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Thinkstock

How to Send Smoke Signals

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Not getting any bars on your phone? That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with faraway friends. Just send them a smoke signal!

1. Light Your Fire

No surprise here, but you’re going to need a hefty fire if you want to send a smoke signal. Build a normal campfire – start with small, easy burning tinder and gradually work your way up to heavier fuel.

2. Flash Some Green

As impressive as your roaring fire is, it’s probably not going to make all the smoke you need. To kick up your smokiness, gather a bundle of green sticks and grass. Dump them on your fire. While your inner camper may rebel against the idea of putting green fuel on a fire, the addition will actually help you kick out thicker, whiter smoke that’s easier to spot.

3. Embrace the Wet Blanket

Forget every negative thing you’ve heard about wet blankets. Douse your bedroll with water – otherwise you’re going to have a roasted blanket on your hands – and toss it over your fire until no more smoke is rising from the flames.

4. Go Under Cover

Once the smoke has stopped rising, quickly pull the blanket off the fire. A white cloud of smoke should rise from the flames, just in time for you to throw the blanket back over the fire. The cloud will rise as a single puff, your first signal.

5. Know the Code

Once you can send smoke signals, encoding your long-distance messages isn’t hard. Although there is no universal smoke-signal language, American campers have a pretty clear system of signaling. A single puff simply lets observers know where you are. A series of two signals is generally accepted as a code that all’s well, while three puffs in quick succession alert viewers to an emergency.
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iStock
The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
iStock
iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare
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Ben Leuner, AMC
You Can Cook (Food) With Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in the Original Breaking Bad RV
Ben Leuner, AMC
Ben Leuner, AMC

A new contest is giving Breaking Bad fans the chance to cook a meal with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. A new charity fundraising campaign is sending one lucky fan and a friend out to Los Angeles to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Breaking Bad’s premiere with the stars themselves—Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and that beat-up RV.

“That’s right, the real Walter White and Jesse Pinkman will join you in The Krystal Ship to whip up some delicious food, take tons of pictures, and bond over the most addicting show ever made,” the contest’s page on the charity fundraising site Omaze trumpets.

All you have to do to throw your (porkpie) hat in the ring is break out your wallet and donate to a good cause. Every dollar you donate to the contest through Omaze is basically a raffle ticket. And the more you donate, the better your odds are of winning. Each dollar donated equals 10 entries, so if you donate $10, you have 100 chances, if you donate $25, 250 chances, etc. At higher donation levels, you’ll also get guaranteed swag, including T-shirts, signed set photos by Cranston and Paul, props and scripts from the show, and more.

Technically, you can enter without donating, but don’t be a jerk—it’s for the kids. The proceeds from the contest will go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Kind Campaign, an anti-bullying charity.

The contest winner will be announced around September 12, and the big event will take place on September 15.

Donate to win here. The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. PT on August 30.

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