What to Look For in an RV Campground?

A key factor in planning any RV road trip is the RV parks and campgrounds

Plans for your next RV road trip is mostly complete. You’re excited to hit the open road with your family, but haven’t given much thought to where you’re camping. Obviously, you know your destination. But, you aren’t sure how far you want to drive the first day, and whether you want to make some stops along the way. You’ll just Google the nearest campground when you feel the time is right to set up camp for the night.

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But before you hit the road, you should be aware that not all RV campgrounds are created equal and no one park is perfect for everyone. Campers can find RV parks in state parks and national parks as well as privately owned campgrounds. And the quality varies from budget to high end resorts.

A key factor in planning any RV road trip is the RV parks and campgrounds.

Meaher State Park near Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re thinking that all campgrounds are the same, think again. Every campground has its own set of rules and regulations, as well as different amenities. If you aren’t looking for full hookups, you can be less picky about what campground you choose for your stay. But if you’re looking for all the amenities including electric, water, sewer, cable TV, and Wi-Fi, there are several things you should look for before making your decision.

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

Choosing an RV park sight unseen can be like playing the lottery. Many parks and resorts feature a variety of amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for all ages enabling families to enjoy quality time together.

Before leaving home, take the time to check out the best camping parks along your intended route and at your camping destination.

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choices for RV parks and campgrounds include luxurious RV resorts, activity-filled family destinations, 55+ parks, secluded natural settings, and basic parks conveniently located for an overnight stay. Prices also run the gamut.

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

There is a variety of campgrounds, each offering different amenities and activities. These include private RV parks; casino camping; national, state, and county park campgrounds; Army Corps of Engineers parks; and service club facilities.

Harvest Moon RV Resort, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are the best tips for choosing a campground and campsite that you and your family will love?

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

Nothing can make or break your RV vacation like choosing a campground not suited to your family’s needs and interests. When selecting a park, think about your camping style and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you camping with a young family?
  • Are you an active couple looking for outdoor adventures?
  • Are you snowbirds who enjoy on-site activities and the opportunity to meet new friends?
  • How large is your RV?
  • Consider your needs when choosing an RV park.
  • What amenities do you require? Full hook-ups? 30- or 50-amp electric service?
  • Are you looking for a rural or urban setting?
  • What is your nightly/weekly/monthly camping budget?
  • Do you travel with pets?
Cajun Palms RV Resort, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you plan to stay one night, a weekend, a week, or longer, there are campgrounds throughout the U.S. and Canada to meet your needs. All are unique. No two parks are the same. Each campground will provide something a little different.

You decide. Remember, getting there is half the fun.

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

Be aware that RV parks and campgrounds have varied rules for check in and check out. Although some parks have 24 hour check in, most have set times that you must check in and check out. Some parks do not permit check ins prior to noon. If you plan to stop after hours call ahead to make the necessary arrangements.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Lewis Carrol

Road Trips Ratings: America’s Classic Routes Analyzed

If the prospect of going on a road trip around the U.S. seems like a cool thing to do this summer, a new study may be able to give you some inspiration for some good routes to take

The all-American road trip has been a great way to explore the country since the early 1900s, with certain routes becoming iconic vacations for seeing landmarks, visiting cities, and simply enjoying the open road.

But what does modern data tell us about the true appeal of these journeys? Geotab has used review ratings, traffic data, and a country-wide survey to score 50 classic routes.

Research shows how each route has its own strengths and appeal. Here is a selection of 16 dynamic trips highlighting different aspects of the results.

Monument Valley Trails

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Awe-inspiring views of the rock formations of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, and Natural Bridges are enough to make this road trip an all-time classic.

Mesa Verde and San Juan Mountains

Mesa Verde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Combining the best of both worlds, this trip starts out with an outdoor adventure in Mesa Verde and continues to the old mining towns of southern Colorado.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dubbed “America’s Favorite Drive,” this scenic route attracts tourists from all over the country with its stunning scenery of the Appalachian Mountains.

Grand Canyon Road Trip

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unforgettable canyon panoramas, the classic red rock desert, and the history preserved in the many mining and logging towns of Arizona are all preserved on this route that passes through one of America’s most recognizable—the Grand Canyon.

