5 Things I Learned While RVing The American South

The American South has a mixed reputation in U.S. popular culture: it’s home to sweet tea, gravy and biscuits, country music and the blues, barbecue and soul food, friendly and helpful people, and beautiful and diverse landscapes.

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

The first time we visited the South was in 1986 on a working road trip across the U.S. We found an incredible region of helpful people, a countryside dotted with rolling hills, farms, and forests, and hearty food rich in flavor. From Charleston to New Orleans and Nashville to Mobile and everything in between, the South was extraordinary.

During the past 10 years we have further explored the region. There is prodigious variety here, a region of many impressions.

The food will make you happy

Food plays a central role in Southern life and is rich in both flavor and diversity. Each region has its own specialties—barbecue in Memphis and North Carolina, Creole and Cajun food in Louisiana, seafood along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, soul food in the Low Country, and fried chicken and gravy most anywhere in the region. And there’s Sweet Potato Pie, Goo Goo Clusters, and pecan pie, all Southern traditions.

Many picture Southern food as greasy, fried, and heavy fare. While much of it is hearty, the richness in flavor and variety is outstanding. There is something for everyone, and if you go hungry while visiting, it is your own fault.

I could spend a lifetime eating my way through the South. (Mental note to future self: Do that.)

Café Des Amis in historic downtown Breaux Bridge, Louisiana,  hosts a world famous Zydeco Breakfast every Saturday morning and a spectacular Sunday brunch served all day. Fuel up on beignets or Orielle de Cochon, Zydeco or Big Hat omelets, Eggs Des Amis or Eggs Begnaud, sweet potato pancakes or Couche Couche before hitting the dance floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Café Des Amis in historic downtown Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, hosts a world famous Zydeco Breakfast every Saturday morning and a spectacular Sunday brunch served all day. Fuel up on beignets or Orielle de Cochon, Zydeco or Big Hat omelets, Eggs Des Amis or Eggs Begnaud, sweet potato pancakes or Couche Couche before hitting the dance floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Music makes the region go ’round

Music is a way of life here. The sound of live music fills the air everywhere. Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans are famous music haunts, but even the tiniest towns throughout the South have robust live music scenes. From jazz to country to blues to bluegrass, there’s a music soul to this region. One can dance, jam, and sing the night away.

The people really are friendly 

There’s a common belief that the South is home to the friendliest people in the country. And along with Texans and small-town America they probably are. They are cheerful, talkative, and incredibly helpful. Strangers wave hello, inquire about your day, and generally go the extra mile to make visitors feel welcome. The folks here have hospitality down to an art.

Bye, Ya’ll come back now! Ya hear?

The landscape is stunning

The Southern landscape is beautiful and diverse. The Smoky Mountains are a vast, dense forest filled with inviting rivers, lakes, and trails. The Louisiana bayou is haunting with moss-covered trees and eerie calm. The hills of Appalachia stretch for wooded miles and the Mississippi Delta, with its swamps and marshes is gorgeous. And the beaches of the Florida Panhandle the Alabama Gulf Coast are so white they sparkle.

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To understand The South, you have to understand its past

As a student of history, I was excited to explore the area’s colonial cities and Civil War sites. Cities like New Orleans, Vicksburg, Savannah, Memphis, Pensacola, St. Augustine, Mobile, and Charleston helped shape the country—and their history and influence are important to the story of America.

It was in these cities that many American cultural and political leaders were born, the Civil War began, battles were won and lost, and the rise and fall of slavery was sown. Voodoo, alligators, wild horses, African culture, and the wealthiest families in the United States are all part of the history of the Golden Isles of Georgia. These cities and their history help explain a lot about Southern pride and culture.

I love the area more with each visit. It’s one of the most culturally rich areas in the country. There’s a reason why its cities are booming.

South Carolina Low Country near Beaufort. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
South Carolina Low Country near Beaufort. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go visit the region, get out of the cities, travel through the mountains, and find your way into the small towns. You’ll discover friendly people, heavenly food, amazing music, and an appreciation for a slow pace of life.

Worth Pondering…

Y’all Come Back Saloon
She played tambourine with a silver jingle
And she must have known the words to at least a million tunes
But the one most requested by the man she knew as cowboy
Was the late night benediction at the y’all come back saloon

—written by Sharon Vaughn and recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys

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5 Must-See Stops on a Road Trip Across America

Every RVer’s bucket list should include at least one road trip across America.

