COVID-19 Road Trip: Best Places for RV Travel this June

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb, pack the RV, and travel again.

June takes its name from Roman origins. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the ancient Roman goddess that reigns over marriage and childbirth which may explain why June is such a popular wedding month.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The summer season officially arrives and the sun is out longer than ever––providing hours of daylight for exploring a new area. To visit a destination in June is (often) to see it at its joyful best. If you’re looking for a destination worthy of your June vacation days consider places with generally good weather this month.

Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By now, it’s clear that the road trip will be the most popular form of travel this summer. Though it is not without risks, it has the potential to be one of the safest forms of travel in the current COVID-19 era especially if you target wilderness areas, camp, and keep to yourself as much as possible. So, where should road trippers look to explore? Here are a few ideas.

Kentucky

Bourbon Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yeah, the bourbon and fried chicken in Kentucky are superb but so is the adventure. Kentucky has a unique geography that has turned the state into a honeycomb of caves and rock formations. It is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s largest known cave system.

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you prefer sunlight, there’s Red River Gorge Geological Area which has the most sandstone arches outside of Arches National Park not to mention hundreds of sport-climbing routes. In between these two superlatives, you have 49 state parks including My Old Kentucky Home, massive lakes, and, yeah, really great bourbon and fried chicken.

Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With five national parks and an uncountable amount of nooks and crannies, Utah is one of the best states in the country for a road trip. That said, considering that the State’s national parks suffer from overcrowding when they are fully operational, don’t expect complete solace or unlimited availability when they are only partially open (especially Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon). As an alternative, head to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or Glen Canyon Recreation Area where you will find it easy to disappear (in a good way).

Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking for open space, Texas might have more than anyone. Keep an eye on the reopening status at Big Bend National Park. Normally, it’s one of the most out of the way national parks but maybe time is now not as much of an issue as it usually is.

Big Thicket National Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise, consider heading to the southeast part of the state towards the Louisiana border where four national forests—Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Angelina, and Sabine—hide between Shreveport and Houston.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Young Theodore Roosevelt had the world to choose from. Where did he come to satiate his yen for wild open spaces? North Dakota. The state’s badlands, wooded valleys, mighty rivers (featuring the Missouri and the Little Missouri), and rolling hills are the perfect backdrop for “the strenuous life” that T.R. endorsed. Whether that manifests as an epic bike ride on one of America’s finest off-road trails or a session of walleye fishing in a quiet lake is, of course, up to you.

New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s been a long time since Breaking Bad, but it’s time to get reacquainted with New Mexico. On a normal road trip combining Carson National Forest with a couple nights in Santa Fe would be an ideal pairing. But for these times I suggest something more remote, perhaps the sandstone cliffs of El Malpais National Monument or the unexpected, rugged mountain terrain of Lincoln National Forest. Perhaps no road trip to New Mexico should skip some time spent in Gila National Forest which covers much of the landscape in the southwest and leads into Arizona.

Arizona

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona’s favorite tourist hot spots are trickling back to life with safety protocols in place as the state’s economy continues its reopening this month. The Grand Canyon seems poised to continue its gradual reopening which will no doubt draw many road warriors to Arizona. Nearby Lake Powell will also be a big draw in the next few months and between the two there’s plenty of room to find your own space via hiking, biking, and boating. Check out the two million acres of forest within the boundaries of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the red rock formations of Coconino National Forest, or the big, desert cacti of Tonto National Forest.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in March, April, and May. Also check out our recommendations from June 2019.

Worth Pondering…

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
—L.M. Montgomery

Quarantine on Wheels: Families Turn to RVs to Save Their Summer Travel Plans

The summer getaway theme of 2020 is staying safe, healthy, and in control

It’s become clear that far-flung international travel isn’t going to be as common as it once was for quite some time. Four-hour wait times to get on a plane will be the norm with as much as twice that to get out of the airport when you arrive. That’s before you take into account that most international travel will require 14-day quarantine on arrival and once you return home or consider which borders will to be open to tourists from our continent. (For example, it’s looking more and more like Europe will only allow internal tourism for the rest of the year.)

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With international travel pretty much off the books for the rest of 2020, it’s time to look to the highways and byways of the good ol’ US of A to get your travel fix (assuming you’re lucky enough to get a couple weeks of vacation this year and feel able to afford it). That means the Great American Road Trip is back in a big way. A chance to see the ever-changing nation in a time of massive upheaval, use your tourist dollars to support struggling communities, and get a little elbow room as quarantine winds down. A chance to stay socially distanced without going stir-crazy.

