RV Across Texas

Texas is full of surprises. Few sections of the country are as influenced by Spanish, Mexican, and European residents as Texas. With one of the largest German, Czech, French, and Mexican populations in the U.S., Texas is diverse.

Our Texas RV Travel Bucket List continues.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enchanted Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome that rises 425 feet above ground, 1,825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area consists of 1,643 acres on Big Sandy Creek, 18 miles north of Fredericksburg, on the border between Gillespie and Llano counties.

Coupled with its impressive geologic history, Enchanted Rock also has an extensive archaeological history; the site figures prominently in several Indian legends.

Tonkawa Indians believed ghost fires flickered at the top, and they heard weird creaking and groaning, which geologists now say resulted from the rock’s heating by day and contracting in the cool night.

Visitors to Enchanted Rock enjoy numerous activities, including hiking, backpacking, technical and rock climbing, primitive camping, picnicking, birding, geological study, stargazing, and nature study.

The park offers 7 miles of hiking trails, including the popular 6/10 mile Summit Trail which involves a 425-foot elevation gain hike to the top of Enchanted Rock. The 4-mile Loop Trail, a favorite among hikers and backpackers, winds around the base of Enchanted Rock.

Gladys Porter Zoo

Gladys Porter Zoo, rated among the top 10 zoological preserves in the United States, is an oasis nestled in the center of Brownsville. With 26 acres of lush tropical plants and over 1,600 animals, Gladys Porter Zoo is known for its successes in breeding endangered species of wildlife. Animals live in open exhibits surrounded by natural flowing waterways.

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

The zoo is divided into sections. Tropical America is where visitors will see jaguars, Galapagos tortoises, macaws, Caribbean flamingos, spider monkeys, and Cuban crocodiles. Indo-Australia features orangutans, grey kangaroos, kookaburras, agile wallabys, and black swans. Asia has tigers, gaurs, Przewalski’s horse, pileated gibbons, Indian blue peafowl, and Bactrian camels. Africa includes reticulated giraffes, African elephants, Grant’s zebras, African lions, western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and one of the rarest antelopes in the world—the Jentink’s duiker.

The Herpetarium and Aquatic Wing contains a large collection of lizards, turtles, snakes, gila monsters, and some rare crocodilians, along with both freshwater and saltwater fish from around the world, with an emphasis on the Texas Gulf Coast area.

Other exhibits include a free-flight aviary, bear grottos, and a California sea lion exhibit.

Lockhart, Barbecue Capital of Texas

Lockhart, the seat of Caldwell County, is located 28 miles southeast of Austin on U.S. Highway 183. This small Texas town exudes a rustic, slow-paced charm arising from its Western heritage, rooted in cattle and cotton.

Lockhart is blessed with small-town hospitality. The town also benefits from being historically located on three trails—El Camino Real, the Chisholm Trail, and the Texas Independence Trail.

Lockhart is 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.

Black's Barbecue is Texas' oldest and best major barbecue restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Black’s Barbecue is Texas’ oldest and best major barbecue restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family. © 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.

Black’s and Chisholm Trail offer barbecue sauce to their customers; Smitty’s grudgingly provides it; and Kreuz Market bans sauce—and forks, too.

When Kreuz Market opened as a meat market and grocery store in 1900, customers dined off butcher paper with their fingers and used knives attached by chains to the wall to slice their meat.

It’s amazing that four barbecue establishments can stay packed all the time—and in a small town, too.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Please Note: This is part 4 of an on-going series on our Texas Bucket List

Worth Pondering…

If a man’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. If he’s not, why embarrass him by asking?

—John Gunther

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Texas RV Travel Bucket List

Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse.

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
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

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.

With 267,000 square miles of amazing opportunities and unforgettable destinations, an RV visit to Texas is always exciting.

In a state as diverse as Texas, there’s always an adventure around every corner and unique attractions at every turn.

From West Texas to the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, El Paso to Texarkana to Brownsville, from outdoor enthusiasts to foodies to culture buffs, there’s always something to see and do in Texas.

