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!

24 Nov

RVFTA #64: 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

2015 RVFTA HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE! blog

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are rolling through our holiday gift guide: 33 items that are perfect for the RV enthusiast in your life. Some we picked ourselves and some recommendations are from other RV experts–correspondents and listeners from this show.

subscribe on iTunesTune in to hear gift picks from Brett, Kerri, Evanne, Chris, Val, Rachel, and Kate. There is definitely something for everyone, and a price point for every budget. Books, DVDs, hats, hoodies, spice holders, mixing bowls, awning lights, and apps. Click on any picture below to purchase that item.

Not a single item on this list is a sponsored item, and we do not have ANY affiliate links.

You might think we couldn’t possibly top last year’s holiday gift guide. But we here at RVFTA believe that bigger is (sometimes) actually better. This is Episode #64: 2015 Holiday Guide Guide.

1. Camp Casual Serving Bowl and Servers ($22.99)

2. AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography ($19.95)


3. Ansel Adams Yosemite ($22.00)


4. Fromer’s Easy Guide Series ($12.95)


5. The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2nd Edition ($40.00)


6. Outdoor Photographer, 1-Year Subscription ($14.97)


7. The Andy Griffith Show Complete Box Set, also available on Netflix ($101.00)

8. National Parks Passport ($8.95)

9. RVFTA Distressed Hoodies (40.00)

10. L.L. Bean Fleece-lined Flannel Shirt ($69.00)

11. L.L. Bean Men’s Wool Ball Cap ($29.95)

12. North Face ETip  Gloves, Men’s and Women’s ($45.00)

13. Igloo Freestanding Ice Machine ($159.95)

14. Roadside America App, iTunes ($5.99)


15. Threshold Stainless Steal Mixing Bowls from Target ($19.99)

16. Kleen Kanteen Vacuum Insulated Tumbler (23.95)

17. Camelbak Forge 16 oz Travel Mug ($21.00)

18. Bialetti Saute Pans ($22.00-$50.00)

19. Motorola Two-Way Radios ($42.00)


20. Campsite Rope Lights, Christmas Tree Shops ($8.99)


21. Andersen Camper Levelers ($40.00)

Kate’s List…

22. Deluxe Camp Kitchen from Bass Pro Shop ($139.00)

23. Table Top French Press from REI ($44.00)

24. GSI Spice Rocket ($12.95)

25. Duracell 600 Watt 1300 Amp Powerpack Pro ($163.00)

26. Rand McNally Tripmaker RV GPS ($240.00)

27. Orion Starblast 4.5 Reflector Telescope ($210.00)

28. Happy Camper Wine ($8.00-$12.00)

29 Awning Lights from Ooga Lights (prices vary)

30. Faux Fur Throw from Pottery Barn ($50.00 and up)

31. Aquaflops Shower Shoes ($16.99)

32. Moroccan Lanterns ($15.00 and up)

33. Custom Made Replica Vintage Trailer from CHcampers.com ($6,995 and up)

If you buy any of these items for a loved one or yourself, please do let us know!

And have a wonderful, blessed holiday season with friends and family.

Cheers,

Jeremy + Stephanie

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….

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And mouth-watering ribs and sides at Curtis.

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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…

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

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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! 

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

03 Jul

Dreaming of Doing the Fifty…But Not Just Yet

I’ve been dreaming about doing the fifty for a long time now.  It started during one of our early pop-up camper trips in Cape May.  As I was walking back to our campsite from the pool I spotted a grey-haired couple relaxing under their awning, drinking an afternoon cocktail, and looking happy and satisfied.  They had one of those big sticker maps of the United States on their RV right next to the door.  They had filled in the map with all of the individual state stickers–even Alaska.  It was an act of visual braggadocio that spoke of years of adventure on the open road.  The map symbolized a particular  type of American wanderlust that is still out there for the taking–if you have the time and resources.
When I got back to the camper Stephanie and the boys were taking a nap. But I was wide awake and pondering the bigness, and the vastness of America–and the tininess of the little campers asleep beside me.  Could we do the fifty?  Yes, I thought confidently–yes, yes, yes.  Yes multiplied by 50.
Over the past four years we have been raising our twin boys, Max and Theo, and more recently, baby brother Wes.  During that time we have knocked out seven states–not bad considering the youngsters. But I have to admit–the dream of doing the fifty had subsided quite a bit.  Not because I had given up but because the demands of the everyday were keeping me pretty well occupied.  Then I picked up Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey’s State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, 50 Writers on 50 States.
 