Remember the Alamo! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Remember the Alamo! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to make it extra memorable? Consider stopping at one—or all—of these must-see places along the way.

The Alamo

One hundred seventy-nine years ago The Alamo was the site of a pivotal moment in the history of the Texas Revolution where 250 or so Texian and Tejano defenders held off an estimated 1,500 Mexican soldiers for 13 days. The Alamo is remembered as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds—a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.

If you travel to San Antonio to take in The Alamo, you’ll almost certainly visit the River Walk. They’re just a couple blocks apart, connected by an “alley” with waterfalls, snazzy shops, and lush gardens.

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

Route 66

No matter where you decide to go on your road trip, a stop along the historic Route 66 is absolutely mandatory. Nicknamed Main Street of America and the Mother Road, the famous highway holds a special place in American consciousness and evokes images of simpler times, mom and pop businesses, and the icons of a mobile nation on the road.

Completed in 1938, Route 66, which once served as the main corridor taking drivers from Chicago to Los Angeles, sparks excitement and a feeling of freedom in many travelers who love the open road.

Sedona

Sedona and Red Rock Country
Sedona and Red Rock Country, a vacation hotspot, has appeal for every member of the family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona easily makes the “A” list of RV destinations due to its rugged western appeal and colorful rock formations. Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centerpiece. Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte, as well as its surrounding lush forests.

Sedona has developed into a center for traditional and contemporary arts and offers a variety of galleries, boutiques, and specialty shops. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Santa Fe

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 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 Native American, 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.

Alabama Gulf Coast

Mix two parts sugar-white sand with one part crystal blue water. Add a generous helping of Southern hospitality, and you have the key ingredients of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast.

Fresh seafood is the standard along the Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

One of the most charming small towns in America, Fairhope is located on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. A growing arts center with quaint boutiques, specialty shops, bookstores, cafes, and galleries line its quaint downtown streets. From the business district, Fairhope Avenue funnels toward grand homes and parkland down to the Fairhope Pier and Mobile Bay. The pier’s picturesque setting makes it a wonderful place to view gorgeous sunsets.

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, the highway that’s the best.
Get your kicks on Route 66!

—Bobby Troup

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Top 4 Snowbird Destinations

There’s nothing quite like venturing south in your recreational vehicle when winter’s northern wind starts to stir and snow starts to blow.

Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, there are numerous warm, welcoming, and breathtakingly-beautiful places to explore as a southbound snowbird. With many snowbird friendly RV resorts offering wonderful amenities and gorgeous views, there’s never been a better time to head south.

Following is a look at four exciting RV destinations for snowbirds to check out:

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores (Alabama)

Located near the sugar white sands of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast, Bella Terra Luxury Resort in Foley, Alabama, boasts a 5-star rating with true southern charm. Bella Terra of Gulf Shores is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community designed with the discriminating RVer in mind.

Bella Terra’s amenities include a 6,000 square foot Grand Clubhouse, fenced-in dog park, stocked lake, fully-appointed fitness center, infinity-edge pool, Jacuzzi, private movie theatre, business center, and croquet court.

The RV lots offered for both sale and rent include professional landscaping for privacy, concrete pads, built-in patios, full service utility hook-ups with views of the stocked lake and lush foliage. The over-sized Class A RV lots—some as large as 5,000 square feet—are designed to satisfy your Class A RV motor coach needs.

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission.
Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort (Texas)

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is one of the most unique RV Resorts in South Texas and is part of the 2,600-acre Master Planned Community of Bentsen Palm Development.

Bentsen Palm Village is located in South Mission at the entrance to World Birding Center headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Bentsen Palm Village is only minutes from shopping, medical facilities, and easy access to Expressway 83.

Bentsen Palm Village offers over 250 large pull-through and back-in sites, full hookups, rental cabins and casitas, and native landscaping. Super Sites offer a 10×12 storage building that can be locked and secured when necessary. Resort amenities include a Club house, pool and spa, fitness center, dog agility course, woodshop, craft room, and miles and miles of hike and bike trails.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon Vistas RV Resort (Arizona)

Canyon Vistas RV Resort is nestled at the base of the breathtaking Superstition Mountains in the exclusive Gold Canyon area southeast of Phoenix. Here you’re beyond the noise and congestion of the city, yet minutes from shopping and entertainment. Enjoy a morning walk or bike ride amid stately hundred year old Saguaro cactus or keep in shape at the state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Meet your friends for a round of golf at the pitch and putt course followed by a cool drink on the expansive covered veranda, soothed by refreshing desert breezes. Go hiking, boating, and horseback riding in the nearby mountains.

