Bigfoot Damages RV

A state trooper in Lykens, 30 miles northeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, took a report of criminal mischief to a 1973 Winnebago motorhome.

Attacked: Mr Reed’s Winnebago had its windows and tail lights smashed. (Source: Associated Press)

State police said John Reed reported someone smashed the windows and tail lights of his Winnebago between September 15 and October 8.

John Reed was driving his Winnebago late at night when someone—or something—started throwing rocks at the vehicle, damaging its windows and tail lights.

The central Pennsylvania man gave state police a lead as they looked into who might have damaged his motorhome.

Police said that before finding the damage, Reed had seen a Bigfoot in the area of his vehicle. He described it as very large and brown and walking somewhat hunched over.

According to the Associated Press, 39-year-old Reed is an avid Bigfoot hunter, and maintains the Lykens Valley Sasquatch Hunters page on Facebook.

The group claims to be ‘in the field every day’, as well as launching expeditions to the Pennsylvania mountains on the weekends.

Reed says he’s been seeing Bigfoots in the area and studied them for about three decades, but he’s not sure if one of the furry menaces is responsible for damaging his vehicle.

At the time he was targeted by the apparent Sasquatch, Reed was driving the vehicle he calls the ‘dog house’ around rural Pennsylvania searching for signs of Bigfoot.

He claims he was successful in his quest—but when he turned on the outside lights of his vintage motorhome to see better, the Bigfoot began throwing rocks at the light to prevent itself from being discovered which enabled the attacker to get away.

According to the police report, Reed could not see if the Bigfoot was hairy or not.

Following the incident Reed took to Facebook and wrote, ‘ROCKS THROWN THROUGH THE DOG HOUSE WINDOW……VANDELISM?? OR SQUATCH ATTACK?!!!!!!!!’

One has to wonder why it took Reed several months to report the supernatural encounter to state police.

Report: Police did not take Reed’s account of the situation lightly. (Source: Associated Press)

The mythical Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, is more often believed to reside in the Pacific Northwest than in the Northeast.

Worth Pondering…

I’ve been bigfooting for 20 years now. My day job is a professional educator and musician, but my passion is hunting the squatch.

—Cliff Barackman

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Dicor Introduces CoolCoat to Keep RVs Cooler

To help RVers escape the heat, Elkhart, Indiana-based Dicor Products has introduced a new heat-reducing coating option to its two-part coating system for EPDM rubber RV roofs.

The company’s new CoolCoat Insulating Coating uses advanced MicroCells technology to reduce heat transfer from the RV roof to the RV interior.

Tests show that this new ceramic coating can reduce the interior temperature by as much as 29 percent from the roof temperature.

The temperature reducing coating material is a new alternative to the popular acrylic coating that RVers have used for years in Dicor’s two-part coating system for EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) roofs, according to a company news release.

Dicor Products said it is critical to prepare the roof with the cleaner/activator (first part) before applying either coating (second part) to ensure maximum coating adhesion.

CoolCoat contains MicroCells, which are nano-sized spheres, inside of which a vacuum has been created, which helps to dramatically slow heat flux—the rate of heat transfer from one surface to another, according to the release.

Dicor CoolCoat Insulating Coating

In this case, the heat transfer is from the RV’s exterior roofing surface to the RV’s interior surfaces, from where the heat can radiate into the RV. Using such vacuum-filled spheres is similar to the way a Thermos works in keeping liquids hot and cold for an extended period of time.

When CoolCoat cures, the MicroCells become tightly packed and help create a tough coating that reflects and dissipates heat by minimizing heat flux. This allows everything under the roof to stay cooler, longer—thereby reducing the load on air conditioning and saving energy, the company noted.

The durability and longevity of the EPDM coating is also improved. As with the other parts of the coating system, CoolCoat Insulating Coating is easy to apply and dries quickly.

Like Dicor’s EPDM Roof Acrylic Coating, CoolCoat extends the life and beauty of rubber roof membranes in forming a protective barrier with superior resistance to harsh weather and ultraviolet light, the company noted.

