Georgia Is On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind

Whitewater rafting, mountain hiking, beachside biking, music and art festivals, local shops and boutiques, history, and southern hospitality…there’s so much to experience in the Peach State. Keep Georgia on your mind as you plan your next RV trip.

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History buffs will find plenty to see and do in Georgia, including history and heritage museums, historic homes, as well as tours and trails. The Ocmulgee National Monument is dedicated to the 12,000 years of human habitation in the Macon area. Earthen mounds and a ceremonial lodge are available for viewing.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk down the cobblestone streets of Georgia’s first city in Savannah, a place filled with southern charm and the largest historic district in the country. Steeped in history, antebellum beauty and architectural treasures, Savannah begs to be explored on foot and by trolley. Much of Savannah’s charm lies in meandering through the Historic District’s lovely shaded squares draped in feathery Spanish moss—all 22 of them. Along the way, you’ll happen upon numerous historic homes like the Mercer Williams House, popularized by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the home of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1736, three years after the founding of Savannah, James Oglethorpe came to St. Simons Island to establish a town that would serve as a bulwark against the Spanish in Florida who still claimed the coastal islands now being settled by the English. To achieve this goal, he established Frederica.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the incredible 100 miles of Georgia’s coastline lies the magical seaside retreat of the Golden Isles. Nestled along stretches of sand dunes and salt marshes, the mainland city of Brunswick and its four beloved barrier islands—St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Islands—offer breathtaking landscapes, a variety of recreational pursuits, and inherent tranquility.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore is the largest and southernmost of Georgia’s barrier islands, offering a wild escape in a natural landscape of dunes, marshlands, maritime forests, and wild horses roaming its beaches. The National Seashore spans more than 36,000 acres, nearly a third of which is designated wilderness.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved Macon

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, discover the more than 400 Civil War sites offering a wealth of battlefields, cemeteries, arsenals, museums, mansions, and stories.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okefenokee is an area of swampland in southern Georgia, covering more than 770 square miles. It is a maze of watercourses, cypress swamps, and swamp grassland. Interesting features are the “floating islands,” which quake under foot but nevertheless support whole forests and in the past provided protection for Indian settlements. The swamp is home to many endangered species, as well as an estimated 10,000 alligators. From the little town of Waycross there are boat trips into the swamp.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia’s 47 state parks offer opportunities for outdoor adventure. Go rafting or kayaking on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus. Hike the Appalachian Trail that starts at Springer Mountain in the North Georgia Mountains.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Laura S. Walker State Park offers a large campground, golf course, and Sportsman’s Cabins, as well as kayak rentals, playgrounds, and trails. The park is designed to allow visitors to get the most out of the time they spend in nature. It surrounds Laura S. Walker Lake and sits just to the north of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Stephen Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park spans 80 acres, anchored around the gorgeous Okefenokee Swamp. Park visitors can canoe, kayak, and boat on the Spanish moss-lined swamp’s waters or embark on guided fishing and boating tours.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of the Blood Mountain. Four hiking trails of varying difficulty offer opportunities to observe spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains scenery year-round, most popular during the autumn months as leaf-watching routes. A 22-acre lake is also open for boaters, along with a seasonal swimming beach available to visitors of all ages throughout the summer months. With all there is to see and do, you’ll want to make sure that Georgia is on your mind.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Visiting National Parks in Retirement

When picking your next national park adventure, consider what you love to do, hope to see, and what’s most important to you

Retirement! What does that word mean to you? For us, it means RV travel and the freedom to visit places we’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have the time.

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

National parks are amazing places to visit for people of all ages. Whether it’s to walk the trail, hike, or camp these parks are national treasures that should be seen and enjoyed.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Parks are an ideal destination for retirees not only because of the distinct natural beauty. But also because anyone over 62 visiting these protected lands can purchase a senior pass.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Senior Pass is a ticket that covers entrance fees to 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees to national parks and wildlife refuge as well as day use fees at national forests and grasslands. This includes lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If you are visiting a location that changes per person, the pass will also cover the entrance fee for up to four adults. If you are visiting a location that charges per vehicle, the pass covers the non-commercial vehicle and its passengers.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can either buy an annual pass for $20 or a lifetime pass for $80. You have to be a U.S. citizen age 62 and over in order to be eligible to buy one. You also need to have proof of residency and age before the pass is issued.

