2013 Ohio tourism publications now available

The Ohio Development Services Agency's Office of TourismOhio today released the 2013 Ohio Travel Guide and 2013 Spring/Summer Ohio Calendar of Events. Both print publications are available free of charge from DiscoverOhio.com or by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE. The Travel Guide and Calendar are also available in a digital, interactive format on DiscoverOhio.com.

Based on traveler research, the 2013 Ohio Travel Guide features more and significantly larger photos than the 2012 edition. "We found that while visitors like the way our guide is organized and the type of information it contains, they want to literally see more of the experiences that are described within the book," said Interim State Tourism Director Pat Barker. "The two-page picture spreads in this year's Travel Guide are visually stunning and allow us to share both Ohio's well-known and hidden-gem tourism experiences in a way that words just cannot convey."

2013 Ohio Travel Guide highlights include:
  • Editorial sections with large images to better showcase Ohio's travel destinations;
  • Pull-out state map featuring locations for attractions;
  • Ohio's Historical Anniversaries section including the War of 1812 Bicentennial and ongoing Civil War Sesquicentennial commemorations;
  • Sports Ohio section highlighting national and international sporting events held in Ohio;
  • More than 3,000 listings for destinations, attractions, lodging facilities, restaurants and more.

The 2013 Spring/Summer Ohio Calendar of Events includes:
  • Listings for nearly 800 festivals, shows, concerts and more from March through August 2013;
  • 68-pages of full-color images with events color-coded by region;
  • Calendar for each month listing holidays and advertiser driven events. 

Free Ohio tourism materials may be requested 24-hours a day, seven days a week, from DiscoverOhio.com or 1-800-BUCKEYE (1-800-282-5393). For additional information, trained travel counselors are available at 1-800-BUCKEYE to assist callers weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  

Scottish American Society to host Michigan's 'official' 10th annual Tartan Day Ceilidh at Monaghan's Knight of Columbus in Livonia on April 6

The Scottish American Society of Michigan is set to host Michigan’s 10th annual official statewide Tartan Day Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-Lee) at Monaghan’s Knights of Columbus, 19801 Farmington Road in Livonia on Saturday, April 6th 2013 from 5:30 to 10 pm.

This year’s incredible food and entertainment line up includes:
  • The Alma College Pipe Band
  • Michigan Scottish Pipe Band
  • Raggle Taggle Band
  • Highland Dancers
  • Full Meal featuring Ackroyd’s Scotch pies and bridies, plus sides
  • Raffles, 50/50 and more
Tickets are only $25 each for adults, $15 for kids under 10, and are now available for purchase at www.scotsofmicign.com or by sending a check to Tartan Day, 826 Edgewood Drive, Royal Oak, MI 48067. This is Michigan’s “official” Tartan Day Ceilidh as decreed by the Governor’s office in 2010 and funds raised will go to provide a fine arts scholarship for a student at Alma College. No tickets at the door!

Tartan Day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, which asserted Scotland's sovereignty over English territorial claims, and which, was an influence on the American Declaration of Independence. In 1998 National Tartan Day was officially recognized on a permanent basis when the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 155 recognizing April 6th as National Tartan Day. This was followed by companion bill House Resolution 41 which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 9, 2005.

“People join us from all over the state to celebrate Tartan Day with our group,” says the group’s founder and event organizer, Franklin Dohanyos. “The hall only holds 300 and because this is the 10th anniversary, we hope to fill it to the rafters. One of our Society’s primary missions is to help others and be active in the community. To that end, $500 raised from this event will go to benefit the newly created fine arts scholarship at Alma College named in our honor. The Scots have a long, proud history in Michigan and we are carrying on that tradition.”

On Tartan Day, April 6th 2009 the formation of the Scottish American Society of Michigan was announced – a new and different Scottish group whose goal is preserving and furthering Scottish heritage throughout the State of Michigan, as well as to help charitable organizations and individuals in need. Unlike other groups, people do not need to be of Scottish lineage to enjoy our fun events, and kids are always welcome. The group is a registered 501(c)(7) and holds monthly meetings at The Commonwealth Club of Warren located at 30088 Dequindre Road in Warren, Michigan. The group has already raised money for several charitable organizations and individuals with needs.

People interested in joining or attending meetings of the Scottish American Society of Michigan, or subscribing to the group’s newsletter can visit www.scotsofmichigan.com or www.michiganscots.com.

For more information, call Franklin Dohanyos at 248-399-1101, visit www.scotsofmichigan.com, or send e-mail scotsofmi@yahoo.com.

Register now for Illinois DNR 'Becoming an Outdoors Woman' workshop

Becoming an Outdoors Woman: Registration is under way for the IDNR ‘Becoming an Outdoors Woman’ Workshop on June 7-9 at the Lorado Taft Field Campus in Oregon, Illinois. ‘Becoming an Outdoors Woman’ workshops are designed to provide introductory instruction and experiences in many outdoor-related activities and skills. Examples of classes include canoeing, archery, handguns, nature jewelry, mammal trapping, wild edibles, basic fishing, rifle, outdoor cooking, and many more.

Class instruction is offered in a fun, non-competitive, and hands-on environment. BOW workshops are very popular, so register early. The cost of $215 per person includes housing, meals, classes, use of equipment, transportation during the event, and much more. Registration online at www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/bow.

Camping Reservations: Now’s the time to make campsite and shelter reservations for many IDNR sites online through the Reserve America website at www.reserveamerica.com using a Visa or MasterCard. For more information, check the IDNR website at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/programs/camping/camprsvp.htm

VIDEOS: Thetford SmartTote Portable Waste Holding Tanks Parts I & II

Enjoy these two video from Camping World on the SmartTote Portable Waste Holding Tanks from Thetford.

Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association is celebrating its 50 anniversary with a great contest!

