Festivals, Organizing Photos, Using Social Media & Planning the Trip Home

The days are filled with numerous events, activities, and happenings in Snowbird Land.

Mardi Gras parade
A Mardi Gras parade is a popular activity at many Sunbelt RV resorts. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

There are important questions to consider in planning one’s day. When does the exercise class start? Water volleyball? Line dancing? What time is tee time? When does the hiking club hit the trail?

Consider the other events that occupy the weekly calendar. Pickleball tournament? Good exercise and competition. Book club? A wise choice. Quilting club? An honorable hobby. Card groups that meet regularly and offer company and social networking opportunities? Certainly.

There are snowbirds who take it a step further and volunteer at various organizations—hospitals, rescue shelters, and churches.

And there are festivals and other annual events, digital photos to organize, social media to communicate with family and friends back home, and with spring on the horizon, planning and preparing for travel back home.

Festivals

February and March is prime season for local festivals, parades, and annual events celebrating history and culture.

pet parade
A pet parade is a popular activity at many Sunbelt RV resorts. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

The major celebrations, festivals, and fairs include:

Mardi Gras celebrations and parades in New Orleans, Mobile, and in communities from Galveston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida, January 31-February 17

Florida State Fair, Tampa, February 5-16

Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace, Apache Junction, weekends February 7-March 29

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, Tucson, Arizona, February 12-15

Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, Indio, California, February 13-22

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo), Tucson, Arizona, February 21-March 1

Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City, February 26-March 8

Charro Days Fiesta, Brownsville, Texas, February 26-March 8

Fulton Oysterfest, Fulton, Texas, March 5-8

Tamale Festival
Take advantage of a festival near your snowbird roost. Pictured above the Tamale Festival in Indio, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chandler Ostrich Festival, Chandler, Arizona, March 13-15

Organizing Photos

You have taken numerous photos with your digital camera and have downloaded them to your computer. But, have you sorted and organized them? If you shoot just 40 photos a week, you’ll end with more than one thousand digital files in six months—that’s a lot of photos to keep track of without some help!

The first step in organizing those photos is to select a photo management program. There are a number of excellent programs that organize, categorize, and keyword your photos so that you can store and locate your digital files without losing track of them.

One of the most important factors in selecting a photo organization program is ease-of-use. Your choices include the program that came with your computer, the software that came with your digital camera, free software such as Picasa or you may purchase your own software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 12, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, Adobe Photoshop CC, or Apple Aperture.

Using Social Media

Mardi Gras celebrations and parades in New Orleans, Mobile, and in communities from Galveston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida, January 31-February 17
Mardi Gras celebrations and parades in New Orleans, Mobile, and in communities from Galveston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida, January 31-February 17

Staying in touch with family and friends has changed over time. With recent technological advances more snowbirds are staying in touch through emails, texting, Skype, and social media.

An increasing number use facebook to stay in touch with friends and happenings in their snowbird community until they return the following season. Granted, some things that are posted by some of your friends you’d rather not see, but that too is a process of setting up the amount of information you wish to view.

Planning the Trip Home

With spring on the horizon most snowbirds are preparing to return home. From late February to early March many snowbirds begin planning for their pilgrimage back to their northern residences. Others delay their departure until the snowy mess up North is nothing but a distant memory. Still others break up their journey into segments taking several weeks to a month or more to reach their northern home.

Worth Pondering…

Life is short, live your dreams now!

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21 Tips for the Snowbird Asking, “Now What?”

Freedom is a wonderful thing. The kind of freedom offered by the snowbird lifestyle is the ultimate. What a life!

Mardi Gras parade
A Mardi Gras parade is a popular activity at many Sunbelt RV resorts. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Home is where you park it. You’ve settled into your destination resort, your new home for the winter months. You’ve introduced yourselves to your neighbors and met several new friends.

You can choose to do nothing in particular and simply relax, socialize with your fellow snowbirds, and enjoy your winter home. Or you can opt for a more active lifestyle.

Following are 21 tips for the snowbird asking, “Now what?”

1. Many snowbird parks provide a wide variety of resort amenities and organized activities designed to keep their seasonal guests involved and active.

2. Computer rooms, game rooms with pool tables, tennis and shuffleboard courts, a pickle ball facility, and an arts and craft room frequented by quilters and sewing enthusiasts may be available at your snowbird park.

