Road Trip Nation: On The Road To Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highway 6, Cape Cod, Massachusetts 

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

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

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

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

Word of advice: stick with weekdays.

Scenic Byway 12, Utah

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

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

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

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

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

Tamiami Trail, Florida

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

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

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

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More Americans To Take Summer Road Trip

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer and kicks off summer vacation planning season. More Americans will take to the roads this year as they benefit from the low fuel prices.

travelocity-road-trip-infographicAccording to a recent Travelocity survey of 1000 Americans, 65 percent of those polled stated that they were more likely to take a road trip this summer compared to last summer.

While it’s clear that low fuel prices are likely driving Americans to take more road trips, Travelocity’s survey also looked at why road trips are still popular when it comes to travel.

While the majority of those surveyed replied that the destination is what they most look forward to, a full one-third of those polled felt that the best part of a road trip is the journey itself.

This sentiment was echoed by a number of Travelocity customers who were asked what they loved most about going on road trips. According to one veteran Travelocity customer, sharing and enjoying their favorite music on the road by “making road trip mixes” is the best part of a road trip, while another noted that it is “…fun to pull over to random roadside attractions. Those usually create long lasting memories and stories that will forever commemorate the trip.”

When asked about what person with whom they would least want to undertake a road trip, 35 percent of those surveyed responded that it would be “the fussy child”, followed by “the one who needs frequent bathroom breaks” (20%) and “the backseat driver” (16%).

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

When asked how long they could go without needing to stop for a break, the average across those surveyed was five hours. However, when broken down by gender, the difference turned out to be substantial. While on average, women feel that they could go just over four hours between stops, while men claim that they can go almost an hour longer before having to pull over.

The Road Trip

The tradition of taking a road trip dates back about 3,000 years.

The first road trip likely occurred in ancient Egypt around 1200 B.C., when Ramses II hit the road in his chariot.

Similar ventures—using the well-loved automobile—began in Germany in the 1880s.

As the car’s popularity grew, so did the practice of taking to roadways for a carefree holiday.

The road trip became an easy, breezy travel idea that’s affordable and accessible—and in America today there is no shortage of highways, byways, and back roads.

Answering the call of the open road is practically an American rite of passage—and today more and more are taking to the open road in a recreational vehicle.

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

National Scenic Byways

So put the pedal to the metal, crank up those tunes, and roll down those windows to gaze upon America the beautiful as it rolls by.

Indulge your wanderlust on wheels while exploring the following National Scenic Byways.

Scenic Byway 12 (Utah)

Scenic Byway 12 travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. It runs through Utah’s Garfield and Wayne Counties and is home to Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks; Kodachrome Basin, Escalante Petrified Forest, and Anasazi Museum State Parks; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the 1.8-million-acre Dixie National Forest.

Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia and North Carolina)

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

Red Rock Scenic Byway (Arizona)

Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls.” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls.” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls.” Travelers are amazed by the high desert’s power, diversity, and sense of intimacy with nature. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stunning red rocks are alive with a timeless spirit that captivates and inspires.

El Camino Real (New Mexico)

New Mexico’s El Camino Real passes by missions, historic sites, and a national wildlife refuge.

Cultures along El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road of the Interior Land), are as diverse as its history and scenery. Pueblos reveal artisans crafting wares using centuries-old methods. First traveled by Don Juan de Onate in 1598, the route provided news, supplies, and travel to the first capital of the New World.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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Top 10 National Parks: Is Your List Better Than Mine?

People like lists. No, check that, they love them. Particularly when they disagree with them and think they have a better list. So, here’s my personal Top 10 list of national parks.

How does it match up with yours?

10. Canyon de Chelly National Monument (Arizona)

Spider Rock, the unofficial symbol of Canyon de Chelly, is a sandstone obelisk that rises more than 800 feet from the canyon floor at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Spider Rock, the unofficial symbol of Canyon de Chelly, is a sandstone obelisk that rises more than 800 feet from the canyon floor at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sheer sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo, who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.

