We have crossed the border from New Mexico and stopped at the first Information Centre. We have picked up our “Don’t Mess With Texas” and our “Drive Clean Across Texas” garbage bags and a map of the Big Bend National Park area. We are ready. It has been a long time coming. We have travelled from our Yukon home in Whitehorse for twelve of the last fourteen years looking for that elusive temperature thetas neither “too darn hot” or “too darn cold”.
For about the last eight trips we have had Texas and Big Bend on our bucket list. Each year it looked further away. Adding another two or three thousand miles to a winter getaway that is an average round trip of ten thousand miles just seemed a bit much.
We have over 90,000 kilometres on our three-year-old Unity. It drives like a dream and gets great fuel mileage but it is still a long haul.
In the northern portion of our jaunt, we get good use of our furnace. In the south, it’s our solar panel. It manages camera batteries, our computer, iPads, flashlight, toothbrushes, and a razor all topped up. We spend a lot of time off-grid and often go over a week or more without moving or plugging in.
We don’t get much use of the air conditioner. State and federal parks often have restricted hours and some areas don’t allow generators at all.
This year, with my seventy-fifth birthday occurring in March, it looked like Texas may be a “now or never” sort of thing. My wife Joyce and I and our thirteen-year-old dachshund Marley decided to bite the bullet and go for it.
We studied the map and headed for El Paso, quickly discovering it is not the little cowtown we had been lead to believe by western music and old movies.
We know things are big in Texas but I had no idea how big. It took over three-quarters of an hour, driving at highway speed, with at least four lanes of “high noon” traffic, to make it through the city. With dozens of overpasses, and more under construction, it was a little daunting for a couple who have spent most of their lives in the wilds of northern Canada, but we made it through dent free.
Big Bend wasn’t what we expected (the Rio Grande seems little more than a creek) but the whole area is big and is beautiful. Campgrounds were lovely and full of friendly RVers. Rio Grande Village Campground was a busy place and we were invited to sit and listen to an impromptu music jam. We walked over in the dark and truly enjoyed the evening.
The next night was that Goldilocks temperature we were looking for. About 10 p.m. we set up our chairs next to the motor home and settled down with a glass of wine to enjoy the warm, quiet darkness. This is rather new to us. Warm summer evenings in the Yukon are bright enough to read by.
Marley was sitting on my lap and we were all relaxed in the darkness. Our awning lights weren’t on—Joyce says they are too bright and bother the star-watching “dark sky” campers. There weren’t many stars, but a full moon kept peeking between heavy clouds.
Marley made a couple of low comments, which we thought were just about the weather. It then struck me that the wine might be stronger than usual, as I was sure I saw the rocks moving in front of us. The further thought reminded me that there were no rocks.
Digging out our little flashlight we discovered we were sitting in the middle of a herd of javelina, the closest one within twelve feet of us. The light didn’t bother them in the least and we could now see about twenty of them.
For those who don’t know, javelina look and act like wild pigs. They have tusks like a boar and can be rather nasty little critters. They can raise havoc with one’s pets or even your own lower extremities. They apparently go straight to attack mode if they feel threatened and can give a whole new meaning to the term “ankle biter”.
Javelina is really collared peccaries and is more closely related to hippos than pigs. They are also a little touchy about being called a pig. They even have their own line of T-shirts, featuring a photo of a relative and an underline that reads “Don’t Call Me A Pig”.
For the first few years of southern travel we had seen only pictures of them but of late they seem to be plentiful. At our next campsite, they came through midday so I could get photos. Eventually “the pigs” had their fill of new green grass shoots and didn’t get excited. They wandered off, leaving us with a different attitude about the dark.
We will probably get more use out of our awning lights in spite of the star-watchers and we won’t be wandering between campsites without a flashlight. We also will pay more attention to what Marley is telling us.
Talk of a tropical storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico has caught our attention. Though it’s a slow moving and disorganized system, the forecasters are pretty geared up about it. Right now, we’re on an RV trip along the East Coast of Florida. This is not the first time we’ve had severe weather threaten our RV travel. On our trip to Maine along the east coast, we dodged hurricane Irma and tropical storm Jose, staying barely two days ahead of the storms as they ‘chased’ us up the coast.
We’re en route to the Panhandle of Florida for our family vacation and the forecast is grim. Even though we purchased a Leisure Travel Van Unity MB for road trips, we still rent a vacation beach house to accommodate our growing family. In advance of the beach house vacation, we are traveling in our Unity, enjoying the beaches of the Southeast coast. Heading west, we will try two new spots on the Florida Panhandle before arriving at our final destination of St George Island, just south of Tallahassee.
The first spot to explore is Cape San Blas. We’ve heard a lot about this beach with its tall sand dunes and wildlife preserve. We have a glorious stay there among beautiful sugar-sand beaches, rolling dunes, and spectacular turquoise water. The weather is perfect, yet, the storm clouds on the horizon and increasingly rough surf prompt the Park Rangers to raise the red flags warning of rip current danger. The tropical storm in the Gulf seems to be sending an unwelcome emissary in advance of its arrival.
After lounging on the beach, we venture out to tour nearby Port St. Joe and its quaint downtown. There are no indications of storm preparation here. The grocery store is well stocked, the businesses operating normally and, when asked, most residents scoff at the threat of the forecast tropical storm. They weren’t worried so we didn’t worry either and enjoyed a few more days at an RV Resort near East Point.
