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Stolen $8,000 Barbecue Pit Found and More News

Stolen $8,000 Barbecue Pit Found and More News

In today's Media Mix, a messenger bag that hides beer, plus fake eggs in China

The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.

Fake Eggs Food Fraud: In another case of food fraud in China (seriously, stop it!), a woman discovers fake eggs made of resin, starch, and other synthetic products. [TIME]

Barbecue Pit Returned: An $8,000 barbecue pit from Killen’s Steakhouse in Pearland, Texas, was discovered in Houston. [KHOU]

Bogota, Colombia's Food Scene: Is this the new international food city? Crime is down, and food quality is up, meaning a trip is in order. [CN Traveler]

Messenger Bag to Hide Booze: This messenger bag is basically a cooler, and while it won't make it through bag checks at Yankee Stadium, you can now walk around the park without looking like a crazy alcoholic. [Cult of Mac]

Chicken Overload: Urban farmers are struggling to get rid of chickens, especially when they stop laying eggs. [Jezebel]

Sam Houston HS band hopeful stolen BBQ pit will be returned

Original story: Members of the Sam Houston High School Hurricane marching band are hopeful that whoever stole their barbecue pit used for fundraising will bring it back.

The theft comes as the band has been fine tuning for a busy Fiesta and is set to participate in the Battle of the Bands, the Battle of Flowers Parade and the Fiesta Flambeau Parade this week.

The pit was stolen two weeks ago when two thieves drove on campus, got inside a locked cage and pulled it right out.

"I was shocked, because the whole community, I thought everyone was with us," junior Terrell Graves said. "Not anger, but frustration. We just have it in the back of our mind, like, wow, someone actually took this from us."

Head band director Bruce Adams said the pit was built by the school's welding department and is worth more than $5,000.

"(The department) graciously allowed us to use it to do barbecues, barbecue plate sales for our students," Adams said. "We take them to Florida each summer for a band camp, and this is a major fundraiser to take our kids."

Adams said the band will keep playing and looking for other ways to cover its costs.

"You're hurting the kids," Adams said. "You're not hurting anyone but the kids. And our kids deserve the best. And that's what we try to give them, the best."

Anyone with information about who took the pit is asked to call Campus Crime Stoppers at 210-227-8477.

This 18-Foot Meat Smoker Was Stolen from a Beloved Alabama BBQ Joint. We Want to Find It.

These are times of death, despair, and disorientation. A pandemic rages on. Economic and political divisions are intensifying. You may ask yourself: Why, in the midst of all this struggle, would someone make a bad thing worse by going and stealing a barbecue smoker?

Brandon Cain has been asking that question, and it tells us something about his character that he usually finds a compassionate way of answering it. Maybe someone&rsquos just hungry, he says&mdash&ldquomaybe in a desperate situation and trying to feed their family and doing the best that they can do.&rdquo

Cain is a chef and a co-owner of SAW&rsquos Soul Kitchen, a barbecue joint in Avondale, Alabama, which is part of a network of spots around Birmingham started by Cain&rsquos business partner, Mike Wilson. (Apparently SAW is an acronym for his longtime nickname, Sorry Ass Wilson.) At the end of March, as the coronavirus shutdowns were devastating restaurants around the country, Cain swung by the SAW corporate offices and noticed that Black Betty, a sleek 18-foot rig that he and the team would take on the road to food and wine festivals, was missing.

It should be pointed out that such thefts are not uncommon across the American South. Last summer, in fact, J.C. Reid wrote in the Houston Chronicle that smoker-stealing had grown into an &ldquoepidemic.&rdquo Barbecue rigs may be hard to hide, because they&rsquore big, but they&rsquore relatively easy to steal, because they&rsquove got wheels. Criminals can attach them to a truck and drive away. &ldquoFirst, realize that stolen trailers are the ultimate crime of opportunity,&rdquo Reid wrote. &ldquoMany potential thieves are driving around in a truck with a trailer-hitch ball mount, and an unsecured barbecue trailer may be too much of a temptation.&rdquo (Google &ldquostolen BBQ smoker&rdquo and you&rsquoll find plenty of examples.)

With two Goldens&rsquo cast-iron grills, two deep fryers, a four-compartment sink, and a smoker, Black Betty represented a ripe target, especially because the SAW&rsquos team had never sullied its gleaming exterior with any insignias or stickers. &ldquoIt just looked so pretty without all that stuff on there,&rdquo Cain says. &ldquoWe just never got the chance.&rdquo

It should also be pointed out that, in comparison to other victims, Cain and his comrades at SAW&rsquos Soul Kitchen are doing pretty well. They never actually used Black Betty to make the barbecue served at the restaurant&mdashfor that, they&rsquove got their own custom-made pit and commercial smoker inside the place, whereas Black Betty only served as a &ldquoshowpiece&rdquo for traveling exhibitions. And they&rsquore still selling plenty of pulled pork and smoked chicken out of a take-out window in Avondale. (Wilson came to Alabama by way of North Carolina, so SAW&rsquos offers an alternative to a lot of what you find in Alabama by serving up vinegar-based, Carolina-style pulled pork. &ldquoTo me it makes us stand out,&rdquo Cain says. &ldquoThe meat is super-tender. It&rsquos so tender that you can&rsquot chop it because it will turn to mush.&rdquo) Business is brisk.

But with thousands of restaurants around the country closed up, and with millions of families unable to pay for food, it probably shouldn&rsquot come as a surprise that restaurant burglaries appear to be surging. In that sense, the theft of Black Betty has had a kind of symbolic power for people in the Avondale area, happening as it did at the beginning of a crisis. &ldquoThat&rsquos what hurt,&rdquo Cain says. &ldquoWe&rsquore supposed to be in this together, guys.&rdquo

Nonprofit Starting Tent Community For Homeless People In Sacramento

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A nonprofit that’s spent the last decade working to address the homeless crisis is finally moving forward with a pilot project.

“Once Covid hit, all the shelters closed,” said a man who only wished to be identified as Eric.

