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Blog Entries posted by Roadtrekingmike

  1. Roadtrekingmike
    One of the biggest controversies in the RV world these days has to do with the fine line between tax avoidance and tax evasion.
    I’m talking about the practice of setting up an LLC business in Montana to purchase a motorhome, thus avoiding sales and use tax and often stiff registration fees in the owner’s home state. Thousands of RV owners around the country do this and dozens of Montana legal firms specialize in making it happen.
    I live in a state that has very high taxes. As I am shopping around to upgrade my 2006 RV to a new model I have come face-to-face with the huge tax burden my state (Michigan) imposes. When I bought the 2006 RV in April, I paid some $5,000 in sales tax and registration fees. Gulp.
    If I trade in that unit and buy a new motorhome, Michigan will hit me again. And unlike many other states which tax only the difference between the trade-in and the new model, Michigan will tax the entire value of the sale. Unfair? Absolutely. Outrageous? Yes. Legal? Unfortunately, it is legal for a state to be a tax gouger. And I live in such a state.
    So this Montana scheme is very appealing. Essentially, it works like this: You form an LLC business in Montana. It costs you about $1,000 to have one of the Montana law firms set up your LLC and do the registration and titling paperwork and send you back the Montana license plates. Because Montana has no sale tax on an RV, your only cost is the $1,000 to set up the business that technically owns the RV, a Montana corporation, and the $150 or so the law firm charges every year to renew your registration and LLC charter.
    All this is perfectly legal in Montana. Indeed, forming LLCs and registering RVs like this is a big business out there.
    The rub comes in your home state.
    The high tax states that do impose use and sales taxes and high registration fees on RVs quickly took steps to counter the scheme by writing laws and regulations that make it very difficult to take advantage of the plan. In my state, for example, Michigan Compiled Law sections 257.215, 257.216, and 257.217 require that “a nonresident owner of a pleasure vehicle otherwise subject to registration under this act shall not operate the vehicle for a period exceeding 90 days without securing registration in this state.”
    Is there a loophole there? Some Montana law firms say there is. They say if you take the motorhome out of your home state once every three months, you’re legal. They interpret that as keeping the motorhome in your home state for 90 consecutive days, So, if you head out of state after 89 days, they claim, you’re good. When you return, you can stay another 89 days before you have to take an out state trip. Naturally, they caution the RV owner to keep detailed records that establish the motorhome’s whereabouts.
    That’s how the Montana law firms insist you can avoid high registration fees.
    The biggest bite in buying an RV in one of the high tax states like Michigan comes in the form of a use tax, or sales tax, currently 6% in Michigan. And because Michigan and other states have agreements to collect each other’s sales taxes, buying out of state alone is not the solution. As far as sales and use taxes on an RV, my home state has two provisions – one for non-residents, one for residents.
    For non-residents, which the Montana LLC that “owns” the motorhome would technically be, an exemption to the tax would be allowed provided the motorhome is “purchased by a person who is not a resident of this state at the time of purchase and is brought into this state more than 90 days after the date of purchase.” An LLC is considered a legal entity, able to buy and sell property. In other words, to avoid the Michigan taxes you would buy the RV out of state through the LLC and keep it out of state for three months. The issue here, though, is what would a court decide? If the LLC is in Montana but the owner of that LLC is in Michigan. what is the reasonable assumption here? Pretty obvious, don’t you think? The LLC in Montana is owned by a Michigan resident.
    In that case, if the property is owned by a resident, Michigan says you must pay the tax unless the motorhome “is brought into this state more than 360 days after the date of purchase.” That means buy it out of state and travel anywhere but your home state for a year.
    You can clearly see by these legal restrictions that the other states don’t take kindly to Montana’s proffered loophole to potential RV owners. Just do a Google search on Montana LLCs and you’ll see how they are trying to drum up business by touting LLCs that allow you to buy “no sales tax motorhomes” or “tax free.”
    That sort of exploitation only fuels the resolve of the high tax states to shut down the loophole.
    Thus, Michigan, Colorado, California and a number of other states are very aggressive in hunting down RVs with Montana license plates and suing the owners for taxes and penalties. Some of the RV forums claim they have set up tip-lines with rewards for people who spot RVs with Montana plates parked in storage yards or driveways for long periods of time. Others say inspectors check out RV repair facilities and look for vehicles with Montana plates.
    A very evenhanded and comprehensive review of all this can be found on the RV Dreams website,
    I need to say here that a great many RVers have taken advantage of the Montana law with no issues. For fulltimers, who are gone for very long periods from their home states, it appears to be very workable, especially if those fulltimers have established residency in a low tax state like, say, Florida.
    But for me, as I look at buying a brand new RV, I’m not going to go the Montana route.
    I admit, the benefits of saving thousands of dollars in sales and use taxes are very tempting.
    But as states scramble to shore up sinking deficits, I think we can be sure that pursuing RV owners with Montana plates is going to increase, not decrease. Even if you should be sued and won, I can guarantee the legal costs of defending yourself would far exceed what you saved on the taxes you avoided. Besides this, many insurers frown at covering an RV that is titled in Montana.
    The big reason I am not going to go the Montana route should I buy a new RV is because, I think, it borders on the unethical. It’s clearly a tax dodge. As long as I live in Michigan, I am subject to its laws. And Michigan laws demand I pay a sales tax on my RV. I know, I know, some will say the Montana LLC is the legal owner. But I am the legal owner of the LLC. That means, in effect, I own the RV with Montana plates. And I live in high taxing Michigan. I may not like those laws, but my conscience just won’t let me do something that – to me – seems questionable.
    Again, I understand that others see this differently and have and will decide otherwise. They very well may never be sued or have an issue. They may see no ethical dilemma. I don’t criticize them for their decision.
    I just know my new RV – if and when I get it – will have Michigan plates.
    The hassle of always looking over my shoulder just isn’t worth the tax savings.
    There’s got to be another way. But that will have to be the subject of another post.
  2. Roadtrekingmike
    "How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to.” – Anonymous
    I write this with tears steaming down my face. Our noble friend and companion, Tai, has crossed the Rainbow Bridge – that sappy, mythical but nevertheless comforting place where much-loved pets go to await their masters. He would have been 12 this December.
    I debated whether I should do a blog post about this. But Tai was so well known by the Roadtreking community that he was a celebrity in and of himself, often being recognized as we camped across North America. People would come up to meet him and get that awesome Elkhound wag of the tail in return. He even got regular fan mail.
    So it’s fitting that I tell the Roadtreking community.
    We first learned that Tai had serious health issues about two weeks ago when he was found panting and having great difficulty breathing one morning. Rushed to an emergency vet clinic, a huge tumor was found around his aortic valve. It was inoperable. His heart sac was filling with blood and he was very near death. The fluid was drained, the tumor measured and a terminal diagnosis was given.
    We haven’t shared that publicly but our hope was for a few more months. That wasn’t to be. He began having seizures last night and, though he seemed to rally, they continued today. It was obvious his heart sac was again filling up. Tai took his last ride in the Roadtrek about 1:50 pm today (July 23, 2015). Jennifer and I were both by his side as he peacefully drifted off.
    Now, we are in a house that seems so empty.
    I drove home in the Roadtrek without him, a few tufts of his thick beautiful grey and black coat on the floor still between the two front seats where he loved to sit and be petted as we drove across the country. Unashamedly, I admit to crying the whole way home. His spirit and our Roadtreking lifestyle are so intertwined it’s absolutely gut-wrenching to realize he wont be with us anymore.
    To those who never had a dog, I’m sure all this grief seems misplaced. But to those who have been blessed to have a dog, you know how we feel.
    Tai loved Roadtreking. When we were home, he’d sit next to it in the driveway, anxiously awaiting the next adventure.
    And adventure he had. I have hundreds of photos of him. Hiking riverbanks and forests, mountain tops and canyons, beaches and meadows. He barked at bison, sniffed bears, chased elk and deer, mixed it up with raccoons, got sprayed by a skunk and made friends across the country.
    He had a good, full life. But now ours is so empty.
    Like our house. Like the Roadtrek.
    This will pass. Tai was our third dog, all of them Elkhounds. We’ve been through this before.
    Some say the only way to get over the loss of a dog is to get a new one. That may happen. But not for a while. That new one wouldn’t be Tai.

    I thought you should know.
    I want to end this with another quote, sent me by a reader:
    “It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them.
    And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart.
    If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog,
    and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”
    – Anonymous
  3. Roadtrekingmike
    Seven minutes is all it took for our RV to be burglarized, to lose $12,000 and counting worth of equipment – just about everything of value inside the motorhome except the dog.
    Yes, just seven minutes.
    That’s all it took for the bad guys to come into our space, take our stuff.
    We know it was only seven minutes, too, from our dash cam recording most of it.
    But as Jennifer points out, what they physically took are only things. The stuff is just that – stuff.
    And, yes, it isn’t fun, but it is life and when things like this happen, you have two choices: bury your head in the sand or learn from it and move on.
    So we move on.
    We WILL continue with our trip out west along Route 66. We WILL continue with our Roadtreking podcasts.
    First Things First: Roadtreking RV Burglarized in Illinois
    It happened just across the Mississippi River – from St. Louis in Collinsville, Ill. – when we stopped for dinner about 6:15 p.m. at a restaurant in a busy shopping mall off Interstate-55. It was a pretty upscale mall too, with lots of well known stores and restaurants and traffic.
    While we were inside eating, at least two thieves somehow gained entry to our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL and, in about seven minutes took more than $12,000 worth of electronic gear from our rig – including all of the video and still cameras and most of the mobile podcasting studio gear I had taken for the trip.
    Police blamed gangs from nearby East St. Louis. A guy towing a U-Haul who also stopped for dinner and parked a few spaces down was also hit. They smashed a window out to gain entry to his vehicle and also took a computer.
    It turns out, though, that my dash cam may have captured an image of one of the thieves who looked to be casing our RV. A “person of interest” can be clearly seen on the dash cam peering in the front.
    Seconds before he walked out of sight, someone entered from the side and was joined by an accomplice. I’ve given the evidence over to police. They would like to identify and talk to the person seen here.

