Summer RV Fun in New York and Virginia – in Motorhome Magazine!

In the last few months we’ve published two feature articles in Motorhome Magazine. In the May, 2017 issue we told the story of our RV adventures in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

New York's Finger Lakes article by Emily and Mark Fagan in Motorhome Magazine May 2017

Motorhome Magazine – May, 2017
Article by: Emily Fagan – Photos by: Emily & Mark Fagan

The long and narrow “finger” shaped lakes in Upstate New York run on a north-south axis and are absolutely beautiful. In the town of Seneca Falls we discovered that boaters can tie up at the docks right behind the town center. What a fun way to travel in this area!

Boating docks at Seneca Falls New York Finger Lakes RV Trip

Boats tie up at the docks on the back side of Seneca Falls.

As we wandered throughout the Finger Lakes we discovered the area is rich with waterfalls. One of the most notable is Taughannock Falls which drops 215 feet down a sheer cliff. People can enjoy these falls from a viewing area right across from them.

Taughannock Falls New York Finger Lakes RV Trip

There’s a thrilling and massive vertical drop at Taughannock Falls

The Finger Lakes are very rural, and we were surprised to see quite a bit of wildlife in New York that wasn’t the urban, human kind. One of the most unusual animals in the region is the White Deer. What a wonderful surprise it was to look out the car window and see one staring at us!

White Deer Finger Lakes New York RV Trip

There are white deer in the Finger Lakes and we were lucky enough to see one.

We were also very surprised to learn that this area has a good sized Amish community. Unlike the Amish communities in other parts of the country that we have seen, this one is not commercialized for tourists at all, and their pretty farms dot the landscape, providing an evocative reminder of what America looked like back when small family farms filled the countryside everywhere.

Amish Farm New York FInger Lakes RV Trip

Amish farms throughout this region give a feeling of what America used to be like years ago.

Hearing the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves as they pulled the Amish buggies around town added a unique twist to the area.

Amish Buggy in New York Finger Lakes on an RV Trip

Four hooves in the air – Amish buggies clip-clop all over the place.

The Amish raise crops and sell them at the Seneca Produce Auction, and we were very fortunate to stop in and witness this unusual event taking place.

Amish farmers Seneca Produce Auction New York Finger Lakes RV Trip

The Amish farmers sell their produce at the Seneca Produce Auction – Fascinating to watch.

I had heard about Watkins Glen many times, but when we went there — on a rainy day — we were blown away by the beauty of the many waterfalls and cascades that fill the park. I was so impressed with the magical images throughout this park that I made it the subject of my May, 2017 “Roads to Adventure” column on the back page of Trailer Life Magazine entitled, Take the Plunge!

Watkins Glen Waterfall New York Finger Lakes RV Trip

Watkins Glen waterfalls were stunning on a rainy day.
It was the focus of my May 2017 Trailer Life column:
Take the Plunge

On our drive between the Finger Lakes of New York and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, we passed lots of beautiful farms.

Classic Virginia Farm on the Blue Ridge Parkway RV Trip

We saw lovely, bucolic scenery on the back roads of the eastern states.

But these are very busy states and the traffic can be crazy. We knew we were getting into the more bustling parts of the eastern states when we started seeing road signs like this:

Beware of Aggressive Drivers

A great reminder for laid back RVers who haven’t driven on roads in the eastern states for a while!

The July, 2017, issue of Motorhome Magazine features our article about some of the highlights we found along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

Virginia Mountain Majesty article by Emily and Mark Fagan in Motorhome Magazine July 2017

Motorhome Magazine – July 2017
Article by Emily Fagan, Photos by Emily & Mark Fagan

One of the most iconic images and most photographed places on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway is the Mabry Mill. The tour of the inside of this century old grist mill was fascinating. We saw how lumber can be milled and grains can be ground by harnessing the power of water flowing over a paddle wheel.

Mabry Mill Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia RV Trip

Beautiful Mabry Mill is one of the most photographed spots on the whole Blue Ridge Parkway. Great for a selfie!

The Blue Ridge Parkway passes through the heart of Bluegrass music country, and we found several venues where we could listen to a lively bluegrass jam for free. One of these was at the Floyd Country store where a huge room was filled to overflowing with musicians playing their hearts out. What fun!

Bluegrass jam at Floyd Country Store Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia RV trip

There are free bluegrass jams everywhere in the Appalachians, and we found a great one at the Floyd Country Store.

In Galax, Virginia, we discovered the New River Trail, a fantastic rails-to-trails path that is beloved by walkers, joggers and bicyclists. It is a long enough trail that we met people who were taking multiple days to bike the whole route, camping at trailside campgrounds along the way.

Biking the New River Trail Galax Virginia RV Trip

The New River Trail is a wonderful rails-to-trails path in Galax, Virginia, and they have an awesome brewpub too!

Fall is the most popular time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we made our trip in the springtime when the mountain laurel and wild rhododendrons were in bloom. I remember carefully planting and watering several rhododendron bushes in my garden years ago. How cool it was to see enormous rhododendron and azalea bushes filled with flowers growing wild all along the route!

Rhododendrons on Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway RV trip

The wild rhododendrons were beautiful — and we hadn’t known they grew wild in the Appalachians!

Shenandoah National Park is the crown jewel at the northern end of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway, and we did a hike up to Mary’s rock where we could take in the immense verdant views to the distant mountains.

Motorhome Magazine is a terrific magazine for RVers, and we are very proud to be contributors. Although there is tons of information about RVing on the internet, there is a lot to be said for the info provided by a magazine that is professionally edited and produced.

Unlike a blog or video that is home grown, like this one, the editorial staff at magazines like Motorhome and Trailer Life includes quite a few people, and the text is scrutinized and critiqued from many angles.

The discussions I’ve had with editors about my many technical articles in these magazines have been fascinating, and it has been wonderful to hear other points of view before the final stamp of approval has been given to my manuscripts.

When we first started RVing, before we began our RV adventures, we subscribed to every RV magazine we could find, and we learned a lot in the process.

If you are new to RVing, we highly recommend getting a subscription and checking it out. And if you’re already a seasoned RVer, there are lots of tips and tricks and interesting travel destinations featured in each issue that might give you new ideas and inspiration!

Subscribe to Motorhome Magazine here.

Motorhome Magazine posts some of their articles online, although not all of them. The two articles I’ve mentioned in this post can be read at these links, and the third link goes to our other articles that Motorhome has shared online:

Mary's Rock Shenandoah Natioanal Park Virginia

On top of the world at Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park.

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Full-time RV Pioneer & Escapees RV Club Co-Founder: Kay Peterson

We just received the very sad news that Escapees RV Club Co-Founder Kay Peterson has died.

Kay was a guiding light in the RVing community for many decades, a woman who lived her dreams to the fullest, despite many seemingly impossible road blocks along the way. Nearly two years ago Mark and I were utterly blessed to spend several very memorable hours with Kay learning about the winding road she took through a fascinating life.

As we all know but too often forget, “Time stops for no man,” and if there was anyone who understood the power of those words it was Kay Peterson. If you have a big dream but keep putting it off for one reason or another, Kay’s rich life offers all the inspiration you need to squash your fears and live life with gusto.

To give you a sense of the way Kay approached her life, I just received a touching note from Cathie Carr, Kay’s daughter and retired leader of Escapees RV Club. As Kay lay dying and holding Cathie’s hand, she faced her future with a profound optimism as she said:

“When you’re born, you cry and the world rejoices. When you die, you rejoice and the world cries.”

For our newer readers who do not know her incredible story, we are re-publishing this post today in honor of Kay Peterson’s life.

Escapees Magazine Cover Jul-Aug 2016 Photo by Mark Fagan

Escapees Magazine — July/August 2016
Cover Photo by Mark Fagan

The July/August 2016 of Escapees Magazine features a lengthy article I wrote about Kay Peterson, the co-founder of Escapees RV Club and a pioneer in the full-time RV lifestyle in the 1970’s.

Writing this really fun article followed a truly inspiring personal visit that Mark and I enjoyed with Kay last fall

You can read the Escapees Magazine article here:

Kay Peterson – Escapees Magazine July/August 2016

Like many new SKPs (the Escapees RV Club nickname for the word “Escapees”), our first real evidence of being members was in receiving and reading the bi-monthly Club magazine, Escapees Magazine.

We knew little else about the club when we joined, but when I saw the first issue of the thick magazine, I was struck by two things: the artistic cover photo and the very first article inside called “Thoughts for the Road” written by Kay Peterson.

As the months went by and more issues arrived, I was always very taken by the images on the cover of the magazine, and I couldn’t help but sit right down and read Kay Peterson’s opening essay immediately.

She always spoke of the importance of pursuing your dreams, of taking chances, of overcoming your fear of the unknown and of following your own heart.

She seemed to be speaking right to us, because those topics were hot on our minds as we discovered true independence and freedom in our first few months and years on the road.

After decades of living a conventional lifetsyle, we’d struck out on our own in a little travel trailer and we were loving every minute of it. “Everyone should do this!” we kept saying to each other. “What’s holding them back?”

And then we’d read Kay’s latest installment, and she’d remind us that too often people are held back by fear. They want to wait for a “better time” in their lives to chase their dreams, a time when they have more money, or more time, or fewer responsibilities.

I was astonished that this RV club magazine would dive right into these weighty, philosophical topics, and that Kay would keep persisting, gently prodding us to think about the important things in life. Who was she, where had she come from, and what had her life been like? I wondered.

Full-time RV pioneer and Escapees RV Club Founder Kay Peterson

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At that time, we had no idea what the Escapees RV Club was all about beyond the magazine. We aren’t joiners or “club” people, and we had started RVing full-time to get away, not to become part of a social group. But the quality of the magazine and those intriguing opening essays that Kay wrote touched us both.

The images on the cover of Escapees Magazine were always beautiful, and the articles inside had a different thrust than other RV magazines we subscribed to that focused on RV reviews, product reviews and info about RV gear. Escapees Magazine had a lot of that stuff too, but it also went into detail about the unusual things that affect people who live on the road in their RVs full-time or for months on end.

