MotorHome Magazine Motorhome Reviews, RV How-To, Dinghy Towing and RV News 2019-11-19T20:51:43Z https://www.motorhome.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Angela McLaughlin http://www.motorhome.com <![CDATA[A Very Merry Motorhome: Celebrating the Holidays with Your Pets]]> https://www.motorhome.com/?p=45255 2019-11-19T20:37:34Z 2019-11-19T20:37:34Z

 

Traveling with your pets during the holiday season can be a rewarding and heartwarming experience. For the past three years, my husband, Andy, and I have been traveling in our motorhome with our two dogs, two cats and bird. We prefer to keep our entire family together for our travels, and that includes during the holidays.

Traveling this way has taught us a few things about celebrating the holidays with pets.

The holidays are a festive time of year, but there are a few things that can put a damper on the high spirits. Unexpected illnesses and injuries are not on anybody’s wish list — especially when it comes to our furry family members. Reduce the risk of an emergency vet visit by keeping a your pets in mind when it comes to holiday safety.

Decorations help make a home feel cheery, and there are many ways to decorate in a small space. Hanging wreaths, garlands and other adornments around your motorhome will bring the holidays with you wherever your travels may take you. Miniature fake trees are a fun tabletop adornment, and cats typically get quite a kick out of the dangling ornaments.

dogs and a cat in motorhomeThe smaller setting of a motorhome means you’ll likely have to be more selective about the decorations you choose to display. Keep in mind that poinsettias, holly and mistletoe are toxic to dogs and cats, and the smaller space makes finding a safe place to display these items unlikely. Consider artificial decorations instead of live to avoid complications. You’ll still get a festive atmosphere, just without the threat to your pets.

Cooking is a favorite pastime during the holiday season. Delicious pies and desserts, casseroles, ham or turkey — everyone has their own traditions for the dishes they serve. Many motorhomes are equipped with convection ovens that still provide the opportunity for a good spread of food.

The delectable smells wafting throughout your home on wheels will make more than just human mouths water; they’ll attract your pets, as well. The small space of a motorhome makes proper food disposal even more important.

Ham fat and other items can potentially cause serious issues for your pets should they get into them. And if you have a larger dog, like I do, countertops and trash cans are not off-limits for those curious noses. Never leave food unattended in a reachable place — even my cats will try to sneak a bite off something they shouldn’t. Plan a secure place for all food items, or avoid having risky items in your motorhome altogether.

There are many ways to include your furry friends in the festivities while keeping them safe.

One of our favorite things to do is include our pets in a gift exchange. Those traveling with cats might consider adding a new scratching post or corrugated cardboard scratcher to keep the felines entertained and away from the furniture. Combine this with a little bit of dried catnip or catnip spray, and you’ll have some pretty happy kitties.

cat with holiday hatOur cats always enjoy a game of toss with a new catnip-filled or crinkle toy. They race across the living room, batting at their holiday-themed gift.

Our dogs, Teddy and Piper, enjoy ripping the wrapping paper off their gifts (to be fair, we help the little one with this). They know something fun is waiting inside! After the gift exchange, we make sure to include some playtime. This can include a hearty game of tug-o-war or hide-and-seek (where we hide the toy and the dogs sniff it out).

Combining the gift exchange with a little play time makes for an even more celebratory feeling, and your pets will thank you for the extra attention during this busy time of year. Not only will it bring everyone closer together, but it is a great way to help diffuse any anxiety your pet may be feeling as a result of traveling.

Those looking for a great photo opportunity or some outdoor fun may consider dressing your dogs up in holiday-themed attire and going for a walk around the campground. Other travelers will get a kick out of your impromptu pet parade, and it’s a great way to add more festivity to your camping experience.

dog on snowSmelling the aromas of peppermint and pine, cozying up in front of a warm campfire, snuggling close with your loved ones, a dog or cat curled up on your lap — this is a great mental image. Consider including your furry friends on your next holiday motorhome adventure!


Follow Angela and Andy McLaughlin on their adventures at www.thewanderingdolphin.com

 

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Melissa Li http://www.motorhome.com <![CDATA[Go Deep: Diving and Snorkeling in Florida’s Lower Keys]]> https://www.motorhome.com/?p=45204 2019-11-19T20:51:43Z 2019-11-19T18:05:14Z

 

Part of the Keys island chain that stretches southwest of Florida, the Lower Keys sit amid huge expanses of unspoiled ocean habitat. On land, the locals have fostered that classic, laid-back Florida Keys charm; beneath the surface, the surrounding untamed waters constitute some of the most exciting diving and snorkeling in the country. Connected by the Overseas Highway (U.S. Highway 1), these islands and surrounding waters appeal to RVers seeking to trade crowded interstates for clear waterways.

What makes this area so special for underwater explorers? The region encompasses large chunks of the only living coral reef habitats within the United States’ territorial waters. Since the 1980s, conservationists have mounted aggressive sustainability efforts, preserving the natural beauty of the reefs and enabling marine life to thrive and grow.

Indeed, the Lower Keys give divers and snorkelers a rare opportunity, says Denise VandenBosch, dive operations director and PADI Master Instructor at Captain Hook’s dive shop in Big Pine Key. “The shallow reef system, unlimited dive sites, short boat ride to the reef (only three miles from shore) and the diversity of the aquatic environment is the perfect combination to make divers and snorkelers feel comfortable,” explains Denise.

Ready to plan your diving or snorkeling getaway to Florida’s Lower Keys? Check out this guide to find out how to get started and the top places to kick off your underwater adventures.

underwater reef
A reef in the Florida Keys. Photo credit: Pixabay

Diving Basics

There are plenty of dive shops in Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys offering lessons and tours. If you’re new to diving, you’ll have to complete an introductory course before heading to the reefs. The quick course teaches you how to use scuba equipment (regulator, fins, wetsuit and weight harness) and safety protocols to follow in the water. You’ll also do a practice dive in a pool so you can get comfortable breathing and moving around with your gear. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’re ready to get out on the open ocean. A PADI-certified instructor will be by your side the entire time to guide you to different sections of the reef and to help you spot wildlife.

On dive day, remember to pack reef-safe sunscreen, comfortable shoes for the boat and a waterproof camera so you can document every moment.

Take the Plunge

Don’t let claustrophobia stop you from diving. “Once you’re on the bottom [of the sea], you realize there’s more space down there than there is on land,” says Denise. There’s also no need to worry about sharks, as divers rarely see predatory fish in the water. Even if you did see a shark, the bubbles from your regulator make so much noise that it would scare it away. “We are certainly not on their menu — we are big, bubbling, noisy, camera-flashing visitors to their waters and we’re of no interest to them at all,” says Denise.

Becoming a Certified Diver

Diving is an exhilarating feeling, and many people get hooked after their first experience. If this happens to you, consider becoming a certified open water diver. This lifetime certification takes four to seven days to finish and teaches you the skills you need to dive without a licensed instructor. The course consists of an online portion, confined water dives and open water dives. The minimum age to get certified is 10 years old. Denise believes this is the perfect time to introduce your kids to diving. “Most families get certified together and parents get to raise their best dive buddies,” she says.

Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is a hidden gem for snorkling the Keys. Photo credit: Dawn Sunshine

The Snorkeling Alternative

Snorkeling, on the other hand, is a much simpler proposition. If you’re new to snorkeling, you’ll be happy to know that intensive training isn’t required. And if you’re comfortable swimming in deep water and don’t mind breathing through a tube, you’ll discover an underwater paradise in the keys. The warm, tropical waters make for a comfortable experience, but if you go on a snorkeling tour, always heed the instructions of your guide. Stay within your comfort zone and enjoy the nature that surrounds you.

Top Diving and Snorkeling Spots in Florida’s Lower Keys

1) Looe Key Marine Sanctuary

“You’ll never be disappointed with any dive you make at Looe Key,” says Denise. Resting six miles south of Big Pine Key, Looe Key is a National Marine Sanctuary that’s home to the only complete reef ecosystem in the continental United States. Spearfishing, coral collection and lobstering were banned in 1981 and have allowed the reef to flourish into one of the most spectacular dive sites in North America. Go underwater and hang out by the steep coral formations to spot angelfish, turtles, eagle rays and more. According to Denise, “all the sea critters are well aware they are protected” and won’t hesitate to swim right up to your mask. Not interested in diving? Try snorkeling instead. You’ll still get to enjoy close-up views of the reefs and wildlife from along the water’s surface.

2) Adolphus Busch Shipwreck

Adolphus Busch is a 210-foot cargo ship that was intentionally sunk seven miles from Big Pine Key in 1998. Since then, the wreck has served as a home to a diverse array of vibrant marine life. Dive under the surface to swim with swirling schools of silversides, barracudas and horse-eye jacks. There’s also a good chance of finding southern stingrays if you go all the way to the ocean floor. Before you head back to the surface, say hello to the residents in the vessel’s cargo holds. Tenants here include green moray eels and 350-pound goliath groupers (don’t let the name scare you — they’re gentle giants).

