The RV Lifestyle and camping looks different than it does before the lockdown but on this episode of the RV Podcast we have lots of news about the RV Lifestyle resuming.
People are out and about in their RVs, and we’re going to report on the RV Podcast about what’s open for camping, what’s not and how RVers are finally setting out once again after a very active Memorial Day weekend that saw many campers getting out there for the first time in months.
We’ll have the latest…plus RV tips, an off the beaten path trip idea and an in-depth look at Care Camps, one of the most inspirational places on earth and one that shares the joy and excitement of camping with those who need it the most.
All that and much, much more in this, episode 296 of the RV Podcast. Click the player below to listen.
Show Notes for Episode #296 May 27, 2020 of The RV Podcast:
RV PODCAST NEWS OF THE WEEK
Rocky Mountain National Park seeking approval to limit visitors to those who reserve a time
Let's start with what potentially may be one of the most controversial changes to the way we visit National Parks that have ever been considered. Rocky Mountain National Park has proposed having all park visitors sign up in advance for a time to enter the park in a move to promote social distancing. If approved, the advanced sign up is estimated to reduce visitors by 40 percent, and hopefully eliminate confusion visitors may feel wondering if they will get in on a particular day or not. This will likely be tried by other National Parks as they almost all are exploring different ways to limit the number of daily visitors. We predict this will be approved, by the National Parks Service and will most likely go into effect over the summer.
Experts rank COVID-19 infection risk by activities, including camping
As states begin to open up from COVID-19 restrictions (some more quickly than others), we're faced with a new list of considerations. Is it safe to swim? Hike on a busy trail? And what about camping? We found a report by NPR this weekend that runs these questions by experts and we're pleased to report that the risk of catching COVID-19 from a camping trip is low. (click here to see the details.)
Border closure between Canada and the USA extended, hints of significant changes should it reopen this travel season
If you are hoping to cross the Canada/ USA border for a camping trip – or a road trip to Alaska – anytime in the immediate future, we have some bad news. The ban on non-essential travel between the two nations was extended to June 21 last week. And we’re also hearing from several sources that if the border does open for nonessential travel in late June, there might be new requirements for all who enter Canada – such as quarantines for some travelers. This is being watched closely by US RVers who want to visit places like the Canadian Rockies or pass through Canada on the way north to Alaska. And of course, many Canadians plan RV visits to the US. There is a tremendous amount of confusion about this right now and lots of pressure on the two governments to open up. We’ll keep you informed.
More campgrounds continue to open, but check before you go
As we noted, lots of RVers went camping this past weekend. Several stories out over the weekend told of campgrounds with closed showers, campsites being filled with every other site left open. Mist private campgrounds were open, some state parks were only open to in-state residents and some state parks, like Michigan, remain totally closed. But the good news is that in most places, you could find open places to camp and more are opening u each day. As always, if you are heading out, we can't stress enough, check ahead to see what is open. Every state is different and Campendium is keeping daily updates you can access by clicking here.
Bison at Yellowstone National Park charges, injures woman who got too close
We've been sharing in this podcast several recent reports about wildlife in many many parts of the country and the national parks getting used to having the parks all to themselves. Officials worried that the animals would get a bit overwhelmed once tourists returned. It happened. On the second day after partially reopening last week, Yellowstone National Park reported a woman injured by a bison after she got too close. The animal knocked the woman to the ground and slightly injured her, but she declined medical treatment. A few years back we interviewed a ranger about the Yellowstone Pledge. It is worth taking a look to review. (click here)
Additional RV Podcast stories this week:
Here were lots of other stories about outdoor activities, hiking and camping being reopened including:
- Forty people charged with fishing, hiking in New Mexico park
- Wolves attack couple's dogs on camping trip in British Columbia
- Hiking trail shut down in California after too many show up, avoid social distancing
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RV PODCAST LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
From Mark and Lauri – We are looking at a new RV that has a diesel engine. We've never had diesel before and we’re told we need to use DEF fluid… What is it, how much does it cost and how often do we have to add it? It sounds like a hassle to us.
