Archive for July, 2005

Choosing an extension cord

Sam Bauman reports on Choosing the right extension cord in the Nevada Appeal (05jl30). Hot weather and air conditioners were the stimulus.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 4,700 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring some 280 others. You don’t want to be part of that statistic.

There are things to consider in selecting an extension cord that should not be overlooked. The length and guage will depend upon the total electrical load you put on the end of it. Smaller guage and shorter cords carry larger loads. The typical RV camper feed is 30′ of ten guage which is good for about 3,000 watts.

Cords should be unplugged and stored when not in use. Keep them out of sun and weather. Don’t use any cord that is frayed, has loose connectors, or shows other signs of wear and tear. Avoid any ‘adapting’ to get a cord to plug in on either end. Don’t kink cords. Cords in use should not be coiled up tightly – they may need cooling so try to use just enough cord for the current need and lay any excess cord under your trailer, Try to place your cord so people won’t trip over it and allow some ‘expansion’ length so if someone does catch it, they have a chance to stop before pulling it out of the wall or hitting a hard stop.

In Air Conditioning weather, RV parks will often have trouble keeping up the supply. The result is lower voltages being fed to RV’s. This is hard on air conditioner compressors. If the voltage at your rig gets below 110 volts, you need to shed load – turn off the air conditioner. There are things called autoformers that will help keep the voltage up but you need to remember that lower voltage input means higher currents, more ‘things’ in the line means more losses, and all of this means more stress on the system.

After low voltages, the other common problem is fried plugs. Sometimes the connections in the park pedestal or your power cord get loose or dirt gets in the connections or wear and tear frays internal parts. When this happens, it is hard for electricity to get through the connection. That causes heat. Sometimes the situation is bad enough to melt connectors. Sometimes it can even cause fires. So make sure your connections are solid. When you plug your cord into the outlet it should be firm and tight. Make sure the cord does not pull on the connection. When running big loads (the air conditioner) check to make sure the plugs aren’t getting hot (warm is usually OK).

Big cords make things safer but can be bulky and heavy. A bit of consideration about your needs can help you choose extension cords to suit your needs or help you adapt your needs to work safely within the limits of your equipment.

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DEET Alternatives Approved

National Geographic reports that two new mosquito repellants have been approved by the US CDC. Do now you can use the ‘gold standard’ diethyl toluamide. known as DEET, or p-menthane 3,8-diol, also known as PMD or Oil of lemon eucalyptus, or Picaridin (KBR 3023) to ward off those west nile carrying mosquitos.

Note that repellants should be applied only to exposed skin and care should be taken to make sure it doesn’t get into eyes, nose, mouth, or onto other sensitive areas. To protect skin under clothing, apply the repellant to the clothing. Don’t use more than is really needed. Wash thoroughly rather than sleep with it on you.

It is important to protect yourself from mosquitos in the Sierra Nevada Airstreams Territory because West Nile virus is something you don’t want to catch from a mosquito bite. We just had our first death of 2005 from West Nile and don’t want another.

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An average of 67 people are killed by lightning each year in the United States. July is typically the worst month.

LiveScience reports that this year is off to a bad start.

Lightning has killed at least 14 people and injured more than 100 in the United States since early June, according to a statement issued today by NOAA, parent organization of the National Weather Service.

The recent hot spell was terminated when enough moisture got into the system to create clouds, thunderstorms, and winds. Due to temperature differences, there was a lot of turbulence and this meant hail and flash flooding as well as lightning and thunder.

Late afternoon and evening thunderstorms can be common when you have good daytime sunshine heating the ground with some moisture in the atmosphere. The hot ground gets air hot near the ground. Hot air rises. Rising air cools as the pressure drops with elevation. Cooler air holds less moisture which leaves the air to form clouds. All of the moving air with dust and whatever creates static charges that can accumulate to staggering proportions. If all of this piles up enough, boom! you get thunder and lightning and rain and maybe even hail and ice. And maybe even tornadoes in some places.

This brings up the question about what to do to protect yourself from lightning and other storm problems. Without a good solid building to shield you, all you have is your RV. If this is of solid metal construction, it can serve as good lightning protection. Just stay inside and away from windows as best you can. Your biggest hazard then will be from things falling on your rig so be sure to park away from trees and other tall things.

When a storm is imminent, you need to make sure awnings are secured and that everything is tied down so it won’t blow away.

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In Case of Emergency (ICE) contacts

Now, here’s a good idea – add ICE to your cell phone address book!

