Take a moment to learn the true meaning of Memorial Day
Happy Memorial Day! In addition to its associations with white pants, barbecues, parades, and the unofficial start to the summer season, this annual holiday observed on the last Monday of May honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day when it was first celebrated in the mid-late 1800s. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Americans began holding yearly tributes to fallen soldiers which included decorating their graves with flowers. It wasn’t until more than a century later, though, that it became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades.
The birthplace of Memorial Day and early observances
The Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865 claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.
By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
Did you know? Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.
It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. And some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.
Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor the dead on separate days until after World War I.
History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date General Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Memorial Day Traditions and Rituals
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem (In Flanders Fields by John McCrae).
On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend comprising the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially marks the beginning of summer.
I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Here’s what you need to know about visiting the parks after dark
As magnificent as the United States’ 63 national parks are during daylight hours, after the sun sinks beyond the horizon these beautiful expanses (often far from city lights and carefully managed as dark-sky preserves) take on a stellar new look. In celebration of the constellations, various national parks hold festivals and evening events to teach visitors about the night sky.
Here’s what you need to know about four of the biggest astronomy parties in the United States national parks.
Grand Canyon Star Party
Each summer, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona invites visitors to watch “an assortment of planets, double stars, star clusters, nebulae, and distant galaxies” dance above some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth during its Star Party which will take place from June 10 through June 17 in 2023.
Events begin on both the North and South Rims at 8 p.m. but according to the National Park Service (NPS) the best viewing is after 9 p.m.
“Skies will be starry and dark until the moon rises the first night. It rises progressively later throughout the week of the Star Party,” the NPS said on its website.
Each night of the event, park rangers on the South Rim will lead tours of the constellations at 9, 9:30, and 10 p.m. and will host a night sky photography workshop at 9:30 p.m. Throughout the week, various speakers are slated to hold nightly presentations at 8 p.m. starting with park ranger Ravis Henry who will discuss how the stars are seen through the Navajo culture lens. Other speakers include NASA scientist Julie McEnery who will speak about the next NASA flagship telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope which is scheduled to launch in May 2027 and Dr. Vishnu Reedy, professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona will lecture about how astronomers mitigate the threats of meteor impacts.
On the North Rim, the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix, Arizona will set up telescopes on the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge and guide visitors in identifying constellations.
The 2023 Star Party is a free and open to the general public. The park entrance fee is good on both South and North rims for 7 days. No additional tickets or sign-up is required.
The event begins at sunset although the best viewing is after 9 pm and many telescopes come down after 11 pm; however, on nights with clear, calm skies, some astronomers continue sharing their telescopes into the night.
Dress warmly. Temperatures drop quickly after sunset—even during summer months.
Taking place from June 14 through June 17 this year, Bryce Canyon’s Astronomy Festival in southern Utah happens to fall during the new moon when stars, planets, and meteorites are most visible.
Each night, volunteers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society will bring their telescopes to share during the nightly stargazing sessions which will start at 10 p.m. across the road from the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.
According to the park, the festival will also “include nightly lectures from leading academics in astronomy as well as park staff and planetarium educators who will share their expertise and research delving into the origin of stars and the universe itself.” Some of those lecturers will include Planetarium Educator Dr. Amy Sayle who will teach about legends surrounding the stars, former Northern Arizona University professor Dr. David W. Koerner whose presentation will focus on cultural astronomy and the arts, and astronomer Dr. Tyler Nordgren who will explain the magic of eclipses.
All the sessions are free but some talks require reservations which can be made at the visitor center any time during the days preceding the festival. It’s worth signing up early as this year’s festival is happening in conjunction with Bryce Canyon’s centennial celebration, a time that is expected to be busier than usual in the park.
Each night of the festival, shuttle service will continue to limited locations between 8 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. Parking will be limited at Evening Program and Telescope locations so the park strongly recommend parking at the Shuttle Station in Bryce Canyon City (2 miles north of park entrance) and riding the Star Shuttle into the park. Shuttles arrive at each stop every 15 minutes. Use of the Star Shuttle is free with park admission.
As always, attending the festival is free with park admission.
Overnight temperatures are typically in the 40s Fahrenheit. A light jacket is a good idea if you plan to be outside for awhile after dark. While red light flashlights are okay, no white light flashlights be used due to their negative effect on night vision. After using a white light, it can take well over thirty minutes for your eyes to begin to readjust to the profound darkness of Bryce Canyon.
Badlands Astronomy Festival
In 2023, the Badlands National Park’s annual Astronomy Festival which is held in partnership with the NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium will take place from July 14 through July 16 in the South Dakota park.
Per the National Park Service, “Novices and experts alike will enjoy the spectacular dark night skies of Badlands National Park at public star parties each evening. During the afternoon each day, a variety of family-friendly activities will provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the night sky, the sun, and space exploration.”
Astronomers (and their telescopes) from the Black Hills Astronomical Society, Badlands National Park, Dark Ranger Telescope Tours, and the University of Utah will be on hand throughout the festival to lead guests in for day and night observations.
Lectures will be held each night at 9 p.m. starting with a deep-dive on NASA’s space telescopes with NASA scientists Tom Durkin on the 29th, an explainer on Lakota Tribal beliefs around stars with Megan Ostrenga of The Journey Museum in Rapid City on the 30th, and a family-friendly show about the universe with Kevin Poe of Dark Ranger Telescope Tours on the 31st.
Additional events will be announced closer to the festival.
This free event is made possible through funding and support from the Badlands Natural History Association, NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, Dark Ranger Telescope Tours, Black Hills Astronomical Society, The Journey Museum and Learning Center, International Dark Sky Association, University of Utah, Badlands National Park Conservancy, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Badlands National Park.
Shenandoah Night Sky Festival
Discover the Park after dark during the 2023 Night Sky Festival!
So far, only the dates for Shenandoah’s Night Sky Festival in Virginia have been announced: August 11 through August 13. But according to the National Park Service, the three-day event will include “stargazing, Ranger talks, kids’ activities, and guest presentations ranging from topics such as space weather, space travel, and our future in space.”
If you plan on attending one of the outdoor evening activities, be sure to be prepared for the weather and bring a flashlight with a red filter. All events are free with park admission.
Great Basin Astronomy Festival will host its event September 14-16. Check back for more details closer to the event.
Glacier National Park:
Glacier National Park plans to offer Logan Pass Star Parties for the 2023 season. Check back for the exact dates and more details closer to the summer season. If you plan to attend it is important to come prepared. Wear warm clothing and be prepared for wind in St. Mary. Bring a headlamp or flashlight so you can safely move around in the dark. Seating is not provided at the Dusty Star Observatory so bring a chair for a more comfortable viewing experience.
How to attend the national park astronomy festivals?
Tickets to all the astronomy festival events are free though attendees still need to pay the park entrance fee. At Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon, that’s $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle, or $20 per person entering by foot, bicycle, or park shuttle bus. And for Badlands and Shenandoah, it’s $30, $25, and $15, respectively. Entrance passes can be purchased online or at the park entrance.
I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly—or ever—gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe.
The word volcano comes from the Roman name Vulcan—the Roman god of fire
Volcanoes are some of Earth’s most fascinating features. They are both creators and destroyers: Their lava cools and builds new land while their eruptions of ash and rock have buried cities such as Pompeii and even blocked out the sun’s rays. Volcanoes have also inspired artists, writers, and scientists for centuries. Read on for some explosive examples of how volcanoes have changed the world.
1. There are three main types of volcanoes
The simplest type of volcano, cinder cone aptly describes how this type of volcano forms: As lava bursts out of the earth, it cools and falls back to the surface as pebbly textured cinder piling up around the original site of the eruption. The cinder eventually forms a dark, smooth-sided cone. When looking at a map, you will find that thousands of cinder cones exist in western North America and in other volcanic areas of the world.
Some of the Earth’s grandest mountains are composite volcanoes—sometimes called stratovolcanoes. They are usually tall with steep even sides and are formed by repeating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and volcanic bombs. These mountainous volcanoes often result in huge eruptions of thick lava and tephra (small rocky fragments) that build up over time. About 60 percent of the world’s volcanoes are stratovolcanoes and they include Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia, and Mount Shasta in California. Some composite volcanoes rise over 8,000 feet above their surroundings.
Shield volcanoes are built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. Lava erupts or pours out of multiple vents in all directions and spreads out over land. Shield volcanoes build up slowly by the growth of thousands of lava flows that spread widely over great distances and then cool as thin sheets. Crater Lake was formed when a massive shield volcano Mount Mazama collapsed in on itself. Snow filled the crater with water, creating a lake. Further eruptions created a small island in the middle of the lake. The Hawaiian Islands are made of a chain of shield volcanoes including Kīlauea and the world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa.
