Margaritaville coming to the Windy City


The Midwest’s first Margaritaville restaurant brings a new dining and entertainment experience to Navy Pier on the lakefront in downtown Chicago

The Island experience is coming to the Midwest as Navy Pier has announced the addition of Margaritaville to its exciting array of restaurant offerings. When Margaritaville opens on Lake Michigan in Chicago next spring, visitors won’t have to travel any further than Navy Pier to be transported to the tropics. It will be more than a dining destination; it will be an entire change in latitude (and a change in attitude.)

I am a Parrothead, so this is awesome news! You know how everyone has a Bucket List of things to do/places to go before they die? My personal bucket List is to visit every Margaritaville restaurant. I've been to two (Myrtle Beach and Orlando), and since this one in Chicago will make 17 locations, I've got some work ahead of me.

So I called 1-800 COCO-TEL and asked to speak with Jimmy Buffett...

“I couldn’t be more excited about Margaritaville arriving on the shores of Lake Michigan,” said Jimmy Buffett. "From my earliest days in the city, playing the Quiet Knight on Belmont, to the pinnacle of live performances, to me singing in front of the ivy wall at Wrigley Field, I have had a long and wonderful history and affection for the people, the music, the art and the food of the Windy City. I have always thought Chicago as a beach town, a pretty big one, but still a beach town. I am happy to call Navy Pier home to Margaritaville. Fins Up Chicago."

A visit to Margaritaville will be a vacation in itself! Inspired by the travels and songs of Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville is for anyone who wants to get away any day of the week to have a good time and a great meal. The beat of island party music and dockside atmosphere will be the backdrop for a trip that will not soon be forgotten.

If the navy Pier Margaritaville is anything like the two I've been to, then the Midwest is in for a welcome change in Latitude. A bit of the Florida beachfront will be scooped up and relocated to Lake Michigan, so all of us who speak without an accent will be surrounded by boat drinks, juicy fruits and other tropical tidings from the land of Buffett.

So I called up this guy in Chicago...

“We are thrilled to welcome Jimmy Buffett and his iconic establishment to Navy Pier,” said Jim Reilly, Trustee of Navy Pier. “This will be a great opportunity for visitors and Chicagoans alike, to seek out this new, year-round Navy Pier attraction while enjoying live entertainment and the lakefront.”

The restaurant will feature classic American and island inspired cuisine as well as nightly entertainment and live music. In addition to the signature “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, the menu will offer seafood, steaks, fajitas, regional favorites and of course Margaritas, boat drinks, frozen concoctions and cold beer.

Margaritaville’s laid back atmosphere, casual dining, bar and entertainment will soon be a favorite with both tourists and Chicago’s local residents.

Save me a booth!

ABOUT MARGARITAVILLE
Since launching its first location in Key West, Margaritaville has expanded to some of the most popular US destinations including: New Orleans, Orlando, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach, Glendale, Mohegan Sun Casino, Nashville, and Jimmy Buffett’s at The Beachcomber in Honolulu, Hawaii. International locations can be found in Jamaica, Mexico, Grand Turk, Grand Cayman and Canada. The new Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Pensacola Beach, Florida opened July 2010 and Margaritaville's second hotel location is currently under development in Hollywood, Florida. Visit www.margaritaville.com.

ABOUT NAVY PIER
Navy Pier is located at 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. As the Midwest's #1 tourist and leisure destination, historic Navy Pier is one of the nation’s unique recreation and exposition facilities, attracting more than 8 million visitors a year. Visit www.navypier.com.

Winterized the Camper

I winterized the camper yesterday.

Yup, camping season is officially over in our household.

After my son's final baseball game of the fall season, I picked up some RV antifreeze from the local hardware store ($2.99 a gallon; ouch!). After lunch, I headed out to the Back 40 where we keep our camper and set to the task of winterizing it.

Started by hooking up and pulling it up onto wood planks. I read somewhere that leaving your tires on bare ground was not a good idea, so the last two years I've gotten them up on the wood. Plus, I've got about $400 in new tires over the last two years, so I'm willing to do anything to keep them from going bad prematurely. I expect to buy some tire covers soon, too, although the make-shift covers I used last year also would work just fine.

Next, I unhitched, and cranked up the camper so the back end was the low point.

After I got the tires squared away, I plugged into the Trailblazer and got to work on the waterlines.

I started by draining the fresh water tank, which took a while since it was about half full. Once it started to drip, I drained the black and gray tanks. Once they started slowly dripping, I drained the water heater. Then opened the hot and cold low point valves. Went back inside, opened up all the faucets, and waited patiently for everything to drain through. Didn't take too long.

Then I closed up everything, switched on the water heater bypass and hooked up the bypass for the RV antifreeze. My bypass is pretty simple: a four foot length of tube and a T-valve spliced into the line leading from the fresh water tank to the water pump.

So then I switched on the water pump and methodically turned on each faucet, starting with the furthest faucet from the water pump, until pink was flowing from each one. Flushed the toilet a few times until it, too, ran pink. Poured a healthy dose of RV antifreeze down the shower drain and sink drain and toilet. Switched off the pump and opened up all the faucets again.

Cleaned up and done!

Halloween Safety for Pets


Disclaimer: This doesn't have much to do with RVing, but consider the following a public service announcement. Plus, it gave me a chance to find this photo of this poor dog dressed up like a hula girl.

While Halloween can be a good time for kids and grown-ups alike, the Humane Society of the United States is reminding all of us pet owners that this haunting holiday may be too scary for our pets. Dogs and cats and other companion animals simply aren’t used to all the ringing doorbells, costumed creatures and general hustle-and-bustle that come into our homes at this time of year.

“For your pet’s comfort and safety, the best thing that you can do is to make sure that they have a stress-free holiday,” said Adam Goldfarb of the Humane Society. “The noises, smells and people can be overwhelming for many pets on Halloween, so create a safe haven in one room of your home where he or she can quietly relax.”

To help keep pets safe and happy this Halloween, the Humane Society recommends the following tips:

• Keep your pets safely indoors, away from trick-or-treaters and other Halloween activities.

• Make sure that all of your pets are wearing tags with current ID. Opening the door repeatedly for trick-or-treaters creates plenty of escape opportunities.

• Keep candy out of your pets’ reach. Chocolate and other ingredients can be toxic to them. (Same goes for chocolate Easter bunnies in the spring; we found out the hard way.)

• Most pets are happiest wearing nothing but their birthday suit, but if you're one of those people who has their pets wear a costume, skip the masks and make sure costumes are comfortable and do not pose a risk for injury. (For the record, our dog never dresses up for Halloween.)

• Decorations can be dangerous, so be sure to keep them safely away from pets. Candle flames can set fire to a pet’s fur (and trick-or-treaters' costumes, for that matter). Hanging or dangling decorations also can be an entanglement or choking hazard.

• Use fake cobwebs sparingly, if at all. Pets can choke on fake cobwebs set up indoors. Outdoors, fake webs are a hazard to birds and other wildlife.

• When going out trick-or-treating, leave your dog at home. Dogs can be easily excited by the Halloween commotion and a dog bite or lost dog will quickly end the evening’s fun. (That said, I always take my dog with me when I take the kids trick-or-treating. But I use common sense: a solid grip on his leash and we avoid other people as much as possible.)

Also, don’t forget about wildlife on Halloween, either. Nocturnal animals such as raccoons, possums (or is it opossums?) and foxes will be out looking for food. If you come across a wild animal while out trick-or-treating, keep your distance (and keep your pets away from wild animals, too). And though bats are classically associated with Halloween, those in colder climates will most likely be hibernating at this time of year.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Time to Winterize the Camper

We're done camping this season.

There, I've said it. Now it's it in print. Or online. Etched in stone, so to speak. I guess a part of me was thinking that as long as I didn't say it, then it was still time to camp. Still time to get out and enjoy one last camping trip. One last campfire. One last s'more. One last everything that has to do with camping.