With my sister, her son-in-law, and several cousins in the medical profession, they often run into the problem of how to reach the loved ones who are injured to the point that they cannot speak for themselves at the moment. The answer comes from a paramedic who launched a nation-wide campaign to solve that problem. The answer? Putting the emergency contact person’s name in your cell phone address book under the name of “ICE” (In Case of Emergency). Simple, easy, common-sense. Why has this not been thought of before? Multiple contacts can be handled by appending a number to the acronym (ICE1, ICE2, ICE3…). Emergency personnel will be able to find who you want contacted in an emergency.

Thank you, Bob Brotchie! I’m doing this tonight.

Hat tip Bert Webb at Open Loops

Update. additional information from Joe Katzman

Originally established as a nation wide campaign in the UK, “ICE” allows paramedics or police to be able to quickly contact a designated relative or next of kin in an emergency situation. The idea is the brainchild of East Anglian Ambulance Service Paramedic Bob Brotchie and was launched in May of this year. Bob has been a paramedic for 13 years

also. see the website ICE – In Case of Emergency

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Fuel Stops

A fuel stop with your RV involves a few issues to consider.

One is that of reducing potential heat and flame hazards that could ignite gasoline fumes. Open flame near gas fumes are something to worry about. You should have all propane appliances shut down so that there are no flames and no automatic ignitors in operations.

Let your rig cool down in the mountains before getting gas, too. Hot brakes and exhaust systems can also be a fire hazard. When coming off the mountain, take a short break for lunch or something to let your RV cool down before you fuel up.

These are rather minor concerns but they have caused disasters and are something to consider.

Maneauvers can be a problem.

Your trailer will track inside your truck so tight corners mean you might center the trailer on an obstacle or run its tires over a curb. The rear of your trailer can swing wide an possibly hit something. Have someone on guard to watch for you in tight spots if possible. Avoid any sharp turns unless desparate.

Gutters, such as at the road edge, should not be taken straight on. Cross at as much of an angle as you can. Try to get an angle so no more than one wheel at a time is in the gutter.

Make sure you remember where your gas tank is on your truck so you get close to the pump where you need to be.

Do a walkaround to check hub temperatures, tire temperature and pressure, check hitch parts and hang-on stuff (like propane tanks) for anything loose. Check windows, vents, tiedowns, locks, latches, access doors, and so on for anything not as it should be.

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Tragedy in desert

The Reno Gazette Journal reports that a Man who died in desert apparently stranded

A 27-year-old man who died in the Black Rock Desert last week was apparently stranded there after his vehicle got stuck on a sand dune, Pershing County Sheriff Ron Skinner said Monday.

The body was found only two days after the man left for a bicycle event. It isn’t likely that the desert got him in that short a period of time but it likely contributed to his death.

What can be learned?

Respect the desert. It is possible to get stuck where no one will notice for days or longer so make sure someone does know when to consider you missing and where to search to find you. Make sure that you have water and shade to help survive a day or two (or three) if necessary. Don’t depend upon cell phones or other usual methods to get you out of trouble as they may not work away from civilization even an hour’s drive or less.

Note that the man who died did do something right. He stayed with his vehicle. This increased his odds of being found. It is sad that he was found too late.

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Mars: Cruising the Solar System

Science at NASA reports

June 6, 2005:By the time you finish reading this sentence, you’ll be 25 miles closer to the planet Mars.

Mark October 30th as the best day of all: Mars will rise at sunset, hang overhead at midnight, and “blaze forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself.” That’s how astronomer Percival Lowell described a similar close encounter in the 19th century.

One of these days, maybe, someone will be able to spot a group of shiny oblong things on the surface of Mars or the Moon – what’s that? an Airstream rally?

Meanwhile, its just robots doing pre-rally site inspections.

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How do we know the structure of the earth?

J. Gerber provides a good summary answer in How do scientists determine the composition of the interior of Earth and other planets? at Scientific American.

Just as you can tell a lot about your trailer by how it tows and how it accelerates and stops; how you evaluate an older Airstream by prodding for floor rot and doing other things, planetary scientists use observations about how planets move and how they ring when hit and what they learn from direct tests to figure out the structure of the earth and other planets.

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The rival to Mars

Joe Rao writes about the Wonders of Scorpius at It is the summer contellation to rival Orion in the winter. The brightest star in the contellation is Antares, the rival of Ares or Mars depending upon whether you are Greek or Roman.

