Mission a Prime Destination For Winter Texans

Located right in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, about 250 miles south of San Antonio, lies a tight knit community of friends, family, and children.

The raucous Plain Chachalacas are just one of the very common birds you can find congregating at feeding stations placed throughout the nature centers in the Rio Grande Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

The raucous Plain Chachalacas are just one of the very common birds you can find congregating at feeding stations placed throughout the nature centers in the Rio Grande Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

During winter, they embrace the thousands of Winter Texans that call Mission their temporary home. With winter temperatures averaging 72 degrees and with a ZERO percent chance of snow… why wouldn’t they?

Mission has a little bit of everything for everyone. Close enough to the hustle and bustle of a larger city, but far enough from the harsh cold winters most are trying to escape. While Mission has over 80,000 permanent residents, the Sunbelt community caters to those looking for a sunny alternative to blizzards, snow shovels, and tire chains.

Mission looks forward to another season full of fun loving, adventure seekers who also want to just kick up their feet and enjoy a margarita right on the calm waters of the Rio Grande. There is never a shortage of activities to do, places to visit, or delicious Tex-Mex food to eat.

With more than 300 butterfly species, Mission is proud to be the butterfly capitol of the US.

Two hundred butterfly species have been seen at Mission’s National Butterfly Center, a project of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and study of wild butterflies in their native habitats. This 100-acre wildlife center and native species botanical garden contains trails for exploring, observation areas, garden café, educational exhibits, and a plant nursery. The beauty of the natural world, the wonder of butterflies, particularly and the powerful role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and sustainable food resources. The Center is open for exploration daily.

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission.

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Butterfly Center is honored to host the 19th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival. From November 1-4, 2014, attendees will spend three days exploring renowned public lands and private properties with world-class trip leaders and expert guides. The Festival is taking place during prime butterfly season, when you may reasonably expect to see more than 60 species in a day.

In keeping with all the nature that surrounds the area, Mission is also home to the World Birding Center. Known as one of the top birding destinations in the country, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park well deserves its status as headquarters of the World Birding Center. Birders across the nation know Bentsen as a treasure trove of unique Valley specialties, tropical birds found nowhere else in the United States.

Striking Green Jays with bright green backs, purple-blue heads, and yellowish-green under parts; radiant orange Altamira Orioles; Great Kiskadee, an eye-catching mix of black, white, yellow, and reddish-brown; and raucous Plain Chachalacas are just a few of the very common birds you can find congregating at feeding stations placed throughout the park.

Other neo-tropical varieties such as Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Clay-colored Thrush, Hook-billed Kite, and Gray Hawk are also likely. Virtual clouds of migrating Swainson’s and Broad-winged Hawks are a popular spring and fall spectacle.

Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mission prides itself on the affordable appeal of the town and it’s amenities.

New restaurants and stores open weekly and huge projects such as the University Of Texas Medical School and a Space X commercial launch pad plan to call the region home.

The recent media exaggerations of the lifestyle in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas have raised some concerns. However, contrary to what is reported by mainstream media regarding safety and illegal immigration, Mission is, in fact, one of the safest places to be. The community’s priority is the security of their visitors and residents.

With its wide variety of outdoor recreation, such as kayaking, canoeing, biking, and golfing at one of four premier golf courses and world class birding and nature attractions, Mission is a place where simple activities become rich and enjoyable experiences.

Mission extends an invitation to come for a visit and see for yourself why thousands of Winter Texans return every year.

A few of the hundreds of black-bellied whistling ducks that make their home in the Mission area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A few of the hundreds of black-bellied whistling ducks that make their home in the Mission area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

For additional information on the Mission, Texas, area visit the following websites:

Discover Mission: www.discovermission.com

The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce: www.missionchamber.com

National Butterfly Center: www.nationalbutterflycenter.org

World Birding Center: www.theworldbirdingcenter.com

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

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Planning For Retirement

Preparing for retirement is a lot of work. That’s one of life’s great ironies.

Don’t retire from something, retire to something. What will you retire to? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t retire from something, retire to something. What will you retire to? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Both financial and physical well-being in retirement require foresight and planning.

In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey writes, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

Financial security in retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and commitment and, yes, money. The average American spends 20 years in retirement yet most people aged 50 to 64 have nothing or next to nothing in retirement accounts and thus will rely solely on Social Security. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.

