Lately on our Facebook page (http://Facebook.com/LongLongHoneymoon) we’ve been talking about RV storage space. We love our 25-foot Airstream Classic travel trailer. It’s comfortable, cozy, and has been a wonderful home on wheels to us in a variety of adventures. But one thing it’s not… is spacious. We don’t have a lot of storage space.
Forget about measuring storage space in terms of square feet. We need to talk about square inches. Maybe even millimeters (if you can stomach the metric system). Every little bit matters.
What’s the secret to making the most of the space on hand? This is a pressing topic for most RV travelers, especially those who go on extended long term trips.
First of all, it’s important to only pack items that you need and/or will really use. This is harder than it sounds. In fact, this is one topic that has (gasp!) created some husband/wife relationship friction in our RV travels. We’ve made some memorable mistakes in the packing department. I dare not go into too much detail here, else our website may be renamed Short Short Marriage.
Suffice to say that we’ve both been guilty of bringing items on our trips that ended up being unnecessary. Some large, some small. Even after years of taking our Airstream on long term journeys, we still make mistakes.
The problem is that it’s hard to determine exactly what is necessary until you get out there. Every trip takes on a life of its own. Sometimes we do a lot of biking; sometimes the bikes go unused. Sometimes I use certain camera gadgets and tripods; on other trips, they spend most of their time stuffed under the bed. If you’re camping at a local park, it’s not a big deal. If you’re camping 2000 miles from home, it can be a pain.
The “use it or lose it” analysis must apply to every item on board, from food, to clothing, to electronics, to toiletries. Don’t really need and/or intend to use it? You probably should leave it at home. At the very least, you don’t need to bring many duplicates of items. It’s all too easy to overpack.
The problem of overpacking is not simply one of added weight (more weight on board the RV is bad), but also added clutter. Once you exhaust the available storage space, items end up lying on the couch, stuffed behind the couch, scattered on the and floor, and wherever else they may find a home. It makes for a less pleasant living environment.
What about closet space? We have two closets, and they range in size from small to smaller. It stands to reason that we can’t pack too much inside those closets. We can either bring less stuff, or bring smaller stuff. If we find a way to gain any space advantage in the packing process, we celebrate.
Case-in-point: we now have our Airstream closets stocked with ultra thin “no slip” velvet clothes hangers. These fall into the “bring smaller stuff” category.
At first glance, it may seem a little silly to worry about the size of clothes hangers. But we are talking about an RV here, and every millimeter matters. The thin flat hangers are a nice upgrade over the usual thick round plastic hangers that are now in fashion.
These hangers serve two purposes. First of all, they are indeed ultra thin – like 1/5 of an inch thin. So you can stack 40 or 50 of them together into a small space. It’s a modest but significant improvement.
Second, these hangers are “no slip” because they’re covered in some sort of grippy pseudo velvet. This is a wonderful feature for an RV, because clothes typically get bounced and jostled when the RV is traveling down the highway. If hangers are not “no slip,” inevitably some of the clothes slip off the hanger and onto the floor. It’s a bummer when all of your clean clothes are lying amidst your shoes at the bottom of your closet.
There’s no magic solution to the RV storage space quandary. It’s an ongoing battle against weight and clutter that we all must fight. If you can find a product like “ultra thin no slip clothes hangers” that gives you a space advantage, it makes sense to utilize it.
Now, if only they made ultra thin bicycles and barbecue grills…
A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states:
Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year . . .
These figures point out how wasteful many of us are in the use of our natural resources. But the blame is not just heaped on us as individuals, but also in the inefficient and self-serving operations of the food delivery system, and wasteful corporate and big agriculture practices as well.
Though we as individuals can’t do much to improve the corporate and agriculture practices in the short term, we can take steps to be more efficient in our personal habits and practices–which would be both beneficial to the environment and to our wallets.
Shop more efficiently. Plan your meals and make a list of the ingredients you need for those meals, resisting the urge to buy items not on your list, on sale, or on a whim. Much of this ends up in the dump when it isn’t used. Buy only what you can use before it goes bad. And with the limited storage space of RVs, it will work out a lot better is space utilization.
Know how long food will last before spoiling. Canned food, for instance, lasts much longer than the date stamped on the can by the manufacturer. Look at this chart to see how long various foods will last in your frig before they become suspect.
Don’t mistake cosmetic blemishes on fruit and produce for reasons not to buy. The visual perfection has no bearing on whether it is edible and/or safe to eat.
Use your freezer. If you end up with more food than you can eat, stick it in your freezer where it will last much longer. But don’t forget to look in that freezer for leftovers that you can resurrect for a quick meal instead of shopping for more food.
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.
Italian food has become standard fare here in America. It seems everywhere you visit you’ll find Olive Garden or even a Pizza Hut. But look a little harder and you’ll discover establishments serving delicious, authentic, makes-magic-in-your-mouth Italian with recipes passed down from generation to generation. That’s exactly what I found during my stay at Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton, CA.
In fact, I was looking for a celebrity chef to film a show with me. Luckily for all of us, the resort’s manager, Dan Baumann, is a bona fide foodie and had just the man for me – Chef Giorgio Curti of the famous Santa Ynez eatery Trattoria Grappolo.
