Lost Dutchman State Park: Adopt-A-Cactus

Last winter I posted three articles on Lost Dutchman, an Arizona State Park named after Jacob Waltz, the Dutchman, who reportedly found a gold mine in the Superstitions in the 1870s. According to legend, the gold is still there somewhere.

For generations, treasure hunters have been scouring the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction for some trace of the Lost Dutchman’s gold.

Nothing so uniquely represents Arizona like the Saguaro cactus. Equally as unique as these cacti, is the ability to share this state treasure with family and friends anywhere in the world through the Adopt-A-Cactus program.

“A year and a half ago, I began a great journey volunteering for the Friends of Lost Dutchman State Park,” volunteer Patricia Carter wrote in a recent Arizona State Park Newsletter.

“My journey started when I first moved to Arizona back in the year 1998,” Carter continued. “I was living in West Mesa and really was mesmerized when discovering the Superstition Mountains. I just had a feeling that someday I would be a part of those mountains somehow. I remember first hiking at the Superstition Mountains and felt the earth rumbling beneath me. There is something so spiritual about these mountains.

“While hiking at Lost Dutchman State Park we came across a man working on the trail and we just talked to him for a bit. He stated he really had to get the trail in shape for the park was in danger of closing by a certain month. He also stated that he was a volunteer.

“My friend and I went inside the office after our hike and there was another volunteer working behind the desk and I asked him the same question. He said yes and he gave me an education as to why and what happened. He said if I wanted to get involved I could volunteer. He gave me the name of the Friends Organization which would be where I would want to volunteer.

“The Friends Organization puts on events to raise money to keep the park opened. From that day on I have a deep passion for this volunteer group. We have put on events, raise money for the park.

“Every Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm I get the opportunity to greet visitors as they drive in and collect the fee of only $7.00 to hike in the park. Campers come to enjoy the beauty of the mountains. The people are just incredible! I get to meet and sometimes for a brief moment get to dip in the lives of people from not just Arizona but from all parts of the country and the world!

“All the volunteers are so friendly and genuine. I can’t say enough of how being a volunteer for this organization has enriched my life. Being in nature is my favorite thing to do and the Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park fulfills that deep passion.

“I have taken on the responsibility of heading up the Adopt-A-Cactus Program. This is a great way to raise money to keep the park open and running.”


Friends of Lost Dutchman State Park

The Friends of Lost Dutchman State Park is a non-profit organization devoted to the benefit of Lost Dutchman State Park.

Website: friendsoflostdutchman.org

Adopt-A-Cactus Program

Mitzi Rinehart and Micah Goldberg of Friends of the Lost Dutchman attended a Canyon Vista Hiking Club meeting to accept a $700 cash donation for a senior saguaro within the Lost Dutchman park. Coleen Ehresmann of the Canyon Vistas Hiking Club members presented the donation to Micah and Mitzi. (Source: friendsoflostdutchman.org)

Adoptacactus.org was established to help sustain and preserve these statuesque monuments to the Southwest and the protected areas that house them; like Lost Dutchman State Park.

At the base of the famed Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park is home to thousands of magnificent cacti; proceeds from this program will directly ensure the park’s sustainability for future generations.

Adopting a Saguaro is easy! Simply choose the type and size of Saguaro you would like to adopt, click “Adopt Me”, fill out the required mailing and payment information, and you will receive an Official Adoptacactus.com Adoption certificate, picture of your adopted saguaro with GPS coordinates, and thank you letter showing your tax deductible amount from the Friends of Lost Dutchman State Park (FLDSP). Since FLDSP is a 501c3 Organization, 100% of your adoption amount is tax deductible.

The adoption fees are based on the size of the cactus and how long you want the adoption to last.

Period of adoption are one year, five years, and twenty years.

Website: adoptacactus.org

Worth Pondering…
A saguaro can fall for a snowman but where would they set up house?

—Jodi Picoult

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February RV Manufacturer Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced recall notices involving four recreational vehicle manufacturers—Thor Motor Coach, Navistar International Corp., Winnebago Industries, and Newell Coach Corporation.

Thor Motor Coach

Elkhart, Indiana-based Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling 165 model year 2010 Windsport and Hurricane motorhomes manufactured from April 27, 2009 through September 3, 2010. On these vehicles, the exhaust system is close to the vehicle’s storage compartment. Heat can build up in this area.