    The video showed this man walking back and forth, peering inside and then disappearing off to the left, seconds after someone entered the vehicle from that direction. Under his left arm he is carrying what appears to be a hammer or some sort of burglary tool.
    Alas, because the dash cam pointed outward, we did not get an image of the thieves who were inside. The dash cam did record some of their audio. They can be heard talking nicely to Tai, who, knowing him, was probably delighted by the company.
    The inside was totally ransacked. Every cupboard was opened and all the contents strewn about. You can hear the thieves delighting over the laptops. “What’s this,” one of them asked, followed by the sounds of things falling to the floor.
    I can’t begin to describe how incredibly sad it is to hear these lowlifes talking so casually about the things they were finding and stealing. They laughed and sounded totally at ease. In Jennifer’s tote bag were some personal items, things of absolutely no value or meaning to the thieves, but things that were meaningful to her.
    Both of our laptops, an iPad, chargers, my professional video camera, my high end Canon 5D Mark III DSLR camera with a memory card full of Route 66 photos, my multichannel podcast mixing board, a Rand McNally GPS, a portable printer and all sorts of cables and stuff like a backpack, Jennifer’s tote bag and even my shower soap, shampoo and deodorant were taken.
    When we came back out from the restaurant about 7:03 PM, the thieves were gone and Tai looked stressed. He knew stuff wasn’t supposed to be tossed all over the RV. Fortunately, the thieves did not hurt him. As I mentioned, they can be heard talking soothingly to him as they stole our stuff.
    After police took our report, I went to a nearby Best Buy and bought a replacement computer. I stayed up all night, first configuring it and then, account by account, changing passwords on my email accounts, my credit card companies, my bank and other personally sensitive information. Then I did it all for Jennifer. Then we called our accountant and bank to alert them to be on the alert for suspicious activity.
    Fortunately, all my computer info was encrypted and backed up with strong security measures. But it’s better to take no chances, hence an all-nighter. I am too old to pull an all-nighter.
    I also am glad I have a Mac. I used Apple’s”Find My Mac” service to first see if I could locate the stolen laptop. It didn’t show but I clicked the “notify me if found” box, which, as soon as it goes online, will send me a map of its location. I also send an erase command which will wipe the had disk and lock the machine so it can not be used. This is a great service and well worth the cost of buying Apple.
    Tips: Lessons Learned from the Roadtreking RV Break-In
    We suspect that thieves are using technology to transmit radio signals that mimic the unlock signals transmitted by key fobs.
    If so, that would explain why there was no sign of forced entry. Because as we left the vehicle, as normal, Jennifer asked if I had locked it. I distinctly remember walking to the side passenger window, pushing the lock button on the key fob, and seeing and hearing the inside locks depress.
    Almost as frustrating an experience of being robbed is the runaround I’m now getting from my insurance carrier. The claims investigator who called me back said because there was no forced entry evidence, they probably won’t pay.
    The company I used specializes in insuring recreational vehicles. But if they deny my claim, they are going to literally have a very unhappy camper on their case.
    The rationale suggested by the claims agent is simply unacceptable. These thieves illegally entered our home. The RV is our home. They violated that home and stole from us. Now, the insurance agency is hinting it will do the same thing by not paying.
    We’ll see what happens as the claim works its way up, but I urge all of you to carefully check your policies.
    Inventory the items you take with you and make sure you are adequately covered by a reputable agency.
  4. Roadtrekingmike
    No matter what kind of RV we have, one thing that we are all interested in is the weather. Nothing affects traveling more. Across North America, the cold weather is coming fast and that means snow and ice and dicey weather conditions. Thanks to apps, tablets and the Web, you never again need to wonder what its going to be like out there.
    I’m always installing and uninstalling weather apps. I’ve tried dozens of them and I’m sure I’ll try dozens more in the months ahead. But for now, here’s a roundup of my favorite weather apps.
    When bad weather threatens we want to know when and where it will start. And that’s where the new Forecast.io website comes in. It accesses the radar data available from the U.S. government, crunches and analyzes it all and then predicts rainfall and snow for your exact area by the hour and lays it out on a very elegant website. You can get global, regional and local views with just a mouseclick. The tools that the website uses to compile the reports and predictions then are spun off into two apps for smartphones and tablets, one for the Apple platform, the other for Andoid devices. They, too are, pretty slick.
    The iPhone app is called Dark Sky. It costs $3.99.
    The Andoid app is Arcus Weather. Its free right now, though they ask for a donation.
    Here are some other weather apps I use:
    When we’re setting out on an RV trip, I really like the Road Trip Weather App for the iPhone. It costs $1.99 but is very handy. It provides a personalized weather forecast for your drive based on WHERE you will be and WHEN you will be there. Enter your route & departure time and weather data populates on the map, showing potentially hazardous conditions.
    If you want to know everything there is to know about the weather, WeatherBug is the what you want. When you launch the app, it immediately displays current local weather, including temperature, dew point, humidity, sunrise, sunset, wind, pressure and any active weather alerts for the area. This is good as you are traveling as it always updates your current weather. A toolbar along the top lets you switch from the current forecast to a more detailed forecast, hourly forecast, or 7-day forecast. A toolbar along the bottom lets you access weather radar, live webcams in your area, lightning strike information and the pollen count.
    The WeatherBug app has a great radar link but sometimes we want just radar and as much of it as we can get. For Android users, I like RadarNow!. It gives directly to instant radar from your current position.
    For the iPad and iPhone, try the MyRadar app.
    There are no shortage of weather apps. Those are my favorites.
  5. Roadtrekingmike
    I’ve switched smartphones and it’s all because of RVing.
    I now use the Samsung Galaxy S 4. I traded my iPhone 5 in at my local Verizon store and now am tasked with learning a new system. I feel a little guilty about it. I have been told that the iPhone I bought at 6PM EST on June 29, 2007 was the first one sold. It was part of a TV live shot I was doing and I had stood all night long, first in a long line. Working with the manager of at AT&T store, we arranged for me to be standing at the counter and my credit card was processed at 6:00:08.
    Regardless, I have loyally bought and used every iPhone since then. But over the past year, as innovation with the Android operating system began to ellipse Apple’s, I began to have smartphone envy as I saw some of the many features available on newer models. The Galaxy S 4, with it’s much larger screen and 13 megapixel camera (compared to the iPhone’s 8 megapixels), was an immediate draw. Add to that wireless charging, a much tougher glass display, 2GB of RAM (double the iPhone’s) and a faster CPU and slightly more apps than Apple has and the appeal was very strong.
    Probably the final straw for me was my iPhone battery was starting to fail. A full charge only lasted half a day. But the battery on the iPhone is not user accessible. I had to send to to Apple to be replaced. What a needless hassle. The battery on the Galaxy S 4 can be easily replaced by the user.
    Even though a new version of the iPhone will be coming by Christmas, it’s not here yet. The Galaxy S 4 has all these features I want now.
    The decision was made.
    I rely on my smartphone more than ever because of all the RV traveling I do.
    I especially like the Allstays Camp and RV – All Campgrounds app. Yes, I know, there is an iPhone version of it. But because I use this app so often to find Walmart’s, campgrounds, dump stations and the like, I found myself squinting at the iPhone screen a lot. It’s much easier to read on a Galaxy. I’ll write more about my favorite RV apps in a later post.
    I use my smartphone all the time. For email from readers of this blog. To update our Facebook Page and Facebook Group. To tweet updates on Twitter. To take and share photos and video and to stay in touch with news while traveling.
    I also travel with an iPad but, truthfully, it’s a bit too big for me while on the go. Jennifer may use it for checking maps but we prefer the smartphone for convenience.
    So my iPhone is gone.
    Jennifer still has hers.
    But I’m spending the next couple days getting used to the Galaxy and the Android operating system and enjoying the learning process. I love playing with tech gizmos.
    One of the coolest things is the way the Galaxy 4 lets you wave your hand at the screen to accept calls with Air Gesture, read content by tilting your head or phone with Smart Scroll and preview content by barely touching the screen with Air View. It can be touch free.
    I’ll put the new smartphone to good use starting next week when we head west on another RV adventure.
    Meantime, how do you use your smartphone?
  6. Roadtrekingmike
    One of the most confusing aspects of buying an RV is the vast differences paid in sales tax and various licensing fees.
    And many states do what is called “double dipping,” charging full sales tax when you buy the vehicle, and then again charging you tax on the full purchase price of a new one when you you trade it in, ignoring the trade-in price.
    It doesn’t take a genius to know that it is patently unfair.
    In Michigan at least, that double dip tax is about to go away. State lawmakers are getting ready to send a big change in vehicle taxes to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. The bills would cut the amount of sales tax people pay on cars, boats and recreational vehicles when they trade in another.
    Right now, the full purchase price is taxed. The legislation would gradually change that to eliminate the value of the trade-in from the full purchase price for taxes.
    But the taxing differences and inequities still abound, state-to-state.
    Montana, for example, is a state with no sales tax. And Montana law allows for a Montana corporation to register vehicles in the state. Thus, a whole cottage industry has built up that allows RV owners to avoid sales and use tax and often stiff registration fees in the owner’s home state. Thousands of RV owners around the country do this and dozens of Montana legal firms specialize in making it happen.
    Some states have sales taxes, others don’t. So what if you live in a state that does have an RV sales tax, but buy in one that doesn’t? That’s called a cross-state sale. And each state has different rules about cross-state sales. Sales on the trade-in differences also vary from place to place. Some states charge on the difference between the trade-in value and the original purchase price. Some on the full trade-in.
    But what if you full-time? At least a million RVers do full-time. But for taxation purposes, everyone has to have a legal domicile. But where? Many RVers choose a state with no income taxes and low taxes and fees on licensing and registration like South Dakota. Alas, that state has recently stated scrutinizing those who are RV full-timers – they call them “nomads” – but the process is still available. Here’s a site with some detailed info.
    All this is to say that given the cost of today’s RVs and the wide discrepancies on taxation and licensing fees, there’s a lot to consider when investing in an RV and the RV lifestyle.
    I’d love to hear how you have handled the domicile, tax and fee issues in your RVing life. Use comments below.

