Archive for Preparing


Lifehacker says Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush Makes Packing a Snap. The reference is to several websites that will help you with trip planning.

Tell Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush where you are going and when, and it will generate a list of potential things you need to do based on your travel type. The to-do list is divided into advanced planning, two weeks before, one week before, the day before, the night before, and as you are leaving for the trip.

You customize the checklist for your particular needs. This site appears to be advertising supported with user registration.

The Universal Packing List is an experienced honed, fill in the conditions, get a list type of website.

Normally people pack their bags the night before. This is a mistake! Give it one day more in advance per week of travel, so start packing three days in advance if you’re packing for a three week trip. This way you will avoid some of the stress inevitable the last day before you leave, and you get some extra time buying (or in other ways get) the things you realize you need. Or remove what you really don’t need.

The About UPL page has some good information, too.

Whether you are heading off on an airplane to visit relatives for Christmas or planning an RV expedition, there is help and assistance available for you to minimize the chance you’ll forget something important.

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Oral health and survival dentistry

Survival Dentistry, by The Army Dentist is worth reading for a viewpoint on issues that are sometimes encountered by the RVer.

I would like to present a summary of the caries process and the best way to prevent dental pathology in the first place, a simple way to recognize and or loosely categorize dental symptoms, and some simple treatment alternatives until definitive care can be reached.

A short essay with some hidden gems it will reinforce what you need to do for prevention, basic treatments, and what is going on behind the symptoms you encounter.

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Report on wilderness emergency assistance in Utah

Paul Auerbach, M.D. has an interesting review about report on Search and Rescue and EMS in Utah’s National Parks.

For a five year period, emergency medical (EMS) calls, at about 1000 per year, were about twice the search and rescue (SAR) calls. The SAR responses averaged a cost of about $600 each.

In addition to identifying the specific parks needing EMS and SAR support, this study points out that there is a predictability to the nature of incidents, as well the expense of providing support. Interestingly, it was not possible to determine if the availability of mobile (cellular) phones, which were used to initiate 21% of SAR operations, made it easier to seek help and thereby somehow increased the number of operations. In more detailed analysis, the authors concluded that judgment errors, inadequate preparation and experience, physical conditioning, falls, and darkness were common factors contributing to the need for SAR. If for no reason other than this observation, the study is important support for education programs and resource allocation planning for EMS, SAR, and medical support in wilderness recreation areas.

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The excitement builds! Anticipating the first winter storm

The Reno Gazette Journal got out its pre-storm anticipation stories tonight. See A driver’s guide to chain controls, Storm: list of items every home needs, Seven-day forecast for Reno, and Top Sierra Nevada storms since 1950.

It looks like you don’t want to be in an RV on US 395 south of Reno starting Friday and on through Saturday, especially in the parts towards Bishop. The problem will be wind but a bit of snow may accumulate in areas.

You must have chains in your vehicle when you enter a designated chain control area when the sign is up saying “chains required”. If towing a trailer, make sure you have chains for it, too.

As for emergency supplies – check your RV inventory! The stuff, like food and water, that is perishable or can be damaged by cold should be in a handy spot in the house. The key is to make sure you can get by for a few days even if the electricity goes out or the pipes freeze.

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Winter weather outlook worries

The NWS has a special statement out for Washoe County about a change in the weather due this weekend (Change to Winter Conditions this Weekend — SNU meeting weekend – Luncheon Saturday December 13, 2008!). Ontario Weather Service is talking about “SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – December 8, 2008 ( Rare 50 year Arctic Blast Sets Sights On Southern California.”

This is yet a week out which is long for forecasting. But the weather people do appear worried and it is about time for a winter pattern to set in. Be prepared. Make sure your rig is winterized and everything is set to handle a good hard freeze. Make sure your house is also prepared with windows sealed and whatever else needs to be done to remain safe and comfortable over winter.

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CO and other detectors and alarms

The need was for an oxygen concentrator prescription after heart surgery. The solution was a genset in the back of the tow truck. The problem was CO getting into the RV when the wind went the wrong direction.

