AAA Members-Look Skyward! 2017 Eclipse RV Travel Savings

You may have noticed our earlier discussion about the singular celestial event that’s coming to America in 2017. To refresh your memories, we’ll be enjoying a total solar eclipse over America on August 21, 2017. A special reason we’re highlighting this opportunity for RV travel again is that AAA members can save big when renting an RV to view the solar eclipse.

AAA members always enjoy RV rental discounts through El Monte RV Rental & Sales as part of their active membership. For this year’s total solar eclipse experience, the nationwide auto club is encouraging members to hit the road in an RV to find the optimal eclipse viewing sites.

This article on the 2017 eclipse in AAA’s April member newsletter offers information on where, when and how to view the eclipse. If you aren’t currently a AAA member, this link offers you the opportunity to join so you can take advantage of the RV rental discounts.  

Solar eclipse

Solar eclipse

Haven’t started making plans to see the moon’s shadow completely block the sun from Earthly viewers? Here are the details you’ll need to plan your 2017 total solar eclipse RV vacation:

When Will the Eclipse Occur?

The shadow of the moon will align to blot out the sun from our view for approximately two minutes at 10:15 a.m. PDT on the Pacific Coast near Newport, Oregon. That will be the North American debut of the 2017 solar eclipse. The moon’s shadow will then block the sun from sight in an arc across the US, moving back over the Atlantic off the South Carolina coast at 2:48 pm EDT.

Where Will the Total Eclipse be Visible?

This excellent map of the eclipse trajectory shows the fourteen states (from Oregon to South Carolina) crossed by the “path of totality”. On that path, there’s a sixty-mile band of optimum viewing of the entire eclipse event. Outside that band, you won’t be able to see the total eclipse and will have to settle for partial eclipse memories.

To help you plan your eclipse-viewing RV vacation, here are some of the cities within the path of totality:

Oregon: Newport, Corvallis, Madras, Salem

Idaho: Stanley, McKay, Idaho Falls

Montana: No cities within optimum viewing band, eight miles of remote mountain terrain only

Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park, Casper, Thermopolis

Nebraska: Scott’s Bluff, Hastings, Grand Island

Kansas: Troy, Atchison, Leavenworth

Missouri: St. Joseph, Columbia

Illinois: Carbondale, Chester

Kentucky: Bowling Green, Hopkinsville

Tennessee: Nashville, Gallatin, Clarksville

Georgia: Blairsville, Clayton

North Carolina: Andrews, Clingmans Dome area of Great Smoky Mountain NP

South Carolina: Anderson, Orangeburg, Columbia

Why Rent an RV to View the Eclipse?

As any experienced RV traveler can tell you, weather changes occur when you least expect them. Viewing the eclipse in all its glory will require staying ahead of cloud cover or storms. Two planning steps can help you win the race:

  •         Watch local forecasts for the area where you plan to view the eclipse. If heavy cloud cover or storms are predicted, have a Plan B viewing location in mind.
  •         Traveling by RV allows you to change plans quickly. The flexibility to move to a better location as the event approaches may make the difference between awesome eclipse viewing memories and traveling home disappointed.

AAA and El Monte RV Rental & Sales can help you plan the perfect eclipse viewing RV vacation, but you’ll need to act fast. Campgrounds are filling rapidly, so don’t delay any longer making your plans.

Where will you be when the sun goes dark on August 21, 2017?

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Missouri is Ideal for an RV Fall Colors Excursion

For a marvelous autumn foliage excursion, take an RV for a trip to St. Louis, Missouri and the surrounding area. Fall in St. Louis has a lot to offer leaf peepers, and from the middle of October to the end of the month is commonly the peak times to view the vivid colors.

Missouri Botanical Gardens

Missouri Botanical Gardens

One of the best places to go in St. Louis to enjoy the fall hues is the Missouri Botanical Garden. This peaceful place is wonderful as the changing leaves start their amazing display. See the red maples, dogwoods and other trees in an ardent display of autumn reds and golds, and wander around picking up a snack as you go. The food vendors will be glad to oblige to stave off any hunger.

Of course, while in town don’t miss the St. Louis Zoo. All different sorts of exhibits will offer a variety of wildlife, from the animals that live in sub-Antarctic landscapes to tropical rain forests. Walk the River’s Edge to witness elephants at play. The kids will love Discovery Corner as they can pet the friendly animals and explore to their heart’s content.

