Archive for November, 2007

A sweet spot, the Airstream 2006 Classic 25ft

Tom and Donna Faker’s 2006 Classic 25ft hits a sweet spot for the serious trailerist. It is big enough for comfortable living yet small enough to go just about anywhere with ease.

Airstream 2006 Classic
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Portable library

You may have heard something about Amazon’s Kindle. It is a new take on the e-book gadget that provides a means for you to store a whole bunch of books and other reading material in a single book sized package – plus it provides a connection to a very large library of other materials. What makes it different is its use of cell phone internet access. You don’t pay monthly access fees. Instead it is like free shipping when you buy books. Mike Elgan provides an Opinion: Why Amazon’s Kindle is revolutionary. Surprising facts about Amazon’s new Kindle e-book reader.

But you don’t need more than you have to gain access to all sorts of free books and materials!

If you want to go to college, Berkley has a Massive free education list available. CompSci, Engineering, Chemistry, … all the good stuff!

If that leaves you with questions, you can check with wiseGeek for clear answers for common questions. For instance, What are the Different Fire Pit Designs?

For original research on your Berkley studies, you can check out the directory of open access journals. “This service covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. We aim to cover all subjects and languages. There are now 2947 journals in the directory. Currently 965 journals are searchable at article level. As of today 163053 articles are included in the DOAJ service.”

Computer Hope has “free online computer support and computer related information. Computer Hope has been designed to assist all types of computer users with any of their computer related questions as well as a great location to learn more about your computer and its hardware and software.”

The Baen Free Library is a publisher’s teaser – you can get free reading of some of the publisher’s books.

Footnote Millions of Historical Documents Online describes a service for history buffs looking to examine original documentation. The caveat is that there are some charges involved.

Camden House is where Sherlock Holmes buffs can start their education.

Discover Magazine has one to ponder next time you go over Donner Pass on I80 – Living Through the Donner Party. “The nineteenth-century survivors of the infamous Donner Party told cautionary tales of starvation and cannibalism, greed and self-sacrifice. But not until now are we learning why the survivors survived.”

2020 Books is a listing of free books and where to find them.

There are free audio books available, too, so you can listen to a book while driving. Stick these in your mp3 player and help keep yourself alert on the road.

Daily Lit has some nonfree stuff but is the place to go if you like your books in small chunks. “DailyLit sends books in installments via e-mail. DailyLit currently offers over 400 classic public domain titles that can be subscribed to and read in their entirety for free. Popular titles include “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen Readers can choose how often and at what time they want the e-mails sent to them (e.g. every weekday at 6:30am). Books on DailyLit can be read any place that a reader receives e-mail, including on a PDA, Blackberry, Trio, etc. Each installment of a book can be read in under 5 minutes, and if a reader is done with a particular installment, a reader can receive the next installment immediately in his/her e-mail Inbox. DailyLit has recently added forums where readers can discuss their favorite books and authors.”

U Penn has an online books resource, too. “that facilitates access to books that are freely readable over the Internet. It also aims to encourage the development of such online books, for the benefit and edification of all.”

Bible studies are also online. See Bible Gateway (research and study) or the Net Bible (reading) or or Bible Discovery (software solutions).

UPDATE: almost forgot: Free Public Domain Books and Free Tech Books – the classics of literature and the bleeding edge of technology!

Now you can have a major library in your RV without the hassle of all the weight and ‘where do you put it’ problems!

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Gold Canyon Steakhouse and Wildhorse Saloon

Downtown Dayton: The Gold Canyon Steakhouse and Wildhorse Saloon first opened 120 years ago. The current owners have spent the last 10 years restoring and refurbishing it.
Gold Canyon Steak House
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Also see other entries about Dayton on Zephyrs.

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SNU lunch at the Gold Canyon Restaraunt November 2007

The WBCCI Sierra Nevada Unit got together at the Gold Canyon in Dayton.
SNU Lunch November 2007
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Dayton, Nevada

Dayton is just a bit east of Carson City on US Highway 50. It was a Pony Express stop and the site of the first Nevada gold discovery that started as a way station for emigrants heading over to California circa 1850. There is a state park near there for camping near the Carson River with a dump station (see links on the destinations page index). The center of town seen in this photo gallery is just off US 50 to the north.
dayton, nv
See the photo gallery!

