SWETSVILLE ZOO: Exit 265

There are so many choices along America’s highways to stop for a 20 minuet break, and Colorado is loaded with them!  There are rest stops, picnic areas, historical landmarks, points of interest, hiking trails and scenic overlooks.

P1080195And then there is the Swetsville Zoo.

Located at CO I-25 Exit 265 east, just south of Fort Collins you will find artist, Bill Swets’ (loved by the locals) ‘zoo’.0601181339a

Started in 1985, this scrapyard-turned-sculpture-garden is the result of years of insomnia and a passion to create a place where dinosaurs, giant insects and Snoopy to all live together in harmony.  A place where visitors of all ages can delight and gaze in wonder at this whimsical, metal menagerie while still wondering how to react to it all.

P1080192Here you will find a restroom and a handy picnic table by the river shaded by a giant spider made of an old Buick.  You can stroll the path lined with sea monsters, dinosaurs, aliens and insects.  You can see trains and wagons pulled by fantasy characters made from scrap metal, concrete, car parts and old tools.

Regardless of your reaction, you’ll never get to see anything like this anywhere else!0601181344    P1080182   0601181338

So, stop in, make a small optional donation and wonder all the way into Denver what it is that you just saw!P1080191

 

While your in the area, take a drive through the historical little town of Timnath.  There you’ll find a few quaint gift shops, a place to eat, and if you are there in October, check out the Jack Lantern Corn Maze…it’s Northern Colorado’s favorite!

To use the “20 min in Colorado” Category, read HERE

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COLORADO WELCOME CENTER / RUNNING DEER NATURAL AREA & TRAIL: Exit 268

Most people would say that along the I-25 corridor between the Wyoming border and Denver there is ‘a-lotta nothin‘.

I say…HOGWASH!0601181441

There is, however, a-lotta open space, green rolling hills, farming fields nestled in at the base of the Rocky Mountains, old abandoned buildings, and views of snow-capped mountain peaks.

There are also a few great places to stop, stretch your legs, have a picnic, or just breathe in the clean, crisp air.

 

0601181632If you are traveling from Wyoming and headed south along I-25 into ‘Colorful Colorado’ (yep..that’s our slogan), the first place you might consider for a rest is the Colorado Visitor’s Center located just west of I-25 at exit 268 near Ft Collins.

Here you will find restrooms, a covered picnic area and a place to walk the dog.  Check out the Rocky Mountain Nature Association Bookstore for complimentary maps, brochures and weather updates.  There is also the Blue Star Memorial Highway near the center honoring those who served in the Nation’s Armed Forces during WW2.

The Colorado Welcome Center is located on a 200 acre nature preserve called the ‘Running Deer Natural Area’.  From the Visitor’s Center, follow the marked trail where you’ll find about 2 miles of trails with 3 loop choices – all under 1 mile in length.  There are lakes, ponds, and an historic firs lookout.  You will also find restrooms, benches and that your leashed dogs are welcome. Click here for a trail map: Running Deer Trail map

What a great place to get introduced into the northern part of the state, and all available 0601181633a_HDRduring your 20 minuet stop in Colorado!

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BASIC PHOTO COMPOSITION TIPS

I work hard. Really hard. I am a novice photographer with a point-and-shoot camera, determined to make the most of my decision not to invest in a big bodied camera with accessories that I honestly don’t want to lug around.photos 1

As a result, I am in the process of learning to maximize my skills and make up for what my camera is not capable of.

This has proven to be a lot of work!

One of my first objectives was to really understand the rules of composition, because well, my photos seemed to lack that ‘certain something’ that I could not really identify.  I purchased a book called BetterPhoto Basics (which I highly recommend) and started with the chapter on making better composition choices.  There I found the 40 rules.

40???  Seriously? I have trouble remembering 3!

But working on my composition choices – even the most basic ones – has made a world of difference with the quality of my photos.  I’d like to share with you my ‘Top Ten’.  These are the composition tips that I primarily focus on, but if you can work with 40 different tips for great shots while you’re out on the road, then my hats off to you!552

Okay.  Here goes…

TIP #1: THE RULE OF THIRDS

Okay, we all know this one.  Divide your viewing screen into 9 quadrants by drawing 2 vertical and 2 horizontal imaginary lines at 1/3 intervals (or use the setting on your camera to do so).  Put the subject in any of those quadrants except the center one.  Your photo will look sooooo much more creative if you don’t put your subject in dead center.

a). In this example, I wanted to get a shot at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. My first photo was centered and boring (not to mention distracting with the guy in the background), and the second was using the rule of 1/3rds and putting him in a more appropriate setting:

b). Here’s another example.  How much better is #2?

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TIP #2: FILL THE FRAME

This might sound like a contradiction to Tip #1, but if your subject is ALL that is in the shot, it’ll work.  What little background there is should either be blurred or very simple.  Here are a couple of examples:

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TIP #3: WATCH THE HORIZON LINE

This may sound painfully obvious, but with so much to think about, sometimes we neglect the horizon and either tilt the camera (not paying attention to the angle) or put it in the center of the shot.  If you mess this up, you can generally correct these problems on your computer’s photo program. A ‘crop’ button can remove some of the top or bottom to keep the horizon out of the center, and the ‘straighten’ button is there for you if you’ve held the camera at an angle.  See how much difference this can make:

a). In this first photo I was mesmerized by the beautiful sunset as we left Ft. Lauderdale on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship (at the time), the Harmony. So much so, that I neglected to pay attention to the Horizon Line.  Were we sliding off of the ship?:

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b). Here the Horizon Line is centered – which is much better – but it’s dead center, which makes for a less-than-appealing photo:

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c).  Okay. Now we’ve put the Horizon Line in one of the 1/3rd quadrants and it’s straight.  Much better, don’t you think?

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TIP #4: KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING

A good photo never leaves you wondering what the main subject really is.  Make sure your subject is the focal point, and not diminished by whatever else is in the shot.  Here’s a sample of what I mean:

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a). In this first photo I was trying to capture the atmosphere of Chinatown in San Francisco. What I got was pretty much a hot mess.

 

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b). The better option was to focus on something specific instead of such a busy scene with no real subject.

 

 

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TIP #5: PAY ATTENTION TO THE BACKGROUND

If your background is too ‘busy’ it will take away from your subject and create a really uninteresting snapshot.  Either blur the background (adjust your aperture setting or move in on the subject and create more distance between it and the background), or simply change the angle and face a more simple background.  Here are 2 examples of why you need to keep the background from competing with the subject:

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TIP #6: SHOW SCALE

If your objective is to emphasize or de-emphasize a subject, put someone or something in the shot to give it perspective.  See what that can do:

Here’s my 11-yr old in the Swiss Alps  &  5 teenagers at the Neuschwanstein Castle

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TIP #7: MAKE IT FUN

The more fun you have with your photos, the better they will be and the less annoyed your family and friends will be with your ‘shutter finger’ problem.  Remember, though, that a really great candid shot without a busy background or other ‘tip violations’ is tough to come by.  Don’t be afraid to step in and orchestrate just a little.

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Here’s a photo of Eddie who actually hollered at me me with, “Look what I can do!” taken at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

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This photo is of me at the Statue of Liberty, (which Eddie wanted to take because his first memory of seeing me was when I was dressed as Lady Liberty for a 4th of July program)

 

Using ‘scale’ creatively can also be fun!vancouver beaches (13)1

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TIP #8: BE CREATIVE BY GETTING UP CLOSE, USING PATTERNS OR CROPPING:

a). Let’s face it.  Not everything that you want to take a picture of is all that interesting. Using your macro setting or just getting up close enough to single out a specific detail can create an artistic photo.  You can also crop a photo down to just a single detail in your computer’s photo program with the ‘crop’ button.  Here’s a few that I’ve altered because I thought the original was boring.

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b). Repeating patterns are another way to make your photos creative and fun:

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TIP #9: LOVE THE WEATHER

It simply doesn’t matter what mother nature is doing.  Great photos can show off the different kinds of weather that she congers.  Some of my favorite shots are in the fog, rain, mist and snow, and weather is a great way to create a mood or bring out an emotion.  Besides, when you know what your camera can do with the rain, you’ll never feel like your vacation was ruined!  Remember, though, that your camera needs to stay dry.  There are ‘raincoats’ for SLRs and I put my point-and-shoot in a baggie with a hole cut into the corner. Here’s some fun shots taken in wet weather:

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TIP #10: WATCH THE SHADOWS

I love how everything I read or watch about getting the best photos, tells me to photograph at the beginning or end of the day.  What if I’m only climbing the Eiffel Tower between noon and 2 pm when the sun is at it’s worst for photography? The most important thing to remember in bright overhead sun is that shadows get cast in undesirable places – especially under the eyes.  Here are a few things you can do to minimize problems and work with Shadows:

A. Play with the Shadows:

 If the shadows are going to be there no matter what you do, you might as well have a little fun…

B. Photograph in even lighting:

P1080202 (2)In this first shot, Grace has serious ‘raccoon eyes’ and shadows all over her face.

In the second shot – under the shade of a tree, Grace has no shadows on her face. P1080242

Anywhere the light is even, such as under a tree, under an awning or tent, etc.. is better than full overhead sun!

C. Focus on patterns:

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Patterns, as we’ve learned, are creative and eye-catching.  Use patterned shadows as the focal point.

D. Have your subject look to the side:

In bright light, having your subject looking straight at you can leave some not-so-great shadows and color distortions.  See how much difference this little change of position can make!

E. Use a reflective surface or exterior lighting:

Using an external flash can help minimize shadows, but unless you want to carry one around, the next best thing is to try and use reflective surfaces.  These can be glass buildings, mirrored or windowed surfaces, or steel structures.

Just make sure that you stand where you can use the surface to reflect the light!

F. Use back-lighting to force shadows and create silhouettes * Use back-lightening to create intentional sun flares:

There’s just no end to the creativity you can use – even with just a point-and-shoot camera!

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Well there you have the tips that I consider most important.  There are LOTS more (at least 30!), and we’ll be covering more as time goes on, but this is a great place to start! You can use all these tips even if you don’t have an SLR or bigphoto2 bodied camera.  And cellphones these days take amazing photos, so get out there and capture the world!

 

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FUN FACTS: GETTING STARTED WITH HISTORY

Ahhh…that feeling when you accomplish a goal…!  I’m now 1/2 finished with my website’s FUN FACTS Category!

I’ve shared in my blog called, ‘Backstory of the Bullet Points’ (which you can find in the Introduction of the FUN FACTS category) how I came to the decision to create a category on my website that would provide a few tidbits of information that might potentially help make any Road Trip more meaningful and enjoyable.  It was an easy decision to make as I watched Eddie go into an ‘information-overload coma’ in Arkansas, and where I too had been feeling overwhelmed by too many facts.

So, the idea for the FUN FACTS category for my website was born!  Minimal amounts of information in a ‘bullet point’ style that is simple to access, quick to read and easy to remember.

And being it’s all accessible online….it’s easy to have with you as you find yourself in a region enjoying a point of interest, historical site or beautiful landscape.

I pondered the most common types of information that you might encounter on a Road Trip, and ended up choosing these           4 sub-categories:

HISTORY * LANDSCAPES * RELIGION * ART & ARCHITECTURE

There will be about 9 blogs in each FUN FACTS sub-category and these will stay available and easy to find for anyone wanting a few pieces of information in any of these areas of interest.

The ‘Fun Facts’ Category has an ‘Introduction’ in the drop down that will have more details on how to use this category and will identify which states are in which region.

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And now all 9 blogs in ‘HISTORY’ are available.  Whew!

Each blog contains information about 1 of the 9 Regions of the U.S.  If you scroll to the bottom of the blog list in the ‘Fun Facts/ History’ Category, you’ll see Region 1 progressing back to the top where you’ll end with Region 9.

Each blog identifies the major historical information you’ll hear about while traveling in the region.  I call this time frame ‘focused events’.  I chose this approach, not because that’s all that has happened there, but because this is the information that the area is most known for.  There will be some general information and then some historical events for each state in the region – with an emphasis on the ‘focused events’.

All, of course, in a bullet point style that will frustrate any history fanatic, but hopefully allow the casual traveler to get more out of their vacations!  Enjoy!

ORBITING AROUND THE SUN KING

A little bit of information about the history of Paris

Although my opinions of the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV are a bit underwhelming , I must admit to being a bit of jealous of the king’s grand gams.526886978

I am also amazed at the legacy he left behind and the influence he had on French history!  So much so, that I believe  there are a few pieces of French history that if you are not aware of, you run the risk of finding your next trip to Paris being less than you might have wanted it to be.  So much of what you’ll see and do will make reference to these events of French history.

Having realized this, I have a plan.  My plan for our next trip to Paris is to discuss a few tidbits of French history with Eddie while standing in the Place de Concorde.  It is not my plan, however, to read him a novel, risk having him drift off mid-sentence, or annoy any surrounding tourists.  That is why my ‘basic Paris history info’ is organized into outline form.  Short and sweet.

And I would like to share with you these morsels of French history that I have learned are basic ‘must-knows’. Hopefully they will aid you on your next trip to the ‘City of Light’!  Here goes:

A. THE LAST MONARCHS:

1) Louis XIV: The Sun King

louis4

*Ruled 1643-1715

*Egomaniac; Military Genius; expanded the borders of France; became out of touch with the people; planted seeds of revolution

*Lived at Castle Louvre

*Built Versailles

*Last and greatest of the ‘Absolute Monarchs’

2) Louis XV:lousi3

*Great-Grandson of Sun King

*Took throne in 1715 at the age of 5

*Beloved at the beginning – despised by the end due to the debauchery of his court

*Died in 1774 of smallpox

                The Place de Concorde was built in 1755 to honor King Louis XV

3) Louis XVI:

louis5*Grandson of Louis XV – took throne at age 20 in 1774

*Married Marie Antoinette (‘let ‘em eat cake’) of Austria

*Shy, introverted, well educated, strong health, indecisive and ill prepared for ruling

*Brought about the Revolution in 1789

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B). THE REVOLUTION:

*Formally began in 1789 with the tearing down of the Prison of Bastille        louis7

*More than 40,000 people were guillotined and over 300,000 were arrested during the Revolution

*The Place de Concorde was re-named Place de Revolution

*King Louis XVI was charged with treason in 1793 and executed by guillotine on January 21st 1793.  His wife Marie was guillotined 9 mos later

*The Revolution formally ended in 1799

The Guillotine used in the French Revolution sat in front of the (present-day) Hotel de Crillon in the Place de Concorde in Paris

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C) NAPOLEON BONAPARTE: louis 8

*Took control of France after the Revolution and crowned himself  Emperor in 1804 (which became considered treason). He married Josephine just prior and divorced her in 1809.  His 2nd wife was Marie Louise from the Hapsburg Empire, and they had 1 son, Napoleon II

*Strong Military leader; initially loved by the people; brought economic prosperity; established order and peace in France; allowed peasants to keep their land; made peace with the Catholic Church; renamed the Place de Concorde; Famous for ‘Napoleonic Wars’; Egomaniac

*Tried to take over Northern Europe, Spain, Russia & Great Britainlouis9

*Defeated in 1815 at Waterloo, Belgium by the Prussians & Britons

*Died of a peptic ulcer in 1821 after being exiled to the island of St. Helena (off the coast of Africa).  His body was returned to Paris in 1840 to be interred at the the Hotel des Invalides

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Wow!  Any expert in the field would shudder at this inadequate and incomplete list of French history bullet points, so I challenge you to do a little more research on your own…

-or…if you are like me –

just be satisfied, head out to take a peek at the Mona Lisa, and follow that up with a glass of wine and a crepe!

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I do, however, wonder why all the kings in French history were named Louis…

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PHOTO STYLES & PHOTO JOURANLISM

PHOTOJOURNALISM

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By no means do I consider myself a photographer.  I am, however, a traveler with a camera who wants to improve her skills, make great photo albums and detail everything that we experience on the road.  Eddie is a better photographer than I am, but he has the willingness to lug around the big camera and all the accessories.  I make myself satisfied with my point-and-shoot.  I have learned a few things, though, and for this blog I want to share with you my love for photojournalism.

