All posts by Daniel Kirsh

RV content – gtg for website

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RV tips/ Prudent Motorhome Tips

Many people think if they know how to drive a car, they know everything the need to handle a motorhome. Whether you buy or rent, there is much you should know in addition to basic car information.

1. Securing Your RV – If you are going to be leaving your RV to go exploring, make sure you secure all the entries. Most people do this for windows and such, but remember any openings on the roof.

2. RV Rush Hour Driving – You may be tempted to keep trucking along even if you are in a big city during rush hour. I highly advise against this. Frustrated drivers can be vicious. You will also put a lot of wear and tear on your RV.

3. Winter RV Storage – If you store your RV in the winter months, you need to take something into account – water. Freezing water expands. Empty everything in your vehicle that contains water or you could be in for a nasty surprise.

4. Shop Around For Your RV – Whether renting or buying an RV, it is important to shop around. The quality of vehicles and prices vary widely by dealer. In this case, it is buyer beware.

5. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – When evaluating an RV, it is important to understand how much weight it can take. This is known as the gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR. Do not exceed it!

6. Fast Lane RVing – First off, going 80 in an RV is very risky. Stay out of the fast lane. Even if you can handle it, you stick out like a thumb, which means tickets from your friendly highway patrol.

7. Rest Stop Sleeping – For some reason, rest stops tend to attract strange people. If possible, try to avoid sleeping at them. If nothing else, you will not get much rest.

8. RV Internet Shopping – Before you ever go to a dealer, you should go RV internet shopping. Look at the various models and prices to figure out what you like and can afford without suffering under the pressure of a salesman.

9. Class B Motorhome Prices – Class B motorhomes are better known as camper vans. They are essentially vans converted to your living needs. Prices range from $30,000 to $65,000.

10. RVs in Big Cities – In general, you should avoid trying to drive in big cities, particularly in congested areas such as downtown. Use your common sense. Do you really think a 30 footer is going to do well?

At the end of the day, a motorhome is definitely a great way to get out and experience the world. It offers freedom at a moment’s notice and enough money to fill up the gas tank. If you get a chance, give it a go at least once.

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Buying an RV

This article is meant to be helpful to any buyer of any motor home, fifth wheel, or travel trailer. It has been compiled from personal experience as well as research that has been summed up from other RV owners. Maybe this article will help save some dollars.

I suggest that you do your research from different manufacturer’s websites. This will help you gather information and ideas on different models and floor plans that are to your liking. Be sure to read all the RV forums, as this can be another resource to gather valuable information. List your priorities. Listen to everyone, then weigh their opinion even if they may have different priorities than you do. Choose what is important for your wants/needs and priorities list.

Your requirements may be different than others, like those bunk beds for your children or the grandkids. Maybe you want slide outs or a specific kitchen floor plan. Maybe it is laundry facilities in the vehicle. You may want a motor home, fifth wheel, or travel trailer. Or maybe it is that sports toy hauler trailer. Carefully consider, what you and your family’s, priorities are. Remember to consider the grandkids or any other family member, who may be traveling with you. How many people do you think will be traveling with you at one time?

Whatever you do, don’t compromise your priorities list. Don’t get a smaller vehicle that fits the budget better, thinking that you will just trade up in a couple of years. Remember that you can lose a lot of money on depreciation and wear and tear.

Decide what kind of RVer, you want to be. You may want to be a snowbird site-seer who parks for the winter, or maybe it’s a road warrior who has to travel long distances to see family members. This kind of knowledge will help you decide what models to be looking at. Some floor plans are better suited for travel than for parking because they have slider outs which are only used when parked. Remember that once the slide outs are closed you may have problems accessing certain locations within the motor home while you are on the road.

There are larger vehicles that are more like your house because they have two or more slide outs. When you are parked and you have the slide outs, you will have more living space. In some cases, it might be more square footage than the condo at home.

As a couple, you should decide on what you are willing to pay for the vehicle itself. That will give you a good starting place for your purchasing budget. Discuss upfront exactly how much cash you are willing to use as the down payment and how much you are willing to finance. In today’s RV market, there are some really good low interest offers right now. But you should decide what your home budget will allow you to spend on monthly payments. After all, you want to have the vehicle for years to come. Here again, use caution and know what you are signing. Read the small print. You do not want to break the piggy bank as you want to be able to afford those long trips to see those grandkids.

In today’s RV market, there are some great deals to be had if you want to cross border shop. Do your research upfront, so that you know what you are looking for and what kind of deal you are getting. If you find that special RV vehicle across the border, you should know that before you can take delivery of the unit, the vehicle must be paid for in full. Before you do any shopping across the border, go to your bank manager and arrange for the financing upfront.

While you are waiting to take delivery across the border, allow yourselves enough time, to make the appropriate bank transfers. This process can take a few days for the financing to be put into place. If you have given yourself the time to take delivery there will be a lot less stress. Dealerships have to because once the vehicle has crossed over the border, it is very difficult to get the vehicle back if need be. Besides, you will need the actual bill of sale, when you cross over the border.

Before you leave home, I would suggest that you check with your local RV dealership’s service department to find out what kind of service, you can expect from them, once you bring the RV vehicle home. You will want to make sure that they will work with you in maintaining your vehicle so that it is always roadworthy.

I have a friend, who found a fantastic deal from an RV dealership in California. He flew there to take delivery and drove it back home to Texas. About six months later when a couple of parts needed to be replaced, he went to the local RV service department to get them fixed.

He found that the customer service that he was offered was negligible. He was convinced that it was because he had not bought the motor home locally. He had to order the parts from his dealership in California where he bought the motor home and have the parts sent to him. Not only did the parts cost double, but he also had to find someone who was willing to install the new parts. I cannot say that this happens at every dealership but truly it was a nightmare for him. So that is why I suggest checking with your local RV dealership to find out what their policies are. Who knows? They may be willing to match or beat any special deal you have been offered. It may save you money in the long run.

Good luck with your search for that home away from home.

Enjoy your road experience.

Drive Safe and see you on the road.

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Purchasing an RV? – Here are some helpful hints.

When you are making your needs and wants list, for your preferred vehicle whether it is a travel trailer or a full motor home coach, here are some points to consider.

How many people do you need to be able to accommodate in your vehicle?

Do you want the vehicle for just short trips where you will drive to your destination, then park for a month? What kind of RVer do you want to be a Road Warrior or one who parks your vehicle in one spot for months at a time?

If you have a family you might want to consider renting a motor home for a holiday just to see if you and your family enjoy the RV experience.

Do you want a vehicle with special air-braking systems or not. Driving a motor home with air-brakes in Canada requires the owner to be certified on air-brakes. (It is a short 3-day course)

If you enjoy long-distance holidays where you drive across the country, then park near family or friends for a two week period, then you will have to decide what features within your motor home do you need to have available while driving.

What size of a bed would be appropriate for you, regular or queen?

Are you a snowbird who will be using your vehicle for long periods (5 winter months) of time on your road experience or will it be just short weekend trips?

How much space do you require for kitchen counter space (island area), dining, and living area?

While checking the kitchen counter space note how much food storage you might need as well.

How often do you need to run appliances? (Example: oven, stove, and washer/dryer?

What would suit you best, a dining table with chairs or a dinette booth?

How much privacy do you wish in your bedroom, washroom, or shower/bath?

Does anyone in your travel party require any upgrades like a wheelchair lift or modifications to the width of the door entrance to accommodate wheelchair etc. or possibly access to the washroom? This would include an upgrade in special chairs and or beds.

On the performance of the motor home: Consider that you may lose speed while you are going up-hill because of the load you may be carrying or pulling like the car behind the motor home. Can you handle this?

Consider how much fuel your tanks can hold and what kind of mileage you may get between fill-ups. This would also bring to mind how much you should check maps and plan your trip for fuel stops.

How much does your water (black and grey) tanks hold?

Do you have long pieces of luggage that would require pass-through storage areas?

Do you want your storage doors to open a certain direction (i.e. to the side or up like a bus)?

How many televisions do you want and where would they be?

Your entertainment station (i.e. Stereo, CD/DVD player) location?

Do you require any upgrades to the soundproofing in your vehicle? Some people require their TV and stereo turned up because they may have a hearing problem? (HINT: You might consider wireless headphones for yourselves. This would also work for TV sound as well.)

You may want to note where your television location is. You want to be able to watch your TV at eye level and straight on, rather than around the counter space, cooking island, or table. You do not want to be looking up at the television when it is hanging from the ceiling. Your neck will get sore.

Do you like or need a kitchen plus a refrigerator and or an entertainment center outside the vehicle? This would be for use when you are parked?

Be sure to check other options that a specific manufacturer may have to offer that you like and may not be on this list. You can add them to your needs and wants list.

