We all know that cooking descent meals over an open campfire always begins with having the right camping gear.  Even tough many RV campers are blessed with a luxury micro-kitchen in their RV, many camping enthusiasts are still drawn to the open campfire.  There is just something so satisfying about cooking this way - given a little experience.  Let’s just say it’s the call of the wild, inherent in human nature!

That being said, there are several must-have items that can make your campsite cookouts simpler and safer; enabling you to actually turn out some of your most impressive campfire meals.   

In this post we share the equipment we consider camp cooking essentials for front country RV camping and explain how the right gear can really elevate your outdoor cooking experience.  Each gadget listed is linked to a website where the item can be purchased.


Firewood
As any barbecue chef will tell you, the type of logs you burn will impart flavors into the food.  If you have the option of bringing your own fuel, go for a hardwood like a cherry or oak, because it’ll burn hotter and cleanly.  If you’re foraging for firewood, beware of trees full of sap such as pine.  Pine can create acrid smoke that’ll leave a tarry taste to your food.


Adjustable Camp Tripod
The adjustable campfire tripod is an important tool for cooking over an open fire.  Some hard-core seasoned campers may prefer to make their own tripods on the spot out of very sturdy sticks but this lightweight all steel version is easily packed away into a heavy-duty tote bag for easy storage and transport.  Most tripods include a 36 inch stainless-steel chain with S-hook. 


Cast Iron Cookware
The Dutch oven is a virtual “camp stove” and is the pot that does it all.  The flanged lid holds hot coals and inverts for use as a griddle.  The integral legs allow the oven to sit perfectly over hot coals.  The bail handle is for use with a tripod.  The Cast Iron Dutch Ovens, Skillets and Griddles all come with a seasoned finish that helps to create a non-stick finish for easy maintenance.  And each of the three are popular campfire cooking tools.


Over Fire Grill

Most campgrounds have campfires with grates, but this collapsible grate will give you the freedom to grill even in the boondocks.  Simply create some hot coals and set it over your campfire, and you're ready to start cooking.  Foldable legs make transport and storage easier and it’s made of steel for durability.


Camping Rotisserie Grill and Spit
A rotisserie really helps you to expand your outdoor cooking repertoire.  While cooking on a grill grate over a fire pit really only allows you to cook smaller pieces of meat, a rotisserie opens it up to all kinds of roasted meat.  Your typical rotisserie is stainless steel and stops in four positions and has two swinging arms and an adjustable height.  Also has a 16" x 24" grilling surface.

 

Campfire Grill Heavy-Duty Log Tweezers
Having a set of heavy duty extending steel log tongs is perfect for moving burning logs around in a campfire.  The tongs are curved specifically to grab large logs without bending. A set of these log tweezers will help you to keep your campfire burning strong or even enable you to lower the fire’s strength while cooking.


Deluxe 20 Piece Grilling Tool Set with Aluminum Storage Case
Your campfire cooking gear would not be complete without a sturdy set of utensils for grilling.  This convenient grill set is packed in an aluminum carrying case which allows for safe transportation of sharp items and keeps everything organized.  The kit contains a spatula, tongs, basting brush, skewers, and a cleaning brush with replacement head.   In addition to that there is a digital temperature fork that displays actual and desired temperatures, has an integrated LED light for checking food at night and has an alarm alerting you when food is done!



There are a vast number of handy gadgets and tools out there on the market like the ones listed above that are well worth the investment if you plan on doing some open-fire cooking on your next trip into the great outdoors.  And as a friendly reminder, always properly extinguish your campfire for the safety of all.  


Happy Camping from Beltway Truck and Tire!

Essential Considerations When RV Camping at National Parks

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the number of hours a truck driver may drive per day and also the total number of hours they are permitted to work per week.  These rules have been established for both the safety of the drivers and the safety of others on the road.  Such regulations place a limit on how much time can be spent driving to ensure drivers are adequately rested each time they get behind the wheel.  

On Wednesday, August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the promised changes they’ve proposed for the Hours of Service (HOS) rules.

“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

FMCSA Administrators are encouraging drivers and all CMV stakeholders to share their thoughts and opinions on the proposed changes to the HOS rules at regulations.gov .

 

The 5 Key Revisions to the Existing HOS Rules:


  • FMCSA proposes tying the 30 minute break rule to 8 hours of continuous driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes. The break will be satisfied by a driver using on duty, not driving, rather than off duty.
  • Modify the sleeper-berth exception allowing drivers to split their 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least 7 hours and the second of no less than 2 hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth.  This will not count against the 14-hour driving window.
  • Allow an off-duty break of 30 minutes up to 3 hours that would pause a driver’s 14-hour driving window, if the driver takes 10 hours off-duty after the work shift.
  • Modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending the drive time window by 2 hours.
  • Change the short-haul exception and make the driver’s max on-duty period 14 hours instead of 12 and extend the distance limit from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.




The changes proposed to the HOS regulations will not increase driving time for CMV operators and will still require a 30-minute change in duty status for every 8 hours driven.  FMCSA’s proposed rule is estimated by the Department of Transportation to save the U.S. economy and American consumers $274 million. 