Aspiring to be financially independent gives you unique choices. It allows you to do what you want with your golden years. But financial goals don’t just happen. You must make them happen.

A financial plan is a road map helping you navigate to your dreams. This step requires you to assess where you want to be five, 10, and 20 years from now and answer some big questions, such as where you want to live in retirement and when you want to stop working.

Although far too many people fail to plan their financial resources, perhaps even more people fail to plan how to invest their hours and days once the structure of the work week is removed by retirement.

Retirement is a time of which most of us have dreamed. It seems wonderful to have fewer responsibilities, be on vacation all the time, and do as we please. Retirement can be all these things, but it is just as important to plan for retirement emotionally as well as financially.

How will you spend your sunset years? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How will you spend your sunset years? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In his book “Invisible Man” Ralph Ellison writes, “Don’t you know the quickest way to die is to retire?”

Unfortunately, there is considerable research evidence to suggest that he is on to something here.

Although many complain about our long hours at work, the work week establishes a certain stability and structure to our lives.

It may sound utopian to be freed from work responsibilities, and to enjoy, as Henry James in “The Portrait of a Lady” writes, “weeks and months made up only of off-days.”

The removal of this structure, however, without plans to invest one’s time, often leads to boredom, aimlessness, and decline.

Although many people have hobbies and delayed projects to fill their retirement days, others find their lives to be suddenly empty and void of meaning.

A co-worker once told me, “I’m retiring in a month and I never did figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up!” Though that’s an extreme case, I know he’s not alone in failing to set goals or planning how to achieve them.

How will we use our new freedom, our unfolding spare time? How will we convert the windfall of free time into self-fulfillment?

In “Fathers and Sons” Ivan Turgenev writes, “There’s an empty space in my trunk and I’m stuffing hay into it. It’s the same with the luggage of our own lives. It doesn’t matter what you fill it with so long as there’s no empty space.”

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it does matter. Retirement gives us control and choices as to how we spend our time. We now have the time to pursue hobbies and projects of interest.

In “The Chosen” Chaim Potok writes, “I am doing things I consider very important now. If I could not do these things, my life would have no value. Merely to live, merely to exist—what sense is there to it? A fly also lives.”

If there is no sense or meaning to it, then Isaac Singer’s character in “The Manor” is correct. “I can die, I am no longer needed.”

For the last seventeen years we have been making our way south, leaving the cold northern winters behind in favor of enjoying the warmth and sunshine of places like Palm Springs, Ol’ Airy Zonie, southern Texas, Alabama Gulf Coast, and sunny Florida.

The southwest is amazing. The colors are vibrant, the land varied and breathtaking. The way the Texas countryside changes from the stark desert to the prairie to the juniper forests and lush green of the hill country is spectacular.

Staying for months at a time we enjoy the Snowbird Lifestyle.

Don’t retire from something, retire to something.

What will you retire to?

Worth Pondering…

Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead—that is where your future lies.
—Ann Landers

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Family Vacation Photos Subject to Tax & Fines

Taking photos from your phone now poses a serious risk to your pocket book.

National Forest land along the Apache Trail, Arizona).

National Forest land along the Apache Trail, Arizona). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Believe it or not, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is finalizing plans to fine photographers who shoot on federal wild lands without a permit.

Under the measure, still photography and commercial filming in Congress-designated wilderness areas would require a permit, and shoots would also have to be approved and meet certain criteria like not advertising any product or service and being educational.

These policies would require journalists to apply for a $1500 permit to photograph the 36 million acres of designated wilderness area administered by the USFS, reports Oregon Live.

These new rules would also make it illegal for independent photographers to take photos or shoot video (even with a camera phone) and would result in a fine of $1000 per shot. This even includes family vacation pictures! If you uploaded 10 photos to Facebook from a family vacation the government then fines you $10,000.

Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said in a statement the directive has been in place for more than four years and “is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild  places.”

National forest lands at Brasstown Bald, North Carolina.

National forest lands at Brasstown Bald, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, says the restrictions are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.

Close didn’t cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it’s addressing. She didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.

She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”

Exploiting public lands with a camera? Really?

The Forest Service’s previous rules caused a fuss in 2010, when the agency refused to allow an Idaho Public Television crew into a wilderness area to film student conservation workers. The agency ultimately caved to pressure from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Critics have characterized the rules as too vague and say it infringes on the First Amendment’s free speech clause.

Cradle of Forestry, North Carolina

Cradle of Forestry, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

“I am very concerned about the implications this has for Americans’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press,” U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell.

“It is also very troubling that journalists could be held to different standards at the discretion of the issuing officer depending on the content of their stories and its relevance to wilderness activity.”

Walden said he worried access might be granted “based on political calculations” and noted a majority of Oregon land is controlled by the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also voiced concern for the policy.

“The Forest Service needs to rethink any policy that subjects noncommercial photographs and recordings to a burdensome permitting process for something as simple as taking a picture with a cell phone,” he told Oregon Live.

“Especially where reporters and bloggers are concerned, this policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment.”

Most of the country’s wilderness is in the West. Nearly 50 wilderness areas have been designated in Oregon, including wide stretches of land around Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Washington.

National Forest Land enroute to Fish Lake, Utah

National Forest Land enroute to Fish Lake, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights

The rules allow exceptions only for breaking news coverage of events like fires and rescues. They’re more stringent than similar policies on wilderness areas managed by a different federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM does not require any special permit for newsgathering in wilderness areas.

The Forest Service is currently accepting public comment on its proposal.

Worth Pondering…

Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.
—Charles Lindbergh

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Motorhome Driving Is Easier With Comfort Drive

For many, getting behind the wheel of a motorhome isn’t the pleasurable experience it should be.

Comfort Drive-logo-horz

Comfort Drive creates the ultimate combination of advanced technology and intelligent design.

Maneuvering in and out of tight spaces can be a chore, while maintaining control at highway speeds—especially in the midst of a crosswind—can be downright difficult.

Several years ago, the engineers at Nappanee, Indiana-based Newmar Corp decided to change all of that. The result was one of the biggest steering breakthroughs the RV industry has ever seen—Newmar Comfort Drive Steering System.

What is Comfort Drive?

Comfort Drive Steering is an intelligent steering system that decreases driver fatigue often associated with operating a typical diesel pusher over long distances. It also aids a driver to maintain a straight path by compensating for cross-winds and crowns in the road.

Comfort Drive creates a positive on-center feel which reduces parking efforts and improves reversibility when backing up a motorhome.

With Comfort Drive, you’ll exert less effort turning the wheel when you drive, back up, and turn. This advanced technology responds to your steering—then makes your driving experience easier.

2015 King Aire 4553 Florence Interior and Sable Maple Cabinetry

2015 King Aire 4553 Florence Interior and Sable Maple Cabinetry

Comfort Drive removes friction from the steering process so you steer with a light grip, making long trips less tiring. It makes your motorcoach handle more like a car with a self-straightening wheel and lane change sensor adjustments that make it easy to stay in a lane once you’ve committed to it, even at high speeds.

With Comfort Drive you can fine-tune the system’s resistance and responsiveness with a touch of the adjustable Comfort Drive controls right on the dash.

Enhanced Comfort

2015 LondonAire Front

2015 LondonAire Front

By actively adapting to your steering inputs while eliminating friction, Comfort Drive lets you steer with a light grip that won’t leave you feeling sore and fatigued after a long trip.

With Comfort Drive, you’ll exert less effort turning thanks to a self-straightening wheel that makes parking and navigating tight spaces easy.

Experience Comfort Drive for Yourself

Newmar first introduced the Comfort Drive Steering System on its 2007 Luxury products.

Comfort Drive is now available throughout the entire Newmar diesel and luxury line, which includes:

  • Ventana LE
  • Ventana
  • Dutch Star
  • Mountain Aire
  • London Aire
  • Essex
  • King Aire

Test drive Comfort Drive today and experience the Newmar Difference for yourself.

Your Western Canada Newmar dealer is Midtown RV in the sunny Southern Okanagan community of Penticton.

Details

Newmar Corp

NEWMAR: When You Know The Difference

Newmar Corp image001Established in 1968 Newmar is an innovator and leader in the RV manufacturing industry and recognized for its excellence in quality.

Newmar Corp is privately owned and has a dealer network that spans across the United States and Canada.

Newmar Corp is located at 355 N. Delaware Street, Nappanee, Indiana.

Newmar Corp currently manufactures Class A gas motorhomes (Bay Star Sport, Bay Star, and Canyon Star), Class A diesel motorhomes (Ventana LE, Ventana, and Dutch Star), and luxury Class A diesel motorhomes (Mountain Aire, London Aire, Essex, and King Aire).

Address: 355 N. Delaware Street, PO Box 30, Nappanee, Indiana 46550-0030

Phone: (800) 860-0086

Website: www.newmarcorp.com

Worth Pondering…
In every thought and action, think excellence.

—Byrd Bagget

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Snowbird Destinations

Snowbirds flock to Ol’ Airy Zonie, Southern Texas, Florida, and other Sunbelt states and Mexico to avoid winter’s bite, snow and blowing snow, and treacherous icy sidewalks and streets. Northern Europeans are also known to migrate to the U.S. Sunbelt, adding to these communities of seasonal residents.

On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma’s been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona, Yuma’s been at the crossroads for centuries. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The available options are unlimited enabling snowbirds to design their winter lifestyle to suit their financial ability and social preferences.

The basic question is WHERE are YOU going to go? Do you prefer the Pacific or Atlantic coast or Gulf of Mexico with their sunny beaches, or arid desert? Is your preference for dry air or higher humidity? Do you enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, or biking?

The majority of snowbirds migrate straight south from their northern home. As a result most snowbirds from the Northwest tend to winter in Arizona and California; those from the Midwest in Texas; and snowbirds from the Northeast head to Florida.

Another consideration is finding an RV park that is within your budget. Even with the recent escalation of RV park rates, one can still find a spot for about $400/month.

Large snowbird parks offer a variety of activities: swimming, dancing, woodworking, quilting, lapidary.

With an RV, you have the freedom to check out places that appeal to you. Experiment before you decide to settle into one place. Or, like us, you may prefer to be “roving gypsies”.

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California's southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation.

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California’s southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Warm weather hubs such as Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California are tops for their predictable warm weather. But other states are also becoming popular—Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Arizona

The majority of snowbird resorts are centered around Mesa, Apache Junction, Tucson, Yuma, and along the Colorado River.

One of the hottest spots in terms of growth is YUMA (Yearly Uncontrolled Migration of the Aged), which doubles in population during winter months.

Any discussion of Arizona and snowbirds would be incomplete without mentioning Quartzsite, a rock-hound paradise since the 1960s. Quartzsite has been described as “$400,000 motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for FREE camping”.

Texas

The aptly-named Roseate Spoonbill is one of Florida's most distinctive wading birds. Spoonbills feed on fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects with its unusual shaped bill. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The aptly-named Roseate Spoonbill is one of Florida’s most distinctive wading birds. Spoonbills feed on fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects with its unusual shaped bill. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thousands of snow-weary Northerners flock to Texas during winter. In Texas—a state famous for adding its unique flair—migrating snowbirds have been dubbed “Winter Texans”.

Most congregate in one of two areas: Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley.

The majority of Winter Texans flock to “The Valley”, an area near the Mexican border that stretches from Brownsville and Harlingen in the east to Mission in the west—a distance of about 65 miles. Winters tend to be mild and a bit breezy. With less expensive living costs, the Valley is arguably the best bargain in the U.S. for wintering in a warm climate.

Florida

Think Florida, and you have thoughts of dazzling white beaches, wind-swept palms, endless citrus groves, fresh-from-the-water seafood, delicious key lime pie, Kennedy Space Center, NASCAR drivers at Daytona International Speedway, well-manicured golf courses, the Everglades, Key West, Disney World, and other Orlando-area theme parks.

Florida is the only state where you can winter anywhere. The further south you go, the warmer the winter temperatures.

There are so many choices depending on your interests and budget. The cost of RV parks increases as you travel further south and with proximity to the Atlantic or Gulf Coast.

California

Winter weather is close to perfect in Palm Springs and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter weather is close to perfect in Palm Springs and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The majority of snowbirds who make California their winter home, head for the Coachella Valley. This is desert country with an occasional oasis—some natural but mostly man-made. Known world-wide as “the golfer’s paradise”, golf courses abound.

Synonymous with the good life, Palm Springs is a retreat of the rich and famous, the ultimate in resort living. Swimming pools and fairways almost overlap. People who can afford to winter anywhere in the U.S. often do it here where winter weather is close to perfect.

In conclusion

Every fall when I hear the geese honking overhead, something starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose”. Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I pack up the RV and head south to the Sun Belt.

And, remember, getting there is half the fun.

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Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

Last year, German camper specialist Knaus Tabbert used the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon to present its vision of the future camping trailer.

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

The yacht-inspired Caravisio was a large, luxurious home-on-wheels with improved aerodynamics. Thanks to the bed positioning, the front is arrow-shaped which has a positive effect on the upstream flow angle.

This year, Knaus went small, light and simple, presenting the Travelino concept, a compact trailer outfitted with space- and weight-saving features.

Strangely, Knaus appears to have abandoned all the aerodynamic headway it made with the Caravisio, reports gizmag.

The Travelino is much broader and less streamlined than last year’s concept trailer and appears less aerodynamic than most teardrops currently available in the marketplace. The curved trapezoidal prism is broad from every angle and unlike the aerodynamic Caravisio looks ill-equipped for head or crosswinds.

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

The focus of the Travelino is clearly not on the aero-efficient shape of the shell, but on the equipment, layout, and materials. The walls of the trailer are built from a lightweight, XPS foam-core material that helps the trailer maintain a base weight below 1,433 pounds (650 kg). Similarly, Knaus saves weight on the interior fixtures and furnishings through the use of a paper-based honeycomb board.

The 1,433-pound curb weight sounds less impressive when compared to the 400- to 1,000-pound (181 to 454 kg) weights of trailers already under production like the Teal Tail Feather, MyPod teardrop, and numerous other small lightweight trailers.

However, at over 13 feet (4 m), the Travelino is a few feet longer than the Teal Tail Feather and nearly double the size of diminutive teardrops like the MyPod Basic. Its mix of onboard amenities is also more extensive than any of those others, combining an indoor kitchen, dining area, double bed, bathroom, and outdoor kitchen.

Somewhat odd is the inclusion of both an indoor and outdoor kitchen in the Travelino design. It seems that a design so intent on saving weight and space would opt for one or the other.

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

Since Knaus does not mention any production plans, the Travelino seems likely to remain a design study for now.

Facts and Figures

Body Length: 13 feet (4.00 m)

Interior Width: 6.7 feet (2.04 m)

Interior Height: 6.5 feet (1.98 m)

Weight: 1433 pounds (650 kg)

Fully bonded, weight-optimized sandwich construction

Unique air spring suspension

Roof and floor plate GRP-planked

Windows, doors, and flaps frameless and flush

Screwless furniture cartridge assembly

Waiver of gas as an energy source for heating, kettle etc.

Benefits at a Glance

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

Travelino—Lightweight Camper Of The Future Debuts At Motorhome Show

Comfortable ride with built-lowering and leveling

Pleasant, indirect LED lighting above and below the cabinets

Generous storage space solutions

Multifunctional use of space thanks to flexible bath, kitchen, and living solutions

Details

Knaus Tabbert GmbH

Knaus Tabbert GmbH is a leading manufacturer of recreational vehicles in Europe with headquarters in Jandelsbrunn in Lower Bavaria.

Other manufacturing plants are located in Mottgers (Hesse), Obermeitingen in Upper Bavaria, and Nagyoroszi in Hungary.

In business year 2012 the company with its six brands—Knaus, Tabbert, T@b, BavariaCamp, Weinsberg, and Wilk—reached a turnover of Euro 281 million, and with approximately 1,200 employees produced about 13,000 caravans and motorhomes.

Phone: +49 (0) 8583 21 309

Website: www.knaustabbert.de

Worth Pondering…

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.

—Albert Einstein

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RV Boom & Expansion Plans

When Thor Industries purchased Shipshewana, Indiana-based KZRV in April, expansion was not on their radar.

KZRV StoneRidge fifth-wheel with black cherry partial paint

KZRV StoneRidge fifth-wheel with black cherry partial paint

But that changed a day after the purchase was finalized when Thor officials walked through the manufacturing plant.

“On the first day after owning them, management stated they could produce more units if they had a lamination facility,” said Bob Martin, president and CEO of Thor Industries.

“We quickly just told them to give us a proposal and a plan. They already had the land.”

KZRV, which manufactures towable recreational vehicles, recently announced that it plans to expand its operations in Shipshewana, creating up to 125 new jobs by 2017, reports the South Bend Tribune.

KZRV will invest up to $4.83 million to construct and equip a new 80,750-square-foot lamination facility in Shipshewana, according to a news release by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The building, which will be fully operational by late spring 2015, will allow the company to increase its production capacity for lamination, aluminum frame welding, and towable recreational vehicle assembly.

