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Blog Entries posted by Roadtrekingmike

  1. Roadtrekingmike
    Fridges and Freezers, oh my
    A few weeks ago we were at Mingus Park on the Oregon Coast. Mingus Park is in a really, really hilly part of the coast; there’s not much of a...
    Roadtreking : The RV Lifestyle Blog - Traveling North America in a small motorhome

  2. Roadtrekingmike
    Spritzzing up your RV with Lavender
    Lavender. Just the word brings olfactory recall, doesn’t it?  Such a pleasant smell, such a pleasant flower. While we were RVing in the Pacific Northwest, I saw a notice in a local...
    Roadtreking : The RV Lifestyle Blog - Traveling North America in a small motorhome

  3. Roadtrekingmike
    Off The Beaten Path: Meat Cove
    “Don’t miss Meat Cove!†It was a beautiful fall day on Prince Edward Island. We were talking to a couple who were full-timers in their Roadtrek. We were headed to...
    Roadtreking : The RV Lifestyle Blog - Traveling North America in a small motorhome

  4. Roadtrekingmike
    It sounds like it’s raining. But it’s not. It’s the sound of acorns dropping from the oak trees all around us as we boondock in the middle of the woods overlooking the Rifle River in northern Michigan’s Ogemaw County.
    This is not a particularly pretty time of the year. The beautiful fall leaves have turned brown and now cover the ground. Only the oaks, with their shriveled up leaves and their dropping acorns, still have a covering.
    Squirrels are running all over gathering the bounty. Deer, too. The animals seem to know winter is coming and the heavy acorn crop and their early drop across the upper Midwest appears to verify the Farmer’s Almanac prediction of another really rough winter.
    Jennifer and I came up Thursday night. We’ll stay through Sunday. This is one of our favorite boondocking spots. It’s on a 200-acre hunk of privately owned land surrounded by thousands of acres of state forest. The property is owned by my brother-in-law and is totally undeveloped.If we were in anything larger than a Class B motorhome, there’s no way we’d get to our boondocking spot, accessible only by dirt two-track located a mile off a paved country road.
    We need no electrical or water hookups. Our Roadtrek carries its own fresh water supply. The eight house batteries, always supplemented by 250-watt by solar panels, gives us enough power to last four or five days out here before we have to tun the engine and have those eight batteries recharged in about 20 minutes to a half hour.
    Our Webasto heater – and we needed it last night as the temperature dropped to the lower thirties Fahrenheit – runs on diesel, off the vehicle’s fuel tank. It uses so little that I can’t even see a drop in the fuel gauge after a weekend’s heater use.
    We’ve been coming here for two decades, long before we got an RV. Now, with our Roadtrek Etrek, we use this land as a place to retreat from the world. Friends have asked if they can join us on one of our boondocking weekends. We politely say no. This is our special hideaway, a place not to be shared.
    We truly can get away from it all up here.
    I’m sitting in a chair on what the locals call the “High Banks,” a spot abut 150 feet above where the Rifle makes one of ts snake-turning bends. I frequently see white tail deer just upstream coming down to drink. I hear no traffic. No noise at all but the dropping acorns.
    Jennifer and I and Tai took an hour long hike last night and another one just a few minutes ago.
    We’ll spend the day reading. I’ll build a campfire late afternoon and we’ll sit around it tonight, shoulder to shoulder, watching the flames, saying not very much, but very much enjoying each other's company. At some point before we turn in, we’ll walk away from the fire and look up at the night sky. If there’s no cloud cover, the whole Milky Way can be seen like a dust across the black sky.
    During the day, we usually take an afternoon nap. I like to sit in my chair overlooking the river and write.
    Not very exciting, is it? Not for Jen and I, anyway. Tai finds it very exciting. He’s chasing squirrels right now. He’s learned not to bark. To hunt like a coyote. Sneaky and quiet. And, yes, he occasionally does get one.
    No. It’s not exciting at all for Jennifer and me.
    What it is, though, is a total change of pace. It’s decompressing. Restoring. Refreshing. Total escape from the stress and demands of everyday life.
    That’s why we boondock.
    Because we can get away. Completely.

    There’s a bumper crop of acorns this fall.

    Our spot deep in the woods

    My view atop the High Banks
  5. Roadtrekingmike
    This is a jam-packed podcast with lots of very practical news and information.
    In it we talk about another anti-RV town, how and when to winterize, along with lots of practical tips on all sorts of things connected with the RV lifetyle.
    Last week, we had 41,697 plus downloads of the Roadtreking RV Podcast. I am overwhelmed by your support and kind words. Thank you. If you haven’t already, please subscribe via the iTunes or Stitcher links:
    Episode 4 of the Roadtreking Podcast – How and When to Winterize (iTunes)
    Episode 4 of the Roadtreking Podcast – How and When to Winterize (Stitcher)
    Then you will have new episodes automatically placed in your podcast app ready to be downloaded and listened to when you are ready. I would also appreciate if you take the time to give us a review and a rating, too.
    Show Notes for Episode #4 of Roadtreking – The RV Lifestyle Podcast:
    Halloween camping – The month of October has become a huge month for RV campgrounds around the country. Many host Halloween weekend events aimed at families. People decorate their RVs, there are costume parties and trick or treating. We visited one such event this weekend and shared some photos at in my Halloween Campouts blog entry But check a campground near you for next weekend. Don’t be surprised if it is filled!
    Anti-RV towns – I talk to Jim O’Briant from OverightRVParking.com about yet another town that has passed local regulations aimed at overnighting RVers. Jim tells about one camper rudely awoken by a knock on the door in the middle of the night.
    LISTENER QUESTION OF THE WEEK: A listener from Florida asked about our experience with the StowAway Cargo Carrier. Before you get one of these, you’ll want to hear our experience. Jennifer joins me for her perspective on the pluses and minuses of this storage solution.
    There were a rash of RV fires across the country last week, most due to propane problems. These accidents tend to spike in spring and then in the fall, as many are migrating to and from winter destinations. Here are tips on propane safety with links to valuable safety info.
    TRAVELING TECH TIP: The new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and new iPads and new Android devices are now being released and lots of people are wondering what to do with their old phones. That’s where online trade-in sites come in. Here’s how you can exchange your old one for cash so you can buy a new one.
    Gazelle is one of the most popular electronics trade in sites, allowing folks top instantly see what their old electronics are worth, actually getting a trade in price on the spot. You pack up the old phone and they send you a check. Couldn’t be easier.
    NextWorth offers a similar service, but with a twist. You can check out the value of your trade-in and they’ll also send you a check if you want. But with NextWorth, you can also find a store near you that partners with them where you can actually go in person to do the trade-in.
    Online retailer Amazon has a very active trade-in service as well, on all sorts of personal electronics.
    So does the big box retailer Best Buy. Check out your trade in on their website and take it to a store near you.
    And you can do the same with Radio Shack.
    RV BUCKET LIST DESTINATION: The Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming –
    INTERVIEW: Yan Seiner, a Roadtreking Reporter who just also happens to also be a senior project manager with Roadtrek Motorhomes, talks to us about What you need to know about cold weather and how and when to winterize your RV.
    We also announce a winter campout Yan and I will be hosting in the snowy Upper Peninsula of Michigan Jan 23-25, 2015. You’re invited! Details at http://roadtreking.com/heres-chance-try-winter-camping/
    I mentioned how when we do camping in the wintertime, we also take along a small ceramic heater. It’s the Lasko 5307 Oscillating Ceramic Tower. It’s 16 inches high, easily stores and really kicks out a lot of heat and we are very happy with it. Here’s a direct link from Amazon. If you do buy from Amazon using that link, I get a small commission.
    I also want to thank Van City RV for sponsoring this week;s episode. Van City specializes only in Class B motorhomes and they have an extensive inventory of new and used rigs. If you buy from them, they’ll pay your way to St. Louis to pick up your new coach. Mention Roadtreking for special pricing.
    Many of you ask how you can subscribe, review and rate the Roadtreking Podcast on iTunes. Here's how:

    First, open up the iTunes app on your computer or mobile device. Click on Podcasts up on the top.
    > From the iTunes Podcasts page, use the “Search Store” field up at the top right corner of the page. Type in Mike Wendland or Roadtreking RV Podcast.
    > Click on the logo image of the Roadtreking RV Podcast on the search return page
    > From there (see photo above), you can…
    1) Subscribe
    2) Choose and Click on a star (1-5) that reflects your rating. Five stars means you really like it, one star not so much.
    3) Leave a written review.
    Thanks to all for the kind reviews we’ve received so far. That got us noticed by Apple/iTunes as “New and Noteworthy.” I appreciate every review!
  6. Roadtrekingmike
    The month of October has surprisingly become huge for RV campgrounds, resorts and parks around the U.S. thanks to Halloween.
    Maybe because for many in the northern states, its a chance to do one more trip before the RV has to be winterized and put in storage.
    Instead of just one night – Oct. 31 – many parks dedicate the entire two or three weekends before Halloween to the big event.
    We visited a campground near us this past weekend – Addison Oaks Park in Addison Twp., about 45 miles north of Detroit in Oakland County.
    The past two weekends were set aside for their annual “Boo Bash” and if they had any openings in the 174-site campground, they weren’t evident as I walked around taking pictures. Families in every sort of RV were there. Most had roaring fires – the temperatures dipped into the 30’s at night. But no one seemed to mind the cold. Kids young and old were in full costumes. Even dogs were in costume. There was a costume contest. Trick or Treating. A scary castle tour and hay rides.
    Jennifer and Tai came along with me and although Gtai seemed a bit confused seeing his canine pals dressed up as dinosaurs and clowns, he realized there was something festive and fun about the experience and had to be restrained from visiting each campsite I also think he knew they were handing out goodies to the trick or treaters and he wanted his share.
    There’s one more weekend before Halloween. Check it out. I bet a campground near you is hosting a similar event.

    Fall is a great time to camp. Addison Oaks Campgound in Mich.

    There’s a real =festive atmosphere at a Halloween campout – Addison Oaks Campground, Mich.

    Kids dress up for the “Boo Bash at Addison Oaks Campground.

