Traveling gluten-free and with other dietary restrictions

September 7, 2009 by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak · 7 Comments 

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Do you have a favorite brand and flavor of yogurt? A certain kind of wine youFresh, right-off-the-farm veggies
prefer? Do you prefer fresh and/or organic produce? Perhaps you have some ethnic foods you enjoy. If you do and are like me, sometimes you worry whether you’ll be able to find those items as you travel. If you have food allergies/sensitivities, eat only gluten-free foods or have other dietary restrictions, finding them can be a necessity.

George and I found that eating gluten-free is much better for us. We have both lost a lot of weight and want to keep it off. Plus, like many people, we are sensitive to gluten and find it affects our digestive systems. George now bakes gluten-free English muffins for us once a week and other interesting extra-protein, gluten-free bread. He found recipes in Gluten-Free 101: Easy, Basic Dishes Without Wheat by Carol Fenster. She uses a flour mixture that includes sorghum flour, tapioca flour and potato starch that is the basis of most recipes. To that you add other ingredients. Sorghum four and the others are not found in Wal-Mart!

We spend most of the time in the West and I can usually find a Whole Foods or other good health food store to keep certain favorites in stock. When we traveled east of Colorado, I worried that I would be out of luck for many of my favorites. While I may not find the exact brand, it has turned out I don’t need to worry. The familiar logo of Bob's Red Mill
Before leaving for Alaska, we stocked up a bit in our RV, but flour is bulky and we had to go through Canadian customs so kept quantities down. Luckily, we found a store that carried Bob’s Red Mill products in Whitehorse. Fred Meyers, in Alaska, has a natural food section and some of those products too as did other natural foods stores.

As we headed back into the lower 48, George discovered that we would be very close to Bob’s Red Mill retail outlet in Milwaukie, OR so a visit was one of our goals while near Portland. We were not disappointed. Most stores only carry a small selection but the retail outlet has flours made from nearly every grain and bean. What fun to see quinoa flour, fava bean and green pea flours, plus all the ingredients called for in our English muffins. We bought 25 pound bags of sorghum, tapioca and potato starch. We are set for a while! (Click here to read more about our visit to Bob’s Red Mill.]

Eating out
While eating lunch at the Bob’s Red Mill café —sandwiches on gluten-free bread— Sandwich served on gluten-free bread we got to talking to a couple of fellows from Tampa, FL who love to travel. They use frequent flyer miles to get to destinations, then eat at restaurants that add more points to their frequent flyer accounts. One of them has celiac disease and must eat gluten free. That’s how they had come to Bob’s.

He had a list of restaurants in the Portland area that are members of the iDine Club, giving frequent flyer miles. He then used Gluten-free Portland to find ones on that list that offered a gluten-free menu. Portland even has two pizza places that offer gluten-free crusts! Another site, Gluten-freeCeliacWeb lists restaurant chains that offer gluten-free items. Another place to check is with the state or regional Celiac association for local suggestions. Googling the area or city you are in combined with gluten-free should bring back some results too.

Any more suggestions for finding gluten-free products or restaurants? What about other dietary restrictions? How do you handle them while you travel? Can you usually find something to eat on a regular menu when eating out? Have you run into any problems? Let us hear from you.

By the way, here are the results of the poll on what you use your oven for. It will be up for another few days if you want to add your vote.

Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

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Your RV Oven – What’s it used for?

August 11, 2009 by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak · 39 Comments 

Kay Peterson, co-founder of the Escapees RV Club, used to say in her “Living in a Sardine Can” talk that her RV oven was strictly for storage. She wasn’t even sure how it worked. They ate out a lot.

In our case, our oven stores extra pans and it gets used frequently. We much prefer to eat our own cooking. I am lucky – George loves to cook and cooks almost all our dinners plus bakes gluten-free English muffins weekly. Frankly, his cooking tastes better than 99 percent of the meals we do eat out.

Using your own facilities – stove and oven – has other benefits:

  • control over the quantity of food you are served and eat
  • limit portion size for weight control
  • keep food expenditures down.

Some newer RVs don’t even have a regular oven. That should tell you about how much they are used! Instead, they have a combination convection/microwave oven. Some RVers love them, others have never figured out how to cook using their convection oven.

How about you? Does your RV have an oven? What’s it used for? If you have a convection oven, are you able to bake with it or would you prefer the old fashioned kind? Let’s hear from you!  And, if you’d like to participate in a poll on what your oven is used for, click here. We’ll share the results in a future blog. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

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VIDEO: Free Overnight Parking in Canada

July 24, 2009 by · 11 Comments 

When we took our Long Long Honeymoon across across Canada, we stayed in a number of private campgrounds. We love staying in nice wooded campgrounds with full hookup amenities.

But we also did our share of “overnight parking” — stopping in places such as Wal-Mart, Flying J, and even a friend’s driveway. I’m grateful that we RV’ers have these options when traveling.

Even though we prefer to stay in parks, there are times when doing so simply doesn’t make sense. My wife and I often travel during the evening; sometimes we don’t stop for the night until 9 or 10 o’clock. Checking into a campground would be a lot of hassle for a short stay.

The beauty of “overnight parking” goes beyond the attractive (free) price tag. It’s also a matter of convenience. There’s no check in procedure, no check out time, and no site assignment. There’s no paperwork or red tape. It’s liberating.

If you have ever undertaken a major RV trip across the United States, you know what I mean. But have you tried it in Canada?

I’m happy to report that overnight parking works pretty much the same in Canada as it does in the United States. There’s no shortage of Wal-Marts in Canada, and they are generally quite welcoming to RV travelers. Just park in a remote corner, be a good citizen, and do a little shopping. You should also check for signs — some Wal-Marts have designated certain areas of parking lot for overnight parkers.

Flying J ups the ante on Wal-Mart just a bit. Although these parking lots are usually noisy (thanks to the ongoing presence of large trucks) they also have free dump stations and fresh water. For $5 one can purchase a 24-hour wifi access pass. Although I usually grumble about paying a surcharge for wifi, in this case I could not complain.

Yes, you can “overnight park” in Canada the same as in the United States. Given the wonderful opportunities for travel throughout our northern neighbor, this is good news for us all.

For more fun RV videos and articles, check out our AWARD-WINNING website: It was recently named the #5 RV blog on the Internet! That merits a click, dontcha think?

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RVSEF Set to Launch RV School

July 6, 2009 by Bob Difley · 5 Comments 

By Bob Difley

The RV Safety and Education Foundation (RVSEF) has recently taken up the baton of RV education, replacing the popular and successful Life On Wheels RV Conferences that were canceled upon the death of Gaylord Maxwell, its driving force and guiding spirit. RVSEF is conducting its first school for RVers this year during the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Harrisburg September 13 – 16, 2009.

Walter Cannon, Executive director of RVSEF, is familiar with Life On Wheels, having taught RV safety classes there before its demise. The new class roster will include technical classes on understanding and troubleshooting RV appliances, safety issues like brakes, towing, weighing your RV, driving instruction. as well as lifestyle classes. and all conducted by experts and long time RVers.

This is a difficult economy to start a venture such as this, as valuable a resource as it is, and RVSEF will need all the help it can get. So talk it up to your friends who are just purchasing their first RV, those that have already started the RV lifestyle yet want to learn more, and those that have been on the road for several years and want to become more independent and self sufficient, as well as learning about what new equipment is coming on the market.

You can see a description of the safety clinic and the courses offered on the RVSEF Web site.


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Making your RV your home

April 25, 2009 by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak · 309 Comments 

RVs are pretty much built with cookie cutter molds – all come out looking much the same. With the exception of those custom builders, they are like subdivision houses. You may have a choice of a couple of floor plans and a couple of colors, but not much else. In fact, manufacturers discourage changes.

When George and I were trying to find an RV sized between his 33′ New Horizon 5th wheel and my Lance camper, we finally zeroed in on the Safari Trek. However, it would need modifications to work for us. Safari charged $750 as a re-engineering fee, and that was not including any parts or labor. That was just to interrupt the assembly line. Needless to say, we decided against that and kept the New Horizon.

With an existing rig there are many ways RVers make it a home.

  • Add or change furniture – typically remove couch and dinette and replace with recliners, real table
  • Convert an area to an office or work area
  • Take out or recover valances with own material. Put up new window treatments
  • Add throw rugs, pillows, bed coverings
  • Put up personal photos or paintings
  • Replace knobs on cabinets and drawers
  • Change faucets
  • Repaint the exterior with different colors or design or add a rear mural
  • Replace carpet with vinyl or wooden floors
  • Exchange the mattress for a more comfortable one
  • Make rig more handicapped-accessible

Some go to more extreme measures like painting or modifying the walls. One RVer even gave the walls a stucco effect.

RV door modified for lift

RV door modified for lift

In our original RV, a ‘98 Pace Arrow, we removed both couch and dinette and built in an office area plus put in a more comfortable recliner. We also added photos. New Horizon is one company where you do design your own rig. George did a wonderful job with layout and with other touches. We have some of his photos hanging too plus his fly fishing rod, some fun hats and a new bedspread. He also took up the carpet in the kitchen area and put in a wood flooring. So much nicer!

Love seat recliner

Love seat recliner

You do need to be conscious of weight. One bookshelf, loaded with fly-tying books that George put in, caused the tires on that side to blow. That side was 300 pounds overweight. The bookshelf had to go.

What have you done to your rig to make it more individualized and your home?  How has it worked for you? You can also vote at our poll, “Have you remodeled/redecorated your RV?

Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

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RV fire- do you know what to do?

