Using Campgrounds As Base Camps For Annual Festivals

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

Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, Alberta © 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 annual summer 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 annual 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.

Alberta: Edmonton Heritage Festival, Edmonton, August 1-3, 2015

2015 will mark the 40th annual of the Servus Heritage Festival”—a three-day showcase of Canada’s vibrant multicultural heritage. Approximately 60 pavilions representing over eighty-five cultures will be part of this exciting celebration. Enjoy delicious cultural food, wonderful creative performances, lots of crafts, artwork, clothing, and plenty of opportunities to chat with people eager to talk about their cultural roots and their communities in Canada.

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

Nearby Attractions: West Edmonton Mall, Elk Island National Park, Fort Edmonton Park, Muttart Conservatory

Recommended RV Park: Glowing Embers RV Park, Acheson, Alberta

Amish horse and buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Amish horse and buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana: 53rd Annual Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival, Nappanee, August 6-9, 2015

More than 300 vendors from across the country will ply their trade and sell their wares around the historic farm’s pond.

Farm wagon rides, marionettes and magic shows, family-style Threshers Dinner in the century-old barn restaurant, and guided house and farm tours intertwine the festival and farm attractions. Free entertainment on four stages is planned throughout the four days along with festive food concoctions.

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

Nearby Attractions: The Round Barn Theatre, Amish Acres, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Quilt Gardens Tour, Newmar Factory Tour

Recommended RV Park: Pla-Mor Campground, Bremen, Indiana

Alberta: GlobalFest, Calgary, August 20-29, 2015

Known as Calgary’s second largest annual festival, GlobalFest attracts more than 100,000 visitors from around the world. GlobalFest is the umbrella organization for the OneWorld and Trico Homes International Fireworks Festivals.

The OneWorld Festival presents diversity through music and dance, food and drink, and arts and crafts. It boasts a Tipi Village, cultural pavilions, ethnic food, performance stages, a night market, and a children’s village. The Trico Homes International Fireworks Festival will present five nights of pyromusical beauty.

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

Nearby Attractions: Calgary Zoo, Heritage Park Historical Village, Canada Olympic Park, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Recommended RV Park: Mountain View Camping, Calgary, Alberta

New Mexico: SalsaFest! Las Cruces, August 29-30, 2015

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

Spice up your tour with SalsaFest! a signature of Las Cruces. SalsaFest! serves up some of the most creative samples. Join nearly 10,000 locals who attend to sample sauces made from scratch by professional and amateur teams.

SalsaFest! also features salsa music, the Best-Dressed Chihuahua contest, an excellent assortment of food and Mexican beers, crafts, and people watching. When things heat up, grab a shady seat, sip a cold beverage or slurp a snow cone, relax, and enjoy the view.

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

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

Recommended RV Park: Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Worth Pondering…

Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.

—Frank Herbert

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Charleston: Deep South Charm

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Charleston. Avid tourist? Charleston is the city for you. Lover of good food and charming scenery? Charleston has your number.

Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes deep South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline.

Charleston also has a collection of some of the oldest and most impressive churches in America, including the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, The Old Bethel Methodist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history, including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city's skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best known Charleston landmark is Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. At that time, Union forces occupied the strategic Fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. The South demanded that Fort Sumter be vacated, the Union army refused, and the rest is history. After a two-day bombardment, the North surrendered the Fort to the South. Nearby, visitors can also tour Fort Moultrie, which also played heavily in Civil War significance.

Perhaps the best way to see this town is by foot. Around every corner visitors can discover another hidden garden, great restaurants, historic houses, quaint shops, and friendly people.

A walk down any of Charleston’s quaint avenues, especially in the area designated as The Battery, is a walk back in time. Many houses date from the 1700s and 1800s, and a large number of these are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour more than a dozen of these homes, including the Heyward-Washington House, built in 1772. This house was owned by Thomas Heyward Jr., a Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791.

Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a  convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a
convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Other houses of note that visitors can tour in Charleston include the Aiken Rhett House, one of the most intact building complexes showcasing urban life in Antebellum Charleston; the Joseph Manigault House, a premier example of neo-classical architecture built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, a neoclassical mansion considered one of America’s premier Federal townhouses.

