America’s Hometown: Plymouth Rock, Mayflower & Plimoth Plantation

Plymouth, Massachusetts, is home to one of the great dramas in the founding of America.

Step onto a full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Step onto a full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the landing location for the Mayflower’s Pilgrims in 1620, and their subsequent settlement, it has earned the nickname America’s Hometown. The Pilgrims also celebrated what is now known as the first Thanksgiving with their Wampanoag neighbors here in 1621.

Situated about 40 miles south of Boston along Massachusetts’ South Shore, Plymouth unfolds along a scenic harbor of blue waters and picturesque boats. The town is walkable, so you can park along the waterfront and head to its most famous landmark: Plymouth Rock.

The legendary granite rock, known as the ‘Landing Place of the Pilgrims’, rests in the sand along the waterfront. Being a rock, it’s not the most interactive attraction, but the bold neoclassical portico enshrining it gives weight to its hallowed significance. A guide usually stands nearby answering questions, and recounting the rock’s adventures and how it was identified in 1741 as the landing place.

After Plymouth Rock, you can visit two nearby sites: Cole’s Hill and Mayflower II. Cole’s Hill, located behind Plymouth Rock and across Water Street, reveals a scenic harbor view from which you can observe Mayflower II, as well as the comings and goings of today’s yachts and fishing boats. On the hill you’ll find a statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag Indian chief who befriended the Pilgrims, plus a sarcophagus containing recovered bones of the settlers who died (half of the original party) during the first winter.

Then, just north of Plymouth Rock, you’ll find the dockside home of Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of the original. It was built in Brixham, England, and sailed to Plymouth in 1957 as part of a transatlantic goodwill project.

Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The adjacent dockside museum offers exhibits about the voyages of both the Mayflowers, but the real fascination begins onboard the ship. There, you can walk the oak-timbered half-deck, smell the salt air, and imagine the settlers approaching land and nearing their dream of religious freedom. While exploring the ship, you’ll also meet guides who offer a wealth of knowledge about the voyage and those traveling onboard.

After disembarking Mayflower II, delve into history by traveling 3 miles south of town to visit Plimoth Plantation. Since it’s an historical highlight of any trip to Plymouth, you’ll want to arrive early enough to enjoy several hours.

Plimoth Plantation is a living historic museum dedicated to telling the history of Plymouth Colony from the perspective of both the Pilgrims and the Native Wampanoag people. The museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate that includes the Wampanoag Homesite, 1627 English village, 17th-century Craft Center, Plimoth Bread Company, and Plimoth Grist Mill.

Costumed role-players tell you about their perilous journey across the Atlantic, while modern guides speak about the fascinating history of Mayflower and Mayflower II. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Costumed role-players tell you about their perilous journey across the Atlantic, while modern guides speak about the fascinating history of Mayflower and Mayflower II. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Visitor Center offers an indoor gallery exhibit, Cinema, gift shop, and the Patuxet Café serving delicious New England fare.

At the homesite along the Eel River, you’ll find the recreated home and garden of a 17th-century Wampanoag family. You’ll meet native Americans, including members of today’s Wampanoag tribe, who answer questions and demonstrate traditional skills such as preparing a meal, making a canoe, or building a home.

From the homesite, you can stroll along the Eel River boardwalk to the English Village rising over Cape Cod Bay. For the many costumed interpreters mingling around the re-created Pilgrim Village, the year is 1627—seven years after the first arrival of settlers.

Exploring the village is like traveling back in time. You’ll wander along paths with colony ‘residents’ who enter and exit their thatched-roof homes and pursue their chores. Although they’re focused on their lives, feel free to approach them ; they’ll be glad to answer questions. Speaking in 17th century English dialects, they convey not only the histories of the people they re-enact but also their viewpoints and concerns.

It may seem awkward to converse with someone from the 17th century—to ask how a colonist feels about the neighboring Wampanoag, for instance—but after a few questions you might get hooked on the experience, gaining much through the interaction.

Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Take a step back in history at the 1627 English Village in Plimoth Plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Like most people, I was immediately struck by how small the ship seemed—particularly in the ‘tween decks, where the passengers were confined. How could 102 people, including three pregnant mothers, have survived more than ten weeks in a space this size?

—Nathaniel Philbrick, “At Sea with the Pilgrims: Writing About the Voyage of the Mayflower”, Plimoth Life, 2007

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My Love Affair With RV Travel in America

“What’s your favorite place to go?”

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

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

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

People hate that answer.

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

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

The truth is, we have visited 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces during the past 17 years, and found something that we adored in every one of them.

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

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

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

In the words of photographer Diane Arbus, “My favorite thing is to go where I have never been.” And so it is with us.

Taking your RV on the open road and experiencing breathtaking views along the way can make for the one-of-a-kind vacation your family is looking for. It is the journey and not the destination that is the joy of the RV lifestyle.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highways can guide you along the coast to take in ocean views at sunset. Others wind you through the mountains exploring history.

The US and Canada are brimming with beautiful and diverse routes from the glittering waters of the Pacific to the majestic Rocky Mountains and down to the mysterious swamps of the South.

You don’t have to drive far to find a great road—just about everyone has a favorite route in their part of the country.

Here’s a little secret: You can’t go wrong with the Blue Ridge Parkway or a Route 66 road trip. Scenic and historic, both routes have a little bit of everything. We explain, starting with Route 66.

Route 66: 2,448 Miles

If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, mom-and-pop motels in the middle of nowhere, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”

Antique cars parked along Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along Route 66, antique cars are parked at Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing speaks more to the history and ingenuity of the United States than U.S. Route 66. Beginning in the Windy City, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most archetypal roadside scenes, ending in the land of golden dreams. Chicago’s mighty skyscrapers give way to the Ozarks, eventually leading into the grassy plains of Oklahoma and Kansas. From here you’ll travel into a world of surreal sights: the desert murals of the Southwest and the sandy beaches of California.

Route 66 passes through a marvelous cross-section of American scenes, from the cornfields of Illinois all the way to the golden sands and sunshine of Los Angeles, passing by such diverse environs as the Grand Canyon, the Native American communities of the desert Southwest, the small-town Midwest heartlands of Oklahoma and the Ozarks, as well as the gritty streets of St. Louis and Chicago.

Whether you are motivated by an interest in history, feel a nostalgic yearning for the “good old days” Route 66 has come to represent, or simply want to experience firsthand the amazing diversity of people and landscapes that line its path, Route 66 offers an unforgettable journey into America, then and now.

Blue Ridge Parkway: 469 Miles

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

Take in forest-blanketed mountain vistas, ripe for fauna (look for bear, deer, and beaver) and flora viewing (interesting factoid: the parkway’s namesake “blue” haze is attributed to the hydrocarbon release from the some 130 tree species).

Worth Pondering…

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

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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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My Great American Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s your favorite place to go?”

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

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

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

People hate that answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

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The Great American Road Trip

Ah, the great American road trip.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights
Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights

It’s a rite of passage, a combination of nostalgia, discovery, and misadventure ideally set against an ever changing landscape, iconic sights, and weird and wonderful oddities.

The beauty of the road trip lies in its simplicity: Little more is needed beyond a recreational vehicle, road maps, and a trusty campground directory for a Kerouac-worthy journey.

Vogel Talks RVing has boiled the planning down to several essential considerations.

The Route

How much time? Desert or forest? Seaside or lake? Mountains or canyons? Big cities, country routes, or a bit of both?

Guides abound for trips along the classic U.S. routes—California’s Coastal Highway, Route 66, Blue Ridge Parkway, Grand Circle Tour, New England Fall Foliage Tour.

If you want a unique itinerary, there are plenty of resources to help design a journey that leaves room for unexpected adventure while taking in sights you don’t want to miss.

