My Love Affair With RV Travel in America

“What’s your favorite place to go?”

Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course that’s what they ask. It’s the polite thing to ask, after all. People like to seem as if they’re interested in what you do. In this case, the question also always has a twinge of yearning.

I always give the same answer. I find something I like nearly everywhere I go, and it’s hard to pick just one place.

People hate that answer.

“Come on. If you could pick just one place, where would you want to go again? Just one place.”

They all want to hear something exotic, aspirational, and bucket-listy. They want to hear Key West or Santa Barbara, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone. They don’t want the truth. Can they handle the truth?

The truth is, we have visited 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces during the past 17 years, and found something that we adored in every one of them.

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

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

I did begin rereading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley — an incredible account of the America that he experienced on his road trip around the country with his wife’s standard poodle as a companion. Steinbeck was 58 years old in 1960 when he began his journey, and he felt compelled to get out and really see the country for the first time in a long time. He said he felt like a criminal writing about a country that he didn’t know enough about anymore.

In the words of photographer Diane Arbus, “My favorite thing is to go where I have never been.” And so it is with us.

Taking your RV on the open road and experiencing breathtaking views along the way can make for the one-of-a-kind vacation your family is looking for. It is the journey and not the destination that is the joy of the RV lifestyle.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highways can guide you along the coast to take in ocean views at sunset. Others wind you through the mountains exploring history.

The US and Canada are brimming with beautiful and diverse routes from the glittering waters of the Pacific to the majestic Rocky Mountains and down to the mysterious swamps of the South.

You don’t have to drive far to find a great road—just about everyone has a favorite route in their part of the country.

Here’s a little secret: You can’t go wrong with the Blue Ridge Parkway or a Route 66 road trip. Scenic and historic, both routes have a little bit of everything. We explain, starting with Route 66.

Route 66: 2,448 Miles

If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, mom-and-pop motels in the middle of nowhere, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”

Antique cars parked along Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along Route 66, antique cars are parked at Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing speaks more to the history and ingenuity of the United States than U.S. Route 66. Beginning in the Windy City, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most archetypal roadside scenes, ending in the land of golden dreams. Chicago’s mighty skyscrapers give way to the Ozarks, eventually leading into the grassy plains of Oklahoma and Kansas. From here you’ll travel into a world of surreal sights: the desert murals of the Southwest and the sandy beaches of California.

Route 66 passes through a marvelous cross-section of American scenes, from the cornfields of Illinois all the way to the golden sands and sunshine of Los Angeles, passing by such diverse environs as the Grand Canyon, the Native American communities of the desert Southwest, the small-town Midwest heartlands of Oklahoma and the Ozarks, as well as the gritty streets of St. Louis and Chicago.

Whether you are motivated by an interest in history, feel a nostalgic yearning for the “good old days” Route 66 has come to represent, or simply want to experience firsthand the amazing diversity of people and landscapes that line its path, Route 66 offers an unforgettable journey into America, then and now.

Blue Ridge Parkway: 469 Miles

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays as it extends through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. Connecting two national parks— Shenandoah in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina—the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses 469 miles through blue-misted Appalachian highlands.

Take in forest-blanketed mountain vistas, ripe for fauna (look for bear, deer, and beaver) and flora viewing (interesting factoid: the parkway’s namesake “blue” haze is attributed to the hydrocarbon release from the some 130 tree species).

Worth Pondering…

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

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5 Ways To Save Money On Fuel

More than 20 million Americans will travel in RVs throughout the summer months, heading to our country’s 16,000-plus campgrounds, and enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

In spite of rising fuel costs, RV travel is still the most economical and efficient way to vacation with your family this summer. Pictured above Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
In spite of rising fuel costs, RV travel is still the most economical and efficient way to vacation with your family this summer. Pictured above Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV travel can be expensive. Knowing where to cut costs, save money, and be more efficient in our travels is the key to staying within your travel budget.

Fuel prices, every summer, rise to higher and higher heights. While we have no control over the price of fuel, we can do a few things to help save money.

Most motorists share one common goal—to get the best mileage possible. The desire for the best fuel efficiency is especially strong among recreational vehicle owners. There are many ways that you can reduce fuel and related costs while enjoying life ‘on the road’ in your RV.

