Registration is Open for RVSEF Safety Conference

Registration is open for the Recreation Vehicle Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF) RV Technical Education & Safety Conference is set to run Sept. 27-Oct. 1 in Elizabethtown, Ky.

“The RVSEF RV Technical Education & Safety Conference has been called an RV academy, RV school, and a college for RVers, but the best description would be that it is a pure learning opportunity for RV enthusiasts, new or potentially new RV owners and seasoned RV veterans who want to know more about everything RV. The conference is focused solely on education with a personal touch, so I guess any of those titles would work,” said Walter Cannon, RVSEF executive director. “Our curriculum covers technical topics, safety topics and lifestyle topics. Hands-on driving is also offered before and after the conference, for those who own their own RV. For those who don’t own yet, we have a couple units made available to us through Skaggs RV.”

Instructors for the technical training offer years of accumulated education, knowledge and experience. In addition Vice President of Standards Bruce Hopkins and Director of Education Shannon Lee with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Dave Mihalick, director of vehicle safety and regulator compliance for Thor Industries Inc., are slated as guest speakers.

Enrollment is limited to 200 attendees, 25 dry camping spaces, and 30 hands-on driving classes on a first-come-first-served basis. To register visit

RV Education 101 videos: RV Battery Tips, Preview of 2018 RVs, 30 vs 50 Amp, and How To Reseal & Replace RV Windows

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

RV Geeks: Winter RVing Secret Weapon, Water Heater Flush & Inspection, Plumbing Leak Diagnosis & Repair and Replace an RV Water Heater Thermostat

About RV Geeks
The RV Geeks offer RV maintenance, repair & travel tips from “Do-It-Ourselves” full-time RVers. They’ve handled most of their own RV maintenance during more than a decade of exploring North America. While not RV technicians, the RV Geeks are mechanically inclined and have learned a lot about RV systems over the years. They handle most of their own minor service, repair and upgrade work on their 2005 43-foot Newmar Mountain Aire diesel pusher. They also maintained their 2002 39′ Fleetwood Bounder Diesel during their first two years on the road. Visit their website and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Stewardship volunteers needed throughout January in southern Michigan state parks

Volunteers help restore park ecosystems by assisting
in volunteer workdays that take place each month in
southern Michigan. (DNR photo)
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will host a number of volunteer stewardship workdays in January at state parks and recreation areas in southeast and southwest Michigan.

Volunteers are needed to help locate and remove nonnative, invasive shrubs that threaten to crowd out native plants and disrupt balance in high-quality ecosystems. Workdays are an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors while restoring Michigan's ecosystems and learning about its inhabitants.

The calendar of volunteer stewardship workdays (which includes workday details, the stewardship volunteer registration form and links to individual park maps and directions) is available on the DNR website at All volunteers are asked to register either by using the form or via email.

Volunteers should bring work gloves, drinking water and appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes.

Southeast Michigan workdays

Southwest Michigan workdays

The DNR's Volunteer Stewardship Program is a hands-on way for all ages to learn about and protect Michigan's natural resources by collecting native seeds, removing invasive species, conducting plant and animal surveys and other activities. Other ways to volunteer with the DNR include joining a state park friends group, serving as a campground host or a lightkeeper and many other opportunities.

Questions should be directed to Laurel Malvitz (southeast Michigan) at 517-719-2285 or or Heidi Frei (southeast Michigan) at 517-202-1360 or

Rollin' on TV: A Look Back at 2017

On this week's program (#2017-26), Rollin' On TV wraps up the previous year with a look back at some of the RVs, destinations and people featured in 2017.

About Rollin' On TV
In production since 2010, Rollin' On TV has become one of the leading RV lifestyle television programs on the air today, reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For more information, visit

GasBuddy Warns 2018 Gas Prices to be Highest Since 2014

Motorists will be digging a bit deeper for the second straight year as the yearly national average will rise 19 cents versus last year to $2.57 per gallon, the highest since 2014, according to the 2018 Fuel Price Outlook released today by GasBuddy, a leading smartphone app that connects 70 million drivers with their Perfect Pit Stop.

