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 different.  Sometimes it's just a matter of creativity, a little know-how, or even just having the right campfire cooking equipment on hand. 

Happy Trails!

Polydrop Travel Trailer

America’s Endangered Iconic Highway Rest Stops

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campfire cooking grill

Essential Considerations When RV Camping at National Parks

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.

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RV parked by river Yellowstone National Park
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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.    

dog playing in stream
Rocky Cliffs Zion National Park Utah
family camping dog

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.

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8 Simple Steps to De-Winterize Your RV

Ivy clad hive shaped iconic rest stop

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! 

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.

mice eating a loaf of bread

Highway infrastructure repairs

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.

Joshua Tree National Park in California

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.

old road sign | antique cars | Arizona desert

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.

Timberleaf Travel Trailer
campfire s'mores
campfire cooking

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers recently launched a digital ad campaign intended to remind the new Congress and the Trump administration of the bipartisan support for upgrading U.S. public works and urging them to "start with infrastructure" in 2019.

The $100,000 campaign ran for two weeks, from the beginning of December through to the 14th and featured a 30 second online video with a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent touting the importance of modern highways in California for on-time deliveries, broadband technology in Texas for agricultural yields, and reliable infrastructure in Ohio for clean drinking water.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway, and bridge improvements returns $5.20 in the form of lower vehicle maintenance costs, decreased delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, lower road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow. 

In 2017, the Value of Water Campaign commissioned a poll for Infrastructure Week in which they found that 67% of those surveyed said rebuilding the nation's infrastructure should be a high priority for Washington.

There was a time when Congress would pass multi-year plans to fund improvements to the nation's transportation system.  The last highway bill covering multiple years expired in 2009.  Since then, congress has passed a series of 36 short-term measures, each of them lasting only a few months each to prop up the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  In December 2015, the House and Senate approved one of these short-term measures - a $305 billion bill intended to repair and expand highways, bridges, and transit for five years.

According to Transportation Department data on the nation's bridges for instance, report that more than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the department's analysis.  State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction.

The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361. The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) has remained very active in their support of the federal government continuing to have a strong role in funding our national highway infrastructure.  The ATA has testified before Congress at least 19 times since 2006 in support of increasing the federal fuel tax to inflation, but Congress has so far refused to support an increase.

The ATA in early 2018 called on Congress to implement the Build America Fund which assigns a 20-cent-per- gallon user fee on all transportation fuels including diesel, gasoline, and natural gas.  The fee would be applied at the wholesale terminal rack, before fuel reaches the retail gas pump, and indexed to inflation and improvements in fuel efficiency.  It is estimated that the fund would generate $340 billion over the course of a decade.

At some point the fuel tax would need replacing as the primary funding source for highways due to advances in alternative fueling systems.  A Vehicle Miles-Traveled Tax might be implemented but there are serious issues related to privacy, data security, and evasion that would need to be addressed.

With trucking freight alone expected to increase 29% in the next 10 years, not to mention the increase of personal vehicles on our highways and bridges; the big question for the transportation sector and for the nation is how will our infrastructure handle such anticipated growth?

Zion National Park Utah

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.

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. 

Horseshoe National Park Utah


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.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona

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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.

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!

campfire rosemary potatoes

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 is Back in Business for 2020 and beyond

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

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.

vintage teardrop camper
Gaviota Pass Rest Area in California


11745 Pika Drive Waldorf, Maryland 20602

24hr Roadside Assistance: 240-299-0258

Phone: 301-870-5115 | Fax: 301-932-5706

Established 1996

New 2018 Trump Administration Era Proposal for Heavy Truck Emissions

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 beautifully designed birch 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

Horseshoe National Park Utah

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.

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.


Volkswagen to Begin Phase out of Combustion Engine Car by 2026

equipment on truck for driverless technology

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new emissions plan which would overhaul current heavy duty truck emissions standards called the "Cleaner Trucks Initiative".

The effort will target reductions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide, or "NOx," emissions from big rigs and their engines.

