Road Trip Nation: On The Road To Adventure

Summer has finally arrived, which means it’s time to hit the road in search of adventure.

Hyannis, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hyannis, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So get out there and make some memories as you travel this beautiful country of ours.

But before you go, there’s the planning. Don’t just hit the road. Choose right.

The road trip is one of North America’s grand traditions—a chance to travel and see things from ground level. And with thoughtful planning you’ll avoid the “are we there yet” blues often associated with family vacations.

Where to road trip? Here are four road trips that will awaken your senses and make you glad to be “on the road again…”

Highway 6, Cape Cod, Massachusetts 

Cape Cod is an arm-shaped peninsula located on the Easternmost portion of Massachusetts. It is a well-traveled tourist and vacation area, featuring miles and miles of beaches, natural attractions, historic sites, art galleries, restaurants, and a variety of campgrounds and RV parks.

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

Allocate some time to explore this charming 117-mile route that wends through Cape Cod. You will go through forests, past saltbox homes in colonial villages, tidal ponds, and eventually end up at the Provincetown harbor. Don’t miss the towering sand dunes and beaches.

Along the route you can enjoy a bike ride along the sandy shores or bask in the sun before finishing the day munching on a plate of delectable, fresh seafood. But be prepared to spend a lot of time on stops in quaint Cape Cod towns like Hyannis, Easton, Wellfleet, Truro. You will have good chowder. See sand dunes. Drink some craft beer. Hear the slapping Atlantic Ocean. Maybe buy some antiques. This is Americana.

Word of advice: stick with weekdays.

Scenic Byway 12, Utah

Highway 12 is one of the most scenic highways in America, receiving the designation of All American Road in 2002. The highway has two National Parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, at each end and many other scenic points in between.

The route goes for 124 miles at significant elevations (9,000 feet) through forested mountains to the amazing bald mountains in Boulder. From there the road begins following a narrow ridge along the red canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

The Green-backed Heron, the smallest Florida heron, is found along the Tamiami Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Green-backed Heron, the smallest Florida heron, is found along the Tamiami Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around each bend, there are surprises: eroded towers and ramparts, dense forests of aspen and fir, pinyon and sagebrush, rolling slickrock, variegated buttes and mesas, snaking canyons, and rock walls varnished with mineral stains.

Part of the challenge of a road trip on Scenic Byway 12 is deciding which of several beautiful side trips to take: Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Calf Creek Falls, Burr Trail, and Capitol Reef National Park.

Tamiami Trail, Florida

Take a scenic road trip through the Sunshine State, enjoying a route that connects historical Florida with its modern counterpart. A National Scenic Byway, the Tamiami Trail (U.S. Highway 41/State Road 90) is 264 miles of warm sunlight, salty breezes, and lush vegetation. The highway is described as the Beauty and the Beast of Florida roadways by the St. Petersburg Times, winding its way through the Florida Everglades, hammock oaks, and sandy pines.

Passing through Ruskin, Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers, and Naples, the Tamiami Trail connects Tampa to Miami. It forms a portion of the northern boundary of Everglades National Park and provides access to Shark Valley Slough and observation tower. The road is the only way to access the Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center and Headquarters.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Discover Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now, let’s go RVing to the beautiful Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Osoyoos? Okanagan? Oh, and how do you pronounce that again?

The northern most point of the Sonora Desert is British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley.

Located in the southern interior, the Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The mountains are lined with ponderosa pine, which give way to cacti, tumbleweeds, and fragrant sage brush. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles from Osoyoos in the south to Vernon in the north.

If you’re not familiar with this pocket of British Columbia, then think, peaches and beaches, wine-tasting, foodie-filled, great outdoor experience and fun in this, Canada’s only desert.

The pairing of some stellar Okanagan Valley wines is all part of the experience.

And that’s the beauty of the Okanagan Valley region, and Osoyoos in particular. Grapes grow alongside desert-like dunes; low-lying golf course greens huddle between mountain peaks.

Worth Pondering…

Free again! All it takes is a clean windshield and a full tank of gas, and you feel a terrible craving to be “on the road again”. Let’s see what’s over the next hill complex. Is that Willie Nelson singing. For real, there’s the music of this friendly engine pushing you along with the lyrics of the road.

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Top 7 Snowbird Hotspots

Cold winter weather is inevitable. But there is an escape.

Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coachella Valley Preserve, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half. As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds avoid winter’s bite, snow and blowing snow, and treacherous icy sidewalks and streets by migrating southward.

