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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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


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:

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Sell or Lease the House? Full-time RVer Dilemma!

For many RVers planning to fulfill their dream of living in an RV full-time, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out what to do with the house. More than deciding which rig to buy or which truck will be the best towing machine or whether solar power is a necessity, downsizing and getting out from under the house can cause an awful lot of stress. Sometimes market conditions are ideal, and it’s possible to sell the house for a tidy profit in just a few days. But that isn’t always the case.

Full-time RVer's Guide to Leasing Your House Escapees RV Club Magazine May-June 2016

Article by: Emily and Mark Fagan
Escapees Magazine May/June 2016

For us, the housing market was just tipping over the edge into one of its most horrific death spirals in seven decades during the very month that we decided to go full-time.

Although we initially sold our house in three days, our buyer backed out a few weeks later, leaving us high and dry with almost no possessions left to our names, a trailer waiting for us to move in, and echoes bouncing off the walls of our home because it was so empty.

We knew we could lease our house a whole lot faster than we could find another buyer, and time was of the essence, because we were halfway out the door and into our new lifestyle already!

So, we took the plunge and decided to hang onto our house and lease it while we traveled in our RV full-time.

A “For Rent” sign in the yard brought us a qualified tenant within a week, and off we went into our new lives still shouldering the burden of being homeowners.

Looking back at that crazy few weeks of transition, and the tears I shed over losing our buyer, I am so grateful that the gods were showering their fairy dust on us at the time and forcing us to keep a hand in the housing market.

Since then, house prices more than halved and then nearly doubled, but rents have steadily increased, and there has never been a shortage of good people looking to rent a nice home.

We have had five different sets of tenants ranging in age from recent college grads to folks long past retirement age. We’ve rented to people richer than us and poorer than us.

And perhaps most surprisingly, we’ve leased not just to people who’ve never owned a home of their own, but to folks who owned a home in the past, and even to folks who currently owned a home somewhere else (including a couple who owned a house three times the size of ours just one mile down the road!).

People have all kinds of reasons for needing to rent a home for a while!

What to do with the house in the full-time RV life

We thought it would be better to sell the house,
but we’re glad we’ve leased it all these years.

The common assumption that tenants will destroy a house and skip out on the rent is only a small part of a much larger story about tenants and landlords. What we’ve found with this home, and what I found with previous homes I have leased out in earlier phases of my life, is that the bottom line in how well the home fares — and how well the landlord fares — is dependent on how good the relationship is between tenant and landlord.

If there is no relationship at all — that is, if the home is being leased by a property manager — then there is no chance for any kind of trust and respect to develop between the tenant and landlord.

Leaving home to live in an RV

Tenants may take better care of your home than you expect!.

However, if you do the work yourself of hand-picking your tenants and collecting rent and overseeing repairs, and if you are the one who transfers the care of your house — your kitchen, your bedroom, your garden and all the things you like about the house — to your tenants, then it is much more likely they will respect both you and the home, and pay their rent on time, and take good care of the house.

We have been back to our home a few times since we ran off in our trailer in 2007, and each time, within a week or two, we have brought the house back to a spit-and-polish condition and have even upgraded it a bit.

These days our home is much nicer than when we lived in it ourselves all those years ago because we’ve had the time — and the empty house between tenants — to do the upgrades we always wanted to do before!!

On the financial side of things, depending on how much equity you have in your house, the income stream can be very favorable.

If you multiply the rent you can get for your house times the number of months and years you think you might be traveling full-time, the total amount of rent you could receive is staggering.

Obviously, you have to take out property taxes, HOA fees and repairs, insurance and mortgage payments, but the net can still be a sizeable amount. It might even be more than you would get if you put that equity into some other kind of investment.

Full-time RV lifestyle decisions

Along with the Yard Sale sign,
will it be a For Rent sign or a For Sale sign?

Certainly, if you keep the house, you don’t have to forfeit 6% of its total value (which is potentially a much larger percentage of your hard earned equity) to real estate agents.

We have published an article with some pointers we’ve picked up from our personal experience with leasing our house for the May/June 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine.

I am just one of many members who publishes articles in Escapees Magazine, and both Mark and I find that each issue (there are 6 issues a year) is chock full of interesting tid-bits that help us out in this crazy nomadic life we live on the road. It is a terrific member benefit!

