Tent Camping Checklist for Couples by Clever Journeys

This is our go-to list for tent camping as a couple. It can be modified per trip –family, friends, ages, activities (toys, rafts, hunting, skiing, etc.).

We always have protection, a jack, spare, fix-a-flat, jumper cables, portable battery starter, small power unit with lights, stored energy, electricity, etc. in our vehicle.

No two people are the same when it comes to planning a camping trip. What is important to one person may not matter to another when it comes to camping gear. One of my sons prefers to go ultralight and another brings practically everything he can when they camp. As a family, we tend to bring more items. All this to say, there is no right or wrong answer to what you bring on your camping trip.

The Camp

🔹Tent (Coleman Sunbeam 7’×9′ 4-person) & accessories (stakes, bungi cords with hooks, rain roof, bottom footprint tarp)

🔹Mats (outside door, inside door)

🔹Sleeping bags

🔹Sleeping pads

🔹Pillows

🔹Electric extension cord

🔹Lighting: solar lights, head lamp, flashlights, lantern, extra batteries

🔹Camping chairs

Eating

🔹Cooler (We love our soft-sided 4-gallon capacity Kodi cooler from H-E-B Foods/Drugs)

🔹Camping utensils, plates, pans, cups

🔹Camping stove

🔹Can opener

🔹Charcoal &/or fire wood

🔹Insulated water bottles

🔹Matches

🔹Cutting board & knife

🔹Coffee maker

Hygiene

🔹Biodegradable wet wipes

🔹Shampoo & conditioner

🔹Hand sanitizer

🔹Towels & wash cloths

🔹Soap

🔹Deodorant

🔹Rash prevention/lotion

🔹Toothbrushes & toothpaste

🔹Lip balm

🔹Toilet paper

🔹Combs/brushes

🔹Shaving gear

Other

🔹First Aid kit

🔹Rx, prescriptions & supplements

🔹Campsite Reservation Copy

🔹Sunscreen & bug repellent

🔹Trash bags

🔹Duct tape

🔹Mallot

🔹Clothes pins & clothes line cord

🔹Rope

🔹Binoculars

🔹Dry bag (store electronics, etc in event of rain)

🔹Tool bag. Minimum: hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, multi-tool, folding shovel/saw, tin-snips, axe-hatchet, tent repair kit, tent pole repair sleeve

🔹Small fire extinguisher

🔹Emergency (solar/handcrank) weather radio

🔹Travel alarm clock

🔹Travel mirror

🔹GPS

🔹Cell phones

🔹Books, cards, games…

🔹Portable butane heater with extra filled tanks (in cold weather)

🔹Tent fan in warm weather. (We also have a portable “air cooler” we fill with ice cubes if it is too hot).

Clothing

🔹Bandana

🔹Flip flops or sandals

🔹Rain ponchos

🔹Swim/water/shower shoes

🔹Socks (wool or synthetic)

🔹Hiking boots/shoes, sneakers

🔹Hat

🔹Sunglasses

🔹Gloves

🔹Shirts, Jackets, Sleepwear, Pants, Shorts, Swimwear

🔹Underwear

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

HEB FOOD DRUGS

The True Story of Fire Fighting Smokey Bear

He is not Smokey ‘The’ Bear and Other Fun Facts

The start of World War II meant that many firefighters and other able-bodied men were deployed, leaving communities to manage wildfires themselves. .

The head of the Forest Service at that time, Lyle F. Watts, decided to attack the wildfire problem by educating the public about their role in fire prevention. Watts invited the Ad Council to join the Forest Service in this new ad campaign.Watts and team soon realized that they needed a symbol or character to represent their fire prevention campaign. A forest animal would be ideal.

The Disney Studios offered one of their characters to be the “face” of the fire prevention plan. The movie, Bambi, enjoyed widespread popularity at the time, so the deer Bambi represented the original ad campaign—but Disney’s licensing contract lasted just one year.

Seeing an overwhelmingly successful first year, Watts and his team chose a bear to replace Bambi.

Two decades before, on a July morning in 1922, a case of magnesium powder exploded in a warehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. The resulting fire was devasting and claimed the life of a heroic firefighter named “Smokey” Joe Martin.

On August 9, 1944, the first Smokey Bear poster appeared. The bear was named in honor of “Smokey” Joe, and his first piece of public service artwork depicted the animal in his iconic hat, dousing a fire with a bucket of water.

A historic Smokey the Bear poster

Artist Albert Staehle painted this first Smokey Bear poster.

The ‘50s and ‘60s brought Smokey’s “ABC” campaign. This was a national push to educate the public about wildfire prevention in three easy steps, and it was broadcast to American homes through radio and TV spots.

