Saving Money On an RV Road Trip

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

Fleetwood Providence Diesel Pusher parked at a Canyon de Chelly National Park (Arizona) view point  © Rex Vogel, all rights
Fleetwood Providence Diesel Pusher parked at a Canyon de Chelly National Park (Arizona) view point © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are some tips that will help you save money while still enjoying all the fun, freedom, and flexibility that RVing has to offer:

Before You Go

Check tire pressure regularly; improperly inflated tires means more money for fuel. 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.

Preventative measures and maintenance will reduce the risk of problems. Preparatory activities should occupy your to-do list prior to any RV trip. It’s important to make sure that all of “the little things” are in place and working properly. While it does take time, it’s far better to be prepared than face an unanticipated malfunction that sabotages your road trip.

Inspect all the belts and hoses for cracking. Check your headlights, turn signals, and tires. Take a look at all your hitch and towing equipment. Check fire extinguisherssmoke alarm, and carbon monoxide detector. Taking a few precautionary measure before you hit the road could help to avoid a mechanical breakdown.

Check the weight on your loaded RV. Keeping the rig to the recommended weight will save on both maintenance costs and fuel.

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. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buy your groceries and supplies at a regular store in your town and use coupons whenever possible. Purchasing items at a camp store or convenience store is crazy expensive. You pay a premium for convenience.

When planning your trip, check out the Chamber of Commerce websites for areas you plan to visit. Call or email to request an information packet by mail. Not only will these info packets have plenty of brochures and information on various local attractions, they often include discount coupons. If you’re on the road just stop in.

If you belong to the AAA, ask about discounts on restaurants, museums, theme parks, fairs, and special events.

Reduce Campground Costs

Camp closer to home. Remember, you’re always on vacation at the campsite, even if it’s only an hour drive from home.

When camping with your RV, commercial campgrounds can take a big bite out of your wallet. You can often find better deals at public campgrounds operated by small towns or counties.

Join a membership campground system such as Thousand Trails.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Join a camping discount club such as Passport America or Happy Camper.

Consider staying for free or nearly free on federal BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.

Take advantage of free overnight parking, offered by Wal-Mart, Sam’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kmart, and some Flying J Truck Stops. It’s also a good idea to know the state towing laws to avoid tickets or towing.

Many Casinos allow free overnight RV parking. A few Casinos require that you be a customer in order to park. There are some Casinos that allow no overnight parking, or require that you park at their adjoining RV campground at their customary nightly rates. You will also find a few Casinos that offer free RV dump stations, and even a few that offer RV hookups on site.

Stay longer in one place. Many RV parks are vacation destinations in their own right, offering something for everyone—swimming pools, playgrounds, game rooms, boating, fishing, nature trails, planned activities and more.

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

Having a written budget is essential to getting your finances under control. If you do not have a written budget it is hard to know if you are living within your means and saving enough money for your long term goals like purchasing a new recreational vehicle.

Worth Pondering…

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.

—Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1849

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Walmart Parking Lot Abuse Leaves 1 Dead & Officer Shot

The Cottonwood, Arizona, Walmart parking lot was the scene of a weekend fight that left one suspect dead and an officer shot, according to information provided by Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials and several witnesses.

(Photo courtesy Arizona Department of Public Safety)
(Photo courtesy Arizona Department of Public Safety)

Cottonwood Police Department received a call about a Walmart employee who had been assaulted by one of the suspects just before midnight.

Eight officers were also assaulted in the Walmart parking lot Saturday night (March 21, 2015) in a fight that left one suspect dead, another wounded, and seven in custody, according to officials.

The fight happened after the Cottonwood Police Department received a call at 11:52 p.m. from the Cottonwood Walmart reporting that a suspect shoved a female employee in a store bathroom.

When officers arrived, the suspects were in the parking lot and attacked the officers.

Several years ago SmartCentres, which owns the Kamloops, British Columbia shopping centre, installed large new signs on the lot reminding customers there is no overnight parking for RVs or trucks. (Credit: bcnews.ca)
Several years ago SmartCentres, which owns the Kamloops, British Columbia shopping centre, installed large new signs on the lot reminding customers there is no overnight parking for RVs or trucks. (Credit: bcnews.ca)

One suspect was shot and killed during the fight, another was shot in the abdomen, and a total of seven others were taken into custody, DPS said.

