Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together

With the arrival of summer Americans and Canadians are fleeing the cities by the thousands in search of open space and a chance to get away from others.

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above the Bavarian town of Helen, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above the Bavarian town of Helen, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That means virtually every campground and outdoor recreation venue within four hours of every major cities will be at capacity every weekend— full of people getting away from others while doing it together.

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above the Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above the Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping courtesy (the unwritten rules of campground etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above an Acadian farmstead at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, Louisiana. © Rex
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above an Acadian farmstead at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, Louisiana. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of campground etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to achieve and maintain friendly camper status.

Be a Friendly Camper

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above Plimoth Planation near Plymouth, Massachusetts. © Rex Vogel
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above Plimoth Planation near Plymouth, Massachusetts. © Rex Vogel

Be friendly and greet other campers. This is part of being within the camping community and even though you may not know the other people, you all have a common goal of enjoying the camping experience.

Being a friendly camper is more than saying hi to your neighbors. It’s being the kind of camper who makes the experience better for their friends and family as well as other the folks sharing the campground. It’s really the little things that can truly make a camping trip amazing for everyone around you.

Obey Campground Rules

Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.

Respect Your Neighbors

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above Mount Mitchell State Park, North Caroina. © Rex Vogel
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above Mount Mitchell State Park, North Caroina. © Rex Vogel

Campgrounds are for relaxing and having fun—consider your neighbors as you kick back and relax. Keep your music and other noise to a reasonable level so everyone can enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors.

Keep in mind that others may be in the campground to get away from it all and wish to hear the wind blowing through the aspens, the babbling of a brook, the chatter of squirrels, or perhaps the call of a jay. While I recognize your right to enjoy a little music, I don’t necessarily share your musical taste unless, of course, it’s Willie’s “On the road again…”. That is why they make headphones.

Power down at night; shut off your generator and dim the lights. Remember not all generators are created equal. Some are designed to run very quietly, and others are not. Quiet hours are there for a reason.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

Classic camping treats like a perfectly roasted hot dog or some gooey s’mores are amazing, no doubt. They’re just not amazing for the wildlife that make their home in and around the campground. This is one instance where it’s ok to be greedy with your grub.

Pick Up After Your Pets

Be a responsible pet owner. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended.

It’s great to have a furry friend as a camping companion, but make sure your pet isn’t leaving any surprises behind. When taking your dog for a walk, always pick up all pet waste. Many campgrounds provide pet waste collection bags to make clean up easy and convenient.

Leave No Trace

Clean up after yourself. When you prepare to exit the campsite, be sure to remove all garbage regardless of its origin and if the campground has a recycling program, take advantage of it.

Always leave the campsite as clean, or cleaner, than it was when you arrived. The camp host and the next camper will appreciate it.

The bottom line is that camping requires us to respect the land and one another. When it comes down to it, continued success of this ongoing social experiment requires it.

Have an enjoyable and safe camping summer.

Worth Pondering…

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

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4 Cool Trailers NOT Named Airstream

According to Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey, Airstream is one cool camper!

While we can relate to the nostalgia of this classic trailer, there are other adorably cool trailers worthy of consideration.

From caravans that float to cabins on wheels, and minimalist campers to modern-day covered wagons fit for the Oregon Trail, here are four of the coolest trailers on the road.

Cricket

The Out-Of-This-World Cool Cricket Trailer
The Out-Of-This-World Cool Cricket Trailer

Part tent, part RV, the NASA-inspired Cricket Trailer is the go-to camper for the modern road tripper. Combining small-space expertise and backpacking background, a former space architect with NASA designed the Cricket Trailer, a small, self-contained pop-up camper. It’s his response to bigger-is-better RV cul­ture.

The name Cricket was inspired by an early design sketch, in which the lifts on the pop-up looked like the legs of the insect. The Cricket is a kind of hybrid tent and trailer, made of aluminum, wood and steel, with a pop-up style roof. It takes just 20 seconds to set up once you’ve arrived at camp, which basically involves popping up the roof which is made extra easy with the assistance of automatic gas pistons.

Sealander

This 840-pound microcaravan comes with an outboard motor. (Credit: sealander.de)
This 840-pound microcaravan comes with an outboard motor. (Credit: sealander.de)

Saving you the trouble of deciding between a boat and a camper, the Sealander is an amphibious vehicle that quickly transforms between the two. It can be customized to include two stainless steel gas cookers, a sink and water pump, toilet, and sound system, among other perks. And with two huge windows and a roll-up tarpaulin roof, you can stare at the stars while falling asleep to the soothing sound of water slapping against the hull.