Upon hearing the news I did what every fun-loving RV Cooking Show host would do – planned a party!! But instead of filming in Studio A (our Jayco 5-er) Dan graciously offered a big, beautiful park model cottage. Nice!
In this episode – Gourmet Guests – you’ll enjoy the fruits of our labor. Chef Giorgio prepares 3 absolutely amazing dishes for us: a seafood pasta, grilled sliced beef with arugula and a burrata citronella salad. Amazing! And don’t shy away, they only sound fancy and complex. Chef Giorgio specializes in easy and elegant. He made these terrific dishes “rustic” in honor of our outdoor lifestyle. Served up with some fine Santa Barbara County wine – Mosby Dolcetto for one – it was a fabulous feast that you don’t want to miss out on.
Sure enough, you, too, can create these Italy-inspired recipes in your RV (I do). The ingredients can be found at your local grocery and the results are simply spectacular. Go ahead, print a couple copies of the recipes (one for your rig and one for your stick home) and plan a special occasion meal…especially if the occasion is an RV adventure.
By Bob Difley
Last week’s post (of the same name) triggered the unlikely discussions of electric blankets and the CPAP (sleep apnea) problem for boondockers. But it was more than that, it was a discussion of what is important for our personal enjoyment. So let’s dig some more into how to cope with our individual quirks and idiosyncrasies (Qs & Is) when boondocking and exploring those destinations way off the beaten path.
I’ll start with my wife’s Qs & Is (since I don’t have any). As a health and fitness nut enthusiast, a most important requirement for her is access to fresh fruits and vegetables (FFV). Let me emphasize fresh here. It was never a question of whether we would orr would not continue to eat FFV when boondocking, but how would we accomplish it off in the depths of the primeval forest way out in the desert where we liked to camp–miles from the nearest organic food or farmers market.
Supermarkets were few and far between in most of the places we explored and they usually left her dissatisfied and the local stores were usually deficient in the FFV category–especially the fresh part–if they had any fruits and veggies at all. The longest we could eke out the FFV supply before they withered into the inedible class was five days. As a result we had to build into our schedule and finances long trips to the nearest urban center for restocking.
So off we would go, driving sometimes as far as 50 miles one way, and taking the better part of a day to re-supply. Canned goods, frozen food, dried goods would have lasted us for a month, two months, even more, but that was not an option. You couldn’t make a green salad out of a can (she wouldn’t even eat iceberg lettuce, preferring those greens with more nutrients).
But I knew that this regimen was also good for me (that’s why I stayed so young looking) and put up little resistance. Over time, we worked out an even better solution. She tired of my grousing about how much organic produce cost, and why we had to shop at the more expensive (read that, better and fresher FFV) than the discount grocers.
So it worked out that every fifth day she would take the dingy for the day, drive to the nearest city where she would scout out the best markets (also having researched on what day the farmers market was), spend a wonderful time feeling, smelling, chatting with the farmers, selecting, and tasting the offerings (without me there to try to rush the process), then making her selections.
This was followed by finding the most interesting local coffee house where she would indulge in a double non-fat latte, and relax for a half hour or more reading a book, take a walk in a local park or visit a museum, then return to our campsite where she would prepare a delicious dinner of the freshest and healthiest food she could find.
And you know what? She was happy–the drive was inconsequential–and looked forward to “her” days. That made me happy (and healthy, too), and she even enjoyed boondocking more because she satisfied a deep desire that was important to her. And we got along much better after we worked it all out and, as they say in the story books, we lived happily ever after (so far).
Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.
Here — in no particular order (or rhyme or reason) — is a somewhat decent holiday gift guide for RVers, starting with three new products from the Fastway company:
Fastway Flip automatic jack foot
The new Fastway Flip automatic jack foot adds 6 inches to your jack instantly, and flips up and down automatically as you retract or extend the jack. The Flip jack foot eliminates the hassles of storing and stacking wood blocks, or finding a place to store a removable extension. The Flip jack foot puts itself away each time you use it. No springs, cables, or pins are required. The Flip jack foot installs easily using pilot holes in the foot as a guide; then a single bolt (supplied) mounts the Flip to the bottom of the jack. The Fastway Flip jack foot fits most tongue jacks round or square, with models to fit 2-inch and 2 1/4-inch jacks. Maximum tongue weight rating is 1,400 lbs. and designed for use on horse, RV, cargo, boat, and utility trailers. For more information call (877) 523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.
Fastway ONEstep tandem axle wheel chock
The Fastway ONEstep is the fastest and easiest tandem axle wheel chock. The ONEstep wheel chock eliminates common chocking hassles like ratcheting, pinched fingers, bending or kneeling down, splintery wood chunks, and stuck wedges pinched by trailer movement. The ONEstep chock sets quickly in place by simply stepping down on the scissor arms, and removes easily by pulling up on the cable handle, even when wedges have been pinched under a tire. The ONEstep chock is adjustable from 16 inches to 24 inches to fit most tandem axle trailers. It works great with horse, RV, boat, cargo, utility, and farm trailers. An XL model that reaches up to 30 inches is also available for trailers with “wide track” type axle systems. The ONEstep is made from solid steel wedges and arms, with zinc plate and powder coat finishes helping it look great for years. For more information, call (877) 523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.
