Top 10 of 2011

Time glides with undiscover’d haste
The future but a length behind the past.

—John Dryden

Let's Go RVing to Mount Dora, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hello, RVing friends! The year is turning over, and another 12 months of RVing, photography, hiking, and birding has flashed by.

Thank you for reading, providing feedback, and returning frequently to read my latest article. Thank you for your continuing support!

The End is almost here!

This is article # 593 since my first post on August 18, 2010. Okay, the end isn’t near, but the end of the year is almost here, and it’s time to think about wrap-ups as 2011 draws to a close.

The end of the year is the traditional time for doing a summary, and some reflection.

Looking back there were certain events and articles that kindled reader interest and comments. Please allow me to highlight the 10 most popular during 2011. Interesting, four were posted during the 2010 calendar year.

10. 2012 Quartzsite Show Dates Announced

What is Quartzsite? Quartzsite is located in western Arizona, 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10. In 1856, settler Charles Tyson built a fort at the present site of Quartzsite to protect his water supply. Fort Tyson soon … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1351

Posted: September 27, 2011

9. Buffalino squeezing a lot into a tiny RV

Let's Go RVing to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people around the world are experimenting with living in smaller spaces; some are living in recreational vehicles, but they tend to be larger and consume a lot of fuel. Treehugger reports German industrial designer Cornelius Comanns has converted the … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1656

Posted: August 26, 2010

8. Forest River launches Shasta RV division

Elkhart, Indiana-based Forest River Inc. is reviving an iconic nameplate with the launch of the Shasta RV division, a stand-alone business unit headed by industry veteran Brad Whitehead that will initially create around 100 new production jobs, according to a … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1790

Posted: August 19, 2010

7. Tornadoes: Emergency Preparation

Let's Go RVing to Quartzsite, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. All types of vehicles can be blown over, rolled, crushed, lifted, or otherwise destroyed by even a weak tornado. People have been hurt or killed when large trees crushed their recreational vehicle. NOAA Weather … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 1882

Posted: May 4, 2011

6. A Real Gem: Quartzsite, AZ

It’s that time again. Every winter the tiny town of Quartzsite is transformed into the Snowbird capital of the world. This tiny desert town bursts at the seams each January when tens of thousands of recreational vehicles converge on Quartzsite … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2165

Posted: January 5, 2011

5. Homemade Teardrop Trailers Make Comeback

Gary Daniel and Don Wheeler are two -it-yourselfers who built their own teardrops—compact, efficient travel trailers measuring just 4 feet by 8 feet. Central Illinois Recreational Show Daniel and Wheeler will be among teardrop owners who will display their rigs … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2580

Posted: March 2, 2011

4. How to Locate a Dump Station?

RV owners periodically find themselves needing to locate an RV dump station. This may be a result of dry camping with no sewer service or dump station available, spending the night at Wal-Mart or a truck stop or the weekend … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2652

Posted: June 18, 2011

3. Old is New Again: New Retro RV Manufacturer

Let's Go RVing to San Antonio, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A recent trend in the RV manufacturing industry is the development of an increasing number of retro-style trailers entering the RV marketplace. Retro-style trailers make a lot of sense for today’s modern market. These oldies are small, which makes them … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 2983

Posted: March 14, 2011

2. Quartzsite 2011 RV show dates announced

Dates for the 2011 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show in Quartzsite, Arizona, have been pushed back to January 22-30, according to a news release. “The 2011 show looks like it will be another big one with exhibit space selling … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 5033

Posted: September 11, 2010

And the NUMBER ONE most read story of 2011…

1. Teardrop trailers sees upswing in sales

The economy has influenced all facets of daily life and occasionally in a positive way. Around since the 1930s, Teardrop trailers are seeing a boom in popularity, Auburn Journal reports. In Auburn, California, American River Sales has sold American Teardrops … Continue reading →

Number Page Views: 5520

Posted: September 25, 2010

Happy New Year from Vogel Talks RVing!

Let's Go RVing to Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Happy New Year to all my readers. Best wishes for 2012. Find what brings you joy and go there. Remember, the journey, and not the destination, is the joy of RVing. Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in an RV.

