15 Bad Camping Decisions

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

Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground.

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…
You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.
—Yogi Berra

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America’s Best Campgrounds & RV Parks For Family Fun

RV camping can fill our lives with great memories of outdoor adventures.

A top rated RV resort, Lake Osprey RV Park is located on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A top rated RV resort, Lake Osprey RV Park is located on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We all want our camping trips and RV travels to be enjoyable and fun for the entire family.

Numerous factors can determine the outcome of a camping trip. Factors that we can control include campground choice, route we take to get there, and when to travel.

A key factor in planning any vacation is the RV park or campgrounds. Choosing an RV park sight unseen can be like playing the lottery. Many parks and resorts feature a variety of amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for all ages enabling families to enjoy quality time together. But not all RV parks and campgrounds are created equal and no park is perfect for everyone.

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

A top rated RV park, Columbia Sun RV Resort is located in the Ti-Cities at Kennewick, Washington. © Rex Vogel, all rights
A top rated RV park, Columbia Sun RV Resort is located in the Ti-Cities at Kennewick, Washington. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the GuestRated eight superstar RV parks and campgrounds along with a comparative rating from Good Sam:

Cherry Hill Park, College Park, Maryland: The closest RV and Camping Park near the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9.5/10*/9.5)

Lake George RV Park, Lake George, New York: A beautiful resort in New York’s Lake George Adirondack Region. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

Mountain Vista Campground, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania: An easy drive from the George Washington Bridge in New York, and has a beautiful Pocono Mountain location close to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/10*/10)

A top rated RV park, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort is located in the Texas Hill Country at Kerrville. © Rex Vogel, all
A top rated RV park, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort is located in the Texas Hill Country at Kerrville. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Ocean Lakes Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: The largest campground on the East Coast and enjoys one mile of oceanfront beach. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

Pioneer Campground, Muncy Valley, Pennsylvania: The campground has 80 mountain top acres at a 2,000 ft elevation offering scenic outlooks in a wooded setting. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/9*/9.5)

Red Apple Campground, Kennebunkport, Maine

This campsite enjoys a grassy, well manicured setting with lovely flower gardens. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/10*/10)

Sunny Brook RV Resort, South Haven, Michigan: Just minutes from Lake Michigan, the Sunny Brook RV Resort has 65 acres along the sandy shore of a 5+ acre lake. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

The Vineyards Campground & Cabins, Grapevine, Texas: Located along the shores of Grapevine Lake, the Vineyards Campground offers both lakefront and forest views. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9.5/8.5*/10)

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

Worth Pondering…

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.

—Franklin P. Adams

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Using Campgrounds As Base Camps For Annual Festivals

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

Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended RV Park: Mountain View Camping, Calgary, Alberta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—Frank Herbert

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Bourbon Tourism Booming in Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—Frederick Booker Noe II

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Junction: Texas Hill Country Hospitality Starts Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

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

—Elmer Kelto

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Greenville: Upcountry South Carolina Delight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama

Lazydays RV Resort, Seffner, Florida

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

Nk’Mip RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia

Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro, Massachusetts

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California

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

Worth Pondering…

In the end, we only conserve what we love.

We only love what we understand.

We will understand what we are taught.

—Baba Dioum, Sengalese poet

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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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Must-ask Questions During RV Park Check-in

It’s the end of a long day of RV travel as you finally exit the Interstate and drive along the entrance road into your RV park destination.

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a long sigh of relief as you anticipate a quick check-in process. You can already visualize settling into your site, hooking up the utilities, extending the slides, and kicking back and relaxing with a cool one.

But what happens when you walk into the office? Are you greeted warmly and treated in a friendly manner? Are the office staff approachable, friendly, and helpful?

The importance of first impression simply cannot be overstated. Once you’re all signed in, have your park map in hand, and headed to your site, you begin seeing this new and unfamiliar campground through either the lens of a good feeling, which tends to make everything look just a bit better; or through the more critical lens of a less-than-welcome feeling derived from the sign-in process. You will begin to see the park in either a more or less favorable light. But I digress.

Do you really want to whiz through check-in process paying mere lip service to the blah, blah, blah as the office staff attempts to give you pertinent information about your new designation and review the 19 or so rules.

During check-in the office staff will ask you the standard questions.

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How many in your party?

Any pets?

Do you have a second vehicle?

Whether you are overnighting, camping for the weekend or an extended period of time, there are questions you must ask during the RV park check in process. Planning ahead and asking the right questions may save your life or the life of a family member.

In addition asking specific questions will ease the transition to your new campground and community.

What county am I in?

You need to know the county to be alert of dangerous weather. Watching the nightly news or weather channel does you no good if you don’t know where you are.

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

Where is the closest hospital/emergency care?

A medical emergency requiring a hospital or medi-center can happen at any hour, day or night.

