Three New Books for the RV Library

I love books. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, how-to or RV travel, hardback, paperback, Kindle, or audiobooks, I’m always on the lookout for great books to add to my road trip reading list.

This morning, I spent some quality time on Amazon, because I want a few new books that will not only keep me entertained on the road, but books that would inspire me with ideas about new places to visit.

Here are three of the books I found. Let me know if you have titles I should add!

This first book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, includes several out-of-the-way suggestions I never would have thought of visiting, and also includes information on selected National Parks and campgrounds. With a little planning, I can cover several of these on each road trip!


If you’re crazy about stargazing while camping in your travel trailer, you might pick up a copy of Anton’s Night Sky guide 2013. It’s only $2.99, and Anton lets you know when to look for planets, shooting stars, eclipses, stars, the moon phases as well as detailing other night sky events. The guide also lets you know which events are predicted to be the most spectacular, and which ones aren’t worth losing sleep over.


And if you want to virtually visit places few people will ever go, you can follow scientist and author Bill Streever as he leads readers across glaciers on a search for the extreme, “cold.” In July he finds it while taking a dip in a 35-degree Arctic swimming hole; in September while excavating our planet’s ancient and not so ancient ice ages; and in October while exploring hibernation habits in animals, from humans to wood frogs to bears.

Now, I’m going to go take a peek at the fiction bestsellers and see what I might want to hear when I head out in my Airstream this weekend. Send me your suggestions!

~ 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

 

RV Rallies 2013

Hook up your travel trailer and make plans to hob nob with your fellow RV enthusiasts in 2013!

AirstreamNot long ago, I was waiting for the dump station at Davis Mountains State Park, and met a great couple who’d been traveling with the Escapees RV Club and attending RV rallies all over the U.S. (It’s amazing what you can learn at the dump station!)

Attending a rally has been on my list for some time, so as I pondered my travel adventures for 2013, I finally did some research. I found lots of info on upcoming events and travel groups, and thought I’d share. Maybe I’ll see you at one of these rallies next year!

The Escapees RV Club is a membership organization, and they plan HOPs (Head Out Programs) all over the world. These include U.S. based RV excursions as well as international travel and their prices are super reasonable. There’s a Savannah HOP planned for April 10, 2013 that looks like lots of fun. If you go, you’ll be camping at the Savannah South KOA, enjoying a walking tour of Savannah, and saying “mmmm” a lot when you eat out at Food Network Chef Paula Deen’s restaurant, The Lady and Sons.

Good Sam is also a membership organization, and they’re planning a 13-day Cajun Country RV Caravan starting on February 16 in New Orleans.  Good Sam also hosts what they call “The Greatest RV Rally in the World.” In 2012, it was held at Daytona, and involved more than 3,500 RVs and 7,290 people. That may be a few too many people for my taste, but if you’re interested, they’re doing it again next year in Syracuse, New York.

Rally

Boondocking made easy! Photo Credit: Howard Payne, RV-Dreams

If you’re looking for something in the Western U.S., you can spend Valentine’s day in the desert in Quartzsite, Arizona. RV-Dreams is offering a “Boondocking for Novices” rally from February 10-24, and you can decide for yourself how long you’d like to stay. . They’ve also got a spring rally planned for Elephant Butte, New Mexico, from March 19-24.

Finally, if you’re fond of Airstreams (like me!) you can plan to attend Alumapalooza from May 28 through June 2 where you can camp on the field right next to the Airstream manufacturing building in Jackson Center, Ohio. The week includes Airstream tours, musical entertainment, roving happy hours, and workshops that range from Dutch oven cooking to Airstream maintenance.

Even more Airstream events can be found on the AirForums site.

So many rallies, so little time! Which one should I choose? If you’ve been to a rally before, post a note and let me know how it went!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

Most of us now know that the romanticized, pilgrim-Indian Thanksgiving we learned about in elementary school is more fairy tale than historic truth. And if you decide to brush up on your history before our next national feast next week, there are plenty of enlightening websites ripe for the Googling, so I won’t go into detail here.

