My schedule has evolved around our RV lifestyle and writing about it
My schedule has revolved around our RV lifestyle and preparing a daily article relating to the RV lifestyle. And now, here I am with 1,500 posts under my belt.
In the process my hair has gone from brown to gray and my energy level decreased by 30 percent―maybe more―due to my advancing age. No complaints, though.
If I were a race horse I’d be around the final curve, headed to the finish line.
When we began our RV snowbird lifestyle back in 1997, I had no idea that over 25 years later we would still be at it. Amazing!
I cannot express how wonderful the last 25 years have been.
I would love to be around for another 20 years but I’m not counting on it. But I vow that I won’t abandon this amazing online project until I’m no longer able to put intelligible words on a blank page.
Thank you for being such a loyal reader of rvingwithrex.com. I appreciate you very much!
You may not know this but I produce rvingwithrex.com with a staff of only one. Yes, just one! And that would be me. I work seven days a week to get everything done, not because I need to but because I want to. It’s a labor of love!
RVing with Rex is a dream, come true for me. Decades in the making but now being lived out like one giant movie, seen through the wide expanse of our RV windshield as North America rolls on by. We can stop anytime, and explore anywhere. And I share it all with you on this blog.
I have posted 1,500 articles on my website and each year I publish 365 RVing articles, one each day of the year including New Years, Christmas, and my birthday.
The goal then and now is to share our RV lifestyle. I have to admit, I am not very mechanical. This blog is only partially aimed at tinkerers and mechanics. It’s about the RV lifestyle and the great things to see and do out there on the open road—and how to stay safe.
By background, I’m an educator. I love learning and delving into history, and seeing new things, enjoying God’s awesome creation. Taking pictures and using said photos to tell a story. I’ve written for a Western Canadian-based RV magazine and Good Sam blog and annual North America Campground Directory.
Typically, we’re on the road six to seven months a year. We’re not fulltimers. We return to our Alberta home (Go Oilers Go) for the summer.
We also like to attend RV rallies and events. While Alberta directors of the Newmar Kountry Klub we hosted club rallies and caravan tours.
I truly enjoy being immersed in something I love. The blog is a labor of love. It is all my own work. No one tells me what to say or what not to say.
As I said, I love to travel and write about our experiences. It’s in my DNA, I guess.
The RVer in me is upset at all the bad information being published today about RVing by websites, blogs, videos, and on social media.
It’s bad because we have entered the era of writers who write to fill space strictly for money. The more sensational or controversial their story (click bait works great), the more valuable they become to publishers.
Some publishing experts predict that by 2025 more than 90 percent of the content on the Internet will be written using Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s already happening (but not with me).
Keeping my content relevant is increasingly challenging. I do not hire content creators—freelance writers who crank out articles by formula. The best way I can set myself apart from such fluff is to write the most valuable, useful, informative, accurate, educational (and sometimes entertaining) articles available anywhere—written by a real RVer (that would be me!), not pretenders.
We should all be grateful that Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Henry David Thoreau, and William Shakespeare didn’t aim so low.
And now, along come the robots—inexpensive online services where writers with only minimal talent and subject knowledge can crank out articles all day long. An article that once took a real writer a few hours to write can be written in a few minutes. The results are sometimes accurate but they are very often superficial and just plain wrong. Read my article, Ghost Wright: On the Future of AI and you will see what I mean.
I will NOT post articles written by AI!
My pledge is to provide readers with the very best, most accurate information available anywhere about RVing.
All that said, I hope you are safe and making the best of our challenging times. Be wise. Be careful. Don’t take needless chances. Be kind to others because right now that goes a long way to comforting people who are nervous, scared, or otherwise emotionally hurting over the dramatic upheaval in their lives. Design your life in a way you enjoy your days and you will have a good life.
And thank you for reading.
Be healthy. Be safe. Have fun. Enjoy the RV lifestyle. Keep reading.
RVShare just released their 2023 Travel trend report
RVshare has released its 2023 Travel Trend Report, chock full of stats on how people are looking to travel in the next year, what kind of trips they’re taking, and what age demographics seem the keenest to take an RV vacation in the next 12 months. Want a glimpse into the travel scene in the New Year to see how your plans stack up? Read on.
The report predicts another major year for travel. According to new research conducted by Wakefield Research, nearly all Americans (99 percent) are planning leisure travel in 2023. The RV travel boom continues to press on with 61 percent planning to take a road trip or vacation in an RV. Travelers are still seeking relaxation and time with family and friends, and work flexibility continues to evolve and become a more permanent lifestyle for many Americans ultimately affecting their travel decisions.
RV travel is mainstream travel
Gone are the days of RVs only being for snowbirds and touring rock bands. More and more people are seeing the appeal of a good old-fashioned road trip and booking an RV is part of many travel plans. RV interest has continued to grow with 62 percent likely to consider renting an RV for a trip in the future, a 9 percent jump from 2022. What are some reasons travelers prefer an RV road trip over other travel options? Not only are they more affordable with no charges for baggage and an onboard kitchen to prepare food on your terms but they make for a more pleasant travel experience allowing you to stop along the way, sit where you’d like, and avoid travel delays.
Other benefits of RV travel that survey respondents found valuable include:
Greater ability to change the schedule (59 percent)
Lower costs by avoiding fees for extra luggage (52 percent)
Allows them to budget around predictable travel costs (47 percent)
Helps to avoid loud and unruly passengers (47 percent)
No need for secondary transportation at destination (45 percent)
Fewer travel delays (44 percent)
The ability to have no assigned seating (42 percent)
Who is actually renting RVs?
So we know RVing is more popular than ever and spans more demographics, but who is really renting and traveling in them?
One big group that spans across generations is parents. Eighty-one percent of parents are likely to consider renting an RV for a trip in the future. And who could blame them, an RV parked in the driveway alone is pure excitement for kids and it makes for a smooth travel experience. Having a kitchen and bathroom on board, a living space, and cozy beds means your hotel is built right into your vehicle making any stops much more pleasant.
RV enthusiasts span age demographics, with Millennials being the most interested age group followed by Gen X and Gen Z.
Among those who plan to take a trip in an RV in the next 12 months:
75 percent are millennials
65 percent are Gen X
58 percent are Gen Z
41 percent are Boomers
2023 travel plans
After the frustrations of travel the past couple of years, people are equally divided in how they want to make up for it with 50 percent planning on keeping things simple and the other half going big and finally hoping to check out some bucket list trips they’ve been putting off. Many travelers are still seeking time in nature and enjoying wildlife (47 percent), prioritizing the importance of enjoying peace and quiet (49 percent), and placing importance on catching up with friends (34 percent).
Another way many are planning to travel is in the New Year? Enter hush trips. Hush trips are enjoyed by remote employees who are leaning heavily into the remote aspect of their jobs by taking vacation time while continuing to work—maybe from a lounge chair by the pool or at a campground with strong Wi-Fi. These employees are still putting in the hours but working from an alternative location where they plan to enjoy leisure activities in their off-hours and don’t feel the need to disclose their location.
Wakefield Research reveals that travelers are seeking to experience RVs in new ways—beyond the typical road trip. According to RVshare insights, 20 percent of rentals are booked for event purposes like tailgating, auto and aviation shows, music festivals and more.
63 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for multi-day festivals, a 10 percent increase from 2022
52 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for tailgating events, a 10 percent increase from 2022
68 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for trips to national parks, a 10 percent increase from 2022
55 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for hobby events, a 10 percent increase from 2022
Delivery is still in demand
First-time RV renters account for one-third of bookings on RVshare. A factor that can deter those inexperienced renters is the thought of having to physically drive the RV. RVshare provides the option for RV delivery, which continues to increase in popularity. Our report found that 79 percent of people think a delivery option would make them more likely to consider an RV trip and 71 percent of parents say they’re much likelier to consider an RV trip if the RV is delivered to their destination.
Nearly half of RVshare rentals were delivered in 2022 and RV rental deliveries are up increasingly compared to prior years:
+48 percent since 2021
+150 percent since 2020
Top delivery destinations include:
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Camperland on the Bay, San Diego, California
Ginnie Springs Outdoors, High Springs, Florida
Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
Georgia National Fairgrounds, Perry, Georgia
Lazy L & L Campground, New Braunfels, Texas
The economy isn’t stopping travelers
Survey results reveal that the economy won’t be stopping vacationers anytime soon. Inflation is unavoidable but just 2 percent are likely to cancel their vacation because of it. In fact, 88 percent of Americans are planning to travel as much or more in 2023 compared to last year. Instead, travelers are considering cost-cutting options.