Even those of us who visit Texas frequently and spend a big chunk of our time traversing it leave most of the Lone Star State untouched.

The state overflows with awesomeness at every turn, places we find completely captivating.

These are the places on our Texas Bucket List: 10 things that every traveling Texan should do. Whittling the list to 10 was totally frustrating, so, at the end, we’re listing some other Texas travel spots we love. And, of course, because we haven’t yet been quite everywhere, we’ll keep exploring Texas — and keep letting you know about new finds.

Here, in the meantime, is our bucket list, in no particular order.

We’ll start at the hallowed Shrine that represents her birthplace.

The Alamo

 

You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.—David Crockett © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.—David Crockett © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

For 176 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 legends.

Entering the doors of this monumental artifact of Texas history, we 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.

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 176 years ago.

Remember the Alamo!

Brenham: Ice Cream Capital of Texas

What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
What’s your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brenham—Ice Cream Capital of Texas,” proclaims the giant sign at the corner of U.S. 290 and FM 577, which becomes Blue Bell Road, home to Blue Bell Creameries.

The tour begins in a small projection room with a brief, humorous video depicting the history of Blue Bell, founded in 1907 as the Brenham Creamery Company. Afterward, a guide leads visitors upstairs to watch cream transform into frozen confections. Tour-goers peer through large, glass windows that overlook the various processing areas, stainless steel vats and chutes crank out the chilly treats into paper tubs, which are loaded into boxes headed for the freezer.

Our guide mentions that less than half of Blue Bell’s 18 year-round and 24 rotating flavors are produced on a given day. On this day, we watch half-gallons of Pecan Praline, Milk Chocolate, and Rocky Road, pints of Moo-llennium Crunch, and three-gallon containers of Homemade Vanilla glide down the line, as well as the rapid assembly of ice cream sandwiches (120 made per minute).

Cravings can build, even in the quick half-hour watching workers operate vats and pack ice cream. Luckily, an ice cream parlor awaits downstairs at the end of the tour. Visitors receive a serving from their choice of 24 flavors, including the latest creations.

An extensive gift shop adjoining the parlor tempts with everything Blue Bell.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Please Note: This is part 1 of an on-going series on our Texas Bucket List

Worth Pondering…

Wasn’t Born in Texas, But Got Here as Fast as I Could

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More January RV Manufacturer Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced four recall notices involving three recreational vehicle/chassis manufacturers—Airstream, Keystone RV Company, Forest River, Inc., and Fleetwood RV.

Airstream

airstream-logoJackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream is recalling potentially 576 units of its model year 2008-2013 Interstate motorhomes manufactured August 2007 through December 2012 and equipped with the rear sofa floor plan, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The electrical equipment underneath the sofa may come in contact with the seat belt buckle or metal cables from the seat.

If the metal sofa components come in contact with the electrical components, electrical arcing could occur. Arcing may lead to a vehicle fire.

Airstream will notify owners, and dealers will install a cover over the electrical components, free of charge.

The recall is expected to begin by late January 2013. Owners may contact Airstream at 1-877-596-6111.

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.

Keystone RV Company

Keystone-Rv-Co.-logoGoshen, Indiana-based Keystone RV Company is recalling 191 model year 2012 and 2013 Springdale travel trailers, model 266RLSSRWE, manufactured from October 18, 2011, through December 5, 2012. The suspension may contact the copper propane line for the range.

If the suspension contacts the copper it may damage it, resulting in a propane leak. If the propane leaks in the presence of an ignition source, there is an increased risk of fire and/or explosion, which could cause property damage and/or personal injury.

Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will modify the propane line to route it away from the suspension, free of charge.

The recall is expected to begin during early January 2013.

Owners may contact Keystone Customer Service by calling 1-866-425-4369.

Keystone’s recall campaign number is 12-186.

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.