Northerners have a bounty of options for destinations. Many snowbirds are north-south creatures with Florida remaining a top spot for Easterners. Snowbirds from the Northwest settle in Arizona and southern California while those in the Mid-West are attracted to Texas. But these states aren’t alone in luring snowbirds, and even within each of these states there’s a bevy of choices to suit every traveler’s taste, interests, and budget.

While many snowbirds head directly south from their northern home and enjoy long-term stays at RV parks and resorts, others cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude. Still other snowbirds follow an itinerary across the Sun Belt sampling a variety of regions and roosts.

Here’s a look at six places that snowbirds might call their winter home.

Yuma and the Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Yuma and the Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs

Rich in natural beauty and blessed with glorious weather, Palm Springs and the desert resort cities of the Coachella Valley is a snowbird and vacation paradise, the ultimate desert playground. Part of the Colorado Desert, the area is bounded by majestic mountain ranges—the San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, and Santa Rosa mountains close by, the little San Bernardino Mountains to the west and the Chocolate Mountains to the east. This desert oasis is also known as a golfing paradise.

Key West

The southernmost tip of Florida has been the end of the line for eccentrics, free spirits, and creative types for a century or more. Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams are among its former residents.

Yuma

Yuma’s wonderfully temperate winter climate makes this southwestern Arizona city a popular destination for snowbirds escaping their cold winter homes. Arizona’s warmest winter city and the sunniest year-round spot in the U.S., Yuma has an annual average of 4,133 hours of sunshine.

Yuma is a major growing region for lettuce, dates, broccoli, cabbage, and agricultural seeds. Some of the major attractions around the Yuma area include the historical Territorial Prison, the Yuma Crossing Historic Park, and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

green jay
Green jay at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park/World Birding Center near Mission © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Diego

San Diego is the last major city in southern California before the Mexican border. Cosmopolitan, and upscale, the area is blessed with a Goldilocks climate that’s never too hot nor too cold, a natural beauty on the Pacific Ocean and a deep restaurant and entertainment scene centered around the central and walkable Gaslamp Quarter.

Mission

Located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, Mission welcomes the thousands of Winter Texans that call Mission their temporary home. Mission offers some of the most spectacular locations for birding and butterfly watching on earth. The Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park/World Birding Center and the National Butterfly Center have created havens for the special species unique to the area, and invite birders and naturalists to their sites by offering viewing stations, watching towers, interpretive centers, and various programs.

St. Petersburg

Along with beautiful beaches, St. Petersburg attracts visitors with the Salvador Dali Museum, Fort De Soto Park, and the St. Petersburg Pier. Beach Drive features a variety of dining and shopping opportunities. Glimmering between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg is known for its warm weather and delightful breezes, and fun in the sun.

Stretching outward, an army of saguaro cacti waved at me with their massive prickly arms. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Saguaro National Park near Tucson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucson

There are numerous reasons to visit Tucson and the many other historic towns and sights around Southern Arizona. Some snowbirds come for a week or two. Others stay for the season.

Some of the major attractions include Sabino Canyon, Saguaro National Park, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, San Xavier del Bac (White Dove of the Desert), Catalina State Park, Kit Peak National Observatory, Tohono Chul Park, Pima Air and Space Museum, and Old Tucson Studios.

Worth Pondering…

When you are young, you dream of leaving your house on a set of wheels. When you retire you dream of living in a house on a set of wheels.

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Lazydays Expands & Upgrades RV Resort

Lazydays, the world’s largest RV dealership, announced it is now home to an expanded, upgraded 300-site RV Resort open to the general public.

Lazydays Tampa RV Resort
Lazydays Tampa RV Resort

Amenities have been designed to provide camping enjoyment for people of all ages whether they are RVing individually, with families, or within large groups, the company stated in a news release.

Lazydays’ resort staff is on site 24 hours a day and is available to assist in any way, even help in planning special events, large and small. A full-time concierge is located on site to assist with travel plans and discounted local attraction tickets.

The spacious pool area features a resurfaced heated pool, hot tub, renovated pool baths, and an expansive beautifully appointed deck with all new resort-style outdoor furniture. The tennis court has been resurfaced and two half-basketball courts have been added. Other recreational activity areas feature horseshoes, bean bag toss, ladderball, badminton, and pickleball.

The new Children’s Playground and Park features state-of-the-art playground equipment and a Gazebo, perfect for small gatherings, according to the release.

The entire Lazydays campus is pet friendly and the resort has a dog park.

Lazydays parts storeIts RV-themed restaurant and pub, named Exit 10, features daily drink and dinner specials on site Tuesday through Sunday as well as poolside access throughout the week. Take-out and catering services are also available.