    Even the dogs are in costume.

    Decorating the RVs is big fun.

    Yikes! – Addison Oaks Campground, Mich.

    And of course, its always fun to take a walk at the Addison Oaks Campground, Mich. – Jennifer and Tai enjoying the cool fall weather.
  7. Roadtrekingmike
    It’s time for Episode 3 of Roadtreking - The RV Podcast.
    I continue to be overwhelmed by the positive reponse we’ve had to the first two episodes. I hope you enjoy thosn one even more. After you’ve listened, will you do me a favor? Please consider rating and gving us a review on iTunes or Stitcher.
    Notes for Episode #3 of Roadtreking – The RV Podcast:
    Episode released Oct. 15, 2014
    We had an in-depth conversation about free places to stay overnight and how many communities are enacting anti-RV ordinances and regulations aimed at forcing RVers to stay in commercial campgrounds.
    I offer up two great resources for free overnight parking and free boondocking:
    Boondockers Welcome (link on site) http://boondockerswelcome.com
    Overnight RV Camping http://overnightrvparking.com/
    Tell them Roadtreking sent you and you will get a special deal.
    Last week, we traveled south in our RV for a visit with our son’s family in SW Georgia. We do this several time a year to see the grandkids…and this time. we watched a couple of them play sports. You’ll meet meet two of my grandsons and they’ll tell you yet another reason why RVs are so handy… even if you don’t camp.
    Jennifer stops by to open our books, revealing our out of pocket costs on a typical RV trip.
    Listeners ask our experience with our Michelin LTXMS2 tires and, specifically, we talk about how they handle in the snow.
    There’s a very tough new anti-RV law on the books in San Diego. Some 250 plus RVers have been hit with stiff fines for parking their RVs near beach access sites over the past couple of weeks
    I talk about weather apps.
    You may not know it but most phones today automatically receive emergency weather alerts. Check your phone’s settings and notifications and you’ll see where to set them. It gets emergency alerts, but has to be turned on. Check with your carrier for specifics but when activated, you’ll get warnings automatically as the are issued. The system also sends out Amber alerts and, in dire emergencies, presidential warnings
    My favorite weather app is My Radar. It’s a free app for all the major mobile platforms. It displays animated weather radar around your current location, allowing you to quickly see what weather is coming your way. For $3.99 you can include weather warnings and alerts, complete with push notifications, to warn you of severe weather in your area.
    The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado
    Vanessa Fox, http://www.girlmeetsroad.com/, travels the country in a Roadtrek 170 Popular working from a different city every day. She shares how her adventures.

    Vanessa Fox travels the country in her Roadtrek Popular 170, working out of a different city each day.
  8. Roadtrekingmike
    Episode 2
    This has been such a blast to do. I’m thrilled by the response from so many who listened to our first podcast. I have dozens more planned!
    This week, we have released two episodes, to get the ball rolling. Starting next week, a new podcast episode will post every Wednesday morning.
    Jennifer joins me in this episode to help answer some questions.
    Each episode of these podcasts comes as a direct result of our travels across North America in a small motorhome, reporting about the interesting people and places we meet. We offer RV and camping tips, tap into our network of Roadtreking reporters, review the latest in traveling technology and discover destinations you’ll want to put on your bucket list.
    Click the link above to hear Episode 2, then scroll down for the show notes and links to the things we discuss.
    We talk about why podcasts are so powerful and popular. And we discuss how to listen and subscribe.
    I suggest several apps. Apple’s iPhone and iPad have their own built in app. I also reccomend Stitcher, a free app that works on all platforms, Apple, Android, phones and tablets.
    More apps
    Podcast Addict is free and takes a simple approach to a podcast app. However, it makes up for this by having a lot of areas to navigate. As with all of the apps on this list, finding the podcasts we searched for was quick and easy. When adding podcasts, there’s quite a few options to choose from. You can search for them by name manually, add an RSS feed, browse by top podcastsand other stuff. All in all, it’s a great free podcast app if you’re strapped for cash.
    Pocket Casts is yet another solid Podcast app. Like Podcast Addict, this podcast aggregator lets people browse for a variety of options, including top audio, top video, featured, by network, and by category. It makes finding podcasts extremely easy. Once you’ve found what podcast you’re looking for, playing them is easy as ever, and you can even categorize your podcast subscriptions for better organization. You can even sign up for a Pocket Casts account and sync across devices so you don’t have to go hunting for your podcasts over and over again. It’s $3.99 well spent if you’re a podcast fan.
    Tablets — Flipboard is actually not so much a podcast app but an RSS app. Generally, people use Flipboard to gather and read news articles. However, one of the lesser known features of Flipboard is the ability to subscribe and listen to podcasts. This is great if you already use RSS to get news or if you already use Flipboard because it’s just a matter of subscribing to your podcasts. For those who may not have used it, Flipboard features a gorgeous, smooth interface and it’s generally considered one of the best news readers out there. To us, it’s one of the best podcast apps too and it’s also free.
    Again, you can subscribe to this podcast via at iTunes.
    Please choose and click the star rating for the podcast on iTunes and leave me a review. As we establish the show, those reviews and star ratings really help.
    The RSS link for the podcasts for you geeks who like to use it to locate podcasts is http://feeds.feedburner.com/roadtrekingpodcast.
    We answer two questions this week, phoned in through the “Leave a Voicemail” link on the right side of this page.
    You won’t believe how busy the rangers were at the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago!
    Review of the Logitech UE Mini Boom box. Here’s a video I did about it – http://pcmike.com/traveling-tech-tools-toys/
    Florida’s Blue Springs State Park, best place to see manatees in the winter
  9. Roadtrekingmike
    Here it is, the first of what will be a weekly program: The Roadtreking RV Lifestyle Podcast.
    Episode 1 - Roadtreking the RV Lifestyle Podcast
    This has been a lot of fun to do.
    This is a show that celebrates the RV lifestyle.
    Whether you have in a Class B motorhome like the Roadtrek Jennifer and I travel in, a Class C, a Class A, a Fifth Wheel, a Pop-up, heck, even if you dry camp out of your car, or tent and are just thinking about getting an RV, this show is for you. We talk about the RV lifestyle – getting out there, enjoying God’s creation, meeting interesting people and places and sharing tips on keeping our RVs running right, looking good and using the right gear and technology to enhance our camping and RVing experience.
    We have two episodes up (Episode 1) and every week, there will be a brand new one! Please help spread the word and if you can, leave us a review on the iTunes podcast site. If you’re going to listen, please listen to them in order. We’ll be posting new episodes every Wednesday.
    I’ve built a podcast studio at home and a mobile one for our Roadtrek. Looking ahead, we’ll probably add a live video feed of the podcast, too.
    You can listen to the very first episode by clicking the play arrow below, then keep reading this post for the show notes and information that will help you if you are new to podcasts or are unsure how to make them a part of your routine.
    Why am I doing a podcast? Because it is fun, that’s why. It’s also perhaps the most personal medium out there. And, quietly, over the past year or so, it’s become huge. According to the Washington Post, podcast downloads passed the 1 billion mark last year and monthly podcast listeners now number 75 million per month. Podcasts have been around for a decade. They almost died three or four years ago. The New York Times and the Boston Globe abandoned most of their audio programming citing a lack of interest and revenue.
    But then things changed. First, the technology improved.. Apple built-in a Podcast app on its iPhones and iPads operating system. Android podcast apps also proliferated. Bluetooth is now part of every automotive and RV entertainment system. Faster Internet speeds and 4G LTE technology made downloading seamless and more and more people started abandoning traditional radio in favor of podcasts. In the last year alone, according to Fast Company Magazine, the amount of people listening to podcasts has gone up 25%. And people who podcast listen to an average of six podcasts a week.
    Apple says its mobile device users subscribed to one billion podcasts last year.
    Podcasts are so simple thanks to apps. And they make so much sense. So for an RV journalist like me – who just happens to love this stuff – it makes even more sense.
    Here’s a link to subscribe to the Roadtreking RV Lifestyle Podcast on iTunes:
    iTunes Podcasts - Roadtreking
    You can play this on your computer if you want by just clicking the little play arrow up at the top if this post. That’s fine if you want to sit in one spot and listen at your computer. But let me say right up front that’s not the best way to listen to podcasts. Where podcasts are meant to be heard is on your smartphone or tablet. Mobile devices are meant for podcasts. The apps let you subscribe to your favorite shows and then, whenever the show releases a new episode, the new show is automatically updated and listed on your app. If you want to listen, just hit play.
    So mobile podcasting listening is the driving force behind the crazy new popularity of podcasts. They let you listen as you do stuff. Listen as you drive. You can start it and stop it and resume it whenever you want. You can play it over Bluetooth through the vehicle speakers so everyone in the vehicle can listen. Or you can listen through earbuds.
    You can subscribe to this podcast and others you discover through the Apple podcast App or one of the Android apps. I also want to recommend a great app called Stitcher, which offers really quality podcasts for whatever platform your mobile device works on – be it Apple, Android or your computer. If you’re using an app, just search for Roadtreking – the RV Podcast. The app will find it. Then click “Subscribe.”
    If you’re on the geeky side and want the direct feed URL for our Roadtreking RV Lifestyle Podcast, it is http://rvpodcast.libsyn.com/rss.
    But get an app and use your mobile device. It simply couldn’t be any easier.
    In this first episode:
    I introduce myself to the audience and explain how a hard-nosed journalist became an RV travel writer
    Jennifer and I share some tips on how to get along in a small motorhome.
    I answer a reader question about setting up the bed in the Roadtrek (For sleeping, I recommend RV Superbags).

    I ask a whole bunch of RV folks what’s on their bucket list There’s a very in depth interview of Campskunk, our Roadtreking Reporter fulltimer who shares his annual travel routes, how he and his wife, Sharon, cope in what is essentially a campervan, what they do, how much they spend on campgrounds and pretty much everything you’ve been wondering about the Campskunk boondocking method.
    I hope you enjoy it.
    Meantime, I invite you to be a part of it.
    I’d like to feature comments, questions and tips from readers on the Roadtreking RV Lifestyle Podcast. Will you help me ? Leave comments or questions below.
    Thanks, in advance!