Paisano Pete, the giant roadrunner sculpture in Fort Stockton, a true Texas icon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve
Paisano Pete, the giant roadrunner sculpture in Fort Stockton, a true Texas icon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Or, if you prefer a data-driven route, Randy Olson—a graduate student in the Computer Science Program at Michigan State and the guy who mastered the art of searching for Waldo—has planned the ideal U.S. road trip. His 13,699-mile-route is the shortest way to visit a national park, national monument, historic site, or natural landmark in each of the lower 48 states. As with so many things in life, the joy of finding Waldo is in the journey, not the destination.

Any itinerary should leave room to sample America’s rich and nutty menu of roadside attractions.

We’ve broken the route into two helpful categories: the classics and oddities.

The Classics

Some of the U.S.’s most iconic sights are road trip staples. Grand Canyon National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Yosemite National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Acadia National Park. And if they’re not classics yet, they should be.

The Oddities

Hidalgo (Texas) is the "Killer Bee Capital of the World" and proud of it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve
Hidalgo (Texas) is the “Killer Bee Capital of the World” and proud of it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The highways are lined with examples of weird and wonderful oddities.

The town of Winslow, Arizona parked a flatbed Ford on a corner of the old U.S. Route 66, in homage to the song “Take it Easy”, made famous by The Eagles.

The World’s Tallest Thermometer (Baker, California), World’s Largest Roadrunner (subject of intense rivalry between Fort Stockton, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico), World’s Largest Killer Bee (Hidalgo, Texas), and World’s Largest Bottle of Ketchup (Collinsville, Illinois) all prove that where it counts, America’s roadside attractions are number one.

Some sights of roadside America defy classification, the handiwork of eccentrics with a singular vision, land to spare, and a knack for self-promotion.

There’s The Thing, an attraction of indescribable weirdness preceded by a miles-long billboard campaign that all but forces cars off Arizona’s Interstate 10.

Also The Mystery Spot of Santa Cruz, California; Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas; Carhenge of Alliance, Nebraska.

The Wigwam Village Motel stands adjacent to Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona, and draws a lot of business from nostalgia buffs.

Antique cars parked along Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Antique cars parked along Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Salvation Mountain, a religious sculpture made from adobe, straw, numerous fascinating and colorful objects, and thousands of gallons of paint covers a hill in the southern California desert. This unique masterpiece is located at The Slabs, a former U.S. Marine training base that attracts eccentrics and snowbirds for off-grid camping.

These places often leave you with more questions than answers. Why is this here? Doesn’t matter. The best attractions prove what another American classic put so well: If you build it, they will come.

Worth Pondering…

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

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RV Parks As Base Camps For Annual Events

RV parks and campgrounds are great places to enjoy hiking, biking, boating, and other outdoor recreation activities during your leisure time.

Shipshewana Auction & Flea Market, Shipshewana, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Shipshewana Auction & Flea Market, Shipshewana, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With RV and tent sites as well as a wide range of accommodations, campgrounds can also serve as base camps for those interested in attending festivals and annual events throughout the U.S and Canada. These annual events range from rodeos to music festivals and cultural to culinary events.

Following is a sampling of the festivals and annual events that take place during the coming weeks and months, along with listings of nearby attractions and campgrounds and RV parks, many of which also have rental accommodations.

All parks included have been personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping.

Indiana: Shipshewana Auction & Flea Market, Shipshewana, May 5-October 3, 2015

What started out as a home business in 1922 is now the Midwest’s Largest Flea Market with nearly 900 vendors covering 100 acres and offering a variety of products from fresh produce and beautiful flowers to locally crafted items and handcrafted furniture. Held every Tuesday and Wednesday from early May to early October. The sights, smells, and sounds contribute to a unique experience the whole family will enjoy, remember, and want to repeat!

Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake near the Northwesr Entrance Station. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake near the Northwesr Entrance Station. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This small community comes alive with travelers from all over to visit this “do not miss” Hoosier tradition.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Menno-Hof, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Amish Acres, RV/MH Hall of Fame

Recommended RV Park: Pla-Mor Campground, Bremen, Indiana

California: Redding Rodeo Championship Challenge, Redding, May 13-16, 2015

This rodeo is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Nearby Attractions: Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Whiskeytown Lake

Recommended RV Park: JGW RV Park, Redding

California: Lodi, ZinFest Wine Festival, May 15-17, 2015

There are over 80 wineries, hundreds of Lodi-labeled wines, and approximately 100,000 acres of premium wine grapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
There are over 80 wineries, hundreds of Lodi-labeled wines, and approximately 100,000 acres of premium wine grapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine, food, and fun at the north side of Lodi Lake Park. Sip, swirl, and savor from a selection of 200 handcrafted wines from over 40 Lodi wineries at the 11th annual ZinFest.

