Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Get hooked on fun, camaraderie of ice fishing




Fishing is a year-round activity and when the thermometer plunges below freezing in Michigan, most anglers have little choice but to hit the hard water. Ice fishing becomes the go-to activity until spring.

For beginning anglers, ice fishing offers one significant advantage: access. Boat-less anglers, who otherwise are limited to shorelines or fishing piers much of the year, can often access entire lakes. That inspires some anglers to proclaim that ice-fishing season is their favorite time of year.

Fortunately, ice fishing can be relatively simple. All that’s needed to start is a way to make a hole in the ice (an auger or spud), a way to clear the slush from it (an inexpensive scoop), and rudimentary equipment.

Seven-year-old Kori Draper is all smiles after catching a perch.
(DNR photos)
So how do you get started?

There’s a good opportunity every Saturday at noon at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center in Cadillac holds on-the-ice fishing events.

Novice anglers often can find assistance nearby. Tom Goniea, a fisheries biologist at the Department of Natural Resources, says finding a mentor helps shorten the learning curve.

“Ask around,” Goniea said. “Ask the guys at work or the folks at church. Ice fishermen make up a community that’s usually quite willing to introduce others to the sport.

“And most ice fishermen have enough equipment that they can get you started if you go with them so you can see what you need.”

DNR fisheries biologist Christian LeSage agrees.

“There‘s a big social component to ice fishing,” he said. “When you get out on the ice people are usually friendly – they’re willing to tell you what they’re doing, what they’re using, and how they’re catching fish.”

Except for largemouth and smallmouth bass – bass season closes Jan. 1 and doesn’t completely reopen until the Saturday before Memorial Day – anglers who ice fish can pursue all species they target the rest of the year. Ice fishing can range from fishing for panfish on a farm pond to making miles-long sojourns on the Great Lakes in pursuit of walleyes, lake trout or other top-of-the-food-chain predators.

LeSage recommends people start with panfish. He likes bluegills.

A volunteer instructor shops a young angler how to use a
weight at an ice-fishing clinic at the DNR’s Carl T.
Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center.
“You can try it on a small pond in a park,” he said. “And you don’t need extravagant gear. If you go places where people have been fishing, you don’t even need an auger – you can reopen a hole with a hammer.

“Most veteran fishermen know that the best fishing is at dawn and dusk, but you can catch bluegills throughout the day. You can catch them in shallow water. You can catch a lot in a small area. And they’re delicious.”

What’s nicest about bluegills is that they can be found almost everywhere and, as fishing quarry, are relatively unsophisticated. All you need is a basic gear. Small fiberglass rods with simple, spring-tension spoons can be yours for less than $10 and you will see accomplished ice anglers using them. Add some light line, a few low-cost tear drops (small weighted hooks) and a container of insect larvae (wax worms or spikes, the early life stages of bee moths or flies, respectively) and you’re in business. Lower your bait to the bottom, begin slowly working it upward in the water column until you start getting bites, and then fish at that depth.

It can (and does) get much more complicated with expensive rods, sonar fish finders, and a plethora of other equipment. But many anglers never acquire all that gear and continue to enjoy productive bluegill fishing.

As you progress in the sport and explore other ice-fishing opportunities, the equation becomes decidedly more complex. Get addicted to walleye fishing and you’ll be into snowmobile or quad runners, insulated ice shanties, GPS, underwater cameras – the list is endless.

But some factors never change: The first rule of ice fishing is to be safe. 

John Zakrajsek, an assistant interpreter at William Mitchell
State Park, shows a youngster how to tie on a jig for ice fishing.
Good, strong ice can support a semi-truck, but every year there are tragedies that often involve recklessness. Make sure the ice is safe. Even arctic temperatures won’t guarantee it, especially if there’s an insulating layer of snow on top. You can get up-to-date info from bait shops around fishing locales, but always make sure yourself. Carry a spud to test the ice in front of you as you venture forth. Don’t approach ice that is discolored or has objects (such as vegetation or timber) protruding through it. Be especially careful of rivers (current can degrade ice quickly) or spring-fed lakes and ponds where warmer water can cause thin spots in an otherwise solid surface.

Always carry basic emergency gear, just in case. Ice picks (or homemade alternatives constructed of nails in dowels) will give you a way to get purchase on the ice should you break through. Carry a rope to toss to someone else who breaks through. 

It’s better – some would say mandatory – not to go alone. You certainly don’t want to head miles off shore – at Saginaw Bay, say, or Little Bay de Noc – without a partner. Always make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. Carry your cell phone.

Make sure you dress for the weather. Dress in layers from head to toe – the best way to keep your feet warm is to keep your head warm – and a waterproof outer layer is advisable. Small luxuries – such as extra gloves and hand warmers – often pay large dividends.

Ice fishing isn’t for everybody. But if you look around in the winter and see the huge shanty towns that spring up on some of Michigan’s best fishing lakes, it’s obvious that a lot of people are having a lot of fun out there.

It isn’t that difficult to become one of them.

For more information on ice fishing, visit the DNR’s website at www.michigan.gov/fishing.