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association, the group is running a new contest where your nominations and votes will help them to compile a list of campers’ 50 favorite Pennsylvania attractions.

There's already a list of 19 attractions which have already been nominated and that you can vote for, including:
  • Waldameer Park & Water World
  • Kennywood Park
  • Independence Park
  • Hershey's Chocolate World
  • Penn's Cave
  • Flight 93 Memorial
  • Sesame Place
  • Historic Philadelphia
  • Gettysburg National Military Park
  • Allentown Fair
  • Bushkill Falls
  • Hersheypark
  • Steamtown National Historic Site
  • Cabela's Sporting Goods
  • Carnegie Museums
  • Lehigh Valley Zoo
  • Knoebels Amusement Resort
  • Heinz Field
  • Pittsburgh Zoo
Just for casting your vote, you will be entered into a random drawing for one of 10 Pennsylvania Camping gift certificates (each valued at $50), and a Grand Prize winner will win a $250 cash prize.

VIDEO: Montana 3900FB 5th Wheel from Keystone RV

Enjoy this 2:13 video from Keystone RV on its Montana 3900FB 5th Wheel.

Here's what Keystone RV had to say about its video:
Montana's 3900FB is garnering lots of attention. With a huge front bath including his and her vanity sinks, this floorplan appeals to those looking for a full time or extended stay coach.

VIDEO: Michigan Wineries from Pure Michigan

Enjoy this 2:44 video from Pure Michigan on the mitten state's Wineries.

Pure Michigan had this to say about its video:
With more than 100 wineries nestled among 15,000 acres of scenic vineyards, Michigan truly is wine country. Paired with fresh, local ingredients found in local cuisine, a Pure Michigan wine tasting trip is something you can't find anywhere else. For more information or to plan your summer vacation, visit www.michigan.org/wineries

VIDEO: Discover mile after magnificent mile of Illinois

Enjoy this 4:09 video from Destination Illinois showcasing the wonderful tourism opportunities in their great state.

Here's what they had to say about their video:
Explore the land that Lincoln called home, as well as presidents Grant, Reagan and Obama. Get your kicks on the famed Mother Road, Route 66. Discover world-class museums and shopping, charming communities dotted with quaint restaurants and shops with one-of-a-kind finds. Tour the stunning Illinois outdoors by foot, horseback, bike, paddle boat, canoe, kayak or even on an underwater dive. Enjoy mile after magnificent mile of Illinois.

VIDEO: Slide-Out Protection by Dometic

We don't have any slide-outs on our current RV. My extended RVing family, however, does. They especially enjoy when we are camping with them, because my youngest, Ben, has a very important job - he gets to clean the leaves and twigs and other debris off their slide-outs. We lift him up, put him on top of the slide-out and then toss him a broom. If my extended RVing family ever sees the following video, Ben might be out of a job.

Enjoy this 5:42 video from Dometic, hosted by Mark Polk of RV Education 101, on a nifty little product offering Slide-Out Protection for your RV.

Here's what Dometic had to say about their video:
In this RV how to video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 http://rveducation101.com/ demonstrates how to protect your RV slide outs using slide toppers from Dometic. http://www.dometic.com/enus/Americas/... Dometic offers a complete line of Deluxe, http://www.dometic.com/enus/Americas/...
Elite http://www.dometic.com/enus/Americas/... and  Full Cover slide toppers http://www.dometic.com/enus/Americas/...

VIDEO: Tourism Works from Explore Minnesota

Enjoy this 3:07 video from Explore Minnesota, touting the benefits the tourism industry provides the state.

Conservation officers' work is 'dream job' for many; DNR looks ahead to new recruitment opportunity

DNR conservation officer Charles Mc Pherson stops a
snowmobiler in Crawford County on suspicion of
operating under the influence of alcohol. (DNR photos)
Ask many little kids what they want to be when they grow up and you frequently hear responses like “explorer,” “police officer” or “teacher.” Not too often do they answer “conservation officer.” As most conservation officers (COs) in Michigan learn, their work is actually a pretty great mix of those first three occupations.

Now, as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) steps up its efforts to add more COs to its ranks, even more men and women will get the chance to pursue what most COs easily call their dream job working in Michigan’s great outdoors.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a fiscal year 2014 budget that includes $2.9 million in ongoing General Fund (GF) money for additional COs and $600,000 in one-time GF dollars for a CO school.

This is a good time for interested men and women to learn what the work of a conservation officer is all about.

“For 125 years, Michigan conservation officers have shared and upheld a tradition of service and excellence,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

DNR conservation officer Greg Drogowski
congratulates successful sturgeon spearer
Ed Crawford during the 2012 season opener
on Black Lake.
“Our officers are fully commissioned peace officers who are sworn to protect Michigan’s natural resources and the citizens and visitors who cherish them,” Chief Hagler said. “It’s really a unique class of law enforcement officer – one that’s focused on ensuring that people understand and follow regulations while enjoying outdoor recreation activities like snowmobiling, boating, hunting and fishing and protecting the natural resources where these all take place.”

Because COs are responsible for enforcing all Michigan laws (not just the ones that pertain to natural resources and outdoor recreation), they cover a lot of ground, interact with a lot of people, and – despite fairly lean ranks – make quite an impact, especially in many rural areas where local law enforcement is limited.

In 2011, Michigan COs came into contact with roughly 350,000 residents and visitors. Of those interactions, just 7 percent – or 25,000 – involved unlawful activity. Only about 8,000 of those contacts resulted in any actual enforcement action – a result Chief Hagler said may surprise many.

“While I think most people respect the work that COs do, there are some who see us as only about enforcement,” Chief Hagler explained. “In reality, we’re committed to community-oriented, customer service-based efforts that are aimed at education and voluntary compliance.

