For some RVers Memorial Day is a day of attending RV park celebrations or planning a special trip for the holiday weekends. But, as Debbie Goode from the GoodeLife reminds us, no matter what your plans, the weather always has a say.
I have been pretty smitten with myself of late..... cause rvparking.com sent me an email asking if I would be interested in doing a guest blog for them. Well, sure Iʼm interested! You want me to write about what? Our plans for the Holiday Weekend. Gee...that may be a problem as we currently have no plans. Who can make plans! Here in Indiana, it has rained for the last 40 days and 40 nights, okay maybe not quite that bad, but still it is pretty wet around these parts.
Just the other day, I awoke to ﬁnd that our site had been upgraded to a “waterfront” view. As you can see by the photo, the pond appeared just across the road from us. It even has itʼs own little “houseboat”. I have no idea if it is available for use. I guess now that we have a pond right out the front door we might be able to do a little ﬁshing.
If we are lucky, maybe Memorial Day will ﬁnd us frying up a big ole mess of ﬁsh. Or might we get out the inﬂatables and just take a relaxing “ﬂoat” around the pond and enjoy the sunshine. Did I say, “sunshine”!
Okay, all kidding aside, as fulltime RVʼers we often avoid doing much of anything during holidays or weekends. We prefer a bit more of a slower pace...without the holiday or weekend crowds. That to us is one of the “perks” of fulltime rving......we can always
wait till tomorrow....for the sun to shine or the crowds to wane!
What did you do this weekend for Memorial Day? Please let us know on in the comments section.
Today's post about boondocking comes from Bob Difley of Healthy RV Lifestyle. You may be wondering why an RV park review website would run a blog post about boondocking to begin with? That's because you can actually review boondocking sites here on RVParking.com. In fact, we have some great reviews of boondooking sites, including some BLM land, the Slabs and sites at Burning Man. Even if you are a boondocker that doesn't stay in RV parks very often, you can still review boondocking sites for us.
You’ve probably heard a lot about boondocking and wondered why anyone would want to camp where there were no water, sewage, or electrical hookups. After all, camping in an RV in an RV resort or campground is pretty comfortable, and living without those hookups would seem to make it less enjoyable.
In reality, all modern RVs have been manufactured to be not only mobile, but also independent of appendages that hook them up to land-based resources. All RVs have a holding tank for fresh water, and most of the time two holding tanks for waste, one from the toilet and one from the shower and sinks. They also have a house battery or batteries to supply 12-volt electricity to the RV and a generator to produce electricity for 120-volt systems, produce electricity directly to both the 12-volt and 120-volt systems, and to recharge the batteries.
So when using your RV’s systems rather than a campground’s, it opens up many more camping possibilities and vast natural areas for enjoying your RV lifestyle, such as in our national forests and on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The National Forest Service (FS) manages the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, encompassing 193 million acres.
The BLM manages approximately 253 million acres--one-eighth of the landmass of the country—most of it in the West. These massive areas, and more managed by other agencies of the Federal Government such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, are known collectively as federal public lands.
The opportunity for RVers is that camping—boondocking—is permitted on these public lands. If you only go to campgrounds, think how much of the country’s wonderful natural and scenic land you are missing, not to mention the joy of solitude when you find a boondocking campsite by a tumbling mountain stream or on a broad desert plain under the shade of a mesquite tree and there is no one else in sight.
First, though, you have to get comfortable with camping without hookups. You can start off with boondocking for just one or two nights, which won’t tax your onboard systems. But to go longer than that you need to learn some conservation techniques and alter some wasteful habits.
Conserve your fresh water supply by taking Navy showers—rinsing down, turning off water, soaping up, rinsing off. Wash your hands the same way. And while you are warming up the water, run it into a plastic tub or bucket and use it to flush the toilet or rinse dishes. Rinse dishes in the tub of water, rather than under a running faucet. When washing dishes, use a small container of soapy water to wash with. Carry extra Jerry jugs or gallon containers of water to dump in your tank in case your pump starts sucking air.
Wipe food off your dishes before washing, then dump your wash and rinse water (but only if you use biodegradable soap) on a thirsty plant several yards outside your campsite. You can also dig a hole and pour the waste water in, then fill in the hole. Filling your gray water tank is one of the more limiting factors in how long you can boondock, so prevent as much waste water from entering the tank as you can. With a little practice you will be surprised at how much water you previously wasted.
You will also want to conserve electricity so that your house batteries last as long as possible. Turn off lights, TV, radio, porch light, computers and any other electrical appliance or tool when it is not being used. Wake up with the sun and go to bed when it does so you don’t have to burn lights well into the dark of night. Use battery operated book lights for reading—and you won’t keep your mate awake by reading with the RV lights.
If you need to use a 120-volt appliance like the microwave, blender, or coffee grinder, or your battery-draining water pump, try to schedule using these in the same block of time while running the generator, which will power them directly without pulling amps out off your batteries.
Finding boondocking campsites
Stop at visitor centers and chambers of commerce for area or state maps that show recreational lands, such as with colored shading to designate the various public lands. Ask in BLM and FS offices or ranger stations for maps of dispersed camping areas, the official terminology for boondocking campsites. Most roads to these sites will be dirt but were built solidly for logging and cattle trucks and fire-fighting equipment and most should be suitable for RVs.
The previous rule for boondocking on public lands stated that you could camp on any appropriate spot off the road, as long as you did not block any roads or parts of roads. The new Forest Service Motor Vehicle Travel Management Plan, which will go into effect in some forests by the end of 2011, will specify which roads are authorized for motor vehicle use and which areas are authorized for dispersed camping (boondocking). Ask at the ranger station or check the individual forest’s website to determine which plan is currently in effect.