But, it just so happens that November is Native American Heritage month, making this a great time to reflect on the Native cultures that have influenced our nation, including foods, art, music, crafts, and more. The President recently issued this proclamation: “This month, we celebrate and honor the many ways American Indians and Alaska Natives have enriched our Nation, and we renew our commitment to respecting each tribe’s identity while ensuring equal opportunity to pursue the American dream.”

Those of us who roam the roads in our travel trailers have a great opportunity to experience those cultures and Native American history firsthand.

First, you can do a little online research, starting with the Native American Month website. Here, a number of leading institutions, including The Library of Congress, the National Park Service and the Smithsonian, have collaborated to create a site that highlights events around the country, and includes online museum exhibits, support for veterans, audio, videos, and resources for teachers.

And, here are a few more interesting links:

  • The National Park Service has created a special list of park sites called “Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary: Places Reflecting America’s Diverse Cultures” not only for sites of Native American significance but all cultures of the Americas.
  • The National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC, is not to be missed if you’re anywhere near our nation’s Capital, with our without your RV!
  • Also, with Veteran’s Day fresh on our minds, you can read more about Native American Veterans from World War II to Iraq with this collection of personal stories.

My favorite website so far is the Texas Historical Commission’s site, which includes links to groups working to preserve native cultures, and to two great stops on any East Texas road trip: Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, and Livingston, home of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.

 

You’ll find Caddo Mounds just 26 miles west of Nacogdoches. Three earthen mounds still rise from the lush green landscape where the Caddo Indians, a mound-building culture, first built a village and ceremonial center 1,200 years ago. Artifacts on display include pottery, tools, and weapons. There’s a KOA campground close by in Rusk, or, you may want to reserve a campsite at Mission Tejas State Park.

In Livingston, you’ll find the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, which called Texas home long before Texas became a state. The tribe proudly shares their heritage through special events and craft shows, and RV camping with full hookups is available on site in the tribal community. You may also want to consider RV campsites at Lake Livingston State Park, just 20 miles or so down the road, or check out the Livingston KOA.

The next time you hitch up your camper, whether or not it’s officially Native American Heritage Month, think about spending some time exploring sites that highlight the rich, varied, culture of Texas’s Indian tribes.

What sites have you visited? Any recommendations?

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

Outdoors Halloween Events Scheduled at Texas State Parks

This month, for every new “like” on Facebook, Camper Clinic II is donating $1 to help save Texas’ State Parks.  Please “like” our page on Facebook and “share” links to our campaign with your friends and fans! When you do, you’ll be entered to win a one year Texas State Parks pass!


Guest post by Rob McCorkle, Texas Parks & Wildlife

If you’re looking for a different and healthier way to help your youngsters celebrate Halloween, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department invites you to visit its state parks and fisheries centers for some special treats.

Campfire

We’re all looking forward to campfires, but be sure and check with the park office to make sure there are no burn bans in effect! Safety first!

Ray Roberts Lake State Park in Valley View invites all little ghosts and goblins to the Johnson Branch unit of the park on Oct. 20 for the Spooky Critter Hike from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  The park will host a very special night of family fun, candy, surprises and educational talk about critters of the night! Each time you find a night critter with a ranger on our short hike, there will be a treat waiting for you! Participants are encouraged to dress up! Please RSVP if possible by calling (940) 637-2294. No pets are allowed on the hike.

For the sixth year in the row, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco will present the Spooky Science Fest – Protectors of the Park from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20. Superheroes of all ages from across the universe will be in a battle to save Texas State Parks, as well as our natural and cultural resources, from the clutches of evil. There will be Superhero photos, a mad science lab, games, crafts, hay rides, live animals, costume contests, food, drinks and much, more. What can you do to save the park? The cost is $6 for adults, $4 for children 12 and under, and $2 for those with a Texas State Parks Passport. Call (956) 565-3919 for more information or visit: http://www.worldbirdingcenter.org/

On that same Saturday, Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site between Brenham and Navasota will be hosting a look at funerary practices of early Texas with a tour of the Old Washington Cemetery. The “Burying the Dead” program will be presented at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and is open to all ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Return to the state historic site the following day to listen to costumed presenters tell Revolutionary Ghost Stories about the spirits who haunted the Lone Star State in its early days.  Presentations will take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Arrive 5 to 10 minutes early at the Visitors Center to stroll to a period setting for the 30 to 45-minute, chill-inducing storytelling about things that go bump in the Texas night. Fees are $5 for adults, students $5 and free for children 6 and younger. For additional details, please call (936) 878-2214, ext. 224.

