Summer is almost here, and if you’re anything like us, you are counting down the days. Living it up on warm afternoons spent swimming and hiking, then winding down with some good stories around the campfire. Summer is always filled with fun adventures.. that is until you pull up to your campground or hotel and find out you and hundreds of other people had the same idea and will now be fighting for space at the most popular attractions. The secret to an epic summer? Exploring hidden gems with an RV! Leave the crowds and expensive hotel rooms behind this season and try out renting an RV with RVshare! Not only is it the most budget friendly way to hit the road, but having all of the amenities you need along for the ride allows you to create a home just a few steps away from the water, the forest or the mountains. Once you pick up or get your RV delivered, hit the road to explore these hidden gems that offer all sorts of outdoor activities, are all RV friendly (most offer free camping sites!) and don’t include the crowds! Flaming Gorge, Utah / Wyoming Courtesy of RVshare In the southwestern corner of Wyoming or the northeastern corner of Utah, just 3 hours from Salt Lake City, you will find Flaming Gorge and the incredible green river. This is the ultimate summer spot, offering all your favorite water activities like swimming, fishing, boating, white water rafting, kayaking and more. Dreaming of a secluded waterfront spot? Well, you just found it! And if you enjoy being unplugged you can find lots of free RV sites just before the park campgrounds. To enjoy the option of renting boats, campgrounds with hookups and restaurants, we recommend staying in the Utah side of the park. If you are a fan of boondocking and prefer wide open spaces head to the Wyoming side and enjoy! Bighorn National Forest, WY Secluded lakes, flower fields, moose, waterfalls and your RV. Located in the northeastern part of Wyoming, Bighorn National Forest is a true hidden gem. With an abundance of free camping and RV sites you could spend all summer long moving around the many different parts of this forest and still not have enough time to enjoy it all. It offers all the summer outdoor activities you want, from hiking in the backcountry to kayaking in glacier lakes. Plus, with most of the forest being in high altitude you not only avoid crowds but also intense summer heat! Silverton, CO Alpine lakes, incredible hikes, a charming mountain town and a pine forest so special you will want to tell everyone about it. This beautiful slice of Colorado heaven doesn’t get the buzz it should. Located in the southwestern part of the state, Silverton is a place you want to take your RV this summer. On your way you can enjoy some of the most stunning views driving through the “Million Dollar Highway” just make sure to buckle your seatbelt as it can be a bit scary to drive parts of this narrow and curved road. Custer Gallatin National Forest - Beartooth Mountains, Montana If your vision for an epic summer adventure involves wildlife watching, the backcountry and truly being one with nature, then look no further. Montana is known for its incredible landscapes from glacier lakes, to rocky peaks and meadows, Custer National Forest offers all of that without the crowds of the other popular parks in the state. You can set up camp in one of the thousands of free forest sites and call it home for up to 14 days. The perfect paradise for rest, hikes and nature. Arcadia Dunes, Michigan Courtesy of RVshare Ready for an east coast adventure you didn’t even think was possible? Lakes with clear blue water, white sand beaches, cool forests and no crowds. The Arcadia Dunes are part of the Lake Michigan shoreline and promise a stunning location for your summer adventures. Because of how true of a hidden gem this location is, campground options are few, so make sure you book ahead! To make the most of the location check out Hopkins Park Campground. Sisters, Oregon This extremely RV friendly mountain town is a hidden gem waiting for you this summer. Not only do you have easy access to the Three Sisters mountains, but here you are surrounded by trails and forests to help you escape the city life. This spot is particularly great for all those who enjoy biking and mountain biking, there are simply too many good trails around that range, from easy flat loops to more high intensity downhills. Campsites also come in a wide variety, from free sites in the forest to some incredible luxury and themed RV campgrounds in town. All of these incredible hidden gems are waiting for you to make the most out of your summer. As always remember to practice “leave no trace” when camping in forest land, picking up behind you and practicing safe distance while watching wildlife. Now that you know you can rent an RV with RVshare and explore incredible locations without the crowds, all that is left is counting down the days until you leave!
Traveling is always so much sweeter when it doesn’t break the bank. With higher than usual gas prices you might be wanting to drift away from road trip plans, but before you do, let’s explore a few different ways you can hit the road and keep your savings. Our best solution? RVing! With RVshare, you can rent an RV from a neighbor and head out to explore the open road. Having your accommodation and transportation covered in the same bill won’t only save you money, but also unlock all sorts of new adventures. On the RVshare platform there are 100,000 different vehicle options to choose from across the US, from luxury driveable Class As to towable trailers. Many owners even offer delivery and will bring your RV directly to your location. The savings and adventure doesn’t stop there, here are 5 of our favorite ways to take an affordable RV road trip! 1. Have your RV delivered or search for a stationary option Truth is we all want those unique accommodation experiences that make for an unforgettable trip. Renting an RV offers exactly that and a bit more. If you’ve been wanting to try out #rvlife, or simply want the comforts you are used to like a bathroom, TV and kitchen but don’t want to deal with logistics, have your RV delivered! Owners will deliver the RV straight to your destination, whether it’s a campground, RV resort, or even your own driveway! Another fun alternative is renting a stationary RV. Meaning you get to stay in an RV wherever it’s parked! Usually this is a cool piece of land or nearby a popular event, like a music festival or fair. A great way to ease your planning and give you more time to do what matters…enjoying! 2. Stay local: Don’t miss out on state parks RV Park - Courtesy of RVshare So many of us get caught up in dreaming of big travels in distant places that we sleep on local gems. Using an RV to explore your area is a great way to get in some adventure time without spending hours (or all of your budget) on the road. You’ll be surprised by how far it feels like you’ve traveled once you immerse yourself in a new place. Not sure where to go? Choose a landmark in your state you’ve never visited before! We bet your state has some pretty amazing places that you haven’t even heard of yet. There are some truly stunning state parks and campgrounds out there — some that even rival National Parks. And don’t even get us started on how much easier it is to plan a local trip, the additional conveniences of being close to home and the opportunity to save hundreds of dollars! 3. If you do decide to drive, use a gas app! When the road calls, don’t let the price of gas stop you! Check out mobile apps like GetUpside, that offer cashback on different gas stations across the country. Another great resource is GasBuddy, where you can search for the cheapest gas along your route. RVs are not the most fuel efficient vehicles, saving a few cents at the pump or going one block further for the best deal really adds up your savings! Afterall, an RV trip is not really complete without some driving. 4. Bring friends! Courtesy of RVshare Did you know some luxury driveable Class A RVs can sleep up to 10 people? There is really no better way to spend quality time with the ones we love than taking on adventures together. Cooking meals, sharing stories around a campfire, going on walks around camp or simply relaxing by the river together. These memories of quality time together will last a lifetime. Not only will the road trip be much more fun with friends, you also win on savings by splitting up the bill. A true win win for everyone! 5. It’s all about the campground It’s not every day you get the opportunity to bring along a home and all of its amenities with you on your travels. Make the most out of your time in an RV by picking the best campground for your budget and needs! If you are looking for the most cost effective adventure check out public lands near you in the Bureau of Land Management. Most of these campgrounds are off-grid sites immersed in nature and free! It’s the best way to get an adventure, spend some time unplugged and keep within a budget! Want a few more amenities? Book a campground or an RV resort! If your group or family enjoy having access to pools, hiking trails, lakes, community areas or restaurants, choosing to stay in an established campground is the smartest way to travel. You can even pick a resort that will make you think you’re on a luxury all inclusive vacation! You will save money and make everyone happy having access to all of these perks right from your doorstep! Renting an RV to visit places close to home is a great way to still capture the magic of an adventure without traveling far. While high gas prices may deter you from taking an extensive road trip, exploring your own backyard in an RV doesn’t have to break the bank. RVing offers a safe and secure way to travel, with all of the amenities you enjoy along for the ride, including a kitchen, bathroom and comfy bed to sleep in. Make an ordinary trip a little more special renting an RV with RVshare! Content by RVshare, the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace with more than 100,000 RVs to rent nationwide. RVshare brings RV renters and RV owners together by providing the safest and most secure platform for booking an RV rental. Find the Perfect RV Rental at RVshare