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It wasn’t long before more posters of Smokey appeared. The bear gained widespread popularity. Soon Smokey Bear was featured on everything from comic books to toys. He was an undisputed success.

A real Smokey Bear

In 1950, a wildfire burned in New Mexico’s Capitan Mountains. Firefighters there found a young bear cub clinging to a tree branch. Firefighters presumed the cub climbed the tree to escape the raging fire. The little bear was alive, but severely burned. Firefighters rescued the cub and aptly named him Smokey.

News of a real Smokey Bear soon spread across the country. When Smokey had sufficiently recovered from his ordeal, he was moved to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he continued to play a role in educating people about fire prevention.

To handle all of his fan mail–up to 13,000 letters a week–the U.S. Postal Service set up his own personal zip code, 20252, for his area in the zoo. The zip code was decommissioned in 1994, but fortunately brought back in honor of Smokey’s 70th birthday.

When the real Smokey Bear died, his body was taken back to the Capitan Mountains for burial in the State Historical Park.

Smokey carried his “only you can prevent forest fires” message into the early 2000s and placed the responsibility on us all to be careful around the campfire. Additionally, the shift in the use of “forest fires” to “wildfires” in Smokey’s messaging is present, as well.

Today, new Public Service Announcements to educate the public on different ways that wildfires are caused, including hot coals, dragging chains, and burning debris. Smokey’s wildfire prevention message was already resonating with audiences—now, they just needed actionable steps to take.

Today’s Smokey Bear

Other Smokey Bear facts

  • The Smokey Bear campaign is the longest-running Public Service Advertisement campaign in U.S. history.
  • In 1953, the Ideal Toy Company made a Smokey Bear doll. Included with the doll was a card that when mailed back gave children an official “Junior Forest Ranger” identification card. Within two years, over half a million kids had applied and received the unofficial honor.

  • Since its development in the 1940s, it’s estimated that the Smokey Bear ad campaign has reduced the number of acres lost to wildfires by 15.6 million annually.
  • Smokey does not have a middle name. (It’s Smokey Bear. Not Smokey “The” Bear.) A song about the forest icon added “The” to his name in order to make the lyrics and melody sync better. 

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.
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These Vintage Trailer Transformations Will Leave You Smiling

We love to travel and especially enjoy roadtrips across America. Since we’ve been married in 2019, the two of us–along with Mr. Beefy, our “King of the Hill Country” canine–have been to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland.

We also enjoyed Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia…and we’ve just started.

Both of us have peculiar little quirks of interests, individually and those we share: museums, historical sites, camping, amusement parks, birdwatching, theater, concerts and roadside attractions.

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One in particular is viewing restored pieces of history, especially trains, planes and automobiles. When it comes to restoring things from the past, such as an antique or junk someone left behind, there’s plenty of room to let the imagination run wild.

Being Baby Boomers, it’s not so hard to enjoy seeing what others have done by restoring vintage travel trailers. We hope these make you smile.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Essential Camping Safety Tips for RVers and Motorcyclists

Camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and to ensure your trips are safe, here are tips uniquely for RVers and motorcyclists.

RVers and motorcyclists should plan out all escape routes and discuss them with (RV occupants) and fellow campers when traveling. Ensure everyone is informed of the survival plans.

Basic Camping Safety

🔹Keep watch on children! You are responsible for the safety of your children. Make sure you know where your kids are and what they are doing.

🔹Be aware of the natural surroundings. There may be plants with thorns or stickers.

🔹You are a visitor in wildlife’s home. Keep a safe distance from wild animals. Although they may look cute, they are wild and can carry diseases.

🔹Never feed the wildlife! Feeding wildlife can encourage bad behavior by animals and is against park regulations.

🔹Be careful with fire. Never leave a fire unattended and be sure your campfire is out when you break camp.

🔹Axes, knives and saws are useful tools, but be sure you know how to properly use them.

RV Safety Tips

🔹Have more than one fire extinguisher and insure everyone knows where they are and how to use them. Make sure they have the right amount of pressure according to the gauge. In fact, anytime you use an extinguisher, it should be recharged or replaced to avoid future problems.

🔹Watch where you park. Heat from underneath your RV can catch grass on fire.

🔹Never use any stove or cooking appliance for heating space. Smaller space means less ventilation and the greater the chance of a fire.

🔹Keep any combustible items like paper towels or dish cloths away from the stove and remain near the stove when cooking.

🔹Install and inspect smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Test alarms every two-weeks to ensure they work properly. This is a fast and easy test that can save lives and property.