RV Cooking Show video: BIG4 North Star Holiday Resort Tour - Hastings Point, NSW, Australia


This episode of the RV Cooking Show continues Evanne's trip to Australia. Tour the 5-star BIG4 North Star Holiday Resort & Caravan Park with the RV Cooking Show / 90daysdownunder crew and discover why this fab Aussie resort is the heart of the Tweed Coast. Some crew favs? Sammy's Adventure Lagoon Splash Park, adults-only Seascape Leisure Center, the very convenient en suite sites, and of course, the onsite and sensational Ripples Cafe. Hint, hint. Soon we'll be cooking with the Ripples Licensed Cafe chef Graham Terrey. Yes, it's delicious!

About The RV Cooking Show
The RV Cooking Show takes viewers on adventures to some of the most sought-after or interesting but little-known RV locations in the country and then creates a healthy, easy, delicious destination-related dish in host Evanne Schmarder’s RV kitchen. I strongly encourage you to visit The RV Cooking Show's website, follow them on Twitter (@RVCookingShow), like their Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube Channel and follow the show's Pinterest boards, You can also keep up with Evanne on The RV Cooking Show's blog.

Discover winter camping with 20 rustic sites at Muskegon State Park

Winter Sports Complex offers recreational fun nearby for winter campers

Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
offers the only publicly accessible
luge track in North America. (DNR)
Muskegon State Park and the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex are pleased to announce that after 14 years without winter camping, the park will offer 20 rustic winter campsites this year. 

In 2013, park staff started using a word-of-mouth approach to test the frozen waters and encourage groups to try this venturesome winter activity. During that first year, the park offered winter camping to more than 10 camps (scouts, organizations and individuals). After that successful season, Muskegon State Park staff worked with Muskegon Winter Sports Complex Executive Director Jim Rudicil to gradually reintroduce rustic winter camping to the park.  

Winter camping at the park costs $18 per night for a 30-amp site and $20 per night for a 50-amp site. Rustic winter campsites can be used for tents, trailers or motorhomes. In addition to rustic winter campsites, Muskegon State Park also offers two mini-cabins and a yurt for a modern camping experience. Walk-in reservations are available from a phone located on-site, near the Lake Michigan Campground Office. Advance reservations can be made at www.midnrreservations.com or by calling 1-800-44-PARKS (1-800-447-2757).

With ice skating, cross-country skiing, luge,
sledding and snowshoeing, Muskegon Winter
Sports Complex is a great place for campers at
Muskegon State Park to enjoy a day of winter fun.
Despite the initial hesitation of some at the idea of camping in Michigan's cold and snowy months, Muskegon State Park lead worker Matt Schwemin assures visitors that it can be a worthwhile experience to brave the cold.

“Winter camping is not as absurd as many think,” said Schwemin. “With the right equipment and an adventurous attitude, it can be a really fun way to shake the winter blues.”

Muskegon State Park’s Lake Michigan Campground is located across the street from the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, which means that there’s plenty of nearby adventure for winter campers to enjoy during their stay at the park. 

Muskegon Winter Sports Complex visitors warm up indoors
between cross-country skiing, ice skating and other winter
activities at the facility.
The Winter Sports Complex, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, hosts the only publicly accessible luge track in North America. Other recreational offerings include more than 15 kilometers of ski trails (five miles of which are lit after dark), snowshoe trails, two acres of skating rinks, a sledding hill and an ice skating trail which is lit after dark. Equipment rentals are available, and visitors can also get a hot waffle and a cup of coffee or hot cocoa to warm up after enjoying the winter fun. The complex is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting. 

Muskegon Winter Sports Complex also offers a variety of events throughout the winter.

For details about winter camping at Muskegon State Park, please call 231-744-3480. For more information on events and activities at the Winter Sports Complex, call 231-744-9629 or visit www.msports.org.  

Technomadia video: Tales from Nomads



Enjoy this video from Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia.com, where they introduce us to Nancy & Betsy. After professional careers in the zoo and wildlife field, Nancy and Betsy wanted a big change in life - so they started learning about full time RVing. Since 2010, they've been traveling the country volunteering and camp hosting to supplement their investment income.

This is part of a series of interviews with other full time young-at-heart nomads & full time RVers - the entire series can be found at http://www.technomadia.com/ramblings.

About Technomadia
Technomadia is the "adventures and musings" of Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard. Perpetually on the road since 2006 embracing nomadic serendipity, the two are now traveling in a "geeked out vintage bus conversion" and working remotely as app developers, technology consultants and strategy advisors. The two have a great sense of humor and really know their stuff whether its technology, RVing and how to have fun.

Visit their website, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and like their Facebook page.

DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program offers ‘Beyond BOW’ winter cabin/ski/snowshoe workshop

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program will offer a Beyond BOW winter cabin ski/snowshoe workshop for women. Scheduled for the weekend of March 6-8, 2015, the program is designed for women who have previous cross-country ski and snowshoe experience and would like to expand on their skills and abilities.

The workshop starts at 6 p.m. Friday, March 6, at Wilderness State Park, 903 Wilderness Park Drive, near Carp Lake, Michigan. Participants are asked to bring their own camping gear. See registration papers for more details.

"To participate in this Beyond BOW workshop, everyone must have solid previous experience with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing,” said Sharon Pitz, Becoming and Outdoors-Woman program coordinator. “The March workshop aims to help women expand on the skills they may have been taught at previous workshops – things like back-country cooking, reading and using maps and compasses, wilderness first aid, snowshoeing and skiing.”

The trip will include both days at Wilderness State Park. Participants should prepare to spend plenty of time outside. The cost for this event is $115 and includes lodging and some meals. Participants will stay in a rustic bunkhouse that will sleep up to 24 women in 12 sets of bunk beds.

