Enchanted Rock: Sitting on Top of the World

The Texas Hill Country begins a little way west of I-35 between San Antonio and Austin, and from here extends a large area of rolling hills and valleys with limestone canyons, clear-water rivers, and a few scattered small towns.

Enchanted Rock is an impressive geological feature with an estimated age of one billion years, making it among the oldest exposed rock in North America

Enchanted Rock is an impressive geological feature with an estimated age of one billion years, making it among the oldest exposed rock in North America. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most of the area is quite densely wooded and can look rather featureless from a distance, with every hill covered with trees. One exception is Enchanted Rock, an enormous, pink granite dome located between Llano and Fredericksburg, about 90 miles north of San Antonio and 18 miles from Fredericksburg along ranch road 965.

Enchanted Rock rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres.

It’s part of the Llano Uplift, a large region of granite bedrock that rises out of the surrounding limestone. Over the last several million years, erosion has exposed this billion-year-old dome and its smaller sister domes. It’s some of the oldest exposed rock in the world and is a prime destination for hikers, photographers, and rock climbers.

Boasting the best view in Texas, Enchanted Rock has long been a useful landmark for cross-country travelers. The rock is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) formed from molten magma deep below the earth’s crust and part of an underground mass of 62 square miles, one of the largest such features in the US.

Although Enchanted Rock appears to be solid and durable, it continues to change and erode.

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

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

Enchanted Rock was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1970 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Enchanted Rock is part of the state park system, one of the most popular sites in Texas for several reasons—the scenery is unusual, the summit is easily reached and has fine views over the countryside, different habitats harbor varied wildflowers, cacti and other plants, and there are good hiking trails and rock climbing routes. Occasionally visitors are turned away if the carpark reaches maximum capacity. There are actually several different summits, and a few days could be spent exploring the area.

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 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. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are two main trails. The steep and heavily traveled Summit Trail leads directly to the summit of the main rock, while the Loop Trail makes a four-mile trek around the entire complex of domes.

A more relaxed and more scenic—but longer—hike, the Loop Trail presents a completely different aspect of the park. Along the way you’ll pass through a couple of different ecosystems—through woods and brush, by a pond, over exposed rock—and you’ll see several unusual eroded and lichen-encrusted rock formations that those who do climb the face of Enchanted Rock never get to see.

A good combination is to walk half the loop trail to the far side of the Enchanted Rock summit, use a short cut along a ravine (Echo Canyon) to link with the summit trail then take this up to the peak. The southern part of the loop trail climbs through pine woodland and past large granite boulders with many colorful wildflowers during spring. There is a short side trail to a viewpoint of distant lands to the west, while the main path continues past a primitive camping area and a large pond (Moss Lake) with fish and turtles, then meets the Echo Canyon junction. The trail through here passes one of the main rock climbing areas, then meets the summit trail half way to the top.

Details

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Elevation: 1,825 feet (high point)

Address: 16710 Ranch Road 965, Fredericksburg, TX 78624

Phone: (830) 685-3636

Directions: From Fredericksburg 18 miles north on Ranch Road 965; from Llano, 14 miles south on SR-16 and then west on Ranch Road 965

Entrance Fees: $7; children 12 years and younger, free

The 4-mile Loop Trail, a favorite among hikers and backpackers, winds around the base of Enchanted Rock.

The 4-mile Loop Trail, a favorite among hikers and backpackers, winds around the base of Enchanted Rock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Note: Park closures are possible on weekends and holidays. The number of people in the park is limited to protect its fragile resources. When parking lots are full, the park will close for up to two hours. This can happen September through May, sometimes as early as 11 a.m.

Worth Pondering…

I am humbled by the forces of nature that continuously -mold our great state of Texas into a beautiful landscape complete with geological diversity, flora and fauna. It is my goal as a photographer to capture that natural beauty and share it with others.

—Chase A. Fountain

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2 National Parks That Are Best During Winter

Touring America’s national parks in an RV can be a transcendent experience.

Dante's View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley

Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter can be one of the best times to get out and explore the great outdoors. Although some parks may have limited access to certain areas due to ice and a heavy accumulation of snow, many of the unique natural environments found in America’s national parks are best appreciated during the winter months.

Many of the most famous national parks experience a drastic drop in attendance, allowing visitors better viewing opportunities amid less crowded conditions. In fact, you may just have the park mostly to yourself.

Many of these parks are located in the US Sunbelt offering snowbirds a wide variety of unspoiled landscapes to enjoy in warm comfort during the winter. This is a perfect time to visit one or more national parks.

