Archive for May, 2007

Mesa in the spring – Ramhorn Springs

This is volcanic country. Old lava beds with canyons cut into them and bend and twisted rocks. Ramhorn Springs campground is one of those ‘wide spot in a canyon’ campgrounds with hardly any level spot in it. The springs have been capped and a pipe just dumps the flow into the canyon stream. The water might be potable as it is straight from the ground but that isn’t enough for today’s water safety standards.

Ramhorn Springs
See the photo gallery!

The campground is just off US 395 between Alturas and Susanville. The elevation is about 5500′.

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SNU Rally at Ramhorn Springs

A small gathering out in the wilds of northeastern California – see the photo gallery about the Sierra Nevada Unit’s rally at Ramhorn Springs
ramhorn rally

This is a small campground, a one vault toilet and no potable water type place, that was rather busy this weekend before Memorial Day. The SNU had the perimeter and the other campers filled in the center. As a ‘wide spot in the canyon’ campground, getting the RV level was a challenge.

See the photo gallery!

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Carefree Camping

Carefree seems to be the word for how some like their camping. A soldier on leave with his brother stopped by Ramhorn springs provided an example: two guys on a motorcycle with a tent, sleeping bags, beer, and power bars stopped at a campground with no drinking water a long ways from civilization.

Friendly and courteous always helps. In meeting with new neighbors at the campground, the first thing they wanted to know was where the nearest store was so they could stock up on necessary supplies. They had started the day going over the Sonora pass and then up US 395. A BLM campground between Susanville and Alturas is a beautiful place to camp but not so convenient for finding places to replenish supplies.

With amazing energy they tromped up and down the canyon gathering wood for a fire. Not having an axe or saw put a limit on the size they could gather and also meant that some of the wood hung out over the sides of the firepit. Most of the camp was in bed at 10:30 pm wondering what the lights and noise was outside as they gathered wood even rather late. Carefree shouldn’t mean ignorant and one needs to be careful about camp quiet hours, what can be collected for firewood, proper fire location, and making the sure the fire was completely out when unattended.

If a store wasn’t available, how about campground neighbors? Yep, those guys could spare a bag of marshmallows. Those over there had some matches. It was a small campground with just a few campers but all good neighbors willing to help each other out, given a proper attitude.

Getting the tent set up in the upslope canyon wind was a challenge, too. The bike anchored the upwind side, finally. Modern tents don’t need ground stakes and it didn’t appear that such articles were available on this trip. Those winds were pre-frontal so it got a bit chilly overnight. That created a problem with condensation in the sleeping bags.

The CamelBak wasn’t sufficient for drinking water so a bottle of drinking water was borrowed, too. Beer is just not quite the right beverage, sometimes. The hope was that the campground had drinking water but the BLM closed that access to the spring sometime back, probably due to regulatory requirements. The spring head was still protected but the pipe just dumped into the creek.
Ramhorn Springs
This is the spring head with the concrete tank and collection to protect it from contamination.

Remember those days? Back when you were in your 20’s and a few nights with little other than the shirt on your back was a fun adventure? – seems the older you get the harder the adventure gets and the more there is appreciation for some of the creature comforts of planning and preparation.

An example was the couple who stopped by after spreading the ashes of a bird dog they lost from snakebite. They had a pickup with an ATV in the back and set up a camp with about as comfortable a set of gear as you could have with a tent. Other than the grief over the loss of their dog, they showed that carefree can be after you set up camp as well as in planning the expedition.

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Construction season

Summer approaches and roadwork gets underway. On the recent ride from Reno to Ramhorn Springs there were delays due to construction on US 395. Susanville is also scheduled for major roadwork on the main drag. The CalTrans District 2 website is a good place to start in your search about traffic and road conditions in northeastern California.

The Nevada map at safetravel is a convenient way to see the construction sites if you are planning travel in Nevada.

The KOH talk radio traffic center section of their website is a good starting point for links to sites about road conditions, road cameras, and other travel information.

