Airstream Photography by Brett Scarola

A few days ago, one of our sales pros, Brian Mallory, walked up to me with a gorgeous, vintage airstream photo in his hand. The image was created by Austin photographer Brett Scarola and the magic of the iconic Airstream and mood of the moment was all captured there on the print.

Photo Copyright Brett Scarola. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Copyright Brett Scarola. All Rights Reserved.

Jealous, I promptly went online to Brett Scarola’s Etsy Store and found a treasure trove of photos rendered with a vintage look. The store features classic Central Texas images such as Guero’s Taco Bar on South Congress, the famous dance hall in Gruene, fields of bluebonnets, and Hamilton Pool. My favorites, of course, are those that showcase the Airstreams in all their silver glory.

At Camper Clinic II, we’re lucky to meet lots of creative adventurers (and always take time to sit back and admire their Airstreams). If you’re adding a taste of Texas to your décor – or if you’re in the mood for something customized just for you – check out Brett Scarola.

–Elaine Acker

How to Thank a Veteran on Memorial Day

American Flag and Ferris Wheel

Enjoy summer, but remember the veterans whose sacrifices made our classic American Summer possible.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, but more important, it honors the people who have made it possible for us to enjoy our American summer to the fullest.

My family and I recently camped in Branson, MO, and we went to three excellent shows that had one thing in common: American patriotism that literally brought us to our feet. We stood, clapped, put our hands over our hearts, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and sang America the Beautiful with one voice. For a few special moments, we were united as Americans, and remembered the veterans who gave us the freedoms we enjoy today.

National Cemetery

National Cemeteries across the country are decorated with flags in a special Memorial Day tribute.

So, on Memorial Day, I want to salute every veteran who has served this country.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to drive around the country towing my shiny new Airstream.Thank you for giving me leisure time to hang out with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for the chance to whine about religion and politics, because no matter what side of which aisle you sit on, the freedom to whine is a gift in and of itself.

The Knudsen brothers, who perform the show SIX (an amazing show – if you’re going to Branson, don’t miss it) asked each generation’s active and retired military to stand, in turn, and be recognized. Freedom was no longer a vague patriotic concept. Freedom had a face, and a heart, and a proud family.

If you’d like to hear the Knudsen’s beautiful harmonies,  listen to them singing the Star Spangled Banner.

My family’s most famous veteran is my mother in law, Josephine. And I thought of her that night in the theater as the World War II veterans in the audience stood.Josephine was recently interviewed by the Admiral Nimitz museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, which is preserving the history of the World War II generation, and honoring all veterans, past and present.

The Nimitz staff was especially interested in Josephine’s stories, because as an Army nurse, she was one of very few women working close to the front lines. She waited in the channel on D-Day, then six days later, helped set up the evac hospital on Omaha Beach. In fact, she helped move and re-establish the evac hospital 20 times as the war came to and end.

After talking with Josephine again after the trip to Branson, I tried to think of a few good ways to say Thank You to our military heroes, past and present. Here are three suggestions:

1. Acknowledge them. When you see someone in uniform, make it a point to stop and shake their hand.  A smile and the words, “thank you for your service,” go a long way.

2. Send a care package. Here’s a blog post from a military wife with some helpful hints about what to include.

3. Welcome them home. Every soldier returning home deserves a hero’s welcome. Join with your community and meet them at the airport. Wear the red, white, and blue, and show them they’re not forgotten.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Solder in Washington, DC ensures that we never forget the sacrifices that keep Americans free.

Who are the veterans in your life? We invite you to share their names and their stories here, and be sure to tell them how much we appreciate their service!

To all our Veterans, from everyone at Camper Clinic II, we’re thinking of you this Memorial Day.

~ Elaine Acker

National Trails Day

Trailwork

Celebrate National Trails Day by helping maintain your favorite hiking trails! Photo by Leigh Scott.

Some of my most memorable moments outdoors have been spent on hiking trails near some of my favorite RV camping spots.  From the sweeping desert vistas of the South Rim in Big Bend to the coastal marshes of Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge just east of Houston, I love the way hiking brings me face to face with nature.

