Most of our National Parks remain open… but the partial governmental shutdown is causing some major problems across the country. In this episode of the podcast, we’ll update you on the latest. Plus, we talk about the controversial practice of wolf hunting near Yellowstone National Park. And, as always, we have  your questions, comments and tips. And this week, we also have a huge list of the many RV Shows being held around the country over the next couple of weeks.

WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK

MIKE: We’re excited and packing for one of our favorite camping adventures of the year, our annual Winter Freeze Out gathering up at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

JENNIFER: We literally had to stop the packing to sneak into the studio here to record this episode but as soon as we’re done we’ll be back loading our RV with snow shoes, ski poles, extra boots and our warm weather clothing.

MIKE: It is going to be cold up there. I just looked at the forecast and it’s going to get down to the lower single digits Fahrenheit Thursday through Sunday. The gathering officially runs Friday through Sunday but it has become so popular that many of the attendees, us included, are coming up early. We’ll actually be in the UP from Wednesday through Sunday.

JENNIFER: We were worried that there wouldn’t be much snow up there because it’s been a very mild winter so far. But they got hit by a big snowstorm Monday and it is supposed to snow a couple inches just about every day this week. Of the 40 or so sites that the ark plows out for winter camping, our group has reserved about 35 of them. So we’re talking a lot of RVers.

MIKE: We’ll leave there on Sunday or Monday but then we have to skedaddle south… all the way to sunny and warm Tampa Florida where we will be attending the huge RV Supershow at the Florida State Fairgrounds January 16-20. Talk about contrast: We’ll be leaving a place with a foot and a half of snow on the ground and replacing our parka with shorts and sandals in the land of palm trees!

JENNIFER: The RV Supershow is one of the largest RV shows in the country and we’ll be doing several reports from there on the Roadtreking.com RV Lifestyle blog and on our Facebook Page and RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel. And we’re really excited that we’ll have a meet and greet with our followers on Saturday Jan 18 from 11AM-2PM at the Roadtrek display area at the show. It’s always fun to get to meet folks in person.

MIKE: There are so many RV shows over the next few weeks. We’ll itemize a bunch of them at the end of the podcast. But RV Shows are THE best place to shop for a new RV, or to find the perfect accessories you need,

JENNIFER: Let’s remind everyone on where they can find more information about the topics and stories we report in this episode. A lot of people are driving as they listen, or hiking or walking the dog or working out and can’t necessarily write down the resources we share. But they are all available in the shownotes for this episode, which can be found on the Roadtreking RV Lifestyle blog at Roadtreking.com/224. We build in links to everything we talk about here and the shownotes are like a detailed transcript.

MIKE: Reminder about new phone number to call in questions and comments for the Podcast – (586) 372-6990.

 

RV NEWS OF THE WEEK

JENNIFER
Plan now to see the ‘Super Wolf Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse' coming later this month  
Have you heard about the Super Wolf Blood Moon Total eclipse? It's coming Jan. 20-21, and has many star gazers excited. A super moon is when a full moon is closest to the earth in its orbit, making it appear larger and brighter than normal. A lunar eclipse is when the earth gets between the sun and the moon, casting the earth's shadow over the moon, and the term blood comes from the moon having an orange or reddish hue during the eclipse. And what about the name wolf? Well, apparently wolf moons happen in January because, according to ancient lore, it is in this time of year when the wolves howl outside villages. If you are somewhere away from light pollution, try to catch sight of it. The show starts around 10:30 pm eastern time and this will be the last total lunar eclipse until 2021. To read more click here or here.

MIKE: 
RV Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, going strong

Have you ever been to the RV/Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana? The museum details the history of the RV industry, and was in the news this past week for being about to pay off its construction debt. Jennifer and I visited the unique museum last year, interviewed the president for our podcast and YouTube channel (click here) and absolutely loved the place! The museum has some 60 RVs, some dating back to 1913, and it is really a fascinating place. To read last week's story, click here.

