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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    Other blog posts from Indiana and the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum:

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    RV/MH Hall of Fame + Elkhart (RV Heart) Indiana

    October 2018 – The region around Elkhart, Goshen and Shipshewana in the northern part of Indiana is the heart of the RV industry, and a trip there is a must for everyone who loves RVing. One of the coolest things to see is the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum (“MH stands for Manufactured Housing, not “Motor Home”).

    RV-MH Hall of Fame tells RV History about RVing industry in Elkhart Indiana

    The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum is at the heart of the RV industry’s heart in Elkhart Indiana

    We visited Elkhart, Indiana, back in 2009. That visit was during the very dark days of the recession, and the entire RV industry was in total free fall as it plunged to miserable depths in a very steep nose dive. RV manufacturers that had been around for as long as forty or fifty years were dropping like flies.

    At that point, unfortunately, darker days were still to come. It was hard to imagine when or how the economy, especially the RV manufacturing industry, would ever recover.

    So, what a marvelous shock it was this year to arrive in Elkhart and find the place absolutely humming with activity. The economic rocketship ride has taken Elkhart and the RV industry by storm, and there were help wanted signs in front of every manufacturing plant and on every street corner.

    Elkhart Indiana is hiring in economic boom-min

    There were jobs aplenty in Elkhart, Indiana

    Hiring signs in Elkhart Indiana as economy booms-min

    We saw hiring signs in front of every business.

    When the RV manufacturers are running at full tilt, everything around them takes off at a sprint too.

    There were RV transport trucks towing sparkling new trailers everywhere we turned. Each transporter was embarking on a trip to haul the attached trailer to a dealership in some far corner of the country, and every RV manufacturer’s lot was filled with rows and rows of rigs waiting their turn to be shipped out.

    Jobs jobs jobs and hiring in Elkhart indiana-min

    RV transporters were busy busy busy!

    Now hiring in Elkhart Indiana during economic recovery-min

    Warehouse – Yes! Sewers, not so much.

    The mood was almost giddy, and there were help wanted signs at all the supermarkets, restaurants and fast food joints. I don’t think there was a company anywhere that was suffering. One coffee company even cracked a joke about needing new hires right on their sign.

    Of course we are hiring who is not-min

    Of course… Who isn’t??

    Wages were ticking upwards too. One small manufacturer of specialty trailers told us the starting wage for assembly line workers at their plant — once they’ve proven themselves for a month — is $27 per hour. Wow!!

    But besides the exuberantly happy mood we felt around town, we were having a blast just being right smack in the heart of the RV industry where something like 90% of the RV-related corporations have their headquarters. Every direction we looked we saw a familiar brand of something.

    Lippert Components freight truck in Elkhart Indiana-min

    Lippert Components… we have a lot of their stuff… Hey, is that a help wanted ad on their truck?!

    Keystone Drive Elkhart Indiana-min

    You can’t get far from the RV industry here.

    The manufacturing plants go on for miles, and all the big corporations have many many plants.

    LCI Plant 85 Elkhart Indiana-min

    The various plants for the big manufacturers go on for miles and miles.

    R-Pod Plant 37 Elkhart Indiana heart of RV industry-min

    R-Pod too.

    The companies and the residents are all very much tied in with each other, so it was no surprise to see familiar names on the Adopt-A-Highway signs too.

    Adopt-a-Highway Lippert Components Inc Elkhart Indiana-min

    .

    XLR toy hauler plant Elkhart Indiana RV industry-min

    Drive a block and see another familiar manufacturer’s plant!

    XLR Thunderbolt toy haulers lined up in Elkhart Indiana RV plant-min

    Ready for outdoor adventure.

    Every RV manufacturer offers factory tours of some kind, and we made it a point to do quite a few. But just driving around Elkhart, Goshen, Shipshewana, Middlebury and Nappannee, it was amazing to discover how enormous this industry is and how vast its many manufacturing plants are.

    Keystone RV Company Headquarters Goshen Indiana-min

    .

    Of course, lots of other kinds of vehicles are made in the Elkhart area too. How cool to see a zillion shuttle buses hot off the assembly line out gleaming in the sun.

    Shuttle buses lined up in Elkhart Indiana-min

    This region makes more than just RVs.

    Much of this area is Amish country, and every so often we would come across signs letting us know their horses and buggies were in the area. How fun to see the horse tie-ups at the supermarkets and to see the horses and buggies waiting patiently outside various businesses. We saw the Amish working in the plants too.

    Goshen and Shipshewana Indiana are Amish country-min

    Something old and something new – Rooftop solar panels, horses and buggies and electronic controls.

    It was also the peak of fall. At a cider mill the pumpkins were stacked high and the cider was selling fast (yum!).

    Pumpkin display Elkhart Indiana-min

    Fall was in the air and the cider was delicious!

