Franc’ly, My Dear

Cabernet Franc is a parent to Cabernet Sauvignon (the other is Sauvignon Blanc). The crossing occurred sometime during the middle 1600’s around southwestern France (Bordeaux).

Franc(ly) my dear, I DO give a damn…about good wine.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Puns aside. Yes, you guessed it, my focus today is on that black grape, Cabernet Franc—a peppery little number that needs attention and can demand it when given the limelight and not blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot which used to be its only end.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s appealing about Cabernet Franc is its family resemblance to Cabernet Sauvignon. But while Cabernet Sauvignon can be hard-edged, especially when young, Cabernet Franc is less tannic and quicker to mature. That means Cabernet Franc can be an easier-drinking wine sooner.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabernet Franc’s flavor is intriguing. On the plus side, it has lots of ripe raspberry-like flavors, sometimes with hints of anise. But when Cabernet Franc is grown in cool areas, it tends to be more herbaceous, sometimes leaning toward green bell pepper, a negative characteristic for many fans of red wine.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While ironically overshadowed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc remains the unexpected parent of Cabernet Sauvignon (having been partnered with Sauvignon Blanc), which is believed to have been crossed during the Middle Ages near the Basque region of northern Spain. The grape itself is rather thin-skinned and prefers well-drained soil structures for optimal ripening. When ripeness levels are lacking the grape’s green themes, which steer towards green veggie aromas and bell pepper streaks, tend to dominate. However, when it’s on, it is on and wows with a medium body, solid acidity, medium fine tannins, a lively, welcoming personality and savory flavors.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aromas and flavors includes raspberries, strawberries, black currents, plum, green pepper, green olives, stone, tobacco, violets, graphite, stone, and spice.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the years, Cabernet Franc has been successfully grown in places like Australia, California, Chile, Italy, South Africa, Washington State—and the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While used in Bordeaux more as a blending grape, as a single variety Cabernet Franc is a pillar of the Loire Valley. In the Okanagan Valley, where its embraced as much as anything for its ability to ripen earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, it has also been used for blending, although in recent years its popularity as a stand-alone has also been steadily on the rise.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Compared to the brawny characteristic style of many Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Francs tend to be lighter in color and a bit fruitier and softer on the palate. The main big difference between the two varietals is that most Cabernet Francs are not made for ageing—they’re meant to be drunk young.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is the Cabernet Franc grape the next red wine trend waiting to happen? 

Cabernet Franc is considered by many to be the iconic red grape for British Columbia because of its ability to produce wines more complex and intriguing than its big brother Cabernet Sauvignon.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As optimistic as that is, as of the 2014 BC Wine Acreage Report, Cabernet Franc only accounts for 10.44 percent of all red grape varieties and a mere 5.32 percent of all grapes planted in the province with a total of 546.13 acres. Compared to Merlot at 29.90 percent and Pinot Noir 20.53 percent respectively, Cabernet Franc rank fourth below Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tinhorn Creek, Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oft referred to as “the other Cab,” Cabernet Franc continues to distinguish itself as a grape well suited to South Okanagan growing conditions. Cassini Cellars earned its first ever LG Award for its 2012 Collector’s Series Cab Franc. Fairview Cellars, River Stone, Tinhorn Creek, Hester Creek, Burrowing Owl, Le Vieux Pin, Poplar Grove, Stag’s Hollow, and Painted Rock also produce standout Cabernet Franc wines.

Tinhorn Creek, Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Add to this the Okanagan’s natural beauty (it’s a hallowed summer-vacation spot for Canadians), its wide range of non-wine-related things for the whole family to do— from riding the century-old Kettle Valley steam train and swimming in those pristine lakes to biking and hiking, and its lush orchards with juicy peaches, apricots, and cherries—and you’ve got a wine country experience like no other.

Hester Creek Winery, Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now is the time to taste your way through the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

Worth Pondering…

Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.

―Plautus

Fantastic Fall Foliage…and Where to Find It

“Leaf peepers” and “color spotters” will search for peak fall glory with camera in hand

This is starting out as a complicated season for leaf peepers.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the Northeast sweltered through record October heat, parts of the Rockies and northern Plains were buried under wildly early snow—and we drove through it from Great Falls to Billings. Late heat and early cold can stifle some of the most photo-worthy foliage, but large swaths of the country will soon be engulfed in the brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds ahead of the approaching winter.