Successful campfire cooking can be a real challenge when new to the experience of cooking over an open fire.  But one of the thrills of camping is the chance to break out of our daily routine and to live a little differently from the day to day grind we all know so well.  And with many camping recipes, you have the convenience of few or limited ingredients and that seems to be due to the simple enjoyment of cooking outdoors.  After all, who needs a lot of fancy ingredients when you're enjoying a canopy of stars!


Since the previous blog post covered some of the latest and greatest campfire cooking equipment on the market today; this week’s post will be a short list of some of the top campfire recipes that experienced campers have developed over time.


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Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Arizona-Nevada border south of Las Vegas, includes two large lakes and seven developed campgrounds: five on Lake Mead and two on Lake Mohave.


Although campgrounds in the park are open all year, the climate is much more pleasant in the fall and spring. NPS campgrounds offer restrooms, running water, dump stations, grills, picnic tables and shade. RVs, trailers and tents are welcome. Concessionaire-operated campgrounds with recreational vehicle hookups are also available within the park.



Wintering in the RV at the SW desert is fabulous for its wide, open landscapes, the extensive hiking & biking trails, and the fact that you can travel at your own leisure for very low cost. With fewer campers about due to the off-season, there is typically plenty of space available for you and your RV. 

It’s not the warmest winter spot in the USA, and it can get notoriously windy but it’s dry and without bugs.  Daytime temps are perfectly warm and if you want a bit of isolation, you can easily go boon docking in the desert to scout out some of the more private spots.

Courtesy of Rachel Ray

3.  Campfire Grilled Shrimp

Place a grate over the coals in your campfire.  If your grate doesn't have legs, rest it on some rocks.  Cook the shrimp directly on the grate, turning once with tongs, for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they turn pink and opaque. Get the full recipe here.

dog playing in stream
Rocky Cliffs Zion National Park Utah
puppy looking expectantly

Image Courtesy of Just a Taste


5. Berry S'mores

S'mores are a true campfire tradition and loved by anyone who has ever had a sweet-tooth.  Adding smashed berries to your s'more recipe is a refreshing twist and there are a number of other tasty versions of this campfire favorite.  Check out berries.comfor 9 fun alternatives to the traditional campfire s'more recipe.


There are a lot of really great campfire recipes out there and a lot of sound advice online for how to successfully cook while enjoying the great outdoors. As you see, you don't have to settle for standard camping food when you feel like having something more reminiscent of real home cooking.  Sometimes it's just a matter of a bit of creativity, a little know-how, and having the right campfire cooking equipment on hand. 


Happy Trails!

Recipe Courtesy of The Sunday Glutton

4.  Campfire Rosemary Potatoes

This is a great recipe for potatoes over an open fire.  You will have to boil them in a pot of water first to keep the fire from burning the outside before the inside is soft enough to eat and this will also hasten the overall cooking time for the potatoes.  Remember to soak your wooden skewers for 30 minutes before grilling.  The full recipe is here.

Keeping mice out of your RV can be even more difficult than keeping them out of your home – especially when parked for the winter season.  Here are some effective ways to help prevent visits from these unwanted guests.


Most people assume that by cleaning up immediately after meals and ensuring that all human and pet foods are sealed your RV will be mouse-free. 

This strategy may work in a traditional living space like your actual home but it may not be quite so easy in a nontraditional living space such as an RV.

Recreational Vehicles require unique solutions for pests - as they do for many other things.  And despite your best efforts, cleanliness may only go so far.  There will always be critters looking for a warm, dry place to call home. 

Many RV owners are resourceful people and they have lots of helpful suggestions for mouse problems.  Here we are going to examine some of the suggested solutions for preventing mice infestations in order to help you figure out the best answer for your situation.

Using Scent and Sound Deterrents

Scents:
Using various scents to keep mice at bay is usually the first thing RVers try to correct the problem.  Mice are very sensitive to certain types of smells.  Commonly recommended deterrents include peppermint oil, mothballs, pine needle spray, dryer sheets, and it has been said that even Irish Spring bars of soap deter rodents.

Out of all of these suggestions, it seems that mothballs and mint oil have the best track record according to various RV bloggers.  While mice may not like these smells, they are extremely persistent.  A mouse might keep coming back until the deterrent has worn off, or they will find a place where the deterring smell doesn’t reach as well and is less irritating to them. 

Never the less, it seems the best practice for a scent deterrent is to place multiple bowls of mothballs or pieces of cloth soaked in peppermint oil in the various spots you suspect they may be entering and hanging around, replacing them as needed.  

Ultrasonic Sound Devices:
Another suggestion is to use ultrasonic devices that repel mice.  While they may work right next to where the device is plugged in, that doesn’t help much in areas where the mice actually enter and dwell in your RV – typically where there are no plugins.  Professional pest control services routinely state that the level of ultrasonic sound waves emitted by these devices is actually too small to have much effect throughout even the smallest of living spaces.

Creating Physical Barriers

 Spray Foam and Caulk:
The best way to combat mice is to prevent them from entering your RV in the first place by creating impassable physical barriers.  One popular quick fix people try is using canned spray foam to plug up holes where the mice chewed through the floor or wall.  While foam is a fantastic way to stop air from flowing through open cracks, it won’t stand the test of time against mice.  It is simply not a match for their teeth.  