If you’d like to play outside and get up close and personal with nature next weekend, The 20th anniversary of the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® is scheduled for Saturday, June 2.  Billed as the nation’s largest “TRAILgating party,” more than 2,000 events will be happening all across the U.S.  And, if you happen to be leading an event that weekend, there’s still time to register your event as well.

TRAILgating PartyEvents include trail maintenance projects, hikes, paddle trips, bike and horseback rides, wildlife viewing activities, trail dedications, and much more. “Twenty years ago, AHS built National Trails Day around the idea that for one day each year we should come together outdoors and give back to our favorite trails,” says Gregory Miller, American Hiking Society president. “Since then, people from all walks of life have been coming out in increasing numbers on NTD to celebrate our trails and the great outdoors.”

AirstreamIf you’re anything like me, it seems easier these days to enjoy the great outdoors when I know I can come back to my Airstream and comfortably crash for the evening. Some of the best camping spots I know are in Texas’s State and National Parks adjacent to some spectacular hiking trails and scenery. Check out the State Park Guide or the the Recreation.gov site for more info on the parks and facilities.

Most of all, I love hiking, because of the surprises. I just never know what I’m going to see along the trail. Really.

Cactus and fork

I saw this "art installation" along the trail in Central Texas at last year's Acker Family Reunion. Hmmm.

 What’s your favorite hiking trail? Any National Trails Day events happening in your area?

Contributed by G. Elaine Acker

Fun on the Water Means Staying Safe in the Boat

Family in a boatSome memories can warm your heart like summer sunshine. And that’s true for my memories of growing up on Lake Cherokee in northeast Texas. I wouldn’t trade the good times spent running trotlines for catfish with my dad, waterskiing with friends, or buzzing across the lake in the boat to my uncle’s house for anything in the world. Growing up, my sisters and cousins and I learned how to swim almost as soon as we learned how to walk, and lakes and beaches still top our list of favorite family gathering spots (spots with RV camping, of course!)

When we planned last year’s Acker Family Reunion on Buchanan, near Austin, however, we realized that with the severe drought came some unanticipated dangers. The water levels were nearing record lows, sandbars appeared where once there had been open ski water, and in many places, submerged trees loomed just beneath the surface.

Kayaks

With the low lake levels, we chose kayaks over power boats and still made lots of great memories.

We found a great place that had RV camping as well as cabins for those who were flying in. But this time, we made a decision to leave the ski, bass, and pontoon boats at home and instead found our fun in canoes, kayaks, and swimming pools. As much as I hated to miss the time on the water, I knew I’d never be able to live with it if someone had an accident during the reunion.

Fortunately, Ackers are a flexible bunch, just happy to enjoy each other’s company whether wading in the mud or splashing in chlorine.

And now, it’s hard to believe that summertime is once again just around the corner. And even though I grew up on the water, it seems like a good time to review the safety basics. That’s what National Safe Boating Week is for, I suppose: to remind us that no amount of fun and sun is worth it if we lapse into a moment of carelessness and lose someone special.

Life jackets are really the big key. I think I’ll go make sure mine haven’t rotted over the winter. And maybe I’ll get a new one. I’ve seen some stylish ones that aren’t anything close to the clunky orange ones we had as kids.  The new ones fit great and are comfortable enough to wear all the time in the boat.

Want to join me in taking the Safe Boating Pledge?

Wading in the mud.

Wading in the mud is never a bad thing!

I’m happy to say that there’s a bit more water in the lakes now than there was this time last summer. Who knows how long it’ll last, but I’ll enjoy it while we have it! See you on the water!

What are some of your favorite lake camping spots? Let me know!

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Sunday’s Solar Eclipse

Eclipse

Nasa’s Hinode Mission - an international mission to study the sun – captured stunning images of the last annular eclipse on January 6, 2011. The sensitive telescopes are expected to capture even more breathtaking images on Sunday.

