Charleston: Crown Jewel Of The Deep South

Charleston is the crown jewel of the Deep South.

With a rich 300-year heritage, history can be found around every corner. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
With a rich 300-year heritage, history can be found around every corner. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the historic and stunning sights that await you include Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, Southern mansions and plantations, quaint tree-lined streets bursting with historical significance, must-see museums, beautiful beaches, and some of the best dining in the South.

The city’s elegance was created by the abundant rice crops of the region’s swampy fields. Wealthy plantation owners reaped the labor of the many slaves who came through the port city of Charleston.

The world those early Charleston residents left behind is something to behold. To get a closer look at Charleston’s history, take a walk through the historic district. But before heading out, stop at the visitor center at 375 Meeting Street. In addition to a small museum, the center offers maps, guides, and parking information.

We began our tour of the old city by exploring The Battery, a landmark promenade that follows the shore of the peninsula and the Ashley and Cooper rivers. From Battery Park, also known as White Point Gardens, we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the Charleston Harbor, including the striking 13,200-foot-long Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The structure, with a main span of 1,546 feet, is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

What a place Charleston South Carolina is. It is beautiful and steeped in history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
What a place Charleston South Carolina is. It is beautiful and steeped in history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Battery Park—a park since 1837, but once used for artillery during the Civil War—is shaded by grand live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It includes a bandstand and artillery pieces.

Leaving Battery Park, we strolled the charming streets lined with live oaks, gazed at the elegant homes, and peeked through the iron gates at many of the formal backyard gardens.

Heading north, we walked the raised sidewalk that skirts between the harbor and the historic homes along East Battery Street and East Bay Street.

Farther along we came to the famous Rainbow Row. This section is home to pastel-colored, mid-18th century homes. Near Rainbow Row is Waterfront Park, a beautiful eight-acre park with fountains, spacious lawns, and a large pier.

Continuing along East Bay Street, we arrived at Market Hall and Sheds, a National Historic Landmark. The Market—also known as City Market—was originally where vendors brought meat and produce in from surrounding communities and dates back to the early 1800s.

Since 1776, the Drayton family has called Magnolia Plantation their home, and today it's open to the public. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Since 1776, the Drayton family has called Magnolia Plantation their home, and today it’s open to the public. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The market today is home to products geared to the city’s visitors. We found the hustle and bustle of an old fashioned market, but with vendors showcasing Lowcountry arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, and some standard souvenir fare. The most interesting products are the sweetgrass baskets locally crafted by Gullah women of West African descent who speak in an old Gullah dialect of English.

Just outside Charleston, visitors can tour some of the gorgeous plantations that once flourished and created the wealth of the antebellum era. Since 1776, the Drayton family has called Magnolia Plantation their home, and today it’s open to the public and includes Audubon Swamp Garden, the oldest garden in America.

Middleton Place, practically next door to Magnolia Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. The elegant symmetry of the terraces and butterfly-shaped lakes reveal the classic European style of the 18th century.

And don’t miss Boone Hall with its majestic avenue of moss-draped live oaks. This photogenic showplace claims to be the most photographed plantation in America.

Middleton Place, practically next door to Magnolia Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Middleton Place, practically next door to Magnolia Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.

The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.

Traveling through the south? Charleston is a must stop.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

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6 Family Summer Destinations in Southeast Utah

Summer is here, and maybe it’s time to plan a trip to some of the wonders found in southeastern Utah.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing, we explored family-friendly destinations in and around Moab including two national parks, a state park, and three scenic byways.

The next home base for exploring southeastern Utah is Bluff, 100 miles to the south of Moab on US-191. In today’s post we introduce you to some wonderful landscapes and family adventures in and around Bluff.

Bluff – The Town

Nominated as one of Budget Travel Magazine’s coolest small towns, Bluff is nestled between dramatic sandstone bluffs and the San Juan River on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway in southeastern Utah. The Navajo reservation borders the town weaving the culture of the Navajo people with Bluff’s eclectic style.

People often say that “Bluff is a feeling”. The Navajo word, “Hozho”, may explain it best.  Hozho is said to be the most important word in the Navajo language and is loosely translated as peace, balance, beauty, and harmony.  To be “in Hozho” is to be at one with and a part of the world around you.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along with a developed campsite, Natural Bridges National Monument offers both easy and moderately strenuous routes from which to view the three large natural bridges in the monument. You can get a lot out of simply driving the loop and stopping at each of the turnouts or you can venture a few hundred feet down into the canyon to see the bridges and the streams that formed them firsthand.
What about ruins, you ask? As a matter of fact, there are quite a few down in the canyons. Thanks for asking.

