5 Places No One Will Be Going In 2019 (And You Can Have All To Yourself)

If you are craving a getaway far from the madden crowds and off the beaten path, consider one of the following locations that you can have all to yourself

Popular road trips and tourist spots are usually known for a variety of different reasons.

Well-known tourist destinations offer numerous options for RVers and other travelers to enjoy a variety of things such as scenic landscapes, delectable cuisine, well known historical landmarks, a variety of recreational opportunities, and local festivals and other events that are distinctive to the area and not found elsewhere.

These popular destinations often come with a few drawbacks though. In addition to large crowds and congested traffic, finding a local RV park or campground within a reasonable driving distance and at a cost effective price point can be a major issue. Also, reservations are a must, and in some cases, need to be made up to a year in advance.

Although it can be fun to visit these popular bucket-list destinations for the significance of the place and the variety of options for entertainment and activities, if you are craving a getaway far from the madden crowds and off the beaten path, consider one of the following locations that you can have all to yourself.

Below, we take a look at five different places that offer the RV traveler just as many unique opportunities as well known and crowded locations but at lower prices and with a more relaxed atmosphere.

Cumberland Island, Georgia

Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history. Cumberland Island is designated a National Seashore and managed by the National Park Service. Visitors must purchase ferry tickets through the Park Service.

Cumberland Island is the largest barrier island along the Atlantic Coast with the longest expanse of pristine seashore—18 glorious miles of deserted sand. No docks, houses, or other structures interrupt its serene beauty. The island boasts a healthy expanse of vegetated dunes that make it one of the most important nesting spots for loggerhead sea turtles in all of Georgia, and a sanctuary for migrating shore birds.

Walterboro, South Carolina

For those reminiscing about the warmth and familiarity of an authentic small town, Walterboro provides the perfect opportunity to step back through time. Nature lovers can take advantage of South Carolina’s year-round balmy weather and enjoy the quiet solitude of the ACE Basin and The Great Swamp Sanctuary.

Visitors are reminded of the town’s early days as a summer retreat—tree-lined streets where quaint homes with broad porches and beautiful churches date to the 18th century.

Visitors love scouring the village’s dozen antique shops and shopping the Colleton Farmers Market for farm-fresh produce and delicious homemade food products.

Lassen Volcanic Peak National Park, California

Another oft-overlooked National Park Service site is Lassen Volcanic Peak, which gets lost in the splendor of the other national parks in California. Lassen Volcanic Peak is in the northern part of the state, and is best known for the astounding hydrothermal sites.

Hiking is the most popular activity here. Many established trails will take you past—and through—those bubbling springs, including Bumpass Hell, an area with acres of bubbling mud pots. As the name implies, Lassen Peak is a volcano. On the side of the mountain, visitors can observe lava rocks left by its last eruption, in 1917.

Hubbell Trading Post, Arizona

The squeaky wooden floor greets your entry. When your eyes adjust to the dim light in the “bullpen” you find you’ve entered a mercantile. Hubbell Trading Post has been serving Ganado selling goods and Native American Art since 1878. Little has changed in more than 140 years at the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo Reservation.

Visitors also can tour the Hubbell house; browse the visitor center (built in 1920 and used originally as a school); and see barns, corrals, wagons, and other historical farm equipment, as well as a variety of farm animals, including Churro sheep.

Valley of the Gods, Utah

This little valley near Bluff, Utah is filled with sandstone formations and starry night skies. Located in the southeastern corner of Utah it is out of the way of the main Grand Circle Tour. To drive through the Valley of the Gods you will take a 17-mile, unpaved loop. Similar to Monument Valley, but only a quarter of the size, it remains quiet and peaceful. Free BLM camping is offered within the valley, a unique opportunity not to be missed. What are you waiting for?

Worth Pondering…

Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.

—Confucius

Chasing the Sunshine in Warmer Destinations

Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. Most of all, warm.

The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season.

Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.

Based on our experiences living the snowbird lifestyle, we have identified locations across the US Sunbelt with pleasing, spring-like temperatures and their own unique allure.