Many RVers take measures to reduce fuel consumption through simple steps like driving 55 instead of 65 or 70 mph and packing lighter to reduce weight in the RV.

Following are five ways to save money on fuel this summer:

1. Avoid High Speeds

Decreasing your speed saves money. The greatest improvement in fuel economy is the speed we drive. As your speed increases, your aerodynamic drag increases. Driving faster pushes more air ahead of the RV which creates more resistance to forward movement. Driving 62 mph rather than 75 mph will reduce fuel consumption by about 15 percent.

2. Do Not Accelerate or Brake Hard

scenic view point in Canyon de Chelly National Park
Before leaving on your road trip, check your tire pressure to make sure it is at the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. This little tip will save you on MPG over distances. Pictured above a Fleetwood Providence DP parked at a scenic view point in Canyon de Chelly National Park, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accelerate gradually, both from a stop and when entering a freeway; avoid sudden jack-rabbit starts and rapid acceleration. By anticipating the traffic and applying slow steady acceleration and braking, fuel economy may increase by as much as 20 percent.

3. Anticipate traffic flow

Look at the traffic as far ahead as possible in order to avoid unnecessary stopping and starting within the flow of traffic. Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

Brake smoothly, avoiding fast stops; rapid braking wastes fuel and cut down your mileage.

Look ahead and anticipate traffic conditions. Slow down well before you need to. Instead of slamming on your breaks just before the line, slowly ease off the accelerator, coasting to a stop and thus avoid wasting fuel and wear on the brakes.

When the light changes green, forget that pedal to the metal mindset and, again, ease into it.

4. Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Another fuel saver is to keep tire air pressures at the levels recommended by the tire manufacturer. Tire pressure can severely affects fuel economy.

If the tires are low on air, the engine has to push harder to move the RV ahead. It is important to know that tires can look normal when they are seriously under inflated.

Regularly check the air pressure in all tires, when the tires are cool (air pressure increases while you are driving).

Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency.

Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure.

5. Control your weight

Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico.
Control the weight you carry in your RV. When possible, travel with empty gray and black holding tanks and fresh water tank no more than ¼ full. Pictured above camping at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Added weight significantly decreases fuel mileage and increases wear and tear on your tires.

Keep in mind that everything you put in your RV has weight. The average couple carries approximately 2,000 pounds of “stuff,” and many full-timing couples carry as much as 3,000 pounds.

When possible, travel with empty gray and black holding tanks and fresh water tank no more than ¼ full.

The following are approximate weights of the liquids that RVs commonly carry:

Water—8.3 pounds/gallon

Gasoline—6 pounds/gallon

Diesel fuel—6.6 pounds/gallon

Propane—4.5 pounds/gallon

Now Let’s Go RVing!

Worth Pondering…

I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.

—Jackie Mason

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RV Road Trip Planning Tips

A family road trip is about the destination―whether it’s a theme park or a national park―but a road trip is just as much about the journey.

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RV road trip IS NOT about getting from Point A to B to C. It’s about the people, places, and things that you meet and see and experience along the way.

If you are going on a family road trip, planning is essential.

That’s a big responsibility but with a little preparation, you can head off complications before they happen.

With advance preparation, the road trip can be one you will remember for a long time.

Like any getaway, whether it’s for a weekend, a month, or an extended period, an RV road trip requires careful planning to ensure all goes smoothly. When you think of what you’ll need for a road trip, a common list unfolds. Food, beverages, (healthy) snacks, paper products, lawn chairs and recliners, maps, and Good Sam GPS are all items you might bring along.

One of the best parts of a trip is often the daydreaming, discussions, and planning that precede it. Brainstorming ideas, doing the research, and putting together your itinerary are all just as fun and relaxing as the trip itself.

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

By keeping a checklist of mundane details as you go through your regular routine, you can be inspired in the weeks before your trip to remember all the little things that make your life easier.

Make a list and check it twice. Using a checklist is an excellent way to ensure you have everything you need. Even if you are not a list person, make one. Checking off items as you pack your RV will ensure you don’t find yourself in the middle of nowhere without toiletries or water.

There are some items you CANNOT do without while RVing and these should be at the top of your list. It’s important to take sufficient drinking water, a well-stocked first aid kit, paper towels, toilet paper, and clean-up materials (soaps, scrubbers, rags, trash bags, dish drainer).

