Discover Over 500 Bird Species in South Texas

There is this place that is for the birds and is all about the birds, where you will find some of the best birding while RVing

Good morning. It’s Saturday and you deserve some good news, so we’re pleased to inform you that a Laysan albatross named Wisdom has successively hatched yet another chick at Midway Atoll in the Hawaiian archipelago. Discovered by biologists in 1956, Wisdom is at least 70 years old making her the world’s oldest known wild bird. She still flies as many as 1,000 miles in a single foraging expedition.

Black-bellied whistling ducks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wisdom’s latest chick successfully hatched in February, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s office in the Pacific Islands. Wisdom laid her egg sometime during the last few days of November according to the wildlife agency. Soon after, Wisdom returned to sea to forage and her mate Akeakamai took over incubation duties. The pair have been hatching and raising chicks together since at least 2012, the wildlife agency said.

Great kiskadee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the past decade, Wisdom has been astounding researchers and winning fans with her longevity and devotion to raising her young. She has flown millions of miles in her life but returns to her same nest every year on Midway Atoll, the world’s largest colony of albatrosses. To feed her hatchlings, Wisdom and her mate take turns flying as much as 1,000 miles on a single outing spending days foraging for food along the ocean’s surface.

Ladder-backed wooepecker © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every year, millions of albatrosses which normally have only one mate in their life, all come home to Midway around October. If all goes well couples reunite and then team up to incubate a single egg and feed their new chick. Midway’s two flat islands act as giant landing strips for albatrosses and millions of other seabirds which rely on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to raise their young. This year’s albatross chicks will make their first flights in early summer.

Altamira oriole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the past, biologists have said Wisdom possesses a unique set of skills that have let her have a long and productive life soaring over the Pacific Ocean. When she was first banded, Dwight Eisenhower was in the middle of his two-term presidency.

Her advice to the younger generation? Think before you tweet.

Yellow warbler © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not fitting the stereotype of the avid birdwatcher that travels to the most exotic corners of the globe, many RVers simply want to be where the birds are. Not wearing the latest outdoor gear, carrying the biggest scopes, peering through the most expensive binoculars, and checking another bird off the official life list, I carry my mid-priced super-zoom camera and take great pleasure in seeing the beautiful creatures that fill the air with music and the skies with color. That’s what draws me and many other snowbirds to South Texas.

Roseate spoonbills and ibis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located at the southern tip of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on earth. Well over 500 species have been spotted in this ecowonderland, including several that can be found only in this southernmost part of the U.S. Each year, birders come to The Valley to see bird species they can’t find anyplace else in the country—from the green jay, black-bellied whistling ducks (pictured above), and the buff-bellied hummingbird to the great kiskadee (pictured above), roseate spoonbill (pictured above), and the Altamira oriole (pictured above)

Cassin’s kingbird © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After all, The Valley offers not just one but a total of nine World Birding Centers and is located at the convergence of two major flyways, the Central and Mississippi.

Often referred to as The Texas Tropics, this area is very popular, too, with snowbirds from the Midwest and Central Canada. However, these winter tourists are not simply referred to as snowbirds but affectionately dubbed Winter Texans. After all, these birdwatchers and winter visitors are very important to the area’s economy, so they are, indeed, welcomed.

Rose-breasted grosbeak © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, just south of Mission, is not only Texas’ southernmost state park, but since October 2005, the headquarters of the World Birding Center. The 760-acre park draws visitors from as far away as Europe and Japan hoping to spot some of the more than 325 species of birds and over 250 species of butterflies, many of them from neighboring Mexico and Central America.

Plain chachalaca © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cars are not allowed in the park but a trolley makes regular pick-ups along the 7 mile paved loop allowing birders to hitch a ride from one feeding station to the next. It’s a quiet, beautiful, place and it is filled with birds. As the trolley rounds the bend into the park visitors are frequently greeted by a sizable flock of the loud and raucous plain chachalaca (see above), a brown, chicken-like species that’s found only in this part of the country.

To assist the casual birder Bentsen offers a series of bird blinds strategically placed near various feeding stations. The hut made of horizontally-placed wood slats is reached by a ramp so it is accessible to those with disabilities.

