Monday, August 28, 2006

Our First Oklahoma RV

This year, Dianne and I decided that we could improve our camping and kayaking trips by purchasing an RV. We spent the last several months researching different types of RV's and asking questions. I asked all of the RVers I knew and Dianne did the same. We hoped to pick the right type of recreational vehicle for our family. As our adventures, mishaps and road education continue watch this blog for updates.

What We Were Looking For

We both agreed that we wanted a vehicle that was separate from the living quarters. Trucks come and go, but a trailer seemed likely to last much longer than the couple of years we usually keep an automobile. I wanted to aquire less than $30,000 in new debt. We each also had some key features we valued in recreational vehicles. For me it was Air Conditioning and for Dianne it was a bathroom.

Best RV Choices for Our Needs

1. Pop Up Travel Trailer - This was my first instinct as they are cheap and very easy to tow. Jayco is a market leader in pop-up travel trailers or tent trailers as they are sometimes called. I've seen used ones in good condition sell for just a few thousand dollars. Sadly, finding one with a decent bathroom requires moving to the top-of-the-line models in the $15,000 range. Costly, but just barely affordable if I could get a tow vehicle for around the same price.


2. Van - Dianne's Mom had bad experiences driving a van 'back in the day', so vans were ruled out pretty early on.


3. Truckbed Camper - We looked at one of these about a week before buying our travel trailer. The pop-up hybrid camper models are impressive, but we really wanted to save the back of the truck for our kayaks.


4. Bumper-Pull Travel Trailer - Most travel trailer these days are of the Fifth Wheel variety pulled by a gooseneck fitted truck. However, there are still many travel trailers you can pull with a trucks trailer hitch. This leaves the bed open for carrying other cargo.


5. Toy Hauler A.K.A. Sport Utility Trailer - This is what we finally decided to buy, a new type of bumper pulled travel trailer. Toy Haulers are like other travel trailers but they are made to haul motorcycles or other toys in a sort of attached garage. The entire back of the RV is a giant door that lowers to become a ramp. This allows you to keep your toys both locked up and dry.

The one we took home is a 24-foot long Winner's Circle SRV made in 2005. For the same price as a pop-up we had been looking at, we picked up a used toy hauler. It has a full bathroom, central heat & air, 3 beds, oven, stove, microwave and stereo...basically all of the comforts of home. The tax folks even say that I can deduct the loan interest from my annual taxes...sweet!

Once we picked it out, we had to get a suitable tow vehicle to pull it. We traded in Dianne's Mitsubishi Eclipse and got ourselves a 2002 Silverado 4x4 truck.

Our Trip Home Towing Massive Tonnage

Of course, neither my wife nor I have ever driven anything as large the Silverado pickup, much less the truck pulling a 24' travel trailer. We read several articles on trailering and worried for about a week. On the day we went to pick it up, I brought my camera in case we have crashed into anything on the way home. We figured that, as long as we took it slow, our only risk was scraping up against stuff...nothing life threatening.

In fact, we made the trip from Tulsa to Okmulgee without incident. The good folks at Dean's RV in Tulsa had fitted our new Chevy Truck with lots of new load distributing and braking control gizmos that made the drive much safer. Since it was Thursday when we brought it home, we planned a 'dry run' to nearby Dripping Springs Lake to test out the RV and show it to our parents.


Kayak Touring & Camping




Our First 'Dry Run' in the RV

Before the sun even set on Thursday, our son Dylan let it be known that an RV with no TV was a travesty in his not-so-humble opinion. Our first upgrade to the toy hauler was adding an $85 TV/DVD combo from Wal-Mart. Since it was too short notice to arrange a dog sitter, we brought Shally, our Black Russian Terrier, with us. The extra cargo area in a toy hauler leaves plenty of room for the dog to stretch out inside.

We had hoped that having an RV would make setting out for a weekend outing go much quicker. However, perhaps because it was our first trip, we were lately leaving the house as usual. Once we arrived, just about at dusk, we were able to get the RV backed into an excellent space and setup pretty quicky. Dripping Springs Lake has excellent new RV sites with electric and water hookups. Our site was easy to back into, wide, level and clean plus it was right by the water.

