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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sand driving -- avoid getting into an expensive "stuck"

With summertime on us, where do you want to go? To the mountains for fresh air and cooler nights? To the forests with abundant shade? How about the beach? Yeah, break out the umbrellas, the beach towels, and sunscreen – but be careful about the trailer or the motorhome.

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Every year coastal tow companies gear up for the summer visitor season wherein there's more to buckets of sand on the beach – there's buckets of money to be made when hapless visitors get their cars, trucks, and, yes, RVs stuck in the sand. It's a real trick to try and beat the tide if your rig is buried in that soft stuff up to the axles. Here are a few quick words about beach driving.

First, most seasoned sand drivers will warn you – getting stuck is an inevitability. Hence, if you think you want to pull your trailer with you onto the beach, be prepared to get it stuck. Getting an SUV or a truck unstuck is one thing, but getting a travel trailer or fifth wheel out of beach sand, well, that's likely to wind up with the need of professional (spell that "expensive") help. Hence, the safest rule for RVers and sand is this one: Don't go where you couldn't use a pogo stick.

What about taking your sightseeing rig to the beach? The SAFEST bet to staying out of trouble is, sure, if it's a four-wheel-drive capable rig. Second best rigs for beach driving – rear-wheel drive. For some reason, front-wheel drive rigs are almost a sure bet for getting stuck. Full time 4x4 rigs beware -- you may be too low to the ground and your "low" gear not low enough for crawling out of a sticky situation.

When you do "hit the beach," STAY OFF dry sand. Dry sand is analogous to quicksand, and a sure bet for getting trapped. But even before you venture onto wet sand, which by its water-filled nature is a more firm and less likely cause of a hang-up, REDUCE your tire air pressure. By letting a few pounds out of your tires, you'll tend to roll the sidewalls of the tire out, giving a wider surface to "float" over the sand. BEWARE: Before you hit firm ground again you MUST reinflate those tires, so you'll need an efficient air pump you can use right there on the beach. Don't try to drive on solid ground with reduced pressure – you can "drive right out of the tires." How much pressure to let out of the tires? Popular Mechanics magazine recommends you reduce pressure in the typical SUV tire to 12 to 15 PSI – pretty low, but you'll need that extra width.

When on the sand, technique is important. Keep the pressure on the accelerator smooth and steady. If you start to bog, this is not the time to get off the gas, nor to jazz it, but rather, try keeping the pressure steady with a slow increase in speed. Don't try to make sharp turns – it's a surefire way of digging into the sand. If you get stuck, first try backing out gently. Still stuck? Take the floor mats out of the car and put them under the drive wheels for added traction. Rocking may help: Put the car in first gear, accelerate GENTLY to foll forward, stop before you hit the slip point, then let it roll back. The trick is to flatten the sand under your tires to give you a surface you can crawl out of. Try doing it a few times – but don't overdo it lest you risk damaging a transmission.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

BLM in uncomfortable spotlight over Burning Man Festival demands

Nevada Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials found themselves in the public hot seat after a Reno newspaper broke a story regarding the agency's demands for the upcoming Burning Man festival. Apparently BLM brass feel that management of this year's week-long counterculture arts festival should provide BLM VIPs a more comfortable stay at the festival on the desert near Gerlach.

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Each year, festival organizers have to meet BLM requirements and pay a fee to the agency. This year, organizers balked at some of the BLM requirements. Included in the agency's wish-list were some rather peculiar specifics. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, percs like these:

•Salsa, hot peppers, brown sugar and raisins or other dried fruit at every breakfast and lunch — in "appropriate" serving containers, not individually packaged

•Mandatory 24-hour access to Golden Grahams, Fruit Loops, Chobani Greek yogurt, chocolate milk, personal pizzas, Hot Pockets, burritos, M&Ms, Snickers, Paydays, Skittles, licorice, cookies and brownies

•Mandatory 24-hour access to a standalone freezer containing ice cream sandwiches, Drumsticks and Choco Tacos

•Flushing toilets to be cleaned daily by Burning Man staff

•Washers and dryers

•Showers with instant hot water

•Air-conditioning, couches and refrigerators.

Paying ticket-holders admitted to the event, who likely will number up in to the 70,000 range, won't likely have anything like this. Burning Man Festival grounds are on Nevada's dusty playa, where dust-blown conditions can make visibility near zero. Tents and RVs are the order of the day for festival goers. Organizers claim that the BLM demand list will add about $1 million to their price tag, and refused to submit to the demand.

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After the Reno newspaper published its story, the BLM came under no small amount of public pressure to explain their "reasoning." BLM's director, Neil Komze, went on public record with his own take on the matter. "These reports painted a troubling portrait of government employees seeking VIP accommodations and outlandish provisions. Like you, I was surprised and upset by much of what I read." Komze promised a complete review of the demands, but did attempt to impress his readers with the concern that the agency has for public safety, pointing out that the festival has doubled in size in the last few years, and injuries – and last year, one death – to festival-goers are a major concern of the BLM. With these things in mind, Komze asserts it is necessary for the BLM to have a suitable on-site presence – but 24 hour Choco Tacos?

For festival goers, some of whom who have paid as much as $800 for a ticket to spend a week wading through desert dust, the vision of "VIPs" equipped with washers, dryers, and 24-hour snack foods may be a hard one to swallow.