Fastway Zip breakaway cable
The Fastway Zip is the new, fast and easy way to protect your breakaway cable. With the Fastway Zip there are no frayed ends or cables dragging on the ground. The unique coiled cable of the Zip easily stretches to your tow vehicle and clips right on with the included carabiner. There is no looping over and around the trailer tongue to keep the cable out of the way. It is faster and easier to use than the standard breakaway cable. The Zip quickly replaces your current breakaway system with its coated high-strength coiled cable, split ring, and easy to use carabiner. The Fastway Zip breakaway cable is available in 4-foot and 6-foot cable lengths, and is offered as a universal replacement cable only, or a complete set with a cable and switch. For more information, call 877-523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.
For those who want a microwave when camping, but not anything larger than necessary, the iWavecube measures just one-cubic-foot — plus it has all the electronic controls and safety features you would expect, and it plugs in anyplace that has a standard outlet. It’s quiet, super-energy-efficient, and measures just 10 inches by 10.5 inches by 12 inches — weighing only 12 lbs. It features a built-in carry handle and view-through door. The product is available in red, black, and silver. Perfect for a dorm room, camping trip or just at the office. For seeing the different ways campers are using their iWavecube check out this link.
The Perfect CampfireGrill
I have the Perfect CampfireGrill original grill and I have given them as presents. I love mine and recommend them to anyone who cooks over a campfire. The Perfect CampfireGrill original grill ($60), launched in 2005, continues to be popular for its large 20-by-25 inch grilling surface that can easily hold 24 strip steaks, 70 hot dogs or 30 large burgers. The Rebel ($40) fits easily into bicycle and motorcycle saddlebags. It can be used over the campfire or as a charcoal grill where campfires are not permitted. At 10-by-12 inches, The Perfect CampfireGrill Rebel is the smallest of The Perfect CampfireGrill products. The Explorer ($30) with its folding legs can be set up at any campsite on the beach, in rocky terrain or at a conventional campsite. The grill provides 12-by-18 inches of grilling surface. When its legs are folded, its 1 1/2 inch thickness makes it easy to transport in most backpacks and gear bags. The Pioneer ($40) provides a circular 18-inch diameter grilling surface that is perfect for weekend getaways and family outings. It is easily packed into smaller vehicles. For more information, go to www.campfiregrill.com.
REI Camp Mini Kitchen
Stow your cooking and dining essentials in the REI Camp Mini Kitchen ($69.93 on sale) so you’re always ready to hit the road! Staying organized in camp helps keep the fun factor high. Features include: Aluminum roll-top table holds most 2-burner camp stoves or other gear up to 60 lbs.; Ripstop polyester storage compartment provides dedicated spaces for a 2-burner stove, fuel bottles, plates, utensils, spices, wet sponges and more; Frame has integrated carry handles. Note: the photo at right shows items not included. For more information, visit: www.rei.com/product/798433
RV Handbook, 4th Edition
Completely Updated – the New RV Handbook, 4th Edition ($29.95) is a 299-page How-To Guide with handy checklists, helpful photos and easy-to-follow charts all designed to keep you on the road and enjoying your RV. This 4th edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is known as the “RVer’s bible” for the RV road warrior; it’s a “no-fluff” comprehensive guide for both novice and seasoned RVers. Packed with checklists; photos; schematics and charts, as well as plenty of sound, user-friendly technical advice. Features hundreds of proven RV tips, tricks and techniques to save you time, money and maybe even your sanity! You simply won’t find this level of detail covered in any other RV book. If you are looking for a complete resource that answers all your RV-related questions, the latest edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is exactly what you are looking for. Click here for more information.
Although this product is marketed toward kids who can use them after gym class at school, I think these would be a great addition to anyone’s RV. QwikShower Wipes – from a company that calls itself My Kids Stink, LLC — are large, moist, single-use disposable cloths with a subtle scent and economical price point. QwikShower Wipes are appealing for many reasons:
• Convenient. Each wipe is individually wrapped for portability and to ensure it never dries out.
• Effective. With a large 10-inch by 12-inch dimension and a resilient cloth-like material, QwikShower Wipes are big and study enough to clean the entire body, also leaving a slight fresh scent behind.
• Green. Environmentally friendly, QwikShower Wipes are non-aerosol and emit zero fluorocarbon emissions unlike popular body sprays. This also ensures the scent won’t invade the personal space of others or overwhelm the small space of a camper.
• Economical. Starting at just 49 cents each coupled with the company’s free shipping policy, QwikShower Wipes are very affordable.
• Versatile. QwikShower Wipes are great for use after sports practices and games, a day at the beach, or an impromptu restaurant outing with the family. Also a stellar solution for adults, the wipes are perfectly suited for boaters, campers and fitness enthusiasts. They are also a must for emergency preparedness kits in the event of water outages.
For more information about QwikShower Wipes visit www.QwikShower.com.