The suspects are from the same family, according to DPS spokesman Bart Graves. The seven in custody, five adult males, a woman, and a female juvenile, refused to provide their names, Graves said.

The suspects were booked as John and Jane Does on suspicion of aggravated assault, attempted homicide, obstruction of justice, and a separate assault charge related to the Walmart loss-prevention officer, who suffered a broken arm, Graves said.

All suspects involved were members of the same family who were driving a Suburban SUV with Idaho license plates and had been camping for at least four days in the parking lot according to one report.

The man who was shot and killed in the incident had spent the last few days of his life playing a guitar at a side exit to the store, asking for money, a witness said.

One officer was shot in the leg and the other seven were left with cuts and bruises.

“We do believe that there was a struggle for an officer’s weapon, there is an ongoing investigation on that,” Graves said.

The officer that was shot in the leg is 31 years old and has been with Cottonwood police for 10 years, the release said. He was flown to Flagstaff Medical Center for surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.

DPS and local police cleared the scene just after noon Sunday. Dozens of cars circled around the area where the shooting occurred near the back end of the parking lot.

Store management met with Cottonwood Police yesterday (March 24, 2015), to figure out how to keep people from camping overnight at the store.

Details of the meeting are unavailable.

Unfortunately, some campers take advantage of Walmart’s generosity and call the parking lot home for days.

Staying in a Walmart parking lot. (Credit: mybirdie.ca)
Staying in a Walmart parking lot. (Credit: mybirdie.ca)

Overnight Parking Etiquette

Some of the most respected RV consumer clubs have joined together to support your right to park on private businesses’ parking lots overnight under the following code of conduct. The code pertains to establishments that permit “dry camping” on their lots. Dry camping means camping without the use of external hookups for electricity, water supply, or waste disposal.

Industry-Sanctioned Code of Conduct (RVers’ Good Neighbor Policy)

Stay one night only!

Obtain permission from a qualified individual.

Obey posted regulations.

No awnings, chairs, or barbecue grills outside your RV.

Do not use hydraulic jacks on soft surfaces (including asphalt).

Always leave an area cleaner than you found it.

Purchase gas, food, or supplies as a form of thank you, when feasible.

Be safe! Always be aware of your surroundings and leave if you feel unsafe.

If your plans include touring the area, staying for more than one night, or necessitate conduct not within the code, please relocate to a local campground. It’s the right thing to do!

Worth Pondering…

GOD IS GREAT, BEER IS GOOD, and PEOPLE ARE CRAZY!

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RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban

Sherwood, Oregon’s elected officials sent a message to recreational vehicle owners to stay out of the city’s private streets and parking lots, including a local Walmart store.

RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban
RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban

And now they’re hearing back.

Numerous RVers from across the U.S. have emailed Sherwood’s council criticizing the city’s newly-adopted camping ban, reports OregonLive.com.

Many said they will avoid Sherwood on their trips through Oregon. The news has spread through RV online groups, including a Walmart RVing Yahoo group with more than 9,000 members.

After Walmart announced it was coming to Sherwood, angry residents suggested a flurry of new ordinances, including a ban on overnight parking. Councilors considered it, then punted to a special committee on business regulation.

That committee produced an ordinance banning camping in areas open to the public, including by recreational vehicles and transients. The police chief supported the ordinance, concerned that campers risk becoming victims of crime. The ordinance almost went before Sherwood voters, but councilors made tweaks and unanimously approved it themselves.

Wal-Mart says RV shoppers are among its best customers, but leaves overnight parking to store manager discretion.

Walmart permits RV parking on their store parking lots as they are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. RVers should contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.

RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban
RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban

Police Chief Jeff Groth said his officers would ask RV drivers to move along, but allow them to sleep if they need shut-eye.

Councilor Matt Langer, whose company sold land to Walmart, says the RVer outcry made him regret his vote to support the ban.

“It sounds like we have discriminated or excluded a respectable piece of our population, and it’s unwarranted,” Langer said.

He said he voted for the ban as a police tool for transients than to target RV owners.

“I think, quite honestly, the ordinance only got pushed through and passed to appease all the negative sentiment and negative push from some of the folks that purely want to make an attempt to stop Walmart.”

Sherwood Mayor Bill Middleton stands by his vote. He says there are plenty of RV campgrounds near Sherwood that the people who emailed him can stay overnight.