Some highlights from GasBuddy’s 2018 Fuel Price Outlook include:

  • The nation’s yearly gasoline bill will rise to $364.6 billion dollars, some $25 billion higher than what motorists spent last year as the average household sees their yearly gasoline bill rise to $1,898, up from $1,765 in 2017. Compared to 2016, motorists will be shelling out $62 billion more during the year, enough to buy a fleet of 670 Boeing 737s.
  • GasBuddy’s forecast does not expect any record-breaking prices to be set in 2018, and most of the country will see prices peak under $3 per gallon, but unexpected disruptions could push the national average close to $3.
  • Metro areas including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. will likely see prices eclipse $3 per gallon. Cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Orlando, St. Louis and Tampa may get within arm’s reach of such prices.
  • How accurate have past forecasts been? In 2017, the forecast called for a yearly national average of $2.49. Actual: $2.39. In 2016, the forecast called for a yearly national average of $2.28. Actual: $2.12.

“Many will be quick to ask why we’re expecting higher prices. Ultimately, OPEC bears much of the responsibility for cutting oil production, leading oil inventories to begin 2018 nearly 50 million barrels lower than a year ago. Yet, understanding many factors, including OPEC, fuel taxes, the economy and their impact on supply and demand is integral to providing a thorough and balanced outlook on gas prices for 2018,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Even one event can completely change trajectory of fuel prices for months. Look what impact Hurricane Harvey and Irma had on gas prices and availability. No one could have expected the unexpected, but still, our forecast was less than a dime away from being spot on.”

“While gasoline prices overall remain affordable, one aspect that continues to worsen is the gap between what stations are charging. It’s become nothing short of crazy how one station might sell gasoline 20-40 cents lower or higher than a nearby competitor. In addition to GasBuddy data showing spreads have risen to record levels, I’ve heard hundreds of complaints of motorists who get stuck at the pricier station, drive down the street and see it far cheaper. Always shop around when filling your tank. We spend thousands of dollars a year filling the tank, a dime or quarter per gallon adds up to hundreds of dollars,” he said.

About GasBuddy 
GasBuddy is a smartphone app connecting drivers with their Perfect Pit Stop. With 70 million downloads, GasBuddy is the leader in crowdsourced information to help drivers find the best gas prices, closest stations, friendliest service, cleanest restrooms, tastiest coffee and much more. GasBuddy is the leading source for the most accurate, real-time fuel prices at more than 140,000 gas stations in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The Company’s B2B Retailer Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), known as GasBuddy Business Pages, provides Fuel Marketers and Retailers their best opportunity to maintain their station information, manage their brand, and promote to their target consumer audience.

RV Education 101 videos: RV Toolbox & Essential RV Supplies, Must Have Items for RV Campground Connections, & How To Keep Mice Out Of Your RV During Storage

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Wetlands a vital resource for Michigan’s wildlife, environment, citizenry

EDITOR'S NOTE: The health of all the Great Lakes cannot be overstated. Their role in the region's ecosystem, and our quality of life, is immeasurable. Anything that detracts from their health should not be allowed to happen. Period. 

For me, since I live near Lake Erie, that lake's health takes on a more immediate impact. The algae bloom challenges facing Lake Erie are partly due to the long ago draining of the Black Swamp in Ohio. The loss of that wetland eliminated an important filter surrounding the southwestern shores of Lake Erie. There's several efforts to restore parts of those wetlands, spearheaded by the Black Swamp Conservancy.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

When thinking about Michigan’s important, valuable landscapes, many of us first think of the Great Lakes, northern forests and sandy beaches. Wetlands might not immediately come to mind.

They certainly didn’t for early Michigan settlers, who were less than impressed with the state’s abundance of swamps and marshes – more than 10 million acres of wetlands before European settlement.

“The banks of the Detroit River are handsome, but nine-tenths of the land in the Territory is unfit for cultivation,” said General Duncan McArthur, stationed at Fort Detroit, in 1814.

