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Every place has a story

| Updated Jan 15, 2020

Our guests this week are Tom and Patti Burkett, who share with us how they find all those fascinating off-the-beaten-path stories


Show Notes for Episode #276 Jan. 15, 2019 of The RV Podcast:


Every place has a story 1We’re recording this podcast at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We’re here for our annual winter camping trip, a gathering we've been doing now for seven years. Over 30 RVers from across the country joined us to hike, snowshoe, take photos and explore the beauty of the northwoods in winter.

When this podcast is released, we should be in Tampa, Fl, where we'll be attending the Tampa RV Supershow. Every day from 2-3 PM, we'll be doing Meet and Greets at the Leisure Travel Vans display at the show. And on Thursday, Jan 16, from 5-9 PM, we'll be attending a big After Show party with other YouTube influencers and bloggers at the Wing House right near the fairgrounds. Please come by and say Hi. We'll have an invitation to the party to hand you, so look for us. When not at the LTV display, we'll be roaming the show shooting videos and reporting on what's new.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Dish Outdoors, which lets RVers pay as they go and watch HD satellite television from wherever they are camped with easy to set up gear made with the RVer in mind. Just go to for details on the service and special deal just for listeners of this podcast.


Glacier National Park is replacing signs that predicted its glaciers would be gone by 2020
The signs at Glacier National Park warning that its signature glaciers would be gone by 2020 are being changed. The signs in the Montana park were added more than a decade ago to reflect climate change forecasts at the time by the US Geological Survey. In 2017, the park was told by the agency that the complete melting off of the glaciers was no longer expected to take place so quickly due to changes in the forecast model. But tight maintenance budgets made it impossible for the park to immediately change the signs. The most prominent placards, at St. Mary Visitor Center, were changed last year. The park is still waiting for budget authorization to update signs at two other locations. But the glacier warning isn't being removed entirely. Instead, the new signs will say: “When they will completely disappear depends on how and when we act. One thing is consistent: the glaciers in the park are shrinking.

5 free days you can visit a national park in 2020
One of the terrific things about the National Park Service — aside from its duty to serve as the caretaker of America’s greatest outdoor spaces — is the annual designation of five days during the course of the year that are free to the public. Those five days have been announced for 2020:

  • 20:Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 18:First day of National Park Week (a weeklong celebration of all parks)
  • 25:National Park Service birthday
  • 26:National Public Lands Day
  • 11:Veterans Day

On these dates, you can visit any national park across the country without paying an entrance fee.

NFL quarterback off to see the world in an RV
While the rest of his NFL compatriots are off to Turks & Caicos to drink cocktails out of coconuts, Jaguars rookie Quarterback Gardner Minshew has found a different way to blow off steam this offseason. He’s on the open road traveling from Florida to California in a Class A Ace motorhome. He said the trip is to relax and recenter himself after a wildly successful rookie year that earned him enthusiastic fans all over the world. He’s asked those fans to send him places to visit, things to see using the hashtag #MilesWithMinshew on his Twitter account.

She was wading through water at Everglades National Park. Then an alligator bit her
An 18-year-old college student was bitten by an alligator while on a university nature hike in the Everglades.The teen’s professor led her and about 15 other students on a w very popular wet trail often used by hikers. As the party waded through the water, a gator bit the young woman’s lower right leg. She suffered a couple of puncture wounds and did not require hospitalization. Everglades National Park biologists have temporarily closed the trail as they evaluate the situation. There’s currently no set date for it to reopen. Visitors have about a one in 3.1 million chance of being significantly injured in an unprovoked gator attack, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In other words, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning, fatally wounded by fireworks or killed by a bee. Still, it’s a reminder to be alert when hiking anywhere in gator country.