St. Marys, Georgia

Average high in February: 65 F

If you’re looking to chase the sun this winter, venture to Georgia, and then go as far south as you possibly can. Once you’ve hit the southeastern-most tip of the state, you have arrived in beautiful St. Marys. This seaside village is the epitome of a winter retreat, where you can fool yourself into thinking its summer as you chow down on seafood at Lang’s Marina Restaurant with a view of the shrimp boats cruising in the marsh.

Snowbirds love to: Take the Cumberland Island Ferry from downtown St. Marys to Cumberland Island National Seashore. Here there are more than 50 miles of hiking trails through maritime forests, and the 1898 Plum Orchard is a fascinating stop along the way.

Ajo, Arizona

Average high in February: 70 F

With its rich tradition as a former copper mining hub, Ajo is a casual town with relaxed charm. Enjoy its mild climate, low humidity, and clear skies. Take in the historic Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Downtown Historic District, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and panoramic views. Ajo is surrounded by 12 million acres of public and tribal land waiting to be explored.

Snowbirds love to: Enjoy the sights and sounds at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument while you take a scenic drive, bike, hike, camp, take part in ranger programs, and bird watch. Thirty-one species of cactus flourish here including the park’s namesake and the giant saguaro.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Average high in February: 66 F

If you dream of spending the winter in a quaint seaside town, consider Bay St. Louis. In Old Town, wander the shops, galleries, and restaurants along Main Street, Second Street, and Beach Boulevard, and check out the municipal pier and harbor, which opened a few years ago. Or wander the L&N Train Depot which houses the Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum and Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum.

Snowbirds love to: Tour the INFINITY Science Center, 72,000 square feet of space, earth science, engineering, and technology content. INFINITY also serves as the official NASA visitor center for Stennis Space Center, NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility.

Mount Dora, Florida

Average high in February: 70 F

Mount Dora is located on the shores of Lake Dora, part of the Harris Chain of Lakes boasting some of the world’s best Bass fishing and other outdoor activities. The town is noted for its crafts, antique shops, historical buildings, and beautiful scenery. Mount Dora enjoys a rich history as “The Festival City” hosting some of the oldest and largest annual events in Florida including art festivals, craft fairs, music and wine festivals.

Snowbirds love to: Take a Cat Boat Tour on Lake Dora and join a Taste of Our Town Tour to nosh on local grub while strolling around town.

Tucson, Arizona

Average high in January: 70 F

Tucson provides a stunning array of possibilities, satisfying culture seekers, outdoor adventurers, and fans of cowboys and cacti. This Southern Arizona city spreads throughout the Sonoran Desert in a valley surrounded by jagged mountain ranges that provide ample scenic backdrops.

Snowbirds love to: Enjoy the city’s many attractions including Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Sabino Canyon, Saguaro National Park, San Xavier del Bac (White Dove of the Desert), Catalina State Park, Kit Peak National Observatory, Tohono Chul Park, Pima Air and Space Museum, and Old Tucson Studios.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Handling Cold Weather While RVing

Sometimes you get caught in cold weather due to an early winter or unexpected circumstance

A major benefit of the RV lifestyle is the ability to follow good weather.

We hide out in the south during the winter and cool off up the north in the summer. We also enjoy spring and fall for several months as we move in between.

But sometimes we get caught in cold weather due to an early winter or an unexpected circumstance.

Our latest introduction to winter resulted from a delay in taking delivery of our new factory-ordered 2019 Dutch Star 3717 diesel pusher.

The typical recreational vehicle is not designed for use in the snowy, cold, and icy northern climates. Even with the cold weather limitations of most RVs, there are things we do to reduce heat loss and stay warm.

Upon arrival at our destination, we try to select a site that will receive sun exposure throughout the day, and also offer some type of wind break.

Since windows are a major heat loss in RVs, we lock our windows. That extra latch helps close the seals in the window. We close the blinds/curtains when we don’t need them open for the view or the warming sunshine.

A goose down duvet is an investment with high returns that’s realized every time you cozily cuddle in bed. A duvet cover is typically purchased separately.

Down is a great natural insulator. It is the very first undercoating of goose feathers. The clusters of down are made of plenty of soft fibers that directly radiate out from the central core of the feather. The structure of down is perfectly created to trap air. For this peculiar characteristic, goose down duvets keeps you suitably warm. It still allows the moisture to escape and is a great product to keep snug yet dry. Goose down duvets is amazingly soft and light.

