Wednesday

Stargazing, Not Just for Astronomers or How We Can All Be Astronomers



One of the joys of camping is the opportunity if affords you to get away from city life, and with it, the opportunity for stargazing.  Hidden Valley RV has very little artificial light, making viewing the night sky much more satisfying.

Hidden Vallians sitting around the campfire
For those of us who enjoy stargazing but lack an encyclopedic knowledge of constellations, apps like SkyView can be a huge help. If you’re anything like me, sky-interested but not particularly sky-knowledgeable, SkyView is a great tool for your stargazing experience.

“You don't need to be an astronomer to find stars or constellations in the sky, just open SkyView® Free and let it guide you to their location and identify them. SkyView Free is a beautiful and intuitive stargazing app that uses your camera to precisely spot and identify celestial objects in sky, day or night. Find popular constellations as they fade in and out while you scan across the sky, locate planets in our solar system, discover distant galaxies, and witness satellite fly-bys.” (quote from the app developers' site.)

The app is easy to use and extremely helpful when stargazing. After installation, point your phone or tablet at the sky and the app will identify the galaxies, stars, constellations, planets, and satellites over your location.
 
Screenshots of the Skyview App in Action
See the constellations where you are based on the apps locator
Features:

• Simple: Point your device at the sky to identify galaxies, stars, constellations, planets, and satellites (including the ISS and Hubble) passing overhead at your location.
• Night Mode: Preserve your night vision with red or green night mode filters.
• Augmented Reality (AR): Use your camera to spot objects in the sky, day or night.
• Sky Paths: Follow the sky track for any object to see it’s exact location in the sky on any date and time.
• Time Travel: Jump to the future or the past and see the sky on different dates and times.
• Social: Capture and share beautiful images with friends and family on social networks.
• Mobile: WiFi is NOT required (does not require a data signal or GPS to function). Take it camping, boating, or even flying!
Icon of the Skyview App on both Apple & Android

• Supports Space Navigator™ binoculars, spotting scope, and telescopes.
The app also includes detailed information and graphics for each sky object. The app automatically updates any trajectory changes the object you’re tracking may make, and the Sightings Engine provides a list of new sky object sightings each day.
See developer Terminal Eleven’s website for more information on SkyView and it’s sister app, SkyView Satellite Guide!  There is a free and paid version for both Android and Apple.
A great website for the current months astronomical events and how to best view them is StarDate.  It has lots of great info, in advance, about the planets, moons, etc. that are converging in your location. Then you can make a “star date” to be in an opportune spot at the right time to see the most activity.

What a fun way to teach yourself, your children, your students, or your friends about our wonderful universe! How do y’all view the earth’s ceiling?  Tell us in the comments about your favorite app or other way to learn about and watch the skies.

 

Teri Blaschke is the RV Park operator of family owned HiddenValley RV Park in San Antonio, TX and writer of the park blog “A Little Piece of Country in San Antonio.” Teri contributes to various other blogs with a focus on either travel or social media and how it relates to the outdoor hospitality industry but her passion is serving the RV travel community by providing a memorable RV camping experience and growing the Hidden Valley RV family.  Connect with , Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter@HiddenValleyRV and our RV Country Daily Magazine and don't forget to Say hello to the voice of Hidden Valley 

Sunday

The Only Good Snake...

Yes, we've all heard the axiom "The only good snake is a dead snake."  Unfortunately it is so far from the truth.  While not knowing if a snake is venomous or not could instill a goodly amount of fear in us when we see one, that is the best reason to learn more about them. 

Very few people LIKE snakes but they are a fact of life in many parts of the US, especially South and West USA.  Hidden Valley RV Park has even been graced by an occasional reptile of the long and slender type. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 7,000–8,000 people per year receive venomous bites in the United States, and about 5 of those people die.  http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/snakes/.   Incidentally, Florida has the most cases.


Two main groups in the US, coral snakes and pit vipers.  


The Corals hail from Texas to the Carolinas with the exception of the Arizona Coral which inhabits its name state and New Mexico.  These pretty babies bite with small teeth instead of fangs.  Although there are snakes that are similarly colored, a coral can be identified by the alternating bands of red, yellow and black stripes, the red always touching the yellow.  The very similar Scarlet King Snake is nonvenomous.  The axiom "when red meets yella it's a dangerous fella," is one we've employed here at the valley.
Notices the red stripes bracketed in yellow identifying the venomous variety
Notice the Venomous version with the red bracketed between yellow


Pit Vipers include, rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads and they can be found anywhere in the US.  Their name comes (I always thought it was because they liked pits) from the tiny "pit" between their eye and nostril.  The pit makes it so they can detect heat enabling them to find prey at night.  These more drab looking reptiles have retractable fangs which shoot venom into their prey or an unsuspecting human. There is the possibility of receiving what's commonly called a "dry bite" meaning one without venom.  Bites from old and small snakes have less venom.  Some have felt that venom from smaller snakes is somehow more poisonous or dangerous however recent studies have refuted that belief.
Distinguishing Marks of a Rattlesnake
Notice the "Pit" and the "Rattle"


Bites from both types can range from hurtful to debilitating to death dealing if not treated immediately.  Symptoms can range from a merely a stinging pain to inability to breath due to swelling to affecting the brain and spinal cord.