While not only has purchasing an RV greatly increased rentals and sharing has soared. But how did these rolling homes on wheels get their start? To answer that, you'll have to travel back to the wild west, and the rugged landscape of Wyoming. Duck into the Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming and you'll see so many chuck wagons, sleek phaetons, and sturdy stagecoaches you'll think you stumbled onto a Clint Eastwood film set. The museum, part of the broader Frontier Days rodeo complex, is home to the largest collection of of pre-automobile vehicles West of the Mississippi. It's also, somewhat unintentionally, a prologue to the sprawling RV/MH Hall of Fame in Ekhart, Indiana – the midwest manufacturing town that's turned out most of the motorhomes, travel trailers, toy haulers, and recreational vehicles you'll see on highways not only in the US, but around the world. That's because long before Winnebago was a household name, and even before companies like Ford made the automobile king of the road, the buggies, coaches, and wagons you'll see on exhibit in Cheyenne or the Plains Museum in Laramie were the original RVs that helped Americans get outside not for work, but for the sheer fun of it. Now a century later, RVs are having something of a renaissance. Not only have sales gone up in recent years, RV users are increasingly diverse. And as many in the industry predicted the COVID-19 pandemic created a major boom for motorhomes as many adopt RVing as a way to travel while practicing social distancing. But how did these rolling homes on wheels get their start? To answer that, you'll have to travel back to the wild west, and the rugged landscape of Wyoming. One of the original touring coaches used to guide visitors around Yellowstone National Park before the advent of the automobile © Meghan O'Dea The history of the first RVs One of the jewels of the Old West Museum is an original Yellowstone stagecoach in the signature bright yellow hue that's still standard for the park's current fleet of buses and snow coaches. The Tally-Ho Touring Coaches, as they were known, were manufactured by Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire especially for the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company. The century-old paint job is flaking off the museum's example, but it's still easy to get a sense of what it would be like to tour the United States' original national park behind a team of horses after making the long journey from cities back east via the Northern Pacific Railroad. Long before major thoroughfares like the Lincoln Highway or Route 66 linked states from coast to coast and made road trips to national parks possible, visitors arrived in train cars and stayed in grand hotels built by the railroad companies themselves, often with an architectural style that blended western rustic with Old World alpine motifs – a genre that came to be known as "parksitecture." Back then, a multi-day tour through the park cost about $50 a passenger (over a $1,000 today if you account for inflation), and took you from the North Pacific Railroad's station in Cinnabar, Montana, to the hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs, which you can still visit today. Little boy sitting on bumper of early RV circa 1915. © Vintage Images / Alamy Stock Photo Soon the well-to-do tourists who went to the trouble and expense of trips out west wanted their own recreational vehicles in which to tour national parks, or the countryside closer to their homes and summer retreats. Carriage companies began to add extra features like fold-out beds, sinks and "potted toilets" to the landaus they were already manufacturing – landaus being a kind of precursor to the modern convertible, with a broad passenger seat and a fold-down top. In 1910, Pierce-Arrow debuted its new Touring Landau at the Madison Square Garden auto show. It was a swift, sporty carriage equipped with many of the comforts of home, perfect for the leisure class's recent yen for escaping the polluted, crowded city in favor of outdoor adventures. The Pierce-Arrow was not only the first RV as we know them today, it was also the ancestor of today's Type B motorhomes – part car or truck, part home on wheels. A car pulls an early caravan with tent construction in the Kaibab National Forest on the northern edge of the Grand Canyon circa 1929 © Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo RVs in the age of the automobile It didn't take long for other carriage makers to roll out their own versions of the Pierce-Arrow – or for the burgeoning auto industry to get in on the small but exciting RV trend. Some of the innovative wealthy converted Packard trucks into the first ever Class C motorhomes (the mid-size RV models built on truck chassis, often with a bed in a pop-out over the cab) and in 1910, a Michigan company called Auto Kamp started rolling out the first pop-up campers much like the ones you know today, with space for sleeping, cooking, and dining. What set the Auto Kamp apart was that it was designed not to be pulled by horses like the Touring Landau, but by the brand new Model T's that rolled off Ford's Detroit factory lines just two years before. The age of the automobile had arrived, giving a broader swath of Americans access not only to Yellowstone, but the six other national parks that had been established in the decades following the United States' first national park, including Sequoia, Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, Wind Cave, and Mesa Verde. An exhibit at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart Indiana shows a number of RV styles from decades past © Vespasian / Alamy Stock Photo Just three years after Pierce-Arrow introduced the first RV and five years after the Model T debuted, an instructor at Cal State invented his own model of travel trailer to tow behind his own "Tin Lizzy," as the Model T had affectionately become known. It was called the Earl after its inventor, who hired a local carriage company to build out his design, which is still on display at the RV/MH Hall of Fame. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, as automobile ownership continued to increase and slews of new national parks were designated from Grand Canyon to the Everglades to Great Smoky Mountains, new types of RVs debuted, too. It was an era of "Tin Can Tourists" as one RV enthusiasts club called itself, a reference to the gleaming silver campers of the era – a style that lives on in the perennially popular Airstream, which debuted in the early 1930s. No longer were visitors to national parks limited to the railroad's massive lodges. Now they could camp throughout Yellowstone and its descendants – and at a variety of other outdoor destinations, too, including the first proper RV parks that cropped up across the country, along with filling stations and motels along brand-new "auto-trails" like the Dixie Highway, Egyptian Trail, Evergreen National Highway, and New Santa Fe Trail. Desi Arnaz and Lucile Ball appear in the film "Long, Long Trailer" © United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo How RVs became part of American culture Though the Great Depression slowed the sale of RVs along with everything else in America, the Civilian Conservation Corps was hard at work on numerous projects in national and state parks around the country, constructing campgrounds and other outdoor recreation facilities still in use today. By the time World War II was over, the economy was roaring again and Americans were eager to explore. The age of nuclear family road trips and summer vacations had arrived, and so had a new generation of RVs that were bigger and more luxurious than ever, packed with new technology and ready to run on plenty of cheap gasoline. Sprawling Class A models (the largest size of RVs, which often resemble tour busses) rolled onto dealers' lots, along with the first RVs known as "motor homes." RVs had started to make their way into pop culture through films like 1943's What's Buzzin' Cousin? and 1953's Long Long Trailer. A decade later, a VW microbus appeared on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, just a year after Donna Reed took her fictional TV family on western vacation in a Dodge Travco RV. Also in 1962, an aging John Steinbeck hit the road in a camper named for Don Quixote's horse, in search of the American essence and whatever the country was becoming, perhaps unaware that his journey itself, and the means by which he traveled, typified the very questions he was trying to answer. Steinbeck's experience, recorded in the great travelogue Travels with Charlie, later inspired CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt to start filming America's back highways for a segment called On the Road, a project that ultimately lasted twenty years and six motorhomes. By the end of the 1960s there was no denying that RVs were firmly cemented in both mainstream family life and counterculture, as American as apple pie. A family packs up for a summer vacation in their travel trailer sometime in the 1960s © ClassicStock / Alamy Stock Photo Motorhomes from the midcentury to today Many of the carriage manufacturers who started the RV travel trend had been put out of business by big auto decades earlier, but a new generation of RV-builders were about to become household names. Small buses and conversion vans like the VW Type 2, Westfalia Vanagon, and conversions of Dodge and Ram commercial vehicles came to the fore in the 1950s and 60s and have stayed popular to this day. Meanwhile, Winnebago released its first model in 1966, and thanks to its iconic design and affordability, the brand quickly became genericized, the company's name synonymous with RVs in general. Competitor Jayco was founded two years later, and in 1972, a small family-run building supply company in Red Bay, Alabama, purchased an ailing RV manufacturer and turned it into Tiffin Motorhomes. That was the same year the RV/MV Hall of Fame Heritage Foundation was started in Elkhart, which later developed the Hall of Fame. Barbie got her first RV in 1970, the same year the Partridge Family hit the road in a