The 1816 Tiffin Report by Edward Tiffin, surveyor general of the United States, had equally disparaging things to say about Michigan's land and agricultural potential, including: “Michigan apparently consisted of swamps, lakes, and poor, sandy soil not worth the cost of surveying. Not more than one acre in a hundred, or perhaps a thousand, could be cultivated.”

Wetlands are home to painted turtles, one of Michigan’s
most common turtle species. (DNR photos)
In the two centuries that followed, about half of Michigan’s original wetlands have been drained and filled.

“Michigan was once considered a mosquito-infested, godforsaken swamp, and wetlands were drained to establish roads and agriculture and build communities,” said Steve Shine, who coordinates wetland mitigation banking – the process of establishing new wetland areas before development or other projects impact existing wetland areas – for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “This historic conversion of wetlands has made Michigan what it is today, but now we’re focused on restoring wetlands to replace those impacted by agriculture, public works projects and development that are also important to the state.”

Today, we recognize the value of wetlands, even celebrate them with observances like American Wetlands Month in May, and the need to conserve them.

“Michigan residents, whether they know it or not, have a strong connection to our state’s wetlands and the waterfowl that rely on them,” said Barb Avers, DNR waterfowl and wetland specialist. “Some go duck hunting every year, while others sit on their back porches and watch the annual fall waterfowl migrations. And many citizens get clear drinking water from groundwater purified by Michigan’s wetlands.”

Michigan regularly ranks in the top three states for Canada goose
harvest and hunters in the nation. The sport, and other outdoor
recreation pursuits, requires healthy wetland habitat.
In 1979, the Michigan legislature passed the state’s wetlands protection statute, which recognizes the benefits and important functions and values provided by wetlands. Administered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan’s wetlands protection statute requires permits for construction activities in wetlands.

What exactly is a wetland?

Michigan law defines a wetland as "land characterized by the presence of water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support, wetland vegetation or aquatic life, and is commonly referred to as a bog, swamp, or marsh."

More simply put, wetlands are areas where land and water meet.

They are characterized by the presence of water that saturates the soil or covers the land for some or all of the year, which leads to the development of plant and animal communities adapted to these conditions.

Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, on the western shores of
Lake Erie, is one of Michigan’s seven Wetland Wonders –
premier managed waterfowl hunt areas scattered across
the southern Lower Peninsula.
The three major types of wetlands are marshes, which have standing water from less than an inch to several feet deep and might be called flooded grasslands; swamps, dominated by woody plants and best described as flooded woodlands or shrublands; and bogs, which occur where accumulations of decaying vegetation form mats that eventually cover and then fill in old ponds or lakes.

Home to a wide variety of birds, including the secretive sora,
Michigan’s wetlands make great wildlife viewing destinations.
Wetlands play a critical role in managing Michigan’s water-based resources, providing flood storage, groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat, pollution treatment, erosion control and nutrient uptake.

Wetlands are a significant factor in the health and existence of Michigan’s other natural resources, such as inland lakes, groundwater, fisheries, wildlife and the Great Lakes.

Wetlands are “like nature’s kidneys,” Avers said, in that they filter pollutants from surface runoff, trapping fertilizers, pesticides, sediments and other contaminants, helping to break some of them down into less harmful substances, improving water clarity and quality.

Every amphibian in Michigan – including the state’s
largest frog, the bullfrog – uses wetlands.
They also replenish surface and underground drinking water sources.

“Wetland soils help to filter pollutants and excess nutrients out of the water to create a cleaner water supply for all of us,” said Holly Vaughn, DNR wildlife communications coordinator. “They also provide important flood control, acting like sponges to soak up extra rain and storm water.”

Wetlands are vital to Michigan’s wildlife as well. Acre for acre, they produce more wildlife and plants than any other Michigan habitat type.

“About 25 percent of mammals, 50 percent of birds, nearly all reptiles, and every amphibian in Michigan use wetlands,” said Avers.

Wild irises are one of many Michigan wetland plant species.
Avers added that, although wetlands make up only 5 percent of the area of the contiguous U.S., more than a third of threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands.