Just outside of town, you can visit a number of Southern plantations, including Boone Hall and Drayton Hall. Boone Hall’s world-famous Avenue of Oaks leads to the Plantation house and gardens, and its original slave street and slave quarters. Located a stone’s throw from Boone Hall is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and historic Snee Farms. Pinckney was an original signer of the US Constitution, and was very influential in the document’s language. Drayton Hall, built between 1738 and 1742, is the oldest preserved plantation house in America.

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.

Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights

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.

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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4 RV Vacations You Need to Take

Hitting the open road is an American dream. But doing it in an RV means that you can bring all your amenities with you. That’s living in luxury—virtually anywhere.

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

RVing can be an ideal vacation for kids, and an inexpensive way to have that family vacation you always wanted.

Banff, Alberta

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.

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.

Red Bluff, California 

Big-rig friendly, Durango RV Resort, was our home base during a recent visit to Red Bluff, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big-rig friendly, Durango RV Resort, was our home base during a recent visit to Red Bluff, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a summertime escape that won’t disappoint, try Red Bluff. A scenic Northern California town nestled near some of the most spectacular landscapes in North America, Red Bluff derives its name from its location on a high vertical bank on the Sacramento River.

Begin your explorations of Red Bluff where the town began on the west bank of the Sacramento River in William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park. A.M. Dibble built the park adobe house in 1852 that now does duty as a museum. Many of the town’s Victorian buildings that followed still stand downtown as does the classical-flavored Tehama County Courthouse and the Deco-inspired State Theatre.

Red Bluff is the jumping off point for the spectacular lunar landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Galveston, Texas

Bishop's Palace, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Bishop’s Palace, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Galveston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Texas. From its time as a major 1800s-era shipping port, through the devastating Hurricane of 1900 and up until modern day, Galveston has played a major role in shaping Texas history.

Galveston sits on a barrier island two miles offshore surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches, numerous attractions, and one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the US. From soft sandy beaches to famous 19th century architecture, the island is surrounded with incredible history and unique beauty.

Running parallel to Galveston Beach and the Gulf of Mexico is the island’s famous Seawall that stretches for more than 10 miles and rises 17 feet above mean sea level.

The Seawall is as much a playground as it is a protective barrier for the City against the ever changing tides of the Gulf of Mexico.

A premier Texas destination, Galveston never disappoints with its unlimited attractions.

Sedona, Arizona

Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona. The massive red-orange buttes and spires surrounding Sedona carry imaginative names reflecting their curious shapes—names like Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Coffee Pot, and Snoopy.

Drive through the 16-mile gorge of the Oak Creek Canyon. Slide Rock State Park, about 7 miles up the canyon from Sedona on Highway 89A, is famous for its natural water slide with cool water and warm rocks creating great swimming holes.

And then there is Tlaquepaque (Tla-keh-pah-keh), a beautiful artist colony and shopping area. Set among stately sycamores and lush gardens it was built in the Spanish colonial style in the 1970s as a lace for artists to live and work.

One of the most popular activities in Sedona is to take a Jeep tour out into the more remote parts of the Red Rock Country. Our favorite of these trips is up and over the primitive Schnebly Hill Road (FS 153) which zigzags east from State Route 179 in Sedona, 13 miles to I-17.

Bring your hiking boots and camera.

Worth Pondering…

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.

—Jack Kerouac

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Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Edisto Island, a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, lies only about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Edisto, part of a chain of more than 100 tidal and barrier islands along the Atlantic coast between the mouths of the Santee River in South Carolina and St. Johns River in Florida. is a world apart.

This is a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations.

RVers and other visitors to Edisto Island choose to come here—they don’t come by accident. And so it was with us.

Using New Green Acres RV Park in Walterboro as our home base, we spent an enjoyable week exploring the Lowcountry. Known as The Front Porch of the Low Country, Walterboro, county seat of Colleton County, is situated just off of I-95 and is a popular stop for RVers.

