The Top 10 in 2021

Today, I’m delighted to bring you RVing with Rex’s Best of 2021: a collection of articles about RVing and the RV Lifestyle

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.
—Brad Paisley

Hello, RVing friends! The year has turned over and another 12 months of RVing, photography, hiking, and birding has crept by.

I tried to squeeze in all of the things I didn’t get to do this year into the last remaining days of 2021. Truth be told, we weren’t able to do a lot of things.

We can all agree this was a year like no other, at times feeling like a refugee from reality.

Sonoran Desert near Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who is pumped for 2022???

(cicadas chirp loudly)

Yeah, that seems to be the general vibe. While a new calendar year typically means exciting new opportunities, a chance for a fresh start, 2022 feels like it could just be another disappointing sequel to 2020 and 2021.

Historic Mesilla, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It makes sense—we’re all beaten down. We’ve socially distanced, worn masks, Zoomed into important events for what seems like an eternity. And each time we made progress toward normalcy a new variant came along and pushed us back into the Twilight Zone.

As each new variant arrived, lockdowns and quarantines returned. We circled back to the same old, same old, expecting different results.

Related: Best of 2020: Top 10 RVing Articles of 2020

I don’t have a feeling next year is going to be different, better.

Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some day in the future, this thing will transition into an endemic virus and we can go back to talking about all the things we talked about before COVID, like…yeah, I forget too.

As the year mercifully comes to a close, RVing with Rex celebrates the must-reads that you loved the most over the past 12 months. I’ll start off by doing a sincere thank you so much for reading this year and returning frequently to read my latest articles. Thank you for your continuing support!

The End is almost here!

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is article # 1,065 since my first post on January 16, 2019. Okay, the end isn’t near, but the end of the year is almost here, and it’s time to think about wrap-ups as 2020 draws to a close. The end of the year is the traditional time for doing a summary and some reflection.

Looking back there were certain events and articles that kindled reader interest.

Related: Top 10 RV Travel Tips of All Time

It’s always fascinating to look back and see what stories enjoyed the most readership and interest that year. The results often confound my expectations.

Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I check my readership data for several important reasons. First and foremost, I want to keep my finger on the pulse of what my readers actually want to read. While it’s tempting to assume I know what you want to read—my gut and personal preferences have some definite opinions—but the data is the reality.

This is actually a relief as it gives me a concrete direction on what types of content to focus on going forward. I can’t always provide the content that’s most wanted as I attempt to keep the blog well-rounded and offer something for all RVers—and wannabes—but the readership data is a fantastic guide.

Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVing with Rex would like to wish its readers a safe and happy New Year.

Here are the top 10 most read and most popular RVing with Rex posts of the year, listed in the order of their readership numbers.

The top 10 most popular articles of 2021 were…

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Absolutely Best Road Trips from Houston

Texas lends itself well to adventure

Originally Posted: March 17, 2020

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. 10 Amazing Places to RV in January

RV travel allows you to take the comforts of home on the road

Originally Posted: January 4, 2021

Related: Top 10 States with the Best Winter Weather

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. The Real Florida Comes Alive at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

This state park offers many opportunities to observe the Real Florida and its wildlife

Originally Posted: January 13, 2021

Travel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. The Pros and Cons of Buying a Travel Trailer

A travel trailer offers the amenities of a home with the portability of a trailer

Originally Posted: August 8, 2020

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

If you’re planning on snowbird RVing this winter consider one of these state parks. They all offer warm weather and beautiful views of the Gulf or Technicolor deserts.

Originally Posted: January 5, 2021

Related: Top 10 State Parks to Visit

Truth BBQ, Brennan, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. The Essential Guide to Eating Texas

Everything a foodie should know about the Lone Star State

Originally Posted: January 20, 2021

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

4. National Monuments Feature Places for Reflection and Hope

From the legacy of ancient peoples to Colonial times

Originally Posted: January 18, 2021

Tiffin motorhome at Jackson Riviera Casino RV Park, Jackson, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. THOR Buys Tiffin Motorhomes: What Happens Next?

THOR Industries Buys Tiffin Motorhomes

Originally Posted: January 16, 2021

Buckhorn Lake RV Park, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Announcing the Absolutely Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for 2021

Explore this guide to find some of the best camping locations across America

Originally Posted: January 3, 2021

And the most popular article of 2020 is…

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Absolutely Best Road Trip from LA to the Grand Canyon

This road trip goes from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park to Prescott to Williams to the Grand Canyon to Mojave National Preserve and back to LA

Originally Posted: July 26, 2020

A Happy New Year to all my readers. Best wishes for 2022. Find what brings you joy and go there.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

May the months ahead be filled with great RVing experiences! Remember, the journey, and not the destination, is the joy of RVing. Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in an RV.

Happy Trails. Life is an adventure. Enjoy your journey.

Worth Pondering…

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light,

The year is dying in the night.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow,

The year is going, let him go.

—Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Being a Snowbird in the Time of COVID

With COVID-19, will snowbirds still answer the call of warmer weather?

Now is the time when snowbirds flock south.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently announced that fully vaccinated Canadian travelers will be permitted to enter the United States via the land border for non-essential purposes effective November 8, 2021. When entering the United States for tourism purposes, travelers will be required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, such as their provincial vaccine receipt or QR code.

Goodyear, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It has been confirmed by the Biden Administration that international visitors who received a full course of any WHO-approved vaccine such as Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca will be recognized as fully vaccinated. Further, the U.S. government will also recognize travelers who received mixed doses of any WHO-approved vaccines as fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Palm Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canadian entering the United States at a land crossing will not be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. However, all air passengers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country are required to get tested for COVID-19 with a viral test no more than 3 days before their flight departs and must present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.

