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Category Archives: National Park

Ghost Town Of Terlingua, TX, Exploring Big Bend National Park And Lunch In Mexico Across The Rio Grande

Our Site At Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, Texas

Our Site At Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, Texas

 

So back in February we were in Lajitas, Texas which is down by Big Bend National Park. In our previous post we told you all about the rv park that we stayed at, Maverick Ranch RV Resort. Now it’s time to tell you about exploring the surrounding area. 

Not to far from Lajitas, TX and the Maverick Ranch RV Park is the old Chisos Mining Company town, that is now the historical ghost town of Terlingua, TX. In the booming days of mining the Cinnabar, by 1903, 3000 people populated the area. However once the mine shut down and the people left, the town dried up. As of the 2010 US census, the town’s population had a whopping 58 people that still reside in Terlingua. Most are artists and dreamers, setting up shop to sell their goods to the tourists that keep this community alive. 

 

La Posado Milagro Cafe In Terlingua, TX

La Posado Milagro Cafe In Terlingua, TX

J. Michael Combs and Friend Entertaining The Breakfast Crowd

J. Michael Combs and Friend Entertaining The Breakfast Crowd

 

We came across a great breakfast cafe in town called La Posado Milagro Cafe. They had great breakfast burritos and a great view while eating them but what really blew us away was their entertainment. Artist J. Michael Combs and his friend were entertaining the crowd with their whimsical songs, fluttering guitar talent as well as an accordion, banjo and others. 

When we got to talking to J. Michael he mentioned that he was playing at the Starlight Theater and that David should join him on his Cajon

The Starlight Theater is a famous theater down in that area were entertainers from all over the globe come to play. So when J. Michael had invited David to play, that was a great opportunity. 

The Starlight Theater In Terlingua, TX

The Starlight Theater In Terlingua, TX

David Playing At The Starlight Theater In Terlingua, TX

David Playing At The Starlight Theater In Terlingua, TX

 

It was a great time had by all. People were up dancing and enjoying themselves. David was blown away at how entertaining these guys were and he felt very privileged to be able to play with them at such a great venue, the entire 3 hours mind you. 

Terlingua is a great place to explore for the day or even a few hours. On Saturdays there is a small but nice Farmer’s Market. Make sure you visit India with her home made fresh baked goods and jams. A small community garden, a historical cemetery and ruins from the old mining days will round out your visit. The air is fresh and the nights are filled with bright starry skies. Terlingua, TX is small, don’t get me wrong but it’s a place we remember fondly and when we get back to this area some day, we will definitely go back to Terlingua. 

Big Bend National Park, TX

Big Bend National Park, TX

Birds Nests Along The Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

Birds Nests Along The Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

 

Another day we went and explored some of Big Bend National Park. I say some of the park because it’s the 15th largest National Park with over 800,000 acres, there is no way to see it in one visit. First we hiked the Hot Springs Historic Trail. With it’s high walled canyons and desert terrain, it leads past some ruins and old historical homes and businesses and leads you right to a 105 degree temperature Hot Spring that butts up next to the Rio Grande. So make sure you wear your swimsuit to soak a while. 

Hot Springs Historical Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

Hot Springs Historical Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

Historical Building Along The Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

Historical Building Along The Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

 

 

 

 

 

You can really see how straight up and high these canyon walls go. It was amazing for us to see the nests that the birds build right on the side of these walls. 

 

 

 

 

The Rio Grande On The Hot Springs Historical Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

The Rio Grande On The Hot Springs Historical Trail In Big Bend National Park, TX

 

 

 

The Rio Grande in some places, this being one of them, was really flowing heavily. The natural Hot Springs were right next to the river which makes for a great view. And yes, that is Mexico on the left side of the picture, across the river.

 

 

 

Speaking of Mexico, while you are exploring Big Bend National Park, you must make a trip into Boquillas, Mexico for lunch. This is such a unique opportunity we could not pass it up. Plan ahead though because even though this is a small border crossing, you still need your passport and to check in and out of customs and they are not open every day.

Crossing Into Mexico Through Big Bend National Park, TX

Crossing Into Mexico Through Big Bend National Park, TX

Row Boat Into Mexico From Big Bend National Park, TX

Row Boat Into Mexico From Big Bend National Park, TX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of you reading have been to Mexico, whether you walked across from a southern state or drove. What makes this crossing unique is yes, it is in the National Park but more so because you cross over the Rio Grande in a row boat. Yup, you heard me right. A man comes over from Mexico, in his row boat, and brings you across, for $5 US Dollars round trip. Then when you get to Mexico you have the option of going into town on horse, burro, back of a pick up truck or walking. A small fee is attached to each of these modes of transportation as well. It was $8 US Dollars round trip for each of our horses. It’s about 1 mile into the small town of Boquillas. 

