Lazydays RV Resort Introduces Snowbird Deal

Lazydays, the world’s largest RV dealership, introduces a special extended-stay package for RVers to settle in and camp the entire winter at its recently expanded 300-site RV resort.

Lazydays Tampa RV Resort
Lazydays Tampa RV Resort

A four-month minimum stay and your choice of a full hookup campsite are now available at the Central Florida RV resort. The on-site RV-themed restaurant and pub, Exit 10, will offer a variety of dinner and drink specials only for winter residents.

“We absolutely love having our guests and their families on site,” said Linda Stephens, who oversees the resort.

“We want the resort to be a home away from home for RVers and their families. This new package offers award-winning hospitality so that all guests get the full RV camping experience while staying with us.”

The RV resort sits amid the overall Lazydays campus conveniently located near I-4 and I-75 and offers a wide range of amenities designed for RVers, families, and rally groups.

Lazydays Tampa RV Resort
Lazydays Tampa RV Resort

Free high-speed Wi-Fi, business center, complimentary morning newspaper delivery, premium coffee, and cable television are available to all RV resort guests, with golf cart rentals and shuttle services also available. The tennis court is newly resurfaced and two half-basketball courts have been added.

Other areas feature horseshoes, beanbag toss, ladderball, badminton, and pickleball.

The RV resort also features a beautiful and spacious heated pool, hot tub, and well-appointed deck with all new resort-style outdoor furniture.

The entire Lazydays campus is pet friendly and the resort has a dog park.

A new children’s playground and park features state-of-the-art playground equipment and a gazebo while Exit 10 features daily drink and dinner specials, plus poolside service, take-out, and catering services.

Billing itself as “America’s RV Destination,” Lazydays also has a full-time concierge onsite to assist guests with travel plans and discount tickets to local attractions.

The Lazydays 126-acre RV dealership site is home to more than 1,200 RVs representing the nation’s top brands and 220 state-of-the-art service bays. Also located on the Lazydays campus is an RV parts and accessories store with a broad selection of merchandise to enhance the RV experience and three themed restaurants including the exclusive Crown Club for the luxury motorhome owner.

LazydaysTampaThe popular complimentary on-site Lazydays Drivers Confidence Course offers seminars and classes.

This year, Lazydays celebrated great success and growth at the Lazydays RV Resort with an 8 percent jump in occupancy July 4th weekend compared with 2014. Resort guests enjoyed two full days of fun activities and games for the whole family including hamster ball races, reptile discovery shows, arts and crafts, capture the flag, and poolside movie showings.

Be warm this winter, have fun all season long.

The Lazydays special extended-stay snowbird package extends from October 2015 to April 2016 with a 4 month minimum for $1,200 per month plus tax. Choose your own 50-amp campsite. Enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, 24-hour security, and special discounts at Lazyday’s Exit 10 on-site restaurant.

Daily rates range from $39.99 plus tax to $50.99 plus tax based on season and length of sites.

Central Florida has much to offer. It’s a perfect winter getaway.

Worth Pondering…

Dare to live the life you dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Top Culinary (Wine & Bourbon) Campgrounds, RV Parks & Resorts

These select RV Parks are located in regions known for distinctive local cuisine, wine regions, and Bourbon Country, and in areas that host popular food and wine festivals.

Flag City RV Resort, Lodi, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Flag City RV Resort, Lodi, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These RV parks are located in fertile farming regions, areas known for regional cuisine, and near major cities. The common denominator: they’re ideal for adventurous RV food, wine, and bourbon lovers seeking great food on the road.

Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, offers 150 full hookup sites with 30/50-amp electric sites with cable and park-wide WiFi. Flag City is ideally situated to explore 75,000 acres of Lodi vineyards and enjoy the fine wine-tasting opportunities at 50 unique wineries that includes Van Rutten Vineyards, Michael David Winery, and Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi.

In the Western Canadian province of British Columbia, the Okanagan Valley has developed into a significant wine-producing area. Located in the southern interior, the Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes.

Wine festivals are a great opportunity to meet the winemakers and sample wine. A superb wine experience, the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival is now in its 35th year (October 1-11, 2015). Located in the heart of Wine Country, Desert Gem RV Resort, offers full hook-ups with 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, cable, telephone, and high-speed internet.

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

Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield is on the route snowbirds and other RVers use when traveling to the Southwest desert area including Palm Springs and Indio. The park is situated in an actual orange grove. During the picking season—late November through early March—campers are invited to pick as many oranges as they can personally use, and even loaned the appropriate picking implements. Take a bag along with you when you leave, because you’ll never find these in a grocery store!

Conveniently located with easy access to Bourbon Country and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Grandma’s RV Camping in Shepherdsville offers 30 pull through spaces 70 feet in total length and 35 back-in spaces to accommodate vehicles up to 45 feet in length. All sites include full hook-ups with 20/30/50-amp service and free wireless Internet service.

