A Walking Tour of Santa Fe: The City Different

To know the history of Santa Fe is to enhance your visit—the City Different is a confluence of its storied past and vibrant present.

A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing, we provided an historical perspective on Santa Fe, the City Different.

The center of it all, the Santa Fe Plaza. One glance tells you what sets this city apart—adobe architecture hose soft, rounded corners soothe the eye.

Want to orient yourself quickly? Take a trolley or walking tour with a professional guide. Or set out on your own. But remember to pace yourself. You’re at 7,000 feet here, so drink plenty of water.

Come with us as we take a short walk to see just where the fascination and enchantment began.

On the north side of the Santa Fe Plaza, the Palace of the Governors was laid out at the same time as the plaza. A fortified building, it served as residence, offices, workshops, and storerooms for the representative of the Spanish king; thus, they were called “royal houses.”

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

General Stephen Kearney stayed within these walls when he arrived with troops to claim the territory of New Mexico for the United States. The 54-inch-thick adobe walls, at that time still covered by a sod roof, furnished the quiet needed by Territorial Governor Lew Wallace to finish his novel Ben Hur.

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional  Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves.

Just west of here, by the golden clock, is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. A short stroll west takes you to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.

Head east on Palace Street and duck into Sena Plaza, a hidden placita—or courtyard—just one block from the city’s plaza and just across the street from the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral. Note the sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint.

Just west of the Palace of Governors by the golden clock is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Just west of the Palace of Governors by the golden clock is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll on San Francisco Street to the graceful facade of La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe’s most historic and authentic hotel and restaurant experience. This historic, landmark hotel sits quite literally at the terminus of the Old Santa Fe Trail. This charming, landmark hotel has delighted travelers since the early 1920s when the original hotel was built on the oldest hotel corner in America. Indeed, early records show a fonda, or inn, on the historic corner of San Francisco and Water Streets since the founding of Santa Fe in 1607.

La Fonda is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. Very few hotels have such roots that go back to the 17th century! Indeed, it was also the site of one of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s many marriages—this time to Conrad Hilton in 1942.

We’ve had several memorable meals at La Plazuela at La Fonda. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere incomparable with friendly, helpful, and efficient staff. It’s truly one of Santa Fe’s treasures.

The staircase in the Loretta Chapel—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The staircase in the Loretta Chapel—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you continue you’ll discover shops and open air vendors all along your stroll, with merchandise from exquisitely tooled leather boots to replicas of Kachina dolls, from Navajo blankets to ristras—festively strung wreaths of red chilis.

For the last leg of this walk, head south on Old Santa Fe Trail to the Loretto Chapel, completed in 1878. What draws the visitor is the spiral staircase inside that leads to the choir loft. The chapel’s small sized made access to the loft possible only by ladder.

When none of the local carpenters could build a staircase that wouldn’t encroach on the limited floor space, the Sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Soon a mysterious stranger arrived, looking for work, and built an elegant spiral staircase. Without presenting any bill for payment, he disappeared as suddenly as he had come. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. The identity of the builder remains unknown.

Afterwards, continue south on the Old Santa Fe Trail to East De Vargas Street and San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in America, the key site to the Barrio de Analco Historic District. Oral history holds that San Miguel Chapel was built around 1610, and it has been rebuilt and restored several times over the past 400 years.

As you continue east De Vargas Street becomes Canyon Road, once a meandering Native American trail to Pecos Pueblo. Nestled into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Canyon Road is a magical half-mile of over a hundred galleries, artist studios, clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, and gourmet restaurants.

Aptly named Museum Hill, two and a half miles south of the city’s plaza, is a day onto itself. Museum Hill offers a central destination for exploring some of the city’s finest museums and some of the world’s greatest collections of Native American art and artifacts. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and the Museum of International Folk Art are the major institutions located on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill.

Worth Pondering…
If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

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More July 2015 RV Manufacturer Recalls

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall and may create a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?
When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced 5 recall notices involving 3 recreational vehicle/chassis manufacturers— EverGreen Recreational Vehicles, Winnebago, and Newmar.

EverGreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC

evergreen3EverGreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC (EverGreen) is recalling certain model year 2015 i-Go, Ever-Lite, Sun Valley and Ascend travel trailers manufactured March 12, 2015, to May 29, 2015. In the affected trailers, the studs that are used to attach the wheels to the axle hubs may break.