Stowe Community Church, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forested areas host a variety of tree species. The evergreens shed leaves or needles gradually as their name suggests. The leaves of deciduous varieties change from green to yellow, orange, or red before letting go entirely.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the summer, trees produce chlorophyll, the pigment that turns leaves green and allows trees to use light to make food sugars. At the same time, trees manufacture carotenoid, a yellow to orange pigment that is hidden by the green chlorophyll during the summer months. When the production of chlorophyll slows with the onset of fall, the carotenoid’s bright color can emerge. This yellow pigment also helps the leaf absorb different wavelengths of light that the green chlorophyll cannot.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Certain species begin to produce another pigment, anthocyanin, when the seasons begin to change. This is what turns forests red and orange. Anthocyanin is also responsible for the red, purple, black, and blue colors in certain foods high in antioxidants (think raspberries, purple cauliflower, and black rice). This crimson pigment allows trees to continue storing just a little more sugar and nitrogen to have on hand for the next year.

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some areas of the country are more likely to experience those bright red and orange leaves than others. New England is a perennial fall destination because of its abundance of tree species contributing bright colors.

Goshen, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best color displays occur in forests that have a diversity of species and trees that have the tendency to turn red.

The progression of fall creates a wave of color across the country with grassy plains and farmlands in the Midwest drying up, and the trees of the East Coast rolling from green to yellow/orange/red to brown.

Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaf peepers prowl different parts of the country to find their own special spots for the best fall colors. An annual photo-foraging is like a Christmas present as leaf peppers run around the country unwrapping all these presents.

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dazzling colors can be seen in numerous regions outside New England. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota are great places to go with forests that blend bright yellow birch, beech, and aspen with red maple. Farther south, a mix of oak and hickory forests in Arkansas provides stunning views, especially at higher elevations in the Ozarks.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even as far south as New Mexico, yellow oaks can be seen on mountainsides, along with sporadic flashes of red maples.

Near Brian Head, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moving west, yellow dominates. Western U.S. forests are predominantly evergreen, where species of juniper, spruce, and fir are better adapted to the more extreme temperature and moisture shifts. The deciduous trees in the West, including aspens, tend to display strong yellows.

Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are pockets of beautiful color all over the West but there aren’t a lot of people there. So the majesty can go unseen in some places.

When it comes to tracking down those optimal fall colors, some years can be good and some years can be poor.

Jacksonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moderate stress, such as changing seasonal temperatures and the amount of daylight, helps induce the onset of leaf-color change, but more severe stress can mute the vibrancy of autumn’s palette. Drought limits the ability of tree leaves to produce sugars which can also lead to early leaf drop.

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

But this season is expected to be superb. In New England, low evening temperatures have helped jump-start the fall colors. This will eventually wave down the eastern United States, down through Appalachia and beyond.

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

We wish you luck in your leaf-peeping endeavors. Don’t wait too long because before you know it, the best of fall foliage season will quickly pass only to find solace in pumpkins and corn mazes.

Worth Pondering…

October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!

―Rainbow Rowell, Attachments  

Southward Ho! Snowbird RV Tips for Migrating South

Learn the basics of RV snowbirding

As Neil Young once sang, “the summer ends and the winter winds begin to holler all around the bend…”

The snow doth fly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yes, it’s that time of year once again when the cooler weather sets in and the truly cold and snowy months of winter loom ever closer on the horizon. Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds are already preparing for the journey south for the annual escape to the sub-tropical climates in southern states that include Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.

Quail Ridge RV Park near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are several key tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your journey to gorgeous coastal regions, inland escapes, or breathtaking desert areas.

RV and Tow Vehicle/Toad Preparations

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

Ensure that your RV and tow vehicle or toad are in top operating condition before leaving for your winter destination by following several practical tips:

  • Have a local auto shop inspect your tow vehicle/toad before departing; you never know if you may have missed something and it’s always a good precaution to take
  • Have a local RV service center inspect tires, brakes, axle bearings, and other moving parts
  • Check the air conditioning to ensure it is working properly. A broken air conditioner in a hotter climate makes for an uncomfortable snowbird experience
  • Add tank cleaner to your rig’s waste tanks

Winterize Your Home

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

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

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires a regular walk-through during your absence and if so, how frequently.

