Video: Explore Minnesota in the winter



Enjoy this 0:41 video from Explore Minnesota.

Video: 'How to Properly Adjust your RV Mirrors' by Mark Polk from RV Education 101

 Enjoy this 2:30 video on "How to Properly Adjust your RV Mirrors" by Mark Polk from RV Education 101 and RV101.TV.

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:

RV101.TV - expert help for your RV with Mark Polk of RV Education 101. In this informative RV how to video get some tips & tricks on how to properly adjust your RV mirrors for maximum visibility while driving and backing.

Check out more free RV how-to videos at RV 101 TV http://rv101.tv/

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

Michigan's Clear Lake State Park Campground closed until mid summer

Clear Lake State Park, in Montmorency County north of Atlanta, will undergo construction to upgrade the electrical system in the campground during the first half of 2014.

That work will delay camp operations and opening schedules. The campground is anticipated to open the weekend before July 4, 2014. Weather and construction schedules will affect the reopening of the campground. Camp reservations will be available after the campground is open.

The ORV parking area and the boat launch near the campground will open on schedule. The day-use beach, picnic area, disc golf course and boat launch will open on schedule.

Camp visitors to Clear Lake may wish to consider alternative locations such as Onaway State Park, P.H. Hoeft State Park, Otsego Lake State Park or one of the numerous state forest campgrounds in the area. Campers who wish to camp during the winter season may seek opportunities to camp at North Higgins Lake State Park or reserve a lodge available at P.H. Hoeft State Park or Cheboygan State Park.

Video: "Keepers of the Beat" from the National Park Service



Enjoy this 18:01 video tiled "Keepers of the Beat" by the National Park Service

Here's what the National Park Service had to say about its video:
Strung out like pearls on the backs of the mountains, the 700-plus glaciers in the North Cascades add greatly to the quality of lives by providing challenge and inspiration, as well as consistent runoff for salmon, irrigation, and hydroelectricity. In this video, join Dr. Jon Riedel and other glaciologists as they take the pulse of Pacific Northwest glaciers, and learn about the science and motivation behind their work. Learn more about other research in northwest national parks at http://www.nwparkscience.org.

Ohio State Parks garner international acclaim



Author's note: We had the pleasure of camping in the Hocking Hills region in 2007, the first summer we had our camper. The video above is from our trip. Although we didn't stay at Hocking Hills State Park, that trip remains one of our most favorite camping trips we've ever taken. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Old Man's Cave, Ash Cave, Conkle's Hollow and several other outstanding hikes that ranged from easy to moderate. I highly recommend a camping trip to the Hocking Hills region.

One of our pictures from our trip
to Hocking Hills State Park.
Ohio State Parks was once again identified as having one of the top must-see destinations in the world. Hocking Hills State Park was the only location in the United States identified in Buzzfeed’s list of the “22 Stunning Under-The-Radar Destinations to Add to Your Bucket List in 2014.” The other destinations were scattered across the globe and included exotic locales from Norway, Brazil, New Zealand and French Polynesia.

“We are always excited when people discover what Ohioans have long known, that Ohio is truly home to some of the most beautiful places in the world,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer.

In August, CNN Travel recognized Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor, located in northeast Ohio along the southern shore of Lake Erie, as one of 20 ‘can’t-miss’ U.S. beaches. Ohio State Parks have consistently received excellent national recognition for having some of the nation’s greatest natural treasures.

Ohio State Parks offer cabins at 15 state parks. Cabins and cottages offer amenities ranging from fireplaces and microwaves to cable television, WiFi and air conditioning. Ohio State Parks gift cards can also be used at eight of Ohio’s state park lodges: Burr Oak, Deer Creek, Hueston Woods, Maumee Bay, Mohican, Punderson, Salt Fork and Shawnee. Each lodge boasts an array of amenities, including spacious rooms, fine dining, swimming pools, quality golf courses, as well as traditional outdoor pursuits like hiking and boating.

To learn more about Ohio’s award-winning state park system, visit parks.ohiodnr.gov.

RVer needs some advice on a seasonal campground

I got an email from an RVer who needs our help.

She currently lives in the Gulf Shores and is looking to visit family and friends in Illinois for a 3-to-4 month extended stay this summer.

She'd like to find a campground offering seasonal sites for about $500 a month. She'd prefer the campground be in Illinois or Michigan, but also said Iowa and Indiana are options, too.

She realizes finding a seasonal at that price might be difficult, but she's hoping we're up to the challenge.

Any ideas?

(Reply in the Comments section with any suggestions)

Michigan DNR: Partnerships key to revitalizing Belle Isle


Author's note: Do not underestimate the significance of the Michigan DNR's revitalization of Belle Isle. It MUST succeed, and for so many reasons on so many levels. First and foremost, the island park in the Detroit River is a sanctuary that must be restored. That it was allowed to sink to the depths of its current condition is inexcusable. Secondly, a vocal element of Detroit, although a minority, strongly criticize the state's interventions into city matters (unless it's to write a check). If and when the DNR succeeds in bringing back Belle Isle, and Detroiters and others flock to the island, then this minority element will be silenced. On a side note, at the end of this post are the four videos I created last summer that offer a nice look at Belle Isle's past, present and future. The fourth video is my complete interview with two DNR officials, including Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is “All in for Belle Isle.”
(Michigan DNR photos)
It takes a community to raise a park

Belle Isle’s 90-day transition to becoming Michigan’s 102nd state park began just over a month ago, and revitalization efforts are well underway. At the culmination of the transition period on Feb. 10, 2014, the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will assume management of the island park while the city of Detroit maintains ownership. 

The DNR has been working to ensure a smooth transition, with the goal of enhancing the world-class park for the residents of Detroit and Michigan.

“How are we going to accomplish this?” asked Rodney Stokes, special advisor to Gov. Rick Snyder, during the “All in for Belle Isle” event held Dec. 10 on the island. “One word: partnerships.” 

This one word is a key to success at the historic island park. The DNR, city of Detroit and Belle Isle Conservancy, hosts of the “All in for Belle Isle” partnership event, sounded a call to organizations and individuals with a passion for Belle Isle.

“Everybody, Detroiter or not, knows about Belle Isle,” Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said at the event. “The big thing here … is how many people are willing to come together to change Belle Isle into a beacon we can gather around.”

DNR Parks and Recreation Division employees replace
the roof on a picnic shelter on Belle Isle. Work like this is
already underway during Belle Isle’ 90-day transition to
becoming Michigan’s 102nd state park.
More than 40 organizations – including businesses, nonprofit groups and representatives from local, state and national government – came together on Belle Isle during the event to pledge commitments to island revitalization. Dozens more have contacted the DNR, with more calls coming in daily, pledging contributions ranging from volunteer assistance to funding and resources.