    When you listen on your smartphone, here’s what it looks like.
  10. Roadtrekingmike
    There’s never enough room. That’s the first thing about RVing we all think when we start RVing, isn’t it?
    But there really is.
    No matter what size RV we have, we all want to bring too much stuff.
    Once we discover that, it’s a little easier to pack the essentials. Still, some times, you need a little more storage space. That’s why we recently replaced one of the two back seats with a custom sized armoire. It is a perfect match with the rest of the wooden cabinets inside our Roadtrek eTrek. And it even comes with a pull out table that lets us replace the front table that attaches to a pole that fits into a hole in the floor.
    Jennifer shows it off in this week’s edition of “How We Roll” as I show how I pack the “basement.”
    Here’s our video:

  11. Roadtrekingmike
    I love getting reader mail and I do my best to answer them. But lately, as the fall RV RV shows start getting underway and lots of people are thinking about purchasing a motorhome and more new people are discovering this blog, the questions are somewhat the same. So I thought I’d share here the answer to the one question we get asked the most.
    A: The short answer is…nothing. We now have about 75,000 miles of Roadtreking travel under our tires since March of 2012. We’ve traveled in two Roadtreks, Our first was a 2006 RS Adventurous. The one we currently drive is a 2013 Roadtrek eTrek.
    We did a lot of checking around about what vehicle we wanted and settling on a Roadtrek was very easy. It’s the best-selling Type B in North America. Has been for many years. It has the largest dealer network of Type Bs. It’s resale value is tremendous. It’s quality reputation is stellar. So we knew right away that Roadtrek would be our choice. The rest was easy, too. We wanted a tall interior so we could easily walk around inside and settled on the Sprinter.
    When a used one was about to become available at a local dealer, we put money down sight unseen to have first refusal. We didn’t refuse.
    That said, I do have one regret. I wish we had bought months before. I spent too much time wondering if I could afford it. The truth is, as my friend Yan Seiner says when he faced the same issue, I could not afford to do it. The clock is ticking. I want every moment of the time have left to count.
    Jim Hammill, the Roadtrek President, has a very powerful illustration that brings this home. He says take out a tape measure. Ask yourself how long you think you will live. Say it’s 90. Then ask, how many years will you be healthy enough to enjoy RV traveling. Say the answer to that is 85. Put your finger on the 85 inch mark. Now put another finger on your current age. The length of time between those numbers is how much time you have left. Look at those numbers from one to your current age. They went by pretty fast, didn’t they? Now look at the numbers between 85 and your current age.
    There really is no time to waste.
    We all have a bucket list. Jennifer and I are filling ours. We just wish we had started earlier, because now that we’re Roadtreking, we keep adding to it as we see what an incredible world is out there just waiting to be explored.
  12. Roadtrekingmike
    That’s my old iPhone 5 on the left. The new gigantic iPhone 6 Plus on the right.
    For as 10 million other people have done over the past two weeks, I’ve upgraded to the new and very large iPhone 6 Plus.
    It’s massive 5.5-inch size was a big reason.
    I spend a lot of time online. Too much, in fact. And my eyes and my thumbs appreciate the extra real estate the new iPhone provides.
    The first thing I did after transferring all my apps and settings over to the new phone from iCloud (a process that took about 45 minutes on my home Wi-Fi network) was head out to the RV and see if the new phone fits in the Wilson Sleek cell phone booster I use for connectivity while boondocking in areas with weak cellular service. It does. The Sleek has adjustable arms that grip the 6 Plus just fine.
    The only time I use the Sleek with a cell phone is when I need to make a call in a marginal area. The rest of the time, my Verizon Mi-Fi data card provides the Internet connection for my various devices. But it’s nice to know that the new iPhone 6 Plus will fit.
    Besides the larger screen size, there are eight main reasons why I chose the iPhone 6 Plus.
    But before I list them … please … be nice. Like religion and politics, conversations about computers, mobile devices and brand loyalties can get real nasty. So if you don’t want or need these features, or if you use another platform or operating system, then good for you. This post is not aimed at you. This is for the many who do use the iPhone and are wondering what the new big one is like.
    Here are the eight things I like most about this new phone, compared to the iPhone 5 I had been using:
    The new camera on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is the best Ive seen on any smartphone, especially with the new features on the iOS 8 operating system like slow motion and time lapse photography. I’ll do some demos for you later this week.
    Image stabilization is now available for the videos I shoot on the iPhone 6 Plus when my professional video camera is unavailable or I want to post a quick video on social media.
    The 6 Plus is faster and reputedly has a longer battery life. Since I just got it, I haven’t been able to put that to the test. But I will.
    The new Swype keyboard option (that’s the one thing I liked the most during my brief fling with the Android OS and Samsung some months back) lets me really input text fast, with fewer fat finger mistakes.
    The soon-to-be available Apple Pay, the new short-range wireless payments system for the 6 and 6 Plus, which integrates with Touch ID. It will soon be released as a software update. This is going to be huge.
    Lots of memory. For those like who take a lot of photos and videos, like to watch movies and load up on music, the new 128GB storage limit on the 6 is almost enough of a reason to upgrade.
    The iPhone 6 Plus has full HD, 1920 x 1080 display. That’s not yet available on other iPhone models, including the 6.
    The iPhone 6 offers absolutely fantastic health and fitness functionality. Well… maybe not just yet. They’re still working a couple of unexpected last minute glitches out of a couple apps. But those apps – I’ve seen a preview of them – are coming soon.

    As I am getting used to the iPhone 6 Plus, I was surprised that I have not been challenged in using it as a phone. It is big and I’ve seen others say it just feels weird held up to your ear.As I write this, I just finished a half hour radio interview using my new iPhone 6 Plus and it was very comfortable.
    Ironically, that interview (with Mitch Album on WJR Radio) was about two problems that have cropped up with Apple’s new phones.
    The first is, if you put in in your pocket and then sit on it without a case … it will bend. That doesn’t seem unusual to me. It is thin and super light. So thin it would have to bend when someone sat on it, especially without a protective case. I bought the leather case Apple sells with the iPhone. It does fit in my front pockets. It is too big for a breast pocket on some of my shirts. Not all, but some. But I would never think about sitting on it. So I don’t think this will be a issue for me.
    The second problem was on an update that Apple pushed through for the iOS 8 operating system. It was out just one hour when the company was swamped by reports that after updating the OS, iPhone 6 users lost cellular and data connectivity. Apple quickly pulled the update to see what the problem is.recent
    If you want to see some three of my favorite things the new iOS 8 system does, here’s one of my NBC-TV PC Mike segments:

    So, overall, my first impressions of the iPhone 6 Plus are very favorable. I have a large iPad that I seldom use, except to read books or watch movies. Sometimes, I just leave it at home rather than tote it along on an RV trip, only to wish I had brought it when we’re stuck inside because or rain. I think this new 5.5-inch iPhone will replace the tablet for books. I will try some movies and get back to you on that. But with 128 GB of storage, I’ll be able to download them to the device, besides streaming them on Netflix or Amazon.
    Lastly, another contributing factor to my decision to upgrade is the fact that I use my smartphone for so much more than just making or receiving telephone calls. I really use it more as a miniature computer than a phone. So this iPhone 6 Plus will come in very handy, I suspect.
    I’ll let you know more after a week or so.
    If you think you’d like to upgrade but wonder what you can do with your old phone, check out the video below. It’s another NBC-TV segment I did on places that offer trade-ins for old phones and other gadgets and gizmos.