Forest River, Inc.

forest-RiverElkhart, Indiana-based Forest River, Inc. is recalling 451 model year 2010-2012 Berkshire and Charleston diesel motorhomes. The chassis are equipped with connectors for diode jumpers that may come loose, resulting in an open circuit. Two circuits are affected: The one that disengages the cruise control with brake pedal use, and the one that illuminates the brake lights with brake pedal use.

Failure of the cruise control to disengage when the brakes are applied may increase the risk of a vehicle crash. Without the brake lights illuminating when the brakes are applied, the driver’s intent is not communicated, increasing the risk of a crash.

Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) is performing this recall on behalf of Forest River. DTNA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the diode jumpers to make sure they are fully locked in place and will correct the vehicles as needed.

The recall is expected to begin on January 28, 2013.

Owners should contact Daimler Trucks Warranty Campaigns Department at 1-800-547-0712, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time Monday through Friday, or the Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-FTL-HELP after normal business hours.

Daimler’s recall campaign number is FL-634.

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.

Fleetwood RV

Fleetwood logoFleetwood RV is recalling 14 model year 2012 and 2013 Bounder Classic model 30T motorhomes manufactured from February 17, 2012, through November 30, 2012. The Federal Certification Tag information relating to front and rear tires is incorrect. Due to the inaccurate label, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Part 567, “Certification.”

Owners relying on the information provided on the label may incorrectly inflate their tires, which could contribute to a tire failure that could cause a crash.

Fleetwood RV will mail new federal certification tags to owners. Owners who are not comfortable installing these labels may have them replaced at a dealer, free of charge.

The safety recall is expected to begin in January 2013. Owners may contact Fleetwood RV Owner Relations at 1-800-509-3418.

Fleetwood RV’s safety recall number is 130102FRV.

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 twenty-sixth in a series of articles relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls.

Worth Pondering…

On being retired…we woke up this morning with nothing to do and by evening we had not completed it!

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Stromberg Carlson Trailer Tray Carries More Cargo

Traverse City, Michigan-based Stromberg Carlson introduced its new Trailer Tray product at a series of trade shows during the past two weeks.

Stromberg Trailer Tray
Stromberg Trailer Tray

“We just secured the licenses from the inventor at the end of December,” explained Bob Brammer, president of Stromberg Carlson.

“We were fortunate that Bell Industries, Northern Wholesale, and Stag Parkway all allowed us to display the product and take orders at their shows.”

The Trailer Tray is a patent pending trailer tongue cargo carrying system that can accommodate up to 300 pounds of cargo, according to a news release.

It allows adjustments to fit most “A” frame trailers.

“Your tow vehicles suspension guarantees this is the softest riding area on your trailer. It’s perfect for generators, coolers, compressors, wood boxes, and more,” said Brammer.

“This is a great place to put a generator because many campers are looking to get off the grid.”

Details

Stromberg Carlson Products Inc.

Stromberg Carlson products for the recreational vehicle include RV jacks, fifth wheel tailgates, cargo carriers and trays, RV ladders, shower rods, fifth wheel landing gear, RV steps and step accessories, RV hand rails, and tire carriers.

Address: 2323 Traversefield Drive, PO Box 266, Traverse City, MI

Phone: (231) 947-8600

Website: www.strombergcarlson.com

Worth Pondering…

Each journey we take represents a passage, whether it be a trip through an unknown land, an outing among new friends, or the minutes, days, or years spent seeking a specific goal.

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January RV Manufacturer Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced three recall notices involving three recreational vehicle/chassis manufacturers—Thor Motor Coach, Winnebago Industries, and Newmar Corp.

Thor Motor Coach

thor-255x144Elkhart, Indiana-based Thor Motor Coach is recalling certain model year 2011 through 2013 Tuscany, Astoria, Ultrasport, Montecito, and Palazzo recreational vehicles manufactured from May 17, 2010 through October 30, 2012, built on Freightliner brand XB and XC custom chassis, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The recall potentially will impact 727 units. The vehicles are equipped with diode jumpers that may come loose in their connectors resulting in an open circuit. Two circuits are affected: The one that disengages the cruise control with brake pedal use, and the one that illuminates the brake lights with brake pedal use.