“I’m very pleased that the state saw value in this park and was willing to help us revitalize this park and this city,” Bing said. “We are very pleased and thankful. This is another great day for the city of Detroit.”

Nearly a month before the event, the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board accepted a lease approved by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Gov. Rick Snyder, DNR Director Keith Creagh and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle. The lease guides state management of the park. It provides for an initial 30-year term with two 15-year renewals.

State management of the island will save Detroit an estimated $4 million to $6 million a year.

In addition, the state will invest in the island through a variety of sources, including grants, bonds and donations from private and nonprofit organizations willing to partner in the park’s revitalization. Many of these partners – including The Youth Connection, Healthy Kidz, the Belle Isle Conservancy and WH Canon, Inc. with the Michigan Green Industry Association, among others – have already begun revitalization efforts on the island.

Members of DNR youth employment program restore a restroom
on Belle Isle. Youth efforts are a big part of the island park’s
revitalization plans.
In late fall, Detroit youth and young adults, through youth employment initiatives made possible by Healthy Kidz and The Youth Connection, completed restoration of the Oxbow Comfort Station on Belle Isle. They worked to install new restroom fixtures, paint the facility and make much-needed repairs.

“In the last two months, we have had 10 youth from The Youth Connection Career Academies and Healthy Kidz work to renovate and restore one of the comfort stations on the island,” said Dr. Grenae Dudley, The Youth Connection president and CEO. “Our youth are sweating pipes, installing temperature-controlled sinks and a hot water tank. They’ve learned plumping, masonry and painting.

“We will bring youth who can work in their own backyard on this beautiful island because we are committed to restoring and renovating and providing exceptional customer service,” she said.

DNR Forest Resources Division employees chip the
0remaining branches of felled trees on Belle Isle.
During the second week of December alone, 200 hazardous trees were felled and some ground to mulch using a horizontal wood grinder, provided courtesy of Mid-Michigan Recycling. A shelter was re-roofed, several dozen picnic tables were refurbished with replacement boards and posts were placed in-ground to serve as refuse barrel anchors.

According to Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, immediate park improvement efforts will address low-hanging fruit so the public can have a safe and comfortable park visit. Open and restored restrooms, enjoyable picnic areas and cleared trails are just some of the areas that will be handled first. Hazardous tree removal is also on the priority list. Trees at risk of falling or dropping large limbs will be removed to increase the safety of Belle Isle visitors and to protect buildings and bridges.

Additional low-hanging fruit, according to Olson, includes refuse management, picnic shelter repairs, and staff hiring, which is already in progress. Assessments will also be conducted on the storm water, electrical, water, sanitary and security systems, in addition to a playground equipment assessment for quantity, safety and location. 

The Recreation Passport, which offers access to all Michigan state parks and recreation areas across the state, will be needed for entry to Belle Isle beginning Feb. 10. Since the Passport is tied directly to vehicle license plate registrations, and not individuals, the Passport can be purchased during license plate registration renewal with the Secretary of State.

After cutting down many hazardous trees at Belle Isle,
DNR Forest Resources personnel stack up the remains.
The requirement will be introduced gradually. From February 2014 to January 2015, vehicles will not need a Recreation Passport until the date of their vehicle registration renewal. For example, if the vehicle registration is renewed with the Secretary of State in May 2014, then the vehicle will not need a Passport for island access until May 2014. Once purchased, it is good until the next license plate registration renewal date. Recreation Passports can also be purchased on the island after the transition.

The Recreation Passport, which currently costs $11 for Michigan registered vehicles and $5 for motorcycles, does not apply to individuals. Pedestrians, bicyclists and those using public transportation can enter the park for free. During the transition period, the DNR will be coordinating with the Detroit Department of Transportation to re-establish a bus route to Belle Isle.

It’s another example of working together and through partnerships for the betterment of Belle Isle. “People have heard it takes a village to raise a child,” the DNR’s Olson said. “We’re saying that it takes a big community to raise a park.”

Learn more about the transition and future plans for the park at www.belleislepark.org.


Video: 'RV Tire Tips & Hints' from RV101.TV.


Enjoy this 0:53 video on "RV Tire Tips & Hints" by Mark Polk of RV Education 101 and RV101.TV.

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
RV101.TV - expert help for your RV with Mark Polk of RV Education 101. In this informative RV how to video learn how your RV tires can lose air pressure and what you can do to keep your RV and automobile tires from being under inflated.

Check out more free RV how-to videos at RV 101 TV http://rv101.tv/

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

Video: Winter in Pennsylvania from VisitPA



Enjoy this video called "Winter in Pennsylvania" from VisitPA.

Here's what VisitPA had to say about its video:
With 22 ski resorts and even more snow days activities across the state, Pennsylvania is a snow adventure waiting to happen!

Guest post: All About RV Brake Controllers

Enjoy this guest post from HitchAnything.com.

Many people have fond memories of camping – whether it be campfire stories, s’mores, fishing, or hunting – people often look back upon their trips to the great outdoors with great nostalgia.

While most camping memories can and will last a lifetime, it is imperative that you leave the comfort of your home knowing that you have the right tools to ensure the safety of both yourself and your loved ones. As such, Rick has been gracious enough to allow us at HitchAnything to share some information with you about one of the most interesting topics in all of camping – brake controllers.

Ok, while that “interesting” line may not necessarily be true, a properly functioning brake controller is an imperative tool to have for many campers who opt to leave the standard tent behind in favor of something a little bigger – such as an RV.

Simply put, a brake controller supplies power from the tow vehicle directly to the brakes of the trailer you are hauling. Without proper brake controllers on a trailer, there is significantly less handling capability when towing and both the towing vehicle and the trailer can become difficult to control in certain situations. In many instances, a properly calibrated brake controller can mean the difference between a successful tow and disaster. More than that, in severe weather or road conditions it can mean the difference between life and death.

Besides the obvious safety implications, a brake controller is also mandated by law in all 50 states – which require brakes on trailers with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) greater than 3,000 lbs. Additionally, some states even have requirements for trailers with GVWRs greater than 1,000 lbs. Make sure you know the law in your state before heading out to the campground.

Regardless of whether you’re towing a heavy piece of equipment or a small trailer brake controllers are available with a wide variety of options and functions to fit any of your towing needs. When looking at brake controllers, there are a lot of factors to consider like price, safety and ease of installation. There are two primary types of brake controllers: time delayed and proportional.
Time delayed brake controllers are programmed by the user with a predetermined amount of braking power; when the towing vehicle’s brakes are engaged, that pre-programmed level of power is then sent to the trailer’s brakes as well.