Nearby Attractions: Wine Tasting, Historic Downtown Lodi, Galt Outdoor Market, Sacramento River Delta
Recommended RV Park: Flag City RV Resort, Lodi

Indiana: Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail, Amish Country, May 30-October 1, 2015

One million blooms of flowers come to life each year in the form of 19 dazzling quilt-patterned gardens and are featured with 21 art inspired quilt-themed murals.

Located in the communities of Bristol, Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Shipshewana, and Wakarusa along the scenic Heritage Trail in Amish Country of Northern Indiana.

This one-of-a-kind national event is free and fantastic. Combine Quilt Gardens with backroads Amish discoveries, hands-on programs, barn quilts, quilting bees, garden centers, quilt shops, delicious home cooked Amish food, and more. Round out itineraries with Amish farm tours, buggy rides, and step-on guides.

Amish horse and buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Amish horse and buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Shipshewana Flea Auction & Market, Menno-Hof, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Amish Acres, RV/MH Hall of Fame

Recommended RV Park: Pla-Mor Campground, Bremen, Indiana

Indiana: Shipshewana Quilt Festival, Shipshewana, June 24-27, 2015

The Shipshewana Quilt Festival is packed with many exciting activities. A nationally recognized speaker kicks off the event every year on Wednesday followed by the opening of the Quilt & Vendor Show which runs Wednesday through Saturday. A Quilter’s Schoolhouse takes place all day on Thursday; workshops, Shipshewana Backroads Shop Hop and much more.

Experience an old-fashioned quilting bee with local Amish women, dine in an Amish home, or take in the sites at the Midwest’s largest outdoor fl ea market. All this and more await you at the annual Shipshewana Quilt Festival.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Shipshewana Auction & Flea Market, Amish Acres, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Quilt Gardens Tour

Recommended RV Park: Pla-Mor Campground, Bremen, Indiana

Texas: 62nd Annual Luling Watermelon Thump, June 25-28, 2015

Riverbend RV Park, Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Riverbend RV Park, Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Guiness Book of Records Watermelon Seed Spit Record is 68 feet 9 1/8 inches from the starting line. The Championship Watermelon Seed Spit record was set in 1989 by Lee Wheelis from Luling, Texas.

Nearby Attractions: Texas BBQ, Lockhart, San Marcos, Austin, San Antonio

Recommended RV Park: Riverbend RV Park, Luling

Worth Pondering…

Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.

—Conita Kent

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Using RV Parks As Base Camps For Festival & Annual Events

RV parks and campgrounds are great places to enjoy hiking, biking, boating, and other outdoor recreation activities during your leisure time.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With RV and tent sites as well as a wide range of accommodations, campgrounds can also serve as base camps for those interested in attending festivals and annual events throughout the U.S and Canada. These annual events range from rodeos to music festivals and cultural to culinary events.

Following is a sampling of the festivals and annual events that take place during the coming weeks and months, along with listings of nearby attractions and campgrounds and RV parks, many of which also have rental accommodations.

All parks included have been personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping.

Louisiana: Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette, April 22-26, 2015

Historic downtown Lafayette is transformed into an entertainment complex featuring six music stages, food court areas, street musicians and animators, arts and crafts boutiques, art galleries, beverage stands, cultural workshops, international cooking demonstrations, and a world music store.

All programming for the festival is designed to celebrate cultural expression in a variety of forms and to encourage understanding and appreciation for different cultures. Festival International events are free to the public and designed to encourage family participation from all sectors of the community.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Avery Island, Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, Breaux Bridge, Vermilionville, St. Martinsville, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Parks: Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana, and Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana

New Mexico: Gathering of Nations Native American Powwow, Albuquerque, April 24-25, 2015

American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Gathering of Nations Powwow is North America’s largest Native American competition and powwow. The event celebrates Native American pageantry and culture with more than 500 tribes represented from across the U.S. and Canada.