Yellow-crowned night herons © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inside the blind the wood slats can be folded down to form a platform for cameras so a tripod isn’t necessary to keep the camera steady. All you need to do is sit and watch the show as the birds keep coming to feed. We sat on a bench in the blind, peered through the opening and pressed the shutter repeatedly without disturbing the birds.

Yellow-breasted great kiskadees swooped down in front of us and drank from the small pool of water. This flycatcher has black and white stripes on its crown and sides, appears to be a kind of cross between a kingfisher and a meadowlark, and attracts attention by its incessant “kis-ka-dee” calls.

Green jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green jays (pictured above) postured and fluttered at the feeders. This beautiful bird is, indeed, green-breasted (unlike our blue jay), with green wings, but there’s also some white, yellow, and blue plumage. This bird’s flashy coloring, boisterous nature, dry, throaty rattle, and frequent “cheh-chehcheh-cheh” call make it very easy to spot.

Golden-fronted woodpecker © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A golden-fronted woodpecker (see above) fed at the peanut butter log. Barred with black and white above and buff below, the male has red restricted to the cap; nape orange; forecrown yellow; the female lacks red but has an orange nape. Its voice is a loud churrrr; the call a burry chuck-chuck-chuck.

Another World Birding Center located in McAllen, is at Quinta Mazatlan, a historic 1930s Spanish Revival adobe hacienda that’s surrounded by 15 acres of lush tropical landscape and several birding trails.

Pauraque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Estero Llano Grande in Weslaco attracts a spectacular array of South Texas wildlife with its varied landscape of shallow lakes, woodlands, and thorn forest. Commonly seen species include the great kiskadee, Altamira oriole, green jay, groove-billed ani, tropical parula, common pauraques (pictured above), green kingfishers, grebes, black-bellied whistling ducks, and an assortment of wading birds like the great blue heron, and roseate spoonbill.

The warm winter climate and the awesome bird watching attract Winter Texans to The Valley and keep them returning year after year. We’ll be back, Hope to see you there.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

Canadian Snowbirds Change Migration Patterns

Pandemic changes migration patterns of Canadians who head south for the sun

Canadians who travel south have changed their migration pattern dramatically this winter. In a normal year, more than one million Canadians head south to the U.S. Sunbelt states. The COVID-19 pandemic has clipped their wings and forced most to stay in Canada this winter.

Penticton and Skaha Lake in the South Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of those who are traveling, most are driving west to RV parks and campgrounds in British Columbia—the South Okanagan, Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island. There is no place in Canada from the East Coast all the way to this area that doesn’t have winter. So, there’s no escape until you come here. These three regions in British Columbia appear to be the perfect destinations for snowbirds who want to forget about the snow and the worst of the freezing cold.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

British Columbia is the place to be in Canada during the winter. Whether snowbirds look at minimum and maximum temperatures or number of snow days these three areas are the best option. Plus, with fewer than five days with snowfall, whichever BC region that snowbirds choose will allow them to escape the worst of the weather conditions they dread the most: snow, wind, and frigid winter days.