Amenities include fitness center, ceramics, wood carving, lapidary, pickleball, computer lab and classes, quilting and sewing room, pools and spas, tennis courts, and pet area.

Indian Waters RV Resort (California)

Indian Waters RV Resort and Cottages is located in the Coachella Valley City of Indio, an area that includes the desert cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta.

Recently renovated, this beautiful property has added cottages, a second pool, lighted pickleball courts, 50 amp electric and city sewer service to all sites, resurfacing of roads and sites, enhanced Wi-Fi, and a complete make-over for the large clubhouse.

Today, Indian Waters with its desirable location and numerous amenities, is one of the best and most affordable, five star, state-of-the-art RV resorts in the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area.

Indian Waters RV Resort
Enjoying the Southern California sunshine at Indian Waters RV Resort in Indio. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With 274 full service sites with 50/30-amp electric, Indian Waters RV Resort and Cottages offers two distinct landscaping themes for its concrete level sites: grass and desert landscape. All sites have views of the majestic mountains or nearby ponds, towering eucalyptus trees, or gardens. All sites are convenient to the two improved bathhouse and laundry facilities. The typical RV site is approximately 35 feet wide and 60 feet deep with two concrete pads, one for your RV and one for your toad/tow vehicle.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snowbird life

behind the wheel.

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Obscure Snowbird Destinations

Every winter thousands of Canadians and Americans from the northern climes head south to the U.S Sunbelt. The snowbird hotspots include vast stretches of the Florida coastline, a variety of popular Arizona desert locations, and Palm Springs, the always fashionable playground of the rich and famous.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine instead going to an undiscovered winter retreat. Like the popular hotspots, you’ll find a variety of shopping, quality restaurants, excellent golfing, bird watching, fishing, outdoor recreation, entertainment, top rate medical facilities, friendly people, and much more.

Following are three obscure snowbird destinations in the U.S sunbelt.

Gold Canyon, Arizona

Gold Canyon is adjacent to the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and at the foothills of Superstition Mountain, which offer thousands of square miles of public land for hiking, off road trails, bike riding, photography, and other outdoor sports. There are five 18-hole championship length golf courses within Gold Canyon and dozens more within a 30 minute drive—something for most every skill level and budget.

Gold Canyon offers a wide variety of activities and attractions: arts events, baseball spring training, the Renaissance Festival, museums, swap meets, state parks, and so much more.

The views of the Superstition Mountain, along with evening sunsets, makes Gold Canyon one of the most picturesque areas in all of Arizona. It is a great place to call your winter home.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Canyon Vista RV Resort (2014 Good Sam rating: 9, 9.5*, 9), our home for several weeks last winter—and yes, we would return in a heartbeat.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel.
Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the fertile Mesilla Valley between the majestic Organ Mountains and the meandering Rio Grande, Las Cruces, New Mexico, is becoming a popular southwestern snowbird destination.

Las Cruces is an ideal central location to explore and experience the best of New Mexico’s past, present, and future. Ideally located at the crossroads of Interstate 10 and 25, “The City of the Crosses” is a blend of culture, museums, historical sites, scenic beauty, and superb weather with 320 days of sunshine per year.

The area offers spectacular year-round golf, unique special events, world-class New Mexico cuisine, and two national monuments—White Sands and Organ Mountain Desert Peaks.

Memorable excursions include historic Old Mesilla, several living ghost towns, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and Spaceport America, home to the world’s first commercial passenger spaceline company, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Hacienda RV & Rally Resort (2014 Good Sam rating: 8.5, 9.5*, 8.5), our home on several occasions.

Alabama Gulf Coast

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Alabama’s shoreline may not be the first place that pops to mind when planning a winter getaway, don’t overlook it. With miles of sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand, Snowbirds will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Our RV travels have taken us through the area on numerous occasions as we drove I-10 from Florida to Texas. Several years ago we decided to check out the Alabama Gulf Coast for ourselves and it did not disappoint.

