04 Dec

24 Great Books for RV and Camping Lovers

We here at the RVFTA Podcast Network are passionate about camping and RV Travel, and we are also passionate about good books. We have an extensive library covering these topics, and we wanted to share an epic list of our absolute favorites. Whether you are interested in coffee table books filled with vintage campers, reference books that will inspire your own adventures, or “how to” primers on caring for your RV–we’ve got you covered.

We often regret time wasted surfing the internet or doodling on social media, but we never regret reading a good book. So pour yourself a mug of warm tea (or your favorite beverage of choice) and let yourself get lost for a little while.  These books will take you on fantastic adventures, and some of them will even help you get back home.

The links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through the link, we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Jeremy will use all of that money to buy more books, so he kindly thanks you.

Coffee Table Books

1. Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht by Brian Burkhart and David Hunt

This coffee table classic is beautifully designed, much like the Airstreams that grace its pages. It is also compulsively readable and tells the story of Wally Byam and his legacy with just enough detail.  The pictures are gorgeous but the stories about Byam and his international “Caravan Club” are even better. Who’s up for a cross country trip…..from Cape Town to Cairo!?

2. Trailerama by Phil Noyes

This chunky tome is chock full of kitschy visual memorabilia about the travel trailer and its role in American pop culture. Phil was a guest on episode #26 of our RV Family Travel Atlas podcast (Meet Mr. Trailerama) and he beguiled us with tales of vintage campers, quirky entrepreneurs, and Hollywood starlets.  From cartoons, to sheet music, to magazine covers, Trailerama will satisfy the wanderlust of any member of the travel trailer tribe.

3. Vintage Camper Trailers by Paul and Caroline Lacitinola

Addicted to vintage trailer makeovers? Than Vintage Camper Trailers will regularly find its way to the top of your coffee table pile. This book of makeovers is more about fetish and fashion than Noyes’s road trip through the heart of Americana–so they make perfect traveling companions. Hopefully they both end up with reservations under the pine needles of your family Christmas tree.

4. Don’t Call Them Trailer Trash: The Illustrated Mobile Home Story by John Brunkowski & Michael Closen

Product Details

When it comes to the image of RV culture in America, most of the trash was taken out a long time ago.  When asked to imagine a travel trailer the average person is more likely to picture a $100,000 dollar Airstream at a busy campground than a meth lab beater in a back alley. Despite the bright shiny image of the modern RV industry John Bronkowski and Michael Closen ( the dynamic duo behind three of our coffee table picks) have decided to put the final nail in the coffin.  This book serves as a hilarious visual history of a bad reputation.

5. Camper & RV Humor by John Brunkowski & Michael Closen

RV travel humor is a comedic genre unto itself–as is any pastime where so many things can go wrong. Who among us has not cracked a black tank joke or broken something essential due to operator error? This coffee table cutie contains postcards and images from the world over and makes me want to take a private tour of Brunkowski and Closen’s extensive collection. This book is more charming than laugh out loud funny, but it can park itself on my coffee table any day.

6. KOA and the Art of Kamping by John Brunkowski and Michael Closen

The history of Kampgrounds of America, which was founded in 1962 in Billings, Montana, is told through 230 photos in this somewhat slim but very enjoyable walk through the company’s visual history. The story is told through images of original artwork that the company has commissioned over the past 55 years–and you can practically feel the warmth of the campfire and taste the sticky sweetness of a burnt S’more as you turn the pages.

7. See America: A Celebration of our National Parks & Treasured Sites by Creative Action Network

The Creative Action Network has boldly revived the glorious See America project which was born during New Deal era America. The original project implored Americans to “See America First” and spend their tourism dollars right here in the United States.  The original campaign captured, and inspired, the wanderlust of a generation that won a ferocious world war and defined the American century.  The legacy of this revitalized campaign is captured in the pages of this compact but completely inspired collection of crowd sourced prints by contemporary artists. This rebirth of See America easily rises to the occasion for a new generation.