Use of a time delayed brake controller gives you complete control over the amount of braking power in your trailer. This allows you to take into account the weight of your load, the length of your trip, your speed, and even the condition of the roads you’ll be taking. When you’re planning your trip, you can always change the amount of power applied to your trailer brakes based on terrain or speed.

Time delayed brake controllers are often preferred by two groups of people: those who tow lighter loads once or twice a year and commercial drivers. Why is this the case? Well, towing lighter loads on well-maintained roads or only towing a couple of times a year is the ideal situation for a time delay brake controller. They are easy to install and maintain with little calibration. You can just set it and go. The reason commercial drivers have been known to prefer time delay brake controllers is because they usually have preset speeds on their trips. This allows them to program their controller to match their speed and they can regulate it according to the kind of conditions in which they’ll be driving. It gives them more control over how the brakes are applied on their trailers.

It is important to note that the time delayed brake controller is designed to stay within the presets that you program. This means that if you need to stop quickly or apply the brakes outside of those parameters, the trailer’s brakes will not respond to this urgency. If you think that you would prefer a more organic, sensor based system, consider a Proportional Brake Controller.

Proportional brake controllers use sensors and inertia to determine how quickly the tow vehicle is stopping and apply an equivalent amount of power to the trailer brakes. When the brakes are engaged in the tow vehicle, a pendulum sensor swings forward and measures both speed and braking power. It then matches the trailer’s brakes to that of the towing vehicle, making the trailer and the vehicle work in sync.

If you have slippery road conditions or end up in a fast braking situation, a proportional brake controller will control the brakes on the trailer to match that of the towing vehicle. For many, this is a comfortable option because it makes the trailer more of an extension of the towing vehicle. A slow stop in the truck will mean a slow stop on the trailer brakes as well. Likewise, an emergency stop can be conducted faster for both the trailer and the towing vehicle.

Using a proportional brake controller usually provides a smoother ride and has been shown to create less wear and tear on the brake systems of both the trailers and the towing vehicle.

There you have it. Hopefully this helped you understand the difference between the two types of brake controllers. Of course, if you have any questions you can always call or shoot us an email. Happy Camping!





Guest post: Traverse City Tourism announces 2014 Winter/Spring 'TC Escape' packages

Enjoy this guest post from Mike Norton of the Traverse City Tourism.

 TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The tourism industry in this northern Michigan resort community is offering a special Winter/Spring “Traverse City Escape” package – good now until May 15 – that combines special rates at over 19 participating hotels and resorts with a wide range of discounts on winter recreation, shopping, dining and entertainment.

“It’s true that the busy pace of summer and fall has subsided, but everything people love about Traverse City is still here -- great restaurants, charming downtown boutiques, wine tastings, and exhilarating outdoor recreation,” said Brad Van Dommelen, president of Traverse City Tourism. “And with fewer crowds and great off-season pricing, winter is the perfect time to visit.”

There are deals at some of the area’s best restaurants and special discounts on shopping, spa services, movies, wine tastings and other entertainment. And for winter sports enthusiasts, the packages include coupons and discounts on trail passes and snowmobile rentals.

Best known as a summer vacation destination, the Traverse City region is now winning accolades as a magnet for skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoe hikers who consider Traverse City one of the country’s most beautiful winter destinations.  Budget Travel calls it one of the 11 “Coolest Winter Places in America” and Livability.com has it on its list of the nation’s best winter vacation destinations.

Traverse City prides itself on the diversity of its winter experiences (both indoors and outdoors) and on the sheer physical beauty of its surroundings. The region seems to specialize in presenting a wide range of quality winter recreation for a comparatively moderate price – which appeals to people who don’t want to spend an entire vacation doing the same thing over and over.

 “There are people who come just because it’s Traverse City,” says outfitter Jamie Bush, whose rental company supplies snowmobiles to hundreds of visitors each winter. “They love the town, they love the casinos and the shopping, and they love being here at the lakeshore, even when the lake is frozen. Besides, you can get some really good deals on rooms here in the winter.”

To learn more about other winter attractions and events in the Traverse City area – and for a complete listing of lodging and dining options – contact Traverse City Tourism at 1-800-TRAVERSE or on line at www.TraverseCity.com

Video: Sneak peek at the Ford F-150 at the Detroit Auto Show



Can't make it to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit? Here's a sneak peek at the Ford F-150. Very cool!

MDOT approves ORV connector routes in 12 Upper Peninsula locations

Image from http://www.jeepsontrails.com/
The first connector routes proposed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to allow off-road vehicles (ORVs) to travel in the rights of way, including some shoulders of state highways, have been approved by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Twelve routes in the Upper Peninsula were chosen as pilot locations where ORVs are allowed to operate within MDOT rights of way. The routes were established under new rules signed into law in 2013.

Eleven of these routes are signed and open, with a seasonal closure in place this winter. The 12th route will be signed and opened with the initial 11 locations beginning May 1, when the seasonal closure ends. The pilot project will include follow-up review of safety and environmental impacts, impacts to the rights of way and easements, and property owner issues.

ORV operation on the shoulders of state highways is initially limited to these 12 pilot routes, although more routes may be approved in the future. The new law does not open up all state highway rights of way to ORV traffic.

ORV right-of-way rules for the connector routes include:

  • 25 mph speed limit
  • Riders must be single file
  • Obey annual seasonal closure of Dec. 1 to May 1

The new connector routes will provide ORV riders a legal point of access to communities, attractions and services near existing ORV trail networks.

“This change will allow increased cooperation between the DNR, MDOT, ORV clubs and municipalities as we work to create a safe, interconnected trail system linking ORV trails and riders with local communities,” said DNR recreation specialist Ron Yesney.

Clubs, chambers of commerce or other entities seeking to apply for an ORV connector route must work with the local unit of government, which may draft a request and submit it to MDOT. Requests will be reviewed by MDOT and DNR on a case-by-case basis, with safety and connectivity being primary factors evaluated during the approval process.

For more information about riding ORVs in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/orvtrails.

Video: 'How To Control RV Holding Tank Odors' by Mark Polk of RV101.TV



Enjoy this 1:01 video on "How To Control RV Holding Tank Odors" by Mark Polk of RV Education 101 and RV101.TV.

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
RV101.TV - expert help for your RV with Mark Polk of RV Education 101.

In this informative RV how to video discover some simple and effective ways to help control RV holding tank odors.

Check out more free RV how-to videos at RV 101 TV http://rv101.tv/

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

Snow Shovel Riding Championship and other Pittsburgh Happenings




Snow Shovel Whaaaaaat?
If it’s January, then it must be time for the Beaver County Snow Shovel Riding Championship. That’s right, this annual one-of-a-kind event will celebrate its 51st year today. Regular and “modified” snow shovel riders compete for the fastest time as they slide down a 160-foot slope in Old Economy Park.