The quality of down duvets is measured by its insulation abilities. The best quality down duvets have larger clusters of down. Best quality down is able to acclimatize according to warmer or cooler atmospheric temperatures. If the thick, fluffy and breathable down can keep the goose so cozy out in the cold, it definitely is a sure winner for you.

We don’t need spare blankets for the bed with our down duvet but they add another layer in insulation during our waking hours.

It’s best to use a combination of heating methods when dealing with extreme cold weather while RVing.

A word of caution: Be very aware of the dangers associated with each heating method and take proper safety precautions to avoid an RV fire, asphyxiation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or even death.

Make absolutely certain you have carbon monoxide, smoke, and LP gas detectors in good working condition. We change the batteries annually.

Never use your oven to heat the RV.

Space heaters are cheap and can help in reducing your heating costs if you’re NOT on a metered site. We use ours during the day while in our rig and the furnace at night on a low setting (between 50 and 55 degrees) and in the mornings to take off the chill.

Today’s portable heater models offer a variety of safety features that include tip-over and overheat protection Check for these safety features when purchasing a new heater.

As a safety precaution, shut off and unplug for the night and when you’re away from the RV.

Once we have our rig insulated and warm, the next consideration is how to get the moisture out so dreaded condensation inside the RV does not occur. Left unchecked the condensation can quickly build up on all the windows and some walls and lead to mold.

We use the stove vent and fan when cooking, especially when boiling vegetables on the burner top. The quicker you can get the moisture out the better.

We also use absorbent cloths for removing moisture. Wipe down the shower stall and any condensation that builds up on the windows.

There are numerous small portable, dehumidifiers on the market that are suitable for use in your RV. We place one near the shower and in various locations inside the RV and in basement compartments.

RVs aren’t designed for cold, but you can survive!

But the best advice of all is “The RV has wheels, Go South!

Worth Pondering…

I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.

—Jamaica Kincaid

The Absolute Best Places to RV This February

Looking to make plans for RV travel in February?

The holidays are officially over, New Year’s resolutions have slowly begun to wane, and that relaxed RV vacation feeling is all but a distant memory—welcome to February.

For many Americans and Canadians, February means windy, wet, bitterly cold weather. Plenty of people wish longingly to escape the miserable weather. Yet where the weather is frigid or dreary in many parts of the United States, it is superb across the Sun Belt.

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl, taking advantage of the Presidents’ Day long weekend, or just taking a break, you have plenty of options for an RV vacation in February. Where to go depends on what kind of a break and weather you’re looking for.

Southern California offers warm February temperatures, but why not try Gold County? Daytime temperatures in February in cities like Jackson and Angel Camp are around 60 F. Explore California’s gold rush history, go antique shopping, or taste the 35 wine varietals from Amador and Calaveras counties.

Thinking about a February getaway but not sure where to go? These destinations are particularly ideal, offering something for just about everyone.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona
You know those comically oversized cacti Wile E. Coyote used to fall into? Those are modeled after the Giant Saguaro cactus, the most distinct feature is this park straddling the city of Tucson. The park, created to preserve the cacti, boasts some great hikes. Even during mild weather, a trek into nature here can take you up 5,000 feet of elevation in 15 miles of desert. Driving Saguaro will take you through a Western landscape that’s unmistakably Arizona.

New Mexico

The Land of Enchantment boasts some ridiculously gorgeous desert ‘scapes. Ghost Ranch, the terrain made famous by Georgia O’Keefe, is full of crimson and gold cliffs and big blue sky. White Sands National Monument has a mind-boggling 275 square miles of gypsum sand dunes set in the shadow of the mountains. And we’d be remiss to leave out Carlsbad Caverns, a collection of over 100 caves and one of the state’s top attractions.

The cities are no slouches either. Santa Fe is one of America’s great art destinations, and not just for the turquoise, silver, and artist galleries in the town center. Santa Fe also has an awesome food scene, where meticulously-made Southwestern fare shines with ancient recipes and ingredients. Meanwhile there’s fantastic skiing in Taos, and still far less expensive than Park City or Aspen.  