See also the Historical Society of Dayton and the Dayton History -|- Historical Sketch and Reminiscences of Dayton , Nevada (1910) -|- Nevada Division of State Parks – Dayton State Park

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Eastern Sierra Holiday, July 2007

Don and Gail Williams, niece Lauren, and grandson Brandon checked out June Lake, Yosemite, the Ancient Bristle Cone Forest and Death Valley on the way home from the SNU rally at Obsidian Dome.
badwater basin
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TV in the RV and the next big change

If you watch those RV shows that cover the new generation of RV’s, especially the big class A’s, you’ll note that an ‘entertainment system’ is almost standard equipment these days. The big class A’s will often have several large screen TV’s and a drawer full of remote controls. Smaller RV’s, like many travel trailers, often just have a LCD TV tucked into a corner and a DVD on the shelf.

The TV industry is in the process of making a big change, the first since somewhere around 1940 when color was introduced (it was 1953 when this was formalized). This change doesn’t just introduce one thing, like color. It introduces a change in screen format, a change in transmission encoding, and a change in basic quality. What that means is that it is easy to get confused as these new ideas exist side by side with the old ways and each other.

Screen format is changing from the nearly square screen to the wide screen. Movies made this change in the fifties. There have been several methods used to show wide screen movies on standard square screen TV’s, The most common is called pan and scan which crops the image down to fit. Another displays the wide image as is leaving blank screen bars at the top and bottom.

Now that wide screen TV’s are starting to become popular, the problem is reversed. To show square screen shows on a wide screen, you can stretch the image sideways to fill the screen (making the football players look even heftier than they really are already), zoom in on the entire image cropping a bit on the top or bottom, or show blank screen bars to each side. Most modern wide screen TV’s have a menu choice for these options.

The change in transmission encoding means you need a new breed of tuner to receive pictures. As of February this year, a TV couldn’t be called a TV if it didn’t have these new tuners. In 2009, the old style tuners will no longer be usable except for cable or wherever there is a box between the TV and the signal source. It appears the government will subsidize tuners to allow citizens to be able to use old TV’s with the new transmission encoding. This new transmission encoding technique is called DTV for digital TV.

DTV will usually improve the picture without any other changes in what is sent. Where it gets exciting is that DTV provides for higher quality video and audio to be sent. Many broadcast TV stations are experimenting with the DTV capability to send high definition TV (HDTV). They are broadcasting a temporary DTV channel along with their existing old format TV. Most networks are providing high definition program material with stunning detail and quality for them to broadcast on these temporary DTV channels. So a new TV that has a DTV tuner may allow you to see any HDTV material being broadcast in your area.

The unsung hero in modern entertainment systems is the audio. The new DTV methods significantly improve audio fidelity and also allow for transmitting surround sound. What this means is that sticking the RV TV in a convenient corner somewhere just won’t do. To really get the most from your RV entertainment system, you will need to figure out how to get surround audio speakers optimally placed for the viewing position.

This is the season for football, holiday parades, and special shows that make a home (or RV) theater experience almost like being there. No wonder the equipment for the home theater is flying off the shelves. You will see more and more attention to entertainment systems in RV’s as they move from a TV in the corner to a full fledged RV theater experience.

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Finding TV and radio stations

When you are traveling, it can sometimes be difficult to find a radio or TV station. Modern car radios can often scan the broadcast bands looking for stations. Some TV’s will also scan the bands looking for stations. If you know where you are, then there are internet resources you can use to find out what TV and radio stations should be available to you.

Radio-Locator lets you search for radio stations by zip or state or call letters.

Welcome to Radio-Locator, the most comprehensive radio station search engine on the internet. We have links to over 10,000 radio station web pages and over 2500 audio streams from radio stations in the U.S. and around the world.

TV Fool uses FCC transmitter license data plus geographic data to find out what TV stations should have a signal for your antenna. It will tell you where to point the antenna and how strong the signal is likely to be.

Have you ever wondered what television signals are being broadcast in your area? Perhaps you’ve recently purchased a new HDTV and you’re looking for some High Definition content. Or maybe you’re just looking for some additional sources to compliment your existing cable and/or satellite services. Well, here’s a tool that can analyze your location to help determine what FREE broadcasts might be available in your neighborhood.

Of course, broadcast TV and radio is getting to be old fashioned. Many now have satellite radio and TV service for a better quality signal and much more variety than you can usually get off-air. But there is something to hunting for signals and “free” has its attractions, too.