Related: Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

Laughlin, Nevada is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After a winter spent away from sunnier climates, many fully vaccinated Canadian snowbirds are set to make the trip south this year. But with the Delta variant surging in different parts of North America, some snowbirds are weighing their options as to the best way forward especially with the U.S. land border reopening to Canadians on November 8.

Casa Grande, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey conducted in June by Snowbird Advisor found that 91 percent of snowbirds intend to travel south this winter and two-thirds of them plan to spend more than three months outside of Canada. (A similar survey conducted last November found that only 30 percent of snowbirds had definite travel plans last winter.)

This eagerness to travel to warmer climates in the winter is evident but there’s an element of the snowbird population that’s taking a “wait-and-see” approach as well as some who are planning for a more uncertain future.

Desert Hot Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona and Florida are the ultimate destinations for Canadian Snowbirds. Arizona has become home to many snowbirds during the winter season. Canadians have contributed to Arizona’s economic growth with billions of dollars from tourism and snowbirds.

Related: Ultimate Collection of National Parks Perfect for Snowbirds

In 2020 there was a significant decrease from 1 million snowbirds to 200,000. Now that U.S. borders will open up to Canada in November, Arizona is hoping to see that rise again.

The Colorado River (Arizona/California) is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’re hoping and praying that they come back but it’s not a given. So we keep telling everyone in Arizona I hope you’re marketing to the Canadian tourists and snowbirds because they have choices,” said Glenn Williamson is the CEO and founder of Canada Arizona Business Council. 

As I ponder what it means to be a Canadian snowbird in the time of the COVID pandemic, my mind goes to Anne Murray and her famous song, Snowbird.

Venice, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the summer of 1970, Anne Murray released Gene MacLellan’s song, Bidin’ My Time. A DJ at a radio station in Cleveland flipped the single and played the B-side, another song by MacLellan called, Snowbird. The track quickly became popular with local listeners and eventually went on to become a surprise hit worldwide. The song sold over one million copies in the United States making Anne Murray the first Canadian female artist to receive a gold record in that country and establishing the careers of both Murray and MacLellan.

Phoenix, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in Springhill, Nova Scotia, the Anne Murray Centre had hoped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that remarkable accomplishment last year with a live event, but COVID put those plans on hold.

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

With the pandemic still affecting travel and live events, the center decided to present an online celebration—50+ Years of Snowbird—on its Facebook page.

Palm Desert, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anne was a big fan of MacLellan’s songwriting and would end up covering more than half a dozen of his songs. In her book, All of Me, Murray said, “Gene was not only a hugely gifted songwriter but also one of the most naturally soulful singers I’ve ever heard. He was a sweet, shy man of uncommon humanity, with a wonderful sense of humor.”

Gene’s daughter, Catherine MacLellan, took part in this online event.

Tucson, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“It’s a beautiful, broken-hearted love song,” said MacLellan. “It’s a really simple song that for some reason just keeps living on. No matter where I’ve been in the world, from Australia to the U.K. and Europe, people remember and love that song. It fascinates me. It took off in a way no one expected.”

The Alabama Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The song symbolizes the relationship between her father and Murray, she said, and it’s one she believes her late father was very proud of. She said he was pleased to see Murray receive international acclaim which helped open the lucrative international market to Canadian singers and songwriters.

Yuma, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Anne was really the first Canadian music superstar that made it big across the world,” said MacLellan who is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right having released seven full-length albums.

She has won multiple East Coast Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, and P.E.I. Music Awards as well as a Juno in 2015 for her album, The Raven’s Sun.

Indio, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2017, Catherine released If It’s Alright With You, a tribute album to her father, and created a stage show by the same name. She also produced an award-winning documentary about him called The Song and the Sorrow.

She will be interviewed by author Charlie Rhindress who has written best-selling books about Rita MacNeil and Stompin’ Tom Connors and is currently working on a book about Nova Scotia’s most accomplished female singers, including Murray.

The Florida Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I have spent most of my career telling Atlantic Canadian stories and celebrating people from the region, so I am thrilled to talk to Catherine about her father and Snowbird,” Rhindress said. “The year Snowbird swept the Juno Awards, Anne jokingly referred to herself, Gene, and her producer, Brian Ahern, as the Maritime Mafia. That song was instrumental in putting the east coast of Canada on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.”

Corpus Christi, Texas is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two will discuss the relationship between Anne and Gene as well as the history of Snowbird and some of Gene’s other songs which were covered by Anne including Put Your Hand in the Hand, The Call, and Bidin’ My Time. MacLellan will also discuss her father’s musical legacy and perform some of those songs which Murray recorded.

Related: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

The Anne Murray Centre was not able to open in 2020 due to COVID-19 and had a shortened season this year. To stay connected with its supporters, the center has hosted a series of online events over the past year.

Orlando, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbird

Beneath this snowy mantle cold and clean
The unborn grass lies waiting
For its coat to turn to green
The snowbird sings the song he always sings
And speaks to me of flowers
That will bloom again in spring
When I was young
My heart was young then, too
Anything that it would tell me
That’s the thing that I would do
But now I feel such emptiness within
For the thing that I want most in life’s
The thing that I can’t win
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
The breeze along the river seems to say
That he’ll only break my heart again
Should I decide to stay
So, little snowbird
Take me with you when you go
To that land of gentle breezes
Where the peaceful waters flow
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
Yeah, if I could you know that I would
Fl-y-y-y-y away with you

A Year Later and the Land Border Remains Closed to Canadian Snowbirds

Canadians eagerly awaiting the green flag to start their exodus across the U.S./Canadian border still don’t know when they will be allowed to travel south

As with Robert Frost’s two paths diverging in the woods, the COVID pandemic has hit a fork in the road for Canadian snowbirds.

