Industry Interview- Gunter Thoma

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Industry Interview– Gunter Thoma, RV Consultant

Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores

Gunter Thoma Tiffin MotorhomesWe are at the 65th Annual California RV Show at the Fairplex in Pomona.  We spoke with Gunter Thoma on a busy Wednesday morning about being on the sales side of the RV industry.  Gunter has been an RV Consultant for 12 years, the last 5 years with Tiffin Motorhomes and does 7-8 RV shows each year across California.  Gunter specializes in Tiffin Motorhomes.

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AARV:  Thank you Gunter for taking the time to speak with me today.   How long have you been in RV Sales?

Gunter:  I have been in the RV sales industry for 10 years.  I owned my own boat business prior to this and sold family boats, mostly trailerables up to about 38 feet.  

AARV:  Tiffin is known as a family-run and family oriented business.  Do they consider Sales Reps and dealers as family and do they know every sales rep personally?

Gunter:  The Tiffin’s are extremely family oriented.  It is amazing that Bob Tiffin remembers every person he has spoken to in relation to a client or customers need.  It could be something simple 10 years ago about an issue with a customer’s RV and he remembers the conversation and the person.

AARV:  Why did you go from boats to RV’s?

Gunter:  2008 was a tough year as you know, and it was a very tough year for boat sales.  Boats are a less practical luxury than an RV and not everyone is comfortable on the water. RV’s bring families and people together.  Also, as we have seen with all the recent hurricanes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and up the east coast, boats can easily be destroyed.   With an RV in a hurricane or other natural disaster, you have a second home and can evacuate easily. 

AARV:  Do most of your clients follow a progression of ownership leading up to a Tiffin, or do most buy Tiffin as their first bus or motorhome?

Gunter:  It is almost like home buying.  People start out small with a tract home and move up to a second, third and fourth home.  It is very similar with RV’s.  Most buyers don’t generally buy a Tiffin as their first RV.  It takes time to decipher the evidence as to what makes a quality RV. 

Tiffin Logo 400x93AARV: Most of us in the industry recognize Tiffin as a very high-quality product.   What makes Tiffin one of the top companies in the market?

Gunter:  Mr. Tiffin has never lived an extravagant lifestyle.   His focus is on family, community and his business.  Much of their profits are reinvested into the factory, equipment, business and customer service.  I believe that is what sets Tiffin apart.  You can literally pick up the phone and call Bob or one of his sons and speak to them.  It is not like that in a company that is corporate owned and run.

AARV: What percentage of your clients live full time on the road?

Gunter:  I believe that about 35% of my Tiffin clients live full time on the road.

AARV:   I have read that many people, of all ages, are selling their homes and taking to living on the road full time.  Many say it is cheaper than home ownership.  Is this your understanding and could you briefly explain why that might be?

Gunter:  I am not sure about that.  I believe that it is the lifestyle that draws people to live full time on the road.  If you don’t like your neighbor, you just unplug and drive away…seriously, there are some very expensive buses that sell into the millions of dollars.   I think it is the lifestyle that is attractive.

AARV:  We discussed that boat sales suffer during poor economic cycles, how does the RV Sales industry perform during down economic periods?

Gunter:  It doesn’t impact the full-time segment as much since they live in their RV and that is their home.  It does however impact the part-time segment who purchase for vacations and occasional trips.  Those purchases are usually deferred until the economy strengthens.

AARV: What demographic (age and economic status) does Tiffin market to?

Gunter: We have different brands that are designed and geared to certain age groups.  Our Allegro is designed for the 28-50 demographic; the Allegro Red to… say 28-58 demo; the Phaeton to the 35-62 demographic and our buses are marketed to the 40-75 demographic. 

AARV:  Where do you see the RV market going in the next 5 years and what innovations do you see down the road?

Gunter:  I see rocket powered RV’s!!   Just kidding.  Computer technology is always evolving and advancing.

AARV:  How about self-driving RV’s like the automobile and commercial trucking industries?

Gunter:  That is a long way down the road… we are not even sniffing at that yet.

AARV:  What is the most significant change that YOU have personally seen or experienced in your career?