Would look to cook some of their own meals instead of dining out (57 percent)
Would travel during the off-season (49 percent)
Would partake in fewer fee-based activities (43 percent)
Road trips have beginnings and ends but it’s what’s in between that counts.
An RV Lifestyle can be very rewarding for those who are prepared
You’re ready to live that RV life? How exciting! There are many things to know before you hit the road, so I’ve rounded up a few essential tips to get you started.
Go old school
While we’re all pretty used to having Wi-Fi and phone service everywhere we go, you might find yourself in some off-the-gird situations. So, I suggest you go old school. Take photos and screenshots of all of your necessary documentation that can only be found online. In addition, it’s never a bad idea to have photocopies and printouts.
The same goes for your maps and reservation information. Those hard copies could be your saving grace if you find yourself in a pinch, either out of service or with a dead or broken phone. Imagine making the whole trip without internet or access to your devices. Round up everything you’ll need. If you don’t need those hard copies, no problem. But if you do, you’ll never regret having them.
Checklists for everything
Before you go, make sure you have everything you’ll need during your trip with an RV camping essentials checklist. Just like pilots have a pre-flight checklist it’s important to have pre-departure checklists for your RV.
Every checklist will differ depending on the RV type and gear. The important thing is to make comprehensive lists and check them EVERY time you leave.
There are certain RV camping essentials you need to take with you such as your RV paperwork (insurance, registration details, roadside assistance documents, and road maps). You also need to make sure you pack other RV essentials such as electrical or battery equipment, a tool kit, and a first aid kit.
If you plan to prepare meals in your RV (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll need to ensure you have all the equipment and supplies you need. For example, you’ll require bowls, plates, cutlery, cups, pots and pans, knives, chopping boards, and matches. You’ll also need to pack products to clean these items once you’ve used them such as sponges, detergent, and trash bags.
Seize the opportunity
If you come across a fuel station, a place with a clean shower, or a grocery store with RV parking, take the opportunity to stop. You never know when you might find yourself in a pinch, so grab those opportunities when they arise.
Start with your needs
As you’re packing, consider what you need rather than what you want. You can expand your packing list as you gain experience but starting with the essentials will help you pack efficiently and save space. Packing the non-essentials makes it easier to forget the things you really need. Aim to have as little clutter as possible and keep it simple.
Ask for advice
Remember the community that surrounds you. Get involved! Don’t go it alone. Your fellow RVers are your friends. Networking with them will produce a more successful experience for everyone. They can provide moral support, maintenance help, babysitting for your pets and belongings while you’re away, and guidance when planning your routes. Ask about the best places to go, stop, and stay. Reviews can be misleading and you can only learn so much online. Personalized recommendations are ideal when possible.
Consider following some RV bloggers online and on social media to get an idea of how they live their lives and get recommendations for the can’t-miss places. Join a forum to get started and don’t be afraid to keep an open mind.
Know your RV inside and out
You need to know everything there is to know about your RV from the exact exterior measurements to your plumbing and electrical systems. You need to be the expert.
Each RV we’ve owned has come with a suitcase of user manuals. There is an instruction booklet on everything from operating the furnace and air conditioner to cleaning and servicing the RV and awning and everything in between. There is even a manual on RV tires.
Read through every manual. There are also build sheets, diagrams for each fuse box and information on proper tire inflation. We’ve referenced all the information many times throughout our years of RVing.
When a fuse goes out at 1 a.m. you’ll want to know which fuse box to check. Our current motorhome has three fuse/breaker boxes and one of them is outside. When it’s pouring rain outside, it’s not fun to run around wondering which breaker box to check.
Gather all documentation and study it as much as possible before heading out. It’s always a good idea to do a few shorter practice trips before you drive into RV living.
Save money on camping
Of course, RVing comes with its own expenses and also certain sacrifices; like anything in life, it’s a give and take. But if you do it right—by, for example, joining a discount camping club like Passport America to save 50 percent on your campground accommodations—this unique traveling life can give you physical as well as financial liberation. In fact, many RVers are drawn to the small life in order to pursue minimalistic, debt-free living.
Everything has a place
Just like the cupboards in a house, everything has a place in an RV. The difference is, when the RV is going down a bumpy road and that bottle of vinegar gets loose because it was put back in the wrong place, you might end up with a mess on your hands.
It also makes packing up a much faster process because you know where all the pieces of the puzzle go—and where they are when you unpack.
Make sure you’re insured
You’ll want to talk to your insurance provider and learn about all the types of insurance you might need. From RV insurance to medical insurance, you don’t want to find yourself in a sticky situation without proper coverage.
Budget for RV living
As mentioned before, one of the advantages of RV living—or at least one of the reasons people most frequently site for taking on this lifestyle—is its affordable nature. But it’s not always that simple.
RVing does include many costs and they’re quite variable so there’s no way to really talk about the average cost of RV living. For example, you might spend $85 a night at a posh RV resort with all the amenities or absolutely nothing for a great boondocking site on public lands. Your fuel cost will vary depending on the model of rig you purchase, your speed, weather conditions, the terrain, and how often and far you drive.
With careful planning, RVing can be a viable way to save on your living expenses. For one thing, you simply can’t buy as many new items when you don’t have very much room to store them in.
You can create a budget either through the many budgeting apps or the old fashion way. Be sure to include major camping expenses such as campsite fees and fuel and also food, license and registration, maintenance and repairs, and entertainment. Don’t forget about regular expenses like cell phone bills and the occasional purchase of new clothing and supplies.
Enjoy the Journey
Most importantly, enjoy the journey. There are headaches associated with RV living but there are many more pleasures.
The marvelous range of sights in Utah attracts many campers every year and with good reason
The freedom and solitude of RV travel has vaulted this form of recreation to new heights of popularity and with cutting-edge rental platforms on the market, there’s no better time to set out on your very own RV adventure than the present.
When it comes to destinations, the spacious highways and spectacular natural beauty of Utah make it a perfect match for an extended RV road trip. There are a huge number of RV trips in Utah just waiting to be had! From deserts to snow-capped mountains, from red sandstone arches to endless blue skies, there’s beauty and adventure high and low, attracting hikers, nature lovers, and plain old sightseers alike.
While there’s no shortage of gorgeous attractions to see across the Beehive State, check out the list below for some must-visit highlights during your adventure.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Utah is no stranger to incredible natural beauty but if you only have time for one national park during your RV trip, make sure it’s Bryce Canyon. Officially established in 1928, this preserve contains the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos, a jagged rock spear formed by erosion.
The park is a true paradise for hikers equipped with a wide array of options ranging from the 1.5-mile Queen’s Garden Loop Trail to the challenging 8.2-mile Fairyland Loop. Not a huge fan of outdoor adventure? No worries—the park is equipped with spectacular vista points like Sunrise Point and Sunset Point with each spot offering a world-class view with minimal amounts of walking required.
Bryce Canyon is home to two campgrounds both of which are open to RV traffic. North Campground offers 49 RV-only sites and Sunset Campground offers 50, though there are no hookups.
True wilderness is a hard thing to find nowadays—a retreat from civilization into a place that is seemingly untouched by man may seem like a fairy tale. But that is exactly what Zion National Park can offer.
It may be one of Utah’s most famous tourist attractions but visitors will soon discover it’s popular for good reason. Zion has many hiking trails that allow you to experience what the wilderness is truly like. More populated trails are perfect for beginners who still want to see the beauty of the West. And beauty there is! Sandstone cliffs swirled with reds, pinks, and creams reach high into the sky making a wonderful contrast against the bright blue horizon. The narrow slot canyons are a wondrous sight and the unique desert plants and animals will keep you enthralled in the environment.
What’s the best part of a visit to Zion National Park, you ask? You never have to leave the beautiful surroundings! The park has three campgrounds, two of which are located right in Zion Canyon. South campground has primitive sites available and Watchman Campground has sites with electric hookups available.
Arches National Park embodies everything that Utah is famous for—a desert landscape filled with natural beauty. There’s plenty to experience in this “red-rock wonderland”—the most famous, of course, being the arches. There are over 2,000 of these natural stone arches in the park and each one is unique.