Stomach illness outbreak hits Yosemite National Park
In Yosemite National Park, people are reportedly falling ill left and right with stomach flu-like symptoms. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, at least a dozen people have reported gastrointestinal symptoms, launching an investigation by The National Park Service and the U.S. Public Health Service into the origin of the illness. Federal officials said it was too early to identify the illness or where it might have come from. Federal officials were working with the operator of Yosemite’s many restaurants, snack shops and hotels to carry out an “extensive clean-up and disinfection” of food service areas in the area. No dining facilities have been closed.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes, America's #1 e-bike brand, offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping


Here’s a question that came via our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group:

What’s the best cellphone coverage for those that RV a lot – Vicky Jo

Here are a bunch of reviews from out group members –

And here’s a tip sent in by a listener named Joyce:

Reference the Hot Hands hand warmers: They can be reused.  When they cool off, put them in a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out. Snack size bags are great!  I use a straw in a small area not completely closed to suck as much air as possible out, then pull the straw out and finish closing the bag.  When you are ready to use it again, just remove it & shake again to reactivate.  Great money saver.

Do you have a question you’d like us to answer, or a comment on the things we’re discussing. If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the podcast – it’s 586-372-6990.  If you are driving and can’t write it down right now, just go to the RV Lifestyle travel blog at and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.

This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Battle Born Batteries, maker of quality, safe and reliable lithium batteries that can be installed in just about every RV. Get in touch with Battle Born to find out what lithium batteries and an upgraded energy management system can add to your RV Lifestyle. Check them out at


Our guests this week are Tom and Patti Burkett, who share with us how they find all those fascinating off-the-beaten-path stories.

Here's a video version of the interview:

Here's a transcript of the interview:

Mike Wendland:           Well, if you've been following our podcast for a number of years, you know who our guests are this week. Tom and Patti Burkett. They've been doing the Off the Beaten Path with us for the past four years and have a huge following in and of their own, and we are going to make them our interview of the week this week. We're going to learn a little bit about them, how they travel and how you can find your own off the beaten path reports as well. Join us now as we welcome Tom and Patti.

Introducer:                   Time now for the RV podcast interview of the week. Interesting, entertaining and helpful information about the RV lifestyle. Here's Mike with this week's interview.

Mike Wendland:           Tom and Patti, we got you for our interview of the week this week. Wow. Does that mean I don't have an Off the Beaten Path report?

Patti Burkett:                We might.

Tom Burkett:                We'll have one ready to go about Trenary. You can use it or save it.

Mike Wendland:           Okay, well-

Patti Burkett:                We can talk about Trenary now.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah, she just brought it up. People have no idea what you're talking about. We're at our winter camp out and Trenary is a small little town that you just found. You went out yesterday for, you said an hour or two and you came back just before dark, but you found a report, right?

Tom Burkett:                Yes. We went to a, we went into town to the grocery store to pick up something we'd forgotten and a Patti found on the shelf there Trenary toast and you can-

Patti Burkett:                well we knew about it from having been in the UP once before and it's, I don't know that we remembered exactly about it, but we saw the little bag, we bought some. It's kind of, it's sort of like biscotti, but it's made with toast and so it's twice baked and then that it's got cinnamon or cardamom or sometimes chocolate chips. Anyways, we said that made us pull out the map and figure out where Trenary was and we're not positive, whether it's Trenary or Trinary.

Mike Wendland:           I think it's Ternary.

Patti Burkett:                Trenary, okay. And so that we pulled out the map and it was like, “Well, it's only 76 miles from here.”

Tom Burkett:                And we had been there once before, but we thought, “Well we never did a report on that. If we go back, maybe we'll, we can have a little bit more conversation with the folks there and find out a little bit more about it.”

It's a Scandinavian thing. This toast from, it's from Finland and the original settlers were Finnish of this area and they brought this with them and they started this bakery in 1928 and the bakery, this was one of their specialties and people would come in and get it. And it's funny because it says on the package that it's, it has a shelf life of the year. And if you can imagine toast lasting a year, that's pretty handy toast.