For the RVer who takes their work on the road, the Lazydays RV Resort Business Center offers a quiet office environment with computer and printer access.  Free Wi-Fi, complimentary morning newspaper delivery, premium coffee, and cable television are also available to all RV resort guests.

Each full-service RV site has 50-amp electric service and is situated in close proximity to all recreational facilities and a completely renovated laundry facility. Golf cart rentals and shuttle services are also available. Breakfast and lunch are included with every site Monday through Saturday.

“Since Lazydays first opened in 1976, we have been listening to our customers and their RV lifestyle needs,” said Lazydays CEO Tim Sheehan.

“Our RV resort is a true reflection of our ongoing commitment to provide a state of the art recreational playground for all ages and resort level quality and service at every level.”

The Lazydays RV Resort is located on-property of the 126-acre dealership site that is home to over 1,200 RVs and 220 service bays. Also located on the Lazydays campus is an RV parts and accessories store with a broad selection of merchandise to enhance the RV experience, and three themed restaurants including the exclusive Crown Club for the luxury motorhome owner.

LazydaysThe complimentary on-site Lazydays Drivers Confidence Course offers seminars and classes.

Located in central Florida, just outside of Tampa, the Lazydays RV Resort is easily accessible by Interstate 4 and is convenient to theme parks, shopping, and dining destinations, museums and art galleries, aquariums and zoos, and award-winning golf courses open 12 months a year.

Many opportunities for outdoor activities are in close proximity including Florida’s white sandy beaches, nature preserves, and “the salt life”, whether it be fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, or surfing.

Details

Lazydays RV

Tampa Florida skylineIn 1976, a family opened Lazydays RV in Tampa, Florida, with just $500, two travel trailers, and a big dream. Over the years, Lazydays has grown exponentially to have an ever-growing family of RV experts, a vast array of RVs, and a variety of RV services.

From the extensive selection of RVs, and exceptional education and training to the advanced Lazydays RV Service department and Lazydays RV Campground, you can find everything RVers dream about at Lazydays.

Lazydays has a second location in Tucson, Arizona

Phone: (800) 306-4002 (toll free)

Address: 6130 Lazy Days Boulevard, Seffner, FL 33584-296

Website: www.lazydays.com

Worth Pondering…

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

—Goethe

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The Snowbird Migration

The snowbird migration is underway.

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

The V-shaped flight pattern of geese heading south for the winter has become a symbolic image of frigid weather approaching. A similar phenomenon takes place with humans as thousands of Northerners flock south seeking refuge from the blistering cold.

From scenic views to five star dining and shopping, the US Sunbelt has become a major attraction for snowbirds—and the season is now in full swing.

Fledgling snowbirds often start as vacationers, but most evolve in flocks, following friends and family and regional or social enclaves into migratory communities. Snowbirds of a feather do tend to flock together.

They are gilded nomads, prosperous enough to at least afford a camper, trailer, or motorhome.

And most of them seem to like company. At journey’s end: Happy reunions and outdoor play under mostly sunny blue skies. That’s a slice of the good life that snowbirds relish. Between golf, pickleball, bocce, hiking and biking, going to the restaurants— and just enjoying the weather: it’s phenomenal.

pet parade
A pet parade is a popular activity at many Sunbelt RV resorts. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold-climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season. Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.

Climate is a major economic driver for Sunbelt states as winter visitors flee their homes in colder parts of the country. Many snowbirds fill up the RV parks, resulting in millions of dollars being dumped into local economies.

Time was when snowbirds adhered to the calendar as predictably as swallows return, each March 19, to Capistrano or Monarch butterflies, each October, to Mexico. The Season began on October 15 and ended on April 15.

Snowbirds tend to migrate in waves with the early birds arriving in October, and another flock after Thanksgiving with the final wave following Christmas and New Years. Then, in the shift of seasons, they go again returning north anytime between March and May.

Through both journeys, they change the lives of everyone else who comes, for however long, and of everyone who stays.

Snowbirds create a demand for goods and services. They create additional jobs. The dollar impact of their presence is anyone’s guess.

One glance, and you know why it's known as the White Dove of the Desert
One glance, and you know why it’s known as the White Dove of the Desert. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one tracks snowbirds in Florida. The chambers and tourist bureaus don’t.

It’s been ten years since a study has been done on the economic impact of winter visitors in Arizona, but at that time it was estimated that RV snowbirds injected more than $600 million into Arizona’s economy.