State Parks gift cards
Quite frankly, a state parks gift card or gift certificate is just about the perfect gift to give an RVer. A State Parks gift card is an appealing choice for anyone who likes to play outdoors or unwind in comfort. Gift cards can be redeemed for camping, getaway rentals, cottage rentals or overnight stays in state park campgrounds, and some are good for use at state park lodges. Many states allow them to be used used at State Parks’ public courses, boat rentals at some state park marinas, or for food and merchandise purchases.
“Drives of a Lifetime” from National Geographic
Fall vacations conjure up images of cozy fireplaces, mugs of warm apple cider and drives through gorgeous foliage, rich with the changing colors of the season. National Geographic provides details of hundreds of scenic fall drives and more in “DRIVES OF A LIFETIME: Where to Go, Why to Go, When to Go” ($40 hardcover). Following on the success of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s popular Drives of a Lifetime series, this sumptuously illustrated gift book will appeal to all who have a yen for the open road and for every magnificent sight along the way. Click here for the Amazon.com page for this book.
Duraflame Gold Firelog
Sick of the high cost of firewood? Sick of buying firewood at some campgrounds that’s little more than bark? How about trying the Duraflame Gold firelog for your next campfire. Packaged in chic gold and black, the Gold firelog is ideal for a great weekend fire, and burns longer with brighter with larger flames. The Duraflame Gold firelog is the first 7-pound firelog that burns for over four hours without tending, and is made from 100 percent renewable resources and burns 80 percent cleaner than wood. Available in a four-log pack for a suggested retail price of $24.99 or sold as a single log for $5-6/log. For more information visit www.duraflame.com.
“Winnebago Man” documentary on DVD
The outrageously funny, critically-acclaimed documentary “Winnebago Man” ($29.95) is available on DVD by Kino International. Following its much-publicized U.S. theatrical release in over 100 markets, as well as Jack Rebney’s national television debut as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the DVD is one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year. Click here for the Amazon.com page for this DVD.
Bananagrams ($14.95) is a fast and fun anagram game that drives players bananas! Requiring no pencil, paper or board, Bananagrams comes in a small portable banana shaped pouch and is perfect fun for kids from 7 – 97 years-old, at home or on the go. Bananagrams is available online as a free Facebook Application and on the iPad, iPhone and iTouch as well as in a series of books. Bananagrams recently launched in Spanish, French, Norwegian and German as well as in a larger version – DOUBLE Bananagrams, the big banana for the larger bunch (for 16+ players).
Cascade Sleeping Bag from Peak Camping
I’m not one for mummy-style sleeping bags, but for those who are then jump in and snuggle up for a long rest with this best-selling High Peak USA Cascade Sleeping Bag. With a temperature rating of +20, -5, and -15 degrees F (ladies bag is available in +20 and -5), you can be assured a restful sleep outdoors even during the most frigid nights. The Thermolite Quallo insulation is a special fiber technology that promotes warmth and easy packing and maintains resilience and high loft. The Cascade also features an insulated chest collar to keep cold air from sneaking in. The shell is made of 310T/210T nylon. Dimensions: 31 inches by 79 inches by 21 inches (footbox).
“Along Interstate-75″ book
Since 1992, Dave Hunter (and his wife and travel partner, Kathy) have acquired hundreds of friends and travel industry contacts along the I-75 corridor, who share their “local knowledge” of roadside secrets, local restaurants and ways to save money. “Along Interstate-75″ is published by Mile Oak Publishing, Inc. and is available in bookstores, at AAA in OH, by phone at 800-431-1579, online and at www.i75online.com. Useful travel information to help anyone driving this popular interstate from Detroit to the Florida border and back.
So there you have it. Granted, it’s not the most comprehensive list in the world, but these are things I’ve come across that I thought might catch your eye as well.
From the personal blog: I continue to post information on great getaways to many popular Midwest destinations, including Traverse City’s Winter Wow!fest, as well as great tips on how to protect yourself from the cold. Another pretty cool post was the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds recent announcement of the 32 campgrounds and RV parks that received an ‘A’ grade.
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. No doubt, millions will trek to the abodes of family and friends as the holiday season approaches.
Just how many are traveling with Fido this holiday season? In a recent survey of more than 7,000 pet owners worldwide, www.PetRelocation.com discovered that 63 percent of pet owners say they travel at least 50 miles with their pets during the holidays.
From a safety perspective, unrestrained pets in autos are responsible for more than 30,000 accidents every year according to the ASPCA.
FIDO Friendly magazine shares a ‘Holiday Road Warrior Survival Guide’ as we take to the highways and byways for holiday gatherings with family and “fur-ends.”
This Thanksgiving were visiting my brother and his family in New Jersey, but we’re leaving our dog, Chewie, behind.
That said, we nearly always bring Chewie with us on our camping trips. And, as more and more of us RVers also travel with our pets, some of the following advice is of good use for us as well. Many of these are simple common sense, but as we all know — and one of my earlier posts about world’s worst campers Elvis and Ozzie illustrated all too well — we have all camped next to people who either lack common sense or the initiative to use it.
Keep a copy of all vaccination records. Should an emergency arise once you are on the road, you will have the important information you need. You will also need these records should you ever need to board Fido for the day or overnight if you take in an excursion where your furry companion is not allowed.