Cape San Blas as the storm approaches the Gulf Coast
Beach House move-in day finally arrives and, along with it, cloudy skies and intermittent rain. Preparing breakfast, we hear a lot of noise outside. We step out to see the resort staff turning picnic tables upside down. All the pool furniture is gone, and we are surprised at how many of the RV sites around us are vacant. When we arrived, the resort was fully booked for the Memorial Day weekend. The site vacancies are a little unsettling and just a bit eerie.
The small lobby of the beach house rental office is crowded with people. Everyone seems to be talking at once. At the reception desk, the agent tells us we cannot check in because the island is being evacuated ahead of the storm. Fielding questions about the evacuation and when we might return, the agent wearily replies, “Everyone must leave the island by 5 pm and the evacuation order will not be lifted until after the storm makes landfall – provided the bridge and island are OK.” A gentleman brushes by us muttering, “Where am I supposed to go?” It was then we realize we don’t have a place to go either. We’re eight hours from home, every RV park is booked for the Memorial Day weekend, and we are in the direct path of a Tropical Storm – in an RV!
We call our kids to break the bad news. They had just started their trip from Atlanta and now had to turn around for home to wait and see what the next 24 hours would bring. We all hoped that the storm would pass by quickly enough to salvage most of the week at the beach house. In the meantime, we needed to figure out what to do.
A view of St. George Island Lighthouse as we evacuate the island ahead of the storm
A bite to eat, a place to ponder our options sounds like a plan so we walk to the Blue Parrot, a favorite haunt on St. George Island. We eat our lunch watching the rough surf from our beach-side table. Jim breaks the silence summing up our predicament; “The island is being evacuated and we have to get across the bridge before the wind picks up. Let’s see if we can find a spot at the RV park we just left. It’s on the mainland and we should be safer there.” With all the bad weather reports surely the RV resort would have a cancellation, we reason. So, after lunch, we head back over the bridge along with a fleet of other disappointed vacationers.
As we approach the RV resort we notice how close it is to the water. There was a good reason for the storm preparation that interrupted our breakfast this morning. The forecast warned of storm surge reaching four feet – enough to swamp the resort and much of highway 98 we enjoy so much. We had seen the damage here from the last hurricane when the road was practically washed away, not to mention the devastation to properties near the road. If the larger, class A coaches were headed inland, maybe we should too – but where and how far inland would we have to go?
Tallahassee is two hours away, and we might find an RV park there. A quick internet search doesn’t turn up much. We remember a Walmart about 45 minutes drive from here. We’ve never boondocked in a parking lot before but maybe this was the time to give it a try. The decision hung in the air. Should we stay here, go to Tallahassee, or try the “Walmart experience”? We head inland to find a safe haven.
The kids tell us they are planning to leave for Tallahassee on Monday, stay there overnight, and drive to St. George on Tuesday hoping they could resume their vacation. We hoped they were right and, in positive anticipation, shopped for the beach house supplies.
By the time we finished our shopping, news from the Panhandle announces the evacuation of RV and mobile home parks along highway 98. That confirmed our decision to head inland. Rather than look for an RV park, we decided to boondock in the Walmart parking lot and join up with the kids in Tallahassee on Monday.
Leisure Travel Van UnityMB evacuated to a nearby Walmart parking lot during tropical storm Alberto.
Jim speaks with the Store Manager and we chose a spot near the loading docks. Out of the way of traffic, the area is quiet. Several tractor trailers are already parked for the night. We make sure to leave plenty of clearance on either side for any incoming freight trucks. Even though we couldn’t put out the slide, the Unity was cozy and comfortable in the increasing rain and wind. As the storm drew nearer to the coast, the rain became torrential. We were glad we had chosen to come inland. We cooled down the unit with the air conditioner running on the generator, then shut it down for the night. A small fan running on the house battery would have to do for sleeping.
We are up and on the road for Tallahassee early the next morning. Stopping for breakfast, we listen to the forecast predict a storm landfall between Apalachicola and Pensacola. We knew the further west it made landfall, the better St. George Island would fare. The only reasonable hope was for the storm to weaken.
The kids call alerting us to their re-start from Atlanta and we meet up with them at a hotel on the south side of Tallahassee. A relaxed dinner together and an evening of storytelling finishes the day. Tucking in the grandkids, we are grateful for the comfort of the family after an uncertain day. Now, we just have to wait and see how St. George will fare in the storm.
The clearing sky after the storm on St. George Island, FL making the return trip in our RV after being evacuated during tropical storm Alberto.
Tuesday morning brought the storm landfall a bit further west than expected and the damage was negligible in the area around St. George. As we drive along highway 98 we notice the RV resort hasn’t suffered any obvious damage and a few big class A rigs are already lined up at check-in. The wind is gusty and the rain comes in short bursts, but the drive to the island is uneventful – except for the excitement of the grandkids!
In all, the evacuation of the island and our dilemma of finding a safe haven was a good lesson in planning. We were traveling before the start of the hurricane season in the Gulf, so figured we were safe from severe weather. We quickly learned that storms don’t follow a schedule! You can be sure that emergency planning is now a part of our regular trip planning process.
A few tips for RV trips and severe weather:
Don’t be swayed by the locals’ lack of concern over an approaching storm. Locals know where to go and what to do to stay safe in dangerous weather, you are a visitor and must fend for yourself.