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

Arrange with a mail forwarding service to have your mail forwarded to your winter destinations.

Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Palm Springs Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn down the thermostat on your heating system.

Unplug lamps, TVs, radios, and all electric appliances.

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

Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve. Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

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

Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Finally, lock all windows and doors, and activate the alarm or security system.

Pack the RV

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to ensure you have stowed aboard you RV all the essential items is to use a checklist. Following is a starting point for creating your own personal checklist:

  • Clothing for all types of weather
  • Toiletries
  • Fully stocked first aid kit
  • Tool box (stow on curb side of RV)
  • Essential house wares (dishware and utensils, cooking supplies, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, fire extinguisher, batteries, LED flashlights)
  • Technology (smart phone, laptop, tablet, ebook reader, printer, camera, batteries, battery chargers)
  • Outdoor recreation/hobby items (hiking boots and poles, fishing poles, cameras and camera supplies and equipment, knitting/quilting/sewing supplies)

Canadian Snowbirds

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to all of the usual preparations, Canadian snowbirds must deal with extra details that include:

  • Passports and other travel documents
  • Extended health care insurance (Don’t leave home without it!)
  • Smart phone and internet service
  • Buying U.S. dollars/U.S. dollar credit card
Casa Grande RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous

Celebrate Halloween RV Style

Halloween is a holiday that offers a lot to an RVer

When it comes to trick-or-treating RV style, the trick is making Halloween the holiday you know and love, even without the traditional neighborhood kids knocking on your door.

And the treat? Owning a recreational vehicle opens up new possibilities for celebrating Halloween you may never have considered before.

Spooktacular Halloween Goodies

Most everywhere has its spooky spots, whether an annual haunted attraction, a legitimately haunted place, or just an uncomfortably eerie spot.

And now, RIGHT NOW, it’s the season to go and find ‘em! Old mental hospitals, valleys filled by ghostly sounds, theme park fright houses, historic hotels and mansions—no matter how you scare, there are places to freak you out.

Here are a few of the most haunted places and best spots to live the scary story you’ve waited all year to experience.

Galveston, Texas

Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston has many sites that are considered haunted, including an 1867 building that served as a morgue after the 1900 Storm—still the deadliest storm in U.S. history having killed an estimated 8,000 Galveston residents. The building now houses Haunted Mayfield Manor­—a year-round haunted house attraction in downtown Galveston. The haunted house embraces the spooky history of the building’s past while providing guests with a psychologically thrilling experience.

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the island’s historic places have ghost stories attached to them as Galveston has been home to epidemics of disease, war, fires, storms, and many merciless pirates, including the infamous Jean Laffite whose lavish and lawless den of thieves was the island’s first European settlement.

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ghosts like Bisbee or perhaps Bisbee likes their ghosts.

Going to Copper Queen Hotel is like stepping back in time. You will feel like you have been brought back to the 1900s. The hotel is so beautiful and the service excellent that it attracts guests who have been dead for many years.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are reportedly three resident ghosts in the Copper Queen Hotel. One of the ghostly residents is an older gentleman who has long hair and beard. He is usually seen wearing a top hat and a black cape. Guests and staff have claimed smelling the aroma of cigar either before or after seeing him.

Copper Queen Mine, Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another ghost is that of a little boy. It is reported that he drowned in the San Pedro River. Guests have reported objects being moved by the little ghost in their rooms. Others have reported hearing footsteps in the halls and giggling. The little boy’s ghost has never been seen, only heard.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

La Fonda, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the historic district of Santa Fe, the old La Fonda Hotel has been providing a pillow for weary travelers since 1922, but the location itself has been called home to some kind of inn or “fonda” since Santa Fe’s earliest days.

La Plazuela at La Fonda © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the La Fonda Hotel is said to host not only travelers visiting Santa Fe, but also several ghosts. In 1867, the Honorable John P. Slough, Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot to death in the hotel lobby. Some people believe that the Judge continues to walk its hallways.

La Plazuela at La Fonda © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ghost of the distraught salesman who jumped into the well after losing all of his company’s money is often reported. The hotel’s dining room, the La Plazuela, is situated directly over the old well and both guests and staff alike have reported the sight of a ghostly figure that walks to the center of the room, then seemingly jumps into the floor and disappears.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the 1970s, a guest reportedly called the front desk to complain that someone was walking up and down the hallway in front of his room. When an employee was sent to investigate, he saw a tall man in a long, black coat disappear into a stairwell.