You’ll be able to spend your days exploring the trails that wind through the arches, pinnacles, and giant balanced rocks. Ranger programs are available as well to help you get the most out of a visit. There are daily guided walks, hikes, and evening programs that will teach you all about the park and let you take in as much of the beauty as possible.
Devil’s Garden Campground is 18 miles from the entrance to Arches National Park. Being surrounded by the stunning desert throughout your trip certainly helps you appreciate the park even more.
While you’re in the Moab area to visit Arches, don’t forget to see the other major attraction: Canyonlands National Park. At over 337,000 acres, this park dwarfs the more popular Arches to the north and it has a wide variety of wonders for any eager adventurer to explore.
The park is divided into four distinct areas each offering a unique perspective on this stark desert ecosystem. Island in the Sky is a flat-topped mesa while the Needles are tall, sharp spires; the Maze is a seemingly-endless system of crevasses and canyons, and finally, visitors can see where the Colorado and Green rivers intersect at the Colorado Plateau. The park also boasts some original Native American rock paintings inside its iconic Horseshoe Canyon.
Canyonlands offers two developed campgrounds: Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) Campground and The Needles Campground. While both are open to RVs, no hookups are available,
Tucked into the heart of Utah’s south-central desert, Capitol Reef National Park surrounds a wrinkle in the earth’s crust known as the Waterpocket Fold. The Fold’s unique geological features include the Chimney Rock pillar, the Hickman Bridge arch, and the Capitol Reef formation itself which is renowned for its white sandstone domes. Like other Utah national parks, Capitol Reef is an International Dark Sky Park and thus a great place for stargazing.
Capitol Reef National Park is also home to over 2,700 fruit-bearing trees situated in its historic orchards; cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, mulberries, and more are seasonally available for fresh picking.
There is one developed campground open to RV traffic inside Capitol Reef National Park: Fruita Campground. Although there are no hookups, a dump station and potable water are available. Be sure to double-check the size limits as each individual space is different and some of them are quite small.
Established as a protected natural landscape in 1996, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a one-of-a-kind site and certainly worth an RV trip if you’re making your way to Utah. The site is the size of Delaware and the erosion it’s seen over time has made it into what’s basically a giant, natural staircase—one that’s seen more than 200 million years of history. It’s all there for you to walk through and discover yourself!
The Monument is home to two campgrounds: Deer Creek and Calf Creek. Both are small, primitive, and apt to fill up quickly.
You might recognize it from Forrest Gump, Mission: Impossible 2, Back to the Future Part III, or National Lampoon’s Vacation—but chances are, you will recognize it. A Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley is one of the most iconic landscapes anywhere in the world let alone in the state of Utah and it’s well worth passing through and even stopping to discover more.
Monument Valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet framed by scenic clouds casting shadows that graciously roam the desert floor. The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations providing scenery that is simply spellbinding. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs and trees, and windblown sand all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley.
The View Campground includes 30 RV spots and 30 wilderness campsites which attract outdoor enthusiasts who want to capture the essence of rustic living and dust of authentic Navajo history.
The beautiful Cedar Mesa sandstone monoliths, pinnacles, and other geological features of this enchanting area are often referred to as a miniature Monument Valley. These sandstone sentinels were eroded by wind and water over eons of time.
The 17-mile Valley of the Gods Road stretches between US-163 north of Mexican Hat and Utah Route 261 just below the white-knuckle Moki Dugway. The massive red rock formations are a geology fan’s dream. Hoodoos, spires, buttes, buttresses, forming and collapsing arches, and towers are all visible along the drive.
There are many places to stop along the scenic drive and numerous locations suitable for FREE camping as the valley lies on BLM land and is completely undeveloped. Since hardly anyone seems to pass by, the area provides a much more relaxing and isolated experience than the famous valley (Monument Valley) 30 miles southwest, and without any of the restrictions on hiking or camping.
Natural Bridges National Monument covers a relatively small area in southeastern Utah. It is rather remote and not close to other parks and as a result, is not heavily visited. A nine-mile one-way loop drive connects pull-outs and overlooks with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges with Hopi Indian names—Sipapu (the place of emergence), Kachina (dancer), and Owachomu (rock mounds). Moderate hiking trails, some with metal stairs or wooden ladders, provide closer access to each bridge.
A 13-site campground is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.
Hidden within the mountains above Cedar City is the brilliant geology of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The geologic amphitheater and surrounding areas are home to hiking trails, ancient trees, high elevation camping, and over-the-top views along the “Circle of Painted Cliffs.”
Cedar Breaks’ majestic amphitheater is a three-mile-long cirque made up of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in Southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, the monument sits entirely above 10,000 feet. The Amphitheater is like a naturally formed coliseum that plunges 2,000 feet below taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons. Stunning views are common throughout so keep your camera nearby.
Point Supreme Campground is surrounded by meadows of wildflowers in the summer. At 10,000 feet elevation, it is a comfortable place to camp during the hotter summer months. Point Supreme has 25 campsites and accommodates both tents and RVs. Camping is available from mid-June to mid-September.
Just across the border from Colorado’s Canyon of the Ancients, Hovenweep National Monument is a can’t-miss destination for anyone interested in America’s prehistoric origins. The site includes the ruins of six villages dating back to A.D. 1200 and 1300 and these stunning structures include multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. A true testament to time, Hovenweep National Monument is as educational as it is awe-inspiring!
Hovenweep National Monument hosts a 31-site campground that can accommodate RVs up to 36 feet in length. The campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers more than 1.2 million acres of unparalleled opportunities for land- and water-based recreation. Within the recreation area, Lake Powell is the second largest human-made lake in the United States and is widely recognized as one of the premier boating destinations in the world. Stretching from the beginning of the Grand Canyon at Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is graced with scenic views, unique geology, and evidence of 10,000 years of human history.
In terms of campgrounds, there’s a lot to choose from including many primitive sites operated by National Park Service. These campgrounds do not take reservations and do not have phone numbers. There are also park concessioner-operated campgrounds with full-service sites available. Campgrounds operated by park concessioners include Wahweep RV Park and Campground, Bullfrog RV Park and Campground, Halls Crossing RV Park and Campground, and Antelope Point RV Park.
A 121-mile-long All-American Road, Scenic Byway 12 winds and climbs and twists and turns and descends as it snakes its way through scenic landscapes ranging from the remains of ancient sea beds to one of the world’s highest alpine forests and from astonishing pink and russet stone turrets to open sagebrush flats.
Scenic Byway 12 has two entry points. The southwestern gateway is from U.S. Highway 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch near Bryce Canyon National Park. The northeastern gateway is from Highway 24 in the town of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.
Other major attractions include Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Hell’s Backbone, Hole-in-the-Rock, Cottonwood Canyon, Burr Trail, Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area, and The Hogsback, a narrow ridge barely wider than the two-lane roadway with cliffs falling away on either side.
Mile for mile, few of America’s national scenic byways can compete with the diverse scenery and number of natural attractions along Scenic Byway 12. Recognized as one of the most beautiful drives in America, the byway showcases some of Utah’s uniquely scenic landscape.
As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, “Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.
Plan a route from sea to shining sea—without breaking the bank
Road trips have always been part of America’s DNA and despite skyrocketing gas prices there’s still never been a better time to see just what those amber waves of grain are all about. For many remote work has left the door wide open for new methods (and longer timelines) for exploration.
Whether by motorhome, travel or fifth-wheel trailer, camper van, or whatever trusted stagecoach you’ve got sitting out in the driveway, pulling off a cross-country road trip is incredibly rewarding—but it does take planning. From trip planning to money-saving, here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Planning the route: north, south, or a little of both
Arguably the most important part of planning a cross-country road trip is to decide how to get from coast to coast. You’ll hear people talk about the “north” route, I-90 from Seattle to Boston, or the “south” route, I-10 from Los Angeles to Jacksonville. I don’t like having to choose so my road trip route incorporates a little bit of both. Also, consider the season; I don’t recommend either I-90 or I-80 during winter.
The most important thing is to design the road trip around what inspires you (more on this later). For me, that means the Grand Canyon, the Black Hills, the Smoky Mountains, Charleston and Savannah, and the Southwest which dictated that we drive the northern route and then pivot straight south before turning east again and then zig-zagging a few more times and taking the southern route to the Southwest.
Write down the following numbers:
How many days do you have for your road trip?
Approximately how many miles do you intend to cover?