CoolCoat Insulating Coating is expected to be available at RV dealers and stores starting this month.


Dicor Products

Dicor Products delivers smart ways to make RVs more functional, better-looking, and more dependable for RV buyers.

Dicor Products has been a leading supplier of component products to RV manufacturers since 1984, most notably as a supplier of premium roofing products.

Dicor are also very well established in the RV aftermarket, where they’re well known for roofing repair and care products and wheel covers.

Their Versa-Liner wheel cover brand, in fact, has more than one million sets in service.

In a brand restructuring, Dicor Products has recently been recast as one of four affiliated company brands of Dicor Corporation, which also include Seal Design, United Shade, and Vixen Composites.

Dicor Corporation is the overall corporate umbrella for the different companies, including Dicor Products, each of which operates independently with its own customers, while sharing a common ethic of service and innovative product development.

Address: 2965 LaVanture Place, Elkhart, IN 46514

Phone: (800) 837-2059 (toll free)


Worth Pondering…

When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.

—Edward Teller

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Oilfield Workers Buy Up Bakken Tough Trailers

Camps for Bakken oilfield workers in North Dakota and Montana are dotted with fifth wheel trailers shielded with foam-board insulation and skirting and whatever else workers can muster to keep water pipes and waste tanks from freezing and to lower heating costs.

Dustin Bretz is shown with a super-insulated 34-foot work crew housing unit at Tour America RV Center. Many of the dealership’s RVs are headed to the Bakken oil field where the boom in jobs has created a severe housing shortage. (Source: Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette)

When Bakken oilfield workers come calling Dustin Bretz, salesman at Tour America RV Center in Billings, Montana, knows standard RVs aren’t going to cut it.

There’s camping rough and then there’s Bakken rough, living full time through the winter on the frozen prairie of North Dakota and Montana, where more than a few days of arctic weather are normal, Bretz told The Billings Gazette.

“Winter time can run as cold as 30 below zero, and a lot of RVs aren’t made for that.”

So Tour America started looking for one that could handle these harsh winter conditions and came up with a Camp Lodge, Work and Play fifth wheel custom built for the Bakken environment.

“These go relatively quickly,” Bretz said.

“It has 2 to 3 inches of spray foam on the lower chasse, heated water lines, and holding tanks. They have dual-pane windows, like your house. This is a niche product.”

In this July, 2011 photo, a man walks back to his temporary housing unit in a man camp outside of Williston, N.D. Many oilfield workers say sharing an RV beats living in a man camp any day. And, some of the oilfield work is done far from the nearest man camp, making super-insulated RVs or other manufactured housing a preferred choice. (Source: AP)

Bretz has the rugged trailers, which retail for about $34,000, parked north of his main lot in full view of eastbound Interstate 90, where semis loaded with drilling equipment and bentonite are streaming to the oil patch. His show-pony RVs are in Tour America’s corral, not so easily spotted from the freeway.

Housing of all kinds is scarce in the Bakken oilfield, where high-paying jobs have lured thousands of transient workers. Real homes are hard to come by, but so are campers and trailers. The running joke is that the oilfield holds the record for homeless people with $100,000 incomes. At a western North Dakota housing summit last spring, developers identified the need for 5,000 homes over the next two years.

That insatiable demand for housing of all kinds has become good business for Billings companies with products ready to sell. Pierce Homes now markets a modular model named for the Bakken and built by Commodore Homes. At Canadian-American Structured Solutions Inc. (CASS), the demand for oilfield housing drives a significant portion of the recently created company’s business.

“I would say the fallout from the Williston area is 25 percent of our business,” said Larry Nelson, CASS investor and CFO.

CASS, which set up shop in Billings only a few months ago, shipped a four-plex to Powers Lake, North Dakota, and created duplexes bound for Regina, Saskatchewan. The company has an apartment house building in Glendive and multiple accounts from Baker to Williston.

CASS builds its products to suit the building codes for permanent structures in whatever community to which its buildings are headed.

Bakken Reservoir fields in Williston Basin

Even businesses that don’t normally target the Bakken market are picking up customers, reports The Billings Gazette.