3. Check out the area’s visitor information center and local papers for current happenings, flea markets, arts and crafts classes and workshops, organized hikes, farmers markets, fairs and festivals, parades, and other events and happenings.

San Xavier del Bac
Explore the cultural history of the area. Pictured above San Xavier del Bac. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Take time to savor the local culture and learn about the area’s heritage and cuisine. Attend lectures and seminars, plays, musical performances, and dances.

5. Natural beauty abounds in most locations. Check out national, state, county, and regional parks, national wildlife refuges, national and state forests, scenic byways, nature parks and centers, aquariums, wildlife and zoological parks, and game reserves.

6. Explore the cultural history of the area by visiting museums, historical and archaeological sites, and other significant landmarks where important events took place.

7. Take tours of churches, cathedrals, antebellum mansions, architectural and heritage sites, and other locations of historical significance.

8. Check out activities and classes offered by the local parks and recreation department.

9. Absorb the local culture by attending sporting events.

10. A visit to the public library makes for an interesting rainy day activity.

11. Give back to your snowbird community by volunteering at one of the many nonprofit agencies in the area.

green jay
Take up bird watching. Many of the colorful birds found in Sunbelt regions are tropical species, reaching their northern range limits. The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas and dense woods in the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Keep a journal/blog with photos of your snowbird activities to share with family and friends.

13. Make a start on sorting and organizing your photos; don’t forget to back up all digital files in case of a computer crash.

14. Take up a new hobby or sign up for a class to hone your current skills.

15. Take up bird watching. Many of the colorful birds found in Sunbelt regions are tropical species, reaching their northern range limits.

16. RVing can be even more memorable when it’s shared with other snowbirds at an RV rally. There are several different types of RV rallies including Good Sam Club National and Chapter rallies, manufacturer club rallies, and club rallies for RVers of similar interests.

17. RV shows are also scheduled with snowbirds in mind. There is no better way to shop for a new RV or upgrade your current one than by attending an RV show, where numerous dealers and suppliers come together to show off their wares. You’ll have an opportunity to check out a wide-range of recreational vehicles in one location, often at special “show prices”.

18. Dining comes in all shapes and sizes in the various Sunbelt locations including slow-cooked barbecues through to fresh-out-of-the-water seafood, Mexican and Cuban cuisine, Southern Cooking, Cajun and Creole specialties, fast foods, and buffets. Senior specials are available.

19. Walking, hiking, and playing golf are great ways to stay physically fit and to meet new people.

Tamale Festival
Take advantage of a festival near your snowbird roost. Pictured above the Tamale Festival in Indio, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Take advantage of some of the celebrations, parades, and other special activities held near your snowbird roost. Whether you’re a foodie or sports nut, you’ll find a seasonal festivals or fun-filled event that will highlight your stay.

21. Consider mapping your return journey home into segments of several weeks.

Even after six months “on the road” you may not be ready to start the northern trek home. But before long you’ll begin planning your return to the Sunbelt next winter.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day…

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Happy snowbird travels!

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Trio of National Parks That Are Best During Winter

Winter can be one of the best times to get out and explore America’s national parks in an RV.

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California's southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation.
Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California’s southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the busiest national parks experience a major drop in attendance, allowing visitors better viewing opportunities amid less crowded conditions.

Many of these parks are located in the US Sunbelt offering snowbirds a wide variety of unspoiled landscapes to enjoy in warm comfort during the winter.

With snowbirds in mind, the following are my picks for a trio of national parks that are best to visit during winter.

Joshua Tree National Park 

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases.

Here the lower Colorado Desert meets the higher Mojave Desert, forming granite monoliths, rugged mountains, and surreal geology that lures hikers, desert rats, and rock climbers from around the world.

The park provides an introduction to the variety and complexity of the desert environment and a vivid contrast between the Mojave and Colorado deserts that range in elevation from 900 feet to 5,185 feet at Keys View. The Colorado Desert in the eastern section offers low desert formations and plant life, such as creosote bushes, spidery ocotillo, and jumping cholla cactus; the higher, cooler, and wetter Mojave in the western part is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.

Cold nights and warm days make for ideal treks into palm-lined oases. Or, bike the dirt roads and watch the climbers scale the rocky heights.

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is known for its majestic towering rock mountains which rise to awe-inspiring heights. Zion is a lush green oasis, surrounded by startling sentinels of stone. With sheer, milky-white cliffs and pristine waterfalls, Zion is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Zion National Park is getting more difficult to navigate with its single road into the canyon and a mandatory shuttle system during the busy months.

