Charleston: Crown Jewel Of The Deep South

Charleston is the crown jewel of the Deep South.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traveling through the south? Charleston is a must stop.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

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What Is On Your Bucket List?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a bucket list for your RV travels?

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

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

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

Charleston, South Carolina

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

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

Galveston, Texas

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

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

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

Sedona, Arizona

Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona.

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

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

Scenic Byway 12

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

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Charleston: Deep South Charm

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

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

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

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline.

Charleston also has a collection of some of the oldest and most impressive churches in America, including the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, The Old Bethel Methodist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history, including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city's skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best known Charleston landmark is Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. At that time, Union forces occupied the strategic Fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. The South demanded that Fort Sumter be vacated, the Union army refused, and the rest is history. After a two-day bombardment, the North surrendered the Fort to the South. Nearby, visitors can also tour Fort Moultrie, which also played heavily in Civil War significance.

Perhaps the best way to see this town is by foot. Around every corner visitors can discover another hidden garden, great restaurants, historic houses, quaint shops, and friendly people.

A walk down any of Charleston’s quaint avenues, especially in the area designated as The Battery, is a walk back in time. Many houses date from the 1700s and 1800s, and a large number of these are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour more than a dozen of these homes, including the Heyward-Washington House, built in 1772. This house was owned by Thomas Heyward Jr., a Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791.

Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a  convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a
convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Other houses of note that visitors can tour in Charleston include the Aiken Rhett House, one of the most intact building complexes showcasing urban life in Antebellum Charleston; the Joseph Manigault House, a premier example of neo-classical architecture built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, a neoclassical mansion considered one of America’s premier Federal townhouses.

Just outside of town, you can visit a number of Southern plantations, including Boone Hall and Drayton Hall. Boone Hall’s world-famous Avenue of Oaks leads to the Plantation house and gardens, and its original slave street and slave quarters. Located a stone’s throw from Boone Hall is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and historic Snee Farms. Pinckney was an original signer of the US Constitution, and was very influential in the document’s language. Drayton Hall, built between 1738 and 1742, is the oldest preserved plantation house in America.

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

Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights

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

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

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Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Edisto Island, a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, lies only about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Edisto, part of a chain of more than 100 tidal and barrier islands along the Atlantic coast between the mouths of the Santee River in South Carolina and St. Johns River in Florida. is a world apart.

This is a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations.

RVers and other visitors to Edisto Island choose to come here—they don’t come by accident. And so it was with us.

Using New Green Acres RV Park in Walterboro as our home base, we spent an enjoyable week exploring the Lowcountry. Known as The Front Porch of the Low Country, Walterboro, county seat of Colleton County, is situated just off of I-95 and is a popular stop for RVers.

It was pleasant 75-degree day in early December that we toured Edisto Island: Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto River, named for the Edisto Indians (original inhabitants of the area), is the longest and largest river system completely within the state. It rises from springs 260 miles north, splits into North and South branches to flow around diamond-shaped Edisto Island (which is actually made up of numerous islands) and into the Atlantic.

ACE Basin, an acronym for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and South Edisto rivers that arc through it, spans 350,000 acres, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. These many acres of diverse habitat include protected uplands and wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands and beaches, and a host of wildlife.

The North and South Edisto branches flow into the ocean a little more than a dozen miles apart and roughly half way between the two is Botany Bay and Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area, a near-wilderness that makes up nearly a fourth of Edisto Island.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Edisto River is one of the most unique waterways in the world. It is the longest undammed or free flowing “black water” river, and takes up twelve counties in the state. It is the longest and the largest river completely within the borders of South Carolina.
The most interesting part of the Edisto River comes to fruition near Edisto Island. The consistent yet peaceful current makes it perfect for wildlife and for paddling enthusiasts. Floating the Edisto River will show you banks filled with ancient live oaks, Spanish moss, and many forms of wildlife.

Our first stop, Edisto Island State Park, includes an interpretive center and two campgrounds that offer 112 standard sites with water and electric hookups—ocean-side and near the salt marsh. 49 of the standard campsites offer 20/30/50 amp electrical service. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Each campground is convenient to restrooms with hot showers. Reservations are recommended.