Collar and Leash
Remember that taking Fido out of the car for potty breaks must include his collar being secured and him being leashed (don’t forget the poop bags). A foreign territory brings unique smells that are oh so hard to resist, and your little darling can escape before you can say, “Sit, stay.”
With the lives of you and Fido on the line, FIDO Friendly magazine urges us to consider a safety harness for our dogs when traveling. The back seat is the safest place for Fido to avoid air bag deployment in the event of an accident. Acclimate Fido to the harness by allowing him to wear the harness around the house for a few minutes at a time. Graduate to short car trips in the area. Work into longer trips and never scold Fido in the process. He’s getting used to it just as you are. If he could thank you for saving his life, right now he is.
Things to look for in a good safety harness? Strong webbing such as nylon, strong stitching, allow the pet to sit and stand comfortably, and comfort combined with reliability if an accident occurs.
Fido won’t want to get lost, so be sure that he has a current tag with an emergency phone number firmly attached to his collar or harness. Most people travel with a cell phone, making this the perfect number for your dog’s tag.
First Aid Kit
There are a number of dog-specific first aid kits on the market, and if you have the time, you can even put together your own. Some essentials to include are:
• Tweezers to remove ticks
• Styptic powder to stop toenail bleeding
• Eye wash to flush wounds
• Gauze bandage
• Adhesive tape
• Antiseptic moist wipes
Food and Water
Be sure to bring along Fido’s favorite food so as not to upset his stomach. There are great roadworthy foods and treats on the market. If you will be cooking for Fido, make the food ahead of time, and pack it along with your own goodies. Your dog is used to drinking water from your hometown, and when traveling it’s a good idea to bring along as much of Fido’s drinking water as you can, and rely on bottled water as back-up. Nothing puts the damper on holiday spirits or caming trip like an emergency visit to the vet.
Seat Covers and Blankets
We’ve all been there; a camping trip when it rained and our dog’s paws got muddy. Or Fido ran into the lake with the kids, or chased a fish in the stream… you get the picture. Protect your seats with covers and blankets made especially for your type of automobile. Be proactive: Always carry additional towels and wipes to clean off your rambunctious Rover when visiting with family and friends.
Beds and Crate
Don’t leave home without Fido’s favorite blankie or bed. You don’t want him sleeping on the guest bed — or do you? Bring sheets, too, so if your furry companion is accustomed to sleeping on the furniture, he won’t leave any tell-tale signs. If Fido calls his crate his den, then bring it along for a good night sleep during your Thanksgiving trip.
Don’t forget the toys! If Fido is a nervous Nelly when away from home, help ease his discomfort by bringing as many toys from home as you can. Familiar smells and chew toys will help calm even the most anxious pet. If Rocky is a Rachmaninoff aficionado, by all means pack his favorite CD for his and your listening pleasure. For the record, Chewie prefers Jimmy Buffett.
Double-Check Hotel Reservations
You are ready to go—but before you back the mini-van out of the driveway, call your hotel to confirm your reservation and that they are expecting Fido. Nothing says bummer like a newly implemented “no pets allowed” policy since you made your reservation.
From the personal blog: I continue to post many items that would make for great getaways during the holidays and winter months, including all that Southern Indiana has to offer, and a great opportunity for women to learn outdoors skills in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a February DNR clinic.
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
Disclaimer: This doesn’t have much to do with RVing, but consider the following a public service announcement. Plus, it gave me a chance to find this photo of this poor dog dressed up like a hula girl.
While Halloween can be a good time for kids and grown-ups alike, the Humane Society of the United States is reminding all of us pet owners that this haunting holiday may be too scary for our pets. Dogs and cats and other companion animals simply aren’t used to all the ringing doorbells, costumed creatures and general hustle-and-bustle that come into our homes at this time of year.
“For your pet’s comfort and safety, the best thing that you can do is to make sure that they have a stress-free holiday,” said Adam Goldfarb of the Humane Society. “The noises, smells and people can be overwhelming for many pets on Halloween, so create a safe haven in one room of your home where he or she can quietly relax.”
To help keep pets safe and happy this Halloween, the Humane Society recommends the following tips:
• Keep your pets safely indoors, away from trick-or-treaters and other Halloween activities.
• Make sure that all of your pets are wearing tags with current ID. Opening the door repeatedly for trick-or-treaters creates plenty of escape opportunities.
• Keep candy out of your pets’ reach. Chocolate and other ingredients can be toxic to them. (Same goes for chocolate Easter bunnies in the spring; we found out the hard way.)
• Most pets are happiest wearing nothing but their birthday suit, but if you’re one of those people who has their pets wear a costume, skip the masks and make sure costumes are comfortable and do not pose a risk for injury. (For the record, our dog never dresses up for Halloween.)
• Decorations can be dangerous, so be sure to keep them safely away from pets. Candle flames can set fire to a pet’s fur (and trick-or-treaters’ costumes, for that matter). Hanging or dangling decorations also can be an entanglement or choking hazard.
• Use fake cobwebs sparingly, if at all. Pets can choke on fake cobwebs set up indoors. Outdoors, fake webs are a hazard to birds and other wildlife.