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

Over half a million senior passes are sold each year to retirees who want to explore both the big-name parks as well as the smaller, more obscure (but still stunning) sites. To help narrow down the choices, here are 10 of our favorite federal recreation sites for retirees to hit. Though technically not a national park, this list includes national wildlife refuges, national seashores, national monuments, and national military sites.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okefenokee is the largest intact freshwater wetland in North America. The Refuge is made up of a variety of habitats, and includes over 40,000 acres of pine uplands that are managed for longleaf pine around the swamp perimeter and on interior islands. Other habitats include open prairies, forested wetlands, scrub shrub, and open water (lakes).

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

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

You can drive along the rim and take in the views from above, but the best way to experience Canyon de Chelly is to take a guided tour of the canyon. You’ll learn the history of the canyon, from the Anasazi who left behind cliff dwellings to the current Navajo residents who still farm in the canyon.

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history. Built by the Carnegies, the ruins of the opulent 59-room, Queen Anne-style Dungeness are a must-see for visitors.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

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

Bosque del Apache supports one of the most diverse and unique assemblages of habitat and wildlife within the Southwest. Eleven miles of the Rio Grande bisects the Refuge. The extraordinary diversity and concentration of wildlife in a desert environment draws people from around the world to observe and photograph wildlife.

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park is called Arches for a very good reason. There are roughly 2,000 arches within the park — delicate, natural sculptures varying from three to over 300 feet high. Arches is also full of towers, spires, hoodoos, and ochre-colored sand.

Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A park that will please history buffs as well as nature lovers, Gettysburg is famous for the major Civil War battle that took place on its grounds in 1863. History struck again when it became the site of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address later that year.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Warm days and cool nights make winter an ideal time to visit Saguaro. The park has two areas separated by the city of Tucson. The Rincon Mountain District (East) has a lovely loop drive that offers numerous photo ops. The Tucson Mountain District (West) has many hiking trails, including some with petroglyphs at Signal Mountain.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Ana is a great place to visit for birding and draws in people from all to look for birds like the Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Jay, and Altamira Orioles. There are 12 miles of trails, visitor center, suspension bridge, and 40 foot tower for visitors to explore.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other: a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles protecting a diversity of plants and animals.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, and oases. The park provides an introduction to the variety and complexity of the desert environment and a vivid contrast between the higher Mojave and lower Sonoran deserts.

Worth Pondering…

On being retired…we woke up this morning with nothing to do and by evening we had not completed it!

The Absolute Best Places to RV This December

Embrace the magic this holiday season in a warm destination

As a whole, the month of December is a whirlwind. Even as the chaos of Thanksgiving weekend begins to fade, the world is already preparing for the end-of-year holiday season.

Balancing the frenzy of shopping and family time can be daunting, but those who manage to squeeze in time to get away, will find warm weather, seasonal festivals, and beautiful landscapes in which to cap off another great year of RV travel.

December marks your last chance to cash in on this year’s travel resolution before they reset in the New Year, so let the magic of the season take you to a place near or far in your RV.

Looking to make plans for RV travel in January, February, or March in the New Year? We’ve got you covered with those recommendations, too. And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in September, October, or November.

Rockport, Texas

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport is known as “The Charm of the Texas Coast” and for good reasons. A winter hamlet that is a relaxing getaway year-round, Rockport-Fulton is known for its signature trees, clusters of giant ancient oaks sculpted by the Gulf Coast winds.

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite its small town status there are plenty of things to do. There’s fishing, golfing, and nature trails. A few places to enjoy the wildlife are at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Connie Hagar Wildlife Sanctuary, and Goose Island State Park. The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the winter host for the largest flock of whooping cranes.

Nature Coast and Crystal River, Florida

Crystal River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fed by springs that flow at a constant 72 degrees, the Crystal and Homosassa rivers are winter havens for West Indian manatees. Between 400 and 700 of these endangered aquatic mammals—they have a population of about 4,480—call the rivers home from October through mid-April.

Manatee at Homosassa Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reservedManatee at Homosassa Springs

When the Gulf waters warm up in the spring, most of the manatees venture out to their coastal homes. Manatees are gentle creatures that enjoy interacting with humans. Even though only 30 to 40 manatees stay in nearby Kings Bay year-round, more than 20 companies in Crystal River and Homosassa offer swim-with-the-manatees tours.

Homosassa Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, you can see manatees without donning a wetsuit. The 210-acre park is a rehabilitation center for injured or orphaned manatees. A 45-foot-deep natural spring, headwaters of the Homosassa River, provides the perfect habitat for recovering manatees.

