Junction: Texas Hill Country Hospitality Starts Here

Watch some birds, take a leisurely stroll, tube down the river, enjoy a sunset—and relax.

Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Junction boasts first-class outdoor recreation, a big-rig friendly RV park with true Texas hospitality, and all the mouth-watering Texas BBQ you can eat.

I expected the fresh air and open sky. After all, Junction is located on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, elevation ranging around 2,000 feet. The abundance of outdoor activities was no surprise, either—the town is named for the junction of the north and south forks of the Llano River. Junction is ideal for fishing, tubing, and related activities, and there are scores of low-traffic roads for biking and a sprawling state park and wildlife management area checkered with hiking and biking trails.

What I hadn’t planned on was great Texas BBQ. Junction is a good place to work up an appetite, and, as it turns out, to satisfy it, too.

Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As we exited I-10 (Exit 465) for Junction North Llano River RV Park my heart skipped a beat as it jumped for joy! There to the back of a large parking lot was a huge BBQ pit surrounded by many, many, many cords of firewood piled higher than a man’s head like fortress walls. And an outdoor area with picnic tables under the spread of an enormous oak.

The food gods were really smiling on me. Heading west to Arizona with limited time and no hope of seeking out Texas BBQ, I lucked upon Cooper’s. Yes, Cooper’s Bar-B-Q & Grill is a happy accident food-wise on any road trip.

The Cooper family opened its original barbecue joint in Mason in the early 1950s, and Cooper sons later took the tradition to Llano—a location eventually sold outside the family—and here. Roy and Sheila Cooper, their son Mark and daughter-in-law Kim and their children all work at the restaurant, which has been in its current location for 16 years.

Texas Hill Country is the Lone Star State’s prime outdoor destination. But it’s not mountaintops and dramatic views that make this a vacation mecca—it’s water. More than 800 freshwater springs percolate to the surface in crystalline rivers and lakes, and the spot where the North and South Llano rivers meet spawned the town of Junction in 1876. One of the town’s first civic projects was a dam for power and irrigation, and Junction eventually became the commercial hub of Kimble County, named for an Alamo defender, George Kimble. But that has never meant many more than 2,500 people enjoying life in the county seat. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing are the most popular ways to pass a day in Junction these days.

The dawn of another day along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The dawn of another day along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rolling hills and open spaces still define Junction. Wild turkeys also are a big part of the landscape. The largest concentration of Rio Grande Turkeys in the American Southwest gather in South Llano River State Park south of town. The gregarious birds winter in large flocks around the cottonwood riparian areas growing by the river. Turkeys can be spotted year-round, especially along the scrubby brush and open grasslands of the Fawn Trail that loops up open slopes for three miles.

The 524-acre park and adjacent 2,155-acre wildlife management area were donated to the state by cattle rancher Walter Buck Jr. Two miles of park front the river, but most folks congregate around the bridge near the entrance.

Activities include camping, picnicking, canoeing, tubing, swimming, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching, and nature study.

The park offers approximately 20 miles of hiking/biking trails—15 of them prime for mountain biking—58 campsites with water and 30-amp electric service, six walk-in tent sites, and five hike-in primitive campsites.

Rest at one of the park’s top-notch bird blinds. These comfy shelters overlook water and feeding stations frequented by birds pretty much all day, although morning and evening are prime times. Common sightings are flycatchers, swallows, wrens, warblers, hawks, and hummingbirds.

Big-rig friendly North Llano River RV Park at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big-rig friendly North Llano River RV Park at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next door, the Walter Buck State Wildlife Area is a destination to hike, watch birds, and polish wildlife photography skills.

Planning a Visit? Experience true Texas hospitality with welcoming smiles at Junction North Llano River RV Park. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a clean, spacious site nestled in a natural pecan grove along the banks of the North Llano River. Big rig sites over 80-feet in length are available; spacious full hookup sites with 50/30-amp electric service, free cable, and Wi-Fi.

There’s something for everyone whether you’re staying for one night, a week, or more—water sports, birding, fishing, hunting, scenic hill country drives, restaurants, golf, shopping, and good Texas BBQ! We’d be back in a Texas minute!

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

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4 More Cool Trailers

In a day where many recreational vehicles can easily cost six-figures and measure 40-feet or more, some people are returning to basics resulting in the minimalist RV trend gaining momentum.

Numerous vintage trailers, Airstreams, and other cool campers have been featured in Vogel Talks RVing. From modular trailers to bizarre shaped campers here are four that’ll certainly turn heads.

Teal Feather Camper

The Teal Feather Camper
The Teal Feather Camper

There is no other camper on the market quite like the Teal Feather. A modular camper that fits on a utility trailer or pickup bed, the Teal Camper is 8.5 feet long, 6 feet wide, just over 6 feet tall, and weighs a mere 500 pounds, hence its name.