• When going out trick-or-treating, leave your dog at home. Dogs can be easily excited by the Halloween commotion and a dog bite or lost dog will quickly end the evening’s fun. (That said, I always take my dog with me when I take the kids trick-or-treating. But I use common sense: a solid grip on his leash and we avoid other people as much as possible.)
Also, don’t forget about wildlife on Halloween, either. Nocturnal animals such as raccoons, possums (or is it opossums?) and foxes will be out looking for food. If you come across a wild animal while out trick-or-treating, keep your distance (and keep your pets away from wild animals, too). And though bats are classically associated with Halloween, those in colder climates will most likely be hibernating at this time of year.
Happy Halloween everyone!
From the personal blog: Tex called me out on my recent post recapping the Fall Detroit RV Show, saying I should have done a better job of finding innovations. He’s right, but I also offer this theory in my defense…
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
You may not have read about it in the newspapers, but there was a chainsaw-wielding maniac at a New York campground last month. And he was camping right next door to an 8-foot tall witch. And throughout the campground were all sorts of smaller witches, ghosts, ghouls and goblins.
It was Halloween weekend at American Family Campground in Godeffroy, N.Y., and the chainsaw and witch were part of the haunted hayride and other spooky festivities. The little monsters, of course, were after the candy, and campers were all too happy to oblige.
The frightful fun weekend is a way for campground owners to extend the camping season, a growing trend all across the northern United States and southern Canada.
“Labor Day is just notorious for people not camping anymore,” said Susan Novotny of South Haven Family Campground in Michigan. “You’ll still get your diehards who absolutely love camping in the fall, but for the most part we needed something to get the families to come out.”
Many privately owned and operated campgrounds — as well as some state parks — have Halloween-, Harvest- and Oktoberfest-themed activities taking place throughout September and October, as well as other fun family activities. Some also have corn mazes and cooking competitions.
“You’d be surprised to know what campground operators are doing at this time of year,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. “Instead of letting Labor Day be their last hurrah, many campground owners have discovered that they can keep having busy weekends right on through September and October, particularly if they have Halloween oriented activities.”
South Haven Family Campground in Michigan, in just its third year of existence, will have three Halloween weekends this year (Oct. 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24) to go along with an Apple Festival Weekend (Sept. 17-19), a Camper Appreciation Weekend (Sept. 24-27), Harvest Weekend (Oct. 1-3) and a Last Chance Weekend (Oct. 29-31 featuring deeply discounted rates and store prices.
By far, though, the Halloween weekends are the most popular, Novotny said, crediting campers who love to decorate their RVs and campsites for making the event so enjoyable for everyone.
“We have people sign up for all three weekends,” she said. “They really like the haunted house, but I think it’s more of just a way for them to celebrate Halloween in a low economic way, and in a safe environment for the kids.”
Campgrounds affiliated with Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts have been offering Halloween oriented activities for years. But independently owned and operated campgrounds are also increasingly getting into the act, including New York’s American Family Campground, which hosted its Halloween Weekend in late August.
“Halloween weekend was a real big hit with the kids,” said American Family Campground ’s Nancy Lane. “The kids get all dressed up in costumes and trick or treat at the campsites, and a lot of the people decorate their campers. One guy had a 8-foot witch, and another ran around scaring the kids with a chainsaw — all in good fun, of course.”
To be sure, these aren’t your ordinary camping enthusiasts, mind you. Many camping and RVing enthusiasts who book their sites during Halloween weekends at campgrounds come with friends and family members and create their own haunted campsites.
“Sometimes groups of people will come and they’ll use two or three campsites and invite everyone in the campground to come in and visit their haunted RVs,” said Sue Trimble, office manager for Far Horizons 49er Village RV Resort in Plymouth, Calif.
Dana Gabriel, co-owner of the Jellystone Park in Swansea, S.C., said during the last three weekends in October, the park is transformed into “Darkwood Plantation.” Guests start their adventure visiting a haunted plantation house, then proceed into the gardens, a cemetery and a swamp where there is a voodoo witch.
“We have a mix of static props, animatronics and 10 or 15 actors who make it a pretty scary place,” Gabriel said.
The Winston-Salem KOA in Statesville, N.C. has generated a similar following with its “Midway Wicked Woods,” a frightening walk in the woods. “It is very scary,” said Jocelyn Hogue, a park manager, adding that the haunted trail is open to campers as well as the general public.
Of course, campground operators aren’t limiting themselves to Halloween-themed activities. Many also offer other activities and entertainment, such as fall harvest festivals, Western-themed weekends and Oktoberfest celebrations. Some campgrounds also offer corn mazes, including the Jellystone Park in Sioux Falls, S.D., which offers a seven-acre corn maze, with an easy section for young children and a more difficult section for teenagers and adults.
Courtesy of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, here is a sampling of some of the activities and special events taking place at campgrounds and RV parks and resorts across the country through the end of October:
• American Family Campground, Godeffroy, N.Y.: This park will celebrate Oktoberfest Oct. 8th to 11th with a krautdogs over the campfire, an evening hayride and a Bavarian dinner.