Snorkelers explore the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Snorkelers explore the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau

3) Bahia Honda State Park

Located on Bahia Honda Key, Bahia Honda State Park is an excellent training ground for new snorkelers because of its protected and shallow waters. Rent all necessary gear from the on-site dive shop and go for a dip at Bay Side Beach. You can find fish toward the Bahia Honda Bridge, a 5,055-foot railroad span that connects Bahia Honda with Spanish Harbor Key to the west. You’ll also find prime spots near the wall at the end of the beach. Boat trips to Looe Key also depart from the park, so sign up for one after you’ve gotten the hang of snorkeling.

4) Boca Chica Key

Located just south of Boca Chica Key, the Western Sambo Ecological Reserve is a dream come true for both divers and snorkelers. Consisting of nine square nautical miles, the area encompasses the highest habitat diversity in the Lower Keys. It also has the region’s last remaining stands of elkhorn coral, which can be found in the grassy bed areas of Western Sambo Reef. Another destination worth exploring is Cannonball Cut on the east side of the reef. This is where you’ll discover the Aquanaut tugboat wreck along with spiny lobster and massive star coral. Haystack and the Hawk Channel are excellent spots too if you’re searching for tropical fish.

5) Cudjoe Key

Cudjoe Key, located about nine miles west of Big Pine Key along the Overseas Highway, is the place to go to get off the beaten path. The secluded area is home to around 1,800 residents and promises a quiet snorkeling experience without big crowds. Rent a boat from Cudjoe Gardens Marina (or launch the boat that you’ve been towing from the ramp) and sail off the coast to snorkel with parrotfish, sergeant majors, angelfish and more than 150 species of other exotic fish. The corals on the reef are just as impressive, especially the brain, star and fire varieties.

Bonus: The Lower Keys aren’t known for shore diving, but there is one spot locals recommend. Mile Marker 35 on the Overseas Highway is a calm area protected by the wind and an excellent place for a walk-in dive if the weather isn’t good enough to go boating.

RV travelers will find lots of camping opportunities in the Florida Keys, with most parks close to the Overseas Highway. Set up camp and hit the water.


 

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Motorhome Staff <![CDATA[Full Circle]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=45064 2019-11-06T23:48:31Z 2019-11-06T23:48:31Z

 

The Winegard AIR 360+ is an amplified omnidirectional antenna for over-the-air VHF/UHF and FM signal reception. The AIR 360+ is easy to install and offers 360-degree signal reception thanks to its dome shape. The antenna doesn’t require hand-cranking or aiming, meaning it is ready to receive local signals as soon as the motorhome is in camp. The AIR 360+ measures 17¼ inches wide by 8 inches high, and weighs less than 4 pounds. The antenna is also internet-ready, and an optional Winegard Gateway for 4G LTE and Wi-Fi capability can be added at a later date, allowing for streaming media and enhanced entertainment options. MSRP: AIR 360+, $124.99; Gateway, $299.
Winegard | 800-288-8094


 

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Sponsored Content <![CDATA[Kayaking Florida’s Lower Keys: Paddling to Adventure]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=45015 2019-10-31T19:20:14Z 2019-10-31T18:30:25Z

Get a close look at the natural side of Florida’s Lower Keys from the seat of a kayak

Kayaks are ideal for exploring the vibrant ecosystems that flourish in Florida’s Lower Keys from Bahia Honda to Big Pine Key and other untamed keys on the island chain between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

With a low profile that puts paddlers close to the surface of the water, kayaks give explorers a chance to get within touching distance of the surrounding flora and fauna. And kayaks’ nimble size makes them ideal for exploring narrow channels, mangrove tunnels and shallow coves that contain some of the Lower Keys’ most beautiful attractions.

Kayaks also can be put to use for trips deeper into the ocean, although these kinds of outings are recommended for more experienced paddlers. Regardless of your choice, you’ll discover that the Lower Keys are ideal kayaking territory, with calm waters and moderate temperatures inviting adventurers to hit the water in the slim-hulled craft for once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

Two kayakers dipping their paddles in the Florida Keys
Photo: Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Choose Your Watercraft

Travelers who haven’t hit the water in a kayak before face a lot of choices. If you plan to bring your own watercraft, an RV is a great way to go. Shoppers will find roof- and hitch-mounted racks to secure these small vessels to your vehicle. Pick your destination, set out from Florida on the Overseas Highway, then set up camp in a tropical paradise.

If you’re in the market for a kayak, consider all your options. If portability is a concern, inflatable kayaks can fit in a confined space, making them perfect for RV travel. Aspiring kayakers should also consider how they plan to use their craft. Recreational kayaks, for example, are wide and stable with big cockpits, making them ideal for long, lazy days of traveling in relatively calm water. Sea kayaks, on the other hand, are built thin for speed and straight tracking; these also have small cockpits, some equipped with skirts to prevent the entrance of water. For the Florida Keys, chances are, you’ll be going with a recreational kayak.

If you’re a novice kayaker, you’ll find plenty of outfitters on Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda and other destinations who will get you started. Some companies offer group tours led by experienced guides; this is a great way to get acquainted with the fun and challenges of kayaking. On some tours, outfitters will transport kayaks via boat to backcountry areas for secluded kayaking experiences.

A lone kayaker paddling toward a small island
Photo: Alfred Schrock

Safe and Secure

Regardless of your kayaking adventure, it’s critical to take basic safety measures. Always wear a personal flotation device, and bring sunblock and water to fight the sun and heat. Keep in mind that there’s always a high possibility of getting wet. Use dry bags to keep food, camera and other fragile items protected. You’ll be thankful you made this investment if a wave or wake from a boat splashes into your cockpit, dousing you and all your belongings!

If you’re bringing your own kayak, make sure to reserve a spot at an RV park that’s fairly close to a boat-launch area. Porting your little vessel from the campsite to shore shouldn’t take up a good part of your day. In some areas, kayakers are able to secure their vessels near the launching point, sparing you the hassle of hauling the kayak back to your campsite. Bring a lock and cable for this situation.

Nine colorful kayaks on a rack at the beach.
Photo: Getty Images

The Lower Keys offer several islands that serve as launching pads for kayaking adventures. Here’s a roundup of some of the top destinations:

Bahia Honda

Sitting on Mile Marker 37 on the Overseas Highway, this 500-plus-acre key is surrounded by clear blue water, making it a sought-after kayaking destination. Three campgrounds offer a total of 80 sites for RVers and tenters. Outfitters on the island can get you started on kayaking adventures. The spectacular scenery here includes the historic Bahia Honda bridge, a 5,055-foot railroad span built a century ago that connects Bahia Honda with Spanish Harbor Key to the west. Although the span is now derelict, the elegant steel-truss structure serves as a stunning backdrop for photos.

On the bay side of the island, the clear waters sometimes reveal views of sharks and tarpons. Adventurous kayakers can set out on open water to reach Little Bahia Honda Island, two-thirds of a mile off the southwest tip of Bahia Honda. Set out from the kayak launch at Loggerhead Beach and prepare for a vigorous paddle.

Although Little Bahia Honda is only 300 feet across and home to two trees, it has several tidepools on its rocky surface. Snorkeling around this tiny island is outstanding for folks who want to mix things up. If you haven’t kayaked in open water before, it’s a good idea to know how to reenter your kayak after capsizing.

Paddlers in a yellow kayak and a light blue kayak on the water
Photo: Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Big Pine Key

About 4 miles west from Bahia Honda across the Overseas Highway is Big Pine Key, one of the largest islands in the Lower Key chain. More than half the island’s 9.9-square-mile surface is set aside for National Key Deer Refuge, but kayakers will find lots of paddling trails on the island’s interior as well as on its coast. Guides on the island will take paddlers on backcountry tours, introducing them to truly wild environments.

Got a Florida fishing license? Then you can drop a line into the clear waters from the convenient base of a kayak. Big Pine Kayak Adventures shows kayakers how to navigate into extremely shallow waters to stalk bonefish, sharks, barracuda and many other species. Trips include all fishing tackle.

Directly off Big Pine Key’s south coast, 6,000 acres of ocean have been set aside for Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve, protecting the area’s delicate mangrove and lagoon ecosystem. Kayakers can paddle around the islands and lagoons to view rare wading birds. This area also harbors Florida lobster and a wide variety of fish, so bring a rod. On the ocean side (west) of the preserve, kayakers will discover the small Newfound Harbor Keys along with patch coral reefs. Head north from here to see the Coupon Bight lagoon, a mangrove-rich tropical body of water fringed with seagrasses. You may spot sea turtles resting on the beach here.

