Archive for Touring

USA Parkway Nevada Route 439 Option

If you are looking for a shortcut between Reno and Silver Springs, the USA Parkway, Nevada route 439 (wikipedia) might save you ten miles. Whether it will save time is another matter. KOLO TV says “The parkway is projected to reduce travel times by as much as 38% for people traveling between U.S. 50 and I-80.”

Route 439 is a four lane divided boulevard between I80 and US50 to provide transportation services to the warehouses and manufacturing facilities at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center (TRIC). It is considered a “Minor Rural Arterial” (NDOT Report). Here is what the report says about time savings:

“Once USA Parkway is fully built from I-80 through to US 50, the distance between Reno and Silver Springs will be reduced by about 10 miles. It is believed that most of the travel between these two locations will use the new USA Parkway. The average velocity on the existing route on US 95A, through Fernley then on I 80, is 60 mph. The new USA Parkway will have a posted speed limit of 50 mph so that was chosen for the average velocity

The reality after construction is that the first few miles with the most congestion has a 35 mph speed limit and much of the rest is 45 mph. In addition, most of the route is up and down hills. The grade on these hills is like going over Donner Summit on I80 or heading north from Reno on US395. With an RV or heavy vehicle, you will need to keep in mind the drag going up hill and the push going down. The road has been subject to controls during storms over the last two winters. 

The ‘old’ route to Fernley and down Alt US95 has a shorter congestion path, excellent gas prices, and only one grade of note. It is freeway and highway with higher speed limits than the boulevard. This route may have a lower wild horse hazard as it is better fenced and, it seems, the folks in the TRIC seem to think horses wandering around is a feature and not a bug.

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Automatic route planning – a 32% grade?

You may have seen stories about neighborhoods being annoyed by social traffic apps routing around congestion into their streets. Here’s one: Waze’s crazy routing over a 32% grade road is driving residents nuts by Cyrus Farivar – “I’ve seen five or six cars smash into other cars, and it’s getting worse.” No, it’s not Route 89 around Zephyr Cove or San Francisco somewhere, it’s in Los Angeles.

It’s a common story: small towns and residents living on once-quiet streets are sometimes annoyed by the influx of traffic that Waze, traffic wayfinding apps, and ride-hailing services have wrought.

But residents along Baxter Street in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood—reportedly one of the steepest streets in America (comprising two major hills)—are now banding together to try to change local traffic patterns. Neighbors have contacted city officials and Waze’s parent company, Google, to try to mitigate the problem.

They believe that a lot of drivers are using Baxter as a way to avoid Glendale Boulevard, a nearby thoroughfare.

That might be an OK detour for a commuter but it highlights a problem with automatic routing for RV’s. Even if you use satellite views you might not see the grade. 

Back in the day, the kids could grab a free map at the gas station to see where they were and how they were going to get to their vacation destination. Those maps only had major routes and highways with very little detail and nothing about local roads and city streets. These days, the navigation applications have a lot of detail about roads including those planned but not yet built, speed limits, and whatever else can be scraped from user map edits (see the Open Street Map project), state and local map data, and other sources (e.g. the Census Bureau TIGER). Don’t forget web sites about low clearance roads, either (e.g. Low Clearance Bridges and Overpasses: How to Watch for and Avoid). Then there’s the satellite views and street views that get melded into the maps. 

So we are, or can be, buried in a mass of data and detail. This is an opportunity for exploration but it is also a risk. When you get off the beaten path or on to unknown trails and roads, take care you don’t find yourself on a dead end or facing a 32% grade or other RV hazard.

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Silver Fox Field Tripping resources

Looking for Nevada Tours this summer? Check out Links: Field tripping in Nevada, mostly along I-80 and Highway 50. There’s enough to keep you going for quite a while.

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History of highway and railroad across Wyoming plus early Airstream history

100 Years on the Lincoln Highway, a Wyoming PBS video on YouTube (57 Minutes) — see what was and how it was built and how it grew: good scenery and a lot of insight into transcontinental automobile travel. It is about the roots of the RV experience.

Published on Jun 1, 2017: Before the Interstate Highway System, before famed Route 66, before highways were even numbered, there was one road that started it all, one road that changed America forever: The Lincoln Highway. “100 Years on the Lincoln Highway” is the story of the first coast to coast automobile road in the United States and its impact on Wyoming.

The focus is on Wyoming, of course. A sister video is End of Track (1 hour) and is about the “Transcontinental Railroad’s construction march across southern Wyoming and the growing pains of a state in its infancy.” The railroad preceded highways by 50 years and built many towns across the great plains.

