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Matt Silver

Friday, 08 November 2019 18:59

11 Ways To Save Fuel When RVing

Traveling in an RV runs up the fuel bill, whether you’re driving a motorhome or a tow vehicle that’s pulling a trailer or fifth wheel.

Here are some ways to save on fuel:

Be organized. When you go into town for supplies, get everything you’ll need so you don’t have to repeat the trip for one or two small items. If the trip is manageable, and enjoyable, pick up what you need with a bicycle ride instead of a drive.

Drive Smoothly

Constantly laying on and pulling off the accelerator will increase fuel consumption. So will trying to accelerate rapidly when you’re under load. (Why bother? You’re still going to be pretty slow with all that weight.) When cruising, use the speed control, which tends to reduce fuel consumption—except on steep hills.

Take Your Time

Driving at 55 to 60 mph, in addition to being safer, requires considerably less fuel than driving at 70. Studies show a 55 mph drive can save 17 percent in fuel—probably more under load—than a 70 mph drive. On a 40-gallon fill-up, that can put almost $20 in your pocket—enough to buy pizza tonight.

Choose a Level Route

If you have options between a mountainous route and a relatively flat route, skip the mountain views to save fuel.  

Watch the Weather

Driving in snow and rain uses more fuel, in addition to adding risk and fraying nerves. If the forecast is for foul weather, consider delaying your departure by a few hours or a day.

Limit Air-Conditioner Use

Air-conditioning—we’re talking the unit driven by belts off your vehicle’s engine—can rob 5 percent or more of fuel usage. Consider an earlier start to spend time on the road before the midday sun heats things up. It’s better to start early than to drive into evening in search of cooler temperatures. Peak temperatures are often between 5 and 6 p.m.

Keep Your Vehicle’s Engine Tuned

This is especially important for gasoline engines, but just as important on diesels where filters are concerned. Change filters according to the recommendations in the owner’s manual and more frequently if you’re driving through dusty environments. A clean air filter helps an engine breathe easier, and that saves fuel. An engine control module may compensate for horsepower lost to a dirty filter by telling the fuel injection system to spray more fuel into the engine. Replace spark plugs on time and have them properly gapped and torqued into place.

Cut Weight

Get rid of stuff you don’t use. Throw it away or give it away. If you give it to a charity, make sure the organization qualifies for a tax deduction. Ask to see its 501(3)c documentation or its IRS 990 form. Get a receipt showing your name, the charity’s name and the value of your old clothes or castoff grill—or your old RV if you’re not going to get enough at trade-in.

Watch your tank levels. Except for your gasoline or diesel tank, you should be driving on empty. Full tanks can add hundreds of pounds to your RV, and weight reduces mileage. Empty water and waste tanks before hitting the road and refill fresh water tanks when you arrive at your destination. Fill or exchange propane tanks at your destination, too. If you burn firewood, buy at your destination instead of carrying a month’s worth of it.

Properly Distribute Weight

Evenly distributed weight increases not only fuel mileage but also safety. Keeping those tanks empty helps. Aerodynamics are best when a trailer is level, not bowed up or down at the tongue.

Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Under-inflation by just a pound on just one tire can reduce mileage 3 percent, not to mention cause safety hazards. Keep a tire gauge handy and check tire pressure before heading out on the road, adding air where necessary. If you notice a tire consistently not holding pressure, have it checked. Better to pay for a repair or replacement than end up with a flat when you’re boondocking or traveling at speed.

Consider a Wind Deflector

A roof-mounted wind deflector on a tow vehicle can improve aerodynamics. The deflectors send air over the trailer or fifth wheel rather than against its font end. Savings could reach 3 to 5 percent.

Use Regular Gasoline

Unless your owner’s manual calls for it, skip premium fuel. It costs about 15 percent more, and an engine that’s not made to use premium won’t benefit by burning it. You can get engine-cleaning additives with quality regular gas, saving a bundle.

Thursday, 17 October 2019 17:40

Venice Chalk Festival Close to Cypress Trail

Some of the world’s best chalk artists will turn the sidewalks and walls of Venice Island into a giant art exhibit Nov. 15-18.

The annual fall festival is a sister event to a chalk art show that originated and continues in Sarasota each spring.  The Venice festival is about an hour’s drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort in Fort Myers, making Cypress Trail the perfect spot to camp while enjoying a day or more of sidewalk art, or even participating in preparations, if you choose.

Hundreds of artists will transform paved surfaces at the Venice Airport Fairgrounds with dazzling works of art over four days during this year’s Garden of Wonders Chalk Festival.

There’s a music festival on opening day, and an area where children—and adults—can grab some chalk and put their imagination to the pavement each day of the festival.

3Dimensional Illusions

Chalk may be a 2-dimensional medium, but you’d never know it while looking at 3D pavement art illusions. The chalk renderings look startlingly 3D, seemingly rising up from or diving into the sidewalks, parking lots or walls they transform.

Each 3D illusion takes three to eight days to create. Some stretch 100 feet. The Venice show boasts the biggest single display of 3D illusionist chalk art in one place, according to the show’s promoters.