The camper can be put together by one person in 60 minutes by piecing together panels made of polyethylene plastic filled with insulation. Only a Phillips screwdriver is purportedly needed for the job. When taken apart, the camper’s parts occupy a space of 4 feet by 5 feet.

Inside, the camper features a sink with a drain and a bottle to pump water to the faucet. The cabinets look more like a duffel bag—they open with zippers—though they have shelves and panels to support storage of belongings.

Dub Box

Dub Box is a customizable camper manufactured in Oregon.
Dub Box is a customizable camper manufactured in Oregon.

The Dub Box is a fun and creative retro camper with a new twist. The initial design was born from the American vintage trailer, merged with retro styling, and infused with modern conveniences for style and comfort. While it may appear that the company buys up all the Volkswagen camper vans remaining on the planet, Dub Boxes are manufactured from new fiberglass shells.

The initial design was born from the American vintage trailer, merged with retro styling and modern conveniences for style and comfort. And the rest of the design is up to you.

Dub Boxes are light enough to be towed by most vehicles, compact enough to be stored in a garage, the exterior and interior decor is customizable, and the layout can be altered to suit its intended use.

Eggcamper

The Eggcamper: Lightweight molded composite travel trailers
The Eggcamper: Lightweight molded composite travel trailers

As the name suggests, the Eggcamper has a distinct eggshell look.

Distinctly different in design and function, Eggcampers are handmade from nine molded lightweight composites — the entire camper weighs less than 2,000 pounds — and thus is easy to tow.

The entire exterior is intentionally painted an eggshell white color, which obviously helps give the product its name, but also makes it simple to clean and easier to keep cool.

The company also offers a smaller Teardropp trailer that’s based on a shape that was popular in the 1930s and is manufactured using a similar process.

Mehrzeller

Mehrzeller, a multi-cellular caravan
Mehrzeller, a multi-cellular caravan

If you don’t like to follow current trends and prefer to stand out from the crowd then this bizarre shaped caravan trailer with sleek angular lines, the Mehrzeller, may be the recreational vehicle for you.

The multi-cellular caravan  design can be entirely personalized by each customer resulting in an attractive one-of-a-kind trailer. The configuration is generated by a computer using the customer’s inputs, and then the final design is done by parameters from the architects to yield an attractive and practicable result. The caravans are produced using the principles of “mass customization”: this allows both the individual wishes of the customer to be accommodated while producing the caravan with series methods.

Worth Pondering…

All things are possible until they are proved impossible—and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.

—Pearl S. Buck

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Banff: Jewel of the Canadian Rockies

One of the best things about Banff National Park is just how accessible the scenery is. Impressive waterfalls, alpine lakes, craggy peaks, and surging rivers sit just a stone’s throw from the scenic roads and highway.

Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff
Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled amongst the towering peaks and stunning glacier-fed lakes of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason.

Whether by car, RV, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes, or canoe, in Banff National Park you can enjoy year-round discovery of the mountainous landscape. As the first national park established in Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, what makes Banff so special is its combination of vast unspoiled wilderness, mountain lakes like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, and the gateway to it all: the Town of Banff.

Lake Louise has become symbolic of the quintessentially Canadian mountain scene. This alpine lake, known for its sparkling blue waters, is situated at the base of impressive glacier-clad peaks.

Located nearby, Moraine Lake, with its indigo blue waters surrounded by the Valley of the Ten Peaks, is another of Canada’s most iconic lakes.

Banff and the Canadian Rockies are a short day trip from Calgary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Banff and the Canadian Rockies are a short day trip from Calgary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Established in 1885, Banff was the first national park in Canada. In 1883, two years before the completion of Canada’s first transcontinental railroad, three railroad workers stumbled upon a series of hot springs on the lower shoulder of what is now called Sulphur Mountain. By 1885, the springs and surrounding area were set aside as Canada’s first national park.

The Canadian Pacific Railway immediately recognized the tourism potential of the Canadian Rockies. In 1888, they opened the elegant 250-room Banff Springs Hotel. Chateau Lake Louise soon followed.

Banff National Park sees 4 million visitors each year. The peak season is July and August.

The history of the area is also captured by a number of museums, including the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff Park Museum, Luxton Museum, and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

The hiking in Banff National Park is about as good as it gets—anywhere. What Banff has to offer is variety. Choose any difficulty level, length, and duration and you’ve got a multitude of options. You can hike along the shores of dazzling blue lakes, up to quaint mountain teahouses, through carpets of wildflowers, and up high to spectacular viewpoints.

Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National
Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National. Respect the fact that mountain weather can change quickly and it can be severe. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For one of the most authentic experiences available to travelers in Banff National Park, hike to your choice of two alpine tea houses at Lake Louise. These historic cabins, nestled quaintly along some of the most breathtaking trails in the country, provide welcome rest and refreshments to visitors. While the hike to just one of these provides a rewarding experience for hikers of many abilities, adventurous hikers can take on the “Tea House Challenge” and trek to both Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers in one day (9 miles round trip).

To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada’s national treasures and most rewarding destinations. Rated one of the world’s great scenic highways by National Geographic, the Icefields Parkway is a world-class journey through a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, more than 100 ancient glaciers, waterfalls cascading from dramatic rock spires, and broad sweeping valleys.

Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This road heads north from Lake Louise towards the Columbia Icefield, where you can hop on the Ice Explorer and venture onto the Athabasca Glacier—or step out on the newly opened Glacial Skywalk. Other popular stops include Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake.

Banff National Park is a haven for wildlife. While the likelihood of an encounter with an animal is unpredictable, when it does happen—and the animal is viewed from a safe distance—it can be a magical experience.

Watching a herd of elk in a field, big horn sheep grazing along the roadside, a mountain goat scaling a cliff, or a grizzly bear fishing in a creek is something unique to the natural world and the “big backyard” of Banff National Park.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

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Cumberland Island: Wild, Pristine Seashore

Public beaches are often crowded, noisy places. But less popular areas can be incredibly peaceful.

A total of 50 miles of hiking trails meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A total of 50 miles of hiking trails meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you ready to hit the beach without the crowds? Where you can find a piece of the coast to call your own?

Epoch Times recently named Cumberland Island as one of the top three off the beaten path and secluded beaches in the world. That’s high praise when you’re only bested by Hawaii and Spain.

Published in 21 languages in 35 countries across five continents, Epoch Times said, “Roughly the size of Manhattan Cumberland island is Georgia’s southern-most island and a place where you can truly get away from the modern world. With no bridge to come to Cumberland island the travelers have to use ferry or private boat to get to this beautiful place which is manage by the national park service. ”

Cumberland Island also appears on lists as one of America’s Most Beautiful Beaches and Best Wilderness Beach in the Southeast.

In naming Cumberland Island one of America’s best wild beaches, the Wilderness Society stated, “Glistening white beaches with sand dunes, freshwater lakes and saltwater marshes fill this 16-mile-long island, the northern portion of which is designated Wilderness. Visitors can access the beach at designated dune crossings. Wildlife include alligators, loggerhead turtles and pelicans, as well as many fish that make this a prime place for surf fishing.”

Dungeness Ruins has a very long history to tell. The name came originally from the very first property, which was a hunting lodge named Dungeness, in the area, owned by James Oglethorpe in 1736. In 1803, it was replaced by a mansion built by Nathaniel Greene, which was later on used as a headquarters by the British. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dungeness Ruins has a very long history to tell. The name came originally from the very first property, which was a hunting lodge named Dungeness, in the area, owned by James Oglethorpe in 1736. In 1803, it was replaced by a mansion built by Nathaniel Greene, which was later on used as a headquarters by the British. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although Georgia’s Atlantic coastline is only about 100 miles long, the Peach State is home to 30 percent of the barrier islands along the Atlantic Seaboard. And Cumberland is the largest and fairest of them all with the longest expanse of pristine seashore—18 glorious miles of deserted sand. Truly, this is a bucket list destination.

Before the National Park Service acquired most of the island for a national seashore, 90 percent of it was the private domain of Lucy and Thomas Carnegie (brother of Andrew) and their descendants. The Carnegies bought the island in the 1880s and built five mansions on it during the next two decades. The most superb house was the opulent 59-room, Queen Anne-style Dungeness on the island’s south end.

Dungeness burned nearly to the ground in 1959 from a fire suspected as arson, but its ruins are a must-see for visitors.

We stopped during our visit to the island in early December 2007 to gaze at the tall chimneys, solid brick walls, and other stark remains of the old mansion.

After pausing at an old cemetery where war hero, “Light Horse” Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) was interred following his death on the island in 1818, we further explored the island. Continuing the 3 ½-mile Dungeness Trail as it loops around the island’s southern tip, we walked the raised boardwalk over the dunes to the wide, secluded beach, alive with crabs and shorebirds including the American Oystercatcher and Least Tern.

Visitors are reminded these are feral horses and should be treated as wild animals. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Visitors are reminded these are feral horses and should be treated as wild animals. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On several occasions we encountered many of the 250 feral horses that roam the island, descendants of steeds the Carnegies released during their heyday. Beloved by visitors, they are perhaps the most popular feature to the island.

We saw in Cumberland what the Native American inhabitants glimpsed thousands of years ago, as they roamed the densely wooded, 18-mile-long isle of land hunting and fishing.