Local history plus spooks equals great fun!

Worth Pondering…

I’m just a ghost in this house
I’m shadow upon these walls,
As quietly as a mouse
I haunt these halls.
—Allison Krauss, Ghost in This House

Urbana: Historic Port Town with Old-fashioned Flavor

Turn off the main road or cruise up the Rappahannock River from the Chesapeake Bay to the the charming and friendly historic Colonial port town of Urbanna

Framed by a protected cove on Urbanna Creek off Rappahannock River, the charming, historic Colonial port town of Urbanna is a Tidewater Virginia gem. With the open waters of Chesapeake Bay a few nautical miles away, Urbanna has more boats than people, according to locals.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Urbanna’s marinas, boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and trove of 18th century historic buildings are all within an easy stroll through town, making for an enchanting visit and stay.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1649, Ralph Wormeley patented 3,200 acres on Rosegill Creek and the Rappahannock River. Landowners like Wormeley established plantations on Virginia’s navigable rivers, which they used as private ports, shipping tobacco directly to market without the inconvenience and expense of going through an official port of entry. 

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 1680 Acts of Assembly at Jamestown changed all that by ordering local officials to create 20, 50-acre port towns in Virginia for 10,000 pounds of tobacco each, through which all trade would take place. A small part of Ralph Wormeley’s Rosegill that would, in 1705, be named Burgh of Urbanna, “City of Anne”, was one of them. The town was named in honor of England’s Queen Anne. 

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rosegill Plantation consists of an impressive range of 18th century buildings: a washhouse, the dwelling house, the kitchen, and a storage house. The buildings standing today stylistically dated 1730-1750, a significant example of colonial plantation architecture. The extensive nature of the original complex makes Rosegill one of the oldest and most historic estates in America.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven buildings in town have been in continuous use since the colonial period. Four of them are on the National Register of Historic Places. All are located in Urbanna’s historic district.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The James Mills Scottish Factor Store (also known as the Old Tobacco Warehouse), which now serves as the town’s Museum and Visitors’ Center, is where planters exchanged tobacco for immediate cash and credit to purchase imported goods for sale. The building, itself, is a valuable piece of history, being the only Scottish Factor Store (circa 1765?) left standing in North America. The Mitchell Map, proudly displayed inside, is also a valuable rarity. This is the first edition, 3rd impression of the map called “The most important map in the U.S,” published and printed in 1755.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next door is the Gressitt House, where Urbanna’s Harbormaster once lived. Across the street is Little Sandwich, believed to have been the port town’s Customs House.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Up the hill you’ll find Middlesex County’s original courthouse. It’s one of only 11 colonial courthouses still standing in Virginia today.

Other very special places can be found all around the Town. Cottage Row, a collection of quaint two story cottages built for supervisors of Urbanna Manufacturing Company are located on Taylor Avenue.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the downtown area you will find Bristow’s Store, which first open its doors in 1876. Right down the street is Marshall’s Drug Store where you can sit at the old fashioned soda fountain, right out of the 1950s. Not far from the drug store is Haywood’s Variety Store. Built in 1875, merchants in this location have operated under the name Haywood’s Store since 1911.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the international sailing vessels of the colonial tobacco trade yielded to Chesapeake Bay schooners, then steamboats, then the pleasure boats of today, one thing remained constant—Urbanna’s history and fortunes are one with the Bay.

During the Urbanna Cup Regatta in spring, captains of all ages and skills gather at the Town Marina to race wooden 8-foot Cocktail Class Runabouts.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When leaves change color and the air is crisp, it’s time for the Urbanna Oyster Festival—Virginia’s official Oyster Festival. The event draws over 75,000 visitors to town the first weekend in November (62nd Annual; November 1-2, 2019).

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The family fun features oyster-inspired art, the centerpiece parade with beauty queens and their courts from around Virginia, the hotly contested Oyster Shucking Contest, a juried art show, a holiday house tour, concerts in the park, street parades, boat parades, fireworks, and a monthly farmer’s market.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come see what drew Ralph Wormeley to the verdant plateau overlooking Urbanna Creek in 1649, where the famed plantation Rosegill became one of the great houses of Virginia. And where Urbanna would become one of the great, picturesque towns of Virginia!