Michigan DNR conservation officers Danny Walzak (left) and
Ken Kovach are eager to test out a new patrol boat on the St. Clair
River. This boat is one of five the DNR was able to purchase in
2012 with Port Security Grant funds from the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security. Here, you can see that non-skid material is
provided on all horizontal deck surfaces and handrails for added safety.
“If we have the chance to teach people the safe and correct way to do something, or why certain decisions are better for Michigan’s forests, streams and wildlife, those are the best possible outcomes for everyone.”

Because the state’s roster of conservation officers has steadily declined over the years – dropping nearly 30 percent from 243 in fiscal year 2001 to 173 in fiscal 2013 – there have been some missed opportunities to connect with customers.

For new recruits and veteran COs alike, who have the chance every day to be in nature, protect Michigan’s natural resources and educate people about those resources, it’s a pretty compelling draw.

Todd Thorn, a conservation officer who hired on in 2010 after several years working in a different career he wasn’t enjoying, said he now looks forward to going to work every day and loves the freedom and flexibility that come with his position.

These DNR conservation officer recruits are training
for an ice rescue on Higgins Lake in Roscommon County.
“Now that I am a conservation officer, I find that I am consistently challenged and always learning and I think that is my favorite part of this job,” Thorn said.

“This career is not all about law enforcement. Much of our work revolves around education and public safety,” he added. “I assist the county and the state police, especially with calls in the rural areas. I also attend a number of educational functions throughout the year, ranging from school presentations to hunter safety classes to Cub Scout meetings.”

Thorn said although he thinks he underestimated just how much choosing this career path would change his life, becoming a conservation officer is something he would “do over again in a second.”

Veteran CO Dan Walzak agreed.

“Nothing is perfect in this world, but on the subject of career positions, this may be as close as you can get,” said Walzak, a conservation officer with nearly 32 years on the job.

DNR conservation officer Mike Bomay
chats with a trapper while patrolling
Mecosta County (2010).
“I have been extremely fortunate to have this career and experience the things that I have. I truly believe that I would not have been as happy working for any other agency,” Walzak said. “I get to be outdoors, work on the water in a motorized vessel or paddle a stream in a kayak – my choice.

“I am involved in the training of our officers and that gives me the high privilege of meeting everyone who comes into the Law Enforcement Division as a new conservation officer,” he added. “Being an instructor in several different disciplines, there is also the opportunity to help mold the officers that will ultimately serve the state of Michigan in future years.”

With more than three decades of service, Walzak has seen firsthand a remarkable evolution of equipment and resources that aid COs in doing their jobs. For Walzak, a few of those changes include:
  • Patrol vehicles that have changed from sedans to four-wheel-drive pickups and SUVs;
  • Patrol vessels that have changed from 16-foot aluminum vessels with a 35 horsepower outboard motor, to 21-foot fiberglass vessels with 225 horsepower motors and 25-foot SAFE boats with twin 225 horsepower motors on the back; and
  • Plenty of marine vessels with, as recently as 15 years ago, no electronic navigation equipment, to today’s Great Lakes patrolling vessels where nearly all are outfitted with 800 MHz radios, VHF radios and advanced navigational equipment consisting of GPS, AIS or radar or a combination of the three.
“Several of our newest patrol vessels are even equipped with forward-looking infrared technology,” Walzak said. “Stuff that would have been considered ‘space age’ some 30 years ago.”

DNR conservation officer Shannon VanPatten displays
poached walleye from a commercial fishing operation
she investigated on Little Bay de Noc (2009).
Every new officer will participate in a 22-week DNR Law Enforcement academy, followed by 18 weeks of field training in the Probationary Training Program with an additional four weeks of specialized break-out sessions in the areas of marine, off-road vehicles, fish and game, and waterfowl identification and enforcement.

Chief Hagler said the DNR’s last conservation academy was held in 2007 and graduated 14 officers. He is hopeful the DNR will soon be able to put a much-needed crop of new COs in Michigan’s great outdoors.

“More COs on the ground means more opportunities to talk with Michigan’s outdoors men and women,” Hagler said.

“It also means faster response times on complaint calls, the ability to better patrol more area, and greater opportunity to connect with the public,” he added. “It’s a great feeling to help a new hunter, congratulate a successful angler, or help a young person understand how their decisions have a direct effect on our natural resources.”

For the lucky individuals who take on the challenge, the chance to become a Michigan conservation officer may just be a dream come true – and the start of a very rewarding career.

To learn more about the important work of Michigan’s conservation officers, visit www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

Bavarian Inn Marks 125 Years of Service, Memories and Chicken

Editor's Note: Is there anyone in Michigan who hasn't had a chicken dinner at the Bavarian Inn? Enjoy this feature on truly one of Michigan's landmarks.

One of America’s Oldest Restaurants Celebrates 125 Years in Business

What started in 1888 as a boarding house for Michigan’s first travelers is celebrating 125 years of serving delicious meals, including its world-famous chicken dinners. Bavarian Inn, Michigan’s iconic Bavarian-themed restaurant, joins a short list of eateries by marking its 125th anniversary of continuous operation this year.

“With the help of God, the community and our team members, we’ve created cherished memories for millions of guests,” said Dorothy Zehnder, the 91-year-old family matriarch and co-founder of the Bavarian Inn. “We are a family motivated by hospitality and service to others, and our work continues to be a blessing for us each day.”

Service, hard work and a love of family are three ingredients responsible for the Zehnder family’s success. Even on their days off, you’ll find brothers, cousins and grandchildren cooking together and sharing a meal. Every Monday, Dorothy can be found in her kitchen at home baking with grandchildren eager to learn the business.

The Bavarian Inn, which began life as the Union House, has been owned by just two families and is now in its seventh generation of management. German immigrant Theodore Fischer built the Union House and originated the now famous “all-you-can-eat” chicken dinners. It later became Fischer’s Hotel and was purchased by William Zehnder, Sr. in February 1950; he named son William “Tiny” and wife Dorothy as managers.

