Railcar Spill Containment – High Absorbency Barriers Are Not Just for Railroad Tracks

Are you wondering whether railcar spill containment is something you could use? If you’re in need of a high absorbency barrier to protect the environment, the answer could well be “Yes.”

When railcar still containment was first developed, specifically in the form of railroad track mats, they were designed to be used between inside and outside railroad tracks. And they are still used that way. After all, railcars can drip and leak oils and other fluids onto the tracks, and into the ground, and that must be prevented.

Where else can you use railcar spill containment?

Obviously, not just railroads are in need for such protection. Once these heavy, thick, and highly absorbent barrier mats became available, they were put to a variety of other uses as well.

For example, railcar spill containment mats are used by a whole range of transportation companies, refineries, utilities, steel mills. In addition, they come in handy in many other environments where leaks and spills are common and must be prevented from seeping into the ground water.

Why would you need specialty mats?

So what makes these types of mats special? Aren’t there other absorbent mats with a lower price tag?

There are other mats available, but as always, you get what you pay for. The benefits of getting the highly absorbent railcar mats is that they only absorb oil, and a lot of it.

Imagine you had a regular all-purpose absorbent mat in an outdoors environment. Now imagine it rains. Immediately, the mat would be saturated — with water! It would no longer be able to do its job, which is absorbing oil and other oil-based chemicals.

When you use a railcar spill containment mat, however, the rain water will simply roll right off and flow into the ground. The oil that is already in the mat won’t be affected, and the mat will retain its full remaining capacity for absorbing what it is supposed to absorb — more oil.

Now think of where else you might be able to use this kind of feature. You could place those mats underneath vehicles of all sorts as well as machinery, especially if they’re parked or used outside.

What makes them so effective?

So what makes them so effective? They have a core that absorbs oil only, and in addition, they are also encased in an impenetrable barrier film, which keeps all absorbed liquids inside the mat so they won’t leach into the environment. Their cover is UV resistant, which means that they will retain their usefulness for a long time.

And just how much can they absorb? How about 3 gallons per square yard! And since it’s conveniently available in pads and rolls, it provides not just flexible railcar spill containment but also protection for a range of other machinery and environments.

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G Scale Model Trains and LGB Trains

Large scale model railroad trains are comprised of and identified by a couple of “train scales” and when model train enthusiasts refer large scale model trains the G scale trains are part of that group. When you look at a G scale train next to an HO scale train the first thing you notice is it’s large size. This scale model train is the largest model train setup available for purchase in the United States. A German manufacturer by the name of Lehmann Gross Bahn or in English “Lehmann Big Train” started the G scale model train and is often known as LGB trains! The German company started manufacturing G scale trains in 1881 and eventually started an American branch known as LGB of America.

The “scale” for LGB trains has a ratio of 1:22. Another way of describing the G scale model train is that it is one twenty-second the size of a real life train. Most other model trains have a scale with a much lower ratio. Another scale in the “larger size trains” is the O scale and it is around 1/2 the size of a G scale train with a ratio of 1:48. To give you an idea of the size comparison between the G scale and O scale consider the below items:

  • 1. A G scale train with a length of 26.7 inches and a height of 6 inches would equal an O scale of #2
  • 2. The O scale would be 16.1 inches with a height of 3.6 inches

You may have heard of the term Garden Railroading, the G scale model trains are almost always used in garden railroading which refers to the indoor outdoor use of model trains. Some say the letter G in G scale refers to the old German word “groz” and a literal translation from the German means “Big”. Large-scale trains run on number #1 gauge track and G scale trains are no different easily running on #1 gauge model railroad track. Keep in mind No. 1 gauge model railroad track is specified by having a distance of 45 mm between the rails of the track.

LGB trains and large scale trains are very durable which makes them perfect for running outside. The railway tracks are manufactured of brass. Brass is unique in that it is almost maintenance free except for a little wipe down and occasional steel wool. After having G scale trains set up with small children I learned that the only thing I needed to do to keep the train running was to keep the track clean, as mentioned this only takes dry cloth and sometimes steel wool. Most train enthusiasts will use their G scale model trains indoors and provided you have the room, G scale is perfect for the indoors because of the easy set up!