Heat buildup could result in a fire, property damage, personal injury, or death.
TMC will notify owners, and dealers will install a heat shield to protect the storage compartment from the heat generated by the exhaust. This service will be performed free of charge.

Owners may contact TMC at 1-877-855-2867.

Thor Motor Coach’s safety recalls number is RC000042.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

Navistar International Corp.

Warrenville, Illinois-based Navistar International Corp. is recalling certain model year 2008-2010 Beaver, certain model year 2009-2011 Monaco, and certain model year 2009-2011 Holiday Rambler RVs manufactured from October 25, 2007 through August 26, 2010, equipped with Iota ITS-50R 50-amp automatic transfer switches. The Iota ITS-50R 50-amp automatic transfer switch bus bar and/or electrical connections may be inadequate to handle the electrical load.

Electrical overload of the transfer switch could lead to overheating, and a fire, increasing the risk of property damage, personal injury, or death.

Navistar will notify owners, and dealers will replace the Iota ITS-50R transfer switch free of charge.

Owners may contact Navistar at 1-800-448-7825.

Navistar’s recall number is 12504.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

Winnebago Industries, Inc.

Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries, Inc. is recalling certain model year 2011-2012 Winnebago and Itasca motorhomes built on a Ford F-53 chassis. The ‘prndl’ cable may break at the attachment to the transmission control selector arm assembly mounted on the steering column. If the cable breaks, the transmission gear indicator in the ‘prndl’ display in the instrument panel will remain in the first gear position regardless of the gear selected.

An incorrect gear indication in the instrument panel may prevent the driver from knowing if they are in park or reverse, increasing the risk of a crash.

Winnebago will notify owners, and dealers will replace the transmission selector arm assembly and the ‘prndl’ cable assembly, free of charge.

Owners may contact Winnebago Industries Owner Relations at 1-641-585-6939.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

Newell Coach Corporation

Miami, Oklahoma-based Newell Coach Corporation is recalling 210 model year 2004-2010 motor coaches manufactured from January 2004 through December 2009, equipped with SE-GI windows. The adhesive bond between the glass portion of the vent panel and hinge may degrade, and the panel may detach and fall from the vehicle.

If this occurred during travel it could create a road hazard, increasing the risk of a crash or personal injury.

Newell will notify owners, but the notification schedule and the recall remedy has yet to be determined. This service will be performed free of charge.

Owners may contact Newell Coach at 1-888-963-9355.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the ninth in a series of articles relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls.

Worth Pondering…

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


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Discover San Antonio’s Mission Trail

The chain of five missions that were established along the San Antonio River during the 18th century stands as a reminder of Spain’s most successful attempt to extend its New World influence and control. Representing both church and state, these missions were charged with converting the local Native Americans, collectively called Coahuiltecans, into devout Catholics and productive members of Spanish society.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than just churches on the Spanish Colonial frontier, the missions also served as vocational and educational centers, economic enterprises involved in agricultural and ranching endeavors and regional trade. Missionaries taught the Coahuiltecans farming skills and gave them religious instruction.

Before the Spanish came, there were no horses in Texas and no gunfire, except for the raiding Apache. A vast frontier had never been touched by a wheel or felt the blade of an iron ax.

Among other contributions, the missions planted the roots of ranching in Texas. Indian vaqueros tended huge herds of cattle, goats, and sheep. They marked stock with branding irons like the ones used in Spain and Portugal as early as the 10th century.

Along with The Alamo, four outlying churches comprise San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. They are linked together on a driving tour called The Mission Trail. The well-marked San Antonio’s Mission Trail driving route stretches south from The Alamo for nine miles along the San Antonio River.

The world remembers The Alamo as a heroic battleground, but the other missions are tranquil shrines where the Spanish planted the seeds of San Antonio.

Signs link the other missions. Pick up a brochure that contains maps of those sites, which will prove useful as you leave one mission and follow street signs to the next in line, which is usually two or three miles away. From the Alamo southward, you’ll see Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada. All were built between 1718 and 1731. While the Alamo is the best known, it also is the most visited and the most crowded.

Mission San Francisco de la Espada. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s easy to spend a complete day exploring the mission compound and seeing the interpretive displays in the museums.


San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña
This handsome stone church was dedicated in 1755, and appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. It stands proudly as the oldest non-restored stone church in America. In its heyday, colorful geometric designs covered its surface, but the patterns have long since faded or been worn away. However, original frescos are still visible in several of the rooms.