    Even though we had visited the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum the last time we were here back in 2009, we wanted to see it again this time. It is unusual for an industry to celebrate itself and its products with so fabulous a showcase in such an impressive building.

    Don’t miss it if you drive by on I-90 (you can see it from the highway!).

    RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum-min

    Buddy couldn’t wait to visit the museum!

    Out in front of RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum there’s a statue of a star spangled elk. He’s decorated with the painting of an RV, and very close to his heart is the RV’s front door. Perfect!

    The RV industry is the heart of Elkhart Indiana-min

    The heart of Elkhart is the RV industry, and the heart of the RV industry is Elkhart.

    There is a lot to see inside the museum, but the coolest attraction is the Go RVing Hall which houses an incredible collection of vintage RVs.

    Entering the GoRVing Hall in RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum-min

    .

    The RVs are lined up along a road that is painted on the floor, and this road winds all around a huge room and even goes over a small bridge. At the beginning of the road the RVs are arrayed in more-or-less chronological order, so you can see how the RV industry developed as you move from one rig to the next.

    One of the first rigs is a 1913 Ford Model T towing a 1913 Earl Trailer.

    1913 Model T Ford and Earl Travel Trailer-min

    1913 Model T Ford towing an Earl Travel Trailer

    Another early rig was a “Collapsible Automobile Camping Outfit” that could be attached or detached from any roadster.

    1916 Telescoping camping unit on a roadster at RV:MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart Indiana

    1916 Telescoping camping unit on a roadster

    The museum shows a page from the May 1916 issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine that has photos of this inventive contraption in action. Note that they’d already figured out how to get hot water for showers… over a century ago!

    Popular Mechanics May 1916 Telescoping roadster attachment

    Popular Mechanics Magazine, May 1916

    The early days of RVing was a time of enormous creativity as people tried building all kinds of crazy contraptions to get themselves up off the ground while camping and have a little storage space for clothes and food as well.

    Some were simple popup (folding) tent trailers that were obvious precursors to today’s popups. Others were very high end and fancy “house cars” that were early versions of motorhomes for the wealthy.

    1931 Model AA Ford House Car-min

    1931 Model AA Ford House Car

    Some of those early companies were wildly successful. Covered Wagon was one of the most successful. At their peak they turned out 40-50 trailers every day.

    World War II put a quick end to that success, however, and by the end of the war the RV industry had virtually collapsed. Almost every manufacturer went out of business, including Covered Wagon.

    1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer-min

    1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer

    Interior 1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer-min

    Interior of the 1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer

    1937 Hunt Housecar-min

    The very cool 1937 Hunt Housecar

    That meteoric rise and sudden crash of the RV industry seemed eerily familiar to what we saw happen after 2008, especially in the trailer industry.

    All of the wonderful trailer manufacturers that had built good quality, solid trailers for a modest price for decades up until 2008 were gone by 2015. The rest consolidated under two main conglomerates. At the same time, all the suppliers save a few also consolidated under a single conglomerate.

    Sadly, this has left the current trailer customer with a million different models of trailers to choose from that are all extremely similar except for the graphics and the name on the outside of the trailer.

    But so go the wheels of invention and maturity in every industry. The great fun of the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum is seeing things like the first trailer that Fleetwood built in 1950.

    1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer first Fleetwood built-min

    The 1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer was the first Fleetwood RV ever built

    Interior 1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer first Fleetwood built-min

    Interior of the 1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer

    And an elegant trailer by Yellowstone Trailer built in 1954.

    1954 Yellowstone Travel Trailer-min

    1954 Yellowstone Travel Trailer

    Early trailers had all kinds of interesting shapes. The 1967 FAN trailer had a flip tail at the back end.

    1967 FAN Luxury Liner travel trailer RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum Elkhart Indiana-min

    1967 FAN Luxury Liner travel trailer

    Underneath the trailer, tucked between the two wheels, was an early version of MORryde’s rubber equalizer system. When we toured the MORryde plant we learned that they had spray painted the equalizer on this trailer silver to match the trailer and to make sure people could see it.

    1967 FAN Luxury Liner MORryde equalizer early version-min

    One of the first MORryde equalizers on a 1967 FAN Luxury Liner travel trailer.

    We savored every minute in the museum, and I went back again a second time for more.

    Mark loved the early mechanical systems — imagine a regular shower head screwed onto the outside of your trailer or an air-hose system to pump air into the water tank to pressurize it — and I loved imagining people of an earlier era taking these fun and crazy travel pods out to the National Parks to breathe the fresh air and see the wonders there.

    I’ll have more for you from this trip to the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum. In the meantime you can see more cool antique RVs in our 2009 blog post about the museum. They’ve moved a few rigs around, but they are all still there.

    Most important, if you are planning a trip that will take you anywhere near Elkhart, Indiana, check your favorite RV manufacturer’s website for their factory tour schedule, and be sure to visit to this special museum.