Happy Trails. Life is an adventure. Enjoy your journey.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Edith Lovejoy Pierce

May the months ahead be filled with great RVing experiences!

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Arizona State Parks Proposes Fee Increases

Visiting an Arizona State Park may cost you more money, starting April 1, 2012.

Red Rock State Park is a 286-acre nature preserve and environmental education center with stunning scenery. Trails throughout the park wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the banks of Oak Creek. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Arizona State Parks Board recently reviewed all state park fee schedules and proposed changes to some administrative fees and to the ranges of fees for some of the parks to reflect the busy seasonal demands, according to a recent news release.

The public is encouraged to review these changes online and make recommendations as well.

The fee changes would be for specific uses such as booking ramadas, group day use, group camping, cabanas, and boat-in sites. Facility use fee ranges would be reduced to a minimum fee of $15 from $25.

Ranges in fees for non-electric camping would be increased to $15-25, electric $25-50, and day-use entrance fees would range from $2-10. Parks with per person entrance fee ranges would have the upper limits changed to $10 to allow for seasonal and promotional fee increases by State Parks partner organizations.

Standard Annual Passes (day-use only) would be valid from November 1 to March 31 on holidays and weekends at the Colorado River Parks which would allow for many more days of use with that pass.

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Public comments will be accepted until January 13, 2012.

To make public comments on the proposed fee changes click here.

Comments about these proposed fee increases will be presented to the Arizona State Parks Board at their February 15, 2012 meeting. If the new fees are approved, the fee changes will become valid on April 1, 2012.


Arizona State Parks

Arizona State Parks protects and preserves 30 state parks and natural areas, provides over 1,400 camping and RV sites, and manages eight of the top 25 most visited natural attractions in Arizona. Camping, RV site, and cabin reservations are now accepted at 14 parks. There is a $5 non-refundable reservation fee per site.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is the place to discover the intricate beauty and many faces of Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mailing Address: 1300 West Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85007

Phone: (602) 542-4174


Camping Reservations: (520) 586-2283 (7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST) or online

Arizona State Parks Board

The Arizona State Parks Board holds meetings throughout the year, guiding staff in accomplishing the agency’s Mission: “Managing and conserving Arizona’s natural, cultural, and recreational resources for the benefit of the people, both in our Parks and through our Partners.”

In most cases, meetings are scheduled on the third Wednesday of the month. The Executive Session begins at 9 a.m.; the Public Meeting begins at 10 a.m. Phoenix meetings take place in the Board Room at 1300 West Washington Street. The Board Room is located in the basement of the Arizona State Parks office.

2012 Meeting Dates:

  • January 11
  • February 15
  • March 21
  • May 2
  • June 27-28
  • September 12
  • October 24
  • December 5


Worth Pondering…
A saguaro can fall for a snowman but where would they set up house?

—Jodi Picoult

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Sunland RV Resorts Promotes Online Space

Sunland RV Resorts, a luxury RV resort company, extends its rich RV lifestyle and culture to the online space, according to a Wednesday (December 28) news release. Sunland is encouraging RV travelers to join their online community starting with Facebook. The resort company gives RV enthusiasts good reason to join their social networks with sweepstakes for a free week’s stay at any Sunland RV Resort of the winner’s choice. Contests rules are available on the official contest page.

“Like” Sunland & Win Free Week Stay  

People who “like” a Sunland Facebook Fan Page will be entered for a chance to win this prize valued up to $500.00. Three grand prizes of the free week will be given away. One winner will be announced each month from January through March. The sweepstakes began earlier this month and will run through January 31, 2012.

Participants can increase their chance of winning when they invite their friends to participate. To claim credit for spreading the word, a referred person needs only post who referred him or her on one of the resort’s Fan Page walls.

Sunland has seven resort properties and seven corresponding fan pages, one for each resort that offers its own amenities and cultural flavor.

“This is just the beginning of spreading the rich culture Sunland has developed physically at the resorts over the years. People who join our online community will gain access to giveaways and exclusive deals for community members. Additionally, this platform gives Sunland guests an easy way to maintain friends they have made at our resorts when away on other adventures,” says Reza Paydar, a Sunland RV Resort owner.