Do you have a storm shelter? If not, where is the nearest one?

This is especially important when traveling in the spring and early summer in Tornado Alley but something you should always know. You may need to drive to a local community center or fire department. Planning ahead can save your life.

In the event you travel with pets, you may wish to know the location and phone number of the nearest vet.

Now that you have the information you need to handle emergency/medical situations you hope never happen, there may be addition questions to ask.

Where is the nearest Walmart/major grocery store?

Where is the nearest pharmacy?

End of the day at Van Horne KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
End of the day at Van Horne KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you have laundry facilities? If not, where is the closest clean Laundromat? Unless your RV is equipped with a washer/dryer, you will probably need this service at some point.

Is there a local farmers market?

Can you recommend a local restaurant?

Taking several minutes to ask the right questions just might save your life or the life of a family member. Be safe out there!

Now go get settled in your site and relax a bit.

Useful Websites

What County Am I In?: www.whatcountyamiin.com

US Hospital Finder: www.ushospitalfinder.com

Tornado Central: www.weather.com/storms/tornado

Find a Laundry: www.findalaundry.org

Walmart Store Locator: www.mobile.walmart.com/location/find

Worth Pondering…

God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

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Redding For An Outdoor Adventure

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

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

Cradled by Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, Redding has 300+ sunny days per year. It’s a great place to escape the chill of spring and the gray days of winter, too.

Redding is also home to the famous Sundial Bridge, world-class fishing, and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails for all abilities. Head out on a day-trip to see the bubbling mud pots and boiling lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park, or get refreshed by the waterfall at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. This 129-foot gusher is considered one of the most beautiful in the state.

Redding, an old train town named for a California & Oregon Railroad land agent, is the largest city in the Shasta Cascade region of Northern California. Redding has built a national reputation as an outdoors destination around it trail system, so much so that the National Trails Association is headquartered here. The Sacramento River Trail is paved along both sides of California’s largest waterway and the Sacramento River Rail Trail follows a course that was touted as “the road of a thousand wonders” when it was built in 1888.

Redding brags that it’s the “Second Sunniest City in the U.S.,” with 300-plus clear days a year. From the end of May to early September, families can cool off at WaterWorks Park with a trio of waterslides, action rides, and a lazy river.

Sacramento River looking west from the Sundial Bridge toward Klamath Mountains and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sacramento River looking west from the Sundial Bridge toward Klamath Mountains and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area’s wealth of outdoor activities include Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Shasta Lake, and Lake Shasta Caverns.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a 300-acre campus along the banks of the Sacramento River.

Gateway to the city’s 220-mile trail system , the Park features a botanical garden, natural history and science museum, and exploration center in the guise of a traditional forest camp. The 300-acre complex is tied together by Redding’s jewel, the Sundial Bridge that was the first American project by celebrated Spanish bridge architect Santiago Calatrava. The supporting pylon and curving, translucent deck perform as the world’s largest sundial.

Eight miles west of Redding, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is located at the juncture of the Klamath Mountain range and the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley, making it home to a special collection of plant and animal life, and year-round beauty. The park features Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta Bally mountain (6,209 feet), and numerous waterfalls, providing outdoor enthusiasts opportunities for water recreation, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Lake-based recreation is popular.

Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake near the Northwesr Entrance Station. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake near the Northwesr Entrance Station. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Redding is the jumping off point for the spectacular lunar landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The park boasts incredible mountain scenery reminiscent of Yosemite as well as fascinating thermal wonders similar to Yellowstone with just a small fraction of the visitors. Lassen features three of the four different types of geothermal features including steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs; all four types of volcanoes (shield, plug dome, cinder cone, and composite); and all types of naturally occurring lakes.

The focal point of the park is 10,457-foot Mt. Lassen, one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes and the southern-most peak in the Cascade range. Most of the park’s major attractions are along the 29-mile link in State Route 89 that encircles the peak’s east side.

Planning a visit? Surrounded by pristine mountains, lakes, and rivers, Redding offers a wide range of RV parks and campgrounds including Green Acres RV Park, Marina RV Park, Premier RV Park, Redding RV Park, and Win-River Resort.

Our site at JGW RV Park backed onto the Sacramento River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Our site at JGW RV Park backed onto the Sacramento River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our home base while touring the Redding area was JGW RV Park, a big-rig friendly resort located 9 miles south of Redding on the Sacramento River. This is a beautiful 5-star RV park with water, sewer, and 30/50-amp electric service centrally located. The majority of pull-through sites are back-to-back and side-to side.

There was no cable TV; however, we were able to obtain a satellite signal between trees and pick up numerous local stations on the antenna. Our site backed onto the Sacramento River. Interior roads are paved and in good condition with concrete pads. Strength of the Wi-Fi signal varied throughout the park during our stay in November 2014. It was inconsistent and at times inadequate from our river front site.

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

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