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The American Deserts: Gems of the West

December 19, 2014 by Bob Difley · Leave a Comment 

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The American Deserts: Gems of the West
By Bob Difley
As if frozen in time, the coyote stood motionless, muscles taut, eyes focused straight ahead. I followed his gaze, but could not see what had captured his attention. Suddenly he shot forward. Two wide-eyed jack rabbits exploded out of the brush, scattering in different directions. A cottontail sprinted for his burrow and disappeared into the darkness. Foiled from capturing his prey, the coyote stopped, gave me a once over, and slowly loped away to try his hunting techniques on another potential meal.
Ever since my first desert camping trip the abundance of life in the desert has amazed me. I can still vividly see my first desert coyote, standing out on the bajada, a few hundred yards from Death Valley’s Stovepipe Wells campground, delivering a lengthy tirade of yips, barks, and howls. And the roadrunner, that watched secretly from the dense foliage of the tamarisk tree that shaded my picnic table, until I moved the right distance away and he would jump down onto the table, snatch a goodie, and run off into the safety of the brush.
My previous impressions of the desert had been of a dry, treeless, lifeless, tortuously hot, uninteresting, expanse. How effectively the coyote and roadrunner proved my naïveté. As a snowbird, I’ve traveled, hiked, and camped in all four American deserts of the Southwest, each with its own characteristic animals, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, geology, mountains, arroyos, and valleys.
The American Deserts
Dryness alone does not describe a desert. It must also have a high evaporation rate, as well as under ten inches of precipitation a year. The sparseness of plants also typify a desert, since the inadequate moisture will not support dense plant colonies. All four of North America’s deserts lie in the Southwest between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas. They can be divided into the hot deserts – Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan – and the cold desert, the Great Basin, covering most of Nevada, southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and western Utah, It’s a desert where more than half the annual precipitation falls as snow.
The Great Basin’s climate does not attract hordes of snowbirds. I spent parts of a couple winters in the Great Basin, at Valley of Fire State Park north of Las Vegas. It snowed once on Christmas Day and my propane heater ran almost constantly.
The Mojave of Southern California, the smallest of the four, owns the record for the highest temperature (134 degrees) and the lowest elevation in the US, both in Death Valley. Some authorities also identify the Colorado Desert, an area between the Mojave and Sonoran as another desert, though both the Mojave and the Colorado are arguably transitions between the Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts.
The Sonoran Desert occupies the southern part of Arizona, with two-thirds of it in Mexico. Characterized by the saguaro cactus, which grows naturally only in the Sonoran, this sub-tropical desert also contains more diverse and a greater quantity of plants and animals than the other deserts.
The Chihuahuan Desert also lies mostly in Mexico, but in New Mexico and extreme Southwestern Arizona it extends as fingers into the basins separating the mountain ranges, and also in Southwestern Texas at Big Bend and between the cities of El Paso and Pecos. The Chihuahuan is a high desert, consisting of many mountains that extend to 6500 feet in Mexico. Its lowest point is along the Rio Grande River in Texas at 1000 feet.

By Bob Difley

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

As if frozen in time, the coyote stood motionless, muscles taut, eyes focused straight ahead. I followed his gaze, but could not see what had captured his attention. Suddenly he shot forward. Two wide-eyed jack rabbits exploded out of the brush, scattering in different directions. A cottontail sprinted for his burrow and disappeared into the darkness. Foiled from capturing his prey, the coyote stopped, gave me a once over, and slowly loped away to try his hunting techniques on another potential meal.

Ever since my first desert camping trip the abundance of life in the desert has amazed me. I can still vividly see my first desert coyote, standing out on the bajada, a few hundred yards from Death Valley’s Stovepipe Wells campground, delivering a lengthy tirade of yips, barks, and howls.

And the roadrunner, that watched secretly from the dense foliage of the tamarisk tree that shaded my picnic table, until I moved the right distance away and he would jump down onto the table, snatch a goodie, and run off into the safety of the brush.

My previous impressions of the desert had been of a dry, treeless, lifeless, tortuously hot, uninteresting, expanse. How effectively the coyote and roadrunner proved my naïveté. As a snowbird, I’ve traveled, hiked, and camped in all four American deserts of the Southwest, each with its own characteristic animals, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, geology, mountains, arroyos, and valleys.

The American Deserts

Dryness alone does not describe a desert. It must also have a high evaporation rate, as well as under ten inches of precipitation a year. The sparseness of plants also typify a desert, since the inadequate moisture will not support dense plant colonies. All four of North America’s deserts lie in the Southwest between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas. They can be divided into the hot deserts – Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan – and the cold desert, the Great Basin, covering most of Nevada, southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and western Utah, It’s a desert where more than half the annual precipitation falls as snow.

The Great Basin’s climate does not attract hordes of snowbirds. I spent parts of a couple winters in the Great Basin, at Valley of Fire State Park north of Las Vegas. It snowed once on Christmas Day and my propane heater ran almost constantly.