Its wide, bowl-shaped design not only provides stability while floating, but it can easily navigate shallow waters without running aground. It also means you don’t need a trailer or a boat ramp to launch it in the water—simply back it up to a sufficiently cleared shoreline and the Sealander is successfully launched.

Leaf House

Leaf House is a tiny portable home design that takes up a small amount of space, is big enough to live in comfortably, and accommodates a family of four. (Source: tinyhousing.ca)
Leaf House is a tiny portable home design that takes up a small amount of space, is big enough to live in comfortably, and accommodates a family of four. (Source: tinyhousing.ca)

Handmade by a Canadian college professor, each 97-square-foot Leaf House is built of spruce pine and is tested to withstand even the harshest Yukon winter. It also weighs less than 5,000 pounds, thanks to lightweight concrete kitchen counters, bamboo flooring, and birch-plywood ceilings. Designed for a family of four, this fully self-contained portable house includes a sleeping loft, Murphy bed, full bathroom with a compact bathtub, a kitchen complete with a small fridge, and an open dining area.

The Leaf House is mounted on wheels, allowing you to pick up and go whenever the urge arises.

The Pod

POD-1172
The Pod

This retro caravan might be small — it’s only 34 square feet — but it won’t leave you wanting. The fiberglass and steel trailer features a four-person table that transforms into a double bed, a birch and aluminum interior, and a tiny-but-functional kitchen. And at only 705 pounds, it’s light enough to be towed by even the smallest car.

A fun and stylish living unit for two, the pod has now been in production for over 13 years and prides itself on being the forerunner of modern-retro teardrop trailers and micro-caravans.

Features of the pod include a dining area to seat four people in comfort with full size dining table and integral fold-away table, large interior sleeping space—equivalent to a double bed, large rear hatch door with gas-spring opening providing convenient access to the kitchen, quality hand-built kitchen, weatherproof foot-well with a fold-up feature, 12 volt power socket, two interior lights, leisure battery and charger, built-in storage areas, two support legs, and roof and floor vents.

Worth Pondering…

All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.

—Phillip Johnson

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Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule

No humpty dumpty trailer but reminiscent of the Eggcamper, the futuristic Ecocapsule is poised to take the RV industry by storm.

Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule
Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule

For many the appeal of an RV road trip is enhanced by getting away from it all and living off the grid for a few days. Now, one design company seems to have taken the idea and turned it on its head, with the introduction of the Ecocapsule.

Slovakian design firm, Nice Architects, has built the egg-shaped Ecocapsule to allow those who wish to live off-grid to do so in great style. Despite looking like something more akin to a dinosaur egg from the Jurassic era, the capsule’s modern design and amenities are certainly a futuristic pod option to take seriously.

Packed into a compact form, the solar-and-wind-powered Ecocapsule merges an energy efficient shape, compact volume, and off-grid capabilities with the luxuries of a warm bed, running water, and a hot meal. The completely self-sustaining design, featuring its own solar panel system and high-capacity 9,700-watt-hour battery, tripled with a 750-watt wind turbine, allows for up to a year’s worth of energy.

The spherical, egg-shaped design allows for the collection of rainwater and dew to travel through water filters and provide fresh drinking water on tap. The water filters embedded in the upper surface of the pod purify rainwater and then funnels it into a sub-floor tank.

Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule
Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule

Dubbed “the first truly independent micro-home,” the real beauty of the Ecocapsule is that it allows you to camp anywhere you wish to travel. Whether you want to set up camp at the beach, on a mountain, in a cornfield, or in the tundra, this self-sustaining pod will keep you protected from the elements in style.

Able to be towed by a standard vehicle, but light enough to be towed by an animal according to Nice Architects, the options for where to camp seem rather endless and, despite lacking in size when compared to other trailers or caravans (it’s 14 feet 7 inches long and 7 feet 10 inches wide), it’s certainly not lacking in essentials featuring two berths, a built-in kitchenette with running water, flushing toilet, hot shower, as well as comfortable bed.

The Ecocapsule hasn’t just been created for those looking for a leisurely escape though, and it has also been designed to provide shelter in disaster areas, as well as doubling as a scientific research station in regions which are more difficult to reach by way of conventional methods.