Boquillas, Mexico

Boquillas, Mexico

Boquillas, Mexico

Boquillas, Mexico

Once in Boquillas, there is not much to this town. They have a hospital (really just a couple medical rooms), a school and 2 restaurants. Both restaurants are owned by the same family. We were mainly there to eat lunch and just look a round a little bit.

Lunch At Jose Falcon's Restaurant In Boquillas, Mexico

Lunch At Jose Falcon’s Restaurant In Boquillas, Mexico

Cold Cokes, Tequila And Fresh Made Tortillas

Cold Cokes, Tequila And Fresh Made Tortillas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We chose Jose Falcon’s Restaurant. With great views, fresh tortillas, cold Cokes and tequila. Cause you know…when in Mexico…Tequila! 

It was a great little respite from the heat of Mexico. We wandered around town a little bit but again, not much to see there. Everyone was selling the same little trinkets outside every home. 

One thing I forgot to mention. When you cross over into Mexico, you are assigned a guide. He must stay with you during your visit to Boquillas. So while we were eating lunch and enjoying the view, our guide was hanging out with his fellow guide friends. He spoke no English at all so trying to ask him questions was useless. At times it felt awkward to have someone waiting on you or following you down the road. What even got us was, when we chose the horses to get into and out of town, he was not allowed to get on a horse himself. He had to walk behind the horses. 

Boquillas, Mexico

Boquillas, Mexico

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, we really enjoyed our time in Boquillas. It was a unique experience and made for some great memories. We don’t however, see a need to go back. 

We enjoyed our time in Big Bend National Park. We enjoyed visitng Boquillas, Mexico but we really enjoyed were the quiet nights, star filled skies and general peacefulness of the area. We look forward to going back to Maverick Ranch RV park and exploring even deeper into the area. Two weeks was not nearly enough. 

 

 

 

 

Maverick Ranch RV Park Review In Lajitas, Texas

Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, Texas

Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, Texas

When we were exploring the Big Bend National Park area in the lower western tip of Texas, we stayed at the Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, Texas

First Lajitas, Texas. Lajitas is an unincorporated town located between Big Band National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Yes, I did not know there was also a state park named Big Bend, but there is.

“Welcome To The Other Side Of Nowhere” is the saying down here. Where you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere but sometimes that is exactly what you need. Just to get away from the cities and the noise. To go somewhere were the skies are vast, the views are spectacular and the air is pure. The hiking and off-roading trails are boundless and plentiful, so be sure to bring your Jeep or dirt bike. What you don’t get a lot of here is options. There are a few decent and some what famous restaurants around the area but there are no big grocery stores, just a small corner store where you can get the basics and meet the local mayor, who happens to be a goat. A, dare I say, bigger store is about half an hour away in the town of Study-Butte, TX with a population of a whole 267 people. So you can imagine the size of that store. We were surprised and happy to see that they did carry Blue Bell Ice Cream though.

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

There are a few RV parks to chose from when you are visiting the Big Bend area. Some are closer to Big Bend National Park and are located right in Study-Butte. However, we chose to stay a little further out at Maverick Ranch RV Park. Maverick Ranch RV Park is part of a luxury resort with a world class golf course (which we don’t play), spa, Equestrian center, Skeet and Clay shooting, Zip lines, restaurants and even an International Airport so you can fly in with your private jet. When you stay at the rv park, you are privy to partake in all of the resort and it’s activities, for an additional fee of course.  

Restaurant At Lajitas Resort

Restaurant At Lajitas Resort

Shops And Rooms At Lajitas Resort

Shops And Rooms At Lajitas Resort

Enjoying A Prickly Pear Margarita While David Plays With Trevor Hickle

Enjoying A Prickly Pear Margarita While David Plays With Trevor Hickle

 

 

 

 

 

David got to play with Trevor Hickle one night in the Thirsty Goat Saloon while I sat and enjoyed a Prickly Pear Margarita, a specialty down there. We had dinner there as well. It was good food but let’s just say that it certainly reflected resort prices and leave it at that. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Park had some nice big sites, enough for our 45 foot Motor Coach and Jeep. Some back in spots were shorter but most were plenty long. We were in site 29 and we had no issue leveling our coach. Being right on the end we had a nice grassy corner next to us and the WiFi antenna was right across the way. We are happy to report that their WiFi actually was usable and worked thru out our stay. This was a good thing because the one thing we did not think when we booked this place, about being down in such a remote location, was our Verizon signal. Our phones were on extended network. Even with our cell phone booster, we could only stand in one spot (near the antenna booster) inside our rig to make calls. Our Verizon MiFi box was on roaming. So having the parks WiFi work well was a real big plus in our book. 

The Office At Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

The Office At Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

 

The wonderful ladies in the office know all the great things to do in the area. They also have a big community center, laundry facilities and full bathrooms for your convenience. Weekly entertainment can be found in the community center as well as in the lounges and restaurants. 