How far between fill-ups (for fuel and water) will you be able to comfortably go. Some people like to be able to travel for long periods of time, like 1000 miles, and be self-sufficient for up to 5 days.

Know that the more wants and needs that you have of course the price goes-up so be reasonable.

If you are someone who has found a fantastic deal across the border you can find all the information and tips on how to import a vehicle into the US. Do your research on how to bring a vehicle across the border legally and without any hassles. Find the right regulations and forms that you need. See regulations on importing a vehicle.

While you are considering storage areas, make sure that you choose one, with the easiest access and give you the maximum storage area. That is why a lot of people like the pass-through storage area which has doors that lift up as they do on a bus. Just think it might even have room to park that small scooter that one of your travel companions, may need while you are on your holiday.

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A great American humorist once said, “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket.” But when RV living is your way of life, saving every penny may not be as easy as you might expect. The following RV tips are sure to help you save, and even earn, money while enjoying the RV way of life.

Ways to save money

Get more bank for your tank. Enjoy better gas mileage by practicing these simple driving tips:

1. Slow down – The faster you drive, the lower your fuel economy will be.
Inflate – Proper tire inflation is a sure way to improve your gas mileage.
Lighten your load – Eliminating excess RV weight increases your fuel efficiency.

2. Stop and shop. Forget about stocking up on everything you need for your entire trip by buying in bulk beforehand. Instead, shop often and locally. You’ll not only reduce the weight of your RV and get better fuel economy but also save money by skipping the national chains and shopping for produce, meat, dairy, and other items at a local discount and dollar stores.

3. Eating in is in. Skip the restaurants and eat in. Your meals not only will be more affordable but also they will be healthier than those bought at the fast-food restaurants and old-fashioned diners along the highway.

4. Go green. Use plastic, not paper. Although paper products are easy to use and even easier to throw away, why not go green while on the road? While the initial investment of purchasing a set of washable and reusable dishes may cost more upfront, not having to continually purchase paper plates, cups and utensils will save in the long run.

5. Try “boondocking.” According to Jack and Julee Meltzer, authors of The Smart RVers Guide to Saving Money: Have More Fun RVing For Less Money, boondocking, or “dry-camping,” usually entails staying somewhere that offers no hook-ups (water and sewer) at little or no cost. Whether it’s a parking lot or in the desert on public land, some RVers only boondock. Most RVers, however, stay at a campground every few days in order to empty their tanks, do laundry and fill up on freshwater.

6. Make house calls. If boondocking isn’t your style, why not turn your RV road trip into an opportunity to visit with family and friends? Be sure to be respectful and always ask before showing up; however, most close friends and family would be delighted for an impromptu visit that doesn’t involve clean sheets and extra towels. Parking your RV in the driveway shouldn’t be a problem; just make sure to ask if there are any city ordinances requiring parking permits in the neighborhood.

7. Join the club. RV membership clubs like The Good Sam Club, KOA, Passport America, Camp Club USA, Happy Camper, and Escapees offer a wide range of benefits to their members, including substantial discounts on campground fees. Do your research before embarking on your journey to see what deals and discounts you can find for the road.

8. Get online. RV forums can be found on numerous websites. And while you’re surfing, try finding online coupons, codes, and discounts for all of your other necessary RV purchases.

9. Save money on storage by selling your stuff. Save that monthly storage unit fee and make some money at the same time. Before embarking on your road trip, hold a sale, and eliminate all of your unused belongings, then donate whatever is left to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army. In addition to a little extra income, you’ll receive a deduction on your taxes.

10. Investigate your policies. Research your insurance policies to ensure you are getting what you need at a price you can afford. Whether you’re looking at your RV insurance options or trying to find discount RV insurance coverage for your vehicle, sometimes changing your provider or premiums can save you money.

The RV lifestyle is one of the most affordable ways to travel and experience all that the country has to offer. Utilize these helpful tips for RVing on a budget, and make every dollar stretch for miles.

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My mom and dad recently bought an RV and they already had a boat, so we got right on planning a long weekend getaway for the fall. Well, it’s fast approaching and I am getting ready-making lists and starting to pack.

Hitching up the boat and RV is the guys’ job, but getting everything else is up to us gals. We plan the meals, prepare for rain or shine and create the itinerary to get the most family fun out of every trip. Here’s what we have planned for our trip to boat and RV:

Meals

Even with all the conveniences of the RV, we still want to keep meals pretty simple. Who wants to spend their precious vacation time cooking, right? We have a beef brisket we will smoke, hamburger patties made up to grill, and pork steaks. We are making potato salad, pasta salad and cole slaw for a few side dishes and we’ll have some chips. This is the nice part about RV traveling-we have the fridge there to store the stuff ahead of time. For breakfast, we have mostly danishes, donuts, and other grab and go items. On the last day we have biscuits and gravy, which we can also make beforehand. We also got the ingredients for s’mores and my sister will make brownies and rice Krispie treats.

Clothes

A fall trip is simply wonderful. Often it’s warm enough to enjoy boating and playing in the water a little, but cools off in the evening to make a campfire just perfect. You don’t sweat through dinner and the mosquitoes are all but a memory. However, you have to pack for all seasons. You may or may not need swimsuits and it’s just as likely you’ll need sweat suits and rain gear. So, to summarize, bring it all. Again, this is when it is super-handy to have the RV, there is so much more space to keep it all.

Itinerary

Like the clothing, you kind of need to prepare for it all. What will you do when it’s pouring down rain or freezing cold? Or what if the mercury is approaching 90 degrees? We are hoping for the best and preparing mainly for somewhere in the middle, which means a lot of hiking in the mornings and boating in the afternoons. But, we’re also ready to shift gears if swimming becomes possible or if we are trapped under tarps to stay dry. Scrabble by the campfire anyone?

A boat and RV trip are all about rolling with the punches and we all have a great attitude about going. We’ll have a great time, rain or shine. Taking the boat and RV may just be our best family vacation yet!

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If you and your family are planning for a trip, an RV will help you. Rent one for your first outing and then figure out what kind of RV is right for your family. There are class A, B, C, and fifth wheels. Add to that those that have to be pulled and those with storage for “toys” like motorcycles, bikes, and watercraft. There are RV’s with bunk beds for the kids and RV’s with room for just two. You can spend as much or as little money as you have available.

Maybe you want to start just a step up and get a pop-up camper. That’s a big step up from sleeping in a tent. You have your own air conditioning and, sometimes, even a bathroom. From there, the sky’s the limit; literally. Today’s RVs can cost as much as one million dollars each. Some are even equipped with garden tubs or Jacuzzis.

Once you have decided how much to spend and on whether you are either renting or buying your RV, it is time to decide where you are going to go in it.

The possibilities are endless.

First of all, you will need to know where you are going and plan what highways to use. Remember that an RV is a lot larger than a car and more difficult to handle in traffic. You might decide you would rather take the interstates and use a car to check out the smaller roads. When you figure out where you want to go and how to get there, you need to know where you are going to stay. You can’t park an RV just anywhere. Cities have ordinances about stopping overnight in parking lots and, in some states; you can’t even stop to sleep in a state rest area. You will need to know where the RV parks are that can handle your particular type of recreation vehicle.

Some parks only allow Class A RV’s; some cater to pop-ups or small pullers.

You will need to plot your travel based on how many miles you plan to drive per day. It is a good idea to take the RV out for a few trial runs before you set off on the big trip. Always remember that an RV needs extra turning room and has to make a wide swing to turn into a road or a parking lot. There are blind spots that you cannot see without making use of all your mirrors and your rearview camera. Always watch the other guy as closely as possible because you can’t stop an RV very quickly. When you do have to put on brakes, make certain your family is strapped in tightly because it is possible for things to go flying through the body of the RV if they aren’t secured well before travel.

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Vacation is always fun. Minus the expenses that the adults have to cover, people go on vacations for various purposes. While flying is the faster way to go, traveling by land can be just as fun and you wouldn’t even notice the time passing by as you get to enjoy the sights. But if you’re tired of the whole sightseeing thing, there are other ways on how to make your road trip go by faster while you are in the car. Here are some suggestions on what you can do on your next road trip.

– Play games – Nobody is too old for fun games! Whether you are traveling with the family members in different age brackets or a road trip with your young at heart friends, there are games that you can do inside the car that can provide hours of entertainment, fun, and laughter. You can bring prizes with you too. They can be real prizes or just fun silly prizes.

The game can be about plate numbers you see, the sights you see outside the window, games about music, and many more.

– Music trip – You can have fun for hours listening, or better yet, singing along with your favorite tunes. Pop in a CD or connect your iPod and there will never be a sleepy moment inside the car. You can even turn this into a game similar to Don’t Forget the Lyrics, or the classic Name That Tune.

– Mini comedy club – Turn your car into a mini-comedy club! Have a round-robin of takes and have each other bring out his favorite jokes or tell some of your funniest stories.