The Ecocapsule was unveiled for public viewing for the first time at the 2015 Pioneers Festival on May 28 in Vienna, and will be available for purchase later in the year.

Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule
Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule

There’s no word yet on what this high-tech and environmentally conscious mobile home will cost you yet, but just think of it this way: You’ll never have to pay another utilities bill again. And you get to live on the road — forever.

What do you think of the Ecocapsule? Is this the ultimate in campers?

Or would you think UFOs have landed with extra-terrestrial life forms as neighbors if they camped next to you?

Details

Ecocapsule

Even though small in size, each Ecocapsule comfortably houses two adults. Its efficient spatial layout allows you to enjoy convenience of household facilities in off-grid conditions. Built-in kitchenette with running water, flushing toilet and hot shower are luxuries of a hotel room that are now also available in wilderness.

Despite its small form each Ecocapsule is fitted with all essentials necessary for a comfortable prolonged stay without a need to recharge or re-supply.

Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule
Live Off-grid In An Ecocapsule

Ecocapsule fits into a standard shipping container and no special preparations and precautions are necessary to transport Ecocapsule worldwide. It can be shipped, airlifted, towed, or even pulled by a pack animal.

Website: www.ecocapsule.sk

Nice architects

Address: Páričkova 18, Bratislava,Slovensko

Phone: +421 (0) 904 672 530

Website: www.nicearchitects.sk

Worth Pondering…

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.

—Frank Lloyd Wright.

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8 Reasons To Buy a Class B Motorhome

With an RV you can explore the world and take the comfort of your own home with you.

Airstream Interstate exterior
Airstream Interstate Class B motorhome

The RV industry offers a myriad of choices. From travel trailers and fifth wheel trailers to truck campers and motorhomes, there’s an RV for every budget and every lifestyle. And when it comes to motorized RVs, there are three basic choices—Class A (gas or diesel), Class B (camper van), and Class C .

For freedom and flexibility, motorhomes offer the ultimate experience. Transportation and living quarters are rolled into one comfortable experience. Ranging from the larger Class A motorhomes to the compact Class B camper vans, to the Class C, there is something for everyone.

With motorhomes ranging from compact and space saving models to luxury diesel pusher coaches that can pull a car in tow to zip around town for daytrips, there’s a motorized model for every family.

A small camper built on a van chassis, the Class B is the fastest growing segment of the motorhome market. They are easy to drive and maneuver in tight spots, easy to load, more fuel efficient, and can pack all the amenities of a home in a small, compact floor plan—but best of all they roll down the highways and byways on four wheels.

Roadtrek Introduces All New Zion Class B
Roadtrek Zion Class B motorhome

Easy on fuel, Class B motorhomes fit in most conventional parking spaces, and can be used as a second vehicle. With a class B you can travel anywhere, park anywhere, and sleep anywhere.

All the conveniences of home are packed on board in one compact and convenient package including bathing, sleeping, dining, and cooking facilities.

Without further ado, the top 8 reasons why a Class B motorhome may be the right RV for you and your family are…

  1. Easy to Drive
Imperial Class B motorhome by EverGreen
Imperial Class B motorhome by EverGreen

Class B motorhomes are easy to drive and maneuver pretty much anywhere a car can travel. They will take you wherever you want to go from shopping at Walmart to a remote camping site in a national forest or on BLM land, a scenic byway to an Interstate highway, and from winding mountain roads to crowded city streets. Class B motorhomes are maneuverable and easy to drive yet has all the comforts of home.

  1. Easy on Fuel

Easy on fuel, Class B motorhomes normally get 15-22 miles per gallon compared to 6-10 for a Class A or C.

  1. Easy to Park

Parking is always a hassle with large Class A and C motorhomes. Class B motorhomes can fit into most parking spaces and can be parked most anywhere.

  1. Camping Made Easy

Class B motorhomes requires little set-up and minimal take-down time. They’re easy to park in any camping site. Hooking up to city utilities takes minutes. Same with unhooking and you’re ready for a day of touring or onto the next camping site.

  1. Useful for Towing

Tow a boat, a utility trailer for your toys, a small car, and even a camping trailer for extra sleeping room.

  1. Easy to Store

No need to rent storage space due to lack of adequate parking at home or restrictive community ordinances. Since Class B motorhomes resemble passenger cars they’re not likely to offend community sensitivities.