2. Eruptions are measured by the volcanic explosivity index
The power of a volcanic eruption is measured on a scale from 0 to 8 called the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), according to the amount of lava, tephra, and ash that spews forth. An eruption with a VEI of 0 is basically dormant; each subsequent number indicates a tenfold increase in ejected material. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was a VEI 5. The most recent megacolossal eruption took place in 2022 at Hunga Tonga Ha’apai: The blast destroyed 90 percent of the South Pacific island and merited a VEI of 6.
3. The Ring of Fire is Earth’s most active volcano zone
About 1,350 potentially active volcanoes dot the Earth today and about 75 percent of them can be found along a 25,000-mile-long horseshoe-shaped ribbon that borders the Pacific Ocean. This Circum-Pacific Belt, more commonly known as the Ring of Fire is home to some of the most volcanically active areas in the world including Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Alaska, and parts of the contiguous United States.
The volcanoes are clustered near subduction zones—unstable areas where one of Earth’s heavy tectonic plates slides under a lighter one. The movements trigger earthquakes as well as a buildup of magma (molten rock) where the plates scrape together. Magma often escapes through the lighter plate as a volcano.
4. The U.S. has a surprisingly high number of volcanoes
Three volcanoes in the Lower 48 have erupted since the Declaration of Independence was signed: Mount St. Helens in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon, and Lassen Peak in California. Mount St. Helens: Eruptions and/or lava dome growth occurred in the late 1700s, 1800-1857, 1980-1986, and 2004-2008.
Lassen Peak: A series of steam blasts began on May 30, 1914. An eruption occurred 12 months later on May 21, 1915. Minor activity continued through the middle of 1917.
Mount Hood: After being dormant for over 1,000 years, Mount Hood had an eruptive period beginning in 1781 that lasted for about a decade. In the mid-1800s, local residents reported minor explosive activity.
Due to the statehoods of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, the U.S. now ranks first in the world in the number of potentially active volcanoes per nation with 162. They include the planet’s largest active volcano, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa which rises 2.5 miles above sea level and 10.5 miles above its base on the bottom of the ocean. Alaska’s Novarupta volcano in present-day Katmai National Park and Preserve had the biggest eruption of the 20th century beginning on June 6, 1912 with a VEI of 6.
5. Volcanoes can change Earth’s climate
The biggest eruptions can shoot tons of ash and gas high into the atmosphere where they can block some of the sun’s radiation and be dispersed around the world by air currents. These aerosols can actually change Earth’s climate for a few years.
In April of 1815, the eruption of the volcano Mount Tambora rocked modern-day Indonesia. The blast, nearly 100 times as large as that of Mount St. Helens in 1980 sent a massive cloud of miniscule particles into the atmosphere. As the particle cloud blew its way around the globe it reflected sunlight causing a meteorological phenomenon to which we now refer as the year without a summer.
In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in the Philippines sent ash into the stratosphere and cooled the globe for about two years.
When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted in January 2022, it sent a tsunami racing around the world and set off a sonic boom that circled the globe twice. The underwater eruption in the South Pacific Ocean also blasted an enormous plume of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere—enough to fill more than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. The sheer amount of water vapor could be enough to temporarily affect Earth’s global average temperature.
6. A volcano made the loudest sound ever recorded
When Krakatau blew its top in August 1883, it released a boom that geologists believe was the loudest sound in recorded history. The 310-decibel cataclysm was heard over 2,000 miles away in Australia where ranchers thought it was a rifle shot; people 3,000 miles away thought it was a cannon blast from a nearby ship. In addition to the eardrum-busting noise, the volcano released 6 cubic miles of material into the atmosphere, triggered tsunamis that killed 36,000 people and coated the sea in layers of floating pumice.
The closest we’ve come to a repeat of Krakatoa was the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption near the Polynesian island of Tonga in January 2022. Sonic booms were felt as far north as Alaska and researchers more than 6,000 miles away at Boise State University in Idaho recorded subterranean frequencies equivalent to about 100 decibels.
Fortunately, this blast wasn’t nearly as deadly with three fatalities recorded. Still, it wreaked a lot of havoc. Tonga was largely cut off from the rest of the world for days, ash blanketed large swaths of the surrounding area, and tsunamis caused major damage along the coastlines. On one of the closer outlying islands all the homes were destroyed. The volcano had created its own new island several years before; that was entirely obliterated along with large chunks of two nearby islands.
7. Volcanoes are erupting, spewing ash on three continents
Active volcanoes prompted ash warnings and set nerves on edge in Italy, Mexico, and the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month.
Mount Etna showered ash over Catania in eastern Sicily on Sunday, May 21, 2023 and forced the temporary suspension of airport operations. Lava flows were reported in January and an explosion on May 14 produced an ash admission. Activity at Mount Etna has been observed and recorded for more than 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest continuously monitored volcanoes.
Volcanic ash from Popocatépetl triggered the temporary closure of Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport on Saturday, May 20. Flight delays related to the presence of ash also were reported Monday. People were urged not to travel within a 7.5 mile radius of the volcano and to avoid the crater “due to the danger of falling ballistic fragments,” according to Mexico’s National Center for Communication and Civil Protection Operations. The volcano has experienced explosions, tremors, and exhaled vapor, gas, and ashes for weeks, according to monitoring reports from the national center and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The Nyamulagira volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo also continued ongoing eruption and lava flow. Nyamulagira is Africa’s most active volcano. An eruption began in the summit crater on March 14 and active flows were seen on May 7 and May 12, according to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program. The volcano has been active since April 2018.
As of April 14, 2023, 49 volcanoes around the world were in continuing eruption status, according to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program. Last week, 24 were in some stage of active eruption, according to the program’s latest weekly report.
The Popocatepetl volcano reputedly 730,000 years old is the second-highest peak in Mexico; Citlaltépetl is roughly 500 feet higher. It is the second-highest volcano in North America; Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world soars roughly 30,000 feet over the ocean floor.
The Mauna Kea volcano on the island of Hawaii is the tallest mountain on Earth if you measure its height from its bottom on the ocean floor; it rises to a height of over 33,000 feet.
Each volcano is an independent machine—nay, each vent and monticule is for the time being engaged in its own peculiar business, cooking as it were its special dish which in due time is to be separately served. We have instances of vents within hailing distance of each other pouring out totally different kinds of lava, neither sympathizing with the other in any discernible manner nor influencing other in any appreciable degree.
—Clarence Edward Dutton, Report on the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah (1880)
Driving an RV in heavy winds can be quite a challenge. Here’s some advice for all RVers encountering windy road conditions.
Almost anyone who has ever had the displeasure of driving an RV in high winds will tell you that it can be a very stressful white-knuckle experience.
No one likes driving an RV in high winds but the situation is likely to present itself sooner or later. For this reason, I’m sharing some suggestions to help keep you safe on the road in windy conditions.
Hang onto your hats, let’s go.
Why RVs are vulnerable to heavy winds
RVs are especially vulnerable to heavy winds because of the large surface area of the RV which leaves no place for the wind to pass through to relieve the pressure. The wind simply pushes against the sides/front/rear of the RV and can literally move the rig no matter how heavy it is.
Travel trailers are susceptible to trailer sway in heavy winds. This can lead to driver over-correction resulting in a back-and-forth rocking that can send the trailer out of control.
It can be tiring to drive or tow an RV in high winds and sometimes it’s downright dangerous. It’s at these times when you need to find a safe area to pull over and stop driving until conditions improve.
When it’s too windy to drive an RV
High winds are capable of overturning an RV. The longer and taller the RV, the more surface area the wind has to push against. But this can happen with any RV. Even smaller RVs are taller than a typical vehicle so we’ve all got more surface area.
There are numerous factors involved that may make it too windy to stay on the road so there is no specific wind speed to watch for. But I’ll cover some of the ways you can determine what’s safe, what’s not, and when it’s time to get off the road.
Bottom line… I don’t think taking chances driving an RV in dangerously high winds is ever wise.
Factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions
There are four primary factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions:
How heavy the RV is loaded in relation to its GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)
All of the factors noted above combine to create greater potential for problems. The higher the wind, the faster you drive, the closer your vehicle is to its maximum allowable weight, and the more direct the wind is to a 90-degree crosswind, the more dangerous it is to drive in windy conditions.
Higher wind speed, directly on the side of a heavily loaded RV = SLOW DOWN! If it’s still not a stable drive, find a safe place to stop and take a break!
If the wind is causing you to leave your lane while you’re driving, it’s always time to stop. None of us wants to tip over but swerving in your lane is also very dangerous—to you and to others on the road.