Times have been tough for Eric. He says he has been homeless on and off the last few years and the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic has had him searching for a new roof over his head once. Staying at one of the 13 tents erected at 12th and C streets in Sacramento seemed like a good idea.

“It’s cleaner — that’s for sure,” said Eric.

A group called Safe Ground is behind the pilot project that has seen success in places like Seattle.

“It’s a different atmosphere now people are really starting to realize something needs to be done,” said John Kraintz.

Kraintz, who was once living in a tent himself, says the tents are 10 years in the making.

At the rate real estate is costing for rentals, it’s very difficult to find a place to be,” he said. “The only way to solve this is to use alternative housing,” said Kraintz.

The tents are more affordable: $100 versus $7,000-$8,000 for a tiny house.

“It’s just logic and it’s something we owe to those less fortunate in society,” said Attorney Mark Merin.

Merin owns the lot where tents are placed. There is a porta-potty, outdoor shower, sinks, and bike storage. He says the project is supported by nonprofits and businesses and is COVID-19 compliant, with tent doors facing away from each other and physical distancing between them.

“A lot of individuals and organizations are stepping up and saying it’s time to get homeless people off the streets into something better,” said Merin.

People who support the idea say there need to be hundreds more projects like this in our area.

“If you are going to try something new, try it in a test tube rather than a 55-gallon drum so if something exposes, you don’t have much of a problem,” said Kraintz.

Eric says it’s a good place to take that next step but knows it will be up to each individual to do the work.

“It’s up to the person that actually wants to change what they are doing,” he said.

Clergy urge Cuomo to 'stop using us as props' and make churches vaccine sites

An Upper East Side pastor complained that his wages were too low after he was caught on video stealing cash from his church’s collection basket, authorities alleged Tuesday.

“They don’t pay me enough,” the Rev. Daniel Iampaglia griped to a cop following his Nov. 24 arrest, a prosecutor said in court.

Iampaglia, 72, also denied fleecing his flock at the evangelical Rock Church, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Laura Meehan said.

“I have no access to any funds but my salary paycheck I get once a week,” Iampagilia allegedly claimed.

The holy roller didn’t specify how much he earns, but church sources told The Post that he gets paid $600 a week, plus free lodging — including all utilities — in a three-bedroom apartment in the Rock Church townhouse at 153 E. 62nd St.

A church member confronts Pastor Daniel Iampaglia at a meeting at the Rock Church on Jan. 3. Helayne Seidman

Iampaglia, who’s battling several worshippers in court for control of the tiny church, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on nine misdemeanor counts of petit larceny involving separate incidents between Oct. 28 and Nov. 21 of last year.

A surveillance camera secretly set up by suspicious congregants allegedly recorded him swiping cash collected during Tuesday services.

“The by-laws of the church provide that offerings taken at the Tuesday service shall be for the Missionary Fund of the church, unless otherwise designated,” the criminal complaint against him says.

Based on the video evidence, Iampaglia is accused of illegally pocketing $238, but an affidavit filed in the civil case against him alleges that he’s actually stolen or misused more than $8,000.

Iampaglia — who waved his cane at a Post photographer last week — refused to comment after his arraignment, but one of his defense lawyers, Joseph Indusi, said the cleric “adamantly denies these charges.”

“This is a civil matter that does not belong in criminal court. Unfortunately, no one is being civil about it,” said Iampaglia’s other lawyer, Cary London.

“When the charges are brought to light, we are confident they will be dismissed.”

Three high-speed police chases reported overnight in Houston 8 arrested

Law enforcement chased a suspected armed robber for 35 minutes early Thursday in northwest Harris County, reaching 140 mph. The suspect was arrested.

Authorities chased people suspected of armed robbery and car theft across Houston highways Tuesday night and early Wednesday, in one case reaching speeds of more than 140 mph, officials said. Eight suspects were taken into custody and no one was injured in the three separate high-speed police pursuits.

In the first case, two people around 10:30 p.m. robbed a convenience store at gunpoint, said Lt. R. Willkens of the Houston Police Department. The duo grabbed money from the cash register and fled in a silver Chevy Impala from the store, located at 738 Lathrop Street in northeast Houston.

Police officers located the vehicle through a retail security system that provides GPS tracking and attempted to pull them over, Willkens said. The driver stopped, but then took off, prompting a police chase that lasted for several minutes.

The driver crashed on Collingsworth Street near Interstate 59 and both suspected robbers ran. Officers caught up and arrested the pair, Willkens said. No one was injured in the pursuit.

Separately, an HPD officer spotted a stolen car around 1 a.m. Wednesday at Bingle Road and Hammerly Boulevard in the Spring Branch area. When the driver refused to stop, police pursued the car for half an hour across Houston's highways from Interstate 10 to U.S. 59 to Interstate 610 to U.S. 290.

A police officer performed a "pit maneuver" to stop the car at Hollister Street and West Little York Road. Five people, including two males and three females, were taken into custody and their parents were called to the scene. Police did not disclose their ages.

An hour later in northwest Harris County, a man armed with a handgun robbed a Circle K store at 9096 Jones Road, said Lt. S. Wilson of the Harris County Sheriff's Office. The man made off with cash, but officials tracked him through a similar GPS tracker in the stolen money.

Authorities spotted the vehicle and tried to stop it, but the driver fled. Deputies chased the fleeing suspect through neighborhoods and down highways for 35 minutes at speeds of more than 140 mph, Wilson said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and Harris County Constable's Office Precinct 4 helped with the pursuit.

Eventually, deputies deployed strip spikes that worked to stop the driver, who crashed into a curb on North Gessner Road near Fallbrook Drive, Wilson said. The man tried to run but law enforcement took him into custody.

The weapon and cash were recovered inside the car. No one was injured and no property was damaged in the chase.

Fireworks went up and dogs ran out: L.A. pups lost, found and returned after the Fourth

Mollie ran off as the Pasadena sky exploded in fleeting, fiery colors, and Karen Hirst, who owns and loves that silver gray Yorkie-Shih Tzu, hasn’t stopped thinking about her since.