Participants must be 18 or older. Enrollment is limited to 24 people and the registration deadline is Feb. 16.

Class information and registration materials are available online at www.michigan.gov/bow and registration can be paid online at www.michigan.gov/estore.

This Beyond BOW workshop is a rain, shine or snow event. For more information, contact Sharon Pitz at 906-228-6561 or pitzs@michigan.gov.

Pennsylvania Twofer: Outdoors Video & New PCOA Website



Author's note: Today is a Pennsylvania twofer: The video above from visitPA.com showcases the Keystone state's abundant natural beuaty, and the release below announces the new user-friendly website from the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association.

Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association  (PCOA) has debuted its newly revamped website for consumers –www.pacamping.com – with the goal of providing a responsive, user friendly site that is useful to visitors looking to Pennsylvania as a destination, not only for camping but to experience the many recreational and cultural aspects available while camping.

Integration was a key factor in the design work on the new website. Working with designers and developers from Rochester-based Corporate Communications, Inc. and Franklin-based Brydan Corp, PCOA focused its efforts on providing a more positive user experience by expanding the “Find a Park” search options, improving overall website navigation, and ensuring the webpages were compatible and readable with all types of mobile devices. Links to PCOA’s social media pages on Facebook and Twitter have an improved look and presence on the website, which now also includes an events page, promotions pages featuring contests as well as special camping deals and enhanced area over view pages.  What’s more, descriptive pages for individual campgrounds and RV parks have much more detail, including links for users to connect with those parks’ own social media pages, videos, printed brochures and reservation sites, if available.

The new look and feel of the website embraces PCOA’s “Discover Your Outdoor Moments” brand identity for promoting travel and camping in Pennsylvania.  PCOA’s new website culminates a yearlong branding process.  The new website places campgrounds into 8 regional areas and will include still photography and high definition video from the newly carved out areas, creating a site that allows customers great flexibility in discovering their perfect vacation moments. From an operational standpoint, the new website allows PCOA staff more hands-on control of the website’s content management system (CMS), to ensure timely and accurate information updates to better serve website visitors.

“We invite the public to experience the new look and functionality of PCOA’s camping website at pacamping.com,” said PCOA President and Marketing Director Jason Vaughan. “We feel that both returning visitors and first-time users will appreciate the new look and function, and find the website to be a useful tool for discovering their outdoor moment.”

Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA), headquartered in New Tripoli, PA. and founded in 1963, is an association dedicated to support and promote our 230 + privately owned campgrounds in Pennsylvania. More information about the association and PCOA campgrounds – including a free camping directory – is available at www.pacamping.com and www.pacabinsandcottages.com.

Rollin' On TV Video: Truma AquaGo feature



This video is about the new Truma "AquaGo" instant, endless hot water system for RVs. It's truly a system that works as it's suppose to.


About Rollin' on TV
Now in its fourth year of production, Rollin’ On TV has become a leading RV, lifestyle television program reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For additional information and for times and days the show airs, visit  www.rollinontv.com

GuestRated.com Announces ‘A’-Rated Parks

Only 34 out of about 4,000 campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across America received all around ‘A’ ratings in GuestRated.com consumer surveys completed in 2014.“If you do the math, that amounts to fewer than one in 100 campgrounds, RV parks and resorts receiving all around ‘A’ ratings in our consumer surveys,” said Bob MacKinnon, a former Disney Co. executive who founded GuestRated.com, an online rating system for public and privately owned and operated campgrounds.
Anaheim Resort RV Park
According to a press release, GuestRated.com solicits consumer feedback on 55 different guest satisfaction questions in addition to providing consumers the ability to post written comments and suggestions.
“We drill down to specifics with our surveys,” MacKinnon said. “For example, we ask, ‘How clean were the showers compared to the toilet areas? Was the bathroom well stocked with supplies? What was the attitude of staff? Did staff have a professional appearance? Were they quick and efficient? How would you rate the safety and security of the park?’ ”
Ultimately, MacKinnon said, GuestRated.com aims not only to provide consumers with meaningful reviews that can help them identify the best campgrounds, but provide campground operators with letter grades covering every aspect of their park so that they know where to prioritize their improvements and create a better guest experience.
Cross Creek Camping Resort
“Sometimes campgrounds have terrific facilities, but their staffing needs attention, or vice versa,” MacKinnon said. “Or maybe the park’s facilities and staffing are very good, but their reservation process needs attention. Our surveys help park operators zero in on the trouble spots that don’t show up in most online survey forms.”
In 2014, consumers filled out more than 30,000 surveys involving nearly 4,000 public and privately owned and operated campgrounds across the U.S.
But while the vast majority of the nation’s campgrounds do not receive overall “A” ratings, there are several across the country who have received overall “A” ratings several years in a row. Here is a listing of the latest “A” rated parks:

Dutchmen RVs debuts new website

Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. announced the launch of a newly designed innovative website at Dutchmen.com.

“The focus on the redesign of the site was to keep it clean and simple,” said Troy James, vice president of sales for Dutchmen. “Consumers desire a web experience that’s intuitive and a site that’s easy to navigate. We think our new website is all of that and more.”

The new site design was driven internally by Dutchmen’s sales and marketing department, with the intent to provide dealers with the latest in marketing tools and support to help further propel the Dutchmen product line sales. The “responsive design” functionality enables it to work on any device, from desktop computers and tablets to smart phones.