Tiffin Chassis 400x30Gunter:  I would have to say the efficiency of RV manufacturing.  It has gotten to be a science.  Profit margins are much closer to the bone than ever before… and that is due to competition, efficiencies in manufacturing and streamlined distribution.

AARV:  How do you “right size” an RV for a buyer?

Gunter:  I just ask them.  I ask them what is their budget, experience and travel plans.  I also ask them about their ability to drive and if they have any fears driving a large vehicle.

AARV:  What is the most important advice that you can give to a new RV buyer?

Gunter:  Integrity of the company for sure!  Is the owner personally involved in the business and do they have a stake in the customers happiness?  Decisions made by family owners can be very different from decisions made by managers in a corporate environment. 

 AARV:  What do you think of the solar power industry and how does it relate to the RV industry?

Gunter:  Yes, I absolutely believe in it.  Solar power prevents an awful lot of grief in an RV.  It is really miserable when the batteries are dead.

AARV:  What are your thoughts on Camping Memberships and Timeshares?

Gunter:  They are great, I love them.  They are an excellent way to maximize your trip and get the best value where you are staying.

AARV: On average, how often to clients buy up or downsize their RV’s?

Gunter:  About every five years I would say, most RV’ers buy up to a larger RV…until they reach about age 75.

AARV:  Is an RV show the best time to buy or should a buyer attend a show, shop around, discuss features and then buy after a show once they have digested all the information and knowledge gained at the show?

Gunter:  That is a great question.  The function of an RV Show is to give the buyer selection and price.  Factory Reps, General Managers, Dealers and Owners need RV Shows to succeed.  They often take deals that they otherwise would not consider as unit counts need to be achieved.

AARV: I really appreciate your time Gunter.  I can see that you guys are really busy at this show…thank you.  Have a great show the rest of the week.

 Mike Thompson RV LogoGunter Thoma can be reached at Mike Thompson’s RV SuperStores ,Colton, CA

Office Tel: (909) 825-2433

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Lighthouses

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Lighthouses – America’s Beacons of Safety

       Let’s face it, everyone loves lighthouses. They stand tall in quiet majesty guiding all within her glow home to safety. By night, their powerful beacons warn of rocky shores and dangerous waters, while at the same moment providing the prudent navigator the sense of security that he or she is safely on course to his destination.

Lighthouse 2Images and graphic depictions of lighthouses and beacons have been used for decades by churches, and other organizations to symbolically convey similar messages.

barnegat light_opt (2)     

So critical to navigation in early times, lighthouses were manned by light keepers whose sole job was to ensure that the beacon was kept lit since they were flames of some sort. The evolution of the light itself from early flames of burning coal to whale oil, olive oil, and other oils – to vaporized gas is fascinating. There are three essential components to a functioning lighthouse. The burner or light itself, the optics or lens and the clockworks, the means by which the entire system rotates.

       Probably the most important innovation in the lighthouse beacon was the invention of the Fresnel lens by French engineer and physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel in 1823  (pronounced fre-nel rather than frez-nel). The engineering of the Fresnel lens is not for this blog but suffice to say they are still in use today on every single boat and ship with port and starboard running lights, and masthead lights. The first Fresnel lens in a lighthouse increased the luminosity of the light by a factor of 4. It was an amazing advancement for which I am personally grateful

      As a young, green navigator fresh out of school, I was standing watch alone on the bridge of my cargo ship going up the Florida coast. GPS had not yet been invented so I took my position bearings off the flashing lighthouses I could see up and down the coast. (take azimuth bearings off a series of lighthouses and where they cross is where the ship is). lighthouse 4_optWe were only a mile or so off shore with a lot of traffic so time was critical. To distinguish which lighthouse was which on the chart, they would all have different time spans between flashes. In other words, one lighthouse would flash every 1 second; another up the coast every 2 seconds and yet another lighthouse might flash every 1.5 seconds. It was agonizing trying to figure out which one was which. Thus I am thankful that the Fresnel lens was invented so that they could be seen far enough off shore so as to not get in trouble. Plus, my trusty little stopwatch helped figure out which one was which.     

      However, this blog is not about me and my seagoing adventures, it is to inspire you as to the romance and elegance of these beautiful and majestic lighthouses. Lightkeepers and their lonely solitude life are a thing of the past as are many of our functioning lighthouses. Modern era lighthouses are electric and unmanned. Many are mere skeletal towers.