The Maverick Ranch RV Park was a great jumping off point to our adventures in the area. We set out to explore Big Bend, of course, as well as the towns of Study-Butte and Terlingua, TX.  

National Geographic named highway 170 as a must drive and one of the “True Last Frontiers” to explore. When you make your way into the Big Bend area, you start your journey on this scenic highway, continuing all the way through Lajitas, dubbed River Road, and through to Presidio, TX. All the while traveling along the Rio Grande River

River Road Scenic Drive

River Road Scenic Drive

River Road Scenic Drive

River Road Scenic Drive

Mexico is an easy crossing from inside Big Bend National Park or from Presidio. However, once a year in May the (unincorporated) town of Lajitas put on a festival called, “Voices From Both Sides“. It’s a gathering where the communities from both Lajitas, the surrounding towns and the Mexican communities get together and celebrate the coming together of two Nations. They wade across the river, singing and rejoicing at the reunions of old friends, while enjoying festival food, music and good times together. Now that would be a site to see and experience. 

So, would we stay at Maverick Ranch RV Park again? Yes, yes we would. With the understanding that it is a distance from anywhere (but UPS does deliver out there). The people are great and super friendly. The food and entertainment good. The views are boundless. The quietness and peacefulness enveloping.

You know that saying, it’s not about the destination but the journey. Such can be said for this area. So enjoy the drive and the scenery as it passes you by. The quietness of the surrounding hills and canyons. The peacefulness at night walking around underneath the big star filled sky.  For you’ll be in a big city again where the noises and lights will filter inside and you’ll long for those dark skies at night once again.

I will write up more on this area in another post. The things that we explored, our afternoon trip into Mexico and David playing at the famous StarLight Theatre. Until then, enjoy this video of Maverick Ranch RV Park from David.

40+ Foot Motorhome Too Big? Our Thoughts On It!

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ/NV

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ/NV

OK…So now that camping season has officially been started, here’s a post that is long in the making. And we will start by jumping to the end…Buy What You Want. Don’t worry about if you will fit.

When you have been traveling as long as we have, you’re bound to get the same questions over and over again. One big question on people’s minds is if they buy a 40+ foot motorhome will they have issues finding places to park it or may fit into our National, State or County parks?

Well…The answer is yes and no as to getting into parks. We started out our travels in a 2008 Gulf Stream Tour Master that was a 43-foot diesel pusher and tow vehicle. Well, you know the saying….Location, Location, Location. It really is going to depend on a few factors like where you may want to go.

First off, remember that our highway system across the US is made for big rigs. As such, you will NOT have an issue traveling on interstates, highways, expressways, nor most roads for that matter. Sure, you can come across a bridge that can be to low, but that will be on side roads, parkways, town roads, etc. We personally have not yet run into any issues with not being able to go somewhere we wanted based on size.  Ok, wait, there was one….State HWY 1 in California. It is a great scenic drive that just will not handle large rigs due to the hairpin turns. If you tried this, you will see that as you tried to come around a corner that your rig will end up crossing into the on coming traffic. Never a good thing. But besides that, for us, we have not been able to reach somewhere we wanted to be one way or another. Heck, we have been all the way to Newfoundland with a 43-foot motorhome and spent 1.5 month traveling all the areas.

Quick suggestion if you are considering a big rig, or if you have one, is to purchase a Motor Carriers Road Atlas and take a look around the country on paper. This is a special atlas that shows what roads are OK for larger rigs. You may also want to look into a GPS that has maps and data points for RV’s or trucks such as the TripMaker RVND 7710. These types of GPS’s are not your normal GPS as they allow for you to put in the size & weight of your motorhome and will map you around items such as low clearance and weight restrictions. (NOTE…ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO SIGNS!!! Maps DO NOT know if three new inches of asphalt was put down making a 14 foot tall bridge now 13 feet 9 inches. Not paying attention can make for a very bad day. We also suggest if you see “trucker” routes, take them. After all, you are as big as they are and someone would like you to take that road for some reason. (You do not need to pull into weigh stations unless directed to do so.)

Our National Parks were built before big rigs were even around. No one back then thought that we would have 45-foot motorhomes for “camping”. When you consider how old a park may be, it’s sites may be smaller unless it has it been upgraded to accommodate larger rigs. Based on budgets etc, it is not likely that the government spent such money. In the chance that money was spent to upgraded the sites or add sites to accommodate larger rigs, have the roads? They may be tighter turns and be narrower if the campground was originally set up for smaller rigs. We have come across some campgrounds in National parks where there was no way we would fit, while others we have been to were no issue at all. (It should go without saying…Watch for low tree limbs also.)