– Food trip – All those laughs and singing can get you really hungry. Stock up on snacks in the car so you can immediately have a bite when you want to.

– Photo ops – If you see a great sight, and there will definitely be plenty, hop out of the car and take souvenir photos.

– Stopovers – Apart from using the bathroom, make your stopovers a food trip experience to try and explore the different food offerings from a different area.

Try to stay away from the typical fast food places such as McDonald’s. Take this as an opportunity instead to try out something new and exciting for your palette.

– RVs – Use RVs if you can so your road trip can have an element of camping adventure in it. Especially for long drives, RVs can provide homey comfort to some extent. With an RV, you can go just about anywhere, even the woods or the desert.

– Lastly, follow traffic rules. It’s not fun to be getting tickets in every city you run into so obey traffic laws and you should be well on your way to vacation and road trip fun.

As they say, sometimes it’s not about the destination, but it’s about the journey. Have a fun-filled road trip that family and friends will look forward to year after year. What is truly important on a road trip is your sense of adventure, and being able to say yes and have fun when the opportunity presents itself.

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Holy huge – Texas is massive. And there are actually signs as you go in saying don’t mess with Texas. We didn’t get to see anywhere near as much as we wanted in Texas due to weather, but it sure did deliver in terms of fun for what little time we were there. Big thanks to a friend for recommending Fredericksburg and to other friends for showing us a great time in Houston. We were a couple of hours outside San Antonio when we saw a sign for Fredericksburg and remembered our friend talking about it being a decent wine country. My wife quickly jumped onto harvesthosts.com to find a winery in the Fredericksburg area where we could stay the night. Harvest Hosts is an RV club that has relationships with wineries, breweries, farms, and museums across the country that allow people in RV’s to stay the night on their land free of charge. Pay the annual membership fee and you get access to the country-wide directory. It’s been a lot of fun so far and is nice to break up just staying in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Anyway, we stayed at Messina Hof winery and obviously went straight in to start tasting some wine after we parked. Several bottles later we left the Messina Hof cellar door, dropped the bottles off in the motorhome, and walked down the road to the next winery for another tasting. Another bottle later we made our way back to the motorhome. Hearing about some of the good German food in downtown Fredericksburg while in the wineries, we clearly had to go sample some of it for dinner. The weather was a little questionable so we just drove the motorhome into town and parked at the visitor center. That way, if we had a little too much to drink with dinner our beds would be walking distance away! We went to the Auslander Restaurant and it was awesome. My wife had some stuffed cabbage and I went straight for the brats.

While walking back to the motorhome after dinner, we walked past a sign pointing down a staircase to a basement advertising breakfast. So after looking at that menu, we were going to have to make a stop back through town in the morning for breakfast. What a fantastic decision that was! My wife ordered the duck hash; basically an eggs benedict but instead of English muffins and ham under the eggs and hollandaise it was a bed of homestyle potatoes with duck topped off with eggs and hollandaise. Now go get a towel because if you’re not drooling on your keyboard yet, you’re about to. I ordered a steak benedict. Yes, that’s right. It’s exactly what you’re thinking. Everything that’s great about eggs benedict was there except the ham was replaced with two medium-rare cuts of sirloin. If you want some good wine, good food, and a nice small-town atmosphere where everything is 5 minutes drive away, Fredericksburg is the place. We loved it.

Leaving Fredericksburg I remembered that a guy I went to high school with was living in Houston now. I hadn’t seen or talked to him in probably 8 or 9 years but I got his number from another friend and told him we were going to be passing through Houston late afternoon. I asked him if he was around and up for dinner or a beer and as luck would have it, there was a Wal-Mart less than a mile from his house for us to park the RV.

He picked us up on his way home from work about a half-hour after we arrived at the Wal-Mart and went to the Red Robin around the corner for a beer. While in the middle of catching up on what each other had been up to for the last 8-9 years, he read a text on his phone and said “I don’t know if you guys would be into it and it might not work out, but my buddy is trying to score 4 tickets to the Rockets game tonight through work.” Of course, we were up for it. Within about 15 minutes, he got another text saying that he got the tickets and that we were on for the game! My wife was going to get to see her first professional basketball game. Not a bad way to start our time in Houston.

What an awesome time that was. Free tickets, drinks, and food for the whole game then went out to a couple of bars after the game. It was a really close game and the only thing that would have been better would have been if the Astros could have closed the game out with a win.

The only downside was that it was a Wednesday night and my friend had a 7:30 meeting the next morning. It might not have been that bad but after we finally made it back to the RV, Luke and I decided that we’d stay up drinking and solving all the world’s problems until about 3 AM. He was hurting the next day but made his meeting. While that poor guy was sweating alcohol at his 7:30 meeting, My wife and I had the couch folded out into a bed watching movies, eating microwave pizzas, and drinking Gatorade. I’m pretty sure she saved my life that morning. She got up before me, gave me a handful of pills, and put me back to sleep. She woke me back up about an hour later with a bag of Cheetos, 32 oz. Gatorade, frozen pizzas, and a couple of Red Box movies…could somebody be any more perfect?! I suggest not.

My friend and I were texting throughout the morning while he was struggling through his work day when he remembered that his fiance was heading to the Maranda Lambert concert at the rodeo with some of her girlfriends. My wife had never been to a rodeo so of course, we were in. So night two in Houston we headed for the Astrodome where the Houston Rodeo was being held. We paid $18 for a full entry that got us into the carnival, rodeo, and Maranda Lambert concert. That’s a lot of entertainment for $18. Before we got into the rodeo, Luke took us down the food section which was about a 200-yard long section of southern BBQ vendors….I was in heaven. If somebody would have had a wheelchair handy, I would have let them all go into the rodeo and I would have happily wheeled my fat ass up and down that row to every vendor I could handle.

The rodeo was great and I got to see Chuckwagon racing for the first time which was awesome. During the concert after the rodeo was finished, my wife said she’d never been to a live concert before either! Two nights in Houston and we’d checked three firsts off for her. She has set the bar pretty high though with great seats and free entry to watch a good game, seats near the bull chutes at the Houston Rodeo, and her first concert being Maranda Lambert! Not a bad start. Again though, my friend and I took on another late night/early morning of drinking and problem solving with a group of his friends. At least this time he didn’t have a 7:30 meeting and was able to go into the office a little later. My wife was a little smarter than we were, not a big surprise there, and opted out of our shenanigans.

For our last night in Houston, my wife and I really wanted to get some good BBQ while we were in Texas so my friend and I figured we’d take Friday night a little easier and just head out for some dinner. Our friends took us out to Rudy’s. I thought they must have needed fuel when we turned into a gas station but then I saw the sign on the wall for Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ so we were obviously in the right place. I could not believe it. You order your meat by the half-pound, grab your beers out of the ice-filled steel tubs, and spread it all out on a piece of paper on the table to start eating. The four of us all had drinks and ate brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausage, potato salad, and beans until we could hardly move. All that for only $15/person! The price was great and the taste was even better. Best BBQ I’ve ever had!

We went to a bar for a cleansing ale after dinner then finished the evening back at the RV bullshitting and having a few more cleansing ales for our last night in Houston. Just when we thought we were finished, they said we had to go get breakfast the next morning at Summit Donuts before we hit the road. We hadn’t been led astray yet, so of course, we were in! After a jalapeño kolache (pastry stuffed with sausage, egg, jalapeño, and cheese) followed by a melt in your mouth glazed donut that makes Krispy Kreme taste like a stale turd, we were ready to hit the road for New Orleans.

Thanks again my friends taking the time to show us around Houston and hang out while we were in town, especially on such short notice. Next time we’ll let you guys know more than two hours out that we’re coming. Looking forward to our next trip out your way!

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RV 10/7/2020 – gtg good

For most RVers, RVing is a way to avoid the winter. We use our RVs to follow the sun and stay in “snowbird” areas such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, or California. The end of fall signals the start of an annual migration of thousands of RVers to the south and the west. Our goal is to avoid the winter slush and cold. However, some RVers, either by choice or by circumstance, end up living in their RVs in cold weather areas. This article is for both those RVers who “got left behind” and those that choose to seek out cold weather camping.

The Benefits

There are benefits to cold weather RVing. You will not have to contend with mosquitoes, and there will be fewer other insects to deal with. Because most RVers have headed to warmer areas, there will be less competition for available spaces, and the spaces that are available should be at the off-season rates. Some activities such as skiing (downhill or cross-country), snowboarding, snowmobiling, hunting, ice fishing, or snowshoeing require being in cold weather locations. And finally, the beauty and serenity of a winter landscape is hard to surpass.

Planning Ahead

With careful planning and preparation, your RV can be an enjoyable way to live in or visit the many beautiful winter areas accessible by RVs.

