Polaris RZR 900 XC – A New Ride and A New Chapter in our Travels!

January 2019 – For the last two years we’ve been pondering the idea of getting a side-by-side UTV. When we were visitng Custer, South Dakota, it seemed that everybody got around town in their UTV, and we had a blast at a SXS Jamboree in southern Utah where we test drove several models from a few different manufacturers.

Buzzing around in a little off-road buggy seemed like such a fun thing to do!

What luck that on Christmas this year Santa loaded a pretty one onto his sleigh for us and delivered it to our friend’s house where we were staying.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV with fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Wow! A fun new ride!

It is a 2017 Polaris 900 EPS XC edition, and it is as cute as a button.

Driving a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

Yippee!

Ever since we got inspired by the idea of exploring remote back country roads with a Polaris RZR (“razor”) 18 months ago, we’ve both been exhilarated by the idea of getting out into nature further and deeper than we can on foot or on our bikes.

At the same time, we’ve also been a bit daunted by the prospect of replacing our ordinary fifth wheel trailer with a toy hauler!

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition lakeside-min

The Polaris RZR 900 XC Edition is a small and sporty two-seater side-by-side.

For the last year and a half we have researched toy haulers endlessly, studying each and every brand in depth online, making spreadsheets comparing the features, and traipsing through dozens of units all across the country. (if you’re currently searching for a new rig, I know you are smiling and nodding at this. It’s quite a process!).

I even had the good fortune of being assigned the task of writing an article about toy haulers for Trailer Life Magazine in which I discussed some of the things to look for and reviewed a few of the current offerings in the market (this lengthy article will appear in the March issue of Trailer Life).

And when we were in the RV capital of the world around Elkhart, Indiana, last fall, we visited several toy hauler manufacturing plants.

Keystone Raptor manufacturing plant outdoor lot-min

Raptor and Carbon toy haulers lined up at the Keystone manufacturing plant in Goshen, Indiana.

But we hadn’t pulled the trigger to trade in our fiver for a toy hauler yet because, well, we didn’t have a RZR yet!

We kinda had a chicken-and-egg problem on our hands.

What do you get first, the toy hauler or the toy? If you live in an RV full-time, how can you haul a toy without a toy hauler? But if you go all in and get both at once, what happens if, after all that, you then find out you’re not really into the whole RZR thing?

What if — gasp — the DOG doesn’t like riding in an off-road buggy?

Cool Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition side by side UTV

All smiles now!

We were going through the familiar throes of simultaneously dreaming and doubting, an experience so many people go through as they plan a major change in their life — like taking the plunge to live and travel in an RV full-time.

There was a lot of expense involved in making such a change, and a lot of upheaval and a bit of risk too.

Off-road in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC-min

Mark looks pretty comfy and happy behind that wheel!

We dreamed of the fun times we’d have seeing scenery we just can’t reach any other way. Everywhere we’d traveled for the last 18 months we’d asked ourselves if we would have seen more with a side-by-side, and almost everywhere we went the answer was Yes.

In Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains we saw people driving off on dirt trails with their UTVs loaded down with gear, and they didn’t return for three days. Who knows what they saw out there, but the grins on their faces were ear to ear when they came back.

We dreamed that maybe a little backcountry buggy would take us to places in the hinterlands where we could pitch a tent and be set up in a fabulous spot to photograph the sunrise and sunset without having to trek in or out for a bunch of miles in the dark. It could be the gateway to little getaways!

Saguaro cacti in Arizona-min

The RZR takes us far into Arizona’s outback!

But we also worried about making the change to living in a toy hauler.

If we went to the trouble of setting up a new toy hauler the way we’d like it with solar power and vent-free propane heat and disc brakes, what would we do if after a year or so we we found we didn’t use the toy enough to warrant the big garage and smaller living space a toy hauler would squeeze us into?

On the other hand, a garage might open up some fabulous possibilities.

We might be able to get another porta-bote like we had with our sailboat and putt-putt across serene lakes and rivers. We’d be able to haul the bikes in the garage instead of hanging them precariously off the back of the trailer. And Mark might be able to have a small workbench rather than digging out his tools from the basement and laying them across the tailgate of the pickup for every project.

And we’d have a back porch and possibly a side patio deck too! How totally cool would that be?!

Road Warrior toy hauler with side patio deck-min

Some toy haulers, like this Road Warrior, have side patio decks. Cool!

And then the doubts would set in again.

What would it be like to tow a gargantuan 42′ or 44′ toy hauler like so many of them are these days? Gosh, we struggle at gas stations as it is with a 36′ fifth wheel. Would we ever be able to fuel the truck when we were hitched up if we were towing such a beast?

It certainly didn’t help that every time we went to an RV dealer to look at a particular brand of toy hauler, we’d eventually wander over to the luxury fifth wheels and fall in love with one of those instead!

Cactus in a cactus-min

Trying to see the woods for the trees…

Round and round our conversations would go, from optimism to pessimism and back again as we weighed the pros and cons of turning our lives upside down to accommodate a little off-road vehicle we weren’t sure about!

We contemplated renting a UTV to try it out, but few places rent out the Polaris models we were interested in, and most have been used and abused and aren’t outfitted beyond bare bones. The price of a rental was usually around $350 a day in the most scenic places, so it wouldn’t take many rental days to take a big chunk out of the price of buying one!

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV at the lake-min

Most of the rentals we found were pricey and not models we’d want to buy.

We felt immense empathy with our many readers who have contacted us over the years asking for input into their decisions related to going full-time.

I’ve always advised folks to tip-toe into the full-time RV lifestyle so they are confident and happy each step of the way: Get a cheap small rig, use it a lot, and talk to full-timers you meet while you’re out exploring in this little rig. And THEN take the plunge to commit to full-timing once you’ve gotten some real miles and adventures under your belt.

Truck Polaris RZR UTV and utility trailer-min

First trip to the trails.

And it was finally listening to this common sense advice that helped us begin to navigate our dilemma.

We realized that our first step was to figure out if a side-by-side would be fun or not and to find out how Buddy would react to it. He’d gone through a period of not wanting to get into the truck, and we didn’t want to make a huge investment of time, effort and money to move into a toy hauler if we couldn’t take him with us on our RZR outings.

So, with that in mind, we put the toy hauler decision on hold and focused on getting a RZR. We figured that even if we ended up selling it at a loss after a few months, it would be a far cheaper and better way to evaluate it than doing a series of rentals.

We found a barely used Polaris 900 XC on Craiglist that came with a small utility trailer, and we decided we’ll just triple tow it behind our current fifth wheel for a while and not travel long distances until we’ve made a final decision to get a toy hauler or stay with a regular fiver.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV being loaded onto a utility trailer-min

It’s a tight squeeze back onto the utility trailer but Mark handles it like a pro.

There’s a ton of fabulous sounding forest roads and trails to explore with a UTV in the southwest, and if we tow just a little and stay in each spot for a while, we can get some hands-on experience and make an informed long term decision about what our next rig will be.

Happy camper in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

What a cool ride!

Our first trips have been a total blast! We have run around in the Arizona desert out by Wickenburg and Lake Pleasant, and we have loved every minute of it. The scenery is classic, pristine Sonoran desert scenery, and with each bend in the road the views of saguaro cacti and mountains get better.

Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona-min

Desert scenery far from paved roads.

Saguaro Cactus starburst-min

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Lake Pleasant Sonoran Desert scenery-min

Desert meets water at Lake Pleasant.

Perhaps best of all, it turns out our little Buddy is a RZR Dog.

Puppy and Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

Buddy has chased down the RZR a few times!

He seems to really enjoy being out on the trails despite the noise and the bumpiness of the ride. He has even chased the RZR at a full gallop a few times when Mark was driving it around, and then he hopped in for a ride.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV with puppy-min

He likes it!

Driving a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV

It’s a two-seater, but two in one seat is okay too.

So, with the start of 2019 we’re starting a new chapter in our travels. Who knows where it will lead, but it has been a thrill so far.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV

Adventure beckons

With any luck we’ll be brining you lots of beautiful images from remote spots down some special trails. And someday we’ll be trading our Hitchhiker for a new rig, possibly a toy hauler!

Happy campers in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV

A happy trio in our new ride.

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Jerome, Arizona – A New Year’s Getaway in the Snow!

January 2019 – Most people come to the Arizona desert in January to get out of the snow and ice and enjoy some balmy weather. But when snow and ice blew into central Arizona on New Year’s Eve this week, we jumped at the chance to get out on New Year’s Day to enjoy the fluffy white stuff while it lasted.

Snowy highway I-17 to Jerome AZ-min

We drove north on I-17 to see the snow!

We headed north on I-17 which takes travelers from the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix at about 1,200′ elevation to the ponderosa pine forests of Flagstaff at about 7,500′ elevation in just two hours of highway driving. Not far from the northern boundaries of Phoenix we began seeing patches of snow along the highway.

Snow on the rocks in Arizona-min

The rocks on the side of the highway were all capped in snow.

Snow had collected on the rock formations and in the forests by the side of the highway as we climbed higher and higher in elevation.

Snow in the trees in Arizona-min

Soon we saw woods filled with snow-covered trees.

Our goal had just been to go see some snow, but we soon realized our afternoon New Year’s snow drive needed a destination.

We wanted to see a quaint town full of holiday cheer along with ice and snow, so we cut off from I-70 onto Route 260 and 89A to go to the historic copper mining town of Jerome.

Hotel on the way into Jerome AZ-min

Rounding the first switchback on our way up Mingus Mountain to Jerome.

Jerome is perched halfway up towering Mingus Mountain, and it clings to the hillside with tenacity as it looks out over the valley below. The views are vast, and when we arrived storm clouds and golden sunlight were taking turns shading and lighting the valley.

Light and shadow in the valley view from erome Arizona-min

Light and shadow played hide and seek across the valley.

The town was built along several steep switchbacks in the road that crosses Mingus Mountain, and houses and shops stand at several different levels on the mountain road. A few staircases take shortcuts between each level, leading from one road up to the next.

Old stone stairway Jerome Arizona-min

The town of Jerome is multi-leveled and has lots of stairways.

Jerome is something of a rediscovered ghost town, and there are ghostly themes all over the place. We noticed a skeleton was about to join a family eating outside on a restaurant deck.

Eating on the deck with a skeleton Jerome Arizona-min

Dinner with a view — and a surprise guest!

Another skeleton was climbing the sign at the Haunted Hamburger.

Haunted Hamburger skeleton sign Jerome Arizona-min

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Jerome is a really popular destination in the summertime because it is an easy drive from baking hot Phoenix, and the temps are cool and refreshing because it lies halfway up a tall mountain. But it makes a delightful wintertime destination too, especially around the holidays. Christmas decorations were everywhere.

Icicles and Christmas ornament Jerome Arizona-min

If you don’t feel the Christmas spirit in the warm desert, come to Jerome for real icicles and ornaments.

Spiked peppermint hot chocolate sign Jerome Arizona-min

What could be better than this after a cold walk in Jerome on a wintry day?

Walking the streets of Jerome, we saw beautiful views across the valley. The red rocks of Sedona were nearby, and they lit up in the distance as the sun began to sink lower in the sky.

Red rocks of Sedona Arizona-min

The red rocks of Sedona glowed in the distance.

All the buildings were covered with a layer of snow, which made for a fun change of scenery after weeks in the dusty dry deserts of New Mexico and Arizona.

Valley view from Jerome Arizona-min

The views went on forever and were especially lovely as the sun went down.

We followed the switchbacks to the top of town.

Curvy uphill street Jerome Arizona-min

The streets were quiet, and the town was as quaint as can be!

The Jerome Grand Hotel stood proudly overlooking the valley.

Jerome Grand Hotel Arizona sunset-min

The Jerome Grand Hotel is haunted.

Inside the lobby of the Jerome Grand Hotel we read some of the guests’ hand written ghost stories that have been collected in a notebook. All kinds of things go bump in the night at this hotel, and visitors have some hair raising tales to tell. Just ask the person at the front desk if you can see the guestbook of stories about this haunted hotel!

Jerome Grand Hotel Arizona-min

We read a few of the guests’ ghost stories…sleep with one eye open if you stay here!

The sun set in pastel shades of peach and pink and blue as we walked back down into town.

Streets of Jerome Arizona at sunset-min

We’ve loved Jerome at warmer times of year, but the snow and cold gave it a special kind of intimacy.

Pink and blue sunset Jerome Arizona-min

Pink and blue sunset.

As we made our way back to the parking area at the bottom of town we saw lots of Christmas lights on the houses.

Christmas lights Jerome Arizona-min

Christmas lights came on all over town — very pretty!

All the trees in the small town park were decorated with lights, but it was the lights on the ground blinking under the snow that caught our attention.

Christmas lights buried under the snow-min

In the town park Christmas lights blinked under the snow!

Jerome is a cute town and a lovely spot to for a change of pace from the desert, especially during the holidays when it snows!