Kurt Wenner, an innovator in 3D pavement art, will re-create his Megalodon Shark, which appears to be jumping out of a broken pavement surface from water underneath—with a hapless human clamped within its monstrous jaws. The shark, depicting the largest shark known, has been drawn at chalk festivals worldwide.

Wenner also will re-create his 3Dimensional Illusion Environment, which employs perspective geometry that appears to defy the laws of physics. People and objects are visually distorted when they interact with Wenner’s creation—which includes vertical surfaces, all created with chalk. Water even appears to flow uphill in Wenner’s illusion.

Garden of Wonders Maze, Other Attractions

This year’s festival includes the Garden of Wonders maze for humans that pays tribute to natural delights and the human imagination. It’s open each day and is included in the admission fee.

Young and Young at Heart is the daily feature that allows children and adults to try their hand at pavement art in a designated area. The festival will provide participants with chalk. It’s also included in the cost of admission.

The music festival on the opening day requires a separate ticket that admits music festival attendees to the chalk festival and Garden of Wondrs maze, too.

Food trucks will serve an abundant choice of refreshments, for which there will be a separate charge. Tented areas with tables will afford festivalgoers a chance to rest in the shade.

Works in Progress

Some of the artists invited to create chalk art at the show don’t complete their work until the final day, so admission fees rise as the festival progresses. There’s plenty to see each day, and observing the artists at work as their creations take shape is an experience in and of itself.

Children age 12 and under enter free of charge every day. Parking also is free. Tickets are available online. On the final day, veterans are admitted free with an ID.

Here’s a guide to what you’ll see each day you can attend, and the admission costs for that day:

Friday, Nov. 15: Artists are working in their spaces, creating their works. Age 13 and over, $5. Pavement Music Festival, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., $25 (includes admission to the Chalk Festival and maze).

Saturday, Nov. 16: Artwork is half to two-thirds completed. Adults, $10; students, $5.

Sunday, Nov. 17: Artists complete their works throughout the day. Adults, $15; students, $10.

Monday, Nov. 18:  All art work is complete. Adults, $10; students, $5; veterans free with ID.

Advance Participation Opportunities

If you want to be a chalk artist—or at least understand how it’s done—you can pay a fee to work alongside professional artists in the days leading up to the public showings. Tickets are required for a session at any of the experience events. Students may participate free but must fill out an artist’s application.

Participants get a T-shirt, art materials to use during the work, a program, admission to a Nov. 19 after-party, and an unlimited event pass.

Four experiences are available, with three-hour morning and afternoon sessions each day of the experience:

  • Megalodon World Record Restoration Experience, Friday, Nov. 8-through Thursday, Nov. 14. Groups led by 3D innovator Wenner. $75 per session.
  • Garden of Wonder Maze Experience, Monday, Nov. 11, through Wednesday, Nov. 13. Help to paint images on walls of a maze that will be constructed onsite. $45 per session.
  • Oversized Flower Making Experience, Thursday, Nov. 7, through Wednesday, Nov. 14. $25 per session.
  • Illusion Room Backdrop Experience, Tuesday, Nov. 5, through Friday, Nov. 8. Work under Wenner’s direction painting backdrops in his illusion rooms. $50 per session.
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 12:54

4 Season RVs Mean Protection from Cold, Heat

As more people go to full-time RVing, interest in four-season RVs has increased. Even seasonal RVers may have an interest in a four-season RV if they head north or west to see relatives or enjoy snow around the December-January holidays, or if they stay in areas with extreme heat. 

There are no standards for four-season RVs, and no legal definition, but common sense dictates certain inclusions. Here are some considerations.

Big Mistake About “Canadian Standards”

Let’s get a common misconception out of the way.

Many folks, especially first-time RV buyers, think an RV built to “Canadian Standards” is better equipped to handle winters. Some people even buy an RV based on that assumption.

Fact: Canadian Standards and winter-readiness have nothing to do with each other. Canadian Standards, or CSA, are a set of electrical and mechanical-systems standards that some manufacturers voluntarily adhere to. By and large, an RV built to Canadian Standards is built to the same weatherproofing levels as other RVs.

What Is a 4-Seasons Camper?

In the broadest sense, a four-seasons RV is a camper that can protect its occupants and equipment from the harshest seasonal effects: from extreme heat in summer and from harsh cold in winter. Four-season RVs tend to be more expensive—and heavier. Many are bigger models.

Beware descriptions that lack specifics. If a maker says a camper is “certified” four seasons, how so? Who certifies that it is? What is required for this “certification”? If a sales person says the RV is winterized, what does that mean? He may mean merely that there’s antifreeze in the water system to allow for winter storage—meaningless in the four-seasons livability sense. It’s your money. If it’s “Alaska Ready,” what does that really mean? Demand specifics.

In practical terms, here are characteristics a four-seasons RV would have, whether a motorhome, travel trailer or fifth wheel:

Better insulation

Better insulation results in two things: Heating and cooling with lower energy requirements, and more comfort in extreme weather.