There are many types of photos that you can take on the road.  Here are a few examples:

* Snapshots:

Snapshots are great.  They are quick and easy and because you don’t get emotionally attached to them, they are easy to discard if they don’t come out well.  These are usually fun and candid, and can often be some of your favorites. Sometime they can even surprise you!  Here are a few examples to illustrate:

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* Documentational:  

I may have just made up this word, but it says what I mean.  These photos document something you have seen or experienced.  They are a kind of ‘record keeping’ system for later recall, and generally need a title or caption – unless they are an iconic shot.  I often use this style to take a picture of a hotel or restaurant sign for future reference.  This is what I mean:

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* Calendar Pics:   

Eddie likes to get ‘Calendar’ shots.  These are usually great shots of a sunset, mountain scene, flower, or Eddie’s favorite: old trucks in a field. We call them ‘Calendar’ pics because they often end up in the calendar that we do each year of our favorite shots – not necessarily because we think they are good enough to be featured in a published calendar!  These shots are usually set up or photo shopped, and are almost always very intentional.  Here’s a few samples:

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But my favorite is to journal my journey!

Photo journaling is by far my favorite type of photography.  Our stories, after all, are what we have at the end of our traveling days, and photos can tell some of the best stories.

These types of photos will tell a story or lead the viewer somewhere.  They make you wonder where the path will go, what will happen next, or just enjoy a moment.  They can create emotion, inspire, recall a memory, or make you wonder what’s going on.  Whatever the case, a photo journal shot has something happening in it.  See if you can see what I mean:

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Whatever your style, make sure to have fun with your photos as you improve your skills!

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PUSHING THE LIMITS

It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself on the road!  This is especially true when you venture outside your usual comfort zone, face a fear, or simply push the boundaries of your experience.

Although I don’t generally shy away from trying new things, I recently learned something about myself that was a bit of a surprise.

This revelation came in the front seat of a helicopter, and this time it was Eddie’s fault.

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Eddie loves helicopters.  Not an, “I just love roses” kind of love, but an, “till the end of time” kind of love. Maybe it was his first experience zooming into the Royal Gorge with an x-Vietnam vet at the controls, but Eddie has been having a bit of an affair with helicopters since before I ever met him.

Me? No way.  If you caught my blog called, ‘One Thing’ you’d know that I have a fear of heights.  A serious fear of heights.  And in no way can I justify the cost of a helicopter ride that would no doubt leave me green around the gills (have I mentioned my motion sickness issue?) and cause nightmares.

So here we were on day one of my first cruise, sailing from Vancouver into the inner passage of Alaska. As if getting onto a cruise ship at all wasn’t hard enough for me (yep, I spent the entire cruise using large, preventative doses of Dramamine and trying to stay conscience), I was contemplating the helicopter ride that Eddie twisted my arm into scheduling for our first port city in Ketchikan.

How I let that happen I cannot say.

I was very open to a float-plane excursion, but a helicopter?  In the words of a friend who is a former Navy-pilot-turned-commercial-pilot, “if something goes wrong you end up chopped into little pieces”. Yikes! Cowardice confirmed.  Eddie, however would have none of it.  He was determined, and he won.

We booked the excursion with Ketchikan Helicopter Tours and its owner, Ryan McCue.  We arrived early at the meeting point because we weren’t sure of where we were going, and Ryan was already waiting.  He was clearly excited.  Obviously, this was not simply another ‘day on the job’, and Ryan loves what he does.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ryan offered us some extra time in the air if we were open to leaving immediately.  We were the only passengers for his 4-seater chopper anyway, and he shared that Ketchikan has over 300 days of cloudy skies each year.  Turns out that this day was a rare, clear, blue-skied exception and Ryan wanted to make the most of the opportunity.  Thinking about an even greater, higher view of the ground caused my stomach to jump into my throat as Eddie shouted, “you bet!” being just as excited as Ryan was.

Great.  A longer time in the air.

I was happy to let Eddie sit in the front as I sank into the backseat trying to shield myself from the viewing window.  I listened closely to the safety instructions and kept my hands over my eyes.

ket2  I’m not really sure what happened to me next.

We started out enjoying a bird’s-eye view of the tiny town of Ketchikan and the absolutely gorgeous views of the nearby Fjords that characterize this part of Alaska.  We then made our way into the nearby forests that allow no vehicles and have no roads.  I was intrigued at seeing what is only visible by air.  What I saw was Pristine. Wild. Primal. And more beautiful than anything I’d ever seen.  Maybe it was the remoteness.  Maybe it was the clear, blue skies or sun shimmering on water.  Maybe it was the various shades of blue within layers of ice.

Maybe it was the height.  The vantage point that gave me a whole new perspective.

We flew over hilltops and I felt like I was soaring.  We ventured over lakes, up streams and right into the sprays of a waterfall.  We hovered over ice fields.  Then we landed.  Ryan set us down in a spongy, mossy, marsh (where no float-plane could ever go!), andP1040456 we had a chance to spend some time in our newly discovered piece of paradise.  We got to know Ryan a little more as he shared with us his story, his personal life and a little about his wife, Loren.  Making new friends is always one of the greatest things about traveling, and we enjoyed this time of connecting and sharing.

Eddie and I enjoyed walking around and exploring the basalt that makes up the local multi-colored, slate-like rock formations, delving into the ancient forest blanketed with moss and lichen, and getting our feet a little wet.

Ryan enjoyed being in his favorite spot with the day being so unusually beautiful.

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I was in no way ready to leave this enchanted place, but I was ready for the front seat!  Eddie was excited that I was enjoying the experience so much.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We reluctantly left and took back off into the air.  This time my eyes were wide open and I was looking all around not wanting to miss a thing.

We flew right over the top of a bear and our blades rustled the trees to coax him out into the clearing. We learned that the reason he never even looked up at or acknowledged us, was that because bears have no natural predators from the air, there was no cause to do so.

The ice fields were not stable enough to land the helicopter on, but Ryan hovered close enough for me to feel the cold and get a few pictures.

I felt a little melancholy as we neared the end of our tour. Ryan gently removed my hand from the controls as he answered my questions on what it would take to get my helicopter pilot’s license, and steered us back toward town.  After arriving safely back in Ketchikan, Loren was there to greet us and drive us back to our ship’s dock.  We enjoyed visiting with her and vowed to return.

So what was it that I discovered about myself?

I discovered that I am not actually afraid of heights!  I cannot even share how awesome this excursion was or how much I enjoyed this experience.  This will forever affect my ability to be up high, and serve to limit the things I shy away from.

Nope. It turns out that I’m not really afraid of heights

…my fear is actually that of FALLING.

I’m not sure how that is to be overcome, but hey…one step at a time…

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IN GOOD HANDS: Fredericksburg, VA

We’re in Good Hands!

Day 14 FREDERICKSBURG (47)

It was a lovely, sunny morning as we raced down I-95 from Washington D.C. towards Virginia.  Lovely because it had rained the entire time that we were getting to know our Nation’s Capital, and racing because…well…it was I-95 southbound along the East Coast!

If you’ve never had the privilege (or misfortune) of testing your vehicle’s maximum speed capabilities, sandwiched in among countless other white knuckled, wide-eyed drivers racing from Maine to Virginia, then…well…I supposed you just haven’t lived.  Or… maybe that’s why you have lived!  Evidently most of the drivers along this East Coast major highway assume that I-95 indicates the speed limit!

Enjoying his Richard Petty fantasy, Eddie was in heaven.

Me?  I was working on my prayer life and trying to remind my favorite ‘car guy’ that we were, in fact, pulling a trailer.

We arrived just north of Fredericksburg, VA later that morning and I have never been so relieved to see an exit sign.

Day 14 FREDERICKSBURG (14)

Our first stop was the Fredericksburg Battlefield and I was excited.  We were on day 14 of our ‘Great Lakes and Colonial History Tour’, and we were now moving on from Colonial History into Civil War History. I was armed with a camera, a water bottle, a boatload of information, and was ready to follow Gen. Lee into the Battle ofDay 14 FREDERICKSBURG (18) Fredericksburg.

Eddie, however, was preoccupied.

I considered initially that he might just possibly be a little tired of being ‘the only guy that showed up for the tour’, but I persisted.  Eventually, though, I had to address his apathetic and distant attitude.

“I feel like something is not right with the truck.”

We were 1,700 miles away from home and on a tight budget.  I was also confidently traveling with the ‘car-guy’s-car-guy’, so I stuck my head in the sand and ventured on.

From the Battlefield it was on to downtown for some more historic sites.  We re-entered I-95 and sped into the flow of traffic with our ‘Little Guy’ trailer in tow.  We both pretended not to have heard the horrific ‘THUD’ that came from the underside of the truck.

“Uh Oh…” was all he said.

My pleas of, “What? What?” were eventually answered with, “the brakes are gone”.

In panic mode I pointed out each repair place I saw a sign for. ‘Brakes Plus’, ‘Midas’ and ‘Roscoe’s Brakes and Beer’ were all completely ignored as Eddie barreled down the highway, swerving to avoid collision.  Ultimately, the truck lost momentum and we veered off the closest exit ramp.  Eddie was determined to find a GM dealer, so as I was Google-ing the nearest one, he veered to the left and literally coasted into the first bay of the Radley Chevrolet dealership and repair facility.

We sat there for a moment in silence, undoubtedly in shock contemplating what could have happened and what actually did happen. It wasn’t long before a couple of bewildered repairmen came out to inquire about whether or not we had an appointment.  After explaining the situation and the condition of our faces, the guys were gracious enough to take a look at the truck.

I’m not sure if I was more disappointed at the cost of the repairs and time lost, or the possibility of missing out on Fredericksburg along with the  guilt over my questionable priorities. Taking pity on me and my ‘sad face’, our Service Writer informed us that they could have the repairs done in about 5 hours and that he would gladly take us downtown where we had been planning to see the sites by foot anyway!

After a short ‘Service Writer-led tour of downtown’, we spent the next 5 hours visiting the Kenmore Plantation, the Confederate Cemetery, Mary (George’s mom) Washington’s house, and mostly talking about how grateful we were for God’s protection, and even His sense of humor!  We were also so grateful for our new friends in Fredericksburg, as well as all we got to do and see there.  This is a wonderful stop with so much history to learn, so much to see and do, and has a beautiful, little Colonial downtown area.

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We finished up late in the afternoon at a little coffee shop, enjoying people watching and waiting for the call that the truck was finished.  Our Service Writer graciously picked us up, and on the drive back to the dealership, shared with us the fact that a front brake had actually lost all the brake fluid due to the whole thing having split in half!  Eddie spent some time in the repair bay talking brakes with the guys (which was probably more fun for him than plantations or cemeteries), and was proud to have brought them a repair job that no one had ever seen before.  No doubt we’ll be remembered and we got a chance to give God the glory for a truly miraculous experience!  20150922_112313 (1)

Eddie and I headed out making our way toward Williamsburg.  We talked and laughed, and Eddie was much more relaxed knowing that he no longer had that uneasy feeling that comes with something not being ‘right’.  We left thankful for a bunch of great repair guys and so glad that we hadn’t missed out on why we’d come to Fredericksburg.

We mostly left feeling secure knowing that we were in the hands of God.

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FUN FACTS: GETTING STARTED WITH LANDSCAPES

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Ahhh…that feeling when you accomplish a goal…!  I’m now 1/4 finished with my website’s FUN FACTS Category!

I’ve shared in my blog called, ‘Backstory of the Bullet Points’ (which you can find in the Introduction of the FUN FACTS category) how I came to the decision to create a category on my website that would provide a few tidbits of information that might potentially help make any Road Trip more meaningful and enjoyable.  It was an easy decision to make as I watched Eddie go into an ‘information-overload coma’ in Arkansas, and where I too had been feeling overwhelmed.

Maybe cramming info about antique car stats, Elvis’s childhood, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the history of the Grand Ole’ Opry, and the height of the St Louis Arch all into one trip was a little too ambitious, but I am, I thought, an information junkie.

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What I have learned about myself, however, is that even though I want to know something about everything, I don’t need to know everything about everything!  Eddie is happy with just a little about everything and I think that most people fall in somewhere between the two of us.

There you have the idea for the FUN FACTS category on my website.  Minimal amounts of information in a ‘bullet point’ style that is simple to access, quick to read and easy to remember.

I pondered the most common types of information that you encounter on a Road Trip and ended up with these 4 sub-categories:

HISTORY * LANDSCAPES * RELIGION * ART & ARCHITECTURE

There will be about 9 blogs in each FUN FACTS sub-category and these will stay available and easy to find for anyone wanting a few pieces of information in any of these areas of interest.

And now all 9 blogs in ‘Landscapes’ are available.  Whew!

 These are the 9 Landscapes you can find information about:

FORESTS * DESERTS * PLAINS * CANYONS * MOUNTAINS * RIVER BASINS *

GREAT LAKES * COASTLINES * WETLANDS

I started with the Landscapes sub-category because on our first trip to the Rainforest in Washington State, I learned just 5 fascinating things that made the Rainforest come alive to me, and that’s all I needed to know!  That was so awesome that I wanted to tackle Landscapes first.  My goal is for you to have just a little knowledge about any of the 9 Landscape types that you might find yourself in, and have that area come alive for you as well!

As you head into the natural wonders you will encounter on your next Road Trip, be equipped with a little information and  prepared to spend sometime in awe!

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And now I’m off to the next section of ‘Information Bullet Points’!!

LANDSCAPES (Canyons) Fun Facts

CANYONS

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 DEFINITION:

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘Canyon’ is:

“A deep narrow valley with steep sides and often with a stream flowing through it.”

Your Dictionary adds this definition:

“The definition of a canyon is a deep ravine or gorge that typically exists between two cliffs.”

 “A narrow chasm with steep cliff walls, cut into the earth by running water; a gorge.”

People come from all over the world just to see our magnificent canyons.  In fact, I recently read an article that stated that the most common impression from Europeans on their first trip to the U.S. Southwest was the total awe they find themselves in at the unbelievable vastness, sheer size and incredible beauty of the area.

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BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF A CANYON:

*Canyons are formed in plateau or mountainous regions as streams adjust themselves to rapid tectonic uplift, wind, water or erosion and cut through the landscape to reach the valley floor.

*Canyon bottoms do not have a perennial source of water.

*Canyons are most common in arid and semi-arid climates because bedrock weathers slowly in the absence of water.

*Erosion causes the structure of the Canyon walls.

-Bedrock results in a uniform Canyon wall.

-Layered rock results in an irregular or stair-stepped wall.

-Shale results in a gentle slope or bench-like wall.

-Sandstone & limestone result in a wall with steep cliffs.

*The Indus Gorge in the Himalayas is the deepest canyon in the world measuring 26,660’.  The Grand Canyon measures 5,250’.

*The Valles Marineris Canyon system on Mars is over 2,485 miles long!

SOME COMMON TYPES OF CANYONS:

 A). Slot Canyon:

*A Slot Canyon is a narrow, steep gorge that is deeper than it is wide. Many are no more than 3’ wide and some are as deep as 100’ or more.

*Slot Canyons are usually made of sandstone, limestone or basalt.

*Water trickling down into a crack in the earth’s surface over a long period of time is how a Slot Canyon is formed.

*There is usually a waterfall at the end of a trail through a Slot Canyon and is prone to flash flooding.

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B). Plateau Canyon:

*Plateau Canyons are created by powerful, fast-moving rivers that, over time, cut into the river bottom.

*The harder the rock, the deeper the canyon.  The softer the rock, the wider the canyon.

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 C). Box Canyon:

*A Box Canyon is a canyon with a flat base and 3 steep walls.

*A Box Canyon has only one entrance and exit point and is otherwise completely enclosed.

*A Box Canyon is usually more shallow that other types of canyons.

*Throughout time, Box Canyons have been used as corrals for livestock.

