The following blog post is a sponsored post written by Diana Chen of MVMT blog. All opinions are 100% Diana’s, but she was compensated for her content.
One of my favorite things to do while traveling is get outdoors and experience all that nature has to offer. That’s why I was ecstatic when I was invited by Go RVing to attend the RVX conference in Salt Lake City earlier this month to explore the newest models of RVs for 2019 and learn more about how RVing can fit into my – and any – lifestyle. The exhibit hall and big reveal (which I’ll share more about below) got me excited and anxious to embark on my very first RV trip this summer to a secret destination that I’ll reveal at a later date. While I walked in with a preconceived notion of what RVs look like, feel like, and the audience for whom they serve, I walked out with a completely different perspective and understanding of just how versatile, fun, and comfortable RVing can be for anyone. Hopefully my recap of the event will get you just as excited as I am to kick off camping this summer with Go RVing.
Exploring Different Types of RVs
My first impression when I walked into the RVX exhibit hall was that there are so many different kinds of RVs I never knew existed. In my mind, I had pictured all RVs as mid-sized travel trailers that hooked on to the backs of trucks. While this describes one type of RV, it certainly doesn’t describe every type.
RVs come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are so large that they can practically hold an entire football team, while others are so small that they may comfortably hold only one person. Some can be towed by small sedans, some require a larger truck to tow them, and others can be driven without an additional vehicle. Some contain minimalist features, while others contain all the amenities like fireplaces and multiple bathrooms. Some are decorated with more traditional decor, while others have a much more modern aesthetic. Some cost as much as a high end car, while others cost as much as a large house. So, as you can see, there is no single prototype for an RV, but, rather, RVs can be found in all shapes, sizes, and budgets, and customized for every taste.
Here are a few of my favorite RVs, of all different shapes and sizes, that I found at the RVX conference:
A small Boondock Edge RV that looks like a mouseA small RV shaped like a house – ALINER
If I could pick only one RV, it would be this Gulf Stream Vintage Cruiser
This Cyclone toy hauler is a sheer monster of an RV
The Winnebago Forza, an accessible RV
RVs Are For Every Lifestyle
Just as RVs come in all shapes and sizes, they are built for all types of lifestyles. Whether you’re a city slicker or a rugged outdoorsman or something in between, you’ll be able to find an RV that fits your lifestyle.
Here are just a few examples of the different types of lifestyles that RVs cater to:
For the RVer who wants to off-road whenever and wherever she likes (this rear tire suspension system on the Black Series RVs allows you to go anywhere your heart desires)
For the minimalist RVer who likes to have only the bare necessities
For the luxury RVer who wants all the amenities (like a fireplace)
For the RVer that likes to grill outside
For the RVer who likes to tailgate with all his friends and family
For the RVer who likes to always feel like she’s by the sea
The Big Reveal
The most anticipated event at RVX was The Reveal, where one RV from each of nine categories would be dubbed the “spotlight,” or winner, for 2019. My top three favorite categories were Van Life, Outdoor Adventurer, and City Escape, but I’ll include a description of each of the nine categories below.
1. Family Friendly
Family friendly RVs are spacious RVs that comfortably sleep 6-8 people. Top of the line family friendly RVs typically include plenty of convertible furniture, pass-through exterior storage, and separate areas for kids to sleep and play in while adults enjoy time to themselves.
The outdoor adventurer wants to bring all the adventure gear with them when they travel, so the perfect outdoor adventurer RV has to have the capacity to hold all that gear, without sacrificing comfort. Top of the line outdoor adventurer RVs will allow you to bring your bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, and any other gear you can’t live without on your trip and still have all the space to live and sleep comfortably.
Having lived in a city with excellent public transportation options for the past eight years, I haven’t felt a need to own a car. Thus, when I think about roadtripping with an RV, the first image I get in my mind is of an RV campervan that operates as a standalone vehicle rather than an attachment on another vehicle. Van life RVs are most popular amongst minimalist millennials, but they can also attract anyone who prefers to keep it simple.
For those who live in the city, the perfect RV is one that can drive just as easily in the city as it can outside of the city. Top of the line city escape RVs are not only versatile, but they also come with the same comforts and amenities that the typical city slicker is accustomed to having back home.
The destination camper wants to be able to drive their RV to a campground and park it there for days or weeks while exploring the area. Top of the line destination camper RVs are spacious and make the RVer feel at home while parked in a new destination.