Montezuma Creek Road

Montezuma Creek Road runs from near Monticello down to a point west of Bluff. It’s an amazing drive—winding and dusty, but amazing.

Besides traveling through beautiful southeastern Utah canyons, it passes a number of excellent Anasazi ruins and kivas and an old trading post and crosses Montezuma Creek at a place that any youngster—or adult, for that matter—will find as entertaining as a water park.

A 2WD vehicle with decent ground clearance should get by just fine.

Moki Dugway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Moki Dugway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hovenweep National Monument

East of Bluff toward the Colorado border is the network of archeological sites known as Hovenweep National Monument. The main visitor center is situated near the largest set of ruins, Square Tower.

If you don’t mind a few more miles of driving and a bit of dirt road navigating, it is worth visiting the other outlier sites such as Holly and Horseshoe & Hackberry.

Remarkably well preserved and castle-like, these structures are sure to spark the imagination.

Moki Dugway

The Moki Dugway is a staggering, graded dirt switchback road carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa on SR-261 south of Natural Bridges National Monument. It consists of three miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11 percent grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the Valley of the Gods below.

The State of Utah recommends that only vehicles less than 28 feet and 10,000 pounds attempt to negotiate the dugway. The remainder of US-261 is paved.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods is the smaller neighbor of the more famous Monument Valley. It’s impressive, isolated pinnacles and buttes make the views worth the loop drive that leaves Highway 163 a few miles east of Mexican Hat and deposits you at the base of Moki Dugway and just a few miles north of Goosenecks State Park.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley

Straddling the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley is a cluster of majestic sandstone buttes rising from the desert floor. Lying within the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley has been the location of many western films, especially John Ford films featuring John Wayne.

You’ll not want to miss Goulding’s Trading Post Museum which displays interesting movie, western and Navajo memorabilia within the Goulding home as it was in the 1940s and ’50s.

Worth Pondering…

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

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What Is On Your Bucket List?

Actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in the movie The Bucket List a few years ago made popular the bucket list.

What a place Charleston South Carolina is. It is beautiful and steeped in history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
What a place Charleston South Carolina is. It is beautiful and steeped in history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It centers about the idea of making a list of all the things you want like to do before you “kick the bucket.” Since then, lots of people have pulled together lists of practical and extravagant places to visit and things to do on their own bucket lists.

We all have things we want to do and places we want to see. For me, I got to cross two national parks and a California wine area off my bucket list during the past 12 month—Lassen Peak National Park, Pinnacles National Park, and Lodi Wine Country.

My bucket list of places to go and things to see during my RV travels is still extensive: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Outer Banks, Acadia National Park, Memphis, Crater of Diamonds State Park (Arkansas), Natchez Trace Parkway, Yosemite National Park.

Also another list details the place and things I wish to revisit during my RVing lifetime: Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills, Napa and Sonoma, Charleston and Savannah, Nashville, Hocking Hills (Ohio), Lexington and the Kentucky Bluegrass Region, Monument Valley, Monterey, Virginia’s Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg), Santa Fe, Big Bend National Park.

Bishop's Palace, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Bishop’s Palace, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Do you have a bucket list for your RV travels?

So let me ask you, what’s on your bucket list? You know, that list of all the things you want to do sometime soon.

A trip to the Grand Canyon, Grand Circle Tour of the national parks of Utah.

Possibly, the following four iconic destinations will whet your appetite to create or expand upon your personal bucket list.

Charleston, South Carolina

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Charleston. Avid tourist? Charleston is the city for you. Lover of good food and charming scenery? Charleston has your number. Traveling through the south? Charleston is a must stop.

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes old South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Galveston, Texas

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

Galveston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Texas. From its time as a major 1800s-era shipping port, through the devastating Hurricane of 1900 and up until modern day, Galveston has played a major role in shaping Texas history.

Galveston sits on a barrier island two miles offshore surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches, numerous attractions, and one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the US. From soft sandy beaches to famous 19th century architecture, the island is surrounded with incredible history and unique beauty.

Sedona, Arizona

Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona.

The massive red-orange buttes and spires surrounding Sedona carry imaginative names reflecting their curious shapes—names like Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Coffee Pot, and Snoopy. Towering along the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, these monoliths lend an aura of mystery as well as incredible beauty to this landscape.

One of the most popular activities in Sedona is to take a Jeep tour out into the more remote parts of the Red Rock Country. Our favorite of these trips is up and over the primitive Schnebly Hill Road (FS 153) which zigzags east from State Route 179 in Sedona, 13 miles to I-17.

