A Utah Road Trip: Natural Bridges, Moki Dugway, Valley of the Gods & More

It’s nearly impossible to drive any kind of distance in Utah without going through some spectacular countryside, no matter what route you choose.

Heading west from Blanding on SR-95 the landscape was vast, open and colorful. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Heading west from Blanding on SR-95 the landscape was vast, open and colorful. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, there is one drive a bit off the beaten path that is not nearly as well known as other scenic drives and designated scenic byways and yet is truly worthy of a day trip.

Starting this 130-mile journey from our home base at Cottonwood RV Park in Bluff, we drove our toad north on US-191 to Blanding, then took a left turn to head west on SR-95.

With every bend in the road, we found ourselves craning our necks to take in the stunning views. Enormous, patterned red rock walls lined the sides of the road, and mystical red rock formations rose up from the horizon and changed shape as we passed them by. The landscape was vast, open and colorful, and completely devoid of the human touch. Everywhere we looked, we felt inspired by the wondrous creations of a divine hand.

The road was first constructed in 1935 as a gateway from Blanding to Natural Bridges National Monument and remained unpaved through the 1960s. It wasn’t until the ’70s that portions of the road began to be paved. Yet, because it doesn’t link any major towns or cities, we found that as we passed by one glorious red rock vista after another on our way to Natural Bridges, there was rarely another vehicle on the road.

Several miles before reaching the national park gate we left SR-95, heading west on SR-275 to the park gate. Natural Bridges National Monument covers a relatively small area. It is rather remote and not close to other parks, and as a result is not heavily visited.

A nine mile one-way loop drive connects pull-outs and overlooks with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A nine mile one-way loop drive connects pull-outs and overlooks with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since natural bridges are formed by running water, they are much rarer than arches, which result from a variety of other erosion forces. Natural bridges tend to be found within canyons, sometimes quite hidden, whereas arches are usually high and exposed. The area also has some scattered Indian cliff dwellings, pictographs, and scenic white sandstone canyons.

A nine mile one-way loop drive connects pull-outs and overlooks with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges with Hopi Indian names—Sipapu (the place of emergence), Kachina (dancer), and Owachomu (rock mounds). Moderate hiking trails, some with metal stairs or wooden ladders, provide closer access to each bridge.

Continuing our road trip, we retraced our route on SR-275 and SR-95, traveling south on SR-261 to Muley Point, Moki Dugway, and Valley of the Gods.

Before descending Moki Dugway, you may wish to stop at the fantastic vista at Muley Point. To reach Muley Point, take the first road to your right (west) at the top of the dugway. The Muley Point Overlook provides viewers with a panorama of the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, and the vast, sweeping valleys of the desert valley below.

Moki Dugway consists of three miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the Valley of the Gods. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Moki Dugway consists of three miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the Valley of the Gods. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also spelled Mokee, the term moki is deried from the Spanish word, moqui, a general term used by explorers in this region to describe Pueblo Indians they encountered as well as the vanished Ancestral puebloan culture. Dugway is a term used to describe a roadway carved from a hillside.

The Moki Dugway is a staggering, graded dirt switchback road carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of three miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11 percent grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the Valley of the Gods below.

The Moki Dugway was constructed in the 1950s to provide a way to haul ore from the Happy Jack Mine on Cedar Mesa to the mill in Halchita, near Mexican Hat.

The State of Utah recommends that only vehicles less than 28 feet and 10,000 pounds attempt to negotiate the dugway. The remainder of US-261 is paved.

Valley of the Gods lies below the Moki Dugway overlook. You enter another environment as you descend from scrub forest to desert.

Valley of the Gods offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles, and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Valley of the Gods offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles, and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles, and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. A 17-mile dirt and gravel road winds through the valley near many of the formations. Short hikes are necessary to reach some, but most can be seen from the road. It is sandy and bumpy, with steep sections.

Days can be spent by anyone with a camera and time. As is usual in this stark landscape, morning and evening are the best times to take photos. The Valley of the Gods is full of long and mysterious shadows in the evening. The morning sun shines directly on the valley and its towers.