That’s It, Fort Pitt
If you’re familiar with Pittsburgh, you may know the expression: “That’s it, Fort Pitt.” But you may not know that the Fort Pitt Block House will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2014. The building – owned by the Fort Pitt Society, which is part of the Daughters of the American Revolution – is the oldest surviving building in Pittsburgh. It recently underwent a 10-month preservation and restoration project. And, a garden is being planted next to it to honor the Fort Pitt Society’s early members who successfully halted plans by industrialist Henry Clay Frick and the Pennsylvania Railroad to move the building elsewhere. Admission is free. www.fortofpittblockhouse.com

M’m good!
Soup’s on at the South Side Midwinter Soup Contest, Feb. 22. It’s three hours of sampling soups from some of the best local restaurants while enjoying the funky South Side. Local chefs will compete for the honor of South Side's "Best Soup" at the 10th annual event. Awards also will be given for "Best Vegetarian" and "Most Unique." Started in 2004, the South Side Soup Contest is a benefit that supports a local food pantry. www.southsidesoup.com

The Mattress Factory
As the Mattress Factory celebrates its 35th anniversary, the contemporary art museum recalls the edgy creativity and entrepreneurial spirit at play during its founding with the presentation of new works by a half-dozen Detroit-based artists. While each is connected by their environment, the reactions these artists have to the swift socioeconomic changes happening in Detroit are vastly different and intensely powerful in “Detroit: Artists in Residence.” Runs through May 25. www.mattress.org

In Case You Missed It
In 2013, Pittsburgh was named one of the “best world-wide destinations,” by Jettersetter.com, a travel site which provides expert knowledge and deals on great vacations… Forbes.com named Pittsburgh as “one of the 10 unexpectedly romantic cities in the world”… Tripadvisor.com, the world’s largest travel site, ranked PNC Park as the “best ballpark in the United States”… Pittsburgh was #5 of top 15 rising star destinations by Gogobot.com, a social travel site… Pittsburgh was named No. 10 on Amazon.com’s annual list of “most well-read” U.S. cities.

One More Thing
Spinach and ricotta ravioli… White ivory salmon with pumpkin risotto... Chocolate Oreo torte... Foodies get their fill of delectable dishes like these at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, a twice annual city-wide event. During the week of Jan. 13-19, 2014, diners can expect to dine at more than 50 participating restaurants across the city and choose from discounted three-course (or more) fixed-price meals or $20.14 specials. Participating restaurants – both large and small – are located throughout the region; and dining deals can be found for both dinner and lunch. www.pittsburghrestaurantweek.com

Stunning video vignette showcases Aurora Expeditions’ Arctic Experience


Aurora Expeditions presents their new Jewels of the Arctic vignette showcasing the ethereal landscapes and mesmerising wildlife of Greenland and Spitsbergen. The short film, captured during one of their expeditions in August this year, highlights an inspirational journey of travelling to the European Arctic on board a small ship expedition.

The six-minute vignette portrays the grandeur of the Arctic as towering icebergs and massive glaciers majestically collapse and crumble. Kayakers glide through inky waters and Zodiacs cruise through giant fjords featuring ancient geological displays. A walrus scrounges for food, harbour seals bask on rocks, musk ox and Arctic hare endure the Arctic winds, whilst the mighty Polar Bear gracefully boards an ice flow.

A close-up of a compass marking the ships route on a paper map enriches the maritime experience of travelling unchartered waters and sailing around one of the most remote destinations on our planet. This truly is an expedition deep into the heart of some of the most pristine nature on our planet.

Aurora Expeditions team of expert guides and naturalists emphasise their passion for the region through on and off screen dialogue.

“Life is so harsh here and it’s such a different environment very driven by the climate. Most people haven’t experienced anything like that.” says Aurora Expeditions’ naturalist, Dr Alan Burger.

“There is nowhere else you can go that is like the Arctic, it’s one of these places that leaves a real impact on you and an opportunity on the wee ship Polar Pioneer is certainly one to grab.” says Expedition Leader, Don McFadzian.

The Jewels of the Arctic vignette is available to watch online here - http://bit.ly/jewelsofthearctic

Aurora Expeditions will run four expeditions to the European Arctic regions of Greenland and Spitsbergen between June and August 2014. All expeditions are operated on board their 54 passenger, ice-strengthened expedition ship, Polar Pioneer, with a team of expert guides and naturalists to interpret the surrounding landscape and wildlife. All expeditions include ship accommodation, meals, shore excursions and guiding services. Prices start from AU$6,080 per person for an 11 day cruise.

For more information on Aurora Expeditions European Arctic voyages visit http://www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/arctic or call their Expedition Experts on +61 2 9252 1033.

76 outdoor recreation projects, at a $27 million cost, on Michigan's radar

Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommends 76 outdoor recreation development and acquisition projects totaling $27,677,800  

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) board of trustees has recommended to the Michigan Legislature that 76 recreation development projects and land acquisitions totaling $27,677,800 be funded in 2014. In 2013, the board considered a total of 142 applications seeking $49,431,900 in funding. In a competitive process, all eligible applications were evaluated based on scoring criteria developed by the MNRTF board.

“No matter where you are in our state, you’re never far from a park, trail, outdoor project or natural area that has benefited in some way from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “Each of Michigan’s 83 counties has seen, in ways small and large, the economic and quality-of-life boosts that come from better and broader access to quality public outdoor recreation, courtesy of Trust Fund-supported projects.”

The Trust Fund board recommends funding to both state and local agencies for development projects and land acquisitions that will further access to public outdoor recreation.

Last year, the board recommended $19,033,200 for acquisition grants and $8,644,600 for development grants. Twenty-three acquisition grants were awarded to local units of government for a total of $9,183,200, while nine acquisition grants went to the DNR for projects totaling $9,850,000. The Trust Fund board also recommended a total of $7,167,600 in development grants be awarded to 39 local units of government while five DNR projects garnered a total of $1,477,000.

"Michigan’s communities are home to unique, natural spaces and offer great potential for quality outdoor recreation opportunities – both of which play a big role in regional placemaking for our state,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “Communities that actively engage in placemaking have strong recreation plans as part of their long-term planning processes, making it easier for them to compete for and leverage these important Trust Fund dollars. In addition, these recommendations illustrate a strategic investment in trails, furthering Michigan’s reputation as the Trail State.”

The MNRTF is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource protection and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects. It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals. Over the past 37 years, the Trust Fund has granted nearly $1 billion to state and local units of government to develop and improve recreation opportunities in Michigan.

