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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My Great American Road Trip

To Americans, there’s nothing that holds more appeal than the classic road trip.

Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the ’20s, the car was a symbol of freedom—a chance to escape your small town or rural America.

As the highway system was developed in the ’50s and ’60s, a wave of young people set out on the road to explore the country, giving new life to America’s car and road trip culture.

And to this today, Americans have an ongoing love affair with the car and great open road. And no road trip holds more mystery and allure than traveling cross-country. It’s the king of all road trips.

In 1986 on a working road trip across the U.S. we drove our truck and fifth wheel trailer across the U.S. from west to the east and back west again.

Leaving our home in the Northwest we spent over eight months traversing the country, getting as far east as Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, Charleston, Savannah,  and Jacksonville, and as far south as Orlando, Miami, the Everglades, and Key West before turning back west, driving across the southern states with numerous stops along the way including Pensacola, Mobile, Pascagoula, Galveston, San Antonio, El Paso, Las Cruces, Tucson, and Phoenix. But we barely scratched the surface of what America offers. We saw and experienced a lot—from the Rocky Mountains, to the Black Hills, across the Great Plains.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights
Our Grand Circle tour included Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights

But you don’t realize just how vast the U.S. is until you’ve been driving for twelve hours and notice you’re still in Texas.

The U.S. is big and there is still so much more of it to see.

During the past 18 years, we’ve driven over 130,000 miles in varied RVs as we explored America from the Oregon Coast to the Charleston and from the Upper Peninsula to the Rio Grande Valley.

We have traversed the U.S. along varied interstates and scenic routes and byways further exploring the beauty and uniqueness of this vast country. There is prodigious variety in the cities and towns and scenic attractions and offerings in various regions, a country of many impressions.

From Memphis to Montana, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, Wine Country in California, Utah’s Grand Circle Tour, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mobile, and much more, we continue our exploration in our trusty and comfy motorhome.

“What’s your favorite place to go?”

Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course that’s what we’re asked. It’s the polite thing to ask, after all. People like to seem as if they’re interested in what you do. In this case, the question also always has a twinge of yearning.

I always give the same answer. I find something I like nearly everywhere I go, and it’s hard to pick just one or even two places.

People hate that answer.

“Come on. If you could pick just one place, where would you want to go again? Just one place.”

They all want to hear something exotic and bucket-listy. They want to hear the Key West or Santa Barbara, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, Sedona or Santa Fe, Charleston or Savannah. They don’t want the truth. Can they handle the truth?

The truth is, we have visited 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces in the past 18 years, and found something that we adored in every one of them.

Our decade and half of RV travel stoked a love affair with American and Canadian attractions and historic sites, local towns and cities, and national and state/provincial parks.

Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I did begin rereading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley — an incredible rumination on the America that he experienced as he took a road trip around the country with his wife’s standard poodle as a companion. Steinbeck was 58 years old in 1960 when he began his journey, and he felt compelled to get out and really see the country for the first time in a long time. He said he felt like a criminal writing about a country that he didn’t know enough about anymore.

After all these miles and varied experiences, I still feel the same way.

The “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”, the best is yet to come as I have quite the long route in front of me. Please stay tuned!

Worth Pondering…

You’ve heard the old Willie Nelson country music song with the lyrics, “On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again…” We’ll be singing this song for sure.

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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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Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros

Here is our plan: We’ll drive to a town that shouldn’t exist. We’ll travel a twisted ribbon of pavement along Historic Route 66.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving to the historic town of Oatman is a favorite Arizona road trip.

Once a gold-mining boomtown, Oatman hunkers in a craggy gulch of the Black Mountains, 28 miles southwest of Kingman. Rising above town is the jagged peak of white quartz known as Elephant’s Tooth.

Often described as a ghost town, Oatman comes close to fitting the category, considering that it once boasted nearly 20,000 people and now supports just a little over 100 people year-round.

Oatman has about 40 gift, antique, and craft shops, two Old Time Photo Shops, Judy’s Bar, assorted ghosts, and several places to eat and listen to live music.

