February 2019 RV Manufacturer Recalls

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

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

What is a recall?

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

La Quintas Oasis RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

The number of RV recalls has increased significantly in recent years: 169 recalls were issued during 2016, 203 recalls during 2017, and 230 for 2018.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality, violating labeling requirements listed in federal motor vehicle safety standards.

NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

NHTSA announced 4 recall notices during February 2019. These recalls involved 3 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (2 recalls), Heartland Recreational Vehicles (1 recall), Triple E (1 recall).

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Coachmen Apex recreational trailers. The inner hub bearings may not have been sufficiently greased, which can cause the bearings to overheat and fail.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and repair the hubs and bearings, as necessary, free of charge. The recall began February 4, 2019. Customer service number unknown at this time. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-0923.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Salem and Wildwood recreational trailers. The power cord hatch is located above the water heater exhaust, possibly resulting in the cord or the hatch melting.

Forest River has notified owners, and dealers will secure the power cord away from the water heater exhaust, free of charge. The recall began February 4, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 574-534-6127. Forest River’s number for this recall is 44-0929.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Heartland Recreational Vehicles

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC (Heartland) is recalling certain Milestone recreational trailers, model 377MB. The liquid propane (LP) gas hose for the water heater may have been improperly secured with a zip tie. If the zip tie fails, the hose may contact the tire.

Heartland will notify owners, and dealers will secure the hose with a P-clamp and replace the LP hose if damage is found, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 11, 2019. Owners may contact Heartland customer service at 1-877-262-8032. Heartland’s number for this recall is 99.01.44.

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

Triple E

Triple E Recreational Vehicles (Triple E) is recalling certain 2019 Serenity recreational vehicles, model S24CB. The coach battery compartment door support metal cable may contact the positive battery terminal.

Triple E will notify owners, and dealers will replace the battery compartment door support metal cable with one that is covered with tubing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in February 2019. Owners may contact Triple E customer service at 1-877-992-9906. Triple E’s number for this recall is CA#9208-1

Columbia River RV Resort, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Note: Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the first in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

Wildflower Season Has Arrived in Arizona! Where to See the Best Blooms?

Weather brings spring wildflowers to add desert color

Spring-like weather has arrived in the desert a little later than normal this year but it comes bearing gifts. After a rainy and snowy winter, warmer temperatures are triggering a profusion of wildflowers.

The flowers of the Sonoran Desert are a splash of color and passion. While almost entirely absent last year, they are out in force this season. This is a time to revel in satiny sun and balmy breezes and go looking for them. It’s a show you don’t want to miss. Here are some places to admire those soft, ground-level fireworks.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

First, let’s establish a few rules so everyone can enjoy this season’s bounty.

1. Don’t pick wildflowers. They won’t last long enough to see a vase. They’ll die very soon after being plucked and then all their hard work of sprouting, growing, and blooming was for naught. Leave them for others to enjoy.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

2. Stay on trails and watch where you step. There could be small seedlings all around. And for goodness’ sake, do not wade out into a field and trample the flowers, thus ruining them for everyone, just so you can snag a selfie. Take all photos from the pathways.

3. Don’t dawdle. Peak colors at any one location may last from a few days to two weeks. If you hear about a wildflower bonanza, track it down. The beauty may be ephemeral but your memories will last for years.

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Usery Mountain Regional Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The wildflower population appeared spotty at Usery Mountain Regional Park until moisture-laden storms in February changed the equation. Suddenly hillsides were streaked with color. Poppies, primrose, lupines, rock daisies, fairy dusters, and the flame-orange tips of ocotillo added drama to mountains that already exhibit plenty on their own.

The Userys gain enough elevation to afford stunning views back toward Phoenix and farther east to the rolling waves of mountains like the Goldfields and Superstitions. Hike the slopes to Wind Cave and Pass Mountain to admire the best panoramas while wading through bands of flowers.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park, March 2010 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There’s always a bit of magic where desert and water meet. Add flowers to the mix and that’s a great way to spend a day. At Lake Pleasant, the heaviest concentration of poppies can be found on Pipeline Canyon Trail especially from the southern trailhead to the floating bridge a half-mile away.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park, March 2010 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The bridge is guarded by some extremely robust globemallows the size of landscape shrubs. A nice assortment of blooms also lines the Beardsley, Wild Burro, and Cottonwood trails.