The team tailgate RV is for the RVer who loves to get all their friends together for a sporting event or chauffeur their child’s sports team to away games and tournaments. Top of the line team tailgate RVs have features like multiple TVs, quality sound systems and speakers, an outdoor bar, an excellent lighting system, and for the overachievers like Heartland’s Cyclone Ultimate Tailgate RV: a kegerator.
Just because RVs are large in size doesn’t mean they have to have a large impact on the environment. The sustainability category focuses on RVs that strive to leave as small of a footprint as possible on the environment so that we can take care of our beautiful earth and continue to enjoy it for generations to come. Electric RVs take center stage this year and will hopefully become the industry standard one day in the near future.
One thing I love about RVs is that it makes camping and the outdoors feel more accessible to a larger demographic of people. Those who typically would shy away from anything that takes them away from their lush bathrobes and leather couches can now enjoy all the comforts of home while camping out in a luxury RV in the middle of the woods.
The On the Horizon category focuses on new and developing technologies that have been incorporated into RV life. For example, the new Airstream Classic Smart RV contains a new technology that allows you to control your RV’s temperature and other features with a remote control, so that you can prepare your RV to be as comfortable as possible for your return.
Not only was the RVX reveal an educational experience for someone like me who didn’t know much about RVs before attending, but it was also an inspiring experience that has already gotten me counting down the days until my RV trip this summer. Whether you’re a serious camper or have never experienced RV life before, why not partake in Go RVing’s Kickoff to Camping Season and see where your summer adventures take you?
My family has taken many road trips and they’ve always been quite the adventure. This fall we embarked on our first road trip in an RV and I don’t know how we’ll ever go back to the way it was before. Here are six reasons a road trip with kids is better in an RV.
Your Kids Will Feel at Home
Some kids really like routines and feel comfortable in safe spaces. On an RV road trip instead of constantly moving from one hotel to another you’ll sleep in the same space every night. This gives your kids a sense of home even on the road.
When we picked up our RV our girls immediately claimed their areas. Even though our RV only provided one enclosed bedroom there were four beds and they felt as if they had their own space just like at home. Just as we each have our own spots on the couch at home they stuck to the same spot on the couch in the RV and even sat at the same seat at the table too!
You Just Have to Unpack Once
As mentioned before, on a typical road trip you’re going from one hotel to another. This means you’re constantly packing and unpacking, which to many is the worst part of travel. On an RV road trip even though you’re able to see multiple places you only have to unpack one time.
This allows your family to really get settled and decreases the chance of you leaving things behind at the various hotels. I can’t be the only one that tends to forget things in hotel rooms, can I?
Your Kids will Make Friends at the RV Parks
When taking a road trip with kids you don’t often have the opportunity to meet other families. Most people stick to their hotel room when they’re not going out for the day. However, on an RV road trip you’ll be staying at various RV parks where there are tons of families with kids.
Each time we pulled into a campground kids were outside playing. As soon as we parked the girls were outside introducing themselves. We in turn would also meet the parents and we connected with one family so much we’ve even kept in touch since our trip.
Your Kids Will Have Space to Run Around
Space inside an RV to run around? Ok so while the space your kids have will depend on the size of the RV, your RV park will for sure have a lot of space. Our girls were outside at the end of every day running around. A lot of the RV parks even had pools and/or playgrounds for the kids to play.
On an RV Road Trip You Don’t Have to Worry about Bathroom Breaks
One of our least favorite parts of road trips with kids are the constant bathroom breaks. The worst thing is when you ask who has to use the bathroom before the last exit or rest stop for the next 26 miles and everyone says no but as soon as you pass it someone has to go.
On an RV road trip, you always have a nearby bathroom. Just pull over at the safest time and your kids can use the toilet. Not only will you always have that option but most importantly you know your bathroom is clean. When making random stops on road trips you never know if the gas station will have a working restroom or if it’s clean. We saved a lot of time not having to stand in long lines at rest stops and loved the convenience of having our own toilet.
RV Road Trips Save Time and Money When You’re Hungry
While on most road trips with kids you’ll have snacks and drinks with you, but depending on how long your trip is you might run out. We loved how much storage our RV had for us to stock up on everything with needed.
Not only did it provide storage, but we had a working fridge, freezer, stove and microwave. There are only so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we can take so having the option to make a quick meal or warm up leftovers from the night before made a huge difference. We saved so much money by not stopping to buy something every time we got hungry.
Our RV road trip provided our family with such a unique experience. Driving and sleeping in the same space proved to be really fun. It will be very hard going back to regular road trips, so we definitely see another RV road trip in our future!
