Central Vermont: Montpelier, Burlington & Barre

Quaint to quirky, this state has it all. Vermont is predominately rural with mountains, villages, and a few small cities. From the Green Mountains to the Connecticut River on the east to Lake Champlain to the northwest, Vermont has much to attract the RVer.

The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The intense green forests are studded with colorful bursts of summer flowers. Central Vermont, from Burlington to the Montpelier area, offers many interesting and delicious attractions to RVers.

Montpelier, the smallest capital in America with a population under 8,000 people, is a charming historic town with the largest urban historic district in Vermont. It is readily accessible from I-89 which runs from the southeast corner of the state to the northwest.

The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background.

Guided tours are available free of charge. Next door to the capitol, the Vermont Historical Society Museum is a must for history buffs.

Montpelier is a walking city. The heart of the downtown is three blocks from the State House. Downtown Montpelier is a vibrant center of interesting, independently owned shops and restaurants. It is also home to the New England Culinary Institute, which operates three restaurants—NECI on Main, Dewey Cafe, and La Brioche Bakery & Café—with irresistible delights in this eclectic New England town.

The Rock of Ages granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Rock of Ages granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s plenty of beautiful countryside to see around Montpelier and a number of interesting tours nearby.

About 7 miles southeast of the state capital is Barre, known as the Granite Center of the World. Its downtown, with several prominent sculptures and granite faced buildings, reflects that heritage. Its famed quarries at the edge of town are sprawling and spectacular with an estimated 4,500-year supply of Barre Gray granite still to be quarried out of the surrounding hills.

The Rock of Ages which claims to be the world’s largest granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. Climb aboard a shuttle bus for a guided tour of the quarry and watch the process of mining granite. From behind a wire fence, gaze down at the 600-foot-deep quarry. In the quarry, workers and machines drill, split, explode, and lift massive blocks of granite. Watching steel derricks hoist the blocks from the deep quarry is quite a sight.

After the impressive quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans working on everything from large mausoleums to tombstones and small memorial markers. The precision cutting, laser etching, and other sculpting techniques are fascinating to watch.

After the Rock of AGes quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans at work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
After the Rock of AGes quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans at work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, is situated on the east side of Lake Champlain and, like Montpelier, is accessible from I-89. Burlington’s waterfront is home to parks, a walking/bike path, fine restaurants, ferry crossings, and cruise boats.

The core of this vibrant city’s downtown is the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall filled with over 100 retail shops, boutiques, cafes, and craft vendors.

The sweetest tour in town, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been making fresh, small batch chocolates on Pine Street since 1983. They offer free factory tours Monday to Friday from June to October, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; tours start on the hour and self-guided tours start at 3:00 p.m. On the weekends, free chocolate tastings are available between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Learn the flavor profiles of four different chocolates with a chance to win a free chocolate gift basket. Lake Champlain Chocolates features caramels, clusters, truffles, almond butter crunch and much more—including lots of factory seconds and free samples.

The Shelburne Museum is a unique American treasure, a sprawling complex of three dozen relocated buildings including a covered bridge, round barn, a lighthouse, and huge 220-foot dry docked paddlewheel steam-powered lake boat. Inside, the 39 galleries house an eclectic collection of art, Americana, architecture, and artifacts.

Ships, lighthouses, whole barns—you name it, it’s here. There’s so much to see that the entry ticket is valid for two days.

200 years of family tradition help make Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks the best maple syrup we've tasted. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
200 years of family tradition help make Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks the best maple syrup we’ve tasted. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This amazing collection just south of Burlington was started just over 50 years ago by Electra Havenmeyer Webb, and it just keeps on growing. Today, it covers 45 acres and 37 buildings and contains some of the best collections of Americana in the country. Kids love the big stuff, like the 220-foot steamship. Serious collectors gravitate to the weathervanes, toys, and tools.