Adventures in culture, food, and music await in Cajun Country where life is on the spicy side.

With quintessential Louisiana flavors such as boudin, crackling, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, and hot sauce, Acadiana has all the makings for a taste-tempting trip. Louisiana’s landscape and history create a culinary tradition unlike any place else—and that makes it the perfect RV getaway for anyone who loves to eat. Experience the flavor of Cajun Country, learn the history, culture, and local cuisine at Frog City RV Park in Duson, 10 miles east of Lafayette.

Riverbend RV Park, Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Riverbend RV Park, Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RiverBend RV Park and Campground is a scenic 20 acre park located on the banks of the San Marcos River in Luling. Luling is home to world famous barbecue, and is the first stop on the Texas Barbecue Trail. Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas, is a short away. Explore the area with day trips to Shiner, home of Spoetzl Brewery and Shiner Bock beer and Brenham, home of Blue Bell Creameries, manufacturer of Blue Bell ice cream. Tours and taste testing are available.

Columbia Sun RV Resort is the prime Tri-Cities RV park destination. The resort offers 145 full-service sites with 30/50-amp electric service on 25 beautiful landscaped acres; 70 large sites for big rigs. The region provides visitors with a variety of activities to choose from including 160 Yakima Valley wineries in nearby Prosser.

Hacienda RV and Rally Resort is conveniently located immediately off of I -10 in Las Cruces within walking distance to historic Old Mesilla. New Mexican food is unlike any other, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of the variety of flavors available in the state’s wide array of restaurants. The foundation of New Mexican cooking, long pungent chili pods can be picked in their green or red form. In either color, chiles become the key ingredient in cooked sauces served as an integral part of traditional dishes, rather than simply being served as a separate salsa-style accompaniment.

It’s never too soon to start planning your own culinary adventure.

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

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington

Desert Gem RV Resort, Oliver, British Columbia

Flag City RV Resort, Lodi, California

Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana

Grandma’s RV Camping, Shepherdsville, Kentucky

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Nk’Mip RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California

Riverbend RV Park, Luling, Texas

Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel.
Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spartanburg/Gaffney KOA, Gaffney, South Carolina

Wine Ridge RV Resort & Cottages, Pahrump, Nevada

Worth Pondering…

Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.”
―Andre Simon

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Using Campgrounds As Base Camps For Festivals

Campgrounds are great places to enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, boating, and other outdoor recreation activities during your leisure time.

Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, Bardstown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, Bardstown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With RV and tent sites as well as a wide range of accommodations, campgrounds can also serve as base camps for those interested in attending festivals throughout the U.S and Canada. These events range from rodeos to music festivals and cultural to culinary happenings.

Following is a sampling of the festivals that take place during the coming weeks and months, along with listings of nearby attractions and campgrounds and RV parks, many of which also have rental accommodations.

All parks included have been personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping.

Kentucky: Kentucky Bourbon Festival, Bardstown, September 15-20, 2015

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is a six-day Festival dedicated to the legendary spirit of Kentucky. Distillers from across the state of Kentucky come together to share their Bourbon in a variety of events. The 2015 Festival will be the 24th annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival in historic Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capital of the World. There is fun—and activities for all ages.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Getz Whiskey Museum, Kentucky Bourbon Trail, My Old Kentucky Home

Recommended RV Park: Grandma’s RV Camping, Shepherdsville

Historic Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico: The Whole Enchilada Fiesta, Las Cruces, September 26-27, 2015

Nearby Attractions: White Sands National Monument, Historic Mesilla, New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum

Recommended RV Park: Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces

British Columbia: 35th Annual Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, Okanagan Valley, October 1-11, 2015

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Warm, desert days and cool nights—just what the viticulturist ordered to ripen grapes and prepare for harvest. It also makes a great time to visit the Okanagan. For 10 days in early October the annual Fall Okanagan Wine Festival celebrates earthly delights. The only festival in North America to happen at the heart of harvest and feature more than 100 events.