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2018 RV Travels – The Year of the Dog

When we rang in 2018 on New Year’s Day last year, we had been traveling full-time for over ten years, and our traveling lifestyle and methods were a well oiled machine. We had lots more travel adventures planned for the future, but we figured they’d be similar to what we’ve been doing for over a decade involving two people, several cameras, a bunch of lenses and a rolling or floating home.

And then we unexpectedly became the owners of a puppy, and our lives were turned upside down!

RV travel with a dog 2018 RVing trip recap summary

2018 RV travels – The Year of the Dog!

We didn’t know at the time that in the Chinese calendar 2018 was the Year of the Dog, but we soon discovered that in our own personal calendar that’s exactly what was going on!

Our sweet little puppy, Buddy, stole our hearts. He also stole a bunch of our living space and a lot of our time, but we were happy to give those things up because he was so dear.

The Christmas Puppy-min

Buddy goes from Pound Puppy to Travel Pup!

Suddenly, we were emptying our shelves and closets to make room for bags of dog food. In no time at all we’d acquired 100 lbs. of dog food to feed our 20 lb. dog!

And everywhere we turned we were stumbling over little dog toys. Not only did Buddy have an indoor toy box full of toys he’d received from friends and his indulgent owners, but he also had an outdoor toy box full of treasures he’d found on his own during our walks, from balls to sandals to sticks and gloves.

Puppy Chow our little Buddy Dog-min

Adorable Puppy Chow with the first toy he found.

Suddenly our time was no longer entirely our own either. Not only did we need to make time for energetic walks with our puppy morning and night and monitor his nature calls, but every so often a little furry face would pop up in front of us wanting to play.

Playing with puppy-min

Let’s play tug!

All of this took quite a bit of getting used to, so we began 2018 by sticking around central Arizona and not traveling too far. At Lake Pleasant and Canyon Lake we got into a rhythm of twice daily walks and training sessions to teach Buddy some basic manners. He proved to be an eager and fast learner.

This was good because in early February we had the extraordinary experience of spending three full days working with a video team to create a video for Camping World’s “RVing is for Everyone” ad campaign.

As part of the video shoot we took Buddy on the fun Dolly Steamboat excursion on Canyon Lake, and we walked all around the Superstition Mountain Museum and the Goldfield Ghost Town near Lost Dutchman State Park.

Dolly Steamboat ride Canyon Lake Arizona-min

The Dolly Steamboat ride is a fun excursion on Canyon Lake in the Sonoran Desert.

Puppy in outhouse Goldfield Ghost Town Apache Junction Arizona-min

Buddy peeks out of the outhouse at Goldfield Ghost Town.

Buddy was a trooper through all the commotion of endless re-takes in front of the camera, even though he was just a few months old. The producers didn’t give him a speaking role, but there’s no question he was the star of the show.

We returned to Lake Pleasant to chill a bit after all the excitement of being part of a professional video shoot, and then we headed west to the Colorado River on the Arizona/California border.

Puppy jumps for joy Colorado River Arizona-min

Buddy jumps for joy near the Colorado River in Arizona.

As we traveled north along the California side of the Colorado River, Buddy met his first wild burros. One came right up to the truck window to say hello!

Puppy and burro Lake Havasu Arizona-min

On the Colorado River Buddy saw wild burros for the first time.

We continued north along Lake Mead in Nevada where we explored some beautiful red rock outcroppings.

Climbing red rocks Lake Mead Nevada-min

Red rocks are fun to look at but even more fun to climb.

Continuing north into Utah, we drove the eye-popping Scenic Highway 24 through Capitol Reef National Park. This is an “All American Scenic Drive” that is a definite “must do” for all RVers!

Red rock views Scenic Highway 24 Utah-min

Utah’s Scenic Byway 24 is one America’s best scenic drives.

Going north from there, we came to the fabulous red rocks of Goblin Valley State Park where crazy hoodoos fill a valley and kids of all ages and furriness love to play.

Goblin Valley Utah red rock views-min

At Goblin Valley the cliffs were multi-colored and the hoodoos were a hoot.

It was early April, and as we continued our northward progress through Utah we soon encountered snow and ice in the mountains at Strawberry Reservoir. This is a summertime hot spot, but we loved the stillness and peace of the pre-season.

Strawberry Reservoir ice melt in Utah-min

Strawberry Reservoir is a popular summer getaway, but we loved the quiet of the ice and snow.

In the village of Wanship, Utah, we made a turn in town and suddenly found ourselves right in front of Escapod Teardrop Trailers. This small shop turns out terrific, rugged off-road teardrop trailers, and we got an impromptu and inspiring look at a few.

Escapod Teardrop Trailer in Utah-min

If you want to get off-road in a rugged teardrop trailer, Escapod has a rig for you!

We continued to press north past Salt Lake City and visited several small lakes and reservoirs that oozed a fairy tale charm when blanketed with a layer of snow.

Snowy hillsides Mantua Utah-min

We saw fairytale landscapes in northern Utah after a dusting of spring snow.

Buddy had his first taste of snow and left his little paw prints on our stairs.

Paw prints in snow from puppy in Utah-min

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Bear Lake, located in the north end of Utah, is known for its inviting vivid blue water and is lovingly nicknamed “The Caribbean of the Rockies.” In mid-April it was way too cold for swimming, but with few campers wanting to brave the wintry air at the water’s edge, we were able to watch the wildlife and enjoy the lake in solitude undisturbed.

Loon at Bear Lake Utah in Spring-min

A loon shakes out his feathers on Bear Lake in Utah.

Seagull mirror reflection-min

Bear Lake, Utah.

Glassy water at Bear Lake Utah with puppy-min

It was cold at Bear Lake in Spring, but it was wonderfully quiet too.

We headed north and east for a while along wonderful back roads in Wyoming. Winter wasn’t exactly over in this neck of the woods, and as we climbed over mountain passes storms threatened.

Snowcappe mountain pass in Wyoming in Spring-min

The Wyoming mountain passes were a little forbidding.

When we pointed our trailer west again, we found sunshine at lovely Keyhole Reservoir where Buddy posed amid the evergreens and craggy rocks. Mark snapped a pic of him that won a small jackpot in a photo contest a few months later!

Beautiful dog in the trees-min

Buddy is faster than a speeding bullet and leaps tall bushes with a single bound…
At a quieter and more statuesque moment, Mark took this image and won a photo contest!

We then continued west into Montana to hook up with vacationing family. We explored the National Bison Range and the historic St. Ignatius mission church and enjoyed several outdoor eateries along the way.

Happy campers in the wildflowers and mountains of Montana-min

The National Bison Range in Montana is known for bison, but we loved the flowers!

The gorgeous east side of Glacier National Park was a glorious next stop with views of soaring jagged peaks, clear blue alpine lakes, and a cool historic lodge.

Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier National Park Montana-min

Glacier Park Lodge at Many Glacier on the east side of Glacier National Park.

Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier National Park Montana-min

What a spot!

It was early June and the Going to the Sun Road was still closed because of icy and avalanche conditions at the peak of Logan Pass. So, we drove, walked and wandered all around the eastern parts of Glacier National Park, especially spectacular Many Glacier, and we took endless photos of wildflowers in front of a snowcapped mountain backdrop.

Wildflowers and mountain views in East Glacier National Park Montana-min

Wildflowers and snowcapped mountains are a great combo!

Our original goal for the year had been to visit the Upper Peninsula of Michigan over the summer, so we began moving east and a bit south with an eventual arrival there in mind. We visited tiny Choteau, Great Falls and Harlowton in Montana. On the way we were surprised to find ourselves near an Amish community when we turned at Eddie’s Corner.

Amish buggy trots through Eddie's Corner Montana-min

We came across an Amish community in rural Montana.

We love small towns, and the town of Red Lodge, Montana, charmed us with its main street full of cute shops and bistros. Buddy was particularly fond of the store, “Lewis and Bark’s Outpost.”

Lewis and Barks Outpost in Red Lodge Montana-min

The canine explorers that were left out of the history books: Lewis and Bark.

Red Lodge sits at one end of the jaw-dropping Beartooth Scenic Highway, and we drove it several times. Our mouths hung open in awe every single time. It was mid-June and the vast mountain-scapes were still covered with beautiful patterns of snow.

Beartooth Scenic Highway view in Spring-min

The Beartooth Scenic Highway is stunning.

Beartooth Highway vistas in Wyoming in Spring-min

If you don’t mind cold nights, early Spring is an incredible time to drive the Beartooth Highway.

The Beartooth Scenic Highway is another of those “must do” trips for all RVers, and seeing it before the snow melts is wonderful.

Happy campers on the Beartooth Highway vistas in Wyoming-min

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By now we were pretty used to having a dog in our lives. Oddly, it seemed as though Buddy had always been with us, and whenever we’d chat about memories of different places we’d have to remind ourselves he hadn’t been with us then. So strange! It seemed only natural now to have all three of us together all the time and for me to look over and see his fuzzy face next to Mark’s in the truck.

Puppy watches the scenery on the highway in our RV-min

We were getting used to having a canine companion.

The Beartooth Scenic Highway crosses from Montana into Wyoming, and from there the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway branches off. This is yet another “must do” for RVers (we were so lucky to hit so many “must do” spots in 2018).

We drove the exquisite Chief Joseph Scenic Highway several times, and in our explorations we came across groves of wildflowers that were like nothing we’d ever seen. Flowers of every color were in the peak of bloom. It was a photographer’s dream.

Extraordinary wildflowers Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming-min

The wildflowers on Chief Joseph Highway were the best we’ve ever seen.

The views on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway were dramatic as the road climbed and fell and swooped around the mountains. One morning we got up before sunrise so we could catch the pink light at an overlook at dawn.

Chief Joseph Highway views in Wyoming at Dawn-min

Dawn on the Chief joseph Highway in Wyoming

The Chief Joseph Highway is anchored at its south end by the town of Cody, Wyoming, an ideal spot to spend the 4th of July. Cody celebrated Independence day with so much gusto that there were parades on three consecutive mornings! If you’re looking for a fun place to spend the 4th of July, Cody is a great one (as is Custer, South Dakota!).

Gatling gun 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming

Cody, Wyoming, brought out the big guns for the 4th of July parade!

Puppy in American Flag bandana-min

Patriotic Pup.

After all the cold weather in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana, it was quite a shock to visit Big Horn Canyon which is a lot lower in elevation and very hot in mid-July. But the red rocks were spectacular in the early morning light, ideal for a photo shoot.

Bighorn Canyon at sunrise in Montana-min

Family photography outings became the norm. Buddy loves it when he sees us grab our tripods and head out the door!

Red rock lake views in Big Horn Canyon Montana-min

Bighorn Canyon lit up beautifully in the early morning light.

In the heat of mid-July we kept looking at the map and the various routes that might take us from Wyoming to Lake Superior, but the temps in those places were scorching. We decided to wait for cooler temps rather than burning our toes hop-scotching across the country. A stop in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains and Lake DeSmet gave us some fun photo ops and a slight respite from the heat.

Puppy at the lake in Big Horn Mountains at sunrise-min

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Sunrise at the lake in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming-min

Trotting down a dirt road in the Big Horns!

Moving east and north into South Dakota, we explored some badland areas in the prairie (not the famous Badlands National Park which we’d visited the year before). In the tiny hamlet of Buffalo, South Dakota, we watched the Soap Box Derby races over Labor Day Weekend. Little kids rolled down a small hill in wheeled contraptions of all kinds amid whoops and hollers from parents and friends.

Soap box derby races in Buffalo Souh Dakota-min

The Soap Box Derby in Buffalo, South Dakota, was a unique Labor Day event.

Just over the border in North Dakota we stopped at Roosevelt National Park with plans to do some extended exploring.

The greeter they’ve hired at the Visitors Center is the wild bovine kind with big horns and a thick furry neck. What a surprise it was to see him on duty as cars and trucks rolled in and out of the parking area!

Bison greeter at Roosevelt National Park visitors center in North Dakota-min

The greeter at Roosevelt National Park had hooves and horns!

By now it was mid-September and the temps had cooled sufficiently between our neck of the woods and Lake Superior to make a dash for it. Seeing the leaves changing color at Roosevelt National Park, we worried we might miss the show in Michigan if we didn’t leave soon, so we decided to save that National Park for a future visit and hustled across the top of the country.

At Walker, Minnesota, we pulled into town on the weekend of their Ethnic Festival. This is a town that has a festival every weekend it isn’t snowing — and even a few when it is — so it’s a good one to add to any itinerary since you’ll be swept up in a celelbration no matter when you go.

What fun it was to see and hear real alpen horns being played by two women in Scandinavian garb!

Alpen horns at Walker Minnesota Ethnic Festival and Parade-min

The mellow tones of alpenhorns were a highlight of the Walker, MN, Ethnic Festival.

We finally landed on the shores of Lake Superior at charming little Cornucopia, Wisconsin. Big sailboats and little kayaks bobbed in the water.

Kayaks and sailboats on Lake Superior at Cornucopia Wisconsin-min

Cornucopia, WIsconsin, is a tiny piece of heaven on Lake Superior.