“I’ve cried till I thought I couldn’t cry anymore. We went everywhere together. I took her to the bank, shopping, to the doctor. When I got ready to go to work, she would lay on my clothes and make sure I was going to take her,” said Hirst, who got Mollie as a puppy 13 years ago.

Alongside New Year’s Eve, Independence Day is the biggest day for canine runaways and the busiest for Los Angeles’ animal shelters as dogs flee their homes because of booming fireworks. On the holiday, shelters and rescue organizations work overtime to reunite man with man’s best friend.

Hirst went to a Fourth of July barbecue on Saturday, and Mollie escaped near Navarro Avenue and West Howard Street when the neighbors watching her let her out to relieve herself.

“I came back here, and it was like a war zone. Not just firecrackers, it sounded like bombs going off,” Hirst said. As the amateur pyrotechnics raged on, Hirst’s husband sat on the porch waiting for the green-eyed pooch to come back. He stayed out there until 3 in the morning.

“I just can’t bear the thought of my dog, knowing how emotional she is, that she can’t get back to me,” Hirst said.

The couple reached out to shelters and posted notices of the missing dog across the internet. On Monday evening, Hirst made fliers and prepped a list of animal stores to put them in.

As he ran at South L.A.’s Harvard Park on Sunday morning, Danny Rivera came across a gray pit bull mix.

“I went to pet her and then looked around and didn’t see anyone,” Rivera said.

He said firework explosions have rocked his neighborhood nightly since early June but picked up Saturday night.

“The day of the Fourth, they were really going at it,” Rivera said.

The dog wore a studded blue collar and looked taken care of. He guessed she had just run away, so he started walking with his new companion in hopes she would find its owner nearby. After four fruitless hours, he and the dog — whom he’d named Sunny — went home.

“The way that she smiled at everyone and everything, you can’t help but smile at her too,” Rivera said. He bought canned dog food and potty pads for his guest. On Monday, he took Sunny to the Chesterfield Square Animal Services Center, where a scan showed she didn’t have a microchip.

“I really did bond with the dog. I was really crying my heart out after I dropped her off at the shelter,” Rivera said. He described Sunny as sweet and curious and said she never barked while he had her. He’s gotten permission from his apartment manager to foster Sunny when she becomes available if her owners aren’t found.

Annette Rodriguez, director of field operations at Chesterfield Square, said Fourth of July runaways end up in her facility every year. She blames the fireworks.

“We’ve had animals actually break through windows because they’re so panicked, so scared. They’re sensitive to the noises: They’re loud bangs for us, and our ears are not as sensitive as a dog’s ears, so it can really scare animals. That’s why they end up getting out of their yards, trying to get away from all the noises,” Rodriguez said.

Since July 1, her shelter has reunited 38 dogs with owners. Fewer dogs came in this week than expected.

“It has been the calmest Fourth of July we have ever had, which is absolutely surprising due to the amount of fireworks going on, and it really has been because of the number of partners out there supporting us and helping us with scanning [microchips] and intervening with animals not coming into the shelter,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve had so many reunifications where they never even came into the shelter.”

Microchips, tiny implants placed under a pet’s skin, have individual codes that are uploaded with the pet’s ownership information into online databases. Shelters, vets and rescues scan for such chips as a way to quickly get pets back to their owners.

One of Chesterfield Square’s partner organizations, Paws for Life K9 Rescue, scored 18 reunions Saturday night. The group, which works with incarcerated people to train therapy dogs, set up seven microchip-scanning stations across the city. They directed finders of lost pups to the test sites and contacted owners as information came in.

The process was born out of creativity and necessity, founder Alex Tonner said.

“On Fourth of July, there are so many dogs that get turned in to the shelter, and normally rescue groups are outside the shelter helping the public there, but because of COVID, no one was allowed to do that,” Tonner said. Shelters are closed to the public because of the pandemic.

Los Angeles Animal Services scanned lost dogs, too. Their officers gave identified pets free rides back home.

Rodriguez called reunions the most emotional part of her job.

“People think of their pets as family members,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful thing to connect that family back together.”

After his chihuahua went on the lam Saturday evening, Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson experienced that joyful homecoming.

“They saved my family and my sanity by finding my littlest,” he said.

Wesson’s dog ran off as he did yard work and grilled steaks. He realized Waldo was missing when he let his other two dogs inside as fireworks picked up.

“It’s like a kid: You think the worst. He’s been eaten by a coyote. A hawk flew down and grabbed him. He’s underneath a bush shivering. You don’t think anything good. You do a lot of praying,” Wesson said. He searched for the dog for six hours, trolling the streets by foot and truck as fireworks erupted in the night sky, forgetting to eat the food he’d cooked for the holiday.

We adopted Waldo from a local shelter and it breaks my heart to know that during the 4th of July, hundreds of animals just like him end up in shelters after being scared by fireworks. Keep a careful eye on your pets and follow @lacitypets for ways you can help our furry friends.

&mdash Councilmember Herb J. Wesson, Jr. (@CMHerbJWesson) July 3, 2019

“They were everywhere, illegal fireworks. On every corner, every little cul-de-sac, on major streets,” Wesson said. “It was hellish…. You think you hear maybe a dog whimpering or barking, but it winds up being some firework.”

About 11:45 p.m., he got a call from Tonner. She knew where Waldo was. A neighbor three doors down and across the street had found the dog and brought him to a scan station run by Angel City Pit Bulls and Paws For Life. Wesson, who pledged to support the organizations and expressed gratefulness for the neighbors who took care of Waldo, credited his dog’s microchip for Waldo’s return.

“If it wasn’t for that, I’d be out looking for him right now,” he said. Now, the family lap dog, who Wesson said is “four and a half pounds, maybe five depending on what he’s eaten that day” and described as “a little miniature heating pad,” is back home, safe and sound.

Hirst is still searching for Mollie, whom she calls her California girl “because she liked to have the wind blowing in her hair.”

