Scott Wylie/Flickr Creative Commons
When we were in Matagorda Friday camping at the LCRA nature center and RV park, we saw the most beautiful stars we have seen since visiting he McDonald observatory in the Davis mountains. The sky was so clear and there was very little white light to distract from the beauty of the stars. The kids used the star gazer app to settle the battles over who named the stars correctly. Nothing better than the RV lifestyle. Beautiful stars, s’mores over an open fire and time with grandkids…priceless. So today I thought we could get a little “techy” and talk about some astronomy apps that’ll help identify what exactly it is that you’re looking at when you’re gazing up at a beautiful night’s sky!
One of the neatest apps is Starmap, available for iPhones. It displays suggestions for where to look and what’s available in YOUR night sky at that current time. It also dims the display and images are in red so as not to ruin your night vision! It is available for purchase and download here, and only costs $4.99.
Another great app for Android and iPhone is the SkySafari 3. It has images from the Hubble Telescope as well as images from NASA and actually comes with a subscription to SkyWeek magazine. It covers the planets in our solar system as well as their moons, displays maps of the sky with constellations, and is on $3.49. You can download it on iOs here, or Android here.
If you are a true beginner to stargazing and know little about what’s up there in the night sky, then Pocket Universe might be the app for you. You can literally point your phone at a star and it will make suggestions as to what you’re looking at based on the time, date, and GPS location of your phone. It can also quiz you on what you’ve seen to help reinforce you memory from night to night. It is available on iPhones, and you can purchase it for $2.99 and download it here.
One of the best things about the RV Life is getting out of town, a close second is being able to answer your grandkids questions like you knew the answer all along!!
amateur photography/Flickr Creative Commons
We’ve all been there. Imagine you’re headed down the road, it’s a beautiful late afternoon up in the mountains. You’re in between towns and you’ve got just enough time to make it to your campsite and get everything set up while it’s still daylight and then make it into town for margaritas at that place you both enjoyed so much last year. And then it happens. You get a flat. You slow down and start looking around for a place to pull over because the shoulders don’t look flat or wide enough. Once you find a wide spot, you pull over and the stream of cars behind you go whizzing by all headed into town to drink the margaritas you were so looking forward to. Doesn’t matter if you’re dragging a trailer or have a full size coach, it’s at times like these that you could use a helping hand.
That’s where a company like Coach Net comes in. They are a 24 hour roadside assistance service, so in the above scenario you would simply call the number on the back of your membership card and leave the rest up to them. They can even determine your location based on your cel phone, if you give them permission, otherwise you’d need to provide a location to the nearest mile marker or cross street. After that, simply describe your break down in as specific manner as possible so they can dispatch the corresponding equipment to your location. They are tied into a network of over 40,000 service providers nationwide, so if you need a tire, or if you need a tow they are standing by to help. Realistically, and hopefully, years will go by before you need to call them, but once you do they will quickly and efficiently respond to your call. And there’s no need to worry about paying for a service then submitting a receipt for reimbursement, Coach Net is pre-paid. So if you’re about to hit the road in a new RV, or one that is new-to-you, may I suggest getting this sort of coverage so that your next RV trip will be all the fun you hope it can be, and suggest that you hit our website for any parts or accessorires.
Charles Henry, Flickr Creative Commons
As you head through west central Texas on I-10 you may or may not have seen the exit signs for Ft McKavett. If you’re coming in from the west like you’re headed for San Antonio, turn left onto 202 (Poplar St) in Sonora, TX until it becomes 245 and follow that all the way to Ft McKavett. If you’re coming in from the east like you’re headed to El Paso, turn right onto 1674, which is an exit more or less in the middle of nowhere, and follow that road north to Ft McKavett.
Fort McKavett was described back in it’s heyday as “the prettiest post in Texas” and even though it is a ghost town and many buildings are in ruin, it is still a magnificent looking spot today. It was originally settled in the 1850’s as a regular little town with the we’ll-never-have-tourists-with-a-name-like-that name of Scabtown, TX. As little as nine years later the town was abandoned after the population was run off by Comanches. Ten years later the US Army founded the cavalry post of Ft McKavett in 1869. The fort was only in operation from 1869-1883 by which time it’s use as a defense against Indian raids was no longer required. The town that sprung up around Ft McKavett had a population that peaked in the early 1900’s at a whopping 150 folks.