The road exits onto US-163 about 7.5 miles north of Mexican Hat. Pointing our toad east for 17 miles and we’ve back at our home base in Bluff.

Worth Pondering…

How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude!

—Emily Dickinson

Read More

Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More

There’s much more to Texas cuisine than just juicy, succulent steaks.

Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rich heritage of Mexican, German, and Czech influences have provided for a plethora of decadent Texas dishes that fill the bellies and warm the hearts of all who try them.

Taste the famous Texas BBQ, Tex-Mex, and European-influenced dishes for yourself.

In Texas, food is more than a meal. It’s their culture and way of life. Across the state you’ll find award-winning BBQ, the original Tex-Mex, truly astounding seafood and the best chili to ever grace a bowl.

From five-star restaurants and renowned chefs to undiscovered food joints manned by tomorrow’s culinary superstars, there is a flavor for every palate. So grab a fork and your taste for adventure and “come ‘n get it.”

BBQ

Yes sir! Yes ma’am! They do up some mighty fine BBQ in Texas. Texas barbecue means beef, and usually brisket. It means smoked brisket, and usually for a long time over low heat.

They slow cook some of the sauciest, savoriest barbeque the world has ever dreamed of.

Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barbecue can be traced to Texas’ German immigrants, who brought their smoking and butchering culture with them when they arrived in the middle of the 19th century. And what did they butcher? Cattle, of which Texas already had millions. And how did they cook it? Over coals from native wood like oak, which was also plentiful. This is why Texas barbecue is so different from the pork-and-sauce style common elsewhere in the U.S.

The first barbecue joints were meat markets where the beef was smoked in the back and sold over the counter.

It’s like Texas is its own little country when it comes to barbecue. Beef is still king, and it’s the pride Texans take in their barbecue. Which anyone can see whenever they walk into a place like Smitty’s Market, Black’s Barbecue, and Kreuz Market in Lockhart—or any of the other hundreds of places in Texas that make up the Republic of Barbecue.

Even if you don’t remember the Alamo, you will surely remember licking your fingers clean in Texas.

Tex-Mex

All over the world, people enjoy Tex-Mex, but in the Lone Star State, this cuisine is king. Texans with Mexican roots created the delicious hybrid, so it’s no surprise that the most memorable—and authentic—plates hit tables close to the border. From tasty tacos to grilled steaks and cheese-filled tamales, Texas Tex-Mex will leave you feeling full and happy.

When you’re in the Kemah/Seabrook area south of Houston and have a craving for excellent Tex-Mex food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
When you’re in the Kemah/Seabrook area south of Houston and have a craving for excellent Tex-Mex food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although you often see them on Tex-Mex menus, tamales are not modern Tejano creations. In fact, tamales may have been consumed as early as 7000 B.C. Because they can be made in advance and stored for long stretches of time, tamales became essential for early Latin American communities—particularly those on the move or immersed in war.

Tex-Mex food dishes commonly use the ingredients of garlic, sour cream, cilantro, beans, avocado, cheese, and chorizo, a spicy Mexican sausage that originated from Spain.

Chiles are also important in Tex-Mex food dishes. Ranging from sweet and mild to mouth-on-fire hot, they are added to a variety of dishes. Chiles that are used in Tex-Mex food include ancho, jalapeno, and the hottest of them all, the habanero pepper.

If you haven’t tried the unique combination of Tex-Mex, you’re missing out, amigo! It’s the absolute best of Mexican cuisine with some Texas flair. When it comes to spice, you can get it a little bit country or a little bit rock n’ roll. Just ask your waiters for guidance. And more salsa, please!

Vineyards

You might not have guessed that Texas has developed into one of the biggest and best wine-producing states around. Their unique climate provides ideal growing conditions for a variety of wines, and they’ve been cultivating vines for centuries.

More than 275 wineries and 4,400 acres of grapes call Texas home, with many of the state’s best wines coming out of the Texas Hill Country. (Image courtesy Texas Department of Agriculture)
More than 275 wineries and 4,400 acres of grapes call Texas home, with many of the state’s best wines coming out of the Texas Hill Country. (Image courtesy Texas Department of Agriculture)

More than 275 wineries and 4,400 acres of grapes call Texas home, with many of the state’s best wines coming out of the Texas Hill Country, the second largest AVA in the United States. Surprising considering how under-the-radar these Mediterranean-styles wines have flown, despite the top-notch varietals coming from the region. Be sure to try Texas’ Viognier, Marsanne, and Albarino if you’re a white drinker; red lovers will revel in Texas’ Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Tannat.