If you are considering purchasing a G scale train setup I consider Aristocraft and Bachmann to be amongst the best. Already mentioned is the extreme durability of the G scale trains but it is an important factor to consider when investing your hard earned dollars. If you have children and they are at a young age you can be confident that your investment will pay off and your train will be around as your children grow old and leave the home. I have 3 boys and the youngest could barely walk when our first LGB was set up for Christmas, 27 years latter we still have it and it still works great! As a parent you can feel confident that your smaller children will be able to successfully place the LGB train on the tracks, hook up the cars and start the train rolling and when small children try to do that with smaller scales, such as HO scale, it becomes a big mess.

We can be thankful that there are different size model railroad trains for different purposes and although the LGB train is a perfect fit for the young ones, it offers plenty for dad and grandpa too with track layouts consisting of a simple oval shape to the most complex set up one could ever imagine. G scale model trains have been around for a long time and I suspect will be here for many more years!

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The Dangers Of Working On The Railway

The growth and development of this great country of ours is directly tied to the growth and development of our railroad system. It’s been written about, romanticized, brought in enormous profits, and made it possible for every industry from mining to meat processing to flourish. The country owes a lot to our railroads.

But the expansion of the railroads came at a great cost. Historically, working for a railroad has been a very dangerous occupation. In the early days, the average life expectancy of a brakeman on a train, and in the switchyards, was only about seven years. Only one in four lived to die of natural causes. It was definitely a dangerous way to earn a living.

Have you ever wondered where the saying, “Let me see a show of hands” came from? The story goes that when a railroad crew foreman was looking for workers in a group of men, especially brakemen, he would ask for a show of hands. Any man raising his hands who had all of his fingers was usually disqualified because it meant he hadn’t had much on-the-job experience. That’s a dangerous occupation!

Fortunately, a lot has changed since those early days. The biggest change came in 1908 when Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act, commonly known as FELA. For the first time in American history, railroad workers were given certain rights and protections at work. Most importantly, the workers and their families were given the right to sue their employer for compensation due to injury or death on the job. It was the country’s first attempt at workman’s compensation.

The new threat of expensive lawsuits went a long way in making railroads a safer place to work, and improvements were made. After more than one hundred years, improvements continue to be made, but that doesn’t mean working for a railroad is without risk. It is still listed as one of the more dangerous places to work with higher than average fatality and injury rates when compared to other industries. When injuries do occur, they are more likely to be severe. The average number of days missed due to injury is 25, compared to an average of 8 in private industry. 45% of those injured on the job are out for more than 31 days, compared to only 27.9% in other industries.

Of course, no workplace can be made hazard or risk free, and some occupations are just inherently more dangerous than others. Railroad workers are regularly faced with risks like loose or uneven footing when walking on ballast (the foundational material around tracks), climbing between and up the sides of rail cars, and working around moving trains and coasting cars in switchyards. All that work has to be done in all kinds of weather: heat, cold, driving rain, freezing drizzle and snowstorms. Yes it’s an environment that is dangerous, but when mistakes are made it is also unforgiving. A small slip up can have tragic results.

Advances in technology and training have come a long way, but the guiding principles behind FELA are as important today as they were in 1908. These are some of the requirements of FELA to which railroads, and all industries, are required to comply:

– Provide a reasonably safe place to work

– Provide proper safety tools

– Set safe working methods

– Enforce safety regulations

– Provide reasonable and adequate training

America’s railway workers have a long and proud history of keeping the nation’s railroads running in all kinds of weather under all kinds of conditions. The work can be tiring and dangerous, and we should not take their work for granted. So when you hear the distant horn or rhythmic clicking of a train on the tracks in the night, or see one making its way across the open countryside, remember the men and women who keep them moving and offer them a silent thank-you.

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Building Your Own Model Railroad – What You Need To Know To Make Sure It’s Not Costly

Have you ever seen a well detailed and realistic looking model railroad at a friend’s house, at a model train show or in a hobby shop and gone “Wow” that is amazing?

After watching the smooth operation of multiple trains at once and listening to the story of how each area of the landscape was created, you’ve probably thought that building a model railroad would be the perfect hobby for you?