“I can’t explain the joy I would have having her back. I think about everything I could’ve done, maybe should have done that I would have a chance to do again,” Hirst said.

14 Reasons You Will Regret an RV in Retirement

As you roll toward retirement, dreams of blue highways might be giving you an itch to hit the open road. With the kids grown and no job to tie you down, why not sell the house, buy a recreational vehicle and see the country? You wouldn’t be alone. Approximately 10 million U.S. households own RVs, according to the RV Industry Association, and roughly 1 million Americans are living full-time in them.

Sales at some RV dealerships are ablaze, fueled in part by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s not just retirees who want to hit the road others now want to vacation in a self-enclosed traveling capsule that will let them avoid hotels and motels.

Indeed, the RV Industry Association said RV shipments were up more than 40% year-over-year in January, with nearly 46,000 units shipped. Dealers are expecting a record year in 2021, the association predicts.

“RV shipments show no sign of slowing down,” said RV Industry Association President & CEO Craig Kirby. “RV manufacturers and suppliers are producing a record number of units to meet the continued demand from consumers looking to make RVing a part of their active outdoor lifestyle.”

But is an RV in retirement right for you? We spoke with retirees who spend much of their time in recreational vehicles for their guidance on the cons of RV living in retirement. Here’s what they had to say about the downsides of life on the road in an RV.

RVs Are Really Expensive

An RV is a big investment, but before you can even set a budget you need to understand the different options on the market.

“RVing introduces you to a whole new language,” says Charley Hannagan, who has been RVing with her husband, Joe, since 2014. “The cars that are towed behind motorhomes are 'toads.' 'Sticks and bricks' refers to a permanent house. ɼlass As' are the bus-like vehicles, ɼlass B' are vans, ɼlass C' are the ones that have a truck cab attached to an RV chassis, and ɿifth wheels' are the big ones you see pulled by trucks.”

A trailer that’s hauled behind a truck or SUV is the most affordable way to test-drive RV living. A folding trailer, sometimes called a pop-up trailer, can cost as little as $6,000 and go as high as $30,000, according to pricing estimates from both the RV Industry Association and Consumer Reports. Conventional travel trailers (a hard shell all the way around) start around $8,000 but can top $100,000 depending on size and amenities. True fifth-wheel trailers that overlap the truck bed run from $18,000 to $160,000. Indeed, towable RVs were the biggest sellers nationwide in January, with sales up more than 40% compared to January 2020, according to the RV Industry Association.

And then there are motorhomes, which you drive rather than haul. Type A motorhomes, the heaviest and typically the roomiest, begin at $60,000 and climb above $500,000. Type B and Type C motorhomes, smaller and lighter than Type As, cost anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000.

“The cost range is extraordinary,” says Nancy Fasoldt, who has been RVing with her husband, Allen, for 14 years. After retiring in 2007, they bought a new 24½-foot Navion motorhome for $67,000. They estimate the same RV would cost $106,000 today. Since then they’ve purchased a used 32-foot Wildcat fifth wheel ($20,000) a new 2016 38-foot Highland Ridge fifth wheel ($26,000 after trade-in) and a used Cirrus truck camper ($19,000) that slides into the bed of their pickup.

During the pandemic, the Fasoldts' travels are on hold, as it is for many others.

You’ll Spend Even More Money Updating Your RV's Decor

This can be especially true if you buy used, but even new RVs can demand immediate upgrades to suit your taste.

“The most disappointing thing about buying our RV was the décor,” says Charley Hannagan, who owns a 32-foot Jayco Precept Class A motorhome. “I think of it as 1970s old-age home. It was awful. We spent about $2,000 to buy fabric to re-cover the furniture in fabric I liked, to buy melamine dishes that won’t break on the road, organizational stuff and sheepskin covers for the front seats.”

The Hannagans' redecorating extended to the sleeping quarters as well: “We also replaced the mattress on the bed with one of better quality, another $900.”

Your RV Will Depreciate in Value

You might call it your home, but don’t expect your RV to increase in value over time like many traditional “sticks and bricks” houses do.

“With RVs ranging in price from $60,000 to $600,000, it’s hard to compare them to a home that’s paid off or near being paid off and find financial benefit,” says Margo Armstrong, who’s been RVing for two decades and writes the RV blog Moving On With Margo. “RVs also depreciate rapidly when you add in costs for gas, insurance, upkeep, food and the many other expenses of being on the road, traditional vacationing will likely seem to be a better value for your money.”

RVs Guzzle Fuel

Whether you’re hauling a heavy trailer or sitting behind the wheel of a motorhome, there’s no way to avoid sticker shock when you fill up the gas tank. And it’s going to get worse, as Kiplinger forecasts: Gas prices are up 30 cents from a month ago, and expected to continue to climb as Americans scratch the itch to get out of the COVID bubble and travel as vaccines continue to roll out.

“We get about eight miles to the gallon,” says Charley Hannagan of their motorhome’s gas mileage. “We can go about 370 miles on a full tank.” She says while they never go below a quarter tank, a typical fill-up still runs about $120 or more. Once they park their RV, the Hannagans save on gas by driving their “toad,” a MINI Cooper that gets 35 miles per gallon.

One note: Diesel motorhomes get better mileage, but they can cost much more than RVs that operate on regular gasoline. Hannagan says a new diesel motorhome typically starts at $250,000. Diesel fuel also costs more per gallon than regular unleaded gas: $3.07 vs. $2.71, on average, recently, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

You'll Need Extra Insurance for Your RV

Your auto policy should provide basic liability coverage for a trailer you haul behind your vehicle. However, your insurance needs can quickly escalate, especially if you travel extensively or upgrade to an expensive fifth wheel trailer or motorhome. (A motorhome requires separate RV insurance.) Keep in mind, too, that an RV is bigger and heavier than a car and more challenging to drive, making accidents both big and small a greater possibility and potentially more costly.

