Imagine that you are about to retire. In the driveway, is a brand-new RV. Your dream machine. The Florida sun is shining, and life looks good…until you look out over the Gulf of Mexico to see a hurricane named Michael barreling down towards you. That’s what happened to a couple we met this week, who shared their harrowing story of what happens when a hurricane hits …how you – and your RV – need to be prepared, from having enough RV insurance, food and off-grid battery power in the RV. You will not want to miss the interview of the week, coming up in a bit.
We also have lots of RV news this week, answer your RV Lifestyle questions about alternate energy for the RV and four-season RVs ready for cold weather camping and we have a great off-the-beaten path report from our friends the Burketts.
But first, my lifelong traveling companion and my bride…Jennifer.
Show Notes for Episode #226 Jan. 23, 2019 of The RV Podcast
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
We've been attending the annual Florida RV Supershow for the past four days and it's good to be sitting! We put on a lot of miles shooting video on the new models and RV Lifestyle accessories we've seen down here.
It seems like we walked pretty much every inch of the 26 -acre display area – several times – each day! There was so much to see with more than 1,500 RVs on display and 400 vendors showing off their RV products and services.
Look for a full video on all the cool stuff this Thursday on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel at https://youtube.com/rvlifestyle And please, if you have not done so, subscribe to our channel there so you can be notified of new videos as we publish them.
We also met dozens and dozens of fans and followers. It was truly humbling to shake so many hands and get so many hugs. We leave the show on an emotional high from all the encouragement and kind words. Thank you to all for taking the time to introduce yourself to us! And we’re off traveling again. By popular demand. We asked you on a recent YouTube live stream what kind of stories you’d like us to focus on besides our regular travel and trip reports and there was an overwhelming response to do more RV reviews and factory tours. So that’s what we plan to do over the next few weeks, visit various RV factories and suppliers and do a video report on how they build RVs, what new gadgets and innovations they have, who are the people building today’s RVs and what are the exciting things they are seeing for the future. So we’re off tomorrow to shoot our first one this week. We have another scheduled next week and you’ll be seeing them all soon on our YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel – https://youtbe.com/rvlifestyle
We should note there was a definite downer part to this past weekend. Several very disturbing stories broke about a shakeup and serious allegations of financial irregularities surrounding the Erwin Hymer Group of North America, the parent corporation that owns Roadtrek Motorhomes.
Many of you know that Jennifer and I have been on-the-road ambassadors for Roadtrek and the company has been one of our sponsors. We know many of the people who work there and our hearts go out to them in this time of uncertainty. Most of the stories we've seen come from unnamed sources and, as we write this newsletter, the company has not issued any comments at all.
I’ve written all I know on the RV Lifestyle blog and if you need a background on it… check there.
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Several unique Florida state parks still closed five months after Hurricane Michael hit
An interesting story ran last week out of Florida, highlighting the lingering damage Hurricane Michael did to Florida's state parks with several remaining closed – some five months after the Category 4 hurricane hit. Some of the damage includes the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park's peninsula turning into an island, with a 20 foot deep ocean separating what was once one long strip of land. Another park greatly damaged was Florida Caverns State Park, which was the only Florida state park to offer cave tours. Jennifer and I visited those caves (see here to read more) and reading this story made me think about how suddenly a unique place can change. To read the full Florida state parks article, click here. And be sure to stay tuned to our interview about what it’s like when a hurricane hits your RV.
Experts predict it will take decades for some national parks to recover from damage inflicted during government shutdown
The partial federal government shutdown is continuing to affect our national parks, with reports this week saying some of the parks will need DECADES to recover from the damage done to them by visitors. Most parks are partially opened, with a skeletal staff. While in many places communities are chipping in to pick up trash and care for the parks, in other areas people are taking advantage of the situation to go off road, and do other illegal things. (Click here to read more). To read other stories on this, click here or here.