You’ll notice that of the four factors listed above, only one is under your direct control as you’re rolling down the road and feeling pushed around—driving speed. I’ll get to more on that below.
Can wind actually tip an RV over while driving?
YES, the wind can tip your RV over especially while you’re driving it. (There’s far less chance of the wind toppling an RV that’s parked.) The force of the wind combined with the force of wind being generated by your rig can combine to tip your RV over completely. This is why it’s important to always be aware of how your rig is behaving on the road and respond accordingly based on conditions.
How much wind can a parked RV withstand?
A parked RV can withstand far more wind than a moving RV. The likelihood of wind tipping over a parked RV is low but you may feel the rig rocking uncomfortably especially if you don’t have leveling jacks.
Leveling jacks can help to stabilize your RV in heavy winds. If possible, you may also want to park your RV so that the front or rear of the rig is facing into the wind. This way, the full strength of the wind isn’t hitting the largest side of the RV.
What is a safe driving speed in windy conditions?
RVs vary so much in size, shape, and weight that there’s no way to suggest a single driving speed that’s safe for every RV in every wind condition. The important thing to remember is that the more vulnerable your rig is to the wind (see the four conditions above), the slower you need to drive (again, the primary factor that you’re in control of while rolling down the road).
While longer, taller RVs can act like a sail and catch a lot of wind, all RVs are susceptible to being affected by high winds. So all RVers should take safety precautions!
One factor that each of us has a considerable degree of control over is weight. Making sure to avoid overloading your rig is key for many reasons, including stability on the road.
How much wind is too much?
Again, there’s no one set wind speed that triggers a get off the road response from every RVer. There are simply too many factors at play. But there is a way to know when you should slow down or get off the road altogether.
Keeping in mind what I mentioned earlier—that driving speed is the variable that you have the most control of while underway—I recommend using that as your primary control factor.
I suggest using a bottom-up approach to anything related to driving speed. By that, I mean that you should start slowly and work your way up as conditions allow. It’s far easier to increase your speed if you’re driving a little slower than needed than it is to be forced to slow down (possibly suddenly) because things are getting hairy.
If the wind (regardless of its speed) is pushing your rig around, causing you to sway in (or out of) your lane, or causing you to feel uncomfortable, that’s your sign to slow down. And if necessary, find a place to stop and wait for better conditions.
Any time we’re not in complete control of our RV, we shouldn’t be driving.
What are wind restrictions?
You may sometimes see overhead signs warning of high winds. Some areas may even implement restrictions to limit high-profile traffic during extremely windy conditions. Typically, the vehicles that are restricted in those zones are large trucks and RVs so always check the area you’ll be traveling in for potential wind restrictions. These are put in place for your safety and for the safety of others using the roads in that area.
There may also be wind restrictions placed on bridges that span across the water due to the wind gusts that often occur in these open areas. Doing a little research prior to hitting the road and staying alert for changing conditions can save you a lot of stress and keep you safe.
Driving tips for windy conditions
Following are some tips for driving an RV in high winds. All of them will help to keep you safer on the road in windy conditions.
1. Slow down
When driving an RV in heavy winds adjust your speed. In two words, this simply means SLOW DOWN. If you feel your rig being pushed around your first reaction should be to slow down. If it’s still not feeling stable, slow down more. Or get off the road at the earliest safe spot.
2. Check the weather forecast and wait if necessary
Check the weather forecast and give yourself the benefit of a plan B that allows you to wait out the wind. The winds won’t blow forever and you just might enjoy an unexpected day of relaxation while you wait.
3. Drive with both hands on the wheel
Since you should always keep both hands on the wheel anyway, this should probably go without saying. But I’ll say it anyway: when you’re driving in windy conditions keeping both hands on the wheel is more important than ever. You just don’t know when a gust of wind is going to hit your rig in just the wrong way and you’re going to need to have full control.
Having both hands on the wheel keeps you prepared for the unexpected (at all times) and is the habit of every good defensive driver.
4. Be careful while driving on bridges and overpasses
Bridges and overpasses are common places for gusty side winds, so be alert. Also, large trucks passing your rig may create the same sort of wind disturbance, so be prepared when being passed.
But be sure to avoid overcorrecting as those gusts come and go. As with so many situations involving driving safety, reducing your speed should be a natural first response.
5. Take breaks often
When you’re driving in winds that aren’t excessive enough to pose a danger, you may be able to continue driving comfortably, at appropriate speeds. Even so, taking routine breaks is important. Operating an RV in windy conditions is more tiring and stressful and taking breaks keeps you in better condition to drive safely.
RVing is so much easier when you have the right gear
Congratulations! You just purchased your first RV. That sense of accomplishment, excitement, and joy is mixed in with “What the heck did I just do?” Now it’s time to get those 15 things you have to buy after getting a new trailer or motorhome.
The call of the road is stronger than ever and you’re ready to hit the gas pedal. You bought a camper, now you need to prepare for the road.
Your wallet may feel like it’s smoking from the large amount of money you just spent on your RV, but now you have some essential gear you’ll need to purchase. The good part is the amount of money you need to complete your travel trailer supply checklist is like adding a few sticks to the fire, not another gas can.
To make this as painless as possible, I’ve put together an organized list for first-time RV owners on what you should keep in your recreational vehicle of choice. You don’t need to wait until you have your RV this is what you need to know before buying an RV concerning essential gear.
What comes with a new RV
If your sales representative was good at their job, they did a complete walkthrough of your new RV. We hope you came prepared with your own version of an RV checklist to make sure everything is in proper working order. You may be asking yourself, “Do new RVs come with sewer hoses?” or other questions about essential gear.
RV dealerships may have a “new owner’s kit” or some other goodies they give to their customers but there’s no such requirement. If they do offer basic hoses, they may be too short or poorly made.
You’ll either want to walk into their parts department, take a ride over to a camping supply store, or go home and jump on Amazon to find the best RV gadgets.
Essential supplies checklists
There are a few different hoses you’ll need. If you’ve seen that movie with Robin Williams, we promise the real versions are a lot more sanitary.
Sewer hose: A high-quality sewer hose is essential to avoid any unpleasant leaks or malfunctions. I prefer the Camco RhinoFLEX kit that includes a 15-foot hose, a fitting that connects to your RV sewer outlet, an adapter that fits any sewer connection, and storage caps for each end. The durable hose is reinforced with steel wire so you can shape it as needed. Also, carry a 10-foot extension—you’ll be glad you did.
Sewer hose attachments: There are various attachments that make the draining process easier. One type connects to the end of the hose to create a good seal to the dump station. Another is a clear plastic elbow that lets you monitor the flow.
Protective gloves: There are two schools of thought to keep your hands clean. Some like to use rubber gloves that can be washed while others prefer disposable latex gloves they can throw out after each use.
Water hose: RV potable water hoses are lead and BPA-free. I recommend traveling with two hoses since you never know how far your RV will be parked from a city water connection. This hose looks like a garden hose but it’s white in color instead of green. The interior of the hose is lined to keep it sanitary for drinking.
Heated water hose: A heated RV water hose is required for winter camping. This product will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost $100 or more depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes. A heated hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 40 degrees.
Water pressure guage: This brass attachment connects between the campground’s shore connection and your water hose. It protects your RV’s plumbing system from receiving too much water pressure. It only takes one situation for your water lines to blow.
Water filters: RV water filters probably aren’t the first thing to leap to mind when you’re contemplating everything you need before you hit the road in an RV. But water flavor and quality can be variable when you’re camping. The goal of an RV water filter is to remove sediment (like dirt and sand) and other unwanted contaminants from your RV’s water supply.
Campground water quality is all over the map and that goes double if you’re getting your water elsewhere like an unknown water tap at a truck stop. There are two main categories of RV water filters you can use. One is an exterior RV water filter that goes between the spigot and the RV’s fresh water tank. The other is an interior drinking water filter that goes between the fresh water tank and the faucet used for drinking water.
Most RVs come with electric cords that plug directly into shore power. There are additional things you’ll need to hook in correctly.
Electrical protectors: There are four electrical issues an RVer can encounter while traveling: surges, miswired pedestals, high/low voltage, and wiring issues inside the RV.
What exactly are you protecting your RV from when you use an electrical protection device? It’s much more than power surges which we typically associate surge protectors with. Surges are actually the least common problem with RV electricity. An RV typically has a lot of sensitive electronic circuitry in it and having steady power is crucial to keeping these components from having an early funeral. Failure of components like AC units, refrigerators, washer/dryer, and computers plugged into a wall outlet can be very expensive to replace. You can use one of the Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard portable or hardwired units.
Extention cord: Sometimes you may have to park your RV further away from the utility box than your cord can reach. You’ll want the same amp extension cord that your unit comes with (30 or 50 amp).