A standard RV policy will cover many of the same things as a standard auto policy: comprehensive (theft, vandalism, acts of nature, deer strikes, etc.) collision (damage to your RV if you’re in an auto accident) uninsured/underinsured (damage to your RV or your injuries if the other driver doesn’t have any or enough insurance) and medical (medical bills for you or your passengers resulting from an accident).

In addition, insurers have add-on insurance for RVs. Here’s a list of common RV offerings, based on policy information from The Hartford, Geico and Progressive. Costs will vary widely based on where you live, your driving record, what kind of RV you own and how much time you spend in it. The Hannagans, for example, say they pay about $1,700 a year to insure their motorhome and MINI Cooper.

Many RV owners, according to Progressive, seek coverage that includes:

  • Total loss replacement. This will replace your new RV with a comparable new RV (no depreciation applied) if you experience a total loss within a specified time frame, typically five years.
  • Replacement cost personal effects. This covers your personal belongings inside your RV (and sometimes outside) if damaged, destroyed or stolen.
  • Vacation/campsite liability. This covers injuries and property damage when you’re traveling and living in your parked RV for extended periods.
  • Emergency expenses. This pays for lodging and transportation if your RV is out of commission due to a covered accident.

Health Care Can Be a Hassle When Traveling in an RV

Being on the road in an RV can mean being far away from your regular doctors and your insurer’s network of medical providers and facilities.

“Health insurance is the problem, not health care,” says retiree Nancy Fasoldt. “There are doctors everywhere, but the cost can kill you because of the insurance. HMOs, PPOs, in-network, out-of-network. Geesh. If you are in Bayfield, Wis., and need stitches, you can go to an urgent care for treatment, but where to go for follow-up care that is in-network?”

Turning 65 and going on Medicare doesn’t eliminate these challenges, points out insurer The Hartford: “Retirees who are already on Medicare Parts A and B will be able to receive hospital and medical care in case of a major illness. If you are on a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan, however, it may not cover you for anything other than emergency or urgent care, since your plan may specify that you are not allowed to see providers outside of your network.”

As for prescription drugs, Fasoldt recommends making sure that Walmart pharmacies are in-network in your plan, “because Walmarts are everywhere.” She also recommends asking your insurer for a vacation override if you’re ever on the road and need a refill fast from the nearest pharmacy.

You'll Have to Deal With Your Own Waste From Your RV

You probably think little about where everything goes when you turn on the faucet or flush the toilet in your sticks-and-bricks home. With an RV, it’s always front-of-mind.

“There is a black tank for sewage, a gray tank for shower and sink water, and a fresh water tank,” says Charley Hannagan. “You need to monitor all of those to make sure that the tanks don’t overflow — you don’t want a sewage back up.”

And many locales that once offered dumping stations for RVs, such as highway rest stops and campgrounds, are doing away with the service, which is messy and costly. You may also find far fewer that are open because of coronavirus shutdowns (although many started reopening last summer). Need help finding a dump station? There’s a website for that.

Quarters Are Close in Your RV

Even in the largest of motorhomes, your traveling companion is never more than a few feet away. If you require an abundance of space, privacy and solitude, the RV life might not be for you.

“It’s not all roses,” says Charley Hannagan. “There are times when we snap at each other after a long day of driving and we’re tired. We make up quickly. Me time? Well, Joe says he buries himself in a book. If I want to get away, I’ll insist on doing the laundry by myself.”

Adds Nancy Fasoldt: “Honestly, we never found the closeness to be problematic. Others have told us they have. But we keep busy reading, writing, painting, bike riding, walking the dogs. And, if necessary, we can pull a curtain to hide behind. We seriously like each other most of the time, so it’s not hard to be that close.”

RVs Aren’t Easy to Drive

The bulky dimensions and massive blind spots of an RV mean danger lurks around every corner. Low overpasses and tight parking lots are particularly challenging. Smaller, van-size RVs, pop-up trailers and truck campers are the easiest to handle, but be prepared for a steep learning curve before you’re comfortable sitting behind the wheel of a 40-foot motorhome or hauling around a full-size fifth wheel trailer.

The dealer will give you a basic introduction to your RV when they hand over the keys, but you’ll want some practical experience under your belt before you hit the road. Search online for RV driving schools in your area, or ask for referrals to instructors from the dealership or from staff at RV parks and campgrounds. Or, ask experienced RVers where they learned to drive. Just note that instructors are more cautious during the pandemic it may be a wee bit more difficult to hunt one down.

Even if you expect to do all of the driving, it’s advisable for your traveling partner to learn how to drive the RV in a pinch in case you become tired or ill. We saw RV classes ranging from $250 for a refresher course to $695 for a two-day driving class for two people.

The next skill to master is route planning.

“We try to do ɻlue highways' [backroads] and stay off interstates unless we’re trying to make time to get somewhere,” says Charley Hannagan. “However, we’re 12 ½ feet tall. We’ve programmed our GPS to keep us away from anything less than a 13-foot bridge.”

Overnight Parking Can Be Problematic With an RV

Speaking of route planning, you’ll need to figure out where you’ll park your RV each and every night along the way, especially as some of the usual suspects shut down during the quarantine.

Aside from RV parks and campgrounds, where you can reserve a spot in advance, Walmart parking lots have been popular for overnighting in your RV (pre-pandemic). However, Nancy Fasoldt recommends always calling ahead to ask the store manager for permission and to get specific instructions on where to park in the lot. Fasoldt says they’ve also had luck overnighting at the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain and Cabela’s sporting goods megastores. Some truck stops, rest stops and state visitor centers allow RVs, in her experience, as do some museums, casinos and other tourist attractions.

An example of rest stops: You can park your RV at select rest areas on the Ohio Turnpike, for one night only (bad news for all of you longing to vacation at an Ohio Turnpike rest stop). It will set you back $20, but that includes electrical outlets, a wastewater dump station and potable water filling station. They’re available on a first come, first serve basis.