“Wetlands provide excellent benefits to wildlife, including important migratory stopover habitat for waterfowl and migratory songbirds too,” Vaughn said.

While many wildlife species find homes in Michigan’s wetlands, many people find recreation destinations there.

Waterfowl hunting trips, which take place largely in wetland areas,
generate $22 million each year in Michigan.
This includes waterfowl hunting – Michigan regularly ranks in the top three states for Canada goose harvest and hunters in the nation, and in the top 10 for average annual sales of federal duck stamps – and a variety of other outdoor pursuits.

“Michigan has exceptional wetland recreation opportunities,” Vaughn said. “Among the best of them, our Wetland Wonders (the DNR’s managed waterfowl areas) offer great waterfowl hunting, wildlife viewing, trapping, hiking, fishing and boating.”

Those recreation opportunities lead to significant economic impact.

“Wetlands are important for the state’s economy,” said Avers. “Waterfowl hunting trips, which take place largely in wetland areas, generate $22 million each year in Michigan. Fish, wildlife and recreational activities related to Michigan’s coastal wetlands generate $52 million annually.”

Avers added that renowned waterfowl and coastal wetland areas like Saginaw Bay, St. Clair Flats and the Detroit River have built and supported local economies and communities with industries such as duck decoys, boats and hunting clubs.

“Great Lakes coastal wetlands are highly productive and rare ecosystems, and are widely recognized as vital to the overall Great Lakes ecosystem, providing habitat for migratory waterfowl, wading birds, sport and forage fish, amphibians and reptiles, and many other native wildlife,” said Anne Garwood, DEQ Great Lakes coastal wetland ecologist. “In some parts of the state, where up to 90 percent of Michigan’s coastal wetlands have been lost, the protection and restoration of coastal wetlands is especially critical.”

Although now recognized for their importance to wildlife, people, the environment and the economy – and with laws in place that have helped slow their loss – wetlands still face threats.

Half of Michigan’s bird species, like the
common yellowthroat, rely on wetlands.
These threats include invasive species, climate change and declining Great Lakes water levels, and demand for development on existing wetlands.

“More than 50 percent of Michigan’s historic wetland base has been lost, and the rate of wetland loss in key waterfowl landscapes exceeds 90 percent,” said Avers. “We need to do more to conserve Michigan’s wetlands and our great waterfowl heritage.”

The DNR, along with many other organizations, has undertaken efforts to conserve and restore wetlands in Michigan.

Take, for example, Michigan's Wetland Wonders, the seven premier managed waterfowl hunt areas in the state, scattered across the southern Lower Peninsula.

The DNR created these areas in the 1960s to generate exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities and still manages them today to provide habitat for waterfowl and other species of wetlands wildlife.

But Michigan’s wetlands successes don’t end there.

“We’ve been very successful across Michigan in protecting and restoring wetland habitat, primarily driven by partnerships with other organizations,” said Avers. “Our best success story is the collection of North American Wetland Conservation Act grants that we’ve received.”

The North American Wetland Conservation Act program, which began in 1989, supports on-the-ground wetland conservation efforts by providing matching grants for projects in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Matting vegetation around the edge of a bog, like this one in
Dickinson County, will eventually cover the water surface.

In Michigan, the 50 NAWCA projects either completed or under way have conserved a total of 56,762 acres of wildlife habitat. The program’s funding of more than $18 million has stimulated partner contributions of more than $62 million for Michigan wetlands conservation.

Recently the DNR has partnered with the Michigan Municipal Wetland Alliance on a new wetland mitigation banking program that will preserve and restore wetland habitat on public lands to offset unavoidable impacts to existing wetlands. Look for a future “Showcasing the DNR” story about this effort.

While there is still much work to do on the wetlands conservation front, Michigan has come a long way from the days of treating these vital assets as godforsaken swamps.