Treatment, Old and New


Over the years, methods of treatment have included tourniquets, making "X" cuts at or above the fang marks and sucking out the venom (eeww) and icing the site to slow down the venom.  These have proven highly ineffective and currently experts advise
  • washing the bite area with soap and water 
  • keeping the affected limb still and placed lower than the heart 
  • Keeping the victim calm
  • seeking medical help immediately.  

Just as with other allergic reactions the site may become swollen or bruised looking and bleeding could exist.  Even with a small amount of venom you may experience faintness or numbness of the tongue.  These are evidence of shock and need quick attention.

When you get medical attention, a doctor will use and antivenom serum that is produced by injecting a small amount of serum into an animals blood (usually a horse) which then causes their immune systems to produce antibodies to combat the venom. The antibodies are then harvested from the animal in a concentrated form so that it can act quickly to neutralize venom in a person bitten by a snake.  Many persons can have an allergic reaction to the serum itself and are usually given epinephrine to counteract the allergy.
Infographic of Snakebite Do's and Don'ts

Can Snakebite Be Prevented? How?


As with many emergencies, preparedness is the best policy.  The Center for Disease Control (and some years living in snake country myself) provides these tips for prevention whether enjoying the outdoors, boondocking, camping or hiking in the wild or even in residential areas:
  • Do not play with or aggravate snakes
  • Keep landscape clear of brush and debris
  • Wear shoes (even in your RV and house-we found a coral snake in our closet once)
  • Wear boots when walking in snake country
  • Develop a habit of watching where you step and place your hands (even/especially when gardening)
Especially are these tips essential for RVers who are involved in gateguarding since the sites are in virtual snake playgrounds.

Live and Let Live


Whereas some may go by the adage "the only good snake is a dead snake," there are at least four  reasons to just let them be.
  • They will most likely just leave YOU alone
  • Many snakes are non-poisonous and benefit society
  • Snakes prey on rodents that can be a damaging nuisance and health risk themselves
  • Snake venom, when extracted, is used for various applications including treatment of breast cancer as well as stroke victims and it can also help in heart attack treatment. Venom is also used in the medicines of blood pressure. 
If you need a quick guide to help you identify snakes and prevent and treat bites, pin the following infographic onto pinterest or somewhere on your computer for future reference.  It's printed by permission from it's designer Alex Smit who's got a blog of his own with lots of unique outdoor and travel tips.  http://www.sniffoutdoors.com/

Snake Types, Bite Prevention and Treatment
Zoom in on Infographic to enlarge


So, in all, snake venom is very helpful for mankind.  It'd be wise to think twice before hating any snake.  If you have any snake experiences or other tips for our outdoor enthusiast readers...drop us a note in the comments.  Look forward to your feedback.



Teri Blaschke is the RV Park operator of family owned HiddenValley RV Park in San Antonio, TX and writer of the park blog “A Little Piece of Country in San Antonio.” Teri contributes to various other blogs with a focus on either travel or social media and how it relates to the outdoor hospitality industry but her passion is serving the RV travel community by providing a memorable RV camping experience and growing the Hidden Valley RV family.  Connect with , Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter@HiddenValleyRV and our RV Country Daily Magazine and don't forget to Say hello to the voice of Hidden Valley 


Tuesday

A Testimonial For RV Testimonials or Why Bother To Write Reviews?

Regarding reviews or testimonials, they are most often given when we are unsatisfied with part or all of a customer experience.   A normal transaction and even those that exceed our expectations, often go unreported.  Now us full time RVers are a different sort and we love to share our hidden and new found RV places but for all the RV travelers and weekenders out there...don't hesitate to take a few moments and summarize your overall experience at each stop on your RV journey.  We like to include many attractions in our reviews as well but leave at least a few words about every Park we visit, no matter how small or large.  

RV Park Reviews
Hidden Valley RV on RV Park Reviews
Imagine yourself traveling in an unfamiliar state or city and searching online for an RV Park to rest for the night and seeing scores of them.  If you have signed on with RV Park Reviews, a forum for reviews administered by RVers themselves, you could know in a moment which one is liked by RVers like yourself. Yes the Park website itself can be invaluable to choose the amenities you want and the features you need but what if your RV peers have the restrooms rated badly or they post the pool as being top rate? If those features are important to you, their comments and reviews can be very helpful in making a decision that will greatly improve your stay in that area.   Other RVers also post helpful hints  on review sites like an easier route to a particular park or and entrance with better clearance, invaluable info if you've got a 13" high fifth wheel.