But now I tapped out those five words and sent it off into cyberspace, there's no turning back now.

We've had our first frost already. We're about ready to turn the corner into November. We're nearly ready for snow forecasts.

We could try and get out one more time, but I'm only kidding myself. We're done.

Yes, it's time.

Now I just need to find time to perform that lovely task of winterizing the camper.

Enjoy a Spooktacular Good Time in Ohio this Weekend and the Peak Colors of Autumn

Outdoor enthusiasts can now enjoy peak fall color during visits to Ohio’s state parks, forests and natural areas. And autumn fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Ohio state parks offer Halloween campouts, haunted trails and other great activities allowing families to create long lasting memories.

“For many people, the beautiful foliage is just one part of the autumn experience,” said Casey Burdick, fall foliage expert for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry. “They are thrilled to spend the day hiking, boating or hunting beneath the cover of the colored forests, but the experience is that much more enjoyable when they can continue with hayrides, pumpkin carving contests, costume contests and more at an Ohio State Park.”

Ohioans and out-of-state visitors who are looking for haunting good times can celebrate Halloween a little early with trick or treat events and spooky haunted trails.

This coming weekend, check out one of the following events at one of your Ohio State Parks or local partners…

Halloween Campout, East Fork (SW) - Oct. 22-23. Games, contests, hayrides & trick or treat. (513) 734-4323.

Halloween Campout, Lake Alma (SE) - Oct. 22-23. Campsite decorating & trick or treat. (740) 384-4474.

Halloween Campout #2, Mohican (NE) - Oct. 22-24. Pet & campsite decorating contests, trick or treat, nature programs & crafts for campers & cottage guests. (419) 994-4290.

“Hollow”een Fest, Quail Hollow (NE) - Oct. 23, 4-8 PM. Haunted Manor House tours, hayrides & a bonfire. A fee is charged for the haunted house. (330) 877-6652.

Halloween Party, Sycamore (SW) - Oct. 23. Games & seasonal activities. (937) 854-4452.

To find out more about these and other events, visit www.ohiodnr.com. The site will serve as a premier guide to Ohio’s fall color season. Its pages provide information for travelers who want to map a scenic road trip, adventurers who are refreshed and energized by the cool autumn weather, vacationers who seek places of solace to enjoy the changing seasons and even the students who need a resource for leaf collection projects. Ohioans and out-of-state visitors can also find information about fall foliage by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE or visiting www.discoverohio.com/autumnadventures.

Lack of Innovations?

I recently wrote a post recapping the 2010 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show.
One of the parts of that post was a list of the innovations and features that caught me eye. Many of the items that made the list weren't necessarily new, but improvements or variations of past innovations. Even though I clearly mentioned this in the post, I was taken to task by someone who said that I didn't do a very good job of reporting if I only came up with one legitimate innovation after having spent four days at the RV show.

That person might be right. There probably were more innovations, but I just wasn't aware of them.

But I also have another theory: perhaps there was a lack of innovations because for the last two years or so, the RV manufacturing industry has all but shut down. Think about it, if you're laying off 75 percent of your workforce because you're virtually ceasing RV production, would you not also lay off people in the research and development department? And with whatever skeleton workforce that remained, I'd bet there was not enough people to legitimately pursue R&D and have any innovations ready for 2011 mass production models, let alone in time for an 2010 fall RV show.

Just a thought.

2010 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show Recap

video
By all accounts, the recent Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was a huge success. From day one, when people waited 90 minutes for the show to officially open its doors, to day five, when it was shoulder-to-shoulder people enjoying bumper-to-bumper RVs, the show was a good one and definitely  the best fall shows in the last few years.

I went to the show for four of its five days and tried to talk to as many people as I could. I also tried to get inside as many RVs as I could. What follows is my recap. (You can also read my individual reports from Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five. All but Day Five includes a video.)

The RV dealers I talked to said they sold a lot of campers, or at least made some good leads for future sales. Bill Sheffer, Director of the Michigan Association Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), said across the state RV sales are up 16 percent over the previous year.

“Show attendance was up 20 percent over the 2009 numbers,” said Sheffer. Dealers and exhibitors reported positive sales numbers and responses from those in attendance, and several $200,000 units were even sold during the show. Many dealers reported meeting and/or exceeding sales goals for the duration of the show.”

Vendors said people were very receptive to what they were offering, including Rick Stafford of River Ridge RV Resort. On the first day he was somewhat lukewarm about the show, but by the fifth day he was extremely pleased. He said three couples were so enamored with his amenities-laden RV resort that they took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and drove the three hours from Detroit to Stanwood, Michigan to take a look around.

And everyone attending the show looked like they were very much enjoying the true stars of the show — the 200-plus RVs lined up in row after row of camperpalooza goodness.

"We generally come to all these shows," said Jim Felmlee of Rochester, Michigan, who was at the show with his wife, Karen. "We enjoy seeing all the new RVs. We already own our own RV, but generally we come to see all the new features and one we really like are the outdoor kitchens."

"You know, when you're camping, you spend all your time outside anyways," Karen added. "So an outdoor kitchen makes perfect sense."

Another couple I ran into was Geraldine Laczek of Macomb Township, Michigan and her daughter-in-law Debby Laczek, of Metamora, Michigan. Like the Felmlees, they already owned their own RVs and were at the show just to enjoy all the new models. They, too, liked the outdoor kitchens, and Debby, a fifth-wheel owner, said the Montana with the up-front living room also caught her attention.

Bob Dunn, president of the southeast Michigan Winnebago owners club, was telling me about the Motor City Winnies when he mentioned that the Winnebago Journey diesel motor home behind him was bought earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Naturally, I found the Yates inside their new coach. The two had perma-grins on their faces as they greeted everyone who came aboard. They happily told people they had just bought that motor home, but feel free to gently look around.

A few aisles over I found Denny Powlison, from Adrian, Michigan. He brought his wife to the show in the hopes she might catch the RV camping bug. He said she had only been camping once, in a sleeping bag under the stars — not even a tent — so he was skeptical. But she fell in love with a Rockwood Minilite #1809S travel trailer, and they'll be back to the February show to make the purchase.

As mentioned earlier, most people I talked to said the outdoor kitchens were a big hit with them.

Other innovations and features — some not necessarily new but improved upon — that caught my eye were:

• Second bathrooms. Many of the bunkhouses now have floor plans featuring a second bathroom for the kiddies. And many of these have a second door from the outside providing direct access to this bathroom. What a great idea! Instead of tramping through the entire camper just to get to the bathroom, all you need to do is open the door, take a couple of steps, do your business and get out. No tracking sand and dirt through the camper, and I bet fewer mosquitoes make it inside, too.

• Skylights directly over showers. Again, not a new concept at all. But it seems manufacturers are designing these to better follow the shape of the showers so more natural light fills the shower and bathroom. I especially noticed this in the fifth-wheels and motor homes that had corner shower units.

• Kitchen cabinet/counter extensions. Mostly in Class A motor homes and larger fifth-wheels, these are the cabinet/counter extensions that you pull out to dramatically increase the counter space and cabinet storage.

• Outside televisions. As we all know, the flat-screen TV has been a huge innovation for the RV Industry. Whereas before the old picture-tube TVs took up 3-feet of depth by however wide the TV was, flat screens decreased that depth to a mere 3-5 inches. Suddenly, TV cabinets were smaller, freeing up space for other things, like storage, bigger TVs, etc. The flat-screens also made it easier to mount on the outside of a motor home, hidden behind a flip-up door, to watch ESPN Game Day while tailgating.