To learn more about Michigan wetlands, visit

Love Your RV videos: AC Maintenance, Sawtooth Canyon, EEZRV TPMS Review, Mouse vs. Furnace Fan, Snowbirding Trip, & Ladder Gadget Review

About Love Your RV
A handful of years ago Ray and Anne Burr sold their home in Victoria, British Columbia, and bought a brand new fifth wheel trailer. They set off on an amazing one-year journey traveling all around the U.S. and Canada. About three months into it, they knew this was the life for them and became full timers traveling south in the winters and retreating to the north for the summers. They regularly update their blogsite of their travels and adventures.

Rollin' on TV: Elkhart RV OPen House & a Visit to NeXuS RV.

On this week's program (#2017-25), Rollin' On TV wraps up its visit to the 2017 Elkhart Open House with a look at some uniques RVs slated for 2018 introduction. Also, they take a visit to NeXuS RV for an look at the company and its new changes.

About Rollin' On TV
In production since 2010, Rollin' On TV has become one of the leading RV lifestyle television programs on the air today, reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For more information, visit

Becoming an Outdoors Woman celebrates 20 years in Upper Michigan

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

On an early summer day, in front of a white gazebo overlooking Lake Independence, spirited women who had taken on the challenge of improving their outdoor skills assembled on the lawn for a group photograph.

These pink-shirted ladies, some who were here for the first time, and others who had returned on several occasions, gathered for the picture to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program in the Upper Peninsula.

The June 2017 participants pose for a photo to commemorate
the 20th anniversary of the Becoming an Outdoors Woman
program in Upper Michigan. The women wore pink T-shirts in
2017 as they did the first year of the Upper Michigan program
in 1998. (DNR photos)
Each year, women from across the Upper Great Lakes region and elsewhere gather at the Bay Cliff Health Camp in Marquette County for a summer weekend BOW program in June and a winter program in February.

The program is coordinated through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

During these weekends, volunteer instructors offer classes on a wide range of activities ranging from shooting firearms, fishing and cross-country skiing to paddle boarding, winter camping, kayaking and archery.

The classes are provided in a supportive environment where students are encouraged, inspired and applauded for their efforts to try new activities.

“It’s been amazing to see the growth in the women who have attended our program,” said Sandy Kivela, an instructor and member of the program’s organizing committee. “Some have started as participants and have become instructors. Some have made life-long friendships.”

Frida Waara, a BOW participant and instructor since 1997, said that in life, everything gets better when you get outside.

“BOW is the chance to share that philosophy with women of all ages, backgrounds and experiences,” she said. “When we first gather on Friday for a BOW weekend, I tell newcomers, ‘Your life will change in ways you never thought possible.’ On Sunday, when we say good-byes, those newcomers confess that learning to shoot a gun, paddle a kayak or even back up a trailer was more than just the skill, it was the confidence to tackle the next new challenge.”

The BOW concept originated with Christine Thomas at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point in 1991.

A dogsled team works near the corral at the
Bay Cliff Health Camp in Marquette County.
“That state’s DNR was experiencing a notable decline in the number of women buying hunting and fishing licenses, so the agency commissioned the university system to explore methods to get more women involved in outdoor activities,” said Ann (Wilson) Feldhauser, a former Michigan DNR spokeswoman instrumental in establishing the BOW program in the Upper Peninsula.

Then Michigan DNR Director Rollie Harmes attended a series of meetings in Wisconsin and took part in the initial presentation of the BOW program as designed at Stevens Point.

“He came back to Michigan committed to getting the program going here as well, and selected two women in the DNR Law Enforcement Division – Mary Schurser and Lynn Marla – to begin the process,” Feldhauser said. “Initially, some smaller programs aimed at specific sports, such as hunting and shooting events, were held at various locations in Lower Michigan.”

Feldhauser said that within a year, a larger, more broadly scoped BOW event was held at the DNR’s Ralph A. MacMullen Conference Center near Roscommon, drawing about 40 participants. Classes were offered in many areas, including fishing, canoeing, shooting, hiking and others.