*A Box Canyon is generally formed by either sapping (a gradual deterioration by the seeping of water from an above surface) or by a mega-flood.

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D). Submarine:

*The ocean floor also has canyons!

*Submarine canyons are cut into the ocean floor by currents.

*Most Submarine Canyons begin at a shore where a canyon river empties into the ocean.

Canyons can be found all over the U.S. but the largest and most impressive are in Region 9

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Next time you have a chance to visit the Canyons, take time to learn, hike, enjoy, be in awe and just soak it in!

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LANDSCAPES (Coastlines) Fun Facts

COASTLINES

DEFINITION:

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘coastline’ is:

1:  a line that forms the boundary between the land and the ocean or a lake”

“2:  the outline of a coast

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I know what I think about when I think of Coastlines: Sandy Beaches, Sun, Salt Air, Waves, Beach Volleyball at Family Reunions, Sand Crabs, Shells, Sharks, Seaweed…  With everything that is great (and even not so great) about Coastlines, the beach remains one of my favorite places to be.

What’s also great about the coast is learning a little about all the different types of Coastlines that exist! This knowledge has helped me make the most of whatever I’m currently enjoying.  Maybe it’ll be fun for you too!

'Yech...I hate when they put that sauce on.'

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BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF A COASTLINE:

*Coastlines are constantly changing and being sculpted and formed by waves, tides, sea levels, weather and erosion.

*Tides determine the contents of a coastline.  Coastlines can be made of sand, gravel, sediment, silica and shells.  The deposits that the tide brings up onto a coastline determines the color of the beach.

*A tide always returns to the ocean at a right angle to the coastline

*Canada has the world’s largest coastlines equaling 152,100 miles around.

*Nearly 40% of the world’s population live within 93 miles of a coastline.

*The long, narrow wedge of sand that has its steep slope facing the sea is called a ‘berm’.

*The wavy rolling surfaces that form in the sand in an arc pattern and called ‘cusps’.

*According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest sandcastle ever made was constructed in Connecticut in May 2011. It was 37’ 10” tall.

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SOME DIFFERENT TYPES OF COASTLINES:

A). Ria Coastline:

*A Ria is a coastal formation that was once a river valley but in now flooded and open to the sea.

*Rias are formed on coastlines that were not created by glaciers.

*Rias are formed by flooding due to either the rise of the sea or the sinking of the land.

*Rias can have a branch-like appearance that looks like a tree from above or a have long, straight finger-like structure.

*Rias can go for miles stretching from the sea to the mainland.

*Rias often have many small islands within their areas.

*Rias typically have large brackish water (water that is a mix of freshwater and salt water) area.

*Rias often serve as a drainage basin for its surrounding area.

 *Ria is also referred to as submergent

*Narragansett Bay  is an example of a Ria coastline.

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An example of a RIA Coastline is the Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Virginia

B). Fjord Coastline

*A Fjord Coastline is one where valleys created by glaciers along the coast submerge into the sea.

*Fjords are typically surrounded by high mountain cliffs and can be a deep as 4000’.

*When a glacier meets the sea it forms a fjord by receding, becoming landlocked and/or melting.

*Fjords have a mild climate and tend to remain ice-free.

*The fjords have an abundance of wildlife, mammals and fish.

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Fjord coastlines can be found off the coasts of Washington and Alaska

C). Barrier-Island Coastline

*The Barrier-Island coast is a recently emerged coastal plain. It is a low ridge of sand, lying a short distance from the coast, and is created by waves. Barriers increase in height as coastal winds fortify the island with dunes.

*Barrier-Island coastlines are full of islands and small lagoons.

*13% of the world’s coastlines are chains of barrier-islands.

*Barrier-Islands won’t form where the sea levels are unstable.

*Padre Island in south Texas is the longest barrier-island chain in the world.

*Barrier-Island chains are always in the process of moving and changing.

*The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest living structure in the world and is about half the size of Texas.

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Barrier Islands can be seen from New York to Texas off the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts

D). Delta Coastline

* As a river meets the sea, its flow abruptly slows down. As a result, it drops its load of sediment in a huge fan of deposits.  When the deposits get to heavy for waves to carry them out to sea, a Delta forms.

*The deposits brought down by a river is mainly silt, sand and clay.

*The river tributaries divide and subdivide creating a fern or bird-like shape and are always moving.

*Deltas typically have a curved arc shaped coastline.

*Most of a Delta is underwater.  The Delta Plain is what is visible above water and the Delta Front is the steep slope that faces the sea.

*Deltas have extremely fertile soil but can be hard to cultivate do to the flooding cycles.  Agriculture is still done on Deltas in Northern California.

*Deltas are some of the diverse bio diverse areas on the planet and provide a habitat for many species of plants, animals and fish.  They also provide safety for many endangered species of animals.

*The primary human use of a delta region is to gather sand and gravel.

*Deltas also act as barriers to reduce impact from hurricanes.

*The Mississippi River Delta is the largest Delta in the U.S.  It is about 2,359 miles long and moves about 200 feet per year.

*The Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta in India is the world’s largest Delta at 41,000 sq. miles.

*In the U.S., major Deltas can be found in the Gulf Coast, the Gulf of California and the Puget Sound in Washington State.

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Delta coastlines found along the Gulf of Mexico

E). Volcano Coastline

*Volcano coasts arise where volcanic deposits (lava and ash) flow from active volcanoes into the ocean.

*Wave action erodes the fresh deposits, creating low cliffs.

*Beaches are typically narrow, steep, and made up of fine particles of rock.

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Volcano Coastlines can be found off the coasts of Washington State and the Hawaii Islands

F). Fault Coastline

*A Fault Coastline is a coastline that rests against the steep side of a Fault which is called a Fault Scarp.  A Fault Scarp is the steep side of where the earth’s surface fractures or cracks heaving one side upward and the other downward.

*A Fault Coastline is always moving and shifting due to it being on the fracture or crack of the earth’s surface

*A Fault Coastline tends to be straight and sharp.

*A Fault coastline usually has tall mountains or rocks next to the shore.

*A Fault Coastline is typically rocky.

*The San Andreas Fault is the most dangerous Fault line in the U.S.

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Fault Coastlines can be seen off the coasts of Alaska, Washington State and California

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So no matter what type of coastline you find yourself on basking in the sun, learn a little about it and impress your friends with your knowledge!  It’ll give them something to make fun of you behind your back with…

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LANDSCAPES (Deserts) Fun Facts

DESERTS

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Love ’em or leave ’em, the deserts of the U.S. are not only interesting, important for the health and survival of the planet, but are also incredibly beautiful!  There are a number of different types of deserts in the U.S., and if you are in the area of one (especially in Regions 7 & 9), you just might get more out of what you are seeing if you have a few fun facts and some interesting information.

         DEFINITION:  According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘desert’ is:

1a : arid land with usually sparse vegetation; especially : such land having a very warm climate and receiving less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of sporadic rainfall annually b : an area of water apparently devoid of life. 2 archaic: a wild uninhabited and uncultivated tract.”

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BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF A DESERT:

People often use the words “hot,” “dry,” or “empty” to describe deserts, but these words do not tell the whole story! Most deserts, far from being empty and lifeless, are home to a variety of plants and animals, and are important to the sustainability of the earth. Here are a few facts that are true of all desert types:

*Desert is a type of ‘Biome’, (which is defined as: ’A large community of plants and animals that occupies a distinct region’). *Deserts cover about 20% of the Earth’s surface

*Deserts get less than 10” of rainfall each year.

*Desert biomes can be found on every continent except Europe.

*A desert has little to no surface water and high evaporation.  Because there is no humidity, there is no protective layer regulating the temperature or filtering the sun’s rays.  As a result, a desert is hot during the day and cold at night.

*Most of the animals that live in the desert are nocturnal so they are up and feeding at night when it is cooler.  Most also live in the ground to protect them from the heat and they store water in their bodies.

*Due to the lack of moisture in the desert, the wind grinds pebbles and sand into dust.  When a heavy wind comes up it can create a dust storm.  Dust storms can reach over 1 mile high and can travel thousands of miles.

*Deserts all over the world are expanding, some growing by 30 miles each year.

*The soil in the desert needs only water and is therefore nutrient rich.

*Many animals and birds use the desert as a migration path and as a stopover for food.

*Deserts are the primary source of table salt, borates, potassium, sodium nitrates and gypsum. Soda, nitrates and boron are evaporite minerals that appear only in deserts. Approximately half of the world’s stores of fossil fuels come from deserts, including oil and natural gas, and nearly half of the world’s diamonds, copper, gold, bauxite, iron ore and uranium ore.

SOME OF THE MORE COMMON LANDSCAPE FEATURES OF A DESERT:

 –Sand Dunes: Sand Dunes are a beautiful and mysterious natural wonder.  Over many years dunes are formed where there is   a source of dry sand, a means to transport sand and a   sheltered place for the sand to rest and get trapped.  The wind constantly changes the size and shape of a dune, and the dunes act as a barrier protecting the landscape around it. Sand Dunes can be freshwater or coastal.

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-Desert Pavements: Desert pavements are large areas of the desert floor that is covered with interlocking, angular pebbles, stones and gravel that are too heavy to be blown away by the wind.

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-Playas: A Playa is a dry, flat, vegetation-free area located at the lowest part of a desert basin.  During wet periods, these basins fill with water.

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-Oases: Oases is plural for Oasis which is a pond or small lake located near a water source that can support vegetation.

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-Mesas: A Mesa is a large hill with a flat top and steep sides.  It is formed by erosion when water washes the softer parts of the hill away leaving the solid rock center. A Mesa is wider than it is tall and is found in dry areas where the rock layers are             horizontal.

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-Buttes: A Butte is similar to a Mesa and is formed basically the same way.  The difference is that a Butte is taller than it is wide and is smaller than a Mesa.

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-Alluvial Fans: An alluvial fan is a fan- or cone-shaped feature in the landscape where silt, sand and gravel have been deposited by sudden and harsh flash flooding through narrow gaps in hills and canyon walls. Fans can spread over an area as much as 50’.

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SOME COMMON TYPES OF DESERTS:

1). Hot and Dry Deserts

 *The three major North American deserts that are Hot & Dry are the Chihuahuan (TX), the Sonoran (AZ), and the Mojave (CA). (Temperatures in the Hot & Dry desert are extremely hot in the summer and warm the rest of the year).

*There is little to no rainfall in the Hot & Dry desert during the summer months.

*Soils are course-textured, shallow, rocky or gravely with good drainage and have no subsurface water. They are coarse due to less erosion by water. The finer, smaller sand particles are blown away by the wind, leaving heavier pieces behind.

*Generally speaking, Hot & Dry deserts have no canopy or moisture in the air, so plants are mainly short shrubs that hug the ground, trees that are short and woody and cacti that can hold their own moisture.

*Animals that live in the Hot & Dry desert have special adaptation skills that allow them to survive.  Many stay dormant underground for long periods of time and become active and breed only when the rain falls. Most are carnivores due to the lack of vegetation.

*The Hot and Dry desert provides the earth with sand and oil.

*Many Hot & Dry deserts contain Hoodoos which are sandstone or volcanic rock spires that resemble totem poles or piles of flat rocks stacked on top of one another.

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 2). Semiarid Deserts

*Semiarid deserts see temperatures in the summer only as high as 100°during the day and 50° at night.

*Semiarid deserts are usually found at lower elevations and in the Northern Hemisphere.

*Soil in the Semiarid desert is fine and sandy.

*Plants in this type of desert have shallow roots and are easily pulled out.  To protect themselves, they have painful spikes and taste bad.

*There are many more mammals, small birds, reptiles, and insects here than in the Hot & Dry desert.

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3). Coastal Deserts

*Coastal deserts are complex because they exist where land, ocean, and atmospheric systems all mix.

*Coastal Deserts are found along the coasts of South America (Chile) and Australia.  There are no coastal deserts in the U.S.

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 4). Cold

*Cold Deserts are found at higher elevations and are separated from the coast by remoteness or mountain ranges acting as barriers.

*The temperatures in a Cold Desert can get below 0°.

*It snows in a cold desert and has long winters and short, cool summers.

*The soil of a Cold Desert is heavy, dense and porous in order to hold all the moisture possible. The soil is also heavy with silt and salt.

*There are few plants that survive here, but there are many forms of moss and fungi.

*Most of the mammals that live in a Cold Forest are able to hibernate or live underground.

*Winds are high here as in any desert, and sandstorms often come in the form of blizzards.

**Nevada’s Great Basin Desert ranks #9 of the world’s largest deserts covering 200,000 square miles.  (The Sahara Desert in Africa is #1 covering over 300 million square miles).  It is the only Cold Desert in the U.S.

**The Great Basin is a warmer type of Cold Desert than many of the others and is home to a few species of plants and animals. It also features Bristlecone Pines (trees that hold the record for the oldest living organisms on the planet) that are as old as 5,000 yrs.

**The Great Basin Desert only exists because the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains create a ‘rain shadow’. This cools the Pacific Ocean air and strips it of its moisture. The air in the mountains becomes dry enough to absorb moisture from the region causing the desert conditions.

Deserts in the U.S. can be found primarily in Regions 7 and 9

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So next time you get a hankerin’ to see the desert southwest, take along a little info!!

HAPPY TRAVELS!

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LANDSCAPES (Forests) Fun Facts

As we travel across the country, we find that much of the U.S. is covered by some sort of forest.  Did you know, however, that there are many kinds of forests all with distinct characteristics? Next time your enjoying the pretty wooded section of your campground, see what you can discover about your surroundings!

DEFINITION:

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘forest’ is:“a dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract”

(Wow!..betcha couldn’t figure that out on your own…!)

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 A. BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF A FOREST:

Forests are so much more than a large group of trees.  Without forests there would be no life on earth!  Here are a few facts that are true of all forest types:

 *Forest is a type of ‘Biome’, (which is defined as: ’A large community of plants and animals that occupies a distinct region’).

*Forests are home to 80% of the world’s plants, animals, fungi and bacteria.

*Forests protect our watersheds.

*Forests provide the world’s supply of oxygen.

*Forests control climate change because they act as a ‘carbon sink’. They soak up carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to changes in climate patterns.

*Approximately 1/3rd of the earth’s land is covered by forests.

*Forests contain about 70% of carbon present in living things.

*Forests have 5 vertical layers:

The Forest Floor:  which is where recycling takes place. Insects, bacteria, earthworms, fungi and other organisms break down all the waste and all the decaying materials and reuse it as nutrients for the forest.

Herb Layer: This layer is dominated by soft stemmed plants, ferns, grasses and other ground covers.  This layer protects new growth as well as insects, rodents and tiny creatures.

Shrub Layer: The layer contains the woody vegetation like shrubs and brambles that protect birds and small animals.

Understory Layer: This layer contains the small and immature trees that provide protection and food for the animals that live in the forest.

Canopy Layer: This is the highest layer of the forest where the tops of the trees meet and form a thick layer.  Here is where air, water and sunlight are absorbed and here is where the most food is produced.

NOW LET’S GET A LITTLE MORE SPECIFIC:

B. SOME COMMON TYPES OF FORESTS:

 1). Tropical Rain Forest

 *Rainforests are the planet’s oldest living ecosystem.

 *Rainforests are found in areas where the temperature remains between 70 and 85. There are not distinct seasons there and the average rainfall is 100-200 inches each year

*The trees in a Rainforest are so dense that it takes about 10 mins for a raindrop to fall from the top of the canopy to the ground.

*The lifecycle of a Rainforest dictates that there are both ‘new’ and ‘old’ sections of the forest.

*The average life span of a tree in the Rainforest is about 300-350 years and they can grow 250+ feet high.

*There is no dirt on the ground of a Rainforest and it is so dense that there is no room for new growth.

*When a tree dies, it falls and becomes a ‘nurse log’. This is where new growth can take root as there is no room on the ground floor.  Thus, the ‘old’ section of the forest then becomes the ‘new’ section and the circle of life continues.

*Rainforests cover only 2% of the earth’s surface, but nearly 50% of the earth’s plants and animals live there.