In our new travels-with-dog we’d discovered that dogs are as particular about their friends as people are. Buddy loves dogs his age and size, and even though we’d met hundreds of different dogs all across the country, few were a matching size, age and temperament for a lasting friendship. On the docks of the marina at Cornucopia, Buddy found a soulmate in the resident pup, and they tore all over the place in a rolling heap of happy puppiness.

Lakeshore Drive along Lake Superior is a beautiful scenic drive, and we stopped at all the pretty towns along the way. Bayfield, Wisconsin, was particularly enchanting in the early morning hours of a blustery day. But it was an accidental upside down photo of Buddy reflected in a puddle that stood out for us as a favorite pic from Bayfield.

Buddy in the Sky with Diamonds at Bayfield Wisconsin on Lake Superior-min

Buddy in the Sky with DIamonds.

With any new place we travel to, we always arrive with some preconceptions of what it will look like and be like. These usually prove false in one way or another, and the Upper Peninsula shoreline of Lake Superior in Michigan was no exception.

In the waterfront town of Ontonagon we strolled the beach at sunset and got some wonderful photos of the sun setting. This was one of our first Lake Superior shoreside stops in the U.P., and we assumed we’d have afternoons and evenings like that every day for the next few weeks. So, we glanced at our photos and shrugged that we would do so much better in the coming days.

Well, Mother Nature had other plans, and that was the last we saw of sunrises and sunsets for the next few weeks. What a wonderful life lesson was reinforced as we looked back at that evening on the beach: always treasure the moment you are in right now!

Sunset on Lake Superior in Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Sunset on Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We thought we’d have a dozen sunsets like this!

Despite dreary cold weather, we saw lots of stunning beauty in the U.P. The area is dotted with ponds and small lakes, and we caught the leaves changing color in many spots.

Fall color at Worm Lake in Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Fall color at Worm Lake, Michigan (Upper Peninsula).

Buddy was loving the lush grass that grows everywhere east of the mountain states, and having a few leaves in the pics added a colorful touch!

Puppy in fall leaves Michigan-min

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This area is known for the little meat pies that were beloved by Cornish miners across the pond a century ago. Yummy “pasties” were sold everywhere in the U.P., and we ate quite a few. It was fun to warm up the cold, damp interior of our trailer by popping one of these meat pies in the oven to heat it up!

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has dozens, maybe hundreds, of waterfalls, and a few are quite famous, for good reason. Taquamenon Falls is a true beauty, and the upper part of Bond Falls is a favorite among photographers.

Taquamenon Falls in Michigan Upper Peninsula in autumn-min

Taquamenon Falls, Michigan (Upper Peninsula).

Happy campers at Bond Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula-min

Bond Falls, Michigan (Upper Peninsula)

At the bottom of Michigan’s U.P., just before crossing into the Lower Peninsula, we took a ferry out to Mackinac Island. This special island never took to motorized vehicle travel, and everything is done by horse and buggy or by bicycle. We had a ball watching the carriages and flat bed trailers being towed down the street by teams of horses.

Horse and buggy on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Macinac Island, Michigan

Down in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan we stopped in at Metamora-Hadley State Park. All of the state park campgrounds in Michigan — and many throughout the midwest — entice folks to go camping even when it’s cold and wet in October by hosting fabulous Halloween events. We arrived on a Sunday morning, and not only was every campsite full but each one was decorated to the hilt with ghosts and goblins and witches and pumpkins.

Halloween at Metamora Campground in Michigan-min

Halloween is a big deal and a fun time at many midwestern state park campgrounds.

It was mid-October and high time to start dropping south. But first we visited Elkhart, Indiana, and the surrounding towns of Goshen, Shipshewana and Nappanee that are all home to the RV industry manufacturers. This area is fascinating for its long history as the heart and home of all things RV, and the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum was a highlight of our stay.

Visiting the RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart Indiana-min

The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum offers a fascinating glimpse of the RV and Manufactured Home industry.

Trailer Life Magazine page from 1937-min

The antique trailers were fun to see in the museum, but I loved turning the pages of old issues of Trailer Life from 80 years ago.

We made a few pit-stops on our way south and west from Indiana, but we were on a mission to get to a place that was warm and dry so we could thaw out a little and regroup.

At that point, as we looked back at our year of travel to date, it felt as though we had made two big journeys — one from Arizona up through Utah into Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, and a second one along Lake Superior and down through the midwest. It had been an outstanding year, but we were absolutely pooped.

Buddy was affected too. He had loved being in our truck early in our travels and had happily sat between us as we drove. But the weeks of long 150+ mile days in stressful rainy driving conditions on scary busy roads that made our tempers rise each time we got lost (which was about every hour or so), wore on him as well as us. Suddenly, he developed an outright shivering fear of the truck.

So we spent several weeks in the beautiful state parks of New Mexico, hiking every day, soaking in the sunshine, and leaving the truck parked.

Sunset in New Mexico - Fire in the sky-min

We finally slowed down and caught our breath in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in New Mexico.

Moonrise over Alamagordo New Mexico-min copy-min

By the light of a silvery moon.

Inching our way from New Mexico to Arizona, and driving short distances and staying for a week or two in each spot, we slowly recovered and Buddy grew to like the truck again.

When we arrived in Phoenix he was beside himself with excitement as he saw the people and homes he had known as a young puppy. We were very surprised to find he not only remembered them all but was thrilled to be back.

Before we’d left Arizona the previous winter, Buddy had become best friends with our friend’s pup named Mason. Mason was a rescue dog too. Whereas Buddy had been left in “a box of puppies” at the Animal Welfare League in downtown Phoenix, Mason had been dumped in the desert on Table Mesa Road north of Phoenix as a puppy and left to fend for himself. Somehow he’d survived, despite being an ideal coyote snack, although he was in very tough shape when we was found hiding from the rain under some debris.

He and Buddy took to each other the moment they met last year. It was truly love at first sight — or sniff.

This year, as we drove to a parking spot on the street by Mason’s house, both dogs went crazy before they even saw each other, Mason in his fenced yard (he couldn’t see us arriving!) and Buddy in our truck (he’d only visited a few times last year!). How did they know?

After 8 months apart, the two dogs picked up right where they left off in a happy tussle of fur and paws rolling around with each other and running across the grass.

Puppies play with a ball-min

Buddy became best friends with Mason in the beginning of 2018.

Puppies play with a rope toy-min

The dynamic duo didn’t miss a beat when they met again at the end of 2018.

Like all travelers, Buddy has learned the wonders of seeing new things and meeting new friends. But he has also learned how heartwarming it is to return to a favorite place and be back with loved ones.

As for us, we have learned that traveling with a dog has its complications, but there’s nothing like living with a little fur person who is absolutely thrilled to jump out of bed each morning and is unabashedly happy to be alive each and every day.

Happy campers in Custer South Dakota-min

2018 was a great year.

HAPPY TRAILS and HAPPY TAILS in 2019!!

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How We Got a Puppy

Puppy Chow – Is There a DOG Living in our RV?

TRAVEL RECAPS from PREVIOUS YEARS:

An Overview of Our First 10 Years of Full-time Travel + Reflections after 9 Years!

Summaries of Each Year on the Road - All of our travel posts in chronological order:

All of our non-travel articles from 2018:

(Mostly) chronological list of our travel articles from 2018:

Our most recent posts:

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Merry Christmas and Thank You for a Great Year!

As the final mad-dash sprint for the holidays begins, we want to take a moment to wish you the most wonderful and Merry Christmas, from our home to yours.

Merry Christmas from Our House to Yours

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And we want to thank you for joining us in our travels and on our many scenic drives and quiet walks through the woods this past year.

Path through the woods-min

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When we were lucky enough to walk right into a gorgeous sunset, we took an extra moment to enjoy it, knowing you’d appreciate our pics and would savor the moment with us.

Enjoying the sunset on a quiet road-min

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We hope our journey has given you some pause for reflection.

Reflection of mountain and fall colors in a river-min

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Sometimes it’s only when you step back a bit that you discover you’re living right next to a pot of gold!

Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow-min

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Or that the spark of the Divine is just behind you.

Sun breaking through clouds with fifth wheel RV-min

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At those times it’s good to step outside the box for a closer look.

The heavens open up with sunshine-min

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We hope that when storm clouds have gathered we’ve helped you see the light within.

Mountains shrouded in clouds-min

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And that you’ve soared to the peaks high above the clouds.

Soaring mountains above the clouds-min

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Afterall, every cloud has a silver lining, and on closer inspection sometimes that lining turns out to be pink.

Pink cloud over an RV fifth wheel at sunset-min

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In our travels we’re often blessed with chance encounters.

Surprise encounter between puppy and mountain bike-min

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For those who have recognized us on the trail or in the campground or at the dump station, thank you for taking the time to stop and chat. We treasure making new friends in unexpected places.

Puppy and cows meet-min

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We hope we’ve helped bring out the vibrant colors radiating from even the most drab landscapes.

colorful barrel cactus in the desert-min

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And that we’ve shown that life’s sweetest beauty often lies right at our feet in the sand.

Beautiful wildflowers in Arizona desert sand-min

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We hope that your innermost desires and dreams have been able to take root this year, no matter how impossible they might have seemed at the start.

gnarled tree roots in a desert wash

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And we hope you have the tenacity to hang onto those precious dreams and believe in yourself and them, no matter what.

Tenacious tree clings to river-min

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There’s a lot of beauty out there waiting to be seen and experienced by eager travelers.

Stormy mountains at sunset-min

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Thank you for joining us on our journey, and have a special and memorable Christmas. We hope your life is touched by magic in 2019.

Rays of sunsine in the clouds-min

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On Living the Dream:

More pics from Arizona:

Links to all our Arizona RV travel articles

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Cross-Country Highlights on an RV trip from Indiana to Texas

November 2018 – After we left the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana, it was late fall and high time to head to the southwest to warm up and dry off. Buddy has written about our stay in New Mexico, but there were some highlights before that I’d like to fill in.

Fifth wheel RV at sunset-min

A beautiful sunset filled the sky as we headed west and south.

The first was along I-70 between Indianapolis and St. Louis. Most interstate rest areas are nothing to write home about, but we’ve found a few in our travels that are unique, and such was the case at the Cumberland Road Rest Area in Marshall, Illinois.

Cumberland Road Rest Area Marshall Illinois-min

Cumberland Road Rest Area in Marshall, Illinois

As we walked towards the building we noticed a small group of people staring at something on the ground right by the entrance door — with smiles on their faces. When we got closer we realized they were all looking at a beautiful black cat.

Ghost rest area cat Cumberland Road Rest Area Marshall Illinois-min

A small crowd by the entrance was admiring this beautiful black cat.

The cat was just sitting there by the door, blinking slowly in the bright morning sunlight. People were wondering aloud if he was a lost pet or a runaway or if he was waiting for his owner to finish up in the bathroom.

Ghost the Rest Area Employee at Cumberland Road in Marshall Illinois-min

He seemed very calm and quietly sat there blinking in the bright morning sun.

Then a fellow joined the group and explained that as a trucker who had come to the rest area many times before, he knew this beautiful feline.

His name was Ghost, the Rest Area Cat. Just like the trucker, the cat had a regular route, going from one farm house to the next in the area.

But he seemed to like the digs (and mice) at the rest area best, so he hung around the rest area a lot and made friends with the regulars and the transients. His human friends kept a good eye on him, though, and gave him a collar and a very cool nametag.

Ghost the Rest Area Cat Cumberland Road Rest Area Marshall Illinois-min

His nametag says: “Ghost – Rest Area Employee.”

If your travels ever take you on I-70 westbound, stop at the rest area that’s about 10 miles west of Terre Haute and say hello to Ghost!

We got back on the interstate and the scenery buzzed by our windows in a blur. We all got white line fever and the places we drove by all began to blend together.

But a brief stop at Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma stood out. This is a popular boating and fishing spot for local sailors and anglers and it’s a lovely spot for photography.

In the midst of enjoying the views, we suddenly heard the whoosh of madly flapping wings and rapidly slapping webbed feet on the water. We looked up to see a huge flock of cormorants flying in from around the point and landing in the bay in front of us.

Wave upon wave of cormorants kept flying around the point and splash landing in the water. We’ve never seen so many cormorants in a single flock.

For at least five minutes the birds kept coming, until the whole bay in front of us was completely filled with birds bobbing in the water.

And then after another vigorous round of splashing and flapping, they flew off and the water became calm again!

Cormorant Rush Fort Gibson Lake Oklahoma-min

Throngs of cormorants flew into the bay. This is just a few of them!

We got off the interstate and traveled on a slew of secondary roads that took us through lots of small towns. As we approached Albany, Texas, we decided to have a look around. What a neat little find this town turned out to be!

We’d crossed a few states since leaving Indiana, but we knew we were in Texas when we saw the big Texas star on the side of a building.

The building turned out to be the Whitney Theater, home of the Dance Theater Company. Albany is a small town in size but it is big into the arts!

Texas star in Albany Texas-min

The Texas star!

Whitney Theater in Albany Texas RV trip-min

Whitney Theater, home of the Dance Theater Company.