Fortunately, Canadian snowbirds can still make the most of a bad situation. Although replicating the conditions of a Texan winter in Canada is not possible, spending the tougher months in balmier climate within the country’s borders is for many.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the Canadian Camping and RV Council at least 50,000 full-time users of recreational vehicles who usually spend their winters in the US Sunbelt had to find a site north of the border. Thousands of those snowbirds have converged on southern BC, packing full-service campgrounds to wait out the winter, say tourism and lodging groups in the province.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the B.C. Lodging and Campgrounds Association, about 100 private-sector campgrounds are open year-round most of them in southern BC. Full-time RVers have been wintering here for years. The difference this year is snowbirds have nowhere else to go. By mid-July, numerous RV parks reported 100 people on their winter wait-list. They’re from everywhere in the country that’s cold.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a small island in British Columbia’s Fraser River is a campground packed with Canadian snowbirds who found refuge when the border with the United States was shut. Unlike other years, all 118 full-service sites at Fort Camping in Langley are occupied.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It started in March, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians around the world to come home. Taking no chance on the border reopening, many booked Fort Camping for the winter. They sensed that they would to be in deep trouble come winter with the border closed and nowhere to go. At Fort Camping most have satellite TV and whatever they need nearby and numerous walking paths and hiking trails. They have wonderful internet service here.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Canadian Snowbird Association says Florida is the most popular winter destination for Canadians who routinely head south for the season with around half a million of them visiting the state in a normal year. They estimate around 3.5 million Canadians including non-snowbirds visit the state each year and spend around $6.5 billion. The second most popular destination is Arizona. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, around 964,000 Canadian visitors were responsible for $1 billion of the $26.5 billion in tourism spending last year. This past September, visitors spent $752 million overall, but that’s down 60 percent from the $1.9 billion expected in a normal year.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was prime parka weather in northern Alberta on Friday morning—a crisp -35 Celsius (-17 Fahrenheit) degrees which reminded me that I had planned to spend time in southern Arizona this winter. I could start my day with a hike at Catalina State Park, revel in the dry heat, and hang out with all my cacti friends. 

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is the first winter in 20+ years that we haven’t driven our RV to the US Sunbelt—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. But not this year! It’s a lifestyle as opposed to vacationing for two weeks. If you told me a year ago that I would spend the winter of 2020-21 in the Great White North, I’d surely wonder which one of us was crazier.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I look at the positives—it could be a lot worse. We’ve got a nice warm home-on-wheels, we’ve got pleasant neighbors, we’re in a beautiful area of the country, and spring comes early. Would I like to be down south, oh you bet!

And, while these alternative destinations within the country’s borders might not be as sunny as their usual winter destinations, these regions in British Columbia could be the ideal solution for snowbirds in a less-than-ideal year.

On a hopeful note, the one-year absence has not diminished Canadian snowbirds’ enthusiasm for their winter homes. We’ll be back next winter. I certainly hope so!

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Together again someday

“We’ll Meet Again” was a popular song—and saying—during World War II among Americans and Canadians alike. Then, both countries were united against one enemy, just like during this pandemic. So expect friendly border crossings again. The border will open…

Just pack your toque—that’s Canuck for beanie—eh?

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…”

Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter

The best parks for snowbirds to explore this winter

While the most familiar of America’s parks are the national parks and state parks, America’s parks operate under a variety of names including county parks, regional parks, metro parks, natural areas, national forests, national grasslands, national wildlife refuges, landmarks, monuments, historic sites, geologic sites, recreation trails, memorial sites, preserves, scenic rivers, and wildlife areas.

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

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

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park in Arizona

The giant Saguaro cactus is the most distinct feature is this park that straddles the city of Tucson. The park, created to preserve the cacti, boasts some great hikes. Driving Saguaro will take you through a Western landscape that’s unmistakably Arizona.

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.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park in California

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.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park in South Carolina

Preserving the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the U.S., 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.

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.

Catalina State Park in Arizona

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

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park in Alabama

Gulf State Park’s two miles of beaches greet you with plenty of white sun-kissed sand, surging surf, seagulls and sea shells, but there is more than sand and surf to sink your toes into. Visits here can be as active or as relaxing as you like. Try exhilarating water sports, go fishing, learn about coastal creatures at the nature center or simply sprawl out on the sands.

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

Anza-Borrego State Park in California

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert.

Usery Mountain, a Maricopa County Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maricopa County Parks in Arizona

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. 

Worth Pondering…

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

—Rachel Carson

The Seasons of My Life

Every new season of life is an opportunity to learn and grow

When I was born in 1941, life expectancy was 63 years for men and 66 for women.

Medical advances and healthier lifestyles have paved the way for greater longevity.

Enjoying our new motor coach at Vista del Sol RV Resort at Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With my 79th birthday approaching in August, how much longer will I live?

I don’t spend much time thinking about it.

Author Henry Miller wrote that life itself should be the art and that—in the spirit of Shakespeare—we should regard ourselves as players on a stage.

Enjoying beauty and photographing it at the Amador Flower Farm in California Gold County. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years have gone. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of my hopes and aspirations and dreams.