Carved Pumpkin

You can find some great pumpkin carving patterns online at Zombie Pumpkins.

Representatives of Athens businesses and organizations will hand out free candy treats during the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center’s annual Halloween at the Hatchery from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 25. For more information, call (903) 670-2266.

Bring your little ghouls and goblins to Fort Richardson State Park & Historic Site in Jacksboro after 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 and pay no entry fee during the Trunk or Treat and Ghost Walk. Let your youngsters trick or treat through the campsites from 5:30 p.m. to dusk, and then go for a Ghost Walk around the historic site. Call (940) 567-3506 for more information.

Ray Roberts Lake State Park (Johnson and Isle Du Bois units) in North Texas will be awarding prizes to the top three Jack O’ Lanterns in the Great Pumpkin Carving Contest, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 27. One entry per family, please. Halloween treats and a spooky campfire session await Halloween revelers. For more details, call (940) 637-2294.

Take a walk down the Haunted Trail at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park in Jasper and encounter scary monsters and frightening ghouls. The haunted hike takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Cozy up to the campfire while roasting a hotdog and marshmallows provided by the Friends of Martin Dies Jr. State Park for a $1 donation to the group. Get a temporary Halloween tattoo, play games and win prizes. Call (409) 384-5231 for details.

Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson will host its 6th annual Halloween Spooktacular from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28. Children and adults are encouraged to dress up in their favorite costume and participate in crafts, face painting, picture taking, games and trick-or-treating through the Visitor Center. The costume contest is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Winners will receive a trophy and prizes. Admission is free, but there is a $5 fee for participation in craft activities. For more information, call (979) 292-0100.

To see a complete listing of Halloween events at state parks, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site.

Hot Air Balloon Rides at Balloon Fiesta

What would it take for you to feel like a kid again?

Balloon RideYesterday, my friend Lydia and I walked from the RV park to the the balloon field by 5:30 to check in for our hot air balloon ride. We were hopping from one foot to the other land grinning like 10 year olds. I can’t think of any place else where adults can so completely revert to childhood and just enjoy the moment!

Pilot PatrickWe climbed into a basket with 12 of our new best friends who also booked their rides through Rainbow Ryders. Our pilot, Patrick, is the head pilot for Hot Air Expeditions out of Phoenix,and he’s one of the best pilots I’ve ever met. Plus, he’s got a comic streak, so it’s like a balloon ride and stand-up comedy all in one.

More words won’t do the experience justice, so here are a few pictures from a fabulous morning!

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Yesterday, I set up my Airstream at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s RV park. It’s rally-style parking, which means it’s cozy. But on the bright side, you make lots of new friends fast!

This morning’s flight was a no-go because of rain and wind, but the sun has since come out, so we’re hoping for a fabulous balloon glow this evening, along with some fantastic fireworks.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures that prove there are plenty of ways to stay entertained, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate!

 Are you hanging out at the Balloon Fiesta this weekend? What’s your favorite thing so far?

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

Texas Fall Foliage

I really wanted to take you with me on an Airstream tour to see all the fabulous fall foliage, but with a state as big as Texas, we’d never see it all!

Luckily, some of our favorite Texas websites have done the driving for us. Here are a few links to help you find scenic drives and prime camping spots close to you.

Fall Foliage Tyler Texas

The City of Tyler is home base for several gorgeous East Texas driving tours. Photo credit: Tyler Texas Online.