The old jail house in Albany is now a modern art museum with a renowned collection. Outside the Old Jail Art Center there were lots of interesting sculptures. One was “Tex the Roustabout.” He got Buddy’s attention!

Tex the Roustabout sculpture Albany Texas Jail Museum-min

The Old Jail House Art Center has a well renowned collection of modern art. Tex the Roustabout stood outside, pipe wrench in hand.

Albany is is the county seat for Shackleford County and has a pretty courthouse.

Shackleford County Courthouse in Albany Texas-min

The county courthouse for Shackleford County is in Albany, Texas.

Our favorite spot in Albany was Sander’s Drug Store. As we walked across the antique mosaic sign on the ground, we felt like we were walking into another era.

Entrance to Sander's Drug Store in Albany Texas-min

Sander’s Drug Store was the highlight of our visit and gave us a glimpse of another time.

Inside there were people enjoying refreshments at tables and the antique looking pharmacy was out back.

Inside Sander's Drug Store Albany Texas RV trip-min

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Pharmacy counter Sander's Drug Store Albany Texas RV trip-min

Not just “Prescriptions” but “Radio Phonographs” too!

We got a latte and took a seat outside the store to watch the world go by on Main Street. The couple at the next table started chatting with us and telling us how much they love this little town and that it’s their favorite weekend getaway spot from their home in Abilene 35 miles away.

Sitting outside Sander's Drug Store Albany Texas RV trip-min

A nice spot out front to while away the hours.

Albany may be a cute and artsy town today, but its roots are in cattle and oil. High up on a wall inside Sander’s Drug Store a Texas Longhorn looked down at us.

Texas Longhorn at Sander's Drug Store Albany Texas RV trip-min

A Texas Longhorn.

When we began wandering the streets of town again we found a metal sculpture of a Texas longhorn too as well as a plaque memorializing the Texas Cattle Trails of 1875 to 1890. Cattle herds from Texas were driven up to the railheads in Kansas along these routes.

Texas Longhorn sculpture Albany Texas RV trip-min

The arts in Albany pay homage to the Texas Cattle Trail history of the area.

Petroleum production was the other big industry in the area and still is. A replica oil pump outside an oilfield services office sported the high school Albany Lions football team helmet.

Oil pumper Albany Texas RV trip-min

An oil services company has a huge oil pumper out front with a football helmet on top!

As we walked around town we came to a stand of trees that had dropped the most enormous acorns we had ever seen. These things were huuuuge!

Well, as they say, everything is bigger in Texas, even the acorns!

Huge acorns Albany Texas RV trip-min

Everything is bigger in Texas!

Even though we blasted across a few states to get back to the warm and dry southwest quickly, these few stops along the way made for some great memories.

RV camping in Oklahoma-min

We scooted along pretty quickly for a thousand miles, but we’ll remember these special places and moments!

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A little more info:

Our RV travels in Oklahoma and Texas


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Honda EU2200i Generator Review + Oil Change and Maintenance Tips

We have been loving the heck out of our Honda EU2200i generator for the last seven months and have already put about 150 hours on it. We live in our RV off the grid on solar power 24/7, and we rely on the sun for 98% of our power needs. However, in the last few months we have experienced an extraordinary amount of wildfire smoke and rain in our RV travels, and that trusty old orb in the sky was nowhere to be seen for weeks on end.

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping

Honda EU2200i generator

Why A Honda EU2200i generator?

In the past we have used a generator only for a few days in mid-winter when the days are really short and storms blow in for a week at a time, limiting the amount of power our solar panels could produce, or for just a few days in mid-summer when the interior temp of our trailer shoots into the 90s and we run our air conditioner to cool down.

Honda EU2200i Generator back side-min

The back side of the Honda EU2200i generator.

When we decided to get one of Honda’s new and easily carried 2200 watt generators in early May, we didn’t think we’d put it to use right away. We were headed to the cool mountains for a month or so, and we doubted we’d need our air conditioner.

But our longer range plans were to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and hang out along Lake Superior where we knew we’d be camping in shady spots under tall trees.

Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 1-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 2-min

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Honda EU2200i generator RV camping outlets side view-min

The “business end” of the Honda EU2200i generator

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping exhaust side view-min

The exhaust end

Ironically, within a few weeks of getting our new 2200 watt Honda generator, wildfire smoke filled the mountain air, obscuring the sun and preventing our solar panels from being as effective as usual.

The wildfire smoke was followed by weeks-long rain storms for the next few months as we traveled from the mountain states to Lake Superior. Oh my, were we happy it was so easy to set up our new little generator to keep our batteries nicely charged despite the dark skies.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer under stormy skies-min

Solar power is great until a storm like this sweeps in!

At one point we had to ask ourselves if we had inadvertently done a rain dance by getting this new generator!

Just like how one of us always get really sick whenever we put a new bottle of Nyquil in our medicine chest, we wondered if the deluge of smoke and rains came because we now had an easy access generator that could power our lives on a moment’s notice!

Fifth wheel RV camping with Honda EU2200i generator-min

When storms blew in we got the generator out — and it was easy!

The Honda EU2200i is light and easy to Carry!

The Honda EU2200i generator is a new and improved version of the much beloved Honda 2000i generator that has been powering the lives of RVers for many years. If you wander through the desert in Quartzsite, Arizona, in January, you’ll see the popular red generators outside of many RVs.

It weights just 46.5 lbs., holds just under a gallon of gas and delivers 2,200 watts of peak surge power and 1,800 watts of continuous power.

We have had a Yamaha 2400i generator with us since we started full-time RVing eleven years ago, and although it is a great generator, it is unwieldy to store, maneuver and set up. Too often we have looked at each other and said, “We really should get the generator out,” only to decide against it because neither of us felt like going through the hassle.

However, the light little Honda EU2200i generator has proven to be so darn easy to grab and set up that we often end up running it in circumstances where we wouldn’t have before.

For the moment, it is living in the back of our truck right next to the bigger generator. Either one of us can pick it up with one hand and lift it out of the truck, even while gingerly stepping around the fifth wheel hitch and the rest of the obstacle course in the bed of our truck. Not so with its big brother.

Starting the Honda EU2200i generator!

We like to start the Honda EU2200i generator without having it plugged into the RV so it can get a little warmed up before we put any loads on it. The shore power cord is plugged into the trailer, but we don’t plug the other end into the generator until the generator is actually humming along.

Since our trailer is a 50 amp trailer and the generator outlets are 15 amps, we use two adapters plus the shore power cord to get between the 15 amp female outlets on the generator and the male 50 amp outlet on our trailer:

We keep these two adapters on hand because it gives us the flexibility to connect the RV’s shorepower outlet to either a 15 amp power source or a 30 amp power source. However, you can also go directly from the 50 amp outlet on the RV to the 15 amp outlet on the generator and skip dragging out the heavy shore power cord by using a 15 amp Male to 50 amp Male adapter.

To start the Honda EU2200i generator there are three easy steps:

  • 1. Open the gas cap vent so a vacuum doesn’t build up inside the tank
  • 2. Close the choke (move the switch to the right)
  • 3. Set the generator switch to ON

Then pull the pull start cable and away you go.

Gas cap vent on Honda EU2200i generator-min

First point the gray dial to “On” to vent the gas cap.
Mark painted the “On” and “Off” labels to make them easier to see.

Honda EU2200i Generator front side-min

Then close the choke and set the generator switch to “On.” Now you’re ready to pull the start cord.

Starting the Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

Instant power!

Shortly after the generator roars to life, slowly open the choke (move the switch to the left).

We like to position the generator so the exhaust goes away from the trailer. If there are other people camped in the vicinity, we also like to place it somewhere in our campsite that it is as far from their campsite as possible so we don’t annoy them when we run it.

If it is raining out, we put it under one of the slide-outs so it doesn’t get wet.

Sometimes these locations are not optimal for pulling the start cord and getting the generator going (especially crawling under a slide-out!). But this little Honda generator is so light it is easy to maneuver it to wherever we want to place it, even after it is running.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer with Honda EU2200i generator-min

All set up and purring away.

RV camping with a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Buddy jumps for joy!

Using Eco Throttle for Greater Efficiency and Less Noise

One of the really nifty features on the Honda EU2200i generator is the Eco Throttle. This is located on the “business end” of the generator in the upper left corner.

Turning it on lowers the RPMs of the generator so it doesn’t use as much gas and runs more quietly.

If we are going to run the generator for a number of hours primarily to charge the batteries and do other things that put just a small load on the generator like using our laptops, running the lights at night, or watching a movie on TV, we keep the Eco throttle turned on.

We tested the generator to see how long it would run if we filled the 0.95 gallon gas tank before it ran out of gas. We had it in Eco mode and used our laptops and other small things while it was running.

It ran for 9.5 hours!

We don’t usually run the generator for nearly that long.

As I’ve described in our article about what happens when you run solar power and shore power simultaneously, the best time for solar powered RVs to run a generator is in the morning hours. This helps get the batteries sufficiently charged so they can easily reach their charging (Absorb) voltage under solar power alone once the generator is turned off. This gives them more daylight hours to complete the Absorb stage before the sun goes down.

Outlets and switches Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The Eco Throttle switch allows the generator to run more efficiently and quietly when loads are light.

Eco mode is our default with this generator, both to save gas and to hear the generator’s quiet purr instead of its louder roar. In Eco mode it is as quiet as our Yamaha 2400i generator, but when it is not in Eco mode it is a little louder.

If you suddenly place a big load on the generator when it is in Eco mode, it will temporarily go into higher RPMs to provide the required power.

If we turn on the toaster while in Eco mode (our toaster is an 800 watt model), we can hear the generator rev up while the toaster is making toast. As soon as the toast pops up, the generator idles back down. If we do the same thing in non-Eco mode, the generator is already humming along at a fast pace, and it doesn’t need much of a surge to operate the toaster.

Honda EU2200i Generator for RV battery charging-min

We camped under thick canopies of trees in the rain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

If the generator is in Eco mode and we use the microwave (ours is an 1100 watt model), the generator has a slight lag time as it first senses the heavy load and then revs up to provide the necessary power.

There is an audible drop in tone and dimming of the lights on the microwave for a second or two before the generator roars to meet the challenge. We’re not sure this momentary dip in power is good for the microwave, so if we plan to use it we prefer to have the generator running in non-Eco mode first.

Can it power an RV air conditioner?

We have a 15,000 BTU air conditioner on our 36′ fifth wheel trailer. With some coaxing (i.e., warming up the generator, then turning on the Coleman air conditioner’s fan and finally turning on the air conditioner itself), our Yamaha 2400i generator can handle the air conditioner’s initial power surge and run the it for hours on end without a hitch.

We were hoping the much lighter and smaller Honda EU2200i might be able to run it too. However, the generator’s 2200 watts max power is not quite enough to handle the surge when the air conditioner starts. It is likely it could power a 13,500 btu air conditioner (standard on smaller RVs) just fine.

The Honda EU2200i generator is designed to work in parallel with a twin generator and connector cables, giving you 4,400 watts of peak power, more than enough to run a 15k BTU air conditioner. You can probably run the microwave at the same time with that kind of juice! The wonderful thing about this setup is that the two generators are a lot smaller than one big 4.4kw generator would be.

Honda EU2200i and EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit-min

Honda EU2200i + EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit with covers for each.

Putting Gas in the Honda EU2200i Generator

The hardest part about putting gas in a generator is fiddling with the child-proof, spill-proof, idiot-proof gas can. Government regulators have obviously never used a gas can in their lives, and we’re quite sure a lot more gas has been spilled on our precious environment because of the newfangled user-unfriendly spouts than ever was spilled using the trusty old gas can spouts of days gone by.

Putting the spout on a plastic gas can-min

Good luck with the gas can spout!

Putting gas in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Easy access on the top of the generator for gassing it up.

We’ve been adding Seafoam Motor Treatment to the gas in the generator. This fuel stabilizer cleans the carburetor, keeps the engine clean, and we find it makes it easier to start.

When we cruised Mexico in our sailboat, we used it in the outboard motor for our dinghy and were very pleased with the results.

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Changing the Oil

Changing the oil on the Honda EU2200i generator is a snap. First find a pleasant place to do it. Mark likes to elevate the generator onto some kind of platform so it is easy to drain the old oil out of the bottom.

As always, Buddy likes to supervise.

Changing the oil in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Changing the oil doesn’t take long, but doing it in a pretty place makes it more fun.

You’ll need the following:

  • A flat head screwdriver
  • A sealable 14 oz. or larger container for the old oil
  • A quart of SAE 10W-30 oil
  • Rags to clean up drips and wipe your hands
  • Optional: Rubber gloves

The first step is to unscrew the single screw that holds the front panel on the front of the generator and remove the panel so you have full access to the heart of the machine.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Access the heart of the generator via the side panel on the front.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Once it’s unscrewed, the side panel lifts off easily.

To check or change the oil, simply unscrew the dipstick in the lower left corner.

If you are just checking the oil, make sure the oil level fills the spout and is clear. Honda recomments changing it every six months or 100 hours of use (keep track of the hours of use in a log book).

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The dipstick is in the lower left corner.