Keep a close eye on the development of storms in your area and on your travel route. Don’t rely on just one app or channel. Check both national and local weather as well as the local Emergency Management website.
Be proactive: Identify “safe haven” spots when you are planning your travel itinerary. Find places to boondock out of a storm’s path or places to stay if you have to leave your RV to take shelter. As soon as you arrive at a campground, find out where the nearest storm shelter is located.
Understand what kind of evacuation has been issued. You can find this on the Emergency Management website for the area. If there is an evacuation recommended by the local authorities, by all means, heed their warning.
If you are advised to evacuate, don’t wait for the storm to get closer before leaving. Winds can arrive well in advance of a storm’s landfall and its effects on an RV can be devastating at relatively low velocities.
An RV, no matter how large and lovely, is not a suitable shelter for a severe storm. Wind, lightning, and flood can do unbelievable damage to an RV. If you can’t get your RV away from the storm’s path, get out of your RV and find safe shelter (see item #3).
If you have to leave your RV, secure it as best you can. Pull in slides and awnings, take it off leveling blocks or retract levelers. Put away and secure camping equipment so that it won’t be blown into your RV. Park the RV with the back end into the wind to help protect the windshield. Park away from trees and on a solid surface rather than sandy or muddy areas that could become saturated with storm surge water.
Pack an emergency bag in case you need to leave the RV. Include your vehicle documents, insurance cards, prescription medications as well as any irreplaceable valuables. Keep the bag in a convenient place where you can grab it and go if trouble arises.
You may also want to pack a “survival bag” with supplies to hold you for a couple of days. You can find a list of emergency supplies on the FEMA website.
Check the traffic report before you evacuate. There may be several evacuation routes to choose from. Also, make sure you have a full tank of gas/diesel. As the evacuation routes get busier, gas and diesel may be harder to come by.
An RV is a fabulous way to travel. At the same time, it is vulnerable to severe weather. We have encountered storms on almost every RV trip but each time we learn how to prepare a little better. Now when we are planning a trip, we identify typical severe weather seasons in a destination and, if possible, avoid them. Take the time to do a bit of emergency planning for your next RV trip and know what to do to keep you and your RV safe.
Twelve LTVs from the Leisurely Great Lakers group braved high winds and rain to attend the Spring Rally at Happy Hills Campground in Nelsonville, Ohio. This is an area of rolling hills, trees and lakes. Unfortunately, we arrived to find the power was out in the campgrounds, but the electric company showed up before dark and got the power restored before bedtime! The wet and muddy conditions made the camp setup more interesting but everyone got their campsites up and running before dark.
The first day was a chance for everyone to meet each other while setting up campsites, talk over a potluck dinner, and then join in a campfire gathering.
At the campfire, we determined that 9 out of 12 LTVs were first-time rally attendees and for 2 couples this would be the first night they would be spending in their RVs! There was some good-natured ribbing going around with that revelation. Most people retired early that first night due to spending the day driving so they could be fresh for Friday.
After dozing off to a night of listening to the sound of rain on the rooftop, we woke to a cloudy day where several morning discussions on RV living and LTVs, in particular, were subjects of many conversations.
Rain continued intermittently during the second day, but it was dry for most of the afternoon and evening. The rain didn’t dampen the spirits of attendees as some people ventured out to explore the area with excellent bike trails nearby, the Rocky Boot Company in Nelsonville, Lake Hope, and Old Man’s Cave.
The majority of people stuck around the campground to tour each other’s LTVs, trading experiences and told many life stories. The evening dinner was Mexican themed with everyone supplying their favorite dish. The evening bonfire was enjoyed by all as even more stories were shared. Once again, it rained intermittently overnight with several people rising earlier than normal to watch the royal wedding. Once again everyone had a great time in small and large discussion groups. Tours of each other’s LTV’s was appreciated by everyone as we learned of gadgets (this seemed to be primarily a male interest) and storage ideas that others had discovered.
We even had a black tank dumping training session for someone who was planning on their first attempt at emptying their tanks. As the day progressed some ventured out for more bike riding, kayaking in the campground lake, and exploring the area.
The evening potluck was enjoyed by everyone, the biggest complaint at the end was that there was so much food that we were too full to try everything out there! The evening bonfire started out nicely until we got rained out, so we retreated to a pavilion for shelter and the conversation continued without a fire. An impromptu awards discussion was held to thank the organizers of the rally, our very talented firestarter (he was able to start bonfires with wet wood!), and acknowledged the person using the most campsites over one weekend!
The next rally will be the 3rd weekend in September in Holland, Michigan. More details will be forthcoming so save a place on your calendars!
Submitted by our very own Leisure Travel Vans owners, below is a Leisure List of 50 apps that can help you plan your next RV adventure! From trip planning to finding nearby hikes and outdoor adventures, these apps can help save you time and make your next trip even more memorable. Did we miss your go-to travel app? Use the form found at the link below to have it considered for this list.
The newest Chapter of the LTV Owners Club, the Rocky Mountain LTVers, took our maiden voyage in the desert-meets-alpine landscape of northern New Mexico.
A fledgling Chapter, choosing our first rally location was tricky. Covering New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, members of the Rocky Mountain LTVers span over 1,000 miles, with mountainous terrain easily adding hours to even seemingly short driving distances. Northern New Mexico proved to be a great place to start with arid summers, cool evenings, and the unknown gem that is the Angel Fire RV Resort.
