Archive for Owner’s Guide

Popcorn with an aluminum can

There are those hot air type popcorn poppers but electricity and special gear aren’t necessarily a good thing in the RV. There are those Jiffy Pop (Jiffy Pop – Amazon Affiliate link) but you can also use an aluminum can and a few kernels. Eric Ravencraft describes how to turn an aluminum can into a DIY popcorn popper. Cut a flap for a popped corn deflecter and make a handfull with minimal hassle.

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Squirrels

Some call them rats with PR. They don’t hibernate but they do hunker down when it’s cold or the weather is bad. Since they live off nuts with an occasional bird or bird egg and insects and whatnot, we probably ought to avoid putting out peanuts for the Blue Jays. Most of those peanuts get stashed and that means the squirrels can probably get a good meal robbing the Blue Jay stash. They are ‘cute’ but there are reasons people don’t like them around. GruntDoc has a nice picture about why the War on Squirrels got started. They chew on wires and other things.

A few years ago, some squirrels built a nest in the V of my B-Van V-8 engine. The smell of roasting sagebrush on the annual spring trip to the smog and lube center was quite nice but also quite a fire hazard. It took a bit of doing to get into the area to remove all the debris and clean things out. Now, its just another item on pre-trip the checkoff list.

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Sale on! Cameco leveling blocks and chocks at Amazon

Amazon has a sale on today for Camco leveling blocks and chocks. The yellow Camco blocks are $25 on sale while the Tri-Lynx 00015 Lynx Levelers, (Pack of 10) orange blocks are running at $32. The Tri-Lynx seems to have a slight edge in user ratings. (affiliate links – check the links and support the website!)

Note that Amazon is now collecting sales tax for Nevada.

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Spring cleaning: 25 tips

Paul Michael has 25 Essential Tricks for Quick and Easy Cleaning over at WiseBread. These are mostly about uses of vinegar and baking soda and similar well tried recipes with a few techniques and hints. Examples:

“Use a tube sock on your hand, soaked in warm water, to wash your blinds. You can do both sides at once and balance the blind.”

“Simple dryer sheets, like Bounce, rubbed onto your baseboards will clean them up a treat. And as a bonus side effect, they coat them in a way that repels dust and pet hair.”

“Repair Hardwood Floor Scratches – All you need is a walnut. By rubbing a walnut into the shallow scratches, their natural oils help hide the flaw. It’s an age-old carpenter’s trick.”

It’s always handy to keep a list like this easy to find – sometimes it might just make life a bit easier, a bit cleaner, and better smelling!

For books on the subject, see Household cleaning recipes on Amazon (affiliate link). Many have Kindle editions so you can take them along without cluttering your RV!

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Read cheap; take it with you

The University of California Press has made 700 books available for reading free of charge. OpenCulture has the story.

“The University of California Press e-books collection holds books published by UCP (and a select few printed by other academic presses) between 1982-2004. The general public currently has access to 770 books through this initiative. The collection is dynamic, with new titles being added over time.”

The University of Chicago Press also provides some free material.

The OpenCulture page also has a number of links to other resouces that provide free media including eBooks, audio books, and movies.

If you have a Kindle reader, check out dailyfreebooks for thousands of free eBooks including promotional copies as well as copyright expired material.

Of course, don’t forget Project Gutenberg, the “first producer of free ebooks” based on volunteer efforts.

Then there is the local library. Did you know many loan books for eBook readers? For example, you can find a book at the Washoe County Library website and it will not only tell you which branch has the book available or allow you to place a hold on the book, it will also tell you if the book is available in the electronic edition. To help you out, there are even workshops such as the one at the North Valleys Library branch on January 18.

What is nice about the electronics media revolution is that you can haul around significant personal libraries and not burden your RV. Thousands of books or movies will fit in a typical backup drive or eBook reader or tablet.

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Firearms in camp court decision

Eugene Volokh reports that “Today’s Morris v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (D. Idaho Jan. 10, 2014) strikes down an Army Corps of Engineers regulation barring possession of loaded guns in recreation areas surrounding Corps dams.” In this case, a tent was considered akin to a home. Second amendment rights are protected in homes.

“The court also holds that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry guns as well as to possess them at homes, so that the regulation is unconstitutional even as to carrying outside tents. And the court rejects the argument that the government may restrict such gun possession and carrying on the grounds that the government owns the property, and has no obligation to open the property to the public in the first place.”