A Lovely Evening at the Lake

That evening we walked the dog under brilliantly clear and starry skies with lightening flashing on the distant horizon. It was breathtakingly beautiful and made me wish I had not forgotten and left my camera at home. That evening I slept like a baby in our cool and comfy travel trailer.

Sweet Morning Paddling Near Okmulgee

Saturday, I woke up early and had a great paddle on the lake. The beaver and cranes were out in abundance. A light breeze blew across the lake and the morning sun came up all golden and sparkling on the water. As the warm sun chased the morning mist off the water I paddled to a secluded cove and watched the birds fishing in the shallows. I enjoyed the privacy immensely...and not just because I had accidentally set off truck's security alarm shortly before paddling out. Oh well...everyone likes to get up early when camping anyways, right?

Hunger for food and home roasted coffee drove me back to camp after few hours. We love our Cafe' Driveway Blend Coffee and apparently it is good for us.

Also, I wanted to tidy up a bit before our parents started arriving for tours of the new camping accommodations. Cleaning up the RV was pretty fast and easy since we had been doing most of the cooking in the microwave.

The coffee was excellent, but not excellent enough to keep Dianne and me both from falling asleep until my Mom knocked on the door.

Open House Saturday Ends with a Crash!

Mom and Dad sat came in and sat down at the dinette that converts into a bed and I grabbed a seat on the couch that converts into a bed. We had just started talking about what a great RV it was when the couch collapsed on the side I was sitting on. I landed in a heap on the floor as two aluminum pop-rivets 'popped' right out onto the floor.

I looked all through the trailer and I could not find another part that was pop riveted in place. It would appear that someone had done a hasty repair job on the bunk before I purchased it. I'm hoping I can repair it myself.

Dianne's Mom also came to see the new trailer, but the crash and burn of the couch had taken much of the impressiveness out of our Grand Tour.

We decided that after an embarrassing mishap like that, we probably had the worst of the trip behind us. Then, the thunder started.

Our Dry Run turned out to be a bit wet a real windy. A few folks had tornados in their yards, so we couldn't complain about a shaky night in the RV... but our dog was less forgiving. She hasn't been in the RV since!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Free Chance to Win an Old Town Kayak

UPCOMING ILLINOIS RIVER CLEANUP!

Interested in missing work, spending a fun day floating the river, and enjoying a free lunch, all while helping our Scenic Rivers?

The OSRC`s final cleanup of the summer is scheduled for Friday, September 8th. This cleanup will help get the river in great condition after a busy summer season. Participants will be given a free t-shirt and have the chance to win great prizes including two Old Town kayaks! There will also be a hearty lunch for participants after the day`s float. To pre-register for the cleanup, call or email Meredith at the OSRC: (918) 456-3251 / osrc2@fullnet.net.

The deadline for pre-registration is Tuesday, September 5th at 5:00 pm.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006, Meredith Lee, Education Outreach Coordinator.

Technorati Tags: Oklahoma Paddling Tahlequah Oklahoma Environment Illinois River

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gourmet Coffee Bean Roasting in Oklahoma

I'm sorry to say I have been neglecting all of my blogs lately to pursue the aquisition of a travel trailer for our family (more on that later). Also, Dianne and I have been having fun with a new hobby - roasting our own coffee beans!

Home Coffee Roasting Supplies Used in our 'Cafe Driveway Gourmet Blend'

1. Old Hot Air Popcorn Popper from the 80's. Didn't think they still made these? They do. If there was ever a piece of eightees technology that needed a complete makeover, it has to be the hot air popcorn popper. Instantly stale popcorn in only minutes! Luckily it makes a great little coffee roaster and the price is SO right.

2. Gourmet Green Coffee Beans - We used Guatemalan Beans and Costa Rican Beans because we love them and we were getting tired of driving all the way to Tulsa to get them!

Did you know that Tulsa, Oklahoma is the headquarters for Java Dave's Coffee? I know we must not be the only Oklahoma home coffee bean roasters.