Mike Wendland:           So you went to Trenary.

Tom Burkett:                Right.

Mike Wendland:           And well, we'll hear it on the Off the Beaten Path report.

Patti Burkett:                Right. You'll have to wait for the rest of the story.

Mike Wendland:           But the story right now is you guys, and we've been doing this now for years. You have just a delightful way of teaching us about all these awesome places you find off the beaten path. So tell us how that all came about. What's your background and give us a little insight? What did you guys do and are you retired and what do you travel in and how did this all come about?

Tom Burkett:                You could start.

Patti Burkett:                Well, we are retired. I'm better at it than Tom is, but I was a nurse for 34 years and worked in several different areas but retired about two years ago and Tom was a teacher, you can tell about that, but partly because he was a teacher. We did a lot of traveling during the summer because we were able to, I was able to kind of wrangle my nurse schedule to maximize time off and we had three kids. So we've always done a lot of traveling.

Tom Burkett:                We have. And one of the, I think one of the things that's really influenced the way we travel now is that in those early years, those early 25 or 30 years, when we towed a pop up tent trailer behind the suburban with five bikes and four kayaks strapped on top and the dog in the back end of the car. We went to all the national parks and we went to all of the big things that are sort of bucket list things that you might have.

And so by the time we retired, we realized that we could just spend our time wandering around and doing what we wanted to do. We didn't really have a big bucket list of things to do because we'd done them earlier with the kids. And it's panned out for us and the kids, because they're all travelers and one of them is a park ranger and they all really enjoy being in the outdoors and just getting away and finding something interesting to do.

Patti Burkett:                So we still like going back to those places. I mean we still certainly have made some trips back to Utah and we've picked up some of the smaller parks that we didn't get to the first time around, but-

Tom Burkett:                We love to go to Glacier and Yellowstone.

Patti Burkett:                But now that we are not under such time pressure, I mean it was when I was working in the summer when the kids and Tom had the summer off and I was the limiting factor. There were times when they picked me up at the end of my shift and we left and we literally got back 12 hours before I had to be at work. And so one of the real joys for us now is we can just take our time a little bit more and-

Tom Burkett:                Well and several times over the years. You'd fly home from somewhere where we were like from Denver and worked for four or five days and then fly back so you could have another two weeks vacation.

Patti Burkett:                Right.

Mike Wendland:           Now you're off the beaten path reports. We've had them now for, hey, I guess probably four years.

Patti Burkett:                Yeah, I think maybe.

Mike Wendland:           [crosstalk 00:05:36] pretty quick. Yeah, we've I think had the podcast for five years and you've been in at least four. What makes an off the beaten path here? What gets you excited? Now you just gave us a little hint while you're up here on this trip you found about Trenary Toast but you tend to teach, which we understand now from your background as the teacher. You were a science teacher if I remember right.

Tom Burkett:                True.

Mike Wendland:           So, but you have an ability to pull the history out of these places and you can't hide the love that you have for these small towns. How do you two work together along that? How do you figure out what makes a story and what doesn't?

Tom Burkett:                Well, I think the thing that makes it work for us is that we really enjoy hearing other people tell stories. And no matter where you go, if you take a little bit of time to stop and visit with the people who live there or even in a campground with the people who are stopped there, they have stories they love to tell, most all of them. And if you give them considered attention and act as if you enjoy what you're hearing, which we almost always do. We almost always do enjoy it, then the stories just come out and it doesn't make any difference where you go.

Somebody asked me last night, “Well how do you know where to go to find these stories?” And I said, “We could drive into Newberry and spend an hour visiting with people at the stores there and the gas station and we collect four or five off the beaten path stories and-

Patti Burkett:                When you just asked the question about how do you decide what makes an off the beaten path re a report, when you said that, I was like, “Well we don't decide what's an off the beaten path report. We just hear stories and in fact the only thing that makes something not an off the beaten path report is if it's too well known, like we aren't going to do one about the Smokes. Now, we have done two about parts of the Smokies that people don't go to normally.