All the leaves are changing, the temperature is falling, and the sky is gray… well, not yet. I’m just mentally preparing for fall. I love the crispness in the air perhaps because it triggers a snowbird response that tells me it’s time to start packing the RV for travel to warmer climes. Georgia O’Keefe said, “I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again,” and while that’s not really the whole story of what I did this summer (I’m guessing Georgia O’Keefe wasn’t dealing with back-to-back years of a pandemic), it’s pretty close!

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in Arizona. Pictured above is Canyon Vista RV Resort in Gold Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world has changed tremendously since our last winter in the U.S. Sunbelt which seems like so long ago. If you had told me that the land border to the United States would be closed for not just one winter but for two, I would have told you that was a bad joke. As it turns out…NOT!

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens have been able to travel to Canada for non-essential purposes for more than a month now. But the American side of the border remains closed to Canadians wanting to enter the U.S.

Though the closure has been ongoing for 18 months—since March 2020—the ban doesn’t apply to air travel. Absolute frustration is what it is. The biggest problem for snowbirds is why are you allowed to fly with 300 other people in a plane but you can’t drive in your own vehicle?

Many Canadian snowbirds winter on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Pictured above is Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bull Head City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

News of the land border restrictions for Canadians being extended came on the same day that the White House announced its plans to begin opening air travel for all vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. Since more than one million Canadians make the trek down south every year and 70 percent of snowbirds travel to the U.S. with their vehicles, the majority of Canadian Snowbirds are impacted. For some reason, Canadians with an RV are in a different situation; they usually spend about $20,000 when they winter in the U.S.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Coachella Valley (California). Pictured above is Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA in Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it still isn’t clear if, or when, Canadian citizens will be allowed to travel across the border. The prohibition on non-essential travel from Canada has been extended until at least October 21. The bottom line is those who want to leave prior to this day are not going anywhere and they must wait for another 30 days and see what happens then. Snowbirds had held off booking winter reservations in Canada (mostly the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the Okanagan, and Vancouver Island) in hopes that the U.S. would finally ease border restrictions that have been in place since the start of COVID-19 in March 2020. But with the White House announcing that restrictions at the land border on non-essential travel by Canadians will be extended another month, snowbirds are concerned that it will not open in time to drive south.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter along the Texas Coastal Bend. Pictured above is Sea Breeze RV Resort in Portland (near Corpus Christi) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Waiting another month or two to see whether the land border will open means dealing with winter driving conditions, or at worst, spending winter on the frigid prairies or snow-bound Ontario.

My confusion, and that of most other snowbirds, is trying to understand why I can fly, but not drive. And that is still my frustration! Driving seems to be much safer than going in and out of busy airports.

I’ll soon be basking in the sunshine (not likely) as we prep ourselves for a second winter in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We’ll spend the winter in a campground at Fort Langley, less than 50 miles east of Vancouver.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Rio Grande Valley. Pictured above is Bentsen Palm Village in Mission © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Camping has been running a winter program for a decade but last winter they had a bunch of new people come from the Prairies and as far east as Ontario and Quebec who would normally drive their RV to the U.S. Sunbelt.

The Lower Mainland of British Columbia may not be the best place for old people. For weeks on end, it was cloudy and rained incessantly. Decades ago research in Holland found a strong relationship between hours of sunlight in winter and the mortality rate among seniors: The more sunlight, the lower the death rate, and vice versa.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it has two meritorious features: The campground sits on an island in the Fraser River with numerous walking paths and hiking trails both inside the campground and on the outer reaches of the island on the Tavistock Trail. And the campground is within easy walking distance of the Village (Fort Langley) with its unique shops, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes. I welcome the variety of choices.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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…”

How National Parks Saved Us?

Ready to get back into nature, visitors are overwhelming some U.S. national parks

“There is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires,” wrote that ultimate advocate for nature, Henry David Thoreau, in his famous 1862 essay, Walking.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. is home to 63 national parks and 423 National Park Service (NPS) sites and it took a global pandemic to make many realize just how fortunate we are to have them. With flights grounded and borders closed, many Americans are road tripping to find some of that wilderness inspiration. Americans have taken to the national parks this summer in huge numbers as they discover the healing power of nature for the very first time. As bucket-list trips across the world were canceled, Americans discovered tent and RV camping, hiking, sightseeing, and unwinding in their own backyards—and in doing so found that the trip of a lifetime is just a drive away.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2020 the world shut down, but something inside us cracked open. For the first time in decades, the natural world took priority over extraneous distractions. There was a collective urgency to return to nature. But instead, they’ve often confronted crowded trails, traffic jams, and parking nightmares. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the country’s most famous national parks are grappling with an increasingly unsustainable rise in visitors. Zion National Park, for example, saw nearly 676,000 visitors in June, topping the number during the same period in 2019 by a wide margin. In June 2019, the park saw 595,000 visitors. The number dipped in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic to about 377,000 visitors. Two other Utah parks, Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park saw their busiest June ever with nearly 110,000 and 190,000 visitors respectively. Arches National Park temporarily delayed entry almost daily because of high visitation volumes but at the time of writing the official data had not been released. Utah national parks have seen visitation rise steadily over the past decade with some parks seeing their average annual attendance nearly double.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maine’s Acadia National Park hosted nearly 1.2 million visitors through June of this year, a 33 percent jump over the same period in 2019, just before the pandemic. Watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain is a gorgeous view—so breathtaking that on some days, as many as 500 cars could be found vying for the scenic overlook’s 150 parking spots. In response, some of the most popular national parks have been forced to close their gates early in the day.

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

“Watching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain is a wonderful experience,” said Sen. Angus King of Maine at a Senate subcommittee hearing on overcrowded parks in late July. “Staring at the taillights of the car in front of you as you are trying to get up the mountain and find a parking place? Not so much.”