If you RV on a frequent basis, have non-perishables stored in the RV. Items like plates, cooking utensils, pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery can be stored in cupboards in the RV.

Also store items like canned goods, can opener, bottle opener, coffee, potholders, ziploc bags, aluminum foil, wax paper, saran wrap, and cooking oil as well as paper products, towels, and first aid kit. Being prepared will save time and frustration.

Newmar Dutch Star Diesel Pusher and toad at Cajun Palms RV Resort which consists of over 300 Deluxe RV Spots,12 Chalets,and 25 Cabins. RV spots have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp, 70+ channels of digital cable, and on-site water and sewer. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Newmar Dutch Star Diesel Pusher and toad at Cajun Palms RV Resort which consists of over 300 Deluxe RV Spots,12 Chalets,and 25 Cabins. RV spots have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp, 70+ channels of digital cable, and on-site water and sewer. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This list will give you some of the pointers that seasoned travelers know can take a good trip and make it a great one.

There’s no shame in writing down even obvious things: You’re bringing your family’s entire life along with you, and everybody knows you can sometimes forget important things in that last-minute dash.

And during the RV road trip, make note of things to take on your next outing.

It’s important to keep in mind your goal for the journey. If you’re packing your family into an RV and driving a considerable distance, you will deal with some frustration and chaos―some of it normal stuff and some specific to being together in a confined space. Nobody wants to remember a trip where you yelled the whole time, so it’s important to be clear-headed about where you’re going and why.

Nothing goes perfectly smoothly all the time, but thinking seriously about how your family will interact in the available space is one way to head off problems before they surface.

Also be realistic about exactly how much you can do. Be generous with your timeline―your travel times from Point A to B to C―and you won’t feel pressured to keep driving after the whole family is exhausted and crabby. By following conservative estimates, you can ensure that the entire road trip is leisurely and relaxing for the entire family.

A toll for planning your RV road trip is the Good Sam’s Trip Planner.

Features include point-to-point trip planning and ability to research and add Good Sam Parks and points of interest to your route. You can also calculate fuel costs and travel time and use RV travel filters to find low clearance and tunnel warnings.

Worth Pondering…

People don’t take trips—trips take people.

—John Steinbeck

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Fulltime Families Announce 3 Family Rallies in 2014

Fulltime Families (FtF), an organization of full-time RVers who travel the country, often with their children, announced three family reunions have been scheduled for 2014.

2014 Fulltime Families Fieldtrip: Legoland, Florida

2013 Fulltime Families winter reunion
2013 Fulltime Families winter reunion

The 2014 Fulltime Families Fieldtrip takes place January 31 at Legoland in Winterhaven, Florida.

The discounted rate for FtF members to participate in the one-day event is $6 per child (regularly $74.00) or $26 per adult (regularly $81.00). Non-FtF members are welcome to join the field trip at a rate of $10.00 per student, $35.00 per adult.

You must be registered and paid in full by January 25, 2014 to attend this event.

For more information on this reunion, click here.

2014 FtF Winter Family Reunion Rally: Tampa, Florida

2014 FtF Winter Family Reunion Rally Tampa, FL
2014 FtF Winter Family Reunion Rally Tampa, FL

The 2014 Winter Family Reunion takes place February 6 to 9 at the Lazydays Campground in Seffner, Florida.

Events include science experiments, talent show, family friendly dance, and several seminars.

The early-bird registration rate for current annual Family members $40; non FtF members $70.

Call Lazy Days Campground (800-350-6731) to reserve your spot and mention that you are with the Fulltime Families Rally. Lazy Days is offering a group rate of $43.69–48.44 for a full hook-up site.

Lazy Days is located at 6130 Lazy Days Boulevard, Seffner (Tampa), Florida 33584-2968

For more information on this event, click here.

2014 World’s Best Roadschool Convention

The 2014 World’s Best Roadschooling Convention takes place April 10 to 13 at the KOA Lazydays Resort in Tucson, Arizona.

This three-day convention, the first of its kind, is geared toward homeschooling families who full time RV or are dreaming of hitting the road for full time or extended adventures.

Billed as “The World’s Best Roadschool Convention”, the event will combine lectures, workshops, vendor opportunities, and the same great family friendly events FtF has become known for.