Technology helps the Fasoldts find places to park overnight. Free websites they use include Casino Camper, and Harvest Hosts, the latter of which matches RVers with willing wineries, breweries and farms. “The catch is they want our business,” says Nancy Fasoldt. They also pay to use the Allstays Camp and RV app ($9.99 on Apple’s App Store).

RV Repairs Can Be Costly

As with a car, an RV requires routine maintenance and breaks down on occasion. But remember, it’s also a house, with the added burdens of water and waste tanks to watch, propane levels to monitor and appliances to go on the fritz.

“Much like your house, where you'll have somebody take a look at the furnace every season, you still have those kinds of issues with an RV,” says Phil Ingrassia, president of the RV Dealers Association. “So people need to consider the maintenance that needs to be done, to keep their RV ready to go when they want to go on vacation. There's nothing worse than you're all ready to go with a family camping, and then something's wrong. So you need to do that maintenance much like you have to do with a home.”

The Hannagans have experience with repairs.

“Although we have a two-year warranty on our motorhome, so far we’ve spent $1,500 on repairs that weren’t covered or for silly things we did — Joe ripped the awning off because he didn’t pull it in when he left a campsite,” says Charley Hannagan. “We’ve spent another $1,200 on basic maintenance and registration fees for both the motorhome and car.”

Getting repairs done can be complicated, adds Hannagan. Their RV dealer will fix things in the living area, but it doesn’t do engine repairs. For that they need to find a Ford dealer that repairs truck engines and has the room in its garage to fit a 32-foot motorhome. “It’s difficult to get your rig into a dealer,” she says.

For roadside assistance, the Fasoldts rely on CoachNet. “It is like AAA on amphetamines,” says Nancy Fasoldt. A one-year membership costs $179 for trailers and fifth wheels, and $249 for motorhomes.

You’ll Need to Get Rid of a Lot of Your Stuff

Your grandmother’s hutch and your trusty table saw won’t be able to come along on this ride. And that can bother people who have attachments, sentimental and otherwise, to things.

“I’ve heard people say they can’t give up their books or their grandma’s china or their antiques,” says Charley Hannagan. “Unless you can find a kindly relative, it costs to store these items and that can add up.”

Seasoned RVers, especially full-timers, know you’ll need to to cull clothes and cut down hard on clutter, because there’s not a lot of storage space aboard and you can’t dump it all in the kids’ attics.

It Can Get Lonely on the Road in an RV

Spending much or all of your time in retirement in an RV means pulling up roots and moving from place to place. The lifestyle doesn’t work for those who require close proximity to friends, family and familiar surroundings.

“I like escaping,” says Allen Fasoldt. “But it’s often nice to spend time with relatives. Trouble is, if you go RVing to get away, you are trying to get away.”

Adds Nancy Fasoldt: “Because we travel so much, our friends have gotten used to us not being there, so we’ve been slowly written off invite lists, no longer on speed dial. I look at myself as being a part-time person. Part-time here, part-time there. While fellow travelers make fast friends, it is only temporary, while we are in each other’s sphere. I do miss what I used to have in my home community.”

An Airbnb for RVs? You Might Want to Try Before You Buy

You wouldn't buy a house and move to a city sight unseen, yes? It's probably not a good idea to sell your house and buy an RV before a practice run or two in whatever size motorhome (or towable) you're eyeing. That experience -- renting an RV for a vacation -- soured a friend of mine on the whole retiring-in-a-recreational-vehicle jam.

Many RV dealers have rental vehicles, too. If there's not one near you, you can find rentals across the country by way of the website that calls itself "the Airbnb for RVs," meaning you can rent other people's RVs. The site is RVesy and it features RVs from around the country. It features towables, motorhomes, pet-friendly RVs, deliverable RVs and stationary RVs.

Popular RVesy rentals included a microtrailer ($120 per night), a Dodge Ram Promaster 2500 Class B Campervan -- named Van Halen, by the way -- ($175 per night), and a 40-foot Georgetown by Forest River Class A RV ($325 per night).

His Paula Deen takedown went viral. But this food scholar isn’t done yet.

Dressed in period costume, culinary historian Michael Twitty visits Colonial Williamsburg, where he spent a week lecturing, conducting training sessions and giving cooking demonstrations. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

O n Friday, Jan. 22, as Snowzilla bore down on the nation’s capital, peripatetic culinary scholar Michael Twitty was in South Carolina to tape a video, and he found himself in a jam: On Monday he was to begin an important assignment at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. He’d planned to return home to Maryland and then travel to Virginia, but the threat of two feet of snow made that unfeasible.

As the founder of the Cooking Gene, a project exploring his own African roots and the African roots of Southern cooking, and the blogger behind, Twitty has a significant online presence. So he turned to Facebook. Were there “friends” in Virginia who could put him up for the weekend?

A few hours later, Twitty was at the Richmond home of his actual friend and colleague Jennifer Hurst Wender, a historic preservationist, baking challah and making vegetable soup with collards for Shabbat dinner. A Jewish convert with the Twitter handle @koshersoul, Twitty is deeply engrossed in both the African American and Jewish food traditions. “Blacks and Jews are the only peoples I know who use food to talk about their past while they eat it,” says Twitty, 38.

From Richmond it was a short jaunt to Colonial Williamsburg, where Twitty spent the week lecturing, conducting training sessions and cooking in period costume at three of the living history museum’s venues. In all his talks, Twitty emphasized the impact of chefs and cooks of African descent on shaping American and Southern cuisines in colonial times and after.

At Great Hopes Plantation, Twitty prepared an elaborate meal featuring a large pork shoulder that he’d boiled for an hour and half, then cut in half and roasted with sweet potatoes and onions on the edge of a hearth in an iron vessel. He shoveled hot coals over and under the pot, hastening cooking while the vessel held in the moisture. Collard greens — similar to the greens that grow year-round in Africa — and a spicy stew of pattypan squash flavored with onions, fatback and hot African peppers rounded out the meal.

Twitty wanted the members of the Williamsburg historic foodways department to taste “real” African cuisine. On his last day, he and a dozen staff members cooked half a dozen dishes from pre-colonial Africa. Among them: African yams sliced and fried in palm oil a spicy Ghanaian fish stew served with yams boiled and pounded into fufu and black-eyed pea fritters.

