Those of us who live in the States are lucky. We have one of the best National Park systems in the world. We also have fast, efficient Interstates that will take you close enough to most of them that you don’t have to worry about off-roading in your RV!
But what makes those parks so great is really the breathtaking natural beauty that is preserved there. Every place in the world has its unique sights to see, but you just can’t beat standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon watching the sun go down.
Here is a brief introduction to 3 of America’s oldest and still best national parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains.
Yellowstone National Park – Southern Montana and Northern Wyoming
Yellowstone is the first, and many consider the greatest National Park in the United States. It’s a wonderland of spouting geysers, unique rock formations and other leftover evidence of a massive volcanic explosion over 600,000 years ago.
Don’t worry, it’s all cooled off now. At Yellowstone, you can see the world’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful. Early settlers thought it was a noxious spew from hell itself, but nowadays we know it’s just a geothermal process, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.
Yellowstone has a reputation for being crowded, and it’s true that it’s a popular destination. If you really want to see the park, park your motor home and hike off the beaten path. Yellowstone has lots of great hiking trails, more than enough for everybody to enjoy without crowding each other. There are plenty of day hikes with spectacular views.
Yellowstone has at least 12 different campgrounds, and they’re all first come, first served. Before you go, you’ll want to call ahead and see about fire restrictions. If you’re with the family and you want to stick to some luxurious digs, there are KOA’s and other commercial campgrounds just outside the park with more modern conveniences where you can park your motor home or RV.
Yosemite National Park- Eastern California
Yosemite is another one of the oldest national parks in the United States. The wilderness of Yosemite represents all kinds of terrain, including meadows, valleys, mountains and great forests, and it’s not too far from San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Probably the most amazing thing about Yosemite is the waterfalls. It has more waterfalls than any other single place on earth. Steep cliffs of granite abound, and from certain points in the valley you can see seven or eight big ones at once. It may be tempting, but don’t try swimming in the pools, because the force of the water can knock you senseless.
Yosemite also boasts one of the biggest forests of sequoias in the world. These ancient trees stand tall, their tips pushing way up into the sky, like the California Redwoods.
There are 13 campgrounds in Yosemite National Park, and some of them accept camping cars, trailers, motor homes and RV’s. If you plan on heading to Yosemite, it’s best to call ahead and make a reservation. In the summer months, the campgrounds fill up quick.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – The North Carolina and Tennessee Border
If you like the outdoors, Great Smoky has it all. There are more hiking trails than probably any other area in the US, as well as great fishing and camping. Compared to the parks out west, you’ll see lots more wildlife and plants. Also unlike the west, the weather is mild and there’s plenty of humidity to keep you from dehydrating.
Another reason to head for the Smokies is to experience real, authentic Appalachian mountain culture. There’s mountain music, storytellers, and all kinds of family fun.
Great Smoky is also a great place for RV drivers, because there are lots of auto tours. The park boasts roads where you can see great views, old historic buildings and vast forests as far as the eye can see.
Of course, this is just a basic introduction. You have to see these parks to believe them. These are definitely three places you want to hit at least sometime in your life.
See the States coast to coast in your home on wheels. Your family motor home lets you travel in style. Visit Bankston Motor Homes, http://www.bankstonmotorhomes.com/, to search for your next motor home or come by and visit with us at any of our five locations.
Planning a summer road trip this year? Do movies like RV and Family Vacation not scare you from the adventures that could await you on your cross country trek? Before you go, make sure you check off these top 23 travel tips.
Look at maps and plan your route. There are many great online maps that do a HYBRID map view showing real streets and routes with satellite images. Knowing the location, and how it looks, by viewing it from space is both cool and very helpful, so you won’t get lost.
Research the roads you’ll take. You’ll especially want to know if you’ll be traveling through areas of major road construction. The maps mentioned above are a little dated. Some new roads and maps will not have current, real-time data, bring physical maps, like ones you could buy from AAA along.
Make estimates of travel times along the route, so you’ll have an idea when you’ll be at certain points on your trip. This will help you to plan rest and meal stops. It will also help you plan to avoid traveling through a major city or area of road construction during rush hour.
Get the car checked, especially the filters, belts, fluid levels and have the oil changed. Don’t wait until the last minute, it may take time to get an appointment and parts may need to be ordered. You also want some time to drive around town and make sure that whatever they fixed stays fixed. If you vehicle is ‘mission critical’ and could die at any moment, DON’T take it with you, borrow a friends car instead.
Check the condition of your wiper blades, both front and back windows.
Check the operation of your turn signals, brake lights as well as the high and low beams. Bring some extra fuses along.
Examine the tread on your tires. Consider mountain driving in winter conditions on snowy peaks. Make sure you have chains or 4×4 traction for icey roads, out of season. Or try a different route.
Make sure your car is prepared for the weather it will encounter on your trip. You might need more antifreeze or need to recharged air-conditioning when you go through the desert.