Bryce and Zion National Parks

Bryce Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A spectacular adventure in the red rock country of southern Utah, it’s a tale of two national parks—Zion and Bryce—both offering breathtakingly beautiful sights.

Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A journey through the enchanting landscapes of America’s most popular national park complete with plenty of opportunities to marvel at the breathtaking scenery.

Fall Foliage Drive

Vermont in autumn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best taken in autumn, this road trip showcases New England’s foliage in its colorful splendor. Stretching from Connecticut to New Hampshire there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration and taking in the beautiful scenery along the way.

US-1 in Florida

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Showcasing some of the best that Florida has to offer, this route has it all—the history of old Latin towns, the science of NASA’s Space Center, the thrill of the Daytona Speedway, and miles of beautiful beaches, of course.

Around the Big Bend

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set in wilderness of West Texas, this road trip brings together the peaceful beauty of Big Bend National Park, the vast expanses of the Chihuahua Desert and the rustic vibe of the small ghost towns dotted along the highway.

Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Designed to provide unparalleled views of the surrounding land, the famous Skyline Drive offers picturesque countryside with stunning vistas, and beautiful scenery.

Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One to challenge the fall foliage of New England, this road trip brings out the beauty of the Texan bluebonnets and other wildflowers, all the while offering ample opportunities to try the famous Texas BBQ and enjoy the local culture.

Black Hills of South Dakota

Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A trip into the wilderness of South Dakota’s Black Hills, this route offers a fascinating journey through the peaks and valleys complete with the Mount Rushmore monument.

Louisiana Cajun Country

Cajun Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A fascinating journey into Acadiana, this road trip delves into the once French-speaking territory renown for the vibrancy of its culture, music, and food.

The Iconic Route 66

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Starting in Chicago and ending on the California coast, this road trip takes you down the road once dubbed the “Main Street of America”. No longer a major artery of trade and commerce, it’s now a staple on many road trip bucket lists.

Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This trip takes you around what was once an enclave of Dutch culture and language. Set mostly around Lancaster County, it offers a fascinating glimpse of the Amish lifestyle.

On the Gold Rush

Amador City along the Gold Rush Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A journey in the trails of the fortune-seekers panning for gold in the day of Gold Rush, this trip is set along CA 49 where the history of the Golden State unfolds in the many towns that once epitomized the land of promise and opportunity.

Worth Pondering…

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

Rivers of Ancient Fires: El Malpais National Monument

Come discover this land of fire and ice!

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais National Monument offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. There’s something for everyone here. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails. While some may see a desolate environment, people have been adapting to and living in this extraordinary terrain for generations.

Known as “the badlands” in Spanish, El Malpais was used by early Spanish map makers to describe areas of volcanic terrain. El Malpais preserves an ancient volcanic landscape and a history of human habitation.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lava that once poured from five separate magma flows produced the black, ropy pahoehoe, and clinkers of a thousand years ago. Islands of earth that were surrounded, rather than covered, by lava are spots of undisturbed vegetation called kipukas.

El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area was established in 1987. Its 114,277 acres is managed in a joint effort between the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). El Malpais hosts more than 100,000 visitors annually; visitation is highest in July and August and lowest in December and January.

There is much to see. You’ll find expansive lava flows, cinder cones, complex lava-tube cave system more than 17 miles long, fragile ice caves, as well as sandstone bluffs and mesas, easily viewed from Sandstone Bluff’s Overlook. Inhabited for 10,000 years, the area also contains historical and archaeological sites.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many points of interest are accessible from New Mexico Route 117. The Sandstone Bluffs Overlook is reached by a short walk from a parking area along the highway. Excellent overviews of the lava flows as well as the surrounding terrain are seen from this vantage point.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can look south to the Zuni-Acoma Trail, a 15-mile round-trip hike over the rugged Anasazi trade route, which crosses four of the five major lava flows.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In El Malpais many trails are actually routes marked with cairns. Instead of a well-defined path clearly visible on the landscape, a series of rock piles called cairns are used to trace a route across the land. These routes are common on lava landscapes, where creating a traditional trail or footpath is not possible due to the extreme nature of the terrain.