If the wheel studs break, the wheel could detach from the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

EverGreen will notify owners, and dealers will replace any affected wheel hub, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact EverGreen customer service at 1-574-825-4298.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

EverGreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC

evergreen3EverGreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC (EverGreen) is recalling certain model year 2014-2016 Lifestyle, Bay Hill, Alpha Gold and Tesla fifth wheel recreational trailers manufactured March 11, 2014, to January 23, 2015. In the affected vehicles, a rivet for the quad entry steps may shear and fail, causing the steps to give when being used.

If the rivet shears under occupant load, the steps may give and the occupant may fall, increasing the risk of personal injury.

Evergreen will notify owners, and dealers will remove the rivets and the step sections will be bolted together, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact EverGreen customer service at 1-574-825-4298.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Winnebago Industries

winnebago-quality-circle-award-255x144Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain model year 2014-2015 Metro Link transit buses manufactured December 20, 2013, to April 9, 2015. The affected buses may have been built without shims and flat washers on the seat pedestal, allowing the seat to detach from the floor in the event of a crash.

If the seat detaches from the floor during a vehicle crash, the seat occupant would be at an increased risk of personal injury.

Winnebago will work with Metro Worldwide, the transit bus distributor, to notify owners and remedy the vehicles, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in July 2015. Owners may contact Metro Worldwide customer service at 1-641-903-7377. Winnebago’s number for this recall is 132.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Newmar Corporation

Newmar Corp image001Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain model year 2015 Essex and King Aire vehicles manufactured March 26, 2014, to December 4, 2014. The affected vehicles have tag axle suspension hangers that may move, allowing the tag axle assembly to shift off center.

If the tag axle moves off center, vehicle handling may suddenly be affected, increasing the risk of a crash.

Newmar has notified owners, and dealers will weld the tag axle suspension hangers to the chassis frame, free of charge. The recall began on June 22, 2015. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Newmar Corporation

Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain model year 2015-2016 King Aire and Essex vehicles manufactured from March 13, 2014, and May 13, 2015, and model year 2016 Mountain Aire vehicles manufactured from March 17, 2015, through April 17, 2015. The affected vehicles, built on a Spartan Chassis, have fasteners that attach the stay rod (v-rod) to the rear drive axle that may not have been installed with thread locker or tightened in the correct sequence.

If the fasteners loosen, the stay rod may disconnect from the rear axle, allowing the rear axle to move freely, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

Spartan will notify owners on behalf of Newmar, and dealers will replace the fasteners using thread lock, tightening them in the proper sequence and with the required torque values, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 23, 2015. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300 or Spartan customer service at 1-800-582-3454.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the 62nd in a series of articles relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

The one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility

—Michael Korda

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A Slice of Texas BBQ Style

There’s hardly a better way to discover a slice of Texas, so to speak, than with a barbecue road trip—especially one that travels through Central Texas with some of the state’s greatest smoked meats.

City Market in Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
City Market in Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the most impressive barbecue bounties you’ll travel to towns that aren’t necessarily on the way to anywhere.

Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas as designated by the Texas Legislature. It’s a small town that supports a big barbecue reputation.

Kreuz Market in Lockhart: With new Sunday hours just starting here, you can now make Kreuz Market (since 1900) part of your itinerary any day of the week. I like the weekdays when it’s rare to find a long line. The pressure of a hungry, looming crowd can make one rush an order, but pay attention to what goes on the cutting block and make sure to tell the cutter—which might be the mutton-chopped Roy Perez—if you have a preference like end cuts or fattier slices of beef. Get the shoulder clod and the pork chop along with a link of the jalapeño sausage.

Black's Barbecue
Lockhart, the official Barbecue Capital of Texas, is home to four major barbecue restaurants including award-winning Black’s Barbecue, which has been owned by the same family since 1932. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Smitty’s Market in Lockhart: It’s hard to find a better place to eat barbecue than this brick building that dates from 1924. Barbecue was first served here when it housed Kreuz Market which moved out in 1999. Smitty’s opened shortly after with a menu almost identical to Kreuz, but don’t miss the glazed pork ribs which are a popular departure. Prime rib comes off the pit at 11:00am and sells fast. Watch out for the open fires when standing in line, and be sure to leave some time to explore the historic building.

Black’s BBQ in Lockhart: With the feud between Smitty’s and Kreuz, sometimes Black’s gets lost in the mix. If you’ve forgotten about it, the billboards in every direction will remind you when you get to town. Follow them to what is consistently the best brisket in Lockhart. There are also enormous beef ribs to enjoy and some incredible smoked turkey for barbecue dabblers.