Worth Pondering…

He was a bold man who first ate an oyster.

—Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Visit a Spooky, Creepy, Weird & Haunted Place

Are you brave enough?

If you like bone-chilling, shriek-producing, history-inspired horrors, there are plenty of (allegedly) haunted places across the US that could provide the fright you seek on Halloween night.

Ghostly happenings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Geographic, Travel Channel, and others have documented haunted happenings with just the right mix of awe and terror, convincing even disbelievers that ghosts just might be real.

Decorate with Halloween decor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking for a scare that goes a little deeper than your local haunted house, there are dozens of spots from coast to coast you can visit. Think you’re brave enough?

The Dark Cell, Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack up your RV and head for one of these super-spooky destinations:

  • Salem, Massachusetts, where the notorious Salem Witch Trials took place
  • The Dark Cell, Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, Arizona
  • The Shanghai Tunnels in Portland, Oregon, a series of underground passages originally used to move people and goods between storage areas
  • The Stanley Hotel in Estes, Colorado, which inspired the hotel in The Shining
  • The R.M.S. Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, California
  • Galveston Island’s ghostly history makes it a top destination for spooky travel, from a haunted historic hotel to the island’s storied harbor, cemeteries, and Victorian mansions
  • Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana, an antebellum plantation that’s allegedly one of America’s most haunted places
  • The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia
Ghostly happenings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring back the tradition of ghost stories

You don’t have to go anywhere special in your RV to revel in some good old-fashioned horror. Turn up the terror around your next campfire with some scary storytelling this Halloween. Head for a campsite near or far, and get ready for a night to remember.

Decorate with Halloween decor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The dark of night and a crackling fire create the classic setting to weave a tale of Halloween fright. Tell your favorite spooky story from childhood. Get a group together and challenge your friends to see who can tell the spookiest story of all. And don’t be too scared—you can always retreat to the safety of your RV after the last tale is told.

Pumpkins, gourds, and Halloween decor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Decorate your RV with Halloween décor

Enhance your ghost stories and get into the spirit with some Halloween-inspired decorations in your motorhome or trailer. Running into some fake spider webs in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night might be just what your family needs to feel the spirit of Halloween.

Ghostly happenings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dressing up in costumes also adds to the atmosphere—you can even get your pets in on the action. And don’t forget the jack-o-lanterns.

Pro tip: carving your pumpkins outside means less mess to clean up. Arguably the most important part of the perfect Halloween setup is the food.

Decorate with Halloween decor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trick-or-treat, camping style

Campgrounds across the country offer festivities throughout the month of October, adding a traditional twist to the holiday for those on the road. If you’re far away from the traditions you love about Halloween at home, seek out one of these campgrounds.

Pumpkins and Halloween in Amish Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With activities for young and old alike, you can celebrate Halloween the way you always have with trick-or-treating, costume contests for kids and pets, Halloween parades, and hayrides.

Decorate with Halloween decor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you celebrate with paranormal encounters, costumes, pumpkin carving, or ghost stories, we want to wish you a happy Halloween—wherever your RV travels take you.

Worth Pondering…

I’m just a ghost in this house
I’m shadow upon these walls,
As quietly as a mouse
I haunt these halls.
—Allison Krauss, Ghost in This House

Utah’s Fishlake Scenic Byway Fall Foliage Amazes

See a kaleidoscope of fall colors along the scenic route to Fish Lake

The lure of fall foliage is no secret. Bursts of saturated yellow and fiery red demand your eye and call you to the open road.

With forecasting apps and digital foliage maps, terms like peaking and peeping are common language among RVers and other travelers with a craving for visual fall flavor.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah is an ideal place to see nature’s paintbrush at play. There are a number of native trees which create brilliant hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple. A cascade of color comes from canyon maple, quaking aspen, scrub oak, Douglas hawthorn, serviceberries, evergreens, and more—each turning in succession.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah’s wide array of forests, national parks, and scenic byways are located at different elevations and receive varying amounts of rainfall. This creates a multitude of peak viewing times throughout the state, so you can come early or late in the season and still spot breathtaking colors.