The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads—the North and South Rim drives. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800 foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls and a site of special significance for the Navajo. Beyond the rocks, the main canyon continues unseen for many miles.

Since Canyon de Chelly lies on Navajo land, unsupervised access is restricted to the rim overlooks and to a single trail into the canyon, leading to the White House Ruins, as for all other trips down or along the canyon, a Navajo escort is required.

Continue reading →

9. Shenandoah National Park

Vistas of gently sloping mountains, forests, and tumbling rivers, and mountain streams are stunning especially during autumn. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Vistas of gently sloping mountains, forests, and tumbling rivers, and mountain streams are stunning especially during autumn. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful, historic national treasure which includes the scenic 105-mile long Skyline Drive—a designated National Scenic Byway. The Park covers the crest of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains for over seventy-five miles.

The Native Indians named the valley Shenandoah, mean­ing Daughter of the Stars, for the expansive firmament that roofed their world. Daylight vistas of gently slop­ing mountains, forests, and tumbling rivers, and mountain streams are equally sparkling.

As each season arrives, and the changing leaves hit their peak of rich color, the expansive views become a tapestry of lush green in spring and summer to red, yellow, and orange in autumn. Along the way, milepost markers help you identify your surroundings—and find the perfect place to pull over and enjoy the panoramic views.

Continue reading →

8. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The Chihuahuan Desert, studded with spiky plants and lizards, offers little hint that what Will Rogers called the “Grand Canyon with a roof on it” waits underground. Yet, at this desert’s northern reaches, underneath the Guadalupe Mountains, lies one of the deepest, largest, and most ornate caverns ever found.

Water molded this underworld four to six million years ago. Some 250 million years ago, the region lay underneath the inland arm of an ancient sea. Near the shore grew a limestone reef. By the time the sea withdrew, the reef stood hundreds of feet high, later to be buried under thousands of feet of soil.

Guided tours of varying difficulties in Carlsbad Cavern and other park caves are available. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Guided tours of varying difficulties in Carlsbad Cavern and other park caves are available. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some 15 to 20 million years ago, the ground uplifted. Naturally occurring sulfuric acid seeped into cracks in the limestone, gradually enlarging them to form a honeycomb of chambers. Millions of years passed before the cave decoration began. Then, drop by drop, limestone-laden moisture built an extraordinary variety of glistening formations—some six stories tall; others tiny and delicate.

Continue reading →

7. Zion National Park

In the heart of desert slot canyon territory in southwestern Utah is the most awe-inspiring place on the planet: Zion National Park. With the competition Zion faces from its neighboring national parks in the American Southwest just standing out in this esteemed crowd would seem to require some noteworthy scenery. Zion delivers it in spades.

Continue reading →

6. Joshua Tree National Park

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

Joshua Tree National Park encompasses one of the most interesting and diverse patches of desert in the U.S. Its namesake species, the spiky, dramatically crooked Joshua tree, is also considered by many to be the defining characteristic of the Mojave Desert.

But this huge desert park actually lies at the meeting point of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. The park’s eastern and southern areas, with sub 3,000-foot elevation and plants such as “jumping” cholla cactus and spidery ocotillo, is Sonoran in character; its western areas are higher, cooler, wetter, and quite densely forested with the park’s namesake tree.

You’ll find the tumbled granite boulders to which the park owes its recent fame in the high central range. And don’t miss the towering fan-palm oases, where an entire realm of wildlife revolves around their precious water.

Continue reading →

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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All-American Road Trips

An estimated 34.8 million Americans will take a trip of 50 miles or more this weekend, according to AAA’s annual Memorial Day travel forecast.

Let's Go RVing on Scenic Byway 12, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AAA projects an increase of 1.2 percent over last year’s 34.3 million travelers over the holiday weekend that runs today through Monday.

Indulge your wanderlust on wheels while exploring the following National Scenic Byways.

Scenic Byway 12 (Utah)

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West.

This exceptional 124 mile route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. You’ll encounter archaeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities while driving this exhilarating byway.