🔹A dragging brake line can cause friction. This can easily be ignited by dripping brake fluid. Make sure to check the pressure in your tires regularly and spot check at every stop.

🔹Always be aware of your surroundings.  Be aware of who is camping next to you, across from you and behind you. Pay attention to what is happening.  Know when the weather is changing and who is moving about around your RV.

🔹Always lock your camper when you leave it.  Even if you are just going to the laundry room or the bathhouse in the campground.

🔹Use window locks so your RV can’t be accessed by the sliding windows.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

🔹Pack safe. Keep the center of gravity of your bike in mind and make sure the heavy items are lower down.  below the COV of your bike. Even up the balance on each side of the bike – don’t put all the heavy stuff in one saddlebag! If traveling solo, pack your gear so it acts as a backrest to support your lower back.

🔹Make sure nothing is touching the exhausts. Use the most effective ratchet straps, bungees or cargo nets to secure the load and carry additional items on top for easy access.

🔹Pack light. Space is limited so be efficient and don’t fill up every available space. Seasoned motorcycle campers overwhelmingly pack light and trim luggage down to the minimum. You can always buy stuff along the way.

 🔹Pack efficiently. Determine what you really need, and pack accordingly. Pack your tent and sleeping bag last so they are first things you unpack at camp site, and make sure the things you’ll need on the ride – sunglasses, sunscreen, waterproofs and maps – are easily accessible.

🔹A tent. If tenting, use one with a waterproof floor or groundsheet and take metal stakes to fix it down and a driver. Pick the size of tent according to your needs – even if you are travelling solo, a two or even three-man tent will give you the space you need to hold your clothes and luggage as well as you, and won’t take up much more space than a one-man tent. Vestibules allow you to strip off wet rain gear and store wet luggage without getting the inside of your tent wet. Make sure you have a waterproof fly- sheet for wet nights. Try setting it up at home rather than working out how to set it up in the dark at your first camp site.

🔹Use a sleeping bag in a grade for  the range of temperatures you are likely to experience. Down insulation is more efficient and packs down smaller than synthetic fillings. Use compression bags to hold your sleeping bag, tent and pad to make the most effective use of space.

Orange County Choppers in New York salutes fire departmens and emergency responders across the nation (Photo: Jack Dennis)

 🔹Before you set off, make sure your bike is serviced and in good condition. A day or two before departure do a trial run of packing and riding your bike – ideally an overnight trip if you can. You’ll almost certainly over pack so it is a great opportunity to check and reassess what you are taking, and to ensure everything is efficiently packed and you know where it is and how to get at it. Of course, if someone with you is travelling by car, put the campsite equipment in there and only carry essentials – it also means you can take more stuff you will find useful, such as camp chairs, extra food or a cool box.

🔹When you are on your trip, don’t leave too late in the day to find a site – when you are tired, it’s easy to make bad decisions and leaving too late will increase your stress levels and make mistakes more likely to happen. When you’ve found the site, choose the best area – sheltered and flat, not sloping or rocky, and not low-lying so you avoid pooling water if it rains, or falling cold air if the temperature drops. Be friendly with other campers, and when you leave make sure you leave no trace you have been there – kill any fire you may have made, and pick up any trash and clear it away.

🔹Finally, when you are back home, make a post-trip evaluation of your packing – what did you not use, what did you not take that you needed – and make a note of it, so next trip you will be operating at maximum efficiency, leaving you free to enjoy the ride.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Geared For Seniors: Bicycle Guide To Health

There are many good comfort bikes for seniors these days. You might be wondering how you might go about choosing the best comfort bike for yourself.

Bike riding is very good for seniors. Some seniors have age-related aches and pains, or they suffer from conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia.

Bike riding is one of the best forms of exercise for older persons because it provides aerobic exercise that causes little impact on joints.

Cycling gives you an excellent opportunity to stretch your limbs as you ride, providing a gentle way to tone your muscles and to develop flexibility. Riding a bicycle increases endorphins that are critical and create a feeling of well-being.

Cycling increases lung capacity and improves circulation to enhance your overall health.

Riding can be a social sport and can help you to combat feelings of isolation. When children move away, retirement begins, or life circumstances create changes in social networks.

Best of all, most airlines and bus companies now allow you to bring your bike on board. Making it possible for you to see the world on a shoestring budget.

After you make the initial purchase, a well-maintained bike can continue to provide low-cost commuting here and abroad for many years to come.

What Kind Of Bike Is Easiest To Ride?

The easiest bike to ride is lightweight and is equipped with dual brakes to give you maximum control of stopping.

