The Real Sunbelt Lives Here

Here is where you’ll find sunshine this winter

Can’t stand the gloom of the Pacific Northwest? Winters in the Northeast? Bone-chilling temperatures and blizzards of the Midwest? Then pack the RV and head to Arizona, California, Nevada, or Texas.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the following U.S. cities get sunshine more than 84 percent of the time (or more than 300 days a year, if you do the math based on those percentages)—far more than most places in the U.S.

The sunny Southwest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before we get started with the list, let’s give out the four honorable mentions to round out a top 10—Fresno, California and Reno, Nevada with 79 percent annual sunshine and Flagstaff, Arizona and Sacramento, California with 76 percent.

The sunny Southwest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although omitted from the NOAA analysis, Las Cruces, New Mexico (45 miles northwest of El Paso) boasts similar percent of sunshiny days with the West Texas city.

Now, grab your sunscreen and take a look at the six U.S. cities that get the sunniest days.

El Paso, Texas (84% Sunshine)

Franklin Mountains State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’d be pretty cool to live on Sunshine Court in El Paso. It’s a short, aptly-named street in the eastern part of the city. The El Paso area is home to Franklin Mountains State Park, Chamizal National Memorial, Hueco Tanks State Park, and numerous other scenic and historic places that are best observed on sunny days, of which there are plenty.

Las Cruces, New Mexico (84% Sunshine)

Mesilla Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Cruces (pop 75,000) is the largest city in southwestern New Mexico and has been a popular resting stop along traditional trade routes for centuries. Las Cruces is located in the Mesilla Valley close to the Rio Grande River and is framed dramatically by the Organ Mountains to its east, allowing for a variety of recreational adventures within a short drive of town.

Tucson, Arizona (85% Sunshine)

Tucson Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With Saguaro National Park just outside of city limits to the east and west, Tucson is another great spot to soak up the sun in nature. It was also a great place to film Westerns, including Tombstone, the hit starring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp.

Phoenix, Arizona (85% Sunshine)

Bush Highway near Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another Arizona city with lots to do, Phoenix is the state’s capital and the home of the aptly-named NBA team the Phoenix Suns. A giraffe at the Phoenix Zoo is even named Sunshine. Snowbirds can take advantage of all that sunshine by enjoying a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden, driving the Apache Trail, or hiking Usery Mountain.

Las Vegas, Nevada (85% Sunshine)

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

Viva Las Sunshine. If you head to Vegas, you’re not taking too much of a gamble on the weather. Odds are, it’s plenty of sun (and plenty of overwhelming heat in the summertime). So be sure to get out of the casinos and enjoy it. The region offers Red Rock National Conservation Area, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Valley of the Fire State Park, and so many more opportunities to get off of the Strip.

Redding, California (88% Sunshine)

Sundial Bridge, Redding © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I was surprised this NorCal city edged out Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson on the list, but alas, it did—clocking a whopping 321 or so days of sunshine each year. The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay is a Redding icon and acts as a massive sundial—perfect for this sunny city.

Yuma, Arizona (90% Sunshine)

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With nearly 330 days of sunshine a year (4,300 sunny hours), Yuma actually holds the world record for most recorded annual sunshine, according to Current Results. Reporters at the aptly-named Yuma Sun will tell you that rain is an actual news story there. Not just downpours, but any rain.

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All that sun comes at a price in the summertime though, because guess what? Yuma is also the hottest city in the nation. But you sure can’t beat that sunshine in the winter. Ask any snowbird who winters here!

Worth Pondering…

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

—Henry Miller

7 National Parks You Should Have on Your Radar This Winter

The best national parks to visit this winter

There are 62 national parks across America. That’s not counting the hundreds of national monuments, historical sites, battlefields, memorials, trails, and more. When you count all of them together, the number of protected sites that fall under the US National Park Service is well over 400.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So it should not surprise anyone when I say that there are scores of incredible sites worth exploring in America—from sea to shining sea.

Whether you’re looking to explore waterfalls or rivers, volcanoes or deserts, canyons or mountaintops, there’s a national park to discover this winter.

