Archive for July, 2007

Walker Lake Nevada, a million dollar lake

Walker Lake is getting a bit of attention these days. The Reno paper reports that

A new [$1,000,000] federally-funded ad campaign that touts Walker Lake as an unpolished, historic and under utilized resort destination has some people in nearby Hawthorne excited about possible revitalization efforts.

The photo gallery has been updated with a drive-by photo shoot.
tamarack beack at Walker Lake Nevada
Here’s Tamarack Beach. See the (updated) photo gallery!

Don was telling me the Paiute Indians had a myth about a giant serpent in the lake. His high school mascot was the Mina Serpent named after this legend. It seems that one purpose of the legend was to keep the kids out of the lake so they wouldn’t do so many of the stupid things kids often do around water.

Reports of sea serpents in Walker Lake have been around probably as long as the lake has been inhabited. The Walker River Paiute Tribe has a legend handed down by the “Older People” that there were two sea serpents living in the lake who were once human beings, a male and a female. Children were told not to talk lightly or make fun of them. [history and geology of Walker Lake]

see also Banking on the future of a little lake -|- map -|- serpent sighting report -|- Walker Lake Interpretive Association Articles of Interest -|- The Loon Festival page has good contact information for camping -|- The BLM runs the campgrounds on the west side of the lake -|- public lands description -|- and don’t forget the Walker Lake photo gallery!

UPDATE from Don

The Hawthorne basketball and track teams were called the “Serpents” and the name was derived from the Paiute lore, but our mascot was the “Walker Lake Serpent.” I’m actually the only snake I know of from Mina. I don’t think there ever was a Mina serpent. :-)

We didn’t have a football team before WWII because there just weren’t enough students big enough to make up a football team. Student body was around 42, for all four year grades from freshman to senior, while I was there. Graduating class was 12. (the one I was in) Us Mina kids (about 18 or 20) rode the school bus from Mina (33 miles) to help make up the student body of 42.

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Hawthorne to Mono over Anchorite Pass on NV 359, CA 167

Here’s what the middle of Nevada looks like. Anchorite pass between Hawthorne and US 395 is quite a bit lower in elevation and nowhere near the slog you get going over Conway Summit on US 395. See the photo gallery of Hawthorne and Anchorite Pass
anchorite pass, nevada

Hawthorne, Jerry’s home town, is just south of Walker Lake. There is a Truck parking lot with a free dump station just behind the El Capitan casino and motor lodge off 5th street. You can fuel up at Scotties or the Exxon station near there, too.

NV 359 and CA 167 are good two lane roads but don’t count on shoulders. There are a lot of straight stretches where you can let any traffic by as you enjoy the scenery. The odds are pretty good, though, that there won’t be much, if any, traffic to get by.

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Aluminum rust

PopSci has an interesting article about a favorite RV material – aluminum.

when aluminum rusts, it forms aluminum oxide, an entirely different animal. In crystal form, aluminum oxide is called corundum, sapphire or ruby (depending on the color), and it is among the hardest substances known. If you wanted to design a strong, scratchproof coating to put on a metal, few things other than diamond would be better than aluminum oxide.

Anodized aluminum means it has been treated to get an extra thick layer of aluminum oxide to protect the material.

But don’t get mercury anywhere near it as, well, read the story!

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Stats on mowing the lawn

What happens when you take a set of sharp blades and spin them at 160 mph across a lawn? Trevor Butterworth and Jenna Krall take a look at the statistics related to the use of lawn mowers.

The chances of a fatal accident were 1 in 2,245,264 in 2006. It appears that the fatalities were all due to heart attacks in men aged 40 – 79. For the non fatal accidents, a male had a 1 in 2,626 chance while female risk was 1 in 7,248. The typical injuries were:

Lacerations; tripping and falling over the lawn mower; slipping and falling while mowing; toes amputated from feet slipping under mower; back injuries from pulling on the cable to start the mower; ankle sprains, shoulder strains, back pain from pushing mowers.

See the American Academy of Pediatrics safety guide.

The report also includes other interesting trivia about how people injure themselves using lawn mowers.

