Starling Travel

January 31, 2012

My Favorites: Road Trip Playlist

Filed under: Travel — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I was compiling a playlist of songs to play when we go on road trips, so I thought I would share it with you. Just a note: all the links are iTunes links and we get a small cut of the proceeds if you buy them.

The ultimate road trip song, is Road Trippin’ by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Let’s go get lost somewhere in the U.S.A. This video is like a vacation all its own.

Click more to see the rest of the songs: (Continue Reading…)

January 30, 2012

A Better Cooler Experience

Filed under: Camping,Food — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

One of my least favorite things about ice chests (or coolers) is the ICE. I hate how it melts and leaves everything in the cooler wet. Anything in a Ziploc bag might end up soggy and ruined if the zip top fails to keep out the water.

Oh, and it’s COLD when I have to stick in my hand and root around for a soda.

Snapware 29 Cup 10X8X6 at Amazon.comThis last camping trip, we found a way to keep our food cold without the melted ice soaking our food. The idea started with the old-time icebox. Back then, they kept food cold by putting a large block of ice in the top area of the icebox. What if I could do the same with my ice chest?

Firstly, we needed a large plastic container. We used the Snapware 29 cup bin because it fit nicely into our smaller Igloo cooler and it had a handle at the top. You might have to choose a different size based on your cooler.

Snapware Ice Block in FreezerWe filled the Snapware box almost full of water and made room for it in our freezer. You want to leave at least a half inch room because ice expands and takes more room than water. Additionally, we left the lid a little open so it wouldn’t crack the plastic. It took well over two days for it to fully freeze, so you really need to plan ahead for your trip.

Once it was fully frozen, it looked like this. As you can see, I could have added at least an inch and a half more water when I froze it. If I had, the block might have lasted us longer.

Snapware Ice Block Frozen

At this point, fill that last inch or so with water and put the box in the cooler. It will take up a lot of room, but remember, so does having a cooler full of ice. You want to position the block in the middle of the cooler and place the most perishable items nearest the block.

Snapware Ice Block in cooler

That block of ice lasted us a full five days driving to and camping in Quartzite, AZ a couple of weeks ago. The food wasn’t quite as cold as it would have been if it had been a cooler full of water and ice, but it lasted a LONG time. When the block is melting, don’t drain off the water. Water conducts the cold much better than air, so it will cool the items in your chest better if you keep the water. Once the block had fully melted, we had moved onto our hotel in Vegas, where we filled the Snapware with ice and water.

Snapware with ice and water in cooler

You want to fill it as full as you can with ice and add cold water. This will melt some of the ice, so add some more before putting your lid back on. Once again, you want the water as well as the ice because the water conducts the cold better than air. You can drain the water to add more ice, but make sure the entire box is filled with ice AND water. If you want to have ICE cold soda, you can put one or two cans in the Snapware container with the ice and water and it will be just as cold as a typical ice chest setup.

Snapware with ice and water and soda in cooler

Make sure you always reattach the lid so that the ice and water don’t splash out of the Snapware box while you’re driving or moving the chest.

What I’d really like to do with this concept is find a container that fits on the lip within the top of the cooler. It would need to be shallow and wide enough to cover the entire top. The old iceboxes had the block of ice at the top of the cooler, because cool air naturally travels downward. Having the ice along the entire top of the cooler would be better than in the middle, but I couldn’t find anything that fit so precisely.

I’m also considering adding a drain spout to this container so that we can have ice cold water to drink. It was kind of hard draining this box without just dumping the whole thing out.

Dear Ice Chest Manufacturers: Please make me a cooler where I can EASILY put the ice and water in the LID of the cooler and my food can stay protected from the water. Put a spout on one side of the lid, so I can drain ice cold water to drink that hasn’t been contaminated by my leaky ziploc bag of bacon. Make me three different sizes of coolers with this feature and I will buy them ALL! KTHNXBAI!

Next time you have a camping trip or vacation planned, take the time to freeze yourself a solid block of ice in a plastic container and you will have a cold cooler without the soggy mess.

Happy Traveling!

January 29, 2012

Camping Changes You

Filed under: Camping,Lodging — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

During our disappointing stay at Tahiti Village, I realized that I was a different person because of my camping experiences.

We had spent half the day fighting with the hotel staff trying to get the Internet to work in our hotel room. We were there to write for The Gadgets Page about CES, so having the Internet was ESSENTIAL. If they hadn’t been able to get it to work for us, we would have had no choice but to get a different hotel.

