This week we hear from a favorite, Chef MJ… Mary Jane Curry, who has been writing up RV Recipes for our RV Lifestyle Blog for several years now and has just published a delightful cookbook aimed squarely at RVers called “Small Kitchen Big Flavors.” Chef MJ is our interview of the week and she has five great RV kitchen and cooking tips to share with us. Plus, you’ll get first notice here of an awesome event this spring where you can learn from Chef MJ in person.
But also, in this episode, RV news, RV tips, a great off the beaten path report and much more.
But first, my lifelong traveling companion and my bride, Jennifer.
Show Notes for Episode #221 Dec. 5, 2018 of Roadtreking – The RV Podcast:
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
We’re working on videos
We’re planning a break… to take the first time off in seven years… the last two weeks of the year.
We talk about our free Christmas gift-buying guide… https://rvlifestyle.com/christmas
And we also talk about the members-only benefits available free through our RV Community at https://rvlifestyle.com/community
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Man and dog climb tree to escape angry herd of buffalo, and broadcast whole thing on Facebook live
Have you ever been out west, out for a hike, and come across some wild buffalo that are not too happy to see you? Well, in a story I saw last week, apparently a man was hiking on Antelope Island near Salt Lake City, Utah, with his German Shepard when a herd of buffalo decided to go aggressively come toward him. The man did what many do these days, decided to record the whole thing on Facebook Live. As the buffalo started following him he noticed their tails were up – a sign of aggression – and they were grunting menacingly. He walked faster and faster and then tried to climb a tree as he called for help. His story has a happy ending, after a parks official came to help. Officials believe the herd mistook the dog as a predator.
RV shipments to dealers down 11 percent, though sales are up 4.63 percent
You may have heard that Elkhart, Indiana, home to the RV manufacturing industry, is closely watched for signs of how the economy is doing. Several stories out last week analyzed what the third slip in RV shipments in a row means not just for the RV industry, but for the whole country. The RV Industry Association reported wholesale shipments to dealers dropped 11 percent for its third period, yet RV sales in the U.S. and Canada are up 4.63 percent. What is not clear is if the third drop in shipments is because dealers had ordered too much inventory, or if rising interest rates, tariffs and the contentious the political climate is adding up to mean something else.
Manatees ares heading to Florida’s inland hot water springs
The manatees are back! Florida’s Blue Springs State Park report that the manatees are back in large numbers as cold temperatures have hit the Sunshine State driving the gentle giants inland to Florida’s warm springs. A story out last week about this made me think of a camping trip Jennifer and I took at the Blue Springs State Park a few years back to see the manatees. (see our report here). We thoroughly enjoyed camping in the park and watching the gigantic creatures. If you can’t make it to Florida, a webcam is also operating live footage here. To see the report that took me down memory lane click:
Man camping in at Idaho KOA campground dies in fire tied to space heater use
A sad story caught my eye out of Idaho this week about a man dying after his camper at a KOA caught on fire. The man had apparently been using a space heater to help his vehicle stay warm, and fire officials said the blaze was caused by combustible materials getting too close to the space heater. The trailer also did not have working smoke alarms. A tragic story that serves as a reminder for all of us who camp in cold weather.
Search continues for missing Rocky Mountain National Park hiker
The search continued over the weekend for a missing 20-year-old hiker at Rocky Mountain National Park who hasn’t been heard from for about a week. The man, 20, was a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet candidate who decided to go hiking in the popular park alone. The story highlights the dangers of hiking alone, and got me thinking back to an interview we did on the podcast some time back with an expert hiker discussing hiking safety, something that is always good to review. To listen to the our hiking safety expert interview click here
JENNIFER’S RV TIP OF THE WEEK
In a month Mike, Bo and I will head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for one of my favorite trips of the season – our annual winter campout. We camp at Lower Falls campground in the Tahquamenon Falls State Park and always have so much fun. Sometimes we go snowshoeing, other times cross county skiing, but always we’re walking, being outside and enjoying the beauty of winter in the deep woods.