You must have functioning detectors and alarms in your RV anytime you are anywhere near anything combusting including gensets, furnaces, RV refrigerators, or catalytic or similar space heaters. You should also have combustible gas detectors in case of leaks. (See the Safe Home Products Page for definitions)

RV ratings for alarms and detectors account for the confined space in an RV and the broader range of expected temperature and other conditions, among other things. Make sure any alarms and detectors in your RV have a proper UL listing for RV use.

Detectors age and may need replacement every few years or so. Read the owner’s manual for guidance on this.

Where detectors are installed depends upon what it is trying to detect. Smoke and CO detectors are usually placed high on the wall and combustable gas detectors low.

Check the UL page on CO Product Safety Tips or PDF

The Safe T Alert is a common detector for RV’s. It runs on 8-16v with a 60mA current draw and an operational temperature range of -40F to +140F – this provides a contrast to the usual 110v +40F to +100F specifications for a typical household detector. (Camping World has these for a bit under $60 – Safe-T-Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector with FREE Smoke Alarm and Safe-T-Alert Detectors)

Here’s an Atwood RV alarm at PPL with a digital display that also runs a bit under $60. With a display, you can see how much the stove and oven add to rig CO content. See the battery powered CO Detector at Atwood. Be careful not to use micro measuring to feed paranoic tendencies!

Here’s the Atwood for about $50 at Mac the Fire Guy along with some other fire safety stuff.

The Army has Guidance on the Use of Heaters Inside Tents and Other Enclosed Shelters.

RV Safety Systems has Safety Related Alarm Systems for Buses/Motorhomes that provides some good data as well as descriptions of other alarms you might consider.

The Wisonsin Department of Health Services has a good summary of Portable Generator Hazards that includes CO as well as electrical hazards.

Make sure you have the detectors you need and that they are working properly when you use your RV. It is much better to be awakened in the night by an obnoxious alarm than to suffer fire or other disaster.

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Potluck food safety tips

Hot Hots And Cool Cools Protect Picnics – Cross-Contamination, Bad Temperatures Can Aid Bacteria by Shiloh Woolman, Staff writer at Fox news describes a few things to keep in mind when you want to take the dinner outside.

Temperatures? the 40/140 rule; avoid cross contamination; cook the meat properly; see the article for a number of things to keep in mind to make sure you minimize the risk of an unpleasant day after.

Don’t forget to check the sidebar links: basics Food Safety Smarts and others (many at revolution health – watch out for ads)

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Weather radio features

Severe weather is no joke. A radio that will warn you of impending dangerous weather can be very handy. NOAA provides SAME encoding on their weather stations to allow radios to automatically detect when they transmit alerts, warnings, or watches. The problem is that the coverage of these weather stations in the Great Basin area is rather weak. Here is the NOAA coverage map for Nevada.

There are some features to look for if you plan on adding a weather radio to your RV inventory. Most of these radios have battery backup so the question is whether they will run off internal batteries or your RV battery system, and for how long. The ability to use an external antenna will allow you to get better reception than you’d get with an antenna trapped within the walls of your RV.

For SAME decoding, the features to consider involve how difficult it is to customize the radio. How does it set the county code so you can have the radio alert you only when something is happening near where you happen to be? Can you set the radio to alert you only for certain levels of urgency (watch, warning, alert) and only for specific weather hazards?

You should also think about what you should do in a weather emergency. Determine whether it is better to stay inside the RV or to seek shelter. In tornado country, you should always be aware of a place to go that will shelter you from the tornado. It is usually not the best idea to try to outrun weather but you can plan in advance and avoid areas where severe weather is predicted.

In the Great Basin area, winds are perhaps the most common weather hazard. Flash floods are also possible. A hot spell can be a safety hazard to balance out the winter storms on occasion. Severe weather is a risk and you can minimize the risk by being aware of the weather before you head out and monitoring the weather radio if reception is available where you are camping.

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ID Theft: should you worry and what you might do

ID Theft is getting a lot of attention. That means the wolves are out after your money for protection schemes so you don’t get your identity stolen. The RV community is particularly vulnerable because many financial transactions are away from home with strangers. You need to know the risk so you don’t buy insurance you don’t need but also don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk you can’t afford.

The Nevada Attorney General has a special page for Identity Theft in Nevada. You can hear radio adds for companies that will sell you protection for a small fee per month.