Exploring Zion Canyon, center of park activity, during the off-season gives one the flexibility that is impossible seven months of the year. From April through October, private cars are prohibited in the canyon, and visitors must use park shuttles. With 11,000 daily visitors, it’s hard to dispute the need for such restrictions. Still, it’s nice to be on our own—and free of crowds.

The main canyon in Zion was cut by the North Fork of the Virgin River. It is narrow, less than a quarter-mile wide. But it is deep, flanked by towering sandstone palisades 2,000-3,000 feet high that draw rock climbers who savor big walls. The six-mile canyon drive ends at a formation known as Temple of Sinawava, where the canyon begins narrowing to a slot only 30-40 feet wide.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The organ pipe has company—25 other cactus species including the stately saguaro, chain-fruit cholla, teddy bear cholla, and Engelmann prickly pear, also make this park their home.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The organ pipe has company—25 other cactus species including the stately saguaro, chain-fruit cholla, teddy bear cholla, and Engelmann prickly pear, also make this park their home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves a diverse and relatively undisturbed sample of the Sonoran Desert. Mountains surround the park on all sides, some near, some distant, with colors changing from one hour to the next. Ninety-five percent of the park is designated as wilderness area, which makes this one of the best places to view the Sonaran Desert.

The many branches of the organ pipe rise from a base at the ground, instead of growing like a massive trunk of the saguaro. It is a stately plant, with columns rising mostly like, well, the pipes of a church organ.

The organ pipe has company—25 other cactus species including the stately saguaro, chain-fruit cholla, teddy bear cholla, and Engelmann prickly pear, also make this park their home. A mature organ-pipe cactus may be more than 100 years old. A mature saguaro can live to be more than 150. Foothill palo verde, ironwood, jojoba, elephant tree, mesquite, triangle-leaf bursage, agave, creosote bush, ocotillo, and brittlebush also contribute to the desert landscape.

The 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive is a one-way dirt road that winds and dips and provides access to some of the finest scenery in the park.

Twin Peaks Campground has 208 sites that are generally level, widely spaced, and landscaped by natural desert growth. The campsites will easily accommodate big rigs and are available on a first-come first-served basis. As well, Alamo Campground has four well-spaced, primitive spots.

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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Settling Into Your Snowbird Roost

Once you’ve decided on the region you’d like to visit, consider the RV park where you’d like to while away the winter months.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Many of these parks welcome snowbirds with open arms and even schedule special events or social mixers for their winter guests. Many parks also offer amenities that will keep you active through winter months.

Some RV parks even offer classes for snowbirds eager to learn a new skill or hobby. Come spring, you can impress your friends back home with the things you’ve learned and the photos you’ve brought back with you.

The choice is yours, but remember: You’re on wheels, so take advantage and go exploring. Wherever you land, you’ll find thriving snowbird parks packed with amenities and an abundance of on-site activities.

Joining the RV Snowbird Community

While some snowbirds spend the winter months traveling from one warm-weather location to another, others enjoy long-term stays at RV parks and resorts that cultivate a sense of community among seasonal residents.

Many snowbird parks provide resort amenities designed for long-term guests, including a Welcome Center, a well-appointed clubhouse and activity building, free cable or satellite TV and high-speed Internet at site, large swimming pools and heated spas, and fully-appointed fitness center.

Mardi Gras parade
A Mardi Gras parade is a popular activity at many Sunbelt RV resorts. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Many of the larger RV resorts have multiple halls with breakout rooms for activities,

classes, and special events. Computer rooms, game rooms with pool tables, tennis and shuffleboard courts, a pickle ball facility, and an arts and craft room frequented by quilters and sewing enthusiasts are also available for winter residents.

Other amenities may include a nine- or 18-hole golf course, a fenced-in dog park, stocked lake, onsite hiking and biking trails, croquet courts, movie theatre, large ballrooms, dining options, and a variety of activities. Some seniors-oriented RV parks have literally hundreds of organized activities to keeps seasoned snowbirds involved and active.

Everything from fun-filled activities to luxurious spa treatments, from sewing and quilting classes to exercise and meditation classes, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong are offered.