In addition to these ‘official’ sites, also check places such as the Open Roads Forums. You can often find good advice, such as how to circumvent the Susanville construction and find less expensive fuel.

With any construction, time is your friend. You must be patient. If you hit a section where you must wait for a guide, shut down the engine. Sitting at idle is hard on your engine and transmission. Open the windows, relax, watch for your turn.

Traffic will get congested and that means you need to really be on your toes. Sometimes you will have narrow lanes to make you nervous. Traffic ahead won’t flow smoothly so you will need to anticipate what might happen. Despite the crowd seeming to push, allow yourself good leeway ahead. When you can, get off the road and take a break.

Construction zones also means hazards. Sometimes there are bumps that can do damage if you hit them too hard. Shoulders may be abrupt or nonexistent. There may be obstacles to go around. Be careful. Watch other drivers ahead so you can anticipate what’s coming.

And don’t forget a smile and a wave for the workers out in the sun helping guide traffic is always a good idea!

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Understanding steel

One idea for why the Titanic sunk was because of the way steel plate for the ship was made at that time. On your RV you have to worry about the steel frame and its deterioration over time. In your RV you need good steel for knives and other tools.

Physics Today has a quick review of the relevant solid state physics in The physics in your fork that will help you understand how iron is turned into steel that you use and depend upon every day. The review starts with crystals and how they influence hardness. Then comes carbon to create the cementite and martensite alloyed flavors of iron called steel. After that is the effect of temperature on the crystalline structure and how tempering and quenching works. Finally there are the other additions to create ‘stainless steel’ or modify the internal structure for various needs.

The review notes that we are just rediscovering the techniques used to create Damascus steel and Toledo steel. These ancient steels were mostly the product of working the iron to create special properties. Nowadays we not only work the iron, and understand how that changes the underlying structure of the material, we add material such as vanadium, titanium, niobium, molybdenum, and chromium to help obtain just the characteristics we need.

Next time you reach for a knife or fork, think about the material from which it’s made. Most likely, you’ll be holding a piece of martensitic stainless steel, with small ferrite crystals and martensite, perhaps intermingled with various carbides and nitrides, and wrapped in a thin layer of chromium oxide. It’s an ancient technology that gets better every year.

Steel is one of those materials we take for granted. It has had thousands of years of trial and error experimentation in developing techniques to make it serve its many purposes. It is only in the last hundred years or so that we have begun to understand what is actually happening to the material as we work it, temper it, and alloy it. The Physics Today review will give you and idea of just how much technology and science is behind that stuff that serves so many useful needs.

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A 1965 Caravan

The 1965 See America First Caravan With Lynda Bird Johnson is a recollection from Pee Wee (Dale Schwamborn).

We had three trailers. One for Lynda Bird, her press secretary, and a staff member from National Geographic. The second trailer housed the secret service. The third housed Nick, Art and I, plus the Army communication team, and the photographer from National Geographic. There was a fourth unit provide by Airstream to take care of any maintenance. Our tow vehicles were provided by Pontiac, in colors of red, white and blue.


There is a Photo gallery, Pee Wee’s diary as requested by Airstream’s ad agency, and other memorabilia in these recollections of the early days of the Airstram trailer’s RV club, the WBCCI.

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Don and Gail’s 2005 25ft Airstream CCD

Take a look at this!

Don and Gail started with one a bit smaller than this, one that was comfortable for the Jeep Cherokee. Then they stopped at a dealer for a repair and one thing led to another.
airstream ccd
See the photo gallery.
This picture is the rig at Lahontan in April 2007.

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Top ten knots

Keep your load secure, your awning tied down, and everything ship shape with the right knots. Mother Earth News has a pictorial guide to what they call the top ten knots and link to a page How to Tie the 10 Most Useful Knots. The wikipedia entries on these knots are also worth reading if you want to find out more about them.

The overhand and figure eight knots are simply ways to put a lump in a rope. The serve as stoppers or a means to keep a rope end from unraveling.