Start by making a list in Google Maps of all the places you want to see. You may be surprised at how naturally a route forms. You also may be surprised at how little time it takes to get from one place to the next, especially in the East.
What are the most miles you’d be comfortable driving in one day? Start by considering how many hours you’d feel comfortable behind the wheel then convert that into miles.
How many days do you want to do zero driving? Consider days spent exploring towns or in national and state parks. Likely, you won’t want to drive every single day of your trip.
These numbers should give you some clarity on what your itinerary will look like.
Sometimes following a pre-planned itinerary takes a lot of the guesswork out which many people prefer. Everyone’s tolerance for driving is different, too; you’ll need to gauge your threshold. Don’t plan to cross the country in six days if you can only handle four hours of driving at a time.
Create your itinerary
Now, start plotting days out so you can see them. You can use whatever works best for you. There are also road trip planning apps out there.
Once you have a basic itinerary drafted, run through it and see how it feels. Is it too rushed? Are you trying to cover too many miles? Do you think you could squeeze more stops in?
Make any tweaks you feel are necessary. Even though this will hopefully be a pretty solid plan my advice is to always think of it as a guide rather than something that needs to be followed 100 percent.
Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you’re making alterations to your itinerary:
Does it feel balanced?
Do you have all your long drives at the beginning of the trip?
Will you feel exhausted when you reach your final destination or will you be ready to rock?
Do you have time in your schedule to be spontaneous?
What would happen if you don’t get home on the exact date that you planned?
Plan ahead for national parks
Part of the adventure of a cross-country road trip is leaving room for improvisation. We don’t book RV parks and campgrounds until a day or two before our planned arrival which is great because we can be on our timetable. But this can become an issue around the national parks where campgrounds can often be booked months in advance.
As badly as you want to see Zion and Bryce Canyon, well… so does everyone else in America. It’s vitally important to plan and know each park’s entry restrictions. Consider springing for the $80 America the Beautiful National Park pass which provides access to all National Park Service sites as many times as you want in 12 months. In short, if you plan to go to more than three National Parks in one year, this is a good investment. If you plan to spend considerable time in one state or a region, look into those state or local passes too.
Don’t miss out on great parks like Arches because you forgot to get reservations. If summer’s come to an end, you may get lucky—many parks, like Yosemite, do away with the reservation system after September 30. On the flip side, other parks like Glacier National Park or the Grand Canyon North Rim close their scenic drives in the colder months when snow is expected. It pays to do your research.
Unless you’ve got a bottomless bank account (wouldn’t that be nice?!) you’ll probably want to set some sort of road trip budget. Now, this will vary from person to person. For some, it might be more or less a target to aim for but you’ve got flexibility. And for others, it’s a strict number that you’ll need to be very mindful of the entire trip. Whichever sounds like you, setting a budget is important.
If you can, skip traveling to popular places over holiday weekends and possibly the week before and after as prices will be inflated (plus, it’ll be extra crowded).
Road trip costs to consider include:
Fuel: This category is pretty straightforward
Accommodation: RV parks and campgrounds
Food: Restaurants AND groceries; also, the cost of snacks, coffee, alcohol, ice cream… ALL the good stuff
Entertainment: Fun things you plan to do along the way—hiking permits, entry fees, tours, rental equipment
Miscellaneous: The little expenses that don’t fit elsewhere—like propane, parking fees, tolls, medicine, paying for Wi-Fi, toiletries, souvenirs, gifts
Emergencies: We all hope to avoid unforeseen circumstances but, they do happen. This might include RV repairs, medical expenses, etc.
Don’t get gouged on fuel prices. I secretly get excited when we save money on diesel fuel. One great app to save money on gas is Gas Buddy. Simply input your location and Gas Buddy shows you the cheapest gas around you. This app alone can save you hundreds of dollars when traveling across the US. Independent truck stops often offer diesel fuel at 50 to 60 cents per gallon cheaper than the majors like Pilot/Flying J and Loves.
Also, driving the speed limit will help you stretch your fuel—not to mention, it’s kind of the law. Speeding can lower your fuel economy by as much as 30 percent. When you get up to places like Montana where the speed limit is 80 mph you’ll see how quickly your tank drains.
Turning off toll roads is another money saver. It never adds that much extra time and you can score substantial savings. There are some cities where tolls are unavoidable but in others, these are only slightly faster and the tolls can add up quickly. Driving from New York to Washington, DC, for example, can cost as much as $35 in tolls—each way. In cities that are infamous for their tolls, like Chicago, do a little pre-planning so you find the best route for your trip and don’t get stuck paying unnecessary fees for tolls.
Have meals “on deck”. You can make some epic meals on the road but not every meal has to be fancy or overly planned out. Have some meals on hand that are just that—super simple to make.
We always have several “reserve meals” that don’t require much preparation for travel day.
Dining out can be one of the biggest money sucks. It may seem like sacrilege to not be seeking out the best thing to eat in each town along your route but whittling your list down to the absolute can’t-miss spots will be lighter on your wallet. Texas BBQ joints are pretty high on my must-do list.
Eat out for lunch instead of dinner. If there’s a restaurant you just have to try, plan to go there for lunch instead of dinner. Restaurants often have items that are similar to their dinner menu with smaller portions sizes and smaller price tags. This is a great way to try a specific restaurant while still sticking to your budget.
Find free things to do
No matter where your road trip may take you there should be a ton of free (or inexpensive) activities to do. Simply Google “free things to do in (enter city name here)” and you should find enough to get you started.
Alternatively, you could replace “free” with “cheap” for some more options.
Free activities that to seek out include:
Hiking and walking trails
Before you hit the road…
Make sure everything on the RV and toad/tow vehicle is in good working order. This means checking the tire pressure, lights, oil, transmission fluid, and all the features before heading out each day. Don’t forget preventative maintenance.
Even with the most detailed and extensive planning, things happen. But being open and flexible to mishaps is how to not let them ruin your day. If and when something goes wrong, remember to not panic. Trust that you’ve prepared yourself as best as possible and you’ll get back on track in no time.
Inconveniences are also exacerbated by exhaustion, so remember to take care of yourself on the road. Eat plenty of healthy food, drink water, and get a good night’s sleep before a long driving day. Leave the windows open for airflow, especially if you’re feeling sleepy. If you need to take a power nap, find a well-lit, safe area. This should not be a chore. Driving at your best is going to make the trip infinitely better.
Memorial Day kicks off the summer travel season that will surely test American’s resilience for inflation
Observed on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day is a major remembrance day that deserves our attention. It is a day where we come together to remember the sacrifice of many for the freedom all of us enjoy today. Many will attend events to commemorate the men and women of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedom.
Memorial Day was originally referred to as Decoration Day. Shortly after the Civil War, General John A. Logan called for a “Decoration Day” to honor those who died during the bloody struggle by decorating the graves of comrades who were lost in defense of their country.
Over time, Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day. For a long time it was observed on May 30. It wasn’t until Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act in 1968 that Memorial Day was officially recognized on the last Monday in May. This law went into effect in 1971.
Red poppies are traditionally worn on Memorial Day, inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
Memorial Day is also the official beginning of the summer season and that includes camping, picnics, and parades. With many celebrating the holiday out of town, the roads are typically filled with people traveling. According to USA Today, Memorial Day is one of the 10 most traveled days of the year.
Nearly 60 percent of American adults shared that they have plans to travel during Memorial Day Weekend versus 27 percent in 2021, according to a recent survey by The Vacationer.
“This is a clear indicator that summer travel is going to be up significantly. In a general summer travel survey not related to Memorial Day, we saw more than 42 percent—180 million people—said they intended to travel more this year than last year so it’s not surprising that there is a significant increase in Memorial Day travel,” said Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer.
“People said that last year was gonna be the revenge travel year, but now that everyone’s much more comfortable with COVID and restrictions have loosened, this’ll really be that year.”
More than half of the survey’s respondents confirmed that they would be traveling by car (or RV) this Memorial Weekend. And despite nearly 54 percent confirming that high fuel prices will affect their travel plans in one way or another this Memorial Day, almost 57 percent said they were still going to take some sort of road trip, a form of domestic travel that has grown in popularity during the pandemic.
Amongst road trip types, traveling somewhere closest to home was, naturally, most popular. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they would be going to a destination within 100 miles of their home, 13 percent said they were going to a destination within a 250 mile radius, and nearly 11 percent are headed somewhere within or over 500 miles from their home.