But one thing I need to be very careful about when we do our winter camping is keeping my fingers and toes warm.
I have Raynauld’s disease, which causes the arteries in my fingers and toes to contract when I get cold, literally cutting off circulation and changing the color of my fingers to a ghost-like white.
So to protect myself from the elements, I rely upon a wonderful invention called Hot Hands and I’d love to tell you all about it, in case it could help any of you.
I buy both the Hot Hands hand warmers and toe warms. One is cut to fit inside a glove, the other is cut to fit in a boot, but both operate the same way. About 15-30 minutes before you plan to head outside you simply open the packaging and take the hand or toe warmer out, exposing it to the warm air of your RV. Then you shake the packet vigorously. After about 15-30 minutes the packages heat up, and you simply it put them in your gloves and boots and head outside. It is that simple.
Each warmer can only be used once, and should last about up to 8 hours.
The warmers are made in the USA, and the listed ingredients include Iron Powder, Water, Salt, Activated Charcoal, and Wood Fiber. When you are done with a packet, you can simply throw it into the trash.
I found a package of 40 hand warmers for $28 on Amazon, and they are often sold at ski resorts, and other places where people are planning to spend time outside. You can get 40 toe warmers for about $33.
Here’s the hand warmer link – https://amzn.to/2PhXJOj
Here’s the toe warmers link – https://amzn.to/2QetvB6
Also, we will be doing a video next week on something else we tried – electric gloves. We’ll compare how they work compared to the hand warmers I’ve been using. Look for that video next Tuesday.
And be sure to send me your tips and suggestions for the RV lifestyle. You can use the “Leave Voicemail” link at Roadtreking.com. Just click it and then use the built-in microphone on your computer or mobile device 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!
This part of the podcast 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 To see our Rad Power Bikes in action, just click here.
LISTENER RV QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
- Listener Dan asks about 5G cellular networks. When will we see them? Mike gves a full update on who will have what, when.
- Dawn wants to know if she can put the new Alpine 9 inch radio into her Winnebago Revel. Here’s my blog story and video of my new Alpine Halo 9-inch iLX-F309
- By email, this came in from Paul: Mike, my wife and I are looking at a 2018 RS Adventurous. Any thoughts on a fair price given the time of year and being a 2018?
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
This week, we interview Chef MJ – Mary Jane Curry, who writes RV Recipes for our Roadtreking RV Lifestyle Blog each week and has just published an awesome cookbook for RVers called “Small Kitchen Big Flavors.”
Chef MJ shares 5 RV Kitchen Tips that every RVer needs to know.
Here’s a video version:
Here’s the full transcript:
Mike Wendland: If you are a regular reader of our roadtreking.com RV Lifestyle blog, you are familiar with the name Chef MJ, Mary Jane Curry. She has been writing RV recipes for us for several years now, one of the most popular parts of our blog. Every week there’s something neat to find.
But now, it is even neater, because look what she published – Small Kitchen Big Flavor, a brand new cookbook filled with recipes perfect for RV travelers. All of them are one page, so you don’t have to be switching pages while you’re cooking and prepping, all of them geared for that small kitchen that we have in our RV. Of course, you can cook them at home, as well, but just a great book. We’ll put a link in the description below on how you can get one and get it still in time for the holidays.
But we’re delighted, because in this episode, Chef MJ joins us from her RV, as a matter of fact. She’s got five, count them, five great tips for us on how to get the most out of our RV kitchens. MJ, Mary Jane Curry, welcome to the program. How are you?
Chef MJ Curry: Hi. I’m fine, Mike. How about you?
Mike Wendland: I am doing terrific. Love the book. It is just … and what a great time of year to have it come out. I hear everybody talking about, everybody’s planning to try out this recipe and that. We’re thrilled. I hope you sell a million of them.
Chef MJ Curry: Oh, thank you.
Mike Wendland: So let’s talk about five tips for everybody as they think about using their RV, heading out for maybe just a weekend trip, maybe a long trip, and planning and figuring out what to do about eating and how to prepare those meals in the kitchen of an RV. So let’s start with your tips. What’s the first one?
