DESTINATIONS PART 2 — Where do you want to go?

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the seriesRVers Choices

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

WHERE ARE YOU HEADING?   I know you’ve waited with bated breath for the second episode in the saga of where the hippest RVers are.  My second question posed via the Internet was “Where are you going?”  By far, the No. 1 answer was Alaska, hands-down.  My recommendation is that everyone should put the “Land of the Midnight Sun” as the mustest of the must-see places in North America.  I mentioned the beauty of the trip up and the friendliness of the people.  What you can’t grasp without being there is the immenseness (is that a word?), the variety of terrain, the diversity of animals, and the feeling of accomplishment from making the long drive.  If there were ever one place to call a trip of a lifetime, Alaska is it!

The Screech-In was an absolute highlight of our visit to the Canadian Atlantic Provinces.  Visitors toast the Province of Newfoundland/Labrador and are then subjected to the “kissing the cod” ceremony, which, along with other rituals, is what it takes to officially become a Newfie.

The Screech-In was an absolute highlight of our visit to the Canadian Atlantic Provinces. Visitors toast the Province of Newfoundland/Labrador and are then subjected to the “kissing the cod” ceremony, which, along with other rituals, is what it takes to officially become a Newfie.

Going down the list of top destinations mentioned by blog readers after Alaska, we hit 2)

It’s like walking into a postcard.  Touring Arches National Park in Southern Utah is an unforgettable experience.

It’s like walking into a postcard. Touring Arches National Park in Southern Utah is an unforgettable experience.

the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada, 3) Yellowstone, 4) the parks of Southern Utah, tie 5) Washington State and 5) Key West, Florida.   What all these have in common is they can strain the budget. Utah being the most centrally located of the top choices, is probably the least expensive, depending on your starting point.  On an Alaskan trip and to a lesser degree Washington, it’s the cost of fuel to get there; for the Maritimes,

Key West, Florida, may be the only place in the Continental U.S. where, no matter how long you stay, you still feel like you’re on vacation.  It’s an island paradise connected to the mainland by causeways through “the Keys.”

Key West, Florida, may be the only place in the Continental U.S. where, no matter how long you stay, you still feel like you’re on vacation. It’s an island paradise connected to the mainland by causeways through “the Keys.”

the ferries and fuel; and for Key West, time, fuel and camping costs.  On the other hand, if depleting the piggybank gets you nervous, think about them as ultimate places to see.  Consider Washington and Idaho for a summer trip – beauty abounds.

This was all compiled before Monique and I went to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada in 2013.  You, the readers, had listed it as second most desired place to visit.  Now that we’ve been there, I can say New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland/Labrador and Prince Edward Island are special.  It’s not just the sights, but the people, lifestyles, history and beauty that come at you from all directions.  It’s among the top spots on my favorite places list.

5 - Final 4 Collage

As I tallied the votes, I wondered what happened to some other big-name national parks, primarily Yosemite in California.   Yosemite has, to be sure, the most spectacular variety of views of any national park we have been to (we’ve been to 46 different ones).  Our reason for avoiding one of naturalist John Muir’s favorite haunts more often is, to quote Yogi Berra, “It’s so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.”  It is the second-most popular national park (after Smoky Mountain), which accounts for lots of visitors … and that convergence of tourists also afflicts the Grand Canyon.  We’ve been told often that Yosemite is in its greatest glory in the winter when snow-covered.  We might have to park the trailer in warmer climes and four-wheel in to check it out.

If you haven’t been on “The Road to the Sun” in Glacier N.P. in Montana you’ve missed one of the best touring roads in America, but hurry.  The glaciers are melting. Acadia National Park in Maine is also considered to offer the most beautiful views of any of the parks except maybe Glacier.  It is beautiful, but we felt it is more of a park to visit because it’s symbolic of the Maine Coast.  Neither got the attention they deserve in the survey, but they are at least better known than another highly touted national park, Big Bend on the Texas-Mexico border.

The Olympic National Forest on the western peninsula of Washington State is a trip into a rainforest.  The “Evergreen State” offers some of America’s most interesting and varied scenery.

The Olympic National Forest on the western peninsula of Washington State is a trip into a rainforest. The “Evergreen State” offers some of America’s most interesting and varied scenery.

Additional recommendation:  Don’t miss the Black Hills of South Dakota.   Hugging the coastline of Lake Superior is unforgettable.  Sedona and Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona are classics.  Cajun Country in South Louisiana and New Orleans is like visiting a different, fun country.   Another destination to consider:  we spent a week last May parked outside of Washington, D.C., taking the Metro from our campground into the city almost everyday.  We started with D.C. After Dark, enjoying a bus tour of the Capital under the lights, and then returned to visit the Smithsonian Institution, the traditional and newer monuments, memorials and sights.   I’ve been there many times before, but doing it with our home-on-wheels as our base made it even better.

