Archive for Touring

Real ID and the burden on traveling interstate

As it is, you need to show your papers on demand. Entering any federal facility and, soon, to travel by air. you will need a certified identification. This is called “Real ID” and the Homeland Security Department has a Real ID FAQ page answering common questions about it. A driver’s license used to be sufficient to establish identity for most domestic needs but many states don’t meet federal requirements for a proper identification in issuing driver’s licenses. The Nevada DMV does have a process where you can upgrade your license to one that is suitable for Real ID requirements. See the NV DMV page on the Real ID Act in Nevada. To upgrade your paperwork, you need to dance through a few hoops, again.

You need to present proof of identity, Social Security number, and two residency documents in person at a DMV office one time only.

These are generally the same documents you used to obtain your Nevada license or ID the first time. You must show them again, plus two documents that show your Nevada residential address. You cannot obtain a Real ID card online or by mail.

You may upgrade to a Real ID license or ID at any time. The fee is $9.25, $8.25 for an ID card or $13.25 for a commercial license. Other changes of information, such as an address change or name change, may be included with no additional fee. If you are completing other transactions such as a renewal, the normal fees will apply and there is no additional fee to upgrade to a Real ID.

This isn’t the sort of thing you can do online, either. The question is how long it will take until you need an ID like this for access to NFS or BLM facilities or other federally controlled RV and camping areas. License, registration, proof of insurance … the burdens don’t seem to be getting any smaller.

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Shoulder Season

It is a challenge: winterize the RV or take one last spin. Joe Laing (Marketing Director for El Monte RV,) explains why Why fall is the best season for road trips — “Autumn travel means fewer crowds than summer, better weather than winter, and big savings on vacation costs—if you’re willing to do your homework“.

The leaves are turning, the birds are migrating and it’s time for bargain-minded travelers to plan some time away. Bring an extra sweater and plan to play cool weather golf—the discounted greens fees and uncrowded courses will make this your favorite season. Walk a rocky beach and then go back to the lodge for cocoa by the fire. Learn a mountain dance or two at a folk and bluegrass festival. Take a ranger-led hike in search of elk in heart of a national park.

Days are getting shorter, campfires more delicious, weather less predictable, and there is a tang in the air. It is invigorating is you are prepared.

For the SNU Folks – don’t forget Mesquite Spring in Death Valley at Halloween. A trip down U.S. 395 will likely feature fall colors and perhaps even snow-capped peaks in the Sierra. Maybe also snow covered roads on the passes so keep a close watch on and perhaps plan your route a day or so in advance with Weather Underground’s road trip planner.

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Maps, USGS, online

From the other side of the country the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Equipped takes note of Nearly Every USGS Topo Map Ever Made. For Free. from the USGS Map Locator and Downloader — “an incredible treasure trove for both map junkies and casual hikers alike.

One important thing to note is that, in general, the most recent topo maps listed are markedly different from their predecessors. Part of the new US Topo Series, these maps have been created as PDFs with geospatial extensions (GeoPDF), which gives you the ability to turn on and off different layers (contour lines, place names, water features, etc.) for viewing, depending on what information you are interested in. Unfortunately, however, trails are not currently included as one of these layers—a significant drawback for hiking.

Lastly, and one of the single-most useful online tools I’ve discovered in recent years, is the ability to overlay every USGS topo map on top of Google Earth, another free (and extremely powerful) tool to add to your trip planning quiver.

While you might be able to take the digital copy down to a local printshop to get a large paper copy, buying the paper copy from the USGS store might get you a better copy at less cost. There’s just something about a big map with lots of detail that isn’t there with the same map viewed on a display. Each has its uses: one is great for virtual exploring with a big table and a good light. The other works for active navigation and map editing. It’s also a lot easier to carry around an extensive map library when it is in the form of digital storage rather than large sheets of paper.

Right now, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Equipped blog has posts on the status of the New England fall color and Railbikes. Looks like a good blog to watch, even if I’m getting back east anytime soon.

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Manzanar National Historic Site

The U.S. is one of the very few countries to make a monument out of an embarrassment without outside provocation. The park service says it is One Camp, Ten Thousand Lives; One Camp, Ten Thousand Stories. Manzanar National Historic Site is 9 miles north of Lone Pine, CA.

See the photo gallery!

Get a glimpse of the psyche of the American people just after the Pearl Harbor attack. Keep in mind that modern ideas of ethnicity, nationality, and race were a luxury back then. Think about things that don’t change about people and how it could happen again in a different form.

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Mammoth Consolidated Mine August 2013

Just south of Lake Mary in the Mammoth Lakes area is the Mammoth Consolidated Mine, circa 1927-1933. If you are into touring abandoned facilities, this should be on your list.