Scenic Byway 12 travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. It runs through Utah’s Garfield and Wayne Counties and is home to Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks; Kodachrome Basin, Escalante Petrified Forest, and Anasazi Museum State Parks; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the 1.8-million-acre Dixie National Forest.

Scenic Byway 12 has two entry points. The southwestern gateway is from U.S. Highway 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch. The northeastern gateway is from Highway 24 in the town of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

Scenic Byway 12 takes visitors through memorable landscapes, ranging from the remains of ancient sea beds to one of the world’s highest alpine forests, and from astonishing pink and russet stone turrets to open sagebrush flats. The history and culture of the area blend together, making Scenic Byway 12 a journey like no other.

Red Rock Scenic Byway (Arizona)

Let's Go RVing on the Red Rock Scenic Byway, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls.”

Travelers are amazed by the high desert’s power, diversity, and sense of intimacy with nature. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stunning red rocks are alive with a timeless spirit that captivates and inspires.

This highly acclaimed National Scenic Byway, begins shortly after you exit #298 off I-17 and has earned the distinction of being Arizona’s First All-American Road! It winds through the evergreen pinion-covered Coconino National Forest, with several scenic pullouts, as well as through the extraordinary, prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly) and all levels of hiking and biking trails.

Although the Scenic Byway is only 7.5 miles, it is long on spectacular sights.

Sedona’s Red Rocks are comprised of sediment layers deposited over many millions of years. The shale foundation is the remainder of ancient swamp lands. Other layers are the remainder of an ancient beachfront that deposited iron about 275 million years ago. This iron is what gives Sedona’s rocks their rich red color.

The Coconino sandstone layer was formed at a time when Sahara-like dunes covered the majority of the Western U.S. The Red Rocks we see today were formed several million years ago when the uplifting of the Colorado Plateau that created the Grand Canyon also caused water to carve out Sedona’s red rock, cake-like layers.

El Camino Real (New Mexico)

Let's Go RVing along New Mexico’s El Camino Real. Pictured above is Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico’s El Camino Real passes by missions, historic sites, and a national wildlife refuge.

Cultures along El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road of the Interior Land), are as diverse as its history and scenery. Pueblos reveal artisans crafting wares using centuries-old methods. First traveled by Don Juan de Onate in 1598, the route provided news, supplies, and travel to the first capital of the New World.

El Camino Real crosses central New Mexico from Santa Fe to the Texas state line near El Paso. The 276-miles long byway follows a series of U.S. Highways and State Highways closely paralleling I-25. All the roads are two-lane paved roads suitable for all types of vehicles.

The scenic beauty of the byway is as diverse and colorful as its culture, history, and people.

From the low-lying flatlands of the south to the soaring peaks of the northern mountains, the terrain climbs 10,000 feet in elevation, creating a landscape of dramatic contrasts.

The El Camino Real and surrounding area is the postcard picture of desert beauty. Majestic mountain ranges with treacherous peaks wind through the desert, and low shrubs and cacti dot the earth.

The El Camino Real is an experience sure to leave an impression of the Southwest with you forever.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on 5 Great All-American Road Trips

Part 1: Road Trips!

Worth Pondering…
People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

—Saint Augustine

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Road trip!

It’s the Memorial Day long weekend—the unofficial start of summer—and for many travel-wise Americans that means one thing: Road trip!

Let's Go RVing on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tradition of taking a road trip dates back about 3,000 years.

The first road trip likely occurred in ancient Egypt around 1200 B.C., when Ramses II hit the road in his chariot.

Similar ventures—using the well-loved automobile—began in Germany in the 1880s.

As the car’s popularity grew, so did the practice of taking to roadways for a carefree holiday.

The road trip became an easy, breezy travel idea that’s affordable and accessible—and in America today there is no shortage of highways, byways, and back roads.

Answering the call of the open road is practically an American rite of passage—and today more and more are taking to the open road in a recreational vehicle.