Though Oatman is only a shadow of its former self, it is well worth a visit to this living ghost town that provides, not only a handful of historic buildings and photo opportunities, but costumed gunfighters and 1890s style ladies strolling the wooden sidewalks, as well as the sights of burros walking the streets.

The burg’s most famous residents are its four-legged ambassadors. Burros from the surrounding hills wander into Oatman daily and mosey around town blocking traffic, greeting visitors, and chomping carrots sold by the shop owners.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter how tame they seem, the burros are wild animals. Use caution and common sense when feeding them. Do not feed junk food to the burros. Also, it’s best to leave Rover at home. Many burros consider the family pooch nothing more than a coyote with connections.

The burros are descendants of animals used by miners and abandoned when the ore played out.

Oatman owes its place in history to two miners who struck it rich in 1915, uncovering more than $10 million in gold. A tent city soon sprang up as other miners heard of the gold find and flocked to the area; within a year, the town’s population grew to more than 3,500.

By 1930, it was estimated that 36 million dollars worth of gold had come from the mines. The town boasted two banks, seven hotels, twenty saloons, and ten stores.

The town’s name is attributed to Olive Oatman, a young girl kidnapped by Indians and eventually rescued and returned to her family.

More modern events add to the allure of the tiny town, the most famous of which is a visit by Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, who spent their honeymoon in the Oatman Hotel in 1939. The well-used building, listed on the National Historic Building Registry, continues to attract visitors today.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you notice folks clustering in the street without a ravenous burro in sight, it signals an impending gunfight. Gunfighter groups stage shootouts at various times throughout the day.

When the mines shuttered, the stream of traffic along Route 66, the main route from the Midwest to California, kept Oatman alive.

Then in 1952, Interstate 40 was constructed from Kingman, Arizona to Needles, California, bypassing this stretch of mountains. Oatman barely hung on.

In the 70s, Laughlin, Nevada started up; and in the late 80s, Route 66 became a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

Today, a half-million people visit this historic outpost each year. Not bad for an old ghost town off the beaten path. The town  just waited for the world to come back around.

Folks start to roll out of town in late afternoon. Even the burros clock out and mosey back into the hills.

Oatman is a day trip full of surprises—of ghost towns and ghost roads, and wild burros. And one of the most scenic drives in the state.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that’s something to bray about.

Worth Pondering…

So many ghosts upon the road,
My eyes I swear are playing tricks;
And a voice I hear, it’s Tom Joad,
Near Oatman on Route 66.

—Dave MacLennan

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Best Fall Foliage, Leaf Peepers & The National Media

Known for its vibrant culture and rich history, Taos, New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway have earned their positions among leaf peepers and national media alike as being one of the top locations in the United States to see an impressive fall landscape dotted with a palette of warm reds, oranges, and gold foliage.

Explore the Enchanted Circle scenic byway through valleys, mesa, mountains, and national forest... all unique to north central New Mexico.
Explore the Enchanted Circle scenic byway through valleys, mesa, mountains, and national forest… all unique to north central New Mexico.

In the past month alone, Taos and the Enchanted Circle have topped several “best fall trip” lists in the country including in: Huffington Post (“10 Best Fall Foliage Trips In The U.S.”), National Geographic (“10 Best Fall Trips in World”), Los Angeles Times (“New Mexico’s Enchanted Byway Brings Fall Foliage Viewing Full Circle”), and USA Today (“10 Best: Places to see fall colors”), to name a few.

According to US Forest Service officials from the Carson National Forest which encompasses Taos County, elevations above 8,500 are beginning to peak and will reach their height by the first week of October. In the Carson National Forest, several hiking spots allow for prime leaf peeping while hiking. They include: Middle Fork Trail 24 (25 miles south of Taos on NM 518 in Peñasco); Devisadero Trail, once used by the Taos Pueblo Indians standing guard against raiding Apaches (three miles east of Taos along US 64); and Williams Lake Trail (near Taos Ski Valley).

Taos sits at an elevation of just under 7,000 feet, while villages along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway range in elevation from 7,392 in Questa to 8,650 feet in Red River.