Explore the best drives for fall foliage paired with unexpected adventure. One such road is the scenic route to Fish Lake.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake Scenic Byway (SR-25) bookends Fishlake National Forest, an often-missed oasis featuring three mountain ranges broken up by desert canyons. Fishlake National Forest is a paradise known for its beautiful aspen forests, scenic drives, trails, elk hunting, and mackinaw and rainbow trout fishing.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Fishlake Scenic Byway begins at the intersection of Highways 24 and 25. Like us, most travelers reach this intersection via Richfield on I-70. This approach from the northwest is a pleasant drive and deserves mention.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highway 119 east from Richfield is a scenic route, starting out through pretty farmland then climbing into wild, open, undeveloped desert hills. It is 9 miles to the intersection with Highway 24. Angle to the right, signed for Fish Lake, Loa, and Capitol Reef. Highway 24 is very scenic, through mostly undeveloped public land, high-desert prairie covered with pinyon, juniper, and sagebrush. A few miles farther you reach the northern end of Koosharem Reservoir.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At about mile 17 the road begins to climb into the foothills of the Fishlake Plateau. At just under mile 23 you reach the well-marked turnoff on the left for Highway 25, the proper start of the Fishlake Scenic Byway.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Fishlake byway, somewhat narrow but paved and well maintained, continues climbing and enters Fishlake National Forest 4 miles from the start of Highway 25. By this point you have completed most of the initial altitude gain on this drive. From here the road actually descends slightly to Fish Lake at mile 7. Dense stands of aspens make this drive especially attractive in the fall. At this elevation even summer nights are brisk, and the days are cool and pleasant.

Fish Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The national forest’s prize jewel, Fish Lake, is known for its recreational bliss and yellow-blazen aspen forests. Seize the opportunity to see the leaves change on an aspen clone known as Pando, which is believed to be the heaviest organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds. Pando is located about 1 mile southwest of Fish Lake on state Route 25.

Fish Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake, Utah’s largest natural mountain lake, lies in a down-faulted valley (technically known as a graben) at an elevation of 8,843 feet. The 5.5-mile-long lake is one of the most popular fishing resorts in the state, attracting as many as 7,000 visitors on summer weekends.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Across the lake, the long ridge of Mytoge Mountain forms the eastern limit of the Fish Lake basin. To the north, Mounts Marvine and Hilgard, both well over 11,000 feet, remain snowcapped for most of the summer.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake shore is dotted with three commercial resorts, two RV parks, three campgrounds, and numerous picnic areas and boat launches. At just under mile 8, note the large board locating the several campgrounds within the Fish Lake Recreation Area. Though camping is abundant, count on the campgrounds filling up quickly on summer weekends.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a full-scale National Forest Service brown-log-cabin resort development here, but it is on a low-key and fairly unobtrusive scale. Here you will find a gas station, general store, marina, RV park, cabin rentals, and even a laundry.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is earth’s eye, looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

Prepping For Snowbird Travel

Here are a few important things for snowbirds to remember before your trip south

Winter is a time for boots, snow shovels, and icy roads… unless you’re a snowbird who RVs to the Sun Belt. Snowbirds are typically retired seniors who have the desire and financial ability to be away from home for extended periods of time.

Diamond Groove RV Park, Spruce Groove, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The snowbird lifestyle is to our liking because we can take our home with us when the cold weather arrives and snow begins to fall. For us the snowbird lifestyle is the best of both worlds.

But, there is more to leaving home than packing and locking up the doors. It takes planning to secure your home base and belongings and to make sure your abode is as welcoming upon your return as it was before you left.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the annual migration begins, many homeowners set themselves up for potential disaster. Leaving a home unoccupied for an extended period of time can put homeowners at risk. Houses are a lot like teenagers, neither one should be left alone for very long. Snowbirds come home to problems because they failed to properly plan when they left in the fall.

Mount Lemmon Ski Area,Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning.  Before heading south, snowbirds need to take steps to secure and winterize their homes. Creating customized checklists is one way to stay organized when prepping for snowbird season. Consider the following tips as a starting point when creating your winter-ready checklist.

Quail Ridge RV Resort, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re a snowbird, there are certain things you need do to protect your home before you hit the road. To be sure you don’t miss anything on this list of 10 essential ‘home-to-dos’ before you take flight.