Location: 807 Mission Road, San Antonio, Texas, 78210

Click here for more information about Mission Concepción.

Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo

Known as “Queen of the Missions”, this is the largest of the missions and was almost fully restored to its original design in the 1930s by the WPA (Works Projects Administration). Spanish missions were not churches, but communities, with the church the focus. Mission San José shows the visitor how all the missions might have looked over 250 years ago. The park’s visitor center is located adjacent to this mission.

Note: The church at Mission San José is closed until late summer 2011 for extensive preservation work. The mission itself is open with regular programming.

Click here for more information about Mission San José.

Location: 6701 San José Drive, San Antonio, Texas, 78214

Mission San Juan Capistrano. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally founded in 1716 in eastern Texas, Mission San Juan was transferred in 1731 to its present location. In 1756, the stone church, a friary, and a granary were completed. A larger church was begun, but was abandoned when half complete.

Location: 9101 Graf Road, San Antonio, Texas, 78214

Click here for more information about Mission San Juan.

Mission San Francisco de la Espada

Founded in 1690 as San Francisco de los Tejas near present-day Weches, Texas, this was the first mission in Texas. In 1731, the mission transferred to the San Antonio River area and renamed Mission San Francisco de la Espada. A friary was built in 1745, and the church was completed in 1756.

Location: 10040 Espada Road, San Antonio, Texas, 78214

Click here for more information about Mission Espada.

Did You Know?
The four churches within San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are active Catholic parish churches? While they have not been in continuous operation since established in the early 1700s, many parishioners today are direct descendants of the mission Indians who built the churches.

Worth Pondering…
After 7 days of trial and error,

God created Texas on the 8th day.

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Good Sam Challenges Cast on Celebrity Apprentice

Good Sam, one of America’s most recognized organizations, recently announced their selection in the fifth installment of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” featuring American business mogul Donald J. Trump.

Good Sam was chosen among several Fortune 500 companies to be featured as a task sponsor on a 2012 segment on the popular NBC reality series. The episode will highlight some of the many benefits and services Good Sam provides to the community.

“Good Sam, one of the world’s largest lifestyle organizations, provides a wide and wonderful array of products and services, and we are very pleased to have them on our show,” Trump said.

“I think the episode is exciting and definitely a great fit for our audiences.”

On the reality show, the contestants vie for strategic position, with competitive payoffs coming in the form of sizable donations to their designated charities. The contestant chosen as Celebrity Apprentice receives a $250,000 bonus check to donate to his or her favorite philanthropy.

“We are pleased to partner with Mr. Trump with his pop culture phenomenon, ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam.

“Both Good Sam and ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ have a similar focus on charitable works and Good Sam is focused on providing customer assistance in a multitude of channels. Look forward to seeing Good Sam reveal a new image to the audience.”

Founded in 1966, Good Sam is based loosely on the iconic Good Samaritan who offered to help a traveler in need.

Good Sam’s now-iconic halo and wide grin still signify camaraderie among members and their willingness to offer aid to fellow citizens.

The latest season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” debuted Sunday, February 19 and the Good Sam featured episode will air Sunday, April 29 on NBC at 9 p.m. ET and will include footage of Good Sam CEO Marcus Lemonis.


Good Sam Enterprises, LLC

Good Sam Enterprises, LLC (GSE) and its wholly owned subsidiaries, serve the safety, security, comfort, and convenience needs of the North American outdoor lifestyle.

The goal is simple: GSE makes the outdoor lifestyle more enjoyable. With various companies, brands, products, and services, GSE targets almost every aspect of this diverse and dynamic niche market, said Lemonis.

Website: goodsams.com

The Good Sam Club

The Good Sam Club is the world’s largest RV owner’s organization with over 1.3 million members. Founded in 1966, the club offers its members a wide variety of services, including the Good Sam Extended Service Plan, Roadside Assistance, RV and Vehicle Insurance, RV Financing, Good Sam Visa Card, Life and Health Insurance and member discounts at parks, campgrounds and RV events.

The newly-expanded Good Sam Club offers members savings of up to 30 percent on merchandise, installation, and service at Camping World and 10 percent savings on nightly fees at over 1,700 Good Sam RV Parks and campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada.