• Universal, Portable TV Mounts. I saw this on one of Dan Whites travel trailers in the H.W. Motor Homes display. The camper had three TV mounts, one outside, one in the bedroom and the third in the living area. The articulated arm that inserted into the mounts was securely attached to the TV, making it easy to move the TV-and-arm to and from any of the three areas of the camper. A simple tab locked the arm into the mount, and antenna/cable and power connections were located at each mount.

The coolest RV innovation I saw at the show was the slide-within-a-slide in the 2011 Monaco Diplomat motor home. John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids, Michigan was gracious enough to meet me before the show opened on Thursday for an exclusive tour of this incredible motor home.

The slide-within-a-slide is exactly what the term implies. On the driver's side of the coach is a slide with the refrigerator, dinette and couch. A push of a button extends that slide 3 feet out of the coach. Then, another push of a button extends a second slide, this one containing just the dinette and the couch, out another 2 feet. The whole process takes about 40 seconds, and the interior space it creates is very impressive, especially since another 3-foot slide is on the opposite side of the coach. Click here for my video tour of the slide-within-a-slide.

All in all, the Fall RV Show was a lot of fun – but I would expect nothing less. I was able to get to the show four of its five days. I enjoyed exploring all the RVs and talking to the people enjoying those RVs. And now the countdown is on for the Spring RV shows!

Ohio's Brilliant Fall Colors are the Perfect Backdrop for a Hike this Weekend

Dynamic blazes of orange, yellow, red and rust will provide the perfect backdrop for hikers who are ready to reconnect with the natural world this weekend. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is reporting near peak and peak fall foliage in most parts of the state.

“There are many organized hikes planned at Ohio state parks and nature preserves this weekend that will provide Ohioans and visitors to the Buckeye State an amazing perspective of some of the state’s most spectacular natural terrain,” said Casey Munchel, fall foliage expert for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry. “State parks like Lake Hope and preserves like Clifton Gorge are stunning on a normal day, but when these places are draped with beautiful fall color, the experience is breathtaking.”

In addition, the brilliance of fall color will add to the excitement of games of disc golf and golf, which can be played on beautiful, award-winning courses at several state parks. Anglers and boaters can also get priceless perspectives of amazing fall foliage as it reflects in the rippling water along miles of shoreline and waterways. And the Division of Wildlife is currently in the middle of their annual fall trout stocking so go to www.wildohio.com to find the nearest pond or lake in your area.

One of the best parts of the state this weekend will be up in northeastern Ohio where there is lots to do and see.

“Visitors to Lake County on the east side of Lake Erie can enjoy exceptional fall foliage, the largest winery district in the Grand River Valley and waterfront dining,” said Bob Ulas, Executive Director of the Lake County Visitors Bureau.  “Although Lake County is Ohio’s smallest county, it offers two seasons, thus a longer viewing period of fall foliage.  Due to Lake County’s proximity to Lake Erie’s warmer waters, colors peak later while one mile inland, colors peak earlier.  For more info, visit www.lakevisit.com.”

This coming weekend, check out one of the following events at one of your Ohio State Parks or local partners…

Halloween Campout, Rocky Fork (SW) - Oct. 15-16. Campsite decorating and costume contests, movies , silent auction, games and a haunted trail.  (937) 393-4284.

Halloween Campout, Forked Run (SE) - Oct. 16. Campsite decorating contest, games, trick or treat, & spooky hayrides. (740) 767-3570.

Grandma Gatewood’s Fall Colors Hike, Hocking Hills (SE) - Oct. 16, 1 PM at the Old Man’s Cave Visitor Center. 6-mile strenuous hike. (740) 385-6841.

Fall Hike, Shawnee (SW) - Oct. 16, 9 AM. 5-mile hike with refreshments available at the half-way point. Evening entertainment and a bean dinner are also offered. (740) 858-6652.

Howl-o-Ween Dog Walk & Costume Parade, Mosquito Lake (NE) - Oct. 17, 2-4 PM at the Dog Park. Food, vendors & contests for people and pets. (330) 637-2856.

Forest Heritage Festival, Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds (NE) - Oct. 15-16.  Entertainment, food, games, craft booths, old-time fiddling, and lumberjack show.  Admission and parking are free.  (330) 339-3991

To find out more about these and other events, visit www.ohiodnr.com. The site will serve as a premier guide to Ohio’s fall color season. Its pages provide information for travelers who want to map a scenic road trip, adventurers who are refreshed and energized by the cool autumn weather, vacationers who seek places of solace to enjoy the changing seasons and even the students who need a resource for leaf collection projects. Ohioans and out-of-state visitors can also find information about fall foliage by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE or visiting www.discoverohio.com/autumnadventures.

Kalahari Resort scares up some frightful fun for October

Halloween is creeping near, and Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio is getting in the spooky spirit with frightful fun during the month of October.



Splash & Scream Weekends Room Special

Available for Oct. 15/16, 22/23, 29/30

Includes overnight stay in a Hut or Desert Room for up to four guests, admission to the indoor waterpark for each registered guest.



The Reserve Ghostly Gala  
Oct. 30 (Must be 21 to attend)
The party begins at 10 p.m. and includes a costume contest with categories for scary, sassy, funny, most original and most like someone famous. The costume contest grand prize is an incredible Kalahari getaway package for up to eight guests in a luxurious suite and including private waterpark cabana, waterpark admission, two large Pizza Pub pizzas, breakfast for four guests at Great Karoo and an appetizer at The Reserve. 



Spooktacular Family Fun

October 29

All Day - Halloween coloring contest 

• 11 am - 12:30 pm - Pumpkin tote making
• 1-2 pm - Decorate your own trick-or-treat bag

• 3-4 pm - Creepy cookie decorating and eating
• 5 pm - Pumpkin bean bag toss

• 6 pm - Halloween soap making, 12 years old and up. ($5)
• 7-8 pm - Family game time
• 8 pm - Family movie time
• 8:30-8:50 pm - Story time with Sammy the Scarecrow

October 30

All Day - Halloween coloring contest and pumpkin painting

• 11 am - 12:30 pm - Create a witch kit

• 1-2 pm - Decorate your own trick-or-treat bag

• 3- 4 pm - Creepy cookie decorating and eating

• 5 pm - Halloween soap making, 12 years old and up. ($5)
• 6 pm - Spin the Wheel of Fortune

• 7-8 pm - Trick-or-treat!
• 8-9 pm - Costume party (17 years old and younger)
• 8:30-8:50 pm - Story time with Sammy the Scarecrow

October 31

All Day - Halloween coloring contest
• 11:30 am-1:30 pm - Color your own projects: T-shirts, backpacks, pillowcases and totes ($7.95) 

• 2 pm - Create sticker scene pictures 

• 3- 4 pm - Creepy cookie decorating and eating

• 5 pm - Halloween scavenger hunt

• 7 pm - Create pumpkin sand art necklace
• 8 -8:20 pm - Story time with Sammy the Scarecrow





About Kalahari Resort
Kalahari Resort-Sandusky, located on Highway 250 just north of exit 118 of the Ohio Turnpike, is home to the largest indoor Waterpark in the U.S. at 173,000 square feet. In addition, the resort features a77,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark, 884 guest rooms and suites, the full-service Spa Kalahari, a collection of unique retail shops, an indoor miniature golf course, one of the largest game arcades in the Midwest, a fully-equipped fitness center, a wide variety of dining options and more. In addition to its Sandusky location, Kalahari Resorts has a location in the popular “Waterpark Capital of the World,” Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. For reservations and guest information, call (877) 525-2427 or visit www.KalahariResorts.com.

Boyne Mountain debuts 'Zip of Terror' Haunting Halloween Experience

Witches and ghosts won’t be the only ones flying through the air this Halloween!
Boyne Mountain is turning its Zipline Adventure into a haunted happening. Halloween weekend, Friday, Oct. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 30, Boyne Mountain’s 10-line zipline transforms into the Zip of Terror, a thrilling and spooky, after-dark phenomenon. 