Power adapters: Every RVer needs to carry a few power adapters often referred to as dogbones to make sure that they can connect to whatever power is available to them. These power adapters will have a smaller, lower amperage plug (male blades) on one end and a larger/higher-amperage receptacle (female terminals). Look for UL-listed versions of these adapters preferably with rigid grab handles. They do not change the power output.
Recommended electric adapters include:
50-amp RV plugged into the 30-amp source
50-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source
30-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source
Fuse kit: Pickup a set of fuses that handle different amperages. Each color represents a different level of current. They’ll work for your automotive and coach systems.
3. RV jacks
Using your jacks on grass or dirt can be problematic. You may start out level but as you move around in your RV they may start to sink into the ground.
Stablilizer jack pads: Prevent hydraulic or electric jacks from sinking into the ground by using RV stabilizer jack pads. Available in sets of four they are solidly constructed of durable polypropylene with UV inhibitors.
Jack blocks: Jack blocks work like Lego to give your jacks a higher surface to sit on. They are useful if your jacks can’t reach the ground. Interlocking for convenient storage they are available with a handy strap.
Tire chocks: If you’re on an incline, tire chocks prevent your RV from rolling. Use these first, and of course make sure your brakes are set. Always use with travel and fifth-wheel trailers.
Bubble levels: Putting bubble levels on your trailer will help you with the leveling process. Higher-end travel trailers and motorhomes use auto-leveling systems that won’t require the use of bubble levels.
Your RV’s bathroom doesn’t need to smell like a state fair’s port-a-john. Using the proper tools can keep your RV bathroom smelling fresh and toilet clog-free. Preventive maintenance isn’t that difficult but you do want to keep up with it.
Black tank chemical: This chemical comes in your choice of liquid, powder, and packets. A weekly treatment poured down your toilet is all you need to prevent odors and proper breakdown of waste. An an alternative to commercial products you can use Dawn dish soap.
RV toilet paper: Toilet paper designed for RVs are designed to breakdown in black holding tanks. Most residential toilet papers are too thick and will create clogs.
5. Emergency kit
Nobody wants to think about it, but emergency kits are one of those items you want stocked and ready to go. There are still places take hours or days for emergency services to reach. Making sure you’re safe if a disaster strikes is essential.
Road Side Kit: A good quality kit will have hazard signs, flares, jumper cables, and tow cables. You may not find an all-in-one kit with everything you need, so you’ll probably have to piece it together yourself.
First Aid and Survival Kit: You’ll want more than just band-aids and gauze. Good quality first aid kits have everything you need for almost any situation. You’ll also want survival items like matches (waterproof matches if possible) and freeze-dried food for a couple of days. Your freshwater tank will be your source of water, so use it sparingly.
6. Tool kit
Every RVer should have a basic knowledge of D.I.Y. repair. A couple of quick YouTube videos will show you travel trailer dos and don’ts in basic RV repair. Your tool kit should have the following items:
Set of screwdrivers with flat and Phillips heads
Set of Allen wrenches
Drill (if it’s cordless, have at least two batteries where one is fully charged)
Drill bits, screwdriver bits, and bits that fit your jacks
Heavy duty tire gauge
Two (or more) flashlights (preferably one wearable one to keep your hands free)
Small tube of silicone caulk
Rhino, duct, electrical, and masking tape (If you don’t know why, watch a couple of episodes of the Original Macgyver)
If your RV doesn’t have a factory-installed generator, it’s always a good idea to invest in a good one. There are many affordable options that are relatively quiet. This way you’ll have a power source when you’re dry camping or in a power outage.
8. Pet supplies
If you’re one of the over 65 percent of RVers that bring your pet with you having separate pet supplies just for the RV is a great way to avoid forgetting something. Outside safety equipment like leashes, latching devices, and outside toys will make their RV adventure a fun time. If your coach doesn’t have a built-in dog station I recommend a dog dish with a collar to prevent messes.
9. Back up camera
If you have a motorhome, you’ll already have a backup camera. Most towables now come prepped and wired with backup camera brackets. This camera makes traveling and parking easier.
10. Kitchen supplies
RV kitchen must-haves are essential. Having cookware, dishware, cutlery, and other kitchen items separate from your home make it less complicated when you’re getting ready to leave for your camping trip. Camping accessory manufacturers make these items specifically for camping to hold up to the conditions of camping.
RV mattress sizes can be different than residential sizes. Queen mattresses come in short, three-quarters, and other near residential measurements. Sheets, towels, and a portable laundry basket designated for your RV will keep your home linens from degrading too quickly.
12. Outdoor furniture
Picnic tables are good to use but they aren’t that relaxing. Having a mat at your entry will help you keep the dirt outside. Folding tables, folding lounge chairs, and other outdoor furniture will help you make the most of the outdoor camping experience.
13. Cleaning supplies
Camping and dirt go hand-in-hand. Vacuums, laundry detergent, and cleaning wipes should always be in a cabinet. Many veteran RVers like to use Dawn dish soap because of its many uses to clean other items besides dishes.
14. Internet service
Pretty much everything we do these days, we do online—so if you’re going to be spending significant time in an RV, internet is an essential. The bad news is, there’s no one easy answer to this question. Staying connected will depend on where and how you camp and what kind of surfer you are. But that bad news is also good news because it means there are plenty of ways to secure internet for your RV, which means you’re bound to find an option that will work for you. Here are the basic options for RV internet:
The last and most important thing is RV Insurance. RV insurance is different than car insurance. That’s why motorhomes, travel trailers, and campers need custom coverage. RV insurance gives you many of the same benefits you get with car insurance coverage but includes more protection based on the unique risks that RVs face.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.
Bring these 20 healthy snacks on your next road trip
Who doesn’t love good travel snacks? While fuel stops can provide you with a convenient, on-the-go snack, you’ll want to be careful with what you choose to eat while on the road.
As tempting as it may be to grab that Snickers bar when you stop to fill up on fuel for your road trip, you may regret that decision. Not only does a Snickers bar have absolutely no nutritional value to help your body get what it needs, it will actually put harmful chemicals in your body such as high fructose corn syrup.
By packing good, healthy snacks for your road trip, you’ll find that you won’t be tempted to grab that Snickers bar because you know something better is waiting for you in your RV.
If you eat healthy snacks and limit the unhealthy ones you should be more alert while driving. You might also feel good and have more energy to set up camp once you arrive at your destination.
What makes a good snack for a road trip?
Have you ever been on a road trip where you picked up a sweet treat at a fuel stop only to feel hungry again twenty minutes later? That’s because there is a significant difference between healthy snacks that will stave your hunger for a long time and not-so-healthy snacks that will make you feel hungrier in the long run.
So, what makes the healthiest, best road trip snacks?
Balance and measure
One thing you might want to try to do is to choose food that balances your blood sugar. If you eat fresh fruit like an apple pair it with protein. Have a handful of nuts, a smear of peanut butter, meat slices, or cheese.
Just be careful to watch your protein serving size, as nuts, cheese, and meats can pack a lot of calories. It is a good idea to measure out your snacks before driving. Otherwise, you might open a large bag of trail mix and mindlessly eat as you go which can result in an unhealthy calorie intake.
Taste the rainbow
Another suggested way to eat healthy on the road is to pack a rainbow of snacks. It is as simple as having natural foods that are different colors. For example, you can pack orange carrots, red apples, yellow bell peppers, green broccoli, and tan hummus.
Some people say the brighter your natural food color, the healthier it is (usually). Many white or brown foods indicate that they have been processed such as crackers. Limit those foods and avoid foods made bright from food dye.
When looking for a healthy snack, you also want to consider what contains healthy fats. Our bodies need fat but we want to have more healthy ones that come from natural foods. For example, consider making a sandwich with avocado instead of mayonnaise.
If you crave salty or sweet travel snacks while on the road, then treat yourself! Just limit road trip food that makes you feel groggy while driving your rig.
Favorite road trip snacks
The following are ideas for healthy road trip snacks that can be modified for you and your family.
Here, then, are my top picks for healthy road trip snacks.
1. Good ol’ fresh fruit
Many people like to munch on road trips, which is why chips and jerky and other stereotypical road trip snacks are popular. But, fresh fruit is an excellent alternative munchy! Living off chips leaves you feeling groggy and hungry.
It’s a good idea to pair fruit with some protein to help prevent your blood sugar from spiking which can cause tiredness and hunger once the fruit’s sugar wears off. Consider pairing all your fresh fruit snacks with protein like a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg, or string cheese.
Grapes are a great, healthy snack for those with a sweet tooth and those who like to munch to pass the time! Apple slices with peanut butter are also a great way to satisfy that need for a crunchy snack.