     Many of the old lighthouse structures and homes still exist in the form of small individual museums. Many are funded privately and have wonderful stories to tell. You will enjoy the visit and the trek up the winding staircase to the light with a view of the grand vastness of the ocean and rocky shore.

      There is another whole world to the history of lighthouses should you want to explore further. I recommend reading about the US Lighthouse Service that was established in 1910 under the Department of the Treasury to control and operLighthouse 3ate all the lighthouses in the United States. Previously and as early as 1789, the Treasury Department operated them as the United States Lighthouse Establishment.

https://www.google.com/search?q=lighthouse+museums+usa&oq=lighthouse+museums&aqs=chrome.3.69i57j0l3.15245j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

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County Fairs in America

More American than Apple Pie?

      We are rapidly approaching “County Fair Season”. Okay, so there is actually no officially recognized season for county fairs but usually, you can count on them from about mid-July to early October. They are very high on my list of favorite things to do. Fair food is like no other although, in all honesty, I have never tried a deep fried twinkie and sour pickle sandwich with tuna fish dipping sauce. Typhoon Orbitor 240x159I am however addicted to those giant smoked turkey legs, Australian deep fried potatoes, funnel cakes with strawberries and whipped cream, and those 18 inch grilled sausages smothered in fried onions and peppers followed by an invigorating ride on the Typhoon Orbiter !!

      If you have never been to a county fair you are missing out on Americana at it’s best. Word seems to get around about the newest crazy deep-fried inventions each year and they are at most fairs. What is unique about each individual fair is the local touch that Draft Horse 3_optshowcases the different folks and life across America. One of the best county fairs I have ever been to is the Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, Maine. I have never seen such enormous draft horses. I am 6’5” and these workhorses towered over me. The combination of power, strength, agility, and grace these beasts have is stunning. They are not something you would normally see at the Orange County Fair in Southernpig race_opt

California, although the piglet races at OC Fair are hilarious. This little piglet must have trained at Churchill Downs because he knew to go wide on the final turn and snatch victory from certain defeat.

      County fairs showcase the talent of locals from little kids to seniors in all hobbies and skills as cooking, painting photography, antique collecting, woodworking, table setting and whatever you can possibly imagine that can be done with your hands and your mind. One fair I attended had an exhibit of aquarium designing. It was for little kids and all the aquariums were the same 10-gallon size. I never knew that superheroes operated underwater. Whatever theme the kids could possibly imagine was turned into a functioning living aquarium with live fish. The talents that everyday humans have that you may never have imagined or thought of is all on display at county fairs. The fair is where we, the folks, get to showcase our love and passion for our respective hobbies in either competition or just to exhibit. County fairs show off the pride and the best in our communities.

     I am continuously impressed with the kids that are involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.  The skill and passion they exhibit for the many animals under their care will make you proud of our youth.

firemans muster    Some of the older fairs have unique competitions. The Fireman’s Muster at Fryeburg Fair is a competition worthy of your time when you understand that nearly 75% of firefighters in America are volunteers. The vast majority of small towns and rural communities rely on skilled volunteer firefighters.

      Many fairs lay claim to being the “oldest county fair” in the US. Quite a few of them will be celebrating their 200th anniversary this year so this is a great year to go County Fair hopping. Expect to see some incredible 200-year celebrations and events. Like my Grandma’s apple pie, and your Grandma’s apple pie…they are all spectacular!!

      A great RV trip for late this summer would be a tour of some of America’s oldest county fairs. Here is a partial list of some of them happening in 2017.

York County Fair                York, PA           252 years (1765-2017)       September 8-17 

Three County Fair    Northampton, MA           200 years                     September 1-4

Jefferson County Fair       Watertown, NY        200 years                              July 11-16

Knox County Fair                  Bicknell, IA            217 years                             July 17-22

Steuben County Fair              Bath, NY                198 years                       August 15-20

Fryeburg Fair                      Fryeburg, ME           166 years                         October 1-8

      The exciting news for us RV enthusiasts is that many of the fairs offer RV camping for the fair camping 275x183run of the fair.