“We say we don’t sell single-wides, but we sell a bunch of these little cabins that are right around the $60,000 mark, the cost of a nice, fifth-wheel trailer,” said Jeff Lee, of American Homes.

Lee said American Homes in Billings has sold six of the 560-square-foot cabins since August. Not all of the buildings were Bakken bound, but he expects more will be sold into the oilfield in the future.

American sells a hunting cabin that’s a super-super insulated single-wide modular home with 6-inch walls and homelike features.

“This really is just a souped up single wide, but it has a good look and feel, laminate floors, residential doors and windows and furnaces.”

Lee said American Homes in Billings has sold six of the 560-square-foot cabins since August.

Worth Pondering…

I played as much golf as I could in North Dakota, but summer up there is pretty short.  It usually falls on Tuesday.

—Mike Morley

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2012 GoNewmar Road Show Tour

It’s Road Show time of year again!

Nappanee, Indiana-based Newmar Corp will launch its 2012 Go Newmar Road Show Tour starting tomorrow, October 29.

The Newmar leadership team will drive three coaches around the country to various destinations to give dealers and consumers an up-close look at the 2013 models showcasing the new King Aire, Dutch Star, and Ventana Class A motorhomes.

You’ll get to meet Newmar’s leadership team—who will be driving the coaches—including President Matt Miller accompanied by his wife Pam, CEO/Chairman Richard Parks accompanied by his wife Candace, and VP of Sales, and Marketing John Sammut accompanied by his wife Margaret.

And you’ll enjoy incomparable Road Show events—like the Good Sam’s Rally at Daytona Motor Speedway from October 31 through November 4.

Mark your calendar now!

You’re invited to stop by, tour the coaches, and meet the Newmar Road Show team.

See you on the road!

The 2011 GoNewmar Road Show Schedule

The schedule includes the following stops:

October 29: Knoxville, Tennessee

October 30: Campers Inn of North Carolina in Mocksville, North Carolina

October 31: Daytona Beach, Florida

November 1-4: Good Sam Rally at Daytona Motor Speedway

November 5: RV Connections in Panama City, Florida

November 6: Berryland RV in Ponchatoula, Louisiana and RV Shop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

November 7: Holiday World of Houston in Katy, Texas

November 8: Ancira RV in Bourne, Texas

November 9: Ancira Travel Villa in Alvarado, Texas and Professional Sales in Colleyville, Texas

November 10: Texarkana, Texas

November 11: Crain RV in Little Rock, Arkansas

November 12: Franklin, Tennessee

November 13: Cummins, Inc. in Columbus, Indiana


Newmar Corp.

NEWMAR: When You Know The Difference

2013 Newmar King Aire Diesel Pusher
2013 Newmar King Aire Diesel Pusher

Established 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, Essex, and King Aire).

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

Phone: (800) 860-0086


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

—Byrd Bagget

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Stay Safe & Save Fuel

As snowbirds and other RVers prepare for travel during the coming weeks and months, two things will be on their minds—safely navigating the highways and byways, and at the same time, save costly fuel.

Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first step toward a safe trip begins in the driveway before you leave home.

1. Service vehicles regularly

Follow the recommended service and maintenance schedules; keeping an RV tuned up and in top running condition saves fuel. A clean air filter keeps impurities from damaging your engine and can significantly improve fuel economy. Failure to follow recommended maintenance schedules may void warranty.

2. Prepare your vehicles for long distance travel

Check your wipers and fluids. Simple preventative maintenance before you leave home can prevent many of the problems that strand RVers on the side of the road.

3. Properly inflate your tires

Properly inflated tires can save you up to four percent in fuel mileage, while under and over inflation can lead to premature tire failure. Ensure that you routinely check your tire pressure.

4. Lower your speed

Lower speeds not only save money at the pump, they also make you safer on the road. While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed or range of speeds, fuel mileage usually decreases rapidly above 55 mph. By maintaining a constant moderate speed, drivers can save up to 30 percent on fuel and are better able to react to road conditions and other drivers—so slow down!