We saw what enchanted Spanish missionaries saw in 1566. And what endeared the British, who built forts in the early 1700s to protect their fledgling Georgia colony. And what captivated industrialist Thomas Carnegie and his wife, Lucy, who purchased large swaths of the island in the 1880s and built lavish winter retreats.

And what bewitched John F. Kennedy Jr., who married Carolyn Bessette at a tiny African-American church near the island’s north end. He had personally painted and worked on the chapel himself through the years when visiting friend Gogo Ferguson, a Carnegie descendant, and swore he’d wed there one day. And so he did.

After meandering lazily along the wide, sandy, shell-flecked beach, we slowly made our way to Sea Camp dock where we re-boarded the passenger ferry for a sunset cruise back to the mainland (St. Marys, Georgia).

Don’t be late for that last ferry or you’ll have to spend the night on the porch of the visitors’ center.

We walked the raised boardwalk over the dunes to the wide, secluded beach, alive with crabs and shorebirds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
We walked the raised boardwalk over the dunes to the wide, secluded beach, alive with crabs and shorebirds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer is high season, both for tourists and insects, so be sure to reserve your spot on the ferry and the tour well in advance. There are refreshments on the ferry, but nothing on the island, so be prepared!

Worth Pondering…

The beach is the draw—

17 miles of hard packed blonde sands.

You can walk forever and seldom meet a soul

—Esquire

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Keystone RV Introduces New Fuzion Featuring 2 Patio Decks

Goshen, Indiana-based Keystone RV Company introduced the new Fuzion 420 fifth wheel toy hauler.

Keystone RV Introduces New Fuzion Featuring 2 Patio Decks
Keystone RV Introduces New Fuzion Featuring 2 Patio Decks

“You can’t get too much of a good thing” is the thinking behind the new Fuzion model, according to a company news release.

Featuring two patio decks for a combined outdoor living area of over 160 square feet, both the rear and side mounted decks include patio awning, LED lighting, and adjustable aluminum entry steps.

In addition, the Fusion 420 model is the first toy hauler in the industry to incorporate the FastTrack2 patio system by MOR/ryde which virtually eliminates pins as part of the set up process and makes short work of setting up the patio, according to the Keystone announcement.

“Patio decks are an increasingly important selling feature for our toy hauler customers,” says Fuzion product manager Tim Markel.

“Today, well over 95 percent of our customers order their Fuzion with the patio option. Adding a second deck on the door side creates a prime entertainment or relaxing area that can easily be accessed through the sliding glass patio door in the coach or by way of the aluminum steps leading to the ground. Campers love sitting on the deck and watching TV, visiting with friends, or utilizing the deck as an enclosed play area for the kids or family dog.”

Both the rear deck and the side deck on the Fuzion 420 feature the new FastTrack2 patio system by MOR/ryde.

Keystone RV Introduces New Fuzion Featuring 2 Patio Decks
Keystone RV Introduces New Fuzion Featuring 2 Patio Decks

A Fuzion exclusive, FastTrack2 allows each rail to smoothly slide and then snap in place without pins. There are no rails to lift as both the side and end rails are permanently mounted to the garage wall and simply swing into position. Setting up the Fuzion patio requires minimum effort and can be accomplished in seconds rather than minutes.

“With extra value features like FastTrack2, the MOR/ryde suspension and pin-box system, new exterior full paint options and our Fuzion Chrome edition, we are differentiating Fuzion from other brands in the marketplace,” said Marke.

“Fuzion market share is up 22 percent in April according to Statistical Surveys, Inc. Clearly our dealers have embraced the Fuzion concept and have propelled our sales.”

The new Keystone Fuzion 420 fifth wheel toy hauler specs include:

  • Shipping Weight: 15,095 pounds
  • Carrying Capacity: 3,905 pounds
  • Hitch Weight: 3,775 pounds
  • External Length: 43 feet
  • External Height: 13 feet 3 inches
  • Fresh Water Carrying Capacity: 112 gallons
  • Gray Water Carrying Capacity: 88 gallons
  • Black Water Carrying Capacity: 88 gallons
Keystone RV Introduces New Fuzion Featuring 2 Patio Decks
Keystone RV Introduces New Fuzion Featuring 2 Patio Decks

Details

Keystone RV Company

Keystone RV Company is a producer of travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers, with manufacturing facilities at its headquarters in Goshen, Indiana, and Pendleton, Oregon.

Keystone RV brands include Montana, Cougar, Outback, Springdale, Raptor, Residence, Retreat, Passport, Hornet, Sprinter, Laredo, Mountaineer, Big Sky, High Country, Fuzion, X-lite, Bullet, Premier, Alpine, and Avalanche.