Check the oil with the dipstick on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Unscrew the dipstick to check the oil and/or to change it.

When changing the oil, hold a container of some kind below the spout.

Any container that can hold 14 ounces of liquid is fine. Or you can drain the oil into an oil drain pan and then, after the new oil has been put into the generator, pour the old oil into the container that held the new oil.

In the case pictured here, Mark used an old plastic peanut jar with a screw top lid.

Drain the oil from a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Drain the oil into an easily sealed container that holds at least 14 ounces.

To get all the oil out, tip the generator slightly towards you.

Drain all the oil from a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

Tip the generator towards you to get out every last drop.

The Honda EU2200i generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil.

Honda EU2200i Generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil-min

The generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil

Once the old oil is completely drained out, pour the new oil in.

Change the oil on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pour the new oil in

The oil reserve is properly filled when the oil comes right to the edge (with the generator sitting level). Once it’s full, screw the dipstick back in and tidy up any drips with the rags.

Oil change on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The oil is full when it is level with the spout

The generator takes 14 ounces of oil and, of course, oil is sold in 16 ounce bottles. You can save the last two ounces for other odd jobs around your RV in one of these classic oil cans. Grandpa will be proud!

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Cleaning / Replacing the Air Filters

Since the front panel of the generator is off, now is a good time to inspect the air filters. To access the air filters, unscrew the screw holding the access panel in place.

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The air filters are in the upper right area of the front of the generator

Open air filter compartment on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Remove the air filter cover

There are two small air filters inside. Each one is a small piece of foam. If they’re dusty and dirty you can clean and re-oil them. If they are brittle and have started to fall apart, you can replace them with Honda’s air filter replacement kit.

Air filter on a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

There are two air filters inside, one above and one below

Honda EU2200i Generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Inspecting / Replacing the Spark Plug

Once the front panel on the generator is buttoned up again, this is a good time to check the spark plug.

The Honda EU2200i generator’s spark plug is located in a small compartment on the top next to the handle. The cover slides off easily.

Open spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

The spark plug has its own compartment on the top of the generator

Inside, the spark plug is covered by a spark plug cap. Simply pull the cap off to reveal the spark plug underneath.

Spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pull off the spark plug cap to reveal the spark plug underneath

To remove the spark plub, use a 5/8″ spark plug socket and ratchet plus 3/8″ drive extension. The spark plug is quite close to the generator handle, so a 5//8″ spark plug socket with an integral 3/8″ drive on a swivel extension could be very handy.

Remove spark plug from Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Use a 5/8″ socket and extension to remove the spark plug

The spark plug is the NGK CR5HSB.

Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

NGK CR5HSB spark plug

Inspect it with a spark plug gap tool. The gap should be 0.24 to 0.28 inches which is equivalent to 0.6 to 0.7 mm.

Check spark plug gap with feeler guage on Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

The spark plug gap should be between 0.24 and 0.28 inches (0.6 to 0.7 mm)

Before placing the spark plug back in the generator, spread a thin layer of high temperature anti-seize lubricant on the spark plug threads.

Apply anti-seize lubricant to spark plug for Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Apply a thin layer of high temp anti-seize lubricant to the threads

Anti-seize lubricant applied to Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

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And that’s it!

Honda EU2200i Generator charges batteries while RV camping-min

Happy campers!

If you are looking for a lightweight generator that can run for many hours on end and power all of the appliances in your RV that require less than 2200 watts to operate (in our case, this is everything except our 15k BTU air conditioner), the new Honda EU2200i generator is a great choice.

Hopefully if you buy one, you won’t inadvertently inspire the rain gods to dump weeks of rain on you like we did!!

Where to buy the Honda EU2200i generator and accessories:

RV Power Adapters and Dogbones:

Generator Maintenance Goodies:

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Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico – A Dog’s Eye View!

November 2018 – Hi Everyone. This is Buddy here.

I’m writing our blog post this week because Emily (she’s Mumma to me) has been very busy all week long working on a project for something called Tail or Life!

Puppy writes an RV blog post-min

She left her chair and her laptop, so I’m blogging this week!

Oh, wait. She just made a face at me and is saying something really slowly.

Oops! Ahem. It’s for something called Trailer Life.

Anyway, she has been glued to her computer for days to get it done, and she says she doesn’t want to sit in her chair or stare at her computer any more for a while.

But we recently spent a week at a really nice state park that you’ve just gotta go see. It’s called Oliver Lee Memorial State Park and it is about 12 miles southeast of Alamagordo in New Mexico, kinda near White Sands National Monument.

So, I want to tell you about it.

Riparian nature trail Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The Riparian Nature Trail in Oliver Lee State Park

The best part about this park is that the main attraction — a beautiful hiking trail — goes into a place called Dog Canyon.

Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico Riparian Nature Trail-min

Dog Canyon is made for dogs!

If you run (or hike) past the picnic table that seems to be the end of the trail, you’ll find some fabulous rocks and a little stream that flows through them all. We didn’t find it the first time we ran this trail because we didn’t know the trail went beyond that picnic table, but it does. So don’t miss it!

Water in ravine Riparian Nature Trail Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

There’s a trickle of a stream in this pretty ravine.

One time we hiked this trail we saw a huge tarantula crawling around on the rocks. We found out later that the tarantulas were in their mating season, so they were on the prowl trying to find each other.

Mark takes a photo of a tarantula-min

A tarantula!

tarantula in Oliver Lee Memorial State Park New Mexico

Looking for love!

Photo shoot Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico Riparian Nature Trail-min

I’m more lovable than a tarantula.

This is such a great trail. Every dog that visits Oliver Lee Memorial State Park loves it. And why not? It’s Dog Canyon!

Puppy on Riparian Nature Trail Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We hiked this trail everyday.

The other hiking trail goes up the side of a huge mountain. There are lots of switchbacks and some really fun scrambles. You can see the campground from some of the lookouts.

View on mountain hike Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The hike up the mountain is steep and can be hot — bring water — but the view is wonderful!

About 0.6 miles into the hike the map said there was a place called the “First Bench.” So we went looking all over for a park bench. Little did we know that the “bench” was just a quarter mile long plateau with a fabulous view looking into Dog Canyon!

Canyon view on mountain hike Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

A dog’s eye view of Dog Canyon.

One day when we were out walking we came across a big snake.

Puppy sees a rattlesnake Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

A snake!!

While I was looking at it I cast my shadow across him.

Puppy sees a snake Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

What does that snake think of my shadow?!

If you go to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in November, it can be warm and it can be very cold too. On the cold days I hung out in my fort.

Puppy plays house in RV-min

We had some rainy days and even got a dusting of snow. So I played house inside.

And sometimes I played peekaboo.

Peekaboo

Peekaboo!

Sometimes in the morning it was only 42 degrees inside. So Mumma made me a special superman outfit from an old sweatshirt to keep me warm all night long.

Cold nights puppy wears superman outfit-min

My superman outfit keeps me warm on those cold nights.

One of the best things at the end of the day was watching the sunsets. They were spectacular.

Sunset over RV Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We saw some incredible sunsets.

Puppy watches sunset Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

I like watching the sun go down.

Sunset over RV campground Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

Fire in the sky!

In the very early morning, the whole desert would glow pink and blue. Smoke from big wildfires in California arrived just as the moon got full, making it hazy near the horizon.

Full moon in California wildfire smoke Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We had a full moon and it set just as the sky did its pink-and-blue magic in the early morning.

Full moon with wildfire smoke Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The skies had been totally clear, but wildfire smoke that blew in made the moon a little hazy.

Desert sunset skyline Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

The New Mexico desert at dawn.

I’ve heard there was a famous photographer named Ansel Adams who took a photo in New Mexico that he called Moonrise over Hernandez. I don’t know where Hernandez is, but Dada got a cool shot of Moonrise over Alamagordo.

Moonrise over Alamagordo New Mexico

Moonrise over Alamagordo New Mexico

When the moon rose the next night it was huge and you could see lots of detail.

Full moon Oliver Lee Memorial State Park New Mexico-min

I’ve heard the moon is made of cheese… maybe so!

I’m a little bit of a fussy eater, and we have a huge bag of dog food I don’t like. One night I was told if I wasn’t going to eat it then it would go to someone else who would.

In the pitch dark I heard something outside and I woofed a little to let them know that the “someone” had showed up to eat my food.

It was a gray fox!

She didn’t stop eating, even with a flashlight on her. Later on in the night we went outside and I sniffed around and found out she had tiny baby cubs in the rocks on the edge of our campsite.

I’ve been told I look like a fox. I don’t know about that, but her cubs looked just like her, only much smaller.

Gray Fox at Oliver Lee State Park New Mexico-min

We found out a gray fox lived in our campsite and had some really cute cubs in the rocks!

Well, that’s my story. I hope you liked it.

I’m going to take a nap now!

Puppy sleeping

Thanks for reading!

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RV Roof Repair – Rubber Roof Patch + Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement!

We recently repaired some rips and tears in our RV’s rubber roof, and we also replaced the roof vent cap for our trailer’s black wastewater holding tank. These are easy projects for anyone to do. This article shows the steps we followed to complete these repairs.

RV Roof Repair patching a rubber roof and replacing a black water tank vent cap

RV Roof Repairs — Patching a rubber roof and replacing a black water tank vent cap

We were in a hurry as we tackled these jobs because a days-long rain storm threatened to begin at any moment. Also, our “ten year” RV rubber roof is now nearly twelve years old, so it is overdue for replacement. With these things in mind, our goals were speed of installation and watertightness that would hold for a few months.

In this article we’ll point out the few shortcuts we took just in case you ripped your RV roof or knocked a holding tank vent cap off when your rig was years out from needing a new roof!

RV Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement

We boondock all the time, and this kind of travel takes our trailer into some gnarly situations where it gets scraped by tree branches on the exterior walls and roof. The sidewalls of our rig bear the tell-tale pin-stripe scars from tree branches, and our RV roof, well, the tallest items have taken the brunt of the damage.

The black wastewater holding tank vent pipe has a cap on it to keep rain and creatures out, but ours got sheared right off when we accidentally dragged on an unforgiving tree branch.

The first task in the repair was to remove the screws holding the cap onto the roof. These were easy to locate because there was a dollop of Dicor Lap Sealant covering each one.

RV black tank roof vent broken-min

The black tank vent cap was knocked off by low hanging tree branches.
In this photo Mark has already removed a few screws that attach the cap flange to the roof.

The next task was to lift the entire vent cap flange off of the black tank vent pipe.

Remove the old vent cap flange

Remove the old vent cap flange

This revealed the black tank vent pipe. A small piece of the top of the black tank vent pipe had broken off, but the damage was merely cosmetic. The new black tank vent cap would cover it.

The next step was to clear away the old Dicor Lap Sealant that formed a ring around the old black tank vent cap so the roof was smooth instead of having a crusty ring of old sealant.

RV black tank roof vent removed and waiting for new replacement-min

Scrape away old Dicor Lap Sealant

The key to this RV roof repair is making sure the new black tank vent cap has a watertight seal with the roof so there won’t be any leaks. A generous spread of Dicor Lap Sealant does the trick. It comes in a tube and is applied with a caulk gun. Before placing it in the caulk gun, Mark clipped off the tip so the Lap Sealant could flow out.

Remove tip of Dicor Lap Sealant tube-min

Prepare new tube of Dicor Lap Sealant and then lay a thick layer around the vent pipe.

Then he spread a thick bead of Dicor Lap Sealant around the vent where the screws would attach the cap, and then screwed in the screws.

Screwing an RV black tank roof vent onto a fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Screw the new vent cap onto the roof.

A final screw went into the top of the cap. The old black tank vent cap may not have had this screw right from the factory, and that may be why it was knocked off so easily. We don’t know because we never looked at the old cap that closely!

RV black tank roof vent-min

Be sure to screw the cap itself onto the base.

Then Mark spread generous bead of Dicor Lap Sealant around the outside of the vent cap, leaving a nice dollop on each screw head, including the one on the top of the cap.

Sealing the RV black tank roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Put a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant around the base with a dollop on each screw head.

Here’s how it looked a few months after the job was completed. If you’ve been wondering about the wire next to the vent, it is the cable that connects our four solar panels together in series on our roof.

RV roof black tank vent repair completed-min

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Down on the ground far below us, our little project supervisor wondered how it was all going.

Project supervisor for RV rubber roof repair-min

The project supervisor asks how the vent cap replacement is going.

RV Rubber Roof Repair Patch

Our other RV roof repair was to fix a tear in the thin rubber sheet that covers our RV’s roof.

This job is so quick to do that the first time Mark did it in a location on the roof of one of our slide-outs, I didn’t even know he had started the job when he bounded in the door announcing he had just finished it.

“But I wanted to take pics!” I said.

“Ya gotta be faster next time!” He joked.

So, this time around, when I heard him mumble something about fixing a tear in the roof, I jumped up and ran for my camera and made sure I followed him up the ladder right away so I wouldn’t miss anything.

Tear in RV rubber roof needs repair-min

As rubber roofs age, they become more and more susceptible to rips and tears from low lying branches and other obstacles dragging as you drive underneath.

