tour guides that was the inspiration for Stephen Collins Foster’s song which later became the state anthem. The three-story portion of Federal Hill was commissioned by the Rowan family in 1812 and completed in 1818. Visitors can tour the home and learn about the Rowan family history. The state park also offers 39 RV camping sites.

State Capitol © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

State Capitol + history + Bourbon + Bourbon Balls in Frankfort

Perfectly positioned on the shores of the Kentucky River between Louisville and Lexington, Frankfort is the capital city of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The State Capitol building rises above the city and overlooks the river as the waterway ambles to the north making a unique S shape through the historic downtown. The Capitol is on the National Register of Historic Places and is noted as one of the most impressive Capitols in the nation. Then, explore the grounds and find the Floral Clock located on the West Lawn of the Capitol Grounds. The face of the clock is 34 feet across and planted with thousands of plants that are changed out seasonally.

Rebecca Ruth © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For more Kentucky history, go downtown and visit the Old State Capitol building and the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, a museum and educational complex operated by the Kentucky Historical Society. While downtown, take a tour at Rebecca Ruth Candy Tours & Museum honoring Ruth Hanly Booe, the “Mother of Bourbon Balls” then venture over to Buffalo Trace Distillery, the oldest continuously operating distillery in America that offers free tours.

Floral Clock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking for More Kentucky Getaways?

Looking for more getaway ideas for Memorial Day and beyond?  Right this way!

Worth Pondering…

Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place.

―Daniel Boone

Memorial Day 2021: Best Arizona Road Trips for the Long Holiday Weekend

Here are a few places to visit in Arizona as you plan your Memorial Day getaway

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the traditional summer travel season. This year there is even more pent-up yearning than normal. Everyone is eager to get out of town. Road trips are the hot new summer accessory.

Fortunately, Arizona is a road trip nirvana. The nation’s sixth-largest state by area, Arizona covers nearly 114,000 square miles. Most population centers are found in clustered bunches leaving vast tracts of backcountry for exploring. A number of small towns add character and keep travelers gassed up and well-fed.

Here are a few getaways to get you going on Memorial Day weekend and into the summer months.

Painted Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park

Vibrant badlands of the Painted Desert spread across the northern portion of the park while trees turned to stone—trees that once shaded dinosaurs—lay undisturbed amid the hills and hoodoos of the southern half. Welcome to Triassic Park.

Crystal Forest Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fossils of the plants and animals unearthed here tell the story of a time when the world was young. Just as important to the casual visitor this area is set amid rolling plains and brilliantly colored badlands beneath a vast blue sky.

During the Triassic period, this was a humid forested basin. Crocodile-like reptiles, giant amphibians, and small dinosaurs roamed among towering trees and leafy ferns. As the trees died they were washed into the swamps and buried beneath volcanic ash where the woody tissue was replaced by dissolved silica eventually forming petrified wood.

Blue Mesa Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest lies a short distance east of Holbrook and can be accessed from Interstate 40 or U.S. 180. Take the 28-mile scenic drive that cuts north to south connecting park highlights from roadside vistas to historic sites to hiking trails. Don’t miss Blue Mesa, a short loop trail skirting colorful badlands. Some of the best displays of petrified logs can be seen along the short Crystal Forest Trail.

Grand Canyon, South Rim © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon North Rim

Make this the summer you visit the other side of the Big Ditch. The North Rim reopened on May 15 for its summer season. This isn’t your typical high country getaway. The North Rim is defined not just by elevation but by isolation. This is an alpine outback of sun-dappled forests of ponderosa pines, blue spruce, Douglas firs, and aspens interrupted by lush meadows and wildflowers.

Grand Canyon, South Rim © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’ve only visited the South Rim you may be surprised by the lack of crowds at the North Rim. A quiet serenity is normal on this side of the trench. It rises 1,000 feet higher than its southern counterpart and you’ll likely see more elk and deer than tour groups. There are no helicopter rides, no shuttle buses, and no bustling village. Of the millions of people who visit Grand Canyon National Park each year less than 10 percent make it to the North Rim.

