Archive for Owner’s Guide

Tourist site planning help

From the Coyote Blog: I Can’t Believe I Have Been Taking Long Driving Trips Without Consulting This Site First.

Roadside America.  I feel like tourist traps have been going a bit out of vogue, but I feel like this is exactly the sort of thing that is going to make a comeback as millenials have kids and start travelling with their super-hip airstream trailer.

The website has been around since 1994. RoadsideAmerica.com is a caramel-coated-nutbag-full of odd and hilarious travel destinations — over 12,000 places in the USA and Canada — ready for exploration.” They do have an app for your smartphone or tablet but is Apple only.

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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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Gas asphyxiation and tire troubles in the news

In the news are two stories where careful reading and consideration is needed to avoid jumping to inappropriate conclusions.

Propane gas killed Iowa family vacationing in Mexico, police say — Las Vegas Review Journal. A cause of death in several old Perry Mason shows results from the murderer turning off the pilot light on a gas heater. What happens is that the oxygen in the room is replaced with methane or propane and the sleeping victim dies from lack of oxygen. Since the victim can expel CO2, there is no strangulation struggle. Preventing suicides this way is why helium balloon tanks often come with 20% air these days. The question is why the odorant in the propane was not noticed.

In the RV world, this is why gas appliances have the combustion path outside and why some catalytic or other heaters that burn fuel inside have oxygen depletion sensors and why the stove says it is not to be used for space heating.

Goodyear Knew Of Dangerous RV Tire Failures For Over 20 Years: Court Docs by Ryan Felton — There is an understandable tendency to blame tire (and other) failures on the manufacturer rather than to consider poor maintenance or improper use. Sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly why a failure occurred, especially if it takes time to develop. Goodyear motorhome tires, the G159 275/70R 22.5 seems particularly problematical and people have been going after Goodyear for its failures and damages for years.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. received failure claims over a tire that was installed on thousands of RVs and is linked to at least nine deaths, dozens of injuries, and hundreds of crashes as early as 1996, the first year it was manufactured and installed on motorhomes, according to court documents obtained exclusively by Jalopnik. The documents also show that Goodyear appears to have vastly underreported the number of failure claims it had received over the tire to federal regulators during a previous inquiry more than a decade ago, and confirm the tire is almost certainly still on the road today.

One problem with these stories is that it is difficult to properly place the complaint. It does cover suggested causes of failure but that doesn’t really refute the manufacturer’s claims. It doesn’t provide any information to properly weigh the significance of the rate of failure or other relevant variables. It doesn’t even provide judgments from court proceedings being that it a story about the issue going to court based on the complaint.

What you can learn from what is known so far: (1) don’t take shortcuts with RV energy sources and (2) take care of your tires and monitor them closely.

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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.

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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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Your next tow vehicle?

The hype is strong with Musk (see the Coyote: Elon Musk Is The Master of Yelling “Squirrel” ). The latest is his tractor. See Tesla Semi: 500-Mile Range, Cheaper Than Diesel, Quick to Charge By Bill Howard. The key item of interest is energy storage and both the Coyote and Howard comment on this.

The Coyote says Here Are the Two Problem With EV’s — energy density and recharge time.

15 gallons of gasoline weighs 90 pounds and takes up 2 cubic feet.  This will carry a 40 mpg car 600 miles. … the Tesla gets  0.22 miles per pound of fuel/battery while the regular car can get 6.7.  That is a difference in energy density of 30x.
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 The problem is that it is MUCH faster to refill a tank of gas than it is to refill a battery with a full charge.

and here is Howard on the tractor:

As for battery capacity, Tesla gave us a hint: Tesla says the Semi uses “less than 2 kilowatt-hours” of energy per mile. Based on vehicle battery packs in use now, we know lithium-ion battery packs of at least 50 kWh weigh about 15 pounds per 1 kilowatt-hour of stored energy. So if the Tesla Semi uses 1.5 kWh per mile and travels 500 miles, that means the battery is 750 kWh and weighs 11,250 pounds. If consumption is closer to 2.0 kWh per mile, the battery at is as much as 1,000 kWh — 1 megawatt-hour — and 15,000 pounds.

