Archive for Touring

Virtual exploring – finding a place to camp before you get there.

What with Google’s Earth and Maps and other resources, you can explore before you go from home. All you need is a decent I’net connection and a PC or tablet (screen size matters in viewing satellite pictures!) Dave Helgeson’s 26 Minute YouTube video include tips and techniques you can use to determine if a spot you find is suitable for an RV stayover.

Published on Oct 4, 2016
This is part three in a series: RV Boondocking expert Dave Helgeson presents his popular seminar “Boondocking Using Google Earth.” Even if you have boondocked for years, you’ll pick up some valuable tips here about how to find places to camp “in the middle of nowhere” before you even leave home! Dave will show you how to spot promising locations by using Google Earth, and then determine how to get there, and even to know if the terrain suitable — even level enough — for RVs. This should be a must-view for all RVers who like to camp away from the crowds using their on-board systems to sustain them for days or even weeks at a time. Nearly all the locations Dave shows you are on public lands, where the camping is free.

Google Earth will tell you the altitude as you traverse the pointer over a route. From that you can tell if the road has a significant grade or elevation change. Dave didn’t mention that Google maps will provide an altitude profile when you set the transportation mode to bicycle. So, if you can get maps to show you a route from, say, the highway to your campsite, you can see a graph of altitude along the route.

Others have used the satellite and road views to check out fuel stops as well as to look for camping areas. It’s virtual touring where you can see if an actual visit is feasible for your rig. One caveat though: things change. We had a gully wash out on the road to our Sweetwater Summit camping area that was almost enough to block getting through. That was due to recent rains and providing a reminder that surprises can happen, especially when you get off ‘official’ routes and roads where there isn’t much traffic. Take care. Be prepared.

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USGS topographic maps courtesy National Geographic

There’s another way to get those high resolution USGS topographic 15′ and 7.5′ maps courtesy of National Geographic. See This should come up with a US overview. You need to hit the +/- buttons to zoom in and drag to the area of interest. Once you zoom in far enough, you’ll see a grid of red markers on the map. Click on one of these markers to pop up a map reference. Click on the map icon in the box and you’ll get a 5 page PDF with the first page a 15′ index to four 7.5 minute maps on the following pages.

Of course, you can also go to the USGS store and order the traditional paper copies or get free online versions (if you support the proper plugin). The NFS also has maps which have a lot of detail to the national forests for hikers and campers. If you are planning on travel in the forests with any vehicle “The following motor vehicle use maps have been prepared and issued under 36 CFR 212.56, and identify those roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use.” The MVUM are needed so you can make sure to keep your vehicle only on authorized roads.

To avoid the experience of those who blindly followed a personal navigation device (GPS) and have a tale of doom to tell, keep in mind Rule 1: never travel blind. Know your maps and where they came from.

The USGS and NFS maps have a lot of roads and trails you would not want to take your RV on. The state map have road maps a bit more suited for planning an RV trek (Nevada Department of Transportation Maps here). You can also often get a free paper map (Request a Nevada State Highway Map) that shows the major roads and has good tourist and visitor information as well.

The problem with PND/GPS maps is that they are hidden and electronic and the only source you know about is the brand name on the device. Fortunately, technology is making it easier to keep maps up to date, to cross verify maps with other sources, and to obtain current traffic and hazard information. The 511 home ( now provides links to highway cameras so you can see current traffic in some areas. Google also provides road traffic flow information for those who are using cell phones with location turned on. Waze is a social media app that can be used to report traffic situations, too. 

Maps can be fun, educational, and attractive art as well as utilitarian. The options available now are incredible. Be informed. Travel safe.

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A trip south on 95

Here’s one: Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Highway 95, Redlich, Columbus Salt Marsh, and Another View of Boundary Peak

Through Nevada, Highway 95 wanders around quite a bit, attaining a nearly north-south bearing only within four relatively short sections: 1) the Winnemucca to McDermitt section, 2) a section south of I-80, running from Trinity to Hawthorne, 3) the Tonopah to Lida Junction section, and 4) the section running from Boulder City to the California state line. Much of 95’s wanderings, especially those that occur between Hawthorne and Las Vegas, are caused by the highway’s attempt to stay within the state while being subjected to Nevada’s western diagonal border. To do that, the road keeps cutting east, then south, then east again, every now and then actually attaining near parallelism to the diagonal, while completing three major south-to-east curves. These curves are at Hawthorne, at Coaldale Junction, and at or just south of Beatty.

The Silver Fox mentions Lucky Boy and Anchorite passes by description but doesn’t name them. She provides a good rundown on the route and provides some pictures to peruse. For more on this route, see our Destinations page Down the middle of Nevada on Highway 95 – The Bonanza Highway.

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Might you one day have a custom tour guide for your RV?

A geologist decided it would be nice to share what he could see out the window on airplane flights. He built an app. John Farrier describes How a Geologist Designed the Perfect App for the Window Seat.

You can look out the window on the airplane and see beautiful mountains, seas, islands, rivers, and more. What are you looking at? There’s an app for that. Shane Loeffler, a geologist, developed Flyover Country, an app that shows air travelers what geological formations they’re flying over. He tells Fast Co Design that he came up with the idea while flying on a plane

Loeffler wants to develop the app further with augmented reality so that you can simply hold up your phone and Flyover Country will automatically display the geology of the area.

You can get a bit of this with GPS devices and apps that show contour lines. For the RV tours, it would be nice to do this with a tour guide that would tell you what was coming into view and what was interesting or significant about it. There are some steps in this direction but it remains an open opportunity. There are also some efforts to link Wikipedia with mapping software that head in this direction. You can get an app that will show you constellations and stars when you hold it up to the sky at night.

Some of the features that might be useful include offline caching such as Google Maps uses, being able to specify commentary focus such as geology, history, agriculture, architecture, local cultural lore, and others. You might also be able to choose a ‘sophistication’ level from ignorant tourist to topic expert to match the commentary to your needs and interests. The tour guide needs to be location and travel aware so it can comment and what is coming up in a timely manner, It needs to talk to you so as to minimize driving distractions. 

Tour books have been around for ages. A major benefit of touring is knowing what it is that you see. New technologies are raising the possibilities for investigating and learning about the places where you travel and visit. The ingredients are all there. Putting them together in a delicious recipe has some work to be done. 

Can’t wait!

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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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