Smitty's Market
A perennial favorite of barbecue lovers is Smitty’s Market in Lockhart. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Q in Lockhart: The locals love it, but it’s usually ignored by barbecue travelers. I love the sausage, and everything here is a bargain.

City Market in Luling: There are three meats on the menu: brisket, pork spare ribs, and beef sausage. Try them all, but bring some cash. Ordering is done in the back room on the other side of the swinging doors, and don’t ask for beans. This room is only for meat, and the sides and drinks are sold at the front counter. One of my favorite bites in Texas barbecue is the sausage at City Market slathered generously with their signature sauce.

Luling Bar-B-Q in Luling: Unlike City Market across the street, this joint has a huge menu. Choose from a half dozen meats and twice as many sides.

Prause Meat Market in La Grange: If you walk in the front door, a wide glass case full of raw meat might make you wonder if you came to the right place. Enter around back like the locals and you’ll walk right through the pit room to order. Homemade sausage and the pork chops are the best options.

Prause Meat Market
For a real taste of Texas tradition, look no further than the wonderfully quirky Prause Meat Market right on one corner of the town square in La Grange. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My Texas BBQ Bucket List

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a foodie would have a Texas BBQ to do list.

Snow’s BBQ in Lexington: Being in line by 9:00 a.m. (opens at 8) will give you a good chance of having your pick of the meats. The brisket is obviously the prize, but the pork steak is a favorite of many—including Tootsie Tomanetz, the (nearly) eighty-year-old pitmaster.

Eating at Snow’s is like scaling Mount Everest: Only the hardy and fully prepared reach the summit. Snow’s is in the middle of nowhere. Furthermore, the window of opportunity is minuscule, because it is open only on Saturday mornings. On top of that, Snow’s septuagenarian guru of ’cue, Tootsie Tomanetz, cooks a limited number of briskets, chickens, pork ribs, and pork butt. When they’re gone, they’re gone. So get there early! Your reward is the most celestial barbecue in Texas—that and the knowledge that you are one of the few, the brave, who have summited Snow’s.

Southside Market in Elgin: It’s not in the original building, but this is the oldest barbecue joint in Texas still in operation. They’re famous for their sausage, or “hot guts” which aren’t as hot as they used to be. Use the hot sauce at the tables to make a pool on your tray and dip the links into it for a kick. Do the same with the great smoked chicken and the mutton ribs which are a rarity in Texas.

Luling Bar-B-Q © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Luling Bar-B-Q © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor: They open at 10:00 on Saturday morning, so don’t worry about getting here too early from Snow’s. The lines at the height of lunch can be daunting, so try to make it here before 11:00. Those who like a little heat will crave the heavy black pepper rub, but amp it up a little with a link of the house made jalapeño or chipotle sausage. A whole beef rib will be tough to tackle for single diners—it can feed a family of four with a few sides added on—but it’s one of the signature trophy cuts in Texas barbecue. Settle in and enjoy the historic building before heading down the street.

Worth Pondering…

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious barbecue. It is the source of all true art and science.

—Albert Einstein

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July 2015 RV Manufacturer Recalls

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall and may create a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?
When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced 5 recall notices involving 2 recreational vehicle/chassis manufacturers— Gulf Stream Coach and Forest River.

Gulf Stream Coach, Inc.

gulf-stream-logoGulf Stream Coach, Inc. (Gulf Stream) is recalling certain model year 2015 Canyon Trail and Sedona trailers manufactured April 3, 2014, to September 30, 2014. In the affected vehicles, a rivet for the quad entry steps may shear and fail, causing the steps to give when being used.

If the rivet shears causing the quad step to fail, the step user may fall, increasing the risk of personal injury.

Gulf Stream will notify owners, and dealers will remove the rivets and the step sections will be bolted together, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on June 30, 2015. Owners may contact Gulf Stream customer service at 1-800-289-8787. Gulf Stream’s number for this recall is HS060215.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Forest River, Inc.

forest-River-logoForest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain model year 2016 Evo, Salem, Sandstorm, Shockwave, Stealth, Wildwood, Cherokee Grey Wolf, Wildcat Maxx, Vibe, R-Pod, and Surveyor trailers. In the affected trailers, the studs that are used to attach the wheels to the axle hubs may break.