The 85-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway Loop can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to half a day, depending on stops. The highest peak in New Mexico—Wheeler Peak at 13,167 feet—is visible along the route, or can become a diversion along the route through the scenic Taos Ski Valley.

The Byway loop begins in the original art colony of Taos and meanders through the Hondo Valley where famous author D.H. Lawrence once lived. The D.H. Lawrence Ranch was recently reopened to the public through the end of October. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Leaf peepers will notice Wheeler Peak along the windy road to Questa which is just half an hour north of Taos. The Wild Rivers area is where the Red River behind the town joins the Rio Grande in its deep and dramatic gorge. From Questa, the steep ascent into Red River is unusually scenic, offering stirring vistas of spruce and aspen.

Eagle Nest
Known as the Gateway to the picturesque Enchanted Circle in North Central New Mexico, Eagle Nest is conveniently located near Angel Fire Ski Resort and Red River ski area, Eagle Nest Lake, Cimarron Canyon, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Parks. (Source: iredriver.com)

Eagle Nest, just south of Red River, has a beautiful 2,400 acre lake stocked with trout and kokanee salmon and a chance to see wildlife such as elk, deer, bear, and eagles. The drive culminates with a stop at Angel Fire where the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park stands. Built by one family as a shrine to their fallen son, the site is one of unusual emotion and presence. The drive returns to Taos along Highway 64.

Expect to see aspens changing to a vibrant gold along the drive in addition to Gambel Oak which transforms into a rusty red hue in fall. Golden cottonwoods along the Rio Grande River should also be visible in Taos.

Alternate directions (east to west) along the Enchanted Circle from Taos are: turn east on NM 585 (Paseo del Cañon), which dead ends at US 64, turn right. US 64 continues to Angel Fire and Eagle Nest. From Eagle Nest, turn north on NM 38 to Red River and into Questa. In Questa, turn south (left) on NM 522 which returns to Taos.

Another option for visitors seeking an eye-full is the “High Road,” which totals over 100 miles roundtrip, but offers awe-inspiring scenery and remote mountain villages that cling to their Spanish colonial roots.

Fall is a season of color in Taos: the gold of aspen and cottonwood trees, the red and green of chile peppers, and the multi-colored artist's palette.
Fall is a season of color in Taos: the gold of aspen and cottonwood trees, the red and green of chile peppers, and the multi-colored artist’s palette.

Along with a multi-hued feast for the eyes, Taos has many colorful cultural offerings in late September and early October including the 40th annual Fall Arts Festival and Taos Wool Festival, to name a few.

The oldest art festival in Taos—Taos Fall Arts Festival—features nine days of art events including The Paseo on September 26 which will feature outdoor art installations, performances, and visual projections. Taos Selects, Distinguished Achievement Awards, Memorial Wall, Pecha Kucha Night, and many more special events are intertwined within this amazing festival which takes place September 26–October 5. Visit taosfallarts.com for details.

One of Taos’ signature events—the 31st Wool Festival at Taos—will be held on October 4 and 5 and includes juried fiber arts creations; critters corner with live animals; demonstrations; silent auction; kid’s hands on section; contests; food vendors and more. Visit taoswoolfestival.org to learn more about the free event.

For complete information about Taos including more about the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway drive, visit taos.org.

Worth Pondering…

I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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Fall RV Camping: 3 Colorful Destinations

As summer comes to a close, the bright blues and greens that characterize the season are replaced by a deeper, more vibrant palette. As the trees start to don their bright fall colors, the best time of year for viewing the foliage is just ahead.

beauty of Shenandoah National Park
Fall is everyone’s favorite season to visit Shenandoah. The renowned and spectacular Skyline Drive offers a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, and gold. The endless rolling ridges of brightly colored trees never fails to excite. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing says “family camping” like fall in the air. There’s a crisp crackle outside and a coolness that feels like sweater weather. Fall camping can be just as much fun as summer camping, so this season take the family out for a few more camping trips before you prepare your RV for the winter.

Visiting national parks tops the list of reasons why many of us chose the RV lifestyleGreat Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the National Park System and home to the largest stands of old growth forests in the Eastern U.S. Varying hues of gold, amber, reds, and even purples are mixed in with the dwindling greens of maples, beech, oaks, and the other hardwood species that make the season so colorful.