This anthology was inspired by the WPA State guides that were published as part of the Federal Writers Project during the Great Depression.  These guides were widely acclaimed when they were published and are now hard to find collector’s items.  After Weiland and Wilsey dreamed up their crazy scheme and assigned each writer a state they purchased an entire set of the WPA guides and sent them out individually to each of their authors for inspiration–a lovely touch if you ask me.
I have been dipping into this rich collection as time allows and have really loved many of the essays.  I have started by reading the essays from states where I have travelled: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, Kentucky, California etc… and I have been surprised by the diversity and excellence of the collection.  State by State has also inspired me to start thinking about doing the fifty again.
When I was in England during my undergraduate years I remember mentioning to a native that my friends and I were thinking about renting a car and driving up to Scotland.  The man looked shocked.  He informed me that the drive would take a good twelve hours or so–his point being that this was clearly mission impossible.  I had recently driven over 20 hours from New Jersey to New Orleans and was unimpressed by the distance.  I mentioned this to him and his look of shock turned to complete befuddlement.  “You Americans love to spend time in your cars, don’t you?”
He was missing the point entirely.  We Americans live in a big, beautiful country–and we like to drive around and look at it.  And let others know we have.
Onward.

 

09 Apr

Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street

I have always dreamed about driving Route 66 from Illinois to California–and chances are, if you’ve heard Nat “King” Cole croon the famous tune, you probably have too. This heavily mythologized American road trip is somewhere near the top of my bucket list.  It has been hard for me to explain why my imagination was so drawn to Route 66 because I really didn’t know much about it beyond the lyrics to that song–until now.

I picked up Rick Antonson’s Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street a few nights ago and blew through the first half of it very quickly.  Antonson does a masterful job of weaving his journey (shared with his travel buddy Peter) with a compelling history of the road itself.  The narrative has a rhythm and energy that really gets under your skin and makes you want to roll down the windows, crank up the radio, and head out on your own great American road trip.

Route 66 Still Kicks will spark your still winterized wanderlust and keep you well-occupied until the rubber meets the road.  Whether your drive a Class A, a classic Corvette, or a mini-van, “get hip to this timely tip;” reading Antonson’s book may be the next best thing to packing your bags and motoring west–and it may just inspire you to do the real thing.  We all need to cross a few things off of those bucket lists, don’t we?

 

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.

04 Aug

Heaven is a Bookstore in Maine: The Owl and the Turtle

                                                      Camden and Rockland, Maine

Actually, I found heaven in two bookstores in Maine.  The Owl & Turtle Bookshop in Camden and Rock City Books in Rockland were both examples of small, lovingly curated, independent bookstores that did not feel small at all.  An avid reader can spend hours in shops like these because each shelf is worth scanning.  You can feel the love that the owners put into each purchase because there is no wasted space on the shelves.

When we camp near a new city or town I am always on the lookout for independent bookstores.  They are becoming harder and harder to find these days as more people shop online and purchase ebooks for their Kindles and Nooks.  Apparently the good people of Maine did not get this memo.  There seemed to be bookstores everywhere.  Every little coastal  town that we drove through seemed to have its own jewel of a shop.  When you are traveling with kids this can be a  frustrating experience. If the boys are napping, you just ain’t stopping.  And if the boys are awake and you are within an hour of mealtime, you just ain’t stopping.  And if there is absolutely no reason why you ain’t stopping, then you just ain’t stopping either.

Well, to tell the truth, there is actually a pretty good reason for not stopping. When I take my boys into a bookstore, sure, they like to look at the books on the shelves–and then they like to rearrange them.  If you ever find a copy of Potty Time with Elmo tucked into the New Age section then you know that Max and Theo have been browsing the shelves.  This is fine when they are in my disorganized library at home–but not when they are in a lovely little bookstore filled with quiet little old (bespectacled!) readers and quiet little young (bespectacled!) bookstore clerks that have either sent their kids off to college or have not yet produced their own spawn (They are too busy reading!).

Now that Max and Theo form my central narrative I often have to sneak into bookstores during the blank, white spaces in-between chapters (during naps and after bedtime.)  Luckily, my wife fully encourages this clandestine behavior because she often joins the boys for a well-deserved nap.  I may no longer have time to lazily loaf through the shelves and spend precious minutes examining the precise condition of dust jackets, and I may no longer have time to triple check the poetry shelf for new releases.  But I still proudly find time for book shopping.  However, my trips to the bookstore have become more surgical and precise.  I go in knowing what I want to buy and accepting that there is not enough time to search for a serendipitous purchase.