5 Great All-American Road Trips

These 10 distinctive all-American road trips, inclusive of both roads less traveled and tried-and-true, pave the way through the country’s finest landscapes, from the Appalachians to the heart of the American West to Arizona’s Red Rock Country—and beyond.

So put the pedal to the metal, crank up those tunes, and roll down those windows to gaze upon America the beautiful as it rolls by.

Indulge your wanderlust on wheels while exploring the following National Scenic Byways.

Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia and North Carolina)

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays as it extends through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

Connecting two national parks—Shenandoah in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina—the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses 469 miles through blue-misted Appalachian highlands. Take in forest-blanketed mountain vistas, ripe for fauna (look for bear, deer, and beaver) and flora viewing (interesting factoid: the parkway’s namesake “blue” haze is attributed to the hydrocarbon release from the some 130 tree species).
Picnic areas, campgrounds, hiking trails, and visitor’s centers, offering programs like ranger-guided walks, abound.

Let's Go RVing on the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come in late spring for wildflower blooms (rhododendron, azalea); or, in fall (especially around mid-October) for Technicolor foliage displays.

Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway (North Carolina and Tennessee)

The Cherohala Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Appalachian Mountains.

Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage, as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests.

The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala.

The Cherohala Skyway is located in southeast Tennessee and southwest North Carolina. The Skyway connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina, and is about 40+ miles long. The Cherohala Skyway is a wide, paved two-laned road maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Let's Go RVing on the Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on 5 Great All-American Road Trips

Part 2: All-American Road Trips

Worth Pondering…
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

The winds will flow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

—John Muir

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Red Rock Scenic Byway Signage Goes Up

The Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest will soon commence construction of six Red Rock Scenic Byway sign structures, several informational kiosks, and some trailhead improvements along a 7.5-mile section of State Route 179. The work is expected to take several months to complete.

Scenic Byway signs will be constructed at the north and south ends of the 7.5 mile stretch of SR 179, and at Courthouse Vista, Little Horse Trail, Bell Rock Vista, and Yavapai Point Vista.

Various improvements at Yavapai Point Vista will also occur, including the construction of a pathway to vista points, and the installation of interpretive panels. A temporary 60-day closure of Yavapai Point Vista will be in place during the construction period; all other sites will remain open, reports US Forest Service in a recent news release.

The Scenic Byway signs will be constructed of natural red rock and rustic appearing steel to blend in with the surrounding landscape and local architecture.

This section of SR 179 is special because in 2006, the US Dept. of Transportation recognized its uniqueness by giving it All American Road status, the highest designation within the National Scenic Byways Program. To date, this section of 179 remains the only All American Road in the State of Arizona.

Nationally, there are 125 National Scenic Byways in 44 states, but only 36 of the Byways, including the Red Rock Scenic Byway or “Gateway to Sedona”, have additionally earned the prestigious All-American Road designation.

This project is being funded through the National Scenic Byway grant program and was awarded to the Red Rock Ranger District.

The public may experience some inconvenience during the construction period, in and around construction sites.

Details

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Length: 7.5 miles

Time to Allow: Take 20 minutes to drive, but allow several hours to include all activities along the byway.

Website: redrockscenicbyway.com

Coconino National Forest

The Coconino National Forest is one of the most diverse national forests in the country with landscapes ranging from the famous Red Rocks of Sedona to ponderosa pine forests, to alpine tundra. Explore mountains and canyons, fish forest lakes, and wade in lazy creeks and streams.

Website: fs.usda.gov/coconino

Red Rock District Coconino National Forest

Location: 8375 State Route 179, Sedona, Arizona (just south of the Village of Oak Creek)

Address: P. O. Box 20429, Sedona, AZ 86341-0429

Administrative Offices: (928) 203-7500

Visitor Center: (928) 203-2900

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on the Red Rock Scenic Byway

Part 1: Exploring Red Rock Scenic Byway

Worth Pondering…

God created the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona.

—New York Times, 1997

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Exploring Red Rock Scenic Byway

The National Forest/Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center

Your first must-stop is the beautiful Forest Service Red Rock Ranger Visitor Center, located just south of the Village of Oak Creek on SR 179.