With snowbirds and Winter Texans in mind, the following are my picks for the two best national parks to visit this winter.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley. The very name repels. So do the superlatives: the hottest (134 degrees in 1913), driest (less than 2 inches of average annual rainfall), and lowest (282 feet below sea level) of the U.S. national parks. Nearly 550 square miles of its area lie below sea level.

Its forbidding name, suggests a vast stretch of nothingness. Boring. Bleak. Empty. Right?

Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley's forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes.

Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley’s forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dead wrong. Despite its inhospitable name, Death Valley National Park can, in fact, be quite welcoming, especially during the cooler winter months.

With average temperatures that hover around 120 degrees during the summertime, Death Valley National Park is best visited during the winter months. The typically harsh environment of Death Valley is much more inviting during the winter, with temperatures in the low 70s during the day and the high 30s during the night.

The largest national park outside of Alaska, Death Valley offers everything from snow-covered mountain peaks to sand dunes. It’s a spot unique on Earth, with high, snow-frosted 11,000-foot peaks towering over a valley that drops 282 feet below sea-level.

There are whimsical salt formations, reflective pools, and hidden side canyons. There are date palms, historic borax mining equipment, and volcanic craters.

Take a tour through Scotty’s Castle, one man’s dream retreat, or drive to Dante’s View as the sun leaves the valley. It’s a big park, with lots to see, and it’s a lot easier when the temperatures are in two, not three, digits.

Unlike many other parks, Death Valley’s peak season is during the winter and early spring. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the least-crowded. It is advisable to make camping reservations in advance.

Big Bend National Park

The Rio Grande River borders more than 100 miles of the park, and scenic half-day canoe floats are available year-round. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Rio Grande River borders more than 100 miles of the park, and scenic half-day canoe floats are available year-round. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest protected area of Texas, Big Bend National Park is perhaps most appealing in winter. Temperatures hover in the 60s, perfect for taking on the park’s nearly 200 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, which span desert, riverside, and mountain terrain.

The Rio Grande River borders more than 100 miles of the park, and scenic half-day canoe floats are available year-round.

Elevation in the park ranges from 1,800 feet along the river to nearly 8,000 feet in the Chisos Mountains. Temperatures can vary by 20 degrees between the two, so bring extra layers.

Rio Grande Village is the center of visitor activity during the winter months. Great scenery, warm temperatures, abundant wildlife, and full visitor services make this a must-see location for any Big Bend outing. Rio Grande Village has an NPS campground and visitor center, and a concession-operated camper store, laundry, and shower facility. The store also runs the Rio Grande Village RV Campground, the only campground with full hook-ups.

Ringed by massive cliffs and amazing views, the Chisos Basin is a year-round focal point. Numerous trails begin in the basin, and range from short walks to longer backcountry hikes. The paved, 0.3 mile Window View Trail provides an excellent place to view the mountain peaks or watch an evening sunset.

A mix of desert, canyon, and mountain landscapes with many and varied desert plants and wildlife, Big Bend National Park is crossed by a few roads and many trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A mix of desert, canyon, and mountain landscapes with many and varied desert plants and wildlife, Big Bend National Park is crossed by a few roads and many trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are a number of services in the Basin including the lodge, restaurant, and camper store. A 60-site campground is located in the lower portion of the developed area.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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American Coach Introduces 2016 American Eagle

Decatur, Indiana-based American Coach introduced the new 2016 American Eagle at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa, January 14-18, at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

American Coach Introduces 2016 American Eagle

American Coach Introduces 2016 American Eagle

The $699,000 motorhome is built on a Freighliner SLM Series Liberty 600 chassis and ushers in a new design language for the company, said Steven Hileman, marketing director, in a news release.

“It’s all new DNA for American Coach,” he added.

The motorhome was designed in cooperation with designers from the United Kingdom as well as with assistance from Freightliner and Daimler. It features more than 200 new design points.

One key feature is the optional emergency exit door from the back bedroom designed to give owners peace of mind that they can exit their coach safely in an emergency.

The new cockpit is fully digital with LCD gauges monitoring critical functions in the motorhome using the Silverleaf Total Coach Control system. The navigation system is a dash-mounted removable iPad with driver and passenger user controls. Cockpit integration offers navigation, radio, and camera controls to give a passenger official “copilot” status.

“The 2016 American Eagle features European construction techniques and eight new wood finishes,” said Hileman.