brightly painted Chevy school bus to make their first gig at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. It was just a few years before the oil crisis put a dent in the RV industry juggernaut, slowing sales. But by the 1980s, America was still in love with RVs, giving them pride of place in popular films like Space Balls, The Blues Brothers and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, proving that travel – even in far-flung galaxies – was still very much synonymous with the all-American motorhome. RVs are gaining popularity with Latinx and African American outdoor enthusiasts in recent years © Wendy Ashton / Getty Images In recent years, new demographics have been getting in on RVs. As the outdoor industry diversifies, so have rentals and purchase of the recreational vehicles people use to access their favorite destinations. The popularity of the vanlife movement and a proliferation of RV influencers on YouTube and social media have contributed to RV's shedding their retirees-only image, as new generations of "schoolies" and "dirtbags" adopt vintage school busses and new models like the Dodge Ram ProMaster and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans as permanent rolling homes. Meanwhile, Volkswagen is putting the finishing touches on an all-electric version of its classic surfer van, ushering in a new, more sustainable era of RVing. Many of those now-classic brands like Coachmen and Fleetwood that became synonymous with motorhomes over fifty years ago are putting out new models with a host of features modern travelers demand, like USB chargers and faux-marble countertops. And there's been a crop of glampgrounds mushrooming around the world where guests can savor the style of vintage Airstreams and Shastas, from Hotel Caravana in the Hudson Valley to The Vintages Trailer Resort in Oregon wine country. The first century of RVing has been a long, strange trip. Fortunately, if you're still curious to learn more about how your contemporary adventure rig evolved, you can gas up your current model and head to the Old West Museum, Plains Museum, the RV/MH Hall of Fame, John Sisemore Traveland RV Museum, Steven Katkowsky Vintage Trailer Museum and beyond to see the original recreational vehicles for yourself, not to mention those gleaming space-age Tin Cans, canned hams, Winnies, toy-haulers, and everything in between. You might just run into a national park or two on the way, and see some of the places that inspired your favorite motorhomes all those years ago. Content Presented by RVShare, the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace with more than 100,000 RVs to rent nationwide. RVshare brings RV renters and RV owners together by providing the safest and most secure platform for booking an RV rental. Find the Perfect RV Rental at RVshare
A few things might wake you up in the middle of the night the first time you climb under the covers inside an RV. Fearing that you forgot to engage the parking brake and are in danger of rolling down the hill to your death, for one. (You did, and you are.) Thinking someone left the light on in the bathroom and wondering whether that will drain the RV's battery by morning. (They did, but it didn't.) Hearing campers breaking the sacred "quiet after 9 p.m." rule and imagining they'll get busted. (They did.) Wondering if the bacon and eggs you bought for tomorrow morning's breakfast are now, effectively, toast, because you'd been told that the fridge will mysteriously stop working if the RV is parked on even the slightest incline. (They are.) Funny, I'd spent half my life dreaming about setting off in an RV for parts unknown and maintaining perfectly level appliances never once figured into the fantasy. To me, RVing was simply the ultimate escape route. Maybe that's because my early family vacations revolved around campgrounds and car trips. Or maybe because buying an RV is the landlocked states' version of saving up for a sailboat. It's a vacation home wherever you want it, whenever you want it. It's freedom and security in equal measure. It's Lewis and Clark with a V-8 engine. "I studied online forums for RV enthusiasts, campground-review sites, and the orientation video on the RV-rental website." Still, in the weeks leading to my maiden RV voyage, my anxiety was rising almost as fast as gasoline prices. The sheer size of the vehicle—and the fact that it would be filled with cutlery and combustible fuels—grew scarier by the minute. To quell the panic, I studied online forums for RV enthusiasts, campground-review sites, and the orientation video on the RV-rental website (twice). And I brought backup: Lindsay and Lola, a couple of friends I've known since college who have a generous way of seeing disasters as adventures. They tried to distract me by focusing on our packing priorities: hiking gear vs. lawn games, SPF 15 or 30. Not that it helped. ROAD-TESTED TIP #1: "Use an RV-specific route planner on a GPS. It'll factor in overhead clearance and other restrictions, such as which roads, bridges, and tunnels won't allow propane tanks through." —Richard Coon, former President, Recreational Vehicle Industry Association And yet, when we arrived at the rental lot in Durham, N.C., I started to calm down, in part because a petite 20-something gal handed me the keys, and I figured that if she could pilot a big rig, then maybe I could, too. We got a few simple pointers from the RV folks: Pull far into intersections before making a turn. Leave lots of room for braking. Always use a spotter when you back up. Drive-through restaurants are just not worth the risk. We learned when to use battery power, propane, shoreline electricity, and our generator; how to restart a dead battery; the necessity of turning off the propane tank before refueling; how to heat water for showers and how to tell when the water supply is nearly depleted; and how to level out the rig with a pair of two-by-four boards if our campsite is on a slant. And we learned the finer points of emptying the holding tanks—a polite way of saying draining the toilet—a task that quickly supplanted merging onto the highway as my most dreaded challenge. "Once you get the hose screwed on—and make sure you screw it on really tight—then open the valves and walk away," said Tommy, our orientation instructor. "Or run. I've gotten wet feet more times than I like to recall." The girls and I made a pact to use the campgrounds' rest areas whenever possible and added latex gloves to the top of our shopping list. Then we took a few trial spins around the parking lot, and with Lindsay in the navigator's seat and Lola on loose-objects duty in the back, we headed into the great wide open. "We quickly learned that RV trips are all-hands-on-deck endeavors." First came the rattle. With every bump in the road, each cup, dish, and saucepan in our kitchen cabinets shuddered like a beat-up shopping cart being pushed down a gravel road. (I learned later that putting paper towels between the plates helps immensely.) Then came the thuds. Turn left, and one set of drawers would slide open with a thwak. Turn right, and another drawer would do the same. We were already learning that RV trips are all-hands-on-deck endeavors. In addition to navigating, Lindsay was my second set of eyes for lane changes and would become my second-in-command for ticking off setup and breakdown duties. Lola wrangled drawers and cabinets, stood lookout at the rear window for minor back-up missions, and became galley chef for the length of the trip. "This is like a ropes course," Lindsay said after our first refueling stop, with its propane-off, propane-on, secure-all-items drill. "Maybe we should do some trust falls at the beach." Six hours, three pit stops, and one possible bird collision (none of us wanted to check the grille for confirmation) later, we arrived at Frisco Campground, one of four in the area run by the National Park Service. We had just enough time to practice back-in parking before nightfall. That's when I realized my first RV mistake: Anywhere we wanted to go, we'd have to take the RV, repositioning it each time we returned. (The pros either bring bikes or tow a regular car—often referred to as a dinghy—behind the RV.) So we strapped ourselves back in to fetch dinner in Hatteras Village, five miles away, and performed the parking routine again an hour later—this time in the dark, with the girls wielding flashlights like traffic batons. ROAD-TESTED TIP #2: "We try to bring or rent bicycles to visit nearby areas while camping. It beats packing up the RV to move it to a trailhead for hiking, only to find out there is no room to park a larger vehicle! Many times, you can access a 'bikes only' trail or (at the Grand Canyon, for example) trails for shuttle buses and bikes only." —Debby Schlesinger, BT reader, Grenada Hills, Calif. To celebrate—not just the parking but surviving the first day—we split a bottle of convenience-store wine around the RV's dinette, the only spot where all three of us could sit facing each other. "I've had worse apartments than this," I said, looking around. "Definitely worse kitchens." The furnishings were surprisingly modern—navy fabric upholstery and matching window coverings, new-looking appliances and cabinets. And even though I assumed we'd overpacked, there was plenty of unused storage space in the RV's dozen cabinets. More impressive to me was the fact that I could walk around the whole cabin standing at full height, without crouching or hitting my head on anything. That was, until bedtime. I called the bunk over the cab—possibly an unconscious compulsion to stay near the driver's seat. Maneuvering my limbs into the crawl-space-size cubby guaranteed a bumped elbow, knee, or forehead with every entrance and exit. The girls shared the double bed in back, since converting the dinette to a third bed would have required clearing the piles of maps, snack-food containers, and bug repellent cans that had already accumulated on the tabletop. Calling out our good nights and cracking jokes in the dark, it was the closest thing to an adult sleepover I could imagine—more intimate than sharing a hotel room, and sillier, too. "Orchestrating our morning routines