That competition has become more manageable since Acadia officials began using a reservation system in May.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Marquee destinations like Montana’s Glacier National Park and nearby Yellowstone have seen the number of annual visitors double since 1980. Yellowstone saw 4 million visitors in 2019 and Glacier tallied more than 3 million. Like Acadia, Glacier also has implemented a ticketed-entry system for summer-season visitors seeking to access Going-to-the-Sun Road between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

In 2019 alone, there were 327 million visits to U.S. national parks—or the equivalent of every American making a park visit, said Kristen Brengel, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association.

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

Concerns that U.S. national parks are being “loved to death” have been raised for years but 2021 seems to be emphatically underlining them. “The growth in visitor numbers poses “one of the greatest challenges (the National Park Service) has ever faced,” Kristen Brengel, senior vice president for government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told the hearing.

U.S. national parks—“America’s Best Idea,” as Ken Burns referred to them in his 2009 documentary series—are doing what they were intended to do: provide memorable encounters with the often spectacular beauty and wonder of the natural world. Especially now, visitors can hardly be blamed for wanting to take a deep breath and soak it all in.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Out of the country’s 423 NPS sites half of the visits are taking place at 23 parks with the worst crowding at just a couple of dozen iconic places (think Yellowstone, Zion, Yosemite, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Arches, Rocky Mountain, Lake Mead). Visitors can plan a more pleasant stay at a lesser-known park. Following are 10 of the least visited parks along with the number of recreational visits in 2020. Each park offers a visitor center, hiking trails, and numerous opportunities to commune with nature.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National park crowding may ease in the future as other travel options open up. But lessons learned now can help parks improve visitor experiences. 

As Yogi Berra, famous for his terse and memorable expressions, would have put it, the last thing that should be said of these treasures is “It’s too crowded. Nobody goes there anymore.”

Worth Pondering…

National Parks are being “loved to death” and solutions are urgently needed to manage, disperse, and educate crowds while increasing access for all.

—Lebawit Lily Girma, travel writer

Yes, these are the Most Visited National Parks in 2020

Outdoor experiences provided refuge from the pandemic for 237 million visitors to America’s national parks in 2020

While some people will spend their summer at the beach, many families will head out this summer to experience some of the great National Parks that America has to offer. Last year’s COVID closures resulted in fewer visitors but with people seeking outdoor activities many folks visited at least one National Park Service (NPS) site. Although overall visitation dropped, a number of parks experienced record crowds and welcomed new visitors. Trails, overlooks, and open spaces provided safe ways for visitors to recreate responsibly, get some fresh air, and stay active.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This past year has reminded us how important national parks and public lands are to overall wellbeing,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “Throughout the country, national parks provided close-to-home opportunities for people to spend much needed time outdoors for their physical and psychological health.”

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every National Park Service operation and parks continue to work with public health officials to navigate changing conditions. A maximum 66 of the 423 parks of the National Park System were fully closed for two months or more. The majority of parks—particularly those with outdoor spaces—remained accessible to the public. Just a handful of historic and cultural parks, primarily historic homes with limited indoor space, remain closed.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional information from the 2020 visitation report includes:

  • Recreation visitor hours dipped from 1.4 billion in 2019 to 1.05 billion in 2020, a 26 percent decrease
  • 15 parks set a new recreation visitation record in 2020
  • Five parks broke a visitation record they set in 2019
  • Blue Ridge Parkway claimed the title of most-visited site in the National Park System
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park maintained its long-running position as the most visited National Park in 2020, a position it has held since 1944
  • Grand Canyon National Park dropped from the second-most visited national park—a position it held for 30 years—to the sixth most-visited
  • Yellowstone National Park moved from the sixth most-visited national park in 2019 to second most-visited—a position it has not held since 1947
  • Four parks began reporting official visitor statistics for the first time: Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and Valles Caldera National Preserve
Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2020 by the numbers

  • 237,064,332 recreation visits
  • 1,054,952,540 recreation visitor hours
  • 8,039,768 overnight stays (recreation + non-recreation)
  • Three parks had more than 10 million recreation visits—Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Seven parks had more than five million recreation visits—down from 11 parks in 2019
  • 60 parks had more than one million recreation visits (15 percent of reporting parks)—down from 80 parks in 2019
  • 19 national parks had more than one million recreation visits (30 percent of National Parks)
  • 25 percent of total recreation visits occurred in the top six most-visited parks (1.5 percent of all parks in the National Park System
  • 50 percent of total recreation visits occurred in the top 23 most-visited parks (6 percent of all parks in the National Park System)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top 10 most visited NPS sites

Blue Ridge Parkway (14,099,485)

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (12,400,045)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (12,095,720)

Gateway National Recreation Area (8,404,728)

Lake Mead National Recreation Area (8,016,510)

George Washington Memorial Parkway (6,237,391)

Natchez Trace Parkway (6,124,808)

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park (4,888,436)

Cape Cod National Seashore (4,083,505)

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (4,068,529)

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top 10 most visited national parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (12,095,720)

Yellowstone National Park (3,806,306)

Zion National Park (3,591,254)

Rocky Mountain National Park (3,305,199)

Grand Teton National Park (3,289,638 million)

Grand Canyon National Park (2,897,098)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (2,755,628)

Acadia National Park (2,669,034)

Olympic National Park (2,499,177)

Joshua Tree National Park (2,399,542)

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit lesser-known national parks

Every national park-lover needs to visit Great Smoky Mountains, Zion, and the Grand Canyon at some point but consider visiting some of the lesser-known parks as well. One of my favorite “sleeper” parks is Petrified Forest in Arizona where you’ll find remains of a colorful prehistoric forest, some of the logs more than 100 feet long and up to 10 feet in diameter. But there’s so much more: artifacts of the ancient indigenous people who lived here including the remains of large pueblos and massive rock art panels, fossils of plants and animals from the late Triassic period (the dawn of the dinosaurs), a striking and vast painted desert (a badland cloaked in a palette of pastel colors), a remnant of historic Route 66 complete with a 1932 Studebaker, and a wilderness of more than 50,000 acres where you can find wildness, beauty, and quiet.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other favorites include Congaree in South Carolina (the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeast) and California’s remote Lassen Volcanic, one of the only places in the world that has all four types of volcanoes—cinder cone, composite, shield, and plug dome.