*Rainforests regulate the world’s temperatures and weather patterns.

*Rainforests are critical to the sustainability of the earth as they help maintain the earth’s drinking water.

*About ¼ of our natural medicines come from Rain forests

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There is only one Tropical Rain Forest in the U.S. and that is the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula in the State of Washington.  Some sources argue that the Hoh is actually a temperate forest.  We’ve seen it and we disagree!

2). Temperate/Deciduous Rain Forest

 *The largest Temperate Forests in the world are in North America and are distinguished by broad leaf varieties of plants and trees.

*There are 4 distinct and equal seasons in a Temperate Forest.

*The temperature remains between -20 and 90 degrees.

*The annual rainfall in a Temperate Forest is between 30”- 100”.

*Decaying matter and rotting leaves create a deep and rich soil.

*Temperate forests are home to the largest trees in North America including Redwoods, Giant Sequoias, Sitka Spruce, Douglas Firs and Cedars.

*In a Temperate Forest, while trees are leafless during the dry season, many actually flower which aids in pollination and produces colorful autumns.

*Most plant species in the Temperate Forest are those that grow best in shade as the canopy blocks 70% of the sunlight.

*Scientists speculate that there could be as much as 500 tons of living things per acre in a Temperate Forest.

*Most of the animals in the Temperate Forest live on the ground.

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Temperate or Deciduous Forests can be found in the Appalachian Mountains, Western Washington State, Oregon and Northwestern California.

 3). Coniferous / Boreal  Forest

*A Boreal Forest is a Coniferous Forest that is located in the northern hemisphere.

*The Coniferous Forest is the largest biome on the planet and makes up 1/3rd of the earth’s forests.

*Coniferous Forests are mainly made up of cone-bearing trees        that stay green all year long.  These trees grow close together so that they can withstand the cold.

*Coniferous trees have branches that are soft, flexible and usually point downwards, so that snow slides off them.  They also have needle-like leaves with a waxy outer coat which prevents water loss in freezing weather.

*Conifers shed their needles every 2-5 years.

*Due to the acidity in the needles of the coniferous trees, the soil in a Coniferous Forest is poor and acidic. Therefore, only plants and trees that can withstand acidic soil (and the animals that eat them) can survive here.

*Needles from Coniferous trees fall to the forest floor and form a thick springy mat. Thread-like fungi help to break down and decompose the fallen needles which provide the nutrients that then return back to the roots of the trees.

 *The trees that grow in a Coniferous forest are softwood and are only good for making paper.  Therefore, the coniferous forests are the type of forest least affected by humans and deforestation.

*Fire in a Coniferous Forest is vital for the health and diversity of the forest.  Healthy, normal and spontaneous fires burn low to the ground and clean up the understory on the forest floor.  The ash that is left then become the nutrients for new growth.  Fire melts the wax of the pinecones releasing the seeds.  Without fire, a coniferous forest cannot reproduce. Fire-adapted coniferous forests can be some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world!

*The oil of a pine needle is toxic to other growth on a forest floor and saturates the soil under the trees. This helps keep necessary forest fires low to the ground and naturally containable.

Coniferous Forests can be found all throughout the Northern parts of the U.S. and most of Canada.

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   Well, that covers most forest types with just a few bits of information.  Next time you’re in a forest, see what you can learn!

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LANDSCAPES (Great Lakes) Fun Facts

GREAT LAKES

DEFINITION:

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘Great Lakes’ is:

the large freshwater lakes (Lakes SuperiorMichiganHuronErie

and Ontariowhich lie on the northern borders of the United States.”

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The Free Dictionary adds this information to the definition of ‘Great Lake’:

a series of five lakes between the U.S. and Canada, comprising Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior; connected with the

 Atlantic by the St. Lawrence River.”

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  BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GREAT LAKES:

*The Great Lakes make up the largest body of fresh water on Earth, accounting for one-fifth of the freshwater surface on the planet containing 6 quadrillion gallons.

*If all the water in the Great Lakes were emptied evenly over the lower 48 states, the entire U.S. would be covered in 9 ½’ of water!

*The area of the combined Great Lakes is 95,160 square miles. This area is larger than the state of Texas.

*The Great Lakes area shore line, when laid out, could span half the circumference of the Earth!

*The Great Lakes are often referred to as “the nation’s fourth seacoast”.

*More than 30 million people live in the Great Lakes Basin.  This represents 10% of the U.S. population and 30% of the Canadian population.

*Initially, the Great Lakes area was covered by a glacier that was more than a half-mile thick. As the glacier melted, it slowly moved toward Canada and left behind a series of large depressions that filled with water. These formed the basic shape of the Great Lakes, eventually taking the form that is familiar today.

*There are numerous rivers and tributaries that connect the Great Lakes. The Straits of Mackinac connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and there is such a steady flow of water between these two bodies that they could be almost be considered one lake.  Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are connected by the Niagara River, including Niagara Falls. The St. Lawrence River connects Lake Ontario to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which leads out to the Atlantic Ocean.

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*The Great Lakes are dotted with more than 35,000 islands. Most of the islands are small and uninhabitable.

*There have been many shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, as storms and reefs can make navigation treacherous.

*The Great Lakes have been altered considerably from pollution, plants, animals and fungus that are not native to the area. Currently, there are more than 140 federal programs designated for environmental restoration and management of The Great Lakes, according to the EPA. Eight U.S. states, Canada and 40 Tribal Nations are part of the initiative to clean up and protect the lakes.

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The Great Lakes can all be found in Regions 2, 4 and 6 and border the states of: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York

FUN FACTS ABOUT THE GREAT LAKES:

 A). Lake Superior

*At 31,699 square miles, Lake Superior is the largest of the 5 in surface area and in water volume which is 2,903 cubic miles.

*Lake Superior’s deepest point is at 1,332’.  The average depth is 483’.

*The shoreline of Lake Superior is 2,726 miles.

*The highest wave recorded on Lake Superior was just over 31’ high.

*Lake Superior is known to ‘never give up her dead’. Over 350 ships and more than 10,000 lives have been lost to her waters.

*There are more than 78 different species of fish in Lake Superior, and hosts over 10,000 species of birds during fall migration.

*Over 300 rivers and streams empty into Lake Superior.

*In the summer, Lake Superior sees the sun set 35 minutes later on her western shore than on her eastern shore.

*Lake Superior almost never freezes over completely.

*The average temperature of Lake Superior’s water is 36°.

*Lake Superior has its own tide.

*Off of Wisconsin’s part of Lake Superior there is now a drift less area due to the dense basalt that once acted as a wall for the glaciers.

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 B). Lake Huron:

*Lake Huron is the 2nd largest of the Great Lakes with a surface area of 23,000 square miles.

*Lake Huron has the longest shoreline of the Great Lakes, equaling 3,827 miles.

*Lake Huron is the 3rd largest of the Great Lakes in volume, with 850 cubic miles of water.

*There are 30,000 islands on Lake Huron

*There is an Ojibway legend that says that there is a ‘great lynx’ who has an underwater den near the mouth of the Serpent River that empties into Lake Huron.

*Lake Huron is connected to Lake Michigan by the Straits of Mackinac. Some think that this makes them one lake.

*A tropical hurricane formed over Lake Huron on September 11, 1996 complete with an 18 mile wide eye.  It was the largest tropical hurricane on record to form on a lake in the U.S.

*There have been more than 1,000 shipwrecks on Lake Huron with many still at the bottom and 22 of them are preserved as artifacts. They can be seen at the Fathom Five National Marine Park.

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C). Lake Michigan:

*Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake that is located entirely in the U.S.

*The Ojibwa Indian word, “Mishigami” means ‘Great Water’ which eventually translated into ‘Michigan’.

*Lake Michigan is the 3rd largest of the Great Lakes with a surface area of 22,404 square miles.

*Lake Michigan is the 2nd largest of the Great Lakes by volume with 1,180 cubic miles of water.

*Lake Michigan is 307 miles long by 118 miles wide with a shoreline that is 1,640 miles long.

*Lake Michigan’s average depth is 279 feet and is 923 feet at its deepest point.

*Within Lake Michigan there is a “triangle” with a similar reputation to the Bermuda Triangle, where a large amount of ‘strange disappearances’ have occurred.

*The northern part of the Lake Michigan watershed is covered with forests, is sparsely populated, and economically dependent on natural resources and tourism. The southern portion is densely populated with industrial development and rich agricultural areas along the shore.

*Lake Michigan has so many beaches, that it is often referred to as the ‘Third Coast’ of the United States.

*Lake Michigan has over 275,000 miles of sand dunes.

*Lake Michigan empties into Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac at such a rate that the water is completely changes about every 100 years.

*The lake forms a link in a waterway system that reaches east to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence River and south through the Chicago River locks, to the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico.

*The Petoskey stone is made up of a fossilized coral, and the only place in the world it is found is on Lake Michigan beaches in northern Michigan.  It has become Michigan’s state stone.

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D). Lake Erie

*Lake Erie is the 4th largest of the Great Lakes with a surface area of 26,667 miles.

*By volume, Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes holding 116 cubic miles of water.

*Lake Erie is the 11th largest lake in the world.

*Lake Erie’s average depth is 62’ with the maximum depth at 210’, making it is the shallowest of the Great Lakes.

*Lake Erie is 241 miles long and 57 miles wide.

*Lake Erie has 871 miles of shoreline.

*The main natural outflow from the lake is via the Niagara River, which provides hydroelectric power to Canada and the U.S.

*Lake Erie has the shortest residence time of all the Great Lakes which is 2.6 years.  Residence time is the amount of time that water stays in the lake.

*The Lake Erie Fisheries is one of the largest commercial freshwater fisheries in the world.  This provides 10,000 jobs and boosts the economy by $1 billion annually.

*There have been reports of a ‘Loch Ness’- type monster lurking in the waters of Lake Erie. It has been described as black, about 35’ long with a ‘snake-like’ head and can move faster than a boat.  During the 19th century, this monster was named, ‘Bessie’ or ‘South Bay Bessie’.

*There have also been reports of a ‘Lake Erie Mirage Effect’ where people from Cleveland can see the Canadian shoreline as if it were just offshore even though it is over 50 miles away.  It is speculated that it’s a weather related phenomenon that works like an oasis mirage in the desert.

*Lake Erie is a favorite place for divers looking for shipwrecks and is estimated to have somewhere between 1,400 and 8000.  There are more shipwrecks per mile than any other freshwater location in the world.

*The large number of shipwrecks on Lake Erie is attributed to the strong winds that shift the sandbars causing the wrecks.

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E). Lake Ontario

*Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes by surface size covering 7,340 square miles.

*Lake Ontario’s volume is 393 cubic miles.

*Lake Ontario is 193 miles long and 53 miles wide.

*Lake Ontario’s shoreline is 1,146 miles long.

*There are about 1,864 islands that line Lake Erie’s U.S.-Canadian border.

*Baymouth Bars (longshore drifts that create bays that are completely cut off from a main body of water) have created hundreds of lagoons and sheltered harbors on Lake Ontario.

*Lake Erie’s primary inlet is the Niagara River.

*Lake Erie serves as the Great Lakes Basin’s outlet to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River.

*Lake Ontario plays host to thousands of migratory birds including birds of prey.

*Lake Ontario has a “seiche”, a natural rhythmic motion as water sloshes back and forth every 11 minutes.

*Because of the warm weather that comes in from the south, Lake Ontario almost never freezes over.

*Ontario, Canada was named for the lake and not the other way around.

*As of 2015, about 50 people have successfully swum across the lake. The first person who accomplished the feat was Marilyn Bell, who did it in 1954 at the age of 16.

*Babe Ruth hit his first major league home run at Hanlan’s Point Stadium in Toronto. It landed in Lake Ontario and is evidentially still there.

*The Lake got its name, ‘Ontario’ meaning, ‘beautiful great lake’ from the Iroquois.

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The Great Lakes are exceptionally beautiful and offer so much to do and see during any time of the year.  They are also so big that you can’t really appreciate the sheer size of these lakes. On our tour of the region, we did the best we could and took some boat excursions out onto the waters, climbed a few lighthouses and enjoyed some seriously high bridges! These lakes are also all located in some beautiful areas of the country, so take some to head up north and enjoy the wonders of the Great Lakes!

LANDSCAPES (Mountains) Fun Facts

 MOUNTAINS

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DEFINITION:

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘mountain’ is:

 “a landmass that projects conspicuously above its surroundings and is higher than a hill The sun set behind the mountains, an elongated ridge”.

Your Dictionary adds this information to the definition of ‘mountain’:

“The definition of a mountain is a part of Earth that is very wide, has a taller height than a hill and often has steep sides, or it is a large pile of something.”

images (5) THE THREE MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES IN THE U.S. ARE: THE APPALACHIANS/GREAT SMOKEY MOUNTAINS, THE SIERRA NEVADAS AND THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.

THE MINOR MOUNTAIN RANGES IN THE U.S. ARE: THE ADIRONDACKS, THE BROOKS RANGE, THE CASCADE RANGE, THE OZARKS AND THE ALASKA RANGE.

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BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF A MOUNTAIN:

*Generally a Mountain is only a Mountain if it’s 1000’ or taller. *Mountains can be created by lava build up as volcanoes erupt over and over.

*Mountains can also be created by the tectonic plates below the Earth’s surface colliding and causing the land to buckle.  The Earth’s crust is made up of 52 tectonic plates (major and minor) that fit together like a giant puzzle.

*The Mountain Biome is given to sudden and drastic changes in temperature, weather and terrain.

*Mountains take up about 1/5th of the Earth’s surface and are home to about 1/10th of the world’s people.

*The highest point of a mountain is the ‘Peak’ or ‘Summit’.

*The height of a mountain is measured from sea level.

*Mt. Everest in the Himalayan Mountain Range is the world’s highest peak.  It stands at 29,035’.

*There are more mountains under the sea than on land.

*About 80% of the Earth’s water originates from mountains.

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SOME COMMON TYPES OF MOUNTAINS:

A). Dome:

 *Under the crust of the Earth’s surface there is ‘magma’ which is melted rock that has yet to surface and be exposed to the air.  When magma pushes up near the Earth’s surface but hardens before breaking through, it forms a Dome Mountain.

*The peaks and valleys of a Dome Mountain are formed by wind and rain.

*Dome Mountains are usually lower in elevation than other types of mountains because the force of magma doesn’t push that hard.

*Dome Mountains have very hard peaks as the magma that cools becomes granite.

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             Some examples include the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Adirondack Mountains of New York

B). Fault Block:

 *A Fault-block Mountain is formed when one side of fault (a crack in the Earth’s crust where it breaks apart) slides over another due to seismic pressure. One side pushes up while the other slips down leaving sheer rock faces.

*The higher part of a fault-block area is called a horst, while the lower part is called a graben.

*Fault Block Mountains are massive in structure and have smooth, steep, sheer front sides and sloping back sides.

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Some examples of Fault Block Mountains include the Sierra Nevada in California and Nevada, the Grand Tetons in Wyoming

C). Plateau:

*Plateaus are most often described as ‘dissected’ and are built over long spans of time as pieces of the Earth’s crust smash into each other, melt, and gurgle back toward the surface. Some are created in a single process or episode while others have been subjected to more than one during different periods of the Earth’s history. Slow forming Plateaus allow for water to cut through and form rivers.

*Plateau is a French word meaning ‘Table-land’.

*Plateaus are flat surfaced with wavy or uneven tops and are at least 300 meters above sea level.

*The edges of a Plateau are steep and slanted and meet the plain at the bottom.

*Plateaus are found on every continent and on the ocean floor.

*A plateau can be made of lava, basalt or limestone.

*There are different types of Plateaus including:

-Intermontane (Plateaus located in or near mountain ranges)

-Continental (Broad Plateaus NOT lifted by Tectonic Plate collisions but long, slow upward movement in the Earth’s upper mantle)

-Piedmont (Plateaus that stair-step between a coastline and a mountain range)

-Volcanic (Plateaus built by erupted Volcanoes).