Another popular stop in St. Louis is Forest Park. This is a true oasis where you can walk through a forest of serenity and glorious colors. There are paths to hike all around the interior of the park and nature walks are a favorite of all ages. This is just the start of hiking fun. There are area hiking trails which provide a way to get outdoors into the wilderness and see more of the brilliance of fall colors.

For some hiking fun, make your way to the Weldon Springs Clark Trail near St. Charles. Here you’ll discover a moderate loop trail which will take about 2 ½ hours to hike. It is of moderate difficulty. One of the most scenic hikes in metropolitan St. Louis, Weldon Springs Clark Trail provides views of the Missouri River and bluffs, limestone cliffs and much more.

Drive 30 minutes west of the city near Ballwin, Missouri, to hike the Hawk Ridge Trail.  This trail takes you through old growth woodlands so you will definitely get some fall color beauty as you go. It is an easy and well-maintained loop trail of four miles in length. This means those of all ages can enjoy the woods, wildlife and meadows. If you have brought along your bicycle, you can ride this trail instead of walking.

Only 32 miles southwest of St. Louis you will find Route 66 State Park Hiking Trails. These trails will give you a chance to catch views of the river and see a lot of wildlife. The park is near Eureka. Although biking may be best as it is almost eight miles round trip, hiking is definitely possible if you are up for it. The trail follows the Meremac River and gives wonderful views. Certainly you will enjoy autumn colors as you look out over the bluffs.

For an adventure, you can drive two hours south of St. Louis and head to Cape Girardeau, Missouri to visit the Maple Hollow Hiking Trail. This is more than just a hiking experience. This is an educational trail with a brochure so you can learn all about the vegetation you see. It’s a short loop hike of only a little over a mile, paved but with some steep parts. It is worth the drive, not only because of what you learn about the woods, but the scenery on the way.

If you want to make your foliage viewing the best possible, you can go to the Missouri Conservation Department’s website and download an app for your smartphone. This is called the MO Fall Color app and will be active through November while the colors are still bright and winter has not set in. You will discover all the best places throughout the state to view the autumn colors.

After traveling around the St. Louis area, you can take Highway 79 out of St. Louis and travel north to take in more autumn glory. Surrounded with lovely colors and moving along in a comfortable RV motorhome makes this fall excursion so memorable. When you reach Hannibal, take Highway 61 to move through farmlands and countryside rich with the brilliant hues of the fall foliage. You can keep going right up to the state border or turn back and head home. It is up to you as it is your fall foliage trip and you can do whatever you want. Enjoy!

Picture credits: The picture of The Botanical Gardens, Missouri is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Travel in an RV to Branson Missouri this Spring

Aerial Picture of Branson Missouri

Aerial View of Branson Missouri

Taking an RV vacation to Branson, Missouri raises the bar on vacations. It is all about music and entertainment, outdoor recreation and wildlife in the Ozark Mountains. Besides all that, you can enjoy spas, shops, boutiques and galleries. The opportunities for fun are limitless. You can find plenty of RV camping so you will have a base to operate from. Oak Grove RV Park may be the ideal choice of RV campgrounds in Branson. Here you will be close to many local attractions as well as discover amenities galore, including full hookups, dump station and laundry facilities.

One of the top attractions in Branson is Talking Rocks Cavern. Touring caves in the Ozarks really has no compare. People have been exploring caves around these hills for decades. Another place to enjoy is Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure where you can walk among thousands of butterflies. See the film about the Monarch migration and experience the Living Rainforest Science Center.

There are all sorts of unique sights in the town. For instance, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! offers some amazing out-of-this-world facts that can almost overwhelm you with their strangeness. You don’t, after all, have to travel to Hollywood to see these incredible exhibits. Then there is the World’s Largest Toy Museum. It doesn’t matter if you have kids with you or not. Certainly many of these toys will bring back memories. You will discover more than a million toys, including Barbie dolls, NASCAR toys, Disney toys and so many more. View the old lunch boxes that kids scrambled for at the start of a school year.

Time to see some wildlife! You don’t have to venture out into the wilderness either! The National Tiger Sanctuary has many exotic and domestic animals. You will love the wonderful lions and tigers that have been rescued from certain death. After seeing this attraction, head over to the Promised Land Zoo: Branson. There are actually two parks, one where you can take a foot safari and another that is a drive-through adventure.