Only 3 years old, the moment you drive into the gated RV resort you feel the sense of thought and quality that went into the design. Neat rows of paved pads feature full hookups, wifi boosters, and beautiful, well-kept western landscaping. All RVs face the same direction – north so that the southern sun faces away from windshields and you can enjoy the shade on the passenger side of your vehicle in the late afternoon. A large, continuously-cleaned community building offers open access, reservable divided rooms, a front lounge, and a cozy back patio with fire pit. The bathhouse has large, slate tiled private shower stalls, a laundry, another indoor lounge and outdoor fire pit, and a hot tub that satisfies the star-filled night views you hoped you’d see. Onsite amenities include a mile-long crushed gravel walking path, horseshoe pits, pristine pickleball courts, a spacious bark park, a thoughtful store, and more. And the cherry on top – guests have access to the Angel Fire Country Club’s indoor pool.
Day 1: Make New Friends
Arriving on a Thursday, we expected rally attendees as far east as Kansas, and kept planned activities light with a simple meet & greet happy hour. Rally members brought their beverage of choice, a snack to share, and picked up name tags. Each RV crew took turns introducing themselves round-robin style, and Kurt and I revealed the next three days of adventures. We could tell new friendships were already being forged as the group left with smiles on their faces. Some of us capped our evening in rocking chairs next to the fire pit, or relaxed constellation-gazing in the hot tub.
For our first full day in Angel Fire, we’d planned to take the Angel Fire Resort chairlift together up the mountain. The Van Namee’s generously shuttled the crew the 4 miles to the resort, and a group of 5 of us relished in the cool morning by taking our bikes.
Some chose to hike over 4 miles to the top, while others took the lift for the 2-mile ride. Three of us used the bike lift so we could ride the epic downhill mountain bike trails that Angel Fire is known for in the summer. Once at the top, we watched other tourists brave enough to experience the zip line soar among the birds and explored the possibility of playing mountain-top disc golf.
While Kurt, Ken and I biked a curvy 6+ miles to the bottom, others hiked down, and some enjoyed the chairlift and soaked in miles of views. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, exploring the resort, biking the greenbelt, taking a few more chairlift rides up the mountain, grabbing lunch at El Jefe and tasting a flight at the local brewery.
A potluck dinner & inaugural club meeting was planned for the evening as we gathered inside the spacious community building. Boasting a southwest theme, we enjoyed enchiladas, Carne Adovada, tacos, layered bean dips, and cornbread among other savory dishes. Story sharing and laughs were followed with a brief agenda which included sharing ideas for future rallies.
Day 3: Experience The Enchantment
Our third day together left a lot of room for attendees to choose their own activities. I shared a hike along the Elliott Barker Trail with the Hesses led by Linda Sheldon, while Kurt joined us toward the end on his mountain bike. Sue Van Namee shuttled a group to Taos to explore the adobe architecture, boutique shops, and enjoy a patio lunch. Jerry Shelton revered the nearby Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. And later in the afternoon, Linda hosted another event, a bracelet beading clinic complete with design tips and hands-on clasp and finishing instructions.
A pre-planned walking happy hour and RV tour was the highlight of the day. Starting at Pedro, our RV, rally attendees came with their favorite libation in-hand while we formed our own enchanted circle of RV touring, making our way from rig to rig and sharing our favorite gadgets, showcasing customized features, and solving one another’s problems. Following 2 hours of touring, the group decided on a last-minute leftovers potluck in the community building to share one last dinner together.
Day 4: Create Lasting Memories
A sad departure awaited us as we gathered for one last meal, a breakfast in the community room. Rae, Sue, and Judy graciously helped cook eggs, bacon, and potatoes so we could assemble breakfast tacos, and Linda Sheldon complemented the meal with a fruit bowl. A bittersweet goodbye among 23 newly minted friends departing in 12 LTVs left us all eager for the next rally.
Photo credit: Mark Bohrer, Marie Aliotta, and Teresa Pennington
The Heartland LTV’ers held our very first rally at Whitebreast Camp, Lake Red Rock, Iowa. We filled 19 of the 22 sites in the Ponca loop located on a peninsula jutting into the lake. We had 18 LTVs and one couple who are seriously considering a purchase in the future. Our members from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri were joined by LTVers from Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky and one full-timer originally from Oregon. We had a variety of models represented: 1 Wonder, 2 Libreros, 2 Serenities, and 13 Unities (all floorplans except the IB). A few of us had met at previous rallies (Winkler and Leisurely Great Lakers), but for most this was their first LTV rally.
The LTVs started arriving on Thursday, May 31st. As people checked in with me, they received a welcome bag consisting of name badges & lanyards, LTV sticker & pins, maps of where everyone was in the loop, the campground, the lake area and facilities, visitors information on the area and each of the ladies received a small cross-body bag embellished with their initial that I made over the course of the last few months.
We had 10 LTVs arrive Thursday, so LTV provided a taco bar for dinner. It was a great opportunity for people to meet and get to know one another.