“I worry about citizens of Sherwood, not people emailing us from Delaware and all over the country,” he said.

Sherwood is located on SR- 18, 17 miles southwest of Portland.

A Good Sam RV Park and Campground search indicate no camping facilities in Sherwood but 12 parks within a 25-mile radius.

The Sherwood location isn’t alone in banning overnight stays, as a number of Walmarts turn away RVs.

For a list of Walmarts where overnight parking is prohibited, click here.

Overnight Parking Etiquette

Some of the most respected RV consumer clubs have joined together to support your right to park on private businesses’ parking lots overnight under the following code of conduct. The code pertains to establishments that permit “dry camping” on their lots. Dry camping means camping without the use of external hookups for electricity, water supply, or waste disposal.

Industry-Sanctioned Code of Conduct (RVers’ Good Neighbor Policy)

RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban
RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban

Stay one night only!

Obtain permission from a qualified individual.

Obey posted regulations.

No awnings, chairs, or barbecue grills outside your RV.

Do not use hydraulic jacks on soft surfaces (including asphalt).

Always leave an area cleaner than you found it.

Purchase gas, food, or supplies as a form of thank you, when feasible.

Be safe! Always be aware of your surroundings and leave if you feel unsafe.

If your plans include touring the area, staying for more than one night, or necessitate conduct not within the code, please relocate to a local campground. It’s the right thing to do!

RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban
RVers Upset With Walmart Parking Ban

Most of the complaints lodged regarding RV parking on business parking lots have to do with aesthetics and perceived abuse of the privilege. There are a variety of competing interests that were balanced to arrive at this industry-sanctioned code of conduct. As you can see, this Code of Conduct is nothing more than an RVers’ “Good Neighbor” policy.

Not following the code has serious consequences and is detrimental to the rights of all RVers. Already, some municipalities have passed ordinances to prohibit parking on private business property overnight.

The above Code of Conduct is also available in PDF format from the Walmart Atlas website.

You’re encouraged to print this letter and share it with others to promote these etiquette standards.

Worth Pondering…

Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.

—Anon

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Welcome the New Year with a New Tradition

For most of us, New Year’s traditions revolve around indoor activities—eating and watching football.

Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona, offers three First Day Hikes of varying length and difficulty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona, offers three First Day Hikes of varying length and difficulty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, an outdoor activity could make your holiday rituals even more fun and an invigorating way to kick off the New Year.

America’s State Parks First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors.

First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, and welcome the New Year with friends and family.

State parks nationwide have added First Day Hikes to their January 1 program schedule.

All 50 states are participating in the third annual event that invites families and friends to celebrate the New Year amid the sights, sounds, and wonder of our natural world with fun, guided hikes.

“Last year, First Day Hikes hosted 22,000 people, who covered nearly 44,000 miles in 700 state parks all across the country,” said Priscilla Geigis, president of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).

“These family-friendly outings provide a great chance to get outside and experience the beauty of our parks, stay fit and build lasting traditions with loved ones.”

HOME_331On a First Day Hike visitors enjoy exciting one- to two- mile journeys through diverse, beautiful natural areas, led by park rangers and volunteers. Many hikes include additional activities such as campfires, s’mores, crafts, costume contests, and storytelling.

America’s State Parks and American Hiking Society are teaming up to promote First Day Hikes as a healthy and memorable way to start the New Year.

“Winter hiking is a fun and wonderful experience, but does require all hikers to be properly prepared,” noted Gregory Miller, president of American Hiking Society.

“We are encouraging Americans young and old to ring in the New Year by putting on their hiking boots and joining First Day Hikes in support of state parks and trails in 2014.”

America’s State Parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer an opportunity to explore unique natural and cultural treasures close to home.

Featured hikes nationwide include a candlelight walk during Alaska’s darkest time of year, a horseback ride along Indiana’s Tippecanoe River, an interpretive trek along the magnificent longleaf pine forest at Florida’s Alfred B. Maclay Gardens, a guided exploration of the wide open desert hills of West Texas, and a sunrise tour of Hawaii’s sweeping ocean views.

“America’s State Parks is committed to connecting people with some of the most important natural and historical features in their region,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of NASPD.

“These hikes are also a reminder of the value of state parks to the well-being of children. Getting kids outside and unplugged from their electronics promotes their physical and mental health and inspires stewardship of our natural world for future generations.”