Escapees Magazine Covers

Escapees Magazine is different than other RV magazines

I felt an affinity with Kay Peterson right from the get-go, but when she mentioned in one of her essays that she’d gotten her start as a writer when she sent an article to Woodall’s Trailer Travel Magazine and that they responded by publishing it and sending her a check for $75, I was blown away. I had just sent an aritcle to Escapees Magazine about Goblin Valley, Utah, right in time for the Halloween issue, and they had responded by publishing it and sending me a check for $75!

Kay’s writing, her philosophy of life, and the essence of her message stayed with me, and as I wrote more and more, on this blog and elsewhere, I often felt her influence in the back of my mind. She is a generation ahead of me in age, and she was like a guide and mentor, even though we had never met.

Mark and I finally had an opportunity to meet Kay last fall when we were in Texas, and what a fabulous experience that was.

Kay Peterson and Emily Fagan full-time RVers

I was thrilled to be able to chat with Kay Peterson

She was warm, animated and downright charismatic as she told the two of us her life story. She has lived an incredible life, going through lots of twists and turns and bumps in the road on her way to many impressive achievements, and her intriguing journey continues to this day.

As soon as she greeted us, I had to smile at hearing her light Boston accent. That accent is near and dear to my heart, because I grew up there, and even though I don’t have the accent and can’t mimic it, whenever I hear it spoken authentically (not the Hollywood version), it sounds like home.

What was much more surprising, though, was to find out that she got her nurse’s training in the 1940’s in the exact same hospital where members of my family had been born and died in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As it turned out, Kay and I had grown up at the same end of town!

I was also fascinated to learn that back in her day, the student nurses lived in dormitories at the hospital while they were in nursing school.

Full-time RV pioneer Kay Peterson and Emily Fagan

We found we had a lot in common!

For most of us born after the Great Depression and World War II, the events of the 1930’s and 40’s exist only in faded black and white photos and jittery newsreels. Even though, for me and Mark, the war ended just 10-15 years before we were born, about the same distance back as 9/11 is today, it is impossible for us to understand what life was really like back then.

But as Kay described her childhood and youth to us, that era suddenly came to life in vivid color. She came of age as the war was ending, and her young adulthood was intricately tied to and shaped by the events around her.

It’s easy to take society’s changes from the Women’s Liberation movement for granted now. Having forgotten just how much the world has changed in the past 65 years, Mark and I were both very affected by the movie Philomena, which is about a young woman who was forced to live in a Catholic home for unwed mothers and give up her baby for adoption in Ireland in the 1950’s. But as we listened to Kay’s story, we were shocked to hear that tale told again, but this time in the 1940’s in America.

Likewise, we have always known that tuberculosis is a terrible disease, but we had no idea that until the vaccine for it was developed and made available, patients were isolated from society in institutions to prevent spreading it further. Most didn’t make it out alive, but Kay did.

Hearing Kay’s tales of her past, we not only saw how perseverance and optimism can lead to a fulfilling and rich life, as happened for her, but we got a history lesson as well.

Escapees RV Club founder Kay Peterson with Emily Fagan

I scribbled notes furiously but was captivated when I read her autobiography later!

Kay tells her life story in riveting detail in her book, Beating the Odds, published in 2013. After Mark and I spent several hours listening to her story in person during the course of two different visits, we absolutely devoured her book. It is an inspiring tale of overcoming and becoming that we couldn’t put down.

Kay faced many brutal hardships, from poverty to an abusive husband, and she struggled against many agonizing obstacles in her early years, including a life threatening disease, but she never lost her belief that life could be better.

A turning point came for her when her beloved grandmother died and she realized, while going through her belongings, that this woman she had always adored had lived more timidly than bravely and had died without ever allowing herself to be bold enough to insist on living her dreams. At that moment, Kay vowed never to fall prey to fear like that herself.

Escapees RV Club Sharing the RV Lifestyle

Kay and her husband Joe created the Escapees RV Club in 1978

Upon meeting Joe Peterson, she found her soulmate, and the two of them began to make history together when, at age 43, they joined the tiny ranks of people who were living in their RVs full-time in the 1970’s. Joe had the ideal mobile occupation as a “tramp” electrician, and in a few short years, she became a writer for both Woodall’s Trailer Travel Magazine and the Snowbird Newsletter.

These writing gigs led to her starting an RV journal of her own, which ultimately became Escapees Magazine. From that came the founding of the Escapees RV Club in 1978. The rest is history, as Escapees RV Club has grown in all kinds of creative ways since its inception.

But the most fascinating thing for me is that Kay Peterson has grown too.

Besides co-founding Escapees RV Club, overseeing the development of an outstanding RV magazine, and creating the first of its kind assisted living center for RVers (Escapees CARE or Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees), she has published a slew of books, including the first book ever written about full-time RVing, called Home Is Where You Park It. This bible for full-timers was in print for 22 years until its last edition came off the presses in 1999.

Her fifteen years of full-time RV travels with Joe ultimately whetted their appetities for more travel adventures and led them further afield to explorations that took them overseas to Europe, Africa, Australia, Fiji and other exotic destinations.

A few years back, when she was in her mid-80’s, she mentioned in her Escapees Magazine column that she was now pursuing a dream she had held since her youth but had never made a top priority: writing a novel.

Never one for mere pipe dreams, in 2013, she published 13 Days in Africa, a novel that was inspired by her own safaris in Africa. This novel was so well received that she sat down and wrote another, and this past winter, on her 89th birthday, she published the sequel called The Elephant Bond.

Escapees RV Club Rainbow's End RV Park

The Escapees headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, is so extensive they offer tours on a trolley bus!!

Dramatic and poignant, her novels draw from all of her life experiences and are compelling dramas. Kay was not quite finished discovering the stories behind her characters after the second novel, however, so she is planning to turn this pair of novels, whose stories now span three continents, into a trilogy, with the publication of a third novel in the series on her agenda now!

Added later: Kay completed the trilogy and published her third novel in the series, When Cultures Collide, in February 2017.

Escapees RV Club CARE Center for Retired RVers

Escapees CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees)
Kay’s proudest accomplishment, and one which took extraordinary patience and fortitude!

At the moment, however, she is attending the Escapade RV rally in Essex Junction, Vermont (held July 21-23 in 2016), and lots of lucky Escapees members are having a chance to meet her in person and listen to her wisdom at the rally.

For those who have a dream — whether it’s a travel dream or lifestyle dream or something totally different — Kay stands out as one of those rare mentors who not only made their dreams a priority and made them come true, but who has consistently reached out to those around her and encouraged them to pursue their dreams as well.

I highly recommend reading Kay’s autobiography, Beating the Odds, and her book of essays, Chasing Rainbows.

The essays are drawn from over three decades of her inspirational Escapees Magazine articles. She offers many pearls of wisdom and gems of hope that are great reminders of how important it is not to let life pass us by.

Two of my favorite Kay Peterson quotes:

If you don’t fulfill your dreams now, when will you?

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Some of us prefer to live 365 days in a year crammed with as many experiences as possible.
Others are content to live the same day 365 times in a row.

In addition, I highly recommend that all RVers, especially those who use their RV for extended travel, join Escapees RV Club, even the “non-joiners” and non-club folk like ourselves.

Of the many things that Escapees RV Club is involved in — a myriad of overnight parking options (from free sites to site ownership), an online RVers forum, RV rallies, RV education, an RV weighing program, assisted living for RVers, and a massive mail forwarding outfit — the RV advocacy work they do benefits everyone who owns an RV and is well worth supporting.

US Mail truck Escapees RV Club Headquarters Livingston Texas

This US Mail semi tractor trailer full of RVers’ mail pulls up at Escapees HQ in Texas EVERY DAY!!

The cost to join is minimal but the impact that a large, cohesive group can have on the rights of RVers is enormous. Besides, the magazine is excellent. You can join here:

Join Escapees RV Club

If you happen to join, we’d appreciate it if you’d let them know you heard about Escapees from this blog, Roads Less Traveled, as they will put a little something in our tip jar. This might sound shallow or self-serving, but the truth is that we have spent years recommending Escapees to other RVers and did so long before Escapees even knew we had a tip jar!

Full-time RV Pioneer Escapees Founder Kay Peterson with Mark and Emily Fagan

What a special time this was – Mark, Kay and me.

Also, for any Escapee with a camera or a flare for words, Escapees Magazine is always looking for photos and articles from members.

Mark’s cover photo in the July/August issue (at the top of this page) is a classic example of how a beautiful photograph taken with an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera can end up on the cover.

When he saw a Class C motorhome reflecting in his mirror in our truck, he grabbed the shot with the closest camera he could put his hands on, which turned out to be a cheap one he’d gotten years ago. We both then tried to improve upon his image with our fancy cameras, but gosh darn it, that little point-and-shoot got the best photo of them all.

So there it is, proof positive that sometimes the best way to go is just to jump in and do it, whatever “it” is, regardless of your gear or preparation, because that first impression and rush of enthusiasm may give you the biggest return.

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Kay Peterson’s Books:

Links for Escapees RV Club:

Related articles – Essays about living the dream of a life on the road:

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Spring in Sarasota FL + Bryce Canyon’s Night Skies – in Trailer Life

We are very proud to announce that the March 2017 issue of Trailer Life Magazine features our article about beautiful Sarasota, Florida, plus a back page column about hiking Bryce Canyon National Park under the stars.

Sarasota's Three-Ring Circus Trailer Life Magazine

Trailer Life Magazine, March 2017
Text by Emily Fagan, Photos by Emily & Mark Fagan

Sarasota, Florida, is a fabulous place to visit in April, and we enjoyed five wonderful weeks there. For RVers that are heading north these days from the hotter parts of southern Florida, a stopover in Sarasota is a true delight.

Venice Beach Sarasota Florida

Venice Beach just south of Sarasota, Florida.

We have been fortunate to visit tropical beaches all over the world, most recently in Thailand but also in many parts of southern Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Frankly, not one of them has sand that is quite as pure white and fluffy soft as Siesta Beach in Sarasota. It is the texture of confectioner’s sugar! And the turquoise water is ever so inviting too.