Today, many cars have fancy wheels instead of hubcaps. These wheels usually have a lock to prevent them from being stolen. If you have a car with wheel locks, make sure you know where the key is stored (often with the jack). Otherwise, a flat tire will become a major problem since you won’t be able to get the wheel off the car.
Get your car cleaned. You’ll feel better in a clean car.
Pack an emergency kit in your car. Include motion sickness medication if anyone in your group suffers from it. Remove any items from the car that you won’t need on your trip. Bring some blankets.
Prepare some on road entertainment for your trip. Include games and CDs of music and/or audio books. Portable DVD players are really inexpensive and help pass the time in dead spots where where is nothing new to see.
Check your plates, registration and insurance information to make sure they are all valid. Be sure to place your insurance company’s emergency contact number in your car.
Check with all the drivers in your party to make sure their driver’s licenses haven’t expired.
Check your insurance for expiration dates and coverage for your automobile.
Arrange for someone to start your other car, if you leave one home, during very cold or very hot weather.
Fill the car with gas before you pack the car so all the fumes won’t bother your passengers. Check the fluid levels and tire pressure, your tire pressure will affect the ride and gas mileage you get on your trip.
Pack the car inside the garage, with the door down, so people driving by won’t find out you’re leaving.
Overall, enjoy the road trip. It’s not going to be as crazy as Clark W Grizwold’s family vacation experiences, and if it is, make sure you video it and put it up on You Tube!
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We all need vacations to recharge and refresh our perspective on daily living. While we all fantasize about vacationing in exotic locations, many of us don’t really know what we want.
So, for a change, I recommend that this year, you won’t copy-cat the vacation ideas of your neighbors, friends or family. Nor that you’ll be lead by vacation package offers and deals. Sure, learn from others’ insights and travel tips and hints. But this time, why don’t you stick to your goals and create your custom vacation. Only by centering your trip around your need can you create your true dream vacation.
When planning your vacation this year, take some extra time to consider why you need a vacation. Moreover, decide what you really want to do during your vacation. Is it discovering new cultures? Is it adventure trailing? Is it sun tanning on the beach? Is it exploring antique castles? Once you have determined what you want to do during your vacation, it is real easy to decide on a vacation destination.
Here are 3 special destinations that will allow you to have very different dream vacations.
1. The Regions of Italy. Adjacent to France, this historically rich and magnificently beautiful country is a prime destination within Europe. If you love to explore history by being there, if you crave good wine and one of the world’s finest cuisines, then, ah, consider Italy. Oh, did I mention its astounding cheeses for sale at local markets at a fraction of the cost of what we pay in the US?!
Italy is an amazingly varied country, which features mountains areas which are ideal for skying in winter and hiking or biking in summer. It world famous buildings such as the tower of Pisa or the Basilica in Florence. It has wide sand beaches and top notch resorts in places like Rimini and Riccione. It has whole cities that could be classified as ‘living museums’, such as Venice, the city of water ways, gondolas and romance; or ancient Rome, which features sights from several civilizations all within a single city block. And then, of course, there is the world of design in Milan and the world of the elite in nearby Lake Como.
Because of its culinary peak, its sophistication, its beautiful, varied nature, and rich cultural background, Italy is a must-see destination in a lifetime. Oh, did I mention that it’s usually sunny??!
2. Key West, Florida, in the United States For leisurely, beach-side fascination, places like Key West in Florida come to mind. Driving along the row of keys leading up to this famous resort destination is a treat in itself. Key West has been sought-after by famous writers and other artists. There are some great luxury resorts to be found in Key West, as well as private villa rental accommodation. The old tabacco plantation houses and old villas result in an far-away island feel. However, this sunny island that is far south but still part of the US is within easy reach of most of us.
3. Tokyo & Kyoto/Nara, Japan. Japan is an island that does not feel islandish, but instead represents one of the more sophisticated cultures in the world. Wtihin Japan you can have a very varied vacation. You can go hiking on Mount Fuji to see the sun rise, or trotting the philosophers’ path in Kyoto down to your Ryokan (Japanese-style inn) after having visited gorgeous Buddhist temples & gardens and having sipped tea at world-famous Japanese tea houses. No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to the vibrant capital city of Tokyo. Tokyo has many unique areas that are destinations within themselves. I suggest you pay a visit to its electronics district Akihabara, the Emperor’s Palace and serene gardens in Chiyoda-ku, its haute couture fashion district called Ginza, and its entertainment area called Roppongi. Oh, there is so much more to see and explore, but these are highlights. All areas are easily accessed by subway. What makes a trip to Japan adventurous is that there isn’t a single street sign you can read. Everything is written in Japanese, which gives you a very foreign sensation. Oh, don’t worry. Subway signs are in English and taxi drivers know their way around. You won’t get lost. However without trying, you are immersed in a unique and very attractive Asian culture.
These three top vacation destinations can help you sort yourself out, and plan a dream vacation, that is customized to be exactly what you need.
About the Author
A. Lee is a travel writer. She is the owner of this blog: http://www.TravelTipVacation.com . Leave a comment if you like her ideas.