Sunland RV Resorts also encourages the RV community to join their other social media channels including Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. It’s likely other contests and sweepstakes will follow for these sites in the future.


Sunland RV Resorts
Sunland RV Resorts is an outdoor resort hospitality company established to develop strategic outdoor resort travel destinations in America. Sunland have seven RV Parks and Resorts in Southern California.


Golden Village Palms RV Resort
3600 West Florida Avenue, Hemet, CA 92545

Phone: (866) 477-6154


San Diego RV Resort
7407 Alvarado Road, La Mesa, CA 91941

Phone: (877) 717-6667


Escondido RV Resort
1740 Seven Oaks Road, Escondido, CA 92026

Phone: (866) 477-6153


Oak Creek RV Resort
15379 Oak Creek Road, El Cajon, CA 92021

Phone: (866) 916-1318


Circle RV Resort
1835 E. Main Street, El Cajon, CA 92021

Phone: (866) 468-9034


Vacationer RV Resort
1581 E. Main Street, El Cajon, CA 92021

Phone: (877) 626-4409


Sunland Contest

Contest: “Like” a Sunland RV Resort Facebook Page and get entered for a chance to win a free week stay at ANY Sunland RV Resort.

Contest Duration: December 9, 2011- January 31, 2012

Prize Value: Up to $500.00

Official Contest Website:

Sunland Facebook Fan Page:



Worth Pondering…

The RV lifestyle is like nothing else.

It’s leaving home, exploring America, and yet bringing your home along with you!

Stopping at a wayside picnic area, preparing lunch in your kitchen.

It’s sleeping in your own bed every night, yet waking up to a new vista each morning!

The sounds of a crackling campfire; of a mountain stream, of frogs, and crickets.

It’s families drawn closer; it’s retirees being rewarded for many years of labor.

—Loren Eyrich, Two-Lane Roads

—Dennis Franz

Read More

Five Things You Need to Know Today: December 30

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. Bastrop State Park in Recovery Mode

Let's go RVing to Bastrop State Park. Photo taken before fire. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It has been a tough year for Texas state parks. Record heat, devastating drought, budget cuts and wildfires during the summer has the park system in desperate need of money.

Bastrop State Park reopened recently after a huge wildfire burned 96 percent of it. Things are slowly coming back to normal.

Contractors are hauling and chipping away the tons of dead trees. Other volunteers are working to clean up the park—one trail at a time.

“So, there’s a lot of park that’s still green, still looks good—or even looks better—that has been cleaned up a little bit. The entire park is not gone,” says Roger Dolle, Bastrop State Park site manager.

2. Sun Communities Acquires Three Florida RV Parks

Sun Communities Inc., a Southfield, Michigan-based real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns and operates manufactured housing and recreational vehicle communities, announced that on December 16 it acquired three recreational vehicle communities, personal property, and other associated intangibles from Club Naples RV Resort LLC, Kountree RV Resort LLC, and North Lake RV Resort LLC.

The acquired communities are in Florida—two in Naples, and the other in Moore Haven. They are comprised of 414 permanent recreational vehicle sites and 356 seasonal recreational vehicle sites that complement the company`s existing Florida recreational vehicle portfolio, while not directly competing with it.

The communities provide a larger geographic footprint in the state and allow for cross-marketing opportunities utilizing Sun Communities’ call center systems and staffing currently in place in the region.

Sun Communities intends to purchase three additional recreational vehicles communities in January 2012.

Sun Communities owns and operates a portfolio of 159 communities comprising approximately 54,800 developed manufactured housing and recreational vehicle sites.

3. Know Your Height

Let's Go RVing to the Corkscrew Sanctuary near Naples, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many people forget the extra height of an RV while driving. Hitting bridges and overhangs are some of the most common accidents. To avoid getting hung up – literally – try this simple trick: put a sticky note on the dashboard with your exact clearance.

Another vital fact: a typical RV is 8.5 feet wide; the typical highway lane is only 10 feet wide. This gives you about a foot-and-a-half to work with.

4. Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Membership Campground

Membership campgrounds are particularly appealing to snowbirds and full-timers who don’t want to spend all their time in one or two locations.

In exchange for purchasing a one-time membership and paying annual dues, you may camp free—or nearly free—for a specified period of time.

You need to understand your own needs and how they match the benefits offered through the membership.

Two main factors to consider carefully:

Use: Are you really going to use this membership?

How many days a year will you use it?

How many years will you use it?

Location: Are the campgrounds in areas where you plan to travel?

Most membership campgrounds are in Western, Eastern, and Southern United States.

What else should you be aware of?

  • Bankruptcies (or Chapter 11s) of membership campgrounds can and do occur
  • Will you be able to find space when and where you want?
  • Dilemma of peak demands from January to March in favorite Snowbird destinations such as Florida, Arizona, and Southern California
  • Are you willing to plan ahead? To make reservations 60-120 days or more in advance?
  • Not all memberships are created equal
  • Not all campgrounds within the same camping system are created equal
  • Increasing cost of annual dues
  • Utility surcharge and service fees

To read more on membership campgrounds, click here.

5. Follow the Rule of 20 Percent

Let's Go RVing to the Arizona Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fully loaded recreational vehicles have slower acceleration and take longer to come to a full stop than autos. To compensate, add 20 percent to everything you do, from increasing your following distance and judging if you have enough clearance, to safely merging into traffic.

Have a great New Years.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…

The RV lifestyle is like nothing else.

It’s leaving home, exploring America, and yet bringing your home along with you!

Stopping at a wayside picnic area, preparing lunch in your kitchen.

It’s sleeping in your own bed every night, yet waking up to a new vista each morning!

The sounds of a crackling campfire; of a mountain stream, of frogs, and crickets.

It’s families drawn closer; it’s retirees being rewarded for many years of labor.

—Loren Eyrich, Two-Lane Roads

Read More

National Parks Senior and Access Passes Now Available by Mail

Lifetime passes to America’s national parks—Senior Pass and Access Pass for Americans with disabilities—are now available by mail.

According to the agency website, “The Senior and Access passes provide admission to, and use of, federal recreation sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.”

Amenity fee is defined as “those (fees) charged for use of Bureau of Land Management (BLM), USDA Forest Service, and Reclamation sites that have a combination of basic amenities—picnic tables, trash receptacles, toilets, developed parking, interpretive signing, and security.”

Holders of both types of passes receive a 50 percent discount on some (but not all) “Expanded Amenity Fees,” which “cover ‘the extras’ that aren’t basic entrance or standard amenity fees. Examples include campgrounds, boat launches, cabins, and guided tours.”

Until recently, it was necessary to apply in person at parks and similar sites for either pass, but that has now changed.

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said the Senior Pass and the Access Pass will still be available at national parks, “But the option of receiving a pass by mail may better suit some people and any change that makes it more convenient to prepare to come to the parks is a change for the better. We want everyone to experience the amazing places in our care.”

“National parks have a lot to offer,” continued Jarvis. “They are places to share with children, grandchildren, and other family members. They facilitate recreation and healthy living. Many parks, including Yellowstone, Shenandoah, and Denali, have trails that are accessible to people with limited mobility and to wheelchair users. We also have many accessible camping and picnic areas.”

Both the Senior and Access versions of the America the Beautiful Pass—the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass—are good for the lifetime of the pass holder. They are available to citizens and permanent residents of the United States age 62 or more or who have permanent disabilities regardless of age.

The Access Pass is free and the Senior Pass (formerly known as the Golden Age Passport) costs $10.

There is a $10 processing fee to receive either pass by mail.

If you have one of the previously issued Golden Age Passports, fear not, it’s still valid—only the name has changed, and it’s still a great bargain.

Here’s one additional tip for holders of either pass: You can obtain a free “hangtag” to display your pass below your vehicle’s rear view mirror or on the dashboard. The tag verifies that you have a pass when you’re using an area that requires a fee but which doesn’t have a staffed entrance station. If you order a pass by mail, a hangtag will be included, or one should be available at locations where passes are issued.