Those not shy of a good scare can suit up with zipline gear and set out for the top of Boyne Mountain where the darkness settles in and the night delivers an eerie quietness. Zombies, goblins and other creepy characters send you zipping through the woods at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour and dropping over 50 stories. If that’s not scary enough, walking from line to line is where the true terror sets in. Only the light of the moon and glow sticks guide you along the Zip of Terror while screams, groans, and growls, call out from the night and fear lurks around every corner. WARNING: Not recommended for the faint of heart.

Reservations are suggested for the 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. departures and can be made by calling 231-549-6006. Riders must weigh between 60 and 275 pounds and be a minimum of three feet tall. Cost is $45 per person, or $40 per person for parties of five or more. Nightly hotel lodging starts at $79.

Boyne Mountain also offers the annual Halloween Hoopla, October 29 and 30, at Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark. Activities include Halloween arts and crafts; witches brew and treats, the great pumpkin race, spooky story time, haunted hallway, hayrides, bonfire and s’mores and trick or treating. Packages start at $125 per night and include lodging for a family of four at Boyne Mountain, unlimited waterpark access, arcade tokens and all the Halloween Hoopla fun.

For lodging reservations and information, please call 800-GO-BOYNE (462-6963) or visit www.BOYNE.com.

BOYNE is a collection of mountain and golf resorts, retail stores and real estate opportunities based in Michigan. Each of the collection is a member of the Boyne Resorts family of resorts and attractions and includes Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls; Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs and The Inn at Bay Harbor - A Renaissance Golf Resort in Bay Harbor as well as Bay Harbor Golf Club, Crooked Tree Golf Club, Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, Boyne Country Sports and Boyne Realty. With countless lodging and meeting facilities, eight championship golf courses, premiere snowsports terrain, two spas, distinctive dining, spectacular events and Michigan's largest indoor waterpark, and the question becomes......what are you up for? For more information on BOYNE, please visit www.BOYNE.com.

October Hauntings and Happenings at Ohio's Fort Meigs

Wondering what to do on a nice fall day? Want a great place to get outside and experience history? Come to Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, Ohio. Fort Meigs is a War of 1812 battlefield featuring a reconstructed fort and museum. You still have a few weeks left! The fort remains open for visitation through the end of October. Stop in for a visit.

Museum open year ‘round
Stop by this winter to get your history fix. Don’t forget the museum and store is open the entire year. Will keep you posted on upcoming winter events. Winter admission prices (November through March) are $5 for adults, $4 for students and children five and under are free.


Fort Meigs Military History Roundtable
Thursday, October 21
Doug and Steve Johnson will speak on Thursday, October 21st at the Fort Meigs Visitor Center. The title of their talk is “War Gaming: From Military Training to Modern Hobby.” The meeting starts at 7:30 PM and is free and open to the public.

Join Messrs.’ Johnson and discover the role of war gaming in teaching military tactics and planning major offensive operations. Follow the progression of war gaming from its ancient military origins through the sand tables of WWII and its creation as a hobby for military history and gaming enthusiasts. A war game will be set up to help further illustrate this interesting aspect of military history and to better describe the hobby.

Garrison Ghost Walks  
Friday and Saturday, October 22, 23, 29, 30
Come for a “spirited” stroll through Fort Meigs. You and your 1812 guide will encounter the spookier side of this historic place. The whole family will enjoy hearing tales from the past by fire light, and while the ghosts may not be real, the fun certainly is. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 419-874-4121 or 800-283-8916 during normal operating hours.

Fort Meigs is located at 29100 W. River Road in Perrysburg, Ohio, which is just south of Toledo. Hours are: Wednesday – Saturday, 9:30 – 5 pm; and Sunday, Noon – 5 pm. For more information, call 419-874-4121 or visit www.fortmeigs.org.

Day Five of the Fall Detroit RV Show

Sunday was the fifth and final day of the 21st Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show. It was a great day and a fitting end to what has turned out to be a very successful RV Show.

If you want, you can go back and read my posts from Day One, Day Two, Day Three and Day Four.

My previous posts all included videos, and I wish I had a video for you today. In fact, I intended on meeting up with Bill Sheffer, Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds, for him to provide some final thoughts on the show. But each time I stopped by his office, no one was around. He's a busy guy, and I'm sure he was out on the floor somewhere.

Had I ran into him and videoed him for this blog, I'm sure he would have said that it was a huge success; attendance figures were through the roof and RV dealers and vendors all had glowing reports of their efforts. And he would be right on all accounts.

While walking around the show today, I made a point to ask a handful of salespeople how the show had been for them, and every one said they sold a lot of RVs and made a lot of leads for sales in the very near future. That's a great sign!

Vendors I talked to said the same thing, that they were very busy and people were very receptive to what they were offering. In fact, Rick Stafford from River Ridge RV Resort said Sunday that three couples he talked to were interested enough in his RV resort that they were going to drive up there that day and take a look around. Incredible!

Today I was at the show with my dad and four of my uncles, all of us RVers. It was great just to be out with all of them. I got to show them some of the campers and motor homes I thought were highlights of the show. We ran into one of my mom's co-workers, and she and her husband seemed to be settling in on a new fifth-wheel they saw at the show.

All in all, it was a great show. And now the countdown begins for the 45th Annual Camper & RV Show at the Rock Financial Showplace on Feb. 16-20. Can't wait!

Final note: Sometime this week I will put together a final recap of the Fall RV Show, complete with video. I'll post it here, but also at the companion blog I do at www.rv.net and for my work at www.theoaklandpress.com.

Annual Fort Massac Encampment is Oct. 16-17 in Illinois

Popular Festival at Fort Massac State Park Provides Sample of Colonial Times

One of southern Illinois’ most popular fall festivals – the annual Fort Massac Encampment – will be held at Fort Massac State Park in Metropolis on Oct. 16-17.

“The encampment at Fort Massac is a great opportunity for families and history buffs to step back in time and get a feel for what life might have been like on the Ohio River bluff in Colonial times,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Marc Miller. “For music, food, period costumes, craft demonstrations and family fun, Fort Massac in mid October is a popular destination.”

The Fort Massac Encampment is hosted by the IDNR with support from the City of Metropolis, the Friends of Fort Massac, and local sponsors. The event provides visitors with a chance to experience what life was like at Fort Massac during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The site served as a military outpost along the Ohio River for personnel from France, Britain, and the early years of the United States from 1757 to 1814.

Event times are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 16 and 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 17.

The encampment is famous for its mock military battles and tactical demonstrations performed by re-enactors on the Fort Massac grounds both Saturday and Sunday. Each day’s activities close with a military retreat ceremony. More than 500 military re-enactors and other participants wearing costumes recalling 18th and 19th century dress present the roles of explorers, traders, settlers and soldiers on the early Illinois frontier.

Musicians perform with period instruments, and activities include fife and drum corps, games, storytellers and puppet shows, along with period craft makers demonstrating blacksmithing, candle-making, weaving, and other skills. A children’s area at the fort features hands-on activities for youth.

Admission to the encampment festival is free and parking is provided at the Old Fairgrounds adjacent to the park. Tram service will be provided and is accessible to visitors with disabilities. Fort Massac State Park is closed to public vehicle traffic during the encampment weekend.

Historic Fort Massac was reconstructed and reopened to the public in 2003 to more accurately reflect the construction in 1802 of an American military outpost at the site. Fort Massac State Park opened as Illinois’ first state park in 1908, and is located on the Ohio River at 1308 East Fifth Street in Metropolis. For more information about the encampment and the park, contact the site office at 618-524-4712.

Day Four of the Fall Detroit RV Show

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As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was not able to go to the show on Saturday due to my son's baseball game (they lost), the MSU-UM football game (my team won) and that night the whole family went to a Doc Severinsen concert with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra (very cool).

