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Episode 177: How to find the best off-the-beaten path places

| Updated Jun 19, 2023

There’s a great saying about the RV Lifestyle: The journey IS the destination. What it means is that the things we discover AS we travel are just as much a part of the adventure as the place we’re heading.

In other, words, off the beaten path discoveries. In this episode, you’ll meet a couple who have perfected the adventure of uncovering the fascinating things you can encounter on the way to somewhere else. Stay tuned as our Interview Segment this week features our own Tom and Patti Burkett, the best off the beaten path explorers we’ve ever met. They’ll share their secrets and tips that you can put in practice on your next RV trip.

Plus, we have listener questions, feedback, RV tips, Traveling with Technology advise and much more.

Click the player below to Listen Now or scroll down through the show note details. When you see a time code hyperlink, you can click it to jump directly to that segment of the podcast.


Show Notes for Episode #177 January 31, 2018 of Roadtreking – The RV Podcast:


Episode 177: How to find the best off-the-beaten path places 1
We can't wait to head out to warmer climes

We’re packing again, about to head off for a very long trip that will have us on the road pretty much through April. We loved the snow up in Michigan but now it's time to get warm again!  Our Norwegian Elkhound Bo is a snowdog and will miss it, but Jen and Mike need some beach time in the sun.

We signed up for the Dakota Post mail forwarding service to handle our mail while we’re away. DakotaPost, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has been in the mail forwarding business since 1989 and provides a safe and secure service. Options for receiving your mail include monthly, twice a month, weekly, or on demand.  The company’s new secure Client Portal gives you direct access to request your mail, change your mailing address, or update your account information online. It starts at $12 a month, $15 a month for short term of 3-9 months. I opted for Virtual Mailbox. It’s $19 a month but it lets you immediately see your physical mail. Virtual Mailbox will display an exterior image of each piece of mail received in your mailbox in an online space called your Client Portal. We can have it opened or scanned or mailed to us wherever we happen to be. We’ll let you know how it goes. Some onths back on the podcast, we interviewed some folks from Dakota Post…

We discuss an interesting story in the Miami Herald, headlined “Dont be distracted by the beauty: Florida’s National Parks are falling apart.” It talks about the massive repair backlog, to Everglades National Park in particular. A backlog of repairs at the park now tops $88 million, with about $254 million in repairs needed at national parks across the state.

If you think those campgrounds and the roads you travel are more congested with RVs these days, you’re right. For the first time in more than four decades – and the first time since the RV Industry Association has been keeping statistics – wholesale shipments topped half-a-million, with a total of 504,599 units moving from manufacturers to RV dealers in 2017. That figure is a 17.2% increase compared to the 430,691 units shipped in 2016. Towable units, by far the largest-selling segment of the RV market, led again in 2017, with 441,691 such units shipped, a 17.6% increase year over year. This included 31,541 towable units shipped in December, a 9.5% bump from the previous December. Motorhome shipments were also strong in 2017, finishing the year at 62,638 units on 14.4% growth over the 54,741 units shipped during 2016. December motorhome shipments were up 12.2% year over year

This portion of the Podcast is brought to you by Campers Inn, the RVer’s trusted resource for over 50 years, the nation’s largest family-operated RV dealership with 19 locations and growing

 JENNIFER'S TIP OF THE WEEK [spp-timestamp time=”15:40″]

Last week Mike and I were winter camping in the Michigan's Upper Peninsula with our annual winter campout. We had so much fun we decided to stay an extra two nights at Lower Falls campground in the Tahquamenon Falls State Park to experience camping in an Upper Peninsula blizzard. We really enjoyed the peace and beauty, and we had a ball. We also spent plenty of time outdoors on walks with our dog, Bo.

Whenever we go winter camping I buy a box or two of Hot Hands, a chemical activator that comes in a packet to keep my hands warm. The packets work well, but buying them by the box adds up. And one thing that has always bothered me is the heaters can only be used once, which means a lot of packages sent to the local landfill.

Episode 177: How to find the best off-the-beaten path places 2Well, recently I discovered another type of hand warmer that may solve this problem – and save us money as well. The item is an electric hand warmer. Designed to fit in your palm, the hand warmer slips into your gloves and heats up in 3 seconds, keeping your hands warm for hours. The best part is the warmers can be charged, so unlike the throwaway warmers, you can use them again and again. Their size is roughly 4 by 2.2 inches, and many I found online that double as a phone charger. Some even come in three heat settings.