How great would it be to create your own little world right in your own home. A creative, working and operating masterpiece that you would be proud to show off to your friends and family.

You could create your model railroad with the help of your friends and family, or you can create the whole thing on your own, and then invite them around for a model train operating session.

Imagine being able to come home after a day at work and get away from it all by tinkering with your own model train layout in the back room or shed.

Building a model railroad allows you to explore various interests and skills. From railway history, to engineering, carpentry, electrical wiring, control systems, sound, lighting, painting, air-brushing, to creating structures, terrain and scenery using different materials.

This is what makes building a model railway such an exciting adventure. You become a jack of all trades as you work on your masterpiece.

There is no other hobby that will help you develop your skills in a multitude of areas like building a model railway.

I have learned a huge amount about building model railways in the last 20 years and I would love to provide you with all the information you need to build your own realistic model railroad.

I must warn you though, there are a few beginner mistakes that you need to avoid or your model railroad will become a very costly project.

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First 5 Steps to Zoning and Building a Railroad in India

Imagine seeing over 20 million passengers travel everyday by rail or can you fathom the thought of 7.6 billion passengers in a year? This almost unbelievable number of rail passengers is a common site in India where the entire country’s population is growing beyond 1.27 billion! As the population continues to grow, it is no doubt that they rely on rail systems for transportation – whether it is passenger rail or 921 million tonnes of freight annually according to the governmental Ministry of Railways.

The rail network consists of 40,050 miles of track that covers the country in all directions but with the rising population and increasing ridership, India’s rail infrastructure and transportation system is showing signs of exhaustion & inefficiency. With that being said, India has set plans to spend $137 billion over the next five years to upgrade, modernize and expand its rail infrastructure according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. In order for the rail system to improve, the following five steps need to be executed to effectively upgrade the railroad.

Step 1: Identify

In the beginning process of the railroad improvement, the Ministry of Railways will need to identify the sections of the rail system that call for immediate refurbishment. This identification process will involve a team of experts with industry experience that can inspect the system as a whole and evaluate the physical locomotives in use. Once parts of the rail system are labeled as the most urgent to upgrade, the next step can be initiated.

Step 2: Strategizing

This portion of the project will consist of engineers that can strategize an effective plan to put in motion that will consist of solutions for the railway problems. Since a number of concepts will be involved in this step, engineers and planners will have to take many things into account like track manufacturing, power lines, zoning issues and potential disruptions that could slow construction. After everything is taken into consideration, the solutions will be presented that outline what will be upgraded and which things must be decommissioned.

Step 3: Decommissioning

As with any kind of improvement project, old and existing structures must be removed to make way for the new system. This is when the decommissioning process occurs – the contracted engineering team starts the removal process of inefficient tracks, locomotives and other systems.

Step 4: Constructing The New Infrastructure

As this step indicates, the construction and building process of the new infrastructure begins! During this time, new track are laid out, passenger & freight trains are built and the rest of the commissioning process continues on until completion.

Step 5: Operations

Once the new rail infrastructure is in place, the rail system can begin operations for passengers and freight. However, this does not end the life cycle of the project because upgrades to the other sections of the system can begin. Additionally, ongoing maintenance and asset management is needed to ensure optimal performance for years to come.

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Top Model Railroad Building Materials Revealed

In order to make a model railway as realistic and authentic as you possibly can, you will need to use well designed scenery. The perfectly crafted scenery will be the ultimate complement for an already well arranged model train.

Designing good scenery, though, takes some work.

The way you will go about making your scenery for your model train will be related to how much skill, money, and time you have to work with.

Scenery forms can be made in several different ways. For example, you can use plaster and screen wire. This method is an old standard and that is because it works so well.

This method of making scenery forms involves building a wood skeleton to start with. Afterwards you add screen wire to it. Finally spread n about a quarter inch of plaster on top of the wood and wire and your scenic form is complete. Both casting and molding plaster will work just fine. Some plasters that you can find are more lightweight, which might work better for what you want. Screen wire lends itself to a scenic effect since it can be easily manipulated.