Alabama State Parks

From a shaded retreat on John’s Bay in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta to the boardwalk atop the highest mountain in the state, the Alabama State Parks System offers an incredible diversity of nature’s wonders to explore. Just north of the point where the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Mobile Bay converge, Meaher State Park offers a respite from the hustle and bustle that can be seen in the distance on the Bayway crowded with travelers.

Meaher offers 61 improved campsites, 10 improved tent sites, a couple of primitive tent sites, and four cabins. Two more cabins will be available later this year.Part of the draw is the easy access to the Delta and being able to stay overnight between Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Newport, Rhode Island

If you thought Newport, the former stomping ground of the Astors and the Vanderbilts, was only worth visiting in the summer, think again. The seaside town—known for its Gilded Age mansions and outdoor music performances—is perfect for cold weather getaways, particularly in mid-February. This is when the Newport Winter Festival brings the city to life with concerts, beach polo, and even a chili cook-off.

Palm Springs, California

Fed by underground springs, the desert comes alive here, not only with signature palms, but also with a string of resort communities—Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, Indio, and others, as well as the namesake town of Palm Springs—sporting a cool, mid-century modern vibe and countless ways to relax.

Every Thursday evening, this desert city takes on new life for VillageFest, a weekly street fair that brings casual party atmosphere to its downtown neighborhood.

Give yourself plenty of time to stroll along the swanky El Paseo district in Palm Desert. First, you’ll want to see all the art. A roughly 1-mile strip and adjacent streets are home to one of the largest concentrations of art galleries anywhere in Southern California.

Worth Pondering…

Recently I ran across a few lines by Pierre de Ronsard, a 16th-century poet: “Live now, believe me, wait not till tomorrow. Gather the roses of life today.” Maybe it’s time to stop dreaming about that trip you’ve always wanted to make—and just do it!

Winter Hiking in Arizona State Parks

Arizona State Parks offers an amazing variety of hiking trails that range from easy to difficult and encompass a wide array of terrain.

Arizona has incredible surroundings waiting to be explored.

Arizona State Parks offers an amazing variety of hiking trails that range from easy to difficult and encompass a wide array of terrain.

Pay attention and be observant of your surroundings. Watching your feet can prevent an unfortunate encounter with a rattlesnake or other poisonous wildlife.

Look no further than Sedona’s Red Rock country for one of the best hikes in Arizona. Eagle’s Nest Trail at Red Rock State Park (photo above) supplies panoramic views of the colorful rocks and craggy formations. After hiking through the lush vegetation surrounding Oak Creek, follow the trail up to views only previously imagined.

Eagle’s Nest trail is only one of several options available at Red Rock State Park. The park offers hikes for every skill level, whether you’re going for a relaxed stroll or looking to break a sweat. Numerous bird species call Red Rock State Park home, pick up a current bird ID list at the park store; you’ll be amazed by the number of species that use the park. Be sure to take tons of scenic photos while at this epic destination, the park lends itself very well to creative shots.

Just up the road at Slide Rock State Park, trails lead into Oak Creek Canyon (above photo) and along the creek itself. Best known for its iconic natural water slide, this scenic hiking destination is bound to leave a lasting impression while creating lifetime memories. Birds and wildlife are common along Oak Creek.

The forested mountain views are accentuated by the gentle rumble of Oak Creek and add to the overall experience of this beautifully unique destination. Look up in awe of the jagged formations created by a combination of time and weather as you amble through this small, yet extremely beautiful park in the pines.

Southeast of Sedona, in the Verde River Valley near Cottonwood, Dead Horse Ranch State Park (photo above) offers a multi-use trail system for visitors to enjoy.

Choose between the higher desert scenery of the Lime Kiln trail, which follows a historic route between Sedona and Cottonwood, or the more densely vegetated Verde River Greenway trail. The trails within the Verde River Valley and along the Verde River itself, give hikers the chance of experiencing many of the birds and wildlife that call Dead Horse Ranch home. Deer, javelina, raccoons, and otters hang out in the thick riverside vegetation year-round. 