Now, if you want to recharge via solar, a typical cargo container has 320 square feet of roof. At 15 watts per square foot, this could accommodate about 4800 watts of solar panels. At 2 kWh/mile, bright sun might get enough energy from the roof of that typical semi-trailer cargo container in an hour to run the vehicle 2 miles.

Another way to look at this is that, at a 60 mph highway speed, the tractor would need a 30 kW power delivery. (60 miles, 2 kWh/mile, 1 hour). A gallon of diesel has about 38 kWh of energy storage. Since the battery and electric motor efficiency is about three times that of a heat engine like the diesel, these calculations indicate the electric tractor running at the equivalent of about 5 miles per gallon. That sounds a bit low but isn’t that far off.

I wonder what an RV park would do if you pulled in for the night to recharge your tow vehicle from a day’s driving. They aren’t geared up for covering a night time use of 400 kWh energy draw (2 kWh/mi and 200 miles). At ten cents per kWh that would be $40 of electricity and most places have more expensive electricity. Compare that to the current headache, A/C on a hot day, where a large RV might pull 30 – 50 kWh. That’s an order of magnitude increase in energy needs.

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The 2018 Calendar For Roadtreking Rv Lifestyle Gatherings describes a philosophy and approach towards the RV community that illustrates how technology has enabled and facilitated new ways of getting together and building friendships.

We don’t call our events “rallies.” We call them gatherings. There’s no membership requirements. Any and all types of RVs are welcomed. Tenters are welcome. Even people who camp in the pack of their car are welcomed.

There are no dues. No nametags. No agenda.

It’s all about the RV Lifestyle. The only requirements we have is that you have fun, are independent enough to plan your days on your own and are a nice person who gets along well with others.

That said, our gatherings have lots of activities you can participate in. Or not participate in. It’s all up to you.
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Most of our gatherings are intentionally kept small – to no more than 30 rigs and 50 people. That way, everybody gets to meet and make friends and, if we agree to go to a local restaurant for dinner, we don’t completely overwhelm the servers and space.

There is much to be learned from an approach such as this. Some of the old, classic style, organizations could learn a lot about matching their identity and purpose to the modern RV experience.

One should note that the website is a part of a growing empire as a journalist found a niche and started a blog, a news site, a Facebook and YouTube presence and other activities to keep him going. See Mike’s Story.

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Notice any changes?

The Roadtreking blog does. 

The one consistent thing we’ve noticed in our Roadtreking travels this year is how many new RVers we are encountering out there. 
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Those campers are younger and younger. In KOA’s 2017 North American Camping Report, the company sayid millennials and Generation Xers now make up 72 percent of the 75 million households in U.S. that are regular campers.

Most of those younger campers are in tents and towables 
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 across the board for the whole industry, sales of smaller Class B campervans have been seeing double digit growth
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Where we have most seen it is in the places we go boondocking.
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We used to never have a problem finding a spot, let alone have neighbors as we retreated deep into the woods or on Bureau of Land Management properties. Now, we usually always have neighbors and sometimes actually find all the good spots taken.

There’s growth. Growth in population. Growth in wealth. And there’s reductions in costs for the conveniences in modern RV’s and camping equipment. 

 

 

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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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Urban show and tell

This one gets into different strokes for different folks. The example is something to think about in terms of how culture is changing and why people own an Airstream RV.

What seems to be a new trend is a rally parallel parking on a busy city thoroughfare for a show and tell. See Capi Lynn: Oregon has the third-largest Airstream club in the nation

Twenty members are expected to set up camp on Main Street for Friday and Saturday nights in what they hope will be the first of many urban rallies the club holds in the future in small towns across Oregon.

“Our goal is to bring people to the downtown and spread the joy of camping and Airstreams,” said Kathy Ellis-Kelemen, a club member in Salem.

There is some dissonance here. Bring people downtown to spread the joy of camping? Is a fancy RV the essence of camping or, perhaps, is it the plastic bag a homeless person is using for his downtown camping?