Should this really be a worry for you? How much of a problem is it, really? What should you do to protect yourself. Information Week has a good rundown answering these questions at ID Theft Monitoring Services: What You Need To Know .

Every time there is a breach of personal information, it seems you see a headline. “over 225 million records containing sensitive, personal information have been compromised since January 2005, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.” Not all of these ended up in ID theft and “an Identity Theft Research Center study found that in almost half of all identity theft cases, the victim believed the perpetrator had been family or a friend.)”

If your identity is also stolen and misused, it can take up to 44 hours and $1,200 to clean up the mess. That’s the exception with only 10% or so of the cases. The median is 4 hours and, for half the cases, usually no financial loss.

There are identity thefts that involve more than financial matters. Medical ID theft can be used to obtain ER care with the side effect of confusing your medical records. Social Security fraud can result in your getting into a mess with the IRS. Criminal identity theft is where the police are mislead about who they arrest which means they might come after you when the criminal skips town.

The article mentions some of the things you can do to minimize ID theft. You should watch your credit reports for any improper activity. Put a credit freeze on credit reports so anyone seeking to verify your credit worthiness needs to ask you first. Use credit cards, which have a capped loss, rather than debit cards which have the risk that misuse can clear out your bank account. See the NV AG site for more ideas and links to resources.

Other resources:

Ohio Lemon Law has a list of theft indications and what you can do.

The Owner’s Guide has some tips and links and advice.

The Escapees Club brags about their membership benefit of ID theft insurance.

Now relax, think it through, and don’t let fear send you into spending money for insurance or services that might not really be cost effective for you

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Find me! A status and emergency location service

findmespot is a gadget that uses GPS plus a satellite uplink to send a google maps link to someone to let them know where you are. It also has an emergency function that will send a distress call to search and rescue. Cost is about $100/year and they have a link to insurance that will pay search and rescue costs, too, if you need it. Since this doesn’t use cell phones or other land based communications, it will work just about everywhere there is a clear sky (continental, mostly – see the coverage map at the website). That means it might be a good thing to have if you do a lot of great basin exploring in areas as shown at the maps link!

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What to do when someone collapses – CPR update

The American Heart Association has updated their recommendations about what to do when someone has heart failure. There is a new website, Hands only CPR that tells you what to do.

When an adult suddenly collapses, trained or untrained bystanders – that means a person near the victim – should:

1) Call 911
2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Studies of real emergencies that have occurred in homes, at work or in public locations, show that these two steps, called Hands-Only CPR, can be as effective as conventional CPR. Providing Hands-Only CPR to an adult who has collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest can more than double that person’s chance of survival.

Don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.

The mouth to mouth breathing thing has not been found to be very effective so chest compression only is the new standard. See the FAQ and resources on the website and learn more!

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Finding Obsidian Dome

Using the site, you can see the Obsidian road intersection with US 395. Anita notes that there may not be turn lanes so you need to be careful about traffic. (latitude 37.774798, longitude -119.014281) [UPDATE: yes, nice turn lanes to get out of traffic to turn is good, but no acceleration lanes so getting back on the highway means waiting for a good hole in the traffic]

The campsite itself is between the loop and the dome near the center of this view. (latitude 37.749565, longitude -119.021641). In the Satellite view you can see the slide to the east of the camp area that goes down into a small crater. You can also see the mining road that goes up the side of the dome.

Note that the road goes nearly all the way around the dome leaving US 395 a couple of miles northeast then going around the west side of the dome to end on the south face. Somewhere along the way, it changes from Obsidian road to Glass Creek road. On the map, Glass Creek road whithers to a trail for about 2 kilometers as it heads back to US 395. There is also a trail that continues on to the east around the base of the dome and then towards US 395 across some areas that appear rather devoid of vegetation. This area may be one the ATV crowd likes to cruise around in.

You can find more about this rally and the dome by searching this blog for “obsidian”. See Fires close roads and campgrounds to check for conditions before you head out. Check out Going to an Eastern Sierra Rally this weekend? for links about gas prices. Weather and other background links are highlighted at Background for Obsidian Dome.

South of Conway Pass Photo Gallery Update links to several photo galleries.