Do you have a question you’d like us to answer or a comment you'd like to share on the things we’re discussing on the RV Podcast? If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the RV 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 rvlifestyle.com and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.
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RV PODCAST INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
One of the most inspiring charities out there is called Care Camps. First started by KOA and now a full-fledged nonprofit supported by the RV Industry, many other campgrounds, and every day RVers like you and me, Care Camps gives a week-long camping experience to children with cancer.
You need to know about Care camps.
And so in our RV podcast interview of the week, we’re going to take a few minutes to learn about how our help is especially needed now, in these post COVID-19 days when social distancing and protecting these young and vulnerable kids is presenting some really significant challenges.
But the Care Camps kids have been looking forward to camp all year long. They’re counting on us as the Care Camps director of development explains in this week’s RV Podcast Interview of the Week:
Here’s a transcript of the RV Podcast interview:
RV Podcast: To find out more about Care Camps, no one better than my friend, Jennifer Mercer, who joins us on the phone right now. Hi, Jennifer.
Jennifer Mercer: Well, hello, Mike. How's it going there in Florida today?
RV Podcast: Well, we're anxious to get out traveling, but like most of the world, it's slowly opening up. I have been looking for a good opportunity to tell my RV Podcast listeners all about Care Camps ever since we got together back in Arizona in, I think it was February, early February.
Jennifer Mercer: Yeah.
RV Podcast: So now is as good a time as ever, especially with all of the confusion hurled our way by COVID-19 and the pandemic. But for my listeners who are not familiar, why don't you give us an overview of what KOA Care Camps are, how it came about, and then let's talk about how COVID-19 is affecting the Care Camps this year. So take it away. Tell the RV Podcast about Care Camps.
Jennifer Mercer: All right. Well, as for what Care Camps is, Care Camps is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to help ensure that children with cancer and their families have the chance to attend special oncology camps. And at these camps, they get to experience the healing nature of the outdoors, the way we all do in the RVing industry. And they find joy that comes from spending times with building friendships, with having fun with friends and all the normal stuff that normal kids get to enjoy that are oftentimes changed in the face of crisis like cancer. So thanks to-
RV Podcast: How does a typical camp work, and how many are there around the country?
Jennifer Mercer: Well, I'd love to say there is no typical camp, because each one is unique and different. Care Camps funds 135 different special oncology camps all over the United States and Canada. The one thing they have in common tends to be that one of their main functions tends to be a kind of a typical summer camp experience that most of us would recognize.
If we didn't get to experience it ourselves, we would recognize the summer camp, camping around a big lake and going hiking and zip-lining and doing all these things that kids do just to have fun together. The only difference is that these are medically supervised oncology camps.
Kids with cancer have some special medical needs, and so each of these camps is equipped medically as well as with professionally trained counseling staff to handle the unique needs of these kids. And then many of the camps now are also doing some special weeks specifically for siblings of kids with cancer, because they're kind of the invisible casualty of this whole thing.
The siblings sometimes become invisible overnight the day that their brother or sister gets diagnosed with cancer, all of the attention of course goes to the child that's sick. And so with sibling, I think there's a lot of feelings that come up with that. Like I said, they kind of become invisible. So some of the camps have specially tailored weeks for the siblings, and some of them wrap the siblings right in with the kids with cancer and allow the siblings to have a week together to just enjoy that bonding and that relationship, which is pretty cool.
RV Podcast: Talk to our RV Podcast audience about how it came about. Obviously, with the name KOA Care Camps, it certainly tells us about probably the main name behind it, which is Kampgrounds of America. This is one of the reasons Jennifer and I so like KOA, is because this really stemmed from a lot of their initiatives. Help everybody to understand. This isn't a branded thing for KOA, this is the charity, this is how they want to help, but we want to also honor them for that too.