Chef MJ Curry: Okay, great. So I did, I wrote down five tips that start off each of our trips and really help me out on how to plan for the trip. I’ve included those in the book also. So I wrote them down to make sure we get them in. This will be rather quick, because we’re doing five tips, but important tips for planning purposes.
Number one is to plan ahead. Whether you’re full-timing in an RV or you’re going out for a day trip, just going to have dinner by the beach, which we do often, or you’re going for three days, a week. You could even be out for months. What I do is I plan for one to seven days in advance, up to the week if we’re going out that long, is really important to do. Then what I do is I check our sticks and bricks pantry, fridge, and freezer and see what I need to rotate out while we’re going to be on the road and that will be interesting and flavorful. So I created …
Mike Wendland: Now let me ask you that. In your RV, you have the smaller refrigerator, right?
Chef MJ Curry: Yes, we do.
Mike Wendland: Yeah, the Roadtrek RS Adventurous if I’m not …
Chef MJ Curry: Yes.
Mike Wendland: So that’s a little smaller refrigerator. How much food can you carry in that?
Chef MJ Curry: Some of the tips I’m giving today are things that I’ve incorporated because we do have a smaller fridge, and we have a very small freezer. So these have enabled me to be prepared for a week at the time by following some of these guidelines.
Mike Wendland: I think people will be delighted to know that you can take that much food in one of those smaller ones. Okay, that’s tip one. Plan ahead. I guess that involves thinking through how many meals you’re going to eat in and how many you’re going to eat out and all that stuff.
Chef MJ Curry: Right. Make a …
Mike Wendland: I’m not a planner, so this …
Chef MJ Curry: Oh, yeah. You can just make a basic grid on a spreadsheet and include seven days, three meals a day. You could include snacks, also, if you want. Then I put in what potlucks we’re going to attend on which day, which meal, which days we’re going to go out to the restaurant. Even the chef needs a day off sometimes. Then I fill it in with what I’m going to pre-prepare, partially or fully, with make ahead meals at home and bring along in the RV and create some variety.
Mike Wendland: Alright. More tips. This is good.
Chef MJ Curry: Okay. So to switch things up, let’s say that you eat meat or chicken, and you want to use up three, four chicken breasts on this trip. What I do is I’ll change the spice profile and herbs that I put with each serving. So I’ll make one Mexican by adding cumin, salsa, and things of that nature, a little cayenne pepper. Make one French with some thyme, a creamy sauce, and you’ve got that profile going. Greek, I had some olives, and olive oil, some lemon. Then for Chinese some Chinese five-spice, soy sauce. So you get the idea. You can have the same thing and create different dishes by the way you add your spices, the way you slice or dice the proteins, and what you serve it with.
Mike Wendland: That’s such a good idea, because often times, it’s chicken or beef, chicken or beef. But that’s like five different kinds of chicken, four different kinds of chicken that you just told [crosstalk 00:05:56] …
Chef MJ Curry: Right, right. You can do it with an protein, it could be tofu. But changing your flavor and herb profile is a simple and easy trick to do so that you don’t get bored eating the same thing.
Mike Wendland: Good, good. These are good tips. These are good. Keep them going.
Chef MJ Curry: Okay. I set a cook date. So before we plan a trip, a week or so out, I’ll do as I said. I’ll check my pantry, fridge, see what I already have on hand. Then I’ll look in the book for recipes that I want to make while I’m on the trip or some of the make ahead meals that I’ll take along with me. Then I create a grocery list, go to the store, and pick up the ingredients I don’t have. Then I’ll set aside three to five hours for cooking and get a few of the meals prepared in advance. On the cook date, what I do is I set up the ingredients I need and the portions that I need and in the order that it’s called for in the recipe so that you’re not starting a process of cooking and then running to your pantry to say, “Oh, do I have oregano? Oh, I’m out of flour. Where’s the pan?” So set up everything up, your ingredients, your pots and pans, in the order that they’re called for and then the portions that are called for in the recipe. That makes the process go very smoothly.
