About BWZander

Barry and Monique Zander travel North America in their RV, enjoying learning about diverse cultures, meeting people, reveling in the natural wonders all around us and staying young of mind and heart. Barry varied career has included a decade as editor of newspapers, conveying the messages of trade associations to members of Congress and state legislatures, and working in marketing, public relations and advertising. He retired from the Air National Guard with the rank of Major. His main advocations are now as a travel writer and photographer, including being a monthly columnist for Trailer Life magazine. Monique has applied her training in Neurolinguistic Program to improve the lives of clients. She teaches classes in breathing and imagery. Her background includes public speaking at meetings of nationally known companies and organizations, and she owned an art gallery for many years in Laguna Beach, California. The Zanders live "on the road," retreating to their mountain cabin when time allows.

PREPARING FOR THE CIRCUIT (The Grand Circle Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the seriesThe Grand Circle

 By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Our next big adventure began when we picked up Monique’s brother, Philippe, and sister-in-law, Solveig, in Las Vegas and drove them back to our trailer parked in the Nellis Air Force Base RV park*.

Our first excursion with our French relations had been three years earlier, when we toured from Salt Lake City through the Sawtooth Mountains, into Yellowstone, over to a working cattle ranch in Oregon and down into the some of the world’s most beautiful spots in northern California.  Four of us living for four weeks in a 28-foot travel trailer.  Two words describe that 3,500-mile jaunt:  “SPECTACULAR” and “FUN.”

An unposed photo of Monique pouring over maps to choose our route

An unposed photo of Monique pouring over maps to choose our route

In preparation, we expected the same enjoyable experience over the five weeks as we motor around “The Grand Circle,” which takes in more of the world’s most inspiring spots, these in southern Utah and Colorado, through the Four Corners and into Arizona.  Monique poured over maps, travel books and Internet downloads for three months putting together a route to expose our guests to hundreds of miles of natural beauty, several Native American cultural events and a few surprises.

I’ll now revert to the “en route mode,” meaning that this series opens with the day-to-day blogs written before, during and after the journey. As on our Canada and Alaska trip last summer, how often were able to post depended on time and technology.

Time – Several days will fly by as we hitch up and drive for long hours, stopping along the way to enjoy many of the wonders surrounding us.  On travel days, we will end the day by parking, eating and, if time allows, taking a look at local sights.

Technology – Whenever I have cellphone service through AT&T, I can tether to my new MacBook Pro (I’m not getting product placement money for this) to connect to the Internet.  Last time we were in Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde and other national parks, there was no cell service – and we prefer it that way, since it’s our opinion that these natural wonders should be soaked up free of electronic waves.  (That’s a mantra I keep repeating to myself when I’m not able to get online.)

Now a quick note about Philippe and Solveig.  Philippe retired as a three-star general in the French Army, with a distinguished career that exposed him to several memorable challenges.  Most important to us:  he has a wonderful sense of humor, which he honed while playing practical jokes on his troops.

One thing you’ll find reassuring is that he is a great fan of America and its way of life.  He once described to me the attitude of Europeans towards America as similar to a parent who disapproves of his child’s behavior, even though he is jealous of the child.

His wife of 40 years, Solveig, has been an important part of his life and career, being the perfect hostess and advisor to the newly commissioned officers serving under her husband.  We’ll never forget how surprised she was at the way we talked to people we met in RV parks, on hiking trails and in restaurants on our last trip – they never do that in Europe!

Solveig Gets Guidance from a German Hiker in Yosemite

Solveig Gets Guidance from a German Hiker in Yosemite

On our earlier trip, by the time we hit a trail in Yosemite National Park, we were delighted that she was the one starting conversations with hikers, particularly those who spoke French and German.  Incidentally, we all speak English (I don’t speak French).

Monique’s plans take us to many of the most beautiful places on Earth.  But it hurts her every time she had to bypass places that were too remote to visit in just five weeks on the road.  What we will see will still make this a never-to-be-forgotten journey for the four of us, and hopefully for you, too.

In an unsigned Comment to our San Diego blog, a reader wrote, “You see colorful people…Go have Breakfast or Lunch @ the Big Kitchen in Golden Hill Area located @ 30th and Grape.  Little be it known that Whoopi Goldberg worked there.” We consider that the type of interesting input from readers that we all learn from.  If you have experiences about places we missed while on our route, we’d all love to read about your favorite memories in the Comments section.

This Is Home for 4 Over the Next 5 Weeks

This Is Home for 4 Over the Next 5 Weeks

This week is hectic as we prepare to move everything we’ll need from our cabin into the trailer and recheck the tires, batteries, etc.  IT’S EXCITING!

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

First published on AmeriGOrv.com

* In reference to Nellis Air Force Base, in a future blog I will write about military campgrounds.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

 

TAKING THE BACK ROAD TO LAS VEGAS (The Grand Circle Part 2)

By Barry Zander, edited by Monique Zander*, the Never-Bored RVers

The Grand Circle – one of the most interesting and dramatic circuits in America – and we were heading there for a second tour, only this time with a different perspective, through foreigners’ eyes. But before we set our GPS for this spectacular route, we encountered an adventure worth relating.