The same thing goes for caulking.  Caulk is great to help prevent drafts from coming in.  It also helps keep smells of food you have in the RV from seeping out and acting like a beacon to area mice.  However, if you are dealing with known mouse entry points, you need to consider other options because they can chew right through caulk.

 Steel Wool:
One tried and true barrier material for plugging up mouse holes is steel wool.  Mice will not chew through it.  You can purchase steel wool in any hardware or paint store; just be sure to get the variety without soap.  You want the steel wool that’s used for stripping wood, not cleaning pots and pans.

Simply take a wad of steel wool and stuff it back into the hole where you know mice have entered, then seal up the hole.  Next, go around to the outside/underside of your RV and try to figure out what path a mouse might take to get inside and try to locate any other potential access points. 

Mouse Traps

Poison Traps:
Many people turn to this option when dealing with rodents.  Most RVers however, have an appreciation for nature and something to think about when you set out D-con or other rodent poisons is that you may very well spread that poison to animals like owls, hawks, foxes, and even cats because the mouse may wander outside before it dies and could then be eaten by another animal. 

Mouse Traps and Humane Catch and Release Traps:
This of course makes a good argument for the old traditional spring mouse trap and even the humane mouse trap; a type of trap that allows you to catch and release the mouse.  They sell an electronic ‘no touch - no see’ version for the extra squeamish among us.  The key to this tactic is that you would check the traps frequently and relocate the mice to an open field or set of woods far enough away that they will not be coming back to your neck of the woods in their lifetime.  You can buy multiple traps in a pack and they are very affordable.

Every setup is unique, and each of us must decide what works best for our RV, camper, or motor home.  And even the most suitable solutions can still require minor adjustments.  Now that you have some insight into what your fellow RV enthusiasts have been experimenting with, you can actually begin to plan your own strategy for combating this common problem……..just in time for winter!          

Image Courtesy of Echoes of Laughter

1.  Lumberjack Breakfast

Be sure to bring some heavy duty aluminum foil on your trip for this recipe.  This breakfast pack includes eggs, veggies, sausage, frozen hash browns, and cheese.  This breakfast will give you the fuel you need for your day of hiking.  Follow the recipe here.

campfire cooking

It's that time of year again when the weather suffers such mood swings that temperature changes can occur in excess of thirty to forty degrees overnight.

So every RV owner who lives in regions that experience cold weather must take certain steps to protect their RV from the damage that cold weather can deliver.  Failure to properly winterize an RV or camper can lead to thousands of dollars worth of damage and a shortened life on the open road.

So what are the key areas to focus on when it's time to store your RV for the winter?

The most important task as far as winterizing your RV is to take care of the plumbing.  This starts with draining all the fluid from various systems.  Simply draining the lines won't be enough, as small amounts of water can get trapped almost anywhere and cause problems.  You have to completely drain everything, or add RV non-toxic anti-freeze so the lines don't freeze once the temperatures plunge.  Always be sure to use RV anti-freeze, never automobile anti-freeze.  

Failure to properly drain everything could lead to water freezing in the lines and other systems, burst pipes, damage to the water pump, toilet and sink valves and drain traps.  



For the Plumbing - Be Sure To:

  • Removal of all water from system
  • Refill lines with anti-freeze
  • Winterize all plumbing traps
  • Drain water heater / lines
  • Clean anode rod / drain plug
  • Open all faucets


 

Moisture Control:

  • Be sure to cover all vents and holes
  • Moisture build-up inside the RV can be a problem in some climates
  • You'll also want to have a moisture control at hand
  • Some RV owners use chemical absorbents inside the RV to prevent moisture and consequently the development of mold and mildew
  • Some find charcoal works for this


 

Rodent Control: 

  • This is a great time to check your roof for cracks or tears
  • Seal any leaks before winter
  • Close off as many openings as possible using construction grade steel wool


 

Thoroughly winterizing your RV is critical to keeping it in top operating condition and extending its life. There are a ton of helpful YouTube videos on winterizing RVs and campers which go through this step by step.  If you have any questions about winterizing your RV or if you'd like to use our RV winterization services, please feel free to contact us or stop by our location in Waldorf, Maryland.

 

truck driving on highway
RV parked by river Yellowstone National Park

TAXA Outdoors has recently come out with their new design for the teardrop trailer with a new class of modular camper called the Cricket.  The Cricket comes as two different models: the Cricket Camp and the Cricket Tent.   At only 15 feet in length and weighing a mere 1450 pounds, the Cricket can be pulled by most 4-cylinder vehicles.


As most teardrop campers sleep a maximum of two people, the Cricket, however, expands to sleep two adults and up to two children, and all with integrated plumbing and electrical systems that allow you to stay off the grid for days.  Swing windows with shade and mesh screens allow for ventilation and the interior boasts a pop-up table, covered sink and 6 cubbies for kitchen prep, storage, and cooking, and 12-volt lighting throughout the cabin.

The Cricket includes a custom patio awning, roof racks, fully enclosed shower tent, and a fridge and freezer in the galley at the rear.  Both models, however, have a bunch of additional features that can be added to make your Cricket just the way you like it.
  Head over here, for more info.


Bonus: A panoramic, 32-inch by 20-inch rear window ensures the cabin is awash in natural light.

Pricing: Starts at around $33,317.