Keystone is a subsidiary of Thor Industries, Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreation vehicles and a major builder of commercial buses.

Address: 2642 Hackberry Drive, PO Box 2000, Goshen, IN 46527-2000

Phone: (574) 535-2100

Website: www.keystonerv.com

Worth Pondering…

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

—Steve Jobs

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Greenville: Upcountry South Carolina Delight

Located in the in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, South Carolina’s Upcountry packs plenty of alpine splendor. For starters, it’s home to the highest waterfall east of the Rockies—411-foot Whitewater Falls.

Falls Park on the Reedy, located in downtown Greenville'
Far more than a nature lover’s paradise, Falls Park on the Reedy, located in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End, is one of Greenville’s greatest treasures. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the hub of the Upcountry, Greenville has been finding its way onto many national Top Ten lists for its lively arts scene, its modern downtown, and its job market. With a metro­­politan population pushing half a million, this is one of America’s fastest growing cities.

Greenville owes its existence to the 28-foot falls on the Reedy River that powered 19th-century textile mills, making it the “Textile Center of the South.”

Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls, located in the heart of Falls Park.

Far more than a nature lover’s paradise, Falls Park on the Reedy, located in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End, is one of Greenville’s greatest treasures. The park serves as an oasis within the city—a place where people gather to work, play, and celebrate life. The multi-use facility lends itself to a wide variety of activities for people of all ages and interests.

© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Delightful walking trails along the Reedy. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It took 40 years of cleaning after the mills closed to make Falls Park into a regional jewel, crowned by the award-winning Liberty Bridge for pedestrians that was designed by architect Miguel Rosales with a distinctive curve as it pitches toward the falls.

Liberty Bridge serves as Greenville’s signature postcard setting, and downtown’s extensive collection of public artwork adds beauty and energy to its public spaces.

At 345 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 inches thick, the concrete reinforced deck is supported by a single suspension cable. The deck’s distinctive curve has a radius of 214 feet and it is cantilevered toward the waterfall from supporting cables on the outside. The bridge deck also inclines 12 feet or 3 percent from east to west over the river.

Below the bridge the Reedy River Falls is the site where Greenville’s first European settler, Richard Pearis, established his trading post in 1768. Later he built grist and saw mills at this same location which was the hub of early industry in Greenville until the 1920s.

The vibrant Greenville downtown scene is anchored by the $42 million Peace Center for the Performing Arts, which includes a concert hall for the symphony orchestra, a performance theater, and an amphitheater. Among the city’s several historic districts, the West End has developed into one of the Palmetto State’s most eclectic art districts, with buildings adapted for studio space and galleries.

The award-winning Liberty Bridge on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The award-winning Liberty Bridge on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other attractions within Greenville include a zoo with more than 200 animals and the Roper Mountain Science Center, which features an observatory, Sealife Room, living history farm, Discovery Room, chemistry/physic shows and a planetarium.

Also, at Bob Jones University is the Gallery of Sacred Art and Bible Lands Museum Planetarium. This unique attraction brings science and religion together with its extraordinary collection of religious art and biblical antiquities.

Fluor Field in the West End is home of minor league baseball’s Greenville Drive, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The park features a 30-foot replica of the “Green Monster” the mythic left-field wall found in the parent club’s Fenway Park. Across the street is a museum devoted to slugging hometown diamond hero Shoeless Joe Jackson.

The Drive nickname is a nod to BMW Manufacturing’s Greenville-area plant, the German automaker’s only production facility in the United States. The BMW Performance Center offers drivers a one-of-a-kind challenge in sliding and cornering on a wet/dry course, off-road course, and performance drive courses.

Table Rock, Jones Gap, Paris Mountain, and Caesars Head state parks all deliver Blue Ridge Mountain adventure in Greenville’s backyard as the Appalachians tumble into the flatlands of the Piedmont region. South Carolina Highway 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway, traces this dramatic break of the Blue Ridge Escarpment with its abundance of waterfalls. Along the route, Lake Keowee, created as a power utility project, serves up over 300 miles of shoreline for boaters and fishermen.

Planning a visit? Stay at Ivy Acres RV Park, amid beautiful countryside 10 miles from downtown Greenville.

Ivy Acres RV Park is located on 80 acres of beautiful rolling countryside 10 miles from downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Ivy Acres RV Park is located on 80 acres of beautiful rolling countryside 10 miles from downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We spent a delightful week at Ivy Acres RV Park, an adult only (45+) park with full-hook-ups including 50/30/20-amp electric service and Wi-Fi available at site. Located on 80 acres of beautiful rolling countryside on the Saluda River, Ivy Acres is like a state park. We would return in a heartbeat.

Worth Pondering…

As the old song declares, “Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,” or almost any other time.