In the eyes of many year-round residents, snowbirds are somewhat akin to houseguests: Good to see them arrive, good to see them depart. Snowbird season means greater traffic volume, more crowded supermarket aisles, endless waits to snag a table at a favorite dining spot.

Although year-round residents occasionally whine about more-congested roads, most will agree: Snowbirds inject vitality and dollars into the region.

Local businesses will enjoy the economic boost until late March when things really start to heat up in the Sunbelt states and snowbirds start the trek back to their northern homes.

And, snowbirds don’t just play and pay in paradise: Many volunteer.

Opportunities for volunteering are available at hospitals and nursing homes, amusement and theme parks, museums and art galleries, visitor information and welcome centers, and other outdoor recreation facilities and attractions. Numerous nonprofit agencies rely on snowbirds to play an important role during the winter months.

Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert.
Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For snowbirds that love recreational activities and enjoy interacting with other people, volunteering offers numerous opportunities for giving back to society.

If you choose to work while you play, enjoy your experience.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day…

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

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When Snowbirds Become Staybirds

The demographic commonly known as snowbirds, remains an established population through the US Sunbelt each winter season. As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape frigid, windy, icy, and snowy climes at home by migrating southward each year.

When Snowbirds Become Staybirds
When Snowbirds Become Staybirds

Then almost as a rite of summer the migratory trend reverses itself and snowbirds head back north from whence they came. Or do they, anymore?

In other words, they may be staying for the summer.

In an attempt to track snowbirds flocking in and out of the state, Arizona media outlets have initiated a project to determine whether the term snowbird and all that it implies is still accurate.

They want to find out if those who have come to be known as snowbirds truly keep two residences and treat them as two separate brick-and-mortar homes. Or, one permanent residence and RV south for winter.

Or, has that pattern altered? Have snowbirds become staybirds?

Do they live in Arizona most of the year and take off for several months to visit their hometowns or travel elsewhere when the sun blazes in the Southwest, and then return to their yearlong home in Arizona?

Undoubtedly, these same questions have been pondered in Florida, Texas, and southern California.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
When Snowbirds Become Staybirds. Pictured above Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For years now, the migratory patterns and numbers of snowbirds have been somewhat a mystery. Arizona State University, which used to track snowbirds flocking in and out of the state, no longer does so.

A local survey by the Ahwatukee Foothills News suggests that the number of Arizona winter visitors is not decreasing and that more of them are becoming yearlong Arizona residents.

The Valley’s proliferation of single-family homes have made research more difficult than it was when most snowbirds stayed in an RV/MH park for four to six months in places like Yuma, Tucson, and Apache Junction.

In an attempt to shed some light on an issue that has significant cultural, social, and economic impact on the entire state, various media began by asking questions of a variety of people, groups, and organizations to determine how things have changed since ASU last charted the Snowbird pattern.

Did you start out as a Snowbird and end up a Staybird?

Phoenix Metro RV Park caters exclusively to an over-55 age group. Jan Venard, the park’s assistant manager, noted that the business has been at its peak during recent snowbird seasons, but almost everybody that can leave departs for the summer. Venard, who been at the park for three years, hasn’t noticed significant changes during her tenure.

On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma’s been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma’s been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Diane Rossell has managed the Tempe Travel Trailer Villa long enough to see the changes at the macro level. She also agreed that winter business has boomed in the past four years. The most significant change, however, is the increase in summer residents. According to Rossell, usually 60 out of 160 lots remain vacant during the summer, but in the past four years, only 30 lots have been vacant. Instead of maintaining their original home base, many of them have elected to reside permanently in the RV park.

Contempo Tempe, another RV park, also said fewer winter residents are leaving Arizona during the summer, about 15 percent compared to about 25 percent in the past.

Supplementing information from mobile home communities, senior activity centers offer a softer angle on snowbird trends.

The Ahwatukee Recreation Center gives retirees the opportunity to socialize and learn new hobbies. The recreational center noted that while it has less participation during the summer, the discrepancy is not as big as it used to be. The findings of the Ahwatukee Recreational Center would seem to corroborate the observations of local RV parks.

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

The evidence indicates that the snowbirds haven’t diminished. If anything, out-of-state visitors have increased their presence. The only change is that many of them are settling down on a permanent basis.

While they offer an indication on their own, such information would be bolstered with data such as seasonal delivery stop/starts by the U.S. Postal Service. But those figures simply are not available.

The same could be said of utility shutoffs. But the companies that deliver gas, electricity, and water do not keep that kind of data.

So, where can one turn to for a clearer picture of current summertime population trends?