“I had attended a training at Michigan State University run by the original designers of the program from Wisconsin. I then helped with the RAM Center program to gain firsthand experience,” Feldhauser said. “When I returned to Marquette, Lynn Marla, who was the BOW coordinator at that time, suggested that a program be held in the Upper Peninsula. Our first sponsor 20 years ago was the Sagola Sportsman’s Club, where we hosted about 50 women for a weekend of activities.”

The first Upper Michigan Becoming an Outdoors Woman
committee at the Clear Lake Education Center in Schoolcraft
County in 1998. Back row, from left: Jane Gordon, Margie Burns,
Penny Bacon; center row: Frida Waara, Ann (Wilson) Feldhauser,
Pam Henricksen, Sharon Pitz, Sue Webster; front row: Bonnie Ryberg.
After some review and revision, it was decided to hold a bigger program at the Clear Lake Education Center in Schoolcraft County.

“To pull off a large-scale program, I developed a BOW committee comprised of Upper Peninsula women who all were active in the outdoors and had confident leadership skills,” Feldhauser said. “Ten women served on the initial committee, and together, we hosted the program at Clear Lake in 1998, which involved 63 participants, the largest program ever in Michigan.”

Like the instructors, committee members are volunteers. The BOW program has always been financially self-sustaining, a key ingredient in its success and longevity.

Feldhauser said some smaller programs continued to be held in the Lower Peninsula, but the strength gained from the committee structure in the U.P. allowed that program to grow and thrive.

“Eventually, the programs ceased being held in the Lower Peninsula, and the coordinator position for the program, based in Lansing, was terminated,” Feldhauser said. “However, the U.P. program carried on, soon adding a winter BOW program.”

That winter program was first offered in 2002 in Iron County at the Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp, located outside of Crystal Falls.

“We quickly outgrew that facility and moved to Bay Cliff Health Camp,” said Sharon Pitz, one of Feldhauser’s original BOW committee members, who has served as the BOW coordinator since Feldhauser’s retirement from the DNR in 2008.

“We now also offer numerous specialized Beyond BOW events, such as kayaking for moms and daughters, hiking in the Pictured Rocks and the Porcupine Mountains, and steelhead fishing on the Two-Hearted River, among others,” Pitz said. “We also had a couple Beyond BOW events held downstate in the last year.

Archery is taught during summer and winter
Becoming an Outdoors Woman sessions.
“These successful events have been taken on by our own DNR Wildlife Division employees, who have gained an interest in our program and want to help women learn skills in the outdoors.”

Pitz said she hopes to schedule more Beyond BOW sessions in the Lower Peninsula in the future.

Feldhauser said the original concept for the program, which has continued, called for a third of the activities to be hunting-related, another third fishing-related and the remaining classes a mixture of other pursuits.

The Marquette County chapter of U.P. Whitetails is one example of groups that contributed start-up money for the program or funded some scholarships for BOW over the past two decades.

Monica Weis, who helps teach dog sledding, called the BOW program “magical.”

“Magical in watching the women gain confidence in what they are learning,” Weis said. “The smiles, laughter and friendship that we develop as the weekend moves along is amazing.”

Sue Petschke, a committee member who teaches snowshoeing, said she loves it when participants tell her they are going to go back home and snowshoe.

“The enjoyment you get snowshoeing with friends and family is priceless,” Petschke said. “No cellphone service wanted here.”

More than 3,000 women have taken part in the U.P. BOW programs, with the summer program typically drawing about 100 people, with roughly 75 enrolling in the winter session.

“It has been a lot of work, but what an honor and privilege to have headed up such an important part of the DNR’s legacy,” said Feldhauser, who still works closely with the Michigan BOW program. “BOW continues to be as popular, if not more so, than ever, and the reputation of the U.P. program is stellar.”

A Becoming an Outdoors Woman
fishing outing from days gone by.
Past participants have also praised the program.

“Going to BOW was a most wonderful introduction to both winter and summer pastimes when I moved to the U.P. nine years ago,” said Barbara Stewart-Greene of Bruce Crossing. “Over the years, I learned snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snowmobiling, fishing, cooking, survival skills, first aid and much more, along with several fun craft projects.