    A walk back in time at RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum Elkhart Indiana-min

    A walk back in time at the RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum

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    Halloween Camping – RV Witches & Goblins at Michigan State Parks!

    October 2018 – After enjoying several weeks of waterfalls and fall foliage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a delightful day on Mackinac Island, we stopped to camp at Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area in the Lower Peninsula. Despite cold rain and drizzle in mid-October, we were shocked to see that the campground was packed to the gills when we arrived on a Sunday morning. It turned out that the State Park campgrounds in Michigan celebrate Halloween each weekend in late September and October, and the festivities were in full swing.

    RV halloween camping-min

    Ghouls and goblins pose for a selfie in front of their trailer home!

    Families were shivering in the rain and huddled around the campfires, but nothing could dampen their spirits as they showed off their wild Halloween campsite decorations.

    Campsite decorate for Halloween-min

    Grrrrr….Happy Halloween!

    Camping Halloween travel trailer RV with pumpkin decoration-min

    Smile for the camera!

    After we quickly set up camp, we walked around the campground loops and were floored by how elaborate the campsite decorations were.

    Campground Halloween decorations-min

    Some folks set up their displays under easy-up shelters!

    RV Campsite decorate for Halloween-min

    Some were arranged under the fifth wheel overhang too.

    Families had gone all out with witches riding broomsticks, ghosts twisting in the wind, pumpkins grinning wickedly and skeletons perched on everything.

    Fifth wheel RV Halloween decorations-min

    Witches and skeletons hang out on a camper’s fifth wheel.

    Motorhome campsite with Halloween decorations-min

    A skeleton couple took over the picnic table at this motorhome’s campsite.

    The night before we got there, all of the displays had been lit up. There were power cords running every this way and that between the campsites and the displays. But even in the bitter morning air without any glow-in-the-dark spookiness, we still caught Halloween fever as we walked the campground loops and admired the decorations.

    RV camper with Halloween pumpkins-min

    One RV was sitting in a pumpkin patch.

    Pumpkin spilling its guts at Halloween-min

    This pumpkin partied too much last night and got sick.

    Every Saturday night in September/October at all the Michigan State Park campgrounds — and in many other midwest campgrounds too — the kids get dressed up in Halloween costumes and go from campsite door to campsite door all around the campground trick-or-treating.

    Camping Halloween travel trailer RV with pumpkin decoration-min

    An evil looking Mickey Mouse greets trick-or-treaters at the back door of an RV.

    Home Sweet Haunted Home RV door-min

    What evil lurks inside??

    I don’t know who loves it more, the kids or the parents and grandparents. One older fellow told us he went Halloween camping every year for 15 or so years as he raised his kids (the youngest was now 24!), but he still comes out because it is so much fun to see the kids in their costumes and give out candy.

    Ghosts pumpkins skeletons camping at an RV campground-min

    A ghost’s eyes lit up red as we go by.

    Travel trailer RV with Halloween ghost-min

    Spooky!

    He kinda laughed as he told me that if you time it right, you can hit all six State Park campgrounds in this area from late September through October and experience the fun over and over in different settings!

    Popup tent trailer at Halloween-min

    Dead babies… is that Alice Cooper‘s popup tent trailer?

    Halloween cemetery at an RV campsite-min

    A trailer’s front yard turned into a graveyard.

    Every campsite had decorations, and some were very complex. Pumpkins and ghosts were popular themes, but it was the carefully laid out headstones in the Halloween graveyards that caught our attention!

    Fifth wheel RV campsite with Halloween cemetery-min

    Gravestones and skulls, a good Halloween combo!

    Graveyard campground campsite Halloween decorations-min

    Fresh graves – keep out! Folks who come to this trailer wind up under headstones!

    The front end of a travel trailer is an ideal place to set a few ornaments, and sure enough we found skeletons and ghosts and pumpkins aplenty.

    Trailer propane bottle with Halloween trick-or-treat decorations-min

    The trailer’s hitch and propane tanks make good perches for ghoulish things.

    Ghosts and pumpkins with RV at campground on Halloween-min

    .

    There were lots of skeletons hanging around too.

    Pumpkins and skeletons on a travel trailer RV-min

    Skeletons hanging around everywhere!

    Campground campsite Halloween decorations-min

    A skeleton hangs in a tree.

    Other skeletons sat in kayaks and cackled as they paddled and fished alongside their toy hauler.

    Skeletons in kayaks Halloween Toy hauler campsite decorations-min

    Skeletons laugh ghoulishly as they fish from their kayaks.

    Halloween skeleton in kayak at toy hauler RV campsite-min

    Catch of the day – a fish skeleton!

    One campsite had a big skeleton of an animal standing out in front of a cute retro trailer.

    Retro trailer camper and horse skeleton at Halloween-min

    What kind of creature is this?

    Upon closer inspection we realized it was the skeleton of a horse pulling a carriage. Inside the carriage were the skeletons of a bride and groom.