7. Doubles as Second Vehicle

Triple E RV is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the introduction of the redesigned Leisure Travel Van 25-foot Unity luxury touring coach.
Leisure Travel Van 25-foot Unity luxury touring coach.

Class B motorhomes can be used as a second vehicle for everyday use including shopping at a local store or mall, driving to work, dropping the youngsters off at school.

  1. Touring Made Easy

Class B motorhomes are designed for touring. Unlike the larger Class A and C motorhomes, Class B camper vans accelerate, corner, and change lanes with ease. No concern about bridge or tunnel clearance.

Worth Pondering…

The past is a ghost, the future a dream. All we ever have is now.

—Bill Cosby

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Shooting Wildlife With a Camera

Bird and animal photography, especially in the wild, can be quite challenging.

Notice how the Rule of Thirds is used in placing of the green heron with space for the bird to move into the frame.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Notice the smooth bokeh and how the Rule of Thirds is used in placing of the green heron with space for the bird to move into the frame.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The name of the game in wildlife photography—whether you’re trying to capture an exotic bird in a national wildlife refuge or a giraffe in a city zoo or wildlife park—is patience.

Wild birds and animals will do what they’re going to do and no amount of coaxing will make them turn their head, look your way, open their mouth, do something cute, or move to better light.

You have to be there—and ready—when the photo op occurs. Be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait some more—it takes a long time to get good wildlife photos, even longer for great ones.

The best time for travel photography is either during the early morning or late afternoons and the same applies for birds and animals. Early morning is typically the best for wildlife photography because birds and animals are actively searching for food.

Maintaining fast shutter speeds, especially for birds in flight and small birds that move very quickly is essential—you cannot fix motion blur in post production. You need to completely freeze the action of the bird. To achieve this, set your shutter speed in a range from 1/800 to 1/1600 or even faster for birds in flight.

Sandhill cranes in early morning light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sandhill cranes in early morning light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A tripod or a monopod is highly recommended for early morning and late afternoon photography when slower shutter speeds are required due to less available light.

Always focus on the nearest (to the viewer) eye of the bird. It is acceptable to have a blurred tail or other parts of the bird, but at least one eye always needs to be in focus and sharp. For birds in flight, focus on the bird’s head or chest—whichever provides better contrast for the camera autofocus system.

Choose your background carefully to achieve a smooth bokeh (or boke, a Japanese word meaning blur). Photos with objects behind the bird are not as visually appealing as images with an out-of-focus or blurry background. This is achieved by a shallow depth of field when relatively close to the subject while using a large aperture.

Get up close. Use a photo blind whenever possible. One of the best blinds is your RV or car; you’re able to get relatively close to a bird or animal without departing your vehicle. Birds are generally not scared of cars and you can drive up fairly closely and take some amazing shots.

Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
You have to shoot a lot of photos to manage one or two keepers. Pictured above Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You need a good telephoto lens to get close enough to make the image interesting. Zoom in and focus on the head of the bird or animal.

In general, good photos result from careful attention to some basic elements of composition—the placement of the objects in the photo. Frame your subject carefully, try to put the main point of attraction at 1/3 or 2/3 of the image (remember the rule of thirds).

Shoot from the birds eye level, images from the same level with your subject will look more natural and attractive.

When visiting a bird sanctuary or zoo, you may get the chance for some stunning photographs of birds and animals at close range. With patience and practice, you can really do this nearly anywhere.

When you’re in the wild, and happen across birds or animals, you need to be ready to capture the image—even if it’s at a distance. Have your telephoto lens ready. Nothing shouts louder “boring photo” more than a tiny subject in the frame, so move in closer. With wild animals such as bear or moose be sure to maintain a safe distance.

This image of a green jay was taken from a bird blind in Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park in South Texas.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
This image of a green jay was taken from a bird blind in Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park in South Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Photographing wildlife requires patience and skill. If you are a beginner, try easier subjects like robins or finches in your backyard or the park and birds in the zoo before heading out into the wild. Experiment with the shutter speed until you know what will give you the effect you want.

Be patient and let the birds come to you. You won’t get the perfect shot every time but with practice your photos will improve.

Worth Pondering…

A camera alone does not make a picture. To make a picture you need a camera, a photographer, and above all a subject. It is the subject that determines the interest of the photograph.