These numbers follow several reports of American travelers saying that they are planning to spend more on travel this summer than that of last year. While higher fuel prices may fail to deter many from still traveling, it will most likely force travelers to spend less elsewhere in their travel expenses.
Memorial Day Weekend of 2022 will be a “test run” of sorts as the first US holiday of this summer which is already recording tremendous leaps in the travel industry since the start of the pandemic. Travelers will be testing the waters and looking to see whether these long-awaited travels are worth the higher fuel prices they’re paying for.
This is the beginning of summer, so travelers will have to watch their money. There are still a lot of people out there who are still cautious—they might travel for the first time, say Memorial Day, and then realize “Okay, inflation and fuel prices are still going up, maybe we’ll reconsider for Fourth of July.”
If gas prices go down, people who were on the fence and leaning towards no might say yes, which could also increase overall travel.
Not everything comes with a massive price tag in the spring and these activities are affordable and fun
This is the moment we’ve been waiting all winter for! Spring is finally here! Spring means outdoor activities and often it means travel.
Spring is the perfect time of year for outdoor activities. Not too cold, not too hot, and in many cases not yet crowded with summer travelers.
Believe me, the older one gets, the more we feel the cold! So, with winter behind us, it’s time to open up the windows and feel that warm spring air.
Look around you and you’ll notice that everybody seems to have an extra spring in their step with those glum winter moods now lifted. There’s a lot to love about spring including RV travel. Spring might just be the best time to travel. Why? Read on.
Of course, the number one reason to travel in spring is the warmer weather. While you may not be guaranteed summer-like temperatures unless you head to Florida or Arizona or perhaps Texas, the weather in spring can be very pleasant especially the later in the season you travel.
Summer heat can often be unbearably hot which is another reason spring travel is so appealing.
With the arrival of warmer weather, hiking trails reopen, parks become picnic grounds again, children are out playing, and we can start enjoying activities on the lakes and in the forests again.
Be it camping, boating, or hiking, springtime is the best time to enjoy the great outdoors.
An aromatic and visual delight, spring is a rainbow of colors and a bouquet of smells where flowers bloom, skies are blue, birds return from the north, and animals come out from their winter hibernation with newborns in tow.
However, these can get costly. But, money is not necessary to enjoy the warm winds, beautiful flowers, and sunny days of springtime. There are many spring activities that are easy on the pocketbook and some are even free. Listed below are ten inexpensive outdoor activities for springtime in an RV.
Talking about camping, America has so much to offer. It is a perfect way to enjoy a mixture of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, kayaking, picnicking, and birding.
Depending on where you live and when you go, spring can still be a chilly time of year for camping. But isn’t that what campfires and s’mores are for?
Take your meals outside this spring. The prettier the setting is the better. Springtime is ideal for picnicking while surrounded by beautiful green fields, serene waters, and blooming flowers.
Local parks make an obvious option.
It is a great way to catch up with friends and talk about life with good food. Accordingly, it is also great to combine hiking with picnicking as trekking can create stunning views. There are many public parks in America for a less expensive picnic with breathtaking landscapes. Other parks also host live performances, especially at night.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir
Hiking requires little in the way of equipment although you do need reliable hiking shoes and possibly a backpack or hiking poles. You get to enjoy the great outdoors while getting a little exercise.
Time to lace up your hiking boots! Maybe a strenuous trek up a mighty peak is what you’re after. Or maybe you see yourself walking along an ancient trail that our ancestors used. Perhaps meandering down a boardwalk is more your speed.
There are over 21,000 combined miles of trails for you to explore in the National Park Service. Whether you’re looking for rugged slopes or a flat, smooth boardwalk, there’s a national park trail for you. State parks also offer many opportunities to hit the trail. Get ready, adventure awaits!
Biking, like hiking, is a fantastic way to experience both easy and challenging trails throughout the spring season.
Biking through national parks and state parks is a great way to see beautiful scenery and discover new places. Cyclists can travel by roads (which are sometimes car-free) and, in some parks, on select trails. There are many places in parks where cars cannot go but you can cover more ground and visit new places on a bike. Some parks offer bike rentals and others provide guided biking activities.
A wide range of people go fishing and if you ask different people why it is their favorite hobby, they will likely answer that fishing gives them relief from stress and they feel free. Freedom is what you experience when you go fishing. Whether you fish in a stream or lake, you experience and appreciate an environment that is entirely different from your ordinary life. When you interact with nature, you become a part of it.
Fishing is an excellent hobby for the whole family and people of all ages. It may appear to be a simple hobby, but the tactics mastered make it a delightful way to spend time in a beautiful setting.
If you’ve been considering joining the ranks of the 47 million birders in the U. S., there’s no better time than the present to take the plunge—or at least dip your toes in. You can find birds most everywhere: any green space or open water source will do.
Spring and fall bird migration are ideal for observing rare bird species; it is also stunning to see large groups of birds congregating during these seasons. There are many areas in America where anyone can go bird watching, most are free.
Beach trips in the spring offer a different experience than in summer. You probably won’t be riding waves or sunbathing depending on the temperature but beach towns offer more than just tanning and swimming.
Most people enjoy walking on the beach. Dogs love it even more making a beach trip perfect for those with pals of the canine persuasion. You can play beach sports like volleyball, fly kites, go running, or pack a picnic lunch or dinner. Or of course, you can go kayaking or canoeing.
Beach towns tend to be quieter in the spring with lower costs. So skip the crowds and costs of summer beach trips and take your next beach vacation this spring.
Whether you view your RV as holiday accommodation and transportation or as your snowbird or full-time home, growing your own food inside your vehicle is easier than you may imagine. Keeping a garden while traveling can be challenging but it also helps ground you and brings in wonders like fresh herbs and produce or simply beautifies and detoxifies a closed space like an RV. Continue reading for tips on RV gardening.
Zoos frequently have lower admission rates during the off-season and lesser crowds than in summer. Visiting the zoo during springtime will allow people to experience seeing more newborn species and more interactive animals because there will only be a lesser audience. Top zoos in America include the San Diego Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo (free admission), St. Louis Zoo, ZooAmerica (Hershey, Pennsylvania), and the National Zoo.
Create and fly a kite
One of the most fun and creative activities with kids is creating their kites from scratch through the materials available at home. Spring is considered a kite-flying season as the wind becomes steady and constant. Kites range in price from $14 to $85 depending on the model, but it gets much more exciting if the kite is handcrafted. After creatively making the kite, find a more expansive and steady wind spot with less crowds.
Every spring, most of us can’t wait to get outside for fresh air. But after an exceptionally cold and snowy winter, getting outdoors feels all the more urgent. You don’t have to spend a fortune to do it, either. Many spring outdoor activities are free or low-cost.
Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing, as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.
From alpine forests to saguaro-framed sunsets, the landscape is inescapable in Arizona—and the Grand Canyon is just the beginning
Few places in America offer such startling variety of natural features as Arizona. Deep canyons give way to rugged snow-capped mountains. The world’s largest contiguous forest of Ponderosa pines merges into the arid Sonoran Desert.
Arizona’s nickname may be the Grand Canyon State, and that namesake national park may draw more than six million visitors a year and rank as the second most popular in the country. But the canyon is just one of many natural wonders in a state unusually rich in them. In fact, with petrified forests, volcanic cinder cones, saguaro-studded deserts, and Anasazi cliff dwellings, no state in the country can boast as many National Park Service sites as Arizona.
Land of sprawling burnt red and orange deserts and other-worldly rock formations that have to be seen to be believed, Arizona is seemingly made for lovers of the great outdoors and scenic road trips. It’s also home to villages dating back thousands of years of history, sacred sites, world-famous protected areas, and endless skies, yep this US state has soul! Here are the best—and most beautiful—places to visit in wonderful Arizona…
I’d have to start my Arizona list with one of the most popular and famous national parks to visit in the country. This beautiful national park is the home to the majestic Grand Canyon which houses layers and layers of red rocks. These divulge in millions of years of geological history.
Some of the popular viewpoints which will give you a stunning and up-close view of the Grand Canyon are Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and the renowned architect Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio and her Desert View Watchtower.