The Back Road to Las Vegas  © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

The Back Road to Las Vegas  © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

In my formative days in my hometown of New Orleans I didn’t have any concept of the grandeur of the Golden West, and, therefore, I didn’t care about what new vistas it held.  I traveled extensively around the Eastern U.S. by car, but when I had business on the West Coast, it was by air.

Well, Easterners, I’ll assure you, if you don’t point your RV westward at least once in your life, you’ll miss out on America at its grandest. What we saw on Day One of our journey was desert … expanses that flowed for miles left and right until abruptly careening against mountains crowned by jagged peaks and ridges.

As we drove onward, we were surrounded by desolate patches of land where few stalwart souls eke out existences, catering to the tourist trade or living off the unforgiving land. For more than five hours, we were never bored.

Our always-mischievous GPS was there to route us from Point A to Point B.  Instead, we turned to Google this time, where, as an exercise, I asked it how to get from our cabin in Southern California to Las Vegas.  It offered three routes, including one Camille (our GPS) would have never condoned. It was a scenic one on straight, narrow roads across the ever-changing desert.  Being adventurers, we allowed Google to map that route, and now we highly recommend it for a different view of the California desert.

We departed mountain cedars and detoured through Joshua Tree National Park on our way to our day’s destination, Las Vegas. I can’t talk about Joshua Tree without mentioning the way the cacti and succulents changed mile after mile. Why did the roadrunner cross the road? Why did the tumbleweeds cross the road? Why did the Cisco Kid and Poncho cross the road (I actually don’t remember seeing them on this trip.)?

The route took us onto Historic Route 66 for a few miles until we turned onto remote

Cholla Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Kelbaker Road, which is reminiscent the of wavy frost heaves on the way to Alaska.  We entered the Mojave National Preserve, where we saw a flashing yellow light advising us of tortoise crossings (desert tortoises are an endangered species).  For the entire stretch we never saw another RV (or tortoise), except at the Kelso Depot, a fancy train station in the middle of nowhere.  We noticed two dozen tourists getting what was probably an interesting guided history lesson about the gold and other precious mineral mining days in the Mojave’s past. Next time through we will stop for the history lesson.

Man vs. Environment: Environment Won This Time

Man vs. Environment: Environment Won This Time

Since we weren’t in a rush and can drive 250 miles on a tank of gas, this made the journey more important than our Las Vegas destination.   And even though we’re always amazed … no, make that “stunned” … at the new casinos and changes on The Strip, that day’s thrill was behind us when we arrived in the glitz after miles of sand, spiny vegetation, and blissful solitude.

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

The desert was almost lush:  green, healthy, gorgeous.  The cacti and succulents of the high desert were the healthiest we can remember.  The yellow and white wildflowers added to the spectacle.  Simply a path through desolation? Not even close. Had our trip ended there, we would have felt satiated, but it was just the beginning. The next day we were due at Las Vegas International Airport to pick up Monique’s brother and sister-in-law, who were arriving on a non-stop flight from Paris, France, to Las Vegas, Nevada – from the internationally renown City of Lights to the American City of Light.

The excitement builds!

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

This article was first published on AmeriGOrv.com.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

IN ZION (& LAS VEGAS MEMORIES) (Grand Circle Part 3)

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

We’re on the first stop of our Grand Circle Tour after three days in Las Vegas … four of us living comfortably in a 28-foot travel trailer!  We – Monique, her brother Philippe and his wife Solveig and I — are in Zion National Park, Utah, one of America’s most popular national treasures.  We hiked to the highest of the three Emerald Pools Thursday morning, returning to the Visitors Center and our truck just as the rains came.

Lots to tell you, but let’s start in the Watchman Campground, where we are fortunate to have electric hook-ups, but no water or sewer at the site.  A teardrop trailer was next to us, but moved over two spots this morning to make way for a pop-up.  There’s a Casita from Louisiana across from us, two mini-tents next to them and a canvas tent on a utility trailer behind us.

So if you’re thinking we’re crowded in our RV, I want to let you know we feel fortunate to have room to move around while the rains and chilly temperatures pretty much confine campers to their quarters.  Incidentally, we’ll be moving a lot over the next five weeks, so we didn’t take our satellite dish with us.

 

Along the Virgin River Hiking Toward the Narrows

Along the Virgin River Hiking Toward the Narrows

“Hiyadoin’?” Philippe, who speaks English very well  [and continues to work to improve his vocabulary and pronunciation — all part of the fun of the trip] was returning from a trash run Thursday morning when confronted by a fellow RVers who asked him that – “Hiyadoin’?”.  “Huh?”  The friendly neighbor asked him where he’s from, and then both went on their merry ways.  Philippe later told me that, as mentioned in the preview blog, people don’t get into casual conversations with strangers in Europe like they do here.  He explained that there is still a class order on the Continent, where people are reluctant to talk with others of a lower class, so they don’t bother chatting with strangers.  He appreciates American friendliness.