  7. Roadtrekingmike
    It’s hard to believe how much a $16 purchase at Walmart can brighten your day. Such it was the other day when we spotted a pile of Crock-Pots on sale.
    It was exactly what we needed. Small, round and just the right size to fit in the sink of our Roadtrek eTrek RV.
    The sink? Exactly. That way, as we travel across the country during the day, the slow cooking crock pot can prepare our evening meals. By the time we reach our destination, a hot, sumptuous dinner is ready. Let’s face it, one of the bothers of traveling in an RV can be meal preparation. After a long day on the road, it’s just too easy to stop for fast food or hit a restaurant. With our new Crock-Pot, we can have a nutritious, home-cooked meal without the hassle.
    We’ve searched far and wide for the round four-quart sized model for months. We even brought home a bunch of other models that we found. None fit that sink.
    We had all but given up the hunt until, walking down an aisle at our local Walmart this past weekend, there it was. Boxes of them. exactly what we were looking for. Exactly what we had given up finding. The four quart size is perfect for two people. We can easily get two meals out of each dinner. One to eat that night, one for the refrigerator or freezer.
    The model we have – for those of you who want one – is officially known as the Crock-Pot SCR4oo-B 4 Quart manual slow cooker. We also found it on Amazon for $15.92 in black. The one we got at WalMart was red. It has a removable stoneware insert for cooking and it also doubles as a serving dish.
    Ah … but what do we eat, other than beef stew?
    That’s the reason for this post … we want your recipes.
    Many of you have been using Crock-Pots for years as you’ve traveled. We’ve read your posts here and on our Facebook Group. So, using comments below, please tell us what you cook in your Crock-Pots and share the recipe.
    Jennifer and I look forward to trying out your suggestions!
  8. Roadtrekingmike
    Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park, a national treasure and a must visit for every RVer. A place so big it lies in part of two states, Montana and Wyoming.
    We just finished our second trip to Yellowstone in less than a year. I was warned before the first that the place will get in your blood and you will keep coming back, again and again.
    So if you haven’t been there yet, I pass along the same warning.
    It’s that spectacular for those who love the wilderness and getting up close and very personal with it.
    We did lots of hiking.
    There are 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone. They all fill up nightly. Only five - Bridge Bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge RV Park, Grant Village, and Madison – take reservations. Those are the sites with hookups. They’re okay, but tend to be very crowded. The other seven - Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, Mammoth, Norris, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, and Tower Fall – are first come, first serve and have fewer amenities. People tend to line up at 8 AM during the season in hopes of getting a spot. Most are filled by 11 a.m.
    Our first night there, we found no room at any of the campgrounds. So we went a few miles outside the northeaste gate and found a beautifully secluded spot at the Fox Creek Campground in the Shoshone National Forest. Then we reentered the park early in the morning and got a spot at Pebble Creek, which has no hookups or plugins, vault toilets and no showers.
    No problem. In our Roadtrek eTrek with solar power, we had our own power and running water.
    We love Pebble Creek. Also Slough Creek, another no frills camping spot few miles down the road. Here’s a hint for those of you on the northeastern part of the park: You can get cell phone coverage at Slough Creek. Take the two-and-a-half-mile washboard road leading to the campground down a few hundred yards to the first pullout and, voila, for some strange reason, the signals make their way around and through the mountains and you can get a great three-bar Verizon signal. I don’t know about AT&T and other providers.
    We love this northeast section of the park because it is home to the Lamar Valley, a popular wolf and grizzly watching area.
    We saw no wolves this trip but did spot several grizzly females with cubs, as well as elk,antelope, mule deer, coyotes, black bear and of course, lots of bison. We had bison wandering through the campground all day and a curious black bear came very close. A lone bull moose also traipsed through the campground one morning.
    The folks who camped at Pebble Creek were also interesting. One guy, Bill, spends from April through August and loves to find and watch grizzlies. Debi Dixon is a professional photographer and a fulltime RVer. She stores a 22-foot travel trailer in nearby Sheridan, MT and is spending the summer at Pebble Creek in a tent. Check out her stunning wildlife photos at flickr.com/photos/seasideshooter. There were two wolf researchers from the University of Washington also tenting at Pebble Creek.
    Every morning, at first light, usually around 5 or 5:30, you’d hear this group head out, separately, in search of wildlife. They’d usually not return after dark.
    What do we do at Yellowstone?
    We also watched animals. But we also hiked, a lot. Every day we did at least two trails. We sat in meadows and breathed clean air. We took afternoon naps. Gazed at the mountains and used a pair of binoculars to spot the big horn sheep. We explored the thermal areas that are everywhere, like at Old Faithful.
    The sad thing for most of Yellowstone’s visitors is people rarely get off the loop roads that circle the park. Some don’t even get out of their cars. With three million visitors a year, those roads can get pretty congested, especially with critter jams, the traffic tie-ups that frequently occur when animals are on the road or along its edges. But Yellowstone encompasses 2.2 million acres, and the loop road is just a tiny part of the park. Yellowstone is one of America’s premier wilderness areas. Most of the park is backcountry and managed as wilderness. Over 1,100 miles of trails are available for hiking.
    That’s where we like to be.
    We loved every moment of it and can’t wait to return.
    Yellowstone really does get in your blood.
    The above video gives you a idea. Come along with us ....
  9. Roadtrekingmike
    Not all is always good about RVing.
    Here are our top five RV frustrations:
    1) Deplorable campground conditions – This, we believe, is one of the biggest scandals of the RV world. There are many campgrounds that could more accurately be described as overcrowded slums. What amazes me is that they have good reviews in the big publications, which tells me that either the reviews are phony, the publication doesn’t physically inspect the campgrounds or they are so out of date they are worthless. Just this year we’ve stayed in campgrounds where the sewers are clogged, the bathroom toilets are clogged, the sites are dirty, the restrooms have bugs and broken windows, the water hookups leak, electric pedestals are dangerously loose and shorting out and the help is surly and indifferent. We need to put pressure on campground associations, reviewing sources and sometimes local health departments. Filthy, ill kept campgrounds really do damage to the entire RV industry and need to be exposed, run out of business or forced to clean up.
    2) Unscrupulous RV dealers – Yes, there are some of them, too. I hear a lot from readers about RV dealers who do shoddy service, bill for work or parts they didn’t install, price gouge and promise a certain delivery to get a sale but then keep backing off the date after purchase. Another complaint I’ve heard more than once is about salesmen who badmouth certain models (which they sell) only so they can move out inventory on models they haven’t been able to sell. I recommend that new buyers get at least two quotes from competing dealers and get eveything in very detailed writing before buying.
    3) RV Class Discrimination – There are too many RV parks and resorts that refuse to allow Class B or C motorhomes to stay there. This often comes from communities that want upscale RVers but don’t want pop ups and tents and so they make zoning laws or regulations prohibiting overnight camping by units under a certain length. So even though a Class B or Class C motorhome may have cost as much as the Class A behemoths, they are not allowed entry. Personally, these resorts are not where I want to stay. If we wanted a subdivision, we’d have bought a vacation home instead of an RV. But a lot of folks have written me over the past two years who resent being excluded from RV resorts and I see their point: Such RV class discrimination is just wrong.
    4) People who burn trash in their campfire rings – Burning your RV garbage in he campsite firepit is hazardous to your health and the health of those who are nearby and have to breath it. The typical household trash generated by RVers contains a lot of plastics and paper treated with chemicals, coatings, and inks. Besides the smoke, the ashes that remain contain concentrated amounts of these toxic materials that can blow away or seep into the soil and groundwater. Please, stop burning garbage!
    5) Inconsiderate neighbors – This a broad class and includes people who don’t pick up after their pets, cigar smokers who stink up entire campgrounds, campers who insist on watching TV outside with the volume turned loud, those who arrive late at night after most people are asleep and proceed to shout directions and back up instructions as they set up camp, dogs left alone to bark and bark and bark, neighboring campers who use profanity in every other sentence and people who leave campground restrooms and showers filthy.
    The simple way for us to avoid most of these frustrations has been to spend more and more time boondockiing or alone by ourselves or with a few friends in state and national forests. That has been when we’ve most enjoyed RVing.
    The more we RV, the more we are finding that big campgrounds are just not our thing.
    How about you? What are your biggest RV frustrations and how do you get around them?
  10. Roadtrekingmike
    It was 3 AM and we were deep in the woods, camped on a friend’s 200 acres of fenced and posted private property off an obscure fire trail more than two miles from the nearest paved road.
    I jolted awake. I heard a vehicle with a slightly knocking engine. bumping and scraping on the underbrush of the trail. Then I saw its headlights, slowly making its way down the trail towards us.
    Jennifer was still asleep. So was my Norweigian Elkhound, Tai. Fine watchdog he was.
    There was no reason for the other vehicle to be out there. In fact, whoever was in that vehicle was breaking the law as the property was clearly marked with “No trespassing” signs.
    What do I do? We were extremely vulnerable out there. My cell phone coverage was iffy, at best.
    I wished I had a gun.
    Think I’m paranoid? Maybe. That’s what decades of being an investigative reporter does for you. For many years, I carried a handgun pretty much everywhere I went. I worked the drug beat in the city of Detroit for many years. Twice, having a gun kept bad guys from getting to me.
    But whwn I switched to the technology beat years ago, I let my concealed carry permit expired.
    But that tense early morning in the Michigan woods this past summer got me thinking about weapons and RVing. As that incident turned out, the vehicle never made it to our spot. It eventually turned around and left. But burglars who break into summer cottages, meth addicts, marijuana growers and all sorts of other unsavory characters are just as prevalent in rural areas of the U.S. as are the bad guys who endanger urban areas.
    The whole subject of carrying a gun in an RV is a hot topic among RVers. Some of the experts I talked to say think that well over half of them do. In Canada, it’s different. Canada has very strict gun laws and few people even own, let alone carry, handguns.
    On my http://facebook.com/roadtreking page, I posed the issue to the 1,800 folks who “like” our page there and got some opinions on both sides.
    Said a Kiki: “I carry a firearm in my camper, since I am a woman who camps in remote areas alone. I have a license to carry, but only 29 states reciprocate my license. I try to avoid driving through states where legal issues could occur, but if I can’t, then I ship my gun ahead to a UPS office.”
    A reader named David wrote:
    “Used to have a Class A and missed a turn in Greensboro, NC and had to turn around in a gasoline/fast shop station. Before I could get out of there I was stopped twice by people wanting money. Because it was a Class A they thought I had money. Too bad, because of the Class A I didn’t have any money!! I will not let my wife be harmed because of a bunch of bleeding hearts!! And that’s all I have to say!!!!!”
    Jude, a Canadian, offered:
    “I’ve never been pro firearm and 40 years of living in Canada has reinforced that. However, I lived alone very far out in the country at one point where cougars and bears roam and I must admit I really understood why country folk at least want a shotgun handy. My RV is currently parked for the winter but if I do extensive traveling alone I will probably get a big dog. Legal in all states and Canada and keeps your feet warm at night to boot."
    But the fact is, in the U.S. bringing a handgun in an RV for protection is a lot more common than most people think. Most RVers don’t talk about it because the legality of doing so is dependent on where you are. Some states allow it, some recognize another state’s carry permit, some don’t. As armed RVers travel from state to state, you can be sure, though, that at some point in their journeys they are violating some state’s gun laws.
    Shotguns and rifles are a different matter in most states and usually acceptable. For Big Type A motorhomes and fifth wheels, a shotgun may be the best choice. For Type Bs, there’s often not enough storage room for a long gun.
    Is bringing a gun along a good idea? A lot of RVers believe it is better to have a firearm and not need it than to need a firearm and not have one. A lot of others think it’s not necessary or too dangerous.
    The website handgunlaw.us offers an excellent guide to the various laws. Same with the usacarry.com site. Perhaps the best resourse is put out by the National Rifle Association, the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States.
    If guns are not your thing, there are other ways to protect yourself.
    Many RVers say a big, or at least a mean-sounding dog is a good deterrent. My Tai obviously isn’t the watchdog type, but others have had more success. One woman RVer I know has a tape recorder she brings along that has a recording of a mean dog barking. If she hears someone outside her RV at night, she hits play and turns up the volume. Others say the only self defense item they have is a can of bear spray or wasp spray.
    Carrying guns in RVs is a very controversial subject. But my research has convinced me it is done a lot, especially by fulltimers and those who like to boondock.
  11. Roadtrekingmike
    We just turned 60,000 miles on our Roadtrek Etrek as we pulled into our Michigan driveway after our latest trip, which essentially was four months on the road through 21 states, taking us from Cape Cod on the Atlantic to the far Pacific Northwest. When you add the 15,000 miles we drove in our first RV – a 2006 RS Adventurous – that now gives us 75,000 miles under our collective wheels.
    We are no longer rookies.
    Indeed, we’ve learned a few things.
    And I’ve made some mistakes. But you’ll have to read to the end of this for my confessions.
    Granted, these are our own RV lessons. They’re personal, related to our style of travel. They may not be what you want.
    1) There is No Hurry – Okay, sometimes you really do have to be somewhere at a certain time but, in general, RV travel needs to be flexible. To enjoy it to the max, you need to be able to stop when you want, where you want. Setting an agenda, over-planning and plotting out stop-by-stop overnights is way too organized for us and causes us to miss the things you can’t find in a book or through online research, the things that just happen, like taking a road far off the interstate just because it looks interesting. It almost always is, unless it’s US 20 in Iowa. But hey, even that was worth driving because it gave me an example to cite as the word’s most boring drive.
    2) Don’t believe interstate exit signs – Pet peeve time. I owe US20 as the inspiration for this, too. A sign along the interstate says there is gas, in my case diesel, at the next exit. You take it. At the top of the exit ramp the sign again says diesel and points to the left. Great. Uh huh. That diesel is 5.4 miles away in town. Meaning a more than 10 mile time-wasting roundtrip. I have found the RoadNinja app the best tool for finding reliable fuel at exits. Interstate signs are a scam. I’m convinced the various state highway departments get kickbacks from local merchants to lure unsuspecting travelers off the road. Probably not true. But it helps to have someone to blame. Which directly leads me to the next lesson
    3) Stay off the Interstates – They are boring. You’re in a tunnel. Trapped on the concrete. Buffeted by trucks. Surrounded by eye-pollution in the form of roadside signs. Forced to drive at ridiculously fast speeds. Everything around you blurs by. The only food available at the exits is fast food which is invariably bad food. Sometimes, there is no choice. Around big cities, interstates help get you out of the congestion. But, generally, two-lane roads – the so-called blue highways – are always more interesting and get you closer to the places and people that make the RV life so enjoyable.
    4) Take less clothes – We use eBags. Jennifer has three pink ones. Girls always need more clothes. I take two blue ones. I dare not peek in hers. But for me, one bag is for underwear, socks and T-shirts – I pack five of each. The other is for an extra pair of shorts, a pair of jeans and three shirts. In our wardrobe I have on a hangar a dress pair of slacks, one dress shirt, one sweater, plus a rain jacket and a fleeced sweatshirt. Jennifer has the female equivalent in the wardrobe. Plus her three pink bags. We hit a laundrymat or pick a campground that has a washer and dryer about every five or six days.
    5) Good camp chairs are a must – When we first started, we used two collapsible and telescoping Pico chairs. They’re okay. Chief benefit was they break down small enough to fit in the rear storage under the rear sofa. But they really aren’t very comfortable. This year, we bought two of the gravity chairs that let you lie back and look at the sky. That’s what we call them. Our look-at-the-sky-chairs. They are inconvenient when it comes to traveling with them but so worth it when we want to relax somewhere. We store them folded up in the back, in the space between the rear sofa and the passenger side bench.