If you delight in gazing at towering red rocks or driving through rugged canyons, then go to Sedona. If you admire exquisite art or are captivated by amazing architecture, then go to Sedona. If you want to see ancient cliff dwellings, hear tales of Hollywood cowboys or thrill to outdoor adventures, then (you guessed it) go to Sedona. Sedona is a must-stop.
One of the most iconic and enduring landmarks of the American Wild West, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park has isolated sandstone mesas, buttes, and a sandy desert that has been photographed and filmed countless times. The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs, trees, and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience.
Climbing more than 6,000 feet, Mount Lemmon Highway begins with forests of saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert and ends in a cool, coniferous forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Prepare yourself for breathtaking views and a climate change that would be similar to driving from Southern Arizona to Canada in a mere 27 miles. Every thousand feet up is like driving 600 miles north offering a unique opportunity to experience four seasons in one trip. This scenic drive begins at the northeastern edge of Tucson.
Vermilion Cliff National Monument
Easily one of the most beautiful places to explore in Arizona this wonderful national monument is located in Coconino County. It protects the Vermilion Cliff, Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon, and Paria Plateau. You can drive by the U.S Highway 89A between Jacob Lake and Marble Canyon in the state to reach this picturesque location. Some of the top sights to check out include White Pocket, Buckskin Gulch, Waterholes Canyon, Navajo Bridge, and The Wave.
Maricopa County Parks offer hiking and biking trails, picnicking and camping, educational programs, and guided hikes. Some parks also offer horseback riding, golf, boating, fishing, and archery. There are 11 parks in Maricopa County, which ring around the Phoenix metro area.
Just outside of Sedona, the Red Rock Scenic Byway boasts everything from breathtakingly beautiful rock formations to ancient Native American cliff dwellings. If you’re a believer in the supernatural, you’ll find the Byway is sprinkled with what like-minded folk refers to as “vortexes” of spiritual energy—two of the biggest are Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, formations which are stunning regardless of your personal beliefs.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument celebrates the life and landscape of the Sonoran Desert. This is a showcase for creatures who have adapted themselves to the extreme temperatures, intense sunlight, and little rainfall that characterize this Southwest region. Twenty-six species of cactus live here including the giant saguaro and the park’s namesake. This is the only place in the U. S. where the organ pipe cactus grows wild.
The Sinagua people began building the limestone and sandstone hilltop pueblo around the year A.D. 1000. They expanded the settlement over the next 400 years to involve 110 rooms housing more than 200 people. Then, in the late 1300s, the inhabitants began to abandon the pueblo. By the time the first Europeans arrived, Tuzigoot had been empty for nearly 100 years. It’s believed the citizens joined what are now the modern Hopi and Zuni tribes or stayed nearby and became the ancestors of people now belonging to the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
While many national parks around the country are home to vast forests this preserve comes with a twist—the trees here have all been dead for hundreds of millions of years transformed into colorful slabs of stone. A broad region of rocky badlands encompassing more than 93,500 acres, the Painted Desert is a vast landscape that features rocks in every hue—from deep lavenders and rich grays to reds, oranges, and pinks.
Prescott is surrounded by ponderosa pine forests and enjoys a cooler climate that’s perfect for experiencing all four seasons in the outdoors. This is a nature lover’s paradise with lots of opportunities for camping, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, and mountain biking. Check out the downtown historic area as well as Watson Lake, the Lynx Lake Recreation Area, and Whiskey Row.
Red Rock State Park in Arizona offers a classic Southwestern outdoor experience for visitors around Sedona. The beautiful red rocks and local wildlife can be viewed and enjoyed as you hike the 5-mile trail network around the park. You can arrive at this 286-acre park in less than 20 minutes driving from downtown Sedona which makes for a convenient stop when in the area. Nearby attractions include Slide Rock State Park, Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest, and Prescott National Forest.
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. There’s also a visitor’s center, gift shop, and miles of hiking trails. The Tucson Mountain District (West) also has a scenic loop drive and many hiking trails, including some with petroglyphs at Signal Mountain.
This gorgeous gash in the landscape has a spectacular feature: you can drive through it! A wonderful road built in 1929 runs the entire 13-mile length of the canyon. During the 2,500-foot elevation drop into Sedona, the pine trees fade in your rearview mirror as brilliant orange-and-red sandstone bluffs and steep canyon walls appear on your right. The forested canyon floor ranges from a mile wide at the top end to 2.5 miles at the mouth and up to 2,000 feet deep from the creek to the tops of the highest sheer red cliffs.
The spirits of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Brothers live on in the authentic old west town of Tombstone, home of Boothill Graveyard, Birdcage Theatre, and O.K. Corral. After getting its start as a silver mining claim in the late-1870s, the settlement grew along with its Tough Nut Mine becoming a bustling boomtown of the Wild West. From opera and theater to dance halls and brothels, Tombstone offered much-needed entertainment to the miners. The “Town Too Tough to Die” town contains many preserved buildings from the 1870s and 80s.
In the foothills of the Pinal Mountains, sits the former mining camp known as Globe. Founded in 1876 and incorporated in 1907, this lovely town is brimming with century-old buildings, cottages, and hillside houses. The Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park features stunning partially restored ruins of a Salado pueblo along with an accompanying museum. The historic downtown area is perfect for leisurely strolls and shopping for antiques while the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is a great spot to explore and experience the talent of some incredible artists.
Verde Canyon Railroad
Park the RV and board the train as you embark on a spectacular journey accessible only by rail. Keep your eyes on the scenery as the engineer takes you on a four-hour, 40-mile round-trip excursion between two national forests through a 680-foot tunnel and past ancient ruins and towering red rock buttes. Gaze at the remote wilderness through large windows as you sit comfortably in climate-controlled passenger cars complete with restrooms. Or choose to enjoy the open-air viewing car for fresh canyon air and an amazing 360-degree panorama.
For a few years, Bisbee was the “it” destination, named Arizona’s prettiest small town by a number of travel sites. That level of attention may have dwindled but the former mining town is as beautiful as ever. A stroll down Main Street reveals buildings that look much as they did a hundred years ago, now occupied by restaurants and boutiques rather than miners and speculators. If you head 3 miles south to Lowell, you’ll find a strip of former service stations and garages repurposed as stores and restaurants.
A National Scenic Byway, the 44-mile paved and gravel Apache Trail crosses the rugged northern part of the Superstition Mountains offering access to three reservoirs and gorgeous desert scenery. Just off U.S. Highway 60 near Mesa, designate a driver to keep their eyes on curves and hairpin turns while passengers “ooh” and “ahh” over the lakes, mountains, and canyons in Tonto National Forest’s wilderness areas. The road begins near Goldfield Ghost Town, a re-created Wild West town, complete with gunslingers. You’ll pass Canyon Lake, where you can cruise on the Dolly Steamboat.
Once a gold-mining boomtown, Oatman hunkers in a craggy gulch of the Black Mountains. Rising above the town is the jagged peak of white quartz known as Elephant’s Tooth. A shadow of its former self this living ghost town offers a handful of historic buildings and photo opportunities, costumed gunfighters, and 1890s style ladies. Burros from the surrounding hills wander into Oatman daily and mosey around town blocking traffic, greeting visitors, and chomping alfalfa cubes sold by the local shop owners.
Visitors traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park. Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak and, often in the spring, overlook a sea of wildflowers. Enjoy the beauty of the desert and the amazing views.
An ancient civilization carved clever dwellings into the sturdy rock of what is now a famous monument. A lot more than Montezuma attracts people to the site—Wet Beaver Creek, a flourishing spring and interesting wildlife are just a few things to put on the list when stopping through.
Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, 40 miles east of downtown Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron.
Situated in southeastern Arizona, Chiricahua National Monument spans an elevation of 5,124 feet at the visitor center to a peak of 7,310 feet at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. That elevation makes it a cool mountain getaway where you can hike amid wildly eroded rock formations.
Colorful architecture and mountain backdrops define Tubac’s Southwest scenery. See both at Tumacácori National Historical Park, where O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people once dwelled. Tubac Presidio State Historic Park offers a glimpse at 2,000 years of Arizona history. Tubac features over 100 eclectic shops and world-class galleries situated along meandering streets with hidden courtyards and sparkling fountains.
See just how lush the desert can be at this oasis of more than 3,000 types of Sonoran Desert vegetation. At 392 acres, Boyce Thompson is Arizona’s largest and oldest botanical garden founded in the 1920s. There are 3 miles of trails and the most popular is the 1.5-mile main loop that offers a perfect overview.