Bikes that have 3 or 7 speeds will be easier for you to handle on hills and rougher terrain.

A suspension system absorbs shock to give you a more comfortable ride. Other features like waffle tread or all-weather tires can improve traction and year-round usability.

As it happens, bikes that tend to fit well into the above description include urban cruisers and hybrids.

While road bikes and mountain bikes also have some of the same features, their large size and heavy weight make long rides uncomfortable for some older adults.

Which Bikes For Seniors Are The Most Comfortable?

Conditions like arthritis and back pain are not exclusive to senior citizens but may occur more frequently in some older adults.

Comfort bicycles for seniors, therefore, have features that are designed to reduce shock and eliminate the potential for you to feel pain as you ride.

Some of the features you probably want to look for include an extra-wide saddle, a padded seat, cushioned handlebar grips, and front suspension.

A comfort bike that lets you maintain an upright riding position will ease pressure on your back. It also provides the most comfortable ride if you have any skeletal pain.

Features like a low step-through and wide pedals can be an asset, letting you easily mount, dismount and move your bike without having to exert undue effort.

How To Buy One Of The Best Bikes For Older Adults?

Here is a quick overview of the essential features to consider as you prepare to purchase your new bike.

Wheels And Tires

The standard wheel sizes are 26 inches or 700C and have widths that range from about 1.0 to 2.2 inches. Urban commuters tend to have narrower tires. The wider tires we see more often on mountain bikes.

Steel alloy rims are very sturdy but much heavier than aluminum. If your bike has steel rims, you will probably want to make sure they have been treated to make them weather-resistant.

For traveling in light traffic and paved roads, many seniors favor lightweight cruisers and commuter bikes. Because they often feature rear racks where they can stow possessions and purchases.

Many of these bikes have 1 or 3 speeds, keeping them functional yet simple to operate and maintain.

Gears And Shifting

Single-gear bikes are a good choice if you plan to ride primarily on pavement and other flat surfaces.

Having extra gears, like a mountain bike for example, gives you more options, including cruising at higher speeds and riding on hills.

If you intend to ride on uneven surfaces, you might want to consider purchasing a 7-speed model that can easily tackle inclines.

High-quality shifters and derailleurs make it possible to shift gears while your bike is moving and let you navigate unpredictable surfaces.

Seniors who intend to take on more challenging rides will probably want to choose a bike that has at least 7 speeds.

This gearing option will make it easier to pedal on inclines, especially if the bike has additional features like fork and seat suspension.

Brake System

Rim brakes, or V-brakes, give you very little control of sudden stops and may not be the safest option if you intend to ride in urban settings.

Disc brakes provide the most thorough type of stopping, making it easy for you to come to a sudden full stop in an emergency.

Hydraulic disc brakes require less effort, but mechanical brakes give you fine-tuned control of stopping.

Frame

Lightweight and affordable, bikes that have aluminum frames are often a good choice for seniors.

Steel is durable but much heavier than aluminum and less practical for long-distance riding.

Carbon fiber and titanium are lightweight and durable materials being used in bike frames. Due to the high cost, however, these materials are mainly used in high-end and competitive cycles.

Additional Features

Wheel swapping is an excellent feature to have if you intend to ride throughout the year.

Look for a bike that has a quick-release mechanism for fast and easy tire changes.

Your bike’s suspension system absorbs shock and provides a more comfortable ride over bumps and on hills.
Add a suspension seat, and you are set to tackle the hilliest surfaces with the greatest of ease.

Other comfort features include a dual spring saddle, waffle tread tires, and an extra-wide padded seat

Ideally, bikes for older people contain lights and reflectors that make it safer to ride your bike at night and in low-visibility conditions.

Mirrors increase your viewing range and can help you to anticipate obstacles so that you can deal with them proactively.

What is an E-BIKE?

E-bikes look like regular bicycles and come in a variety of sizes and styles. They include an electric motor and a large battery that give the bike its power. Riders can choose to pedal manually, without power, or use what is called pedal assist, where the bike’s motor “assists” the rider while pedaling. This gives you the extra help you need to make it up hills without straining or to travel at a faster pace.

Most models in the U.S. also include a throttle that you can use without pedaling. This is good for helping you take off from a stop or to give yourself a short rest from pedaling on longer rides. Some lower-end models have only a throttle, but in my opinion you will be happier buying a bike with pedal assist.

Are There Any Precautions I Need To Take Before I Ride?

Your bike must be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions if it is to continue to provide a safe ride.

If you cannot afford to have a technician fix potential problems, then you must learn to perform at least necessary repairs yourself.