Check out dozens of scenic, and seriously palatable, wine rails, tours, and tastings. Wine trails are an excellent way to experience multiple Texas wineries in one trip.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

You don’t need no teeth to eat my beef.

—from Legends of Texas BBQ

Read More

What Is On Your Bucket List?

Actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in the movie The Bucket List a few years ago made popular the bucket list.

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

It centers about the idea of making a list of all the things you want like to do before you “kick the bucket.” Since then, lots of people have pulled together lists of practical and extravagant places to visit and things to do on their own bucket lists.

We all have things we want to do and places we want to see. For me, I got to cross two national parks and a California wine area off my bucket list during the past 12 month—Lassen Peak National Park, Pinnacles National Park, and Lodi Wine Country.

My bucket list of places to go and things to see during my RV travels is still extensive: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Outer Banks, Acadia National Park, Memphis, Crater of Diamonds State Park (Arkansas), Natchez Trace Parkway, Yosemite National Park.

Also another list details the place and things I wish to revisit during my RVing lifetime: Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills, Napa and Sonoma, Charleston and Savannah, Nashville, Hocking Hills (Ohio), Lexington and the Kentucky Bluegrass Region, Monument Valley, Monterey, Virginia’s Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg), Santa Fe, Big Bend National Park.

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

Do you have a bucket list for your RV travels?

So let me ask you, what’s on your bucket list? You know, that list of all the things you want to do sometime soon.

A trip to the Grand Canyon, Grand Circle Tour of the national parks of Utah.

Possibly, the following four iconic destinations will whet your appetite to create or expand upon your personal bucket list.

Charleston, South Carolina

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. Traveling through the south? Charleston is a must stop.

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 old South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Galveston, Texas

Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Cathedral Rock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Cathedral Rock. © 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.

Sedona, Arizona

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. Towering along the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, these monoliths lend an aura of mystery as well as incredible beauty to this landscape.

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.

Scenic Byway 12

Scenic Byway 12 travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Scenic Byway 12 travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Highway 12 is a winding road that climbs to high elevations in spots. One section follows The Hogsback, a narrow ridge barely wider than the two-lane roadway, with cliffs falling away on either side.

Scenic wonders are visible in all directions from this 121-mile-long All American Road as it winds and climbs. Easily accessible on either side of Scenic Byway 12, major attractions include Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Grosvenor Arch, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Cottonwood Canyon, Burr Trail, and Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area

Worth Pondering…

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

Read More

Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider?

The average family of four spends around $4,580.

Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a study by American Express, that’s the cost for one vacation.

Buy an recreational vehicle and your family can enjoy numerous vacations for a fraction of that cost.

However, when you own an RV there are other ongoing expenses you need to be aware of when considering the cost of an RV lifestyle.

RV Insurance

When budgeting for an RV include the insurance cost in that budget. Doing the research before buying provides a clearer financial perspective of the true cost of the RV.

The insurance jungle can get a bit confusing. Here are some tips on getting the best insurance deal for your RV.

Specialized RV insurance is preferable to auto insurance for your RV. The two are very different. RV insurance covers many more risks specific to an RV that are not included in auto insurance. Some examples are total replacement coverage, personal belongings coverage (e.g. your furniture and appliances), coverage for snowbirds and full-timers.

Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Califonnian RV Resort, Acton, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Califonnian RV Resort, Acton, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also, you have specialized RV claims agents who know RVs, as opposed to auto-adjusters who don’t really understand them.

Compare insurance quotes. Insurance rates are dependent on many variables. Selecting insurance coverage based solely on price is not recommended. Instead, obtain free quotes from multiple companies online, compare their policies, and pick the policy that offers you maximum coverage at the best price.