First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation — a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks.

Details about the more than 700 hike locations, including difficulty and length, program themes, terrain and starting times are listed on most state park system websites.

So, end 2013 and begin 2014 with some outdoor exercise and fun. It will be a nice addition to your holiday traditions!

Ring in 2014 with a First Day Hike in a state park near you.

Details

America’s State Parks

ASP-LogoAmerica’s State Parks is committed to promoting outdoor recreation in state parks as a way to address obesity, especially among children. Getting kids outside and unplugged from video games and other electronic media creates a unique connection with nature that promotes physical and mental well-being and encourages creativity and stewardship of our shared resources.

Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s State Parks website.

To find a First Day Hike near you click on your state park of interest.

Website: americasstateparks.org

America’s State Parks + America’s National Parks = Great National System of Parks

Worth Pondering…

Start the year off on the right foot, the left foot, any foot—take a First Day Hike in a state park near you.

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2014 Quartzsite Show Dates Announced

What is Quartzsite?

Major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts, making Quartzsite the place to be the first two months of each year. Numerous food choices ensure you’ll never go hungry! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts, making Quartzsite the place to be the first two months of each year. Numerous food choices ensure you’ll never go hungry! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is located in western Arizona, 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10. In 1856, settler Charles Tyson built a fort at the present site of Quartzsite to protect his water supply. Fort Tyson soon became a stopover on the Ehrenburg-to-Prescott stagecoach route. It had become known as Tyson’s Wells by the time the stage stopped running and the town was abandoned.

Quartzsite has been a rockhounders’ paradise since the 1960s.

Today, it is also attracts over a million visitors each winter who converge on this small town of 1900 people in a wave of RVs during the months of January and February when over 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, and everything else imaginable create one of the world’s largest open air flea markets.

Major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts, making Quartzsite the place to be the first two months of each year.

Tyson Wells Show History

Tyson Wells began with an open lot where an RV Park was developed; the Sell-A-Rama Show started in 1978.

Soon Tyson Wells became known as a leading Rock & Gem Show in the United States. Later, additional land was acquired for more parking, and two more shows—Rock & Gem Show and Art & Craft Fair—were added.

Tyson Wells has something for everyone with the three shows in January and February, seasonal vendors, self-storage units, and an RV Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Tyson Wells has something for everyone with the three shows in January and February, seasonal vendors, self-storage units, and an RV Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tyson Wells has something for everyone with the three shows in January and February, seasonal vendors, self-storage units, and an RV Park.

The Quartzsite Shows

Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show

The Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show attracts rock, gem, and mineral vendors from around the world and runs for 10 days in early January.

Dates for the Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show are January 3-12, 2014.

Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama

The Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama show occurs in late January and also runs for 10 days. The Sell-A-Rama has over 850 vendor spaces which equals roughly 2.2 miles of aisle frontage. You can find just about anything at this 25-acre show.

Dates for the 36th Annual Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama are January 17-26, 2014

Tyson Wells Art & Craft Fair

The indoor Tyson Wells Art & Craft Fair takes place early February each year. One can find arts, crafts, hobbies supplies, jewelry, and lapidary supplies.

Dates for the Tyson Wells Arts & Crafts Fair are January 31-February 9, 2014.

2014 Quartzsite Show Dates

You won’t want to miss the 2014 Quartzsite Shows!

January 1-February 28, 2014: The Desert Gardens Gem, Rocks & Mineral Show

January 3-January 12, 2014: Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show

January 6-January 26, 2014: The Main Event

January 10-January 11, 2014: Quartzsite Art Guild Art Show

January 17-January 19, 2014: Blythe Bluegrass Festival

January 17-January 26, 2014: Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama

January 18-January 26, 2014: Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show

January 22-January 26, 2014: QIA Pow Wow

January 31-February 9, 2014: Tyson Wells Arts & Craft Fair

February 6, 2014: Quartzsite Flyers RC Fly-in

February 14-February 15, 2014: Quartzsite Quilt Show

February 14- February 16, 2014: Desert Bloom ATV Rally

February 14-February16, 2014: QIA Gold, Treasure & Craft Show

TBA: Balloon Festival, Chili Cook-Off & Camel Rides

Canceled: Quartzsite Hobby Craft & Gem Show

Canceled: Rock & Roll Classic Car Show

Quartzsite swap meet map
Quartzsite swap meet map

Please Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Quartzsite 2014 Show Dates

Part 1: 2014 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show Dates Announced

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

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2014 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show Dates Announced

Every January something happens that is hard to believe, unless you have seen it!

quartzsiteAccording to the Arizona Highway Department, as many as 750,000 to 1,000,000 people, mostly in recreational vehicles, converge on the sleepy little desert town of Quartzsite, located just 20 miles east of the California border on Interstate 10, for the rock, gem, and mineral shows, plus numerous flea markets and the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show.