Water aerobics, personal trainers, and professional entertainment including live musical concerts, comedy shows, and celebrity impersonators may also be offered at some winter resorts. Many 55+ RV parks also have a variety of arts and crafts classes, from painting to woodworking and lapidary where you’ll learn the art of jewelry making by cutting, grinding, and setting stones. Others may teach silver smithing and wire wrapping. Some parks offer gourd painting, Swedish blanket making, water color painting, woodcarving, pottery, and ceramics.

pet parade
A pet parade is a popular activity at many Sunbelt RV resorts. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

In some resorts many activities center around dancing, dance classes, and dance workshops (from pre-beginners to Advance II to Phase VI)—square dance, line dance, round dance, ball room dance, mainstream dance, pattern dance, tap dance, 2-step, waltz, cha-cha, Latin dance, Zumba, Jitterbug, Western Swing, Country Western dance, and clogging.

Pet amenities include off-leash dog areas, walking areas, and agility courses for people with dogs as well as special pet-related activities.

The resorts also offer periodic seminars on health related topics as well as potlucks, wine tastings, and organized tours to casinos and special events. Other 55+ resorts set aside an open area of the park where guests can grow their own organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs including kale, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and radishes.

Best of all, the active 55+ resorts are located in some of the most popular snowbird destinations in the Sun Belt, such as the rugged desert southwest, the tropical Gulf, and stunning Atlantic Coast.

Worth Pondering…

We have chosen to be reasonably warm year-round, so we are snowbirds. Every year when we hear the honks of the Canada geese overhead at our northern home, something in our genes starts pulling our inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.” Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I line up the RV with that compass pointer and head for the Sun Belt.

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2 National Parks That Are Best During Winter

Touring America’s national parks in an RV can be a transcendent experience.

Dante's View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley
Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter can be one of the best times to get out and explore the great outdoors. Although some parks may have limited access to certain areas due to ice and a heavy accumulation of snow, many of the unique natural environments found in America’s national parks are best appreciated during the winter months.

Many of the most famous national parks experience a drastic drop in attendance, allowing visitors better viewing opportunities amid less crowded conditions. In fact, you may just have the park mostly to yourself.

Many of these parks are located in the US Sunbelt offering snowbirds a wide variety of unspoiled landscapes to enjoy in warm comfort during the winter. This is a perfect time to visit one or more national parks.

With snowbirds and Winter Texans in mind, the following are my picks for the two best national parks to visit this winter.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley. The very name repels. So do the superlatives: the hottest (134 degrees in 1913), driest (less than 2 inches of average annual rainfall), and lowest (282 feet below sea level) of the U.S. national parks. Nearly 550 square miles of its area lie below sea level.

Its forbidding name, suggests a vast stretch of nothingness. Boring. Bleak. Empty. Right?

Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley's forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes.
Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley’s forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dead wrong. Despite its inhospitable name, Death Valley National Park can, in fact, be quite welcoming, especially during the cooler winter months.

With average temperatures that hover around 120 degrees during the summertime, Death Valley National Park is best visited during the winter months. The typically harsh environment of Death Valley is much more inviting during the winter, with temperatures in the low 70s during the day and the high 30s during the night.

The largest national park outside of Alaska, Death Valley offers everything from snow-covered mountain peaks to sand dunes. It’s a spot unique on Earth, with high, snow-frosted 11,000-foot peaks towering over a valley that drops 282 feet below sea-level.

There are whimsical salt formations, reflective pools, and hidden side canyons. There are date palms, historic borax mining equipment, and volcanic craters.

Take a tour through Scotty’s Castle, one man’s dream retreat, or drive to Dante’s View as the sun leaves the valley. It’s a big park, with lots to see, and it’s a lot easier when the temperatures are in two, not three, digits.

Unlike many other parks, Death Valley’s peak season is during the winter and early spring. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the least-crowded. It is advisable to make camping reservations in advance.

Big Bend National Park

The Rio Grande River borders more than 100 miles of the park, and scenic half-day canoe floats are available year-round. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Rio Grande River borders more than 100 miles of the park, and scenic half-day canoe floats are available year-round. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest protected area of Texas, Big Bend National Park is perhaps most appealing in winter. Temperatures hover in the 60s, perfect for taking on the park’s nearly 200 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, which span desert, riverside, and mountain terrain.

The Rio Grande River borders more than 100 miles of the park, and scenic half-day canoe floats are available year-round.

Elevation in the park ranges from 1,800 feet along the river to nearly 8,000 feet in the Chisos Mountains. Temperatures can vary by 20 degrees between the two, so bring extra layers.