Go outside, spring is for feeling alive in national parks.

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

The Ultimate #OptOutside Guide

It’s amazing what a couple of hours outside can do for your well-being. Fresh air is a state of mind. One we could all use a little more of these days.

For a lot of people, the pandemic has turned life upside down. It’s decimated savings, derailed dreams, and thrown the future into dark uncertainty. I’ve been fortunate to have remained relatively unscathed especially compared with those who have fallen sick, lost jobs, or faced other challenges. Fifty-three percent of adults report that pervasive concerns about the virus have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a poll conducted in July by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

#OptOutside at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Especially now, we need outdoor spaces free from the distractions of modern technology and the negativity of our never-ending social media feeds. There are numerous mental health benefits to be found in spending time outdoors, be it a neighborhood walk or bike ride. But there’s something special about the deep woods, the wide-open desert, mountain landscape, even the forested corners of an urban park. Those places help to remove us from the anxieties and stresses of everyday life.

#OptOutside at Lynx Lake near Prescott, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On Black Friday, we’re going outside. Because we need to! Because that’s where we feel good, and awesome, and human again! Join us!

Ways to Spend More Time Outside

Here is a list of ways to spend more time outdoors. Some big! Some small! Some you can do right outside your door wherever you are. I hope this list serves as inspiration and motivation, or at least a little nudge in the right direction (hopefully, that’s outside).

#OptOutside on Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watch the sunrise

Explore a local park

Walk a mile

Check out a new neighborhood

Camp someplace new

#OptOutside in Redding, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camp someplace old

Dance in the rain

Find the end of a rainbow

Walk in the snow

Park your car and walk and then walk some more

#OptOutside at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just walk out of your door

Take a hike

Take your dog for an extra-long walk

Walk around a lake

Read a book under a tree

#OptOutside at Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go RVing

Climb the biggest hill you can see

Reflect on your time outside through journaling

Explore a new trail

Spend a day in the woods

#OptOutside at Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have a picnic

Climb a mountain

Hug a tree

Feel sand in your toes

Splash in a stream

#OptOutside at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kayak or canoe in a lake or creek

Walk in a meadow

Feel the wind on your face

Surround yourself with trees

Walk a dry creek bed

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

Stroll around a park

Stop and smell the roses (literally)

Go camping in a tent

Look for a four-leaf clover

Listen to the birds

#OptOutside at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sit on a pier

Visit a national park

Visit a state park

Visit a regional or county park

Enjoy a new path

#OptOutside at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Optoutside and cast a line

Go bird watching

Observe nature with a camera

Float a river

Stand on a summit (any size will do)

#OptOutside at Natural Bridges National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Listen to the ocean

Pick up trash while on the trail

Watch the sunset

Watch the moon rise

Count the stars in the night sky

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

The #OptOutside movement was started by the outdoor retail company REI in 2015. The basic meaning of #OptOutside is: Go outdoors on Black Friday instead of shopping.

Everything is easier said than done. So don’t just read or say it; do it!

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir

How to Visit National Parks during COVID: Here’s what you can do in 22 of the 62

National parks are open with COVID restrictions in place

Between wildfire concerns in the West and park closures both seasonal and weather-based, the status of these parks can change overnight. Check—then double check—each park to ensure you’re traveling safely and to a place you can actually access. We’ll continue to intermittently update this list throughout the winter. 

If you thought the national parks—which punched well above their weight in providing quarantine relief once they reopened—would be able to ease out of fall and into winter, you are underestimating 2020. Most parks are humming along with COVID restrictions in place. But seasonal closures are going into effect in many areas. Wildfires have effectively closed Rocky Mountain while smoke continues to choke parks all along the west coast. Even in places where skies are clear new safety protocols make visiting the parks somewhat more complicated. 

To keep you informed on the status of each national park—what services are available, whether you can camp, and more—I’ve kept tabs on 22 of the 62 to ensure you’re maximizing your time outdoors. This list is current as of November 14, 2020. Now go forth and be safe.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities:  Yes

Arches is back in pretty much full swing… and everybody knows it. If the park is at capacity, they will very much turn you away. The whole of Utah is basically one big national park so if you do get turned away, you still have many, many options. 

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

This South Dakota icon with its rugged geologic beauty is mostly open for business as usual. Be sure to stop off for free ice water at Wall Drug while you’re here: Now that the Sturgis rally is long over and all the Hogs have gone home, you’ll likely find smaller crowds at the T-rex show. 

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Status:  Open
Camping:  Limited
Amenities: Yes

After COVID crashed the party this summer things are easing back to normal. Day-use hikes and backcountry stays are on the table so make a reservation for one of the limited RV campsites. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

Bryce is pretty much back in full swing with distancing protocols and a limit on campground occupancy. Shuttles are open, horses are rearin’ to go, breakfast is back on the menu, and ranger tours are a thing again. One of Utah’s greatest treasures has awoken. 

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

This oft-overlooked Utah gem is back and going strong: You can now hit up the winding roads and endless trails then bed down at campsites. You can also score supplies at park stores. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

This International Dark Sky Park combines the best of Utah’s more famous national parks into one lesser-visited package of awesomeness. And it’s fully open for all activities including camping, hiking, and checking out the visitor center.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No

Carlsbad’s open with one-way traffic in the cavern. No timed entry except November 21-29 and December 19-January3. The bat flight can still be viewed from the east parking lot past the visitor center around sunset each evening.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited

The nation’s oldest hardwood bottomland didn’t keep its 500-year-old bald cypress and water tupelo alive through multiple plagues, yellow fever, and the Twilight saga by taking chances. The park opened slowly and now most of it’s in play: That means you can hike in most of the park, canoe and fish, and camp if you scored a spot. 