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Heartland RV Introduces Torque Extreme Lite Travel Trailer Series

Building on strong sales and growing market share in the fifth-wheel toy hauler segment, Elkhart, Indiana-based Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC has broadened its product offerings with the introduction of the Torque Extreme Lite travel trailer series targeting a rapidly growing 1/2-ton pickup market.

Heartland RV Introduces Torque Extreme Lite Travel Trailer Series
Heartland RV Introduces Torque Extreme Lite Travel Trailer Series

“Heartland has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years in the fifth-wheel toy hauler segment,” stated General Manager A.J. Jones, in a company news release.

“However, because of production limitations in the past, we weren’t able to expand into other areas of the market, which continues to branch into new categories.”

As part of a companywide expansion initiative, Heartland moved its toy hauler operations into a dedicated facility, effectively doubling production capacity while significantly reducing turnaround times.

“Heartland has made a huge commitment to toy haulers, allowing us to compete in all-new price points and weights,” Jones stated.

Jones noted that Heartland owns a 22 percent market share in fifth-wheel toy haulers and a nearly 30 percent share of all triple-axle fifth-wheel toy haulers sold.

Heartland RV Introduces Torque Extreme Lite Travel Trailer Series
Heartland RV Introduces Torque Extreme Lite Travel Trailer Series

Combining lightweight construction with aggressive pricing, the Torque offers Heartland’s dealer partners a full-featured toy hauler that addresses the towing needs of 1/2-ton pickup owners.

“The key to the Torque Extreme Lite is to keep the same high-end look and features that our fifth-wheel toy haulers provide, but doing it on a 1/2-ton towable platform,” noted Coley Brady, vice president of sales and marketing.

“Our dealers have been begging for an affordable, 1/2-ton towable, and A.J. and his team delivered with the Torque Extreme Lite.”

Available in six floor plans, ranging in length from 31- to 38 1/2 feet, the new Torque Lite series features 102-inch wide-body construction, all-aluminum framing and Equa-flex suspension with gas shocks to ensure a stable, comfortable ride.

The onboard garage is equipped with 5,000-pound tie-downs, Happy-Jac powered bunks beds and can accommodate the largest side-by-sides. MSRP pricing starts at $39,450.

“The introduction of the Torque travel trailer extends Heartland’s laser focus on the toy hauler segment,” said Heartland President Chris Hermon.

“By entering into the 1/2-ton pickup market, we have positioned Heartland to capture even more market share in what we see as a segment that continues to evolve and gain traction. As always we listened to our dealers, bringing to market a product that not only meets a growing demand but also stands out on the sales lot with features traditionally not offered by the competition at this price point.”

Heartland RV Introduces Torque Extreme Lite Travel Trailer Series
Heartland RV Introduces Torque Extreme Lite Travel Trailer Series

Details

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC

Heartland Recreational Vehicles is a leading manufacturer of towable recreational vehicles in the US. The Company markets over 16 brands of fifth wheel trailers, travel trailers, and toy haulers including Landmark, Big Horn, Big Country, ElkRidge, Gateway, Sundance, Greystone, North Trail, Prowler, Cyclone, Road Warrior, Wilderness, Torque, and Trail Runner.

Heartland is number three in market share in fifth wheels and closing in on being among the top five towable manufacturers of fifth wheels and travel trailers combined.

Heartland’s towable RVs are sold through an independent network of dealers throughout the United States and Canada.

The Company has over 900 employees.

Heartland factory tours are conducted Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 3:00 p.m.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC is a division of Thor Industries Inc.

Address: 1001 All-Pro Drive, Elkhart, Indiana 46514

Phone: (574) 262-5992 or (888) 262-5992 (toll free)

Website: www.heartlandrvs.com

Worth Pondering…

I see travel as the one of the most important ways of expanding human beings’ understanding of each other. Through travel we discover humility, love, friendship, passion and ourselves.
—Kirsten Cargill

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Nothing Behind Me, Everything Ahead Of Me On The Great American Road Trip

One of the most quintessentially American experiences is the road trip.

Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is it about road trips? The adventure? The unknown?

Maybe Jack Kerouac nailed it in his highway-focused tome On the Road when he wrote, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road”.

Undecided about your RV vacation? Here are four tips to make your road trip a fantastic experience.

Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Skyline Drive, the 105-mile road that bisects the length of Shenandoah National Park winding along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains provides stunning views of the park’s mountains, valleys, and forests.

Skyline Drive is the only public road through the park and offers 75 overlooks with breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont area to the east. The long, narrow park flows outward, upward, and downward from the highway that splits it.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Native Indians named the valley Shenandoah, mean­ing Daughter of the Stars, for the expansive firmament that roofed their world. Daylight vistas of gently slop­ing mountains, forests, and tumbling rivers, and mountain streams are equally sparkling.