It was pleasant 75-degree day in early December that we toured Edisto Island: Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto River, named for the Edisto Indians (original inhabitants of the area), is the longest and largest river system completely within the state. It rises from springs 260 miles north, splits into North and South branches to flow around diamond-shaped Edisto Island (which is actually made up of numerous islands) and into the Atlantic.

ACE Basin, an acronym for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and South Edisto rivers that arc through it, spans 350,000 acres, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. These many acres of diverse habitat include protected uplands and wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands and beaches, and a host of wildlife.

The North and South Edisto branches flow into the ocean a little more than a dozen miles apart and roughly half way between the two is Botany Bay and Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area, a near-wilderness that makes up nearly a fourth of Edisto Island.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Edisto River is one of the most unique waterways in the world. It is the longest undammed or free flowing “black water” river, and takes up twelve counties in the state. It is the longest and the largest river completely within the borders of South Carolina.
The most interesting part of the Edisto River comes to fruition near Edisto Island. The consistent yet peaceful current makes it perfect for wildlife and for paddling enthusiasts. Floating the Edisto River will show you banks filled with ancient live oaks, Spanish moss, and many forms of wildlife.

Our first stop, Edisto Island State Park, includes an interpretive center and two campgrounds that offer 112 standard sites with water and electric hookups—ocean-side and near the salt marsh. 49 of the standard campsites offer 20/30/50 amp electrical service. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Each campground is convenient to restrooms with hot showers. Reservations are recommended.

Following our island drive with stops at several locations along the extensive beach, we toured Botany Bay Plantation, a South Carolina state historic site and wildlife management area, located off SC Highway 174 about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. You’ll follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends and turn left at the gate and into the property.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pure bliss. That’s the only way to describe Botany Bay Plantation.

The 4,630-acre plantation on Edisto Island was a gift from the Margaret Pepper family. It was given to the state in 1977 by Mr. Pepper, but was only able to be used after his wife passed away so she would have the opportunity to continue her years on the land she loved.
The land itself is full of nature’s rich beauty—from the sunflower fields to the salt marsh and fresh water ponds to the Spanish moss draped oaks to the miles of private beach; it is emblematic of Lowcountry’s unique environment and appeal.

The clearly marked driving tour showcases the features of the plantation including the archaeological structures of historical significance. Take a walk down any of the trails and absorb the unique beauty of this unspoiled land.

Touring Edisto Island and Botany Bay Plantation provided us with a chance to step back in time and fall in love with the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Worth Pondering…

There is a peculiar pleasure in riding out into the unknown. A pleasure which no second journey on the same trail ever affords.
—Edith Durham

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4 Places To Go Camping This Summer

Summer is peak season for RVers to travel the highways and byways and experience the wonders of the US and Canada.

Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But where to go?

Following are four great summer destinations for RVers to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Trade the customary Howdy! for Willkommen! and head to Fredericksburg, a community in the Texas Hill Country that celebrates its German heritage. Settled in the 1850s by immigrants from the Old Country, the town retains much of its Germanic influence through shop and restaurant themes, seasonal festivals including the annual Oktoberfest with its oom-pahs, polkas, and bratwurst.

The Marktplatz in the center of town commemorates the peace treaty between the German settler and Comanche Nation. Shopping in the Historic Shopping District on Main Street offers art galleries, restaurants, and unique boutiques.

Don’t leave Fredericksburg without a visit to the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site and National Museum of the Pacific War. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific during WWII, grew up in Fredericksburg.

Holmes County, Ohio

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

The clip-clop of horse hooves is a familiar sound in the historic town of Millersburg, founded in 1815. Along with Berlin and Walnut Creek, it makes up the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country.

What makes the area unique is that they have the largest concentration of Amish in the US.