There was lots of casual conversation along the vertical trail this morning, where we encountered hikers from France, Germany, Texas, Iran, Scandinavia, Minnesota, and even some local Utahans.  While veteran hikers Monique and I relish the opportunity to get out in the wilds alone where we meet no one or few, we also enjoy the fun of watching our guests interact with others on the trail.

It’s my opinion that most freedom-loving Americans feel fenced in by over-regulation and excessive “Don’t” rules by park management.  Why do the park rangers do that?  Because there is so much abuse of natural wonders.  We hate it, but it’s the way it is.

 

Zion Waterfall Splashes on Boulders

Zion Waterfall Splashes on Boulders

One rule that many folks abhor is being told they can’t drive into a park’s most beautiful areas.  In Zion, you can only access the trails along the Virgin River Canyon by

The Bus Is Not Only Convenient, It's Fun ... and a Welcome Refuge During the Rain

The Bus Is Not Only Convenient, It’s Fun … and a Welcome Refuge During the Rain

walking miles or taking the shuttle bus.  The bus works.  In peak season, on shuttle passes each of the trailheads and facilities every seven minutes.  You can get on and off at will, all without an additional fee (other than what’s required at the park entrance).  The round trip takes about 80 minutes, but along the way are numerous sightseeing opportunities for all levels of ability, from Angel Landing to the paved trails accessible for the handicapped and in good use while we visited before the rains came.  At the end of the route is the Narrows, where adventurers are reminded to be aware of flash floods carrying logs and boulders down the river.  On Day 2 in Zion, we hiked to the Narrows, getting soaked by unpredicted rain showers twice along the way.

Picnic View at an Overlook on the Way from Vegas to Zion

Picnic View at an Overlook on the Way from Vegas to Zion

PREVIOUS DAYS IN LAS VEGAS

What Europeans (and many Americans) can’t envision, according to Philippe, is the vastness of our parks … and the lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (where they stayed for one night while we were in the Nevada city that never sleeps).  Their visit to “the Red Rock Sign6069States” began with a tour of magnificent Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, followed by a tiring daylong walk on The Strip.  They appreciated all the glitz and glamour; the immensity of the casinos and hotels; the brightness of the night; the dancing fountains, battling pirate ships and volcanoes – but, now it’s “been-there, done that” and not a place they expect to see again.

 

At left, the Volcano Erupts at the Mirage Hotel & Casino ... on right, the Magnificent Red Rocks

At left, the Volcano Erupts at the Mirage Hotel & Casino … on right, the Magnificent Red Rocks

Next stop:  Arrived Bryce Canyon this Saturday.

BLOGGERS NOTE:  Intermittent phone service but no Internet on my computer in Zion.  We’re now about to enter Bryce Canyon for four days (with internet doubtful).

On a Hotel Tram Along the Strip

On a Hotel Tram Along the Strip

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

We Caught Up with the Rain in about 50 Miles

We Caught Up with the Rain in about 50 Miles

The Cannons Hit Their Mark and the Pirate Ship Goes Down at Treasure Island

The Cannons Hit Their Mark and the Pirate Ship Goes Down at Treasure Island

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

This Article appeared on AmeriGOrv.com

SCENIC BRYCE CANYON — THE GRAND CIRCLE PART 4

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the seriesThe Grand Circle

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Continuing on the Grand Circle Tour, we head to the magnificent vistas of Bryce Canyon.

Welcome to Bryce

Welcome to Bryce

There, the most common word heard at the overlooks of the towering “hoo-doos” is “breathtaking.” It is definitely breathtaking, and more … beyond words.

Bryce provides one of the most interesting viewing opportunities of any place in America. It is not really a “canyon,” but many giant natural amphitheaters carved by erosion from the Paunsaugunt Plateau. From the rim, one can see forever, since the canyon has been chiseled out of a huge red-stone mesa.

The Amphitheater of Hoodoos and Monoliths

The Amphitheater of Hoodoos and Monoliths

The predominant feature of this park are the “Hoodoos,” odd-shaped pillars of rock formed by erosion, varying from red to pale colorings, each one topped by a capstone and worth focusing upon for its unique characteristics. They tower up to 10 stories tall.

Hikers on the Navajo Loop climb back toward the rim

Hikers on the Navajo Loop climb back toward the rim

The rim road, a 38-mile round trip, offers 13 viewpoints, but to experience the true splendor of Bryce, one must hike the three-mile Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail, which take visitors down to the floor, where they can look skyward at the jagged monoliths. There are surprises around every bend on this relatively easy hike.

A word of caution, however: the canyon floor can be quite hot in the

A favorite landmark along the Queens Garden Trail

A favorite landmark along the Queens Garden Trail

summer. Hiking early a.m. or in the evening offers the most enjoyable walk. At the other extreme of hiking, there is Peek-a-Boo Loop, 5.5 miles long, which winds through the heart of the canyon’s amphitheater and along the Wall of Windows.