New Spree Connect from KZRV model C282BHS

New Spree Connect from KZRV model C282BHS

Lamination is being moved from an existing building where it shared space with the assembly line.

KZRV currently employs more than 360 full-time workers. It plans to begin hiring aluminum welders and general assembly workers in late spring 2015. Interested applicants may apply in person at the KZRV human resources office in Shipshewana.

Thor Industries’ other companies have their own laminating facilities, so this will be used for KZ only, Martin said.

KZRV produces a full line of towable RVs, from high-end models like the Durango and Stone Ridge to value lines including Sportsmen Classics. The KZRV complex, with the new addition, now consists of eight buildings covering 530,000 square feet.

The Economic Development Corp. offered KZRV up to $1.25 million in conditional tax credits and up to $21,600 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. LaGrange County will consider additional incentives at the request of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp.

The expansion is the fourth announced in the last month by Thor, one of the world’s largest RV manufacturers.

Besides Airstream in Ohio, Thor’s other expansions are taking place at Heartland and Keystone. All told, about 330 jobs will be added to the Elkhart County area over the next several years because of the expansions.

KZRV LP introduces its Spree Sandlewood Edition lightweight travel trailer featuring a champagne full-body exterior.

KZRV LP introduces its Spree Sandlewood Edition lightweight travel trailer featuring a champagne full-body exterior.

Thor Industries, one of the world’s largest RV manufacturers, is based in Elkhart and employs about 9,400 people, most of them in Indiana.

It’s clear the company believes the current RV boom will last for a while.

“Airstream is a more expensive travel trailer,” Martin said.

“For that product alone to have enough production to expand their factory for the first time in 20 years speaks to the health of the industry.”

All the expansions collectively say something, too, he said.

“It’s a telltale sign that we have a positive outlook on the industry and for Thor,” he said.

“We see it as a positive trend for the long term.”

RV Boom

KZ12_StnRdgBG_02About 80 percent of all new RVs in the U.S. are made in Elkhart County.

RV shipments have been up 32 consecutive months.

Year-to-date totals through August reached 246,483, a gain of 9 percent over the 226,125 units shipped through August of last year, according to figures from the Reston, Virginia-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

Year-end figures are expected to be more than 300,000 for the second straight year. Recreational vehicle wholesale shipments reached 321,127 units for 2013, a gain of 12.4 percent over the previous year. In 2007, a run of six straight years of 300,000 plus shipments ended.

Worth Pondering…

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

—Amelia Earhart

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Snowbirds Prep For Annual Migration

Migrating birds don’t have much prep work before they fly southward for the winter.

Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel.

Pictured above Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel across I-10 for a Sunbelt park in Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds, on the other hand, must consider how to shut down their residences before taking flight to flee the coming winter’s snow, ice, and bone-chilling cold for southern Sunbelt sunny states.

As the annual migration begins, many homeowners set themselves up for potential disaster.

Leaving a home unoccupied for an extended period of time can put homeowners at risk.

Houses are a lot like teenagers, neither one should be left alone for very long.

Snowbirds come home to problems because they failed to properly plan when they left in the fall.

But simple steps can eliminate the nightmare.

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning.

Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Whether you’re new to the snowbird lifestyle or an experienced RVer, creating your own customized checklist is a great way to keep track of your seasonal preparations.

Remember, it will be much easier to enjoy your winter in the sun if you have taken steps to protect your home while you are away for an extended period of time.

Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world

Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level, tennis courts, spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails, and carriage rides. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider the following eight tips when creating your own winter-ready checklist:

Check expiry dates

Well in advance of your departure, check expiry dates for your passport and other travel documents, driver’s license, motor vehicle registration, vehicle insurance, credit cards, and membership cards—and renew if necessary.

Home insurance

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires regular walk-throughs during your absence and if so, how frequently.

Snow removal
You are escaping the snow, but your home is not. Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Contact person
Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Contact information
Provide the contact person and other neighbors, relatives, and friends with pertinent information including cell phone and email address, vehicle and home insurance, security system, furnace repair, description of RV and toad or tow truck and trailer with plate numbers.

Superstition Mountain Museum

To further understand and appreciate the Superstition Mountains area, its legend, history, and intrigue tour the 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum, near Apache Junction, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Notify neighbors

Inform trusted neighbors that you will be away for a specified period of time. You’ll want them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Ensure they have a list of contact persons, phone numbers, and email addresses.

Water heater
Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve.

Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

Home security
Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Lock windows and doors, and set the security alarm.

Worth Pondering…

Happy Snowbird Travels!

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day …

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

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Airstream Announces Interstate Grand Tour Details & Pricing

In an earlier article on Vogel Talks RVing, I reported on the introduction of the new Airstream Interstate Grand Tour.

2015 Interstate Grand Tour

Airstream Announces 2015 Interstate Grand Tour Details & Pricing

Jackson Center Ohio-based Airstream Inc. has now announced additional details and pricing for its newly-released Interstate Grand Tour. The Class B motorhome built on an award-winning Mercedes-Benz chassis now offers custom-designed screen doors to allow Airstreamers to bring the outdoors in, and comes well-equipped at $153,000.

“Like our traditional Airstream travel trailers, the Interstate Grand Tour touring coach packs so much luxury and utility into a convenient package — office, bedroom, galley, the works,” said Airstream CEO and President Bob Wheeler, in a news release.

“It brings the classic Airstream design aesthetic to life, with well thought-out features, exceptional fit and finish and attention to detail.”

Built on the proven foundation of the Airstream Interstate EXT touring coach, the Grand Tour combines an amazing amount of functionality and “home on the road” features for everything from short camping trips to extended adventures with three luxurious Airstream interior décor choices.

The latest design options of the Grand Tour include:

  • Custom-designed screen doors, including a power rollaway screen at the rear and sliding door on the side
  • Larger galley with additional counter and multi-functional storage space
  • Flexible workspace desk and an expanded bathroom area
  • Oversized refrigerator and freezer
  • Standard power awning
2015 Interstate Grand Tour

Airstream Announces 2015 Interstate Grand Tour Details & Pricing

The Interstate is the best-selling Class B motorhome in the United States for three years running, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., and the Grand Tour model expands Airstream’s collaboration with Mercedes-Benz to appeal to the longer-term use buyer.

The Interstate Grand Tour EXT has an overall exterior length of 24 feet, 4.5 inches, an overall exterior width of 6 feet, 7.7 inches,  and an overall exterior height of 9 feet, 8 inches. With its car-like handling, state of the art Mercedes-Benz adaptive stability program, and standard rear backup camera, it is easy to maneuver on the road, in campsites and in parking lots.

Like all Airstream Interstate models, the Grand Tour is built on a proven, heavy-duty Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, providing exceptional fuel economy and driving range from its standard clean-diesel power plant. Safety and security features include six air bags, lane keeping, and collision prevention systems and parking sensors.

Standard features include UltraLeather seating, power rear sofa that converts to a 6-foot 10-inch double bed, Corian countertops, adjustable LED interior lighting, drawer microwave, refrigerator and freezer, large bathroom with shower, navigation system, Kenwood Multimedia Entertainment System with rear speakers, twin high definition LED televisions, and rear storage space. The interior is offered in a range of durable yet luxurious fabrics and colors.

The Interstate Grand Tour also includes Xenon headlights, forged aluminum-alloy wheels, hidden trailer hitch, power awning, and power entry step.

Airstream Interstate Grand Tour specifications include:

  • Chassis: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 Series
  • Engine: Mercedes-Benz 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel
  • GVWR: 11,030 pounds
  • GCWR: 15,250 pounds
  • Estimated Highway MPG: 18+
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 26.4 gallons
  • Fresh Water Tank Capacity: 32 gallons (26 fresh water/6 hot water heater)
  • Gray Water Tank Capacity: 27 gallons
  • Black Water Tank Capacity: 15 gallons
  • MSRP: Starting at $150,346

Details

Airstream

2015 Interstate Grand Tour

Airstream Announces Interstate Grand Tour Details & Pricing

Airstream, maker of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, is the oldest recreational vehicle manufacturer in North America.

Following founder Wally Byam’s credo, “Let’s not make changes, let’s only make improvements” Airstream has remained a timeless classic.

A division of Thor Industries, Airstream is based in Jackson Center, Ohio.