You can also cover rolls of newspaper in masking tape too. Using these materials requires some work since they will tend to lose their shape if you don’t set it well.

If the paper refuses to cooperate with you, use a spray of water. To make the outside of your newspaper balls solid, dip paper towels in plaster and then place them on the outside. This is basically a paper mache project. This method works well for designing mountains and hills since it is easy to do, doesn’t cost much, and produces inexact shapes.

Cardboard strips can also be used. Cardboard is easier to work with than newspaper and masking tape and you can make more specific shapes with it. After attaching the cardboard strips to your scenic layout, use the same paper mache method from the previous paragraph.

Using hydrocal and gauze is another way to make your scenery that turns out stronger. If you dip strips of gauze into the hydrocal produced by US Gypsum, you can manipulate the gauze and let it set into very sturdy and specifically shaped designs. This method is not as messy as some others. Hydrocal is available for a low price in most craft supply stores.

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Digital Backdrops – Where to Use Them

Digital backdrops have become an indispensable tool to many photographers toady as it has many advantages. The value of an attractive background and what it can do for your photographs cannot be emphasized enough. This is the reason why more and more digital photographers are turning to digital photography backdrops. In addition, this backdrop enhancing of photos are convenient, less costly and unlimited in their range.

Digital backdrops are available in many styles, color combinations and themes. So, choosing a backdrop to suit a photograph is done mainly by the photographer keeping in mind what the final result should look like. It is all about the photographer’s ability to bring out the best in the subject with the background as a base.

Digital photography backdrops are used in many places. Where digital backdrops can be used best is with images that have been taken with a blue or green background. But, it can be used practically with any background.

Where digital backdrop use is warranted is easy to find out. These are usually used to create eye catching pictures out of otherwise dull photographs. A normal photograph can be made to look exceptional with the right digital backdrop giving the photograph a new lease of life and dynamism that was missing from it. The whole mood can be altered in this manner.

Another instance where digital backdrops come in handy is when you need to shoot at a certain location, but find it impractical to do so. For example if you need to do a photo shoot in the English countryside but cannot spend on airfare then you can use digital backgrounds with the English countryside in your photographs later on. Many commercial artists find this a very easy solution to a variety of problems they face in their line of a work.

Family photographs are another area where digital backdrops can enhance the quality of the final product. You can have a lot of fun with fantasy backdrops, fireworks or celebration themed backdrops. There are also special ones designed for kids. Where more serious backgrounds are needed the grunge range or similar backgrounds can be used to bring out details in a photograph such as a portrait. The facial features will be brought out with greater effect with a solid color background and allow the onlooker to focus on the face and not on any distracting background. In a similar way romantic, pictures, wedding pictures and other pictures can be enhanced with ease using digital backdrops.

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The History of the Jones Act

Seaman and sailors lacked legal protection against deplorable working and living conditions on board ships before 1920. With the passing of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act, seamen finally had safety and security for their rights. Senator Wesley L. Jones of Washington proposed the law as a means of maintaining a viable working force for the seas, bolstering the growth of both foreign and domestic marine commerce.

The Jones Act is specifically a cabotage law, governing the transport of goods and passengers between two points within the same country. The law requires that seventy five percent of crewmembers must be United States citizens. Repair work on the vessels is also controlled by the Jones Act. No more than ten percent of the hull and superstructure of the ships can be fixed by foreign repair. This aids in preventing American ships from refurbishing their structure at overseas shipyards with foreign built steel.

In terms of seaman’s rights, the Jones Act protects sailors by allowing them to claim damages from their employers for negligence on the part of the ship owner, captain, or crew. Unseaworthiness of ships is also a legal cause for litigation according to the Jones Act. To qualify as a seaman and to be eligible for protection under the Jones Act, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis that a worker must spend more than thirty percent of his or her time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters.

Although the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 has helped many seamen work in an environment of improved safety, criticisms do exist. The restrictions on shipping and working conditions cause the price of moving goods and passengers between ports to skyrocket. Critics of the act label it as protectionism, an economic policy restraining free trade. Other negative components of the Jones Act include damage to the shipbuilding industry. The United States is unable to compete in the international shipping market as foreign crews are willing to work for a fraction of the wages of American crews.