Bartlett Lake

Near Bartlett Lake, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The road to Bartlett Lake quickly leaves suburbs behind and winds past rolling hills to the sparkling reservoir cradled by mountains. Be sure to keep an eye peeled for white poppies—this is a good spot for them.

Bartlett Lake, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Some of the best flower sightings are along the road to Rattlesnake Cove. The Palo Verde Trail parallels the shoreline, pinning hikers between flowers and the lake, a wonderful place to be on a warm March day.

Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wildflowers are on a blooming binge at Picacho Peak State Park. Carpets of dazzling golden Mexican poppies play a starring role in the colorful show—but other wildflowers add their own hues to the landscape. Among them: blue lupines, orange globemallow, white desert chicory, and bright yellow brittlebush.

Picacho Peak State Park, March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Nearly any spot along the park’s main road will include wildflower scenery. One of the best side routes for colorful views from a vehicle—and even more grand vistas from trails—is the Barrett Loop.

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

“We had poppies blooming in January and that’s unheard of in my time here,” park manager Steve Haas says. Two large washes keep the park cooler than the lower desert and generally prompt a later seasonal bloom. Traditionally, colors peak from late March into early April but things are happening a little earlier this year.

The Sutherland Trail offers the best assortment of flowers with cream cups, poppies, lupines, penstemon, and desert chicory. Best color can be found near the junction with Canyon Loop and continuing for about 2 miles on the Sutherland across the desert.

Catalina State Park, March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Guided hikes and bird walks are offered several days each week.

Worth Pondering…

Wildflowers are the stuff of my heart!

—Lady Bird Johnson

13 Icons That Describe Arizona

Come along and discover the 13 Arizona icons that describe the state

Try and describe Arizona—its history, geography, and cultures—and a few iconic names and places likely come to mind.

At some point, you’ll get around to explaining how people living in Arizona’s deserts survive the scorch of summer. But you probably won’t be able to hide your bliss about what keeps you and other snowbirds returning winter after winter.

Here are 13 Arizona icons:

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Let’s start with the state’s crown jewel, the Grand Canyon—an iconic attraction that’s on every RVer’s bucket list. It’s hard to imagine a trip to Arizona that doesn’t involve at least a peek at the Grand Canyon. This massive gorge isn’t just a geological marvel, it’s a symbol of Western adventure and American spirit. One look over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

When filmmaker John Ford cast his lens on Monument Valley, he couldn’t look away. The stunning red buttes that rise from the dusty ground are iconic Arizona, and Ford made Monument Valley a backdrop for 10 films, including “Stagecoach” in 1939. Situated on the Navajo Reservation in a remote part of northern Arizona near the Utah line, its glorious skyline draws thousands of tourists to U.S. 163, the only road through Monument Valley.

Diverse topography

Sprawled across the state’s 15 counties is a topography as varied as the people who live here. Deserts cover 30 percent of the land, grassland and steppes spread over 53 percent, and highlands make up 17 percent.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Arizona once had petrified wood as far as the eye could see. Visitors arriving on the railroad around the turn of the 20th century took care of that, pocketing what they could and leaving behind enough to justify creation of a national forest.

Route 66

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One of the original U.S. highways, this eclectic drive was established on Nov. 11, 1926, and became one of the most famous roads in America. It started in Chicago and ended in Los Angeles, covering 2,448 miles. Route 66 was immortalized in pop culture by a hit song and 1960s television show before being removed from the national highway system in 1985.

Sky Islands

On the Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Few geographic formations in the world illustrate such stark contrast as 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—sometimes exceeding 10,000—these majestic mountains emerge from a sea of desert scrub and provide an oasis for an abundance of wildlife.

Sedona

Cathedral Rock, Sedona

Sedona is famous for its scenery, art, and history. Even if you’re not an adherent of the New Age movement, plan on visiting at least one of Sedona’s famous vortexes. They’re at some of the most gorgeous spots around town. Pink Jeeps are ubiquitous in Sedona, shuttling visitors past the sights year-round.

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There’s a reason Oak Creek Canyon is the second-most visited canyon in Arizona. In just 15 miles, the drive takes you past countless outstanding vistas. Just make sure the driver’s eyes are on the road — it’s narrow and twisty. Don’t miss Oak Creek Canyon Vista at the top. It has a terrific overview of the canyon.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This national historic landmark was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction on the White Dove of the Desert, south of downtown Tucson, began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.