West Texas & Big Bend

Nothing beats the West Texas sky when the clouds roll in. Or when the sun sets. Or when the stars come out. Take a tour of Big Bend National Park, Marathon, Alpine, Marfa, Fort Davis, and Balmorhea State Park.

Big Bend is a stunning mix of topography and ecosystems from the rugged Chisos Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert to the verdant banks of the Rio Grande River.

Lying some 36 miles to the north, the tiny community of Marathon is dotted with adorable old-timey eateries and other super Texas-y things. Check out the historic and beautiful Gage Hotel and Shirley Burn’t Biscuit Bakery, a Marathon institution providing fresh baked goods daily.

A remote, high-desert jewel nestled in the tall hills of West Texas, Alpine is a friendly, bustling community of a little over 5,000 people in a scenic valley that feels like nowhere else in the state.

Marfa has long been known for its art-world, off-beat cool factor, a mix of kitsch and bizarre; the Marfa Lights Festival kicks off on the Labor Day weekend (29th annual; September 4-6, 2015).

Red Rock Scenic Byway Visitor Information Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Red Rock Scenic Byway Visitor Information Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis is pure Texas, as genuine as the working cattle ranches on the outskirts of town. The area’s lively military history is preserved at Fort Davis National Historic Site. An internationally known attraction, the McDonald Observatory is a 17 mile drive up a pretty canyon north of town.

Don’t miss Balmorhea an oasis in the desert north of Big Bend. The San Soloman Springs feed the swimming pool, keeping the water at a refreshing 74 degrees.

Red Rock Scenic Byway, Arizona

Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls.”

This highly acclaimed National Scenic Byway, begins shortly after you exit #298 off I-17 and has earned the distinction of being Arizona’s First All-American Road. Although the Scenic Byway is only 7.5 miles, it is long on spectacular sights.

Sedona’s Red Rocks are comprised of sediment layers deposited over many millions of years. The shale foundation is the remainder of ancient swamp lands. Other layers are the remainder of an ancient beachfront that deposited iron about 275 million years ago. This iron is what gives Sedona’s rocks their rich red color.

Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway, North Carolina and Tennessee

Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala.

Located in southeast Tennessee and southwest North Carolina, the Skyway connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina, and is about 40+ miles long. The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

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Still More June 2015 RV Manufacturer Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced 5 recall notices involving 4 recreational vehicle/chassis manufacturers—Airstream, Open Range RV, Highland Ridge RV, and Keystone RV.

Airstream, Inc.

Airstream-logo-newAirstream, Inc. (Airstream) is recalling certain model year 2015-2016 Airstream Interstate NCV3 B motorhomes manufactured August 1, 2014, to May 18, 2015. In the affected vehicles, if the screen door is in the closed position and the vehicle’s curbside sliding door is closed, the motorhome occupants may not be able to move the screen door in order to open the sliding door to exit the vehicle.

If occupants are unable to open the sliding door and exit the vehicle in the event of an emergency, they would be at an increased risk of injury.

Airstream will notify owners, and dealers will attach a stop on the screen door to keep the sliding door from shutting if the screen door is closed, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in June 2015. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-937-596-6111 extension 7401 or 7411.

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.

Open Range R.V. Company

Open-Range-RV-LogoOpen Range R.V. Company (Open Range) is recalling certain model year 2013-2014 Residential 417RS fifth wheel recreational trailers manufactured April 27, 2012, to March 6, 2014. The flexible gas line for the kitchen slideout section is too short.

When the kitchen area is expanded, the gas line may be pulled excessively, resulting in a gas leak, increasing the risk of a fire.

Highland Ridge will notify owners on behalf of Open Range, and dealers will replace the existing gas line with a longer gas line, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Open Range customer service at 1-260-768-7771.

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.

Open Range R.V. Company

Open-Range-RV-LogoOpen Range R.V. Company (Open Range) is recalling certain model year 2015 Roamer, Mesa Ridge, and 3X fifth wheel trailers manufactured May 7, 2014, to June 4, 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 under occupant load, the steps may give and the occupant may fall, increasing the risk of personal injury.

Highland Ridge will notify owners on behalf of Open Range, and dealers will remove the rivets and the step sections will be bolted together, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in June 2015. Owners may contact Open Range customer service at 1-260-768-7771.

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.

Highland Ridge RV

Open-Range-RV-LogoHighland Ridge RV (Highland Ridge) is recalling certain model year 2015 Roamer, Mesa Ridge and 3X fifth wheel trailers manufactured May 7, 2014, to June 4, 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 under occupant load, the steps may give and the occupant may fall, increasing the risk of personal injury.