I have been on a coffee steak rub kick lately. Honestly, finely ground coffee is one of the most amazing things to have on a steak. It is sweet, savory and full of flavor that you cannot get from most seasonings. This Chipotle Coffee Rub is no exception.
This rub is super easy to make for people whose lives are on the road. Most of the ingredients can be found in a common RV kitchen! I made the steak rub into a breakfast skillet as well because I always wanted to try coffee rub steak in the morning. Turns out it pairs really well with eggs, potatoes and coffee to drink!
First you are going to cook the potatoes in the cast iron over the fire. Potatoes take about 10-15 minutes to fully cook. Moreover, you will put that skillet to a multi-purpose use. As the potatoes are finishing, you will add the steak to one side of the skillet and cook till its done. As the steak is cooking, I topped my potatoes with some eggs and then covered the skillet. Cook for another 5 minutes and everything should be ready to go!
Only tip here is to pull that steak off the skillet once it is done. If you let it rest for 5-8 minutes, then you will keep the juices inside from cooking fully. Top with some parsley and you are ready to eat!
We recently embarked on an RV road trip with our kids, a two and four-year-old. It was our first time RVing and we had a lot of questions beforehand. Would RVing with kids be inconvenient or would we fall in love? Here’s everything you need to know about living in an RV with kids.
Cooking and Eating in an RV with Kids
Driving and living in an RV made snack and meal time very easy as a family. Before getting on the road we stocked the fridge, freezer, and cabinets with food and drinks. Whenever the girls wanted a snack it was easy to give it to them.
When we wanted to stop for lunch, we were able to pull into a rest stop or parking lot and make sandwiches. This saved us a lot of time and money as eating out for every meal on a road trip can get very expensive.
You can make almost anything you could at home in an RV. Our Class C motorhome came with a 3-burner stove. We were able to make pancakes, eggs, and oatmeal. In the evenings we were able to make spaghetti and meatballs, pan roasted chicken and other meats. Our RV also came with an oven. It was small, but you could bake chicken or other foods in there. It also had a microwave to pop popcorn or warm up food.
The girls’ favorite part about cooking in the RV was the ability for us to cook and eat outdoors. All the RV parks we stayed at had benches right next to our RV and some had fire pits and grills. We made s’mores one evening and it was nice to keep all the messiness that comes with it outside the RV. (Provided four photos for use, not sure which one you prefer)
Bathing Kids in an RV
While most RVs come with bathrooms they aren’t normally the biggest. However, in a Class C like we had, the shower is a decent size. It was large enough for me, a 5’ 2”, 135lb woman, to shower with one of my daughters in there with me. It is also large enough to fit a baby tub if you need to use one.
Sleeping in an RV with Kids
Our RV had four different beds. It had a traditional queen size bed in a bedroom that can close off from the rest of the RV for privacy.
The dining room table folds down into a bed which is the perfect size for little kids. The couch also folds down into a bed and can easily fit a shorter adult or kids.
The last bed is a bunk above the front seat. It’s about the width of a full-size bed but longer. Depending on the RV you rent or purchase you can add a railing to prevent kids from rolling off. You can also choose to install a curtain to block out the light from the rest of the RV or provide privacy.
Sleeping in an RV with an infant? With the slides out there was enough space to put a pack n’ play or travel crib. We were able to fit a travel crib in front of the couch.
Is There Room to Play in an RV?
The amount of space for kids to play inside the RV will vary depending on the type of RV. In our Class C motorhome with the slides out our girls had quite a bit of space to play on the floor. They also enjoyed playing and watching movies in the bunk. In addition to that space we were able to play board games as a family or the girls could color at the dining table.
We never felt cramped since the RV parks have so much space outside. Whether the girls were running around or playing at the park they were able to get their energy out. Our trip was during the winter, so we didn’t experience swimming but a few of the RV parks we stayed at also had pools.
We really enjoyed our RV road trip, driving and sleeping in the RV with kids. Now every time our girls see an RV on the road, they get so excited. We will definitely be planning another RV road trip soon.
We’re the Hambricks, a family of four with a two and four-year-old. While we’ve traveled a lot, we’d never had the pleasure of taking an RV trip. As excited as we were, we knew it would be different than any other trip we’ve been on and might call for more preparation. Here are some things we learned planning and during our trip that will be useful for other first time RVers.
You Don’t Have to Buy an RV to Get the RV Experience, Just Rent One!
