Archive for April, 2011

Keep your wheels on – torque the bolts

If your rotating fasteners are too loose, there is the risk they’ll fall off. If they’re too tight you might cause damage. Popular Mechanics tells you what you need to know in Torque Wrench 101: How to Get Just the Right Amount of Force

Car manufacturers specify a ­proper tightening level, a torque ­value expressed in foot-pounds, for every fastener on your car. Torque is a rotational force applied around a point or, in this case, a nut. Put a 1-foot-long wrench on a nut and apply 10 pounds of force to the opposite end. You’re now twisting that nut with 10 ft-lb (distance times force, or 1 foot times 10 pounds).

So, when you do your bearing repack this spring, make sure that your trailer wheels are set with the proper specified torque on the lug nuts. Check again after a half hour or so on the road as trailer wheels sometimes settle a bit.

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(very) lightweight travel trailer

Over at Neatorama is the story about A Travel Trailer Light Enough to Be Hauled by a Mobility Scooter.

The Environmental Transport Association (UK) developed the QTvan — a travel trailer that can serve as a shelter for users of mobility scooters. It contains a bed, a 19″ television screen, and a kettle. Available options include a satellite dish, a gaming console, and a heater.

pictures and video at the link. check it out!

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1957 WBCCI Caravan to Mexico – Sautillo the last entry in the trip log

2/26/57 – Sautillo – cloudy and windy. Swell new road to Sautillo – lots of jucca – desert country. Arrived about 2:30. Trailer Park at Huachest Court – 12 pesos – light and water, sewer, swimming pool. To market in p.m. Very cloudy and cold – some rain. Supper in trailer.

2/27/57 – Town in a.m. For more sight seeing. Made some purchases. Left camp 1:30 for Monterrey and points north. Menterrey large city – industrial – surrounded by mountains. Drove on through. Camped on road at Vallicillo. Last supper outdoors. Laredo tomorrow.

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Speed Cameras

As stories circulate about an LA cop who won a lawsuit by claiming he was given quotas to meet in regards to traffic citations (Report: LA police officers who alleged ticket quota system win $2M judgment) and others about stepped up enforcement on the roads based on budget constraints, there is a Washington Times story about a Business owner [who] casts reasonable doubt on accuracy of speed cameras.

Five times and counting before three different judges, the Prince George’s County business owner has used a computer and a calculation to cast reasonable doubt on the reliability of the soulless traffic enforcers.

He’s got 40 more in the queue from his drivers, too. Since the speeding citation provides two pictures to show the vehicle on the road, Mr. Foreman can use the time and distance interval between the pictures to estimate speed of travel. Since that calculation doesn’t show the speed claimed in the citation, the citation is often dismissed.

Mr. Foreman’s tickets were all issued in Forest Heights, a town of about 2,600 where officials expected $2.9 million in ticket revenue this fiscal year, about half the town’s $5.8 million budget.

The claim is that “speed kills” and that enforcing speed limits is a safety issue. The problem is that speed, as a cause of crashes, is way down the list and that is excess speed for conditions rather than exceeding the speed limit. In part, this is why cell phone banning while driving is so popular in legislatures recently because it is distracted driving that is fundamental to most crashes. That cell phone banning has a long history going back to banning microphone use in the CB era forty years ago.

The micromanaging of drivers, the use of artificial criteria for citation under the banner of safety, and the revenue proportions all denigrate the actions taken. Quotas and questionable accuracy compound the issue. Driving becomes more a game with the authorities than it does safe travel from place to place. That does not bode well for either safety nor for due respect for the authorities.

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Battery advances (but what will it cost?)

PhysOrg reports that Sony [is] to ship new 1.2kWh energy storage modules. That is the approximate energy capacity of a typical RV battery so this might be a solution for those looking to improve their RV electrical energy storage. The biggest issue is one not mentioned in the article and that is one of cost. Lithium based batteries are typically orders of magnitude more costly than lead acid batteries.

The Sony batteries have an expected life of 10 years or about twice that of a lead acid battery. They should handle deeper discharge depth so you won’t need as much total bank capacity to maintain an effective reserve and it appears they will have a higher charge and discharge efficiency. They have internal smarts and can handle very rapid charging. That means you can get the battery back to 90% of full charger in one hour rather than the 4 to 8 hours needed for lead acid batteries. The specification posted says 2.5 hours at 1300 watts.