If you need to travel in order to get to your winter camping spot, be sure to reduce your driving speeds and allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination during daylight. It is a good habit to check the weather forecast for the area you are traveling through and to call the Highway Patrol for any road condition or weather alerts. Before leaving, make sure your RV is properly prepared for the cold you are going to encounter. Your cold weather RVing experience will be warmer and less stressful if you are properly prepared.

You should anticipate driving in icy, snowy and windy weather. Make sure your windshield wipers are functioning and that the wiper blades are in good condition. Check the condition of your tires. Check your antifreeze protection level to make sure it is low enough for the area you are going to visit. If you are driving from a warm area into a cold area you may need a fuel additive in order to avoid jelling of the diesel fuel at low temperatures (in cold weather areas the additive is already in the fuel). Check your heating system to make sure that it is functioning properly. (You don’t want to arrive in minus 10 degree weather and find out your furnace won’t light). Fill your propane tank before departing.

Batteries do not function well in cold weather. (At 0 F, the useable amp hours of your batteries will be about half of their rated capacity). Check the condition of your batteries. Replace batteries as necessary before starting your trip.

If the weather will be below freezing when you start out on your trip, it will help if you turn the furnace on in your RV a full day before you leave. This will give the furnace time to preheat the interior of your RV and provide a more comfortable trip. Also, when you arrive at your campsite, it will be much easier to maintain the temperature than to heat up a cold RV.

Just in case something goes wrong, be sure to pack plenty of blankets, at least a gallon of bottled water (per person) and a cell phone.

Getting Warm

Heating an RV in severe weather is different than heating one for more moderate temperatures. In moderate temperatures (above freezing), properly vented catalytic heaters may be all you need. (I would not go to sleep with an unvented catalytic heater, even if it had an oxygen sensor shutdown). However, catalytic heaters are not appropriate for temperatures below freezing. Too much ventilation is required to avoid water vapor buildup and oxygen depletion.

A properly operating propane furnace or a diesel-fired hydronic heater is required for cold weather RVing. Most RVs are designed with furnaces for a moderate climate. If you are living in cold weather or visit cold weather areas often, you may need additional heating capacity. A rough formula for computing your minimum heater requirement is: temperature difference (T), times wall area of the RV (A), divided by R value of the RV insulation, divided by an efficiency factor for the furnace (.60). For most RVs with single pane windows try R3 for the insulation factor. For RVs that follow the advice in this article, try R6. The wall area will be approximately equal to length times 29, plus 100 (for a 32′ RV this computes to 1028). If you want to be able to maintain 60 degrees inside when it is minus 20 outside (80 degree temperature difference) and you have a well-insulated (R6) RV that is 32′ long, you would need a furnace or furnaces rated at a minimum of 22,844 BTU/hr. (80*1028/6*.6=22,844).

Electric space heaters or ceramic heaters can be used as a supplement to your furnace, but not as a substitute. Never attempt to heat your RV with the propane oven or stove.

Keeping Warm

Some RVs are built with cold weather in mind. These RVs will have better insulated walls and ceilings, and perhaps even insulated floors. You will find that they have double pane windows and heated bays. The entire plumbing system is kept heated by engine heat while driving and by the RV heaters while camping. Having an RV designed for cold weather use is an advantage, but not a necessity. There are many things that you can do to improve your ability to stay warm in most RVs.

To begin with, don’t try to keep your RV heated to 75+ degrees. Consider setting the thermostat to 62 degrees during the day and 50 degrees overnight (letting it get too cold at night will just cause a problem heating it up the next day). To compensate, use cold weather clothing (layered) during the day and evening, and plenty of blankets at night. Some people like to use electric blankets.

If you will be staying for more than a few days, consider “skirting” your RV. This will cut down on the heat loss through the floor and will keep the cold winds from blowing under the RV and right up through your floor. You can purchase professional skirts for many RVs, or you can use a simple system we have used for years. Purchase some heavy mil plastic (in rolls) and some duct tape. Tape the plastic to the RV. The wrap should go all the way around the RV and drop to the ground with enough extra material at the bottom to allow you to place rocks or boards on it in order to keep it on the ground in case of winds. Try to park the RV to take advantage of morning sun.

Insulate your windows. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for double pane windows. You can buy inexpensive plastic windows that will Velcro in place. Or, there are products available that use a thin plastic material that you tape and heat shrink to the window.

If you have heavy drapes that will cover the windshield, use them. If not, consider hanging a blanket or quilt between the windshield and the living area.

Your skylights and roof vents are an escape hatch for warm air. Purchase insulating covers for them or make your own. We use 4″ foam rubber and cut a piece to size so that it will fit snugly in place.

RV doors are not only a good way for you to get in and out, but are a great way for cold to get in and warmth to get out. Keep the door open as little as possible. Check the door for obvious gaps and fix the gaps with insulating tape or sealant. You can even make a door cover that will attach to the door using Velcro.

If you are really serious about it, make a thorough inspection of your RV bays and undercarriage and fill any cracks or holes with caulking (plumbing and electrical are the major areas).

The Plumbing

If your plumbing compartment is not heated, you will need to run a furnace vent to the compartment, or purchase an electric space heater (with thermostat) to install in the plumbing bay. If you will be doing considerable driving in freezing weather or boondocking, you will need to provide a heating source that uses propane or diesel fuel to keep the bays heated. Our RV uses hydronic heating (hot water passing through a “heat exchanger”) provided by the engine cooling system to provide heated bays and hot water while traveling.

Our experience is that even with heated bays, severe temperatures (below minus 10 degrees) require additional effort to avoid freezing of water within the plumbing system. Any part of the plumbing system that is not inside the RV should be wrapped with electrical heat tape and then covered with pipe insulation. Pay particular attention to the water pump and lines entering and exiting it. If you are using heat tape on plastic plumbing, make sure you use a heat tape designed for that application.

To prevent holding tanks from freezing, you can purchase heating pads for the tanks. Ultraheat sells one that is thermostatically controlled (on at 44 degrees, off at 64 degrees). They will run on 12 or 120-volts. These units will keep the contents of exposed gray and black water holding tanks liquid at wind-chill temperatures of 20 degrees below zero. In addition to the tanks themselves, you can heat the sewage lines leading from the tanks by adding pipe heaters (available from Ultraheat) or by using heat tape. As an alternative, nontoxic antifreeze can be added to the black or gray water tanks to prevent freezing. However, be sure to add additional antifreeze as more waste is added.

When hookups are available, it is best to keep the sewage tank valves closed, and dump the tanks when they are near full. Add at least 5 gallons of water after dumping. We prefer not to leave the water hose connected. We use water from the freshwater tank until it is about ¼ full, then we refill it. If you choose to leave the water hose attached, make sure it is well insulated. Also, we do not leave the sewer hose connected. We attach it only when we are dumping. If you choose to leave it attached, make sure it is heat wrapped or well insulated (or both).

Cold Weather Boondocking

Many RVers prefer “boondocking” (camping without hookups). Frequently hookups will not be available near your favorite ski resort, fishing hole, or hunting spot, so boondocking becomes a necessity. Under the best of conditions, boondocking is challenging. In cold weather, it is something only the hardy or the foolhardy should attempt.

As in warm weather boondocking, the battery is frequently the limiting factor. In cold weather camping, your battery capacity can easily be reduced by 50 percent. Also, the battery voltage may be a volt higher than in warmer climate use. Because of the higher battery voltage, your battery charger may not fully charge the batteries. Even more than during warm weather boondocking, additional batteries can be a way of extending your stay. Keeping your batteries warmer will increase their usefulness, but never keep your batteries inside the RV or in an unvented location.

The charging capacity of your inverter/charger or another charging source should be at least 20 amps, preferably more. Some battery chargers are adjustable to compensate for temperature differences. If you will be doing a lot of cold weather boondocking, they are highly recommended.

The refrigerator (even when operating on propane) uses a substantial amount of battery power. When camping in near freezing or below temperatures, consider turning the refrigerator off, at least overnight. You will be surprised how cold items will remain.

Because of a lack of available power, heating the plumbing bays or using a tank heater may be impractical. In this case, I suggest that the freshwater system should be winterized with antifreeze before leaving home. Water for drinking and cooking should be stored inside the RV in plastic containers.

I do not recommend leaving the gray water valve open (some do). Even a small accumulation of water can freeze and block the sewer line.

Propane will liquefy (and therefore no longer work in your RV) somewhere around minus 44 degrees. Propane tanks are not in enclosed bays, so are more susceptible to the elements. However, we have spent weeks in weather at minus 25 degrees with the wind chill reaching minus 50 degrees, and never had a failure of our propane system.

Combating Moisture

Unfortunately, along with winter RVing comes an excess of moisture. It can cover the windows, run down the walls, accumulate in closets, and dampen clothes and bedding. This water comes from the difference in outside and inside air temperatures, cooking, showering, catalytic heaters, and just plain breathing. (During the winter, we lose more water from our bodies than usual. We need to be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration).