5. Save fuel

Tucson, Arizona is home to North America’s largest Cacti. The Giant Saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Tucson, Arizona is home to North America’s largest Cacti. The Giant Saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To save fuel, take direct routes, minimize side trips, and maintain a steady speed. Also, a well-tuned engine, properly inflated tires, and reduced speed will result in noticeable fuel savings.

6. Use cruise control

Using cruise control can be a fuel-saver. When driving long stretches of open road, cruise control can be a very valuable asset, maintaining your speed within the least fuel-guzzling gear, plus eliminating your chances of accidental speeding.

7. When NOT to use cruise control

Cruise control can take a bite into your fuel mileage potential on hills where it tends to coast up the hill until it realizes that it is losing speed and quickly attempts to make up for it by pushing the throttle, increasing your speed and your fuel use. Minimize excessive engine workload by using the vehicle’s kinetic forward motion to climb hills. Use downhill momentum, rather than applying accelerator, to build speed back up.

8. Flexible Travel Plans

Weather conditions play a major role in fuel economy. Driving into a strong headwind will lower your mileage and driving with a strong tailwind will give you better mileage. Stay flexible in your travel plans and consider only traveling when weather conditions are favorable.

9. Large trucks have blind spots

Encompassing over 1.2 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based & backcountry recreation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Encompassing over 1.2 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based & backcountry recreation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware that tractor-trailers have large areas around their trucks where other vehicles are not visible. If you can’t see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver is unable to see you. Keep in mind that this applies also to large recreational vehicles, especially Class A motorhomes.

10. Do not cut in front of large trucks and other RVs

Since trucks and recreational vehicles are heavier than cars and take longer to come to a complete stop, avoid cutting quickly in front of them.

11. Honor the Right of Way

Keep in mind that highway traffic has the right of way on entrance ramps; maintain proper speed, using smooth merging techniques, and don’t slow down in front of a large rig or RV.

12. Wait until parked to use cell phones or text

Driver distraction is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident.

Now Let’s Go RVing!

Please Note: This is the second in a two-part series on Saving Fuel and Arriving Safely

Part 1: 5 Ways to Save Fuel and Money

Worth Pondering…
Take time to see the special in the ordinary this weekend. Every sunset is a gift.

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot


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5 Ways to Save Fuel and Money

During the 2011-2012 Snowbird Season Arizona RV parks reported their winter residents appeared to be staying longer than in previous years, partially due to high fuel prices.

The annual O’Odham Tash Celebration, a gathering of tribes, is held in mid-February and features Native American arts and crafts, ceremonial dances, rodeos, powwows, and parades. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With thousands of snowbirds planning to hit the road during the coming weeks and months, two things will be on their minds—arriving at their destination safely and the price of fuel.

Nationally, average retail gas prices are approximately 50 cents higher than a year ago and one dollar higher than two years ago, according to

With gas prices reaching record levels, it’s more important than ever to keep tabs on your fuel spending.

While we have no control over the price of fuel, we can do a few things to help save money.

Most motorists share one common goal—to get the best mileage possible. The desire for the best fuel efficiency is especially strong among recreational vehicle owners. There are many ways that you can reduce fuel and related costs while enjoying life ‘on the road’ in your recreational vehicle.

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

RV drivers are often quite frugal. They budget carefully and they make the most of every trip and vacation. Part of that is being aware of the potential savings that are available to the consumer.

Many RVers take measures to reduce fuel consumption through simple steps like driving 55 instead of 65 or 70 mph and packing lighter to reduce weight in the RV.

Following are five tips to help you save fuel:

1. Avoid High Speeds

Decreasing your speed saves money. The greatest improvement in fuel economy is the speed we drive. As your speed increases, your aerodynamic drag increases. Driving faster pushes more air ahead of the RV which creates more resistance to forward movement. Driving 62 mph rather than 75 mph will reduce fuel consumption by about 15 percent.