No one wants to miss their chance to see some ghosts. You have that opportunity at Branson Ghost and Legends in downtown Branson. This nighttime tour has been an on-going affair for many years. Many have a ghostly experience along the way, while down some dark alley. Learn all about Branson’s spooky past.

One of the best ways to see the area is on Branson Scenic Railway. This 40-mile trip takes you through the Ozarks like no other mode of transportation. The greatest part of the journey is crossing bridges and spotting wildlife from the train as you pass. You will also hear much of the history of the region and actually feel like you have stepped back in time to experience rail travel from long ago.

Now is the time to get outdoors for some recreation. At Dogwood Canyon Nature Park you can get out there in the wilderness and explore Native American Indian trails. Ride horseback or take a Segway around and about. However, book early as these activities get filled up quickly. You can also try a lake cruise at Main Street Lake Cruises. A sightseeing tour around the lake is something to do for a really great time. Bird watchers will see eagles, wildlife lovers will view animals on the shore, and those who just want to enjoy nature will get a full serving on one of these cruises.

Next be sure to Ride The Ducks, a unique and exciting tour of the scenic forests and waterways in the Ozarks. You get music, fun and history, and maybe a little wet too! It is a 70-minute boat ride you will never forget. If your children are with you on this RV adventure, you certainly won’t want to neglect to take them on a duck tour.

After a long day of excitement and fun, you may want to enjoy some musical shows. Branson is well known for entertainment and live music extravaganzas. For example, May is a big month in this town. Tribute Theatre is holding a tribute to the Eagles during May, which is a great way to spend an evening after adventuring outdoors all day. At God and Country Theatre in Branson, you can enjoy some great gospel, country or rock and roll and wonderfully funny comedy shows that will have you singing and laughing all the way home.

Branson, Missouri is always a popular destination in the spring. The opportunities seem never-ending for a lot of amusement and entertainment. Don’t miss your chance for an RV vacation to remember in the Ozarks.

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The Lewis & Clark Trail through Missouri by RV

Ready for more RV camping adventures on the Lewis and Clark Trail? The pair’s epic journey included a jaunt across Northern Missouri on the Missouri River. Here’s our suggested itinerary for following those intrepid explorers’ path through Missouri by RV.

Stop #1: Museum of Westward Expansion, St. Louis
Located at the base of the iconic “St. Louis Arch”, the Museum of Westward Expansion is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Complex. An impressive collection of Lewis and Clark memorabilia is housed in the museum, as well as fascinating video presentations and interactive exhibits highlighting the lives of Native Americans, miners and farmers during the time of westward expansion.

About five hours south of El Monte RV Rentals in Chicago, you’ll find this city on the banks of the Mississippi filled with cultural, historic and just plain fun attractions. Campgrounds like St. Louis RV Park will help keep luxurious RV camping affordable.

Stop #2: Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis
After making his way to the Pacific Ocean with Meriwether Lewis, Captain William Clark returned to St. Louis, where he died in 1838. Historic Bellefontaine Cemetery on Florissant Avenue is home to the granite obelisk that marks his passing.

Stop #3: Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center, St. Charles
Less than thirty miles west of St. Louis on I-70, the quaint Missouri river town of St. Charles is home to the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center. Created by the Discovery Expedition, a non-profit group dedicated to commemorating the journey of Lewis and Clark, this historical treasure is a must-see for RV camping American history buffs. You’ll find a museum, a riverside nature walk, and a boat house with exact replicas of the watercraft Lewis and Clark used to navigate the Missouri.

Once you’ve explored this excellent resource on the Lewis and Clark expedition, stay and visit other St. Charles attractions. Katy Trail State Park gives access to the scenic trail that follows reclaimed railroad bed along the Missouri River for more than two hundred miles. Hiking or biking a section of the trail is a favorite pastime for RV travelers to St. Charles.

Stop #4: Arrow Rock State Historic Site, Arrow Rock, MO
Now you have a choice to make as you follow Lewis and Clark’s journey west through Missouri. You can either travel I-70 west to Arrow Rock, Missouri, or follow the Missouri River along MO-94 to Stump Island Park in Jefferson City. Jefferson City, the state’s capitol, is noteworthy as Clark noted passing ‘Stump Island’ (there’s an historical marker there) in June of 1804.