• Four Paws Kingdom, Rutherfordton, N.C.: This park will celebrate Oktoberfest Oct. 2nd and 9th with German music, a party and German food, including sauerbraten, spaetzle, knockwurst, brats, kraut, red cabbage, potato salad and more. The campground will also offer sausage bobbing for big and small dogs at its dog parks. A Mediterranean potluck is also scheduled for Oct. 16th and will feature Spanish, Greek, Italian, Croatian French and other cuisines from the Mediterranean region.
• Land-O-Pines Family Campground, Covington, La.: This park offers a wide range of activities and entertainment this fall, including “Swamp Pop” band extravaganza Sept. 24th to 26th; a “Pink Party” and walk-a-thon for breast cancer awareness month Oct. 1st to 3rd, with activities including a walk-a-thon, raffles, pink dessert, and a pink bingo party. A “not so scary” kiddie pre-Halloween activity weekend is scheduled for Oct. 15th to 17th with scary Halloween activities slated for the weekends of Oct. 22nd to 24th and Oct. 29th to 31st.
• Lazy River at Granville, Granville, Ohio: This park will host an Oktoberfest celebration on Sept. 24th with crafts, five stations of games, a DJ beer garden and German food, including brats, potato salad, apple dumplings and beer. The campground is also planning Halloween weekends, with campsite decorating contests, trick or treating and a haunted house on the weekends of Oct. 8th and 9th; 15th and 16th and 22nd and 23rd.
• Mountain Lake Campground and Cabins, Summersville, W.V.: This park will celebrate Halloween with costume and campsite decorating contests and trick or treating on the weekends of Sept. 24th to 26th; Oct. 1st to 3rd; and Oct. 8th to 11th, the latter of which will also include a “Monster Mash Dance.” A spooky haunted trail walk is also being planned for a time yet to be announced.
• Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina in Newport Beach: Special activities this fall include a Halloween party on Friday, Oct. 30th, with a costume contest, music, games and dancing for people of all ages.
• Sacred Rocks Preserve in Boulevard: This park, located at the 4,000 foot level in the mountains east of San Diego, is planning a horse camping weekend Oct. 15th to 17th, with free camping offered to those who bring a horse.
• Sea Pirate Campground, West Creek, N.J.: This park will celebrate its annual crab festival on Sept. 18th. The campground will celebrate an early Halloween on Oct. 2nd with a costume parade, trick or treating, a Halloween hayride and cupcakes and refreshments.
• Sky High Camping Resort, Portage, Wis.: This park will have Halloween costume dances and campsite decorating on the weekends of Sept. 17th to 19th, and Sept. 24th to 26th.
• Smoky Hollow Campground, Lodi, Wis.: This park will celebrate Oktoberfest Oct. 1st to 3rd with a mix of adult and kid-friendly attractions, including music, homemade ice cream, root beer, brats and sauerkrat. The campground is also organizing pre-Halloween activities, including trick or treating, costume contests, haunted wagon rides, a haunted pavilion and opportunities to make your own caramel apple on the weekends of Sept. 17th to 19th and 24th to 26th.
• South Haven Family Campground in South Haven, Mich.: This campground will have an apple festival on the weekend of Sept. 17th to 19th with apple crafts, apple juggling and opportunities to learn how to make applesauce and caramel apples. Halloween activities, including face painting, mummy wrap races, pumpkin carving contests, costume and campsite decorating contests and trick or treating are scheduled for Oct. 8th to 10th, 15th to 17th and 22nd to 24th.
• Woodland Campground in Woodland, Pa.: This park will celebrate Halloween with family activities on Oct. 1st. The park will also have an Oktoberfest celebration Oct. 9th with food, crafts and a flea market.
• The Woods Campground in Lehighton, Pa.: This park is having a country western weekend Sept. 24th to 26th with line dancing and a chili cookoff. The park will also have a “motorcycle leather weekend” Oct. 1st to 3rd with a “Mr. and Mrs. Woods Leather Competition.” An Oktoberfest lunch is planned for the weekend of Oct. 22nd to 24th with Halloween activities, including a haunted hayride and costume party on the weekend of Oct. 29th to 31st.
Of course, these are just a sampling of some the activities and special events taking place at campgrounds and RV parks across the country in the coming weeks. Consumers can find private campgrounds in their area by checking www.GoCampingAmerica.com. The site includes links to RV parks and campgrounds, which provide their own “activities” or event calendars, which can help you figure out which parks have activities your family will enjoy.
From the personal blog: Brent Peterson’s “10 Commandments of RVing” needs to be read by every RVer, and probably should be stapled to certain campers’ foreheads.
By Bob Difley
In last week’s blog I wrote about keeping our onboard food stores save from pathogens. But the other half of the story is, how long can we keep stored canned, bulk, and frozen, foods before they either go bad or transmogrify into something else. The good news is that most canned food will last for two years and longer. Even the two year figure is arbitrary. If the can’s seal is not broken it can last for years and years longer.
How much longer? There was a report of a canned meat opened after 118 years and it was fine (canned meats can last the longest). The age of the can is not the big question–after all how long are you going to keep cans in your RV? Five years, ten years? Doubtful. The cans will outlast your RV.