It is a good idea for cyclists of all ages to use appropriate protective gear.

A cycling helmet, gloves, knee pads, and elbow pads will provide comfort and protect you in the event of a fall or impact.

Some riders find that a cycling cap worn under the helmet improves air circulation and absorbs moisture to maximize comfort.

Family of two seniors on bikes wearing bicycle helmets
Wearing a bicycle helmet is a good idea for people of all ages

Cycling offers many health advantages, but it can prove problematic for seniors who have certain medical conditions.

You may want to consult with your health care provider before you begin to cycle, especially if you suffer from a heart condition, asthma, epilepsy, or sleep disorders.

The ability to exercise is probably less related to age than it is to the level of conditioning you currently have.

To ensure an enjoyable and injury-free cycling career, begin slowly and listen to your body’s reactions as you ride and always take something to drink with you!

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Veterans, Gold Star Families Get Free Entrance to National Parks, Other Public Lands

Entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites are waived for current Military Service-members and their dependents, Veterans and Gold Star Families.

They now have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle, from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing, camping, and much more.

Are you eligible?

For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of valid (unexpired) identification:

Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.

The America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (Interagency Pass) Program

The Interagency Pass Program already includes a free annual pass for active duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Current Military Service-members must show a valid (unexpired) Department of Defense ID. Dependents of current Service-members must show a valid (unexpired) DD Form 1173 AD or DEC.

The annual Military Pass has been expanded to include Veterans and Gold Star Family members. Other free or discounted passes, including some lifetime passes, are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older.

How to get your Interagency Pass

Interagency Passes can be obtained in person while visiting a participating site. Visit Places to Get Interagency Passes for a searchable list and be sure to contact the site before you go, to make sure they are open and have passes in stock.  In addition, Military passes, as well as those for seniors and persons with permanent disabilities, are available online through the USGS Online Store.

For more information about eligibility and passes, visit Free Entrance to National Parks for Veterans and Gold Star Families (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Almost 43 Million Americans to Take Road Trips Labor Day Weekend

This Labor Day weekend, 42.9 million Americans are expected to take a road trip. While that’s a big number, it’s down a percentage point from last year and down 10 points from 2019 (the last Labor Day before COVID-19).

However, the numbers are uncertain because of an increase in last minute bookings.

Mel Dohmen, senior brand manager at Orbitz, says, “The last-minute booking trend really emerged last year as a response to COVID-19 and travelers taking their time to make decisions on where and when to go, if at all.”

Additionally, Orbitz notes an increase in demand for travel insurance compared to past years.

Given Hurricane Ida caused many major Gulf Shore pipelines to pause production and an increase in demand is typical during holiday weekends, most experts believe gas prices will be about five cents per gallon higher than last week.

TripAdvisor data confirms the desire for flexibility, showing an increase in searches for terms like “free cancellation,” “pay at stay,” and “travel safe.”

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

The 3 A’s of Camping

Years ago, before the days of cell phones, I was tent camping at Garner State Park in Texas with friends and had no way of knowing danger was ahead.

Lightning, strong winds and heavy rain were our only notice in the middle of the night. Concerned of flash flooding from the Frio River, we bit the bullet, grabbed what we could and drove to higher ground.

Others weren’t so fortunate.  We lost a tent, blankets and lawn chairs. Some lost their lives.

Even today, because of that experience, I stay alert of weather conditions.

The Three A’s of Campground Weather Safety

Awareness

Check the forecast before you travel or set up camp.  Once you are in camping mode or vacation mind, you are planning for fun! But weather can change that quickly so know what the weather is going to be like over the next couple days so you can make good decisions about your activities and destinations.  Use a reliable weather information website like NOAA  or the National Weather Service.

If you are in an area that has cell service, then a weather appwith emergency weather notification is a great thing to have set up.  They have a free and paid version.  The app will send you a notification when there are watches and warnings for the area you are in.  Be sure to have your app set up to notify you even if your other notifications are off and also have your location setting turned on.

Alertness

Have your weather radios set up to alert you when there is a threat.  There are different kinds of weather radio options. We have one we can crank if all the other options (solar, batteries, electrical outlet plugin) fail or are unavailable.

Having a radio that doubles as a walkie-talkie can be a good choice to make the most of small space storage.

Frio River near Garner State Park, Texas.

Have a weather contingency plan.  What will you do if the weather suddenly changes and you are in danger?  Everyone on your trip should have a job to do and know how to do it in case of an emergency evacuation.

In case of an emergency, how will you make contact with help?  What is cell service is lost? Using emergency radios can make the difference in campground weather safety.