The U.S. Census Bureau might be one place. Again, the data is inconclusive.

So, while the question may not have a definitive overall answer at this point, there are indicators. And there are plenty of folks who would like to know more.

Worth Pondering…

A saguaro can fall for a snowman but where would they set up house?

—Jodi Picoult

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North-South Snowbird RV Routes

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year.

RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino at Redding, California,
RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino at Redding, California, is a great travel stop on I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Selecting a balmy snowbird roost is when all the fun begins. Choice is in rich supply.

Many snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada, and California; those from the Midwest flock to Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

Are you planning on heading directly south from your home location? Or will you cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude?

Choice of route is also subject to your own inclinations. Do you want to sightsee along the way, or—as might be the case in mid-winter—do you prefer to go hell-bent-for- leather to the Sunbelt?

A successful—and stress free—trip requires a little homework  before you leave.

Regardless of your journey, factor in the drive times and travel expenses.

While you’re at it, be sure to account for the changing weather conditions you’ll encounter on your travels. If you haven’t given yourself enough time to avoid the first winter storm, plan accordingly. Allow yourself sufficient time for cold-weather driving, and bring ample warm-weather clothes to get you through the journey.

After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour of the Lodi (California) wine area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since the interstate highways are generally well-maintained and have priority for snow clearing and sanding, they’re a good bet for safe winter travel.

With many interstate highways in America, the price one pays for fast speed convenience is a lack of variation in the scenery one passes through. North-south interstates are different, partly because they are north-south routes and therefore pass through varying climatic conditions and altitude changes.

Interstates 95 and 75 are the two preferred north-south travel routes from the northeast to Florida because they are direct and provide a wide range of service facilities.

“Along Interstate-95″ and “Along Interstate-75″ are two popular spiral bound mile-by-mile guidebooks with practical information on these two major north-south routes.

I-95 is the longest north-south interstate in the US, traveling through 15 states. It is the main highway on the East Coast of the U. S., paralleling the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida and serving some of the best-known cities in the country including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Miami.

Whiskey Flats RV Park (Hawthorne, Nevada) is conveniently located mid-way between Reno and Las Vegas
Many snowbirds from the Northwest use US Highway 95 for their north-south travel route. Whiskey Flats RV Park (Hawthorne, Nevada) is conveniently located mid-way between Reno and Las Vegas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Snowbirds who RV south for the winter from the northwest have a choice of several routes with most opting for I-5 or 1-15 for a major portion of the journey. But many RVers ask, “Isn’t there a better route?” That seems to be a common question on RV forums.

Although friends have shared little short-cuts with us (such as leaving I-15 at Dillon and going 41/55 to Whitehall and 69 into Boulder, avoiding the big climb to Butte), the result of our conversations and research have shown few strong alternatives to the I-15.

It’s winter, we’re not interested in the icy scenery and we just want to get out of the cold. Getting there is not half the fun. All of this points to the I-15 as the best Snowbird path south from Alberta, Montana, and eastern Idaho.

Snowbirds from the Midwest often use Interstate 35 and a combination of several other interstates and secondary highways to reach their Sunbelt roost.

Plotting a route in common mapping software or relying exclusively on a GPS generally produces the fastest or shortest route, which isn’t necessarily the best winter driving route for RVs.

Orange Groove RV Park, off US-99 in Bakersfield
Orange Groove RV Park, off US-99 in Bakersfield is a popular overnight stop for snowbirds. It’s a 40-acre orchard where you park your RV between row after row of beautiful orange trees. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Watch the weather and road reports. Leave when you have a three-day window of good weather and clear roads.

Mountain driving, with its steep grades and hairpin turns, can be scary enough in the summer especially for those accustomed to gunbarrel-straight highways. However, it’s really the ice and snow that are the big concern.

If you get caught in a winter storm, wait it out and give the road crews time to clear the highway.

Drive carefully leaving extra room between vehicles and allow extra time to stop.

If the weather looks like it will be getting bad, or becomes terrible overnight, then stay put. Much better to spend an extra day in a campground than in a cold RV stranded on a snow-bound highway.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

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Snowbird Tips—Exploring the Sun Belt

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year.

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

Selecting your balmy Snowbird roost is when all the fun begins. Choice is in rich supply, and for those who like to hop around a bit, a combination of spots can let you sample entire regions and states.

Perhaps the biggest consideration should be on the type of environment you prefer, as well as the type of activities you’d like to pursue. Do you crave white sandy beaches and tropical palm trees? Or dry air and rustic frontier homesteads? Perhaps a thriving music and arts scene? Or maybe you’re after a balance of big city fun and small-town charm?