Colorado River

Colorado River at Bullhead City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The river not only is a major source of water for the state, it is also a prime spot for fishing, rafting, and other recreational activities.

Kartchner Caverns

The limestone caves in southeastern Arizona were discovered in 1974 by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts as they explored the hills near the Whetstone Mountains.

Scorching heat

The highest temperature ever recorded in Phoenix — 122 degrees — was enough to temporarily shut down Sky Harbor International Airport on June 26, 1990.

Hiking trails

Hiking at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Short or long, straight or steep, hundreds of trails make Arizona an outdoor wonderland for those willing to lace up their boots and explore the outdoors.

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area. Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”. There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.

13 Weird and Wonderful Reasons to RV to Tucson

The bright stars of Arizona’s second largest city

When Fodor’s Travel released its annual Go List in November, a favorite of ours was on it. Tucson was one of the 52 places around the world that inspire travel in 2019.

Hey, Fodor’s, tell us something we don’t already know.

The landscape in Tucson can only be described as otherworldly. From the sweeping expanses of arid desert to the mountain ranges surrounding the city and sprinkles of vibrant colors dotting the desert, it’s truly unlike anywhere else on the planet.

Looking toward the Old Pueblo. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In their list, the editors of Fodor’s barely scratch the surface of what makes the Old Pueblo such a fun getaway. So we’ll just have to pick up the slack. Here are our favorite weird and wonderful reasons to RV to Tucson.

One of the most popular attractions in Tucson is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and for good reason. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn about the Sonoran Desert and the diversity of what can be found here, whether that’s the animals, plants, birds, or fish. 

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mission San Xavier del Bac is noted for its elegant Spanish colonial architecture and colorful art adorning the interior. Shimmering in the sun 10 miles south of Tucson, the “White Dove of the Desert” remains an active parish.

Birders will enjoy camping at Catalina State Park as much as hikers and mountain bikers do. The park spreads across the foothills of the craggy Santa Catalina Mountains north of town. Trails like Canyon Loop ramble through desert meadows dotted with cactus, mesquite and ocotillo. Watch for desert bighorn sheep on the mountain slopes.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The giant saguaro cacti grow nowhere else. Growing very slowly, it may take 50 years or more for branching to begin. These symbols of the Southwest have lent their name to Saguaro National Park, its two units bracketing Tucson on the east and the west.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Carved into the Santa Catalina Mountains by its namesake stream, Sabino Canyon is a desert oasis supporting riparian habitat including willow, ash, oak, and Arizona sycamore. A paved road runs 3.8 miles into the canyon, crossing nine stone bridges over Sabino Creek. It begins at an altitude of 2,800 feet and rises to 3,300 feet at its end.

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Plenty of cowboys can be found at Old Tucson Studios. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are among the Hollywood legends that starred in some of the 300-plus movies and TV projects that have been filmed at Old Tucson since 1939. Today it’s a movie studio and theme park.

Old Tucson Studios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Entering the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson, you’ll find yourself accelerating at the foot of Mount Lemmon. Climbing to over 9,000 feet, with a near 7,000-foot elevation change in a mere 24 miles, the Catalina Highway (also called the Mount Lemmon Highway) is a brilliant ascent with countless curves, numerous vistas, and three major switchbacks.

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 16 miles east of town, has a long and storied history.

Hohokam Indians once used the caverns for food storage and outlaws hid out here between train robberies in the 1880s. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built much of the infrastructure still used by visitors today.

It’s no surprise that authentic Mexican fare is easy to come by with the border just an hour’s drive away, but there’s a favorite haunt in which to indulge in the freshest, spiciest specimens in town. A long-time local mainstay, El Charro has been run by the same family for nearly 100 years. Its margaritas are strong and tart and its founder, Monica Flin, is credited with inventing the chimichanga.

Hawk demonstration at the Arizona-Senora Desert Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Displaying more than 250 aircraft of all sizes, shapes and eras, Pima Air & Space Museum covers 150 acres. Many of the docents are people who actually flew these planes, and the stories they tell are fascinating.

If you think flowers can’t bloom in the desert, think again. The sandy landscape is awash with multi-hued blooms, especially in the spring. Even the thorny cacti blossom into bouquets of color, the prickly pear sprouting hats of rich fuchsia flowers, the barrel cactus donning clusters of vibrant yellow and red and the mighty saguaro budding impressive halos of white posies.