These things are sized for 2U of electronic equipment rack mounting, provide 51.2v and weigh 17 kg. That’s a large flat maintenance free battery with a bit under half the weight of an equivalent lead acid. The voltage might seem to be an issue but bucking 51 volts to 12 is no big deal these days.

Now, what’s the price?

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What do you collect on your travels?

When you travel, do you collect anything? rocks? postcards? campground receipts? photographs?

A collection can be a way to drive your tours and there is one guy over on flickr that is into collecting pictures of courthouses and post offices.

What else is there that is so locale specific that you can collect and not worry about it taking up a lot of space in the RV?

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Nitrogen for the tires?

Costco does it. Airplane tires require it. What does pure nitrogen in tires do that simple compressed air doesn’t?

Charles Day says it all boils down to moisture. Nitrogen in your car tires at Physics Today tells some of the story.

Pure nitrogen has other advantages over air besides its dryness. When tires get very hot, oxygen, the second most abundant component of air, can react with volatile chemicals in the rubber and cause an explosion. Even at lower, everyday temperatures, oxygen reacts with rubber, weakening it.

So will I refill my tires with nitrogen? Not if it costs more than a few dollars. Having owned the same car for 18 years, I know that worn treads will prompt me to replace the tires long before oxidation sets in.

The question then is how much filling an RV tire with nitrogen might expand its life beyond the 5 to 7 year timeline. That looks to be one of those questions where the data is weak or nonexistent that make for good myth-mongering in order to sell tires…

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Lezak’s Recurring Cycle

Those TV weather guys are often rather strange. One took note of a pattern in winter storms and now uses his idea of recurring cycles to aid in his forecasting about winter storms. Lezak’s Recurring Cycle posits that a unique weather pattern sets up in October or so each year to establish atmospheric conditions. That pattern cycles and repeats over and over during the winter until it slowly falls apart during the next summer.

LRC & April 10th Storm says

We are currently in the fourth cycle of the LRC which has had a cycle length between 45 and 54 days centered at right around 49 to 50 days. A major storm is now expected to form over the western states. We can go back to cycles 1, 2, and 3 and see very clearly this part of the weather pattern and how it is now repeating in cycle 4. Remember it isn’t just this one snapshot in time, but the entire weather pattern that is cycling. Take a look at the next three maps, and you can click on any map to make it a larger picture:

This year has been particularly interesting as the storm cycle is on top of the La Niña phase of the Pacific Ocean’s tropical temperature pattern. As wikipedia notes “Expected La Niña impacts during November – January include …

For the contiguous United States, potential impacts include above average precipitation in the Northern Rockies, Northern California, and in southern and eastern regions of the Pacific Northwest. Below-average precipitation is expected across the southern tier, particularly in the southwestern and southeastern states.

That is what has been the case in the 2010 – 2011 Winter with near record snow in the Sierra’s reinforced at intervals during the winter. Since this cycle is just shy of two months, anybody planning monthly meetings requiring travel might want to see if they can use the idea to help plan meeting dates.

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1957 WBCCI Caravan to Mexico – Market Day

2/24/57 – Trip to Santos market day. Dr. Caryslie, guest Indian in gay dresses – very colorful. Pot luck supper in our patio with 9 other caravanners. Leave in a.m. For Sautillo.

2/25/57 – Left camp about 8:30 – road bad but weather good. Took road to Sautrella in prefernce. Solote Falls side trip – gravel road – beautiful falls – camped in hacienda of Jorge Pasqual on road to Sautello – not much mileage today. More mountains- bypassed Victoria. Hacienda of Jorge Pasqual has a beautiful mosaic design on walls etc.

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150 years ago, in the field: hardtack and Johnny cake

The 150th anniversary of the first shots of the war between the states is being recognized today. The CSM has a story about food and cooking as the soldiers saw it, Civil War recipes: Hardtack crackers and Confederate Johnny cake. If you follow the recipes now you will likely have a bit better fare than the soldiers in the field obtained.

A good, well-tempered piece of hardtack should not shatter, but suffer chipped edges only, when hurled against a wall or when dropped onto a stone floor. The holes (reputedly and jokingly) served as lacing points for stitching pieces together to form a bullet proof vest, like Roman armor. … The similarity between Civil War hardtack (which requires endless chewing to soften) and baby’s teething biscuits (which are of the same size, shape, taste and consistency) is so obvious, in fact, that the potential for a direct relationship needs investigation.