“I got to deepen existing friendships and meet new people, all in the beautiful and encouraging atmosphere of Bay Cliff Camp.”

Jessica Francis of Hillsdale said she and her mom look forward to the two BOW weekends every year.

“We love being able to spend time together, meet up with old friends, and of course meet new friends too,” she said. “The instructors are easy to love and super fun. They make sure everyone has the best experience that they possibly can. It's all about support.

“The amount of support that you can receive from a tight-knit group of women is amazing. You learn things that you have never even dreamed that you would ever do in your life, and the best part about that is being able to teach those things to your family when you get back home. Bay Cliff is a home away from home. You go to this program with all of your troubles from life and you leave feeling refreshed and ready to succeed in all that you do.”

Bernadette Harkness of Midland said she didn't grow up doing outdoor things and never imagined she would be able to ice fish, drive a boat, ride a snowmobile, skijor, dogsled, shoot a rifle, paddle board or do so many other things she has experienced for the first time with the BOW program.

“What's more is that with the patient and kind guidance of the awesome instructors, I have learned and become comfortable enough to own my own boat, ice shanty, auger, rifle and kayak to name a few,” she said. “And to fulfill the purpose of BOW, I feel confident to do these outdoor activities on my own, or with my family, in these new hobbies in the beautiful Michigan outdoors.”

Linda Burby-Evans of Chelsea said she was invited by a friend to her first BOW weekend over a decade ago.

Pistol shooting is a popular class.
“I wasn’t really sure it would be for me, but that weekend was such a great experience that I’ve been going back ever since,” Evans said. “I’ve learned so many things over the years. The best part about the BOW program is that you get to try new things in a safe and supportive environment. The friendships I’ve made with women from far and wide are treasured.”

The BOW program is now offered in several states beyond Michigan, including Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Margaret Mary Gerhard of Fence, Wisconsin has attended Michigan BOW events. She said BOW weekends are highlights on her annual calendar.

“I am always impressed with the women’s enthusiasm, courage and diligence in the various classes. I learn so much from them,” she said. “Every woman has a story, and the stories are amazing. BOW enriches my life. It is a gift to me. I treasure the friendships I have made there. I am so very grateful.”

Rosemary Plourde of Marquette said all women, no matter their skill level or age should try the program at least once, calling it “a wonderful experience.”

“BOW has made some of the most wonderful mother-daughter weekends,” Plourde said. “Originally, a friend brought me, and I had such a great experience that I had to share with my daughter. It has become our tradition whether we do one in Michigan or elsewhere.”

Pitz said the Michigan program could not continue without the passion of the volunteer BOW instructors and committee members.

Outdoor photography students get close to some blooming
forget-me-knots at the Bay Cliff Health Camp in Marquette County.
“Many of them have helped with the BOW program for the entire 20 years it has been in the Upper Peninsula,” Pitz said. “Some are our own DNR employees, and others are just as passionate in their field of skill and want to pass along that knowledge.”

Over the past several months, Pitz has been co-coordinating the BOW program in the U.P. with Michelle Zellar of Newberry.

Zellar said she decided to take on coordination responsibilities because the BOW program and the committee are “amazing.”

“Sharon (Pitz) and the ladies on the committee care so much about the program and creating opportunities for women to learn not only a new skill, but make connections – connections that are priceless,” Zellar said. “The passion and expertise this committee and the instructors bring to this program is inspiring, and quite frankly, I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Zellar’s first direct involvement with the BOW program came during the February sessions in 2016.

“Months earlier I had met with Sharon to get more acquainted with the program. After meeting the committee and attending the winter workshop, it was clear we were going to make a good team – a diverse group of women with like-minded goals,” Zellar said. “From there, I started shadowing Sharon, coordinating and facilitating these events. I am now ready to hit the ground running.”

The future success of the program continues to lie in the cooperation and commitment of those competent women who have served unselfishly over the years on the U.P. BOW Coordinating Committee, with DNR leadership.