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For the cook

Somebody over on RV.NET was wondering if there was an easy way to light the pilot on his RV oven. If you still have a gas fired oven in your RV, that means lighting the pilot after you set up camp. That process is often holding in the oven control and then reaching into the bottom of the oven with a match. That can be difficult even if you have help. A good propane match can be a help, too. Make sure you can light a top burner first to purge any air from the gas line.

In the summertime, especially when you have a few friends to help eat the watermellon, here is How to Cut a Watermelon – 9 steps with a good bunch of tips and a few warnings.

Salads are getting ever more popular and some wonder why a salad at the burger joint is more expensive than a hamburger. Then there are those frightened by the stories of contamination that show up now and then. To learn the what and why, see the American Scientists article on salad safety.

As children, we played in the dirt, ate fruit without washing it, licked the juice from our grubby fingers and never fell sick, if memory serves. This last detail probably isn’t quite true, but it’s also possible that something has changed since we were kids—something in the food itself, or in society, that makes us more vulnerable than before. It certainly seems that we hear more frequent reports of people getting sick after eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Why is this? Is it just the press coverage?

Cool Tools has a flexible bucket, a Tubtrug, 14 – 26 liters in your favorite color. These make a good hauler that you can stash out of the way in the RV.

If, rather than fix your own, you plan to eat out, check out health inspections. You can enter a zip code and find the local health authorities reports on restaurants in the area

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Leonids Weekend

Joe Rao at says the Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend. Sky and Telescope reports on Leonids 2007.

The peak should be at 8 p.m. on November 17 but the odds are maybe 15 meteors per hour max this year (its been into the thousands in years past). That means you might see one or two if you keep watch for ten or fifteen minutes.

Note that evening is not the best time for observing meteor showers. It is in the wee morning hours that the rotation of the earth brings your sky into the direction of the earth’s travel in its orbit. In the evening, you are on the backside of the planet looking for things coming up from the rear.

If you are up in the wee hours looking skyward, look for Mars, Saturn, Venus and comet Holmes. Grab the binocs and stretch the neck! See the links for where to point the eyeballs.

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For the thrifty minded

If you are looking to shave a few pennies off the RV budget, here are some links to get you started with ideas, tips, and resources to accomplish that goal.

Get Rich Slowly describes how Craig’s List can be used to help clean out the garage – and to find some needed stuff. Here are 24 Craigslist Tips, Tricks, and Resources – good stuff for buying and selling in the one to one community market whether its an online classified service or your local newspaper.

WiseBread describes the Top 5 ways to hustle free drinks. While you may not be after a free pint by winning a bet, the bar tricks are interesting. Nifty science.

Cheap RV Living is a website devoted to an RV lifestyle that is very very easy on the wallet.

Travels with Gertie talks about Saving the Earth at 8 mpg. This is another lifestyle website from a full-timer who spends most of his time off grid. Cooking doesn’t get shorted either, the Nissan Thermal Chef looks like an interesting gadget for those on the road.

The RV Surplus Connection might be a useful resource if you are looking for surplus or scavenged RV parts.

For instructions about how to make an alcohol camp stove out of a Pepsi Can, see the Make blog entry

To keep up fitness, try How to Create a Free Home Gym

Hannu’s Boatyard is the place to go if you want to build a boat out of a single sheet of plywood. The website has some pages on theory and the techniques described might also be useful in repair or improvement of your RV.

Here’s a portable microwave for the road. “Billed as the “world’s smallest portable microwave,” the $200 oven is about the size of a large lunchbox or a small cooler and can plug into the car’s cigarette lighter as well as any standard wall outlet”

If you’ve got a pie iron in your BBQ or campfire stuff somewhere. The Panini Press Recipes might give you some ideas for how to put it to use. Also check out Rome’s Panini Press website

The Kitchen Collection is also a good resource for just about anything ‘kitchen’

x-tremegeek is where you can gain a real appreciation for the innovation and ingenuity of the modern mind. Grandpa’s Fire Fork, 4 Pack ($15) for the geek? USB Camera Lanyard, Wrist Strap ($8) seems more appropriate. The Hammer Multitool ($15) might be handy in emergency.

The simple dollar also describes 30 Essential Pieces Of Free (and Open) Software for Windows and you can’t get much more thrifty than free.