As we all know, automakers are under increasing pressure from regulators to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.  And this in addition to recent emissions scandals that have prompted Volkswagen to pursue a radical shift toward electric vehicles.

Volkswagen officially announced that the year 2026 will be the last product start on a combustion engine platform,” VW chief of strategy Michael Jost said at the Handelsblatt automotive summit conference near the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.  “Our colleagues are working on the last platform for vehicles that aren’t CO2 neutral.  We’re gradually fading out combustion engines to the absolute minimum.”

Increasingly, European automakers are expressing a newfound interest in electric vehicles and other zero-emissions drivetrains.  At the Paris Motor Show last October,  BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Volkswagen and numerous other automakers all showed concept cars and future products that focus on emissions-free driving, whether via battery-electric or some other form of propulsion.

Volkswagen plans to add a subcompact crossover costing about $21,000 to its all-electric I.D. range, expanding its lineup of zero-emissions vehicles that are more affordable and therefore more accessible to those who’ve been waiting for a more affordable model of the EV to hit the automobile market.

Jost said Volkswagen will continue its internal combustion engine technology after the next-and-last generation rolls out over a period of a decade.  Volkswagen envisions a role for gasoline and diesel vehicles in remote areas lacking sufficient charging stations.

It is rumored that the entry level vehicle may be built at VW’s factory in Emden, Germany but the plan hasn’t received final approval by the manufacturer’s supervisory board as of yet.  Sales could start sometime after 2020, and the company expects to sell about 200,000 per year.  That would put it on par with current production levels of the more-expensive Tesla Model 3, the U.S. electric-car leader’s most affordable vehicle.

A resolution was just passed last autumn in Germany’s Bundesrat, the government’s legislative body representing the sixteen German states, that would ban the sale of internal combustion engines in the European Union by 2030.  Only zero-emissions vehicles would be allowed on the market after that time, according to the resolution which passed with bi-partisan support.

The resolution implores the EU Commission to ban the sale of new vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel internal-combustion engines starting in 2030; vehicles sold before the ban would still be allowed, but after 2030, automakers would be banned from selling new fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the EU. 

The Bundesrat has no direct authority over the EU, and cannot demand changes to the EU's transportation regulations. But as the largest government and most powerful economy in the EU, German government decisions exert a powerful influence over the EU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

 

The Classic Teardrop Looks To Be Back in Business for 2020 and beyond

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rest area with bench and mountain and valley view

Big Bend National Park in Texas offers three developed campgrounds that vary widely in suitability for various types of vehicles, and in elevation and climate.

Horseshoe National Park Utah

Reservations:

Being that National Parks are visited by millions of travelers every year at peak season, any onsite or nearby campgrounds tend to be crowded places for the RV traveler.

While many NPS campgrounds have a combination of reserved and first come - first serve campsites, some campgrounds may only accept reservations made 5 days in advance.  RV camping reservations can be made through each park’s "Camping" section which can be found by clicking on the "Fees and Reservations" link on their home page.  

Experienced RV campers generally don’t recommend that you try and find an RV campsite at the last minute in these popular locations.  Sometimes you can find a non-reserved camp site but you have to be at the campground early and should expect to wait to find out if there are any openings.  Often 12 noon is considered to be too late for many campgrounds, so plan your trip to allow for early campground registration if you don't have reservations.

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Big Bend National Park in Texas

There are a number writers and photographers that travel the country in search of these iconic rest stops; committing the memory of these vanishing icons to the pages of books that detail their stories and their locations.  If you appreciate these little roadside remnants, you may want to pick up one of these books and go visit them yourself, before they too are just memories recorded in a book.    

4-Legged Camping Companions:
A lot of people love to take their pets camping, and a national park can be a terrific place for your dog to enjoy.  The National Park Service allows dogs at their campgrounds at no charge, but you’ll need to observe the pet policies.

All dogs must be on a maximum 6-foot leash and you can’t leave your dog tied up at camp.  Most campgrounds allow you to leave your dog alone inside your RV, as long as it is well ventilated.  Usually dogs aren’t allowed on the trails, but you can walk them within and outside the campground.



Know Before You Go:
RV camping at national parks can be an incredible experience as long as you’re familiar with the rules and regulations for RVs ahead of time.  If you do a bit of research on each park’s website you’ll spare yourself any unwanted surprises which will translate in to a more relaxing and enjoyable vacation for you and your family.

campfire s'mores

FMCSA’s Notice of Proposed Revisions to HOS Rules ~ August 2019

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These historic rest areas were often iconic and picturesque and not designed as food courts and quickie-marts.  Once upon a time, you might pull off a highway in Arizona for a picnic under a rest stop shelter shaped like a teepee and surrounded by peace and quiet.  Whereas today you're more likely to stop at something that looks like a shrunken mall and purchase the same iced coffee or slice of pizza that you can get anywhere else in the country. 
 
When the US first built its expansive system of highways in the 1920s, rest stops were simple safety areas designed for motorists to take much-needed breaks from driving long distances.  Back then, the cars and trucks were slower and the roads were rougher.  By the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps turned rest stops into miniature roadside parks.

The post-war interstate era brought with it rest areas designed to immerse the traveler in the culture and history of the local; accentuating what is unique or special about a particular state or region.  Tables were set at strategic spots for observing the best scenic views the rest area had to offer.  Stopping at these distinctive rest areas became an integral part of the experience of being out on the open road.