An RV is also “akin to a home” so a firearm you have in it should fall under the same judgment.

It used to be that having a firearm handy for protection while camping was no big deal. The comments to Volokh’s post show how this has changed. There is still a need in the wilds for protection and self defense but some folks think there is a danger from firearms that outweighs this need. Sometimes that thinking is so strong it results in court cases. The courts are a bit confused which is why Volokh warns that “It’s not clear how the opinion will fare on appeal, but the case should be interesting to watch.

Whatever your opinion, if you do have firearms with you on your RV experience, make sure you maintain your shooting skills, keep up to date with laws and regulations where you travel, maintain the equipment in good condition, and store it properly for travel.

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Smoothies at camp with tools at hand

lifehacker notes a video about making watermelon smoothies with just a drill, a coat hanger, and, of course, the watermelon.

You may have a cordless drill driver for the stablizer jacks on your trailer and a coat hanger or other stiff wire isn’t that difficult to find. All you need to do is to cut a hole in the watermelon to allow you to get the wire bent into a beater shape inside. Then use the drill to blend the insides. Finally, fix a spout to poor out the smoothies. (food safe rated coat hangers, anyone?)

“the whole process takes seconds and leaves no messy cleanup behind. Just watch out for the seeds in that pulpy watermelon puree you’re about to enjoy. If you want to amp up the flavor a little bit, you could probably pour a little something into the watermelon after you’ve pulled the drill back out”

I wonder if it works and tastes as good as it sounds easy to do.

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Fire and Wind

The fire season is looking towards a season change to winter. Fires and winds can make a difference in your travel plans. A couple of websites that provide useful information are from ESRI and HINT.FM

ESRI, a company that develops geographic information systems (GIS) has a public information map that shows the database of wildland fires, winds, and air quality alerts. Click on a marker and you get a popup with additional information.

The wind map is a personal art project. It shows wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database for the continental U.S. The winds are flowing lines whose intensity indicates the winds speed. If you are looking for a synoptic overview of what the winds on the continent are doing, this work of art can be fascinating.

For a more traditional view of weather along a planned route, don’t forget the wunderground road trip planner. If you’ve got your route set up in Google Maps, GmapToGPX might help you transfer the route to your GPS.

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A hammock on the hitch

If you unhitch and remove the ball mount from your tow vehicle, you’ve got an empty receiver that makes a solid mounting point. One use for that is a bit expensive but looks interesting (Amazon affiliate link) for those who like hammocks. – Green Eggs and Hammocks HamX2Go Trailer Hitch Hammock Chair Stand

Another option is a flagpole mount. The Camco 51611 Hitch Mount Flagpole Holder is about a tenth the cost of the hammock but you’d need to add your own flag pole and flag.

The problem with leaving the hitch ball mount assembly or a hammock or a flag pole attached to your tow vehicle is that the vehicle tends to become a part of the camp rather than an errands running or touring accessory.

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The non sewage waste water (grey, gray?) if the dump won’t do

The Burners have a rather severe problem when it comes to waste disposal. RV’s are very popular out on the playa but most don’t have waste tanks that will handle a full week’s worth of washing. Evaporative ponds for waste wash water have been superceded and newer technologies developed. The Gray-B-Gon is a wind powered device that fits in well with the Burning Man ethos. Flying Saucer evaporation also works well but uses a pump. The term ‘evapotron’ has been appropriated to name these devices and a web site put up to describe the devices – see evapotrons.

These ‘evapotrons’ are active devices that wet a tulle fabric or burlap cloth or something similar to promote evaporation. Besides the mechanics, there are two issues that are worth considering in normal RV practice. These are filtration and disinfecting. Oasis design has good discussion on Common grey water mistakes about these issues. Some more advanced efforts at treating waste wash water can make it somewhat acceptable for cooling devices (wikipedia). It is probably a better (safer) bet to put mechanical art on top of the RV to evaporate the waste. It appears that even a modest system can take care of ten gallons or more per day at Black Rock City.

It used to be that you could let RV wash water waste drain directly to plant covered absorbent soil away from any pond or stream and any traffic or use. That was reasonably safe. Most camping places prohibit such practice these days. There are some creative and portable solutions available if you need to safely handle waste wash water and an RV dump isn’t handy.