The twisting, scenic mountain road that leads out of the eastern edge of Great Smoky—the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway—is a destination unto itself. The north end of this vista-filled parkway ends in Virginia’s 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.

Fall is everyone’s favorite season to visit Shenandoah. The renowned and spectacular Skyline Drive offers a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, and gold each year from about mid-October to mid-November. The endless rolling ridges of brightly colored trees never fails to excite.

The rule of thumb is that colors generally peak in Shenandoah during the last half of October.

Sedona and Red Rock Country
Sedona and Red Rock Country, a vacation hotspot, has appeal for every member of the family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Autumn is also a great time to visit Sedona, renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte, as well as its surrounding lush forests. The explosion of brilliant fall colors signals the best time to take a scenic drive up and down Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon. Autumn in Sedona usually begins in early October and crescendos into the full brilliance of reds, yellows, and golden hues from the middle to end of October. The show is usually over by mid-November.

Other points of interests in the area include Montezuma Castle National Monument including Montezuma Well, a detached unit of the park, and Tuzigoot National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua.

Kentucky’s vast expanses of forested terrain make it one of the best places in the U.S. to enjoy nature’s spectacular display of fall color. About 12 million acres—47 percent of Kentucky’s land area—are forested, and some 175 tree species grow wild in the state. Kentucky is rich in hardwood forests populated by trees known for their bright fall colors.

Kentucky Welcome Center
Kentucky Welcome Center, I-65, Exit 114 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a scenic drive in Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky. At the northern end, explore the Red River Gorge and Zilpo Scenic Byways, while the southern end boasts the Wilderness Road Heritage Highway.

Among the most scenic routes in western Kentucky is the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway in Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. In central Kentucky, fall is an ideal time to take the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour, which winds past horse farms with their wooden and stone fences underneath a canopy of many-colored leaves.
You won’t find a better venue than Bernheim Forest near Clermont from which to admire the sculptural grace of mature trees in a natural setting. Stroll the paths or hike the trails and take in colorful fall displays that include maples, dogwoods, magnolias, conifers, cypresses, hollies, beeches, and buckeyes.

The color changes usually begin as early as September in the higher elevations of the eastern mountains and gradually progress to the west during October and into early November.

For information about RV parks and campgrounds, check out Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory.

Worth Pondering…

Country Roads

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads.
—John Denver

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Airstream Mystique

Airstream, manufacturer of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, is the oldest and most recognized recreational vehicle manufacturer in North America.

Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort
Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort

In 1936, Wally Byam stated that he is in business “to make people’s dreams come true.”

When Airstream began, there were less than 48 trailer manufacturers that were registered for business. Five years later, nearly 400 companies squared off against each other. Today of those 400 companies, only Airstream remains.

The enthusiasm for Airstreams that has always been with us has surged in recent years with everyone from stylish millionaires to young travelers wanting to own one of these design icons.

In earlier posts on vogeltalksrving.com, we have discussed the Airstream mystique, unique uses, and commercial applications of the “silver bullet” in such diverse stories as Pushing the Airstream Boundaries and Airstream Goes Posh.

The only way you could experience the Airstream lifestyle on the open road was if you went all-out and bought the dream.

It was a commitment to be part of a lifestyle enjoyed by many and envied by many others.

Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort
Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort

Until now, there’d been no way to rent an Airstream to live this fantasy.

Enter Airstream hotels and motels as an alternative to owning the dream.

Hotels around the world are making happy campers by capitalizing on the retro-romantic image of Airstream trailers.

In this two-part series we’ll introduce some of America’s coolest Airstream motels, including B-52s singer Kate Pierson’s Kate’s Lazy Desert in Landers, California, which offers six restored units with psychedelic ’60s-inspired décor.

Shooting Star RV Resort 

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park is the marriage of two iconic symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways.