From Texas Parks and Wildlife
Whether you’re pulling your camper to the East Texas Pineywoods or setting up in the higher elevations in west Texas’s Davis Mountains State Park, Texas Parks and Wildlife has several great suggestions for places to watch the seasons change.

Click here for Texas Parks and Wildlife’s picks.

And don’t forget that you can still go to Camper Clinic II’s Facebook page, “Like” the page, and Camper Clinic II will add another dollar to its donation to help Texas State Parks. While you’re there, click “share” and help spread the word!

From Texas Highways
In this month’s issue, East Texas photographer Joe Lowery reminds us to slow down and enjoy the view. “I’m often asked how I found a certain scenic location, and how difficult it was to reach the spot,” he writes. “While I have a few adventurous tales to share, for the most part photography is about slowing down long enough to see what we normally rush past.”

Click here to read Joe’s article.

And the magazine offered great ideas from the past couple of years as well.

Click here for picks from 2011.

Click here for picks from 2010.

Finally, Texas Monthly tips its Stetson to McKittrick Canyon and the City of Winnsboro, two often overlooked viewing spots.

Caprock Canyon

Thanks to Dee Dee Honea for sharing this funny picture. What a hoot! And now, Dee Dee’s entered to win too.

If you’re out camping this month, don’t forget to send us YOUR photos of the gorgeous fall colors, the critters along the hiking path, or just photos of happy times with you and your family at your favorite park. When you do, you’ll be entered to win a free one-year Texas Parks pass!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

 

 

Texas State Parks: 10 Hidden Gems

Beat the crowds and discover 10 of Texas’ overlooked state parks
by Rob McCorkle, Texas Parks and Wildlife

This month, we’re highlighting Texas Parks and Wildlife. And for every new “like” on Facebook, Camper Clinic II is donating $1 to help save Texas’ State Parks.  Please “like” our page on Facebook and “share” links to our campaign with your friends and fans!

Palo Duro Canyon

Parks like Palo Duro Canyon get – and deserve! – lots of attention. But Texas has many more hidden gems waiting to be discovered. (Photo copyright Mike Sloat)

Texas state parks make up a sprawling spider web of more than 90 sites stretching from Amarillo to Brownsville and El Paso to Sabine Pass. Most of us have frequented or at least heard of iconic parks like Bastrop, Garner, Palo Duro Canyon and others. But what about the lesser-known, unpolished gems in remote pockets of Texas just begging to be discovered?

Whether you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path spelunking adventure, a glimpse of prehistoric Texas, a place for your kids to see a longhorn or bison, the perfect spot to pitch a tent beneath starry skies or simply a peaceful refuge from frenetic urban life, the following 10 unsung state parks have you covered.

Consider spending a day, a weekend or a week in one of these under-the-radar parks and discover why “Life’s Better Outside.”

  1. Village Creek State Park – Lumberton, Hardin County

  2. Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site – Comstock, Val Verde County

  3. Copper Breaks State Park – Quanah, Hardeman County

  4. Caprock Canyons State Park – Quitaque, Briscoe County

    Texas Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons

    Camper Clinic II fan Bob McSpadden shared this photo of the Texas Bison Herd heading to Lake Theo for water at Caprock Canyons State Park. Send us your photos, too, and you’ll be entered to win a one-year Texas State Park pass!

  5. Kickapoo Cavern State Park – Brackettville, Kinney/Edwards counties

  6. Estero Llano Grande State Park – Weslaco, Hidalgo County

  7. Fort Richardson State Park & Historic Site – Jacksboro, Jack County

  8. Goliad State Park & Historic Site – Goliad, Goliad County

  9. Meridian State Park – Meridian, Bosque County

  10. Purtis Creek State Park – Eustace, Van Zandt and Henderson counties

Female Collared Lizard

Robyn Ball, another Camper Clinic II fan, enjoys watching wildlife in the state parks, and snapped this shot of a female collared lizard in Caprock Canyons State Park.

This excerpt was reprinted with permission. Visit Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine to read all about Rob’s list of hidden gems! All are great choices for your next road trip with your travel trailer!