Antares, a supergiant star, 700 times the Sun’s diameter, large enough to engulf even the orbit of Mars, if the solar system were centered on it.

Antares itself is relatively cool as stars go; only 6,000 to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit compared with 11,000 degrees for the Sun. Its low temperature accounts for its ruddy color. It’s at least 17,000 times as luminous as the Sun, yet less than one-millionth in overall density.

Antares is 604 light years away and is an irregular variable star, meaning that it expands and contracts in an unpredictable manner causing its brightness to fluctuate.

Look south towards the horizon as the scorpion slinks across the souther sky at night!

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The Kingston Rally and Central Nevada

All had a good time on a weekend at Roy’s Place in Kingston, NV. Ralley at Kingston, 2005
The site is over the pass and a few miles down Smokey Valley from Austin in the middle of Nevada.
Leipper and Damoth rigs at Kingston 2005
The photo gallery has some good pictures of US Highway 50, the “loneliest road in America” and the grade near Austin, too. US Highway 50
Also check out the Toquima Range tour photo gallery of Belmont and Manhattan in the Destinations section. This was a four hour tour of central Nevada using the Rally site as a base.

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Hot days of summer mean a need for special preparation

Well, it seems the extraordinary hot spell broke today. sorta’ – maybe. A few days with record breaking highs. A record number of days in a row with triple digit highs. Mornings that don’t get anywhere near as cool as they usually do. – This generates all sorts of speculation about global warming and such but those who have been around a while know that it is summer. Every summer can have a few days of record breaking highs and a few hot spells. Plan on it. Prepare for it.

With the reliability of modern vehicles and the near universal inclusion of air conditioning, traveling in the hot days of summer, even in the desert, is no where near as uncomfortable or dangerous as it was just a few decades ago. This doesn’t mean you can ignore summer. There are some things you need to do to be prepared for contingencies and to make sure that you can enjoy the season without undue consequence.

First is to make sure your vehicles are in top shape and all preventive maintenance is on schedule. Hot weather is hard on many parts. Hoses and belts need to be inspected and replaced if suspect. Fluids need to be replaced on schedule and topped off as necessary. The air conditioner should be checked to make sure all of its parts are working properly. Tires should be inspected and pressure checked to proper levels – only in the early morning when cool.

Second is to check your equipment inventory. You should always have drinking water available so carry a jug with a gallon or two. Everyone should have a good hat and UV blocking sunglasses. Carry a good suntan lotion and use it to protect skin from the sun. Review first aid procedure so you know the signs of heat distress and what to do when you see them. Be prepared to be somewhat comfortable if you do get stuck out in the middle of the desert for a few hours.

Third is to take care of yourself. Everyone needs loose fitting clothing. The driver, at least, should wear a long sleeved shirt and perhaps even gloves to protect arms and hands from sunburn while driving. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages but do make sure to drink enough to avoid dehydration. Get a good sleep at night and take naps as needed during the day so you drive alert and alive. Don’t eat heavy as that will make you drowsy and often a full stomach and hot weather don’t go together very well.

The high desert sun and winds need due respect. With proper preparation and appropriate care you can enjoy your outing and get back home with good memories.

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Show and Tell

A new section has been added to memories. The Show and Tell section is where you can see what rigs others have.

Roots 1954 CruiserRoots 1954 Cruiser

Chuck and Judy FellChuck and Judy Fell

The Grossman's new trailerThe Grossman’s new trailer

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Do I need a genset?

Using a genset (motor and generator set) or solar depends upon whether you want to use the A/C or similar high load, long duration appliance.

If you want to use the Air Conditioner or to use other things that take significant electrical power for more than a few minutes, you will need a genset of at least 3 kw, preferrably 4 or 5 kw, capacity. This is a level 4 use.

Level 3 is for those who like a few comforts but can get by without A/C. Typical use is a microwave to heat things up a few minutes; watch a DVD movie in the evening; have plenty of light when it gets dark. A smaller genset (1 or 2 kW) will do here to help keep the batteries charged. This is the 500 watt solar panel level. This level can often get by a day or two with Level 2 power capabilities using battery storage but will need a genset or more solar power for anything longer than a weekend.

Level 2 is for the highly conservative energy user. Occasional lights, water pump, maybe the furnace for a few minutes on a cold morning. 200 watts of solar (and 200 Amp Hr 12v Battery) will usually keep this level in power but foul weather or excessive shade may require an occasional battery charging session on rare occastions.