    Campground RV campsite with retro trailer and skeleton horse and buggy-min

    A horse skeleton pulling a buggy with a bride and groom skeleton inside.

    Another campsite featured a skeleton bride and groom getting married in the grass under a trellis.

    Halloween skeleton wedding camping in a travel trailer-min

    Newlywed skeletons.

    The bodies of a pair of old retired skeletons had given up the ghost. All that remained was their skulls which peered out of the front windshield of a motorhome.

    Skulls in motorhome on halloween in a campground-min

    Retiree skulls in a motorhome.

    As I walked around the campground loop taking photos, Buddy did his usual sniffing and socializing. Suddenly, I felt him stiffen at the end of his leash. I looked down and he was staring at a corpse sticking halfway out of the ground. He crouched really low and gingerly sniffed at the corpse. Suddenly, he jumped back in fright. Then he slowly crept in and got another sniff.

    Puppy spooked by scary Halloween monster-min

    Buddy jumped when he saw this bloody corpse in the grass.

    We had missed the big trick-or-treat night, so we never saw the kids in their costumes. But what a super fun way for families to celebrate Halloween and extend their camping season past the end of summer.

    Spooky Halloween decorations at RV campground-min

    Witch skeletons hang from a tree.

    Lots of families knew each other from previous years and there was a fantastic spirit of celebration everywhere as kids ran between the trailers and parents and grandparents unwound by the campfire.

    Spiders ghosts and goblins at RV campground campsite-min

    Spiders, ghosts and goblin eyes.

    Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area campground is a wonderful place to camp that sits on the shores of a small lake.

    Fall leaves at Metamora campground in Michigan-min

    Beautiful fall colors across the lake made a great backdrop for the campground festivities.

    Happy Halloween!

    Spooky Halloween night shadows at the lake-min

    Walk softly out there and watch out for things that go bump in the night!

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    Mackinac Island, Michigan – A Precious Walk Back in Time!

    October 2018 – After enjoying some wonderful fall foliage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we made our way to the town of St. Ignace that peers over the Mackinac Bridge at Michigan’s Lower Peninsua.

    Mackinac Bridge at sunset RV trip-min

    Mackinac Bridge at sunset.

    The Mackinac Bridge is a beautiful suspension bridge that sits between Lake Michigan on one side and Lake Huron on the other side. On a hunch we headed out at sunset to see if we could get some pics as the sky changed color and the lights on the bridge were lit.

    Using slow shutter speeds we captured the traffic crawling across the bridge.

    Mackinac Bridge at night Michigan RV trip-min

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    During our RV travels this year we managed to hit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a three week long spate of miserable rainy cold days, and a look at the forecast showed more thunderstorms, rain and cold for the next week. But there was one day that had a mere 20% chance of rain, so we decided to hop on Sheppler’s Ferry and head out to Mackinac Island for a day. (“Mackinac” is pronounced “Mackinaw” by the way).

    Sheppler's Ferry arrives Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Sheppler’s Ferry brings tourists to Mackinac Island.

    The surf was up and big waves hit the side of the ferry in blasts of spray. The captain took us over to the Mackinac Bridge so we could let Lake Michigan’s waves lap the hull for a moment, and then we headed over to Mackinac Island which sits in Lake Huron.

    Sheppler's Ferry under the Mackinac Bridge in a storm-min

    Water from the waves rolled off the ferry windows as we slipped under Mackinac Bridge.

    Mackinac Island Michigan lighthouse-min

    The water calmed down a bit when we passed the lighthouse marking the harbor entrance.

    As the ferry pulled into the dock at Mackinac Island we got our first glimpse of the pretty buildings by the shore.

    First view of Mackinac Island from the Sheppler's Ferry-min

    The pretty Victorian buildings of Mackinac Island came into view as we pulled into the harbor.

    Mackinac Island is unique because even though the island has lots of paved roads, there are no cars or motorized vehicles allowed anywhere. So, as we stepped off the ferry we were greeted by horses and carriages waiting to take passengers to their hotel destinations or on a ride around town.

    Grand Hotel chauffeur Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    An old time horse and carriage waits to take arriving passengers to the Grand Hotel.

    Mackinac Island horse drawn wagon in Michigan-min

    Horses drawn buggies were everywhere.

    Mark had been to Mackinac Island many times before, but this was my first visit, and the quaint charm of the horses and buggies all around us captivated me. I could barely walk down the street for all the photos I was snapping of the teams of horses carrying tourists here and there.

    Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    These buggy rides are the local taxis!

    Quaint horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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    Horse drawn wagon on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min

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    Returning horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Heading home… Wow!

    Even though it was cold and wet and miserable out, the mood on the street was festive and we quickly got into tourist mode.

    Tourist at Mackinac Island Michigan fudge shop-min

    We quickly got into tourist mode at the fudge shop!