The lesson for the RV enthusiast can be seen in the quote above about typical injuries. You could get the same injuries from hooking up the trailer or doing other things in setting up or tearing down a camp. It’s not the 160 mph sharp blades that are your biggest risk. It is the proper handling of the equipment.

Take care.

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A Skywalk experience

The Hualapai Nation built a glass walkway over the Grand Canyon so you can walk over the cliff and look down 4000 feet, through glass. Daniel Terdiman describes his experience in Clearly, there’s nothing like Grand Canyon Skywalk. “A visit to Grand Canyon West and its glass bridge over and into the canyon is an experience for a lifetime.”

It does have some of the appurtenances of a tourist trap. The tour is rather expensive and picture taking on the walkway is prohibited.

only about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas. … The Skywalk is a glass bridge that juts out into the canyon, 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. … The view itself is practically priceless. Well, OK, maybe pricey is a better word. A ticket for adult admission to the Skywalk will run $81, but can cost much more with options such as a horse ride, or a helicopter ride.

Maybe, if you’re into that sort of thing, it might be something novel to see.

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Hitch hints and wagon masters

A VW or a PT Cruiser to tow your Airstream? RV Lifestyle has a number of articles about this and other interesting ideas. Andy at Can Am RV in Ontario is a source of much practical experience behind the hitch hints. The Wagon Masters articles are by M.B. & Karen Wilson. These articles are often selections from a full article in the magazine. The focus is for Canadians but the information is useful for any RV enthusiast.

Four Cylinder Towing starts out with the observation that

Trailers in Europe are very light, with good suspensions. European RV manufacturers neither understand nor use equalizing hitches, and believe it or not, they still use mechanical brakes. The four cylinder cars were cruising without difficulty at highway speeds, and they seemed to be handling the aerodynamic drag of their trailers without a problem. Even more interesting was the observation that the RV enthusiasts we encountered were towing on roads that were generally more challenging than ours. …

in Europe … the Jetta has a 3000 lb. towing recommendation. In North America it is rated at only 1000 lbs., likely because they don’t see the towing capability as a marketing advantage. We were able to install a very solid hitch platform on the Jetta that reaches forward of the rear wheels – we use a 550lb. Eaz-Lift hitch with a welded ball mount.

Eliminating Trailer Sway has an interesting definition of trailer sway:

In theory what causes a swaying action to build is that the trailer is actually traveling faster than the tow vehicle so it has to take a longer route down the road and if nothing absorbs the extra energy built up the sway will continue. If something gives the trailer more speed the sway will increase.

In testing a ‘disposable’ rig, they found that it was very difficult to get a rig with a properly adjusted hitch to an uncontrollable sway. When something was off, the natural tendency to correct by steering often made things worse.

Eventually we discovered that resisting the temptation to steer it out and just holding the wheel straight would allow one or two more swings of the trailer and then it would settle down.

Types Of RV Rallies gets into the different ways that RV enthusiasts group together and the benefits of different types of clubs.

we learned what RV clubs and chapters are all about. Not only that, we discovered that people can mean the difference between a successful or unsuccessful club. We’ve seen some RV clubs do great work for charities and the community, while everyone had a great time. However, club meetings can be the toughest part of the weekend rally. Believe it or not, we’ve witnessed grown adults arguing over who’ll get to bring the beans, and who’ll bring the corn for a potluck dinner. The key to a successful club is a good leader, one who is liked by the members and who is willing to work hard for the club’s interests.

As always, back up a bit and check the home page. In this case, you can find out about the RV scene in the northern part of North America. You’ll find a link to Garth’s article on Carbon Monoxide detectors for your RV. Magazine subscriptions are for 1 year (7 issues) at $19.99 CDN or $30 US. RV Life has been at it since 1971.

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Reading assignment

Here are some web sites with interesting or useful information.

I’ve been workin on the railroad is a blog entry about how retirement ideas have changed over the years. Our grandfathers didn’t really envision retiring. These days, one of the challenges of the retiree is how to keep from getting bored.

Bunn has a good PDF document about the basics of coffee brewing.