The square knot is the one to use to tie together the ends of two identical ropes. If the ropes aren’t identical, use the sheet bend with the stiffest or biggest rope as the bight. The carrick bend might be better for large lines but is difficult to get right and often more suited for the arts and crafts crowd.

The bowline is a sheet bend in the middle of the rope to form a fixed loop. Once you get the trick it is easy to tie. Its the best way to make a rope loop you want to keep a fixed size and not choke whatever it is around.

The clove hitch and two half hitches (not in this top ten list) are the same knot tied on different things. The clove hitch is around something solid and the two half hitches are the same knot around a rope as a slip not. As Mother Earth News notes, the clove hitch needs tension on both ends to be most effective so a loose end is often tied around a load end with a couple of half hitches. While two half hitches will slip on its rope, the clove hitch tends to be rather resistant to slipping up or down its pole. You can add more hitches to reduce slippage.

The taut line_hitch (wikipedia) shown in this list is a bit more complicated than usually represented. It is usually just an extra loop on the down load side of two half hitches. Its main feature is that it doesn’t slip on the rope its tied around like two half hitches but it can be moved if the load is taken off the knot.

The sheepshank is a specialist knot and a rather odd entry in this list. Its purpose is to take up slack in a loaded line. Most of us tighten up ropes at the ends. So getting this one figured out probably shouldn’t rank high on your list.

To really get down to basics, you need to know the overhand, square, sheet bend, and half hitch knots. Everything else is based on that collection. The factors you need to keep in mind in choosing the right knot for solving a problem include the line or rope you have to work with, the strength and slipperiness of the knot that you need, and being able to undo the knot after you are done. A proper knot is a temporary fix that serves a definite purpose, be easy to implement, and not leave any trace when its need is gone.

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How a Photo Can Ruin Your Life

It is tough deciding on the proper venue for this one. Since a lot of grandparents are among the RV enthusiasts, it may be that this is a good place. If you visit your grandchildren and take pictures, you may not realize a risk being taken.

Popular Photography notes How a Photo Can Ruin Your Life. They assert that “Your family photos could get you arrested. Just ask one New Jersey grandmother.”

The issue is that photo processors or others who may come in contact with your pictures are being asked to report suspicious pictures to the police. What they are looking for includes any indication of child pornography or other crime.

Tragically for a number of people all over the country, innocent family photos turned over to the police have led to financial ruin, divorce, debt, public humiliation, and lifelong scorn as a registered sex offender for mothers and fathers.

Some cases involved pictures much less provocative than Sarah M.’s. Based on the way prosecutors interpreted photos in a few of those cases — Marian Rubin, a New Jersey grandmother charged for taking nude photos of her granddaughters, then aged 3 and 8; and Jeffrey B., a New York father who lost custody of his two daughters after he shot pictures of them mooning him — it’s possible to spot red flags where our innocence used to be.

So if your cute pictures of your grandkids show anything that a wild imagination could be considered provocative, you might be headed for trouble. Very young kids don’t really care what they are wearing – or not – and their cutest moments are often when they are most vulnerable. That can be a recipe for disaster for a photographer.

So if you are taking pictures of your grandchildren, be very careful. If they are preparing for the bath or bed or if they are not completely dressed and presentable in public, then it is best to leave the camera in its bag. If you do have pictures that show any nudity or anything that could be considered provocative, keep them private and do not allow photo processors or computer technicians to get near them.

Paranoid? It certainly seems so. There is a New Jersey grandmother who may think she wasn’t paranoid enough. So you take care, OK?

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It’s the bees

This spring it is the apple trees. Nevada springtime can be rather hard on the flowering plants as a good hard freeze in late spring is almost a given. On top of this is the fact that rain is unpredictable and the result is that every spring is different. This means that some plants have a good spring and others a devastating spring – and you really can’t predict which is which for any given year.

Last year, it was wildflowers, peaches, and pears. This spring it appears that the apples have it. The apple blossoms survived the last storm with its snow dusting. The apples don’t seem to mind the low rainfall. Both the crab apples, which hit peak blossom a week ago, and the edible variety, which are just now hitting peak, are doing well.