Other key features include:

Dual 10-inch dash monitors for radio, Rand McNally navigation, Sirius satellite radio, weather, fuel consumption, traffic conditions, time, and outside temp

Ergo dash design with backlit switches

Dual zone HVAC with dedicated passenger control

Power memory driver seat

AUX-Zone distributes video to front TV for navigation, backup monitor and DVD

Creston app uses iPad to control lights, blinds, audio, and video

Heated and cooled driver and passenger captains’ chairs

Three hardwood ceiling plenums with integrated HVAC

Solid radius hardwood cabinetry with full insert door design

Aqua-Hot 56,000-BTU continuous tankless hot water system and 450D multi-zone hydronic heating system

Apron front stainless steel sink with solid surface covers

Galley pull-out extension with flush drop design and power lock

PEX plumbing

Serenity Max Series bed with adjustable his and her sections plus a head and foot massage component

Heated full tile floor

V-Ride drive axle

ZF i-Tag independent tag axle suspension with passive steering

Girard window awnings

Residential walk-in shower with full glass wall and door

Villa ultraleather expanding L-sofa with air mattress

Details

American Coach

AmerCoachLogoAmerican Coach is a premier manufacturer and distributor of Luxury Class A Diesel motorcoaches.

Founded in 1991 as the luxury division of Fleetwood RV, American Coach produces five brand names: American Eagle, American Heritage, American Tradition, American Revolution, and American Allegiance.

Customer Service: (800) 435-7345

Website: www.americancoach.com

Allied Recreation Group (ARG)

argLogo_bigThe only recreational vehicle manufacturing company with the stability, singular focus, unmatched integrity, and revolutionary vision to be the steward of the most trusted, iconic American RV brands, proudly leading them into the next generation.

Allied Recreation Group is a collection of some of the world’s most recognized and admired RV brands. Each brand—American Coach, Fleetwood, Holiday Rambler, and Monaco—remains distinct, while together the group is a celebration of the rich heritage and future promise of the greatest manufacturers in the RV industry.

Address: 1031 US 224 East, Decatur, Indiana 46733

Phone: (800) 854-1344 (toll free)

Websitewww.alliedrecreationgroup.com

Worth Pondering…

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
—Maya Angelou

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Top 4 Snowbird Destinations

There’s nothing quite like venturing south in your recreational vehicle when winter’s northern wind starts to stir and snow starts to blow.

Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, there are numerous warm, welcoming, and breathtakingly-beautiful places to explore as a southbound snowbird. With many snowbird friendly RV resorts offering wonderful amenities and gorgeous views, there’s never been a better time to head south.

Following is a look at four exciting RV destinations for snowbirds to check out:

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores (Alabama)

Located near the sugar white sands of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast, Bella Terra Luxury Resort in Foley, Alabama, boasts a 5-star rating with true southern charm. Bella Terra of Gulf Shores is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community designed with the discriminating RVer in mind.

Bella Terra’s amenities include a 6,000 square foot Grand Clubhouse, fenced-in dog park, stocked lake, fully-appointed fitness center, infinity-edge pool, Jacuzzi, private movie theatre, business center, and croquet court.

The RV lots offered for both sale and rent include professional landscaping for privacy, concrete pads, built-in patios, full service utility hook-ups with views of the stocked lake and lush foliage. The over-sized Class A RV lots—some as large as 5,000 square feet—are designed to satisfy your Class A RV motor coach needs.

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission.

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

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort (Texas)

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is one of the most unique RV Resorts in South Texas and is part of the 2,600-acre Master Planned Community of Bentsen Palm Development.

Bentsen Palm Village is located in South Mission at the entrance to World Birding Center headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Bentsen Palm Village is only minutes from shopping, medical facilities, and easy access to Expressway 83.

Bentsen Palm Village offers over 250 large pull-through and back-in sites, full hookups, rental cabins and casitas, and native landscaping. Super Sites offer a 10×12 storage building that can be locked and secured when necessary. Resort amenities include a Club house, pool and spa, fitness center, dog agility course, woodshop, craft room, and miles and miles of hike and bike trails.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon Vistas RV Resort (Arizona)

Canyon Vistas RV Resort is nestled at the base of the breathtaking Superstition Mountains in the exclusive Gold Canyon area southeast of Phoenix. Here you’re beyond the noise and congestion of the city, yet minutes from shopping and entertainment. Enjoy a morning walk or bike ride amid stately hundred year old Saguaro cactus or keep in shape at the state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Meet your friends for a round of golf at the pitch and putt course followed by a cool drink on the expansive covered veranda, soothed by refreshing desert breezes. Go hiking, boating, and horseback riding in the nearby mountains.

Amenities include fitness center, ceramics, wood carving, lapidary, pickleball, computer lab and classes, quilting and sewing room, pools and spas, tennis courts, and pet area.