Occasionally the Jones Act is waived for extenuating circumstances. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Jones Act was temporarily waived for foreign vessels carrying oil and natural gas for a two week period in 2005. Declining oil production encouraged a waiver for the Chinese ship Tai An Kou to pull an oil rig to Alaska.

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Gold Country Nuggets

“Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” Sam Brannan yelled as he walked along San Francisco’s Montgomery Street in May, 1848. The news was electric and within a year, gold fever was a worldwide epidemic. Hundreds of thousands of gold seekers traveled from the four corners of the Earth to California’s Gold Country. 150 years later, they’re still coming.

Today, they come to experience the legacy of the gold country, rather than to pan gold from its icy streams, and that legacy is best found on a circle tour of the Gold Country’s top destinations: Sacramento, Ironstone Vineyards and Yosemite National Park. This tour can be accomplished in as little as three days, though a week provides a more leisurely and satisfying journey.

One can no longer travel from San Francisco to Sacramento by paddle wheeler as would have been done in the 1800s. Back then, riverboats steamed 90 miles up the meandering Sacramento River delta to the bustling waterfront of what is now called “Old Sacramento,” a riverside commercial district that looks much as it did during the height of the gold rush with wooden sidewalks, cobblestone streets, saloons, and iron-shuttered shops.

Old Sacramento is truly where the Wild West began. At the intersection of 2nd and J Streets, the sounds of horse-drawn carriages passing transport you back to the late 1800s. Here, the bronze statue of a Pony Express rider, recalls the exuberant young men who galloped east, carrying mail to St. Joseph, Missouri, a job so dangerous that the company advertised for riders who were orphans. The Pony Express had a brief but thrilling life, but like the frontier was eventually subdued by technology… in its case, the telegraph. As ironic counterpoint, opposite the statue is an authentically preserved Wells Fargo & Co. assay office, with displays containing telegraph equipment, assay instruments, strong boxes, gold dust and memorabilia of the period. Further gilded age technology is memorialized at the Discovery Museum where history, technology and science come to life in interactive displays. Next door, Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker met to finance the Central Pacific Railroad that would cross the continent. Fittingly, the California State Railroad Museum stands nearby. Its beautiful steam engines have been detailed to showroom perfection, their massive bodies colorfully painted and glistening. Train rides are offered every weekend, April through September.

As the capital of California, Sacramento is loaded with great museums and historic sites, 16 of them, to be precise. California weapons, uniforms and descriptions of campaigns are found at the California Military Museum on Second Street. A few blocks away, early California paintings are featured at the Crocker Art Museum, the oldest public arts museum west of the Mississippi River. For a taste of what makes California different, head to the Golden State Museum at 10th and O streets with its involving and elaborate interactive exhibits drawn from the State Archives. The 1859-era state capitol building at 10th and L streets functions as a living museum where laws are passed for the fifth-largest economy in the world. Guided tours include entry to the colorfully decorated State Assembly and Senate rooms and historic offices. Tours of the gingerbread Victorian Governor’s Mansion at 1526 H Street gives visitors a look into how 13 California governors (including Ronald Reagan) lived. And for an earlier look at life on the frontier, visit Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park at 2701 L Street, where reenactors depict Sacramento’s earliest settlement, founded in 1839. An online guide to all these places is found at http://www.sacmuseums.org.

Sacramento has lots of places to stay, from a riverboat docked along the waterfront, to Arts and Crafts bungalows and Victorian homes that have been converted into trendy inns, to a carload of moderately priced motels, to full- service luxury hotels. A complete listing of them is found at http://www.discovergold.org.

Considering Sacramento’s charms, its hard to imagine that the ’49ers stocked up and rushed right out of town. Their intent, understandably, was to get rich by the fastest means possible. Author Mark Twain was one of those. Like others who struck it rich during the California gold rush, however, Twain’s fortune didn’t come from mining. In 1865, he reworked a tale he had heard in the gold fields, and within months the author of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” had become a national sensation.