2. Do Not Accelerate or Brake Hard

Accelerate gradually, both from a stop and when entering a freeway; avoid sudden jack-rabbit starts and rapid acceleration. By anticipating the traffic and applying slow steady acceleration and braking, fuel economy may increase by as much as 20 percent.

3. Anticipate traffic flow

Look at the traffic as far ahead as possible in order to avoid unnecessary stopping and starting within the flow of traffic. Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

Brake smoothly, avoiding fast stops; rapid braking wastes fuel and cut down your mileage.

Look ahead and anticipate traffic conditions. Slow down well before you need to. Instead of slamming on your breaks just before the line, slowly ease off the accelerator, coasting to a stop and thus avoid wasting fuel and wear on the brakes.

When the light changes green, forget that pedal to the metal mindset and, again, ease into it.

4. Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Another fuel saver is to keep tire air pressures at the levels recommended by the tire manufacturer. Tire pressure can severely affects fuel economy.

If the tires are low on air, the engine has to push harder to move the RV ahead. It is important to know that tires can look normal when they are seriously under inflated.

Rockport is known as “The Charm of the Texas Coast” and for good reasons too. It’s a quiet, little town on the coast of Texas just 30 minutes north of Corpus Christi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Regularly check the air pressure in all tires, when the tires are cool (air pressure increases while you are driving).

Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency.

Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure.

5. Control your weight

Added weight significantly decreases fuel mileage and increases wear and tear on your tires.

Keep in mind that everything you put in your RV has weight. The average couple carries approximately 2,000 pounds of “stuff,” and many full-timing couples carry as much as 3,000 pounds.

When possible, travel with empty gray and black holding tanks and fresh water tank no more than ¼ full.

The following are approximate weights of the liquids that RVs commonly carry:

  • Water—8.3 pounds/gallon
  • Gasoline—6 pounds/gallon
  • Diesel fuel—6.6 pounds/gallon
  • Propane—4.5 pounds/gallon

Now Let’s Go RVing!

Please Note: This is the first in a two-part series on Saving Fuel and Arriving Safely

Part 2: Stay Safe & Save Fuel

Worth Pondering…

I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.

—Jackie Mason

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Northwood Achieves Milestone

Executives from Northwood Manufacturing, Inc. met in Portland, Oregon, with Apache Camping Center principal Kevin Baker to ceremonially deliver the 10,000th truck camper produced by Northwood, an Arctic Fox 990 “Milestone Edition.”

2013 Northwood “Milestone Edition” 990 Arctic Fox truck camper
2013 Northwood “Milestone Edition” 990 Arctic Fox truck camper

This marked the first “Milestone Edition” 990 Arctic Fox truck camper sold during Oregon’s 29th Annual Portland Fall RV & Van Show, according to a news release.

Along with the camper, Baker accepted an inscribed photo of the production line associates posed in front of the 10,000th camper.

The Milestone Edition is a result of Northwood’s decision to celebrate the achievement of a significant business milestone: the manufacturing of their 10,000th truck camper.

In recognition of this success, Northwood developed a special, limited production series of their popular Arctic Fox camper. The Milestone Edition sports special interior and exterior features, too numerous to list, and an appearance that distinguishes itself from others in the marketplace.

Jim Jones, Northwood CEO, told Baker, “Ten thousand truck campers, what an incredible achievement! You and your organization have been a significant part of that success. On behalf or all of us at Northwood, from the line associates, to the office personnel, and the Nash family, we want to express our gratitude to the Apache Camping Center organization. Apache has been a constant and loyal contributor as well as a good friend that we sincerely value as a dealer partner.”

Along with the camper, Kevin Baker accepted an inscribed photo of the production line associates posed in front of the 10,000th camper.

In accepting, Baker commented, “This has truly been a mutually beneficial relationship. You have come so far since that first camper. We really value the history, the relationship, and Northwood’s commitment. Thank you to everyone at Northwood. You have continued to supply us with superior products and service, and I do believe that, as a team, we are unbeatable.”

