Martin Luther King Day

Rediscover America’s History over the 3-day MLK Weekend

National holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, coming up on Monday, January 21, are great for two reasons. First, we get a long weekend to spend in the camper with our families, and second, we’re reminded about our rich American history.

If you’d like a refresher on the impact Dr. King had on civil rights, you can check out this video on YouTube of his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.

Celebrations across Texas include parades, marches and special events in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

And for many, MLK Day has become synonymous with a Day of Service, honoring Dr. King’s legacy of service to others. If you’d like to get involved with a project near you, visit the MLK Day website and click, “find a project,” to locate a volunteer opportunity in your home community, or perhaps one along the route of your next RV road trip.

If a road trip across the south is in your future, you’ll need more than three days, but it’ll be worth it to visit the Martin Luther King National Historic Site and Park in Atlanta, Georgia, or to retrace Dr. King’s footsteps on the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, National Historic Trail.

Whatever you decide to do with your three-day weekend, hitch up that travel trailer and enjoy! And don’t forget to send us notes and photos from your journeys!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Five Travel Resolutions for the New Year

I think New Year’s is my favorite holiday! It’s the one time of year everyone dreams BIG!

Do you need a few travel ideas for 2013? Here are five of my favorite destinations and outdoor pastimes!

1. BalloonsThe Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I’d been to the Balloon Fiesta before, but this past year, I stayed there in my RV. I LOVED IT! There’s nothing like camping right there on the grounds of the Fiesta where you don’t miss a single minute of the action! I WILL be at this one in 2013, too.

2. Big Bend. Those two words cover a lot of territory, because there are scenic views, gorgeous hikes, and rafting experiences to be had at nearly every turn. If you can’t decide what to do, call my friends Greg and Valynda Hennington at Far Flung Outdoor Center for advice. They’ve helped create some awesome memories for me and my family, from ATV treks to moonlit nights on the Rio Grande.

Photo copyright Mike Sloat. Thanks, Mike, for sharing your amazing work with us this past year!

Photo copyright Mike Sloat. Thanks, Mike, for sharing your amazing work with us this past year!

3. ZiplineZiplining. I tried this for the first time while camping at the KOA in Branson, MO a couple of years ago. If they have zipline tours anywhere near your next destination, try it!   (P.S. If you’re in Branson, DO NOT MISS the show SIX!)

4. Become an outdoor chef. I love outdoor cooking, and in particular, love Dutch oven cooking. There’s just something empowering about putting a bunch of ingredients in black cast-iron pot, putting it over a fire, and serving a bunch of hungry campers.

5. Mix it up. If you love going to the mountains, try a trip to the swamp! If you love meat and potatoes, try some tofu! (Ok, that might be a stretch…). If you’re dreaming of owning a RV, go for it!

What’s on your personal bucket list? Plan at least one grand adventure for you and your family this year. It’s 2013, and there’s no time like the present!

E+AirstreamHappy New Year to All!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

Homemade Eggnog Recipe from Paula Deen

Photo credit: The Food Network

Photo credit: The Food Network

Every RV family needs a good eggnog recipe. But I have to admit, wasn’t a huge fan of eggnog until I found this recipe from Paula Deen, which used vanilla. I think it’s the excessive amounts of nutmeg in the grocery store brands (and most recipes) that bothers me. But with this one, the vanilla adds a great flavor, and you can go really light on the nutmeg, or leave it out altogether.

Ingredients

  • 6 egg, separated*
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 4 pints milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Nutmeg
  • 1/2 pint Bourbon

Directions

In a bowl beat the egg yolks with the 1/2 cup of sugar until thick. In another bowl beat the egg whites with 1/4 cup of sugar until thick. In a third bowl beat the cream until thick. Add the cream to the yolks, fold in the egg whites, and add the milk, vanilla, and a pinch of nutmeg, if desired. (If you’ve got kiddos at the party, save some for them before adding the “nog!” and adjust the amount of Bourbon accordingly!) Chill in the freezer before serving.