Manatee at Homosassa Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An underwater observatory allows close-up views of manatees and freshwater and saltwater fish attracted by the spring. The park is also a showcase for Florida’s native wildlife, such as alligators, wood storks, and pink flamingos.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly 800,000 acres of desert east of the Coachella Valley (think, Palm Springs), Joshua Tree National Park rewards visitors with a full range of peculiar treasures: spiky yuccas, spiny cacti, spindly ocotillos, gangly Joshua trees, and dramatic geological formations, including Jumbo Rocks.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you drive up Pinto Basin Road, past the Cholla Cactus Garden, you’ll cross the transition zone between two major desert ecosystems: The lower Colorado Desert merges into the higher Mojave Desert, and cholla cactus and ocotillos give way to Joshua trees.

Joshua Tree National Park from Keys View © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An even bigger wow can be had at Keys View. To the west, distant San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak—both topping 10,000 feet—scrape the sky. Looking south, you can spy the Salton Sea.

Catalina State Park, Arizona

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, one of the many gems in the Arizona State Park system, offers beautiful vistas of the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Catalina Mountains with riparian canyons, lush washes, and dense cactus forests. The environment at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers great camping, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home.

Brunswick and the Golden Isles, Georgia

The Golden Isles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four of the beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to become an exclusive winter retreat, known as the Jekyll Island Club. Members included such notable figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall Field. Jekyll Island, with its cottage colony and clubhouse, was viewed as a little paradise, where members and guests pursued “a life of elegant leisure.” Today, the former Club grounds comprise a 240-acre site with 34 historic structures.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

—Henry David Thoreau

Securing Your Home for Snowbird Travel

Here are some things you can do to help protect your home while you head for warmer weather.

If you’re planning for snowbird travel or other long-term RV adventure, you need to prepare your home to be unoccupied for months at a time. A key aspect of this preparation is making sure your home appears occupied.

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Gila Bend KOA in Gila Bend, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop the Mail and Newspaper Deliveries

The mail is often a never-ending cascade of advertising and other solicitations—with bills and an occasional letter or card in-between. Left unchecked, mail will likely accumulate beyond your mail box capacity and potentially announce your absence. Thank you, junk mail.

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Pala Casino RV Resort in Pala, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thankfully, stopping the mail is as easy as going onto USPS.com and requesting your mail to be held or forwarded. For $1 you can have your mail forwarded for as short as fifteen days or as long as one year. After the first six months, you can extend for another six months. Even better, you can adjust the amount of time your mail is forwarded online. You can shortened or extended mail forwarding based on changing road plans.

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Jekyll Island Campground on Jekyll, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canadians have a similar mail forwarding system but pay a minimum of $52.95 for four months of mail forwarding within their province, $65.95 within Canada, and $152.95 to the U.S. For more information about mail forwarding in Canada visit CanadaPost.ca.

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is A+ Motel and RV Park in Sulphur, Louisiana. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For many, there’s nothing better than reading a physical newspaper or magazine. Be sure to pause those newspaper drops while you’re away, or they may give your absence away.

Even if you have your newspapers stopped, circulars and phone books may be dropped at your house. Again, ask your neighbor to check for these. There is nothing that says, “no one at home” like an accumulation of newspapers on your front step or at the end of your driveway. 

Snow Removal

Sometimes you can’t escape the snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrange with a neighbor, relative, or commercial service for snow removal. Depending on the season of your absence, and your home climate, it may also be necessary to have someone help with lawn maintenance, weed control, leaf raking and removal, and lawn and shrub watering.

Did someone say “snow”? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those with house plants should also make arrangements to have their plants watered and cared for.

Consider a Web Camera System

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Lake Osprey RV Resort in Elberta, Alabama. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With high-speed internet and a high quality camera, it’s possible to see a live video feed of your house and property from almost anywhere. That’s right, you can watch your house yourself when you’re away.

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the internet and security system companies now sell and install web camera systems for a monthly fee. On the other hand, there are companies that sell do-it-yourself kits including the web cameras, digital hubs, and software that allows you to install, set-up, and use such a system. Be aware that these web camera kits are not for the technologically challenged, and likely require running wire and cables throughout your attic and crawl spaces.

Never Post Travel Plans or Events on Social Media

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Jamaica Beach RV Resort on Galveston Island, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s common sense that you don’t run around telling everyone that you’ll be away and your house will be unoccupied, but that’s exactly what you do by posting your trip plans and adventure to social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. It’s also not a good idea to change your answering machine message to anything implying your absence.