This is Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get maps and tons of Red Rock Country “fun things to do” information, as well as your Red Rock Pass for trailhead parking. Learn all the stories and history of this amazing area, like how the rocks and mesas were formed and named.

Red Rock Crossing on Oak Creek

As you leave the Visitors Center driveway, turn north (left) on SR 179 and you’ll see a major intersection with a stoplight. Turn west (left) onto Verde Valley School Road and drive 4.7 miles where the road dead-ends at the Red Rock Crossing parking lot. Do not park anywhere but the parking lot. This road travels through residential areas so be aware of the 30-35 mph speed limit; also, for the last 1.2 miles, the road is unpaved as well as curvy, hilly, and subject to flooding after excessive rains.

From the parking lot, it is a very short walk to the pathway that will lead you down to the unique red rock banks of Oak Creek.

Don’t forget your camera, because you’re at one of the most photographed sites in the country as well as one of the most naturally beautiful settings in Sedona.

If it’s a Saturday, chances are there’s a small wedding taking place at the north end of the crossing. Most days there will be artists painting or photographers setting up their shots or people just soaking up the inspiring view.

Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If the creek water’s low enough, step across the red rock stepping stones, which is the crossing, to Red Rock State Park situated on the other side.

Bell Rock Vista and Pathway Southern Trailhead

Turn east (right) out of the Red Rock Crossing parking lot and take Verde Valley School Road 4.7 miles back to its stoplight intersection with SR 179, where you will turn north (left).

Proceed straight, through the Village of Oak Creek, and just past the next stoplight, on your right hand side, will be the entrance to the Bell Rock Vista and Pathway parking lot.

Here’s where you’ll discover the size and power of the red rocks; this is a travelers up close experience with mystical Bell Rock and mammoth Courthouse Butte. Feel the red rock energy and enjoy the views.

There are many pathways to choose from, all going to or near Bell Rock that can be done in a half hour or as long as you feel like walking.

Little Horse Trail and Bell Rock Pathway Northern Trailhead

Turn north (or right) out of the parking lot onto SR 179; proceed straight and be on the lookout for signs that say “Little Horse Trail” and “Bell Rock Pathway”; entrance to this stop’s parking lot will come up fairly quickly, on your right.

Discover a little serenity among the glorious hiking and biking trails that meander to hidden washes and breathtaking red rock panoramas.

Little Horse Trail is a local favorite, rated moderate, and 6.5 miles if you do the full round trip. Remember the rules of the trail, and have fun!

Also at this stop, view the “Three Nuns” with the renowned Chapel of the Holy Cross perched below.

Finished in 1956, Chapel of the Holy Cross sits atop a pinnacle 250 feet above the valley floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Officially, the scenic road ends just beyond this point so after your hike, and before resuming your drive, take a moment to look west and gaze upon famous Cathedral Rock, a huge rock formation with multiple red rock spires. Whether it is silhouetted against a glowing sunset or shining in the midday sun, it is considered one of the most beautiful of all the red rock formations in the Sedona area, and surely a fitting way to end your day of Red Rock Splendor.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Red Rock Scenic Byway

Part 2: Red Rock Scenic Byway Signage Goes Up

Worth Pondering…

There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

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Chill-out on Utah’s Patchwork Parkway

Weather alert: “A heat warning for daily high temperatures above 100 degrees has been extended for all desert areas.”

At an elevation of 10,350 feet above sea level, Cedar Breaks National Monument is the highest national park in Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sweltering heat is typical for the Southwest desert region this time of year. With triple digit temperatures the Southwestern standard, how do you deal with this incessant heat?

Load up the recreational vehicle and escape the scorching summer temperatures with a road trip to the cool mountain air of southwestern Utah.

Utah’s Patchwork Parkway (Scenic Byway 143) beckons travelers to enjoy a change of scenery and a drop in temperature. This scenic byway serves as the western gateway from the arid Great Basin of western Utah to a breathtaking route across Utah’s high plateaus, connecting to Heritage Highway 89 and Scenic Byway 12, Utah’s first All American Road.