Charles Bruni is selling his Geo Method. It’s quite a sales job for a simple method to keep your holding tanks clean. Think ‘dishwasher’ and you’ll be pretty close.

The i2RV discussion thread on awning repair suggests using Liquid stitch for the acrylic fabric.

Installing a 30 or 50-amp RV Electric Service provides the basics if you want to hook your RV up to electric at home.

A better soda can stove has instructions for how to make a hiker’s alcohol stove out of soda cans.

Still waiting for the fuel cell to replace the genset? Breakthrough Fuel Cell, Twice as Efficient as Generators describes one that is getting close.

Wheel Bearings Perform Two Key Suspension Tasks, Larry Carley, Counterman, June 1998

Wheel bearings perform two very important jobs in a vehicle’s suspension. They allow the wheels to rotate with minimal friction and they support the vehicle’s weight. To do both jobs, the bearings must be in near perfect condition.

Travels with Gertie is a travel log for those who like to read about others’ adventures.

One-Wheel Wonder is an article about the history of the wheelbarrow.

On RV.net is how I used a leaf blower to leak test my RV (with pics)

Also on RV.net is a discussion about What would you do if another rig caught fire next to you?

If you have a cat, here is how to administer prescriptions in 7 steps.

A word processor review has a good rundown of things you might want to know about if your club is trying to organize its newsletter production and similar activities.

The Mayo Clinic’s First Aid Guide might be work perusing on occasion to keep your skills up.

How Travelers Waste Money on the Road is an entry at Lorelle and Brent VanFossen’s Taking Your Camera on the Road – maybe a good resource for those of us who take pictures when out in the RV.

As always with these ‘reading assignments’ – check out the links and the web site that the link is a part of. Don’t stay up too late – there’s a lot of stuff out there with a lot of good ideas to satisfy your curiosity and maybe help you get more out of doing what you want to do.

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Melting the plug

On last year’s July trip to the Salem Rally, we stopped at Goose Lake Oregon State Park and enjoyed the electric service to run the Air Conditioner during a record heat wave. Sean’s experience this year made me feel I was lucky.

Sean at Our Odyssey described two stops in a row where the park electrical service needed help. Staying dry-side at La Pine State Park, on the Deschutes river) is where he melted a plug. Just missing the heat wave at Goose Lake state park was a wakeup about electrical service at RV parks. Not everyone is going to open up the electric box to conduct a safety inspection but once burned ….

You can catch a problem before the plug on your electrical cord melts. Whenever you run a good sized electrical load, such as to run an air conditioner, there will be the potential for the wiring to get hot. This is why you don’t coil up extra cord in a tight space. That can concentrate heat which might melt insulation.

Faulty wiring will often show up as a hot spot. This is what happened to Sean at La Pine. Faulty wiring in the park pedestal caused the plug to get hot and melt the end of his electrical cord.

Rather than pull the cover and do an inspection, you can just check to see if your plug or the outlet is getting warm after a few minutes of heavy load. It is always a good idea to be skeptical about alien power sources. Here are some tips to help you prevent damage to your rig or equipment.

1) use a polarity tester to make sure that the ground, neutral, and hot are properly wired and connected. (there are 2 hots in 50 amp RV service)

2) use a voltage tester to make sure you are getting the proper voltage at the plug.

3) make sure your electrical cord goes directly to the ground below the pedestal connection and has no loops for anyone to trip on. Provide slack so that if someone does catch a toe on the cord they won’t pull the plug.

4) check the connections after you have been plugged in for a while, especially if running a heavy load. Looking for hot outlets and plugs might be another good use for an infrared thermometer. Power down and disconnect anything getting hot.

5) check the voltage inside the rig anytime you turn on a heavy load to make sure that the line voltage drops aren’t excessive. A significant voltage change when you turn on the A/C indicates some wiring up the line is eating electricity and producing heat.

No need for paranoia but a very good need for appropriate precautions. You’d think state parks would be better wired than what Sean found out. That experience only tells you that you shouldn’t take anything for granted, especially when it comes to safety critical things.