Siesta Beach Sarasota Florida

Siesta Beach — Where the sand is like confectioner’s sugar!

But what surprised us was the many other things Sarasota has to offer. A century ago it was just a small fishing village, but the Ringling Brothers decided to settle in the town and make it the home base for their circus, and that changed it forever.

The Ringling mansion Sarasota Florida

The Ringling – Former home of the founders of the circus

Now, The Ringling is a fabulous museum that offers so much for tourists to see that you can get a three day pass — and you need it if you want to see it all.

Ringling Mansion Ca-Dzan Sarasota Florida copy

Ornamentation galore!

The Ringling estate’s mansion is a phenomenal building that is loaded with decorative arches, fanciful cornices, and an altogether fairy tale type of air.

Tourists at The Ringling mansion Sarasota Florida

The Ringling is a “do not miss” Sarasota excursion!

Out front there is a fabulous and enormous rock tile deck that looks out on Sarasota Bay. Standing there I tried to imagine what it was like back in the day when John and Mabel Ringling held parties there. Oh my!

Tile deck at The Ringling mansion Sarasota Florida

Even the deck is absolutely stunning, with inlaid colorful stone tiles.

The Ringling also has a museum that houses the stunning collection of European art that John Ringling collected. Mondays are “free admission day,” and when we got inside we were blown away by this immense art collection.

The Ringling Art Museum Sarasota Florida

The Ringling art museum is free on Mondays and is home to a stunning collection of European masters.

Out back there is a rose garden that was the pride and joy of Mabel Ringling as well as a gargantuan banyan tree.

Banyan tree The Ringling gardens Sarasota Florida

Out back we found a massive banyan tree shading a very cool bar!

Sarasota is one place where it would take a whole season of outings to run out of things to do. One excursion we really enjoyed was going to Jungle Gardens.

This is a zoo of sorts whose welcoming committee is a flock of pink flamingos who go out of their way to say, “Hello!”

Flamingo and photographer Jungle Gardens Sarasota Florida

At Jungle Gardens they hire pink flamingos to be the greeters!

They are extremely friendly birds, and even though they had plenty of natural spaces to stand around and do their flamingo thing in the water and under the tropical trees, one flamingo took a particular liking to Mark and rubbed his beak all over him!

Flamingo Jungle Gardens Sarasota Florida

True love… for the flamingo at least!

Jungle Gardens also has a wonderful bird show, and we were delighted by the antics of the various parrots. One parrot, a 79 year old cockatoo named Snowflake, was a seasoned professional when it came to performing. He was so old that he had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show before I was born!

He can still do great tricks, though, and we watched him ride a bike on a tightrope while a buddy macaw perched on a swing and went for a free ride below him.

Snowflake rides a unicycle with Andy riding underneath copy

Snowflake’s still got it at 79 years old!

There are lots of parks in the Sarasota area, and we got a huge kick out of watching native birds fishing, swimming and flying by us in some of these parks.

Great Blue Heron Sarasota Florida

The native wild birds are a sight to behold in many parks around town.

Sandhill cranes like Sarasota as much as people do, and to our utter delight and complete surprise, a pair of sandhill cranes had a nest with two eggs near a pond at a strip mall.

Sandhill crane with chick in nest Sarasota Florida

A sandhilll crane mom checks on her brand new chick.

On the day that they were due to hatch a large group of fascinated birders and photographers gathered near the nest and began to watch the arrival of the baby chicks through huge telephoto lenses and binoculars.

Sandhill chick and egg in nest Sarasota Florida

“Yawn…It was a lot of work getting out of that egg!”

This little guy was absolutely adorable.

Sandhill crane with chick in nest Sarasota Florida

“Oopsie!”

And the first little one was soon joined by its sibling while the parents pushed the egg shells aside.

Two sandhill cranes in nest Sarasota Florida

“Are you my brother?!”

Sarasota has lots of quirky charm, and there is a mascot that adorns many homes and businesses around town. Nicknamed the Tube Dude, this guy can be seen holding a toothbrush in front of the dentist’s office, wearing a baker’s hat in front of the bakery and sitting in a Kayak at the local surf and kayak shop. What fun!

The Tube Dude in Sarasota Florida

The Tube Dude at a coffee shop with a water bowl for his dog.

Trailer Life has posted our article on their website and you can read it here:

Sarasota’s Three-Ring Circus – Trailer Life Magazine, March 2017

Flipping to the back of the March issue, there is a photo of a wonderfully starry night taken from the Mossy Cove trail at Bryce Canyon National Park. We spent quite a bit of time at Bryce Canyon last summer, which gave us a chance to get out on the trails in the dark several times.

Stars over Fairytale Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park

Hiking Bryce Canyon under the stars is very rewarding.

It is a little eerie hiking in the pitch dark with a flashlight, but we managed not to fall over the edge and we saw some really cool skies.

Fairy Tale Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Night Stars

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Bryce Canyon doesn’t have super dark skies, so there is always a big of a glow on the horizon from nearby towns, but even so, the stars jumped out of the heavens.

Fairy Tale Hike Bryce Canyon National Park Night Stars

We ventured out into Fairytale Canyon

We were there fairly late in the season, in September, so catching the Milky Way was a little tricky as we had to get out into Bryce Canyon’s amphitheater of hoodoos in order to look back up towards the rim to see it. But we caught it sailing across the sky on several occaisions between 3:00 and 5:30 in the morning.

Milky Way Bryce Canyon National Park Fairytale Canyon

The Milky Way is easiest to see in late spring and early summer.

Milky Way and tree silhouette Bryce Canyon National Park

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Milky Way Bryce Canyon National Park

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Of course, we stayed out so long on these crazy midnight hikes that by the time we got back to our trailer the morning sky was just beginning to lighten into rich shades of blue. And sure enough, there was the Orion constellation hanging over our rig!

Orion constellation over RV Utah

Orion sails high above our trailer.

Trailer Life is an excellent magazine, and we were subscribers for years before we became writers and photographers for them. Whether you are a new RVer or have many years under your belt, if you own a towable RV like we do, you might enjoy subscribing for a year. You can subscribe to Trailer Life here:

Trailer Life Subscription

It’s not expensive, and what I like is that it is professionally edited by terrific editors and it is professionally laid out by a graphic artist which gives it a polish in the print edition that just doesn’t exist online, whether on magazine websites or on folksy blogs like this one.

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Interested in visiting Sarasota? Here are our blog posts from our stay there:

More Blog Posts from Florida

Curious about Bryce Canyon and/or Hiking Under the Stars? Check out these posts:

Night Skies in Waterton Lakes + All Night Timelapse of the Milky Way07/31/16

    A Few of the Other Articles We’ve Published in Trailer Life:

    Trailer Life Articles by Emily & Mark Fagan

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

    “Wild Camping” & RV Boondocking Tips – Escapees Magazine

    The winter RV boondocking scene was well underway in Arizona when we flew halfway around the world to explore Thailand for a month. But even though we weren’t a part of the groovy RV gathering in Quartzsite this season, an article of ours offering a few tips we’ve learned about how to boondock in comfort and style appeared in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Escapees Magazine.

    Wild Camping in Comfort and Style in Escapees Magazine by Emily Fagan

    Escapees Magazine – Jan/Feb 2017 Issue
    Article by Emily & Mark Fagan

    Whenever we find a gorgeous campsite, we’ve gotta take pics. There’s something very satisfying about seeing our beloved buggy in really picturesque locations!! Writing this post seemed like a great excuse to share some pics from our favorite campsites during our travels in 2016. We don’t get to have views like these every day, but when we do, the cameras come out!

    Many years ago, we started our RVing lives by dry camping in public campgrounds in a popup tent trailer. When we moved into our first big trailer to RV full-time nearly ten years ago, we assumed we would be dry camping most of the time.

    So, we put a solar power system on our trailer and quickly learned the art of boondocking.

    This is a really fun way to travel in an RV if you are into nature and solitude and quiet nights.

    It’s not something that appeals to everyone, but we enjoy it immensely and have written about it on this blog:

    For us, half the fun of boondocking is finding really great campsites, and that is a treasure hunt we undertake every day (we even caught ourselves pointing out to each other an “ideal boondocking spot” while on a tour in Thailand!!!).

    Many people assume that “boondocking” means “roughing it,” but that doesn’t have to be the case. I had to laugh when I invited a new RVer into our rig last summer and, as she followed me up the stairs, she said, “I can’t believe you boondock all the time and you have shaved legs!!” Well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, whether camping in the wilds of nature or staying at the Four Seasons!

    If your RV is outfitted well and you are willing to conserve your water and electricity a little bit, boondocking can be very comfortable, and of course, you can shower every day and shave your legs too!

    Since we began living in our RV and boondocking every night all those years ago, the term “wild camping” has become popular, although I’m not sure that living in a luxury RV can be considered either “wild” or truly “camping.”

    But the term does have a really sexy ring to it, so the Escapees Magazine editors used it in the title of our article. They posted the article on their website and you can read it here:

    Wild Camping in Comfort and Style – Escapees Magazine

    The Escapees RV Club has always encouraged its members to try boondocking, as it is the way the Club’s founders, Kay and Joe Peterson, liked to camp in their Airstream when they were full-timing as young working adults in the 1970’s and 80’s.

    Escapees offers super cheap dry camping sites at most of their RV parks ($5/night for members) and they provide dry camping options at all of their rallies and functions too.

    The Advocacy arm of Escapees RV Club also keeps tabs on changes in public land management and goes to bat for RVers when our camping options on public land are threatened in a big way.

    Escapees RV Club has many other facets to support and educate RVers, from bootcamp programs for new RVers to rallies offered by various chapters nationwide that bring both inexperienced and seasoned RVers together socially.

    On March 19-24, 2017, Escapees will be holding its 57th Escapade rally in Tucson, Arizona. This is a big rally and the schedule is absolutely chock full of informative seminars, social gatherings and fun entertainment.

    Before Escapade begins next month, there will also be a 3 day Escapees Bootcamp training program for new RVers, March 16-18.