Your Southern recipe listed below is for the kind of fluffy, home-style cornbread the soldiers could only dream about. Milk? The only creatures regularly encountered around a Civil War camp that produce milk were female rats. They would be hard to catch and and you’d have to milk a lot of them. The actual Southern battlefield “cornbread” was made by stirring one’s corn meal directly into salt pork grease to make a sticky paste, twirling your bayonet around in the mix until it clung to the bayonet, and then toasting the mix on the bayonet over a fire.

Tools and equipment are always an important issue in food preparation. The use of a bayonet for both holding the cake over the fire and for heat distribution from the inside is one bit of creativity. It seems the canteens were another resource adapted for cooking, too.

rather than lugging around the issued, heavy iron skillet for this purpose, our clever ancestors instead made use of easily available, leaking canteens. Civil War canteens were made by soldering together two hemispheres of extremely thin, tin-plated iron. These often began to leak after being battered around on the march. So the soldiers simply put the canteens into the fire to finish melting apart the seams; the more playful added a musket cartridge into the canteen before putting it into the fire to dramatically, loudly, and impressively hasten the seam failure. … the result was two very lightweight, nestling frying pans, weighing a fraction of the weight of the cast iron GI model, which easily packed with your other necessities. These also doubled as entrenching tools; the Army didn’t issue real entrenching tools to every soldier until World War I.

Nowadays we don’t even tolerate traditional soldering tin cans because of the lead in the solder.

But, if you are looking for a recipe for wheat crackers or corn bread, check out the recipes at then end of the story. Simple food, even if not cooked over a fire on a bayonet, can be easy to prepare and, with modern facilities, nowhere near as difficult to consume as it was in the field 150 years ago.

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A new visitor to the RV park?

You know the hookups RV parks offer? The electrical part of those hookups is often a subject for questions about problems in the discussion forums due to park wiring problems but that’s for another time.

Engadget says RV parks offer EV owners respite from the road (and their range anxiety, too). – EV is electrical vehicle or the latest round of trying to get practical transportation that runs off battery rather than gas or diesel. Current EV’s have a range of only 100 miles or so and a ‘fillup’ or battery charge can take hours (as it does for RV house batteries). Gas station infrastructure is well established but there isn’t any equivalent, yet, for battery powered vehicles.

Turns out the 50-amp, 240-volt RV hookups found in such places can do double duty as juice dispensers for the depleted batteries in your Volt, Leaf, or Tesla. All electric powered roadwarriors need is an adapter to plug in, a few bucks to pay for current, and a few hours of free time. It’s not as fast as fueling up the old fashioned way, but RV parks provide plenty of perks (swimming pools, lakes, and seniors who love poker, for example) not found at your average filling station.

This opens up a new market for those RV park owners. It may mean a bit more attention to getting park power pedestals maintained and correctly wired and a new type of short term visitor to the park.

A good Overview of the Benefits, Challenges, and Technologies of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles has battery energy density, efficiency, and pollutant comparisons and other good stuff about EV’s, including this comparison to gas.

a tank of gasoline contains roughly 100 times more energy than an equal mass of lead/acid batteries. Moreover, part of the IC-engine’s reactants are taken from the air, by-products are continuously discharged, rather than retained and reconstituted, and the storage and conversion system is largely unaffected by the process. The task of designing a BEV that will match the conventional vehicle’s specific energy profile is enormously challenging because of the inherent limitation of its electrochemical energy system.

A typical 20 gallon fuel tank will hold more than 100# of fuel. That means an equivalent battery store would weigh 5 tons. The table in the article says lithium based batteries might be as much as 5 times better on energy density by weight so you’d need only one ton of them to be equivalent to a tank of gas.

Or, you can figure that a typical RV might get, say, 10 mpg. Wikipedia Miles per gallon gasoline equivalent says a gallon of gas is considered to be 33.7 kWh. By that measure, 10 mpg is 10 miles per 33.7 kWh or almost 4 kWh per mile. An hour of travel at 55 MPH would then use about 200 kWh of energy. A typical RV battery has a bit less than 1 kWh of energy capacity so this hour of travel in your RV would need at least 200 typical RV batteries or about 6 tons. That much battery is likely to drag things a bit lower as well as have other implications.