Attracting more than 3,000 participants from all over the world, the powwow features aisles of shopping at the Indian Trader’s Market and native foods and music. Also featured during the powwow is the crowning of Miss Indian World.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Acoma Pueblo, Sandia Peak Tramway, Petroglyph National Monument, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Park: American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Louisiana: Contraband Days Pirate Festival, Lake Charles, April 28-May 10, 2015

A+ Motel & RV Park, Sulphur, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A+ Motel & RV Park, Sulphur, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the first two weeks of May, the city of Lake Charles returns to the swashbuckling days of the pirates and buccaneers who once sailed the area’s waterways. Legend has it that pirate Jean Lafitte buried his contraband treasure somewhere along Southwest Louisiana’s plentiful waterways. The celebration of Lafitte and his adventures has grown into Contraband Days.

The first festival began in 1958 as a one day festival of water and has expanded to a 12- day festival with close to 100 events, such as pirates sailing in from Lake Charles, coming ashore to put up their pirate flag, and taking over the city. Lafitte makes the mayor walk the plank and jump into Lake Charles, which starts a two-week festival of concerts, carnival rides, food vendors, concerts, bike races, tennis and golf tournaments, a Kids’ Pirate Costume Contest, a petting zoo, and more.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Charpentier Historic District, Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, Mardi Gras Museum, Imperial Calcasieu Museum, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Parks: A+ Motel & RV Park, Sulphur, Louisiana

Louisiana: Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Breaux Bridge, May 1-3, 2015

Crawfish, mudbugs, crawdads, or crayfish—call them what you will—are woven into Cajun culture. They raise them, catch them, eat them, sing about them, and have a festival celebrating them.

Held the first weekend in May in the Crawfish Capital of the World, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival has become one of the largest gatherings of world-famous Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop musicians and plays host to more than 30 bands on three stages during the three-day festival. Music fills the air from morning into night at Parc Hardy.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby Attractions: Avery Island, Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, Vermilionville, St. Martinsville, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Park: Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana

Worth Pondering…

With the coming of spring, I am calm again.

—Gustav Mahler

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Campgrounds As Base Camps For Festivals & Special Events

Campgrounds and RV parks are great places to enjoy hiking, biking, boating, and other outdoor recreation activities during your leisure time.

Coachella Valley Preserve, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coachella Valley Preserve, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With RV and tent sites as well as a wide range of rental accommodations, campgrounds can also serve as base camps for those interested in attending festivals and weekend special events throughout the U.S and Canada. These special activities can ranges from rodeos to music festivals and cultural to culinary events.

Following is a sampling of the festivals and special events that take place during the coming weeks and months, along with listings of nearby attractions and campgrounds and RV parks, many of which also have rental accommodations.

All parks included have been personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping.

California: Indian Wells Arts Festival, Indian Wells, April 3-5, 2015

There’s something for everyone at the 13th annual Indian Wells Arts Festival. There’s sidewalk chalk drawing, children’s activities, wine tasting, live musical entertainment, and refreshments throughout the day.

Taking place on the grass garden plaza of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, more than 200 award winning artists set up their displays to create a unique artisan village with thousands of hand-made, one-of-a-kind painting, drawings, ceramics, glass, photography, sculpture, jewelry, apparel, and other wares.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Indian Canyons, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Joshua Tree National Park, Coachella Nature Preserve

Recommended RV Park: Indian Waters RV Resort & Cottages, Indio, California

Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: 33rd Annual Tucson International Mariachi Festival, Tucson, April 8-11, 2015

The Tucson International Mariachi Festival is an award winning conference recognized as one of the largest cultural events in the United States. Since the conference’s inception, organizers have made education an integral component, with more than 1,000 participants from across the country.