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Airstream 2008 Safari Sport

Airstream, Inc. is reaching out to the minivan and small SUV crowd. The Basecamp was one effort. The Safari Sport is another that is more in line with its classic trailers.

What they have done is to create a narrow body and light weight to provide a trailer that won’t tax tow vehicle capabilities. They have taken some of the features that they have been providing in the European market and applied them to a US market RV.
Airstream Safari Sport
See the photo gallery!

This is a 4,000 GVWR single axle trailer that squeezes a lot into a small and full featured RV. The design has a rear door into an entrance area that is separate from the living area. This provides more privacy for the living and bedroom up front as well as better access to the bathroom in the rear. The kitchen sink uses a fold down faucet to allow greater counter top area. The stovetop is a 2 burner with cover.

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The Cabela’s grand opening party

It looks like some think the Cabela’s grand opening will be a zoo. Today’s Reno Gazette Journal reports that $30,700 has been allocated to have a highway patrol sergeant and five troopers in six patrol cars on each shift this weekend and next to help with anticipated traffic. Also see Roy Hagar’s stories Cabela’s Nevada store brings the great outdoors indoors (10/31/2007) and Outdoor mecca in the making (10/30/2007)

At Cabela’s – bringing the outdoors indoors, Amelia Calvert says

More than an outdoors outfitter, Cabela’s is, as spokesperson John Castillo put it, “A retail store, wrapped in restaurant, wrapped in a museum, wrapped in an aquarium.”

Nevada Magazine thinks the Outdoor superstore should boost tourism in northern Nevada.

The 125,000-square-foot store, in Verdi next to Boomtown Hotel and Casino, will include animal displays in museum-quality dioramas, as well as an aquarium and a taxidermy mountain complete with waterfalls, a stream, and a trout pond. It also will feature a laser arcade, furniture department, gun library, restaurant, general store, fly fishing area, and gift shop.

Travel Nevada even has a photo gallery!

The Sparks Tribue reports on Cabela’s in context of other retail plans for the area. One example is the Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World Superstore as part of the plan for a Station Casino entertainment destination park near the intersection of U.S. 395 and Mount Rose Highway.

Even the building itself is worthy of note. Don Jaenicke describes how Timber Provides Rustic Interiors For Cabela’s at (9/24/2007)

Engineering/Design Challenges: The architects describe the design of the Reno store as “bringing the outdoors indoors,” with the glued laminated wood trusses providing the visual effect of a North Woods lodge. The architect and engineer worked with the laminator, Timberweld Inc., in designing the trusses as well as the metal connections.

Bruce Ajari at the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza says folks are Eager for Cabela’s opening

If you are a sportsman or woman, you undoubtedly know that Cabela’s will be opening its doors on Nov. 16 in Verdi. The store opening has dominated many of the conversations that I have had lately with hunters and fishermen from within the region and other areas.

The perception that Cabela’s brings to outdoor enthusiasts interested in hunting and fishing is one of a candy store for adults. Anything you need for hunting and fishing should be at their stores.

So maybe you can see why the NHP is anticipating a rather interesting traffic situation out on I80 near Verdi this weekend. People are coming in from all over and it appears the Boomtown hotel casino next door is going to have a lot of guests. If you are heading that way or just cruising down I80, please take due care and watch out for traffic and people.

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Western Oregon Unit – Rally at Rogue River October 2007

Check out the Wester Oregon WBCCI Unit at Rogue River.
2007 W OR Rally
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Denise Huggin’s 1965 Tradewind

This one is sitting in a field – but not completely abandoned. It is being prepped for a new life on the road. Not for Sale!
65 Airstream Tradewind
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Neil Vanderbilt and the WBCCI

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Comet Holmes. Tonight. After dinner

Grab your binoculars! You can see it without them, too. From Sky and Telescope:

After dinnertime, go outside, find a spot where bright lights don’t glare into your eyes, and face northeast. Look high up for the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia, a landmark of the autumn sky. The W is standing on end …Look lower right of Cassiopeia by about a fist and a half at arm’s length. The brightest star there is Mirfak, also called Alpha Persei.

Mirfak is the top corner a smallish triangle, as shown. The triangle is about the size of your thumb at arm’s length.

The triangle’s left corner is Comet Holmes.

During the night, the comet rises around Polaris, the north star. Over then next few days or weeks it should get larger, too.