There’s a short video on The Food Network of Paula Deen whipping up a fresh batch. It’s her mama’s recipe! (I think she likes a lot more nutmeg than me…)

This is a great party drink, whether you’re at the RV park or by the fire at home. And the kids will feel all grown up when they’re sipping (almost) the same yummy beverage as the grown ups.

Merry Christmas to you and your family! I hope Santa’s good to you and brings you all the best RV goodies on your list!

~G. Elaine Acker

P.S. *RAW EGG WARNING FRO THE FOOD NETWORK
Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

This New Year, Resolve to Go Outdoors!

Family hiking and camping at Daingerfield State Park in East Texas. (Photo credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Family hiking and camping at Daingerfield State Park in East Texas. (Photo credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

For years, some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions have been to exercise and spend more time in nature.

For those of us who love traveling in our travel trailers, that usually means road trips across Texas and beyond. Now, for the second year in a row, you can combine all three by participating in First Day Hikes at at parks all across the country on Jan. 1.

In Texas, during the inaugural year of First Day Hikes at the start of 2012, more than 1,100 people showed up at 47 Texas state parks. For 2013 more hikes and locations are scheduled, and they range from short, leisurely walks, to birding hikes, to nature tours along the Gulf Coast, to challenging treks in mountainous terrain. The best part is that you can come back to the RV afterward and relax by the campfire!

couple_hiking_at_mother_neff_sp--bryan_frazier“In addition to drawing new users to parks on January first, we hope to see return visitors from last year as families start to embrace First Day Hikes as a beloved tradition from year to year,” said Interpretive Services Assistant Director Karen Blizzard, the Texas coordinator for First Day Hikes.

Most all hikes will be guided by state park staff or expert volunteers and feature an interpretive message about native plants, animals or park history. The walks average one to two miles in length, but many also offer shorter or longer trek options as well.

If you want to participate, make a few advance preparations. Some hikes require  reservations, and in most instances, you’ll will want to wear sturdy shoes, and bring drinking water and a hiking stick. Park entrance fees apply in most places, and many parks are leading the First Day Hike at no extra cost.

Recent on-site visitor surveys in Texas parks revealed that hiking trails were the most sought-after amenity by park visitors, and many Texas state parks have added newly built or recently improved hiking and biking trails in order to meet growing demand.

first day hike logo design curtFor details about First Day Hikes in Texas State Parks, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for locations, descriptions, and park contact information. Or, if you’re spending New Year’s on the road in your RV, check out the First Day Hikes site for an outing near you!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

New Holiday Traditions

Celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Winter Solstice

Camper with Christmas LightsIf you’re adventurous enough to hitch up and go prowling around in your travel trailer, then you’re probably curious enough to explore all the cultures and traditions this holiday season has to offer.

I’ve got lots of friends looking forward to Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Christ (and also involves the traditional retail pilgrimage), while others are celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice. Personally I think any or all of these traditions are best celebrated in a camper!

Yule LogAt their core, all of these holiday traditions are about miracles, love, and family, so wherever you’re celebrating the holidays this year, here are a few ideas for making it a rich, multicultural experience.

Build a solstice fire. The solstice fire was the forerunner to today’s Yule logs, so a roaring campfire is always in order.

Dreidel

Any number of people can have fun playing the Dreidel game at the same time. Photo credit: Roland Scheicher

Play the dreidel game. Spinning the driedel is a fun game for Jewish children. Read about the history of the game and then try playing with your family over the holidays.

Collard GreensSpice up your menu with Kwanzaa foods. The Food Network has a huge menu of foods to choose from, from bacon-topped collard greens to fried deviled eggs.

 

Bake some Christmas cookies for Santa. This recipe for chocolate gooey butter cookies from Paula Deen looks a lot like my sister’s favorite Christmas cookie!

In Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife offers lots of fun, outdoor celebrations for the whole family at Texas Parks! What are your family’s favorite holiday traditions? Let us know if you find any new traditions to add to your festivities this year!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

 

Pearl Harbor Day

Texas’ historic sites commemorate World War II

If you’ve spent more than five minutes on this blog, you already know that we take advantage of every opportunity to honor our military heroes, past and present. This week we’re taking a moment to remember one of the most poignant dates in American history.

Tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Day. On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. More than 2,400 Americans were killed, and more than 1,100 were wounded. The attack also sank or damaged 15 ships and 188 aircraft. The next day, America declared war on Japan and entered World War II.

Thinking about Pearl Harbor day made us remember the rich World War II history preserved in Texas memorials, and we wanted to share three of our favorites. If you enjoy discovering history on your RV road trips, consider adding these historic sites to your list of places to visit.

Battleship TexasBattleship Texas

Last Saturday, the USS Texas, at the San Jacinto Battleground Historical Site, hosted its annual Pearl Harbor remembrance. The ceremony honored 90-year-old Lewis Lagesse of Houston who was a telephone talker on the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor. An article by Louis Roesch in The Cleveland Advocate shares more about Lagesse, including the story of how he was at first presumed dead in the attack.

Photo credit: Veterans War Memorial of Texas

Veterans War Memorial of Texas

In McAllen, visit the Veterans War Memorial of Texas and learn more about World War II, as well as World War I, the Korean War, and Vietnam. The memorial highlights Hispanic and Texas Medal of Honor recipients.

 

The National Museum of the Pacific War

In Fredericksburg, the National Museum of the Pacific War honors the sacrifices of those who served in World War II. Friday at 12:25, the museum will host a commemoration ceremony. And over the weekend, re-enactors in the Pacific Combat Living History program will use weapons and museum pieces to bring history to life. Check out the re-enactment video.

What other World War II memorials and museums have you visited? Be sure to share your favorites with us so we can visit next time we hitch up the travel trailer!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Discover Texas’ Magical Holiday Lights Displays

This morning, I was reading fellow RV traveler Vickie Medley’s funny Bah Humbug post about her latest trip to Walmart. The holidays often turn into a full-contact sport, and it made me wonder, “Is there still a place where it still possible to skip the chaos and soak in the magic of the holidays?”

Photo credit: Johnson City Chamber of Commerce

I didn’t have to think long before I realized that for me, the magic is still there in the colorful lights that transform our everyday yards, courthouses, and parks into wonderlands. So yes, there are lots of places to enjoy in Texas!

I looked up three of my favorite lights displays and included them below. And I’m also including some links to other festivals and light displays from our friends at Texas Co-op Power Magazine and Texas Highways.

 

Snowman in lights

Photo credit: Marshall Wonderland of Lights

Marshall’s Wonderland of Lights

This was the courthouse that came to mind. I’ve spent many memorable evenings at Marshall’s Wonderland of Lights, and I know there’s a full schedule of festival activities planned through the end of December. Maybe you’d want to try taking the travel trailer to Caddo Lake State Park on this trip?

Hill Country Regional Christmas Trail

If you’re traveling the Hill Country this month, you’re in luck. Several communities have collaborated to create the Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail.

I haven’t done the whole trail, but I’ve spent time in Johnson City. I think it’d be great to take the camper to Pedernales State Park or Blanco State Park and venture out from there!

 

Kemah Boat Parade

Photo Credit: Claire Kemah.net

Kemah Boat Parade

When I lived in Houston, one thing that added excitement to my holiday was the Kemah Boat Parade. There’s just something weird and wonderful about seeing a boat decorated with holiday lights. I haven’t camped there, but just looked online and found Marina Bay Resort and it looks wonderful!

And there’s so much more going on across Texas this month! The events posted on the Texas Highways and the Texas Co-op Power sites list lights and festivals from Galveston to The Colony, so there’s plenty of holiday spirit to go around.

Try to relax and re-discover the magic! Have you decorated your RV for the holidays? Send us a photo! And, feel free to send us your favorite events and lighting displays to add to our list!

~ G. Elaine Acker

RV Gifts for Cyber Monday

This weekend, I avoided the black Friday crowds like the plague. But I did spend some quality time online, browsing all the new gadgets and goodies for the RV in Camper Clinic II’s catalog.

And while I was clicking along, I started thinking about my favorite camping memories. Having the travel trailer is a wonderful thing, but it seems some of my best memories happen just outside the door. My sister decorates her awning with lights, everyone scrambles for their favorite chair, and somebody’s always throwing something new on the grill.