Worth Pondering…

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont
—lyrics by John M. Blackburn; music by Karl Suessdorf; recorded by Ella Fitzerald, Jo Stafford, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and others

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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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Bardstown: Bourbon, History & Much More

If you like visiting warm, welcoming small towns with beautiful old buildings and colorful history, you’ll love Bardstown, Kentucky. And if you favor bourbon, that’s an added bonus.

The Old Talbott Tavern had its share of famous guests over the years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Old Talbott Tavern had its share of famous guests over the years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of Bardstown’s most prominent buildings is the Old Talbott Tavern, the oldest stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains, dating to 1779. The tavern has had its share of famous guests over the years, including Abraham Lincoln (as a young boy), Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, French King Louis Philippe, legendary outlaw Jesse James and many others. In fact, legend has it that bullet holes found in one of the rooms were left behind by James, although some discount those claims (Frank and Jesse James made a number of trips to Bardstown during their heyday, fueling a distinct connection to the town).

If the walls could talk, they would tell of the regular meetings of a group of volunteers known as the Bardstown Mustangs, who left Kentucky to fight in the war of Texas independence, all but one of them dying in the massacre at Goliad.

Federal Hill has gained worldwide fame as My Old Kentucky Home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Federal Hill has gained worldwide fame as My Old Kentucky Home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The walls would tell of how, in 1862, the tavern was taken over for two weeks by Confederate troops, who used it as a staging area for the bloody battle of Perryville.

The Tavern still operates as an inn and restaurant with rooms named in honor of some of its more notable guests and a menu offering popular Kentucky dishes like the Hot Brown, burgoo stew, and Southern fried chicken.

Bardstown has about 200 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the two most famous are Wickland and Federal Hill.

Wickland, generally regarded as one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the state, was the home of three 19th-century governors, all from the same family.

It’s Federal Hill, however, that has gained worldwide fame as, legend has it, the subject of composer Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home. It was here in 1852 that Foster allegedly traveled to visit his cousin, Judge John Rowan, and was so taken by the beauty of the house and its 450 acres that he tapped out an elegy on his flute. True story or not, My Old Kentucky Home became the official song of the commonwealth, and Federal Hill became the My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Central Kentucky is the birthplace of America’s native spirit, and Bardstown can legitimately lay claim to being the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” At one time, the area was home to as many as 22 distilleries, producing bourbons said to “have a bite that would blow your ears off” and were supposedly as harsh as the outlaws and desperados they fueled.

Today, only five of those distilleries remain around Bardstown: Barton’s 1792, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and the recently opened Willet Distillery across the road from Heaven Hill.

Heaven Hill is America’s largest independent family-owned distillery and the second-largest holder of aging bourbon whiskey in the United States. Visitors can tour the impressive Bourbon Heritage Center and sample Heaven Hill’s best in a tasting room, shaped like a barrel.

Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside Bardstown are two of the world’s most famous distilleries, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. Beam, the world’s largest bourbon distiller, specializes in the production of handcrafted small-batch bourbons. It sits amid gorgeous hills in a tableau rivaling anything Napa or Sonoma has to offer.

Maker’s Mark, in Loretto, just south of Bardstown, is a collection of distinctive red and black buildings in a rustic setting on picturesque Hardin’s Creek. Here, in the nation’s oldest working distillery on its original site (since 1805), you can dip your own bottle in Maker’s signature red wax.

Just a 30-minute drive from Louisville and an hour from Lexington, Bardstown, whose motto is “There’s nothing small about this small town,” is a genuine slice of Americana — perfect for travelers interested in antiques, country inns, history and bourbon.

Worth Pondering…

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,

Weep no more, my lady,

Oh! Weep no more to-day!

We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,

For the old Kentucky Home far away.

—Words and music by Stephen Collins Foster, 1853

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Thor Motor Coach Introduces Pet-Friendly Class A Motorhomes

Elkhart, Indiana-based Thor Motor Coach introduces the 2016 A.C.E., Hurricane, and Windsport Class A motorhomes.