Mike Wendland:           And you told us about the synchronous fireflies.

Patti Burkett:                Right. Things like that because everybody can look up the website and find the Smokies if they want to go there.

Mike Wendland:           Well, curiosity obviously plays a role in it. And that's what I've always said as a journalist is that's got me excited. But you saw something about Trenary Toast. You're in the upper peninsula. It's just kind of a unique off the beaten place part of the country in the first place. And you said there's got to be a story behind this. And so you drove 150 miles almost round trip to find it.

Patti Burkett:                Some people probably think that's foolish. I mean I was thinking about that, because some of the people here who are out hiking four miles, they're like, “Well, why would you come to the UP and take most of your day to drive to get that, just to get that story?”

For us, that's pleasurable. I mean, we were intrigued by history. We kind of love learning about the ways, the different areas of the country and who they were settled by. I mean there's a big, pretty much anywhere you go there's an immigrant story of who were the people who settled that area. And so that's intriguing to us. So, and we like time, we enjoy time in the car and talking to each other and being, just being with each other.

So for us driving those hours over there, talking to the people we got to talk to and driving back is maybe equivalent to somebody else taking a four and a half hour, four and a half mile snowshoe hike.

Mike Wendland:           Now you guys have been, you're traveling in a 1997 Roadtrek.

Tom Burkett:                Roadtrek, 190 popular.

Mike Wendland:           Have you counted up how many States you've been in that?

Tom Burkett:                We haven't.

Patti Burkett:                Most of them except for the Pacific Northwest, which we've been to in other vehicles, but we've not made a trip up there yet in the Roadtrek.

Tom Burkett:                We missed one. Right.

Patti Burkett:                But I think we've been pretty much everywhere else.

Tom Burkett:                Yep.

Mike Wendland:           Now you were sharing with me a couple of times you have, we all like to look at the start of a new year and plan out our trips. And you've got a couple of interesting trips. Talk about those. What are you thinking about doing this year?

Tom Burkett:                Well, I have this notion that we've heard a lot of good stories around the, around the edges of various places in the United States, places where cultures and lifestyles come together. So we're going to start out this year by driving the Atlantic coast from Ocean City down to Key West and then coming back along the Gulf Coast maybe as far as Galveston here at the beginning of the year and just talking to people about what it's like to live on the edge of the country and that may develop into a project, but we'll certainly come across a lot of interesting stories in that and we'll get some sun and some sea and have a good time.

Mike Wendland:           You also did this past year a off the beaten path tour if you will, and you invited some people to come along with you from the group. How did that work out and do you plan to do any more of those?

Patti Burkett:                It turned out great. We were in Eastern Pennsylvania and focused on off the beaten path sorts of places. We visited some small factories and some small family run businesses-

Tom Burkett:                Some historic sites and some markets.

Patti Burkett:                Got to see the Gettysburg electric map and-

Tom Burkett:                Stayed in some harvest host locations.

Patti Burkett:                It was great.

Mike Wendland:           But you had, you invited people from our group, Facebook group to come and-

Patti Burkett:                We had six people, five, six people that came along. We could have, we at first, I mean we could have taken more. I think we pictured it with a few more than that, although certainly the size of, we couldn't have taken probably more than-

Tom Burkett:                Two more.

Patti Burkett:                10 yeah, 10 people max just because of the locations we were going to. They were small and so it ended up being a really nice size group because it was really easy to go from place to place. There's nothing like herding a group of, a huge group.

Mike Wendland:           Besides your edges of the country project, do you see doing any more of those maybe later on in the year?

Patti Burkett:                I don't know. We might.

Tom Burkett:                We thought about it. We've got a couple of ideas. We've got a notion for one that's up in Western New York and another one in Southern Kansas and Oklahoma that pulls together some locations that we've been and some other places we'd like to see and so we may do that.