Enjoy a vineyard tour, lunch among the vines, dine on a waterfront patio, or take in a wine pairings seminar. Find the wine experience that’s right for you and create your own wine story.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Okanagan Wine Trail, Wine Tastings and Tours, Kettle Valley Steam Railway, SS Sicamous, Father Pandosy Museum

Recommended RV Parks: Desert Gem RV Resort, Oliver, British Columbia, and Nk’Mip RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia

Alabama: BayFest, Mobile, October 2-4, 2015

BayFest will be celebrating its 21st Anniversary in 2015. BayFest is an annual music festival that is expected to draw more than 200,000 guests, who will make merry in the streets of downtown Mobile and see more than 125 live musical acts on nine stages during the weekend. BayFest offers continuous music for every taste, including country, classic rock, alternative, pop, jazz, R&B, rap, gospel, modern rock, and more. Mobile’s BayFest music festival also includes a family activity area that has garnered rave reviews.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Exploreum, U.S.S. Alabama Battleship, Bellingrath Gardens, Alabama Gulf Coast

Recommended RV Parks: Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama; Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama; and Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta, Alabama

New Mexico: American Indian Art Festival, Albuquerque, October 3-4, 2015

American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hear Native drums as you enter into the Albuquerque American Indian Art Festival at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. At the outdoor plaza , there’s a marketplace filled with tribal artists from across the country, selling handmade items. Dancers perform tribal dances every hour. Groups can also enjoy a wide selection of Native and American cuisine at the award-winning Pueblo Harvest Café.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Acoma “Sky City” Pueblo, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Sandia Peak Tramway, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Park: American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico

New Mexico: International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, October 3-11, 2015

Each fall, pilots, crews, and spectators from all over the world come to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest hot air ballooning event. For nine days during the first full week of October, hundreds of colorful balloons float above the city each morning as dawn breaks over the Sandia Mountains. It’s no wonder this visual feast is said to be the world’s most photographed event.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Acoma Pueblo, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Sandia Peak Tramway, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Park: American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Worth Pondering…

There is adventure in any trip; it’s up to us to seek it out.

—Jamie Francis

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Charleston: Crown Jewel Of The Deep South

Charleston is the crown jewel of the Deep South.

With a rich 300-year heritage, history can be found around every corner. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
With a rich 300-year heritage, history can be found around every corner. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the historic and stunning sights that await you include Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, Southern mansions and plantations, quaint tree-lined streets bursting with historical significance, must-see museums, beautiful beaches, and some of the best dining in the South.

The city’s elegance was created by the abundant rice crops of the region’s swampy fields. Wealthy plantation owners reaped the labor of the many slaves who came through the port city of Charleston.

The world those early Charleston residents left behind is something to behold. To get a closer look at Charleston’s history, take a walk through the historic district. But before heading out, stop at the visitor center at 375 Meeting Street. In addition to a small museum, the center offers maps, guides, and parking information.

We began our tour of the old city by exploring The Battery, a landmark promenade that follows the shore of the peninsula and the Ashley and Cooper rivers. From Battery Park, also known as White Point Gardens, we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the Charleston Harbor, including the striking 13,200-foot-long Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The structure, with a main span of 1,546 feet, is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

What a place Charleston South Carolina is. It is beautiful and steeped in history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
What a place Charleston South Carolina is. It is beautiful and steeped in history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Battery Park—a park since 1837, but once used for artillery during the Civil War—is shaded by grand live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It includes a bandstand and artillery pieces.

Leaving Battery Park, we strolled the charming streets lined with live oaks, gazed at the elegant homes, and peeked through the iron gates at many of the formal backyard gardens.

Heading north, we walked the raised sidewalk that skirts between the harbor and the historic homes along East Battery Street and East Bay Street.

Farther along we came to the famous Rainbow Row. This section is home to pastel-colored, mid-18th century homes. Near Rainbow Row is Waterfront Park, a beautiful eight-acre park with fountains, spacious lawns, and a large pier.

Continuing along East Bay Street, we arrived at Market Hall and Sheds, a National Historic Landmark. The Market—also known as City Market—was originally where vendors brought meat and produce in from surrounding communities and dates back to the early 1800s.

Since 1776, the Drayton family has called Magnolia Plantation their home, and today it's open to the public. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Since 1776, the Drayton family has called Magnolia Plantation their home, and today it’s open to the public. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The market today is home to products geared to the city’s visitors. We found the hustle and bustle of an old fashioned market, but with vendors showcasing Lowcountry arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, and some standard souvenir fare. The most interesting products are the sweetgrass baskets locally crafted by Gullah women of West African descent who speak in an old Gullah dialect of English.

Just outside Charleston, visitors can tour some of the gorgeous plantations that once flourished and created the wealth of the antebellum era. Since 1776, the Drayton family has called Magnolia Plantation their home, and today it’s open to the public and includes Audubon Swamp Garden, the oldest garden in America.

Middleton Place, practically next door to Magnolia Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. The elegant symmetry of the terraces and butterfly-shaped lakes reveal the classic European style of the 18th century.

And don’t miss Boone Hall with its majestic avenue of moss-draped live oaks. This photogenic showplace claims to be the most photographed plantation in America.

Middleton Place, practically next door to Magnolia Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Middleton Place, practically next door to Magnolia Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.

The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.

Traveling through the south? Charleston is a must stop.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

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Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude

Big Bend National Park is well off the beaten path…and well worth exploring.

Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome to a national park where you can actually revel in its silence and solitude. Remote, huge, and austere, this national park along the Rio Grande River is an uncrowded gem. One of the largest parks in the country, with more than 800,000 acres, Big Bend is also one of the least visited—thanks to, you guessed it, its remote location.

Big Bend National Park is a land of paradox, beauty, and above all, vastness. Even today, only three paved roads run south into Big Bend, but from those roads the view can astound.

The Rio Grande River squiggles its course across the harsh desert landscape, carving through limestone and shale. The river separates much of the state of Texas from the country of Mexico, and within the big bend formed by the river, sits a region that will appeal to RVers and other travelers who believe the best things in life require a little effort.

The nearest interstate highway access is 1-10 to the north; from Fort Stockton southbound on US 385 it is 125 miles to park headquarters at Panther Junction. Nearest town to the park is Marathon, 70 miles from Panther Junction.

Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In other words, Big Bend visitors must plan their trips. You can see and enjoy plenty on a day visit, but you won’t see nearly enough, and you will have burned a lot of fuel along the way. Big Bend rangers recommend three days, and depending on what you want to do, a week or more may be a better choice.

Prior to visiting the park, we spent several enjoyable days in Big Bend country at Marathon in a charming little place, Marathon Motel & RV Park.

The next day we headed for the heart of Big Bend down US Highway 385 making a stop at the visitor center at Panther Junction for orientation, maps, brochures, and hiking information. Before setting out on greater quests we, strolled Panther Path and checked out the vegetation found in the Chihuahuan Desert—yucas, lechuguillas, creosote brushes, and bunch grasses.

We then continued to the Rio Grande Village on the Rio Grande River to secure a full hookup site for the duration of our stay.

Big Bend is vast deserts, mountains, canyons and THE river—the Rio Grande—and along the river are several hot springs.

But the park touts more than a famous river: In the middle of Big Bend there’s a grand series of peaks known as the Chisos, accessible by dinghy and small RVs along a narrow and curved access road. Ponderosa and pinyon pine carpet the cool flanks of these hills, providing a haven for black bears and cougars.

Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park was officially created in 1944, but evidence of human habitation of the Big Bend area dates back roughly 12,000 years. The Mescalero Apache and Comanche tribes were on the long list of those who came to the area.

Each season is unique. Summer temperatures can soar to 120 degrees while mild winters allow RVers to explore fascinating geology. The spring months of March, April, and May bring especially good birdwatching with more than 450 species having been counted within the park—more than in any other national park.

There’s not a lot of water here. An average of just 18 inches falls annually in the heights of the Chisos Mountains that tower nearly 8,000 feet into the sky. And if you think that’s not a lot, these mountains get a deluge when compared to the rest of the park. It is a land that is lucky to see 10 inches of rain in a year. This is an arid landscape.

While touring the park in our dinghy we stopped in the Chisos Basin, a valley within a mountainous ring, and one of the park’s most popular areas, with a visitor center, RV park (not suitable for big rigs), and a lodge.

We take a short hike for a clear view of the Window Overlook, or V-Window, as it’s called since its mountainsides form a “V” shape with views of distant mountain ranges.

Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big Bend National Park: Splendor & Solitude © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend has four campgrounds: Rio Grande Village RV Campground (25 full hookup sites), Rio Grande Village Campground (100 non-hookup sites), Chisos Basin Campground (60 non-hookup sites), and Cottonwood Campground (24 non-hookup sites).

Big Bend is filled with surprises, scenic beauty, native plants, wild­life, fantastic outdoor recreation, and the opportunity to enjoy them all in a rugged, majestic setting. A visit to this incredible place will provide wonderful memories for years to come.

If you’ve never been to Big Bend, take your RV, take your time, and go. Go. Just go!

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

After 7 days of trial and error,

God created Texas on the 8th day.

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7 Family Summer Destinations in Southwestern Utah

In previous stories on Vogel Talks RVing, 10 Family Summer Destinations in Moab and 6 Family Summer Destinations in Southeast Utah (Bluff) we covered locations in southeastern Utah that are beautiful, fun, and kid-friendly.

Bryce Canyon National Park along the Navajo Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon National Park along the Navajo Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In this list we cover destinations in southwestern Utah that lie west of the Colorado River. Like the previous locations, these are easily accessible and enjoyable for all sorts of families and centered around towns that offer inexpensive camping.

No matter which of these amazing places you choose to visit, don’t miss getting to know some of the local residents, guides, rangers, and fellow travelers around you. You’ll gain wonderful insight and friendships that are sure to make your vacation even more memorable.

Bryce Canyon National Park – Visitor Center and Campground

The Bryce Canyon Visitor Center has some interesting educational displays on the formation of Bryce and the area’s wildlife.