Tiny, a former farmer, and Dorothy, who began waitressing at Fischer’s at age 16, set out to put Frankenmuth on the map and -- along with brothers Eddie and Leonard Zehnder and friend Wally Bronner -- forever changed the face of mid-Michigan.

Rather than close the restaurant’s doors during the 1957 recession, Tiny boldly chose to expand. He spearheaded the transformation of Frankenmuth into Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” and changed the restaurant’s name and architecture to reflect its German heritage. As the remodeled and renamed “Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn” the restaurant became an immediate tourist attraction that spawned other family businesses including gift and food shops and later, the Bavarian Inn Lodge.

Bavarian Inn has become one of the oldest and largest eateries in the country. It possesses all of the “must-have” characteristics of long-term success, including a timeless design, a popular menu and a loyal clientele.

However, Bill Zehnder, third generation owner and current restaurant president, attributes the success of Bavarian Inn to something even more important, his family.

“My father often said, ‘Family is everything,’” he said. “We continue to live by that philosophy. We have a shared history and a shared moral code. We grew up together, worshiped, worked and played together. We truly cherish and respect each other. In business, we adhere to a creed based on our shared values and vision. Work is an extension of our family bond.”

Dorothy and William "Tiny" Zehnder
Zehnder also believes the restaurant’s longevity is an evolving blend of tradition, continuity, adaptation and growth.

“Our business has been evolving since dad changed the sign on the door,” he said. “My sister Judy and I have been blessed with an incredible foundation. It’s up to us, our spouses Karen and Don, our mother and children to make Bavarian Inn relevant in 2013 and beyond. That means listening to the customer and providing healthy options, exceptional value and great service. It means forever staying true to my grandfather’s vision. We have 125 years of customer expectations to honor.”

Today the restaurant seats 1,200 guests in 12 dining rooms and serves over 600,000 meals annually. There are currently five fourth-generation Zehnders in various areas of management -- Amy, Michael, Katie, William and Martha. The family has branched into new businesses, including the Castle Shops, Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, Covered Bridge & Leather Gift Shop and Frankenmuth River Place Shops, an outdoor mall modeled after a quaint Bavarian village. The Bavarian Inn Lodge, built in 1986, completed a $3 million renovation in late 2012 featuring two indoor water slides and updates to its 35,000 square-foot family entertainment venue. It is the highest ranked family resort in the state according to online travel site TripAdvisor. The seven-acre facility offers 360 rooms and has been host to President George H. W. Bush and all the Michigan governors dating back to G. Mennen Williams.

Like her mother Dorothy, Judy Zehnder Keller, president and founder of the Lodge, began her career waitressing at the restaurant at a young age.

“I’d like to think I have the best qualities of my mother and my father combined,” she said. “I believe we all do. Another of my father’s mottos was, ‘This business shall continue forever.’ We try to emulate the strengths of our exceptional role models and pass those traits along. In that way, they will both live forever.”

Judy’s son Michael Keller Zehnder, Lodge General Manager and fourth generation owner, agrees.

“The secret ingredient is the work ethic Tiny and Dorothy instilled in their children and us, the grandchildren,” he said. “Add to that our thousands of dedicated team members -- many of whom have been with us through multiple generations -- and our guests, especially those who came to Bavarian Inn as children and who are now bringing their grandchildren. That is our recipe for success.”

About Bavarian Inn 
Celebrating 125 years of service this year, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant has become a Michigan landmark. Generations of diners, lodgers and tourists from around the globe have discovered true Bavarian hospitality thanks to Dorothy and her late husband William “Tiny” Zehnder. Guests experience the old-world European charm of the Bavarian Inn – whether it’s the famous chicken dinners, fresh baked goods or Michigan’s greatest selection of German beer. Bavarian Inn also prides itself on being one of the top consumers of Pure Michigan agricultural products. Nestled within a backdrop of authentic German architecture, a variety of shops and other fun activities, a trip to Frankenmuth would not be complete without a visit to the Bavarian Inn. Learn more at www.bavarianinn.com.

Chateau On The Lake Resort & Spa in Missouri offering two special 'Spring Break Getaways'

Looking for a great place for a spring getaway? Then you should consider the AAA Four-Diamond Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa, which is offering two special “Spring Break Getaway” offers March 9-April 10, 2013. Featuring a beautiful setting on an Ozark mountaintop overlooking Missouri’s scenic Table Rock Lake, the resort is conveniently located just minutes from Branson’s many attractions and shows.

The “Spring Break Getaway” offers provide your choice of either: the “Family Suite Deal,” which provides 25% off of a spacious Ambassador Suite; or “The Family Plan,” which enables you to reserve one room at the regular rate and receive 50% off of the second adjoining/connecting room. Both options include: kids 5 years and under eat free from the Kids Menu when accompanied by an adult with a purchase of an entrée; complimentary in-room Wi Fi; use of the resort’s 24-hour fitness facility, indoor pool, hot tub, nature trail, and outdoor playground; as well as nightly movies in the resort’s Sassafras Theatre. There is a two-night minimum with these offers, and rates vary based on dates of stay and room type selected. Rates for a Lakefront Ambassador Suite start at $195 per night. The offer is subject to availability, taxes are additional, and some restrictions apply.

For reservations, call 1-888-333-LAKE (5253) or (417) 334-1161, or visit www.ChateauOnTheLake.com .

“It is just beautiful here in the spring,” said Stephen Marshall, vice president and general manager of the resort. “These offers enable guests to visit the resort at a great rate, where they can enjoy the magnificent setting, as well as the diverse recreational offerings at the resort and in Branson. The kids will love our indoor pool and hot tub, and the parents our full-service Spa Chateau.”

