50 Things To See or Do See in Your RV Before You Die

You might have read it or flipped through it or seen it on a shelf and thought, “I should pick that up.”

The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the national bestseller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

The list, which includes everything from Asian sailing excursions to African horseback riding sites, might be mouthwatering to the wannabe world traveler. For most, however, the financial ability to travel the world simply isn’t there.

But have no fear. Sometimes the best adventures are those in your own backyard.

Here, in alphabetical order, are 50 things to do or see in your RV before you die:

Acadia National Park, Maine

People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Thanks to the robber barons that used the park as a private playground in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the islands of Acadia have been preserved in a pristine state.

Acadia’s largest island, Mount Desert Island, encompasses a range of geological diversity, including rocky Atlantic shoreline, lush forests of spruce and fir, dozens of lakes and ponds, and rugged granite hills. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery.

The Alamo, Texas

One hundred seventy-six years ago the Alamo was the site of a pivotal moment in the history of the Texas Revolution where 250 or so Texian and Tejano defenders held off an estimated 1,500 Mexican soldiers for 13 days.

The Alamo is remembered as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds—a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the “Shrine of Texas Liberty.”

If you have never visited this sacred shrine, you haven’t really visited Texas.

Remember the Alamo!

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico

Each October, New Mexico skies are full of bold blues, imperial reds, and vibrant yellows. The event is the world-famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot-air balloon event in the world. This extravaganza takes place from the first weekend through the second weekend in October—this year’s festival is from October 6-14—and attracts hundreds of hot-air balloonists from around the world.

After you’ve been to the Fiesta, it will be easy to see why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment.

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Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Searching for the Whooping Cranes in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Searching for the Whooping Cranes in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is special for many reasons. It is home to America’s tallest bird, the highly endangered whooping crane. In fact, each winter the refuge plays host to huge wild flocks of whooping cranes whose bugle-like call echoes across the marsh.

With a spectacular wing span of 8 feet, the cranes reach speeds of 30 mph and travel 400 miles a day along their 2,600-mile migratory route between summer nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta and wintering grounds at the Aransas refuge.

The refuge also provides an important resting, feeding, and wintering grounds for more than 390 migratory and native species including pelicans, egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, and many other birds.

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches Park is a geological wonderland and one of Utah’s most accessible parks. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures that is unlike any other in the world. An awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations dot its landscape.

The greatest density of natural arches in the world occurs in Arches which preserves more than 2,000 imposing natural sandstone arches—including the world-famous and much-photographed Delicate Arch.

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Big Bend National Park, Texas

If it’s solitude you seek, you’ll find it here. Besides serving up quiet in big, Texas-size portions, Big Bend boasts geologic wonders, unique wildlife, and plenty of room for hikers and campers to spread out.

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

The park, which earns its name for the sharp turn the Rio Grande takes in its midst, sprawls across an astounding 801,163 acres of arid plains and mountains in far-west Texas. The Indians thought this land was the Great Spirit’s rock storage facility; the Spaniards called it “El Despoblado,” or “the uninhabited land.” However you see it, Big Bend is not soon forgotten: It’s a place of mystery and timeless beauty.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

“My favorite thing is to go where I have never been,” wrote photographer Diane Arbus, and so it is with us.

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Five Things You Need to Know Today: April 27

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. Good Sam Appears Sunday on Celebrity Apprentice
Good Sam, one of America’s most recognized organizations was selected to be featured as a task sponsor on a 2012 segment of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” featuring American business mogul Donald J. Trump. The episode will highlight some of the many benefits and services Good Sam provides to the community.

Donald Trump commented, “Good Sam, one of the world’s largest lifestyle organizations, provides a wide and wonderful array of products and services, and we are very pleased to have them on our show.” Trump continued, “I think the episode is exciting and definitely a great fit for our audiences.”

“We are pleased to partner with Mr. Trump with his pop culture phenomenon, ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,” remarked Chairman and CEO of Good Sam, Marcus Lemonis. “Both Good Sam and ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ have a similar focus on charitable works and Good Sam is focused on providing customer assistance in a multitude of channels. Look forward to seeing Good Sam reveal a new image to the audience.”

The Good Sam featured episode will air this Sunday, April 29 on NBC at 9/8 Central.

2. 2013 Fleetwood 33-Foot Excursion Receives Good Reviews

Fleetwood RV Excursion Class A

Decatur, Indiana-based Fleetwood RV Inc. new Excursion Class A has drawn a lot of good reviews since its debut at RVIA’s National RV Trade Show last winter as one of a handful of shorter new diesel motorhomes.

But it’s not really the Excursion’s compact 33-foot length as much as its competitive $175,000 retail price tag that will draw buyers, says Fleetwood President and CEO John Draheim.

The Excursion, built on a Freightliner-based Power Bridge chassis powered by a 300-hp Cummins 6.7-Liter ISB engine mated to an Allison 2100MH transmission, has undergone minor dealer-suggested upgrades since its initial introduction.