The higher the R-value, the better, but finding a dealer who can tell you an RV’s R-value isn’t easy. Most RVs have walls with fiberglass batt insulation rated between R-6 and R-9. A Four-season RV ideally would have walls rated R-11 or higher.

More important are floor and ceiling R-values, probably via fiberglass bolstered by foam. In floors, look for R-21 or more, with values up to about R-36. Slide-out floors should be about R-15.

Ceilings are likely at least R-18, ranging into the upper R-30s.

Find out about construction. Foil radiant barriers do little good without an air space between them and the insulation. Also make sure insulation is adequate on surfaces that meet storage areas. Poorly insulated adjacent walls will transfer cold.

Sad to say, but take notes and try to verify a salesman’s claims. It’s easy to say “high R-value.” That’s an opinion, not a specification. How high? Consult product literature, although it often is just as vague, or call the manufacturer’s customer service line.

Sealed Gaps

RVs have gaps—around windows, vents, exterior doors and wires, and in corners. Wires inside cabinets and coming in from storage areas don’t fill the holes that provide passage. Look to see if the holes are filled with insulation. If they’re not, the RV will leak a lot of energy.

Double-pane windows.

Windows present a problem that’s tough to solve. Glass, at a typical R-1 per pane, just doesn’t block temperature transfer as well as an insulated wall. Double panes will do a bit better with the space between panes. The best attribute of double-pane windows is that they reduce or prevent interior-surface window condensation.

Low-emissivity glass, which reflects heat toward the warmer side of the window, helps in winter and summer. Insulated curtains help a bit, but the best thing is probably to cover windows with reflective foil during extreme weather to reflect cold temps out and warm temps in. It’s a DIY job involving Velcro and reflective foil. The downside: Your RV will be darker.

Higher heating capacity

A heater needs to be at least 30,000 BTUs; bigger spaces will need even more. An undersized heater on a thermostat will run non-stop if the weather is cold enough. You may need to supplement with a propane fireplace or heater. The downside of the propane is higher humidity levels, so you may want to add a dehumidifier.

Water and Waste Systems Protection

Pex plumbing lines are somewhat flexible if the fresh water inside them freezes, but the key is keeping them from freezing in the first place.

A heated, insulated enclosure beneath the rig keeps water and waste lines, tanks and dump lines from freezing. At the very least, lines should be sheathed in foam insulation.

Roof vents

Roof vents, like windows, are a major escape route for cooled air in summer and heated air in winter, even if the vents are closed. First, think carefully about how many vents you really need. The more you have, the less your RV—in any price range—will be sealed against energy loss. (The catch: More roof vent fans will help cool without air-conditioning in summer, using far less power than an air-conditioning unit.)

Make sure gaps around vents are filled with insulation or sealant. Insulating the vent openings themselves is an easy DIY job. All you need is a vent insulator that fits into the standard 14-inch roof vent opening. These pillow-like insulators typically have heat-reflective top and bottom surfaces. For about $10, it’s one of the most cost-effective insulating steps you can take.

Here are some 4-season RVs to give you an idea of what’s available. As you read these sites, you’ll notice that even some home pages and product brochures use ambiguous, non-specific descriptions of insulation.

With the growth in popularity of smaller travel trailers, especially among younger, active campers, there’s often no need for many RVers to have a full-size tow vehicle.

Truly small trailers—teardrops and popups, for instance—typically weigh less than 2,800 pounds, with many coming in under 1,500 pounds. Travel trailers of 13-, 16- and 21-foot lengths usually weigh less than 4,000 pounds. None of them requires a half-ton pickup with a tow rating of 9,000 pounds.

The people who say “any car out there can pull one of them” may not be quite accurate. The days of Crown Vics and Impalas with full body-on-frame construction are long gone. Those cars could pull up to about 2,000 pounds without breathing hard. But there are quite a few cars, trucks, crossovers and SUVs built the past five or so years that can tow light- and even medium-weight trailers.

What To Look For

Before you buy any tow vehicle, especially a used one, know its capabilities.

You can find information on any model pretty quickly by consulting edmunds.com. Search edmunds year make model features specs. The Edmunds specifications page includes such useful information as exterior and interior dimensions, including passenger and cargo space—with seats up and down in hatchbacks, crossovers and SUVs.

Edmunds also lists maximum towing capacity and payload, which is just as important when considering a tow vehicle. Don’t forget that you’re towing a loaded trailer, not an empty one, so look for appropriate towing capacities. Warning: Towing with a vehicle that’s not recommended for that use may void your warranty.

Before buying anything, also look up the owner’s manual for the year and model, then read the towing entry.

Insisting on a CarFax report is helpful, since CarFax includes service histories. CarFax isn’t infallible, but it’s a good guide.

Edmunds includes actual owner reviews, some of which are helpful and some of which are merely “I love the color of the blue paint.” Discard the worthless reviews and look or patterns. If 10 owners report transmission or engine failures, that’s a pretty good indication that you may want to consider a different model.