Surrounded by nature at Corkscrew Sanctuary in Southern Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I have cried over the death of our son.

I have toured London and the Scottish Highlands, Paris and the French Rivera, Rome and Venice, Lisbon and the Algarve, Cuzco and Machu Picchu, Maui and Hawaii, St. Lucia and Barbados, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and Bangkok and Singapore.

Enjoying autumn along the Cherohala Skyway in North Carolina and Tennessee. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a long list of goals still on my bucket list.

But I am no longer driven.

I realize life is sweet and I am lucky to be here.

Touring the Mighty 5 National Parks of Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, here it is—the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did all the years go? I remember seeing older folks through the years and thinking that those older people were light years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

Tip-toeing among the tulips in Washington’s Skagit Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, here it is—my friends are retired and moving slower—I see an older person now. Some are in better and some in worse shape than me—but, I see a great change. They’re not like the friends that I remember who were young and vibrant; but, like me, their age has started to show. We are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d become. Each day now, I find that just completing the daily crossword puzzle is a real target for the day!

Photographing the wildlife along the Creole Nature Trail in southwestern Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, here it is—I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and lack of energy to do things that I wish to do. The winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last; but this I know, a new adventure has begun.

Enjoying the beauty and serenity of Jasper National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life has regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done and things I should have done; but, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

Touring Kentucky Bourbon County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re not yet in the winter of your life, let me tell you straight—it will be here faster than you think. Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, do it NOW! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by—and it goes by too quickly.

Savoring tasty Texas BBQ © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do what you can TODAY, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life.

Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.

Henry Miller said we either devour life or we are devoured by it. That worked for me when I was younger. But, as I say, I am quieter now.

Enjoying the beautiful Okanagan Valley Wine Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I enjoy the camaraderie of good friends and neighbors. I enjoy good food and quality wines, and hiking and photography.

Another decade on the planet? I plan to read books I have put aside and continue exploring the US Sunbelt in the comfortable luxury of our motor coach.

Touring Historic Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How long can I lead this lifestyle? Where was I going?

Life is good. If I have worries, they are of my own making. If I can, I will try to help others.

Touring the Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I will never pass this way again, but it would be nice to be remembered for some small deed in the heart of another.

Awe-struck at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is too short to let even one day be frenzied or frazzled or frittered away. Life is too short not to take time to do the things that will hold the most meaning for you. So let yourself float like a leaf on a stream, relax with your memories, and let yourself dream.

Camping on the banks of the mighty Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is too short and flies by if you let it, so choose what you want every day—and go and get it.

Springtime in the desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The future is uncertain. A wise sage once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. 

LIVE HAPPY IN 2020!

LIVE IT WELL!

ENJOY TODAY!

The end of a beautiful day in the Sonoran Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Enjoy life NOW. It has an expiry date!

7 Confessions of a Snowbird Living the RV Lifestyle

Confessions that stem from 23+ years of living the Snowbird Lifestyle

I have a confession to make. Actually seven of them. Seven confessions about our lifestyle as a snowbird. Seven confessions about how I view my snowbird lifestyle and the things I enjoy doing.

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is not a how-to article, nor does it contain wisdom pertaining to snowbirding and the RV lifestyle. You won’t find bits of advice on sharing a condo-on-wheels with your spouse, successfully dumping your black tank without gagging, or backing into a campsite that is clearly too small for your RV.

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What you will find are my heartfelt confessions that stem from 23+ years of snowbird living and traveling in a variety of RVs including a smallish fifth wheel trailer to our present 38-foot diesel pusher. 

1. This is Not Camping

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Eagle’s Landing RV Park, Holt, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our version of snowbirding is not camping—it’s living. In other words, we don’t consider our snowbird lifestyle to be one big camping trip. We don’t eat s’mores every night, nor do we sit around the campfire or the picnic table playing board games by lantern. (Although now that I think about it, s’mores every night does sound good).

Yes, we live in a campground, but not the same one for six months, and for the most part we are not camping.

2. We Find Weekends, Especially Holiday Weekends, a Drag

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As anyone who has ever visited a campground on a weekend and especially on a holiday weekend knows, this is prime camping time. Which makes it a complete drag for those of us who rely on campgrounds as a place to live for a month or more.