was easier than I'd thought." Seeing the Frisco campground in daylight—just after sunrise, in fact, thanks to the chatter of the campground's early risers—provided a fresh perspective after that fitful first night's sleep. Orchestrating our morning routines was easier than I'd thought. The toilet and the shower—one of those flimsy jobs with a handheld sprayer that tumbles readily from its mount—were bundled in one closet-size room, about four feet by four feet, tops. (Its door was inches away from where Lindsay and Lola slept, another reason to make sparing use of its facilities.) Still, the teensy bathroom sink was just outside the shower/toilet stall; at the slightly larger kitchen sink a few feet away, two people could brush their teeth simultaneously. Lindsay was the first one out, conferring with the park ranger and plotting the day's activities (hit the beach, visit a lighthouse, find lunch). The ocean's proximity redeemed the transportation issue. After all, who needs a car when you can walk to the beach? The geography of the Outer Banks—a 130-mile stretch of narrow barrier islands, less than a mile wide for much if its length—was the primary reason I'd chosen this spot for my trial run. There are 20-plus campgrounds along the strip, none much more than a mile away from the Atlantic Ocean or Pamlico Sound. At Frisco, $28 a night buys you peace, quiet, and your own little slice of unlandscaped beachfront real estate. What that $28 doesn't buy you: heated campground showers or any way to charge a cell phone. Hence, one night would be our limit. ROAD-TESTED TIP #3: "If you're exhausted and not near a campground, Walmart stores sometimes allow campers to use their parking lots. Just check to make sure there's not a no overnight parking sign, and choose a spot near one of the lot's outer edges." —Kevin Broom, former Director of Media Relations, Recreational Vehicle Industry Association Courtesy RVshare The 30 miles of road between Frisco and Rodanthe, where we'd camp next, passes through a series of near-identical hamlets with dreamy names: Avon, Salvo, Waves. The longer we drove, the less I worried about all the folks in my rearview mirror who clearly wanted to pass me on the two-lane highway. Rolling down the windows and turning on the radio helped distract me. So did focusing on our next stop, an oasis where water and electricity flow freely and quiet hours don't start until a wild-and-crazy 10 p.m. As much as I'd been obsessing about life inside an RV, pulling into the Cape Hatteras KOA was a revelation. Here, everyone was living outside their vehicles. All around us, colorful awnings, canvas camp chairs, outdoor carpets, wind chimes, string lights shaped like Airstream trailers, plastic gingham tablecloths, tiki torches, and dream catchers marked off each site's would-be front lawn. We envied our neighbors, a retired duo from Farmville, N.C., for their old-school, beige-striped Winnebago (our RV was plastered with rental ads) and simple setup: an AstroTurf swatch just big enough for their two folding chairs and a small table. ROAD-TESTED TIP #4: "If you're staying parked in one spot for a while, run the RV engine for a few minutes each day to recharge the battery." —Tommy Summey, Cruise America rental agent, Hillsborough, N.C. We'd brought nothing—and I mean nothing—to make the outside of our RV feel like home. Alas, the homiest thing we could muster was to try out the RV kitchen. "Grilled cheese sandwiches, everybody?" Lola asked. With no real counter space, she spread plates across the stovetop to prep the ingredients, then shifted the plates to a little sliver of awkward space behind the sink. As the stove (and, soon after, the RV) heated up, she had a change of heart. "Cold cheese sandwiches, everybody?" she asked. The plan abandoned, we carried our sandwiches out to the nearest picnic table. And never turned on the stove again. "Having a place to spread out is crucial." Having a place to spread out is crucial—especially when you've crammed a family of four or five into a usable living space the size of a large toolshed. But it would also be a shame to stay inside; an RV park is a voyeur's paradise—people watching at its most reciprocal. Several times, I passed a man with a white ponytail sitting shirtless outside his RV, shelling peas. He asked how I was doing, and when I replied in kind, he said, "I'm just making do, trying to enjoy myself...it's not too difficult." He didn't need to wink—but I think he did anyway. Our favorite acquaintance at the camp was Kilo, a nervous but friendly tan-and-white Chihuahua that accompanied John, a KOA staffer, on all his rounds—showing new arrivals to their sites and helping campers set up. (The explanation for his name? "He's from Mexico." Roger that.) Judging from all the group activities at the campground, it's safe to say that RVers are very social. Even those campers who'd rather spend their afternoons at the beach—as we did, most days—have ample opportunity for mingling after sundown. One evening, we caught the opening number at karaoke night—Cee Lo Green's expletive-free radio hit "Forget You," performed by a teenage staffer; the next, we watched an outdoor screening of Kung Fu Panda. We even organized some social events of our own, enlisting a couple of 30-something Texan guys to help us start a fire to make s'mores. Another snafu: not knowing the proper way to extinguish a fire when you're done with dessert. We poured panfuls of water from our kitchen onto the flames, sending out smoke signals to the whole campground that we were clueless. "Just as we were leaving, I was getting the hang of it." The author with her Class C RV. Credit: Brent Humphreys By the last day, we'd had more than our share of screwups, most easy enough to laugh off. But there was one RV task I really couldn't afford to botch. It was time for the Holding Tank. Lindsay followed me outside to offer moral support—and to remind me to run. Fortunately, I didn't get my feet wet, though I did leave a small trail of blue chemicals between our site's dump station and the RV (and hoped no one would notice). ROAD-TESTED TIP #5: "Be sure to get a tutorial on how to empty the holding tanks. One time, we forgot to add chemicals to the black-water tank after emptying it—the smell was terrible, and we quickly learned our lesson." —Laurie Huhndorf, BT reader, San Antonio The payoff for that 5 a.m. waste disposal came when we finally hit the empty road pointing north toward Nags Head, the sky slowly brightening with each mile. The only other travelers out were sea birds and jackrabbits, and I'd long since stopped fretting over every lane change, left turn, or loose kitchen drawer rattling with dishes. Even shutting off the propane at our last gas-station stop was second nature. Finally, just as we were leaving, I was getting the hang of it. Next time, I may even get up the nerve to grill a cheese sandwich or two. Content Presented by RVshare, the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace with more than 100,000 RVs to rent nationwide. RVshare brings RV renters and RV owners together by providing the safest and most secure platform for booking an RV rental. 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Ever think about taking an RV vacation? You aren't alone. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, RV shipments for 2021 were the highest in history at 600,240. 2022 is expected to be around 600,000, a -1.5 percent decrease since 2021, but will still be the 2nd highest year on record. 11.2 million households in the US own an RV, 22 percent of those are between the ages of 19 and 34, and 31 percent are 1st time owners. If you're eager to give RV camping a try, renting/sharing is, of course, your best intro, and over the years Budget Travel editors have compiled a number of tips to ease newbies into the driver's seat: What to expect: The most popular RV rental is the class C "cabover" model, which starts at about 22 feet long and has a front that resembles a pickup truck and a double-bed loft over the driver's seat. Most RVs come with a small sink, refrigerator, stove, and microwave. Class C - Courtesy of RVshare How many people will fit? A 25-foot class C cabover model will sleep three adults and two young children. Larger classes (B and C) may hold up to seven people. How much does it cost? RV rental rates fluctuate the way conventional car rental rates do, depending on time of travel, rental model, and when you make your reservation. In general, the earlier you make the reservation the better the rate, but you should expect to pay at least $300 per day once you factor in the daily rate, taxes, fees, and mileage. License and insurance: You can rent an RV with your regular driver's license, and insurance will work the same as for rental cars, typically covered by your credit card or auto insurance. Where to park: RVs are welcomed at more than 16,000 campgrounds in the U.S., often in state and national parks. Fees typically start at $40 per night (where you'll get a parking spot and possibly a barbecue grill) and go up to about $100 (pricier campgrounds will generally offer more amenities, such as laundry facilities, hot showers, and playgrounds). RV parks should have water and electricity hookups and somewhere to empty your sewage. Class C at night - Courtesy of RVshare In a pinch: You can often park your RV in a Walmart parking lot; just check the signage to make sure it's cool with that particular store. Know before you go: Plan out an RV-friendly route using GPS so that you don't run into overhead clearance problems or routes that don't allow propane tanks. Consider bringing bicycles: Think about it. You don't want to have to pack up the RV every time you want to look for a trailhead or trout stream, right? But if you're going to park your RV for a few days, be sure to run the engine for a few minutes each day to keep the battery charged. Content Presented by RVshare, the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace with more than 100,000 RVs to rent nationwide. RVshare brings RV renters and RV owners together by providing the safest and most secure platform for booking an RV rental. Find the Perfect RV Rental at RVshare
