Archive for May, 2008

small things to take along – a travel scale

Oh Gizmo found a Collapsible Travel Scale for $40 that expands to be just big enough to stand on but collapses for easy storage in the rig. If you want to keep on eye on what all those pot lucks and other activities are doing to your weight, this might be one way to go.

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Sweetwater Summit dispersed NFS camping and trails access

A scenic alternative route to US 395 between Topaz and Bridgeport goes through the Toiyabe National Forest and over Sweetwater Summit on Nevada route 338. The grade is gentle, the scenery first rate, and there is easy access dispersed camping right at the summit.

See the photo gallery!

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Unionville May 2008

Pictures are up! Two photo galleries.

Here’s a view of the SNU rally site looking up-canyon.

and here’s one from the road looking down-canyon.
See the photo galleries – link to gallery 1link to gallery 2

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Finding the best price for fuel (updated)

Webware says Cheaper gas is just a few clicks away. Find out about gas price reporting on the WWW and how you can use it to your benefit.

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One up the guy with the IR thermometer

Technabob describes Fluke’s handheld thermal imager: how cool is that?. It costs about $7500. Instead of just checking the temperature as you scan a thermometer over the wheels and tires, you can see if anything is getting hotter than it should.

Checking the running gear is a good thing to do every hundred miles or so. A flat tire on the road home from Unionville was 40 degrees hotter than the others. If this was not caught early enough, the flat tire would have been a shredded tire and there might have been damage to the trailer.

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Thomas Ranch Photo Galleries

Up towards Hat Creek and Canby is some wide open country – good spot for a get together if you know the right people! Here are some photo galleries

Canby area

This is not that far from Lassen National Park in Northeastern California

Hat Creek area

See the photo galleries!

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Dispersed camping crib sheet

Sean has a good rundown on Dispersed Camping on Public Lands that summarizes what you need to know about camping on NFS or BLM land where there isn’t a campground and nothing says you can’t.

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Weather radio features

Severe weather is no joke. A radio that will warn you of impending dangerous weather can be very handy. NOAA provides SAME encoding on their weather stations to allow radios to automatically detect when they transmit alerts, warnings, or watches. The problem is that the coverage of these weather stations in the Great Basin area is rather weak. Here is the NOAA coverage map for Nevada.

There are some features to look for if you plan on adding a weather radio to your RV inventory. Most of these radios have battery backup so the question is whether they will run off internal batteries or your RV battery system, and for how long. The ability to use an external antenna will allow you to get better reception than you’d get with an antenna trapped within the walls of your RV.

For SAME decoding, the features to consider involve how difficult it is to customize the radio. How does it set the county code so you can have the radio alert you only when something is happening near where you happen to be? Can you set the radio to alert you only for certain levels of urgency (watch, warning, alert) and only for specific weather hazards?

You should also think about what you should do in a weather emergency. Determine whether it is better to stay inside the RV or to seek shelter. In tornado country, you should always be aware of a place to go that will shelter you from the tornado. It is usually not the best idea to try to outrun weather but you can plan in advance and avoid areas where severe weather is predicted.

In the Great Basin area, winds are perhaps the most common weather hazard. Flash floods are also possible. A hot spell can be a safety hazard to balance out the winter storms on occasion. Severe weather is a risk and you can minimize the risk by being aware of the weather before you head out and monitoring the weather radio if reception is available where you are camping.

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Pay attention to the task at hand while driving!

In Nevada, the number one cause of traffic crashes is driver inattention. Slashdot reports on yet another study about this in Driving While Distracted More Dangerous Than Supposed.

The report suggests you take a “neural hit” when you try to multi-task when driving. Perspective on this is provided in one of the comments which notes that listening to audio books can keep your mind alert on long drives. The lesson is that driving can be stupefying and boring but still needs your attention. Some ‘neural hit’ may be necessary just to keep your mind from wandering. As always, you have to find a proper balance between too little and too much. You have to keep alert while driving but you do not want so much stimulation that it distracts your from your main job.

Note: the 2003 Nevada crash report says that the “most frequently struck fixed objects along Nevada’s highways were concrete barrier rails.” Out of 63,582 crashes reported, 23,057 were rear end collisions, 791 out of control vehicle, 50 trailing unit disconnected from vehicle, and 41 jacknife in roadway. The “ran off roadway” numbers include 3592 struck fixed object, 1015 overturned, 986 hit median object, 2264 other, 194 median overturn, culvert 21, 2 railroad, 2 river.