The initiative is a sharp contrast to the EPA’s agenda under the Trump administration, which has been dominated by dozens of actions to roll back or eliminate pollution rules for power plants, cars, oil and gas drillers and more.

NOx emissions in the United States have dropped 52 percent since 2000, which was the last time the EPA updated the standard.  But growing big-truck traffic is forecast to be responsible for about a third of NOx emissions from the transportation sector in 2025.

Nitrogen oxide is one of the pollutants that can create both ozone and particulate matter, two substances that are harmful to the respiratory system.  The substances can damage lung tissue, cause asthma attacks and shorten lives.

A group of local and state air quality agencies, led by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, had petitioned the EPA in 2016, under the Obama administration, to reduce the allowable NOx emissions from trucks.  They wanted the standard to go from 0.2 grams per brake horsepower-hour to 0.02.

The EPA at the time informed those agencies that it would formally consider the petition, and in December of 2016, late in the Obama administration, they began working on new NOx standards for big trucks.

Industry and environmental groups alike expressed support for updating these new standards, though clean-air advocates want to see details.

If environmental groups are skeptical of this new initiative, there is good reason.  The EPA under President Trump has eased requirements for oil companies to detect and repair leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, the agency has rolled back Obama administration limits on greenhouse gas releases from power plants and has frozen U.S. fuel-economy and tailpipe emissions requirements at the 2020 level of 37 miles per gallon, instead of rising to roughly 47 mpg by 2025.

The pivot to update the truck standards comes as Democrats in the House of Representatives prepare their agenda for the next Congress.

golden field with stream yellowstone national park

On December 18, 2017, new regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) came into effect.  They require the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), for almost all commercial semi-trucks.

ELDs record date, time, location, engine hours, mileage, trucking company, specific vehicle, and driver ID.  Law enforcement will use the data from the ELDs to fine trucking companies whose drivers exceed the legal limit for hours on the road.

Most truckers are adapting to the new rule, which was put in place to make sure they didn’t exceed driving limits.  Truckers are limited by federal law to driving no more than 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday.  Drivers must then be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.  The electronic device mandate was part of a transportation reauthorization bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) filed a request with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for at least a five-year small-business exemption from the mandate’s requirements.  The request came sharply on the heels of the FMCSA announcing it has granted a 90-day extension of the enforcement date specifically for agricultural haulers, including but not limited to those hauling livestock.  Many livestock producers have been pushing for a longer exemption period.

Already, some specific exemptions for other entities, like United Parcel Service, have been granted.  Other exemptions include drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000, because the devices aren’t compatible with older engines.

The electronic devices hold drivers to a more rigid compliance with hours-of-service regulations, which federal regulators and law enforcement officials say is needed to prevent fatigued driving.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates the devices will eliminate 1,844 crashes, prevent 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually.  Though the underlying rules for driving times haven’t changed, the tool for measuring compliance with those rules has.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday May 20th stamped approval on a 2019 Department of Transportation funding bill that would give livestock haulers until October 2019 to adopt the electronic logging device.  The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

If enacted, the act would also allow carriers with 10 or fewer trucks to use paper logs to record duty status, instead of electronic logging devices.  To become law, the bill must be passed by the House and the Senate and be signed by President Trump.

Congress has already exempted livestock and bee haulers from compliance with the ELD mandate through September 2018.  The House’s DOT funding bill, if passed as-is, would extend that same waiver to the end of the 2019 fiscal year — Sept. 30, 2019.

The Electronic Logging Device Mandate ~ as it Currently Stands

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

Essential Gear for Great Campfire Cooking

Age Limit Changes on the Horizon Due to Truck Driver Shortage

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.

the nation's Highway Transportation Performance

Where do we go from here?

In March of this year, Uber announced it was starting a commercial delivery service that included allowing a truck to drive autonomously for 344 miles across the Arizona desert highway.  Of course, a trained safety operator sat behind the wheel, ready to take over if need be.