“We wanted to make everything the consumer needed just a click or two away within the new site,” stated James. The “Build Your Own” feature, “Find A Dealer”, “Customer Service,” and a brochure download link are all available on the homepage. And while ease of use was important to the Dutchmen team, selling the RV lifestyle was just as important.

“We’ve been building RVs for 27 years and have seen literally tens of thousands of people enjoy the benefits that our products bring to families,” James said. “By using great lifestyle shots and a rolling view of our product breadth, our intent was to make a direct connection between families and individuals enjoying the outdoors and our products which have helped enable that experience all of these years. We believe we’ve accomplished that with our new site, and we’re really looking forward to the response of our dealers and RV customers.”

Michigan DNR seeks partners, sponsors for outdoor recreation

Volunteer and partnership opportunities, like this free
ice-fishing program at Sleepy Hollow State Park, are available
year-round at Michigan state parks. (DNR photo)
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources currently is seeking support from partners and sponsors for 2015 outdoor recreation events and initiatives.

Opportunities include volunteering as an instructor for various statewide campaigns, sponsoring statewide event campaigns, and donating to projects such as the Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit, according to a release issued by the DNR.

“Our goal is to build and maintain partnerships that are beneficial for everyone involved,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation chief. “Partnerships and sponsorships provide opportunities for our parks to welcome new visitors, for partner organizations to build their reputation and make connections with potential customers, and for visitors to make memories through outdoor recreation and programming.”

The Outdoor Adventure Center, nestled along the Detroit RiverWalk, offers several sponsorship opportunities, from exhibit and display sponsors to naming rights on the building. Groups, businesses and individuals interested in promoting stewardship and enjoyment of Michigan’s natural resources have an opportunity to inspire millions annually through this hands-on, urban educational facility.

Michigan state parks annually offer several statewide event series to introduce people to and build appreciation for Michigan’s woods and waters. In 2015, individuals, businesses and organizations can volunteer at state parks, trails and harbors for programs like Recreation 101, which offers free, introductory classes with all the equipment provided free of charge.

Also available are opportunities to sponsor or host events for a variety of statewide campaigns. Michigan Boating Week in June features water-related programs such as paddling, fishing, sailing and more. Meteors & S’mores is an annual celebration of astronomy that takes place during the Perseid Meteor Shower in August. Michigan Trails Week, which celebrates the state’s extensive land and water trail system, takes place in September.

Lynne Cavazos has partnered with the DNR since 2008 to coordinate the annual Beach Walk/Run at Charles Mears State Park to benefit Communities Overcoming Violent Encounters.

“This highly successful event would not be possible without the support of the DNR and Charles Mears State Park,” said Cavazos, who works as benefit coordinator for COVE. “It has been an amazing partnership. Together, we’re able to host a memorable event and raise funds to assist members of our community who are in need.”

Individuals also can join or start a Friends group to support a particular Michigan state park, harbor, trail or waterway. Friends groups support these facilities by fundraising, recruiting volunteers, leading restoration projects and providing educational programming for the public. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/dnrfriends.

Sponsoring or volunteering at a program is just one of many ways to support Michigan state parks. Partners also can post event flyers locally, donate to park projects, donate supplies and much more. If you or someone you know may be interested in partnering with Michigan state parks, please contact Maia Turek at 989-225-8573.

Improvements Make Pennsylvania State Park Online Reservation More Consumer-Friendly

State Conservation and Natural Resources Acting Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Feb. 4 announced that the department is upgrading its online system for Pennsylvania state park campsite, cabin and pavilion reservations.

"One of the key new features is the ability for customers to make a state park reservation on a mobile device," Dunn said. "Many people now seek information and make their travel plans on their smart phones and other devices. This upgrade fits nicely with Gov. Wolf's effort to highlight government that works, making it a better experience for our visitors to interact with DCNR when making plans to visit a state park."

The online reservation system was first launched in 2006.  This update includes:

  • Better campsite descriptions;
  • Easier site navigation;
  • An upgraded map view;
  • Mobile reservation capabilities;
  • Availability notifications;
  • A simpler check out process; and
  • Increased security.

Users can search for available campsites, picnic pavilions and other facilities on-line as well as make reservations at their convenience.

"Pennsylvania has 120 state parks that offer incredible activities to explore our rich legacy of forests, lakes, mountains, trails, wildlife and natural heritage," Dunn said. "With that many options there's something for everyone, and arranging an overnight stay is now even easier."

DCNR has a one-year contract within renewal options for an additional four years with ACTIVE Network™ for the cloud-based reservation system.

To make online reservations, park users should visit www.visitPAparks.com and click on "Reservations." On-line visitors can access the reservation system 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Visitors can charge reservations with their credit cards. Reservations can be made up to 11 months prior to a planned arrival date.

Park visitors also may call the toll-free number 1-888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757) to receive information and make reservations.  This service is available Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for major holidays.

Pennsylvania's 120 state parks are open year round and attract about 38 million visitors a year.  They offer about 6,200 campsites; 300 cabins; 91 camping and deluxe cottages; and 34 yurts.

Pennsylvania state parks generate more than $1 billion in economic activity in nearby communities and support almost 13,000 related jobs.

For more information on state parks and forests in Pennsylvania visit the DCNR website at www.dcnr.state.pa.us.