Indian Waters RV Resort (California)

Indian Waters RV Resort and Cottages is located in the Coachella Valley City of Indio, an area that includes the desert cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta.

Recently renovated, this beautiful property has added cottages, a second pool, lighted pickleball courts, 50 amp electric and city sewer service to all sites, resurfacing of roads and sites, enhanced Wi-Fi, and a complete make-over for the large clubhouse.

Today, Indian Waters with its desirable location and numerous amenities, is one of the best and most affordable, five star, state-of-the-art RV resorts in the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area.

Indian Waters RV Resort

Enjoying the Southern California sunshine at Indian Waters RV Resort in Indio. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With 274 full service sites with 50/30-amp electric, Indian Waters RV Resort and Cottages offers two distinct landscaping themes for its concrete level sites: grass and desert landscape. All sites have views of the majestic mountains or nearby ponds, towering eucalyptus trees, or gardens. All sites are convenient to the two improved bathhouse and laundry facilities. The typical RV site is approximately 35 feet wide and 60 feet deep with two concrete pads, one for your RV and one for your toad/tow vehicle.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snowbird life

behind the wheel.

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Winnebago Introduces New 2015 Models at Florida RV SuperShow

Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries, Inc. is displaying a full complement of new 2015 products at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa, January 14-18, at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Winnebago Introduces New 2015 Models at Florida RV SuperShow

Winnebago Introduces New 2015 Models at Florida RV SuperShow

“We have continued to turn up the dial on new product development with many new floor plans making their retail show debut in Tampa,” said Winnebago Industries’ Chairman, CEO and President Randy Potts, in a news release.

“We have a great history as an innovator in the industry and we are excited to show off our newest innovations at the show.”

Winnebago is introducing several new models to retail consumers for the first time at the SuperShow, including:

Travato 59K (Class C)

Travato 59K features innovative advances in technology and comfort systems. This is the first Class B in North America to feature the new 90 percent efficient Truma-Combi heating and hot water system that provides quick hot water recovery, quiet, consistent air delivery throughout the coach and an electric-heating element that uses campground electricity to take the chill off a brisk morning.

Aspect 27D (Class C)

2015 Aspect 27D in light bronze full body paint

2015 Aspect 27D in light bronze full body paint

Flexible floor plan provides a front living area, galley and bath, plus a rear lounge for spacious two-zone living during the day and comfortable sleeping for up to six adults at night.

Sightseer 36Z (Class A Gas)

This spacious, open floor plan features a triple-slide and bath and a half layout. A large 50-inch TV on powered lift is built into the unique fireplace and wine storage cabinet. An available power StudioLoft bed offers added sleeping space.

Adventurer 32D (Class A Gas)

The perfect couples coach, this quad-slide floorplan includes a large in-Lounge dinette with Fold and Tumble bed, flexible in-Table, workstation/desk with USB, 12V, and 110V power ports, electric fireplace, and beautiful galley with private-collection Corian countertop, and a tile/glass mosaic backsplash.

Forza 36G (Class A Diesel)

2015 Forza 36G in sandstone full body paint

2015 Forza 36G in sandstone full body paint

Luxurious new triple-slide floor plan features a spacious lounge that’s ideal for entertaining. The master bedroom with queen or available king bed offers plenty of storage, including a wardrobe, chest of drawers, and hanging space.

Spyder Premium Toy Hauler (Travel Trailer)

Sets the standard in features and value for those who love to take their toys with them to play in the outdoors.

Destination 39FB (Fifth Wheel)

Featuring a bath-and-a-half design, the newest member of the Destination family continues the tradition of combining top-of-the-line style and comfort with premium amenities and performance.

Additional new 2015 products at the show include:

Journey 40R (Class A Diesel)

With true residential feel, the 40R is a triple slide floor plan that includes a curb-side full-wall slide and a bath and a half design.

Brave 31C (Class A Gas)

Nostalgia & Retro Winnebago Brave

Nostalgia & Retro Winnebago Brave

The brow is back. The new 31C retro-inspired Brave includes fun and function with a full-wall slideout floor plan that features a large, comfortable lounge, mid-coach bath, and walk-around queen (or available king) bed, and brings the total to three floor plans for these vintage looking, totally modern motorhomes.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis based products, the Era, Via, and Reyo motorhome lines, are incorporating the new Mobileye collision avoidance system, which includes collision warning, lane departure warning, headway monitoring and warning, pedestrian, and bicycle collision warning, speed limit indication, and intelligent high beam control on select units.