Autonomous trucks are just beginning to gain a foot-hold in the trucking industry but they won’t be deployed in a single defining moment.  Instead, the range of eventual capabilities of driverless technology will be phased in within a series of stages.  The expected roll out for now is being framed as a way to improve the efficiency of human drivers and not much else.  But the commercial delivery industry does harbor some high hopes for this ground breaking technology.

The current focus of many companies is not the total elimination of human truck drivers but finding ways to augment them with AI to get more miles traveled at lower costs.  Under ideal conditions, one driver and an autonomous truck could effectively do the work currently accomplished by three drivers.

Uber Technologies’ self-driving truck division, Otto, is for now employing what is called the ‘bar pilot’ model.  A human in a regular truck picks up the shipment, takes it to a transfer hub next to the highway, and passes it over to the autonomous truck.  The robot (with a licensed driver behind the wheel, for now) does the simple highway cruising.

These vehicles are designed to drive from “exit to exit” on major highways, always with a driver on board to monitor progress and be ready to take over in an emergency.  Otto’s technology is intended to improve safety and reduce driver fatigue on long trips.

Regulations that limit drivers to 11 hours behind the wheel per day make five days the fastest a truck can legally make that transcontinental run.  But with driverless trucks, the same trip could be done in just two days.  That’s about the equivalent of air freight, which is 10 times more expensive.

Self-driving technology has yet to evolve to a point where it operates more safely than a human.  The operation for the foreseeable future will be this mostly automated system that relies on human drivers to do the more complicated tasks of navigating cities.

Volvo has interestingly focused their self-driving truck research on applications that are low speed and have lower safety concerns.  That includes inside mines, garbage trucks, and trucks that follow sugar cane harvesters in a field.  Some of these simpler applications, they predict, will be commercially available in the foreseeable future.

If or when it is possible to create truly autonomous trucks that can do everything current human drivers can do, in all weather possible conditions (defined as level 5 automation), it is easy to envision how that would entirely automate the industry, replacing the roughly 1.8 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck driving jobs that currently exist.   

However, that level of autonomy is not expected for many years and would likely create new types of jobs for workers who would operate and oversee a fully autonomous truck remotely; this being just one example of the new employment opportunities that may result in such a major change in the trucking industry due to technological advancement.

lumberjack campfire breakfast

The Trucking Industry and Driverless Technology

puppy looking expectantly

5 Easy Campfire Recipes for Your next camping trip

top 5 Winter Camping destinations in the American Southwest

The Cricket Teardrop Camper
rest area with bench and mountain and valley view
Big Bend National Park in Texas
campfire cooking caldrons

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.


Tips for Keeping Mice Out of Your RV

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.

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.

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!

Mountains of Yosemite National Park

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.

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.

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. 

Yellowstone National Park


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.

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 to help you figure out the best answer for your situation.

Using Scent and Sound Deterrents

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 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 at.  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!          

The first day of spring is just around the corner and that means it’s time to prepare your  RV for that cross-country camping trip you’ve been dreaming of all winter. 

When winterizing an RV, we think of protecting the RV plumbing system from freezing, sealing up holes rodents can take advantage of during its stationary period, cleaning the interior, and protecting the exterior and chassis from damage by cold weather conditions.    

De-winterizing in many ways is a reversal of some of those steps you took in the late fall to winterize your RV but there is an important process to check that your RV came through its winter storage without any issues cropping up.  Each RV is unique to some extent, but there are basic steps in de-winterizing that apply universally.

Here are 8 simple steps to getting your camper ready for the spring season:

1) Begin with the Exterior
Give your RV a detailed washing to remove dirt and debris that may have collected during the winter: 

Clean your awning and remove any mildew to prevent permanent stains
Give the exterior a thorough inspection by looking for obvious signs of damage such as cracked vent covers or cracked seals
Check the tread on all of your tires and inspect for wear or cracks
Use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressure on all tires and remember to check the spare tire as well
Failing to check your tires could result in faster tread wear, uneven handling, or a blowout on the road
2) Charge the Battery
Since your battery has been unused for an entire season, you now need to charge it: 

 Leave the battery charger in the off position when connecting the cables 
Connect the red cable to the red indicator of the RV charger, and the black cable to the black indicator
Check that the voltage is set to 12 volts and turn your power on charge 
Depending on the size and number of batteries you have, sufficient charging could take a few hours, overnight, or as much as a few days  
If you decide to replace the batteries, always replace multiple battery packs together; never add a new battery to an old one.


