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Bourbon, Beale and Broadway: A J&J Guide to the Americana Music Triangle, Part 2

When most people think of Memphis, usually the first thing that comes to mind is a young man from Tupelo, Mississippi who is arguably the most famous person from the 20th century. However, there is much more to this eclectic music mecca than the King of Rock n Roll.

Located in the heart of Downtown Memphis, Beale Street is to blues music what Bourbon Street is to jazz. A few years ago, Beale Beale-Street-Memphisousted several other famous streets to be voted “America’s Most Iconic Street”. Like Bourbon, the music never stops here and there is something for everyone. We planned our visit at night to enjoy the full experience of one of the most vibrant places on our mobile musical history tour. Neon signs light the way through three blocks of nightclubs, restaurants, and a colorful amalgam of visitors. Most every venue on Beale offers live blues, rock, R&B or jazz so make sure your walking shoes are ready for some sass and brass!

There are also several music museums to explore, such as the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music. If you have time to visit only one, we highly recommend Sun Studio. We waited almost two hours for the tour but it was totally worth it to learn about the birthplace of Rock n Roll and how visionary Sam Phillips broke cultural barriers to cultivate some of the most exciting talent in the history of American music. Elvis recorded his first song here and along with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis,  Howlin’ Wolf and several others, made Sun Studio legendary. Sun offers a free shuttle that runs daily and stops at a few other famous Memphis attractions, one of which happens to be the most visited private home in America!

Your journey through the heart of the Americana Music Triangle would not be complete without visiting the estate and burial place of Elvis Presley. Elvis-SignGraceland was at the top of our list and it was an experience we won’t soon forget. A surreal endeavor into the private life of a beloved American icon, Graceland caters to both the die-hard Elvis devotee and casual fan. The property had been carefully frozen in time and even with the constant parade of buses, it’s not hard to imagine the King himself rounding a corner in one of his custom made Cadillacs, several of which are on display. There is a tour package for every budget and you can do all of your souvenir shopping without leaving the property.

Check out our original posts on Beale Street and Graceland for more about our time in Memphis, Tennessee and come back next week for the final installation in our Americana Music Triangle series!

Bourbon, Beale and Broadway: A J&J Guide to the Americana Music Triangle, Part 1

When we decided to go south for our month long road trip last September, we didn’t have much of a plan. Unlike our Route 66 trip in 2014, we weren’t focused on a single direction but we definitely wanted to experience more of the good time nostalgia still alive and well in small-town America. We also agreed upon a few “must see” destinations, all of which revolved around music.

The first of those destinations was New Orleans, Louisiana. When I was younger, The Big Easy was at the top of my travel bucket list, second only to Las Vegas. Thirteen years and three trips to Vegas later, NOLA was just itching to be crossed off. There is no place quite like New Orleans during Mardi Gras but we knew that the inherent mayhem would not allow us to explore the city at our own pace. We were looking forward to a leisurely visit during the Carnival off-season.

We landed on Bourbon Street on a not so Fat Tuesday but it didn’t take us long to become completely immersed in the unique culture that can only be found in the French Quarter. From street performers to masked partiers, New Orleans was everything we expected and more! After a couple of NOLA’s famous Hand Grenades and filling our backpack full of beads, there was no cooler place to be. So many things were going on but the one constant was the sound of blaring horns and raspy voices emanating from nearly every curbside bar and restaurant. We didn’t know it yet, but we were about to begin a journey into the heart of America, a trip back in time to when music had the power to transform entire cultures. We had just entered the Americana Music Triangle.

Americana Music Triangle

New Orleans is universally considered the birthplace of jazz music. Its humble roots inspired countless different musical styles and artists, several of whom were native Louisianians. Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton and Louie Prima began their careers in the darkened clubs of New Orleans and contributed to a major cultural shift, which included the rise of mainstream radio and the first notable youth rebellion in the United States. During the 1920’s, jazz culture permeated everything from fashion to literature and served as a bridge to unite black and white Americans.

