01 Nov

4 Steps to a Better Cup of Campground Coffee (Lifelanes Progressive Blog)

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Coffee and camping seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are both absolute staples in our RV, at least.
We have been through a lot of changes in our coffee making equipment since we starting RVing six years ago, but one thing always remains the same: every morning at the campground must start with a steaming mug of java.

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One of our most popular podcasts ever was Camp Coffee 101, and our listeners keep asking us when we are doing Camp Coffee 102.

It’s coming…we promise!

But in the meantime, if you need your camp coffee education fix, we wrote a post for the Progressive Lifelanes blog on 4 Steps to a better cup of coffee. We want you to check all four of these boxes before we start bringing you the more advanced stuff in the near future.

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Want some other great coffee content? Our awesome forum members have weighed in on what they use when at the campground. And you can revisit Stephanie’s musings on what happens when the love of your life starts drinking coffee for the first time in his life…at the age of 35!

We will also be sharing some new coffee brewing gear on the upcoming RVFTA Holiday Gift Guide. And here’s a hint…Jeremy might be ready to ditch that French Press that has been traveling with us for the last two years. Stay tuned for the all the details and the drama. Believe us, cleaning out that French Press does count as drama.

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And if you are completely good to go with brewing your camp coffee, but just want a sweet new mug to put it in…use our coupon code RVFTA2 for 15% off of Camp Casual’s adorable mugs. Or you can do the responsible thing, and start your holiday shopping early!

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See you at the campground,

Stephanie

07 Feb

RVFTA #21 Camp Coffee 101

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about the art of making great camp coffee.  A morning ritual for so many of us at the campground, there are plenty of opinions about brewing a perfect cup! But we decided to call in an expert for his advice on compact equipment (perfect for camping on or off the grid) and brewing techniques.

Mike Ayars from Turnstile Coffee Roasters in Belmar, NJ invited your co-hosts to his shop for an informative session about what makes specialty coffee so special.  He also walked us through the pros and cons of the French press, the pour over, and the Aeropress.  We wrap up the segment by testing out equipment and sampling fresh roasted coffee–and man oh man was it goooooood!  Turnstile has also generously offered to give away two gift boxes that each contain a trio of coffees from the three major coffee producing regions of the world–enter in the sidebar!

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Here are links to the equipment that we talk about on the show:

Grind

Hario Skerton Hand Mill

Brew

Bodum Chambord French Press 4 Cup

Hario Buono Kettle

Hario V60 Dripper

If you want to read some of our thoughts on camp coffee from over the years, you can visit this post on Jeremy’s great discovery in Cape Cod or this post on Stephanie’s history of coffee.

We also have a great interview with the owners of Inn Town Campground in Nevada City, California which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016. The beautiful location and energetic young proprietors definitely caught our attention.  Their property is deeply wooded and filled with towering pine trees, but only a short walk to downtown.  We can’t wait to visit the finished product!

We also announce our new guest blogging gig for Camp Jellystone, and talk about the seminars that we will be giving at the Atlantic City RV Show next weekend.

All of this, and so much more, on Episode 21 of RV Family Travel Atlas: Camp Coffee 101!

 

 

 

Play
06 Feb

Thoughts On Coffee (and work, and marriage, and life)

I started drinking coffee when I was 13 years old. Young, right? But it made perfect sense at the time.

I was a teenager with no allowance and parents who were not inclined to buy frivolous items. I needed a job. Bad. Without a car or reliable ride, I had to look for something within walking distance. There happened to be a gas station up on the corner, so I paid the owner a visit, lied about my age, and started pumping gas the next week.

On Saturdays and Sundays I opened up the station. I would walk up to the corner at 4:45 am in the dark, take out my key, and start turning on lights. I stocked the chip racks, stacked packages of cigarettes, and made coffee.

By 5:30 am the fishermen and contractors started trickling in. I placed little meal worms in Tupperware, filled up gas tanks, and brewed pots and pots of coffee. Somewhere along the line I started drinking it side by side with my early bird customers. A morning ritual, still in place a quarter century later, was introduced.

My later jobs as a waitress and teacher ensured that coffee remained a central part of my work life. The unusual thing is that it never played a prominent role in my home. My parents did not make or drink coffee and Jeremy, my husband, didn’t touch the stuff. It was always just me, brewing it for myself, pouring it into a travel mug, and going on my way.

That is until my husband suddenly started drinking coffee at the age of 37. The man who had never drank a cup of coffee in his whole life found himself desperate to stay awake grading piles and piles of high school essays. At first the cups had lots of milk and sugar, later just a bit of milk, and now straight black just like I take mine.