He told stories showing how cooking from different parts of Africa merged and evolved in the New World into a hybrid cuisine. After delivering a lecture open to the public in Williamsburg, Twitty went home to Rockville. Two days later, he hit the road again.

Michael Twitty and Stefanie Dunn, a domestic-arts specialist at Colonial Williamsburg, put together a traditional meal at Great Hopes Plantation. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

And so it goes in the nomadic life of Michael Twitty.

Since launching the Cooking Gene Project and its concomitant Southern Discomfort Tour in 2011, Twitty has crisscrossed the South from Maryland to Texas and back again, visiting dozens of restored plantations where he has cooked and lectured, immersed himself in old records and met with other culinary professionals, black, white and Native American. In the interest of comprehending his ancestors’ experience, he has also picked cotton (for 16 hours) and cultivated sugar cane and Carolina rice (an African variety that turned white South Carolina planters into millionaires).

In Asheville, N.C., in September 2014, Twitty joined chefs Mike Moore and Elliot Moss (chef-owner of Buxton Hall Barbecue) in cooking a “concept dinner” at Moore’s Blind Pig Supper Club. The meal highlighted the Afrocentric origins of Southern cooking, including barbecue, and it aimed for authenticity: To that end, the three cooks dug their barbecue pit by hand and felled saplings that Twitty used to build a wooden grill.

“It was the most impactful dinner we have ever had,” Moore recalls. “The guests loved his cooking, and they loved the talk he delivered. As far as I am concerned, Michael is the most unique character in Southern cooking today.”

Twitty has taught and lectured at scores of universities, from Yale to Elon to Eastern Michigan. In all, he has appeared at more than 200 historical and academic venues, written articles for a dozen publications and shared the results of his scholarship in long, cogent posts on In 2013, the website First We Feast named him one of the 20 greatest food bloggers of all time.

Twitty’s reputation has grown slowly. In 2013, René Redzepi, the celebrated chef-owner of Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant, invited him to address one of his MAD food conferences. Redzepi called him “the voice of our generation” who is leading the world “to a much more serious scholarship around African American foodways.”

Last year, praising the Cooking Gene Project for combining history, genealogy, politics and economics, the TED organization chose Twitty as one of its Class of 2016 international fellows. This week, Twitty and the other TED fellows are in Vancouver, conferring and delivering lectures describing their work. Twitty is the only fellow whose work relates to food. Other fellows include technologists, visual artists, scientists, medical researchers and media and policy experts.

At Colonial Williamsburg’s Great Hopes Plantation, the ingredients for a traditional Southern meal: collard greens, onion, ham, pig’s feet and sweet potatoes. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

So how did this self-trained historical cook and unaffiliated scholar — a man who majored in Afro-American studies and anthropology at Howard University but did not have the money to complete the coursework for his degree who describes himself as outside the mainstream and “four time blessed” (“large of body, gay, African American and Jewish”) who for years supported himself (meagerly) as a Hebrew teacher who underwrites the cost of his professional travel by crowdsourcing — come to be recognized as an important figure in the world of culinary scholarship?

The easy answer is Paula Deen.

In June 2013, shortly after disclosure of Deen’s past use of the n-word made her the culinary world’s reigning persona non grata, Twitty posted an open letter to her on in which he addressed Deen as a fellow Southerner, “a cousin if you will and not a combatant.” Twitty told Deen that far more repugnant to him than her use of the n-word was “the near universal erasure of the black presence from American culinary memory.” He described that phenomenon as a form of “culinary injustice that robbed blacks of a vital form of their history and identity.”

“Your barbecue,” he wrote, “is my West African babbake, your fried chicken, your red rice, your hoecake, your watermelon, your black-eyed peas, your crowder peas, your muskmelon, your tomatoes, your peanuts, your hot peppers, your Brunswick stew and okra soup, benne, jambalaya, hoppin’ john, gumbo, stewed greens and fat meat — have inextricable ties . . . to West and Central Africa.”

Twitty concluded his letter with an invitation to Deen to help him cook a meal of reconciliation at Stagville Plantation, a 30,000-acre spread near Durham, N.C., where 900 slaves once cultivated tobacco.

Deen never answered him, but the letter went viral. Among other results: Twitty’s description of the Cooking Gene Project caught the eye of 12 literary agents. (Harper Collins will publish his book, “The Cooking Gene,” later this year.)

An overnight success? Hardly. Twitty had been preparing for his Paula Deen moment since childhood.

Michael Twitty breaks up collard greens before placing them in a kettle to cook on the hearth at Great Hopes Plantation. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Born in the District and raised in Wheaton (he now lives in Rockville), Twitty as a child was in love with food and was an obsessive asker of questions, the kind of 3-year-old who reads the dictionary and has the photo to prove it.

Some of that ran in his family. His maternal grandfather was a book lover and book collector. His maternal grandmother was a cook and storyteller born in Alabama while teaching Michael how to cook traditional Southern fare, making sure he knew how to “fold, stir and knead by feel and smell,” she filled his head with stories of the Jim Crow South. His mother, a child of the Great Migration, grew up in Cincinnati: Her “Southern” cooking was different from her mother’s, as was her version of his family’s story. Twitty’s father, born and raised in the District, shared yet another perspective on African American history.

Judaism was another source of inspiration. Wheaton was a melting pot. As a child, Twitty was in and out of his Jewish neighbors’ houses, where he ate Jewish food and learned about the holidays. Though he had been born a Christian, Judaism spoke to him. “In my family, children weren’t allowed to question what adults did or said,” he says. “In the Jewish tradition, argumentation is holy, and children are encouraged to question.” At 22 he converted, joining Rockville’s “modern orthodox” Magen David Sephardic Congregation.