In order to make heating the RV and maintaining the heat easier, we have insulated it. This is directly at odds with trying to reduce condensation. The same airtight, well-insulated RV that is desired for maintaining heat can cause the condensation problem. Since the large amounts of moisture that we generate through normal living (washing, breathing, and cooking) can’t readily escape through the walls or around sealed doors, it instead becomes liquid (or freezes) on contact with cold surfaces like window glass or metal window frames.

The easiest way to combat this water vapor or condensation is through the use of a portable dehumidifier. However, even without a dehumidifier, there are steps that can be taken to reduce condensation.

Double pane windows (as discussed earlier) are a big help. Even using acrylic or shrink-wrap windows will help. This protective layer of plastic film insulates by forming an air pocket and (as a fringe benefit) keeps the moist inside air away from the cold windows, decreasing condensation. Of course, these are not intended to be permanent, do not open, and will have to be removed in the spring for ventilation.

Make sure that all roof vents (refrigerator, stove, bathroom) are free of snow and debris so that they can allow proper ventilation. At night, it is a good idea to leave a roof vent or a window partially open. Leave cabinet and closet doors open to allow for better air circulation.

Conclusion

Winter can be a spectacular time to go camping, even in the more severe climates. Winter camping in an RV is not for everyone. However, those that choose it can increase their chances of a pleasant time by having proper advance planning and the right equipment. Winter camping requires special attention to heating and insulation matters, knowledge of power requirements, and proper ventilation. Drive safely and enjoy!

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What makes a great hike? Sometimes it’s the scenery or the history, but most often, for me, it’s the memories made along the way. This means that what really counts is that you take that travel trailer out, set up camp in your favorite landscape, then go outside and play!

This morning, I started writing this post to highlight a few of my favorite Texas State Park hikes. But then I started remembering good times in Big Bend National Park, the “favorites” list kept getting longer. So I’ll share my top five here, and post the next five later this week. I’ll be interested in hearing your suggestions for new favorites, too!

Here are the first five on my list of 10 personal favorite hiking spots and ideas about where to set up your camper:

Seminole Canyon State Park – Located in Comstock, Texas, just west of Del Rio, Seminole Canyon was home to prehistoric Indians. The park offers guided, 2-mile hikes (moderately strenuous) to the bottom of the canyon and then up to the Fate Bell Shelter, one of the oldest cave dwellings in America. The first time I visited and saw the rock art paintings, the place captured my imagination and made me wonder what it would take to not only survive but thrive, living in the Chihuahuan Desert. This hike remains my favorite after all these years.

Camping: Facilities include 23 campsites with water and electric hookups.

Colorado Bend State Park – Near Bend, Texas, Colorado Bend is situated on the Colorado River. There’s plenty to do there, from fishing and paddling to wild cave tours, but one of my favorite activities is the hike to Gorman Falls. It’s a 1.5-mile round trip hike on the guided tour, or, a rugged, 3-mile hike along the Gorman Falls trail. At 60-feet high, the falls are startling, with rushing water and ferns you’d expect to find in a lush tropical environment rather than Central Texas.

Camping: Facilities include 9 “boondocking” campsites. There are no hookups or dump facilities.

Cattail Falls – My sister and I discovered this hidden gem of a hike and I’m sharing it with you on the condition that you promise you’ll treat the area with the utmost respect. The ecosystem along this trail is so fragile you won’t find the trail on the park maps.

The trailhead is off Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive near Sam Nail Ranch (you’ll turn onto an unmarked dirt road and travel about a half-mile to the trailhead. Once you’re there, you’ll see a sign by an oak.) It’s a four-mile round trip hike, and on a morning hike, you may see a diversity of wildlife along the trail. The real attraction is at the end of the trail, however, when you’ll find a cascading waterfall and crystal clear pool. (You’re basically on the backside of the popular “window” formation in the basin.) Please do not go into the pool! Just sit beside it, relax, and enjoy a quiet break.

I’ve enjoyed a few warm sunsets at Big Bend Resort.

Camping: You can stay at the Basin Campground if your trailer will fit. Because of the winding roads and small campsites, park officials advise those towing trailer rigs of 20 feet or more to think twice before attempting to camp at the Basin.

Santa Elena Canyon – It’s the sound of a canyon wren I remember most from this hike. The trailhead starts at the end of Ross Maxwell scenic drive and is only 1.7 miles long. It can get interesting, though, as you cross Terlingua Creek. Be sure it’s safe before you cross. If the current is swift, you’ll want to save this hike for another day. If it’s safe to cross, you’ll follow the trail into the canyon, along the Rio Grande, and through huge bounders. Pack a lunch, because you’ll want to hang out awhile along the river.

Sometimes, it’s about sharing the hike with someone fun! It was chilly, but my friend and I had a blast at Enchanted Rock!

Enchanted Rock – Enchanted Rock is a 425-foot high pink granite dome with a trail that goes straight up the side of the dome. At the top, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Hill Country, and you can explore a small cave. This trail is a great half-day adventure and is an easy trip from Austin or Fredericksburg.

Camping: You won’t find any trailer sites at Enchanted Rock, but there are numerous choices in nearby Fredericksburg. The Fredericksburg website should help you get started.

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Earlier this week, I shared my top 5 favorite hikes. Here are hikes number 6 – 10.

6. Grapevine Hills – I first discovered Grapevine Hills on a Jeep tour. Grapevine Hills is an easy, 2.2-mile hike, which I think a lot of people overlook. That’s one of the real advantages of a Jeep tour. You’ll have a guide to show you those undiscovered nooks and crannies!

Camping: You can stay at the Basin Campground if your trailer will fit.

7. Big Bend’s Hot Springs Historic District – For years, Big Bend’s Hot Springs have attracted people who believe that the warm waters can “cure what ails you.” The buildings that served as a store and post office in the early 1900s still stand at the trailhead, and along the path, you’ll see pictographs, proving that the waters have attracted people since prehistoric times. Plan to soak in the 105-degree waters yourself, and you’ll see why!

Camping: The Rio Grande Village is a great place to set up camp if you want to visit the Hot Springs. There are 100-sites, but no hookups, and the park only accepts reservations during certain months of the year. It’s first-come, first-served, from mid-April through mid-November. Alternatively, a paved campground operated by Forever Resorts has 25 sites with hookups.

8. Hill Country State Natural Area – Located near Bandera, Hill Country State Natural Area is an undeveloped haven for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Although the park offers 40 miles of multi-use trails, one of the best is the Comanche Bluff trail, which is a 4.2 mile loop through classic, Hill Country terrain, ranging from clear, flowing streams to rocky slopes and historic ranch buildings. My favorite memory from this park is of walking through an oak motte during the monarch butterfly migration one crisp October afternoon. Have you ever been surrounded by a swarm of butterflies? Magical.

Camping: You can camp near the old Bar-O ranch house (no hookups available) or, if it’s not booked, in the Chapa’s Camp group camping and the equestrian area where there are electricity and water available.

9. South Rim – The trailhead for the South Rim is at the Chisos Basin, and at 13.5-miles, it’s Big Bend’s longest trail. This hike will take you a full day, and you’ll need to take plenty of water with you. I guarantee that the diverse meadows and forests along the way, combined with the panoramic views of the Chisos Mountains from the top, will make it worth the effort.

Camping: If your rig is 24-feet or less, you can plan to camp in one of 60 available sites at the Basin Campground. The winding roads to the basin and the small campsites make it challenging for longer trailers to make it to this camping area. As an alternative, check out Big Bend Resort & Adventures. They have 131 sites and full hookups.

10. Boquillas Canyon – A fit of nostalgia puts this one on the list. It’s a short, 1.4-mile round trip hike, but Boquillas Canyon on the list because I’m remembering the days when it was possible to hike the canyon without a care in the world, and freely cross the border. Here, I waded in the water with my sisters, visited a Mexican cantina, and practiced my Spanish with patient villagers.

With any luck, the border will be open again soon (it was originally scheduled to reopen last Spring, and my fingers are crossed for this fall) reconnecting Boquillas with its extended Big Bend family on the other side.

Camping: The Rio Grande Village is a great place to set up camp if you want to visit the Hot Springs. There are 100-sites, but no hookups, and the park only accepts reservations during certain months of the year. It’s first-come, first-served, from mid-April through mid-November. Alternatively, a paved campground operated by Forever Resorts has 25 sites with hookups.

Those are my favorites. What are yours?

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Q: What flies at speeds of 60 mph, eats 200 million pounds of insects in a single night, and attracts thousands of tourists to Texas every year?

A: Mexican free-tailed bats!

Texas is home to 32 of the United States’ 45 bat species, but by far the most numerous are Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasilensis). Approximately 100 million bats of this species alone live in Central Texas from April through October, patrolling the night skies, dining on pesky insects (including moths that attack farmers’ crops and mosquitoes), and congregating to form some of the world’s largest bat colonies.