Take Pictures

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Bentsen Palm Village in Mission, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Naturally you might think taking pictures is what you do once you’re on the road and exploring new places. While this is certainly true, you also should take pictures of your home and possessions prior to leaving. In case of a fire, flood, or other disaster, these photographs will prove what you had, and in what overall condition it was in.

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is All About Relaxing RV Park in Theodore, Alabama. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You may also consider photocopying your passport, credit cards, drivers license, and other important documents. Hopefully you will not need these images but having evidence of this information can make or break travel plans in case of an emergency.

The best part of the above recommendations is the peace of mind they’ll give you if you’re away from home. 

There are many alternatives to a northern winter. Pictured above is Rain Spirit RV Park in Clarkdale, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

We have chosen to be reasonably warm year-round, so we are snowbirds. Every year when I hear the honks of the Canada geese overhead, something in my genes starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.” Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I line up the motorhome with that compass pointer and head for the Sun Belt.

The Absolute Best Places to RV This November

The eleventh month of each year brings beautiful fall foliage, a pre-holiday calm, and tons of things to give thanks for—especially when it comes to RV travel

November may seem like an inconvenient time to vacation due to Thanksgiving at the end of the month, but there are benefits for RV travel during this shoulder season. Crowds at popular destinations are a thing of the past.

From cool fall breezes to pre-holiday calm, November offers plenty of reasons to give thanks while RVing.

Okenenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With these five November travel ideas, you’ll be plenty relaxed before all the holiday hoopla.

And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in August, September, or October.

Civil War Battlefield

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though all the survivors from the Civil War are now gone, it’s still a great way to honor veterans and learn some history at the same time. Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, is perhaps the epitome of Civil War battlefields. It was the largest, bloodiest battle of the Civil War with 50,000 casualties.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though the conflict took place more than 150 years ago, it’s still a powerful reminder of the sacrifice and strife that took place and that almost tore apart the nation.

Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Lake Okeechobee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sometimes referred to as Florida’s inland sea, Lake Okeechobee is central to a region of Florida historically known for its agriculture, but in recent times also equated with superior fishing, boating, and trails. Waterways on either side run into the “Big O,” as the lake is called, making it part of a152-mile boating passage way through the middle of the state known as the Okeechobee Waterway.

Sugar cane harvesting © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clewiston, on the 750 square-mile lake’s southern shore, has the most to offer travelers, especially those intent on hooking into the lake’s legendary largemouth bass and speckled perch. Fishing guides and resorts help out with that goal. Blue gills, Okeechobee catfish, and black crappies are other local catches.

Clewiston Inn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clewiston is also known as “America’s Sweetest Town,” so be sure to do the Sugarland Express tour of a local farm and mill (you even get to chew on some sugarcane) and a three-hour boat cruise that explains the lake’s historic and natural heritage.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On Jan. 17, 1781, the Americans won a decisive battle against the better-trained British Army. The battle was over in less than an hour. This victory gave the Patriots the moral support needed to continue fighting and win the Revolution just nine months later. Featured at the battlefield are a walking trail and marked road tour, picnic grounds, and a visitor center with exhibits, memorabilia, and a multi-image presentation.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The British sustained one of the worst disasters of their Southern campaign, and the Patriots finally defeated “Bloody” Tarleton. General Daniel Morgan displayed brilliant tactics in the disposition of his forces, making effective use of both militia and Continental troops to envelop and rout the British. Most of Tarleton’s army were killed or captured, and the rest fled. The Battle of Cowpens was the event which started Cornwallis on his road to Yorktown.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

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

Bosque del Apache stands out as one of the country’s most accessible and popular national wildlife preserves—for wildlife and human visitors alike—providing a seasonal home, November through March, for up to 12,000 sandhill cranes, 32,000 snow geese, and nearly 40,000 ducks.

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

Many thousands of bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers from around the nation and beyond follow them here. And there’s no better time or way to appreciate all that the 57,000-acre refuge has to offer than attending the annual Festival of the Cranes, the week before Thanksgiving.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

Okenenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine a place where unusual creatures swim through mirror-top waters and exotic plants sprout from floating islands—a place where thousands of creatures serenade the setting of the sun each day.

Okenenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okefenokee offers so much, one could spend a lifetime and still not see and do everything. Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters, while cypress knees rise upward from the glass-like surface. Here, paddlers and photographers enjoy breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife.

Worth Pondering…

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.

—Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Best Place to Scare the Crap Out of Yourself & Add a Little Spook to Your RV Travels

Now that it’s October, a month where people actively seek out the best places in America to terrify themselves for some reason, you’ll have lots of options for scary places

October’s the only time of year when people applaud you for showing up to a party with an ax in your head. It’s an entirely themed month in which normally staid drugstores fill with Dracula puppets shriek-laughing on an endless loop. It’s also the best time of year to step beyond mere horror movies to try and scare you silly, just ‘cause you can.

Halloween is upon us now! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America is filled with spooky lore, and there’s no better time to embark on a ghostly road trip then Halloween season. Here are some of the best stops.

Arizona

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona is terrifying. Between its creepy-crawly rattlesnakes, horrid Gila monsters, unnerving black scorpions, and almost-unbearably high temperatures, the Copper State is a pretty scary place to live. And as if that is not frightening enough, Arizona’s Wild West past and haunted history gives us even more reason to go hide under the covers. Sure, you can stand 120-degree heat and ride out haboobs, but can you brave these Arizona haunts?

Cell 14 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask yourself whether if you’d want to be locked up in anything called a “territorial prison” and then jump ahead a hundred years to haunting the hell out of the place—like 100+ inmates, you died inside those walls. Not one to shy from a locking people into hot, dark places, Arizona has designated Yuma Territorial Prison a state historical park—easily one of the creepiest in the nation, and one of the most haunted spots in Arizona.

Rattlesnake in the Superstitions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guides report feeling chills when they pass Cell 14, where an inmate doing time for “crimes against nature” killed himself. In the so-called dark cell, prisoners in pitch-black solitary went mad chained to ring-bolts in the walls.

Kentucky

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its whiskey spirits with a side of ghostly spirits at Buffalo Trace Distillery’s ghost tours. One of the biggest and most well-known distilleries in Kentucky bourbon country, most visitors are unaware that Buffalo Trace has ghostly ties, let alone nighttime tours through the Stony Point Mansion.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ghost tours are an hour long and take place at 7 p.m., led by guides who wax poetic on supernatural spirits said to frequent the grounds. The most notable is Colonel Blanton who died in the on-site Stony Point Mansion which feels like a real life version of the Clue board game. At the end of the ghostly portion of the tour, guests will get to taste a series of Buffalo Trace’s potable spirits.

Georgia

The Okefenokke is errie! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The South is known for its southern charm, especially in places like Charleston, New Orleans, and Savannah. The latter was founded in 1733 which means thousands flock to Georgia every year to take in the old buildings, walk the historic streets, and get a little taste of what colonial living might have been like. Underneath all the charm, however, there are stories of murder, tragedy, and mysterious hauntings.

The Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Jekyll Island Club, whose members included some very famous last names—the Morgans, the Vanderbilts, and the Pulitzers—the spot for super-rich folks from 1886 until World War II. The Club still stands as do some of the cottages of the wealthy in Jekyll Island’s historic district.

The Annex © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Naturally, with all the wealth that’s passed through its doors, the club is haunted, namely by the ghost of a former railroad magnate, who apparently gets his morning coffee and kicks back with the newspaper just to mess with your mind. Room 3101 of the Annex is also said to be haunted, but by a friendly ghost (yay!) named Charlotte Maurice, who advises visitors on how to live their best lives.

New Hampshire

Mount Washington Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a real-life version of Stephen King’s Room 237, look no further than the Mount Washington Hotel. The tale of Carolyn Stickney sounds like the worst Disney princess story ever: she married the hotel’s founder, who died right before construction was completed. She then remarried into European royalty, but alas, she too passed soon after.

Mount Washington Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

She never checked out of Mount Washington, though; she appears in people’s photos as a hazy apparition, floats around the hallways, and is a regular fixture in room 314, apparently her favorite place to challenge the notion of 5-star accommodations. The four-poster bed she slept in remains in the room, where you can still hear her voice, some say…

Texas

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The long, violent, and controversial past of Texas combines with its imaginative and adventurous population leading to a lot of unexplained phenomena popping up across the former republic’s deserts, hills, and pine forests.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In its 300 years, the Alamo has shaped the city of San Antonio, ignited the battle for Texas independence, and influenced American history. It might seem obvious, but the Alamo isn’t only a revered historic shrine. During the infamous siege of 1836, thousands of men were killed and their bodies dumped unceremoniously into mass graves, so it’s no wonder a few of their disembodied spirits are pissed off.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several security guards have reported hearing footsteps in the middle of the night, some have seen a small blonde-haired boy in the gift shop, and a ghastly John Wayne—yes, John Wayne—reciting lines from his 1960 film on the subject.