Along Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a recent GasBuddy survey 36 percent of respondents are canceling trips that require flying and 24 percent plan to make shorter trips by distance. 31 percent are planning to take a road trip. Not to mention, gas prices are the cheapest they’ve been in almost 20 years, AAA says.  

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not a surprise that summer vacation will look at lot different this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of RV travel. A recent survey of 4,000 U.S. and Canadian residents by KOA showed the pandemic sparking interest in camping especially among first-timers and younger generations. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Once it is safe to travel, it’s likely the camping market will get a greater share of leisure travelers’ trips in 2020,” reads the May 11 report measuring the effects of COVID-19 on the campground industry. (The study showed camping drawing 16 percent of leisure travelers for the rest of 2020, up from 11 percent before the pandemic.)

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In March, as RV buyers evaporated and manufacturing plants—mostly in northeastern Indiana—closed, the RV industry pivoted toward crisis management. Dealers and manufacturers sent vehicles across the country for use as isolation units, housing for critical health care workers, command centers, and mobile testing labs. 

Along Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California ordered 1,309 to house the sick should hospitals be overwhelmed. Louisiana state police ordered nearly 100 for command posts. A dealer in Texas sent RVs across the state to municipalities. Florida health officials retrofitted RVs as rolling testing labs. 

Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 418 businesses that make up the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association pushed federal and state lawmakers to keep RV manufacturers and dealers open as essential businesses to meet this new demand. 

The generally accepted plan for reviving the country’s tourism industry starts with people traveling closer to home. It’s not likely vacationers will be jumping in planes anytime soon, so the RV industry is hoping more people start looking at self-contained motorhomes and trailers as a way to vacation while distancing and controlling their own environments. 

Wind Creek Casino RV Park, Atmore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV production was strong in January and February with shipments pacing ahead of 2019. Even after the collapse in mid-March, the RV association reported a slight increase in shipments for the first three months of 2020 over last year. After a dormant April, the industry is seeing a revival in May, driven in large part by a surge in demand for RV rentals.

Capitol City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 3,000-plus members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in recent years have seen a majority of their RV visitors traveling within 150 miles of their homes. This most certainly will be the case going forward in the age of COVID-19.

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

The association’s latest survey of private campground owners estimates there are more than 1.2 million private campsites across the country and owners plan to add more than 60,000 this year. Private campground owners are preparing for wary visitors by scripting specific plans for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining distancing. Most communal facilities including pools, gyms, and game rooms remain closed.

The MotorCoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As restrictions begin to ease we will see people get outside, stay closer to home, and be as safe as possible. The RV is a self-contained way for them to do that.

It’s like everyone was in a holding pen and as things begin to open up, there is a definite and growing demand for RVs and RV travel.

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

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course, of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why NOW is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel Bucket List

Have you been dreaming of destinations that you’d like to be quarantined in?

As we travel again, having had time to consider how much we miss traveling and exploring, will we do anything differently? Will we make better use of our time by ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind?

I posed the above question in an earlier post titled, Why Do You Travel? Many of us, I suggest, travel for the wrong reasons, putting the ‘where’ ahead of the ‘why’. We have a perfect opportunity to change all that with a new travel paradigm.

Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A renewed and surging interest in travel suggests that many people (including myself) are starving for travel and as it becomes safe to travel again, many of us will embrace it— and we should. But will we travel better than before?

Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This pandemic is not the first major disruption to travel and besides other outbreaks from SARS and Swine Flu to MERS and Ebola there have been volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires. But because this is so widespread and long lasting, I for one will emerge with a newfound sense of seizing the moment.

World’s Only Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is short enough without one not knowing when the next shoe will drop. A lesson to be learned is that if there are things you want to do in your life, you should put a plan in place and Just Do It.

In terms of travel, this is not a new idea since the pandemic. Each trip we create is by definition unique. What all of our trips share in common is the belief that any journey worth taking should be a rich personal story set within the larger narrative of life itself.

Lady Bird Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Why Do You Travel? I concluded that in this time of reflection we can make the most of the opportunity to plan our future travels by first asking why rather than where. Because travel is so freely available we tend to rush through this question.

Fort Jackson State Historic Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of travel that puts the where ahead of the why follows a predictable blueprint that hasn’t changed since the days of the Grand Tour; we visit the Louvre, tour the Pantheon, and ride the London Eye. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re meant to do.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is why you need to think about what you really want to do and see? Create your own Bucket List and do it in multiple categories that could focus on family trips and personal passions that could include an interest in history, architecture, food and wine. Then plan a realistic timetable to accomplish your goals.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic, time is the one thing we have in abundance which makes travel planning even more desirable. This forced break is the optimal time to begin planning those big trips that require considerable research and forethought. We may also see tighter restrictions in place in terms of visitors to some of the most coveted sights which makes advanced planning even more important.

Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This multi-year calendar approach makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Bucket list sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Masters Tournament, Rose Bowl Parade, and Superbowl benefit from booking a year out.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, some trips can be done by just about anyone while others require a modicum of fitness and mobility that may mandate simply not waiting too long. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or heli-ski in Rocky Mountains, these should be closer to the front of your list.

Fort Frederica National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But besides these logistical issues the biggest reason to plan a multi-year bucket list calendar is to ensure you do what you want to do while you’re physically able and in a way you can afford. Since the world is just too big and diverse not to explore, use some of your downtime and emerge from this crisis with a better sense of all the things you want to do and see with the time you have remaining.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

—Hilaire Belloc

After the Coronavirus: Your Next Vacation May Look Like This

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred quite a bit of interest in connecting with nature via RV travel

One thing is true with a large, extended, epic vacation: There is no flexibility. The dates are set. The hotel nights are purchased. The flights have been arranged. The pets have been boarded. Relatives or neighbors have been asked to collect the mail. These are the necessary evils that go hand in hand with planning a big trip.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For RVers the trip is easier to plan. No scheduling of flights. No searching for available hotels that meet your requirements. And you can even take your pets with you.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry, the demand for travel is slowly—very slowly—creeping back up again. But many remain wary of getting on a plane, a train, a bus, or a cruise ship and being packed tightly in with strangers and not knowing if somebody is carrying the virus.

Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV. Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After an indeterminate period of isolation families will be more enthusiastic than ever to get outside and see new places, even within their own local areas. RV travel allows people to sleep in their own bed, cook gourmet meals, and control where they go. As restrictions are lifted, you’ll be able to experience the endless range of outdoor wonders throughout the country and the freedom of independent travel that RVs offer.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas

RVs provide travelers control: they allow people to travel where they want, when they want, and offer a unique travel experience that allows people to pursue their favorite activities and experience places they may have only seen in a coffee-table book or on Instagram. They can do this all with the ability to stay connected to family and friends.

Quail Gate State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These are all positive features but particularly attractive during this most unprecedented time. RVs provide a wonderful opportunity for people to continue to enjoy vacations with their families while still adhering to social distancing, which will likely stay in place in some form for the foreseeable future.

Bartlett Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s something about road trips that creates a nostalgic feeling. Beautiful scenery, regional cuisine, and good company are just some of the many things that make road tripping so awesome and there’s something profound about literally just driving away from it all to seek an adventure.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And with the U.S. packed with so many incredible road trips, there really is something for everyone! Whether you’re looking for a day trip or wanting to be out on the open road for a prolonged period of time, there are beautiful places both in your backyard and beyond proving you don’t have to get on a plane to have an epic vacation. So pack up the RV and keep reading to discover your next road trip.

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon is famous for its undeniable beauty, and I strongly believe everyone should see it in person at least once in their lifetime. Phoenix is a great place to start this journey and as you make your way north toward the Canyon be sure to stop and stretch your legs in Sedona and Red Rock Country.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as one of America’s best and most beautiful drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles across Virginia and North Carolina. It follows the Appalachian Mountains—the Blue Ridge chain, specifically—from Shenandoah National Park in the north to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. Because the Blue Ridge Parkway connects two national parks, it’s easy to visit both during your drive.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Well-known among rock climbers and hikers, this road trip through Southern California’s desert is filled with opportunities to experience nature. With almost 100 miles of paved roads and an almost equal amount of unpaved roads, this road trip has much to offer.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A social distancing-friendly destination, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the colorful North Dakota badlands is a great place for hiking, camping, and sightseeing. Bison roam throughout the North and South units of the park and most visitors can see them as they drive along the park roads. Deer, elk, feral horses, longhorns, pronghorns, coyotes, and even bobcats can also be seen in various parts of the park.

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie

How to Travel Safely As Restrictions Are Lifted?

Interest in RV travel has grown exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic

The travel industry has been profoundly impacted by the uncertainty and anxiety currently enveloping the country. Airlines, resorts, and hotels are now offering discounted prices in order to rejuvenate their bottom lines but thus far the public’s appetite for travel seems to be stuck in neutral. However, there is an alternative to traditional vacations that could ease your concerns about mingling with the masses.

Welcome to the world of RV travel.