Did you know you could have an RV experience without owning an RV? Renting an RV is really simple! We rented ours from Outdoorsy, it’s like an Airbnb for RVs. The process was easy and the owner we rented from told us everything we needed to know before we drove off. We recorded what he said and showed us so we could reference back in case we forgot something on the road.
The Different Types of RVs and How to Choose the Right RV for You
There are three different types of motorhomes: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
Class A Motorhomes are the biggest ones and resemble coach buses. In all honesty they probably aren’t the best option for first timers unless you’re used to driving tour buses or tractor-trailers.
Class B Motorhomes are camper vans. They are sprinter vans that have been converted into a living space. This means the bathrooms and walking space is extremely tight. Your shower and toilet will be in the same space and the max sleeping capacity is typically two people.
We rented a Class C Motorhome. It is a motorhome on the chasse of a truck or a van. They provide a good amount of space and come with multiple beds, dining table and full bathroom. Here’s the inside of the one we rented.
In addition to the motorhomes there are also multiple types of RVs that are towable units, meaning that you pull it with a truck or SUV.
Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?
In most states, RVs weighing under 26,000 pounds don’t require a special license. But Class A RVs are the only ones that could potentially weigh more than 26,000 pounds so if you plan on driving a Class B or C you should be fine. You can double check with the state’s DMV for updated information and these rules sometimes change.
Know the Height of Your RV
Why is knowing the height of your RV important? Depending on where you are driving you may have to go through tunnels or drive under bridges. Your hood scraping the ceiling and you getting stuck is not the time to learn your RV is taller than the height limit. While driving through Zion National Park there is a tunnel that RVs over a certain height can only go through during certain times of the day. If you need to drive through and miss the cut off time the roundabout way adds 2 hours on to your journey!
Making an RV Camp Reservation: Do You Really Need To and What Type of Spot Should You Reserve?
I am a big planner so naturally I wanted to make sure we had all our RV camp reservations secured before getting on the road. Was this really necessary? I think it depends on when and where you are going.
We traveled out West in late November when the weather starts to get very cold. While the weather meant there were fewer RVers and making a reservation wasn’t really necessary to get a spot it also meant not all RV camps were open. When calling some closer to Bryce Canyon I discovered they were closed for the season. Had I not called ahead to make a reservation we could have been left in a situation of having spotty cell phone service making it difficult to find another RV camp to stay at. The nearest one open one was 90 minutes away so I’m really happy we planned ahead.
When making your reservation some parks will give you the option of a pull-through or back in spot. Always go with the pull-through, they are much easier to get in and out of.
Some RV parks have different hook up options. When booking your RV campsite, you need to know if your RV is 30 or 50amp to make sure you book the correct spot. Some RVs do come with an adaptor to hook up to either, but many don’t so make sure ahead of time if you’ll need one or not.
Know Where You Can Replenish Your Propane Along Your Route
Depending on the RV you have your stove and central air including the heat may run on propane only. This means even if you are hooked up to electricity, without propane you will not be able to cook or stay warm in the winter. Filling up the propane in an RV can only be done by a professional and not all propane refill stations service RVs. It’s imperative you know where you can fill up along your route or you could be hungry or freezing!
Double Check Your Destination Has RV Parking
If you’re not pulling a travel trailer and have a motorhome like us parking can be a little tough in some locations. Make sure each of your destinations has parking for RVs. Even if they do, space might be limited so always give yourself extra time to find parking in case you have to go to a different RV parking lot.
These tips should help make your first RV trip one without many hiccups. One thing we learned was the RV community is very helpful. When in doubt just ask a fellow RVer and they will usually be happy to assist you. Enjoy your first RV trip and good luck with not wanting to immediately purchase one when you get back home!
Have you ever watched someone trying to learn a new skill? Think of children learning to ride a bike. At first, they will require a lot of assistance, such as training wheels or a parent running alongside. Eventually, they’ll make some independent strides of their own—with plenty of wobbling and crashing involved. After a while, they’ll get it. And they’ll soar off down the street on their way to many wonderful adventures.
New RV owners may find themselves facing a similar learning curve. If it’s been a long time since you learned something new, it can be intimidating to suddenly find yourself in a situation where you’re wondering, “How in the world am I going to get this trailer through a tight gas station parking lot? Will I be able to empty the black tank without spilling it everywhere? Am I properly lighting this propane stove, or am I going to damage my rig?”
We’ve been RVing for 8 years now, but we still remember the nervousness we faced before our first trip. Even once we became seasoned RVers, we still faced the same apprehension every time we pulled out for a journey with a newer, bigger rig. The good thing is we can assure you that our unease was soon replaced with enthusiasm as we became accustomed to our new equipment.