Boasting an impressive mountaintop and lakefront setting, a vast array of recreational options, award-winning service, and a location convenient to the diverse entertainment offerings of popular Branson, Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa offers something to please almost anyone.

Widely recognized as one of the finest resorts in the Midwest, Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa features breathtaking vistas of Missouri’s scenic Table Rock Lake, lush gardens, and surrounding mountains.

The resort’s 301 beautifully-appointed spacious guest rooms and suites boast cherry wood beds, down comforters, tiled stone baths, dual-line telephones with data port, Wi-Fi access (at a nominal fee), iron and ironing board, coffee maker, in-room safes, and in-room movies and music (at a nominal fee).

Recreational options at the resort include the impressive 14,000-square-foot Spa Chateau. The full-service European-style spa features 10 luxurious treatment rooms; customized body treatments; a soothing Infinity Tub that is filled from the ceiling; an opulent Roman Bath situated beneath a waterfall overlooking Table Rock Lake; a lake-view Movement Therapy Studio for Yoga; and a unique Barber Spa.

The resort’s Chateau on the Lake Marina, open most of the year, offers more water sports activities than any other resort in the Midwest. Offerings at the full-service marina include an array of watercraft rentals, which includes ski boats, fishing boats, wave runners, catamarans, paddle boats, sea kayaks, and canoes. Parasailing, guided fishing excursions, scuba diving, and snorkeling are among the many other available options.

Additional recreational offerings at the resort include the fitness center, two lighted tennis courts, the year-round indoor pool, an outdoor (seasonal) pool, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, nature and biking trails, the indoor movie theater, and full-service concierge. Golf at six area courses, which includes two of Missouri’s finest, also is available to guests.

The resort’s dining options include the award-winning Chateau Grille, which is known for its elegant presentation and exceptional cuisine. Casual fare options include: the Downstairs Deli, serving bistro-style sandwiches, hand-made pizza, and “to go” box lunches; the Atrium Café & Wine Bar, located in the lobby beside an indoor waterfall and stream; and The Sweet Shoppe, offering hand-dipped ice cream, baked goods, candies, and specialty coffees.

Described as the “Live Music Show Capital of America,” Branson offers more than 80 live shows per day during the season and a variety of impressive attractions. Among the offerings in Branson, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012, is the acclaimed Titanic Museum Attraction, and the popular Silver Dollar City. The Branson Landing in the heart of downtown Branson on Lake Taneycomo, just one block away from historic downtown, features festivals, musical events, a variety of waterfront dining options, and 400,000 sq. ft. of shops, boutiques, galleries and specialty gift shops.

Additional features at Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa include an impressive 10-story sky-lit atrium that provides breathtaking vistas of the lake, lush gardens, and surrounding mountains, and which features meandering streams brimming with colorful Koi fish, as well as a charming library lounge with a great stone fireplace.

Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa is owned and managed by Springfield, Missouri-based John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts. For more information or reservations, call 1-888-333-LAKE (5253) or (417) 334-1161, or visit www.ChateauOnTheLake.com .

Portable Solar Chargers a 'Bright Idea'

Editor's Note: The following press release reached my desk the other day, and I thought portable solar chargers for our mobile devices sounds like something campers and RVers would be interested in.

For those always on-the-go, keeping electronic devices like cell phones, PDAs, iPods, gaming systems, cameras and even laptops charged can be a challenge.

“Although car and other portable charging solutions abound, many people often find themselves away from an electricity source, unable to power their devices,” saidPaul Holstein of CableOrganizer.com – an eTailer offering a myriad of eco-friendly chargers and electronics. “There are many budget-friendly portable charging devices on the market that harness the power of the sun – a free and totally clean energy source,” Holstein says. “These mobile solar chargers also reduce the need for multiple chargers or adapters for each piece of equipment requiring power.”

Here are a few representative portable solar charging devices offered at CableOrganizer.com to help consumers to go green, without having to spend a lot of green. 

JuiceBar Multi-Device Pocket Solar Charger - $49.99
Battery-powered gadgets rule, and it's almost impossible to find anyone who hasn't experienced the inconvenience and aggravation that the untimely death of a cell phone battery can cause. The Juicebar stores 2000mAh of clean solar power or even indoor lighting in its battery, effectively charging all of your popular mobile devices on demand. Contains a standard USB port that allows you to use your own charging cable, unlike other solar chargers that require you to purchase an arsenal of expensive adapters. Ideal for travelling with cell phones, handheld game systems, and MP3 players and more.
More info and to buy: http://cableorganizer.com/pocket-solar-charger  

DayTripper Solar Charger - $24
The DayTripper Solar Charger is built to keep you prepared for emergencies and other inconvenient situations. Its universal USB port accepts your portable device charging cable, ensuring compatibility with your mobile phone, MP3 player, GPS, and handheld gaming consoles. Its 1000 mAh battery provides more than enough energy to keep you going, and it also contains a bright LED light that keeps you out of the dark in tight situations.
More info and to buy: http://www.cableorganizer.com/daytripper-solar-charger/  

Universal Solar Battery Charger - $26.46
You already use rechargeable batteries to help reduce battery waste in landfills. Now go even greener by recharging your batteries with the sun using the Universal Solar Battery Charger ($22.43), which accepts D, C, AA and AAA-size batteries in pairs. Its needle meter displays the strength of the sunlight hitting the solar cell and gives you an estimate of the charging time for different battery types, based on that measurement. Charger also accepts Gum (Prismatic) batteries. Batteries not included.
More info and to buy: http://store.cableorganizer.com/universal-solar-battery-charger_EFL-1310107?gcsct=0ChMImOSNjKD_tAIViPjnCh2eNgAAEAA 