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Communicating on the road

For only $400, a fully capable laptop computer?

Technology advances and makes it easier and easier to keep in touch with the world while out and about. If you watch the new equipment now being offered, you will start to see a change in mass storage. To date, the hard drive or high speed rotating magnetic disk was the primary means used to store your data. These are starting to be replaced by the same kind of memory devices used in digital cameras. That means portable devices will become more rugged and use less power.

Ten years ago, fifteen maybe, the HP handhelds HP-95LX to HP200LX packaged DOS computers in a pocketable size. Successive generations of these ‘palmtops’ tried to address the problems some people had with small keyboards and small displays but the first generation still has its adherents.

An example of the current state of the art is the $400 ASUS Eee PC (CNetBrighthand reviews). This is a very small complete laptop computer. The screen is only 7″ diagonal with a 800×480 resolution. This is big enough so that presbyopic eyes can read text on it but is too small to fit most web pages without horizontal scrolling. The keyboard is also smaller than the usual desktop standard but quite a bit bigger than the HP palmtops had. You can get used to small keyboards easier than hard to read screens!

The ASUS machine also has internal wireless network hardware so you can connect to RV park, roadside rest area wifi, or other public access points. There are USB ports so you can connect mass storage devices or digital cameras or other things.

The internal memory uses a 4 GB flash card rather than a hard disk and you can get up to 1 GB of working memory. The processor is an Intel Celeron M ULV 900 MHz, which is rather slow these days. The overall result is a machine that is quite capable and usable for portable communications needs on the road.

One way the cost is kept down is by using Linux and other free and open source software. This may take some adjustment for those used to a Microsoft or Apple world, but all of what is needed most of the time is there and not that much different. What may cause some problems is if you want to run your own programs, such as Street Atlas, that will only run in Windows or on the Mac. What it does have is a rather extensive collections of applications that will cover most of these needs in one way or the other.

This is not the machine you’d use for graphics editing, AV work, or other heavy duty tasks but for browsing the internet, preparing correspondence, e-mail, and taking care of personal business, it just might be the ticket. It does illustrate where technology is taking us: cheaper, faster, better, …

From the reports, the ASUS Eee PC is an inexpensive, full featured, capable laptop that has decent battery life, is small and lightweight, and should be rugged enough for communicating on the road. Just don’t try to use it while driving your rig!

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Ultra-capacitors and battery technology directions

The Charge of the Ultra – Capacitors by Joel Schindall first Published November 2007 in the IEEE Spectrum provides some clues about where short term energy storage technology may be headed.

Batteries store electrical energy as a potential chemical reaction. The amount of energy is limited by the amount of material available to react chemically. This is why the typical RV and automotive lead acid battery has about 20 – 25 watt hours of energy per pound no matter the size or type.

Capacitors store energy by just holding onto electrons. An ultra-capacitor is one that uses special techniques to hold lots and lots of electrons without overflowing or breaking down. The energy is stored as an electric field.

The synergy between batteries and capacitors—two of the sturdiest and oldest components of electrical engineering—has been growing, to the point where ultracapacitors may soon be almost as indispensable to portable electricity as batteries are now.

Ultracapacitors are already all over the place. Millions of them provide backup power for the memory used in microcomputers and cellphones. They also supply brief bursts of energy to numerous consumer products containing batteries. In a camera, for example, an ultracapacitor can extend battery life by providing the oomph for power-intensive functions, like zooming in for a close-up.

Batteries are more efficient at lower currents. If you have electrical loads that have large peak power needs but low average power needs, then maybe an ultracapacitor near the load can charge up at a low average current draw to be able to supply the large peak power as needed. That would make both the battery and the wiring more efficient.

Right now, an ultracapacitor can only store about 10% of the energy a battery of the same size could store. What Schindall describes are techniques that could increase the storage density of ultracapacitors. After that is trying to figure out how to make them cost effective.

Batteries aren’t going away anytime soon. What you will more likely see is technology mixes with batteries, ultracapacitors, engines, fuel cells, and other devices working together for specific purposes to achieve efficiencies we do not have now.

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Travelogue: Dale and Virginia Leipper

Was the seventies that long ago? Dale and Virginia Leipper provide some pictures of the WBCCI experience from the eighties plus or minus a few years.

Dale and Virginia Leipper
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