Mike Wendland: Now we’ve all seen those cooking shows on TV where they have everything and it makes it look so organized. They just dump it the pot or the pan. That’s kind of what you’re saying. Basically, have it all set to go so you’re not saying, “Oh, man. What am I going to do? I don’t have [crosstalk 00:07:55] … ”
Chef MJ Curry: Right. We live out in the country, so it takes me 12, 13 minutes to get to the grocery store. So if I’m in the middle of cooking something, and I don’t have an ingredient, that’s going to set me back at least an hour or so. So being prepared in advanced is really worth the time. Then I package and label. I use Ziploc freezer bags. I know some people are adverse to plastic bags and things like that, but I feel confident that it’s not leeching into my food or anything like that. I find them very, very handy, and you can write on them.
So what I do is I prepare the menu, I prepare the recipes one at a time, and then I let the meal or snack or whatever it is come to room temperature if it’s been cooked, and then place it in the Ziploc bag. I use a permanent marker and then I put on there the date that I’ve prepared it and what’s inside. Chicken tortilla casserole, Chinese beef with broccoli. Then I make a little note how to heat or reheat it. So if I’ve already prepared it, it’s just going to be reheating it in the microwave, stove top, or in a sauce pan on your grill.
If you do those, then it’s not like finding mystery meat or wondering when you actually put it together. Was it this Halloween I made this or was it last Thanksgiving? Because the food, although it’ll be edible, once it’s frozen, it can get freezer burn, so it may not taste very good. You may have to cut some off. But it is still edible. But you’ll see in the book that I show how long you can safely keep things in the fridge and freezer and still have them taste good. A lot of times, you have like 3-6 months. But I would …
Mike Wendland: We’re talking about basically going out on a trip and eating and consuming what we’re cooking on the [crosstalk 00:10:16] …
Chef MJ Curry: Right.
Mike Wendland: Well, that isn’t going to be a factor for people that are [inaudible 00:10:20]. I suppose the other thing about those smaller bags is they take up less room. Everything’s there, you don’t have all these different ingredients and meat packaging and all that stuff, because it’s all in one bag, correct?
Chef MJ Curry: Right. You can have it in one bag or you can put a bag inside of a bag. But some of the things you take along may actually be in your freezer. You may have prepared it three months ago, and you’re going to rotate that out of your freezer at home and put it in your RV for this trip. So that’s a good thing to do. But I would say that I find that to be very helpful.
The way that you condense space is once you have the portion that you’re going to eat … if there’s one of you, put it in a quart size Ziploc bag. If there’s two of you, you may put it in a quart or a gallon size if you’re going to use it for two meals in a row or something like that. You burp out the air so that it will compress as much as possible. You can do that by putting … you fill the food partially into the bag for the portion that you’re using, and then you rest the part without the food above the counter line and then pull the bag down so you’re burping all the air out at one time. Some people use a straw to suck the air out, but I use the counter method. It works really good for me. Then I put it in the freezer before we go at home and store it flat. Then I can stack like at least four, five of those meals all at once. They’re ready to go or finish on the trip.
Mike Wendland: Alright. How we doing with our number of our tips? How many we hit?
Chef MJ Curry: Number five. Only bring what you need for that trip. [crosstalk 00:12:16] …
Mike Wendland: [crosstalk 00:12:18] everything in the RV, right?
Chef MJ Curry: Everything, yes. So I have an Instapot, and if I’m going to be doing mostly Instapot meals, I want something fresh and flavorful that I prepare at the campsite. Maybe I will bring my Instapot and a sauce pan and some tongs and a zester or things like that, a wooden spoon. But you don’t really need to bring your sous-vide and your air-fryer and a lot of excess things that you’re not going to use for that trip. So plan out your space wisely for how your menu plan is flowing.