In recent years, these quaint and pastoral rest stops have become American relics in their own right.  Unable to compete with the conveniences of modern day travel centers that house fast food restaurants, large bathrooms and wireless internet service; the traditional rest area is now a part of America’s roadside past.  Rapidly declining with age, many have been bulldozed and removed.

Gaviota Pass Rest Area in California
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Lake Mead in Arizona
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Yellowstone National Park

Campsites:

Each national park has size restrictions on their RV campsite lots.  The average permitted size for an RV is 27 feet, but there are sites whose lots that range anywhere from 20 to 40 feet.  For a larger site, be sure to make early reservations.

Campgrounds typically have sites that are designated for RVs.  RV length and trailer length are not the same thing however.  Many campsites have different lengths for RVs and trailers, because they’re back-in sites with a limited turn radius.


Time Limits:
There are limits on the length of time you can camp at a site.  Generally, the limit is 14 consecutive days of camping at any one given site.


old road sign | antique cars | Arizona desert
Horseshoe National Park Utah
winding road through the desert southwestern USA

Joshua Tree National Park in California has nine campgrounds, and several which are closed during the period of low summer visitation reopen on October 1.

The park website has details about each campground, including the number of sites, elevation, and perhaps most important in a desert park, locations where water is available. You’ll also find information about which campgrounds accept advance reservations and which are first-come, first-served.

When it comes to venturing out on to the open road in your RV camper or travel trailer, you’ll want the full advantage that mobile phone apps can provide.  These apps are designed to assist the traveler in many ways to make the road trip easier then it's ever been.  These days there are so many apps to choose from that it can seem like a hopeless task to sort through them all to find the ones most suited for your outdoor adventuring spirit, so we've pulled together a short list of some of the most popular mobile apps among RV camping enthusiasts.  These road trip apps are free to download and are designed for both iOS and Android phones.

 

Planning Your Road trip

TogoRV

When you need to organize the varied tasks of RV ownership, Togo is a helpful tool.  This app creates checklists for packing, tracks maintenance tasks, locates service centers, and sets up notifications for your trip.

 
Free for iOS and Android devices




iOverlander

This is a 100 percent volunteer nonprofit project that aims to help people around the world find places to stay on the road.  The database includes camping, hotels, and restaurants; service stations, water, and propane.  You can even browse everything on a map.

 
Free on iOS and Android devices

 



Navigation

Google Maps

Google Maps is a great app for clean, straight forward navigation.  Google Maps delivers navigation for over 220 countries and territories with real-time GPS traffic and transit info, and even the best bike routes.

 
Free on iOS and Android



Waze

This app is for navigating traffic and getting real-time arrival estimates.  It works best in or around large cities, and it’s convenient for comparing routes and times to Google Maps for accuracy.

 
Free on iOS and Android




CoPilot RV

Designed specifically for the RV owner, CoPilotRV provides reliable offline navigation that calculates your route according to your vehicle size and class.  This helps to prevent dangerous run-ins with low bridges or propane-restricted tunnels.

Free for iOS and Android

 



Tech Assistance


Wi-Fi Finder

When planning a road trip in which you’ll be working on the road, locating places with decent Wi-Fi is essential. This app has offline functionality so you can download maps for the places you’re traveling to.  Featuring only verified hotspots with info on the type of venue and speed, this app will help ensure you get some work done as well as having lots of fun in the sun.

Free for iOS and Android devices

 



Trails, Guides & Roadside Attractions

REI Co-op National Parks Guide

This top-notch app provides trail data and hike descriptions for the most-visited National Parks in the U.S., like Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and more. The data is available offline, and your phone uses its built-in GPS to show your location on maps. There’s also a list of family friendly hikes.

Free on iOS and Android devices



Lonely Planet

When traveling near or in a city, download this Lonely Planet app for excerpts of city guides that are in a user-friendly mobile format.  Maps and recommendations work offline and you can also bookmark your favorites.

Free on iOS and Android devices



Roadtrippers

If you’ve ever been at a loss on where to stop for roadside attractions during your road trip, Roadtrippers will help you to know what’s out there ahead of time.  The app helps you find quirky rest stops, scenic points, and parks, and you can save your trips or favorite places on your journey.  The free version only includes up to seven waypoints, so you may want an upgrade to the more advanced version eventually.

Free on iOS and Android devices


Happy Road Tripping from All of Us at Beltway Truck and Tire!

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Yosemite National Park

Food Storage:

National parks are home to many kinds of wild animals, including bears and other scavengers.  These animals have a keen sense of smell and they will find any food that is not properly stored.  Even RVs can be vulnerable to bears.

If you have a hard-sided RV or trailer, keep the food out of sight and make sure your windows, doors, and vents are closed at night and when you’re not at your campsite.

DO NOT store food in a pop-up trailer or other soft-sided camper. Instead, store it in a bear box if one is provided, or hang your food.

Most camping enthusiasts tend to call it quits once the winter season begins, but there are those campers who love to escape the cold winter months in their RV by flying the coop to warmer camping destinations in the southwest that are winter migrant friendly.

Winter camping in the southwestern U.S. can be an exhilarating experience with its beautiful sunsets and unique flora & fauna!  Often the national parks and monuments of the region happen to be too hot for summer camping and are more popular with off-season campers.