2. Protein bars
Protein bars can stick with you to keep hunger at bay until you arrive at your destination. Be careful, though with your choice of protein bars. There are countless protein bars out there that are full of nothing but sugar and crazy additives and preservatives that you’ve never heard of.
Instead, look for a protein bar with natural ingredients that will give you the nutrients your body needs and wants without the sugar crash. Be sure to read the nutrients table.
Or consider a meat-bar. Yes. That’s a thing. There’s Bison Bacon Cranberry Bar, Chicken Sriracha Strips, and Oven Baked Pork Rinds.
3. Meat, cheese, and crackers
Meat, cheese, and crackers are a favorite snack. Not only does this delicious combination taste great but it packs a big punch of protein to help tie you over during a long drive.
Though they are more expensive than making your own, you can buy premade packs from the grocery store that are quite yummy.
Consider bringing summer sausage, salami, pepperoni, or your favorite lunch meat. You can also include whatever type of cheese you love. Some folks like to buy blocks of Pepper Jack or Swiss and cut them into bite-size cubes. Cheese Snack Sticks and Babybel cheeses are two easy on-the-go kinds of cheese you can take. They both come with self-contained packages which help keep them fresh until you are ready to nosh.
4. String cheese
You’re never too old to eat string cheese especially when you know the nutritional benefits it provides. Pair your string cheese with apple slices and you’ll have a snack that perfectly covers healthy fat, good protein, and complex carbs. With this trio of nutrients, you won’t be hungry again for a while and you’ll also feel your energy levels increase.
5. Hard-boiled eggs
I have to admit that hard-boiled eggs are not my favorite but they do make a great snack. They are a great source of protein and come with their nature packaging. These little eggs are not only easy to prepare, they are easy to store and easy to eat on the road. You can add a little salt or paprika to spice it up a bit. Just remember, easy on the salt!
For some extra crunch and the perks of some quality complex carbs, add some whole wheat crackers to your egg snack for the perfect pick-me-up.
6. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds pack a lot of excellent nutrients. You can choose the unshelled roasted seeds for an easy-to-eat snack. These are easy to pick up at a convenience or grocery store.
Some people love opening the seeds themselves. It helps pass the time and can also help you eat less. Shelling them can help you feel fuller since it will take longer to eat your snack.
Just be sure to check the serving size since nuts and seeds can have a lot of calories. Plus, opt for salt-free sunflower seeds.
7. Granola bars
Granola and energy bars are convenient road snacks. Bars come in different flavors and can be healthy food but they are not all created equal. Some bars are packed with nutrients while others are just empty calories like a candy bar. You can also find bars with less sugar that will also be likely to have fewer calories.
8. Trail mix
Trail mix is one of the easiest healthy snacks for a road trip and it will fill you up for hours. One serving of a nuts and seeds trail mix has 336 calories, 25 grams of fat (only 6 grams of saturated fat), 4 grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, and no cholesterol. Plus, this is one of the best road trip snacks for kids.
Trail mix is a great way to get healthy protein and fats into your road trip day. Trail mix takes a while for your body to process making you feel full and energized for a long drive. You want to watch your serving size and choose trail mix that limits candy in the mix.
Consider taking along baby carrots or celery sticks as a healthy snack while driving on travel days. This is an easy way to get your veggies in a while on the road. If you are not a huge vegetable fan, consider bringing a small tub of dip for the veggies.
Hummus is another healthy snack that can be paired with vegetables. You can even buy a lower-fat ranch or make your own using plain Greek yogurt and Ranch seasoning to keep it as healthy as possible. Or, if Ranch is your go-to vegetable dip, bring some along.
10. Beef jerky
This road trip snack is packed full of protein which is one of the best ways to satisfy your hunger. However, don’t opt for jerky from the gas station that comes loaded with preservatives and whose sodium levels are off the charts. Instead, pick up an organic, grass-fed one from your local natural foods store.
Popcorn is a great source of fiber and complex carbs that will help your body stay regular and provide you with energy while on the road. Make sure you’re not getting the microwave popcorn that is filled with chemicals. Instead, grab one from the natural foods store that has ingredients of just corn, salt, and oil. Even better yet, pop some on the stove at home using olive oil or butter and just salt. That way, you know exactly what you’re getting.
The protein from these nuts is plant-based and they’re also packed full of unsaturated fats and fiber. Not to mention, they’re much lower in terms of calories than other nuts. Pistachios weigh in at just 4 calories per nut while Brazil nuts are 33 calories each.
Pistachios aren’t the only great nuts on the block—walnuts are great for their own reasons. They have the highest amount of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids when compared with all other nuts which will help you feel full for a longer amount of time.
Though carrots do have fiber in them and other great nutritional value, one of the reasons I suggest this as a road trip snack is because oftentimes when on the road, you find yourself wanting to eat simply because you’re bored. So, rather than fill that boredom with unhealthy snacks, munch on some carrots that will take you a while to eat and will keep you busy without making a mess.
Similar to carrots, grapes are a great option for when you’re bored and want to eat something on the road. Healthy, clean, and easy to eat, grapes will help stave off the boredom. Just don’t go overboard with the grapes—they do have a lot of sugar in them.
16. Hummus and celery
Hummus is another great protein-packed snack that will help keep your belly full and happy. In addition, hummus is full of B vitamins. And celery is the perfect dipping stick. Low in calories, but high in water content, your body will love this hummus-celery combo.
17. Greek yogurt
It’s protein all the way with Greek yogurt. This little snack is full of it and will help keep you full until your next meal. Top your Greek yogurt with some nuts or fruit for some added fiber and energy.
18. PB sandwich (skip the J)
Though I love jelly, it usually doesn’t offer up anything but loads of added sugar. Instead, grab for quality peanut butter (be sure to check your ingredients and say no to peanut butter with sugar added to it for a healthy dose of protein and fat.
Slather that peanut butter on some whole wheat bread and you’ve covered your complex carbs, your protein, and your fat. If you’re feeling extra hungry, grab a banana, slice it up, and throw it in between the bread and have yourself a PB&B.
19. Dried fruits
Before you buy any dried fruits, be sure you check the label. You do not want to get any that have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Find the ones that simply have ingredients listed as just the fruit and nothing else. Better yet, make your own.
20. Dark chocolate
Yes, you read that right: dark chocolate. While I don’t recommend chowing down an entire bar in one sitting (and you probably wouldn’t want to with the really dark stuff), there are some benefits from eating a bit of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is known to lower the risk of heart disease while also increasing brain function. As if we weren’t on board already!
The most important thing is to snack on things that are filled with real food and nourishing ingredients that will leave you feeling energised and happy.
Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip cookie dough pops…the possibilities are endless for tasty, irresistible treats on National Chocolate Chip Day
Today is National Chocolate Chip Day! Chocolate chips are an essential ingredient in dozens of delicious baked goods—chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip pancakes, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate chip brownies, chocolate chip bagels, and many more. You can even find chili recipes that call for these sweet morsels!
We might not know which came first—the chicken, or the egg—but when it comes to chocolate chips and their namesake cookie, the history is well-documented and it might not be what you think. Chocolate chips actually came after the chocolate chip cookie and despite their presence everywhere are likely younger than your grandmother.
The recipe spread like wildfire and after a few years of selling their semi-sweet chocolate bars with a chopping tool (for easy chunking of the bar), Nestlé went one step further by introducing chocolate morsels to the world. With such a history and with so much mass appeal it’s no surprise that this kitchen delight deserves celebration and that’s why on May 15, we have National Chocolate Chip Day.
Have you ever wondered how a single ingredient would change a recipe? If it weren’t for one curious baker, it would be hard to imagine where we would be without the invention of chocolate chips.
In 1937, Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, owned the popular Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. While mulling new desserts to serve at the inn’s restaurant, she decided to make a batch of Butter Drop Do pecan cookies (a thin butterscotch treat) with an alteration using semisweet chocolate instead of baker’s chocolate.
Rather than melting in the baker’s chocolate, she used an ice pick to cut the semisweet chocolate into tiny pieces. Upon removing the cookies from the oven, Wakefield found that the semisweet chocolate had held its shape much better than baker’s chocolate which tended to spread throughout the dough during baking to create a chocolate-flavored cookie. These cookies instead had sweet little nuggets of chocolate studded throughout. The recipe for the treats—known as Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies—was included in a late 1930s edition of her cookbook, Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes.
Nestle initially included a small chopping tool with the chocolate bars, too.
Starting in 1941, Nestle and other competitors started selling the chocolate in chip or morsel form. For the first time, bakers began making chocolate chip cookies without chopping up the chocolate bar first.