See the photo gallery!

“The Mahan family was responsible for the Mammoth Consolidated, and donated the buildings and equipment that you see on the interpretive trail where remnants of buildings and machinery still stand.”

Samples indicated less than an ounce of silver and gold in a ton of ore or about $12.70 yield per ton in 1927.

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Mammoth Lakes, Devil’s Postpile, heading down US 395

After the Obsidian Dome rally, what to tour on the way home?

See the photo gallery!

Mammoth Lakes is a resort area and a good home base to tour the Devil’s Postpile, Lake Mary, Bishop, and other spots on the southern end of US 395 eastern Sierra Nevada.

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Sacramento to Gerlach Botanical Travelogue

If you want to know what is growing along the Truckee River corridor and then north to the Black Rock Desert, Tipidan’s Burning Man Botanical Travelogue provides a good summary.

“Herein we present, for the enjoyment and edification of Burning Man enthusiasts everywhere who travel through Nevada en route to their spatial and temporal goal: a botanical travelogue! I am a botanist, and this cyber-nature-walk will include many plants that you’ve seen by the side of the road for years in this desert. It’s time you became better acquainted!”

“The tops of the ridges that flank the Truckee River are covered with growth of a very interesting tree, the Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany. It too, is in the rose family” … ” extremely hard, wavy grained, and nearly impossible to cut with either axe or chainsaw”

“The City of Reno sits squarely within the Sagebrush Zone, but climate and human intervention have made Reno a much more interesting place. Reno has Japanese Red and Black Pines, numerous Ash, Big Tree Sequoia, Eastern Red Cedar, California Incense Cedar, true (Atlas) Cedar, Catalpa and my personal favorite, European Beech.” … “Reno is really a grand horticultural experiment in an early stage.”

Russian olive, tumbleweed, the Dutch Elm stories and many more … There is much to see and a bit of help like Tipidan offers provides a pointer to just what is out there.

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SNU Rally Weed Heights July 2013

When it gets hot, where do you go? Someplace with shade, breezes, and a good connection to the power grid! That puts the Weed Heights RV park high on the list for a July Rally.

weed heights SNU rally July 2013
See the photo gallery of the SNU Rally at Weed Heights.

This place is just outside Yerington in Lyon County about 30 miles southeast of Carson City as the crow flies (32 miles bearing 111). It is near the company housing for the retired Anaconda Mine. With the price of copper these days, there are some interested in going through the 360 million tons of tailings again. The EPA has spend the last ten years trying to find cause to label it a supersite for waste. They’ve spent a lot of money haven’t been able to make the case (yet).

Next year, the plan is to be there when the A Night in the Country will liven up Yerington. The event is a benefit to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mason Valley. There is dry camping at the Fairgrounds and it looks like that will be one big 24×7 party time there for the weekend.

The Weed Heights RV park is about 3 miles west and will serve as an overflow area or a camping spot for folks who want to spend the night sleeping or whatnot. You can tell the event managers have some experience as they ban booze, guns, and even pocket knives on premises along with video recorders and laser pointers. If you don’t like the rules, then look for Burning Man a bit later in the year … or maybe Hot August Nights, the Balloon Races, the Air Races, or some other event — lots going on in Northern Nevada.

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Toquima Range Tour

Did you notice these photo galleries? The Toguima Range Tour has several photo- tours. If you are thinking about touring central Nevada, check ’em out!

Charnock Pass looking towards the Toyabee Range over Big Smokey Valley

The tours include:

Toquima scenery

Belmont – Established in 1865, at one point it served as the seat of Nye County. The Courthouse is one of the most prominent buildings in Belmont. 1965 Rally in Belmont

Manhattan – Located in Nye County. It was originally established in the 1860’s then died off to be “re-discovered” around 1900.

Kingston – The more level ground around Kingston made it a good place to build mills for mining. Kingston as with many mining towns, had it’s own boom and bust cycle. The town currently has a population of around 200.

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Campsites: from then to now

What started as a ‘build your own’ when travelling has become something else. A Short History of the Campsite describes how culture and campsite and technology have kept pace. The story includes pictures!

“There is a satisfying immediacy about the prospect of establishing an encampment for the night — clearing the site, erecting the tent, chopping wood, building a fire and cooking over the live flame — that in turn suggests a meaningful connection to landscape, place and the rugged life of backwoods adventurers. In essence camping is an act of faith and survival, a way to buttress a modest, isolated human settlement against the forces of nature.”