This is due to the desert typically staying so hot until around mid-November when the weather suddenly switches, and it becomes pleasantly cool.  It stays on the cool side, with mornings being quite chilly until around mid-March when it starts to warm up again. 

There are 14 million acres of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, as well as several large conservation areas and wildlife refuges in the southwestern part of the U.S. where you can camp for free for up to 14 days at a time.  For longer stays you can purchase a permit from the BLM.  The permit gives you unlimited camping for up to seven months at seven specific BLM areas.

Check out this list of southwestern parks where the late fall and winter are a great time for camping and outdoor activity, according to National Parks Traveler.

Image Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park

The National Park Service – NPS has long been dubbed “America’s best idea” and there are 397 National Parks across the US.  When you go camping in an RV, the nation’s most majestic scenery can be just outside your door.  But RV camping at our nation’s parks has its own rules and regulations to consider. 

Image Courtesy of Fresh Off The Grid

2.  Apple, Bacon & Cheddar Grilled Cheese

It's so easy to get stuck in a rut over lunch when camping because hotdogs and hamburgers tend to be the go-to lunch ideas.  But grilled cheese sandwiches are pretty simple to cook over a campfire and you can dress them up to a gourmet status with this recipe.  The possibilities abound for what you can stick between two slices of bread when you are hungry enough.  This recipe will not disappoint! 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located in southern Arizona, right on the border with Mexico. The Twin Peaks Campground has 208 sites and can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet in length. It’s a clean, comfortable campground, with water spigots every few campsites. There are solar showers in the restrooms, but be cautious, as the water can get searing hot on hot days.

golden field with stream yellowstone national park

When spending time traveling across the country in an RV, you may reach a point where you want to bring along the family dog on trips instead of hiring pet sitters or frequenting kennels and pet hotels. 


After all, most dog owners feel their dog is part of the family and leaving them behind is one of the toughest parts about going on vacation.  Not to mention the popular trend of full time RVing which means living in very close quarters with your pets all the time.   So if you plan to take your dog with you on the open road, it will help to prepare for the unexpected and have a strong routine in mind for your dog's safety and well being.


One of the first things to consider is record keeping.  Campgrounds will often ask for proof of current immunizations so you want to get an extra copy from your vet of current immunizations to keep in your camper or RV.   Traveling away from home with your pet is one of the strongest arguments for micro-chipping your pet.  After all, if they escape in a strange and unknown environment, the chances are much slimmer that they will be able to find their way back to you in the same way the are able to in a neighborhood they are familiar with.


Acclimating your dog to your RV before setting off on a trip if your pet is nervous in new situations will benefit them.  Help them find their “spot” in the rig, and remember that many RV noises can scare them at first—especially the generator, water pump, furnace, and toilet.  It’s important to establish a daily routine from the beginning of your time together on the road to ensure that your pet learns the routine as quickly as possible.  You can smooth the transition by bringing along their favorite toys, treats, and their favorite bed.  This also helps to give the RV the familiar smells of your home and will help to relax your pet.  


Most dogs love to explore new places and they make excellent adventure companions!  Remember most campgrounds and trails require a standard 6-foot fixed leash so you'll have to leave the Flexi-Leash at home.  A dog pen for smaller dogs will be useful, so they don’t have to be on a leash all the time while enjoying the atmosphere of your campsite.


RVs and campers are capable of over heating easily like any other parked vehicle.  This is a top concern for your pet while camping.    Parking in the shade and using light reflecting blinds, cooking outside, and using an awning to block the sun from hitting your RV will serve to keep both you and your pets form getting overheated.


Remember that on the occasions where you have a long day or night away from the RV, you can use a nationwide pet sitting service like Rover to find local dog sitters to keep them from being confined and bored.

RVing with dogs is a fantastic way to travel.  It's easy to entertain the pups with adventures like hiking, swimming, even tubing or kayaking!  Remember to always have some of their favorite treats on hand to get their attention when needed.  Finally, know your surrounding flora and fauna where you're staying so that you can keep the dogs out of harm’s way.  And most of all, have fun with your 4-legged companions!  They'll absolutely love you for taking them on a road trip!


The Little Town of Quartzsite, Arizona holds their Annual Vacation and RV Show during the last 2 weeks of January and is considered to be the kind of gathering every RV enthusiast should experience at least once.  It’s known as a true boon docking mecca and one of the biggest RV parties you’ll ever attend. 

lumberjack campfire breakfast

Volkswagen to Begin Phase out of Combustion Engine Car

Joshua Tree National Park in California

3 Newly Released Teardrop travel trailers


Teardrop campers which were originally popular in the 1960s have been making a comeback.  This style of camper delivers very well on convenience but does still present the same old challenge for some campers - claustrophobia!  But to be fair, the charm of these tiny travel trailers is that they are much less expensive than large towable campers and RVs, making them easier to tow across the country.  They also present convenience and lower costs for winter storage. 


