Mental Diversions On Long Road Trips

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Angus MacRae/Flickr Creative Commons

Let’s face it: the RV life is a grand one, but even the most gung-ho of us experience that creeping boredom on a long trip. Especially on those long road trips over routes we’ve traveled many times. How many times can you ask yourself, “Hey, isn’t that restaurant new?” or “WHEN are they going to finish working on that exit?” before you just couldn’t care less? With the advent of smart phones, surfing the net becomes a very dangerous yet alluring distraction. Your passenger will fuss at you and your stock response of “I’m just using the map” doesn’t make it any less dangerous, so today I thought we could talk about how to keep your mind occupied while the long straight road whizzes by.

If you’re driving by yourself and you can’t find anything good on the FM, don’t forget there is an AM side! You can hear some of the coolest local radio shows on the AM dial and it’ll really give you a taste or flavor of the region. I remember driving through the painted desert portion of AZ on I-40 heading for New Mexico and hearing the Navajo Radio station on 660. It was so interesting to hear the Navajo language spoken and hear the English words scattered throughout…for example, George Strait in Navajo is: George Strait.

All those old-school road trip games will come into play as well, but we’ve covered those in previous blogs. So a newer suggestion is to do Road Math! For example let’s say you’re in Eastern New Mexico on Hwy 285, add up the numbers 2, 8, and 5 and you get 10. Diesel costs $3.27? Add it up! You get 12! A tractor trailer goes by with the ID# 25703, it adds up to 17. It really works well when you start to get a little tired and dozy in the heat.

Dealing With Road Rage

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Dan Zen/Flickr Creative Commons

As RVers I’m sure you’ve found yourself in that situation where you’re trying to merge or pull out into traffic and folks either won’t let you in, or you’re not moving fast enough for somebody and they try to zip around you. Nobody realizes more than you do that you’re bigger, heavier, less maneuverable, and accelerate slower than the cars and SUVs around you but they still have to behave like spoiled children in order to ensure you understand their displeasure. So I thought today we could discuss ways to maintain your composure and enjoyment of road life in the face of other’s impatience, discourtesy, and dangerous driving.

First impulse when confronted with another driver’s aggressive driving is meet aggression with aggression, sometimes in the form of angrily shouting curses at the back of their car and secretly hoping a cop is going to chase them down and hit them with heavy fines, or maybe dreaming that that they’ll pick up nails in more than one tire to pay them back for being such a jerk to you and all the other drivers that have had to share the road with them today. But here’s the thing y’all, driving an RV in today’s cell phone addicted world is stressful enough without allowing that sort of frustration and anger into the RV. To some of you folks it may sound childish or even weak, but the ability to shrug your shoulders and not let a jerk turn you into a jerk is actually pretty powerful.

So here’s what you do…take a DEEP breath and imagine situations that would justify someone driving like an ass. Maybe that guy is a father who’s child has just been taken to the hospital and he’s trying to get there as quick as he can. Maybe that woman is a mother who has just been laid off and is distraught and thinking more about how she is going to pay her family’s rent in there new found jobless situation. There are any number of situations of an emergency or stressful situations that could justify erratic driving if only you knew the whole story. So instead of pounding the steering wheel and working your way towards a stroke, think of these situations that would allow for bad driving and become sympathetic to their plight. NONE of what you imagine may be true, they may just be a real ass, but the main thing is it will release your anger and keep your RV a happy place even when you’re surrounded by selfish drivers!

www.pplmotorhomes.com

RV Cooking Tips

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Tym/Flickr Creative Commons

Oh my Lord, social mealtimes have a way of creating some very long-lasting memories don’t they? Positive and negative. On the positive side, I STILL remember how incredible my grandmother’s green beans tasted ,or my great-grandmother’s homemade Lemon ice cream. MMM MMM! Unfortunately I also remember some mealtime disasters, like a ham served at a holiday mealtime a few years back. It’s impossible to truly recount the horrors of that ham, but I will tell you I slipped my serving under the table to the dog…then after the meal the dog ran outside and threw up! So today I reckon we could talk about some fairly common cooking mistakes and ways to help prevent upset tummies in our pets. Ha!!

It seems like most cooking errors come from either wanting to cut corners on time because we started late, or some other disaster in the galley has cause us to get stressed. Other errors are caused by tradition; the “Mom and Grandma cooked this way and and if it was good enough for my (long suffering) family, then by gum it’s good enough for you” mentality. Remember that secret ingredient your Grandma always told you? It’s always love isn’t it? That means caring enough about the poor folks who are gonna have to politely eat your cooking to not let your pride (or anyone else’s) or nerves get in between your loved ones and a good meal. It may sound a little harsh, but sometimes it’s as easy as:

Let the oven pre-heat! I had a relative that always threw the meal into the oven then turned it on and wondered why it was never done when the timer went off (and frozen in the middle).