“If you’re looking for anything related to RVs, you’ll find it at the RV show in Quartzsite,” says Kenny King, show promoter.

There will be several hundred new and used RVs on display in 2014 and over a dozen service bays will be offering immediate installation, repairs, and service on many of the items that will be exhibited at the show.

This phenomenon started over 30 years ago and is now billed as “The Largest Gathering Of RVers in the World”.

The inaugural Quartzsite RV Show opened January 28, 1984 at the corner of Highway 95 (now Central) and Business 10 (now Main Street) in Quartzsite, Arizona. With just 60 exhibitors and a small tent, the “new show in town” was still very popular since the majority of the people in Quartzsite were RVers.

Walking the displays at The Main Event. If you can’t find it at Quartzsite, then you don’t need it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Walking the displays at The Main Event. If you can’t find it at Quartzsite, then you don’t need it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1987 the show, now re-named the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, moved up the street to the Quartzsite Trailer Park which was situated directly across from the major attraction in town, the Quartzsite Pow Wow (the first Pow Wow was held in 1967).

This new home for the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show lasted 10 years until the show grew to a point that the current 3.5-acre show site could barely hold the number of exhibitors that were now vying for exhibit space at this popular annual event.

In 1997 the “BIG TENT”, as the show had become known, moved across the freeway to its present home, a new 20-acre facility, ½-mile south of I-10 on Highway 95 (now 700 South Central).

With the new Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show grounds, the popular event was able to provide over 15 acres of public FREE parking.

Dates for the 31st Annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show are January 18-26, 2014, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

FREE parking! FREE admission! It’s a FREE, family friendly event…

Estimated attendance 150,000 plus!

69,000 square feet, fully carpeted indoor exhibit area.

Canceled: Quartzsite Hobby Craft & Gem Show & Rock & Roll Classic Car Show

In 1997, a second show—Quartzsite Hobby, Craft & Gem Show—was added. The new show, while on a much smaller scale than the giant RV show, grew to include a Rock & Roll Classic.

It was recently announced that the 17th Annual Quartzsite Hobby, Craft & Gem Show and the 16th Annual Quartzsite Rock & Roll Classic Car Shows, that ran concurrently, have been canceled.

Promoter Kenny King stated that after the economic slump in 2008, attendance and participation had been in decline and the decision was made to eliminate the shows as of 2014.

King also said that they are looking for new ideas for an additional new show that may spark more interest in people staying over after the big RV Show closes and would even consider co-promoting or leasing their show facility to another promoter.

Quartzsite.visitor.guide.coverOK, but what’s so great about Quartzsite?

Many times I’ve tried to describe Quartzsite to people who haven’t been there, but it’s impossible for them to imagine.

As you descend the last pass into the valley, at first glance, it appears you’ve come across an unmapped city in the desert—there are thousands of small buildings spread out everywhere.

But then you realize that these are not buildings—they’re recreational vehicles of every type, size, and vintage. And wherever you look, you see them. It’s the Woodstock of the Snowbird set!

Just where is this gem of a town? Quartzsite is beyond Hope. Heading west toward Quartzsite, you’ll go beyond Hope, Arizona.

Please Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Quartzsite 2014 Show Dates

Part 2: 2014 Quartzsite Show Dates Announced

Worth Pondering…

Quartzsite = $400,000 diesel pusher motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for free camping.

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Good Sam Announces New Online Road Trip Planner

Good Sam, the world’s leading provider of products and services for the RV and outdoor recreation consumer, announces that it will launch a new, web-based, trip planning service this summer.

Camping World Good SamThe Good Sam Trip Planner, which will be available exclusively to Good Sam Club members, will be a comprehensive road trip planning tool featuring both routing and access to information about thousands of RV parks and campgrounds as well as points of interest across the U.S., according to a news release.