Rio Grande Village is the center of visitor activity during the winter months. Great scenery, warm temperatures, abundant wildlife, and full visitor services make this a must-see location for any Big Bend outing. Rio Grande Village has an NPS campground and visitor center, and a concession-operated camper store, laundry, and shower facility. The store also runs the Rio Grande Village RV Campground, the only campground with full hook-ups.

Ringed by massive cliffs and amazing views, the Chisos Basin is a year-round focal point. Numerous trails begin in the basin, and range from short walks to longer backcountry hikes. The paved, 0.3 mile Window View Trail provides an excellent place to view the mountain peaks or watch an evening sunset.

A mix of desert, canyon, and mountain landscapes with many and varied desert plants and wildlife, Big Bend National Park is crossed by a few roads and many trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A mix of desert, canyon, and mountain landscapes with many and varied desert plants and wildlife, Big Bend National Park is crossed by a few roads and many trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are a number of services in the Basin including the lodge, restaurant, and camper store. A 60-site campground is located in the lower portion of the developed area.

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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The Seasons of My Life

When I was born in 1941, life expectancy was 63 years for men and 66 for women.

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. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Medical advances and healthier lifestyles have paved the way for greater longevity.

With my 74th birthday approaching in August, how much longer will I live?

I don’t spend much time thinking about it.

Author Henry Miller wrote that life itself should be the art and that—in the spirit of Shakespeare—we should regard ourselves as players on a stage.

Time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years have gone. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of my hopes and aspirations and dreams.

I have cried over the death of our son.

I have toured London and the Scottish Highlands, Paris and the French Rivera, Rome and Venice, Lisbon and the Algarve, Cuzco and Machu Picchu, Maui and Hawaii, St. Lucia and Barbados, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and Bangkok and Singapore.

There is a long list of goals still on my bucket list.

The Galt Market covers ten acres of great deals with fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seafood displayed along ‘produce row'. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Galt Market (near Lodi, California) covers ten acres of great deals with fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seafood displayed along ‘produce row’. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But I am no longer driven.

I realize life is sweet and I am lucky to be here.

But, here it is—the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did all the years go? I remember seeing older folks through the years and thinking that those older people were light years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But, here it is—my friends are retired and moving slower—I see an older person now.

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some are in better and some in worse shape than me—but, I see a great change. They’re not like the friends that I remember who were young and vibrant; but, like me, their age has started to show. We are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d become. Each day now, I find that just completing the daily crossword puzzle is a real target for the day!

But, here it is—I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and lack of energy to do things that I wish to do. The winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last; but this I know, a new adventure has begun.

Life has regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done and things I should have done; but, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

If you’re not yet in the winter of your life, let me tell you straight—it will be here faster than you think. Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, do it NOW! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by—and it goes by too quickly.

Do what you can TODAY, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life.

Live it well! Enjoy today! Do your dream! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Live it well!
Enjoy today!
Do your dream! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.

Henry Miller said we either devour life or we are devoured by it. That worked for me when I was younger. But, as I say, I am quieter now.

I enjoy the camaraderie of good friends and neighbors. I enjoy good food and quality wines, and hiking and photography.

Another decade on the planet? I plan to read books I have put aside and continue exploring the US Sunbelt in the comfortable luxury of our motorhome.

How long can I lead this lifestyle? Where was I going?

Life is good. If I have worries, they are of my own making. If I can, I will try to help others.

I will never pass this way again, but it would be nice to be remembered for some small deed in the heart of another.

Life is too short to let even one day be frenzied or frazzled or frittered away. Life is too short not to take time to do the things that will hold the most meaning for you. So let yourself float like a leaf on a stream, relax with your memories, and let yourself dream.

ferry boat returns from Cumberland Island to the dock in St. Marys
It’s the end of a wonderful day as our ferry boat returned from Cumberland Island to the dock in St. Marys, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is too short and flies by if you let it, so choose what you want every day—and go and get it.

The future is uncertain. A wise sage once said, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”.

LIVE HAPPY IN 2015!

LIVE IT WELL!

ENJOY TODAY!

Worth Pondering…

Enjoy life NOW. It has an expiry date!

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2015 RV Rallies

RVing can be even more memorable when it’s shared with other RVers at a rally.

Freightliner Club Rally
Freightliner Club Rally held at Lazy Days in Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

There are several different types of RV rallies including Good Sam Club National and Chapter rallies, manufacturer club rallies, and club rallies for RVers of similar interests.