The same man who had no idea how to use a drip coffee machine two years ago gets up every morning and grinds the beans, fills the machine with cold filtered water, and pours me my first cup, often telling me the region and roast. I can’t remember the last time I bought coffee. Jeremy stops at his favorite roasters on the way home and selects our beans for the week.

When we travel he stocks up the camper with all our coffee supplies and one of his favorite things to do is find a local roaster wherever we are staying.

They say that people don’t change, but that is not true. Eleven years into our marriage, Jeremy started drinking coffee.

So this week’s episode is all about coffee and how to get the best cup while you are traveling this beautiful country in your RV.  I hope you get to listen.

We had a blast interviewing our local coffee roaster and had an amazing tasting, comparing different methods of brewing. The whole time I was thinking how wonderful it is that we really do grow and change as travelers and spouses and people.

I was also thinking back to that first cup of coffee at the gas station. Almost every single thing about my life has changed.

Except coffee.

 

15 Jul

Cape Cod Family Trip Planner: Beaches, Biking, Baseball, and More!

Planning a trip to Cape Cod? We spent a magical week there this summer and can’t wait to return. Here is our list of suggestions for where to stay, what to eat, and how to have tons of family fun.

Where to Stay

 

Atlantic Oaks RV Park

A great campground at a great price with super-clean facilities. Direct access to the Cape Cod Bike Trail.

Where to Eat and Drink

 

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Get in line early for Cape Cod’s best breakfast splurge. The Glazed Old Fashioned? Yum.

Beanstock Roastery

Buy enough for your whole trip. Then buy some more to bring home. We love the Wellfleet Blend and the Bali Blue Moon Organic.

Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar

Try the hot lobster roll. Please. Bring extra cash for ice cream after lunch.

Friendly Fisherman

Let the kids romp on the playground while you enjoy lobster rolls and crab cakes. BYOB.

MoJo'sP-TownSeafood Shack

The town librarian told us this was the quintessential Provincetown lunch. We couldn’t agree more.

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Perfect for lunch after hiking at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Ask for Janine for your waitress. She’ll recommend the Cape Cod Reuben. Order it.

 

Family Fun

First Encounter Beach

This bay beach is perfect for low-tide exploration. Bring the kites and kayaks for a perfect day on the Cape.

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The five dollar entry fee is the best bargain on Cape Cod. Hike around one of the kettle ponds or just settle in at Flax Pond for a family swim.

Cape Cod National Seashore

The visitor centers alone are full of fun activities and educational resources. Our favorite feature was the Nauset in Eastham Bike Trail that brought you within steps of the beach.

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Our boys are still learning to ride bikes and this was a wonderful way for us to embrace this fun family activity. We can’t wait to return without the training wheels.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife sanctuary

The landscape and trails here are stunningly beautiful. The nature center and educational activities are an added bonus. Make sure you go during low tide so you can enjoy the Boardwalk Trail.

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Who doesn’t love a lighthouse? This one is conveniently located in the National Seashore just north of the popular Coast Guard beach.

Provincetown Public Library

We had to drag our boys out of this library because it was long past lunchtime. It is just simply a beautiful and fun place to spend a few hours.

Baseball League

Nothing beats the crack of a wooden bat. We recommend that you skip the hotdog and buy a cup of clam chowder. Admission is free, but a donation is recommended.

As always, we love to hear from our readers. If you go to Cape Cod, please let us know any other places that you recommend. We can’t wait to add to this list when we return next June!

 

 

13 Jul

Coffee from the Magic List: Beanstock Roasters, Eastham, Cape Cod

Two years ago I found myself back in contact with my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Joe, whom I hadn’t spoken to in 22 years.  When Nancy found out that we travelled to New England every summer she insisted that we would LOVE Cape Cod, where she and Joe had retired, and she encouraged us to visit.  Stephanie had always wanted to travel there anyway, so I knew it was just a matter of time.

Now fast forward two years…

We finally reconnected with Nancy and Joe, and another aunt, and two cousins!  It really was quite lovely.  It turns out that Nancy and Joe only live a mile from Atlantic Oaks Campground, where we stayed.  But my family history is not the point of this post.  So why do I bring up Aunt Nancy here?  Because she became our aider, abettor, and accomplice for all things Cape Cod.  And everyone needs a family travel insider on a destination as crowded and complicated as the Cape, don’t they?

She wrote up a magical list of places for us to visit that was perfect for our family.  We didn’t make it to half of them, but you better believe that we did made it to Beanstock Coffee’s roasting facility, which happens to be tucked away on a quiet, and mildly industrial street, less than a mile away from our campground.