Chocolate chips originally came in semi-sweet. Later, chocolate producers began offering bittersweet, mint, white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white and dark swirled. Today, chips also come in a variety of other flavors that bakers and candy makers use creatively in their kitchens.
While cookies may be the first treat to come to mind, imagination is really the only thing limiting how chocolate chips can be used in baking and candy making. Even savory dishes feature chocolate chips in a variety of ways, too. Had Ruth Graves Wakefield never wondered what a few chopped up chunks of chocolate would be like in her baking, we wouldn’t even have chocolate chip cookies.
National Chocolate Chip Day timeline
1937: Ruth Graves Wakefield creates the chocolate-chip cookie
1963: Chips Ahoy! hits the shelves in U.S. supermarkets
1991: Ben and Jerry’s creates Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
1997: The chocolate-chip cookie is named and recognized as the official state cookie of Massachusetts
Why I love National Chocolate Chip Day
Chocolate chips are everywhere: They might have been created with one purpose in mind but chocolate chips have branched out since their early days as cookie-fillers. Nowadays, it’s hard to think up a confection that hasn’t donned a chocolate chip cap whether its pancakes, muffins, or ice cream sundaes.
The choices … oh, so many choices: The chocolate chips that eventually found their way into the classic chocolate chip cookie are made of semi-sweet chocolate but they now come in a plethora of options ranging from white chocolate to dark chocolate and all the way to caramel ensuring that no matter what you’re baking there’s a place for a chip!
Big or small—I’ll eat them all: Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, no matter the size. They could be small (so long as there’s enough to have more than one!) or they could be massive as in the case of Immaculate Baking’s 40,000 pound Guinness Record breaker but regardless of size, they’re sure to draw a crowd. The fact that chocolate chips were used to break the record of world’s largest cookie is only a testament to their universality and it’s safe to say that they’ll always have a space on the shelf of any baker.
National Chocolate Chip Day activities
Hack the kitchen: Chocolate for dinner
Most chefs know how to use tried-and-true flavor combinations to great effect but the best chefs create new combinations altogether. Try using chocolate chips in a dinner recipe for a real challenge. If you’re looking for a place to start, you might consider trying a Mexican mole (pronounced moh-lay) sauce recipe. Mole sauce tastes fantastic with chicken, tostadas, chicken or veggie enchiladas, tacos, and burritos.
How big can you bake it?
You probably won’t approach the world record but National Chocolate Chip Day is the perfect occasion to try your hand at baking the biggest chocolate chip cookie possible.
Art you can eat
With a mix of chocolate chips, M&Ms, and some other similarly-sized chocolate candies you’re well on your way to a kid-friendly edible art project!
If you just toss a bunch of random items into your recreational vehicle with no organization and then head down the road, you are bound to have problems during your trip.
It is vital to know how to properly load your RV safely based on its weight ratings. You need a strategy that will reduce swaying, bouncing, tire blowouts, and a host of other problems.
RV weight distribution is something not a lot of RV owners think about. This is unfortunate because ensuring that the weight in your RV is evenly distributed is incredibly important for safety reasons.
Trailers with cargo that haven’t been distributed across the rig evenly are more likely to sway. Additionally, all RVs that are loaded unevenly (or overloaded) can suffer from suspension issues, problems with tires, and in some cases, issues with steering.
Clearly, these are not things you want to have trouble with while driving down the road. Fortunately, this is a problem that can be easy to avoid. The solution lies in the way you load RV.
Here are my tips for packing your motorhome or trailer with RV weight distribution in mind.
Why can’t you just throw everything in?
It is extremely important to learn how to load and pack your recreational vehicle both from comfort and safety standpoints.
People often forget that an RV is basically just a vehicle and as such it needs to be well balanced if it is to move safely along roads and highways. Lopsided coaches don’t hold up well to slippery roads nor do they do well in areas where there is road construction. Furthermore, a poorly packed coach makes finding things difficult and leaves travelers doing without items they couldn’t readily locate.
This is why you must pack and load your camper, travel trailer, or motorhome carefully. Comfort and safety are everything when you are on the road and only you can take steps to make sure things are set up and done right.
Why proper loading and packing matters
When coaches are not balanced, they are dangerous and difficult to drive safely.
When they are not properly packed, they also can make travelers miserable.
You do not want to find yourself standing on the side of the road beside your overturned coach and you certainly do not want to use your commode only to find you have forgotten your toilet paper!
If you learn the correct method to prepare your motorhome or camper for travel, these types of situations become non issues. With careful organization and planning, you should never have to worry.
How to balance your RV load
The keys to good loading are to keep your unit bottom-heavy and make sure that the items you pack are distributed over your coach’s axles. Here are the most important basics:
Check your manuals to find out the maximum weight each axle can carry
Weigh the empty coach on a certified scale at a truck stop
Pack it, making sure that the heavier items are low and are spread out evenly along its entire length
Weigh it again
Make adjustments as needed
The heaviest weight in a travel unit is in the appliances, slide rooms, engine, generator, and fuel and water tanks so weighing lets you know which axles are carrying the most weight.
Once you have this information you can pack light where the weight is heaviest and pack heavy where the weight is lightest. You should also pack light items high and heavy items low.
When you do this, your unit will be less likely to sway out of control or to flip over since you will be able to maintain better control.
Know your limits
First and foremost, you need to know the limits of your rig. This includes the cargo-carrying capacity of your RV and the towing capacity of your truck (if applicable) as well as the gross axle weight rating (the amount that can be put on any given axle).
Knowing these numbers and ensuring you stay within the given boundaries is the first step in properly loading your RV and staying safe on the road.
Pick and choose
Once you know the limits of your RV you can decide what you will take and what you’ll have to leave behind in order to stay within those limits. Packing light is the name of the game! Versatile items that can serve multiple purposes and small lightweight options are ideal.
Obviously, you will only want to take the essentials. Leave unnecessary items at home. But taking some toys or outdoor gear is probably fine. Just do so in moderation and keep those weight limits in mind.
Keep things balanced
Once you know the basic parameters you are working with and what you can pack, the next thing to do is actually move the items into your RV. Remember to keep things as balanced as possible—both side-to-side and front-to-back.
Take note of where appliances and slides are. They are heavy and should be taken into consideration as you decide where items should be stored. Use all storage bays and spread things out evenly between them. If most of your cabinets are on one side of the RV, try to put heavy items on the opposite side to balance out what you store in the cabinets.
Heavy items low and centered
Have some especially heavy items you need to pack? Those should be kept on the floor and on top of an axle. This will help prevent the heavy item from putting too much weight on the front or back. Storing on the floor also ensures the item doesn’t fall, break things, and/or hurt people while the RV is in transit.
When possible, pack an item of similar weight on the opposite side. Or pack the heavy item opposite your main kitchen appliances in order to even things out from side to side.
How to load drawers and cabinets
Another thing to keep in mind as you’re loading up the RV is how to load the drawers and cabinets.
You want to make sure only lightweight things are in the overhead cabinets in order to help keep things balanced and keep your passengers safe if you’re in a motorhome. Meanwhile, the drawers should not be overloaded as this can break them—and if all of your drawers are on one side of the RV (as is often the case) you’ll be putting a lot of weight in one area and throwing off the balance of the rig.
Keep tank locations in mind
Water is heavy. It weighs in at 8.34 pounds per gallon meaning a 40-gallon tank weighs over 333 pounds when full. That’s a lot of weight and it can easily put you over your cargo-carrying capacity and out of balance.
If you plan to drive with a full fresh or waste water tank make sure you know where that particular tank is located and try to pack everything in such a way that the extra weight is balanced out and you aren’t over your RV’s weight limit.
Observe before you drive
Once everything is loaded into the RV, it’s time for a visual inspection. Head outside and look at the rig. Make sure it isn’t obviously leaning to one side or the other. If you pull a trailer, make sure the trailer isn’t weighing down the truck and make sure the bottom of the trailer is parallel with the ground.
Essentially, you are looking for any signs that you’ve overloaded the RV or that the weight inside isn’t balanced. You will want to add this visual inspection to your pre-trip walk-around every time you drive.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to know whether you’re overloaded and almost impossible to know whether one axle is taking the brunt of the work without getting properly weighed. Even if everything looks good from the outside you could still be totally out of balance. For this reason, it’s best to head to a nearby truck scale to be weighed after you’ve loaded the RV.
RV weight distribution is incredibly important. With this knowledge you can take the needed steps to avoid dangerous situations caused by uneven weight distribution from becoming an issue dring your RV travels.
I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.
World Migratory Bird Day is officially celebrated on the second Saturday of May. However, every day is Bird Day and you can celebrate birds and host events any day of the year!