    When we poked our heads into an ice cream shop, we noticed that ice cream wasn’t selling quite as well as it does on hot summer days.

    Ice cream line begins here fudge shop Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    “Line begins here” … no line today!

    We walked down the main drag and watched the comings and goings of the community. Mackinac Island has been a tourist destination since the Victorian era, and the behind-the-scenes work of serving tourists hums along smoothly. Peering down a back alley, we saw an open horse drawn wagon that was hauling some cargo. How neat to have a community where goods are carried by horses and wagons!

    Working horses and wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    A team of horses pulls a wagon of cargo.

    Working horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Images like this gave us a glimpse of yesteryear.

    If you ride a horse around town you can tie him up at a little post with a horse head on top. Folks with bikes like to lock them to these posts too.

    Bike stand like horse head on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    A decorative place to tie up your horse or your bike.

    Bicycles are the most popular means of individual transportation, and there were cyclists, bicycles for rent and parked bikes absolutely everywhere.

    Horse drawn wagons and bicycles on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Bicycles were as common as horses, even in the cold weather.

    Bicycles everywhere Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Bicycles were parked all over the place.

    Bikes on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min

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    Main Street Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    No fear of cars here!

    Mackinac Island is a destination for cruise ships too, and we saw one pulled up to the dock.

    Cruise ship under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    A cruise ship waits at the dock.

    We wandered beyond the downtown area and found some gorgeous mansions. Standing in front of one with an ornate roof, we were soon deep in conversation with the gray haired owner of the place. It turned out his dad had picked up the property when it was condemned in the 1960s, and he had spent his childhood summers living in this picturesque house just steps from the beach.

    Decorative roof on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    We met the man who spent summers in this beautiful house as a kid. Now he operates it as a B&B.

    Private residence mansion Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    A nice summer cottage!

    Elegant house Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Beautiful (with Buddy streaking past)

    Bike in the yard Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Tranquility — even on a blustery day.

    Some of the homes are perched right on the edge of Lake Huron. Walking a little further on, we found a huge resort that has a slew of Adirondack chairs set out on a lawn facing the lake.

    Summer chairs under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    A spot to watch the sunset — when there is one!

    Mackinac Island State Park Michigan stormy day-min

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    Mackinac Island must be a true delight in July, but we were getting a big kick out of it on this dreary October day too. The wind was whipping and the waves were pounding.

    Storm clouds and waves Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    Storm and fury on Lake Huron.

    Wandering back into town, we came across Lady Liberty and some pretty churches.

    Mackinac Island statue of liberty in Michigan-min

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    Church at Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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    But it was the horse drawn wagons and buggies that captured my imagination all day long. How wonderful that there is a place where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed and visitors can experience a vivid immersion in another era.

    Fall color and horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

    We couldn’t stop taking pics of the horse drawn wagons.

    Carriage ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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    Mackinac Island would be a fantastic place to spend a few days during the holidays! Even though the ferry ride might be rough, the island has ongoing celebrations throughout the holiday season, and some of the hotels and restaurants remain open.

    Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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    We won’t be there when the snow flies, but we loved our day trip to Mackinac Island in October!

    Carriage Ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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    If your RV travels take you to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (or the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula), set aside a day to spend on Mackinac Island. No matter what the weather forecast is, it’s a very fun excursion!

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    Fall Foliage in Michigan’s U.P. + Lake Superior at Sunset

    September 2018 – In mid-September we traveled in our RV to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to see the fall colors and to experience the beauty of the shores of Lake Superior. In the small coastal town of Ontonagon we wandered down to the beach just as the sun was setting.

    WOW!

    Sunset Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    The sun says goodnight to us across Lake Superior at Ontonagon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

    We were both in seventh heaven as we snapped one gorgeous image after another of the sun giving us its final winks before it slipped out of sight below the horizon.

    Lake Superior Sunset in Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    The waves rolled in and pounded the shore relentlessly while the clouds moved quickly across the sky. The dark blanket of storm clouds turned a vivid pink for a few minutes as they passed.

    Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula Sunset_-min

    The clouds turned pink for a moment as they marched across the sky.

    These kinds of moments are our favorites in our traveling lives: admiring Nature in all her glory and trying to capture what we see on camera. We each stake out a spot that looks appealing and fire away.

    When we were contemplating whether we should introduce a puppy to our crazy lifestyle one of our biggest concerns was what he would do while we were busy taking pics. It turns out that he loves these moments too. He keeps himself busy running between us and sniffing everything there is to sniff around us.

    Sunset at Lake Superior Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Buddy loves these sunset outings as much as we do (and he photo bombs a lot of our pics too!).

    After the sun disappeared and most of the color had faded a storm appeared on the horizon.

    Lake Superior Storm Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Storm clouds gather in the distance and pour rain on Lake Superior.

    Until this season I had seen Lake Superior for just a brief visit years ago. I had dipped my toe in the frigid water in early May and said, “Okay, that’s enough. We’re outta here!”