Mike Wendland: Talk about that Instapot for a moment. I know you have a section in the book right there about the Instapot as well as a convection oven. We did a video about the convection oven some time ago, remember that? People [crosstalk 00:13:14] never used it for some reason. I’ve had many people say they appreciated that. Now the Instapot seems to have just taken off and it’s so [inaudible 00:13:24]. Talk a little bit about that and why that’s such a gift for RVers as they’re traveling.
Chef MJ Curry: Yes, I love the Instapot so much that I have two. I have a three quart that I use in the RV, it’s really easy to store. It fixed enough food for the two of us while we’re on a trip and enough for some leftovers also. So it really does hold quite a bit actually. Then I use a six quart at home so I can make larger portions and freeze larger portions for upcoming events and things like that. But they are really, I think, wonderful. They come in different styles. They go up to a 9 in 1 now. Mine’s a 6 in 1. That has different features, so you can sauté in them so you’re not using a sauté pan on a stove top. You can sauté right in here and then you can pressure cook, which is going to infuse the dish with enough flavor to really be enjoyable. It would typically take you five to seven hours to get that much flavor infused if you’re just doing a stove top method, but the pressure cooking really seals in the flavor and the juices. So I love it. It’s very simple to do. [crosstalk 00:14:58]
Mike Wendland: It’s also a slow cooker, right?
Chef MJ Curry: Pardon me?
Mike Wendland: It’s also a slow cooker as well.
Chef MJ Curry: It’s a slow cooker, it’s a pressure cooker, and then it has different dials and things that you can use for rice and porridge and soup and stews. But most of those you can override by going to the manual mode. As long you know the time that it’s going to take the prepare the food, you can use the manual mode and then use your minutes up and down to adjust for that. So I believe I have six or more recipes in the cookbook that I made in the three quart and the six quart. I’ve been pleased with all of them.
Mike Wendland: Now one last question about the Instapot. Do you ever have it cooking while you’re driving, while you’re en route to some place? Will that work that way? I know some people have done with slow cookers.
Chef MJ Curry: I haven’t. I haven’t had the need for that. Typically, I’ll either prepare it in advance and put it in a Ziploc, or I’ll wait ’til we get to the campsite and then plugged in and then I cook it at that time. It only takes … like risotto. Risotto is so yummy [inaudible 00:16:19]. It used to take 30 minutes. Stir, add a little more broth, add a little more wine, stir, stir, stir. Here, it takes seven minutes total. So you really don’t need to do it while you’re on the road. Do it while you’re spouse is setting the table.
Mike Wendland: I want to give everybody a heads up and a Save the Date now, because I don’t think we’ve really announced this officially yet, but one of our Roadtreking gatherings this year is going to be with MJ, Chef MJ, Mary Jane, is going to host us in May in Pismo, California. I think it’s May 2nd through the 6th. We are going to have a ball, because you’re going to actually teach us how to cook and share some of your recipes that we can actually taste. Talk a little bit about that Thursday through Monday gathering that we’re planning.
Chef MJ Curry: Right. I’m really looking forward to it. You know, it’s a beautiful part of California, the central coast. If you like wine and things like that, not only does it have a beautiful coast, but there are many lovely wineries around there, and Hearst Castle, the sea lions. It’s really spectacular. We go there every few months, actually. But that weekend holds is Cinco de Mayo, which we’ll be celebrating, and I’ll be doing a class on a Mexican themed dish that goes along with that idea and venue and things like that. And the Kentucky Derby comes at the same time that we’re out there, and so we’ll be having some fun with foods that are typical for Kentucky Derby and maybe some little games and other fun things involved with that. So I’ll have a cooking demo and also a cooking class. People can feel free to ask me anything while we’re doing the class, after the class, and in follow up. But I think it’ll be a ball, and get people comfortable with some different techniques.
Mike Wendland: It will be, indeed, a ball. We will have signup information. We’ll put it on the blog, and we’ll of course share it all over Facebook. I think the Heimer folks who are going to be our corporate sponsors on that gathering, they’ll also be promoting it. But you know, I think right here is a good place to let everybody know that that is coming, and you maybe want to plan your travel. That’s May 2nd to the 6th in Pismo, California. Sign up. We’ll be coming up pretty quick. As soon as that’s available, we’ll link it.