By dinner time on Friday, the entire group was present. We gathered for some local snacks of Pella bologna & Fresian Farms cheese before dinner. Then I conducted our first annual meeting. We decided to set a schedule for our rallies. Our spring rally will be the first weekend in June and our fall rally will be the first weekend in October. We will try to determine our locations for 2019 when we meet in October near Potosi, WI. The group selected me to continue as club leader (I think it may be for life!). Andy will serve as Leader Assistant. With the current size of the group, we felt that additional officers were not necessary at this time. We will revisit this each year.
Friday night our main dish was pulled pork sandwiches provided by LTV. Half of the group provided side dishes for our potluck. After dinner, we taught the group how to play “LTV Bingo,” learned at the Winkler rally last year. Prizes included an LTV journal, LTV apron, and I again put my sewing machine to work to make an embroidered pillow and several items with our club logo.
Early Saturday morning a thunderstorm moved through which delayed our morning coffee slightly. For a special treat, LTV provided Dutch letters from the local Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa. These pastries were a hit! Late morning we decided to conduct tours of our RVs. Everyone makes these little homes on wheels fit their individual needs. Lots of great tips and tricks were shared.
Saturday night LTV provided Amana bratwurst and condiments from Amana, Iowa. Andy did a great job cooking brats for 37 people. Additional potluck items were provided by the rest of the group. Lots of yummy dishes were shared! After dinner, five of the group headed into Knoxville, Iowa to watch the sprint car races at the Knoxville Speedway. The rest of the group spent time chatting and a few of us made a fire and sampled S’mores.
Sunday morning we gathered for coffee, coffee cakes and goodbyes. A few LTVs stayed an additional night, but most of us headed out by mid-day. Although the first two days were very hot and buggy, after the rain Saturday morning, it was very pleasant with a nice breeze.
Before, during and after the rally, some in the group explored the area. Pella, Iowa has a Dutch heritage and is known for tulips and windmills. In addition to the Knoxville Raceway, Knoxville is also home to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum and Peace Tree Brewing.
A few special stories from the weekend:
Earlier in the week, Lonnie received a text from his son about a Librero in a Kroger parking lot in Paducah, KY that at first, he thought was his dad’s. Lonnie was in his Jeep so he headed over to check it out. He met Rick & Chrissy from St. Louis. Both parties have 2013 Libreros. Rick told Lonnie about our rally and he contacted me to see if there were any spaces available and as luck would have it, a couple had just cancelled. Lonnie & Joan were a wonderful addition to our rally.
On Thursday, I was checking Facebook for any updates on people coming to the rally. I saw a post from Geneva S. that she was in Grand Island, NE and headed to the Missouri Star Quilt Company. I replied to her message and suggested that she wouldn’t be that far from our rally and that she should stop by. She did! Geneva is a full-timer currently headed from Oregon northeast eventually ending up in Nova Scotia. Many of us have read her posts on the LTV Enthusiasts page and it was a pleasure to meet her in person.
Regina loves bald eagles. She really wanted to see a bald eagle. The group tried to assist. One was spotted a couple of times when she was not present, but finally, he made an appearance for her.
Sam and Cristi travelled from Ohio to attend our rally. Cristi is a leader of the Leisurely Great Lakers. We met at the Winkler rally last year and we attended their rally in South Haven, MI last September. Their experience and encouragement gave me confidence in preparing for our first rally. Attending other rallies and speaking to other club leaders provided me with many great suggestions and ideas. Thanks to each of you!
We had expected our first rally to draw 8-10 LTVs. We were thrilled to have so many attend, especially since we were off the beaten track in rural Iowa. What a wonderful group of people brought together by the love of adventure and a very special company – LTV! Friendships were made that we hope to continue long into the future. Many are already looking for opportunities to cross paths again. Thank you LTV for giving us this opportunity to gather and meet our new friends!
I believe the LTV Rally motto should be that “all LTV owners are friends who just haven’t met yet!”
Where is one of the prettiest State Parks in the Pacific Northwest? Silver Falls in Oregon! Considered the “Crown Jewel” of the Oregon State Park System, this park was once briefly considered to be in the running to be a National Park. A scenic treasure, located about 30 miles east of Salem, it is part of the lush, green, foothills of Western Oregon Cascades.
Silver Falls is home to ten spectacular and unique waterfalls that dot along a seven-mile loop trail through a rocky canyon, along with paved bike trails, pet-friendly trails, with a beautiful and historic Civilian Conservation Corps Lodge in the South Falls district. Silver Creek trips and falls through the misty canyon and runs by old-growth groves and grassy meadows.
Friday morning started out cool, but the sun came out to warm us as we checked in each LTV that arrived. Goodie gift bags with rally information, park information, maps, LTV Evergreen decals and pins were given out to all participants. We had people from Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia!
The North Falls Group Area B was our destination site for our rally! Our maximum of 25 spots sold out months before, but because this rally was so popular, several members found nearby individual campsites to join in our rally daytime activities. The site was a grassy meadow, surrounded by tall Douglas fir trees. A great place to boondock! You just had to find the right spot to get level.
We started out our activities with a Friday night “Weiner Roast and Marshmallow Toast” by building two campfires for people to roast and toast their dinner over. It was fun to see over 50 people surround the campfires as a starry night fell upon us. A few folks stayed late into the night talking with newly formed friendships that only campfires can inspire, while the rest of us fell into a deep sleep in our cozy and comfortable LTV’s. The night was so dark, and so quiet, that it was easy to sleep soundly.