A few of my favorite boondocking locations
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is a sprawling former ranch near the Mexican border town of Sasabe south of Tucson, Arizona. Established as a refuge to restore the bobwhite quail to the country, it also is home to herds of pronghorn antelope and is known for its excellent birdwatching. Springs bubble out of the ground in nearby Arivaca Cienega and flow above ground as Arivaca Creek for s short ways before diving again below ground. Even if you are not a birdwatcher, it is a unique desert experience to walk along flowing water and ponds teeming with birdlife. The refuge has 100 widely dispersed campsites and camping is free.
Lake Havasu State Park is a no hook-up park between Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and the lake, which was formed by Parker Dam across the Colorado River to the south. The park’s 47 campsites are widely spaced with a considerable amount of brush and trees offering privacy and some shade. Walking distance of shopping areas and the famous London Bridge. Both to the north (Craggy Wash) and to the south (Standard Wash) are open desert boondocking areas within ten miles of town if you like fewer neighbors and more open area.
Wenatchee National Forest is a vast forested area on the eastern flanks of Washington’s volcanic Cascade range near Mt. Rainier to the northeast. Out of Yakima, US 12 and State 410 split just past Naches. US 12 follows the Tieton River to the south entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park and State 410 along the Naches River over 5,400 foot Chinook Pass to the north entrance. All along both routes, several scattered boondocking sites are located along the rivers. These are good base camps for exploring the National park and forest trails.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area sits in the middle of the Sawtooth National Forest and is adjacent to two wilderness areas. Though several primitive campgrounds are within the NRA, free dispersed (boondocking) camping is permitted along the Salmon River south of Stanley, as well as northeast of town in the national forest. Hiking trails allow access into the Sawtooth Wilderness Area where no wheeled vehicles are allowed.
Bob Difley was formerly a general manager of a national RV rental/sales company and was a fulltime RVer for seventeen years. Bob is an avid fan of boondocking when he's on the road. You can find his past RVing related articles about his travels in MotorHome, Trailer Life, Good Sam's Guide to the Highways, Coast to Coast, Better RVing and many other popular RV publications. Bob also maintains Healthy RV Lifestyle, where you can read many of his articles and e-books.
“So, what’s been your favorite camping spot?” We’ve heard this question a lot. And, each time, I find it impossible to answer. There have been so many wonderful campgrounds or overnight parking spots; each of which was memorable for different reasons.
Like many RVers, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone standout as memorable. But, there are also those surprising gems that you find when you least expect it. For us, it was the Blue Lake RV Resort in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. And, of course, we’ve had our share of unusual parking/camping spots.
When we first started out, I couldn’t believe we would actually stay overnight in a Wal-Mart or Flying J parking lot. Now, it seems so normal to pull into a Wal-Mart and sleep, no? We’ve done some urban stealth parking in several towns. We even stayed on the grounds of a former mental institution/prison where our “backyard” was filled with hundreds of unmarked graves. That last one was by far our creepiest overnight spot (although there were a few Wal-Mart experiences that that come close to holding the creepy title.) One of our favorite (and most non-traditional) campsite, however, occurred last summer.
In April 2010, we settled for the summer at a campground in New Hampshire to prepare for the birth of our first child. While there, we joined a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm where we received a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables each week. We became friends with the owners of the farm and at the end of our summer were invited to stay at the farm--after we left our campground which turned out to be a not-so-pleasant place. What started as just a one-night stay on the farm turned into two weeks. They let us park in their driveway, hook up to their power, and experience the farm life, a life we’ve been contemplating for ourselves in the near future.
We awoke every morning to the quacking sounds of Click and Clack, the farm ducks, who waddled out of the barn and past our trailer each morning. We fed our food scraps to the pig each night. I sat out on the homemade swing with my newborn daughter and watched the chickens freely roam the land. We learned that corn eaten right off the stalk is the sweetest taste ever. Our farm hosts took the time to teach my husband how to process a chicken, a valuable lesson for one who is interested in farming. (They invited me to get in on the lesson but I, well, I chickened out...this time). My husband had the opportunity to help out with other farm tasks, an opportunity he had long awaited. And, most importantly, we learned that a fussy infant finds a tractor ride soothing.
Throughout our farmstay, we continued to receive our plentiful basket of fruits and vegetables, which included bonus items such as recipes, bread and fresh cut flowers. We were often invited to dinner for a farm fresh meal and wonderful conversation and then our evenings ended with incredible sunset views over the beautiful New England farm.
While farm life has always been of interest to us, our first-hand experience was invaluable and encouraged us to continue our farm dreams. This summer as we get back out on the road, in addition to campgrounds, Wal-Marts, Flying Js, and the like, we intend to find some more farms on which to park our home. Through organizations such as World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, we can locate farms throughout the U.S. that are offering food, places to stay, and an educational experience in organic farming, in exchange for volunteer opportunities on the farm. (Please note, that while WWOOF can be an excellent source for locating farmstay opportunities, not all WWOOF farms allow RVs.) Another source is Farmstay US, a site that specializes in agritourism. This site also allows you to specifically search for those farms that have camping opportunities.
If you are looking for a unique camping experience this summer for your family, consider a farmstay. Support an organic farm, eat local, and have a great summer!
In June 2009, Chris and Lani sold the majority of their belongings, bought an Airstream travel trailer and said goodbye to Virginia and hello to the open road. Lani thought this adventure would only last three months. She was wrong...thankfully. They continued their travels into 2010, welcomed a baby girl in July 2010, and are currently spending another winter in Florida with family before heading back out onto the road in April. Follow their travels at http://aluminumbliss.com/.
Any Airstream afficiando knows that there have been a number of co-branded Airstream. Brands that have been cast in Airstream form Victorinox, NASA and Design Within Reach, Mini Cooper and Mercedes Benz. The most popular co-branded Airstream right now, however, has to be the Eddie Bauer Airstream and four Airstream bloggers have been kind enough to offer their insights about it. While Airstream collaborations are often met with skepticism, each has found features they like. But are the features good enough to spend $75,000 for? Read on to see.
First, here are some pictures of the Eddie Bauer Airstream so you can see what everyone is talking about:
Opinion #1: Kristiana Spaulding, Silver Trailer, Designer of Airstream Jewelry and Airstream Interiors
What a wonderful collaboration of two companies that have had real staying power -- Airstream and Eddie Bauer.
The Eddie Bauer Airstream incorporates both brands seamlessly -- the classic lines of the Airstream with the outdoorsy palette, signature Eddie Bauer quilted fabric and stylish durability. It’s a beautiful blend of adventure and comfort in one.
Having traveled over twenty thousand miles with my dog, I’ve designed a lot of my Airstreams with my canine co-pilot in mind. I‘m particularly pleased to see that this trailer has considered the pet owner- with the outdoor hardware for the dog lead and outdoor shower. These small additions will make a real difference to Airstreamers with pets.
The back access storage is also a great feature. My husband and I often find ourselves in urban areas on our road trips home from kayaking. More than once we’ve had to skip a visit to the local museums and restaurants because we were preoccupied with gear out in the open in the back of the pickup truck. If we were towing the EB Airstream we could stash the gear in the back and off we go, from river to a night on the town.
I’m pleased with the look of this Airstream and look forward to seeing it out on the road.
Let me begin by stating I'm generally not a fan of co-branded vehicles and I would categorize a travel trailer as a vehicle in this case. A few attempts immediately come to mind such as the Ford Harley-Davidson truck, the Ford Nautica van, and the Eddie Bauer Ford SUVs. Maybe it's my cynical side getting the best of me, but it seems the only real benefit from most co-branded vehicles is for the manufacturer to extend their marketing reach to their partner's customer base. Combine that with seeing aging versions of not so great vehicles painted in a clothing manufacturer's livery, and it usually makes me think less about both products. The Nautica van wins first prize for me here.
That being said, I actually like the 2011 25 foot Airstream Eddie Bauer. While the basic coach layout seems nearly identical to the 2011 25FB Flying Cloud or 25FB International there's one huge difference which seems really handy for those who live an outdoor lifestyle via the rear hatch. The roll down screen allowing you to leave the hatch open is a nice feature also.
While it's no traditional toy hauler, if one were to haul kayaks or bicycles this could come in quite handy. Perhaps even a light dirt bike or scooter would be possible with an aftermarket ramp and solid tie down points. In addition, the added security of locking larger items in your trailer when away from it sounds very appealing.
However, a close eye needs to be kept on the somewhat reduced carrying capacity near 1300lbs due to the extra weight of the rear hatch assembly which will be further reduced by variable weights such as fresh and waste tank fluids.
Another consideration is reduced built-in storage space which is replaced by the folding dinette and lounge seats.
While I could personally live without the bells and whistles thrown in to make the visual appearance more unique such as the bedding and decor colors, one other huge benefit I see is the darker if not more durable flooring material which will help keep from unsightly dirt markings that irritate those of us with the lighter color flooring to no end. I could not see doing much off roaring with an Airstream, even with one that has slightly larger tires as the ground clearance is quite low and the risk of damage high.
Would I personally buy the Eddie Bauer Airstream?
Probably not. The combination of the increased weight and reduced storage would not fit my lifestyle interests. In most cases the items that I were to carry inside the trailer's hatch for outdoor recreation I would prefer to carry in or on my pickup truck tow vehicle which I don't fear damaging as much, and feel is more practical for loading and carrying equipment. Were I to use the hatch of the Eddie Bauer Airstream instead, I see scenarios where I would have to unload the items from there and load them in/onto my tow vehicle which would make me question why I didn't do so in the first place. For example, unloading kayaks into the water when I'm not camped right on the shore.
The Eddie Bauer isn't just a decor model; its features are directly inspired by outdoor adventurers' sporty 'Streamers who camp with bikes and boats and kayaks and kids who weighed in on their dream machine.
The most unique feature is the rear sport hatch that allows for outdoor gear to be stowed conveniently and safely, eliminating the bother of hoisting items on and off the tow vehicle roof rack. Expensive toys can be locked inside, away from thieves. (Gear, pets and kids can be hosed down before boarding using the outdoor shower.)
To a glamper who generally communes with nature from the tastefully appointed confines of my Design Within Reach Airstream, martini in hand, the biggest lifestyle benefit is that the back hatch invites the outdoors in. The door flips up and a screen slides down, barring entry to bugs but allowing for dining close to the views and a flow of air from front to back for sleeping with the night breeze.
What view, you ask? The premium oversized Michelin tires and higher wheel base provides the necessary ground clearance for offroading to scenic boondook sites, or nearer to the bike trails, lakes and rivers you've hauled all that gear to.
The decor is Eddie Bauer-simple (alas, no deer-antler chandelier) and the durable upholstery on the reconfigurable furniture is pooch-resistant and easy to clean. A final dog friendly feature: exterior tie-downs for pets on a long lead.
Oregonian RG Coleman explores the Northwest and beyond in a crowded Design Within Reach Airstream with a tall mate and two wet dogs. Follow her travel blog 'Streaming at www.airstreaming.net for pop history, humor, and tips for tiny trailering.
Opinion #4 - Mali Mish, Family Traveling Across the US in an Airstream 25 ft FB
If you are a parent, you have probably seen the Eddie Bauer line of strollers and car seats. Or maybe you have seen one of their Eddie Bauer edition Ford Explorers that have been rolling around for nearly 10 years.
Automobiles are not the only thing they have deemed worthy enough for the Eddie Bauer name, in early 2010, they collaborated with Airstream to create an one-of-a-kind PanAmerica that bears the First Ascent name. It spent the entire winter traveling between ski resorts searching of fresh powder and to lay down first tracks.
Talk about a match made in heave, the FirstAscent Airstream was definitely a head turner. It was completely custom built for the FirstAscent ski team on the then brand new PanAmerica platform. It was the first Airstream to feature a rear lift gate that turns a 34-ft trailer into a toy hauler with a garage.
A year later, the partnership culminated to the recently launched new model fittingly called the Eddie Bauer Airstream.
The Eddie Bauer Airstream is basically a souped up Airstream 25 ft FB. In fact, the 25 FB is the exact model that Mali Mish is. Ours happens to be the International Ocean Breeze edition but the floor plan is identical to the Eddie Bauer Airstream.
Here is Mali Mish on the day of us picking her up at the dealership back in October of 2008.
There are obviously some differences between ours and the Eddie Bauer. The obvious and most significant one is the rear lift gate. What the lift gate allows the owner to do is to easily load kayaks, surfboards, snowboards, bikes and whatever you might be into directly into the rear of the trailer with ease. On top of that, it really brings the indoor and outdoor spaces together so you can sit at the dinette with all the comfort of home yet feel like you are connected with the great outdoors.
The Eddie Bauer Airstream also got a handful of added features that make it more suitable for the adventurous type like high ground clearance, larger wheels and tires as well as wheel wells to protect the aluminum body from those rocks you might fling up while towing her through the woods.
The interior also gets a special makeover in order to wear that Eddie Bauer badge. It is sort of a mash-up of the International line and the Safari (Flying Cloud) model with the essence of Eddie Bauer thrown in.
Unveiled a month ago at the world famous Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah, the new trailer officially goes on sale this month and will start showing up at your local dealer soon if it isn’t already there. If you like what you see, be ready for it to take a real bite out of that wallet. Simply fork out the MSRP of just north of $73,000, you too can be the envy of everyone at your trailer park.
So go out an get one of these bad boys. After all, it’s just money. As if you didn’t already know, just like diamonds, Airstreams are forever.
For the full post with pictures and a background history on Eddie Bauer, click here.
About Mali Mish
Mali Mish is the name we have given to our beloved Airstream that takes care of us while we are on the road. We have been proud owners of her since October 2008 and have been on many wonderful and exciting trips. Most trips span a few days to a couple of weeks reaching not too far out from our home base in Ventura, CA.On February 3rd 2010, we filled up the diesel tank and hitched up our wagon for the trip of our lives. We will be heading east for an indeterminate amount of time without a real destination. All we know is that we are going to see the Atlantic ocean by land and plan to explore and learn about everything we find along the way.
The first post in our series about solo women RVers comes from Judy Patton of Ladynomad on the Road to Nowhere. Since she has been full-timing for 9 years, she is an ideal person for kicking off this series. If you are a solo woman RVer who would be interested in contributing to this series, please let us know.
Bio: My name is Judy Patton. I am in my mid-50s and prior to my RVing, most of my career was as a logistics analyst within the aerospace industry, although I also worked as a Federal Investigator, a tax accountant and before/after school care provider. I have been a full-time RVer for 9 years. My journeys are recorded on my blog: www.ladynomad2005.blogspot.com.
I started my RVing lifestyle with my husband, Jim, in 2002. We traveled throughout the U.S., including Alaska, doing volunteer work about 5 months a year with MMAP (Mobile Missionary Assistance Program), Everglades National Park and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Florida. This went on for 3 years until Jim became ill and died of cancer in 2005.
For the next 2 years I was a volunteer at French Camp Academy (a Christian Boarding School in Mississippi) during the school year, traveling to visit family and friends during the summer months. But in the summer of 2007 things changed and I ended up back on the road again full-time. I had left to meet up with friends at the Winnebago Grand National Rally in Forest City, Iowa, planning to return and go to work full time back at French Camp Academy when the summer was over. I was going to sell my RV and everything. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the lifestyle, but I did not enjoy doing things alone. I’m a very active person, enjoying hiking, biking, and sightseeing, and although I could do these things by myself, I didn’t want to. But at the rally in Iowa I met Sharon Del Rosario who was at the time president of the Solos, the singles chapter of the Escapees RV Club. She invited me to attend one of their rallies in Kendallville, IN, in September 2007. It was there I found out about several other singles RV clubs such as the SI’s, the singles chapter of FMCA; the LOWs, Loners on Wheels, a national club with chapters in every state; and the WINs, Wandering Individual Network. Although I remain a member of the SOLOs and the SIs, I spend most of my time traveling with the WINs.
I was surprised at how many single women were out there traveling in their RVs, some full-time and others just part-time. The ratio is about 50/50 men to women within the clubs. Each club has its own benefits and style. The SIs and SOLOs usually meet throughout the year for rallies, staying a week or so, doing some sightseeing and lots of visiting and socializing, but then they scatter until the next rally. The WINs, on the other hand, give you the opportunity to travel with other singles virtually 52 weeks a year if you desire. Their style is gatherings within a circuit or caravan, moving each week or so to a new location. Many times there are multiple gatherings going on at the same time.
Let me explain. Last summer the group started in St. Louis about mid-May and ended up in Astoria, OR, Labor Day weekend, following the Lewis and Clark Trail. They kayaked various locations along the way, including an overnight trip on the Missouri in Montana.They biked several rail-to-trails, including the Hiawatha Trail in Idaho. This upcoming summer will see one group heading to the east coast, taking in Niagara Falls, NYC and Washington, D.C., while another group checks out the Pacific NW. The newsletter announces the dates and locations of gatherings and you show up at the ones you want to participate. Some people attend only a few gatherings a year, while others travel along the caravan route most of the time. To join the WINs you must own an RV, be single and under the age of 70. During the winter the club hangs out in Arizona and southern California, starting with Thanksgiving at Borrego Springs, Christmas and New Years in Yuma, AZ; moving on to Quartzsite for the RV show in January and ending with a dance rally in Casa Grande in February. In between these gatherings the group may be on the beach in Mexico, hiking in the Superstition Mountains, visiting ghost towns and dancing wherever they can. We rarely stay in organized RV parks, choosing instead boondocking locations. We find places to stay on BLM land, forest service campgrounds, National Park campgrounds and other locations. Most of us are equipped with solar panels (I have 3) and inverters. I have gone months without hooking up to electric, just finding a place to dump my holding tanks and filling up with water every 2 weeks. Many of the group belongs to various fraternal organizations. I belong to the VFW, Eagles, Elks and Moose. I can usually find one of these lodges somewhere close to where I am heading and if there parking lot is large enough and there is no prohibiting city ordinances, the lodges welcomes travelers. I truly feel like a modern day nomad, traveling with a group of friends which have become family. People come and go from gathering to gathering, but like any other community, you have friends with which to enjoy the activities of this lifestyle.
For more information on the WINs, check out their website: www.rvsingles.org.
A while back, we took to some of our most trusted RV forums to ask what research our users (that's you!) did before making the transition to Fulltime RVing in preparation for a future post. Some of you replied with the names of books, e-books, and websites that you used for your research. That particular blog post is still coming but we did want to share one recommended website, Travels with Andy in the meantime. Below Andy shares with us his RVing back story and a couple of popular tips from his book, "From Camping to Fulltime" and his CD "Eureka 2 - Bright Ideas for your RV".
Upcoming Contest: We'll be giving away a couple free copies of both Eureka 2 and From Camping to Fulltime in the near future. So make sure to come back on Monday, 2/28 for the upcoming details for how to enter to win!
Eureka! One RVer's Bright Idea
I fell into RVing almost by accident. A friend was looking to upgrade from her small, 15-year-old motorhome to something larger; I had become fascinated by her tales of adventure, and when she mentioned that “Gertie” was for sale, I ended up buying the rig.
Once the initial thrill of having a cozy home away from home had worn off, I began to notice things that could be improved. After leaving my gas cap behind at a filling station, I made a simple wire gas cap holder so I’d have a place to put it while filling up. Then I worked on organizing Gertie’s storage space. I added a few halogen interior lights. It seemed there was always something more to do.
And I took photos, at first mainly to show my friends the enhancements I was making. But pretty soon I realized that I had the makings of a website, which I called “Improving Gertie.” I started getting a lot of compliments on the site. Complete strangers would email me to say things like “You have a well written, interesting site... Any wannabe, newbie or someone wanting fresh ideas (‘RVing 101’) should read ‘Improving Gertie.’ ”
The email that really caught my eye, though, was this one: “Have you thought about getting ‘Improving Gertie’ published in book form? I think it would be a great read, and a help to anyone thinking about RVing.” That set me thinking... and writing. I ended up expanding the “Improving Gertie” website into an electronic book with more than three times the material, covering everything from “home improvements” of all kinds to safety tips. I called it “Eureka! Bright Ideas for Your RV,” and it’s now in its second edition.
What is Eureka?
Over the years I’ve done a lot of tinkering with my rigs, and I’m always looking for ways to make them better—more comfortable, more space-efficient, more home-like. Eureka is a cornucopia of hints, tips, and projects based on my experiences. Everything from how to shower with less than a gallon of water... to plans for making a quilt that turns into a pillow... to ten useful things you can make with coat hanger wire... with more than 800 photos and illustrations showing how to put Eureka’s ideas into practice. But heck, why just talk about it? Here are a few quick examples.
The school of hard knocks
Here's a true story. When I was one year old, I fell down a flight of cast-iron stairs at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology and landed on my head. Some of my friends would say that this explains a lot. It may account for the fact that I can't seem to see a shiny silver awning strut until I walk right into it.
Well, I'm not completely stupid. After a few bruises and a lot of embarrassment, I got the bright idea of slitting a couple of foam swim noodles lengthwise and slipping one over each awning strut. Now the struts are not only visible, but padded. No more black eyes!
Another tip: if your dinette table, like mine, has a leg that sticks out, you can cut off six inches or so of the swim noodle and put it on the bottom of the leg, where it'll keep you from stubbing your toes.
A stretchy solution
The small items in my medicine cabinet tended to wind up in a jumbled heap. Here's what I mean:
So I stapled a strip of 1"-wide elastic across that area, and now everything is nice and neat!
The first time I tried this, I put the elastic halfway up the space... but then discovered that it was difficult to remove or replace the items. Keeping it low (about an inch above the shelf) worked much better.
Turn up the pressure!
My old rig’s shower spray was a bit anemic, which made showering less enjoyable, not to mention taking longer. But I came up with a simple fix: plug half the showerhead's holes, and the flow from the remaining holes is twice as strong. I tested the idea first with tape, and it worked... so I laid a bead of epoxy glue around the outer set of holes, giving me a much more vigorous spray at the same water-saving flow rate.
Many RVers use the Travasak “sleep sack”, a sleeping-bag-like pair of comforters with a removable bedsheet insert. It’s nice, but pricey at $150 to $230. I made my own sleep sack from a couple of sleeping bags and a couple of twin-sized bedsheets—an easy job for anyone with access to a sewing machine. Eureka includes my plans for making your own under-$60 sleep sack.
Doorstops in the cupboard?
Yup! In my kitchen cupboards I use doorstops—the kind that resemble tightly coiled springs—mounted upside-down on the cabinet shelves. They keep the stacks of dishes from sliding around, yet still make it easy to pull them out.
There’s more to Eureka than quick tips, of course. Full-length illustrated chapters cover topics such as understanding and troubleshooting your electrical system without being a technical wizard, connecting to the internet while on the road, keeping your refrigerator cool, building a pantry closet, and making the most of your limited storage space (I have lots of tips on that topic!). For example, here’s a link to Eureka’s complete chapter on electronic books and ebook readers—an increasingly popular way to save space and weight while traveling.
The best part of putting together Eureka has been the enthusiastic response from folks who’ve bought it. Comments have ranged from “Wow, what a gold mine!” to “A must for everyone with an RV” to my favorite: “Eureka is the best money I have ever spent.” No matter what kind of RV you own, you can pick up some bright ideas from Eureka. To get an idea of the book’s scope, you can take a look at the complete index or visit the Eureka homepage for more information.