The greatest adventure of your life is just around the corner–and we want to help you get to the fun part faster. Thanks to our years of experience, we have the following tips to help you make your first RV trip a success:
Camp Close to Home for Your First Few Trips
You finally bought the RV of your dreams…now it’s time to hit those dream destinations, right? Not so fast. For your first few trips, you’ll want to book campgrounds close to home. This will allow you to gain confidence as you learn how to operate your new rig. Also, it takes a few trips to figure out what to stock in your RV. If you camp close to home, you can easily run home to grab the must-needed items, and you’ll be in familiar territory.
Reserve a Private Campground for Your First Trip
If you want to spark an internet debate, just ask the people on an RV forum whether public parks or private campgrounds are better. While no one can debate that beauty and solitude are often found in our nation’s state and national parks, there are some added amenities that make private campgrounds a perfect choice for your first trip. First, they often have full hookups. Until you understand your rig and your family’s needs, it’s better to have electricity, water, and sewer onsite. Also, private parks often have helpful staff members who can assist with things like backing into a site for the first time.
Reserve a Pull-Thru Site at Your First Campground
There are many beautiful campsites in this nation. Some are easy to pull right into, while others require backing down a long driveway at a 30-degree angle while trying to avoid some trees. You will eventually be able to veer your trailer into practically any spot with ease, but you can avoid some headaches for your first trip by booking a pull-thru site. A pull-thru site is one that is situated between two roads, making it easy to pull right in when you arrive and pull right out when you leave…no backing up required. On your first trip, you have enough to worry about without having to angle a trailer into a spot. Keep it easy peasy with a pull-thru!
Divide and Conquer During Setup
Arriving at a campground is a little different from arriving at a hotel. There are quite a few tasks that need to be done in order to secure your trailer and set up a cozy campsite. Doing these for the first time takes a lot longer than it will once you learn your rhythm and routines. If you have younger kids, the easiest thing to do is to get them out from underfoot so one adult of the family can truly concentrate on setup, while the other concentrates on keeping the kids happy and safe. If you have older kids, they can help with the setup process.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Even if you’re not usually the type of person to ask for help from random strangers on the street, you’ll learn that this is a wonderful benefit from campground culture, when needed. As you are learning to operate a new rig, there will, undoubtedly, be some tasks you forget how to do or never learned in the first place. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most of your neighbors were in your shoes at one time or another and will kindly pay it forward.
Don’t be Afraid to Say No to Help When Backing In
One of the silly things that stress us out is feeling like other RVers are judging us when we are backing in the rig. For reasons unknown to us, there are some people who like to kick back in their camp chairs and watch other RVers set up camp. Some will eagerly jump in and offer to help, which is great—except when it isn’t. If you don’t want the help, don’t worry about politely declining with a simple, “Hey, we are new at this, and we want to learn how to do it. We’ll let you know if we need some assistance!”
Expect the Unexpected—and Don’t Let it Get You Down
Things may go wrong, as they inevitably will. Perhaps you didn’t understand how long to cool the fridge and had nowhere to put your piles of groceries. Perhaps you found out something isn’t working in the RV or broke something that was working. Stuff happens. Try not to lose too much of your vacation time fretting over mistakes and mishaps. Do your best to problem solve and move on.
Avoid Driving at Night
If at all possible, plan your early trips to include driving and setting up during daylight hours. Driving at night can be risky. If you have a breakdown, you’ll have a harder time finding help since the auto parts stores, garages, and RV dealerships will be closed. Setting up at night can also be immensely more difficult due to the lack of sight.
Breathe. Go Slow. Have Fun.
Things will eventually get easier! You will soon be able to set up camp blindfolded. Until then, all you can do is be patient with yourself as you learn. Don’t be too critical on yourself…and don’t forget to have fun along the way.
Once you get your first-time jitters out of the way and gain some useful experiences, you can rest easy knowing that the road ahead is much smoother, with far fewer pit stops. You will get the hang of operating, maintaining, and towing that beautiful new RV. It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely be worth the effort, especially when you finally do take that dream rig to your dream destinations. Pretty soon, you’ll be like the kid on the bike, pedaling fast with a smile on your face.
It’s the time of year for giving and if you’re like me, treating yourself to a few items on your own wish list as well. Since I grew up in a camping family in the 1970’s, using a lot of hand me down items from the 1950’s, I tend to be drawn to classic camp items that evoke the nostalgia of happy times and the simple pleasures of life. I found a few of those to share as well as some new things bound for classic status. Here are a few of my favorite things!