"Mom, you can't trick us-we know you can't drive a house!" my children told me. The more I explained about our RV vacation, the less my kids believed me. They thought the part where the dinner table changed into a bed was either the biggest whopper of all or proof that Mommy had magical powers. In the parking lot at the start of our trip I felt no supernatural talents as I stared in fear at our home on wheels away from home: a rented Winnebago measuring 32 feet-much longer than my living room. But after an hour-long training session, we were on our own. The next day we negotiated the spectacular curves of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. The grown-ups sat in the Barcalounger-type reclinable front seats watching through the four-foot-tall windshield as turkey vultures circled above the tree-covered mountainsides. Sky, clouds, birds, blooming dogwood trees, green valleys, more mountains, large iced drinks in cup holders, two kids buckled in at their own table with toys and a view: "Mom," they announced, "this is the life." Our plan was to travel across Virginia comparing private, public, franchise, and nonfranchise types of campgrounds. Of course, our vehicle itself provided amenities and entertainment. We had a week's worth of groceries and our own electricity and water. We were protected from the bad weather that ruins many a camping vacation and shielded from the wild behavior of vehicle-bound children that ruins many a road trip. (When we reached orange alert levels we-gasp!-popped a movie in the DVD player.) These comforts gave us more time to experience the places we visited. And at all the campgrounds, whether rustic or developed, my kids did not want to leave. Not your average bear Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. These popular campsites, the first type we visited, are filled with families seeking man-made, outdoor fun. RV site prices are usually on the higher end, at some 70 Jellystone Parks across the U.S. and Canada. All of them promise easy-to-RV level sites, where you can pull through to park and quickly hook up water/electric/sewage lines; clean rest rooms and laundry facilities; a pool; a video theater and game rooms; a well-stocked convenience store; and, most important, entertainment. Although the particulars vary, every Jellystone Park offers activities of some kind-theme weeks or weekends, hayrides, arts and crafts, ice cream socials-and equipment like fully loaded playgrounds, sports courts, and bounce houses. Schedules of events are listed on their site; some activities may cost extra. Jellystone park waterslide - Courtesy of Jellystone Park We stayed at a Jellystone Park in Luray, Virginia. The campground was as RV-friendly as expected. It took us about 10 minutes-in the dark, no less-to park, make the RV level, and connect to the hookups for our very first time. In the morning my kids took one look at the 400-foot water slide and the playground with eight slides and dressed themselves at warp speed. The camp-type activities, such as Yogi's birthday week, are in full swing in summer. In the spring and fall, theme weekends ("Junior Ranger: Bugs!") are scheduled. Parental advisory: If you go to the giftie-filled camp store with your kids, expect to endure a heavy round of begging. Uncle Sam, you, and a view National Park campgrounds (reserve by searching nps.gov). Outdoors enthusiasts can stay in the scenery at many National Park campgrounds. Recreation.gov handles some parks; private concessions manage reservations for others. Some parks only permit camping on a first come, first served basis-get there early! The National Park Web site gives reservations details and tells which parks offer full hookups and which offer no facilities and less-than-RV-friendly warnings, like "RV sites may not be level." On average camping usually costs less than $50, (not including park admission) but really varies by park and season. We left Yogi's Jellystone for Shenandoah, a real national park, where the amenities are mostly those provided by Mother Nature. The campsites at the edge of the quiet Big Meadows campground provide a high-altitude sleeping spot overlooking a beautiful series of valleys and mountains. RV sites (some pull-throughs) with picnic tables and fire grates cost $30. There are no hookups, but there are stations to fill up your water tank and dump that other tank. Generators can only be used until 8 p.m. After that, for hot running water you can use the bathhouse with its coin-operated showers. We headed out to the Appalachian Trail and ate ice cream, fresh pineapple, and strawberries-a picnic made possible with the help of an RV kitchen. Shenandoah National Park Follow the yellow-signed road KOA or Kampgrounds of America. Bright-yellow signs with a tent logo lead the way to more than 500 franchises of KOA in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Vacationing families come, snowbird retirees come, overnight visitors en route to other destinations come-millions of campers a year stay at a KOA. Most sites cost $40 to $80. Visitors know that certain facilities are standard: clean rest rooms and laundry rooms, full hookup pull-through sites, an inviting pool, playground, game room, and a fully stocked store. Entertainment, however, varies with the individual KOA's location. Some franchise owners offer pancake breakfasts, river tubing, 25-person hot tubs, rental cars, and wireless Internet connections; some offer quiet country settings. We stayed at the Charlottesville KOA, which has a peaceful, woodsy setting with hiking trails, a fishing pond, and all the KOA offerings. The friendly owners have preserved the traditional sleeping-in-the-woods experience. Many of the sites, including the one we stayed at, are shaded by trees. In the summer, family movies are shown nightly at a central pavilion, and Saturday night is ice cream social time. The Governors' own State park campgrounds. State parks offer all kinds of inexpensive, unspoiled opportunities that only the locals may know about. You have to research state by state because there are no complete clearinghouses for state parks. Search state park or campground and the name of the state you want to visit. You may even find reservation systems for some states. The site www.reserveamerica.com lists campgrounds in 44 states. There is a may be a charge for reserving through this site. State tourism offices and web sites also provide camping information. I was amazed to find that Virginia State Parks has 23 reservable RV campgrounds. Most offer electric and water hookups, usually $40 to $50 a site, including park admission. We stayed at Chippokes Plantation State Park in the peanut-farm country of Surry. This park was full of surprises-we could tour the plantation's mansion, formal gardens, and agricultural area complete with chickens, cows, and crops. Or we could swim (the pool was huge), hike, fish, or look for marine fossils on the beach. In the campground, the host helped us back into our site. We had hookups for water and 30-amp (one appliance at a time) electricity. We felt like we had the woods to ourselves. We roasted marshmallows way past bedtime and were able to wash off all the stickiness. For our next day's adventure, we drove onto the Pocahontas, a free ferry, to cross the river into Jamestown and Williamsburg. My husband and I argued over who could drive onto the ferry. (I won.) Chippokes Plantation State Park - Credit: IStock - Douglas Rissing Stop at Mom-and-Pop's Local, independent campgrounds. An independently owned campground might be located just where you want to stay. It might be cheaper than a franchised campground. It might have all the amenities you want-or, it might not. Sites like Hipcamp and RVshare have RV campground searched that you can use. Our final campground, Aquia Pines Camp Resort in Stafford, a privately owned, nonfranchise operation, was actually the most high tech of all. Free WiFi, there was a well-stocked store, pool, game room, and an elaborate playground. After we ate our Indian dinner, we sat outside, faintly hearing one neighbor's birthday party and another's reggae, and enjoyed the campfire we made in a big, old washtub. When we switched vehicles for the trip home, our car crammed with all the goods so neatly stowed in our RV, my kids started asking, "Are we there yet?" My husband and I laughed-we hadn't heard that once on our RV vacation. Content Presented by RVshare, the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace with more than 100,000 RVs to rent nationwide. RVshare brings RV renters and RV owners together by providing the safest and most secure platform for booking an RV rental. Find the Perfect RV Rental at RVshare