Fresh seafood is the standard along the Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

Small towns on the Alabama Gulf Coast including Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley, Daphne, and Fairhope welcome RVers and offer outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, canoeing, and birding.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Lake Osprey RV Country Club (2014 Good Sam rating: 10,10*, 10), our winter home along the Gulf Coast. Another prime destination park, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores (2014 Good Sam rating: 10,10*, 10) is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community.

With so many great Sunbelt destinations, snowbirds have plenty of options. Visiting several different areas may help you choose the snowbird destination that is best for you.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

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Alabama Gulf Coast Named Top Tourism Attraction

Alabama’s Gulf beaches and Gulf State Park are the largest tourism attractions in the state, overwhelmingly so, according to the new attendance figures released last week by the Alabama Tourism Department.

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state’s largest stand-alone festival events, located about 20 miles apart, are also located in the Gulf Coast region. The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival (March 14-16, in 2014) and National Shrimp Festival (October 9-12, in 2014) in Gulf Shores come in at the top two spots among event promotions staged over a single weekend.

The relatively new Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival (June 13-14, in 2014), which takes place in between the other two in Foley, is also rising up the state’s annual top 10 festival list.

According to the 2013 annual report, Mobile’s three-week long Mardi Gras celebration draws the largest attendance in the Events category, with 798,312 reported for 2013. The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival turned out 300,000 last year, ahead of the National Shrimp Festival crowds reported at 250,000.

Birmingham’s Pepper Place Saturday Market had total attendance of 285,000 last year, however that event is ongoing from April through December.

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

The Foley Balloon Festival came in with reported attendance of 65,000 in the latest report, in 8th place of the overall Events category.

The state’s largest Nature attraction is also by far the largest overall visitor destination. The Gulf beaches of Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, recording 2013 total attendance of 5.5 million. Gulf State Park alone had 1,965,000 visitors.

The state’s most popular Paid attraction last year was Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center, with more than 580,000 people visiting, followed by the Birmingham Zoo at second with 574,176 and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at third with 530,678. The USS Alabama attraction on the Mobile causeway came in at 4th with nearly 375,000 visitors.

Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations.

Summary of selected attendance figures follow:

Top 5 Admission Charged Attractions 2013

U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville (584,972)
Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham (574,176)
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (530,678)
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile (371,229)
McWane Science Center, Birmingham (316,918)

Top 5 Free Attractions 2013

Birmingham Botanical Gardens (350,000)
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (157,609)
Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery (122,667)
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham (122,345)
U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker (95,030)

Top 5 Events 2013

Mobile Mardi Gras (798,312)
Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival (300,000)
Pepper Place Saturday Market, Birmingham (285,000)
National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores (250,000)
National Peanut Festival, Dothan (182,500)

Top 5 Parks and Natural Destinations 2013

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama Gulf Coast Beaches (5,500,000)
Gulf State Park (1,965,000)
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, McCalla (541,025)
Railroad Park, Birmingham (488,000)
Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham (433,500)

Worth Pondering…

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten,

Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land, where I was born in,
early on one frosty mornin’,
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.

—lyrics by Daniel Decatur Emmett

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Lake Osprey RV Resort Acquired by Roberts Resorts

Lake Osprey RV Country Club, a new destination Luxury RV Resort destination on the Alabama Gulf Coast has been acquired by Roberts Resorts.

Lake Osprey RV Country Club
Lake Osprey RV Country Club is a destination Luxury RV Resort designed for high-end RVs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Osprey RV Country Club is designed for high-end RVs, but not restricted to Class A motorhomes.

A destination Luxury RV Resort on the North Shore of the Alabama Gulf Coast built for outdoor enthusiasts that boast beautiful, serene settings and a championship golf course.

Lake Osprey is nestled around several spring-fed lakes in a nature preserve and consists of 188 lushly landscaped extra-large RV sites. Each site is accompanied with a Golf membership to the Championship Soldiers Creek Golf Course located within walking distance of your RV.

RVers, retirees, and avid travelers come to this Alabama haven during both the winter and summer months for a home away from home.