A woman paddling an orange kayak with the tip of another kayak behind her.
Photo: Taryn Manning

No Name Key

Kayakers can get a unique look at mangroves by navigating the “mangrove tunnels” — waterways that snake under the dense canopies of these trees. One of the best places to explore these tropical passageways is No Name Key, located directly to the east of Big Pine Key across the Bogie Channel on State Road 4A. Start at the Keys’ Old Wooden Bridge resort to launch your tour through the tunnels. As you navigate these shady passages, you might catch a glimpse of a heron or the diminutive Key deer. Keep your eyes peeled for sunken boats found along the way.

Summerland Key

From Big Pine Key, travel about 6 miles west across the Overseas Highway to reach Summerland Key. Here, kayaks can launch in shallow water and explore surrounding lagoons, bays and islands. Look for the “holes” in the bays that are said to harbor large populations of fish, ideal for kayak angling.

Saddlebunch Keys

Seventeen miles west of Big Pine Key, this under-the-radar cluster of islands gives outdoor lovers a chance to explore nature right off the Overseas Highway. Launch at Mile 16 and enjoy the waterways that some have called “the center of the kayaking universe.” Mangroves, beautiful coasts and lots of marine life make this a special place that feels a world away from civilization

A woman paddling an orange kayak with the tip of another kayak behind her.
Photo: Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Geiger Key

Take a backcountry tour on this small island and discover a world of peaceful blue shallow waters, mangrove trails, swimming holes and morning sun. Outfitters offer tours into the many trails that lead to the island’s interior.

Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge

For a true backcountry experience, the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, north of Big Pine Key, provides a safe home for its namesake seabird and other animals. The protected area’s 200,000 acres of open water and islands serve as valuable nesting, feeding and resting space for the once-endangered species. Visitors can take a Lower Keys ecotour to the refuge and cruise around the clear waters to spot herons as well as turtles, sharks, stingrays, eagle rays and herons. This is an ideal spot for wildlife observation and photography, interpretation and environmental education.

Woman on the beach pulling a light blue sea kayak.
Photo: Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Stock Island

Can’t get enough of those mangrove passages? Stock Island’s so-called Mosquito Coast is ripe for kayak exploration. Outfitters like Lazy Dog will take paddlers on a winding journey through mangroves for an in-depth look at the local ecosystem. Single or double kayaks are available.


For More Information

Learn more about Florida’s Lower Keys.


 

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Chris Dougherty <![CDATA[Adventure in Style: Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=44891 2019-10-21T19:14:49Z 2019-10-26T18:29:41Z

Winnebago BOLDT debuts with a sophisticated lithium-based house battery system, luxury appointments and off-road capabilities

Alexander von Humboldt was a 19th-century German naturalist, explorer and geographer, and was the first to extensively travel the North, Central and South American continents and record their biogeography in numerous published works. Winnebago used Humboldt as the inspiration for a Class B motorhome designed for adventure, one that could take a naturalist anywhere in comfort, but this time allowing greater comfort while advancing his/her field of study. Or just for having a great time.

When we tested the Winnebago Revel (November 2018), also built on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter platform, we were impressed by its durability and off-road capability, and for what it was designed to do, it served well. The issue, though, is the lack of the usual amenities; there’s not even a microwave. However, members of the Revel Owner’s Group have displayed ingenuity in crafting flexible storage and even cooking space in the rear.

The Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL is the Revel for the rest of us. Built on the longer 170-inch wheelbase Sprinter 3500 dual real-wheel platform, which was redesigned for 2019, this motorhome is able to handle a lot more weight and gives owners more luxurious interior space within and, wait for it, it’s now available in a 4X4 version, making the BOLDT an adventure-ready luxury (albeit compact) motorhome.Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL Class B motorhome floorplan

The Inside Scoop

Stepping into the BOLDT 70KL’s side door reveals an inviting interior with glossy, Euro-style, wood-toned cabinetry and washed-oak style vinyl flooring. The white solid-surface counter­tops, padded walls and tan padded ceiling add to the feeling of airiness in this unit.
The rear cushions that make up part of the anomalous “Flex Bed” have tan-and-white tweed upholstery and are quite comfortable. That said, the design of these sleeping/sitting areas makes little sense to us, although they are workable. Each side serves as its own twin bed, which is fine. The driver’s side bed is only 6 feet long, and taller folks will touch at both ends. The passenger’s side bed is much longer, so I took the long one and my wife took the shorter. The shorter driver’s side, and rearmost, couch has two lap belts for passengers. We found these inconvenient for a couple of reasons. First, passengers are seated toward the rear of the unit, which is fine for kids, but adults who want to chat will have to speak up. Second, going down the road for long periods riding sideways isn’t the most comfortable, and a frontal collision could be problematic for those seated here. They are better designed for small kids, and the Flex Bed system has to be engaged for sleeping.

The Flex Bed system is a slatted, interlocking platform that slides out between the two twin beds. By properly inserting the cushions, an offset “queen” bed can be set up; sleeping bags or a Travasak only need apply, as no sheets will fit here. We think this is fine for the occasional adventure campout with the kids, but reality suggests that this is primarily a two-person motorhome.

Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL Class B motorhome interior, galley area
The living area in the BOLDT is bright, cozy and highly functional; the galley has nice prep space.
Photos: Michael Gordon

The BOLDT’s Pure3 Advanced Energy System uses a Volta 11,600-watt-hour energy pack and a 3,600-watt Dimensions pure sine wave inverter with a 58-volt DC, 45-amp charger segment, paired with an added 58-volt DC alternator. There is no gas generator on board since the lithium power pack can charge relatively quickly at 58 volts DC; the chassis engine, shorepower and solar system can all contribute to charging the system. The Coleman-Mach 13,500-Btu rooftop air conditioner will run several hours on just the energy pack alone. In fact, on a four-hour photo shoot with the doors frequently open on an 85-degree day, we only depleted the energy pack to 60%, with the solar and engine alternator (at idle) contributing. While driving to the Connecticut shore, the air conditioner ran all day without issue.

While this system provides an abundance of power, running the air conditioner does tax its capabilities, and if it’s needed over a longer term, shorepower will be required. Mercedes-Benz requirements preclude the use of auto start and idle-up systems, according to Winnebago. At idle, the alternator and solar panels can’t charge enough to overcome the energy usage of the air conditioner at full tilt along with the refrigerator running, not to mention that idling a diesel engine for long periods causes an oil washdown issue, which can limit engine longevity. Mercedes-Benz offered a factory idle-up feature on older models; however, the redesign doesn’t include a high-idle function. There is an aftermarket option for 2018 and older Sprinters, so it’s possible that a company will eventually make something for aftermarket installation.

Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL Class B motorhome bed
The Flex Bed, when assembled, is a bit of an anomaly; no sheets need apply.

The galley is nicely equipped with a 12-volt-DC Danfoss compressor-driven 4.3-cubic-foot Nova Cool refrigerator and High Pointe convection microwave. The solid-surface countertop with single-bowl stainless sink and residential Euro-styled faucet works well for food prep, and there is a nice amount of counterspace if the sink cover is in place. A single-burner induction cooktop is clean and efficient. Ventilation for the galley is provided by a roof-mounted MaxxFan.

There are two tables in the BOLDT. The first is a fold-up table/desk for use with the rotated driver’s seat, and when correctly adjusted, there’s just enough room to sit and work. Connections for power and charging are above this deployed table, and heavy-duty coat hooks are on the overhead cabinet, which came in handy for hanging rain gear out of the way while driving.

The second table is on a movable, swing-away mount for the similarly rotated passenger’s front seat, and features a cup-holder. This table can be folded flat against the back of the passenger seat when unneeded or swung out to use outside the door. Additionally, the mount is compatible with RAM Tough-Track-brand mounts throughout the motorhome, including one next to the galley, allowing it to be used by those people on the couches. Both tables offer compact, yet usable, surfaces for dining and other tasks.

The wet bath is surprisingly roomy for a Class B, and is very nicely appointed with a Thetford ceramic foot-pedal-flush toilet and solid-surface counter with stainless sink. There is ample storage and closet space here. A Moen single-handle shower diverter works well and is mated to an Oxygenics shower head. A teak-style wood-slat platform, which is removable, sits on the shower floor, allowing wet items to air dry, while any water is collected by the shower drain. A 12-volt DC push-up style exhaust fan exchanges the moisture efficiently.

Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL Class B motorhome interior, cockpit area
The new MB Sprinter cab layout is much improved, and has the feel of a luxury vehicle.