Failure of the cruise control to disengage when the brakes are applied may increase the risk of a vehicle crash. Without the brake lights illuminating when the brakes are applied, the driver’s intent is not communicated, increasing the risk of a crash.

Daimler Trucks (DTNA) will notify owners on behalf of Thor, and Freightliner dealers will inspect the diode jumpers to make sure they are fully locked in place and will correct the vehicles as needed.

The recall is expected to begin January 28, 2013.

Owners should contact DTNA Warranty Campaigns Department at (800) 547-0712, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time Monday through Friday, e-mail address DTNA.Warranty.Campaigns@Daimler.com, or the Customer Assistance Center at (800) FTL-HELP after normal business hours.

DTNA’s recall campaign number is FL-634.

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

winnebago-quality-circle-award-255x144Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries is recalling model year 2010-2013 Winnebago Journey and Tour motorhomes, and model year 2010-2013 Itasca Meridian and Ellipse motorhomes manufactured from June 2010 through November 2011. Potentially 1,521 units are affected, according to NHTSA.

The chassis are equipped with connectors for diode jumpers that may come loose, resulting in an open circuit. Two circuits are affected: one that disengages the cruise control with the brake pedal use; and one that illuminates the brake lights with brake pedal use.

Failure of the cruise control to disengage when the brakes are applied may increase the risk of a vehicle crash. Without the brake lights illuminating when the brakes are applied, the driver’s intent is not communicated, increasing the risk of a crash, according to NHTSA.

Daimler Trucks North America will be conducting the recall on behalf of Winnebago Industries, according to NHTSA. Daimler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the diode jumpers to make sure they are fully locked in place and will correct the vehicles as needed.

The recall is expected to begin on January 28.

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.

Newmar Corporation

Newmar Corp image001Nappanee, Indiana-based Newmar Corporation is recalling potentially 626 model year 2011 through 2013 Ventana Class A, Dutch Star Class A, and Mountain Aire Class A model motor homes manufactured from January 25, 2010, through September 19, 2012, built on Freightliner brand XB and XC custom chassis, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The chassis are equipped with connectors for diode jumpers that may come loose, resulting in an open circuit. Two circuits are affected: The one that disengages the cruise control with brake pedal use, and the one that illuminates the brake lights with brake pedal use.

Failure of the cruise control to disengage when the brakes are applied may increase the risk of a vehicle crash. Without the brake lights illuminating when the brakes are applied, the driver’s intent is not communicated, increasing the risk of a crash.

Daimler Trucks (DTNA) will notify owners on behalf of Newmar, and Freightliner dealers will inspect the diode jumpers to make sure they are fully locked in place and will correct the vehicles as needed.

The recall is expected to begin Jan. 28, 2013.

Owners should contact DTNA Warranty Campaigns Department at (800) 547-0712, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time Monday through Friday, e-mail address DTNA.Warranty.Campaigns@Daimler.com, or the Customer Assistance Center at (800) FTL-HELP after normal business hours.

DTNA’s recall campaign number is FL-634.

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 twenty-fifth in a series of articles relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls.

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

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6 New National Wildlife Refuges Established

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announces the establishment of six new national wildlife refuge units during the past year and the renaming of a seventh in honor of a late Fish and Wildlife Service director by laying commemorative planks on a walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first refuge.

Commemorative planks on a walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation's first refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Commemorative planks on a walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Each time we establish a new national wildlife refuge, we set aside a treasured landscape, conserving our priceless fish and wildlife and their habitat not only for this generation but for future generations,” said Salazar.

“We also provide a place for people to connect with nature through fishing, hunting, hiking and other outdoor recreation. This not only restores the spirit and refreshes the mind but also supports economic growth and jobs in local communities.”

Last year, more than 47 million people visited the nation’s 561 national wildlife refuges, Salazar noted. These visits generated over $2.6 billion in economic activity and supported more than 36,000 jobs.