Northwood’s Director of Sales, Donald Cochran, added this observation: “Thank you so much for the long-term commitment. It’s amazing standing here now, knowing it was the Apache Camping Center organization that was responsible for our very first retail of an Arctic Fox truck camper. Kevin, we sincerely appreciate your contributions to our success with the Arctic Fox truck campers. We look forward to future decades and tens of thousands of additional truck camper sales with you.”

“Our organization was very excited about this product,” added Baker.

“We felt that Northwood really knocked it out of the park with both the appearance and amenities. Consumer reaction was very favorable but when our first sale of the show was the ‘Milestone Edition,’ we knew we had a winner.”


Northwood Manufacturing Inc.

La Grande, Oregon-based Northwood Manufacturing was founded in 1993 by Ron Nash.

Northwood employs close to four hundred people, making the manufacturer one of the largest private-sector employers in the area. Northwood Manufacturing is located just outside La Grande in Northeastern Oregon, amidst the scenic Blue Mountains.

Northwood currently manufactures truck campers (Arctic Fox and Wolf Creek), travel trailers (Arctic Fox, Nash, and Snow River), fifth wheel trailers (Arctic Fox, Fox Mountain, and Snow River), and toy haulers (Desert Fox).

Address: 59948 Downs Road, La Grande, OR 97850-5295

Phone: (800) 766-6274


Apache Camping Center

Apache Camping Center display of 2013 Northwood Arctic Fox truck campers

Apache Camping Center is a family-operated RV dealership specializing in towables, truck campers, and folding trailers. They are a prominent RV dealer in the Pacific Northwest with locations in Portland, Oregon, as well as Everett and Tacoma, Washington.

Apache has been a Northwood dealer since 1994 and is a top retailing dealer for Northwood Manufacturing.

Address: 11021 SE 82nd Avenue, Happy Valley, OR 97086

Phone: (503) 659-5166


Worth Pondering…

Work joyfully and peacefully. Knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.

—James Lane Allen

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Still More Reasons to Love Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

1. City Market

Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the great joys of RVing is visiting new places and making interesting discoveries. Another is just the opposite—revisiting those places that demand a closer look. Sometimes that second chance leads to a third—and a fourth.

City Market in Luling, is such a place. The meat-market-turned-barbecue-restaurant started in 1958, and over the years has become a barbecue icon. This is the arguably the best barbeque in all of Texas which helps explain why Luling is perennially included on our Texas itinerary.

2. Lockhart: Barbecue Capital of Texas

A short hop, skip, a jump from Luling is Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.

Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty's—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty’s Market in Lockhart—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several tons of barbecued beef, pork, chicken, and smoked sausage are served each day. It is estimated that over 5,000 people visit these establishments on a weekly basis—that’s roughly 250,000 people a year who eat BBQ in Lockhart. Lockhart’s pit masters smolder native post oak logs, seasoned at least eight months, to provide the fragrant smoke and indirect heat that slowly roasts and flavors the meat. After that, secret recipes, cooking methods, and condiments separate the establishments.

It’s amazing that four barbecue establishments can stay packed all the time—and in a small town, too. Incidentally, my favorite is Smitty’s Market. The brisket and links as well as the unique experience make me a repeat customer.

3. Big Texan Steak Ranch

Not one of the businesses to put out a welcome mat for Oprah when she appeared in an Amarillo court against the beef producers, The Big Texan is best known for its 72 ounce steak. No matter how you cut it, 72 ounces is 4½ pounds and that’s a lot of meat. And it’s free if you can eat the steak and the accompanying salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and bread in one hour while everyone else in the restaurant watches.

The atmosphere is awesome. There are elk heads all over the wall, about six Texas flags outside, along with a huge cow statue and other Texan artifacts.

4. Shiner Bock

If Blue Bell Ice Cream is a food group, then why not beer—but not just any beer; it must be a Texas original from “the little brewery in Shiner”. Reflecting the tradition of genuine Bavarian beers, Shiner Bock has been brewed since 1913, almost as long as the Spoetzl Brewery has been in business.

However, it wasn’t until 1973 that Bock went into production year-round. Bock was considered a lent beer, and therefore was only made around that season. Today over 80% of the beer made at the Spoetzl Brewery is Bock.

