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

Your Ultimate Guide to Planning the Best Summer Road Trip

Map your route, discover amazing places, and hit the road…

Think of 10 people you know. This year, eight of them will take a road trip, that staple of the American vacation.

That’s what research from the American Automobile Association tells us. And that’s what those columns of RVs and cars on the interstates from coast to coast tell us. The call of the RV is more powerful than ever, promising relaxation, family fun, scenic drives, and unusual sights, the stuff of a rich stew of memories.

But where to go and what to do?

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you prepare for your trip, remember that at the end of the day, a campground or RV park is waiting to welcome your family. Could there be a sweeter end to the day providing you made your reservation well in advance?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people visit South Dakota to see the wondrous Mount Rushmore or Badlands National Park, but hidden within the southwestern Black Hills is Custer State Park. Touted as one of the nation’s most recognized wildlife refuges, you’ll see free-roaming herds of bison, elk, and bighorn sheep wandering its 71,000 acres.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers are encouraged to drive the park’s scenic byways and loops, as well as seek out its amazing granite peaks via hiking, biking, and horseback. Complete the day by taking a dip in the clear waters of Sylvan Lake, a favorite amongst photographers and artists.

Newport, Rhode Island

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

Nowhere in New England compares to the Gilded-Age splendor of Newport, a coastal town set upon cliffs dotted with some of the most spectacular mansions of the 19th century. The must-do activity here is, obviously, touring the Newport Mansions, but that’s far from the only draw.

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newport also hosts the annual Newport Regatta, one of the biggest sailing races in America bringing with it the best sailing parties. Held in July, the Regatta is the ideal time of year to visit, but even if you miss it there are still plenty of wide, sandy beaches to lounge on for the day, and a surprisingly good wine region just on the outskirts of town. 

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bay St. Louis motto is as unique as the city itself: “A Place Apart.” In 2010 Bay St. Louis was listed as one of the Top 10 Beach Communities in the U.S. by Coastal Living Magazine. Budget Travel magazine named it one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” in 2013 and Southern Living magazine named Bay St. Louis one of their 50 Best Places in the South in 2016.

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive along the Bay and wander the pastel colored buildings and quaint, funky shops of historic Old Town Bay St. Louis including the “Depot,” a two-story building with mission style design. The train depot (c. 1928), is surrounded by park-like grounds.

Route 12, Utah

Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This, one of the most stunning roads in the world, runs from Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The route goes for 124 miles at significant altitudes (9,000 feet) and goes through forested mountains to the amazing bald mountains in Boulder.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s where you should have lunch or dinner at the Hells Backbone Grill. From there the road begins following a narrow ridge along the red canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Mesilla, New Mexico

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.

Worth Pondering…

My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.
—Diane Arbus

7 UNESCO Heritage Sites for RV Travel

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

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

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

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Alberta and British Columbia

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Mount Robson Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

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

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

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

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

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

San Antonio Missions, Texas

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

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

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

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

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—John Burroughs

The Absolute Best Places to RV This August

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

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

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

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

Oregon

Willamette Valley Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Historic Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Mitchell Corn Palace, South Dakota

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Edmonton, Alberta

Downtown Edmonton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Rogers Place Arena © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

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

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

Gatlinburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—Miriam Beard