Following our island drive with stops at several locations along the extensive beach, we toured Botany Bay Plantation, a South Carolina state historic site and wildlife management area, located off SC Highway 174 about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. You’ll follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends and turn left at the gate and into the property.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pure bliss. That’s the only way to describe Botany Bay Plantation.

The 4,630-acre plantation on Edisto Island was a gift from the Margaret Pepper family. It was given to the state in 1977 by Mr. Pepper, but was only able to be used after his wife passed away so she would have the opportunity to continue her years on the land she loved.
The land itself is full of nature’s rich beauty—from the sunflower fields to the salt marsh and fresh water ponds to the Spanish moss draped oaks to the miles of private beach; it is emblematic of Lowcountry’s unique environment and appeal.

The clearly marked driving tour showcases the features of the plantation including the archaeological structures of historical significance. Take a walk down any of the trails and absorb the unique beauty of this unspoiled land.

Touring Edisto Island and Botany Bay Plantation provided us with a chance to step back in time and fall in love with the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Worth Pondering…

There is a peculiar pleasure in riding out into the unknown. A pleasure which no second journey on the same trail ever affords.
—Edith Durham

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4 Of The Best States for RV Travel & Camping

There are many great camping and outdoors destinations across the US―camping is abundant at national parks, state parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each state has a unique appeal, but four stand out from the rest as great RV travel and camping destinations: New Mexico, Utah, South Carolina, and Georgia.

New Mexico

Artists Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe once made the landscapes of New Mexico famous, but New Mexico isn’t just for artists―there are great camping, recreational, and sightseeing opportunities.

New Mexico is home to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, numerous state parks, and historical parks. You can drive the historic US Route 66 or one of 25 scenic byways. In New Mexico, camping road trip possibilities are aplenty.

The camping possibilities are endless and quiet. The locals love their solitude and there is plenty of it. Famous for its beautiful skies, desserts, mountains, and grasslands, New Mexico offers an abundance of outdoor activities. You can hike, bike, ride ATVs and horses, hunt, fish, climb, and cave; in New Mexico, there is an outdoor adventure for everybody.

Utah

Arches National Park contains the world's largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches National Park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its diverse landscapes, geology, and recreational opportunities, Utah is an intriguing destination. Home to five national parks and seven national monuments, Utah is a paradise for RVers who love the outdoors.  Elevations rise and fall dramatically in the shape of mountains, buttes, and plateaus, the highest reaching over 13,000 feet.

Camp in the comfort of your RV and explore the awe-inspiring geology of Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks. A geological wonderland, Arches is one of Utah’s most accessible national parks. Towering spires, fins, petrified dunes, massive sandstone buttes, and balanced rocks complement the arches.

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. A journey like no other, this exceptional 124-mile route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys.

South Carolina

Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the Lowcountry to lakes and blackwater rivers to Upcountry whitewater and waterfalls, you’ll find an endless selection of places to RV in South Carolina. From the foothills of The Upcountry to the fun activities of Myrtle Beach and The Grand Strand, unlimited camping opportunities await the RV traveler.

A land of rugged forested mountains, scenic lakes, rushing whitewater rapids, and cascading waterfalls, the Upcountry is a favorite outdoor adventure and family vacation destination.

Each year millions enjoy Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand vacations—drawn here for the swimming, sun bathing, boating, shelling, incredible seafood, and golfing.

With fun family beaches, over 100 championship golf courses, outlet malls, specialty shops, live musical theatre, nightclubs, and a variety of family attractions, Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand is a the ultimate RV destination.

Georgia

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia offers RVers unlimited travel options from stunning mountain vistas to rushing rivers and waterfalls, charming towns to bustling cities and unspoiled Atlantic beaches. A variety of RV adventures can be experienced throughout the state.