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This All-American Road which winds its way 124 miles from Panguitch to Torrey has dozens of natural attractions from alpine forests and ancient sea beds to pink rock turrets.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains, and Dixie National Forest.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort along Utah’s Highway 12 where travelers can stay in one of eight shiny, custom-designed Airstreams restored Airstream travel trailers and sit in vintage convertible cars while they watch a drive-in movie.

Cowboy hopefuls should saddle on up to The Duke, a 31-foot trailer John Wayne used on the set of The Searchers. It’s outfitted with Western décor, leather furniture, and pony fur. There’s also a drive-in movie theater onsite—1960s convertibles included.

There you’ll also find 18 long, pull-through sites with 20/30/50-amp power, water, and picnic tables. Nine sites have a sewer connection and an easily accessible dump station is also available.

Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort
Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort

In an earlier post on vogeltalksrving.com, we introduced Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park in the story, Two Iconic Symbols Merge: Vintage Airstreams & Drive-In Theater.

Address: 2020 West Highway 12, PO Box 290, Escalante, UT 84726

Phone: (435) 826-4440

Website: www.shootingstardrive-in.com

Please Note: This Part 1 of a 2-part series on the Airstream mystique and Airstream motels

Part 2: America’s Cool Airstream Motels

Worth Pondering…

I saw a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I saw a needle that winked its eye.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an Airstream fly.

—music and lyrics by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington, in Dumbo

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Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler! Let the Good Times Roll!

Let the good times roll from frogs to crawfish to an All-American Road.

Colorful frog murals adorn numerous buildings throughout Rayne. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Colorful frog murals adorn numerous buildings throughout Rayne. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rayne

Things are really hopping in Rayne, the Frog Capital of the World and the Louisiana City of Murals.

When the railroad came to the coastal prairie in the 1800s, the community was called Pouppeville but was rename Rayne, to honor the engineer who laid the tracks.

Rayne and frogs go way back, too. In the 1900s, three Parisians—Jacques Weil and his brothers operated a profitable export business shipping a local delicacy—frog legs—to restaurants all over the country.

Colorful concrete frog statues have joined Rayne’s many frog murals as another attraction for visitors. The concrete figures painted by local artists were erected on a foot high granite pads at varying locations about the city.

Hop on down to the Rayne Frog Festival the second full weekend in November (November 7-9, in 2013) and have a “toadally” awesome time. The “Big Gig” showcases music throughout the weekend featuring national recording artists, regional bands, and local talent. Signature events include frog racing and jumping and selection of the Frog Derby Queen. Attendees can enjoy frog legs as well as local Cajun specialties.

Rayne will always be unique. St. Joseph Cemetery is listed in Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as the only cemetery in the United States facing north-south. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rayne will always be unique. St. Joseph Cemetery is listed in Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as the only cemetery in the United States facing north-south. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rayne will always be unique. St. Joseph Cemetery is listed in Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as the only cemetery in the United States facing north-south.

The City of Rayne RV Park features 737 sites with water and electric hook-ups. Sewer is available at designated sites. The park is adjacent to the 20,000-square-foot City of Rayne Civic Center and an ideal location for RV rallies.

Rayne is still hopping. Come see for yourself!

Breaux Bridge

The origins of this charming town span back to 1771, when Firmin Breaux purchased the land and later built a footbridge across the Bayou Teche. Travelers were often given directions to “go to Breaux’s bridge.”

Officially founded in 1829, Breaux Bridge is today best known for its Cajun culture and crawfish cuisine. In fact, it was here that the delicious dish crawfish étouffée was first created.

The city known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World” pays tribute to this freshwater crustacean with the annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival the first weekend in May (May 2-4, in 2014).

At the Crawfish Fest, you’ll find them prepared just about every way possible—boiled crawfish, crawfish bisque, crawfish pie, crawfish étouffée, and fried crawfish, to name a few. You’ll also find an array of other Louisiana favorites.

The origins of this charming town span back to 1771, when Firmin Breaux purchased the land and later built a footbridge across the Bayou Teche. Travelers were often given directions to “go to Breaux’s bridge.” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The origins of this charming town span back to 1771, when Firmin Breaux purchased the land and later built a footbridge across the Bayou Teche. Travelers were often given directions to “go to Breaux’s bridge.” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors will find a charming downtown with shopping and delicious restaurants, such as Café Des Amis, which hosts its famous zydeco brunch on Saturdays.

Lake Charles

Lake Charles is a thriving destination that caters to many tastes from glitzy casinos and the quiet greens of award-winning golf courses to hunting and fishing adventures and over 75 festivals, ranging from the area’s family friendly Mardi Gras to the Contraband Days Pirate Festival.

Performing arts are alive in Lake Charles with theatre and musical groups, including the Lake Charles Symphony. There are five diverse museums, one of which houses the largest display of Mardi Gras costumes in the world, in addition to charming art galleries.

Natural wonderlands abound: Allow a full day for the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-mile All-America Scenic Byway accessed from Lake Charles. The marshland, bayous, and coastal shores along the Gulf of Mexico teem with wildlife including alligators, birds, and three wildlife refuges.

These lands and waters support 28 species of mammals, more than 400 species of birds, millions of monarch butterflies, 35 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 132 species of fish.

The most popular entrances to the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road are off I-10 in Sulphur (Exit 20) and just east of Lake Charles at Louisiana Highway 397 (Exit 36).

Although the Creole Nature Trail is primarily a driving route, there are several stops where you can take advantage of a stroll. Each of these excursion areas provides excellent wildlife and birding photography opportunities.

The Creole Nature Trail features four wildlife refuges, three national and one state: Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, and Rockefeller Refuge.

Please Note: This is Part 7 of an on-going series on Louisiana Cuisine/Travel Ideas

Worth Pondering…

What we admire—and secretly covet—is their love of good food combined with a zest for life that they proudly call joie de vivre.

—Linda Carman

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More Parks with Creative Accommodations

You don’t need to drive a recreational vehicle to enjoy the RV resort experience.

Kate s Lazy Desert Vintage Airstream Hotel: Yellow Stripe Hairstream
Kate s Lazy Desert Vintage Airstream Hotel: Yellow Stripe Hairstream

Just mix one or more icon symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways with a creative mind. Add in a generous helping of awe-inspiring scenery, and you have a man-made curiosity and a one-of-a-kind resort.

In today’s post I report on two such resorts—an Airstream motel and Drive-in Airstream and RV park.

Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel

Fans of the B-52s might be inspired to roam — if they want to — all the way out to the Mojave Desert.

That’s where the lead singer of the quirk-pop act has brought her bee-hived sensibility to a new Airstream hotel that opened in November, 2012.

Co-owned by B-52s vocalist Kate Pierson, Kate’s Lazy Desert invites visitors to “rocket through the wilderness” in a collection of six vintage Airstreams, the interiors of which riff off the kitsch of the band’s best-known material.

The Lava trailer, with its orange-blob paint job, mimics the gooey movement of the ’60s-style lamp, whereas the Hairstream is a fantasy version of a B-52′s dressing room, and Planet Air is cast in an otherworldly pink light to recreate the aura of Planet Claire.

“Visiting the desert is like a little mini trip to the moon,” said Pierson, whose design sensibility is every bit as far out as her vocals.

The same could be said of the motel’s Airstreams, which are the perfect architectural compliment to the band’s space-age surfer vibe, looking, as they do, like lunar modules with their studded sheet metal siding.

Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel is located 17 miles north of Yucca Valley (California), off State Route 247 (Old Woman Springs Road).

For additional information and details on Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel, click here.

Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park

Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park
Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This All-American Road which winds its way 124 miles from Panguitch to Torrey has dozens of natural attractions from alpine forests and ancient sea beds to pink rock turrets.

But this awe-inspiring scenic byway also boasts a relatively new man-made curiosity—The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort that combines Airstream travel trailers and vintage convertible cars with a drive-in movie theater.

Owner Mark Gudenas, a Chicago native, opened the resort about a year ago on 25 acres just west of Escalante.

The main attraction is the eight restored vintage Airstream trailers that guests can rent starting at $149 a night. There are seven vintage convertibles where travelers can sit and watch an old-time movie on a large outdoor screen.

The resort also has its own full-service RV Park.