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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Central Texas BBQ Legends

Barbecue is food group. Each region has its own style, it’s preferred meat.

Smitty's Market

Only the uninitiated use the front door at Smitty’s Market. You’ll enter the boxy brick building from the parking lot. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Texas, beef is king. Brisket is meltingly tender and there’s not enough time in the day, or room in my stomach, to try it all. In fact, when in Central Texas I look at a LOT of BBQ and allow myself to really indulge in tasting a LOT of BBQ.

And while Texas barbecue is a topic that inspires near-religious fervor and heated debate from its devotees, many barbecue die-hards can agree on one thing: Central Texas is the pinnacle of all the smoked meat meccas, a prime reason I return to Central Texas on a regular basis.

If you want to sink your teeth into excellent brisket, then head to Lockhart, the official Barbecue Capital of Texas. In 1999, the Texas House of Representatives adopted Resolution No. 1024 to make Lockhart the official Barbecue capital of Texas and the Senate followed suit in 2003, confirming what many already knew to be true.

For such a small town—population roughly 13,000—Lockhart is home to a mighty impressive lineup of time-honored barbecue restaurants that draws visitors from far and wide. The small town is home to four major barbecue restaurants: Black’s Barbecue, which has been owned by the same family since 1932; Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que; Smitty’s Market; and Kreuz Market (pronounced Krites).

Each one is famous in its own right, but at 82 years old and counting, Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart’s picturesque downtown is one of the oldest family-owned barbecue  restaurants in the state of Texas.

Black's Barbecue

Lockhart, the official Barbecue Capital of Texas, is home to four major barbecue restaurants including award-winning Black’s Barbecue, which has been owned by the same family since 1932. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beginning in the 19th century, scores of Germans and Czechs emigrated to Central Texas, bringing along traditional foods like sausage and kolaches. Many grocery and meat market businesses were established by these immigrants, and it was from these markets that the institution of Central Texas barbecue was born.

“These pioneers (brought) with them a style of meat-smoking from the old country that involved salt, pepper, meat, and wood. Whatever fresh meat they couldn’t sell, they would smoke and sell as barbecue,” wrote Katy Vine in Texas Monthly.

“As demand grew, the markets evolved into barbecue joints, though the style of service didn’t change much. The meat was still sliced in front of the customer in line and served on butcher paper. Sauce generally wasn’t offered.”

True to form, Black’s Barbecue was originally founded as a meat market and grocery during the Depression. As was typical in those days, leftover meat was utilized to fuel a brisk side business of BBQ.

Fifty years after Black’s was founded, the family got out of the grocery game, but by then the BBQ part of the business had taken on a life of its own. And while the barbecue sauce now flows freely, the smoked meats are still served up on butcher paper just like they were so many years ago.

Smitty's Market

A perennial favorite of barbecue lovers is Smitty’s Market in Lockhart. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Customers are funneled through a narrow corridor that shuffles them through a salad bar where side items like deviled eggs, picnic-style potato salad, and pinto beans are served up buffet-style. When you finally reach the meat counter, you’ll find glistening slabs of brisket, enormous beef short ribs, pork ribs, pork chops, smoked turkey breast, and Black’s signature sausage (90 percent beef, 10 percent pork) with phenomenal flavor.

Heavy on the pepper, the snappy beef-and-pork sausage at Kreuz Market is truly one of the best in Barbecueland. The pork spareribs taste fresh, with plenty of juicy, delicious meat on them, and the beef ribs are scrumptious.

Only the uninitiated use the front door at Smitty’s Market. You’ll enter the boxy brick building from the parking lot passing a picturesque fire blazing in the waist-high ancient brick pit and peruse the list of post oak–smoked meats—brisket, pork ribs and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. Salivating, you place your order for a pound or so of meat. May this bulwark of tradition never change.

Heading south on Highway 183, the City Market in Luling is just 15 miles  away. Admired as one of the best barbecue places in Texas, City Market offers brisket, sausage links, and pork ribs. They also offer pinto beans and a homemade mustard-based sauce which is out-of-this-world.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

You don’t need no teeth to eat my beef.

—from Legends of Texas BBQ

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Thor Motor Coach Introduces New Floor Plans at Florida RV SuperShow

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is showcasing their 2015 floor plans at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa, January 14-18, at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

2015 Vegas RUV

2015 Vegas RUV

Making a debut in Florida is the Axis and Vegas RUV 25.2 floor plan, the first in the RUV line-up to feature a bedroom slideout that houses a walk-around queen size bed with a Denver Mattress. The L-shaped sofa with a removable pedestal table provides a place to eat, a place to watch TV, or a place to sleep.