Action

Have a plan on what to do if there is threatening weather that may put you in danger.

Know where you are – use a GPS to help identify your location in case you need it.

Know your evacuation plan:  If you need to evacuate where are you going?  Are you going to stick it out?

Use your weather radios to keep abreast of changes in weather in your area.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. “It may be too late the second time,” Texas Park & Wildlife Department officials said. “The first time we can get them out by land, the second time it will be by boat if we can get to them at all.”

Don’t attempt to drive through flooded roads, even if the water looks shallow. “If you can’t see the road, don’t try it,” the Texas Park and Wildlife official said. “It’ll be a deadly mistake.”

Watch out for downed power lines and do not go near them, even around residences.

If you get a weather notification for an approaching storm of any kind, start to clean up your campsite and put things away that could potentially become airborne in a wind gust situation.  Your RV windows, motorcycles and your camping neighbors will love you for it.

A few things to remember:

Have flashlights ready in case of power outage and you don’t have RV house batteries.

Have a weather radio and/or weather app set to alert you when there is a weather event

Have activity appropriate apparel and shoes for your outings in case of unexpected weather.  Dress in layers to avoid discomfort in changes of temperatures.

Keep a positive attitude!  You can’t control the weather but you can wait out bad weather by planning to have games and activities to do when bad weather strikes.

If your plans have to change because of weather, be sure to have some alternate activities planned.  A stash of games and cards can turn a disappointment into another kind of fun!

Texas flood.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

A Novel Insect Repellent and More Aluminum Foil Tricks

Herd It Through the Grapevine #6

Insect Repellent

Take note campers and RVers!

Household insects like to hide in dark, creepy places. If you search long enough in your kitchen cabinets, you’ll probably find a few unwelcome visitors. While using shelf liners is a common practice to keep your cabinets clean, aluminum foil is the best shelf liner of all.

Aluminum foil reflects light, which in turn drives away all the creepy-crawly creatures. By lining your cabinets with aluminum foil, you’re creating an environment where no insect wants to live. You’ll keep your kitchen safe from scavenging critters and you’ll keep your cabinets tidy and dust-free.

Frying Eggs Trick


If you’ve always struggled to fry the perfect egg, aluminum foil might be the solution. We learned the value of this from camping. Before frying your egg, measure out a strip of aluminum foil over the pan you want to use. Then, line the inside of the pan with the aluminum foil, pressing down to make sure it conforms to the shape. Once that’s done, fill the aluminum foil with oil and heat the pan.

Cracking the eggs directly into aluminum foil will keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. You’ll be able to easily flip and turn your eggs, ensuring they reach the right level of done-ness before taking them out of the pan. Plus, clean up is so much easier! When you’re done cooking, simply ball up the foil and throw it away—no soap needed!

Grease Catcher Trick

Greasy dishes are always a treat, especially if you make them yourself. But while cooking your feast, you’re always faced with the problem of what to do with the leftover grease after your dish is done.

If you toss it down the drain, it can create serious issues in your plumbing line. Instead of risking clogging your pipes, turn aluminum foil into an instant grease catcher.

When your dish is done, line a bowl with aluminum foil and pour the oil inside. Using aluminum foil allows you to quickly get rid of the grease, without forcing it to stick to your dining ware. When the grease cools, simply ball up the aluminum foil and throw it away. It’s that easy.

Stove Burner Protection

Cooking some things on the stove can end with a splash, spill or big disaster. Food gets in the burner and can even damage the stove when it gets on the inside.

To prevent that is, I cut out a piece of aluminum foil paper and line the burner with it. This prevents food from getting on the inside of the stove.

Remember, everyone should know this, aluminum foil cannot go in the microwave, so I always advise anyone that before you put something in the microwave check to see if it has aluminum foil in it. 

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Autumn in Sedona: Try Ales on Rails at Verde Canyon Railroad

We traveled through enchanting Sedona a few weeks ago, although we couldn’t stay long. It’s only been a few years since I was there, but mercy has it grown…almost to the point that Sedona’s popularity could be a possible burden.

Traffic congestion was considerable and all shops, restaurants and parking areas were full. We will be back, but probably not in the peak of summer. Most likely we will try again in the fall.

The first sign of autumn isn’t always the changing of the leaves; sometimes it’s the changing of the kegs. When the air turns crisp and pint glasses are raised in celebration, it can only mean that Oktoberfest has arrived. 

Ales on Rails is Verde Canyon Railroad’s way of toasting this German tradition, providing a rollicking farewell to summer beginning Tuesday, September 14 and running through Sunday, October 31, 2021.