Worth Pondering…

Werewolves howl. Phantoms prowl. Halloween’s upon us now

—Richelle E. Goodrich

The Absolute Best Places to RV This September

A late summer getaway will make September’s arrival a bit easier to accept

September is a phenomenally underrated month for travel. People seem to disqualify it because they associate it with childhood anxiety about summer ending and going back to school.

Sure, summer is over on paper, but September ushers in that all-too-brief summer sweet spot where surge pricing has ended while sunshine, festival season, and warm nights remain. In places all over the country, September vacations mean cheaper prices, better weather, and much smaller crowds.

Here are the best of them, for your consideration.

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

Kentucky

Woodford Reserve Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For starters, September means the return of the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival to Bardstown. Each of those six days is loaded with bourbon tastings, mixology classes, art displays, car shows, and food vendors, which works out to like, 746 things to do in total.

Old Talbot Tavern in Barbstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The events are a mix of ticketed and free, and there is a designated Family Fun Area with train rides to distract the children while you enjoy your jazz and cigars.

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then, later in the month and less than an hour away, you have Louisville’s Bourbon & Beyond, a bourbon, music, and food festival. And despite the theme, it’s open to anyone aged 5 and up.

Gaffney, South Carolina

Gaffney Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside of Gaffney, west of where SR-11 crosses over I-85, the route’s colorful and scenic sightseeing begins at the unique “Peachoid.” Towering at 135 feet, the Peachoid is actually a water tower for the town of Gaffney that’s been realistically painted to look like a giant peach perched high in the sky. The color of the peach is remarkably like the palette changes of oaks, hickories, maples, and more during their varied stages of fall colors.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing on SR-11, worthwhile stops before Jones Gap State Park include Cowpens National Battlefield, a fascinating Revolutionary War site, and Campbell’s Covered Bridge (the only remaining covered bridge in the state.

Marietta, Ohio

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This charming riverboat town showcases the first city in Ohio and the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. Since then, Marietta has blossomed into a revitalized main street community known for great food, eclectic shops, and historic hotels. The fun doesn’t end there. There is outdoor adventure galore to be found. Two Rivers, a National Forest and a variety of parks, refuges and wetlands surround the area.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to self-guided tours of the town and trips on the Valley Gem sternwheeler, you can take trolley tours and Hidden Marietta ghost tours.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The marquee event is the free 44th annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, which brings 30-plus paddleboats and 100,000 visitors to town September 6-8 (2019); activities include Sunday boat races.

Lodi, California

Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lying at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, Lodi enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate of warm days and cool evenings, ideal for growing wine grapes. For decades, Lodi has been producing an astounding amount of wine grapes for countless wineries throughout California.

Lodi Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wander historic downtown Lodi with century-old brick buildings, brick-cobbled streets lined with elm trees and turn-of-the-century light poles. You’ll love this area and the way the city has maintained its history and heritage. Many unique shops, restaurants, and more than a dozen wine tasting boutiques and exciting restaurants.

Louisiana

St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Louisiana, fall’s arrival is signaled by many things: cheers of “Geaux Tigers” and “Who Dat,” large black pots of steaming gumbo and a calendar jam-packed with fairs and festivals. There are many great fall festivals dedicated to Louisiana’s delicious foods. In Natchitoches, the Meat Pie Festival in mid-September takes place in the historic downtown next to Cane River Lake.

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

Head over to the Lake Charles area for the Boudin Wars in Sulphur, where local chefs and restaurants battle for the title of best boudin. Sample a wide variety of the tasty Cajun sausage and vote for the winner.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Admire the grandeur and wonders of the Grand Canyon, a powerful and inspiring landscape that overpowers our senses through its immense size. You won’t find similar mixtures of color and erosional formations anywhere else.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and about a mile deep, according to the National Park Service. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming.

Worth Pondering…

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you miss the sense of where you’re going and why.

—Eddie Cantor

More Under-the-radar Gems to Discover

Don’t miss these eight underrated travel spots

From sleepy small towns with loads of culture and character to natural wonders, be sure to check out these secret travel spots before they blow up. And be sure to catch up on our under-the-radar gems from an earlier post.