Top Snowbird RV Parks for 2015 named by the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide

Editor's note: Take this list with a grain of salt. If I am to read between the lines, Good Sam only considers RV parks and campgrounds that "participate" in the 12 Months of RVing program, which to me means it's a pay-to-play program. I'm sure the parks listed here are excellent; I'm equally sure there are many, many more parks not listed here that are just as good.



For January, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide is highlighting the Top Snowbird Parks as part of the 12 Months of RVing promotion. These select Sun Belt RV Parks stand out from the flock when it comes to giving snowbird travelers a welcoming roost during the winter months.

Snowbird parks can be found across the Sun Belt, from the California coast to the Atlantic waters off Florida. The parks on this list specialize in making snowbird travelers feel at home — even if they’ve crossed an entire continent to get there. Many of the RV parks on this list cultivate an atmosphere of community and fun.

The editors and consultants of the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory chose the list of Snowbird Parks from the annual publication’s database of almost 7,000 private parks.

About the ‘12 Months of RVing’ program
The 12 Months of RVing lists celebrate the diversity of the RV lifestyle. Regardless of your travel preferences, you’ll find the parks that support your interest.

Parks participating in this program are featured in press releases, enewsletters and blog posts. Each of the parks will have Top Parks badge in their park information page. 

In addition to in-depth listings of RV parks and campgrounds across North America, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide features RV lifestyle articles, travel tips, helpful maps and informative itineraries that RVers can use for a journey anywhere in North America.

Top Snowbird RV Parks:
Alabama

Desert Valley RV Park
Arizona
Sunrise RV Resort, Apache Junction 
Superstition Lookout RV Resort, Apache Junction 
Superstition Sunrise RV Resort, Apache Junction 
Vista Del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City 
High Chaparral RV Park, Casa Grande 
Sundance 1 RV Resort, Casa Grande 
Arizonian RV Resort, Gold Canyon 
Val Vista Village RV resort
Val Vista Village RV Resort, Mesa 
Sunflower RV Resort, Surprise 

California
Caliente Springs Resort, Desert Hot Springs 





Camp Florida Resort
Florida
Craig's RV Park, Arcadia 
Groves RV Resort, Fort Myers 
Siesta Bay RV Resort, Fort Myers 
Sunseeker's RV Park, Fort Myers 
Camp Florida Resort, Lake Placid 
Naples RV Resort, Naples 
Williston Crossings RV Resort
Orange City RV Resort , Orange City 
Daytona Beach RV Resort, Port Orange 
Space Coast RV Resort, Rockledge 
Buttonwood Bay RV Resort & Manufactured Home Community, Sebring 

Nevada
Lake Mead RV Village, Boulder City 
LVM Resort, Las Vegas 

South Carolina

Texas
Colonia Del Rey RV Park, Corpus Christi 
Kenwood RV Resort, La Feria 
Sea Breeze RV Park, Portland 
Rayford Crossing RV Resort, The Woodlands 



Long, Long Honeymoon video: Top 20"Airstream/RV Towing Tips



Enjoy this video from Long, Long Honeymoon.

About the Long, Long Honeymoon
After getting married in the Florida Keys, C.S. (Sean) and Kristy Michael spent their wedding night in their newly purchased recreational vehicle — a 25-foot Airstream travel trailer. Instead of jaunting off to honeymoon on a posh Pacific island, the newlyweds hitched up their trusty Ford diesel truck (nicknamed “SEEMORE”) and started exploring America.

Their “long long honeymoon” journey has stretched over 100,000 miles and 49 States, ranging from Key West (the southernmost point in the United States) all the way up to Fairbanks, Alaska. They have camped in every conceivable environment, from scenic national parks to less-than-exotic asphalt parking lots.

A writer and filmmaker, Sean totes his video camera everywhere, relentlessly documenting the experience. And in addition to Sean’s filmmaking equipment, the couple always pack their sense of humor. Their blog explores the lighter side of RV life; or as Kristy says, “the fun stuff!”

Why do they do it? “Because life should be a long long honeymoon…”

You can catch Sean and Kristy’s latest RV adventures (including all of their videos in glorious high-definition) right here on their website: LongLongHoneymoon.com. When not aboard their Airstream, the newlyweds divide their time between homes in Alabama and Florida. But you can always reach them via email at HoneymoonShow@aol.com.

Rollin' On TV video: Retro RVs - Winnebago Brave & Shasta AirFlyte



In this episode (#2015-04), Rollin' on TV checks out new, retro-style RVs including the new Winnebago Brave motorhome and the Shasta AirFlyte travel trailer. Plus, Evanne, whips up a delicious chocolate pudding made from Avocado.


About Rollin' on TV
Now in its fourth year of production, Rollin’ On TV has become a leading RV, lifestyle television program reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For additional information and for times and days the show airs, visit  www.rollinontv.com

Winnebago's Brave & Tribute named RVBusiness magazine's 'RV of the Year'



Winnebago Industries, Inc, a leading United States (U.S.) recreation vehicle manufacturer has announced that their retro-styled Brave and Tribute have been named as RVBusiness 2015 ‘RV of the Year.’

RVBusiness magazine is my employer.

 “I can’t think of a higher compliment than receiving this prestigious award from RVBusiness magazine,” said Winnebago’s Class A Gas Product Manager John Millis. “We worked extremely hard as a team at Winnebago to ensure that we were both paying tribute to the fabulous design of our original motorhomes, as well as putting a lot of thought into making the Brave and Tribute a modern motorhome. That meant not only including all the features you would expect in today’s motorhomes, but also thinking outside the box to deliver features that were totally unique to the marketplace, such as the sofa in the 26A model that converts to not only a bed, but also a table, or it can fold completely out of the way against the wall for additional storage space.”