Factors that affect insurance rates include RV type and model, current value of RV, state or province in which the policy is issued (insurance laws vary), amount of coverage required, primary purpose of the RV, previous RV ownership history, insurance claims history, age, marital status, associations or memberships that offer discounts, and credit score.

Fuel

The dramatic drop in fuel costs over the past year makes owning an RV very attractive. Even so, you need to be prepared to incur additional fuel costs when you travel with an RV just as you would with any other form of travel.

Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider that fuel costs vary over time with supply and demand, exploration and production costs, and taxes which vary from state to state and province to province.

Storage

Consider where you will store your RV and the related costs. Be aware of current city bylaws that may prohibit short and/or long term parking on your property. The costs of renting a storage unit will depend on the size of your unit, whether you want an enclosed space and whether you’ll be renting this for short term or long term storage. Storage units can run anywhere from $30-40 per month to as high as $150 per month or more.

Campground Fees

The cost of campgrounds for RVs varies by location, campground amenities, and length of stay. Depending on where you travel and the degree of luxury you desire, costs may range as high as $100 per night or more. Expect to pay more when camping near a major tourist attraction or large city, the ocean or popular lake, and during peak season.

Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Cost of Owning an RV: What to Consider? Image above: Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights

RV Maintenance

An RV is a major investment. Like home ownership, regular maintenance is just a part of the deal. Every year, you’ll want to inspect roof, sealants, wheel bearings, and appliances. Thorough and frequent cleaning will also go a long way towards keeping your unit in good shape but you may want to schedule yearly inspection by your local RV service department just to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

If you do your own RV maintenance, be careful what products you use. General-purpose cleaners are not intended for RVs and can cause damage. Use RV-specific cleaning products only.

Worth Pondering…

Have you put…

Step up

Antenna down

Wife in?

—sign at a Dickson, Tennessee campground

Read More

Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West

One of the most iconic and enduring landmarks of the American Wild West, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park has isolated sandstone mesas, buttes, and a sandy desert that has been photographed and filmed countless times.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley boasts crimson mesas, surreal sandstone towers which range in height from 400 to 1,000 feet. Made of de Chelly sandstone, which is 215 million years old, the towers are the remnants of mesas, or flat-topped mountains. Mesas erode first into buttes like the Elephant, which typically are as high as they are wide, then into slender spires like the Three Sisters.

The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations, providing scenery that is simply spellbinding.

It is one of those sights that takes your breath away and makes you speechless—what the Western writer Zane Grey once described as “a strange world of colossal shafts and buttes of rock, magnificently sculptored, standing isolated and aloof, dark, weird, lonely.”

Known as Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii (or Valley of the Rocks) to the Navajo, they believe it is a gift from their creator and each unique formation has a story.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Entering Monument Valley is to enter a world of mystery, incredible beauty, and age-old tradition.

The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs, trees, and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience.

Our visit to Monument Valley was in two parts: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Goulding’s Trading Post.

Our first stop was the legendary Goulding’s Trading Post located just north of the Arizona-Utah border, six miles from the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

After arriving Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in mid-afternoon and obtaining information about available options for exploring this wonderland of rocks, we departed the Visitor Center at Lookout Point and started the Valley Drive, a 17-mile self-guided dirt road. The road winds past the valley’s best red rock buttes and spires, with 11 stops for photos.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is considered one of the world’s premier spots for landscape photography. The best stops for photographing the towers are the Mittens and Merrick Butte, Elephant Butte, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Camel Butte, The Hub, the Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei, Sand Springs, Artist’s Point, North Window, and The Thumb. The best times for photography are early mornings and late afternoons when the shadows lengthen and the sun brings out the reds and oranges in the buttes.

Allow at least two to three hours at the posted 10 mph. Expect to eat the valley’ orange dust, because other vehicles will kick up thick clouds of it during the dry weather that you’ll find in this high desert most of the year.

In a swirl of red dust we dropped down into the valley rim in our four-wheel-drive dinghy with guide map in hand.

The road is dusty, steep in a couple of places and rather uneven, but does not need a four-wheel-drive—the journey is suitable for the majority of family cars, and small to medium sized RVs, though the surface is perhaps not improved too much in order to increase business for the many Navajo guides and 4WD Jeep rental outfits, which wait expectantly by the visitor center.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Where God Put The West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though rough in many spots and probably impassable in wet weather, the road was easily traveled on this day.