Squeezed between Mississippi and Florida’s extensive panhandle, Alabama only manages to dip its big toe into the Gulf of Mexico, but along its 57 miles of shoreline are ample opportunities for leisurely pursuits. Whether looking for a snowbird roost or a summer vacation escape, RVers will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

We used Lake Osprey RV Country Club last winter as our home base to explore the Alabama Gulf Coast and found the accommodation and hospitality second to none.

An Alabama Gulf Coast sunrise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
An Alabama Gulf Coast sunrise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This RV resort offers a quiet natural setting surrounded by spring-fed lakes within a nature preserve. Guests of Lake Osprey have access to extra-large RV sites for Class A, C, and 5th Wheels, vacation homes, golf courses, boating from Barber Marina on the Intracoastal Waterway, a clubhouse, exercise facilities, laundry, pool, bathrooms, showers, and more.

Guests and vacation homeowners of Lake Osprey RV Resort also have access to the neighboring 18-hole Soldier’s Creek Championship Golf Course 7 days a week.
Sugar white sand beaches, a variety vacation amenities and world-class shopping are all nearby.

Roberts Resorts is breaking ground on two additional phases at Lake Osprey RV Resort.

The first phase will include 22 additional luxury RV lots with lake or wetlands views.

The second phase will include a Class A only peninsula with brick paver street and lake views. In total they expect to have additional 78 lots completed by October 2014.

Details

Lake Osprey RV Country Club

Address: 12054 Gateway Drive, Elberta, AL 36530

Phone: (251) 986-3800 or (866) 606-7501 (toll free)

Website: lakeosprey.com

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roberts Resorts

Roberts Resorts has been in business for over 40 years and have owned and developed over 30 communities in the South West.

Roberts Resorts currently own and operate three active-adult resorts in the greater Phoenix area.  These Arizona properties include: Pueblo El Mirage Resorts and Country Club near Sun City, Sunrise Resort and Gold Canyon RV Resort in Apache Junction.

Throughout Texas and Colorado, they own five manufactured housing communities including: The Springs located in Colorado Springs, Chateau at Onion Creek and Oak Ranch in Austin, Woodlake Estates in San Antonio, and Country Estates in Amarillo. In total they own and operate 5,000 RV/Manufactured housing lots.

Roberts Resorts is a leader in the RV Resort industry. They are dedicated to high standards, professionalism, and genuine hospitality.

Roberts Resorts is a family owned company, and they share their family heritage of integrity by serving others and giving back to their communities.

Phone: (866) 787-2754

Website: robertsresorts.com

Worth Pondering…

Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet home Alabama

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home Alabama

Lord, I’m coming home to you

Here I come, Alabama

—lyrics by Lynyrd Skynyrd

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Gulf Shores Named a Top 10 Family Travel Destination

Soft sands, wondrous waters, and relaxing retreats are part of what makes coastal Alabama a family-friendly hot-spot.

Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mix two parts sugar-white sand with one part crystal blue water. Add a generous helping of Southern hospitality, and you have the key ingredients of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast.

Situated at the southernmost part of Alabama, the coast features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.

Small towns on the Alabama Gulf Coast include Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley, Daphne, and Fairhope welcome RVers and offer outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, canoeing, and birding.

A Gulf Coast resort destination in Orange Beach, The Wharf offers diverse residential, entertainment, retail, and dining options, and a full service Marina with direct access to the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Alabama Gulf Coast provides a variety of RV resorts and campgrounds. Whether you’re a rustic camper or prefer a high end resort, the options are plentiful.

FamilyFun magazine, known as a great resource for family activities, conducted a survey of 2,000 parents with children 3 to 12, where they rated 360 popular destinations in the U.S.

Gulf Shores was named to the top 10 tourist towns category among an elite group of cities from across the country. Along with this most recent accolade, the area has been recognized with a number of other awards this year.

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“FamilyFun magazine has recognized the very best in family travel for 2013—from top tourist towns and outstanding attractions to can’t-miss museums, including Gulf Shores—as voted on by real families,” said Mary Giles, deputy editor of FamilyFun.

“Featured in the April issue of FamilyFun, Gulf Shores and the other U.S. destinations included in the 2013 FamilyFun Travel Awards represent the cream of the crop in their respective categories.”