Even the journey is part of the adventure. State Route 67 from Jacob Lake to the park entrance is a National Scenic Byway as it traverses a stunning mix of broad forests and lush meadows. During your visit enjoy hiking trails, scenic drives, and forested solitude.

Montezuma Castle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot national monuments

Follow ancient paths when you visit the national monuments of the Verde Valley amid remnants of Sinagua culture. The Sinagua were Ancestral Puebloan people who flourished in central Arizona from about 600 to 1425. They left behind art, artifacts, and architecture.

Sycamore tree at Montezuma Castle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built into a high limestone balcony, the 20-room Montezuma Castle near Camp Verde is one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the U.S. A paved trail meanders beneath the shade of graceful sycamore trees and leads to scenic viewpoints of the towering abode.

It was inhabited from about 1100 to 1425 with occupation peaking around 1300. The people farmed the rich floodplain nearby. Many of the original ceiling beams are still intact even though they were installed more than 800 years ago. Early settlers believed the castle was built by Aztec emperor Montezuma and the name stuck.

Montezuma Well © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to visit Montezuma Well, a detached unit of the national monument 11 miles away. The natural limestone sinkhole pumps out 1.5 million gallons of water each day from an underground spring. Several cliff dwellings perch along the rocky rim of the well and the remnants of a prehistoric canal can still be seen.

Tuzigoot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tuzigoot National Monument is a more interactive experience since you can walk around the village. Situated between Clarkdale and Cottonwood the remnants of this Sinagua pueblo crown a hilltop overlooking the Verde River. The terraced 110-room village was built between 1125 and 1400.

Walk the loop trail to savor wraparound views of the lush Verde Valley framed by rising mountains. The National Park Service has restored a two-story room at Tuzigoot (Apache for “crooked water”) so visitors can admire the building techniques and materials.

Santa Rita Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sky Islands

Arizona truly is a land of extremes. Temperatures vary from place to place and even day tonight. Few geographic formations in the world illustrate this stark climactic contrast better than Sky Islands. Visitors to Southern Arizona are often struck by these vast mountain ranges rising suddenly out of the desert and grasslands. Saguaro, prickly pear, and ocotillo rapidly give way to a coniferous forest and a much cooler climate. Usually 6,000–8,000 feet in elevation these majestic mountains emerge from a sea of desert scrub.

Chirichua Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Sky Island is defined as a mountain that is separated from other mountains by distance and by surrounding lowlands of a dramatically different environment. As the mountain increases in elevation, ecosystem zones change at different elevations. Coronado National Forest protects the twelve Sky Islands of Southwestern Arizona. These Sky Island ranges include the Chiricahua Mountains, Whetstone Mountains, Huachuca Mountains, Galiuro Mountans, Dragoon Mountains, Pinaleño Mountains, Santa Catalina Mountains, Rincon Mountains, and Santa Rita Mountains. The tallest of these areas are the Pinaleño Mountains rising to 10,720 feet above the Gila River near the town of Safford.

Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanks to their rapid gain in elevation, Sky Island peaks remain temperate even in the fiercest summer heat. When Tucson’s mercury climbs above 100 degrees in summer months, the 9,157-foot summit of Mount Lemmon offers respite to overheated fauna (including the human variety) with temperatures that rarely exceed 80 degrees.

Worth Pondering…

To my mind these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

Is Your RV Protected from Electrical Issues?

Most RVers are not protecting their RV from electrical issues

There are four electrical issues an RVer can encounter while traveling: surges, miswired pedestals, high/low voltage, and wiring issues inside the RV.

It is unbelievable to think that 90 percent of RVs do not have any type of electrical protection system in place. We’ve had a power surge, situations where pedestals were miswired, and both high and low voltage situations. Fortunately, our Progressive Electric Management System has protected us from all of these situations.

Electric Management system attached to electric cord at pedestal © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What exactly are you protecting your RV from when you use an electrical protection device? It’s much more than power surges which we typically associate surge protectors with. Surges are actually the least common problem with RV electricity. An RV typically has a lot of sensitive electronic circuitry in it, and having steady power is crucial to keeping these components from having an early funeral. Failure of components like AC units, refrigerators, washer/dryer, and even computers plugged into a wall outlet can be very expensive to replace.