3. A Wooden Spoon, a couple cereal bowls and something to store the roasted beans in after they cool.

4. Advanced Accessories Optional - Power strip, extension cord, Bean Can.
(more home coffee roasting pictures on our Flickr Photostream)

The Coffee Bean Home Roasting Process

The roasting process is simple but fun. Take the measuring cup that comes with the popcorn popper and grab a scoop (1/3 to 1/2 a cup) of green unroasted coffee beans and dump them in the top of the popper. Throw away the plastic cover that came with the popper, you won't need it and it will get in the way. We replaced our plastic cover with a cleaned out Ranch Style beans can opened at both ends. It creates a little chimney that keeps the beans from flying out of the top of the popper...mostly.

DO NOT ADD OIL. Coffee beans are loaded with oils of their own.

Don't go crazy looking for the On/Off button on an old 80's model popcorn popper - you just pull the plug when finished or invest in a power strip.

Keep stirring your beans often as they heat up, this whole roasting operation won't take but about 5 minutes and they can easily burn if not stirred frequently. I just shake the whole roaster occassionally to get the beans heating evenly.

Listen carefully as you roast your beans. As soon as you turn on the popper the beans will start floating around in the popper and rattling. Within in a minute or three you will here a different kind of 'cracking' sound and the beans will be rather light to medium brown. Coffee Roasters call this the 'First Crack'. You can stop the roasting process now and cool them beans for a light to medium roast.

If you keep stirring, heating and listening to them for a minute or two more you will hear a more pronounced 'crackling'... almost 'sizzleing' sound and the beans will be dark brown or blackish. This is the 'Second crack' or Dark Roast that is very popular among coffee buyers these days. After a good dark roast the beans will look wet as the oils have risen right up to the surface of the bean. I think it looks pretty cool.

Cool your beans as quickly as possible. Like bacon just out of the pan, the beans will continue to roast until they are cooled. If you don't cool your beans quickly enough you may over-roast them accidently. I cool our beans by pouring them from cereal bowl to cereal bowl slowly. This also helps allow the wind to blow away the chaff.

Oh Yeah the Chaff!

Don't roast the beans inside your house. The machine constantly blows out whispy bits of chaff the will make you home a mess if you roast inside. Also, expect to smell like coffee roasting afterwards.

Why Roast Your Own Coffee Beans?

Quality - Old hot air poppers are now pouring out of the garage sales to begin new lives as home coffee roasting machines. After reading about it in several sources, Dianne and I decided to give it a try. The short story: we love it! It simply produces the best tasting cup of coffee you can find anywhere!

Time Together - We find that our son sleeps much better at night if we don't stay up watching TV. In our small house, it is probably the noise that keeps him up. Recognizing this, we Dianne and I try to use the time for grown-up talk in the driveway. Now he sleeps more and we talk more.

Fun - My folks used to use quiet time like this to pick out pecans, shell elderberries or shuck corn, but we don't garden much. Roasting our own coffee beans in the driveway has become our nightly ritual.

Savings - Drinking the best coffee EVER costs us about $5 per pound, now that we buy the green beans 25lbs at a time. There is no telling how much gas we save. The coffee is still not as cheap as Folgers, but much cheaper than any boutique coffee bean retailer.

Blending Your Own Home Roasted Gourmet Coffee

We like to blend about 2/3 medium roast with 1/3 dark roasted beans for our 'Driveway Blend'. We rarely blend the different coffee bean varieties together, but one blend we like is 1/3 dark roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Beans and 2/3 light roasted Costa Rican Beans.

We store our coffee beans for two days in disposable Ziplock Containers and then we grind them up, let 'em rest overnight and rave over the results the next morning.

There are loads of places to buy your Green Coffee Beans for home roasting and the rest of the stuff needed is usually free. I hope you give home roasting a try, it is a great way to save a little money on gourmet coffee and have some fun learning about the coffees of the world. It is also a nice way to spend the evening with your family that will give you something to look forward to in the morning!

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Massive Wildfire in Arbuckle Mountains

Oklahoma Travelers Beware

Hundreds of people who were going to be in the Turner Falls area this weekend will have to go somewhere else, officials said.

A massive wildfire in southern Oklahoma produced clouds of thick smoke Thursday, forcing authorities to close 15-mile sections of Interstate 35 and a parallel highway, U.S. 77, near the Arbuckle Mountains.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Win an ATV or a Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License

Log on to WildlifeDepartment.com to register for the Wildlife Expo - and a chance to win great prizes!