Get up early to see the sunrise at Sunset Point (the

Sunrise Point – the best place to be at sunset

Sunrise Point – the best place to be at sunset

eastern-rising sun casts constantly changing patterns on the opposite walls) and return to Inspiration Point as it sets to take in the play of shadows.

There is so much to do at Bryce besides driving and day hikes. There’s a moonlit-guided hike, stargazing with a ranger, joining an astronomy program, horseback riding or participating in the Geofest (which took place on July 25 and 26 in 2014).

Hoodoos provide unforgettable sights in Bryce Canyon

Hoodoos provide unforgettable sights in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is much higher than Zion at 8,000 to 9,000 feet, so spring can be quite chilly. There are two campgrounds in the park: North and Sunset, which provide a woody environment among stately ponderosa pines. [http://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm]

A sense of grandeur fills the Bryce Canyon visitor

A sense of grandeur fills the Bryce Canyon visitor

Our French relatives told us that Bryce is considered a “must-see” by Europeans. For the record, of the 46 National Parks we have visited so far, Bryce Canyon ranks among the top for it uniqueness, activity and mainly for its majesty.

Barry, Solveig, Philippe and Monique on a hike.  The high altitude at the rim brings a chill even at springtime.

Barry, Solveig, Philippe and Monique on a hike. The high altitude at the rim brings a chill even at springtime.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Note:  First Appeared on AmeriGOrv.com website

 

DESTINATIONS PART 1 — Where have you been

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the seriesRVers Choices
Old Faithful in Yellowstone -- right on time

Old Faithful in Yellowstone — right on time

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers*

WHAT ARE RVers FAVORITE DESTINATIONS?  I asked RVers two questions via the Internet.  Responses poured in from more than 200 other travelers.  Question No. 1 was, “What is your favorite RV destination?”, which I’ll talk about today.  PART II is responses to the second question, “Where are you planning to go?”

Topping the immediate itinerary list is Yellowstone National Park.  It’s gratifying to realize that every one of the top responses would be on our list of favorites, although not necessarily in the order of voting.  Meanwhile, some of our favorites – the Ozarks Mountain region of Arkansas, for instance — was rarely mentioned.  Bryce Canyon, the Oregon Coast, the Michigan Upper Peninsula and the route to Alaska through British Columbia are definitely high on our list, but didn’t make the top five.

Music all around in a Mountain View, Ark., "pickin' shed"

Music all around in a Mountain View, Ark., “pickin’ shed”

Why didn’t the Ozarks get the recognition we feel it deserves?  I would attribute it to differences in our likes, dislikes and reasons for traveling in recreational vehicles.  Before we started our first cross-country trip in our get-acquainted-with-RVing 22-footer, I told Monique, “You’re going to love Arkansas.”  … and she did!  As soon as we crossed the state line from Missouri, the beauty of the serrated, thickly forested hills enthralled her.  When we stopped at the usual travel spots on our way to exquisite Blanchard Springs Caverns, she felt the warm reception from everyone she met.  And when we parked in Mountain View, she was swathed by the loving folk music wafting from throughout the town and in the “Pickin’ Shed.”

This August when, on our way westward from the Canadian Maritimes, I complained that I was tired of staring straight ahead at interstate highways.  A jolt of joy surged through me when she asked, “Do you want to take a detour to Mountain View?”   Of the thousand places we’ve been, I think that little happenin’ town is my favorite.

Now to list places that got the highest number of responses in that online survey after

Spectacular scenery at Bryce Canyon

Spectacular scenery at Bryce Canyon

Yellowstone: 2) Bryce Canyon was often mentioned, and it’s definitely among our favorites.  To me it is the brightest gem in the crown of Southern Utah parks, which include Zion, Capitol Reef and Arches.  3) The Oregon Coast is spectacular, but probably not so different than Northern California and Washington State.  Why it was singled out over its neighbors, I suspect, is there are fewer other must-see places competing for the traveler’s interest (Columbia Gorge between Oregon and Washington and the Cascades are worth a few days on its own.)

One of my favorite memories -- the Oregon Coast offers serenity in the fog

One of my favorite memories — the Oregon Coast offers serenity in the fog

4) “Uppies,” as the denizens of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are known, are fiercely loyal to their spit of land among the Great Lakes, and they have a right to be proud.  It’s a different kind of place, a secluded woodland away from it all.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a different kind of place with some unconventional folks

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a different kind of place with some unconventional folks

5)  As for the inland roads up to Alaska through British Columbia and the Yukon by way of

The Alaskan Coastal areas are unforgetable

The Alaskan Coastal areas are unforgetable

Banff and Lake Louise, I vote it as the most beautiful scenery that we’ve seen in North America.  That leads you to ask, “What about Alaska itself?” Alaska is friendly.  The people there are, well, Alaskans, quite a bit more independent, more “I-can-do-anything” types.  When it’s 60degrees below and you have sled dogs to care for, you’ve got to be heartier than us lower-48ers.  There are adventures in Alaska around every curve.