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimer, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While I’m pleased to see so many families enjoying nature and each other’s company, an overflowing campground jam-packed with kids on bikes and billows of campfire smoke floating in my windows is not my idea of a fun time.

3. We Always Prefer Our Condo-On-Wheels Over Your Guest Bedroom

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we park in your driveway (which is really appreciated), we will say thanks but no thanks when you offer up your guest room. You see, the thing is that our motorhome with our cozy bed has everything we need within reach.

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We travel in an RV because we enjoy the convenience of always having our motorhome with us. So it’s not that we don’t appreciate the offer, but we really would prefer to sleep in our own bed.

4. This is Not a Permanent Vacation

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Las Vegas RV Park, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a hard one for non-snowbirds to grasp. So you live in an RV and you get to travel to any warm place you want, yet you don’t consider yourself to be on vacation? No, not even a little bit.

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Columbia Sun RV Park, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We don’t consider this a vacation because we are retired and maintain a regular routine. For us, snowbirding in an RV is a lifestyle choice, not a vacation.

5. I Sometimes Forget That I’m Not “Normal”

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I sometimes forget that our chosen lifestyle is considered out of the ordinary. Especially when spending months at a time in the Sunbelt with other snowbirds who view living in a tiny house on wheels as commonplace. It usually takes an encounter with the “normal” folks to remind me that how we live is fascinating and envy-worthy.

6. We Have No Idea When We’ll “Be Done” Snowbirding

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at Irwins RV Park, Valemont, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why would we willingly choose an end a lifestyle that brings us joy and happiness and takes us away from a frigid and snowy northern winter? Why would I want to be done with all that?

7. We Will Never See Everything

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at La Quintas RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We could travel round and round the country for a lifetime and still not see everything. There is always more to see.

And we love that! We love discovering more things to do, to see, and to explore than we could possibly hope to accomplish in any amount of time. We love that America is incredibly diverse and filled with such an array of landscapes, communities, and people that even if we traveled for many more decades could never see, do, or explore it all.

Seven Confessions…

Enjoying the RV snowbird lifestyle at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So there you have it. Seven confessions of a snowbird living and enjoying the RV lifestyle! Agree or disagree, these are the realities of our life. A life that we love and couldn’t imagine changing in any way!

Worth Pondering…

What a life. Today, it’s New Mexico, yesterday it was Utah, and shortly before that we were in South Carolina. Soon it will be Georgia.

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…”

The Snowbirds Have Landed

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…snowbird! And just like that, the snowbirds are back.

Every year, millions of Americans and Canadians fly south to enjoy the warm winter temperatures of the Sun Belt.

Before you join the Snowbird flock, consider what you’re looking for in a snowbird roost.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the first things new snowbirds need to learn is that there is no place in the continental United States where you are going to be assured of 70 degree weather all winter long. Many first-time snowbirds from the upper Midwest and the Canadian Prairies are surprised that it can get down into the 30s in Florida, Southern Arizona, and the Palm Springs area during the winter. They thought the Sun Belt states were always consistently warm.

Lake Okeechobee, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No, not always T-shirt and shorts weather. We have spent several winters in Florida and parts of it can be darned cold! We’ve had to unhook our water hoses as far south as Orlando and Lake Okeechobee to prevent them from freezing.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A few years ago one couple asked me how far south they had to get to be assured of 70-degree weather. I think Costa Rica might do it, I’m just not sure how to get my Dutch Star down there. So where do snowbirds roost when the white stuff flies up north?

Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Generally, if you’re south of Interstate 10, from California to Florida, you will be out of the worst of the winter weather. But there is no guarantee. We’ve experienced snow at Rockport, Texas on Christmas Day, a dusting of snow in southern Arizona in March, and even snow in Verde Valley near Sedona during the Easter weekend.

Estero Llano Grande State Park, Rio Grande Valley, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas we’ve sweltered in the heat and humidity, and we have had frost on our windows during the same time other winters. Sometimes even in the same winter.

