Who is the Fireside Traveler?

Elephant Butte State Park, NM
Elephant Butte State Park, NM

My name is Mara Lisauskas. Growing up my parents were both English teachers which gave our family the opportunity to see the great outdoors during the summer months.  We camped all over the Midwest and eastern portions of the United States and Canada. We saw Shakespeare plays in Canada (where my brother broke his nose) and experienced Colonial Williamsburg (where decided I wanted to learn every historic trade from fiber arts to blacksmithing) to taking a canoe (I now try to travel with my kayak) to explore caves in the Ozarks. We deciphered shapes of the native american mounds in Wisconsin.  This is where my wanderlust began. I wanted to see every state and then branch out to the rest of the world.

So, the story starts in the western suburbs of Chicago then to college to study Psychology and Anthropology at the University of New Mexico to Seattle to Silicon Valley to Albuquerque, NM.

I love living history and culture. If you have never seen Taos (1000 years of living history http://taospueblo.com/) … just go …add it to your bucket list. Every city, small town, park, open field, and person has a history and future just waiting to be discovered. Close your cell phone and stop to see what is around you.  Talk to people.  Everyone has a story! My goal is not to just show you places I have been or where I want to go but to show you the stories of people along the way. Come with me to explore, dream, and discover the wonderful world we live in.

– Mara

We finally tow our T@B camper / travel trailer!

 

We finally get everything to where we are comfortable to tow a trailer for the first time.  I wish it was on some grand adventure, but it was just about 35 miles to our home from the campground in Monroe, WA.  We did stop a couple of times to make sure nothing was being destroyed and just to check on things.  The first thing we heard was the safety chains dragging on the gravel road.  Then we heard this plastic sound as we went over our first speed bump.  Yup, that was the gray tank plastic cover that had come off and was skipping across the gravel.

Luckily no sway at all!  The little T@B trailer tracked like a champ.  We did have some up and down bouncing (more than just bumps in the road)  We decided that we did not need the 2-inch drop on the hitch as the previous owners had with their taller SUV.  So we need to flip that hitch over.  That way the hitch will only have a 3/4-inch rise instead of the two-inch drop. We do however need to now add an adapter piece since the sway bar will have nothing to attach to.  (Sway bar adapter)

Check out the video!  Can’t wait for our upcoming trip 1 month out.

-Mara

No Sway! Why we installed an RV Sway Bar.

We may have all seen the images of travel trailers or just trailers being towed on the highway, losing control into a roll over crash. Some can be attributed to weight distribution or poor loading of the trailer. Some others can be attributed to driving way too fast for conditions.  A few can be attributed to side winds or the pushing and pulling from larger trucks passing on the highway.  Since we are not experts on the subject, the information we have provided here and in our attached YouTube Video is based on our own research and is not advice in any way.

Since a sway bar for our T@B travel trailer is new to us and we have never towed a trailer before, we decided for the $30 or so that it costs to purchase a sway bar would be a good idea.  If we never have to use it, that would be great! If we really needed it at some point, it would be the best $30 ever spent to prevent a potential loss of control or a roll over crash.

We have never heard that a T@B needs one.  They are low to the ground, light weight, and you really can’t over pack it.  Our tow vehicle has plenty of available weight to pull the trailer.

Here are some of the resources we used to make that decision:

U-haul trailer sway of death

Caravan Sway Crash

How To Control Trailer Sway by RV Education 101®

how to avoid trailer sway

towing tips for preventing trailer sway

rig sway

Here is where we found the one that we purchased:

pro series sway bar link

-Mara

 

 

Our Little Teardrop Camper – T@B

Here it is the big reveal!

We found this great 2014 T@B camper/travel trailer.  We totally fell in love with its cuteness and versatility.  It is lightweight (about 1600 lbs) to tow but still has all of the amenities of a full-size RV. We have a kitchen, hot water, propane stove, air conditioning, and even a commode/shower combo.

Check out the latest video of our little teardrop being delivered….did I mention that it is the coolest shade of blue?

-Mara

Driving Next to the Pacific – Moclips, WA

This was my birthday trip out to the Washington coast!  Links to locations are in the notes below the video.

-Mara

Tulip Time – Skagit Valley – Washington

After the wettest winter on record in the Pacific Northwest,  these little beauties are a very welcome sight!  What does it mean?  Spring is on its way!  Warmer temperatures and less rain…Actually, I welcome all of that rain.  It makes this area into the beauty that it really is.  If you have never visited Western Washington, you have to put it on the bucket list.  It really is one of the most beautiful places in this country.

So, a little bit about the tulips…

From the Skagit valley chamber of commerce website: “The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival was officially inaugurated in 1984 by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. Chamber directors Jerry Diggerness and Joan Houchen saw that people were coming by the thousands to view the tulips and, through a retreat, decided to add events and festivities to enhance the visitors’ trip to the Skagit Valley. In 1994 the Tulip Festival broke off from the Chamber of Commerce and became an entity of its own.

From humble beginnings, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival grew. It moved from 3 days to 10, then 17 and now, for the past 5+ years, to 30 days. The expansion to 30 days was to ensure that the huge fields of tulips grown in Skagit Valley would actually bloom sometime during the festival, since a shorter festival sometime missed the blooming of the fields.