There are several types of electric hand warmers out there. One I found on Amazon by Letouch costs $21.97. You will need two of them – one for each hand – but it will mean no more tossing the heat packs into the garbage, and no more need to continually buy new disposable hand heaters.

I'm curious to know, has anyone tried the electric hand warmers? How did it work out? Since we are heading to warmer weather I may not get a chance to try until the next winter season. I will put a link on the show notes to the one on Amazon that caught my eye if you would like to learn more.

And be sure to send me your tips and suggestions for the RV lifestyle. You can use the “Leave Voicemail” link at Just click it and then use the built-in microphone on your computer or mobile devise to record a message to me. You can do it over as many times as you want, until you are satisfied. And then you just click a button and it comes right to my email inbox.

I love hearing from you!

For a complete list of all the products, gear and apps mentioned by Mike and Jennifer on their podcast, YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel and here on the blog, go to

Jennifer's tip of the week is brought to you by RadPower Bikes ,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping

LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK [spp-timestamp time=”21:26″]

Listener Jerrod in Alabama asks for our tips on how to find a mobile RV technician when he needs service and is in different parts of the country.

Mark from Minnesota has a comment on temperature sensors for the freezer and the need to use lithium batteries for them

We answer an email sent to us by a soon to be new RVer, who writes:

I have enjoyed your videos and adventures in your website/youtube.  I am a 57 year old woman who has always dreamed of camping and who loves the outdoors. This coming summer, I am hoping to be on the road for one month in a rented Class B camper.  I am still exploring which area to visit but Montana, Wyoming and California are my top contenders.  Not sure which one I will select.  I have found available vehicles for rent in Arizona, so maybe I could go there.It will be my first time doing this and I am understandably a little apprehensive. I am writing to you in the hopes that you can point me in the right direction with perhaps a book recommendation so I can educate myself as a newbie to the RV world. Also, if you have a recommendation of what would be a good first trip to take. While I would love to go to remote places just me and my dog, I am afraid for my safety all alone.  So I will start by staying on campgrounds around other adventurous people. I live in Miami, FL but would really rather explore the areas mentioned above.  My plan is to fly out to the place where I rent the camper and set off from there. I hope you can help me with some direction, advice and recommendations of resources (books, etc) so I can educate and prepare myself. Thank you so much, Marisa

Sponsoring this part of the podcast is Van City RV  Bringing You the largest Inventory of class B’ RVs with locations St. Louis, Missouri; Las Vegas, Nevada; Kalispell, Montana and now… Colorado Springs, Colorado..

INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK [spp-timestamp time=”37:23]

Episode 177: How to find the best off-the-beaten path places 3
Patti and Tom Burkett

Our guests this week for our interview of the week segment are Tom and Patti Burkett. If you are a regular listener of this podcast, you know them from their off the beaten path reports that take us to obscure but always fascinating new places.

I urge you to listen to the interview for lots of tips on discovering the stories in the towns you pass during your RV travels. It was recorded a couple of weeks ago in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, during our annual Roadtreking winter campout at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

But this week, I’m trying something new: A full transcript of the interview. This is something many people have asked for over the years, Now I know I can’t do this every week, with every interview. But if this is helpful, please let me know and maybe we can do this again sometime.

Also, we have made a video version of the interview on our RV Lifestyle You Tube Channel at 

Here's the full transcript:

Mike: If you're a regular follower of our RV podcast or RV travel blog, you're familiar with Tom and Patty Burkett. They are experts in finding places off the beaten path. Well you guys have been doing these wonderful off the beaten path reports now for a couple three years and the question I get asked more often than not everyplace I go about you is how do they find those incredible places? So Tom and Patty Burkett, how do you find those off the beaten path reports?

Tom: Well you tell a little bit about this book that sort of changed the way we look at things when we travel

Patti: Right. So a few years ago we read this book called Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places. And it's a it's a great read and what it does is sort of makes you look at places where you are and look for clues of what was there before. So you're sort of paying attention to road signs and types of signs and the way the architecture is changed. And from that you start getting hints about what was there before. And so I think that kind of has piqued our curiosity and our interest in knowing, you know, sort of the local story. What's there, what’s here now and what's been there in the past.