They made their living primarily through agriculture, but today the Amish cottage industry is growing. The area has a large concentration of hardwood furniture builders. They’re also a huge producer of cheese, especially Swiss cheese, with several of their cheese houses using only locally produced Amish milk. A visit to Heini’s Cheese Chalet, home of the original Yogurt Cultured Cheese, or Guggisberg Cheese, home of the Original Baby Swiss provides a glimpse into how cheese is made. Plus, at Heini’s you can sample more than 50 cheeses, purchase Amish foods, smoked meats, fudge, and more while Guggisberg offers 60 verities of cheese.

Redding, California

Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge, Redding © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With mountains all around, miles of hiking and biking trails, a river running through it, and national parks nearby, Redding is an outdoor paradise for all ages.

Cradled by Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, Redding has 300+ sunny days per year. Redding is also home to the famous Sundial Bridge, world-class fishing, and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails for all abilities. Head out on a day-trip to see the bubbling mud pots and boiling lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park, or get refreshed by the waterfall at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Eight miles west of Redding, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is located at the juncture of the Klamath Mountain range and the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley. The park features Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta Bally mountain (6,209 feet), and numerous waterfalls, providing outdoor enthusiasts opportunities for water recreation, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Urbanna, Virginia

Framed by a protected cove on Urbanna Creek off Rappahannock River, the charming, historic Colonial port town of Urbanna is a Tidewater Virginia gem. With the open waters of Chesapeake Bay a few nautical miles away, Urbanna has more boats than people, according to locals.

Urbanna’s marinas, boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and trove of 18th century historic buildings are all within an easy stroll through town, making for an enchanting visit and stay.

Rosegill Plantation consists of an impressive range of 18th century buildings: a washhouse, the dwelling house, the kitchen, and a storage house. The buildings standing today stylistically date between 1730-1750 and are a significant example of colonial plantation architecture.

Urbana: Historic Port Town With Old-fashioned Flavor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Urbana: Historic Port Town With Old-fashioned Flavor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven buildings in town have been in continuous use since the colonial period. Four of them are on the National Register of Historic Places. All are located in Urbanna’s historic district.

Worth Pondering…

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Wizard, Lord of the Rings

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Visiting LBJ Ranch

The Hill Country rises out of south-central Texas like an island out of a vast ocean.

The Texas White House is open for public tours including the President's Office, living room, dining room, and the Johnsons' bedroom suites. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Texas White House is open for public tours including the President’s Office, living room, dining room, and the Johnsons’ bedroom suites. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

East of Fredericksburg on Highway 290, is the not-to-be-missed complex of Lyndon B. Johnson historical parks. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park has two distinct visitor areas separated by 14 miles.

The LBJ Ranch is in the heart of the Hill Country on the banks of the Pedernales River.

Operated jointly by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the National Park Service, the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall and the Boyhood Home and Johnston Settlement in Johnson City constitute a remarkable historic preservation.

In Johnson City you will find the National Park Visitor Center, Boyhood Home in which President Johnson spent his childhood, and the Johnson Settlement where the President’s grandparents first settled in the 1860s.

Junction School, the one-room schoolhouse where LBJ learned to read. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Junction School, the one-room schoolhouse where LBJ learned to read. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park tells the story of America’s 36th President beginning with his ancestors until his final resting place on his beloved LBJ Ranch. This entire “circle of life” gives the visitor a unique perspective into one of America’s most noteworthy citizens by providing the most complete picture of any American president.

Between the day he became president in November 1963, and the day he left the White House five years later, Lyndon Johnson returned to the Hill Country 74 times.

President Johnson had a deep attachment for place and heritage. The LBJ Ranch was where he was born, lived, died, and was buried. In 1972, the Johnsons donated their home and 690 acres for a national park. After the President’s death in 1973 at age 64, Lady Bird Johnson continued to live at the Ranch part time until her death in 2007.

Visitors are now able to tour the Ranch at their own pace in their private vehicle with the ability to stop at sites along the way such as the President’s birthplace, Johnson family cemetery, and the Johnson’s ranch house known as the Texas White House.

Hanger on LBJ Ranh with Air Force One. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hanger on LBJ Ranh with Air Force One. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Obtain a free driving permit at the LBJ State Park and Historic Site Visitor Center in Stonewall. You will also receive a ranch map indicating the tour route. No Permits are given out after 4:00 p.m. A CD containing narrative audio for the tour is available for purchase in the bookstore and comes with a bonus DVD filled with videos and photos.