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Better yet, it was easily reachable via the Cape Cod Bike Trail, which is directly connected to Atlantic Oaks.  When I asked Nancy if there was good coffee on the Cape she told me that Beanstock was “within sniffing distance” of our campground, and she was right.

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The first thing that you need to know about Beanstock’s facility in Eastham is that it is decidedly not a coffee shop.  It is a small warehouse on a dead end street with zero foot traffic.  They roast their coffee there and ship it all over New England.  But they also sell it by the bag, have a full range of coffees, and are sooooo well stocked.  You should also know that you can’t actually buy a cup of coffee there.  But you can pour yourself a free one at a charming little station next to a shelf full of coffee related gifts.

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During our week on Cape Cod we stopped by several times and sampled a wide variety of Beanstock’s delightful coffees.  Stephanie loved the Bali Blue Moon Organic, and I loved the Wellfleet Blend and their Organic Guatemalan.  Though my uncle is devoted to the Black Fish Creek Blend, I found it too dark and robust for my taste.

Free coffee by the cup? Fresh roasted beans from the world over?  Creative blends named after Cape Cod locales? No one there but me and the roasters?  And a short bike ride back to the campground to share the booty?  What a perfect way to start a summer day on Cape Cod.  But we learned quickly that there are many perfect summer days on Cape Cod, and many ways to start them.  You just need to find yourself an aunty to make you a magic list.

Onward.

12 Aug

Mocha Joe’s, Brattleboro (Make Sure to Bring Cash If You Go!)

My mother had kindly and sweetly bought us two pounds of Guatemalan coffee from Rook as a gift for our road trip to Vermont.  So there was absolutely no practical reason to head to Mocha Joe’s in downtown Brattleboro at 6:45 am to load up with more good coffee.  But road trips to Vermont with our lively little campers have nothing to do with practicality.  So I loaded Theo and Max up into the truck, very much against their will, and turned left out of the Brattleboro North KOA onto Route 5 South and headed into town.

The boys were grumpy because I had cancelled an early morning showing of the Berenstain Bears and was, for the umpteenth time, taking them to a coffee shop instead of letting them crash around the camper while people try to sleep.  By stepping out, I could get my fresh roasted coffee fix, and simultaneously allow Stephanie and her mom a little early morning peace with just baby Wes in tow.  For some strange reason mommy never complains when I throw her twin boys into the truck and take them on my early morning fact finding missions.

The first thing that you need to know about Mocha Joe’s is that the location is super cool.  They are on the main drag in town but they are located down a flight of stairs below street level…

And they have a logo that is also super cool…

They also have great coffee and a D.I.Y ethic that is not surprising in Vermont.  Their beans are not pre-packaged.  You scoop your own and bag them up at their visually appealing coffee bar–which is also super cool…
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This was fun for me but at the same time I felt that if you are paying a premium price for your coffee someone else should do the scooping and bagging.  I wanted to quickly grab a couple of pounds and sit down with my boys, but instead I ended up having to wait my turn and then futz around with coffee gear while the boys stuck their heads under the back of my shirt and giggled.  I also like a nice label with origin information, but instead had to quickly scrawl out Peruvian, and Cameroon with a slightly dried up pen.  Luckily the Peruvian rocked my world for the next few mornings.
The aggressive hipster ethos of the shop also got on my nerves a bit.  The baristas seem to understand how cool they are and thus, in my estimation, were not very cool.  After I contributed my time and labor to the scooping and packaging of my two pounds of coffee I ended up in line behind a sharply dressed businesswoman.  She ordered a large coffee and had the audacity to hand over a credit card to the youngish, abundantly pierced barista behind the counter.  The barista gave her an unfriendly look and asked her in an impatient voice if she had cash. The woman begin to feverishly dig through her purse fishing for singles.
I didn’t notice any signs declaring a limit for a credit card purchase.  Because there were none.  The businesswoman in front of me looked increasingly embarrassed as she practically turned her purse upside down on the counter.  I was also becoming increasingly annoyed.  The people in line behind me were getting fidgety.  Max and Theo had given up on waiting in line and had climbed up the staircase inside the shop and were jumping down the steps, landing with a thump, and confusing several of the other fashionable young customers who were clearly looking for a much different kind of early morning jolt.
When the businesswoman finally fished out a couple of singles from the depths of her purse everyone in line sighed with relief.  I don’t mind mom and pop stores having a minimum credit card purchase, but I do mind them not posting it and then asking their customers for cash after the plastic has been proffered.  It just feels snarky and slows down the line.
Mocha Joe’s may be a little too cool for school, but the coffee is well worth a class trip.  And did I mention the cider donuts with granulated sugar?  I bought three of those bad boys.  One each for me, Max, and Theo.  After I set the boys up with their milk and donut I snapped a few pictures around the shop.  When I returned to our table all three of the donuts were gone except for some scattered crumbs on the floor.  It was time to clean up the table and get back in line.  Thankfully, I had cash.
21 Jul