April 7, 2009 by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak · 15 Comments 

Around the time Tony posted Firedude’s RV Fire Safety, I was also working on an article, “Are You Fire-Safe on the Road?“. I interviewed Mac McCoy, better known as Mac the Fire Guy, as well as got an idea or two from Tony.

RV fire in a campground

RV fire in a campground

As I wrote in the article, once George and I could not open the door to the 5th wheel. We have two windows that open as emergency exits. The one in the bedroom is a LONG drop to the ground. The one at the other end, behind our love seat recliner, is still a long drop but not so far. I first started out headfirst but realized I’d land on my arms and head- not a good plan. Trying to maneuver myself out with the love seat moving and not wanting to scrape myself to pieces on the metal frame took time – even with George’s help – but I finally got out with just a scrape on my arm. I wondered if George could have fit. Fortunately there was no fire. A fire is not the time to be wondering where the escape route is, how to open it, and how you’ll get out.

Ladies, do you know how to get out of your rig on your own? Do you know how to operate your fire extinguisher and which types of fire(s) it should be used on? Do you ever clean your detectors? Inspect your extinguishers? Do you have a plan for getting out? Unless you can answer all these questions “Yes,” you are not prepared.

Another thing my editor added is, “Do you know your location when parked and driving?” They had a fire and Megan wasn’t sure of the location. Mark was busy fighting the fire. Be aware of your location even if you aren’t driving – just in case.

Andy, a solo woman, sent me the story of her RV fire after publication. The cause appeared to be a malfunction on the stove. The plastic knob was off but the brass fitting was still on low, releasing propane. In spite of quick thinking and help on the part of her neighbors in the RV park, she lost everything. You can read her story and advice here.

From 2002 to 2005 – the latest statistics – there were on average 3,100 RV fires each year. These fires caused 7 deaths, 62 injuries and approximately $41 million in damages in each of those years. An RV fire is not something to mess around with. The first step is to be prepared. Have a plan, make sure you having propane, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors properly located and operating properly, then know what kinds of fire extinguishers you have and where they are located plus how to use them.

Just like you should know how to hook up and unhook and drive your RV, you should also be prepared for an RV fire and not leave that up to your partner. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

Typical extinguisher found in the RV kitchen area

Typical extinguisher found in the RV kitchen area

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Staying fit as you RV travel

March 20, 2009 by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak · 7 Comments 

Staying fit and not gaining weight can be a challenge on the RV road. It may feel like you are moving when you travel, but actually you are sitting a good part of the day. When you stop for the night, or before you leave in the morning, you need to set aside time to exercise.

At the RV park

Before you leave in the morning or after you get settled, take a walk around the park. It can be fun to see the different RVs and where they are from, even strike up conversations. You may not get your heart rate up, but it some activity. Riding your bicycle around the park is another alternative. Use the pool and swim laps if the park has one.

RV parks and resorts designed for longer stays may have exercise equipment, courts for bocce ball, pickleball or tennis, larger pools. Often they offer classes or have tournaments that you could take advantage of if you stay for a few days or longer.

Read more

Hi ladies!

February 27, 2009 by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak · 509 Comments 

I have been asked to join the bloggers posting at “A Woman’s View.” I’m excited about the opportunity to have conversations on topics that relate to women and RVing. I made a short video to watch and eagerly await your suggestions for topics and comments.

In the video, I mention that Alice and I led a workshop at a recent RV rally on RVing from the woman’s perspective. In our Roundtable Discussion, women made several suggestions for living with a mate 24/7. Here are the first five:

  1. Tell your partner, “I need alone time.” It is not your responsibility if his feelings are hurt.
  2. I need a “Kay” day (after Kay Peterson’s “Living in a Sardine Can” talks). Good, nonthreatening signal that you need alone time.
  3. Pack your partner a lunch. The number of sandwiches indicates how long he should be gone!
  4. Make sure he knows he needs to find a way to entertain himself at times.
  5. Find women to talk to at RV rallies or in an RV park. Put up a note at an RV park inviting women to join you in the club house or in front of your rig at a certain time. In one RV group I belong to, we usually have one or more women’s group meetings.

Any other suggestions?

Until the next time, safe travels.


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How to Choose the Right RV for You

September 28, 2008 by Alice Zyetz · 13 Comments 

Large Class A with ToadMany of the comments you made after the first blog entry relate to how to choose an RV, especially for women starting out. There is no simple answer. It depends on how often you plan to use your rig, where you want to park, how much experience you’ve had in the past, how much money you have to spend, and more.

Generally speaking, women traveling solo tend to buy motorhomes. They are easier to park, easier to hook and unhook the toad (if they even use one) rather than a tow truck, and easier to depart rapidly if a situation proves threatening. But even that is not a strict rule. Some women prefer driving a truck and hauling a fifth wheel or travel trailer. My guess is that they’ve had some prior experience. One of my favorite comments made by a solo woman (a trailer devotee) was, “I don’t worry about being in an unsafe situation and feel I have to hook up immediately. I don’t put myself into those environments.” Read more

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