Mollyjogger Old School Ice Box – When you come across these in an antiques shop they tend to be pricey and sketchy. I’m reluctant to put ice in them if I plan to put that ice in a beverage later. They usually have pitted aluminum walls. I’ve been using this new “Old” Ice Box on my bar now for two years. It is where I store the ice I use for drinks. It will keep a bag of ice for about 24 hours and its size makes it great for the floor of the passenger seat in my truck too. I keep drinks, snacks and lunch handy there. Plus, it just looks great! $89.
Kavu Long Johns – These are long johns with a twist. In addition to the classic bottom to top one piece style they have the added features of a drawstring hoodie, center pockets and thumb loops, a requirement for cold nights around the campfire. They are 97% polyester jacquard knit for easy washing and have tight cuffs and bottom hem to keep the cold out. A classic! They are the perfect sleep, nap and lounge apparel on a chilly campout. $90
Keen Sneakers – Those who know me know that I love statement footwear! It’s hard to get me out of my bowling shoes but these sneakers hit the mark for me. First of all, they are plaid. Can there be too much plaid in the world? I think not. They are a classic design with lots of toe space, soft interior, nicely rolled edges that don’t rub, aluminum eyelets that let your feet breathe and a really rich fleece fabric that brushes clean. These are not hiking shoes. They are day tripping shoes for running errands, getting stuff done and looking cute while doing it. $79
Pendleton Motor Robe – Back in the old days when my grandfather would take us somewhere in his car on those freezing Chicago winter days, he had the Pendleton blanket on the seat for us to sit on. My grandfather was a steel worker in Indiana who owned very few duplicates of things. He had a dress coat, a suit, a summer and winter hat and he had a few Pendleton shirts! We all wish we knew what happened to them!! He understood the value of a dollar and quality. There are few things more timeless than quality wool and items that get passed down. I have taken to giving this blanket to the nieces and nephews as engagement gifts in homage to our “Poppy.” It’s a great size for the RVer in your life because it serves many purposes. It fits on a camp chair nicely and adds a layer of warmth between you and the night air. It folds neatly across the bottom of a bed to pull up in the night if it gets too cold. It’s a great lap robe around the fire, at a game or while tailgating and even if you have seat heaters, it’s a welcoming sight to a cold hiker getting back to the car! $99
National Parks Candles – The Good and Well Supply Company was started by Megan McLaughlin, a Girl Camper on a quest to harness the scents in nature. She traveled the US camping in her tent and storing up treasured memories from National Parks. She resettled in the Pacific Northwest and began making 100% soy candles in small batches that she sells in pint, half pint and travel tins. The labels are truly art and each candle is made from 100% renewable soy, have balsa wood wicks, are petroleum free, GMO free, and lead free. A portion of each sale is donated to the National Parks Foundation. $36
The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles – by Laura Farenthold. A good read for RV lovers and anyone who has ever been dealt a crushing blow in life. This is no sad tale of widowhood and its trials but instead it’s the tale of a woman who used RVing to help herself and daughters gain their footing again after the sudden loss of her husband and the girls’ dad. It is full of poignant, funny, and mystical coincidences that kept me turning the pages at a rapid rate. It’s a book of hope, chutzpah and perseverance mixed in with stories of our National Parks, backroad towns and the strangers they met along the way who were angels in disguise. A really uplifting read. $15
LL Bean Boots – There are two things about these boots that grabbed me. One, I love festive footwear and two, plaid IS my favorite color. I have bought several pairs of LL Bean knockoffs over the years while my sister in law has had the same LL Bean boots since high school. Every year she breaks them out for winter footwear, sledding events and to use to and from the ski slopes at her family’s weekend home in Vermont. I realized that if I added up all my quick-to-deteriorate replicas I could have owned the real McCoy! I indulged in the 10”, hand crafted 106 year old tried and true design and think I just acquired my last pair of boots. That’s Yankee thrift for you. They are incredibly warm with duck rubber soles, shearling lining and wool plaid outer layer. The boot bottom has Thinsulate lining and supported steel shank, they are triple stitched and still handmade the old fashioned way, one boot at a time, by craftsmen (elves?) in Maine. They also are just sooooo cute!!! $245
Wicked Good Cupcakes – I fell in love with this idea when I first saw this mother- daughter duo present their idea on Shark Tank. I then received a six pack of these gooey homemade cupcakes in Mason jars and fell in love with their taste. They are now my new go-to “have to send a gift” item. I’m thrilled to find a fun alternative to flowers and fruit baskets. I recently spent close to $90 to send a fruit bouquet to a camping buddy in need of a hug from afar. I wish I had known that for $26 I could have sent her two S’mores in a jar and sat around a virtual campfire with her. They come freshly made and packed in ice packs. They will last a week without refrigeration on your countertop but can be frozen for up to six months!! Wicked good idea!! Two pack $26 including shipping.