The larger towable travel trailer designs require a robust vehicle to transport them because they can weigh as much as 3,500lbs.  So it's no surprise that the market for tiny trailers has grown substantially over the last decade as the go-to preference for camping enthusiasts who want more than a tent for their travels but don’t exactly want to commit to a larger RV.   A full size RV with all of the amenities may feel spacious and modern enough to dub a second home, the tiny towable camper is for the camping enthusiast who loves the full-time adventure of the great outdoors; spending only enough time under a roof for a good night’s sleep.  The tiny teardrop trailer  design is perfect for the hardcore ‘under the open sky’ outdoorsman and outdoorswoman.  


The Upside:

  • They are more affordable than a caravan or camper van, ranging from $10k up
  • They are easier to tow because they are about the size of a trailer and can be towed by a 4 cylinder economy car
    It’s easier to set up when you arrive at your destination - compared to a tent
  • You have a comfortable bed for the night, plus somewhere comfortable to retreat indoors to
  • They are insulated for greater temperature control, like staying warm at night
  • You have a kitchen to cook in, with bench space, sink, cutlery drawer and refrigerator.  The kitchen is permanently set-up, so it’s easier to use than a campervan kitchen.


The Downside:

  • The kitchen is outside.   If it’s raining, it won’t be very convenient but you can use tent extensions to help guard you from the storm.  
  • There is no toilet or shower (except for our third model listed here), this is clearly designed for campgrounds with access to bathroom facilities



Here we list three recent releases of the genre to highlight how far light-weight towable camper designs have come in recent years and how much convenience and comfort they provide for those who long for the road trip without the challenge of size, expense, and towable weight as a concern.




The Timberleaf Teardrop Travel Trailer

Kyung-Hyun Lew, a young college student developed this new look for a light weight and less expensive teardrop travel trailer; probably due to his own need for a self contained getaway space for summer break.  The result is what you might call a space age looking cabin on wheels, complete with gull-wing doors, and weighing in at less than 800 pounds.  The idea being that a 4 cylinder compact car can tow this travel trailer. 

Once he finished college he went into business producing the Polydrop for the Teardrop camper market place.  The unit starts at around $9,000 and sports a wooden cabin with an aluminum exterior and up to eight inches of insulation imbedded in the walls to keep out the elements.  There is an electric heater that runs off of shore power, instead of a gas heater.    Inside a “three-quarter” mattress will comfortably stow away two-adults.  In typical teardrop trailer-fashion, the rear roof lifts up to access space for a galley.  The entry-level $9,000 rig doesn’t include any appliances or other gear, so customers will have to add those items on their own.  Check out their website for more. 


Bonus: A 100-watt solar panel provides juice for LED lighting.

Pricing: Base Price - $9,000.


The Cricket Teardrop Travel Trailer

Mountains of Yosemite National Park
The Cricket Teardrop Camper

Some Helpful Tips for RV Traveling with Man's Best Friend

The Top Gear for Great Campfire Cooking

Volvo’s 360C concept car demonstrates the driverless tech industry’s vision of a fully autonomous car in what they see as the not too distant future. 

That vision is a car without a steering wheel that can autonomously navigate roadways all on its own while passengers do other things like read or even sleep. 

As driverless technology is starting to be taken more seriously by the automotive industry, there are more people asking exactly when can we expect driverless tech to hit the market and what exactly would a driverless car or big rig look like?

In an attempt to define how sophisticated the technology will be in coming years and where it actually stands as of now, the Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) has established a system for categorizing the different levels of automation. 

 

Currently there are five levels of automation:


Level 1 driver assistance – when the vehicle is able to assist with either steering or braking but not able to perform both simultaneously.

Level 2 partial animation - the vehicle can assist with both steering and braking simultaneously but your attention is required on the road at all times.  Both Tesla’s Auto Pilot and General Motors Super Cruise are examples of this level of automation.

In these examples, a combination of radar, sonic and optical sensors deliver data from a precisely mapped Lidar database to give the system accurate location data.  Lidar is similar to radar, except that it uses light instead of radio signals to determine the distance to objects around it.

Level 3 conditional automation – a certain criteria of circumstances allow the car to handle most aspects of driving and the driver has the ability to take their eyes off the road temporarily.  

Level 4 high automation- in the right conditions the car can take full control, giving the driver a chance to focus on other tasks. 

Level 5 full automation - in theory there will be no need for a steering wheel or a driver because the car drives you!

 
Most experts agree that the technology is currently somewhere between levels two and three, while levels four and five are probably still decades away.  The technological development of the higher levels of automation is just one hurdle for the industry; the other is the condition of our roadway infrastructure.  The higher and more sophisticated levels of driverless automation will require clear, easily recognizable lane markings and road signs, not to mention roads that are well maintained – meaning an absolute minimum of potholes and other sorts of damage.  

Vehicles also need to be wirelessly connected with traffic infrastructure and they will also be required to communicate with one another in real time.  Volvo is already testing a wireless technology that allows vehicles to communicate with each other via a cloud based network.   

When that time comes in the not too distant future, when cars and trucks are operating at high or even at full automation, the auto insurance industry will likely be profoundly affected and big changes will be on the horizon.  And the politics of legislating for our nation’s brave new world of cloud based traffic infrastructure tech will come with a host of new challenges as well.  But it seems the full vision of this new cutting edge technology is an inevitability, to be sure!


 

The trucking industry is experiencing a shortage of drivers and it’s threatening to raise the cost of just about every product that gets shipped across the country.