I am going to the RV show today, Sunday, the final day of what has proven to be a very well-attended RV show. I'll be talking to MARVAC Director Bill Sheffer today for a recap, and I expect him to say nothing but positive things about the show.

Despite not going to the show Saturday, I do have a Day Four report for you.

Obviously, the far majority of people who go to RV Shows don't end up buying an RV at the show (unlike Skip and Nancy Yates who bought a Winnebago Journey, as highlighted in my Day Two report). We either already have an RV or we're at the show just because we've got nothing better to do.

The Felmlees fall into the first category. I caught up with John and Karen Felmlee of Rochester, Michigan as they were strolling down the RV aisles.

"We generally come to all these shows," Jim said. "We enjoy seeing all the new RVs. We already own our own RV, but generally we come to see all the new features and one we really like are the outdoor kitchens."

"You know, when you're camping, you spend all your time outside anyways," Karen added. "So an outdoor kitchen makes perfect sense."

After agreeing that most RVers hardly ever cook inside their camper, unless weather dictates otherwise, Jim summed up the RV show experience that most everyone can relate to.

"We come here partly for enjoyment, part of it is a little bit practical, and part of of it is for pure dreaming -- in case we ever retire and get a chance to go full-time RVing."

Another couple I ran into was Geraldine Laczek of Macomb Township and her daughter-in-law Debby Laczek, of Metamora, Michigan. Like the Felmlees, they already owned their own RVs and were at the show just to enjoy all the new RVs.

They both also liked the outdoor kitchens and indoor fireplaces, while Debby said she liked the Montana fifth wheel with the living room up front floor plan. Their conversation with me, along with my personal video tour of the fifth wheel Geraldine mentioned, is in today's video.

As I mentioned, I'm headed to the show for its final day, today. I'm going with my dad (Outback travel trailer), Uncle Ed (Rockwood bunkhouse), Uncle Bob (Trail Lite fifth wheel) and Uncle Tom (another fifth wheel). I'll have a Day Five post tomorrow and a Final Recap in the days to follow.

Conkle's Hollow Fall Foliage Weekend coming soon

Brilliant Autumn Colors will highlight annual Conkle’s Hollow Fall Foliage Weekend, October 16-17

Some of the best colors of the season will be on display at Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve for the 18th Annual Fall Foliage Event. Coordinated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), this open-house styled event runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, October 16-17.

We camped at Hocking Hills several years ago, and it remains one of our most very favorite destinations. We were there in the summer, and we all agreed that we must return to this gorgeous landscape for each season of the year. Autumn would most likely be the best time of year for Conkle's Hollow and all of Hocking Hills. The trails vary from difficult to handicap-accessible, providing everyone with a great perspective to view Hocking Hills' fall colors.

“Conkle’s Hollow offers visitors brilliantly-colored hills, winding trails and spectacular autumn views of the Hocking Hills,” said Jeff Johnson, district preserve manager at ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. “Uniformed naturalists will be on hand to direct visitors to the most scenic features of the preserve.”

Visitors to this year's event can explore 3.5 miles of trails including the 1-mile handicapped accessible Lower Gorge trail. The weekend will include a re-enactment of a 1790s encampment, complete with period tents, settlers in pioneer dress and late 18th century cooking. The early Ohio settlers, portrayed by the Hock-Hocking Historical Trekkers, will set up camp west of the parking lot to show visitors what life was like for area pioneers.

The 87-acre Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve is one of 134 state nature preserves managed by the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. Known for its spectacular views and deep gorges, Conkle’s Hollow features cliffs of Black Hand sandstone rising nearly 200 feet above the valley floor. Named after an area inscription, “W.J. Conkle 1797,” the preserve is home to Canada yew, teaberry, various ferns and several species of native orchids, as well as white-tailed deer, turkey, fox and beaver. The preserve is open sunrise to sunset year-round.

To obtain directions to Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve, visit the division’s Web site at www.ohiodnr.com/dnap. For additional information, contact the preserve manager, Jeff Johnson, at (740) 380-8919.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at www.ohiodnr.com.

Day Three of the 2010 Fall Detroit RV Show


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After a great first two days of the 2010 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show, I spent Day Three walking around, talking to several people, inspecting the RVs and basically just enjoying myself.

I met up again with Bill Sheffer, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds, which is the host organization for the show. He mentioned that attendance through the first two days was up 40 percent from the previous year, and I can personally attest to a ton of people coming to the show for Day Three. 

The Day Three post will be ready for you to see sometime this weekend.


Since I cannot make it to the show on Saturday -- my son has a baseball game in the morning and we have plans for later that afternoon and evening -- the video I have for you with this post is the 2011 Monaco Diplomat 43PD5 motor home I talked about on the Day Two post. I will be back on Sunday for the final day of the show, though!

Our host for the video tour is John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids, who was gracious enough to meet me before the show opened on Thursday for an exclusive tour of the Monaco Diplomat.
 
This motor home is a treat. Most people go to the RV shows to see what's new, and Monaco outfitted the Diplomat with a never-before-seen innovation. Bill Sheffer coined it the slide-within-a-slide, so that's what I'll call it too.

The slide-within-a-slide is exactly what the term says it is. On the driver's side of the coach is a slide with the refrigerator, dinette and couch. A push of a button extends that slide 3 feet out of the coach. Then, another push of a button extends a second slide, this one containing just the dinette and the couch, out another 2 feet. The whole process takes about 40 seconds, and the interior space it creates is very impressive, especially since another 3-foot slide is on the opposite side of the coach.

The video just concentrates on the slide-within-a-slide innovation. I recorded more video of John showing off the rest of the coach, but to include all that would have made the file size too large for upload. There's so much more to the Monaco Diplomat that you owe it to yourself to seek one out and discover a truly luxurious and well-planned motor home.

Some of the specs on the 43PD5 Diplomat:
-- GVWR - 33,000 pounds
-- Overall Length - 44 feet, 3 inches
-- Overall Height - 12 feet, 7 inches
-- Exterior Width - 100.5 inches
-- Interior Height - 84 inches
-- Gray Tank - 62 gallons
-- Black Tank - 40 gallons
-- Fresh Tank - 100 gallons
-- Fuel Tank - 100 gallons
-- LP Tank - 39 gallons

FYI: The 21st Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show is Oct. 6-10 at the Rock Financial Showplace, 46100 Grand River Avenue, Novi, MI 48374. Hours are Weekdays 2-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Adult admission (ages 13 and up) is $8, senior admission is $7, and children 12 and under get in free! RV show ticket will also get you into the Fall Remodeling & Design Expo, Thursday through Sunday. The show will feature all types of new recreation vehicles — over 200 units and 50 brands displayed — ranging from folding campers, motor homes, travel trailers, truck campers, park models and fifth wheel travel trailers. Booths featuring parts and accessories, campground information, on site RV financing and RV rentals make this the complete RV show experience.

Forest Heritage Festival coming to Ohio

15th Annual Forest Heritage Festival runs Oct. 15-16 in Dover

Free family event features entertainment, crafts and old-time fiddling

The 15th Annual Forest Heritage Festival will be held at the Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds in Dover on Oct. 15-16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Forestry. The festival features entertainment, food, games, craft booths, demonstrations and an old-time fiddling contest. Admission and parking are free.

“The Forest Heritage Festival showcases the work of professional woodland stewards and the products, tools and expertise of the forest industry,” said David Lytle, state forester and chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “We encourage woodland owners and other visitors to take advantage of a variety of educational activities featured at the festival.”

The festival also plays an important role for Akron Children’s Hospital. Co-sponsored by the East Central Ohio Loggers Chapter and the New Philadelphia Wal-Mart, the Forest Heritage Festival has donated more than $800,000 to the hospital — including $80,000 last year alone — as part of the Log-a-Load for Kids and Children’s Miracle Network programs.