Twain’s subject is reached by driving east along State Route 16, from Sacramento to the Sierra foothills and turning south on SR 49. This historic road connected Gold Country towns like links on a golden chain. Within a few months of the gold discovery, 546 mining towns had sprung up. About 250 still remain. Many look much as they did when “The Mother Lode” was booming. Merchants in these supply towns usually became richer than the miners, because the miners were in constant need of supplies. A shovel would draw $50 from a miner’s thin wages. Worse yet, a slice of bread could cost $1… $2 if it was buttered. Today, the old mining towns are populated with antique shops, art galleries and bed and breakfast inns, yet their prices are far more reasonable.

In addition to a pan full of historic sites, Calaveras County is home to superb golf courses, snow and water skiing, whitewater rafting on the Stanislaus River, the giant sequoias of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, tours of spectacular caverns and wine tasting at several exceptional wineries. Many of the region’s wineries have roots that extend back to the gold rush. European miners often found it more profitable to make wine and brandy for the miners than dig in the mines and the Gold Country became California’s first economically successful winemaking region. Today, several award-winning wines are being made here; the most famous producer of them is Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys.

There’s no mistaking Ironstone as some faux Loire Valley chateau. John Kautz and his family have unabashedly designed the Ironstone Winery as a tribute to the California gold rush. The winery’s architecture resembles a stamp mill where ore would have been crushed, and its grounds include placer (hydraulic) mining equipment, flumes, water wheels and miner’s cabins, recreating the look of the period. A museum inside the winery displays the Ironstone Crown Jewel, a 44-pound crystalline gold nugget that is stored in a vault surrounded by shatterproof glass and lit to dazzling intensity.

There is so much to see and do at Ironstone Vineyards that one might overlook tasting the winery’s great wines, if they weren’t so good. Several have won international acclaim, and medals signaling their excellence hang throughout the tasting room. Ironstone owns over 5,000 acres of vineyards including the largest plantings of Cabernet Franc in the United States. Much of Ironstone’s wine is aged in large caverns that were hand-blasted into a hillside. The trickling sounds and delicate lighting of the cave’s waterfall serves as a beautiful background for wine tasting and the winery’s award-winning gardens. When this all becomes too much and you need a good night’s rest, the 1856 Murphys Hotel is just minutes away. It’s the same place where President Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain rested on their Gold Country sojourns. More information is found at http://www.ironstonevineyards.com and http://www.murphyshotel.com.

The circle tour continues on Highway 49, past the gold towns of Sonora, Jamestown, Chinese Camp and Groveland, up into the High Sierra (on State Route 120) and Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley was first entered in 1850 by the Mariposa Battalion a group of impromptu soldiers enlisted to suppress attacks on miners by Indians who lived in the Valley. Five years later, the first tourist party entered and visitors have been returning ever since. It’s little wonder. The Valley’s towering granite walls, domes and waterfalls are so breathtakingly beautiful that seeing them often moves visitors emotionally.

Increasingly today however, park visitors are not satisfied with sightseeing; they seek deeper meaning and understanding about Yosemite National Park, its wildlife and special places. Responding to this interest, the Yosemite Guides, a private guide service, provides privately guided trips from the Yosemite Gateway Visitor Center at the Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal near the west entrance to Yosemite National Park (SR 140). There, mountaineer Peter Mayfield and naturalists lead small groups on individualized trips into the wilderness. They cater sunset picnics on Sentinel Dome with alpenglow-painted views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the High Sierra, lead morning bird walks across meadow boardwalks in Yosemite Valley to hear the song of the yellow warbler, guide fly fishermen from around the world to float cast upon alpine eastern Sierra lakes, and pilot hikers to the quiet solitude of the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias. Visit http://www.yosemiteguides.com for more information.

Many of these trips explore the wild and scenic Merced River Canyon. In March and

April, Hite Cove, midway down the canyon and recognized as having one of California’s best displays of wildflowers, wears a bright blanket of green grasses, decorated with iridescent yellow, pink, red, purple, orange and blue blossoms, and visited by hundreds of fluttering butterflies, Mariposa County’s namesake. Neon-colored paddlers add to the show as they challenge the Merced’s whitewater, in splashing, laughing choruses, through spring and into early summer.