If you enjoy sitting outside your RV in the evenings, you’ve probably seen them swooping down and feeding above the treetops and around streetlights, or even taking a sip of water from the RV park’s pool.

Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge, one of the most popular eco-tourism sites in the state, is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony. More than 100,000 people from around the world visit every year.

Other awesome spectacles can be found across Texas, including the world’s largest bat colony at Bracken Cave near San Antonio. Natural Bridge Caverns, mentioned in last week’s cave post, hosts guided tours to the cave where 20 million bats surge from beneath the earth in a cloud so thick it can be detected on Doppler radar.

Texas Parks and Wildlife also offers lots of great RV camping spots complete with exciting bat-watching experiences at abandoned railroad tunnels and caves, and still others are located on private property. Clearly, bats are not just for Halloween anymore. They are good for the environment, good for the economy, and most important, they’re good old-fashioned family fun.

August is prime time for bat watching in Texas, because the young pups start flying with the moms, creating an even bigger spectacle as the bats emerge at dusk. Public viewing sites at Texas’ caves, tunnels, and bridges offer a personal, unforgettable experience with some of nature’s most misunderstood creatures.

Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin

Located about a mile south of the state capitol, this is the world’s largest urban colony with 1.5 million bats. Find a spot at the Austin American-Statesman’s observation area at the southeast corner of the bridge, or join a sight-seeing cruise Lady Bird Lake. My absolute favorite way to watch is to rent one of the little electric boats from Capital Cruises, pack a nice dinner and a bottle of wine, and cruise the lake until sunset. The bats generally fly around dusk, but remember, these are wild animals that don’t adhere to human schedules.

Eckert James River Bat Cave, Mason
Managed by The Nature Conservancy of Texas, the cave is home to approximately four million bats. Tours run Thursday-Sunday, from 6 p.m.- 9 p.m. Some sunrise tours of the bats returning from their nocturnal hunts are also offered.

Frio Cave, Concan
This is the state’s second-largest colony, with 10 to 12 million bats. Guided tours cost $12 per person. For a full schedule, visit: http://www.friobatflight.com/

Texas Parks and Wildlife
Texas Parks and Wildlife hosts several bat-watching sites. Contact the parks or visit department website for details. Hours, fees, and restrictions vary.

Clarity Tunnel, Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque
Devil’s Sinkhole, Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area, Rocksprings

Old Tunnel State Park, Sisterdale

Stuart Bat Cave, Kickapoo Cavern State Park, Brackettville
Add a stop at a bat cave to your next road trip and enjoy one of nature’s most amazing shows!

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The Easter Bunny will be hopping through several Texas state parks. If you’re planning to hitch up your travel trailer and enjoy a long Easter weekend, check out the events at these state parks!

Martin Dies, Jr. State Park, Jasper, Texas
The thick forests of East Texas offer plenty of interesting hiding spots for the Easter Egg hunt scheduled for Saturday. There will be colorful eggs filled with candy and prizes for the younger ones, while the park will offer games and prizes for the older kids. Bring your basket and join the fun!

Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, Pittsburg, Texas
On Saturday from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., the day-use area on Lake Bob Sandlin will set the stage for their annual Easter Egg Hunt, with candy and some extra-special eggs with gift certificate prizes inside! Located near Pittsburg in northeast Texas, the park is a great home base while you explore the area, stock up on the world-famous Pittsburg Hot Links, and discover a little aviation history by visiting the Ezekiel Airship (maybe the first flight really DID take place in Texas!)

Cooper Lake State Park, Cooper, Texas
Located in north-central Texas, the park’s South Sulphur Unit has plans to hide more than 1,500 eggs filled with candy and prizes, and kids ages 1-10 are invited to come out for the hunt. There are separate areas for the 1-4-year-olds, and the 5-10-year-olds, just to keep it fun for all. The Easter Egg Hunt begins promptly at 1:00 p.m., and the park is even offering free admission from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. for the hunt. But plan to be there early! When the kids start the hunt, they can clean out the place in no time!

Mission Tejas State Park, Grapeland, Texas
Located on the northern edge of the Davy Crockett National Forest in East Texas, the Mission Tejas Easter Egg Hunt will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. The park asks that all the kiddos bring their own baskets.

Then, on Easter Sunday, the Friends of Mission Tejas State Park will host an Easter Sunrise Service at 6:45 a.m. at The Mission – the first Spanish Mission to be built in Texas. Park admission is free for everyone attending the service.

Indian Lodge Easter Feast, Fort Davis
The Black Bear Restaurant, located at Indian Lodge in the Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas, is serving a full Easter Feast from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Easter Sunday. Reservations are strongly recommended, and guests should call the Lodge directly. The cost is $25 for Adults, $9 for children under 12, and park admission is free for restaurant guests.

Dinosaur Valley State Park,

If the kids prefer dinosaurs to Easter bunnies, head over to Dinosaur Valley in Glen Rose, just a few miles southwest of Fort Worth. On Saturday morning, March 30, they’re hosting a workshop on the migrating Monarch butterflies, and also a Native American Play Day, with programs about the life and ways of the Caddo Indians.

Then, on Sunday, the park will host its “Eggstraordinary Eggstravaganza,” beginning with a special surprise at 2:00 p.m.

It’s easy to reserve your RV campsite at Texas State Parks online. Just visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
Wherever you go, have a fabulous Easter! And don’t forget to send us photos or from your Easter Egg hunts, or
share them with us on our Facebook page!

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October is also National Dessert Month, so we thought we’d go beyond the s’mores and cook up a special dessert (or three) to celebrate with all our new RV friends and fans!

First, here’s one that in some circles could be considered healthy.

Photo credit: Allrecipes.com

Campfire Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients:

1 apple per person (Fuji or Granny Smith apples both work well)
1 tablespoon of butter per apple
½ teaspoon cinnamon per apple

Instructions:

Cut a “well” into the apple from the top, removing the core and seeds, but not cutting all the way through the bottom. If you do cut all the way through, don’t worry about it. You’re camping! Add 1 tablespoon of butter and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Wrap the apple in heavy-duty foil and find a cozy place for the apple to rest among the coals. If it’s covered on all sides, it should be ready in about 10 minutes. You can also make this on the grill, turning the apple after 5 minutes to ensure that it’s cooked all the way through.

I picked this next recipe because it just looks like big fun by the campfire.

Campfire Eclairs

Take a tube of crescent roll dough, wrap it around a water-soaked wooden dowel, cook the dough over the campfire, add a chocolate pudding filling, and top it all with whipped cream from a can. Dreamy!

There’s a variation on these on the KOA website where you use vanilla pudding and chocolate frosting. I vote we all go experiment and share our favorites!

Finally, I always know I can rely on my Dutch oven for a special, tasty treat. I’ve shared my peach cobbler recipe here before, but if my hubby is tagging along, it helps if the name of the dessert has the word “chocolate,” in it. I’d love to claim this chocolate cake recipe for my own, but it’s from Hershey’s Kitchens (who else?) that I adapted for the Dutch oven.

This pretty slice came from the Hershey Kitchens. No, yours won’t look like this out of the Dutch oven, but it’ll taste even better because you made it outside!

Dutch Oven Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

Ingredients:

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 container (16 oz.) dairy sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare your coals. You’ll need about 25 coals, including 8 on the bottom and 17 on the lid.

Line a 12-inch Dutch oven with heavy-duty foil and spray with cooking spray. You can also use parchment paper.

Mix together the dry ingredients. You can make your life easier by putting all the dry ingredients together in a baggie before you head out on your camping trip. When you’re ready, dump the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients and beat until you have a smooth batter. If you’re in your trailer, you may have a hand-mixer available, but good old-fashioned muscle works too. The batter will be thick. Pour the batter into your Dutch oven and smooth it across the bottom.

Arrange your coals evenly – 8 on the bottom and 17 on top – and allow the cake to bake for about 30-40 minutes. Use caution when you remove the lid. Ashes don’t make a tasty topping. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the Dutch oven for about 15 minutes before lifting it out using the edges of the foil. You can then turn it onto a plate. Gently remove the foil and frost the cake with canned frosting, or use a dusting of powdered sugar.

So glad you could join us for dessert!

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Answer these 7 questions to help choose the right RV for you!

With 18 different brands of RV trailers in all shapes and sizes, how in the world do you decide which one is best for your family?

In my family, I’m traveling in my Texas Airstream, my sister is in her Fifth Wheel, and my cousin is in her Motorhome. So that alone tells you that RV choices are as different as the personalities towing (or driving) them.

To choose the right RV, you might want to start thinking about the following questions:

How big is your family? Whether you’re traveling solo or taking a big family with you, you’ll need a trailer with enough space for everyone to sleep comfortably.