5. Las Vegas Cafe

For excellent home cooked Tex-Mex food, Las Vegas Café in Harlingen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley doesn’t disappoint.

The key to the eatery’s continued success is its consistency with good food, good service, and reasonable prices.

The name has spicy origins and so do the recipes. The building was a go-go club in the early 1960s that went by the name of Las Vegas Lounge.

Las Vegas owners Julio Charles and his wife, Eloina, started the café in 1964. Today, their two daughters, Lori and Julie, primarily run the café.

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The popular café began its operation with only three tables and eight stools and now has a seating capacity for 140 people.

This is a great place for lunch, but it’s always very busy. You will never go wrong with the specials posted on the wall. Or if you prefer, ask for a menu. The cheese enchiladas, fajitas, and nachos are fantastic. Also, the sweet tea alone is worth the price of the meal. Great value!

Note: This is the third in an ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Part 1: What’s to Love about Texas Food

Part 2: 6 Reasons to Love Texas Food

Worth Pondering…
You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

You need Corpus, you need Abilene, Odessa and Laredo,
Bastrop and Lufkin, Port Lavaca and Salado.
Dallas, Waco, Harlingen and places big and small,
No, Texas ain’t Texas…unless you got ’em all.

You can’t have the cotton-eyed without the Joe,
And springtime ain’t sprung until the bluebonnets grow.
You couldn’t have a front porch without the rocking chair,
And if it wasn’t for the corn dogs you couldn’t have the Fair.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

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Why Snowbirds Should Go West This Winter

Earlier this year, weather forecasts suggested an early formation of El Niño would result in a slightly warmer and wetter weather for the United States.

U.S. winter outlook (Source: NOAA)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center there’s a catch this year; the fickle El Niño has not formed as expected.

El Nino is the Pacific weather system that indicates warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific, and that influences the jet stream and gives forecasters confidence in their work.

This prognostication provides snowbirds looking for the warmest and driest roost some direction.

Go West, Snowbirds, Go West

The western half of the Lower 48 is forecast to have a warmer-than-average winter.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement that El Nino development “abruptly halted” last month.

“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Nino decided not to show up as expected.”

According to Halpert, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the

U.S. winter outlook (Source: NOAA)

tropical Pacific.

NOAA still sees signs a weak El Nino will develop and its outlook, released last week is based on that tentative assumption.

The winter outlook suggests warmer-than-average temperatures in much of Texas; the Central and Northern Plains; the Southwest; the Northern Rockies; eastern Washington, Oregon, and California; and the northern two-thirds of Alaska, the center said.

Hawaii, however, is expected to have cooler temperatures.

The outlook also suggests drier-than-average conditions in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, northern California, Idaho, western Montana, most of Nevada and portions of Wyoming and Utah, the center said.

It will also be drier in the upper Midwest (including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and northern Missouri); eastern parts of North and South Dakota; Nebraska; Kansas; and western Illinois, the center said.

This winter should be wetter than average across the Gulf Coast region from the northern half of Florida to eastern Texas, the center said.

It’s a crap shoot for the rest of the country. They are given an “equal chance” for one of three winters: above, near, or below normal, the center said. The center’s outlook doesn’t predict snowstorms, however.

Halpert stated that if El Nino suddenly strengthened, below average temperatures and above average precipitation might cover a larger region of the South, whereas dry conditions might expand beyond the north central U.S. towards the Ohio Valley.

Halpert stressed the difficulty in developing this year’s outlook, both due to the elusive El Nino, and broader challenges in seasonal forecasting.

“The science behind seasonal prediction is in its infancy,” Halpert said, noting such outlooks are about 20-30 percent better than a random guess, and even less than that when the El Nino signal (or conversely, its opposite phase, La Nina) is weak.

This is the first time in 60 years of records El Nino has displayed this kind of erratic behavior, according to Halpert, so the past provides few clues about what the future may bring.

Halpert acknowledged El Nino is not the only player in developing seasonal outlooks.