Guest Rated Reviews
Hidden Valley's Survey Page
There are also survey sites that many parks affiliate with that can be of value to campers and parks alike.  Any RV park is always looking for ways to improve and learn what their guests are thinking.  A wide variety of questions are combined into reports that give parks letter or number ratings that can benefit RVers when planning their travel parks or on overnight stays.


facebook iconFor many, the easiest way to spread the word or voice your thoughts on ANY place is Facebook.  Since you're on there anyway, search for the facebook page of the place you're at and look for a review tab on the left side of their page.  (Note: that's where the tab is now - it used to be on the top and next week it could be on the bottom so just hop around the page till you see it.
Hidden Valley's Review Tab on FB
Hidden Valley RV Park's review Tab on facebook

Have Your Own Blog? Play With "Symphony"



I know that many of my readers have their own blogs. I keep up with several of your travel blogs, personal blogs and business blogs.  I'd like to share a publishing tool I recently began using that I think you'll like.  It publishes my blog posts simultaneously to twitter and facebook.  The “Symphony” publishing tool  posts onto facebook with a photo from the blog post directly to your fb page.  It can be posted as a link with a photo OR as a photo with a shortened link in the text above the photo.  The same is true for Twitter, AND it’s automatic…nice touch.  While there are other tools that accomplish this and some blog platforms make automatic publishing possible, the appearance of the share with Symphony is superior and can be highly customized.  I have not found any other tool that will publish a photo on twitter in an automated blog post share. And that’s just the start.

Symphony Dashboard
Symphony Dashboard
It is also possible to queue or schedule your posts to space them out more evenly or have them post at the most convenient times for your readers to catch the post.

My favorite feature is being able to insert a BLOG link on my Facebook page in the new left sidebar.  If your page still has the tabs (the new fb sidebar is not out for everyone yet) you can insert a BLOG tab. It offers a quick and easy way for my readers to access the company blog. A reader can view the article introduction with an accompanying photo, without leaving the facebook timeline. Once a reader hits the READ MORE link they are redirected to the blog page.  They can even share it on facebook, tweet it or email any of your blog posts to friends.
Blog Tab on the facebook Page
A Blog Link on the Facebook Page Sidebar


An analytics tab provides pie charts, line graphs and charts detailing your engagement and reports can include short or expansive date ranges.  You can follow the stats for one particular post or all your posts together.

An inbox tab lists all your social media activity from both social media platforms included, Twitter and facebook. The date range goes WAY back so you can use it as an easy way to search for past mentions, posts, comments and messages.

I also liked the Crosspost feature. This is especially nice if you want to post a particular blog post on social media again, after the initial share.  A convenient tab is located on your header on the tool or you add a crosspost tab right on your browser so you can crosspost from anywhere.


Set up was very simple for connecting your social media sites.

There are also some freebie widgets that allow you to perform several tasks and add some neat features to your website or blog. My favorite is a toolbar feature that inserts a Call to Action button on your sites top bar. The button text, color and title are completely customizable.  (Check it out above in the header of this blog.)  These freebies are available if you include the Symphony logo on your webpage/blog sidebar – a simple copy/paste of an html code snippet.

There are several plans to choose from that include varying combinations of features mentioned above.  The cost is based on several criteria including how many will be using the tool.  The least expensive plan is currently $14 a month and if you pay it on an annual basis there is a discount.  I would like to see a plan that is less if you post, say, only 2 to 3 blog links per month since that is more my custom. However the plan cost is not prohibitive if you stay determined to publish more blog content.  There's no contract and you may cancel at any time.

                              This is how the crosspost appears on Facebook

For my social media habits, Symphony is awesome because I primarily use facebook and Twitter.  You can set up personal profiles and pages. I would imagine that some who spend a lot of time on Google+ may want to see this social platform included as a possible venue for blog posts to be syndicated with.  Pinterest photo pins may also be a good platform to add since photos can be given a prominence in the republished material.  I just noticed that LinkedIn is also included for sharing possibilities. This can be a benefit if you want to share helpful and related business info and articles on your business or personal profiles.  I was disappointed though that LinkedIn would not allow posting in groups to get conversations going regarding certain posts you share.  I won’t personally be syndicating LinkedIn because the articles I post on my blog are not generally ones I would share on either my LinkedIn personal profile or business page.  