“This summer millions of Americans will take to the road in search of this powerful experience of nature. And that parcel of land upon which most will elect to drive their car, set up their tent, park their trailer or RV is the campsite — which is thus not only an imagined ideal but also the fundamental unit of management of the modern campground.”

“Modern campsites embody a peculiar contradiction: They are defined and serviced by an increasingly sophisticated range of utilities and conveniences, and yet marketed to perpetuate the cherished American ideal of the backwoods camp.”

As an example, Sean describes his method for Finding overnight spots.

“I can probably start by saying we detest campgrounds. If we are in the forest, we’d rather be by ourselves in a clearing off a little-used dirt road than in a well-maintained Forest Service campground. If we are in a populated area, we’d rather be at Walmart, Cabela’s, or even parallel-parked on the street than in an RV park. Part of this preference is that we are cheap”

A campsite can be a way stop or it can be a destination or it can be a base for further adventure. It is your choice.

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Trip report: Reno to Flagstaff to Zion and back on the extraterrestrial highway

The Baxter’s report on roads and conditions on their southwest tour in six segments:

1 – Reno to Beatty NV – Used Highway 95, good whole way, with some construction and short delays. Stayed at Beatty RV Park, small (30 +/-) spots, exceptional restroom / showers.

2 – Beatty to Boulder City – Used Highways 95 & 93, roadways good except in/near Las Vegas, lots of construction and detour. Stayed at CanyonTrails RV park. Nice facility, large, nice level sites and clean restroom/showers. No trees, lots of sun…

3 – Boulder City to Flagstaff AZ – Used Highway 93, then Highway 40, good road conditions, #40 four lane and thus easy driving. Slow gradual climbs about 35 miles outside of Boulder City all the way to Flagstaff. Stayed at J&H RV Park. Small (35 +/-) sites. Well maintained and quiet. Billed as a “senior & adult ” park.

4 – Flagstaff to Zion National Park – Used Highway 89, then Alt 89 thru Hurricane and Virgin to enter Park from West
had been informed that the East entrance via 89 was lots of turns at end and also trucks, RVs, trailers needed special permit and traffic control to pass thru tunnel. Highway 89 and Alt 89 is two lane, good road surface and a few climbs,
nothing difficult at all. Stayed in WATCHMAN campground within Park. Had electricity at each site, no water. Campground full, wanted to extend stay could not due to no sites available. Recommend reservations pretty far in advance. This campground most convenient, can walk to Park shuttle, and thus all hiking trails were available to us.

5 – Zion National Park to Caliente NV Used I 15 to Cedar City, then Utah Highway51, then NV highway 6, then NV highway 93 south to Caliente. Road surface good, a few climbs, but nothing steep. Few fuel stops available, long stretches without town or many cars. Stayed in Youngs RV park. relatively small, mostly long term people here. We we put in a site with lawn/trees. Some other “itinerant” RV’ers showed up and were put in a large graveled area, no trees, no lawn, pretty barren. All sites had full hookups with WIFI. An ok place for a one night stand,

6 – Caliente NV to Hawthorne NV Used highway 93, then extraterrestrial highway, then highway 6, then highway 95. All road surfaces in excellent condition, Long slow gradual climb (4%,5% grade for 7 miles) out of Caliente NV. Not an extreme climb just long. 190 miles from Caliente to Tonopah…No fuel available!! No ATT cell phone service available for most of the run. Must have seen 8 or 9 cars on the extraterrestrial highway.

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RV GPS and Spring flood update

Oh Gizmo! says Rand McNally Unveils Their TripMaker RVND Navigation Device Designed Specifically For RV Enthusiasts.

the RVND 5510 will actually take into consideration the type, size and length of the RV you’re driving and will direct you to routes that are safe for travel with a large vehicle, even so far as to prioritize right-hand turns.

The RVND is also considerably larger than your standard GPS device, including a bigger screen (480×272 resolution), larger on-screen buttons and a speaker with a bit more kick.

This is an example of the personal navigation device evolution. Maps are becoming more and more current and up to date. Route planning is beginning to take into account vehicle capabilities and driver preferences. The stand alone devices like this are on one side and the online routing, such as Road Trip Planner at Weather Underground, providing current weather and traffic data are on the other. The missing pieces still provide a bit of frustration, though.

Another travel planning consideration this spring, especially in the western United States, is the spring floods. This, in part, is why Memphis is preparing for historic Mississippi flooding. PhysOrg provides a synopsis as La Nina brings flood risks and drought to the West

The winter and early spring have been extreme across the West, with record snowpacks bringing joy to skiers and urban water managers but severe flood risks to northern Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

And despite all the wet weather in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada, parts of eastern Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona are in severe drought and gearing up for what is forecast as a bad fire season.