Other recognitions for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach include being named to several coveted lists as follows:

  • 2013 SportsEvents Readers’ Choice Awards
  • Travel Channel’s best Gulf Coast beaches
  • SmarterTravel.com’s “10 places you should go while they’re still cheap”
  • Nashville Lifestyles’ “best luxury locations in the U.S. for discerning travelers”

The Alabama Gulf Coast was also named Country Roads’ favorite family-friendly escape while Gulf Shores was a finalist in Budget Travel’s contest to find America’s coolest small town. Finally, Orange Beach was nominated for World Fishing Network’s Ultimate Fishing Town contest.

“It’s a high honor to be recognized by a reputable publication such as FamilyFun,” said Joanie Flynn, vice president of marketing for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism.

“As we continue the spring season, we’re happy to see that guests are pleased with what we have to offer and that families feel welcome in our area. We consider that an enormous compliment that renews our spirit to continuously improve our family offerings.”

Please Note: A 3-Part series on the Alabama Gulf Coast was previously posted

An Alabama Gulf Coast sunrise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
An Alabama Gulf Coast sunrise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part 1: Experience the Magic of the Alabama Gulf Coast

Part 2: Getaway to the Alabama Gulf Coast

Part 3: Deep South Surprises

Details

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism serves as the official destination marketing organization for the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in addition to the unincorporated area of Fort Morgan.

Website: gulfshores.com

Worth Pondering…

Walk the Beach…

To find a treasure.

To exercise the limbs and to soothe the soul.

To marvel at the birds that play against the sky.

To watch the waves dance.

To feel the sun and the wind pressed against my face and to run from the foam grasping for my feet.

And no matter how far apart my visits might measure…I am always free to renew an old acquaintance with myself.

—Peter Dueber

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Deep South Surprises

A Gulf Coast resort destination in Orange Beach, The Wharf offers diverse residential, entertainment, retail, and dining options, and a full service Marina with direct access to the Intracoastal Waterway.

112-foot-tall Ferris wheel at The Wharf. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
112-foot-tall Ferris wheel at The Wharf. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether relaxing in a luxury condominium alongside the magnificent marina, enjoying the 9,600-seat capacity Amphitheater, or viewing a movie on one of the 15-screens at the Carmike Cinema, visitors can expect a unique experience.

Live concerts with some of the biggest names in music, a brightly lit, 112-foot-tall Ferris wheel, and boutiques along with casual and fine dining restaurants make The Wharf a Gulf Coast stand-out.

The Alabama Gulf Coast provides a variety of RV resorts and campgrounds. Whether you’re a rustic camper or prefer a high end resort, the options are plentiful.

Located in the city of Gulf Shores on the coast of Alabama, white sun-kissed beaches, surging surf, seagulls, and seashells greet you at Gulf State Park.

Consisting of 6,150 acres with two miles of sugar white sand beaches and three fresh water lakes, Gulf State Park has a modern full-service campground, cabins, cottages, back country trails, and the largest fishing pier in the Gulf of Mexico.

The park also features an interactive nature center, nationally recognized scenic nature trail, new tennis courts, beautiful beach pavilion, 18-hole Refuge Golf Course, and a 900-acre lake for fishing in the picnic area on Lake Shelby.

Relax and enjoy the beauty of Gulf State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Relax and enjoy the beauty of Gulf State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park offers a 496-site campground with pull-through, back-in, water front, and ADA accessible sites, and 11 modern bathhouses. All sites are big-rig friendly and have water, sewer, and 50/30/20- amp electric service, a paved camping pad, picnic table, and pedestal grill. Tents are also welcome in the campground.

A laundry facility is located beside the camp store. There are two playgrounds located in the campground.

Gulf State Park’s Pier opened July 23, 2009. The largest pier on the Gulf of Mexico, it is 1,540 feet in length and has an area of 41,800 square feet. The pier boasts features that were not available on the old pier, destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan, such as indoor seating for concession area, indoor retail area for tackle and souvenirs, comfort stations at the midpoint of the pier, and wheelchair accessible rail fishing. The new pier has 2,448 feet of fishing space available along the rails.

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bella Terra of Gulf Shores is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located a short distance from the Gulf Coast, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community. In addition to full ownership RV lots, rentals are available. Owners and guests enjoy their 6,000 square foot Grand Clubhouse, exercise facilities as well as gorgeously designed oversized lots—some as large as 5,000 square feet—with views of a stocked lake and lush foliage.