These days the old fort has been partly restored by the Texas Historical Commission, while some buildings remain in ruin. The Fort was notable for being home to one of the Buffalo Soldier regiments which were the African-American horse soldiers of the Old West. Today there are periodic Buffalo Soldier reenactments. The fort is also notable for being the site of the first ever Medal Of Honor awarded to an African American soldier when the MOH was presented to Sgt Emanuel Stance who was a member of the 10th Cavalry for “gallantry on a scout for Indians”.
Tell us about your favorite places from the past to visit in a our fine state in the comment section below, and before you hit the road, don’t forget to hit our website for any parts and accessories you may need!
Nicholas Doumani/Flickr Creative Commons
In the previous blog I wrote about how music can take you away from the mundane boringness that can creep into a long long drive, and I realized I hadn’t given any personal examples from my own road trips, so I thought today I’d explain.
I was talking to my older brother, Bryan, and we were discussing how music can take away our stress. Every evening I crank up Eagles music and I guess you could say it takes me to my happy place. Kind of like how an RV trip does. My brother went home and must have had some deep thoughts about our conversation because he sent me the following text:
“Yep……you realize the Eagles music can tie into your blog….I believe the lyrics of one song in particular….something like ‘running down the road trying to loosen my load world of troubles on my mind….take it easy’…something like that….now could be an RV’r anthem for getting away from it all. Oops…its ‘seven women on my mind…4 that want to own me, 2 that want to stone me & 1 says she’s a friend of mine’……anyway, that’s one I crank up real loud and sing (badly I might add)….its great for clearing the head & feeling good…..kind of like RVing. Of course, Hotel California is no doubt their most famous hit…..Desperado is very very good….for us guys Witchy Woman…….all good…no doubt better with glass of red vino.”
This made me think to ask the question of our readers: Which song takes you to that happy place, which song beings that mellow all-cares-are-gone type of mood, and what is your favorite stroll down memory lane song?
My happy song is “Take It Easy”, my mellow road song is Eric Clapton’s ballad “Beautiful Tonight”, but my favorite walk down memory lane is Pearce Sledge’s classic “When A Man Loves A Woman”.
Please tell us about your favorite songs and leave a comment in the section below so we can check them out, after all, we all could use some new music in the RV!
Daniel Oines/Flickr Creative Commons
Hoo WEE! If this subject doesn’t cause arguments the world over, I’m not sure what will. Heck, I just got finished blaring some Eagles on my last trip. (Yes, RV Nana knows how to rock). Let’s face it though, when you have miles and miles and miles of road ahead of you it really helps to have some good music playing to help occupy your mind while the miles and the hours roll by. It used to be that you could tune in the AM radio as you drove across the country and get a real taste of the region you were driving through, but in these days of broadcasting consortiums eating up local radio, hearing those distinct accents and regional music styles is getting more and more rare. If you’re lucky you’ll still stumble on some real gems like Alfred Vrazel on KMIL 1330 AM based in Cameron, TX, who has been hosting the Vrazel Polka Hour for the last 60 years, or KCFJ 570 AM in Alturas, CA, which broadcasts old-time radio shows and, in the last 10-15 years or so, news stories from China.
So today I thought I’d add some suggestions for music that’ll help take your mind off the miles. My first suggestion would be to consider film soundtracks. I say that for a couple reasons, first of which is that soundtracks are designed to help you visualize actions, mood, places, etc. when you hear them, plus if you’ve seen the movie you’re natural inclination is to think “Oh yeah, he was about to kiss her during this part” or “Aw man, this part was so tense” and sort of watch the movie in your mind as the music plays. Two really good travel soundtracks (in my opinion) are “Music By Ry Cooder” which is a compilation of his various soundtracks, and “The Professional” by Eric Serra. Both of those albums really help the miles pass and are largely instrumental. If you prefer music with lyrics, might I suggest either albums with stories in them like “Red Headed Stranger” by Willie Nelson or “The Wall” by Pink Floyd. If you’re looking for something more up-to-date check out Jason Isbell’s album “Southeastern”; he is a master of telling stories in every song.
Hope these suggestions help make the road-time seem shorter, and the only other suggestion I have is to click this link for any parts and accessories y’all may need!
Adam Hay/Flickr Creative Commons
We spent a fair bit of time last week talking about some of the most remote drives and locations in the continental United States. Today I thought we’d try a little bit of the opposite and head through Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The park has on average 9,000,000 visitors a year making it the most visited National Park in the country! So sharpen up those elbows because it’s about to get crowded around here!
Great Smokey Mountains National Park is located in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, and is best accessed by coming into the park on Hwy 441 either through Gatlinburg, TN or Cherokee, NC. It was founded in 1934 but not officially opened until 1940. As you would expect it is home to spectacular scenic views, hiking, back country camping, sight-seeing, fishing (regular and fly), horseback riding, and bicycling. There are quite a few historic buildings scattered throughout the park as well, ranging from old pioneer cabins to a Baptist church, old school house, barns, and other outbuildings like smokehouses and corn cribs.
Numerous hiking trails criss-cross the park with campsites and even shelters available along the trails. If you feel like you might need to sleep in a shelter on your hike, check availability before you depart form home as these shelters only sleep 12-14 people a night and reservations may be required. Cades Cove is the most popular bicycling and self guided automobile tour area. The Park Service has preserved many of the historic buildings here and you can catch a glimpse of what that old school Appalachian lifestyle might have looked like back in the frontier days.
Another popular spot in the Park is Mount Le Conte which is in the Tennesse side of the park. Mount Le Conte is the highest peak in the Appalachian range at over 5300 feet in height from it’s base to it’s peak. The LeConte Lodge is near the peak and was opened in 1925…but you have to hike in as there is no road to the lodge!
And remember, before you hit the road swing by our website for any RV Parts and Accessories you may need!
Bureau of Land Management/Flickr Creative Commons
The last two blogs were about some of the emptiest places left in America. They were about drives and locations that would add an element of adventure to your travels, either because of their lack of available services or because the pure isolation. Some people enjoy the crowds, the hustle and bustle, while other prefer the quiet and the solitude. Well today’s blog is the last in our three-part series of big, beautiful, empty places that are off the beaten track and available for your enjoyment.
We’ve talked about Lake County, Oregon in previous blogs so today we’ll concentrate on the rest of the Oregon Outback. The Oregon Outback Scenic Byway begins in on Hwy 395 in Lakeview. As you head north you’ll come to a split in the road in Valley Falls, the huge exposed geologic fault called Abert Rim will be off to your right, and Abert Lake will be in front of you, however you turn left towards Paisley. You’ll cross over the Chewaucan River a couple of times, and will more than likely see quite a few fishermen after trout. The road travels through Paisley and heads along the base of Winter Rim which still bears the scars of the devastating Winter/Toolbox Fire of 2002. On your right will be Summer Lake. Once you’re past Sumemr Lake, the road will begin to climb and you’ll be back up in high desert. The Fort Rock turnoff will be coming up on the right. Fort Rock is a natural volcanic feature that is 200 feet high and over 4000 feet wide and is quite spectacular. After Fort Rock the byway enters Deschutes National Forest and you can head on into Bend, Redmond, or Prineville, OR from there. Of course if you prefer to use Redmond as a starting point, it is an equally spectacular drive and you can continue on 395 south all the way to Reno, NV, or Tahoe, or…?
OH! One last thing. Before y’all head out into the great beyond, be sure and stock up on batteries and water, and also swing by PPL Motorhomes.com for any other accessories you might need!
Al_HikesAZ/Flickr Creative Commons
The summer driving season is only a couple months away for those of us down here in the south central portions of the United States. And once school is out and folks really hit the road, it tends to get a little crowded out there. So this week I’ll be focusing on some of those out-of-the-way places. In the last blog I told y’all about the least populated county in America, Loving County TX and the remotest emptiest stretch of highway in America which is Hwy 50 in Nevada. Today I thought I’d tell you folks about the remotest town and the most isolated stretch of interstate in the continental US.
If you feel like heading to the Grand Canyon this summer, you can visit the most remote town in the continental United States. Supai, AZ is a town of roughly 400 inhabitants, and not a single car. All supplies are brought in on mule trains or the occasional helicopter. Oh, didn’t I mention? Supai, AZ is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and is the capitol of the Havasupai Reservation. It’s been said that Supai is so far off the beaten track that in 2000 the Census Bureau FORGOT to count the inhabitants! Supai is filled with an other-worldly rugged beauty, and is the only place in the nation where the US Mail is carried in and out on mules.