Gauging Reliability

Especially if you’re boondocking, you don’t want a tow vehicle that’s historically unreliable, so make one last check: Go to carcomplaints.com.

Look up the number of complaints about any make and model. The site includes complaints made directly to the site and those made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also has recall information.

Complaints made directly to carcomplaints.com include the engine and transmission type where options are available, while NHTSA complaints do not. (Sometimes it becomes obvious in the paragraph describing the problem.) You can compare complaints of any model by year. The site recommends the best and worst years for each model.

What’s Out There?

If you really do want a full-size pickup, all U.S. models—RAM, Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado and its GMC twin, the Sierra—have 6-cylinder engines that are as powerful as the V8s of less than a decade ago. They are rated to tow up to 6,000 or 7,000 pounds, even without a turbocharger. All have diesel variants, but you really won’t need them for a light trailer.

There are also midsize pickups that can tow light trailers: Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. All have 4- and 6-cylinder options. Like the bigger trucks, they have body-on-frame construction that can handle the stress of towing. Some have diesel options—again, unnecessary.

Midsize and bigger SUVs can tow quite a bit, but like pickups, they’re pricey. Tow package-equipped V8 Dodge Durango/Jeep Grand Cherokee twins can tow up to 7,400 pounds; V6 models can handle 6,200. In that range are the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Tahoe.

Small SUVs and crossovers are a good option, many with V6 engines available, or strong turbocharged 4-cylinders. Cars.com lists 10 compact crossover/SUVs that are rated to tow 2,000 pounds or more, with the Jeep Cherokee topping the list. The Cherokee—the smaller model, not the bigger Grand Cherokee—can tow up to 4,500 pounds when equipped with the V6 and tow package. With a turbo four and tow package, it can handle 2 tons. Even the base 4-cylinder can tow 2,000 pounds.

Minivans and some sedans can tow light trailers. With front-wheel-drive, it’s best to stay with trailers 2,000 pounds or lighter. Check out the U.S. News ratings.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia.org

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 19:54

Sanitizing an RV Fresh Water System

When we think of dirty tanks, it’s easy to think of black and gray. But nothing can make you sick faster than an unsanitary fresh water tank. After all, you’re drinking that water, and bathing in it, however briefly.

And although you see the connection at the fresh water station in a camp, you really have no exact answer to the question, “Where does that water come from?” Sure, it’s from a well or a city water system, but you don’t know what shape they’re in.

So let’s review how to clean the fresh water tank and lines in your RV.

Frequency of Cleaning

You should sanitize the fresh water system:

  • At least twice a year.
  • Before storing your RV.
  • After removing your RV from storage.
  • If you find out the source of your water was cited for a health risk.
  • If an accident would splash unsanitary water against the fresh water intake.
  • If the water filling the tank exhibits signs of uncleanliness, such as sediment or a bad odor. You may want to sanitize it after driving through highly dusty areas.
  • After buying and before camping in a used RV.
  • After lending out your RV.

What You Need

clorox bleachSanitizing the fresh water system isn’t particularly difficult. It is a bit tedious. You need only a handful of items:

  • Chlorine bleach—bleach only, never a cleaner that contains bleach and/or other chemicals.
  • 1-cup measuring cup.
  • 1-gallon pitcher.
  • Funnel—one you don’t use for anything else and bag to keep clean.
  • White hose with which to fill the tank from a water source you know is safe.

A plastic cup and pitcher are ideal here; nothing will break. If you have a pitcher that catches shower water before it heats, use that. You’ll waiting between some steps, sometimes for hours. Plan accordingly.

Where To Do It

If you drain your tank onto the ground after sanitizing, don’t let water pool in areas of vegetative growth, even though the solution is weak enough that damage should not occur. Bleach in strong concentrations can harm plants.

What To Clean

First, decide whether to sanitize the cold water lines only, along with the tank, or the hot water system as well. Some folks sanitize the cold water lines only, reasoning that the hot water will discourage the growth of germs, and to keep chlorine from the water heater. It’s up to you.

What To Do

Here’s how to sanitize your RV fresh water system:

  1. Put on old clothes and shoes. (Even tiny splashes will spot clothing.)
  2. Refer to your owner’s manual to find out how many gallons your fresh water tank holds.
  3. Turn off the water pump.
  4. Turn off the ice maker if so equipped.
  5. If you don’t want to sanitize the hot water lines, turn off the water heater.
  6. Drain the fresh water tank by opening the drain valve, then tighten the valve again.
  7. Using the measuring cup and pitcher, add a quarter-cup of household bleach for each 15 gallons of tank capacity. Fill the rest of the pitcher with clean, potable water. (Take care: Too much bleach can damage the tank and seals.)  
  8. Hook up a hose to a source of clan water and fill your tank until you see overflow beneath the tank. Turn off the fill line.
  9. Open the gray water tank drain valve. (As an alternative, you can start with an empty grey tank, drain the bleach solution into it, then empty it at a grey water dumping station.)
  10. If you have a water filter, bypass it so bleach doesn’t run through.
  11. If you are cleaning the hot water system, bypass the heater, too.
  12. Turn the water pump back on. One at a time, open each faucet and your shower (don’t forget exterior faucets or showers!) until you smell bleach at each, then turn each off. (Open cold faucets only if you’re cleansing only the cold-water lines; turn the heater back on and open the hot water faucets too if you’re also cleansing the hot water system.)
  13. Allow the bleach solution to sit in the lines and tank for at least 4 and up to 12 hours. If you fill late in the day, you’ll be ready to drain in the morning.
  14. Optional: Drive your RV a few miles to get the solution to splash around and reach every part of the tank, or simply drive to your next RV park, emptying and refilling there.
  15. After the solution sits, open each faucet and let the water drain.
  16. Refill your fresh water tank.
  17. Turn on each faucet again and run water until you don’t smell bleach.
  18. If the bleach odor persists, refill the tank and drain again until the bleach smell is gone, then refill.
  19. Turn the heater lines and filter lines back on.
  20. Tighten the drain on your gray water tank, or dump it at a fill station.

Sanitize your tank again if you smell an odor or store your RV.

Image Credits: Stikeseff (Wikimedia Commons), Jose Manuel Suarez (Wikimedia Commons)

You’re on the road, in the middle of your long-awaited vacation, and it happens: Your motorhome won’t start. Or the refrigerator breaks. Or a window shatters and the forecast is for a week of rain. When you’re RVing and not near home, you’ve got to find someone to make repairs—ASAP.

Where do you begin when trouble crops up on the road? Do you try to find an RV dealer/repair center to do the work? Or do you call a mobile RV repair service to come to you?

Starting Point

The place to start actually is at home, long before you turn the key on the first day of vacation. In other words, follow maintenance requirements.

Like most RV owners, you’ll do what you can yourself. If you know how—or you can learn if given reliable how-to information and have the time to get it done—that’s always a money-saving proposition.

What you can’t do yourself, have your local dealer/repair center do routinely. It’s much better to have someone you know and trust work on your RV than to have a stranger work on it while you travel. Know what maintenance your RV requires and stick to the schedule. To make sure you know the schedule, read the owner’s manual; find one for your model and year online if you don’t have one. Properly maintaining an RV, and a tow vehicle if you use one, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have no problems on the road, but it certainly increases the odds.

In addition to maintaining the engine and transmission, you must maintain the suspension, brakes and tires. Replace tires that are worn or old.

Buy Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance is, in essence, a form of insurance, and it’s one you really should have. At $100 to $150 a year, it’s a lot cheaper than having to pay for a tow—especially a long-distance tow, and even more so if you have a bigger motorhome.

Get Recommendations

If you do need repairs while traveling, get recommendations on a shop. If the problem is not an emergency, ask about repair shops close to your campsite. Call and make an appointment, and drive there. The camp operator and your camping neighbors may have experience with a shop that they would recommend—or that they would avoid.

It’s a good idea to join online forums. A good-sized forum is bound to have members from all over who can recommend a shop wherever you are.

Check out the reputation of any shop you consider. See if there are unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Facebook also often has reviews of businesses.

Mobile Repair Services

You’ll probably pay more if a repairman comes to you. A mobile repair service is likely to charge a fee just to make the visit—not unreasonable. If picking up and driving to a service center is too inconvenient, a mobile service may be worth the extra fee. Make sure the park where you’re camping allows repair visits.

It’s wise to be a little more cautious about hiring a mobile repair service. To find out if businesses must be licensed in the state where you need a repair, go to the Small Business Administration website and look for “State By State Information.” If the state requires a business license, ask the mobile repair service for its license number. There’s no bricks-and-mortar location, which is normally something that’s advisable before hiring any business, so make sure a mobile service at least has a web presence.

Ask for recommendations, same as you would for a service center, from an RV park operator and/or your park neighbors. Definitely check for a BBB rating and unresolved complaints. Also do an Internet search for the name of the mobile service and the word court to see if any lawsuits involved him.

Ask up front how much the service call fee is, and get the fee, cost estimates and conditions in writing. It’s always possible by email. Ask whether he has experience fixing the problem you’re experiencing. When paying, use a credit card, which gives you recourse if a dispute arises. If the mobile repair service says cash only, continue your search.

Friday, 31 May 2019 18:30

When Your Dog Is Your Co-pilot

If you take Rover along for the ride when you go RVing, you’re not alone. The RVIA estimates that more than 60 percent of RVers travel with their dog. Why not? Dogs are great company, entertaining and unwaveringly loyal.

But RVing isn’t always conducive to treating your pet responsibly—or lovingly.

Start with RV parks and RV resorts. Not all of them like dogs as much as Cypress Trail does. Here your dog will enjoy either of two leash-free, fenced dog parks—one for small dogs, one for big guys. Each has a doggy wading pool for cooling off. That’s a big deal in sunny Florida. There’s room to play ball, sniff and frolic with other dogs.