    These gravity chairs take up a lot of room but are worth it.
    6) Follow the 230 rule – I had a fulltimer explain this to be early on. The 230 rule is “you stop when you have driven 230 miles or it’s 2:30 in the afternoon.” A variation is the 300 rule. No more than 300 miles or stop by 3:00PM. Regardless, the idea is get somewhere while it is still early enough to explore, chill, enjoy the place when you’re not wasted from driving mega miles. We are trying to adhere to that rule. In our early days, I looked at the daily driving mileage as a challenge. The more the better. I kept trying to set anther personal best. It’s 735 miles, by the way. Silly. Stupid, really. Is there anything worse than pulling into a campsite after dark? Less mileage and stopping early is our new mantra.
    7) Put away the bed – Granted, this is a personal preference. I know many Roadtrekers use the two single beds and leave them made as a bed everyday. We tried that but we prefer to sleep with the bed made up as a king. And every morning, we put it and the bedding away and make the back into a sofa again. It’s neater, gives us more space a place to eat, work on the computer and not feel cramped. The few times we’ve left it as a bed has made the coach feel way too small.
    8) Eat out often – Okay, here’s where we are way, way different than most Roadtrekers. But, again, this has worked best for us. For our style, not yours. I refuse to feel guilty about this: Most of the time, we eat in restaurants. We do fix breakfast in the Roadtrek, usually something simple like cereal and a banana. I carry a Keurig coffee maker and make two cups every morning. We usually pick up lunch at a restaurant and, about every other day, find a local place for dinner. When we do fix dinner in the Roadtrek, it’s simple and light, like grilled chicken strips over a salad. We use the Cuisinart Griddler for grilling and most of the cooking we do, instead of a charcoal or propane grill. The local restaurants really give you a feel for the people and place. It’s as much cultural as convenient. So we don’t fight it or feel shamed because we’re not carrying lots of frozen dishes and cooking every meal in the motorhome. We’re not full-timers, though the last four months have sure seemed like it at time. If we were, it would be different, I’m sure. But for now, we eat out. A lot.

    We cook on the Cuisinart Griddler.
    9) Winter is just as much fun as summer – We camp out in our Roadtrek all year round. Alas, we do have to winterize, living in Michigan as we do. But other than having to drink from bottled water and flush the toilet with antifreeze, it’s just as easy to RV in the winter as it is in the summer. Winter RVing is awesome. The crowds are gone, the snow makes everything beautiful and it is really, really fun. If you want to try it, drop me a note. We’re planning a winter camping trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in February and will invite a few winter camping newbies next year.
    10) Don’t make impulsive purchases – Here’s my confession time, where I mess up all the time. Case in point: Two folding bikes. I shelled out over $1200 to buy two Bike Friday folding bikes this summer when I saw them at a rally in Oregon. Big mistake. Yes, they are cool bikes. But, really, we didn’t need them. We have two full-sized bikes at home. If we will be using a bike a lot, I just need to put them on a bike rack attached to the rear hitch. I’m going to list the bikes on Craig’s List and make a promise to Jennifer to never again buy on impulse. I may also be listing the StowAway2 cargo box I bought this year (another $700 impulse buy.) Yes, it holds a lot of stuff. But we really don’t need a lot of stuff. The more we RV, the less we find we need to pack. Oh yeah, then there’s my drone. Another impulsive purchase. I’ve used the camera-equipped quadricopter fewer than a half dozen times on our trips. Maybe that will go on Craigs List, too.

    Wanna buy a cargo box, two folding bikes and a drone? Impulsive purchases all.
    So there you go ... my top 10 lessons learned. There were a lot of other things we’ve learned. But they tell me blog posts that have the phrase “top 10″ in them are read a lot more. Nobody would read “the 37 things we’ve learned…” So maybe I’ll do another list of my “top 10″ other lessons down the road. And another one after that.
    How about you? Use comments below to pass along the things unique to your RV style.
  12. Roadtrekingmike
    I use a lot of cameras while we travel North America in our Roadtrek RV. One of my favorites is the GoPro Hero, a very tiny high def camera that I can mount to the side of my vehicle, wear on a bike hemet or attach to just about anything.
    The folks who make the camera just released some free editing software called GoPro Studio. I couldn’t resist downloading it last night and throwing in a few of our driving shots from this summer. The music comes with the template you download, so no complaints, please.