Legendarily vast, Texas spans habitats from southern bald-cypress swamps to the Chihuahuan Desert and from the subtropical lower Rio Grande Valley to the windswept plains of the Llano Estacado. Little wonder, then, that Texas’s bird list of nearly 650 ranks second among the states (behind only California).
The Lone Star state is home to some of the most famous birding sites in the country: High Island, Bolivar Flats, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Big Bend National Park. The list could go on and on.
In celebration of World Migratory Bird Day on the second Saturday of May (May 13, 2023), here is a look at a dozen of my favorite birding sites in Texas which hosts more bird-watching festivals than any other state.
World Birding Center
Not just one, but nine unique birding locations in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Each site of the World Birding Center has its own attractions. From a historic adobe hacienda to scenic bluffs high above the Rio Grande and pristine wilderness to teeming wetlands, the World Birding Center network offers visitors an array of birding adventures. These Rio Grande Valley locations coordinate more than 500 bird species between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Rio Grande Valley Communities, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and World Birding Center is a great place to begin a south Texas nature adventure. As a large remnant tract of Rio Grande floodplain forest, Bentsen is a magnet for the many regional bird species that make south Texas famous. Green jays, Altamira orioles, and plain chachalacas congregate regularly at the bird feeding stations. Other birds to look for include gray hawk, white-tipped dove, groove-billed ani, northern beardless-tyrannulet, clay-colored thrush, long-billed thrasher, and green heron.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
More species of birds have been recorded at Laguna Atascosa (417) than at any other national wildlife refuge in the nation. Laguna Atascosa covers 97,000 acres near the southern tip of Texas comprising thornscrub forest, freshwater wetlands, prairies, beaches, and mudflats. A quarter-million ducks winter in the area including Redhead, Grebes, American White Pelican, and Sandhill Crane also winter here. Around 30 species of shorebirds can be found here throughout much of the year.
Many birders visit the refuge to see some of the specialties of southern Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley such as Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe, White-tailed Kite, Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, White-tipped Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, Curve-billed Thrasher, Long-billed Thrasher, Botteri’s Sparrow, Olive Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Bronzed Cowbird, and Altamira Oriole.
Guadalupe River State Park
A paradise for bird watchers in the Hill Country with 240 documented bird species, Guadalupe River State Park is located 30 miles north of San Antonio at the north end of Park Road 31, northwest of Bulverde. You’ll find the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, the goldfinch of Texas, and the only bird species with a breeding range limited to Texas. Thirteen miles of hiking trails include the 2.86-mile Painted Bunting Trail to spot one of these colorful birds.
Pro Tip: Reserve one of 85 hookup campsites here. Purchase an annual Texas State Park Pass for free entry to more than 80 state parks.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend ranks with America’s great birding destinations and if offers endless fascination for hikers, geology buffs, photographers, history-lovers, botanists, and people who enjoy dramatic, rugged landscapes. Situated on the Rio Grande in western Texas, the park doesn’t receive nearly the visitation its rewards truly merit.
Big Bend comprises three main ecosystems: Most of the park is Chihuahuan Desert, a terrain of cactus and shrubs. In the center, the Chisos Mountains rise to more than 7,000 feet with oak canyons and ponderosa pine. Along the Rio Grande is a lush green strip of cottonwoods, willows, and other wetland vegetation. All this contributes to Big Bend’s great diversity of birds.
The park’s most sought-after species is Colima Warbler which nests in the Chisos Mountains, usually requiring a several-mile hike to find. More likely in lower elevations are such species as Scaled Quail, Gray Hawk, Greater Roadrunner, Common Poorwill, Vermilion Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Curve-billed Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, Varied Bunting, and Scott’s Oriole.
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
So many wonderful birding sites are located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that it’s hard to single out one or even a handful. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge comprising 2,088 acres on the Rio Grande south of Alamo has long been a favorite destination of birders from around the world with its woodlands and wetlands. Santa Ana has a fine visitor center with a log of recent bird sightings. From here, many trails wind into the woods. From November through April, the refuge operates a tram (fee) along the auto tour route which is closed to vehicles in that season, though it can be walked.
Many of the region’s specialties are seen here including Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe, White-tipped Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, and Altamira Oriole to name only a few of the most regular species.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
A superb all-around birding destination, Aransas occupies a large peninsula surrounded by coastal bays separated from the Gulf of Mexico by barrier islands. It boasts an astoundingly lengthy bird list of more than 400 species yet the refuge is known best for one bird—the Whooping Crane. Standing nearly five feet tall Whooping Cranes are sometimes seen from the observation tower located along the refuge’s 16-mile auto tour route. The best way to see them is to take a commercial tour from Rockport or Port Aransas in the season from November to April.
Waterfowl, grebes, and rails are present in wetlands from fall through spring. Ponds, marshes, and bays are home year round to cormorants, pelicans, 14 or more species of wading birds including Roseate Spoonbill and around eight species of terns. The refuge’s location makes it possible to see a great diversity of migrant birds following the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.
High Island has a salt dome and mineral spring at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and rises 32 feet above the surrounding marshes. For a few weeks each spring, this small town less than a mile from the Texas coast becomes a busy gathering place for birds and birders. Northbound migrant birds having crossed the Gulf of Mexico fly down to the woodland tracts here to rest and feed in the proper conditions creating a “fallout” with birds seemingly crowding every limb of every tree: flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and more.
The action starts in March and peaks in late April and early May. There’s no guarantee that any particular day will be a great one but the day after a storm or front with north winds is often the best. But in spring at High Island even an average day is really good.
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Five species of geese winter on this refuge at times in enormous flocks—up to 10,000 have been estimated in one field, for example. Hagerman lies along the shore of the southern arm of Lake Texoma on the route of the Central Flyway so waterfowl find it a welcome rest stop on migration and a hospitable home in winter.
Geese—Greater White-fronted, Snow, Ross’s, Cackling, and Canada—make up part of the waterfowl numbers with 15 or more species of ducks added. Bald Eagles winters here ready to make a meal of any injured birds. American White Pelican is present year round and Roseate Spoonbill can arrive as a post-breeding visitor.
Hagerman’s bird list of 338 species includes more than 35 species of shorebirds that feed in shallow water and mudflats along with more than 15 species of wading birds attracted to the wetlands.
A four-mile wildlife drive passes along the lakeshore and several hiking trails access woodland (including some bottomland forest), grassland, and ponds.
An amazing congregation of shorebirds and wading birds is often on display at Bolivar Flats, a coastal spot on the Bolivar Peninsula across the channel from Galveston. It’s reached by turning south on Rettilon Road about 3.6 miles east of the ferry landing in Port Bolivar. (A town parking permit obtainable locally is required.)
Practically every species of cormorant, pelican, heron, egret, ibis, plover, sandpiper, gull, tern, and similar bird that ever ventured near the Texas coast has appeared here. Many other species stop in or pass overhead, too, which explains the bird list of more than 320 for this one small spot on the coast.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
One of the must-visit sites of American birding, Anahuac protects 34,000 acres of marsh, prairie, and scattered woods. Its richness of bird life makes it a place that can be explored over and over with something new seen every time.
Flocks of waterfowl from fall through spring, fifteen or more species of wading birds, rails and other marsh birds—these are just a few of the highlights of Anahuac. Roads lead from the visitor information station at the main entrance to East Bay, an arm of Galveston Bay accessing ponds, marshes, observation platforms, and trails. Though waterbirds are the highlight here, an area called The Willows, an isolated tract of trees just west of the entrance, can be a songbird magnet in migration.
A small sampling of breeding-season birds found here includes Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Wood Stork (post-breeding visitor), Neotropic Cormorant, Least Bittern, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Rail, King Rail, Clapper Rail, Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Seaside Sparrow, and Dickcissel.
Brazos Bend State Park
Sites on the Texas Gulf Coast get most of the publicity but this state park 30 miles southwest of Houston is well worth a visit for its attractive scenery as well as its birds. Here, live oaks draped with Spanish moss and other hardwoods such as elm, hackberry, sycamore, pecan, and cottonwood create a lush landscape along the Brazos River and its tributary Big Creek.
Look on park lakes and wetlands for Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, many species of waders including both night-herons and Roseate Spoonbill, and Purple Gallinule. Fulvous Whistling-Duck and Least Grebe are seen occasionally.
Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge
This refuge 25 miles southwest of Amarillo protects a 175-acre tract of native shortgrass prairie of such quality that it has been designated a National Natural Landmark. It’s a good place to see many open-country birds as well as seasonal waterfowl and shorebirds.
The lake for which the refuge was named has dried up because of overuse of the local aquifer. However, the refuge manages other wetlands that act as a virtual magnet for birds in this arid region. From fall through spring, many ducks use these wetlands; some such as Cinnamon Teal and Redhead remain to nest.
Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet breed here and more than 25 species of shorebirds have been recorded in migration. Some of the nesting birds here are Wild Turkey, Greater Roadrunner, Burrowing Owl, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Chihuahuan Raven, and Rock Wren.
Great Texas Wildlife Trail
This is where it all started—where the birding trail concept was pioneered in the 1990s. Still luring birdwatchers from all over the world, the Great Texas Wildlife Trail offers good birding throughout the year but the upper coast is at its best in spring migration when songbirds crossing the Gulf of Mexico make landfall. When the timing is right, you’ll find trees filled with colorful congregations of warblers, orioles, tanagers, and buntings.
Most famous for water birds, the central coast is highlighted by the wintering population of Whooping Cranes centered in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Now readily seen from November to March, the cranes are not the only spectacles here; you might also encounter shaggy-plumed Reddish Egrets, blazing pink Roseate Spoonbills, and beautifully patterned White-tailed Hawks.
The lower coast trail takes in a magical region where dozens of species spill across the border from Mexico enlivening the American landscape with a mosaic of surprises—noisy Ringed Kingfishers like Belted Kingfishers on steroids, Great Kiskadees that seem too colorful for the flycatcher family, and Green Jays which provide a shocking departure from their relatives’ blue tones.
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
Fire can consume an RV in a matter of minutes. Having a plan and the proper tools to deal with a fire can save your RV—and your life.
Man’s quest for fire has been around since the beginning of time and fire can be a good thing. It can be used to cook food, heat your living space, and add a bit of ambience to a living space or a campsite. However, fire represents a risk that RVers need to keep top of mind. An RV fire can spread in a fast and furious manner leading to devastating damage, injury, and even loss of life.
RVs have numerous potential sources of fires—RV refrigerators, propane appliances, space heaters, washers and driers, gasoline or diesel engines, and electrical wiring that take a beating when traveling on less-than-ideal highways. So, every RV owner needs to develop a safety plan that covers how to deal with a fire. This involves fire extinguishers as well as the necessary detection devices and an escape plan.
Your first decision
If a fire breaks out, you’ll be faced with an important and immediate decision: Fight or flight. Do you stay and try to put out the fire or do you get out and wait for the fire department? Your safety and that of your loved ones should always be your highest priority. You can replace your RV and the stuff in it but you can’t replace someone’s life. And it’s important to know that the most common cause of death in a fire is not from the flames but from the smoke and the toxins created by burning material—especially the synthetic material common in today’s RVs.
Since it’s a natural reaction to want to try to douse a flame a bit of forethought can help you make the best decision when you’re under pressure and the clock is ticking. It may be possible to handle a small fire with an extinguisher but if the fire is larger or if the fire prevents you from accessing an extinguisher, it’s time to exit the RV.
Creating and practicing an escape plan is crucial. Smoke and heat build up fast during a fire, so it’s vital to know where the exits are. Practice getting to them so it becomes second nature. Exiting via the entry door is the ideal choice and some newer Class A motorhomes offer emergency egress doors. Still, you may need to go out through one of the emergency exit windows. However, these may not be as simple as they seem. Getting to them—and getting through them—can be a challenge. This is something you should practice because you won’t have time to figure it out during an actual fire.
Open the exit windows a couple of times a year to make sure they still function properly. It’s best to go out through the window feet first and belly down. The drop to the ground can be long. Some people move a picnic table next to the emergency window to lessen the distance.
Remember, time is not on your side in an emergency.
At its core, fire is a rapid chemical reaction that requires three key elements: fuel, oxygen, and heat, sometimes referred to as the fire triangle. If you remove any one of these elements, the fire cannot be sustained.
RVs contain an overabundance of fuel sources. They are made with large amounts of wood and composite materials that use extensive amounts of glues and insulating foams. They also have plenty of wiring which has flammable insulation and most have propane on board and—in the case of motorhomes—gasoline or diesel fuel. Of course, oxygen is readily available in the air, so all that’s needed to complete the fire triangle is heat.
Materials that serve as fuel need to be raised only to their combustible temperature for ignition to occur. An electrical short can create intense heat in a wire which can burn insulation or ignite surrounding material such as wood paneling or foam insulation. A loose connection can also throw sparks that ignite fuels. Gases or flammable liquids that reach open flames or hot surfaces can flash and ignite.
RVs are required to be equipped with a fire extinguisher, per National Fire Protection Association code. However, it only needs to meet the minimum requirements. So, fire extinguishers that come with RVs tend to be undersized and may not be equal to the task. While all fires may seem the same, they are not. Fires fall into three different classifications:
Class A fires use solid combustible fuels (other than metals) such as wood, paper, fabric, and plastics. Class A fires leave behind ash so think of the word ash to help remember what a Class A fire is. To extinguish a Class A fire, you can either separate it from its oxygen source or cool it to below its flash point. This is the easiest fire to extinguish and water works well because it cools the material below its combustible temperature.
Class B fires involve flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, diesel fuel, and alcohol. Liquids boil so think of the word boil to remember what Class B fires are. These fires cannot be extinguished with water because the liquid fuel floats on the surface of the water and spreads to other areas making the situation worse.
Class C electrical fires are caused by energized circuits. If the circuit is live consider it a Class C fire. Note that the wire itself doesn’t burn but the insulation and things surrounding it do. Electrical wires conduct current so associate the word current with a Class C fire. Using a water-type extinguisher on a Class C fire can create an electrical shock hazard. Once the circuit is de-energized, however, you can treat it as a Class A fire.
Fire extinguisher ratings
Fire extinguishers are rated by an alphanumeric system. The letter stands for the fire classification(s) that the extinguisher is rated to handle while the number in front of the letter indicates how large of a fire it is designed to handle. The number preceding the letter A is a water equivalency rating with each A equal to the effectiveness of using 1¼ gallons of water. As an example, an extinguisher with a 2A label is rated as effective as using 2½ gallons of water on Class A fires.
Class B and C extinguishers also have a number but it represents the square footage that the extinguisher is designed to handle. For example, an extinguisher with a 10B:C label is an extinguisher designed to handle Class B or C fires up to 10 square feet in size. It’s common to combine labels on a single extinguisher such as 2A10BC. Obviously, the larger the number, the better equipped you’ll be. You don’t want to run out of fire retardant before the fire is extinguished.
An effective warning system can save your RV—or save your life.
With large RVs, it may take a while for smoke to travel from one end to the other. Therefore, it’s important to have multiple smoke alarms within the unit—one in the front and one in the back. Don’t place one too close to the cooking area, however, or you may be setting it off every time you burn the toast.
Smoke rises, so smoke alarms need to be mounted on or near the ceiling. Smoke alarms utilize either ionization or photoelectric sensing technologies. Ionization alarms are more responsive to flaming fires, whereas photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. Each type works best in different situations. Fortunately, manufacturers make smoke alarms that incorporate both sensors in one unit.
If an RV develops a leak in a propane line or an appliance, highly flammable gas can build up. Since propane is heavier than air, it settles near the ground where it can creep along waiting for a pilot light or spark to ignite it. That is why propane gas alarms are mounted on an interior wall close to the floor.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a byproduct of combustion and can come from fire, a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger, an exhaust system, or the exhaust from an auxiliary generator—yours or a nearby neighbor. CO is slightly lighter than air but doesn’t rise to the ceiling the way smoke does so CO alarms usually should be mounted mid-wall. Some manufacturers now offer combination alarms, either propane and CO alarm or smoke and CO alarm. The combination propane and CO alarms generally are located beneath the refrigerator which is perfect for detecting propane but may not be as effective for detecting carbon monoxide. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the best location to place the alarm.
Since people are most vulnerable to the effects of CO poisoning while sleeping, it’s a good idea to have a detector near the bedroom.
Some CO alarms feature a digital LCD display that shows how much CO gas has accumulated. As little as 250 parts per million over an eight-hour period can be fatal, so a good alarm adds up the accumulative amounts, while less expensive models sound an alert only if a large amount of CO is present at one time.
CO and propane alarms become less effective over time, so these alarms should be replaced every 10 or so years, or as indicated in the user’s manual. The date of manufacture is stamped on the device.
Without a doubt, the most important factor when dealing with a fire is a calm mind. In an emergency, the mind always reverts to preparation, so rehearse what to do under any given situation. Discuss and practice how to deal with a particular fire and whether to fight it or exit the RV. Practice each escape route and method.
Outfit the RV with an adequate number of and the right type of fire extinguishers knowing that the one small dry chemical unit that came with the RV probably won’t be enough. The same holds true for warning devices. Smoke, propane, and carbon monoxide alarms need to be properly located in order to be effective.