Some parks also have trails open to dogs. A few have fenced-in yards at campsites for canine exercise. You can find recommended dog-friendly RV parks online, but it’s a good idea to check online for dog facilities and dog rules at any campsite you plan to visit. If you’re still unsure, just call the park and ask.

Here are other things you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy while RVing:

Help your dog acclimate

Dogs are creatures of habit; a change to their routine can be upsetting. If your dog loves hitting the road in your car, he’ll probably love riding in the motorhome or tow vehicle, too. Don’t transport a dog in a trailer. Before taking him on a long trip, let him ride on a short RV jaunt or two, and spend time in the motorhome or trailer. Give him space of his own—a dog bed or a crate if he spends time in one at home. (Dogs often grow to find their crate a safe, secure place.)

Use a safety harness

Harnesses keep dogs safe. Humans aren’t strong enough to grab a dog and protect it in an emergency stop. A harness distributes the forces generated by a quick stop or crash and keeps the dog from flying into a windshield, the front seat or you. A harness even for a big dog from Kurgo.com costs just $42.

Cool it

You wouldn’t leave your dog locked in a hot car. Don’t leave her in a hot camper, either. When she can’t go with you, set thermostat-controlled roof vents to open and fans to run before temperatures reach 76 degrees. If your van lacks one, install a powered rain-hooded vent that won’t automatically close with precipitation. Make sure she has water.

Choose appropriate flooring

If your dog is a shedder, carpeting might not be as desirable as nonslip vinyl flooring. Think twice about laminate flooring or ceramic tile, which can be slippery.

Find a pet sitter

If you plan extended time away from your dog, look for a reliable pet sitter, just as you would at home, to provide companionship, food, fresh water and exercise. You’ll have to provide a door key or temporary security system password, but if the sitter is reputable, that shouldn’t be a problem. For an extra fee, some sitters will sleep in your RV if that makes you—and your dog—feel better.

Find vet care

Occasionally an RVing dog—even one with up-to-date care—needs unexpected veterinary care. Ask for recommendations at any campground or animal shelter. Search online for veterinary care in the locale you’re visiting. Take your pet’s medical records on a thumb drive for an unfamiliar veterinarian to see.

Stop for exercise

If your dog is accustomed to multiple daily walks, stop more often than you might otherwise to let him walk, sniff and relieve himself. The walk will do you good, too. And don’t forget to clean up.

Photo Credit: Kurgo.com

It’s not unusual to see an RV towing a dinghy, usually a small car or SUV. A motorcycle or two on a small trailer is also common. And people almost expect to see bicycles on a trailer- or motorhome-mounted rack.

Bicycles had been less about transportation, though, and more about exercise and fun. Advances in battery and motor technology are making electric-assist bicycles—or e-bikes—into real transportation alternatives.

E-Bike Classes Dictate Use

In Florida, as in many states, electric-assist bicycles with a top speed of 20 miles per hour and no throttle require no registration and no driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement. Florida e-bike operators must be 16, but they do not need a license—unless the bike is a Class 2 or a Class 3.

Here’s the breakdown on e-bike classes:

  • Class 1. The most common e-bike, it can be pedaled alone but has an electric motor that assists pedaling. It cannot have a battery more powerful than 750 watts or a top speed higher than 20 mph. A passenger is allowed. No helmet is required.
  • Class 2. A throttle can propel this e-bike without pedaling. Florida requires a Class 2 to be registered and an operator to have a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement
  • Class 3. This is serious transportation, with some models having a top speed approaching 30 mph. Florida and most states consider a Class 3 a motorcycle requiring registration and a licensed operator with a motorcycle endorsement.

Using an e-bike on a trail or sidewalk is not allowed in Florida. Use in parks is often governed by local law or the agency overseeing the facility. A Class 2 or 3 might be restricted to areas open to motor vehicles. You’ll have to check before using these sites.

For regulations by state, check out People for Bikes.

Big Boost

Peopleforbikes.org, which promotes bicycle riding, endorses e-bike use. It says e-bikes will help people ride when they might not be able to use a traditional pedal-only bike “due to limited physical fitness, age, disability or convenience.”

You might not want to ride a pedal-only bike to a restaurant or work, or even to visit a friend, if doing so would soak you in sweat. E-bikes reduce or eliminate sweating. And if pedaling is too stressful physically, electric-assisted pedaling may let you ride a bicycle again. (Don’t take our word for it, though. Consult your physician.)

Range varies, but it’s not unusual to get up to 40 miles per charge from a sub-$1,500 e-bike that is also pedaled, and up to 100 miles on a $2,500 e-bike. That will get you to places that might be too far from your campsite to pedal comfortably without an electric assist.

All Sorts of e-Bikes

There’s not one kind of e-bike. There are single-speed boulevard cruisers with pedal-assist only; fat-tired e-bikes for sand or snow; road bikes with multiple gear sets, which ease pedal-only travel; and e-assist mountain bikes (eMTB), also with multiple gear sets.