    The video includes shots from Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Missouri and South Dakota.
    I’ll play with more of my GoPro video later but here’s the first effort with their new video editing software… without going through the tutorial.
    By the way, the software also imports video from your smartphone or other cameras so you can edit it into slick looking videos, too.
  13. Roadtrekingmike
    The budgeting mess and political wrangling in Congress over Obamacare has ruined the vacation plans of tens of thousands of RVers who had planned to camp in a national park this week.
    The closure of the national parks is also hitting hard the bordering communities whose economic livelihood is closely tied to a steady stream of national park visitors.
    At midnight, all activities at the parks, except for necessary emergency services, were immediately suspended and the parks closed indefinitely. In addition camping on all Bureau of Land Management land has been halted and the National Parks Service had furloughed 21,000 employees of its nearly 24,675-strong workforce.
    Essential services such as law enforcement will continue, but all public recreational use has been shut down.
    Visitors currently camping or staying in a national park have been ordered to leave by Friday and all roads leading to the parks are being closed to public access. New visitors showing up will be turned away.
    On Monday, the Department of Interior, which runs the parks service, released details on the closures, which effects all 401 national park areas including such popular destinations as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Glacier, Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Rocky Mountain National Park.
    RVers, who tend to be older without young children, find the parks particularly attractive to visit at this time of year because, with school in session across the country, the summer crowds are diminished and its easier to move about the parks.
    This isn’t the first time there have been shutdowns because of Congressional funding disputes. In the Clinton administration, the parks shut down for 28 days in late 1995 According to the Congressional Research Service, the the shutdowns cost the country $1.4 billion.
    And there was massive public outrage.
    “Once the shutdowns began, the reaction from people who wanted access to the parks was absolutely incredible,” Bruce Babbitt, who was U.S. Interior Secretary at the time, said in an interview Monday with environmental reporter Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News.
    Here are some excerpts from Rogers’s story:
    “The first call I got was from the governor of Wyoming, who was having a fit. He was saying ‘You have to open Yellowstone. This is an outrage. Do something!’”
    The then-governor of Arizona, Fife Symington, sent National Guard troops to the Grand Canyon in an attempt to keep the park open, rather than risk losing tourism. Eventually, Arizona officials paid the National Park Service through state funds and donations to keep famous sites along the South Rim open.
    “It’s especially hard to turn away families who have planned vacations, and people have nonrefundable plane tickets,” said B.J. Griffin, who was Yosemite National Park superintendent in 1995. “For some people, this is their once-in-a-lifetime visit. Back in 1995, the anger and the anxiety was properly placed. Visitors knew it was Congress and not our rangers.”
    How long this shutdown will last is unsure. Hopefully, this one will be shorter than the one n 1995.
    Here is the official statement from the Department of the Interior:
    “Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. Day use visitors will be instructed to leave the park immediately as part of Phase 1 closures. Visitors utilizing overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified to make alternate arrangements and depart the park as part of Phase 2. Wherever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied. National and regional offices and support centers will be closed and secured, except where they are needed to support excepted personnel. These steps will be enacted as quickly as possible while still ensuring visitor and employee safety as well as the integrity of park resources.”
    So that’s the latest.
    Again, let’s hope this doesn’t last long and those who were planing national park vacations can find suitable alternative places to camp.
    I don’t want to get political here on Roadtreking. The country is already polarized beyond anything I have ever seen in my 30 plus years as a journalist. Ad we have Roadtreking.com readers who hold very different views on the issues surrounding the shutdown.
    So if you comment below, please don’t bash anyone or engage in political wrangling. Let’s stick to what we all agree on: It’s a shame our national parks are closed.
    And if you have suggestions for those out there looking for places to stay, by all means share it here.
  14. Roadtrekingmike
    Yesterday it was bad pet breath, today, readers want to know how we remove pet hair from our RV.
    Jennifer and I share how we clean p after our Norwegian Elkhound, Tai. It's not rocket science. The Halo Leather seats of our eTrek help. We throw a cover over them, then shake the hair out each day.
    As for the throw runs and the rest of the interior of the Roadtrek eTrek we travel in, Jen uses a collapsible broom, an old fashioned whisk brook and sometimes, good old duct tape.

    One thing we purchased that we are not happy with is the portable “Dustbuster” vacuum. We’ve tried a couple models and found they don’t hold a charge and really don’t do a very good job.
    We’ve found the best tool is prevention. We brush Tai during walks. Daily brushing outside makes for much less inside shedding.
    How about you? Use comments below to share how you clean up after your pet.
  15. Roadtrekingmike
    I am beginning to have some serious doubts about the wisdom of taking our Roadtrek eTrek to the wilderness of Northern Minnesota next week to report on a dog sled marathon from Duluth to the Canadian border. The long term weather forecast predicts lows of -20F/-28C along the Northern Shore of Lake Superior, where we would be boondocking with no outside power.
    I had really looked forward to this but it seems foolhardy to do camp out under such extreme cold. We handled -5F/-20C last year in February in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula but we had commercial power there and ran a small ceramic heater in addition to our on-board Webasto heater. Since we would be boondocking in Minnesota with no shore power, that ceramic heater would be too much of a battery drain in such cold running all through the night.
    Besides, we had a pipe freeze at our sticks and bricks home home during the last cold spell of a week ago. We were fortunately home and were able to get it thawed out without it bursting by hooking up space heaters but if that happened while we were on a trip, I hate to think of the damage we would have had.
    That predicted -20F/-28C up in Minnesota is the real temp. The wind chill would make it even colder!
    The place where we would be boondocking is several miles from civilization at a road crossing/check point for the mushers. I was going to help with the amateur radio setup I have in my Roadtrek to report on the teams and their times as they passed the checkpoint. The location is so remote there is no mobile phone coverage.
    I just mentioned the possibility of canceling to Jennifer and she is voicing no objections. In fact I think she’s secretly hoping for that decision. Those temps are even too cold for Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound.
    Haven’t made a decision yet… but good grief…that is REALLY cold.
    What do you think? Should I go or cancel this one?
    How cold is too cold?
  16. Roadtrekingmike
    Dennis George couldn’t believe his eyes.
    It was the morning of Tuesday Jan. 28, and he was staying at a Hampton Inn in Lakeland, FL He looked out his hotel room window and saw an empty parking spot where he had parked the brand new Roadtrek CS Adventurous the night before.
    “I thought maybe the hotel had towed it for some reason,” he said. “So I ran down to the desk and asked them. The clerk said no. Then one of their workers came in and said there was all sorts of broken glass out on the asphalt.”
    The glass was where he had parked.
    His beautiful new motorhome, bought just last October, had been stolen. Thieves had smashed the passenger window, found a spare set of keys he had hidden inside and taken off. Surveillance cameras from the hotel showed the two thieves in action. They smashed the window at 4:56 AM. They drove out at 5:05 AM
    The Dalkeith, Ontario, Canada native was traveling alone, living his retirement dream. He had been enjoying the weather in Florida after a 5,000 mile shakedown trip that took him through the western United States. He was in Lakeland to get some service done on his Roadtrek and took a hotel room because he couldn’t find a nearby RV park.
    He called the police as soon as he discovered the theft. An alert was sent throughout the south to law enforcement agencies. Roadtrek user groups and social media pages posted the picture of George’s CS.
    No one held out much hope. Many thought it would go straight to a chop shop.
    Fortunately, it didn’t. The thieves drove it around about 200 miles and abandoned it in Lakeland. It was recovered Friday, four days after it was stolen. Police never did find the thieves, though the investigation is continuing. The inside was left a mess of black fingerprint powder put down as part of the police investigation.
    “They took everything except my underwear, socks and dress clothes,” said the 67-year-old George, a divorced father of a 40-year-old son and a grandfather of two young girls, 15 and 11. “They cleaned it out. They got my computer, my iPad, my golf shirts, the bicycle on the front, pretty much everything. I read your blog and got the same GPS you recommend and even the same mattress topper you and your wife suggested from Bed, Bath and Beyond. They got that, too.”
    The theft was not the only setback George has had with his new RV.
    In December, at the Grand Canyon, he pulled into a ranger’s station to get an annual pass.
    “It’s a good thing I did because when I put my foot to the brake, it went all the way down to the floor. Thank God I found it out there at the ranger station. I was able to use the parking brake to stop. But if I had gone a couple more miles, there was a six percent downhill grade. No way would I have stopped.”
    George says his right front brake line became unseated from the brake line holder. That allowed the line to contact the exhaust has recirculation (EGR) tube and resulted in a hole in the brake line.
    Roadtrek has issued a recall for the problem, which involves an estimated 61 vehicles built on the Sprinter platform from February 14, 2013 through December 20, 2013.
    “That brake deal turned out to be a mess,”said George. “I had to be towed more than 200 miles to Phoenix to get that fixed at a Mercedes dealer.” Road service has handled the cost.
    George is currently in Sarasota, FL. His CS Adventurous is at a Mercedes dealer there, waiting for the broken passenger window to be replaced. He is using the down time to sort out his insurance claim for the items stolen from his motorhome. Despite the hassles, he is still upbeat about his Roadtrek and his new life on the road.
    He retired last fall, selling two businesses involved in commercial and industrial natural gas service back in Ontario. He plans to travel North America for four and five months at a time. He still has a fruit farm back in Dalkeith, a small town located about halfway between Ottawa and Montreal and he will return there each summer and early fall.
    “I know I’ve had a spell of bad luck,” he concedes. “But I’m just being as patient as I can be. I just want to get back out on the road. I’ve been looking forward to this stage of my life for a long time.”

    Dennis George and his new CS Adventurous – before the theft

    The police didn’t bother to clean up after themselves, either.