Port O’Connor, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Rio Grande Valley in Texas draws thousands of snowbirds with reasonably priced RV parks, lots of activities, and generally good weather. It can get windy at times, but it’s one of your best bets if being warm is a priority. People tend to either love the Valley or hate it, and we are fans of the area primarily due to the diverse wildlife, the availability of outstanding citrus, and a welcoming attitude.

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

Another of our favorite places in Texas is the Rockport/Aransas Pass area, on the Gulf Coast. This is a laid back place where they appreciate snowbirds and make them feel welcome. The combination of affordable RV parks, lots to see and do, and close proximity to Corpus Christi if you need services only a big city can provide, make it popular with many Winter Texans.

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

We also enjoy the Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast and Louisiana where we found the weather pleasant during our stays there in the winter. It’s a nice, laid-back area with a lot to see and do, and you can’t beat all the fresh seafood. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. When you’re on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the good times roll and roll and roll with 12 casinos, some excellent restaurants, historical homes, and a slow pace that we enjoy.

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

Following Interstate 10 west into New Mexico, you don’t have a lot of choices. Some RVers spend their winter in Las Cruces and Deming. It’s inexpensive, but chilly due to the higher elevation. Expect to unhook your water hoses overnight to keep them from freezing.

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

Many snowbirds flock to Arizona. Favorite roosts include the Yuma area, Mesa and Apache Junction, Tucson, Lake Havasu, Casa Grande, and of course, Quartzsite.

Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you venture into California, there are a number of popular snowbird enclaves in the Coachella Valley from Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs to Indio. You’ll find this to be one of the more expensive options for RVers, but you will almost always enjoy warm and dry weather. Expect the Santa Ana winds to blow in on occasions.

Coachella Valley, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in mind that the things we look for in a snowbird roost may not appeal to you. We favor a slower pace, enjoy sightseeing and photography, and being close to nature. We’re not into playing golf, organized activities, or potluck dinners.

Shields Date Garden, Indio, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But whatever you like to do, and whatever your budget, there are numerous places to park your rig and hang your hat during the winter.

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.

How Can You Travel In Your RV Without Worrying About Your Home?

With a little preparation you can travel to your snowbird roost without concern about your home

In 1969, the comedy troupe Firesign Theater asked, “How can you be in two places at once without being anywhere at all?” In the counter-culture haze of the late ’60s, this question was both strangely funny and unanswerable.

Taking inspiration from Firesign Theaters’ absurd musing, we offer a new, obviously not as funny question; “How can you travel in your RV without worrying about your home?”

Leaving Kansas for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the days leading up to your departure, scour your house for anything you might have borrowed from the library, a family member, or friend, and ensure those they are returned prior to leaving.

Leaving Pennsylvania for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even the most experienced RVers worry about their homes while they’re away. From the threat of a break-in to a failed heating system causing the pipes to freeze, the range of things that can go wrong at home are enough to keep folks awake at night. Did you remember to lock the sliding doors?

Leaving Alberta for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a little preparation, and a dose of prevention, none of these fears should keep you from embarking on your much-anticipated snowbird travels. No worries.

Leaving northern California for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lock All External Doors, Windows, and the Garage

Lock your front door. Lock your back door. Lock the door between your garage and your house.  Lock all sliding doors with security locks. Lock pet doors and any other external entry ways into your house. Whenever possible, use deadbolt locks. And don’t forget to make sure that all of your windows are also locked.

Leaving Idaho for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Garage doors with electric garage door openers are vulnerable to thieves with garage door opener scanners. To defeat these scanners, unplug your garage door opener when you’re away from home. Additionally, remove garage door openers and valuables from cars stored in the garage. Inform anyone with access to your home that you have disabled the garage door system and/or manually locked the garage.

Leaving Indiana for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do Not Hide House Keys

Hiding a house key under the mat, in a fake rock, or inside a magnetic house key box stuck to the underside of an outdoor pipe is never a good idea. The thieves know about these products and tricks and look for these easy access vulnerabilities.

Leaving Massachusetts for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask Neighbors To Watch

Let your neighbors know how long you will be away. In addition, provide a responsible neighbor with keys to your home and garage. Have them walk through your house on a regular basis. Check with your insurance provider to determine the frequency they require.