Tom: You see the way the roads are laid out and the way the streets are laid out in the town and what kinds of buildings are grouped together. And over time you begin to to see patterns emerge and all of a sudden you understand the history of the place a lot better and it helps you know what kind of questions to ask and sort of what are some of the the likelihoods about a place when you start to talk to people who live there and it just helps. It helps you know a little bit more about where you are.

Mike: So how do you plan for a trip.

Tom: Well we start out by planning a trip that avoids interstates and one of the things that we've come to realize is that the the old US highways the major highways are frequently treasure troves of things of things to discover and talk to people about. And so often we'll plan a trip that that proceeds along one of those roads. And once we've picked a road, or a route for someplace we go and we sort of lay out the shape of the trip and then look for the look for the roads that go there. And we avoid roads that go through cities unless we're specifically looking for a city for specific things in a city to visit. But what we look at the small towns and then I have a long list of newsletters and Websites that I look at on a regular basis and things that come to me in the e-mail. And I keep a running Google map of places that we're going to see and it has hundreds of hundreds of spots on it.

Patti: I mean you put on the Google map before we're even planning a trip.

Tom: Right.

Patti: So he has a map that has you know if he finds something interesting and someplace in Oregon he puts a marker on that map.

Tom: And then once we have a route laid out then we'll start to research some of the Web sites like Roadside America and Atlas Obscura and I discover and they have of course interesting places and there's a whole series of websites that talk about unusual places that every state and series that talks about ghost towns and I'll go through all of those and I'll pick out things that are close to where we're going at all. I'll put those on the map for the particular trip we're going and then as we travel when we feel like taking a break we look around and say OK what is there around here to look at. And then as often as not we get to a place like that. And we have a little conversation with the people who either live there or visiting there and they say oh you know if you like this have you seen thus a such a thing which is six miles up the road. And of course, we didn't have any idea about such a place. But we get in the car we drive out there and look at it and then you go along the road to and you see signs for things that you never thought that you know that you never that you didn't recognize or didn't find ahead of time. We have a daughter who lives in Baltimore and we drive back and forth on Interstate 68 and for three or four years we drove past the little brown side along the side that said Arthurdale – This E xit. it's one of those brown signs like they have for the national parks.

Patti: I think it's a new deal museum.

Tom: And we thought we had one of these days we ought to stop and see that. And sure enough about three four months ago we had enough time that we pulled off and drove down and we were just completely taken with it.

Patti: And we just and we did a recent report on it. But you know it was a place that's not very well known yet because it's just developing. It's a group of people local people who you know are working their hearts out to preserve this you know New Deal town that was an important part of the history after the Depression. And, you know it's not very fancy at it's not very slick. They you can see their intentions you can see their hopes.

Tom: No the woman we talked to said you know if you know some other RVers who are willing to help us out we'll be glad to give you a campsite and a place to plug your vehicle in if you'll come in and do some research or some cataloguing for us we can use all the help we can get.

Mike: And there are so many places like that all across the country.

Patti: Everywhere! I mean that's the thing you start realizing is that every town has a story. I mean it makes me sometimes now when we're driving around near our own house I think, wow I wonder how I would see this if I was visiting it as a visitor. You know I think there's things in my own town that I've never noticed.

Mike: Now you said a couple of things. One, I like what you just said Patti that every town has a story. And then talking to the locals. So many people just kind of rush and go and maybe they have a couple stuff and now they'll stop at an attraction and then they'll be on the road again. I got a feeling that you kind of never get where you are intending to get to and you get waylaid by these awesome places and find that the destination is the journey and not the place you end up.

Tom: Well that's absolutely true. A couple of years ago I decided I was going to drive the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Wheeling West Virginia just the southern border of the state of Ohio. We live in Ohio and I started in Cincinnati and some little towns along the way I Pulled up in the parking lot of a building that had a sign that said cardboard boat museum. And it was closed but I looked in the big plate glass windows and sure enough there are six or seven large cardboard boats in there. You know one of the things that's great about the current age for doing this kind of exploration is that you can you can look on Google and I pulled out the phone and I looked at sure enough, up here along the Ohio River they have a cardboard boat race every year and a big festival. So we put that on our calendar for the next year to go down there see the cardboard dome races and got to the next little town. And I have a distant relative who used to work making buttons out of mussel shells during the during the mid nineteen hundreds and this particular little town Mansfield, Ohio along the river had a button factory at one time and they said all these button factories, the shells pile up outside to the size of mountains and they've just got all of these holes punched in them where they cut out the buttons. And I thought it would be kind of nice to have one of those just as a memento. The family history so I said I will stop and see if I can find one. I pulled in. Spent the night there. I just park right along the river as the local police said you know I'm just traveling through and I want to stay here and have breakfast is there a place I can park and they said Yeah just park down here. They drove by two or three times during the night to make sure everything was OK. And the next morning I went to the local cafe and I sat down at the diner counter and ordered my breakfast and there's a as there always is the little towns that table full of old guys sitting up by the window.