Saguaro National Park in Arizona

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located just outside of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is divided into two units separated by 30 miles: Rincon Mountain District (East Unit) and Tucson Mountain District (West Unit).

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The busiest time of the year is from November to March. During the winter months, temperatures are cooler and range from the high 50s to the high-70s. Starting in late February and March, the park begins to get a variety of cactus and wildflower blooms. In late April, the iconic Saguaro begins to bloom. Come June, the fruits are beginning to ripen.

There are many activities to partake in at Saguaro, no matter the season.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon‘s residents are a hardy bunch—visit in winter and you’ll spot Abert’s squirrels on nut-foraging expeditions, bald eagles soaring above snow-dusted ridges, and mule deer making their way through the ponderosa pines.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many animals develop additional finery during these colder months. One example is Abert’s squirrels, which grow extra tufts of fur on their ears to keep out the cold. Furry-eared rodents aside, there are lots of other reasons to visit in winter, including hikes along the park’s beautiful low-elevation trails (which have less snow and ice) such as the South Rim’s Hermit Trail.

Big Bend National Park in Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park is named after a stretch of 118 miles of Rio Grande River, part of which forms a large bend in the river. Big Bend offers a variety of activities for the outdoor enthusiasts including backpacking, river trips, horseback riding, biking, and camping. The park is home to more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, and 56 species of reptiles.

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree is a diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. The park is home to two deserts: the Colorado which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as ocotillo and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The different elevation throughout the park cause flowers to bloom at different times, with the low elevation flowers blooming earlier than higher elevation flowers.

Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion is a park that you have to see to believe. It is a true desert oasis and an American icon. The surrounding area looks desolate, dry, and barren, but when you drive into Zion Canyon, a massive formation, miles wide, with sheer rock walls that rise thousands of feet, await you. There is something so incredible about seeing the oranges and yellows of sandstone mixed with the greens of the Virgin River and the vegetation that grows so easily there.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals, including its namesake.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This stretch of desert marks the northern range of the organ pipe cactus, a rare species in the U.S. With its multiple stems, the cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ. There are 28 different species of cacti in the park, ranging from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion.

Congaree National Park in South Carolina

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park is an International Biosphere Reserve. Visitors can explore the natural wonderland by canoe, kayak, or on hiking trails and the Boardwalk Loop Trail.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is also one of the most diverse in the country—with dense forests giving way to massive expanses of swamplands. The forests are some of the biggest and oldest old-growth in America and offer great opportunities for recreation of all kinds.

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

The Beating Heart of Yuma

Discovering the beating heart of Yuma

I did not like Yuma in the least.

We first showed up here in the late 1990s and found nothing to hold our interest. We had a hard time finding our way to the banks of the Colorado River—even though it was the river that put Yuma on the map.

Colorado River in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here was a desert town blessed with a river and you couldn’t even find the river, just a dumpsite. I revisited Yuma a few years later and nothing changed. The town felt rundown and having a trashy core seemed to impact everything.

Fair or not, I was done with Yuma.

Yuma East Wetlands © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or so I thought. Eventually I thought I’d give Yuma another try.

OMG! What a difference. The transformation amazed me. Where there had been piles of garbage, there was a park. Where there had been a tangle of overgrowth, there were lighted pathways, picnic tables, sandy beaches, and groves of cottonwood trees.

Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The river existed. And it flowed right through the heart of town. And I realized what had been missing. The Colorado River is more than a waterway. It is the beating heart of Yuma!

West Wetlands Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Yuma has about 150 acres of public parkland along the river, connected by miles of paved biking and walking paths, plus hundreds of acres of easily accessible wildlife habitat just steps from downtown. Two historic state parks—Colorado River and Yuma Territorial Prison—anchor the historic North End while public and private investment has helped to spark downtown development.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Native American tribes to Spanish explorers to gold-seekers, travelers found their way to Yuma for hundreds of years because this was the safest place to cross the mighty Colorado before dams tamed it.

Yuma East Wetlands © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But as Yuma exploded in the mid-20th century, it turned its back to the river. With 90 percent of the water diverted further upstream and its banks overgrown with invasive vegetation, the Colorado River was a shadow of its former self as was Yuma’s historic downtown. The closing of the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge in 1988 could have been the death knell for both.

Yuma Historic Downtown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But a dedicated group of Yumans was determined to reconnect the community to its literal lifeline. Despite fits and starts they had a vision for this desert town to “rediscover the river” —and through it, Yuma’s historic roots.

Pivot Point Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The catalyst for change was the creation of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, an independent nonprofit corporation authorized as a federal heritage area by Congress in 2000. The result has been an investment of nearly $100 million in Yuma’s riverfront over the last 18 years. That includes about $40 million from the feds, state, city, and foundations plus $30 million in private investment for construction of the Hilton Garden Inn and Pivot Point Conference Center.

Yuma Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic significance aside, all that investment and hard work has also yielded numerous ways to discover the Colorado River and the Yuma Crossing. Here are a few suggestions to add to your Yuma bucket list:

  • Pedal away – Explore paved trails along the river and East Main Canal
  • Take a dip – Make a splash at three beaches (one at Gateway, two at West Wetlands)
  • Go fish – Drop a line at the West Wetlands pond, along the river, or in the back channel through the East Wetlands
  • Linger and learn – Get a capsule lesson in local history at Pivot Point Plaza
  • Bird’s eye view – Wildlife watching opportunities abound along the river
  • Tip your hat – Leaders of Yuma’s riverfront revival are recognized at Founders’ Plaza at Yuma Quartermaster Depot
  • Get the big picture – Enjoy a panoramic view atop the guard tower at the Territorial Prison
Yuma Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It seems like we never run out of things to see and do in Yuma. So let me state for the record. I was wrong. Yuma is truly a remarkable and interesting town for snowbirds to explore. And I’m glad to be back in Yuma.

Yuma Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

—Anita Desai

Best Places for RV Travel this January

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

The period after the holidays can be a bit of a letdown. The presents have all been opened, the Champagne corked, and the weather probably makes you want to just crawl back in bed and pull the covers over your head. After all you’ve spent—your wallet is probably quite a bit lighter too.

Native palm grove in Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the good news is that January is a great time to travel and if you’re looking for someplace warm with ample sun there are some great destinations to consider especially for the RVing snowbird escaping the ravages of a Northern winter.

Fulton Mansion in Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But first, we say the names of months all of the time, but frankly, some of them are a little weird. There are a lot of month names that have similar endings, like -ary and -ber, and then there are the wild card month names that don’t have anything in common.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s not even get into how strange it is that some months have 30 days, some have 31, and then there’s February standing out from the crowd on the calendar with 28 or 29 days. Believe it or not, there is a rhyme and a reason to why the months are named what they are, and like many words that we use today, it all goes back to the Greeks and the Romans.

Green Jay in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January is Roman in origin, and it begins the calendar year because the Roman god Janus is the god of beginnings and endings. This makes perfect sense for a month that people see as an ending of the previous year and the troubles it may have brought, plus the beginning as people look forward to a fresh start to a whole new year. Visually, Janus is a perfect representation of the past and the future, because he has two faces. One looks backwards into the past and what was while the other looks forward into the future and what it has to bring.

Also check out our recommendations from January 2019.

Palm Springs

Coachella Valley near Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs is a Southern California city set in the Sonoran Desert. The city is best known for its hot spring, posh hotels, spa resorts, and golf courses. Those interested in architecture will also find many interesting examples of mid-century modern homes here.

El Paseo shopping area in Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The shopping district has plenty of shops to keep you browsing for hours with vintage items and interior design shops being especially noteworthy here. The valley surrounding Palm Springs offers a wealth of outdoors activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. January is a great time to visit the desert with perfect temperatures for enjoying outdoor activities.

Rockport-Fulton

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for years. Rockport’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey two years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bucolic bay setting, and frequent festivals feels fresh again.