Then, just like LBJ did over 50 years ago in his white Lincoln Continental, drive through the main gate—but not as fast as the heavy-footed president liked to speed through himself.

After leaving the visitor center, continue to Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, where visitors can see how the Johnson family’s German-Texan neighbors lived.

After touring Sauer-Beckmann head for Ranch Road 1 along the Pedernales River. The right guardhouse on the left, once manned by uniformed Secret Service agents, marks the previous low-water crossing on the ranch.

As part of the self-guided Ranch Tour, you may stop at the Texas White House for a ranger-guided tour.

You’ll see Junction School, the one-room schoolhouse where Johnson learned to read; the reconstructed LBJ birthplace, and the Johnson family cemetery, here generations of the Johnson family are buried, including the president. You’ll also see the ranch house, known during the Johnson presidency as the “Texas White House”.

This is MY ranch and I do as I please! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
This is MY ranch and I do as I please! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once you arrive at the Texas White House, obtain a ticket for a house tour at the Airplane Hangar. House tour fee for ages 18 and older is $3.00.

The Texas White House was officially opened to the public on August 27, 2008. The entire ground floor is available for public tours. Rooms on the tour include the President’s Office, living room, dining room, and the Johnsons’ bedroom suites. The majority of rooms have been restored to their appearance during the presidential years (1963-1968) while the bedroom suites retain their appearance at the time of President and Mrs. Johnson’s deaths.

A few miles east is Johnson City, named after LBJ’s family. Here, there’s more fine historic preservation, including Johnson’s boyhood home and the Johnson settlement, featuring several 1800s barns and cabins, an old windmill, and a water tank and cooler house.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

There’s something different about this country from any other part of the nation.

The climate is generally pleasant.

The sun is generally bright.

The air seems to be always clean.

And the water is pure.

The moons are a little fuller here.

The stars are a little brighter.

And I don’t how to describe the feelings other than I guess we all search at times for serenity.

And it’s serene here.

—Lyndon Baines Johnson

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My Love Affair With RV Travel in America

“What’s your favorite place to go?”

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

Of course that’s what they ask. It’s the polite thing to ask, after all. People like to seem as if they’re interested in what you do. In this case, the question also always has a twinge of yearning.

I always give the same answer. I find something I like nearly everywhere I go, and it’s hard to pick just one place.

People hate that answer.

“Come on. If you could pick just one place, where would you want to go again? Just one place.”

They all want to hear something exotic, aspirational, and bucket-listy. They want to hear Key West or Santa Barbara, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone. They don’t want the truth. Can they handle the truth?

The truth is, we have visited 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces during the past 17 years, and found something that we adored in every one of them.

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our decade and half of RV travel stoked a love affair with American and Canadian attractions and historic sites, local towns and cities, scenic routes and byways, and national and state/provincial parks.

I did begin rereading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley — an incredible account of the America that he experienced on his road trip around the country with his wife’s standard poodle as a companion. Steinbeck was 58 years old in 1960 when he began his journey, and he felt compelled to get out and really see the country for the first time in a long time. He said he felt like a criminal writing about a country that he didn’t know enough about anymore.

In the words of photographer Diane Arbus, “My favorite thing is to go where I have never been.” And so it is with us.

Taking your RV on the open road and experiencing breathtaking views along the way can make for the one-of-a-kind vacation your family is looking for. It is the journey and not the destination that is the joy of the RV lifestyle.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highways can guide you along the coast to take in ocean views at sunset. Others wind you through the mountains exploring history.

The US and Canada are brimming with beautiful and diverse routes from the glittering waters of the Pacific to the majestic Rocky Mountains and down to the mysterious swamps of the South.

You don’t have to drive far to find a great road—just about everyone has a favorite route in their part of the country.

Here’s a little secret: You can’t go wrong with the Blue Ridge Parkway or a Route 66 road trip. Scenic and historic, both routes have a little bit of everything. We explain, starting with Route 66.