Escapees is a very unusual RV club because they offer a wide variety of goodies besides the magazine that assist in every imagineable facet of the RV lifestyle.

Escapees has a special program called CARE for elderly RVers who are looking for an assisted living situation but don’t want to move out of their RV. They also offer discounted RV park stays for RVers that are actively traveling with their RV. For those who want a place to call “home,” they offer RV park site ownership, and for those who want to camp for free they offer the Day’s End Directory listing of boondocking sites all over North America.

Escapees RV Club

A Multi-faceted RV Club.

For RVers who love to travel but who want to see places they can’t drive their RV to, they offer group tours, from cruises to international destinations. And for newcomers to the RV lifestyle they offer Bootcamp programs to teach them everything they need to know. Every year there is a club-wide rally called Escapade, and individual chapters all across the continent have get-togethers of all kinds.

Join Escapees RV Club has reached out to younger RVers with the new Xscapers program (check out their a popular Facebook page), and there are interest-based groups that bring together like-minded RVers who share hobbies like beading, geo-caching, photography and more. Escapees has an active presence on the RV social site RVillage.com.

We visited the Escapees Headquarters in Livingston, Texas, last spring and saw the incredible mail sorting facility in action. Along with offering a mail forwarding service, they also offer all the assistance necessary to establish a legal domicile in Livingston, Texas.

Perhaps the most important service that Escapees provides, and something that benefits all RVers, no matter whether they are members or not, is the RV advocacy program. They stay on top of all legal and political wranglings that could affect the RV lifestyle, whether it’s a vacation lifestyle or full-time lifestyle. Most recently, they helped stave off proposed changes to the ability of South Dakota based full-time RVers to vote in elections (including the upcoming presidential election).

Escapees RV Club


We became members a year after we started this crazy full-time traveling lifestyle. Over the years, as we have become more sensitive to what it means to be an RVer and to live the RV lifestyle full-time, our appreciation for the club’s many benefits has grown.

I have been recommending Escapees to our readers since I started this blog in 2008, because I believe in what they are doing and I believe they have something to offer to everyone who is interested in RVing.

Launching the full-time RV lifestyle

Renting our house has worked out for us!

Recently, Escapees let us know that if any of our readers decides to join and selects the Roads Less Traveled option in the “Referred by” box, they will put a little something in our tip jar. How nice! You can join here:

Join Escapees RV Club

The editors of Escapees Magazine have kindly allowed me to share my article about leasing our house here:

Full-time RVer’s Guide to Leasing Your House

If you’ve been stressing out about finding a buyer for your house so you can run away to live your RV dreams, it’s possible that leasing it out would not be just a viable option but might even be a preferable way to go.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park – in Trailer Life Magazine!

The May, 2016, issue of Trailer Life Magazine features our article about our RV roadtrip through North Carolina, starting with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then going up the southern half of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Trailer Life Magazine High Country Holiday

Trailer Life Magazine, May 2016 Issue. Article by: Emily Fagan. Photos by: Emily and Mark Fagan

We visited the area in the spring and absolutely loved it. When we started our journey, the wild rhododendrons were just beginning to bloom. As we made our way north, they continued to be at their peak in each area we visited!

Rhododendron and waterfall in North Carolina Blue Ridge Parkway

Rhododendrons bloom everywhere in the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is so big that it spans two states: North Carolina and Tennessee. We stayed on the North Carolina side, saving the Tennessee side for a future visit.

The town of Cherokee is an excellent place to use as a base camp for exploring both Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we got a kick out of the town itself, even though it’s very touristy with a slightly cheesy flair.

From there, we bee-bopped on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway heading north.

We discovered that waterfalls are abundant in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and also on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we quickly made “waterfall hunting” the theme for our travels.

Great Smoky Mountains Waterfall

The first waterfall we saw in the Smokies captivated us. After that, we worked our way through the Smokies and up the Blue Ridge Parkway, waterfall by waterfall

Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

North Carolina’s Crabtree Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway

There are a few low tunnels at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway that a tall RV like our fifth wheel trailer can’t sneak through, but the rest of the Parkway is easily driven by any size RV.