2016 A.C.E.

2016 Thor Motor Coach A.C.E.
2016 Thor Motor Coach A.C.E.

The A.C.E. continues to evolve this year. Along with the distinctive front brow, which eliminates distracting sunlight and heat, Thor Motor Coach incorporates a new automotive-style front cap and integrated LED driving lights into the coach, according to a company news release.

New inside the cockpit of the A.C.E. is the screen mirroring technology in the touchscreen dash radio that allows you to use your own GPS navigation from your tablet or smart phone.

Luxury interiors are included in all A.C.E. motorhomes featuring the Better Homes and Gardens RV Fabric Collection.

The 2016 A.C.E. is available in six floor plans with the exterior length ranging from 28 feet 8 inches to 31 feet 5 inches.

Specifications common to all models include:

  • Chassis: Ford F-53
  • Engine: 6.8L V10 362 HP 457 lb-ft torque
  • GCWR: 23,000 pounds
  • Exterior Height: 12 feet 2 inches
  • Exterior Width: 99 inches
  • Interior Height: 7 feet
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 gallons
  • LPG Tank Capacity: 88 pounds
  • Fresh Water Tank Capacity: 50 gallons

2016 Hurricane and Windsport

2016 Thor Motor Coach Windsport
2016 Thor Motor Coach Windsport

The 2016 Hurricane and Windsport brands have new standard upgrades adding extra convenience for customers.

Thor Motor Coach knows how important your four-legged friends are and want to keep them safe and close, according to the release. That is why they placed the Pet-Link Multi-Purpose Tie-Down in all Hurricane and Windsport motorhomes. It has always received rave reviews from A.C.E. owners and Thor Motor Coach wanted to expand their pet-friendly philosophy to more brands.

The Pet-Link allows you to keep your pets within plain view while you’re relaxing outside. You can also use it to lock down your bike while you’re away for the day.

Also new this model year is the blank tank flush system, which rinses the blank tank clean prior to dumping the holding tanks.

Select models feature an 11-cubic-foot residential refrigerator with an ice-maker and inverter, plus auto-generator start to ensure the batteries will stay charged.

All floor plans have a master bedroom featuring a premium Denver Mattress bed and a new Cotton Cloud mattress in the hide-away overhead bunk.

2016 Thor Motor Coach Hurricane
2016 Thor Motor Coach Hurricane

Details

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach was formed when Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International strategically merged in late 2010. For over 23 years Damon and Four Winds have been building many of the most recognized brands of motorhomes. Thor Motor Coach manufactures Class A Front Engine Diesel motorhomes (Serrano and Avanti), Class A Diesel Pusher motorhomes (Astoria, Tuscany, and Palazzo), Class A Gas motorhomes (A.C.E., Hurricane, Daybreak, Windsport, Challenger, and Outlaw), and Class C motorhomes (Four Winds, Chateau, Siesta, Siesta Sprinter, Citation, and Citation Sprinter).

Thor Motor Coach is a subsidiary of Thor Industries, Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

Address: 701 County Road 15, PO Box 1486, Elkhart, Indiana 46516

Phone: (800) 860-5658

Website: www.thormotorcoach.com

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

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Santa Fe: The City Different

There is no place like Santa Fe.

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

You’ve never seen anything like this before. A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter.

Santa Fe is the most exotic place you can visit without crossing an ocean. The secret is in its history, the blending of three cultures—Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo.

Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of Santa Fe is a long and rich one. Occupied for many centuries by Pueblo Indians, the Spanish conquistador Coronado claimed this land for Spain in 1540. Recaptured by the Pueblo Indians for over a century, the Spanish again took over the region in 1692 and Santa Fe developed and grew. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in the mid 1800s and with the advent of the Santa Fe Trail, American traders, trappers, and pioneers began to settle in the area.