Mexican poppies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Embrace the authentic beauty of the Sonoran Desert year-round at Tohono Chul, Tucson’s charming crossroads of nature, art, and culture. Deemed “One of the World’s Ten Best Botanical Gardens” by Travel + Leisure Magazine, Tohono Chul has been celebrated by Tucson as one of its “best kept secrets” for over a quarter of a century.

Having visited Tucson on numerous occasions, we have set up camp at a variety of area RV parks and campgrounds that include Tucson/Lazydays KOA, Valley of the Sun RV Resort, Desert Trails RV Park, Mission View RV Resort, and Catalina State Park.

Tucson Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Tucson had opened my eyes to the world and given me… a taste for the sensory extravagance of red hot chiles and five-alarm sunsets.

—Barbara Kingsolver

The Absolute Best Places to RV This March

It is almost spring and you can just feel it…kind of

If winter weather has officially got you down for the third consecutive month in a row, that means it’s time to get out of town.

March is when the cold starts to let up and much of the country finally gets signs of warm weather. But if you start planning a trip for the summer months, you’ll hit high season for most destinations. Traveling during the spring certainly has its perks. If you can brave mediocre temperatures and weather, you’ll likely be rewarded with fewer crowds in many popular destinations, ranging from outdoor hot spots to cities big and small.

We’ve scoped out the best opportunities to ditch the purgatory that is March and eat, drink, and soak up some sun—or some culture—which should have you in better spirits in no time. No matter where your RV travels take you—and whether you want to avoid spring Break destinations or embrace them—there are plenty of places to go that are warm.

Here are our five favorite places to travel to put on your radar for March. What are you waiting for?

Looking to make plans for RV travel in April, May, June, or the rest of the year? We’ve got you covered with those recommendations, too. And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in January and February. Also check out our recommendations from March 2018.

Lexington, Kentucky

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This time of year, the only thing people know about Lexington is that there seem to be a disproportionate amount of die-hard college basketball fans who claim to have been there.

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Of course, there are also the scenic tours of nearby horse country—Keeneland is Lexington’s cozier, comfier answer to Louisville’s Churchill Downs. Stop by some of the city’s eight craft breweries and you, too, will swear you can see the glint of blue in the grass that makes the rolling countrysides here some of most gorgeous in America.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wildflowers will be coming into bloom in Texas Hill Country this month, which is home to the nation’s largest working wildflower farm. With the season extending from March all the way through April, it’s a great opportunity to spend a weekend exploring country roads and hiking.

For a well-deserved picnic break, stop in at the Wedding Oak Winery at Wildseed, where you can sample Texas-made wine while overlooking fields of cosmos and zinnia.

Wildseed Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wildflowers will be coming into bloom in Texas Hill Country this month, which is home to the nation’s largest working wildflower farm. With the season extending from March all the way through April, it’s a great opportunity to spend a weekend exploring country roads and hiking.

St. George, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Affectionately known as “The Palm Springs of Utah,” this desert town a couple of hours from Las Vegas, offers year-round golf, and serves as a gateway city to Zion National Park.

Quail Gate State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It’s also only about 20 minutes from Snow Canyon State Park, an underrated destination unto itself that rocks a red-orange blend of Navajo sandstone cliffs, petrified sand dunes, and lava fields (seriously, you gotta go). If you want a natural resort town with not a lot of people, St. George is your play.

Charleston, South Carolina

Historic Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This seaport city on South Carolina’s coast oozes Southern charm. Its palmetto-lined streets, waterfront promenades, historic mansions, and cobblestone streets will draw you in, but it’s exciting art and culinary scene and its Southern hospitality will make it one hell of a break.

Why you should go in March: Mild temps make Chuck Town pleasant this time of year. And it’s the start for springtime blooms with colorful camellias, pink tulip trees, and wisteria vines blossoming throughout downtown and inside city parks. Plus, the Charleston Wine+Food Festival takes place in March (6-10, in 2019).

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With a whopping 97 properties listed on the National Register for Historic Places, history is ingrained in every aspect of Downtown Charleston—right down to the horse-drawn carriages. From the historic mansions that line the Battery promenade near the waterside, Fort Sumter-facing White Point Garden to the cobblestone streets and gas-lit alleys of the French Quarter (yes, Charleston has its own French Quarter), you can’t escape all the history that’s packed into the heart of this city. And when history is this beautiful, why the hell would you want to?

