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From Big Rigs and Rest Areas to 4,000 Years of Life & Art in the Desert Southwest

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

To an outsider, the sight of a 40-foot-long motorhome or bus conversion may appear the
supreme incarnation of conspicuous consumption. To an RV enthusiast, it’s simply the
physical manifestation of ultimate comfort on the road.


It’s when such larger-than-life rigs turn off the road that the problems
start. Simply put, many campgrounds haven’t kept pace with the
industry’s drive to bigger and better-equipped coaches. If you’ve ever
discovered the term “big rig friendly” to be a misnomer, you need Big Rigs,
Ken and Ellie Hamill’s campground directory for parks that really can
accommodate a 40-foot motorhome (there’s also a special section for
40-plus footers).

Now in its sixth edition, the handy-sized, spiral-bound tome
covers campgrounds in all 48 contiguous states. The authors claim to
have personally visited every park listed — and it shows. The listings
go far beyond mere statistics to note the space numbers for the best
sites at each location, where they are situated, how long they are and,
at times, even which spots offer the best shade and elbow room.

Listings also include notations on everything from data ports
to pets, as well as when to visit (“go off-season” is a frequent
disclaimer); some entries even offer tips on local restaurants.
Directions are spot-on, and each segment leads off with a state map
highlighting the location of all parks listed.

Big Rigs — Best Bets Campground Directory, 464 pages, $19.95; K & E Big Rigs Publishing, (830) 792-9170; big-rigs-rv.com.

As might be expected, many of the RV parks discussed in Big Rigs are found in the
Southwest — but even if you can’t visit the area personally, you may want to latch onto a
copy of The Desert Southwest, by Allan and Carol Hayes. Lushly illustrated with
photos by John Blom, this oversize (9 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches) coffee table classic offers a
unique perspective on this desert region. Equal parts archaeological textbook and American
history, the volume celebrates 4,000 years of art — and the people that made it.


The words begin with acknowledgment of the Hohokam people and Snaketown,
a settlement near present-day Phoenix that dates back to A.D. 200, and
carry right through Biosphere 2, north of Tucson. As the authors note,
however, it isn’t “a simple, linear journey” — nothing written of
interest ever is — and modern imagery is washed throughout the
narration to give the reader proper perspective.

The book also highlights certain locations with more shallow
roots. It recognizes, for example, how the region grew following
projects like the Roosevelt Dam, and how it was affected by such
world-changing events as the Great Depression and World War II — and
takes readers to New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range where, two days
each year, it’s possible to visit the Trinity Site, ground zero of the
Atomic Age.

It was here, on July 16, 1945, that the world’s first nuclear
device was exploded. Of course, chances are that this journal will
appeal less to military historians as it will pottery collectors — the
images of earthenware, dating back to as early as A.D. 700, are worth
the price of the book all by themselves.

The Desert Southwest — Four Thousand Years of Life and Art, 200 pages, $24.95; Ten Speed Press, (800) 841-2665, tenspeed.com.

No matter what size rig you throttle, however, you’re sure to find Rest Areas &
Welcome Centers
a valuable addition. According to its publisher, this handbook has
been its most-requested travel guide for the last five years.


Divided, as expected, by state, each chapter leads with a map of the
state showing all pertinent interstates and major highways. The rest
stops are then charted, by exit number or mile marker, where they are
located along each specific roadway; travelers in one direction read the
chart top-to-bottom, and visitors heading in the opposite direction
read it bottom-to-top. Simple. Just as importantly, each listing
includes icons designating on-site restrooms, phones, picnic tables,
vending machines, pet walks and RV dump stations.

The easily read graph also denotes the possible presence of a
local Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, K-Mart, Cracker Barrel restaurant or
RV-friendly fuel stations (America’s Best, Flying J, Love’s, Petro and
Pilot) — and which direction to travel to find it.

Rest Areas & Welcome Centers, 240 pages, $14.95; Roundabout Publications, (800) 455-2207, travelbooksusa.com.

Subscribe to Wildsam Magazine today, Camping World and Good Sam’s magazine of the open road.

Just $19.97 for a year’s subscription.


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