-Oceanic (Plateaus located on the ocean floor).

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 Some examples of Plateau Mountains include the Colorado Plateau and parts of the Appalachians.

 D). Fold:

*Fold Mountains are formed when two tectonic plates collide with each other and the edges of these two plates merge into each other literally folding together or over each other.

*Fold Mountains have a crumpled look like carpet when it gets pushed up.

*Fold Mountains are usually made from sedimentary rocks.

*Fold Mountains are the world’s highest and most rugged mountains.

*Fold Mountains are longer and shorter than other types of mountains.

*Fold Mountains have the largest deposits of valuable minerals such as gold, silver and tungsten.

*Fold Mountains are usually found along the margins of continents.

*There are both ‘Young’ and ‘Old’ Fold Mountains. ‘Young’ Fold Mountains are those that are deemed less than 40 million years old while ‘Old’ Fold Mountains are deemed more than 200 million years old.

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           Some examples of Fold Mountains include parts of the Rocky Mountains and parts of the Appalachian Mountains.

 E). Volcanic:

*Magma is the molten rock located beneath the Earth’s surface.  Once it breaks the Earth’s crust it becomes lava.  As lava erupts it creates ash and volcanic rock.  As the lava, ash and rock cool, they form a cone.  A Volcanic Mountain is formed as the cone grows higher and higher with each layer of cooling lava, ash and rock.

*Volcanic Mountains are found where 2 tectonic plates meet.

*Volcanic Mountains are identified by their fissure vents (cracks were lava emerges) and bulging dome shapes.

*75% of the Earth’s volcanos are located around the Pacific Ocean in an area called the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’.

*Volcanos can also be found in hotspot areas where the rock inside the Earth is abnormally hot.  These areas are called ‘mantle plumes’.

*The largest volcano in our solar system is actually on Mars!

*In Iceland, volcanos are found under ice caps!

*There are 3 main types of volcanos creating volcanic Mountains.  They are distinguished by the type of lava that erupts from them:

-Composite (or strato) Volcanoes which form steep sloped mountains by violent eruptions.  The main type of lava is Andesite

-Shield Volcanoes which form lower and less steep mountains by longer term lava flow.  Their lava is made of Basalt.

-Ash (or Cinder Cone) Volcanoes which form the steepest type of Volcanic Mountain formed by the accumulation of ash.

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Some examples of Volcanic Mountains can be found in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii

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Road Trips often lead us into the Mountains.  Sometimes it’s by planning, sometimes we just stumble upon a place that we cannot pass by without taking some time to explore.  However you end up in one of the Mountain Ranges of the U.S., take some time to learn a few facts so you can identify what you are looking at, and strap on your hiking boots!  There’s no better way to enjoy than to become a part of. 

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LANDSCAPES (Plains) Fun Facts

PLAINS

“The Sea, The Woods, the Mountains, all suffer in comparison with the Prairie.  The Prairie has a stronger hold on the senses…”   Albert Pike 1831

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Did you know that nearly 502,000 square miles of the U.S. is part of the Great
Plains?  No matter where you start from, if your road trip takes you east or west you are likely to encounter the Plains.  Most people I know just drive straight across (sometimes as fast as they can!) and never see the Plains as a destination in themselves.  Well, it’s time to reconsider spending some time in this beautiful, expansive, wild part of the U.S.!  Here there are more than 300 species of Birds, over 100 species of Mammals and 1600 different types of Plants.  The Plains are a photographer’s dream land as they encounter large game such as the American Bison and other large animals not easily seen anywhere else in the U.S.  Let’s explore the Plains together and learn a little!

DEFINITION:

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘Plain’ is:

a :  “an extensive area of level or rolling treeless country

b :  a broad unbroken expanse”

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BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF A PLAIN:

*Plains cover nearly 1/3rd of the earth’s surface

*A Plain is a Flatland area that gentle rises as you travel east to west.

*A Plain can also contain hills, mountains, buttes, mesas and rivers.

*A Plain is dry and windy and has a low elevation.

*Plains are formed when seas or lakes get filled in with lava, sediment or soil and become flat.

*Plains have a ‘continental climate’ which means hot, dry summers, cold winters and violent weather patterns.

*Plains can affect the climate as they alter wind and evaporation rates which affect temperature and humidity.

*Crops that are grown on a Plain are ones that don’t require a lot of moisture such as wheat and barley.

*Native Americans who have occupied the plains include:  Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Comanche, Cheyenne, Crow, and Gros Ventre.

*Plains can be located in a valley where they are enclosed on two sides, or partially or completely encircled by mountains, cliffs or hills.

*Plains are often located near large rivers.

*When a Plain is covered with grass it is often referred to as a Prairie or grassland.

*The largest plain is the world is the West Siberian Plain in Russia and covers nearly 1,200,000 square miles.

*The Great Plains of the U.S. covers about 501,900 square miles.

*Plains are vital for agriculture. The soils that were deposited there as sediments became deep and fertile. The flatness of the area makes for easy production of crops and the grasslands provide good grazing for livestock.

SOME COMMON TYPES OF PLAINS:

 A). Coastal Plains

*A Coastal plain is a large, flat area of land that sits next to an ocean.

*Coastal plains can formed by a continental shelf (a flat piece of land located beneath the surface of the ocean) being exposed as the level of the ocean recedes or when river currents carry rock, soil and other sediment into the ocean. Layers of this deposited sediment build up over time, creating a flat or gently sloping landscape.

*Coastal Plains are separated from the interior by landforms such as sand dunes, mountains or hills.

*The soil of a Coastal Plain is rich and sandy and makes good farmland.

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B). Alluvial Plains

*An alluvial plain is a largely flat landform created by the depositing of sediment over a long period of time by one or more rivers coming from a higher region forming a fan-shaped Plain.

*The sediment of an alluvial plain is made up of sand, silt, clay and gravel.

*The Mississippi River has created an Alluvial Plain that covers seven states.

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C). Abyssal Plains

*Abyssal Plains are located at the bottom of the ocean.  They are found between 10,000’ and 20,000’ feet below the ocean’s surface.

D). Interior Plains

*The Interior plains of the U.S. are called ‘The Great Plains’.

*The Interior Plains were created when cratons (stable portions of the continental crusts) collided and fused together.

*The Plains have 3 steps of elevation: Flat, Hilly and Cliff.

*Plains are flat and large and used primarily for farming, ranching, mining and lumber.      

*More than 4,000,000 people live in the Plains.

*The great rivers of the Plains are used for transportation of goods, supplies, crops and livestock.

*The Plains house pipe lines for oil transportation.

*European explorers once considered the Great Plains as ‘hostile, uninhabitable and wholly unfit for cultivation’.

*Inventions that came from the Great Plains areas after the Civil War include: barbed wire, steel plows, windmills and railroads.

*The Great Plains run from Texas to the South, Canada to the North, the Rocky Mountains to the West and the Mississippi River to the East.

*The Great Plains sit on top of one of the world’s largest subterranean freshwater deposit called the Ogallala Aquifer.

*Millions of American Bison roamed the Great Plains until hunted to near-extinction by 1800.

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The Great Plains are divided into 10 subdivisions:

  • Missouri Plateau – Glaciated – east-central South Dakota, northern and eastern North Dakota and northeastern Montana;
  • Missouri Plateau – Unglaciated – western South Dakota, northeastern Wyoming, southwestern North Dakota and southeastern Montana;
  • Black Hills– western South Dakota;
  • High Plains– southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, western Nebraska (including the Sand Hills), eastern Colorado, western Kansas, western Oklahoma,eastern New Mexico, and northwestern Texas (including the Llano Estacado and Texas Panhandle);
  • Plains Border – central Kansas and northern Oklahoma (including the Flint, Red and Smoky Hills;
  • Colorado Piedmont – eastern Colorado;
  • Raton section – northeastern New Mexico;
  • Pecos Valley – eastern New Mexico;
  • Edwards Plateau – south-central Texas; and
  • Central Texas section – central Texas.P5

            Plains can be found primarily in (but not limited to) regions 5 and 7

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So next time you find yourself wondering how long it will take to to get across this great expanse of grassland, stop for a while and enjoy!

LANDSCAPES (River Basins) Fun Facts

RIVER BASINS

DEFINITION:

According to Reference , the definition of a ‘River Basin’ is:

the land water must cross to reach a river. A river basin collects all available water from various tributaries, creeks and streams in its area.’

Your Dictionary adds this information to the definition of a ‘River Basin’:

“the area drained by a river and its tributaries

noun: (geography) An extent of land where water from rain or snow melt drains downhill into a river or series of rivers.

People come from all over to experience camping out near the water. Whether it’s to  fish, swim, do a little tubing, kayaking or canoeing, or just to relax, we love to head to the water’s edge!

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But before we don our waders, strap on those swim fins or grab for the mosquito spray,  maybe we can learn a little about how our rivers came to be and the importance that they have for us now!

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BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF A RIVER BASIN:

*A river basin collects all water from an area, then moves it through its system of branches, arteries and tributaries, where it eventually empties into an ocean or lake.

*A water system starts at a ‘first-order stream’ which originates from a spring underground. As water moves it forms second and third-order streams which then flow into rivers and on to a final lake or ocean.

*A water system is depended on rainfall and the runoff of the rain water to fill the streams and begin its journey through the water system.

*A river basin is generally made up of many areas called watersheds (or catchments).

*Watersheds act as drainage basins and starts the water flowing downhill.

*A river basin can contain multiple watersheds that collect water from streams, lakes and rivers of different sizes.

*Lakes are formed when the downward flow of water from the watershed is stopped due to a depression in the land.

*The Mississippi River Basin is the largest in North America and the 3rd largest in the world at about 2,320 mi long.

*The Continental Divide separates the water systems that will eventually end up in the Pacific Ocean from those that will end in the Gulf of Mexico.

*River Basins are vital to human existence, since they provide clean water for drinking; water for growing food; and water to nourish plant life, which provides the oxygen people breathe.

*River Basins are found in every region of the U.S.

Rivers are a joy whether you’re in them, on them or just admiring them, but they also demand our respect.  Be cautious, be prepared and be awed by the magnificent Rivers and River Basins in this beautiful country of ours!

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LANDSCAPES (Wetlands) Fun Facts

WETLANDS

DEFINITION:

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘wetlands’ is:

“land or areas (such as marshes or swamps) that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture —usually used in plural”

Dictionary.com adds this information to the definition of ‘wetlands’:

Noun: land that has a wet and spongy soil, as a marsh, swamp, or bog.

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Wetland areas of the country are some of my favorite places to be!  From the Swamps of Louisiana to the Everglades of Florida, Wetlands are beautiful, fascinating and full of useful information to learn.  For instance, did you know that if you rub the fat of an alligator all over you that you will smell so bad the buzzards will leave you alone? How did we get by until now without that knowledge?!  And there is so much more!

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BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF WETLANDS:

*Wetlands exist on every continent except Antarctica.

*The soil in a Wetland area is always saturated and water is a dominant factor.  This type of soil is called Hydric Soil.

*Wetlands are always on land.  They separate the water from the land.

*Wetlands can be salt water or freshwater.

*Wetland biomes are generally humid

*There is more animal diversity in a wetland than in any other type of biome.

*Wetlands serve as an overflow reservoir to prevent flooding.

*Wetlands serve as a filter that cleans surface water.

*Wetlands regulate river water and help keep rivers at normal levels.

*Wetlands are critical to the planet as they provide fresh clan water and oxygen.

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SOME COMMON TYPES OF WETLANDS:

A). Swamp:

*A Swamp is a wetland that is forested or has trees and shrubs.

*Swamps are generally found near a large river.

*Swamps start out as lakes or ponds. With time, trees and shrubs begin to fill in the land. Plants die and decay and the level of the water recedes. The original body of water then becomes a swamp.

*Swamps have a high enough supply of minerals in the water to stimulate decay of organisms and prevent the accumulation of organic materials.

*The Atchafalaya Swamp at the lower end of the Mississippi River is the largest swamp in the United States.

*There are different kinds of swamps and are named according to their location and the types of trees that are found there.  These types include: Cypress Swamps, Hardwood Swamps, Conifer Swamps, Shrub Swamps and Coastal Swamps.

*Many swamps are actually combinations of other types of wetlands including bogs, waterways and marshes.

*Swamps are where the fossil fuel, Coal is formed.

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 Swamps in the U.S. can be found all along the Gulf Coast and the Eastern seaboard.

 B). Marsh

*A Marsh is a wetland that is mostly made up of herbaceous plants (those plants that don’t have woody stems) like grasses and reeds.

*There are no trees in a Marsh.

*There are 3 types of Marshes:

-tidal salt marshes

-tidal freshwater marshes

-inland freshwater marshes

*The water in a Marsh is generally shallow.

*The base of a Marsh is made of sand and mud.

*The below water decomposition process in a Marsh can produce ‘Marsh Gas’ that explodes into tiny lights.  These lights have been called fairy lights, Will-o-the-Wisp, corpse candles and treasure lights.

*Freshwater marshes are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and sustain a diversity of flora and fauna that is out of proportion with its size.

*Marshes recharge groundwater supplies by controlling flooding, storing flood water, purifying the water and providing water back to the streams.

*Marshes clean polluted water so effectively that they are now being created to treat agricultural, residential, and commercial wastewater.

*Draining a Marsh can lead to ‘saltwater intrusion’ which a process where salt water seeps into fresh water sources leaving less fresh water for drinking, hygiene and crop irrigation.

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         Marshes in the U.S. can be found primarily along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard.

 C). Bog

*A Bog is a wet, spongy, mossy area that is too soaked to support weight.

*A Bog usually develops in a small glaciated lake that has not drained well.

*A Bog is made up of primarily decayed vegetable matter and sphagnum (or peat) moss.

*Often in a Bog, you will find a Bog Mat which is floating debris forming a thick layer a few inches thick where the water is still.

*The soil in a Bog is very acidic and has low levels of nutrients.

*Heath and other low-lying hedges are mostly the vegetation that is found in a Bog because they need very little in the way of nutrients.

*Bogs exist in layers.  From the top down, they are: (1) floating bog, (2) clear water, (3) false bottom, and (4) true bottom.

*Bogs are important to archeology. The lack of oxygen in the peat prevents the normal decomposing processes from taking place and so bogs have sealed within them a huge assortment of gold, bronze, amber, wooden and stone objects and sometime even well-preserved bodies. There have also been finds that include buildings and other structures. These can tell us about how and where people lived.

*It is easy to drown in a Bog, which is why it’s often referred to as a quagmire or quicksand.

*The peat found in Bogs is used for fertilizer, electricity and provides a habitat for many endangered species of plants, animals and insects.

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Bogs in the U.S. are mostly found in the Great Lakes regions and along the East Coast.

 D). Fens

*Fens differ from other forms of Wetland in that their water chemistry is pH neutral or alkaline.

*Fens have highly dissolved mineral levels but few plant nutrients.

*Fens are dominated by grasses and brown mosses.

*Fen have a high diversity of plant life including carnivorous (meat eating) plants!

*Fen are generally found near large lakes and rivers and form where the water gets trapped and becomes still.

*Fens act as ‘nature’s nursery’ to many of the planet’s small creatures providing safety until they are large enough to venture into open water on their own.

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Fens in the U.S. are found primarily in the Northeast and the Great Lakes area.

E). Coastal Wetlands

*A Coastal Wetland is located in a coastal watershed.

*Coastal Wetlands in the U.S. Southeast are referred to as ‘Pocosins’.

*Coastal wetlands provide a barrier and protection from floods.

*Coastal Wetlands can absorb the energy created by water currents therefore preventing deterioration of the shorelines.

*Coastal Wetlands provide shelter for endangered animals and birds including the Whooping Crane and the Florida Panther.

*Over 50% of commercial fish and shellfish species in the Southeastern United States rely on coastal wetlands.

*Coastal Wetlands filter chemicals and sediment out of water before it is discharged into the ocean.

*Coastal Wetland ecosystems can gather and store large amounts of carbon due to their rapid growth rates and therefore slow decomposition rates.