Our Internet was working (FINALLY) and it was time to go to bed and we realized that the heat wasn’t working in our room. The temperatures had fallen in Vegas and the room was unpleasantly chilly. Mike asked me, “Should we call the front desk?”

After dealing with the uncaring staff all day, I could envision our journey toward getting a room with heat. Firstly, they would send the same poor, incompetent fellow to our room who had handed us a blue CAT5 wire as if it were a dirty worm. After an indeterminate amount of time banging around on the furnace in our bedroom, he would tell it was fixed, when in actuality, now it was broken AND noisy. Then we would have to decide if we wanted to change rooms and deal with the whole broken Internet issue again.

It sounded like an exercise in frustration when all I wanted was to sleep. I said, “It’s warmer in here than in the tent. I’m just going to live with it.” And honestly, I knew I could. As cold as that room was, it was warmer than our night in the tent at Lake Mead in November, and I survived that without an incompetent maintenance man clanging around in the room.

Going camping and braving the elements changes you in ways that you might not even notice. When our basic needs were met, in this case, Internet connectivity, we knew we’d be alright. A little mildew smell and water that tastes contaminated is par for the course when we’re camping. Lack of heat and the ability to see my breath is nothing new on a frosty morning in the tent.

The next time you’re camping and the cold tempts you to pack up your tent and head for the nearest hotel, remember my horrible stay at Tahiti Village and be safe in the knowledge that camping feels so good because it changes you.

January 28, 2012

Tahiti Village in Las Vegas, Nevada: Low Price Really Shows

Filed under: Lodging,Nevada,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

While we were working at CES this year, Mike and I stayed at Tahiti Village. It wasn’t the worst hotel we’ve stayed at in Nevada, but it was pretty close. Here is Mike’s evaluation of the place:

We liked the price. Otherwise it was nearly the worst hotel experience we’ve ever had.

Hotel staff was rude and inattentive. Internet didn’t work until we spent half a day talking to 8 different employees, all of whom tried to avoid helping us at all. Heater didn’t work in our room. One lamp had dangerous exposed wiring. Not particularly clean. The room smelled of mildew and the bedspread smelled worse. Staff spent two days noisily cleaning carpets outside our room. The tap water tasted terrible and must have been specially imported to complete the experience, because Vegas water is usually just fine.

He forgot to mention that there was no housekeeping at the hotel and if you wanted the room made up, it was an extra $55 charge! There wasn’t even anyone around to ask if we could get fresh towels.

After the ordeal of trying to get the Internet to work in our hotel (the front desk had failed to enable it in our room and it took that many employees to figure out the problem), I was ready to abandon the hotel, but all the hotels in Vegas were booked solid for the week because of CES, so we ended up staying there.

Aside from living with the mildew smell and avoiding the smelly parts of the furniture, we had no further incidents that week, but the low cost for the hotel room was NOT worth it. Next time, I’ll pay more and stay at a different hotel. There are certainly enough to choose from in Las Vegas.

January 27, 2012

Betty White Talks About Camping As A Child

Filed under: Camping — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

This video of Betty White talking about camping in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada brought tears to my eyes:

When she talked of her memories, I choked up:

“I still at night, now, I’m an old lady, and if I can’t sleep at night, I go back and I relive those times and I can smell that air. I can hear the wind in the pines. It’s where my soul is.”

This video is even better. She talks about her childhood desire to be a forest ranger.

“As a kid, I didn’t want to be a princess or any wonderful movie star or anything like that. I wanted to be a forest ranger with all my heart. And back in those days, girls couldn’t be forest rangers. I remember on all those wonderful wilderness vacation that we would take, my dad always wore a forest ranger hat. It was his… thing. This last year, I am so thrilled that the Forest Service called me to Washington and made me a honorary forest ranger. So when they… the ceremony that they had, all of a sudden they came up with a forest ranger’s hat, and all I could think about was my dad. This always meant vacation to us in the summers. When I’d see that hat.”

Next time you’re shivering in your tent, thinking that you really should have stayed in a hotel, remember Betty White remembering her father and all those lovely camping trips in her late years. Knowing that you are building unique memories to last the rest of your life might take a bit of the nip out of the air.

Via: Who Knew? Betty White Has Wilderness In Her Soul

January 26, 2012

The Long, Long Trailer: Why I’m Still Tent Camping

Filed under: Camping,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

The Long, Long Trailer at Amazon.comI just finished watching The Long, Long Trailer. It’s a funny movie starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made in 1953. It’s about all the problems of traveling with a trailer. Desi is an engineer who must travel for his work and Lucy decides that they should live in a large trailer instead of living out of hotels.