In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado charged north from Mexico with 300 soldiers in search of the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. What he found was Zuni Pueblo, which he promptly conquered. Thus began some 200 years of alternating strife and precarious calm between the two cultures, a time marked by repeated Pueblo revolts that drove the Spanish from the area only to see them return with more soldiers and repressive measures. By the mid 1700s there existed a greater respect between the two peoples. Catholic and native religions existed side by side and the Spaniards and Pueblo people fought together against the encroaching French and Pawnees.

The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Spanish brought irrigation in the form of acequias—canals that still functions today—farms, cattle, sheep, and orchards. They practiced silver and goldsmithing, woodworking and weaving—crafts carried on today by their descendants. And in 1610, a decade before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they laid out the Santa Fe Plaza and began building the Palace of Governors. Today this is the oldest continuously occupied building in the US.

In 1821, the year that Mexico celebrated its independence from Spain, American trader William Becknell drove a wagon laden with goods into Santa Fe, making it the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. Americans traders and settlers soon entered the area. One of the most famous was Kit Carson who for 42 years called Taos his home.

The US was eying the territory for western expansion and in 1846, President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico. All of New Mexico was vanquished—bloodlessly—by 1,600 soldiers under the command of General Stephen Watts Kearney.

The influx of artists was the finishing stroke. What drew them here? Everywhere you look there’s a painting awaiting a canvas. Joseph Henry Sharp is usually given credit for starting the art boom who in 1883 spent the summer painting in Laos. Other artists and writers filtered into Santa Fe-Taos area including Will Shuster, Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, Mary Austin, and the woman perhaps most associated with New Mexico art, Georgia O’Keefe.

La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. The 400 year-old streets now glitter with galleries, shops, and restaurants.

There is so much to do and see that it is impossible to do it all in a few days or even in a few weeks.

Walking the streets of this charming city, evidence of the early Spanish influence is apparent in the historic missions and houses. But where to start?

And that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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Grand Design Introduces Imagine Lightweight Travel Trailer Series

Middlebury, Indiana-based Grand Design Recreational Vehicle Company announces the introduction of its lightweight travel trailers.

Grand Design Introduces Imagine Lightweight Travel Trailer Series
Grand Design Introduces Imagine Lightweight Travel Trailer Series

The Imagine travel trailer series is the follow up to the firm’s Reflection travel trailers and fifth wheels, flagship Solitude extended stay fifth wheels, and popular Momentum toy haulers.

“Following the bar set by these brands, Imagine stays true to the company’s commitment of focusing on the customer to steer design and fuel innovation,” said General Manager Micah Staley.

With floor plans starting well under 6,000 pounds, Imagine travel trailers hit the towing sweet spot of today’s medium duty trucks and SUVs, according to a company news release.

“We wanted Imagine to not only hit the weight goals, but do it without the compromise that so many feel forced to in the pursuit of lighter weight. Industry leading tank capacities, 30-by-36-inch walk in shower, 60-by-80-inch queen beds, and 81-inch interior radius ceilings are just a few of the areas where customers will no longer have to sacrifice,” said Staley.

“The early buzz from dealers and customers point to another home run for Grand Design.”

Imagine travel trailers debut on dealers’ lots the first week of August.

Details

Grand Design Recreational Vehicle Company

Grand Design Corp-Logo-blackGrand Design RV is a privately owned company founded by close friends Don Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech (each having over 25 years of experience in the RV industry).

Their careers have been devoted to leading some of the most successful companies in the RV industry, being part of the ownership team that led Keystone RV Company to be the largest travel trailer and fifth wheel company in the world.

Grand Design RV Company has over 400,000 square feet of manufacturing facilities located on 67 acres in the rural community of Middlebury, Indiana.

Address: 11333 County Road 2, Middlebury, IN 46540

Phone: (574) 825-8000

Website: www.granddesignrv.com

Worth Pondering…

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

—Arthur Ashe

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Historic Triangle: 400 Years & Counting

Traveling through America the past is often hidden, masked by strip malls and suburban sprawl. However, restoration and reconstruction projects are occurring in cities and towns across the nation to preserve our past for future generations.

Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestowne Settlement. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestowne Settlement. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Historic Triangle is formed by Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield, three cities that were instrumental in America’s development, freedom, and democracy.

On May 14, 1607, the ships sent by the Virginia Company of London, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, landed at Jamestown Island with 104 passengers—all men and boys. They began building America’s first permanent English settlement, predating Plymouth in Massachusetts by 13 years.

Decimated by disease, famine, and Indian attacks, less than half of them survived the first year. However, with more settlers arriving every year and the establishment of their first cash crop, the tiny settlement began to flourish.

Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestowne Settlement. Located about a mile from the original site, Jamestowne Settlement is 10 minutes from Williamsburg, Jamestown’s successor as capital of the Virginia colony.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum, a colonial American city on the verge of war. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum, a colonial American city on the verge of war. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your visit to Jamestown Settlement begins with an introductory film that presents an overview of Jamestown’s origins in England and the early years of the colony. Exhibition galleries chronicle the nation’s pre-17th-century beginnings in Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English, and western central African cultures.

Leaving the indoor exhibits, visitors arrive at the Powhatan Indian village where costumed interpreters discuss and demonstrate the Powhatan way of life. From the Indian village, a path leads to a pier where the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discover are docked. Visitors can talk with costumed interpreters about the four-and-a-half month voyage from England.

Triangular Fort James is a recreation of the one constructed by the Jamestown colonist on their arrival in 1607. Inside the wooden stockade are wattle-and-daub structures and thatched roofs representing Jamestown’s earliest buildings including dwellings, a church, a storehouse, and an armory.

More settlements followed and it was in Williamsburg that the seeds of revolution were sown by the intellectual and independent thinkers who flocked to the city.

Explore Yorktown Battlefiedl, the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Explore Yorktown Battlefiedl, the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Become a resident of a city on the verge of war—or in the midst of it—as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg. Encounter townspeople on their own soil as they live through a time of change and uncertainty. Buzzing with political discussion and dispute, the city comes alive. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Many of the buildings, like the Courthouse, Magazine, and Wetherburn’s Tavern, have stood in Williamsburg since the 18th century. Others, like the Capitol and Governor’s Palace, have been reconstructed on their original foundations. Some of the buildings are used as private residences and offices. Flags out front indicate areas open to guests.

The port city of Yorktown forms the third point of the Historic Triangle, famous for its decisive battle and end to the Revolutionary War.

As you stroll through historic Yorktown, let the past envelop you as you immerse yourself in 300 years of history. Here you can experience many 18th century homes, visit the location where the surrender terms for the Battle of Yorktown were negotiated or the home of the Virginia militia with its walls still bearing the scars of cannonballs fired upon the village in 1781. Explore the battlefields, fortifications, and historic buildings where American independence was won.

The 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects Jamestowne Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects Jamestowne Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans won their independence here during the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781, when British troops surrendered to General George Washington and his French allies.

Today, Yorktown Battlefield is joined by the scenic Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown and is located just 12 miles east of Williamsburg.

Worth Pondering…

On the whole, I find nothing anywhere else…which Virginia need envy.

—Thomas Jefferson

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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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From Modern-day Ark To Futuristic Helicopter: 5 Cool Trailers To Love

Mobility and living on the move are important themes in today’s fast-moving world.

Fun, creative, and futuristic, here are five revolutionary RV models that are sure to turn heads.

Blue Eye Noah

Blue Eye Noah exterior
Blue Eye Noah exterior

This revolutionary RV model is considered as a modern-day Ark constructed for those “Blue-eyed Noahs” with full protections and best facilities, it’s an ultimate sanctuary more than the pleasure road trips in leisure days.

An innovative design for multiple uses—recreational mobile home for fun, safety, and survival. Optional packages will give this RV multi-function adaptability to serve as a boat house, ice-fishing house, snowmobile house, and even to meet other challenging landscapes.