Rockport=Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Envision the life of an affluent Victorian family while exploring Fulton Mansion, built in 1877 with comforts not easily found: gas lights, central heat, and running water. At Goose Island State Park you’ll find the wintering grounds for whooping cranes and other migratory birds. It’s also home to the 2,000-year-old Big Tree, one of Texas’ largest live oak.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even though they’re the literal emblem of the American desert, saguaro cacti are only found in small parts of the country, and this 71,000-acre stretch of desert serves as their sanctuary. Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections: The Tucson Mountain District and Rincon Mountain District. Between the two districts, there are more than 165 miles of hiking trails, a large petroglyph site, a cactus garden, and epic desert sunsets.

Naples

Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Naples is a city located along the southwestern Florida coast on the Gulf of Mexico. The city is known best for its high-end shops and world-class golfing. Naples Pier has become an icon of the city and is a popular spot for fishing and dolphin watching. On both sides of the pier you’ll find beautiful beaches with white sand and calm waves. At nearby Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary outdoor enthusiasts will find a gentle, pristine wilderness that dates back more than 500 years.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Gilbert Riparian Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This 110-acre oasis in Gilbert is a great place to watch wildlife (especially birds), catch and release fish, learn a few things and just kick back. The lake and seven ponds are for groundwater recharge and recreation. Horses are allowed on some trails, bikes are allowed on trails and sidewalks and leashed dogs can accompany walkers in all pedestrian areas.

Rio Grande Valley

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Rio Grande Valley, on the southernmost tip of Texas, is a semi-tropical paradise that borders Mexico and includes the Gulf Coast shores. Palm trees and orchards of citrus trees line the roads. Luscious, locally grown citrus fruit and vegetables are readily available.

Green Heron at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area’s year-round pleasant weather brings flocks of Winter Texans escaping the Northern cold. It also brings flocks of birds. The Valley is a flyway between North and South America creating some of the best birding and butterflying opportunities in the country. To keep these populations healthy and coming, National Wildlife Refuges and state parks have been established throughout the region.

Worth Pondering…

We will open the book. Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.

—Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

We’ve made the snowbird trek to southern California and Arizona numerous times

Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, is not only a “fine sight to see”, it’s a stepping stone to adventure. And yes, we did stand on the corner in Winslow, referencing the lyrics from Eagles’ Take It Easy. No one in a flatbed Ford was turning round to look, though.

There are vortexes in Sedona and you’re supposed to feel some New Age energy. We didn’t feel it—but this Red Rock country is beautiful.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds want to leave Minnesota during the worst of the winter. January, February, and March are the prime months. They leave after the holidays and return in April. Others head out as soon as the first frost hits the pumpkins in October coming back when they can plant their geraniums outside.

Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those Northern locales, of course, are Canada and various states in the Northeastern U.S., Upper Midwest, and Northwest. Snowbirds start arriving in late fall, stay for months while it’s frigid back home, and depart before students fill the beaches for spring break.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’ve made the snowbird trek to southern California and Arizona numerous times. But searching for new ways to “take it easy” pursued other southern climes. Our snowbird travels have now included all the Sunbelt states.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most popular snowbird destinations is Quartzsite. Not far from the Colorado River, this dusty Arizona outpost expands to hundreds of thousands as RV folks arrive every winter for the largest rock hound exposition in the United States and free camping.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At its core, Quartzsite is a boondocker’s paradise. There is every type of camper from weekenders to full-timers and from small trailers to tag axle diesel pushers. It’s a friendly atmosphere with many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping areas available. Free is a great camping word, right? In as much, you don’t hear it very often. Keep in mind that this is dry camping and your rig must be fully self-contained.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the BLM areas, you can camp for free for up to 14 days. If you are a long-term camper, the cost is $180 to stay from September through April. There are no assigned spaces, no hookups, and hardly any roads. For your money you get access to potable water, sparsely scattered pit toilets, a dump station, and trash bins. Pick a site from the 11,400 acres of open land and you’re home.

Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley, you can camp for the winter in luxurious RV resorts that offer all sorts of amenities. Known for Olympic sized pools, tennis courts, and over one hundred golf courses within 40 miles, this is truly upscale RV camping.

Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago when this village in the desert was a popular weekend Hollywood getaway destination.

Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Only 100 miles east of Tinseltown, it was an easy drive, even in the days before freeways. And even though Hollywood’s winter climate was mild, the celebrities of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s headed to the desert for weekends of poolside relaxation.

Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Hiking Indian Canyons, Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But to accomplish snowbird status you really need to do some serious planning. If you want to be a snowbird there truly is more to it than just forwarding your mail. It is not easy to pack it up and leave for three months or more. Some people have trouble with a two week vacation.

Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVing for an extended period so far from home during the long winter months isn’t all sun and fun, especially if you don’t prepare properly. Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Desert wildflowers near Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re new to the snowbird lifestyle or an experienced RVer, creating your own customized checklist is a great way to keep track of your seasonal preparations.

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 at our home in Alberta, 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.

Why You Need to RV in the South This Winter

Here’s how (and where) to migrate to warmer weather this winter

Summer has technically been over for a while now, but does it really have to end? The answer is “no.” If you’re one of the many who love summer, why not continue to chase it and enjoy an endless summer in the South?

You may have some hesitations about packing up and heading south during the winter, but there are a number of reasons why you’re going to love hooking up in the southern half of the states when the weather up north takes a turn for the worse.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s start with the obvious. The weather down south is a dream in the winter. During the heat of summer, much of Arizona and Texas may be less than ideal, but when the winter storms hit elsewhere in the country, you’ll be comfortable walking around in shorts and a t-shirt.

Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even if you aren’t looking for summer-like weather, heading just a bit south in the winter will give you much more bearable weather than up north. Imagine stepping outside of your RV in the morning to sunshine as opposed to snow. You don’t have to ask us twice which one we’d rather have.

Folly Beach, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As much as we love summer, we cannot bring ourselves to love the mosquitoes that come along with it. Enter: winter camping in the south. For the most part, it’s bye-bye to mosquitoes except for some parts of southern Florida but you will definitely see relief from the summer swarms.

Coachella Valley, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While flocking to the south isn’t a rare thing (the term snowbird certainly is a real thing), you’ll find there are still not nearly as many travelers at some of the southern states hot spots as there are during summer. Think places like the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and Alabama Gulf Coast. While you may find some crowds, you won’t be dealing with the massive numbers of people that you will in the summer.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some RV parks and campgrounds are only able to operate part of the year due to the restrictions that weather places on their usability. However, thanks to the great weather down south you’ll find that all the parks are open. And, they’re pretty much guaranteed to be a lot less crowded than during the summer, so chances are good you’ll have the opportunity to pick your favorite camping spot.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You need more gear to camp in the winter than the summer. However, if you’re camping down south in the winter, it’s essentially the same as camping up north in the summer, so you won’t need a bunch of extra gear.

Lovers Key State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sounds like a win-win, right? In case you need more convincing that a southern camping trip this winter is the right thing to do, here are some great spots that may sway you.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as one of the top 10 places in the world to get in some seriously good stargazing, Big Bend National Park in Texas is a great place to escape to in the winter. But the night skies aren’t all there is to see here. You’ve got everything from hiking to birding, canoeing to hot spring soaking in Big Bend. This is a great place to see some beautiful desert scenery that will have you forgetting winter exists.

Albuquerque

Albuquerque as seen from Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As New Mexico’s biggest city and one that you’ve certainly heard a lot about, there is a lot to explore in this city. The museums here are among some of the country’s best, and the shopping is great if you’re in the market for some beautiful Native American crafts.

However, if you’re more into outdoor exploration, then you’ll want to head just outside the city where you can hike, bike, and climb to your heart’s content.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A trip to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona is a must. This species of cacti is native to Mexico but exists in the United States just here at the monument. Winter is an ideal to visit when the temperatures are moderate and you’ll catch some stunning photos. The warm temperatures make for ideal camping conditions.

Anza Borrego State Park

Anza Borrego State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One surprise about this area of the southeastern Californian desert is the palm oases which you come upon in the Borrego Palm Canyon through the park’s most-visited hiking trail. When you want to take a break from hiking, you can make yourself at home in Borrego Springs, a small town entirely encompassed by the State park itself and full of art as well as natural beauty. Anza Borrego State Park has a plethora of camping options, with four established campgrounds and 175 total campsites.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

10 Best Destinations for Snowbirds This Winter

Escape the chilly, sometimes positively arctic, weather this season and go someplace warm

As the days continue to get colder, it’s time to think about a reprieve from the frigid, snowy, gray weather conditions of the north. Between October and April, birds migrate south to keep warm during the winter, and human snowbirds follow suit.