Website: goodsamclub.com

The Celebrity Apprentice

This season, 18 business-savvy celebrity contestants will compete, not for a job with the Trump Organization, but for the greater goal of raising money and awareness for their charity of choice. The last person standing will be “hired” as the Celebrity Apprentice and have the honor of delivering a $250,000 bonus check to their designated charity.

Every week, the celebrity contestants will work in two teams, each under the guidance of a designated project manager, to compete in business-driven tasks around New York City, using their fame, along with their proven business acumen, to win challenges. Contestants are subjected to long hours, grueling deadlines, intellectual challenges, personality clashes, and intense scrutiny under the careful watch of Donald Trump and his advisors.

 Website: nbc.com

Worth Pondering…

If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.

—Fay Weldon

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Valentine Engagement at Crater of Diamonds

People visit the Crater of Diamonds State Park for a variety of reasons.

While some simply enjoy the thrill of searching for diamonds, others come to “get away from it all” and don’t necessarily mind if they don’t find a diamond. Other visitors want to find a diamond for betrothal to that “Special Someone,” and couples who simply love searching for diamonds and collecting other rocks and minerals together.

Over the years, Crater of Diamonds State Park has become quite a popular spot for sweethearts looking to “pop the question.” Such is the case for a North Carolina couple who visited the park recently, according to a state park news release.

On February 10, Jared Wilke and Kristy Howell, of Bakersville, North Carolina, came to the Crater for a fun weekend of diamond mining together.  It was the couple’s second visit in about a year, but Jared had plans to make this visit even more memorable than the first.

After learning how to sift for diamonds last year, Jared and Kristy built their own screens to use during their return visit. On their first day back at the park, Jared told Kristy he wanted to videotape himself using the screens to show his dad how they worked.

He set up a video camera in the search area to record himself sifting for diamonds. As he searched with Kristy nearby, Jared suddenly called out, “I think I’ve found something!” When Kristy went to investigate, she discovered that he didn’t just have a diamond, but a diamond ring!

“I couldn’t think of a better time or place,” Jared said of the proposal, which Kristy eagerly accepted.

The Crater of Diamonds has been one of the couple’s favorite places to visit. According to Kristy, “We both love all kinds of rocks and gems.” Their favorite aspects of the park include the variety of rocks and minerals that can be found here, the expanse of the diamond search area, and the helpful and friendly park staff.

Kristy’s engagement ring features a round cut diamond, which once belonged to Jared’s great-grandmother, with pink spinel accent stones mounted on either side.

The couple spent five days at the park during their most recent visit, and though they haven’t yet found their Crater diamond, Kristy says they plan to continue searching for it.

“I imagine we’ll wind up visiting [the park] more than once a year,” she explains, “We have such a great time there!

Search area last plowed:  February 24, 2012

Most recent heavy rain:  February 21, 2012

Total diamonds found in 2012: 67

Latest Recorded Finds (100 points = one carat):

  • February 14 – 31 points yellow
  • February 19 – 16 points white
  • February 20 – 15 points yellow
  • February 20 – 9 points white
  • February 20 – 71points brown
  • February 20 – 14 points white
  • February 20 – 3 points white
  • February 20 – 5 points brown
  • February 20 – 6 points white
  • February 20 – 15 points yellow
  • February 21 – 3 points white
  • February 22 – 62 points white
  • February 23 – 14 points brown
  • February 24 – 13 points brown
  • February 24 – 8 points white
  • February 24 – 11 points white
  • February 25 – 5 points white
  • February 25 – 7 points yellow

How Do I Search for Diamonds?

How you search for diamonds usually depends on how much time you have to search or weather conditions at the park.

There are three methods of diamond searching. Surface searching consists of walking up and down the rows of dirt looking for diamonds lying on top of the ground. This is the most productive method following a hard rain. Rain washes the soil away, leaving diamonds and other rocks and minerals exposed on the surface.

Most visitors like to dig in the soil and screen for diamonds. This usually involves searching through the first six inches to one foot of soil. Visitors can turn the soil over with a small hand tool while looking in the loose soil. Some visitors like to use a screen to sift the soil.

The third method of diamond hunting requires a lot of hard work, and previous experience is helpful. This method is usually preferred by the repeat or regular visitor, and involves digging deep holes, removing the right type soil, washing the soil in a series of screens and patiently hand sorting the concentrated gravels from the screens.