We wound our way past the Mittens, Elephant Butte, the Three Sisters, and to John Ford’s Point—named for the famous director who made movies in Monument Valley, many of them starring John Wayne.

The weather was perfect—sunny and warm—as we continued on past Camel Butte, the Hub, and to the Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei.

The changing light and shifting shadows created an never-ending stream of views.

Continuing on around Raingod Mesa and Artist Point, we timed our drive to return to the

After photographing the amazing sunset we drove our toad east to our camping site at Cottonwood RV Park in Bluff, Utah, a day trip of 119 miles.

Worth Pondering…

So this is where God put the West.

—John Wayne

Read More

Turning Customers Into Advocates

In an earlier article, Vogel Talks RVing discussed how companies can built customer loyalty. In today’s post we expand on turning customers into advocates providing three examples from our personal experience.

As a customer I want stability—a stable relationship I can count on—and consistency. For these reasons I travel over 650 miles to Midtown RV in Penticton for RV sales and service where 62 percent of their sales are to repeat customers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
As a customer I want stability—a stable relationship I can count on—and consistency. For these reasons I travel over 650 miles to Midtown RV in Penticton for RV sales and service where 62 percent of their sales are to repeat customers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I frequent businesses where I’ve had great experiences and end my relationship with companies that do not resolve my concerns in a timely manner.

To earn and maintain my loyalty as a customer, I expect a business to provide:

  • A quality product that meets my needs or solves my problem
  • Competitive prices
  • Superior customer service
  • These expectations are the basics.

Over the past 15 years, three businesses have earned my trust and commitment:

  • Midtown RV, Penticton, British Columbia (Newmar/Airstream dealer)
  • Competition Chevrolet, Stony Plain, Alberta
  • ABC Muffler & Hitch Shop, Edmonton, Alberta (Demco Towing Products)

These successful businesses empower their staff to make their No. 1 job taking care of the customers.

As a customer I want stability—a stable relationship I can count on—and consistency. For these reasons I travel over 650 miles to Midtown RV in Penticton for RV sales and service where 62 percent of their sales are to repeat customers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
As a customer I want stability—a stable relationship I can count on—and consistency. For these reasons I travel over 650 miles to Midtown RV in Penticton for RV sales and service where 62 percent of their sales are to repeat customers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a customer I want stability—a stable relationship I can count on—and consistency. For these reasons I travel over 650 miles to Midtown RV in Penticton for RV sales and service where 62 percent of their sales are to repeat customers.

On the flip side, other businesses have failed to provide a consistent quality customer experience and I have taken my business elsewhere. These businesses lost my loyalty. If a business does not provide a quality customer experience, I’m out the door taking my business to the competition.

There are four criteria that businesses should focus on to earn loyalty from a customer. These criteria can be broken into four areas of focus. Businesses that maintain my loyalty likely have these four areas already in place. And as a bonus, have new customers come through their doors from referrals.

Trust—Trust is the first area of focus for building loyal customers. Why would I ever come back to your business if I don’t trust you? This trust is built on actions. If you promise a customer that service on their unit will be completed by Wednesday, yet it takes until Friday to get it done, that customer’s trust is tarnished.

Right to left, George and Kalvin Stayberg, Midtown RV President and Vice-President. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Right to left, George and Kalvin Stayberg, Midtown RV President and Vice-President. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another way to build trust is consistently providing quality service. This may sound like a no-brainer. Why would a dealer not provide quality service? Believe me, it happens too often, way too often. Believe me. Been there, experienced that.

To built this loyalty a business needs to know the customer, who they are, and build a good relationship with them. And do it with a smile.

Commitment—How far out of the way will a business go to please me, the customer? Hopefully, their commitment doesn’t depend on the invoice amount. Every customer must be treated with their lifetime value in mind.

Communication—Timely communication builds customer loyalty and makes for a pleasant customer experience. Quickly responding to customer questions and answering the phone on the first couple of rings is a good business practice. What are your phone hold times like? How difficult is it to talk to a live body?