Lost Dutchman State Park (photo above) always offers an incredible adventure, like the Full Moon Hike every month to see the starry night sky over the Superstition Mountains. Walk an easy loop around the mountain or wind through Siphon Draw to see all Lost Dutchman has to offer. There’s a path for every view, timeframe, and difficulty level, so pick a trail and take a hike.

Picacho Peak (photo above) and the classic beauty of true Sonoran Desert landscapes is available for your enjoyment. Dive in to the Hunter Trail for a strenuous two mile hike up the rocks, twisting up the iconic mountain, or take a stroll up Calloway Trail for a less strenuous hike to a scenic overlook as you appreciate the scenery of the Sonoran Desert. 

Catalina State Park (photo below) just outside of Tucson is a well-known, incredibly beautiful and diverse natural area that creates a feeling of remoteness, despite the close proximity to Tucson’s metropolitan center. Hike any of Catalina’s various trails for differing levels of difficulty, from short hikes to an all-day adventure, on foot, on a bike, or by horseback.

You never know what you’ll run into at Catalina, from gorgeous Mexican gold poppies, to desert tortoises, to various desert creepy crawlers. Catalina’s landscapes are always showing off and waiting to be explored.

Remember, when you’re enjoying Arizona’s hiking trails to bring plenty of water and snacks, and be aware of the temperature. Arizona hiking destinations offer views of the desert and experiences you won’t find anywhere else. All you need to do is pick a trail and lace up your shoes.

Worth Pondering…

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

—Edward Abbey

The 6 Best Places to Travel in 2019

Ask me where I want to RV in 2019, and I will answer, honestly, where don’t I?

Ask me where I want to RV in 2019, and I will answer, honestly, where don’t I?

When it comes to compiling my list of the places I’m most excited about in the coming year, narrowing down the field is easier said than done.

I pore over tourism reports, and consider scenic landscapes, culinary experiences, historic significance, outdoor activities, temperate weather, fall foliage, and my bucket list.

Minor consideration is given to where people are actually going, and the trendy places that the so-called travel experts are watching in the coming year.

And, of course, there are the off-the-beaten path destinations and hidden secrets that we haven’t heard much about—places like British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, an emerging wine destination.

After all, isn’t dreaming about places totally new to us—and seeing old favorites in a new light—why we travel in the first place?

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

With rolling hills dotted with sagebrush and ponderosa pine—and thousands of acres of vineyards—the Okanagan Valley can no longer be considered a nascent Napa. Lying between two mountain ranges and stretching roughly 125 miles north from the U.S.-Canada border, the geography varies from the desert-like conditions in the south to the green plateau of the Naramata Bench and Okanagan Lake’s sandy beaches.

Mesilla

Although the town of Mesilla, in Southern New Mexico, is home to a mere 2,196 people, it’s a fascinating place to visit. Here you’ll find well-preserved architecture, history worth delving into, and high quality restaurants.

The plaza is the heart of Mesilla and that’s a good place to start exploring. In fact, it’s a national historic landmark. The San Albino Basilica dominates one side of the plaza. This Romanesque church was built in 1906 although its bells are older, dating back to the 1870s and 1880s.

Newport

There are plenty of things to do in Newport but the seaside city really shines brightest during the summer. After all, the million-dollar mansions that Newport is known for were built as warm-weather retreats, for those perfect days spent on yachts and lawns.

There are many ways to soak in the culture. The Cliff Walk, where you can peek into well-manicured backyards, remains free, while some of the mansions are open for tours and special events. And the who’s who of Newport will be out in spades at two big festivals in July: the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival.

Santa Fe
Founded in 1607, Santa Fe is America’s oldest capital city and also houses the oldest public building in the country, the circa-1610 Palace of the Governors which was originally the seat of government for the Spanish colony of Neuvo Mexico. To wander the Downtown Santa Fe Plaza is to immerse one in traditional adobe structures. There are time-warped old buildings and churches including the stunning Loretto Chapel famous for its miraculous staircase and San Miguel Mission, reported to be America’s oldest church built between 1610 and 1626.

But, history’s not the only thing going down in Santa Fe. The city’s unique cuisine and renowned art galleries are integral to the area’s charm.