Many thanks to Mike Sloat and Bob McSpadden for sharing their photos photos for this blog post! Send us your photos of camping trips or wildlife, and you’ll be entered to win a one year State Parks Pass!

~G. Elaine Acker

 

Nature Tourism in Texas: Best places to watch and photograph wildlife

This month, we’re highlighting Texas Parks and Wildlife. And for every new “like” on Facebook, we’re donating $1 to help save Texas’ State Parks.  Please “like” our page on Facebook and share links to our campaign with your friends and fans!

Coyote

Photo by Mike Sloat

Wildlife means big bucks. Not just the whitetail variety, but real revenue for Texas cities that promote nature tourism. From butterflies in Mission to prairie dogs in Muleshoe, the wildlife programs promoted by Texas Parks and Wildlife offer opportunities for RV travelers to connect with nature in a personal way, and help promote conservation and sustainable development statewide.

If you want to discover the amazing diversity of wildlife in Texas, you can start by checking out the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s website. On the left side of the webpage you’ll find links to Birding and Nature Festivals, Great Texas Wildlife Trails, and Texas Paddling Trails – plenty of ideas to help you plan your next camping trip!

Here’s more info about three nature tourism events planned for October.

National Wildlife Refuge Week – October 9-15
Since Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge in 1903, the Refuge System has become the world’s premier habitat conservation system, encompassing 553 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. Special programs are planned for several of Texas’s 17 refuges over the next few weeks.

Texas Butterfly Festival – Mission, Texas
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is the most biologically diverse region in the United States with 300 species of butterflies and 512 species of birds. The Butterfly Festival is scheduled for October 25-28.

Wild in Willacy – Raymondville & Port Mansfield, Texas
The 13th annual Wild in Willacy celebration is planned from October 30 through November 3rd and includes music, ranch tours, and cook offs. Tours offer nature lovers the opportunity to “get up close and personal” with many species of wildlife in what organizers describe as one of the wildest places in Texas.

And if you go, don’t forget your camera! Texas photographer Mike Sloat offered a few tips on getting great wildlife shots.

“Photographing animals is a little different,” said Mike. “You need to know what animals you might run into, and how you might expect them to behave. There’s a ton of information on the Internet to help you plan ahead. Remember that you never want to corner an animal. Stay back, and use a telephoto lens when you can.”

Whooping Crane

Mike understands whooping crane behavior, and was ready when this one landed. Why? There were three other whooping cranes just to the right of this image and he’d already noted that this particular crane was aggressively territorial and knew he’d come back in for a landing. (Photo copyright Mike Sloat)

Mike is a frequent nature tourist, and shared a couple of his photos along with information about how he got the shot. “I use different lenses, depending on the animal I’m photographing,” he said. “For example, with whooping cranes along the coast, I’m using a 200-400mm lens, or even a 600mm lens. I also shoot wildlife in Aperture mode.  If your camera offers this setting, it will allow the camera to set the shutter speed and let you concentrate on your subject.”

Mike suggests “panning” or moving your lens with the animal before clicking the shutter.  If your camera allows you to shoot multiple frames per second, you can often capture all of the action in several images – one of which may be that special shot you’re hoping for.

Gator

When he got this shot, Mike had his Nikon camera set on “Continuous High” setting, shooting multiple frames per second. There were 35 images before this shot and 6 after. This one was the “money” shot. (Photo copyright Mike Sloat)

Experienced nature tourism guides will help you stay safe while you’re exploring nature as well. Mike’s encounter with a 14-foot gator was a great reminder to always be alert. “The gator was near a photo blind, and when we entered, the gator charged, unannounced,” he said. “Always have a way out.”  Mike described the situation as “unhealthy.” Judging from the photo, I’d guess that’s an understatement, but like any great photographer, Mike took advantage of the opportunity and got the shot.

Be sure to send us YOUR wildlife and camping photos this month! When you do, you’ll be entered to win a free one-year Texas State Parks pass!

~G. Elaine Acker