A charming National Historic Landmark on Cleopatra Hill, Jerome is a former mining town. Meandering around the hilly, winding streets, visitors will discover galleries and art studios. Not forgetting its past, Jerome offers history buffs a wealth of experience through the Mine Museum, displaying artifacts representing the town’s past and present, and the Jerome State Historic Park, home to the Douglas Mansion.
This up-and-coming town in southeastern Arizona is attracting visitors who come for its wineries and tasting rooms, but you’re here to hike in Chiricahua National Monument and see the sandhill cranes. The majestic birds winter in the Sulphur Springs area and Willcox is the perfect hub. Thousands of cranes roost in Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, a shallow lake that is a flurry activity at sunup and sundown when birds depart and return in a swirling cloud of feathers.
To experience the magic of the giant saguaro cacti up-close, look no further than Catalina State Park near Tucson. There are easy nature trails here and also longer and more challenging trails for experienced hikers. The park spans 5,500 acres of foothills, streams, and canyons and is home to over 150 species of birds. RV camping is available.
From the mesa east of Chinle in the Navajo Nation, Canyon de Chelly is invisible. Then as one approach, suddenly the world falls away—1,000 feet down a series of vertical red walls. 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 there.
If you don’t have a bucket list, I highly recommend you create one
While we’re often daydreaming of beaches in the Maldives and vineyards in Tuscany, there are plenty of amazing destinations in our own backyard. To help you with your bucket list, I’ve rounded up 20 places you have to visit in the United States before you die—in no particular order.
Sure, you probably know about The Alamo in San Antonio, but it’s actually one of five Spanish missions found across the city that was established to spread Christianity and act as a refuge for Native Americans. The oldest is Mission Espada which was built in 1690, original frescoes are still visible inside Mission Concepcion, and the largest is Mission San José.
A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present-day life of the Navajo who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.
Both a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in America. Recreational opportunities include hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and water tubing. Fall also offers striking foliage.
Surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe is a charming town with a strong Native American influence. Pueblo-style architecture, a central plaza, and Loretto Chapel give the city a unique feel. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and restaurants serving New Mexican cuisine are additional highlights.
Boston played a major part in America’s independence and the city’s Freedom Trail passes through 16 historically significant locations. The two-and-a-half-mile trail takes visitors to Boston Common (America’s oldest public park), Paul Revere’s House, and the USS Constitution (the oldest commissioned ship).
Travel through this dusty outpost between April and November and you might wonder why this wide spot along Interstate 10 is such a popular snowbird destination for RVers. But visit in January and you’ll quickly see why: it morphs into a non-stop social event for RVing snowbirds.
Joshua Tree National Park is a dreamy destination known for its distinctive-looking and namesake trees, big boulders that are ideal for rock climbing, and stellar stargazing opportunities. Visitors can drive through, hike around and camp, or horseback ride through the varied desert landscape.
The distinctive Spanish Moss-draped trees, antebellum homes, and horse-drawn carriages help to give a relaxed and comfortable feel. 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.
Monument Valley is one of the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. Eons of wind and rain carved the red-sandstone monoliths into fascinating formations, many of which jut hundreds of feet above the desert floor.
This famous landmark depicts four American presidents carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. The sculpture features the 60-foot heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Bryce Canyon is best known for its concentration of hoodoos. The park was recently designated an International Dark Sky Park due to the great nighttime visibility and many astronomy-related programs on offer.
The 1670-founded Charleston offers Southern charm with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and historic mansions in its well-preserved Historic District. Boutique shops and traditional Southern comfort food appeal to visitors.
If you delight in gazing at towering red rocks or driving through rugged canyons, then go to Sedona. If you admire exquisite art or are captivated by amazing architecture, then go to Sedona. Of all the places to visit in the Southwest, Sedona may be the most beautiful.
Just outside Moab is Arches National Park, famous for its more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. The most-photographed is the 52-foot-tall, freestanding Delicate Arch, plus the park has many other striking geological formations.
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.
Tombstone invites visitors to walk in the footsteps of the West’s most famous outlaws and good guys, the Clantons and the Earps. During its 1880s heyday, Tombstone, the “Town Too Tough to Die,” boasted 10,000 gunslingers, gamblers, prospectors, and prostitutes.
Lassen National Park is one of few locations on Earth where you can see all four types of volcanoes—plug dome, shield, cinder, and cone. While Lassen Peak is the most famous, as well as the dominant feature in the park, there are numerous other—literally—hotspots to explore including mud pots, stinking fumaroles, and hot springs.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in September
Now that September is here, many RVers are looking to extend their summer fun as long as they can. Summer may officially end on September 23 but your vacation season is far from over. Whatever your September plans—quick trips, long weekends, a staycation, sitting by the pool, or one last big journey—we have gathered some great destinations and road trips to help you enjoy the season. Summer is calling . . . still!
September is the unsung hero of travel months: The busiest vacation season has come and gone and places are less crowded because kids are back in school. It’s the perfect time to pay a visit to locations that are usually swarming with tourists and enjoy some serious natural beauty, luxury RV resorts, outdoor adventures, and a few glasses of wine. So what are you waiting for? Here are the 10 best places to travel in September, from Vermont to San Antonio.
It’s almost autumn and if you didn’t join the summer rush back to traveling it’s time to think about September when things calm down a bit. Crisp temperatures, fall colors, and fresh mountain air make Stowe, Vermont and the Blue Ridge Parkway perfect destinations where you can enjoy the scenery, hiking, and apple cider.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in June, July, and August. Also, check out my recommendations from September 2020.
This classic New England village is known for skiing but it’s also one of the best places in the country to see stunning fall foliage. From early September through late October, the weather and colorful backdrop are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and scenic drives.
Zig and zag your way to the summit ridge of Mount Mansfield—Vermont’s highest mountain—along the historic Toll Road where stunning views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains await you. The road up Mount Mansfield is 4.5 miles of awe-inspiring natural beauty. You can park at 3,850 feet, relax and take it all in. RVs are not permitted on the toll road.
Or get on top of autumn splendor the easy way—in the refurbished Stowe Gondola SkyRide. From the top of Mount Mansfield, you can access hiking trails and a sweet treat at The Waffle. The Gondola SkyRide is open through October 17. And plan ahead for the Stowe Foliage Arts Festival in early October (38th annual; October 8-10, 2021).
Enjoy a Scenic Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway
America’s Favorite Scenic Drive winds its way through North Carolina and Virginia. The 469-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are numerous entry points to the parkway (which is free to access) in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina but if you want to admire some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River you’ll want to traverse the parkway near Asheville.
Popular stops along the parkway include Craggy Gardens (known for its 360-degree views and abundance of wildflowers), Mount Mitchell (the highest peak in the eastern United States), and Linville Falls (a three-tiered waterfall that cascades into the Linville Gorge). When you’re ready to stretch your legs, there are multiple hiking trails easily accessed off of the parkway including the family-friendly Graveyard Fields. This nearly 3-mile-long loop trail takes hikers to two waterfalls. If you’re up for the challenge there’s also the more strenuous 2.6-mile out and back Mount Pisgah Trail which features views of Cold Mountain from its 5,721-foot summit.
Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival: The sweetest time of year! The annual Hi Sugar festival in September in New Iberia is the place to be to satisfy your inner sweet tooth and child-like sugary desires. Offering a rich history of the sugar found in the area, entertainment, and lots of sugar-filled treats, you’ll soak up a sweet time!
What could be more fitting a cause for celebration than the tall, green, sweet sugar cane? And so it is that the last full weekend of September (79th annual; September 23-26, 2021) as the growth of the succulent sugar cane reaches its pinnacle, New Iberia hosts the twenty-four sugar producing parishes of Louisiana.
To the Jesuit Fathers goes the distinction of introducing sugar cane to Louisiana. Because of its rapid growth due to the semi-tropical climate and the ingenuity of a young Frenchman, Etienne De Bore who discovered the secret of granulated sugar, the economy of South Louisiana changed and the era of large plantations came into existence.
At the conclusion of a successful harvest, the planters rejoiced with a celebration called “apres la roulaison”, meaning to grind or to roll as in crushing the cane to extract the juices. In its infancy, the festival took place “after grinding” and although the celebration now comes at the end of September, the spirit of the occasion is the same…one of thanksgiving and joyful anticipation of fun-filled, carefree days.