Motorhome on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A motorhome zips along on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Much of the Parkway itself, although lovely, can get a little monotonous after a while because it is a skinny, winding road that snakes under a canopy of trees for much of its length, with little to see but greenery. Many of the scenic vistas and overlooks have become overgrown by tall trees over time, so sometimes there is no view at all!

Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway – Driving under a canopy of green trees

However, the small roads that zig-zag around and across the Blue Ridge Parkway are fascinating, because they give a glimpse of life in the Appalachian Mountains with homes and businesses owned by the locals. So, we traveled on these roads for the most part and just sampled the Blue Ridge Parkway here and there when there was a landmark, like a waterfall, that we wanted to see.

Soco Falls Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Soco Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sometimes readers ask us what the best way is to find out about great RVing destinations or how to pick up tips about the RV lifestyle. Being a little old fashioned, I always recommend subscribing to a magazine or two, whether in print or digital form.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park North Carolina

The Smokies

As soon as we bought our first popup tent trailer, we subscribed to Trailer Life Magazine. When each issue arrived, I would dive into the destination articles, dreaming of our big escape, while Mark would always scour the technical articles, looking for pointers about how to care for our new little buggy (or bigger buggies we might grow into someday).

Wildflowers in North Carolina Blue Ridge Parkway

Thigh deep in a field of wildflowers in North Carolina!

Beginning in my twenties, I subscribed to various RVing and sailing magazines. They fed my wanderlust and kept my dreams alive when the only view I saw most days was my cubicle walls.

I’m proud now to write for all the magazines that used to be my sources of inspiration back when they arrived in my mailbox years ago. Hopefully the tech tips and travel stories I write for them now will encourage and inspire future travelers.

Wildflowers on the Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Springtime is all about flowers in the Smokies

Trailer Life Magazine has published our article about North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway on their website here:

Trailer Life Magazine Article: High Country Holiday

For further reading, all of our blog posts from our RV travels in this area are here:

Over the years, I have published a dozen articles in Trailer Life Magazine, and a few of them are on their website at this link:

Trailer Life Magazine articles by Emily Fagan

Few Trailer Life magazine articles end up on their website. If you’d like to read more, you can subscribe to Trailer Life here:

If your RV travels will be taking you on a north-south route through North Carolina this year, a very enjoyable way to navigate is to follow the Blue Ridge Parkway and do a little exploring at Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

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Edge Engine Tuner => Max Truck Power!! (Escapees Mag Feature!)

A few years ago we installed an Edge Evolution diesel tuner in our truck to give it a little more power in the mountains and to increase our fuel economy a bit when not towing. This super easy DIY project turned out to be really worthwhile. We picked up 1-2 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency, and we got some extra horsepower and torque when climbing the Rockies and the Smokies with our trailer in tow.

Escapees Magazine Engine Tuners Mar-Apr 2016 Emily Fagan

Escapees Magazine – March/April 2016 Issue
Article: Engine Tuners by Emily & Mark Fagan

The March/April issue of Escapees Magazine features our article about the Edge Evolution Diesel Tuner. We have also written extensively about our Edge Tuner on this website, and you can read our blog post about it here:

Edge Evolution Diesel Engine Tuner – Peak Truck Performance!

Engine tuners (or “programmers”) are electronic components that modify the input parameters for an engine’s on-board computer. An engine tuner makes it possible to operate the truck with settings that are optimized for specific driving conditions.

So, whereas the factory settings on a Dodge Cummins engine in a Ram 3500 truck make the engine run pretty well in all conditions (towing, not towing, highway driving, mountain driving, etc.), an engine tuner will operate the engine with settings that are optimized for just one of these situations at a time.

If you will be towing a heavy trailer in the Rockies, you can program the tuner specifically for that kind of driving. If the truck won’t be towing anything for a while, you can program the tuner to maximize fuel economy.

We have used just two of the modes on our Edge engine tuner, Level 1 (“Economy”) and Level 2 (“Towing”).

In both cases we have seen an improvement in miles per gallon. In the towing mode, we’ve also found the increased power is significant. On the freeway this means it is easier to get up the speed to pass a slower moving vehicle. In the mountains it means the truck can get up steep inclines more easily.