But to be safe, if you follow these storage hints on food you intend to store for emergencies, or when you’re trying to stretch a couple more days into your boondocking trips, you can eliminate your food safety worries.
- Write the date of purchase on the top of the can with a permanent marker.
- Store in cool dry compartment. We RVers have to deal with bigger temperature swings than at home, but the cooler you can keep the cans the less chance they will have of overheating.
- Low acid foods (soups without tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, peas) will last longer than highly acidic food (tomatoes, fruit, and foods with a lot of vinegar in them).
- Before using, inspect can for dents (a can with a large dent can have a broken seal even if you can’t see it), bulging (a bad sign–throw these out immediately), and leaking (also throw out).
- Never eat canned food that has a strange odor, color, or flavor, or that spurts when it is opened. Chuck it.
The Food Reference website states: Canned food retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years, but it may have some variation in quality, such as a change of color and texture. Canning is a high-heat process that renders the food commercially sterile. Food safety is not an issue in products kept on the shelf or in the pantry for long periods of time. In fact, canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75° F and below). Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe!
In canned foods, preservatives are used to maintain quality. The canning process keeps it safe. If a product is correctly processed, it should remain safe until opened or the seal is broken. The U.S. Army has found that canned meats, vegetables and jam were in “excellent states of preservation” after 46 years.
For other bulk foods, packaged and frozen, this chart will offer some broad guidelines on storage of these foods.
For more RVing and boondocking tips, visit my Healthy RV Lifestyle website and also check out my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang our of your RV Lifestyle Buck.
Each summer we try to take at least one extended camping vacation where the destination is going to be as exciting for the kids as it is for mom and dad. Tough to do, but we thought a two-part trip to Cincinnati and Mammoth Cave would fit the bill.
We just got back, and the unanimous verdict is that everyone had a great time — even our teenager!
This, the first of a two-part post, will detail the trip to Cincinnati. The second post will talk about Mammoth Cave.
We left for Cincinnati on a Tuesday morning and later that afternoon got to our campground, Miami Whitewater Forest County Park. The best I can say about this campground was that we were one of only a handful of campers there for our two-day stay, so privacy was not an issue.
Our main complaint is that the sites were not level and the gravel pads were “crowned” like an old country road that slopes off at the shoulders. The “best” sites were 125-137. Most of the others were simply not suitable for an RV of any type, although a small pop-up might be okay.
Another negative: you had to drive past the campground and down to the boathouse near the lake in order to check-in. An inconvenience more than anything else.
A local said the county wanted to relocate the campground to another location in the park, but neighbors near that location protested and the idea was scrapped. The county then spent the money at the Winton Woods campground (which would have been nice to know before the trip).
Other than that, the park itself looks like a great place to take the family for the day. A lake with canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals, trails, a playground, water park, Frisbee golf and an 18-hole golf course were just some of the amenities. Also, the staff was extremely friendly.
After setting up camp, we headed the 17-20 miles to the downtown to see the famous Cincinnati Zoo. We arrived at the entrance just as they closed for the night. Bummer. Nothing on their website mentioned anything about summer hours (I’m sure it’s there; we just didn’t see it).
But we refused to let that get us down! Instead, we looked up a restaurant that was featured on one of our favorite TV shows — Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. And so we set off for Terry’s Turf Club. Tough to find — thank goodness for GPS navigation — but it turned out to be a great idea!
Terry’s Turf Club is a blast from the past. Its outside is crawling with retro signs and vintage kitsch. Old advertising banners mix with life-size metal people waving at passersby. Remember the old Texaco service station man? He’s one of those waving at you!
After an hour wait — the cook said it was a slow night — we made it inside. The dining room was small, cramped, loud and full of more vintage neon and retro advertising signs and clocks and posters and … you get the idea. The whole place only seats about 50, but that probably helps maintain the quality of the food.
Ah yes, the food. Delicious! They lay claim to the best hamburgers in Ohio, and I whole-heartedly would endorse that. Some insist on adding the goat cheese, others want their’s bare. I got mine with caramelized onions and infused cheddar. Other members of the Gr8LakesCamper family enjoyed the BLT’s (six slices of bacon per sandwich). Other items on the limited menu included the filet-mignon chili and crab legs. The patrons were just as eclectic as the decor — suit-and-tie types mixed with the flip-flop crowd, and the ages ranged from families, to college kids, to Boomers, to Boomer-makers.
The following day we took in a Cincinnati Reds game and then, finally, the zoo. We’re a big baseball family, so we try to get to a game wherever we go and we collect a souvenir baseball from each stadium. The consensus on the Great American Ballpark was five enthusiastic thumbs-up. Same thing with the zoo; got to watch a bobcat no more than 3 feet away stalk something in the bushes, and a somersaulting, peekaboo-playing orangutan kept us entertained for several minutes.
That night it was my turn to cook. Honey BBQ-marinated Kansas City steaks cooked over the campfire. It was so good I don’t even remember the side dishes. Okay, yes I do. Green beans and potatoes.
The last thing about Cincinnati before I close out this post: Beware of their smarter than average raccoons. One of those buggers was able to unlatch our cooler and eat ALL of the fruit — pineapple, plums and blueberries. Luckily, he left the 12-ounce refreshments intact.