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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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A reminder about things not to do at a campground

Dave Seminara is in to tent camping. That just makes it harder to escape some of the obnoxious things other campers do. He lists 7 things not to do at a campground. It is a familiar list. Read. Remind yourself. Remember.

“One would think that campers would know not to snap the branches off of trees for firewood, drive fast around the campground, liter, and leave a fire unattended, but I’ve seen people do all of these things. Everyone slips up occasionally but a little common courtesy goes a long way, especially in the great outdoors.”

It’s sorta’ like picking a spot in the middle of a big dispersed area, getting set up, and then having someone else come along and decide to set up right next to you. Perhaps they think you chose a desolate spot because you need company or something? That something might include 24×7 electricity, music, dog poop avoidance games, and similar stuff as well.

It is one thing to be friendly and say “Hi” but entirely another to be oblivious to the needs and desires of others.

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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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Speed trap season

It is a delimma. Most RVers tend to travel a bit slower than other traffic on the road. Sometimes speed limits are lower for RV’s, especially those with trailers or toads. Some RVer’s even brag about going slower than traffic, especially if that traffic is going faster than the speed limit. A commentary in the Washington Times takes a look at the dirty little secret about holiday traffic ticketing and notes a 1964 study of interest to slower traffic.

“David Solomon, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Commerce, spent several years collecting data on the risk factors that cause highway accidents. In a seminal paper published in 1964 — yes, almost 50 years ago — Solomon> found that the least risk of crash involvement occurred with vehicles moving near the average speed of traffic. He documented the safest speed to be about 5 mph faster than traffic flow. Conversely, Solomon’s data showed the odds of being involved in a highway accident rose dramatically as vehicle speed dropped below the average for surrounding traffic. The famous “Solomon Curve,” illustrated in the accompanying graph, has never been substantively refuted in the intervening years. The nature of driver behavior hasn’t changed over time.”

Wikipedia has an article on the Solomon Curve. A 2015 report on the Relation of Speed and Speed Limits to Crashes by Susan Ferguson describes it this way:

  • Both studies found a U-shaped relationship between vehicle speed and crash incidence
  • ŠCrash rates were lowest for drivers traveling near the mean speed, and increased with deviations above and below the mean
  • Low-speed drivers were more likely to be involved in crashes than relatively high speed drivers

This is why you can also be ticketed in many areas if you have several vehicles behind you trying to get by. It is also why you should try to keep up with traffic and pay special attention to getting out of the way when slowing down to turn or for any other reason, such as braking to avoid a ticket when seeing a cop at a speed trap.

There is also a ‘social’ problem when it comes to speed that is illustrated by the Ferguson report. It is a ‘science literacy’ problem that tends to confuse correlation with causation and the over-simplification of complex phenomena. It is embodied in the ‘speed kills’ mantra. Yes, higher speed means higher energy in collisions – just like the higher weight in RV’s will do – and that can increase the severity of a crash. That doesn’t mean that a crash is more likely, though. A look at the Nevada Crash Book, for example, cites ‘exceeding the speed limit’ as way down the list of contributing factors to vehicle crashes.

RVers tend to be mature drivers with good judgment. That means they are usually safe drivers. They can be better drivers if they are alert to the traffic flow and avoid interference in that flow as much as possible. The RV driver needs to stay alert and on task to be aware of traffic ahead as well as behind.

Drive safe this summer!

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Summer driving tips: tires

Consumer News has its Summer driving tips to help prevent a road trip catastrophe and it is worth a review.

Check tire inflation, don’t overload, visually inspect, check the spare … good stuff!

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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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Knees get old. What to do? AAOS speaks up

The knees tend to flavor RV choices for the ‘retired’ set especially. It flavors why many transition from a trailer to a motorhome or even just part the RV. That is one reason why there are so many products, ideas, and techniques that are promoted to reduce knee pain and improve function, Science Based Medicine summarizes a review of the solutions to knee osteoarthritis.

“The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has just issued a 1200 page report evaluating the evidence for various treatments for knee osteoarthritis short of total knee replacement surgery. A 13 page summary is available online. They have done the heavy lifting for us, reviewing all the available scientific studies for evidence of effectiveness.”

It is easy to spend money to feel better. The real question is whether that expense is effective. When it comes to medicine, especially, just spending money can have a positive effect – at least for a while. Some things may even be more effective for you than for everyone else. For the long term, though, it is usually best to know the evidence, the risk, and the odds. That is what the AAOS study is all about.

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