Stargazing

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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!!

How many AC’s are enough in TX?

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brykmantra, Flikr Creative Commons

I was bragging in the last blog about how great Texas is, singing the whole “Texas Is Bigger And Better” song, and then it got so coastal this week. Hot, humid, rainy, and condensation inside the windows all over town. While I’m grateful the state is getting welcome moisture this year, as well as our spring being an actual season this time instead of just the usual footnote-sized blip of nice weather, today was the day that air conditioning became one of those major priorities.
So I decided I really wanted to do an entire blog article on keeping your cool in the summer heat.  We have a wide selection of AC units in stock on the website and it’s definitely that time of year where we’re subtly changing from Almost Summer to Full-Blown Summer, so if you haven’t had the AC serviced yet or if it’s not keeping your RV, travel trailer, or fifth wheel properly comfortable it may be worthwhile to check with the manufacturer or in the manual to see if your RV is pre-wired for a second AC unit. Many of them are, and in Texas heat that second AC can make a difference between a wonderful RV vacation and one that is simply tolerable.
Of course, RV Nana happens to like the second AC unit for more than just the cool.  When we had our fifth wheel, it was so nice to turn on the AC unit up front above the bed and take a nap or let that fan on the bedroom unit lull you to sleep.  I have even been known to turn on the AC fan in the dead of winter just to have the noise! If you’re like me and you prefer that cool breeze and sleep inducing hum, please swing by the website and we’ll do our best to help make your summer more comfortable!

Nana’s Recipes: Maragaritas

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Lindsey Turner, Flikr Creative Commons

Like any truly world changing event, the invention of the Margarita has several origin stories. Anyone who reads this blog will know by now that I am a proud Texan, so the origin story of the Margarita that I prefer to believe happened right here in Texas!

Ahem… it was a dark and stormy night in 1948, and an internationally known leggy lady singer named Peggy Lee sauntered into the Balinese Room in Galveston, TX. She stood there a moment, surveying the room. The South Seas style interior of the club was dimly lit, the bandleader saw her and immediately broke into “Mañana (Is Soon Enough For Me),” which was her song currently at #1 on the Billboard Charts. She nodded to him, then made her way to the bar.

“Good evening Miss Lee. What would you like me to make for you?” bartender Santos Cruz asked as she placed her handbag atop the bar.

“Hello Santo! I don’t know, how about something new? Just for me?” Peggy responded happily.

“Yes ma’am!” he said, fetching down a bottle of Tequila. He scratched his head for a moment, then started to reach to the right, changed his mind, and bent down to bring out a bottle of Triple Sec. He looked around the bar for a short moment, then brought out a small basket of limes.

“Wow, Santo. This is going to be quite the production,” she laughed.

He grinned back at her and set a thick glass on the bar. A moment later he added two ice cubes, poured in a shot of Tequila, added a dash of Triple Sec, cut a lime in half, and, after he’d squeezed the lime over the glass, he rubbed the rim with the lime and sprinkled a tiny amount of salt on the rim.

“With my compliment, Miss Lee,” he smiled, and placed the drink in front of her.

She reached down, smiled, and took a sip.

“Why, this is MARVELOUS!” she sighed. “What do you call it?”

“I don’t know ma’am, I just made it. You said you wanted something just for you, so let’s call it Peggy,” he said.

“No, no, no… this is a Spanish drink. What is Peggy in Spanish?”

“I don’t know… err, what’s your middle name?”

“Margaret.”

“Perfect! Margaret in Spanish is Margarita, so happy Margarita Miss Lee!” he beamed, and thus the Margarita was born. And if it didn’t really happen that way, well, it should have! Happy Margarita from all of us at PPL Motorhomes!

Random Texas Facts

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Jeff P/Flickr Creative Commons

As y’all know, PPL Motorhomes is based in The Great State of Texas and are mighty proud of that fact. We’re so glad that the citizens of the Lesser States have realized what a paradise we have here in the Lone Star, that they are willing to give up the cold and snow and economic hard times of their home states to move down here with us and enjoy all this hot weather and work we’ve got happening these days. We also like ourselves a good old fashioned tongue-in-cheek brag session, so let’s go over some true Texas facts for you recently arrived folk.