Today, there are proud reminders of the city’s musical roots everywhere. From Louis Armstrong Park to New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (where we were treated to a delightful rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” by the resident Park Ranger band) visitors from all over can discover the rich history of the Jazz Age. Even if you’re not a jazz fan, New Orleans must visit destination!

Come back next week for Part 2 of our Triple B experience and check out our Bourbon Street and NHP posts to read more about our time in New Orleans!


10 Pre-trip Operational Checks for your RV

This is another article we published on some months back. We thought we’d share it again here for our readers who could use a guide before hitting the road on their next new RV adventure. Enjoy!

No matter how much you prepare your RV for a road trip, there always seems to be at least one thing, often something obvious, that is overlooked. The following are 10 essential pre-trip checks to keep you on the road!

10. Turn on the refrigerator at least 24 hours prior to your departure. This will allow plenty of time for cooling and help you detect any issues.

9. Make sure that the gray and black water tanks have been emptied and the appropriate chemicals have been added. The less waste in the tanks the lighter your rig will be, however, leaving, at least, ¼ of a tank of water will help the chemicals dissolve.

8. Flip your switches! Switches for your tanks, water pump, propane, and appliances should all be in working order. Broken switches can be replaced cheaply and easily.  CompleteChecklist

7. Fire up your generator, even if you won’t be using it. Let it run for at least 15 minutes and check for oil or gas leaks. If your generator has an altitude adjustment, make sure that it is set appropriately.

6. Top off your propane tanks. Keeping your tanks full (no more than 80%) will prevent interruptions to your heat, hot water or stove. Although many campgrounds offer propane services, it may be difficult to find convenient fill-up stations while boondocking.

5. Fill your fresh water tank ¼ to ½ full if you intend on using any water while en route to your destination. Visually inspect your toilet, shower and faucets to ensure they are functioning properly and there aren’t any leaks.

4. Test all external lights to confirm they’re working. Check all inside lights and make sure you have extra bulbs and fuses on hand. Some bulbs may be unique and tough to find at a regular department store.

3. Check your engine and generator fluids. Making sure that your oil, transmission, brake, radiator and other fluids are topped off and/or changed as needed before you leave will minimize surprises down the road.

2. Inspect your tires!! Each tire should be in good condition, with proper inflation and no noticeable damage. Your tires are carrying the weight of your rig, gear, tanks, and passengers so regular maintenance is essential to help reduce blowouts or other damage while on the road. If your RV has been in storage or in the same position for an extended period, you may experience damage to the tires’ chemical makeup. Additionally, prolonged exposure to the elements will reduce UV protection, which can cause cracking and dry rot.

1. Know where you’re going. We’ve got three letters for you: G P S! If you don’t have one, have your atlas, maps and directions handy. Research height and weight restrictions as best you can before you leave. Otherwise, you could end up with a boat or a convertible!

The most important part of any trip is to HAVE FUN! By being prepared, you’ll always be on the way to your next destination.

See you on the road!


Boondocking Safety Tips

Hello J&J readers,

We originally posted this article on a while back and we wanted to share it again on our blog. We hope you find it helpful!

Staying safe and secure while dry camping (boondocking) is easy if you maintain situational awareness, Situational awareness is simply being conscious of who and what is around you and remaining alert in order to make quick and correct decisions.

Boondocking in New Jersey

Boondocking in NJ

An easy way to keep your RV secure is to always park where there is plenty of light. This will deter anyone who may be searching for an easy target. A perpetrator is more apt to be seen if you are in a well-lit area and you are more likely to notice someone’s shadow as they approach your rig.

You should always keep your doors locked when parked and make sure to look before you exit. Check outside your windows on all sides and always exit with another person, if possible. It’s also a good idea to keep a light on inside while sleeping or if you have to leave your RV for an extended period of time. If someone comes upon your rig, having a light on will make it more difficult for them to determine if there is someone inside.