Where do you want to go? There are places that just aren’t suited for a large motorhome or trailer. For example, to camp at the Basin in Big Bend National Park, you’ll need a rig that’s less than 24 feet to make it up the tight curves. Of course, if your heart isn’t set on camping right there at the Basin, there are campgrounds in Terlingua or at Rio Grande Village that can accommodate campers of all sizes.

Are you going for a weekend? Or extended trips? Or RVing full time? For simple weekend trips, you’ll find basic models that will suit you just fine. But, if you’re taking long RV trips (trust me), you’ll start to wish for creature comforts before you’ve logged very many miles. It’s better to begin with a slightly larger, more comfortable rig from the beginning.

What are you going to do when you get there? If you’re planning to spend lots of time in and around your RV, then that’s yet another reason to choose a more luxurious model. If you’re spending most of your time on the hiking trail or paddling on the rivers and in the bays, maybe you just need a comfortable place to rest your weary but happy bones at the end of the day.

Do you need to take your toys with you? As one of the sales folks once told me, when you go on an RV road trip, you’re taking everything you need, and nothing you don’t. It’s great to stock the trailer with everything you’ll need on the road, and if that “must-have” list includes canoes, kayaks, four-wheelers, mountain bikes, or other toys, then the toy hauler is no doubt right for you. There are lots of new and used toy haulers to choose from.

Do you like to buy new, or used vehicles? If you like the idea of a brand new travel trailer that no one’s ever used before, then go with a new one that fits your budget. If you don’t mind buying one that has been down the road a time or two, then you’re in luck. There are always plenty of used ones to choose from.

What’s your budget? You can get a brand new travel trailer, such as an Aspen Trail, for as little as $11,000, or you can spend $130,000+ on an Airstream Interstate Van. And there are plenty of travel trailers, toy haulers, and fifth wheels waiting in between.
So even though the choices might seem a little overwhelming at first, the good news is that there’s something for every lifestyle and every budget.

See you on the road!

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Wildlife means big bucks. Not just the whitetail variety, but real revenue for Texas cities that promote nature tourism. From butterflies in Mission to prairie dogs in Muleshoe, the wildlife programs promoted by Texas Parks and Wildlife offer opportunities for RV travelers to connect with nature in a personal way and help promote conservation and sustainable development statewide.

If you want to discover the amazing diversity of wildlife in Texas, you can start by checking out the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s website. On the left side of the webpage, you’ll find links to Birding and Nature Festivals, Great Texas Wildlife Trails, and Texas Paddling Trails – plenty of ideas to help you plan your next camping trip!

Here’s more info about three nature tourism events planned for October.

National Wildlife Refuge Week
Since Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge in 1903, the Refuge System has become the world’s premier habitat conservation system, encompassing 553 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. Special programs are planned for several of Texas’s 17 refuges over the next few weeks.

Texas Butterfly Festival – Mission, Texas
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is the most biologically diverse region in the United States with 300 species of butterflies and 512 species of birds.

Wild in Willacy – Raymondville & Port Mansfield, Texas
The 13th annual Wild in Willacy celebration includes music, ranch tours, and cook-offs. Tours offer nature lovers the opportunity to “get up close and personal” with many species of wildlife in what organizers describe as one of the wildest places in Texas.

And if you go, don’t forget your camera! A few tips on getting great wildlife shots:

Photographing animals is a little different. You need to know what animals you might run into, and how you might expect them to behave. There’s a ton of information on the Internet to help you plan ahead. Remember that you never want to corner an animal. Stay back, and use a telephoto lens when you can.

Use different lenses, depending on the animal. For example, with whooping cranes along the coast, use a 200-400mm lens, or even a 600mm lens. Also, shoot wildlife in Aperture mode. If your camera offers this setting, it will allow the camera to set the shutter speed and let you concentrate on your subject.”

Panning or moving your lens with the animal before clicking the shutter. If your camera allows you to shoot multiple frames per second, you can often capture all of the action in several images – one of which may be that special shot you’re hoping for.

Experienced nature tourism guides will help you stay safe while you’re exploring nature as well.

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An RV Road Trip can be the Ideal Way to Experience Spring Birding in Texas!

In my mind, there are three types of birders.

Type 1: Hey, look at that… pretty bird. Hmmm. Wish I had binoculars.

Type 2: Hey, look at that Roseate Spoonbill (calls bird by name). Here, look through my super-sharp high-powered binoculars. This one’s a juvenile. You can tell because it’s still got a pale pinkish-white feathered head. (Pays attention to details.)

Type 3: Hey, drop what you’re doing THIS INSTANT and head to (insert name of someplace obscure). There’s been a (fill in the blank with a rare bird) sighting there and we have to check it off our life list NOW!

Because spring birding is such a big deal in Texas, here are a few tips.

Experience the migration at the Upper Texas Coast in the spring. Witness the premier springtime birding event by catching glimpses of the Warblers and hundreds of other types of songbirds arriving from across the Gulf. Along the coast and you will see tons of shorebirds and be totally enamored with Roseate Spoonbills, Whooping Cranes, and all the Herons and Egrets.

Explore the Valley. Spot White-tailed Kites and Peregrine Falcons. There are numerous wetlands and nature preserves in the Valley.

If you’re hooking up the travel trailer and planning a do-it-yourself birding excursion, you can browse online and learn more about the spring migrations and the species you can find in your own neck of the woods. Check out your local Audubon Society page for starters. The Audubon societies often offer classes and free, guided bird walks on weekends.

Are you a Type 3? Then check out Ebird.org. It’s the go-to website when you want to find a particular species, get info on all the birds being seen at specific locations, and post and keep track of your own personal checklists.

Last but not least, if you want to connect with other Texas birders, visit the Texbirds Facebook page or become part of their Facebook group for camaraderie, fun photos, and lots of information about birds in every corner of the state.

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Summertime is synonymous with family reunions. Some people embrace this fact with wild enthusiasm, while others greet the idea with a deep groan and an eye roll.

Which one are you?

When you’re planning a family reunion, start well in advance. For a large group, with more than 100 people, you will want to plan a year ahead. It takes time to find the right place and negotiate a good deal. Alternatively, if you get the urge to have a spontaneous reunion this summer, don’t spend your time worrying about planning and details. Just make a command decision about the date and location, and send out a note announcing where you’ll be and when. Then, see who shows up! You can let everyone be responsible for their own reservations and food.

Make a list of your “must-haves” before you start researching a family reunion destination. For example, if you must have access to water, be it a lake, river, or ocean. If you must have a place that’s pet friendly, and a location that can accommodate 100 or more people, preferably consider a combination of cabins and RV camping. Then, when you begin your research, you’ll be able to narrow the list of contenders quickly.

Involve the family in the planning. While you don’t want an abundance of cooks in the proverbial planning kitchen, it’s great to get input. Do a quick, free, online survey using Survey Monkey to narrow down the options for dates, a location, and preferred activities. Just remember that you won’t be able to please all of the people, so don’t try. There will still be something for everyone. Offer planned activities and plenty of downtimes. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right balance. You’ll probably want a couple of planned, full-group activities, but it’s also important to have downtime for reconnecting one on one. It is advisable to plan group activities around mealtimes. Perhaps a chili cook-off or catfish fry one evening, and then buy the food for one group meal so there’s at least one evening where no one has to cook. Special heirloom items, such as a handmade quilt, can be great for raffles.

Consider adding a fundraising event, such as an auction, to your list of activities to ensure there’s money in the kitty for the next year’s reunion. It costs money to hold blocks of rooms, pay for fun extras like boat rentals, or buy keepsakes to take home. Always announce to the group how much is in the kitty and hand it off to the next intrepid reunion planner, who’s diligent with the accounting.
Auctions can include family treasures as well as homemade goodies, things such as family heirlooms, homemade pickles or hot sauce, and even garage sale type items. Give everyone to have an equal opportunity to win!

Keep in touch and share your enthusiasm. Over the years, use everything from printed newsletters to emails, to Facebook to keep in touch and share random bursts of family happiness. This keeps people engaged and boosts the number of people who show up. After all, no one wants to miss out!

Be flexible. So, if you’re the brave one who’s planning your next reunion, my advice is to take your time, enjoy the experience, and don’t get caught up in a quest for perfection.

The goal is to spend quality time together, make a few new memories, and maybe capture a few embarrassing photos that can be used against your relatives in the future. If you’ve accomplished those three things, your reunion is complete!

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Experience Texas’s chili cookoffs from the comfort of your RV.

An event held in Austin is a Chili Appreciation Society sanctioned event that allows participants to earn points that will enable them to compete in the International Chili Championship in Terlingua.

You might enjoy a few fun facts about chili cooking and judging, and the drama of chili cookoffs.

Frank Tolbert, who published the book, A Bowl of Red, in 1953, was one of the founders of the Terlingua cookoff.