If you have an open-top vehicle, such as a jeep or motorcycle, you can also obtain a decal that serves the same purpose. Decals are only valid on an annual basis, even for holders of lifetime passes. Decals can be obtained in person—not by mail—at parks and other federal recreation sites that issue the passes.

Finally, the decals and hangtags are not valid for admission at areas with staffed entrance stations. At those locations, be prepared to show your actual pass and ID (such as a driver’s license) to prove you’re the pass holder. The reason is simple: to prevent someone from simply “passing the hang pass” around to friends and relatives who don’t qualify for one.


National Park Service

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, the park service is proud to safeguard these special places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites in America’s 397 national parks.


Senior Pass by Mail

National Park Annual Pass awarded to volunteers who contribute 500 or more hours of service.

To get your Senior Pass through the mail just submit a completed application, proof of residency and age, and $20. The fee covers the cost of the pass and a document processing fee.

You can print an application and explanation of the required “proof” at this link.

Once the application package is received and the documentation verified, the pass will be mailed to you.

Access Pass by Mail

You can print an application and explanation of the required “proof” at this link.

To receive the Access pass, mail the completed application along with proof of residency and documentation of permanent disability plus the $10 document processing fee. Once the application package is received and verified, the pass and the documentation of permanent disability you provided will be mailed to you.

Additional Questions

If you still have questions about either pass or the application process, you can phone (888-275-8747) and press option “1.”

Worth Pondering…

We can never have enough of nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

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Flocking to Texas

In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, magic arrives on wings in winter. Bird-watchers from around the world converge on The Valley to see rare and unique birds. Situated at the confluence of two major migratory flyways—Central and Mississippi, The Valley is world famous among birdwatchers for the variety and number of birds to be found here.

Green Jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its diverse ecosystem of semi-arid brush and wetlands provide unique habitats for unusual plant and animal communities, which are found only in subtropical environments.

To the east, the gulf and bay waters, along with coastal prairie, reign supreme, while to the west are the arid lands of a desert-like environment. The northern portions are dominated by dense brush land and oak-choked, landlocked islands, while the southern boundary is subtropical and made of woodlands often draped in long curtains of humidity-loving Spanish moss.

Mostly frost-free, the valley contains the northern-most extension of the Mexican subtropical ecosystem, attracting a variety of neo-tropical birds more commonly found in Mexico.

Much of the valley now supports extensive urban/agricultural activities, but numerous natural areas along the Rio Grande have been protected and provide oases for more than 600 bird species that reside in or migrate through this region.

Many of the subtropical species are South Texas specialties, meaning it’s the only location in the United States where these birds can be found.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These birds include Green Jay, Chachalaca, Great Kiskadee, Green Kingfisher, Green Parakeet, Altamira Oriole, Clay-colored Robin (also called the Clay-colored Thrush), Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Duck, and Buff-bellied Hummingbird.

Plus, every now and again, simply because of its geographical proximity to the tropics, the valley attracts some off-the-wall, rare strays. The valley will then be inundated with bated-breath birders, all hell-bent to add one more special bird to their beloved lists. This winter it was the Rufous-backed Robin (also called the Rufous-backed Thrush), White-throated Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blue-throated Hummingbird, and Black-vented Oriole who made its home in our park, Bentsen Palm Village.

Native to Central America and Mexico, the Black-vented Oriole is an accidental visitor to South Texas.

Previous sighting in the United States have been rare. The first of six sightings of this species was at Big Bend National Park on September 27, 1968—and on-and-off to October 1970. Other documented sightings include Kingsville in 1989 and South Padre Island World Birding Center in 2010.

Photo tip

Capturing a bird’s image can be challenging, frustrating, and fun all at the same time. Try to get the bird’s eye in focus. Don’t put the bird in the exact center of your photo. Show the bird doing something interesting.

A major challenge when photographing birds is to get close enough to obtain a decent-size image of the bird.