The Good Sam Trip Planner will be the second product to be released as part of the recently announced Good Sam – Rand McNally partnership and follows the release of the Good Sam GPS. With the new Trip Planner, Good Sam Club members will be able to create point to point directions, research and plot thousands of points of interest across the U.S., and create custom road trips, either across town or across the country.

“Good Sam is dedicated to helping our members make the most of their travel, whether in their RV or car,” said Marcus Lemonis, Chairman and CEO of Good Sam.

“The new Good Sam Trip Planner acts as a personal travel assistant, helping people map routes to their destination, find new places to visit and camp and to find interesting things to do and see along the way.”

Users will be able to map their routes from start to finish while searching for and adding points of interest along the way. Adding stops along a route, such as Good Sam parks and campgrounds, restaurants, festivals, historic locations, and sport stadiums are as simple as clicking on what interests you.

Camping World Super Centers and Pilot Flying J locations are integrated into the Good Sam Trip Planner, making it a comprehensive road trip planning solution. To assist users with making the most of their time on the road, the Trip Planner will also include pre-planned scenic routes and recommended points of interests based on content from Rand McNally’s Best of the Road program.

Rand McNally logoThe planner divides road trips into manageable days, based on user desired daily travel distances, quickly allowing the user to add stops from either the Trip Planner database or their own experience. It also provides users with the ability utilize printable directions and share information with family and friends on social media sites such as Facebook.

Additionally, the Good Sam Trip Planner will seamlessly integrate with the Good Sam GPS, enabling users to create custom road trip itineraries and download them directly to their Good Sam GPS.

Features of the Good Sam Trip Planner powered by Rand McNally

Plan road trips and places to see based on experiential filters

Browse thousands of points of interest, and add them to your route

Research and add Good Sam parks and campgrounds to routes

Email or print trip itineraries

Share with friends and family via social media

Rate and review points of interest

Advanced trip planning features, including “Corridor Searching”

Calculate and optimize fuel costs based on your vehicle

Compare different routes for your trip

Export trips to your Good Sam GPS device

Details

Good-Sam-logo-NewGood Sam Enterprises, LLC

Good Sam Enterprises, LLC (GSE), and its wholly owned subsidiaries, is the world’s largest provider of products and services that enhance the RV and outdoor recreation consumer experience. Their products provide savings, safety, security, comfort, and convenience, making RV ownership and the outdoor lifestyle more enjoyable. GSE corporate headquarters are located in Lincolnshire, Illinois, with subsidiary operations and divisions located in multiple locations throughout the United States.

Website: goodsam.com

Rand McNally 

Rand McNally is the most trusted source for maps, directions, and travel content.

Websites: randmcnally.combestoftheroad.com, and tripology.com

Worth Pondering…

I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.

—Daniel Boone

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More Free National Park Activities during Fee-Free Weekends

Like the National Park Service, concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts knows some of the best things in life are free.

Zion is home to 207 species of birds. Bird checklists are available at the visitor centers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Zion is home to 207 species of birds. Bird checklists are available at the visitor centers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Xanterra has offered 15 ideas for free national park activities on fee-free weekends and throughout the year, according to a news release.

Be a train spotter. Join the throngs of tourists who wave at passengers aboard Grand Canyon Railway when they arrive and depart the park.

Watch an otter outfox a fox. Part of the fun of wildlife watching in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park and other parks is discovering the personalities of the park’s permanent residents. Yellowstone river otters, for example, are cagey—and cute—and their clever ways ensure a steady population and a fascinating show for travelers lucky enough to spot one. One employee reported watching an otter tease a hungry fox by repeatedly diving into a river and popping up in a different place once the fox moved into position again. You could practically see the smirk on the otter’s face each time his mischievous moves foiled the fox.

Get high. Some hikers have called it one of the best short hikes in a national park. Though only five miles round trip, the hike to Angel’s Landing in Utah’s Zion National Park is a strenuous but breathtakingly beautiful hike. The view from the top of Angel’s Landing is worth the 21 steep switchbacks—called “Walter’s Wiggles”—and the final white-knuckle half mile. This is a hike for experienced trekkers who have no fear of heights.

Go low. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin in California’s Death Valley National Park is one of the lowest places in the world. The vast salt flats are typically bone-dry but can turn into a ready-made lake after a big rainstorm. Look up at a mountainside sign marking sea level posted well above the Badwater Basin viewpoint.