A good source to find out if you would fit is, of course, the campgrounds or park service website. They usually always list the maximum size rig they can accommodate. That being said, Google Maps can be your friend in this as well. Just go to Google Maps and look at an overhead shot of the campground. You can see how heavily treed the area is, how close together the sites are and even how tight the turns may be. This will give you a good idea but remember, Google Maps can also be outdated depending on when they took the overhead shot. So if you still have your doubts, call the campground office.

Trailer Village Campground, Grand Canyon, AZ

Trailer Village Campground, Grand Canyon, AZ

Chimney Rock National Historical Site, Bayard, NE

Chimney Rock National Historical Site, Bayard, NE. This Is A Commercial Campground But Right Outside The Site. What A View!

Most National parks and State parks are going towards an online reservation system. One nice feature about some of these online reservation systems is that they will show you a picture of the actual site you are looking to book. You usually just have to hover over the site on the map and a picture will appear. We really like this feature. It can give you a good sense of whether you indeed can fit in a particular site or not.

When I was looking through our old photos, I came across some places that I felt we had just been to but in actuality we were there years ago. It’s these types of places that really stay with you and being able to stay right on site, at the park, is a great way to really enjoy the full experience.

When we stayed in the Badlands in South Dakota, we were right in the park. They also have a small hotel and restaurant but we kept to ourselves in our rig. The site we had just fit our 43-foot motorhome at the time.

While visiting the Grand Canyon we stayed at Trailer Village (not run by park services) right in the park itself. It is big rig friendly but they do pack you in there. It’s easily maneuverable though if you take your time and know where you are going, there are lots of roads throughout the campground. The picture I have above of the Grand Canyon campground isn’t the greatest as I was focusing on the wildlife that wanders throughout the campground. You can see our current motorhome in the background, the 45 foot 2014 Tiffin Allegro Bus with our tow vehicle. And yes, the Elk you see were THAT CLOSE to the motorhome. Just walking through without a care in the world.

Picacho Peak State Park Near Picacho, AZ

Picacho Peak State Park Near Picacho, AZ

Cherry Creek State Park In Aurora, CO, Just South Of Denver

Cherry Creek State Park In Aurora, CO, Just South Of Denver

 

 

State Parks are also a great way to get away and see the sites. We have found quite a few that can accommodate larger rigs. One of our favorites and one that we like to visit every time we are in the area is Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona. It’s between Tucson and Phoenix and right off the highway, yet really quiet and peaceful.

While in the Denver area we always stay at Cherry Creek State Park but we have heard from other RVers that Colorado has some wonderful state parks that are big rig friendly.

Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV, Just North Of Las Vegas

Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV, Just North Of Las Vegas

Reed Bingham State Park, Adel, GA

Reed Bingham State Park, Adel, GA

 

 

One thing to keep in mind is if a park offers full hook-ups, electric or nothing at all. While Picacho Peak State Park and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada has electric (some sites), that is all they have at the sites. They do have potable water and a dump station in the campground so there is that. But you need to be sure you go in prepared for the type of site.

On the other hand, Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, CO as well as Reed Bingham State Park in Georgia do have full hook-up sites. They both are also very big rig friendly and have big pull through sites.

Hoover Met (City) Park, Hoover, AL

Hoover Met (City) Park, Hoover, AL (closed until June 2017 for renovations)

James Island County Park Campground, Charleston, SC

James Island County Park Campground, Charleston, SC

 

 

County and Town run parks are not to be forgotten either. We have found some very lovely county and town parks that rival any state run park.

We always stay at the Hoover Met RV Park (closed for renovations until June 2017) while in the Birmingham, Alabama area and while visiting Charleston, SC we stayed at the James Island County Park Campground. There are a few choices around the Charleston area but we did not want to go to a commercial campground like a KOA. While they do serve a purpose for us (we stay at them while traveling from point A to point B and need hook-ups), we try not to frequent them as we have no kids and we do not wish to partake in any activities, so why pay for something we will not be taking full advantage of.

McFarland (City) Park Campground, Florence, AL

McFarland (City) Park Campground, Florence, AL

Sault Ste Marie, MI Town Park

Sault Ste Marie, MI Town Park

 

 

 

In fact, our very first stop after picking up our new 45-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus was this lovely campground just north of Red Bay, Alabama where the Tiffin plant is. It’s the McFarland Town Park Campground in a town called Florence, AL and is located right on the Tennessee River. It has boat drops and hiking trails and a disc golf course. Right across the river is the Muscle Shoals area where there is lots to do as far as the history of music and recording studios. And in Sault Ste Marie in the UP of Michigan is a great county/town run campground called Aune-Osborn Campground where you can spend your days watching the huge freighters pass through the Soo Locks and travel up and down the great lakes. Which let me tell you, can be very addicting. Who knew?!

These are just some of the places that we have stayed and there are many more out there. We have yet to stay at a COE (Corps of Engineers) Park, which we hear are lovely.