There is a mode on the Edge Tuner that puts the truck into “stock” mode, effectively changing all the engine’s input parameters back to their factory default settings. It is also easy to disconnect the tuner all together. So, installing an Edge engine tuner is a non-destructive upgrade. The tuner is there for you if you want to use it, but you can easily opt not to use it too.

When we bought our the simplest programmable model, our 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel long bed truck had 85,000 miles on it. We drove the truck 20,000 miles with the tuner installed, and we were very happy with the performance. This past December we upgraded to a 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually long bed truck, and we have just installed an Edge tuner on it as well.

We recently bumped into the Jeep Safari Week in Moab, Utah, and while we were wandering around the booths looking at all the cool gear for Jeeps, we suddenly saw the Edge Products trade show booth. We went over to chat with the team and tell them about our installation. We met Jared Venz, one of their marketing guys. How cool is that?!

PowerTeq Edge Products tradeshow booth at Moab Jeep Safari event

Mark found a fellow diesel motorhead buddy in Jared Venz of Edge Products when we bumped into
the Edge Products / Superchips team at the Moab Jeep Safari event!

When we got our first Edge tuner, we chose the simplest programmable model, because we weren’t sure if a tuner would be a worthwhile upgrade. This time around we got a more sophisticated model. With all the products laid out on their table in boxes in front of us, Jared helped us understand the overall product line. Here it is in a nutshell:

There are three types of Edge tuners:

Insight – The most basic model that simply displays the engine data that is coming from the engine computer’s outputs. It does not have the ability to change the engine’s parameters or program it in any way .

Evolution – This model can modify the input parameters to the engine’s computer and also displays key data like the Transmission Fluid Temperature and Engine Coolant Temperature. It also indicates when the truck has gone into a “Regen” to burn off the particulates that have built up in the engine’s particulate trap (part of the “Blue Tech” 2010 EPA requirements for diesel engines).

Knowing the truck is in a Regen is especially useful, because the coolant and fluid temperatures increase, and there is a slight loss of power, but there is no indicator on the truck dashboard to show when one is happening. We found it very helpful with our old Edge Tuner to know exactly when a Regen was going on.

The Edge Evolution tuner uses the truck engine’s input port to modify the engine’s input parameters. So, the installation is very easy. A single cable plugs into that input port (the OBD II port on Dodge Ram trucks). However, in order to change from one programming mode to another (for instance, from Level 1 (Economy) to Level 2 (Towing), the truck must be parked and you have to go through a series of steps that take a good 5 to 10 minutes.

Juice with Attitude – This top of the line model has an additional computer module (the “juice”) that makes it possible not only to adjust the input parameters on the truck’s on-board engine computer, but also allows you to change modes on the fly. So, rather than having to stop and reprogram the tuner to change from Level 1 to Level 2, you can hit a button and make the switch instantly. For instance, if you are towing and want to unhitch to go drive somewhere without the trailer, you can change modes simply by pressing a button.

However, the installation is more complex, because the “juice” computer that is part of the tuner must be wired into the truck engine’s on-board computer via two wiring harnesses.

There are also two display options for each Edge tuner model:

The smaller and more simplistic display has a monitor screen that is 2.4 inches wide. The Edge tuner models that use this smaller screen have “CS2” in the model name.

The larger, more sophisticated and detailed display has a monitor screen that is 4.3 inches wide. The Edge tuner models that use this bigger screen have “CTS2” in the model name.

The final two digits in the model number distinguish between the various truck makes, models and years.

The Juice with Attitude model is available only in the large monitor screen size.

The basic model breakdown is:

  • Insight (Data Display Only – no engine programming capability):
    Insight CTS2 (large screen) vs. Insight CS2 (small screen)

  • Evolution (Engine programming, easy install, manual mode switching):
    Evolution CTS2 854xx (large screen) vs. Evolution CS 851xx (small screen)

  • Juice with Attitude (engine programming with mode switching on the fly and more complex installation):
    Juice with Attitude (large screen only)

Because each diesel truck manufacturer uses a different engine (Dodge has Cummins, GM products have Duramax and Ford has Ford built engines), the tuners come in different models for each truck engine. There is some variation between truck model years as well.

We’ve chosen the Edge Juice with Attitude engine tuner for our 2016 Ram 3500.