Roseate Spoonbill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a photographer, you need to be two to three times closer to any bird for a good photo as you would need to get with binoculars. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to get good bird photos with a group of birders, since they won’t appreciate the closer approach you’ll need.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Did You Know?

The ocelot, once found throughout south and central Texas at least as far north as the Houston area is now limited to Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy Counties.

Little known and interesting fact about Texas

Beaumont to El Paso: 742 miles

Beaumont to Chicago: 770 miles

El Paso is closer to California than to Dallas

King Ranch in South Texas is larger than Rhode Island.

Worth Pondering…
We can never have enough of nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

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Lunar Caravans Introduces Lightweight Venus Brand

Lunar Caravans Ltd. is grabbing a stake in the entry level caravan market with the launch of the UK’s lightest range of tourers under a brand new name—Venus Caravans.

The Venus brand is a range of lightweight, compact, and affordable caravans that the Preston, UK-based manufacturer says is a very different product line from other trailers currently built under the Lunar banner that includes Ariva/Quasar range, Stellar/Lexon range, Clubman/Delta 2012 collection, and the Caravan Matchmaker.

The Venus models are aimed at caravanners wanting compact, lightweight caravans which are good value and easy to handle, whether on short breaks or touring holidays, Lunar reports in a recent news release.

Sales and Marketing Director for the Venus brand, Martin Henderson, says “Venus Caravans has been developed to appeal to a very different market to the one served by our existing Lunar brand.  There has been a substantial growth in the popularity of two berth and fixed bed caravans that are affordable, compact, and lightweight. We are, therefore, extremely excited to put 40 years of expertise into this new caravan brand. We are confident that Venus Caravans will be the lightest, most compact and most practical value for money caravans available in the market place.”

2012 Lunar Caravan Matchmaker (Credit:

At launch, Venus Caravans will offer customers a choice between four single-axle models that range from two-berth to four-berth fixed beds.

Weights in the new compact range are expected to start from under 900kg (1984 pounds), meaning that a Venus caravan can be towed by almost any family car.

By comparison, a Lunar Ariva weighs in at 995kg (2193 pounds), but the company is keen to stress that Venus is a completely new brand that has been designed from the ground up.

Venus Caravans is set to launch at the forthcoming Motorhome, Caravan, and Camping Show at the London ExCel Centre, February 14-19, 2012.

Lunar Caravans reports that the new Venus website will be launching early February where you will find lots of information which includes model specifications, images, and 360 tours.


Lunar Caravans Ltd

2012 Lunar Ariva/Quasar Caravan interior (Credit:

Address: Sherdley Road, Lostock Hall, Preston, Lancashire , UK PR5 5JF


Venus Caravans


Worth Pondering…

Nothing endures but change.
—Heraclitus, Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius

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Winter Texans flock to the Rio Grande Valley

“The Valley,” as it is affectionately called, is an area near the Mexican border that stretches from Brownsville and Harlingen in the east to Mission in the west—a distance of about 65 miles. Starting in the east and heading west, there’s Brownsville, Los Fresco, Rio Honda, San Benito, Harlingen, La Feria, Mercedes, Weslaco, Donna, Alamo, San Juan, Pharr, Edinburg, McAllen, and Mission.

The Rio Grande Valley is a birders' delight. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Technically not part of The Valley, nearby Rio Hondo, Port Isabel, and South Padre Island are also favorite roosts for Winter Texans. The South Padre Island beaches are never crowded, except during Spring Break, when no Winter Texan in their right mind would venture there.

In trying to define what makes the Winter Texans different from their Snowbird cousins in Florida, Arizona, and Southern California, it seems to us it has to with their roots and the reasons they spend their winters here.

Winter Texans come primarily from a Mid-West, small-town, or rural roots—not that much unlike those that winter in Yuma, Arizona.

Well-represented states include Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. The majority of Canadians who winter in Texas are from Manitoba and Ontario.

Long known to Midwesterners as a great winter spot, many other Northerners have in recent years discovered it, too. New Winter Texans continue to arrive each year and many, like us, become repeat visitors.

The Great Kiskadee is a South Texas favorite. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most of the larger parks have highly organized activities to make sure you don’t get bored.