Ruby’s Inn Campground offers 250 shady and open campsites for RVs. All sites have electric and water, or full hook-ups as well as a large pull-through area for the driver’s ease and comfort.

Bryce Canyon National Park – Rim Trail

Bryce Canyon from the rim trail may not offer a lot of solitude but the views are breathtaking.
You can do a great job of imitating a professional photographer at dusk or dawn from either Sunset or Sunrise Points respectively. Now that is some logical location naming.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park – Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail

One of the best ways to get the most of Bryce Canyon is to get down into the rocks by combining the first leg of the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trail. This relatively moderate three-mile combination loop starts at Sunset Point and ends at Sunrise Point, which are quite close to each other. Whatever you do, take the time to walk down to Wall Street. The trail down may look intimidating but the number of switchbacks makes it pretty easy.

Cedar Breaks National Monument 

At an elevation of 10,350 feet above sea level, Cedar Breaks National Monument is the highest national park in Utah. This park is renowned for its spectacularly colored cliffs, bright blue skies, and breathtaking 100-mile views of the Great Basin.

Park facilities include 30 campsites, a five-mile scenic drive, picnic areas, and hiking trails. The visitor center which stands next to the amphitheater is open from Memorial Day to mid-October.

ion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The scenic drive has four pullouts for gazing deep into its interior. North View overlook faces south. Chessman Ridge and Sunset View overlooks both have views to the west, and Point Supreme has the only viewpoint that looks due north.

Zion National Park – Visitors Center

Zion National Park is full of easy options to take in some beautiful nature. Zion is so striking and unique it’s fun to just be in the canyon and look—everywhere.
After learning a bit about the park, develop a plan of attack at the Visitor Center and then take the shuttle bus into the park. There are suitable kids’ trails at nearly every stop.
Plan your camping well in advance. The two campgrounds in the park fill up fast.
Zion National Park – Emerald Pools Trails

The Emerald Pools Trails are perfect for kids—not too long, not too steep with a fun playful payoff at your destination.
The vegetation surrounding the sparkling pools and glistening waterfalls is almost tropical it’s so lush. It also stays pretty cool on a hot day. You’ll have fun hopping rocks to cross the stream and pool edges.

The trailhead is across the highway from Zion Lodge

Zion National Park Kolob Canyons © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Zion National Park Kolob Canyons © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park – Kolob Canyons

Heading north from St. George on Interstate 15 take exit 40 and drive the short Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway to the picturesque Kolob Canyons. The short scenic drive ascends 1,100 feet, showcasing deep reddish-orange cliffs, protruding abruptly from the ground. The road terminates at Timber Creek Overlook. Stop at the Visitor Center and pick up a brochure that explains the 14 numbered stops along the drive. The best time to view the canyons is early morning.

Worth Pondering…

Destination is merely a byproduct of the journey.
—Eric Hansen

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Choosing Your Perfect RV Camping Destination

A key factor in planning any vacation or road trip is the RV parks and campgrounds.

A top rated RV resort, A+ Motel & RV Resort is located in Cajun Country near Lake Charles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A top rated RV resort, A+ Motel & RV Resort is located in Cajun Country near Lake Charles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choosing an RV park sight unseen can be like playing the lottery. Many parks and resorts feature a variety of amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for all ages enabling families to enjoy quality time together.

But not all RV parks and campgrounds are created equal and no one park is perfect for everyone.

Before leaving home, take the time to check out the best camping parks along your intended route and at your camping destination.

Citing GuestRated as the source, Wicked Good Travel Tips notes that only 34 of an estimated 4,000 campgrounds and RV parks earned an ‘A’ rating in 2014—less than one in 100 parks.

GuestRated.com surveys guest satisfaction using an online process for RVers to review and rate their camping experiences and provide feedback available to other campers and park owners. Of those campgrounds and RV parks, eight emerged as super-stars by earning an ‘A’ rating for 6 years or more.

A top rated RV resort, Wine Ridge RV Resort is located in Pahrump, Nevada. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A top rated RV resort, Wine Ridge RV Resort is located in Pahrump, Nevada. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While social media has a meaningful role to play in assisting campers select the “perfect camping site” a less subjective, opinion-based rating scale is still a key determinant of quality RV parks and campgrounds.

Our go-to resource in selecting RV parks and resorts, the Good Sam Campground Directory uses a three-number rating that assesses the park’s amenities, cleanliness, and environment with each rating category measured on a scale of 1 to 10.

Less than 1 percent of parks or campgrounds receive a 10/10*/10 rating which indicates superior facilities that are well maintained, clean, well-appointed restrooms, and a highly appealing appearance. Campgrounds are inspected annually by RVers for RVers.