Stunning vistas amid Northeast Georgia’s mountains make this region a natural paradise for RVers. Outdoor activities include boating, fishing, and hiking. At an elevation of 4,784 feet Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest mountain. The re-creation of a Bavarian village complete with cobblestone alleys and old-world towers, Helen offers shopping, restaurants, mountain scenery, Oktoberfest, Alpenfest, and other seasonal festivals.

The Coast offers miles of shoreline, windswept dunes, and historic ports and towns. Savannah’s stunning architecture, 21 historic squares, and Low Country landscape make the city a top RV destination. Nestled along the coast are the city of Brunswick and four barrier islands: St. Simons, Sea, Little St. Simons, and Jekyll. A ferry ride from St. Mary’s transports travelers to Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Worth Pondering…

What a life. Today, it’s New Mexico, yesterday it was Utah, and shortly before that we were in South Carolina. Soon it will be Georgia.

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Why Visitor Centers Are A Must Stop

Make your road trip and travel adventure better by stopping at state welcome centers and regional and city visitor information centers.

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

Most states offer RV friendly Welcome Centers along Interstates and other major highways.

Friendly, informative staff and dedicated volunteers provide area-specific brochures, detailed maps, and face-to-face travel consultation and advice, free of charge.

The Visitor Center is your one stop shop. You’ll find a variety of tourism/travel related services including a vast assortment of local and statewide publications, maps, and other travel information promoting all that the state has to offer.

Highway Welcome Centers also provide clean, well maintained restroom facilities, free Wi-Fi, vending machines, and designated parking areas for RVs.

In addition to free information, visitor centers often offer a reservation service and discounts on selected products such as attractions admission, adventure products, and sightseeing tours.

Texas Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Texas Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Need a map? Want suggestions for dinner? Looking for a farmers market or swap meet in the area? Wondering about roads to take and roads to avoid, roadside attractions, hiking trails, nature centers, museums, scenic roads, or weather related information? Need help planning activities or booking a tour?

Also begin your exploration of national parks and state parks at the visitor center. Here you can pick up a park map or newspaper, view a film, tour the museum and displays, have your questions answered by a ranger, and purchase books and guides to the park.

Many parks offer guided tours and ranger talks. For the children there is a fun and educational Junior Ranger Program.
Regional and city visitors centers help identify interesting and worthwhile activities with which to fill your visit to the area, nature trails, museums, hidden parks, quiet little exhibits, and interesting free things to do.

Even in towns where you might expect to find a fair amount of interesting history or things to visit, a stop at a visitor’s center can uncover a lot of things you never expected to find.

Visitor centers are great for directions, but also getting information from locals.

Fort Stockton, Texas Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fort Stockton, Texas Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitor’s centers can also be a great resource for people who want to discover more about their own community. First, check the visitor’s center in the city or town where you live, as well as the center in nearby communities. Unless you’re incredibly well-grounded in your home community, you’ll be amazed at the gems you uncover—parks, walking trails, historical exhibits, cultural attractions, museums, nature centers, and more.

During our many years of RV travel we normally stop at state welcome centers as we enter the state. While each is unique in its offerings and services, several stand out as exemplary.

Texas Travel Information Center

Texas Travel Information Centers create a positive first impression of the Lone Star State. Their 12 Travel Information Centers are staffed by professional travel counselors who welcome visitors to Texas, help with routings, and provide information on points of interest, events, and road conditions.

Florida Welcome Center 

Florida Welcome Centers provide incoming visitors with a variety of information on travel, highways, sports, climate, accommodations, cities, outdoor recreation, and attractions.

Alabama Gulf Coast Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Alabama Gulf Coast Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In tribute to the citrus industry which historically has been a major part of Florida’s economy, every visitor is offered a free cup of Florida citrus juice (orange or grapefruit).

Kentucky Welcome Center 

Kentucky Welcome Centers are staffed by friendly travel consultants who offer Kentucky maps and brochures, answer questions, and suggest itineraries to enjoy during your stay. Eight welcome centers are located on the four major interstates in Kentucky.

South Carolina Welcome Center

No matter where you’re headed in the Palmetto State, you’ll find everything you need to know and more at one of nine South Carolina Welcome Centers. Travel counselors are available to assist visitors with tourist and attraction information, free reservation services, maps, trail guides, discount coupons, and much more.