National Parks employee furloughed by government shut down, producing one video per day showcasing amazing national parks
Speaking of national parks, last week I came upon a gem for all who love history and American national parks. During the partial government shutdown, a furloughed National Park Service employee is working to create one video per day featuring a national park. The videos are beautiful with stunning images, history and other information that makes each spot unique. The first one was on Big Bend National Park, a spot Jen and I hope to visit this spring, and fondly remember reading a story for our blog that Jim Phipps wrote about his experience visiting. (click here.). To see a story on the daily videos click here or go straight to the YouTube site here.
Winnebago unveils RV options to better accommodate those in wheelchairs
Winnebago introduced RVs that are wheelchair accessible at the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa last weekend. We’ve had lots of questions about such features ver the year and we applaud Winnebago for taking this step! The RVs include several options such as a wheelchair lift into the RV that can handle up to 800 pounds, a roll-in shower with assist bar, wider hallways, a raised toilet with assist bars and more. To learn more click here
Michigan celebrating 100 years of state parks in 2019
Michigan state parks are celebrating their 100 year birthday this year with several special activities, including asking visitors to share a memory. Michigan has 103 state parks visited by about 28 million people in a typical year. Mackinac Island State Park was the nation's second national park, after Yellowstone, before the federal government gave it to the state when it became Michigan's first state park. (see here). To learn more about Michigan's state park centennial celebration, click here. Or head over to the website Trekers.org, run by our friends Ari and Jessi Adler, who plan to visit and report on each one of Michigan’s 103 state parks over the next year.
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
LISTENER RV QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
A listener asks about RVs advertised as four season and asks what does that mean for winter camping
If you do an online search for the term “Four Season RV”, the result will be a lot of truck campers and motorhomes or trailers that can withstand the cold. Beware! Not all of them are what the manufacturer implies. Sometimes the only difference between a normal RV and a “Four Season RV” is the weight surplus and the high price.
You won’t find any industry-wide criteria in regards to materials or design that designate an RV as four season worthy
But in general, to be a real four season RV it would need better sidewalls & roofs, ceiling insulation, and enclosed and insulated holding tanks.
Lance truck campers are highly rated as four season. Lance features an advanced ducting system for optimal heat distribution. Lance spends a lot of time engineering the most efficient ducting routes so your camper does not have hot or cold spots, resulting in even temperature throughout. The holding tanks are included in this this system, which is unique to Lance products.
Northwood’s Arctic Fox line of travel trailers and fifth wheels are said to be four season friendly.
Keystone has a line of four season fifth wheels. To ensure that you stay warm even in the face of a cold winter, they put a test model fifth wheel in an extreme weather chamber, set the thermostat inside the RV to 74 degrees, and then dropped the ambient temperature around the fifth wheel to 0 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time. The idea was to simulate an “extreme cold weather camping trip”. Although the outside temperature dropped below zero, the temperature inside the RV stayed at a comfortable 70+ degrees, and all of the holding tanks, dump valves and water lines remained completely operational. The Four Seasons Living Package includes an insulated and enclosed underbelly, R-21 insulation in the floor, insulated double layer fiberglass sidewalls, 12V electric tank heaters, insulated slide-outs, radiant technology insulated roof, heated pass-through storage and more.
In motorhomes, it’s much trickier. Winnebago advertises that its 4 x 4 Revel Class B does not need to be winterized as long as the diesel heater is in use.
Coachmen’s new Galleria Li3 Class B has done a lot to improve winter camping with extra insulation and moving the lithium batteries and the 30 gallon fresh water tanks from under chassis location, most Class B makers put them to the inside rear behind and under the sofa. They also have what they call the Polar Package Plus that puts heat pads on the fresh and grey tanks and they coil heat wrap around the water lines which would let you use the fresh and grey water as in the summer. They’ve tested this down to as low as 5 degrees but they say you should be using it not much lower than 10 degrees.
A listener asks about using wind generators in an RV
When I first me my friend Campskunk, a full time RVer, he was carting around a wind generator that he used to help top off his AGM coach batteries in an old Chevvy van Class B. There is, in fact, a whole line of wind generators for RVs offered by a company called eRV Solar – https://www.ervsolar.com/rv-wind-generators
They start in price at just under $900 and go up to nearly $5,000, depending on size and output.