JENNIFER
If you're in Florida and like large alligators, check this out!
For those of you in Florida, or with plans to visit soon, you know of the importance of watching out for alligators near fresh water. Well, a video of a giant gator – and I do mean GIANT – strolling across a trail in a preserve near Lakeland, Florida,  left me speechless. This gator looked like a dinosaur – I have never seen one so huge. And it was recorded at Circle B Bar Reserve, a protected land area in Polk County, Florida, last week for all to see. Apparently this gator has been spotted several times, just meandering about, and has even earned the nickname Humpback. To see for yourself, click here

 JENNIFER'S TIP OF THE WEEK

 I love getting your tips on our new Voice Message Line. One came in this week that I am delighted to share.

Meet Heidi, who shares a tip on using inexpensive furniture blankets in the RV

 This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping 

LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

A listener took offense to the way we recently talked about the wolf killed by a hunter just outside Yellowstone National Park back in Episode 222 of the RV Podcast… That wolf was very popular with Yellowstone visitors, much photographed and… well… beloved by many, many people. Anyway, the caller objected to the word “beloved.” And in the interest of honest and respectful discussion of controversial isues, we will play her message.

The message cut out at the three minute mark, because that’s the limit for Google Voice. But she sent me a copy of her comment.

Some excerpts: “The other disturbing part of that report was the note of disdain in your voice when you used the word hunter.  I am a  60 year old woman.  I am an Rv'er and a hunter.  Both of these titles get me maligned at times. That's why labels are not good things.  But that is another rant. …  You may not like the idea of animals being killed. Even as you eat chicken, beef, pork. you may think that anyone who can kill an animal for sport is a horrible person.  But remember that not too long ago we all had to kill animals in order to survive.  It's still in us to hunt and gather and protect ourselves.  If you don't care for it I understand.  But try to understand for many people hunting is about getting out in the wilds, and pitting yourself against nature. It's important, vital to our makeup.  Kinda like you enjoying talking to people and reporting on it. Some would say that your traveling around the country collecting stories is an unnecessary waste of fossil fuels that pollute our atmosphere. That you and all those RV people put drain on community resources of the places you travel to and through.  And so much other silliness.  But I hope you get my point without taking offense.   All issues are complicated and multi-faceted.”

Here are email questions that came in this week:

From Mike and Kathi – Happy New Year to you and Jennifer!  We are thoroughly enjoying your website and YouTube channel.  You are performing a great service for RVers everywhere.  I was going to try to participate in your live Q&A last night to pose my question, but a family commitment came first so I decided to reach out by email while my questions are fresh on my mind.  I should say we have a Roadtrek Adventurous CS XL on order (2019 chassis/ 2020 model year) and are using the time until delivery to do as much research and forward thinking scenario planning as possible.
My question is about winterizing and de-winterizing.  We live in Fort Collins, CO and plan to travel south to warmer areas in the winter.  Its very possible we won’t head south before it gets pretty cold in Fort Collins and we certainly will be coming back and forth from warm climes to our sticks and bricks in Fort Collins while it’s still cold in CO.  With your sticks and bricks being in Michigan and with you not living full time in your class B, I figured you may have confronted this issue.  My question is what do you do and how do you handle this?  Do you winterize at home, de-winterize on the road in warm areas, and then repeat as many times as you go back and forth?  Can this be done easily? How labor intensive is it to winterize and de-winterize?
I appreciate hearing your thoughts.  Also, if you have references on how this is done , either your own experience or those of others, I’d appreciate you passing along those links or sources as well.

            We have a whole playlist filled with winterizing and dewinterizing videos –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NANFhFK4y8s&list=PLomKLKY-E0ScsKe3QPQHprQ_3saqS0Llz

 From Chris – Just finished your book (cover to cover) “The beginner's guide to boondocking.”  My wife and I will be purchasing a Hymer Aktiv later on this year (I retire in June).  I have been doing a lot of research so I won't be clueless when we hit the road.  Your book, far and away, has been the most helpful for me.  Thanks! A quick question, does parking a class B on a slope impact its functionality?  I imagine we would always look for a flat spot to park but was just curious.

From Terri – You are doing a great service for us RV'ers just starting out. I married young and had 2 boys so we camped a lot when they were young.

Then, I also organized a girls camp out that was for 4 days.  I would go ahead, set up camp and everyone was in charge of their own drink, except water, and also, a meal they prepared, which gave all the rest of us time off each day for r and r.  We sunbathed, took naps by the lake, went fishing, had great conversations around the campfires and so much more!!  We always looked forward to it every year!