Scottsdale, Arizona 

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Scottsdale, known for its blissful desert sunshine and high-end resorts, is also home to the annual Major League Baseball spring training. Nearly two million fans show up at the end of February to watch 15 Major League Baseball teams prepare for the upcoming season under the warm Arizona sun.

Games taking place in 10 different stadiums in Scottsdale, Mesa, and other cities in the Valley of the Sun. Consider making the most of your surroundings with an exhilarating hot air balloon ride, or a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Desert Botanical Garden

Scottsdale also has wonderful hikes and a booming art scene, so there’s no lack of entertainment even if you’re not a baseball buff. Case in point: the Celebration of Fine Art, which runs until March 24.

Worth Pondering…

Happiness is like a butterfly—the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.

—Henry David Thoreau

Joe Cain, Moon Pies & Mobile Mardi Gras

Mobile dates its Mardi Gras to 1703, a decade and a half before New Orleans was founded

Chief Slacabamorinico would have been proud.

The Chickasaw leader was “reincarnated” by Mobile resident Joe Cain in 1866 as a rebellion against occupying Union forces.

The Civil War had brought a halt to Mardi Gras celebrations, and in April 1865, Union troops took control of the city.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mobile’s Mardi Gras festivities resumed unexpectedly the following year when Joseph Stillwell Cain, a local clerk and former member of the Tea Drinkers Mystic Society, led a parade through the occupied city dressed as a fictional Indian named Chief Slackabamarinico.

Cain exuberantly declared an end to Mobile’s suffering and signaled the return of the city’s parading activities, to the delight of local residents. He also succeeded in moving Mobile’s celebration from New Year’s Eve to the traditional Fat Tuesday. 

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

During and after Reconstruction, Mardi Gras became the premier event of the city’s social elite and a way of celebrating the “Lost Cause.” New societies representing different portions of the city’s diverse population began to appear. The Order of Myths (OOM), established in 1867, chose as its emblem Folly chasing Death around a broken column, imagery that was seen by many as a symbol of the “Lost Cause.” At the end of the traditional OOM parade, Death is defeated, and Folly wins the day.

In 1870, a group of young men between the ages of 18 and 21 formed the Infant Mystics, probably because they were too young to join other societies. The Knights of Revelry, formed in 1874. Their emblem of Folly dancing in a champagne glass between two crescent moons remains a familiar site during Mardi Gras parades.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mobile has been doing it ever since and they mark the annual occasion with majestic parades, colorful floats, and flying Moon Pies.

When people think of Mardi Gras, they think of New Orleans. But long before there even was a New Orleans, Mobile was celebrating Mardi Gras in the run-up to Ash Wednesday.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mobile dates its Mardi Gras to 1703, a decade and a half before New Orleans was founded. The raucous annual celebration originated in the Port City, not in the Crescent City.

Mardi Gras celebrations begin two and a half weeks before Fat Tuesday and Mobile comes to life. Elaborate themed floats manned by masked mystic societies, mounted police and marching bands wind through downtown Mobile and surrounding areas, entertaining nearly a million revelers each year.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Many of the mystic societies hold annual formal balls. Some of the balls are private, open only to members and their families; others sell tickets to guests. Membership rules vary. Members need to be born into some societies; other groups invite residents to join, and still others accept anyone who pays the dues.

A specific decorum regarding gown design for royalty still prevails, according to the late Gordon Tatum Jr., former curator of the Mobile Carnival Museum.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

“Cover the ankles,” he said. “It may be split to San Francisco, but cover the ankles.”

The cost for robes, gowns, and scepters, as well as full-out partying, is only governed by how deep Daddy’s pockets are. The museum’s least expensive outfit is estimated at $40,00.

Mobile has decreed that moon pies are the official throwing treat from Mardi Gras floats (too many people were being conked on the head by hard candy).

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Mobile Carnival is a family-friendly time of parties, balls, parades, and revelry.

Find your spot and get ready to catch Moon Pies, beads, and trinkets. And not to forget the man who kept Mardi Gras alive, Joe Cain Day is observed the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. 