Farther down Highway 140 is Mariposa, the final Gold Country stop on this circle tour. At the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, 13,000 minerals, rocks, gems historic artifacts, and fossils are maintained in a collection that was begun in 1865. The pride of the collection is the crystalline-gold Fricot nugget, which at 201 ounces, was the largest crystalline nugget found during the Gold Rush. Though millions of travelers pass through Mariposa on their way to Yosemite each year, this isolated gold rush town has been largely unaffected and retains its small town atmosphere, as evidenced at the Mariposa County Courthouse which is the oldest county courthouse in continuous use west of the Rockies. After all, taking the circle tour is all about uncovering gold country nuggets like this one.

It is often difficult to obtain acceptable accommodations inside Yosemite National Park, particularly on short notice, but not so along Highway 140. Luxury accommodations with kitchenette units, gas fireplaces, double spa tubs, swimming pools and river views are easily obtained at the Yosemite View Lodge, while the Cedar Lodge in El Portal and the Yosemite Best Western Waystation in Mariposa provide quality accommodations at moderate prices. Virtual tours, online reservations and more information about these accommodations are found at http://www.yosemite-motels.com.

The final leg of this circle tour travels through the rich agricultural fields of California’s Central Valley, before returning to San Francisco. With so much to see and experience, it may not be long before a new gold fever becomes contagious. That is, a fever to take this Gold Country Circle Tour.

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An Introduction to the World of Minecraft

On May 17th, 2009, Markus “Notch” Persson brought to the world the game that would leave hundreds of thousands of people very happy – Minecraft. This amazing game started as a sandbox construction game but eventually progressed to the adventure-like challenge that it is today. For the beginning player, Minecraft can appear to be a little confusing and perhaps a bit overwhelming. A few Minecraft tips can go a long way towards getting them on their way.

Your character starts out in the middle of a randomly generated world with nothing on his person. By looking around you may notice some things, such as trees and animals roaming about. You may also notice that it is day outside, though the sun is moving steadily across the sky. Once the sun goes down the monsters come out, so getting together a shelter is the first thing that needs to be done.

Pressing the “E” button will open up your inventory, but also allows access to the crafting box. In the upper right-hand corner there are four squares where items can be placed to mix them together and create new, useful items. For example, by placing a piece of coal on top of a stick a torch is made. Actually, four torches are made, as Minecraft generally gives things in multiples when you craft.

Now, in order to start crafting anything, the first thing that is needed is some wood. Punching trees (by using the mouse button) until they break will allow you to pick up the piece that broke off. Taking that piece of wood and putting it into the crafting box will turn it into a stack of planks. Once four planks have been collected they can be placed in each of the four squares of the crafting box and turned into a workbench, which allows a crafting box of nine squares and the ability to create more items.

You will find yourself running around beating up on a lot of trees in the beginning. The first thing to make is that workbench. From there, a pick can be made. First, take two planks and place them one on top of the other to make some sticks. Then two sticks, one on top of the other with three planks across the top in a “T” formation will produce a wooden pick. This pick will allows stone and other hard objects to be mined. Then you need to run around and find some coal. After mining that you will need to make some torches using coal and sticks as mentioned above.

Now that you have some torches, a pick, and a workbench you need to hide. Find a nice piece of the landscape and mine your way into it. Hollow out a little area and put some torches up for light. Monsters can only spawn in areas without light, so torches will keep them away. Cover the entrance with some more blocks (to keep monsters out) and wait for daylight again. Nighttime is a good time to go digging into the ground as well, looking for more resources to use to make better items. The most common resources you will find at the surface of the world are iron and coal. Iron can be used to make better weapons and tools as well as some armor to keep you alive.

After the first night is up, you can go out into the world again and explore. Once you know how to survive the night, the rest is easy. Experiment with the workbench and different materials to create things. If you really need a boost, some Minecraft cheats are available online as well as many pages that show all the recipes for crafting items. Once you have the good materials you can make anything from railroad tracks to musical instruments to electrical powered pistons. By using all these items, you can build a world for you and your friends to enjoy and explore, complete with castles, towers, underground railroads or whatever else your can imagine.

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