That’s more than ten percent of crashes where the driver couldn’t even stay on the road. From the jacknife and disconnected numbers, it appears that only a bit over a tenth of a percent were trailer related crashes.

The big message? Allow adequate following distance and be aware of traffic so you can avoid hitting the guy in front of you and stay on the road. Pay attention to your driving!

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ID Theft: should you worry and what you might do

ID Theft is getting a lot of attention. That means the wolves are out after your money for protection schemes so you don’t get your identity stolen. The RV community is particularly vulnerable because many financial transactions are away from home with strangers. You need to know the risk so you don’t buy insurance you don’t need but also don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk you can’t afford.

The Nevada Attorney General has a special page for Identity Theft in Nevada. You can hear radio adds for companies that will sell you protection for a small fee per month.

Should this really be a worry for you? How much of a problem is it, really? What should you do to protect yourself. Information Week has a good rundown answering these questions at ID Theft Monitoring Services: What You Need To Know .

Every time there is a breach of personal information, it seems you see a headline. “over 225 million records containing sensitive, personal information have been compromised since January 2005, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.” Not all of these ended up in ID theft and “an Identity Theft Research Center study found that in almost half of all identity theft cases, the victim believed the perpetrator had been family or a friend.)”

If your identity is also stolen and misused, it can take up to 44 hours and $1,200 to clean up the mess. That’s the exception with only 10% or so of the cases. The median is 4 hours and, for half the cases, usually no financial loss.

There are identity thefts that involve more than financial matters. Medical ID theft can be used to obtain ER care with the side effect of confusing your medical records. Social Security fraud can result in your getting into a mess with the IRS. Criminal identity theft is where the police are mislead about who they arrest which means they might come after you when the criminal skips town.

The article mentions some of the things you can do to minimize ID theft. You should watch your credit reports for any improper activity. Put a credit freeze on credit reports so anyone seeking to verify your credit worthiness needs to ask you first. Use credit cards, which have a capped loss, rather than debit cards which have the risk that misuse can clear out your bank account. See the NV AG site for more ideas and links to resources.

Other resources:

Ohio Lemon Law has a list of theft indications and what you can do.

The Owner’s Guide has some tips and links and advice.

The Escapees Club brags about their membership benefit of ID theft insurance.

Now relax, think it through, and don’t let fear send you into spending money for insurance or services that might not really be cost effective for you

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Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area Photo Gallery

If you are heading north or south on Alternate 95 and taking the Miller Lane and Hendrichs Road bypass of downtown Yerrington, you’ll go right by a good place to take a break. The Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area has a place to park (overnight, even) and offers a good opportunity to see the wildlife native to the area.
Here’s the “campground” – see the photo gallery for more views of the area!

Other resources about this area:
Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area at public lands
Nevada Department of Wildlife – hunting section.

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Television transition: coupon elegible converter boxes (CECB)

Since old style broadcast TV is changing, the worry warts are out in full force. The government has $40 coupons for gadgets you can get to convert the new broadcast TV signals to the old format just in case you don’t feel like upgrading your TV. The official government website where you can apply for coupons and learn more about the DTV transition is

The coupon won’t be applicable to just any converter box. The Department of Commerce has a specification that defines the features and capabilities the box must have and those that it cannot have if it is to be eligible. The box must, of course, convert DTV broadcast to a channel 3 or 4 old style signal for your TV. It should also have composit output. It may have S-Video output. It cannot output any modern signals such as HDMI, USB, firewire, or even component. Some optional features to look for include signal passthrough to allow any old style signals to get through the box to your TV and a 12v power capability so it will run off your RV battery system.

Wikipedia has a good comparison chart showing CECB models and their features. Freelabs has a similar chart and some interesting discussion.

When you request a coupon, you’ll be able to choose either one or two. You will need a valid US address. What you get will be two credit card type coupons and a list of nearby retailers selling CECB models such as Radio Shack, WalMart, Best Buy, and Circuit City. You will have 90 days to use the coupons before they expire. Most of the boxes run from $50 to a hundred or more so the coupons will get the cost range down to ten or twenty dollars in most cases.

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Find me! A status and emergency location service

findmespot is a gadget that uses GPS plus a satellite uplink to send a google maps link to someone to let them know where you are. It also has an emergency function that will send a distress call to search and rescue. Cost is about $100/year and they have a link to insurance that will pay search and rescue costs, too, if you need it. Since this doesn’t use cell phones or other land based communications, it will work just about everywhere there is a clear sky (continental, mostly – see the coverage map at the website). That means it might be a good thing to have if you do a lot of great basin exploring in areas as shown at the maps link!

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