Some things to consider while staying at National, State or County/Town Parks is that you may not have access to Wi-Fi, you may not have full hook-ups if you want them and there may be additional fees such as a one time park fee. The state parks usually have a state park pass; they are usually good for one year. So if you know you will be frequenting one particular state for a while, or coming back to it a few months later but within a year’s time frame, then you would more than likely be better off buying a yearly park pass. It’s good for any of the state parks, not just that particular one that you may be at at the time. In the long run it would be cheaper than paying the additional park fee every time you camp.

Make sure you also look out for discounts. Georgia State Parks have a great RVer program and it’s free! The more you stay at their parks, the more stickers you will earn and you can work your way up to a free night of camping. Not all state parks may participate so just check the website before you book and see. To learn more info about this RVer program, visit this page.

Wow, that was a lot on places we have been. But the point is, they are all places we were able to go without issue even with a 45-foot motorhome. When we were looking for a motorhome, we did not even consider the issue of not fitting into places. Why? Simple, we knew we would be happier with a larger home on wheels. So you see from the above, it is indeed possible to stay in National, State and County/Town parks in a “Big Rig”. We have stayed in more than I thought we had and we will most certainly continue to do so.

If there is a place that you really want to go to and looking at the website of that particular park shows that you can not fit into the campground, remember that there are always campgrounds just outside of the parks that will accommodate you. We here it now and again, “you can not go everywhere with that large rig.” True. However we have yet to find anyplace we wanted to go that we could not go, either staying inside the park or just outside it’s borders. And if we need to drive 30 mins to go see a site…so be it. After all, that is more of the area we are in to see along the way. So while we may not be able to get into “everywhere”, consider that we also may have a much more comfortable time if stuck inside the motorhome for five days as it rains.

Would we by a large motorhome again? Seeing we have already gone from a 43-foot to a 45-foot, the answer seems to be yes. Again, we knew we would be happier with more space. And lets face it, it is all about living like you want to live and what is right for one person, may not be for another. So buy what you want and enjoy your travels!

Not sure if you trust what you just read…Well here…watch a video instead….

Please be so kind to share this post as it seems to be asked often on many community forums.

National Military Park In Vicksburg, MS

Entrance To National Military Park

Entrance To National Military Park

National Military Park In Vicksburg, MS

National Military Park In Vicksburg, MS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vicksburg, MS, being located right on the Mississippi River, with it’s many hilltops that over look the Great Mississippi River, played a very important roll in the Civil War. President Lincoln knew it was the key to winning the south. There were many battles that were fought here. Many strategies plotted here. Many soldiers lost their lives here. The National Military Park, located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is a great National Park that is located right in town.

It’s an easy park to explore with a loop road that you drive with many stops along the way with lots of memorials, signage and canons, canons, and more canons. Below is one of several beautiful structures commemorating the many soldiers that died in the siege in Vicksburg. Overlooking some of the battlefields you can really get the feel for the closeness of the battles that were fought here. The park does a great job of showing you just how close these fights were by marking the battle lines with colored signage right down to what regiment was on that line. (blue signs for Union and red for Confederate.) These red and blue markers of canon and soldier locations can be clearly seen as you look across a section of rolling landscape, thus greatly putting the battles that took place here all into perspective. This was fought hand to hand, canon to canon. Walking the path that these soldiers walked you can feel the somberness of the entire area.

Marble Structure Commemorating Over 36,000 Soldiers From Illinois

Marble Structure Commemorating Over 36,000 Soldiers From Illinois

Inside The Marble Structure With Names Of Soldiers

Inside The Marble Structure With Names Of Soldiers

Standing Outside The Marble Structure Looking Over The Battlefield

Standing Outside The Marble Structure Looking Over The Battlefield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The USS Cairo Gunboat is located on the loop road. From the NPS website: The U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannons). On them rested in large part, Northern hopes to regain control of the lower Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.

USS Cairo Gunboat

USS Cairo Gunboat

USS Cairo Gunboat

USS Cairo Gunboat

The USS Cairo was commissioned in January 1862 and consequently sunk to it’s watery grave in December 12, 1862, from an electrically detonated “torpedo” (what was actually a floating mine), where it sat for over 100 years.

Now raised and salvaged, you can explore the ship from the upper decks, go inside and see the inner workings and there is a museum that you can explore the various artifacts that were recovered.

National Cemetery In The National Military Park

National Cemetery In The National Military Park

National Cemetery In The National Military Park

National Cemetery In The National Military Park

Also on the loop road is the Vicksburg National Cemetery that embraces 116 acres, and holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, a number unmatched by any other national cemetery. 75% of the Civil War dead were not known and therefore the markers on the graves are just numbers.