Scenic Byway 12

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

Scenic Highway 12 is a winding road that climbs to high elevations in spots. One section follows The Hogsback, a narrow ridge barely wider than the two-lane roadway, with cliffs falling away on either side.

Scenic wonders are visible in all directions from this 121-mile-long All American Road as it winds and climbs. Easily accessible on either side of Scenic Byway 12, major attractions include Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Grosvenor Arch, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Cottonwood Canyon, Burr Trail, and Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area

Worth Pondering…

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

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Boston Freedom Trail: Old State House To Bunker Hill

The Freedom Trail, recognized as a National Millennium Trail and part of Boston National Historical Park, visits 16 sites and structures of historic importance in downtown Boston and Charlestown.

The Old State House dates back to 1713 and was the center of political activity in Colonial Boston. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Old State House dates back to 1713 and was the center of political activity in Colonial Boston. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In earlier posts on Vogel Talks RVing, we introduced the Boston Freedom Trail and toured eight sites on the trail from Boston Common to Old South Meeting House.

In today’s post we take you on a walking tour of the Freedom Trail from the Old State House to “Old Ironsides” and Bunker Hill.

A ring of cobblestones in front of the Old State House, at the Devonshire and State Street intersection, commemorates the spot of the Boston Massacre, where on March 5, 1770, a minor disagreement between a wigmaker’s apprentice and a British sentry turned into a riot. Although only five colonists were killed, Samuel Adams and other patriots dubbed it a “massacre”.

The Old State House, on the corner of State and Washington streets, dates back to 1713 and was the center of political  activity in Colonial Boston; it was here that the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians from the building’s balcony, which was also the first public reading in Massachusetts. The Old State House, the city’s oldest public building, was the headquarters for the British government in Boston. Today it serves as a Boston history museum.

A marketplace and meeting hall since 1742, Faneuil Hall (rhymes with “manual”) was once a spot where speeches by the likes of Samuel Adams were given, and is now in an area to relax and get a Sam Adams, the city’s most famous brew.

Paul Faneuil, a Boston merchant, built the structure and later donated to the city. Its meeting hall is dubbed the “Cradle of Liberty” because of the protests against British taxation voiced here during the 1760s.

The Paul Revere House, built around 1680, is the oldest private building in downtown Boston and a tribute to the city’s most recognized hero. It is from here that Paul Revere left for his “midnight ride”. The house is also the only Colonial residence of its type to be situated in the middle of a major American city.

The Paul Revere House, built around 1680, is the oldest private building in downtown Boston and a tribute to the city's most recognized hero. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Paul Revere House, built around 1680, is the oldest private building in downtown Boston and a tribute to the city’s most recognized hero. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The next stop is one of the most popular sites on the Freedom Trail. The Old North Church on Salem Street is Boston’s oldest church building. The Episcopal church was built in 1723, and is where Robert Newman signaled the approach of the British with two lanterns in its steeple: “One if by land, and two if by sea”—which sent Paul Revere on his famous ride to Lexington and Concord to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming.

The 191-foot steeple of the Old North Church is the tallest in the city. The church also has the first set of bells ever brought to America, and Paul Revere was a neighborhood bellringer.

The last Freedom Trail stop on the Boston side is Copp’s Hill Burying Ground—the city’s second graveyard. First founded in 1659 as Winmill Hill, it got its current appellation because shoemaker William Copp once owned the land. Because of its strategic height overlooking the Charles River, Copp’s Hill was used by the British during the Battle of Bunker Hill to bombard Charlestown, which brings us to our final two stops.

The Paul Revere statue in Boston is the most recognized and most photographed statue in the city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Paul Revere statue in Boston is the most recognized and most photographed statue in the city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Across the Charles River, the Charlestown Navy Yards is one of the first shipyards built in the US and home to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.

Launched on October 21, 1797, the ship was later nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 because British cannonballs appeared to bounce its thick hull, causing one of her crew to remark that her sides were made of iron. In fact, the hull of Constitution is constructed of a three-layer wooden sandwich comprised of live oak and white oak.

Guided tours of the US Navy active-duty-manned Constitution are available or you can roam the ship at your own accord.

Only yards away from USS Constitution, the Museum is a “must see” for everyone visiting Boston. Interactive, hands-on exhibits for all ages brings history to life as one learns what life was like at sea over 200 years ago.

Learn how “Old Ironsides” earned her nickname and how she has remained undefeated since her launch in 1797. Swing in a hammock, join a mess, and furl a sail at the USS Constitution Museum, where you don’t just learn about history, you experience it.