Amazon has a 12 volt, 400 watt wind turbine for under $600 – https://amzn.to/2sHGZXY Need to mount it on a pole or small telescoping tower about 30 feet off the ground. That tower needs guy wires. And it costs another $300 or so more. A lot of work.
The smaller ones you could carry around in an RV would be good for topping off batteries in remote location and for maximum effectiveness should probably best be part of a hybrid system that also uses solar.
My take is they are big and cumbersome, something that would have to be taken out, set up and then, when you move, broken down and stored away. And what if there isn’t much wind?
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
As we strolled around the Tampa RV Supershow last week, we met lots of people. But one couple we met had quite a story to tell.
They are Diane and Tom Kimble from Panama City FL and they are just about to retire. For that retirement, they bought a brand new Airstream Interstate Class B. In October, while Tom was away on a business trip, it was parked in the driveway of Diane’s mom.
That’s when Hurricane Michael hit. The house and the RV, was hit head on. They had such a compelling story, that we took them aside and asked them to share it with us all. There are some lessons to learn here, not only about hurricanes, but advice that any RVer should heed about being ready for a disaster.
Meet Diane and Tom Kimble
Here’s a full transcript of the interview:
Diane Kimble: Hurricane Michael. Well, it was very interesting and very devastating. We were in the process of retiring, and I was down in Panama City during Hurricane Michael. Tom was still up in northern Virginia. He had not retired yet. Hurricane Michael came in while I was there visiting my mother, and our van just happened to be sitting in her driveway in front of the house.
Diane Kimble: Well, I could stand in the foyer and I could see the van moving down the driveway. Thank goodness the van was in the position that I'd put it in. It was a very good position, otherwise it probably would have been in the lake.
Mike Wendland: How much damage was done?
Diane Kimble: Actually, we did fare very well with the damage. We had a little bit of body damage that was done on the van and the wind lifted the air conditoner on the van. Looks like the awning also.
Tom Kimble: And our van fan flew off as well. But we're getting that fixed up there and ready to go.
Jen Wendland: Tell us about being with your mom and how you stayed safe in your moms house.
Diane Kimble: We hunkered down in a safe room in her closet until the roof lifted off of the house and slammed back down. And then we moved from her closet over into her bathroom. And I told my mother, I cleared out her little linen closet and I said when I tell you to jump in that closet you jump in, and I'm coming in after you.
Mike Wendland: How old is your mom?
Diane Kimble: She's 86.
Diane Kimble: We did not have to. The bathroom actually held up a lot better than the closet did.
Jen Wendland: And what happened to the house?
Diane Kimble: The house is totaled. The walls caved out, the walls caved in, the roof came off and so there's a lot of damage. It's just totaled.
Tom Kimble: The people in Panama City and Bay County are still going through a lot of work and getting the community back up and it's just kid of heartbreaking when you see it now because of all the trees and stuff.
Jen Wendland: And the community gathered together and were there for each other?
Tom Kimble: Yes.
Diane Kimble: Yes, that's right. Everybody in the neighborhood pitched in. They grabbed their chainsaws, they were cutting trees. There was five days that nobody could get in, and we couldn't get out.
Jen Wendland: And you had adequate food and water stored up?
Jen Wendland: And the neighbors all came together and shared meals, cooked?
Diane Kimble: Yep, they did.
Tom Kimble: The big thing is everybody thinks going through a hurricane is bad, and no doubt about it, it's very scary, but afterwords, when that part is done, people react differently. There's people that think it's time to go and get free stuff because houses have been damaged, and a lot of people are already faced with a very traumatic situation that they'll go. There's gunfire in the neighborhoods and stuff like that, chasing looters off, signs in the front yard saying you loot, we shoot. These are the things that you don't really hear about, but when you experience it, its very scary. It was scary for me being in Virginia when all this was happening.
Mike Wendland: What was that like for you?