Conflict Resolution—It is likely that every business will at some point need to resolve an issue or concern with a customer. A business that calmly solves an issue in a fair and reasonable manner is well on the path to retaining the customer’s loyalty.

Our Newmar Dutch Star parked at Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Our Newmar Dutch Star parked at Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adhering to these four areas will help a business grow their customer base. The principles of trust, commitment , communication, and conflict resolution may seem routine, but businesses that continually observe the basics of creating loyal customers will do just that: create a loyal customer.

Worth Pondering…

Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than they expect to get.

—Nelson Boswell

Read More

From Ecocapsule To Romotow: 5 Cool Trailers To Love

Contemporary living design, mobility, and living on the move are very important themes of our fast-moving age.

Fun, creative, and futuristic, here are five distinctly different in design and function.

Ecocapsule

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.

Packed into a compact form (it’s 14 feet 7 inches long and 7 feet 10 inches wide), 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.

BeauEr 3X

BeauEr 3X slide-out caravan
BeauEr 3X slide-out caravan

Originally launched in 2010, this tin-can shaped tourer looks like just another micro-caravan, until you put the key in and operate the telescopic sliding mechanism, which allows this trailer to slide out in both directions, tripling the interior space in just 20 seconds.

Built on an Al-Ko chassis with a polyester bodyshell, Beau claims it is also highly aerodynamic due to its smoothly curved exterior design.

The four-berth layout comprises a pair of double beds, measuring up at an ample 6 feet 3 inches x 4 feet 7 inches and 6 feet 10 inches x 4 feet 7 inches respectively.

But one thing’s for sure—if you pitch up in one of these this summer you will certainly turn heads.

Odorico Pordenone

Odorico Pordenone concept (named after an Italian late-medieval Franciscan friar and missionary explorer traveler)
Odorico Pordenone concept (named after an Italian late-medieval Franciscan friar and missionary explorer traveler)

Czech designer Jakub Novak’s Odorico Pordenone concept (named after an Italian late-medieval Franciscan friar and missionary explorer traveler) allows up to four people to travel together in a home-like environment. Novak envisioned the trailer to have aluminum walls with padding to keep the temperature stable, painted white on the inside but kept silver and given a brushed texture on the outside.

Since Novak’s concept is meant to accommodate four people, the usual lack of living space inside a trailer is addressed by building expandable wings that can pop out at the push of a button.

Safari Condo

Safari Condo Alto R Series (retractable roof)
Safari Condo Alto R Series (retractable roof)

Safari Condo teardrop trailers are lightweight and boast an aerodynamic shape increasing the ease of towing. The Alto R series incorporates an electric retractable roof providing more interior space than traditional teardrop trailers. With the rood open the Safari Condo offers a very comfortable interior height of 82 inches.

Romotow

The Romotow folds out like a Swiss Army Knife
The Romotow folds out like a Swiss Army Knife

A combination of the words ‘room to move’, the Romotow offers a contemporary mobile living design that delivers an experience in a class of its own. A radical departure from current boxy and cumbersome travel trailer designs, it folds out like a Swiss Army Knife to offer roughly 70 percent more living space than an average caravan trailer.

Features include aerodynamic and lightweight construction for increased fuel efficiency and towing stability, power assisted braking, pneumatic shocks, gyro assisted self-leveling pads and struts, and a rear mounted camera. Fit-out variations can include a sheltered BBQ deck area for entertaining and relaxing, windbreak, sliding doors, louvered windows, stylish and easy clean furniture, and more.

Worth Pondering…

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

—James Dean (1931-1955)

Read More

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Oasis RV Resort, Ehrenburg, Arizona

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia

Dick’s RV, Great Falls, Montana

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta, Alabama

La Paz County Park, Parker, Arizona

Nk’Mip RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia

Riverbend RV Park, Luling, Texas

Seawind RV Park, Riviera Beach, Texas

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

Suncrest Resort, Moses Lake, Washington

Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

Read More

A Walking Tour of Santa Fe: The City Different

To know the history of Santa Fe is to enhance your visit—the City Different is a confluence of its storied past and vibrant present.

A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing, we provided an historical perspective on Santa Fe, the City Different.

