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

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

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

1-Tomato Soup in snowIt’s been so cold out, I couldn’t think of anything that sounded better after a brisk afternoon hike than a roasted tomato basil soup. But none of the recipes I found were making me completely happy. So I’ve been working on a new recipe for the past few weeks, and I think it’s finally ready to share with my fellow RV chefs!

1-IMG_0173Ingredients
½ med onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ stalk celery, diced (about ¼ cup)
½ carrot chopped (about ¼ cup)
1 tsp fresh thyme (can substitute 1/4 tsp dried and add more to taste. A little goes a long way!)
1 cup fresh basil, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp garlic powder (optional; use to adjust garlic flavor if needed)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth (or 1 cup of water + vegetable paste)
1 cup tomato juice
8-10 med tomatoes roasted at 400 degrees for 40-45 min
Salt & pepper

Directions
1-IMG_0175Saute the onions, garlic, celery and carrot in a Dutch oven over medium heat until the carrots are tender and the onions are clear. Add the vegetable broth and tomato juice and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, thyme, basil, garlic powder. Let simmer another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust other seasonings to suit your preference. Use a hand-held blender (the “boat motor”) to smooth the texture of the soup but still leave some rustic chunks of tomato.

Garnishes and other options: add milk and/or sour cream to create a creamy tomato soup; garnish with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.

Soups are flavorful, easy RV meals, especially if you do some prep work before you leave home! I have an oven in my Airstream, so I could just as easily roast the tomatoes on the road, but if you’re playing outside most of the day, it would be nice to have all the ingredients ready to go. (I’m guessing this recipe would work really well by just dumping everything in a crock pot, too. I’ll have to try that.)

This time, I’m definitely going to freeze some and take it with me on my road trip through Texas next week!

Do you have any favorite soup recipes to share? Let me know!

~ 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

 

New RV Models for 2013

This week, I wondered what fun, new toys were in the works for this coming RV model year, so I called Steve Roberson, Sales Manager for Camper Clinic II in Buda, to get the scoop.

nitroTHFfeat2largeI found out that Camper Clinic II is adding four new lines to their lot this year, which means an even wider array of choices. There’s literally something for every budget. You can get a great family camper for less than $10,000, or you can spend as much as $150,000 for the luxury travel trailer or fifth wheel models.

The newest ones are the V Cross (with a v-nose that makes it very aerodynamic to tow), the Aspen Trail, the XLR Toy Hauler, and the Riverside. There’s also a new Evergreen model called the Sun Valley that you might want to check out as well. It’s affordable, and it’s certified green!

iGo 256BH

Check out this 2013 Evergreen I-GO! It’s less than $30,000 and it’s super light and easy to tow!

It’s awesome to have so many choices, but then sometimes it’s hard to make a final decision. I asked Steve how they’re able to help people through that decision-making process. “Our sales people are trained to help,” said Steve. “They’ll find out how you’re going to use your RV, how many people you need to sleep and feed. They’ll help you think through whether you’re going to do weekend trips, long vacations, or even use it full time. Once they’ve got that information, they can match you with the best selections for you, and make it easier to choose.”

c2e0127-03Some of these models are so new they’re not even featured on the website yet, but you can call the sales staff and schedule a sneak preview.

“Sometimes when you’re shopping, you’re trying to justify how much time you’ll use it against the expense,” said Steve. “But once you have an RV and it’s available, you’ll go camping much more often than you thought you would.”

I know that’s right! I love the feeling that I can hook up at a moments notice and literally go anywhere.

As Dr. Seuss wrote, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” If you’re dreaming about a new travel trailer, go for it. Make a list of travel ideas for 2013, pick out a trailer that’s right for you, and hit the road. It’s the best family time you’ll ever spend!

~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.

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

 

 

 

 

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