All that is needed to patch an RV rubber roof is a cleanser that can clean the crud off the roof around the tear, some scissors and some repair tape.

The preferred repair tape is EternaBond Tape. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a roll with us and there were no RV supply stores within 100 miles or so. But the local hardware store carried Flex Tape, and that worked just fine.

Tools needed for RV rubber roof repair-min

Applying a patch requires just a cleanser, some patch tape and scissors.

Mark cleaned the area throughly so the tape would stick well. He used a glass cleaner to cut any grease.

Clean the RV roof tear area before repairing-min

Clean the area thoroughly so the new patch tape will adhere well.

Wipe down RV roof tear before repair-min

Wipe off the cleanser.

Then he felt under the torn area to see if there was any lumpy debris in there. Sure enough, he pulled out a twig!

Check for debris under rip in RV roof_-min

Check to be sure nothing is lodged under the rubber roofing material.

Twig found under RV rubber roof tear-min

A twig was hiding under there!

This was a serious tear, but once he got the wound cleaned up it was ready to for a field dressing.

Rubber RV roof tear ready for a patch-min

The thin rubber roofing sheet is all that protects the underlying plywood from the elements.

RV roof tear ready for a patch-min

All cleaned up and ready for the patch.

He cut a piece of Flex Tape big enough to cover the tear. Then he pressed it in place, first with his hands and then with the back of his scissors.

Place patch on RV roof tear-min

Cut a piece of tape that is generously wider than the tear.

Press patch on tear in rubber RV roof-min

Press the patch into place.

Seal the Patch repair of RV rubber roof tear-min

Seal it and make sure there are no air bubbles by pressing something flat on it.

As an aside, Mark really likes these heavy duty Fiskar shears. They have a wire cutting notch on the back and they come with a sheath and a clip for hanging them from a belt loop.

Patch repair of RV rubber roof tear completed-min

Done! If we weren’t hurrying, the corners would be rounded and the tape wouldn’t rest on the old Dicor.

So, the job was done in just a few minutes.

A better way to cut the patch is to round the corners so they aren’t inclined to peel up. Also, sizing the patch so it is attached only to the rubber roofing material and not the lap sealant on the front cap would have been a better technique. But, as I said, rain was on its way in a few moments and a new roof was on its way in a few months.

Here is a pic from the other roof patch he did on the roof of one of the slide-outs several months ago.

RV roof repair for torn RV rubber roof-min

Another patch about 6 months after completion on the roof of one of our slide-outs.

Not long afterwards, the wild rain storm rolled in. Fortunately, the RV roof repairs were good and we were snug and dry in our trailer.

Puppy looks at a stunning sunset-min

The project supervisor was satisfied with the work, and we were warm and dry when the rains came.

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    101 MORE Great RV Gift Ideas for RVers, Campers & Outdoor Lovers!

    The other day when we were at a hardware store we heard Christmas music playing. Yikes! The holidays are on their way and it’s time to start finding meaningful gifts for our loved ones.

    The fun thing about buying for RVers is that there are so many super cute RV themed goodies out there!

    Last year I wrote the blog post “50 RV Gifts” which was chock full of wonderful suggestions for gifts. This year I’ve done a little more digging and put together a lineup of 101 more great RV gift ideas for you. Click on any image or text link to see more detailed info about each one.

    Many of these items are things we use in our day-to-day RV lifestyle and others are things that look enticing and have received great reviews and might end up in our RV sometime soon!

    The first one is special to us because it is a 2019 Arizona wall calendar that features a gorgeous photo Mark took in Canyon de Chelly. His photo appears both on the cover of the calendar and on the January page.

    We often choose the places we want to visit based on photos we have seen, so what better way to get inspired for next year’s RV travels than to flip through a book of beautiful photos from the National Parks. National Geographic’s National Parks Illustrated History is a good one, as is the book Treasured Lands – An Odyssey Through the National Parks.

    If you are looking for travel tips for visiting the National Parks, the Fodor’s Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West is a excellent.

    One of our favorite things in our RV travels is enjoying the many stunning scenic drives that zig-zag all over the country. To find out where the best scenic roads are, check out National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways.

    There are 120 more spectacular road trips in the book The Most Scenic Drives in America.

    Gorgeous coffee table books are wonderful, but if you want to share the experience and get inspired over popcorn with your life partner, how about watching the Ken Burns video, “The National Parks – America’s Best Idea (download)” (DVD).

    As long as you and your sweetie are plopped down in front of the TV, you might get a kick out of some old westerns. After we’d been traveling the west for a while we began noticing that we recognized the locations where many westerns were filmed, and it’s great fun to guess and then check the credits or the internet after watching the movie to see if you got it right!

    We especially love the old John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns, and these two collections have many of our all-time favorites: the John Wayne Western Collection and the Clint Eastwood Collection and Double Feature combo.

    We love to have low lighting in the rig when we’re watching a movie at night or to give the rig a romantic and relaxing atmosphere. We’ve had a set of flameless LED wax candles for many years now, and we love them.

    A cute welcome mat at the door is a delightful way to welcome guests into your rolling home or to put a smile on your face when you come home from a day of errands.

    If you’re in your RV for the holidays, one lovely way to decorate for the season is with a small tabletop battery operated Christmas tree.

    If you don’t want to store a tree during the rest of the year, then a small vintage trailer that lights up and plays music might be a nice choice.

    For RVers who have a regular size tree, a sweet RV Christmas ornament will bring back memories of happy times on the road.

    A throw pillow or two on your couch or bed can make your rolling home even more homey. If you swap out just the pillowcase on a single pillow you can rotate the decorations so they don’t get old.

    Next time you take a shower, why not dry off with a Happy Camper towel??!!

    And when you’re ready for bed, you can slip into a soft set of “RV There Yet?” pajamas for women or camping PJs for men.

    As the winter nights get cold, how nice to snuggle up with a unique camper-under-the-moon throw blanket (comes in various sizes).

    Or wrap the fuzzy side of a throw blanket close around you as you drift into dreams of hitting the road in a cool retro RV.

    If you spend winters in your RV, no matter where you are in the country there will be some chilly nights. Nothing beats a down comforter for staying toasty warm under the covers!

    We’ve got lots of tips for staying warm in an RV over the winter (check them out here, here and here).

    One of the simplest tips for RVs that don’t have a winterizing option on the screen door is to cover the door’s screens with a shrink-wrap film. This transforms the door from delivering icy blasts of cold air to bringing in the warm sunshine without a frosty bite, and it takes just an hour to install (step-by-step instructions with photos here).

    A vent-free propane heater can heat your rig in minutes. If you’re intimidated by the process of installing one, a portable Mr. Buddy heater will deliver just as much heat as one that’s permanently installed without being connected to the RV’s gas lines.

    Tips for how to install a vent-free propane heater here.

    Fortunately, we have our own very special Mr. Buddy to cuddle with under the blankets. He’s a great little portable heater!

    Puppy cuddles up in a blanket-min

    Our own little portable Mr. Buddy heater 🙂

    If you’re outfitting a new-to-you RV, you can transform the interior on a cold blustery night with a blue flame fireplace. Rather than an industrial looking blue flame in a metal box, this fireplace comes complete with logs, yellow flames that deliver a lot of heat, and a pretty wooden mantel.

    Friends of ours installed the arched propane fireplace insert without the wooden mantel in their 2005 Alpenlite fifth wheel and then trimmed it out with ceramic tile. This created a wonderfully cozy and inviting addition to their living space!

    We will definitely do this if we ever get another rig. One tip: install the fireplace insert so it sticks out about 3″ or so from anything above it like cabinets or a TV. Heat rises straight up, so just a few inches is enough to keep the blue flame heater from heating anything above it, but if you install the insert so the front of it is flush with the cabinetry above, the cabinets will get warm.

    More about vent-free propane heaters here.

    And, of course, the simplest way to add the romance of a fireplace to your RV is to play the Fireplace DVD on your TV. Whenever we do this, we find that the person sitting closest to the TV gets warm on that side. There’s something about those pretty flames and crackling log noises…

    No matter how you heat your RV or house in the winter, you’ll be reaching for sweaters and sweatshirts when Jack Frost comes around. Here’s a fun sweatshirt for your sweetie.

    She might want to peel off the sweatshirt sitting around a toasty campfire. But, of course, what happens at the campfire stays at the campfire!

    And if you’re out and about in sunny places and need a good cover, there’s a Happy Camper ballcap for you!

    A wonderful stocking stuffer for your best gal might be a pair of RV earrings or here’s another style here.

    Or a cell phone ring holder (just as long she’s not married to her phone!).

    Now, when you’re out RVing with the family, you can prevent any unexpected rainy days from dampening the experience if you bring along the National Parks edition of Monopoly.

    If the rain persists and you’re stuck in the RV for a long time, another game, Trekking the National Parks, would also be a welcome diversion.

    For kids (and kids at heart) who love coloring, a National Parks Coloring Book is a nice way to get to know a little about all the different Parks (there are others here and here).

    And for anyone doing the National Parks Junior Ranger program (kids or adults!), the Junior Ranger Activity Book could be a nice complement to the National Parks program.

    Parents who read aloud to their little ones or that are helping young readers learn to read will love the book “A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee.

    While the kids are busy playing games, coloring and reading, the baker in the family might pop some freshly made cookies out of the oven. How nice to have an oven mitt and pot holder specially made for RVers.

    And whoever gets dish washing duty will enjoy the job a lot more if there’s a cute RV dish drying mat to lay the dishes on!

    One kitchen goodie we LOVE and have had ever since we cruised Mexico on our sailboat is a set of Magma Nesting Cookware. These pots and pans fit neatly inside of each other and are heavy and durable. They are ideal in any kitchen where shelf space is at a premium, from vans to Class C’s to truck campers to teardrop trailers to popup tent trailers.

    Another kitchen gadget we use every day is our Melitta pour-over filter cone and paper filters. I’ve been making coffee this way for 45 years. Simply place the filter cone on top of your coffee mug, boil water in a kettle and pour the water over the grounds in the filter and let it dribble into the cup below.

    It makes a gourmet cup in minutes, the cleanup is a cinch, it takes up minimal storage space, and it doesn’t require electricity to operate.

    Once you hit the road again after the holidays are over, the navigator in the family will appreciate the 2019 Rand McNally Road Atlas (we have several of these from various years!).

    If you will be taking your RV over any mountain passes, both the navigator AND the driver will appreciate the Mountain Directories for RV and Truck Drivers. There are two volumes (for East and West), and we have turned to these books dozens of times before tackling a mountain pass.

    Every pass is described in detail for traversing it in both directions, so you’ll know ahead of time what the grades will be and for how many miles and also how sharp the hairpin turns will be as well (i.e., 15 mph curves, 25 mph curves, etc.). Once you “know” what an 8% grade for 3 miles feels like or how your RV (and you) react to navigating a 10 mph uphill turn, these books will be immensely helpful in route planning.

    Here are some tips for driving an RV in the mountains too.

    Another trip planning tool we use a lot are the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer map books. Each one lists the highlights and hot spots in every state in an easy summary form, and the various public land borders are clearly marked.

    We have one of these atlas books for every state we’ve visited. Another similar atlas series is by Benchmark and we have a few of those too!

    A nice combination of travel destination ideas and RV maintenance tips and new RV reviews can be found in Trailer Life Magazine and Motorhome Magazine. I’ve been fortunate to have had many articles appear in both magazines, and a subscription can make a nice gift (we’ve given several over the years!).

    Most full-time and seasonal RVers belong to Escapees RV Club, and a one-year membership makes a great gift.

    Membership includes an excellent bi-monthly magazine that is written by RVers for RVers. There are also a myriad of other terrific offerings, from discounts on camping to Bootcamps for new RVers to webinars and an online RV University to elder care for RVers who have hung up their keys to a division dedicated to Gen-X and Millenial RVers to mail forwarding services and many RV campsite ownership possibilities.

    We’ve been members since 2008. If you decide to join (here), please let them know “Roads Less Traveled” sent you!

    If you love to write, as I do, as soon as you start adventuring you will want to begin recording all you’ve seen and done. And even though typing is faster than handwriting for a lot of us, taking a moment at the end of each day to make a few notes with pen on paper is very rewarding.

    There are several excellent Camper’s Journals, Camping Log Books and RVing Journals available:

    Even if you’re not a writer, it’s nice to have a visual display of the places you’ve visited, and an RV state sticker map is a fun thing to put on the RV door or wall.

    While it’s fun to tick off where you’ve been and what you’ve seen, the essence of RVing to many is simply living in the moment and enjoying the blessings of life without responsibility or even accountability. Where better way to do that than in a hammock strung between two trees in your campsite?!

    We met a fellow a few weeks ago who has a hammock in the garage of his toy hauler. He loves to open the ramp door to a beautiful view somewhere and swing quietly til he falls asleep.

    Swinging in a hammock is also a great way to enjoy the wildlife that wanders in and out of a campsite, and hanging up a bird feeder or putting out a shallow tray of water is a good way to lure the critters in.