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Finding Obsidian Dome

Using the maps.google.com site, you can see the Obsidian road intersection with US 395. Anita notes that there may not be turn lanes so you need to be careful about traffic. (latitude 37.774798, longitude -119.014281) [UPDATE: yes, nice turn lanes to get out of traffic to turn is good, but no acceleration lanes so getting back on the highway means waiting for a good hole in the traffic]

The campsite itself is between the loop and the dome near the center of this view. (latitude 37.749565, longitude -119.021641). In the Satellite view you can see the slide to the east of the camp area that goes down into a small crater. You can also see the mining road that goes up the side of the dome.

Note that the road goes nearly all the way around the dome leaving US 395 a couple of miles northeast then going around the west side of the dome to end on the south face. Somewhere along the way, it changes from Obsidian road to Glass Creek road. On the map, Glass Creek road whithers to a trail for about 2 kilometers as it heads back to US 395. There is also a trail that continues on to the east around the base of the dome and then towards US 395 across some areas that appear rather devoid of vegetation. This area may be one the ATV crowd likes to cruise around in.

You can find more about this rally and the dome by searching this blog for “obsidian”. See Fires close roads and campgrounds to check for conditions before you head out. Check out Going to an Eastern Sierra Rally this weekend? for links about gas prices. Weather and other background links are highlighted at Background for Obsidian Dome.

South of Conway Pass Photo Gallery Update links to several photo galleries.

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WBCCI Golden Anniversary Caravan

See the story of the caravan based on Charles Spiher’s blog. It is about a Canadian Caravan retracing the steps of one of the very early Wally Byam tours.

Fifty years ago the sight of 100 travel trailers, equipped with modern conveniences of home was a true curiosity, a novelty similar to the circus coming to town. With few private campgrounds, they relied on public parks, vacant exhibition grounds, & private farmland for space, and were fortunate to have water on occasion and rarely three amps of electricity. Comfy,lightweight, towed by V-8 Cadillacs, Buicks, and Ford station wagons, they were perceived as the modern day version of the previous century’s small covered Conestogas. Fast forward to 2005 where we spent all but seven nights in private campgrounds, most with full electric, water, and sewage facilities. Fully self-contained, our immediate interests were satellite TV reception, availability of wi-fi internet access, & location of the nearest Wal-Mart. Studio apartments on wheels. RVs are now as ubiquitous on the highways as cars and semis. Other organized groups of motorhomes, banded together in scheduled travel ‘tracks’, crossed our path several times. Impostors.

Don’t forget the page turn link to visit the next page about this caravan at at the Caravan, the ceremonies, and special guests.

That 1955 Caravan was before the interstate highway system. And fifty years before that was a young army officer Eisenhower preparing to lead the 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy. That took 62 days to cover 3,251 miles. Here’s from Eisenhower’s Army Convoy Notes 11-3-1919

Extended trips by trucks through the middle western part of the United States are impracticable until roads are improved, and then only a light truck should be used on long hauls.

Then fifty years before that, it was the great migration in animal drawn wagons and on foot. That’s the “previous century’s small covered Conestogas” Charles was talking about!

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Fires close roads and campgrounds

Thunderstorms with lightning moved through the Sierra’s this afternoon and started a bunch more fires. US 395 is closed north of Bordertown and south of Mammoth where the June Lake Loop is being used as a bypass.

For those planning on the SNU Obsidian Dome Rally, here are some links to bookmark so you can keep current on what’s closed and where the fires are and what is happening.

The Incident Information System website is a hardcore data source. The page is a table with all incidents summarized that you can sort and select to help you find what you are looking for.

Inyo complex fire on InciWeb – this is the InciWeb that gives you the status of the fire and its impact.

Inyo current conditions – The Inyo National Forest news headlines.

Inyo NF on Inyo complex fire – a PSA on the fire in progress.

Here’s the CalTrans site where you can enter a road number and get current conditions in California. Nevada doesn’t seem to be much interesting in road conditions other than for construction or winter weather.