If you need to go inside a store or truck stop at night, we recommend as little socializing as possible. Some people may be genuinely friendly but those intent on causing harm have ways to get information out of you by initiating random conversation. If you do speak to strangers, be cautious of what you say and don’t disclose personal details about yourself or your destination. For example, you shouldn’t tell a stranger that you are traveling alone or broadcast what you have in your RV. Additionally, don’t flash a lot of cash around. Select a secure spot for cash and important papers and leave them there. Carry only what you need and always get a receipt for purchases. Provide as little temptation as possible.

Concerning firearms, you should research the laws for each state that you will be traveling in to determine if they recognize your firearms permit. Every state has its own laws and permitting process. There may be federal transport laws that would allow you to transport the firearm but it would likely need to be locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. There are serious consequences for violating interstate firearms laws so take the time to research!

Another option to consider is a pellet or BB gun. Most states require that an individual is 18 or older to purchase a pellet or BB gun and anyone younger would need to be under adult supervision. The more well-made models are indistinguishable from a real firearm and could act as a distraction long enough for you to get to safety. Again, check the laws for each state that you will be traveling in.

Other weapons you can carry on your person or in your rig include pocket knives, mace (check the laws for each state), a stun gun (check the laws for each state), or a good old-fashioned club. Many truck stops sell “tire thumpers” that are designed to check tire pressure on big rigs but double as a solid self-defense club.

Although it’s impossible to foresee everything that may occur while you’re on the road, following these tips can help you can avoid many unpleasant experiences. Preparedness is the key to travel safety!

Be safe and have fun! J&J

Winterizing Your Rig: A J&J Guide

Living in the Northeast does not present a lot of options for cold weather camping. There is a handful of RV parks open year round but unless you intend to keep your rig at the park, most folks store their motorhomes for the winter. This is our third year storing Lady T and we feel we have a pretty good handle on the winterizing process. Ideally, we would like to store her indoors but after doing much research, we found that our options are limited (and expensive!) in our area.

The following is a detailed outline of the steps we go through to prepare and store Lady T for the offseason. The tips and instructions included in this article are meant to be a guide and give others an idea of what should be done and the extra steps we take to ensure our lady is protected during her winter slumber. We’ve received several compliments about Lady T’s condition and we’re very proud of the things we’ve learned and accomplished in the last couple of years  We hope that you will find this information helpful and we welcome any feedback!

Exterior preparations:

  • Remove rooftop solar panel
  • Remove bike rack from hitch
  • Drain & flush hot water tank
  • Drain & clean black & gray tanks
  • Drain fresh water tank
  • Dry awning
  • Exterior wash
  • Steel wool for exhaust pipes
  • Fuel additives
  • Top off fuel tanks
  • Clean basement

In the spring of 2014, we installed a small solar panel on the roof to help keep our house battery topped off when not in use. Since it is possible that the weight of snow could damage the solar panel, we remove it before putting the cover on. Last fall,  we purchased a couple of mini trickle chargers, also solar, and we hook those up to both the house and truck batteries. These are mounted to a couple of 5-foot wood planks so they stay above the snow drifts in the yard.

Small solar trickle charger

Trickle chargers from Harbor Freight Tools


Trickle chargers connected to batteries.

Next, we remove the bike rack mounted to the trailer hitch on the back of Lady T. Although the RV cover would probably fit over this, we remove it to prevent holes forming in the cover caused by the constant rubbing of the cloth against metal. We had to patch up a couple of holes that formed around the exhaust pipe after the first winter and we have done our best to minimize further damage to our investment in the RV cover.

The hot water heater should be flushed before storing your rig so that any extra sediment, dirt or debris is flushed out of the system. Leaving these things in for long periods of time could cause damage to the heater and/or your water lines. This is the first year we flushed our unit and it did look a little cloudy as we flushed it. We have an Atwood model and it comes with a plastic drain plug, which makes the process a bit easier. Also, we discovered while on our Route 66 trip that our unit does not use an anode rod, which is meant to attract corrosive elements in the water. We recommend you check the manual for your model to determine if one is present. There wear over time and can be replaced rather easily.