The festival continues to foster mutual respect between Hispanics and non-Hispanics through the celebration of music, dance, culture, arts, family, and spirit. The weeklong conference provides three days of workshops giving participants the best the world has to offer from the music and dance of Mexico.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, Pima Space & Air Museum

Recommended RV Parks: Tucson/Lazydays KOA, Tucson, Arizona, and Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona

Heaven Hill Bourbon, Bardstown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Heaven Hill Bourbon, Bardstown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky: 60th Kentucky Derby Festival & 141st Kentucky Derby Louisville,  April 16-May 2, 2015

The Kentucky Derby Festival is a whirlwind of 70 events starting with Thunder Over Louisville, the opening ceremonies of the two-week festival. With an estimated average attendance of half a million people, it is the largest annual event in the region, the largest annual pyrotechnics display in North America, and one of the top five air shows in the country.

Other highlights include a half and full marathon and live bed racing. The event that started it all, the Pegasus Parade marches down Broadway the Thursday before the Derby.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Slugger Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, Kentucky Derby Museum, Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Recommended RV Park: Grandma’s RV Camping, Shepherdsville

Texas: Fiesta San Antonio, San Antonio, April 16-26, 2015

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fiesta San Antonio celebrates the Alamo City’s diverse history and culture with more than 100 events over 11 days. Fiesta includes parades, parties, coronations, fashion shows, athletic events, art exhibits, and much more. Fiesta is the party with a purpose because every official event is produced by a local nonprofit that uses the proceeds from its event to fund programs year-round in the community.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: The Alamo, River Walk (Paseo del Rio), El Mercado, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, Texas BBQ

Recommended RV Park: Braunig Lake RV Resort, San Antonio

Worth Pondering…

Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.

—Blaise Pascal

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The View Campground: New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley

It’s all about the mystical view.

New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley
New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is, the view of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, on the northern outskirts of the Navajo Nation.

Experience Monument Valley as you’ve never seen before. The View Campground offers some of the most spectacular views of Monument Valley.

Opened in December 2008, The View Hotel is a Navajo owned business located within the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Tribal Park at Monument Valley.

The View Hotel features accommodations that serve the needs of visitors from around the world while blending with the environment so as not to detract from the beauty of Monument Valley. The three floors provide 95 rooms, each one with a private eastern facing balcony with views unlike anywhere else in world. The top floor features StarView rooms with unforgettable views of the stars, the entirety of Monument Valley, and serves as a perfect venue for amateur night-time long exposure photography without leaving the comfort of your room.

balcony_dsc_0093w1000Other amenities include Wi-Fi internet access in the lobby, conference room, a fitness center with sunset views, flatscreen televisions. Also included are in-room coffee makers with organic coffee and tea, a micro-frig, and microwave.

Unique to The View is the authentic Native American décor with a locally woven Navajo Rug, traditional Navajo dye chart, and other Native American inspired decorations.

New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley

A multi-dimensional campground, called The View Campground now offers a new way to enjoy Monument Valley. You can choose from RV sites, wilderness camp sites, or cabins. Each offers their own unique view of Monument Valley.

The cabins at the campground are called “The Cabins at The View.” Located just north of the hotel, the campground has 29 cabins that exemplify a cultural retreat and vintage peaceful pleasure.

The private, fully-furnished valley rim cabins offer a unique way to experience Monument Valley. Each cabin features a private porch that overlooks the valley and is decorated in an old west decor. Bedrooms are equipped with queen sized beds and an additional sleeper sofa can accommodate up to six guests. Each cabin also has a full restroom and shower plus refrigerator and microwave.

panorama1w1400-1024x242The View Campground also includes 30 RV spots and 30 wilderness campsites which attracts outdoor enthusiasts who want to capture the essence of rustic living and a dust of authentic Navajo history.

The RV sites feature the best sunset views of Monument Valley. All RV sites are dry camping with no hookups. A convenience store is located in the registration office and offers camping supplies, food, drinks, and ice.

The wilderness camp sites offer one of the best views from a campsite anywhere in the world. Located on the cliff-side of the park, the view is breathtaking. A full restroom and shower facility is available to all campers.