The Mojave of Southern California, the smallest of the four, owns the record for the highest temperature (134 degrees) and the lowest elevation in the US, both in Death Valley. Some authorities also identify the Colorado Desert, an area between the Mojave and Sonoran as another desert, though both the Mojave and the Colorado are arguably transitions between the Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts.

The Sonoran Desert occupies the southern part of Arizona, with two-thirds of it in Mexico. Characterized by the saguaro cactus, which grows naturally only in the Sonoran, this sub-tropical desert also contains more diverse and a greater quantity of plants and animals than the other deserts.

The Chihuahuan Desert also lies mostly in Mexico, but in New Mexico and extreme Southwestern Arizona it extends as fingers into the basins separating the mountain ranges, and also in Southwestern Texas at Big Bend and between the cities of El Paso and Pecos. The Chihuahuan is a high desert, consisting of many mountains that extend to 6500 feet in Mexico. Its lowest point is along the Rio Grande River in Texas at 1000 feet.

Next week: Snowbirding and boondocking in the Southwestern deserts.

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.


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10 Tips for Conserving Data on a Capped Internet Bandwidth Plan

November 23, 2014 by Loloho.com · Comments Off 

As we’ve discussed, we enjoy watching streaming video content in our RV via our Roku box (http://amzn.to/11E4DUX). However, a reader brought to light an unfortunate dilemma that many of us face: Internet bandwidth is often available in limited quantities. Many of us have restrictive data usage plans that cap bandwidth in 5, 15, or 30 GB limits.

We love our Roku 3, but beware streaming video if you have a bandwidth cap. Avoid HD at all costs! (Click the pic to check out the Roku.)

We love our Roku 3, but beware streaming video if you have a bandwidth cap. Avoid HD at all costs! (Click the pic to check out the Roku.)

Bandwidth caps are an unfortunate fact of modern life. You dare not exceed a bandwidth cap, for this gives your friendly neighborhood telecom an excuse to charge you ridiculous sums of money in overage fees. (Remember late fees at video stores? Remember expensive long distance phone calls? Well, now we have Internet data bandwidth cap overage fees to enjoy.)

So let’s quickly outline 10 steps RV campers (and really anyone) can take that will reduce Internet data usage and help avoid “bandwidth cap” overage fees.

10. WATCH VIDEOS IN LOW RESOLUTION
We all like to watch YouTube videos, and videos on other online sites. These videos may have selectable resolution from a low of 144p to a high of 1090P (or even 4k). More resolution requires more data. Therefore, you can save yourself a lot of bandwidth by watching video in the lowest resolution settings. Avoid HD whenever possible.

9. DISABLE AUTOMATIC SOFTWARE UPDATES
No matter what operating software you may be running on your computer of choice, chances are that it wants to automatically update from time to time. This is true with Windows, Android, and Apple products. These auto updates are often large files that consume a lot of your bandwidth in the process (and in our experience, they rarely seem to update much of significance). Turn off these updates to save bandwidth. Only update your software when meaningful changes are available.

8. USE MOBILE INTERNET SITES
Most websites these days have a “mobile” vesion that presents the same basic information but with stripped down graphics and art. It usually loads faster and without a lot of fancy frills. That’s because frills eat bandwidth. These mobile sites can sometimes be frustrating to navigate, but they consume much less bandwidth than their full featured counterparts.

7. INSTALL AND RUN ANTIVIRUS / ANTIMALWARE SOFTWARE
Many computer viruses eat bandwidth for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s because they surreptitiously download and upload data in the background while your computer is running. Effectively, they are stealing your bandwidth. Install a quality antivirus and/or anti-malware program and monitor for viruses regularly. One great free anti-malware program is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

6. HEY! HEY! YOU! YOU! GET OFF OF THE CLOUD!
The buzz these days is the Cloud. No, we’re not talking about the breathing atmosphere in your local cigar shop. We’re talking about the practice of automatically backing up your data on faraway Internet hard drives and servers. The Cloud is a forward thinking idea and it works pretty well as a basic data backup service. Alas, automatically uploading and downloading all of this data can eat up your precious bandwidth. Make sure your Cloud settings are appropriate for minimum bandwidth consumption. Turn off the automatic features.

5. AVOID VIDEO CHAT
Yes, we all love video chat, whether it’s Skype or Facetime or Facebook or whatever. Alas, video chat eats bandwidth because you are constantly uploading and downloading video and audio in every session. Hey, if you must use video chat to see the grandkids, that’s certainly understandable. Just be aware that you are consuming bandwidth in the process. Nothing online comes without a bandwidth cost attached.

4. COMPRESS YOUR PHOTOS BEFORE UPLOADING
One irony of modern digital photography is that cameras generate huge photo files that are rarely ever viewed online in their full native resolution. Even JPG files (which are by definition compressed by the camera) may be 5MB or greater in size. Most people upload their photo files directly to the Internet for sharing. Transferring large photo files to the Internet eats up large chunks of bandwidth. Solution? Compress your photo files first before you upload them to the Internet. If you are not certain how to compress files, look up the topic on YouTube – and don’t forget to watch the video in a low resolution format.

3. AVOID TORRENTS AND ONLINE GAMES
If you really want to conserve bandwidth, forget about large unnecessary downloads via torrent software (which, let’s face it, is often of questionable legality) or online gaming (which means you’d better pay attention to that game your grandson has been playing). Yes, online games can eat up bandwidth faster than Pac Man eats dots and ghosts (or whatever else Pan Man eats).

2. CACHE CONTENT
Make sure your web browsers are set to cache redundant website content so you don’t waste bandwidth downloading the same stuff every time you visit a page.

1. AVOID STREAMING MUSIC (OR STREAM LOW QUALITY)
We all love streaming content from the Internet. Music is an especially enjoyable content to stream. Alas, streaming music eats bandwidth. The constant stream means constant data usage. If you do decide to stream music, be certain to stream the “low quality” stream instead of “high quality.” Odds are that you will not notice much of a difference in casual listening, but you will use much less bandwidth.

We love our Roku 3 streaming box, but we use it primarily with park wifi and other unlimited free Internet hot spots. Whenever you are faced with a capped data plan, you must always consider methods to conserve bandwidth.

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The Restaurant Industry Secret to Delicious Hot Meals

November 8, 2014 by Loloho.com · Comments Off 

What’s the secret to a delicious hot meal? It’s a “secret” that’s openly delivered in every quality restaurant. Often this is the difference between an average meal and a great one. With a simple product (http://goo.gl/e1fMlG), we all can enjoy this same “secret” at home or at the RV campsite. Although it’s the key to a hot meal, surprisingly few people seem to realize its importance. Can you guess what we’re talking about here?

The answer is… Read more

Are RVers about to lose their freedom to camp on public lands

October 31, 2014 by Bob Difley · Comments Off 

Special interests are increasing the pressure on the federal government to turn over to the states public lands that fall within their bouondaries. So far these efforts have failed, as they should. As an RVer and boondocker, I have a particular intererst our public lands and have been an advocate of thier use by RVers for camping and boondocking for many years. Even my nickname, “boondockbob,” comes from my love of camping on the millions of wide open acres of public lands managed by the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
But if the special interests that are trying to transfer these public lands out of the American citizens’ hands and into the coffers of opportunistic politicians in the states, imagine what could be the ramifications of what would follow. First, the states would have to start coughing up the money required to manage these lands. The federal wildlife management agencies spent almost $4 billion in 2014 alone to manage just the wildlife refuges. And isn’t the enjoyment of our beaautiful and scenic public lands the very reason why many of us have chosen the RV lifestyle?
Do you think the states, in the current political climate, are going to suggest raising taxes to manage these lands? Of course not. So what will they do? The only possible option is to start leasing or selling the public lands (which are our lands) to the highest bidder, whether it be amusment part developers, hotel chains, mining and exploration companies, or any other organization whose main interest is extracting what they can take from the land and rewarding their shareholders, and not what they can do to preserve the land for its current uses – camping, hiking, boondocking, paddling, hunting, and other outdoor recreation opportunities.
That is not what I want to happen to our public lands that we pay taxes on to keep them out of private hands. I don’t want to see locked gates going up across forest service roads and “No Trespassing” signs appearing on all the dirt roads I like to explore and camp on. The states will be forced to sell off the best of our public lands leaving the taxpayers to foot the bill for what is left. And can you be sure where all that money will go when these lands are sold or leased?
There couldn’t be any possible benefit to RVers in turning public lands over to the states, unless you are a major shareholder of the corporations that will come in like the robber barons of the old railroad expansion days and reap the spoils of the taxpayers’ land. But can we do anything about it? We can, but it will take our diligence to watch the manipulations laid on us by those who wish to benefit at our expense. Watch for the legislation they put out and vote against it – loudly. It is your land and you have the right to demand – yes, demand – that it remain out of state politicians’ hands.
Boondocking in Colorado's national forests

Boondocking in Colorado's national forests

Personal and financial interests are increasing the pressure on the federal government to turn over to the states public lands that fall within their boundaries. So far these efforts have failed, as they should. As an RVer and boondocker, I have a particular interest in our public lands and have been an advocate of their use by RVers for camping and boondocking for many years. Even my nickname, “boondockbob,” comes from my love of camping on the millions of wide open acres of public lands managed by the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

But if the special interests that are trying to transfer these public lands out of the American citizens’ hands and into the coffers of opportunistic politicians in the states, imagine what could be the ramifications of what would follow. First, the states would have to start coughing up the money required to manage these lands. The federal wildlife management agencies spent almost $4 billion in 2014 alone to manage just the wildlife refuges.

Do you think the states, with the current political climate, are going to suggest raising taxes to manage these lands? Of course not. So what will they do? The only possible option is to start leasing or selling the public lands (which are our lands) to the highest bidder, whether it be amusement part developers, hotel chains, mining and exploration companies, or any other organization whose main interest is extracting what they can take from the land and rewarding their shareholders, and not what they can do to preserve the land for all Americans and for current low-revenue producing uses such as camping, hiking, boondocking, paddling, hunting, and other outdoor recreation opportunities.

That is not what I want to happen to our public lands that we pay taxes on to keep them out of private hands. I don’t want to see locked gates going up across forest service roads and “No Trespassing” signs appearing on all the dirt roads I like to explore and camp on. And isn’t the enjoyment of our beaautiful and scenic public lands the very reason why many of us have chosen the RV lifestyle?

That’s not all. The states will be forced to sell off the most attractive of our public lands, those where private parties can extract the most revenue, leaving the taxpayers to foot the bill for what is left. And will you be comfortable with where all that money will go when these lands are sold or leased?

There couldn’t be any possible benefit to RVers in turning public lands over to the states, unless you are a major shareholder of the corporations that will come in like the robber barons of the old railroad expansion days and reap the spoils of the taxpayers’ land. But can we do anything about it? We can, but it will take our diligence to scrutinize the politicians and special interests that will attempt to manipulate us for personal or corporate benefit at our expense. Watch for the legislation they put out and vote against it – loudly. It is your land and you have the right to demand – yes, demand – that it remain out of state politicians’ hands.

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

Also check out my blogs, and your feedback and comments will enhance the discussions:

RV.net

The Good Sam Club blog

Camping and Boondocking on our Public Lands

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What RVers can do to avoid animal/vehicle accidents

October 24, 2014 by Bob Difley · Comments Off 

“FALL is the season of apples, frost, turning leaves and roadkill” write  Amanda Hardy and Renee Seidler on the New York Times Opinion Pages.  ”A 2008 congressional study found that one in 20 reported motor vehicle collisions is animal-related, and the numbers peak in autumn. Annually, these incidents result in about 26,000 injuries and 200 human deaths. Across the country, collisions with deer — the most common type of animal-related incident — cost more than $8.3 billion per year, including vehicle repair, medical services, towing, law enforcement time and carcass disposal.”
The article also points out that most reported animal related accidents are collisions with large mammals and that the “toll on smaller creatures like squirrels, salamanders and birds goes largely uncounted, but a recent study estimated that as many as 340 million birds are killed by vehicles annually. For 21 species listed by federal authorities as threatened or endangered — including the Canada lynx, the red wolf, the Florida panther, the crested caracara and Florida scrub-jay — road death is a major threat to survival.”
Though most wildlife authorities conclude that reducing such animal/vehicle accidents could be prevented by installing safe corridors over or under roads that lie across migration routes, these solutions are expensive. Though a study shows that the cost can be recouped in about 12 years the original funding can be problematic.
It seems also, that changing animal behavior (teaching them to use tunnels and bridges) is more effective that altering human behavior to take steps to avoid such accidents. But as RVers, we likely already take some steps toward improved animal safety. For instance, since most animal/vehicle accidents happen on “two-lane highways that have relatively low traffic volumes (fewer than 5,000 vehicles per day),” because of the size of RVs, we will be driving slower and giving animals more time to react to our presence.
The article also states that “With greater awareness, motorists can adapt their driving. Research shows that drivers who anticipate danger can halve their reaction time and cut the risk of collision.” So if you are environmentally conscious and enjoy watching wildlife, it would be to everyone’s advantage – especially wildlife – to take extra precautions when driving in areas where wildlife may be present. These precautions would include driving slower (especially at dawn and dusk when animals are most active), being extra alert for animals on the sides of roads, slowing down even more if an animal crosses your path (more may follow), paying attention to wildlife warning signs, and supporting funding for wildlife corridors, bridges, tunnels, warning lights when animals are present, etc.
New York Times illustration by Irene Rinaldi

New York Times illustration by Irene Rinaldi

“FALL is the season of apples, frost, turning leaves and roadkill” write  Amanda Hardy and Renee Seidler on the New York Times Opinion Pages.  ”A 2008 congressional study found that one in 20 reported motor vehicle collisions is animal-related, and the numbers peak in autumn. Annually, these incidents result in about 26,000 injuries and 200 human deaths. Across the country, collisions with deer — the most common type of animal-related incident — cost more than $8.3 billion per year, including vehicle repair, medical services, towing, law enforcement time and carcass disposal.”

The article also points out that most reported animal related accidents are collisions with large mammals and that the “toll on smaller creatures like squirrels, salamanders and birds goes largely uncounted, but a recent study estimated that as many as 340 million birds are killed by vehicles annually. For 21 species listed by federal authorities as threatened or endangered — including the Canada lynx, the red wolf, the Florida panther, the crested caracara and Florida scrub-jay — road death is a major threat to survival.”

Though most wildlife authorities conclude that reducing such animal/vehicle accidents could be prevented by installing safe corridors over or under roads that lie across migration routes, these solutions are expensive. Though a study shows that the cost can be recouped in about 12 years the original funding can be problematic.

It seems also, that changing animal behavior (teaching them to use tunnels and bridges) is more effective that altering human behavior to take steps to avoid such accidents. But as RVers, we likely already take some steps toward improved animal safety. For instance, since most animal/vehicle accidents happen on “two-lane highways that have relatively low traffic volumes (fewer than 5,000 vehicles per day),” because of the size of RVs, we will be driving slower and giving animals more time to react to our presence.

The article also states that “With greater awareness, motorists can adapt their driving. Research shows that drivers who anticipate danger can halve their reaction time and cut the risk of collision.” So if you are environmentally conscious and enjoy watching wildlife, it would be to everyone’s advantage – especially wildlife – to take extra precautions when driving in areas where wildlife may be present.

These precautions would include driving slower (especially at dawn and dusk when animals are most active), being extra alert for animals on the sides of roads, slowing down even more if an animal crosses your path (more may follow), paying attention to wildlife warning signs, avoid driving in wildlife areas at dawn and dusk when possible, and supporting funding for wildlife corridors, bridges, tunnels, warning lights when animals are present, etc. Read the entire NYTimes article here.

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

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FOR SPOILED (SMALL) DOGS

October 23, 2014 by Loloho.com · Comments Off 

Many RV owners are also dog owners. One of the best items we’ve found for small (and we do mean small) dogs is our Alfie Pet Sling Carrier (http://goo.gl/gSWwpn). This is an item especially appreciated by spoiled dogs.

Available in blue, pink, and grey, this pet sling carrier is just right for our favorite teacup chihuahua – a 3 ½ pounder we call “Baby Girl.”

REAL MEN WEAR PINK DOG SLINGS, but if you prefer they are available in grey and blue too! (CLICK THE PIC for more info.)

REAL MEN WEAR PINK DOG SLINGS, but if you prefer they are available in grey and blue too! (CLICK THE PIC for more info.)

Yes, Baby Girl is a bit spoiled. Just a bit.

Since this sort of review is really all about the dog’s reaction to the product, let’s examine this sling from Baby Girl’s point-of-view. After all, if she didn’t like the sling, it wouldn’t really matter what we think of it. But she does like this sling – she likes it a lot.

Baby Girl is a tiny little thing. Although she enjoys sitting on the living room couch, she insists on being placed there by a human being. The leap to or from an average couch or living room chair is just a little too much for her to contemplate.

Given her diminutive size, her reluctance to jump is understandable. Leaping from the couch to the floor would be kind of like a grown man leaping from the second story of a building to the ground – it’s not something I’m going to do very often, if at all.

Then there’s her issue with hardwood floors. Baby Girl hates hardwood. She finds it too slippery for her tastes. Her fear of hardwood dates back to one occasion when she slipped and fell on the hardwood floor. The fall frightened Baby Girl. Since that fateful moment, she has refused to walk on hardwood or similar smooth surfaces. It’s carpet or nothing for Baby Girl.

Baby Girl is small, but she also seems quite smart – at least as smart as the average politician. (And she’s never been caught embezzling any funds or texting obscene images of herself.)

Our favorite chihuahua is certainly smart enough to understand that she’s at a major size disadvantage – against most other dogs, all human beings and their feet, and well, against just about every other living creature on Earth that’s larger than a squirrel.

So Baby Girl has a preferred method of transportation: she likes to be carried everywhere by human beings.

CHIHUAHUA APPROVED. She likes it, she really likes it! (CLICK THE PIC for more info.)

CHIHUAHUA APPROVED. She likes it, she really likes it! (CLICK THE PIC for more info.)

Since Baby Girl likes to be carried, she really likes this Alfie Pet Sling. We’ve tried a couple of different dog slings, but this is her favorite, and it’s preferred by her humans too.

The sling is an elegant solution to this ongoing dilemma: Baby Girl likes to be held and carried, but Owner Guy likes to have both of his hands available.

Baby Girl seems to love being carried in this sling. The mere sight of the sling brings forth a burst of canine excitement.

The sling is made of a soft and stretchy but durable fabric. It’s not microfleece, but it is comfortable – kind of like an old fashioned baby blanket.

The Alfie sling is reversible, featuring a solid color on one side, and polka dots on the reverse.

The sling includes a safety collar hook for extra security. But since there’s zero chance of Baby Girl jumping out, we never use the collar hook.

What else makes these reversible sling dog carriers so great?

The carrier loops over the shoulder while the dog rests in the pouch on the opposite hip.

This keeps Baby Girl secure and comfortable.

She can poke her head out anytime she wants to watch the action, or duck down when she wants to hide from the world.

Of course, this sort of sling is perfect for a small breed of dog. It measures 9 inches in depth and holds pets up to 12 pounds.

Baby Girl tips the scales at a petite 3.5 pounds, so she’s easy to carry all day. Lucky for her! She loves riding in the sling.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if a space alien were to descend to our planet and secretly spy on the interaction between we dog lovers and our pets. Would the aliens think that the dogs are in charge? Maybe, considering that we quickly and obediently cater to our dogs’ every need. Who is serving who here?

Click here to spoil your own dog.

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ON TO THE LA FAIRPLEX — RECALLING THE PAST

October 8, 2014 by Barry & Monique Zander · Comments Off 

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

It’s wonderful being retired!  BUT it’s too early in life to stop being productive.  That’s my excuse for not publishing more often on RV.net.  I’ve gotten myself too involved in our newly adopted community in the mountains and my entry into photographic art to sit down and write.  I apologize to the thousands of readers who followed our adventures in Alaska and throughout North America in recent years.

I’m writing now to invite you to come visit us for the big RVIA Show this Friday through next Sunday, October 9-19 [http://www.thebestrvshow.com].  Monique and I will be manning Booth No. F-12 (on the left aisle as you come in the main tent entrance).  If you happen to be there this Friday, the 9th, we’ll be away from the booth for an hour beginning at 4:30 giving a seminar on Tips for RVers.  In our years on the road full-time, we learned a lot that we are ready to pass on to new and veteran RVers.

This is the 62nd edition of the show held annually at the Los Angeles County Fair & Exposition “Fairplex” in Pomona, California.

“The Never-Bored RVers” claim to fame (among readers of rv.net) is my waxing prosaically on what makes RVing such a great way to enhance our lives. Proving to us that getting on the road with an RV is such a wonderful opportunity is our excitement as we pack up the rig and the GMC tow vehicle for this excursion.  That indicates to us that RV travel is something important in our lives.

Let’s take it a step further. Yesterday Monique and I sat in our yard swing, where we gave in to spontaneity instead of hustling to do the dozens of tasks necessaryIn the Stream - 1103 for our week ahead.  Monique asked me, “What was your favorite military campground?”  Of our 484 stops of one or more nights, we spent about 50 in “FamCamps,” the military version of RV parks.  I finally answered, “Whidbey Island, Washington,” which brought on an hour-long reminiscing about our favorite places around North America (plus some places that still make us shudder).

HOW LUCKY WE ARE to have all these memories.  A majority of people spend their lives bouncing between home, the office, restaurants, and the other local places they frequent, but not RVers.  We (you and us) see new things every time we take the rig on the road, even if it’s the routine route from the Northern Tier down to the Sunbelt.  The memories pile up.  For many, practically every place has an adventure associated with it.

And I’m sure AARP would agree that it’s a healthy mind game to sit back and remember those occasions … the goose that laid an egg next to us at Tishomingo State Park in Mississippi; the authentic tribal feast along the Washington State coast; having my golf game delayed because the president had honors on the course; touching the gray whales’ babies in Baja California … What are your memories?

Before signing off so I can take my computer into the trailer, I leave you with my two favorite sayings, which you are welcome to adopt as your own:

To be happy, you must be free.  To be free, you must be brave.”

And the other:  “I’ll be old in 10 years.”

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Because of the numerous Spam comments on this site, the comments section has been deactivated.  Please email us at neverboredrvers@gmail.com and I will pass along your comments.    Learn about Alaska, the Canadian Atlantic Provinces and much much plus a growing number of travel photos at http://ontopoftheworld.bz.

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Everyone should take an RV trip at least once in their lifetime

September 23, 2014 by Bob Difley · Comments Off 

motorhome_red_rock_countryLong ago, back when I had a real job, I had a favorite saying when interacting with potential customers. At some point in the beginning of our conversation, I would say, “Everyone should take an RV trip at least once in their lifetime.” You might expect a statement like that coming from the Regional General Manager of a recreational vehicle (RV) rental and sales company. But I fully and completely believed it.

And now – 21 years after retiring and 17 years of traveling and living fulltime in my motorhome – I believe it more than ever.

I’ve been RVing for more than 45 years, beginning with renting a Class C motorhome for a one-week vacation to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks with my wife and parents. While operating the RV rental company in Northern California I also managed to slip away for several weekends a year in one of my rentals (one of the best perks of a job I can think of), trying different models and sizes of RVs in the guise of “research.”

My wife and I would take off on a Friday afternoon for the redwood country, or up the coast, or into the national forests, or to the Mojave and Sonora deserts. We stayed in a variety campgrounds ranging from fancy RV resorts – with swimming pools, spas, and organized recreational activities – to primitive no-frills forested campsites surrounded by towering evergreens. My agenda: to evaluate how the RV and all its systems worked, comparing livability of small to large-sized RVs, and how a particular size or floor plan fit my wife’s and my specific needs. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it.

On the RV rental side of the business, I got to meet customers from around the world, discovering their particular reasons for wanting to rent an RV, their preconceptions, and the response from them when they returned their RV after use.

One of the more memorable responses was from a middle-aged English couple that set off to explore the Wild West. Three weeks later they returned all decked out in cowboy hats and boots. When I asked where they had gone, they replied that they hadn’t actually gotten much further than the old west gold mining town of Murphys. They had stopped in a cowboy bar for a drink, made new  friends, and were having such a good time that they stayed there for half their vacation.

In fact, the two most mentioned features of the returning renters were the spectacular scenery of the Western States and the people they met – both in and out of campgrounds. Some new to the RV Lifestyle, however, might be concerned that RVing is too much “roughing it,” foregoing hotel room amenities like room service and on site restaurants, to “sleep in the woods.” To those I respond, you might be surprised – and pleasantly so – after just one RV trip.

And, of course, the easy and smartest way to find out is by renting an RV before considering a purchase. You can see whether you enjoy the life, traveling, sleeping “in the woods,” and what size and type of RV you are comfortable with and that fits your particular needs. One way to take the plunge is by logging in to an online rental company, such as RVShare.com, and search for RVs to rent in your area. Their format is easy to use and you can look at pictures of the various RVs available for rent. Pick one out that fits your needs, and call the owner for further information.

So after 45-plus years of RVing – both in the business and as a fulltime RVer – I have learned a lot about RV travel and I would like to share short list of tips (the long list would be too long to print) of why “everyone should take an RV trip at least once in their lifetime.”

  • Your family can travel the scenic backroads of America together and in comfort
  • See parts of the country you would never see from an airplane
  • Choose your camping style, from amenity-rich RV resorts to primitive woodsy campsites
  • With the RV’s onboard systems you have everything you need for livability: restroom with shower, cooking facilities, refrigerator, generator for electricity (if not connected to campground power sources), a comfortable bed, and holding tanks for sewage, waste water, and drinking water.
  • Spend the night on a desert plateau and watch the sun set in a blaze of glorious colors over a distant mountain range
  • Wake in the morning to the songs of forest birds surrounded by towering Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs
  • Camp next to a mountain stream where you can fish fright from your camp chair
  • Visit RV hotspots like the massive winter gathering of friendly RVers (called snowbirds) in the small desert community of Quartzsite, Arizona
  • Watch NASCAR races in designated RV campsites right along the race course
  • Visit dispersed relatives across the country
  • Meander along the country’s beautiful National Scenic Byways, camping in picturesque campgrounds along the way
  • Bring your bicycle and ride some of the thousands of miles of former railroad lines now maintained as recreation trails by the Rails to Trails organization.
  • Discover the best hiking, paddling, birdwatching, and wine trails, follow the fall turning-of-the-leaves, find music festivals, mountain lakes, large mammal viewing spots, and more
  • Follow your favorite venues or interests, such as touring historic sites, old mines, ghost towns, chili cookoffs, RV rallies, square dance competitions, and our national and state parks

And there is much, much more. Happy Travels. For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

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Add these side trips to your snowbird migration – Part 2

September 20, 2014 by Bob Difley · Comments Off 

sunset craterIn last week’s post (Part I) I suggested that instead of making a near non-stop head long rush to your winter home in the Southwestern Desert, you instead take some time to visit some short side trips along the way. This week I follow with the next highlight following Wupatki pueblo that I wrote about.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

From Wupatki, continue on the loop. You will pass Sunset Crater (photos), Lava Flow, and Lenox Crater Trails before arriving at the visitor center, which is two miles before rejoining 89. Lava Flow Trail, a self-guided loop, depicts a variety of volcanic features, while Lenox Crater Trail is a more strenuous climb up the side of a cinder cone, two miles round trip. Sunset volcano erupted in AD 1065 and displays in the visitor center illustrate various volcanic phenomena, such as squeeze ups, where the lava is forced upward through cracks, and hornitos, strange hornlike protuberances.

Ranger Stephen Nycz explained some of the geology of the area. “From the visitors building we see the same top layers as in the Grand Canyon–250 million year old rock–before there were dinosaurs, trees, or plants, and before the separation of the continents.”

sunset crater sc0007bb3201Road pullouts, some with trails, provide access into the strange volcanic landscape. The cinders–rough, black rocks–have a strange feel as you walk across them. This crater is the youngest of the few prehistoric volcanoes in the world that can be accurately dated. After the eruption, 800 square miles lay buried under black volcanic ash. The eruption took place before the masonry pueblos were built about 1150 AD, although some Sinaguans lived in pit houses at the time. The volcano actually showed signs of life for over 200 years.

The loop road, though narrow, is suitable for all types and sizes of rigs and adequate parking is available at the view sites and visitor centers. Due to the fragile nature of archeological sites, it is best to stay on designated trails and leave any artifacts where you find them.

Bonito primitive campground at the Sunset Crater visitor center can accommodate rigs to 35 feet and, weather permitting, stays open through October. Additional camping and RV resorts are available in Flagstaff.

Now don’t you feel better for taking that little side trip? I know you could have been to your winter digs two days ago, but look at what you would have missed. And soon it will be too cold for that excursion. Enjoy your winter.

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

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Add these side trips to your snowbird migration – Part 1

September 13, 2014 by Bob Difley · Comments Off 

waupatki sc00047d6102Snowbirds descending from the Pacific Northwest, the plains states, or the mid-west into southern Arizona for the winter have several routes to choose from, though most often they take the most direct.

Typically, my father, the archetypal planner, plotted out the exact mileage and average driving time to haul his trailer from home in Pennsylvania to San Diego, CA , where he spent the winter near my brother and his family.

He knew practically to the minute how long it would take him to make the journey, starting each day at a prescribed time and stopping each evening at a pre-determined campground (always a KOA), and conducted the trip as if it were an organized time/distance rally. It drove my mother nuts but it worked for him.

I know that there are still some of you out there who travel like that today, admit it. Get to the destination in the most efficient and timely manner! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! Maybe this year, rather than choosing the most direct or fastest route, try a different way, with side trips and stopovers on the way. (I can see a cold sweat breaking out on your forehead). So it won’t be too debilitating to your efficiency genes, I’ll suggest an easy alternative to start with.

waupatki sc00047d6103Instead of focusing on your destination of Phoenix and its environs, fix your sites on Flagstaff, only a couple of hours driving time to the north. You will pass through some scenic, high country, pine forests before dropping down to the scrub, juniper, and rabbitbrush of the high plateau along Interstate 89. On your way, you could even stop off at the Grand Canyon for a couple days.

Twenty-seven miles north of Flagstaff, a two-lane paved 35-mile loop turns east into Wupatki (photos) and Sunset Crater National Monuments, and back to 89 just 12 miles above Flag–an easy, non-stressful, route.

Wupatki National Monument

Until eight hundred years ago a far-reaching Native American pueblo civilization spread like ants across this high volcanic plateau, raising beans, corn, and squash. They built intricate structures using the abundant uniform slabs of red sandstone stacked like bricks and reinforced with mud mortar atop the natural rock outcroppings, a solid foundation to build upon. The rock mass elevated the pueblos above the deteriorating effects of erosion, acted as a passive solar heat source, absorbing heat from the sun in the daytime providing warmth through the night, and offered the inhabitants a wide view across the landscape to see approaching visitors and traders.

Present day Hopi, the descendants of these former inhabitants, refer to them as Hisatsinom, meaning, “people of long ago.” The Navajo word, Anasazi, and the Pima or O’odham word, Hohokam also refer to these ancient peoples. The Spanish used their own words in calling them Sinagua (sin=without, and aqua=water).

Hundreds of archeological sites are scattered across the plateau, and several have been uncovered and preserved so visitors can see how these early dwellers lived. Markers along the road mark short access trails to the pueblos–Lomaki, Citadel, Doney Mountain, Wupatki, and Wukoki.

At its peak occupation during the 1100’s, the Wupatki Pueblo contained almost 100 rooms and housed about 200 residents. The pueblo also contains a central circular amphitheater (kiva), and a ballcourt, thought to have religious as well as sport and social uses.

Like many pueblos, the Hisatsinom built Wupatki by accretion. They built the first rooms into the bedrock, and as the population grew, they added rooms around and above. Inner, older rooms, some used for storage, were ventilated with a series of small openings in the walls. They carried ponderosa pine support beams, for second stories and roofs, from a considerable distance.

Near the ballcourt, a unique geologic feature called a blowhole, consists of a large network of small underground cracks. When air pressure below ground builds up greater than that above, air blows out of the hole, often with considerable force. When the below ground air pressure is less, the air is reversed and sucked in. The cold air coming out of the hole smelled strongly of wet rocks and rich earth. Two little girls held their shirts out over the flow to cool their tummies.

By the mid 1200s, Wupatki was mysteriously abandoned. The ranger offered the theory that it was for both social and religious reasons. “People throughout history have gathered, dispersed, then gathered again, for a variety of reasons, which are seldom mysterious or sinister. Perhaps due to overpopulation or drought, they may have migrated into the Rio Grande Valley and the Little Colorado River area and became Zuni and Hopi.

“There are two schools of archaeological thought,” she continued. “The old school is purely scientific. Everything is based on physical evidence. But there is a new school that includes oral history as part of the study, which includes the Hopi legends and stories, and the songs and ceremonies that date back to these early days.”

Watch next Saturday for Part II

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

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