Mississippi: Bay St. Louis

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s St. Louis, and then there’s Bay St. Louis, which dubs itself “a place apart.” Here, beach life collides with folk art. The arts, sense of community, unique dining opportunities, local downtown shops, beautiful sprawling beaches, and stunning bay views all make for a highly desirable destination, which is reflected in the decision to include Bay St. Louis in this list of under-the-radar gems to discover.

Alberta: Writing-on-Stone

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

A sightseeing and historic destination, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is located on the banks of the Milk River in south-central Alberta. The incredible landscape of hoodoos, coulees, and native rock paintings is a photographer’s paradise. The Blackfoot First Nation people used sharp rocks, horns of animals, and wood from trees to carve their drawings into the sandstone cliffs. For color—like red, orange, and yellow—they would use a mixture of crushed iron ore and animal fat.

Georgia: Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is home to a herd of feral, free-ranging horses. Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history. Built by the Carnegies, the ruins of the opulent 59-room, Queen Anne-style Dungeness are a must-see for visitors. The stories of the people weave a captivating tale of wealth, poverty, privilege, and sacrifice.

British Columbia: Okanagan Wine Country

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

New Hampshire: Castle in the Clouds

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built on a mountainside overlooking New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, the Moultonborough mansion originally named Lucknow has aptly been called Castle in the Clouds since it opened to the public in 1957. The beautiful Arts and Crafts–style home was built in 1913 as the luxury Ossipee Mountain retreat of Thomas Plant, a millionaire shoe-manufacturing mogul.

New Mexico: Mesilla

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Kentucky: My Old Kentucky Home State Park

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

My Old Kentucky Home State Park honors the home that was the symbol of Stephen Foster’s most endearing song, the stately mansion on the Rowan Estate known as Federal Hill. Tour the estate and admire the beautiful grounds from the 39-site campground near Bardstown.

Indiana: Shipshewana

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Shipshewana area is celebrated for being home to the third largest Amish community in the United States, for having the Midwest’s largest flea market, and for its reputation of hand-crafted wares. Enjoy buggy rides, visit an Amish working dairy farm, and experience delicious Amish cooking in beautiful Northern Indiana-Amish/Mennonite Country.

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, experience the freedom of the open road, and discover under-the-radar hidden gems.

4 Pacific Northwest RV Travel Gems

The Pacific Northwest possesses an abundance of natural wonders. Here are four completely unique places you don’t want to miss.

Owning a recreational vehicle is the greatest way to explore all of the natural beauty, unique architecture, and diverse culture that exists throughout this magnificent world of ours. It’s a freedom unlike anything other, providing you and your family with countless opportunities for learning and growth.

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Still, after several years of traveling, it can be difficult to branch out and identify new roads you’ve yet to discover. That’s why RVing with Rex is posting a series of blog articles—each one focusing on a different region or state. 

In today’s post we’ll focus on four favorite “lesser-known” travel locations in the Pacific Northwest including recommended RV parks. All selected parks have been personally visited.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

Toutle River Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The eruption of Mount St. Helens caused the largest landslide in recorded history, sweeping through the Toutle River Valley and removing 1,306 feet from the top of the volcano.

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The powerful lava flow, savage winds, and deadly heat destroyed much of the previous landscape. What the mountain left behind is the history of a violent eruption that shook the surrounding region on the tumultuous day of May 18, 1980.

Where to Stay: Toutle River RV Resort, Castle Rock

Toutle River RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Toutle River RV Resort is a 5-star resort built in 2009. The utility hookups are centrally located with 80-90 foot sites and adequate Wi-Fi. No large trees to obstruct satellite. The only negative is the park is located near train tracks and trains run all day and night. Toutle River RV Resort is located off I-5 at Exit 52, easy-on, easy-off.

La Conner, Washington

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner is a unique combination of fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, browse through unique shops and art galleries, and visit the beautiful tulip fields of Skagit Valley.

Where to Stay: Mount Vernon RV Park

Mount Vernon RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Full-service RV park with 30/50-amp electric service. 81 spaces including 8 pull-through sites.

Salem, Oregon

Willamette Valley Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the state capital, Salem is steeped in history—from the Capitol building itself to stately homes with storied pasts. Set in the fertile Willamette Valley, Salem is surrounded by world-class wineries as well as countless natural areas.

Willamette Valley Cheese Company © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to dozens of wine tasting rooms, the Salem area is also home to Willamette Valley Cheese Company. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. This off the beaten path stop is a great place to sample nearly 30 varieties of handcrafted cheeses and then take some back to your RV.