A movie buff for as long as he can remember, Gudenas decorated the Airstreams in a manner he thinks John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, or Robert Redford would have liked when they were filming on location in Utah.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest.
The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest.

Each trailer has a kitchen, a tiny bathroom, beds, satellite radio and television as well as a wooden deck with Adirondack chairs and a propane grill. Gudenas even sells ready-to-cook packs of steak, salmon, chicken, brats, or hamburgers so his guests don’t have to hunt for the grocery store.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains, and Dixie National Forest.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort along Utah’s Highway 12 where travelers can stay in restored Airstream travel trailers and sit in vintage convertible cars while they watch a drive-in movie.

There you’ll find 18 long, pull-through sites with 20/30/50-amp power, water, and picnic tables. Nine sites have a sewer connection and an easily accessible dump station is also available.

For additional information and details on Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park, click here.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series

Part 1: Good Sam RV Parks with Creative Accommodations

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing like a dream to create the future.

—Victor Hugo

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Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies

If you are looking for an exciting vacation with beautiful views then consider exploring Forest Service lands in the Northern Rockies for beautiful landscapes, scenic byways, historic trails, and diverse wildlife.

For sheer beauty and allure, few regions match the Northern Rockies. Discover a convenient new way to research and plan absolutely incredible Rocky Mountain travel adventures—the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies.

Beartooth All-American Road

The Beartooth Scenic Road has 10,000 mountain lakes, 20 peaks reaching more than 12,000 feet in elevation, and 12 national forest campgrounds. Witness the rare transition of lush forest ecosystem to alpine tundra in just a few miles on the highest elevation road in the Northern Rockies.

International Selkirk Loop All­-American Road

The public lands along the loop are home to the largest diversity of wildlife in the lower 48 states. Travel the Selkirk Range of the British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington Rocky Mountains to see stunning vistas, wildlife, year-round recreation, and colorful small towns.

Montana Scenic Loop

Holland Lake sits at the base of the Swan Mountains about 25 miles north of Seeley Lake, Mont., just minutes off the route of the Montana Scenic Loop. (Source: usda.gov)

At the heart of the 400-mile Montana Scenic Loop is the Bob Marshall Wilderness—flanked by the Great Bear Wilderness on the north and the Scapegoat Wilderness to the south. Enjoy striking vistas of awe-inspiring mountains, placid trout streams and abundant wildlife as they unfold along the Rocky Mountain Front, Glacier National Park, and the Flathead and Blackfoot River Basins.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway All-American Road

Travel along U.S. Highway 12 along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River—through the magnificent Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests culminating at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Explore the Idaho Rockies, including the land of the Nez Perce Indians, and trace the Lewis & Clark Expedition route across the Bitterroot Mountains and along the Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa rivers.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Loop

The area is defined largely by the wide-ranging wildlife that inhabit the region, including grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, and bull trout. Trace this stunning route through the Montana Rockies, featuring breathtaking scenery and Glacier National Park’s popular Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

With eight national forests along this route in Montana and Idaho, visitors can experience a number of landmarks and attractions while tracing the same path over mountains and along rivers that the Lewis and Clark Expedition took on their way to the Pacific coast.

Nez Perce National Historic Trail

Drive the route of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in the fall to come across this picturesque scene. (Source: usda.gov)

The journey of the Nez Perce from their homelands is one of the most fascinating and sorrowful events in U.S. history. Learn the story of the Nez Perce by following in the footsteps of the 1,170-mile flight through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

Details

Drive the Top 10

This website will help you learn about the region’s four All-American Roads, 19 national parks, and the scenic byways and historic trails connecting them.

Retrace the rugged path of Lewis & Clark through Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Tour the hot springs of the Kootenay Rockies. Navigate the prehistoric depths of Hells Canyon—North America’s deepest canyon. Or witness an awe-inspiring Old Faithful eruption, a timeless tradition at Yellowstone National Park.

Explore the countless natural wonders, historical sites, and cultural sites that make the Northern Rockies so legendary and inspiring.

Website: drivethetop10.com

Worth Pondering…

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
— John Muir

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