Good Sam Club Chapters embrace RV fellowship and make lasting friendships through a shared sense of community and a love for RVing. Chapters hold campouts, plan social events, and organize community volunteer opportunities. There are nearly 1,500 Good Sam Chapters across North America.

Manufacturer clubs enhance the enjoyment of ownership by providing connections with others of similar interests. In addition to a national RV rally, most of these RV clubs and manufacturers host regional and local chapter rallies. The brand club rallies for owners of a specific brand of RV typically offer technical and lifestyle seminars, crafts, new RV displays, and opportunities to socialize.

Many RVers enjoy gathering with friends who have special interests or common goals. Similar interest clubs include Escapees RV Club for full-timers and Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) for motorhome enthusiasts. From singles clubs to an organization of military personnel, chances are good that you can find a club that’s just right.

FMCA Western Area Rally, Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, Indio, California
FMCA Western Area Rally, Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, Indio, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

With the numerous RV Shows and club rallies scheduled in Sunbelt regions you’re bound to find one that enhances your RV lifestyle.

FMCA Western Area Rally, Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, Indio, California, January 7-11

Winnebago 2015 Preview Rally, Lazydays RV Campground, Seffner, Florida, January 9-11

Newmar Kountry Klub Florida RV Show Rally, Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa, Florida, January 13-18

Newmar Kountry Klub Gathering in the Desert, Quartzsite, Arizona, January 14-20

American Coach Eastern Regional Rally, Lazydays RV Campground, Seffner, Florida, January 14-18

Havasu Balloon Festival & Fair, January 16-18, The Island Golf Club at the Nautical Beachfront Resort, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, January 16-18

FROG (Forest River Owners’ Group) Rally, Sherwood Forest RV Resort, Kissimmee, Florida, January 19-25

American Coach Western Regional Rally, Las Vegas Motorhome Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada, January 29-February 2

FMCA Rally at Perry, Georgia
FMCA Rally at Perry, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

RV-Dreams Boondocking Rally, Turner Agri Civic Center, Arcadia, Florida, February 8-15

Born Free Rally, Lazydays RV Campground, Seffner, Florida, February 9-11

FMCA Southeast Area Rally, Sarasota County Fairgrounds, Sarasota, Florida, February 11-14

Passport America Fun Rally, Sarasota County Fairgrounds, Sarasota, Florida, February 17-20

Entegra Coach Rally, Lazydays RV Campground, Seffner, Florida, February 20-22

The Rally/Good Sam Phoenix Rally, Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Arizona, February 26-March 1

Escapees RV Club Escapade, Pima County Fairgrounds, Tucson, Arizona, March 8–13

Nevada Good Sam Samboree, Nevada Treasure RV Resort, Pahrump, Nevada, March 11-14

Monaco International RV Club Rally, Pahrump, Nevada, March 17-21

WIT (Winnebago Itasca International) Club Florida State Rally, Central Florida Fairgrounds, Orlando, Florida, March 19-22

Passport America Fun Rally, Escambia County Equestrian Center, Pensacola, Florida, March 23-26

Commercial displays and sales are part of most RV rallies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Commercial displays and sales are part of most RV rallies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Tiffin Allegro Club Rally, Central Florida Fairgrounds, Orlando, Florida, March 23-27

FMCA Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase, Fairplex, Pomona, California, March 26-29

Worth Pondering…

I would like to share this one for today with you…

Live one day at a time–

While you can plan for tomorrow, you can’t live it until it arrives. Most people spend so much time regretting the past and worrying about the future, they leave no time to enjoy today!

John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Decide to make the most of each moment.

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Festivals on the Go

From scenic drives and shopping to seasonal festivals and fun-filled events, the US Sunbelt has become a major attraction for snowbirds—and the season is now in full swing.

Mardi Gras celebrations and parades in New Orleans, Mobile, and in communities from Galveston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida, January 31-February 17
Mardi Gras celebrations and parades in New Orleans, Mobile, and in communities from Galveston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida, January 31-February 17

Various snowbird communities play host to their winter visitors with a variety of activities including annual festivals, state/provincial club meetings, day trips, fundraisers, golfing, pickleball tournaments, and volunteering.

The winter months offer all types of entertainment from symphonies to theatre, Jazz and Dixieland to Country and Folk, you name it. Festivals, parades, and art exhibits are aplenty.