Some searchers look for low areas in the field where diamonds may have settled out over the years, or for tailings from the earlier commercial mining plants of the 20’s and 30’s. Tailings are the waste gravel that went out of the plant. Over the years, these tailing piles were covered by topsoil. The experienced regular hunters look for the tiny gravel, dig it up and wash it again by hand, looking for the small diamonds.

Please Note: This is the ninth in an on-going series of stories on Crater of Diamonds, an Arkansas State Park

Worth Pondering…
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.

—John Steinbeck

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Draco: AWD Motorhome

It’s Draco, an expedition-class AWD motorhome that Shahn Torontow built so his wife, V. Ross Johnson, could still travel the wilderness after the former wildlife photographer became wheelchair dependent.

Oshkosh expedition-class AWD motorhome. (Source: gizmag.com)

A pilot, wildlife photographer, and world traveler, she became wheelchair bound due to chronic Lyme disease.

A gift of love for his wife, Torontow began with an Oshkosh M1000 ARFF (Airport Fire Rescue) built in 1979 and then spent thousands of hours crafting an extraordinary vehicle that offers complete luxury almost anywhere, reports gizmag.

Named Draco after the star constellation and the mythical last dragon, the Oshkosh-based luxury bohemoth has been lavished with the finest so he could withstand deserts, mountains, mud, hurricanes, and blizzards while caring for his wife.

We were missing travel, so I embarked on building a 4WD motorhome to take us to remote areas of Canada and United States for photography expeditions as a distraction from her debilitating illness, Torontow told gizmag.

Torontow bought it as a cab and chassis after the airport decommissioned it. Then a complete overhaul began. The engine was unframed, the tranny rebuilt and both differentials had new gears put in, the suspension got a total off-frame rebuild, and air and dual shocks were added so we could keep the stock ride height and wheel and tire size of 445/65R22.5 (45 inches tall, 12 inches wide tires).

The military-grade vehicle has been lavished with the finest so Torontow could withstand deserts, mountains, mud, hurricanes and blizzards while caring for his wife. (Source: gizmag.com)

The chassis is a diesel pusher Caterpillar 3406A turbo with an engine producing 335 horse power and 1000-foot-pounds of torque at 1400 rpm. The transmission is a four speed Allison 740HT automatic and there’s full time four wheel drive with air locking differentials and one-to-one transfer case.

Draco has air brakes and power steering, automatic air shutters, and fan on the radiator and PTO off the transmission for the hydraulic outriggers and the 20,000-pound winch with 300 feet of cable.

Extras for recovery include two 46,000-pound straps and two protective tree straps, four shackles, and three snatch blocks as well as a pair of studded chains for the rear wheels at 90 pounds per chain.

The military-grade vehicle incorporates a number of special items including a misting shower with seven nozzles, sauna, auxiliary heat systems and heat gain/loss protective window shutters, CCD surveillance system, GPS with voice prompting, broad band satellite links for computer communications, and an elevator.

Since Draco was completed in July 2002 it has travelled 50,000 miles of varying terrain, and became one of the many celebrity visitors at innovation and experimental technology get-togethers such as the EAA (Experimental Air Association) show in Wisconsin, the Oshkosh Truck Corporation facility, mud drag competitions, the DARPA Grand Challenge, wild cat and bird sanctuaries and desert, mountain, and snow country, reports gizmag.

Draco has seen it all.

With the outriggers down we have waited out two borderline hurricanes and a blizzard that blew over tractor trailers, says Torontow.

The vehicle took 3000 man-hours to build. Everything had to be right If Torontow was going to take his wife into remote areas.

The water system alone caters for three different zones—fresh water for drinking and everything else, grey water from the sinks and shower, and black water.

Draco offers the ultimate in comfort in wilderness regions. And there's only ONE! (Source: gizmag.com)

The black-water system is double macerated to 1/16-inch particle and can be disposed of through a pressurized fifty foot hose or the exhaust system while driving.

Draco is an amazing example of how one person can construct a purpose-built bohemoth inside 18 months and have it measure-up to the most mission-critical of tasks—to provide a comfortable mobile home for his wife.

Draco offers the ultimate in comfort in wilderness regions. And there’s only ONE!

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Worth Pondering…

Our four simple rules:

No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food

(two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

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Vintage Shasta Sits Poolside

Larry Fletcher, a welding supply salesman, spotted the Shasta near Longview, Texas.

