Shopping for a new Airstream

2015-Sport-Lifestyle-Campfire-CropHere we go again! After spending several months in a camping lull, I’m looking forward to getting back on the road. Before I can do that, though, I’ll need to spend lots of quality time with my favorite Texas Airstream dealers while I shop for just the right model. I’m also keeping a close eye on the Airforums.com site. You never know when something tempting will pop up!

Flying-Cloud-27FB-Cashew-Ultraleather-Mica-530461-B2F-FLATTENEDMy dream Airstream? It’s a 27-foot Flying Cloud travel trailer, and it’s less than two years old. It’s got two AC units, a power awning, a queen bed, and ultra leather upholstery. I’ve had a 27-footer before, and it’s perfect.

BUT, in the end, it’s really all about the adventure, right? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call my family and grab a map…

I’ll keep you posted!

G. Elaine Acker

How to Carve a Pumpkin

It’s not too late to head out to the local pumpkin patch, grab a pumpkin, and create an impressive jack-o-lantern to decorate the house or RV. Using a stencil, you can carve like a pro, and impress everyone at the RV park!

Pumpkin Stencils1. Shop for a stencil and tools. You can find these at almost any drug or discount store.

2. Cut the pumpkin topUse a large, sharp butcher knife to carefully cut the top out of the pumpkin. You can create a circle, angling the knife toward the center of the pumpkin so that the lid fits snugly, or use a zig-zag pattern.

3. Remove the pumpkin seeds and “guts.” Scrape the inside of the pumpkin on the side where you intend to carve your design to make the wall thinner and easier to carve.

Choose a pumpkin stencilStencilScrape the pumpkin

 

 

 

 
4. Choose a stencil. How ambitious are you? There are easy designs for beginners and complex patterns for experts.

5. Tape the stencil to your pumpkin and use the small plastic hole punch to transfer the design to your pumpkin.

6.Carve the pumpkin Remove the stencil and carve, carve, carve. Refer to your stencil to determine which parts of your design are cut away from the pumpkin, and which remain intact.Carved bat pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Put a candle inside the pumpkin and impress your RV neighbors!

Glowing PumpkinsP.S. Fall means there are great deals available at Camper Clinic in Rockport, and Camper Clinic II in Buda. Shop online right now!

Tour Texas Chili Cookoffs in your RV

Experience Texas’s chili cookoffs from the comfort of your RV.

Judging Chili Cookoff

Who knew judging chili could be such hard work?

Last Saturday, my hubby and I served as judges for the Lone Star Resort‘s annual chili cookoff.

Held in Austin, it was a Chili Appreciation Society sanctioned event that allows participants to earn points that will enable them to compete in the International Chili Championship in Terlingua.

I never fully appreciated the complexities of chili judging before last weekend! My hat’s off to our host and event organizer, Ken Rodd. I learned a lot, and thought you might enjoy a few fun facts about chili cooking and judging, and the drama of chili cookoffs.

Frank Tolbert, who published the book, A Bowl of Red, in 1953, was one of the founders of the Terlingua cookoff.  Click on the photo for Frank's recipe.

Frank Tolbert, who published the book, A Bowl of Red, in 1953, was one of the founders of the Terlingua cookoff. Click on the photo for Frank’s recipe.

Rules for the Chili Cooks

CHILI MUST BE COOKED FROM SCRATCH – “Scratch” is defined as starting with raw meat. No marinating is allowed. Commercial chili powder is permissible, but complete commercial chili mixes (“just add meat” mixes that contain pre-measured spices) are NOT permitted. (Right. If I’m at a chili cookoff, I’m expecting something far more exotic than I can whip up at home with the help of my friend Wick. No offense, R.I.P. Wick.)

NO FILLERS – Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted. (I guess there really is a rule about NO beans in Texas chili!)

PYROTECHNICS – No chili contestant may discharge firearms or use any pyrotechnics or explosives at a chili cookoff. Contestants discharging firearms and/or using explosives or other pyrotechnics will be disqualified from the chili cookoff. (I don’t even want to know what happened that resulted in this written rule!)

Rules for the Judges

JUDGING CRITERIA AND SCORING – A single score takes into consideration the five criteria for scoring chili: Aroma, Consistency, Red Color, Taste, Aftertaste.