    We love hanging a hummingbird feeder on the RV window vy our dining table. It attaches to the window with suction cups and we can sit inside and watch the antics of the hummers as they come and go at the feeder.

    A simple solution of 1 part regular table sugar (no the fancy stuff) to 4 parts water makes a perfect nectar for these little acrobats.

    If the antics of the hummers isn’t entertaining enough, then a game of Corn Hole will keep the folks at your campsite and even the folks at the neighbor’s occupied.

    If you want to dress up your campsite, an RV themed tablecloth is a nice way to add some class to the picnic table.

    And a pretty patio mat extends your outdoor space a lot. This 8 x 20 mat is a neat dimension that runs much of the length of the RV.

    An outdoor grill is an absolute must for every RV, and there are dozens to choose from.

    We still use the modest little “Sidekick” grill that came with our popup tent trailer. It is designed to be hung on an RV wall if you install the hanging bracket, or to stand up off the ground. Mark has barbecued many an outstanding meal on this grill and it’s still going strong after 13 years of very frequent use!

    If you hang around outside a lot at night, it’s nice to have a lantern to hang in a tree or on the RV awning brackets. A battery operated Coleman LED lantern or solar powered lantern is a great way to go.

    When we first started boondocking, we used kerosene lamps rather than burn precious electricity with our RV’s interior lighting. Hanging one or two of these lanterns inside at night would have been a whole lot brighter!

    Many gadgets like this lantern are battery operated. Have you tried rechargeable batteries yet? In the last year or so we’ve switched to rechargeable batteries rather than buying new batteries each time the old ones run down, and we like them a lot.

    Getting out in an RV is all about enjoying the outdoors, and a fun and romantic way to savor the fresh air and great views in some remote spot is with a picnic. There are lots of fancy picnic baskets on the market, but how about a picnic basket that is built into a backpack so you can hike with it comfortably, hands free?!

    We use 100 oz. hydration packs when we do longer hikes, and we’ve like packs that hold a big camera, a tripod hung on the outside, and a light jacket and snacks. The Camelbak Fourteener series are great packs for this purpose.

    Good quality hiking shoes are also important and we get new ones every year. We’ve both been wearing Oboz hiking shoes for the last few years and Mark loves his waterproof Oboz boots. He found them especially handy when we were trudging around in the rain and mud in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula recently to photograph the fall colors.

    One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is kayaking on a lake or river. The Hobie inflatable kayaks are FABULOUS and they can be rolled up and put away in an RV storage compartment.

    Our Hobie inflatable tandem was a blast in both our RV and sailing lifestyles.

    The beauty of these kayaks is that if you find yourself up a creek without a paddle it doesn’t matter: the kayak is driven by foot pedals and a rudder at the back.

    This means you cruise along about twice as fast as an ordinary kayak totally hands free, and you can use your binoculars or camera as you go. (Read my full review here).

    We also found that ours was as stable as a rock. I could stand up in it and wax the hull of our sailboat!

    If your sweetie is a kayaker who dreams of the ideal ride, this is a gift he or she will love.

    A while ago we bought a kit of cordless power tools by Rigid that included an impact driver and power drill.

    Mark uses the impact driver for removing and replacing a wheel’s lug nuts on a flat tire (and we’ve had lots), and we both use the cordless drill to raise and lower our stabilizing jacks every time we set up or break down camp.

    Rigid makes a lot of other tools that are all operated on the same lithium-ion battery packs as these two drills, and we recently got their little portable cordless vacuum cleaner. What a fantastic little vacuum! Because we now live with a puppy who hasn’t yet learned to wipe his paws when he comes in the door, I use this vacuum in the main living area almost every day.

    The vacuum takes a bit more power than the drills, so we also bought an upgraded battery pack that has 5 amp-hours of capacity rather than the standard 1.5 ah. Even vaccuming as frequently as as I do, this big battery pack requires charging just once a month or so.

    We highly recommend the Rigid kit even though it is considered a second tier brand. Dewalt has a similar kit too.

    Another little “around the house” gadget we rely on a lot is our two-way radio set.

    We use these to back up the trailer and also to find each other when we go on photo shoots. It also helps us stay in touch when one of us goes on a hike or walks the dog without the other.

    Obviously, cell phones do this too, but these radios work everywhere we go regardless of cell tower proximity. We have the “36 mile” GMRS two-way radios which usually have excellent reception up to about 3 miles.

    There are lots of great stocking stuffers for RVers, and one is a Leatherman tool that has a million tools neatly folded into a small pocket-sized package. Mark has the Leatherman Surge tool here:

    Mark always carries a pocket knife too, and he has a collection of Gerber knives in drawers throughout our trailer as well as in his pocket! These are two of his favorites: Gerber Freeman Guide Drop Point and the tiny Gerber Ultralight.

    He recently picked up another pocket knife made by Leatherman that is his latest favorite, the Leatherman Crater C33LX. It has a serrated edge and a caribiner that can attach the knife to a beltloop or keychain. The caribiner can also serve as an all important bottle opener come Beer Time!

    Mark’s pockets are always brimming with goodies, and besides a pocket knife he usually carries a flashlight too. He likes the Lumintop brand and now has five different Lumintop LED flashlights and loves them all.

    We’ve written detailed reviews of some of their models (the 4000 lumen tactical light here and two pocket flashlights here).

    Here are two more, the Lumintop ODF30C 3500 lumen flashlight and the Lumintop AA 2.0 pocket flashlight.

    Getting our heads out of the tool box and back out into nature, another outstanding gift that says “I love you” in a most heartfelt way is a brand new DSLR camera.

    Nikons are the best rated DLSRs these days and the Nikon D3500 is an outstanding camera to start with. The Nikon D3500 kit that comes with two lenses is a great value.

    If your sweetie already has a great camera, a fabulous gift that he or she will LOVE is the Hoodman Loupe.

    This little device shrouds the image on the back of the camera so you can see the picture well in any light, and the optics are adjustable so no matter how good or poor your vision is, you can adjust it so the image is tack sharp.

    We rely on our Hoodman Loupes to ensure that our images are in focus, our composition is what we want, and the exposure is correct.

    Another wonderful gift for someone who loves photography is a high quality tripod. The Benro Travel Angel II tripod is light and easy to set up and has worked well for me, especially hiking, for several years. An easy-to-use tripod makes it possible to blur waterfalls and to take photos of the Milky Way and is also a wonderful tool for taking selfies.

    The photographer in your life might also really enjoy some books that explain the nitty gritty about how to take beautiful photos.

    Three books that have taught us a lot are Brenda Tharpe’s Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography, Tim Fitzharris’ Landscape Photography and Steve Perry’s Secrets to Stunning Wildlife Photography.

    We’ve got loads more tips for learning how to take great photos here.

    Sometimes the best way to get really beautiful photos of nature is to camp right out in it for long periods of time.

    If your spouse has been pressing you to upgrade your RV with solar power so you can boondock for a while but you’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by the complexity or the cost of installing a system, a folding solar power suitcase can provide a lot of charging capacity and give you some excellent hands-on experience without requiring a scary big financial commitment or a search for an installer. And you can always sell the solar power suitcase at a later date. Other models are here and here.

    If you’re ready to invest in a “full-time” solar power solution, the major components will be these four things:

    This is essentially what has powered our lives every day for 11 years, and we have loads of articles on this website about solar power (here) and batteries (here)).

    Getting up on the roof to do things like install solar panels is fine with the built-in RV roof ladder. However, we also use a secondary lightweight telescoping aluminum ladder so we can reach the highest parts of the exterior walls and the front cap since those spots are all out of reach of the built-in ladder.

    This ladder can be set up in a jiffy, is stable, and can be folded up to fit in a small storage space!

    Our puppy Buddy just came over to see what I was up to on my laptop here, and he wanted me to add a few things for our furry readers. One is a Happy Camper dog shirt with a vintage RV on it. The RV window is a heart!

    Another is his favorite dog food. He loves the Orijen and Acana brands, and Regional Red is his all-time favorite.

    Put a paw over your eyes so you don’t see the price, but do read the ingredients. I honestly think this stuff should be served under glass on a linen tablecloth…

    Last is a set of rubber whistler balls. These rugged, flexible balls can withstand any amount of chewing and have small holes in the sides that make them whistle as they fly.

    We hope these pics and links have given you some fresh new ideas of special things to give your loved ones.

    Anything you put in your shopping cart right after clicking a link here (even if you end up doing some searching to find something else) results in a small commission to us at no cost to you, a win-win all around. Thank you!!

    If you’re still searching for that ideal gift for someone special, check out these 50 Great RV Gifts here!

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    RVing Through History – 80 Years of RV Travel!

    October 2018 – While the most famous and beloved part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, is the fabulous display of antique trailers and motorhomes downstairs, the library upstairs is an equally outstanding (if less flashy) gem.

    RV-MH Hall of Fame Elkhart Indiana-min

    The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum antique trailer display downstairs is fabulous.
    But you’ve gotta check out the library upstairs too!

    Every year notable people in the RV and Manufactured Housing industries are inducted into the Hall of Fame, and when you head upstairs in the museum you can find walls filled with plaques commemorating the work of each inductee.

    RV-MH Hall of Fame Inductees Elkhart Indiana-min

    The “Hall of Fame” dignitaries in the RV and Manufactured Home industries.

    Around the bend there is a library that is open to all visitors. This sizeable room is filled with several rows of bookshelves that house all the periodicals and publications in the RV and Manufactured Housing industries since its inception.

    There’s bit of whimsy in this library: the tops of the bookshelves are decorated with toy RVs!

    RV-MH Hall of Fame Library Elkhart Indiana-min

    The library upstairs is a wonderful place to kick back and learn a little history.

    I find the history of RVing very interesting because it is a hobby and a lifestyle that has rolled through our nation’s history for over a century, a time that has included two world wars, economic booms and depressions, baby booms and boomlets, energy crises and more.

    As a columnist for and avid reader of Trailer Life Magazine, I was especially eager to look at some of the earliest editions of its predecessor publication, Trailer Travel Magazine.

    High up on a bookshelf I found a row of the earliest Trailer Travel magazines the museum owns, all nicely bound by year.

    Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine 1930s and 1940s issues RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Library Elkhart Indiana-min

    Bound volumes of Trailer Travel Magazine from the 1930s to the 1960s

    I randomly took one volume down and flipped it open to the January 1959 issue. The little girl in diapers could have been an older sister of mine or a younger sister of Mark’s. How fun!

    Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine Cover January 1959 RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum-min

    Trailer Travel Magazine – January 1959 – 25 cents an issue

    Flipping the magazine open to a random page, I found a fantastic two page advertisement for Airstream trailers called “Land Yachting.” The accompanying photo showed a motor yacht tied up at a dock where an Airstream was parked. Very cool!

    Land Yachting Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine Cover January 1959 RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum-min

    Awesome!

    Thumbing through a little more, I found an article about a fellow who loved the trailer lifestyle so much he had built a custom home that he could back his trailer into. While the house had a full kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms, he could also use all of the trailers amenities when it was parked inside the house!

    This fellow had been involved in the RV industry for a long time, towing trailers since 1924, and he confessed that he and his wife preferred the bedroom in the trailer to any of the bedrooms in the house!

    Have Trailer Will Travel Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine Cover January 1959 RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum-min

    This guy liked to back his trailer right into his custom home and use it inside the house!

    I picked up the volume for the 1937 issues of Trailer Travel (the magazine started in 1935 but I didn’t see that volume there).

    The January 1937 issue cost just 15 cents and it featured a photo of a palm tree lined street on the cover and the promise of an article about “Trailing Through the Land of Thrills” inside.

    Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Cover photo RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Trailer Travel Magazine – January 1937 – 15 cents an issue

    Like today’s Trailer Life, the magazine was filled with advertisements. Of course, as with any media publication, including this website, the ads make it possible to pay the bills. But I loved each and every one of the ads because they said so much about the life and times and interest and concerns of the RV industry back in 1937.

    We had seen several Covered Wagon trailers in the museum downstairs, and here was an ad for the 1937 model. By the looks of the lady in her evening gown, this was a trailer for the well-to-do. Boasting “superb perfection of design” and “eight years of quality trailer building,” this rolling home would set you back $1,295.

    Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Covered Wagon Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    At $1,295, this trailer must have been quite a luxury during the Great Depression.

    In 1937 America was still deep in the throes of the Great Depression, and $1,295 was an exorbitant amount of money. No wonder the lady was in such an elegant gown as she prepared for a night on the town. She was a woman of means who had somehow escaped the worst of the economic woes that the Great Depression wrought.

    Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Silver Dome Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    The Silver Dome had a caster type wheel under the hitch pin.

    It struck me that owning a trailer was not something that was probably possible for most families, as many families didn’t have a car in 1937. “Trailerites,” as the early RVers were called, must have been a fairly exclusive crowd, especially when the country was in the grip of the Great Depression.

    1937 Trailer Travel Magazine Club Car Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    .

    1937 Trailer Travel Magazine Royal Coach Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    .

    But there were trailer builders out there who were aiming at a more budget oriented crowd. The 17′ Indian “Scout” started at a mere $395, just 1/3 of the cost of that fancy 22′ Covered Wagon model.