Diane Kimble: Well, it was pretty scary. The looting actually started when the hurricane quit, when the winds stopped. You could hear gunshots being fired. And here I am, sitting in the van, sleeping in the van because my moms house has been destroyed and you can hear gunshots going on. You can't close the van up because you have no electricity for the air conditioning and this is why even your battery system is very important of what you have on your vans. In the disaster situation what can you do, and how can you use your RV.
Tom Kimble: So we're gonna take our RV and get it outfitted with a lithium system to get better capacity so if we need to run an air conditioner or run it to charge up the batteries a little bit better, we'll have that as an emergency if we need it in the future.
Mike Wendland: This is a regular neighborhood you were in?
Diane Kimble: This is a regular neighborhood.
Mike Wendland: Suddenly in just the blink of an eye after a hurricane, civilization collapses.
Diane Kimble: Right.
Diane Kimble: Exactly. And you know, when you have an RV, you do have a place to sleep okay because my moms house was destroyed, we did not have a place to sleep. But because the RV was sitting there, even though you had to watch what you were using with the propane because you needed to keep the batteries charged. And everything, you're thinking about all of these things. You're able to cook in the neighborhood so that you can help people that have no way to cook, that may not even have a camp stove because there's no electricity. They may not even have a barbecue grill. So at least you've got a little bit of propane on board to keep your batteries charged and to have food where you can eat it.
Tom Kimble: But we'll be using the RV in the future if one of those bad storms has eyes on us again, to use as a bug out vehicle and get out of the area. We'll worry about the material stuff later after we get back. Most important thing is the people.
Mike Wendland: Thank you guys for sharing this story, great lessons for all of us.
Diane Kimble: Well I think one of the things that I am extremely thankful for is that the Miami fire department disaster rescue team came up and cut us out. The firetruck driver took my van, and they cut a path for the van to get out. That was on day five, and we really appreciated that.
Tom Kimble: The first responders rock.
Diane Kimble: Yes.
Mike Wendland: They do. This is your retirement RV, sitting in the driveway, taking a direct hit from Hurricane Michael. How much damage, were you able to get it fixed?
Tom Kimble: We're still going through that process because it's a Mercedes chasse. We had to get Mercedes to take a look at it to make sure the drive train was okay 'cause it was being pushed during a hurricane. They got that fixed up, there was some mirrors and stuff that got replaced. And now the bodies been fixed up, and so we're getting the last part of the RV section fixed up. The insurance, it's important to make sure that you have good insurance and that you're covered for these non accident type devastating issues that could happen.
Mike Wendland: So your insurance did handle it all?
Tom Kimble: Yes.
Mike Wendland: What would you advise people? What do they need to have in their insurance?
Tom Kimble: I think the most important thing is really take a look at your policy and see what's covered, comprehensive and stuff. And the contents, whether the contents are covered by your motor home if you're full time or by your regular home owners' insurance if you're not full-time. That's probably the most important thing is to make sure you have that straightened out.
Mike Wendland: Bottom line lessons in all of this?
Diane Kimble: Get in your RV and leave.
Tom Kimble: And enjoy each day that you have with each other.
Diane Kimble: Yep.
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 & Patti Burkett
If you’re driving to or from Canada’s spectacular parks around Banff and Jasper, you might take US 4 up through Lethbridge and Calgary. We did, and enjoyed the mermaids in Great Falls, Montana. While there, a couple of Jasper motorcyclists on holiday recommended we return by a different route. “See the Kootenai Brown National Park and visit the hot springs,” they said. And so we did, turning off Canada’s route 1 at Castle Junction, and heading south on route 93. We had some great adventures on this stretch of road, which we’ll report some other time.
Route 93 continues in the United States, and winds south through Whitefish and Kalispell to Flathead Lake. At nearly thirty miles long and fifteen miles wide, this is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western USA. A third of the eastern shore is in the Flathead National Forest. We drove Montana 83 that way, stopping to look at the many attractive and inexpensive National Forest campgrounds along the way. Swan Lake was where we settled, with a site directly in the water, with only a couple of neighbors. The stars were spectacular over the water at night, and in the morning a loon entertained us while we sat in our chairs on the shore and watched the sunrise.