Dune Jewelry – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a shell or sand or pine cones from far off places and packed them to take home. What happens when it gets home is the problem. How do you keep and display sand from a favorite beach? Dune Jewelry makes beautiful keepsake pieces to remember a vacation by. You can mail them your own sand, dried flower petals, crushed stones or other elements that you gathered on a vacation and then choose a design. They offer cuff bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings and charms. If you don’t have your own sand they have an element bank to choose from. I purchased a necklace filled with sand from the beaches in Cape May, NJ. We had a home there when our children were little, and my oldest daughter is very sentimental about Cape May. I was thrilled when I saw they had Cape May sand in stock!! Each piece of jewelry is handmade by metal artisans. I’m thinking of starting a travel charm bracelet with element charms from the National Parks. After all, how many hoodie sweatshirts can you have? $36-$200
Old School Flashlight – When we camped as kids there were two light sources after dark, the Coleman lantern which kids could not touch, and the single flashlight our family owned. If you had to walk to the bathroom at night you were “entrusted” with the flashlight under pain of severe reprisal should anything happen to it. The batteries were probably more valuable than the flashlight. I collect vintage flashlights which I use while camping and display around the house and trailer. I was excited to come across this little treasure online. The Chrome Vintage Flashlight is made by United Pacific and costs $9.95 on Amazon. It uses two “D” batteries, has the kid intriguing Morse Code Button in case of danger and the built in retractable hook to hang it from the tent pole at night. It’s sure to inspire lots of nostalgia and tales of the old days if you put it in an “old fart’s” stocking. $10
Williams Sonoma – Plaid Insulated Beverage Container. It’s a new “old” thermos with a nod to the Plaid Skotch Koolers I grew up with. This new version of a camp classic holds 16 fluid ounces, has double walled insulation to keep beverages hot for up to 12 hours and like the old version, the cap is also the cup!! $29.95
Chill Angel – I was gifted these incredible PJ’s last year and this year I got a second pair in this festive Christmas color for myself. I used these camping all year and discovered what they knew in the old days about the properties of wool. Have you ever wondered how the Civil War reenactors can be standing around in the heat in July and not sweating? It’s the wool uniform. These Merino wool pajamas are made of the best moisture managing and temperature regulating fabric known to man. They are made from super fine Merino wool that feels so soft on your skin but which also rapidly dissipates heat, minimizing temperature spikes during your sleep cycle. If you are one of those people who wakes up during the night kicking off the covers because you are hot, these PJ’s will return you to normal temperature and back to sleep quickly. If you just like luxurious pajamas that keep you cool in hot weather and very warm in winter you will love these as much as I do. They are not just sleepwear though. They are the perfect loungewear on a rainy day and a great gift for outdoor enthusiasts. $39-$139
Camco “Life Is Better at the Campsite” Goodies – This year Camco Manufacturing came out with a new product line aptly titled, “Life Is Better at the Campsite.” I couldn’t agree more! I’ve got two fun items for the holidays from Camco. The first is their new wrapping paper which is a perfect way to wrap gifts for your RVing friends! But, look closely, it’s not actually holiday paper. It’s all seasons. You can put a pretty Christmas bow on it during the holidays or use it for birthday gifts in July! The other fun items from Camco are their happy mugs!! I really loved this red ceramic one. It’s got speckles that make it look like snowflakes and it holds 12 oz. You can also put this in the microwave. It’s full of holiday cheer!! This will be my official hot chocolate and hot toddy mug all winter. I think it’s a great stocking stuffer or grab bag gift. Paper – $16 Mug – $10
If I say the words “Memphis, Tennessee”, what are the first things that come to mind? For many, we are sure Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley would top the list. For others, Memphis is definitely known as a great place to get incredible barbecue. Both of those are true and as we headed to Memphis, we wanted to see some of the best-known sites, while experiencing some of the lesser known must-see sites. All of this is from a local’s point of view. The only problem was figuring out where we would stay. This can be one of the most important decisions you can make when selecting a campground close to a major city.