Andy Baird was plodding along at a desk job, convinced that he couldn't afford to retire... until a friend introduced him to RVing, and he learned that as a full-time RVer, he could retire and live comfortably on a fraction of his salary. Since then he’s traveled over much of the US, and has written several books and many articles about his adventures. You can read about his experiences on his “Travels With Andy” website.
Erin Floresca, RV Editor at BellaOnline.com and one of our frequent guest bloggers has written a spotlight article on RVParking.com. Erin asked us some really great questions that we're sure some of you have been secretly wondering about as well. Like "Are you RVers? If so, what kind of rig do you own?" and the ever popular "What city is RVParking based out of? ". We've included a little excerpt from the article below. As always feel free to comment with any questions that you still might have for us and enjoy!
"So, after writing two guest blog posts and contributing a few park reviews, I decided it was time to find out more about the folks behind the site.
RVparking.com was founded by Erik Budde of T2 Media, a company dedicated to building niche online businesses. According to Budde, "Some of our previous businesses include AboutAirportParking.com which offers detailed information on where to park at over one hundred airports. That site has grown very rapidly and handles more than two hundred thousand parking reservations a month." T2 Media also runs TravelwithYourKids.com, a great resource for parents traveling with children.
So just where does the RV lifestyle fit into this picture? Budde’s parents began RVing about five years ago and he’s been on a number of trips with them. "Looking at the resources available for RVers, I felt that the existing tools weren’t nearly as strong as they could be," says Budde. While some of the online resources his parents utilized featured park reviews, the information available on them was limited. Others had plenty of park reviews, but the listings were often incomplete and the sites were hard to navigate. "No one seemed to offer one of the most valuable items—real user photos," says Budde. "Finally, although RVing is inherently mobile, there were almost no mobile solutions."
Continue reading RVParking.com Spotlight article here
Today's guest blog post comes from Melanie Toast of Travel Toast who has a lot of great ideas about free and inexpensive ways to entertain kids on the road. Some things to come are a post about the Eddie Bauer Airstream from the point of view of Airstreamers and a post about where to park your rig for the Oaklawn races.
Let’s face it: RVing isn’t always the cheapest way to get around. Once you pay for gas, RV parks and propane, you might not have a lot left in your budget for entertaining the kids. The good news is that you’re RVing to show them something other than a video game or the latest Toy Story movie. You have the whole world on your doorstep and you want to create memories experiencing it with them! And with some creativity and planning, you can take advantage of it without going broke.
Here are some ideas we implement regularly to keep our crew of four kids adequately amused during our long treks across the U.S.
When You’re Stuck in the Car
When the kids are stuck in their seats traveling for several hours, it might be tempting to buy up the latest DVDs to keep them amused during the drive. You don’t have to buy out the store for fear the kids will get bored. We try to give homage to the traditional activities families used to engage in, like singing songs, pointing out interesting views and topography, reading books (individually) and sketching pictures. After driving around 30,000 miles so far this past year, we have yet to watch a movie in the truck. I do understand that there are times when you may want everyone to zone out. If that’s the case, we reach for an audio book. We have turned to audio books many times, listening to classics like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Heidi and Alice in Wonderland. It’s entertaining and educational. Best of all, the best books are completely free to download to your iTunes or as an MP3 file. Here’s my favorite free audio book download site: www.booksshouldbefree.com
You will most likely be close to a National Park no matter where you are in the U.S. If you buy the year pass (around $80 for the whole family) you can save a bundle and go as often as you like. When we visited Yellowstone, we drove in and out several times during a week. Just that trip alone saved us money. You can buy the membership here or at the entrance to any National Park.
Our other favorite membership is an annual membership to the North Carolina Zoo and Aquarium. For less than $80 bucks, you can access almost every zoo and aquarium (and some science centers) in the U.S. for free or at a big discount. If you’re not on the road fulltime, check out the benefits of joining your local zoo and see if a membership will give you the same benefits. Otherwise, you can easily joining the NC Zoo at this link. You can check out the local wildlife which is an excellent way to get to know a state.
Bigger cities may offer “free days” for their major museums downtown. For example, Chicago has several museums with free days, usually on a Thursday. If you’re near a city, call the local tourism bureau and ask about freebies.
Libraries are Everywhere!
You may not be able to get a membership if you’re just passing through, but you can still have plenty of fun at the local library of the town you’re visiting. Many libraries offer free puppet shows and craft events that do not require a membership. Plus you can get in some reading time to boot! Go online and do a search for “library” plus the name of your city. Many post calendars with upcoming events.
Sports and Fun at the Local Park
We always travel with our tennis rackets and tennis balls looking for an opportunity to check out the local courts. It’s great to have a family sport that you all enjoy. You could keep a basketball with you or a soccer ball as well.
Aside from sports, local parks are fun to check out, and many have free treasures you won’t want to miss. We just spent some time in Nashville where we saw the replica of the Greek Parthenon at the city park. We didn’t pay for the ticket to go inside, but walking and climbing around the grand building was great fun in itself!
Bikes & Scooters are a Must
Kids love their bikes and scooters. Bring them with you and let them ride around the RV park and bring back stories of all the wild things they see. (Once my son came back shouting, “Dad, I saw a trailer dump its sewage all over the road!”) For some reason, if your kids are on a bike, it’s more thrilling to them than just walking around. Plus, if you bring your own, you can find a local bike path and have a family outing.
Games That Don’t Involve Staring at a Television or Computer
I’m talking Monopoly, Risk, Sorry and even Texas Hold ‘em. Our six-year-old is so good at Poker now, I’m thinking of taking her to Las Vegas when she turns 21 so she can pay for a new fifth wheel (after she and her siblings destroy our current one!). Games are fun, especially when you’re looking back at each other from across a table. You can find a bunch at garage sales or eBay for next to nothing. Plan a game night once a week and try to stick to one game at a time until everyone masters it. It’s an investment, but so
worth the memories. (Plus it’s free!)
Okay, Watching a Movie Once in a While Is Not a Sin
Especially if it’s cheap! Since you’re on the road, renting movies from Red Box is a great convenience and very reasonable at only $1 per night. You can find them at most Wal-Marts, Wal-Greens, and many McDonald’s, and you don’t need a membership. If you really want to save a buck, sign up with them online for freebies and you can get a code emailed to you each week, good for a free rental. You can also use their website to locate a Red Box near you and even reserve a movie at a specific location. Check them out here: www.redbox.com
For more tricks and tips, or to see what we’re up to, check out our website at www.TravelToast.com
Since snowbirding season is still in full swing, we bring you another snowbirding post. This time, Marty and Patsy Martin from Napkin Dreams tell us about snowbirding from a family perspective and give advice to other RVing parents trying to navigate their way through snowbirding season. We have several great blog posts coming up, including a post about the junior ranger program mentioned in this post.
When the average 40 year old thinks of RVing in Arizona in the winter, he probably conjures up thoughts of retirement and the golden years. You know, traveling around to the south with a little bitty dog and plenty of free time. That would be the normal picture.
Our family has never chosen the normal route.
We didn’t want to wait for our retirement years to travel this great country. We wanted to make memories with our kids. We wanted to enhance their education by living history and experiencing science. We wanted to enjoy traveling today because there are no guarantees for tomorrow. So with the ability to work from anywhere, we loaded up our newly christened RV Howard, laid out a rough travel plan and headed out on a two year adventure with our five boys and python snake.
That’s right, five boys, dad, mom and a snake in a 32-foot recreational vehicle! Some may call us loony, but we actually like each other and like being together, so it’s working out pretty good four months into the venture. Naturally part of the plan was spending the winter months in the warm states and the summer months up north. This fall went fairly smooth as we visited Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas. The campgrounds and parks were quiet during the weekdays and full of activity during the weekends.
Then we moved a little farther south and hit snowbird time and territory. We have spent the last two months in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. All in all we have had a very positive experience mingling with the retired set. There have been some pitfalls but numerous good points of RVing during the height of Snowbird season. And I think it is safe to say that, for the most part, we have enjoyed it. But we have had to make a few adjustments.
First the challenges: The biggest challenge is finding an RV park that accepts children.
Actually many parks say 55+, so even my wife and I don’t fit the criteria. And often, it is hard to identify the parks that only accept seniors. There is nothing more embarrassing than driving into a park, registering, and then be told we can’t stay once they find out we have children. Some areas are far more difficult to find RV parks that accept families than others. By far the most difficult locality to find a place to stay that we have encountered is the Phoenix and Tucson areas. We found southeast Texas parks to be very inclusive of families. In fact, we didn’t find any RV parks that had a problem with children. It was a little surprising to us to find ourselves having such a hard time in New Mexico and even worse in Arizona.
Now I understand why some parks and also their patrons want this type of exclusivity. There has been a time or two when we have been parked next to a pile of obnoxious kids who were loud, bullies, destructive or in short just plain and simple problem children. Most families do a good job of keeping their kids in hand, but the frightful few hurt the rest of us. Of course even the best behaved kids can have bad days and melt downs, so I could never guarantee that my own five wouldn’t be disruptive in these quiet little RV parks. So far though, we have had no complaints!
In light of this issue we have boondocked in a few places, but this leads to another issue. Several places along the road we have found Wal-Marts that posted signs reading “No overnight parking.” I wonder if this is because of pressure from local RV parks? So what is a family to do? Unwelcome in the RV park and at Wal-Mart? Research has been our answer. For this internet access is a must. We have been able to find family-friendly RV parks in most major towns after a lot of research on websites.
Our second challenge – cost.
Many parks that can easily fill up during snowbird season, do not accept the half-priced club we belong to, so we have paid quite a bit more in staying at these parks then we were accustomed too. I suppose if we had decided to winter up in the north we wouldn’t have this problem, but aren’t willing to make quite that much of a concession for a saving a few bucks.
Our third small challenge (which hasn’t been a big deal for us) is dining out.
When staying in Branson, at the beginning of our adventure, we spoke with a nice retired gentleman who gave us some helpful hints. One of his hints involved the “Blue Hairs” as he called his flock. “When you are in Mesa and other such points this winter, wait to go out to dinner until about 6:30. Us "Blue Hairs" like to eat at 4:00 pm and you’ll never get a seat for a big family until later.” Since we don’t frequent restaurants all that often this hasn’t proved to be a huge issue for us. But it is definitely something to think about when you are planning to eat out.
Now, the benefits of RVing during the winter season are almost as numerous as the challenges.
Benefit - Our kids seem to find foster grandparents everywhere
We have thoroughly enjoyed hobnobbing with the snowbirds. The biggest benefit is that our kids seem to find foster grandparents everywhere. While we were in Corpus Christi over Christmas, our kids were fussed over and even given special gifts.
On Christmas Eve we all went to a Christmas Karaoke being held at the RV Park’s Community Hall. All of our kids were asked to come up front and sing along with the microphones. Then they were given roaring applause and hugs from the retirees in attendance. Even our teenager enjoyed the attention and gave some bows, hamming it up as usual.
One of the retired couples told our boys that if they were really good on Christmas Eve, Santa could make it snow sand dollars. It was with wonder-filled eyes that our sons opened the blinds on Christmas morning and found sand dollars hanging all over our tented dining area outside the RV. Those sand dollars are now a cherished Christmas ornament and will probably be a memory that we will re-tell every year throughout our son’s lives.
Our children are always greeting and meeting the four-legged “children” of the snowbirds, which is usually fun for both ends of the generational spectrum! Even on tours and sites, the retirees have been very friendly and effusive in their attention to our kids, making them feel welcome and special.