Then, once boys graduated Tom and I hit the road.  We drove a semi for 15 years.  We traveled the entire continental US and Canada.

We also were fortunate enough to go on several cruises and visit 13 different countries. Tom and I divorced this year after 40 years of marriage.  It breaks my heart to talk about it.  He is engaged to be married already.  So, with that, it will help to get away every now and then.

My plan….buy a campervan,  which I located and should take possession of come February.   At that time I will begin my voyage.  I will keep my apartment and do shorter trips.  But, I believe it will become my new lifestyle.   I have 5 grands that I am pretty close to, but they are growing up and doing their own thing,  Kids are so busy now days!

So, here is my story in a nutshell.   Thanks for adding me.  I will be digging deeper into your letters, etc after the first of the year.

God bless your 2019! Sincerely,  Terri

RV TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Road closed to Shenandoah National Park due to the government shutdown.

As we record this podcast it is just before President Trump addresses the nation about the border crisis and his plans for a wall, which, as everyone knows, is the sticking point over negotiations with the Democrats on ending the partial government shutdown, which is having a major and adverse effect on our National Parks.

I want to avoid any discussion here about politics, any finger pointing or strong opinions. There is enough rancor and bitter divisiveness out there and I’m not going to get involved in topics that would fuel, or trigger, any of that.

But I do want to give you an update as best as we can right now on what is happening at the National Parks. Understand that all of what follows could change on a dime between now, as I record this, and when you hear the podcast, which is being released Jan. 9, 2019. Like I said, we don’t know what President Trump will say in his Oval Office address to the nation the night of Jan 8.

But as of now, the nation’s national parks are open with skeleton staffs and, as I said, they are feeling the strain of nearly three weeks of the partial shutdown. Trash has piled up. Rest rooms are a mess. Traffic is very congested in some parks. At the Great Smoky Mountains National park a cash donation box at one popular overlook was so jammed with dollars that it was almost overflowing.

The bottom line is the government shutdown has left America’s national parks largely unsupervised. No one is at the gate. No one is collecting a fee. The visitor centers are closed. There are some law enforcement and emergency personnel on site, but certainly nothing as standard as a park ranger who can answer a question.

People are streaming into the parks, enjoying the free access. But the parks are definitely taking a hit.

Here is a roundup…

Campgrounds at Joshua Tree closed last week, officials said, citing health and safety concerns over vault toilets that are near capacity. The waterless bathrooms in which visitors can relieve themselves into a sealed container buried underground had remained open. But with no workers to pump out the waste, those are being closed now as well.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks went a step further, closing down the entire parks to visits because what few workers were on the job couldn’t keep up with the messes.

At Yosemite National Park have set a roadside checkpoint up at the southern entrance, along California Highway 41. Only people with reservations for lodging or camping inside the park will be allowed entrance between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., officials said.

According to National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz, illegal off-road vehicles have damaged some habitat at Yosemite, and the buildup of trash and litter has had a significant effect on the environment. There is also concern that the increased trash could attract wildlife, including bears, to populated areas, increasing the risk of dangerous encounters.

Problems with human feces and urine along Highway 41 in the south part of Yosemite have led to the closure of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, as well as the Wawona and Hodgdon Meadow campgrounds last week. Two snow play areas and all the park visitor centers remain closed.

Park officials said additional facilities or areas in Yosemite National Park may close at any time for health and safety reasons.

At Yellowstone National Park, access this time of year depends on grooming of snow-covered roads – but the National Park Service’s shutdown plan does not consider such activity to be essential. That means the private concessionaires have had to pool their money to pay for the grooming.

In Washington, DC, when the Smithsonian Institution, having depleted temporary funding, will close all of its museums and the National Zoo.

Advocates for the parks aren’t happy about this situation, fearing that visitors will do permanent damage to the parks and potentially disrupt fragile ecosystems. They’d like to see the parks fully closed.

But in addition to the heartbreaking stories, we found many encouraging tales of people chipping in to help. One story that caught my eye was of a Tennessee father and daughter who enjoy hiking at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The duo spent a recent day picking up trash then posted pictures on social media and challenged others to give up a day, go their favorite national park, and do the same. Other volunteers at parks all over the country hauled away trashbags, provided visitors with directors, and stepped in to help

One note. Many of you may have read or seen on one of the cable shows that people were dying in the parks during the shutdown… as if that was the cause. The deaths are true but don’t blame the shutdown. In three weeks since the government shutdown began and more than 21,000 National Park Service employees were furloughed, seven visitors to national parks have died.