Do you ever stop in visitor centers while road tripping? If not, you’re missing a great travel resource.

Worth Pondering…

We often live for those unusual landmarks and off-the-beaten-path places that make RVing so extraordinary. And we all know that sometimes getting there is all the fun.

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Greenville: Upcountry South Carolina Delight

Located in the in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, South Carolina’s Upcountry packs plenty of alpine splendor. For starters, it’s home to the highest waterfall east of the Rockies—411-foot Whitewater Falls.

Falls Park on the Reedy, located in downtown Greenville'
Far more than a nature lover’s paradise, Falls Park on the Reedy, located in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End, is one of Greenville’s greatest treasures. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the hub of the Upcountry, Greenville has been finding its way onto many national Top Ten lists for its lively arts scene, its modern downtown, and its job market. With a metro­­politan population pushing half a million, this is one of America’s fastest growing cities.

Greenville owes its existence to the 28-foot falls on the Reedy River that powered 19th-century textile mills, making it the “Textile Center of the South.”

Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls, located in the heart of Falls Park.

Far more than a nature lover’s paradise, Falls Park on the Reedy, located in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End, is one of Greenville’s greatest treasures. The park serves as an oasis within the city—a place where people gather to work, play, and celebrate life. The multi-use facility lends itself to a wide variety of activities for people of all ages and interests.

© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Delightful walking trails along the Reedy. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It took 40 years of cleaning after the mills closed to make Falls Park into a regional jewel, crowned by the award-winning Liberty Bridge for pedestrians that was designed by architect Miguel Rosales with a distinctive curve as it pitches toward the falls.

Liberty Bridge serves as Greenville’s signature postcard setting, and downtown’s extensive collection of public artwork adds beauty and energy to its public spaces.

At 345 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 inches thick, the concrete reinforced deck is supported by a single suspension cable. The deck’s distinctive curve has a radius of 214 feet and it is cantilevered toward the waterfall from supporting cables on the outside. The bridge deck also inclines 12 feet or 3 percent from east to west over the river.

Below the bridge the Reedy River Falls is the site where Greenville’s first European settler, Richard Pearis, established his trading post in 1768. Later he built grist and saw mills at this same location which was the hub of early industry in Greenville until the 1920s.

The vibrant Greenville downtown scene is anchored by the $42 million Peace Center for the Performing Arts, which includes a concert hall for the symphony orchestra, a performance theater, and an amphitheater. Among the city’s several historic districts, the West End has developed into one of the Palmetto State’s most eclectic art districts, with buildings adapted for studio space and galleries.

The award-winning Liberty Bridge on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The award-winning Liberty Bridge on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other attractions within Greenville include a zoo with more than 200 animals and the Roper Mountain Science Center, which features an observatory, Sealife Room, living history farm, Discovery Room, chemistry/physic shows and a planetarium.

Also, at Bob Jones University is the Gallery of Sacred Art and Bible Lands Museum Planetarium. This unique attraction brings science and religion together with its extraordinary collection of religious art and biblical antiquities.

Fluor Field in the West End is home of minor league baseball’s Greenville Drive, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The park features a 30-foot replica of the “Green Monster” the mythic left-field wall found in the parent club’s Fenway Park. Across the street is a museum devoted to slugging hometown diamond hero Shoeless Joe Jackson.

The Drive nickname is a nod to BMW Manufacturing’s Greenville-area plant, the German automaker’s only production facility in the United States. The BMW Performance Center offers drivers a one-of-a-kind challenge in sliding and cornering on a wet/dry course, off-road course, and performance drive courses.

Table Rock, Jones Gap, Paris Mountain, and Caesars Head state parks all deliver Blue Ridge Mountain adventure in Greenville’s backyard as the Appalachians tumble into the flatlands of the Piedmont region. South Carolina Highway 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway, traces this dramatic break of the Blue Ridge Escarpment with its abundance of waterfalls. Along the route, Lake Keowee, created as a power utility project, serves up over 300 miles of shoreline for boaters and fishermen.