This dramatic 55-mile scenic course links the historic pioneer communities of Parowan and Panguitch where early Mormon pioneer settlement and culture abound and follows a course over the Markagunt Plateau. The entire original Panguitch town site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This byway weaves through a patchwork of geologic formations, forests, streams, lakes, cultural sites, beautiful meadows, and diverse wildlife. Nearby major attractions include Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.

The historic community of Parowan is situated just off Interstate 15 and is the western gateway to access Patchwork Parkway. A charming small town with big history, Parowan is southwestern Utah’s oldest settlement and offers historic museums and markers related to the Native American and pioneer inhabitants of the region. Pioneer museums, an historic cemetery, and numerous historic sites are available for visitors.

High on the western slope of the Patchwork Parkway you’ll find the resort community of Brian Head. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High on the western slope of the Patchwork Parkway you’ll find the resort community of Brian Head. At 9,600 feet this is Utah’s highest community.

Enjoy the scenic 20 minute Sky Lift at Brian Head Resort. Take in breath-taking views from the lift as you glide to the top of Giant Steps. From there one can bike, hike, sit down, relax, and take in the views at 10,000 feet. The clear vantage point at the top presents stunning vistas of several mountain ranges, red rock, and clear mountain air. New in 2011 is a self-guided interpretive and activity course along the Dixie National Forest’s scenic Vista hiking trail.

The Markagunt Plateau is a broad expanse of forest and open spaces. Alpine meadows offer astounding displays of wildflowers from early July until late summer.

On the topmost edge of this plateau you’ll find Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The 2,000-foot-deep Cedar Breaks amphitheater with its vibrant hues of pink, orange, red, and other coral colors is carved from the Claron Formation and spans three miles. Colored by the presence of iron and manganese oxide, this limestone Clarion formation is made up of intricate ridges, pinnacles, and buttresses. From sunrise to sunset, in blazing sun or cloudy periods, the rocks of Cedar Breaks display a rainbow of warm hues.

Very few routes in the U.S. exhibit a 4,500-foot elevation change that crosses six major life zones in 51 miles. On the east slope of the plateau, the route skirts lava flows only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. The word Panguitch actually means ‘big fish’ in the Paiute language.

On the east slope of the plateau, the route skirts lava flows only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Panguitch town site is the eastern gateway to the Patchwork Parkway. During their first winter when pioneer settlers ran out of supplies, seven men were sent from Panguitch to Parowan for grain. They struggled to walk in the deep snows, but made better progress when they began to use their bedding, actual quilts, to walk on the snow. This event has been memorialized as the famous Quilt Walk and is the source of the name—The Patchwork Parkway. Such quilts are reminders of the patchwork of the byway’s unparalleled scenery, vibrant history, and natural beauty unequaled across the country.

Special Considerations

Parowan is at 5,990 feet; Brian Head Peak is 11,307 feet. The byway doesn’t climb quite that high, but it does climb to over 10,000 feet. Take precautions if you are not accustomed to high elevation.

Restrictions

Parts of the route have 13% grades and some sharp switchbacks. Large recreational vehicles are not recommended. In winter, the section of road from Parowan to Brian

Head Ski Resort is kept open; the rest is closed. Snow tires or chains are advised during winter months.

Best Time to Drive

Summer is the best time to drive the byway, since it is open in its entirety. Autumn allows travelers to experience historic sites in gateway communities and an astounding display of fall colors set against Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Worth Pondering…
The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot

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30 Tips to Cut Your RV Travel Expenses

The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to the summer travel season, with many families either hitting the road or planning to do so within the following summer months.