Three of those deaths were accidental, including that of a 14-year-old girl who fell off Arizona's Horseshoe Bend on December 24. Four other deaths are believed to be suicides, according to Mike Litterst, the National Park Service acting chief spokesperson and chief of public affairs. Overall, that's a miniscule fraction of the more than 330 million people who visited the 418 sites in the National Park System 

But though tragic on their own, the tally of deaths is not out of the ordinary for the expansive National Park Service, which sees an average of six deaths per week, Litterst said. The deaths include accidents like drownings, falls, and motor vehicle crashes, as well as medical incidents such as heart attacks, he said. The National Park Service, which usually employs 24,681 people, furloughed all but 3,298 of them when the shutdown began on December 22

There's no evidence that the deaths these past couple of weeks are related to the shutdown.

The National Park Service said Sunday that it would use reserved money from visitor fees to keep up operations at parks around the country

“We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services,” read the statement from the agency's deputy director, P. Daniel Smith.

The statement noted that the visitor fee money “would typically be used for future projects at parks,” but the lapse in appropriations for the Park Service meant the funds “can and should be used to provide immediate assistance and services to highly visited parks.”

The statement added that the Park Service would not fully open parks and smaller sites would stay closed.

So far, shutdown-related issues at national parks have mainly had to do with cleanliness and sanitation.

The topic of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT

Patti and Tom Burkett

By Tom & Patti Burkett

Last February we spent a few nights at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  More about that another time.  Driving out form the park, and toward California, we were intrigued enough by some roadside murals in the town of Ajo on Arizona highway 85 that we stopped to have a closer look.  It turns out (what a surprise) the town has an interesting history and murals play a very large part in the most recent chapter of it.  We pulled into a parking spot so Patti could take some photos.  Noticing that people were moving past us down the block, I followed and discovered a large central plaza around the corner, bustling with activity.

Tom was stuck on the horns of a dilemma. Did he stay to watch the dancers performing Mexican folk dances in traditional dress, or did he walk back around the corner and tell me what was going on?  He settled for sending me a text message, which he knows I may or may not get in a timely manner.  Fortunately I did, but arrived too late to see the dancers perform.  They were still hanging around though, so I did get a couple of photos.

The Tahono O'odham people have lived in this area for centuries.  The rich mineral deposits in the nearby desert were the source of pigments used in traditional paints.  Ajo is the Spanish word for garlic.  No garlic here, though.  The name is probably a variant of the Tahono O'odham word for paint, which sounds similar.  Here at the festival, we were lucky enough to see some traditional dancing from this culture as well.

The mine that provided paint was used by a variety of people.  The Spanish abandoned a mine here in 1884 because of hostile raiders.  Tom Childs remarked it in 1887 as he was traveling to the silver mines in Mexico, and returned thirty-five years later to develop it with his son.  It eventually became the New Cornelia open pit mine and produced high-grade copper until about 1985, when it was shut down.  The town was virtually abandoned.

Inexpensive housing and a favorable climate drew artists and retirees, and before too long, the International Sonoran Desert Alliance was formed to promote the arts in an attempt to revive the local economy.  It appears to be succeeding, as murals and street art can be seen all over town, and several businesses seem to be doing well.  The local IGA had a stand on the corner of the plaza.  It consisted of a large metal bin, like you might see for choosing bingo balls, and a big propane burner.  Soon enough its purpose became evident.  The bin was filled with green chili peppers, and started turning.  The burner was fired up, and a few minutes later, roasted green chilis!    

The plaza was ringed by artist and food stands.  We left after a couple of hours with some fresh bread and a lovely pair of earrings.  The local visitor office, right there on the square, also provided information about the town's mining history and the desert well that still supplies its water.  Keep your eyes open when you're going down the road.  Even if you do have plans to make it to that particular campsite by dark, maybe  some freshly roasted chilis and a bowl of homemade prickly pear ice cream are worth the trade.  Save some for us, too, because we're probably just around the corner if you're out here off the beaten path. 

RV CALENDAR OF EVENTS

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