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Camping at Dayton state park under question

KOH reports that there is a plan to eliminate ad hoc camping at Dayton Nevada State Park and to make it a reservation only group area. A public hearing will be held in Dayton Tuesday (7/10/2007) evening.

It appears residents in the area are complaining because the park attracts vagrants.

I wonder what they plan for the dump station.

Civilization encroaches.

Las Vegas Sun’s storyKRNV TV story

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Suggestions for a road trip

Wellington Grey has 14 suggestions for taking an American Road Trip based on a 10,255 mile trip around the US.

There’s good advice about GPS, guide books, National Park passes, and emergency supplies. Number 7 is “Take breaks before you need to” which is certainly good advice. He also notes that a vacation from the vacation can be a good idea, too.

Constantly moving, making decisions and being in new places is more taxing on the brain than you may realize.

The last suggestion is about traveling alone and with friends.

There is a unique feeling of introspection you can get while traveling by yourself. However, it’s nice to include a friend to carry some of the burden of driving and planning — I did, and ended up getting a girlfriend-turned-wife out of the experience.

The journal he cites as an example of his suggestion to “document your progress” has the story of his finding out that rodeos were real events. This was in Cody Wyoming with the Hells Angels having a convention at the same time as the rodeo. That’s an interesting story, too, as he discovers what rodeo is all about.

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Keeping the inside cool

When it starts to get above ninety outside, the inside is going to need some help to provide a comfortable environment. I hear Wally Byam put a floor vent in his trailer so he could get ground air to flow up and out through the roof vents.

These days, the usual custom is Air Conditioning. 13,000 BTU/hr cooling is needed for smaller RV’s and 30,000 or more for the larger class A’s. These are usually roof mount heat pumps although there are other options. The problem is that this method needs a lot of electricity. A typical roof mount RV A/C will run $500 – $1000.

To run an A/C off grid you will need a genset. A 3 KW unit is minimum and many RV’s will have 5kw or larger gensets. These have to be able to handle the initial current surge required by the heat pump compressor when it starts up as well as the continuous operation at fairly heavy load.

Reducing energy consumption is why a lot of folks look at evaporative cooling (aka swamp collers). This a great method for cooling in dry climates but suffer a bit when the humidity goes up. Evaporative Cooling (they make fabric for clothing that cools) says “To evaporate one gallon of water requires almost 8,700 BTUs.” Water Cooling Secrets says 8100 (this company sells misters for desert patio cooling).

A first hand account of swamp cooling an RV describes the ‘made for RV’ Turbo Cool and a customized cooler from an alternative energy specialist. The big thing to note is that he is looking at adding another 100 gallon water tank to his RV. At 8100 BTU per gallon, the evaporative cooler is going to need to evaporate more than a gallon of water per hour to keep up with even a small Air Conditioner. To do that will also mean a good blower that will probably draw current similar to a forced air furnace (5 to 10 amps). The cost of the swamp cooler is also near the same as for a heat pump type A/C

Swamp coolers also become rather uncomfortable when the afternoon thunderstorms show up and the air gets humid.

side note: Online Conversion – Ton of air conditioning is a discussion about a ton of air conditioning. 12,000 BTU/hr is cooling enough to make a ton of ice per day. So the small RV needs a 1 ton cooling plant and the larger ones 3 or more. The same discussion notes that a one ton cooling rate requires about 1400 watts electricity.

The Wikipedia article also has some interesting information.

Bigger is not Better has some interesting issues to consider when thinking about how much you need. Also see Selecting Size / Cooling Capacity

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Heat issues on the road

The RV season is also the hot season – summer! Fortunately it’s not like the ‘good old days!’ With due care, you won’t have an over heated radiator, even when heading for the elevations to get cool. You won’t have to swelter when you get there, either, as there are all sorts of ways to stay cool, even off grid. There are issues, though.

A lawsuit in in progress about fuel density. When gasoline or diesel gets hot, it expands. In terms of energy, you’ll get more in the morning when its cool than in the afternoon when its hot if you purchase the same volume of fuel. The complaint is that this is wrong and they want temperature compensation at the pump. They do this in Canada so they can charge for the temperature shrinkage. In the US, with hot fuel, the cost ends up being on the consumer.