Charlestown Navy Yards is one of the first shipyards built in the US and home to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Charlestown Navy Yards is one of the first shipyards built in the US and home to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Battle of Bunker Hill marks the first time Colonial forces held their own against the British army. Today a 221-foot granite obelisk denotes the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution. If you can reach the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Boston.

Located across the street, the Bunker Hill Museum’s exhibits and dioramas tell the stories of the battle and the monument.

Worth Pondering…

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands in time of challenge.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Best and Worst States for Summer Road Trips

For many Americans, summer is the time to hit the open road.

Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon. Rather it is a “break” or series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon. Rather it is a “break” or series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 85 percent of Americans, or 198 million people, are planning time away in the coming months, up 13 percent from 2014. And 89 percent of them will take a summer road trip.

Although the majority (68 percent) of these Americans are planning at least one week-long road trip, (on par with 2014), more are opting for extended vacations and setting out for at least two weeks this year (36 percent vs. 32 percent in 2014).

With school out for the summer break and the weather warm, the possibilities are endless.

But where to go? How to decide on the destination? Where to point the RV for the very best fun, scenic, and relaxing escape?

Each state has unique appeal, with great camping and outdoor activities available. There are national parks, state parks, county and regional parks, wilderness areas, national wildlife refuges, All American Roads and other scenic byways, historic sites and cities, mountain retreats, museums, and theme parks.

Mabry Mill is one of Blue Ridge Parkway's best-loved attractions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mabry Mill is one of Blue Ridge Parkway’s best-loved attractions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every major journey begins with a plan: where you’re going, where you’re stopping along the way, and how you’re getting there.

And for financially conscious travelers, the budget will make the call though it doesn’t have to mean less enjoyment.

To assist frugal travelers plan their summer road trips, WalletHub compared the 50 US states to find the most fun, scenic, and wallet-friendly road-trip destinations—and the ones that’ll have them busting a U-turn.

To find the most road trip-friendly destinations in the US, the states were compared across three equally weighted dimensions, including driving and camping costs, road conditions and safety, and fun and scenic attractions. Next they identified 20 relevant metrics including fuel prices; quality of roads and bridges; and number of national parks, scenic byways, and attractions.

Selected results follow:

Overall Ranking (Best 5; 1-5): Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Washington, Ohio

A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block from the Santa Fe Plaza is the magnificent Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assis, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral with a sculpture of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indian to be promoted a saint. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Overall Ranking (Worst 5: 46-50): South Dakota, Mississippi, Delaware, North Dakota, Connecticut

Lowest Average Fuel Prices (1-5): South Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri

Highest Average Fuel Prices (46-50): Washington, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, California

Lowest Price of Camping (1-5): Nevada, Wyoming, Alabama, Mississippi, Arizona

Highest Price of Camping (46-50): Maine, California, Road Island, Maryland, Connecticut

Most National Parks Per Square Mile (1-5): Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii

Fewest National Parks Per Square Mile (46-50): Iowa, Alaska, Wisconsin, Nevada, Illinois

Most Scenic Byways (1-5): California, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Idaho

Fewest Scenic Byways (46-50): Hawaii, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Connecticut, Delaware

Fewest Car Thefts Per Capita (1-5): Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Idaho

Most Car Thefts Per Capita (46-50): New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nevada, Washington, California

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

Lowest Average Cost of Car Repairs (1-5): Nebraska, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Michigan, New Mexico

Highest Average Cost of Car Repairs: (46-50): Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina

What then should we take away from the results of the research? What are the implications? Will it alter our travel plans? If not, why not?

For many RVers and other summer road trippers, scenic attractions and national parks will override fuel or camping costs.

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing, we detailed four states that stood out from the rest as great RV travel and camping destinations: two in the West (New Mexico and Utah) and two Eastern states (South Carolina, and Georgia). Interestingly, in the overall ranking, these four states ranked number 22, 6, 12, and 13 respectively.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Lewis Carrol

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Boston Freedom Trail: Boston Common To Old South Meeting House

Boston is a city steeped in American history, and the cries of “Freedom!” from Revolutionary War apparitions still echo throughout its sometimes modern, sometimes Colonial city streets.

The Massachusetts State House on Beacon Street was built in 1798 on a cow pasture owned by Massachusetts' first elected governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Massachusetts State House on Beacon Street was built in 1798 on a cow pasture owned by Massachusetts’ first elected governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston’s two and a half mile Freedom Trail is not just a self-guided lesson in history, but a chance to encounter some of America’s most famous ghosts in what is arguably the country’s most historic city. From Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution to the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s House, the Freedom Trail is a spectral dream.