*Coastal wetlands cover about 40 million acres and make up 38% of the total wetland acreage in the U.S.

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81% of the Coastal Wetlands of the U.S. are located along the Southeast coast.

So next time you have the chance to slip on your waders and venture out into the swamps,  remember to watch for the gators and take some good information with you!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: PREPARING TO CHOOSE YOUR TRAILER

Before you can get excited to get out on the road, you must first prepare to pick your trailer.

Selecting your trailer can be a daunting and tedious process. It’s a big decision and will affect not only your budget, but the quality of the travel that you do. It’s best to take your time, play with ideas, talk to your friends and really think through the pros and cons of each choice.campers 2

You also need to have a heart-to-heart with your travel partner (if you have one), and genuinely be honest about your needs. In other words, make clear what it would take for you to really enjoy your time on the road. Be honest and real with yourself and each other!

SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
Here is a questionnaire to help get you started as you prepare to pick your trailer:

1). What is my Budget?
Camping can indeed be the least expensive way to see the country.  Depending on the sticker price and maintenance of the camper you choose however, it could be a bigger chunk of your budget than you wanted it to be!

2). Is there anything besides road trips and local camping that I plan to do with my trailer?
I have friends who use their trailer for night stays at a local ski resort where they do volunteer ski patrol.  I know some who use it for business while doing road construction jobs, one who uses it for out-of-state dog show competitions, and I know of many other scenarios that might influence one’s needs.

CAMPERS3). What type of vehicle do I have?
Some trailers require towing. Check the load allowances and make sure that you aren’t tearing up your little truck!

4). How much time at each stop am I willing to spend with set up and tear down?
Remember that you will get quicker and quicker at setting up your campsite as you develop a ‘system’, but don’t think that you’ll be happy spending an hour setting up every other day if that’s not your thing! Also, keep in mind that if you choose a van-type option with little to no set up, then you will be taking all your stuff with you to spend the day doing what you came for. You could possibly leave your campsite looking vacated.

5). What kind of off-season storage do I have available to me?
Don’t forget to factor in storage fees if that is going to be an issue. Also, if you’re storing your trailer outside, make sure to get good information on the best way to protect your investment.

6). Do I really need a bathroom in the trailer?
Although most of us would indeed like the convenience of a potty in the middle of the night, consider that you’ll probably be staying in an RV park of some kind with nice bathroom facilities. Find out what the maintenance, disposal, cost, etc….of a bathroom in your trailer really entails. For me, giving up the counter space was just not worth it and we bought a little portable blue water toilet that stores in the truck bed – which we’ve never actually used.

*One thing to note: In the state of Colorado, it is easier and less expensive to finance a trailer with a bathroom, as it is considered to be a second home. Also, the interest on the loan is tax deductible.  In addition, a law officer has to obtain a search warrant in order to search your trailer if it has a bathroom due to it being considered an extension of your premises.  You might want to check the laws in your state.

7). Will I have enough storage space?
Remember that if you choose a bed-on-wheels, teardrop style trailer you’ll need a place to store your coolers and bins of supplies. Do you have a pickup truck with a bed? Additionally, does your SUV have enough room for packing?download

8). Am I okay with the cost of a larger spot at the RV Park if I select a larger trailer?
The small tear-drop trailers, vans and truck-topper type units can usually fit into a tent spot at the RV Park, therefore those spots almost always have electric and water hookups for considerably less than a large trailer/RV spot.

9). Do I need indoor cooking ability?
Our first ‘Little Guy’ teardrop required us to cook outside, so we set up a quick picnic tent over the table that comes with the camping spot. We did just fine with our little portable stove, and no bacon grease spattered on my bedding! It is however, nice to have the indoor cooking option if the wind is howling or it’s raining.

10). How much maintaining, winterizing, etc…do I want to have to do?

11). Do I have Pets? If so, what are their needs?

12). How long do I plan to keep this trailer?
If you are young and haven’t started a family yet, you might think about an inexpensive option with a 3-5 yr plan. If you (like us!) are ‘empty-nesters’ and want this to be your last trailer or you don’t plan on having a family, look for something with a reputation for longevity and buy as new as you can afford.

13). How much will the insurance cost?
You might consider some price quotes before you start seriously looking.

14). How many seasons do I want to be able to use the trailer in?
Decide if heating or air conditioning are a necessity, as well as 4-wheeling options and 4-rb5Wheel drive.

There are probably many other questions that can come up in a ‘what are our needs?’ conversation.  I’d love your responses, so please write to me and include your questions and comments!

If you’d like to print out a Some things To Think About worksheet for your own personal use as you prepare to pick your trailer, you can do that here:  Some Things To Think About

Check out the ‘Little Guy’ website HERE

Check out the NuCamp (T@B) website HERE

HOW TO NAVIGATE THIS WEBSITE CLICK HERE

TRAILERS FOR SALE OR RENT

Looks like you’re buying a new or used tiny trailer!

OK!  Now that you’ve decided to check out ‘life with a tiny trailer’ and you’ve filled out the questionnaire (see the blog titled, First Things First: Preparing to Choose Your Trailer under the Trailers Category), it’s time to explore the options! Take your time and get the advice of seasoned road trippers as well as salespeople. Remember…the journey is always a part of the fun!

LITTLE TRAILER OPTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A NEW OR USED TINY TRAILER:

1). Traditional Pop-Up Travel Trailer
2). Tent
3). Camper-Van
4). Tear-Drop Trailer external Kitchen
5). Tear-Drop Trailer stand-up model
6). A-Frame / Teepee Design Trailer
7). The ‘Ute’
8). Homemade Trailer
9). Pod Style Trailer
10). Pick up Bed Style Trailer
11). Trailer Rental (companies like Cruise America or RV Share will rent you a trailer on a day-to-day basis. This might be a good way to test out what you might like!)

INFORMATION YOU NEED BEFORE PURCHASE A NEW OR USED TINY TRAILER:

PRINT CHECKLIST HERETRAILER INFO

1). Axle Weight:_____________________________________________________


2). Ball Weight:______________________________________________________

3). Bearing Size:_____________________; Maintenance:________________________

4). Battery info:______________________________________________________

5). Brakes Info:_______________________________________________________


6). Electrics: ________________________________________________________


7). Plugs / Wiring / Hookups:_______________________________________________


8). Power Supply Needs: ________________________________________________


9). Spares: __________________________________________________________


10). Suspension:_______________________________________________________


11). Towing:___________________________________________________________


12). Tracking: __________________________________________________________


13). Water / Fuel / Liquids:______________________________________________

14). Wheels / Tires: __________________________________________ __________

For buying a new or used trailer check out this website:
Trailer Purchase Checklist
As soon as your new addition arrives please share a photo and your buying experience!

Ireland, Caravan, Irish, Mobile Home, Rv

HOW TO NAVIGATE THIS WEBSITE CLICK HERE

LITTLE GUY & NUCAMP: ITS COMPLICATED

Baffled by the confusion concerning Little Guy and nuCamp trailers?

Here’s the scoop:

Once upon a time there was a camping enthusiast from North Canton, Ohio.  The love of his life was the little teardrop style camper from the 1930’s & 1940’s.

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The idea to recreate, update and make affordable the teardrop camper trailer was presented to a couple brothers in Elkhart, Indiana in 2002.  There they began prototyping a 4×8 Retro trailer in their garage.

showroom-nc-300x225As the demand for these little gems increased. The construction moved out of the garage and into a manufacturing facility in Sugarcreek, OH.  Little Guy Trailers handled the designs, distribution and sales. Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers did the manufacturing.  Over the next couple years, production gradually and consistently grew from 2-3 trailers a week to a 3-4 a day.

Twenty or so trailers were produced that first year, but now thousands are  out on road trips with new travel enthusiasts! Teardrop Camper Trailers are the most identifiable, economical and modern trailers on the road today!

In 2016, as the contract between the companies ended.  As a result, the two teardrop entities went their separate ways. Pleasant Valley became nuCamp and is now headquartered in Sugarcreek, OH, while Little Guy continues its operation from Uniontown, OH.  Both companies have dealerships around the country.

(If you speak with reps from either company, you will get different stories of why there was a split, so we’ll just go with the reason being that it was the best decision for everyone.)

With the separation came the division of the different models. If you are looking at a used trailer that was manufactured before the fall of 2016, it will be a Little Guy Brand.  After the fall of 2016, the models fell into independent hands.

Little Guy Trailers now has:

nuCamp RV now has:

It gets more complicated…

The nuCamp T@G also comes with the Boondock Edge & Boondock lite off-road packages, as well as the Sofital  luxury package.

Also, models such as: the Silver Shadow, the Q-Max, the 5-Wide, the Tailgater, the 6-Wide, the Rascal, the Joey, and the Rough Rider (and probably a few others) are no longer being manufactured, even though they show up on the used market.

…and now it gets even worse

Both Little Guy and nuCamp will allow you to customize, modify or even design your own trailer!

Remember, too that most all major RV companies have their version of a mini or teardrop style model.   No wonder the sales lots are complicated!

Whether you choose nuCamp or Little Guy, know that they are both excellent in quality.cute_rv_vintage_teardrop_camper_travel_trailer_postcard-ra4f2474b8b484c698e79d332c217a3f6_vgbaq_8byvr_540.jpg The features you find vary from forced air and radiant heat, air-conditioning, window shades and screens, stoves, microwaves, on-demand hot water, refrigerators, entertainment systems, large beds, and lots of storage. The only way to really appreciate all they have to offer is to get down to your local dealership and take a look.  You’ll find new and used models at most RV sales centers, so stop in and see what the fuss is all about!

HAPPY TRAVELS!!

For a look at the new Little Guy models, click HERE.

For an look at the new nuCamp models, click HERE.

HOW TO NAVIGATE THIS WEBSITE CLICK HERE

PACKING & PREPARATION: Packing For Your Road Trip

When it comes to Packing for your Road Trip, three things come to mind.

 First: Think through everything and DON’T make an unnecessary trip to Walmart! Of all the years we’ve traveled and all the places we’ve been, the only trip to a superstore we’ve ever taken was to replace a picnic tent in Tupelo, MS that a small hurricane turned into scraps. I have no desire to spend time and money (that we probably don’t have!) doing what we should have done at home.

Second: Zipper Baggies. Everything should have its place, and everything (ok MOST everything) should be in a baggie.  I buy zipper lock bags in various sizes and in bulk.

Third: Don’t be this guy:

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In this blog we will be covering 2 lists of things that your rig will probably need.  These lists are by no means exhaustive, but they will help get you started.  It would be helpful for you to take a small weekend trip somewhere close BEFORE you hit the road, so you can add to the list things you need or want.

In ‘Packing For Your RoadTrip’ Here’s the Lists we’ll be addressing:

1). The Trailer’s Stuff

2). The Vehicle’s Stuff

It’s also essential, before we get started, to do a little personal inventory and ask yourselves this question:

“ What do I need to really enjoy my trip and not feel SO ready to be home by the end of it?”

Let me give an example of what I mean.  For me personally, in order to enjoy my trip and not be SO OVER campgrounds and my whole vacation, I need to feel clean, have really clean feet, clean ‘snuggly’ bedding, well-organized space as well as good food.

It’s important to take inventory and then provide yourself with as many creature comforts as possible.  We’ll talk more about personal things in another blog, but for now we’re addressing what the trailer and vehicle need to be equipped with.  Here we go!

 1). THE TRAILER’S STUFF:  These are the things you will need to cook with, clean with, and  generally camp with.

A). Here’s the loose things that we pack.  That’s not to say that they are not in bins or zipper bags, but that they can go wherever they fit best:

* 1 small folding table with built in benches (this is for a dishwashing station and dry camping if there’s no picnic table)

* 1- 5-gal container of bottled water (yep there are places we’ve been where we couldn’t/wouldn’t drink the water!)

* 2 camp chairs

* 1-1or2 gal container for transporting water from a pump

* 1 heatproof bag containing a portable stove and a grill grate for the fire pit (I got mine at Cabela’s)

* 2 coolers: 1 for food on ice and the other for dry food.  If you have a refrigerator then you only need 1.  I like my dry food cooler to be deep so that the bread can be packed on end and therefore not get smashed.  Make sure that they are both air/water tight and well insulated.

* 1 Picnic Tent that goes up easy and covers the picnic table

* Small container with a small microwave (oh yeah…this is truly an essential and can be used anywhere that there’s electric available. Make sure it’s in its own container for safety, and in addition have a towel inside to wrap the glass plate.  Keep an extension cord with it as well.

* 1 Small Port-a-Potty (opt)

* A Draw-Stringed bag with wood blocks for leveling

* Bedding & Pillows (we made a ‘sheet-sack’ which is 2 king-sized flat sheets sewn together at the bottom and the sides up 1/3 of the way.  This keeps our sleeping bag clean and can be used inside of or on top of the sleeping bag.  Inside the bag it helps the sheets not be a hot mess.)

* Emergency road assistance kit

Then there are 3 large plastic bins all well labeled:

*If you have a trailer with storage, then these things can be put into the appropriate drawers, cabinets and shelves.  Just make sure that they all lined with a towel or rubber so that things in place during travel.

B). Bin #1: ‘LIGHT & FIRE’ This container is for everything that involves …..well…light or fire….

  • Small propane bottles
  • Bag of Matches incl waterproof
  • Lantern & mantles / batteries
  • Long lighter (for the fire pit)
  • Baggie of various sizes batteries
  • Several long extension cords and a power strip
  • 2 flashlights – 1 large & 1 small
  • A small firewood axe
  • A clamping shop light with a bug repellant light bulb: (We got this idea from a guy at a KOA in South Carolina.  It illuminates the whole picnic tent from where it’s clamped up in a corner of the tent. It repels bugs and is CHEAP.  There’s where Walmart is great…I got one for $10)

C). Bin #2: ‘THE KITCHEN SINK’ This bin contains everything you need to clean up with.  I don’t bring any liquids except dishwashing / hand sanitizer:

  • Dish Rack (mine is from Cabelas, is collapsible and awesome)
  • Baggie full of Handi-wipes
  • Baggie with washcloths
  • Tiny (fit-in-your-hand) broom & dust pan
  • Baggie with bottle of dishwashing liquid
  • Baggie with sponges, S-O-S pads and a scrubby
  • 1 clothesline rope
  • Baggie with towels
  • Dry cleanser in a Baggie
  • Baggie with pump bottle of hand-sanitizer
  • Baggie of dry laundry soap or Tide ‘Pods’ & dryer sheets

D). Bin #3: ‘COOKING AND MISC’ Which includes pretty much everything else

  •  flat griddle pan
  •  saucepan
  •  skillet
  •  spatula & Tongs

(I use all cast iron pots & pans.  They are a little more work to keep clean, as I scrub all the rust off each time we get ready to go, but they can take the open flame.  I also wrap each in a small trash can liner to avoid mess)

  • Set of 4 Plates
  • Set of 4 Silverware
  • 2 coffee Mugs (we use ours for hot Tang, cocoa and hot tea)
  • 2-4 telescoping forks for hot dogs and marshmallows
  • Container (NOT a ziplock) with 2 cutting knives: 1 large & 1 small
  • Bag of large black trash bags
  • Bag of small trash bags
  • Large zipper bag with lots of other zipper bags (you know it!)
  • Small container of spices
  • Plastic table cloth & wind clips

These 3 Big Bins carry most of the necessities and can be loaded into the back of your vehicle or in the trailer itself.  If you have a small lightweight trailer, it’s good to put some weight in it because road travel will beat it to death. We noticed this on our first trip through the Deep South as we watched our ‘Little Guy’ dance in the rear-view mirror……..