BestRoadSchoolThe World’s Best Roadschool Convention is powered by Fulltime Families and The Road Trip Teacher.com.

The early-bird registration rate is $25/adult and $10/child aged 5-18.

Call Lazy Days Tucson (800-306-4067) to reserve your spot and mention that you are with the Roadschool Convention. Lazy Days is offering a group rate of $24.95 (+tax) for a full hook-up site.

Lazy Days Tucson is located at 3200 East Irvington Road, Tucson, Arizona.

For more information about this convention, click here.

Details

Fulltime Families (FtF)

fulltime-families-logo-FINAL-webFounded in November 2007, Fulltime Families (FtF) is a nationwide company that helps families who are living full time in their RVs by providing exclusive discounts on goods, offering RV education courses, and organizing events which allow members the opportunity to socialize with like minded families.

FtF also support families who are attracted to this lifestyle choice by providing them the tools to transition from a sticks in bricks home to an on the road adventure.

They provide real information about the specifics of living on the road, while raising a family.

A themed monthly magazine addresses the issues these families face such as finding employment, homeschooling their children, maintaining their RV, celebrating milestones and holidays on the road, and saving money on necessities so families can spend more on touring and sightseeing.

Website: fulltimefamilies.com

Worth Pondering…

Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.

—Sir Francis Bacon

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More Americans Plan a Road Trip This Summer

To mark the unofficial start of summer, Expedia.com commissioned a study of the American summer traveler and launched a new travel blog.

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 American Traveler study, conducted by Harris Interactive, finds that Americans’ love of the open road burns brighter than ever. 50 percent of Americans plan to take a road trip of more than 200 miles this summer and are 14 percent likelier to take a road trip in 2013 than they were in 2012.

To make summer travel easier and more rewarding, Expedia has also launched a new travel blog, Expedia Viewfinder (SEE link below), that pairs the resources of the online travel agency with the travel knowledge of a diverse group of independent travel bloggers.

Expedia Viewfinder provides readers extensive travel content including real-time travel coverage alongside insights for travelers across categories, such as the budget-minded, the luxury-minded, LGBT, solo wanderers, couples, and families.

“Travel is inherently one of the most social experiences we do today, so partnering with travel bloggers—the people who live their entire lives on the open road—makes perfect sense,” said Sarah Gavin, director of PR and social media at Expedia Worldwide.

“Travel bloggers bring a huge amount of real-world experience and each has their own perspective. Bringing our expertise together means Expedia travelers can not just feel confident that they are getting a great deal and a great set of choices, but that the trip they are taking is going to be just right for them. Our American Traveler study proves that the national appetite for travel is undiminished, so we aim to give Americans every resource and insight they might need to get moving.”

The River Walk has grown to a stunning eight miles and will stretch to 15 miles by 2013. Each part offers a unique look and feel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The River Walk has grown to a stunning eight miles and will stretch to 15 miles by 2013. Each part offers a unique look and feel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The American Traveler Study is in its second year. The study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive, on behalf of Expedia.com, from May 20-22, 2013, among 2,341 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Expedia’s travel bloggers have each created their own perfect road trip recommendations to accompany the launch of this year’s study which can be viewed on the Expedia Viewfinder blog.

96 percent of Americans listen to music on road trips. The most popular road-trip genre is classic rock; nearly a third (32%) of Americans plan to make classic rock their road-trip soundtrack of choice. Country and pop are preferred by 15 percent, followed by R&B/Hip Hop (12%), classical jazz (4%) and dance/techno (4%). A full 14 percent refused to specify a category, choosing “Other.”

As part of the Expedia Viewfinder launch, Expedia’s travel bloggers are creating their own Spotify road trip playlists to celebrate the importance of music to the great American road trip.

Among the 50 percent of Americans planning a road trip this summer, half will travel with children and half without. For both groups, the top iconic destination is the Grand Canyon (22% cited it as their favored landmark) followed by Mount Rushmore (11%), Statue of Liberty (10%), and Washington’s National Mall (8%).

The biggest deterrent to a summer road trip is high gas prices, at 64%. Additional deterrents include taking time off from work (36%), traffic (30%), kids fighting in the back seat (22%), and no desire (8%); no deterrents at all (13%).