There were some surprising responses to the survey, which I’ll mention in the weeks ahead.  I think for now, you’ve got enough ideas to chew on without those.  We welcome your recommendations.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

CONFESSIONS OF CONTENTED TOURISTS

This entry is part 1 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

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

We are one of 22 RVs that met near Bar Harbor, Maine, and are now on Atlantic Time in New Brunswick, Canada.  Welcome to our caravan [don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour to Atlantic Daylight Time].

After our orientation social, the planned tour began in earnest with a bus expedition to one of America’s most renowned national parks – the only one on the East Coast – Acadia in Maine.  Acadia National Park is representative of the Maine coastal areas, heavily forested and featuring views of beautiful harbors.  While not a great deal different than what we saw along the Maine coast for the past few weeks,, we were taken by the ingenious road system.

What I personally most appreciated was the tour bus ride through the park with narrative by Heather, a very involved and cheerful local resident, who not only filled us in with tales of historic significance but included less-than-vital information that made the two-hour outing entertaining.

For those of you who may say, “Bah, I’d rather do it on my own,” I’d like to share one of “the Never-Bored RVers” recommendations.  Take tours!

HOP ON THE BUS, GUS

View from atop Cadillac Mountain

View from atop Cadillac Mountain

In almost every metropolitan area we visit we look for a bus tour.  We’ve done dozens and only found one that wasn’t worth the cost – and that was because we chose a small company with a small van that restricted our viewing.  The information recited by guides on these excursions is usually fascinating, peppered with behind-the-scenes yarns and legends that increase our appreciation for the town.

For instance, I wasn’t expecting much in Chicago, but the boat trip on the Chicago River led by a member of the American Institute of Architects was memorable.  In Washington, D.C., we took the “D.C. after Dark” tour.  In New Orleans, we visited many of the innumerable landmarks getting filled in on the Crescent City’s rich history (my hometown, and I still learned).  Acadia came more alive when we boarded the tour bus.

What we remember from these tours six months down the road may be very little, but we leave having a good overview of each place, its character and virtues.

Acadia National Park:  the only national park formed from parcels donated by private landowners (including the Rockefellers, the Macys, the Astors and many more, whose names we have already forgotten); the longest stone bridge in America; 50 miles of carriage trails restricted to non-motorized uses; originally Lafayette National Park; a view of five “porcupine islands” just off the coast of Mt. Desert Island; and the highest peak, Cadillac Mountain, which is named for the same man who created the family crest that is emblazoned on the cars named after him – lots of information that enriched our visit there.

Speaking of ANP, it’s located on Mt. Desert Island, pronounced by locals as “Mt. Dessert,” which is closer to the original French, and named that because the hill tops are bald … or deserted … a result of scouring by glaciers and the fact that soil doesn’t stay on granite peaks.

Acadia is adjacent to Bar Harbor, where many visitors walk the land bridge to Bar Island across from Bar Harbor, but only at low tide.  Miss the tide change and you’re on the island for 12 hours until the next low tide.

IN THE PROVINCES

A perfect spot for a bit of rest -- in a Kingsbrae Garden art piece

A perfect spot for a bit of rest — in a Kingsbrae Garden art piece

Here’s an interesting tidbit learned on today’s tour of St. Andrews by the Sea.  The New Brunswick Province saw its population grow dramatically when Massachusetts’ residents loyal to the British king left the newly independent America.   Our tour today included a stop at the local courthouse, where portraits of King George and his family grace a wall opposite that of a huge portrait of Queen Victoria.  Queen Elizabeth’s continence hangs above the judge’s bench, a symbol of her ultimate authority.

Our group began the day with a bus tour of the picturesque small town with plentiful history before having lunch at Kingsbrae Gardens.  We followed that up by walking through the 27-acre grounds featuring clever sculptures and more than 2,500 varieties of trees, scrubs and plants set in a landscape of resplendent colorful arrays.

Built before 1810, this is one of the historic homes along Water Street in St. Andrews by the Sea.

Built before 1810, this is one of the historic homes along Water Street in St. Andrews by the Sea.

While most of our group returned to the oceanside campground to spend the afternoon as they wished, Monique and I chose to take an additional hour exploring the gardens before walking about five blocks into the downtown area to tap an ATM for Canadian dollars and to experience the local hospitality.  We were not disappointed.

One often-asked question is about crossing the border.  We were questioned at the Canadian Customs Station for less than two minutes and sent on our way.  As far as I know, none of our 21 fellow travellers had their rigs searched.  I wrote about Canadian currency on our 2010 trip through western Canada on our way to Alaska.  I’ll probably touch on that topic and metric speed limits again as we continue on our 48-day journey through the Canadian Maritime (or Atlantic) provinces with Fantasy RV Tours.

Kingsbrae Gardens was at its best for our visit

Kingsbrae Gardens was at its best for our visit

Tuesday had been one of bright sun with oppressive heat.  We returned to our trailer just as monstrous gray clouds that followed us from town erupted in bolts of lightening with rolling thunder.

We’re definitely the “Never-Bored RVers.” Wednesday is a travel day.  We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved