RV Fire Safety

One of the more common calls the Yuma Rural/Metro Fire Department responds to this time of year is for fires in recreational vehicles, according to fire marshal Curt Foster. According to Foster, two such calls happened last week, The Yuma Sun reports.

RV fires are one of the largest causes of recreational vehicle loss. Photo courtesy Mac the Fire Guy

RV owners need to be just as a careful, if not more so, than homeowners in guarding against fires, and the best way to do that is through prevention.

“They need to be thought of as homes, because for some people they are,” Foster said. “Owners need to be taking the same precautions for their RVs that they do for in homes.”

While it may seem obvious, Foster said one of the most important things that RV owners need to do is make sure the smoke, LP gas, and carbon monoxide detectors are all located properly and in good working condition.

Foster recommends replacing the batteries in those detectors every couple of years and to clean and test them monthly.

He added that Norcold and Dometic have issued recall notices for their refrigerators due to fire danger and that if you receive one, you should take care of it right away.

Something else that may seem obvious but worth mentioning, according to Foster, is that recreational vehicles, like homes, have appliances such as ovens and heaters, and that owners need to make sure they are turned off before they leave.

Driving with propane on can add to the danger if you are involved in an accident or have a fire. Shut off the propane at the tank and turn off all propane-powered appliances while driving.

Fire safety is of premium importance to the conscientious RVer

Never re-enter a burning RV to retrieve anything—GET OUT & STAY OUT! Photo courtesy Mac the Fire Guy

The first rule of RV firefighting is to save lives first and property second, according to Mac the Fire Guy. Get yourself and your family to safety before attempting to extinguish a fire. Only if you can do so without endangering yourself or others should you use firefighting aids on hand.

Never re-enter a burning RV to retrieve anything—GET OUT & STAY OUT!

You should have three fire extinguishers for your coach—one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the coach in an unlocked compartment or in your tow vehicle.

Make sure family members know how to use the extinguishers and understand which extinguishers are effective on various fires.

Ensure that the extension cord for connecting your RV to a campground’s electricity supply is in good condition and of suitable gauge wire to handle the electrical load placed upon it. Damaged extension cords must be replaced immediately.

When using the stove in your RV, open an overhead vent or turn on the exhaust fan and open a window a small amount to allow fresh air in and carbon monoxide gases out.

The stove should never be used to heat the interior of the RV.

Mechanical or electrical failures cause roughly three-quarters of the highway vehicle fires. Image source: iStock

Never leave cooking unattended.

Unfortunately, RV fires are one of the largest causes of RV loss in America today. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments, RV repair shops, and insurance carriers estimate there are approximately 6,300 RV fires annually. Deaths resulting from RV fires are estimated at 5 to 20 each year and RV Alliance America statistics show half of fires erupt while the RV is parked.

While the causes of RV fires vary widely, there are identifiable trends. Engine and electrical fires are consistently the greatest cause of loss. Engine compartments, including electrical, flammable-combustible gases and liquids, are the cause of origin roughly 70 percent of the time.

Tires and brakes are the culprit in almost 20 percent of fires. Some of the worst fires are those caused when one tire of a dual or tandem pair goes flat and then scuffs and ignites, long before the driver feels any change in handling.

At each rest stop, give your tires at least an eyeball check. Remember a pressure gauge reading on hot tires is NOT accurate. Tap duals with a club and listen for a difference in sound; you can often tell if a tire is going soft.

The remaining causes of fires vary widely from faulty generators, fuel leaks, solar power problems, cooking carelessness, propane leaks, spontaneous combustion in damp charcoal, and certainly a range of unknown origins.

Remember, safety is no accident.

Worth Pondering…
Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin
X marks the spot

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Remember the Alamo: 13 Fateful Days

Remember the Alamo!

The seeds of war were planted as Stephen F. Austin, charged with bringing settlers to the frontier of the new nation, started populating Texas with colonists from the United States, a trend the Mexican government eventually found troubling.

Among the Alamo's garrison was David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 1830s became a pivotal time for the Alamo as Texans fought for their independence from Mexico. San Antonio—and the Alamo—fell into rebel hands in late 1835 as the Texans, led by Ben Milam, began the Siege of Bexar, a five-day battle where the outmanned and outgunned Texans forced the Mexican troops to accept a truce in exchange for all property in the town.

Furious with the loss of this strategic settlement, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna marched his army to San Antonio where an estimated 200 rebels were ensconced in the Alamo. Arriving at the fortified old mission on Feb. 23, 1836, Santa Anna sent a courier to Col. William B. Travis demanding surrender. Travis replied with a cannonball, so Santa Anna laid siege and waited.

Undaunted, the Texians and Tejanos—Mexicans born north of the Rio Grande—prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held out for 13 days against Santa Anna’s army.

William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo sent forth couriers carrying pleas for help to communities in Texas. On the eighth day of the siege, a band of 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived, bringing the number of defenders to nearly two hundred.

Legend has it that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over—all except one did.

The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. Among the Alamo’s garrison were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter, and David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee.

Finally, in the predawn hours of March 6, 1836, Santa Anna, flying the flag of “No Quarter,” sent his troops on a dash to the crumbling walls of the fortress. At the end of the 90-minute battle, all the Alamo defenders were dead. The official tally is 189, but more research may increase that number to 257 (some reinforcements had slipped into the besieged fort during the 13-day siege). Despite his threat of no quarter, and about 500 dead and wounded among his own forces, Santa Anna allowed several noncombatants—women, children, and slaves—to leave unharmed.

While the facts surrounding the siege of the Alamo continue to be debated, there is no doubt about what the battle has come to symbolize.

The Alamo is remembered as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds—a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the “Shrine of Texas Liberty.”

If you have never visited this sacred shrine, you haven’t really visited Texas. And even if you have made the pilgrimage, journey there again and walk the grounds and explore the many enclaves in reflection of the events that transpired there 175 years earlier.

Walk the grounds of the Alamo and explore the many enclaves in reflection of the events that transpired there 175 years earlier. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember the Alamo!

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
In the sand he drew a line with his army sabre,
Out of a hundred eighty five, not a soldier crossed the line.
With his banners a-dancin’ in the dawn’s golden light,
Santa Anna came prancin’ on a horse that was black as the night.

He sent an officer to tell Travis to surrender.
Travis answered with a shell and a rousin’ rebel yell.
Santa Anna turned scarlet: “Play Degüello,” he roared.
“I will show them no quarter, everyone will be put to the sword.”

One hundred and eighty five holdin’ back five thousand.
Five days, six days, eight days, ten; Travis held and held again.
Then he sent for replacements for his wounded and lame,
But the troops that were comin’ never came, never came, never came.

Twice he charged, then blew recall. On the fatal third time,
Santa Anna breached the wall and he killed them one and all.
Now the bugles are silent and there’s rust on each sword,
And the small band of soldiers lie asleep in the arms of The Lord.

In the southern part of Texas, near the town of San Antone,
Like a statue on his Pinto rides a cowboy all alone.
And he sees the cattle grazin’ where a century before,
Santa Anna’s guns were blazin’ and the cannons used to roar.
And his eyes turn sort of misty, and his heart begins to glow,
And he takes his hat off slowly to the men of Alamo.
To the thirteen days of glory at the seige of Alamo.

This always bring pride to my heart and a tear to my eye…

—The Alamo, sung by Donovan

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Remember the Alamo

Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse.

San Antonio is best known for being the home of the Alamo, and the San Antonio River is the center point of many activities in the downtown area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So much has been said about Texas—its sunny seacoast to mile-high mountains, dense forests to cactus-studded desert, great cities to small villages and towns, rich and diverse history, and the hallowed Shrine that represents her birthplace.

The Alamo is sacred to every Texan, and the state’s number one tourist attraction.

For 175 years, the words, “Remember the Alamo,” have inspired passions and politics. The 13-day siege resulting in a battle to the death for its defenders is truly the stuff of legend and untold movies.

On a recent visit we watched the thousands as they entered the doors of this monumental artifact of Texas history, and couldn’t help but wonder how many truly know the saga that unfolded within the walls and under their feet? How many actually think about the struggle for freedom and liberty and the cost involved in the fight against tyranny and suppression?

The story of the birth of the Texas Republic is one of great drama and personal sacrifice.

The Alamo was defended by slightly fewer than 200 men. All were killed or executed.

The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city.

Though the old Spanish mission may not be the biggest building on the block, it still casts a giant shadow across the Great State of Texas.

The Alamo: An 18th-century Roman Catholic mission that became a 19th-century makeshift fort that became a 20th-century household name. Its history is large, but nowhere near as large as the legends it has perpetuated. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally named Misión San Antonio de Valero by Father Damien Massanet for the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padova, the Alamo served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years.

First located along the banks of San Pedro Creek, construction began on the present site in 1724. There it became one of the five links in Spanish Mexico’s chain of northern hinterlands where Franciscan priests worked to bring Christianity to the native tribes that were scattered throughout the hills.

In 1793, Spanish officials secularized San Antonio’s five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents. These men and women continued to farm the fields and participated in the growing community of San Antonio.

In the early 1800s, the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission. The soldiers referred to the old mission as the Alamo (the Spanish word for “cottonwood”) in honor of their hometown Alamo de Parras, Coahuila. The post’s commander established the first recorded hospital in Texas in the Long Barrack.

Remember the Alamo! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the change from mission to military post was only the beginning for the Alamo. In the 1810s and 1820s, Mexico fought for its independence from Spain, and the old mission in the embattled town of San Antonio was pulled from one side to the other until Mexico finally won in 1821.

To be continued tomorrow…

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
The Alamo

In the southern part of Texas, in the town of San Antone,
There’s a fortress all in ruin that the weeds have overgrown.
You may look in vain for crosses and you’ll never see a one,
But sometime between the setting and the rising of the sun,
You can hear a ghostly bugle as the men go marching by;
You can hear them as they answer to that roll call in the sky:
Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett and a hundred eighty more;
Captain Dickenson, Jim Bowie, present and accounted for.

Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis:
“Get some volunteers and go fortify the Alamo.”
Well, the men came from Texas and from old Tennessee,
And they joined up with Travis just to fight for the right to be free.

Indian scouts with squirrel guns, men with muzzle loaders,
Stood together heel and toe to defend the Alamo.
“You may never see your loved ones,” Travis told them that day.
“Those that want to can leave now, those who’ll fight to the death, let ‘em stay.”

—The Alamo, sung by Donovan (to be continued tomorrow)

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Santa Fe Skies Solar Power Project

Santa Fe Skies is an 11-year-old family built, owned, and operated RV Park overlooking the beautiful mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico. This “Big Rig friendly” park offers 20/30/50 amp electric service to all 98 sites. This has allowed the park to remain up to date with the power requirements of the modern recreational vehicle. This does however mean that their annual electric bill is rather high.

Image courtesy Santa Fe Skies RV Park

As the power company (PNM) asks the Public Regulatory Commission for an electric rate increase, Santa Fe Skies is in the process of building a solar power plant to offset the increase in rates as well as reduce their environmental impact.

Santa Fe Skies RV Park owner John Brown says investing $1.3 million now to install an array of solar panels—and getting 30% of that back in a federal rebate—will make a huge difference in the park’s long-term prospects, reports Woodall’s Campground Management.

“From a park-owning standpoint, not only does this keep us in business, the life expectancy of the panels is 40 years,” Brown said. Financed over 15 years, he added, the solar array will continue to provide benefits for a long time.

Brown said the RV Park’s electricity rates have grown about 5 percent per year for the past several years. The tab for 2010 totaled about $66,000 to provide electricity to the 98 RV camping sites.

To avoid absorbing the increasing costs or passing them along to guests, who typically pay about $38 per night for a site, Brown said he acted to take control after learning that the federal government was offering rebates for certain energy projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Photo courtesy Santa Fe Skies RV Park

Brown benefited from the help of his son, J.B., an electrical engineer who helps in the business and also works for Positive Energy Solar Electric Systems, headquartered in Santa Fe.

J.B. Brown said Santa Fe Skies RV Park may be better suited than some others to take advantage of the sun’s ability to provide energy. Deciding whether an investment in solar energy makes economic sense depends to a great extent on a location’s weather and altitude, he explained.

At about 7,000 feet above sea level and with generally sunny weather, Santa Fe experiences 5.8 hours of solar energy per day. An array of 810 solar panels at Santa Fe Skies RV Park is expected to generate some 192.5 kilowatt hours of electricity per hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Each panel is about 1.5 square meters.

John Brown expects the array to be fully commissioned and operational by early spring. All Panels are currently in place and the wiring is in progress. It might be done as soon as tomorrow (March 29, 2011). The grid connections are in submission and the first group was connected last week.

During off-peak hours when electricity use is low, the RV park will actually be adding power to the grid and will be compensated by the local power company at a rate of 14 cents per kilowatt hour. Overall, Brown expects the solar installation to provide about 56% of the RV park’s electricity.

The array is being installed on a 50-by-450-foot strip of land that had once been set aside as right of way for a four-lane road that was never built. Brown was able to reclaim the parcel, which abuts a walking trail at the RV park. “This takes a piece of fairly useless real estate and turns it into a $1.3 million asset,” Brown said, “and eventually it will be its own profit center.”

Why Solar?

Solar now supplies half of the power needs at Santee Lakes (California) RV Park's power needs. Photo courtesy East County Magazine

New Mexico is one of the best states in the United States for solar. While solar energy may only produce for a limited amount of time, it is low profile and low maintenance depending on system type. On average, the Santa Fe area produces viable solar energy 5.8 hours a day every day.


Santa Fe Skies RV Park

Elevation: 6,361feet

Location: Southeast of Interstate 25 and New Mexico State Highway 14


Northbound: From I-25, take exit 276; turn right at the stop light and continue through the first stoplight and go straight past the Allsups/Phillips 66 station. Santa Fe Skies RV Park is ½-mile up the road on the left.

Southbound: From I-25, take exit 276; turn left at the stop sign and go under I-25, continue through the first stoplight and go straight past the Allsups/Phillips 66 station. Santa Fe Skies RV Park is ½-mile up the road on the left.

Contact: (505) 473-5946 or (877) 565-0451

Address: 14 Browncastle Ranch, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508

Rates: $35-$38 including tax with Good Sam discount

Worth Pondering…
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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In the News for All the Wrong Reasons

The RV Industry is NOT immune from scam artists. In yesterday’s post we reported on three recent news items related to consignment sales of recreational vehicles. We conclude with several additional stories that have recently been “in the News for All the Wrong Reasons.”

Campground Owner Sentenced for Arson

When it comes to purchasing or selling an RV, there are a number of ways that people can get scammed.

The former owner of Shady Rest Campground near Gibson, Pennsylvania, Tamara Santarelli was sentenced to seven years probation, reported WNEP. She Must also pay back nearly $100,000 to insurance companies, money that was paid out after two fires at the Shady Rest Campground.

It was related to a 2009 fire at her residence and office at the Shady Rest Campground she owned near Gibson. Santarelli was also accused of a 2007 fire at the bath house on the campground.

The former owners of the campground who sold it to Santarelli said they were just glad the ordeal is over and that they were able to get that property back. Arnold and Alice Manning owned the Shady Rest Campground and sold it to Tammy Santarelli and her husband, even financing the property for them.

The Mannings said after the Santarelli’s failed to make mortgage payments, they had started the foreclosure process. That was when the second fire nearly destroyed their decades of hard work.

As part of Tammy Santarelli’s plea agreement, she handed over the deed to the Shady Rest Campground, giving it back to Arnold and Alice Manning.

Would you purchase this RV? Image courtesy theregulator.net

The Mannings said they now plan to keep the campground in the family.

Texas RV Park Meth Lab Bust

Aransas County Sheriff’s Office investigators executed a warrant which resulted in the taking down of a methamphetamine lab being operated at the Good Samaritan RV Park, and the arrest of one suspect, the Rockport Pilot reported.

Michael Anthony Mayes, 26, originally of Port Lavaca, was charged with possession of various chemicals with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Mayes’ trailer is the last one located at the back of Samaritan RV Park on the Highway 35 Bypass, near Rockport.

Officials found six or seven ingredients used to manufacture and sell methamphetamine, including chemicals, a cooker, tubing, baggies, scales, filters, etc. They also found counter surveillance equipment including night vision binoculars.

UPDATE: Complaints Filed Against Defunct Dealership

In yesterday’s post we reported that a dozen customers of Top-O-Hill RV Service Center in Aurora, south of Portland, had filed formal complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice over consignment contracts.

Local television station KGW News has further reported that the Berkeys of Southeast Portland want to sell their Hi-Lo RV trailer but there’s just one problem: they don’t know where it is.

Actually, the Berkeys have several problems after taking their trailer to Top-O-Hill RV Service Center, after the business owner told them he could sell it for them.

Nobody wants to be a victim of fraud, yet millions of people are, each year.

The Berkeys wanted $15,000 for the trailer, which they were still making payments on.

They turned over the title and other paperwork and left their trailer with Bill Workman’s “Top-O-Hill” RV lot in Aurora after he saw their online ad and contacted them, saying he was sure he could sell the trailer quickly.

And then Bill Workman died.

Now the Berkeys can’t locate their trailer and they are not the only RV owners with issues who did transactions with Workman.

Over a dozen complaints have been filed, but the Top-O-Hill lot is closed and most of the RVs that were there are now gone. And no one seems to know where they are, or if they do, they are not talking.

A DMV spokesperson said the problems were nothing new for Workman’s business, which had complaints on file going back almost 10 years. However, they did say that Workman always seemed to resolve the complaints when the agency took action.

Now that he is gone, the Berkeys are not sure what is going to happen. All they do know is that they are making payments on a nice trailer that they can’t locate.

KATU News tried without success to speak to Workman’s family members at a home next to the now-empty lot.

In the case of the Berkeys and other customers of Top-O-Hill RV, the attorney general’s office says because the owner has died and did not appear to leave assets, there may be no money coming back.

Worth Pondering…
Here’s what you can do before you buy or consign an RV or any other vehicle.

First check with the attorney general’s office for complaints, then check with the DMV to see if the business has a license and is bonded. Also, check to see if the title really is free and clear so you don’t pay thousands of dollars for nothing.

— KGW Consumer Report

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Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones

Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones, was made popular by John Denver in 1981.

Yesterday’s post focused on one incredible “diamond day” for an Arkansas couple.

The RVing lifestyle is like no other but occasionally a stone or two is thrown into the mix. By taking certain precautions and safety checks on travel days, we’re likely to experience mostly “diamond days,” but that’s the topic of another post.

The RV Industry, unfortunately, is not immune from scam artists.

The following stories have recently been in the News for All the Wrong Reasons—the first three relate to consignment sales of recreational vehicles.

Complaints Filed Against Defunct Dealership

A dozen customers of Top-O-Hill RV Service Center in Aurora, south of Portland, have filed formal complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice over consignment contracts, according to local television station KGW News.

The complaints range from Top-O-Hill selling their RV but not paying them any money for the sale to a camper trailer disappearing without the owner notified where it is or if it has been sold.

Some customers who bought RVs from Workman said they found out they could not get a title for their purchase, even though they had paid the agreed amount.

The Top-O-Hill sign in front of the large empty lot on one side says, “Thanks for 22 years,” and on the other side, “We’ll miss you Bill.”

The owner, Bill Workman, died at a local hospital February 2nd due to an illness.

RV rental business owner faces 97 charges

The Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) has charged Arnold Donszelmann of Leisure RV Rentals Ltd. in Millet, Alberta, with 97 charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, The Edmonton Journal reported. Donszelmann is charged with 49 counts of fraud over $5,000 and 48 counts of theft over $5,000.

The charges resulted from a three-year investigation by the AMVIC, said Bob Hamilton, AMVIC’s executive director. Hamilton said the investigation was sparked by numerous customer complaints against the business.

After selling someone an RV, Donszelmann allegedly asked customers to lease the vehicle back to him for use in his rental business, promising them annual revenue and free storage in exchange. Donszelmann allegedly then sold these RVs to new owners.

Hamilton said 28 people had been defrauded out of $3 million by the business.

Leisure RV’s business license was revoked in 2007 by AMVIC, and the regulatory body released a statement in 2008 warning consumers that the business was continuing to operate without a license.

Donszelmann was fined $6,000 in September, 2006, after pleading guilty to a charge of selling vehicles without a consignment license as required under Alberta’s Fair Trading Act.

Former RV Dealer Sentenced in Fraud Case

A Lake Wales, Florida, man was sentenced to a year in prison for stealing more than $78,000 by selling customers’ campers and recreational vehicles on consignment and keeping the money, The Ledger recently reported.

Senobio “Sonny” Rodriguez, 65, pleaded guilty to scheme to defraud as part of a plea deal.

Circuit Judge Karla F. Wright also ordered that Rodriguez pay $78,900 in restitution and serve 20 years of probation.

Rodriguez’s requested that his incarceration be delayed for 10 days so he could undergo some testing recommended by his doctor. Prosecutors objected, saying Rodriguez had plenty of time to take care of such matters prior to accepting the plea deal. The judge denied Rodriguez’s request.

Rodriguez worked as the general manager of Lake Wales RV Consignment Center on U.S. 27, and was arrested in October 2009, according to an arrest report.

He began taking in RVs and campers in 2007 on consignment and selling them, but once the items sold, Rodriguez wouldn’t pay the original owners. The investigation revealed six victims, in Lakeland, Bonifay, Zephyrhills, Sebring, and Lake Wales, the report states.

Detectives also discovered Rodriguez gambled a large amount of money at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. He lost $434,934 from 2005 through 2008, and his total bets during that time was more than $4.4 million, the report states.

To be continued tomorrow…

Worth Pondering…
Bottom line, anytime you hand over anything to someone else to sell, you’re at risk at losing it all.

— Ed Teachout, KGW Consumer Reporter

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Some Days Are Diamonds…

Arkansas, The Natural State, is blessed with an abundance of geological wonders. Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, the only diamond-producing site in the world open to the public, stands out as a unique geological “gem” for you to explore and enjoy.

You'll pass through the park's Diamond Discovery Center on your way to the diamond search area. Photo courtesy Arkansas State Parks

An Arkansas couple found a flawless 2.44-carat silver white diamond at the Crater of Diamonds last Sunday (March 20) according to Park Interpreter Margi Jenks.

Due of the gem’s color, and because it was discovered during the weekend of a full moon Super Moon event, they named their diamond the Silver Moon.

Melissa and Kenny Oliver of Rosston, Arkansas, discovered their diamond, which they plan to keep, while wet screening material from the East Drain area, where major excavation work was done by heavy equipment in October. It was the 93rd diamond found so far this year by park visitors.

According to Jenks, the 2.44-carat Silver Moon diamond is very similar to the 1.31-carat Silver Bullet diamond that was found last year by David Johnson of Murfreesboro. The Silver Moon is the largest of four diamonds weighing over 1 carat that have been found at the park over the last 10 days. The other three diamonds, however, were discovered while their finders were surface searching, which according to park staff has been a very successful search technique recently at the park.

A Gem among Diamond Mines

Found at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in 1990 by Shirley Strawn of Murfreesboro, Arkansas, this diamond weighed 3.03 carats in the rough. Photo courtesy Arkansas State Parks

Crater of Diamonds State Park is the world’s only diamond-producing site open to the public. On average, two diamonds are found each day at the park.

The state park’s policy is finder-keepers. What park visitors find is theirs to keep.

Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow. The colors found at the Crater of Diamonds are white, brown, and yellow, in that order.

Other semi-precious gems and minerals found in the park’s search area include amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite, and quartz. Over 40 different rocks and minerals are unearthed at the Crater making it a rock hound’s delight.

In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at Arkansas’s diamond site since the first diamonds found in 1906 by John Huddleston, the farmer who at that time owned the land, long before the site became an Arkansas state park.

The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. Other large notable finds from the Crater include the Star of Murfreesboro (34.25 carats) and the Star of Arkansas (15.33 carats).

Within the park boundary, remnants of old mining ventures remain, including the Mine Shaft Building, the Guard House, mining plant foundations, old mining equipment, and smaller artifacts.

Diamond Discovery Center

The search area at the Crater of Diamonds State Park is a 37 ½-acre plowed field, the eroded surface of the eighth largest diamond-bearing deposit in the world in surface area. You’ll pass through the park’s Diamond Discovery Center on your way to the diamond search area. This fascinating interpretive center serves as your gateway to the search area by offering an in-depth introduction to the unique adventure of searching for diamonds.

Camping site at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Photo courtesy Jaycocamprs

Tour the exhibits. Visit with the park interpretive staff. Here, you’ll learn to recognize diamonds in the rough. You’ll be taught the three different search methods used at the Crater of Diamonds. And, you’ll be introduced to the diamond hunters’ hall of fame featuring photographs of the faces of successful diamond prospectors.

In this building you’ll rent the digging tools and screens for your diamond prospecting. And, here is where you will return later to have your material identified by a park staff member. If you’ve found a diamond, it will be certified, too.


Crater of Diamonds State Park is the perfect place to stay while not only enjoying the diamond mining field but also to explore the Lake Greeson area and the Ouachita Mountains. The campground consists of 47 Class AAA sites with tent pads, 50 amp power, water, and sewer hookups that can handle up to 70 foot rigs.


Crater of Diamonds State Park is located on Arkansas Highway 301 at Murfreesboro.

It is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
For more information, visit craterofdiamondsstatepark.com.

Worth Pondering…
Angels are like diamonds. They can’t be made, you have to find them. Each one is unique.

—Jaclyn Smith

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National Park Week: Start Planning Now

Looking for an affordable place to visit this spring? Look no further than a National Park. From sea to shining sea, the United States has some of the most breath taking national parks and scenic wonderlands. Each national park has very important significance embedded into the landscape and historical heritage.

Every year, mountain travelers flock to America’s national parks like Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most budget friendly vacation ideas just got more affordable as national parks that usually charge entrance or day-use fees are waiving them during National Park Week—April 16-24, 2011.

About 147 of the 394 parks and historic sites operated by the National Park Service charge admission fees ranging from $3 to $25.

National Parks Service has compiled a complete list of the parks that are waiving fees. This list can be accessed by Name and by State.

National Park Week is an opportunity to hike, bike, learn, share, and experience the majesty in the nation’s national parks. Visit any of America’s national parks and enjoy free admission all week long!

Whether you prefer to hike Zion (Utah), photograph the wonders of Arches (Utah), wander in the paths of the Anasazi at Aztec Ruins (New Mexico), explore the desert scenery and granite monoliths of Joshua Tree (California), or tour an ancient cave dwelling at Mesa Verde (Colorado) moving outside is good for you and offers a chance to explore these special places.