The Trust Fund board's recommendations will go to the Michigan Legislature for review as part of the appropriations process. The Legislature then forwards a bill to the governor for his approval.

A list of the final recommendations made by the Trust Fund board is available at www.michigan.gov/mnrtf.

Video: 'Is Your Tire Gauge Accurate' from RV101.TV


Enjoy this 4:16 video on "Is Your Tire Gauge Accurate" from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 and RV101.TV.

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
RV101.TV - expert help for your RV with Mark Polk. In this RV how to video learn how to select the proper tire gauge for the job, and discover methods on how you can make sure your RV tire gauge is accurate.

Check out more free RV how-to videos at RV 101 TV http://rv101.tv/

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

Guest post: 'Fat Bikes' makes cycling a four-season sport in Traverse City


Enjoy this guest post by Mike Norton of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI - When cyclist Cody Sovis wheels out his “Fat Bike” with its huge comical wheels, he always gets the same question: Where do you ride that thing?

“Everywhere!” he answers. In this bicycle-obsessed Northern Michigan town, where the winters are long and the bike trails are even longer, the Fat Bike is “the Swiss Army knife of bicycles,” he says.

He’s hardly alone. Fat Bikes or snow bikes – specially-adapted mountain bikes with large tires capable of cycling on snow and sand – have turned cycling into a four-season sport in this snowy region. Over the past two years, the fat-wheeled bicycles and their riders have become a normal part of the local winter landscape.

Named for their oversized tires, which come in widths of 3.7 or 4.5 inches, Fat Bikes were developed in Alaska only a few years ago and  have spread rapidly to the rest of the nation. Industry analysts expect Fat Bike ownership to double in the next year from 10,000 to 20,000. Warm-weather cyclists find them useful for riding on sandy beaches and desert trails, but their clearest advantage is on snow.

The interest has been particularly intense in Traverse City, a popular resort community on the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan and a favorite year-round destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts of all kinds. Given the opportunity to add cycling to their repertoire of winter sports, they've wasted no time embracing the Fat Bike phenomenon.

“Fat Biking is the answer for a lot of people that don't currently have a winter sport or are looking to try a new one,” says Jason Lowetz, co-owner of Einstein Cycles, one of the area’s biggest Fat Bike dealers. “There's no learning curve.  You just get a bike and ride and have fun.”

Fat Bikers tend to be a sociable group, too. Lowetz’s shop sponsors weekly group rides for Fat Bikers that draw anywhere from 20 to 30 people, and there’s a popular winter ride/potluck event called Friday Night Lights where cyclists ride together in the dark forest south of town and get together afterward for food. There’s also the popular New Year’s Day 25K Fat Bike Ride, now in its third year.

Fat Bikers have already made some major ripples in Traverse City’s cycle racing community. Last year they created the Northern Michigan Fat Bike Series – three winter races held in difference parts of the region – and in 2013 Fat Bikes had their own category in Traverse City’s prestigious Iceman Cometh Challenge (the largest point-to-point race in the US).

In 2014 the venerable North American Vasa Festival of Races, usually reserved for cross-country skiers, is hosting a Fat Bike race, the Feb. 8 King Vasa, on the popular Vasa Pathway in the Pere Marquette State Forest.

Relations between skiers and Fat Bikers are not without occasional conflicts (in warm slushy conditions the cycles can damage groomed trails) but in Traverse City the two groups are trying to find ways to coexist peacefully. One fruit of that talk is a program called “Fat Bike Fridays” that opens the Vasa Pathway to Fat Bikers on Fridays in wintertime. In the long run, though, they acknowledge that the best long-term solution will be to create dedicated trails for winter cyclists.

One Fat Bike-friendly spot on the Vasa Pathway is the Timber Ridge RV Resort, which offers bike rentals and special Fat Bike passes for its own lighted trail system. But winter cyclists can be found on many other trails in the Traverse City area – from the steep but well-packed hills of the Grand Traverse Commons to the 15-mile Leelanau Trail between Traverse City and the nearby village of Suttons Bay.

The bikes don’t come cheap – a 33-pound titanium-frame model will run $1,600 to $3,300 – but they’re easy to rent in the Traverse City Area. Einstein Cycles offers Fat Bikes for $40 for two hours or $60 per day, Brick Wheels rents them out for $35 per half-day or $60 a day, Suttons Bay Bikes offers rentals for $50 per day, and Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak in Empire rents them at just $10 for two hours or $40 per day.

“Anyone who can ride a bike can ride a Fat Bike,” says Lowetz. “We're still out riding every chance we get and it's never a 'weather pending' type of ride.  We ride in all types of weather and have an absolute blast doing it.”

To learn more about other winter attractions and events in the Traverse City area – and for a complete listing of lodging and dining options – contact Traverse City Tourism at 1-800-TRAVERSE or online at www.TraverseCity.com

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Making Michigan's outdoors more accessible

Concrete walkways make it possible for wheelers to safely
and more easily get down to the water. (DNR photos)
By the Michigan DNR

At the recent Universal Design Conference in Marquette, Mich., the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Grants Section was awarded an “Above and Beyond ADA Award” for funding projects that make recreational facilities not only compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act but take accessibility to another level.

This is by no means the first time the DNR has been lauded for its efforts to include folks with disabilities in its programs. Fact is, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund – the DNR’s main source of funding the purchase and development of recreational facilities – has long added bonus points for projects that incorporate accessibility elements when scoring proposals for funding.

“Since 2007, universal accessibility design has been part of our scoring criteria,” said Steve DeBrabander, who administers the Trust Fund. “Just as the Trust Fund was founded on the principle that the natural resources belong to all generations of Michigan residents, we want to make sure citizens of all levels of abilities are able to access our wonderful natural resources.”

Eric Cadeau, a regional field planner with the DNR Parks and Recreation Division in Baraga, Mich., said universal design – “the highest level we can achieve”– is always the goal.

“From hiking trails to launch ramps, every facility that we are constructing new or rehabilitating, renovating or retro-fitting, we’re hoping to achieve universal accessibility,” Cadeau said. “There are obstacles – everything from topography to budget constraints – so we’re not always able to achieve the goals were aiming at. It’s very challenging balancing all stakeholder needs with limited resources, but we’re often hiring consultants and working with the Department of Management and Budget to make sure that we create accessible opportunities to our cultural- and resource-based facilities and our natural resources.”

Motz County Park, a 42-acre development surrounding an old sand and gravel pit in Clinton County that received a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant in 2008, illustrates how universal design concepts can include everyone.