Picking the Right Campground – Home Base
We knew we were going to be spending 4-5 days in the Memphis area and picking a solid campground would be key. Our “homebase campground” is a huge factor in the overall enjoyment when visiting cities. This time we chose the Memphis Jelly Stone Campground, which just happened to be located in the state of Mississippi, go figure.
That’s because the Mississippi state line is just outside the city limits of Memphis. We knew with our frequent daily excursions, having a kid friendly campground would be the key to keeping the entire family happy. We learned a long time ago that just piling the kids up in the car and touring sites without factoring in plenty of fun time is a recipe for disaster. That’s especially true if we planned to hit any sensitive museums. Once we chose the Memphis Jelly Stone, we showed the kids all the things to do at the campground and they were 100% on board. Being that it was July, we knew it was going to be hot.
This Jelly Stone had a nice pool, water slides, gaga ball, tether ball and even a basketball court.
Not to leave out Ebony, it had multiple “off leash” dog parks, one even lakeside! So with everyone happy with our homebase, it was time to venture out and explore Memphis.
The National Civil Rights Museum
With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, it was very important for us to take time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
For those who don’t know, this museum is actually formally known as the Lorraine Motel, and it became a national site to remember and preserve the last days in the life of Martin Luther King. We always make it a point to try to visit national historic sites, museums, and landmarks wherever we travel. But this site in particular with the 50th anniversary year was going to be a special visit, and it did not disappoint. My advice to you would be to plan at least a two-day visit at this museum. There’s so much to see and to absorb.
We have made it a point as we homeschool our boys to expose them to as much American history as possible, and that includes African-American history. Sometimes easy to separate, but it really should not be. This museum did a phenomenal job of covering not only the impact that Martin Luther King Jr. made on this country, but the key moments and facts of the civil rights struggle from generations ago to today.
I would say the most striking moment from our entire visit at the museum was as we passed from exhibit to exhibit and our boys said more than once, “Mom! Dad! We’ve been there.” Whether it was the replica of the Edmund Pettis Bridge from Selma, or the market lunch counter from the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter sit-ins.
We have taken our boys to these locations, and it’s not always easy sometimes, they’re scared. Sometimes they’re confused struggling with the question of why people would treat us like that. But our resolute determination is to expose them to things that are in their best interest and to hear them say to us that they remember visiting many of those places are priceless moments and experiences while RVing.
A Pyramid in Memphis? – Bass Pro Shop
On a lighter note, we heard we just had to go check out the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. No, we didn’t do a lot of research, so we had no idea what to expect. As we drove nearer, in the distance we could see this pyramid reach up into the skies.
I’m going to say that this place was pretty cool. You can take this unique elevator to the top observation deck. It changes colors every few minutes. There is a $10 fee per person to ride up.
Elevator to the Observation Deck
And the view from the observation deck on a clear day/evening was worth the fee (for at least one person). Inside there was an aquarium fish tank that even had live alligators! Also, if you needed anything, and I mean anything for your camping trip, they had it.
Justin Marvels at the Fish Tank
We didn’t have a chance to eat at the on-site restaurant (due to a long wait), but we heard good things about it.
Musical History in Memphis – Stax Records
We had planned to visit Graceland, but then decided to check out maybe a slightly lesser known, but important musical history site, Stax Records.
Second only to Motown, Stax Records place is cemented in American Soul music history. Artists such as the Staple Sisters, Dramatics, Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding launched their careers in the studios of Stax. Stax Records and Southern Soul music were one in the same.
Time to Eat – Memphis BBQ Anyone?
Memphis is known as a place to get top BBQ, but how in the world do you choose where to go?
So Many Wonderful BBQ Choices in Memphis
One of the things we have learned most in RV travel is to ask locals the best place to eat. Tia has a girlfriend that grew up in Memphis, and she said the well-known places are good, but if we didn’t mind going to a different part of town, we would find even better BBQ. So we did and went to Central BBQ.
I was worried since Tia has become a vegan that she wouldn’t be able to eat, but she loved the BBQ portabella mushroom sandwich. The kids loved the homemade mac and cheese. I wanted to taste a few items.
So I started with the jerk and dry rubbed wings and ended with the slab of baby back ribs. This place didn’t disappoint!
We Will Return…
Memphis is a fun history filled place to visit. You may be drawn there to visit because of Graceland, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but Memphis has so much more to offer. I know we only scratched the surface of things to do and see in Memphis.
So if or should I say, when you go, plan wisely, eat local recommendations and take in a few of the sites we visited. The history will draw you in and the food and music will keep you going back.