Of the eight campgrounds and RV parks that emerged as GuestRated super-stars, only two received the coveted Good Sam10/10*/10 rating in their 2015 Campground Directory: Lake George RV Park, Lake George, New York, and Ocean Lakes Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Additional details on these two parks and the other six is available in an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing.

A top rated RV park, Seven Feathers RV Resort is located in southern Oregon off I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights
A top rated RV park, Seven Feathers RV Resort is located in southern Oregon off I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights

What we like and prefer in an RV park may be totally different from what your family desires. Given different personalities and wants and needs of RVers, no one park can be all things to all people, but many can fulfill the majority of wants and needs.

While we have not visited any of these eight campgrounds and RV parks, we have personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping at 14 of the 2015 “Best of the Best”, the top-rated Good Sam RV Parks and Campgrounds (10/10*/10).

A listing of these outstanding parks follow:

Alabama: Lake Osprey RV Park, Elberta

Arizona: Sundance 1 RV Resort, Casa Grande

California: Indian Water RV Resort & Cottages, Indio

Louisiana: Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson

Louisiana: A+ Motel & RV Resort, Lake Charles

Massachusetts: Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro

A top rated RV park, Cajun Palms RV Resort is located in Cajun Country at Henderson. © Rex Vogel, all rights
A top rated RV park, Cajun Palms RV Resort is located in Cajun Country at Henderson. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Nevada: Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas

Nevada: Wine Ridge RV Resort & Cottages, Pahrump

Oregon: Seven Feathers RV Resort, Canyonville

Texas: Buckhorn Lake Resort, Kerrville

Texas: Llano Grande Lake Park Resort & Country Club MHP, Mercedes

Texas: Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, Mission

Texas: Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca

Washington: Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick

And yes, we would return to these parks in a heart-beat.

You decide. Remember, getting there is half the fun.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

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No Regrets Camping: How Not To Enjoy a Camping Trip

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

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

Camping 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 preferences, here are 15 bad moves make while camping.

1. Ignore fire bans. As awesome as smores are, adhere to campground rules regarding fires. If the authorities in charge of the campground or national forest say no fires, they mean no fires. It is your responsibility to be fire safe when camping. Before you go, check to see if there are fire bans in place where you plan to visit, and act accordingly.

2. Gather wood without checking. Even when fires are allowed, gathering of wood may not be. Ask first, and then gather only down and dead wood in designated areas. Never cut live trees or branches from live trees.

3. Start a fire with gasoline. Assuming that there is no burn ban, you should be prepared to start your fire with appropriate fuel. If not, then we hope you remembered your first aid kit.

Camping at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Burn wood that does not fit in the fire pit. So you found an awesome log that will burn for hours, only it doesn’t fit in the designated fire ring. And you forgot your hatchet. Your plan is to just lay it across the fire or stick in one end. It will only burn the part in the fire, right?  Wrong! Keep your fire to a manageable size. Make sure children and pets are supervised when near the fire. Never leave your campfire unattended

5. Miss the stars. How you could you ignore this amazing view?! It’s easy when you live in the city to forget that stars even exist. Look up at night when you camp. It’s life-changing.

6. Feed the wildlife. As much as your social media page would be enhanced by photos of chipmunks eating potato chips, nothing about it is good for the animal. And then there are the campers that occupy your site next who will not be able to enjoy a sandwich without being harassed by begging critters.

Camping at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Play loud music. Camping is about enjoying the natural world. Try listening to the wind in the trees, the gurgling of the stream, or the chattering of the birds. Besides, your music is annoying to the neighbors.

8. Don’t give your kids camp chores to do. Camping is filled with life lessons for children. From setup to cleanup, there are confidence-building tasks that your kids should be doing.

9. Stay glued to your devices. And don’t let your kids do it either. Camping is the perfect time for a digital detox.

10. Watch TV. Stars > Netflix anyhow. Every moment of a camping trip that you spend watching TV is a moment when you could have been enjoying your companions, your surroundings, and the simple serenity of doing nothing.

11. Overestimate your vehicle. Don’t take a two-wheel drive SUV off-roading. Don’t take chances with bald tires or faulty gas gauges. Know what your vehicle can and cannot do and camp somewhere within that range of ability.

12. Overestimate your outdoor skills. Rock climbing on a cruise ship does not qualify you to climb the face of a mountain. Nor does watching two seasons of Naked and Afraid make you a survival expert. Be honest with yourself about your skills and plan accordingly.

Camping at Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Underestimate the wildlife. That ain’t no teddy! Bears, raccoons, and other wildlife can make your camping trip miserable if you underestimate their survival skills. They can unzip, unlock, and chew through things with astonishing efficiency. Learn how to critter proof your trip before you ever leave home.