Hydroflush Adapter

Hydroflush Adapter from Amazon

We use a wand attachment with a small spray nozzle on the end to thoroughly clean our marine toilet before emptying the black water tank. If you try one of these, be sure to rotate it often to make sure you reach the sensor and all areas of the tank. This year, we also purchased a Hydroflush valve attachment that connects to the exterior drain valve and attaches to the sewer hose. The valve allows you to spray water up inside of the tanks and the clear attachment enables you to see when the water runs clear. As a rule, we always do the black tank first and then the gray water tank.

Draining the fresh water tank is essential to preventing damage caused by the expansion of frozen water in the lines. We empty the fresh water tank as completely as possible and then add about two and a half gallons of RV antifreeze. We then cycle it through the lines to ensure that the pipes won’t freeze. To go even further, you can purchase a gadget called a “blow-out plug”, which attaches to your shore water intake and allows you to attach an air compressor to blow out excess water. We bought one of these recently and plan on trying it out next year.

Even when the awning is rolled up, it will collect water during the warmer months. Keeping that water in the awning all winter can cause staining and foul odors. Make sure to fully open your awning to allow it to completely dry before covering and storing your rig. This goes for any slide out awnings as well.

Of course, you should also give your rig a thorough bath before storing it. This ensures that dirt, bugs, and other debris is removed before its covered. It also makes detailing much easier in the Spring! We also store our removable wheel covers in the garage to keep them from rusting.

By stuffing steel wool in your engine exhaust and generator exhaust pipes, you can block out any critters looking to make a home for the winter. Critters nesting in the pipes and cause damage and prevent exhaust fumes from escaping when you cycle your engine or generator during the winter months. Steel wool just doesn’t taste good and blocks access to the pipes.

Sta-Bil Fuel Additive

Use in the gas tank to keep fuel fresh.

When storing your RV for a long period, it’s a good idea to make sure the fuel tank is full. We also recommend using a fuel additive, such as Sta-Bil. It’s important to let the rig run for several minutes to ensure the additive cycles through the lines completely. Our generator runs from the same tank as the engine, so we run the generator for a bit as well. Keeping the fuel tank full reduces the amount of air and moisture in the tank. The same is true for the propane tank.

Make sure to check your basement for any liquids that can freeze, such as cleaners, and remove any other items that should be stored inside for the winter. We also add dryer sheets and rodent repellent (see below).

Interior preparations:

  • Clean & sanitize
  • Place dryer sheets & rodent repellent
  • Pack it up
  • Add antifreeze

We completely clean the interior before storing Lady T for the offseason. Windows, floors/rugs, appliances, furniture, cabinets, toilet/shower, and front cab. We also remove all bedding to wash and store for the winter.

Believe it or not, dryer sheets are one of the most important items on our winterizing checklist! For some reason, mice hate the smell of dryer sheets. Last offseason, we learned the hard way that you can’t use just any dryer sheets. The first time we stored Lady T, we used Bounce brand and there was absolutely no sign of critters the following spring. Last year, we used a generic brand and when we opened up Lady T this past spring, we got quite a surprise. Mice had infiltrated every cabinet and every drawer in our rig, leaving behind a nasty layer of poop. Also, they used our marine toilet paper to create nests in several different spots. In this case, it’s totally worth it to buy the brand name. Make sure to stuff the Bounce sheets in every nook and cranny to deter those destructive little poop machines!

Dryer sheets in bathroom.

Dryer sheets, air freshener and moisture absorber in the bathroom.

In our research, we also discovered a natural rodent repellent called Fresh Cab. We didn’t want to use traps or poison so we purchased a bunch of these and placed them in several spots throughout Lady T. They smell great and we found no additional evidence of mice throughout the summer. Additionally, we purchased a couple of covered storage bins and used them to store everything from the drawers and cabinets. This includes cookware, dinnerware and the contents of our utility drawers. We left the bins inside Lady T but placed a weight on top of each to keep any critters out.

The last thing we do inside is add another gallon of RV antifreeze, pouring some into the sink and shower drains. It is important to reach the P-trap in the pipes, where a small amount of water may collect and freeze when the temp drops.

Check out the pics and videos below and thanks for reading!


Click on the photos to open in a gallery.