Winter Texans have created a culture of their own. And they tend to do what they do back home. They are crazy for dancing!

Numerous activities center around dancing, dance classes, and dance workshops (from pre-beginners to Advance II to Phase VI)—square dance, line dance, round dance, ball room dance, mainstream dance, pattern dance, tap dance, 2-step, waltz, cha-cha, Latin dance, Country Western dance, West Coast swing, clogging—and Bible study.

Even though they spend considerable time participating in the activities and scheduled events at their RV resorts, Winter Texans still have time to get out and explore the Rio Grande Valley.

The Valley offers a wide variety of activities and attractions that you won’t find elsewhere in the American Sunbelt. The area’s many outdoor attractions range from beaches to battlefields, lighthouses to bird and butterfly sanctuaries. The Civil War Battlefield at Palmito Ranch and the Palo Alto Battlefield are both National Historic sites located near Brownsville.

Nuevo Progreso

Shopping is an adventure in the Mexican border towns. The recommended place to shop is Progreso, officially Nuevo Progreso. Park your car for a small fee on the U.S. side and walk across the Rio Grande Bridge. This little town seems to have been built just for Winter Texans. Every block has dentists and pharmacies, where you can have your dental work completed and save money on prescription medication. Mexican produced liquors, such as tequila and Kahlua are also a bargain. There are many fine restaurants in Progreso and shops sell handmade Mexican craft items, souvenirs, linens, blankets, and toys. Haircuts are also a bargain.

The Killer Bee was first sighted in the U.S. near Hidalgo in South Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Did You Know?

The brush land of south Texas is home of some of the richest biodiversity in North America.

Little known and interesting fact about Texas

The name Texas comes from the Hasini Indian word “tejas” meaning friends. Tejas is not Spanish for Texas

Worth Pondering…
Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

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Tip of Texas

The Lower Rio Grande Valley rolls out the red carpet for snowbirds. This is Shangri-la, a subtropical paradise, where the average annual T-shirt and shorts temperature is 74 degrees with an average rainfall of only 23.2 inches.

The Tip of Texas along the Rio Grande River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This area of extreme deep-south Texas is actually more of a delta than a valley. There are no hills and mountains to define it and its southern border forms the present-day wide, sweeping flatlands of the once mighty Rio Grande River.

It is rich agricultural land, on which the fertile alluvial soils foster a diverse variety of crops, including 56 types of fruits and vegetables. Most visitors are astonished at this diversity of Valley farm products. Fields of peas, cabbage, spinach, onions, and carrots are easily recognized, but there are less common vegetables too—daikon, kohlrabi, and aloe vera. This is the original area of aloe vera, whose marvelous natural cream has become popular in sunburn and beauty lotions.

It has been said that there are two kinds of ground cover: Perfect rows of irrigated citrus groves and winter vegetables, and semi-organized rows of recreational vehicles.

Lying at nearly the same latitude as Miami, Florida, the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) is arguably the best bargain in the U.S. for wintering in a warm climate. While the area offers everything you’ll find in other places, living costs are less expensive, with the added advantage of being right next door to Mexico.

Dining comes in all shapes and sizes beginning with Texas slow-cooked barbecues, where the pork, chicken, and beef fall off the bone, to Tex-Mex specialties, Mexican cuisine that’s as good as you’ll find in Mexico, fast foods, and buffets. Eating out here does not break the bank, and senior specials are available daily. The Las Vegas Café in Harlingen is a favorite of ours.

Winters tend to be mild and a bit breezy; however, the weather can be unpredictable.

Hidalgo Historic Pumphouse welcomes visitors to explore the history of The Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It can be windy and some visitors dislike the wind. But those of us who enjoy the RGV will tell you that when the wind is blowing, the humidity is down and skeeters are grounded.

Unlike parts of Florida bugs are not an issue during the winter Snowbird season.

And, unlike Arizona, most evenings are warm enough to wear shorts and a T-shirt.

As a result, this is big-time RV country, and flocks of Snowbirds return year after year.

In other southern states such as Arizona and Florida we’re known as Snowbirds, but in the Lone Star State there are NO SNOWBIRDS. We are all WINTER TEXANS!