Many communities seem tailor made for snowbirds, complete with popular tourism attractions, spectacular national parks and scenery that’s open year-round. Check out the RV shows, farmers markets, swap meets, seasonal festivals, sports events, and other events occurring in your prospective destination.

Many follow the sun to snowbird hotspots in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. Less familiar snowbird roosts attract others to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada. Great snowbird destinations thrive across the Sun Belt; all you have to do is find the one that’s right for you.

Many Snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada and California; those from the Midwest flock to Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

This may sound crazy, but I am going back to Crazy Quartzsite again this year!
This may sound crazy, but I am going back to Crazy Quartzsite again this year! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While many snowbirds head directly south from their northern home and enjoy long-term stays at RV parks and resorts, others cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude. Still other snowbirds follow an itinerary across the Sun Belt sampling a variety of regions and roosts.

The routes to the southern destinations are filled with attractions—if you plan to take your time on your way to the sunshine you will undoubtedly discover that getting there is half the fun.

Some snowbirds break up their journey into segments taking several weeks to a month or more to reach their southern roost.

While many snowbirds enjoy long-term stays at RV parks and resorts that cultivate a sense of community among seasonal residents, others spend the winter months traveling from one warm-weather location to another.

Getting there can be half the fun!

The southwest is amazing. The colors are vibrant, the land varied and breathtaking.

Southern Utah is a land of unsurpassed, surprising beauty, characterized by contrasting landscapes of snow-capped mountains, towering fins of orange sandstone shaped by erosion into bridges, arches, and strange hoodoos. The major draw for many visitors to Southern Utah is Utah’s five spectacular national parks: Bryce Canyon and Zion in the southwest, Capitol Reef roughly in the center of the state, and Arches and Canyonlands in the southeastern reaches.

You only live once, so Las Vegas is a must! From casinos to shopping to mega extravaganza shows, it’s a world wonder of glitz, glamour, and non-stop action. Gambling to showgirl glamour, everything is bigger-than-life and abundant in Vegas.

When the lights, sights, and sounds of the Strip become over-stimulating and you crave the thrill of adventure, take a gamble and see what sort of excitement awaits in the desert beyond Las Vegas. Not everything revolves around the casinos—get out of town and do some exploring.

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red rock formations, towering mountains, vast expanses of high desert covered with Joshua trees, and Hoover Dam are all within an hour’s drive of the city. From Valley of Fire State Park to the Speedway and world-class fishing on Lake Mead, there’s always something to do.

The way the Texas countryside changes from the stark desert to the prairie to the juniper forests and lush green of the hill country is spectacular. Across the state you’ll find award-winning BBQ, the original Tex-Mex, truly astounding seafood, and the best chili to ever grace a bowl. And yes, pecan pie and Blue Bell ice cream.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day…

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

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Snowbird Migrate Southward To U.S. Sunbelt

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year.

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

There is an actual bird, the common snowbird, or dark-eyed junco, that migrates south from the cold in groups. John James Audubon, the great naturalist and painter, once wrote of the snowbird, “The migration of these birds is performed by night, as they are seen in a district one day and have disappeared the next.”

Then he added, “So gentle and tame does the snowbird become on the least approach of hard weather that it forms, as it were, a companion to every child. Indeed, there is not an individual in the Union who does not know the little snowbird, which, in America, is cherished as the Robin is in Europe.”

Not all of the human variety may be similarly cherished, but they do become companions. As each autumn gives way to winter, most seem to be welcomed back — warmly — to the U.S. Sunbelt.

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road. As we explore North America by RV, natural beauty abounds when least expected, and surprises wait at every turn of the road.

Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world
Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level, tennis courts, spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails, and carriage rides. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each journey we take represents a passage, whether it’s an adventure to a new state or province, a day trip to a new attraction, or an outing with friends.

Never driving our motorhome along a pre-arranged route, we vary stops along the way often taking two to three months to reach our southern destinations.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Even though many consider leaving their home constitutes a vacation, this popular lifestyle should really be thought of simply as being able to enjoy life as you relocate your condo-on-wheels to more desirable seasonal locations.

Selecting your balmy Snowbird roost is when all the fun starts. Choice is in rich supply, and for those who like to hop around a bit, a combination of spots can let you sample entire regions and states.