Here is an introduction:

It’s worth watching just for the beautiful cinematography of Yosemite National Park. Vincente Minelli must have had a bit of a crush on Lucille Ball, because he makes her look more lovely than she ever did before or after.

After seeing the two of them suffer through the difficulties of driving a large trailer, getting stuck on muddy trails and winding their way along treacherous mountain roads, I was very happy to just throw the tent in the hatchback instead.

If you have ever considered buying a trailer, make sure you watch The Long, Long Trailer. It will cure you of your trailer fever and you’ll happily pitch your tent instead.

January 25, 2012

A Week With Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Bacon

Filed under: Camping,Food — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and BaconCamping food runs in two very different veins. One is better than food you can eat at home and includes things like meat cooked over the campfire, s’mores and dutch oven cobblers. The other is food that doesn’t taste as good as food at home, but it’s light or easy to make. The Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Bacon definitely fall into the second category and after a week of eating them on our trip to Quartzsite, Arizona, I am glad to get back to freshly cracked eggs on my stove at home.

Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Bacon #10 Can at Amazon.comUtah is a Mecca for freeze-dried food, so all I had to do was drive to the nearest survivalist store to find a large can of the eggs. I had tried a small package of them to verify that they were palatable and I was ready to get SIXTEEN servings in a big package for our upcoming trip.

Their estimate of sixteen servings, is a little optimistic. Each serving is 2/3 of a cup, but that serving is a tad small for a breakfast. Unless you’re supplementing it with something else, a healthy adult isn’t going to feel ready to start their day on that serving. I ended up using one cup servings and that worked much better for me.

I can’t complain about the ease of use. All I had to do was boil water, add it to the serving of eggs, stir and wait ten minutes. It was FAR easier to store the eggs, even though I had enough servings for the two of us to last all week. to do the same with fresh eggs, it would have taken half our cooler.

No matter how long I left the eggs in the hot water, however, they never reached the proper texture for eggs. They were large and fluffy, but they didn’t chew quite right. They always felt a little crunchy, even if I left them in the water for fifteen minutes. There was always a little bacon flavored water left over in the bottom of the bowl. That’s because I usually added more water than they recommended in the desperate hope that the eggs would miraculously have the texture of fresh eggs. The water at the bottom gave me the impression that I was eating egg soup, which strangely was okay with me and I gladly lapped up the tasty water out of my bowl at the end of my meal.

The smell of the eggs was good. It had a liquid smoke scent that I supposed came from the bacon bits. I came to enjoy the scent of it each morning, but Mike said it was disgusting. Of course, he refused to even try them, so I couldn’t really take his opinion into account.

Scrambled Eggs with Bacon is really a misnomer. I would have named it Scrambled Eggs with Bacon Bits. Strangely, most of the bacon bits sunk to the bottom of the can, so the later servings had more bacon than my first few breakfasts. No matter how much bacon, I had in my bowl, however, I wouldn’t really consider it enough to warrant inclusion in the name of the food. Maybe a better name would have been Bacon-Flavored Eggs.

Would I eat them again? Yes, most definitely. They made my camping breakfasts easy and trouble free. Instead of worrying about cleaning pans, all I had to do was boil some water. In fact, since we had electricity at our campsite, all I needed to do was turn on my little electric kettle. The fact that they are so portable and easy make them the best thing for a camping breakfast.

Would I eat them at home? Probably not. As easy as they are, they just don’t taste good enough to eat at home when I have a fridge full of fresh eggs to choose from. If we were in an emergency situation (such as the local populous worry about constantly), then I would be grateful that they were available, but as long as I have easy access to fresh eggs, an electric stove and a dishwasher, there is absolutely no reason to dip into that can.

January 24, 2012

See Cuba, Just Not Today

Filed under: Airline Travel,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

It’s possible for Americans to visit Cuba, but there is a ton of red tape to cut through and even more hoops to jump through before you can. If you are just a casual traveler, Cuba really isn’t an option, but you CAN see Cuba, just not today.

Here is a video travelogue from 1937, showing a pre-Castro Cuba in all its glory.

Back then, travel via airplane was a novelty and an expensive one at that, so most citizens of the United States were only able to visit Cuba vicariously through this film reel. Just like us, they were trapped in their movie theaters, unable to visit this island, but the restrictions were pecuniary, not political. Just recovering from the Great Depression, so many of our citizens were just glad to have survived.

The next time you are feeling trapped in your hometown, whether it’s because of the economy, gas prices or the fact that our countries are still locked in disagreement with each other, take a virtual vacation to Cuba and fly the Lindbergh Trail.