Jennifer Mercer: Right, and that's the most amazing thing I think about this entire thing. KOA campground owners, the Owners Association started this charity. It's 36 years ago this year they founded the charity, and when they founded the charity, their goal was to bring some hope, healing to these kids who had cancer in their family.
And so they recognized pretty quickly that they weren't in the business. They don't know how to run oncology camps, but they did know how to do some fundraisers to raise money, to help support them. So they started basically with essentially a fundraising arm for all these camps, and so KOAs around the nation, and now other campgrounds that are not KOAs have even joined on board, al; do fundraisers to help support Care Camp.
KOA was the first one to say, this has grown beyond KOA. So now it's just called Care Camp when it's outside of the KOA system. So we just call it Care Camp, and we're here to help make sure that every child with cancer that wants a chance to attend of the special oncology camps has the chance to do that free of charge for their family. They don't have to worry about the finances.
RV Podcast: When you talk about a traditional camp experience, hiking and learning stuff and camp songs and campfires and hanging out together, all that happens at these camps, just like any other kids' camps, except the difference here is that these kids are a special group having some special needs of care, and that is provided. These are regular camps by the way, when a Care Camp isn't on, as I understand, most of these campgrounds are used for other kids' camps and stuff. So they're very experienced with that.
Jennifer Mercer: Absolutely. Yeah, most of our camps rent their campgrounds and whether it's a girl scout camp or a boy scout camp or a [inaudible 00:05:59] camp or whatever, they're usually owned by someone else and our Care Camp rents that for a week or two or three. We are lucky enough that some of our camps actually have their own campgrounds, which is amazing, and they're able to carry on programming throughout the entire summer, which is pretty awesome.
RV Podcast: Now, everything was moving along, it was another great year for Care Camps, everything was looking just terrific, 135 scheduled, and then this thing called COVID-19 struck. How has that affected the plans and how are you guys moving positions and trying to continue to make sure that this wonderful charity is not forgotten?
Jennifer Mercer: Well, Mike, it's a wonderful question. How has this affected the Care Camps across the nation? First of all, the camps are still taking place. It might just look a little different than normal. That's the most important thing, is these kids, they have everything in their life canceled on them, right? All of their life kind of comes to a standstill with this diagnosis.
And so the camp directors around the nation, there was one thing they all knew, and that was we can't cancel their camp. So we have to figure out how to make this look a little different to make sure that we're keeping them safe, because many of these kids are very familiar with social distancing and all of the protocols we're now following.
This has been their life for a while, so they're used to that. So now camps, may be virtual camp, there's got to be a lot of virtual camp taking place where they have cabin chats on Zoom, five or six kids getting to chat and talk about stuff with their one of their professional counselors, that's on staff to help bring the kids closer together so that those relationship forming activities can still take place.
They're also doing things like camp in a box, where they're actually sending big boxes to the kids and each box contains multiple other packages and they get to open one every day and have different things to do each day of the week, which is another way to keep the kids engaged.
Some of the camps are actually, the ones that are lucky enough to own their campgrounds, are actually renting the cabins free of charge to these families of the cancer kids. The families get to use the cabin for a few days as a family for free and have a little bit of family bonding time and kind of a free little vacation. That's another way that they're taking advantage of this time to do something special for these families.
So there's definitely a lot of changes that are happening rapidly, but the camp directors are working so closely together to try and come up with best practices and protocols. I don't think they've ever worked this closely together before, but their goal is really just to do everything they can to still give these kids a great experience in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic and everything that that means for all of us.
RV Podcast: There are campgrounds though that are open and states are reopening. Will there be any actual physical camps where the kids come and physically spend a week there?
Jennifer Mercer: We're hoping so, but these kids, traditional KOA campgrounds are open, but those mean that people are all naturally socially distanced in their RVs or campsites. When you go to a traditional summer camp, you stay in a cabin, and so there are lots of kids together in a cabin. Obviously, with current protocols in place, that isn't feasible for kids that are already immunocompromised. So the difference between camping in an RV and camping in large cabins with lots of kids together means even if regular camping activities have resumed, these kids are at greater risk. And therefore we have to be a little bit more careful.
