April 29, 2021

Campfire Talk - Part 2 of 2

It seems like I’m forever collecting little tidbits of news and information that may (or may not) be of interest to others.  None are worth a full blog post but I’ve found that a “Campfire Talk” format provides a good way to share an odd assortment of items.  Please note that this post is not sponsored in any way.  I’m not affiliated with, recommending or receiving payment from any of the companies or organizations mentioned.  I’m just sharing what I consider to be interesting or useful bits of news with you – you know, the kind of stuff you might talk about around a campfire with friends, family and fellow travelers.  The photos in this post represent a recap of the National Parks trip series I so recently (and happily!) completed.

Before I begin the actual post, I’d like to add a follow up comment about Ryan and Anya’s engagement which I had previously mentioned in Part 1 of this Campfire Talk post.  We have considered Anya our “bonus kid” since early in her relationship with Ryan.  The two of them are a good fit, and Anya is sweet, polite, respectful and considerate of others.  Not only are we blessed with a great bonus kid, but Anya’s parents, Kim and Brandon, are warm, good-natured, fun loving people, too – and we all enjoy outdoor adventures.  So, Alan and I are gaining a terrific daughter-in-law and we’ll be continuing the great relationship we’ve developed over the years with Anya’s parents.  I’m telling you, people, this is a win-win situation for us, and we know that we’re extremely fortunate.  Now, on to our regularly scheduled program.    

Good News for Zion National Park Fans! – Our family enjoyed our visit to Zion National Park immensely thanks, in part, to the wonderful shuttle bus system that allows visitors easy access to all of Zion Canyon’s highlights.  We tend to be very independent travelers, preferring to have our own vehicle available to us so that we can come and go as we please.  But we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed using the shuttle buses at Zion, and we certainly appreciated the effort and resources the National Park Service devoted to this aspect of the Park’s infrastructure.  But, alas, Zion’s shuttle buses are now 20 years old and showing their age.  (Aren’t we all?)  Zion’s Park Superintendent has acknowledged that the contractor who manages the fleet has been doing an excellent job.  But the company’s mechanics have started running into difficulty finding replacement parts for the buses and have had to retrofit some of the buses to keep them in service.  So, what’s the good news, you ask?  Well, the aging shuttle fleet is going to be replaced with 26 battery-electric buses with their own charging stations thanks to funding through USDOT’s Nationally Significant Lands and Tribal Program with contributions from the NPS, Iron and Washington counties in Utah, and the Zion National Park Forever Project, the park’s official nonprofit partner.  Periodic deliveries of the new shuttle buses are scheduled over the next several years, so visitors will be able to access and enjoy those incredible Zion Canyon views for years and years to come.  Jump on over to the NationalParksTraveler.org for the complete report (link HERE).

Zion National Park

Great American Outdoors Act: Lists of Projects – The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act last year ensured that an extraordinary amount of funding would finally be made available to improve the infrastructure and reduce the maintenance backlog in our National Parks and other public lands.  Hurray!  Anyone interested in the list of projects that have been identified by both the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund can find them (HERE) and (HERE), respectively.  You’re welcome!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Record Numbers Continue in Production and Sales of RVs – As a subscriber to news reports from RVBusiness.com, I’ve been seeing press release after press release about the record production numbers being logged by RV manufacturers and the anticipated continuation of record numbers of RV sales.  In fact, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV manufacturers shipped more RVs to dealers in March of this year than in any other prior single month in the industry’s history – 54,291 units.  As it is, RVers have been complaining for several years about increased difficulty in finding campsites following the last wave of recording-breaking production in 2017.  While I have seen a number of reports of new campground development, the process from plan to fruition can be a long one.  So, I imagine that the level of frustration in attempting to find a campsite will only increase over the next couple of years – at least until more campgrounds are built to alleviate the shortage or travelers who flocked to RVing during COVID return to whatever their normal mode of travel had been prior to the pandemic.  What to do?

For our family, not much will change.  If we’re looking to make time and distance, we’ll continue to seek out a Cabela’s parking lot for a quick overnight stay or any site in any State Park.  (Thank you, Cabela’s for being SO welcoming to RVers - I wear my Cabela’s gear with pride and gratitude!)  For the nights we’re in tourist mode, I remain extremely picky about our campsites and cheerfully spend a great deal of time identifying and reserving the best campsites – meaning the sites I know we will enjoy the most.  Although National Park campgrounds are a favorite, they’re among the most popular – as you can imagine.  Attempting to secure campsites in the Parks requires the greatest amount of effort, but our travels often put us in the proximity of lesser known and used campgrounds.  Quiet State Parks; regional, county and city campgrounds; U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and Army Corps of Engineers facilities are all on our A list.  So, I’ll continue with my own personal rule of identifying and reserving a campsite for every single night of any trip whenever possible.  This does occasionally require the cancellation of a reservation (due to illness or vehicle trouble while on the road, for example), but I consider the cancellation fees a cost of doing business.  For me, an occasional cancellation fee is a worthwhile trade-off for the security of knowing we have beautiful and/or safe campsites in which to sleep.