Ultra-Compact Mini Device Solar Charger - $18.70
This mini solar charger is the perfect solution for getting you out of a jam fast when a mobile device battery dies and you're nowhere near a power outlet. The unit's very small form factor makes it easy to carry around at all times, ensuring that you're covered if any of your indispensible devices are low on power.
More info and to buy: http://www.cableorganizer.com/mini-solar-charger/   

Manhattan Solar Power Pack - $40.52
The Solar Power Pack by Manhattan delivers the power you need to charge your small electronics just by using a renewable energy source – the Sun. Comes complete with a carrying case and four adapters that fit most small electronic devices. It can be plugged into a USB port for a quick boost if you need charging on a cloudy day. There are no batteries to recycle, so it's environmentally friendly and will reduce your carbon footprint.
More info and to buy: http://www.cableorganizer.com/manhattan/solar-power-pack/?gcsct=0ChMIqK2hnKL_tAIVgpbnCh1BPQAAEAk&gcssku=ICI-180139 

JuiceBar Power Tube Mini Charger - $28.80
The Power Tube Portable Device charger from Juicebar delivers all the charging power you need for your mobile electronics when you need it most. This small charger is no larger than a roll of quarters and will fully charge your phone, handheld console, or portable media device with power to spare. Small 3” x 0.87” diameter size easily fits inside any pocket or bag without being too bulky and its 2,200 mAh capacity provides more than a full charge for most devices. Includes USB-A connector, micro USB, mini USB, and Nokia® connector cables, covering most modern devices for right-out-of-the-box use.
More info and to buy: http://www.cableorganizer.com/powertube-mini-charger/?gcsct=0ChMIgLKcs6b_tAIVSonnCh11EwAAEAE&gcssku=PPW-DO107-PT

Order these and other “green gadgets” online at www.CableOrganizer.com or via toll-free telephone at 1-866-222-0030.

‘Maple Sugaring Day’ returns to Tahquamenon Falls State Park March 23

Tahquamenon Falls State Park will host "Maple Sugaring Day’ at the Upper Falls, Saturday, March 23, from noon to 4 p.m.

Free guided tours of the park’s sugar bush take place hourly beginning at noon, with the last tour leaving at 3 p.m. Participants will visit multiple demonstration stations set up along a hiking trail to learn about the process of converting maple sap into syrup. The demonstrations will include both historical and modern methods of making syrup.

“Maple sugaring is a great outdoor activity for families to enjoy in March, when the temperatures start to rise and the sap starts flowing,” said park interpreter Theresa Neal. “Visitors in the past have been amazed to learn that the trees in your own back yard can produce this seasonal treat.”

The sugar bush demonstrations will feature hands-on activities and maple syrup experts will be in attendance to answer questions and provide advice about at-home maple sugaring. Pancakes will be available for participants to taste a variety of homemade syrups from the region, and local vendors will have maple sugaring products available for purchase.

Park visitors will also have the chance to experience dog sled rides during the event. Nature’s Kennel will offer rides for $25, with one sled accommodating two adults or one adult and two children.

For more information about Maple Sugaring Day, contact Theresa Neal at 906-492-3415 or visit www.michigan.gov/tfallseducation.

VIDEO: Infinity Fifth Wheel by Dutchmen Cold Test

Enjoy this 1:39 video from Dutchmen showcasing the company's Infinity Fifth Wheel and how it performs in severe weather testing.

Here's what Dutchmen had to say about their video:
Infinity Fifth Wheel by Dutchmen Cold Test performed at the Dometic testing facility.

White-Nose Syndrome Confirmed in Illinois Bats

Editor's note: When we visited Mammoth Cave National Park a few years ago, we had to dip our hiking shoes in liquid Lysol because we had been in Ohio caves within the previous year. This was to prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome. Why is this important? Without getting all tree-hugger on you, this is important because bats serve an important role in our ecosystem. To be as simple as possible about it, bats eat mosquitos. A ton of them. We need bats. Except for the ones that are really vampires.

Illinois becomes 20th state in U.S. to confirm deadly disease in bats
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today confirmed the presence of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease fatal to several bat species, in four Illinois counties.

The University of Illinois- Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), the United States Forest Service (USFS)-Shawnee National Forest, the University of Illinois' Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UIVDL), and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center-Madison, WI (NWHC) assisted in the discovery of WNS which was detected in LaSalle County in north-central Illinois, Monroe County in southwestern Illinois, and Hardin and Pope Counties in extreme southern Illinois.

Little brown bats and northern long-eared bats from these counties were submitted to the UIVDL and NWHC in early-to-mid February 2013. Both of these laboratories confirmed the disease, while the fungal pathogen was isolated directly from a LaSalle County bat and a Monroe County bat at the INHS.

With confirmation of WNS in Illinois, a total of 20 states, mostly in the eastern U.S., and five Canadian Provinces have now been confirmed infected. Currently seven hibernating bat species are affected by WNS: little brown bat, big brown bat, northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat, eastern small-footed bat, the endangered Indiana bat, and the endangered gray bat. The disease continues to spread rapidly and has the potential to infect at least half of the bat species found in North America.

White-nose syndrome is not known to affect people, pets, or livestock but is harmful or lethal to hibernating bats, killing 90 percent or more of some species of bats in caves where the fungus has lasted for a year or longer, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WNS is known to be transmitted primarily from bat to bat, but spores of Geomyces destructans, the non-native, cold-loving fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, may be inadvertently carried between caves and abandoned mines by humans on clothing, footwear, and caving gear. The name of the disease refers to the white fungal growth often found on the noses of infected bats.

White-nose syndrome was first detected in New York State in 2006 and has killed more than 5.7 million cave-dwelling bats in the eastern third of North America as it has spread south and west across the landscape. A map of the current spread of white-nose syndrome can be found at http://whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map.

Research has shown that WNS-infected bats are awaking from hibernation as often as every three to four days as opposed to the normal every 10-20 days. The fungus damages the connective tissues, muscles and skin of the bats while also disrupting their physiological functions. The bats wake up dehydrated and hungry during the cold winters when there are no insects to eat.