“When we see the enthusiasm of the women participating in our programs it makes us even more excited to put on the next program,” Kivela said.

Tara Gluski, a committee member and instructor who teaches women how to build winter shelters, hike and backpack, successfully distilled the aim of the program for instructors and students into one quote.

She said, “I love that I am potentially inspiring people to step outside their comfort zones and make being outdoors a lifestyle.”

Find out more on Becoming and Outdoors Woman in Michigan at

GasBuddy Launches New Trips Feature; Makes It Even Easier For Motorists to Save Money on Fuel

Being fiscally responsible and filling up at the most competitively-priced gas station is a no-brainer, but when it comes to truly saving money on fuel, it starts the moment the key hits the ignition. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, aggressive driving like speeding, rapid acceleration and braking is the quickest way to waste gas and can lower gas mileage by as much as 40 percent.

GasBuddy, the only smartphone app connecting more than 70 million drivers with the Perfect Pit Stop, today announced the new Trips feature, pinpointing exactly where and when they have been guilty of fuel-inefficient driving.

With the new Trips feature, drivers get an assessment of their trips based on a 3-tier rating system — great, not bad, or not great. The summaries include the date, time, distance and maps out when and where during the trip a poor driving habit occurred whether it be speeding, hard braking or acceleration.

“Our goal is to help people make smart decisions when they’re on the road, from providing real-time gas prices to which stations have the cleanest restrooms,” said Levi Hamilton, head of product, consumer experience, at GasBuddy. “The new Trips feature provides motorists with transparency on how they’re driving and, in turn, impacting their wallets. In our initial testing, we found that Trips is already improving our users driving habits and helping them save more money.”

During beta testing, GasBuddy analyzed more than 140,000 individual trips and found that a majority of trips (78 percent) fell into the “not bad” and “not great” buckets, meaning there are instances of fuel-guzzling habits with hard braking being the #1 culprit.

“The manner in which a car is driven will impact its fuel economy tremendously and, unfortunately, most drivers don’t even realize the way they are driving is causing them to make more visits to the pump,” said Patrick DeHaan, head petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Gas prices fluctuate constantly — that is something we can’t control. But what you can control is making appropriate changes that can save you between 13 cents and 89 cents a gallon.”

Download the latest version of the free GasBuddy app for iOS and Android at

About GasBuddy 
GasBuddy is a smartphone app connecting drivers with their Perfect Pit Stop. With 70 million downloads, GasBuddy is the leader in crowdsourced information to help drivers find the best gas prices, closest stations, friendliest service, cleanest restrooms, tastiest coffee and much more. GasBuddy is the leading source for the most accurate, real-time fuel prices at more than 140,000 gas stations in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The Company’s B2B Retailer Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), known as GasBuddy Business Pages, provides Fuel Marketers and Retailers their best opportunity to maintain their station information, manage their brand, and promote to their target consumer audience. For more information, visit or email press(at)

National Park Service Announces Fee-Free Days for 2018

WASHINGTON – The National Park Service announced today that the public will be invited to experience all national parks, without entrance fees, on four days in 2018.

The four entrance fee-free days for 2018 will be:

  • January 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 21 – First Day of National Park Week
  • September 22 – National Public Lands Day
  • November 11 – Veterans Day

“National parks connect all of us with our country’s amazing nature, culture and history,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Michael T. Reynolds. “The days that we designate as fee-free for national parks mark opportunities for the public to participate in service projects, enjoy ranger-led programs, or just spend time with family and friends exploring these diverse and special places. We hope that these fee-free days offer visitors an extra incentive to enjoy their national parks in 2018.”

Normally, 118 of the 417 national parks charge an entrance fee. The other 299 national parks do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks that charge an entrance fee. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the military, families of fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

Other federal land management agencies offering their own fee-free days in 2018 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and Army Corps of Engineers.

The National Park System includes more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 417 sites, including national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park in every state.

Last year, 331 million people visited national parks spending $18.4 billion which supported 318,000 jobs across the country and had a $35 billion impact on the U.S. economy.