Today the festival boasts an amazing assortment of events — art shows, gala celebrations, concerts, tours of local shellfish and cheese operations and an open house at PACCAR. Two signature events have grown along with the festival –the Downtown Mount Vernon Street Fair and the Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue – fundraisers for both organizations that have proven highly successful. There are lots of physical activities associated with the festival as well – a run, 20- 40- and 60-mile bike rides, and a youth basketball tournament.”  http://www.tulipfestival.org/history

This festival is one of Washington’s largest with over one million visitors annually!

If you would like to attend here are some links for your research:

wiki Skagit Valley

Mt Vernon Chamber / bloom map

tulips 360

Check out the video on YouTube and don’t forget to subscribe!

There will more videos coming soon … stay tuned make sure to hit the bell button on YouTube to get notifications of new videos!

-Mara

Free Camping near Route 66 – Elk City, Oklahoma

 

This is a two-part series while exploring Elk City, Oklahoma this summer.  Great free camping right off of I-40 in Oklahoma!  So many roadside attractions to see along the entire length of Route 66.  It is a great summer road trip idea… especially in your RV!

Please check out the new videos and subscribe directly on YouTube!

-Mara

Tracing History – Natchez Trace Pkwy

It was hot and humid late August in Tennessee.  We stopped in Nashville to stock up at Costco since we were going to be out in the country right off of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  I love pulling up the RV right into the large Costco lot shopping and putting the groceries right into the fridge!  What we didn’t know is that part of the Parkway was closed for some reason.  In a car that would be mostly ok but in a 36-foot Motorhome pulling a smart car not so OK.  It required a turnaround possibly u-turn. It was not even marked ahead of time nothing written on the thousand trails website! (See the video for full information. It did say it would be closed for a while on the sign.)

img_20160825_144913

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile long drive through 10,000 years of History.  (NPS Gov Website referenced) From Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN  you can bike, camp, tour, hike and more recreational opportunities abound in this area.

We were intrigued by the ominous story of Lewis and Clark’s Meriweather Lewis and his suspicious death.  While we did not have time to drive the length of the parkway, there is a ton to see in each area!

Along Natchez Trace Parkway TN

I would caution those in RV’s to make sure to check the height of the bridges and make sure to have ways around the low clearances.  We had a bridge right outside the thousand trails campground entrance that was 11 feet tall while our RV was 12 feet 10 inches tall.

Check out these links for more information:

https://roadtripusa.com/the-great-river-road/mississippi/natchez-trace-parkway/

http://www.scenictrace.com/

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ms-natcheztrace.html

map-trace

-Mara

 

Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park KY

After a failed attempt work camping at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY in August 2016. (I hurt my foot and decided to leave – longish story but not that interesting)  We moved to the closest Thousand Trails campground and that happened to be this one to regroup and decide where our RVing adventures would lead us next.

The thousand trails campground is located right inside of Mammoth Cave National Park.  So after my foot was mostly healed, I could not leave the area without some exploration of Mammoth Cave.  The area is full of rolling hills and known for their underground passageways that have been explored and mined for hundreds if not thousands of years.

This was a really really hot and humid August summer day in central Kentucky.  The kind of day that is really meant for sitting in a pool or drinking some ice tea on a front porch somewhere.  What was the most remarkable thing I remember about the tour?  Standing outside on that hot day and having a cold breeze taking over the air. It was a dose of mother nature’s air conditioning.  It seemed to just pour out of the entrance.

The tours vary in length and activity level.  I chose a moderate cave tour with stooping and and a ton of steps (at the end over 155 steps to reach back to the outside trail)  I was able to complete the hike within the cave even with a swollen foot from my short stint at my work camping job.  They give you plenty of warnings at the pre – hike lecture and if you need to change your choice at that point you definitely can.  Just be honest with yourself on your level of comfort in the dark and what you can handle physically.  It is a long way up and a crew to come down and get you out of the cave can take hours!

Here is the link for more information:  Mammoth Cave National Park Tours

Take a look at the video I attached.  Please subscribe on YouTube Subscribe here! for more updates and companion to the blog here at firesidetraveler.com!

-Mara

RV Living – How to make a heated Water Hose

The temperatures in Western Washington have been really cold.  We decided it was time to start thinking about making a heated hose to prevent frozen pipes in our RV.  We had problems last year in Albuquerque when the hose bib itself froze and we luckily had enough in our fresh water tank until that unfroze the next day.

Here is a pretty detailed video of he we made our own heated water hose.

-Mara

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Exploring Cape Cod

youtube-watermark-fireside-subscribe  Well, it has been a long time coming, but here it is.  The very first in a series of Fireside Traveler YouTube videos.  This one was taken in June 2016 while we were camping in southern Massachusetts at the thousand trails campground called:  Gateway to Cape Cod.  What an obvious name 🙂  It really was a perfect day.  The temperature and weather was spot on.  Which made for a great day to begin this journey.  I wanted to see if I could make a video.  I have no prior experience and definitely still in the learning process.  I hope you enjoy this and there will be many more to come!