Resort amenities include a Welcome Center with professional resort and rental management staff, fenced-in dog park, stocked lake, fully-appointed fitness center, infinity-edge pool, Jacuzzi, private movie theatre, business center, and croquet court.

The RV lots offered for both sale and rent include professional landscaping for privacy, concrete pads, built-in patios, utility hook-ups, and optional upgrades including gazebos, outdoor entertainment centers, and storage units.

Lake Osprey RV Country Club, the newest destination Luxury RV Resort destination on the Alabama Gulf Coast is designed for high-end RVs, but not restricted to Class A motorhomes.

Lake Osprey RV Country Club is a destination Luxury RV Resort designed for high-end RVs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lake Osprey RV Country Club is a destination Luxury RV Resort designed for high-end RVs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A destination Luxury RV Resort on the North Shore of the Alabama Gulf Coast built for outdoor enthusiasts that boast beautiful, serene settings and a championship golf course.

Lake Osprey is nestled around several spring-fed lakes in a nature preserve and consists of 188 lushly landscaped extra-large RV sites. Each site is accompanied with a Golf membership to the Championship Soldiers Creek Golf Course located within walking distance of your RV.

Please Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-Part series

Part 1: Experience the Magic of the Alabama Gulf Coast

Part 2: Getaway to the Alabama Gulf Coast

Worth Pondering…

Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet home Alabama

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home Alabama

Lord, I’m coming home to you

Here I come, Alabama

—lyrics by Lynyrd Skynyrd

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Getaway to the Alabama Gulf Coast

Small towns on the Alabama Gulf Coast include Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley, Daphne, and Fairhope welcome RVers and offer outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, canoeing, and birding.

They actually toss buns to you at Lambert’s—the Throwed Bun restaurant. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
They actually toss buns to you at Lambert’s—the Throwed Bun restaurant. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Foley is a shopper’s paradise with a multitude of factory outlets as well as Lambert’s—the Throwed Bun restaurant. Like the name suggests, they actually throw buns at you.

The Foley Depot Museum is housed in the Louisville and Nashville railroad station built in 1908. Catch a glimpse into the history and culture of the area. The museum contains reminders of the days when Foley was a thriving agricultural center and the railroad played a major role in its prosperity.

One of the most charming small towns in America, Fairhope is located on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. A growing arts center with quaint boutiques, specialty shops, bookstores, cafes, and galleries line its quaint downtown streets. Funky-to-grand antiques, imaginative and traditional art, rare books and best-sellers, and other new and old collectibles fill the stores.

From the business district, Fairhope Avenue funnels toward grand homes, appealing cottages, flowering beds, and parkland that gracefully ride a bluff down to the Fairhope Pier and Mobile Bay. The pier’s picturesque setting makes it a wonderful place to view gorgeous sunsets.

An Alabama Gulf Coast sunrise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
An Alabama Gulf Coast sunrise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Fairhope is just part of the almost 40-mile-long Eastern Shore terrain that runs from Spanish Fort on Mobile Bay’s north lip to Point Clear, where the bay broadens into the Gulf of Mexico. A few miles north of Spanish Fort, the last major battle of the Civil War took place at what is now Historic Blakely State Park. Tour the preserved Civil War battlefield with its Confederate and Union breastworks and fortifications. Walk or bike on miles of trails and roadways.

Between here and Fairhope, the waterside communities of Montrose and Daphne offer their own surprises.

Daphne is perhaps most famous for being one of the few places in the world to experience the phenomenon known as a Jubilee. To folks around Daphne and the rest of the Eastern Shore, this event brings blue crabs, shrimp, and fish swimming from the depths of the bay into the shallow waters of the shoreline. Generally, the bottom fish, such as flounders, catfish, and stingrays, are the most affected.

Locals make ready lanterns, giggs, scoop nets, buckets, baskets, tubs, canvas sacks, or whatever it takes to scoop up the anticipated bounty of seafood. As the tide comes in, the bottom dwelling fish, shrimp, and crabs are forced to move into the shoreline and are eventually trapped in shallow water at the beach. The seafood is scooped up by the tubfulls to be frozen and enjoyed all year long.

As dawn comes and the sun rises, those fish not caught, revive with oxygen to swim to safety once again in Mobile Bay.

Fort Morgan of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” fame offers guided tours. Completed in 1834, Fort Morgan was active during four wars: Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II.