EZ Launch Accessible Transfer Systems for canoes and
kayaks are turning up in more Michigan parks, thanks in
part to Department of Natural Resources grants.
Before the county applied for the grant, it worked with the DNR’s Accessibility Advisory Council to plan a barrier-free park. In order to make the water accessible to individuals with mobility impairments, the county pumped much of the water from the groundwater-fed, 15-acre lake so it could get a bulldozer in the lake. The dozer moved large rocks and used sand to create a gentle slope from the shoreline out to a depth of about 6 feet of water – a distance of about 125 feet – so no one would ever step into a hole.

“The picnic area beach house and parking level were at a higher elevation – I’m thinking at least 30 feet – so we put in a walkway with a very long gradient,” explained Jerry Jaloszynski, Clinton County parks and green space coordinator. “It’s 10-foot-wide concrete walkway that goes to the high-water mark. We didn’t want to use asphalt because it absorbs the heat from the sun and can make it extremely hot; concrete is much cooler.

“We put in a 10-by-10 concrete pad for wheelchair storage and a transfer device that allows people to get out of their wheelchairs and onto a platform – basically to get people down to water level.”

The park acquired two all-terrain wheelchairs that can be taken into the water. The large-tired chairs – Mobi-chairs – have large, air-filled arm pads so the chairs float. Users have their bodies immersed in water while their heads stay high and dry.

“People who otherwise would never be able to go in the water could go swimming,” Jaloszynski said.

Motz Park, which also features a barrier-free fishing pier, has won a number awards for universal-access design. More than half the cost of the $900,000 development was paid for by a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant.

Bringing people to the water is a big theme at the DNR and what’s been accomplished at Ocqueoc Falls, near Onaway, is a perfect example.

Even small changes to equipment, such as this picnic table,
can help create better accessibility in Michigan’s outdoor spaces.
Thanks to Trust Fund grants, the Recreation Improvement Fund and the Recreational Trails Program, the DNR made the waterfall universally accessible – people can actually get in the water and splash around – garnering the DNR a Da Vinci Award for exceeding ADA requirements.

Recently the DNR added an EZ Launch Accessible Transfer System for canoes and kayaks on Bishop Lake at Brighton State Recreation Area. The transfer system allows wheelchair users to access a bench, from which they can drop into their boats unassisted. The system, purchased with a grant from the Michigan State Waterways program, is a big hit.

“We’re starting to put them in all over the place,” said Paul Yauk, land program manager with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “Local communities have really taken this to heart and the Natural Resources Trust Fund has been very supportive. There are a bunch of these going in all over the state.”

The DNR’s Wildlife Division has long supported efforts to make hunting opportunities more accessible, too. There’s an unusual waterfowl hunting blind at Maple River State Game Area, for instance, that allows wheelchair users to get into the game.

“You can wheel right into it and it has room for someone in a chair and another person,” explained DNR wildlife biologist Chad Fedewa. “It has a landing and a ladder for a dog and it overlooks a little pothole in the cattails.”

Unfortunately, the blind won’t do anyone much good this year as the pool in which it’s located has been drained for dike maintenance. But Fedewa points to three accessible upland blinds, on the west side of the game area, which offer a variety of opportunities.

“They’re accessible by a crushed limestone pathway from the parking lot,” he said. “They’ve been there for 15 or 20 years. They’ve got shooting lanes cut for the hunters and there’s one at the end of the trail that overlooks an open wood lot. And there are also three cement pads where someone could pull up a chair and put up a tent blind.”

The EZ Launch Accessible Transfer System assists
wheelchair users in getting into a canoe or kayak.
But the DNR doesn’t believe that wheelchair users should have to be restricted to ground blinds; there is a fully accessible elevated blind available to hunters at the Rifle River Recreation Area in Ogemaw County.

The Huntmaster Classic blind is affixed to a trailer and is located in active wildlife corridors by park staff. A hunter can wheel into the insulated blind and raise it to a height of 20 feet by its internal control system. The blind is available for reservation by persons with disabilities.

Certainly not all DNR facilities are fully accessible, but as they are upgraded or as new ones are added, the department is committed to making them as accessible as possible to everyone. Learn more about the DNR’s efforts to better connect more people with outdoor recreation opportunities at www.michigan.gov/dnraccessibility.

44 Cheap and Easy Ways to Better Organize your RV

I ran across another website that I thought was worth your while. This one offers us 44 Cheap And Easy Ways To Organize Your RV/Camper, and it has some rather clever ideas.

Admittedly, some of these ideas will not be new to most of us. And others I simply scratched my head at how practical they might actually be. But the majority were definitely worth considering. I'll list several of the 44 ideas, but to read all of them please visit the website.

  • Use the inside of your door.
  • Use broom holders to store your flashlights in a convenient place.
  • Get an over-the-cabinet-door wastebasket.
  • Use Velcro to keep your remotes in place.
  • Hang organizers off the back of the front car seats.
  • Use hideaway hooks for hanging up outerwear.
  • Mount cleaning supplies and other long items to the ceiling with brackets.
  • Hang coiled hoses from nylon Velcro straps.
  • Use suction cups to hang small items like kitchen utensils, sunglasses, or keys.
  • Add command hooks to the inside of your cabinets.
  • Save cupboard space with nesting bowls and measuring spoons.
  • Get a top-mounted paper plate dispenser.
  • Build a fold out spice rack.
  • Use hooks to hold saran wrap and aluminum foil dispensers.
  • A bedside caddy serves as a makeshift nightstand.
  • Hang fold-up sweater shelves from suspension rods for extra bathroom storage.
  •  Shoe organizers provide convenient storage anywhere.
  • Use coat hangers and binder clips to corral toiletries.
  • Elastic and staples keep first aid supplies secure.
  • Add slide out drawers to an RV table.


Michigan DNR’s new Central Reservation System makes it easier to reserve a campsite at state parks

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) new Central Reservation System (CRS) for state parks and harbors is now open for reservations of all types at www.midnrreservations.com. This more customer-friendly version of the website allows reservations up to one year in advance for lodging and six months in advance for camping and harbors.

Explore the DNR's new and improved central reservation system and be sure to book your favorite campsites and harbor slips early in the year.

Campers are encouraged to plan ahead to get the first pick of campsites for some early spring camping, or – if outdoor camping in the spring sounds too cold – reserve a cabin, yurt or other lodging option. Now is also the time to start planning for the Memorial Day holiday weekend; Memorial Day is on May 26, 2014.

The new system features pictures of the campsites and lodging at each location, and more views will continue to be added. Campers can select sites based on camping equipment, stay dates, accessibility and electrical amperage, and view sites on a map, in a list or on a calendar. Campers who know where they want to stay can go straight to that favorite location and select sites from there.