      If you are on the road this late summer and early fall, treat yourself to one of America’s oldest and more enjoyable experiences, the good old County Fair. I promise you will not regret it… even if you dig into that deep fried twinkie and sour pickle sandwich with tuna fish dipping sauce.fryburg fair campground 285x177

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

The Game of a Lifetime

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The Pursuit of a Little White Ball

      Whether you play golf or not, we have all probably heard the humorous mocking of the game of golf. The oldest and most commonly uttered phrase is attributed to Mark Twain,Pebble Beach GC 284x177 who reportedly said that “Golf is a good walk spoiled”. Mark Twain is not the originator of this famously and oft-used quip. Apparently, in a 1903 book about Lawn Tennis, the quote was first used by a player in an on-court jibe toward golfers who quipped “to play golf is to spoil an otherwise enjoyable walk”, presumably implying that lawn tennis was the better sport.

      Golf is arguably the most popular sport played in America. There are many reasons for this. I have a contractor friend who is a devoted golfer and hugely successful in the construction of many shopping centers and commercial buildings. He once told me that nearly 75% of his business comes from relationships on the golf course. I have an old sea captain friend of mine who started out as an Ordinary Seaman on a merchant ship in WWII, who now at age 90 still beats me when we play. Lifelong friendships have been formed on the golf course thru various memberships in women’s clubs, men’s clubs, golf course memberships and various other organizations devoted to the game of golf. I picked up a club for the first time in my life in early 2008 when I was President of a local sportfishing club. The Club had 17 fishing tournaments throughout the year and one golf tournament. As President, I felt obligated to participate in as many of the Club activities as I could. Having never held a club in my hand, I signed up for and took some lessons so as to not look completely foolish at the Club tournament. After my very first lesson, I was hooked and went directly from the golf course to buy my first set of golf clubs. Now, I have two goals or bucket list items if you will regarding golf. I want to shoot a score of 90, and I want to play a round of golf in all 50 states. Of the millions of people who play golf, it is said that less than 5% of golfers ever break a score of 100. That also puts in perspective how great the professionals are who routinely shoot in the high 60’s and low 70’s.

State Golf Balls_opt 240x180      To date, I have a long way to go. My best score ever was a 95 and I have played golf in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, North Carolina and South Carolina. I grew up in Connecticut where basketball, baseball, and football were king. Had I taken up the game as a child, the front half of my goal would surely be achieved and after 25 years of RV’ing, a whole lot more of the back half of my goal would have been achieved.

      Fear not, however, golf is a game that can be played forever as my sea captain friend has proven. Golf is a family game as well. It IS, in fact, a great walk, and never has it beengolfing family spoiled for me.

      There are some stunningly beautiful courses around the country. My favorite to date is the absolutely beautiful Woods Hole Golf Club on Cape Cod in Falmouth, MA. It is a rugged and hilly 6,230-yard course nestled in the woody pines. Built in 1899 this IMG_1167_opt 240x180magical course is most definitely the furthest away from a spoiled walk that you could imagine. The ocean and bay views are breathtaking to say the very least. I also was privileged to play with my Uncle Lou who had to give up his beloved sailboat when he could no longer single hand it. So he traded it in for a set of clubs at age 70 !!

      There are hundreds of beautiful courses across America. The peace and serenity of walking the course is spiritually refreshing. It is very common to see wildlife on many of the courses from deer to coyotes to giant geese to alligators and an abundance of fowl of all variety. When they say get out and get some fresh air and exercise, I can find no better way to do it than playing a round of golf.

      A common complaint or concern that many folks have is the length of time that it takes to play a round of golf. This is a legitimate concern, particularly if you have slow players in the group or groups ahead of you. Some of the 18 hole courses can have some very long holes upwards of 500-600 yards.  To the novice golfer that is very daunting. If golf ceases to be fun and challenging because of it’s sheer length, then it can easily become a spoiled walk. I don’t desire or strive to make the PGA Senior Tour, I just want to have a good time with my friends, play well, and get some quality exercise. Thus, the solution to this is the many 9 hole courses that can be found all over. The nine hole courses areAliso Creek_opt (1) considerably shorter in length so good scores and results are achievable for your mental fitness. The shorter holes also make the time to play a round considerably less, in the 1-1/2 hour to 2-hour range. Aliso Creek pictured above is a beautiful 2,221 nine hole par 32 course nestled in the canyons of Laguna Beach that plays in about an hour and a half. Deer can be found on nearly every hole. Now golf becomes very enjoyable and very rewarding. You will find yourself desiring to play much more.