This is group stealth camping disguised as an RV trade show (see the RVIA calendar). It seems more about glamping rather than camping as the idea of putting one’s RV up for display on a public street seems it would create many barriers to actually using that RV for a few days. This is like those shows about prepping houses for sale and how the requirements for a good sales show disrupts using the house for living. The RV does fit right into the modern fad for tiny houses, though.

What seems to be missing here is the social aspect of a WBCCI rally. How can you commune with other ‘birds of a feather’ if most of your rally time is spent guarding your significant investment while strangers parade through it gawking at your possessions? Is the effort inner directed in the hubris of showing off or is it outward directed towards the objectives of the WBCCI (constitution Article III):

to afford opportunities for outdoor fraternization of recreational vehicle owners; to encourage safe driving and assist in improving the general welfare of the recreational vehicle public through assistance and active participation of all its members in building a strong organization for the betterment of good will toward recreational vehicle travel; to coordinate the interest and activities of its Regions and Units; to cooperate with other organizations within its sphere of interest which are seeking to elevate the standards and ethics of the various groups; to disseminate information of an advisory and educational nature which will be of value to its members and the public; to study, advise and recommend legislation in the interest of the recreational vehicle public and to oppose all legislation which is discriminatory and injurious to the recreational vehicle public and to encourage government and private agencies to provide more and better recreational vehicle parks and facilities.

The connections seem weak but then WBCCI members have shown little proclivity in recent years for introspection and discussion about their club behavior, values, and identity.

 

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Tire theory summarized talking about Nitrogen Snake Oil

The AutoExpertTV dude John Cadogan uses some rather ‘colorful’ expressions as is his wont but the YouTube lecture on the Top 10 reasons not to put nitrogen in your tyres (yeah, he’s an Aussie so he can’t spell tires right) has some good stuff about tires. It is interesting that he gathered nearly 10% dislikes but then there are a lot of folks out there that are addicted to their particular snake oil ranging from Agent Orange to the Vegetarian Free Range Natural Chickens. 

Cadogan gets into the actual measure and is good for several examples of the ideal gas law as well as the relevance of precision in tire matters.

Note that here in the U.S. Costco usually fills tires with Nitrogen. The saving grace is that they don’t charge extra for it and their tires and installation services are usually at good prices. Costco also has a note on their warranty information and window sticker to check lug nut torque after 40 miles or so. That is good advice.

I got into some of these issues recently contesting the idea that 20% of trailer owners found that Goodyear Marathons suffered defects and failed. This was while standing next to a trailer whose owner hadn’t checked his tire pressure before heading out and had three at 2/3 proper pressure and one at half that. As Cadogan notes, most blowouts are due to low pressure and high speeds which heat the tire. That is why all cars since about 2008 are required to have tire pressure monitoring as the government gave up on driver responsibility in tire pressure checking.

TireRack.com has a lot of articles about tires including one on the use of Nitrogen. They say the same thing Cadogan does (but with a bit less color).

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Home Power Thinking About Batteries

Justine Sanchez has a good article on Battery Bank Design & Sizing in this month’s Home Power Magazine. The focus is on residential systems and not on RV systems. It includes consideration for “areas with utilities unfriendly to net billing” which is one way of saying areas whose populations don’t like subsidies for energy fantasies. But the subsidies are often forced on utility customers and other modern concerns such as load leveling have become an issue in electrical power systems. 

The battery types discussed here are being mass-produced—there is a formalized testing process in place with material safety handling data sheets, etc.—and are currently available for the U.S. residential storage market.
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No matter what type of system you have, there are some basic pieces of information you will need for sizing. This includes the daily energy the battery bank will need to supply and the DOD recommended for that battery type.
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A primary factor in off-grid battery bank design is “days of autonomy”—the number of days that the bank should meet loads without being recharged due to clouds hampering PV output.

There is a good discussion of considerations that differ between whether the batteries are providing service for off-grid, backup, or load leveling situations. An RV has the potential for much greater variance in energy requirements in most cases. That means that a greater reserve capacity is needed. Weight, maintenance charging, and other factors are much more important in RV systems than they are in Home systems, too.

