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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.

Victor Grigas on wikimedia.org
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.

DCMatt on flickr.com
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.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Transition to the boondocking lifestyle with low-cost solar task lights

Many RVers that are new to boondocking shudder at the expense of putting in a solar charging system. They love getting away to the back country, enjoy the solitude and quiet, but find it hard to cough up the big bucks. Here's a thought on how you may be able to still enjoy your boondocking and while you save up your shekels for an alternative power system.

Every boondocker is different in terms of what they use their power for. Some have laptops or other e-devices that they "just gotta have." Others can't do without a bit of television. Some find it important to fire up the furnace (and associated electric fan) to take the chill off. But there is a common denominator – most everybody needs to run the lights at night.

Yes, you can install LED lighting – that will cut some of the electrical "cost" in terms of how much battery power you chew up between dusk and dawn. But here's another approach you might like: Portable, solar charging work lights. These little critters charge up in the sun by day, and can be lugged around anywhere you need light – inside or outside the RV.

They aren't big – standing only about 7" in height, with a "lamp" area about 3" in diameter. But as a 'task light' you can sit the device down where you need it, then point the light where the light is required. Great for reading, cooking, caring for 'personal needs' by night. And at about $16 each, they're pretty easy on the pocketbook. 

Now, we've had "experience" with some budget solar lights, those you see folks lining the garden path or the border of the sidewalk with. Those $1 cheapies are just that – they last a couple months, maybe a couple of weeks, and they're done for. We were concerned that this might be the same here, but customer reviews of this particular light are favorable, and the design itself was originally put together to help folks in impoverished lands have lighting that didn't require batteries or liquid fuels to run, so some thoughtfulness was put into this product.

According to users, running time on these lights works out like this: Brilliant light for the first three or four hours of operation. Dimming down from then on, but still usable after seven hours of operation, after a full charge by day. A "glow in the dark" power switch makes it easy to flip the light on or off, and of course, without continuous use, the battery storage on these should make your light last longer.

Pick up a couple, or a few, try them out. See how you like boondocking, then consider making the jump to solar panels up roof-top. This may be a way to help make the transition.

Russ and Tiña are "on air" with weekly podcasts at YourRVPodcast.com.