Dynamite Joe and the Caffeine Kids, Black Mountain

When you travel and camp with kids coffee is more important than gasoline.  I would rather be stranded on the side of the road with the tank on empty and a fresh cup of Joe in my hands than be woken up in our camper by my twin boys at 6:15 a.m. only to discover that we’re fresh out.  Our kids are naturally caffeinated but we are not.  So luckily for Stephanie and me, when I noticed that our supply of coffee had dwindled down to the last bean I discovered one of those Great Good Places that make life worth living.  The Dynamite Roasting Company, in Black Mountain, is only 2.4 miles up the road from the Asheville East–a match made in heaven if you ask me.

You see, I’ve become an amateur coffee snob in training over the last year.  I used to look for the independent book stores when we travelled to a new town–but now I look for coffee shops.  More specifically, I look for coffee shops with one of these in them…

The first word out of Stephanie’s mouth in the morning is often “coffee?” but she will drink any decent brew from the grocery store.  But I want my coffee fresh roasted, and I want to know when it was roasted and what region it is from.  The baristas at Dynamite are knowledgeable, accessible, and fun to chat with.  They know their stuff without being snobby.  The overall vibe of the shop is mountain cool without any air of pretension.  Notice in the picture above that even the cops in the greater Asheville area like to drink the good stuff.  No Dunkin’ Donuts for them!  Even though they do look like they are hiding behind the roaster…..

The shop itself is cozy and comfortable, and thank goodness, they had a nice variety of whole bean poundage to choose from.  The packaging of the beans was even aesthetically pleasing…

The barista helped me select two pounds to get us through the next stage of our journey.  I brought home the Honduras Los Pinos and the Suplican Clemencia.  Both were excellent.  Stephanie preferred the darker Suplican which had the qualities of a good French Roast, and I preferred the Honduras, which was brighter and fruitier.  Before we leave town I am going to grab a pound of their Summer Blend which is pictured above, on the right side.

Dynamite Roasting Company may just be the perfect little coffee shop.  I’ve tasted coffee from other roasters back in New Jersey that is equally as good, and my hometown shop, Turnstile Coffee Roasters in Belmar has an equally charming space–but I have never been in a coffee shop that has had such an excellent record collection.

If I lived in Swannanoa or Black Mountain I would spend a dangerous amount of time and money at the Dynamite Roasting Company.  As a fan of the coffee and chocolate houses of 18th century England I would probably even try to have my mail delivered to the shop.

But for now I was just happy to have replenished our supply of whole bean and to have discovered a great new place.  I wish I could have lingered for a while on their front porch and contemplated the view….

But Stephanie was back at the campground and I wanted to go home and brew her a fresh cup.  A great KOA and a great coffee roaster less than three miles apart?  I didn’t think our road trip could get any better, but thanks to the Dynamite Joe, it clearly did.   The Caffeine Kids are forever grateful.
21 Jun

The World’s Greatest Travel Mug? So Far…Winning!

I have gone through many travel mugs over the years and consider myself to be something of a connoisseur.  I have lost them, broken them, given them away, and thrown them away because they just became way too funky. But I have never loved a travel mug… Until now.

L.L. Bean’s “Spillproof Travel Mug” is the perfect companion for your morning joe.  It keeps your coffee warm for hours and, as promised, it does not spill.  The big button on the top locks when you push it down–completely securing the coffee for a morning hike or for your morning commute.  The mug is not cheap at $24.95 but it comes with L.L. Bean’s famous lifetime guarantee and it is sturdy, attractive, and well-designed.  My guess is that it will last 10 times as long as a mug half its price.  You do the math.  Sometimes more is more.