Saturday morning dawned a bit cool and damp as low clouds moved in during the night. Two of us brought cars to shuttle campers to a trail-head where our intrepid ranger (Kim Maley) led us on a guided hike to see some of the wild-flowers that bloom alongside the gorgeous falls. Since everyone had varying levels of hiking abilities, we had options to cut back to camp, rest at a waterfall (to be picked up a bit later) or go on to see more waterfalls. Those of us who hiked with Kim saw the North Falls, the Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Double Falls and the Lower North Falls. Some of the falls allowed hikers to walk behind the curtains of water; to see up-close the interesting geology of basalt flows that formed the canyon and the North Falls amphitheater. Miniature ferns, lichens, and tiny flowers clung to the dewy rocks next to the path as she explained many of the flowers and plants we could see. Flower photo of Scouler’s corydalis.
We looped back on the Canyon Rim Trail, picking up those that waited, and headed back to the campsite for a very well-earned rest and lunch!
Afternoon activities were held in the North Falls Meeting Hall, not far from our campsite. We held our first “class” on boondocking tips. It was especially fun that no one was the “expert”, but instead, we all had stories or tips to share with those that had less experience. Topics centred mostly on water and energy/battery conservation, with the use of solar panels and generators.
After the boondocking class, Mike LeBlanc and Mike Schmidt of Salem Mercedes-Benz Service Center came to discuss all things Sprinter with those of us with a Mercedes Benz chassis! The two Mikes held the audience in RAPT attention as they discussed everything from fuel, oil, DEF, tires and other maintenance questions and issues. A real plus was when Mike L. stepped out to show people specific items to look for “under the hood”. A big THANK YOU to MB of Salem and the two Mikes! We originally scheduled the class to be one hour, but it was quickly realized that not even two hours would be enough! We invited them to join us for our group potluck as there was plenty of food to go around. Many people brought their special dishes to share, and we had everything from Seafood Paella (Thank you Tim Wickham!), to all varieties of salads, main dishes, desserts and special delights.
The group got together and cleaned our meeting hall in about 15 minutes flat, with people stacking chairs and tables, taking out the trash, cleaning all surfaces of the kitchen and sweeping the floors. Thank you to everyone that pitched in – we passed inspection when the ranger came by to check us out of the hall. Good job!
Sunday morning started out a bit gray, but the sun worked at peeking out behind the clouds to give us another lovely day. We had our first official “LTV Evergreen Leisures” meeting with Tim Wickham, our fearless leader, leading the discussion on chapter organization and what it means to be a member of our travel club. We certainly had a travel club “quorum” of nearly 60 people! We discussed our next rally, to be held this fall at the Columbia Sun RV Resort in Kennewick, Washington. We finished the meeting with Daniel Taylor, woodworker extraordinaire, who generously donated several hand-crafted BEAUTIFUL cutting boards that fit LTV sinks, smaller boards that also work as trivets, and stacks of wood worked coasters. We used the name tags to draw names for the lovely gifts. Nearly every couple walked away with a special gift handsomely crafted. Huge THANK YOU to Dan! His wood crafted gifts were a big hit!
Next was a group photo to capture all our participants! Steven Poland had a great camera and tripod to snap the pictures. Hard to believe we all fit in the photo!
Mike Mead from Johnson RV of Sandy, Oregon (where most of us purchased our LTV’s) came by to check on any minor problems with people’s rigs. While he wasn’t always able to fix everything, he did help people diagnose problems and at least narrow issues down. I thanked him for spending the morning with us and he responded that it was his favourite thing to do. Even if people were having minor issues, the fact that they were camping in such a beautiful place made everyone HAPPY!
Later, Tim Wickham had fun with his drone while Kern Hendricks horsed around, rolling on the ground! Some folks went for bike rides, some took their dogs for walks and others wanted to see more waterfalls! Some of us that worked so hard on the rally enjoyed just “chilling out” and enjoying the sunny day, chatting with our new friends. A little more than half the folks checked out on Sunday, with a few of us left to stay one more night.
We finished the rally with one last peaceful campfire, roasting and toasting the last of the hotdogs, marshmallows and eating up remaining goodies from the potluck. A bit more intimate with only a dozen or so of us around the campfire.
It was a perfect and serene ending to a wonderful rally.
Thank you to everyone that contributed to the rally, no one can do it alone!
Rally recap written by Rally organizer, Ann Ossinger
The Western Sunsetters held their 2018 summer Rally at Manitou Regional Park just a little north of Watrous Saskatchewan from June 19th to 22nd. This was our 18th consecutive year at this location.
The rally started in mid afternoon on Tuesday with a meet and greet, an update on activities, distribution of name tags and a few personnel items for each coach provided by Triple E. Once everyone arrived we met for a pot luck supper in the camp kitchen adjacent to our RV sites. The evening ended with a bonfire and a few stories.
Wednesday morning began with a pancake and sausage breakfast prepared by Bill Harder and Norm Lavoy. Once everyone had their fill, we cleaned up and said our goodbyes to Bill and Helen Harder who had to return that day to Winkler MB for a family funeral. Five of the other guys headed to the golf course which was about 1/4 mile away for 9 holes of golf while others went into the Village of Manitou Beach for some shopping, sight seeing or a visit to the spa to take in the healing waters of the famous 90 year old spa. Again we ended evening with everyone around the campfire until it was time for bed.