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

The Grand Canyon has widened (pun aside) its access 24/7 though there are some limits. Campsites are slowly expanding their availability and lodges are now open.

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

The nation’s most popular park allows access to most of its sprawling trails so go forth and peep those leafs but keep an eye on their site for closures. If you’re looking to stay overnight, several campgrounds are now open though most are still on lockdown.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

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 cult compounds of up to 25 people. Those are available on a first come, first served basis so arrive early if you plan to find yourself at night peering up at the star-studded heavens as is the way here.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities:  Yes

This remarkable park in Northern California’s Shasta Cascades is now offering up ample access to its rugged wilderness and rare geothermal delights. Just be sure to take that “rugged” part seriously. For example, Manzanita Lake is currently closed because river otters—we kid you not—will not hesitate to straight-up maul your face if they think you’re a threat to their babies. And check for snow closures before heading out.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

America’s largest archeological preserve has been around since 7,500 BC and is more or less in full swing at this point though you still can’t tour the cliff-dwellings, the museum, or the main visitor center. Otherwise, go nuts, and feel free to stay in the RV campground or the lodge. 

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No

The park road, trails, and very hard wilderness areas are now open at this stunning park that suddenly pops up along both sides of Route 66 in eastern Arizona. Even if you’re just on an epic road trip you should make it a point to cruise through.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pinnacles National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No

The site for this Central California park boasts about it being “Born of Fire.” Right now, fire danger is extreme following significant fire-related closures. Be smart. 

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping:  Yes
Amenities: Yes

Located on either side of Tucson, this cacti-laden gem is currently allowing tent campers though groups are limited to 10 which gives you a good excuse not to invite Cousin Eddie. 

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping:  Yes
Amenities:  Yes
Both Kings Canyon and the densely forested Sequoia are open but fires are causing closures in and around the park. Smoke is giving it a serious ’70s dive bar vibe. You can still visit but will likely have a better experience sometime down the road.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Status: Open
Camping:  Yes
Amenities:  Yes

Renowned for its fabled Skyline Drive, this national treasure encompassing part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is well into phase 3 which means you can now access Old Rag and Whiteoak, set up shop in backcountry campgrounds and huts, and pitch a tent in designated sites provided you respect the social distancing rules.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Backcountry only
Amenities: Limited

Look, it’s not like they named this ultra-underrated park—where the prairies and the Badlands converge, forests stand petrified, Buffalo and antelope 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 for day use and backcountry camping. Seasonal closures, however, are currently in place as winter comes early in these parts. And I’m talking big time cold and snow!

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park. New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Yes

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 months later and was among the last to reopen. But hey, it’s open now! No, you can’t camp. Yes, you can rent a sled and go rocketing down the dunes. Seems like a fair tradeoff. Then head up the road Alamogordo way for the World’s largest nut!

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

One of America’s most beloved parks is easing back into public life with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and many park trails currently open, though Angels Landing is still off limits. Shuttles, too, are back in business on a timed reservation system. Services including canyon rides and the Zion Lodge are also back in action. 

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

Get Inspired To Get Back Out There

Sometimes, “great outdoors” is an understatement

Good morning. Every now and again, it’s good to remind ourselves what a bizarre world we are living in. So far, 2020 has been a year like no other! With less than two months left, no one is sure whether it’s flown by or dragged on. One thing is for sure, though—you deserve some recognition for sticking with us through it all! 

RV Exterior cleaning at Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your impulse to scrub every corner of your home (on-wheels) has benefited household goods companies handsomely. P&G, the consumer goods giant and owner of Tide and Charmin, said organic sales jumped 6 percent higher for the past fiscal year. The company’s fabric and home-care unit (which includes Swiffer, Mr. Clean, and Dawn) grew 14 percent, the biggest-ever bump. 

A clean coach at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why? One word: COVID. People who are suddenly cleaning their doorknobs twice a day tend to buy more cleaning products. An added layer of P&G’s success? We kept buying its products even at premium prices during an economic slowdown—P&G’s wares are generally a bit more costly than competitors. 

A clean coach at Sonoran Desert RV Resort (formerly Gila Bend KOA) in Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zoom out: Disinfecting like mad has also polished the reputations of other cleaning-focused brands. Clorox reported overall sales increase of 27 percent from a year ago and double-digit increases in eight of its 10 business units. People are using Clorox’s namesake disinfectant products to clean household surfaces, cell phones, and laptops—but the company is also benefiting from people cooking more at home instead of going out. That’s because Clorox also owns the plastic bag brand Glad and the charcoal line Kingsford. Sales for Clorox’s household division, the unit that includes these products, soared 39 percent compared to last year.

In an Axios/Harris poll of U.S. attitudes toward companies, Clorox got the best grades in “Ethics” and “Products & Services” and came in second in “Trust.”

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

It’s Fall, Y’all

Fall isn’t just a time for pumpkin-spiced everything, cool-weather hikes, and Thanksgiving overindulgence. It’s also when nature shows off the autumnal art display of trees clad in brilliant colors.

Autumn along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the world grapples with the current reality, the great outdoors have become a welcome respite. Biking is on the rise. RVs became mobile motels for a new generation of traveler. And camping is a now go-to weekend activity for backcountry aficionados and newbies alike. With fall in full swing, there is an unlimited supply of ideal camping destinations coast to coast. 

With wildly diverse wilderness, a massive playground for campers of all walks, whether you’re seeking a trip to one of the country’s most celebrated national parks or one of its most underrated.