It was just the sort of vintage travel trailer his wife, Sherry, wanted to park poolside as a cabana at their home in Richardson, north of Dallas.

After Fletcher bought the trailer, he took his time sprucing it up keeping everything close to original. He added new upholstery and polished the original birch wood interior.

“I kept it a secret for four months, and every time I went through the Longview area, I’d stop to check on the progress,” Fletcher told Dallas Morning News.

Shasta started making trailers to house members of the military in 1941 and later produced travel trailers. Originally constructed in a factory in Los Angeles, their high quality and low price made them a favorite with campers all over the western United States.

In 1958, Shasta built a production facility in Goshen, Indiana. At some point in time, Shasta trailers were produced by Shasta Industries, a division of the W.R. Grace Company. The “wings” on the rear sides were a visible identifier in the 1960s and beyond.

The name was sold to Coachmen Industries in 1976. Coachman marketed Shasta branded travel trailers until 2004. Only vintage trailers were available until 2008 when the brand was reintroduced complete with its identifying wings.

Larry Fletcher and his wife, Sherry, share memories in their renovated 1963 10-foot Shasta travel trailer. (Source: Ben Torres, Dallas Morning News)

The new trailers have updated art deco interiors and are all electric. Their features include stainless steel microwaves, stainless steel sinks, and mini blinds, hot plate cook-tops, wet baths, and cutting edge entertainment features including a 19-inch LCD television.

The vintage models are often coveted today.

Then, one Christmas night, Larry showed up at home with the 1963 10-foot travel trailer in tow.

The family heard the trailer pulling up, and everyone in the house ran outside cheering. No one was more excited than Sherry. Larry had, one more time in their marriage, made her dreams come true, Dallas Morning News reported.

Larry welcomed everyone into the petite rolling digs filled with glorious vintage details and “Coppertone Brown” mini-appliances. The Shasta was christened with a Champagne toast.

“I had the Shasta all lit up and Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore’ playing,” Larry said.

“I was so surprised,” Sherry stated. “It was the best surprise ever.”

The Fletchers love to entertain. Their collection of antique and neon signs and memorabilia surrounds the decks and pool.

Sherry is an outside sales manufacturer’s representative and owns the Pink Flamingo, a vintage clothing shop in McKinney. Her creative talents are seen in the Shasta décor.

Scalloped shelves in the trailerette are lined with flamingos and turquoise treasures to carry out the retro tropical color scheme.

1962 Shasta Airflyte (Source: vintageshasta.net)

Sitting side by side inside the Shasta with the birch wood table popped up, talking about all of the good times related to this little party shack on wheels, it’s easy to see that life is only as fun as the wagons, friends, romance and memories that you hitch up, concluded Dallas Morning News.

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Worth Pondering…
That’s Amore

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie
That’s amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore

When the stars make you drool
Joost-a like pasta fazool
That’s amore

Lucky fella

—lyrics by Jack Brooks and Harry Warren; sung by Dean Martin

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Whale Watching Great Fit for RVers

Life in a recreational vehicle can be full of adventure and new experiences.

The approaching spring season brings new opportunities for RVers to explore the natural world and create lasting memories.

Of the many activities available during spring, whale-watching season is a great opportunity to learn and experience something new.

Beginning mid-February, more than 18,000 grey whales leave breeding and calving sites off the coast of Baja, California and travel north to their summer feeding grounds in the Chukchi and Bering Seas. Traveling close to shore, grey whales can be spotted along the West Coast of the United States and Canada.

These giant mammals, which can reach 46 feet in length and weigh up to 36 tons, make one of the longest annual migrations in the world, traveling around 10,000 miles round trip. Inquisitive and friendly towards people, grey whales are known to spyhop, lobtail, and breach the surface.

The West Coast of the United States has a long history of whale watching. High points along the coastline offer many opportunities for land-based observations. Traveling along the famous Pacific Coast Highway gives RVers a good chance to spot whales while experiencing the beautiful landscapes of one of the most scenic routes in the U.S.

This legendary highway hugs most of the coastline from San Diego to northern Washington, providing a continuous avenue for RVers who want to stay close to the coast.

Charter companies also offer visitors a unique perspective of the whales from the air or water. With the ability to cover large areas in a limited time, air tours give visitors a good chance of seeing whales.