These proceeds are raised through exhibitor fees, a silent auction, donations, food sales and a charity auction that will be held on Saturday, October 16 at 11 a.m. The auction will feature many Amish-made furniture items, quilts, autographed photos and sports memorabilia, and many other items.

The Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau has partnered with the festival again this year and will present the Storybook Barn with fun and lessons for all ages.

For more information, visit www.forestheritagefestival.com or contact Karen Korns at (330) 339-3991.

Ohio grows more acres of trees than corn and soybeans combined. The ODNR Division of Forestry works to promote the wise use and sustainable management of Ohio’s public and private woodlands. To learn more about Ohio’s woodlands, visit the Division of Forestry’s Web site at www.ohiodnr.com/forestry.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at www.ohiodnr.com.

Day Two of the 2010 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show


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I'm sorry to report that I only spent a half hour at the RV show today. It couldn't be helped; my full time job needed me, and since they sign my paycheck I had to oblige.

But the 30 minutes I had at the show were extremely worthwhile.

About 90 minutes before the show opened to the public, I met John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids inside Rock Financial Showplace. Specifically, I met him at the Monaco Diplomat motor home prominently featured in his dealership's display area. Without revealing too much, because I will have much more on this beautifully innovative RV in the very near future, the Diplomat features a slide-within-a-slide. Stay tuned for more on this incredible motor home.

Because I wasn't able to spend more time at the show today, the video I prepared is from the first day of the show. As I mentioned in the post from that day, I met up with members of the Motor City Winnies checking out the Winnebago motor homes in the General RV section.

I was talking with Bob Dunn in front of a Winnebago Journey diesel motor home, and as he was telling me about the Motor City Winnies club, he also mentioned that the motor home behind him was purchased earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills.

Skip and Nancy, of course, were inside their new motor home and greeting all who entered -- including me and my video camera.

Traverse City's Haunted Lighthouse, Ghostly Inn & The Spooky Old Asylum

(Photo courtesy of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau)
The gothic spires and walls of the former Traverse City Asylum, now known as the
Grand Traverse Commons, have given rise to a host of ghost stories, though developers
of the 500-acre property try to discourage talk of hauntings and apparitions.
It’s hard not to get a little spooked at night if you’re walking around the Grand Traverse Commons. Surrounded by thick forest, the turreted buildings of Traverse City’s former mental asylum loom out of the darkness like ruined castles, filled with strange shadows and furtive rustlings.

It should come as no surprise, then, that dozens of legends about ghostly appearances have accumulated around the 19th Century asylum, which is being gradually redeveloped into a “village” of condos, boutiques, offices and restaurants. There are stories of mournful apparitions in the halls, strange physical sensations — and even an enormous gnarled tree that’s supposed to mark the “gateway to Hell.”

People can be forgiven for letting their imaginations run away with them. In spite of the extensive makeover the former asylum is getting, many buildings on the 500-acre Commons campus are still waiting to be restored — and their gaunt, crumbling hulks seem ready-made for scary stories of demented spirits and restless souls. Every year, fans of the occult come to the Commons searching for thrills and chills, even though the owners of the property don’t exactly encourage the attention.

“There’s a ton of us who live and work here, and I’ve only heard one or two stories about things people couldn’t explain,” says Kristen Messner, who works for the project developers. “These are old buildings, and sound sometimes travels in strange ways. That’s it.”

The attitude toward hauntings is a bit more welcoming a few miles up the coast at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum. For years, the isolated lighthouse at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula has held a family-oriented “haunted lighthouse” program in honor of its own ghostly inhabitant, and it now has added a series of October “ghost walks.” Small groups of visitors are invited in on Friday and Saturday nights to prowl the living quarters and working spaces of the historic 19th century buildings.

Established in 1850, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse is one of the oldest lights on the Great Lakes. It occupies a lonely point of rocky coast (now the site of a state park) marking the outer edge of Grand Traverse Bay, with sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the distant Manitou and Fox Islands.

One believer in the lighthouse ghost is museum director Stefanie Staley, who has spent more than her share of fall evenings alone at the isolated light station. She says she’s heard lots of inexplicable noises: voices in the hall heading toward the tower stairs, and the sound of someone with hard-soled shoes walking across the hardwood floors.

“I hear it, I walk out, and there’s not a soul anywhere,” she says.

Nor is Staley the only one who’s been dealing with strange happenings. The lighthouse runs a volunteer keeper program where people can stay in the lighthouse for weeks at a time, caring for the buildings and showing visitors around. Over the years, several volunteers have mentioned strange phenomena: the sensation of being brushed past by a moving form, and in one case actually seeing a man at the doorway, kicking off his boots.

Some locals claim the ghost is that of Peter Nelson, a Danish ship captain who settled in Northport and became the lighthouse keeper from 1874 to 1890. But no one knows of any particular scandals or secrets associated with Nelson’s life, and the haunting — if that’s what it is — seems to be a fairly amiable one.

Not so with the goings-on across the bay at Bowers Harbor, a lovely cove on the western shore of the Old Mission Peninsula, where the area’s most celebrated ghost has been carrying on at the former Bowers Harbor Inn for decades. Genevive Stickney, whose husband built the rambling waterfront home in the 1880s, is said to have died in the house under tragic circumstances. Although recent research has cast doubt on much of the backstory told about the Stickneys (that Genevive was a scorned wife who committed suicide by hanging herself in the elevator shaft), the case has been featured in several books and television programs.

Guests, employees and visitors to the inn (now home of the Mission Table restaurant) insist that they have experienced strange rapping noises, doors slamming, lights suddenly turning on, mirrors and paintings falling from walls. One restaurant guest was severely frightened when she looked into a full-length upstairs mirror and saw the reflection of another woman standing behind her — dressed in clothing from the 19th century, her long hair pulled back into a tight bun. When she turned to speak to the stranger, there was no one there.

Having a ghost on the premises isn’t bad for business, so long as things don’t get out of hand. Far from downplaying their ethereal resident, the owners of the Mission Table and the adjoining Jolly Pumpkin Brewery enjoy regaling newcomers with tales of Genevive’s pranks. The restaurant has even devoted a page of its website to the ghostly legend.

Ghost walks at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum are held every Friday and Saturday in October, starting at 7 p.m. Groups are limited to 12 persons, and tickets are $5 per person; to make an advance reservation, call 231-386-7195.

For more information about Traverse City fall festivals and activities, and for help with lodging and dining options and other attractions in the Traverse City area, contact the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-TRAVERSE or on line at www.TraverseCity.com

Day One of the 2010 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show

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What a great opening day to the 2010 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show!

The show opened at 2 p.m., and the by the time I was able to leave work and get over there, the show was already two hours old. It was funny, the closer I got to Rock Financial Showplace, the more excited I got. It was like I was a kid again and it was Christmas morning. I don't know why I get excited going to RV shows, but I do.

Once inside, I immediately caught that familiar sight of endless rows of RVs, with people walking in and out of them and up and down the aisles. Yes!

I spoke with a few dealers who said sales were up, a few people who seemed as excited to be there as I was, and a few people from MARVAC who were as friendly in person as they sounded on the phone.

Denny Powlison, from Adrian, brought his wife in the hopes she might catch the RV camping bug. He said she had only been camping once, in a sleeping bag under the stars -- not even a tent -- so he was skeptical. But she feel in love with a Rockwood Minilite #18095 travel trailer, and they'll be back to the February show to make the purchase.

Rick Stafford from River Ridge RV Resort said he always loves coming to the RV show in Novi because many of his campers come from southeast Michigan. Rick said today that many people were not shy about approaching him and asking questions about his family-friendly RV resort located about 45 minutes north of Grand Rapids.