Rockport-Fulton, Texas

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for years. Envision the life of an affluent Victorian family while exploring Fulton Mansion, built in 1877 with comforts not easily found: gas lights, central heat, and running water. At Goose Island State Park you’ll find the wintering grounds for whooping cranes and other migratory birds. It’s also home to the 2,000-year-old Big Tree, one of Texas’ largest live oak.

Quartzsite, Arizona

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A dusty destination in the middle of nowhere—but, come January, the little town of Quartzsite transforms into the vendor capital of the world and becomes the largest gathering of RVs and RVers on the planet. This sleepy Arizona town has become famous for luring snowbirds who like to browse amid RVs and RV products, gems and minerals, crafts and hobby items.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With miles of sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand, RVers will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes. Gulf Shores is a coastal, resort community known for its white-sand beaches.

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago because what was then just a village in the desert was a popular weekend Hollywood getaway. Today, the village has grown and consists of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sarasota and her string of eight islands are tucked into the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida. Sarasota County encompasses nearly 40 miles of shoreline and include the City of Sarasota, Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Manasota Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, City of Englewood, Nokomis, City of North Port, Osprey, and the City of Venice.

Mission, Texas

Bird watching near Mission © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, Mission welcomes the thousands of Winter Texans that call Mission their temporary home. With winter temperatures averaging 72 degrees and with a ZERO percent chance of snow… why wouldn’t they?  And there is never a shortage of activities to do, attractions to visit, or delicious Tex-Mex food to eat.

Yuma, Arizona

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yuma is Arizona’s warmest winter city and the sunniest year round place in the U.S. Yuma has a classic low desert climate with extremely low humidity. From soothing waters to lush golf courses, breathtaking natural scenery to dining and shopping, there is a diverse selection of recreational activities and cultural attractions.

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adventures in culture, food, and music await in Cajun Country where life is on the spicy side. With Louisiana flavors such as boudin, crackling, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, and hot sauce, Acadiana has all the makings for a taste-tempting trip. But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Brunswick and the Golden Isles, Georgia

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four of the beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles. These coastal isles have long served as refuges for wildlife, havens for millionaires, and bastions of history.

Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island is a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations. Activities include touring Edisto Island, Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation,.

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous

Plan To Attend the 2020 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show

Every January something happens that is hard to believe, unless you have seen it!

More than a million and half million visitors, mostly in recreational vehicles, converge on the sleepy little desert town of Quartzsite, located just 20 miles east of the California state line on Interstate 10, for the rock, gem, and mineral shows, plus numerous flea markets and the annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. Wherever you look, you see RVs of every type, size, and vintage. It’s the Woodstock of the Snowbird set!

The 37th Sports, Vacation & RV show in Quartzsite, Arizona is scheduled for January 18-26, 2020.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Attendance for the 2019 show was estimated at well over 100,000 with over 350 exhibits inside and around the show’s 70,000-square-foot and fully carpeted “Big Tent.”

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Co-promoter Kenny King noted in a news release, “If you’re looking for anything related to RVs, camping, and travel, you can usually find it at the Sports, Vacation & RV show in Quartzsite.” King added that here will be hundreds of new and used RVs on display and for sale and over a dozen service bays will be offering immediate installation, repairs, and warranty service.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2019, there were numerous tourism related exhibits from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe as well as representatives from dozens of the nation’s finest RV resorts and campgrounds. In addition many “workamper” recruiters from businesses, resorts, and private campgrounds were in attendance. King related, “The number and diversity of exhibits that you’ll find at the Quartzsite RV Show will not be found at any other show of this type in the United States.”