Another bit of history is about the Airstream Clipper article and the 1930’s RV experience.
https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2017/12/22/what-the-airstream-clipper-wasnt/

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Road Trip ’54

Road and Track has this one. Here’s What the Family Road Trip Looked Like in 1954 By Bob Sorokanich — “No GPS, no satellite radio, and a nation without a unified highway system. Here’s how your grandparents did it.” This is more likely to bring back memories many of us have about our first days with the family on the road.

I recently came across this 1954 film produced by Chevrolet, teaching the average American family how to have a happy, safe, stress-free road trip. Produced by Jam Handy, the prolific maker of training, instructional and engineering films, it’s a charming look back at the concerns of the typical family heading out on the road.

 …
while you might not need to use your wristwatch and the sun to fashion a makeshift compass today, there’s some tips and tricks in here that are sure to make your next family road trip easy.

What’s changed that’s really important? See the video and think about what strikes you.

 

 

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Lassen Trails

On Project Gutenberg: Lassen Trails by Stephen Halsey Matteson — from the preface

Since most of Lassen Volcanic National Park can best be seen and enjoyed by walking the trails, this booklet is written to help those who wish to know more about the park. Much can be observed from the Lassen Park Road, including some of the best scenery and most interesting geology, but to become thoroughly acquainted with the park and to appreciate fully what it has to offer, there is no better way than walking the trails.

Thirty-four trails are briefly described in this booklet. Rather than give a complete description of each trail, an attempt is made to indicate the highlights of each, giving enough information so that a hiker can decide which trails will interest him most.

Assuming the trails are still active, this is a guide with maps and illustrations that provides information to help you see and notice what is special about the park. If you are taking a tour out of Northeastern California, this ought to be in your eBook reader.

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Nostalgia: an old highway 66 overview

It’s a one hour YouTube video on the route 66 from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean. Most Amazing Views of Route 66 – An Aerial Documentary. It’s a music video tour, a compression of a long journey, a meditation, and a glimpse about what the ravages of time bring to roads. It isn’t a narrated documentary.

Thousands of miles, fuel, and dollars and over two and a half years of obtaining footage have resulted in never before seen perspectives of Route 66.  I’m proud to show you Route 66 like it has never been seen before.  From Chicago to LA, you’ll get your kicks with this video from 66!

There is some repeated footage but the use of the drone provides more context of the road in its place than you’d get from road level photography. This video shows many of the landmarks along the route, the condition of the road and its bridges, a lot of middle America scenery, and an occasional glimpse of folks, especially motorcyclists it seems, out to enjoy the road. 

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Texas Davis Mountains and California Gene Autry trail

He says “just keep it between the lines bro …

There is no better sports car loop in the USA– The 75 mile Scenic Loop in far west Texas is a desolate, eye opening…damn I gotta drive.

Then there’s a link to Jennifer Bolande at American Digest: I think that I shall never see / A billboard lovely as a tree. These billboards between I10 and Vista Chino out of Palm Springs – 33°50’41.70”N 116°30’21.02”W – are pictures of what you’d see without the billboards.

Follow the links but don’t stop there. Check out the maps and other resources. Dream. Maybe even put on your bucket list. Places to see. Places to visit. So many. Too many. 

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The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

For those 62 or older, you can get a discount pass to reduce fees at many recreational areas owned by the Federal Government. See the Senior Pass page. The cost is only $10 or, if you use USGS online store, $20 with the extra ten for ‘document processing.’ This is a lifetime pass. It supercedes the Golden Age Passports that are no longer sold. See America the Beautiful Passes for information about 4th grade, military, and other versions of this discount pass and additional information.

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What a wet winter means for western deserts

There’s likely to be a lot of color in the desert this spring: This desert in the Southwest is experiencing a wildflower ‘superbloom’

A wildflower superbloom is underway in the desert Southwest in March after seven inches of winter rain. Anza-Borrego State Park in California hasn’t experienced a bloom so prolific since at least 1999 according to park officials.

The Washington Post story has a lot of pictures, too. Maybe it’s time to get out there, grab your walking shoes and a camera, and go see for yourself!

Also keep in mind that there’s going to be water in places you might not expect. This means a possibility of soft ground in some campgrounds that might present problems for a heavy RV or reduced access to some areas due to flooding. Erosion and washouts, like the SNU encountered at Sweetwater Summit last year might also be a problem. Then there’s the bugs and critters …

take care.

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Are you a photographer of just a camera operator?

A.B. Watson at the Photography Blog asks the question. In looking at photo collections he wonders “Where is the photographer’s unique thumbprint, aside from on top of their shutter button?” What makes the picture special?

When people think about photography they think of cameras. They look at a photo and say I could have done that. If they were in that exact moment, they wouldn’t be wrong. That is if they had the technique and knowledge, with a few dedicated days to learn it. Which amazingly anyone can get on the internet, now just a click away. What makes a photo historic is its ability to capture a moment. Photography is mainly used as an archive medium. That’s all well and good if that’s all you use photography for. Many people love photography for this aspect alone. But for me, that just makes you a camera operator, not an artist.