The center of it all, the Santa Fe Plaza. One glance tells you what sets this city apart—adobe architecture hose soft, rounded corners soothe the eye.

Want to orient yourself quickly? Take a trolley or walking tour with a professional guide. Or set out on your own. But remember to pace yourself. You’re at 7,000 feet here, so drink plenty of water.

Come with us as we take a short walk to see just where the fascination and enchantment began.

On the north side of the Santa Fe Plaza, the Palace of the Governors was laid out at the same time as the plaza. A fortified building, it served as residence, offices, workshops, and storerooms for the representative of the Spanish king; thus, they were called “royal houses.”

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

General Stephen Kearney stayed within these walls when he arrived with troops to claim the territory of New Mexico for the United States. The 54-inch-thick adobe walls, at that time still covered by a sod roof, furnished the quiet needed by Territorial Governor Lew Wallace to finish his novel Ben Hur.

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional  Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves.

Just west of here, by the golden clock, is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. A short stroll west takes you to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.

Head east on Palace Street and duck into Sena Plaza, a hidden placita—or courtyard—just one block from the city’s plaza and just across the street from the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral. Note the sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint.

Just west of the Palace of Governors by the golden clock is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Just west of the Palace of Governors by the golden clock is the New Mexico Museum of Art whose 8,000 piece collection emphasizes 20th-century southwestern art. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll on San Francisco Street to the graceful facade of La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe’s most historic and authentic hotel and restaurant experience. This historic, landmark hotel sits quite literally at the terminus of the Old Santa Fe Trail. 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.

La Fonda is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. Very few hotels have such roots that go back to the 17th century! Indeed, it was also the site of one of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s many marriages—this time to Conrad Hilton in 1942.

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.

The staircase in the Loretta Chapel—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The staircase in the Loretta Chapel—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you continue you’ll discover shops and open air vendors all along your stroll, with merchandise from exquisitely tooled leather boots to replicas of Kachina dolls, from Navajo blankets to ristras—festively strung wreaths of red chilis.

For the last leg of this walk, head south on Old Santa Fe Trail to the Loretto Chapel, completed in 1878. What draws the visitor is the spiral staircase inside that leads to the choir loft. The chapel’s small sized made access to the loft possible only by ladder.

When none of the local carpenters could build a staircase that wouldn’t encroach on the limited floor space, the Sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Soon a mysterious stranger arrived, looking for work, and built an elegant spiral staircase. Without presenting any bill for payment, he disappeared as suddenly as he had come. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. The identity of the builder remains unknown.

Afterwards, continue south on the Old Santa Fe Trail to East De Vargas Street and San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in America, the key site to the Barrio de Analco Historic District. Oral history holds that San Miguel Chapel was built around 1610, and it has been rebuilt and restored several times over the past 400 years.

As you continue east De Vargas Street becomes Canyon Road, once a meandering Native American trail to Pecos Pueblo. Nestled into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Canyon Road is a magical half-mile of over a hundred galleries, artist studios, clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, and gourmet restaurants.

Aptly named Museum Hill, two and a half miles south of the city’s plaza, is a day onto itself. Museum Hill offers a central destination for exploring some of the city’s finest museums and some of the world’s greatest collections of Native American art and artifacts. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and the Museum of International Folk Art are the major institutions located on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill.

Worth Pondering…
If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Read More

A Slice of Texas BBQ Style

There’s hardly a better way to discover a slice of Texas, so to speak, than with a barbecue road trip—especially one that travels through Central Texas with some of the state’s greatest smoked meats.

City Market in Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
City Market in Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the most impressive barbecue bounties you’ll travel to towns that aren’t necessarily on the way to anywhere.

Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas as designated by the Texas Legislature. It’s a small town that supports a big barbecue reputation.

Kreuz Market in Lockhart: With new Sunday hours just starting here, you can now make Kreuz Market (since 1900) part of your itinerary any day of the week. I like the weekdays when it’s rare to find a long line. The pressure of a hungry, looming crowd can make one rush an order, but pay attention to what goes on the cutting block and make sure to tell the cutter—which might be the mutton-chopped Roy Perez—if you have a preference like end cuts or fattier slices of beef. Get the shoulder clod and the pork chop along with a link of the jalapeño sausage.