Lodi

Lying at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, Lodi enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate of warm days and cool evenings, ideal for growing wine grapes. Wander historic downtown Lodi with century-old brick buildings, brick-cobbled streets lined with elm trees and turn-of-the-century light poles. You’ll love this area and the way the city has maintained its history and heritage. Many unique shops, restaurants, and more than a dozen wine tasting boutiques and exciting restaurants.

Shiner

Speaking of beloved American beverages… Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week, where visitors can see how their popular brews get made. Tours and samples are free. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”

Worth Pondering…

America is laced with nooks and crannies, good places that go undiscovered by many mainstream travelers.

6 State Parks to Explore Following the Government Shutdown

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is over―at least for now.

The shutdown has affected national parks in many ways, including piled-up garbage, unusable toilets, vandalism, closed roads, and closure of some parks. And don’t expect conditions to return to normal in the short term. It will take time.

But if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, there are numerous state and county parks to explore instead. With this in mind, we put together a list of wonderful state parks based on our RV travel experiences. 

These parks are particularly great due to their hidden historical aspects, proximity to cities and towns, and they’re often filled with unexpected flora and fauna, intriguing natural environments, scenic beauty, and campgrounds.

Galveston Island State Park, Texas

Come to the island to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Or come to the island to go fishing or look for coastal birds. No matter what brings you here, you’ll find a refuge at Galveston Island State Park. Just an hour from Houston, but an island apart!

The Texas coast is on an hourglass-shaped migratory path called the Central Flyway that extends from Alaska to Latin America. This makes Galveston Island State Park a must-see birding spot, especially with its combination of beach, prairie, and marsh.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Florida

Meet manatees face-to-face without getting wet at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Underwater viewing stations allow visitors to see the manatees—and other fish that they swim with—up close and personal at this showcase for Florida’s native wildlife. In a natural setting of wetlands and woods, the park hosts daily educational programs on alligators, snakes and alligators, and more.

Vogel State Park, Georgia

Vogel State Park is in the heart of north Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains, 11 miles south of Blairsville. At 2,500 feet elevation Vogel State Park maintains a cool evening temperature even in the dog days of summer. The park provide a range of overnight accommodations including 56 campsites with electric service suitable for RVs up to 40 feet in length. A lake for swimming and boating and miles of hiking trails adjacent to the famous Appalachian Trail offer something for everyone. The park’s 22-acre lake is open to non-motorized boats, and during summer, visitors can cool off at the mountain-view beach.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky

Federal Hill is the centerpiece of My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Built between 1795 and 1818, Federal Hill was the home of Judge John Rowan. Federal Hill is a Georgian style mansion that originally had 13 rooms. The number 13 is repeated throughout the house, supposedly to honor the 13 colonies at the time of America’s independence from England. Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864), a Rowan family relative, is credited with immortalizing Federal Hill in his hauntingly beautiful song “My Old Kentucky Home Good Night.”

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Planning a trip to Arches or Canyonlands National Park? Dead Horse Point State Park is just up the road, and offers some of the best scenic views you can find anywhere. Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs about 6,000 feet above sea level. Two thousand feet below, the Colorado River winds its way from the continental divide in Colorado to the Gulf of California, a distance of 1,400 miles. The peninsula is connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck.

Catalina State Park, Arizona

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. A great alternative to Saguaro National Park, Catalina is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invites camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. Commonly encountered species of wildlife include javelin, coyote, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and various reptiles.

Worth Pondering…

Happy is the man who can enjoy scenery when he has to take a detour.

5 RV Trips for 2019

A new year and an empty calendar! Does inspiration know any finer muse?

A new year and an empty calendar! Does inspiration know any finer muse?

When it comes to RV travel, the arrival of January fuels daydreams of adventures and far-flung exploration.

Here we explore five new and evolving travel opportunities across America, everything from a cool oasis in the West Texas desert and the centennial of America’s most famous geological marvel to wildlife adventure. And with the exception of two— Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival in July and the Custer Park Buffalo Roundup in September—these ideas aren’t tied to a specific date, making them worthy of a trip any time of year.

Start marking up that calendar now.

Balmorhea’s New Beginnings

Expect big changes at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas, which will reopen its swimming pool this winter after major repairs and unveil a revamped motor court and upgraded campground this spring.