1.Glacier National Park’s Weeping Wall greets motorists on the Road to the Sun – but park your RV and take your tow on this narrow, steep drive.

Glacier National Park’s Weeping Wall greets motorists on the Road to the Sun – but park your RV and take your tow on this narrow, steep drive.

The top pick in the survey, Yellowstone National Park, is what I consider “Nature’s Amusement Park.”  It’s miles of almost unbelievable unique colorful formations, plus bison, elk, moose, bear and other critters rarely seen in such abundance around the contiguous states.  It also has campgrounds with hook-ups, making it more popular than many national parks.

Stay tuned to find out what the RV community named (in my unofficial survey) THE NUMBER ONE PLACE TO TRAVEL IN THEIR RV.

As for the * Asterisk at the top, let me take a moment to explain that Monique is my “Cruel Editor!”  She fixes punctuation and spelling, inserts words that I forget to put in, and scratches out sentences that she finds offensive in one way or another.  Cruel, but I agree with her changes 99% of the time.  She definitely earns having her name included in the creation of my blogs and articles.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

MORE WHALES AND SO MUCH MORE PART 1

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Going out in a panga into Bahia de los Angeles, a bay on the Sea of Cortez, seemed a more interesting diversion than sitting by our travel trailer looking out to sea.  After all, by the time our caravan pulled into this scruffy little Mexican town in Baja California, we were ready for more adventure.

The Never-Bored RVers were far from disappointed by their decision to shell out $34 each to cruise around the bay.  As soon as our skipper, Joel, launched us onto the rich blue waters, we were getting our money’s worth.  I quickly spotted a whale’s spouting mist high into the warm air a quarter-mile ahead of us.

It was a finback whale, the second longest animal on our planet, and it was right there in front of us.  American naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews called the fin whale “the greyhound of the sea… for its beautiful, slender body is built like a racing yacht and the animal can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship1.”  But, after two days in Guerrero Negro on the Pacific side of Baja, would this be an anti-climax?

 

Not for a second.  While we didn’t see a breach (where the whale comes out of the water) or a spyhop (similar to a breach, but this is when the whale goes straight up to look around the surface of the water).  The broad dark tail fins (flukes) glistening in the morning sun excited members of our two boats time after time.

 

Attention to their performances was often interrupted by the dramatic dives of the blue-footed booby – yes, there is such a thing, and that’s the real name.  A dozen times each minute, these sleek seabirds circled and dove from heights of up to 100 feet at 60 miles an hour into the choppy waves.  Tough way to feed a seafood habit, but cheaper than a rod, reel and boat.  [INSERT BIRD DIVING PHOTO]

 

From our distance, we had to take Joel’s word that they have blue feet; however, later in the voyage my trusty camera showed it to be true. [INSERT BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY SHOT]

 

In my excitement to relate our mini-cruise, I’ve blurted out lots of words and chose some appropriate pictures … and at that point, we had more than three hours remaining before turning toward our dock.  There will be much more in Part 2, but before turning to starboard, I’ll spend a moment to talk about Joel [pronounced “Hoel”], the enterprising captain of our craft.

 

[JOEL PHOTO] “Joel, how did you learn to speak English so well?” asked a shipmate.  “I have learned from friends and Americans who come down here, but if you ask me about anything other than the boat, the bay and the animals we see, I don’t know.”  He did know a lot about his environment and was very capable of explaining it all to us and answering questions.  A smart man.

 

And his interest in learning has been passed along to his son, a marine biologist, and daughter, a college student in philosophy.  I mention this because, despite our being surrounded by a totally different culture than what we experience in the States and in Canada, we met many educated locals.  And those I encountered who understood no English were very friendly, which we found very welcoming when pulling into a Pemex gas station and not knowing how to say “Fill it up.” [OPTIONAL PEMEX PHOTO]

Stay tuned for Window Island and Skull Island, clamming and more.

1 This and corroboration of other facts was through Wikipedia.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

THE WONDERFUL FALLACY OF AN RV COMMUNITY

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

First published on AmeriGO.com website

As RV travelers, you and I are often put into the group known as the “RV Community.” It’s a marketing and journalistic term that rounds all of us up into a herd to which one title is applied. I want to dispel for you, as a novice RVer, the myth of a homogeneous RV community.

More important, I want to point out why we’re better off not being part of a single At Zion NP - 6248community.  As you travel, you’ll come across dozens, if not hundreds of different reasons people own or rent RVs and just as many ways they use their “recreational vehicles.” I put that term in quotes, because both can be inappropriate. Not everyone actually uses an RV for recreation. “Vehicle” often implies a motorized conveyance, but it also covers non-motorized contraptions like 5th wheels, trailers and bicycles.

Depending on how you use your RV, you will probably encounter all sorts of RV owners/travelers/renters (and for the rest of this article, let’s just lump us all under the term “owners”). I would say the predominance of folks we’ve met in campgrounds are either weekend users or full-time travelers, some of them working from their rigs (as I did for five years). But, every now and then we talk with someone who travels the countryside going from job to job, parking in one place for a week, a month or more.