    The schedule of Bootcamp seminars is eye-popping, covering everything from RV systems to Safe Driving to Specifics on Towable RVs to Specifics on Motorhomes to RV Weight and Load Management and Fire Safety.

    They’ll also have their professional SmartWeigh Weighmasters available to weigh your RV. Our rig was weighed by a Smartweigh Weighmaster, and it was a very helpful and informative process.

    Unlike most truck scales that weigh each axle of the rig individually, this weighing system weighs each wheel. This helps you figure out where the heavy spots are (all on one side or on opposite corners or in one particular corner) and find out whether your rig is limping a bit as it goes down the road.

    This 57th Escapade in Tucson will also have a two-day program specifically for kids so parents or grandparents can drop their kids off while they attend seminars.

    For folks that love to ham it up and perform, there is also an event called Escapade’s Got Talent where members can entertain their fellow RVers with whatever singing, dancing, music, skits or poetry they’ve got up their sleeve. For cowboy poets, there will also be a Cowboy Poetry contest.

    There will be lots of great food too, including a chili cook-off, and on the last day there will be a 90th birthday party for Escapees Club Founder Kay Peterson.

    We discovered Escapees RV Club back in 2008 through our love of boondocking when some fellow boondockers outside Death Valley National Park showed us the Days End Directory of boondocking locations and encouraged us to join.

    If you are interested in joining, you can call 888-757-2582 or use the link below. If you mention that you heard about Escapees through our website, Roads Less Traveled, they will put a little something in our tip jar. We’ve been recommending Escapees to RVers for years, tip-free, so that is not our motivation at all. We simply believe in the Club and all the work they do to make RVing easier and more fun for everyone.

    Join Escapees RV Club

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    Things we’ve found helpful for boondocking:

    More info about Escapees and Escapade:

    For folks that like our photography:

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

    Our New Column in Trailer Life Magazine – Roads to Adventure!

    We are very excited to announce that we are going to be writing and providing photos for a regular column in Trailer Life Magazine!

    Trailer Life Magazine January 2017

    Our column debuts in the January issue of Trailer Life Magazine.

    For many years, the back page of Trailer Life has featured the unique stories and insights of RVer and writer Bill Graves.

    Bill’s unusual tales from the less traveled roads of America have been such a delight to readers that we’ve heard people say that the first thing they do with Trailer Life is to flip it over and read Bill’s column on the back page.

    I admit that I have done the same thing!

    His stories provided a wonderful glimpse of life in America off the beaten path, and he ended each column with a fun tag line: “Welcome to America’s Outback.”

    Bill has decided to retire from writing his column, and Trailer Life has asked us and travel writer Lisa Densmore Ballard to take turns luring readers to the back page.

    We are thrilled to have been given this honor.

    Trailer Life has named the new column “Roads to Adventure,” and we’ve come up with a new and different format for the column that will highlight our love of photography.

    Each column will feature a beautiful photograph from a special place we’ve seen in our travels and will include a brief description of our experiences there.

    Photography and RV travel Horshoe Bend Arizona

    Our “Roads to Adventure” columns will bring you a stunning photo from an enchanting place.

    We will be writing this column every other month beginning with the January, 2017, issue. Our first column is about the wonderful sweeping bend in the Colorado River that RVers can see when they make a trek to Horseshoe Bend, Arizona.

    Photography at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

    Horseshoe Bend is a fantastic place for RVers to do a little photography.

    This is a gorgeous spot that is well worth making a detour to see. We wrote in detail about our experience at Horseshoe Bend and shared lots of photos in the following blog post:

    Horseshoe Bend Overlook in Arizona – Stunning!

    We were utterly smitten when we visited, both by the immense size and scale of the cliffs and by the crazy antics tourists did on out on the hairy edge. We took endless photos, and one of Mark’s finest is the one that Trailer Life chose for our debut column.

    Sunset was a wild time at Horseshoe Bend with hoards of people taking selfies and photographers lining up at the edge, tripod to tripod, watching the sun slip away on the horizon. Sunrise, however, was peaceful and still and hauntingly beautiful.

    Even though the sun rose at our backs, it was a thrill to watch the shadows disappear down the rock walls under the pink sky in front of us as it climbed higher and higher in the sky.

    Sunrise at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

    Although famous for its sunsets, our favorite moments at Horseshoe Bend were at sunrise!

    We captured many wonderful images at Horseshoe Bend, and one of Mark’s just won the Photo of the Day at Steve’s Digicams a few days ago. This is the fifth photo of his that has been featured on that website.

     Horseshoe Bend Arizona

    Horseshoe Bend, Arizona – What a place!

    Both for seasoned RVers and for those that are new to the hobby, Trailer Life is an informative magazine that offers lots of RV tech tips, overviews of major RV upgrade projects as well as enticing travel destination features.

    You can subscribe to the print and digital editions at these links:

    We have lots more fun destinations in store for Trailer Life readers from the many places we’ve visited over the years, and we hope that our spot on the back page will be one that readers turn to.

    All smiles at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

    Look for us on the back page of Trailer Life Magazine!

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    Other blog posts from our travels in northeastern Arizona:

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

    Maine’s Pretty Acadia National Park in Motorhome Magazine!

    Last summer we enjoyed a fabulous RV trip to the eastern states, and one of the highlights was Acadia National Park in Maine. We are very proud that the September 2016 issue Motorhome Magazine features our article about this beautiful oceanfront National Park: Maine Course: Acadia National Park Offers Beauty and History Off the Beaten Path.

    Motorhome Magazine Acadia National Park Maine Article by Emily Fagan

    Motorhome Magazine September 2016 Issue
    Article: Emily Fagan, Photos: Emily & Mark Fagan

    Acadia National Park was the first Eastern National Park to be established, back in July, 1916. The Park takes up much of Mt. Desert Island on the northern Maine coast. Very close to the Park entrance lies the small, upscale town of Bar Harbor.

    Bar Harbor Maine

    Bar Harbor is a trendy and charming town on Mt. Desert Island near the entrance to Acadia National Park

    There are boutiques and tourist shops of all kinds and a pretty waterfront walking path where you can take in the views.

    Bar Harbor Maine

    Bar Harbor has lots of boutiques and tourist shops.

    While Bar Harbor is where the human action is on Mt. Desert Island, the gorgeous scenic drive along Acadia National Park’s craggy coast is where Nature reins supreme.

    Pink granite boulders on the Acadia National Park shore

    Maine’s coast is all craggy granite boulders that lead to the sea.

    The beautiful granite slabs and boulders make for some really fun (and easy) scrambling, and there are a number of sights and hiking trails on this very quiet shoreline.

    Acadia National Park Maine

    Acadia National Park has a beautiful, rocky shoreline.

    Mt. Desert Island is a big island with two main lobes, several small towns and lots of little peninsulas that jut out into the sea. Acadia National Park takes up much of the land, and the whole island is fun to explore. Many spots on the shoreline are wonderful for relaxing and soaking in the view.

    Tranquility on the Maine Coast Acadia National Park

    Huge granite slabs on the shore are great for kicking back and enjoying the view!

    Lobster boats fill many charming harbors in the area, and the Schoodic National Scenic Byway is a gorgeous drive that passes by a few.

    Lobster boats on the Maine Coast

    Maine lobster is a delicacy, and the small harbors are filled with lobster boats that catch them.

    Of course, the lobstermen catch lots of lobsters. There’s nothing like a Maine lobster roll (lobster meat with mayo on a hotdog bun) eaten out on a sunny deck, or an all out Maine lobster dinner complete with a bright red whole lobster on your plate, a bib around your neck, butter melting in a tiny dish over a flame and a nutcracker and pick to get at the tasty morsels inside!

    Lobster restaurant Bar Harbor Maine

    There are lobster shacks on every corner and lobster restaurants on every pier!

    We were floored by the immense lupines that grow wild all over everywhere in the summertime. They range from pale pink to deep purple and they enhance every view in every direction!!

    Wild lupines Mt Desert Island Maine

    We were stunned by the gorgeous wild lupines growing everywhere.

    One of the biggest highlights in Acadia National Park is a trip up Cadillac Mountain. At the top we checked out the view while a seagull checked us out to see if we had any food to spare!

    Seagull Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

    On Cadillac Mountain we enjoyed the view while a seagull waited for a treat, or maybe a tip!

    We were very lucky during our stay in Acadia National Park to be there when a national Model A club was holding a rally.

    Model A car climbing Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

    A national Model A rally in Acadia National Park — How cool!

    There were Model A cars on every road, and we watched them climbing up Cadillac Mountain on roads that were originally built for them.

    Model A Car on Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

    Cute Model A cars were driving all the roads in Acadia National Park while we were there.

    Cyclists had a ball descending from Cadillac Mountain too, and what a view they had as they flew down.

    Cyclist rides down Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

    Flying down Cadillac Mountain on a bike would be a lot of fun!!

    One of the coolest things in Acadia National Park is the Carriage Roads that were built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. These roads were built to give the rich city folks from New York and Boston a place to go for a carriage ride from their vacation estates in Maine at the turn of the century and were closed to motorized cars. Nowadays, they are wonderful for biking.

    Acadia National Park Carriage Roads Maine

    The Carriage Roads are an ideal place for a leisurely bike ride through the beautiful Maine woods.

    Although we heard that John D. Rockefeller, Jr’s son, David Rockefeller, now age 101, can occasionally be spotted enjoying his dad’s carriage roads in his own horse-drawn carriage, the public can walk, ride a bike or ride in a horse-drawn wagon on these roads that wind through the thick and wonderfully fragrant Maine woods on Mt. Desert Island.

    Horse-drawn wagon ride Acadia National Park Carriage Roads Maine

    The 50 miles of Carriage Roads are unique to Acadia National Park and can be enjoyed many ways!

    Besides providing a road system that was free of motor cars, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. wanted all the bridges and tunnels on his roads to have a non-industrial and hand-made flare. Each was built by expert masons and is just beautiful.

    Acadia National Park Carriage Roads

    John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made sure the bridges and tunnels were finely crafted by hand.

    The Carriage Roads zig-zag for 50 miles all over Mt. Desert Island, and near the center of the island they pass by Jordan Pond. This is a haven for kayaks and has a wonderful little restaurant where you can sit on the deck and enjoy the view.