The party has started in Downtown Mobile and will end with Fat Tuesday on February 13.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

But, after all, if, as a child, you saw, every Mardi Gras, the figure of Folly chasing Death around the broken column of Life, beating him on the back with a Fool’s Scepter from which dangled two gilded pig bladders; or the figure of Columbus dancing drunkenly on top of a huge revolving globe of the world; or Revelry dancing on an enormous upturned wine glass -wouldn’t you see the world in different terms, too?

—Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim

Beauty of the Desert: Arizona in Bloom

Spring is the most glorious of seasons in the Southwest

Growing up in Alberta I always feuded with winter, a cantankerous, disagreeable season that seemingly lasted forever. As a snowbird, I take great delight in rambling around the desert in shorts and T-shirt searching for signs of wildflowers.

Many people consider Arizona to be a land of two seasons, summer and the absence of summer. But us-snowbirds know better. Spring is the most glorious of seasons in the Desert Southwest, with days of glorious sunshine, azure skies, and carpets of wildflowers. Round these parts, we often start getting whiffs of spring in January and it goes full bore through much of February and on into May. Chew on that, Old Man Winter.

Bartlett Lake. March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Unless you’ve actually visited the Desert Southwest, any mention of the region probably conjures up images of an arid wasteland devoid of life. Nothing could be further from the truth: the landscape is, in fact, full of life—and when the desert blooms you will want to be there.

This amazing transformation usually happens by mid-March, but only during the years when winter rains have been the right amount and springtime temperatures the right range of degrees. When that occurs, a dry and seemingly lifeless desert springs to life in a glorious tapestry of purple, white, yellow, orange, and green.

Between Casa Grande and Florence. March 2015 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

More than 600 species of flowers, plants, and shrubs join the spectacle with their short-lived but profuse blossoms. Desert blooms typically appear in this order: bladderpods, Mexican poppies, chuparosa, globemallow, brittlebush, and then other various cacti species.

What a difference a year makes. As Arizona wildflower seasons go, 2018 was almost a complete bust. But 2019 has flower watchers trembling with anticipation. More flowers bloomed this January than all of last spring, and it wasn’t even close.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park. March 2010 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Why such a discrepancy? Why do Arizona wildflower seasons vary so drastically from year to year? And what makes 2019 look so promising?

The short answer is the moisture. But it’s more complicated than just the amount. Timing is crucial. A truly spectacular spring begins two seasons before. Here’s why:

Spring-blooming annuals must germinate in the autumn. They require a “triggering rain” of an inch or more. Last October brought widespread, often record-setting, rains to the Phoenix area. That was the first indication the 2019 season might be something special. That likely roused plenty of little seeds from their desert slumber.

Peridot Mesa. March 2016 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

After the triggering rain, more storms are needed. Rains should total at least an inch per month through March, and more is better. The rains should occur consistently through the winter so there are no lengthy drying spells. That’s been the case for much of the state over the past few months. There was even a bonus New Year’s Eve snow gently melting across great swaths of the desert.

Another factor is temperature. Some annuals, poppies in particular, are delicate little divas that don’t like excessive heat. When thermometers push into the mid-80s, poppies start looking for the exits. Early heat waves have curtailed some recent seasons. But this year’s long streak of mild temperatures has given them a chance to flourish.

Picacho Peak State Park. March 2015 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Even with all of the right conditions in place, there’s no guarantee of an abundant wildflower season. Factors such as soil type, vegetation cover, and rodent population can affect blooming.

Usery Mountain Regional Park. March 2009 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Still, 2019 is shaping up to be a very good wildflower year. It should be above average just about everywhere, and has the potential to be spectacular in places. An event this rare should not be missed. Start making plans to venture outdoors and revel in satiny sun, balmy breezes, and a desert streaked with color.

Remember to bring your camera.

Click.

Sonoran Desert National Monument near Gila Bend. February 2019 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Almost every person, from childhood, has been touched by the untamed beauty of wildflowers.

—Lady Bird Johnson

Desert Star: Palm Springs

Whether its golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, shopping, or hiking Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago when it was just a village in the desert and a popular weekend Hollywood getaway destination.

Only 100 miles east of Tinseltown, it was an easy drive, even in the days before freeways. And even though Hollywood’s winter climate was mild, the celebrities of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s headed to the desert for weekends of poolside relaxation.