Firstly, I am proud to announce that Texas is the only state in the Nation to ever whoop another country’s butt. Of course issuing whoopins comes with consequences, and that country had a good long think about that whoopin it received, and decided they needed to whoop ours right back, which is how we Texans became Texan-Americans. We needed our big brother to come help out. (Insert self-deprecating smile here).

Secondly, our chili is so darn good here in Texas that it prevents bank robbery! Seriously! Jesse James once declined to rob the bank in McKinney, TX, because he enjoyed the chili there so much he wanted to ensure he’d always be welcome back in town.

Thirdly, we’re pretty darn tough around here! There was a fella back in the 90’s who was bit by a coral snake; to you newcomers, those are poisonous. They have distinctive black, yellow, and red bands and spawned the phrase, “red and yellow, kill a fellow” to differentiate between the coral snake and their less harmful relatives. Anyhow, like I was saying, there was this Texan back in the 1990’s who was bitten by a coral snake, and in turn he bit the head off the snake and used it’s body as a tourniquet. Which is pretty tough of him!

Fourthly, we’re full of good advice and safety tips (see thirdly, above). My advice to you today is to click this link and head on over to PPL Motorhomes.com for all your parts and accessories!

Road Music to RV the Country By

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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!

 

RVing Through Tornado Country

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DVIDSHUB/Flickr Creative Commons

Well y’all, it’s getting to be that time of year. This spring has been a welcome wet one here in Texas, so I reckon the weather patterns for this year, compared to the last few biblical-style drought years we’ve had, will be a little different. Since as RVers we tend to be highly mobile, I thought today we’d chat a bit about what to do when then storms turn from “Regular Ol’ Bad” to “Downright Ugly.”

I remember driving in between Lamesa and Big Spring out in west Texas quite a few summers back, when one of those walls of black clouds and rain hit us. The wind was knocking us around pretty good, it was getting darker and darker in the middle of the afternoon and then the wind started switching direction on us and hail was hitting the back glass even though we were still moving between 60-65 miles an hour! In situations like that you tend  to run through all the lists of things people have told to you do and not do in the event of a tornado, but nowhere in those lists are two little friendly words: Don’t Panic. That is a wonderful place to start when dealing with iffy weather with possible (and actual) tornadoes.

Some things about dealing with tornadoes are fairly counter-intuitive, for example don’t assume you can outrun the tornado. Tornadoes on average have better than 110 mph winds, and your RV isn’t going do that in bad weather unless you drive it off a very tall cliff. Another counter intuitive thing you should think about is abandoning the RV. Yes it’s shelter from the rain and wind, but it has so much side area that it will want to fly away when that tornado hits, even if you’re tied down. So if you see the tornado coming, seek shelter outside the RV preferably in some sort of concrete structure or even laying down flat in a ditch (the wind will have a hard time picking you up and blowing you away if you’re even slightly below level ground).

So to conclude, as in all things, keep your wits about you and you’ll make the correct decisions.

Better Get Those Trailers Inspected!

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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!

Working With Your Galley/Kitchen Space

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Geoffrey Fairchild/Flickr Creative Commons

Do any of you folks reading this own an RV or trailer where the kitchen is just too darn big? Show of hands? Anyone? Anyone? Yep. Nobody. If your kitchen is too big, then maybe you’re just too small, ha!

I thought today I could give y’all a few tips on how to keep that kitchen/galley area organized and cook-friendly, because there is a lot of activity in that small a space.

Needless to say, since we’re dealing with a limited amount of space, we can only bring a limited amount of cooking gear out on the trail with us. Since some folks are part-time RV’rs, one thing that will help simplify life out on the road is to dedicate one set of pots, pans, plates, cups, and cutlery for permanent use in the RV. If you can do this, it prevents that forehead slapping moment when you’re camped in Flagstaff, AZ, and you suddenly realize that your skillet is back home in Waco, TX, for example. That same concept holds true for the spices and condiments you use most regularly — store them permanently out in the RV and they’ll be waiting for you when you open the pantry at the campground.