RV Podcast: Now, for a lot of RVers there's been a lot of disappointment this year about, oh, I can't go out camping, I can't do this because of this state being closed. Now that's opening up a little, but it's still, RVers understand that disappointment. It's got to be even worse for these kids, who know, they're pretty smart kids, they know that they may not have next year or the year after, or the year after, when things get back to whatever normal is.
How can our audience, how can we help? How can we make a difference in these kids' lives this year? What can we do to help? Now, it's easy. Money's a big help for everything, but I suspect there's more than that, that we can do. Give us some pointers, Jennifer, about how we can get involved and help Care Camps.
Jennifer Mercer: Well, you're right. These kids, I think all of us look forward to our family vacations. We look forward to that downtime and that time just to heal and renew. These kids need that more than anyone. And so this has been a spring filled with a lot of tears, but also a lot of joy when people come up with ideas and ways that they can help. Right now, the number one need is financial, because these camps still have staff and all of the different activities that they're doing still take financial contributions in order to operate. The camp in a box, obviously, if you've ever sent the large box, you know it's quite expensive, and they're trying to send 300 of these things out. So financial is the number one way.
Some of the camps may need volunteers and things like that at the different camps. And if you go to our website, you can actually look on our, we have a map that shows where all the different camps are and you're welcome to contact the camp directly and ask them if they need any volunteers because they might need help packing boxes. They might need help moderating cabin chats and doing things like that. So there are always lots of ways to get involved and help if you're interested.
RV Podcast: I'll put a link in the show notes description below, in the podcast show notes, but why don't you give that right now for people who are listening and they don't want to bother to go look it up, give that website.
Jennifer Mercer: Sure. It's just carecamps.org. If you just type in carecamps.org, it'll pull it right up and you'll get to see all the information. And you can read our annual report, you can see we're a charity that spends our money very wisely. So we try and make sure that every single dollar that's donated counts for the maximum. Charity Navigator, our criteria, we would meet the four-star criteria for Charity Navigator, which is their top rating. So for those that are concerned about making sure that the money goes to a charity that will spend it wisely, that helps.
RV Podcast: We were so looking forward to it, Jennifer and I were planning on visiting and doing a couple of videos, and maybe we still can do that yet this summer. We will give it a try, but for our audience-
Jennifer Mercer: We sure hope.
RV Podcast: Yeah. Fortunately, we know, well, we think we know, nobody knows anything, but we hope we have next year that we can do it, if we can't, but that's in our plans. I just wanted my audience to get a sense of the love, the joy of helping these kids and give them a chance to be a part of that. I mean, this is such a great use of whatever resources God has given all of us to help make a difference in lives. And these kids that you might put the nail in this for us by telling everybody what this means to these kids. You've seen all the testimonials, you've heard from the kids, but for my audience who maybe have never heard of it before, what does this mean to the kids? What do they say? What kind of feedback do you get?
Jennifer Mercer: Mike, this is their everything. For them, this is the one thing that they look forward to the entire year. It's the one place where they feel like they fit in with other kids. They understand what each other are going through. Most of these kids, when they go to school, if they're able to go to school, they're so different than all their classmates, and their classmates don't know how to identify and connect with them. Their friends pull away because they don't know what to say. It's a tough time for these kids. They lose a lot of their friendships that were very dear to them. So when they go camping, the camp is a connection, the camp is healing, it's what they look forward to. It gets them through the entire year, and those relationships that they form with other kids, which we're still working hard to make sure happen this year, those relationships are what helped them get through the hard times that come with a diagnosis like cancer.
RV Podcast: I think that the description that has resonated most with me is one of the kids who said, “Care Camp lets me be a kid. I'm not a patient, I'm a kid.” And these kids need that. Well, I don't have to say anymore, because I know our audience, we have tugged at their heartstrings a little bit. We hope to tell our audience a whole lot more about Care Camps over the years, this year, next year from now on, and we just want to urge them to just go to that site. We don't have to sell anything. Just go to carecamps.org and listen to the stories.