I can’t decide whether to check out Sunday’s eclipse from Petroglyph National Monument, just west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, or head over to one Texas’s state parks where there are lots of programs being offered by professional and amateur astronomers alike.(There’s a full list of state park activities on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.)

I’m lucky, because stargazing is one of my favorite pastimes, and I’m within an easy drive of some wide-open skies. On Sunday, May 20, I’ll be watching what’s called an “annular” solar eclipse that will begin in eastern Asia, cross the North Pacific Ocean, and end in the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much larger geographic area.

Eclipse-watching map

This map from Stardate shows the prime eclipse-viewing areas in the Western U.S.

During the annular eclipse the moon will not completely block the sun, but instead will leave a bright “bulls eye” ring of light visible around the edges.

Today, I talked to Claudia Brookshire, a park ranger at Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico, today, and she offered advice for anyone planning to watch the eclipse. “The national parks will be open until sunset,” she said, “so even if the scheduled programs are full, there will be plenty of opportunities to watch the eclipse from the park. Find a place up high on the mesa.” She also cautioned eclipse watchers to protect their eyes by either wearing a pair of solar glasses, using a pinhole projector, or using welder’s glasses with a 14 filter or higher.

Where will you be on Sunday evening when the moon eclipses sun?

~Elaine

To learn even more about the eclipse, check out these links:

The McDonald Observatory in West Texas publishes Stardate. They’re responsible for the great eclipse map above, and have a chart of eclipse times in the U.S.

Nasa offers great eclipse photos, and also safety advice.

The program EarthSky, heard on NPR, created a podcast that includes information about the upcoming eclipse.

 

Weekend Wanderer: Caddo Lake State Park

I’m a native East Texas girl, some of my favorite memories are of trips my family and I took to Caddo Lake State Park. It’s a great weekend getaway for camping, fishing, or just  exploring.

Great Blue Heron in Cypress Swamp

A great blue heron waits for dinner to swim by in one of Caddo's cypress swamps.

On my family’s last visit, we paddled kayaks along Alligator Bayou, floated between cypress trees draped with Spanish moss, ate a picnic on the bank, and watched great blue herons fishing among the water lilies. The landscape was, and remains, basically unchanged from the early 1800s when Caddo Indians skimmed the waters in dugout canoes. The state park itself is situated on Big Cypress Bayou, but Caddo’s complex maze of cypress swamps stretches across 25,400 acres into Louisiana.

Kayaking on Caddo LakeBecause it’s easy to become disoriented in the swamps, Caddo is probably best explored on short kayak excursions from the park, or on guided tours. The park will provide a list of local tour guides when you check in, but I found one online that looks especially interesting: Caddo Outback Tours. Operated by John and Diane Winn in Karnack, Texas (also the birthplace of Lady Bird Johnson, by the way), they offer flexibility on tour times, and niche tours, from photography to gators. I’m always fascinated when tour guides take us through places such as Old Folks Playground, Red Belly, and Hog Wallow – crazy names that distinguish Caddo’s nooks from its crannies.

Every time we visit Caddo, we make it a point to eat at Big Pines Lodge where they serve awesome fried catfish. I was heartbroken in 2009 when the restaurant burned to the ground, but Kevin Allen and Shell Sanford have rebuilt the lodge, which reopened about six months ago. They’re back and I’m told it’s better than ever!

Now that I’ve made myself homesick, I guess I’d better go plan my next visit to Caddo.

If you’ve been to Caddo Lake State Park, be sure to reply and share your memories!

~ Elaine

P.S.

If you visit Caddo Lake, you’ll need these links:

Reserve your camping spot at Caddo Lake State Park:

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/caddo_lake/

Check out the Big Pines Lodge menu:

http://www.bigpineslodge.com/images/Big%20Pines%20Menu/BPL%20Menu%20REV%2019/index.html

Consider a nice meal at nearby River Bend Restaurant. I haven’t been there, but it’s getting great reviews.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/RiverBend-Restaurant-on-Caddo-Lake/148418491867158

Book a guided tour: http://caddolaketours.com/