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This phenomenon started over 35 years ago and is now billed as “The Largest Gathering Of RVers in the World”. The inaugural Quartzsite RV Show opened January 28, 1984 at the corner of Highway 95 (now Central) and Business 10 (now Main Street) in Quartzsite. With just 60 exhibitors and a small tent, the “new show in town” was still very popular since the majority of the people in Quartzsite were RVers.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1987 the show, now re-named the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, moved up the street to the Quartzsite Trailer Park which was situated directly across from the major attraction in town, the Quartzsite Pow Wow (the first Pow Wow was held in 1967).

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This new home for the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show lasted 10 years until the show grew to a point that the current 3.5-acre show site could barely hold the number of exhibitors that were now vying for exhibit space at this popular annual event.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1997 the “BIG TENT”, as the show had become known, moved across the Interstate to its present home, a new 20-acre facility, ½-mile south of I-10 on Highway 95 (now 700 South Central).

With the new Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show grounds, the popular event was able to provide over 15 acres of public FREE parking.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For 2020, several major players in the RV Industry have come aboard as sponsors for the event. Co-promoter Kimmy King noted that Progressive RV Insurance, who stepped up as the “Naming Sponsor” several years ago, would continue to have a major presence at the 2020 event. Cummins Diesel, which has participated as an exhibitor at the show since 2015, is a new “Platinum Sponsor” and will be introducing a new line of portable generators during the 2020 show.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, longtime exhibitor Dometic has added a Service Bay in the service and repair area of the show grounds and Dish Network is one the newest “Gold Sponsors” in support of its major trade show retailer CM Wireless. King also reported that FMCA had recently stepped up as one of the “Silver Sponsors” along with returning sponsors Redlands Truck & RV Service, Plasticover and the show’s exclusive RV dealer RV Country.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During our last visit to the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, we reminisced about how Quartzsite has changed over the last 16 years since our first visit and what future years might bring.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we first attended the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show in ’99, the RV Pavilion was packed with big-ticket items like RV satellites, tow hitches, and companies offering to install a solar array on your vehicle.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking ahead to future years, the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show will continue to grow and attract a more general crowd. Thanks to items like cheaper flat screen TVs, smart phones, and affordable solar arrays with charge controllers to power all your gizmos, it is easy to have all the comforts of home while you’re camping.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Quartzsite continues to grow and evolve, it will still be a wonderful place for RVers of all types to gather and relax with near perfect temperatures during the day and clear starlit skies at night. Quartzsite is an experience not to be missed—and we think you’ll like it too!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

Not All Snowbirds Have Wings

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year

For many, snowbirding isn’t just about having fun—it’s about avoiding the miseries of a northern winter. With the challenge of icy roads, shoveling snow, the cold, and being stormbound, is it any wonder so many of us like to escape winter?

Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More and more snowbirds are now choosing RVing to the Sunbelt over flying to a rented or owned vacation home. RV snowbirding gives you the freedom to travel to different destinations, to leave and return when you want, and to enjoy the comfort of having your own stuff with you all the time. It’s your vacation home on wheels—how great is that?

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

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes. A key aspect of this preparation is making sure your home appears occupied.

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re new to the snowbird lifestyle or an experienced RVer, creating your own customized checklist is a great way to keep track of your seasonal preparations.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO? (And how will you get there?)

Selecting a balmy snowbird roost is when all the fun begins. Choice is in rich supply.

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

Many snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada, and California; those from the Midwest flock to TexasMississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

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

Are you planning on heading directly south from your home location? Or will you cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude?

Clermont Golf and RV Resort, Clermont, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choice of route is subject to your own inclinations. Do you want to visit friends or sightsee along the way, or—as might be the case in mid-winter—do you prefer to go hell-bent-for- leather to the Sunbelt?

Lakeside RV Resort, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe your plan is to head to a single destination, park there, and treat your RV like a cottage; taking day trips and excursions from one home base. Or maybe your plan is to visit several destinations, spending a few weeks or even a month at each. This is ideal if you’re attending festivals and events, or checking off a bucket list, like your top 10 national parks or roadside attractions.

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

Either way, experienced RVers know that your first step—after you’re comfortable driving the RV, of course—should be to plan your route and research your overnight stops.

Pro Tips:

Arizona Oasis RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be realistic about how many hours you can drive in a day.