3)  Inspect the Interior
Give the interior a thorough cleaning
Look for signs of rodents who may have set up house 
Check for signs of water damage, such as discolored walls or ceilings
Air out the RV
Clean every corner thoroughly, including your water heater and refrigerator compartment drawers

4)  RV Fresh Water System
To check the fresh water system for leaks, you’ll need to:

Move the water heater’s bypass valve into the Normal position
Turn on the hot and cold water and check all faucets for leaks 
If you winterized your fresh water system with the non-toxic RV antifreeze, you must drain and thoroughly flush the system

 To Clean out the Fresh Water System:

Attach a garden hose from a water faucet to the water hookup of your RV
Open all the faucets
Turn on the hose and let the water run through the system flushing out the antifreeze and any impurities
You will want to flush your water system for at least 10 minutes
Watch for the water to become a clear color - this will remove any lingering antifreeze that remains in the system
While you are waiting, flush the toilet several times

 Remember to Sanitize the RV Water System:

Close all drains and install drain plugs 
Take a quarter-cup of household bleach for every fifteen gallons of water your fresh water tank holds 
Mix the bleach with water into a one-gallon container and pour it into the fresh water holding tank

If your RV does not have a fresh water fill location, you can pour the bleach solution directly into a potable RV drinking hose that is connected to the RV prior to connecting the other end of the hose to a potable water supply.

Fill the fresh water holding tank completely full of water
Turn on the water pump and run water through all hot and cold faucets until you smell the bleach 
Close the faucets and let the solution sit in the water tank and water lines for 12 hours 
Drain all of the water and re-fill the tank with potable water
Turn the water pump on and open all faucets, run the water until you no longer smell bleach 
Repeat the process until you are sure the bleach is out of the system


5) Waste Tank Valves
You may want to run this check while connected to a dump station.

Make sure the waste tank is empty before you begin
Inspect the seals on your waste tank valves 
Check the valve seal by carefully moving the handle in small increments to make sure it’s working correctly
You can add some valve lubrication to the tanks to restore the condition of the seal if you find it is sticking
Check your sewage dump hose for holes and leaks

6) Propane Tanks
Remove the RV’s propane tanks from winter storage and place them back on their mount.  Connect your propane hose from the tanks back into your rig.  Check your propane system to be sure seals and hoses haven’t dried out and cracked.  When you test your RV’s propane system:

Tighten connections
Turn off all LP items before you begin
No flames or sparks; so don’t smoke
Turn on the leak detector inside your RV

Also, open the valve on the tank.  Now place a damp and soapy sponge at the end of the connectors.  If air bubbles form you may have a leak in your line.  Recheck or replace the connections.  Check hoses and wires for signs of damage.

If a leak is detected, turn off the propane immediately and have a certified RV service technician repair the leak.

7) Appliances
 Test all your appliances in electric mode  
Check the outside access covers of the refrigerator and water heater and be sure they’re clean  
Test the LP gas appliances by lighting them and letting them run for a few minutes

8) Check the Pipes
You’ll definitely need your flashlight for this inspection.  Water leaks, particularly beneath the sink and behind those cabinet doors cause permanent damage in a short period of time.  Be sure to fix any leaks you find right away to prevent further problems.

Crawl under your sinks and check for cracks in the drain trap
Turn on the water and let it run
Use your flashlight to check everywhere that water might leak
Don’t forget to check around the edge of the toilet

De-winterizing for the upcoming camping season is a vital part of the routine maintenance of your RV camper.  Investing the time to go through a checklist like this one will give you peace of mind - knowing that all systems are in good working order and allowing you to fully enjoy the great outdoors.

Happy Camping!