14. Leave anything behind. “Leave no trace” is the campers’ creed, and it applies even in organized campgrounds. It means that when you pull out of your campsite, there should not be any sign that you and your group were ever there.

15. Disrespect the campground. Respecting the facility goes beyond simply cleaning up after yourself; it means not carving initials into picnic tables, parking only on designated hard surfaces, and finding a way to leave it better for the next guy, not worse.

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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Beat The Heat At Balmorhea

Come August, Texas is a scorcher.

A 3-acre reconstructed ciénega or desert wetlands and canals built at the park in 1995 provides habitat for migrating birds, and a refuge for indigenous aquatic, fowl, and amphibian life. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A 3-acre reconstructed ciénega or desert wetlands and canals built at the park in 1995 provides habitat for migrating birds, and a refuge for indigenous aquatic, fowl, and amphibian life. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But how to deal with the summer’s skyrocking temperatures?

Monstrous glasses of iced tea, squeezed with lemon. Frequent dips in the nearest swimming pool or swimming hole. Screened porches with ceiling fans which keep the mosquitoes and other buzzing nasties at bay while you listen to country music and search for fireflies.

Oh, yes—and a trip to West Texas, where you can escape the sun’s blaze in the most unlikely of places.

No, the mercury has not gone to my head, and, no I’m not confused brought on by excessive rays; nor am I crazy in the throes of a heat stroke. Just bear with me…

Balmorhea State Park, with the crystalline waters of San Solomon Springs hover between 72 and 76 degrees year round, is a most pleasant place to hang out in the anguish of a summer heat wave—or any other season, for that matter. Artesian springs like this gem in the Chihuahuan Desert are rare in the extreme. As an added bonus, the stars emerge big and bright and in the nearby Davis Mountains the temperatures dip into the 60s each night.

Kick back in Mother Nature’s cool West Texas backyard as you dip in these clear, blue-green waters, with tiny fish nipping harmlessly at you as you float.

No Chihuahuan Desert mirage, Balmorhea State Park’s aquamarine, spring-fed pool is nature’s answer to Texas’ summer sun. Set against the deep blue West Texas sky in the yucca-dotted foothills of the Davis Mountains, it feels a whole lot like paradise.

Dive into the crystal-clear water of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Swim, scuba dive, or just relax under the trees at this historic park in arid West Texas.

San Solomon Springs is home to varied species of waterfowl and two thumb-size species of endangered fish: the Comanche Springs pupfish and the Pecos gambusia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
San Solomon Springs is home to varied species of waterfowl and two thumb-size species of endangered fish: the Comanche Springs pupfish and the Pecos gambusia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To call Balmorhea State Park a popular dive site is an understatement. From Labor Day through Memorial Day, which is the park’s low season, each weekend as many as 10 different dive operations find the friendly waters of San Solomon Springs ideal for certifying divers from entry level (Open Water) to specialties such as Rescue, Photography, Videography, Naturalist, or Night. Each of them brings groups of 10 to 15 dive students.

Call it oasis or paradise; scuba divers call it fun!

Balmorhea State Park, a 49-acre oasis of shimmering water, cottonwood trees, and adobe cottages was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. San Solomon Courts, an early expression of the modern-day motel, was constructed of adobe bricks. All of the CCC buildings are constructed in a Spanish Colonial style with stucco exteriors and tile roofs.

San Solomon Courts, an early expression of the modern-day motel, was constructed of adobe bricks by the CCC. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
San Solomon Courts, an early expression of the modern-day motel, was constructed of adobe bricks by the CCC. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park actually lies in Toyahvale, four miles south west of Balmorea proper.

Balhormea State Park’s enormous 1.75-acre pool, billed as the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool, has a huge, underground aquifer system to thank for its clear and cool water. Rain falling on the nearby Davis Mountains seeps underground then flows through porous layers of limestone and emerges through at least nine springs in the middle of the pool at the rate of some 22 to 28 million gallons a day.

San Solomon Springs has provided water for travelers for thousands of years. Artifacts indicate Indians used the spring extensively before white men came to the area. In 1849, the springs were called Mescalero Springs for the Mescalero Apache Indians who watered their horses along its banks. The first settlers were Mexican farmers who used the water for their crops and hand-dug the first irrigation canals.

The park’s name comes from four men’s surnames:  E.D. Balcom, H.R. Morrow, Joe Rhea, and John Rhea: Bal-mor-hea. These men formed an irrigation company in the area in the early 20th century.

The springs and surrounding wetlands are considered a ciénega, or desert wetland. Much of the original desert ecosystem was altered years ago. Today, though, a three-acre, re-created wetlands at the park demonstrates the variety of plant and animal life that once flourished here. Rustling cattails and bulrushes harbor birds, butterflies, tiny pupfish, and other aquatic life.