Hiking cairned routes requires more attention to navigation. As you travel, make sure you have the next cairn in sight before leaving the one that you are at. Keep your eyes on the land while walking; the uneven nature of the terrain demands that you pay more attention since the surface is not even.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To enjoy the views, stop, get a secure footing, and then look around. Look back frequently to stay familiar with the landscape as it changes. Sturdy hiking boots are advised as is ample drinking water.

La Ventana Natural Arch, the largest of New Mexico’s accessible natural arches, is visible from the parking lot. Trails lead up to the bottom of the free-standing arch for a closer look at this natural wonder.

East of the highway are some 62,000 acres of lush, pine-covered rimrock called the Cebola Wilderness. Exploration of this area of the park will reward visitors with prehistoric petroglyphs and historic homesteads.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing down the highway, you’ll drive through The Narrows; here lava flowed past the base of 500-foot sandstone cliffs. A picnic area is located here, and hikers will be intrigued by the unusual lava formations they’ll find.

At the Lava Falls Area, you can explore the unique features of the McCarty’s flow and marvel at the plant life that is adapted to life in the lava.

If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you can drive to the Big Tubes Area, where you can explore two of the network of gigantic caves formed by the flowing lava: Big Skylight and Four Windows.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the area known as Chain of Craters, 30 cinder cones can be found across the landscape.

Come discover this land of fire and ice!

Worth Pondering…

We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in, for it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.

—Wallace Stegner

7 UNESCO Heritage Sites for RV Travel

Discover these seven UNESCO heritage sites on your next RV road trip

Since its inception, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has identified and preserved dozens of natural and cultural sites around the world. From historical buildings to natural marvels, each heritage site is spectacular in its own right.

Many UNESCO sites are staples for world travelers including the Taj Mahal in India, the wilds of the Serengeti of East Africa, and the pyramids of Egypt. But many heritage sites in the US and Canada can be visited by the RV traveler. Be sure to add these seven UNESCO heritage sites in North America to your bucket list.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A great concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings, built from the 6th to the 12th century, can be found on the Mesa Verde plateau in southwestern Colorado at an altitude of more than 8,500 feet. Some 4,400 sites have been recorded including villages built on the Mesa top.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some 600 cliff dwellings built of sandstone and mud mortar have been recorded including the famous multi-storey Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Square Tower House. The cliff dwelling sites range in size from small storage structures to large villages of 50 to 200 rooms.

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Alberta and British Columbia

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff and Jasper national parks in Alberta, Kootenay and Yoho national parks in British Columbia, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia.

Mount Robson Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems, and deeply carved canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess exceptional natural beauty attracting millions of visitors annually.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is the most spectacular gorge in the world. Its horizontal strata retrace the geological history of the past 2 billion years.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon is among the earth’s greatest on-going geological spectacles. Its vastness is stunning, and the evidence it reveals about the earth’s history is invaluable. The 0.9-mile deep gorge ranges in width from 0.3 mile to 18.6 miles. It twists and turns 276.5 miles and was formed during 6 million years of geologic activity and erosion by the Colorado River on the upraised earth’s crust.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Clingmans Dome, Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park.

Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This exceptionally beautiful park is home to more than 3,500 plant species, including almost as many trees (130 natural species) as in all of Europe. The park is of exceptional natural beauty with scenic vistas of characteristic mist-shrouded (“smoky”) mountains, vast stretches of virgin timber, and clear running streams.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This karst landscape in New Mexico comprises over 80 recognized caves. They are outstanding not only for their size but also for the profusion, diversity, and beauty of their mineral formations.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The more than 100 limestone caves are outstanding and notable because of their size, mode of origin, and the abundance, diversity, and beauty of the speleothems (decorative rock formations). On-going geologic processes continue to form rare and unique speleothems that include helictites forming underwater, calcite and gypsum speleothems.

San Antonio Missions, Texas

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The San Antonio Missions are a group of five frontier mission complexes situated along a 7.7-mile stretch of the San Antonio River. It includes architectural and archaeological structures, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems.