There are also a few other smaller containers that I keep stocked in the trailer:

E). ‘THE FIRST AID STATION’ This one is probably obvious

  • Bandages in Various sizes
  • Antiseptic Cream for cuts
  • Bug Bite Cream
  • Splinter / Tick removal kit
  • Anti-Itch Cream for bites or allergic reactions
  • Bug Spray

F). ‘MISC BOX’ This is my junk-drawer box of whatever doesn’t go anywhere else and lives in the trailer’s storage area

  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver with reversible (flat & phillips) bit
  • Level
  • Duct Tape
  • Vinyl Repair Kit
  • Can of ‘Flex-Shot’
  • Small travel sewing kit
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil, pen & small notebook

2).THE VEHICLE’S STUFF: The following are some things that stay put in the truck and are accessible while driving.  The bins and loose things listed above are either in the truck bed or trunk.  These things are in addition to Eddie’s & my personal bags that are stored in the backseat (See PACKING THE PERSONALS):

A). THE RECTANGLE TOTE:  This is the ‘Utility Tote Bag’ from the Thirty-One Bag Company, but any bag that fits (I put mine vertically) on the backseat (between my 3 personal bags and Eddie’s 3 personal bags) will do.  I like the stiff sides so that it doesn’t all collapse when I need to get into it.  If you are in a 2-seater truck, you will need to be really creative with your ‘on-the-road storage!  In my tote you will find:

  •  Bag with all my paperwork, books, and magazines
  •  Bag with healthy snacks
  •  Water jug for refilling
  •  Water bottle for each of us (ours are metal which stays cold all day,           doesn’t get broken when dropped and has a lift up straw so we can drink and drive!)
  • Bag with CDs and things to listen to
  • Roll of Paper Towels

I like having everything that we keep in the truck organized and travel proof.  Otherwise, the whole vehicle is a hot mess and I can’t find anything, which violates my ‘what I need to really enjoy my trip’ list.

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B). THE LUNCHBOX:   We have a small insulated lunchbox that plugs into the cigarette lighter to keep cool.  You can also just get a regular small insulated tote. I usually pack lunch first thing in the morning complete with napkins, plates, plastic silverware etc…which provides everything that I’ll need for lunch without having to get into the coolers or the trailer.  If you don’t have one that plugs in, you can purchase mini ‘instant cold’ packets that you break to activate and throw one in each day.  They can be found at the local sporting goods store with the first aid items.

And there you have the list of items that we pack in our trailer and truck.  Here’s the list for you to print off and take to the store: PACKING IT UP

Happy Packing!!

HOW TO NAVIGATE THIS WEBSITE CLICK HERE

PACKING & PREPARATION: Packing the Personals

Packing the Personals

There are basically 3 bags that Eddie and I each have for packing the personals.  All 6 bags store in the backseat of our truck. We don’t try and keep them in the trailer at any time, because space is really at a premium.  My supply of clothes is for 10 days.  After that point we do laundry.

There are also some things that we do keep in the built-in storage space in the trailer so we can avoid needing to get into our bags in the evenings or during the night.  Here goes:The 3 bag packing personals set

1). PACKING THE ELECTRONICS BAG:

We each have our own briefcases for our devises, cords, chargers, etc…I won’t make a list here, as one’s electronic devises are pretty personal.  I will tell you that I choose a ‘Surface’ to travel with.  It’s the small MS laptop that you cannot download off of the internet with. I don’t download programs on the road and therefore I don’t get any viruses from sometimes sketchy sources!

2). PACKING THE ‘BIG BAG’:

This one is a large duffel bag- which I like – because you can jam it down to the floor behind the front seat and save space in the truck.  I pack for 11 days: 10 days’ worth of clothes, plus 1 extra outfit in case I get caught in a rainstorm or fall into a river.  Yep, both have happened.  By the way, I LOVE Packing Cubes, because they make everything fit so nicely!  Here’s my list:

A). All bottoms: I usually pack 5-6 pr of jeans / dockers / skirts (not for the guys hopefully) or warm up pants (which I use for long days in the car).  Each pair gets worn twice, and I spritz them with Fabreeze in between wearings.  They then get folded and put into the bottom of my bag.

B). All Tops: I pack 10 tops as I don’t like to wear tops twice.  (There’s always one that stayed pretty clean if there’s that trip into the river).

 C). 1 Backup Towel: I keep 1 towel in my shower bag, but 10 days with the same towel is, well, just gross. I dig out this one after 5 days.

 D). 1 pr of warm ups: These are to wear when I’m doing laundry, because I wash everything.  They are also backups if my jammies get stinky.

*At the end of 10 days, the BIG BAG has become the laundry bag and is good for transporting the wash to & from the laundry room.  Make sure that you are staying at a campground on day 10 (or whatever day you plan to do the laundry) that has laundry facilities.

*Don’t forget when you are doing laundry, to include anything else that might need washing, such as jammies, pillow cases, dish towels, etc..

3). PACKING THE SHOWER BAG:

In my Shower Bag is everything else. 

I choose a small ‘airline carry-on compliant’ bag to pack my personals, as it’s smart for luggage to do double duty! It has sturdy sides and opens from the top.  A soft-sided duffel type will collapse as you try and use it, and is just a pain-in-the-butt.  Here’s my list – and yes, it all fits nicely.

A). 11 Pr socks + 1 plastic grocery store bag: They are all in the side zipper pouch and the bag keeps the dirty ones separated.

B). 11 Pr undies + plastic grocery bag: Same deal, other side.

C). 1 Pr shower shoes:  I use rubber Crocs. These come in really handy to shower in if the mats are questionable.  I keep them in a grocery bag.  It’s also nice to have these to walk in for a midnight stroll to the restroom or if there is a rainstorm.  DON’T use flip-flops.  They are sponges and stay soggy, and let your feet get dirty.

D). 1 Travel / folding baby changing pad: Yep. Yep. They are cheap and make great shower mats. You don’t have to put your wet feet into socks or muddy up your towel drying off your feet when the floors are not very clean (which happens a lot).  Eddie thinks this is silly….I disagree.

E). 2 pkgs Handiwipes: For drying off your mat, shoes etc… before repacking.  Just toss when finished.

F). 1 Hanging plastic shower bag: This bag I take into the shower with me and contains shampoo, cream rinse, razor, soap, etc…Anything that is needed in the actual shower. I keep in it, a suction cup hook to hang on the wall for when there is no where to put my stuff.

G). Makeup bag and jewelry bag: This usually doesn’t apply to guys, although I don’t judge.  I’ve tried to get Eddie to wear an earring, but no such luck.

H). Large Ziplock or zipper bag: This is for everything else that you’ll use at the sink. Tooth brush / paste, manicure set, hair stuff, Fabreeze, lotion, deodorant, etc….

I). Hair Dryer: I obviously throw this in loose, and if I take a curling iron I keep a dry washcloth handy to wrap it in when it’s still warm.

J). Clothes for 2 days: Every other day I get into the BIG BAG and transfer 1 bottom and 2 tops to my shower bag. I then put the used ones in the bottom of the ‘big bag’.

K). 1 Towel: After I shower I generally lay this over the tops of the bags in the truck and then repack when dry. I like the ‘Camp Towel’ from the camping store as it like a chamois and dries quickly.  Eddie says it doesn’t get him dry enough.

*It’s a good idea for at least a week before you leave to make a list of everything that you need and use on a daily basis.  You can make your packing list from this.

*Don’t forget towels, pillow cases, dishrags, socks & undies on Laundry Day!

The Shower Bags for packing personals

In addition to the 3 bags each that we keep stored in the truck (be careful to keep your vehicle locked when you’re not using it), we also have things that we keep stored in the trailer.  Even our first ‘Little Guy’ had storage so this has never been a problem.  Here’s the List:

4). PACKING THE MEDICINE CHEST:

This little Tupperware box gets packed and unpacked with each trip as medicine can become stale.  Spend some time before you leave thinking through the things you might need:

                A). Diarrhea Meds

                B). Constipation Meds

                C). Cold Meds

                D). Cough/sore throat lozenges

                E). Sinus Meds

                F). Allergy Meds

                G). Pain Killers

 5). PACKING THE NIGHTSTAND BAG:

This might sound silly, but when I get up in the middle of the night I don’t want to traipse out to the truck and rummage through my bags.  Eddie and I each made a list of everything we need if we get up at night, packed those things  and keep our bags within reach of lying in bed:

               A). Small filled water bottle

                B). Saline if it’s a dry climate

                C). A bottle of pain killers

                D). Flashlight

           E). Battery-operated alarm clock: (my phone is usually charging overnight somewhere out of reach)

               F). Vitamins: We separate our vitamins and supplements into tiny zipper bags (you can find them at the pharmacy).  We have labeled the packets AM & PM and I take them first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

                G). Anything else that you typically need at night

 6). PACKING OTHER RANDOM STUFF

Here are a few of the others things that stay permanently in the storage area of our trailer.  This is where it’s handy to take a ‘pre-trip’ trip and make notes of the things you’ll wish you had along.

 Playing Cards

 Badminton Rackets

 Binoculars

 Several extra rolls of toilet paper

Don’t hesitate to pack duplicates of things you’ll need to use in different places.  I keep arthritis cream in my nightstand bag as well as my shower bag, eye drops in the truck as well as my purse…etc……..

Here you can print and use the checklist HERE: 

HAPPY PACKING!!!

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EVERYONE’S GETTING IN THE GAME! 2018 Teardrop Trailer Review

It seems like everywhere we go we rub shoulders with people who are embracing the ‘Tiny Living’ movement!

Words like:

Tiny Home…Sustainable Living…Minimizing…and Simplifying are becoming commonplace as a growing portion of our culture is going Small!

This is also becoming evident in the world of RVs and trailers         CAMPERS

Eddie and I had the opportunity to attend the Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show 2018  which was surprising and fun!

We mostly went to see the new trailers by Little Guy and NuCamp (who dominate the teardrop trailer world) which are always so fun to see and compare to what we already have.

 

To our amazement however, we discovered that everyone really is getting into the game!  Most of the big names in RV travel such as Winnebago, Airstream, Riverside RV, Sunray, NoBo, and Forest River are just a few of the RV manufacturers that are now featuring teardrop-type trailers!

Whatever your need or desire is for the perfect way to go tiny and see the country, there is most likely a trailer for you!  Here are a few of the new innovative (and in some cases just silly) designs that we saw:

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So what are you waiting for?  It’s time to HIT THE ROAD!!!

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WHERE IN THE WORLD?

Happy 2020 Everyone!!  Where in the World will this year take you?

If you’ve ever found yourself justifying the need for a vacation or travel adventure to your friends, families or even yourself….then keep reading!

New Year’s is a great time for setting goals, making resolutions and generally deciding how and why to be better, accomplish more, and just feel better about yourself and your life.

If vacations and/or travel hasn’t been in your sights in past years, let me make a few arguments on why it should be from now on!  Here goes my top 10 reasons why everyone needs a vacation at least once a year:

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1. YOU FIND YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE BY DEALING WITH UNEXPECTED SITUATIONS

On a road trip from New England down into NYC with our ‘Little Guy’ Trailer in tow, Eddie and I found ourselves at an impasse.  I knew that we were going to be setting up camp in New Jersey and doing a day trip by subway into the City, so I was insisting that we stay to the west and drive straight into New Jersey.  I was in conflict, however, with the GPS.  Eddie has learned that my sense of direction leaves something to be desired, so despite all my navigation instructions, Eddie, behind the wheel of our giant truck (and tiny trailer), plowed right through Manhattan into the Lincoln Tunnel.  I think that the streets of Midtown were actually narrower than our truck, but Eddie was not to be deterred!  He quickly adapted to the NY refusal to ever yield, and how we avoided collision is still a mystery.  It took me the rest of the day to recover and start talking to Eddie again, but he will probably never again fear an unknown driving route!

 2. BEING AWAY MAKES YOU APPRECIATE FAMILY AND HOME

Let’s face it, folks, ‘absence really does make the heart grow fonder’!  Besides, getting to focus on something new without the constant demands of home and family can do wonders to clear the brain!!!  Being away also helps you appreciate what you have when you get home.

 3. YOU MAKE NEW FRIENDS

Eddie tends to be more social that I am, and while I can tell you how many ships have sunk in Lake Superior or how the Dome in Florence was constructed, Eddie can visit with a stump.  I cannot tell you how many people he has pulled us into conversation with or had spontaneous dinner or drinks with.  What I can tell you is that we have stories of new friends from all over!  There’s nothing like traveling to make us feel so interconnected.  Strangers truly are just friends we haven’t met yet – or at least most are!

4. DETOX FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

Computer World has pointed out that social media is engineered to be as addictive as crack cocaine. Seriously, this is a real thing! When you first stop using social media, you can expect to feel withdrawal symptoms. Scientists say that this is due to the naturally ingrained fear of missing out. After all, you could miss something entertaining or important if you step away from your laptop or smartphone.  Studies have also shown that the more time you spend on social media the more you are prone to depression and unhealthy competitiveness.  But what are we missing when we are attached to a devise? Maybe it’s time to re-connect with the real world and the real people in it.  Maybe it’s time to find out!

5. WE BECOME MORE OPEN-MINDED

Travel promotes patience by releasing our narrow, heavy expectations of the “one right way” mentality and allows life to flow more organically.  With time and practice we can learn to have a ‘big-picture’ view of things, and a tolerance for what we don’t necessarily understand or have all the information about. There’s more than one way to ‘do’ life!

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6. YOU’RE MORE INTERESTING

In the end, what we have that matters is not our possessions, but the quality of our characters and our stories.  It’s in these things that we hand down what we know, what we’ve learned and who we have been to the next generation.  Travel enhances everything, stokes curiosity and awakens our inner child by offering us new, “first-time” experiences.

7. GETTING SOME ‘YOU’ TIME

Traveling gives you time to rest and refresh. Time to heal, reduces stress and regain enthusiasm for life.  Even traveling together can leave plenty of ‘alone time’ if you decide ahead of time to be good with that.  Last year I found myself in the most beautiful turquoise colored water I’d ever seen.  Just off the coast of Haiti in the Western Caribbean I was off to enjoy a swim and some music.  I thought that Eddie would enjoy the ‘down time’ with me, but instead he decided to head back to our ship for a massage.  “Fine!” I said as he left me dripping on my beach towel.  I have to admit to a little initial confusion (and frustration!), but after enjoying the time to myself just lying in the sun (which I enjoy much more that he does anyway) and swimming in the lagoon, I was refreshed by the time I had to myself, and Eddie wouldn’t have given up his massage for anything!

8. EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION

“He who knows not his history is doomed to repeat it!”

The ability to learn is one of the greatest gifts given to mankind, and failure to enjoy that gift is a travesty! Learning can come in the form of history, current culture, or any form of art.  How great is it to study about the First Colony while in Jamestown? Or the legislative process in Washington D.C.? How about discovering chocolate in Mexico or the origin of a nation at the Missions of San Antonio?  History, Art, Current Culture and the Wonders of Nature all come to life when you can experience things first hand!

9. TRAVEL MAKES YOU HEALTHIER

Studies show that travel leads to a greater learning capacity, increased feeling of happiness and satisfaction, better family relationships, and even decreased risk of heart disease! Travel exposes you to different environments, which create stronger antibodies and boost your immune system significantly.  Travel lowers stress levels, improves your brain health and helps keep you fit.  To sum it up, travel helps you live longer and healthier! Need I say more?

10. TRAVEL HAPPINESS IS INFECTIOUS

Yep. It’s true.  Travel addicts just enjoy life more.  At least in our opinion!

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So there you have my top 10 reasons to travel.  No justification. No apologies.  No excuses.

As 2018 was making its way into our lives, Eddie and I found ourselves making airline reservations for September.  After years of planning we are finally taking that 32-day trek through Europe!

For me it’s a bit of a homecoming.  For Eddie, it’s a trip completely out of his comfort zone full of excitement and anticipation.

But for both of us it’s a time to be together and experience the unknown.

Where will 2020 take you?

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PLANNING & ITINERARIES: Choosing Your Route Style

call it a plan

Itinerary Ideas

Before there is a Road Trip, there is a Plan.  But before there is a Plan there are Itinerary Ideas.

Itinerary Ideas are what get us started, and consequently end up being how our plans begin.