Check the expiry dates of all personal identification, travel documents, RV and house insurance, passports, credit and debit cards, and driver’s license. Inform your bank and credit card companies of your departure and how long you’ll be out of the country. Consider setting up online banking and pre-authorized payments for bills.

Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds should make copies of passport ID pages, planned itinerary, campground confirmations, driver’s license, insurance, and credit cards, stored separately from originals.

Place a temporary hold on your newspaper delivery, and arrange with your local postal office to have your mail forwarded to a reliable mail forwarding service or your winter address.

“I don’t do snow!” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Place all stay-at-home valuables in a safe deposit box.

Put indoor and outdoor lights on timers so they will turn on and off at appropriate times.

Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You are escaping the snow, but your home is not. Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep sidewalks clear and your home secure.

Ask a friend, trustworthy neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, and be available in emergency situations. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Bridgeview RV Park, Lethbridge, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have someone walk through your house at least once a week while you’re away. Not only is that a prudent thing to do, but your insurance company could void your coverage if you do not arrange for a regular walk-through. Check with your insurance provider to determine the frequency they require. It’s also a good idea to review your home insurance policy to be sure you’re adequately covered while you’re away.

Did someone say SNOW? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Disconnect all appliances and electrical devices, including microwave, washer and dryer, stove, refrigerator, coffee maker, televisions, entertainment centers, and lamps.

Make sure all smoke alarms are properly installed, in working order, and are equipped with fresh batteries.

Diamond Groove RV Park, Spruce Groove, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn down thermostats to 50 degrees. Low heat will prevent a freeze-up.

Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve. Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Finally, lock all windows and doors, and activate the alarm or security system.

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, pack up the rig and head south.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snowbird life

behind the wheel.

Farewell My Summer Love

The RV lifestyle allows those of us who travel in our coach or towable to visit wineries in many different locations

As summer comes to a close, it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming change in seasons. What better way to end an amazing summer than to dive into a wine country extravaganza? We’ve handpicked 4 unique wine country regions that we think will make the perfect final getaway to end your summer with a bang! So, grab a glass of vino and cheers to another amazing summer getaway.

Michael David, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lodi, California

Lying at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, the Lodi Wine Region enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate of warm days and cool evenings, ideal for growing wine grapes.

With a grape-growing history that dates back to the 1850s, the Lodi Appellation boasts over 750 growers and is home to more than 85 wineries (65 of which boast boutique tasting rooms) specializing in small-lot, handmade wines.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With more than 100 varieties currently being cultivated, Lodi offers a diverse portfolio of wines. While long renowned for its high-quality Zinfandel production, including an estimated 2,000 acres of pre-Prohibition vines, the area also produces award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Chardonnay.

Van Ruiten Vineyards, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine enthusiasts will enjoy a warm welcome and a friendly face as they travel Lodi Wine Country and enjoy a diverse range of wines, delicious foods, and great hospitality. 

Helwig Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amador County, California

The beautiful Shenandoah Valley is the heart of Amador Wine Country. The valley offers country roads with breathtaking views, charming postcard-perfect farms, unique tasting rooms, and relaxing environments. This undiscovered California gem features rolling, golden hills studded with majestic oaks and rolling vineyards producing exceptional full-bodied wines.

Cooper Vineyards, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah Valley produces some of the most interesting wines due to its terroir, a unique combination of rocky soil and warm temperatures that gives the wines their distinctive flavor.

Amador may have developed its reputation around Zinfandel, but Amador winemakers have branched out over the past 20 years and now produce wines from grape varietals originating in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Moon Crusher Vineyards, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape growing region and boasts 131 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

Hester Creek Winery, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From world-class operations to family-run boutique vineyards, Okanagan wineries are rich with character and consistently ranked among the world’s best at International competitions. 

Tinhorn Vineyards, Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the most notable wineries are Mission Hill, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Burrowing Owl, Hester Creek, and Nk’Mip Cellars, Quails Gate Estate, and Tinhorn Creek. If you’re pressed for time the Penticton Wine Shop pours just about every wine made in the Okanagan.

Murphys, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Calaveras County, California

At the heart of Calaveras County’s wine country is an old-school Main Street with a new-world vibe. Unique to any other wine region, Murphys is a wine-lover’s dream with numerous tasting rooms and many excellent restaurants in an historic downtown.