Some e-bikes have big hubs containing a lithium-ion battery, motor and gearing (think Copenhagen Wheel). Copenhagen wheels can be fitted to an existing bike or bought mounted to a new frame. Many new e-bikes have batteries that mount on the frame and a motor that clips onto the pedal-driven sprocket (as with the FLX Bike).

To Learn More

Check out the e-bike section of Bicycling.com, produced by Hearst’s Bicycling magazine, which has a reputation for solid reporting on and testing of bicycles. It has evaluated less-expensive e-bikes as well as higher-end models.

Features To Look For

If you’re not handy, make sure your bike comes mostly assembled.

The following features make an e-bike more enjoyable:

  • Battery as close as possible to 700 watts, without exceeding that if you want to avoid registration.
  • Available extra battery.
  • 40-100 mile range.
  • Gear sets 7 speeds or higher, to ease pedal-only biking and to preserve battery power.
  • A motor that disengages when not needed, also preserving power.
  • Front suspension (for off-road use).
  • Fat tires (for use in sand or snow).
  • Handlebar-mounted digital readout of speed, distance, battery reserve, navigation.
  • Smartphone mount and app for readout of speed, distance, battery reserve and navigation.
  • Removable battery, or lockable battery and motor to deter theft.
  • Sprocket-mounted motor and removable battery for balance on your RV bike rack.
  • Bright lights front and rear for better visibility, and to see after dark, and brake light.
  • Cargo rack or predrilled attachment points.
  • Comfort seat for long rides.

Image Credits: wikipedia.com

Monday, 07 January 2019 10:23

Florida State Fair, Garlic Fest

The best of Florida agriculture is on display at the 2019 Florida State Fair on the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa from Feb. 7 to Feb. 18. With Florida’s mild winters, the Florida’s is the nation’s earliest state fair.

Of course, a state fair has a whole lot more than farming on display. Food, as at almost any state fair, is varied but heavy on fried dishes and anything you can eat on the move. But there are also banana-covered funnel cakes, ribs, pulled pork, catfish and other Southern fare.

As entertainment, any decent state fair deserves a blue ribbon, and the Florida version is a good one, billing its midway as the biggest in the U.S. Adults and youths compete for prizes in everything from baking to raising and showing market steers and hogs, dairy cattle, goats and sheep. It’s a fun sight when a steer is led into the judging ring by a youngster who’s a foot shorter than the animal. (Those steers become meat, and yes, there are tears when some are sold.)

There are fun things to do and see, including more than 100 rides, including the country’s tallest traveling Ferris wheel. Other attractions include works of art, crafts, pig races, the Budweiser Clydesdales, onstage musical acts, acrobats, a tractor pull, a demolition derby, a daily science show, and a two-day rodeo. Some of the more pleasing displays star draft horses, equal parts beauty and beast. Kids who’ve never set foot outside the city or suburbs can even sign up to work on a model farm.

Most events, including much but not all of the music, are covered by your admission ticket, with grandstand seating free.

Check online for entertainment times and livestock judging schedules. More information is at floridastatefair.com or at 1-800-345-FAIR.

  • Dates: Feb. 7-18, 2019
  • Times: Monday-Thursday: gates, 10 a.m.-9p.m.; midway, 1-10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Presidents Day: gates, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; midway 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Cost: Armbands for rides must be purchased in addition to  gate pass. Gate: Adults, $9; children, $5; Senior Day, Feb. 11-15, $7; Senior 5-day pass, Feb. 7 and Feb 11-15, $13. Rides: Any day ride armband, $30; weekday ride armband, $20.
  • Place: The Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa
  • RV parking: $12 per RV on the open lots, plus $20 per overnight dry camping stay; first come, first served. Cash only, pay as you enter the lot.
  • Directions: Plan on about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

A Stinkin’ Great Trip

Here’s a tasty idea: Drive over to Lake Worth for the South Florida Garlic Festival, Feb. 9 and 10.

garlicIt’s billed as “The Best Stinkin’ Party in South Florida,” and no wonder. For two days, you can wander Gourmet Alley and experience meals that prominently feature the fragrant seasoning.  

Garlic is a mainstay in many a recipe, and at the Garlic Festival, in every recipe. Try some Garlic Festival favorites: flaming chicken or shrimp scampi, garlic crab cakes, garlic bruschetta, garlic pizza, garlic Argentine BBQ with garlic black beans and rice, and garlic Portobello sandwiches. For dessert, there’s garlic ice cream—seriously. A complete menu will be released closer to the festival.

You can even tell yourself this trip will be good for your health. Besides tasting great, garlic is loaded with antioxidants and helps to rid the body of toxins. It is not true that the toxins leave your body just to flee the smell.

Date: Feb. 9-10, 2019
Times: Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Place: John Prince Park, 4759 South Congress Ave., Lake Worth, FL
Cost: $12 in advance, plus $2.85 taxes and fees, tickets online; at the gate, $12 before 6 p.m. Saturday, $20 after 6 p.m.; Sunday, $12 all day; children 12 and under, free. NOTE: The ticket gets you into Garlic Fest, but you must pay individual vendors for the food you eat. Prices vary by vendor and dish.
Directions: John Prince Park is about a 2¼-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.  
Parking: Parking for passenger vehicles is free at the Department of Motor Vehicles lot at 501 S. Congress Ave. in Delray Beach, with roundabout buses running every 45 minutes. The last bus returns to the lot at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Parking within the park is $20. Parking at Palm Beach State College is $10 with a free shuttle. Parking details online. RV parking is no longer available.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 07 January 2019 09:54

Pirates Invade Tampa!

Aarrgh! Pirates are about to conquer Tampa. Hoist anchor on your land yacht. Fun is on the horizon, and it’s only about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Official Gasparilla Pirate Fest events begin each January and extend into March.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which sanctions the series of events, was formed more than 100 years ago to promote economic vitality in Tampa and nearby communities. It’s worked. Hundreds of thousands of people gather in Tampa yearly to attend some of the biggest attractions of their type in the country. The organization and related agencies help charities throughout southwest Florida.

The group’s name invokes the legend of 18th and early 19th century Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar, known as Gasparilla and considered the last of the buccaneers. From his base in western Florida, the pirate and his crews plundered shipping along the Spanish Main in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. He is said to have secreted a treasure in Gulf Coast Florida that has never been found.

Here are some highlights of Gasparilla season:

Gasparilla Children’s Parade and Fireworks Extravaganza

  • Date: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019
  • Time: 3:30-6 p.m.
  • Place: Forms at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard; proceeds north along Bayshore and ends at Edison Avenue
  • Cost: The event itself is free, but there’s charge if you want to reserve bleacher seats along the parade route. Advance tickets for bleacher seating, $40, available until Jan. 11; will-call, $50. Details online, including related events.

If you like your pirates pint-sized, or if you’re taking your children or grandkids, this is the parade for you. The alcohol-free celebration is billed as the largest children’s parade in the U.S.  Thousands of kids are pushed in strollers before the children’s parade, where thousands more march. Participants add a Mardi Gras touch by tossing beads to the hordes who watch and cheer. Participants include those sponsored by businesses, community organizations, neighborhood groups, schools and dance academies. And, of course, there are plenty of marching bands. Other events include a jazzfest brunch and VIP events.

pirate floatGasparilla Invasion and Parade

  • Date: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019
  • Time: Invasion, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; parade, 2-5:30 p.m.
  • Place: Invasion: The pirate ship casts off from the south end of Hillsborough Bay at 11:30 a.m., sails north to Seddon Channel, and docks at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m. Parade: Forms at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard, then continues along Bayshore to Brorein Street, east on Brorein, and north on Ashley Drive, ending at Cass Street.
  • Cost: The events themselves are free, but there’s a charge if you want to reserve bleacher seats along the parade route. Advance tickets, $50; will-call tickets, $60. Details online for tickets to the parade and other events, including jazz brunch and VIP tent.

Re-creating Gaspar’s conquest of old Tampa, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla “invades” each January aboard its tall ship. The ship Jose Gasparilla looks like a wooden 18th century sailing vessel but in fact is a modern steel-hulled, custom-made craft. Invasion by 750 pirates is at 11 a.m.—not, coincidentally, when the sun hits the yardarm. On the high seas, that meant the first rum of the day. The marauders, as they do annually, capture the key to the city.

The Pirate Fest Parade makes the children’s version look like—well, child’s play. It’s bigger—the third-biggest parade in America—longer, and a whole lot rowdier, with lots a beads for attendees. The parade features more than 100 floats, about 50 organizations, and marching bands. It travels 4.5 miles into downtown Tampa.

Krewe of the Knights of Sant ’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade

  • Date: Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019
  • Time: 4-8:30 p.m.; illuminated floats, 6:30 p.m.
  • Place: 7th Avenue, Ybor City Historic District; parade travels along Seventh Avenue from Nuccio Parkway to 22nd Street.
  • Cost: Free (reserved bleacher seating is sold out). Lawn chairs allowed along free viewing stretches of parade route.

This February event through Ybor City, a historically Cuban section of Tampa, is festively lighted. The parade is free if you stand in one of the many free viewing areas or watch from your on lawn chair. Floats are illuminated after sundown. It’s quite a sight. There are pirates on parade, beads flung out to attendees, floats, bands and community organizations marching. Ybor City has many Latino eateries and cafes. Details online.

Gasparilla Outward Bound Voyage

Only in Tampa would the entire city party when pirates arrive, and party again when they leave. It’s your last chance to see the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship as it sails from a dock outside the Tampa Convention Center. The afternoon features free live music, festivities and food. The pirates return the key to the city before boarding their ship, heading out to sea and firing their cannons in salute as they sail off.  The party rolls on into the evening. Details online.

  • Date: Saturday, March 16, 2019
  • Time: Festivities, 2-10 p.m.; castoff, 4:30 p.m.
  • Place: Downtown Tampa, around the convention center
  • Cost: Free\

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

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