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

Wish on a star. Stargazing is a simple, free, safe, and rejuvenating activity for the whole family. Because there is already minimal exterior lighting surrounding the lodges in most national parks, guests need only walk a few steps away to observe the night sky in relative quiet. Death Valley National Park in particular is known for its dark skies initiatives. The National Park Service also offers a variety of free stargazing programs in Yellowstone.

Walk in the footsteps of presidents. Six presidents—and Three Stooges—have stayed at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. It was built for $140,000 in 1904 and is one of the most famous buildings in any national park. A Xanterra historian tells travelers about the inn’s colorful history during free walking tours offered several times a day throughout the summer.

Make a snowball in June. In Oregon’s remote Crater Lake National Park, winter weather appears from October through June, when the very last of the snow melts. Snow in July isn’t uncommon either. Historic Crater Lake Lodge is open mid-May through mid-October, and guests are advised to be prepared for any kind of weather.

Soak. There are two ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon—by foot or by mule—and in the warm months both of them can be sweaty experiences. The Bright Angel Creek running alongside Xanterra’s Phantom Ranch on the floor of the Canyon offers a welcome, chilly, and free way to cool off. On any afternoon, you’ll see campers, hikers and mule-riders soaking on rocks and enjoying the cool creek water while staring up at the soaring canyon walls.

Details

Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Xanterra operates lodges, restaurants, gift shops, tours and activities in Yellowstone, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Rocky Mountain, and Petrified Forest National Parks and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Xanterra also operates Grand Canyon Railway, which provides daily train trips to the Grand Canyon.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts are committed to the preservation and protection of the environment for many years.

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
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

Through its environmental program, “Ecologix,” Xanterra Parks & Resorts has been recognized repeatedly for environmental leadership in the hospitality industry and is the recipient of many honors, including major awards from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Travel Industry Association of America, American Hotel and Lodging Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Colorado Department of Public Health, State of Arizona, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, and Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Address: 6312 South Fiddlers Green Circle, Suite 600N, Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111

Phone: (303) 600-3400

Website: xanterra.com

Please Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series on 15 ideas for free national park activities on fee-free weekends and throughout the year

Part 1: Free National Park Experiences during Fee-Free Weekends

Worth Pondering…

There is adventure in any trip; it’s up to us to seek it out.

—Jamie Francis

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Free National Park Experiences during Fee-Free Weekends

Like the National Park Service, concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts knows some of the best things in life are free.

Encompassing over 1.2 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based & backcountry recreation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Encompassing over 1.2 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based & backcountry recreation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Xanterra has offered 15 ideas for free national park activities on fee-free weekends and throughout the year, according to a news release.

The National Park Service is offering five opportunities in 2013 to enjoy national parks without paying an entrance fee. Those dates are January 21, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; April 22-26, National Park Week; August 25, National Park Service Birthday; September 28, National Public Lands Day; and November 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend.

“Everyone loves a bargain, and national parks are among the bargains around,” said Betsy O’Rourke, vice president of sales and marketing for Xanterra.

“Watching Old Faithful erupt, seeing the sun rise over the Grand Canyon…these are the kinds of experiences that travelers will remember for a lifetime. And you can’t put a price tag on memories.”

“Whether it is an activity, a restaurant meal, gift shop purchase, or hotel room, travelers are seeking value as well as a memorable vacation experience, and our national parks offer both,” said O’Rourke.

Xanterra operates lodges, restaurants, gift shops, tours and activities in Yellowstone, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Rocky Mountain, and Petrified Forest National Parks and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Xanterra also operates Grand Canyon Railway, which provides daily train trips to the Grand Canyon.

Late afternoon light enhance the beauty of Joshua Tree. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Late afternoon light enhance the beauty of Joshua Tree. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Xanterra says many visitors plan a variety of free experiences as well as select a few interpretive experiences to round out a vacation.

“It is great to experience a park on your own and in your own way, but a guided tour is one of the best ways to learn about the history, geology and wildlife of any national park,” said O’Rourke.

Here is the list of 15 ideas for free national park activities on fee-free weekends and throughout the year, provided by Xanterra:

Skate. Yellowstone National Park’s two winter-season lodges—Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel—feature free outdoor ice-skating rinks. Guests can borrow skates at no cost. Yellowstone’s two winter-season lodges opened for the season in mid-December and will close again in early March. Lodges begin reopening for the summer season in early May.