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Fires close roads and campgrounds

Thunderstorms with lightning moved through the Sierra’s this afternoon and started a bunch more fires. US 395 is closed north of Bordertown and south of Mammoth where the June Lake Loop is being used as a bypass.

For those planning on the SNU Obsidian Dome Rally, here are some links to bookmark so you can keep current on what’s closed and where the fires are and what is happening.

The Incident Information System website is a hardcore data source. The page is a table with all incidents summarized that you can sort and select to help you find what you are looking for.

Inyo complex fire on InciWeb – this is the InciWeb that gives you the status of the fire and its impact.

Inyo current conditions – The Inyo National Forest news headlines.

Inyo NF on Inyo complex fire – a PSA on the fire in progress.

Here’s the CalTrans site where you can enter a road number and get current conditions in California. Nevada doesn’t seem to be much interesting in road conditions other than for construction or winter weather.

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Budgeting for full time

Over on the Escapees forum is a post that summarizes a lot of experience on the budgets of full timers. One of the features of the report is that it lists the sources so you can go see where the numbers came from.

The report lists annual campground expense as ranging under $400 to over $5,400. Food expenses ranged from $1400 to almost $11,000. Fuel ran between $1700 and $6800. To these basics you’d also need to add personal items, health expense, RV maintenance and other things.

If you are planning some extensive time in your RV, you should check out the links to see how others do it, what they spend their money on, and what they think they need to be comfortable living in an RV. From that, you can better plan your own adventure.

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How much can you tow?

One vehicle rating that is often more marketing than reality is the one that specifies what the vehicle can tow. There is no good engineering standard to use as a reference to be able to compare one vehicle to another. The Houston Chronicle reports that Towing claims may soon meet reality. “DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota are working to create a standard test for the towing capacity they advertise to attract buyers.”

What these Automakers plan to do is to come up with a set of tests to use to determine what a particular vehicle can tow. They plan to require ‘ready to sell’ vehicles with a standard trailer for these tests. The idea is to make things as comparable as possible so that buyers can get something like the CAFE fuel mileage numbers for towing capability comparisons. Some of the things they intend to test include:

•Acceleration to freeway speed.
•The ability to drive at a set speed for several miles up a defined slope.
•Braking capability from a set speed.
•Handling and stability in lane changes.

This kind of rating will probably not make much of an impact on the ‘weight police’ that troll the forums to condemn anyone not using an HDT to tow a popup. But a good set of tests could well be useful to potential buyers and might start a fad like Vista has with its computer metrics.

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USPS stamps – postal rates increase yet again

Do you depend upon mail forwarding? It is going to get more expensive, again. Just over a year ago (8 January 2006) letter postage went from 37 to 39 cents and postcards from 23 to 24. It will soon increase again but this time with a solution to the constant increase hassle.

The Multi Channel Merchant reports Postal Board Approves Majority of Rates for May 14 Implementation. They are concerned because the rate increase will have a severe impact on catalogs. It does not appear that it will have as much of an impact on periodicals, though.

Fox News notes that, as a part of this increase, Postal Service’s ‘Forever’ Stamp to Debut in May; First-Class Stamp Price to Rise to 41 Cents. Letter postage will increase to 41 cents, postcards to 26, and one pound priority mail to $4.60. The Postal Reporter has a table showing the old and new rates.

That ‘forever’ first class postage stamp is an ‘its about time’ idea. It will sell at whatever the current going rate is but will not be marked with a denomination. Even if purchased before a future rate increase, it will still be valid first class letter mail postage.

See also the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers and the USPS Domestic Mail Manual Advisory for background and additional information.

This puts even more incentive towards making use of online banking front ended by credit and debit cards. Bills and payments never hit the postal system and you don’t have to worry about someone stealing stuff out of your mailbox. But you do have to worry about a good Internet connection and safe computing practice.

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Winter storms strand motorists in Texas

It is one thing to get stranded on I-5 waiting for a storm to pass and the road over the Siskiyou‘s to get cleared. But I-10 in Texas? See Winter storm closes I-10, strands motorists in West Texas – and Storm leaves 55 dead, thousands shivering –

Motels get full and travelers often find themselves on the floor of an armory or other public facility when this happens. It may take several days to get the road cleared. With your own RV you can be a bit more comfortable, but only if you are prepared. A first part of that preparation is to respect winter weather and what it can do.