Route 66: 2,448 Miles

If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, mom-and-pop motels in the middle of nowhere, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”

Antique cars parked along Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along Route 66, antique cars are parked at Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing speaks more to the history and ingenuity of the United States than U.S. Route 66. Beginning in the Windy City, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most archetypal roadside scenes, ending in the land of golden dreams. Chicago’s mighty skyscrapers give way to the Ozarks, eventually leading into the grassy plains of Oklahoma and Kansas. From here you’ll travel into a world of surreal sights: the desert murals of the Southwest and the sandy beaches of California.

Route 66 passes through a marvelous cross-section of American scenes, from the cornfields of Illinois all the way to the golden sands and sunshine of Los Angeles, passing by such diverse environs as the Grand Canyon, the Native American communities of the desert Southwest, the small-town Midwest heartlands of Oklahoma and the Ozarks, as well as the gritty streets of St. Louis and Chicago.

Whether you are motivated by an interest in history, feel a nostalgic yearning for the “good old days” Route 66 has come to represent, or simply want to experience firsthand the amazing diversity of people and landscapes that line its path, Route 66 offers an unforgettable journey into America, then and now.

Blue Ridge Parkway: 469 Miles

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays as it extends through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. Connecting two national parks— Shenandoah in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina—the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses 469 miles through blue-misted Appalachian highlands.

Take in forest-blanketed mountain vistas, ripe for fauna (look for bear, deer, and beaver) and flora viewing (interesting factoid: the parkway’s namesake “blue” haze is attributed to the hydrocarbon release from the some 130 tree species).

Worth Pondering…

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

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4 Of The Best States for RV Travel & Camping

There are many great camping and outdoors destinations across the US―camping is abundant at national parks, state parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each state has a unique appeal, but four stand out from the rest as great RV travel and camping destinations: New Mexico, Utah, South Carolina, and Georgia.

New Mexico

Artists Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe once made the landscapes of New Mexico famous, but New Mexico isn’t just for artists―there are great camping, recreational, and sightseeing opportunities.

New Mexico is home to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, numerous state parks, and historical parks. You can drive the historic US Route 66 or one of 25 scenic byways. In New Mexico, camping road trip possibilities are aplenty.

The camping possibilities are endless and quiet. The locals love their solitude and there is plenty of it. Famous for its beautiful skies, desserts, mountains, and grasslands, New Mexico offers an abundance of outdoor activities. You can hike, bike, ride ATVs and horses, hunt, fish, climb, and cave; in New Mexico, there is an outdoor adventure for everybody.

Utah

Arches National Park contains the world's largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches National Park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its diverse landscapes, geology, and recreational opportunities, Utah is an intriguing destination. Home to five national parks and seven national monuments, Utah is a paradise for RVers who love the outdoors.  Elevations rise and fall dramatically in the shape of mountains, buttes, and plateaus, the highest reaching over 13,000 feet.

Camp in the comfort of your RV and explore the awe-inspiring geology of Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks. A geological wonderland, Arches is one of Utah’s most accessible national parks. Towering spires, fins, petrified dunes, massive sandstone buttes, and balanced rocks complement the arches.

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. A journey like no other, this exceptional 124-mile route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys.

South Carolina

Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the Lowcountry to lakes and blackwater rivers to Upcountry whitewater and waterfalls, you’ll find an endless selection of places to RV in South Carolina. From the foothills of The Upcountry to the fun activities of Myrtle Beach and The Grand Strand, unlimited camping opportunities await the RV traveler.

A land of rugged forested mountains, scenic lakes, rushing whitewater rapids, and cascading waterfalls, the Upcountry is a favorite outdoor adventure and family vacation destination.

Each year millions enjoy Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand vacations—drawn here for the swimming, sun bathing, boating, shelling, incredible seafood, and golfing.

With fun family beaches, over 100 championship golf courses, outlet malls, specialty shops, live musical theatre, nightclubs, and a variety of family attractions, Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand is a the ultimate RV destination.