Innovan 

The efficient and flexible Innovan slide-on truck camper
The efficient and flexible Innovan slide-on truck camper

The efficient and flexible Innovan slide-on truck camper and the Innovan XC off-road trailer caravan are really quite different from anything else on the market.

The Innovan can be fully setup including awning is less than 30 seconds. It opens out like a Swiss Army Knife. When configured for travel, the aerodynamic shape of the camper minimizes wind drag and the cross-wind problems usually associated with campers and vans. Its light weight means that when attached to a four wheel drive, it can go just about anywhere.

This space-efficient caravan is designed to seamlessly slide onto the back of a truck and comes with a whopping 13 storage compartments for all your outdoor gear. It weighs 1,100 pounds and boasts a queen-size bed, pull-out dining area, and air conditioning, among a slew of other sweet features.

SylvanSport GO

Lightweight and easy to manage, the SylvanSport GO can be pulled by even the smallest of cars.
Lightweight and easy to manage, the SylvanSport GO can be pulled by even the smallest of cars.

Billed as “Mobile Adventure Gear” rather than a trailer, the Sylvan Sport Go is an 840-pound pop-up trailer that can carry extra gear and outdoor equipment such as canoes and trailers and can be towed by a small car.

To complement its GO trailer line, SylvanSport has recently introduced the GO-Easy adventure trailer.

Bufalino

Bufalino Camper
Bufalino Camper

German industrial designer Cornelius Comanns has converted the existing Piaggio APE 50 three-wheeled delivery vehicle, a cheap, and fuel efficient platform, into a small camper, called the Bufalino.

It is a small camper which is equipped to meet the basic needs of one person. The concept behind the project is to offer absolute flexibility during periods of travel.

Bufalino encourages users to explore the surrounding off beaten tracks. Meanwhile the furnished interior consisting of a bed, two seating units, a cooking zone, a basin, storage space, a water tank, and a refrigerator offers the comforts of a home.

Monopod 660

Out of this world: the Monopod 660 is the first ever caravan from IH Leisure
Out of this world: the Monopod 660 is the first ever caravan from IH Leisure

Is it a spaceship on wheels? Is it a futuristic helicopter?

A wildly futuristic space-age vehicle, the Monopod 660 is a high-end luxury caravan with an extraordinary striking look. The name derives from the one piece monocoque body shell, a design technique taken from the automotive industry which allows stresses and strains on the vehicle to be carried by the outer skin.

The front section is reminiscent of a helicopter with its slanted separate windows and curved front, while the design allows for a pure shape with few visible joins.

Inside, the Monopod 660 feels like stepping into a boutique hotel from another age, with warm contrasting tones and rich woods. The Truma blown air heating system is used throughout, while the lounge area is large and well appointed with comfortable foam back rests.

Worth Pondering…

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.

—Frank Lloyd Wright

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Marietta: Ohio’s First City & Historic River Town

Ever since the 1882 arrival of Marquis de Lafayette, widely considered to be Marietta, Ohio’s first tourist, this charming river town has been rolling out the welcome mat for visitors.

Take an escorted tour of the W. P. Snyder Jr., a 1918 steam-powered "pool-type" stern-wheeled towboat. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take an escorted tour of the W. P. Snyder Jr., a 1918 steam-powered “pool-type” stern-wheeled towboat. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its outstanding museums, river cruises, and historic attractions, it’s easy to understand why it is such a popular destination for travelers.

Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, it’s not surprising that Marietta has a strong river heritage. It also has a prominent place in Ohio history as both the state’s and the Northwest Territory’s first organized permanent settlement, founded in 1788. It was once considered the “Gateway to the West” for travelers from the East seeking land and new opportunities.