The CRS is also now mobile-friendly, making it easier than ever to make a reservation from a phone or tablet by visiting www.midnrreservations.com/Mobile/. The mobile site is perfect for reserving a site on the go, booking a last-minute stay, and for those who are familiar with the sites and don’t need a picture.

Even if dates can’t yet be reserved for a future camping trip, campers are encouraged to visit the website, create a customer profile and explore the new system. By getting familiar and setting up a username and password in advance, customers can save time later and have a better chance of getting their first choice of a campsite.

Video: 'RV Battery Storage Tips' by Mark Polk of RV Education 101



Enjoy this 3:17 video on "RV Battery Storage Tips" by Mark Polk of RV Education 101.

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
RV101.TV - expert help for your RV with Mark Polk of RV Education 101. In this informative RV how to video Mark Polk offers some helpful tips on storing and maintaining your RV deep cycle batteries during the cold winter months.

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

8 ways camping enriches your life

I came across "8 Ways Camping Enriches Your Life" on the Internet the other day and I think it's a terrific read during the winter months for us RVers and campers.

Author C.E. Poley starts her article with a quote from the patriarch of all things nature, John Muir: "“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” To me, that speaks volumes.

Camping recharges our batteries because we both disconnect and reconnect. 

When we're camping, we turn off our electronics - no TV, no iPods, no cellphones, no emails - nothing that would have us tied to the daily grind that wears us down.
 
Instead, we're free to enjoy time for self-reflection, time with our families and friends, and time for what Mother Nature has so gloriously provided.

Foley's article delves into the science of how camping enriches our life - some of what she says, quite frankly, are beyond my simple comprehension. Honestly, I tend to gloss over those sentences when terms like "biorhythms" are thrown about. All I know is I feel better when I'm camping.


1. It resets your body’s biorhythms
Foley says our bodies are "naturally inclined to follow solar patterns when it comes to day and night activities." She cites a study by the University of Colorado that tracked two weeks of outdoor living showed that "being outside reset and improved the body’s daily rhythm." Basically, the study said people who lived outside slept better at night and got more sunlight during the day.

"Get outside and get some extra rays and deep sleep, whether it’s cold or not," Foley said. "Your body will feel refreshed, which means you will, too."

Can't argue with that, mainly because I still don't understand what my body's biorhythm exactly means.

2. It forces you to problem solve
"If you’re taking an extended hiking and camping trip of some kind, it’s likely you’ll have a moment where you can’t find enough kindling in the dark, or it turns out your tent is missing some parts," Foley says. 

Who among us haven't had to solve a problem when we're RV camping? Rare is the trip when we don't have to fix something. Honestly, as much as a pain that can be when we're in the moment, my neanderthal self feels exhilarated when the problem has been solved. 

It's as if I'm beating my chest, and declaring: "I am a pioneer taking my family and all our belongings into the Great Frontier, and I am capable!"

Or something like that.

"These moments are for problem solving  —  the kind you wouldn’t normally do at the office or on your day off," Foley says. "Camping won’t just get your body going, it will get your brain going, too."

I couldn't agree more!

3. It makes you cook for yourself
This one's a no-brainer. Cooking while camping produces some of the best meals we've ever enjoyed. Hobo pies, steaks marinated for 24 hours, corn on the cob smothered in butter and covered in tinfoil, s'mores, dutch oven sausage casseroles, monster breakfasts of eggs, bacon, waffles and biscuits and gravy - what's not to love?

Foley adds that "a camping trip will require you to choose the food you’re going to bring. Choose healthy foods that will give your body good energy while you’re camping. You will need that real strength to be alert outside. You have to decide what to eat, which means that you’re more likely to make a healthier choice than if you ate out at the restaurant."

Campfire meals are always better than a restaurant. (Addendum: Unless it's raining; then it's time to find a mom-and-pop restaurant; never a national chain).

4. It keeps you in the moment
Foley says when we're camping, we must "be attentive to your surroundings." 

"From the time you pitch the tent to when you stand on the edge of a canyon, you’ll need all your faculties," she says. "Weather, good camp sites or just a safe water source — these are the things you’ll need to be on the lookout for.You can’t be anywhere else when you’re climbing a steep hill or trying to build your fire for the night. Travel in the outdoors demands the attention of the traveler. The more present you are mentally, the more relaxed you’ll become, making a camping trip the best vacation you’ve ever had."

To paraphrase: camping simplifies life.

We're not worried about anything other than where we're at and what we're doing. The bills, work, all those things that can weigh us down in the real world are distractions we don't have to worry about when we're camping.

5. It gets your body moving
"Your body needs exercise, and if you don’t exercise regularly hiking and camping can be great ways to do so," Foley says.

Again, this is a no-brainer.

6. It takes you away from digital screens
Foley says "digital screens like TVs, computers, kitchen clocks, lamps, and smartphones all disturb the release of natural melatonin in our bodies at night."

Basically, without the artificial light of digital screens, she said we'll sleep better. 

7. It keeps you humble
"We’re just one species on a big planet, and being in the outdoors is a great reminder of that," Foley says.

"No matter the geographical location, there are all kinds of insects, ground animals, fish, or larger creatures. There might be oceans, mountains, or a desert. No matter what the landscape, it will be bigger and older than you and if it could talk it would probably know a lot more than you. Appreciate nature and the outdoors for what they are. Breathe in the cold air and drink coffee, and get in touch with proper circadian rhythms."

I'm not sure what "circadium rhythms" means, and truthfully I slept through my Philosophy 101 class in college, so I'll just take Foley's word for it on this one.

I will say this, though, I cannot wait for my first view of Yosemite Valley. I expect that to be a religious experience. If that gets me in touch with my circadium rhythm, then I'm all in.

8. It creates a healthier social atmosphere
Foley says "outdoors on a trip with friends or family is the perfect time to interact face to face."

Again, disconnect from the distractions of the real world and reconnect with each other. 

But Foley goes on to say "the camping group must act as a team during many parts of the trip. The team mentality brings everyone together in order to build camp at the end of the day or make a decision about which trail to follow at the fork in the road. There are no emails or texts that need to be sent during dinner or over the campfire; interaction can be organic and human. Everyone can enjoy the outdoors together on a camping trip."

I couldn't agree more with this. When we're camping with others, we're all about doing things together - cooking, eating, playing, gathering around the campfire and enjoying each other's company. Nothing better than all that!

Thanks C.E. Foley for eight wonderful reasons why we enjoy camping!

ODNR Awards Funds to Local Boating Safety and Education Programs

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) recently announced that more than $308,000 from the state’s Waterways Safety Fund has been awarded to support 22 community boating safety education programs next year.