    Jordan Pond Acadia National Park Maine

    Jordan Pond in the heart of Acadia is a wonderful change of pace from the rugged ocean shoreline

    We enjoyed many sunny days during our stay in June, but late spring and early summer also bring a lot of fog to the Maine coast. This can be drippy and miserable, but there is also a special and mysterious beauty that shrouds everything in Maine when the fog rolls in.

    Lobser boats in the Maine fog

    Fog is common in Maine, and it can make for some very memorable and scenic images.

    As a side note, Acadia National Park is just outside of Bangor, Maine, where we had the first of our four major RV repairs that hit us last summer, all in a row: the replacement of our trailer axle. We had it done by an excellent RV repair shop, Harvey RVs in Bangor, Maine, and you can read about what happened here:

    5th Wheel Trailer Axle Replacement (a BIG repair job!)

    A major RV repair like that is disconcerting, to say the least, but northern Maine was a great place to be stuck for a while because it is so scenic, peaceful and calming!

    Calm harbor on the Maine Coast at Acadia National Park

    Life is very tranquil in Maine!

    Motorhome Magazine is a terrific monthly magazine that covers all things related to RVing, motorhome ownership and maintenance. We are very proud to be contributors this month.

    Occasionally, Motorhome posts our articles on their website. Some of our previous articles can be read at this link (this article about Maine is not among them): Motorhome Magazine Articles by Emily & Mark Fagan

    For newer RVers looking to learn about the RV lifestyle, learn about motorhomes and get ideas for cool travel destinations, Motorhome is a great resource. And for seasoned RVers who already know the ropes, there are lots of tid-bits to be gleaned from their pages too.

    You can subscribe here (please note that the digital subscription price is “$0” but you will be charged when you open the download):

    Motorhome Magazine Subscription – Print Edition
    Motorhome Magazine Subscription – Digital Edition

    A boat leaves the harbor in Maine's Acadia National Park

    A classic Maine image!

    If you are planning an RV trip to Acadia National Park or elsewhere in Downeast Maine, the blog posts below from our RV travels to the area may get you inspired and help with your travel planning.

    More Info for an RV trip to Acadia National Park:

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    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

    Our 20th Magazine Cover Photo in Coast to Coast + Trailer Life Feature!

    We are really proud to announce that we have published our twentieth magazine cover photo! It is showcased on the Summer 2016 issue of Coast to Coast Magazine, and it’s a pretty shot of our buggy at sunset in eastern Oregon.

    Coast to Coast RV Magazine Cover Summer 2016

    Coast to Coast Magazine – Summer 2016
    Photo by: Emily Fagan
    Cover story: Exploring Oregon’s Quiet Side

    Inside the magazine, our cover story reveals many special hidden gems for RVers that can be found in the northeastern corner of Oregon.

    Unlike the cool and dramatic Oregon coast where towering rock cliffs plunge straight down to the crashing Pacific surf below, the eastern part of Oregon is high desert, a parched and hot land where you can still see the wagon wheel ruts from the pioneer wagon trains that traveled west on the Oregon Trail.

    Oregon Trail Wagon train ruts

    We stood on the original wagon train ruts on the Oregon Trail…Incredible!

    A while back we took our RV from Bend, Oregon into eastern Oregon. We visited the new Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and hunted down the wagon wheel ruts that are just a ways outside the museum. Staring down the road that once had pioneer wagons on it as far as the eye could see, we marveled at the differences between the early 1800’s and now, both in modes of travel and in our country.

    Farm and prairie in eastern Oregon

    Eastern Oregon offers a beautiful glimpse into an earlier era.

    In Baker City we were charmed by the historic downtown that is lined with Victorian era buildings, and we loved the quiet and intimate feeling that this small city of 10,000 exudes. What a surprise it was to find out that, unlike other major cities in Oregon and neighboring states that have quadrupled in size in just a few decades, the population in Baker City hasn’t changed since 1940.

    Geiser Grand Hotel Baker City Oregon

    The beautiful Geiser Grand Hotel was built in Baker City in 1889.

    Baker City is also home to the fabulous annual Baker City Cycling Classic Bike Race whose final event takes place in the downtown city streets much like the last stage of the Tour de France. While cyclists fly by at 35 mph, fans drink beer on restaurant patios and cheer the riders on. It’s quite something!

    Baker City Cycling Classic Bike Race in Oregon

    Cyclists fly past on the downtown streets of Baker City, Oregon

    Traveling out into the even more remote reaches of northeastern Oregon, we found the towns became so small that each was home to just a thousand or two thousand people, and they were spaced ten miles or so apart. We arrived in the charming village of Joseph that sits at the base of the beautiful Wallowa Mountains and fell in love with the area.

    Main Street and mountains in Joseph Oregon 681

    Joseph Oregon’s Main Street

    It takes so long to get to Joseph from any major city that everyone who goes there sticks around for a while, and not all that many people go there. There is a wonderful state park for camping right on the edge of beautiful Wallowa Lake, and there are oodles of fun things to do, from visiting a bronze foundry to riding special “bicycles” built for the narrow gauge railway line that runs between Joseph and Enterprise.

    Riding the rails with the Joseph Branch Railriders in Oregon

    Our friends Katie and Dick check out the rails on a unique “bike.”

    We also took a wonderful gondola ride to the peaks of the Wallowas to have lunch with a fabulous view at the Summit Restaurant and enjoy a hike around the top of the mountain.

    Hiking the Wallowa Mountains in Joseph Oregon

    Hiking into the Wallowa Mountains above Joseph, Oregon

    Seeking more mountain views, we hiked the Hurricane Creek trail in nearby Enterprise where we passed meadows of wildflowers in full bloom. Then we visited Hell’s Canyon, both from the overlook on the Oregon side and from the water level on the Idaho side.

    Coast to Coast is the membership magazine for Coast Resorts, an RV park membership program with a network of around 400 parks. This is a “high end” RV membership program where you pay a hefty fee up front to buy into a home park and also pay an annual fee for park upkeep. However, as a member, you can stay at the 400 or so elegant member RV parks for just a few dollars a night.

    We’ve met several full-time RVers who make the most of these kinds of RV membership programs. One very savvy couple we met last year in Quartzsite excitedly told us they had continued to upgrade their membership and purchase more perks in the program as the years went by, which now gave them some really exceptional long term benefits. As new full-timers in their mid-sixties, they’ll have plenty of time to travel the country in style, using their membership and paying pennies on the dollar for their overnight stays.

    Deer at Wallowa Lake in Oregon

    “No Trespassing? No Problem!
    I’m a card carrying Coast to Coast Member!”

    The trick is to do your research first and to negotiate with gusto. These memberships are sold in the same fashion as timeshares, giving you a tour in exchange for a few nights’ stay, but putting you on the hot seat for a few hours before letting you go. However, for the smart and knowledgeable shopper, there are real deals to be had.

    On a different but similar note, we are excited to announce that the August 2016 issue of Trailer Life Magazine is featuring our article about a really fun train ride we did in New Hampshire‘s White Mountains aboard the Cog Railway.

    Mt Washington Cog Railway Trailer Life Magazine August 2016

    Trailer Life Magazine – August, 2016
    Feature story by Emily Fagan. Photos by Emily and Mark Fagan

    The Cog Railway claws its way straight up Mt. Washington, the northeastern states’ highest mountain peak. It uses a cog wheel installed on the train with teeth on it that link into a special track that lies between the two conventional rails on the ground in much the same way that the teeth on a bicycle cog rotate through the links in a bicycle chain. Completed in 1869, it was the first of its kind in the world, and the story behind its creation and the inventor who conceived of it is quite a tale.

    Mt Washington Summit

    At the summit of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington
    It was an extraordinary climb…aboard the Cog Railway!

    Trailer Life Magazine has posted our story on their website and you can read the article at this link:

    New Hampshire’s Little Engine that Could!

    We have had the good fortune to have published many articles and photos in the pages of Trailer Life Magazine, and a few of them can be read at this link:

    Emily & Mark Fagan’s articles and photos in Trailer Life Magazine

    Trailer Life is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and they have been publishing some super fun stories about the history of trailer travel and RVing in the magazine and on their website.

    We subscribed to Trailer Life within a few months after buying our first popup tent trailer, and we have learned a lot from reading it over the years. There’s a bit of a learning curve when you first start RVing, and a monthly magazine like Trailer Life is a great way to get a general introduction to the hobby.

    It offers tech tips and lifestyle ideas and articles describing major upgrades. The beauty of these professionally written articles is that they are critiqued by a team of experienced editors who make sure that every word is something they can stand behind.

    If you are new to RVing, I highly recommend subscribing to Trailer Life for a year or more. You’ll catch our articles as they are published, which is nice, but much more importantly, you will gain valuable insights into the entire RV industry. You can subscribe to Trailer Life here:

    Subscribe to Trailer Life Magazine

    Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire White Mountains

    1875 technology at its finest – What a great ride!
    The Cog Railway’s steam train runs once a day, however, bio-diesel trains run all day long.


    A little more info on all this:

    Our blog posts from Eastern Oregon:

    Our eastern Oregon itinerary:

    Bend to Baker City to Joseph to Hell’s Canyon

    Our blog post on riding the Cog Railway plus its location on the map:

    Taking the Cog Railway to the top of Mt. Washington
    Location of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

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    A Summer RV Road Trip on Florida’s Northern Gulf Coast

    The July 2016 issue of Motorhome Magazine features our story about taking an RV roadtrip along the seashore at the top of the Sunshine State. It’s called Jewels of Florida’s Northern Gulf Coast.

    Jewels of Florida's Northern Gulf Coast Trailer Life Magazine July 2016

    Motorhome Magazine – July 2016
    Article: Emily Fagan, Photos: Emily & Mark Fagan

    We have ventured to the northern part of Florida several times during our years of RVing, and we have enjoyed it immensely.

    Most seasonal and full-time RVers think of Florida as a warm destination and a good place to escape the cold of winter. So it may seem odd for this article to appear in the July issue.