You feel the something when you are there, something that prompted you to pull out your camera. Can you capture any of that feeling when you take a picture for your memory book? 

I feel that the collective group of photographers out there aren’t putting their own brush strokes into their work. We aren’t capturing an idea, rather just a moment. The majority of us are camera operators, obsessed about settings and techniques. Instead of focusing on concepts and our own unique vision. So what’s the meaning behind your work? Where does your camera end, and your idea begin?

Learn more about the craft from studying what you like about the photographs of others. Hit a YouTube video or other resource to improve your knowledge, understanding, and skill. Look for your own pictures that stand out above the others and try to learn what it is that makes it a special picture.

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An ampitheater out towards Fernley?

From the Road: Talus Stripes and Shorelines along the Truckee River

It was a late fall day, and I stopped along Route 447 to see if I could get close to some of the brilliantly colored trees along the Truckee River a few miles north of Wadsworth. I didn’t end up finding a good spot for pics of fall colors—other than maybe this one taken down near the Numana Hatchery—but I did find lots of wonderful talus stripes and some Lake Lahontan shorelines.

At two stops a little farther to the north, at and near the junction of 447 with Chicken Road and at the Historic Marker 448 pullout, I grabbed a hodgepodge of photos.

A good portion of the river in this area runs parallel or sub-parallel to Walker Lane strike-slip faults. Wadsworth Amphitheater, which shows up in the Google Earth images

Maybe she’ll help you see things you never noticed before when heading east out of Reno on I80.

Between this and that Flyover Country app described earlier there’s no excuse for not knowing about the country you visit.

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Is this you on tour?

It started with a link to a post about young men from Animal House to Zulu that lead to a post from the same author — When Nerds Travel. That has a list, here are some of the items.

  • You hit the museum book-n-stuff shop first, then go to the museum.
  • Modern: your e-reader is loaded with local and regional history. Coming back, your luggage is full of books and maps even though . . .
  • You plan your family trips on a theme, such as the Oregon Trail this year, then the fur trapper rendezvous, then the Mormon Trail, then Civil War battlefields, then US colonial history, and so on.
  • Someone asks you where you got that lovely silk scarf and you say, “The gift shop at the Prado. It was part of an exhibition on pre-Reconquista art and it is based on a pattern from the third main room of the Alhambra.” (True story but not me)
  • You plan your vacation around museums and zoos and planetaria* and botanical gardens.

Check out the full list. Maybe you can add to it?

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Travel Geology

The GPS Tracklog notes: New GPS App Shows Geological Points of Interest Along Route.

This app, created by the University of Minnesota Department of Earth Sciences and funded by the National Science Foundation, allows users to download a track and then use GPS to learn about interesting geological and fossil sites on a hike, road trip, or even flight.

The home website is http://fc.umn.edu/ and the app is available for both Android and for Apple. Here’s their blurb:

Flyover Country is a National Science Foundation funded offline mobile app for geoscience outreach and data discovery. The app exposes interactive geologic maps from Macrostrat.org, fossil localities from Neotomadb.org and Paleobiodb.org, core sample localities from LacCore.org, Wikipedia articles, offline base maps, and the user’s current GPS determined location, altitude, speed, and heading. The app analyzes a given flight path and caches relevant map data and points of interest (POI), and displays these data during the flight, without in flight wifi. By downloading only the data relevant to a particular flightpath, cache sizes remain reasonable, allowing for a robust experience without an internet connection.

From the list of sources, the app is quite a mash-up. It will be interesting to see how it works and whether budding amateur geologists can get a batter handle on the country they travel.

See also GeoSpace: Flyover Country—The next generation field-based research toolLake County News Chronicle WKS graduate creates smartphone app.

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Where is the Great Basin?

The question isn’t simple. You’d think the Great Basin was the area of the ancient Lake Lahontan or the area that drains into the Carson Sink. Links: Here Are a Few, But Great, Great Basin and Great Basin Divide Links provides a few other thoughts about the boundaries of the Great Basin. A Google Earth image is provided:

Google Earth image of the West with a lot of lines. The Great Basin divide according to me is in magenta, wrapping around the Great Basin. Note the two possibilities at Pahranagat Lake, and no Salton Sea.

It seems that the Sierra Mountains define the western border, The Snake River drainage is to the north and the Colorado River drainage defines the eastern and southern boundaries for some. That gets into a lot of territory over a wide range of elevations with most of it desert of one sort or another.

The blog has some interesting exploring of Nevada with a geologist’s point of view. It is a good resource for touring the Great Basin and getting a better handle on what you are seeing.

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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 ngmaps.maps.arcgis.com. 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 (nvroads.com) 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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