While the expense is a big deal, there are other considerations like the inconvenience of getting your RV to a repair shop. And, if you are on the road and something fails you’ll be scrambling to find a reputable repair shop. One of the best things you can do to prevent these type failures is to make sure that the power coming into your RV is monitored. Let’s look at the four areas that need to be addressed as it relates to RV electricity.

Progressive Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electrical Issue #1: Surges

The first issue that most RVers think of as it relates to power coming into the RV is surge protection. A surge is a quick electrical spike that can quickly destroy anything in its path. Surge protection is rated in joules; the higher the level of joules the better the protection. When shopping for an electrical protection system take a look at the joules level, and remember, no system can completely protect you from a direct lightning strike.

Electric Management system attached to electric cord at pedestal © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electrical Issue #2: Miswired Pedestals

A good electrical protection system will analyze the pedestal and let you know if there are any issues with the ground wire, neutral wire, and if there are any reverse polarity issues.

Let’s consider RV parks for a moment. The original design should have been professionally inspected but then the years start to pile on and over time the electrical pedestals that we plug into can begin to have problems. Thousands of RVs may have plugged into the pedestal before you and over time, pedestals can start to wear down. Wiring can come loose in the pedestal and you could lose the ground wire which can be dangerous. The neutral wire could become disconnected and put your RV in danger of up to 240 volts running to one side of your RV.

Progressive Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electrical Issue #3: High/Low Voltage

Your electrical protection system should have the ability to cut you off from the power if the voltage drops too low or goes too high. Usually systems will cut off at 102-104 volts and on the high side at around 132 volts.

So, what causes a low or high voltage situation? Imagine you are at a crowded park in the middle of the summer and everyone is turning on their AC units. A low voltage situation will not always zap an appliance but it will reduce the life expectancy of an appliance over time. Low voltage and high voltage are the silent killers and dealing with this should be a part of your plan to protect your RV.

Rest assured that your electric system is fully protected © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electrical Issue #4: Wiring Inside the RV

What if the incoming power is fine, but you have a wiring issue inside of your RV? A good electrical protection system will detect elevated ground currents and open neutral conditions in the RV. This level of protection is new to the market (within the last year) and can be found in the Surge Guard brand.

You may be protected against some of these issues with devices that were installed in your RV from the factory. But, you are not covered from all of these issues with a built-in unit from the factory. Many Diesel Pushers have some type of built in surge protector that is combined with the transfer switch. Smaller class A, B, and C motorhomes may or may not have any electrical protection built in, and fifth-wheels and travel trailers likely have nothing built into the unit.

Enjoying a sunset on the Texas Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It surprised me to learn that I did not have the protection from my built-in unit I thought I had. When I checked the model number of the built in electrical protection system and studied the manual, I found that it had nothing more than a surge protector and all of the other elements we discussed were not accounted for.

You can use one of the Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard portable units even if you have a hardwired unit installed. They will work together to protect your RV.

You don’t need electrical protection until you need it. Saving a few hundred bucks and risking damage due to your lack of electrical protection just does not make sense. I can tell you that having my Progressive Electric Management System plugged into the pedestal makes me feel a whole lot better about being protected from poor park power.

Why would any RVer not want such protection?

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

Things you should never set off in your RV without

Buying your first recreational vehicle can be overwhelming. Then there’s the towing, learning to park and back up, and setting up once you arrive at your campground or RV park. That first outing can feel pretty stressful but with the right gear, it doesn’t have to be. We’re not talking about frilly gadgets like fairy lights and portable pizza ovens (though those are important too). This list is an honest roundup of the essentials you really need to keep your RV safe and comfortable. These are the essentials every new RV owner should buy before their first camping trip.