Winter Texans are a major part of the economy and are treated as such. Newspaper headlines and signs welcome Winter Texans back home. You will find none of the snowbird prejudice that occurs in Florida, Arizona, and Southern California.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Did You Know?

Many of the trees, shrubs and other plants of the South Texas Brushlands can be found nowhere else in Texas.

Little known and interesting fact about Texas


People here in Texas have trouble with all those “shalls” and “shall nots” in the ten Commandments. Folks here just aren’t used to talking in those terms. So, some folks out in west Texas got together and translated the “King James” into “King Ranch” language:

A Tip of Texas sunset. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ten Commandments, Cowboy Style.

Cowboy’s Ten Commandments posted on the wall at Cross Trails Church in Fairlie, Texas:

(1) Just one God

(2) Honor yer Ma & Pa

(3) No telling tales or gossipin’

(4) Git yourself to Sunday meeting

(5) Put nothin’ before God.

(6) No foolin’ around with another fellow’s gal

(7) No killin’

(8) Watch yer mouth

(9) Don’t take what ain’t yers

(10) Don’t be hankeri’ for yer buddy’s stuff

Now that’s kinda plain an’ simple don’t ya think?

Y’all have a good Day. Ya hear now ?


Worth Pondering…
Wasn’t Born in Texas, But Got Here as Fast as I Could

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Thinking of Buying Your First Motorhome?

Warners Group Publications, publisher of Britain’s best-selling motorhome magazine, is launching “Buying Your First Motorhome”, a new guide to help buyers make the right decision when choosing a motorhome, 3D Car Shows reports.

Motorhomes can cost anywhere between £5,000 for an elderly second-hand model to £1.9 million for a new Class A.

Typical British buyers will spend between £30,000 and £50,000, making a motorhome the second largest investment of many people’s lives, according to 3D Car Shows.

Therefore, it can be a costly mistake if they make the wrong decision. However, get it right and not only can buyers enjoy years of motorhome fun, but some will even be able to sell their van on for the same or more than they paid for it.

3D Car Shows reports that the new guide is packed with all the essential information and advice a first time motorhome buyer needs to be sure they are making the right decision.

“We know how complicated and daunting it can be for first-time—and even more experienced—motorhome buyers when they embark on the buying process,” explained managing editor Daniel Attwood.

“There are several stages in the buying process where it is essential the right decision is made, from which motorhome layout or base vehicle is right for you, to ensuring your license covers you for the weight of motorhome you want to buy right through to which finance options are best for your needs.

And this is where the new guide can help. It explains every stage in layman’s terms so even first-time buyers will understand all the aspects of buying a motorhome. And best of all it has been written by experts who know the motorhome industry and the motorhome market inside out.”

The164-page guide simplifies the complicated buying process taking buyers on a step-by-step journey from deciding which layout they need to how to finance it and where is best to buy, according to 3D Car Shows.

Buying Your First Motorhome will help you consider all your buying options, including:

  • Which layout?
  • Which type of motorhome?
  • Which base vehicle?
  • Which chassis and construction?
  • Which size and weight?
  • Where to buy?
  • Second-hand or new?
  • How to pay?
  • 2012 models new to the market
  • Insurance and breakdown cover
  • Buyers’ guide – 900 motorhomes to choose from
  • The dealers – 174 motorhome dealers to choose from


Buying Your First Motorhome

Buying Your First Motorhome costs £4.99 and is available in WH Smiths.

Alternatively, it can be ordered directly from the publishers for the discounted price of £3.99 plus postage.

As sponsors of the guide, the Caravan Club also has a special offer for its members who can purchase their copy of the guide at the discounted price of £3.49 by calling 01778 392010.

For those who want to have a digital rather than paper guide, Buying Your First Motorhome is also available through for £2.99—perfect for those who want to refer to its invaluable advice on their iPhone or smartphone while they visit dealers or motorhome shows.

Worth Pondering…
The gladdest moment in human life, methinks, is a departure into unknown lands. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood.
—Sir Richard Burton

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