The massive fort contains more than 40 million bricks and pays tribute to the skilled masons, many of whom were enslaved African Americans.

Fort Morgan is most famous for its key role during the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay.

“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” was the historic command issued by U.S. naval commander Admiral David Farragut as his fleet charged into Mobile Bay. His objectives were to capture the forts at the entrance to the bay, destroy Mobile’s Confederate naval squadron, and close Mobile to blockade runners.

Union Admiral David Farragut damned the torpedoes and went full speed ahead to win the battle.

The fort features an active living history program that interprets all the military periods and holds an annual event commemorating the Battle of Mobile Bay.

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The military site and National Historic Landmark is located 22 miles west of Gulf Shores.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series

Part 1: Experience the Magic of the Alabama Gulf Coast

Part 3: Deep South Surprises

Worth Pondering…

Dixie

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten,

Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land, where I was born in,
early on one frosty mornin’,
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.

—lyrics by Daniel Decatur Emmett

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Experience the Magic of the Alabama Gulf Coast

Geographically, the state of Alabama runs the gamut from the Appalachian Mountains in its northeast corner to the white-sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico in the south.

Welcome Center
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is it the water or the sand that makes Alabama Gulf Coast beaches so spectacular? Everyone seems to have their own opinion. But with miles of sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand, you don’t have to choose.

Squeezed between Mississippi and Florida’s extensive panhandle, Alabama only manages to dip its big toe into the Gulf of Mexico, but along its 57 miles of shoreline are ample opportunities for leisurely pursuits. Whether looking for a snowbird roost or a summer vacation escape, RVers will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

The southernmost part of the state borders Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Here, the scenery—sandy beaches and moss-draped trees—offers a dramatic change of pace from the rest of the state, as do the Alabama Gulf Coast’s primary attractions of sunbathing, swimming, and deep-sea fishing.

It’s a rare person who does not find the sea and sand tempting, especially during the cold winter months. While Alabama’s shoreline may not be the first place that pops to mind when planning a winter getaway, don’t overlook it.

Our RV travels have taken us through the area on numerous occasions as we drove I-10 from Florida to Texas. This past winter we decided to check out the Alabama Gulf Coast for ourselves and it did not disappoint.

Mix two parts sugar-white sand with one part crystal blue water. Add a generous helping of Southern hospitality, and you have the key ingredients of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast.

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated at the southernmost part of Alabama, the coast features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.

The Alabama Gulf Coast lies in the southern subtropical area of North America, where mild temperatures greet visitors year-round. Gulf breezes temper the typically hot summer weather, and spring and fall days are usually warm with cool evenings. Sand castles do not freeze with an average winter temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s.

Fresh seafood is the standard along the Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

Landlubbers may not realize that shrimp come in brown, white, pink, and deepwater Royal Reds, and that each variety is caught in a particular season of the year.

Royal Reds with their robust, deep red color and soft, delicate texture represent the pinnacle of the gulf shrimp experience. The cold-water Royal Red shrimp prefer a specific temperature zone that is usually found 1,000 feet or more below the gulf waters that can be 40 to 60 miles out from shore making their harvesting more difficult than other species.

The cold-water Royal Red shrimp prefer a specific temperature zone that is usually found 1,000 feet or more below the gulf waters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The cold-water Royal Red shrimp prefer a specific temperature zone that is usually found 1,000 feet or more below the gulf waters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each October the town of Orange Beach celebrates the small but mighty shrimp in a festival that has been presented for over 40 years. If you can think of a possible way to prepare shrimp, you will find it at this festival. Shrimp dipped in chocolate and shrimp ice cream may not top your list, yet the ingenuity of these chefs is admirable. Dates for the 42nd Annual National Shrimp Festival are October 10-13, 2013.

If you don’t get there in time for the shrimp festival, never fear. Time-tested recipes and traditional preparation can be enjoyed in a variety of restaurants including King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant in Gulf Shores and Gulf Bay Seafood Grill in Orange Beach.

Any repeat visitor will testify to the appeal of the little seacoast claimed by Alabama. If you’re hunting for a winter retreat, consider this your invitation.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series

Part 2: Getaway to the Alabama Gulf Coast

Part 3: Deep South Surprises

Worth Pondering…

Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp Creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That, that’s about it.

—Bubba, in Forrest Gump, 1994

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