Camping facilities include restrooms with showers and campsites with a shade shelter, water, electricity, and even cable TV hookups. 34 camp sites are available; six with water, 16 with water and electricity, and 12 with water, electricity, and cable TVs. Daily camping fees range from $11 to $17 plus park entrance fee of $7 per adult.

Birders flock to the Park for sightings of phoebes, rails, kingfishers, sparrows, quail, wrens, hawks, pigeons, hummingbirds, roadrunners, and many others. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Birders flock to the Park for sightings of phoebes, rails, kingfishers, sparrows, quail, wrens, hawks, pigeons, hummingbirds, roadrunners, and many others. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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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Top Campgrounds, RV Parks & Resorts Near Popular Water Recreation Areas

These selected campgrounds and RV parks are located on or near some of North America’s most popular water recreation areas including Lake Powell, Gulf Coast, and Colorado River.

Wahweap RV Park & Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Wahweap RV Park & Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 

Wahweap RV Park and Campground is located near Page in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This RV park is well laid out, offering spacious sites for rigs of any size—all with full hookups. The park sits on a sloping hillside overlooking Lake Powell. There are many wonderful scenic day trips to take from here. Don’t miss the trip over though Marble Canyon to Lee’s Ferry.

The newest RV Resort and Golf Club destination on the North Shore of the Alabama Gulf Coast, Lake Osprey RV Resort is designed for high-end RVs. Built for outdoor enthusiasts that boast beautiful, serene settings. Lake Osprey is nestled around several spring-fed lakes in a nature preserve and consists of 188 lushly landscaped extra-large RV sites. Sugar white sand beaches, a variety of vacation amenities, and world-class shopping are all nearby.

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brunswick is situated on a peninsula with Oglethorpe Bay to the west, the Brunswick River to the south, and the Intracoastal Waterway to the east. This offers you a choice of inshore, offshore, Gulfstream, and deep-sea fishing. Coastal Georgia RV Resort is conveniently located off I-95, situated on a beautiful south Georgia lake surrounded by lush landscaping, just minutes away. The resort offers 105 spacious sites, all 35 feet wide, with lengths ranging from 60 to 70 feet. Most sites are pull-through with full hookups including 30/50-amp electric service, tables, fire rings, and grills.

Enjoy the beaches, trolley tours, ghost tours, golfing, bicycling, or fishing off the pier. Visit historic sites like Fort Frederica and Bloody Marsh Battle Site. Jekyll Island also offers beaches, bicycling, horseback riding, nature trails, fish off the pier, and Historic Millionaire’s Village.

Moses Lake is the perfect place for boating and water based recreation. Located on one of Washington State’s largest natural fresh water lakes (featuring over 120 miles of shoreline), Moses Lake is an outdoor recreational oasis. Suncrest Resort offers 87 full hook-up sites, swimming pool, mini water slides, 30 person spa, and pet areas.

Resting on the high plains along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front Range, Great Falls is located at the confluence of the Missouri and Sun Rivers. With more than 48 miles of trail along the historic Missouri River, the award winning River’s Edge Trail is the perfect setting for biking, walking, skating, or jogging. Conveniently located right off I-15, Dick’s RV Park offers 137 full-hookup sites, cable TV, and WiFi. Most pull through sites are big rig friendly with pads 70 feet in length.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the city of Gulf Shores on the coast of Alabama, white sun-kissed beaches, surging surf, seagulls, and seashells greet you at Gulf State Park. Consisting of 6,150 acres with two miles of sugar white sand beaches and three fresh water lakes, Gulf State Park has a modern full-service campground, cabins, cottages, back country trails, and the largest fishing pier in the Gulf of Mexico.

The park also features an interactive nature center, nationally recognized scenic nature trail, tennis courts, beautiful beach pavilion, 18-hole Refuge Golf Course, and a 900-acre lake for fishing. Gulf State Park offers a 496-site campground with pull-through, back-in, and water front sites. All sites are big-rig friendly and have water, sewer, and 50/30/20- amp electric service, a paved camping pad, picnic table, and pedestal grill.

A Kleberg County park, SeaWind RV Resort is full-service campground located on the Texas Gulf Coast, 22 miles southeast of Kingsville on Baffin Bay, which holds the best trout fishing record of anywhere along the Gulf Coast. Red fish and Black Drum are also a very desirable catch.

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Arizona Oasis RV Resort, Ehrenburg, Arizona

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia

Dick’s RV, Great Falls, Montana

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta, Alabama

La Paz County Park, Parker, Arizona

Nk’Mip RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia

Riverbend RV Park, Luling, Texas

Seawind RV Park, Riviera Beach, Texas

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

Suncrest Resort, Moses Lake, Washington

Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas

Wahweap RV Park & Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona

Worth Pondering…

For all at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.

—Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

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