Shopping El Paseo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, hiking, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Palm Springs and its many neighboring cities are in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, once an inland sea and now a desert area with abundant artesian wells. An escape from winter’s chill and snow, it is also a destination filled with numerous places to visit and things to do.

The Agua Caliente Cahuilla peoples were among the first to settle here and their descendants have established the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Indian Canyons are one of the most beautiful attractions for any Palm Springs visitor, especially if you love to hike. You can hike Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon. Unlike other area trails, most of the trails in the Indian Canyons follow running streams. Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm), and indigenous flora and fauna are abundant.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A moderately graded, foot path winds down into Palm Canyon for picnicking near the stream, meditating, exploring, hiking, or horseback riding.

The contrasting greens of the magnificent fan palms and more than 150 species of plants within a half-mile radius beckon the hiker into lush Andreas Canyon. A scenic foot trail leads through the canyon passing groves of stately skirted palms, unusual rock formations, and the perennial Andreas Creek. To access the Indian Canyons, take South Palm Canyon from Highway 111.

There are so many great trails to choose from—but none can surpass Tahquitz Canyon. Nowhere else can you to see a spectacular 60-foot waterfall, rock art, an ancient irrigation system, numerous species of birds, and plants—all in the space of a few hours.

Tahquitz Canyon is at the northeast base of 10,804-foot Mount San Jacinto in Palm Springs.

Hiking Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located at the entrance to the canyon, the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center, at 500 West Mesquite, just west of Palm Canyon Drive, offers exhibits, an observation deck, and a theatre room for viewing a video that narrates the legend of Tahquitz Canyon.

Needing a change of pace? Let the Palm Springs Aerial Tram do the climbing, 6,000 feet of it. Along the way a wondrous panorama of the desert lands stretches below and beyond. From Mountain Station at the top, there are short nature hikes or longer trails of varying lengths. Be sure to bring a warm jacket as the temperature difference is dramatic at this elevation and snow is not uncommon.

Palm Springs from Tahquitz Canyon trail head © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Rising abruptly from the desert floor, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National  Monument reaches an elevation of 10,834 feet. Providing a picturesque backdrop to the desert cities, visitors can enjoy magnificent palm oases, snow-capped mountains, a national scenic trail, and wilderness areas. Jointly managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, the Monument can be accessed using Highway 74 (Palms to Pines Scenic Byway) from Palm Desert.

Located in Palm Desert, the world famous El Paseo Shopping District features over 300 world-class shops, clothing boutiques, art galleries, jewelers, and restaurants lined along a picture-postcard floral and statue-filled mile. Known as the Rodeo Drive of the Desert, El Paseo boasts a wide spectrum of stores from Sak’s 5th Avenue to individually owned boutiques.

Browse your favorite luxury labels and chic boutiques, savor gourmet cuisine by the Coachella Valley’s top chefs, and wander through an array of art galleries set against a scenic backdrop. 

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Complete your Coachella Valley journey with something sweet by visiting the Shields Date Garden in Indio and you’ll find yourself in a date oasis where the Shields’ have been growing their own since 1924. Enjoy a date milkshake, a variety of date-centric dishes in the garden café, or educate yourself by viewing a short documentary on the cultivation of this exotic fruit which continuously screens in the café’s own theater. Be sure to also take a stroll through the garden in the back.

Worth Pondering…

We have 51 golf courses in Palm Springs. He (President Ford) never decides which course he will play until after the first tee shot.

—Bob Hope

What’s Next Is Almost Here

Newmar to Introduce Super C at RVX

RVX: The RV Experience, launching March 12-14, 2019 in Salt Lake City, will be the industry’s biggest event, designed to spark consumer interest in the RV lifestyle shared by millions of Americans by unveiling the latest products, celebrating innovation, and providing inspiration and education to dealers to drive RV businesses forward.

RVX will be the official “Kick-off to Camping Season” that will showcase the industry’s newest and best-selling products to dealers and consumers back home. This is NOT a consumer show, but a show that will highlight the products coming to market in the spring.

Newmar recently announced that it will unveil its first Super C model at RVX at 2 p.m. ET on March 13 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The manufacturer reported that the unit has been in research and development for the past two years.

The new 2020 Super Star will be live-streamed from the Newmar display.

The Super C RV will feature both a full air-ride cab and a full-wall slide-out.