The patio is definitely where most of the magic happens, from tasty food to tall tales. I’m thinking this is a great time to pick up a few gifts for the RV.  They’ll be fun to unwrap now, and will set the stage for festive new memories all year long.

Here are three ways you can personalize your patio and make it a warm, welcoming space for your friends and family.

Patio Lights

When you’re not stargazing, these colorful lights brighten the night. I almost feel obliged to get the flamingos, which go with any Airstream, but now I’m leaning toward the Solar Lanterns. They’re so colorful, and easy to hang!

 

 

Chairs

I mentioned that everyone scrambles for their favorite chair when we set up the patio. For me, it’s usually my chair with the built-in table. But the recliner may come next. This looks super comfortable!

 

Grilling

When you’re camping, the easiest way to cook with minimal cleanup is grilling, and there are plenty of grills and accessories to choose from online. One of the best looking grills is a stainless steel barbeque grill. It’s a great size, and looks easy to set up.  And if the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor grilling, I also found a simple, stove-top smoker, which can give you that delicious smoky flavor inside on the stove.

Whatever you decide to buy for your grill, happy shopping! Cyber Monday beats Black Friday any day!

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving to our Country’s Warriors!

Today, those of us who work with Camper Clinic II just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Personally, I’m super-thankful for a shiny Airstream to travel in, open roads to travel on, and a wonderful family to share good times. And, I’m thankful for the freedom to hitch up and travel across the country whenever I like.

For that, I want to thank all veterans who have kept our country safe, and for all the active-duty military who continue to do so every day. We wish you could be safely home with your families today, but we appreciate your service, wherever you are!

I found this photo on Facebook today, and just had to share!

Don’t forget that this month’s Facebook campaign for Camper Clinic II benefits The Warrior’s Road Trip Network. Whenever you and your friends click “Like” and become a Camper Clinic II fan on Facebook, they’ll add another dollar to a donation that gets our military heroes out of the hospital and back into nature!

Have a wonderful holiday with your family, and to our active-duty military: We’re thinking about you and appreciate all that you do!

Celebrating Thanksgiving RV Style

The Thanksgiving Live team of Chefs! (Photo credit: The Food Network)

This weekend, as I was watching The Food Network’s Thanksgiving Live program, I just kept thinking about ways to adapt all those yummy recipes to better suit those of us who just might be celebrating in our campers and travel trailers. I had a couple of “ah ha!” moments, so I thought I’d share.

Photo Credit: The Food Network

For example, Giada De Laurentiis suggested cutting up the turkey before cooking it. It’s funny how often we ignore the obvious. If you look up turkey recipes online, you’ll see beautifully roasted whole turkeys. But for those of us with small RV ovens, or no oven at all, cutting the turkey into pieces before cooking is a useful tip. By cutting the turkey into pieces, we suddenly have lots of new options. We can cook it in the oven (and by cutting it into pieces, it’ll get done quicker). Or, we can explore some outdoor cooking options such as roasting the turkey in a Dutch oven, or by breaking out the deep fryer.

While I’m a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, when I’m in my Airstream, I also want life to be a little easier. This year, I may be prowling through the “easy” recipes section for new ideas.

Photo Credit: The Food Network

The other thing that caught my eye during the Live Thanksgiving broadcast was the Twitter feed along the bottom of the screen. One person tweeted that they were looking for a salad idea that would shock their family. Now, what may be shocking to one family can be positively blasé to another, but I found a recipe involving Brussels sprouts to be a novelty. From my East Texas perspective, this one’s “out there.” It’s a Fried Brussels Sprout Salad, and I’m intrigued. It’s easy enough for the RV, but has enough flavors involved to give it that gourmet twist. Maybe it’s the “fried” part that makes it feel right!

Now that I’ve made myself hungry, I think I’ll go prowl around in the fridge and make a new grocery list!

Are you spending your Thanksgiving in one of our amazing National or State parks this year? What are your favorite recipes for the RV? Feel free to share!

~ G. Elaine Acker