—Man Ray

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Campgrounds As Base Camps For Festivals & Annual Events

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

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

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 and annual events 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 and annual events 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: Calgary Stampede, Calgary, July 3-12, 2015

The Calgary Stampede is called “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” for good reason. For 10 days every July, the Stampede City welcomes the world to a spectacular celebration of western hospitality. Stampede Park, located in downtown Calgary, is the world’s greatest gathering of cowboy culture. Each year, more than 1.2 million visitors from around the world come to Calgary to experience the heart-stopping action of the world’s roughest and richest rodeo, featuring bull riding, barrel racing, and more.

The GMC Rangeland Derby is the world’s top Chuckwagon Races. And every night is capped off with the Grandstand Show and fireworks finale that lights up the sky.

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

Freedom Trail, Bostom © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Freedom Trail, Bostom © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts: 33rd Annual Boston Harborfest 2015, Boston, July 2-6, 2015

The 33rd Annual Boston Harborfest is a six-day Fourth of July Festival that showcases the colonial and maritime heritage of the cradle of the American Revolution: the historic city of

Boston. The award-winning festival strives to honor and remember the past, celebrate the present, and educate the future with reenactments, concerts, and historical tours. The week includes Boston Chowderfest, Children’s Day, and the July 4th Boston Pops Concert, and fireworks.

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

Nearby Attractions: Freedom Trail, Boston Common, Fenway Park, USS Constitution (“Old Ironside”), Boston Harbor, Plymouth Rock

Recommended RV Park: Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro

New Mexico: 12th annual Pork & Brew State BBQ Championship, Rio Rancho, July 3-5, 2015

Old Town Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Old Town Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come out and enjoy this terrific family-friendly event with live entertainment, arts and crafts, fun jumps, magic show, and, of course, plenty of award-winning BBQ. The Pork & Brew is hosted by the Rio Rancho Convention & Visitors Bureau and is a fully sanctioned Kansas City BBQ Society event—one of the top 10 events on the Society calendar.

With an average attendance of more than 20,000, Pork & Brew has become one of the largest events in New Mexico. Winners go on to participate at the World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City, Missouri, October 1-4, 2015 .

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

Nearby Attractions: Jemez Mountain Trail, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Sandia Peak Tramway, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Park: American RV Park, Albuquerque,

Alberta: The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, Drumheller, July 10-26, 2015

Travel back 2000 years to the land and events that changed the course of history. This dramatic portrayal of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in an acoustically superb natural bowl amphitheater will make you feel like you’re actually there. The Scripture-based script and music, sets, costumes, quality performances, and the site’s remarkable similarity to the Holy Land all add to the experience. “One of Alberta’s Top Cultural Attractions”—Attractions Canada

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

Nearby Attractions: Dinosaur Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Royall Tyrrell Museum, Rosebud Theatre

Recommended RV Park: Dinosaur Trail RV Resort, Drumheller, Alberta

Worth Pondering…

Happiness is not a state to arrive at, rather, a manner of traveling.

—Samuel Johnson

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Call of the Open Road

An RV travel adventure has no substitute. It is the ultimate experience, one for family fun!

Lake George/Adirondack Region of Upstate New York  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lake George/Adirondack Region of Upstate New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer is the peak season for RVers to travel the open road and experience the wonders of the United States and Canada, but where to go?

RVers are often creatures of habit and return to the same location year after year.

With so many great vacation spots through the U.S. and Canada, this is the summer to explore new areas of the vast countryside. There are so many cool places to go and not enough time.

Make plans to head out on the road and explore a new region this summer.

Lake George/Adirondack Region of Upstate New York

Beautiful Lake George is at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. The Adirondack Park is a 6 million acre forever wild park. With 3,000 ponds and lakes and over 2,000 miles of hiking trails, there is a lot of outdoor adventure and fun to be found in the Adirondack Mountains.

Head down the Schroon River in a kayak, stop by the Courthouse Gallery to see the latest exhibit, and end your day at Shepard Park for Thursday night fireworks.

From museums to historic forts, free concerts, theatre, and butterfly farms, there are plenty of ways to broaden your mind and renew the spirit in Lake George. And for the youngsters, there are mine tours, mini golf, and a Six Flags amusement park nearby.

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

Greenville/South Carolina Upcountry

Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, South Carolina’s Upcountry packs plenty of alpine splendor.