Black's Barbecue
Lockhart, the official Barbecue Capital of Texas, is home to four major barbecue restaurants including award-winning Black’s Barbecue, which has been owned by the same family since 1932. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Smitty’s Market in Lockhart: It’s hard to find a better place to eat barbecue than this brick building that dates from 1924. Barbecue was first served here when it housed Kreuz Market which moved out in 1999. Smitty’s opened shortly after with a menu almost identical to Kreuz, but don’t miss the glazed pork ribs which are a popular departure. Prime rib comes off the pit at 11:00am and sells fast. Watch out for the open fires when standing in line, and be sure to leave some time to explore the historic building.

Black’s BBQ in Lockhart: With the feud between Smitty’s and Kreuz, sometimes Black’s gets lost in the mix. If you’ve forgotten about it, the billboards in every direction will remind you when you get to town. Follow them to what is consistently the best brisket in Lockhart. There are also enormous beef ribs to enjoy and some incredible smoked turkey for barbecue dabblers.

Smitty's Market
A perennial favorite of barbecue lovers is Smitty’s Market in Lockhart. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Q in Lockhart: The locals love it, but it’s usually ignored by barbecue travelers. I love the sausage, and everything here is a bargain.

City Market in Luling: There are three meats on the menu: brisket, pork spare ribs, and beef sausage. Try them all, but bring some cash. Ordering is done in the back room on the other side of the swinging doors, and don’t ask for beans. This room is only for meat, and the sides and drinks are sold at the front counter. One of my favorite bites in Texas barbecue is the sausage at City Market slathered generously with their signature sauce.

Luling Bar-B-Q in Luling: Unlike City Market across the street, this joint has a huge menu. Choose from a half dozen meats and twice as many sides.

Prause Meat Market in La Grange: If you walk in the front door, a wide glass case full of raw meat might make you wonder if you came to the right place. Enter around back like the locals and you’ll walk right through the pit room to order. Homemade sausage and the pork chops are the best options.

Prause Meat Market
For a real taste of Texas tradition, look no further than the wonderfully quirky Prause Meat Market right on one corner of the town square in La Grange. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My Texas BBQ Bucket List

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a foodie would have a Texas BBQ to do list.

Snow’s BBQ in Lexington: Being in line by 9:00 a.m. (opens at 8) will give you a good chance of having your pick of the meats. The brisket is obviously the prize, but the pork steak is a favorite of many—including Tootsie Tomanetz, the (nearly) eighty-year-old pitmaster.

Eating at Snow’s is like scaling Mount Everest: Only the hardy and fully prepared reach the summit. Snow’s is in the middle of nowhere. Furthermore, the window of opportunity is minuscule, because it is open only on Saturday mornings. On top of that, Snow’s septuagenarian guru of ’cue, Tootsie Tomanetz, cooks a limited number of briskets, chickens, pork ribs, and pork butt. When they’re gone, they’re gone. So get there early! Your reward is the most celestial barbecue in Texas—that and the knowledge that you are one of the few, the brave, who have summited Snow’s.

Southside Market in Elgin: It’s not in the original building, but this is the oldest barbecue joint in Texas still in operation. They’re famous for their sausage, or “hot guts” which aren’t as hot as they used to be. Use the hot sauce at the tables to make a pool on your tray and dip the links into it for a kick. Do the same with the great smoked chicken and the mutton ribs which are a rarity in Texas.

Luling Bar-B-Q © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Luling Bar-B-Q © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor: They open at 10:00 on Saturday morning, so don’t worry about getting here too early from Snow’s. The lines at the height of lunch can be daunting, so try to make it here before 11:00. Those who like a little heat will crave the heavy black pepper rub, but amp it up a little with a link of the house made jalapeño or chipotle sausage. A whole beef rib will be tough to tackle for single diners—it can feed a family of four with a few sides added on—but it’s one of the signature trophy cuts in Texas barbecue. Settle in and enjoy the historic building before heading down the street.

Worth Pondering…

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious barbecue. It is the source of all true art and science.

—Albert Einstein

Read More