Rules for the Chili Cooks

CHILI MUST BE COOKED FROM SCRATCH – “Scratch” is defined as starting with raw meat. No marinating is allowed. Commercial chili powder is permissible, but complete commercial chili mixes (“just add meat” mixes that contain pre-measured spices) are NOT permitted.

NO FILLERS – Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted. (I guess there really is a rule about NO beans in Texas chili!)

PYROTECHNICS – No chili contestant may discharge firearms or use any pyrotechnics or explosives at a chili cookoff. Contestants discharging firearms and/or using explosives or other pyrotechnics will be disqualified from the chili cookoff. (I don’t even want to know what happened that resulted in this written rule!)

Rules for the Judges

JUDGING CRITERIA AND SCORING – A single score takes into consideration the five criteria for scoring chili: Aroma, Consistency, Red Color, Taste, Aftertaste.

TABLE MONITORS – Each judging table will have a knowledgeable table monitor to instruct judges, control table talk, answer questions, and enforce CASI judging rules. Discussion of the chili will not be permitted at judging tables. (And as we learned, spouses are not allowed to sit together.)

INSPECTION OF CUPS – It is the responsibility of table monitors – especially on the preliminary tables – to remove each lid, look at the chili, and check each cup for interior marks and fillers before placing the chili on the table for judging. (Chili judging IS an exact science.

The Drama

It took three years, from 1967 to 1969, to crown the first cookoff winner. Held in Terlingua, the first cookoff was declared a draw, and the results of the second were never known since, after a secret ballot vote, the ballot box was stolen at gunpoint and thrown into a mine shaft. In 1969, C.V. Wood, Jr., the man who built Disneyland for Walt Disney, entered and was crowned champ.

As is usually the case with human nature, chili politics eventually split the cookoff into bickering groups. Today, the two main groups that have evolved are: The Chili Appreciation Society, and the International Chili Society, which is based in California.

From the Texas RV traveler’s perspective, I think I’d rather leave the politics at home. I just want to enjoy the road trip, have fun camping, watch the showmanship, and taste some awesome chili. If you agree, you can check out the upcoming chili cookoffs on both societies’ websites above and start planning!

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6/20/19 – pest control – gtg

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Pigeons would rather nest in the interior of a building, as long as there is access. Openings in and around your home such as, but not limited to, eaves, vents and lofts need to be closed off using a variety of metal, sheet, wood and wire mesh; this will prevent pests from gaining access to your home. The most effective pigeon removal methods in San Antonio, Texas involve changes to the structure to keep birds from being comfortable enough to rest, nest, or even enter.

A physical barrier is made by putting sheet metal, wire screens, and weather proof nets that block the pathway to favorite roosting areas. Placing a monofilament line of heavy gauge spaced at six inch intervals, creates a fence that interferes with pigeon flight patterns around their roosting areas.

A commercially available system of bird barriers often used in San Antonio TX consists of porcupine wires or metal prongs attached to a base that is placed on a level roosting surface. This is an effective anti-roosting technique. Pigeons prefer to roost on level surfaces that can be changed by creating slopes with materials such as wire mesh. Substances that are sticky also aid in pigeon removal. Birds tend to avoid areas treated with tactile repellent. Pigeon populations are reduced by thorough nest removal that is followed by pigeon proofing the building.

Live traps placed in areas where pigeons are normally found is yet another method used for removal in the San Antonio TX area. The best type of baits to use in traps are peanuts, bread, peas, sunflower seeds, popcorn millet and cracked corn. Baiting methods are the most humane, but entail time and labor.

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If you want to prevent a pest infestation or if you’re attempting to overcome a pest infestation you already have, the most important thing you can do is keep your home clean and tidy.

Pests enter your home looking for food and shelter. A messy home encourages pests in several ways. Leftover food, dirty dishes, crumbs, and unfinished drinks in your home look like a buffet meal to pests. They don’t need nearly as much food as you do, and just a little leftover on a plate is enough to encourage pests that found your home to stay and to breed.

A Pest Buffet

Messy homes also provide shelter for pests. Papers or clothes lying about look an awful lot like fallen leaves or other natural shelters that pests would seek out outside. Most bugs, particularly cockroaches, do not want to be seen by you. Clutter gives them plenty of hiding spaces to feel safe and comfortable in your home.

Cleanliness matters for other reasons, too. Vacuum regularly and wipe down your counters and cabinets with soapy water. Pests leave scents in the paths they walk and in their feces that attract others of their species. Yes, if pests are in your house, they’re pooping in your house. Vacuum your carpets to eliminate the feces that attract still more pests. Wipe down your counters and cabinets to eliminate the trails that attract more pests.

The most important habit you can adopt to manage pest problems is to always have the dishes cleaned and the kitchen garbage out before bed each night.

If you need to develop some new habits to get a clean house, consider the following video to help you start:

Simply keeping a tidy home will go a long way to discourage an infestation. If you’re already struggling with an infestation, get your home clean first, then move on to the next step.

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Stink bugs are also known as shield bugs as their back look like a shield, they are brown in color and are most commonly seen around gardens or farms, they lay their eggs under the flower beds, fields, shrubs etc . They are a nuisance around agriculture as they are agricultural pests and eat up leaves and crops. The stink bugs belong to a bug family called Pentatomoidea, Hempitera. Let us look at some stink bug facts:

The stink bugs are about the size of pumpkin seeds, they have wings, antenna and six legs. The insects may be of different colors but most commonly they are mottled brown in color. And the back looks just like a shield and hence they are also known as shield bugs.

Scientifically they are classified under the Insecta family, in the order of Hempitera, family Pentatomidea and the Phylum Anthropoda.

They feed on crops, fruits, soybeans, tomatoes and other vegetables; they also eat up leaves and are also known as agricultural pests. They however don’t harm human beings directly but are indeed harmful to crops. The stink bugs get their name from the stink they give off if crushed or killed. The stink is also a defense mechanism; they give of stench if threatened too.

The stink bugs also feed on other insects and larvae of caterpillars and beetles. The adult stink bugs goes into hibernation in the winter but come out of hibernation at springtime. The bugs hibernate in order to survive the harsh winter conditions and in warm climate, they live up to more than a year.

To get rid of stink bugs it is better to bring in the professionals. Certified pest control will know how to control and eradicate the pest infestation not only of stink bugs but also of other pests. Some measures one can follow to curb stink bug infestation, is by removing plants or weeds around the house, because stink bugs like to lay their eggs under the leaves or in flower beds. Scattering kaolin clay around the house or kaolin clay solution prevents the stink bugs to reproduce or destroy crops or plants. Stink bugs love light, so they find their way into houses at night, so caulk seal can be used to seal off any cracks or crevices around the house that might act as a potential entry point for the stink bugs. If one happens to crush the bugs it will release foul smell so it is better to use vacuum cleaner to suck up the bugs in the vacuum bag and dispose them off far away in garbage bins. Try using some chemical repellents such as permethrin, tralomethrin, cypermethrin, cyfluthrin, horticultural oil etc around entry ways, cracks, crevices etc but be sure to use protective gloves and breathing masks before using these chemical repellents to avoid inhaling or getting in contact with them.
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Q1. What is the best way to deal with mosquito’s?
Answer:
If you are having problems with mosquito’s there are many very repellant sprays and creams available which will deal with them. One of the best and long term less expensive solutions is to use a thin netting to prevent the mosquito’s getting through. Netting is very useful solution around your bed to help to protect you when you are trying to sleep and is very common in many places like Africa.

Q2. Most years I have a big problem with crickets, can you suggest anything?
Answer:
I would suggest from very early when planting your lawn seed to do regular chemical treatments of your lawn (at least once a month) using some commonly available outdoor insecticides such as cyfluthrin (tempo), cypermethrin (demon, cynoff, cyper-active), ficam w or plus, propetamphos (safrotin) lambdacyhalothrin (commadore), or permethrin (dragnet, flee).

Q3. Can you give me any tips on preventing my dog and cat getting fleas?
Answer:
In short the answer is you must keep your home and pets clean. Regularly vacuum and clean the hose (daily if possible) and regularly wash your pet using shampoo. A flea collar may be expensive but they are a very worthwhile investment and work very well.

Q4. Can I deal with my rat problem myself or do I need to call an expert?
Answer:
You have 3 main options. The first is traps and there are various. There are the sort which many say are inhumane, these ones are designed to kill them, usually by having a metal bar come down and break their neck. The other kinds of traps are traps that close themselves when the rodent is inside and traps them inside. However these can have 1 major flaw, firstly they don’t always work, the cage fails to close and the rodent escapes. The other 2 options are poison (the most commonly used is anticoagulant containing warfarin), the other option is Predator repellant’s, this is the most environmentally friendly option and doesn’t involve the animal dying. By using a predator repellant you are marking your land like a fox or something would and this scares of the rodents.

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