Our article, “What Puts You in the Driver’s Seat? Engine Tuners!” is the latest feature article of many that we have contributed to the Escapees RV Club member magazine since 2008. Escapees is a very varied RV and travel club that touches on all the possible concerns and interests that full-time and seasonal RVers have.

Back when the club was first started in 1978, there were no RV clubs that catered specifically to the needs of full-time and extended-travel RVers. Escapees began as a simple bi-monthly newsletter to bring full-time RVers together and to give them a place to share ideas and pass on information.

Today, the bi-monthly Escapees Magazine is one of the most informative and fun to read magazines in the RV industry.

Escapees Magazine covers

Escapees Magazine covers on display in the mail sorting facility at Escapees HQ in Livingston, Texas

We became Escapees members a few months after we started full-time RVing, and we feel that anyone interested in using their RV for extended periods of time should consider becoming a member too. Besides receiving the wonderful magazine for free, members receive discounts of up to 50% at participating RV parks.

In addition, Escapees RV Club offers a wide range of overnight parking options at its own various RV parks, from overnight accommodations to seasonal stays to long term leases to ownership, and they offer a list of boondocking locations via the Days End Directory subscription.

Escapees also hosts a very informative online forum, RVnetwork.com. The participants in this forum are often very experienced RVers, and although non-members can read the forum, only Escapees members can join in the conversation or ask questions. For new RVers, Escapees hosts Boot Camp events where folks learn All Things RV, and each year Escapees puts on a huge rally called Escapade where members from every corner of the country come to share experiences, socialize and learn from each other. Younger Escapees also gather at Xscaper Convergences.

This coming summer, from July 24-29, there will be an Escapade Rally and Xscapers Convergence in Essex Junction, Vermont. Just before that, from July 21-23, there will be an Escapees Boot Camp for New RVers.

To learn more about Escapees and perhaps join the club (we highly recommend it), you can click here:

Join Escapees RV Club

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More info:

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RVing Big Bend Texas – In Trailer Life Magazine!

The February 2016 issue of Trailer Life Magazine features our travel story about RVing at Big Bend National Park in Texas. Big Bend National Park is extremely remote, located about 150 miles due south of I-10, an interstate that runs east-west across Texas for almost 900 miles. This extraordinary National Park offers stunning canyons, wild rock formations, towering pine forested mountains and the iconic Rio Grande, a slow moving river that separates America and Mexico.

Big Bend Texas Trailer Life Magazine

Trailer Life Magazine – February 2016
Article by: Emily Fagan — Photos by: Emily & Mark Fagan

Big Bend National Park is enormous and full of variety. The drive across the width of the park is 45 miles long, and it climbs and descends through large sweeping turns that take you through many different terrains. At the far west end of the park, we found an utterly unique hippy enclave in the small town of Terlingua where the ghosts of a former Mexican mining camp come alive each year on Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, on November 1st.

Big Bend National Park Texas Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park

At the far eastern end of the park we took a “ferry” across the Rio Grande (this is actually just a rowboat ride!) and we crossed the international border to spend a delightful day in the tiny village of Boquillas del Carmen in Mexico.

Dusty streets, colorful buildings, and a friendly local guide who took us on a tour around town all brought back precious memories for us of our nearly four years of traveling throughout Mexico on our cruise. As close to the border as this small town is, it is as authentic in flavor and genuine in soul as any Mexican town we have ever visited.

Big Bend National Park is a hiker’s dream, with short ‘n easy and long ‘n strenuous hikes available in every kind of landscape, from mountains to desert to walking along the Rio Grande.

A hike in Santa Elena Canyon along the cliffs that line the Rio Grande in the southwest corner of the park gave us a beautiful glimpse of this very calm and quiet river, while a hike into the Chisos Mountains in the middle of the park took us through the pines to a window in the rocks that gave us a view of mountains in the distance. Traipsing through the hot desert portion of the park, we climbed a series of switchbacks to find ourselves face to face with a massive balancing rock.

There is something in Big Bend National Park for everyone, and perhaps most intriguing is that the National Park Service operates the entire park as a dry camping campground, which makes it possible to “boondock” within the limits of the park, something no other National Park offers (that we know of).