Entertaining the kids is the top priority for those who plan to take an extended road trip with children. Mobile games top the list of in-car entertainment. 68 percent report that their children play games (on tablets, smartphones, computers and handheld game systems) on the road followed by 61 percent listening to music through headphones, 60 percent watch movies or TV shows on a mobile device, 40 percent play interactive games with the family, and 38 percent of children read books.

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches National Park is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile devices are critical to the travel experience. While on a road trip nearly half (46%) of Americans use smartphones to share status updates on social media sites during road trips, 82 percent smartphones to make calls, 73 percent for maps and directions, 71 percent to check email, 70 percent to send texts, 64 percent to take travel photos, and 46 percent for playing games.

Details

Expedia, Inc.

Expedia, Inc. is the largest online travel company in the world, with an extensive brand portfolio that includes some of the world’s leading online travel brands.

Website: expediainc.com

Expedia Viewfinder Travel Blog

Website: viewfinder.expedia.com

Worth Pondering…

Road trips have beginnings and ends, but it’s what’s in between that counts.

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Tips for Memorable Family Road Trips

If you’re planning a family road trip vacation this summer, you can take steps to make it easier and more enjoyable, according to children’s book author Michael DiLorenzo.

Source: ontravel.com

“This is a shared experience, and one that will be talked about during family gatherings for years to come,” DiLorenzo, a father of three and writer of the Adventures with Jonny book series, said in a News and Experts news release.

“For busy parents, this is a time to savor their children’s youth. As moms and dads eventually find out, they grow up fast.”

One way to reduce stress on your trip is to avoid rush hours in big cities. Careful planning can help you steer clear of peak traffic periods and possibly save you and your family hours of misery in gridlock.

Use websites and apps to find the cheapest gas prices, good food choices, and the best campground rates, and travel routes, DiLorenzo recommends.

Speaking of technology, make sure you leave behind all work-related calls, texts, and emails. If you want to have a smartphone on your vacation, make sure it’s not a work-related device.

To help the miles pass easily, make a music mix that appeals to the entire family. Family activities such as word games are another fun way to keep everyone entertained while in the RV or car.

We are officially into summer, and that means family road trip time for many of us!. (Source: theveganmom.com)

Be sure to make regular stops and pull over whenever you see potentially interesting or unique attractions, DiLorenzo advises.

Be cautious about dairy drinks and smelly snacks. A spill on a seat can eventually create a terrible stink during a summer road trip.

But be sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks so that you don’t have to buy junk food during your trip.

Road Trip Boredom Busters

The family road trip can be a time to bond and learn about each other’s interests and points of view—or an ordeal that makes you want to scream every time you hear “Are we there yet?” from your kids.

A road trip can be a fun, educational, and sane experience with just a little planning, creativity, and preparation. Sure, electronic games, apps, and portable DVD players are great distractions. But don’t overlook these family-friendly games and activities that can keep everyone happy as the miles go by.

Can-Do Cards

Don’t underestimate the power of a deck of cards. It presents endless possibilities for all ages and can provide hours of entertainment and concentration. If your kids are sick of the standard Go Fish, Crazy Eights, and Rummy games, buy — or borrow from your local library — a kids’ card games book for new ideas. Or buy a deck of quiz or trivia cards to keep their brains busy.

Journal Jotting

Buy cheap but sturdy journals (or use plain notebooks or create your own from construction paper, hole puncher, and yarn) and have kids write down and describe what they see along the way. Have them collect something small (a stone, a seashell, a flower, etc.) or buy a super-small trinket from rest stops (buttons, stickers, postcards, etc.) to glue into their journal, describing each stop and each location or landmark they pass.

Bring along a stack of old magazines and have kids cut out and paste pictures into their journals to illustrate some of what they’ve seen (cows, fire trucks, palm trees, deer, cars, etc.). Give each kid a disposable camera to capture their own memories and keep the pictures in their personal road-trip journals.

Wordplay

Summer road trips can be fun for adults and children. (Source: familylivingideas.com)

Have kids write down various words they see as you drive along (from billboards, bumper stickers, roadside attractions and stores, license plates, signs, the sides of trucks, etc.). Ask them to write a story, poem, or song grouping all of the words they see together. Have them read, perform, or sing their creation for everyone when they’re done.