Boat tours offer the chance for an up-close and personal experience. Grey whales are curious and friendly, sometimes approaching boats and poking their heads out of the water.

Novice whale-watching RVers can also take advantage of the weeklong program offered by Whale Watching Spoken Here. This program provides trained volunteers at 26 proven whale-watching sites from northern California to southern Washington. Volunteers help spot whales and provide educational information.

This spring’s session will run March 24-31, 2012.

The annual migration of the grey whales provides an exciting and moving experience for veteran and novice whale watchers. With so many places to see these massive mammals, RVers will find whale watching an interesting and exciting spring activity and a perfect reason to take to the road.

While spotting whales can take practice, finding a great RV campground is easy. Encore and Thousand Trails RV Resorts offer premier RV resorts all along the West Coast, according to a news release. Each location offers unique amenities and activities, such as swimming pools, spas, fitness centers, lounges, sports courts, organized activities, Wi-Fi access, and more.

Below is a sampling of RV resorts on the West Coast:

  • Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort – 1205 Silver Spur Place., Oceano, CA 93445
  • Santa Cruz Ranch RV Park – 917 Disc Drive, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
  • San Francisco RV Resort – 700 Palmetto Ave., Pacifica, CA 94044
  • Rancho Oso RV Resort- 3750 Paradise Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
  • Morgan Hill RV Resort- 12895 Uvas Road, Morgan Hill, CA 95037
  • South Jetty RV Resort – 05010 S. Jetty Road, Florence, OR 97439
  • Whaler’s Rest RV Resort- 50 S.E. 123rd St., South Beach, OR 97366
  • Pacific City RV Resort – 30000 Sandlake Road, Cloverdale, OR 97112
  • Seaside RV Resort – 1703 12th Ave., Seaside, OR 97138
  • Long Beach RV Resort – 2215 Willow Road, Seaview, WA 98644
  • Oceana RV Resort – 2733 State Route 109, Ocean City, WA 98569



Encore and Thousand Trails
Encore and Thousand Trails feature 173 RV Resorts across North America. Owned and operated by Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc., Encore, Thousand Trails, and its affiliates offer RVers opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in top vacation destinations, complemented with resort style amenities.

Phone: (866) 730-0637

Website: rvonthego.com

Whale Watching Spoken Here

Visitors can spot migrating gray whales with the help of volunteers positioned at 26 sites along the Pacific Coast during the one-week Whale Watching Spoken Here programs held in March and December. This spring’s session will run March 24-31, 2012.

Whale Watching Spoken Here is coordinated by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and offers volunteer interpreters at locations along the coast from Ilwaco, Washington to Crescent City, California.

Website: whalespoken.org

Worth Pondering…
Back in 1980, whale watching surpassed whaling as an industry. Now it’s worth about four times as much. Whale watching provides far, far more jobs to people than whaling ever did. Whale watching has become an ally in the fight to end whaling.”

—Paul Watson

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JR Consumer Releases 2012 RV Reviews and Ratings

The less than robust economy has hampered the RV industry’s ability to make a strong comeback.

2011 shipments from RV factories to dealers were up only about 2 to 3 percent from last year’s shipped units. A bright spot for the industry was in 2010 when the RV industry showed a 44 percent gain compared to 2009.

Many have put off purchasing an RV for several years are now starting to consider buying an RV. Younger buyers are able to secure financing for less expensive RV models with the ease of credit regulations, and the low interest rates being offered on financing an RV has many people rethinking their decision to wait to buy.

JR Consumer Resources are predicting modest gains for 2012 but, certainly not a breakout year the industry is hoping for, according to a company news release.

RV dealers that have survived the last four years are in a stronger position and will be able to capitalize on a growing market share as the economy continues to improve. RV dealer inventories are improving with dealers being able to secure better financing.

One trend in the industry is for towable units. Most RV dealers have shuffled their inventories to promote travel trailers, fifth wheels, and pop-up trailers while scaling back their inventories for expensive Class A motorhomes.

Many families have discovered that they can afford to take their families on vacation again if they opt for an RV instead of an expensive hotel. In fact, in 2011, visits to national parks and campsites increased nearly 45 percent during a recession.

Another popular trend within the industry is for smaller motorhomes. According to JR Consumer Resources, both Class C and B motorhomes are seeing an increase in sales along with conversion vans. Compared to Class A motorhomes these models are less expensive and provide a certain level of luxury without the big price tag.