To see what Big Bend National Park looks like, here are all our blog posts from our RV travels there:

While you are taking your RV to or from Big Bend National Park, a stopover at the phenomenal Caverns of Sonora is an absolute must. This is by far the most beautiful cave system we have ever seen, and there is a small RV park at the Caverns as well:

Caverns of Sonora Texas

The Caverns of Sonora

Here is a Google Maps link to all these places. Boquillas del Carmen is a very short distance from the Rio Grande Village RV Campground in Big Bend National Park:

Trailer Life Magazine is an excellent magazine about all aspects of RVing with towable rigs, and they are celebrating their 75th birthday this year. The first issue was published in 1941, and the editors have written two charming articles about what Trailer Life and the RVers it serves were like in the early days:

Throughout the decades, Trailer Life has inspired campers with creative ideas and stories for fun things to go see and do with a trailer. They have also educated people on what to look for in a trailer, how to match a trailer with a properly sized tow vehicle, and outlined important maintenance procedures and discussed all kinds of other things related to traveling with an RV.

We were avid readers of Trailer Life long before we began making contributions to the magazine, and we highly recommend it to others that are learning about RVing. Subscribe to Trailer Life here!.

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Escapees Travel Guide 2016 Cover Photo + RV Batteries

Escapees Travel Guide 2016 for RV Travelers

Escapees RV Club 2016 Travel Guide
Photo by: Mark Fagan

The 2016 edition of the Escapees Travel Guide is out, and on the cover is a wonderfully vibrant Arizona sunset photo that Mark took.

The Travel Guide is a handy little book published by the Escapees RV Club for its members, and it lists nearly 1,000 RV parks across the continent (including Canada and Mexico) where Escapees members get discounts of up to 50%. It also provides state maps showing their locations for route planning.

The Escapees website also provides a map of them all here.

In addition, this listing includes the 19 RV parks that are under the Escapees umbrella. One of the neat things about Escapees RV parks — for the budget conscious — is that they always offer a few dry camping campsites in addition to their full hookup sites.

In our experience, these campsites are never full, are sometimes quite spacious, and don’t really need to be reserved in advance. Best of all, they’re just $5 a night for Escapees members.

One of our favorites was “Dry Camp A” at Rainbow’s End in Livingston Texas, which quickly became “Wet Camp A” during our stay due to several days of downpours.

It was roomy and had as much of a woodsy camping feel to it as is possible in an RV park. You can see pics of the campsite here.

The Escapees Travel Guide also lists members who own property and are willing to let other members park their RV on it for a night or more. We were very grateful for this unusual kind of RV parking when we got smoked out by a wildfire in Oregon a few years ago. How heartwarming it was to enjoy the special hospitality of fellow Escapees who let us stay in their yard while we got our wits together.

Escapees offers a ton of services for RVers besides campground discounts, from mail fowarding and domicile assistance to advocacy work on behalf of all RVers to bootcamp instructional programs for new RVers and special RV weighing services. They have an excellent online discussion forum and there are loads of RV rallies and gatherings and RV tours as well.

RV batteries Escapees Magazine January 2016

Escapees Magazine Jan 2016 Feature: RV Batteries
By: Emily and Mark Fagan

When we first started RVing full-time, I couldn’t imagine traveling any other way and was very surprised that Escapees also offered travel tours for its members that did’t involve traveling in an RV.

Yet, now that we’ve been at it a while, I totally understand the desire to mix it up a bit and jump on a plane or a boat to go somewhere once in a while. And why not do that with friends who like to RV too?!

Escapees Magazine

Our favorite benefit of being Escapees members is the very informative Escapees Magazine that arrives in our mailbox every other month. There is a wealth of knowledge shared in its pages, and the topics that are covered touch on every imaginable aspect of life in an RV.

In the January/February 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine there is an article of ours about RV batteries.

We’ve been living on 12 volt battery power for nearly 9 years now, between our boat and our trailer, and we’ve learned a lot about what it is that batteries do, how to install them, how they get charged, what kinds of TLC they like, how and why they fail, and why certain kinds of batteries are better than others.

Our article offers an overview of RV house batteries basics.