What seems remarkable is the bees. There are reports that the U.S. bee population is suffering due to a fungus. If you are near one of the apple trees, though, you will know that there are still plenty of bees around. There is a low hum near the trees as the apples service the blossoms. You have to look close to see the bees. They are small bees and there are a lot of them. Somewhere there are active hives. Where are they in this neighborhood? How did they survive the winter?

A suburban neighborhood has a lot of wildlife. Birds may be most obvious but there is a whole lot more to see for those who look. The cottontail rabbits are in the yards here and they haven’t been seen there for many years. There are squirrels who are making a nuisance of themselves digging holes. Perhaps the developments nearby have hindered the coyotes?

This year it is the bees not so quietly going about business that are most notable. We might have an excess of apples this fall.
apple blossoms

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Idaho Unit Rally at Bodily RV April 2007

Randy and Vicki took a visit to the north and found that there is a WBCCI Unit and an Airstream dealer that get together for a good time. See the photo gallery!
Idaho WBCCI

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SNU May newsletter

Dear SNU RV enthusiast!

The May 2007 Newsletter has been posted

Topics include:

* Review of the Lahontan Rally. See the photo gallery

* The President’s Ramblins

* Scrapbook PDF files now available on the rally pages

* SNU members Here, There, and Everywhere

* Planned informality – what makes the SNU the SNU.

>> Ramhorn Springs Adventure

The next SNU rally will be Thursday May 17 through Sunday 20 2007 at Ramhorn Springs, a BLM campground north from Susanville on U. S. Highway 395. It is approximately 45 miles from Susanville and about 2 hours from Reno. This is a no fee area and it is individual campsites. There are two entrances to the campground. Take the second entrance. Members and guests are welcome. Board meeting Saturday open to all. This is a good area for hiking, bird watching and just relaxing. Bring some wood for the fire. Arrival time is anytime after noon on Thursday May 17. Feel free to come a day early or stay a day late though. Whatever suits your schedule. For more information and maps see the link.

>> Check out the SNU interactive calendar

The purpose of this interactive calendar will be to post the rallies but more importantly, it will be a place where members can add their own upcoming trips.


The SNU Folks

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A road, only 22 miles away

Live Science reports looks at the space between roads in the U.S. and reports that:

With more than 4 million miles of roads in the United States, the farthest you can venture from a road is 22 miles (unless you’re wandering around Alaska or the swamps of Louisiana). The only place you can be 22 miles away from road in the contiguous states is a spot in the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

You’d think Nevada would place better but this particular study implies that the ability to create trails over desert and mountain in the search for minerals make Nevada rather accessible by road – at least when compared to swamps in Louisiana!

“Roads are really the life-blood of our economy,” said study team member Raymond Watts of the U.S. Geological Survey in Ft. Collins, Colo. “They’re the circulatory system of our culture.”

The study made a map of the U.S. substituting distance from a road for elevation to show just how remote and rural locations were. The study is to be published in Science May 4 issue. Future work is needed to accommodate such things as type of road, traffic on the road, and other such stuff.

The fun thing is that you could do a study like this, too. It’d take a bit of work, some computer programming skill, and knowledge about the databases that describe roads (this is the source for the maps in GIS systems and road atlas programs).

You can see a map of “per-capita RV by county for the conterminous United States. Comparing this map with the map of roadless space shows that some counties have high RV overall but low per-capita RV; for example, some counties contain metropolitan areas closely juxtaposed with mountains, deserts or extensive wetlands. Credit: Science” to compare with the distance to road map.

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Automating traffic tickets

Government Technology has a report on Traffic Tickets Going Digital that describes what you may encounter on the road someday.

technology permits a police officer to scan a violator’s driver’s license and registration, generate a citation and transmit it wirelessly for processing. The only paper produced is a driver’s copy printed at the scene of the traffic stop.