Check out episode #52 of RV Family Travel Atlas (Get Ready to See America) for an in-depth interview with Creative Action Network co-counder Max Slavkin about the rebirth of the See America project.

8. Route 66: The Mother Road by Michael Wallis

Product Details

This is the ultimate pictorial scrapbook for those disciples who wish to worship on the mother road.  Wallis’s book is as thick as a cheeseburger from a roadside dinner in Winslow, Arizona and it, “takes us on an unforgettable journey through the secret corners and hidden towns of America’s most famous and beloved highway.” I spilled a gigantic smoothie on my first copy of this book and ordered another one ten minutes later–I just couldn’t imagine my coffee table without it.

9. The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate by Michael Wallis and Michael S. Williamson

Product Details

Route 66 isn’t the only way to get your kicks on an epic road trip. The Lincoln Highway documents the heart and history of “a glorious highway” that was born in 1913 and “connected the bright lights of Broadway with the foggy shores of San Francisco.” That road still exists and if your considering traversing it, your journey should begin in the gorgeous pages of this quirky and utterly unique coffee table masterpiece.

RV and Camping History and Culture

10. From a Wooden Canoe: Reflections on Canoeing, Camping, and Classic Equipment by Jerry Dennis

Product Details

This delightful collection (and a personal favorite) is filled with sharply crafted essays about objects that are well made–like wooden canoes and wool hunting jackets, and things that are just as essential to outdoor life as oxygen–like camp coffee and cast iron. Jerry Dennis is personable and just as passionate about camping as you are. He is that camping buddy that we should all be lucky enough to have, and can have, at least on a trip through the pages of this fine book.

11. Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping by Dan White

Product Details

This wild and wacky history of America’s love affair with camping begins in New York State with William “Adirondack” Murray  and the birth of recreational camping and ends with the author renting a Class C motorhome and heading out into the Sonoran Desert in Arizona with his family. In between these adventures we read about John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt’s epic campout in the Yosemite, the birth of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, the history of Nylon, and how men like Dick Kelty used it to fill the wilderness with a new generation of Americans who desired to See America, not with automobiles, but instead by foot. The author is a colorful character who earns his place beside the campfire with these legends.

12. Heading Out: A History of American Camping by Terence Young

Camping nerds rejoice! You know who you are… This more academic history of American camping includes chapters with titles like “Liberalizing the Campground: W.J. Trent and the Struggle Against National Park Segregation.” If that sounds like your cup of percolated coffee, pull up a camp chair and get ready to get smart.  Terence Young is a professor of Geography at California State Polytechnic University and a camping historian–and this is his master class.

13. Winnebago Nation: The Peculiar Place of the RV in American Culture by James Twitchell

Terence Young is not the only professor to land a spot on our coveted and uber-intellectual reading list.  What Heading Out does for camping Winnebago Nation does for RVing. These two books would make the perfect pair for the camping intellectual on your list. Winnebago Nation is punchy and a bit cynical about RV culture and the RV tribe–but the book is entertaining and packed with some juicy tidbits about the history of Winnebago, the modern RV industry, and the dreamers who buy their products.

14. RV Capital of the World: A Fun Filled Indiana History by Al Hesselbart

Al Hesselbart joined us on episode #163 of RV Family Travel Atlas (The RV Capital of the World: A Fun Filled Indiana History) and mesmerized us with tales of classic RV’s and the zany entrepreneurs who put their fortunes on the line to build them.  This book is filled with stories and anecdotes about classic trailers like the Gilkie Camp King and the Continental Clipper and the modern companies that have transformed the RV industry, like  Thor and Forest River. But, perhaps most importantly, this is a story about a completely unique American industry whose latest chapters are just as interesting and compelling as its first.

15. Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

Product Details

Nomadland explores the dark side of RV culture by taking a close look at the “invisible casualties of the great recession” who have “taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans.” Bruder’s scope is intentionally narrow and focuses on those who have few other economic options. This is decisively not a book about the growing number of adventurous “Digital Nomads”  who are doing just fine for themselves thank you very much.

Reference Books for Food, Travel, and Maintenance

16. Idiot’s Guides: RV Vacations by Stephanie Puglisi and Jeremy Puglisi

Product Details

Only a fool forgets to plug their own book. Idiot’s Guides: RV Vacations starts out with basic information for beginner’s about safety and convenience and campground “know how” before heading into an extensive section on trip planning. We recommend campgrounds, restaurants, and activities for 40 classic RV trips from coast to coast. The book includes “easy to use travel maps” and over 200 color photos. Make sure you buy two copies! One for your home library and one for the RV…

17. Route 66 Adventure Handbook by Drew Knowles

Product Details

While Route 66: The Mother Road (mentioned above) will get you inspired to motor west, this is the book to actually take with you.  Knowles’s handbook includes an oversized portion of quirky roadside attractions with side portions of “vintage motels and cafes,” and “amazing natural wonders.” This indispensable guide also includes 85 maps that help you “pinpoint points of interest” to help you get your kicks with style and efficiency.

18. The RV Book: Your Personal Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Your RV  by Mark Polk

Product Details

Mark Polk was born with a pair of Channellock pliers in his hands. Before starting RV Education 101 Mark was a Chief Warrant Officer 3 who specialized in wheeled and track vehicle fleet maintenance operations for the United States Army. The RV Book is a terrific primer on all things RV. It includes chapters on “RV Terminology,” “Maintaining your RV,” “Winterizing your RV,” and “RV Towing and Safety” among many others. Mark is a friendly guide for the newbie and expert alike, and this book should be purchased on the same day you bring home your first rig!

19. Roadfood: An Eater’s Guide to More than 1,000 of the Best Local Hot Spots and Hidden Gems Across America by Jane Stern and Michael Stern

Product Details

We love food, but with three young kids in tow, eating while traveling can be a challenge. We have learned that roadfood is the secret to successfully enjoying a local food culture. This definitive classic by Jane and Michael Stern should be kept in the glove compartment of every tow vehicle in America. We check its state by state recommendations on every RV trip and we have never been disappointed by its recommendations. In fact, whether its for Barbeque, burgers, chicken and waffles, or shrimp and grits, Roadfood has led us to our most epic and memorable meals.

We love this book so much it has been the topic of two RV Family Travel Atlas podcasts.

Check out a terrific interview with Michael Stern right here on episode #135 (Ready, Set, Road Food) and on episode #7 where we discuss our own philosophy of Roadfood as taught to us by the Sterns!

20. Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors by Robin Donovan

This is the culinary guide for folks “who love good food and the great outdoors.” It includes over 100 recipes for campsite meals that are healthy and easy to make. Stephanie’s favorite recipes include the spice rubs, the make ahead pancake mix and the curry chicken salad sandwich. Jeremy has yet to use this book, but with his newly found love for camp cooking, and the vintage gas powered stove that he brought from craigslist, he plans on cracking it open very soon.

21. The 10 Best of Everything National Parks: 800 Top Picks from Parks Coast to Coast: by National Geographic and Fran Mainella

Product Details

This is the best reference book about National Parks that you have never read. It showcases “America’s best natural playgrounds” in an attractive full color book that includes over 800 top picks ranging from lodges, to swimming holes, to picnic spots, and even to picture perfect places where star-crossed lovers can say “I do.”

Travel Narratives

22. The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean by Philip Caputo

Philip Caputo gives the epic American cross country road trip an equally epic twist in this underappreciated travel classic. Instead of heading from East to West, Caputo starts towing his classic Airstream in Key West and heads all the way to the Arctic Ocean. His wife and two English setters make great company and so do the dozens of Americans that he interviews along the way. His constant question for them?  How do these United States, “peopled by every race on earth” stay united? Their answers are astonishing in scope and variety–much like the landscape of our great country.

23. Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

Philip Caputo clearly had John Steinbeck’s classic Travels With Charley: In Search of America in mind when he wrote his own book. Steinbeck’s book has inspired generations of American travel writers and continues to do so. His son claims he made much of it up, but this is unsurprising considering he was a novelist at heart. Whether this is fact or fiction, travel narrative or novel, it still gets at the heart of what it means to be an American.

Religion/Philosophy

24. Life is a PIC-A-NIC: Yogi Bear’s Tips & Tricks for the Smarter than Average Bear by Yogi Bear with Earl Kress

“We want morsels not missiles!.”  Dope words of wisdom from our favorite bear.

‘Nuff Said.

Drop us a note and let us know what your favorite RV and Camping books are! Happy Reading Everybody!

04 Mar

Giveaway!!! Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern

Thanks to Clarkson Potter, publisher of the 9th edition of Roadfood, for providing us with 2 copies of this fantastic book to give away to our readers.

Enter to win by liking one of the Roadfood posts on Facebook, or you can comment on this post.

You get an additional 2 entries if you tell us about your favorite road food experience! We need ideas for our future trips.

We have never had a miss using this book, and we are happy to share the love…

02 Mar

Feed Your Belly and Soul with Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood

It’s going to snow again tonight at the Jersey Shore. Enough I say!  ENOUGH!!!  When I spot that first seemingly innocent, seemingly cute snowflake I am going to go out into my backyard, shake my fists at the heavens, curse the Polar Vortex, and demand the immediate and unambiguous arrival of Spring.

After I do that I’m going to relax and spend the rest of the evening mapping out some of our spring and summer road trips.  We have reservations for campgrounds in Myrtle Beach, The Brandywine Valley, Cape Cod, and the White Mountains, and we have started to put together lists of hikes, swims, and other family-centric activities that should make for a great fifth season of Lively Little Campers.  Tonight I am also going to dip into Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood, An American gastronomic classic that has more in common with an epic quest novel like Moby-Dick than it does with a Michelin or Zagat’s food guide.

As Stephanie mentioned in her last post, she usually cooks in the RV when road tripping, but we do like to eat out once at each destination.  Because these meals are special we make sure they really count.  No tourist traps and no combo meals please!  This is where Roadfood saves the day every time.  Jane and Michael Stern’s tome is broken up into geographic regions (with maps) such as “Mid-Atlantic,” “Deep South,” “Midwest,” and “West Coast” that span from coast to coast.  These regional sections then have chapters for each state which contain sharply written and entertaining entries for the recommended locations.  Their writing is so good that you can almost taste those juicy burgers and wicked pies, almost… We used the Vermont chapter last summer and the results were delicious, affordable, and somewhat sinful each time.

There are two Roadfood picks very close to the Brattleboro KOA where we camped: The Putney Diner and Curtis’ All American Bar-B-Q. Both in Putney.

We had super-scrumptious sandwiches and pies at the diner….

P1040999

P1050006

And mouth-watering ribs and sides at Curtis.

P1050028

P1050044

There are also two Roadfood picks close to the Quechee/Pine Valley KOA where we camped: The Mill at Quechee and the White Cottage Snack Bar in Woodstock.

We had delicate, yet hardy soups and sandwiches at The Mill…

photo copy 3

photo copy 4

 And all-American burgers, fries, and lobster rolls with a river view at White Cottage.

P1050713 (3)

P1050717

I keep a copy of this book in my glove compartment whenever we travel, and you should too.  The first edition of the Stern’s masterpiece was published way back in 1978–and the ninth edition comes out this week–36 years later.  Roadfood has been around this long for a reason.  Because it rocks.

Next stop, Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill, New Hampshire! 

P1050005P1050004

 

Links to all of the campgrounds and restaurants mentioned in this post can be found on our “Trip Planner” page.