Water pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Water Pressure Regulator

A water pressure regulator keeps the plumbing system of your recreational vehicle fully protected from high water pressures. The problem is that high water pressure can cause damage to the RV plumbing system. A water pressure regulator is a small device useful in maintaining a safe level of psi as far as the water that enters your vehicle is concerned. While some newer vehicles are capable of handling higher pressure it is recommended all RVs stick to around 60 psi. The proper use of the device involves attaching it to the water supply of the campground first.

Do not attach it to your vehicle as doing so might only result in the bursting of the connection hose in case of really high pressure. High flow water regulators come in two basic types: adjustable and fixed. Unless you plan to use varying pressures of water for a range of applications, a fixed water regulator will suffice for your needs and provide an excellent water flow while saving you money. The two major manufacturers of water pressure regulators are Camco and Valterra.

City utility connections including water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Water Hose

Especially in a new RV when the fresh water tanks are sanitary and prime for drinking water, it is important that your RV water hose is rated for human consumption. But aren’t all hoses safe? No! Despite the fact that most people have drunk from the garden hose at some point, all hoses are not created equal. Your run-of-the-mill garden hose is actually not safe to drink from; it is not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act and can contain toxic materials that are harmful to the human body such as lead, antimony, bromine, organotin, phthalates, and BPA (bisphenol A).

RV water hoses are NSF certified so you can be confident you will have quality drinking water available. Plus, there won’t be any chemical or plastic taste. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in mind that you will want a heated water hose if you’re camping during the winter.

Disposable Vinyl Gloves

RVing can be surprisingly dirty business. One of the best ways to keep clean and sterile on the road is with vinyl or latex gloves. Disposable gloves keep your hands clean when emptying your holding tanks. Gloves fit right or left hand. One size fits all; also available in small, medium, and large. Available at RV dealers, stores that sell RV supplies, pharmacies, and Walmart.

Progressive Emergency Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electrical Protection System

When looking at an electrical protection system for your RV, you want to make sure it is more than a surge protector and monitors high and low voltage. This is what the Progressive Emergency Management System does and what models like Surge Guard and other brands do as well. When looking at an electrical protection system, be certain to consider the protection levels. Here is what you need out of a great electrical protection system:

  • Surge Protection
  • High and Low Voltage
  • Pedestal Analysis
  • Load side protection

While there are different electrical protection brands on the market and the Progressive EMS is the unit that we trust with our RV. Others prefer Surge Guard brand. If you do not already have an electrical protection system for your RV, take it from me and other seasoned RVers—get an electrical protection system for your RV. You can’t go wrong with a model from Progressive or Surge Guard.

Sewer hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High-quality sewer hose

Some things you definitely don’t want to skimp on and your sewer hose is one of them. No one wants to be dealing with a ruptured sewer hose while on vacation. Invest in a high-end hose—your peace of mind and nasal passages will thank you.

First Aid Kit

first aid kit readily available in an emergency isn’t just a good idea—it’s a necessity for every RVer. A well-stocked first-aid kit and manual can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. You can purchase first aid kits and refills at the Red Cross store, most pharmacies, or assemble your own. 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.

Traveling with a pet © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

RV Toolbox

Just about anything in your RV that can snap, crack, rip loose, tear, bend, leak, spark, or fall off will do exactly that at the most inconvenient time. Something will need to be tightened, loosened, pounded flat, pried, or cut.

To help you deal with everyday problems and annoyances, maintain a well-equipped toolbox in the RV (always store on curbside).

Oops! Almost disaster. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contents should include Phillips and Robertson head and flat-bladed screwdrivers (large, medium, small), standard and needle-nose pliers, channel-lock pliers (medium and large), 10-inch Crescent wrench, claw hammer, hobby knife with blade protector, wire cutters, tape measure, silicone sealant, Gorilla tape and glue, electrical tape, battery jumper cables, open and box-end wrenches, silicone spray, WD-40 lubricant, bungee cords, road flares/warning reflectors, fold-down shovel, stepladder, spare fuses, and heavy-duty tire pressure gauge.

Many RVers also carry a socket wrench set (standard and metric), small drill bit set and cordless drill with spare battery, and digital voltmeter.