Let your pans and skillets heat up! It prevents sticking, meat will sear properly, and if you want to sautee up some veggies, it’s an absolute must. Once your pan is up to temp, THEN add your oil or meat.

There is a difference between boiling and simmering! You can really mess up rice by not knowing the difference…a simmer is one or two bubbles every couple seconds or so, a boil is constant bubbles all over, all the time.

Truly simple ideas, but easily forgotten in the mad panic that sometimes happens in the kitchen. Worst case, treat everybody to a meal on the town, and everybody will sigh with relief! For any kitchen accessories you may need come to PPL Motorhomes.com and say howdy!

It’s Flooding Down In Texas…

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Steve Rainwater/Flickr Creative Commons

As the famous Stevie Ray Vaughan song goes, “It’s flooding down in Texas, and all the of the telephone lines are down.”

Well y’all, that epic Wrath of God drought we’ve been sitting in these last eight years or so seems to have had a dent put in it with all this rain we’ve enjoyed this spring. Texas is green as Ireland right now, and like the Emerald Isle, it’s been damp! So today I though we’d talk a little bit about driving in those flooded areas.

I reckon the simplest tip for driving an RV in flooded areas is: if you don’t have to, then DON’T. Sure your vehicle is heavier than the average car, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay on the road any better if there’s flowing water running across it. Furthermore, we’ve seen enough roads wash out these last couple weeks that you heavier-than-the-average-vehicle could easily punch through the surface of the asphalt if water you can’t see is running underneath it. How many sinkholes in flooded roads have we seen on TV? Quite a few. Heck they even shut down DFW airport a few weeks back because of a sinkhole near the runway.

Another thing to think about when you’re trying to decided wether or not to try and cross water flowing over the roadway is just how much side area your RV has. It’s got to be something like 65-75% percent side area, think how much force that water is going to exert on the side of your vehicle, then think how SMALL the footprint of your tires on the pavement is. That tiny little amount of tire on the roadway with a little weight on it is supposed to hold you vehicle against water pushing against the side of the RV? The side of the RV that’s big as a billboard? Also that water will also flow underneath your motorhome thus causing your land yacht to be a non-steerable, non-powered water yacht.

Let’s drive smart out there people. Unless you are in danger of being washed away, leave you RV where it is and we’ll discuss insurance in another blog. Like the Texas DPS says everywhere: TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN!

www.pplmotorhomes.com

Let’s Travel Kid-Smart

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State Farm/Flickr Creative Commons

Quite a few of us in this RV Life have grandkids that travel with us on occasion. We’ve discussed in previous posts those old-school road trip games, some tips for those more modern kids, as well as how to just get along with each other in what can become fairly cramped quarters. Today I’d like to talk with y’all about getting yourself ahead of the game a little bit, so you won’t feel like you’re running along behind the RV trying to catch up with the whole situation while it’s spinning out of the fun category into the stress category. These trips need to be about stress mitigation, and not adding more stress to anyone’s pile.

One of the easiest ways to help reduce stress on EVERYBODY is to do some pre-trip homework. For example, what do these kids eat? Every family has that one kid who won’t eat anything, but find out from his/her parents what they DO actually eat and stock up on that. Also find out what they’re favorite fast food is. I know we’re supposed to be promoting a healthy lifestyle and all that, but this is a road trip with kids and there is a good chance that their favorite fast food restaurant has a PLAYGROUND which equates to one stop for a meal, potty, and indoor air-conditioned fun. Not only that but to the kids it’ll be a treat and may help as a guarantor of decent behavior for a little while if you think of it from a mafiosi’s perspective. Ha! Most of these chain restaurants are online and you can scout the route before you leave to determine wether or not these locations have playscapes before the kids even arrive!

Other ways to get ahead of that curve ball is to determine what (if any) nap schedule the kids have, what their favorite movies are, which toys or blankets are the MUST HAVE/NO-GO items, find out which kid has to potty the most often and how long they can hold it, etc etc etc. You may not have had little kids full time in awhile and those memories of how much work is involved may have (gratefully) faded, but if you get the quickie Cliff’s Notes cheat sheet from the parents, it can save those last few full color hairs from going grey! And if there’s anything you need from us, swing by our website for any and all parts and accessories as well as useful tips like these in our archived blogs!

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!!

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.