Patti: They're there every day every day.

Tom: I said to the waitress who is also the grill cook. So like a one person shop, I said do you suppose those guys would mind if I came and sat with him she said, Hey Arnold OK this guy comes and says and he said sure. So, we went over and I sat down I talked to him about the town and told him I was interested in this history of button making it all. We have a great display of that in our local museum, but it closed a couple of years ago. Another gut said, doesn’t your granddaughter used to work at that museum. He said why dont you call her and see if she'll take this fellow down there and show him the museum. And he did. Ad she invited me down to the museum and she opened it up and went in and looked around and she said Now you go talk to Harold he'll be having lunch down at the cafe. So I went back down there and she said he used to work in the Button Factory and he's, I don't know 90 years old. He said Yeah come on. So, he took me out we got in his pickup truck we drove down to where the factory used to be and he told me all about it was gone. Most have been washed away by the river.

Mike: So, give us some advice for all those other RVers out there and how to enjoy their travel more.

Patti: So, I was just thinking while he was talking so I think a couple of things play into this. Sometimes it actually drives me a little crazy.

Mike: Sometimes I have to go by myself.

Like the great doughnut trail.

Tom: I'm the doughnut lover of the family.

Patti: But I think first of all it takes a keen sense of curiosity. So there are many times when Tom pulls out the phone to look something up like really, really you're going to look at this thought look this up and we're going to end up having to stop at this thing which I don't necessarily care about. So partly I think that's one of Tom's gifts is that he's just incredibly curious about things and always wants to know. So that's one thing is when you see something that just piques your interest even a little bit. At least look it up because there may be something way more

Tom: That's how we found beer and bacon in Medora, North Dakota

Patti: Right. Yeah right. Yeah. And then the second thing is I think you have to have. Well I think the other thing when he was just talking people love to tell their stories. So you're not for the most part. I mean you'll get the feeling if you are but for the most part people love to tell their stories. So, you're not imposing on them to ask. You know to say, hey do you know anything about button factories here?

Tom: They like to show off their I like to show off their towns.

Patti: You know it's a lot of these towns don't look that great. You know their towns that have been hit by the economy. But they have a proud history. And so to have somebody ask some questions about that means the world to them. You know they love to have the chance to talk to about it.

Tom: They do. Every town. Just like you said every town has stuff they like to show off. You don't find it unless you ask.

Patti: And then I think the thing you have to do is have a pretty good spirit. Because some of the stuff we found find is duds. I mean there's stuff we've driven two or three hours out of our way to go see. Usually because he's had an on that map, on his list. We got to go see those. And we drive there and I'm like. Really? Really? we just drove two hours to come see that. But, you know nothing nothing lost, nothing gained. I mean if we were afraid of hitting a dud every now and then, think of all the other things we would have missed along the way.

Mike: Well we will take a list of all of those resources you shared. We'll put them in the description below the video and in the podcast notes and we hope that the Burkett's continue out there, off that beaten path. And thank you for sitting down and sharing these tips and some of those stories with us today.

Tom and Patti: You're welcome. Thanks. Always a pleasure.

Resources we discussed in the interview:

Outside Lies Magic

Smithsonian Guides to Historic America

Roadside America


Atlas Obscura

Only In Your State

Scenic Byways (NFS)

Scenic Byways (NFS) 

The interview of the week is brought to you by, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

TRAVELING TECH TIP [spp-timestamp time=”53:29″]

Episode 177: How to find the best off-the-beaten path places 4
Steve Van Dinter

By Steve Van Dinter
Verizon Wireless

As you’re crisscrossing the country taking in all the sights, I’ll bet you and your wife take a lot of pictures.