Try local wineries for wine tasting and tours. Pictured avbove Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are 30 tips that will help you save money while still enjoying all the fun, freedom, and flexibility that RVing has to offer:

  1. Buy a local newspaper when checking into a campground or RV park and check it for coupons, bargains, and savings before going out to shop for groceries.
  2. Don’t buy all of your groceries at supermarkets. Buy food and other necessities at thrift bakeries, discount stores, dollar stores, church and charity bazaars, flea markets, roadside fruit and veggie stands, canning plants, and u-pick orchards.
  3. Shop at a local farmer’s market and chat with the folks selling the fruits and veggies. Pick up something “new to you” and ask them how to prepare it—then go back to your RV and try it.
  4. When in a campground connect to “shore power” and use THEIR electricity, not YOUR propane, to heat your water and run your refrigerator. Water heaters in particular consume considerable amounts of propane.
  5. If you’re staying in a metered park and paying for the electricity, you can determine which energy source is most economical—paying for the electricity or using your propane. Multiply the kilowatt rate being charged by 20 and compare that to the price of a gallon of propane.
  6. When eating out, look for 2-for-1 coupons and early bird specials.
  7. Eat out at lunch instead of dinner.
  8. Attend festivals, fairs, and parades. Pictured above is a guord festival near Moab, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

    Eat in. Cook your family favorites in the convenience of an RV and avoid the higher costs of eating out. Better yet, cook over your campfire!

  9. Check the local paper for free community events including concerts in the park, lectures, plays, etc.
  10. Attend festivals, fairs, and parades. Tourism offices and RV magazines offer calendars of events.
  11. Visit the public library and check out a few movies, make some popcorn, set up the TV outside the RV and have a date night or family gathering under the stars.
  12. Take free tours of state capitol buildings.
  13. Visit churches, cathedrals, and architectural sites.
  14. Visit museums on their free days—most have at least one a month.
  15. Take a factory tour—sometimes they’ll include bonus samples.
  16. Try local wineries for wine tasting and tours.
  17. Check out cheese factories, breweries, and farms that offer tasting tours.
  18. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon at a local park relaxing, eating, talking, reading, exploring, daydreaming…did I mention relaxing?
  19. Window shop a fancy part of town. End the afternoon with a cup of coffee, tea, or other refreshing beverage in said “fancy part of town.”
  20. Follow the trails of the pioneer settlers as traveled the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to the Pacific Oregon.
  21. Discover the history and charm of America’s historic routes such as the Ohio and Erie Canalway in Ohio; Historic National Road in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia; and Historic Route 66 in Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
  22. Explore Americas Scenic Byways such as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway in Oregon, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, and Natchez Trace Parkway in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
  23. Check out the travel section of local bookstores for guidebooks on historical, cultural, and scenic travels.
  24. Visit the birthplace and memorial libraries of presidents. Pictured above is John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

    Visit the birthplace and memorial libraries of presidents such as the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts and George Herbert Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

  25. Visit the birthplace and homes of other famous people such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida.
  26. Take up bird watching.
  27. Explore the public parks and gardens around the continent such as the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and Stanley Park in Vancouver.
  28. Explore the beauty of the outdoors by taking a walk along a river or lake or hiking into the wilderness.
  29. Take advantage of regional bargains. Each area of the country has bargains you can take advantage of as you RV.
  30. Take a walk in nature—breathe deep, walk softly, and observe your surroundings.

Unless you have written savings goals, it is often tempting to spend money on purchases that give immediate gratification instead of long term rewards. Being skilled at managing money often requires goal setting as well as long term planning and saving.

If you have additional thoughts, we would love to hear them. Please do share!! Send them in an email to vogelontheroad@gmail.com, and I’ll see that they appear in a future post.

Worth Pondering…

If you can, you will quickly find that the greatest rate of return you will earn is on your own personal spending. Being a smart shopper is the first step to getting rich.

—Mark Cuban

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Trail of the Ancients: A Journey worth Taking, Part 2

From Natural Bridges National Monument where we ended the first part of our incredible journey of discovery, the Trail of the Ancient Scenic Byway turns south at the junction with Highways 95 and 261. Along this route you’ll find access to Grand Gulch Primitive Area and hiking trails on the mesa top.