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The complexes were built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century and illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize, and defend the northern frontier of New Spain.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a dramatic landscape of steep-sided canyons and coulees, sandstone cliffs, and eroded sandstone formations called hoodoos, Indigenous peoples created rock art. Thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs at more than 138 rock art sites graphically represent the powers of the spirit world that resonate in this sacred landscape and chronicle phases of human history in North America including when Indigenous peoples first came into contact with Europeans.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

South Dakota—Naturally

Natural beauty and wonder await you in South Dakota

South Dakota gets a bad rap as a flyover state where everybody thinks folks commune with cows and don’t know what an internet is. But it’s also one of the most underrated states period, and you need only to visit the west side of the state for proof.

The words “South Dakota” don’t exactly conjure up images of an Instagrammable holiday the same way as a beach vacation in Florida or Southern California does. No, your first thought of South Dakota is probably of a cold, windy prairie full of snow and yaks. Not unlike your image of Canada.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And that’s because the only time you’ve ever seen the state was probably while either speeding through it on a road trip to somewhere else or flying over at 30,000 feet.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But here’s the thing, visit South Dakota once and the place SELLS ITSELF. Much more than just the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and the Badlands, SoDak is the most scenic places you knew nothing about. Until now.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Behind agriculture, tourism is South Dakota’s second-largest industry. Visitors are drawn outside of city limits to the state’s recreation and wildlife-watching opportunities at myriad sprawling national and state parks and along scenic byways. While discovering off-the-beaten-path treasures, the inherent thread of Wild West history and American Indian culture piques one’s curiosity, fueling the desire to explore some more.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the peak season to visit is the summer months, there will be fewer crowds and pleasant weather in late spring and early fall for traveling through varied terrain that includes farmland, rivers, hills, canyons, badlands, prairies, and mountain ranges.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Between the Needles Highway in Custer State Park, the highway through the Badlands (which is virtually and thankfully unavoidable when driving cross-country via the northern path), and the route between Lead and Rapid City, South Dakota has some of the most scenic drives in the country. 

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly 3 million people a year put Mount Rushmore National Memorial on their itinerary. The locals tell visitors that sunrise is a special time here. Mount Rushmore faces east, so the best light to take photos of the four U.S. presidents carved into the side of the mountain is in the early morning.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota has six other National Park Service sites—Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Missouri National Recreational River, Buffalo Gap National Grassland, and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site which is dedicated to preserving the history of the Cold War.

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the not-so-scenic drives, however, is the trip across I-90 between the Badlands and Sioux Falls. While the 80 mph speed limit is nice, the roadside attractions are even better; they include Wall Drug, giant dinosaur statues, a ghost town from the 1880s, and the famous Corn Palace in Mitchell which, as the name might imply, is AN ENTIRE ARENA MADE OF CORN!

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota’s slogan—“Many places, many faces”—rings true.

Must See Places

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Black Hills

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Badlands National Park

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer State Park

Ingalls Homestead, De Smet

Historic Deadwood

Spearfish Canyon

Crazy Horse Memorial

Wind Cave National Park

Mount Rushmore National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jewel Cave National Monument

Wall Drug

Mitchell Corn Palace

Worth Pondering…

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where never is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not clouded all day.

—Dr. Brewster Higley (1876)

10 Under-The-Radar National Monuments to Visit

From archeological places to vast scenic vistas to places highlighting important events for all Americans, National Monuments preserve places and collections that make America unique

National monuments are areas that are under the protection of the US government either due to their uniqueness or if they have a cultural or historical significance. The authority to designate an area as a National Monument lies with the US President. A national monument can later be converted into a national park or merged into an existing national park.

The first National Monument in the US was the Devils Tower, which is an immense butte situated in Wyoming. Presently there are 158 national monuments in the US.

From ancient petroglyphs to natural bridges, hoodoos to cliff dwellings, and volcanic landscapes to prehistoric villages, these are 10 under-the-radar national monuments to visit.

1. Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

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

Spanning more than 83,000 acres, Canyon de Chelly National Monument offers an excellent opportunity to immerse in the wild Arizona landscape, and to learn more about the history of the Navajo people.Sheer cliffs rise on either side of this flat-bottomed, sandy ravine, an area created much the way uplift and water formed the Grand Canyon.

2. Cedar Breaks, Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Like a mini Bryce Canyon, minus the crowds, Cedar Breaks contains a stunning assortment of hoodoos and cliffs in southern Utah. Technically an amphitheater, the monument is three miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, filled with craggy rock formations jutting up from the base like natural skyscrapers.