02 Dec

Coffee Table Mojo: KOA and the Art of Kamping

KOA And The Art of Kamping
It’s only early December but I miss camping season already.  I love the holidays as much as the next dad–but I love getting out in our RV even more.  Our family has spent over a hundred nights camping during the past four years and most of those nights have been spent at KOA campgrounds.  Stephanie calls me a “KOA Fanboy,” and its true.  I like their friendly cancellation policy and their kid friendly activities and amenities.  But what I have really loved the most about the KOA campgrounds that we have visited are their slightly kitschy, nostalgia-drenched sense of Americana.  Those yellow signs make me feel like a kid again every time we pull in.  Today’s KOA campgrounds may have Wi-Fi and hook-ups for cable TV, but they are still the ultimate family respite from the madness of the modern world.

The Lively Little Campers won’t be back on the road again until April, when we head down south to the Myrtle Beach KOA.  But until then I have a sweet new coffee table book called KOA And The Art of Kamping to bring a little bit of that “camp mojo” into my living room over the dreary winter months.  John Brunkowski and Michael Closen, both RV veterans, have put together a delightful picture book that visually celebrates KOA’s history and its unique place in American culture.  While flipping through its pages you can smell the freshness of the great outdoors and feel the warmth of the campfire on your skin.  This is highly recommended reading for every camper on your Christmas list.  It will make them happy on a cold winter night and inspire them to plan their next great adventure.

***

Here are my top ten KOA “Kamping” memories:

1. Sunsets at the Bar Harbor/Oceanside KOA
2.  Waking up early to surf at the Cape Hatteras KOA
3.  Canoeing with Stephanie and the boys on mother’s day at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA
4.  The Greatest Hay-Ride of all time at the Allentown KOA
5. Double Twin Vomit Clean Up at the Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA
6.  Tubing down the Swannanoa River at the Asheville East KOA
7.  Hiking in Shenandoah National Park while camping at Luray KOA
8.  Meeting the “6 Over 60” guys at the Brattleboro North KOA ice cream social
9.  Chilly August Campfires at the Quechee/Pine Valley KOA
10. Lobster Dinner at the Bar Harbor/Oceanside KOA

Onward!
26 Sep

Campfire Cuisine Giveaway (You can use this in the regular kitchen,too)

A few weeks ago Stephanie reviewed a cookbook that she really loved called Campfire Cuisine published by the adventurous Quirk Books.  She found the recipes to be excellent both for camping and for home.  Here is a quote from her review:

Campfire Cuisine doesn’t just appeal to me as a ‘camper’, it also serves as a great resource for weekday meal planning. Even if you are not now (or ever!) heading out in the RV, you could use the make ahead tips for the nights you have to get dinner on the table fast.

I reached out to Quirk Books last night and asked them if they would “cough up” a free copy of Campfire Cuisine for our dear readers.  Their response?
 Sure! How’s about… five copies? :-).”
So here’s how we’re rolling this time.  Like us on Facebook to enter the drawing.  If you have already liked us (Thank you so much!) then simply like the post about the giveaway.
We will assemble our crack security team again next Wednesday night immediately before story time to pick not one, but FIVE winners of a complimentary copy of Campfire Cuisine.  Many thanks to Quirk Books.
 
Good Luck and God Speed.
11 Sep

Campfire Cuisine, by Robin Donovan (this is for you kitchen dwellers, too)

Honestly, I rolled my eyes when my husband handed me this book.

Four years ago, when we first started camping with the boys, I did a little research on ‘camping’ recipes. It wasn’t like I was planning on cooking over the campfire or anything…two babies on a campsite kept us busy enough without having to worry about open flames and charred meat. I was just looking for some tips for planning simple meals that traveled well.