    Mark had told me stories over the years of visiting Lake Superior one winter long ago and seeing huge waves standing bolt upright, frozen solid mid-curl. The whole lake had looked like a lemon meringue pie!

    Yet so far in our travels along Lake Superior this fall the lake had been as calm as could be, giving us one wonderful beach experience after another as we skirted along the coast in Wisconsin and in Michigan’s U.P.

    However, that sensational sunset we had just witnessed in Ontonagon was the last we’d see of the sun for the next three weeks! Lake Superior started to snarl and the whole Upper Peninsula snarled with it, delivering clouds and rain and nasty cold windy temps day after day after day.

    Lake Superior waves Ontonagon Beach Michigan-min

    Lake Superior waves dwarf a lighthouse in the distance.

    Lake Superior was still fabulous, even in its bad mood. We just had to wear a lot more layers of clothing, that’s all!

    Lake Superior surf Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    The waves were enormous and neverending.

    We traveled up the Keweenaw Peninsula to Copper Harbor where we got a whiff of what a fantastic summer spot this is. There was a haunting beauty in the cold gray autumn air, but what a place this must be in July!

    Kayaks at Copper Harbor Michigan-min

    Kayaks wait for better weather at Copper Harbor.

    Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan-min

    Eagle Harbor Lighthouse has assisted mariners for over a century.

    Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan-min

    Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.

    In our mission to see the fall color we had seen lots of hardwood trees starting to change, but hadn’t yet witnessed the peak anywhere. When we first arrived in Michigan we stopped at a visitors center that had a wonderful Fall Color Map on the wall. They didn’t have a printed version so I took a photo to help us with our travel planning as we zig-zagged around the U.P.

    Fall foliage color map for Michigan-min

    The peak fall colors in Michigan occur from late September to late October depending on where you are.

    It was bitterly cold, but we just bundled up and had a ball, even though it drizzled off and on for days, in between vicious downpours that pummeled us and our trailer!

    Dressed for cold weather leaf peeping in Michigan UP-min

    These were One Dog Nights and we were glad to have him!

    In planning which areas to visit in the U.P. we had seen spectacular photos of fall color captured in reflections across small lakes and ponds, so we started heading down small twisting dirt roads to get to a few lakes and were well rewarded for our efforts. The wind didn’t die down for a while, so our earlier pics were simple lakeside shots without reflections.

    Fall foliage Worm Lake Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    A brilliant maple tree lights up a dreary morning at Worm Lake.

    Fall foliage Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    We took many walks in the woods where the trees were starting to show off their most vibrant shades.

    Fall foliage Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    Autumn leaves Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    Up close it is amazing to see the color patterns on each leaf.

    Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Pretty patterns.

    Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    The colors were absolutely yummy. Buddy thought so too!

    Fall foliage is yummy to a puppy-min

    Buddy samples the fall colors.

    Fall color Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    As we walked around we saw other fun woodsy things like bright red berries and pure white fungus.

    Fall berries Michigan Upper Peninsula Ottowa National Forest-min

    A hint of Christmas to come!

    Ferns and mushrooms Michigan Upper Peninsula forest-min

    These bright white fungi were shaped like miniature willow trees, each one about an inch tall!

    We made our way back to the coast to visit the Miner’s Castle Overlook which is part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Lake Superior is shockingly clear in this spot, and if you didn’t know you had to wear a winter jacket to enjoy the view, the turquoise color would make you think the water was as warm as the tropics!

    Miner's Castle Pictured Rocks National Park Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Miner’s Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

    Some of the best color we found was in Hiawatha National Forest on the small ponds and lakes scattered in the woods south of Munising.

    Fall foliage Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    Fall foliage Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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    At Moccasin Lake and Red Jack Lake we saw some wonderful mirror reflections in the early morning before the wind picked up.

    Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Colorful reflections at Moccasin Lake in Hiawatha National Forest.

    Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Red Jack Lake

    One day was particularly cold and when we got to the edge of the lake mist was rising off the glassy surface.

    Autumn Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula_-min

    Mist at Moccasin Lake

    East Lake fall foliage Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Mist at East Lake

    Another fantastic spot we bumped into that doesn’t get any press and isn’t even labeled on Google Maps is Mequisten Recreation Area just a few miles south of Munising on National Forest Road H-13. A beautiful boardwalk takes you all around a series of small ponds with lookouts positioned every few hundred yards. We loved this little jewel so much we went back three times. Buddy had a blast running on the boardwalk. He sounded like a herd of elephants as he tore around, especially when he met another dog and they tore around together!

    Mequisten Recreation Area Munising Michigan Upper Peninsula-min-2

    Mequisten Recreation Area has a wonderful boardwalk with benches and overlooks.

    We didn’t get the crisp sunny air that we had expected during our Upper Peninsula fall foliage tour, but the autumn colors were everything we had hoped they would be!