“Speaking for RVBusiness,” said RVB Editor Bruce Hampson, “we felt it was important to recognize authentically original thinking on this kind of a scale because Winnebago has boldly stepped into a place in terms of marketing and product design that no motorhome manufacturer has gone before. The Brave/Tribute is a highly appealing and marketable new coach that will likely gain major traction among North American consumers before all is said and done.”

According to the RVBusiness announcement on the award, the article quotes Bob Livingston, senior vice president and group publisher of Good Sam Enterprises LLC, who recently tested a prototype 26-footer for MotorHome magazine.

“Livingston found that people off the street were following him into gas stations to get a better look at what they thought was a renovated vintage 1967 Winnebago Brave. In fact, Livingston says he never had more fun testing a unit than he did with that prototype Brave, which is only one of several reasons why RVBusiness has named this truly novel retro Winnebago Brave/Tribute motorhome RVB’s 'RV of the Year.' The price-sensitive coach, retailing for $96,599 to $121,379, is available in three 26-31-foot floorplans on a 362-hp, V-10-powered Ford chassis.”

Top Pet-Friendly RV Parks Named by the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide



The Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide is shining a spotlight on the Top Pet-Friendly Parks for February as part of its12 Months of RVing promotion. These select RV Parks stand out from the pack when it comes to RVer travelers with animal passengers a welcoming place to stay.

Pet-friendly parks boast amenities that include fenced-in dog parks to pet washing areas. Many pet-friendly parks offer trails for pet walking, and some dispense pet treats to newcomes traveling with four-legged passengers.

The editors and consultants of the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide chose the list of pet-friendly parks from the annual publication’s database of more than 7,000 private parks.

Top Pet-Friendly RV Parks
Arizona
Desert's Edge RV-The Purple Park, Phoenix

California
Bakersfield River Run RV Park, Bakersfield
Chula Vista RV Resort And Marina, Chula Vista (see video above)
Sands RV & Golf Resort, Desert Hot Springs

Kansas
Deer Creek Valley RV Park LLC, Topeka

Missouri
America's Best Campground, Branson

New Mexico
American RV Park, Albuquerque



New York
Lake George RV Park, Lake George (see video above)

Texas
Austin Lone Star Carefree RV Resort, Austin
Stone Creek RV Park, San Antonio (see video below)

Utah
Shady Acres RV Park, Green River

12 Months of RVing
The 12 Months of RVing lists celebrate the diversity of the RV lifestyle. Regardless of RVing travel preferences, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide helps consumers find the parks that support their interests.

Parks participating in this program are featured in press releases, enewsletters and blog posts. Each of the parks will have Top Parks badge in their park information page. Click here for a list of all parks included in the 12 Months of RVing.

In addition to in-depth listings of RV parks and campgrounds across North America, the Good Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory features RV lifestyle articles, travel tips, helpful maps and informative itineraries that RVers can use for a journey anywhere in North America.

Two videos: Esky Series Bear Proof Coolers & Caribou Premium Quality Coolers

RV Education 101 video: Green RV Series Part 1 - RV Fuel Economy Tips




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"

Today marks Belle Isle's first year as a Michigan State Park

Editor's note: What a difference a year makes. Despite the negative grandstanding by certain Detroit politicos, who were charging the governor and others as racists and likened them to slaveowners from the Civil War South, Belle Isle has FLOURISHED under the management of the Michigan DNR.

Three years ago this summer I wrote a lengthy essay on the state of Belle Isle. Here's a link to the article. At the end of this post are the videos I produced to accompany that essay. One of those videos is my full interview with two DNR employees, including Parks & Recreation Director Ron Olson, who discussed their plans for refurbishing Belle Isle. It's interesting to revist that interview in light of the following release from the DNR, which illustrates all that they have accomplished in the past year.

Major accomplishments completed, more work under way

Just 12 months into operation as Michigan’s 102nd state park, Belle Isle has seen tangible improvements – from refurbished park shelters and renovated restrooms to universally accessible parking spaces and removal of hazardous trees.

Today (Feb. 10) marks one year since the state assumed management of Belle Isle Park. Many of the revitalization efforts are the direct result of significant investment by state, federal, private and nonprofit partners. Between November 2013 (when the 30-year lease agreement with the city of Detroit was signed) through the end of the state’s fiscal year Sept. 30, 2014, nearly $12 million was invested in Belle Isle, including $1.56 million in grant funding. Individuals and groups – including 350 Michigan Cares for Tourism supporters and a metro-area Boy Scout troop – gave more than 10,000 valuable volunteer hours, committing their time and resources to the island’s success.

“Partnerships are absolutely key to the long-term success of Belle Isle,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “It’s exciting to see everyone coming together for the betterment of this natural resources gem, and gratifying to watch that hard work result in a world-class Belle Isle visitor experience.”

Under the city-state agreement, the Michigan DNR manages Belle Isle in a manner consistent with its award-winning state park system. Roads and bridges are maintained in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation. Beyond these two departments, many agencies and organizations at the local, county, state and federal level play major roles, including the Michigan State Police, which assists in keeping Belle Isle safe.