As of now, I have a campsite booked for every single night we’ll be on the road in 2021.  When the last one was nailed down, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  Alan probably got tired of hearing me say, “I’m so happy that’s done!”  That being said, however, I do feel for those who prefer to travel spontaneously and don’t want to have to follow a strict itinerary.  It’s no fun if a change in your style of traveling takes all the fun and adventure out of your trip.  I know if we were forced to travel without reservations, I’d be miserable and on edge for the entire trip.  So, the saga continues:  reservations or no reservations?  The stories coming in from the road over the next year or two should be interesting and informative, to say the least.   

Capitol Reef National Park

The Spectrum of Hope
– This has absolutely nothing to do with the chance of securing a campsite, but it certainly is something that we might find ourselves discussing around the campfire.  The Spectrum of Hope is a book written by Gayatri Devi, MD.  Dr. Devi is a neurologist who has worked with dementia patients for decades.  Due to the length and depth of her experience, she has come to understand Alzheimer’s as a spectrum disorder, not as a “one size fits all” dementia-related illness.  I discovered this book while reading an AARP article about Tony Bennett which I found fascinating.  (If you’d like to read that article, link HERE.)  Dr. Devi is his neurologist, and her book was mentioned in the article.

We are fortunate in that no one in our family is struggling with dementia, but I’m really, really glad I devoted time to reading this book.  When someone mentions the word “Alzheimer’s,” do you immediately imagine someone confined to home or bedridden who doesn’t recognize his or her family and can’t carry on a coherent conversation?  With all due respect, you would be so wrong.  Dr. Devi shared the stories of so many of her patients it became obvious that people all around us are living happy and productive lives even after they have been tested and have received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  The author did an excellent job of describing the warm relationships she enjoys with her patients and making this reader feel connected to those patients, as well.  She clearly explained her views on the spectrum of Alzheimer’s while using language that was easy to understand.  If the subject of Alzheimer’s interests you – or if you are entering or in the midst of a loved one’s dementia-related situation – The Spectrum of Hope provides a fascinating and, yes, hopeful view of this illness.

Canyonlands National Park

“How Deadly is Your National Park?” – So reads the title from a National Parks Traveler post from back in January.  (I told you I’d been collecting these little tidbits for a while, didn’t I?)  While the numbers pale in comparison to the annual number of deaths due to motor vehicle accidents or, now, the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact remains that visitors to our National Parks die every year.  The numbers in the article (link HERE) are simply statistics and, certainly, there’s a tragic story behind every one of them.  As noted in the comment section following the post, the numbers relate only to National Parks and not to all National Park units like National Monuments, National Lakeshores, etc.  Plus, they’re not represented in relation to the number of visitors each Park has, so related details that might put the numbers more clearly in context are definitely missing.  But the statistics do highlight the power of nature, as well as the potentially devastating results of a moment of carelessness or inattention.  Please step back now and give me a little room to hop up on my soap box.

During our visits to various National Parks, we have witnessed (1) parents photographing their child sitting on a wall high above a canyon or valley; (2) parents allowing their children to run up a rock formation without realizing there was a drop of several hundred feet on the other side; and (3) a parent lifting his toddler off a boardwalk to set him down near one of the geothermal features at Yellowstone.  Aside from the awful fact that these parents put their children’s lives at risk, they are also modeling the exact behavior you don’t want to see in the Parks.  Our National Parks are magnificent and impressive.  They offer countless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors at its best.  They provide peace and solitude, adventure and memories to people of all ages and walks of life.  Let’s not pay for The Best Instagram Pic Ever with our lives or those of our kids.  Let’s enjoy our National Parks and other public lands safely and, just as importantly, let’s teach our children and grandchildren to do the same.

Arches National Park

From Frisbees to Disc Golf – Alan and I are always on the lookout for fun-filled, outdoor activities both when we’re at home and on the road.  John over at On the Road of Retirement has recounted the adventures that he, his wife and his family have shared on disc golf courses they’ve visited when they travel.  (There’s a link to John’s blog in the list of my favorite blogs in the column at the right.  Once you land there, just type “disc golf” in the available search box.)  The family’s obvious enjoyment of this outdoor sport (of which I knew nothing at all) had piqued my interest, so I did a little research recently.  Here’s how the Professional Disc Golf Association (who knew?!) describes disc golf: Disc golf is played much like golf except, instead of a ball and clubs, players use a flying disc. The sport was formalized in the 1970s and shares with golf the object of completing each hole in the fewest strokes (or, in the case of disc golf, fewest throws).”  The “holes” in disc golf are metal contraptions designed with numerous links of chain that catch the disc when it hits them.  Okay, then.  It sounded like Frisbee to me, and I was fabulous at Frisbee when I was a kid.  This should be a piece of cake.  Not.