Gorilla Tape is a brand of adhesive tape sold by the makers of Gorilla Glue, and available in several sizes and colors, including camouflage, white, and clear. Gorilla Tape can solve many problems while on the road—and you can do most anything with this stuff. RVers have used it to temporarily repair a sewer hose, keep a driver’s side window from continually falling, and even affix the coffee maker to the counter so that it doesn’t move during travel.

A camera to record a West Texas sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camera

In reality, if you have a smartphone you probably have a camera capable of capturing amazing memories wherever you go. In fact, I agree with professional photographer Chase Jarvis, who says that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” 

Other Considerations

Other considerations, supplies, and equipment include fire extinguishers (one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the RV in a basement compartment, plus one in the toad/tow vehicle), NOAA weather radio, LED flashlights, heavy-duty whistles, emergency waterproof matches, jumper cables, ice/snow window scrapers, work gloves, and blue tarp.

Camping in Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Not Least, Know where you’re going

Okay, okay. You likely have a destination in mind. But if you’re heading out for months on end, you might want to bring along a few suggestions.

Now hit the road already!

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

What you should know about Wine and Canada

In the lake filled Okanagan Valley, vineyards are part of the scenery

When you think of amazing wine regions, your mind probably jumps to Tuscany, Bordeaux, Burgundy, or California. But you don’t have to head to Europe (or California) for a good glass. What if we told you that you should book a trip to Canada?

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It turns out that the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia boasts a must-visit wine country that likely slipped by your radar. And even though it’s up north, it’s not all ice wines. Okanagan Valley’s best wines are actually dry red and white wines. Surprised? The region has a long history in agriculture. Plus, its moderate, dry climate and long summer daylight hours make it possible to ripen grapes.

You might not have heard of or tasted wine from the Okanagan Valley. Canadians, wisely drink pretty much all of it themselves exporting only 5 per cent but it deserves to be more widely enjoyed. More than 80 per cent of British Columbia’s vineyards are in the valley making a visit there every bit as rewarding—and delicious—as a trip to Napa.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canada’s drinks résumé has a few notable beverages on it. Whether it’s the Bloody Caesar, Newfoundland Screech, or good ol’ Molson Canadian, Canuck libations stand out against international counterparts. The Canadian wine industry may be in its infancy but there’s growing global interest in Canadian wine—and reasons a-plenty to add it to the list of acclaimed drinks that hail from this cooler-climate country.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of Canada’s 10 provinces, three have winegrowing regions. Much of the U.S.-Canada border runs along the 49th parallel but vine growth is typically only possible in higher-temperature climates between the 30th and 50th parallels. Despite Canada being as tall as it is wide, this means that all of the country’s grapes grow within approximately 150 miles of this shared border.

Within those 150 miles lie more than 800 wineries. Their offerings include everything from 60-year-old vines and sparkling wines to grapes grown in Canada’s only desert and organic wineries. In short, Canada’s wine industry proves that the Great White North deserves serious wine drinker’s attention.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yes, Canada Makes Ice wine. But that’s Not All

A common misconception is that Canada specializes in ice wine and only ice wine. As ice wine remains Canada’s most known and exported wine product to a large number of markets it is not surprising that this is what most people know about Canadian wine. Most Canadian ice wine is made from the cool-climate-loving Riesling grape which represents a very small portion of grape varieties planted across the country.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canada’s Varied Climates and Varieties

On the West Coast just north of Washington State is the province of British Columbia. It contains nine winegrowing regions that focus on Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer. The Okanagan Valley is the province’s most notable region with summertime highs over 100 degrees.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This sun-soaked valley follows a series of pristine lakes and steep bluffs carved out by retreating glaciers. The Okanagan has the most diverse and complex soil system of any wine region in the world. It’s the only region that was formed by volcanic activity and then overrun by not one but two glacial ages.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The northerly latitude provides certain advantages. During the peak of the growing season, BC vineyards see as much as two hours more sunlight per day than famed regions such as Napa Valley. Because of this the vines are able to produce ripe, intensely flavored fruit. Also the short, hot growing season in the Similkameen Valley—one of the most southerly regions of BC and borders Canada’s only desert—is ideal for producing age-worthy Bordeaux varietals.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Further east in Ontario are three continental-climate regions that are the most southerly in the country: Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, and Lake Erie North Shore. These regions sit along the same latitude as Oregon and Tuscany and are moderated by three of the Great Lakes—Ontario, Erie, and Huron—which play an important role in cooling the vineyards during Ontario’s hot summers.