Highland Ridge 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 in June 2015. Owners may contact Highland Ridge customer service at 1-260-768-7771. Highland Ridge’s number for this recall is 9904242.

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.

Keystone RV Company

Keystone-Rv-Co.-logoKeystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain model year 2015 Keystone Sprinter, Cougar, Montana, Montana High Country, Outback, Bullet, Avalanche, Alpine, Fuzion, Impact, Laredo, Raptor, Carbon, and Passport, and Dutchmen Kodiak, Aerolite, Denali, and Voltage vehicles. In the affected vehicles, the screws that attach the expanding room to the sliding mechanism cable may fail allowing the room to extend unintentionally while the vehicle is in motion.

If the room extends while vehicle is in motion, there is an increased risk of a crash.

Keystone has notified owners, and dealers will replace the screws that secure the drive chain, free of charge. The recall began on June 18, 2015. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 15-225.

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 60th 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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Top Campgrounds, RV Parks & Resorts With Fun Activities For the Entire Family

These selected campgrounds and RV parks feature amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for families of all ages. These campgrounds enable families to enjoy quality time together.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the woods between Boston and Cape Cod, Normandy Farms is a luxury camping destination that has been a family tradition since 1971. Family amenities include four swimming pools, a Wellness Center, bike path, Creative Arts Center, 18-hole disc golf course, two playgrounds, fishing pond, nature trails, recreational lodge with indoor pool and Jacuzzi, volleyball and basketball courts, bocce ball and horseshoes, and dog park.

Featuring 85 foot pull-through sites and wide paved streets, Ambassador RV Resort is located near Idaho’s wine country and convenient to the Boise metro area: the perfect home base for all your family activities.

Fun for all ages, Cajun Palms RV Resort is a full service campground resort located at Henderson, near Breaux Bridge in Cajun Country. Accommodations consist of over 300 Deluxe RV sites and 25 cabins. Twenty cabins are facing the waterfront view stocked ponds. RV sites have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp electric service, on-site water and sewer, and 70+ channels of digital cable.

The clubhouse contains an assembly/reception hall and features two concession stands serving prepared food, a poolside patio, a second floor deck overlooking a resort style pool, and Kiddie pool. Fun attractions and amenities include Tiki Bar, band stand, beach volleyball, arcade, miniature golf, pool toys and waterslides, and Prehistoric Park.

With approximately 12 acres to explore, you will find yourself wandering amongst some of the most feared predators ever to walk the planet. Prehistoric Park offers a unique, natural setting featuring paved walkways where you will encounter a wide variety of realistic- looking steel and fiberglass dinosaur replicas, including some animated dinosaur exhibits. There is a concession stand, gift shop, and a sandbox with buried bones ready to be discovered by young paleontologists.

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California
Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Lazydays RV Resort offers 300 sites with full utility hookups, entertainment, breakfast and lunch in The Front Porch Restaurant, sports facilities, complimentary morning coffee and newspaper, and much more. Close proximity to the Tampa Bay area and Orlando attractions and events ensure there is always something going on.

Lazydays provides fun activities for children of all ages, including a children’s playground and park. Other activities include a screened and heated pool and hot tub, tennis courts, horseshoes, beanbag tosses, ladderball, badminton, and pickleball. Whether the goal is to relax and unwind, or spend quality time with the family, the Lazydays RV Resort offers the complete RV campground package.

Nk’Mip Resort is a four season playground for the entire family, offering the ultimate Okanagan destination. South Okanagan’s largest RV park with over 400 full service sites has been welcoming guests since 1970. Perfectly situated along the shores of Osoyoos Lake with a private beach, playground, and convenience store, the all-season RV Park also offers yurt and cabin rentals and a club house with a seasonal pool and hot tub.

Nk’Mip Resort is a four-season tourism resort destination featuring premium accommodation and visitor experiences including an award-winning winery, gourmet dining, desert golf, a cultural centre, a full-service spa, and meeting space for up to 350 people.

Just a short drive from downtown Charleston, the 643-acre James Island County Park offers an abundance of exceptional recreation offerings and natural beauty with year-round enjoyment for the entire family. Activities include miles of paved trails for walking and biking, seasonal Splash Zone Waterpark, 16 acres of freshwater lakes with fishing, pedal boat and kayak rentals, modern playground, tidal creek fishing and crabbing dock, picnic areas, and off-leash dog park.

Vogel Talks RVing selected the list of top campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts from parks personally visited.

Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama

Lazydays RV Resort, Seffner, Florida

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama

Nk’Mip RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia

Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro, Massachusetts

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California

The Campground at James Island County Park, Charleston, South Carolina

Worth Pondering…

In the end, we only conserve what we love.

We only love what we understand.

We will understand what we are taught.

—Baba Dioum, Sengalese poet

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