    Part of the broken glass caused by thieves who smashed in the passenger window
  17. Roadtrekingmike
    I get lots of questions and requests for suggestions and recommendations about the tech gear I use to capture and blog the reports I’m doing out on the road. I’m always adding various things, but here’s my latest update on the gear I like to take with me.
    My main video camera – I use the Canon XA20 Professional Video Camera. I love this camera. I got this in the fall of 2013 and have found it to be the perfect ”run-and-gun” camcorder, suitable for HD ENG work (Electronic News Gathering), event coverage, interviews, scenic shots, how-to-videos and documentary filmmaking. The camera features a 1/2.84″, 1920 x 1080 CMOS sensor that captures video at various frame rates up to 59.94p, including a 24p mode for a more cinematic feel. The integrated Canon 20x HD Optical zoom lens has a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 26.8 to 576mm and features an 8-bladed iris to render highlights in a more natural manner. It uses professional XLR audio inputs for two channel recording. I use an attached shotgun mic and a wireless mic on the two inputs.
    Back-up Video Cameras (Two) – GoPro Her03 + Black Edition video cameras . Waterproof, dustproof, HD and able to be strapped to anything from a helmet to the side of my Roadtrek, these cameras ges great wide angle perspectives great for action shots. There are lots of mounts. I have a helmet mount for biking and a suction cup mount for slapping on my motorhome or any flat surface. One of tjese cameras is dedicated to my drone, see below.
    Wireless Microphone System – Good sound is essential. I use the Sennheiser EW 100-ENG G2 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System, with BodyPack Transmitter,Plug-on Transmitter, Camera Receiver. This system is a workhouse for professional videographers and news crews. It provides video recording in the most varied recording situations, from as far as 100 feet. The ME 2 clip-on microphone is virtually invisible. The extremely small SK 100 G2 bodypack transmitter and the SKP 100 G2 plug-on transmitter as well as the EK 100 G2 camera receiver feature nine frequency banks with four directly accessible presets each.
    My main DSLR Camera – The Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP with an 18-135 mm lens. Awesome photos, great HD video. I bought this to do still and video but now use just for stills. Since this is a bit tricky to focus for video out in the boonies, I now use dedicated video and still cameras. This camera captures images with exceptional clarity and tonal range and offers more than enough resolution for big enlargements or crops. This first-class sensor features many of the same new technologies as used by professional Canon cameras to maximize each pixel’s light-gathering efficiency. Its APS-C size sensor creates an effective 1.6x field of view (compared to 35mm format).
    My secondary DSLR Camera – Lately, I’ve also added the new Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 50x Optical Zoom. I have been stunned at the capabilities of this camera and especially how clear and crisp that 50X zoom is in geting me up close to wildlife and nature shots. This is much lighter than the T3i and is seriously vying as my always-carry camera.
    Main lens – Because I like photographing wildlife – big, dangerous wildlife like wolves, moose, bison and bear – I need a good telephoto. But I don’t want to have to carry extra lenses. So I got the Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD LD Aspherical IF Macro Zoom Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras. This lens is amazingly compact and it works on everything from wide angles to telephoto.
    Bag for Cameras – After years of searching, I’ve found the perfect gear bag for my DSLR calera, videocamera, lenses, wireless mics and batteries. It also holds my 15-inch MacBook Pro. It’s the Kata PL Reporter Bag, model Pl-Rpt-30. The flap features quick release buckles for full opening or a quick top-access zipper opening for when quiet is necessary, like when you don’t want to disturb the wildlife you’re trying to photograph. The organizer pockets on the front will hold your small personal items like a wallet, passport etc. Carry comfortably with the padded shoulder strap or, when on the move, tuck the bag under your arm using the detachable handle strap.
    I also love my Mountainsmith Descent AT Recycled Camera Bag. It’s a backpack, er, make that a frontpack. It is held in place on your chest by a shoulder harness system. Cameras are always within easy reach but I have both hands free for balance and mobility. This can hold both my still and video cameras. Great for wilderness hikes.
    Computer – The MacBook Pro with Retina display. Quite simply, this is the finest computer I have ever owned. Mine is the 15-inch version, with the 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor. I have 16 GB of RAM and 750 GB of flash storage. Because there are no moving parts, the the solid state flash drive boots up remarkably fast. About 20 seconds does it.
    Video editing software – I use Final Cut Pro X. Fast, powerful, full featured and able to handle 1080p HD video without breaking a sweat.
    Portable hard drive – HD video files are huge. So I carry the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB external hard drive. I make files for each shoot, organize them on the FreeAgent and never worry about using up my MacBook Pro storage.
    Backup Power – There are so many things that depend on battery power. Cameras, smartphones, tablets, laptops. I bring the Mophie Powerstation XL with me on all trips. It charges anything that I have that has a USB connector.
    Laptop bag – The SwissGear SA1923 ScanSmart Backpack carries my computer, cables, wires, adapters, chargers, notebooks, pens, thumbdrives and more stuff than anyone would ever need. I’ve literally tried every bag out there. After years of searching, this is the best for me. Padded protection for my laptop, lots of extra compartments, quality zippers and seams, I will never use another.
    Smartphone – I use the iPhone 5S with 65 GB. I’ve had every iPhone since they came out and just keep coming back to them. Nothing is better. I’ve used many of the Android phones, of which I most like the Galaxy S 4 and the Note 3.
    Tablet – The iPad. The 4g Version 3 model. Great for apps on the road. Check my PC Mike NBC-TV reports for my favorite apps.
    My Network – Verizon Wireless. Verizon, I’ve found, offers the best and reliable nationwide coverage. I’ve had AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. None came close to Verizon in terms of coverage while on-the-road, offering 3 and 4g coverage and reliability. If no WiFi is available, I use the Verizon MiFi wireless modem to set up a 4g hotspot on the Verizon network. That lets me use my MacBook Pro for web updates, uploading photos and videos.
    Ham radio – I’m a long-time licensed amateur radio operator (K8ZRH) and I always have a rig with me. I travel with the ICOM IC-V85 two meter FM hand held transceiver and, permanently mounted, the Kenwood 144/440 MHz TM-V71A transceiver. I use amateur radio for emergency communications, weather monitoring and just plain chit-chatting with locals on their repeaters. I did a blog post on installing ham radio in an RV. I’m hoping to add an HF model some day soon.
    GPS gear – For my Roadtrek, I use the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710. This has a seven inch screen and can be synced to a central site to reflect the latest in construction issues and detours. Made specifically for RVs with lots of RV-specifica data and Points of Interest (POI), it is the most accruate and easy-to-follow vehicle navigation system I’ve yet to use. For my long bicycle rides and off road exploring, I use the Garmin Edge 705. Though made specifically for cycling, it slips off the handlebars mount easily and can be carried in my pocket for hiking.
    My Drone – Lately, I’ve also been having a lot of fun with my own personal drone. It’s really not a drone in the sense of the military drones we keep hearing about but is a radio controlled quadricopter, the Phantom 2 with a Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal that acts as a steadycam for the GoPro Hero 3 camera it carries. I use this for aerial shots to show scenic views and overhead perspectives of the places I blog about. I have an FPV (First Person Video) monitor attached to the flight controller that transmits back the image the camera is recording. The camera has a built in compass and GPS navigation control.
    Google Glass – I am one of the Google Glass Explorers, those Google invited in to experiment with its new wearable computer and am indeed experimenting with it in my Roadtreking reporting. The device is expected to go on sale in late spring 2014. Right now I use it primarily to record video and shoot still pictures. I did a review on Google Glass for my PC Mike blog and already have done a couple of videos with it for the blog and will do many more as the 2014 travel season gets underway. It has lots of apps that work with it, projecting information on a little screen right in front of your right eye. It’s connected to the Internet and uses your voice to open and close apps, share messages on social media, record messages and to answer questions you verbally ask it just as you would type them with a keyboard on the Google search engine.
    Clothing – I wear coats, shorts, jackets, vests, pants and shirts made by ScottEVest, an American maker of tech-enabled very high quality casual clothing that is known for having an abundance of pockets for all the tech gear one would want to carry around. The company started with a great photographer’s vest and for well over a decade, I proudly wore mine all over the world. Now, Scott Jordan, the guy behind the company, makes a whole line of mens and womens clothing. They are stylish and comfortable and perfect for all my gadgets and gizmos.
  18. Roadtrekingmike
    We’ve been traveling about two weeks out of every month and a nagging worry that doesn’t go away is the safety and protection of our sticks-and-bricks house.
    So this past week, I just installed an alarm system on every door, every window, as well as motion detectors, water detectors, freeze monitors and carbon monoxide and fire alarms on both levels of our two-story home. All of the alarms are monitored 24 x 7 and I have a remote app for my smartphone and computer that lets me check in on what’s happening back home.
    The system I got is from a relatively new company called SimpliSafe. They have been doing a lot of advertising and promotion and they won me over with the ease by which I could install everything and, should we move from our sticks and bricks home, I can easily take it with me.
    By the way, I have no connection with SimpliSafe. I purchased they system at full retail I paid around $800 for everything. Your cost may be less, depending on how many doors and windows you have. They just happen to be the company I choose. You can look around and pick the best company for you. I’m just sharing my solution here.
    My whole system is wireless. Batteries in the various sensors last for years. And the master control system uses cellular technology to stay connected to the monitoring company, meaning a burglar can’t just cut a wire and disable a system, as thieves often do with conventional alarm systems.
    I get an email and text alert if any alarm trips or should one of my sensors fail.
    Here’s a video from the company that shows how easy it is to set up.
    While the alarm system really adds to our peace of mind while traveling, it’s just one part of our home protection plan.
    When we travel, I let my neighbors know where we are going and how long we expect to be away. They also have our cell number incase they notice anything that is not quite right. We have a friend who does a walk around every few days. We also notify our local police that we are out of town.
    Something else: We stop all mail delivery. Years ago, on a long trip, we didn’t. A thief saw the bulging mailbox and took the mail. Among other things, he got ahold of those blank checks credit card companies often send out and promptly write several thousand dollars worth. The thief was caught by federal postal inspectors but it taught s a valuable lesson about letting mail accumulate. We also notified all our credit card companies not to send us those checks.
    We pay most of our bills online and have opted for billing by email to avoid snail mail piles even when we are home.
    Those are just a few of the things we do to watch over our house while we’re out Roadtreking.
    How about you?
    Entry sensor