The organ pipe cactus thrives within the United States primarily in the 516-square-mile Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and International Biosphere Reserve. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to waiving entrance fees throughout the week, national parks and park partners are offering programs as part of National Park Week festivities. On Saturday, April 16, many parks will be looking for volunteers to help with projects and on Saturday April 23, the younger set will be the special guests for the 5th annual Junior Ranger Day.

Healthy Parks, Healthy People

This year, National Parks Week is focusing on Healthy Parks, Healthy People. Parks all across the country are offering events that highlight the connection between human and environmental health and the vital role America’s national parks play in both.

Commenting on why a stroll in the park is perfect for travelers, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “National parks have always been great places to go on vacation, have fun, and learn something, but for millions of Americans national parks are also a daily part of a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve never thought of your national parks that way, we’d like to invite you to come out to see how parks can help you meet your fitness goals.  Getting outside and moving is the first step.”

If that first step toward fitness isn’t in a national park, it just might be in a place that the National Park Service helped to create.

Through the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, Land and Water Conservation Fund grants, and other programs, the National Park Service works with states and local communities to create and expand local recreation opportunities outside of national parks.

There are approximately 600 cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Park Service also joins forces with Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations, and other partners, to build trails and playgrounds, return historic buildings to productive use, revitalize neighborhoods, protect watersheds, recognize and promote local history, and introduce the next generation to stewardship opportunities and responsibilities.

Almost three-quarters of national parks do not charge entrance fees. Note that “free”, in this case, refers to entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation fees. It does not cover tours, camping, concessions, or third-party fees, unless the individual park states otherwise.

2011 Free National Park Days

If you can’t make it out to a national park in April, the other national park fee free days in 2011 include:

June 21: First Day of Summer

September 24: Public Lands Day

November 11-13: Veterans Day weekend

Here’s another tip—many of the 394 national parks NEVER charge an entrance fee.

Start Planning Your Visit Now!

Let’s Hear From You

Have you been to a national park during free National Park Week or on a free day?

Which one, and was it overcrowded?

What is your favorite national park or the next one on your bucket list?

Worth Pondering…
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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A new trailer that’s old

Airstream, arguably the most recognized RV manufacturer in North America, has partnered with Eddie Bauer to produce a new trendy trailer—the 2011 Eddie Bauer Airstream travel trailer.

The all new 2011 Eddie Bauer Airstream. Photo courtesy Gear Patrol

First unveiled at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky in late November 2010, the Eddie Bauer Airstream is now available at dealers nationwide.

With more than 160 years of combined experience, two iconic brands, Airstream and Eddie Bauer, have partnered to create the ultimate adventure travel trailer, specifically designed to bring outdoor enthusiasts closer to Mother Nature in comfort and style.

Designed to meet the specific needs of outdoor adventure travel, the Eddie Bauer Airstream includes a unique sport hatch in the rear of the trailer. The hatch allows for easy loading and unloading of oversized equipment such as bikes and kayaks which can then be secured in the fold-away dinette/lounge area. The unit is also equipped with premium oversized Michelin tires to provide greater ground clearance and rugged wheel-well cladding to protect against off-road debris.

A handheld exterior shower makes for easy cleanup for the traveler, their equipment, or pets. Extra clotheslines and racks are intended for hanging wet clothing while durable exterior tie hooks are ideal for securing equipment or making sure Fido stays close by.

The sport hatch in the rear of the trailer allows for easy loading/unloading of oversized equipment such as bikes and kayaks which can then be secured in the fold-away dinette/lounge area. Photo courtesy Gear Patrol

The interior features an Eddie Bauer-inspired décor, including maple and soapstone laminates, fossilized leaf pattern roof locker doors, quilted fabrics with contrast piping, as well as extremely durable and stain-resistant Sunbrella upholstery. The 25-foot trailer can sleep four people, and its queen-size bed comes with an Eddie Bauer Goose Down duvet, pillows, and throw to provide comfort at the end of an adventurous day. And the rear sport hatch, with its roll-down screen, creates the ultimate portal for bringing the outdoors in.

The Eddie Bauer Airstream also comes with a co-branded duffle bag and two daypacks that make ‘pack & go’ super easy.

“Airstream customers have always been passionate in their pursuit of outdoor adventure, and now we’ve created the ultimate tool to support their needs,” says Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler, “And we’ve done so by perfectly melding the inimitable style of two great American brands.”