 

25 May

The Best Cup of Coffee That We Never Had…(Philadelphia/West Chester KOA)

I had been looking forward to our season-opening camping trip to the Philadelphia / West Chester KOA for months.  Our camping buddies had booked the site next to us and I had spent the week getting the RV ready.  At one point I shot a text message to buddy Joe:
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“Dude, next weekend when we go camping I’m gonna make you the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had in your life.”
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He responded succinctly, “Deal.”
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Joe is something of a camping all-star because he contributes much to our multi-family trips: he cooks pancakes and eggs for breakfast, brings the bait for fishing, and is able to watch four kids at once along the banks of a river while remaining calm (I should mention here that Joe is a police officer). So I was happy to brag about bringing some fresh roasted coffee along for the trip.  And Joe, like me, is always willing to partake of the magic elixir.  Morning, noon, or night.
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Over the past year I have become something of a coffee snob.  After not drinking coffee for 35 years I became addicted while trying to stay awake grading thousands of AP essays in Kentucky. I quickly graduated from the hot motor oil served by the College Board, to a Keurig machine, to brewing my own freshly ground coffee in my Bonavita.  Every week I buy a pound of coffee from either Rook Coffee Roasters in Ocean Township or Turnstile Coffee Roasters in Belmar.  These Jersey Shore businesses sell freshly roasted coffee from around the world.  And trust me, it is all good.

So I headed over to Rook on the day before the trip and bought a pound of Honduras–one of my new favorites.  When I got home I immediately packed the coffee, the machine, and the filters.  I could already smell the aroma of the coffee brewing in the camper!   The smell of freshly brewed coffee fills up every nook and cranny of an RV.  For all of you java junkies out there in the RV tribe you know what I mean.

The boys woke me up at 5:45 on Saturday morning (like they always do) and I crawled out of bed and headed directly for that pound of Honduras.  I put the filter in the Mr. Coffee and opened up the bag of beans.  The smell filled the air.  It was warm and delicious.  I could hear the Brandywine River rushing by the campground and I felt as if the bright spring morning was greeting me with its warm green arms.

As I waxed poetic I suddenly realized that I had left my little coffee bean grinder at home.  Panic. Fear. Shame. Whole bean coffee with no grinder?*#!  I cursed silently at myself.  The magic was gone. The grinder had not been on my camping checklist because I had used pre-ground coffee last season.  My hopes and dreams of providing our crew with fresh and delicious coffee were crushed.

In a moment of camping desperation I rifled through the top drawer and found…a cheese grater.  I pulled one lonely bean out of the brown bag and began to grind it against the grater.  Then I lost all hope.

I knew that Joe was probably waiting patiently for his morning coffee text which became routine last summer.   He would quietly tap on our RV door and I would quietly hand out the steaming brew.  But instead I had to deliver the following doomsday message:

“Brought whole bean coffee with no grinder.  We are ruined…”

Joe responded with good humor as he always does, “LOL.”

However, when mommy woke up later she was not amused.  She grumbled a few choice words for me and pulled the blanket back over her face.

Luckily, Joe had already started making blueberry pancakes on the griddle outside…

 

06 Jun

Gear for the Girls (a decent cup of joe equals decent human being)

I take back any hostile remarks I ever made about my camp stove. Now that I have the Coleman Camping Coffee Maker, I love my little propane-breathing, three-burner buddy.
My camping coffee journey started so authentically last year when I packed a blue-speckled, enamelware percolator for our first family camping trip.
The item itself immediately brought to mind what a perfect camping moment should look like–fleeces and Uggs to protect against the chill of the morning, soft mist rising slowly into a clearing sky, bubbles of perfect, brown coffee jumping into the clear dome at the top of the percolator, and the wonderful aroma of that coffee that nudged you gently from sleep and brought you stumbling out of the tent to relax by the morning fire.
Nonsense.
Just like there are no quiet mornings by the fire when you have twin toddlers, percolators make crap coffee, all romantic imaginings aside. On the second camping trip, the percolator got ditched for Starbucks Via, a ridiculously expensive instant coffee that is actually pretty good. Only problem? I don’t really want a cup of instant coffee. I want aroma, mist, Uggs…etc, etc.
So last fall when we were camping in Lancaster, we stayed across the path from an older couple whose kids were too old and too cool to camp with them anymore. I think our boys brought back memories for them (their haze of sentimentality must have blocked out the continual squeals and howls coming from our site), and they kept coming over to visit with little offerings of firewood and such.
On one of these trips the husband brought me a steaming hot mug (yes, mug!) of perfect drip coffee made on his camp stove. He showed me the coffee maker which sits right over the open flame and brews away like the regular one you have sitting on your counter.
I would have gone on for the next five years thinking about this purchase. Lucky for me, my husband operates according to a strict guideline in life: buy it. Whatever it is, buy it.
So he bought it and I used it and I love it. And they (as in my coffee maker and I) lived happily ever after. The end.