Also, if you’re only using the RV or trailer part-time for weekend getaways and camping activities, stocking it permanently with all the non-perishable items helps ensure that you forget less when you leave the house. Stock the pantry with all the canned fruits and veggies, rice, pastas, energy bars, cooking oils, beans, coffee, teas, etc. If you’re able to do this, all you need to bring with you when you’re ready to leave the driveway is the fresh ingredients like your meat and fresh vegetables, milk, eggs, etc.

Hopefully these common-sense concepts will help make those occasional RV trips less stressful, and the trips to the grocery store less frequent, allowing you to enjoy the campsite more. If you have any tips, please feel free to leave a comment below, and please visit us at PPL Motorhomes for all your RV needs.

RV Driver’s Education?

 Bill Ward/Flickr Creative Commons

Bill Ward/Flickr Creative Commons

Only you, the seller, and the bank know how much you paid for the RV. You may be able to fudge that number a little bit with everybody else, but three people know exactly how much you’ve laid out for this awesome machine. So with that size of investment in mind, why let a little pride cause your investment to shift from long-term to short-term by causing unnecessary and easily avoided damage and cost?

Driving a vehicle the size of an RV is not the same as driving that Honda Civic you have trailered up behind it, and we’ve all seen that new RV owner turning right and hitting the curb, or getting into a position at the gas station where it looks like they’re either going to hit the post by the fuel pump, another car, or even the building itself. So today I thought I’d talk about RV Driving Courses.

The practical benefits should be fairly obvious: that right turn I mentioned previously for example, learning to parallel park a vehicle whose size you are not used to judging, or even backing it up without damaging your or anyone else’s vehicle or property are just three ways an RV Driver’s Course can assist you after purchasing your first RV. Depending on which insurance provider you are with, some companies offer a discount on your premium for having completed an instructional course, especially if you have a clean record. Some driving schools offer a practical driving course similar in many ways to the courses offered for big rig drivers, while others offer classroom based classes. Depending on which state your license is issued from, you may be required to upgrade that license depending on how large your RV is, and participating in a school’s program will greatly assist you in that endeavor.

The main points though is this: you bought the RV because you wanted to be able to use it and have a home away from home. We all know you’re not 16, we all know that you can drive a car, but we also all know that first time around the block in something as large and expensive as a motor-coach can be pretty daunting and we’ve all jumped that curb at one point or another as well. Remember, as much as you may like to believe it is, your motorhome is not a toy. My best advice to new owners is to take a class, enjoy the new experience, and when it comes time to accessorize or modify your RV to suit your needs, visit PPLMotorhomes.com!

Staying Fit in the RV Life

Rv Fit! photo from:http://consumerboomer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/baby-boomer-exercise-program.jpg

Everybody knows that the roads are long, the driving hours are pretty sedentary, and the odd thing is that once you make it to your destination, ironically, you just want to sit down. Just like you’ve been doing all day long! Well here are some tips about how to get the blood pumping again after a long day on the road.

You may not be 6 years old anymore, but bicycles are awesome! They are an great way to get the legs going, the heart pumping, and some energy burnt. Not everybody has a car tailing along at the back of the RV, and bicycles are the perfect way to run those small errands when you’ve reached your destination. Take a backpack for groceries, or go old school and add a basket to the front. Chances are you wont be going over any sweet jumps or needing to look cool in front of all the other kids and baskets do make life just a little bit easier.

You have two things with you at all times that can help with mobility, health, and energy. Your feet! Pedometers are cheap, and you can go for record-breaking walks everyday. It’s always good to explore, and what better way to do it that than in some new shoes? It doesn’t take that much time out of your day and weren’t you just saying that there’s nothing good on TV?

On bad weather days, you can always put on your favorite music and have a quick dance party in the RV. Pretend you’re on an episode of Soul Train, Dancing With The Stars, or even Lawrence Welk, and dance like nobody’s watching! The fun thing about dancing is how quickly the time passes, only 3-4 songs and the next thing you know you have “worked out” for almost 30 minutes. As James Brown used to sing, “Get up off a that thing! Shake it, you’ll feel better!”

Come by PPLMotorhomes.com and say howdy, we have all the parts and accessories you’re looking for.