One lucky person will win a John Deere ATV and another will win a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license, by simply registering for the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.

When you register at wildlifedepartment.com you will be entered in an exclusive drawing for a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license and a John Deere ATV from P&K Equipment. Thanks to generous sponsors, more than 50 annual and lifetime hunting, fishing or combination licenses, as well as other great prizes, will be given away at the event.


Registration is quick and easy - so take just a few minutes to complete your information. After all, the odds of taking home an ATV are much better than winning the Power Ball, and it's free. - Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration and finance.


The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is partnering with a wide range of other state agencies, private individuals and outdoor-related companies to host this huge event. The Expo is designed to promote and perpetuate the appreciation of Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources and provide hands-on learning opportunities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts.

The free Expo is designed as an entertaining and educational event for both avid outdoor enthusiasts and those new to hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Every visitor will be sure to find something that interests them, from live butterflies, to mountain bike riding, to dog training, to sampling wild game. Don't miss the kayak demos the Oklahoma Outdoor Network will be putting on!

The free Wildlife Expo will take place Aug. 25-27 on the expansive grounds of the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Expo hours will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

For complete details on Expo giveaways, including rules and eligibility, log on to
wildlifedepartment.com.


Technorati Tags: Oklahoma OKC Outdoors Oklahoma Fishing Oklahoma Hunting

Red Dirt Paddlers Heading to Broken Bow

Mountain Fork Trip Planned By Red Dirt Paddlers This Friday

Friday August 11, 2006
5:00 pm - 12:00 am

Join the OKC chapter of the Arkansas Canoe Club on a paddle down the Lower Mountain Fork River in SE Oklahoma. The water is great for both beginners and pros alike and is nice and cold in the summer. Please get in touch with Randy if you want more information.

Randy Clemens
randyclemens@hotmail.com

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Scenic Ozark Rivers Becoming Unfit for Swimming

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has been very busy in the last few years. I just read a very interesting article in the Joplin Globe reguarding water stewardship in the Ozarks. Warning: It isn't very happy news.

Is it safe to swim?

By Andy Ostmeyer
THE JOPLIN GLOBE (JOPLIN, Mo.)

While neither Missouri nor McDonald County officials test one of the most popular recreational streams in the state, neighbors to the west watch it carefully.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has found that Elk River, where the agency tests it for bacteria, has levels so high that people who get in the water are increasing their odds of getting sick. That state’s recommendation is that what it calls 'primary body contact-recreation' — swimming, for example — 'is not supported' in Elk River.

The Elk River analyses are part of Oklahoma’s efforts to find out what is flowing into the Grand Lake watershed.

A survey of other Oklahoma records found:

At every monitoring site along the rivers and streams that feed what Oklahoma officials call the Neosho Grand Lake sub-basin — and there are 15 of them — recreation such as swimming is “not supported” because of bacterial contamination.

That includes not only Elk River near Tiff City, but also Spring River at Quapaw, Okla.; the Neosho River at Commerce, Okla.; and Honey Creek near Grove, Okla., on the north and east sides of the lake. The mean for enterococci bacteria in Honey Creek is 362.7 colonies per 100 milliliters of water, 10 times the federal standard of 33 colonies per 100 milliliters for enterococci. The mean of 19 samples taken in Elk River over the past six years is 50.6 colonies of enterococci. Continued - Full article here.


If you have paddled any of these rivers in the past and then paddled them again recently, you can see the damage for yourself. The impact on the rivers is invisible... if you have no history to compare it to. For folks like me that grew up paddling around in these rivers it is so obvious that it is heartbreaking. I gotta take my kid paddling more often!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

White River Water Carnival Aug. 4-5

Arkansas's oldest annual water event will take place in Batesville Aug. 4-5 at Riverside Park. The 63rd Annual White River Water Carnival will includes numerous features such as arts and crafts, foods, entertainment, sporting events, a car show, bike show, and a Grand Parade.

For more information, phone (870) 793-2378 or e-mail jessika.stites@mybatesville.org.