Then there are “snowbirds,” who live double lives. Usually they are at home in the northern tier of states or in Canadian provinces for about six months until they head south to the Sunbelt states and Mexico, where they can enjoy the winter in shorts and t-shirts. In the north, they are part of a neighborhood with people they’ve known for years; in the south, they meet the same people year-after-year — Part 2 of their double life.

Out in the wilds, RVs are owned by different types of creatures – either the toy-hauler sports enthusiasts (also found at racecar tracks); boondockers who want to get off the grid, save bucks and experience life almost in the raw; and nature-lovers, including photojournalists.

Grandma and Grandpa love to host their children and especially their grandchildren, who are gaining an appreciation for the richness that this country has to offer. When we toured full-time, we were always hoping to encounter a nearby music event or local festival. It wasn’t our purpose for traveling, but it gave us a direction. Lots of “our kind of people” travel from place to place checking off attractions as they go, like ballparks, national parks, state capitals, presidential museums, etc.

In private RV parks, side-by-side sites are mostly filled with motorhomes and 5th wheels. These are primarily RVs built for comfort, more of a home-on-wheels than smaller rigs, like truck-campers and travel trailers. With prices that range from under 100 grand to over a million, owners buy the luxury that is within their pocketbooks. The size of the rig limits the places they can go, but we’ve known one Prevost couple willing to take their 7-figure fancy bright-red-and-stainless-steel bus off-road.

Truck-camper RVers are often fishermen. Not only can they drive up next to just about any remote stream, they have the advantage of being able to pull their boat or put it on the roof. We can’t do that in a travel trailer, and motorhomes usually tow a run-about car behind.

You’ll probably come across single men and women, widows, 21st Century beatniks and gay couples in your days on the road. There are a few full-time families home-schooling their youngsters (like AmeriGO bloggers Susie & Dan Kellogg). We meet many foreigners taking advantage of extended vacations, soaking up the many wonders of North America. Then there was Dermott, an Englishman, a physician, college professor, a Shakespeare enthusiast, with whom we struck up a conversation that we didn’t want to end.

Not every RV houses an interesting story or a memorable character. Yet, if you’ve gotten the gist of this blog, you are realizing that to lump all of us into one community is folly. A strong reason to get on the road in your RV is the people you meet. Unlike the manicured neighborhood where most of us live, when we’re dispersed along the highways and byways of America, we’re not all members of the same types of organizations. We don’t all have children the same ages. While the predominance of RVers is definitely Caucasian American, our backgrounds and reasons for loading up and taking off are diverse.

We are wonderfully not a single community. If you extend your reach to neighbors in your RV environment, you’re bound to enhance your life. Every time we get on the road, we know we’ll run into some interesting people, and that’s a big reason we can call ourselves “The Never-Bored RVers.” We look forward to crossing paths and talking with you on down the road.

© Photo by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved.

ANGELS IN MEXICO – OUR BAJA TRIP

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the seriesBaja California

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Our drive down Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula took us along Hwy. 1, a very narrow and winding passage with no room to move off the blacktop.  Through desert and rocky hills, it passes scarce outposts of civilization where few people, if any, speak English.

POW!  We heard the blowout on a trailer tire.  I looked to the right and realized we were

POW!

POW!

10 feet from a Pemex gas station, the Mexican-owned system of fueling stops with mini-markets.  I pulled in just enough to get us out of the road.  Ten minutes later the “Green Angels” arrived to change my tire.

The Green Angels is a posse of government-sponsored multi-talented people, ready to help and

Our Angels -- Tony and Isaiah

Our Angels — Tony and Isaiah

protect tourists plying the remote spaces of Mexico.  Fantasy RV Tours, with whom we were traveling, had hired them to escort our RV caravan for the entire trip, and, I assure you, no members of our troupe were as thankful to have them along as Monique and I.

I have often written and spoken about how RV caravans are not journeys where rigs all travel in a queue.  That’s obviously not always true, because on our 1,200-mile round-trip, our 14 rigs mostly stayed together, almost always in sight of the rig in front of us.  It’s not a command, but it seemed like the best way to travel these precarious roads.

When one travel trailer in our band tried to leave room for a motorhome to exit first from a

Stuck

A tough spot to be in when the caravan is ready to move on.

resort RV park, the truck and then the trailer sunk down into sand about a-foot-and-a-half.  It was the Green Angels that dug that rig out.   [Since we were the only travel trailer in the 14-unit caravan, I’m forced to admit it was I who got into that mess.]

Driving back toward the U.S. through the mountains in an isolated area, we saw a Green Angel on patrol providing water to a car that had obviously overheated in the 88-degree temps.  That wasn’t us.

But, going through the congested Town of Tecate near the border, a local motorcycle policia stopped me for going through one of the dozens of stop signs (which neither of us saw).  He didn’t speak English; we don’t speak Spanish, so we couldn’t explain our side of the story to let him know that we had to stay with our group going through the border crossing.  He demanded that we follow him to the police office, something we did not want to do, knowing that it could be two days before being allowed to leave.