It appears that the several minutes it takes to write out a citation by hand is the lengthiest part of the traffic citation process. And 10% or so of those handwritten citations contain errors or illegible data that causes them to be invalid in court. Reducing the time alongside the road also reduces the odds of the officer getting hit by a passing car.

The other facet of this is that those drivers who do not have a valid license or do not have insurance or have other such problems can be detected and pulled of the road.

Some states are pushing the traffic technology even further — 21 allow drivers to pay tickets online. Drivers need only enter their ticket number to find out the cost of the violation, and they can then pay the fine by credit card.

Some of the devices that generate e-citations let police scan a motorist’s fingerprints into a database. Officers making a traffic stop also can use audio, video and photographs to capture the specifics of an infraction, reducing the likelihood drivers can successfully contest their citations.

Where this is going, maybe, is the day when you don’t need a driver’s license or vehicle registration. If you are stopped, you are biometrically identified and your vehicle VIN scanned. The national database is scanned to see if the government has anything on you or the vehicle. — but this would mean a significant loss of revenue so some other means of taxation than driver license and vehicle registration would need to be invented.

A caveat to all of this is the confusion between traffic citations being a source of revenue as well as an effort to promote highway safety. This creates friction. Much of this facility to automate the process tends to convey the idea that it is more revenue and less safety. It is compounded by the insurance implications of convictions.

Whenever you face a traffic citation that will place points on your license you should have your say in court. That is your right and it is one that you should always exercise.

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I580 Reno to Carson City

Right now, I580 might bring to mind the San Francisco area problem where a tanker fire melted an overpass. But there is an I580 in the Reno to Carson City corridor, too. It isn’t complete yet but you can watch it being built via webcam. See the NDOT I-580 freeway extension construction website.

The extension of I-580 from the Mt. Rose Highway to Bowers Mansion cutoff will connect Reno and Carson City, effectively completing I-580 in Washoe County. NDOT has been planning for several decades to improve I-580 to freeway standards for its entire length in Nevada. Piece by piece, the long-range plan is taking shape. This new freeway segment covers 8.5 miles and detailed information on the extension is displayed on the interactive map to the right. Drilling into the links of the interactive map provides design details of the improvements including simulations and engineered drawings.

This is the section that will have one fancy bridge – so fancy the first contractor bailed because the downslope winds made it too risky for the way he wanted to do it. This will get freeway all the way from I-80 to US 50 when it completes in another couple of years. After that is the rest of the Carson City bypass and then, on south.

Of course, if freeways, cities and traffic aren’t your cup of tea, you can take a look at routes through Fernley and Yerrington. Pretty soon there will be an intersection on I-80 about 12 miles east of Sparks to feed a new industrial park. That will probably provide a shortcut over to Silver Springs. (contract ID)

BTW – you can see the RWIS (remote weather) data from those towers you see occasionally alongside the road at the NDOT Northwestern site.

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Tetrapod zoology

Are you worried about Godzilla? Check out the page at tetrapod zoology.

To begin with, let’s get things straight and admit up front that Godzilla is not a real animal, nor was it ever. It’s an unfeasibly big late-surviving dinosaur (belonging to the hypothetical taxon Godzillasaurus, according to some), mutated by radiation, with a radioactive heart, and virtually impervious to other gigantic monsters, robots, artillery, laser blasts, lava and fire. Not real. Sorry about that. But by posing questions about fictional entities we can still learn stuff, and you may be surprised to learn that Godzilla has, on occasion, been discussed semi-seriously by various biologists and palaeontologists.

Don’t you wish you had that kind of energy source for your RV?

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What to freeze that?

The freezer in an RV is usually rather small – except when you have one of the old ones with a thermostat set too low and the ambient rather low, too – so you can’t store much frozen stuff. But freezing is still an option. The problem is figuring out what is best stored as frozen and how to freeze it. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has the information you need. There are some general guidelines:

Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.

and a PDF document about freezing Animal Products including diagrams for proper packaging.

Want to freeze something? Check out the ‘how to freeze it page. Take advantage of that freezer compartment in your RV.

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