"Although its arrival was anticipated, the documented spread of WNS into Illinois is discouraging news, mainly because there is no known way to prevent or stop this disease in its tracks,” said Joe Kath, Endangered Species Manager for the IDNR. 

“Pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats in the United States likely save the U.S. agricultural industry several billion dollars a year, and yet insectivorous bats are among the most overlooked, economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America.”
“Isolating the fungal pathogen directly from a bat is the ‘gold standard’ for confirming this disease, and the Bat WNS team at the University of Illinois was able to do this in our laboratory,” said Andrew Miller, Mycologist at INHS.

 “We are saddened by the discovery of WNS in Illinois,” said National WNS Coordinator Jeremy Coleman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “We will continue to work with our partners to address this devastating disease and work towards conservation of bat species in North America.”

Because Illinois and several other Midwestern states are home to many federally endangered bat species, as well as some of the largest hibernating bat populations in the country, the complete closure of all IDNR-owned and/or managed caves within the State of Illinois was enacted in 2010.  In addition, all caves within the Shawnee National Forest, managed by the USFS, have been formally closed since 2009.  Both the IDNR and USFS will be evaluating these caves on an annual basis and the closure orders will remain in effect for the benefits of bat conservation until further notice.  Unfortunately, research indicates that the fungus that causes WNS remains in caves where bats hibernate even when bats are not present and the IDNR remains concerned that people may inadvertently carry WNS out of the caves with them.  

 “The IDNR recognizes that continued cave closures will require patience from the caving community and other citizens.  However, the observed devastation to bat populations and the evidence for human-assisted spread justifies that we exercise an abundance of caution in managing activities that impact caves and bats,” Kath added. “We understand these measures will not be a cure for WNS, but they are necessary to help slow the spread of this affliction and to reduce the risks to surviving bat populations in North America.”

 Bats are the only major predator of night-flying insects and play a crucial role in the environment. A single big brown bat can eat between 3,000 and 7,000 mosquitos in a night, with large populations of bats consuming thousands of tons of potentially harmful forest and agricultural pests annually. The bat conservation community is deeply concerned and involved with fighting the spread of WNS. Researchers in Illinois and across the U.S. are working diligently on finding a way to mitigate this fatal disease. Federal, state and local organizations continue to focus on conservation, containment, and education.

VIDEO: How to Install Disc Brakes on a Travel Trailer

Enjoy this15:10 video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 on How to Install Disc Brakes on a Travel Trailer.

Mark had thi to say about his video:
Brakes on a travel trailer or 5th wheel trailer are a critical component to stopping the trailer safely. In this informative RV how to video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 http://rveducation101.com/ demonstrates how to install disc brakes by Kodiak Trailer Components and an ActuLink electric/hydraulic actuator by DirecLink on a travel trailer.

VIDEOS: A Closer Look at Tiffin Motor Homes

Tiffin Motor Homes recently came out with several videos providing us with "A Closer Look At..." a lot of what makes Tiffin's Motor Homes among the most popular. Here's the rundown ...

Pittsburgh Happenings

Cool Dessert
Carnegie Science Center’s latest robot serves frozen yogurt! A robot-operated, made-to-order RoboFusion frozen yogurt kiosk debuted at Carnegie Science Center in the River View Café. Visitors can design a four-layer frozen yogurt treat, choose a robot personality and watch as the robot builds it to their exact specifications. The robot-operated frozen kiosk is a natural fit for the Science Center, which is already home to the world’s largest permanent robotics exhibition.  

Three Cheers for the Mon
The Monongahela River, which flows through Pittsburgh, was voted as Pennsylvania’s 2013 River of the Year. The “Mon,” as it’s referred to locally, is pronounced mo-non-ga-hay-la, which means “falling banks.” Several events thoughout the year will celebrate the Mon’s designation, including a sojourn for canoeists, kayakers and other paddlers. The 130-mile-long river flows from West Virginia to Pennsylvania to join the Allegheny River and form the Ohio River in downtown Pittsburgh.  

Environmental Update
What do Heinz Field, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Steel Tower have in common? All four entities just signed pledges to join the Pittsburgh 2030 District – a movement to reduce energy and water consumption and reduce transportation emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030. The Pittsburgh 2030 District has reached participation of property owners to over 50 percent. Other cities participating in 2030 Districts include Seattle, Cleveland and Los Angeles. The initiative is meant to be a collective response to building-related impacts on the environment.

VIDEO: BBQ Cooking Sheet

Here's a 1:53 video from Camping World on a slick little product that just might save the next asparagus from the fiery coals.

Here's what Camping World had to say about its video:
Ideal for non-stick, easy-clean and healthy grilling and cooking! Now available at Campingworld.com!

KOA Teams With Keystone RV Co. For Huge Giveaway

Kampgrounds of America has again teamed with Keystone RV Company to offer campers a chance to win a $40,000 Keystone Cougar RV plus a decade of free KOA camping.

The 2013 Great KOA Giveaway kicked off March 1 and offers campers several ways to enter to win the grand prize, as well as weekly prizes from KOA and fellow sponsors Cabela’s and Weber Grills.

There are several ways to enter the contest, including on both KOA’s Facebook page (search for Kampgrounds of America Inc.) as well as Keystone RV Company’s Facebook page (search for Keystone RV). Campers can also enter via KOA’s website at www.KOA.com or from KOA’s monthly e-newsletter, KOA Kompass. Campers can earn more entries by playing a quick, fun game called Mountain Match. The game can be accessed via both the KOA Facebook page, KOA Kompass and KOA.com.

KOA Value Kard Rewards members will also automatically receive an extra five chances to win for each night they book a stay at a KOA campground between March 1 and September 16.