Behind the Wheel

What’s Hot

Overall appearance, large bathroom, good closet and storage space, dovetailed drawers for strength, Volta power system, Mercedes-Benz new technology, overall handling, use of space for storage, ROCCC

What’s Not

Acceleration lag, missing features/price point; rear bed system; non-insulated heated tanks; lack of auto start, temperature sense and high-idle capability to support Volta power system
Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL class B motorhome exterior

The new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, with its upgraded electronics and interior, is much improved over previous models, and finally makes the Mercedes motorhome feel like, well, a Mercedes. The entire dash received a makeover, resembling little of its predecessor.
Sitting in the 14-way power driver’s seat (no typo there), behind a new multi-control smart steering wheel emblazoned with a large chrome tristar, the steering column, control stalks, and electronic dashboard support advanced technology and comfort. Gone is the transmission shift lever, replaced by a transmission control stalk, which takes some getting used to, but works well. Entertainment and computer controls are located on the face of the smart wheel, utilizing buttons, wheels and Blackberry phone-style touch buttons. The Mercedes-Benz entertainment system has a touch-screen and is voice-controllable, featuring navigation, Apple CarPlay, Wi-Fi hotspot and USB-C compatibility. The USB-C ports are located in the dash-top closable cubby, which is designed to segregate the iPhone from the driver, as there is no way to run the cord outside the closed cubby without just pinching it in the door, which is what we ended up doing. We mated an Apple USB-C adaptor with our long Lightning cable and put the phone on the console so it would be reachable if needed by the passenger. A small cubby door modification will fix this issue.
The instrumentation has a mix of analog, digital and LED gauges, which we liked, although the LED gauges for temperature and fuel are a bit difficult to see in certain conditions. A large center LED computer display works well and has too many functions to recite here.

The aforementioned 14-way adjustable front seats, which are mandated by Mercedes-Benz because of integrated air bags, are firm, but comfortable. Steering is tight and responsive and the motorhome handles well in crosswinds. A severe lag in acceleration from the start line is noticeable, up to 3 seconds. This caught us by surprise trying to make a left turn on a busy road. Once the motorhome is moving, acceleration is acceptable for ramps and passing other vehicles on the highway. Again, this is a motorhome, so a little patience will pay off economically.

Lastly, the BOLDT is available in 4WD for more adventurous souls looking to travel off pavement or to snow country.

The Outside Story

The exterior of the BOLDT is similar to the Revel in many ways. The roof rack with movable ladder mounted on the rear door stands out visually, and like the Revel, features two large solar panels, with a small amount of space for mounting or storing items. In a bit of genius, Winnebago designed a rear roof pod that includes roof clearance lights, the TV antenna and back-up camera. This keeps it aft of the rack, allowing storage flexibility. A Carefree of Colorado 15-foot power lateral arm awning sits atop the passenger’s side roof, and provides a nice covered patio space and AC-, DC- and cable-TV connections are readily accessible.

Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL class B motorhome bathroom
With the rear doors open, the view of the relatively spacious bath is evident, with zip-down screens.

Enjoying the outside with the electric sliding side and rear doors open is possible thanks to Rolef screen systems at both doors. Once zipped up, the bug seal is tight. A great feature of the side door unit is that it’s unnecessary to unzip the door to enter and exit, thanks to a magnetic release for the van-side part of the screen zipper. Just pull it back, enter and flip it back to close, magnetically.

Utilities on the driver’s side are standard. The dump valves for the heated holding tanks are here; we had a few issues with these during the evaluation process, but they were fixed by a dealer. While the holding tanks have small heating pads, they are exposed and uninsulated, so exposure to freezing temperatures will still need to be avoided. A short sewer hose storage tube is mounted in about the only place it can be — underneath the rig. Access requires lying on the ground, but the storage space is still appreciated. A Thetford macerator system with extendable hose and handle would be a welcome feature, especially at this price point.

The Final Word

The 2020 BOLDT 70KL fit in nicely among the beautiful homes and environs of the Connecticut shoreline, and its power system is impressive, and is a sign of things to come, even without auto start and high idle features.

While we like the BOLDT for its features, its almost $206,000 price as tested seems excessive for a Class B, and while the Volta power system comes at a premium, the remainder of the motorhome doesn’t quite rise to that level. There are luxury and off-road Class B’s with far more features, like Lithionics and Xantrex power systems, macerators, multiplex wiring and ducted air conditioning on Sprinter and other platforms, that can be had for $40,000-$50,000 less.

The Volta power system in the Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL class B motorhome
The Volta power system lives under the passenger-side bed.

That said, the new BOLDT will no doubt have future positive adjustments to its feature set, and other conveniences can easily be sourced through the aftermarket. If you’re looking for a Class B touring motorhome or an adventure rig with more amenities than the Revel, and relish 4WD versatility, then the BOLDT is a suitable contender in this space.

Winnebago Industries Inc. | 641-585-3535

Specifications

The Volta power system control inside the Winnebago BOLDT Q70 KL class B motorhome
The Volta power system control is easy to access from the side door.

Chassis
Model Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500
Engine 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel
SAE Hp 188 @ 3,800 rpm
Torque 325 lb-ft @ 1,400-2,400 rpm
Transmission Automatic 7-speed
Axle Ratio 3.923:1
Tires LT215/85R16 E
Wheelbase 170″
Brakes Front/Rear Disc
Suspension Front/Rear Strut/leaf spring
Fuel Capacity 24.5 gal
Fuel Economy 13.8 mpg
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic;
5 years/100,000 miles powertrain

Coach
Exterior Length 23′ 4″
Exterior Width 7′ 2″
Exterior Height with A/C 9′ 11″
Interior Width 5′ 8″
Interior Height 6′ 2″
Construction Van body
Freshwater Capacity 21 gal
Black-water Capacity 16 gal
Gray-water Capacity 25 gal
Water-heater Capacity 2.6 gal
Propane Capacity 16 gal
Air Conditioner (1) 13,500 Btu
Furnace Truma Combi forced-air
Refrigerator 4.3-cu-ft ,12-volt DC
Inverter/Charger 3,600 watt/45-amp @ 58 volts DC
Batteries 11,600-watt hour, 58-volt DC lithium
AC Generator N/A
MSRP $198,614
MSRP as Tested $205,190
Warranty 12 months/15,000 miles basic; 36 months/36,000 miles structural

Wet Weight
(Water and water heater, fuel, propane tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
Total 8,809 lbs

Chassis Ratings
GAWR, F/R 4,410 lbs/7,720 lbs
GVWR/GCWR 11,030 lbs/15,250 lbs
ROCCC 2,221 lbs
GAWR Gross Axle Weight Rating
GVWR Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
GCWR Gross Combination Weight Rating
ROCCC Realistic Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity (full water, no passengers)


 

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Chris Hemer <![CDATA[Let’s Not Meet by Accident]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=44753 2019-10-30T16:44:15Z 2019-10-24T23:40:57Z

RV manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers offer a variety of systems that can help make motorhome travel safer

Driving down the highway, you activate the turn signal. As you glance in the mirror, you notice that the familiar triangle silhouette is glowing red, indicating that a vehicle is in your blind spot. Traffic begins to slow suddenly, and the vehicle issues an audible alert, then begins braking on its own. Later that evening, you become weary, and as your mind wanders, so does your vehicle … into the adjacent lane. Fortunately, lane-keeping assist alerts you to the situation, then gently pulls the steering wheel back into the direction of travel.

The Mobileye system is designed to provide drivers with adequate warning to react to potential road hazards with audible and visual warnings.
Hours of driving can contribute to driver fatigue and slower reaction times. According to Mobileye, studies have shown that nearly 80% of crashes involve some form of driver inattention three seconds before impact. The Mobileye system is designed to provide drivers with adequate warning to react to potential road hazards with audible and visual warnings.

Active and passive safety systems like these are standard equipment in many of today’s mid-priced and up passenger vehicles. But until recently, even the most basic safety features have been absent from the vehicles that arguably could use them the most: motorhomes. While it is true that Class B and Class C motorhome chassis typically offer some safety features, they are still well behind the automotive industry and have been practically nonexistent in Class A motorhomes.

Considering many new RVers haven’t driven anything larger than the family SUV, providing them with technologies that can protect their family and investment makes sense, but the difficulty and expense involved with implementing these technologies has made for a slow progression. Thankfully, that’s starting to change. “A little more than four years ago, we began a push to get involved with events that attract RVers, such as Hershey [RV show], Tampa Super Show and RVX, so we could educate consumers,” explained Vanya Banjac, marketing manager for Mobileye, a crash-avoidance system used by many automotive manufacturers. “Over the last few years, our market has grown 25-35%.”

Driver’s Safety

A global company owned by tech giant Intel, the Mobileye system offers a suite of six safety features that include Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure, Headway/Following Time Monitoring & Warning, Pedestrian and Cyclist Collision Warning, Speed Limit Indicator and Intelligent High Beam Control. But unlike many of the safety systems in newer cars, the Mobileye system can be retrofitted to older motorhomes as well.