Where to Stay: Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New in 2006, Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort is situated about a mile east of I-5 (Exit 258). The name literally means “A Fun Place to Be”. Big rig friendly with fairly wide paved streets, long /pull-through paved sites in the 75-foot range, and conveniently located 30/50-amp electric service, water, two sewer connections, and cable TV (69 channels).

Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville has been called “One of America’s Top 10 Coolest Small Towns” by Frommers. Jacksonville got its start as a gold rush town. Gold was first discovered at Rich Gulch in 1851. 

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With over 100 structures included in the National Register of Historic Places most of Jacksonville is now a National Historic District. The boom was mostly over in 1884 when the railroad bypassed the town. The shops, boutiques, and restaurants are housed in the commercial buildings and historic home that comprise the historic district.

This quaint, historic gold rush region is the gateway to the Applegate Wine Trail’s 18 vineyards.

Where to Stay: Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass

Jack’s Landing RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New in 2002, Jack’s Landing RV Resort is big rig friendly with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range (also back-in sites) and conveniently located 30/50-amp electric service, water, and sewer connections, and cable TV (22 channels). Paved sites and fairly wide paved streets.

Worth Pondering…

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

10 Alternatives to Crowded Outdoor Instagram Spots

Skip the masses at popular vistas and landmarks and opt for these nearby (empty!) locales instead

We’ve all been there—you’re huddled onto the crowded summit of a popular peak, at the base of that iconic waterfall, or crammed into a tiny pullout along that scenic road through a well-known national park, and everyone is snapping the same photo. You followed the masses and found yourself a beautiful vista. Well done. Now wouldn’t you like a little solitude to go with the view? It’s time to get off the beaten path. Here’s where to go. 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aside from being home to the world’s largest tree (by volume) and protecting vast areas of towering inland redwoods, a big part of Sequoia’s appeal is that it isn’t all that crowded. Take a stroll under the big trees in the Giant Forest, view wildlife in Crescent Meadows, or climb to the top of Moro Rock.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods is a scenic backcountry area is southeastern Utah, near Mexican Hat. It is a hidden gem with scenery similar to that of nearby Monument Valley. Valley of the Gods offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. It is located on BLM land and is open for hiking, backpacking, and camping.

Big Bend Country

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over 150 miles of hiking trails are available to explore the peaks of the Chisos Mountains or Santa Elena Canyon, but you can also take a short stroll and soak in therapeutic hot springs after a long day of sightseeing. Not up for hiking? No problem! Take a scenic drive along 100 miles of paved road that stretches through Big Bend National Park.

Bayou Teche

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following the path of a former channel of the Mississippi River, Bayou Teche Byway winds its way through lush swamps and moss-draped bayous. From its southernmost point in Morgan City to its northern end in Arnaudville, the byway crosses beautiful marshes and fields of sugar cane, connecting lovely towns that have well-preserved historic districts.

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newspaper Rock is located 15 miles west of U.S. 191 along the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway en route to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The rock is called Tse’ Hane in Navajo, or “rock that tells a story.” There are hundreds of petroglyphs here that feature a mixture of forms, including pictures resembling humans, animals, tools, and more esoteric, abstract things.

Head Underground  

Caverns of Sonora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Halfway between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park off Interstate 10, the Caverns of Sonora is a prime locale to hide from the blazing Texas sun. Keep in mind: While the temperature 155 feet below the surface is 72 degrees year-round, high humidity levels mean it can feel more like 85.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With 16,137 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone. Purchased by German immigrant Isaac W. Bernheim in 1929, the land was dedicated as a gift to the people of his new homeland.

Whitehall, New York

Whitehall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whitehall is the town at the junction between the Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain and is considered the birthplace of the American Navy. The Skenesborough Museum located right at the terminal wall is a must stop for anyone interested in the history of the formation of the U. S., early travel, early wars, and the building of the canals. Also the Skeene Manor located atop the hill across from the terminal wall offers tours and meals.

Feel the Beauty and Serenity of an Ancient Forest

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from around the world, Audubon’s 18,000-acre sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Frances Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem untouched for millennia. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You won’t find Teddy at the top of the national parks most-visited list. But since the 26th president was a pioneer of the national parks, the least we can do is appreciate his namesake chunk of land in North Dakota. You’ll want to keep your eyes open for wildlife—bison, pronghorns, elk, wild horses, mule deer, and prairie dogs frequently roam the landscape.

Worth Pondering…

Life is short and the world is wide.
—Simon Raven