Planning a visit? Stay at Ivy Acres RV Park, amid beautiful countryside 10 miles from downtown Greenville.

Ivy Acres RV Park is located on 80 acres of beautiful rolling countryside 10 miles from downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Ivy Acres RV Park is located on 80 acres of beautiful rolling countryside 10 miles from downtown Greenville. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We spent a delightful week at Ivy Acres RV Park, an adult only (45+) park with full-hook-ups including 50/30/20-amp electric service and Wi-Fi available at site. Located on 80 acres of beautiful rolling countryside on the Saluda River, Ivy Acres is like a state park. We would return in a heartbeat.

Worth Pondering…

As the old song declares, “Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,” or almost any other time.

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Call of the Open Road

An RV travel adventure has no substitute. It is the ultimate experience, one for family fun!

Lake George/Adirondack Region of Upstate New York  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lake George/Adirondack Region of Upstate New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer is the peak season for RVers to travel the open road and experience the wonders of the United States and Canada, but where to go?

RVers are often creatures of habit and return to the same location year after year.

With so many great vacation spots through the U.S. and Canada, this is the summer to explore new areas of the vast countryside. There are so many cool places to go and not enough time.

Make plans to head out on the road and explore a new region this summer.

Lake George/Adirondack Region of Upstate New York

Beautiful Lake George is at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. The Adirondack Park is a 6 million acre forever wild park. With 3,000 ponds and lakes and over 2,000 miles of hiking trails, there is a lot of outdoor adventure and fun to be found in the Adirondack Mountains.

Head down the Schroon River in a kayak, stop by the Courthouse Gallery to see the latest exhibit, and end your day at Shepard Park for Thursday night fireworks.

From museums to historic forts, free concerts, theatre, and butterfly farms, there are plenty of ways to broaden your mind and renew the spirit in Lake George. And for the youngsters, there are mine tours, mini golf, and a Six Flags amusement park nearby.

Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greenville/South Carolina Upcountry

Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, South Carolina’s Upcountry packs plenty of alpine splendor.

Greenville owes its existence to the 28-foot falls on the Reedy River that powered 19th-century textile mills, making it the “Textile Center of the South.” It took 40 years of cleaning after the mills closed to make Falls Park into a regional jewel, crowned by the cantilevered Liberty Bridge for pedestrians that was designed by architect Miguel Rosales with a distinctive curve as it pitches toward the falls.

Table Rock, Jones Gap, Paris Mountain, and Caesars Head state parks all deliver Blue Ridge Mountain adventure in Greenville’s backyard as the Appalachians tumble into the flatlands of the Piedmont region.

Holbrook/Route 66/Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holbrook is the central point for a variety of adventures in Northeastern Arizona. The Petrified Forest National Park, Homolovi Ruins, Window Rock, Canyon de Chelly, Native American Cultures, rich Old West and Pioneer history, scenic vistas, the Mogollon Rim, and a diversity of recreational settings are all within easy driving distance of Holbrook.

Not only can you sleep in a teepee on old Route 66 at the very cool Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, but each of the 15 individual concrete pointed-ceiling lodgings is fronted by a beautifully restored vintage car.

Wander out to the nearby Petrified Forest National Park, one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archeological sites. Check out the Agate House, a ruin that demonstrates the ancient Puebloan practice of using the petrified wood as a building material.

Holmes County/Ohio Amish Country

Holmes County/Ohio Amish Country  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Holmes County/Ohio Amish Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why do four million people a year visit Ohio’s Amish Country? Well, where else can you see the “Amish Sistine Chapel,” watch one of the nation’s oldest livestock auctions, shop at the world’s largest retailer of non-electric appliances, or take a guided back-road tour that ends with dinner in an Amish Home?

Holmes County has bakeries, cheese houses, wineries, quilt and craft shops, and 80 hardwood furniture stores. Explore the unique culture of the Amish with a vacation in central Ohio, home of the world’s largest Amish community.