That calculation also implies you need about a 200 kw to keep your RV moving at highway speeds. (here’s a calc for a Falcon: Power to move). To convert 200 kw to horsepower, multiply by 1.34 which is a bit over 250. That seems a bit high compared to the Falcon and to RV engine ratings but should be close enough for rough comparisons to the effect that an RV using batteries for motive power isn’t likely to be very practical.

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1957 WBCCI Caravan to Mexico – El Bonito

2/21/57 – El Bonito – weather cloudy – real jungle country – rain last night. We decided to stay over – to town in the a.m. (Valles) Nice town – gas for trailer, gasoline for car, bottled water. Good looking vegetables in market – fresh meat. Swim in pool of warm sulphur water in p.m. – very nice. This is a real nice place. Unable to take any pictures due to weather. Supper in patio.

2/22/57 – Still cloudy in a.m. – left with car for trip to Tampico – rainy, no chance for pictures – bad detour, lots of much – just before Tampico road which was washed out during a hurricane last year. Drove over to beach, lunch out on breakwater – not too much time to look around – very muddy and dirty. Will not take trailer over to Tampico – lots of water everywhere. Good trailer park washed out last year. Back to camp by 6 p.m. Rain most of the way.

2/23/57 – Rain during the night. Tried fishing in the river. Ruin of hotel from hurricane. 7 Caravanners arrived in camp. Mexican service n.g. – Good swimming.

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Have an old 35 mm film camera?

If you’ve got a lot invested, money or otherwise, in a 35 mm film camera and just don’t want to let it go despite no more Kodachrome processing labs and other problems, RE35 might be something to consider.

It is a digital sensor that acts like a 35 mm film canister. It has a flexible sensor that rolls out in place of film and is available in 4, 8, or 12 mp versions. Pictures are uploaded via USB cable to your computer.

The device is one of those ‘real soon now’ technology things – it might be available by next fall, maybe. Right now, the tech specs section of the website says “coming soon.” There are obviously some interesting challenges. One might be the need for film cameras to advance film to cock the camera for the next shot. Another will be cost.

But, if it all comes together, it might just put some more life into that old camera kit you used to use for travel photography.

take note, though, what was is not now on that website:

Thankyou for your interest in Re35.
Some good news:

The feedback to our “product” has truly been overwhelming. It seems Re-35 really addresses a need and people worldwide can‚t seem to wait to get their hands on our “product”.

The bad news:

Some things are to good to be true!
Re35 does not really exist. We (the design company Rogge & Pott) created Re35 as an exercise in identity-design. We invented the “product” because it was something, that we had wished for for a long time (as many others). We launched the website and sent out “press releases” on April first – thinking, that the date would make clear, that Re35 is just wishful thinking – a classic April Fools Prank! And we had to take the site down because of too much traffic.

However:

All this attention Re35 ist getting might actually be good for something. It proves, that there is a gigantic community of photographers with analog equipment out there that is desperately waiting for a product like this to come along.

We hope there are no hard feelings

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SNU April Newsletter

SNU Folks,

The April 2011 Newsletter has been posted. Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can also be found there, too.

Topics in the April newsletter

Rally at Weed Heights -|- April at Boca Rest -|- Newsletter Team -|- SNU business meeting -|- Notes from the Prez -|- SNU Sept Anniversary rally -|- Welcome new members -|- Thanksgiving rallies -|- SNU history

Rally at Boca Rest

Thursday April 28 to Sunday May 1, 2011 the SNU will hold a rally at Boca Rest. The campground is northwest of Reno about twenty miles off of I-80.  Take the Hershdale exit. The road all the way to the campsite is paved.  The campground is right on Boca Reservoir. Considering the weird spring weather we have been having, if the snow still hasn’t melted by the end of April Lahontan will be our back up site. Contact the SNU prior to the rally to confirm the location.

more links!

Get the details on the September SNU Anniversary rally. Don’t miss out. RSVP today!

Discover interesting facts about the SNU

The used MoHo market in Australia provides some interesting contrasts to U.S. RV’s

SNU 2011 Rally Schedule

For the latest on the Sierra Nevada Unit website homepage:

Check Zephyrs and find out what else is new on the SierraNevadaAirstreams.org


SNU HQ

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