Georgia

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia offers RVers unlimited travel options from stunning mountain vistas to rushing rivers and waterfalls, charming towns to bustling cities and unspoiled Atlantic beaches. A variety of RV adventures can be experienced throughout the state.

Stunning vistas amid Northeast Georgia’s mountains make this region a natural paradise for RVers. Outdoor activities include boating, fishing, and hiking. At an elevation of 4,784 feet Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest mountain. The re-creation of a Bavarian village complete with cobblestone alleys and old-world towers, Helen offers shopping, restaurants, mountain scenery, Oktoberfest, Alpenfest, and other seasonal festivals.

The Coast offers miles of shoreline, windswept dunes, and historic ports and towns. Savannah’s stunning architecture, 21 historic squares, and Low Country landscape make the city a top RV destination. Nestled along the coast are the city of Brunswick and four barrier islands: St. Simons, Sea, Little St. Simons, and Jekyll. A ferry ride from St. Mary’s transports travelers to Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Worth Pondering…

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

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Bourbon Tourism Booming in Kentucky

Tourism is booming in the Bluegrass State along with production at Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries.

Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bourbon is a signature industry that helps create 9,000 jobs, generates more than $125 million in tax revenue each year, and is a growing international symbol of Kentucky craftsmanship and tradition. But more than industry, bourbon is a culture, a history, and heritage built by generations of Kentuckians from as early as the late 18th century.

Bourbon tourism is also skyrocketing with nearly 2.5 million visitors from all 50 states and 25 countries touring the world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail in the last five years alone.

Along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail—featuring such venerable brands as Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Maker’s Mark among its nine participating distilleries—tourists made a record 627,032 visits in 2014, up 10 percent from the prior year, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) report.

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

Thanks to its distinctive aroma, any distillery tour is a treat for the senses, full of aromatic copper and steel tanks, vanilla scents, and caramel bouquets.

Take the legendary Kentucky Bourbon Trail through the heart of Bourbon Country and stop in on seven of the state’s distilleries including Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Bourbon Town Ranch, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail added the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville as a stop last year.

When adding tourist stops at the nine small distilleries making up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, visits totaled nearly 725,000 last year, up 14 percent from 2013. KDA counts each stop at a participating distillery as a visit.

Distilleries have spent tens of millions of dollars on new or expanded visitors’ centers in recent years to cater to tourists.

Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

KDA projects tourist visits will reach 1 million in 2018 if double-digit growth continues. The number of participating distilleries is likely to grow in coming years as more distilleries open.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, in just its second full year of existence, had 96,471 visits last year at its nine distilleries, up 56 percent.

Bourbon production has shot up in recent years amid growing demand from US and international consumers. The renewed popularity of bourbon-based cocktails has helped spur the growth, along with the introduction of premium, pricier small-batch and single-barrel bourbons.

The volume of bourbon aging in Kentucky has topped 5 million barrels.

Distillers are taking other steps aimed at sustaining the burgeoning tourism trade.

Distillery officials are hoping to persuade Kentucky lawmakers to relax some restrictions on distilleries as a way to fuel tourism growth.  One change would allow whiskey to be served at restaurants on distillery grounds.

Barton 1792 Distillery, Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights
Barton 1792 Distillery, Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another proposal would allow visitors to sample more bourbons during tours. Distilleries now are limited to offering two one-half-ounce samples per guest. Wineries and microbreweries in the state can offer larger amounts of samples.

Relaxing the limits would allow distilleries with larger portfolios to offer smaller samples but more of them.

Safeguards are in place to make sure no one consumes too much whiskey, according to a KDA spokesperson. The Distillers Association is very cautious to make sure that they are served only an appropriate amount of alcohol

Planning a visit? Stay at Grand-ma’s RV Camping in Shepherdsville (I-65, Exit 116).

While the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour has no beginning or end, it’s probably best to plan your trip based on the location of the campground or RV Park that you use as your base. An official trailhead of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the Louisville/Shepherdsville area is a perfect and convenient place to lay your head after so much bourbon education.