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

National parks might get all the fame and glory, but the United States is dotted with some stunning state parks as well. America is home to more than 10,000 state parks attracting some 739 million annual visitors. As more and more travelers seek the open road and open spaces, those numbers will continue to grow. More and more of these parks are catering to RV travelers with campgrounds, hookups, and other amenities.

Autumn in Brasstown Bald State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t let the cool temperatures of the fall season keep you from getting out and camping. There are great advantages to “cold season” camping including fewer people, fall colors, and seeing areas in different seasons to name just a few. With some preparation you can stay comfortable in cooler temperatures and keep on adventuring.

Driving Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jaw-dropping vistas can be discovered after a long hike or by simply pulling off the road. Whether you’re looking to flee the big city or stop off for a while in the middle of a cross-country journey there are campsites for all interests. 

Autumn in Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today’s post is all about road trips going on RIGHT NOW. I am feeling pent up and could use the expanse of the horizon line to keep me going in these COVID-trying times. Filling my mug with coffee, hiking a local trail, and channeling some of my favorite road dawgs from Jack Kerouac and Paul Theroux to John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie! Put the phone on RV mode and ride off into the sunset. But also, check it every once in a while so you can keep up with the latest RVing with Rex post.

Walking the trails at Bernheim Forest near Louisville, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All that said, I hope you are safe, and making the best of our challenging times. Be wise. Be careful. Don’t take needless chances. Be kind to others because right now that goes a long way to comforting people who are nervous, scared, or otherwise emotionally hurting over the dramatic upheaval in their lives.

And thank you for reading.

Worth Pondering…

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

—Winston Churchill

How COVID-19 Changed RVing

Six significant ways that COVID-19 has impacted the RV lifestyle

It seems like we’ve been dealing with the various effects and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic forever, but it’s really just been in the United States and Canada since February. There were reports of coronavirus infections prior to that time but community spread was first proven about eight months ago. It just feels like eight years.

What follows is an analysis of the impact COVID-19 has brought to the RV community. I’ll also offer several tips to help you navigate these impacts.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Impact: Campgrounds and RV parks close temporarily

On Tuesday, March 17th, a Florida state campground ranger knocked on a camper’s door, stood back, and informed them they had to leave the campground and park by that Friday. Everyone camping in the Florida State Parks was being evicted—no exceptions.

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

Numerous accounts of campers being forced out of their campgrounds and RV parks surfaced coast-to-coast. As RV parks closed, many snowbirds, full-time, and other far-from-home RVers were stranded. Our future RV park reservation was cancelled and we were left scrambling.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Closing campgrounds and RV parks was the first major impact of COVID-19 facing RVers. For us, it was the red flag warning that this virus was not something that we could ignore. By mid-March, national, state, county, and private campgrounds were closing coast-to-coast due to an increasing number of COVID-19 shut-downs and shelter-in-place orders. 

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By late April, Campendium reported 46-percent of their listed campgrounds were closed due to the pandemic. Essentially half of the possible campground sites across the continent were shut down. Over the course of the following four months, federal, state, and local authorities lifted and adjusted coronavirus-related orders allowing RV parks to reopen. By mid-July, Campendium reported just 9-percent of their listed campgrounds remain closed. Although they have not updated that information, it’s likely to have further improved.

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’re all hopeful that the worst of this wretched experience is behind us and RV park closures do not return. Don’t let what happened to us happen to you. Have a Plan B campsite plan ready, COVID or not. The best made plans can occasionally fall through on the road. Things do happen.

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

Second Impact: High RV demand

Seemingly every journalist who could locate their laptop has published an excited article on how RVing is the “best socially-distanced travel alternative to flying and cruising”. It’s as if every network, newspaper, and knucklehead blogger simultaneously discovered RVs and decided to join the Go RVing marketing team.

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having read a few of these articles I have no doubt that most of these reporters have never stepped foot in an RV and are probably bored out of their minds working at home. You can almost hear them mutter, “Maybe I could get an RV and get out of here”.

The Lakes RV and Golf Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This coverage has triggered unprecedented demand for RVs from the general public while ill-preparing newbies for life on the road. Obviously this has been an unexpected godsend for the RV industry but it’s not all roses and sunshine for those of us who already love the RV lifestyle.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Third Impact: Tight RV supply

RVs are flying off dealer lots and showrooms across the United States and Canada. Inventory is currently the lowest they’ve ever seen. And RV manufacturers hampered by COVID-19 shutdowns and related supply shortages are struggling to keep up with the extraordinary demand the pandemic triggered. You can still find RVs on dealer lots but selection is limited. 

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

If you want a new RV that’s not in stock at your local dealer place an order as soon as possible. Otherwise, it may be a long wait before they have what you’re looking for on their lot. With the high demand and the short supply of new RVs, interest in pre-owned RVs is also high.

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

Fourth Impact: Stretched RV service

For years the RV industry has struggled to find qualified service techs. When the pandemic created a tremendous surge in new customers, it exacerbated already tight service availability. Service has been further hampered as customers, managers, and service techs are required to maintain social distancing and a variety of safety protocols.

When you require RV service, call for an appointment as early as possible. When you call, be prepared for an appointment date further out than you would prefer as dealers work through an increasing service demand.

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

Fifth Impact: Strained RV park availability

The surge in RV popularity has also dramatically increased demand for campgrounds and RV parks. This demand may subside once people feel safe flying, cruising, and staying in hotels again. COVID-19 has allowed a host of newbies to discover the magic and fun of the RV lifestyle but not all will stay with it.

Make RV park reservations as far in advance as possible to increase the likelihood of obtaining the site you desire. Once again, have a Plan B campsite or overnight location in place.

Eagle Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sixth Impact: Travel restrictions

As of this writing, the United States and Canada have agreed to extend the border closings to non-essential travel through November 21. Furthermore, some U.S. states have their own specific travel restrictions and may require self-quarantine for 14-days. 