Benefit - Offseason travel leads to relative lack of crowds
One of the other benefits of visiting sites like the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi or Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico during offseason is the relative lack of crowds. It’s been wonderful to roam around sites like these and be able to learn about them without crowds pushing and jostling each other to get a better view. There are even fewer crowds at activities like the junior ranger programs and swimming at the beach! Most of the park rangers at national parks have given our kids an amazing amount of personal attention, answering all their questions and sharing their knowledge with our kids. In fact, we have tried to make sure that we take our sons to most of these places when other families have their children in school.
Benefit - Escaping cold weather reports
Of course, the biggest benefit of RVing in the south during Snowbird season is that we can sit back and smile as we listen to all the reports of cold weather, snowstorms and icy roads. It’s quite possible that our senior southern travelers have understood this all along. Once again, we find ourselves learning from our elders.
The last time my husband and I spent a winter in Florida, we toggled between workamping and sightseeing. After we managed a pumpkin lot in South Florida for a couple of weeks, we spent some downtime lounging around an RV resort near Orlando. Then we headed back south for a month to manage a Christmas tree sales lot and wrapped up our Florida trip with an extended stay on the Gulf Coast. It was a great way to spend the winter because there was so much to see and do. With an abundance of sunshine, palm trees, activities and beautiful beaches, it’s pretty obvious why this state is a favorite among the Snowbird crowd. Whether you choose the Gulf Coast, the East Coast, or anywhere in between, there is no shortage of ideal locations to park your rig.
So, just where do you go once you hit the Sunshine State? It all depends on your RVing style. Looking for a ritzy crowd? You might like an upscale RV resort on the west coast in Naples. Love more of a laid back style? Check out the RV parks situated on the Gulf Coast in Florida’s panhandle. Nature lovers will enjoy one of the 50 glorious Florida State parks that have a campground. One such gem is Sebastian Inlet State Park located on Florida’s east coast about 15 miles south of Melbourne Beach. If wasting away in Margaritaville sounds more your speed, then make a beeline for the Florida Keys. And if entertainment options galore are what you seek, then check out the area surrounding Walt Disney World Resort. One of my favorite Florida RV resorts is located nearby. Encore’s Lake Magic RV Resort in Clermont has super spacious sites, two pools, tennis courts, and a clubhouse; just to name a few of the amenities. It’s proximity to my favorite amusement park seals the deal.
In fact, most of my favorite RV parks can be found within the Encore RV resort family and they are located all over the state of Florida. Their parks are full of amenities and many planned activities as well. Just visit their website, www.rvonthego.com, to find great daily and weekly specials at many of their resorts.
Guest Blogger Erin Lehn Floresca is the RV editor at BellaOnline.com. Visit rv.bellaonline.com for more information.
Miami - Miami Everglades Campground
"This park is great for quite, shade trees, walking, riding bikes, nice people, paved roads, pool and close to everything you need."
"Nice and quiet, friendly, well structured, shady places under trees.. One of the best places I have seen yet." Read more.
Naples - Lake San Marino RV Resort
"We found this park an absolute delight with many very friendly RV'ers. Tons of activities within the park, and a great location to get to shopping, restaurants, beach, etc." Read more.
Key Largo - Kings Kamp
"Beach access and beautiful mornings and evenings on the docks. Very helpful staff. I will stay again." Read more.
Bahia Honda Key - Bahia Honda State Park
"The most uplifting and amazing thing about the entire experience? The kids never complained once and still talk about their awesome camping trip." Read more.
Saint Augustine - Anastasia State Park
"This was a beautiful park: clean and very well maintained... Every site seemed to offer enough privacy and space, and there was a friendly, neighborly vibe. Within 10 minutes from the historic part of town, this park is ideally situated. From what I learned of other options in the area, this is definately the best place to stay."
"There are 2 sections to the park; we stayed in the Coquina loop, which is very shady and has secluded campsites. It is just a short walk to the ocean. There are sites very close to the ocean. The other loop is very open with only palm trees for 'shade'... We loved it here." Read more.
Orlando - Moss Park
"A charming natural oasis; hard to believe you are so close to Orlando's theme park mecca." Read more.
Clermont - Encore Lake Magic RV Resort
"The landscaping in the park is gorgeous, there are many amenities like tennis, swimming pools, clubhouse, etc. Each of the sites is wide and has enough lawn surrounding the sites to give lots of privacy." Read more.
Winter Garden - Winter Garden RV Resort
"The resort is one mile from one of the best bike trails in Florida and some of the best restaurants in the area. Two pools, a small fitness center, and a cypress-lined pond full of water fowl are resort highlights... Safe, friendly, and comfortable." Read more.
Sorrento - Wekiva Falls Resort
"Clean, friendly and the kids loved it!" Read more.
Ocala - Ocala RV Camp Resort
"This RV Park was nice ... Everyone was pleasant ... even the homeless dude that knocked on the door asking for money and stayed for dinner was nice." Read more.
Ocala Sun RV Resort
"Everyone was very friendly and accommodating... The laundry and showers are all newly renovated as is the recreation hall. There is always lots to do from bingo, cards, holiday meals, Saturday night entertainment and pool aerobics." Read more.
Tampa - Bay Bayou RV Resort
"This park was amazingly nice with security, ponds and a large enclosed dog run." Read more.
Arcadia - Riverside RV Resort
"Riverside RV Resort is one of the finest campgrounds for Snowbirds in Florida. The management, winter guests, employees, and activities are outstanding." Read more.
"It is new and all facilities are current and well maintained. Having Marina sites is interesting and the shoreside sites give a great view of the intercoastal waterway. We found this to be a very nice resort. We would go back." Read more.
Fort Myers Beach - Red Coconut RV Resort on the Beach
"Very nice beach front site with very clean washrooms and showers."
"Friendly staff and everything is in good shape. Not the cheapest campground but worth the money, only downside is that Wifi is not free of charge." Read more.
Destin - Destin RV Online
"Great tropical setting with extra large rear patios." Read more.