  19. Roadtrekingmike
    There’s a real battle going on out there in the RV world and it pits some powerful interests against those who resent paying for services they don’t need and only want to take advantage of the generous offers of places like Wal-Mart, Cabella’s, Cracker Barrel and other businesses that not only allow but welcome brief overnight stays by traveling RVers.
    But for more than a decade now, campground owners and their national association have quietly been working behind the scenes to convince local governments to enact anti-RV ordinances that ban overnight camping in anything but a campground.
    As a result, thousands of places around North America have passed such ordinances. And more do so everyday.
    Now before I go any further, I need to point out something. I am NOT anti-campground. Neither is Campskunk or Jim Hammill or any of the other writers on my http://roadtreking.com/ blog. I use campgrounds all the time. Jennifer and I will be in one in Cape Cod next week. We have reservations over the summer at others in Ontario, Nebraska, Oregon and will likely make more. Most of the time, our experiences have been great. But it is no secret to the RVing public that many campgrounds need a lot of work. I’ve written about this before and I will continue to do so, believing exposure is the best way to force them to clean up or go away.
    What so many of us object to are discriminatory laws and local ordinances that prohibit traveling RVers from overnighting in places like rest areas, Wal-Mart parking lots and other places. I’m not talking about setting up camp, putting out the chairs, starting a campfire. I’m talking about spending a few hours sleeping overnight before hitting the road again as we are on our way somewhere. Often, we’re on our way to a campground where we’ll stay for several days. Overnight Parking is not camping, it’s parking.
    Lots of paces welcome us. Wal-mart company policy, for examke, is to allow overnight RV parking. Sam Walton, the founder, was an RVer. But astutely, we realized that the RVers who overnighted in his lot bought groceries and supplies from his store.
    But corporate policy is trumped when a local ordinance bans overnight parking.
    As we’ve dug into this, we’ve encountered some pretty powerful players aligned against free RV overnighting and behind the anti-RV laws. The biggest is the 3,000-member National Association of RV Campgrounds (ARVC). Here’s a 2011 blog report from a site that at one point reported on a database of such places, even posting the accompanying map up above.
    “One of the stated missions of ARVC is to influence legislators to institute and/or enforce parking bans in public places where RV’s are otherwise welcome. ARVC actively urges and assists members to pressure their towns to prohibit parking at public places so that RV’ers have no choice but to stay at a nearby … campground. Such parking bans extend to temporary streetside parking in some cities and towns. Not only has this has resulted in the denial of the right of private property owners to determine who shall have the use and enjoyment of their property but it has eroded our basic freedom to choose!”
    Prodded by Jim Hammill, I was going to try and develop a listing here on Roadtreking.com of all such RV unfriendly places that prohibited overnight camping.
    Turns out, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel on this.
    There already is a resource that to help you find free or very low cost places to stay while traveling in your RV. It’s called OvernightRVParking.com and it’s a labor of love for a guy named Jim O’Briant, of Gilroy, CA, who started the site in 2008. As of today, it has a database of nearly 12,000 places around North America that can be searched, listing places that allow and prohibit overnight RV parking.
    Campskunk, whose recent post on anti-RV laws in Ontario started this whole controversy on my http://roadtreking.com/ blog, has been a user of OvernightRVParking.com for years.
    The site is a subscription service – $24.95 a year.
    Plug in a city and you’ll get a map listing where you can or where you can’t overnight free or for a very low fee. O’Briant himself tries to verify every report and there are easy ways for subscribers to add to the information. He also has individual state and province pdf files that members can download to their computers if they don’t have Internet service on the road. He doesn’t recommend printing them out, as some are over 100 pages long.
    The website is tablet and mobile device friendly, so you really don’t need a special app.
    I had a great conversation with O’Briant and he has made a nice offer to readers of this blog. If you decide to subscribe to his service, he will extend your membership from 12 months to 15 months. That works out to a pretty nice discount. To get it, when you sign up and the form asks how you heard of him, type in roadtreking.com and he will automatically extend your membership.
    O’Briant is no stranger to the overnight parking ban we’ve been writing about here recently.
    “As of about 5 years ago, the ARVC website had a page discussing their ‘model legislation’ (i.e., pre-written laws that RV Park owners could take to their local city councils) and about all the support that ARVC would give to local campground owners who were working to get these laws passed in their communities,” he told me in an email. “After this became public knowledge, that part of their website disappeared (or perhaps it moved to a ‘members only’ accessible area of their site).”
    On the ARVC site now is this description of what it offers its members:
    “Powerful legislative and regulatory advocacy programs that protect your business interests. We monitor state and national policy issues that affect our industry and take action on your behalf. These efforts ensure that all of our members have a powerful voice and strong representation on the issues that matter.”
    Other big names have been lined to the controversial anti-RV parking bans based on their support of ARVC.
    “Good Sam was barraged with questions about it, as they were also accused of promoting these laws,” said O’Briant. “Their official reply was that they don’t do it. But Good Sam is (or at that time was) the largest financial supporter of ARVC.”
    Another prominent RV industry name involved in the association’s efforts is KOA. The corporate organization seems to have taken a hands -off stance on the anti-RV parking laws but individual KOA owners have and still hold leadership roles in the group.
    I signed up for OvernightRVParking.com (I paid full price, by the way) and plan to use it Friday and Saturday night as we head to Cape Cod. We’ll be in a campground Sunday-Thursday. I’ll also use it on the way back.
    Meantime, share under comments here your experiences with RV unfriendly towns. Let’s make sure we don’t spend a dime in any of them.

    There used to be a website called rvunfriendly.com. It vanished from the net, sometime in late 2011 or early 2012. But this is the map they had that shows places with RV unfriendly laws.
  20. Roadtrekingmike
    Is there anything more exciting about leaving on an RV Trip? Anticipation fuels each mile. Excitement about what lies ahead runs high. The sights are new, the day’s drive full of expectation.
    Conversely, is there anything more mind-numbing than the drive back home? Been there, done that syndrome kicks in. The vacation is over. There are so many miles to go on a road we’ve traveled before.
    On return from many a previous trip, Jennifer and I would resolve ourself just to drive. To get home as fast as possible. We drove 728 miles home from Branson in one day after attending the Roadtrek rally this past May. We’ve driven 20 hours straight home from Georgia. Twenty-four from Florida.
    But as we finished the Great Roadtreking Family Vacation of 2013 – our two and a half week trip to Colorado – we determined to do things differently.
    I was towing a travel trailer that my daughter, Wendy, husband Dan and granddaughters Hua Hua and Rachel (and Charlie their Goldendoodle) used. They were following behind our Roadtrek eTrek in our Honda Pilot. Son Jeff had left a few days earlier because he and wife, Aimee, needed to be back at their jobs on Monday.
    Our trip from Colorado was a giant circle tour of the state, starting at Colorado Springs, working southwest to Mesa Verde, up through Telluride, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, on to the Colorado Monument and finishing in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Except for a small slice of Wyoming, our return route was pretty much the same as our going out route – I-80 straight across the corn belt of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana to our Michigan home.
    I had planned to take three days to return, using the time to catch a couple of attractions on the way back. But those darn Rocky Mountains had a hold on us and we stayed an extra day.
    It was so hard to start back. Our exit from the state took us out US34, Big Thompson Road east from Estes Park. This little stretch of highway was like a final message from Colorado, asking “are you sure you really want to leave?” presenting us with some of the most beautiful scenery we’d seen anywhere. Bordered by the Big Thompson River and walled in by massive canyon walls, it was the perfect mountain drive. You don’t make good time on Big Thompson Road, especially towing a trailer around those steep curves. But you do enjoy every minute of it.
    We had a pair of walkie talkies that we used to communicate between vehicles. That helped with the boredom of the return drive. We delighted in the bison we saw after entering Wyoming from Colorado and the stark but equally beautiful contrast of the range land to the mountains we had just left. Then came the lush green and endless cornfields of Nebraska and Iowa, the tassled tops waving like an undulating sea in the wind. Beautiful.
    I found AM radio stations and listened to small town announcers fret about dropping corn and wheat prices in the increasingly dry weather as they speculated on the chances for rain and the quality of this year’s crops. You can tell so much about an area by listening to AM radio. Even the local advertisements are entertaining.
    We stopped at rest areas to walk the dogs and to have lunch together. Along I-80, Nebraska and Iowa have great rest areas, spaced about 25 miles or so apart. Except for the rattlesnake warning signs in western Nebraska, there were pleasant spots for the dogs. We kicked on the rear air conditioning in the Roadtrek and all of us – four adults, two kids and two dogs – squeezed into the back of the Roadtrek for communal meals.
    Wendy researched and found two great overnight spots for us for the return trip.
    In Nebraska at Exit 312, we stopped at the Mormon Island State Recreation Area, a quiet, very clean and spacious little campground right on the northeastern side of I-80. Named for the winter stopover used by Mormon emigrants heading westward, the state turned the ”borrow pit” used to provide fill for the interstate into a swimming lake, complete with sandy beach.
    We had a campfire and made S’Mores. I like my marshmallows on fire, burnt to a crisp, which the girls delighted in providing so they could “watch Grandpa eat fire.” I delight in making them laugh so I devoured way to many flaming torches of gooey sugar puffs until it was time for them to go to sleep.
    n the morning, we liked the place so much we lingered over another picnic table breakfast of bacon and pancakes. There were only one or two other RVs in the whole park. Most of the grounds were empty. But the park maintenance guy decided that he needed to start cutting the grass right where we were, instead of at the other, vacant end. His unmuffled mower shattered the calm of the place and stopped our conversation, kicking up a cloud of dirt and grass clippings that started to drift onto our food.
    Jennifer waved her arms and chased him away and we all laughed at the riled Mama Bear as the lawn cutting guy retreated to where he should have started anyway.
    Further west at Exit 284 in Walcott, Iowa, we stopped for an obligatory visit at the massive Iowa 80 Truck Stop, which proudly proclaims itself to be the world’s biggest. There is a full blown food court there with a slew of fast food restaurants and one sit-down restaurant that boasts a 50-foot salad bar and room to seat 300, as well as truck displays, a sprawling truckers warehouse store with everything from clothing to CB radios and the cleanest restrooms you will find anywhere along the Interstate.
    Our last night was spent just over the Illinois border, where, four miles from Exit 19, we found the delightful Geneseo Community Campground where owners Craig and Shari Weber runs one of the cleanest, neatest little campgrounds we’ve ever seen. The restrooms and showers look like they are part of a home and the wide grassy and shaded spots are just a stone’s throw off a bike path that follows the Hennepin Canal connecting the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Hua Hua and I walked the dogs along the path in the morning and marveled at the huge lily pads in the canal, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    Then, six hours later, we were back in Michigan.
    Jennifer and I stopped at Jeff’s house and Kalamazoo for dinner and drove the last two and a half hours under a huge full moon. She popped us a bag of popcorn in the Roadtrek microwave and Tai , our Norwegian Elkhound, scootched forward, between the driver and passenger seats, perfectly positioned to catch the popcorn that dropped as we passed the bag between us.
    About 10 p.m., we pulled into our driveway.
    It was a surprisingly relaxed and peaceful drive home from Colorado. Partly because we shared it with family. But mostly because we decided to savor each mile, looking around, stopping when we felt like it and marveling at the countryside.
    So this RV trip – The Great Roadtreking Family Vacation of 2013 – has come to an end.
    The Roadtrek is unpacked. Laundry is now done The lawn has been cut and on Monday we set out on our next trip, visiting a few Southern states.
    Thanks for virtually riding along with us on this adventure.
    See you out there ....
  21. Roadtrekingmike
    Anticipation, they say, is half the fun.
    I think there’s a point there. Thinking, planning, dreaming and looking forward to the next trip is indeed pretty exciting.
    And as Jennifer and I look at the calendar, we have a lot of miles we’ll be traveling in some pretty diverse places.
    Here’s what’s on our Roadtreking road map for the next month:
    Northern Minnesota – A Jan. 23-29th winter camping trip to Duluth, MN via Michigan’s UP from, and then north to the Canadian border as we do reporting for the annual 400-mile Beargrease Dog Sled Marathon. It’s going to be cold and snowy. Already they have three-foot-plus on the ground up there. But who says you can’t camp in the winter?