    However, as anyone who ventures to northern Florida in January quickly discovers, the peak season for beach-goers along Florida’s panhandle is actually summertime!

    Crazy as it seems, the winter months generally isn’t warm enough for swimming or even for sunbathing in Florida’s panhandle! We were shocked to find ourselves shivering in our jackets and long pants on this part of the Gulf coast when we were there one January.

    By March, however, it was lovely on the beach, and we were assured that by summertime the water is downright toasty for swimming. And that’s when the RV park rates go up.

    So, for RVers planning a winter trek to the northern Gulf Coast, it may be chilly but the RV parks will be cheaper. Summer visitors might pay a premium, but they’ll have one big beach party!

    Northern Florida Emerald Coast

    What a spot for a stroll!

    The coast around Pensacola Beach and Panama City Beach is called the Emerald Coast, and it is for good reason. The water is a stunning shade of green.

    Emerald Coast beaches Florida Gulf Coast

    The Emerald Coast beaches have vivid aquamarine water and incredibly white sand.

    And the sugary sand is blindingly white, super soft, and fun to play in.

    Gulf Island National Seashore Florida

    Sand or snow?!

    One of our favorite areas is the Gulf Islands National Seashore between Pensacola Beach and Navarre. This is a thin 10 mile long strip of barrier island that has a paved bike path and a paved road connecting the communities at either end.

    On one side of the Gulf Islands National Seashore barrier island there is a calm bay that is wonderful for kayaking.

    The bay side of Gulf Islands National Seashore

    The bay side of Gulf Islands National Seashore is calm and was ideal for our Hobie inflatable kayak.

    On the other side the open ocean is emerald colored and there are endless miles of white sand beaches.

    Vivd green water on the Emerald Coast

    The Emerald Coast is just that!

    Playing in the white sand of Florida Northern Gulf Coast

    This place is one huge sandbox!

    The beaches are busy at each end of the strip near the communities of Pensacola Beach and Navarre. But for the many miles in between there is nothing but sand and ocean. And the beach is sensational at sunrise.

    Sunrise Florida Gulf Coast beach

    Sunrise can be breathtaking on this coast.

    There are lots of beautiful beaches along Florida’s northern Gulf coast, and they range from remote and peaceful to urban and bustling. Panama City Beach is loaded with highrises.

    Panama CIty Beach Florida

    Panama City Beach is full of high rises but is still a great beach for strollling, body surfing and sun bathing.

    The fun thing about Florida is that as soon as you drive into the state you feel like you’re on vacation. Riding our bikes along the beach, we found ourselves riding past resorts with beach bars, live music and a tropical feel.

    On vacation in Florida's Panhandle

    You can get beers to go and hear live music at the beach resorts.

    Florida has lots of beautiful state parks, and three we enjoyed in this area were St. George Island State Park, St. Joseph State Park and Ochlockonee River State Park. The first two parks not only have beaches loaded with seashells, but they have cool boardwalks. The third has stands of tall trees and pure white squirrels. And they all have RV camping too.

    Florida Gulf Coast beach sunrise

    Orange light at dawn.

    No matter where you go along the waterfront, seagulls will be hanging around and squawking!

    Seagulls Florida Northern Gulf Coast

    Seagulls line up along a fence by the beach.

    The town of Apalachicola has lots of history and is home to a large shrimping fleet tied up at the docks. There are also some fun restaurants and neat little shops too. For oyster lovers, there are many places to get a plate of oysters.

    Shrimp boat Apalachicola Florida

    Apalachicola is a small working town with a big fleet of shrimp boats.

    We have lots of blog posts about our RV travels in and around Florida’s Northern Gulf Coast at these links:

    On the beach Florida's Northern Gulf Coast Emerald Coast

    Standing up or lying down, there are many ways to have a great time on the Gulf Coast.

    Motorhome Magazine is a terrific magazine that is published every month. Besides highlighting fun RVing destinations like Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, it also has lots of articles about RV maintenance, RV repair, and reviews of recently released motorhome models.

    Sugar sand beaches line the Emerald Coast

    The sand is like sugar…

    For those interested in learning about RVing, Motorhome Magazine is a great way to pick up little golden nuggets of info about RVs and where to take them! An annual subscription to either the print or digital edition is not expensive and can be obtained at this link:

    Subscribe to Motorhome Magazine

    We have been publishing articles in Motorhome Magazine for a few years now, and some of our articles, including one about RVing full-time, are posted on Motorhome’s website at this link:

    Motorhome Magazine articles by Emily & Mark Fagan

    Sunset Pensacola Beach Florida

    Pensacola Beach at sunset…

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    Here’s some info about these areas:

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

    One Ton Towing Machines and 75 Years of Trailer Life

    The July 2016 issue of Trailer Life Magazine is featuring our article about what it takes for a One Ton Truck to be a true heavy duty towing machine. We are incredibly proud to have been asked to write this article about diesel trucks for Trailer Life, and especially that it appears in this month’s very special edition: Trailer Life’s 75th Anniversary Issue.

    Trailer Life Magazine Choosing a Truck for Heavy Duty Towing

    Trailer Life Magazine – July 2016
    Article by: Emily Fagan. Photos by Mark & Emily Fagan
    You can read the article here: One Ton Towing Machines

    Trailer Life Magazine has been reviewing trucks and giving readers insights and pointers for towing trailers since 1941. As they note on the cover, Trailer Life is “North America’s oldest and most-read magazine for RV enthusiasts.”

    Besides our 7 page article about selecting a diesel pickup truck for towing a heavy trailer, this issue looks back at 75 years of RV history and has some wonderful articles on the evolution of RVing.

    2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually truck in Valley of the Gods Utah

    Trucks and trailers have gone through a huge evolution in the past 75 years!

    From the Bowlus Road Chief aluminum sided trailers that resembled an upside down boat and inspired the Airstream, to the Shasta trailers that my hubby Mark remembers from his boyhood camping days with his family, to the iconic Winnebago bread box motorhomes with the big “W” on the side that we still see people driving all over the country, this issue of Trailer Life takes us back in time.

    1937 Bowlus Road Chief

    A 1937 Bowlus Road Chief — precursor to the Airstream Trailer!

    1954 Shasta Travel Trailer

    1954 Shasta Travel Trailer – Mark camped in one of these as a kid!

    In this issue, they also talk about the resurgence of interest in retro trailers — we see so many retro trailers on the road as we travel! — and they also have a biographical article about the “Godfather” of Trailer Life Magazine, Art Rouse.

    1950 Chevy and 1947 Tear Drop Trailer

    We spotted a 1950 Chevy and 1947 Tear Drop Trailer in Sun Valley Idaho

    1959 Streamline Trailer

    We met up with owners/restorers of a 1959 Streamline Trailer in Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

    It is really exciting for our contribution about 2016 diesel trucks to be published this month right alongside such a fun and detailed retrospective look at the RV industry’s history.

    Americans — and the world — have taken to RV living in trailers and motorhomes with great gusto for many years. We first got a true feeling for this long history when we visited the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in the heart of the RV industry — Elkhart, Indiana — back when we traveled through that area in 2010.

    A Visit to the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum

    Besides being able to go into the museum library and peruse yellowed copies of Trailer Life, Escapees Magazine and Motorhome Magazine, as well as many others, from decades ago (the advertisements are hilarious and say so much about American culture in each era!), we also took a walk back in time along their winding indoor “Road Back in Time” exhibit. This took us past and through small and classic RVs from every decade.

    RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum Road Back in Time

    The “Road Back in Time” at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Indiana

    Some of the craziest and earliest trailers of nearly 100 years ago were just a canvas tent on wheels (some even had wooden wheels!). The museum also displays Mae West’s House Car and other exotics, as well as a few Shasta, Mallard and Coachmen trailers and Winnebago motorhomes from the 50’s to the 70’s.

    1967 19' Winnebegao Motor Home

    a 19′ 1967 Winnebegao Motorhome on the “Road Back in Time”

    But the cool thing is to see these oldies-but-goodies out on the road and still in use as we travel, and to meet people who have bought brand new retro style trailers too. You can get the old fashioned look but have all brand new appliances with the latest technology. How fun!

    Modern retro trailer RV

    We had a chance to peek inside a brand new retro-style trailer in City of Rocks. NM – Wonderful!

    Retro trailer RV

    This fantastic retro trailer was pulled by a Honda Element… perfect!

    Trailer Life Magazine has been celebrating their 75th anniversary all year long with some really intriguing online articles about the RV industry’s history. Here a link to a few delightful ones:

    75 Years of Trailer Life – Online Article Index

    For anyone contemplating the RV life or currently enjoying it, Trailer Life Magazine fills a special educational and inspirational niche. It is available both as a glossy print magazine and in digital form online.

    After being subscribers ourselves for many years, we began publishing travel destination and technical features in their pages a few years ago (a sampling can be read here), and we still find something new and valuable in every issue. You can subscribe to Trailer Life’s print magazine or digital edition here:

    Subscribe to Trailer Life Magazine

    We love vintage trailers and get such a kick out of seeing them on the road. We’ve had a few fun enounters with owners of special trailers who have lovingly restored them:

    As for buying a big ol’ truck to tow a modern monster fifth wheel trailer, there are some important things to take into account, as not all One Ton trucks are created equal, by a long shot. We talk about a few of those “must have” features in this blog post:

    What to Look For When Choosing a Truck for Heavy Duty Towing – Tips for Truck Buyers

    There are also quite a few other articles about trucks and towing on this blog as well:

    Blog posts about trucks and trailer towing:

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    Cruising Mexico’s Sweet Costalegre (“Happy Coast”) – in Sailing Magazine!

    The June 2016 issue of Sailing Magazine is featuring our article about cruising Mexico’s sweet Costalgre coast. This 50 mile long stretch of Pacific coast shoreline has 10 or so anchorages that vary in size from tiny to enormous and that vary in spirit from an immersion in nature to fancy and elegant resorts.

    It is a favorite cruising ground for sailors heading to Mexico — they call it the “Gold Coast” — and some cruisers return year after year.