Two images of Spartan's digital dash which can can display visual warnings, camera views and other information.
Spartan’s digital dash can display visual warnings, camera views and other information. The user can also toggle the navigation display from the infotainment screen to the digital dash.

Currently, Mobileye is offered in luxury coaches from Tiffin and Newmar, and was added as an available feature to complement Spartan Motors’ comprehensive Advanced Protection System (APS) that the company offers on its motorhome chassis. APS is engineered and manufactured in the U.S. and is comprised of six key sub-systems that include collision mitigation with forward warning and active braking; electronic stability control; adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warning; tire-pressure monitoring; and Spartan Safe Haul, a chassis-integrated air braking system for towed vehicles. As of this writing, APS is offered as a complete system, but its features are available individually to suit the coachbuilder’s requirements. As a result, it’s likely that crash-avoidance systems like these will gradually work their way down into lower-cost models, much the way they have in the automotive industry.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) also offers a proprietary suite of safety systems called RoadWatch. Available on FCCC’s popular XC and XL chassis, RoadWatch includes Adaptive Cruise Control, radar-based Collision Mitigation with Forward Warning & Active Braking, Electronic Stability Controls, Roll Stability Control and Automatic Traction Control.
RoadWatch features and components can also be ordered individually by the coachbuilder.
“There are several manufacturers currently offering RoadWatch as an option on their models, and we’re working with several more to make it an option on some of their models beginning next year,” said Bryan Henke, manager of product marketing at FCCC.

To better display the abundance of visual warnings, as well as camera views, navigation and other features, both chassis manufacturers offer a digital dash to complement their safety systems. Designed in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, FCCC’s OptiView is a fully integrated, all-digital LCD instrument cluster inspired by the current S-Class dash, according to FCCC. Spartan’s digital dash allows the user to toggle the navigation display from the infotainment screen (to the right of the steering wheel) to the digital dash, where it is front and center. Both screens are compatible with each respective company’s 360-degree camera system, which can eliminate blind spots when changing lanes, backing or parking.

A ProViu ASL360, LCD motorhome display with its 7-inch screen
Large LCD displays are becoming more popular. The ProViu ASL360, with its 7-inch screen, can be retrofitted to older RVs and allows the driver to monitor the entire vehicle and its surroundings at a single glance.

RV manufacturers have often been resistant to offer new technologies or features in their products, claiming that customers won’t pay extra for them and instead will buy another, less expensive brand. Thankfully, FCCC and Spartan maintain that their systems are being well received by coach manufacturers, and that consumers don’t seem to mind paying for them. “They don’t think about it as ‘paying extra’ at all,” said Henke. “They see what RoadWatch provides them — increased safety, coach protection, peace of mind — as priceless.”

Camera Systems

Moreover, camera systems are becoming a popular option at the manufacturer and aftermarket levels as a cost-effective solution that makes driving easier and reduces the chances of an accident. For example, the ProViu ASL360 Camera System by Continental is a 360-degree camera system that allows the driver to monitor the entire vehicle and its surroundings at a single glance. Four wide-angle micro-cameras monitor the front, rear and sides of the vehicle, displaying video feeds as a single panoramic stream on a 7-inch display. The system offers a choice of angles, including top-down bird’s-eye, 180-degree, specific focus single views and multiple split screen, according to the company. It is designed for easy installation on any type of RV, including motorhomes, trailers and truck campers. As an option, consumers can also add Continental’s DVR to the ProViu system, which can record up to four video feeds simultaneously to twin SD cards with up to 256 GB of memory. It can also record vehicle speed and features a G-sensor to log acceleration at the time of the recording. Think of it as a comprehensive “dash cam” that could be useful in the event of an accident.

Continental and VDO DVR accessory systemsfeature DVR functionality and the ability to record up to four video feeds simultaneously.
Dash cameras are enjoying widespread use as a way to continuously record the direction of travel in case of an accident, which can help with insurance/legal claims. Continental and VDO offer DVR accessory systems that take the concept even further with DVR functionality and the ability to record up to four video feeds simultaneously. In an RV application, this could be used to monitor the motorhome as well as the dinghy vehicle.

Continental also offers its VDO 7-inch Quad Display Monitor with two side-mount cameras and one Mini Camera with parking guidelines, as well as a simpler system consisting of a 5.6-inch color display that is easier to mount in crowded cockpits. Enclosed in a vibration-resistant, 100% waterproof housing, the camera uses infrared LEDs for increased vision at night. RV owners have multiple mounting choices and configurations that can be easily customized to fit their specific application needs, according to Continental.

Furrion recently introduced its Vision S system and a new Wi-Fi transmitter, boasting limitless mounting combinations with up to four camera views displayed on a high-definition monitor. With a 180-degree viewing angle, infrared night vision, integrated microphones and built-in marker/signal lights, Furrion’s Vision S system is designed to provide RVers the ease of use and safety in one complete package. With the addition of the Furrion Wi-Fi transmitter, users can now transmit images to their smart devices as well.
The Vision S observation system is wireless and is available with a 7-inch, 5-inch or 4.3-inch high-resolution display. The 7-inch display is capable of showing up to four camera images at once and allows the user to enlarge any image on the touch screen.

The Vision S vehicle camera system
The Vision S vehicle system from Furrion is the first system with built-in signal/marker lights, making it easy to add the system to an existing RV, truck or trailer, according to the company. Features include infrared night vision, integrated microphone and Wi-Fi transmitter.

MITO Corp. offers its own line of camera systems called PerimeterView. The top-of-the-line PerimeterView 360 consists of four 185-degree Super Wide-Angle Cameras that feed into the internal ECU, which allows users to view side, rear or front cameras independently or combined as a high-resolution seamless aerial panoramic image in real time.

“PerimeterView 360 gives drivers a sweeping view of the perimeter of their vehicle and allows them to scan ‘Danger Zones’ RV drivers generally cannot see in order to give them the confidence and assurance needed to maneuver safely,” said Rod Hire, VP of product development for MITO Corp. “The intelligent and powerful ECU can be tied to the vehicle chassis in order to show priority views when reverse or left/right turn signals are sent and now features capabilities to record video output with add-on DVR hardware.”

The monitor of the PerimeterView 360 from MITO Corp.
The top-of-the-line PerimeterView 360 from MITO Corp. consists of four 185-degree Super Wide-Angle Cameras that feed into the internal ECU, which allows users to view side, rear or front cameras independently or combined as a high-resolution seamless aerial panoramic image in real time.

In addition to a lower-cost three-point camera system, MITO also offers a PerimeterView Blindspot Detection/Lane Change Warning system for motorhome applications. Through an interior warning light and audible warning, the system alerts the driver to a vehicle present within a 200-foot range when traveling. Lane Change Assist is triggered by the turn signal and lets the driver know through an audible alert if there is a car present in the direction of the lane change or if there is a vehicle coming into the lane from behind.

The proliferation of safety products for motorhomes seems like a win for everyone. Safety is selling, but in the end, it’s the RV owner who profits.

The Pressure is On

The Firestone Tire/Ford Explorer debacle of 2000 brought to light the importance of correct tire inflation pressure, culminating in the factory installation of TPMS systems in all cars, trucks and SUVs after September 2007 as part of the government’s TREAD Act. Motorhomes and towables, however, were not part of the mandate, leaving consumers responsible for correct tire pressure on their RVs. As with the other technologies highlighted in the main article, the economies of scale have made TPMS systems affordable for everyone, whether towing a dinghy vehicle or trailer. Here are just a few examples:

RVi

RVi Tire Patrol2Most of us associate RVi with its popular dinghy braking system, but the company also offers Tire Patrol, a unique TPMS with some interesting features. Designed to work with the company’s Command Center Smart RV Tablet and Hub, which features a 7-inch color touch screen with magnetic mount, the Command Center utilizes RVi’s proprietary, encrypted Wi-Fi connection to allow the user to not only view TPMS info, but other “Works with Command Center” products in RVi’s line. Sealed external sensors transmit real-time info on tire pressure/temperature, and each sensor is labeled for its respective tire to expedite the pairing/reconnecting process. A battery-save mode helps the batteries last up to three years, and the company also offers an inexpensive battery replacement program. MSRP: $695 (six-tire motorhome with four-tire towed vehicle). RVi | 800-815-2159

TireMinder

TireMinder A1A and Bluetooth Adapter One of the most respected names in RV TPMS, TireMinder recently introduced its Smart TPMS system, which leverages an iPhone, iPad or Android smart device in lieu of a dedicated monitor. The system includes lightweight external transmitters using the 433 MHz frequency, which transmits tire info to the user’s smartphone (checking for tire issues every six seconds) via Bluetooth. The TireMinder app allows the user to choose between monitoring pressure and temperature simultaneously or independently, and the guided set up provides step-by-step instructions. It can even automatically configure baseline pressures. A new alert system for six parameters includes tire-specific voice alerts, allowing the driver to keep his/her eyes on the road — and if the phone or device isn’t on, the included Bluetooth Adapter is said to provide back-up notification. Up to eight different vehicles can be monitored by switching them on/off in the app (two at a time). If a dedicated monitor is preferred, TireMinder offers its TM-77 TPMS, featuring a 3.25-inch display. In addition, every TireMinder customer who registers his/her system with TireMinder is eligible for the company’s free battery replacement plan, which includes free annual replacement of the CR1632 transmitters and O-rings. Minder, a division of Valterra Products LLC | 772-463-6522