“Our goal is to ensure a quality recreational experience at Belle Isle Park,” said Ron Olson, DNR chief of parks and recreation. “Working in partnership, we’re committed to making Belle Isle a clean and safe park for everyone.”

Highlights from Belle Isle’s first year as a state park include:

Strong support. In addition to the DNR and MDOT, Creagh cited the commitment of several agencies and organizations including the City of Detroit, the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee, the Greening of Detroit, the Belle Isle Conservancy and federal agencies. Earlier in 2014, dozens of supporting organizations committed to being “All in for Belle Isle” and that list continues to grow.

Attendance. Since June 1, 2014, when MDOT began counting vehicles via a traffic monitor on MacArthur Bridge (the entryway to Belle Isle), the island park has welcomed more than 2 million visitors. Attendance statistics at major island attractions show strong attendance. Attendance at the Belle Isle Aquarium  was up 125 percent over the previous year, while the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory was up 91 percent; the Dossin Great Lakes Museum increased 89 percent (though it wasn’t open a full 12 months in 2013 due to restoration efforts); and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo saw a 12-percent increase.

Employment opportunities. By last summer, the DNR’s summer youth employment program was realigned to focus on Belle Isle, including the renovation and reopening of several public restrooms by The Youth Connections, Inc. and Healthy Kidz of Detroit. Such initiatives also were central to the installation of universally accessible sidewalks and parking spaces near several park shelters, completed in partnership with the Michigan Concrete Association, which provided training, materials coordination and work oversight. Davey Tree Service trained nearly a dozen young adults from The Youth Connection to perform horticultural work in the Belle Isle Conservatory’s outdoor formal gardens. Youth from the MDOT Youth Corp and Jewish Vocational Services participated in revitalization efforts during the past year, and a veterans group – through a Michigan State University return-to-work program – made significant repairs to the Kids’ Row playscape.

Equipment/facility improvements. The fountain operated daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day. Visitors also saw plenty of park upgrades, including 12 public restrooms and eight park shelter renovations; a new kids’ swim area with an enhanced buoy safety system and water-safety signage at the swim beach; 50 refurbished picnic tables; the addition of 200 refuse barrels (with “Keep Belle Isle Beautiful” wraps) set on anchors around the island; and an overall effort to keep the park clean.

Beautification and safety efforts. To make the park safe, more than 350 hazardous trees were removed from maintained areas of the park. A volunteer effort, with funds from a United States Forest Service grant, saw to the November replanting of 120 flowering cherry trees, lost to disease and age, near the Scott Memorial Fountain basin.

Creative programming. Looking for new ways to welcome visitors to Belle Isle, the park offered a variety of new recreation and learning opportunities, including the opening of a disc golf course; free swimming lessons for all ages as part of the DNR’s Recreation 101 “how to” classes; wildlife programming; and the Belle Isle Harvest Festival.

According to Michele Hodges, chair of the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee, the December 2013 “All in for Belle Isle” partnership kickoff set the tone for this year-one success. “It’s been all about collaboration and commitment for the preservation of our island jewel,” Hodges said. “The DNR has played a key role in ensuring the park’s longevity and has been an exceptional addition to the corps of committee members, individuals and organizations – including the city of Detroit – who are committed to the park.”

Looking ahead in 2015, work will continue on current projects such as restroom repairs, and additional work  will focus on replacing critical heating and ventilation systems in major park facilities, enhancing recreation facilities and structures, strategic replanting of trees, improving key trails and renovating the athletic complex. This work will align with the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee’s strategic plan, which includes the following goals: a safe and clean park; customer-oriented thinking; stewardship and community spaces; partnership and alliances; and continuous improvement.

Beginning this month, a Recreation Passport is required for all vehicles entering Belle Isle – $11 for vehicles, $5 for motorcycles. For non-Michigan-registered vehicles, a $9 daily motor vehicle permit is available, as well as a $31 annual motor vehicle permit. The Recreation Passport grants vehicle entry to all 102 Michigan state parks.

For more about Belle Isle – including event information, Recreation Passport purchase, vendor information and shelter reservations – visit www.belleislepark.org.

Follow us on Twitter @MichiganDNR and @BelleIsle_Park. We encourage Belle Isle partners and others interested in the park's revitalization to use the hashtag #AllinforBelleIsle.

Gone with the Wynns videos: RV Shopper Series Intro & Simple Tricks to Make Any Dishes RV Safe



Enjoy these two videos from Gone with the Wynns, a popular RV blogging couple.

About Gone with the Wynns
Jason and Nikki Wynn are a couple of perpetual travelers, RVers and modern day documentarians. Their RV is the home of their discoveries and adventures, all depicting the unscripted tale of the quirky couple who traded in everyday life to satisfy their wear-out-your-shoes sense of adventure. Visit their website.

Guest Post: Austin Adventures Launches ‘President’s Trips’ Series

One of the perks of using a travel company to book a small group guided vacation is getting to know your travel partners in a way that’s only possible with a small number of people. When the group is hosted by the travel company’s president and his wife, the group dynamic promises to be far from routine. To celebrate a legacy of 40+ years in the adventure travel business, Billings, MT based Austin Adventures is kicking off 2015 by launching a new President’s Trips series of adventures.

The award-winning travel company will run three trips, two of which will be hosted by Dan Austin, president and founder of Austin Adventures, and his wife, Carol Austin, an adventure travel consultant at Austin Adventures. The third trip will be guided by Ron van Dijk, the company’s European Operations Director who is celebrating his 40th anniversary of guiding this year.