Western Maryland is home to some of the most beautiful places to go hiking in the eastern U.S., as well as three scenic byways — the Maryland Historic National Road Scenic Byway, The Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Scenic Byway, and The Antietam Campaign Scenic Byway — all of which make terrific options for your next great summer road trip. In Washington County, you’ll find everything from historic homes and forts dating back to the early 18th century to battlefields and cemeteries telling the stories of those who helped change the course of the Civil War. Here’s where every history buff should visit on their next trip to this fascinating corner of the country. Historic Civil War Battlefields Antietam National Battlefield - Courtesy of nps.gov Perhaps the most well-known historic site in Western Maryland, Antietam National Battlefield is where the bloodiest single-day battle in American history took place, with 23,000 soldiers losing their lives or wounded that fateful day on September 17, 1862. Along with Union victories at nearby Monocacy National Battlefield and South Mountain State Battlefield, the fighting helped turn the tide of the Civil War and led Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation, which happened a few days later on September 22, 1862. While a number of events will be held over the weekend of September 17, 2022, to mark the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (check the website) you can learn more about its significance and those who died there at the Newcomer House visitor center and pay your respects at the nearby Antietam National Cemetery. Stop by the Pry House Field Hospital Museum for a look at Civil War medicine, or for a unique take on the battle, hit the Antietam Creek Water Trail to visit a number of key sites by kayak or canoe. Located just outside Boonsboro, South Mountain State Battlefield marks the site of Maryland’s first Civil War battle, which ended in a Union victory and essentially prevented a Confederate invasion. About 15 minutes away, pay your respects to the many journalists and artists killed while covering the Civil War at the War Correspondents Memorial Arch in Gathland State Park, built by George Alfred Townsend, himself a Civil War correspondent, in 1896. Sites Dating Back to the Early 18th and 19th Centuries Fort Frederick Living History - Credit Visit Hagerstown Nestled along the Potomac River and built in 1756 to protect early settlers during and after the French and Indian War, Fort Frederick was also used to hold British prisoners during the Revolutionary War. By 1860, the farmland that now makes up Fort Frederick State Park was owned by Nathan Williams, the second-richest free African American man in all of Washington County, who continued to grow and sell crops to both armies during the Civil War, all while helping slaves to escape through this part of Maryland. Learn more about the fort’s fascinating past, then stroll one of its scenic nature trails. For a change in scenery and the chance to take on some of the area’s scenic hikes including a small section of the legendary Appalachian Trail, head to Washington Monument State Park. In 1827, Boonsboro residents constructed a massive 30-foot tall stone tower — the first-ever Washington Monument — in honor of our first president. Hike to check it out in person, then stop by the museum for more background information about its role in local history. Learn more about Hagerstown’s German immigrant founder at the Jonathan Hager House Museum, where you can tour the home he constructed in 1739. What began as “Hager’s Fancy,” a frontier fort at the western edge of the Maryland colony that later served as a trading post, was purchased by the Washington County Historical Society in 1944 and opened as a museum in 1962. Today, you can visit the historic home and view its furnishings, preserved as they were during the property’s 18th-century heyday. Black History Sites in Washington County While slavery did play a significant part in the region’s history from the early 18th century until Maryland abolished it in 1864, Hagerstown is home to several Underground Railroad sites you can visit today. Read the historic markers along Jonathan Street to learn about the legacy of African Americans who helped put Hagerstown on the map, like Walter Harmon, a wealthy entrepreneur who built 37 houses, a bowling alley, a dance hall, and the Harmon Hotel, highlighted in The Green Book as one of the only accommodations open to Black travelers during segregation. It also happens to be where baseball legend and Hall of Famer Willie Mays stayed in 1950 when he played his first professional game with the Trenton Giants at Municipal Stadium. Kennedy Farm House John Brown HQ - Credit: Visit Hagerstown Closer to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Kennedy Farm was the staging area for abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry. Meant to help create a republic for fugitive slaves, the raid went on for three days but was ultimately unsuccessful. His followers, a mix of Black and white abolitionists, were captured or killed, while Brown himself was tried for treason and hanged a few months later. It did, however, instill a sense of fierce conflict between northerners and southerners regarding the practice of slavery that only intensified over the next two years until the start of the Civil War. Today, the John Brown Raid Headquarters is a National Historic Landmark, though it’s temporarily closed for restoration. Also worth a look are two of Hagerstown’s oldest African American churches, the Asbury United Methodist Church, founded in 1818 (its current building dates to 1879, as it was rebuilt after a fire), and the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1840. For more information about the region’s rich African American history and culture, head to the Doleman Black Heritage Museum, which houses a vast collection of photos, books, birth records, deeds of slave sales, paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries. CARD WIDGET HERE
There’s something for everyone in Washington County, Maryland, whether it’s your first trip or you keep returning to your favorite scenic nature trails over and over again. With summer just around the corner, now is the time to start planning your next great road trip. Located about three hours from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, or 90 minutes from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, this particular part of the state is full of historic Civil War battlefields and scenic byways showcasing the area’s natural beauty. If you’re up for a memorable drive full of history, hiking trails, charming small towns, historic inns, wineries, breweries, and plenty of Americana, add these three scenic byways to your next Western Maryland road trip itinerary. The Maryland Historic National Road Scenic Byway Historic National Road - Credit: Scott Cantner While the entire Historic National Road reaches across six states from Baltimore, Maryland, to East St. Louis, Illinois, a large portion of Maryland’s stretch of it passes through Washington County, following Maryland Route 144 and US Route 40 Scenic (also called US Route 40 Alternate), which runs parallel to US Route 40 from Frederick to Hagerstown. As you drive on the scenic byway, built between 1811 and 1834 and dotted with historic sites, charming small towns, and stunning natural scenery, it’s not hard to imagine early American settlers and traders traveling along the same route in their horse-drawn carriages. Popular stops within Washington County include Washington Monument State Park, where you can hike a small section of the legendary Appalachian Trail and view the first stone monument ever created in honor of George Washington, and South Mountain State Park, which is located nearby and part of a popular migratory trail. Visit the National Road Museum in Boonsboro to learn more about US Route 40, the first federally funded highway in the U.S., and snap photos of the town’s charming 19th-century buildings. Nora Roberts fans can also make a pilgrimage to her beloved Turn the Page Bookstore and Café, where she still does the occasional book signing, or stay at the Inn BoonsBoro, a literary-themed bed and breakfast opened by the esteemed bestselling author and her husband in 2009. Head to Big Cork Vineyards for a glass of locally made wine or enjoy a meal at Old South Mountain Inn, known for its dining since 1732. Antietam Brewey - Credit: Scott Cantner Spend some time in Hagerstown, often referred to as the “Hub City” due to its location at the crossroads of several major trading routes — by land and water — and eventually, because of its many modern-day railway and highway connections. If you’re craving a little culture on your road trip, visit the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts or catch a show at The Maryland Theatre, where the Maryland Symphony Orchestra is based. Stroll along the Hagerstown Cultural Trail, which connects the theatre district with the fine arts museum in City Park. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Hagerstown, Antietam Brewery is worth a stop for its creative craft brews, tasting room, behind-the-scenes tours, and outdoor patio, while Blue Mountain Wine Crafters in nearby Funktown offers a dog-friendly stop for lovers of all things vino. Next, head west to Ford Frederick State Park in Big Pool, home to a unique stone fort that dates back to 1756 and once protected Maryland during the French and Indian War — it’s also home to several hiking trails where you can spot white-tailed deer, birds, turtles, and other wetland wildlife. Nearby, seafood lovers can tuck into crab cakes, crab legs, oyster po’boys, and other surf and turf delights like prime rib and smoked beef brisket sandwiches at Jimmy Joy’s Log Cabin Inn — just make sure you save room for homemade coconut cake or Queen City Creamery frozen custard for dessert. Other places worth checking out along the scenic byway include the Town Hill Overlook in Little Orleans and, just beyond Washington County’s boundaries, Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, the Great Allegheny Passage (which starts in Cumberland, Maryland and ends in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and charming small towns like Cumberland, Frostburg, and Grantsville, gateway to Casselman River Bridge State Park. If you’re short on time, consider breaking up your Maryland Historic National Road Scenic Byway road trip by interest or section, as its Eastern and Western portions extend well beyond Washington County and cover all sorts of historic sites, quaint country towns, and other intriguing attractions. The Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Scenic Byway Lockhouse on C&O Canal near Cushwa Basin - Credit: Betsy DeVore Travel along the C&O Canal Scenic Byway from Cumberland to Hagerstown and points beyond via several Maryland routes (65, 63, 68, 56, 51, and 144, as well as I-70 and US 40), following the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historic Park, an extensive 184.5-mile waterway connecting Washington, D.C. with Cumberland, Maryland. The C&O Canal Towpath runs alongside it, acting as a major destination for runners, cyclists, and anyone in need of a long walk by the Potomac River. If you prefer a paved path, the adjacent Western Maryland Rail Trail, which runs 28 miles between Big Pool and Little Orleans, makes a great option for those longing to stretch their legs. While Williamsport is a major center of activity along the C&O Canal Scenic Byway, with opportunities to check out the inner workings