Additional road-trip boredom busters have been made available by The Nemours Foundation.

Worth Pondering…

If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.

—Rachel Carson

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Utah: Five Spectacular National Parks

Utah’s five national parks have it all.

A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll see unique soaring spires, towering pinnacles, sandstone canyons, and intricately eroded arches of sculptured stone for starters.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park splashes color for 100 miles from its northern to southern boundaries.

The central geologic feature, the Waterpocket Fold, is a bulging uplift of rainbow-hued sandstone “reefs” and canyons. Much of Capitol Reef is an inviting wilderness of sandstone formations such as Capitol Dome, Hickman Bridge, and Temple of the Sun and Moon in the backcountry of splendid Cathedral Valley.

Rock art petroglyphs are abundant in the midst of Capitol Reef’s red rocks and tell the story of the early indigenous people, the Fremont Culture. Close by are the large orchards of Fruita, an early pioneer settlement—and now headquarters for the park—where a variety of fruit may be picked in season.

The visitor center and campground are open year-round. Several easy hiking trails and a 25-mile scenic drive are found in this area. Cathedral Valley and other backcountry regions are reached by traveling on dirt roads, so make sure to inquire locally about current road conditions.

The park is 11 miles east of Torrey or 37 miles west of Hanksville on Utah Highway 24.

Continue reading →

Canyonlands National Park

The Island in the Sky region is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Views thousands of feet down to the Green and Colorado Rivers, or thousands of feet up to red rock pinnacles, cliffs, and spires create the incredible beauty of Utah’s largest national park.

The rivers have sliced Canyonlands National Park into three districts, each named according to its distinctive landscape.

Island in the Sky is the northern section where visitors can look down to the Colorado River on the east and the Green River on the west. The southern tip overlooks the rivers’ confluence.

The Needles District is named for its profusion of red rock spires and sandstone fins.

The remote Maze District is Canyonlands’ most jumbled stone playground, requiring backcountry use permits year-round.

Major entrances to the park are accessible from U.S. Highway 191. Access to Island in the Sky is 35 miles northwest of Moab and access to the Needles District is 22 miles north of Monticello.

Canyonlands is world-renowned for its four-wheel-drive vehicle and mountain bike routes, and its whitewater rafting. Visitor centers are open year-round.

Continue reading →

Arches National Park
Arches National Park has about 2,000 windowed arches, towering spires, harrowing hoodoos, and precarious pinnacles on display—such as Balanced Rock, Skyline Arch, and Courthouse Towers.

Delicate Arch, perhaps Utah’s most iconic feature is a must-hike destination in the park. Arches contain 73,000 acres of varied landscapes, with a paved 40-mile scenic drive from the park entrance to the campground at Devil’s Garden.

There are numerous parking areas for trail access and scenic overlooks. Two trails, and a viewpoint accessible by car, offer different views of Delicate Arch, the park’s most famous geologic feature.

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road guides and hiking brochures are available at the visitor center and the park entrance, located five miles north of Moab via U.S. Highway 191.

Arches National Park is open year-round, as is the campground. Water is only available seasonally.

Continue reading →

Come visit Utah. Come and live Life Elevated®! 

Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series

Part 1: Utah: The Ultimate Road Trip

Worth Pondering…

The West is color. Its colors are animal rather than vegetable, the colors of earth and sunlight and ripeness.

—Jessamyn West

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Utah: The Ultimate Road Trip

Utah is a place of unfathomable natural beauty—with its unique natural formations, colorful history, and culture, and exciting recreation opportunities—it is a state that contains the best elements of the great Mountain West and the Desert Southwest, from red rock splendor to mountain peaks with The Greatest Snow on Earth®, Utah is a four-season world-class travel destination.

Home to five national parks, Utah is the perfect place for your next family road trip.

The majesty that is Zion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The majesty that is Zion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah’s five spectacular national parks stretch across the southern half of the state. Each park offers the traveler unique, world-class scenic vistas, and geological phenomena. In fact, Utah’s National Parks feature some of the most astonishing landscapes in the world.

Each park shows off a completely different scenic view of the state’s natural beauty.

These national parks are perfect for camping, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, rafting, kayaking, and even golf.

Before you start packing the RV and inflating the mountain bike tires, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect at each of Utah’s breathtaking national parks.