I caught Bob Dunn walking down the aisle wearing a Winnebago sweater, so there was no doubt what type of RV he had. Sure enough, Bob and his wife not only own a Winnebago, but he's also president of the Motor City Winnies, a club of Winnebago lovers in southeast Michigan. He and I agreed to get together over lunch soon so I can learn more about his club, which is one of six chapters in Michigan's Water Wonderland Winnies.

I was talking with Bob in front of a Winnebago Journey diesel motor home that was purchased earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills. Talk about Christmas Day! The Yates held court inside their new camper, inviting complete strangers to come in, look around but be gentle.

I'll have video of Bob Dunn and the Yates posted soon.

I also spoke with Dan White of H.W. Motor Homes in Canton. Besides discussing the future of The Palace now that Mike Ilitch is the new owner of the Pistons, he also took the time to show me the Quicksilver fold-out tent camper from Livin Lite. It only weighs 600 pounds so it can be towed by just about anything on the roads today, so it's a great option for people who might be tired of tent-camping but aren't quite ready to upgrade to a traditional RV. Look for video of him talking about this neat little camper in the near future, too.

I also got the chance to finally meet Bill Sheffer, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds, and Beth Monicatti-Blank and Rachel Biermann of All Seasons Communications, the marketing agency for MARVAC. We had communicated via telephone and e-mail for years, and it was a pleasure to finally get to meet them.

I'm headed back to the show tomorrow for a tour of yet another industry innovation: a slide-within-a-slide. John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids will be showing me around a motor home that features a traditional slide-out, but from within that slide-out comes a second, smaller slide-out. Pretty cool! Look for video on that soon, too!

All in all, a good day. I'll spend only an hour or two at the show tomorrow, but I still have a bunch of video from today that I hope to post real soon.

FYI: The 21st Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show is Oct. 6-10 at the Rock Financial Showplace, 46100 Grand River Avenue, Novi, MI 48374. Hours are Weekdays 2-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Adult admission (ages 13 and up) is $8, senior admission is $7, and children 12 and under get in free! RV show ticket will also get you into the Fall Remodeling & Design Expo, Thursday through Sunday. The show will feature all types of new recreation vehicles — over 200 units and 50 brands displayed — ranging from folding campers, motor homes, travel trailers, truck campers, park models and fifth wheel travel trailers. Booths featuring parts and accessories, campground information, on site RV financing and RV rentals make this the complete RV show experience.

Fall colors close to peak conditions in Ohio

Fall color is starting to come on this week with the seasonally cool temperatures. ODNR is reporting near peak fall foliage in shades of red, orange, gold and yellow in areas throughout Ohio.

“Pockets of color are becoming more noticeable in both the rural and urban landscape,” said Casey Munchel, fall foliage expert for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry. “Ohio has more than 100 hardwood tree species and the variety of species contributes to the variety of colors.”

The diversity of Ohio’s forests make autumn one of the most beautiful times to be outdoors. Maple trees produce a red pigment, anthocyanin; oaks produce a brown color from tannin, a bitter waste product; hickory and beech trees reveal yellows and golds that come from carotenoids.

Leaf peepers can expect to find peak fall color during the second and third weeks of October throughout Ohio.

Fall wild turkey hunting opens in 48 Ohio counties on Saturday, October 9 and continues through Sunday, November 28. Ruffed grouse hunting season also starts Saturday, October 9 and runs through January 31, 2011. For more info on fall wild turkey or ruffed grouse hunting, go to www.wildohio.com.

This coming weekend, check out one of the following events at one of your Ohio State Parks…

Halloween Campout, Paint Creek (SW) - Oct. 8-9. Campsite decorating and costume contests, hay rides & trick or treatl. (937) 981-7061 or (937) 393-4284.

Halloween Campout, Lake Loramie (NW) - Oct. 8-10. Pumpkin carving, campsite decorating, trick or treat, movies, games & a potluck supper. (937) 295-2011.

Fall Color Walk, Malabar Farm (NE) - Oct. 9, 10 AM-Noon. Meet at the visitor center. 2-mile hike. (419) 892-2784.

Fall Festival, Punderson (NE) - Oct. 9. Costume and pumpkin contests, trick or treat, hayrides, games & a campfire. (440) 564-2279 or www.friendsofpunderson.com.

Fall Color Canoe Tour, Van Buren (NW) - Oct. 10, 2-3:30 PM. $10 donation per canoe benefits the friends of Van Buren State Park. Pre-registration required by Oct. 8. (419) 348-7679.

To find out more about these and other events, visit www.ohiodnr.com. The site will serve as a premier guide to Ohio’s fall color season. Its pages provide information for travelers who want to map a scenic road trip, adventurers who are refreshed and energized by the cool autumn weather, vacationers who seek places of solace to enjoy the changing seasons and even the students who need a resource for leaf collection projects. Ohioans and out-of-state visitors can also find information about fall foliage by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE or visiting www.discoverohio.com/autumnadventures.

Experience Holiday Magic in Chicago

Chicago is dazzling every holiday season, and this one will be no different!

From special holiday exhibitions at Chicago museums to popular annual traditions like the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and the Daley Plaza Christmas Tree to celebrations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, the Windy City is a wonderful place to experience the joy and magic of the holiday season.

Visitors should make their first stop the Chicago Office of Tourism’s Visitor Information Center in the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 East Washington Street.

Chicago is home to hundreds of hotels to suit any taste or price point, many of which offer special holiday packages. For more information on visiting Chicago this holiday season, or to book accommodations, visit www.explorechicago.org or call 877-CHICAGO.

Annual Traditions
Michigan Avenue: The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival presented by Harris
Saturday, Nov. 20
Admission Free!
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival presented by Harris kicks off the holiday season on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. with a day full of musical performances on the Harris Stage. The day culminates with a magical procession down North Michigan Avenue led by Mickey Mouse and his friends from Walt Disney World Resorts in Florida. The parade, which starts at 5:30 p.m., is followed by a spectacular fireworks show over the Chicago River. Enjoy a host of holiday experiences and shopping along The Magnificent Mile in Chicago throughout the holiday season.

Daley Plaza: Christkindlmarket Chicago
Wednesday, Nov. 24 through Dec. 24
Opens daily 11a.m.; Closing hours Sunday through Thursday 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. (Closes at 4 p.m. on November 25th and December 24th)
Admission Free!
Watch as Daley Plaza is transformed into a little piece of Germany, known as the Christkindlmarket Chicago. At the Plaza, visitors will find Chicago’s iconic Picasso sculpture surrounded by red and white crested huts glowing with warmth and overflowing with curios. Nutcrackers, cuckoo-clocks, beer steins, European chocolates, toys, jewelry, clothing and a wide variety of holiday ornaments are just a few of the items for sale from more than 50 vendor booths.

Daley Plaza: Chicago Christmas Tree and Lighting Ceremony
Ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 4 p.m.
Admission Free!
Presented by The City of Chicago and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) the 97th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is a highly-anticipated event drawing people of all ages to the heart of Chicago's downtown Loop. Musical performances and festive holiday music begin at 4:30 p.m. and the holiday season officially commences at 5:00 p.m., when the switch is flipped and the lights begin to dazzle in Daley Plaza.The tree will be on display in the plaza from Thanksgiving through New Years as a sign of the city’s holiday spirit.

Millennium Park: Caroling at Cloud Gate
6 p.m., Fridays, Nov. 26 to Dec. 17
Admission Free!
Chicago's holiday tradition returns on Friday nights throughout the holiday season. Chicagoans and visitors alike are invited to Cloud Gate to hear the beautiful voices of different Chicago choral groups and participate in a holiday sing-along. After the holiday sing-along (approximately 50 minutes), everyone is encouraged to skate at Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

Navy Pier: Winter Wonderfest
Friday, Dec. 3 through Sunday, January 2, 2011
Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Admission Free, wristbands required to participate in rides and attractions ($16-19)
Winter Wonderfest, Navy Pier's annual holiday extravaganza, returns for its eighth magical year. This holiday tradition features more than 750,000 holiday ornaments, hundreds of decorated trees, an indoor Ferris wheel, Musical Carousel, North Pole E-Wish Center, Large-Scale Inflatable Games and Giant Slides, Winter WonderStage, Carolers, and more!