So while one or two of these features can be found in other tools, having them all incorporated into one, simplifies crossposting and brings added exposure to your blog. Symphony's motto is certainly appropriate: “Spend less time publishing your content and more time creating it.”  When you take advantage of all the features of the Symphony tool, just like in a real musical symphony, all the different parts work together to form a unified and well performed piece.  I truly believe this platform will make me a more consistent content creator to the benefit of my blog readers. They offer a free trial - no credit card required. What do you have to lose? If you use Symphony or try it out, tell us your experience in the comments or on my crosspost on my facebook page.

Teri Blaschke is the RV Park operator of family owned Hidden Valley RV Park in San Antonio, TX and writer of the park blog “A Little Piece of Country in San Antonio.” Teri contributes to various other blogs with a focus on either travel or social media and how it relates to the outdoor hospitality industry but her passion is serving the RV travel community by providing a memorable RV camping experience and growing the Hidden Valley RV family.  Connect with , Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter@HiddenValleyRV  and our RV Country Daily Magazine


Monday

Best Fireworks in San Antonio

Each year as July 4th nears many of us are anxious for the biggest and best Fireworks.  So if you'll be in San Antonio, here are the options - all great shows and all not far from Hidden Valley RV Park.


Fireworks behind theTower of the America's

Fireworks:

Seaworld

When: July 2nd, July 3rd and July 4th at 9:45 p.m.
Where: Ski Lake
On July 2-4, in honor of Independence Day, guests will get in the patriotic spirit when they witness a colorful fireworks display at Ski Lake. This stunning mix of pyrotechnics set to a triumphant musical score will begin at 9:45 p.m. both days. This jaw-dropping show will illuminate SeaWorld’s skyline and captivate guests with its spectacular display of colorful flames and twinkling sparks. Prior to the show, guests can enjoy live music and entertainment for all ages.

This event is included with your park admission. No additional ticket or fee required.

SeaWorld San Antonio from San Antonio on Vimeo.

San Antonio's Official Fourth of July

When:  Monday July 4, 2016 - 8am to 11pm fireworks at 9:30

Where:  Woodlawn Lake Park, 1103 Cincinnati, San Antonio, TX 78201
Join the San Antonio community in a free 4th of July celebration for the entire family. The event will include games, the Children’s Parade, live music, Rio San Antonio Cruises Carnival Rides, Family Pavilion, 5K, Zumbathon and, of course, fireworks. The festivities take place at Woodlawn Lake Park starting at 8:00 am and ending at 11:00 pm, so be sure to bring the family for a day of fun and celebration!  Schedule is as follows: - 8:00 am Zumbathon & 1K - 8:30 am 5K - 11:00 am Salute to the Red, White and Blue Parade - 12:00-2:00 pm Rio San Antonio Cruises Free Carnival Rides - 12:00-6:00 pm Nationwide Family Pavilion Activities - 12:30 pm-10:00 pm  Military Appreciation Zone - 12:00 pm-10:00 pm Live Music at Thomas J. Henry Family Stage - 9:30 pm  Fireworks Extravaganza

Genius Fix for Normally Pricey Repair - Windshield Chips

Problem

While a windshield chip or crack can occur anytime and is never convenient, it often happens while traveling.  Getting it fixed when away from home is a major pain because you often don't know the area and who wants to spend the time on a vacation or have to drive a motorhome to an insurance approved shop for the day.  (Good luck finding one of those!)

There are those mobile fix-it locations that will repair a crack for you but they may not be easy to locate in the desert, near the beach or in the middle of nowhere while traveling.  Just leaving it till you get home can sometimes turn a chip into a larger feathering crack not to mention the danger of a crack turning into a safety risk. 

Solution 

I saw this great video  on you tube that I'd love to try although I'm not anxious to need the opportunity, if you know what I mean. This fella demonstrated how to use these Windshield Repair Kits that have evidently been around for a while.


This is one of several brands I found on Amazon.  They range from $8 to $20.

What? Have I been living under a rock.  Wow, I was really impressed.  The DIY video is only 6 minutes long.  The whole process added another hour maybe for drying and waiting between steps but it was all done quickly, by a non-professional and with no special tools except what is readily available online through Amazon and elsewhere in that little kit.

                                              ChrisFix's Video at https://youtu.be/QjuWqBzO7qY

This little Fix it was just too easy to pass up and may keep me from crying over a few hundred dollars the next time a speeding semi throws a pebble my way.

Has anyone tried this personally?  I'll update the post if I have the chance to try it myself and y'all do the same in the comments below. 


Teri Blaschke is the RV Park operator of family owned Hidden Valley RV Park in San Antonio, TX and writer of the park blog “A Little Piece of Country in San Antonio.” Teri contributes to various other blogs with a focus on either travel or social media and how it relates to the outdoor hospitality industry but her passion is serving the RV travel community by providing a memorable RV camping experience and growing the Hidden Valley RV family.  Connect with , Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter@HiddenValleyRV  and our RV Country Daily Magazine

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