Greenville owes its existence to the 28-foot falls on the Reedy River that powered 19th-century textile mills, making it the “Textile Center of the South.” It took 40 years of cleaning after the mills closed to make Falls Park into a regional jewel, crowned by the cantilevered Liberty Bridge for pedestrians that was designed by architect Miguel Rosales with a distinctive curve as it pitches toward the falls.

Table Rock, Jones Gap, Paris Mountain, and Caesars Head state parks all deliver Blue Ridge Mountain adventure in Greenville’s backyard as the Appalachians tumble into the flatlands of the Piedmont region.

Holbrook/Route 66/Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holbrook is the central point for a variety of adventures in Northeastern Arizona. The Petrified Forest National Park, Homolovi Ruins, Window Rock, Canyon de Chelly, Native American Cultures, rich Old West and Pioneer history, scenic vistas, the Mogollon Rim, and a diversity of recreational settings are all within easy driving distance of Holbrook.

Not only can you sleep in a teepee on old Route 66 at the very cool Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, but each of the 15 individual concrete pointed-ceiling lodgings is fronted by a beautifully restored vintage car.

Wander out to the nearby Petrified Forest National Park, one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archeological sites. Check out the Agate House, a ruin that demonstrates the ancient Puebloan practice of using the petrified wood as a building material.

Holmes County/Ohio Amish Country

Holmes County/Ohio Amish Country  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Holmes County/Ohio Amish Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why do four million people a year visit Ohio’s Amish Country? Well, where else can you see the “Amish Sistine Chapel,” watch one of the nation’s oldest livestock auctions, shop at the world’s largest retailer of non-electric appliances, or take a guided back-road tour that ends with dinner in an Amish Home?

Holmes County has bakeries, cheese houses, wineries, quilt and craft shops, and 80 hardwood furniture stores. Explore the unique culture of the Amish with a vacation in central Ohio, home of the world’s largest Amish community.

Enjoy beautiful scenery, visit an Amish farm, savor homemade foods, and listen for the clip-clop of a horse and buggy, the most common sight in an Amish community. Shop for handmade quilts, artwork and furniture in Millersburg, Berlin, or Walnut Creek.

There is so much more to see and do in this beautiful and historic area. Take time to explore this great county in beautiful Ohio. You’ll be glad you did.

Worth Pondering…

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

—Rachel Carson

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4 Great Restaurants From Our Road Trips Across America

During the past 18 years, we’ve driven over 125,000 miles in varied RVs as we explored America from the Oregon Coast to the Outer Banks and from the Upper Peninsula to the Rio Grande Valley.

Stingaree Marina and Restaurant, Crystal Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Stingaree Marina and Restaurant, Crystal Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We visited over 40 states and ate hundreds of meals of varying quality: some were good, some thankfully very forgettable, and others of “OMG I can die happy now” quality.

These meals—whether in a high-quality seafood restaurant overlooking a scenic waterway, a smokehouse in BBQ Country, a small diner in Cajun Country, or hole in the wall—showed us the diversity of food in America—and ooh so delicious.

After all those meals, here are four of our favorite restaurants in the U.S. where we received delicious, high-quality, and affordable food. If you’re road-tripping across the country or just visiting these cities and towns, be sure to pop into one of these restaurants.

Stingaree Marina and Restaurant, Crystal Beach, Texas

Texas may be best known for beef, but its bay oysters rank second to none. Texas oysters are impeccably fresh—whether served on the half shell with a kiss of salt air and Texas hot sauce or shucked for a sauté or creamy stew.

When in the Galveston area, a trip to Stingaree Marina and Restaurant in Crystal Beach is at the top of our list of “must-do” events. It is not just the food, it’s the whole experience.

Located on the Intracoastal Waterway on the bay side of Bolivar, the Stingaree is famous for many things: the beautiful sunsets seen from its deck, the giant tug boats and barges that pass within feet of its windows, and wonderful Gulf Coast seafood—barbecue crab, fried catfish, shrimp, and oysters, Red Snapper Ponchartrain, Crabmeat Au Gratin, etouffee, and one of the best seasonal dishes you’ll find anywhere on the Gulf Coast—Oyster Jubilee.

Kloesel’s Steak House, Moulton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Kloesel’s Steak House, Moulton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kloesel’s Steak House, Moulton, Texas

Blink and you’ll miss Moulton—but that would be a mistake. Turn west off Texas 95 onto Moore Avenue, and see what I mean.