The infamous Moki Dugway is a 3-mile stretch of gravel road that descends 1,000 feet down tight switchbacks from the edge of Cedar Mesa into the Valley of the Gods. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prior to dropping off the Moki Dugway is County Road 274, a 5-mile remote dirt road leading to Muley Point which has been listed by National Geographic as one of the most outstanding views in America. From its magnificent overlook you’ll peer deep into the San Juan River Canyon and onto Monument Valley 25 miles or so in the distance.

The infamous Moki Dugway is a 3-mile stretch of gravel road that descends 1,000 feet down tight switchbacks from the edge of Cedar Mesa into the Valley of the Gods. The dugway itself is a historic part of the trail, built during the uranium boom to accommodate ore trucks that traveled from the mines on Cedar Mesa to the mill near the Navajo community of Halchita across the San Juan River from Mexican Hat. Never planned for public use, Moki Dugway is not recommended for RV travel.

From the bottom of the Dugway the route continues past the entrance to the little-known Valley of the Gods and onto the junction with Utah Highway 316 which leads to Goosenecks State Park.

Although Valley of the Gods is not listed as a site on the Trail, it is worth visiting. The 17-mile loop drive on a native surface road leads among sandstone monoliths which have been given fanciful names such as Seven Sailors, Southern Lady, Rooster Butte, and Battleship Butte. The valley allows a close-up look at towers and mesas of multicolored sandstone and other sedimentary rocks in subtle shades of pink, red, gold, orange, and purple. The sandstone monoliths here are reminiscent of Monument Valley. This route puts travelers on Highway 163, between Bluff and Mexican Hat.

Late afternoon light enhances the colors through the Valley of the Gods. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goosenecks State Park is another adventure in geology revealing the skeleton of the earth in the layers formed by the San Juan River 1,000 feet below. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River is one of the most striking examples of an “entrenched river meander” in North America. Like a snake the river twists and turns and coils back on itself for a distance of over six miles while advancing only 1.5 miles west as it flows toward Lake Powell. Over 300 million years of geologic activity is revealed from Goosenecks State Park. Located at the end of Highway 316, Gooseneck is a wilderness park encompassing 10 acres.

Utah Highway 261 continues to the junction with U.S. Highway 163 and the town of Mexican Hat. At the junction turn right to enter Mexican Hat and on to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park where sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires rise majestically from the desert floor.

Founded in the early part of the 20th century during an oil boom, Mexican Hat has a population of less than 100 and functions mostly as a stopover point for visitors on their way to Monument Valley or as a base for river expeditions.

Monument Valley offers the quintessential Western backdrop made famous in countless Western movies directed by John Ford. An unpaved, and at times rough, road loops through the park. Several overlooks offer spectacular views of the wonders of Monument Valley.

The Goulding Trading Post established in 1932 in Monument Valley is worth a visit. A full-service RV park is located nearby. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley’s towers, which range in height from 400 to 1,000 feet, are made of de Chelly sandstone, which is 215 million years old, with a base of organ rock shale. The towers are the remnants of mesas, or flat-topped mountains. Mesas erode first into buttes like the Elephant, which typically are as high as they are wide, then into slender spires like the Three Sisters.

After exploring the wonders of Monument Valley retrace your route for 21 miles to Mexican Hat on U.S. Highway 163 and continue east to the pioneer-era town of Bluff on the edge of the Navajo Nation. Snuggled up against the San Juan River, the town was settled by the famous “Hole-In-The-Rock” expedition of Mormon pioneers in the 1880s.

Continue past Bluff and travel east on Utah Highway 262 towards the town of Aneth and follow the signs to Hovenweep National Monument at the end of our route.

Known for its square, oval, circular, and D-shaped towers, Hovenweep National Monument protects six prehistoric clusters of Native American ruins. Established in 1923, the villages date from the Pueblo period of the mid 13th century. They are spread over a 20-mile area along the Utah-Colorado border. Unlike the large ruins at Mesa Verde, these are approachable and the visitor can wander among the fallen walls and consider the people who built them.

On this note we end our fascinating discovery of an ancient land of incredible beauty.

Worth Pondering…
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

—Henry Miller

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