    Puppy at Red Jack Lake in Autumn Michigan Upper Peninsula Hiawatha National Forest-min

    Buddy framed by autumn leaves at Red Jack Lake.

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    Waterfalls in Michigan’s U.P. – Taquamenon, Bond Falls & Black River Jewels

    September 2018 – After taking our RV along the southern shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin, we arrived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a place known for spectacular waterfalls.

    Happy campers at Bond Falls Waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula cascade

    Three happy campers at Bond Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula


    There are so many waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that it is really hard to decide which ones to see. We started with a cluster of small waterfalls that lie along the Black River in the northwest corner of the U.P. next to the shores of Lake Superior.

    The five waterfalls — Rainbow, Gorge, Sandstone, Potawatomi and Conglomerate — are all within a few miles of each other and there is a rustic dry camping campground nearby.

    The hike to each waterfall is a very short jaunt through the woods, and we headed to Gorge Falls first.

    Hike to Gorge Falls at Black River Michigan-min

    Buddy waits for the picture taking slow pokes that are hiking behind him on the way to Gorge Falls.

    GORGE FALLS

    After a brief hike through the woods, we heard the roar of Gorge Falls as we descended the long staircase down to its base. Then we saw a beautiful rush of water falling down the rocks in front of us.

    Hike to Gorge Falls Black River Michigan-min

    Gorgeous Gorge Falls

    Gorge Falls Black River Michigan-min

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    SANDSTONE FALLS

    Gorge Falls is right next door to Potawatomi Falls, but it was Sandstone Falls just a short ways away that we liked most of this group of waterfalls on the Black River.

    Sandstone Falls is special because rather than a vertical hike to the top or bottom of a steep waterfall you can climb all over the wonderful flat and wide rocks to view the multiple smaller cascades from many angles. A hiker we met on the trail told us his kids love to swim at Sandstone Falls.

    As soon as we got there and began clambering around on the rocks I was entranced by the millions of white bubbles that were floating downstream.

    The bubbles had come from the froth and foam of bigger waterfall upstream, and they floated at varying speeds down the river. A slow shutter speed showed the magic of this bubbly dance.

    Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

    Cool bubble patterns at Sandstone Falls.

    Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

    In one part of the falls the bubbles were swirling in a circle like a pin wheel.

    A little further downstream a series of cascades flowed between the rocks.

    Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

    Sandstone Falls.

    Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

    We loved climbing on the flat rocks along these cascades at Sandstone Falls.

    Black River Michigan Sandstone Falls-min

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    After an exhilarating waterfall hike (or two) there’s nothing like a nice cold frosty brew. It didn’t take us long to discover the many flavorful craft beers made in the Upper Peninsula by Upper Hand Brewery. One of our favorites was a pale ale called Yooper which is the local term for people who live in the U.P.

    Yooper Beer by Upper Hand Brewery-min

    Yooper is a yummy pale ale named for the people who live in the U.P. !



    RAINBOW FALLS

    At the mouth of the Black River where it dumps its inky brown tannin-filled water into the blue water of Lake Superior there’s a small marina at Black River Harbor and a cool suspension bridge that crosses the river.

    Suspension bridge Black River Harbor Michigan-min

    There’s a fun suspension foot bridge over the Black River near the harbor.

    The best views of Rainbow Falls are reached by hiking through the woods from the suspension bridge at Black River Harbor. We headed into the woods one morning as mist still hung heavy in the air.

    Woods hiking trail Black River Harbor Michigan-min

    Our trail through the woods on the way to Rainbow Falls.

    This trail from Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls is part of the 4,600 mile long North Country Trail that stretches through seven northern states from North Dakota to New York. Like the more famous Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, this is a trail that can be hiked in tiny sections — like going from Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls as we were doing — or can be through-hiked from one end to the other over the course of many weeks.

    We passed a trail box that contained maps and info and a sign-in book for hikers doing big adventurous hikes on this trail. We got a thrill looking into the box and imagining what it takes to do such a hike.

    A few years back when we were doing a waterfall hike that crossed the Appalachian Trail, we met a fellow at the intersection of the two trails who was doing a through-hike on the Appalachian Trail. We’d been intrigued to see him carrying a very small pack for his four month adventure and to discover that his hiking boots were still holding up after hiking a third of the Appalachian Trail (700 miles) so far (blog post here).

    Trail box North Country Trail Black River Harbor Michigan-min

    The Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls hiking trail is part of the 4,600 mile North Country Trail.
    This weather-proof metal trail box held goodies for through-hikers.

    Hiking the North Country Trail sounds very exciting, but we were content with a brief mile and a half hike out to Rainbow Falls.

    Rainbow Waterfall Black River Michigan-min

    Rainbow Falls

    As we stood taking photos of the falls a woman appeared across from us on the other side of the cascade at the top of the falls, phone in hand. She took a selfie and then she suddenly jumped from one rock to another over a part of the waterfall.