of the lock during a 1900s-era boat ride or by spending the night in a traditional lockhouse, there are a few other spots worth visiting along the canal as well. In Hancock, grab a bite or pick up some locally made souvenirs at The Blue Goose Market, home to a popular bakery, then stop by the visitor center to learn more about the town’s history beside the busy canal system. Get some fresh air by taking a hike in the Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area, home to some of the area’s oldest geology, as well as songbirds, white-tailed deer, black bears, grouse, and wild turkeys. If time allows, hike up to Paw Paw Tunnel, which takes you up from the campground through a pitch-black tunnel (don’t forget to bring a flashlight!) so you can view waterfalls on the other side. If you’ve managed to work up an appetite after all that, head to Buddy Lou’s Antiques and Eats for delicious Southern-style treats like fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese, and crabcake sandwiches. Another popular canal town, Sharpsburg, is known for its proximity to Antietam National Battlefield and for being part of its own scenic byway. The Antietam Campaign Scenic Byway Antietam Old Simon Civil War Soldier - Credit Scott Cantner Think of the Antietam Campaign Scenic Byway as the ultimate open-air Civil War museum, taking visitors from White’s Ferry along several Maryland Routes — 107 and 109 to Hyattstown, 355 to Frederick, US Route 40 Alternate to Middletown, 17 to Gathland State Park, 67 to Knoxville, 340 to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and US Route 40 Alternate — through Middletown and Boonsboro to Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg. Popular stops include historic White’s Ferry, C&O Canal National Historical Park (which we just talked about), and Little Bennett Regional Park in Hyattstown. Next, you’ll hit Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, where the fighting raged on and essentially saved Washington, D.C. from a Confederate invasion, Gathland State Park, home to a large stone monument created to honor Civil War correspondents, and South Mountain State Battlefield, which helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Union. Antietam Battlefield - Credit: National Park Service The scenic byway ends at its most well-known stop, Antietam National Battlefield, where on September 17, 1862, roughly 23,000 soldiers were killed in what is now known as the bloodiest single-day battle in American history — check the website, as there will be special events held over the weekend of September 17, 2022, to mark the 160th anniversary. All year long, you can learn about the battle and those who fought and died there at the visitor center, hear about Civil War medicine at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, and reflect on the lives that were lost at Antietam National Cemetery. Raise a glass to history and those who came before at Antietam Creek Vineyards, also located in Sharpsburg, offering several locally made vintage white, red, and rosé wines and views of the nearby battlefield. CARD WIDGET HEREVisit Hagerstown
It began as a harmless, ‘what-if’ conversation with my then-husband (fondly referred to as my ‘wasband’ these days), about putting on a festival on a ranch overlooking the ocean. We’d already been producing a very small art and wine festival in a quaint rural community on the Russian River, in Sonoma County California, and had been approached by a local landowner wanting a festival on his property. The ranch owner had offered his land and this opportunity to us at a time in our lives when we were least prepared to accept it. Both of us were craftspeople: Michael was (is) a photographer and I made hand dyed and printed women’s clothing. We both traveled to various places in the country to do art shows, and we're in the final stages of leaving our Sebastopol home to rent a house in Key Largo, Florida for the winter months. We’d each booked nine festivals back there, as there were none during this season close to home. We visited the ranch, we're intrigued by the possibilities, but unsure how we could put on a new festival when we’d be on the East Coast until April, but we gave him a tentative yes. When we hit the road we looked like something out of Grapes of Wrath, Michael’s van towing mine, each loaded to near-explosion with everything we’d need for three months away from home. The endless miles between us and southern Florida opened up a world of conversations. Festival creators Michael and Janet - Courtesy of Janet Ciel “What if we did a seafood festival?” Michael was flipping through a publication called Sunshine Artists, which had hundreds of festivals, fairs, art shows listed, all in the Gulf States. I was driving, or trying to. Towing something this back-heavy meant the front of the van barely touched the ground, making steering this monstrosity akin to maneuvering a bumper car. “I mean, the ranch overlooks the ocean, and there are a ton of seafood festivals in Florida, but there’s nothing quite like this in our area.” I had to admit, it did sound like a good idea. And so it began. Being in Florida we got to see firsthand how some of these events were set up, and found most to be carnival-like. Since our world revolved around artists, we determined this would have to be a high quality event, to draw fine art and craft-vendors and an appreciative crowd, even if it was on a dusty horse ranch. From our little condo in Key Largo we sent solicitations out to all the artists and craftspeople we knew. We reached out to food vendors, wineries, tenting companies, graphics people, and more. By the time we returned in mid-April we found ourselves deep into full-blown festival production, and by the end of August of 1993 the first Bodega BAY Seafood, Art and Wine Festival opened its gates. We had almost eighty artists, several dozen wineries participating in a tasting, a dozen food vendors, including a couple of local seafood restaurants, and excellent entertainment. Courtesy of Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival For ten years we held the event every August on the ranch, located just north of the village of Bodega Bay on Highway 1, a scant two hours from San Francisco and other Bay Area locales. It had horse rental facilities, a bed and breakfast, and ample space for the 7000+ attendees. At times the location was a spectacular asset, when the skies were clear and the views picture-postcard worthy, but more often than not the site was enshrouded in thick fog or had fierce winds, which destroyed artists’ tents and merchandise. Because it was a horse ranch there was a constant pile of horse manure in the parking lot, and an accompanying stench that, though some might have considered charming and rural, vendors and the health department were not so fondly inclined. You might note the word BAY is capitalized in a previous paragraph, and wonder why. It’s because the festival is no longer located in Bodega BAY, but rather in the village of Bodega. Year eleven we were fortunate to find a beautiful ranch inland from our previous location. On Highway 12, or Bodega Highway, Watts Ranch sits across the road from the famous schoolhouse featured in the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds, in the teeny village of Bodega, one mile inland and four miles south of our previous site. With a large willow bank to the west blocking the wind, no horses or cows, and generally warmer and more pleasant conditions, the new home for the festival has continued to be the perfect spot for this wonderful event. Yes, Michael is now my ‘wasband,’ but we still produce the festival together. This is year twenty-six for us, and you’ll find similarities to the very first years, but lots of growth as well. Besides attendance having increased over the years we now have more than a hundred fine artists and craftspeople filling the aisles, along with fifteen+ food vendors, featuring all types of food, with an emphasis on seafood. Crabcakes, oysters, calamari, fish tacos, shrimp Louie, and dozens of other dishes are available, along with lots of chicken, meat and vegetarian options and bevy of desserts. Courtesy of Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival/ Margot Duane The Wine, Microbrew and Cider Tasting is a very popular part of the festival, featuring 50+ companies. Customers buy a commemorative glass and 6 tastes (1/3 of a glass). They can buy additional taste tickets for $3 each. They can also buy wine and beer by the bottle/6pack to take home, or beer and wine by the glass, which is available at the Beer/Wine Booth. For those who love to go wine tasting, imagine being able to taste dozens of wines and beers in one location. Three stages of entertainment keep the energy high throughout the weekend. Two stages feature blues, jazz, Latin, Cajun Zydeco, and other excellent music, and the third stage has comedy, magic, juggling and more. We have a large dance floor at the main stage, which is generally filled with joyful dancers. We love families and have wonderful kids’ activities, including interactive exhibits set up by our beneficiary, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, the non-profit working in conjunction with the California State Parks in the Russian River region. The festival also benefits the Bodega Volunteer Fire Department, and ours is an event that welcomes (and gives discounts to) firefighters and first responders. Our area has seen its share of fire in recent years, and we’re forever grateful to the men and women who put their safety on the line to protect ours. We’re a scant few miles from the ocean, so the festival is a perfect add-on to a beach adventure. We’re also a ways down the coast from the Russian River, another popular day outing which works nicely paired with a few hours of eating, drinking, dancing and shopping. So Hold Onto Your Halibut! Bodega Seafood, Art & Wine Festival is August 27th and 28th from 10am-6pm on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday. Watts Ranch is at 16855 Bodega Highway, in Bodega California 94922. More information can be found at www.bodegaseafoodfestival.com. Don’t miss it!