Enjoy beautiful scenery, visit an Amish farm, savor homemade foods, and listen for the clip-clop of a horse and buggy, the most common sight in an Amish community. Shop for handmade quilts, artwork and furniture in Millersburg, Berlin, or Walnut Creek.

There is so much more to see and do in this beautiful and historic area. Take time to explore this great county in beautiful Ohio. You’ll be glad you did.

Worth Pondering…

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

—Rachel Carson

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5 Great State Parks

In an earlier post I detailed My 5 Favorite State Parks. With nearly 8,000 state park in America, there are hundreds of state parks worthy of a visit.

A short loop nature trails at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A short loop nature trail at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are 5 Great State Parks.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

The largest state park in the contiguous United States, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is flanked by rugged mountain on three sides and the Salton Sea to the east. Its 650,000 acres contain spectacular desert vistas, a variety of plant and animal life, and numerous archaeological, cultural, and historic sites.

Varying from stark dry desert mountains and canyons to lush palm-tree-lined oases, the park contains more than 100 miles of trails for hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers, 500 miles of dirt roads to be explored by bicycle or motor vehicle, and steep paved roads for road cyclists who love a challenge.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Dead Horse Point State Park features a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park.
Dead Horse Point State Park features a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The parking lot at Dead Horse Point State Park, 30 miles from Moab, is a few steps from one of the most dramatic vistas in the desert Southwest—looking down 1,000 feet to the top of Dead Horse Mesa, which itself towers a thousand feet above the Colorado River doing a 180-degree turn and wrapping around its sandstone base.

From the overlook, canyon erosion may be viewed on a grand scale. This erosion process has taken approximately 150 million years. Much of it is caused by the river slicing down into the earth’s crust as land is forced upward. These powerful forces are still sculpting the fantastic shapes of the precipitous bluffs and towering spires.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas

Enchanted Rock rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is one of the most popular sites in Texas for several reasons—the scenery is unusual, the summit is easily reached and has fine views over the countryside, different habitats harbor varied wildflowers, cacti and other plants, and there are good hiking trails and rock climbing routes.

There are two main trails. The steep and heavily traveled Summit Trail leads directly to the summit of the main rock, while the Loop Trail makes a four-mile trek around the entire complex of domes.

Visitors to Enchanted Rock enjoy numerous activities, including hiking, backpacking, technical and rock climbing, primitive camping, picnicking, birding, geological study, stargazing and nature study.
Visitors to Enchanted Rock enjoy numerous activities, including hiking, backpacking, technical and rock climbing, primitive camping, picnicking, birding, geological study, stargazing and nature study. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palo Duro State Park, Texas

At 120 miles long, 20 miles wide in some places, and 800 feet deep, Palo Duro Canyon is the second-largest canyon in the country, behind the Grand Canyon. The Technicolor walls here make for high-desert scenery more commonly seen in southern Utah.

You can explore the 20,000-acre state park by hiking or horseback-riding, or even take a leisurely drive across the canyon floor. There’s tent, equestrian, RV camping, and three stone cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (since modernized), set on the rim with sweeping view of the canyon below.

From the end of May until mid-August, more than 60 actors, singers, and dancers take the stage at the park’s amphitheatre to perform Texas, a rousing musical that depicts the settling of the Texas Panhandle.

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Approximately 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, Hunting Island State Park encompasses 5,000 acres of pristine sandy beach, maritime forest, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state, and saltwater marsh. It is classified as a true semitropical island. Hunting Island, the most popular state park in South Carolina, attracts more than a million visitors annually and was recently named a top 10 beach Trip Advisor.

Hunting Island possesses the best developed slash pine-palmetto forest in the state and is one of the best sites to observe South Carolina’s state tree, the Cabbage Palmetto, in its native habitat.

Hunting Island State Park is only 29 miles off Interstate 95, the main corridor between Florida and the Northeast, approximately halfway between Savannah and Charleston.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Roy Goodman

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Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise

Hunting Island, the most popular state park in South Carolina, attracts more than a million visitors annually and was recently named a top 10 beach Trip Advisor.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the well-preserved, five-mile stretch of South Carolina coast you’ll find a maritime forest, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state, and the pristine sandy beach.