Easy-on easy-off, big-rig friendly Grand-ma’s RV Camping in Shepherdsville offers full service pull through sites with 50/30-amp electric service.

Worth Pondering…

A respectable amount of bourbon to pour in a glass is about two fingers worth. Lucky for me I have big fingers.

—Frederick Booker Noe II

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I Still Dream of Galveston

Galveston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Texas.

1859 Ashton Villa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
1859 Ashton Villa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From its time as a major 1800s-era shipping port, through the devastating Hurricane of 1900 and up until modern day, Galveston has played a major role in shaping Texas history.

Galveston sits on a barrier island two miles offshore surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches, numerous attractions, and one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the US. From soft sandy beaches to famous 19th century architecture, the island is surrounded with incredible history and unique beauty.

Running parallel to Galveston Beach and the Gulf of Mexico is the island’s famous Seawall that stretches for more than 10 miles and rises 17 feet above mean sea level. The Seawall was built to protect Galveston from hurricanes, following the Hurricane of 1900 that devastated the island.

Moody Mansion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Moody Mansion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Seawall is as much a playground as it is a protective barrier for the City against the ever changing tides of the Gulf of Mexico. Whether you enjoy biking, strolling, or just people watching, the Seawall is the place to visit.

A premier Texas destination, Galveston never disappoints with its unlimited attractions. Our favorites follow.

1859 Ashton Villa: The first of Galveston’s great Broadway “palaces”,  Ashton Villa set the standard for the magnificent homes that followed. It was the first brick house to be built in Texas.

1892 Bishop’s Palace: Galveston’s grandest and best-known building, is an ornate delight of colored stone, intricately carved ornaments, rare woods such as rosewood and white mahogany, stained-glass windows, massive sliding doors, bronze dragons and other sculptures, and impressive fireplaces from around the world—including one lined with pure silver.

Ocean Star Drilling Rig & Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Ocean Star Drilling Rig & Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1885 Moody Mansion: A portrayal of early 20th century family life among Galveston’s elite.

Grand 1894 Opera House: Among the nation’s finest historical theaters, the Grand 1894 Opera House, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as “The Official Opera House of Texas”.

Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa: With two floors of exhibits, historic photos, and displays, the Texas Seaport Museum highlights the history of the Port of Galveston that includes its rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration. Elissa is a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland by Alexander Hall & Company.

Strand Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Strand Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pier 21 Theater: The Pier 21 Theater features two theatrical presentations about Galveston’s historic past: The Great Storm and The Pirate Island of Jean Lafitte. The Great Storm documentary details the 1900 hurricane which killed 6,000 and changed the Island’s history.

Ocean Star Drilling Rig & Museum: Three floors of models and interactive displays illustrate the story of offshore oil and gas from seismic technology to exploration and production. The Ocean Star was a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit, and as such it was towed from place-to-place to drill test wells in the quest for oil and gas.

Strand Historic District: Galveston’s Strand was the city’s primary commercial area during the second half of the 19th century, when its star was bright and full of great promise. A thriving, energetic, and prosperous district, the Strand developed alongside the shipping channel and port that helped make the city the largest metropolis in the state.

Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Railroad Museum: Located in the former Santa Fe Union Station, the Galveston Railroad Museum depicts the city’s rail heritage. One of the five largest in the country, the Railroad Museum features more than 20,000 railroad items, including three steam engines, three diesel engines, 15 passenger/business/ex­press cars, 14 freight cars, three cabooses, and the stream­lined Texas Limited passenger train.

Moody Gardens: The 242-acre Moody Gardens is part theme park, part educational and rehabilitative facility, part pleasure garden. Amidst the profusion of tropical plants gleam three glass pyramids—pink, blue, and white—housing a 10-story rainforest, one of the world’s largest aquariums, and an educational Discovery Museum. The complex also includes a 3D theater, 4D Special FX theater, and 3-D Ridefilm theater, Palm Beach with white sand and freshwater lagoons, 19th century style Colonel Paddlewheeler with one-hour narrative cruises, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a luxury hotel.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannons flashing
I clean my gun and dream of Galveston.

—Glen Campbell

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