Renovations of the lodging facilities had already started when, in May 2018, crews discovered an eroding wall near the high dive in the pool. Officials shut down the swimming hole, dry-docking visitors looking for a respite from the heat.

Pool repairs started in September and should be wrapped up in time for you to take a flying leap into the crisp, fish-filled water by the time temperatures heat up again.

The Grand Canyon

In 2019, the park dedicated to America’s most famous geologic marvel will celebrate its 100-year anniversary with a series of talks, concerts, and special exhibitions throughout the year. And while you can certainly have an awe-inspiring experience without venturing far from the designated lookout points, there’s more to see and experience.

The park becomes extremely crowded when school lets out in June, so plan your visit before then, if possible. To avoid the crowds, plan a trip between May and October to the North Rim: less than 10 percent of the canyon’s 6.2 million annual visitors see this side of the park.

Louisiana

To many, Louisiana is known as the place where jazz music was born, where over-stuffed po’ boys are bountiful, and where the greatest Mardi Gras celebrations take place.

The list of lesser-knowns from this swampy Southern state is deliciously new to the visitor: a steaming hot bowl of gumbo, freshly-made beignets, crawfish, jambalaya, boudin, and crackling. Thankfully, the uninitiated can head down one of Louisiana’s Culinary Trails to acquaint themselves with the candid Creole/Cajun flavors.

But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, Cedar Breaks National Monument looks down into a majestic geologic amphitheater, a three-mile long cirque of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Like a naturally formed coliseum, the Amphitheater plunges 2,000 feet taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons. The colorful wildflower bloom is generally at its peak during the first two weeks of July, which coincides with the annual Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival, a wonderful reason to visit the park.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park in the Black Hills encompasses 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain and an abundance of wildlife. A herd of 1,300 bison roams freely throughout the park, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The Annual Buffalo Roundup draws thousands of people to Custer State Park every September. Watch cowboys and cowgirls as they roundup and drive the herd of approximately 1,300 buffalo.

Besides bison, Custer State Park is home to wildlife such as pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros. Whether hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, or camping, you’ll find your adventure along the park’s roads and trails.

Worth Pondering…
From wonder into wonder, existence opens.

—Lao Tzu

5 Best Places for Snowbirds This Winter

Earn your snowbird wings by RVing to one or more of these Sunbelt destinations this winter.

This winter, instead of willing the season away, do as the snowbirds do.

What is a snowbird, you ask?

A snowbird is someone who migrates to a warmer destination to avoid the wrath of winter. If you dread scraping the ice off your car windshield, shoveling snow, falling on black ice, and swear you must be cold-blooded, you just may be a snowbird at heart.

Earn your snowbird wings by RVing to one or more of these Sunbelt destinations this winter.

Here you’ll find comfort (and warmth!) in our list of the best snowbird destinations, where snow plows and ear muffs have no place.

Yuma, Arizona

Average high in January: 70 F

Many cities seem to shut down during the chilly months, but not Yuma. With the sun still shinning and the mercury resting in a comfortable range, this southwest city keeps its calendar full. Every January, the Yuma Medjool Date Festival (January 26, in 2019) puts on a show, celebrating the sweet fruit grown in the desert area. The wintertime is also ideal for hosting the Yuma Territorial Marathon and Half Marathon (January 26, in 2019) —you just might find yourself trading your mittens for some sweatbands.

Snowbirds love to: Visit a real working farm with Field to Feast farm tours and pick some produce to take home.

Sarasota, Florida

Average high in January: 71 F

Sarasota and her string of eight islands are tucked into the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida. Sarasota County encompasses nearly 40 miles of shoreline and includes Sarasota, Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Manasota Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, Englewood, Nokomis, North Port, Osprey, and Venice. Thanks to the legacy of circus magnate John Ringling, Sarasota is known as the “Circus Capital of the World,” with many offerings designed to honor the past, present, and future of the circus.

Snowbirds love to: Visit Venice Area Audubon Rookery is a renowned location for bird photography and is free to all visitors daily year-round.