Patti Burkett:                We may. One of the things about both of us, but Tom in particular is the fun of something is doing it the first time. So while we could easily repeat that Pennsylvania one, because we've already done the work, we have all the connections, we know all the places. The fun of doing it decreases for us. We like doing, it's the excitement of doing something the first time and seeing if it works.

Tom Burkett:                But we do have a good time with the people who came-

Patti Burkett:                Yeah. It was nice.

Tom Burkett:                -and getting to know them. That was very nice.

Patti Burkett:                Yeah, it was great. Great.

Mike Wendland:           Obviously you've been doing this for a long time. You started off with your family as the kids grew in. One of your daughters is, as you said at the very beginning is a park ranger with the National Park Service.

Tom Burkett:                She's with the Corps of Engineers right now, but she's been with the Bureau of Land Management and park rangers kind of move around a bit, especially early in their careers.

Mike Wendland:           Now do you think that she chose that field of occupation because of your traveling?

Patti Burkett:                Well, I think it certainly influenced her a lot and I think those, she was, well all of our kids, but she in particular loved getting her junior ranger badges. She looked up to the Rangers as people that she admired and, and wanted to be like. And she loves nature and she loves educating. I mean I think she, her other sister is a teacher. She doesn't really feel drawn to classroom teaching. But the work of being a ranger that she really likes is the part of educating people and getting people excited about the land and taking good care of it in nature.

Mike Wendland:           And that's stuff you learn by going out there and exploring.

Patti Burkett:                Yeah, absolutely.

Tom Burkett:                And by seeing a lot of park rangers.

Mike Wendland:           So everybody probably asked you this, but I will anyway. What's your favorite?

Patti Burkett:                There are no favorites.

Tom Burkett:                Favorite place?

Patti Burkett:                Yeah. Do you ever have a favorite place, a favorite story that you've done?

Tom Burkett:                Well, yes. Oh absolutely. My favorite is Gonzales, Texas and finding a roadside marker that commemorated the role of my great, great, great grandfather in the battle of the Alamo and the burning of Gonzales, Texas. And the story that my father knew, but he had never told me and I came across this and it just opened up an entire new chapter of the family history. I mean it was really excited and a lot of fun.

Patti Burkett:                Okay. Mine is different than that. Mine hands down was going to the mermaid bar in Great Falls, Montana. First of all that there was even a mermaid bar there, and second of all that we just happened to be there when the New York times was there doing a report. And it was just this moment, we were sort of sitting next to some motorcyclists from Canada chatting with them. Next to me was this NPR reporter from Alaska, from Anchorage. We just all started chatting and she said, “You know what,” she said, “do you feel the buzz? You know what's going on right now, don't you?” I was like, “No.” I just was excited because here we were at this bar that had mermaids swimming behind it. She said, “Well there's the New York times is here doing a story about the organ player, and the organist and she's been, Piano Pat. She's been-

Tom Burkett:                She's been there for 50 years, 50 years [crosstalk 00:15:21].

Mike Wendland:           And you just happened to be there.

Patti Burkett:                We just happened to be there and then we ended up having our picture in the New York Times. It was just, it was crazy.

Tom Burkett:                I think one of my favorites, and you didn't go on this one, Patti, the great donut trail in Ohio.

Patti Burkett:                Oh right. I missed that one.

Tom Burkett:                Oh yeah.

Mike Wendland:           But [crosstalk 00:15:39] those are some of them and I'll have to hopefully dig out and I'll put links into those reports that we got and people can go back and listen to them.

But as we end this interview, we get to know you guys a little bit better, but this is something anybody can do, isn't it?

Patti Burkett:                It is.

Mike Wendland:           Give them a couple of tips and hints on how they can discover and be a part of finding these awesome off the beaten path reports for their lives.