“We’re very excited about the success of our RUVs. We’ve been on a high since last year when we first introduced them and we’ve created a total of three new floor plans,” said Joel Grimm, national sales manager of Class A and Class C Gas Division.

“Owners feel like it was made to fit their lifestyle. They’re compact, easy to drive, and contain living and storage spaces that you just don’t have in a SUV. It’s been nothing but positive reviews.”

The Tuscany XTE 40AX will also be displayed, focusing on entertainment with reclining theater seats are positioned directly across from a 60-inch LED Smart HDTV. The TV retracts into the counter below when it’s not in use, giving way to a view of the outdoors.

The 40AX also features an additional 40-inch LED TV. The model includes residential kitchen appliances, standard in every Tuscany XTE motorhome and Amish-built custom cabinetry.

2015 Tuscany XTE

2015 Tuscany XTE

The Outlaw Class A expands its claim as the ultimate residential motorhome with a new 39-foot model named the 38RE, which was recently awarded the 2015 Top RV Debut by RVBusiness. It has an immense living area, as well as a bedroom featuring 9-foot coffered ceilings and a bath-and-a-half arrangement. The rear “Patio Deck” folds down to reveal an exterior kitchenette, 50-inch big screen TV, and Bluetooth radio.

Other Thor Motor Coach models to look for at the Tampa RV Show include:

Vegas RUV 24.2 model with rear kitchen and captain’s chairs in living area and 25.2 floor plan with bedroom slideout

Single rear-axle Tuscany 40DX featuring fully-reclining theater seating and retractable 60-inch LED Smart HDTV

Tuscany XTE Class A Diesel Pushers with high-gloss glazed cabinetry

Dynamic and cool, new Palazzo 36.2 Class A Diesel with laundry suite

2015 Outlaw 38RE Residential Edition with coffered ceilings

2015 Outlaw 38RE Residential Edition with coffered ceilings

Four Winds Super C 35SF featuring a bath-and-a-half

Outlaw Class A motorhomes including RVBusiness2015 Top RV Debut, Outlaw 38RE

ACE 29.3 with convenient camp-side dinette seating and exterior kitchen

Innovative Axis RUV 24.2 with rear kitchen and captain’s chairs in living area

Axis RUV 25.1 with large L-shaped sofa and entertainment area in back

Chateau Super C 35SF featuring a bath-and-a-half

Ingenious Hurricane 31S with optional exterior kitchen

New Miramar 33.5 model with theater seating

Luxurious Challenger Class A gas motorhomes

Class C motorhomes including Freedom Elite and Chateau Citation Sprinter Class B+

Details

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach; North America's Best Selling Motorhome BrandThor Motor Coach was formed when Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International strategically merged in late 2010. For over 23 years Damon and Four Winds have been building many of the most recognized brands of motorhomes. Thor Motor Coach manufactures Class A Front Engine Diesel motorhomes (Serrano and Avanti), Class A Diesel Pusher motorhomes (Astoria, Tuscany, and Palazzo), Class A Gas motorhomes (A.C.E., Hurricane, Daybreak, Windsport, Challenger, and Outlaw), and Class C motorhomes (Four Winds, Chateau, Siesta, Siesta Sprinter, Citation, and Citation Sprinter).

Thor Motor Coach is a subsidiary of Thor Industries, Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

Address: 701 County Road 15, PO Box 1486, Elkhart, Indiana 46516

Phone: (800) 860-5658

Website: thormotorcoach.com

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

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Redwood Introduces Front Living Room Fifth Wheel

Topeka, Indiana-based Redwood RV, a manufacturer of high-end residential fifth wheels, announced the introduction of the new front living room model at the Tampa RV Super Show, January 14-18 at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Redwood residential fifth wheel with black and maroon full body paint

Redwood residential fifth wheel with black and maroon full body paint

The new 38FL front living room will “continue Redwoods tradition of quality and innovation by being one of the first to offer flush floor slides in the front of a fifth wheel, according to a company news release.

This will allow Redwood to use more residential furniture and extend a new level of comfort and convenience to consumers by offering reclining chairs in the slide out, as well as providing additional space for an oversized armchair facing the TV in the front cap.

The 38FL is built on the F.I.T. chassis that has become a hallmark of the brand, providing a solid foundation for all floor plans.

Solid hardwood cherry cabinetry continues to adorn the interior and will feature a brand new, much lighter Urban Claywood color. The galley offers a new residential refrigerator by Whirlpool with ice and water in the door.