If you’re short on time, make the direct trip to Arrow Rock from St. Charles. The town of Arrow Rock on the Missouri River is a living history installation with historic structures, a visitor center and re-enactments of life in a river town. Lewis and Clark noted the area’s salt water streams and the rock from which Indians made many arrows. You’ll also find a campground there, so why not spend some time enjoying this town’s vintage charm? By the way, Arrow Rock is in the heart of “Boone’s Lick Country”, where Daniel Boone’s sons once extracted and sold salt.

We owe an enormous debt to those early travelers, Lewis and Clark, for their amazing journey to the Pacific. Indulge your love of history and enjoy the comfort of RV camping by following the Lewis and Clark Trail through the Show Me State soon.

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Autumn RV Road Trip to Missouri Wine Country

Since the 1850s, the Missouri River has nourished the wineries of Central Missouri. The countryside surrounding villages like Hermann, Rocheport and Augusta boasts more than three dozen wineries waiting to delight autumn RV travelers. Take the time to explore these suggested autumn RV road trips to Missouri Wine Country; they’ll nourish your soul and leave you with delicious memories.

Hermann, Missouri Wine Country Road Trip
At the heart of Missouri’s Wine Country, you’ll find the quaint 1830’s German settlement of Hermann. Nestled against Missouri river bluffs, Hermann delights the eye and offers the palate almost a dozen area wineries. As you travel south from I-70 along Missouri Scenic Hwy 19, you’ll be surrounded with the beauty of fall foliage and hillside vineyards.

Once you reach the town itself, affordable RV camping is the first order of business on your Hermann wine country road trip. Hermann City Parks Campground offers a full range of hookups and picturesque creek side campsites. The park is also easy walking distance to Hermann’s shops, restaurants and historic attractions. By the way, if you’d like to leave the RV parked at the campground, the Hermann Trolley travels to four area wineries, as well as many of the town’s other attractions.

Your wine country itinerary can continue at Hermannhof Vineyards, where you’ll be charmed by the beauty of mellow brick and stone. Stroll the riverside courtyards and historic wine cellars, and then settle in to savor local delicacies and a full selection of vintages.

Your next stop might be Adam Puchta & Son Wine Company, just a couple of miles out of town. From a crisp Chardonnay to the fruity blend of their Vignoles, you’ll find something to take home as a luscious memory. Also on the Hermann Trolley route (and a spectacular autumn drive away) is OakGlenn Vineyards, one of the most scenic vineyards you’ll ever visit. Enjoy the vista from atop the bluffs along the Missouri River and treat yourself to a glass of their award-winning Chambourcin.

Last stop on this Hermann Wine Country RV itinerary is Stone Hill Winery, also just moments away from town. A century and a half of winemaking expertise has lead to regular awards for this hilltop winery. Visit one of three historic wine tasting rooms before selecting one of their specialties to enjoy back at the RV. These are just four of the wineries in the Hermann Wine Region; be sure to check or Missouri Wines for information on others in the area.

Rocheport, Missouri Wine Country Road Trip
About an hour west of Hermann lays the remarkably scenic river town of Rocheport. Within this village on the Katy Trail you’ll discover a slower pace of life and a wealth of vintage architecture. To add to your sensory feast, camp twenty minutes from town at Katfish Katys, adjacent to the Katy Trail and two state conservation areas. For another back-to-nature RV camping experience, camp at Finger Lakes State Park near Columbia, only thirty minutes north of Rocheport.

Start your Rocheport Wine Country RV itinerary at Les Bourgeois Vineyards and Winery, offering both fabulous wines and a legendary bistro for RV travelers to enjoy. Check their calendar of events; you may just find an added bonus during your stay!

Less than an hour south, near the Missouri capitol of Jefferson City, allow yourself the pleasure of relaxing in the scenic glory of Native Stone Winery. The hiking trails, both a winery and brewery on-site and a very nice restaurant make this stop worthy of a day trip. Several more Central Wine Region locations can be visited within an hour’s drive of Rocheport.

Missouri’s Wine Country rolls along the Missouri River and offers RV campers the abundance of the grape. Make plans to visit Missouri’s wineries in autumn; it’s a road trip filled to the brim with new discoveries.

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