This is a part of what the climatologists call the ENSO, which is an ocean temperature pattern in the Pacific near the equator that cycles every few years between warm and cold. In recent years, its impact on global weather patterns has become better defined.

There isn’t just one tool – yet – so you’ll need a collection to help plan your travels this spring. A PND, especially one with an RV focus can help while on the road. Online road trip planners can help you accommodate expected conditions in the next few days. Weather and climate reports can help you avoid floods and other such problems. Travel safe.

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What do you collect on your travels?

When you travel, do you collect anything? rocks? postcards? campground receipts? photographs?

A collection can be a way to drive your tours and there is one guy over on flickr that is into collecting pictures of courthouses and post offices.

What else is there that is so locale specific that you can collect and not worry about it taking up a lot of space in the RV?

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Have an old 35 mm film camera?

If you’ve got a lot invested, money or otherwise, in a 35 mm film camera and just don’t want to let it go despite no more Kodachrome processing labs and other problems, RE35 might be something to consider.

It is a digital sensor that acts like a 35 mm film canister. It has a flexible sensor that rolls out in place of film and is available in 4, 8, or 12 mp versions. Pictures are uploaded via USB cable to your computer.

The device is one of those ‘real soon now’ technology things – it might be available by next fall, maybe. Right now, the tech specs section of the website says “coming soon.” There are obviously some interesting challenges. One might be the need for film cameras to advance film to cock the camera for the next shot. Another will be cost.

But, if it all comes together, it might just put some more life into that old camera kit you used to use for travel photography.

take note, though, what was is not now on that website:

Thankyou for your interest in Re35.
Some good news:

The feedback to our “product” has truly been overwhelming. It seems Re-35 really addresses a need and people worldwide can‚t seem to wait to get their hands on our “product”.

The bad news:

Some things are to good to be true!
Re35 does not really exist. We (the design company Rogge & Pott) created Re35 as an exercise in identity-design. We invented the “product” because it was something, that we had wished for for a long time (as many others). We launched the website and sent out “press releases” on April first – thinking, that the date would make clear, that Re35 is just wishful thinking – a classic April Fools Prank! And we had to take the site down because of too much traffic.


All this attention Re35 ist getting might actually be good for something. It proves, that there is a gigantic community of photographers with analog equipment out there that is desperately waiting for a product like this to come along.

We hope there are no hard feelings

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Another rally, another weather watch

It seems the winter Aleutian Low has stretched its influence a bit farther south than usual this winter. Cliff Mass says California Gets Hits on March 22.

You want intense weather? Then head down to California! With a high amplitude trough over the eastern Pacific, one system after another is heading to California. Here are some amazing statistics

High winds at Point Reyes. Record rainfall in many locations in southern California.

The general pattern is going to continue for a while, but with a shift of the precipitation into central and northern CA. The mountains of northern CA will get hit by 2-5 inches of rain.

The Northern California Weather Blog has some water vapor pictures and weather charts showing the pressure cells.

Normally, it seems, we get a big storm that comes in via the pineapple express from Hawaii and dumps quite a bit of snow then heads on east. This winter seems to be more of a mother low cuddling the Alaska and Canada coasts that is getting ripped by the jet stream to throw smaller storms at the California coast. Some of these ‘smaller storms’ are really rather strong which means we not only get a bit of snow on the mountain roads, we also get wind warnings. Both mean poor driving conditions, often with road controls and driving restrictions.

So, for the SNU, its an emphasis on watching weather conditions and road controls just in time for another scheduled rally. That’s part of the reason for the choice of Weed Heights Full service RV Park as a rally site. That has a nice club house for gatherings and full facilities for living convenience and common routes to Yerington tend to avoid the high wind and snow areas somewhat.

On the positive side, though, is that much of the drought situation in the western U.S. has eased. The Sierra snow pack seems to be in good shape and lakes Powell and Meade are showing rising levels as the Colorado River drainage basin also gets some good snow.

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Road trip

142,000 miles in a 1928 Graham-Paige car that tops out at 40 mph; visit 24 countries; build a family of 4 children along the way. “The Zapps have produced a book called Spark Your Dream which helps to fund the essentials like food and petrol.” Pictures at Ultimate road trip: couple drive 142,000 miles, visit 24 countries and have four children on Refreshing News.

“We were happy, we had everything a young couple could want, but we felt we had to go,” said Herman. “My grandfather knew that we wanted to travel and to never stop so he gave me the old Graham-Paige car he used on his farm and gave me some advice. He told me, ‘If you want to get far, you need to go slowly’, so what could be better than a vintage car?”