During the Pelican Island ceremony, Salazar added planks to the walkway that now commemorates all 561 national wildlife refuges. The new planks include:

Valle del Oro National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
This urban refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was established through the acquisition of 390 acres of Valley Gold Farms, a former dairy and hay farm. It is within a 30-minute drive of half of New Mexico’s population, providing ample outdoor recreation and education opportunities. With its outstanding birding and outdoor recreational opportunities, Valle del Oro will also be an economic engine for local communities.

Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, New Mexico

Planks on the walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge now commemorates all 561 national wildlife refuges. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Planks on the walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge now commemorates all 561 national wildlife refuges. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This refuge near Mora, New Mexico, will ultimately protect and manage up to 300,000 acres of one of the most significant grassland landscapes of North America. The refuge is possible because of a generous donation by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust of 4,200 acres. The Thaw’s donation of the ranch and their support for ongoing environmental education, research, and habitat management in north central New Mexico will provide endless opportunities for the local community to connect or reconnect with the great outdoors.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin & Illinois
This refuge, located in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois, will restore wetlands, prairie, and oak savanna as well as provide new and expanded recreational opportunities for environmental education, interpretation and other wildlife-dependent recreation for the estimated 3.5 million people within 30 miles of the project area.

Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, Colorado & New Mexico
This refuge, made possible by the donation of easements by Louis Bacon on his Blanca and Trinchera ranches, will conserve a wildlife corridor in the Southern Rockies in south-central Colorado and far northern New Mexico that spans some 170,000 acres. When completed, the two easements will represent the largest donation ever to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Swan Valley Conservation Area, Idaho & Wyoming
The Montana refuge helps connect the Canadian Rockies with the central Rockies of Idaho and Wyoming. The Fish and Wildlife Service established the refuge in partnership with landowners who voluntarily entered their lands into easements. It will protect one of the last low-elevation, coniferous forest ecosystems in western Montana that remains undeveloped and provide habitat for species such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, wolverines, and Canada lynx.

Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
The Fish and Wildlife Service worked in voluntary partnership with ranchers and other stakeholders to create this refuge that combines traditional public land acquisition strategies with conservation strategies for private working lands. The refuge and conservation area ultimately will include a 50,000- acre publicly owned national wildlife refuge and 100,000 acres of land that will remain in private ownership under conservation easements. It will connect existing conservation lands; create wildlife corridors; enhance water quality, quantity and storage; protect rare species; and provide opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi

The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas and dense woods in the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas and dense woods in the national wildlife refuges of the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In February 2012, Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, located just south of Starkville, Mississippi, was renamed the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge to memorialize one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s greatest leaders. The late Sam Hamilton was the Service’s 15th Director from September 2009 to February 2010. Under his leadership, vision, and guidance, both as Director and the Southeast Regional Director for 12 years, the service began moving away from opportunistic conservation in favor of landscape-level conservation to protect entire ecosystems.

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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Rand McNally Introduces RV Navigation App for iPad

Nearly two years after introducing the first GPS designed specifically for RVers, Rand McNally launched the first RV GPS app for the iPad.

-00rvgps_app_app_icon_smThe RV GPS was shown for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rand McNally’s RV GPS for iPad is the first iOS application offered that is specifically designed for RV navigation. The new application, available on the App Store(sm), provides RV class-specific routing (and with a quick toggle, over to car routing) based on Rand McNally’s proprietary road data and navigation, plus thousands of RV parks and campgrounds, RV-friendly locations, RVer tools, and pre-planned trips.

The app also includes dynamic weather, a map overlay feature that helps drivers anticipate conditions such as high wind and precipitation along the route.

Also included is a bonus feature of the app: An e-book version of America’s #1 Road Atlas.

-000rvgps_app_2_lg“About 20% of RVers have an iPad, and many of them take it on the road,” said Dave Muscatel, CEO of Rand McNally.

“Our new app lets those travelers access the same premier RV routing, navigation, and content available on our RVND GPS devices, and load it on their tablet.”