While we’re in the northern Arizona portion of the nation, let’s hop across the Grand Canyon and head north to Utah. Specifically a 106 mile portion of I-70 located in Smack Dab In The Middle Of, UT. The 106 mile portion between Green River in the east and Salina in the west has only 6 exits, no towns, no gas, nothing. Nothing but incredible scenery of the rugged and colorful variety. It’s the equivalent of driving between Baltimore and Philadelphia and not seeing a single person, a single McDonalds, or a single fuel pump. So, when you get to Salina, or Green River, you best fill up the ol’ tank and make sure you do the same with your propane!
OH! One last thing. Before y’all head out into the great beyond, be sure and stock up on batteries and water, and also swing by PPL Motorhomes.com for any other accessories you might need.
Matthew Rutledge/Flickr Creative Commons
It’s difficult in this day and age of internet, interstates, and instant (not to mention constant) communication, that there are still places in the United States that are remote, unpopulated, and somewhat forgotten. Sometimes it’s nice to head down a trail that doesn’t have too many tracks, so today we’re going to talk about a couple of the empty places that are scattered throughout the continental US, and we’ll start with one here in Texas.
As of the 2010 census, Loving County, TX is the least populated county in the entire United States with a total population of 82. Most folks live in or near the county seat of Mentone, TX which by the way is the only town in Loving County. Back in the 1970’s the schools were closed and both Loving County students were incorporated into the Wink County school district. There are no doctors or lawyers in the county, but there is the Boot Track Cafe in Mentone. They allow smoking, but don’t take credit cards. If you want to shop, I’d imagine you’d head to Kermit, TX. A local was quoted as saying, “You can buy a stamp at the Mentone Post Office, but you have to get the spit to lick it in Kermit”, because Mentone even has to truck in its water. To get to Mentone you need to head north on Hwy 285 from Pecos, like you’re going to Carlsbad, NM, then take a right on Hwy 302 to Mentone. It’s not in the middle of nowhere, but you can sure see nowhere from Mentone, TX.
Another place nowhere near anywhere is Hwy 50 in Nevada. Back in the 80’s it was proclaimed the “Loneliest Highway in America” and not a lot has changed in the last 30 years. The stretch between Ely and Eureka is probably the most remote 73 miles of the Loneliest Highway in America. If you have any qualms about the mechanical state of your vehicle, stick with the interstates because this road is so far out there it is home to the darkest night skies left in America. That means there are no lights, people, service stations, McDonald’s…nothing. The highway zig zags around the washboard mountain ranges that seem to march in ranks across the state, and most settlements left in this part of Nevada were old mining communities form the silver rush days.
Before y’all head out into the great beyond, be sure and stock up on batteries and water, and also swing by PPL Motorhomes.com for any other accessories you might need.
Stephen Kruso:Flickr Creative Commons
Well y’all, there’s been a law on the books for the past few decades stating that trailers with a gross weight over 4500 pounds have to have an annual safety inspection. That includes travel trailers. Turns out a lot of folks either didn’t know about that law or just flat ignore it. Confusing matters further, the Texas Legislature decided back in 2013 that the inspection requirements will remain unchanged, but the inspection stickers will not be issued. The inspectors now send a notice electronically to the DMV showing compliance and then the inspections station issues a paper to the trailer owner certifying that the trailer has passed inspection and the trailer owner is now able to pay for registration. Inspection first, or no registration. As of 2016, the owner will have 90 days from registration expiration to have the trailer inspected
Of course inspection fees vary from county to county, but the state charges $7.50 and it is added to the $45 annual registration fee for the trailer. A $10 bridge and road fee could also be levied by individual counties as well as whatever fee the inspection station charges, probably in the $7-10 range. Worst case scenario, you’re looking at one more hoop to jump through and a grand total of probably not more than $75 per year for registration and inspection of your beloved drag-along. Of course as part of the inspection all the lights, brakes, and reflectors have to be installed and operational. Since the state will no longer issue the inspection stickers and a safety inspection is required prior to registration, the single registration sticker issued by the state will confirm at a glance that your trailer is in fact in compliance.
Of course some trailers have been neglected or have been rode hard and put up wet. If that’s the case please visit us at PPL Motorhomes for all your parts and accessories to help get that trailer back on the road!