Take advantage of some of the celebrations, parades, and other special activities held near your snowbird roost. Whether you’re a foodie or sports nut, you’ll find a gathering or event that will highlight your stay.

This is prime season for local festivals and annual events celebrating history and culture.

Major 2015 celebrations, festivals, and fairs in the Sunbelt include:

Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show, Quartzsite, Arizona, January 2-11

The Main Event, Quartzsite, Arizona, January 5-25

Gathering of the Gunfighters, Yuma, January 10-11

Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama, Quartzsite, Arizona, January 18-25

Chocolate Affaire, Glendale, Arizona, January 30-31

Texas Citrus Fiesta, Mission, Texas, January 31

Mardi Gras celebrations and parades in New Orleans, Mobile, and in communities from Galveston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida, January 31-February 17

The Main Event, Quartzsite, Arizona, January 5-25
The Main Event, Quartzsite, Arizona, January 5-25

Tubac Festival of the Arts, Tubac, Arizona, February 4-8

Florida State Fair, Tampa, February 5-16

Lake Havasu Winterfest, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, February 7-8

Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace, Apache Junction, weekends February 7-March 29

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, Tucson, Arizona, February 12-15

QIA Gold, Treasure & Craft Show, Quartzsite, February 13-15

Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, Indio, California, February 13-22

Daytona 500, Daytona Beach, Florida, February 22

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo), Tucson, Arizona, February 21-March 1

Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City, February 26-March 8

Charro Days Fiesta, Brownsville, Texas, February 26-March 8

Yuma Lettuce Days, Yuma, Arizona, February 28-March 1
Yuma Lettuce Days, Yuma, Arizona, February 28-March 1

Yuma Lettuce Days, Yuma, Arizona, February 28-March 1

Sanibel Shell Show, Sanibel Island, Florida, March 3-7

Fulton Oysterfest, Fulton, Texas, March 5-8

Chandler Ostrich Festival, Chandler, Arizona, March 13-15

Dunedin Highland Games & Festival, Dunedin, Florida, March 28

Worth Pondering…

Oh, what a beautiful morning’,

Oh, what a beautiful day.

I got a beautiful feelin’

Ev’rything’s goin’ my way.

Oh, what a beautiful day!

—“Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” from the musical Oklahoma

The weather and setting for seasonal festivals and fun-filled events  are bound to befit Rodgers and Hammerstein’s famous lyrics.

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The Snowbird Migration

The snowbird migration is underway.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

The V-shaped flight pattern of geese heading south for the winter has become a symbolic image of frigid weather approaching. A similar phenomenon takes place with humans as thousands of Northerners flock south seeking refuge from the blistering cold.

From scenic views to five star dining and shopping, the US Sunbelt has become a major attraction for snowbirds—and the season is now in full swing.

Fledgling snowbirds often start as vacationers, but most evolve in flocks, following friends and family and regional or social enclaves into migratory communities. Snowbirds of a feather do tend to flock together.

They are gilded nomads, prosperous enough to at least afford a camper, trailer, or motorhome.

And most of them seem to like company. At journey’s end: Happy reunions and outdoor play under mostly sunny blue skies. That’s a slice of the good life that snowbirds relish. Between golf, pickleball, bocce, hiking and biking, going to the restaurants— and just enjoying the weather: it’s phenomenal.

pet parade
A pet parade is a popular activity at many Sunbelt RV resorts. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold-climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season. Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.

Climate is a major economic driver for Sunbelt states as winter visitors flee their homes in colder parts of the country. Many snowbirds fill up the RV parks, resulting in millions of dollars being dumped into local economies.

Time was when snowbirds adhered to the calendar as predictably as swallows return, each March 19, to Capistrano or Monarch butterflies, each October, to Mexico. The Season began on October 15 and ended on April 15.

Snowbirds tend to migrate in waves with the early birds arriving in October, and another flock after Thanksgiving with the final wave following Christmas and New Years. Then, in the shift of seasons, they go again returning north anytime between March and May.

Through both journeys, they change the lives of everyone else who comes, for however long, and of everyone who stays.

Snowbirds create a demand for goods and services. They create additional jobs. The dollar impact of their presence is anyone’s guess.

One glance, and you know why it's known as the White Dove of the Desert
One glance, and you know why it’s known as the White Dove of the Desert. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one tracks snowbirds in Florida. The chambers and tourist bureaus don’t.