Needless to say, these restrictions are not exactly what, “Go Anywhere” RVing is all about! As the COVID-19 situation improves these travel restrictions will change. Be sure to research any possible travel restrictions along your route before setting out and keep an eye on them as you travel.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bottom Line: COVID stinks, but we can adapt

The impacts of COVID-19 are negative and positive, sometimes at the same time. We are pleased to see the RV industry doing so well. At the same time that strength and interest in RVing has brought its own challenges. These six impacts should be temporary but they cannot be ignored.

In summary, anything and everything related to RVs—including the availability of units, service, campgrounds and RV parks, dump stations, national and state parks, BLM lands, and even rentals are all experiencing higher demand than ever before. As RVers, it’s important to understand these new realities and ways to deal with them.

Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing lasts forever and this too will pass. RV manufacturers will eventually meet the increased demand, and that demand will subside to normal. RV dealers will eventually work through the increased service need and that too will return to normal. RV parks will expand and new parks will emerge as the reservations return to what was prior to COVID. And yes, RV travel between Canada and the United States will resume.

Worth Pondering…

We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems!

—Lee Iacocca

Life Lessons during the COVID Era

Here are some lessons for life to be learned from the pandemic. Many we probably should have known all along, but the current situation has brought them out again in sharp relief.

We all thought this was a temporary thing. But here we are. People are already calling this the “COVID era” as if they are reading about it in a history book. But we’re still going through it. 

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For us the social distancing and handwashing aren’t that bad. We got used to that stuff quickly. The tough part about this era is that life has changed permanently for many folks. 

Salton Sea, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rifts are created between people with different beliefs on wearing a mask. Complete industries are swept away and will probably never be the same. The world has truly changed. 

In this article, I’m sharing life lessons I’ve learned from observing these changes. Hopefully, these short reminders will make life during this era easier for you.

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard on everybody

I know your life is hard. But so is the life of your neighbor. That puts us all in the same boat. So go easy on yourself and others.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing is forever

It seems like this will last forever. But everything dies. And so will pandemics.

Harvesting in Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Make the best of your time

Accepting circumstances doesn’t mean we give up. Make the best of it. To be clear: Worrying and thinking about stuff that’s outside of your control is NOT a good use of your time. Yes, easier said than done. I know.

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

Take a breather

Take a moment for yourself and breeeeath…. Aaaah. Yes, that’s the feeling.

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

Exercise every day

Go for a walk or hike. Stay in shape. If you’re not injured or ill, it’s your duty to take care of your body. Never take this lightly. 

Fraser River at Hope, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Get off social media

Social media is a waste of your time. Always! Pretty much so!

Gilroy Garlic Festival, California © Rex Vogel, all rights

Read books

Reading is a better use of your time. We all have reading lists with hundreds of books on them. And we’re not going to live 200 years. That means you need to make some tough choices. Which books will you read before you die?

Boyds Bears, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights

Learn new skills

Technology is improving and changing so fast that we’re not aware what’s going on. We just learn it after the fact. But that may be too late. Stay on top of your game and keep learning new skills you need to do good work.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Keep a daily journal

The COVID-19 pandemic will probably be one of the weirdest times of our lives. Don’t you want to document this? Even if you never read it again, it’s still worth writing because it makes you a better thinker. 

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights

Inspiration comes from within

“I need to go to Sedona for inspiration.” Or replace Sedona with any city or place. Why do we think inspiration comes from the outside? Look inside!

Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Good food improves your mood

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary and adventurous? Try a Philly cheesesteak, poutine, crab cake, gumbo, alligator, jambalaya, boudin, étouffée, crawfish, Texas BBQ, green chili cheese burger, tamales, chimichanga, or hushpuppies. On the sweet side, try Key lime pie, kolaches, sweet potato pie, goo goo clusters, apple pie, pecan pralines, Ben & Jerry’s, or Blue Bell ice cream. Take your taste buds for a tour!

Don’s Specialty Meats, Scott, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Objects will not make you happy

STOP BUYING CRAP ONLINE! You need to tell yourself that after a few too many useless purchases.

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

More money is not the answer

I’m not going to lie. Having a little bit of money will lighten the load. So start that online business or side-gig you’ve been thinking about. But don’t expect that money will make you happy. It just solves your money problems. Nothing else!

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

Do work you enjoy

Just because you need to survive, don’t say yes to the first available job you encounter. And also don’t start some kind of soulless online business so you can make a few bucks. Find something you enjoy—and that pays the bills. 

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights

Appreciate what you have

Grass is always greener on… So here’s a reminder: If you’re reading this on your smartphone in the comfort of your home, life isn’t so bad!

Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Give back

Do something altruistic. It’s fine to give money to charity. But I’m not talking about that. Talk to your elderly neighbors, hold the door for someone, do a small kindness. Small things have a positive impact on people.

Change is good

Life is hard when your job is no longer there. But remember, change is a part of life. And in the long-term, it’s good. We just don’t see the sunshine when we’re going through a storm. 

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Stop consuming. Start creating.

The world never changed for the better by doing nothing. Right now, our biggest challenge is paralysis by consumption. We’re over-consuming everything: News, food, clothes, entertainment, you name it. To get through this era, we need more action. So stop sitting there and go create something. Without creation, there’s no progress.

Hopefully we’ll also feel a new sense of appreciation when we get to act normal again. And hopefully that, and the other lessons we pull from this over time, will stick around for a long time. Let’s hope we’ll be smart enough to remember these life lessons over the long-term.

Worth Pondering…

To re-create yourself anew in every moment in the grandest version of the greatest vision ever you had about Who You Really Are. That is the purpose in becoming human, and that is the purpose of all of life.

— Neale Donald Walsch, in Conversations with God