The Rand McNally RV GPS is an on-board app that provides safe and easy routing customized for an RV or car. Unlike off-board navigation, the maps load on an iPad, providing access everywhere — even in remote areas where a cellular or Wi-Fi connection is not available. For real time navigation as the vehicle progresses, a GPS signal is required.

The RV GPS app includes:

  • Safe and easy routing for 11 types of RV in the U.S. and Canada; also includes car mode for cars towed to the destination and used for excursions, or for everyday use
  • Routing based on legal and physical restrictions, such as height, width, weight limits, and propane restrictions, and favors right- or left-hand turns depending on RV class
  • Rand McNally proprietary RV-specific road attributes and Rand McNally exclusive highway construction project information
  • Warnings for speed limit changes, sharp curves, dirt roads, and other potential hazards
  • General and RV-specific points of interest including thousands of RV parks and campgrounds listed by category, RV parking, rest stops, exits, and other locations
  • Rand McNally Editor’s Picks, including Best of the Roadadventures, trips, and getaways
  • Real-time weather information including current and forecasted information for current location, destination, and anywhere along the route

Choose from 10 different map overlays to display important information for RVers, such as wind speed, current and forecasted precipitation, and weather-based traffic impact.

-00rvgps_app_4_lgRV Tools such as RV checklists prepare the user for trip departure, campsite setup, and more. Trails record a “bread crumb” path from the campsite, or a favorite shortcut and Quick Planner calculates time, distance, and cost for trips between major cities.

Fuel logs track fuel purchases, including where purchased, gallons, and total cost; and tools are available to record vehicle maintenance.

Rand McNally also sells an in-vehicle mount for an iPad and an external GPS accessory online at the Rand McNally store.

Details

Rand McNally RV GPS for iPad

Cost: $99.99

Website: randmcnally.com/rvgpsapp

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

Website: randmcnally.com

Best of RVing website: bestoftheroad.com/rv

Best of the Road website: bestoftheroad.com

Tripology website: tripology.com/

Lifetime Maps program website: randmcnally.com/lifetimemaps

Worth Pondering…

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

—Daniel Boone

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Choosing a Digital Camera: Additional Considerations

Digital cameras come in a wide range of sizes, capabilities, and prices.

Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From pocket models about the size of a deck of cards to pro bodies, there’s something just right for everyone and for every pocketbook.

Choose a Camera That Feels Right

Select a camera that feels comfortable in your hands. If a digital camera is too big or small for you to hold comfortably, or if the controls are not laid out in a way that makes sense to you, chances are that you won’t enjoy shooting as much as you should.

While most D-SLRs are similar in size and build, the styling of the handgrip, position of controls, and other ergonomic features can differ drastically. The camera you choose should be one that you are most comfortable using.

Will I want to upgrade in the future?

The chances are that as you progress and learn this hobby, you will want to upgrade later. You may want to consider a camera that will meet you requirements now AND into the near future.

Do I want a point-and-shoot compact or D-SLR?

Cameras are constructed in one of two ways:

  • Point and shoot compact— the body and the lens are embodied in a single device
  • SLR—the body and lenses are separate
The X10 is Fujifilm’s attempt to entice advanced shooters willing to pay a premium for higher image quality and specs in a very small, if not pocketable package. (Source: dpreview.com)

The letters S-L-R stand for “single lens reflex”, which refers to the camera construction.

SLR means that the same lens is used for viewing and taking photos. A mirror in the body directs the light from the lens up into a prism for viewing and flips up out of the way just before an exposure is made.

D-SLRs accept a wide range of interchangeable lens, while compact point-and-shoot cameras have built-in lenses. The inability to change the lens that’s built into the camera limits your shooting options.

For D-SLRs, you can buy an infinite set of lenses, for which there are infinite purposes.

Point-and-shoot compacts are perfect if what you want is ease of use in a pocket-sized camera. You’ll have fewer features and a limited zoom lens range, but image quality is surprisingly good and constantly getting better.