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing, we introduced the Boston Freedom Trail. In today’s post we take you on a walking tour of the Freedom Trail from Boston Common to Old South Meeting House.

Like most visitors we began the trail in Boston Common.

America’s oldest public park, 50-acre Boston Common has been used throughout history as a common grazing ground for sheep and cattle, for public hangings (until 1817), and was the staging ground for British troops before Lexington and Concord in April of 1775.

Today, the Common is a place for relaxation. You can also relax in the Boston Public Garden across Charles Street which is graced by a statue of George Washington.

The 217 foot steeple of Park Street Church was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston; a building that Author Henry James called “the most interesting mass of bricks and mortar in America.” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The 217 foot steeple of Park Street Church was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston; a building that Author Henry James called “the most interesting mass of bricks and mortar in America.” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Massachusetts State House on Beacon Street was built in 1798 on a cow pasture owned by Massachusetts’ first elected governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock. It sits across from Boston Common on the top of Beacon Hill. The imposing dome of the state house, originally constructed of wood, and later overlaid with copper by Paul Revere. It was covered with 23-karat gold leaf for the first time in 1874.

Today it is the seat of the Massachusetts state government. It is also the oldest building on Beacon Hill.

The third-oldest burying ground in Boston, the Granary Burying Ground is the final resting place of three signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and Samuel Adams.

Founded in 1660, it was in 1737, when grain was stored where the present Park Street Church stands, and the burying ground was renamed the Granary. The 217-foot steeple of this church was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston. The church is the site of the first Sunday School in 1818.

In 1829, William Lloyd Garrison gave his powerful anti-slavery speech here and in 1831 My Country ‘Tis of Thee was sung for the first time by the church’s children choir.

The King’s Chapel Burying Ground is the oldest in Boston proper, and is the final resting place of John Winthrop and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower. The Anglican chapel was built at the behest of King James II to ensure the presence of the Church of England in America.

The church was completed in 1754 and is one of the 500 most important buildings in America. Its sanctuary is considered by many to be the best example of Georgian church architecture in North America. In 1785, it became the first Unitarian church in the country, where services are held to this day.

The Old State House has stood as an emblem of liberty in Boston for over 300 years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Old State House has stood as an emblem of liberty in Boston for over 300 years. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first public school in America was established in 1635 in the home of Philemon Pormont but was later moved to its current location on School Street. Its illustrious list of alumni includes Samuel Adams, John Hancok, and Ben Franklin, whose statue overlooks the site. It later became Boston Latin School, still in operation in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. Today, a mosaic marks the spot where the school once stood.

One of Boston’s oldest surviving structures, built in 1712, now houses the Boston Globe Store, founded by The Boston Globe newspaper. It was here, when it was the Old Corner Bookstore, that some of America’s most famous books were published, including The Scarlet Letter and Walden.

In the 19th century, this building was the center of literary Boston, attracting such luminaries as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry David Thoreau.

Originally built in 1729 as a Puritan house of worship, the Old South Meeting House was once the largest building in Boston, but its best known as the site where the Boston Tea Party began, which, in turn, began the American Revolution.

USS Constitution and the Boston Skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
USS Constitution and the Boston Skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1773 more than 5,000 colonists gathered here to protest the tax on tea. After hours of debate, Samuel Adams declared that “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country!” The protesters emptied out of the Old South Meeting House and proceeded to Boston harbor, where they emptied out three shiploads of tea, and changed the course of American history forever.

Worth Pondering…

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
—Benjamin Franklin

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Adventure in Albuquerque: Petroglyph National Monument

Standing amid a jumble of basalt boulders, I paused after pulling myself up a steep climb of coffee-colored rock.

Boca Negra Canyon provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Boca Negra Canyon provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’re hiking appropriately named Boca Negra Canyon of the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, and so far the rock art hasn’t exactly been jumping out at me. But as I pause to rest and finally consider the beauty of the canyon, petroglyphs begin to emerge before me.

Round faces, turtles and birds, brands and crosses, and lightning bolt-like patterns appear plain as day where I was looking on the fly just moments before. Sometimes you cover more ground and observe more beauty when standing still.

These images are inseparable from the greater cultural landscape, from the spirits of the people who created them, and from all who appreciate them today.

While it may be tempting to reach out your hand, don’t touch! Oils from your skin can permanently damage the petroglyphs.

Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument comprises 7,236 acres of a volcanic basalt escarpment created by ancient lava flows along 17 miles of Albuquerque’s west escarpment, known as the West Mesa. The monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources, including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites, and an estimated 25,000 images carved into these dark rock outcroppings.