If the wheel studs break, the wheel could detach from the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace any affected wheel hub, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 1, 2015. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-909-873-3777. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-05142015-0037.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Forest River, Inc.

forest-River-logoForest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain model year 2015 Shasta Airflyte SAT16 and SAT19 recreational travel trailers manufactured September 15, 2014, to October 22, 2014. The affected trailers have a Federal Certification Label that incorrectly lists the tire size, gross axle weight rating (GAWR), gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and cargo carrying capacity. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of 49 CFR Part 567, “Certification.”

If the operator overloads the trailer due to the incorrect information on the Certification label, the tires may fail suddenly, increasing the risk of a crash.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will install a corrected label, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in July 2015. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-8717. Forest River’s number for this recall is 54-06052015-0047.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Forest River, Inc.

forest-River-logoForest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain model year 2013 XLR and Vengeance, 2010 Sandpiper, 2004 Auto Plus, 2008 Cargo Mate and 2015-2016 Hydra-Lift trailers. In the affected trailers, the studs that are used to attach the wheels to the axle hubs may break.

If the wheel studs break, the wheel could detach from the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will replace any affected wheel hub, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 10, 2015. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-534-3167. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-05282015-0042.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Forest River, Inc.

forest-River-logoForest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain model year 2015 Dynamax Rev vehicles manufactured November 25, 2014, to November 26, 2014. The affected vehicles may have been manufactured with head restraints that exceed the maximum backset measurement limit of 55mm. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 202a, “Head Restraints.”

If the vehicle is struck from behind, the head restraint may not properly limit the seat occupant’s head movement rearward, increasing the risk of injury.

Forest River will notify owners, and Chrysler dealers will replace the front seat head restraints, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-262-3474 ext. 212. Forest River’s number for this recall is 55-06112015-0051.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the 61st in a series of articles relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

People forget how fast you did a job but they remember how well you did it.

—Howard W. Newton

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Central Vermont: Montpelier, Burlington & Barre

Quaint to quirky, this state has it all. Vermont is predominately rural with mountains, villages, and a few small cities. From the Green Mountains to the Connecticut River on the east to Lake Champlain to the northwest, Vermont has much to attract the RVer.

The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The intense green forests are studded with colorful bursts of summer flowers. Central Vermont, from Burlington to the Montpelier area, offers many interesting and delicious attractions to RVers.

Montpelier, the smallest capital in America with a population under 8,000 people, is a charming historic town with the largest urban historic district in Vermont. It is readily accessible from I-89 which runs from the southeast corner of the state to the northwest.

The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background.

Guided tours are available free of charge. Next door to the capitol, the Vermont Historical Society Museum is a must for history buffs.

Montpelier is a walking city. The heart of the downtown is three blocks from the State House. Downtown Montpelier is a vibrant center of interesting, independently owned shops and restaurants. It is also home to the New England Culinary Institute, which operates three restaurants—NECI on Main, Dewey Cafe, and La Brioche Bakery & Café—with irresistible delights in this eclectic New England town.

The Rock of Ages granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Rock of Ages granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s plenty of beautiful countryside to see around Montpelier and a number of interesting tours nearby.

About 7 miles southeast of the state capital is Barre, known as the Granite Center of the World. Its downtown, with several prominent sculptures and granite faced buildings, reflects that heritage. Its famed quarries at the edge of town are sprawling and spectacular with an estimated 4,500-year supply of Barre Gray granite still to be quarried out of the surrounding hills.

The Rock of Ages which claims to be the world’s largest granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. Climb aboard a shuttle bus for a guided tour of the quarry and watch the process of mining granite. From behind a wire fence, gaze down at the 600-foot-deep quarry. In the quarry, workers and machines drill, split, explode, and lift massive blocks of granite. Watching steel derricks hoist the blocks from the deep quarry is quite a sight.

After the impressive quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans working on everything from large mausoleums to tombstones and small memorial markers. The precision cutting, laser etching, and other sculpting techniques are fascinating to watch.

After the Rock of AGes quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans at work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
After the Rock of AGes quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans at work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, is situated on the east side of Lake Champlain and, like Montpelier, is accessible from I-89. Burlington’s waterfront is home to parks, a walking/bike path, fine restaurants, ferry crossings, and cruise boats.

The core of this vibrant city’s downtown is the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall filled with over 100 retail shops, boutiques, cafes, and craft vendors.