3. Petroglyph, New Mexico

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on the western edge of Albuquerque lies one of the most concentrated collections of ancient petroglyphs on the continent. Native American tribes settled here hundreds of years ago, and they left their mark in the form of symbols carved into volcanic rock across the desert terrain. With around 24,000 images and symbols, there’s plenty to see here. In addition to the petroglyphs, the monument contains hiking trails throughout its 17-mile park, along with dormant volcanoes and canyons.

4. Montezuma Castle, Arizona

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montezuma Castle in Verde Valley is a prehistoric cliff dwelling with five floors, 20 rooms, and a million stories. Gaze through the windows of the past into one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.

5. El Malpais, New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The richly diverse volcanic landscape offers everything from easy drives, scenic overlooks, and short walks to strenuous trails, caving, and rugged backcountry. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails. While some may see a desolate environment, people have been adapting to and living in this extraordinary terrain for generations.

6. Casa Grande Ruins, Arizona

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An Ancient Sonoran Desert People’s farming community and “Great House” are preserved at Casa Grande Ruins. Explore the mystery and complexity of an extended network of communities and irrigation canals.

7. Natural Bridges, Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These three majestic natural bridges were formed by the power of water in a landscape usually defined by its absence. View them from an overlook, or hit the trails and experience their grandeur from below. The bridges are named “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu” in honor of the ancestral Puebloans who once made this place their home.

8. El Morro, Mew Mexico

El Morro National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine the refreshment of finding water after days of dusty travel. A reliable waterhole hidden at the base of a sandstone bluff made El Morro (the headland) a popular campsite for hundreds of years. Here, Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish, and American travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs.

9. Hovenweep, Utah and Colorado

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once home to over 2,500 people, Hovenweep includes six prehistoric villages built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. Explore a variety of structures, including multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders.

10. Organ Pipe Cactus, Arizona

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Organ Pipe Cactus is the only place in the U.S. where the organ pipe cactus grows wild. One glimpse at this sprawling, soaring species will clue you in to where the cactus gets its name. An ideal place for desert camping and hiking, the monument also has horseback trails, scenic drives and biking opportunities.

Worth Pondering…

In his “Positively Final Appearance,” Guiness leaves us with his philosophy that “nothing is desperately important, and the joy of life is just looking at it.” The joy can also be in writing about it.

The Absolute Best Places to RV This August

For many, the month of August is the last chance to sneak in one final summer vacation before the lazy days slip away

Late summer is one of the most popular times to travel. The season may be entering its twilight phase, but the weather remains warm and balmy, the trees are green and lush, and the thought of another school year is still a distant reality.

For many, August is the last chance to sneak in one final vacation before the warm weather draws to a close.

And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in May, June, and July.

Oregon

Willamette Valley Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oregon is the perfect transition from California—and Nevada—into the Pacific Northwest. The state begins with rugged coastline and temperate desert, much like northern California. Then it eases through the mountains into evergreen wilderness, making Oregon’s stretch of I-5 the most scenic section of that highway.

Historic Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state’s also got fantastic beaches, most notably Cannon Beach and Seaside in the north, with their trademark Haystack Rock. There’s also Mt. Hood, the jagged peak that’s the most scenic point between Mount Whitney and Mount Rainier. Add in Crater Lake National Park, the Willamette Valley wine country, the undulating Painted Hills in the empty, open east, and you’ve got a state that holds its own as a coastal gem or a desert standout.

Mitchell Corn Palace, South Dakota

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Any drive through the Midwest will bring you face-to-face with cornstalks taller than you can imagine. The Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota celebrates all things corn—starting with this prairie town in the middle of nowhere. This “palace” looks like something straight out of Russia, built in 1892 to showcase South Dakota’s bountiful harvests. Touring celebrities and one of the world’s largest bird feeders await road-trippers who visit.

Edmonton, Alberta

Downtown Edmonton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capital of Canada’s Province of Alberta, Edmonton is North America’s northernmost large metropolis. August is a perfect time to visit, with the warm weather and lots of activities on the city’s agenda. This month brings festivals, music, food, and fun. The month kicks off with the Heritage Festival, followed by the Folk Music Festival, Cariwest Caribbean Arts Festival, Riverfest, International Fringe Theatre Festival, Rock Music Festival, and Blues Festival.