It was the Green Angels who talked it over with him and retrieved my driver’s license.  He waved us onward to U.S. Customs.

The tail or "fluke" of a Finwhale thrills our crew in Bahia de los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez

The tail or “fluke” of a Finwhale thrills our crew in Bahia de los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez

Read on in my two-part blogs for details about petting baby grey whales and lots of other great memories, but I first wanted to share with you a very powerful reason for entering Baja Mexico as part of a caravan. Having gone with Fantasy RV Tours & Creative World Travel, which may be the only company currently scheduled to go onto the peninsula, we certainly can recommend the tour.

But, mainly, I want to say that thanks to the “Angeles Verdes,” the Green Angels, there was never a time when we were concerned for our safety.  Tony and Isaiah kept their professional distance, but melded well with the entire group, joining us for a few of the

Traveling down the road, through desert and rocky hills, the Baja Whale-Watching RV Caravan Tour was a positive memory

Traveling down the road, through desert and rocky hills, the Baja Whale-Watching RV Caravan Tour was a positive memory

Fantasy-prepared casual dinners.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS:

FROM JULIE IN WASHINGTON STATE — I, too had assistance from the Green Angels while traveling in Mexico. The “caravan” consisted of my motorhome and my aunt&uncle with their 5th wheel. And none of us spoke Spanish. My serpentine belt broke, and of course narrow road out of Sonoyta. The Angels showed up within 5 minutes, got the belt removed.  My uncle had all my manuals, they took him back to the town, to two stores and found the belt that would work. I has a gasser at the time, one Angel took off the doghouse cover inside, and had to lay on his belly, (and I could see holes in the soles of his shoes), while the other worked from the outside. They got it on and we were once again ready to drive within an hour. They did not charge me, but I have them each $50, and Hershey chocolate bars. They seemed more excited over the candy!!

They were so nice and polite.  We have travelled as far south as Puerto Vallarta many times and always have had very pleasant and friendly encounters with locals.  When driving thru small villages the people wave and smile.

I am Julie from Washington state. I have really enjoyed the posts you do, and followed your Alaskan adventures with envy.

 

WHALE-WATCHING IN BAJA – A WOW!

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the seriesBaja California

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

You can read in magazine articles or see programs on TV about how whales can communicate with humans, but being among them brings it home!  It qualifies as a lifelong memory.

Members of the Fantasy Tours caravan celebrated  their chance to pet the grey whale calf hoisted to the boat by Mama.

Members of the Fantasy Tours caravan celebrated their chance to pet the grey whale calf hoisted to the boat by Mama.

Driving down to Scammon’s Lagoon, where the massive grey whales breed, give birth and play, is … well, let’s just say “an adventure.”  To negotiate “the much-improved roads” for 600 miles from San Diego, California, takes patience and constant alertness.  More on the ride down in a moment, but we are here to pet whales, and that’s what we did.

A whale-watching launch (the locals call them “Panga”) holds eight tourists in seats along

Mother and baby coming toward the boat can be daunting, but none of these massive mammals touched the boats.

Mother and baby coming toward the boat can be daunting, but none of these massive mammals touched the boats.

the sides and three in the middle.  For those on the sides, there is a better opportunity to touch or even pet the newly born calves.  I set my cameras down long enough to stick my hand out and feel the skin on the nose.  Each of our crew who had the experience described it differently, but I didn’t hear anyone say anything other than it was a thrill.

Grey whales are incredibly large beasts.  When the mothers swim past the boat laterally, they just keep going, something like when those 18-wheelers whiz past your RV on an interstate – seems to never end.  The word for them is “mammoth.”   These sleek leviathans can be identified by unique spots that have formed from years of having barnacles on their backs.

I don’t want to spoil the moment for you when you get down here, so I won’t go into further detail about what you might see and feel.  I will dwell a bit on the sensation of realizing that you’re among mammals that seem to enjoy the chance to show off their calves to the travellers.  Mammals, like your dog or cat, interact with humans.  What may be hard to imagine is that these huge creatures of the sea are mammals just like us and relate to us.

Spectacular moment.  Mama Whale breaches (lifts out of the ocean), while Baby spouts approval.  One of my all-time favorite photos.

Spectacular moment. Mama Whale breaches (lifts out of the ocean), while Baby spouts approval. One of my all-time favorite photos.

The protected preserve in the vicinity of Guerrero Negro may be a one-of-a-kind town.  There are whale-watching tours throughout the world, but nowhere else that I know of provides an opportunity for people above the surface of the ocean to interact with these heroic-sized mammals.

Cirio and Cordon cacti surrounded us on much of the trip through the desert.  This area is called "The Rock Garden."

Cirio and cordon cacti surrounded us on much of the trip through the desert. This area is called “The Rock Garden.”

It’s a special experience, in which we are participating as members of a Fantasy RV Tours & Creative World Tours caravan.  As I sit in the lobby of a hotel/RV park writing this, I hear dozens of arriving travelers asking for parking sites and rooms no longer available.  I’m thankful that our part of the trip is to drive, eat and enjoy.  No problemo!