Visitors to this monument can travel 12 centuries into the past, turn around, and snap back into the present—because Albuquerque is right next door. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Visitors to this monument can travel 12 centuries into the past, turn around, and snap back into the present—because Albuquerque is right next door. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 150,000 year ago lava seeped from an enormous fissure here, covering the landscape like a prehistoric parking lot. Over time, cooling and erosion cracked the hardened lava. In many areas the ripples of once-hot lava can be seen in rock fragments.

By pecking the flat basalt, ancient artists found they could chisel away the dark desert varnish that had coated the rock and expose lighter rock beneath, creating a contrast that is still striking today. Basalt has a high iron content, and the rocks’ dark interior is basically rust. Creating a petroglyph was no small undertaking, as it took considerable time to etch the rock.

The National Park Service Las Imagenes Visitor Center and book store is located off Unser Boulevard at Western Trail. We began our visit here with a brief orientation to the monument and checked the schedule for ranger guided tours and special events before lacing up our hiking boots and hitting the trail at Boca Negra Canyon, a 70-acre section of the monument. Each trail offers a diverse view of the cultural and natural landscape within the monument.

Located two miles north of the visitor center on Unser Boulevard, Boca Negra Canyon provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs.

This volcanic basalt escarpment is home to a dense concentration of petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
This volcanic basalt escarpment is home to a dense concentration of petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is the most popular section of the monument, and is the only fully-developed area with restroom facilities, shade, and a drinking fountain. A nominal parking fee is charged by the City of Albuquerque.

Mostly, the national monument’s expanse of open space is undeveloped save for interpretative signs and facilities along the few developed trails at Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and the volcano’s trails. Otherwise, silence and isolation are yours just minutes from New Mexico’s largest city.

Located one mile south of the visitor center on Unser Boulevard, Rinconada Canyon is one of the few places, where at the end of the trail you can be out of sight of the city.

A 2½-mile round-trip sandy trail follows the base of the escarpment where you can view more than 800 petroglyphs. This trail area has no water, so bring your own. You are advised to stop at the visitor center for an orientation and map before hiking this trail.

The northernmost area of the monument, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, means “canyon of marked rocks”. Piedras Marcadas is home to the densest concentration of petroglyphs along the monument’s 17-mile escarpment, with an estimated 5,000 images. This area may be entered from a small parking lot west of Golf Course Road.

Ancient artists chipped away this colorful dark layer to expose the lighter rock underneath, leaving behind images of animals and people, brands, crosses, and handprints. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Ancient artists chipped away this colorful dark layer to expose the lighter rock underneath, leaving behind images of animals and people, brands, crosses, and handprints. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This trail area has no water, so bring your own. You are advised to stop at the visitor center for an orientation and map before hiking this trail.

Worth Pondering…

Each of these rocks is alive, keeper of a message left by the ancestors…There are spirits, guardians; there is medicine…

—William F. Weahkee, Pueblo Elder

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Boston Freedom Trail

Boston, a large, metropolitan city packed with revolutionary history, cultural venues, and sophisticated shopping and dining opportunities. A jaunt around “town” is like opening an American history textbook.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston has some of the worst driving and parking on the East Coast; its winding, angled roads meandering like the old cow paths they originally followed. But, don’t let this deter you; you will be rewarded many times over.

Boston had been a thriving city long before the United States itself existed. Founded in the 17th century, Boston has been the center of attention in New England since the colonial period. Today, Boston continues to boast some of the best attractions to be found in the Northeastern US. As the “Cradle of the Revolution”, Boston is full of history like no other city in America. For over 350 years, some of the world’s greatest patriots, writers, thinkers, athletes, and artists have called Boston their home, leaving an indelible mark on this incredible city in the process.

A trip to Boston is necessarily a trip into American history. Boston was the center of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s, and the monuments to those glorious times still stand.

Faneuil Hall (1742) was a meeting place for revolutionary leaders, and it now houses dozens of shops and restaurants. Built by wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1741, this imposing structure is the place where the Sons of Liberty proclaimed their dissent against Royal oppression.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old State House (1713) was the site of the colonial government and is open for tours.

The oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston, the Paul Revere House (1680) today serves as a museum.

The oldest church in the city of Boston, the Old North Church (1723), and its famous signal lanterns are still in use.

The site of the Boston Massacre where five colonists died in 1770 has been preserved.

The First Public School was in Boston; some of its graduates include Sam Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

Built as a Puritan house of worship, the Old South Meeting House (1729) was the largest building in colonial Boston. No tax on tea! This was the decision on December 16, 1773, when 5,000 angry colonists gathered here to protest a tax…and started a revolution with the Boston Tea Party.