Employment within the RV industry is also on the rebound; factories that closed during the recession are now re-opening. Other RV manufacturers are re-hiring employees that were laid off during the peak of the recession and increasing their workforce to meet demand. It is estimated that around 325,000 to 400,000 people are employed within the industry an increase of 45 percent since 2008.

Purchasing an RV, whether it is a full size Class A motorhome or a small fifth wheel trailer is an investment that should be done with care. One doesn’t want to make a purchase they later will regret.


JR Consumer Resources Inc,

J R Consumer Resources Inc. got its start in 1999. Randall Eaton, now President started out as a sales manager for a factory- built housing center in Washington State. Randall decided to write a housing guide titled, “How to Buy a Manufactured Home & Save Thousands.” The book combined buying tips with a comparison guide featuring the majority of housing manufacturers in the United States.

After numerous requests for a modular home comparison guide, J R Consumer Resources started researching modular home builders in the United States and in 2003 published their second book, “Modular Home Buyers Guide.”

Many consumers that purchased the housing guides were also interested in purchasing a recreational vehicle and requested a rating guide for the industry. After interviewing 98 percent of the RV manufacturers in North America, J R Consumer Resources published two additional books rating the RV industry.

JRConsumer.com offers unbiased and factual information about the RV industry that consumers can use prior to making a purchase. This site contains real information from the manufacturers as well as RV reviews from people who have purchased the different products.

RV Ratings Reports rate both new and used RV models in the areas of quality of construction, customer satisfaction, dependability, design, payload, and resale value.

RV Ratings start with 2012 models and go back to 1998.

Address: 3660 Nicklaus Drive, Clarkston, WA 99403

Phone: (888) 770-2830

Website: jrconsumer.com

Worth Pondering…
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
Anyone who keeps learning stays young.
The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.

—Henry Ford

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Six Courses, One Name: Alabama State Parks Golf Trail Named

In early December I posted a story, What Would You Name the Alabama State Parks Golf Trail?

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sought help in naming the State Parks Golf Trail.

With a recent announcement of new course names and logos for the golf courses, the Alabama State Parks wanted to promote their courses collectively, as a trail.

The concept is similar to that used by the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which has become a major tourist attraction in the state.

With six courses that range from Joe Wheeler State Park in the northwestern corner of the state, to Lakepoint Resort State Park in the east central part of the state, to Gulf State Park on the Gulf Coast, Alabama State Parks desired to promote these courses as a trail of courses that provide quality play and value to the average golfer.

After two months of accepting submissions for a name that combines all six Alabama State Parks golf courses into a single trail, a name has been chosen, “The Parks Path: An Alabama Golf Destination.”

The Parks Path: An Alabama Golf Destination

As part of the rebranding, the courses will also be rated, sloped, and handicapped for the Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN) system.

A trail card will allow golfers to visit the six state parks and golf at a discounted rate.

Chad Davis, assistant superintendent at Joe Wheeler Park, said he expects the marketing effort and recent renovations at the park’s lodge to boost visitation there.

The golf courses included in “The Parks Path: An Alabama Golf Destination”:

  • The “General” at Joe Wheeler, Joe Wheeler’s rank in the Confederate Army
  • The “Oaks” at Oak Mountain, which represents the wide variety of oak trees in the park
  • The “Sanctuary” at Lakepoint, which represents the nearby national wildlife sanctuary
  • “Deer Haven” at Roland Cooper, which highlights the large local deer population
  • The “Refuge” at Gulf State Park, represents the nearby national wildlife refuge
  • The “Eagle’s Nest” at Lake Guntersville, honors the return of our national symbol to North Alabama, the Bald Eagle


Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management, and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Website: outdooralabama.com

Alabama State Parks

Webcam overlooking the “Oaks” at Oak Mountain State Park (Camera provided by FOX6 WBRC-TV)

Alabama State Parks have it all…golf, fishing, boating, swimming, camping, hiking, nature craft, biking, horseback riding, family fun, and just plain ole’ relaxin’.

There are great places to stay and great places to eat plus beaches, mountains, and everything in between.

Do a little or do it all at an Alabama State Park.

Phone: (800) ALAPARK (800-252-7275)

Website: alapark.com


Worth Pondering…

If I can hit a curveball, why can’t I hit a ball that is standing still on a course?

—Larry Nelson

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