    1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN Indian Scout Trailer Ad-min

    A smaller, simpler trailer for just $395.

    Another big surprise was that many of the trailers in 1937 (model year 1938) offered most of the household comforts we have built into our trailers today, from water tanks to kitchen stoves to insulation and more.

    One ad for the Bender Travel Mansion boasted air conditioning and heat which they said marked “a new era in trailer life!”

    Not only did the 1937 Bender Travel Mansion feature climate control, it also had a hot and cold water shower, a flush toilet and an automatic electric and marine water system. The foundation was the Bender Tandem Axle and Spring suspension system, and the interior was walnut.

    All this for a base price of just $447.

    Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Bender Travel Mansion Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Air conditioning, heat, hot and cold shower and flush toilet — in 1937!

    I was also surprised that most trailer ads stressed that their units were all steel construction. This didn’t mean just the frame, as it does today. The studs and rafters were welded steel too.

    When we had looked at the units in the museum downstairs, Mark had noted that even the aluminum sided models of the early years had tack welds rather than rivets.

    These early trailers were solidly built and heavy!

    Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Hayes Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    These trailers were super rugged and all steel.

    The 1938 Hayes trailer featured not only a complete steel cage — chassis, frame, sides, roof were all “electric welded into one rigid piece” — but it also had five kinds of insulating materials.

    One insulating material mentioned was “Reflect-O-Cel aluminum air cell insulation” used in the roof.

    This sounded a lot like our modern product Reflectix that many RVers use to block heat and cold in their RV windows. It also sounded a little like the “radiant barrier” that trailer manufacturers use today (although some radiant barriers we saw on factory tours resembled aluminum foil while others were a foil product that had some kind padding).

    1937 Trailer Travel Magazine 1938 Hayes Trailer Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    A steel cage frame and 5 materials for insulation including “Reflect-O-Cel.”

    I was intrigued that while today there are many industry publications for people who work in the RV industry and a few magazines geared towards consumers who buy RVs, the early Trailer Travel magazine had a very wide audience that included not only the manufacturers but the “trailerites” who bought them, the campground and trailer park owners who were hosting them and the dealerships who were selling the manufacturers’ products.

    So, there were ads for everything from Coleman stoves to trailer windows, a new folding trailer step, Foreman trailer axles, Bendix power brakes and a Red Top Gas-O-Lectric AC/DC Power Plant to give the trailer electricity when it was parked off the grid.

    Coleman Stove Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    1937 Coleman stoves.

    Trailer Window Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Trailer windows… not very different from today.

    Folding Trailer Step Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    A fold-out step!

    Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Trailer axles.

    Bendix Trailer Brakes Ad Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Bendix Power Brakes save your car’s brakes…same thing today!

    Red Top Gas-O-Lectric Power Plant Ad Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    AC and DC power for the trailer when it’s not plugged in.

    I was also fascinated to see that companies had emerged to rent out trailers to folks on vacation. Western Trailways Service offered trailers for $5 a day for one or two people or $6.50 for three or four people. Why spend $400 or more buying a trailer when you could rent one for a weeklong honeymoon for just $35?

    1937 Trailer Travel Magazine Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN Western Trailways Rental Plan-min

    Why not rent a trailer for a week before going all in and buying one?

    Just as fascinating, or perhaps even more so, was reading the articles about where people took their trailers in 1937. An ad for Covered Wagon explaining their sales method of selling a base model plus options showed a young couple dressed up for camping in nature.

    It was a different era!

    Covered Wagon Pacemaker Trailer Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Camping in style.

    One photo showed several riders on horseback and a trailer parked on the side of a dirt road, a glimpse of the transition still taking place in the 1930s in the most rural areas from horse to motorized travel.

    Trailer and horseback riders Durango Colorado Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Old and new modes of transportation on the dirt road to Durango Colorado

    An article entitled, “Yellowstone Parking – A Trailer Travel Thrill!” described a trailer trip to Yellowstone National Park.

    Some things have changed quite a bit since 1937. A photo showed a black bear eyeing up a car towing a trailer. In those days feeding the bears was a popular activity at Yellowstone. Fortunately, from what I understand, grizzlies were extremely rare in the Park back then since they were not a protected species.

    Trailer driving past Bear in Yellowstone National Park 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    It was common practice to feed the bears at Yellowstone back in 1937

    But the fishing on Fire Hole River (“Fire Hole” was two words in those days) seems like it was much the same, excellent both then and now.

    Fire Hole River with trailer at Yellowstone National Park 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Fire Hole River in Yellowstone.

    And photography was as important to Yellowstone visitors in 1937 as it is to all of us today.

    Photography with trailer 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    A “trailerite” family enjoys a meal together in their campsite while dad snaps a pic.

    As I perused the January 1937 issue, I discovered that the feature article, “Trailing Through the Land of Thrills,” was all about taking your trailer on a fabulous adventure down to Mexico City.

    The new 1,000 mile long international highway had been completed in July, 1936, and Americans were taking their cars and trailers down the highway and loving it.

    Interestingly, that was not the only travel destination feature article about going to Mexico in 1937. In the August issue of Trailer Travel Magazine there was an article about taking your trailer down to the fabulous tropical destination of Acapulco!

    Mark and I spent some time in Acapulco on our sailboat, and although Acapulco is sadly very dangerous in many areas today, it was easy to see how extraordinarily charming it must have been years ago.

    When we anchored there we heard whales singing in the water around our hull at night, and we saw a seahorse attached to our anchor chain when we hauled the anchor up. The water just outside the populated area was the bluest blue we’d ever seen, and at night Acapulco Bay looked like a bowl full of diamonds as all the homes on the steep hills around the bay lit up.

    I can only imagine how exotic it would have been to take a trailer down to Acapulco for a tropical winter vacation in 1937.

    Acapulco Mexico Town Beach

    Acapulco’s town beach

    Another fascinating article was entitled, “What is Happening to the Trailer Industry?”

    Apparently for the first half of 1937 trailers flew off the shelves, so the manufacturers ratcheted production up to high gear. By May, however, trailers had stopped moving and there were surpluses everywhere.

    The article pondered whether the sudden slowdown was because President Roosevelt had tampered with the Supreme Court as he tried to push through his New Deal legislation. Or perhaps the Housing Act of 1937 (Wagner Act) which provided government funding for public housing agencies to assist low income families was the cultprit.

    The writer also mused that the problem might be plain old competition. He noted that for every one trailer being built by a manufacturer in 1937, four were being built at home. I guess in 1937 “trailerites” were looking for affordable trailers that were customized to their own needs and preferences.

    Boy, does that sound familiar!

    Trailer Travel Magazine September 1937 What is Happening to the Trailer Industry?

    The RV industry has always been cyclical,
    but even so, a sudden downturn in 1937 prompted some soul searching.

    On the positive side, another article in the January 1937 issue discussed how Hollywood was becoming more and more enamored of using trailers on movie sets.

    Downstairs in the museum of antique trailers we’d seen a fabulous House Car on display that belonged to Mae West. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the stars in Hollywood routinely began to use luxury trailers as mobile dressing rooms and places to relax on set.

    One article entitled “Trailer Trails to Health: Water” discussed the importance of finding good drinking water in your travels. The article opened with a cute reference to Samuel Coleridge’s poem in which the Ancient Mariner lamented, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

    Today we all rely on bottled water that is in abundant supply everywhere, but in 1937 the only choices were city water, which was filtered, chlorinated if necessary, and approved by the State Department of Health, and well water or spring water which was a gamble.

    “Trailerites” were advised to seek out city water supplies and to use spring or well water only if it had a certificate on it from the State Board of Health.

    Trailer Travel magazine 1937 Trailer Trails to Health - Water-min

    Finding safe drinking water was a big concern for “trailerites” in 1937

    I grabbed the Trailer Travel volume for 1940 and flipped through a few issues.

    The price of the magazine had dropped from 15 cents in 1937 to 10 cents in 1940, and it was now called Automobile & Trailer Travel Magazine.

    Automobile and Trailer Travel Magazine 1940-min

    Automobile & Trailer Travel Magazine – August 1940 – Now 10 cents an issue!

    What a neat surprise it was when I saw an ad for a 4.8 cubic foot electric refrigerator!

    This RV fridge was a combination electric refrigerator and ice box. When you took your trailer off grid, rather than relying on propane, which came later, you could pack 50 lbs. of ice in the ice box and still enjoy a cold beer.

    In 1940 there were still rural folks who didn’t have running water or electricity, but the finest trailers had electric refrigeration!

    Marvel Trailer 4.8 cubic foot Ice and Electric refrigerator ad from 1940 Trailer Travel Magazine-min

    A 4.8 cubic foot electric fridge with a big ice box for off-grid camping.

    The October 1940 issue featured an article, “How To Use Your Camera,” that explained how to take advantage of different film speeds. Of course, film cameras have gone the way of the ice box!

    Trailer Travel magazine 1940 How to Use Your Camera-min

    Photography and travel have always gone hand-in-hand, whether the camera is film or digital.

    I jumped ahead a few shelves and pulled out the March 1977 issue. The magazine was now called Woodall’s Trailer & RV Travel, and the cover showed a pop-top van as one of the best new designs of the year.

    Water was still covered in this issue in 1977, but the focus in this particular article was on how the RV’s water system works and what to do when it doesn’t.

    March 1977 Woodall's Trailer and RV Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Woodall’s Trailer & RV Travel – March 1977

    My jaw just about hit the floor, however, when I opened another issue from 1977 and discovered that finding safe drinking water was just as big a concern in 1977 as it had been 40 years prior in 1937.

    Not only did the article, “The Traveler’s Guide to Water,” warn RVers not to trust random wells and springs for drinking water, but it also opened with the same quote from Coleridge’s poem The Ancient Mariner: “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

    How funny.

    Ironically, when I wrote an article for Cruising World Magazine a few years ago about our sailboat’s water desalination system that converted ocean water to drinking water, the editors titled it, “Water, water everywhere…”

    Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner is timeless!

    Trailer Travel magazine 1977 The Traveler's Guide to Water-min

    Finding safe drinking water was still a big concern in 1977, some 40 years later!

    In 1977 there was also a lot of concern about the safety of taking an RV into Mexico. Several articles discussed rising crime in Mexico, but the writers expressed hope that it was a temporary problem that might abate in the near future.

    John and the motorhome

    Camping on the beach in Mexico!

    When we were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on our sailboat, we were very fortunate to meet a young German man who had been raised in a Class C motorhome by his adventurous parents as they traveled all over North America. While showing us his photo albums of family photos, he described camping on the beach in Mexico as a kid in the 1980s. How fun!

    At one point, his dad had gotten the clever idea to ask a train conductor heading through Copper Canyon if they could put their motorhome on one of the empty flatbed train cars. Soon, a whole generation of adventurous RVers were riding flatbed cars on that train and enjoying a trip of a lifetime.

    Blog posts about meeting this special fellow here and here.

    Another big topic of concern in Woodall’s Trailer & RV Travel in the late 1970’s was the future of the Alaskan wilderness. The public land debate goes back over a century and is very complex, but the Alaska Pipeline spawned much debate in the late 1970s, and Woodall’s Trailer and RV Travel weighed in with their thoughts.

    Who Gets the Alaskan Wilderness 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Public land debates were as hot in 1977 as they are today.

    Alaskan Wilderness quote 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Interesting to look back on this comment 40 years later.

    By the 1970s, Woodall’s Trailer and RV Travel Magazine was published solely for RVers — the consumer side of the RV industry — and was no longer a trade magazine for the RV industry itself. But one amusing business-oriented article headline caught my eye: “Renting Your RV – It Could Put 10 Grand in your pocket.”

    There has been an effort in recent years to put potential RV renters together with people who’d like to make a little side income from renting out there RV. I had no idea that this business model dated back 40 years, but there it was in 1977!!

    Renting Your RV 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Renting your RV is not a new concept. Heck, folks were putting 10 grand in their pockets doing it in 1977!

    I had a hard time leaving the RV/MH Hall of Fame Library and could easily have stayed a few more hours. But the volunteer at the front desk downstairs came up to me at closing time and told me very kindly that she was going to shut off the lights in a few minutes!

    She let me hunt down one last magazine from August 2010, an issue of Good Sam Club’s Highways Magazine. The cover of this magazine featured our little buggy in a streamside setting. She smiled as I snapped a photo of the cover and told her that the very same trailer was parked out in their parking lot right now.

    Looking at the Highways Magazine cover more closely a little later, I noticed that besides my article about Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, there were articles on water filtration and brakes and there was even a photo contest.

    So many themes in RVing have stayed the same, all the way from 1937 to now.

    August 2010 Highways Magazine Cover 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

    Water, brakes and photography were all in this issue too!

    If you have a chance to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, allow a little extra time to sit in one of the comfy chairs upstairs in the library and thumb through a few RVing magazines of yesteryear. It is a heartwarming journey.

    You can subscribe to the modern day Trailer Life Magazine here and see our photos and stories in its pages almost every month!

    More info about the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum and Library:

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