Confederate dead from the Vicksburg campaign originally buried behind Confederate lines, have now been re-interred in the Vicksburg City Cemetery (Cedar Hill Cemetery), in an area called “Soldiers’ Rest.” Approximately 5,000 Confederates have been re-interred there, of which 1,600 are identified.

In the Visitor’s Center there is a ledger that you can look up information on various soldiers and pin point where they are buried.

One Of The Monuments

One Of The Monuments

One Of The Monuments

One Of The Monuments

One Of The Battlefields Of The Civil War

One Of The Battlefields Of The Civil War

Another Monument Overlooking One Of The Battlefields

Another Monument Overlooking One Of The Battlefields

If you find yourself out in the Vicksburg, Mississippi area, which you more than likely will be at one time or another as I-20 runs right through it, I suggest you take a couple extra days and explore this very historical area. (the park pass is good for 7 days.) We learned a lot just from the one day of exploring that we did and we didn’t even touch upon the history of the town itself nor the historical buildings and houses in town that were used as headquarters and such during the Civil War. These remarkable buildings are still standing and in use today and you can easily tour them and delve deeper into the Civil War and the role that Vicksburg, Mississippi played.

We may just have to come back for another look around this area.

Hiking Mammoth Cave National Park, Exploring Caverns And An RV Park Review

Mammoth Cave National Park In Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park In Kentucky

While traveling south we took a few days to explore the Mammoth Cave National Park area in Kentucky. If you are not familiar with this area you should make some time to be.

Mammoth Cave National Park is Kentucky’s oldest tourist attraction, a World Heritage Site, and International Biosphere Reserve with 53,000 acres of natural preserve and the longest cave system in the world with over 4000 miles of passages and 400 miles of mapped passageways.

One thing we learned too late was to plan ahead, a few days before you get there is not enough time. It’s not your typical National Park where you can just go and explore the cave. Nope. Guided tours are given daily and are very popular. Reservations are not necessary but highly recommended, as certain tours will sell out quickly. Which is what we found out.

We are not ones to enjoy exploring areas with huge crowds; school tours are very popular here. The most popular tour has a capacity of 118 people! Yup, you heard me right. 118 people, all trying to hear the tour guide. Kids everywhere. Not our idea of fun. A couple of the other tours seemed interesting and small enough, however, with there limited runs, they were sold out when we were there. That’s what we get for waiting til the last minute and not researching before hand. Oh well. We’ll just have to come back.

While Mammoth Cave is named after and known for it’s caves, there are a lot of other fun activities you can do while visiting the park. There is a river that runs through the park that you can rent or bring your own canoe/kayak (which we did consider). There are horse back riding (rental or bring your own horse) trails throughout the park. However, with over 84 miles of above ground trails, we opted to go hiking.

Beautiful Hiking Day In Mammoth Cave National Park

Beautiful Hiking Day In Mammoth Cave National Park

Beautiful Hiking Day In Mammoth Cave National Park

Beautiful Hiking Day In Mammoth Cave National Park

 

 

 

It was a beautiful fall day. Not another person in site. Our kind of day. We spent some time exploring the trails while trying to follow the map the Park Ranger had given to us. Let’s just say the map was not the easiest to follow being a photocopy of a photocopy. The park office was out of stock of their regular maps and brochures so we made do with what we were given.

Echo Spring In Mammoth Cave National Park

Echo Spring In Mammoth Cave National Park

Beautiful Fall Day For A Hike In Mammoth Cave National Park

Beautiful Fall Day For A Hike In Mammoth Cave National Park

 

 

 

We came across a natural spring that was as clear as day. It came up from the cave system below and actually had some fish in it.

When we finished up our hike we decided that we could not leave this area, Kentucky’s cave capital, without seeing at least one cave system.

Another popular cave tour in this area is Diamond Caverns. Just a short 10-minute or so drive from Mammoth Cave and still within the National Parks boundaries, its Kentucky’s second oldest show cave, giving tours for over 154 years. And no, it’s not filled with diamonds.

Entering Diamond Caverns

Entering Diamond Caverns

Diamond Caverns

Diamond Caverns

 

We arrived just in time to catch a tour. With the tour only an hour long, we felt that was plenty of time. We’ve explored caves before you see, when we were in Carlsbad, New Mexico. So, in our opinion, once you’ve seen a cave/cavern, they all start to look alike after a while.

Sorry for the poor quality of photos but while you are in a cave, lighting is not really that prevalent, a flash would just ruin the picture and our phone cameras are only so good while in low light and of course, we didn’t bring any other cameras with us.

Diamond Caverns

Diamond Caverns

Diamond Caverns

Diamond Caverns

 

 

With all the activities to do in this area, caving, hiking, biking, kayaking, horse back riding, zip lining, etc, it sure is a good feeling to go back to our home on wheels. There are a few rv parks and campgrounds in the area to choose from. Mammoth Cave National Park has a campground, however, the sites offer no hook ups and is more for smaller rigs.

