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

 

 

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

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

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