RVs at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since early April, RVShare.com, a company that arranges RV rentals between RV owners and the general public, has seen a 650 percent rise in bookings as “long periods of isolation and social distancing have halted most forms of travel” and left people anxious to be on the move again but with personal safety always in mind.

Fishing at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When planning a trip in the next three months, the overwhelming majority of respondents (93 percent) want to avoid crowds, according to RVShare. This wasn’t always the case. The importance of avoiding crowded places when traveling has increased by 70 percent since the pandemic started. Additionally, 84 percent plan to travel with their partner or immediate family instead of friends or extended family.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“RV travel has been a trend steadily on the rise for years due to RV rentals being more accessible than ever thanks to sites like RVshare,” said CEO Jon Gray. “We expect RVs to continue to gain traction as a preferred method of travel while consumers are seeking flexible options and a unique way to experience the outdoors.”

According to the company’s data, national parks are the preferred destination of 65 percent of their customers.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

TurnKey Vacation Rentals reports that although summer bookings are down from 2019, they’ve seen spikes in bookings over the past two weeks as well as travelers booking beach and mountain retreats for trips. As destinations start to open, there’s increased interest in the Alabama and Texas Gulf Coast and in mountain areas like Asheville, North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is worth noting that these locations are drive-to destinations as travelers now prefer to avoid air travel and stay closer to home.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer marketplace that connects families, solo travelers, and travelers of all kinds with trusted RV owners so they can rent an RV to power their road adventures. Their selection spans easy-to-navigate campervans to vintage Airstreams to luxury Class A motorhomes.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers can personalize their trip, customize their itinerary, and choose the price point that fits their budget. In addition to RV rentals being a controlled environment where renters can choose how much or how little they are exposed to others, where they travel, and more. Outdoorsy owners are held to high cleanliness standards and provide clean, sanitized, and germ-free RVs to those new to the RV lifestyle and veteran road travelers alike.

North Beach at Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey commissioned during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows that camping rates very high when Americans and Canadians are asked what they’re looking forward to once life regains some normalcy. Very strong majorities said it would be “reasonable” to have social distancing measures employed at campgrounds and on trails.

Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Performed on behalf of KOA, the “North American Camping and the Effects of Covid-19” survey reached out to 4,000 American and 500 Canadian households for their opinions on how the pandemic affects their plans for camping in the months ahead. The survey is bullish in saying “camping is well positioned to rebound earlier compared to other types of travel once travelers themselves deem it safe to travel again.”

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

Nearly half (46 percent) of the campers surveyed said they view camping as the safest form of leisure travel in the post COVID-19 world. That percentage jumps to 72 percent when the question is posed to Baby Boomers. They also ranked camping as the safest type of trip, the survey found.

Camping in an Airstream at Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the same time, 90 percent of leisure travelers and 95 percent of experienced campers said there should be some measures in place to enforce social distancing. Forty-seven percent of campers and half of leisure travelers “agree that limiting the number of people on a trail is reasonable.” Nearly half (48 percent) of prospective campers thought limiting group sizes would be reasonable.

Stephen Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty-one percent of the campers surveyed said they thought it was safe to camp right now while 54 percent said they thought another month or two should pass before it would be safe.

Bernheim Forest, Krntucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. Sometimes it is better to abandon one’s self to destiny.

—Napoleon Bonaparte

National Parks Are Slowly Reopening. Here’s The Status Of Our Favorites.

America’s greatest outdoor treasures are slowly starting to reopen

When COVID-19 took hold of the world the closures came fast. But the idea of a global pandemic shutting down America’s biggest, often extremely isolated natural spaces seemed unfathomable. It turned out that when the world’s health was at risk even Smoky the Bear had to do his part to flatten the curve. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, as the Memorial Day weekend kicks off a summer that will almost certainly be full of scenic drives, some national parks are slowly reopening their gates following months of closure. To help you track what’s open, we’re keeping tabs on our favorite national parks. We’ll keep you posted on what’s open (hint: not many), what services are available (if amenities are marked “limited,” chances are it has toilet facilities but no visitors center), and what you’re allowed to do once inside the park. And, in most cases you can drive the scenic roads and hike the trails. But we’ll take what we can get!

Hopefully, this list will change quickly as more and more of these national treasures open up to responsible, respectful, and safe use. The list is current as of the Memorial Day weekend. We’ll be updating as things progress. 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah
Status: Closed. For the moment, the closest you can get to Balanced Rock, Devil’s Garden, and the other glorious spires is via Google Earth. Phased re-opening begins May 29.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited. The visitor centers, entrance fee stations, and South Unit of the park are currently closed. But other than that, this SoDak icon and its rugged geologic beauty is mostly open for business as usual.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Status: Closed. This hiker and kayaker paradise along the Rio Grande is hoping to begin phased reopening in June, so chances are you’ll be able to explore its waters right around the time temps hit 300 degrees in the Lone Star State.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. While visitor center occupancy is limited and overnight stays are prohibited, the main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point are open. The majority of trails (other than backcountry) remain open as well, so consider yourself lucky if you’re anywhere near this Utah showstopper. Plan your sunrise around it.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Status: Closed. Phased reopening of this oft-overlooked Utah gem (the least visited of Utah’s famous “big five” parks) starts May 29. Social distancing is a breeze in this park where the ravens outnumber the humans on any given day.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No. This International Dark Sky Park combines the best of Utah’s more famous national parks into one lesser-visited package of surprises. While Scenic Drive, the visitor’s center, and most campgrounds are closed, you can still pitch a tent at Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley campgrounds.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. Public trails, picnic areas, and roads are open across the park. Still, this isn’t called Carlsbad Picnic Area, so it’s probably not worth a journey just yet unless it’s close enough to justify a day trip.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Status: Closed. The nation’s oldest hardwood bottomland didn’t keep its 500-year-old cypress trees alive through multiple plagues, yellow fever, and the Twilight Zone by taking chances. It remains closed until further notice.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. The Grand Canyon has begun extremely limited access. You can enter the south rim viewpoints between 6-10 a.m. for now and go as far as Pipe Creek Vista, Twin Overlooks, Duck on a Rock, Thor’s Hammer, No Name Point, and Navajo Point. The rest of the Canyon is closed. Ditto for visitor centers. 

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. The nation’s most popular park (on a technicality, but whatever) allows access to most of its sprawling trails though this has always been a park most utilized as a scenic drive, so go forth, but keep an eye on their site for any changes. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited. Now back in the business of helping claustrophobic Californians “find themselves” after a painful couple months, this gloriously trippy desert playground has opened up its trails, roads, bathrooms, and individual “family” campsites, which in California parlance ranges from actual family units to cults. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Status: Closed. When California emerges from quarantine, make a point to discover this remarkable national park in Northern California’s Shasta Cascades which is rich in rugged wilderness and rare geothermal delights.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Status: Closed. With more than 5,000 sites including its famous ancient cliff dwellings such as Cliff Palace, America’s largest archeological preserve has been around since 7,500 BC. So it can wait out COVID-19.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Status: Closed. Travelers along Route 66 (or Interstate 40) would be wise to pull over at this stunning park that suddenly pops up along both sides of the highway in eastern Arizona. Until the park reopens, however, it’s just more roadside oddities and vintage motel signs for Mother Road enthusiasts.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pinnacles National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No. This Central California park is one of the lesser-known National Park Service destinations possibly due to the fact that it’s often 100-plus degrees and half of it is in an eroded-out, extinct volcano. Right now, day use passes are a no-no and the park’s largely open only to people helping in protection efforts. Still, the campgrounds are open to people with reservations. So if you scored one a while ago, you kind of have the run of the park. Just, you know, bring a ton of water.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. Located on either side of Tucson, this cacti-laden gem has opened all roads and trails though groups are limited to 10. Visitor centers and restrooms remain closed.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia National Park, California
Status: Closed. Like its neighbor Kings Canyon, the densely forested Sequoia is closed until at least May 25. Highway 180 which runs through it is open for through traffic to private property.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Status: Closed. Renowned for its fabled Skyline Drive, this national treasure encompassing part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is working on a phased reopening. It makes wonder how you open the Skyline Drive in stages.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. Look, it’s not like they named this ultra-underrated park—where the prairies and the Badlands converge where Buffalo roam and the sky’s one big panoramic light show—James Buchanan National Park. It’s named after Theodore Roosevelt. Of course it’s open.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Status: Closed. America’s newest national park didn’t pick a great time for its coming out party. Transitioning from a national monument to a national park in the final days of 2019, the park was forced to shut down just a few weeks later. Thanks a lot COVID: you’re a real jerk.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. One of America’s most beloved parks has just started to reopen in recent days with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and many park trails currently open (with Zion’s often-packed shuttles mercifully suspended.)

Worth Pondering…

One of my favorite things about America is our breathtaking collection of national and state parks, many of which boast wonders the Psalmist would envy.

—Eric Metaxas

Will It Be Safe to Travel This Summer? Consider Your Options

People are turning to RVs to save their summer travel plans from coronavirus

Most of us have been social distancing for weeks if not months now and between coronavirus anxiety and the weather getting warmer, a getaway sounds pretty nice right about now. Dirt-cheap flights and discounted hotel deals are even more tempting when you add a little cabin fever to the mix.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But should you really book a summer vacation now? Whether you’ve already booked a trip or are itching to take a vacation as soon as possible, this post will answer your questions when it comes to traveling this summer, from safety measures and travel restrictions to creative alternatives.

Old Town Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When will we be able to travel? Because the situation changes every day, it’s hard to give an exact date. But right now, many countries are still experiencing severe coronavirus outbreaks and have extended their mandatory quarantines and border closures. To get a better feel for summer travel and where and when you can go, it’s best to continue checking every day as the situation develops.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s important to take your departing location and your destination into consideration. For example, if you live in an area where things are improving but want to travel to an area where they’re not, you should consider pushing back your travel dates or changing your destination.

Yuko-En Japanese Friendship Garden, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a No Sail Order on cruise ships until the end of July but could be extended even later. Given the nature of cruises—living in close quarters with thousands of people, eating buffet-style food, and not having access to major healthcare facilities, it’s safer for everyone to avoid being out at sea for the foreseeable future.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This summer will be the summer of ground transportation. Both Amtrak and Greyhound are still operating and requiring employees and passengers to wear masks, providing extra sanitation methods, using a digital ticketing process, and waiving all change fees. To ensure social distancing on board, Amtrak has reduced its sales to 50 percent of its normal capacity and Greyhound is said to be operating at just 35 percent of capacity. However, workers and passengers on both train and bus companies have contracted coronavirus despite these efforts.

Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world but of all the ways we travel the road trip will be least affected—at least from a regulatory standpoint.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one will tell you to wear a mask or take your temperature or demand blood work before you hit the road this summer. But questions abound about this American institution including whether it’s safe—at least safer than airline travel.

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

Data from MMGY Travel Intelligence in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association seems to bear this out. In a survey taken April 17-22, 47 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to travel by car, an increase from 35 percent in data collected April 4-11.

El Moro National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For all travelers, safety is a priority and many are asking whether driving is safer than flying these days. In terms of the coronavirus, probably, said Dr. Robert Winters, a Southern California infectious disease specialist.

“Car travel has to be safer than airline travel when you factor in controlled boarding/exiting processes, number of people on the airplane, unknown health status of people on the flight, uncooperative children sitting near you, etc.”

Champlain Canal, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paula Cannon, virologist and USC professor at the Keck School of Medicine, said that “being alone in your own car is going to be the safest way of travel.” Road trips not only provide a safe way of transportation, but allow you to choose a safer, less common destination. It’s also an inexpensive option, as gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in years. The national average has stayed under $2 per gallon during the pandemic (in some states, under 99 cents a gallon!) and is predicted to stay cheap over summer.

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV.

Ohio River at Marieta, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With experts predicting that any return to travel will likely start with short, domestic trips, the RV could become the go-to vehicle for travel this summer. Though the outlook for RV sales entering the year was grim—504,000 RVs were sold in 2017 and that number slipped to 364,000 last year—many dealers across the country are reporting an unexpected uptick in sales.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As so many try to keep their distance and avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, peer-to-peer RV rental company RVshare said last week bookings had increased 650 percent. The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options while personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven. Other recent studies have shown travelers feel more comfortable in a personal vehicle where they can control the scenario, unlike shared transportation.

Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Mount St. Helen’s National Monument, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While we wait to see what the future holds, stay safe and take a road trip this summer. Who knows, it may turn into a bucket-list trip after all.

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.

Quarantine Fatigue Is Real

Instead of an all-or-nothing approach to risk prevention, we need a manual on how to have a life in a pandemic

#StayHome had its moment. We urgently needed to flatten the curve and buy time to scale up health-care capacity and testing. But quarantine fatigue is real. I’m talking about those who are experiencing the profound burden of extreme physical and social distancing.

Devonian Botanical Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to the economic hardship it causes, isolation can severely damage psychological well-being especially for people who were already depressed or anxious before the crisis started. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans said that the coronavirus pandemic has harmed their mental health.

Colorado River from the Arizona side © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, most public health experts agree that a premature return to the old version of normalcy would be disastrous. States continue to lack the capacity for widespread coronavirus testing. A vaccine is months or even years away.

Amador Flower Farm, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the choice between staying home indefinitely and returning to business as usual may be a false one. An all-or-nothing approach to disease prevention can have unintended consequences. Individuals may fixate on unlikely sources of virus transmission—the package in the mail, the runner or cyclist on the street.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If for you these last few months stuck in coronavirus quarantine have felt a little weird, you’re not alone. For me, April seemed to take forever. Now, in May, I can’t remember what day it is half the time. I’m starting to feel like I’m enduring a perpetual time loop, reliving the same day over and over.

Lake Wawasee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But I’m not alone! Helen Rosner, a writer for The New Yorker, tweeted that her therapist described this weird time in our lives as “an infinite present” which feels pretty accurate. With no future plans, no anticipation of travel, or sports or summer festivals or celebrations, it’s an endless today, never tomorrow.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a name for this phenomenon: temporal disintegration, according to E. Alison Holman, PhD, a psychologist and an associate professor with the University California Irvine Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing. And, she says, they’re a direct result of trauma.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“People lose track of time when the future is in question,” Dr. Holman told the University of California. “The continuity from the past to the future is gone. That’s what they are experiencing right now.”

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

In a different interview with USA Today, Dr. Holman elaborated, “For people who are staying in all the time, the days meld in all together. There’s no distinction between the work week and weekend and you lose sense of time and what time it is.”

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The coronavirus pandemic has been thoroughly disrupting. Beyond creating a fear for our lives and livelihoods and the loss of our freedom to travel, it has obliterated any sense of schedule and structure we once had. What’s more, there’s no end in sight.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All this destabilization and stress can create a sensation of “time dragging by,” Ruth Ogden, PhD, senior lecturer and researcher at the school of psychology at Liverpool John Moores University in England, also told USA Today.

Edisto Island, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This is because our sense of time is governed in part by the emotions that we experience and the actions we perform,” Dr. Ogden said. In normal life practically every hour has some sort of marker—now is when I run for the train, now is when I buy my afternoon coffee. Post-coronavirus, that’s all gone. It’s no wonder our sense of time has gone all wonky.

Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For now, my sense of time remains shaken. But I’m slowly building a new schedule which is supposed to help: getting up at the same time each morning, getting dressed (I know), working in the yard every day. Slowly, I’ll build boundaries around my days that will allow me to stop asking myself terrifying questions like, “Is time real?” Yes, it’s real (?). Today is Friday. I think.

Columbia River near Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The place to live is in the here and now.

Uncertain Times?

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world, but of all the ways we travel, the road trip may be least affected—at least, from a regulatory standpoint

Travel is one of the easiest ways to relieve stress. The adventure of exploring a new location—or returning to a familiar spot to unplug and relax—is a healthy way to recharge. With so many digital ways to divert ourselves these days, many are looking for meaningful ways to unplug. They’re rediscovering the necessity of just being. 

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But as we all work to “flatten the curve” and halt the spread of the coronavirus getting away and finding solace in the freedom of the open road has become difficult.

And now we’re all hopeful the day will come soon when regional and cross-country travel will become normal again. As we head into the summer months of 2020, the aftermath of the stay-at-home orders are affecting the way we think about travel plans and how we spend time outside our homes as safely as possible. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What will we all do after this pandemic fades and the need to social distance recedes? As we emerge from The Great Indoors once again to The Greater Outdoors, I know I will approach life with an increased urgency and sense of wonder.

“We’ll get through these uncertain times together.” That’s what every single ad says these days. Have you noticed this as well?

Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, life has always been uncertain. What are these people talking about? Life is nothing but change. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life.

You see, life was uncertain last year as well…and the year before. So in a way, nothing has changed. We can always count on change. In 2020, things are simply changing faster.

La Sal Mountain Scenic Loop, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the world inches towards recovery, I’ve started thinking about when I will feel good about traveling again. I’m fairly certain that it will be difficult to know with any certainty what’s completely right in the moment. Risk gives decisions consequences. That’s what makes them matter. 

Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I look forward to the moment when I can travel once again and take in the beauty of mountains and deserts, the forests and lakes. Like many people, my life lately has been one of increasing government regulation, a search for normalcy, settling in, neighborhood adventures, and wondering how and when it will all end—all rolled into one.

Picacho Peak (State Park), Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From experience where we are now feels a bit like climbing Picacho Peak’s steep and twisting trail with steel cables anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare. It’s an uncomfortably temporary place to be. It’s a shaky limbo that lacks the excitement of moving forward and the comfort of being back on solid ground. I’m itching to start moving and doing, not to go back, but to move forward on our way to a new normal. 

Picacho Peak (State Park), Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many decisions to be made in the coming months about when we can travel and where and how far. These decisions will require our utmost level of critical thinking and risk assessment. But, not today!

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

Today I’m here just sitting with it all. Shouting words of hope into the abyss and finding new forms of connection across canyons, across countries, and across the street in my own neighborhood. Will we get through these uncertain times? Yes, yes we can.​

City Market, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sooner than later, the campgrounds and national and state parks around the country will be bustling with like-minded folks eager to embrace the sweet relief of fresh air and colorful sights not available on the flat screen in their living room. Social distancing might be a priority for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t explore open spaces safely. At the end of the day, you can confidently return to the safety and comfort of your home on wheels.

Snake River, Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Do you know why a vehicle’s WINDSHIELD is so large and the rear view mirror is so small? Because our PAST is not as important as our FUTURE! So, look ahead and move on. 

Tips for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your RV

If you’re on the road during the COVID-19 outbreak—or even if your RV is waiting patiently in the driveway—now is the time to give extra care to your usual cleaning routine

Stay at home orders and basic guidelines for social distancing may be a new way of life for a while but that doesn’t mean there’s still not plenty of means to take advantage of your RV. In fact, I will argue that social distancing in your rig is one of the better ways to do it.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even if you’re minimizing contact with the outside world, there are some best practices you can take for keeping your coach clean and disinfected—and keeping everyone inside healthy and happy.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a difference between simple cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning removes dirt, germs, and impurities using soap and water. This step doesn’t kill germs—it simply removes them which help lower their numbers and thus the risk of infection. Use soap and water to regularly clean surfaces. Be sure to pay extra attention to high touch surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, faucets, and sinks.

Cleaning Inside Your RV

2019 Dutch Star motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The inside of your RV likely contains a variety of different surfaces: wood, glass, corian, tile, fabrics, stainless steel—and more. All purpose cleaners are a good, broad option but they may not work as effectively on each surface. There is also no single product that works on all surfaces inside your rig. Before using a product, read the label and then test it on a small and inconspicuous area.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is ideally a two-step process. First, there’s cleaning which is the removal of germs from surfaces. Second is disinfection which kills any germs left behind after cleaning. Start by using warm water to clean all high-touch surfaces. These include:

  • Steering wheel, dash controls, switches
  • Door handles, locks, handrails
  • Tables, countertops, cabinetry
  • Electrical cords, chargers, switch panels
  • Faucets, sinks, toilets
  • Electronics, tablets, touchpads, touchscreens, remote controls
2019 Dutch Star motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Soft items can be tossed in the laundry. Check product manufacturer tags for their highest recommended wash and dry temperature settings. If these items can’t be removed to put in a washer, steam cleaners and carpet cleaners are an alternative. These items may include:

  • Throw pillows
  • Upholstery and drapes
  • Carpets and area rugs
  • Window treatments

Disinfecting Inside Your RV

2019 Dutch Star motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After using soap and water to clean, use a disinfectant to kill germs that remain. Use each product according to instructions. Disinfecting wipes are also a good alternative. In any case, allow for proper ventilation when using a disinfectant.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you don’t have—or can’t find—disinfecting products, you can use a bleach solution. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a solution of 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water, or four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. When using a bleach solution, always use gloves.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We don’t often think about our phones, GPS units, laptops, and tablets when it comes to cleaning, but these high touch items can be especially germy. Often electronics manufacturers will have suggested cleaning methods listed in manuals or online. If you can’t find these to follow, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays that contain at least 70 percent alcohol.

Cleaning the Exterior of Your RV

2019 Dutch Star motorhome exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of being in the great outdoors means actually getting outside. Fortunately, it’s easy to disinfect the outside of your coach and stay safe—whether you’re in an RV park or boondocking off the grid.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you arrive at a new campsite, disinfect any connections or hookups you’ll use. Use vinyl gloves for additional protection. When you’re finished, immediately throw the gloves away.

Then clean and disinfect any items you’ll have outside—things like patio furniture, railings, grill handles, and other high-touch surfaces.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maintain a safe distance from other campers (most health authorities recommend six feet). And avoid public restrooms, water fountains, and other public areas if at all possible.

2019 Dutch Star motorhome exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With so many products and surface types in your RV, the best way to ensure the products you’re using to disinfect are safe is to check care and maintenance directions provided by each manufacturer. These can be found in your manufacturers’ owner’s guides or online. These guidelines should help you stay safe and healthy while you’re still enjoying your RV.

Worth Pondering…

Each day I will rise and greet the morning sun, for it is a good day.