Ironside Vineyards, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Murphys was one of the Gold Country’s richest diggins. The picturesque village is known today for its many natural attractions including caverns, a charming Main Street, unique shops including art galleries, and spectacular wineries. You can literally do wine country on foot in Murphys. There are over 25 wineries here and 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphy’s Historic Main Street.

Four Winds Cellar, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picturesque vineyards and destination wineries are nestled in the rolling hills throughout the county.

Worth Pondering…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event.

―David Hyde Pierce

Keeneland: A Special Place

Located in the Horse Capital of the World, Keeneland is an internationally renowned racecourse and the Thoroughbred industry’s leading auction house

Kentucky is the undisputed mecca of the Thoroughbred industry in the U.S., both for breeding and racing.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each year since 1875 this truth has been reaffirmed on the first Saturday in May, when sport’s brightest spotlight turns toward Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Its reputation as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” is well-deserved. The same goes for the race’s record attendance numbers which eclipse both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But those who follow the sport beyond the Julep-fueled weekend know that much of the prestigious race’s success is owed to another place a mere 80 miles east.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the heart of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass region, Keeneland plays an important role in both Thoroughbred racing and breeding. A fundamentally different kind of race track, Keeneland was purposefully conceived to serve as a lasting monument to the sport’s heritage and tradition.

From its inception in 1936, Keeneland’s founders, led by respected horsemen Hal Price Headley and Major Louis Beard, intended it to be a special place—one that symbolizes the best in Thoroughbred racing.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the story goes, after the closing of the Kentucky Association Track in 1933 during the thick of the Great Depression, Lexington was suddenly trackless for the first time in a century. While much of the country wandered adrift in search of food, shelter, and work, a committee of 10 local industry veterans hatched a plan to create America’s first not-for-profit track, one that would serve the community and reinvest proceeds into improving the grounds and fattening race purses.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The decision to act during such a period of economic chaos proved fruitful for the group. Jack Keene, a colorful character and world-renowned Thoroughbred breeder and trainer who had kicked off his goal to build a private racing and training facility during the high of the roaring 20s before things went sour, was willing to part with his dream for a bargain. He had already constructed a foundation with potential in the form of a mile-and-a-furlong track and a stone castle and barn built from limestone mined in Kentucky, but work was still required to get the track up and running in 1936.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keeneland’s role as a beacon for the sport soon expanded in 1939, thanks to the donation of over 2,300 volumes on the sport of horse racing by Lexington businessman William Arnold Hangar, who sowed the seed for the Keeneland library, which today contains nearly 200,000 books and approximately 250,000 photographs and stands as one of the world’s largest research and reference repositories on Thoroughbreds.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though the track has received its fair share of updates and improvements over the decades, little has changed aesthetically. Keeneland was officially designated a national historic landmark in 1986, and if you’ve ever seen the 2003 movie, Seabiscuit, you’ve seen the pristine setting firsthand, as most of the racing scenes were filmed there.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2009 the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system of all of the country’s 65 Thoroughbred tracks, and ranked Keeneland at the very top.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Keeneland continues to be guided by that original mission, taking a leadership role in the industry and preserve racing’s storied history.

Each April and October (October 4-26, in 2019), the nation’s best Thoroughbred owners, trainers, and jockeys converge at Keeneland to compete for some of North America’s richest purse money. 

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the world’s leading Thoroughbred auction house, Keeneland has sold more champions and stakes winners than any other sales company, including 95 horses that won 103 races during the Breeders’ Cup World Championship winners and 21 Kentucky Derby winners.

Keeneland’s beautiful, park-like grounds are open to the public every day. Fans also are welcome to visit the famed Keeneland Library.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fans and horsemen alike are welcome to enjoy its spectacular racing, attend one of its annual horse sales, or simply visit the grounds and celebrate Keeneland’s timeless beauty.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For guests interested in learning about the history of Keeneland and wanting an insider view of operations, guided walking tours are available. This outside walking tour takes guests through the Keeneland Paddock and Grandstand, grounds, and when available, to the Sales Pavilion. 

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tour lasts for one hour and largely takes place outside—rain or shine. During the race meets in April and October, tours are available Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Worth Pondering…

To be born in Kentucky is a heritage; to brag about it is a habit; to appreciate it is a virtue.

―Irvin Cobb