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RV Travel Tales: An Old Time Christmas Comes Early and Stays Late

October 31—Halloween. The candy wrappers are still strewn over the kitchen table. Limp clown, ballerina, and super-hero costumes drape the living room chairs. Little ghosts and goblins, tired from trick or treating house to house—or to the local “trunk or treat” on the town square—sleep in their beds. When they wake on Saturday, November 1, Christmas is already happening at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Yes, Christmas comes early in the Ozarks! Someone suggested we celebrate a “HalloThanksChristmas” holiday, and it seems we do nowadays, but with a big emphasis on Christmas. However, in the entertainment town of Branson, Christmas starts early because there is much to celebrate. And at Silver Dollar City, the festivities run until December 30. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_ARLINESDC-Old-Time-Christmas-Dickens.jpgSilver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas literally lights up the rugged Roark Mountain on which the 1880’s themed park stands today. Five million lights edge the old-fashioned buildings that mark the spot where miners and their families once lived in a village called Marmaros. Miners dug bat guano from Marble Cave (now called Marvel Cave) beneath the stores and houses around a town square. Times were hard and Christmases were solemn. The eyes of children in the 1880s would have popped at the glittering Christmas tree towering today five-stories above the reproduction Ozark town-turned-theme park, its 250,000 lights blinking and blazing in synchronization to the musical rhythms of Christmas songs. Lights on the buildings and trees around Town Square flash in time to the surround-sound music. The light and sound show, beginning at dusk each evening, creates merriment that soars above the oaks and pines, their trunks and limbs wrapped in layers of llights—red, green, blue, and gold. 

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The Healthy Traveler:  Eating Onions on the Road

Onions are known for causing bad breath, but they are also one of the most popular ingredients for cooks around the world and have earned a solid reputation as a healthy addition to any diet. In fact, when you take a look at all of the healthful qualities that have been ascribed to this modest vegetable, any concerns about how onions might affect your breath will likely go right out the window.

Here are just three reasons you should consider eating more onions as part of your plan to stay healthy while on the road. 

1. Onions are good for your health. Onions have long held a firm position in the world of natural medicine, and current studies continue to add to their long list of healthy attributes. For starters, onions are low in calories and are a source of fiber, potassium, manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Additionally, onions have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol, can help stabilize blood sugar in diabetics and are believed to help protect against certain cancers. They are also credited with fending off the common cold, possibly decreasing bone loss and warding off a plethora of other ailments.

b2ap3_thumbnail_green.jpg2. Onions are easy to include in meal prep. This versatile veggie can be used in everything from salad to scones, making it a common ingredient in cuisine around the world. Purple or red onions are most often added raw to burgers, salads or sandwiches, while the all-purpose yellow onion is typically added to cooked dishes. If you have a traveling companion who is not necessarily an onion fan, you might try Vidalia onions, which have a sweeter flavor. Alternatively, sautéing your onions before adding them to recipes will lessen the sharpness of their flavor. 

3. Onions are easy to store. Onions will keep well for weeks in just about any cool, dry, ventilated place, which makes them an easy produce item to take on the road with you. Once you use part of the onion, you can simply place the remaining cut onion in a food storage container and keep it in the refrigerator for about four days.   

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The Silver Gypsy: On a Dark and Lonely Night

It has been my good fortune as a full-time RVer for 20 years plus to be a part of some questionable but exciting adventures.  This was part of a monthly column (View from the Top Half) for the Glenns Ferry Pilot in 1986.  I would swear it is true - (but God might be listening.”)

“ matter what age you are, never lose your sense of humor or adventure.  Traveling alone is fraught with danger as I discovered when I was traveling later in the evening than usual on my way to Glenns Ferry, ID.  It was nearly midnight when I parked up on Navajo Bridge near Page, AZ to get this column written before deadline.  There were several trucks parked nearby, giving me the comfort of the presence of other people, but as I didn’t want to disturb anyone with the noise of the generator that runs my computer, I parked well away from them.

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Adventures in RVing: UEA Weekend

While I have shared before about the annual UEA (Utah Education Association) weekend, having just experienced one again, I can't help but warn RVers of the other 49 states to beware!

The UEA (Utah Education Association) weekend occurs annually in mid-October. Basically it is a four day (Thursday - Sunday) weekend for every school age child in the entire state. Typical mid-October Utah weather averaging in the mid 70' and sunny, equates to a great excuse for every family in the state to go camping! Having learned firsthand about UEA weekend several years ago and scrambling to find a camping space among the hordes of families, my wife and I got smart this year and grabbed a prime Utah campsite before the masses arrived.

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Great Escapes: Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park

Thinking of escaping to Las Vegas this winter? While it’s fun to take in a glamorous show or two and try your luck with the one-armed bandits, after a while you’ll want an activity that won’t blow your budget.  Fortunately, you’ll find it not far from Sin City—at Valley of Fire State Park. When you’re ready to get some sunshine, be sure to tank up, slather on sunscreen, and head into the Mojave Desert. It’s not too hot this time of year, and just right for a day trip. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_denise-3.JPGOnce voted “Best Scenic Drive in Southern Nevada” by readers of Nevada Magazine, Interstate 15 (Valley of Fire State Park Scenic Byway) takes you 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas to Nevada’s oldest state park. Although the Strip’s neon tubes are missing here, brilliant colors are not. Shades of deep red, brown, and orange seem to glow even more vividly at sunrise and sunset, thus the name Valley of Fire. The park was dedicated in 1935, but its sandstone formations were formed some 150 million years ago from vast shifting sand dunes. The modest Visitor Center is the best place to learn more about the geology, ecology, and history of the park and the nearby region, so stop in for a brochure. 