Sample a wide range of local Arizona breweries, proudly showcased on the depot patio, these are richly crafted local beers ranging from the lightest pilsners to the hoppiest IPAs and deepest stouts the Copper State has to offer.

Now in its 19th year, the very popular Ales on Rails season always sells out in advance and may be reserved to include a Verde Canyon Railroad logo beer glass with four beer-tasting tickets, a made-to-order lunch from the Copper Spike Cafe and a large selection of fine Arizona-brewed craft beers for only $125 per person.

The party begins on the depot patio from 10:30am -12:45 p.m., with beer tasting on tap prior to the train’s 1:00 p.m.  departure.

The fun continues as favorite beers of the day will also be available canned for purchase aboard the train, to enjoy while marveling at the vibrant Verde Canyon scenery.

Echoing the celebration of amber brews are the brilliant bronze and gold colors vividly on display throughout Mother Nature’s masterpiece during the Fall Colors Tour, with autumn foliage ranging from chartreuse to ginger, and vermillion to violet for a wide range strikingly seasonal hues.

If you mixed all four seasons together and skimmed off the very best, you would create autumn.

Radiant colors and mild temperatures with a hint of briskness in the air charges Verde Canyon with a fresh energy. Residents of the Verde Canyon, as well as visitors, feel the seasonal change.

Wildlife sightings increase as deer, Javelina, coyote and other species grow more active. Amidst the fall finery, a chorus of wings adds a touch of music, as migratory birds return to the sanctuary between the canyon walls.

The Verde Canyon’s resident Bald Eagles are joined by these migrating visitors, adding to the population, and the train’s connection with these noble birds.  

The train is a proud sponsor of Arizona-based rescue Liberty Wildlife, who share scheduled Raptors at the Rails programs with depot guests, featuring hawks, owls, falcons and vultures from their education program at the depot, and a bald eagle riding the train each month.

As October draws to a finale, the Verde Canyon’s low whistling winds are perhaps ghostly whispers of ancient Sinaguan cliff-dwellers or of miners’ spirits restlessly roaming from nearby famed “Ghost City” Jerome’s abandoned copper mine shafts.

It’s not the destination, it has always been the journey

No matter what your plans might be for the spookiest night of the year, spend part of your day aboard the Haunted Halloween Express on Sunday, October 31st.

In addition to the blazing colors of fall and the smooth, cool flow of artisanal beer, train staff will be in Halloween disguises ranging from mild to wild, and there will be a costume contest for passengers, with fun prizes and plenty of candy making for ghoulish good fun for the whole family.

Leave the confines of city life in favor of high-spirited fun and an unforgettable journey around every bend and over every bridge as the train winds through its beautiful and historic red-rock riparian canyon home this autumn. Surrounded by the colors of the season, the flavors of Arizona, the curves of the Verde River, a trip aboard the train inspires wonder and fills cameras. 

The Verde Canyon Railroad depot is in Clarkdale, Arizona, 25 minutes southwest of Sedona and two hours north of Phoenix. For reservations book online at VerdeCanyonRR.com or call 800-293-7245.

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The 7 C’s of Camping

Many of the questions and concerns RVers, motorcyclists, and campers have are solved with mutual respect, courtesy and common sense.

Here are the “Seven C’s of Camping:”

1. Care – We will care how we camp by being considerate of others.

2. Caution – We will use caution in the use of camping equipment both on the road and at the campsite. We will handle fire and flammable fuels so as not to endanger others or ourselves. We will improve our camping skills, knowing the right way is the safest way.

3. Courtesy – We will practice politeness because it enhances the camping experience. We will respect the privacy of others, control our children and leash our dogs.

4. Cleanliness – We will be clean in our camping habits and teach our children the importance of cleanliness. We will pick up litter no matter who left it and be proud of the campsites we leave behind.

5. Cooperation – We will observe the letter and spirit of camping regulations and rules established to protect our enjoyment of the outdoors. We will work cooperatively with others to make it better for everyone.

6. Conservation – We will protect the environment in which we enjoy camping and help those whose job it is to guard and wisely manage our country’s natural resources. We will endeavor to leave a better outdoors for those who follow us.

7. Common Sense – We will apply common sense to every situation, knowing that reason, understanding and humor make camping better for ourselves and others.

10 ‘Enlightening’ Facts You Likely Forgot


Lightning can happen at any time – during snow storms, in hurricane rain bands, in dust storms and forest fires, they are even found in volcanic eruption clouds. We need to think of lightning safety anytime there is a severe thunderstorm in our area.