Rogers Place Arena © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The West Edmonton Mall, with over 800 stores and 100 restaurants, also houses the unique Fantasyland Hotel with themed décor in many rooms for guests who want to pretend they’re sleeping in Polynesia, Africa, a Western log cabin, or an igloo. Other area attractions include Fort Edmonton Park, Rogers Place and the Ice District, Elk Island National Park, and Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Festival.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Cades Cove in Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider this hamlet on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park the epitome of everything wonderful about Tennessee, plus a dang ski resort in Ober Gatlinburg, one of the southernmost in the country.

Gatlinburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 35 miles outside of Knoxville, Gatlinburg soon enough warms up for hiking, fishing, camping, and a truly impressive moonshine culture —check out the Doc Collier Moonshine Distillery for flavored moonshine you can’t get anywhere else. Carb-load at the Little House of Pancakes then take a short drive to the neighboring town of Pigeon Forge, where you can visit Dolly Parton’s amusement park, Dollywood. You’d have to go clear across the state to Graceland to revel in a more iconic Tennessee music playground.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A young park, created in 2003, Congaree is located 20 miles southeast of Columbia, the South Carolina state capital. It is a floodplain forest that floods about ten times each year, “the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottomland hardwoods in the United States.”

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a hike through the lush backcountry full of Spanish moss, deer, woodpeckers, bobcats, and river otters. Go on a nighttime ‘owl prowl’ with a guide to hear owls calling and see glowing fungi on the cypress trees.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Miriam Beard

July 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.

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

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.

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

NHTSA announced 12 recall notices during July 2019. These recalls involved 7 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (6 recalls), Thor Motor Coach (1 recall), Erwin Hymer (1 recall), Winnebago (1 recall), Jayco (1 recall), Keystone RV Company (1 recall), and Newmar (1 recall).

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

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2017-2018 Berkshire Coach Ultra UL1912 and UL1913 motorhomes. Water and contaminants may get into the block heater cable’s splice connector causing corrosion and damage.

Forest River will notify owners, and Ford dealers will disable the vehicle’s engine block heater cable, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 24, 2019. Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Forest River’s number for this recall is 78-1032.

Camping at Waltons Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2017-2020 Coachmen Chapparal, Chapparal Lite, Chapparal X-Lite and Shasta Phoenix recreational trailers. The outside kitchen may be equipped with a standard outlet receptacle and not a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protected outlet.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will replace a standard 110V outlet in the exterior kitchen with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) one. The recall is expected to begin July 31, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-8360. Forest River’s number for this recall is 110-1035.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Georgetown and FR3 motorhomes. The slim-rack slide out mechanisms may activate unintentionally, moving the slide room in or out unexpectedly.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will provide a new controller and switch for the slideout mechanism, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 31, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River at 1-574-206-7600. Forest River’s number for this recall is 68-0991.

Camping at River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2020 Work and Play fifthwheel (WPF33W17) trailers. The 12V and 110V cables for an optional generator may not be isolated from objects stored in the generator compartment, which can result in an electrical short.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will isolate the wires in the generator compartment so that they can’t short, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 31, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-6302. Forest River’s number for this recall is 31-1036.

Camping at Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Cherokee trailers, model CKT294BH. The Federal Placard states incorrect Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) and Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) information, which may result in the trailer being overloaded.

Forest River has notified owners, providing replacement placards that contain accurate Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and Cargo Carrying Capacity information, free of charge. The recall began June 24, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-541-995-3447. Forest River’s number for this recall is 64-1033.

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

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Rockport work trucks equipped with an optional trailer brake controller. The brake controller may have been wired improperly, which may prevent the brake controller from activating the trailer brakes when the vehicle’s brakes are applied.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake controller, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 7, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-327-2392. Forest River’s number for this recall is 65-1046.

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Challenger, Miramar, Magnitude, Outlaw, Omni, and Palazzo motorhomes. The vehicle control system software may cause the slide-out room to move unexpectedly.

TMC will notify owners, and dealers will update the affected software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 28, 2019. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000170.