Jennifer Mercer, I know that you have worked hard on this. Your whole team has worked hard because you are not going to let these kids go this summer without having that experience.
Jennifer Mercer: No.
RV Podcast: So hats off to you.
Jennifer Mercer: Well, thank you so much, Mike. And we appreciate you spreading the word about what Care Camp is all about.
RV Podcast: Well, we are going to keep doing that, so carecamps.org, and Jennifer Mercer has been our guest. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for spending some time with us.
Jennifer Mercer: Thank you so much, Mike.
The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country
RV PODCAST OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT
By Tom and Patti Burkett
One of the things we enjoy most when traveling is seeing the unusual and surprising things people choose to put in their yards. Just a few miles from our house is a fiberglass hippo. For many years it sat in front of a 50s style ranch house just off Ohio 161, visible as we passed by on our way to the city.
Then, two years ago, this little highway was widened into a four-lane, and the addition of an offramp mean the destruction of the house in question and the disappearance of the hippo, long a roadside landmark for us.
Just last week we were driving by and, on a whim, I called the Ohio Dept of transportation office nearby and asked if they knew what had happened to our rather misshapen but fanciful friend. “The people from the house took it,” I was told by the friendly woman who answered the phone. “Let me double-check and I’ll call you back.” A few minutes later, true to her word, she reported that the family had sold it to some folks who live up the road, but that no one had seen it since.
On our way back we pulled off at the exit and drove up the road a bit and, sure enough, there it was, now newly situated in the front yard of another house.
Suppose you’d like to grace your front yard with an amazing and memorable piece of artwork. Where does yard art come from anyway? We found at least one answer to that in the crossroads town of Pierson, Florida among the vast offerings of the Barberville Yard Art Emporium.
Carlos Pendola, the shop’s owner, came to the USA from Argentina more than forty years ago and, for most of that time, was in the automobile business. Now he creates and collects yard art from around the world to please the customers that flock to his business from all over the country.
He loves surprising shoppers with something new, and relishes his regular trips to Mexico and other locations to source colorful and interesting wares.
Maybe you’d like a classic chain-saw carved bear. No? How about a ten-foot pink elephant? Or maybe a giant multicolored rooster? Whether it’s a life-sized cowboy on his bronco or a much more understated three-tier fountain, you can find it here. And it’s not just giant statuary.
There are lovely and ornate tables, chairs, and stands. Teak and cypress figure prominently in the furniture offerings, as does wrought iron. There are thousands of pieces of brightly colored Talavera pottery, ranging from four-foot urns to number plaques that can be used to identify your house.
If you need anything, anything at all, to furnish your patio or lawn or fishing cabin, you’ll find it here. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are for sale too, along with locally made jams, jellies, vinegars, sauces, and baked goods.
And, as so often happens, we made a good connection while wandering around the sale barns. Enjoying a sit on a very comfortable teak bench, we were approached by another shopper. “I hope you don’t have your heart set on that one, “ he said, “because I just bought it.”
We got into conversation, and it turns out he was a retired longtime employee of the Florida parks system.
When we asked if he had any good tips for us, he told us to drive a few miles down the road to Blue Springs State Park where the manatees were on full display. “There’ll be a line, but don’t let it scare you off. It moves pretty fast.”
Sure enough, the line was long, but we waited only about twenty minutes before being admitted. We spent the rest of the afternoon picnicking and enjoying the dozens of manatees swimming almost in arms reach along the boardwalk.
You certainly could find a special something, just the right size for personalizing your campsite, here in Pierson, but you might just want to bring a trailer because that perfect one-of-a-kind eye-popping roadside wonder you’ve been looking for to put on the lawn of your sticks and bricks residence could well be waiting for you out here off the beaten path.
That's it for this edition of the RV Podcast. New episodes are released every Wednesday.
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