  13. Roadtrekingmike
    For the better part of four decades, there is one place that has lured Jennifer and me back again and again, multiple times each year: Mackinac Island, located in Lake Huron, at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, between the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
    It’s a place where motor vehicles are prohibited and where RVs must be left on the mainland at the passenger ferry docks. On the island, the only transportation available is by walking, riding bicycles or by horse. Just 3.8 square miles in size, most of the place is a State Park and the hundreds of thousands of of tourists who visit each year come mostly during the summer, most visiting just for the day, although many others stay overnight at the island’s beautifully restored Victorian-styled hotels, luxury resorts and charming bed and breakfasts.
    Mackinac Island has the distinction of being the second officially protected park by the federal government. In 1872 the Congress designated Yellowstone America’s first national park. In 1875 portions of federal land on Mackinac Island were given similar protection. This ensured the preservation of most of the natural limestone formations such as Skull Cave, Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf. Twenty years later, when the last U.S. army soldiers left Fort Mackinac, all federal land, including the fort, became Michigan’s first state park. The newly appointed Park Commission limited all private development in the park and required leaseholders to maintain the distinctive Victorian architecture of their bluff cottages. In recent years the historical sites and fort buildings such as the Officers’ Stone Quarters have been restored to their original condition and brought to life through dioramas, period settings, guided tours and reenactments for the benefit of the thousands of summer visitors.
    We usually overnight. We love the Grand Hotel, at the start of the western bluff, dubbed “America’s Summer Place” and consistently voted one of the top resort hotels in the world. It’s a place where you still must dress up for dinner. There’s High Tea in the lobby most afternoons and the hotel’s massive front porch overlooking the Straits is one of the most pleasant places you’ll find anywhere.
    We also like Mission Point, a sprawling resort on the island’s eastern end.
    What do we do there? We bike and hike. If it rains, we hole up in our room and read and nap.
    It truly is a place to get away from it all.
    There are lots of places to camp in and around the gateway cities of Mackinaw City on the lower peninsula side, and St. Ignace on the UP side. Our favorite mainland overnight spots are both state parks: Wilderness State Park west of Mackinaw City, and Straits State Park in St. Ignace. There are three ferry boat lines serving the island. We like Star Lines because their boats make the eight mile crossing to Mackinac Island in about 18 minutes, much faster than the other lines.
    You can see from the photos why we like the place so much.
    Here’s some history and details from the Mackinac Island website:
    It was the Victorians who made Mackinac Island one of the nation’s most favored summer resorts. In the post-Civil War industrial age and before automobiles, vacationers traveled by large lake excursion boats from Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit to the cooler climes of Mackinac Island. They danced to Strauss’ waltzes, listened to Sousa’s stirring marches, dined on whitefish and strolled along the broad decks. To accommodate overnight guests boat and railroad companies built summer hotels, such as the Grand Hotel in the late 19th century. Victorians, like travelers everywhere, shopped for souvenirs, and Mackinac shops supplied them.
    In the 1890’s wealthy Midwestern industrialists who wanted to spent more than a few nights on Mackinac built their own summer cottages on the east and west bluffs. Soon a social life including tennis, hiking, bicycling, examining the local natural wonders, and at the turn of the century, golf at on the new Wawashkamo Golf Course.
    Location has determined much of Mackinac Island’s history. Eleven thousand years ago in prehistoric times, not long after the retreat of the last glacier, aboriginal natives stood on the mainland shore, looked out over the Straits between two newly formed great lakes and saw an island with unusually high bluffs. They thought it resembled a large reptile and called it mish-la-mack-in-naw or big turtle. When they explored it, they marveled at its unusual natural limestone formations and buried their dead in the Island’s caves.
    French-Canadian courieur de bois Jean Nicolet is believed to be the first white man to see Mackinac during his explorations on behalf of Samuel de Champlain, governor of Canada, in 1634.
    The Jesuit Jacques Marquette preached to the Straits Indians in 1671 and soon after the area became the most important French western fur trade site. After the British acquired the Straits following the French and Indian War, the English Major Patrick Sinclair chose those high bluffs for the site of his Fort Mackinac in 1780.
    The Americans never threatened the British fort during the American Revolution and following the revolution obtained the Straits area by treaty. However, problems with the British in nearby Canada led to the War of 1812. In July of 1812 a British force landed secretly on the far north end of Mackinac Island and forced the United States to surrender Fort Mackinac in the first engagement of that conflict. There were no casualties.
    In 1814 the Americans attempted to regain the Island by also approaching from the north, but failed to defeat the British who in the meantime had fortified the high ground behind Fort Mackinac. The British and Americans fought the battle in the vicinity of the present day site of the Wawashkamo Golf Course. The British fortification was renamed Fort Holmes in honor of Major Andrew Hunter Holmes, a young American officer who died in the conflict. In 1815 the Island was restored once again to the Americans by treaty.
    After the War of 1812 Mackinac Island became the center of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. For the next thirty years the German immigrant provided beaver pelts for the beaver hats so favored by contemporary Jane Austen’s dashing young men.
    In 1822 Fort Mackinac’s post surgeon William Beaumont saved the life of Alexis St. Martin after an accidental shotgun blast tore a hole in the young voyageur’s stomach. When the hole never completely healed, the physician observed first hand what happens when food is digested in the stomach. His published experiments made medical history.
    In the 1860s Mackinac Island processed barrels of whitefish and lake trout destined for eastern markets. Each spring local Irish fishermen, coopers, net makers and dray men cleaned, salted, dried and packed the succulent fish which were carried on lake boats to Canadian and New York markets. This thriving industry replaced Astor’s diminishing fur trade which had now moved to the northwest states.
    Is romance in your soul? Welcome to Mackinac Island. It was inevitable that 19th century writers would discover the Island’s charm, but even before the written word, Indian legends were part of its history. For many native Americans Arch Rock was created when a beautiful Indian maiden’s tears washed away the limestone bluff as she waited in vain for her lover to return.
    In the 1820s a young army lieutenant on a tour of duty at Fort Mackinac sat on the porch of the Officers’ Stone Quarters and composed beautiful letters to his wife revealing his loneliness and love for her. During the Civil War, John C. Pemberton, now a general, commanded a Confederate army in Tennessee and had the dubious distinction of surrendering Vicksburg to U.S. Grant.
    New England poet Henry Longfellow based his long narrative poem, in part, on written accounts of Henry R. Schoolcraft, an Indian agent who recorded information on Indian legends and culture while residing at Mackinac’s Indian Dormitory during the 1830s.
    Edward Everett Hale wrote his”Man Without a Country” while sitting on the porch of the Mission House.
    In the late 1880s Constance Fenimore Woolson, a popular novelist and close friend of Henry James, wrote her best-known book, Anne, which is the story of a young girl and her exciting adventures on Mackinac Island. Anne’s Tablet on the Fort bluff commemorates Woolson, as does nearby Anne Cottage.
    Mark Twain, on an international tour to recoup his fortunes, visited Mackinac during July 1895 and lectured at Grand Hotel. According to his memoirs, Twain was paid $345 for this speaking engagement.
    In 1946 after World War II MGM filmed a romantic tale of lost and found love called, This Time for Keeps starring the famous swimmer Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante.
    In 1979 the Grand was again the setting for a romantic fantasy called Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Each fall the hotel hosts a reunion of fans enchanted by the movie. But love is celebrated by ordinary folks, too. Each Saturday from June to September the island hosts several weddings.
    Though most resorts and hotels shut down during the winter, there is always at least one hotel open. The Arnold Line ferry only runs from St. Ignace during the beginning of the winter season. They run a daily schedule to the island until the Straits freeze over. Flights to the island from the Mackinac County Airport in St. Ignace are available through Great Lakes Air for $21 one way per person.
    If it’s a really cold winter and the straits are frozen over, brave locals mark an “ice bridge” with Christmas trees from St. Ignace to the island and traverse it all winter long by snowmobiles.
  14. Roadtrekingmike
    One question we get a lot when we talk about our love of being off the beaten path and away from everyone is, “Why? What do you do there.”
    This is as good a time as ever to try and answer that because, as I type, we are very deep in the woods, in the middle of the Pigeon River Country State Forest Area at the very top of the Michigan Lower Peninsula mitt, a 105,049-acre area so vast it rambles across Otsego, Cheboygan, and Montmorency Counties.
    This is one of our top five favorite places to get away from it all and while I can’t technically say we are boondocking – we are in the tiny 10-site Round Lake Campground – it’s pretty much the same thing as there are no hookups here. There is no one else here. Just us, in our Roadtrek Etrek.
    So what do we do here? Sit outside and listen to the sound of silence – Yes, silence has a sound. No motors, no highway noise. It’s the sound of wind sighing through 100 foot white pines. A string of 50 or so Canadian geese, far overhead, honking their way south as the great fall migration begins.
    Go hiking with a camera – There’s a great fern-lined hiking trail that makes its way around the tiny little lake, The only other tracks I see are from an elk that took the same route, not long ago judging by their impressions in the sand. I tread as quietly as I can, stopping often, hoping to see the elk. I never catch up with him. But around me, the oaks and birch leaves are just starting to turn red and yellow. The blue sky and big fluffy clouds reflect off the water. The air has a slight chill to it, and it deliciously smells of pine.
    We prepare dinner in the Roadtrek - There may be no electricity here but we have our own in the Etrek. Jennifer made a fresh salad and warmed up her world-famous crock pot turkey stew on the inductive stovetop. We butter some fresh bread we picked up at a bakery on the way up. For dessert, we had home grown Michigan watermelon. Then, as darkness came, she sits up front to read and I do some computer work in the back.
    There is no cell coverage here. But as I’m writing this post, my computer trills with a FaceTime call. The Wilson cell booster and the external antenna I have mounted on the roof has given me a great Internet connection. On the other end of the FaceTime call is my friend Chis Guld, of the Geeks on Tour team. With husband, Jim, she’s at the Roadtrek Rally in Pismo Beach California, teaching the 120 or so Roadtrekers at the rally their most excellent tech classes.
    Out in California where Chris is, it’s that golden time of day. As she walks around the campground with her smartphone, it’s clearly Happy Hour out there. Somebody puts a bottle of red California wine in front of the camera and offers me a virtual glass. I exchange greetings with many. John from Canada is there. Pat and Pat, a couple I met last summer in Nebraska, come over to say Hi. Roadtrek International President Sherry Targum tells me I’m missing a great rally.
    They see me, seated in the back of the Etrek, with pitch black outside my windows. I see them, with Palm trees and parked Roadtreks in the California sunset.
    Technology connects us. Them, at a close-together, very social and fun gathering, Jennifer and me boondocking alone in the peace and quiet of the Michigan woods. The best of both RV world camping styles, brought together. How cool is that?
    We will make the bed and turn in early. It’s hard to describe how restful it is sleeping when all about you is nothing but wilderness. Sometimes, late at night, we have awakened to hear deer moving past. At least I think it is deer. Besides elk, there are coyotes, black bear and, some say, wolves in this vast wilderness tract.
    Jen and I are missing Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound. He’s back home with a dogsitter. Tomorrow we head to Mackinac Island for a couple of days and, alas, dogs are not allowed at the place we are staying.
    We would have stayed with my daughter and her family. But our granddaughters recently got Guinea Pigs as pets and as far as Tai is concerned, they’re nothing but rodents. And he’s the exterminator. Last time we were there, we caught him standing on a sofa, wagging his tail in anticipation as he stared down into their cage. So this trip, he’s at the dogsitter.
    Tai loves the Roadtrek and eagerly jumped in this morning as I drove him to the dogsitter. I’m sure he thought it was another adventure, after traveling coast to coast with us this year for weeks on end. Words can’t describe the look of betrayal on his face as I dropped him off. I felt so guilty leaving him behind for this trip.
    He’ll be glad to see us when we pick us up Sunday night. Then, he’ll sulk for a couple of days.
    We’ll promise to take him on the next trip. Maybe back here in a couple of weeks, when the color peaks.
    So that’s why we like off-the-grid RVing. As I re-read this, I worry that it will sound boring to some. It doesn’t sound very exciting. Yet to us, it is. And it has become so much a part of our lifestyle now that we need regular doses of this special away-from-it-all time or we start to go a little stir-crazy.
    It’s not for everyone. But it sure is for us.

    Round Lake in northern Michigan’s Pigeon River Country Stare Forest.

    An elk went down this trail not long before I did.

    The leaves are just starting to turn their fall colors.

    The wind signs through these pines producing a delightfully soothing sound.

    Chris Guld at the Roadtrek rally in California FaceTime called me in the Michigan woods.
  15. Roadtrekingmike
    Since I released the post on the 10 lessons we’ve learned in our 75,000 miles of RV travel, several readers have asked for another installment.
    So here it is. This one, though, has 12 things we’ve learned from the road.
    1) GPS units are all unreliable – If you rely totally on GPS to get you somewhere, sooner or later you’re going to miss your mark and be lost. In my role as a tech reporter for NBC affiliates, I’ve tried them all – Garmin, Magellan, TomTom, Rand McNally, the GPS apps, Google, Verizon, the GPS apps offered on Android and Apple devices and, of course, the built-in Clarion system that came with our Roadtrek Etrek. They all fail. They all are incomplete. Maps differ between them and there are GPS dead spots. A GPS transceiver needs at least four satellites to get any kind of a fix. Even on flat ground with a clear line of sight there can be dead spots. In order for your GPS transceiver to detect a satellite, the signal from the given satellite must be strong enough for the transceiver to pick it out of all the background noise. According to the website Richard’s Mobile Blog, the way the GPS transceiver detects a signal is by detecting phase shifts in the satellite signals. Too many satellite signals canceling out or distorting or too similar to each other will make it hard for the transceiver to know what satellite is what. So, the transceiver just gives up as if there were no satellites were there. The solution: Carry paper maps. We have a shoebox full of state maps. We now use them more and more.
    2) You really can overnight in a rest area – Well, at least you can if you don’t set up camp early in the afternoon, put out the lawn chairs and string those obnoxious twinkle lights that some RVers insist on using outside their rigs. Rest areas are to rest. Pulling in after dark and leaving in the morning after a night’s sleep is not going to get you in trouble, unless you make it look like you are spending the weekend. It helps being in a Class B.
    3) Stay away from trucks when overnighting – Whether a Wal-Mart or a rest area, steer clear of trucks. They run their engines all night long. They pollute everything around them. They are noisy. On a lonely stretch of US Route 212 in Montana, we looked in vain for a national or state campground one night this summer. There were none. Most of the area belonged to the Crow and then the Cheyenne Indian Reservations. Finally, about 11 PM near the town of Broadus, we found a state rest area and turned in. We even saw another Roadtrek parked there, along with a handful of trucks. We awoke at 1:30 AM to the sound of rumbling engines and the smell of diesel fumes. The place was bathed in light. Besides running their engines, many trucks keep their lights on. Every inch of space was taken up by trucks. There was no more sleep. We left and drove all the way through into South Dakota, finally finding a KOA near Spearfish a little after 3 AM. It was not a good night. We’ve had variations of that experience at many a Wal-Mart and now know… stay away from trucks.
    4) We do not need campground electricity – In fact, with our Roadtrek Etrek and those eight coach batteries, the 250-watt solar panels that keep them topped off and the 5,000-watt inverter, we actually have more power in the unit than we do from plugging into a campground’s 30-amp service. So unless I will be running the power-hungry air conditioner for 12 hours straight, we seldom plug in these days. There’s no need to.
    5) Campground Wi-Fi is a joke – Don’t even bother. Unless you are the only campers around. Otherwise, the guy three units down streaming Netflix videos has gobbled up all the bandwidth. Campground Wi-Fi is shared. That means s-l-o-w. We carry our own Verizon Mi-Fi data card to create our own network. But maybe I should quit talking about that. Because we noticed this year that in many a campground, so many other people are now doing the same thing, that often even the cell service is so maxed out it is almost as slow as campground Wi-Fi. See why we like boondocking?
    6) Fall is the best time to hit the road – The RV boom has its down side. This was a very busy summer. Crowds at campgrounds and national parks were overwhelming. The absolute best time to hit the road is mid-September. Just about everywhere has great weather this time of year. In the north, fall colors are starting. In the south, the sniffling heat of the summer months has eased and the snowbirds have yet to arrive. Nights are cool and comfortable. Next year, we will plan our long trip from September through November.
    7) Winter is also a great time to RV – I am always amazed at how many people reject winter camping. I’m not talking about heading to Florida or Arizona. I’m talking abut Northern Minnesota or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Winter wonderland comping. We always do a winter trip. This year, it will be to Michigan’s UP and Tahquamenon Falls State Park, where the DNR always keeps a few spots plowed. The only thing different about winter camping s that you keep your heater running all the time and you flush the toilet with antifreeze. You take bottled water because the pipes in your RV are winterized. But the scenery is spectacular. If you dress warm, hiking or snow shoeing or cross country skiing are great. And sitting around a blazing fire with two feet of snow on the ground is awesome. Oh yeah, the stars are brighter in the winter, too.
    8) Pay your bills online – We have now enrolled for automatic and/or online bill paying for all our credit cards, our sticks and bricks house utilities and are able to handle our personal and household finances from the road as easily as when we were at home. We’ve learned that every bank will let you draw cash on a credit card. We use one designated credit card for all food, fuel, campgrounds and traveling expenses. This gives us a detailed record of our spending that we can use for budgeting and planning and we don’t have to worry about carrying lots of cash.
    9) Join a national health club chain – You need to work out. You really do. Walking around the campground is not working out. We picked a national chain – Anytime Fitness. We have found places all across the country and really love this chain because they have very nice, clean and private bathrooms and showers. We also belong to the YMCA, which has branches across the country. Every other day, we try to plan our overnight stops in cities that have places to work out. This is Jennifer’s hard and fast rule. She gets very cranky when she misses more than a couple days of working out and I have learned, well… happy wife, happy life.
    10) The RV lifestyle can be very unhealthy – Related to the above is something I hate to say but I think it needs saying. So I will. Food and drink consumption need to be controlled. We spent a week this past year on a very nice campground (I won’t say where) in which every day was themed to some event that involved alcohol. It started with Sippin’ Sunday, Margarita Mondays, Tipsy Tuesdays, Wild and Wet Wednesdays and so on and on. There were parties and happy hours every night and the place, made up mostly of seasonal RV residents, seemed to be stuck in the Sixties. The music around the pool played non-stop oldies and it was like these seniors were on perpetual spring breaks. It would have been amusing if it were not so sad. There were people whizzing by in golf carts that should have been pulled over for DUI. The only good thing was these were, after all, seniors, and by 9 PM, they had all gone to bed. We’ve seen this in different degrees at other places and have had other RVers tell us they have noticed the same thing, too. So there. I said it. Lets move on.
    11) Staying connected online with RVing friends – I am amazed at the friends we have made from the road and online and how easy it is to stay in touch with them and feel connected through our Facebook Roadtreking Group. Many of us have met in person across the country on various trips. We communicate daily through this group. We have planned our own very low-keyed rallies and have asked questions and received help and we kid each other, encourage each other and are inspired by each other – just as friends do. When we travel, we share photos and its like we’re all traveling together. W e are all very different people individually, but we’re bound together by our love of RV travel and have created a community that is simply amazing. Who’d think such friendships could develop online?
    12) Re-Read the RV manual – When we first got our RV, we devoured everything we could about it. I remember staying up all one night, like till 3:30 AM reading every manual back to back. Then I put them away. Early this summer, I sat around under the Etrek’s awning on glorious June day overlooking a Cape Cod beach and re-read the manual and learned stuff that either didn’t register the first time or that I totally missed. If your RV is a Roadtrek, you can download the latest manuals here. If it’s not, dig out whatever you got when you purchased it and keep it handy. I have downloaded our manual, printed it out and keep another copy electronically on my laptop. I may never be a mechanical expert like Campskunk but the manual at least gives me the confidence to know what I should be doing. If not, I can always ask Campskunk and other on the Facebook Group.
    Wow. That’s 12 more lessons. Added to the first 10, that’s 22 lessons.
    I think there’s still more I could do.
    Later. Maybe.
  16. Roadtrekingmike
    If you like gambling, you’ll probably love Deadwood.
    If not, probably not so much.
    After years of passing by on the way to the Badlands or Yellowstone and seeing the signs, Jennifer and I made a recent RV sidetrip to this town on the edge of the Black Hills of South Dakota. The entire city is listed on the National Historic Register. The city aggressively promotes itself as having done a careful, accurate restoration of a historically significant western city so we figured it was worth checking out.
    The Victorian architecture is indeed attractive.
    And the turnaround of the town itself is a a great come back story.
    Deadwood was truly a wild west boom town, thanks to the God Rush of 1876 that brought the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Gambling places lined the main street. There were real gun battles and many of the west’s most colorful characters passed through.
    And then it was passed by and a long, slow decline took place. According to the town’s official website, by the mid-1980’s, many of the city’s historic buildings were dilapidated. In 1986, Deadwood citizens formed the “Deadwood U Bet” organization and advocated legalized limited stakes gaming to increase tourism and generate historic preservation funds. Legalized gaming in Deadwood began on November 1, 1989.
    Gaming over the past fifteen years has revitalized Deadwood’s tourism industry and provided lots of revenue for city government activities and historic preservation. Today Deadwood, with a year round population of about 1,300, is the largest historic restoration project in the United States.
    Which takes us back to gambling. I counted no less than 25 casinos and gambling halls, some open 24/7. We’re not talking Vegas glitz, we’re talking penny slots, $1,000 limits, lots of Blackjack and, on the sidewalks outside, lots of seniors puffing cigarettes.
    The town’s most famous resident, Wild Bill Hickok, was not a long-time Deadwood citizen. Just a few short weeks after arriving, he was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights – forever after known as the Dead Man’s Hand.. He is buried in Deadwood’s Mount Moriah Cemetery, along with such notables as Calamity Jane and Potato Creek Johnny, Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen. The cemetery offers a a self-guided tour.
    A couple of times a day, traffic is stopped and there are staged gunfights downtown, with a local actress dressed up like Calamity Jane entertaining the camera toting tourists before the bad guys and the Marshall take the streets.
    We spent a couple of hours walking around Deadwood.
    If we were gamblers, maybe we would have enjoyed it more.
    As it was, I think we can say we probably won’t be back.
    The town is very friendly to RVers. While there’s little or no parking along main street, parallel streets offer lots of lots where, for $5, you can park all day.

    Great Victorian restoration

    Deadwood had its share of “fancy ladies,” as they were called, and these mannequins along a downtown building depict.

    I counted 25 casinos and gambling halls.

    Calamity Jane entertains the tourists.

    The town Marshall deputizes the kids.

    Several times a day, staged gunfights depict the town's Wild West Days.
  17. Roadtrekingmike
    The story of the American bison is one of the most sad and captivating episodes in U.S. history. Once thought to be limitless in number – an estimated 50 million ranged across North America before European settlement – they were hunted to near extinction in the late 1800’s. Greed by hunters and a calculated political effort to eliminate the food and main staple of the American Indian tribes were the reasons.
    From 50 million, the senseless slaughter left about 100 animals in the wild in the late 1800s.
    What happened to the bison is truly one of America’s most shameful stories. For non-native buffalo hunters they were the equivalent of a gold mine on four legs. This group hunted bison from trains and horseback for their tongues, hides, bones and little else. The tongue was, and still is considered a delicacy. Hides were prepared and shipped to the east and Europe for processing into leather. Remaining carcasses were, for the most part, left to rot. By the time nothing but bones remained, they too were gathered and shipped via rail to eastern destinations for processing into industrial carbon and fertilizer. By the 1890s with numbers nearing extinction, the bison "gold rush" was over.
    At the same time, the American government openly encouraged elimination of the Plains Indians’ primary food source, the bison. In so doing, the Indians would be forced into relatively small areas, or north into Canada. In either situation, food sources were either scarce or non-existent. The results were starvation, and high infant mortality amongst the Indian populations. In the end the west was open to European settlement and the start of the western beef industry.
    The past can’t be undone. Today, though nowhere near the nubers of the 19th century, the bison is no longer in danger of extinction. the total herd size is in the 500,000 range, about 250,000 of which are based in Canada. And in west central Montana, the National Bison Range has played an important role in the successful recovery of these magnificent animals.
    The fact that we can still see bison on the landscape is one of the finest accomplishments in the history of the National Wildlife Refuge System. President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Bison Range on May 23, 1908 when he signed legislation authorizing funds to purchase suitable land for the conservation of bison. It was the first time that Congress appropriated tax dollars to buy land specifically to conserve wildlife. The overall mission of the National Bison Range is to maintain a representative herd of bison, under reasonably natural conditions, to ensure the preservation of the species for continued public enjoyment.
    The original herd of bison released in 1909 was purchased with private money raised by the American Bison Society and then donated to the Refuge. Today, 350-500 bison call this refuge home.
    It is a great lace to visit. There are two loops that you can drive and see these magnificent animals, often also spotting the black bear, pronghorn antelope, mule deer and elk that share the 18,700 acre range. One loop, only five miles, is a flat gravel road that larger RVs could handle that goes by a bison display pasture. It takes abut a half hour.
    The best loop, though, is only for automobiles or Class B RVs under 30-feet in length. It is a hilly 19-mile, one-way gravel road with lots of switchbacks and 10% grades that gains 2,000 feet in altitude. There are two hiking trails along this route. The half-mile Bitterroot Trail and the one-mile High Point Trail provide spectacular overlooks of the prairie. Dogs, on a leash, are allowed.
    But the rest of this great preserve is off limits to hiking. Visitors must stay in their vehicles.Allow two to three hours for this route. And make sure you have your camera, as evidenced by the photos Jennifer and I took on our visit.
    The Range is one of the last intact publicly-owned inter-mountain native grasslands in the United States. The visitor’s center has a great display and lots of information.
    In general, the longer and steeper Red Sleep Mountain Drive is open from mid-May to early October with the shorter Winter Drive open the remainder of the season. The Visitor Center, with displays, restrooms and bookstore, is typically open daily from mid-May to early October but has limited hours during the winter season.
    The range is strategically located about mid-way between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, not far from Flathead Lake and a half hour or so north of Missoula in the southern tier of Montana’s Glacier Country. It overlooks one of the longest valleys in the region: the Bitterroot, nearly 100 miles long and 25 miles wide, bordered by the jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains on the west and the rolling terrain of the Sapphire Mountains to the east,
    There’s no camping at the National Bison Range and the preserve closes at dark. Camping can be found around Missoula to the south and in some of the smaller communities near the range.

    Drive slow. They walk right out in front of you and often like to hold staring contest with nice looking RVs.

    Pronghorn antelope

    The Bitterroot Trail leads to a spectacular overlook.

    Educational display outside the visitors center

    The deer and the antelope do indeed play on the range with the buffalo. This young pronghorn found some sweet grass.

    Elk are also common throughout the range. Elk drop their impressive antlers each year to grow new ones. This display of a bunch of dropped antlers is at the visitor center and is a common decorative piece you’ll see throughout the west.
  18. 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.
  19. Roadtrekingmike
    Well, at least it’s not going to erupt anytime soon.
    This has been a strange year at Yellowstone National Park, which indeed sits atop a supervolcano. Two months ago, extreme heat from the thermal features below caused oil to bubble on a road surface and damage a 3.3-mile loop road that takes visitors past White Dome Geyser, Great Fountain Geyser and Firehole Lake.
    A couple months before that, some yahoo posted a video on YouTube purportedly showing bison in the park supposedly evacuating themselves in anticipation of an eruption at the park. Park officials patiently explained that it was not unusual to see bison running – indeed, everytime we go we see lots of running bison – and that the bison in the video were actually heading deeper into the park, not away.
    But that video went viral. Over 1.5 million people have watched it and there are dozens of copycat re-posted clips. It really appealed to the conspiracy nut jobs.
    Add to that the fact that the park experiences frequent earthquakes including one that measured 4.8 in March – the biggest in more than 20 years – and you can see why its been a very busy year for park officials who have finally posted a whole web page debunking the hoaxes and foolishness.
    Here’s the official statement:
    “There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park is imminent. Current geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant since earth scientists first started monitoring some 30 years ago. Though another caldera-forming eruption is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely to occur in the next thousand or even 10,000 years.”
    So there you go.
    For Jennifer and me, the thermal activity at Yellowstone is as big of a draw as the wildlife. We keep going back year after year and visiting thermal features.
    “Yellowstone holds the planet’s most diverse and intact collection of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles,” according to the National Park Service. “Its more than 300 geysers make up two-thirds of all those found on earth. Combine this with more than 10,000 thermal features comprised of brilliantly colored hot springs, bubbling mud pots and steaming fumaroles, and you have a place like no other…Yellowstone’s vast collection of thermal features provides a constant reminder of the park’s recent volcanic past. Indeed, the caldera provides the setting that allows such features as Old Faithful to exist and to exist in such great concentrations.”
    If you go, be sure to pick up the newspaper that the park service gives you. Or download the free Yellowstone trip planner.
    Pets are not allowed anywhere near the thermal activity. There have been incidents where they have broken away and plunged into what they thought was just a pretty pool of water. The outcome is too gory to print.
    And I shouldn’t have to say this but do resist the urge to touch the water. You will be scalded.
    I say all this because the park service makes it very easy to get very close to the geysers and boiling pools. And it should go without saying that you should not go over one of the barricades. The signs about unstable ground are accurate.
    Fortunately, most of the spectators are respectful and cautious. And come away absolutely delighted by this awesome park.
    We always do the lower loop first, past Old Faithful and Biscuit Basin. We budget a full a day for visiting the thermal features, camping overnight in one of the park campgrounds. Then we head out the second day for the northern and eastern loops, saving at least half a day to see the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs.
    Here are some of our favorite pictures of Yellostone’s thermal features. Maybe I’ll do a post in the future about our favorite hikes and our favorite places to see animals at Yellowstone.
    But after our third visit in three years, we continue to love the place. I really want to visit the park in the winter.
    Hope you enjoy these photos.

    Look at the boiling mud. It looks like an artist’s paint pot.

    This beautiful sapphire pool is about 200 degrees F.

    Small geysers like this one erupt by the hundreds every day.

    The color at Biscuit Basin in Yellowstone’s far northwestern Upper Geyser Basin is a photographer’s delight.

    There are numerous geysers that have dramatic daily, even hourly eruptions, besides Old Faithful.

    The landscape is like nowhere else on earth.

    Boiling. bubbling mud that emits a strong sulfur smell.
  20. Roadtrekingmike
    Apps. There are so many apps that empower our smartphones and tablets to do new and creative things that it’s almost impossible to keep up with them. This week, I have three new apps that you may have missed that you will surely want to add to your RVing collection.
    The coolest photo enhancing app I’ve seen in a long time is Instagram’s new Hyperlapse, a very nifty little download that lets you create very smooth and fun time lapse videos. It takes a clip you shot on your iPhone, stabilizes it and stiches together a polished time lapse video that you can share. No need for a tripod. Handhold your shots and watch the app make it look like it was shot by a pro. You can play it back at up to 12 times the speed it was captured in, the time lapse video I made from a recent trip to the old western town of Deadwood, South Dakota. Sorry folks, right now this app is only for Apple devices. Cost is 99-cents.

    Free for Apple and Android mobile gizmos is another cool app called Cabin. This app sets up a private mobile network for families and friends that lets you assign reminders, track locations, and chat with your loved ones. This would be great for keeping in touch with family as you're on the road. It’s a closed group, available to only those you invite. You can share photos, audio, and notes; keep a running list of To-Do’s, tasks and important dates; and even pinpoint exactly where everyone is, in real time.
    Once more new app for Apple users: Wandering Weather. Enter in your starting location and your destination and it will help pick the route and the best time to leave to have the best traveling weather. Very cool.
  21. Roadtrekingmike
    So, what’s your worse nightmare about an RV trip? Having a mechanical breakdown in the middle of, say, Montana, at the start of a weekend?
    Trust me, it’s not so bad.
    I can say this because it happened to us last weekend, just as we were leaving Glacier National Park and the Many Glacier area, about as remote a place as you can find, where even the cell phones don’t reach.

    This was the culprit … the sensor (black) at the right of the fuel rail.
    There is one inescapable thing about RV travel. Stuff happens. Things break. No matter how well something is engineered and how well it is maintained. Truth is, that’s part of the adventure.
    And it’s how that breakdown is handled that determines the end of the story. And in our case, it was handled very well. So well, I want to share it with you. Our breakdown led us to some of the most fun we’ve had on this long four month trip we’ve been on. We learned first hand there’s a great network of Sprinter dealers out there who really do go the extra mile to make sure Sprinter owners can put on those miles.
    What broke in our Sprinter-based Roadtrek Etrek was the fuel rail sensor. I’m not a mechanical guy but it has something to do with the way the engine gets fuel. Our unit failed and led to a stalling engine. The engine would start, but as you pressed the accelerator, it would be unresponsive for a couple of seconds and then just die. The check engine light has come on several times during this trip but would usually go off after a short drive. At Glacier, as it kept stalling in the middle of a cold rain on the side of a gravel road, it would start with increasing difficulty and cranking, but then cough and stall. I was about to hike out and get to a place where I had cell phone coverage so I could call for a tow, which would be covered under my Coach-Net road insurance.
    But eventually, I got the engine started by revving it up and keeping my foot on the accelerator as I dropped it into gear.
    There was one hairy moment. Literally hairy. As we started to drive out of Many Glacier, a car in front came to a sudden stop as a black bear dashed across the road. The people in that car naturally stopped and started taking photos as the bear nibbled on some roadside berries. I could not risk a stop so, keeping the engine going with one foot on the brake and one on the accelerator, I swerved around them and kept going. I’m sure they thought I was very rude. Wish I could have explained.
    After a half hour or so of driving at 70 mph on the main highway outside of the park, the engine seemed to be running just fine.
    We made it all 250 miles south and west to Missoula, Montana and Demarois Buick – GMC Truck, an official Mercedes-Benz Sprinter dealer. Travis Cook, the Sprinter Service manager, got us in before the shop closed down for the weekend, put a computer on the engine and verified the fuel rail issue. The soonest the replacement sensor would arrive would be Tuesday.
    So, rather than take the chance of driving on and another breakdown, we opted to stay in Missoula until the part arrived and could be installed. To make it easy for us, Travis supplied us with a loaner – a Mercedes-Benz ML350 SUV, a very nice ride.

    Downtown Missoula music festival

    I could have done some Christmas shopping for Campskunk at the music festival.
    We drove the Roadtrek to a campground about six miles northwest of town, where we kept it parked for the next four days. We used the little SUV loaner to take us sightseeing throughout the area, attending a music concert downtown, checking out a local museum, visiting the Rattlesnake Recreation and Wilderness area and even venturing out into nearby mountain communities for wildlife viewing and hiking.

    Downtown river surfers in Missoula
    Perhaps the most unexpected amusement we found was watching young people surf on the Clark Fork River at a place called Brennan’s Wave, where white water in the in the river in downtown Missoula underneath the Higgins St. Bridge draws wet-suit wearing adventurers. Here, kayakers and surfers alike frequent the natural wave machine, and give spectators a good show.
    We’ll share some of those Missoula-area attractions in separate reports.
    The point of all this is to say what we thought would be disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We fell in love with this part of Montana and, thanks to the network of Sprinter service dealers around the country and our fall-back road towing insurance coverage, it’s all good. We need not worry.
    As we picked up our Roadtrek Tuesday morning, Travis, the service manager, remarked how well built Mercedes is. He told us how the Sprinters used by the Federal Express delivery service routinely get 350,000 miles. “They’d get more but the bodies start to fall apart after all that intense use,” he said.
    Our Sprinter has now racked up 60,000 miles in the almost two years we’ve been driving it. I can honestly say, it has been amazingly reliable and the best vehicle I have ever owned. We’ve taken it coast to coast, up and down the Rocky Mountains, camped in every weather condition imaginable from two feet of snow at 21 below zero in Northern Minnesota to 105 humid degrees in the Deep South, and it has brought is more fun and adventures than we can imagine.
    But there’s even another benefit from our extended stay in Missoula.
    After putting in the new part, they even washed the Roadtrek for me, something Jennifer has been after me to do this entire trip.
    My cost for the repair: Nothing. All covered under the Sprinter-Mercedes five-year, 100,000 mile warranty.
    It really was all good.
  22. Roadtrekingmike
    Craters of the Moon is a U.S. National Monument and National Preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho that is like no where else on earth, a volcanic wonderland that is easy and fun to explore in one of the weirdest landscapes you can find anywhere.
    And it’s perfect for Class B recreation vehicles.
    Craters of the Moon formed during eight major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago. Lava erupted from the Great Rift, a series of deep cracks that start near the visitor center and stretch 52 miles (84 km.) to the southeast. During this time the Craters of the Moon lava field grew to cover 618 square miles (1600 square km).

    Mossy wildflowers are growing out of the volcanic ash.
    And it’s still pretty active. Over the past 30 million years, this region has experienced extensive stretching. A recent example of these on-going forces was the 1983 Mount Borah earthquake. During that event the highest point in Idaho, Mount Borah, got a bit higher when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake occurred across the base of the Lost River Range.
    As Jennifer and I toured the preserve, National Park Service rangers told us the volume of past eruptive events suggests that slightly over one cubic mile (4.2 cubic km.) of lava will be erupted during the next event. And that is expected within the next 1,000 years – relatively soon on the geologic time table.
    The park is very accessible to cars, small trucks and small RVs. A seven mile loop road takes you past all the major interest points, with comfortable walking trails everywhere.
    Here’s a video virtual tour:

    The area has numerous caves, but to enter them requires a permit from the visitor’s center. The permit is free and really a formality. They advise you that it’s treacherous footing getting down to the caves and that you should have a flashlight. If, however, you’ve recently been in a cave area where white nose syndrome has been prevalent among the bat population, they ask you to stay away from the caves at Craters of the Moon.

    Looking out from one of the lava caves at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
    White Nose Syndrome is is a poorly understood disease associated with the deaths of at least 5.7 million to 6.7 million North American bats in recent years and scientists are trying to halt its spread.
    There’s a nice first come, first server $10 a night campground at Craters of the Moon, right on the lava beds. The 51 sites sites are perfect for tents, Class B or Class C motorhomes but too small for big rigs, though there are a couple if sites one could squeeze into. There is fresh water and restrooms but no hookups, showers or waste water dump.

    There’s a nice campground with no hookups for $10 a night at Craters of the Moon that is perfect for small motorhomes.
    To get there, plan on driving two-lanes. Craters of the Moon is located 18 miles southwest of Arco, Idaho on Highway 20/26/93, 24 miles northeast of Carey, Idaho on Highway 20/26/93, 84 miles from Idaho Falls, and 90 miles from Twin Falls.
    Give yourself two to four hours to see it all, longer if you want to walk to the top of the cinder cone or check out the caves.

    It really does look like a moonscape.
  23. Roadtrekingmike
    As we’ve traveled across North America, visiting wilderness areas and National Parks, one park consistently came up at the top of the list of must-visit places suggested by fellow RVers: Glacier National Park in far northwestern Montana.
    Now that we’ve been there and spent most of a week exploring this dramatic and spectacular park, we know why.
    But our adventure here didn’t start out well. We visited in mid-August, after school had started in much of the country. We thought the crowds would be way down.
    But as we entered the park from West Glacier, we immediately encountered a multilane traffic jam of vehicles at the welcome gate. For ten minutes we slowly crept forward. Then, just a couple vehicles from the front, a ranger came out and started motioning traffic through, without collecting entrance few or checking for passes. “Move on, move on,” she said, urging us forward.

    We were surprised.
    “Hurry please, traffic is backed up to the the intersection (in town a half mile back) and we have to clear this congestion.”
    It was a Monday. And the place was that busy. We checked two campgrounds at the entrance: Apgar and Fish Creek. Apgar was filled. Fish Creek had two openings. But as we drove through it, we decided to pass on it. Small, uneven campsites close to each other just didn’t appeal to us.
    We moved into the interior, following the east shoreline of Lake McDonald. Sprague Creek, located right on the lake, sounded good. It too, by noon on a Monday, was filled.
    Traffic was extremely heavy. Further north we traveled, finally finding a spot at Avalanche Creek. Not bad. Crowded, but somewhat spacious sites. An hour after we got our site, it filled. The parking lot leading to the campground was filled. So was a parking lot and picnic area along the creek, across the highway.

    We boarded a shuttle for the 16 mile trip up the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. Traffic was pretty much bumper-to-bumper the entire way. Once we reached Logan Pass, a huge parking area was closed because every space was taken. I started out on a hiking trail. But after counting what had to be 500 people strung out for as far as I could see, I turned back, stopping to photograph a family of mountain goats grazing in a meadow.
    This was the middle of the wilderness. But it was as congested as any urban area we have ever visited.
    The shuttle vehicle we took back to Avalanche Creek was a full sized Sprinter, the same chassis of our Roadtrek Etrek. So I asked the driver if I could take mine up. No problem he said.
    Now right now, let me say that I was not supposed to take my Roadtrek any further along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If we had not been waved through the front gate of the park on Sunday, I’m sure now that the ranger would have so instructed me. Later, after I had done the deed, I learned that vehicles over 21 feet are not allowed to drive the highway.
    With my StowAway2 cargo box, my Roadtrek measures nearly 24 feet.
    But, thinking it was okay, bright and early the next morning, I took the Roadtrek up and down the Going-to-the-Sun Road. No one challenged me. Again, I should not have done this. So don’t try this on your own.
    That said, I did. And I had absolutely no problems.

    Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the world’s most spectacle highways. Bisecting the heart of Glacier, the 50-mile-long road follows the shores of the park’s two largest lakes and hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide as it traverses Logan Pass. It is not for the faint of heart or those who are nervous driving narrow roads that twist and turn and are bordered with steep rock walls on the driver’s side and thousand foot drop-offs, without guard rails, on the passenger side.
    Here’s a video of the drive, recorded with my GoPro:

    We did it early on a Tuesday morning with little traffic. I passed numerous park rangers and none seemed to mind. A couple even gave me that friendly raise-four-fingers-from-the-steering-wheel-hello as we passed. We stopped in turnoffs along the way to take photos. We spotted a grizzly on the way down and took some long lens pictures of him as he devoured huckleberries on a far away hillside.
    We took the highway all the way to the West Entrance and the town of St. Mary. We stopped at the Rising Sun Campground. Full. Almost out of the park, we stopped at the St Mary Campground. Also full. We made our way to the park’s most popular campground, Many Glacier. This one filled before 7 AM that day, and most days.
    No matter, we hung around and watched the sunset.
    We found a spot just out of the park at a KOA in St. Mary that was one of the nicest campgrounds we have ever visited, with very spacious sites and great views of Glacier’s craggy peaks. At $60 a night, it was also the most expensive place we’ve stayed on this trip west.