Discover borax. Xanterra’s Borax Museum at the Ranch at Furnace Creek in California’s Death Valley National Park shows how a simple chemical was largely responsible for the fortunes and misfortunes of many a miner, and it was largely responsible for bringing tourism to this California desert. Many ancient mining tools, antique stagecoaches and even a steam locomotive are on display.

Write a letter and post it. Old fashioned writing desks in Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Old Faithful Inn draw a surprising number of inspired guests, who ditch their devices in favor of stationery and post cards, pens, and stamps.

Compare china patterns. The Bright Angel History Room in Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Lodge includes displays of early Fred Harvey Company china patterns. Harvey was the restaurateur who is credited for bringing tourism to the Grand Canyon and throughout the West by offering excellent food at a good value in restaurants at stops along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad route.

Watch American Indian dancers. An American Indian troupe performs authentic tribal dances outside the historic Hopi House gift shop in the Grand Canyon during the summer season. Schedules are posted in lodges and other buildings throughout the park.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hitch a ride. The National Park Service offers free shuttles throughout Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks. The environmentally friendly vehicles transfer visitors to specific points throughout each park.

Listen to music. Yellowstone guests can experience free live music on summer evenings in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, and the Old Faithful Inn. The string quartet concert on many summer nights in the sunroom of Lake Yellowstone Hotel is so popular that in-the-know visitors arrive early for the seats with the best views of the sun setting over the lake. The pianist in the Mammoth Hotel is happy to accommodate requests—and he knows nearly all of them by heart.

Please Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series on 15 ideas for free national park activities on fee-free weekends and throughout the year

Part 2: More Free National Park Activities during Fee-Free Weekends

Worth Pondering…

Stuff your eyes with wonder…live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

—Ray Bradbury

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2013 Fee Free Days at National Parks & Federal Lands

From sea to shining sea, the United States has some of the most breath taking national parks and scenic wonderlands. Every national park has very important significance embedded into the landscape and has been passed down for generations now and ones to come.

Whether you prefer to hike Zion (Utah), photograph the wonders of Arches (Utah), wander in the paths of the Anasazi at Aztec Ruins (New Mexico), explore the desert scenery and granite monoliths of Joshua Tree (California), or tour an ancient cave dwelling at Mesa Verde (Colorado) moving outside is good for you and offers a chance to explore these special places.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To encourage Americans to explore America’s natural beauty, rich history, and culture, Secretary of the Department of Interior Ken Salazar announced that more than 2,000 national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other federal lands will waive admission fees on 13 days in 2013.

“Our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other public lands offer every American a place to enjoy outdoor recreation, learn about our nation’s history and culture, and restore our souls and spirits by connecting with the natural beauty and wildness of our land,” Salazar said in a news release.

“By providing free admission, we are putting out an invitation to all Americans to visit and enjoy these extraordinary treasures that belong to all our people.”

Tourism and outdoor recreation are powerful economic engines in communities across the country.

Encompassing over 1.2 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based & backcountry recreation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Encompassing over 1.2 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based & backcountry recreation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recreation on federal lands provided 440,000 jobs and contributed $55 billion to the economy in 2009. Each year, over 280 million national park visitors pump $31 billion into local economies, supporting 258,000 jobs.

“We have a fantastic network of public lands that provides world class recreational opportunities, showcases our nation’s rich and diverse history, and features some of the most incredible scenery around,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

“The fee-free days will give both first time and repeat visitors a good reason to spend time exploring these remarkable places.”

Mark your calendar for these fee-free days in 2012:

January 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (participating agencies: National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service)

April 22-26: National Park Week (participating agency: National Park Service)

June 8: Great Outdoors Day (participating agency: U.S. Forest Service)

August 25: National Parks Service Birthday (participating agency: National Park Service)

September 28: National Public Lands Day (participating agencies: National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service)

October 13: National Wildlife Refuge Day (participating agency: Fish & Wildlife Service)

November 9-11: Veterans Day Weekend (participating agencies: National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service)

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

Entry fees are actually pretty reasonable. According to the NPS website 265 of the 397 national parks NEVER charge an entrance fee.

Details

National Park Service

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, the park service is proud to safeguard these special places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites in America’s 397 national parks.

Website: nps.gov

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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