Level 1 is the tent camper type, run only on dry cells in flashlights, level. Sometimes a 15 watt solar can be useful but mostly this is a disposable battery power level.

The question is for you to determine your preferred lifestyle in your RV, compare that to your budget and to what you can install and carry, and then make a decision about how to meet your energy needs.

– this was originally a response posted at

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Spooner Lake

The WBCCI SNU will meet at a Spooner Lake picnic this weekend (Saturday July 16). It may be rather warm with a lot of sun so come prepared.

Spooner Lake is an access point for bicycle and hiking trails so it can get rather crowded.
Spooner Lake

see also
Spooner Lake Trailhead Cam – Picturesque live webcam view from Spooner Lake trailhead east of Lake Tahoe.

The Flume Trail Information Information, photographs and map of flume trail at Spooner Lake.

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Wireless networking, oops!

In Texas, the roadside rest areas have equipment that allows anyone to access the internet via a radio link. California state parks also have such capabilities that are free to SBC customers. Many RV parks are also providing internet access for a fee.

What you need is a computer with wireless networking capability. Many new laptops come with this built in. It is called ‘wi-fi’ or referred to by the specifications used to communicate such as 802.11 and some letter.

A lot of people are using this sort of networking connection to be able to use computers throughout their house without having to run wires. Most of them aren’t taking any precautions to limit use and restrict access. There are folks on the road look for wireless network signals from unprotected networks so they can check for e-mail messages. Unless they have permission, this is not a good idea. The St. Petersburg Times talks about the risks in Wi-Fi cloaks a new breed of intruder (Leary 05jl04).

Taking advantage of someone else’s ignorance to use a wireless network to gain access to the internet is like taking advantage of an unlocked door to use a telephone to make toll calls. If you are on the road, make sure your wireless connections are with permission!

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Visiting the ocean for a swim?

One of the ocean’s deadliest tricks is described in Live Science. Rip tides or currents pull more than 100 to drowning deaths at US beaches every year.

The USLA [United States Lifesaving Association] also emphasizes anyone planning to swim in the ocean should learn to swim well and never swim alone. Pick a beach with a lifeguard if you don’t feel comfortable with your swimming abilities but still want to enjoy the surf. And finally, take a look at the water — if it looks dangerous, don’t even try it.

The force of moving water is nothing to mess with. Water has a lot of weight and when it is moving it can easily shove around large objects. Flowing water even as shallower than a foot deep can sweep you off your feet or, if in a flash flood on a desert road, sweep your rig off down the wash.

If you do get caught, the key to getting out alive is to not panic and not fight the flow. Whether a flood, a river, or a rip tide, work across the flow to its edge and then to a secure spot. You may end up a long ways downstream but that is better than the alternative.

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Arizona in the 60’s

New photo galleries of Arizonal. One for the southern region and another for the north.

South Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona
Oregon Pipe 1062

Check out other galleries from Jo and Bryan’s travels in the 60’s

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Burning Man: A boondocker’s rally

SF Gate did a story on the construction of the Burning Man that describes the carpentry and gives some idea of the philosophical bent of the event.

This will be the 20th anniversary of the Burning Man festival. It is a week long rally of something like 30,000 participants needing a $5 million budget. It is held on the playa on Labor Day weekend with no facilities whatsoever. When everyone leaves the playa is usually cleaner and more pristine than when the event started.

For those into the counter culture ethos, or the wanna-be’s, this is an event to attend. For everyone with an interest in rallies and events, though, it is a case study with many lessons to be learned.

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WBCCI SNU Newsletter

The July 2005 Newsletter has been posted Note: This newsletter may take a little extra time to download as it is six pages and has several pictures.

** Plan to attend the July 16th Picnic at Spooner Lake.

June 2005 Kingston Rally
** See pictures of the June Rally in Kingston

** See pictures of the nearby ghost towns and almost ghost towns
Don's Pictures of Kingston Canyon Don’s Pictures of Kingston Canyon have been added to the Toquima photo gallery.

** Speaking of ghost towns check out the photo gallery of a Jaggard family outing to Bodie.
The SNU will be visiting Bodie during our August rally at Twin Lakes.

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google earth

“Want to know more about a specific location? Dive right in — Google Earth combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world’s geographic information at your fingertips.” Google Earth – Explore, Search and Discover

You will need Windows XP or 2000 and a good internet connection for this one. What you get is a virtual flyover of many parts of the earth.

Some have used Google Earth to help illustrate the story of the recent terrorism in London.

There is a caution: this can be an amazing way to lose time.

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