TABLE MONITORS – Each judging table will have a knowledgeable table monitor to instruct judges, control table talk, answer questions, and enforce CASI judging rules. Discussion of the chili will not be permitted at judging tables. (And as we learned, spouses are not allowed to sit together.)

INSPECTION OF CUPS – It is the responsibility of table monitors – especially on the preliminary tables – to remove each lid, look at the chili, and check each cup for interior marks and fillers before placing the chili on the table for judging. (Chili judging IS an exact science. If you want to read even more rules and try to understand how the chili cups are assigned to judges and distributed, good luck! Here’s the link to the rules!)

The Drama

It took three years, from 1967 to 1969, to crown the first cookoff winner. Held in Terlingua, the first cookoff was declared a draw, and the results of the second were never known, since after a secret ballot vote, the ballot box was stolen at gunpoint and thrown into a mine shaft. In 1969, C.V. Wood, Jr., the man who built Disneyland for Walt Disney, entered and was crowned champ.

As is usually the case with human nature, chili politics eventually split the cookoff into bickering groups. Today, the two main groups that have evolved are: The Chili Appreciation Society, and the International Chili Society, which is based in California.

From the Texas RV traveler’s perspective, I think I’d rather leave the politics at home. I just want to enjoy the road trip, have fun camping, watch the showmanship, and taste some awesome chili. If you agree, you can check out the upcoming chili cookoffs on both societies’ websites above and start planning!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Lone Star Resort Front BuildingP.S. If you’re planning a trip to the Austin area, be sure to make a reservation with our friends at Austin Lone Star Resort. They did a fantastic job with this year’s chili cookoff – as always! The park is conveniently located right off I-35 in South Austin, and once you’re under the shade of those gorgeous oaks, you’ll forget the freeway is even there.

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day Gifts for RV Dads

XLR Hyper Lite RVLast weekend, we took a brand new Forest River XLR Hyper Lite and an Aspen Trail 2710 Bunk model over to Cabela’s Family Day in Buda. All day long, the kids fished for catfish, tried kayaking with a group of Texas Parks and Wildlife volunteers from Ink’s Lake State Park, and visited with the local K9 Unit’s feisty German shepherd.

K9 Officer at Cabela'sIt was great to see kids grinning and families thinking about ways to spend more time together outdoors. And I can’t imagine anything the RV Dad would love more than family time outdoors.

So, with that in mind, here are three Father’s Day gift ideas for the RV dad.

Texas State Parks Pass1. How about a Texas State Parks Pass? You’ll get unlimited access to more than 90 state parks and never pay an entrance fee! It’s $70.

Zero Gravity Recliner2. A recliner is always a favorite gift, but this year, you can choose this large, Zero Gravity recliner that lets Dad rest in comfort in the shade! Whether you’re on enjoying the Gulf breeze in Rockport, lounging beside the river in San Marcos, or resting in the high desert in Big Bend, this chair will be Dad’s favorite. It’s only $99.

Cadac Grill3. Finally, you can’t miss with a new Cadac Carri Chef Deluxe grill. This 5-in-1 portable gas grill weighs less than 10 pounds and is versatile with interchangeable cooking surfaces: camping stove, BBQ, non-stick reversible griddle, and a wok/dome. It’s $250. (Don’t forget to buy the gas cartridge – it’s sold separately.)

Remember, whatever gift you choose, it’s the gift of good times together that matter most!

~ G. Elaine Acker

P.S. If you’re in the mood to look at new RVs for Dad, we’ve got a huge selection at both the original Camper Clinic RV Super Store in Rockport, or Camper Clinic II in Buda. Come see us!

 

 

 

Go Fishing for FREE in Texas State Parks

father_and_son--Camping in your travel trailer is all about making memories: long walks, time by the campfire, or sitting along the bank of a lake with a fishing rod in your hand.

If it’s time to teach the kids or grand kids how to fish, you can head to one of Texas’ State Parks and do it for FREE. There are lakes and parks conveniently located all across the state where you won’t need a fishing license, and some of the parks even have loaner gear.

 

Near Dallas, check out Cleburn State Park and spend a few lazy hours on Cedar Lake. Or, if you live near Houston, visit Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center, which just stocked one of their ponds with rainbow trout.

DipNetWherever you decide to take your RV, it’s the time spent together that counts! Go make a memory and savor every moment!