Truck System Technologies

Truck System Technologies’ 507 Series TPMSTruck System Technologies’ 507 Series TPMS features a 3.5-inch color display that offers real-time tire pressure (up to 218 psi) and temperature information for all tires on the motorhome and dinghy vehicle. High- and low-pressure alarm levels are user-adjustable, and the display can monitor up to four towed vehicles/trailers with audible and visual alerts. TST offers some nice benefits as well, such as a standard repeater (booster) and a choice of cap or flow-through external sensors with replaceable batteries. According to the company, the flow-through sensors are most popular for use on motorhomes and should be used with metal valve stems; cap sensors are more common on towed vehicles. Both sensor types are interchangeable and compatible with the single monitor. Truck System Technologies | 770-889-9102

Tire Tips

Unlike performance car tires, where the maximum inflation pressure on the sidewall should never be exceeded, the pressure figure on the sidewall of a light-truck or medium-duty truck tire is the minimum pressure necessary to carry the maximum load. In other words, if a tire reads “Max load single: 3,640 lbs at 65 psi cold,” then 65 psi is the minimum cold inflation temperature necessary to carry the maximum load figure.

Tire manufacturers like Goodyear and Michelin publish load/inflation tables (available online) that indicate how much weight a tire can carry based on inflation pressure. Therefore, it is recommended that you weigh your coach when it is loaded and ready for travel (including passenger weight, fuel, water, supplies, etc.) to determine the amount of air necessary to carry your load. While you may find it necessary to inflate the front and rear tires to different pressures, it is critical that tire pressures remain the same across an axle (even if the weight from side-to-side is different).

Tire pressure should always be checked when the tires are cold — i.e., not driven for more than 1 mile. If your trip takes more than one day, it should be checked every morning before continuing on; if you are on a day trip, it should be checked before you leave, and again before returning home. An easy way to do this is with a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Besides load and inflation, RVers must become familiar with the data molded into the sidewalls. What you need to concern yourself with in particular are size, load ratings, speed rating and the DOT number that indicates (among other things) the date the tire was manufactured. A typical Class A motorhome tire would be a 275/70R 22.5. The 275 is the design width of the tire expressed in millimeters; 70 is the aspect ratio (also expressed in millimeters), which indicates the height or profile of the sidewall relative to the cross-section width. In this instance, the sidewall is 70% as tall as the cross section is wide. The “R” indicates radial and 22.5 is the rim diameter.


 

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Motorhome Staff <![CDATA[Camp Comfort]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=44684 2019-10-16T21:44:45Z 2019-10-23T21:31:18Z

 

The ability to get a good night’s sleep in your motorhome is one of the many reasons we love the lifestyle. Dreamfoam Bedding’s ASPEN 10″ Latex RV Mattress is designed to make falling asleep easier than ever. The ASPEN is available in three levels of firmness and features a 3-inch layer of Oeko-Tex Class 1 Talay latex. A 1-inch quilted top with super soft reflex foam offers pressure-point relief by instantly conforming to your body, while a convoluted-foam base allows for a cooler, more comfortable night’s sleep. Available in short full ($449), short queen ($549) and short king ($649) sizes, the ASPEN mattress is made in the USA and comes with a 10-year warranty. A 120-night risk-free trial ensures customer satisfaction.

Dreamfoam Bedding | 888-213-8967


 

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James Richardson <![CDATA[An Autumn Blaze Of Glory In The Peach State]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=44666 2019-10-16T21:22:29Z 2019-10-23T19:10:04Z

The North Georgia Mountains beckon with stunning fall foliage, quaint shops and scenic waterfalls

Autumn is one of the most popular times for motorhome travel, and the North Georgia Mountains area is a popular place to go. Envision a colorful patchwork quilt sprinkled with small towns with whimsical names like Blue Ridge, Helen, Tallulah Falls and Dahlonega. Among those North Georgia Mountains are the Chattahoochee National Forest, several state parks, many rivers and, of course, waterfalls galore — all of which make the North Georgia Mountains a great place to visit year-round. But it’s the stunning technicolor landscape throughout the season that makes exploration during fall truly special.

There are no interstate highways crossing through the mountains. That welcome respite provides ample time to admire the countryside and the colorful trees as the curvy and twisty roads wind their way through the mountains connecting the unique towns. The town of Helen is the center of the North Georgia Mountains and is one of the most popular to visit, especially in the fall. Founded in 1913 as a logging town and named for the daughter of a railroad surveyor, the town declined as the timber industry did. After all the timber was cut, people simply left Helen, but in 1968 local businessmen met to discuss what could be done to resurrect the town. An artist from Germany was enlisted for ideas. He made sketches of buildings, depicting a quaint alpine look to the entire town.

A Blue Ridge Scenic Railway locomotive sits in the station beneath fall leaves and a dark cloudy sky.
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway takes guests on a four-hour, 26-mile round trip along the Toccoa River and through neighboring towns. Photos: Courtesy Picture Georgia-Ralph Daniel

His ideas stuck and the local business owners began turning those ideas into reality. The town was reborn and took on the appearance of a Bavarian village.

Today, Helen is a very popular and thriving destination. The town has shops and restaurants lining its streets, all reminiscent of an alpine village. Nearby Creekwood Resort (706-878-2164, www.creekwoodresort.com) is a good option for RVers, although there are a number of other campgrounds in the area, including sites at local state parks. Three state parks, Vogel, Unicoi and Tallulah Gorge, all have campgrounds and other features that make them worthwhile to visit or use as a home base.

Unicoi State Park is situated just north of Helen. It has 1,050 acres and the 53-acre Smith Lake, sometimes called Unicoi Lake. The lake is the centerpiece of the park and allows fishing, swimming and picnicking. As with all Georgia State Parks, there is a parking fee of $5. But passing through to gain access to the Anna Ruby Falls Recreation Area is free.
Anna Ruby Falls is operated by the Cradle of Forestry within the Chattahoochee National Forest and has a nominal $3 entrance fee. Holders of the National Parks senior pass are admitted free of charge.

A hiker in Tallulah Gorge State Park crosses the 200-foot-long suspension bridge just above the gorge floor.
A visit to Tallulah Gorge State Park should include the 200-foot-long suspension bridge just above the gorge floor that offers great views of the river and its waterfalls. Below: Colorful Vogel State Park comes alive in the fall.

Anna Ruby Falls is actually twin waterfalls created by two separate streams that join at their base to form Smith Creek, which flows into Unicoi Lake. The waterfall is named for a daughter of Captain J.H. Nichols, who owned the land containing the waterfall; he discovered it while horseback riding. The paved half-mile hike leading to the observation area for the waterfall is uphill but worth the effort.

Vogel State Park, established in 1931, is also located in the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of Blood Mountain, and is the second-oldest state park in Georgia. In elevation it is one of the highest in the state, at 2,500 feet above sea level. The main features of the park are Trahlyta Lake, a waterfall of the same name and 17 miles of hiking trails. Hikers can choose from a 4-mile loop (an easy lake loop that leads to Trahlyta Falls) and a longer 13-mile backcountry trail that takes hikers up Blood Mountain and the Appalachian Trail near Neel’s Gap.

A viwer on the observation deck at Brasstown Bald has a view of the north Georgia mountains
Visitors to the observation deck at Brasstown Bald are treated to a breathtaking view of the reds, golds and greens of the fall-foliage season.

Tallulah Gorge State Park is located east of Helen and near the town of Tallulah Falls. The 2,700-acre park surrounds the 2-mile gorge formed by the Tallulah River. The 1,000-foot-deep gorge contains six waterfalls along its length. Visitors can hike trails along its rim to several overlooks to view the waterfalls, or they can obtain a permit to hike to the gorge floor. However, there is a limit to the number allowed. Just above the gorge floor, a 200-foot-long suspension bridge provides great views of the river and its waterfalls. The gorge has been used by two tightrope walkers in its history, one of which was the famous Karl Wallenda. The Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center sits atop the gorge, honoring a conservationist and environmentalist who had an interest in Georgia.

Southwest of Helen is another historic town, Dahlonega, which in 1828 was the site of the first major gold rush in the U.S. The Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site is housed in the 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse located in the center of town. Here, visitors can see displays of the gold mining methods and samples of gold coins minted in the mid-1800s.