Chile Capital of the World
It’s been 100 years since horticulturist Fabián García publicly introduced his hybrid chile, “New Mexico No. 9,” the grandmother of all New Mexican chile peppers today. To pay homage, consider a visit to Hatch, a small agricultural village in southern New Mexico known as the “Chile Capital of the World.” The oh-so-flavorful Hatch pepper is named after Hatch Valley where the bulk of Hatch peppers are grown. This is thanks to its unique terroir which includes fertile volcanic soil.
As summer cools down, the Village of Hatch heats up. Labor Day weekend heralds the annual Hatch Chile Festival, a two-day celebration of their world-famous crop. Despite the town’s tiny size, Hatch swells to more than 30,000 people during the two-day celebration. The event features chile ristra contests, artisan and food booths, and a carnival. This year marks 50 years since the festival’s inception. The pandemic thwarted last year’s celebration making the 2021 gathering extra-special.
The scent of roasting chiles permeates the air in late summer and early fall along Hall Street, Hatch’s main thoroughfare where mom-and-pop shops sell chile peppers in all forms. Ristras—decorative dried chile pods that are both edible and a good luck symbol—hang on the patios and in doorways of places like Chile Fanatic and Hatch Chile Sales beckoning visitors to shop for chile powder, salsas, and ristras of their own.
Chile peppers keep their star status when it comes to dining, as well. For a quarter of a century, the family-owned Pepper Pot has been serving up Mexican American dishes like green chile stew and red chile enchiladas (a favorite of late food personality, Anthony Bourdain, who said that their red enchiladas were the best ever). Then there’s Sparky’s, a roadside eatery and attraction that’s known as much for the fiberglass statues dotting its rooftop and lining the street (including Ronald McDonald, Yogi Bear, a Roswell-inspired green alien, and a towering Uncle Sam) as it is for its cuisine. Sparky’s green chile cheeseburgers are a talked-about phenomenon though this beloved counter-service spot also whips up the wood-fired barbeque, espresso drinks, and a wide array of shakes.
Hatch is just nine miles north of the entrance to Spaceport America, the first purpose-built commercial spaceport on the planet and testing grounds for Virgin Galactic’s human spaceflights. Final Frontier Tours offers private pre-scheduled tours of the facility, including the chance to experience a rapidly accelerating G-shock simulator, comparable to what astronauts feel in flight.
Port Aransas, Texas
With 18 miles of beaches, Port Aransas, located on Mustang Island on the Gulf Coast, is a haven for anglers and beachgoers. Fishermen can cast a line from the surf, a public fishing pier, or take an off-shore excursion for various fish species. If you visit in the summer, you’re bound to see a fishing tournament or you can try surfing, kayaking, or kiteboarding with a local guide. Visit Farley Boat Works to partake in building a boat or head out on a bird-watching expedition—Port Aransas has six sites along the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail with hundreds of bird species frequenting the area. The arts community here is also thriving with numerous studios, galleries, the Port Aransas Art Center, and the Port Aransas Community Theatre. Nightlife is also popular, with numerous bars and restaurants regularly hosting artists.
Feel the Thunder
Custer State Park in the beautiful Black Hills of western South Dakota is famous for its bison herds, other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centers, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds, and interpretive programs. In fact, it was named as one of the World’s Top Ten Wildlife Destinations for the array of wildlife within the park’s borders and for the unbelievable access visitors have to them. The bison wander the park’s 71,000 acres of mountains, hills, and prairie which they share with a wealth of wildlife including pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, coyotes, wild turkeys, a band of burros, and whole towns of adorable prairie dogs.
Visit the last Friday in September and feel the thunder and join the herd at the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup (September 24, 2021). Watch cowboys and cowgirls as they round up and drive the herd of approximately 1,300 buffalo. Not only is the roundup a spectacular sight to see, it is also a critical management tool in maintaining a strong and healthy herd.
St. Simons, Georgia
The largest barrier island in the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island lies across the immortalized Marshes of Glynn made famous by poet Sidney Lanier. Moss-draped oaks line the winding island streets creating a picture-perfect image worthy of a Faulkner tale.
St. Simons Island is dotted with exceptional historic sites and attractions from the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum—a working lighthouse built in 1872—to the Bloody Marsh Battle Site where in July 1742, British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions outside Florida.
On the island’s north end, Cannon’s Point Preserve contains middens dating back to 2500 BC. Fort Frederica National Monument which preserves archeological remnants of the local British colony and its defense against Spain and historic Christ Church, Frederica—one of the oldest churches in Georgia with worship held continuously since 1736—is also located on the island’s north end. History buff or not, you won’t want to miss Christ Church’s picturesque and somewhat haunting grounds.
Watch hummingbirds in Patagonia
The Paton Center for Hummingbirds was closed due to the pandemic but has since reopened.
This birding hotspot captures the laidback charm of Patagonia. The Patons put out backyard feeders in the 1970s and hummingbirds swarmed the property. The family soon began welcoming strangers who came to enjoy the colorful show. After Marion Paton died in 2009, neighbors kept the feeders stocked until 2014 when the Tucson Audubon Society took over.
The place hasn’t changed much over the years. There are chairs beneath a shade awning and a big board to list recent sightings. Folks have come from all over the world just to sit quietly in a small Arizona yard and watch clouds of hummingbirds. Hummingbird visitors to the Paton Yard are at their highest numbers during spring (March-May) and fall (August-October) migrations. They also have many breeding hummingbird species throughout the summer. In the winter, hummingbird numbers are lower but you may still find rare species such as the Violet-crowned Hummingbird.
It’s a lovely carefree way to spend an hour and I hope to get to do it again soon.
Greenville’s River Walk
Greenville’s recent history is defined by a series of game-changing public access initiatives beginning with the formation of Falls Park on the Reedy, a 32-acre park in the heart of downtown. The signature waterfall is best viewed from the pedestrian-only Liberty Bridge, a single-cable suspended path that extends 345 feet as it curves around the waterfall below.
Live music, delicious cuisine, and impressive outdoor art installations are just a few of the standout attractions along Greenville’s river walk. Check out Papi’s Tacos (300 River Street) and ask for the “Travelin’ Taco”—shredded chicken, lettuce, Pico De Gallo, Crema in a bag of Fritos corn chips, and a fork. It won’t disappoint and it’s only $4.25 or three for $12.
Next, stop at the picturesque Art Crossing. The Shoppes at Art Crossing, nestled in the lower level of Riverplace, house over a dozen local artists and offer the public a great variety of art in every medium. Here you will find local award-winning artists at work in their gallery/studio as they create realist and abstract paintings, photographic art, watercolors, illustrations, pottery, batik, and mixed media treasures. Art Crossing at Riverplace is in the heart of downtown Greenville right off South Main along the Reedy River and is open from 11 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday.
Public space extends north and south along the Swamp Rabbit Trail that parallels the Reedy River as it rambles for 22 miles over the converted railway. The path moves south to the freshwater marsh at Lake Conestee Nature Preserve and north to Travelers Rest, a bedroom community where eateries like Upcountry Provisions offer a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Two miles north of downtown, the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery marks an appealing waypoint with its park-like outdoor seating, sandwiches on house-baked stecca bread, and homemade pastries. Other fan-favorite eateries include UP on the Roof (250 Riverplace) and The Lazy Goat (170 Riverplace), both of which are perfect to pop in for a delicious meal.
San Antonio, Texas
The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is one of the city’s best-known attractions. Visitors can stroll along the walking path or cruise in a river barge to explore the 15-mile urban waterway. Shop at La Villita, Market Square, or the Shops at Rivercenter. The Alamo is another favorite with tours and exhibits of the complex that was the site of the Texas Revolution battle in 1836. Further south, immerse yourself in history at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions along the Mission Reach. Families enjoy the San Antonio Zoo and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
Add a scenic road trip to the Texas Hill Country characterized by tall, rugged hills of limestone and granite. You’ll pass through small towns, boutique farms, Texas-sizes ranches, and refreshing swimming holes. Many towns also have monthly markets where you can buy everything from earrings to stained glass: Gruene Market Days (Gruene is at the edge of New Braunfels), Trade Days near Fredericksburg, Boerne Market Days, and Wimberley Market Days. Wildseed Farms is a haven for gardening accessories, seeds, and local specialty foods. Explore Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with a hike, picnic, or climb to enjoy the view.
We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.