Adjacent to King’s Chapel (1688), the first non-Puritan church in the colonies, the Granary Burying Ground has the graves of patriots John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even the Boston Tea Party is commemorated in a floating ship museum, not far from the floating museum aboard the USS Constitution, America’s first great warship. Launched in Boston in 1797, America’s Ship of State earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere.

On our National Park ranger-led tour, we visited sites along the Freedom Trail and heard about the American Revolutionary story, the people who lived here, their courage, and what they risked striving for freedom.

Freedom Trail, the red-brick line through the city takes us on a tour of 16 sites in Boston’s history for two and a half miles, including Boston Common, the State House, the Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel, the site of the first public school, Old South Meeting House, the Old Statehouse, the Boston Massacre Site, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument.

The Freedom Trail was created in 1951 to set recognize and set aside a cluster of historically significant building and locations in downtown Boston.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We began our 90-minute ranger-led tour at the Old State House and concluded at the Old North Church, five sites along the Freedom trail that highlights Boston’s role in the American Revolution. The other sites, prior to and following our ranger-led tour, were on our own.

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

Worth Pondering…

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.

—Samuel Adams

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Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding’s Trading Post & Hollywood

Magnificent Monument Valley is not a national or state park but, with 91,696 acres, it is a small part of the great Navajo Nation that covers much of northeastern Arizona and stretches into Utah and New Mexico.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding's Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding’s Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our visit to Monument Valley was in two parts: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Goulding’s Trading Post.

Our first stop was the legendary Goulding’s Trading Post located just north of the Arizona-Utah border, six miles from the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Established in the early 1920s by Harry Goulding and his wife, Leone, nicknamed Mike. For half a century they maintained a warm relationship with the Navajo, trading with them and finding markets for their handmade items, helping lift them from poverty that plagued the reservation.

And then came the Depression, hitting the valley with a brutal vengeance. There was a terrible drought in 1934 and then another one in 1936. Income from the trading post diminished to virtually nothing.

Then, in 1938, with times desperate and conditions bleak, Harry Goulding took his one-in-a-million shot to Hollywood and what he managed to do reverberates to this day.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding's Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding’s Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Armed with a photo album of 8-by-10 scenes of the valley made by famous photographer and close friend, Josef Muench, the Gouldings drove to Hollywood and sold movie director John Ford on the idea of using Monument Valley as a backdrop for Stagecoach, released in 1939. It won two Academy Awards and made John Wayne a star. The connection forged in that office on that day between Ford and Harry Goulding was the beginning of a new era in the American Western.

It’s said that when John Wayne first saw the site, he declared: “So this is where God put the West.” Millions would agree.

Over the next 25 years, John Ford would go on to shoot six more westerns in Monument Valley: My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Searchers (1956), Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). In addition to introducing the valley’s spectacular scenery to an international audience, each movie pumped tens of thousands of dollars into the local economy.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding's Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding’s Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goulding’s Trading Post is now a sprawling complex of 73 motel rooms, a campground, and a souvenir shop. (Harry Goulding died in 1981, Mike in 1992.) The original 1925 trading post has been turned into a museum. Goulding’s Trading Post Museum is both a showcase of varied artifacts and a glimpse into a bygone era.

Goulding’s Trading Post Museum is comprised of several different areas. The first is the Trading Post Bull Pen, where the locals would bring their goods to trade for items: kitchen wares, canned goods, material and threads, and even guns.

The next section of the museum is the Ware Room where surplus and supplies were stored: bags of raw wool, crates of coffee, and saddles. Today the Ware Room is filled with photographs of the early days at Goulding’s and pictures of local Navajos from the 20th Century.

The Josef Muench Room boasts a variety of artwork and photography, principally, that of famous photographer and close Goulding friend, Josef Muench.

Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding's Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Magnificent Monument Valley: Goulding’s Trading Post & Hollywood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Movie Room was originally built as the mess hall for the crew of The Harvey Girls; today it is filled with movie stills, call sheets, and posters. Always playing in the Movie Room is a classic John Ford/John Wayne film.

The Living Quarters is upstairs and has been restored as closely as possible to how the Goulding’s home appeared in the late 1940s and early 50s.

Captain Nathan Brittles’ Cabin, also called John Wayne’s Cabin, is located just behind the museum. In actuality, it was Mike Goulding’s potato cellar, where she stored her fruits, vegetables, and other perishables.

Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Goulding’s Stagecoach Dining Room while experiencing the beauty, culture, and history of the true American West. The dining room offers Navajo and American Southwestern cuisine in a historical, awe-inspiring setting.