    Holy smokes!

    She seemed to think nothing of it, but this is a remote spot and the bottom of the falls was a long way down. We were the only ones in the area, and I doubt she knew we were there because the woods were very thick and we weren’t standing near the edge.

    Brave jumper Rainbow Falls Black River Michigan-min

    This could have been the last photo of this woman.

    Closer to the ground, and much more rooted to it, Mark found a cluster of mushrooms standing between some red leaves that had fallen.

    Toadstools and fall leaves Black River Harbor Michigan-min

    Mark discovered a cluster of mushrooms on the ground.

    Lying on the ground and shooting up at the undersides of the mushroom caps gave a wonderful effect.

    Mushrooms in the forest near Black River Michigan-min

    Shooting up at the bottoms of the mushroom caps seemed to capture their mushroom essence better than shooting down on them from above.

    Even though all these cool woodsy things like waterfalls and mushrooms were just steps from Lake Superior, we hadn’t felt the lake’s presence at all during our stay.

    However, a leisurely walk around nearby Black River Harbor took us to a nice sandy beach that was a delightful contrast to the thick woods that had dominated our lives for a few days.

    Lake Superior Black River Harbor Recreation Area-min

    Once you get clear of the woods, Lake Superior is right there.

    The water in Lake Superior was surprisingly warm, and we tossed a stick out a little ways to see if Buddy would swim out to retrieve it. Sure enough, he did a few dog paddle strokes, but rather than swim back to shore he swam over to a nearby log and climbed out of the water as quickly as he could and walked on the log back on it to the sand!

    Puppy climbs out of Lake Superior with stick x

    Smart pup took a shortcut and climbed up on a log to walk back rather than swim to shore!

    BOND FALLS

    The Black River waterfalls are not well known, but Bond Falls, about 75 miles away, is one of the most popular destinations in Michigan’s entire Upper Peninsula. And rightfully so.

    Bond Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Bond Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


    A walking path and boardwalk takes visitors from the base of the falls up along one side to several smaller cascades. It is these cozier spots that attract photographers, and many a Michigan travel brochure or waterfall field guide sports a cover or centerfold photo from here.

    Michigan Upper Peninsula Waterfalls Bond Falls_-min

    A smaller cascade above the main waterfall is a beautiful little spot.

    Even though Mark and I often take photos standing shoulder to shoulder, our results are usually very different. This time we each instinctively gravitated to different shutter speeds…

    Bond Falls Waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula cascade-min

    I kept the shutter open for 2.5 seconds for a super silky and fluffy look.

    Bond Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Mark used a shutter speed of 1/6 second for a more crisp impression of the scene.

    We loved Bond Falls and visited several times at different hours of the day. Families with kids and old folks made their way up and down the path alongside the falls all the time, and most had been there before.

    One older gal stopped to talk with me and told me she had grown up in the area 65 years ago and that she and her siblings had swum in the calmer parts of Bond Falls as kids. That wouldn’t be allowed today, but her eyes twinkled as she reminisced about being a little girl and calling this place home.

    Peace in Bond Falls in Autumn Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    We met a woman who grew up swimming here above the waterfall at Bond Falls. How wonderful!

    TAQUAMENON FALLS

    One of the most dramatic waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is Taquamenon Falls over in the northeast corner of the peninsula. When we walked out on the path to the falls and got our first glimpse through the autumn leaves, my jaw dropped and I set up to take a shot immediately.

    A young couple coming back from the hike down to the falls saw my tripod and camera gear and asked me if this was the best place to photograph the falls.

    I laughed and said I had no idea. This was the first I’d seen of them! But it was very beautiful…

    Taquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Our first glimpse of Taquamenon Falls

    A little further on there was another view of the waterfall wrapped in fall colors.

    Taquamenon Falls waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Taquamenon Falls

    We followed the path towards the falls and came across a sign that explained what to expect as we descended a long ways down to get a close-up view of Taquamenon Falls. We had to laugh when we read it!

    94 Steps to the Brink of Taquamenon Falls-min

    If only we always got such a simple warning when we’re about to face disaster!

    At The Brink we got a lovely sidelong view of Taquamenon Falls.

    Taquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

    Taquamenon Falls at The Brink

    We climbed back up the 94 steps from The Brink and headed out on the path to The Gorge. This gave us a wonderful view of the falls from another vantage point.

    Taquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula Waterfall-min

    Taquamenon Falls as seen from The Gorge.

    If you are a fan of waterfalls, as we are, the U.P. is a fantastic place to go waterfall hunting. These were just a few of dozens of waterfalls we could have seen, and I know we missed some beauties that we’ll have to check out another time. But we were delighted by the variety of the falls we saw and the fun hikes and walks we took to get to them.

    Fifth wheel RV Black River Harbor Campground Michigan-min

    Black River Campground.

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