Address: 419 West Pike Street, P.O. Box 629, Jackson Center, OH 45334-0629

Phone: (877) 596-6111 (toll free)

Website: www.airstream.com

Worth Pondering…

Airstream Song

Sometimes I wish I lived in airstream homemade curtains
Lived just like a gypsy.
Break a heart, roll out of town
Cause gypsies never get tied down
—Lyrics by Miranda Lambert, Natalie Nicole Hemby, Natalie Hemby, Miranda Lambert; sung by Miranda Lambert

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Preparing Your RV For Winter

Fall is fast approaching, and not far behind another long, northern winter. As the colder weather sets in, those in the Northern climes either snowbird south for the winter or prepare their recreational vehicle for another winter of ice, snow, and freezing temperatures.

Preparing Your RV For Winter

Preparing Your RV For Winter

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon the boughs that shake against the cold
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In Sonnet 73, William Shakespeare makes reference to autumn.

Oh, Autumn, that time of year when the earth changes colors before our very eyes, temperatures start to dip, the light begins to fade away, and RVs are readying for their long winter’s nap.

In true Shakespearean style, let’s count the fourteen things (as in the fourteen lines of a sonnet) that will help prepare your RV for the winter:

Perform end-of-season RV repairs. As with any vehicle that will be sitting for a period of time, it is necessary to take care of any minor or major problems that would be worsened by inactivity and weather.

Check roof for leaks, dents, or tears. Clean and examine the roof for sealant wear or other damage, and repair it. Also ensure that the seals around the doors and outside compartments are working correctly. This will also help to prevent the cold weather from getting in. To ensure that these seals and compartment locks do not freeze up, a graphite lubricant can be applied to the locks and a silicone lubricant can be sprayed around the door and compartment edges.

Preparing Your RV For Winter

Preparing Your RV For Winter

Remove personal items. Inspect the interior living space. Food including canned goods and bottles, bedding, towels (kitchen, bathroom, swim), leisure activities (books, board games, coloring books/crayons, arts/crafts supplies) and other essentials that may be needed during the winter should be stowed away and relocated or packed in an organized manner until spring.

Inventory items remaining in RV. Anything that will be left in the RV, such as kitchen tools and utensils, or bathroom toiletries, should be added to a list and filed with important RV paperwork. If at any time there is a question or concern about what has remained within the unit, this list will serve as a source of referral during the off-season.

Clean refrigerator. Remove all foodstuffs, clean the refrigerator thoroughly, and leave it open a crack. This helps prevent mildew.

Clean the RV. Clean the entire RV, interior and exterior, including all storage areas. Empty gray/black water holding tanks. Dump and flush both black and gray water holding tanks, in an appropriate manner, especially the black water tank. It is not acceptable to empty tanks in a city drain; always use a designated RV dump station.

Winterize water system. The primary concern when winterizing the RV is to ensure the water system is protected against damage caused by freezing. Drain the fresh water tank and hot water heater. Fully back flush the water system to remove all water from the lines. Add RV antifreeze to the system (NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use automobile antifreeze in your RVs water system). Open each faucet, one at a time, until the red-colored antifreeze appears. Don’t forget the shower and toilet. Leave gray water valve open. Shut the faucets.

Preparing Your RV For Winter

Preparing Your RV For Winter

RV tire covers. RV tires are especially vulnerable to the elements. Tire covers help protect tires from the sun’s harmful UV rays in the summer and from damage caused by wind, rain, snow, and freezing temperatures during the winter. Keeping your tires and wheels covered when you store your RV also helps to keep them cleaner and make them last longer and look better at the same time. Tires that are left uncovered can crack and become brittle, causing them to go flat before their time. Secure the tire covers firmly to your tires so that they don’t fly off in windy conditions. Tires should be clean, and kept off the ground during storage; boards work well. Ensure the recommended tire pressure is maintained.

Dehumidifiers. To prevent condensation buildup and help keep mold from forming, place dehumidifiers in each room and outside storage areas.

Remove batteries. Depending on the length of time your RV will be sitting, it may be beneficial to remove batteries to extend their life. Never store batteries directly on concrete.

Cover exterior. Store your RV in a covered area or cover with a tarp for added protection.

Consult owner’s manual. Be sure to check your owner’s manual and follow any additional information on storage, cleaning, and winterizing procedures.

LP gas. Turn off propane valve at the tank.

In conclusion. This list of 14 tips is a good place to start when creating your own winter-ready checklist.

Worth Pondering…

Now is the winter of our discontent.

—William Shakespeare

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