It’s been ten years since a study has been done on the economic impact of winter visitors in Arizona, but at that time it was estimated that RV snowbirds injected more than $600 million into Arizona’s economy.

In the eyes of many year-round residents, snowbirds are somewhat akin to houseguests: Good to see them arrive, good to see them depart. Snowbird season means greater traffic volume, more crowded supermarket aisles, endless waits to snag a table at a favorite dining spot.

Although year-round residents occasionally whine about more-congested roads, most will agree: Snowbirds inject vitality and dollars into the region.

Local businesses will enjoy the economic boost until late March when things really start to heat up in the Sunbelt states and snowbirds start the trek back to their northern homes.

And, snowbirds don’t just play and pay in paradise: Many volunteer.

Opportunities for volunteering are available at hospitals and nursing homes, amusement and theme parks, museums and art galleries, visitor information and welcome centers, and other outdoor recreation facilities and attractions. Numerous nonprofit agencies rely on snowbirds to play an important role during the winter months.

Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert.
Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For snowbirds that love recreational activities and enjoy interacting with other people, volunteering offers numerous opportunities for giving back to society.

If you choose to work while you play, enjoy your experience.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day…

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

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Obscure Snowbird Destinations

Every winter thousands of Canadians and Americans from the northern climes head south to the U.S Sunbelt. The snowbird hotspots include vast stretches of the Florida coastline, a variety of popular Arizona desert locations, and Palm Springs, the always fashionable playground of the rich and famous.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine instead going to an undiscovered winter retreat. Like the popular hotspots, you’ll find a variety of shopping, quality restaurants, excellent golfing, bird watching, fishing, outdoor recreation, entertainment, top rate medical facilities, friendly people, and much more.

Following are three obscure snowbird destinations in the U.S sunbelt.

Gold Canyon, Arizona

Gold Canyon is adjacent to the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and at the foothills of Superstition Mountain, which offer thousands of square miles of public land for hiking, off road trails, bike riding, photography, and other outdoor sports. There are five 18-hole championship length golf courses within Gold Canyon and dozens more within a 30 minute drive—something for most every skill level and budget.

Gold Canyon offers a wide variety of activities and attractions: arts events, baseball spring training, the Renaissance Festival, museums, swap meets, state parks, and so much more.

The views of the Superstition Mountain, along with evening sunsets, makes Gold Canyon one of the most picturesque areas in all of Arizona. It is a great place to call your winter home.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Canyon Vista RV Resort (2014 Good Sam rating: 9, 9.5*, 9), our home for several weeks last winter—and yes, we would return in a heartbeat.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel.
Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the fertile Mesilla Valley between the majestic Organ Mountains and the meandering Rio Grande, Las Cruces, New Mexico, is becoming a popular southwestern snowbird destination.

Las Cruces is an ideal central location to explore and experience the best of New Mexico’s past, present, and future. Ideally located at the crossroads of Interstate 10 and 25, “The City of the Crosses” is a blend of culture, museums, historical sites, scenic beauty, and superb weather with 320 days of sunshine per year.

The area offers spectacular year-round golf, unique special events, world-class New Mexico cuisine, and two national monuments—White Sands and Organ Mountain Desert Peaks.

Memorable excursions include historic Old Mesilla, several living ghost towns, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and Spaceport America, home to the world’s first commercial passenger spaceline company, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Hacienda RV & Rally Resort (2014 Good Sam rating: 8.5, 9.5*, 8.5), our home on several occasions.

Alabama Gulf Coast

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Alabama’s shoreline may not be the first place that pops to mind when planning a winter getaway, don’t overlook it. With miles of sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand, Snowbirds will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Our RV travels have taken us through the area on numerous occasions as we drove I-10 from Florida to Texas. Several years ago we decided to check out the Alabama Gulf Coast for ourselves and it did not disappoint.

Fresh seafood is the standard along the Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

Small towns on the Alabama Gulf Coast including Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley, Daphne, and Fairhope welcome RVers and offer outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, canoeing, and birding.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Lake Osprey RV Country Club (2014 Good Sam rating: 10,10*, 10), our winter home along the Gulf Coast. Another prime destination park, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores (2014 Good Sam rating: 10,10*, 10) is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community.

With so many great Sunbelt destinations, snowbirds have plenty of options. Visiting several different areas may help you choose the snowbird destination that is best for you.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Lewis Carrol

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