Reserve your RV parks in advance, based on your route. This guarantees you’ll have a spot to stop each night.

New Green Acres RV Park, Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure the park can accommodate the size of your rig. Plan to get there while it’s still daylight so you can park and set up and have time to relax.

Take holidays and long weekends into account: this will affect availability of camping sites.

Is Rover Roving with You?

Blake Ranch RV Park, Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Furry friends have their own needs when traveling, too.

Make sure your dog is trained, fit, and healthy for the type of travel you plan. Take into account the type of transportation, activities, and living situation. Ensure your dog responds to recall and “leave it” commands for everyone’s safety.

Hill Top RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure your dog is vaccinated.

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 at our home in Alberta, 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 Snowbird Migration Is Underway

Winter is arriving faster than most of us would like which means it’s time to get in our RVs and fly south to warmer climates

The snowbird migration is underway.

The V-shaped flight pattern of geese heading south for the winter has become a symbolic image of frigid weather approaching. A similar phenomenon takes place with humans as thousands of Northerners flock south seeking refuge from the blistering cold.

Enjoy Oysters Supreme at Stingaree at Crystal Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From scenic views to five star dining and shopping, the US Sunbelt has become a major attraction for snowbirds—and the season is now in full swing.

Fledgling snowbirds often start as vacationers, but most evolve in flocks, following friends and family and regional or social enclaves into migratory communities. Snowbirds of a feather do tend to flock together.

Gila Bend KOA, a new snowbird roost in Southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They are gilded nomads, prosperous enough to at least afford a camper, trailer, or motorhome.

And most of them seem to like company. At journey’s end: Happy reunions and outdoor play under mostly sunny blue skies. That’s a slice of the good life that snowbirds relish. Between golf, pickleball, bocce, hiking and biking, going to the restaurants— and just enjoying the weather: it’s phenomenal.

Hiking at Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold-climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season. Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.

The weather is consistently warm in Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climate is a major economic driver for Sunbelt states as winter visitors flee their homes in colder parts of the country. Many snowbirds fill up the RV parks, resulting in millions of dollars being dumped into local economies.

Enjoying Cajun Country at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Time was when snowbirds adhered to the calendar as predictably as swallows return, each March 19, to Capistrano or Monarch butterflies, each October, to Mexico. The Season began on October 15 and ended on April 15.

Snowbirds tend to migrate in waves with the early birds arriving in October, and another flock after Thanksgiving with the final wave following Christmas and New Years. Then, in the shift of seasons, they go again returning north anytime between March and May.

Mesilla Valley near Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Through both journeys, they change the lives of everyone else who comes, for however long, and of everyone who stays. Snowbirds create a demand for goods and services. They create additional jobs. The dollar impact of their presence is anyone’s guess.

Highland Hammocks State Park in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one tracks snowbirds in Florida. The chambers and tourist bureaus don’t.

It’s been ten years since a study has been done on the economic impact of winter visitors in Arizona, but at that time it was estimated that RV snowbirds injected more than $600 million into Arizona’s economy.

Relax in Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the eyes of many year-round residents, snowbirds are somewhat akin to houseguests: Good to see them arrive, good to see them depart. Snowbird season means greater traffic volume, more crowded supermarket aisles, endless waits to snag a table at a favorite dining spot.

Not everyone loves snowbirds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although year-round residents occasionally whine about more-congested roads, most will agree: Snowbirds inject vitality and dollars into the region. Local businesses will enjoy the economic boost until late March when things really start to heat up in the Sunbelt states and snowbirds start the trek back to their northern homes.

Find perfect winter weather in Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And, snowbirds don’t just play and pay in paradise: Many volunteer. Opportunities for volunteering are available at hospitals and nursing homes, amusement and theme parks, museums and art galleries, visitor information and welcome centers, and other outdoor recreation facilities and attractions. Numerous nonprofit agencies rely on snowbirds to play an important role during the winter months.

Enjoying bird life © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For snowbirds that love recreational activities and enjoy interacting with other people, volunteering offers numerous opportunities for giving back to society.

If you choose to work while you play, enjoy your experience.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day…

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”