Leaving Montana for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If the power went out, did your alarm turn back on? Is the furnace still up and running? A trusted neighbor can check and answer these questions instantly. Developing and maintaining good relationships with your neighbors is key to preparing for an extended trip.

Leaving New Hampshire for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Security Alarm System

Some folks wouldn’t consider leaving their house to go grocery shopping without setting the alarm system while some rural folks have never locked their front door.

Leaving South Dakota for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have an alarm system installed, be sure to keep your contacts current with the names and contact information of neighbors and house sitters who may be at the premises.

Leaving New York for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check All Smoke Detectors

Even though you will not be home, it’s still important that your smoke detectors are functioning properly. Change the smoke detector batteries on an annual basis, and test.

Leaving Ohio for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Motion Activated Outdoor Lights

Having exterior lights turn on is an excellent theft deterrent. Outdoor lights with built in motion sensors are available at Home Depot, Lowes, and Amazon (among others) and do an excellent job at detecting and deterring would-be thieves. They can also automatically light the way when you get home.

Leaving Rhode Island for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a Good Neighbor

As you can see, you are relying on your trusted neighbors or home-watching friends to help keep your home safe and intervening in any disaster. Consider thanking them with a thank you card and gift certificate at appropriate occasions. Also, when they are away, perform the same type of duties. 

Leaving North Dakota for a snowbird roost © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Worth Pondering…

You’ve heard the old Willie Nelson country music song with the lyrics, “On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again…” We’ll be singing this song for sure.

Thanksgiving & Our RV Lifestyle: Giving Thanks

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels

Many will be on the road traveling today and throughout this Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanksgiving is the biggest travel weekend in America, and RVers are out in force, back on the road, crossing the country in their RVs to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And many snowbirds are traveling south to their favorite Sunbelt roost to avoid the rigors of another northern winter.

I have so much to be thankful for! I give thanks to my partner—my wife Dania, my co-pilot—and our family and friends.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a lifelong love of travel, a condo-on-wheels has always been our destiny. Yes, we’re living our dream! We’ve wintered in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Our RV travels have taken us to over 40 states and four western provinces.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I am thankful as Canadian Snowbirds that we have the opportunity of celebrating Thanksgiving in October (Canadian Thanksgiving) and again in November.

Thanksgiving offers the opportunity to reflect on life, liberty, and the pursuit of full hookup campgrounds with really good Wi-Fi.

We’re thankful that RV travel is so popular in our own vast and wonderful countries.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’m thankful for our continued health and safety while traveling. Any time you venture onto highways, you are rolling the dice. So far we’ve enjoyed over 150,000 miles of safe and mostly carefree travel as we cruise the highways and byways of our two great nations!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I am thankful for our freedom. As Americans and Canadians we take so much for granted when it comes to freedom. We have freedom of speech, expression, the right to vote, and so much more that others across the world only dream of. That freedom came at a price—and that is the lives of many of our servicemen and women.  So, I also would like to give thanks to our troops.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oh yeah … and I give thanks to the Internet which has given me the opportunity to share my thoughts on RV Travel.

Stay tuned, friends…the best is yet to come!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are you thankful for?

Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend from our family here to you and yours.  We hope it will be full of amazing food, love and laughter and of course–great wines!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels…and we’ll see you back here tomorrow!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanksgiving Day Stats

Key to any Thanksgiving Day menu are a fat turkey and cranberry sauce.

An estimated 238 million turkeys were raised for slaughter in the U.S. during 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 46 million of those turkeys ended up on U.S. dinner tables on Thanksgiving—or about 736 million pounds of turkey meat, according to estimates from the National Turkey Federation.

Minnesota is the United States’ top turkey-producing state, followed by Arkansas, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, and California. These “big seven” states produce more than two of every three U.S.-raised birds, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

U.S. farmers also produced an estimated 841 million pounds of cranberries in 2014, which, like turkeys, are native to the Americas. The top producers are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. grew 2.9 billion pounds of sweet potatoes—many in South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, California, Texas, and Louisiana—and produced more than 1.2 billion pounds of pumpkins. Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio grow the most U.S. pumpkins.

Worth Pondering…

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

—Edward Sandford Martin