January 23, 2012

The Fold-N-Roll Trailer from Irv Perch

Filed under: Camping,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Irv Perch Fold N RollIt seems that the more I look at camping trailers, the more interesting things I find. For example, the Fold-N-Roll Trailer. It was created in 1996 by Irv Perch, the original founder of Aristocrat Trailers, but they are a far cry the from canned ham design of his past.

It’s not as pretty as an old Aristocrat trailer, but you can’t argue with its utilitarian design. Unlike the A-Frame trailers or even the TrailManor trailers, the Fold-N-Roll unfolds entirely differently. The top slides up and over, creating a sloped roof on the front and a handy awning over the door on the back.

Fold N Roll  6

It was easy to find photos of the trailer in its extend position, but I could only find one photo of it closed up. It looks like a clunky and awkward mess to me.

Fold N Roll 1

When compared to the streamlined design of this 1959 Aristocrat trailer, the Fold-N-Roll looks like a monstrosity.

1959 Aristocrat Trailer

What it lacked in beauty, it more than made up in utility. It was equipped with a queen-sized bed, a separate dinette and a full bathroom. And it all folded down into an ingenious bit of trailer origami.

Fold N Roll 8

Sadly, the Fold-N-Roll was not long for this world and are no longer made today, so if you want one of these babies, you’ll have to find one on the used market. With gas prices as high as they are, a small trailer that folds so compactly, yet opens up into such a roomy space is exactly what most people need.

See more photos after the break: (Continue Reading…)

January 20, 2012

How To Make the Best Camping Towel EVAR!

Filed under: Camping — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

For longer camping trips, I make sure that we stay at campgrounds with a shower. Having the luxury of a daily shower makes camping in a tent nearly as good as staying in a hotel. The daily trek to the shower, however, can be difficult when I have to carry the shampoo, soap, my change of clothing and towel.

Best Camp Towel EVAR!I struggled with that before I remembered my most excellent beach towel tote. I originally bought this towel for lying out in my backyard. It’s a LONG towel that folds into a bag. I can put my clean clothes in the towel, my shampoo and soap in the pocket and hang it on the hook that most campground showers have. I can keep it hanging on the hook while I dry myself with the long towel tail while my clean clothes stay safe in the bag. Even if it falls off the hook, the bag protects my clothes as long as I grab it quick before the clothes get wet.

Best Camp Towel EVAR!When I first bought this towel, I was pretty disappointed because the terry cloth was SO thin. Compared to my regular beach towels, it felt like it was half the thickness. That cheap terry cloth, however, has been a godsend in humid climates. It will dry quickly if I hang it up in the tent. I’ve even taken this towel on cruises and it dries in the cabin, even in the most humid of locations.

The pocket to the right of the towel is supposed to hang off a beach chair and can be used to hold your gadgets or magazines. I’ve never really used that pocket, even though I thought I would. The towel is so light that anything in that pocket pulls it off the chair when you stand up. When I’m drying off in the campground shower stall, that little pocket is just a bit of extra towel for me and nothing more.

The tote portion of the towel usually fits nicely over the top of a beach chair and keeps my towel from rolling down my back when I’m trying to relax. That feature works really well and I’ve had my towel stay in place even when the wind picks up. When I’m camping, I don’t use that feature. Instead, I use that pocket to hold my clothing up and away from all the water.

Best Camp Towel EVAR!The pocket on the front is perfect for holding my shampoo, soap, razor and any other toiletries I need in the shower. I would have liked it to have a zipper so that things don’t fall out of it. I lost a bottle of sunscreen out of that pocket somewhere in Roatan, so now, I’m extra vigilant when I put things in there to make sure they don’t slip out. A zipper would prevent that. I’m thinking of adding a zipper to that pocket just for my own peace of mind.

Beach Chair Cover Includes Terry Inflatable Pillow Cover Converts to a Beach Tote- Red at Amazon.comI bought my towel at my local grocery store on the seasonal aisle, but I found a few towels on Amazon that look similar.

Martha Stewart Beach Bag Tote TutorialMartha Stewart has a tutorial showing how to make a tote of your own:

The handles are down the middle instead of along the sides, so I think this one might not be as comfortable to use on the lounger because one of the canvas handles would be poking you in the back instead of hanging along the back of the chair like mine does.

After seeing Martha’s inept attempt, I decided to make my own camp/beach towel tote, using some beat up and ratty bath towels that I retired to the rag pile a couple of years ago. Click to see the instructions: (Continue Reading…)

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