    The next morning we were up early and made our way back to Rising Sun and got a great site. for $10, thanks to our National Parks Senior Pass.
    Rising Sun is in the heart of Glacier’s bear country. This campground has been closed because of bear activity and a couple of incidents. It’s been reopened but is still posted to be especially alert because of bear activity.
    A husband and wife who were camping in a tent were awakened one night when a bear tried to lie on their tent. The husband said it was like sitting on his head. The wife bolted upright and, through a clear vinyl widow in the tent, was literally nose-to-nose with a black bear. She hollered, he hollered, they fumbled for a flashlight and zippered out, catching sight of a black bear scampering off into the brush.
    In another incident, a camper reported they a bear had stolen a pillow from their camp site.
    We saw bear tracks all around our campsite and fresh bear scat not far away.

    We caught a glimpse of a cinnamon colored bear crossing the road in front of the campground.
    Then, a half hour later, as we rounded a bend in the Otokomi Lake Trail no further than 50 yards across a creek from our campsite, we came upon a mama bear and her cub. They had just come out of the creek. We stopped and talked so they’d know we were there. With only the briefest glance at us, the mama crossed first, no more than 25 feet in front of us. She seemed unconcerned with our presence and certainly wasn’t apprehensive, taking her time getting up the opposite side, nibbling on some service berries. Her cub followed a few feet behind. He had to stand on his hind legs to grab a few mouthfuls of the berries, finally looking at us with youthful curiosity before slowly ambling off with Mom.
    By mid-week, traffic in the park was noticeably less. Same with Thursday as a change in the weather pattern and a cold front swept through the park. It felt like fall. They were even predicting snow by Saturday up at Logan Pass. We awoke to 46 degrees and, after coffee, moved over to Many Glacier campground where, thanks to the rain and cold, there were plenty of camping spots to chose from.
    We hiked to Fishercap Lake where we watched a bull moose stand knee deep just off shore munching on grass.
    That night, with continuing mist, it dropped to 39. We cranked up the Webasto heater in our Roadtrek Etrek, snug and dry and cocooned against the cold.
    The end of the week weather had us bundled up but it kept the crowds away and we delighted in the wilderness quiet. Glacier is a photographer’s dream. Every direction is postcard pretty, even in the clouds and foggy mists.
    Our mistake was in coming when folks were still on summer vacations. The next time we visit will be after Labor Day. Like Yellowstone to the south, the summer crowds are just too much for us. The more we enjoy this small motorhome lifestyle, the more we prefer going it alone, boondocking far off the beaten path. In September, they tell me, the Glacier campgrounds seldom fill. While cold weather at night guarantees you’ll be running the heater, Glacier will feel much more wild than it does with the summer crowds.

    One last thing: We took Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound, with us on this trip. Dogs are not allowed on trails or in many places in the park but we had plenty of spots to walk him in campgrounds and picnic areas. When we hiked, we left him in our Roadtrek. Because of cool temperatures and the beautiful weather, we didn’t have to worry about having the air conditioning on, though our Roadtrek Etrek with its eight house batteries and solar powered trickle charger would have easily handled that for several hours.
    We were glad we brought him. He seemed to greatly enjoy the park and we enjoyed his companionship.
    Here are some of our photos. They show why we’ll be back.

  24. Roadtrekingmike
    At FMCA's Family Reunion in Redmond last week, I presented a seminar called Apps for the Open Road in which I share some of my favorite apps and online resources for RVers.
    Now we RVers all have our favorite technology devices, with Android and Apple smartphones and tablets accounting for the vast majority. Most apps now come in versions for different platforms. Most, but not all.
    I am a pretty diehard Apple fan. Though I’ve used Android gizmos, I keep coming back to Apple, especially the iPhone. So, that said, let me share my list. If you are an Android or Windows or Blackberry user, these may or may not apply.
    These days, with solid Internet connectivity available almost everywhere, I admit almost with no shame that probably my best most used iPhone feature is Siri, Apple’s famous voice recognition tool that tells you pretty much what you want to know.
    In Redmond, for example, I can say “find me a Laudromat” and, in maybe two seconds, Siri says “I’ve found seven Laundromats” in my vicinity. We need to stock up on food so I say “find me a supermarket.” Siri returns two of them. It will even give me turn-by turn-voice directions to them via Google Maps, which shows my position and vectors me in to my destination perfectly.
    But I also use apps and online sources while traveling. Here are my favorites:

    We had a big crowd at the FMCA Family Reunion, with lots of questions.
    Aroundme.com – This app is all about providing local info. Whatever you’re looking for -grocery stores, banks, hospitals, gas stations, movie theaters. This is really handy when you travel, but surprisingly useful locally, where I always seem to find cool things nearby that I didn’t know about. It’s free for Apple, Android and Windows devices and smartphones.
    RoadNinja.com – Always on the interstate? Love road trips? This is the must-have app for you. You can discover new places, map out your trip, share your encounters, and save money along the way with special promotions. I use it to find diesel stations on the interstate.
    AllStays.com – The number one camping app for iPhone, iPods, iPads and Android. From resorts to hike-in spots. Amenities, maps, truck stops, rest areas, Wal-mart and casino parking, low clearance alerts, RV dealers, sporting goods stores and much more. Two modes: one uses GPS and maps that you can filter. One is an offline manual lookup mode for when you don’t have service.
    TripIt - The TripIt trip planner keeps all of your travel plans in one spot. Create a master travel itinerary, and access your itinerary planner online or on your mobile decice. Simply forward confirmation emails to TripIt and it will will automatically build an itinerary for your trip that you can access anytime, either online or from a mobile device.
    Evernote – The Evernote family of products help you remember and act upon ideas, projects and experiences across all the computers, phones and tablets you use. With Evernote, your notes, web clips, files, and images are available whenever you need them on every device and computer you use.
    Trip Journal – Trip Journal is the #1 Google Awarded Travel Application with the best trip tracking, recording, documenting and sharing features currently available for iPhone, Android, Symbian and Facebook. The app received a $100,000 prize from Google for innovative concept and design. Trip Journal allows you to document vacation experiences and share them with your friends and family. Impress everybody with real time updates from the visited destinations and let people see proof of your latest adventures, as your journey unfolds.
    Dropbox – Put your stuff in Dropbox and get to it from your computers, phones, or tablets. Edit docs, automatically add photos, and show off videos from anywhere. Share photos with friends. Work with your friends and family like you’re using a single computer. Everything’s automatically private, so you control who sees what.
    Field Trip – This is a guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you is now on the iPhone. Field Trip runs in the background on your phone. When you get close to something interesting, it will notify you and if you have a headset or bluetooth connected, it can even read the info to you.
    Where To? – Where to? makes it incredibly easy to locate the closest steakhouse, bank branch, billiard club or anything else you may be looking for, at the drop of a hat! Finally you can find local businesses without any typing, using a slick, intuitive user experience.
    Roadside America – This iPhone app was created by America’s foremost experts in roadside attractions and oddities. It’s packed with easy-to-use, in-depth info and maps for the nation’s funniest and weirdest must-sees — over 9,500 eye-popping places when you unlock the entire USA and Canada. When you purchase the app for $2.99, the Roadside America App lets you choose one of seven US/Canada regions to unlock.
    Besides those 10, there are some other apps I use a lot.
    Jennifer and I really enjoy our national parks. The hands down best app for them come from a company called Chimani. They have awesome apps for all the National Parks Whether it’s backcountry hiking in the Grand Tetons, rock climbing in Yosemite, or bicycling the carriage roads of Acadia – these apps are made from personal experience.by seasoned travelers and explorers. They are like travel guides, but you’ll find a lot more than that. Information like sunrise/set data for a year, tidal data for a year, ranger-led events for the entire season, and much more. The apps also feature an audio tour and dozens of photos by professional photographers.
    Then there are weather apps. Everyone has their favorite and there are a gazillion to choose from. But we all are concerned about dangerous weather and apps can really help keep you informed, especially as you are on the move.
    First, you may not know it but most phones today automatically receive emergency weather alerts. Check your phone’s settings and notifications and you’ll see where to set them. It gets emergency alerts, but has to be turned on. Check with your carrier for specifics but when activated, you’ll get warnings automatically as the are issued. The system also sends out Amber alerts and, in dire emergencies, presidential warnings
    If you want more weather information besides alerts, think about an app. I really like the Tornado Warning App from the American Red Cross. It’s free, works on Apple and Android devices and tracks a tornado as it approaches with step-by-step advice about what to do before the storm hits. A siren warning is built into the app and goes off when officials issue a tornado warning in your area. There’s also a customizable notification system to let friends and family know when the user is safe via social media, text, and e-mail.
    My favorite weather app is My Radar. It’s a free app for all the major mobile platforms. It displays animated weather radar around your current location, allowing you to quickly see what weather is coming your way. For $3.99 you can include weather warnings and alerts, complete with push notifications, to warn you of severe weather in your area.
    Finally, many of you know that Jennifer and I love to boondock, away from commercial campgrounds. We love the website Boondockers Welcome. The site lets you connect with other RVers who have a location for you to dry camp for the night; it might be in their driveway or a field on their farm. The view may be of amber waves of grain or of the McDonald’s parking lot… but it will be a free place to park where you don’t have to worry about idling truck engines, security, or that dreaded knock on the window at 2 a.m.
    Through a special arrangement with the site, if you enter the special code ROADTREKINGDISC you will get 20% off the membership fee. Ths is a great deal and a great service that can save lots of money as you travel.
    So there you go. Those are some of the apps and websites we shared with the FMCA audience in Redmond.
    Feel free to add your favorite RV apps under comments.
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