Twitty’s Sephardic affiliation is telling. Although he also cooks Jewish food from the Eastern European Ashkenazi tradition, the African-influenced Sephardic cuisine from the Iberian Peninsula with its hot peppers, okra and black-eyed peas resonates most strongly. “Roots,” Alex Haley’s 1976 book and the landmark television series of the same name, also shaped Twitty’s thinking, although both appeared before he was born. As a teenager, Twitty decided to emulate Haley by discovering the African American “roots” of Southern cooking.

The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival provided his first entree to the culinary world. In 1995, he jawboned his way into a Smithsonian internship. His mode of operation, then and now: Talk to people and get rejected as many times as it takes until you finally find your way inside. He stayed on at the Smithsonian off and on for six summers as an intern and later as a historical interpreter.

He has had a way of meeting people who encouraged him. At the Folklife Festival he met Joan Nathan, the Washington-based cookbook writer and Jewish food scholar, who taught him how to bake challah. He met Cara De Silva, author of “In Memory’s Kitchen,” a book of Holocaust victims’ recipes, who taught him that the dead speak to the living through food. At a conference he met the scholar Robert Farris Thompson, author of “Flash of the Spirit,” a book about the influence of African religions on African American art that helped him see that “soul food” was, among other things, a spiritual term describing a mystical connection between humans and the animals and plants they eat.

Food scholar Michael Twitty gardens and cooks at his home in Rockville. (D.A. Peterson/For The Washington Post)

In 1995, as a freshman, Twitty met famed playwright August Wilson at Howard University. The two talked, and their conversation helped Twitty understand that his deep commitment to research was the only credential he required. Wilson’s testament became his own. As Wilson wrote, “I stand myself squarely on the self defining ground of the slave quarter.” Like Wilson, Twitty insists on his right to define his own history.

While supporting himself by teaching Hebrew, he immersed himself in Southern antebellum cookbooks, looking for references to black cooks and African-based techniques. He traveled and went to conferences. On his own time. On his own dime.

He studied old recipes, including those for hominy and kush (the corn-based dish that later morphed into corn bread dressing) with Talmudic zeal. Recipes, he said, were texts from which he sought “to eke out every bit of their meaning.”

He cooked and he gardened. He studied heirloom seed varieties, some that had been brought from Africa and some that had been carried from the New World to Africa and then, on slave ships, back to North America, among them okra, black-eyed peas, kidney and lima beans, Scotch bonnet peppers, peanuts, millet, sorghum, watermelon, yams and sesame. He called those seeds “the repositories of our history” and wrote about them in a monograph published by Landreth Seed in its 2009 catalogue.

Learning about the derivation of plant varieties through generations of crossbreeding accentuated his longstanding fascination with his own genetic origins. He had a sense that if he overlapped a map showing where Afrocentric Southern foodstuffs and famous Southern recipes first appeared with a map showing where his slave ancestors had landed — where they and their offspring met, married and procreated and where his white ancestors forcibly mingled with his black ones — the two maps would overlap, together telling the story of the African American culinary diaspora.

Thus the quest for his genetic roots began. The point, he said, “was to tease out my own personal terroir, find out who I am as a cook, and as a historic chef.” He began with a swab of the cheek, extracting a DNA sample for genetic study. He has since had 13 more DNA tests, progressively more sophisticated. Turns out his origins are 69 percent African (his ancestors came from Ghana, Senegal, Congo, Nigeria and elsewhere) and 28 percent European (his white ancestors include Scandinavians and people from the Iberian Peninsula).

Working with genealogist Toni Carrier of Lowcountry Africana, he has thus far been able to identify and name at least a dozen new ancestors, black and white, going back two centuries.

Twitty’s embrace of all the various parts of himself — African, African American, European, black, white, gay, Jewish — sometimes raises hackles, as does his habit of speaking his mind. An article he wrote in the Guardian on July 4, 2015, suggesting that American barbecue “is as African as it is Native American and European, though enslaved Africans have largely been erased” from its story, elicited scorn and worse: Many commenters were outraged by his idea of barbecue as cultural appropriation.

Even scholars who appreciate Twitty’s insistence that the African and African Americans who helped create Southern cooking be recognized say he sometimes overstates his case. “What gives scholars pause is his tendency to make bold statements when more nuance is needed when writing about a time period — pre-colonial Africa — that is not well documented,” says Adrian Miller, James Beard Award-winning­ author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine.”

Twitty, who says he hopes to travel to Sierra Leone this spring to learn more about West African cooking, takes the criticism in stride. For him, the point is always the same: to keep learning. “You go over and over the same territory,” he says, always hoping to extract some new kernel of truth that will bring the story to life.

(Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)
(Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Iraq War Veteran’s Stolen Service Dog Found Safe, Returned To Owner

DOWNEY (CBSLA) — A heartbroken Army veteran received good news Tuesday when he learned that his service dog, who had been stolen Saturday night in Downey, was found safe in Anaheim.

&ldquoMarcee is home. &rdquo veteran Apolonio E. Munoz III wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon. &ldquoI got a call not too long ago from Downey PD that she was found by someone in Anaheim, that she was seen in a local park. They asked me to come by the station and see if this was Marcee I get there and she was excited to see me. She’s now home safe in her bed, won’t leave my side and the roommate’s dog is snuggled up with her giving her lots of attention and kisses.”

On Sunday, the 34-year-old Iraq war veteran explained in a Facebook post that while at an Arco gas station in the 10800 block of Lakewood Boulevard, his red Honda Civic was stolen Saturday night and Marcee — his 10-year-old pit bull mix — was inside.

Munoz went on to explain that Marcee was in training to be a service dog in order to help him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Thank you to everyone that helped bring her home, both Marcee and I are truly grat eful to everyone for their help and support during this difficult time,” Munoz wrote. “Now that she’s home, life can start to normalize and hopefully soon my car will also be found.”

While Munoz is relieved Marcee has been returned to him safely, his car — a red 2012 Honda Civic with California plate 7DAE374 — is still missing.

Anyone with information in the case was urged to contact Downey police at (562) 861-0771.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)ted. Wire services contributed to this report.)