During the past 40 years, Harvey and Diana Kloesel have turned a former grocery-café into a popular eatery. The Kloesels charbroil choice steaks. Other fare ranges from fettuccine to blue-plate specials, plus luscious pies and cheesecakes. The salad dressings and sauces are family recipes prepared fresh each week. The Kloesels also feature their own private label of Steak Sauce which is served in their restaurant.

Following lunch continue south 10 miles to tour the “little brewery in Shiner”.

La Plazuela at La Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

La Plazuela at La Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
La Plazuela at La Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Fonda on the Plaza is Santa Fe’s most historic and authentic hotel and restaurant experience. This charming, landmark hotel has delighted travelers since the early 1920s when the original hotel was built on the oldest hotel corner in America. Indeed, early records show a fonda, or inn, on the historic corner of San Francisco and Water Streets since the founding of Santa Fe in 1607.

But, it wasn’t until two centuries later, when Captain William Becknell completed the first successful trading expedition from Missouri to Santa Fe—which came to be known as The Santa Fe Trail—that the original adobe hotel, literally “at the end of the trail,” came into its own.

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

La Postas de Mesilla, Mesilla, New Mexico

La Postas de Mesilla, Mesilla, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
La Postas de Mesilla, Mesilla, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visiting Historic Mesilla is like stepping back in time. With its territorial style buildings, the town square looks much like it did back in the 1850s when it was home to Pancho Villa, Kit Carson, Billy the Kid, and Judge Roy Bean.

Mesilla also offers some of the finest New Mexican cuisine, including that of the nationally renowned La Postas de Mesilla, with an atmosphere that’s an experience in itself. The menu and the recipes that create its savory New Mexico style dishes are the same as they were when the restaurant opened back in 1939.

New Mexican cuisine relies heavily on chiles and the food served at La Posta is no exception. The dishes we’ve had during our three visits were excellent.

There are many reasons to visit La Posta—the history, the ghosts, the ambiance, and the authentic New Mexico cuisine. Come for all of the above. You’re guaranteed not to be disappointed!

Worth Pondering…

I am not a glutton—I am an explorer of food.

—Erma Bombeck

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My Great American Road Trip

To Americans, there’s nothing that holds more appeal than the classic road trip.

Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the ’20s, the car was a symbol of freedom—a chance to escape your small town or rural America.

As the highway system was developed in the ’50s and ’60s, a wave of young people set out on the road to explore the country, giving new life to America’s car and road trip culture.

And to this today, Americans have an ongoing love affair with the car and great open road. And no road trip holds more mystery and allure than traveling cross-country. It’s the king of all road trips.

In 1986 on a working road trip across the U.S. we drove our truck and fifth wheel trailer across the U.S. from west to the east and back west again.

Leaving our home in the Northwest we spent over eight months traversing the country, getting as far east as Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, Charleston, Savannah,  and Jacksonville, and as far south as Orlando, Miami, the Everglades, and Key West before turning back west, driving across the southern states with numerous stops along the way including Pensacola, Mobile, Pascagoula, Galveston, San Antonio, El Paso, Las Cruces, Tucson, and Phoenix. But we barely scratched the surface of what America offers. We saw and experienced a lot—from the Rocky Mountains, to the Black Hills, across the Great Plains.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights
Our Grand Circle tour included Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights

But you don’t realize just how vast the U.S. is until you’ve been driving for twelve hours and notice you’re still in Texas.

The U.S. is big and there is still so much more of it to see.

During the past 18 years, we’ve driven over 130,000 miles in varied RVs as we explored America from the Oregon Coast to the Charleston and from the Upper Peninsula to the Rio Grande Valley.

We have traversed the U.S. along varied interstates and scenic routes and byways further exploring the beauty and uniqueness of this vast country. There is prodigious variety in the cities and towns and scenic attractions and offerings in various regions, a country of many impressions.

From Memphis to Montana, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, Wine Country in California, Utah’s Grand Circle Tour, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mobile, and much more, we continue our exploration in our trusty and comfy motorhome.

“What’s your favorite place to go?”

Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course that’s what we’re asked. 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 or even two places.

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 and bucket-listy. They want to hear the Key West or Santa Barbara, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, Sedona or Santa Fe, Charleston or Savannah. They don’t want the truth. Can they handle the truth?

The truth is, we have visited 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces in the past 18 years, and found something that we adored in every one of them.