“The 38FL is sure to be a show stopper and will mark the beginning of a new era in design for front living room fifth-wheels,” according to a company spokesperson.

Redwood 38FL front living room fifth-wheel floor plan

Redwood 38FL front living room fifth-wheel floor plan

Redwood fifth wheel trailer 38FL specifications include:

GVWR: 16,500 pounds

Carrying Capacity: 2,596 pounds

Hitch Weight: 2,196 pounds

Axle Weight: 11,708 pounds

Exterior Length: 41 feet 10 inches

Exterior Height with A/C: 13 feet 2 inches

Slide Room Interior Height: 6 feet 9 inches

Fresh Water Tank Capacity: 104 gallons

Grey Water Tank Capacity: 90 gallons

Black Water Tank Capacity: 45 gallons

Standard features include:

Rustic cherry hardwood cabinets

12 cubic-foot Norcold Refrigerator w/Ice

3 Burner Flush Mount Stove w/Solid Surface Covers

30-inch OTR Microwave w/Exhaust Fan

22-inch Deluxe Bakers Oven

Details

Redwood RV Company

Redwood RV is a division of Thor Industries Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

Address: 72440 St. Rd. 13, Syracuse, IN 46567

Phone: (574) 456-7800

Website: www.redwood-rv.com

Worth Pondering…

Dreams are necessary to life.

—Anais Nin

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Thor Acquires Cruiser RV And DRV

Thor Industries, Inc. announced the acquisition of towable recreational vehicle manufacturer Cruiser RV (CRV) and luxury fifth wheel recreational vehicle manufacturer DRV by its Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC subsidiary, in a series of integrated transactions which included the purchase of equity interests, as well as the purchase of certain real estate used in the ongoing operations of the business.

CrossRoads RV Cruiser Aire fifth-wheel

CrossRoads RV Cruiser Aire fifth-wheel

The total purchase price, paid in cash, is approximately $47.4 million, subject to post-closing adjustments.

“We are pleased to welcome CRV and DRV to the Thor family. Cruiser RV has a long history of building light-weight travel trailers that appeal to a broad base of RV consumers, while DRV brings a strong presence in the high-end fifth wheel market,” said Bob Martin, Thor President and Chief Executive Officer.

“We see a number of opportunities to leverage Thor’s strength in purchasing and distribution to the CRV and DRV businesses, while utilizing their existing market strengths to enhance our overall position in lightweight travel trailers, which has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the RV market, as well as luxury fifth wheels, where we previously had a more limited presence.”

Founded in 2002, Howe, Indiana-based Cruiser RV and DRV, will maintain their current production facilities, work force, and management team after the acquisition. The combined companies generated sales of approximately $135 million in calendar year 2014. The newly acquired operations will become a part of Thor’s Heartland subsidiary with a management structure reporting to Heartland President, Chris Hermon.

DRV Tradition

DRV Tradition

“We are excited by the opportunities we see as we welcome Cruiser RV and DRV to Heartland.  With a successful history, solid production infrastructure, talented workforce, and strong dealer base, there will be a number of broad-based benefits to this acquisition,” said Chris Hermon, President of Heartland Recreational Vehicles.

“With their production base in Howe and LaGrange, about 35 miles from Elkhart, CRV and DRV have a more stable workforce that is less affected by the recent tight labor conditions we’ve seen in Elkhart. In addition, as we look to grow our combined business over the long-term, we will have ample space to expand operations in Howe as demand increases, a luxury unavailable to Heartland at its existing production complex.”

“At CRV and DRV, we are excited about teaming up with such strong financial partners as Thor and Heartland. They share our vision for continuing to provide our dealers and consumers with great products and reliable service,” said David Fought, CEO of CRV and DRV.

DRV’s Tradition 385RSS shown in Mocha Cherry cabinets

DRV’s Tradition 385RSS shown in Mocha Cherry cabinets

“This transition offers us great potential to grow our businesses.”

Jeff Fought, President of CRV added, “Thor has a strong history of successful acquisitions in our industry.  Partnering with Heartland gives us the opportunity to continue our record of outstanding performance while maintaining the culture and leadership that has driven our success.”

Details

Thor Industries, Inc.
Thor is the sole owner of operating subsidiaries that, combined, represent one of the world’s largest manufacturers of recreational vehicles.

Cruiser RV, LLC

CruiserCruiser RV, LLC is an industry leader in lightweight, towable travel trailers.

Headquartered in Howe, Indiana, Cruiser RV is and produces six brands of RVs, including the Shadow Cruiser, Fun Finder, ViewFinder Signature, Radiance, Fun Finder XTRA, and Integra.