The Arctic Oscillation, one of the other key predictors of winter conditions, can not be forecast more than two weeks or so in advance.

During 2009-10 the Arctic Oscillation was sharply negative, resulting in cold, stormy conditions over the Eastern U.S.

Last winter, it was largely positive, resulting in the opposite conditions. It remains a big wildcard heading into this winter.

Worth Pondering…

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not

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Rand McNally Introduces new RV GPS

Skokie, Illinois-based Rand McNally introduced the RVND 7720, a new seven-inch RV GPS device with Wi-Fi connectivity allowing for real-time weather information and display, and new hardware with rugged casing, video input, and a brighter screen.

Rand McNally RVND 7720 GPS device with Wi-Fi connectivity

The new device—now available in stores, online retailers, and RV dealers and distributors—joins Rand McNally’s line of RVND GPS devices for RVers.

Rand McNally pioneered RV-specific navigation by launching the first GPS device designed specifically for RVers and campers, according to a Rand McNally news release.

RV-specific navigation is necessary to route large vehicles and towables around road restrictions, low bridges, and other physical hazards. However, like all Rand McNally RV GPS devices, the RVND 7720 can be used as a car GPS as well—merely by changing a simple setting.

One of the new features of the RVND 7720 is Wi-Fi connectivity, which enables the transmission and display of weather as well as other real-time information. With updated weather information, RVers will be able to anticipate delays and make plans by viewing current and predicted conditions displayed on the map and along the route.

Besides weather, other RV-specific connected services will be coming soon and will be available for this device.

The RVND 7720 has an all-new hardware platform, featuring a new rugged design with
ridged casing for added protection, a brighter screen that adjusts for low and strong light, and video input compatible with a range of back-up and rear-view cameras.

Rand McNally RVND 7720 GPS device with Wi-Fi connectivity

The base maps and overlaying content, such as campgrounds, parks, RV service, and other RV points of interest, also have been updated for the RVND 7720.

The new device ships with Lifetime Maps (see link below) so owners will be able to update their devices at no additional cost.

The RVND 7720 GPS includes the following additional new features:

  • Fully updated road data, including RV-specific information such as speed limits, legal, and physical restrictions, and all Rand McNally proprietary RV data
  • Fully updated points of interest necessary for safe and convenient routing, including travel centers and RV parking information at rest stops, exits, and other locations
  • Fuel logs, which are accessible from the Virtual Dashboard or via RV Tools; the feature enables drivers to record fuel purchases for a trip
  • Additional routing options such as “Avoid State or Province” and “Avoid Smaller Roads”
  • Address book icon enhancement, which enables unique icons to be created by group and shown on the map for imported locations; address book items can be sorted by name, distance from current location, or date added
  • Text-to-speech alert details for user-imported custom points of interest, such as red light cameras, to reduce driver distraction
Rand McNally RVND 7720 GPS device with Wi-Fi connectivity

The new RVND 7720 has all of the features and functionality drivers have come to expect from Rand McNally, including: Virtual Dashboard; junction view with lane assist; free downloads of Rand McNally’s proprietary construction information and software updates; Exits Quick View which shows RV parking and amenities at exits; RV Tools, RV amenities and locations such as campgrounds, RV services, and dumps; Woodall’s Campground information with searchable amenities; Rand McNally exclusive pre-planned trips with photos and video; and routing for 11 types of RVs as well as for cars.


Rand McNally

Rand McNally is the most trusted source for maps, directions, and travel content.

Rand McNally’s products and services include road travel review site (bestoftheroad),  interactive travel referral service (tripology), America’s #1 Road Atlas, TripMaker RVND GPS for RVers, IntelliRoute truck routing software and mobile communication solutions for the transportation industry, and the leading geography-based educational resources for the classroom.

Consumers, businesses, truckers, and educators depend upon Rand McNally to help navigate today’s world.

Address: 9855 Woods Drive Skokie, Illinois 60077

Phone: (800) 333-0136


Best of RVing website:

Best of the Road website:

Tripology website:

Lifetime Maps program website:

Worth Pondering…

I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.

—Daniel Boone

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