Flathead Lake cherries are famous, and in season you can stop at one of the many lakeside orchards to stock up. Sadly, it was not cherry season, so we settled for a couple of acorn squashes at a farm market and made our way south to Polson, at the southern tip of the lake. Here we found the Miracle of America Museum. If you’ve ever visited Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, this collection will look familiar to you. We were greeted at the desk by Joanne Mangels, co-owner with her husband Gil. “Take your time,” she said. “If you spend all day and want to come back tomorrow we won’t charge you a second admission.”
Spread over thirty-five buildings, the museum has literally everything you can imagine and many things you can’t. Tom, a one-time Glacier Park employee, especially enjoyed the park snowplows, ranging from the late 1920s to the 1950s. For military buffs, the museum boasts the best collection of military vehicles and paraphernalia on the continent. Mining history is well-represented, as are the railroads, logging, and mountain search and rescue.
After too short a visit, we passed out through the foyer and picked up a brochure for the Flathead Lake Cheese Company. Joe and Wendi Arnold left their day jobs and moved here from Arizona to become cheesemakers. They built their own shop, complete with solar powered pasteurization, and cranked out their first cheese in 2012. Their specialty goudas have earned a number of awards, and Wendi is an enthusiastic champion of local businesses, encouraging us to try Cherries BBQ next door and the Big Chai tearoom down the street. A year after visiting we cracked open our last pack of their cheese, and will attest to its flavor and its longevity.
In Polson, you can ride the amphibious Happy Hippo into the Flathead River and onto the lake, or you can watch people do it from the Glacier Brewery where you can take your dog in with you while enjoying a Golden Grizzly Ale. There’s more here, too, if you look around. Do that, and you might see us, Patti and Tom Burkett, taking a break, off the beaten path.
This part of the podcast is brought to you by Harvest Hosts – http://rvlifestyle.com/harvesthosts ,a network of farms, wineries, museums and attractions where RVers can stay overnight, for free.
When you become a Harvey Host member, you can visit and stay at any of more than 600 stunning locations completely free. Trade that boring and expensive $50/night campground for a unique experience and make lasting memories with your family and friends. The annual $79 membership fee pays for itself in just one night. But because you are a listener to the RV Podcast, we can save you 15% off that if you use the special coupon code HHFriends15 at check out. Go to our special Harvest Host information page at Roadtreking.com/harvesthosts for details.
RV CALENDAR OF EVENTS
- January 18-27, Western New York RV Show, Hamburg Fairgrounds Events Center, Hamburg, NY
- January 19-27, Pittsburgh RV Show, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, PA
- January 19-27, Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, Quartzsite Show Grounds, Quartzsite, AZ
- January 23-27, Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show, Duke Enregy Cinicinnati Convention Center, Cincinnati, OH
- January 23-27, Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow, Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, KY
- January 24-27, Cincinnati-Dayton RV Show, Dayton Convention Center, Dayton, OH
- January 24-27, Fort Myers RV Show, Lee Civic Center, Fort Myers, FL
- January 24-27, Greater Kansas RV Show, Century II Expo Hall, Wichita, KS
- January 24-27, Inland Northwest RV Show and Sale, Spokane Fairgrounds, Colbert, WA
- January 24-27, WBAY RV & Camping Expo, Shopko Hall, Green Bay, WI
- January 25-27, Atlanta Camping & RV Show, Atlanta Exposition Center South, Atlanta, GA
- January 25-27, Huntington RV & Boat Show, Big Sandy Superstore Arena, Huntington, WV
- January 25-27, Montana RV, Boat, Powersports Show, Flathead County Fairgrounds, Kalispell, MT
- January 25-27, Nashville RV Super Show, Music City Center, Nashville, TN
- January 25-27, Northeast RV & Camping Show, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, CT
- January 25-27, Northwest Ohio Camp & Travel Regional RV Show, SeaGate Convention Centre, Toledo, OH
- January 25-27, Southern Louisiana Boat, Sport & RV Show, Houma Terrebonne Civic Center, Houma, LA
- January 28-February 3, Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show, Muscogee Creek Nation Center & Expo Square, Tulsa, OK
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