Gas prices have fluctuated significantly in the US (& the wider world), therefore, drivers will be paying very different prices for gas. Missouri is the state with the cheapest gas prices - it is now $0.13 more affordable than previous leader Mississippi. Despite this, prices have still risen by over a dollar in the past year. Kansas now ranks as the second most affordable, with a gallon of fuel costing a total of $3.80. Oklahoma is classified as the third most affordable state: a gallon of fuel costs just $0.01 more than in Kansas. Top 10 states with Cheapest gas prices: Missouri $3.78Kansas $3.80Oklahoma $3.81Arkansas $3.81Maryland $3.81Texas $3.86Nebraska $3.87Iowa $3.89Mississippi $3.91North Dakota $3.92Minnesota $3.92South Carolina $3.92 The study also looked at the most expensive states for US drivers: California was found to be the most expensive state for drivers. Fuel prices in California have risen 29.53% since last year, making it the most expensive state by $0.66. Top states with most expensive gas prices: California $5.91Nevada $5.25Hawaii $5.16Alaska $4.74Washington $4.73 To see more of this study click here.
Here are our top picks for how to escape the crowds and find a slice of pristine wilderness in some of the country’s most visited national parks. Mineral King Found in Sequoia National Park Sure, you’ll have to drive an hour down a rugged dirt road to get to Sequoia’s Mineral King area, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada Range and plentiful hiking and backpacking opportunities. The trail up to Franklin Lakes (12 miles round trip) is an awesome day hike or overnight trek, passing by waterfalls and, in summer, spectacular wildflowers. Serious adventurers might want to tack on a 3-4 day journey over Franklin Pass to secluded Kern Hot Springs. East Inlet Trail Found in Rocky Mountain National Park Situated on the far less traveled, western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, the East Inlet Trail is a great jumping off point for hikers seeking big mountain vistas, wildlife, waterfalls, and, most importantly, solitude. The trail starts with Adams Falls, then steadily climbs up through a mountainous valley, with views getting better the further your climb. It’s a 16-mile round trip to Spirit Lake, and an even farther overnight trek for those who want to travel to Fourth Lake and over Boulder Grand Pass. Kolob Canyon is a little-visited area in Utah's Zion National Park © Nickolay Stanev / Shutterstock Kolob Canyon Found in Zion National Park Located in the park’s northern, higher elevation section, Kolob Canyon has all the fabulous red rock and big vistas that you’d expect from Zion, but with far fewer crowds. Take a scenic drive along East Kolob Canyon Road, then go on a hike amidst towering, rust-colored fins and escarpments on the La Verkin Creek Trail. Serious trekkers won’t want to miss Kolob Arch (15 miles round trip – mostly flat) as a long day hike or a mellow backpacking trip along a gently burbling creek (permits available online or at the visitor center). Schooner Head Overlook & Tide Pools Found in Acadia National Park Download a tide schedule app onto your phone, then traverse the Park Loop Road to Schooner Head Overlook. Head down to the rocky seashore at low tide to check out numerous tide pools filled with barnacles, sea urchins, and crabs, just watch out for slippery seaweed on the rocks. Visitors comfortable scrambling on wet rocks will definitely want to check out Anemone Cave, which can be accessed only at low tide via careful rock-hopping. Like the NPS, we don't recommend entering the cave, but the interior can be safely viewed from the rocks nearby. You'll have quiet places like Hetch Hetchy Reservoir all to yourself © Nickolay Stanev / Shutterstock Hetch Hetchy Found in Yosemite National Park Located in the least-visited northwestern quadrant of the park, Hetch Hetchy is an area John Muir once called “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” Unfortunately, the valley was dammed to create a reservoir for drinking water, but the surrounding mountainous landscape is still spectacular and free of the usual hustle and bustle of the rest of Yosemite. Visitors can day hike here or check out an epic, 25-mile backpacking loop that traverses several of the area’s stunning lakes and waterfalls. Go in spring for rainbow bursts of alpine wildflowers. Sidewinder Canyon Found in Death Valley National Park Just 20 minutes by car from Badwater Basin lies a small, unsigned parking lot and a vague trail leading toward a series of three slot canyons. After hiking .6 miles up an imposing desert wash, visitors here can squeeze, shimmy, and scramble through narrow breccia rock formations. Grab detailed, printed directions for the 5-mile (round trip) journey at the ranger station in Furnace Creek if you’re at all nervous about off-trail exploration, and be sure to pack plenty of water. With the water from this nearby waterfall rushing by, the Sinks is a perfect place for a relaxing swim © Ehrlif / iStock / Getty The Sinks Swimming Hole Found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Enjoy one of the most picturesque spots on the Little River Road scenic drive, located just 12 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Travelers here can hang out on the massive river boulders, relax near a rushing waterfall, and swim in the clear, natural pools to cool down on a hot, summer day. The bravest of your group might even want to try cliff diving from the nearby rocks, a popular activity among locals. Bogachiel River Trail Found in Olympic National Park Bypass the ever-popular Hoh Rain Forest Trail while still enjoying the same temperate rainforest ecosystem, filled with verdant spruce, mossy alders, and gardens of sword fern. Hikers can go the distance and parallel the river for a 12-mile round-trip out-and-back or simply turn around whenever they’ve seen enough. At .3 miles from the trailhead is a junction with the Kestner Homestead Loop, which is a lovely, accessible trail to an old barn, house, and outbuildings that colors the historic significance of the area. The Lone Star Geyser is a little out of the way, but it offers the spectacle of Old Faithful without the crowds © Kris Wiktor / Shutterstock Lone Star Geyser Found in Yellowstone National Park Escape the madness at Old Faithful and visit Lone Star Geyser instead. A mellow, 4.8-mile (round trip) hike or bike ride down an old park road takes visitors here through a dense pine forest, occasionally opening up to beautiful meadow views. At the turn-around point is Lone Star Geyser. The geyser erupts about every three hours, so use a geyser times app to check the predicted schedule. It’s a great spot to hike to for lunch and hang out as you wait for the geyser to blow. Be sure to download the NPS Yellowstone App onto your phone before going on this hike – there’s little to no cell service inside the park. Shoshone Point captures the scope of the Grand Canyon without the crowds seen at more popular spots © Chr. Offenberg / Shutterstock Shoshone Point Found in Grand Canyon National Park Shoshone Point has all the grandeur of Mather Point and Bright Angel, without the throngs of crowds that can make it difficult to snap a decent picture. That’s because travelers here have to walk an easy, 1-mile (each way) former service road to get to the viewpoint. Gaze out at layer upon layer of bright red canyon rock and try to catch a glimpse of the powerful Colorado River, a vertical mile beneath your feet. Go at sunrise to have the place all to yourself.
We spend years dreaming of life beyond the daily grind, but when retirement finally comes around, the options can be overwhelming! If you’re looking for where to start, the team at Coventry compiled and analyzed data that might be able to help you decide. They ranked the 50 most populous cities in America to find the best cities for retirees to visit. Factors included everything from the average cost of accommodation, transportation, and food and drink, to airfare, entertainment opportunities, and the percentage of the retiree population. Notably, two Florida cities made the top 5 best cities and two made the worst! Here’s what they found: The Best Cities for Retirees to Visit Bayfront Park in Miami - Florida USA / IStock - Working In Media While the majority of the cities in the top 20 list are located in warmer climates year-round, cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle, and a few others make the list. Hopefully, retirees will be visiting in the warmer months, although there are still a lot of things to do in these cities. Baltimore, Philadelphia, Providence, San Diego, and San Francisco all boast a high number of art and theater events. #1 Miami, Florida #2 Tampa, Florida #3 Phoenix, Arizona #4 Cleveland, Ohio #5 Dallas, Texas The Worst Cities for Retirees to Visit Aerial view of Las Vegas strip in Nevada / IStock - f11photo Cost was a big factor when ranking these cities with 6 out of our 8 ranking factors analyzing this metric, so it’s no surprise cities like Las Vegas and New York make the top 10 worst cities for retirees to visit. The accommodation costs alone in Las Vegas are $147 more than the number one spot, Miami. #1 Las Vegas, Nevada #2 Orlando, Florida #3 New York, New York #4 Indianapolis, Indiana #5 Jacksonville, Florida Find the full list and detailed rankings here.