Thursday was a casual day for everyone. Because some of our attendees were planning on leaving sometime that day we held our draw for the camp chair donated by Village RV in Regina. The winners were Jim and Patricia Cadman of Calgary AB.
Again some of the guys went golfing late Thursday morning. In the afternoon Norm Lavoy took two groups of people for about a 30 minute tour of Manitou Beach and Camp Easter Seal, then left them for about an hour to shop and explore on their own.
Thursday night there was a fire ban put in place due to the tremendous amount of poplar tree fluff on the ground. This fluff is very combustible. In fact the night before a fire started in the fluff by someone outside our area raced along in front of four of our vans, then got into some dead leaves under a tree row and the fire grew in size. Due to the quick action of some of our attendees with many pails of water we got the fire under control until a water truck arrived and really doused the area down.
Thursday night we were also treated to a display of a 1957 BMW Isetta. A camper who was about 500 yards west of our area had one with him. Sigfreid Kunzler from our group was familiar with the car from his earlier life in Germany and invited him to drop by Thursday night. The owner ordered it new in 1957 and it was shipped to him in a crate from Germany with some assembly required. He has maintained it ever since and for a 61 year old car it is in excellent condition. A few of us even got to ride in the car.
Thursday evening ended with what I call Bill’s Bingo, a bingo game played with playing cards. Each Bingo winner received a small prize provided by either Triple E or our Travel Club.
Again as the sun went down we gathered in a big circle outside, this time without a fire, and just enjoyed the evening and the company.
Friday morning we casually met in the camp kitchen for coffee and breakfast before cleaning up the kitchen and readying our units to hit the road as our rally had come to an end.
This year for the entire rally we had wonderful warm, sunny weather with very little wind. Poplar fluff was the only negative over the 4 days.
We had 12 coaches and 25 people in attendance. This years participants were: Bill & Kris Stone of Vancouver; Mark Spencer, Bev Sitter, Jim & Patricia Cadman, Brian & Pearl Cooke all of Calgary; Bill & Sharon Ferby of Lethdridge AB; John & Rose Travers of Rocky View AB; Joe Toes of Regina; Norm & Hazel Lavoy of Shaunavon SK; Bill & Helen Harder of Winkler MB; Sigfried & Madeline Kunzler and Barry & Lorraine Abbott all from Winnipeg, as well as Paul & Kim Andre of Steinbach MB.
A revolutionary new floorplan featuring an exterior garage with bicycle storage, rear twin beds, an innovative three-piece dry bathroom, and the largest galley offered in the Leisure Travel Vans lineup.
Winkler, Manitoba, June 22, 2018 – Leisure Travel Vans, a brand of Triple E Recreational Vehicles, introduced the Wonder Rear Twin Bed (RTB), a revolutionary new Class C motorhome built on the Ford Transit chassis. The Wonder RTB features North America’s first exterior pass-through garage on a Ford Transit-based Class C, large enough to house two full-size bicycles and much more. Inside, the Wonder RTB’s innovative layout features separate areas to live, eat, and sleep, an innovative three-piece dry bathroom, and the largest galley offered in the Leisure Travel Vans lineup. The Wonder RTB will be available to order starting today, with deliveries beginning in Fall 2018.
2019 Wonder Rear Twin Bed - YouTube
“For years we have been asked by our customers to build an RV with an exterior garage, large enough to store their bicycles and other large items. We are excited to finally be able to offer this, along with a host of other innovations found in the Wonder RTB.” commented Ryan Elias, General Manager of Triple E RV. “We think this could be a real winner with our active customers, with over 67 cubic feet of concealed exterior storage to bring their bikes, golf clubs, inflatable kayaks and more.”
Interior storage can also be found in abundance throughout the new Wonder, including two full-size hanging wardrobes located underneath the twin beds. New for 2019, the Wonder is engulfed in stunning Natural Rift cabinetry, offering a modern, yet warm feel. Curved upper cabinet doors add a layer of elegance and are finished in Italian-made FENIX NTM®. The FENIX NTM® matte surfaces are scratch-resistant, anti-fingerprint, and anti-bacterial, making their European design easy to clean and care for.
For pet owners, a cavity beneath the passenger-side twin bed can be converted into an innovative and comfortable “dog house”.
Electronics & Entertainment
The Wonder RTB brings quality entertainment to the open road, featuring two Smart LED TVs, a Bluetooth® soundbar and Blu-ray player. A convenient, centralized touch screen display controls everything from lighting, heating and cooling, tank and battery level monitoring and more. To help you stay connected while on the road, the Wonder is available with an optional Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WiFi Extender with 4G LTE.
The Wonder RTB offers a separate bedroom area in the rear of the coach, a feature not often found in a sub-25′ motorhome. Ensuring a good night’s sleep, the comfortable 32″ × 76″ twin beds can also be slid together, forming a single bed wider than a residential Queen bed. An abundance of easily accessible storage can be found underneath the twin beds.
Galley & Dinette
Those who enjoy cooking on the road will be drawn to the Wonder RTB’s generous galley. A large Corian® counter extension flips down to create the largest countertop found in a Leisure Travel Van. Other notable galley features include an integrated slide-out garbage bin, a pull-out pantry, and deep, full-extension drawers that provide generous storage.
The innovative dinette table features two folding leaves, providing extra dining space when needed, and sits on top of a removable swivel mount, which can be transferred to an additional mount located in the bedroom area, creating a secondary dinette-like setting.