Superstition Mountain Museum
To further understand and appreciate the Superstition Mountains area, its legend, history, and intrigue tour the 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum, near Apache Junction, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the biggest consideration should be on what kind of environment you’re looking for, as well what kind of activities you’d like to pursue. Do you crave white sandy beaches and tropical temperatures? Or dry air and rustic frontier homesteads? Perhaps a thriving music and arts scene? Or maybe you’re after a balance of big city fun and small-town charm?

Many communities seem tailor made for snowbirds, complete with popular tourism attractions, spectacular national parks and scenery that’s open year-round. Check out the RV shows, farmers markets, swap meets, festivals, sports events,  and other events occurring in your prospective destination.

You’re probably familiar with the snowbird hot spots in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California. Keep in mind that you can also find great snowbird roosts in places like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada. Great snowbird destinations thrive across the Sun Belt; all you have to do is find the one that’s right for you.

Many Snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada and California; those from the Midwest flock to Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

The Cajun Palms RV Resort (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana) swimming pool contains a big plastic pirate ship for children to board and a gigantic purple-and-green dragon stretched across the middle of the water.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Cajun Palms RV Resort (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana) swimming pool contains a big plastic pirate ship for children to board and a gigantic purple-and-green dragon stretched across the middle of the water. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you planning on heading directly south from your home location? Or will you cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude?

Regardless of your journey, factor in the drive times and travel expenses. You wouldn’t want your snowbird stay to be cut short by time on the road.

While you’re at it, be sure to account for the changing weather conditions you’ll encounter on your travels. If you haven’t given yourself enough time to avoid the first frost or snow, plan accordingly. Make sure you allow yourself enough time for cold-weather driving, and bring enough warm-weather clothes to get you through the journey.

Carefully plan the stops along the way, and give yourself some time to do some sightseeing on the journey south.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snow-bird life

behind the wheel.

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Planning For Retirement

Preparing for retirement is a lot of work. That’s one of life’s great ironies.

Don’t retire from something, retire to something. What will you retire to? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Don’t retire from something, retire to something. What will you retire to? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Both financial and physical well-being in retirement require foresight and planning.

In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey writes, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

Financial security in retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and commitment and, yes, money. The average American spends 20 years in retirement yet most people aged 50 to 64 have nothing or next to nothing in retirement accounts and thus will rely solely on Social Security. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.

Aspiring to be financially independent gives you unique choices. It allows you to do what you want with your golden years. But financial goals don’t just happen. You must make them happen.

A financial plan is a road map helping you navigate to your dreams. This step requires you to assess where you want to be five, 10, and 20 years from now and answer some big questions, such as where you want to live in retirement and when you want to stop working.

Although far too many people fail to plan their financial resources, perhaps even more people fail to plan how to invest their hours and days once the structure of the work week is removed by retirement.

Retirement is a time of which most of us have dreamed. It seems wonderful to have fewer responsibilities, be on vacation all the time, and do as we please. Retirement can be all these things, but it is just as important to plan for retirement emotionally as well as financially.

How will you spend your sunset years? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
How will you spend your sunset years? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In his book “Invisible Man” Ralph Ellison writes, “Don’t you know the quickest way to die is to retire?”

Unfortunately, there is considerable research evidence to suggest that he is on to something here.

Although many complain about our long hours at work, the work week establishes a certain stability and structure to our lives.

It may sound utopian to be freed from work responsibilities, and to enjoy, as Henry James in “The Portrait of a Lady” writes, “weeks and months made up only of off-days.”

The removal of this structure, however, without plans to invest one’s time, often leads to boredom, aimlessness, and decline.

Although many people have hobbies and delayed projects to fill their retirement days, others find their lives to be suddenly empty and void of meaning.

A co-worker once told me, “I’m retiring in a month and I never did figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up!” Though that’s an extreme case, I know he’s not alone in failing to set goals or planning how to achieve them.

How will we use our new freedom, our unfolding spare time? How will we convert the windfall of free time into self-fulfillment?

In “Fathers and Sons” Ivan Turgenev writes, “There’s an empty space in my trunk and I’m stuffing hay into it. It’s the same with the luggage of our own lives. It doesn’t matter what you fill it with so long as there’s no empty space.”

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

But it does matter. Retirement gives us control and choices as to how we spend our time. We now have the time to pursue hobbies and projects of interest.

In “The Chosen” Chaim Potok writes, “I am doing things I consider very important now. If I could not do these things, my life would have no value. Merely to live, merely to exist—what sense is there to it? A fly also lives.”

If there is no sense or meaning to it, then Isaac Singer’s character in “The Manor” is correct. “I can die, I am no longer needed.”