For more information on the 2013 Great KOA Giveaway, go to www.KOA.com or find KOA Kampgrounds Inc. on Facebook.

Kampgrounds of America is celebrating its 51st Anniversary in 2013. KOA, the world’s largest network of family-friendly campgrounds, was born on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Montana in 1962.

What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013: Part V

Mission Point Resort
We conclude our series on What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013. Today's installment is ...

2013 Milestones and Anniversaries

250 Years
Attack at Michilimackinac – Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City

200 Years
The Battle of the River Raisin

150 Years
City of Escanaba
Birthday of Henry Ford

125 Years
Bavarian Inn and Restaurant – Frankenmuth

100 Years
Amway Grand Hotel – Grand Rapids
Birthday of President Gerald R. Ford – celebrations will take place in Grand Rapids.
Hill Auditorium – Ann Arbor
Calumet Coliseum

85 Years
Tulip Time Festival – Holland

80 Years
Horn’s Gaslight Bar – Mackinac Island

75 Years
Warner Vineyards – Paw Paw
Caberfae Peaks - Cadillac
Queens Cup Race

60 Years
The Chevrolet Corvette
SS Badger – Ludington

50 Years
National Blueberry Festival – South Haven
Grand Haven Musical Fountain
East Lansing Art Festival
City of Portage
Shanty Creek Resorts – Bellaire

30 Years
Gold Coast Artisan Fair – Ludington
Ashley’s Pub – Ann Arbor
The Homestead Resort – Glen Arbor

25 Years
Thompson Harbor State Park
Mission Point Resort – Mackinac Island

20 Years
Rick Smith Signature Golf Course – Treetop Resort, Gaylord
The Mountain Ridge Golf Course at Crystal Mountain

15 years
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

10 Years
Grand Haven Salmon Festival
Bay Harbor Vintage Car and Boat Festival
Four Seasons Tea Room – Houghton

For a complete list of what’s new in 2013, visit michigan.org.

What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013: Part IV

Firekeepers Casino Hotel
We continue our series on What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013. Today's installment is ...

What’s New in Lodging & Meetings

New Hotels/Under New Ownership
  • Hyatt Place Hotel in Novi
  • Hilton Garden in Ann Arbor.
  • The Ramada Lighthouse Inn is now Baymont Inn & Suites in South Haven.
  • Hampton Inn in Marquette.
  • FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek.
  • Lake AuSable Lodge at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon.
  • Holiday Inn Express in Frankenmuth.
  • Peninsula Bay Inn in Escanaba is now Quality Inn & Suites.
  • Towne Place Suites by Marriott in Ann Arbor and Saginaw.
  • Courtyard by Marriot in Kalamazoo, expected to open this summer.
  • Michigan’s first Aloft Hotel, part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, is expected to open in downtown Detroit on Woodward Avenue by 2014.
  • The historic Pontchartrain Hotel, most recently Detroit Riverside Hotel, will reopen in April as the Crowne Plaza in Downtown Detroit.

New Meeting Space
Coming tomorrow: Milestones & Anniversaries

 For a complete list of what’s new in 2013, visit michigan.org.

What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013: Part III

Harbor Springs Vineyards & Winery
We continue our series on What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013. Today's installment is ...

Expansions & Improvements

Ski Resorts – Winter in Michigan is hitting its prime, and ski resorts across the state are featuring new improvements in 2013. Treetops Resort in Gaylord now has three progression terrain parks, and be sure to visit the new Ice Bar. Beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain parks are now available at Pine Mountain. Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl in Grand Haven is now making show and providing ski and snowboard equipment rentals. New ownership at Mt. Brighton is upgrading and enhancing the ski area. Discover the new Monster Energy terrain park and Big Air Launch Pad at Shanty Creek Resorts, in addition to two new ski runs. The Homestead has unveiled a newly remodeled Snowsports School. For more information on what’s new on Michigan’s slopes click here.


More expansions & improvements
Coming tomorrow: What's New to Eat and Drink

For a complete list of what’s new in 2013, visit michigan.org.

What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013: Part II

Mt. Bohemia
We continue our series of What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013. Today's installment is ...

What’s New to Do

Adventure – Michigan offers a wide variety of new ways to explore the state and find an adventure.
  • Mt. Bohemia in Lac La Belle will offer Michigan’s first all-inclusive outdoor adventure package beginning this summer.
  • The whole family will enjoy the new Lakeside Gliders ride at Michigan’s Adventure.
  • Experience the historical backwoods area of Ishpeming and Negaunee on guided horseback tours from Heritage Hills. Or board the historic Isle Royale Queen III for a one-of-a-kind boating experience on Lake Superior.
  • February is Open Cockpit Month at the Kalamazoo’s Air Zoo.
  • Downtown Muskegon will now offer bicycle and surrey rentals during the summer months.
  • Take a guided kayak tour of the Kalamazoo River at Highland River Adventures.
  • Explore the North Eastern State Trail – a 70 mile non-motorized trail (open to snowmobiles in winter) between Alpena and Cheboygan.
  • Take a ride on the Bernida, a refurbished yacht at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven.
  • Find different ways to explore the Little Traverse Conservancy nature preserves with the conservancy’s new smart phone app.
  • Five new canoe launches on the Shiawassee River are near completion. Launches will be located at The DeVries Nature Conservancy, Geeck Road County Park, Henderson Park, Voight Loop Trail Park and Lytle Road County Park.
  • Area restaurants and charter captains in Grand Haven have teamed up to offer “Catch & Cook” packages for customers. 
Tours & Classes – Michigan is full of experts ready to make your vacation informative as well as entertaining.

Sports & Events

Shopping – A host of new and unique stores are open for business this year.
Coming Tomorrow: Expansions & Improvements

For a complete list of what’s new in 2013, visit michigan.org.