    Sailboat anchored in Chamela Bay Gold Coast Mexico Costalegre

    Mexico’s Costalegre has some beautiful anchorages

    The seeds for publishing this article in Sailing Magazine were planted over two years ago, but the opportune moment didn’t strike until this month. We are very proud to be contributors to this outstanding magazine and to have our story and photos appear in its pages.

    Porta-bote on the beach in Paraiso on the Costalegre Mexico

    The tiny cove at Paraiso has a sweet beach and jade colored water.

    Many of our readers know us only as RVers, so I thought this would be a nice time to reflect back a bit on the life altering years we spent on our sailboat Groovy in Mexico between 2010 and 2013 and to share some of our photos from Mexico’s Costalegre in a larger format than is available on our older blog pages that were written while we were there.

    Boats at the Las Hadas Resort Marina Manzanillo Mexico Pacific Coast Costalegre (2)

    The Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo looks like the Mediterranean!

    The Costalegre (a concatenation of the words “Costa” (coast) and “Alegre” (cheerful or happy)) is situated south of and around the corner from Puerto Vallarta.

    Map of Mexico Costalegre Pacific Coast

    The Costalegre is a small bit of coast that is one of Mexico’s major cruising destinations.

    Interactive Link: Location of the Costalegre and its anchorages on Google Maps

    Most of western Mexico’s cruising grounds are very spread out between Ensenada, just below San Diego, and Puerto Chiapas down by the Guatemala border some 2,000 miles away. However, in the Costalegre region it is possible to daysail from one anchorage to the next, rather than sailing overnight as most destinations require, which is part of what makes it so popular.

    Manzanillo Bay lies at the far southern end of the Costalegre, and it is home to several anchorages that are within an hour or two of each other by sailboat. Manzanillo Bay has incredible sunsets and sunrises — or it did when we were there — due in part to the power plant at the south end of the bay that spews soot particulates into the air!

    Sailboat at Sunset Santiago Bay Manzanillo Mexico on the Costalegre

    The sunrises and sunsets in Manzanillo Bay are stunning.

    Construction was underway to convert the power plant to natural gas when we were there. Once it’s up and running, the sometimes polluted air will improve, but it may be the end of these reliably gorgeous skies!

    Next door is the Las Hadas Resort where the movie 10 with Bo Derek was filmed. This is a charming resort full of crazy architecture decorated with funny gargoyles. It has a decidedly Mediterranean feeling to it.

    Las Hadas Resort beach Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre Gold Coast (1)

    Las Hadas Resort anchorage in Mexico – Beautiful!

    The bay is big enough for about 15 or 20 boats and is a great place to stay a while.

    Sailboat anchored at Las Hadas

    Our boat Groovy anchored at Las Hadas

    In our cruise we passed through the Costalegre four times all together on our way to and from the Sea of Cortez up north and Zihuatanejo and Huatulco in the far south of Mexico.

    Las Hadas Resort sailing anchorage Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre

    Las Hadas is great stop between Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo, and we spent a lot of happy weeks there.

    One of the most unexpected pleasures of cruising Mexico’s Pacific coast was that so many of the anchorages are in front of resorts. We hopped in and out of lots of resort swimming pools — what a life!

    Las Hadas Resort Beach with sailboats on the bay Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre (1)

    Sometimes resorts will let cruisers use the amenities like this glorious swimming pool at Las Hadas.

    Occasionally the resorts ask cruisers to pay a day use fee to enjoy their resort facilities. Other times, buying a beer and snacks at the pool bar will suffice.

    Las Hadas Resort Manzanillo Mexico Pacific Coast Costalegre

    Not a bad spot to spend a day!

    Manzanillo Bay is anchored by the city of Manzanillo at its south end. We met an adventurous RVing couple from Cuba (he) and Mexico (she), and at one point we jumped in their truck together to go get propane for our sailboat and for their rig. This took us into downtown Manzanillo, which is quite colorful but very urban.

    Manzanillo downtown Mexico Costalegre (1)

    Downtown Manzanillo gives a more realistic picture of life in Mexico than the resorts.

    One of the things that took some getting used to, but that we found very fun, was the open air markets. There is lots of street food available as well as fresh veggies and sometimes deliciously fresh orange juice that enterprising people sell from carts in the street. And there’s nothing like grabbing lunch from a taco stand — the trick is always to buy this kind of food where there is a long line of locals. That means it’s good!

    Fresh produce was available at many small markets.

    Fresh produce was available at many small markets.

    Another thing that taught us a lot about Mexico, about our own ability to be resourceful, and about how to speak Spanish, was going to the hardware stores in search of parts to fix broken things on the boat. RVs often need repairs and maintenance, but boats need a whole lot more because they are more complex vehicles and the salt air and salt water is extremely corrosive.

    Once we learned how to say the word for hardware store (“ferretería”), we were off and running.

    Carrying the broken boat part with us, we’d hunt down a hardware shop and throw around some beginner Spanish and some slowly spoken English.

    Invariably, we’d get a lot of sympathy as well as directions to another ferretería that might actually have what we were looking for!

    Usually the directions were off by a few blocks one way or the other, so after a bunch more walking (and a bit of sightseeing, of course) we’d arrive at the next place and do it all over again!

    It was a hoot and we met a lot of really wonderful people that way.

    America is very efficient, but keeping a boat maintained and in tip-top working order in Mexico gave us endless heartwarming experiences and chances to get to know a little about our neighbors to the south.

    Hardware store on Pacific Coast of Mexico

    Does this place have the little gizmo we need for the boat?

    And whether or not we got the part we needed to finish our repair, there was usually a fabulous sunset at the end of the day that would light the sky on fire.

    Sunrise on Costalegre Mexico Pacific Coast Gold Coast

    Ahhhh…

    We found that in the wintertime much of Mexico’s Pacific coast has murky water that is often plagued by red tide. However, one spring we stopped in the tiny bay of Paraiso on the Costalegre and found ourselves surrounded by crystal clear jade colored water. What a delight! Let’s jump in!

    Well, jumping off the boat to play in the water always included 15 or 20 minutes of scraping the barnacles off the bottom of the boat! That was a chore we did frequently, but how wonderful to be able to do it in such beautiful water!

    Snorkeling at Paraiso Bay in Costalegre Mexico

    Cleaning the hull of the boat was fun in this kind of water!

    In the Las Hadas anchorage in Manzanillo, we needed to fuel up. There is diesel available at a boat dock, but it was very challenging to get a big boat up to that dock easily. We managed that tricky maneuver in our third year when we were seasoned sailors, but in our first year we hauled diesel in jerry jugs from the fuel dock out to our boat in the dinghy, and we used a Super Siphon to get the diesel from the can into the boat’s fuel tank.

    Filling the diesel tank with jerry jugs cruising Mexico

    There is diesel available in Las Hadas, but it’s not so easy to tie the boat up to the dock.
    Using jerry jugs and a Super Siphon was a simple alternative!

    Another jewel of an anchorage on the Costalegre is Careyes. This is a tiny cove tucked behind an island, and all the homes have been painted vibrant primary colors. What a backdrop!!

    Sailboat at Costa Careyes Mexico

    Groovy anchored at Careyes

    It is rumored that Heidi Klum has a home here. Unfortunately, we didn’t see her!

    Careyes is a very difficult place to anchor because there are contrary currents and tides and winds that all join forces to set every boat off on a wild dance. So, very few boats go there. We were the only cruising boat in the anchorage the whole time we were there.

    A stern anchor is an absolute necessity to keep the boat pointing in the right direction. We chose a Manson because it had no moving parts to bite our shins and had a nice handle to hold onto!

    Stern anchor is necessary for sailboat in Careyes Bay Mexico Costalegre Gold Coast

    Careyes is a beautiful anchorage, but a stern anchor is necessary to counteract the enormous current and swell.

    But it is worth the effort to get the boat anchored in Careyes. What a lovely view of the palm tree lined beach!

    Beach and houses at Careyes Mexico Costalegre

    Pretty view at Careyes

    Swell is part of the everyday picture when cruising Mexico, and for boaters whose experience is cruising the protected anchorages of the Pacific Northwest or Maine (like me), it is a real surprise to discover just how much a boat can roll. I wrote a blog post about the joys of swell here and it shows the action of the swell on a huge tanker near the Las Hadas anchorage in Manzanillo— yikes!

    The waves are wild because Mexico’s Pacific coast is wide open to the Pacific, and there is nothing stopping the waves or slowing them down as they come in from the open ocean!

    Perula Beach Chamela Bay in Mexico Riviera

    Swell is significant on Mexico’s Pacific coast. It can be a challenge to land the dink on the beach!

    So, landing a dinghy can be a challenge. And getting the dinghy launched from the beach to go back to the big boat is an even greater challenge!! But the beaches themselves are wonderful. The beach at Pérula in Chamela Bay is filled with fishing “pangas” (the open boats the locals use…all made in Mazatlan).

    Fishing pangas on the beach at Perula

    Fishing pangas on the beach at Perula

    We wandered into Pérula (known to cruisers as Chamela) a little ways, and found a delightful little restaurant with a tiny kitchen and two or three tables.

    Restaurant at Punta Perula in Chamela Bay Mexico

    This little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Pérula is typical of the fun and informal eateries on the coast.

    Of course, almost every beach has plastic chairs and tables set out, and you can always plop down and dig your toes in the sand and enjoy the view with a Corona.

    Perula Chamela Bay Beer on the Beach Costalegre Mexico Pacific Coast (1)

    Now THIS is cruising!

    Since Mexico’s Pacific coast is filled with high end resorts, there are plenty of places to find more elegant beachfront dining. In the tiny Costa Cuastecomates (once known as the “Secret Anchorage” because the entrance is hard to see from the open ocean — until the GPS coordinates were published in a guidebook (and a great book it is)), we found a beautiful resort at one end of the beach.

    Cuastecomate bay resort Costalegre Mexico Gold Coast

    We found an upscale waterfront dining option in the “secret anchorage” of Cuastecomate.

    In front of Las Hadas Resort there are tables set up to enjoy the beach and a view of the sailboats anchored in the cove.