While convenient and aggressively priced, compact point-and-shoot cameras can’t match the quality, speed, and versatility of D-SLR cameras. D-SLRs are equipped with larger and higher-quality sensors than point-and-shoot models resulting in higher quality images; there’s virtually no shutter lag; and DSLRs offer more creative control and accessories such as lenses, flashes, and filters.

The downside is they’re bulkier and pricier.

For the casual fun shooter, a point-and-shoot compact camera is often more than adequate. They’re light, easy, and do a fine job.

An advantage of compact point-and-shoot digital cameras is their portability—for hiking, cycling, kayaking, whatever. Many are pocket-sized and do not require a lot of extras.

I started with a compact point-and-shoot camera. Later I decided that I wanted to get serious about photography.

D-SLR cameras are the standard tool for serious amateur and pro photographers.

If you are leaving the house to socialize and want a camera to keep in your pocket just in case an interesting photo presents itself, the point-and-shoot camera is ideal.

If you’re heading out with a specific photography project in mind, you will prefer having a D-SLR.

Following is a quick list of the pros and cons of both types of camera:

D-SLRs

Pros:

  • Better image quality
  • Better lens quality (when you buy the good stuff)
  • Better speed and performance
  • Faster operation and larger controls
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • More accessory items available

Cons

  • Gets expensive in a hurry
  • Larger, heavier, and bulkier
  • Can seem complicated at first

Compact point-and-shoot

Pros

  • Small, light, and compact
  • Convenient
  • Less expensive
  • Easier for the whole family to use

Cons

  • Slower response times
  • Generally poorer image quality
  • Fewer accessory options
  • Shutter delay
Sigma’s D-SLRs have always been unique. Besides having a reputaion for simplicity, the Sigma D-SLRs exclusively use the Foveon X3 image sensor. (Source: dpreview.com)

Your final choice will be based on your budget as well as your requirements and needs. Despite the performance advantages of a D-SLR compared to a compact camera, there’s one overriding question you need to answer honestly: “What am I willing to carry?”

The right camera is the one you take with you. If you can’t see yourself carrying a D-SLR—and maybe an extra lens or two—then you’re better off with a camera you’ll find more comfortable.

Worth Pondering…

The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE.

—Ernest Haas

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Ultra-Fab Introduces 3502-7 Electric Tongue Jack

Elkhart, Indiana-based Ultra-Fab Products’ Ultra 3502-7 electric tongue jack with a seven-way power plug is the newest addition to their line of electric tongue jacks.

Ultra-Fab 3502-7 Electric Tongue Jack
Ultra-Fab 3502-7 Electric Tongue Jack

The Ultra 3502-7 features more than 3,500 pounds of tongue lifting power using hardened steel gears making it one of the strongest tongue jacks on the market.

Designed for trailers with no on-board battery, the 7-way power plug draws power from the tow vehicle allowing these trailer owners to eliminate the drudgery of hand cranking. The Ultra 3502-7 has 18 inches of lift.

When RVers arrive at their destination at night, Ultra-Fab’s exclusive Site-Lites provides powerful illumination for an after dark set up.

Other features include:

  • 3502-7 model fits 2-and 2.25-inch mounting holes
  • 6-inch diameter standard footpad
  • Emergency crank socket included
  • Durable Acme threaded rod
  • Water resistant motor and gear housing
  • 25-amp circuit breaker
  • Quiet operation
  • 12-volt operation
  • Manufacturer’s 2-year warranty
  • Mfg. No. 38-944017

The Ultra 3502-7 electric tongue jack with a seven-way power plug is available at Camping World, RV dealerships and RV parts and accessories stores.

Ultra-Fab’s Ultra 3502-7 electric tongue jack with a seven-way power plug is available through Keystone Automotive, NTP, and StagParkway.

Details

Ultra 3502-7 Electric Tongue Jack

As trailers become larger and heavier, plus with slide outs now the norm on most, you need a tough trailer tongue jack to match.