Camping at Poche’s RV Camp, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Erwin Hymer

Erwin Hymer Group North America, Inc. (Erwin Hymer) is recalling 2013-2019 Roadtrek E-Trek, RS Adventurous, CS Adventurous, and TS Adventurous motorhomes built on Sprinter chassis and equipped with one or two second row captain’s chairs, with integrated seat belts. The seat pedestal base anchor brackets to the chassis fame may not have enough strength to prevent the seat and seat belt from moving in the event of a crash. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 210, “Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages” and 207, “Seating Systems.”

The recall began June 26, 2019. Owners may contact Erwin Hymer customer service at 1-844-464-3735. Erwin Hymer’s number for this recall is 2019-01.

Camping at Hollywood Casino RV Park, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winnebago

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2018-2019 Forza motorhomes. The exterior storage compartment door may unexpectedly open while the vehicle is in motion.

Winnebago will notify owners and dealers will install a new latch and the catch will be inspected and properly aligned and readjusted if necessary. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-641-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885.

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

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2019-2020 White Hawk Travel Trailers. The breakaway switch may have been incorrectly wired, which can cause the trailer brakes to not function in the event of a trailer separation from the tow vehicle.

Jayco will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the breakaway switch for proper wiring, rewiring it as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in July 2019. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-517-9137. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9901438.

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

Keystone RV Company

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2020 Crossroads Hampton and Sunset recreational trailers. The breakaway switch may have been incorrectly wired, which can cause the trailer brakes to not function in the event of a trailer separation from the tow vehicle.

Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will rewire the breakaway switch, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 5, 2019. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 19-357.

Camping at 7 Feathers Casino RV Park, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newmar

Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2016-2019 Ventana LE and 2017-2019 Dutch Star, Essex, London Aire, Mountain Aire and Ventana, and 2018-2019 New Aire motorhomes built on a Daimler trucks chassis. The rear mounted Power Distribution Module (PDM) may have been damaged during manufacturing, possibly resulting in the rear marker lights, brake lights, or turn signals not functioning.

Newmar will notify owners, and Daimler Trucks dealers will inspect and replace the rear PDM, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 6, 2019. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300. Newmar’s number for this recall is 18V-852.

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 sixth 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

Natural Bridges National Monument: Power of Nature

Situated high atop Cedar Mesa, Natural Bridges National Monument illustrates the power of water in shaping a high desert landscape

From sea to shining sea, America is packed with unforgettable, extraordinary, and unique places administered by the National Park Service, but few offer a more striking landscape than Natural Bridges National Monument.

Formed by the power of water in a place where water is all but absent, three stone bridges in the Utah desert have been protected as a national monument since 1908, but their history goes back much, much farther. 

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How are natural bridges formed?

The three bridges of Natural Bridges National Monument are thought to be about 5,000 years old—practically brand new in geological terms. They are geologically different from natural arches like the ones found 100 miles away at Arches National Park.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since natural bridges are formed by running water, they are much rarer than arches, which result from a variety of other erosion forces. Natural bridges tend to be found within canyons, sometimes quite hidden, whereas arches are usually high and exposed, as they are often the last remnants of rock cliffs and ridges.

Sipapu Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rain is scarce in the Utah desert, but when it does fall, it often creates fierce flash floods that tear away at the canyon walls. The curved, meandering path of the floodwaters gradually undercuts the stone, and when two parallel streams undercut the same rock formation from opposite sides, they eventually break through and meet in the middle — and a bridge is born. 

The three bridges

Sipapu Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1883, prospector Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River in search of gold. What he found instead were three magnificent bridges water had sculpted from stone. National Geographic publicized the natural bridges in 1904, and President Theodore Roosevelt established Natural Bridges National Monument four years later, creating Utah’s first national park unit in 1908.

Sipapu Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bridges themselves have been named and renamed several times over the years. First named “President,” “Senator,” and “Congressman” by Cass Hite, the bridges were renamed “Augusta,” “Caroline,” and “Edwin” by later explorer groups.

As the park was expanded to protect nearby Puebloan structures, the General Land Office assigned the Hopi names “Sipapu,” “Kachina,” and “Owachomo” in 1909.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sipapu, or “the place of emergence,” refers to the entryway through which the Hopi believe their ancestors arrived in this world. Sipapu is the largest of the bridges, and the second-largest natural bridge in the world.

Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kachina gets its name from the rock art that adorns the bridge, resembling symbols often seen on kachina dolls. The thickest of the three bridges, Kachina is probably the youngest.

Owachomo means “rock mound.” This bridge gets its name from the distinctive rocky feature atop its east abutment. The narrow profile of Owachomo suggests that it has eroded more quickly than its neighbors.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accessing the bridges

A nine mile one-way loop drive connects pull-outs and overlooks with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moderate hiking trails, some with metal stairs or wooden ladders, provide closer access to each bridge. An 8.6-mile hiking trail links the three natural bridges, which are located in two adjacent canyons.

To make the experience even more breathtaking, each natural bridge is accessed by a steep hike down to the base of the bridge and then back up again. Each trail is less than 1.5 miles in length and takes less than an hour to complete.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring plenty of water, along with sunglasses, sunscreen, appropriate footwear, and a camera. The cooler months offer more agreeable temperatures.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The visitor center is open year-round. It has a slide program, exhibits, publications, and postcards. A 13-site campground is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.

Worth Pondering…

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

—William Shakespeare

7 Things To Do at Least Once in Your Lifetime

You haven’t truly lived until you’ve tried these experiences

Chances are you’ve dreamed of visiting far-off places like the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. But the truth is there are many amazing things to do right here in North America.

To make the most of your travel time be sure to take advantage of what our home countries have to offer and check these amazing places off your bucket list.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Historic Route 66 on the road to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though an official Route 66 no longer exists—it was decommissioned in 1984—the legendary path from Chicago to Long Beach, California remains a draw for many adventurers. Fortunately, about 85 percent of the original route is still intact, including many famous roadside attractions. Visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, stop at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo (Texas), stay at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook (Arizona), and feed the wild burros in Oatman (Arizona).

Discover the Historic Wonders of the Freedom Trail

Paul Revere House on the Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston’s Freedom Trail includes 16 of the most historical places in the US from the site of the first Boston Tea Party meeting to the home of Paul Revere. You can do the 2 ½-mile route on your own but why not take a guided tour? Let historians in period dress explain what life was really like back then. You can even opt for a historic pub crawl which includes some very on-the-nose Sam Adams brews.

Remember the Epic, Bloody History of the Alamo

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You probably know the phrase “Remember the Alamo”—but what exactly does that mean? If you’re not from Texas you might not be familiar with its bloody history. The Alamo, a former mission located in San Antonio, was the site of a major event in the Texas Revolution (1835-36). On April 21, 1836 Texians defeated the Mexican Army and won Texas’ independence. Today, the shrine is open to visitors offering battlefield tours, summer camps, and exhibits year-round.

Take a Horse and Buggy Back to Simpler Times in Amish Country

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Speaking of going back to a bygone age, try Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The area offers tours, museums, children’s activities such as doll-making, and, of course, buggy rides. It’s an excellent opportunity to disconnect from technology and see how a resilient, devout group of people get by just fine without everyone’s favorite ladies, Alexa and Siri.

Tour an Overlooked, Affordable & Scenic Wine Region

Okanagan Wine Country at Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where can you drink great wines amid breathtaking natural beauty without blowing out a couple of credit cards (think Napa)? Easy: go to Canada to the Okanagan wine region in British Columbia. It’s possibly the most scenic wine region in North America and a place where RVers and other normal people can afford to taste wine. Two towns are standouts for their concentration of vineyards and wineries: Oliver and Osoyoos. Together they boast 39 wineries that extend from the lush valley into the semi-arid mountains that surround the area.

Thrill to Whitewater Rafting on the New River

New River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River is renowned for its recreational opportunities including whitewater rafting, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, bird watching, camping, picnicking, and biking. A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. The Lower Gorge of the New River is a premier whitewater rafting location with imposing rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V, many of them obstructed by large boulders which necessitate maneuvering in very powerful currents.

Tour a Massive Dam Constructed During the Great Depression

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colorado River’s Hoover Dam is a sight to behold with the American Society of Civil Engineers dubbing it one of the “Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders” in the U.S. The dam is also a testament to American resilience, as it was built during the height of the Great Depression. The dam is open to the public year-round from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. if you want to visit on your own but you can also take guided tours of the facilities.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Ray Bradbury