As soon as we located a disc golf course not all that far from our home (who knew?!), we ordered one set of three discs to give the sport a go.  Although the three golf discs look similar to the Frisbees of our youth, they’re designated as a driver, a mid-range and a putter (who knew?!).  Upon inspection of the disc golf course, Alan and I decided that it might be best to hone our skills at the practice basket.  The practice basket was out in the open with no trees or other obstructions around.  In contrast, the holes on the disc golf course were strategically placed so that inexperienced disc golfers would consistently lose their discs in the dense brush or, worse yet, in the river.  Yikes!  Since it became obvious immediately that our skills did, indeed, require honing, we’ve been hanging out at the practice basket for a few weeks now.  To those of you who are wondering just how badly our Frisbee skills have deteriorated, let’s just say that, at our first practice session, a trip to the Emergency Room was narrowly avoided only because Alan ducked as fast as he did.  I wasn’t thinking this was a sport that required body armor but, perhaps, it should be a requirement for my fellow players until I get my skills back up to speed.  Neither one of us was particularly good at that first practice session but, as time went on, our childhood skills did start to come back.  So, we went ahead and purchased another set of discs and have already discovered that there’s a lovely little 9 hole course near the COE campground that will be our first camping destination of the year.  Sweet!  The best part?  Upon mentioning our burgeoning interest in disc golf, both Ryan and Kyra remembered their disc golf units from high school Phys Ed classes (who knew?!) and expressed an interest in joining us on our foray into the world of disc golf.  I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear this since John had mentioned that he and his wife, Sharon, often play with their daughter and son-in-law when the family gets together.  However, as parents who truly enjoy hanging out with their kids, this was music to our ears and we happily added another activity to our repertoire of family adventures.

If you’re interested in learning more about disc golf, hop on over to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) website (link HERE) or check out some of the informative videos online.  A set of three golf discs can be had for about $20.00 on Amazon and about $23.00 at Walmart.  Disc golf is enough like the Frisbee craze of our youth to be fun, and enough of a challenge to keep both Alan and me interested in investigating a wide variety of courses at home and on the road.  I can assure you that we’ll definitely be adding “golf discs” to our camping gear checklist.  Thank you, John!

Now, it’s back to splitting the enormous pile of logs Alan dumped in front of the travel trailer last fall so that we can actually get the trailer out to go camping.  I’m wondering if he did that on purpose, knowing how much I love the warmth our wood stove provides on cold winter nights and how anxious I am to get out camping each spring.  Hmmm.  That guy is always thinking and often one step ahead of me.  Next up on the blog, the many delightful adventures in Acadia National Park!




  1. Well, that was quite a reader's digest, wasn't it? Informative and free, to boot! It's easy to imagine sitting around a campfire while tidbits of information flow. Even I learned a few new things; imagine that!

    1. This format is certainly more stilted, but it has always fascinated me how actual conversations flow so seamlessly from one topic to another. Although I have, on occasion, wondered how the heck we got on to a particular topic!

  2. Mary,
    I'm with you on booking reservations in advance. It takes work, but the effort pays off handsomely. We used the shuttle buses in Zion and found it a great way to see the Park since we could get off at any stop to hike or sight-see, then continue on. We just left Yosemite and the buses were not running--bummer. Speaking of Yosemite...if anyone is planning to visit, you HAVE to have reservations to get in. We learned that the hard way. Park officials say it is required due to COVID, but I really believe that it has little to do with COVID and everything to do with a way to reduce the crowd size. I think more Parks will require advance reservations going forward. Happy camping! Joe

    1. Joe, I think we're going to be seeing more and more reservations required for entry into the busier National Parks or for specific attractions therein. Just today (May 26th), Acadia instituted a timed reservation to access the Summit Road to Cadillac Mountain. As of May 28th, Glacier will be requiring a reservation to access Going-to-the-Sun Road between the Park's West and St. Mary entrances. I think COVID was the impetus, but I do believe the more visited National Parks are trying to better manage the crowds to protect the environment and ensure a more enjoyable experience for travelers. Some of these extra reservations require additional fees. The National Parks were set aside for the use and enjoyment of the American people. It would break my heart if increased fees put them out of reach for many. Looking forward to your next post from your epic journey! Travel safely!


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