In the USA, there are several states where you are more likely to run into trouble. Florida leads the list, with double the casualties of the others: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Texas. Each year, almost 24,000 people are killed by lightning strikes around the world and it is the fourth weather killer here at home. Even if you do not live in the 10 states above, you are still at risk.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are three main ways lightning enters structures: through a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and through the ground.

10 Lightning Safety Facts Mom Probably Told You

Fact #1 – Lightning has its own agenda.

According to protocols for the US Army, standing outside during a lightning storm puts you at risk for a strike.  If you must be outside during a storm you should NOT:

  • Remain in an open area
  • Remain near metal fences
  • Be near railroad tracks
  • Remain in tents

Fact  #2 –  Lightning does strike in the same place twice.

It hits the Empire State Building about 25 times a year. Some people are extremely susceptible and everyone should practice lightning safety measures – just ask Roy Cleveland Sullivan (February 7, 1912 – September 28, 1983) who was a U.S. park ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Sullivan

Between 1942 and 1977, Sullivan was hit by lightning on seven different occasions during his 35 year career and survived all of them, although he lost the nail on one of his big toes, and suffered multiple injuries to the rest of his body.

Fact #3 – It is dangerous to seek shelter under a tree during a lightning storm.

Your mom was right, trees are frequent conductors of lightning to the ground. Lightning prefers to strike tall, pointed objects. When the strike occurs, the bolt will usually follow the shortest, most conductible path to the earth’s surface. Therefore objects that stick out above everything else are more likely to be struck.

Taking shelter under trees is dangerous – recent studies of lightning victims showed several highly-vulnerable situations and activities, but the one that stood out was taking shelter under trees.

Fact #4 – You should stay in your car during a storm, but not because the rubber tires will save you.

Lightning has traveled through space…a few inches of rubber mean nothing at all. You should stay in your car because it acts like a Faraday cage. The metal in the car will shield you from any external electric fields and prevent the lightning from traveling inside it. If you are in a vehicle during a lightning storm, close your car windows and ride it out.

Fact #5 – You can be struck by lightning even if you can’t hear the thunder.

Lightning strikes can occur on a day when you cannot see storm clouds near you. This is known as “A Bolt from the Blue.”  Lightning can travel up to 10 miles but our ears can hear thunder claps from only 6-8 miles away.  To be safe, wait at least 30 minutes before resuming activities after a thunder storm.

Fact #6 – You should not talk on a hard wired telephone during a thunder and lightning storm.

According to Ronald L. Holle, a weather consultant and former meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, “Corded phones are extremely dangerous during a storm. Home phone lines are protected with surge devices, but these defenses can be overwhelmed should lightning hit a nearby power pole. Someone dies every few years while talking on a phone during a lightning strike.”

Your cordless phone and mobile phones are safe to use during a thunderstorm. You can safely use remote controls, but do not touch electrical equipment such as computers, TVs or cords.

Fact #7 – You should unplug your computer and other electronic devices before a storm arrives.

It’s a good idea to protect electronic equipment — stereos, TVs, computers, etc. — with surge protectors. Good-quality ones typically cost between $50 and $100. Like the surge protection built into houses, however, they don’t offer 100% protection. Unplugging devices before a storm is your best approach.

Fun Fact #8 – It’s true! Counting between the lightning and thunder clap will tell you how far away the storm is and if it is moving toward or away from you.

Lightning’s distance from you is easy to calculate: if you hear thunder, it and the associated lightning are within range…about 6-8 miles away. The distance from Strike A to Strike B also can be 6-8 miles. Start counting… one one thousand…two two thousand…

Ask yourself why you should NOT go to shelter immediately. A lightning strike at a very close distance will be accompanied by a sudden clap of thunder, with almost no time lapse, and the smell of ozone.

Fact #9 – A lightning victim is not electrified. If you touch them, you will not be electrocuted.

While the human body does not store electricity, it is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!

Call 9-1-1 and if the person has stopped breathing begin CPR immediately. Use an Automatic External Defibrillator if one is available. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information on CPR and first aid classes.

Fact #10 – In lightning’s electrical field 

If you are caught outside in a field during a thunder and lightning storm, if you feel your hair standing on end, and/or hear “crackling noises” – you are in lightning’s electric field. If you cannot get to shelter you should  follow these steps: 

  • Immediately remove metal objects from your pockets, and remove jewelry. This includes baseball caps.
  • Place your feet together with hands on ears to minimize acoustic shock from thunder.
  • Duck your head.
  • Crouch down low in baseball catcher’s stance with hands on knees, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet, with your head between or over your knees.
  • Never lie flat on the ground