We opted to stay in town just a short 20-minute drive from the park. We found Cave Country RV Park in Cave City, Kentucky.

Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

It was right off the highway but had no highway noise. Yes, there is a train but it seemed to run more sporadically and really wasn’t a bother. It was truly an easy in and out for big rigs and the site was big enough for our 45-foot motor home and tow vehicle, even if we wanted to stay hooked up.

Our Site At Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

Our Site At Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

Cave Country RV Park In Cave City, Kentucky

 

There were many people that were here just for an overnight. The utilities worked well. All except the WiFi of course which they were working on improving. Alas, that seems to be the norm these days. Verizon was good in this area so we used that.

Many restaurants (El Mazatlan Mexican restaurant was very good) in the area and a grocery store (which we did not go check out). The office lady (Barbara) was really nice and she leads you to your site. Which for such a straightforward campground really is not necessary but appreciated. She even sweeps out the utility pole for any creepy crawlies in there. While walking around we noticed that they had some really nice garden areas. We would stay here again if in this area to explore or just passing through.

We only stayed in this area for a couple nights. Only exploring the one-day. When we get back to this area we will be spending more time here and yes, we will be making reservations for some Mammoth Cave tours well in advance. You are close to Bowling Green, Kentucky where yes, there is another cave you can visit. You can also tour the Corvette Museum, lots of antique shops in this area and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is not too far away. Lots more to do and we found out that Fall is a beautiful time of year to explore this area.

Exploring Vermont – Part Two

View From Abel Mountain Campground

View From Abel Mountain Campground

David Getting Ready To Fly

David Getting Ready To Fly

With close to two weeks in Vermont, I felt we had seen a lot and done a lot. I did not feel rushed nor did I feel deprived of seeing anything.

One of the excursions that was interesting and informative was Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont.

Billings Farm And Museum

Billings Farm And Museum

Billings Farm And Museum

Billings Farm And Museum

One of the premier dairy farms in Vermont, it’s been around since the 1800’s. George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings, and Laurance S. Rockefeller, successive residents of the estate were some of the earliest advocates of land stewardship, conservation and ultimately served to start our National Parks System. If it were not for these individuals, we would not have the great National Parks we all enjoy today.

The grounds are immaculately kept; you can tour the barns where they still house the descendants of the Jersey Cows that Frederick Billings imported centuries ago. Just down the street is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park where you can enjoy more of what these great men left to us. There were lots to see and do on this still working farm and museum.

This still working farm and museum are located in the town of Woodstock, Vermont. Vermont is full of these quaint little towns.

Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock, Vermont

Randolph, Vermont, Near Abel Mountain Campground

Randolph, Vermont, Near Abel Mountain Campground

We had a great time exploring a bunch of these small towns. Woodstock, Quechee, Stowe, Waterbury, Randolph, just to name a few. All have their own uniqueness and charm.

In Quechee they have the famous Quechee Gorge. Its claim is the little grand canyon of Vermont.

Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge

Well, while it’s no where near the size, awe inspiring hugeness that is the Grand Canyon, but let’s be honest, there really is no comparison, but it was beautiful. It has some nice trails that you can hike. People were down below swimming in the river. But it was just a gorge to me. If we had more time we might have donned our hiking shoes and really dove into the history of the gorge.

But alas, we were on a shopping trip and had a plan. I guess the gorge is one way to get people to go to the shopping area that’s there.

 

But do we really need an excuse to do more shopping? I think not. Especially since they have a sampling room, and therefore we can buy, the Putney Mountain Wine that we have so fallen in love with.

Quechee Gorge Village Shopping Area

Quechee Gorge Village Shopping Area

The Bakery In The Quechee Gorge Village

The Bakery In The Quechee Gorge Village

We also found this awesome mom and pop bakery inside the Quechee Gorge Village. It may not look like your average bakery but let me tell you…

OMG! They had a crumble-topped apple pie that was coming out of the oven in 10 minutes. We bought it before it finished baking. The smells, the pastries, the pies! Oh My!

Best Pie Ever!

And the owner of the bakery was in the kitchen in the back with her helper, making more goodies. A real kitchen, not one of those big commercial sized kitchens. Out of respect for the owner I did not take a picture of her kitchen, as she was embarrassed that it was messy since they were cooking up a storm. I highly recommend that you get a pie if you are in the area.

This Quechee Gorge Village is not a typical place we like to shop. To touristy, but we had to stop for more wine as I mentioned above. We were actually pleasantly surprised by some of the interesting and crafty things we found there. Yes, we did end up buying some gifts other than wine. That we are keeping all to ourselves.

Sorry if I keep going on about this wine but if you are lucky enough to sample some, you will be hooked as well. Sad thing is they don’t ship. So we are savoring what we have.