      Exercise is important to us all especially before and after long stints of concentration behind the wheel. If you are seeking additional fun to add to your RV lifestyle, golf is highly recommended. Golf clubs travel well and you will always be near a course, wherever your travels take you.

http://www.golfadvisor.com/articles/top-25-short-courses-in-the-united-states-16115.htm

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

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Holding History in Your Hands

Antiquing RV Style

History is an absolutely incredible occurrence, it happens every single day. What you bought and used yesterday, or even an hour ago… is now, in the purest sense, a historical artifact. Antique malls are free museums to the past, that take us back in time to how we used to live, what we made, what we enjoyed, and how an item or piece has evolved or improved over time.

One of my very favorite things to do on RV trips is antique shopping. I am a junk junkie. That might be a little harsh and overstated but I have some items that I absolutely love to hunt for and collect. RV trips are great for antiquing. You get to visit shops all over the country that you might not ever get to visit otherwise. I have come home from trips with an RV full of stuff, and other times come home with nada. Finding a treasure is cool, but the fun is in the hunt.

GPSCan you believe that these two items were used for exactlysextant 2 the same thing?… to determine a position at sea by using celestial bodies. One uses stars, the other satellites. Both determine latitude and longitude. Funny too, both cost about $1,200 today. One at the antique store, the other at your marine hardware supplier.

There are hundreds of thousands of different items to be found in antique stores. Think about the hundreds of toy companies around the world in the last century, each putting out hundreds of different toys, plus new toys year after year. G.I. Joe was my toy of choice. I had them all. All the different soldiers, uniforms, jeeps, equipment and that cool little foot locker that they were stored in. My Dad owned a Rexall Pharmacy. Rexall SignRexall made and branded a lot of their own products with their distinctive orange oval with blue Rexall lettering. We sold baseball and football cards by the thousands. Gee, I wish I had kept my enormous collection of baseball cards. Tobacco products, beer products, liquor products, magazines, books, Sealtest ice cream and milk and on and on. Those staples of everyday Sealtest Milklife 50 years ago are today’s collectibles. My Grandfather was a barber and owned his shop in the little town of Brockton, MA. The stuff he had and used every day is worth hundreds of dollars today. Beautiful colored glass barber bottles for all the different hair tonics, the porcelain, brass and leather barber chairs, brass railings, spittoons, razors, clippers and all the tools of his trade for that period of time. Speaking of history, the great, and only undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano, was from Brockton, as was Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champion of the world from 1980-87. Do you think those guys memorabilia is collectible? Rocky marcianoAnything to do with gasoline and oil from the old days is prized in today’s world. Porcelain signs, glass oil bottles, old pumps, and gas globes. It is all amazing stuff in high demand.

Esso Elephant keroseneJust about anything and everything are collectible and there is a collector for just about everything. I have been going to antique malls and shops, flea markets, swap meets and yard sales for 30 years. It is pretty amazing the stuff that people collect. The wonderful saying that “Everyone has a story” also applies well to antiques. Every piece has a story and the folks who collect things love to tell the stories, I love to hear them.

Not too long ago, I was at a swap meet and stopped at a stall to look at stuff… and met a very interesting man. We chatted for awhile and he pulled out a very unusual tool, I had never seen one like it. It was brass and fit in the palm of his hand. He slid a thumb switch and a series of razor blades protruded. He went on to explain that up until the 19th century, barbers performed all types of bloodletting for a wide range of ailments in the belief that bloodletting could cure many maladies. It was a practice dating back to the middle ages. As the centuries barber pole 2progressed, modern medicine frowned on the practice yet the public still demanded the service that barbers had always practiced. He also explained as well that the red stripes on a barber pole symbolize the blood, the blue stripes the veins and the white stripes the bandages. Who knew?