The town of Blue Ridge, 60 miles northwest of Helen, is located along U.S. Highway 76 and is part of the Southern Highroads Trail, a 364-mile loop across the Appalachian Mountains that winds through four national forests and four states (Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina). The town’s center is home to the 1905 historic depot, where the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway operates. The seasonal train runs Fridays through Mondays and generally follows the Toccoa River through the countryside to the sister towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. The 26-mile round trip takes about four hours, with special trips offered during the autumn leaf-peeping season (September 20-November 11), during the winter and for New Year’s Eve.

A view of the marina and fall colors at Vogel State Park in Georgia
Colorful Vogel State Park comes alive in the fall.

Locator map for north Georgia mountainsGetting There

Helen is generally considered the center of the North Georgia Mountains area. From Atlanta, take Interstate 85 North for about 28 miles. At Exit 113, take Interstate 985 North toward Gainesville, and follow for about 24 miles. Keep straight on U.S. Route 23 North/Georgia SR 13 North/SR 365 North for 17 miles. Take Georgia SR 384/Duncan Bridge Road for almost 16 miles, then turn onto Interstate 75. Follow the signs to Helen.

Just 4 miles from Helen, the town of Sautee Nacoochee offers visitors a few interesting attractions. The center of the unincorporated community is the Old Sautee Store, an old-fashioned country store established in 1872. The rocking-chaired front porch welcomes visitors, the first room is preserved with antiques, and beyond that is a shop with apparel, cheeses and canned goods.

Another stop for visitors who enjoy covered bridges is 2.7 miles north of the Old Sautee Store. The current Stovall Mill Covered Bridge was built in 1895, after the original one had washed away a few years earlier. According to the historical marker at the bridge, it was featured in a 1951 movie “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain,” starring Susan Hayward.
The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is one of several scenic byways in the North Georgia Mountains. It forms a circle route through the Chattahoochee National Forest. At its northernmost point (the highest point in Georgia), Brasstown Bald stands at 4,784 feet at its peak. A road to the top of the mountain is by way of State Route 180, a spur of which is steep and winding, and not recommended for Class A motorhomes; Class B’s and compact Class C’s should be OK.

The entrance at the base of Brasstown Bald has a parking area where visitors can either ride a free shuttle to the visitor center at the top or hike the .4-mile trail. A National Parks pass is honored at the entrance to the parking area. The visitor center has exhibits on local culture, geology and wildlife. There is also an observation deck that provides a 360-degree panoramic view.

A street view of the alpine architecture in the town of Helen in north Georgia.
The alpine look and feel of the town of Helen has made it the third most visited city in Georgia.

Another section of the 40.6-mile Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway includes all of State Route 348, also known as the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway. There are several scenic overlooks along this not-to-be-missed route in the North Georgia Mountains. There are also campgrounds, trail heads to waterfalls and other natural attractions along the way.
With all there is to do and see in the North Georgia Mountains, plan a trip to do and see it all. But in autumn, when fall colors blaze, the area is simply too amazing to forget.

Georgia Adventure Lodges

Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge – 800-573-9656
Located in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge is one of Georgia’s top hiking and camping spots with the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. In addition to the activities available during the daylight hours such as hiking, ziplining and more, visitors can sleep immersed in nature under a canopy of stars at one of Amicalola Falls’ 25 wooded campsites, which accommodate RVs and tents. Those looking for an especially unique camping experience will enjoy the Survivalist Camp. This class is perfect for those interested in improving their outdoor and survival skills through lessons like reading the terrain, staying warm and building a fire with minimal materials. A comfort station with laundry, restrooms and showers is also located within the campground.

A motorHome is parked in a campsite at Tallulah Gorge State Park with brilliant fall colors overhead
Spread across more than 2,700 acres, Tallulah Gorge State Park offers 50 campsites (some with electricity)

Unicoi State Park & Lodge – 800-573-9659,
Tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains and located near the charming alpine-Bavarian town of Helen, Georgia, Unicoi State Park and Lodge is a camper’s paradise. Those looking to sleep under the stars can do so at its “Squirrel’s Nest,” a primitive camping platform situated in the trees. Unicoi also offers ADA-accessible campsites and 30- and 40-foot RV sites. Each option is pet-friendly, so families are welcome to bring along their canine companions. This destination is also part of the Adventure Lodge program, offering paddleboard lessons, mountain biking, a new archery and air-rifle range, and more.

For More Information

Alpine Helen/White County Convention & Visitors Bureau | 800-858-8027
Blue Ridge/Fannin County Chamber of Commerce | 706-632-5680
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 800-231-5543
Georgia State Parks | 800-864-7275


 

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Danielle Boucek <![CDATA[Traveling to Cape Breton Island by RV]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=44920 2019-11-07T23:04:11Z 2019-10-23T13:15:29Z

It might be a little too early to be thinking about next summer’s travel plans, but, then again, maybe not. Especially when you’re planning a trip to one of those RV-bucket list destinations — Nova Scotia, Canada. Imagine it’s August, the hottest month of the summer; you’re traveling around the east coast of the U.S., enjoying all that the Northeast has to offer, until you can no longer bear the heat, humidity and the hordes of summer tourists. Where do you head next?  For us, this was a no-brainer — Canada! Canada continues to be an amazing destination each and every summer while we are traveling by RV. Whether you are looking to escape the summer heat, trying to find incredible and diverse landscapes, or if you are looking for those incredible fall colors, eastern Canada has a little something for everyone.

Throughout our travels, we have consistently heard great things about eastern Canada, more specifically about Nova Scotia. During our quick research of things to do and sights to see in Nova Scotia, we quickly discovered a roadway that piqued our interest, called the Cabot Trail. The world-famous Cabot Trail is located on the northeastern portion of Nova Scotia, known as Cape Breton Island. The entire loop is about 185 miles, and that’s if you decide to solely stay on the trail. The trail loops around the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. If you stay on the trail, you could do the drive in one day, and it could be completed within eight hours (though that is not recommended as you will surpass all the best parts of Cape Breton Island). If you have a strict time limit, for planning, we suggest giving yourself at least three to six days to explore the island. There are small towns and sites all along the island off of the Cabot Trail that could extend your trip a fair bit.

White motorhome parked along scenic road with sign stating The Cabot Trail on side
Signs that line the Cabot Trail. Photo by: Danielle Boucek

This scenic loop boasts of one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and that claim did not fall short. The Cabot Trail whips and twists around the steep cliffsides overlooking the ocean during the majority of the drive. It is known to be a hot spot for whale watching and even puffin spotting by small boat tours. Cape Breton Island is quite diverse with winding, rugged coastlines, and inclines with lush mountain views that will make you question which coast you are on. If you are looking for an RV trip within a small range of driving miles, but packed with views around every turn, Cape Breton Island will be a dream for you!

Getting There

When driving your RV north from the states, there are a few different ways you can get to Cape Breton Island. You can either take the major highways through the provinces, from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, you can take the longer scenic route in New Brunswick along the Bay of Fundy, or if you want to just skip the drive through New Brunswick entirely, you can hop on a ferry in Saint John, New Brunswick, to Digby, Nova Scotia. We chose to take the scenic route through New Brunswick, and would highly recommend this route. If you decide to take the scenic route, you will pass some incredible maritime towns, numerous lighthouses and tourist attractions, such as the St. Martins Sea Caves, Fundy National Park and Hopewell Rocks Park — these tourist attractions were highlights of our trip before we even reached our destination.

Red and white lighthouse with orange flowers in foreground at dusk
Lighthouse in St. Martins, New Brunswick. Photo credit: Danielle Boucek
Woman standing at mountain and cave with dog looking up
St. Martins Sea Caves at low tide. Photo credit: Danielle Boucek

For an RVer, Cape Breton Island and the Cabot Trail are incredibly easy to travel to. We noticed during our drive that we were traveling among a plethora of other RVers, motorcyclists and campers. Most areas we visited seemed to be accessible by all sizes of recreational vehicles. Although, if you drive a larger RV, keep in mind that once you are on the Cabot Trail, the roads get steep and narrow quite quickly. If you are in a large Class A motorhome, it may be ideal to travel with a smaller car in tow to explore deeper into what Cape Breton Island has to offer.

The Cabot Trail is open year-round. However, Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s operating season is from May to mid-October, with full services in July and August. The national park is located in the northern loop of the Cabot Trail. If you have a parks pass you will be able to access various amenities offered by Parks Canada.

Depending on which route you choose, it can take between six to eight hours to drive from Saint Stephen port of entry from the U.S. to Cape Breton Island. You will leave mainland Nova Scotia on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 104) which leads eastward over the Canso Causeway bridge onto the island. And from there, your Cape Breton Island adventures begin!