Update: Driving Safely On Icy Roads, AAA’s Robert Sinclair Offers Expert Advice – CBS News and its reference “For much more on this from AAA, click here

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Andy Thompson on towing

Andy is one of the Can Am RV folks in Ontario who knows a lot about setting up towing rigs from actual experience and experiment. He posted several messages on RV.Net before he got hounded out by the zealots. If you are looking for sound advice on towing myths and understanding towing handling, check these posts.

“Our Store has been installing custom made hitches and setting up tow vehicles since 1970. We began to seriously experiment with smaller vehicles in 1977 when the first downsizing of full size cars occurred. We were as shocked as anyone when we discovered that a smaller car with a smaller engine actually outperformed and definitely out handled the previous models.”

These links go through the Trailer Life access to the forums

Towing “Myths” and “Urban Legends” – about the wheelbase rule of thumb, LT tires, SUV’s for towing, manufacture tow limits rule, Hensley hitches, overdrive, suspension components, half vs 3/4 ton towers, towing speeds,

Towing “Myths” and “Urban Legends” – the issue of factory warranty on equipping and towing tow vehicles

Chrysler 300C towing a 28′ Air Stream – looking for sanity and sense in safe towing.

Take a look at the rest of these threads as well and you can find a lot to help you understand how to make your experience a safe experience.

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Lost pets

When you take your pet with you, there is always a worry that the pet might get lost on the road. reports that Dogs Get Found, Cats Stay Lost.

The findings, published in the Jan. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, found that while 71 percent of lost dogs in the Dayton, Ohio, area were reunited with their owners, only 53 percent of lost cats ended up back at home.

The reason appears to be that dogs are more likely to have identification on them that helps make the connection between dog and owner. So there are several things to do to make sure a lost pet doesn’t stay lost. First is to make sure your pet carries identification and second is to let people know you are missing a pet.

Identification means both a microchip and a collar tag. On cats, especially, people may not think to look for a microchip. It also appears that there are different flavors of microchip and that may cause difficulty in identifying and reading them. Redundancy by having both chip and collar tag increases the odds that your pet will be identified as lost and a reunion made possible.

Notify people in the area in which the pet was lost and the nearby animal shelter that you are looking for your pet and need help. The shelter may dispose of a pet if it isn’t aware that it is being sought. Local residents will often keep a look out for you, too.

And always, take precautions to keep your pet from getting lost in the first place. This means always keeping the animal under leash or otherwise constrained. Watch out for unlatched doors and for surprise circumstances that may cause a bolt. Be prepared.

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Ice storms, be prepared

The Dallas To Chicago corridor is one any trans-national trip must cross. In winter, it is also the battleground between dry and cold Canadian artic air and wet and warm gulf air. The result can make for very bad driving conditions.

The current conditions are an extreme example. If you can’t get off the road and hunker down for a while, you need to be prepared and take precautions. RV News Magazine reports on NAPA Advises Drivers on How to Avoid Winter Driving Mishaps

While hitting a NAPA repair facility for a checkout isn’t really necessary, you do need to make sure your equipment is in top notch condition.

Below are crucial tips for winter drivers to keep in mind:

  • Keep lots of distance between you and the car ahead.
  • Slow down considerably before going into a curve.
  • Try to avoid having to stop while driving up a hill.
  • Start braking sooner, especially when driving toward an intersection. The constant stopping and starting of cars causes the snow to pack and the intersection to become slick.

NAPA recommends equipping vehicles with the following basic, but essential winter supplies:

  • Snow shovel
  • Ice scraper with snowbrush on one end
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Abrasive material to help with traction (sand, cat litter, salt or traction mats)
  • Jumper cables
  • Candles, matches or lighter and high-energy food (chocolate or dried fruit is always good)
  • Warning device (flares or reflective triangles)
  • Winter clothes, boots, sleeping bags and blankets
  • First-aid supplies

Keep in mind that what you do carry may need protection from freezing. You can go through propane and battery in a hurry if camping in cold weather. So, if you must, be prepared, take precautions, and enjoy winter in whatever way you can.

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