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

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

I did begin rereading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley — an incredible rumination on the America that he experienced as he took a 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.

After all these miles and varied experiences, I still feel the same way.

The “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”, the best is yet to come as I have quite the long route in front of me. Please stay tuned!

Worth Pondering…

You’ve heard the old Willie Nelson country music song with the lyrics, “On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again…” We’ll be singing this song for sure.

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Why RV Tires Fail

Heading out with a recreational vehicle this summer? Check the condition of all tires before leaving home—and stay safe!

Take precautions against tire failure to avoid disastrous trip scenarios. Pictured above Newmar Essex diesel pusher traveling west Utah 12 Scenic Byway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take precautions against tire failure to avoid disastrous trip scenarios. Pictured above Newmar Essex diesel pusher traveling west Utah 12 Scenic Byway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tires deteriorate as soon as they roll out of the factory. But as a responsible RV owner, you can extend the life of your tires, combat the deterioration process that’s been set in motion from the birth of a tire, and ensure your RV is safely ready to roll whenever you are.

It is impossible to predict when tires should be replaced based on their calendar age alone. However, the older a tire, the greater the chance that it will need to be replaced due to the service-related evolution or other conditions found upon inspection or detected during use.

The common causes behind tire failure are as varied as the experiences and scenery you encounter on an RV road trip.

Most RV owners can expect about five years from a new set of tires. Proper tire care, regular inspection, and periodic maintenance may eke another year or two of tire life. When a tire fails, it can not only cause extensive damage to the body of an RV, or shocks, etc., but it can also pose a life-threatening situation to you and your passengers if a blowout causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Additionally, bits of tire from a blowout create a hazard to other drivers who are sharing the road with you.

Check the condition of all tires before leaving home—and arrive safe at your destination. Pictured above Class C motorhome camped at Dead Horse Point State Park, near Moab, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Check the condition of all tires before leaving home—and arrive safe at your destination. Pictured above Class C motorhome camped at Dead Horse Point State Park, near Moab, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take precautions against tire failure to avoid disastrous trip scenarios.

There are four main offenders behind untimely tire failure.

Overheating Due To Under-inflated Tires

It’s a given that tires lose air over time. Temperature fluctuations and road use impact tire pressure, so it’s extremely important to check tire pressure regularly. Under-inflated tires generate a lot of heat while they’re rolling down the road. More rubber comes into contact with the road surface, causing excess friction and, therefore, overheating.

Overloading Your RV & Improper Weight Distribution

OOPS! Not a smart move! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
OOPS! Not a smart move! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An overloaded motorhome or other recreational vehicle leads to under-inflated tires. Too much stress on one or more tires can mean premature tire failure on the open road.

Dry Rot From Sun (UV) Damage

The sun is notorious for setting physical or chemical changes in motion. Your RV tires are no exception. Destructive UV rays affect a tire in such a way that damage to the integrity of the tire’s rubber may be nearly invisible. If you detect any cracking or splitting, especially on the tire’s sidewalls, the tire is unsafe.

Old Tires That Appear OK

A ten-year-old tire may have excellent tread, look good, and appear road-worthy. But tires are meant for rolling down the open road, not for standing still. Over time, the material that makes up a tire begins to deteriorate.

Preventive Measures

Following are a few tips that can prevent the potential tire problems listed above:

  • Check tire pressure with a trusted tire gauge every day you’re on the road, and every month when you’re not
  • Have your RV weighed to ensure proper weight distribution
  • Cover tires to protect against damaging UV rays
  • Examine tires for defects, cracks, uneven wear
  • Check the DOT’s sidewall information to determine tire age

Roadside Assistance Plan

Y'all Come back...safely! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Y’all Come back…safely! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your personal safety and the safety of your passengers is priority number one. Ensure that you have a quality roadside assistance program in place before venturing out on the open road this summer.

In the event of a blowout, a quality roadside assistance program enables you to get back on the road by arranging to have a flat changed, providing you with a comparable new tire, or towing you to a repair facility.

Roadside assistance programs are available from a host of sources including Good Sam and AAA. For the past 17 years we have relied on Coach-Net’s RV Technical and Roadside Assistance Plan. Whether you own a Class A diesel pusher, a 5th wheel, toy hauler, pop up camper—or all of the above—Coach-Net has a membership plan suited to your needs.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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