The Wonder’s stylish interior is matched with an equally impressive exterior design. New for 2019, the Wonder is available in seven unique exterior colours. Measuring under 10’ in total height and 24’ 9” ft in length, the compact Wonder features contoured sidewalls, a fiberglass flex roof and aerodynamic integrated front and rear fiberglass caps.
Another innovative feature is the optional integrated side-mount exterior table, perfect for dining and entertaining. When not in use, the table can be folded up and neatly stored in the garage.
Ford Transit Chassis
Cutting-edge features such as the Ford SYNC® with MyFordTouch infotainment, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and GPS navigation system make driving the Wonder a stress-free dream. The Wonder is also equipped with a lane-keeping safety feature that alerts the driver when the vehicle drifts out of a lane.
The Wonder is built on the Ford Transit cutaway chassis with a 178″ wheelbase, a GVWR of 10,360 lbs and is powered by a 3.2L I-5 Power Stroke Turbo Diesel with 185HP, 350 ft-lb of torque and 6-speed auto transmission. That all adds up to a smooth ride with underlying muscle when the driver needs it.
The Wonder RTB has a base price of $118,300 USD / $142,350 CAD and will be available to order at Leisure Travel Vans dealerships starting today, with deliveries beginning in Fall 2018.
My wife, our Old English Sheepdog (‘Chloe Bear’) and I embarked on a year-long cross-continent journey in our new 2016 Unity Corner Bed Leisure Van. It was a wonderful trip and we’re happy to report that we had almost no mechanical difficulties along the way. This was amazing because our Leisure Van seems to have more onboard electronic systems than the space shuttle. There was, however, one exception. We had just arrived in Bay City, Michigan and were setting up at the Bay City State Park. We had run our air conditioning unit for most of the early evening trying to cope with the heat and humidity. This was the first time we had used the AC for an extended period of time and everything was working fine. As we prepared to retire for the night and having cooled down the RV, we shut off the AC and turned on the ‘Fantastic Fans’ for ventilation. Off to bed, we went.
Then, at 12:30 in the morning, we were woken up by an ear-shattering alarm. We both leapt out of bed and the Bear scrambled off the floor onto her bed. It sounded like a smoke detector, but because of the close confines of an RV, and the way the deafening sound bounced around, it was difficult to find the source (and we had been dead asleep). Finally, after about 30 agonizing seconds, we found the alarm at the bottom of the fridge. It was the propane detector.
Right after locating the alarm, the ear-piercing beeping stopped. Our hearts now racing, we immediately tried to figure out if there was any danger. There was no smell of propane, but we knew from previous years of living on a sailboat and the associated hazards of LP gas settling in the bilge, that propane is heavier than air so would be at floor level. We opened the door and tried to create some air flow. We checked the stove top to see if either of the knobs were on (no) as well as the fridge to see if we forgot to switch from propane to AC electricity (nope). Then we wondered if something associated with the air conditioner had set it off but couldn’t figure out why that would have happened. With no clear answers, we went back to bed.
Fast asleep, at 2:30 am, we were woken again by the deafening alarm. Same drill: the Bear scrambled off the floor onto her bed and we jumped up to see what was going on. This time the alarm only lasted for about 10 seconds. My wife wondered if it was detecting our 5 lb tank for the BBQ in a rear exterior locker, so we went out to check if the valve was open (no). We turned off the main propane switch from the rear control centre then decided to consult the owner’s manual for any clues. There wasn’t any, other than reinforcing that an alarm sounding posed a dangerous situation and it instructed to ‘Have a qualified service person find the leak and correct the problem before using the motorhome.’
A leak? That obviously didn’t sound good. We went back to bed hoping that turning off the main propane switch would temporarily resolve the problem until we could call the Leisure Van factory for assistance. It was Friday night so we would have to wait until Monday.
The alarm didn’t sound again over the weekend and because we were staying with friends and family for the next few weeks, we left the propane switch off. But it was in the back of our minds – you can’t ignore a recurring gas alarm, particularly after reading all the warnings.
So after contemplating that fateful evening, and reviewing all the factors that led to the alarm sounding, one commonality came to mind. The Bear had been sleeping on the floor near the fridge on both occasions. Maybe she had hit the test button with her paw…
No, that couldn’t be the cause. The test button just sends a single, sharp beep. But hang on, could it be something else…? The Bear had been given some leftover sausage in her dinner that night and soon after, had been breaking wind with some amplitude. Was it possible that her flatulence and close proximity to the propane detector had triggered the alarm? We decided to consult the Internet, Googling ‘can a fart set off a propane detector?’ and were astonished to see the hundreds of results. Numerous RV forums and chat groups described all the various causes of a false (non-propane) alarm sounding: hairspray, bug spray, air fresheners, a dog farting… What? A dog farting! This is common? Well, apparently it is. There are even YouTube videos demonstrating the phenomena. Geez, maybe the Leisure Van manual should add a line to it’s warning instructions, such as: ‘No need to consult a trained technician if you have an odoriferous dog.’
So there you have it. Unwittingly, the Bear’s pooper tooter was the cause of a sleepless and anxious night. After due consideration, we discovered that a well-positioned pillow under the fridge at night worked as a fix because we don’t foresee the Bear being denied future German-style sausage leftovers, she just wouldn’t have it.