I quickly found out that if you search for camping recipes you basically find recipes for stews or a combination of ingredients to throw in a foil packet. Neither of these categories sucked me in, so over the past three years I have developed my own way of meal planning for the road: I throw meat into marinades before we leave and then later grill it with lots of vegetables and fruit, I put everything over a salad, and I throw in a couple of crockpot favorites like pulled pork and white chili. In short, tasty yet uninspiring. I mean, I’m not impressing anyone here. I’m just serving solid, fresh, tasty food. Good, not brilliant.

Well, Campfire Cuisine inspired me to kick it up a notch this past summer. When I was skimming the recipes, I found myself wanting to try things for our everyday table, not just on the road. There is Indian-Styled Yogurt Chicken and Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese and Basil. There is a Jambalaya in lieu of the boring old stew, and Barbecued Peking Duck Wraps to replace your campfire fajitas. The book manages to offer up its ‘gourmet recipes’ without being obnoxious or ridiculous. You can actually skim these recipes and think, sure…we can do that.

For many of the recipes the author offers make ahead tips and prepping advice. The more I used the book, the more it reminded me of those 30-minute meal books, only with really great ingredients and imaginative recipes for people who like to eat well while camping.

My favorite things so far are the “Make-Ahead Mulitpurpose Baking Mix” which serves up thick, hardy pancakes or flavorful biscuits, and the various spice rubs which can be made ahead in plastic baggies and thrown on whatever cuts of meat you might happen upon on the road.

Campfire Cuisine doesn’t just appeal to me as a ‘camper’, it also serves as a great resource for weekday meal planning. Even if you are not now (or ever!) heading out in the RV, you could use the make ahead tips for the nights you have to get dinner on the table fast.

I’m certainly not one to want to be gazing at a recipe when I’m at a campsite with my family. But this book definitely tempts me to try new things even with three kids under four.

And that’s saying something.

05 Aug

He gets the goods; She unpacks them: Book Buying and Book Reading

As you can tell from his last post, Jeremy really loves everything about buying books- not just the books themselves but also the stores, the cafes, and even the (ahem) t-shirts. Yes, he actually owns a Strand t-shirt from the ’90s and it is still in regular rotation. The whole book store thing is a little bit of a romantic attachment, but as he reminds me regularly, it could be worse.

And while I don’t enjoy the bookstores, he is right in arguing that I do enjoy the purchases. Lucky for him. Value added.

So I kind of see it this way: he buys the books, and I read them. Commence marital squabbling.

He bought The Lobster Coast by Colin Woodard while we were in Camden and I am so glad he did. How many of us have really ever thought about the history of Maine? I went to an undergraduate school where learning early American History is like learning your catechism. And yet, I don’t think the word “Maine” ever appeared in any of our endless primary source readings.

The author starts out strong by telling stories about the isolated island of Monhegan and its annual Trap Day. He immediately explains the whole ‘Downeast’ thing, which was a puzzle I was happy to help solve around the campfire one night. Then he spends the next 150 pages discussing the endless Indian wars, as well as every charter, commission, and expedition that was sent out by either British royalty or the Massachusetts colony. This part of the book was truly educational. The problem is, it can also be mind numbing at times. Take it for what it’s worth: if you really want to buckle down and get academic, read these pages carefully and slowly. If you want to get a general idea, read quickly and then get to the good stuff after page 155.

From this part of the book on, the author does such a wonderful job of describing what made Maine so successful early on–granite, fishing, boat making, and even ice exporting. He then heart-breakingly details all of the historical events that brought these industries crashing down one at a time, leaving Maine’s residents in crushing poverty.

Woodard also tells the wonderful story of the rise in tourism and how Maine became ‘Vacationland.’ He writes in a way that truly makes you consider what it means to be a visitor in a place; what one’s unconsidered expectations as a tourist are; and how one’s attitudes about a location can actually have a impact on the community that lives there.

This book is worth reading simply because it is interesting and tells the story of a fascinating group of people. However, it is also worth reading because we live in such a transient culture where so many of us will be transplants at one time or another. Reading this book was an opportunity for me to reevaluate the way I enter into a new place, challenging me to be a better listener and a better traveler.