The sweetest tour in town, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been making fresh, small batch chocolates on Pine Street since 1983. They offer free factory tours Monday to Friday from June to October, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; tours start on the hour and self-guided tours start at 3:00 p.m. On the weekends, free chocolate tastings are available between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Learn the flavor profiles of four different chocolates with a chance to win a free chocolate gift basket. Lake Champlain Chocolates features caramels, clusters, truffles, almond butter crunch and much more—including lots of factory seconds and free samples.

The Shelburne Museum is a unique American treasure, a sprawling complex of three dozen relocated buildings including a covered bridge, round barn, a lighthouse, and huge 220-foot dry docked paddlewheel steam-powered lake boat. Inside, the 39 galleries house an eclectic collection of art, Americana, architecture, and artifacts.

Ships, lighthouses, whole barns—you name it, it’s here. There’s so much to see that the entry ticket is valid for two days.

200 years of family tradition help make Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks the best maple syrup we've tasted. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
200 years of family tradition help make Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks the best maple syrup we’ve tasted. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This amazing collection just south of Burlington was started just over 50 years ago by Electra Havenmeyer Webb, and it just keeps on growing. Today, it covers 45 acres and 37 buildings and contains some of the best collections of Americana in the country. Kids love the big stuff, like the 220-foot steamship. Serious collectors gravitate to the weathervanes, toys, and tools.

Worth Pondering…

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont
—lyrics by John M. Blackburn; music by Karl Suessdorf; recorded by Ella Fitzerald, Jo Stafford, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and others

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15 Bad Camping Decisions

You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste.

Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground.

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

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

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…
You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.
—Yogi Berra

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Bardstown: Bourbon, History & Much More

If you like visiting warm, welcoming small towns with beautiful old buildings and colorful history, you’ll love Bardstown, Kentucky. And if you favor bourbon, that’s an added bonus.

The Old Talbott Tavern had its share of famous guests over the years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Old Talbott Tavern had its share of famous guests over the years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of Bardstown’s most prominent buildings is the Old Talbott Tavern, the oldest stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains, dating to 1779. The tavern has had its share of famous guests over the years, including Abraham Lincoln (as a young boy), Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, French King Louis Philippe, legendary outlaw Jesse James and many others. In fact, legend has it that bullet holes found in one of the rooms were left behind by James, although some discount those claims (Frank and Jesse James made a number of trips to Bardstown during their heyday, fueling a distinct connection to the town).

If the walls could talk, they would tell of the regular meetings of a group of volunteers known as the Bardstown Mustangs, who left Kentucky to fight in the war of Texas independence, all but one of them dying in the massacre at Goliad.

Federal Hill has gained worldwide fame as My Old Kentucky Home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Federal Hill has gained worldwide fame as My Old Kentucky Home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The walls would tell of how, in 1862, the tavern was taken over for two weeks by Confederate troops, who used it as a staging area for the bloody battle of Perryville.

The Tavern still operates as an inn and restaurant with rooms named in honor of some of its more notable guests and a menu offering popular Kentucky dishes like the Hot Brown, burgoo stew, and Southern fried chicken.

Bardstown has about 200 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the two most famous are Wickland and Federal Hill.

Wickland, generally regarded as one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the state, was the home of three 19th-century governors, all from the same family.

It’s Federal Hill, however, that has gained worldwide fame as, legend has it, the subject of composer Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home. It was here in 1852 that Foster allegedly traveled to visit his cousin, Judge John Rowan, and was so taken by the beauty of the house and its 450 acres that he tapped out an elegy on his flute. True story or not, My Old Kentucky Home became the official song of the commonwealth, and Federal Hill became the My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Central Kentucky is the birthplace of America’s native spirit, and Bardstown can legitimately lay claim to being the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” At one time, the area was home to as many as 22 distilleries, producing bourbons said to “have a bite that would blow your ears off” and were supposedly as harsh as the outlaws and desperados they fueled.

Today, only five of those distilleries remain around Bardstown: Barton’s 1792, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and the recently opened Willet Distillery across the road from Heaven Hill.

Heaven Hill is America’s largest independent family-owned distillery and the second-largest holder of aging bourbon whiskey in the United States. Visitors can tour the impressive Bourbon Heritage Center and sample Heaven Hill’s best in a tasting room, shaped like a barrel.

Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside Bardstown are two of the world’s most famous distilleries, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. Beam, the world’s largest bourbon distiller, specializes in the production of handcrafted small-batch bourbons. It sits amid gorgeous hills in a tableau rivaling anything Napa or Sonoma has to offer.

Maker’s Mark, in Loretto, just south of Bardstown, is a collection of distinctive red and black buildings in a rustic setting on picturesque Hardin’s Creek. Here, in the nation’s oldest working distillery on its original site (since 1805), you can dip your own bottle in Maker’s signature red wax.

Just a 30-minute drive from Louisville and an hour from Lexington, Bardstown, whose motto is “There’s nothing small about this small town,” is a genuine slice of Americana — perfect for travelers interested in antiques, country inns, history and bourbon.

Worth Pondering…

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,

Weep no more, my lady,

Oh! Weep no more to-day!

We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,

For the old Kentucky Home far away.

—Words and music by Stephen Collins Foster, 1853

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Thor Motor Coach Introduces Pet-Friendly Class A Motorhomes

Elkhart, Indiana-based Thor Motor Coach introduces the 2016 A.C.E., Hurricane, and Windsport Class A motorhomes.

2016 A.C.E.

2016 Thor Motor Coach A.C.E.
2016 Thor Motor Coach A.C.E.

The A.C.E. continues to evolve this year. Along with the distinctive front brow, which eliminates distracting sunlight and heat, Thor Motor Coach incorporates a new automotive-style front cap and integrated LED driving lights into the coach, according to a company news release.

New inside the cockpit of the A.C.E. is the screen mirroring technology in the touchscreen dash radio that allows you to use your own GPS navigation from your tablet or smart phone.

Luxury interiors are included in all A.C.E. motorhomes featuring the Better Homes and Gardens RV Fabric Collection.

The 2016 A.C.E. is available in six floor plans with the exterior length ranging from 28 feet 8 inches to 31 feet 5 inches.

Specifications common to all models include:

  • Chassis: Ford F-53
  • Engine: 6.8L V10 362 HP 457 lb-ft torque
  • GCWR: 23,000 pounds
  • Exterior Height: 12 feet 2 inches
  • Exterior Width: 99 inches
  • Interior Height: 7 feet
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 gallons
  • LPG Tank Capacity: 88 pounds
  • Fresh Water Tank Capacity: 50 gallons

2016 Hurricane and Windsport

2016 Thor Motor Coach Windsport
2016 Thor Motor Coach Windsport

The 2016 Hurricane and Windsport brands have new standard upgrades adding extra convenience for customers.

Thor Motor Coach knows how important your four-legged friends are and want to keep them safe and close, according to the release. That is why they placed the Pet-Link Multi-Purpose Tie-Down in all Hurricane and Windsport motorhomes. It has always received rave reviews from A.C.E. owners and Thor Motor Coach wanted to expand their pet-friendly philosophy to more brands.

The Pet-Link allows you to keep your pets within plain view while you’re relaxing outside. You can also use it to lock down your bike while you’re away for the day.

Also new this model year is the blank tank flush system, which rinses the blank tank clean prior to dumping the holding tanks.

Select models feature an 11-cubic-foot residential refrigerator with an ice-maker and inverter, plus auto-generator start to ensure the batteries will stay charged.

All floor plans have a master bedroom featuring a premium Denver Mattress bed and a new Cotton Cloud mattress in the hide-away overhead bunk.

2016 Thor Motor Coach Hurricane
2016 Thor Motor Coach Hurricane

Details

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach was formed when Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International strategically merged in late 2010. For over 23 years Damon and Four Winds have been building many of the most recognized brands of motorhomes. Thor Motor Coach manufactures Class A Front Engine Diesel motorhomes (Serrano and Avanti), Class A Diesel Pusher motorhomes (Astoria, Tuscany, and Palazzo), Class A Gas motorhomes (A.C.E., Hurricane, Daybreak, Windsport, Challenger, and Outlaw), and Class C motorhomes (Four Winds, Chateau, Siesta, Siesta Sprinter, Citation, and Citation Sprinter).

Thor Motor Coach is a subsidiary of Thor Industries, Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

Address: 701 County Road 15, PO Box 1486, Elkhart, Indiana 46516

Phone: (800) 860-5658

Website: www.thormotorcoach.com

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

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Santa Fe: The City Different

There is no place like Santa Fe.

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional  Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ve never seen anything like this before. A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter.

Santa Fe is the most exotic place you can visit without crossing an ocean. The secret is in its history, the blending of three cultures—Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo.

Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of Santa Fe is a long and rich one. Occupied for many centuries by Pueblo Indians, the Spanish conquistador Coronado claimed this land for Spain in 1540. Recaptured by the Pueblo Indians for over a century, the Spanish again took over the region in 1692 and Santa Fe developed and grew. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in the mid 1800s and with the advent of the Santa Fe Trail, American traders, trappers, and pioneers began to settle in the area.

In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado charged north from Mexico with 300 soldiers in search of the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. What he found was Zuni Pueblo, which he promptly conquered. Thus began some 200 years of alternating strife and precarious calm between the two cultures, a time marked by repeated Pueblo revolts that drove the Spanish from the area only to see them return with more soldiers and repressive measures. By the mid 1700s there existed a greater respect between the two peoples. Catholic and native religions existed side by side and the Spaniards and Pueblo people fought together against the encroaching French and Pawnees.

The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Spanish brought irrigation in the form of acequias—canals that still functions today—farms, cattle, sheep, and orchards. They practiced silver and goldsmithing, woodworking and weaving—crafts carried on today by their descendants. And in 1610, a decade before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they laid out the Santa Fe Plaza and began building the Palace of Governors. Today this is the oldest continuously occupied building in the US.

In 1821, the year that Mexico celebrated its independence from Spain, American trader William Becknell drove a wagon laden with goods into Santa Fe, making it the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. Americans traders and settlers soon entered the area. One of the most famous was Kit Carson who for 42 years called Taos his home.

The US was eying the territory for western expansion and in 1846, President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico. All of New Mexico was vanquished—bloodlessly—by 1,600 soldiers under the command of General Stephen Watts Kearney.

The influx of artists was the finishing stroke. What drew them here? Everywhere you look there’s a painting awaiting a canvas. Joseph Henry Sharp is usually given credit for starting the art boom who in 1883 spent the summer painting in Laos. Other artists and writers filtered into Santa Fe-Taos area including Will Shuster, Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, Mary Austin, and the woman perhaps most associated with New Mexico art, Georgia O’Keefe.

La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To know the history of Santa Fe is to enhance your visit—the City Different is a confluence of its storied past and vibrant present. The 400 year-old streets now glitter with galleries, shops, and restaurants.

There is so much to do and see that it is impossible to do it all in a few days or even in a few weeks.

Walking the streets of this charming city, evidence of the early Spanish influence is apparent in the historic missions and houses. But where to start?

And that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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Grand Design Introduces Imagine Lightweight Travel Trailer Series

Middlebury, Indiana-based Grand Design Recreational Vehicle Company announces the introduction of its lightweight travel trailers.

Grand Design Introduces Imagine Lightweight Travel Trailer Series
Grand Design Introduces Imagine Lightweight Travel Trailer Series

The Imagine travel trailer series is the follow up to the firm’s Reflection travel trailers and fifth wheels, flagship Solitude extended stay fifth wheels, and popular Momentum toy haulers.

“Following the bar set by these brands, Imagine stays true to the company’s commitment of focusing on the customer to steer design and fuel innovation,” said General Manager Micah Staley.

With floor plans starting well under 6,000 pounds, Imagine travel trailers hit the towing sweet spot of today’s medium duty trucks and SUVs, according to a company news release.

“We wanted Imagine to not only hit the weight goals, but do it without the compromise that so many feel forced to in the pursuit of lighter weight. Industry leading tank capacities, 30-by-36-inch walk in shower, 60-by-80-inch queen beds, and 81-inch interior radius ceilings are just a few of the areas where customers will no longer have to sacrifice,” said Staley.

“The early buzz from dealers and customers point to another home run for Grand Design.”

Imagine travel trailers debut on dealers’ lots the first week of August.

Details

Grand Design Recreational Vehicle Company

Grand Design Corp-Logo-blackGrand Design RV is a privately owned company founded by close friends Don Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech (each having over 25 years of experience in the RV industry).

Their careers have been devoted to leading some of the most successful companies in the RV industry, being part of the ownership team that led Keystone RV Company to be the largest travel trailer and fifth wheel company in the world.

Grand Design RV Company has over 400,000 square feet of manufacturing facilities located on 67 acres in the rural community of Middlebury, Indiana.

Address: 11333 County Road 2, Middlebury, IN 46540

Phone: (574) 825-8000

Website: www.granddesignrv.com

Worth Pondering…

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

—Arthur Ashe

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