    Las Hadas Resort beach dining

    Beach dining at Las Hadas Resort

    With its Mediterranean flair, Las Hadas (which means “the fairies”) also has very cute pairs of beach chairs lined up facing the bay.

    Beach chairs Las Hadas Resort Manzanillo Costalegre Mexico

    Fun little beach chairs at Las Hadas in Manzanillo

    One of the all-time favorite destinations for cruiser’s on the Gold Coast is Barra de Navidad. Unlike all the other anchorages which are merely indentations in the land that are not protected from the open ocean, Barra de Navidad is in an estuary that is entirely enclosed.

    Lots of cruisers settle in here for a few weeks or months, not only because the boat is unaffected by swell and sits flat on the water, but because the entire bay is lined with fun little eateries, beach bars and watering holes.

    The only downside to anchoring here long term is that the water is too silty and dirty to make water with a watermaker and you can’t discharge the holding tanks unless you hoist the anchor and weave down the shallow and narrow channel to go out for a day sail on the open ocean.

    There is a water taxi service in Barra de Navidad that can take you from your boat to anywhere on the shore for a few pesos. There is even a baker who hails from France and who sells his fresh croissants and quiches from boat to boat every morning!!

    French Baker in Barra de Navidad anchorage in Mexico Costalegre

    Every morning in Barra de Navidad, the French Baker delivers croissants and quiche to cruisers that are eagerly waiting in their cockpits, coffee cup in hand!

    Gosh, will it be a chocolate croissant or an almond croissant this morning??

    Barra de Navidad boat-in bar Costalegre Pacific Coast Mexico

    Barra de Navidad has water taxis throughout the estuary to take you to waterfront dining of all kinds.

    I just have to show another sunrise shot from Manzanillo Bay. It is so amazing to peek out the window and find yourself on a sea of pink!!

    Sunrise Manzanillo Bay Mexico

    Sunrise in Manzanillo Bay

    Some spots on the Costalegre are busy and full of people, like the estuary of Barra de Navidad, the beach at Santiago Bay, and Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo.

    Dinghies lined up on the beach Santiago Bay Manzanillo Mexico Costalegre

    Dinghies lined up on the beach at Santiago Bay in Manzanillo

    But others are supremely quiet, like the little islands off of Chamela bay. Here, we pulled our dinghy up on the beach and had the island to ourselves.

    Sailboat anchored in Chamela Bay near Perula Mexico Costalgre Gold Coast

    Our dink on its own at the offshore islands of Chamela Bay.

    And in a lot of places we found there were RV parks that backed right up to the beach.

    RV on the beach in Mexico

    There are RV parks on many beaches. This is at Pérula on Chamela Bay.

    In the years we were there, the biggest ongoing story in the media was about all the violence in Mexico. We never saw any violence in all the years we were in Mexico.

    The rumor among the many travelers who love Mexico and the one million ex-pats who live there was that the media smear was a ploy to keep Americans in the US spending their vacation dollars on American soil rather than in Mexico. After all, we were at the height of the financial woes that followed on the heels of the the banking meltdown of 2008.

    Full-time RV childhood in a Motorhome in the 1980's

    Imagine growing up in an RV traveling the Americas!

    The few RVers that we met were enjoying their RV parks all by themselves all winter long. Many had taken their RV to Mexico each winter for a decade or more, and they told us those same RV parks had been booked to overflowing by mid-November in prior years.

    At the end of our cruise, the owner of a pretty villa in the Costalegre village of La Manzanilla invited us to stay at his place for a week.

    It turned out that he was German and his parents had raised him living in a motorhome full-time as they traveled throughout North and South America from Alaska to Cape Horn.

    His unique tales and photos of growing up in a motorhome and boondocking on the beach in the 1980’s are told in these two blog posts:

    RVers in Mexico saw a lot more of the country than we did, since our travels were restricted to the coast. We did take some phenomenal trips inland on long distances buses, though, visiting the colonial cities of Oaxaca, Guanajuato and San Cristobal de las Casas and visiting the Mayan ruins of Palenque and Monte Alban.

    Cuastecomate view of the beach Mexico Costalegre

    Beach bars galore in the “secret anchorage” of Cuastecomate

    However, there are sights to be seen in Mexico that RVers can’t easily reach because they require the use of a privately owned boat. One of these is Isla Isabel (Isabella Island). This tiny island is a bit north of the Costalegre but is a definite “must see” for any cruiser sailing Mexico’s west coast.

    There’s nothing there but a few fishermen and lots of nature. And blue footed boobies!

    Blue footed boobie Pacific Mexico Coast

    Blue footed boobies! In Mexico!!!

    We were there in the spring, and a mixed flock of brown boobies, masked boobies and blue footed boobies were all nesting on the island. The chicks were full sized but still covered with down. The parents let us get close, but they made a point to stand in front of their babies as we walked up.

    Blue footed boogie guards its chick in Mexico (1)

    A blue footed booby guards its baby.

    There is lots of other unusual wildlife to be spotted along the Costalegre, and we watched a group of frigate birds hanging around a partially submerged shipwreck in Santiago Bay.

    A frigate bird takes a close look at us.

    A frigate bird takes a close look at us.

    Around the bend in the Las Hadas Resort anchorage we were greeted by a flock of adorable little birds that perched on our lifelines. These guys know cruisers and boats quite well, and each time we went through that area we found them chirping and flying on and off our lifelines!!

    Birds on the lifelines of our boat (1)

    These little guys greeted us and landed on our lifelines every time we came into Manzanillo

    Out in the open ocean along the Costalegre we also saw lots and lots of sea turtles. Mexico has done a great job of protecting these guys, making sure their nesting sites are not disturbed and that the little babies can get down to the ocean without human interference. Of course, after their dangerous scramble down the beach to the crashing waves, they are met with the eager beaks of waiting birds that circle and fly low over the water to snatch them up as yummy snacks.

    A sea turtle on Mexico's Pacific Coast

    The waters along the Costalegre are filled with sea turtles.

    Birds like to land on the sea turtles, and the turtles don’t seem to mind. So we often saw “turtle-birds” when we went out sailing. On more than one occasion we saw a particular turtle-bird on our way out on a daysail, and the same turtle-bird was floating there when we came back three hours later!

    Sea turtle and Boobie on Mexico Pacific Coast

    Sometimes sea birds catch a ride on a turtle’s back – and stay there for hours!

    Perhaps the most exotic animal we saw on the Costalegre (and in the Sea of Cortez) was the flying mobula rays. These guys fly out of the water and flap their wings like mad and then land on the water with a big smack. It was loud enough that if you were down below in the cabin, you’d come running up on deck to see what made the noise.

    The funny thing was that these guys seem to do this jumping thing out of sheer joy. They don’t just jump up and down. They do somersaults and back flips!!

    Flying mobula ray manta ray Mexico Pacific Coast

    The mobula rays fly into the air and do all kinds of acrobatics!

    One day while we were out day sailing in Manzanillo Bay, we saw a whale breaching. We saw whales in quite a few places in Mexico, and sometimes they breached near us, but this was really unusual because the heavily populated shoreline was right there!

    On another occasion, while dinghying between the small town of La Manzanilla (a favorite ex-pat hangout for Canadians) and the anchorage that cruisers call Tenacatita (and is actually known to the locals as Blue Bay or Crazy Angels Bay), we saw a mother whale and her baby playing in the water. It was early morning and the water was as still and clear as glass. The mom flopped around on her back and waved her fins around, and the baby did the same thing right next to her. Sweet!

    Breaching whale Santiago Bay Manzanillo Costalegre Mexico

    A breaching whale in Manzanillo Bay

    Mexico’s Pacific Coast is a tourist destination, and there are tourist oriented activities of all kinds. One afternoon we looked out from the cockpit of Groovy in Santiago Bay and saw horseback riders walking along the sand.

    Horseback riding on Santiago Bay Manzanillo Mexico Pacific Coast

    Riders on horseback on the beach at Santiago

    But perhaps the best thing about cruising Mexico and taking it slow in the Costalegre was getting to know a little about the Mexican culture. Young girls celebrate their 15th birthday with a huge party called the Quniceañera, and we often saw beautiful 15 year olds in photo shoots dressed in very pretty and flouncy dresses.

    The Belle of the Ball preps for her 15th birthday.

    Sweet 15!

    In the final weeks of our Mexico cruise when we were staying in a marina in Ensenada, a thousand miles north of the Costalegre, we ended up hosting a Quinceanera photo shoot aboard Groovy. What fun!

    For more detailed info about each of the anchorages on the Costalegre as well as Puerto Vallarta and Ensenada, we have created a video that makes it easy to get the lay of the land with a bowl of popcorn!

    This video (the first in a series of three videos) shows what there is to see and do in each anchorage and also gives insights into Mexico’s weather patterns and climate and suggests an overall itinerary for getting the most out of your Mexico sailing cruise.

    For more stories from our Mexico cruise, we have loads of blog posts here.

    We also have a two page series chock full of tips for cruisers heading to Mexico:

    If you are an avid sailor or are curious about the cruising lifestyle, I highly recommend checking out Sailing Magazine. It has been inspiring sailors for decades and was on my family’s coffee table in the 1960’s as I was growing up, fueling my dad’s secret cruising dreams. Even if, like my dad, you never have a chance to fulfill those dreams, Sailing Magazine has endless stories from folks who have had the good fortune to sail off over the horizon, and it makes for fantastic escapist adventure reading.

    The June issue is on newsstands now and has lots more of our photos and info from the Costalegre. You can buy a subscription here:

    Sailing Magazine Subscription

    More info for cruisers sailing to Mexico can be found on these pages:

    • Planning Your Cruise – Tips plus Cruising Guides, Field Guides and Travel Guides
    • What To Expect On Your Cruise – Living on a boat in Mexico is crazy and fun, but there’s an adjustment period!
    • Maps of Mexico – Lots of maps that show what’s where on Mexico’s Pacific Coast and in the Sea of Cortez
    • More links and info below…

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    Map, geography and cruising info for the Costalegre and Isla Isabel:

    Other blog posts, links and webpages from our Mexico sailing blog:

    Our most recent posts:

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