Zion National Park
The soaring towers and massive monoliths of Zion offer a spectacular grandeur. Recently celebrating its 101st year as a national park, it is also Utah’s most popular park, welcoming nearly 2.6 million visitors in 2010.

A multi-passenger shuttle system is the only motorized transportation allowed in the main canyon during peak season. The open-air shuttles allow visitors to enjoy Zion’s lofty formations such as the Great White Throne, Angels Landing, and Weeping Rock. It also includes a “town loop” that stops in the town of Springdale at the park’s south entrance.

Visitors can still use private vehicles to tour the park on Utah Highway 9, but RV and other over-sized vehicles are subject to restrictions and a fee charged for escort through a mountain tunnel.

Hiking and photography are two favorite activities at Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking and photography are two favorite activities at Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are numerous easy, self-guided trails in Zion, including Gateway to the Narrows, which is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs with assistance. More adventurous or strenuous hikes are also found in the park such as The Subway, Angels Landing, and The Narrows.

Two entrances to Zion are 33 miles east of I-15 or 12 miles west of U.S. Highway 89, both on Utah Highway 9. The northern Kolob Canyons section is accessible off I-15, 18 miles south of Cedar City.

Visitor centers, campgrounds, and the historic Zion Lodge are open year-round.

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Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is actually less of a canyon than it is a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock “hoodoos.”

Millions of years of wind, water, and geologic forces have shaped and etched the surreal landscape. The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Bryce is an unforgettable experience.

Bryce Canyon's limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon’s limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located 24 miles southeast of the town of Panguitch, the park is open year-round and the area is popular with the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing crowd in the winter months. Summertime offers a myriad of walking and hiking trails along the rim and toward the bottom of the canyon. Many visitors think it’s even better seen from horseback.

The 37-mile scenic drive will also get you to key overlooks and vistas, such as Sunrise, Sunset, Rainbow, Yovimpa, and Inspiration Points.

The visitor center is open year-round. Bryce Canyon Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, is open April through November.

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Come visit Utah. Come and live Life Elevated®! 

Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series

Part 2: Utah: Five Spectacular National Parks

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.”
—Walt Whitman, Song for the Open Road

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Be Prepared with Road Trip Planner

You and your family are packed into your recreational vehicle, heading out of town for a much-needed vacation to kick off the summer.

Heavy rain severely diminishes visibility on the road. Photo courtesy of RozSheffield (who was a passenger, not the driver when taking this photo)

The skies were clear when you left home, but several hours out the skies turn dark and ominous. Suddenly, rain pours down in buckets and you can hardly see.

A flashing road sign instructs drivers to turn to the highway’s emergency radio station. A severe thunderstorm warning, complete with quarter-sized hail and exceptionally high winds, is being issued for several local counties.

But you have no idea what county you’re in. Are you heading directly into the path of severe weather? Have tornado watches or warnings been issued?

When planning for a road trip, people often think to check the weather at their destination so they know which clothes to pack and the type of activities to prepare for. But how many people think to track the weather along their route?

Some RVers may look at a national summary forecast to get a gist of their route’s weather, but they may not have information on the specifics. Who knows what counties they’ll be going through, what the weather will be like, and when or where they can stop if the weather becomes too severe?

One useful tool to assist the traveler in planning ahead is the AccuWeather.com Road Trip Planner.

Using directions by Google Maps, Road Trip Planner allows you to not only enter your start and end points to get detailed driving directions; you can also input the time you plan to leave to see hourly weather forecasts along your route.

In the image below you live in Burlington (Vermont) and plan to take your family on a vacation to Cape Cod. Using Road Trip Planner, you select that you are leaving your address at 9:00 a.m. and heading to a specific location.

AccuWeather Road Trip Planner provides the weather forecast for your route so you can plan ahead.

A list of directions will be generated, as well as a map that shows your route and the weather you can expect along the way. It approximates where you should be in hourly intervals and gives you the weather and temperature for that area.

If you were to see that you should be near the Methuen (Massachusetts) area around 2:00 p.m., and that they are expecting rain, you could research what counties you’ll be passing through so you can understand emergency warnings. You’d know to keep your umbrella easily accessible in the cockpit area.

You could also look for a place where you can stop temporarily in case the rain reduces your visibility so that you no longer feel safe on the road. You could look up the town on AccuWeather.com to see if a warning for flash flooding or severe weather is posted.

While you’re on the road it is crucial that you pay attention to all lights and signs.

Keep your radio on and tuned to the weather channel. Ensure that you heed all watches and warnings.

“Watches, like severe thunderstorm watches and tornado watches, which are two of the most common types, are issued when weather conditions are conducive for the event to occur,” said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Mike Pigott.

A “tornado watch,” for example, includes the “large hail and damaging wind threats, as well as the possibility of multiple tornadoes,” according to NOAA National Weather Service.

Image courtesy AccuWeather

“Warnings are different. A warning is issued when the weather event is happening now,” Pigott said.

“In terms of flooding, for instance, a flood warning means a river has spilled over or flash flooding is occurring.”

Your RV or car is NOT a safe place to be if a flash flood or a tornado is coming through the area, so if the weather is turning severe find a secure place to stop and wait out the worst of the storm.

Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle so you don’t end up stranded without the proper supplies.

By taking the time to prepare before you hit the road, you could save yourself hours of aggravation during your trip.

In poor visibility, drive slowly and put on your hazard lights. It’s always better to be late to your destination than to get in an accident and not arrive at all.

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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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California Road Trips 2012 Focuses On Family Road Trips

It’s family road trip season and California Road Trips 2012 encourages visitors to hit the road and explore the Golden State, with this year’s focus on fun for the entire family.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (Source: Visit California/Christian Heeb)

The newly released guide maps out special two- to three-day driving getaways as well as more detailed routes for longer vacations throughout California’s 12 diverse regions, according to a news release.

“California is home to many iconic destinations—many of which are best viewed from the road. Visitors who travel our highways and byways can experience the incredible diversity of the state from its spectacular coastline to the higher ground of the Sierra and everything in between,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California.

“California Road Trips 2012 reinforces the best of California with a focus on our incredible attractions that every member of the family will enjoy.”

This year, the theme of the guide, produced by Visit California and Sunset Publishing, is “Family Fun,” a focus that has special resonance in California, with its abundance of attractions from historical sites, educational museums, and hands-on experiences to incomparable theme parks to outdoor adventures.

Each itinerary presents a range of activities for all kinds of travelers, inviting people to stop, explore, learn, and have fun.

Inside California Road Trips 2012, readers will find inside scoops on things to see and do and the abundance of activities they’ll find throughout the state of California. As part of the guide’s “Strike it Rich” trip, drivers can fuel up for a trip back through time into California’s Gold Country.

In “Welcome to Adventureland,” visitors discover wild beaches, serene tide pools and a surprise safari along California’s North Coast.

San Diego Skyline (Source: Visit California)

They can also head for the “Great Wild North” to sample outdoor adventures in the mountains, lakes, and secret swimming holes of California’s Shasta Cascade.

This is shaping up to be California’s best summer ever as 2012 is a huge year for theme parks and attractions with new rides and attractions opening from north to south, including Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park, the new Transformers: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, and SeaWorld’s first thrill ride—Manta!

This year’s issue of Road Trips will see one million distributions, with 600,000 guides being distributed in the June 2012 issue of Sunset magazine; the remaining 400,000 will be distributed through domestic and international direct fulfillment and trade shows.

Details

Visit California

Visit California (formerly known as the California Travel & Tourism Commission) is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs—in partnership with the state travel industry—that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination.

According to Visit California, travel and tourism expenditures total $102.3 billion annually in California (20 percent of which is international), support jobs for 893,000 Californians and generate $6.3 billion in state and local tax revenues.

Address: P.O. Box 1499, Sacramento, CA 95812-1499

Phone: (916) 444-4429 or (877) 225-4367 (toll free in U.S. and Canada)

Website: visitcalifornia.com

Catalina Island (Source: Visit California)

Road Trips 2012

Road Trips 2012 will be available for free in digital format on the Visit California website and Visit California iPad app, available in the Apple App Store, or by calling 1-877-CALIFORNIA.

Worth Pondering…

California Dreaming

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I went for a walk
On a winters day
I’d be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin
On such a winters day

Oh, California dreamin (California dreamin)
On such a winters day (California dreamin)
—Beach Boys

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