Mission, Texas

Average high in January: 70 F

Located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, Mission welcomes the thousands of Winter Texans that call Mission their temporary home. Nestled against the Rio Grande River, Mission has long been known as a center for citrus farming, home of the famous Texas Ruby Red grapefruit. But, what many don’t realize is that Mission has a rich history of birdwatching with more than 465 species reported in the Rio Grande Valley alone, and that the area is considered the top destination in the United States for birders.

Snowbirds love to: Hike, bike, observe birds, and ride the tram at Rio Grande Valley State Park, a 2,400-acre nature reserve.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Average high in January: 62 F

Whether you’re looking for a snowbird roost or a vacation escape, RVers will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. While Alabama’s shoreline may not be the first place that pops to mind when planning a winter getaway, don’t overlook it. It’s a rare person who does not find the sea and sand tempting, especially during the cold winter months.

Snowbirds love: The fresh seafood. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

Palm Springs, California

Average high in January: 71 F

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago because what was then just a village in the desert was a popular weekend Hollywood getaway. Today, the village has grown and consists of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

There are two weekly markets that are more than just shopping trips, they are events. On Thursday evenings, Palm Canyon Drive turns into Villagefest. Saturday and Sunday mornings, the College of the Desert in Palm Desert hosts another street fair.

Snowbirds love to: Enjoy some of the 30 miles of trails, picnic areas, cool oases, and wildlife and wildflowers at Coachella Valley Preserve. Walk into the past in their rustic Visitors’ Center, the Palm House, a palm log cabin built in the 1930s.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snowbird life

behind the wheel.

Beat the Government Shutdown: 4 Alternatives to National Parks

You had planned an RV trip to the Grand Canyon National Park prior to the recent government shut down.

With many of the amenities curtailed and garbage piling up should you cancel your campground reservations and make alternative plans? The answer is no.

And the same applies for numerous other national parks affected by the congressional gridlock. Whether you’re visiting Joshua Tree or Saguaro, it’s fairly easy to find nearby alternative destinations that will be equally enjoyable.

Here’s a rundown of the status of four popular winter parks, along with nearby alternatives:

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

National Park staff is unable to keep up with snow maintenance in this iconic park, possibly limiting access to many popular areas.

Alternative: Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon is a breathtaking stretch of beauty on a winding road that climbs 4,500 feet from Sedona to the top of the Mogollon Rim. A 14 mile drive along Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff, Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive has been recognized as one of the Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in America.

There are many places along the drive to stop and relish the beauty and enchantment Northern Arizona offers. At the top of the canyon, various Native American vendors sell hand-crafted authentic works of art at Oak Creek Canyon Vista Point. It is a great place to stop and enjoy the views into the canyon below.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

The park service recently closed a campground and road leading to this popular Southern California location and is relying on volunteers to clean up much of the overflowing litter.

Alternative: Coachella Valley Preserve

Enjoy some of the 30 miles of trails, picnic areas, cool oases, wildlife, and wildflowers at Coachella Valley Preserve. Walk into the past in their rustic visitor center, the Palm House, a palm log cabin built in the 1930s. Although not as sprawling as Joshua Tree this expanse of lush palm trees features trails through fascinating desert habitats. Take a guided hike with an expert naturalist or go for a bird walk.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Park roads and trails are open to visitors, but there are no NPS-provided services, like public information, restrooms, trash collection, and facilities or road maintenance. Both visitor centers are closed.

Alternative: Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invites camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. Commonly encountered species of wildlife include javelin, coyote, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and various reptiles.

Arches National Park, Utah

Heavy snowfall, in combination with the ongoing government shutdown, has closed Arches for the foreseeable future. The road remains open to the visitor center, at which point a closed gate prevents further travel by vehicle. The NPS posted on the Arches website, “It is unknown when the road will open. Access to the park will not occur until conditions improve or the National Park Service receives funding to maintain the roads.”

Alternative: Dead Horse Point State Park

Planning a trip to Arches National Park? Dead Horse Point State Park is just up the road, and offers some of the best scenic views you can find anywhere. Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs about 6,000 feet above sea level. Two thousand feet below, the Colorado River winds its way from the continental divide in Colorado to the Gulf of California, a distance of 1,400 miles. The peninsula is connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck.

Worth Pondering…

Happy is the man who can enjoy scenery when he has to take a detour.