 

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Crocker, SNU Rally, Heat Wave, Uh-oh

As the weekend approaches, the forecast at the Crocker Campground for afternoon temperatures keeps going up. Saturday is now forecast for a high of 92. That is causing those planning on attending to rethink their weekend as that gets into the very uncomfortable to even health hazardous temperatures for them due to existing health problems and age. The nearby RV parks report being full up for the weekend but Crocker Campground is likely to be short of Airstream RV’s.

Of course, most of the RV’s have air conditioners and the MoHo’s usually have a genset installed. This would make it possible to provide a cool down in the heat of the day. The noise and bother of Air Conditioning and the need to hunker down in the RV all afternoon aren’t reasons why the SNU planned a rally at Crocker, though.

UC Davis says the Elderly need special care in hot weather. “Hot weather can be a big concern for older people says Calvin Hirsch, a geriatrics specialist with UC Davis Health System.”

Hirsch noted there are many factors involved in why seniors are so vulnerable in hot weather. Some individuals have health problems, such as heart disease, that make it more difficult for the body to circulate blood properly and dissipate heat. Others are on medications, like diuretics (water pills), that cause water loss and worsen the dehydrating effects of high temperatures. Obese individuals have an especially hard time keeping cool.

A Place for Mom has 7 Tips for Avoiding Elderly Heat Stroke & Exhaustion. “a recent University of Chicago Medical Center study found that 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65.” … “Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems are all warning signs that help should be sought immediately.”

There are other concerns. Keeping pets cool and safe is a big one. Travel is going to put a special emphasis on preparation. Make sure that tire pressures are at max sidewall for the trailer and also for the tow vehicle and keep the running speeds down. Check all fluids and systems to make sure they are where they need to be and are working properly. Keep in mind that a trailer is likely to get rather warm going down the road and that there is a lot of stress on the refrigerator. Many of the supplies you carry from batteries to food do not do well in the heat and may need special protection from the heat.

If you do a I’net search for “heatwave health” you’ll likely find a lot of the climate alarmists assuming that the current heat wave is a portent of their vision of doom and gloom. It isn’t. It is normal to get heat waves in the summer. The record set yesterday in Reno was only three degrees above the previous record set in 1940 and just tied the overall June Reno record. In 1940, Reno was a much smaller city and the weather station was not in the middle of a big airport with huge concrete runways. This is called the urban heat island effect.

Be safe. Take care. Avoid unnecessary risks.

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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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The Great American Eclipse

The PBS Space Time YouTube channel has a short presentation on The Great American Eclipse. It’s a once in 40 year special event and there’s likely to be a lot of folks camping out on its path between Oregon and North Carolina. 

sad to say, being PBS the video is plagued by its sponsor (and some wacked out comments) but that is at the end and in the ‘extra notes.’ The presentation itself is quite good and explains the phenomena and what you might be able to see.

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Wildflowers, Coffee, and Web skimming

Project Gutenberg  has 100 Desert Wildflowers in Natural Color by Natt Noyes Dodge.

When Webster defined a desert as a “dry, barren region, largely treeless and sandy” he was not thinking of the 50,000 square mile Great American Desert of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Most of it is usually dry and parts may be sandy, but as a whole, it is far from barren and treeless. Heavily vegetated with gray-green shrubs, small but robust trees, pygmy forests of grotesque cactuses and stiff-leaved yuccas, and myriads of herbaceous plants, the desert, following rainy periods, covers itself with a blanket of delicate, fragrant wildflowers. Edmund C. Jaegar, author of several books on deserts, reports that the California deserts alone support more than 700 species of flowering plants.

You can either browse the book online – in color! – or download it to read in your eBook device. For this book, you really need a color display.

Skillet is wondering: Is Trader Joe’s Pour-Over Bag the Ultimate in Coffee Convenience? — “The concept is simple: you just twist off the tip of the spout and open the top of the bag, pour hot water in up to the fill line, let it sit for four minutes, and pour the coffee into cups.” Amazon has a pack of six for $18 – that’s about $3 per typical coffee mug. Convenience has its price but this isn’t your every day cuppa’joe, either.

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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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