“Eddie Bauer has been outfitting fishermen, hunters, mountaineers, and other outdoor adventurers for 90 years,” said Neil Fiske, Eddie Bauer president and CEO. “Partnering with Airstream gives us the opportunity to build something special for those who enjoy comfort and style yet want the flexibility to take all of their gear and equipment on their family adventures.”

The partnership between Airstream and Eddie Bauer will be supported by coordinated marketing campaigns by both brands.

The interior of the 2011 Eddie Bauer Airstream Travel Trailer. Photo courtesy Gear Patrol

A line of co-branded merchandise will also launch this spring.

The 2011 Eddie Bauer Airstream has an MSRP of $73,702.

About Airstream
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.

About Eddie Bauer
Established in 1920 in Seattle, Eddie Bauer is a specialty retailer that sells sportswear, outerwear, gear, and accessories for the active outdoor lifestyle. The Eddie Bauer brand is a nationally recognized brand that stands for high quality, innovation, style, and customer service. Eddie Bauer products are available at approximately 358 stores throughout the United States and Canada, through catalog sales, and online.

Worth Pondering…

Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there’s no particular virtue in doing things the way they have always been done.

—Rudolph Flesch

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Lazydays Hosts Tailgate Party

Get out the grill, stock up the cooler, and let the party begin!

Tailgating is about having fun, eating great food, and—would you believe—checking out the new RV models.

Plan now to attend the Winnebago Tailgate Weekend at Lazydays.

It may not be time for fall football frenzy. But the next best thing is a tailgate weekend at Lazydays RV in Seffner, Florida. The largest single-site RV dealership in North America will host a Winnebago Tailgate Weekend April 15-17 at the 300-site Lazydays Campground adjacent to the dealership.

The Tailgate Party will feature an in-depth preview of the new 2011 Winnebago models and an opportunity to meet Bob Olson, the Chairman and CEO of Winnebago. Bob and his wife Kathy will be guests at Lazydays Campground all weekend.

Check in on Friday and attend a special Winnebago product demonstration presented by members of the Lazydays Winnebago Sales Team.

And that evening put on your favorite team’s logo wear for a Tailgate Dinner Party in the Winnebago Coach Display in the campground. Some great music and entertainment is planned for the evening so you’ll want to hang around and have fun with your RVing friends.

Start your Saturday off with breakfast in the café followed by the Tailgate Challenge—Lazyday’s own version of the Amazing Race. During the day there’ll be product seminars, and an opportunity to meet and greet Bob Olson, RV lifestyle classes, a tailgating BBQ lunch, and Winnebago product displays. All the while you’re enjoying these events you’ll be searching for answers to the Tailgate Challenge.

With 12 distinct motor home lines and dozens of floorplans to choose from, there is a Winnebago motor home that is right for you.

And that evening at dinner, prizes will be awarded to the winners of the Challenge. After dinner you’ll enjoy live music and dancing.

Check out is Sunday morning, but take it easy and enjoy brunch in the RallyCenter and maybe a dip in the pool or hot tub before you depart for your next RVing adventure.

Cost for the entire tailgate weekend is only $149 per RV and includes all the fun, education, entertainment, meals, and campsite.

If you’re unable to camp over the weekend but would like to participate in the Winnebago Tailgate Saturday events, just drive on over and check in at the Campground registration desk. Day Passes are $5 per person and cover all the Saturday events including the tailgate BBQ lunch.

For more information or to make reservations, call (800) 905-6627, or you can register on line.

Tailgating: RV Style

Starting October 17, 2011, Lazydays RV Service Department will be open on Sundays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Get your RV serviced on Sunday and watch your favorite football team on their large screen TV.


Location: Lazydays is located 5 miles east of downtown Tampa off I-4 at exit 10.

Address: 6130 Lazy Days Boulevard, Seffner, Fl 33584-2968

Directions: From the I-75 interchange, take I-4 east one mile to County Road 579 (exit 10). Turn north (left) on 579 and proceed approximately one quarter mile to Sligh Avenue and turn west (left).

If you are traveling westbound on I-4, take County Road 579 – Exit 10 north (right). Proceed to Sligh Avenue and turn west (left). Turn left onto Lazy Days Boulevard (south) and continue. After passing the Cracker Barrel restaurant on your right proceed through the guard gate and the main dealership building will be on your right.

Worth Pondering…

We’re not here for the game. The game is nothing. The game is crap. The game makes me sick. The real reason we Americans put up with sports is for this: Behold, the tailgate party. The pinnacle of human achievement. Since the dawn of parking lots, man has sought to fill his gut with food and alcohol in anticipation of watching others exercise.

—Homer Simpson

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