One of the highlights for the boys on this trip was the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry.  At nearly 600 feet deep they believe it to be the largest operating deep-hole, dimension granite quarry in the world. It is over 2 miles to the other side from where we were standing.

Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

The piece that you see above that is being hoisted up from the quarry is actually 30 tons of granite! They say there is enough granite in this quarry to mine for the next 20,000 years. So needless to say we will not be running out of granite anytime soon.

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory, right now is producing mausoleums and memorials. After you view the quarry you can watch the workers produce some amazing pieces of work. These crafters are true artists sculpting each piece by hand after the initial cutting and shaping has been done.

After taking this tour and seeing the factory floor, you certainly will not look at a cemetery the same way again.

Van Trapp Family Lodge

Van Trapp Family Lodge

Von Trapp Family Lodge

Von Trapp Family Lodge

No Vermont tour would be complete without a trip to see the Von Trapp Family Lodge. Yes…that Von Trapp family. They made their home here in Stowe, Vermont because the view reminded them of Austria. For some reason when I was exploring this area, I could not get Julie Andrews and “The Hills Are Alive” song out of my head. I can almost see here twirling right there on the hilltop. I dare you to visit this lodge and not think of that.

They have many dining options and packages to stay in the lodge. So if you are looking for something different, other than a campground, you should check this place out. Lots of hiking and biking trails. Skiing, of course, in the winter.

Oh…and while in Stowe, which is another quaint and cute town, you must, must, must visit Laughing Moon Chocolates.

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many chocolate shops in Vermont but I have to say, these were the best. Hand crafted right there in house. You can watch the chocolate makers every day create such wonderfully delicious delicacies. All you have to do is inhale when you walk in and they have you.

And yes!

They do ship.

Oh…that could be dangerous.

Say NoOK….So there’s a lot we loved about Vermont. Now the one thing that really was a negative for us. One place is a “must see and do” on all the lists of Vermont. That is the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury, Vermont. We saved this til the end of our trip because we figured, save the best for last. Everyone says “you have to go”. Well, let me just say, don’t waste your time. (IMHO)

First off, they are a company that does some good things for the community, around the country and the world. They are great charity givers. And lets face it, they do make some good, all be it expensive, ice cream. So the below is only towards the tour.

First, it was super crowded. Ok….it’s Ben and Jerry’s. I get it. Expect crowds. What I did not expect were so many people wandering without a place to sit. They have an ice cream shop there that, of course, was crazy busy, but once you get your ice cream don’t expect to sit down. There are about 7 tables and chairs for the thousands, yes I said thousands, of people that go there every day. Second, the tour was a waste of $4 dollars. There’s really no reason why it could not be a self-guided tour. You watch a 6 minute video that, to be honest, is an old school, 4:3 aspect ratio, looks like it was made for an 80’s after school special type of “movie”. With all the money that they have It really was embarrassing to not put a better foot forward for their customers. We saw a better movie in the Billings Farm and Museum! Heck, even the video, or should I say movie, viewing room was outstanding at Billings Farm.

Then you get led to the “factory”. Really it’s only an overlook and all you really see is the lids going on the pints. Umm….really? I paid $4 bucks for this? Really? That was it? Oh, I am sorry, there is more you get for that $4. So let’s not forget the ice cream sample you get at the end. It’s whatever flavor they are serving that day in a tiny ketchup sized cup that has, by the way, melted because the person serving has to serve 45 samples and therefore the freezer door stays open and all the heat melts the ice cream.

We felt completely ripped off that it cost $4 bucks. Not to mention we had to wait 1.5 hours just to take the tour! We all walked out of there disappointed. So disappointed I didn’t even take a picture of the outside and that is all I could have taken a picture of as you can in the tour. Pictures are not allowed on the tour. With such a good name behind them, they seemed to have gone too corporate (If you did not know, they are owned by Unilever now). I’m sure that if you have kids, they would enjoy it as they have a playground. However, we did not.

Ok, Ok, I am done with that. Again, they do make some good ice cream. And yes, they do some great charity work. But this “Factory Tour” was, for us, a total waist of time. They surely should not be charging for it at all for they surely sell enough ice cream at the walkup windows with a 30 min waiting line to cover it.

Now we have not been ones to frequent chains restaurants and such and this really just reaffirmed it all for us. The lesson we learned is to really give our business to the mom and pop places that need our business and not the corporations. Vermont is certainly not lacking in the mom and pop area.

We truly did love our time in Vermont. We had great friends to explore the state with. We had some down time to relax and we had some good times around the dinner table. Although we only took 12 days to explore Vermont, we felt it was adequate time to see and do everything that we wanted. We can now check Vermont off the list.

Until we run out of that wine! Then another trip may be in order.

In our last post you had seen David’s video on the RV park we stayed at. Well, he was bored and decided to take that footage and, well, add to it. :)