Canada’s coolest region sits in an eastern Maritime province. Nova Scotia is home to only 22 wineries in which traditional-method sparkling wine is becoming a flagship style. Additionally, an appellation blend called Tidal Bay, first released in 2012, is making waves. Its creation was intended to highlight the crisp and aromatic white wines of the region.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Canadian Standard

Regulating wine and ensuring a certain level of quality is the key especially when vying for international attention and buyers. Canada’s standard for quality and promotion of authenticity of origin is maintained by the Vintners Quality Alliance or VQA. The regulatory system which is comparable to AVAs in the U.S., AOC wines in France, or DOC wines in Italy allows for sub-appellation designation and a focus on terroir-driven winemaking.

Wines that are certified VQA are assessed by a panel and must meet criteria of the vintage, varietals, and origin specified on the label. VQA also governs yield sizes, Brix levels (percentage of sugar by weight in a liquid), and the use of regulated additives.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Availability of Canadian Wines

Just over 30 Canadian VQA producers have maneuvered their way through the red tape and regularly export south of their border. Though Canadian wines may not yet be abundantly available to U.S. drinkers, a Wine BC export strategy report states the country’s desire to increase sales to the United States by at least 50 percent over the next two years.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Stay: Desert Gem RV Resort, Oliver; NK’mip RV Park and Campground, Osoyoos; Walton’s Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

Yes, YOU Can Drive an RV: What YOU Need to Know

RV driving for beginners: All the tips you need to drive an RV for the first time

If you’re new to it (or even if you’re not) driving a Class A motorhome can present a challenge. Even if you’re been driving cars and smaller vehicles for a long time, it takes practice to get used to the quirks of such a large and heavy vehicle. The following Class A motorhome driving tips will help you to stay safe on the roads and feel confident behind the wheel of your luxurious RV.

Class A motorhomes at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a Class A Motorhome?

Motorhomes are divided into “classes” based on their size. The average, small motorhome that you see used for road trip vacations is probably a Class C. These smaller vehicles typically weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds. Class A motorhomes are the largest class and can weigh anything from 13,000 pounds up to as much as 30,000 pounds.

Even a Class C motorhome can feel unwieldy and bulky to someone who is accustomed to driving a car. Class A motorhomes are huge by comparison and they handle more like a bus than a car. The trade-off is that there is far more space for home comforts and many Class A motorhomes are just as comfortable and luxurious as a small family house.

Class A motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do I need a RV License?

The idea of an “RV license” is a bit of a misnomer. The rules on vehicle licenses vary from state to state and province to province. No state currently has an explicit law that relates to the driving of RVs. States do, however, divide their licenses up into classes based upon the weight of the vehicle that the driver is handling and in some cases whether or not they have a trailer.

The sheer size of Class A motorhomes means that in some cases a motorist may need a special license to drive one. It depends on the weight of the motorhome. Let’s imagine you live in Pennsylvania. If you are driving an RV that weighs less than 26,000 pounds you don’t need a special license. If the RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds you will need a Class B non-commercial license. If you have a trailer and the weight goes over 26,000 pounds then you need a Class A non-commercial license.

Every state has different rules. Some states are more lenient than others. It’s a good idea to check the laws in your state or province and those you intend to regularly travel in before buying a large RV.

Class A motorhome at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Handling Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve cleared up the legal aspects, the next challenge is to hit the road. It takes a while to get used to handling a large motorhome but it’s worth it once you master it because you’ll be able to visit new places and see the sights in luxury free from the constraints of a hotel.

Class A motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start with a Short, Easy Trip

Keep things simple for your first trip. As strange as it sounds consider a “staycation.” The last thing you want is for your first trip in your brand new RV to be marred with stress, broken itineraries or worse, a broken-down vehicle. Drive on easy roads that you’re familiar with and stay in a local campground. Give yourself plenty of time to get used to how the RV moves, how well it handles hills, how much space you need to stop, and how it turns.

Class A motorhome at Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tech Makes Life Easier

When you’re sitting in a Class A motorhome you’re higher up than you are used to being in your sedan or even in a smaller motorhome. Since your vehicle is also longer and wider you need more space to turn and you’re heavier so your stopping distances are longer. You need to take this all into account and it can take a while for your brain to adjust when it comes to judging distances. You’ll also have blind spots that are bigger than the ones you’re accustomed to in the mirrors of a standard car.

The good news is that there are high-tech answers to some of these problems. Some Class A motorhomes offer driving assist technology such as back up cameras, lane tracking, and adaptive steering. They make parking, backing up, and other maneuvers much easier.

Class A motorhome at Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Fight the Vehicle

Modern motorhomes have many nice “quality of life” features such as power steering, auto-leveling, improved suspension, and ABS. Take advantage of these. Be gentle on the steering, drive slowly and steadily, and give yourself plenty of space for any turns you need to take. Remember that ABS is designed to cut your stopping distance but in a very heavy vehicle you still have a lot of inertia especially on downward slopes. 

If you’re nervous about handling an RV, consider taking classes. Many companies offer rentals and classes where you can practice driving in a controlled environment to build your confidence.

Class A motorhome on Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Regular Breaks

Remember that you don’t have to get to your destination on a fixed schedule when you’re on a road trip. If you’re held up for a while, that’s not a crisis. You quite literally have a house behind you. If you’re feeling tired, stressed, or slightly concerned, pull over at the next rest area or truck stop and take a break. Get your co-pilot to take over the driving for a while if they’re able to do so. If not, just take a nap, go for a short walk, and then start driving again.

Don’t drive in difficult conditions such as heavy rain, fog, snow, ice, or excessive wind. If you don’t like driving late at night, rest. The point of owning a luxury motorhome is to do things on your terms. Take your time and get to your destination safely then enjoy your holiday.

Class A motorhome at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.

Meet the RVs: The Towables

Recreational vehicles take many different forms—from small and simple tow trailers to mobile mansions with king-sized beds and granite countertops

Consumer preferences have changed drastically since the start of the pandemic with travel being no exception. Thousands of Americans and Canadians have opted out of airline tickets and hotel reservations in favor of RVs, a safer method of travel that allows for self-contained excursions with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen all on-board.

Travel trailer at Rivers Run RV Resort, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re here, you’re probably wondering if the RV lifestyle is for you. Good news—it most likely is! Because RVs offer so much variety in form, function, and value, there’s bound to be an RV that suits your lifestyle and travel needs. Just like families, RVs come in all shapes and sizes. From large class A motorhomes and fifth wheel trailers to compact pop-ups and camper vans, there is an RV that will fit your lifestyle. From weekend getaways to touring the great outdoors to working from the road, there’s an RV for every family and every budget.

When deciding between different types of RVs, it is important to understand the features and amenities associated with each and the pros and cons. The categories are not super difficult to grasp. Motorhomes come in Classes A, B, and C and trailers break down into fifth wheels and travel trailers. I’ll dive right into each category including its pros and cons, model details, features and amenities, and approximate cost. In today’s post we’ll focus on the various types of towable RVs.

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

Trailer Types

A trailer is different from a motorhome in that it must be towed behind another vehicle. To match the towing vehicle with the trailer requires knowledge of the weight of the trailer and the towing capacity of the tow vehicle. The most common types of trailers are fifth wheels and travel trailers, each of which has different requirements.

Fifth wheel at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fifth Wheels Trailers

A large picture window at the rear of the RV for panoramic views is one thing that sets fifth wheels apart from other RVs. Fifth wheels often come with the same amenities as a Class A motorhome. It is common to have three or more slideouts in a fifth-wheel. These trailers are constructed with a raised forward section that provides a more spacious bi-level floor plan. They are designed to be towed by a pickup truck equipped with a device known as a fifth-wheel hitch.