The Ultra 3502 features over 3,500 pounds of tongue lifting power using hardened steel gears and making it one of the strongest tongue jacks you can buy. Plus, it includes the exclusive Site-Lites™ night lights to provide powerful after dark illumination.

Ultra-Fab Products, Inc.

ufaballUltra-Fab is a world class manufacturer of innovative top quality products committed to making your life easier and your leisure pursuits more enjoyable.

Address: 57985 SR 19 S, Elkhart, IN 46517

Phone: (574) 294-7571

Website: ultra-fab.com

Worth Pondering…

Happiness is like a butterfly—the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.

—Henry David Thoreau

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More Space Heater Fires Destroy Pets & RVs

Whether camping or just relaxing in your recreational vehicle, fire safety is essential.

A fire started by a space heater in a travel trailer spread to a second trailer, a car, and a home just. (Credit: Avra Valley Fire Department)
A fire started by a space heater in a travel trailer spread to a second trailer, a car, and a home just. (Credit: Avra Valley Fire Department)

In an earlier post I reported that four small dogs died and an RV was destroyed in a fire caused by a propane space heater.

In today’s post I report on two RV fires caused by careless use of space heaters.

Arizona Fire Started by Space Heater

A fire started by a space heater in a travel trailer spread to a second trailer, a car, and a home in Picacho, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

When units from the Avra Valley Fire District arrived on scene they found heavy flames and smoke coming from a masonry-built home, Patrick Calhoun, spokesman for the fire district, said in a news release. A car and two travel trailers also were ablaze. It took two engines and two water tenders to extinguish the fires.

Potential space heater fire (Source: familyhandyman.com)
Potential space heater fire (Source: familyhandyman.com)

“The fire was believed to have had started in one of the travel trailers when the resident living in the travel trailer turned on a space heater,” Calhoun said.

The fire then spread to the house, car, and another travel trailer on the property. Damage is estimated at $225,000.

“The units from the Avra Valley Fire District went about eight miles out of our normal response area to fight the fire,” Calhoun said. “This is due to the fact that the town of Picacho is a no-man’s land for fire coverage.”

Calhoun warns that space heaters require at least three feet of clearance area around them. When selecting a space heater, he suggested buying one with a guard around the flame area or the heating element and one that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Calhoun’s other tips include:

  • Buy a heater that is the correct size for the area that needs to be warmed
  • Ensure everyone knows how to property operate the heater
  • Never leave a space heater turned on when going to bed or leaving the room
  • Keep doors open when using a fuel-burning heater, to reduce the risk of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide accumulating
  • Be aware that RVs require specially designated heating equipment and only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used

Pets Die in Space Heater RV Fire

A dramatic RV fire sent smoke into the air over Boise, Idaho. Firefighters were there within minutes, but they couldn’t save the trailer or the pets inside, reports KTVB.

Boise Fire Marshal Romeo Gervais says the fire started near the back of the RV where there were two space heaters. The owner indicated that one is left on all the time to keep her pets warm.

Gervais provided KTVB listeners with advice on what makes space heaters dangerous and how to use them safely.

Probably the biggest concern is clearance to combustibles and/or children or pets. When you deal with space heaters, you need to keep at least three feet or so clear around them and keep them out of the reach of children and pets. Pets can easily knock them over or children can get burned on them.

(Source: firesafetycouncil.com)
(Source: firesafetycouncil.com)

Plug space heaters directly into an outlet: don’t use extension cords or power strips.
Ensure your space heater has tip-over protection and overheat protection, both of which will force a shut-off if there’s a problem.

Purchase a space heater with covers or guards over the working parts of the heater to prevent burns. This is especially important if you have children or pets.

Space heaters, including wood stoves, are responsible for a third of all home heating fires, and four out of five deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Most of those fires were started because the heaters were too close to flammable things, like furniture.

In addition to space heater safety, Gervais says not to use ovens or stoves as heat sources. He also says to avoid fire and exposure to carbon monoxide, don’t use outdoor fuel heaters, like those meant for camping, indoors.

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.

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