Goulding’s Campground offers 66 full-service campsites nestled amid red rocks.

Worth Pondering…

…a strange world of colossal shafts and buttes of rock, magnificently sculptured, standing isolated and aloof, dark, weird, lonely.

—Zane Grey

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America’s Hometown: Plymouth Rock, Mayflower & Plimoth Plantation

Plymouth, Massachusetts, is home to one of the great dramas in the founding of America.

Step onto a full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Step onto a full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the landing location for the Mayflower’s Pilgrims in 1620, and their subsequent settlement, it has earned the nickname America’s Hometown. The Pilgrims also celebrated what is now known as the first Thanksgiving with their Wampanoag neighbors here in 1621.

Situated about 40 miles south of Boston along Massachusetts’ South Shore, Plymouth unfolds along a scenic harbor of blue waters and picturesque boats. The town is walkable, so you can park along the waterfront and head to its most famous landmark: Plymouth Rock.

The legendary granite rock, known as the ‘Landing Place of the Pilgrims’, rests in the sand along the waterfront. Being a rock, it’s not the most interactive attraction, but the bold neoclassical portico enshrining it gives weight to its hallowed significance. A guide usually stands nearby answering questions, and recounting the rock’s adventures and how it was identified in 1741 as the landing place.

After Plymouth Rock, you can visit two nearby sites: Cole’s Hill and Mayflower II. Cole’s Hill, located behind Plymouth Rock and across Water Street, reveals a scenic harbor view from which you can observe Mayflower II, as well as the comings and goings of today’s yachts and fishing boats. On the hill you’ll find a statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag Indian chief who befriended the Pilgrims, plus a sarcophagus containing recovered bones of the settlers who died (half of the original party) during the first winter.

Then, just north of Plymouth Rock, you’ll find the dockside home of Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of the original. It was built in Brixham, England, and sailed to Plymouth in 1957 as part of a transatlantic goodwill project.

Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The adjacent dockside museum offers exhibits about the voyages of both the Mayflowers, but the real fascination begins onboard the ship. There, you can walk the oak-timbered half-deck, smell the salt air, and imagine the settlers approaching land and nearing their dream of religious freedom. While exploring the ship, you’ll also meet guides who offer a wealth of knowledge about the voyage and those traveling onboard.

After disembarking Mayflower II, delve into history by traveling 3 miles south of town to visit Plimoth Plantation. Since it’s an historical highlight of any trip to Plymouth, you’ll want to arrive early enough to enjoy several hours.

Plimoth Plantation is a living historic museum dedicated to telling the history of Plymouth Colony from the perspective of both the Pilgrims and the Native Wampanoag people. The museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate that includes the Wampanoag Homesite, 1627 English village, 17th-century Craft Center, Plimoth Bread Company, and Plimoth Grist Mill.

Costumed role-players tell you about their perilous journey across the Atlantic, while modern guides speak about the fascinating history of Mayflower and Mayflower II. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Costumed role-players tell you about their perilous journey across the Atlantic, while modern guides speak about the fascinating history of Mayflower and Mayflower II. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Visitor Center offers an indoor gallery exhibit, Cinema, gift shop, and the Patuxet Café serving delicious New England fare.

At the homesite along the Eel River, you’ll find the recreated home and garden of a 17th-century Wampanoag family. You’ll meet native Americans, including members of today’s Wampanoag tribe, who answer questions and demonstrate traditional skills such as preparing a meal, making a canoe, or building a home.

From the homesite, you can stroll along the Eel River boardwalk to the English Village rising over Cape Cod Bay. For the many costumed interpreters mingling around the re-created Pilgrim Village, the year is 1627—seven years after the first arrival of settlers.

Exploring the village is like traveling back in time. You’ll wander along paths with colony ‘residents’ who enter and exit their thatched-roof homes and pursue their chores. Although they’re focused on their lives, feel free to approach them ; they’ll be glad to answer questions. Speaking in 17th century English dialects, they convey not only the histories of the people they re-enact but also their viewpoints and concerns.

It may seem awkward to converse with someone from the 17th century—to ask how a colonist feels about the neighboring Wampanoag, for instance—but after a few questions you might get hooked on the experience, gaining much through the interaction.

Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Like most people, I was immediately struck by how small the ship seemed—particularly in the ‘tween decks, where the passengers were confined. How could 102 people, including three pregnant mothers, have survived more than ten weeks in a space this size?

—Nathaniel Philbrick, “At Sea with the Pilgrims: Writing About the Voyage of the Mayflower”, Plimoth Life, 2007

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