City Hall Concert Series: Young Voices Deck “The Hall”
Wednesday Dec. 1 through Friday, Dec. 17, 12-1 p.m.
Admission Free!
Get into the holiday spirit while listening to the classics sung by children’s choirs from throughout the city. The City Hall Holiday Concert Series begins Wednesday Dec. 1 and runs through Friday, Dec. 17 with concerts every weekday from noon to 1 p.m. The concerts will take place in the lobby of City Hall (121 N. LaSalle) near the LaSalle Street entrance. The series exhibits the talents of children from all over Chicago and warms the hearts of the audience.

Mayor Daley’s Sports Festival
Dec. 18 and Dec. 19, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
McCormick Place in Halls A & B
Admission Free!
Highlights of the annual Chicago Sports Festival include interactive zones featuring trampolines, golf, climbing walls, football, chess, obstacle course, tot’s zone, bowling, table tennis, inflatable tumbling, tennis, badminton, boxing, a pitching zone, fishing ponds, footbag, giant slide, 40-Yard dash, skateboarding area, wrestling, and open courts for volleyball and basketball. The Halftime Stage features special performances and demonstrations from 12 – 4 each day.

Breakfast with Santa at John Hancock Observatory
December 4, 5, 11, 12 18 and 19
Adults $39, Youth $29, Infant $19
Experience a magical holiday high more than 1,000 feet in the air as you enjoy breakfast in the award-winning Lavazza Espression cafe. And, make sure to get your picture taken with Santa while you are there. Even though they've added another weekend, the spots at this great event fill up fast! (50% non-refundable deposit due at time of booking.)

Do-Division Holiday Walk
Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m.
Admission Free!
The shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars of trendy West Division between Milwaukee and Leavitt rock the holiday cheer on Saturday, December 5th at the annual Do-Division Holiday event. Beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing throughout the evening, those who make the trek along this holiday trail can enjoy decked out Division Street merchants - boasting incredible deals on everything from designer duds to renowned cuisine. A family-friendly occasion, the Do-Division Holiday event is a fun way for Chicago residents and visitors alike to become acquainted with a distinctive corridor of Chicago filled with unique and independent businesses that are matchless in charm. The street charged with the warmth of the holidays, as seasonal activities like a FREE horse-drawn carriage ride (from Ashland to Leavitt) help revelers get into the spirit.

Shopping Events
66 East Randolph Street: Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand
Mondays – Fridays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand offers edible local products, all produced within 250 miles of Chicago, including fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in season; a full range of condiments, preserves, seasonings and other dry goods items; baked goods and seasonal items as available. The Farmstand is the perfect place to find locally produced holiday gifts, and to buy ingredients for preparing holiday meals.

Chicago Cultural Center: Glitter
Tuesday, Nov. 30 & Wednesday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Admission Free
Discover the best gifts for the holidays when Chicago designers and boutiques celebrate the season at Glitter: A Holiday Shopping Event. Extended to two days, shop special holiday items, sales, and original fashions from local designers and boutiques at the Chicago Cultural Center. This event is the perfect place to find unique merchandise for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

Holiday Shopping in Chicago Neighborhoods
There’s no better place for holiday shopping than in Chicago’s neighborhoods! Division Street and the Southport Corridor are home to specialty shops that carry the work of independent and Chicago-based designers. In the Lincoln Park neighborhood, shop along Lincoln Avenue, Clark Street, Armitage Avenue or Halsted Street, or venture further north to the Lakeview neighborhood (along Clark Street, Belmont Avenue or Broadway) for a wide variety of shopping alternatives. In recent years, cutting-edge national stores like Anthropologie, Marc Jacobs and Cynthia Rowley have opened shops in these neighborhoods. Visit www.chicagofashionresource.com for more information on Chicago shopping excursions.

Museum and Zoo Highlights
Museum of Science and Industry: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Thursday, Nov. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and
11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday (The museum will be closed Christmas Day.)
Don’t miss the Museum of Science and Industry’s time-honored celebration, Christmas Around the World. The exhibition includes more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to reflect holiday traditions from around the globe. Holidays of Light, a multicultural display of holiday traditions that celebrate light or enlightenment, such as Diwali and Hanukkah, also illuminates the Museum’s halls during this time.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Zoo Lights
Nightly Dec. 17 – Jan. 2, 2011 (closed Dec. 24 & 25), 5–9 p.m.
Admission Free!
Lincoln Park Zoo transforms into a dazzling wonderland with a series of free seasonal festivities. Enter a winter wonderland illuminated by the laughter of children and more than two million lights at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Charter One. Animal exhibits stay open late as guests roam the beautiful grounds to take photos with Santa, prepare family crafts and enjoy the zoo’s incredible animals immersed in an atmosphere unlike any other.

Hanukkah/Jewish Celebrations
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies: Latke-palooza: One For Each Night cooking demo
Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $18, with discounts for Spertus members and students
With the Hannukah holiday starting early this year (at sundown, Dec. 1), Chef Laura Frankel introduces participants to an array of latke (fried potato pancake) possibilities, as she combines her favorite ingredients into eight different, delicious crispy treats packed with produce. In addition to the traditional mix of potatoes and onions, Chef Laura will demonstrate for sampling new latke versions and variations while also offering valuable tips on which oils to use, how to simplify preparation, and how to store and serve the finished products. Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering. Founder of the adventurous, gourmet kosher Shallots restaurants in Chicago and New York and author of "Jewish Cooking for All Seasons," she has made it her creative mission to re-imagine and revitalize the diverse—and delicious—traditions of Jewish cooking. Ticket price includes take-home recipe cards.

Performances and Events
Chicago Cultural Center: Dance Along Nutcracker
Sunday, Dec. 5
Performances at noon & 3 p.m., Workshops at 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center
Admission Free!
Young and old alike are invited to hit the dance floor as sugar plum fairies and toy soldiers dance and sing along with music from the Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band, including selections from Tchaikovsky's beloved Nutcracker Suite.

The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker
Friday, Dec. 10, through Sunday, Dec. 26
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
Tickets range from $30 to $115
One Chicago’s most popular holiday traditions, Robert Joffrey’s production of The Nutcracker again transforms the Auditorium Theatre into a land of beauty, fantasy and wonder. The Tchaikovsky masterpiece features the full Joffrey company, local children’s choruses and more than 120 young dancers.

Goodman Theatre: A Christmas Carol
Friday, Nov. 19 through Friday, Dec. 31
Goodman Theatre
For three decades and over one million people, Charles Dickens’ classic story, the exceptional actors and the miraculous stagecraft have made Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol a perennial holiday favorite and beloved Chicago tradition. Every year, audiences delight in the “Bah, Humbugs,” the arrival of the ghosts, the music and dancing and Scrooge’s joyful discovery of life and love.

Hotel Packages
Great holiday hotel packages are available at several Chicago hotels, including the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, Conrad Chicago, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Fairmont Chicago, Double Tree Chicago Magnificent Mile, The Talbott, Elysian, and Raffaello Hotel.


Visitors and Chicagoans planning to entertain out-of-town guests can receive Chicago brochures, reserve hotel accommodations and receive trip-planning assistance by calling toll-free 1-877-CHICAGO (1-877-244-2246), or visiting www.explorechicago.org. Brochures and information on Chicago’s exciting events and activities are also available at the Visitor Information Centers. The centers are located at Chicago Water Works, 163 East Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph Street. For those calling from outside the United States, Mexico and Canada, please call 1-312-201-8847. The TTY toll-free number for the hearing impaired is 1-866-710-0294.