Cruiser RV is a sister company to high-end fifth wheel manufacturer, DRV Luxury Suites.

DRV Luxury Suites (DRV)

DRV_Logo_Embossed_smHowe, Indiana-based DVR Luxury Suites currently offers four product lines: the Tradition, Mobile Suite, Elite Suite, and Full House toy hauler. Each line provides a wide range of features for every customer and construction techniques unmatched in the RV industry today.

Today DRV builds floor plans from 32 feet to 43 feet and can semi custom build your luxury suite to fit your needs.

DRV Luxury Suites are exactly what the name says… suites, and the best part is they are built for the consumer.

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.

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Frozen RV Door Locks, Windows & Doors: Prevention & Solutions

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year. However, some RVers, either by choice or by circumstance, end up living in their RVs in cold weather areas.

Frozen RV Door Locks, Windows & Doors: Prevention & Solutions (Photo credit: Photos.com)

Frozen RV Door Locks, Windows & Doors: Prevention & Solutions (Photo source: accuweather.com)

Winter’s bitter winds can freeze RV door locks, windows, and doors. Use these quick and easy tips to combat the ice.

Frozen Door Locks

Nothing can be more frustrating than finding your RV door locks frozen.

Frozen Door Locks: Prevention

One way to prevent frozen locks is to dip your key into Petroleum jelly or Vaseline, put it into the lock, and turn the key back and forth a few times. Repeat this to make sure the Vaseline is well-distributed onto the parts of the lock.

Frozen Door Locks: Solutions

Petroleum jelly or Vaseline. Petroleum jelly or Vaseline can also be used if you find the lock already frozen. Dip the key into the Vaseline, then insert it into the lock. Once in the lock try to wiggle the key. Do not force the key to turn; this could result in breaking the key off in the lock. If this does not work right away, repeat the steps three or four more times, then wait for five minutes.

Deicer: If you find the lock already frozen, spay deicer into the lock.

Heat the key. An effective option in severe ice conditions is to heat the key. This method usually offers a quick fix.

Hold the key with an oven mitt or gloves with the toothed tip over a lighter or match, then insert it in the lock. The heated key inserted into the lock should melt the ice. If the key is made of only metal, you can heat the key while it is in the lock. Do not try this with keys that have plastic at the top.

Frozen RV Door Locks, Windows & Doors: Prevention & Solutions (Photo source: accuweather.com)

Frozen RV Door Locks, Windows & Doors: Prevention & Solutions (Photo source: accuweather.com)

Hair dryer. As a last resort when all else fails, you can use a hair dryer. Warm the lock with a hairdryer or your own breath. This method is less effective, but worth a try if no other options are available. A cardboard tube placed over the frozen lock will help direct the warm air. Keep trying for several minutes, especially if you do not have a tube or if conditions are windy. When using this method, you can put the key into the lock to help direct the heat.

Lock Lubricant. Experts tend to have differing opinions about lubricant choices, but some options are recommended more often than others. Use only one of the following options per lock, since a mix could easily gum things up. Options include graphite lubricant, Teflon-based lubricant, WD-40, and rubbing alcohol. Since there’s little consensus, use as a last resort.

Frozen Windows

The simplest solution to frozen windows is to wait until the RV interior warms up. The ice should then melt shortly.

If your RV is equipped with power windows, do not keep pushing the button. If you force the window down, you can damage the motor, and this could be expensive to repair.

Frozen Doors: Prevention

To help prevent your door from freezing shut completely clean the door frame and rubber seals with soapy water and thoroughly dry. This should remove road debris and other detritus that can build up over time. Water can collect around the dirt and freeze the door shut once the temperatures drop.

Apply a rubber conditioner or rubber care product over the rubber seals with a clean cloth. Use 303 Protectant or other non-petroleum based product. This will repel water, reducing the amount that enters the seal and freezes.

Frozen Doors: Solutions

Frozen RV Door Locks, Windows & Doors: Prevention & Solutions (Photo source: youtube.com)

Frozen RV Door Locks, Windows & Doors: Prevention & Solutions (Photo source: youtube.com)

If you have not treated the doors and find them frozen shut, try these steps to unfreeze them.

Do not try to force a frozen door open. This can damage the rubber seal around the door.

While wearing gloves, hit the ice with the palms of your hands, and remove the ice as it breaks.

If this method does not work, you can use a hair dryer to melt the ice. Be  aware that excessive heat will damage the exterior paint.

Worth Pondering…

Forecast for freezing rain…. sometime in the future, but not today!!! What a beautiful day!

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