“Customer service is our strong suit, and we always make a point to get to know each guest like family, but we seldom get a chance to travel with them,” says Dan Austin. “That’s why my wife and I are so excited to pack our bags, visit some of our favorite places and share our years of travel experience with the people who allow us to keep living out our dream of operating an adventure travel company.”

Dan is a travel industry veteran with three decades of experience creating and marketing adventure vacations all over the world. Under his leadership, Austin Adventures has received countless industry awards including Travel + Leisure’s “Best Tour Operator in the World.” In 2013, he sold the company to Xanterra Parks & Resorts, and has stayed on as managing president along with his wife Carol who has 17 years of experience selling trips and creating customized vacation packages.

Van Dijk is a native of Holland who has lived all over Europe and is fluent in five languages. When he’s not out guiding, which he’s been doing for 40 years, he runs the Austin Adventures Europe office and manages the European guides including his son and daughter who are also active in the business.

The 2015 President’s Trips series will include two of the company’s signature multisport tours: the Alaska Kenai Adventure, and the Italy: South Tyrol and The Dolomites tour. The third trip will be a Venetian Passageways cruise operated by Windstar Cruises – one of Austin Adventures’ sister companies also owned by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

The Alaska Kenai Adventure that the Austins will be hosting is a 6-day/5-night adult trip that allows guests to experience Kenai Fjords National Park via hiking, biking, kayaking and cruising. Dan designed this itinerary, his first ever, more than 20 years ago, and as a former longtime resident of Alaska, he knows the “Land of the Midnight Sun” as only a local can. The trip departs on June 14, 2015 and starts at $3,298 per person, double.

The Venetian Passageways trip that the Austins will be hosting is a 9-day small ship cruise trip that explores the city of Venice before voyaging east to follow ancient trade routes. Guests stay on the 212-passenger Star Pride yacht which takes them to ports in Italy, Greece, Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. The cruise departs from Venice on July 26, 2015 and starts at $3,999 per person, double.

The Italy: South Tyrol and The Dolomites tour that van Dijk will be leading as a celebration of his 40th anniversary as a guide is a 6-day/5-night adult vacation that allows guests to explore the Alps and Dolomites via hiking and biking excursions. Highlights include a visit to Trauttmansdorff Castle, lunch at a local mountain farmstead and a cable car ride to the charming town of St. Ulrich. The trip departs on July 26, 2015 and starts at $3,398 per person, double.

The Alaska and South Tyrol trips are limited to 12 people, and reservations for all three trips can be made by calling 1-800-575-1540 or contacting Austin Adventures at info@austinadventures.com.  

About Austin Adventures
Based in Billings, MT, Austin Adventures (formerly Austin-Lehman Adventures) has spent more than 40 years building an international reputation as a provider of scheduled small group tours and customized trips to all seven continents. 

Rollin' On TV video: Instant Hot Water System



In this episode (#2015-03), Rollin' on TV revisits Randy & Pat Kolb, our first time RVers and talks about their trials and experiences after their first six-months of RV ownership. Also, Jeff Johnston shows us a new instant hot water system from Truma that, actually works as it's supposed to.


About Rollin' on TV
Now in its fourth year of production, Rollin’ On TV has become a leading RV, lifestyle television program reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For additional information and for times and days the show airs, visit  www.rollinontv.com

Winnebago launches new website design

Winnebago Industries, Inc., a leading recreation vehicle manufacturer is unveiling a new website design.

“We are pleased to announce  the new design and functionality of our Winnebagoind.com website,” said Winnebago ’s Director of Marketing Chad Reece. “We’ve focused on creating a tool that enables consumers and product owners to more easily navigate and find the information of interest to them. The result is a new user-friendly design that is extremely intuitive in nature with a new format that features our product lineups in their respective class categories so consumers can easily identify and compare products that interest their own personal needs.”

Product categories feature Class A Diesel, Class A Gas, Class C, Class B and Towables.  Click on any one of these product segments to display the full complement of product lines within that segment. Additional drill down menus provide an overview of the products, floorplans, interior, exterior, specifications and key features, along with a gallery featuring recent product and feature highlight videos and product reviews.  In addition, product brochures, manuals, diagrams and service bulletins and a dealer locator function are also easily accessible.

“The Lifestyle section of the site features descriptions and links to important websites consumers will enjoy:  WinnebagoLife, MyWinnebagoStory, Winnebago Outdoor Adventures, WIT Club - our owners group ,  and Winnebago Outdoor,” said Reece.  “We appreciate all the RV lifestyle affords and these sites provide great information and products that can enhance that lifestyle.”

Volunteers needed in February for stewardship at Michigan state parks

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently announced the February schedule of volunteer stewardship activities at state parks and recreation areas in southeast and southwest Michigan.

Volunteers are needed to cut invasive, non-native shrubs, like Japanese barberry and honeysuckle, from high-quality forested dunes and prairies. This activity is a great way to enjoy time outdoors in the winter while restoring unique ecosystems and learning more about them.

Workday dates, locations (counties) and times include:

Volunteers should bring work gloves, drinking water and appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. No experience is necessary and all tools will be provided.

For workday details, maps and directions, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click the link Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.

All volunteers are asked to register using the form available on the DNR website or via email.

Any questions should be directed to Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov or to Laurel Malvitz-Draper at 517-719-2285 or malvitzl@michigan.gov.