For additional information on the 2013 Fleetwood 33-foot Excursion, click here.

3. No Finer Day in Shiner

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Texas, the mere mention of the word “Shiner” immediately brings to mind thoughts of a cold longneck and the distinctive brew within. However, before the beer, there was the town.

Not surprisingly, the best way to learn the history of Shiner is to learn the history of Shiner Beer, as the two have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. So, I headed to Spoetzl Brewery and joined the day’s first tour.

Shiner beer started in 1909 when the town’s thirsty German and Czech immigrants decided to start a brewery to make the traditional Bavarian brews of their homeland. In 1914, legendary brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl took over and the rest is history.

The Spoetzl Brewery is now the oldest independent brewery in Texas and still brews every drop of Shiner Beer from its “little brewery” in Shiner.

The tour gave me a firsthand look into the brewing process and, of course, a firsthand sampling of the final product, from flagstaff Shiner Boch to the 102 Double Wheat. The tour is the best way to sample the spectrum of Shiner, and it whet my curiosity as to what else the town had to offer including Friday’s Chicken.

Click here to read more stories on Shiner Boch.

4. RVs May Soon Boycott Maine

The Maine Revenue Service (MRS) has decided that the business owner of an RV that is rented to a customer who spends more than 24 hours in Maine with that RV owes the state sales tax on the original price of the RV, reports Down East.

MRS is now auditing a Vermont company, Travel-Rite, in order to collect that sales tax on all of the company’s RVs that have been rented by customers for travel in Maine.

“Imagine this scenario,” testified Chad Shepard, Travel Rite’s owner.

“Under Maine’s current tax system, Maine would impose a $5,000 use tax, which is 5 percent of the original purchase price of $100,000, even though we only earned $200 of rent from the time the RV was in Maine,” he said.

Shepard was obviously worried that his liability will run “well into the six figures” after renting RVs that traveled to Maine for many years. After 17 years in business, he said a bill of this magnitude from the MRS would “put us out of business.”

He also reported that many other companies will be vulnerable, although right now the MRS seems to have targeted his company.

Vacationland to Taxationland! Call this change truth in advertising.

5. California Increased Cost of Annual State Park Passes
California State Parks announced it will be raising the price of four of its annual passes as of May 1, 2012. Day use and camping fees will remain at 2009 levels.
The passes to be increased are as follows:

  • Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass: Current: $125; New: $195
  • Golden Poppy Vehicle Day Use Pass: Current: $90; New: $125
  • Boat Use Pass (Sticker): Current: $75; New: $100
  • Limited Use Golden Bear Pass: Current: $10; New: $20

This increase will bring the price of the annual passes more in line with the standard of 12-15 visits to pay for an annual pass.

State Parks is not sure how much revenue this will generate in the short term, but roughly estimates between $1 million and $1.5 million per year more for state parks as visitors get accustomed to the new prices. This is not enough to prevent park closures brought about by the $22 million reduction in the State Parks’ budget, but it will help mitigate the severe service reductions at parks remaining open throughout the system.

Have a great weekend.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…

Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.

—Roy Goodman

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10 Ways for Kids to Play in America’s National Parks

With 395 parks across the country consisting of over 84 million acres, there are endless adventures custom-made for kids of all ages in America’s national parks. In honor of National Public Lands Day tomorrow (September 24), when national parks across the country will waive their entrance fees, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation have unveiled ten great ways for kids to get out and play in America’s national parks.

Kicking things off tomorrow, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation will welcome Nickelodeon and their 8th annual Worldwide Day of Play to Washington, D.C.’s President’s Park. Located next to the White House, President’s Park will be home to the largest Worldwide Day of Play to date, with an entire day of activities and games—encouraging kids to get up, get out, and get to a national park! In that spirit, Nickelodeon’s television networks and websites will go off-air and offline from 12 noon to 3 p.m. EDT as a signal to kids and families nationwide to get active.

Whether it is this weekend or any weekend, America’s national parks offer endless activities the whole family can enjoy. This National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation invite everyone to go out and play.

Following are ten fun-packed national park adventures for kids and their families:

Maine: Acadia National Park

Sea-life bingo keeps youngsters excited tallying green sea urchins, orange sea stars, and other curious marine creatures that reside in tide pools that surface at low tide. Watch for harbor seals farther out in the water.

Florida: Biscayne National Park

Families visiting Biscayne between December and April can sign up to attend “Family Fun Fest”—a day-long program held on the second Sunday of those months and focused on activities tied to the park’s diverse resources.

Massachusetts: Cape Cod National Seashore

Cycling is one of the best ways to get around the Cape thanks to its paved rail trail, which leads through the woods, pass kettle ponds created by retreating glaciers, and to spurs leading to Coast Guard, Marconi, and Le Count Hollow beaches.

Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park

Teens looking for a challenge can measure themselves against the Tetons, thanks to climbing schools where world-class guides will teach them the basics and lead them to the summit of 13,770-foot Grand Teton.

Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Kids love to get sandy on the tallest sand dunes in North America. Rising to about 650 feet, these dunes in the heart of the park are perfect for skiing, sand-boarding, or just plain old rolling down.

California: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Budding geologists will be fascinated with Lassen Volcanic, as it can count all four major types of volcanoes—shield, plug, cinder cone, and composite. There’s even a Volcano Club kids can join to learn more about this volcanic landscape.

Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park

Let's Go RVing to Joshua Tree National Park, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Mammoth Cave trip is built around a cave tour with the family, or three! Take the Violet City Lantern Tour to experience the passageways by flickering lamp light as many of its first visitors did, view the incredible flowstones on the Frozen Niagara Tour, or visit the Snowball Room with its ancient autographs inscribed with soot.

Washington: Olympic National Park

Kids can start the day with a snowball fight (on Hurricane Ridge) and end it soaking in warm springs (like those at Sol Duc Hot Springs).

Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Winter isn’t the off-season here, as there are trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And if there’s enough snow, kids and adults can even sled down the 100+ foot-Dune Climb.

Details

National Park Service

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 395 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

Website: nps.gov

National Park Foundation

You are the owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites — all protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks. We work hand in hand with the National Park Service to connect you and all Americans to the parks, and to make sure that they are preserved for the generations who will follow.

Website: nationalparks.org

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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MECOA Partners with Maine State Parks

Maine is legendary for its rock bound coast, the north woods, mountains, lakes, and rivers.

Pleasant Mountain, Bridgton, Maine. (Photo credit: visitmaine.com)

From June 1 to 25, campers who stay at any Maine campground that is a member of the Maine Campgrounds Owners Association (MECOA) will be able to visit any Maine state park or historic site for day-use at no cost, says Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) in a recent news release.

The special promotion is being offered by the BPL, under the Maine Department of Conservation, and MECOA in recognition of the proclamation made by Gov. Paul LePage that June is “Great Outdoors Month,” according to BPL officials.

“We are pleased to partner with other campground owners to provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation at our state parks,” Will Harris, BPL director, said. “This should be good for both of our organizations, but most importantly, it’s good for the recreating public.”

Earlier this spring, Gov. LePage proclaimed June 2011 as “Great Outdoors Month,” which will be highlighted by National Get Outdoors Day on Saturday, June 11. The month is designated to recognize the opportunities for American families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities and to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun.

Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde is just one of more than 60 lighthouses along the Maine Coast. (Photo credit: visitmaine.com)

BPL is a member of MECOA, which represents about 200 campgrounds, including the 12 Maine state park campgrounds, around Maine.

For the first four weeks of the month, campers at any of the MECOA campgrounds will be able to get a “Great Outdoors Month State Park Visitor Pass” that will give them a free, day-use visit to any of Maine’s 48 state parks and historic sites.

“All they need to do is present the pass at the park or historic site’s visitor booth for free admission, and they will get to enjoy some of the best that Maine has to offer,” Harris said. “That means ocean-front and lakeside beaches, fascinating historic locales, and beautiful, scenic places great for picnicking, hiking, swimming—all kinds of fun.”

The pass is valid only when signed by a MECOA member campground agent. It is for use by one vehicle and its occupants during a stay at a MECOA member campground from June 1-25.

This benefit also pertains to all campers at Maine’s 12 state campgrounds, Harris said. Anyone camping at a Maine state park campground during the same period is eligible to visit another state park or historic site, day-use facility at no additional cost during the dates they are camping. State campground campers must show their camping permit or rear view mirror hang tag to the park staff at the day-use facility as verification of their eligibility to have the day use fee waived.

Maine-ly just the facts about Maine

The Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway runs along Maine Route 201 near Bingham, Maine. (Photo credit: visitmaine.com)

Maine is the only state in the union with a one-syllable name.

Maine has 3,500 miles of coastline, 17 million acres of forest, 32,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 436,064 acres of state and national parks.

West Quoddy Head is the most easterly point in the contiguous United States.

More than 60 lighthouses dot the Maine coast.

Maine leads the United States in lobster catching, low-bush blueberry harvesting, and wooden toothpick production.

The state claims America’s first chartered town: York in 1641.

Information was compiled by Richard P. Carpenter from books, websites, and the deepest recesses of the author’s mind.

Details

Maine State Parks

Day Use Fees: Maine resident, $2-5/person; Maine residents 65 and older, free; non-resident, $3-7/person; senior non-resident, $2-2/person

Camping Fees: Maine resident, $11-15; non-resident, $19-25

To make reservations at any Maine state park campground, go online to: campwithme.com.

An additional fee of $2.00 per night, per site, will be charged for reservations.

Maine Campgrounds Owners Association (MECOA)

Worth Pondering…
Maine’s long and cold winters may help keep our State’s population low, but our harsh climate also accounts for what is unique and valuable about our land and our people.
—Tom Allen

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