Glance at what this lovely river town offers with a narrated 90-minute trolley tour, which meanders past numerous landmarks and heritage sites. Tours depart from the Levee House Cafe on the corner of Ohio and Second streets from July through October. While a great place for lunch or dinner, the structure also has historical significance. Built in 1826 for a dry goods merchant, it later became a hotel, then a tavern, and today is the town’s only remaining riverfront building.

Schafer Leather Store was established in 1867 and has progressed from the local harness shop to a unique, diversified store offering a variety of quality merchandise. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Schafer Leather Store was established in 1867 and has progressed from the local harness shop to a unique, diversified store offering a variety of quality merchandise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a stroll across the Harmar Pedestrian, an old B&O Railroad bridge over the Muskingum River that links the downtown shopping area with Historic Harmar Village. This where Fort Harmar was established in 1785 as a garrison for US soldiers. Today it’s a neighborhood of brick streets (seven miles of original brick street—more than any other Ohio town) and quaint buildings housing crafts and antique shops, and several museums.

Stop by the memory-laden Marietta Soda Museum and view a fun collection of vintage soda-related items including soda machines, coolers, and advertising signs and gimmicks. Sit at a 1950s soda fountain and order a hot dog, a malt, or chocolate-cherry Coke.

Complete your trip down nostalgia lane with a browse through the Children’s Toy and Doll Museum a few steps away. Located in a restored 1889 Queen Anne style home, the museum hosts an impressive collection of antique dolls and vintage toys from around the world. Highlights include a reproduction carousel horse and Circus Room featuring dioramas and circus-related miniatures including animals, tents, and circus trains.

For over 65 years, Mahone Tire Service has served the entire Mid Ohio Valley with the best tires and tire services. © Rex Vogel, all rights
For over 65 years, Mahone Tire Service has served the entire Mid Ohio Valley with the best tires and tire services. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Head back across the river and stroll Front Street. Boutique-style shops are filled with artisan jewelry, collectibles, antiques, quilts and fabrics, confections, furnishings, gifts, fine clothing, and craft brews.

The aroma of craftsmanship permeates a leather goods store that has been in operation since 1867. Yes, you can still haggle over a harness for your buckboard. Schafer Leather Store has progressed from the local harness shop to a unique, diversified store offering a variety of quality merchandise including, jewelry, handbags, wallets, belts, men’s and ladies’ clothing, hats, buckles, bolo ties, and over 3,000 pairs of men’s, ladies’, and children’s boots.

The fascinating story of the birth and growth of Marietta, Ohio’s first city, is told in two outstanding museums, Campus Martius and the Ohio River Museum. Both will immerse you in the days when America’s rivers were her highways.

The Campus Martius Museum preserves the history of America’s migration west, its earliest native inhabitants, and Marietta’s pioneers. The museum named for the fort was built on the site in 1788 by the Ohio Company of Associates was erected over the Rufus Putnam House. The Ohio Company Land Office, the oldest known building in Ohio, was also moved to the museum site.

The boutique-style shops on Front Street are filled with artisan jewelry, collectibles, antiques, quilts and fabrics, confections, furnishings, gifts, fine clothing, and craft brews.  © Rex Vogel, all rights
The boutique-style shops on Front Street are filled with artisan jewelry, collectibles, antiques, quilts and fabrics, confections, furnishings, gifts, fine clothing, and craft brews. © Rex Vogel, all rights

The Ohio River Museum consists of three exhibit buildings, the first chronicling the origins and the rich lore of the area’s waterways. The history of the steamboat on the Ohio River system is featured in the second building, along with a video presentation on river steamboats. The last building features displays about boat building and tool and equipment from the steamboat era. Take an escorted tour of the W. P. Snyder Jr., a 1918 steam-powered “pool-type” stern-wheeled towboat.

After your museum visit, enjoy a 90-minute scenic cruise on the Ohio River aboard the Valley Gem, a working sternwheeler docked next door to the Ohio River Museum. What better way to fully appreciate a true river town than to see it from the river?

Worth Pondering…

I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.

—William Shakespeare

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