    Punxsutawney, Pa. – From Jan.28-Feb 2, our Roadtrek eTrek will take us to Gobbler’s Nob in the tiny town of Punxsutawney,PA to witness if Phil the Groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2 and whether we will have six more weeks of winter. This is an elaborate event and I’ve always wanted to see this, ever since I saw the Bill Murray movie. So this year, we’ll be there.

    West Virgiania and Ohio – From Feb 3-5, we have stories to do about technology and the Internet in West Virginia and southwest Ohio. I’ll let you know the specifics later but we’re taking the Roadtrek. Then it’s back home for a few days

    Mississippi – We’ll be in Gautier, MS Feb. 21-24 enjoying SMOKIN’ ON THE BAYOU, a special pre-Mardi Gras Roadtreking event organized by Paul Konowalchuk Pogorzelski, who promises some great Bar-B-Que with a group of other Roadtrekers, They tell me the whole region down there in bayou country celebrates Mardi Gras from late Feb through the official March 4 big day in New Orleans and Pogo has a bunch of activities planned. You can find him on our Facebook group if you want details.

    Florida or Texas – As Bob Seger sings in Roll Me Away, after Pogo’s gathering , Jennifer and I could go east (to the Florida sun) or west (towards the Texas Hill Country). It’s all up to us to decide. We haven’t figured out which way or for how long we’ll go…. only that we’ll go.

  22. Roadtrekingmike
    We get lots of questions about the places we go, the things we see and how we roll in our RV. Thus, this new reccurring video feature, in which we’ll try to do every week, answering reader questions (e-mail me here or via our Facebook Roadtreking page).
    In this first episode, Jennifer and I talk about how we pack and store items in our Class B motorhome and how we stay connected to the Internet while on the road.
    Jennifer swears by eBags, a handy way to neatly pack a lot of clothes in a very nifty little zip-up bag that takes up little space. And I share how Verizon Wireless’ 4G network keeps me connected by a MiFi wireless hotspot card.
    Let us know how you like this and what questions yo may have.
  23. Roadtrekingmike
    Canada is a very popular destination for American RVers.
    And it’s home to several of the world’s best-selling Class B motorhome makers.
    So a lot is us travel there. Canada feels very much at home. It’s people are open and welcoming.
    In the last year, I’ve made over a dozen visits to the Kitchener, Ontario, headquarters of Roadtrek Motorhomes. And while I am very comfortable in Canada, there are some cultural differences.
    I’ve been taking notes. Here are 15 things to know about Canada:
    It’s smaller in population. Canada has only 33 million people. Once you get past the cities, there is a lot of open space.
    They count and measure things differently. Your GPS may tell you Kitchener is 60 miles away, but a roadside sign on the 402 says it’s 100. Huh? They use the metric system. Don’t even try to figure out fuel prices, which they measure in liters.Their money is different. Thankfully, they count it in dollars. But it’s worth more than ours. Twenty bucks U.S. is worth $20.10 Canadian. They have weird names for it, too. Canadians call their $1 a loonie and $2 a toonie.
    They don’t have as many freeway rest areas. Instead, at least in Ontario, they have Onroutes – widespread concentrations of fast-food restaurants, fuel pumps and rest rooms under one roof. Canadians don’t clutter up the landscape with billboards like we do in the U.S. And except in urban areas, there usually are not clusters of gas stations and fast-food places around each freeway exit.
    Yes, they do have Starbucks. And the good news is you won’t have to stand in line to get yours. That’s because, hands down, Canadians prefer Tim Hortons to Starbucks. Timmy’s, they call it. And I have to say ... it IS better that Starbucks.
    In Ontario, the only place you can buy beer is at the Beer Store. Seriously. That’s what they call the government stores that sell beer. Beer isn’t available at convenience stores, supermarkets and gas stations. It varies, I’m told, province by province.
    You know they spell differently, eh? In all candour, it sort of colours their written communications. Centre – center. Check – cheque. Favour - favor.
    They pronounce things differently, too. Not everything. Just a few things. Ask a Canadian to say out and about. Don’t laugh. They think YOU talk even funnier.
    Hockey is not a game in Canada. It is a religion. On their $5 bill is a scene of children playing pond hockey. Saturday night hockey on the radio was a tradition for generations. Now it’s on HDTV. Do not make fun of hockey. Ever. Canadians also like the sport of curling. Do not make fun of this, either. And yes, curling is a sport and it’s much more involved than it appears to most Americans. Trust me on this, do not ridicule Canadian sports. Especially in a bar.
    Canadians are very patriotic. More so than in the U.S. They are generally liked by other countries, terrorists are not trying to destroy it, and violence – except on the hockey rink, is very rare. There’s nowhere near the polarization there is in the U.S.
    Unless they hunt, no one owns a gun in Canada. Canadians like it that way. They think people in the U.S. who are so adamant about owning guns are extreme.
    Canadians have two languages. English and French. In Quebec, of course, almost everyone is bilingual. But even in the other provinces, you will hear a French accent fairly often.
    You will find iPhones there, of course. But many Canadians prefer Blackberries. They’re made in Ontario.
    Canadian restaurants, particularly those in Ontario, are generally more high-tech than many of their U.S. counterparts. The waitstaff have their own tablets and hand-held computers that process your credit cards right at the table. And many credit cards issued by Canadian banks have chips built in which constitute an electronic signature, meaning you don’t have to physically sign the bill.
    In the U.S., we drink soda. In Canada, it’s pop.
    Canadians are healthier than us. Average life expectancy there is 81.2 years. In America, it’s 78.1, and the American life expectancy is dropping while the Canadian is rising. Americans are the most obese country in the world, with approximately 34% of their citizens obese (over 60% are overweight). Canada is the 11th most obese country with about 24% of their people obese and 55% overweight.

    I like Canada, a lot. After so many visits over the past year, I’m starting to feel patriotic about the place, myself. The Canadians I’ve met are typically not full of themselves, as so many Americans are. They seem to be content and very sure of who they are, but without guile. They laugh a lot. Sometimes at us. Especially our politics. And they’re very accepting of people from other places, who look different and talk different.
    Just as long as they don’t make fun of hockey.
    About the Author: Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who travels the country in a Roadtrek Type B motorhome, accompanied by his wife, Jennifer, and their Norweigian elkhound, Tai. Mike is an FMCA member (F426141) and is FMCA's official on-the-road reporter. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, video editing and all things dealing with technology. His "PC MIke" technology segments are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations. More from this author. Reach mike at openmike@fmca.com.
  24. Roadtrekingmike
    I have a serious bone to pick with whoever calls Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a paradise. Not this trip. This RV adventure was a battle of the bugs.
    And while it looks pretty out the window of the motor coach, venture outside and you are fair game for swarms of insects that see you as smorgasbord.
    The mosquitoes and biting black and stable flies of the Lake Superior region are the worst they’ve been in years. Locals blame it on the unusually wet spring and summer we’ve had this year.
    Indeed, the night before this video was shot in early July, the area in the western Upper Peninsula around Gogebic County, where we were staying in the Porcupine Mountain State Wilderness Area, got drenched with three inches of rain.
    That said, I came prepared. I had bug spray, fly strips and a clip-on contraption that runs a miniature fan for 12 hours on three AAA batteries and is supposed to emit a personal cloud of protective repellant.
    Jennifer also brought along Avon Skin So Soft and even some vanilla extract, as suggested by blog readers.
    Then she stayed inside the Roadtrek all afternoon, relaxing and reading while Tai and I tested all the bug and fly fighting tools.
    They didn’t work. Nary a one. We only caught a paltry half dozen flies with the strip.
    Tai’s nose is all swollen from mosquito bites and he is giving me very dirty looks.
  25. Roadtrekingmike
    On top of the Bighorn Range in Wyoming is Medicine Mountain, desolate and nearly 10,000 feet high and only reachable during the warm summer months. And on top of it lies a mysterious and ancient Native American medicine wheel that precisely predicts certain astronomical events.
    This is not a casual walk. It is 1 1/2 miles from the parking lot to the medicine wheel. And 1 1/2 miles back down to the parking lot again. That’s a three-mile roundtrip hike, at altitude. The wind blows continually and very strong up here, seemingly from every direction.

    There is little UV protection at such heights, so wear a hat and cover your skin. Carry water. The hike is climbs sharply. Even moderate exertion at such altitude can be stressful for your heart, so take frequent breaks.
    That’s easy to do because the scenery is breathtaking. There is nothing but wilderness to see in any direction.
    On the day we went, skies were bright blue, with big fluffy clouds. But mountain weather can change very fast and storms on Medicine Mountain can be fierce.
    Once you reach the top, you will find a small marker attesting to the mystery of the place and a walkway around the wheel, which is encircled by a fence.
    The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is an 80’ diameter wheel-like pattern made of stones. At the center of the circle is a doughnut-shaped pile of stones, a cairn, connected to the rim by 28 spoke-like lines of stones. Native Americans use this site regularly for religious purposes and special ceremonies called vision quests. Sometimes, Indians remain here for as long as four days, without food or water.
    The stone lines of this medicine wheel precisely point to where the Sun rises or sets on summer solstice and where certain important stars first rise at dawn after being behind the Sun.
    Some 80 different Indian Tribes hold ceremonies here and Indian prayer bags, pieces of cloth and other religious and ceremonial decorations are affixed to the rope fence.
    The wheel s part of a vast set of old Native American sites that document 7,000 years of their history in North America. The surface stones here are believed to be 700 years old. Beneath it are multiple layers of stones and rocks and because this site is sacred to Native Americans, no digging is allowed
    So no one is sure exactly how old this wheel is. Like Stonehenge, it has been built up by successive generations who added new features to the circle. Archaeologists suspect that the function and meaning of the medicine wheel changed over time, and it is doubtful that we will ever know what the original purpose was.
    There is no charge to visit the medicine wheel, though it sometimes closes to outsiders during Native American ceremonies.
    I can’t imaging a Class A making the climb, or finding a spot in the parking lot. It’s an easy ride for Class B RVs, and probably Class C motorhomes, too.
    The site is not easy to reach. The nearest town is Lovell, Wyoming, 33 miles to the east. The GPS coordinates ate Latitude: 44 degrees 49′ 32″ N.; longitude: 107 degrees 55′ 15″ W.
    During summer months, there are usually two National Park Service employees there, one at the parking lot, another on top. Besides preventing access during Native American ceremonies, they are delighted to answer questions. They also protect the site from artifact thieves.
    On top, visitors are asked to be quiet and respectful, as if in church.
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