Patti Burkett:                Well, I think first of all, don't be afraid to ask questions and to try to connect with people. Tom's better at that than I am. Sometimes I'm a little embarrassed and like, “Oh, I didn't want to bother them. They look busy.” So yesterday when we went to the Trenary Toast place, we asked to speak to the owner and we asked if we could have a tour of the factory.

Now it turns out yesterday she was doing a whole bunch of interviews and it ended up not working out that we could do it.

Mike Wendland:           Interviewing for jobs, job interviews.

Patti Burkett:                For jobs, yeah she was just really busy. She had interviews scheduled. So but, my personal tendency to walk in would be like, “Oh, I don't really want to bother them. Yeah. They look busy.” And if you approach people in a friendly manner and just out of curiosity of what they're doing, the most they'll do is say no. And often they're enchanted that you are interested. Right?

Tom Burkett:                Almost always. People love to tell their stories. They just love to tell their stories. And if you have genuine interest and then they will tell you great gusto.

Patti Burkett:                Right. So I think that's my tip is to, I have to fight that sort of internal thing of, “Oh, I don't want to get in their way. I don't want to bother them.” The piece of information was it was a family run business that had been there since 1928 and they had some things that showed that they were Finnish, there was a Finnish connection. I mean that's enough to start asking the questions.

Mike Wendland:           Well the Trinary Toast off the beaten path report will be coming and we'll add them all. I'll listen to that one and even hear more of it-

Patti Burkett:                And I don't know what your tip would be.

Mike Wendland:           Yeah, your tip for a-

Tom Burkett:                Oh my number one tip is don't be in a hurry.

Mike Wendland:           There you go.

Tom Burkett:                I can't tell you how many times we've driven down the road and seen a little sign or seen a sign board. Once we drove by a church, outside the Smokies and there were signs that said potluck dinner Thursday night and we were camping 20 miles from there. And we said, “Well, we'll just come back.”

And we came to the potluck dinner and it turned out that the retired chief ranger of the smokey mountains was talking after dinner. And we got to have dinner with him and then listen to all of his stories and that was fabulous.

Or you'd see a sign, take the time to turn off the road and go and see what it's about. And more than half the time it'll be worth it.

Mike Wendland:           What is it about stories that connects us all? So what is that thing about a story that just resonates with us all?

Tom Burkett:                In everybody's story you can find yourself. You can find you, things you do, things you're afraid of, things you've experienced in somebody else's story. And it makes you feel like, “Oh, this person and I, we could be friends,” and then you spend a little more time and you find that well, you're on your way to being friends.

Patti Burkett:                Or sometimes even, or if you don't exactly see something that is your story, you see something that you admire. I mean, some of these people that have these small family businesses, I mean man, the dedication and the kind of putting their lives on the line to keep a small business going.

Tom Burkett:                Yeah, sacrifice.

Patti Burkett:                Sacrifice. We've talked to a number of people who said, “Well, I stopped taking a paycheck because I have employees that I just can't, I don't want to let them go. They depend on me and I don't know. I think there's some things like that that yes, I can connect to that in some way. And then in another way it just makes you admire people who are, whose lives are somewhat different than yours. You see, wow. I really, that's not something I've really had to face. And you admire it about them.

Tom Burkett:                There's great spirit, great spirit and passion and a will to be successful and to leave things better than you found them.

Mike Wendland:           Tom and Patti, you guys make things better than you found them. I am delighted that we get to share all of your stories each week, and thanks for helping us to know your story a little bit better.

Patti Burkett:                All right, well, thank you.

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


Mike Wendland

Published on 2020-01-15

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.

One Response to “Every place has a story”

January 20, 2020at7:42 am, Martin Thompson said:

Good Morning,

Loved the interview with Patti and Tom. You mentioned they have a large following in their own right but didn’t hear or see any reference to it. Do they have their own YouTube channel? Podcasts?
Thanks and continued safe travels!

Comments are closed.

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