The term “fifth wheel” comes from the configuration of the trailer itself. The front of the trailer is elevated off the ground and extends over the bed of a truck where a hitching mechanism fixes it to the truck bed. This setup makes the fifth wheel trailer easier to navigate than trailers towed behind a car’s bumper as the fifth wheel tracks more closely to the truck.

Fifth wheel at Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Model Details

Length: 21-40 feet

Cost: $43,000-$120,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Large living area

Large residential kitchen

Large bathroom with walk-in shower and toilet

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

Pros:

Spacious and potentially luxurious

Lots of storage space

Better maneuverability than a travel trailer

Cons:

Require tow vehicle equipped with a fifth-wheel hitch

Use of a truck means less room for passengers

Travel trailer at Sonoran Desert RV Resort, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel Trailers

Travel Trailers are the most popular type of RV because they come in all shapes and sizes and can accommodate solo travelers all the way up to large families. As long as the vehicle is equipped with a standard trailer hitch, smaller travel trailer models can be towed by mid-size vehicles including an SUV or minivan while larger models can be towed with a pickup truck.

Travel trailers are lighter and less expensive than fifth wheels and can range in size from cozy to roomy.

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

Model Details

Length: 20-35 feet

Cost: $25,000-$80,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Residential kitchen

Full-size bathroom

Living area

Travel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros:

Less expensive

Easy to move

Many vehicles can tow them

Cons:

Less spacious

Fewer conveniences

More difficult to maneuver that fifth wheel trailers

Pop-up camper at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pop-up campers

Pop-up campers, also known as folding camping trailers, appeal to budget-conscious consumers looking for a lighter weight RV that allows for towing behind many typical family vehicles, including some small cars. Pop-ups are folded down to a more compact size for easy storage and travel. This style of RV also allows the user to feel closer to nature and connected to the outdoors by mimicking the feeling of sleeping outside.

Model Details

Length: 15-23 feet

Cost: $5,000-$25,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Pros:

Budget-friendly

Low-profile and easy to tow

Can be towed by most vehicles

Cons:

Less spacious

Less insulated from weather

Few amenities

Expandable Trailers

A cross between a travel trailer and a pop-up camper, the expandable trailer ends pop out to offer more sleeping space. Expandable units are lighter than conventional travel trailers and more affordable.

Model Details

Length: 8-16 feet

Cost: $10,000-$20,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Expandable roof and/or sides

Light-weight

Towable by family car or SUV

Pros:

Budget-friendly

Low-profile and easy to tow

Can be towed by most vehicles

Cons:

Less spacious

Less insulated from weather

Few amenities

Toy hauler at River Run RV Resort, Bakersfield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sport Utility RVs

Sport utility RVs, also known as toy haulers, are built for those who want to take motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs, or other motorized toys on the road with them while RVing. The back of the RV drops down forming a ramp for access into a garage area where sporting equipment and motorized toys can be stored safely and accessed quickly. This type of RV can be made as a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or a Class A motorhome. The garage area and living quarters are usually separated by a wall.

Model Details

Length: 19-40 feet

Cost: $30,000-$250,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Garage for toys and sports equipment

Lots of storage

Full kitchen

Pros:

Defined space for sports equipment

Lots of storage space

Choice of motorized or towable

Cons:

Reduced livable space

Extra length required for garage

Truck camper at Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Truck Campers

Truck Campers are portable units designed to be loaded onto the bed of a pickup truck. Because truck campers are easily loaded and unloaded from the truck they can be used as a pickup when not used as a camper. They are easy to drive and the truck’s bumper hitch can be used to tow boats, ATVs, and small trailers.

Model Details

Length: 8-20 feet

Cost: $20,000-$40,000+

Sleeps: 2-6

Typical Features & Amenities

Nimble and easy to drive

Easy to park

Good on rough terrain

Pros:

Fits in a garage

Truck can serve double purpose

Can go most anywhere

Cons:

Tight living quarters

Reduced livable space

Limited storage space

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.