Most of the roads are narrow.  Making it more of a challenge is the lack of shoulders: veer

Driving through desert and rocky hills makes for a tedious journey, but worth it when we got out into the boats.

Driving through desert and rocky hills makes for a tedious journey, but worth it when we got out into the boats.

too far to the right and you’re struggling to get back on the blacktop.  Making the trip more interesting are military inspections and fruit inspection, none of which, for our group, was an actual inspection; it was simply a minor delay.  Two other delays were tolls and pest control spraying:  again, no big deal, but we shelled out pesos for the privilege.

A few bad spots in the road, lots of potholes to look out for, and miles of steep grades all made the drive interesting.  Easing the concern over safety and roadside problems were two Angeles Verdes, “the Green Angels,” a team of Mexican tourist department agents who stay with the caravan to keep us out of

Our Green Angels escorted and protected us all along the 1,100-mile trek.

Our Green Angels escorted and protected us all along the 1,100-mile trek.

trouble.  They are there to get us through traffic situations and make minor repairs along the way.  We have enjoyed their participation in some of the group functions.

There is lots to see on the route, from the unique vegetation like cardon cactus and cirios or boojum plants; the rock garden; the shanty towns; the ocean.  Since it is slow-going on the roads, we had plenty of time to get to know the landscape.

One other stop while in Guerrero Negro was the salt mines, actually the 42,000 acres of ponds and salt refining – largest facility of its kind in the world.  Definitely an educational experience only a short trip from where our whale-watching boats docked.

Looking ahead to the next chapter in this trip, we turn to the northeast of the Baja California Peninsula, pushing our rigs toward the Sea of Cortez, with the experience of seeing the grey whales in their southern habitat before they begin heir 6,000-mile swim northward.

Many evenings during our 14-day caravan ended with social get-togethers.

Many evenings during our 14-day caravan ended with social get-togethers.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

MORE WHALES AND SO MUCH MORE PART 1

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the seriesBaja California

 By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Going out in a panga into Bahia de los Angeles, a bay on the Sea of Cortez, seemed a more interesting diversion than sitting by our travel trailer looking out to sea.  After all, by the time our caravan pulled into this scruffy little Mexican town in Baja California, we were ready for more adventure.

The Never-Bored RVers were far from disappointed by their decision to shell out $34 each to cruise around the bay.  As soon as our skipper, Joel, launched us onto the rich blue waters, we were getting our money’s worth.  I quickly spotted a whale’s spouting mist high into the warm air a quarter-mile ahead of us.

It was a finback whale, the second longest animal on our planet, and it was right there in front of us.  American naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews called the fin whale “the greyhound of the sea… for its beautiful, slender body is built like a racing yacht and the animal can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship1.”  But, after two days in Guerrero Negro on the Pacific side of Baja, would this be an anti-climax?

Whale Watching

Not for a second.  While we didn’t see a breach (where the whale comes out of the water) or a spyhop (similar to a breach, but this is when the whale goes straight up to look around the surface of the water).  The broad dark tail fins (flukes) glistening in the morning sun excited members of our two boats time after time.

Attention to their performances was often interrupted by the dramatic dives of the blue-

Coming down at 60 mph - Ouch!

Coming down at 60 mph – Ouch!

footed booby – yes, there is such a thing, and that’s the real name.  A dozen times each minute, these sleek seabirds circled and dove from heights of up to 100 feet at 60 miles an hour into the choppy waves.  Tough way to feed a seafood habit, but cheaper than a rod, reel and boat.

Whale WatchingFrom our distance, we had to take Joel’s word that they have blue feet; however, later in the voyage my trusty camera showed it to be true.

In my excitement to relate our mini-cruise, I’ve blurted out lots of words and chose some appropriate pictures … and at that point, we had more than three hours remaining before turning toward our dock.  There will be much more in Part 2, but before turning to starboard, I’ll spend a moment to talk about Joel [pronounced “Hoel”], the enterprising captain of our craft.

“Joel, how did you learn to speak English so well?” asked a shipmate.  “I have learned from friends and Americans who come down here, but if you ask me about anything other than the boat, the bay and the animals we see, I don’t know.”  He did know a lot about his environment and was very capable of explaining it all to us and answering questions.  A smart man.

Joel in command of the panga and the language

Joel in command of the panga and the language

And his interest in learning has been passed along to his son, a marine biologist, and daughter, a college student in philosophy.  I mention this because, despite our being surrounded by a totally different culture than what we experience in the States and in Canada, we met many educated locals.  And those I encountered who understood no

Senora brings our change in pesos after filling the tank.  We appreciated her smile.

Senora brings our change in pesos after filling the tank. We appreciated her smile.

English were very friendly, which we found very welcoming when pulling into a Pemex gas station and not knowing how to say “Fill it up.” Stay tuned for Window Island and Skull Island, clamming and more.

1 This and corroboration of other facts was through Wikipedia.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved