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Amish Buggy Ride – an example of using MovieMaker

September 6, 2010 by Chris Guld · 18 Comments 

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by Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com

We are currently in Elkhart, Indiana.  We’re here for the Gypsy Journal Rally last week, and the Escapade next week.  Last Friday we were invited by our friends from TechnoRV to join them for dinner at an Amish Family’s home.  In addition to dinner, they would take us on a horse and buggy ride if we wanted to go. 

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More bears

July 31, 2010 by Bob Difley · 354 Comments 

By Bob Difley

bear-in-campgroundThere was another bear attack (this time a grizzly) this week on campers. Kevin Kammer of Grand Rapids, Michigan was dragged from his tent in Soda Butte campground in the Gallatin National Forest in northeastern Yellowstone National Park near Cooke City, Montana. Kammer was dragged for twenty-five feet where he was killed. Fish and Wildlife personnel blamed the attack on a sow and her three yearling cubs. At least one of the bears fed on the man.

The bears were also believed to have attacked another man who started punching the bear as it was biting him on the leg and it ran off.  The bears attacked another woman and her husband who were tent camping nearby.  The woman received bites and a broken arm.  The woman said she had bear spray in her tent but couldn’t get to it when the bear attacked. She played dead and the bear wandered off. The sow and all three cubs have been captured and DNA tests determined that the sow was the attacker. She was destroyed and her cubs will be sent to a zoo.

This is at least the second incidence in the last few weeks of a person who had bear spray being attacked by a bear but did not have it handy enough to use it. The other was a trio of bicyclists in Alaska. The bear spray was in a backpack when the bear attacked. If you don’t have bear spray and are camping or boondocking in bear country, get some–and a holster or clip so you can attach it  to your belt to keep it handy. It  works!

Another disturbing aspect of this latest attack was that the campers seemed to have done everything right and had done nothing to provoke, frighten, or surprise the bears. (The Alaska attack came when the leading bicyclist rounded a bend on the trail and surprised a sow and cub.)

However, there are few incidences of bears invading campgrounds and attacking people, and no records (that I know of) of bears attacking people in RVs, though some bears have  rocked or banged on RVs. Black bears are more common than grizzlies, usually more docile and easier to frighten away than the more aggressive grizzlies.  And even though bear attacks are rare, and shouldn’t deter RVers from camping in bear country, a few bear country tips to follow would be a wise plan:

  • Have bear spray (available from my Amazon store) and keep it handy at all times.
  • Leave no food or traces of  food or  smelly articles (toothpaste, sunblock, etc.) outside in your campsite.
  • Keep ice chests inside your rig.
  • When hiking, make enough noise to let dangerous wildlife know you are there and can get out of your way.
  • Don’t leave pets tied outside your rig when you are not around.
  • Avoid camping near (or report to a ranger) any campers that keep a campsite likely to attract bears.
  • Throwing objects, yelling, and banging pots and pans will likely frighten any bears away.
  • Make every effort to avoid a sow and cubs.
  • Report bear sightings to rangers or camp hosts.

Visit my Healthy RV Lifestyle website for RVing tips, and health & fitness and RV destination articles. Also check out my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, and 111 Ways  to get the Biggest Bang for your RVLifestyle Buck.

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Our Alaska Trip Part XX Even Farther Northward

July 13, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 5 Comments 

This is the 20th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

 In case I didn’t mention it lately, the rumors are true,. Alaska is a beautiful state.  Tuesday morning we left Anchorage in a light rain … destination:  Seward on the Kenai Peninsula (pronounced “Keen-Eye, equal stress on the syllables).

 After leaving Alaska’s largest city, we found ourselves driving on another postcard-quality road, the Seward Highway South.  On our left were steep forested mountains featuring numerous glaciers at various elevations.  At one point, a glacier sat just above a lagoon, actually at sea-level. 

 How do we know it was sea level?  Because on our right was a fjord, apparently in the Turnagain Arm of Prince William Sound.  Absolutely stunning, even in the dismal weather that followed us for our entire route today.  When we drove along the shore, the water was high, but the fjord is known for having the third largest “bore tide” in the world, a change of 28 feet.

And now to today’s theme (one of the three I mentioned in Part XIX:  Even Farther Northward).  A feature of our caravan provides opportunities to enjoy unscripted side trips, like the one that Ivan and Shirley Yurtin took to Port Barrow on the Arctic Ocean.  Since only a small percentage of Alaskan travelers have or will endure that journey, I’m excerpting parts of their journal for you.

 

Ivan and Shirley’s Story

 As we approached Point Barrow from the air, we first noticed that the lakes were frozen. As we descended the next significant thing we noticed was that there were no trees or shrubs as far as you could see … it was only flat tundra.

SM - Airline Terminal The airport terminal is an old, blue metal commercial building that looks like a factory. The shuttle driver drove us to the Top of the World Hotel, a long two-story building that has simple rooms. 

We had dinner at Pepe’s Restaurant next door that is run by 81-year-old Fran, who has lived in Point Barrow for over 40 years.  She had a restaurant in her home for years but now manages Pepe’s.  She also leads tourists down SM - Two Brave Polar Bearsto the ocean at 5:30 p.m. each day for a dunk in the Arctic.  In order to qualify you must submerge completely in the frigid Arctic.  For doing so, you must pay $10 and will receive a patch and certificate from the Polar Bear Club.  Fran has made the plunge many times and tried to get 80 of her friends to join her last year for her 80th birthday.  She was only able to convince 67 brave souls to do it with her.

 

The Mexican meal of enchiladas was good.  Afterwards we roamed the immediate area for photos—including those along the ice buildup in the ocean. We noticed that parking spaces for workers at the bank, police department and other businesses had electrical cords in each space to plug in engine heaters.  None of the roads in town are paved—they consist of powdered dust that billows every time a car passes.  Four-wheeler ATVs are also a common form of transportation.

 SM - Barrow Village

Our tour guide, Bana, is a native Inupiat Eskimo. He said that the population of the whole area is 4,500 and one-fourth of the population is under the age of 18 years.  The village hunts whale for food and harvests about 34 whales each year to feed the village.  The Inupiat are not allowed to harvest whales SM - Whale Skin Boatto sell … only to feed the village. The whale harvest is in the early spring and late fall.  Whale meat is either eaten boiled or frozen raw.  Ivan had a chance to eat some of the raw whale meat.  It tasted a little fishy.
They only get about 13 inches of snow and 8 inches of rain a year, but it is a very cold and dry environment.  It is very cloudy most of the summer with only five days of sunshine. The temperature during our visit ranged from 30 – 36 degrees F and it was cold and windy.  The Inupiat Eskimo Corporations control most of the utilities and government offices.  

The city has several gas wells that supply the heating for the village. The village has one fairly large grocery store and one gasoline station.  Gasoline is delivered to Barrow once a year in August.  In our visit to the grocery store the price for a gallon of milk was $10 and the price of a dozen eggs was $8.

On our tour we saw a Snow Owl and the Tundra Swans. We got to visit the Inupiat Heritage Center where the local Eskimos performed their native dances for us.  We were then invited to join them in their local dances, which we did.  It was very enjoyable.

There were enough people so we all joined in for the Blanket Toss.  A large blanket made of whale skin is woven with rope around the outer edge for handles. About 25-30 people hold the perimeter of the blanket while a person is in the middle of it.  The blanket is pulled outward and the person in the blanket is propelled upward and can reach heights of 20-30 feet.  This is used to be able to see whales and game at far distances, since there are no trees on the Tundra.

SM - On The Arctic BeachOur tour guide Bana drove us to the airport and we bid him farewell.  It was a packed full day of facts and adventure trying to understand how these people survive under extreme conditions.  We sure were glad to be back to our RV with all the modern conveniences.

 

Thanks, Ivan and Shirley.  Sorry we missed that trip.

 

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

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Our journey to find the perfect DP continues

July 11, 2010 by Larry Cad · 17 Comments 

Now that we have pretty much explored a great number of options and features you can look at on a diesel pusher motorhome, it is time to look at a few coaches that are available on the market and see how they fill the bill as far as suitability is concerned.  When I first started this phase of this project, I was surprised at how difficult it would be.  Surprisingly, even in this bad economy, there is a good selection of new diesel motorhomes available on the market.  Depending on what you want, and how much you have to spend, the selection grows to a point where it can get overwhelming and a lot of work can go into selecting your new rolling mansion.  With prices ranging from the low $100,000 range, and up to several million, with lengths up to 45 ft., the various combinations grow exponentially.

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Our Most Humorous Camping Trip

The first night we camped at J. W. Wells State Park on Lake Michigan shore. When we asked for a camp site at first we were told there were none open; then we were told there was one so we took it. As we were sitting by the picnic table we soon found out why there was one site left. We were sharing our lot with a mama skunk and her family.

DeckerThe next day, we headed to Wisconsin Door Peninsula. As we were driving along in our old 1972 fixer-upper motor home, it began to back-fire, really bad. Mother had been lying up on the top bunk. After a few good loud bangs, mother descended down to a lower level. I asked why she had come down and the answer was, “I am getting closer to the door in case we have to bail out of the motor home.” We now proceeded to go into a continuous mode of very loud back-firing. As we were passing cows pasturing in the fields, it frightened the cattle so much they began running across the fields with their tails up in the air going full speed ahead in every direction just as fast as their legs would carry them. When we arrived in the Door Peninsula, we looked up a junk yard to try to get a part for the motor home. However the junk yard had had a fire and we were told it would be a few hours before they could find parts. My father got the duck tape out and duck taped up one of our problems. We kept on going and continued to backfire all the way, terrorizing all the cattle in sight.

We then visited the rock formations and watched people diving off the high cliffs into the water below. Next we walked out on a vey smelly pier with dead fish lying all over and decided we did not want fish for supper. We visited a nice museum, and then went back to the junk yard to get the part we wanted but it was going so good with the duck tape that we never did put that part on. We just went banging on our merry way down the road. As we were driving along meeting another vehicle, we had to slow down to a snail’s pace because there was a boy on a bicycle directly in front of us. Whe! n the other vehicle passed, we then accelerated causing a very loud backfire and scaring the boy on his bicycle out of his wits. He jumped off of the bicycle and fairly flew through the air, took a tumble in the ditch, jumped up faster than he fell down and proceeded to fairly fly through the air. We said, well we didn’t get where we were going today but we had our entertainment regardless.

 We had to pull off the road to do a little more fixing. People were very good about stopping to offer help. I think some of the people who stopped to help got quite a kick out of our adventures. After replacing points and condenser and some spark plugs the truck was still running and continued to backfire very loud. We kept on going and visited the Pot Holes in Minnesota. We then went on to visit the Mayo Clinic Museum which we found quite interesting. While walking down the street mom was star gazing looking at the tall buildings. Dad looked behind and said where is mom? We discovered she had stubbed her toe on the side walk. Dad said, “oh dear did you get hurt?” Her leg was a little skinned up but nothing bad.

After that we went to the Omni Theater where after you are seated you are not supposed to get up it. Dad got a low sugar attack so we had to get him something to eat before we could walk back to the motor home. The next point of interest was the Mall of America. We had planned to visit the Laura Ingles Museum; however dad had had enough by then. He announced we are heading home. So we then proceeded on our way to our home in northern Michigan with our burnt out valves banging all the way. Somehow we arrived home without a total break-down; the DECKER FAMILY ADVENTURES

Submitted by Elaine Decker of Grand Rapids, MI as a part of the RV Centennial Celebration “Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.

Do you have a favorite RVing or camping memory you’d like to share? Submit your favorite memory here!

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Where’s the Water?

It was Alaska, it was early May ( 1972 ) and it was my families first RVing experience.

We had been assigned to a US Army base just north of Anchorage and most of my time was spent in the “field”… away from my family and so we decided that when I was at home, we would spend that time doing family things in a “camper”.

Our first RV was a fifteen foot Scotty travel trailer that we pulled with an International Travelall. The Scotty was used, but it had all a young family of five needed: a two burner stove, a three-way refrigerator, a porta-podi storage area and it “sort of” slept five. The water tank held, if I remember correctly, fifteen gallons of water and was dispersed from a pump faucet in the kitchen sink.

Prior to our first outing, the family scrubbed the Scotty from top to bottom and I took care of cleaning the water system by filling and dumping the water tank a few times (through a pet-cock beneath the camper). Once it was cleaned to our satisfaction, we filled it with food, clothes, water and kids and we were on our way to adventures in the wilds of Alaska.

Since we were new to the camping scene, we decided not to travel too far away from our home base, just in case we had a problem, and picked a very RUSTIC, electric only campground about an hour away. What a beautiful site we chose…it looked out over a lake, had a stream running close to it, was quiet and we felt it was the perfect site for our inaugural trip.

What a great start !… BUT… when my wife went to get a glass of water….there was none! I had forgotten to close the water drain pet-cock and all of our water had drained out on the way to our campsite.

My oldest son, then ten years old, was very disappointed because he thought we would have to return to the base to fill up with water and thereby cut his adventure time down. That’s when my old survival skills kicked in…since we were parked adjacent to a beautiful crystal clear stream and since, on our camp-out check list we had included a bucket, the choice was simple…we would trace the stream up the mountain and fetch our own water !

So I got the gang together, buckets and water carrying equipment in tow and after making my ten year old the “trail boss”… off we went, possibly retracing the steps that maybe the early settlers had made….finding hidden treasures along the way for the eight and four year old. The result…? Water was gathered, meals were cooked and our first RVing experience was a huge success and a trip to remember…here it is thirty-eight years later and I still remember it.

Submitted by Thomas Pearcy of Bella Vista, AR as a part of the RV Centennial Celebration “Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.

Do you have a favorite RVing or camping memory you’d like to share? Submit your favorite memory here!

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Our Alaska Trip Camaraderie Part III

June 11, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 15 Comments 

This is the third in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

In yesterday’s article, I waxed prosaically about how Monique and I enjoyed the opportunity of stopping along our route to Canada to see sights that appealed to us, while staying within the guidelines set for us as a group.

Lots of folks told us we didn’t need to spend the money for an escorted caravan to Alaska.  They could be right.  Today, however, we began to really appreciate the investment we had made in our caravan.  All the members of our group climbed aboard a tour bus this morning for visits to two British Columbia, Canada, wineries.

Now, had we not taken in the wineries as we stopped in the Town of Oliver, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  We’ve been to several others on the East and West Coasts of the U.S.  But it was another opportunity for enrichment, not to mention tasting some surprisingly good wines.

Vineyard 6684

We learned that the Portuguese vintners who ran many of the 27 local wineries in this, “the Wine Capital of Canada,” were aging, and East Indians arrived to buy up their vineyards.  They have the advantage of large families that work together to make it a viable business.  But the rest are owned by native Canadians or corporate bottlers.

We learned that the grass between the rows of grapevines keeps the soil moist, with the help of earthworms, irrigation and ever-improving viniculture practices.  We found out that the climatic warming trend is helping the grape crop, and that the longer days here (we have almost 16 hours of daylight now) mean better crops.  You couldn’t get out of there without realizing that owning a winery is a very risky business.

And most of IMG_6668all, we enjoyed the chance to taste wine with some fun people.  The camaraderie of our group was the best part, and we would have missed out on it had we whizzed past these wineries.  This amounted to attending two shows.  At the first, Walter Garinger of Garinger Brothers Estates Winery told us more than most of us could ever remember about the world of wine-growing, from its history in British Columbia and France to the uncertainties of the marketplace.

A few minutes later we were at Silver Sage Winery, where owner Anna served us taste after taste of a wide variety of fruity wines, while entertaining us with witty observations, such as, “If you can’t find anything you want to watch on the 176 channels on TV, take a bottle of this wine out of the refrigerator and you won’t miss TV.”  The lesson here is without being part of the tour, we wouldn’t have known which wineries to visit.

Next Monique waited patiently behind a long line of RVers ready to pay for produce at a fruit stand with the best variety of items.  How Tasting Winedo you know where to stop if you don’t have someone to guide you?

If there is a negative, it’s that we won’t be around long enough to become oblivious to the constant pow, pow, pow of cannons going off to protect the valuable cherry crop across the road that is ripening now.  After the cherries are ready, pears, apricots and then apples are ready for harvesting. We understand the cannons continue from spring to early fall to keep birds from destroying crops that fill thousands of acres of rolling hills in the shadows of a jagged ridge paralleling the highway..  Incidentally, this is the northern tip of the Sonoma Desert, where the arid land has been turned into gold.

Cornucopia 6708

In response to several comments, we have often heard about how you can plan to trade in your rig when you get back to the states because the roads in Alaska eat them up.  Yesterday we had two broken windshields reported in our group and both were acquired on paved, smooth roads on the U.S. side of the border.

Our Adventure Caravans Wagonmaster Ken Adams preaches that most of the damage comes from going too fast and following too close.

At this point I want to make a suggestion.   We travel at 55 to 65 mph, depending on the highway.  Our truck and trailer combination is about 50 feet long, not very easy for traffic to pass.  When I realize a vehicle has moved into the passing lane to come around, I assess the situation and slow down if I see any chance of danger ahead, like a hill or a curve.  I am particularly eager to help motorcyclists, who stand a greater chance for problems.

Tomorrow we have one of the longest drives of the 58-day trek.  That means less time for sightseeing, but we’ll keep looking for places of interest to write about.  (All this traveling can get in the way of telling the story.)

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

Continue to Part IV – “Our Alaska Trip En Route to Canyon Hot Springs” >>

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Improve your RV’s Efficiency in the Summer Heat

June 1, 2010 by Mark Polk · 10 Comments 

AC grill

Summer is a great time to go camping, but it can be taxing on some of your RV appliances. Here are a few tips on how you can help your RV work more efficiently, and make your camping trips more pleasurable in the summer heat.

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Are there creepy crawlies in your water tank?

May 8, 2010 by Bob Difley · 21 Comments 

By Bob Difley

water-in-desertMost of us do not think much about water. We Americans and Canadians are so used to hooking up the hose to any available tap and filling our water tanks that we don’t let bugs like typhoid, diarrhea, pathogenic microorganisms, and intestinal parasites to even enter our consciousness. And that sometimes causes us to become careless.

You may be one that doesn’t drink actual, unadulterated water, preferring wine, beer, coffee, or tea for instance. As explorer Owen Lattimore noted while traveling the ancient Asian Silk Road in camel caravans, “Water alone, unboiled, is never drunk. There is a superstition that it causes blisters on the feet.” But if water in any way–ice cubes, washing vegetables, brushing teeth–comes in contact with your insides, you might want to consider these extra firewall precautions between you and the microscopic creepy crawlies.

• Fill your water tank only from water supplies that are confirmed potable sources, such as municipal, campground, and tested well water sources.
• Every six months sanitize your tank by pouring in one-quarter cup of bleach for every 15 gallons of water in a full tank. Let stand overnight. Drain, fill, and rinse at least twice, or until chlorine odor is gone. Better yet, fill with water and bleach when leaving your last campground and let it slosh around in the tank as you head home.
• Keep the ends of your water hose out of the dirt and off the ground when attaching your host to a tap.
• Attach the ends together after emptying it of all remaining water and store coiled in a plastic or cloth bag.
• When possible, use your own water hose to fill your tank. You don’t know how previous RVers have handled the supplied hose.
• Do not fill your water tank from the water supplied at a dump station for rinsing down, unless you are sure it is a safe (municipal) water supply and you use your own hose.
• Wash your hands after using a dump station before using the water hose to fill your fresh water tank.
• Filter the water coming out of your kitchen faucet either with an under-sink inline filter (such as an Everpure), attach a water filter (i.e.Brita) to your kitchen faucet, or keep a Brita-type pitcher of water with built in filter in your frig. These filters will also remove grit and bad tastes like you get from some desert water supplies.
• If you use the pitcher, remember to use the filtered water for washing veggies, making coffee, tea, cold drinks, or ice cubes, and if you’re slightly nervous about your current water tank supply, for brushing teeth as well.

Learn more boondocking how-to tips with my eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands.

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Time to go Camping, but First…

April 26, 2010 by Mark Polk · 14 Comments 

inspect refer

It’s time again for my annual RV spring preparation checklist. If your RV has been sitting idle all winter you need to whip it back into shape for another season of camping.  At first glance this checklist looks like it would take two days to complete, but it’s actually something you can do on a Saturday when there’s nothing else to do. Following a checklist helps make sure nothing is overlooked.   

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