Well Chef MJ, you have, as always, helped us out a whole bunch. We’ll put a link to your book, and we urge people to visit the RV Travel blog roadtreking.com. They can, every week, see your awesome recipes. Please say hi to your husband, Jeff. If we don’t see you before May, Merry Christmas to you. We’re looking forward to sampling all these awesome, awesome recipes in your book, Small Kitchen Big Flavors! Mary Jane, thanks for being our guest.
Chef MJ Curry: Thank you.
You can read all of Chef MJ’s RV Recipes on the RV Lifestyle blog at https://rvlifestyle.com/category/guest-bloggers/rv-recipes/
Her cookbook, Small Kitchen Big Flavors is available at http://smallkitchenbigflavorsblog.wordpress.com
The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country
OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT
By Tom and Patti Burkett
We were looking forward to a stop in Lindsborg, Kansas. Many of Tom’s ancestors are Swedish, and we maintain a number of Swedish traditions, especially around holidays. There are a number of Scandinavian heritage towns in the Midwest, and this is one of the most enthusiastic. It was clear from the moment we turned the corner on Main Street that something was happening.
The sidewalks were crowded, businesses had storefront displays, and two things that looked like walking sandwiches were strutting down the street. I typed into Google search – Lindsborg, events, and today’s date. It came back with one word in Swedish. “Oh my gosh,” said Tom when I showed it to him, “I had no idea, It’s Vaffeldagen!”
Waffle Day is a particularly Swedish tradition. The story goes that it began because the name sounds very much like Vårfrudagen, a religious holiday we in the USA call Annunciation Day. Swedes love to celebrate, for any reason, and who could pass up a hot waffle in the waning days of winter? The costumed ambassadors we saw were. of course, waffles, not sandwiches. They wandered up and down through the crowds handing out coupons and posing for pictures. Every shop in town had some waffle themed promotion.
The town’s several restaurants each offered up a take on the classic waffle, and even the bar was offering waffle shots. We passed a man in a horned Viking helmet and carrying a wicked looking axe. His t-shirt read “That which doesn’t kill me had better run!” A corner table was offering free coffee and cookies. As we sat and watched and sipped, I remembered Tom’s grandmother saying, “It takes a lot less water than you think to make a good cup of coffee.” Clearly, the makers of this brew followed that advice.
Whether or not you’re fortunate enough to be in Lindsborg on March 25, there’s still plenty to see here. the Hemslojd shop sells traditional Swedish decor. You can have your name and greeting hand painted on a Dalarna horse to decorate your front porch. Pick up some tomtens to bring good luck to your RV. Watch artisans carving and painting. Walk the Valkommen Trail and learn about the town’s early settlement by families from the old country.
Don’t miss the Birger Sandzen Gallery. This prolific artist came from Sweden in 1894 to serve on the faculty at Bethany College, where he taught until 1946. Rest a while in the Bethany Lutheran Church, eat Swedish meatballs at the 3 Crowns Restaurant, and take selfies with the many uniquely painted Dalarna horses scattered throughout out the town.
Before you leave, drive a few miles out of town to Coronado Heights. Legend has it that this hill, with breathtaking views across the Kansas prairie, is where the Spanish explorer gave up his search for the seven cities of gold and turned back to Mexico. Spanish chain mail has been found in nearby archaeological digs. The hill is capped with a fort-like shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, and features several nice hiking trails.
Lindsborg is only one of many small towns in the Plains and upper Midwest that celebrate a particular ethnic heritage. Protivin, Iowa was settled by Czech immigrants. Stoughton, Wisconsin is still home to many Norwegian families. Greeley, Nebraska promotes its Irish history. Each of these is a doorway into a world of food, history, and culture that makes it unique and worth a visitor’s time and attention. Come explore Europe in the heartland of the United States. We’ll share our waffles if you show up at just the right time, out here off the beaten path.
Off the Beaten Path is brought to you by Harvest Hosts http://rvlifestyle.com/harvesthosts
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