Ideas can come from anywhere.  For Example:

*A ‘Bucket List’ place that you’ve always wanted to see

*Maybe you’d like to see all of the National Parks in the U.S. (For a list of the Parks by Region, Click: LIST OF NATIONAL PARKS BY REGION)

*Some places you’ve passed by before and said, “Next Time”

*An interest sparked by another’s experience

*A place you visited as a child or long ago that you’ve always wanted to go back to

*Pictures you’ve seen somewhere

The list is endless, but you need to start with your Idea. It’s okay – maybe even best – if your idea is vague.  Just grab a hold of your Idea and take out a map.
After you agree on an Idea, then the work begins and you need to decide on your basic Route.  Before getting too carried away, however, there are a few questions to ponder:

*Which Idea did we settle on?

*What are our travel dates?

             (keep in mind that some places are better seen at specific times of the year)

*What is our Budget?

*Is there an Event that we want to work around?

*Are there people that we’d like to see?

*Can we make arrangements for the pets?

*What is our general reason for picking this Idea?

*Can we identify what we most want to get from this trip?

*What are the things that we are most interested in seeing / doing?

Here you can Download and Print the PDF Checklist: BEGINNING THE ITINERARY Questions To Ponder

Okay…..now here we go……

I have found it easiest to first choose a ‘Route Style’.   The Style will help you determine your basic route.  I think of my ‘Route Style’ as the skeleton that the skin, muscles, etc.., (which are the daily trip details), connect to.  Here’ are my ‘Route Style’ options:

‘A’: The Oblong Route Style: The ‘A’ or ‘Oblong’ is a route that takes a particular path to a specific destination and then a different path home.

      *An example of an ‘Oblong’ is our trip to Savannah, GA.:

The Itinerary idea was sparked by my parents-in-law’s trip there.  Their enjoyment, description and photos were all I needed to put it at the top of my list!  The destination was Savannah but the path getting there took us through St Louis, Nashville, Asheville & Charleston.  We spent time in Savannah and then explored Tupelo, Little Rock and Ft Smith on the way back. 

The ‘A or Oblong’ Style of a trip is basically in 3 parts.  An initial part is spent getting there, the next part is spent being at your end point destination and a final part is spent getting back home.  The parts are not necessarily equal.

‘B’: The B-Line’ Route Style: The ‘B-line’ is a route that takes you the quickest non-stop way to your destination and uses the same route going home. It’s basically a Bee-Line to your destination and back resulting in the most available time spent there.

      *An Example of a ‘B-Line’ is our trip to San Antonio, TX:

We made a Bee-Line there and back with our time spent in one place doing local and day-trip sights.

‘C’: The Circle Route Style: The ‘Circle’ is a route that basically heads to a general area and explores that area with no actual destination point and then circles back.

      *An Example of a ‘Circle’ is our Great Lakes / Colonial History Trip:

We picked a route that included 4 of the Great Lakes as well as Chicago, Niagara Falls, Salem, NYC, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Williamsburg, Monticello and Louisville, KY. 

A ‘Circle’ trip covers an area instead of having a destination.  Another ‘Circle’ Trip example is to camp at the Boston Cape Cod KOA and do day trips to Boston, Salem, Plymouth and Lexington-Concord and study Colonial history.  Think of this Route Style as one having a theme.

After you have a ‘Route Style’ picked out, then you can sit down with a map (I like the big Rand-McNally that we get each year from our insurance company) and map out the plan.  This makes choosing the stops much easier!

One side note: Keep track of the total number of miles you have planned for your trip.  That will be a big help for planning your budget!

Whew!!! Now you have a Skeleton and you can take breather before the next step!

TO GO TO HOW TO PLAN AN ‘A the OBLONG’ TRIP CLICK HERE

TO GO TO HOW TO PLAN A ‘B the BEE-LINE’ TRIP CLICK HERE

TO GO TO HOW TO PLAN A ‘C the CIRCLE TRIP’ CLICK HERE

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PLANNING & ITINERARIES: Route style ‘A the Oblong’

Route style ‘A the Oblong’ Template

As we’ve discussed, inspiration for a travel itinerary comes from many sources (see my post: Choosing Your Route Style), but I find that most start with a specific destination.

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Route Style: ‘A-the Oblong’ is my personal favorite and has a specific destination.  It’s the biggest ‘bang-for-your-buck’ with the least amount of planning.  If you were to draw out this route on a map it would look a little like a triangle (or an egg, or a pickle or maybe a banana). 

The ‘Oblong’ is divided into 3 parts that don’t need to be an equal number of days:

            1): Getting to your destination

            2): Time at your destination

            3): Returning home from your destination

Before you really start digging in with the planning, review my blog called, “20 Questions Before You Plan”.  You’ll find it HERE.  This will help you keep in mind the things that you (and your partner) are most interested in seeing and doing.

Okay! Let’s Get Started!

First: Determine your travel dates.  That gives you the number of days you have to work with.

Second: Determine your destination or ‘end point before you turn around and start home’.  Make a note about why you want to go there and what you really want to get out of a visit to your chosen destination.

Third: Decide how many days you want to spend at your destination.  This will take a little research on what there is to do and what your reason was to go there.

Fourth: You need to get a large Rand McNally Road Atlas (I get a free one each year from State Farm – which is awesome!).  If you have to purchase one, keep it in your vehicle when you travel – it’s WELL worth the tiny investment.  (If you are traveling through Colorado check out the category on my website called ‘20 min in Colorado‘ where you’ll find interesting stopping points along the major interstates that run through the state. ).

Fifth: Open your road atlas to the first page with the map of the U.S.  Put a pin in your destination city and then look at the interstates that will get you there and back.

Sixth: Pick the interstate(s) that you’ll take to your end point and the one(s) that you’ll take back from your end point.  These are two different routes.

Seventh: Take your total vacation days and subtract the days you’ve decided to spend at your destination. Decide then, how many days you want to spend on getting there and how many days you want to spend getting back.

Whew!  That was already a lot of work!  Remember that you can (and probably will) make lots of changes as you plan.  You’ll discover things that you’ll want time to see or do, so plan to adjust your itinerary as you go along.  Bear in mind that you might be traveling across time zones.  Make sure to plan your time with time changes in mind.  Also, make a note of any daylight savings time changes that might happen while you are on the road! 

Alright…Let’s break it down:

PART 1: GETTING TO YOUR DESTINATION:

First: Determine what the best things to see and places to visit are along your route from home to your destination.  I like to Google ‘best things to see along interstate_____”.  It’s amazing what you’ll find!  Make some notes on what interests you and don’t be afraid to venture off the main road for a bit  – as long as you budget the time.  Get a Rand McNally Road Atlas (available at most bookstores for a small investment or on their website HERE), 

Second: Decide how far you want to travel on the first day, and what your half way point is.  I like to try and have lunch near the half-way-for-the-day point. Pick somewhere interesting that has something you’d like to see or do that won’t take much time.  If you are traveling through Oklahoma or the Texas Panhandle, at least pick a pretty park or interesting spot. Google maps will tell you exactly how long each leg of your journey will take – which is an invaluable tool!

Third: Decide what you’ll see/do before the half-way point, where you’ll have lunch, and what you’ll see/do between lunch and your first night on the road.  This will determine what time you need to start out for your day, and what time you’ll be arriving at your stop for the night. It will also help you plan whether or not you’ll need time the next day to see a few things at your first stop.

Fourth: Choose an RV Park (or other accommodations) for the first night.

Use these 4 steps for each day as you travel toward your destination.  There may be places you’ll want to spend a half or full day exploring…just fit it into the number of days budgeted for Part 1 of your trip!

PART 2 BEING AT YOUR DESTINATION:

First: Remind yourself of the main reasons you wanted to travel here.

Second: Get online, order a free visitor’s guide, or talk with someone who has traveled there. Jot down some of the things that sound really interesting to you.  I like to Google ‘top 10 things to see in _____’.  As you explore different sites (I like TripAdvisor), make note of the things that tend to float to the top of everyone’s favorites list – those are usually the best picks.

Third: Print a copy of a map of your destination city and start highlighting your favorite picks.  This will help you determine an itinerary order (I like to make a circle from and back to my campground).

Fourth: Narrow down your list of things to see/do and fit them into the days allotted for your stay.

Fifth: Make sure you are keeping track of the cost and hours of operation for each site so you can schedule accordingly and keep things in your budget.  It’s handy to have this information with you, as plans often change throughout the day and you can then make changes ‘on the fly’.

Sixth: Decide how you are going to handle meals.  I usually do breakfast and supper at camp and pack a picnic lunch.  If you are planning to eat out, make sure you work that into the budget.

Seventh: Choose your RV Park carefully.  You’ll probably be there for a few days, so you’ll want a camp that is clean, well accommodated and close to the things you’ll be wanting to do.

PART 3: GETTING HOME FROM YOUR DESTINATION:

Getting from your destination back to your home is planned basically by taking the same steps as you used in Part 1:

            *Choose your spot for the night

            *Determine the half way point

            *See what there is to do along the way for each half of each day

Here is a sample of a Day-On-A-Oblong Route Style: Houston N.O. Day 4

Here are a couple of things to consider as you travel home:

            *Most of your food will probably be gone or bad.  I always budget to eat out for the last 2 or 3 days.  You can always pick up some bread at a gas station and use the peanut butter you brought along.  Also, try and use up all the non-perishables that you still have on hand.

            *I usually take the shorter route home and try not to see & do as much.  By the end of a trip we are usually tired and ready to be home.

            *If you’re not sure how far you’ll decide to travel in a day, don’t make camp reservations ahead.  As you get close you can always call to make arrangements (but call before 5pm when places generally close).  We’ve learned, however, that just ‘wingin’ it completely doesn’t usually go well.  Checking in after hours (which many places will let you do on the honor system) can mean camping without a code to get into the bathrooms!

            *Plan to have some fun things to do in the vehicle that you’ve saved for last.  Being ready to be home can leave you tired, cranky and easily annoyed with one another (remember, you just spent 24/7 with someone – which you normally don’t do!).  We like to talk about what we’d like to see again or more of, and start planning the next trip…

Well…that’s the ‘Oblong’ route style!  I hope you enjoy planning your adventure and I’d love to hear from you about what has worked or not worked for you with itinerary planning, and of course I’d love to hear your stories from the road!!

HAPPY PLANNING!!!

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PLANNING & ITINERARIES: Route Style ‘B the BeeLine’

Route style ‘B the Beeline’ Template

As we’ve discussed, inspiration for a travel itinerary comes from many sources (see my post: Choosing Your Route Style), but I find that most start with a specific destination.

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Route Style ‘B-the BeeLine’ is just exactly that.  It’s the route that gets you to your destination the fastest, spends the maximum time at your destination and then takes the same route home.

Before you really start digging in with the planning, review my blog called, “20 Questions Before You Plan”.  You’ll find it in the HERE.  This will help you keep in mind the things that you (and your partner) are most interested in seeing and doing.

Let’s Get Started!

                *First: Determine your travel dates.

                *Second: Take out your Rand McNally Road Atlas (if you don’t have one, they are available at most book stores and Well Worth the small investment), open it to the U.S. map located near the front and put a pin in your destination city.

                *Third: Locate the Interstate that gives you the most direct route.

                *Fourth: Go to Google Maps on any devise and get the travel time and miles from home to your destination.

                *Fifth: Decide if you are driving straight through or how many days you’ll need to get to your destination.  You’ll need the same number of days to get back, so that will leave you with the number of days that you’ll have at your destination.

                *Sixth: Determine each day’s half-way point where you’ll stop for lunch.  Try and find somewhere interesting to take a break at.  Also, try and select different places to stop on the return leg.  (If you are traveling through Colorado check out the category on my website called ‘20 min in Colorado‘ where you’ll find interesting stopping points along the major interstates that run through the state. ).  Bear in mind that you might be traveling across time zones.  Make sure to plan your time with time changes in mind.  Also, make a note of any daylight savings time changes that might happen while you are on the road! 

                *Seventh: Pick your campgrounds for the route to and from your destination.  You’ll probably want to use the same ones for getting there and back as those legs of the trip are the same, so make reservations accordingly.  Stay near the Highway.

*Eighth: Plan and budget your meals to get to and from your destination city.  Will you eat out? Take picnic lunches?

Okay…you now know how you are getting to your destination and back, and how many days that requires.  Now it’s time to focus on your time at your target city / area!

                *First: Carefully choose your campground and look at reviews.  You’ll spend most of your nights there, so make sure you do some research.  I usually don’t worry too much about reports of staff being unfriendly/rude/not helpful etc.. as staff changes frequently and people have bad days.  I concentrate on reports about things that don’t change. Things to consider are:

-Location and proximity to the majority of things you want to see.  Check and see if there is easy access to subway stations, bus stops, etc.. if you are not taking your vehicle into a city.

-Cleanliness and appeal – especially the bathrooms.

-Amenities such as laundry rooms, indoor game/reading areas for rainy weather, WIFI, Ice machines, fire pits, etc.. You’ll need to consider your needs ahead of time.

-Proper hookups.  We in Tiny Trailers can usually use the tent spots (and save $$!), but they don’t always have electric hookups.

-Check-in and after-hours policies.

-Look into Discount Cards from Good Sam’s and KOA.  If you stay at those places (they are usually the best anyway), it’s well worth the small investment.

            *Second: Develop the itinerary for what you’ll see and do during your time at your destination.

This is the hard part!  Here are some suggestion for making those decisions:

-Review the reasons you picked this destination, and schedule these things into your allotted time.

 -On any devise Google, ‘Top Ten things to see in___’.  Look at at least 3 or 4 websites and see which things all make the top of the lists.  I always look for consistency as there are many opinions out there! Make a list of all the sites and activities that look interesting to you.

-On any devise, Look for reviews of all the things that sparked your interest.  I like Trip Advisor, but again I look for consistency.  I usually choose to include a site or activity into my schedule after I’ve seen about 85-90% positive comments or reviews.   If you see something that has no poor reviews at all, you are probably looking at a site that filters out negative comments.  Yep. Websites can be paid off…

-If you have a site or activity that is a bit of a distance from your central location, consider doing a day trip and don’t try and crowd too much into your day. I like to alternate busy days in town with relaxed days doing only one thing further away.

(Example: The Boston Cape Cod KOA is perfect for day trips.  1 day in Boston, 1 in Lexington-Concorde, 1 in Salem and 1 in Plymouth without ever moving the trailer!).

-Once you have your list of things you’d like to do or see, print a copy of a map and highlight the location of those things.  Look up each site and make notes of opening/closing times and well as cost.  Then pick the order in which you’ll do your list.  Consider parking at the visitor’s center (always a great place to start and it’s usually FREE) and seeing the city by foot or by mass transit.  I usually end up moving the car once or twice depending on the size of the city.  Keep in mind the cost of parking and make sure to budget for all transportation expenses.  Also, I generally schedule the site that is open the latest to be seen last.

(Example: In NYC we chose to see the Empire State Building at the end of the day.  It’s open until 2am and has the best views at night or at sunset.  It’s also less than a block from the PATH station that took us back to our campsite in NJ).

 -Create a daily timeline.  I like to do this because it keeps us on track and helps us adjust along the way so that we don’t miss something that has closed.  It also helps us make decisions if something needs to be dropped from that day’s activities.  I create my daily schedule on the computer and then snap a picture that is stored in my phone.  I also keep all other info such as tickets, prepaid tours etc.. on the Tripit App on my phone.  I’m learning not to carry around so much paperwork!

Here’s a sample of a day on the road: One Day in DC

-Think through your meal plans for each day.  Will you eat breakfast before heading out for the day?  Maybe you’ll need to pack a picnic lunch that you can eat in the car.  Will you carry your lunch in a backpack to eat at a park?  Will you be back at camp for supper or will you need to budget to eat out? Does your budget allow for eating out at a nice sit down restaurant or will you need fast food?  Just make sure that food doesn’t throw off your budget altogether!

And there you have  ‘B-the BeeLine’ Route Style!  I hope that this has been helpful…

HAPPY PLANNING!!!

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