~ G. Elaine Acker

National Thank You Month

¡Gracias… Merci… Danke… Grazie… Thank you!

Guess what. It’s National Thank You Month. And I’m thinking about you, the people who take the time to stop by our blog, as well as all the people who make life fun and just a bit smoother when I’m in my travel trailer, out on the road.
With that in mind, here are a few shout-outs:
A_S-125x1251. Thank you to the amazing service team at Camper Clinic II who keep my Airstream in tip-top shape and ready to roll!
2. Thank you to the emergency roadside assistance crews at the Good Sam Club who are always on standby should the unexpected occur!
3. Thank you to the tolerant and patient wait staff at those terrific “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” that Food Network star Guy Fieri helps us discover along the highways!

Photo credit: Mark Peterson; The Food Network.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson; The Food Network.

4. Thank you to the owners staff of all the KOA parks, Texas state parks, and other RV hot spots for giving us beautiful, clean sites to use as a home base while we go exploring in your neck of the woods!
5. Thank you, our fellow camping enthusiasts, Facebook friends, and Camper Clinic II customers, for sharing the journey. You make it fun!

If, like me, you’re thinking about ways you can say thank you and surprise those wonderful people in the list above, here are a few ideas. Try leaving a note and an extra-large tip for a deserving waiter or waitress; bake something yummy for park or service staff; and post a photo or note on our Facebook or Pinterest pages and give a shout out to the people you’ve met on your travels.

Any other ideas about great ways to surprise someone with a Thank You? Let us know! See you on the road and as always, thanks for stopping by and spending time with us online!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

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

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!

 

 

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.

Stargazing in Fort Davis, Texas

Don’t forget to go click “Like” on Camper Clinic II’s Facebook page! You’ll be entered to win a one-year Texas State Parks Pass and you’ll add another dollar to donation to protect Texas State Parks!

Plan now for next month’s Leonid Meteor Showers!

Airstream

My little Airstream International is very cozy in the campground!

Last weekend, I took my Airstream and went camping at Davis Mountains State Park. It’s a great destination all by itself, but it’s also a great home base while you explore the town of Fort Davis, visit the Fort Davis National Historic Site, drive the Scenic Loop west of town, and do a little stargazing at the McDonald Observatory.

Telescope

Photo of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope courtesy University of Texas McDonald Observatory.

 

 

This trip, I think I enjoyed my visit to the McDonald Observatory most of all. I was delighted to find an all-new visitor’s center complete with an outdoor amphitheater for the evening star party, and a “telescope park.”

First, we took a guided tour of the night sky, and it was great to get reacquainted with Draco and Andromeda, Vega and Polaris, as well as several other stars and constellations. And even though there were lines to look through the high-powered telescopes, the lines moved quickly, and the magnified views were worth the wait.

 

Star Party

You’ll need a ticket for the star party. If it’s a popular weekend, you may want to get yours in advance. The lines for the telescopes will move fast, and it’s worth the wait! Photo courtesy University of Texas McDonald Observatory.

If you’re contemplating a road trip to West Texas, I’d recommend planning your trip around Leonid Meteor Showers in November. Here’s more info on the meteor showers from our friends at EarthSky:

November 16/17, 2012, late night November 16 until dawn November 17 Leonids
Radiating from the constellation Leo the Lion, the Leonid meteor shower is famous. Historically, this shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history – at least one in living memory, 1966 – with rates as high as many thousands of meteors per hour. Indeed, on that beautiful night in 1966, the meteors did fall like rain. Some who watched the shower said they felt as if they needed to grip the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth plowing along through space, fording the meteoroid stream. The meteors, after all, were all streaming from a single point in the sky – the radiant point – in this case in the constellation Leo the Lion. Leonid meteor storms sometimes recur in cycles of 33 to 34 years, but the Leonids around the turn of the century – while wonderful for many observers – did not match the shower of 1966. And, in most years, the Lion whimpers rather than roars, producing a maximum of perhaps 10-15 meteors per hour. Like most meteor showers, the Leonids ordinarily pick up steam after midnight and display the greatest meteor numbers just before dawn. In 2012, however, the waxing crescent moon will be setting at early evening, leaving a dark night for Leonid meteor shower.

Have you visited the McDonald Observatory? What’s your favorite constellation?

~ G. Elaine Acker