For the last seventeen years we have been making our way south, leaving the cold northern winters behind in favor of enjoying the warmth and sunshine of places like Palm Springs, Ol’ Airy Zonie, southern Texas, Alabama Gulf Coast, and sunny Florida.

The southwest is amazing. The colors are vibrant, the land varied and breathtaking. The way the Texas countryside changes from the stark desert to the prairie to the juniper forests and lush green of the hill country is spectacular.

Staying for months at a time we enjoy the Snowbird Lifestyle.

Don’t retire from something, retire to something.

What will you retire to?

Worth Pondering…

Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead—that is where your future lies.
—Ann Landers

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Snowbird Destinations

Snowbirds flock to Ol’ Airy Zonie, Southern Texas, Florida, and other Sunbelt states and Mexico to avoid winter’s bite, snow and blowing snow, and treacherous icy sidewalks and streets. Northern Europeans are also known to migrate to the U.S. Sunbelt, adding to these communities of seasonal residents.

On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma’s been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma’s been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The available options are unlimited enabling snowbirds to design their winter lifestyle to suit their financial ability and social preferences.

The basic question is WHERE are YOU going to go? Do you prefer the Pacific or Atlantic coast or Gulf of Mexico with their sunny beaches, or arid desert? Is your preference for dry air or higher humidity? Do you enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, or biking?

The majority of snowbirds migrate straight south from their northern home. As a result most snowbirds from the Northwest tend to winter in Arizona and California; those from the Midwest in Texas; and snowbirds from the Northeast head to Florida.

Another consideration is finding an RV park that is within your budget. Even with the recent escalation of RV park rates, one can still find a spot for about $400/month.

Large snowbird parks offer a variety of activities: swimming, dancing, woodworking, quilting, lapidary.

With an RV, you have the freedom to check out places that appeal to you. Experiment before you decide to settle into one place. Or, like us, you may prefer to be “roving gypsies”.

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California's southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation.
Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California’s southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Warm weather hubs such as Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California are tops for their predictable warm weather. But other states are also becoming popular—Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Arizona

The majority of snowbird resorts are centered around Mesa, Apache Junction, Tucson, Yuma, and along the Colorado River.

One of the hottest spots in terms of growth is YUMA (Yearly Uncontrolled Migration of the Aged), which doubles in population during winter months.

Any discussion of Arizona and snowbirds would be incomplete without mentioning Quartzsite, a rock-hound paradise since the 1960s. Quartzsite has been described as “$400,000 motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for FREE camping”.

Texas

The aptly-named Roseate Spoonbill is one of Florida's most distinctive wading birds. Spoonbills feed on fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects with its unusual shaped bill. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The aptly-named Roseate Spoonbill is one of Florida’s most distinctive wading birds. Spoonbills feed on fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects with its unusual shaped bill. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thousands of snow-weary Northerners flock to Texas during winter. In Texas—a state famous for adding its unique flair—migrating snowbirds have been dubbed “Winter Texans”.

Most congregate in one of two areas: Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley.

The majority of Winter Texans flock to “The Valley”, an area near the Mexican border that stretches from Brownsville and Harlingen in the east to Mission in the west—a distance of about 65 miles. Winters tend to be mild and a bit breezy. With less expensive living costs, the Valley is arguably the best bargain in the U.S. for wintering in a warm climate.

Florida

Think Florida, and you have thoughts of dazzling white beaches, wind-swept palms, endless citrus groves, fresh-from-the-water seafood, delicious key lime pie, Kennedy Space Center, NASCAR drivers at Daytona International Speedway, well-manicured golf courses, the Everglades, Key West, Disney World, and other Orlando-area theme parks.

Florida is the only state where you can winter anywhere. The further south you go, the warmer the winter temperatures.

There are so many choices depending on your interests and budget. The cost of RV parks increases as you travel further south and with proximity to the Atlantic or Gulf Coast.

California

Winter weather is close to perfect in Palm Springs and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Winter weather is close to perfect in Palm Springs and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The majority of snowbirds who make California their winter home, head for the Coachella Valley. This is desert country with an occasional oasis—some natural but mostly man-made. Known world-wide as “the golfer’s paradise”, golf courses abound.

Synonymous with the good life, Palm Springs is a retreat of the rich and famous, the ultimate in resort living. Swimming pools and fairways almost overlap. People who can afford to winter anywhere in the U.S. often do it here where winter weather is close to perfect.

In conclusion

Every fall when I hear the geese honking overhead, something starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose”. Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I pack up the RV and head south to the Sun Belt.

And, remember, getting there is half the fun.

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