Camping on the Cabot Trail

There’s enough to do and see on The Cabot Trail that you could explore for weeks. We had a little less than a week to spend exploring in this portion of Nova Scotia, so we tried to find areas congested with great food options, camping, multiple hiking trails, and of course great views never hurt.  Spacing out our stopping points on the island helped us feel like we saw the most we could within a limited timeframe.

Chéticamp

We decided to drive the loop around the island clockwise, so our first stop on the Cabot Trail was in the town of Chéticamp. Driving to Chéticamp from the Canso Causeway should take somewhere between an hour and a half to two hours depending on which route you take. Chéticamp is a fishing town on the west coast of the Cabot Trail. It is a quaint town scattered with coastal homes atop any and every hill with a view of the ocean. You will be able to find groceries, beaches to enjoy, trails to hike, and an RV park just a stone’s throw from the beach. Chéticamp was our very first taste of the amazing views that the Cabot Trail would reveal in the days to come.

If you are interested in getting away from the coastline on a hike, we recommend checking out the Gypsum Mine Lake trail. The lake is hidden about a mile into the woods, and it is a family-friendly (and dog-friendly) hike. This was such a fun way to start our morning in Chéticamp. It’s an easy hike, and is maintained by a local who is more than happy to chat with visitors and explain the history behind the old mine and now, recreational lake.

Beautiful lake near Chéticamp inside pine tree covered mountains on sunny day
Views at the Gypsum Mine Lake. Photo credit: Danielle Boucek
Older looking motorhome parked facing lake in Canada at sunset
Coastal views. Photo credit: Danielle Boucek

Meat Cove

The next stop on our tour of the Cabot Trail, or off the trail for this stop, is a cove about two hours north of Chéticamp. Meat Cove was recommended to us by another traveler in passing, and became our favorite place to visit during our Cape Breton trip. It’s quite far off the beaten path of the Cabot Trail, but was worth the sidebar adventure. Tucked away in this cove is an incredibly small, but beautiful fishing village located on the northern tip of Cape Breton. Most of the drive to the cove is on a dirt road that weaves in and out of the tree-laced cliffside. This remote community is on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  There is not a whole lot to this area besides the local community (maybe 25-30 homes total), the beach, the Chowder Hut, a few trails, and the cliffside campground, but with the views you get in Meat Cove, you don’t need much else!

We decided to walk the road in and out of town to check out the trail not far from the beach, and to our delight we found an even smaller trail by the visitor center with a sign that read “boardwalk to the beach.” We had not yet made it down to the Meat Cove beach, so we took this enchantingly creaky wooden path to the beach, and were beaming with smiles by the end. Someone spent a grand amount of time building the “boardwalk to the beach,” and it made for a unique way to find the cove on foot. If the small parking lot at the beach is full, this would be a great alternative for accessing the beach.

Young woman relaxing on rock in bathing suit with dog at Meat Cove Beach
Meat Cove Beach. Photo credit: Danielle Boucek
Woman with dark hair, wearing dress and walking dog up to Meat Cove Chowder Hut in Nova Scotia
Meat Cove Chowder Hut. Photo credit: Danielle Boucek

Ingonish

Ingonish was where we camped last on the Cabot Trail. It’s located closest to the eastern entrance of the Highlands National Park. We found this location to be interesting because of how much there was to do in close proximity to the Cabot Trail. Ingonish was one of the first areas settled on Cape Breton Island. It’s more widely known for its famous Keltic Lodge, and the Cape Smokey Provincial Park. There is easy access to the national park, access to beautiful beaches, as well as freshwater streams and lakes, waterfalls and more. This is another fishing village, so if you are looking to splurge on fresh seafood, this would be an ideal spot to do so. The campgrounds around this area are nothing to write home about; expect camping to be similar to that within any national park — not as much luxury as a pricey RV resort. The majority of camping in this area is within the national park, so there are a few campgrounds in this area without amenities like electric and sewer at your campsite. If you need to use hookups and dump your tanks on the end of your trip on the Cabot Trail, then we recommend checking out Broad Cove Campground.

Woman taking large stride on Ingonish Beach in Nova Scotia on beautiful sunny day
Photo of Ingonish Beach via cabottrail.travel

 

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Motorhome Staff <![CDATA[Dinghy Digest: Power Struggle]]> http://www.motorhome.com/?p=44654 2019-10-14T23:59:26Z 2019-10-22T21:43:41Z

How to set up a dinghy vehicle’s electrical system for safe, trouble-free towing

When you tow a vehicle behind a motorhome, you have to consider that you’re essentially treating the car like a trailer, and it should function like one in order to ensure safe, lawful travel. In the last two installments of Dinghy Digest, we presented information on baseplates and tow bars that make hitching and towing possible — so now it’s on to the next step: the electrical system.

Unlike a trailer, which has a power cord designed to plug into the tow vehicle to provide power for running/brakelights and turn signals, a car/truck/SUV doesn’t, so one must be wired into the system. The most common way to do this is with a wiring harness that plugs/splices into the dinghy vehicle’s tail- and brakelights and uses one-way diodes to prevent electrical feedback. For those who prefer not to tap into the existing wiring, a bulb and socket kit can be used, which bypasses the towed vehicle’s lighting circuit and is mounted inside the taillight assemblies. In either example, the wiring harness is routed to a receptacle mounted at the front of the vehicle, and a specific power cord is plugged into the dinghy and motorhome, in a similar fashion to hooking a trailer to the tow vehicle.
Years ago, those were your only two options — but today, there are even easier alternatives. Blue Ox, Demco and Hopkins Towing Solutions offer vehicle-specific wiring harnesses for popular vehicles that allow you to plug into the factory harness, eliminating the need for cutting and splicing. These same companies offer fit lists that make it easy to determine if a vehicle-specific kit is available for your application.

Wiring kits for dinghy towing
Above left, Demco offers vehicle-specific plug-in wiring kits as well as Bulb Taillight Wiring and diode wiring kits (like this one) that employ heat-sealed diodes to connect the motor­home’s running lights, turn signals and brakelights to the towed vehicle. Diodes prevent the backflow of electricity to protect both vehicles’ electrical systems.
Above middle, Hopkins Towing Solutions offers vehicle-specific towed vehicle wiring kits that plug into the dinghy vehicle’s taillight wiring harness using OEM connectors — no cutting or splicing is required.
Above right, Roadmaster offers universal diode and bulb-and-socket wiring kits, as well as specialty items like the FuseMaster, which allows effective disconnection of one or more fuses (as required by the vehicle manufacturer before towing) by simply flipping a switch.

If you tow more than one vehicle, or just want the easiest lighting solution, you may prefer an auxiliary light system that attaches temporarily to the vehicle. Roadmaster’s Magnetic Tow Lights and Demco’s Light Bar are self-contained systems that require no internal wiring of the dinghy vehicle and simply plug into the motorhome’s 7-way receptacle to sense lighting sequences. There are even products on the market that use Bluetooth technology, eliminating external wiring.

Obviously, not all vehicles have the same electrical systems, and you’ve likely noticed procedures in our annual Guide to Dinghy Towing that may be required before towing, usually to prevent the dinghy vehicle’s battery from going dead while in transit. These may include disconnecting the battery or removing specific fuses, which is far from convenient, especially for those who tow frequently. A specific kit allows you to effectively disconnect the battery while towing by simply flipping a switch in the vehicle’s cabin — and if the dinghy requires one or more fuses to be pulled before towing, Roadmaster offers its FuseMaster kit, which effectively disconnects the fuses in question with the push of a button.

Wiring kits for dinghy towing
Above left, some vehicles require the negative battery cable to be removed whenever the vehicle is flat towed. The Roadmaster battery disconnect kit employs a solenoid that allows the user to disconnect the battery by pushing a button.
Above right the EZ Light wiring harness from Blue Ox allows connection to the vehicle’s electrical system in as little as 15 minutes, according to the company. The EZ Light kit connects to the towed vehicle’s wiring to provide taillights, turn signals and brakelights while towing. The company’s website offers a fit list for a wide range of vehicles.

In cases where the vehicle draws current while being towed, or you are using a supplemental (dinghy) braking system that runs off of the dinghy’s battery, a charge line kit can prevent discharging (and surprises) when it comes time to disconnect. A charge line kit is designed to keep the dinghy’s battery charged from the motorhome while in transit, in much the same way a trailer’s battery is kept charged by the tow vehicle. However, this can only be effective if you know the amount of current the vehicle and its accessories are drawing, so that the proper gauge wiring is employed. We should also mention that a charge line kit should not be considered a substitute for disconnecting the battery or removing specific fuses if that’s what the owner’s manual calls for.

Sources

Blue Ox | 800-228-9289
Demco Products | 800-543-3626
Hopkins Towing Solutions/Hopkins Manufacturing Corp. | 800-835-0129
Roadmaster Inc. | 800-669-9690
RVi 800-815-2159


 

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