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The Full-Timing Nomad: The Definition of Workamping

The definition of “workamping” is: Workamping, a contraction of "work camping" is a form of RV camping involving singles, couples or families who work part-time or full-time. The people who are Workamping can be called Workampers. The term "Workamper" was coined by and is a registered trademark of Workamper News. 

The term “workamper” and “workamping” is a hot topic in online discussions about full-timing and working on the road. Many RVers who earn money traveling believe that only those who get paid for their labor can wear the “workamper” badge of honor and those who don't earn a wage cannot, they are simply “volunteers.” However if you ask Workamper News, you'll learn that like the term “workamping” is much broader than that; workampers are a paid and unpaid cadre of travelers who work in a variety of situations, locations and jobs. Some are volunteers, some trade labor for a campsite and some do a little of both and make money. 

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The 19th Hole: New TomTom Golf GPS

Capitalizing on the recent Ryder Cup tournament, Dutch company TomTom has jumped on the golf-themed bandwagon and introduced its version of a golf GPS. The TomTom golf GPS is a wearable smartwatch that can count strokes, track the elapsed time of your round, and show the number of calories burned during a round of golf.  Using GPS technology, it calculates precise yardages to the front, center, and back of the green, as well distances to individual hazards along the fairway. 

TomTom Golfer uses graphics to clearly show key data from more than 34,000 golf courses worldwide on its extra-large screen. This versatile little GPS includes unique green and hazard graphics. It can also be wirelessly-synced to a dedicated smartphone app to ensure up-to-date course data is always at hand. 

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RV Travel Tales: Yellowstone Lingers in My Mind….

One day last week, I read in my Bible: Look at the ravens—they don’t plant or harvest or have barns to store away their food, and yet, they get along all right—for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him that any birds!  (Luke 12:24, Living Bible) I thought of the raven I photographed perched on someone’s motorcycle baggage at Norris Basin in Yellowstone National Park. That big shiny black bird worked the zippers on the bags. I’m not sure that is how God intended to feed him, but he knew how to get to the snacks inside!  

b2ap3_thumbnail_ARLINE-Old-Faithful.jpgSimply reflecting on the excitement of capturing that bird up close on a warm late summer day made me realize how I am still suspended between two worlds, the very different world of Yellowstone—and home. Despite the distance of four days of driving time, I have not truly transitioned from Wyoming to Arkansas. I’m thankful—yes, glad—to be back on my corner of the world in the Ozarks. Yet, Yellowstone lingers; I think it always will. I feel almost surreal that only a few weeks ago, I was walking on that soil—the fragile crust that covers steaming pots, boiling pools, and geysers spouting hot water from only a few feet beneath the earth’s surface. I can still smell the sulphur from mud pots and the fragrance of firs, mixing in a perfume that identifies Yellowstone. I look at our photos of clear running rivers, racing waterfalls, Old Faithful erupting, and tips of lodgepole pines brushing against a bright blue sky. I see bison ambling across a roadway, a Mama Bear foraging while two cubs scurried up and down skinny aspens, and two elk clashing their antlers in rut, but then backing off to graze. Yes, it’s dreamlike that I stood by rapid rivers snapping photos of bison grazing among bright yellow flowers and a family of otters splashing in the water cold from snowmelt. 

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The Healthy Traveler: Buying Organic Produce on the Road or on a Budget

Organic foods, including produce, dairy and meats, have become a part of any conversation about healthy eating, going green and sustainability. Whether your biggest concerns are your own health, your family’s health, the health and safety of farm workers or the impact our lifestyles have on the planet, there are plenty of reasons to buy organic. 

While it doesn’t take much to convince most health-conscious folks that foods that are grown without man-made pesticides and chemical fertilizers are healthier options, a trip to the organic section in any market will quickly show how some families might find it difficult to justify – or simply afford – purchasing organic foods that are often significantly more expensive than their conventional counterparts. 

The idea that you can pay now by buying higher-priced organic foods or pay later in healthcare costs helps to justify increasing your food budget, but that still doesn’t mean that everyone can afford to buy organic versions of all of the produce, dairy and meat that they purchase. And even those who can afford going all-organic will likely find that organic produce can be difficult to find when on the road, which can create particular challenges for those living an RV lifestyle. 

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The Silver Gypsy: Memorials

In my travels, I have visited many, many, MANY memorials, memorials to the early pioneers, to one early pioneer, to famous people, to presidents, to various eras and roads and definitely to each legendary war and its heroes.  There are monuments to famous homes and shrines and poets and authors, plus tributes to ranges of mountains.   There are marble and stone monuments in local cemeteries representing loved ones.   You get the picture.  We have monuments to places for all kinds of reasons and to the sizes and shapes of countless “things” that are the highest, longest, deepest, lowest, widest, etc, as in monuments to fish, crab, and wind.

b2ap3_thumbnail_SD-MT.-RUSHMORE-549-April-20-2005.jpgWe are all familiar with Mt. Rushmore and Chief Crazyhorse (still unfinished) in SD and NH’s natural monument to the Old Man of the Mountain (crumbled a few years back).  A lesser known one is the statue to Hannah Duston, a colonial MA Puritan and mother of nine who was taken captive by Native Americans in 1697.  Eventually, she made her way back to her family after killing ten of her captives at night.   She was the first woman in the US to be honored with a statue.

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