There is a ton of info about RV and marine batteries on this website as well, and for a more detailed study of what it is that makes RV batteries tick, the following tutorial pages get into the nitty gritty:

We joined Escapees in our first year of full-timing. If you are thinking about joining Escapees too, visit the Escapees webpage here.

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New Mobile Menu for RLT

If you like reading our various blog posts on-the-go on your phone or tablet, we’ve got a new and very much improved menu for you. It’s at the top of the screen in the upper right corner, and it has the same goodies in it as the menu on our desktop layout but in a slightly different configuration.

Roads Less Traveled Mobile Device Menu

A new menu for mobile devices in the upper right corner of the screen

If you’ve never explored the menus on this website before, there is tons of great stuff tucked away in there that you can reach very easily. There are tech tips of all kinds, from solar power to battery charging tips to winter RVing and heating tips to a pictorial of our trailer disc brake conversion and truck engine programmer installation and RV dump station tips and mobile internet tips.

On mobile devices the main menu lists the major topics that this website covers:

Mobile Device Menu Options Closed

The main menu for mobile devices

There are also loads of lifestyle tips for living and working on the road, figuring out the logistics and legalities of a full-time traveling lifestyle and making the leap from convention to adventure. From living off the grid and boondocking to sorting out whether an RV warranty makes sense financially to a detailed analysis of our expenses in the RV lifestyle, this site is a treasure trove of information for anyone contemplating a mobile lifestyle on the road or at sea.

On mobile devices, tap the arrow to the right of each topic to open it up and see more options.

Mobile Device Menu Options Open

Tap the arrows to the right to open each menu topic

Please check out the phone/tablet menu and let us know if anything doesn’t work quite right (we don’t have a mobile device so we haven’t seen it “live” yet). You’ll find all of our travels grouped by destination and can even take a peak at the various rigs we’ve owned and see what our sailboat looked like.

If there’s something you remember seeing on this site but can’t find again, try using the search option in the menus to locate it easily!

As always, a huge thank you to all our loyal readers for coming back here again and again.

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Our most recent posts:

Full-time RV Tips & More in Motorhome and Trailer Life!

Motorhome Magazine At Home on the Road by Emily Fagan

An article chock full of tips for future full-timers who dream of running off on an RV adventure!
Motorhome Magazine – January 2016

The January 2016 issue of Motorhome Magazine features a fun article we put together about full-time RVing. We love this lifestyle and learn more about it every day, and this article describes some of the things we’ve learned about how to live this way and why it’s such a blast!

The publisher has posted the article online on their web page, so you can read it here:

At Home on the Road

We’ve also written oodles of tips for folks that dream of hitting the road full-time in their rolling home at these links:

Of course, as thrilling as this lifestyle is, it’s not all wine and roses, and least not all day every day (just mostly). There’s work that’s gotta be done too! Mark is very gifted mechanically and he keeps our show on the road with endless tweaks, upgrades, and repairs to the various systems on our RV.

Some of these projects appear on this blog. But many never make it to these pages. Such is the case with the replacement of our King Pin assembly on our fifth wheel trailer last year.

Trailer Life Magazine King Pin Assembly Replacement

Replacing a fifth wheel king pin assembly
Trailer Life Magazine – January 2016

In the January 2016 issue of Trailer Life Magazine, there is a review of several different fifth wheel king pins currently on the market, along with a step-by-step pictorial we put together showing how we upgraded the king pin assembly on our Demco Glide-Ride.

Our fiver had begun to have a bit of a wandering spirit as it traveled behind our truck, and the connection between the fifth wheel and the truck had become quite sloppy. Replacing the king pin assembly did the trick to tighten up the connection and make our buggy more obedient as it rolled along behind us.

Motorhome and Trailer Life are both excellent magazines that cover a wide variety of topics that are near and dear to the hearts of all RVers. Some of the articles that appear in their print edition also get posted to their website, as with the full-time RVing article above. However, most articles (like our king pin assembly pictorial) are available only to subscribers.

For anyone that wants to learn about RVing, a subscription to one of these magazines is a great educational tool. We have been Trailer Life subscribers for eons and find something worthwhile in every issue.

If you love driving your home around, subscribe to Motorhome here.
If you prefer towing your home behind you, subscribe to Trailer Life here.

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A few of the other articles we have written for these magazines can be read at these links:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the top MENU above.