Heat is also a major factor in tire failure. Tires should handle most road temperatures you will run across, even on the sunny side. Do make sure that you have the tire pressure up near the max rating for the tire when you check it in the morning. Also make sure your tires aren’t much more than five years old and have no indication of cracking or other problems.

Heat is also the big reason transmissions fail. The fluid, oil, can only take so much heat. This is why a towing package often includes extra transmission oil cooling.

For your engine, make sure to flush the radiator and coolant every couple of years. Check fluid levels as a part of the morning pre-trip preparation. Do not remove radiator caps when the system is warmed up as it runs under pressure and that means very hot fluid can get everywhere, including on you, if you don’t wait for the engine to cool down. You can usually check coolant levels by looking at the overflow tank (another modern feature!)

Inspect all hoses and belts at every lube service to make sure they aren’t showing signs of heat stress or decay.

You can help reduce engine load in a motorhome by using the generator to run the house airconditioner while going down the road. Check the manual but in most cases, this is accepted practice as there is no way an engine A/C will cool a larger motor home.

The refrigerator is going to need good ventilation, too. It is much harder to pump heat uphill and you need to do what you can to help it along. Keep the vents clean and install a fan, maybe powered by a small solar panel, to help air flow through the refrigerator coils.

Time of day to travel is also something to consider. Try to find someplace cool to rest in mid afternoon. Do your traveling in the wee hours of the morning for coolest temps.

Never travel without drinking water and other gear that will get you by if you get stranded out in the middle of the desert. It may seem to be an inconvenience to have to stop every couple of hours to take care of nature’s business, but if you don’t, you aren’t taking care of your need for proper hydration.

If you do take a wrong turn and get stuck somewhere, don’t leave your vehicle. Wait for rescue to come to you, don’t go for it – you did tell someone where you were going and when to expect you to get there, didn’t you?

In the ‘good old days,’ travel in extreme weather required a lot of planning for contingencies. These days, it’s often just another day on the road. That doesn’t mean there is no risk so take due care.

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Has that been in the RV too long?

Ever had an unpleasant surprise when grabbing something stashed in your RV to put it to use? Battery dead or leaked? Doesn’t taste quite right? Looks weird?

An RV often isn’t a good place to store things unless you have a mild climate. Out in the sun, the RV internal temperatures can get quite high. At night in winter it can get below freezing. Temperature extremes usually aren’t good for anything that might age, rot, or otherwise have a shelf life.

You’d think diet soda would be OK. – but not for 3 months or more. Bag of marshmallows? – maybe 10 months. Vinegar? that’ll be good for 3 years, maybe.

Check the expiration dates at Organize Your Life and see what kind of shelf life to expect for a lot of stuff you might have in your RV.

Cynthia Braun, the page author, is a CPO (certified professional organizer) and Professional Organizer for Nassau County, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. If you were not aware of such certification, you might find out more about the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) and POLI (Professional Organizers of Long Island).

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RWIS – July 4 and its hot!

OK. it’s hot. If you like to watch thermometers, the Nevada DOT has an addition for your web pages. Rwis is the Road Weather Information System.

a unique system consisting of several meteorological stations strategically located alongside the highway that allow the Department to make more informed decisions during winter storms. Specialized equipment and computer programs monitor air and pavement temperature to make forecasts regarding how the winter storms impact the highways.

Black Springs up near Bordertown is reporting 91F at 9%. Gardnerville is at 93F.

Of course, you can also check the National Weather Service Office hourly’s. The NWS Reno area forecasts page shows a heat advisory. You can click on the map to get a forecast for any point.

The NWS also has a page about lightning – Lightning Risk Reduction Outdoors – When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! – there is a picture of a row of cows that didn’t get far enough from the fence. Find out what you should do to avoid becoming a victim like those cows!

A source of the heat is the sun. You can find out more about that at the Solar Radiation Resource Information page. That is a good resource for those who are engineering solar power stations, too.

Since it’s US Independence Day, you might want to check the American Flag Store and see if they have what you need to show your colors.

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