“The view captivates what we want visitors to see and experience,” said Armanda, Navajo/Dine.

In traditional Navajo culture, touching Mother Earth is a form of healing and medicine, so it was important to design the rooms with a ground level ambiance and give visitors a down-to-earth experience.

The Navajo-owned company hired up to 20 people during the peak of the tourism season in the summer. The campground was completed in June 2014; however, there are additional plans for improvement.

New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The View Campground…where the stay is as important as the view. Is the perfect retreat to hear silent whispers of Navajo culture.

Details

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet, framed by scenic clouds, casting shadows that graciously roam the desert floor. The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations, providing scenery that is simply spellbinding.

The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs, trees, and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience.

Address: PO Box 360289, Monument Valley, UT 84536

Phone: (435)727-5874/5870 or (435)727-5875

Website: www.monumentvalleyview.com

Worth Pondering…

…and may you always walk in wonder.

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Good Sam Announces Top Scenic RV Parks for 2014

The Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory announced its list of Top scenic Parks for 2014.

Good Sam 2014-Top-Scenic-ShieldGood Sam editors and consultants chose the list of Scenic Parks from the annual publication’s database of 8,000 private parks.

These special parks are situated in some of the most attractive destinations in North America.

While putting together the list, the Good Sam RV Travel Guide’s editors and consultants included parks whose landscaping in many cases rivals the stellar landscapes of the surrounding areas.

The highlights of this list include:

  • For some parks, wildlife viewing is a key part of the guest experience. At Eagle’s Rest Campground in Valdez, Alaska, guests are frequently treated to glimpses of eagles gliding over the campground, with spectacular mountains, waterfalls, and views of Prince William Sound serving as the backdrop.
  • Some RV Parks strive to make their landscaping design as beautiful as the surrounding area. For example, Indian Waters RV Resort in Indio, California, boasts sprawling grass and desert vistas along with ponds and towering eucalyptus trees that harmonize with its surrounding desert landscape.
  • Many RV parks serve as jumping off points to scenic excursion. At Lake Mead Village on the shores of sprawling Lake Mead in southern Nevada, guests can go on sightseeing tours or hike nearby trails to take in some of the spectacular surrounding scenery.

Facts About Scenic RV Travel

Sculpted, chiseled, and twisted red rock formations more dramatic than most others we have seen dominate the Valley of Fire State Park's 42,000 acres. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sculpted, chiseled, and twisted red rock formations more dramatic than most others we have seen dominate the Valley of Fire State Park’s 42,000 acres. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to USA Today, the most scenic place in the United States is Sedona Arizona, followed by the view of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from Mount Washington and the Upper Mississippi River.

DigitalCameraWorld.com advises photographers to take the time to get the right shot of scenery. Travelers should get out of the RV, find the optimal position and, if possible, use a tripod.

When planning a vacation based on scenery, travelers are advised to factor in the season. For example, trips to New England during the fall season are dramatically different than summer trips to that region.

Top Scenic RV Parks

Alaska
Eagle’s Rest RV Park & Cabins, Valdez

California
Indian Waters RV Resort & Cottages, Indio
Santa Nella RV Park, Santa Nella

Kansas
Deer Creek Valley RV Park Llc, Topeka

Nevada
Lake Mead RV Village, Boulder City

New Mexico
USA RV Park, Gallup

North Carolina
Fort Tatham RV Park, Sylva

Good Sam RV Travel Guide

The RV/MH Hall of Fame showcases the growth, history, and accomplishments of the recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries, with displays and restored units dating back to 1913. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The RV/MH Hall of Fame showcases the growth, history, and accomplishments of the recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries, with displays and restored units dating back to 1913. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A different category of Top Parks will be featured each month in articles released by the Good Sam RV Travel Guide.

In addition to comprehensive listings of RV parks and campgrounds across North America, the 2014 Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory features travel itineraries, helpful maps, and informative tips that RVers need for a journey anywhere in North America.

Additional camping and RV Travel information is available on the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory Camping Blog.

Worth Pondering…

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is earth’s eye, looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

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