But what do you do with them afterwards? Do they live on your phone forever?

It’s nice to have some physical prints once in a while, and that’s why my first cool gadget I wanted to tell you about is the Lifeprint photo printer. This is a wireless photo printer that easily fits into a purse. You connect to it via wifi or bluetooth, select the photos you want printed out and the printer will print you a 2×3” photo that also has a sticky adhesive on the back so you can stick it anywhere. We all know ink on printers runs out at the worst times but you’ll never have to worry about that with this printer. It uses heat and a special paper to give you perfect pictures every time.

Next we talked a lot last year about Motorola’s unique smartphones that have the moto mods. Well there’s a new one that’s just been released you should know about. It’s called the smart speaker. This is a speaker that attaches to the back of phones like the Moto Z2 Force and lets you play beautifully rich sounding music. And it’s smart because it has Amazon’s Alexa built in. Combined with the 4 sensitive microphones you can talk to this smart speaker attachment like you would with any of Amazon’s Alexa smart speakers. Pretty cool, huh?

And lastly, when it comes to roadtrips, I know music choice can sometimes divide everyone in the vehicle. Why compromise on songs that not everyone really enjoys when you can use the Bose QuietComfort 35 bluetooth headphones? Now your front or backseat customers can enjoy their own quality music experience, catch some soothing shuteye or just have a little me time. And with 20 hours of battery life, it’s the ultimate travel companion.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Verizon, which operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with more than 112 million retail connections nationwide.

 RV Show Schedule for Next Weekend [spp-timestamp time=”57:23″]

Tulsa Boat, Sports & Travel Show

January 29- February 4

Muscogee Creek Nation Center & Expo Square

Tulsa, OK

Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show

February 1-4

Allen County War Memorial Coliseum

Fort Wayne, IN

Iowa's Original RV Camping Show

February 1-4

Iowa State Fairgrounds

Des Moines, IA

St. Louis RV, Vacation & Travel Show

February 1-4

America's Center

St. Louis, MO

Hamilton RV Show and Sale

February 2-4

Players Paradise Sports Complex

Stoney Creek, ON

Madison Camper & RV Show & Sale

February 2-4

Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall

Madison, WI

Mid-Michigan Camper & RV Show

February 2-4

SVSU Ryder Center

Saginaw, MI

Nebraska Boat, Sport & Travel Show

February 2-4

Lancaster Event Center

Lincoln, NE

This part of the podcast is sponsored by Steinbring Motorcoach, Roadtrek’s newest dealer and a third generation family business in Minnesota’s beautiful Chain of Lakes region built on quality motorhomes and excellent pricing and service.

A special message from Mike and Jennifer:

I want to thank so many of you for being a part of our RV Podcast community. We are constantly working to make this podcast more relevant to you. Please contact us directly if you have any suggestions!

Now… Many I ask a favor of YOU?

For months now, we have been working really, really hard on our RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube. We now have it organized and set up the way we wanted and have hundreds of videos now online about every aspect of the RV lifestyle.

If you haven't done so, would you please subscribe to the channel?

Just go to and click the subscribe button.

We put new videos up every week and subscribers get first notice when new content is online.

Also, subscribers can use the Community tab on the Channel to post comments, questions or get special tips.

Thank you in advance.

Please Subscribe and Give Us a Rating and Review!

Many listeners are asking how they can subscribe, review and rate the Roadtreking Podcast on iTunes. With a new podcast like this, those reviews and ratings are really important to be able to show well in the iTunes listings. So if you can, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d subscribe and leave me your review.

Here’s how:

How to subscribe, rate and review a podcast

First, open up the iTunes app on your computer or mobile device. Click on Podcasts up on the top
> From the iTunes Podcasts page, use the “Search Store” field up at the top right corner of the page. Type in Mike Wendland or Roadtreking RV Podcast.
> Click on the logo image of the Roadtreking RV Podcast on the search return page
> From there (see photo above), you can…

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3) Leave a written review.

Thanks to all for the kind reviews we’ve received so far. That got us noticed by Apple/iTunes as “New and Noteworthy.” I appreciate every review!

And remember, you can appear in future episodes. Ask a question or voice your comments about RV topics by clicking the Leave Voicemail tab on the right side of this page here at You can then use the microphone on your computer to record your words.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2018-01-31

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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