Some folks just dream, others live it. Others wonder how on earth they survived the experience or question whether its real or not.

The book on Amazona review at dumamboo

One thing that surprised me, from photos, is that the Zapps appear to be anatomically normal. I figured that crossing the world for six-plus years in an antique car with no shock absorbers would give you giant calloused baboon ass. [workbench]

But how do you get from Argentina to Alaska via Asia and Australia, anyway?

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US 93, the Great Basin Scenic Highway

It’s the eastern Nevada north and south route between Las Vegas and Twin Falls. US 93 is designated as the Great Basin Scenic Highway. It follows the valleys between the mountain ranges for long straight uneventful two lane highway travel – with a lot of scenic vistas.

See the photo gallery!

There are a number of Nevada State Parks, Wilderness areas, and OHV trails along the route as well as the Great Basin National Park. This photo tour is for the section between I15 and US 50.

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Silver State Trails

The summary of Public Law 109-432 describes the charge to the BLM to create wilderness areas and the Silver State Off-Highway Vehicle Trail in White Pine County. You can see roadsigns along US 93 and NV 318 for access points.

Maps can be found at Nevada Trail Maps or you can get a Google Earth kmz file at Offroading Home (Nevada Trails).

The trails and scenic areas could make for good day trips while you are stopped at one of the several Nevada State Parks in the area. You might also find some good spots for dispersed camping as much of the trail appears to be mining and ranching road. Parts would definitely not be suitable for an RV but then there just might be some spots with roads sufficient to RV access with due care. maybe.

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The Wheelers

Out in the Airstream, Wheels and Doris have logged a few adventures and share pictures. See their travelogues page.

Andy went along for the ride, too!

See pictures of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum, the Airstream Factory in Jackson, and US Naval Air Station in Wildwood NJ in 2008. There’s a photo gallery of a Zip Dee awning that suffered some damage. Also see the pictures from the Region 12 rally in Santa Maria, CA in 2009.

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The value of a good map: blaming technology is foolish

The Donner Party is famous because of what happened after it got caught in an early snowstorm on the east side of the Sierras. They were delayed in the journey to California because the guide they hired knew about a shortcut in Utah that turned out to be not really suitable for a wagon train.

The same thing happens today, more than 150 years later. Death by GPS in desert illustrates that the guide these days is the maps embedded in GPS navigation units. You will nearly always find these sorts of stories blaming “GPS” when it is really the maps (the guide) people use and the judgment they employ in their travel based on those maps.

These are not just stories of unimaginable suffering. They are reminders that even with a growing suite of digital devices at our side, technology cannot guarantee survival in the wild. Worse, it is giving many a false sense of security and luring some into danger and death.

Technology, of course, is not the only denominator to those disasters. Others include poor planning, faulty judgment, bad luck and the lemming-like rush of visitors to Death Valley in the summer, many of them unfamiliar with the danger – making heat-related illness and fatalities nearly as predictable as the searing temperatures.

But then the header is “Not all GPS units reliable” … The article is full of assertions like “the unit directed them” and “tourists are being led into danger by technology” as if the driver had no choice in the matter. But the truth is in there if you read carefully such as about four tourists who disappeared.

The German tourists “made some classic errors,” said Callagan, the Death Valley wilderness coordinator. “They had no business being where they were in a van, alone, in the summer. They didn’t have a good map. The road systems out in Butte Valley are confusing. They were traveling in the summer, unprepared. Did they have 10 gallons of water? No. They had very little.”

The GPS is not the only guide that may lead you astray. On a forums discussion an RVer was asking about dispersed camping in the Mojave National Preserve. He got two responses. One said to stick to the established campgrounds and avoid off road camping until he had had a chance to investigate them personally. The other said that there were a lot of places where he could pull of the road for an overnight. It is true that there are many such places but what happens when you find you have left an established road at sundown for a trail with no way to turn around or where the trail rapidly degrades to deep soft sand? How do you know who to trust?

This is related to those folks who decide to do a bit of back country hiking near a resort location like South Lake Tahoe. They don’t go prepared. They don’t have a good map. They just hope their cell phone will work to call for help. It may work near a populous area but in places like Death Valley, the odds of a cell phone working are remote, even on the main roads.

We do have very good maps these days. You can know exactly where you are with a good deal of precision nearly anywhere. Vehicles are incredibly reliable and capable. Search and Rescue teams have tools and techniques (and practice in their use) that give them capabilities to find lost travelers like never before. As the Sacramento Bee article notes, though, there is no substitute for proper preparation and good judgment. Never underestimate the wilderness.

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