A large, clean, well run, antique mall with lots of dealers is a magical place. It can take anyone, young or old, back into time by seeing something from their past. There is untold history in pieces that may never be known. It is a place of imagination where instead of envisioning the future, we envision the past, yet unlike the future, we can hold it in our hands… and wonder what this was.

Take a break on the road occasionally and visit an antique mall, you will enjoy your past.

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

America’s Maritime Heritage

300 Years of Nautical History Right in Your Backyard

      When the colonists first settled in America, as you might imagine, it was a very difficult life. It would be another hundred years or so before any exploration westward would or could occur. Settlements up and down the northeast coast proved hostile when it came to survival and sustenance. Farming the land was difficult as the coastal geography proved rocky with poor soil and harsh winters. Thus, in the spirit of American ingenuity, the brave settlers turned to the sea for survival. There is a reason why the New England states of Maine and Massachusetts are known for their lobster, clams, and cod; while New York, New Jersey, and Maryland are known for their delicious blue crab and oysters.

Moby Dicks_opt 240x180      Here’s an interesting tidbit: Lobster was so plentiful in colonial days and was not considered the delicacy it is today… in fact, quite the opposite was true. Lobster was the main food fed to prisoners in colonial times.

      The fishing industry in New England is a fascinating story of great seamanship and bravery and told well in the 2000 movie The Perfect Storm.

      Boston and New York became the largest ports in the Americas for trade and commerce,Cunard Wharf 300x189dpi_opt vital to the survival of the new settlement and ultimately the survival of the colonies. Britain’s great steamship company Cunard Lines (Samuel Cunard was from Halifax) made the New York waterfront fashionable with the arrival and departures of some of the grandest ocean liners ever to sail the seas such as the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth. The earlier Cunard fleet of ships actually called on the port of Boston before their move to New York in the early 1900’s. Many of Americas greatest fortunes were built from the shipping industry of the 18th and 19th centuries.

      Long before the invention of electricity and the electric light bulb that lit the world, the light was provided by kerosene lanterns for a period of time. Prior to the discovery of oil and kerosene, our world was lit by whale oil in those same lanterns. The hundreds of years of whaling in America is told in countless communities like New Bedford and Fall River, Massachusetts. Any RV’ers bucket list of trips should certainly include a trip up the coast MobyDick_0_opt (1)240x180of New England in the late summer and early fall. The coast from Rhode Island to Maine has thousands of beautiful old homes of sea captain’s and seafarers. Of particular note on many of these old homes are the beautiful lookouts high on the peak of roofs. These “widows walk” as they are known tell amazing stories. It was very common for a whaling ship to put to sea for many years before returning with a cargo hold of whale oil vital to lighting the country. At the sight of a sail on the horizon, the wives and ladies of seafarers who had not seen their spouses in years would rush to the rooftop in the hopes that the arriving sailing ship was their loved ones returning from sea. Imagine the heartbreak, disappointment, and suffering of families for those who never returned from sea.

      America has always been a maritime nation. The United States Navy was formed in 1775 by the threat to merchant ships from Barbary pirates. Merchant ships were armed to defend themselves and thus America’s Navy was born.

      There are hundreds of tiny maritime museums all across this country. Some tell the stories above, others tell of the great tuna fleets, the shrimping industry, ship construction, boat building, whaling, and the many great stories of bravery at sea. Visit these museums in your travels and you will come away with a newfound appreciation of America’s maritime culture.

https://www.google.com/search?q=maritime+museums&oq=maritime+museums&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.10839j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

      In later blogs, we will talk about the maritime history of the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. By 1940, nearly 40% of America’s population lived around the Great Lakes as that was where the fresh water was and that is where America’s industrial heartland was. Imagine what wonderful nautical history and stories are to be told there?

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

RV Navigation by Culinary Road Map

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Knowing Where You Are by the Food You Eat

   If GPS, Rand McNally, Thomas Guide and Auto Club did not exist, you could definitely tell where you were in America by the regional food.