Individual grants provided through the ODNR Division of Watercraft’s Boating Safety Education Grant program range from $2,562 to $30,000. The grants are funded by Ohio’s recreational boaters through the Waterways Safety Fund, which is comprised of a share of the state motor fuel tax, watercraft registration and titling fees and funding from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The ODNR Division of Watercraft provides boating safety education programs all across Ohio. This core mission of the division is accomplished by providing annual funding assistance to local communities and nonprofit organizations through a competitive grant program.

Ohio law requires any person born on or after Jan. 1, 1982, to be able to show proof they have successfully completed an approved boating safety education course if they are to operate any powered watercraft greater than 10 horsepower. Many of the programs also focus on boating skills development and basic water safety.

A listing of the 2014 Boating Safety Education grant program awards can be found online at watercraft.ohiodnr.gov.

AAA: Winter weather tips for your vehicle

With the winter weather cold and snow across the state, AAA Michigan advises motorists to take special precautions before driving.

Motorists can help keep their vehicles on the road by doing the following:

  • Check your vehicle’s battery strength. Faulty batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor. At 0 degrees, a good battery has 35 percent less starting power.
  • Park your vehicle in the garage. If you have no garage, put a tarp over the hood or park protected from prevailing winds.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half-full to avoid fuel-line freeze-up.
  • Be sure your vehicle has a winter survival kit, including ice scraper and brush, snow shovel, tire traction material such as sand or cat litter, food and blanket, jumper cables, cell phone and cell phone charger, flares or reflective triangle, flashlight, boots, gloves and hats.


Before driving, follow these tips:

  • Clear snow and ice from vehicle, including hood, roof, trunk, front and back windshields, headlights and tail lights.
  • Go slow — slow down when visibility and road conditions are impaired.
  • Anticipate danger — be ready for ice on bridges, hidden lane markings, stalled cars and poor visibiity. Increase following distance between vehicles.
  • Put the lid on skids — ease off the accelator and don’t lock up the brakes. Carefully steer in the direction you want your vehicle to go and straighten the wheel as soon as the car begins to go in the desired direction.
  • Monitor weather reports. If you must travel and become stranded, stay with your vehicle. It provides shelter from the cold and makes it easer for rescuers to locate you. Make sure your exhaust pipe is snow free.
  • If your vehicle becomes disabled, never step into the line of traffic.
  • In the first days of January, AAA Michigan has assisted more than 12,500 motorists, with spin outs, vehicles in ditches and dead batteries among the winter-related issues.

Red Cross: How to stay safe in extreme cold

Millions of people across the Great Lakes region and the United States are dealing with cold temperatures and below-zero wind chills as they dig out from heavy snow that buried much of the northern and Midwest parts of the country

The Red Cross urges people to be careful during the extreme cold and is working with emergency officials and prepared to respond if necessary.

COLD AND SNOW
  • Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm.Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
  • After the storm, be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
  • Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  • Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Avoid frozen pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
  • Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid App for quick, expert advice on what to do in case of an emergency. This free app is available on the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores. See all Red Cross apps at redcross.org/mobileapps.

SPACE HEATERS, FIREPLACES AND GENERATORS
Heating systems are running at full force and many people are resorting to other sources to keep their homes warm. To avoid fire danger, you should remember the following:
  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
  • If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
  • Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
About the American Red Cross:The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Minnesota DNR: Volunteer this winter at a Candlelight Event

Join the Minnesota DNR in creating a magical night of cross country skiing, snowshoeing or hiking on trails lit by the warm glow of candles at one of the Minnesota State Parks listed below!

At most events, volunteers are needed to help set out candles, light them, ski or hike the trails to relight them, serve refreshments, oversee a bonfire, and pick up the candles again at the end of the evening along with other cleanup from the event.

Volunteer for the entire evening or just a part of it! Training will be provided. Older kids are welcome to volunteer with parents – families will work together. These would be great group or club activities!

Volunteers must be comfortable working in the outdoor environment, i.e. being physically able, and wearing warm winter clothing as needed. Bring skis, boots or snowshoes (none will be available, unless noted) – you don’t need to be an expert, but these are needed to travel on the trails. Backpacks are also helpful for carrying candle materials.

For more information on how you can get involved, contact the DNR staff person listed below:
 
Candlelight Ski/Snowshoe Event at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Saturday, February 1
4:30 – 9:30 PM

  • 15 volunteers needed (Snowshoes are available to rent)
  • Directions to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park: Take I-35 to State Highway 19 east into Northfield. Go south on State Highway 3, east on State Highway 246, then turn right onto County Road 29.  Address: 9700 170 Street East, Nerstrand, MN 55053
  • Contact Elaine Feikema, Park Manager, 507-333-4840 or elaine.feikema@state.mn.us


Gateway State Trail 3rd Annual Candlelight Walk Event
Saturday, February 8
3 – 9 PM

  • 10 volunteers needed (1 mile trail will be lit) 
  • Directions; The event will begin in Maplewood at the intersection of White Bear Avenue and the Gateway State Trail near the Maplewood Community Center.  
  • Contact Rachel Hintzman, Gateway State Trail, St Paul, 651-259-5875 or Rachel.Hintzman@state.mn.us 


Rice Lake State Park Candlelight Ski/Hike/Snowshoe Event
Saturday, February 8
3 – 10 PM

  • 10 volunteers needed (2 miles of trail will be lit) 
  • Directions: Rice Lake State Park is located at 8485 Rose Street, Owatonna, MN 55060, just 7 miles east of Owatonna. From Hwy 35, take exit 42A. Follow the signs to Rose Street. Go east on Rose Street to the park. 
  • Contact Sandi Gatlin, Park Technician, 507-455-5871 or sandra.gatlin@state.mn.us 


Gooseberry Falls Candlelight Ski
Saturday, February 15
2 – 10 PM

  • 40 volunteers needed (volunteer pot-luck at the Visitor Center after set-up) 
  • Directions: Gooseberry Falls State Park is located at 3206 Hwy 61, Two Harbors, MN 55616, about 13 miles northeast of Two Harbors on MN Hwy 61. 
  • Contact Guy Lunz, Assistant Park Manager, Gooseberry Falls State Park, 218-834-3855 Ext 226 or guy.lunz@state.mn.us  


Split Rock Lighthouse State Park Candlelight Snowshoe & Hike
Saturday, February 22
3:30 – 10 PM

  • 20 volunteers needed (beginner and expert trails) 
  • Directions: Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is located at 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN 55616, about 20 miles northeast of Two Harbors on MN Hwy 61.
  • Contact Guy Lunz, Assistant Park Manager, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, 218-834-3855 ext. 226 or guy.lunz@state.mn.us .