Hunting Island State Park is only 29 miles off Interstate 95, the main corridor between Florida and the Northeast, approximately halfway between Savannah and Charleston.

Approximately 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, the park encompasses 5,000 acres of sandy beach, maritime forest, and saltwater marsh. It is classified as a true semitropical island.

The island got its name because it was once used for hunting deer, raccoon, and other small game animals and waterfowl. Once used as the hunting preserve for wealthy planters’ families, Hunting Island was renowned for its hunting parties that lasted several days.

Hunting Island possesses the best developed slash pine-palmetto forest in the state and is one of the best sites to observe South Carolina’s state tree, the Cabbage Palmetto, in its native habitat.

Cabbage palmettos stretch out onto the sands of the magnificent beach, which is more than 400 feet wide in places at low tide.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beautiful beach is not the only attraction at Hunting Island. The salt marsh is one of the most productive habitats in the world. Rich in nutrients, the salt marsh provides food and shelter for many different life forms. It is the home of waterfowl, small mammals, and many amphibians and reptiles.

Most marine life is also directly or indirectly dependent on the salt marsh. Some, such as the shrimp, live and spawn in the sea as adults but come into the shallow productive waters of the salt marsh to mature. Others, such as the fiddler crab, spawn in the marshes; then the young swim out to sea where they remain until nearly grown.

Many animals spend their entire lives in the marsh while others visit the marsh for food. There are few places on earth where plant and animal life are so varied, so abundant, so unusual, and so fascinating.

Probably the most spectacular feature of Hunting Island is its 19th-century lighthouse, which stands with three remaining original structures in the middle of the park.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hunting Island Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in South Carolina that is publicly accessible. From the top of one of the most distinctive lighthouses in South Carolina, guests can stand 130 feet above the ground to take in the breathtaking, panoramic view of the Atlantic Coast and surrounding maritime forest.

The lighthouse tower is open for climbing; hours vary seasonally. For an admission of $2, visitors can climb the 167 steps and walk around the observation deck for a lofty view of the barrier island and surrounding seascape.

The lighthouse was closed for repairs in May 2003 when cracks were discovered in several of its cast-iron steps. In a renovation that spanned more than 18 months, construction crews not only repaired the cracks, but installed steel braces beneath them for reinforcement. Left unpainted, the silver-gray braces stand out in sharp contrast to the black cast-iron stairs. The contrast helps distinguish between the original structure and modern improvements, which protect the lighthouse’s historic integrity.

The original structure was built in 1859 and rebuilt in 1875 after it was destroyed during the Civil War. A unique feature of the lighthouse is that it was constructed of interchangeable cast-iron sections so it could be dismantled should it ever need to be moved. Severe beach erosion made it necessary to relocate the lighthouse 1.3 miles inland in 1889.

RV and tent camping is available at the northern end of the park near the ocean. Each of the 200 sites has water and electrical hookups; 102 sites offer 20/30/50-amp electric service. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; other up to 28 feet. In addition 10 trail sites with access to water are available for tent campers. Camping reservations are available. Complimentary Wi-Fi is now available in the campground. Dump stations are located at the exit of each campground area.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To begin and end your day, be sure to catch the splendor of the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and the sunset over the salt marsh.

Although plenty of activities can keep you occupied, the true beauty of Hunting Island is its atmosphere—a blend of sights and sounds that almost forces you to relax, to escape the rush of today’s life, to forget that the interstate is less than 30 minutes away.

The park is open year-round, and in the off season its solitude and charm are even more pronounced.

Details

Hunting Island State Park

Admission: $5; children ages 6-15, $3

Lighthouse admission: $2

RV Camping: $17-38

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Address: 2555 Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island, SC 29920

Phone: (843) 838-2011

Directions: If traveling north on I-95, take Exit 8 (SR-170); if you’re traveling south, take Exit 42 (US-21 south); both routes leads through Beaufort (state park is 16 miles east of Beaufort on US-21)

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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