   Three of my passions, in no particular order, are Eating, Eating and Eating. If God has decreed that we must eat three times a day to survive, heck… you may as well enjoy it. I love food, not just any food… fresh, simple and original, well-prepared foods I cherish. I think it has been a couple of decades since I last went through a drive-thru. I love shopping the local seafood markets, butchers and farmers markets. Creating and eating good food is an event in itself. I have a certain aversion to recipes because if bound to a recipe, cooking becomes a chore rather than a delightful activity. The freedom and fun actually come from the creative process of trying new ingredients and preparing seafood, poultry, beef or pork differently each time. Of course, some very basic cooking knowledge is helpful.

Big Bears opt 300x484   I credit my “little” brother for much of my passion for food and skill for cooking. “Little” is a reference to his being 4 years my junior despite at 6”9” tall, being 4 inches taller than me. Our parents were divorced when I was just 6 years old. Our nanny’s entire recipe box comprised only two items.  Hamburger Helper and Tuna Helper. By the time he was 8 years old, little brother had had enough “Helper” dishes and began to cook himself. I will never forget his very first creation. It was glorious. He had built an Italian-style calamari dish with fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, and calamari. The rest is history as they say and he went on to graduate from Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Rhode Island, ran a number of upscale restaurants from Florida to New Hampshire and ultimately his own family restaurant in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Fifty years later, he is my best friend and the source of much of my skills, understanding, and inspiration for the beautiful art of culinary magic and passion for food.

   Enough of the appetizer portion of this article lets get to the main course.

  If that big ole steamed lobster, drawn butter and whole belly deep fried clams platter forces you to close your eyes andlobster 2 tilt your head to the heavens in pure ecstasy, you must be along the coast of Maine or Massachusetts. Chances are, that rosy red bug was plucked from the frigid New England shoreline just hours ago. You will rarely find fresh whole belly deep fried clams anywhere else but summertime in New England.

New England Whole Belly Fried Clams
New England Whole Belly Fried Clams

If that doesn’t suit your fancy, I recommend the rich and tasty lobster rolls that are without peer anywhere in America… and wash it all down with a bowl of savory clam chowder.

The very best chowders, in my humble opinion, are the chowders with a clear broth or a very light creamy consistency.

   No food travel article would be worth its salt without mention of one of America’s iconic and distinctive foods. New Orleans Cajun cookin!!!! Beignets, alligator, andouille sausage, jambalaya, gumbo… what the heck??? I never knew you could eat alligator until I did in The Big Easy! Incredible!  Gumbo… talk about a dish with geographical roots and evolution.

   There are a few key ingredients to make true gumbo. However, over time and the influence of many different cultures in the south, a wide variety of gumbos abound and just about every one of them is fantastic. A Beignet is just a puff pastry with powdered sugar you eat for breakfast or dessert right? Don’t you dare tell that to the chef who whipped up the shrimp and eggplant beignet that was like a slice of heaven as it tingles every taste bud in your mouth. New Orleans baby… I love it!!

   The BBQ wars rage on with no end in sight. Everyone has their favorite. But let me tell you, they are ALL excellent. That is what is awesome about RV travel. You can be eating Memphis pulled pork with a tangy, juicy tomato sauce one day, and a few days later be eating pulled pork in South Carolina with a mustard, brown sugar and vinegar BBQ sauce.

     If it’s a hankering for beef that pushes your buttons, Kansas City and Texas are the places to be. Kansas City has a major meat packing history so it logically follows that BBQ would be huge. (That’s my crazy logic, you want good seafood… go to the ocean, you want beef, go where the cattle are). Although there is obviously all kinds of BBQ there, Kansas City is big on the thick molasses and tomato based sauces. Texas is the beef capital. They aren’t too big on sauces in some parts and let the barbecuing of the meat speak for itself. We will let you explore the nuances of the regions and styles of Texas BBQ on your own because it has a very rich history.

   Finally, salmon, salmon, salmon. The Pacific Northwest is the place to be. A staple of the Northwest for centuries, salmon is king. (no pun intended) Although you can have it prepared any way imaginable, I can’t get enough of the smoked salmon in these parts. They have smoked this fish for centuries and you will not find any better.

  Don’t be wooed by fancy neon lights and signs. Usually, the best food is where the locals hang out in relatively modest looking establishments. My heart lies with the Mom and Pop spots that have over the years stuck with the family tradition of quality, homemade food, good service and an honest, genuine appreciation for your choice to visit them.

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

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