For a number of years now, the economic upswing has been creating heavy demand for trucks, but it's hard to find drivers with unemployment so low.  Young Americans are ignoring the job openings because they fear self-driving trucks will soon dominate the industry.  Waymo, the driverless car company owned by Alphabet, just launched a self-driving truck pilot program in Atlanta, although trucking industry veterans argue it will be a long time before drivers go away entirely.

According to the American Trucking Association, about 51,000 more drivers are needed to meet the demand from companies such as Amazon and Walmart that are shipping more goods across the country.  The driver shortage is already leading to delayed deliveries and higher prices for goods that Americans buy.  The ATA predicts that it's likely to get worse in the coming years.

The American Trucking Association published a report in October of 2017 showing that last year’s national shortage of 50,000 drivers may swell to a shortage of 174,000 drivers by 2026.

Many trucking companies are so desperate for drivers that they are offering signing bonuses and pay raises.  The trucking industry is currently demonstrating how an extraordinary labor shortage in one corner of the economy can spill out and affect the economy more broadly.

In the spring of 2018, Congress began considering a new piece of legislation proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, also known as the DRIVE-Safe Act.  It aims to allow 18 year olds with their commercial driver’s licenses, or CDLs, the ability to drive commercial vehicles across state lines in an attempt to help prevent a nationwide driver shortage.

Most states allow truck drivers under 21 to crisscross a state, but those 18 to 20 are not allowed to cross state lines.  But many truckers are reaching retirement age in the next decade and leaving the workforce, and companies say they are having a tough time hiring new drivers. 

Supporters say lowering the age limit would expand the labor pool.  While the pay is decent – the average trucker’s salary is about $60,000 a year – it’s a tough job that requires drivers to be on the road for months at a time.

Drivers undr the age of 21 are required to attend an apprenticeship program requires young drivers to complete, at minimum, 400 hours of on-duty time, including at least 240 hours of driving time chaperoned by an experienced driver and equip all training trucks with cameras and a set a speed cap of 65 mph.

The U.S. Department of Transportation set the rule decades ago because of concerns that drivers under 21 had a higher risk for accidents.

The proposal has come under recent criticism by some who agree with the DOT, arguing that allowing younger drivers behind the wheel of a truck is a recipe for disaster.  There has always been the concern among industry experts that young drivers lack both overall experience and are less safe behind the wheel than older drivers.  Critics say that this is just an effort to keep drive-churn going and keep wages for truckers as low as possible.

But Rep. Hunter is saying the change is necessary because the trucking industry keeps America going by delivering goods, ranging from fresh vegetables to petroleum, around the country – and costs will go up on goods and the availability of those goods will go down if the issue isn’t addressed.


So the big question is, are younger drivers mature enough to safely manage a long cross-country trip?  Truckers have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders when they are behind the wheel and it requires serious discipline and self awareness to be good at it.  You know, knowing your own limits with fatigue and weighing the demands of a scheduled deadline.  People often underestimate how much hard work goes into these long hauls that are so currently in demand for the industry.


What is your opinion on lowering the driving age for crossing state lines for the trucking industry?  Feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook Page.



 

Gaviota Pass Rest Stop in California

Highway rest stops are one of the country’s most underrated elements of the enduring charm of Americana.  Many rest areas across the country were uniquely designed to reflect the history and appeal of their given city or state.

The Interstate Highway System, designed in the 1950s was a standardized highway from coast to coast, making all highway roads across the country uniform, from the thickness of the asphalt to the width of the double yellow line.  

The one design element that stayed under state jurisdiction was the design of rest areas.  Rest stops were designed to be unique and provide a window into local regions as tourists and truck drivers passed through them.  Developers decorated shelters with regional imagery such as bull horns, wagon wheels and windmills and designed buildings that reflected the architectural heritage of indigenous people.

As better roads allowed the traveling public and hard working truckers to travel increased distances it became apparent that they would need places to stop along the way.  Rest stops emerged in rural areas where commercial establishments were often unavailable.  They frequently appeared in areas of scenic interest or merely in a location where there was room for a car or truck to safely pull off the roadway.  These earliest waysides were born out of necessity.

 

Zion National Park Utah

Hookups:
Not every campground has hookups and dump stations.  You can usually get all the information you need at the park’s website.



Generator Regulations:
Every national park has its own rules about using generators, and some do not permit them at all.  Usually, you can use a generator, as long as it’s quieter than 60 decibels at 50 feet.  There are often designated hours when you are not permitted to run a generator.  Whether you use a generator or not, quiet hours are usually between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.

The first of these Teardrop Travel Trailer designs featured in this post is the Timberleaf, weighing approximately 1500 ponds with 150 pond tongue weight.  With a starting price of $19,750 for the base package, this towable camper is perfect for the minimalist outdoors lover.  The company’s masterful woodworking skills are employed with beautiful craftsmanship throughout.  Inside, the cabin features a massive skylight which is perfect stargazing, and ample shelving guarantees plenty of space for your camping essentials.  With a rounded back, the hatch reveals a birch wood galley with a cooktop, sink, shelving and pull-out drawer.

Bonus: An optional custom-built cooler provides ice retention for days.
Pricing: Starts at $19,750 for the Classic Teardrop’s base package



The Polydrop Travel Trailer

beltway truck and tire

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