Debuting at RVX 2019 is one of two models that not only represent the first we’ve ever built, but the first and only RVs in their class to feature both a full air-cab and a full-wall slideout. Don’t miss your chance to see it live on March 13 at 12 pm MST / 2 pm EST!

The RV Industry Association is the national trade association representing RV manufacturers and their component parts suppliers who together build more than 98 percent of all RVs produced in the U.S., and approximately 60 percent of RVs produced worldwide.

A manufacturer of Class A motorhomes, Newmar has chosen to lead rather than follow and deliver a high level of craftsmanship, innovation, and customer support. Newmar was founded in 1968 for one simple reason: to build a better RV.

NEWMAR: When You Know The Difference

Worth Pondering…

We chose an RV and RV lifestyle that’s right for us.

Best Things to See and Do in Arizona in 2019

For fun and adventure consider this your road map of the best things and see and do in Arizona in 2019

From cactus-studded deserts to snow-covered peaks, from vibrant cities to charming towns, Arizona defies description.

To the unfamiliar, its name invokes visions of cowboys and rattlesnakes, a land not for the faint of heart. The stereotype ignores the lush pine forests that carpet Arizona’s mountains, and the rivers and streams so plentiful that they have nurtured residents from ancient civilizations to today’s suburbanites.

Consider this guide your treasure map of the best things to do and see in Arizona in 2019.

Hop aboard Verde Canyon Railroad

You’re part of history aboard this excursion train on century-old tracks. But it’s the scenery and wildlife that truly capture the imagination.

The train departs from Clarkdale on a 40-mile round trip through a remote wilderness. Loads of ore from Jerome mines were once hauled on this line.

Today visitors enjoy towering canyon walls and the cottonwood-draped Verde River. Stand outside on open-air viewing platforms watching bald and golden eagles circle overhead, and remind yourself you’re still in Arizona.

Browse for treasures at Hubbell Trading Post

Founded in 1876 by John Lorenzo Hubbell, this is the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Reservation. The National Historic Site in Ganado is part museum, part art gallery and still a functioning trading post, virtually unchanged since its early days.

Wooden floors creak at every step. The store is crowded with goods and spicy with old aromas. Adjacent to the shop, a trader sits in the jewelry room, which also contains carvings, paintings, and clay work. In a third room, gorgeous hand-woven rugs are stacked in casual piles.

Details: Near mile marker 446 on State Route 264 in Ganado on the Navajo Reservation.

Look for spring wildflowers

Good years for spring wildflowers are sporadic. Super bloom years are rare indeed. Yet it doesn’t matter. There is no better reminder why we love Arizona than to spend a balmy February or March day in shorts hiking in fields of poppies, brittlebush, lupine, and their showy friends.

While the rest of the country is lashed by blizzards, nor’easters and ice storms, we revel in 70 degrees. Wildflowers are a Technicolor welcome mat the Sonoran Desert extends. It would be downright foolish not to accept the invitation.

Every year is different, of course, but reliable locations include Maricopa County Parks and Picacho Peak and Lost Dutchman state parks.

Walk the streets of Tombstone

Follow in the footsteps of a legendary cast of characters when you mosey down these wooden sidewalks. Horse-drawn stagecoaches still clip-clop along the street, steely-eyed men in black frock coats still march toward a date with destiny and it’s easy to forget what century it is.

At one end of Allen Street you can walk into the O.K. Corral to see the famous gunfight reenacted. At the other end, you can tour the Birdcage Theatre where more bodies fell and ghosts still linger.

In between, impervious to the hail of bullets and river of whiskey that once defined the town the world’s largest rose tree grows. It was planted in 1885 and blooms every spring. There has to be a moral there somewhere.

Climb 7,000 feet in 24 miles

Entering the Santa Catalina Mountains just 25 miles northeast of Tucson, you’ll find yourself accelerating at the foot of Mount Lemmon. Named for botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon, you’re going to have a lot more fun than she did in 1881 when she made the first ascent by horse and on foot.

Climbing to over 9,000 feet, with a near 7,000-foot elevation change in a mere 24 miles, the Catalina Highway (also called the Mount Lemmon Highway) is a brilliant ascent with countless curves, numerous vistas, and three major switchbacks. The best news is since there’s only one paved road up this mountain, when you reach the top, you’ll have no choice but to turn around and let gravity assist in your descent.

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever.

Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.