This attitude led me to pick up the following Maine related books at Rock City and The Owl & Turtle:

The Lobster Coast by Colin Woodward and The Lobster Chronicles byLinda Greenlaw.

When I am vacationing I often like to read about the place during the trip.  I find that it enriches my travels. While I was Quick Draw Mcgraw when it came to picking the books up at those two fine shops, apparently I was not quick enough when it came to actually reading them.

Within minutes of arriving back at the campground my mother-in-law had claimed The Lobster Chronicles and my wife had picked up The Lobster Coast and called dibs on The Lobster Chronicles when her mom was done.  My mother-in-law then pulled the vicious move of calling dibs on The Lobster Coast when my wife was done.  They will not remember events unfolding in this manner–but I promise you–that’s exactly what happened.  I was philosophical and decided that I would be happy to just eat some lobster while in Maine.  That’s better than reading about it anyway? Right?

When the girls curled up around the fire with their new books I made-do with a copy of the Bangor Daily News.  Everyone was happy.

29 Jun

I Swear on the Gods of Blogging that I did NOT Stage This…

Most of the time my boys are the epitome of non-compliance. But everyone once in a while they throw me a bone and make my day.
About a week ago, I blogged about the Good Night Series of books and how my boys love them despite suspect illustrations and weakness of plot line.
Lo and behold a few days later, I look up from my never-ending kitchen duties and find them scooting and zooming around with–wait for it–those very same books in their hands.

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Now some of you may doubt that a child would read a book and Scoot and Zoom at the same time. Well, you just don’t know my lively little campers, I guess.
Max and Theo do everything on their Scoot and Zooms. One of the biggest battles in our house each night is that one simply CANNOT brush one’s teeth on the Scoot and Zoom. This rule must be reinforced daily at about 6:30 pm. It is soul-crushing news for the boys each time.
So what is this compliance I am talking about? Well, I figured as soon as I went for the camera they would toss the books down with big ole’ grins and scoot away. But they didn’t. And they even posed. I was downright giddy. I am also realistic. I really don’t expect this to happen again in the near future. So enjoy.

15 Jun

Good Night Little Campers…Camp Taylor, New Jersey

Our final camping trip of the season last fall was to Camp Taylor, and it was everything that a fall weekend jaunt should be and more.

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There was cold crisp air, bright fall leaves, and packs of wolves howling at the full moon. Yes, packs of wolves. Or maybe just a single pack. I’m not sure. I have twin boys and I don’t get to pay very close attention on guided tours.

The Lakota Wolf Preserve is right next to Camp Taylor, and on Saturday morning we boarded a shuttle at the campground and bounced and jostled our way up to the Preserve. This tour, along with our trip to Buttermilk Falls, Millbrook Village, and the Delaware Water Gap made this weekend one of our best ever. We are definitely going back this fall.
Why am I bringing this up now, when the wolves’ coats are falling in tufts to the ground and they all kind of look like emaciated dogs and you should definitely NOT rush up for a visit?
Because my boys howled like the dickens tonight when we came to the page in Good Night New Jersey with the Lakota Wolf Preserve. And it is pretty darn cute when they do this, and they have been doing it since we visited the place last fall.
So I felt like putting in a plug for this series of books. We own Good Night New Jersey, Good Night Maine, Good Night North Carolina, Good Night Beach…I could go on, but you get the point.
The illustrations can be a bit odd (my husband has a particular issue with the pictures in Good Night Beach where adult faces seem to be drawn on square child bodies), and sometimes the selections of locales within the book make you wonder if there is some sort of inside joke that you are not ‘in on’ (Good Night World is downright trippy). Overall though, the boys routinely choose these books to read and it is really quite fun to bring along the book for wherever you happen to be traveling and read it together at the end of the day.
After all of our Good Night Maine reading, I’m pretty sure that my boys are going to be mistaken for locals when we travel up there in a couple of weeks. Their loon sound is pitch perfect, they can identify all important parts of a moose, they do a mean lobster-pinching impression, and we are currently at work on the pronunciation of “Mt. Katahdin.”
These books are like The Lonely Planet Guidebooks for toddlers–a little quirky, yet oddly inspirational and endearing.