Happy New Year 2024! I am here in Ozark, Missouri, visiting some of my kids and recovering from a cold. I took the camper to Camping World for a damage estimate and now will see whether the insurance company will cover some of the repairs or I have to bear the cost. But, it needs to be repaired. So, I wait.
The entry of the New Year was uneventful. With my cold, I went to bed about 2000h, done. My kids also turned in early; both are also sick. No, it was not me… she was sick when I arrived and I started shortly thereafter. No, she did not give it to me because it was too soon. No, it is not COVID. I am pretty confident it was the pre-travel stress, travel, camper-damage stress, and exposure to a lot of people along the way.
I will get better, but I might go see an urgent care clinic to get some antibiotics as I feel a chest cold/bronchitis starting.
For now, I am spending my effort healing and recovering from travel. I need to start some work on a couple of outstanding projects. That will be good as I will generate some billable hours. I had no billing the end of December to close out the year.
Once the dust settles on the camper, I will decide how to go see the last set of my kids as I need to see them on this trip. The question will be whether I am dragging the camper or using hotels for the trip there.
My original intention was to head south from Pennsylvania and work some new parks, see some new places, make some photographs, and work my way home. I need my camper to do that. So, my plans are unset until others finish their work.
In the meantime, I will work, rest, recover, and spend time with Older Son and DiL. Older Son and I drove out the Compton Hills SRA last Saturday and activated the park. Well, I activated the park. It was too cold to sit outdoors so I only put up a low-power station. We sat in the rig and I activated using CW mode (Morse Code).
I made the capture with the Fujifilm X100V on walkies with The Girl on New Years Day. It was my first good capture of the year. Life is still good. I am still grateful.
Today we mark the end of another year. There will be celebrations tonight and probably fireworks. The Girl is not particularly bothered by the fireworks, which is a good thing. So I will not have to be worried about her. When they happen, we will just play around it and she will ignore them.
I am here in Ozark, Missouri with Older Son and DiL. It has been a good visit. He has a couple of days off and will work a short week so we will have a couple more days, and the weekend, to spend together. The weather is cold, but not hard winter (yet). We are able to get The Girl out for walkies and play.
Yesterday we took the cassette from the camper and dumped it. While at Camper World, I asked about a repair for the camper. This is a long story.
The short version is that just west from Albuquerque, NM I blew a trailer tire. It was sudden and unexpected. I had checked them the day before and they were fine. I did not notice anything that morning when I recovered the camper and did my walk-around. One Interstate 40 eastbound, a passing motorist honked just as I noticed the camper was listing to starboard. A glance into the starboard mirrors determined that I had a flat and I watched (as I pulled to the shoulder) the carcass shed from the rim.
This was my first catastrophic tire failure, ever. Fortunately, I brought both a floor jack and a bottle jack along. The floor jack is preferred because it is more stable. But it took a lot of effort to get everything to work.
And then there is the lug wrench. I bought one of those cheap Chinese #$*t cross spinners from Harbor Freight. The sockets are too thick to fit properly into the alloy wheels of the camper. It took a lot of work to get the lugs loose as they were very tight. The jack had to be reset several times and I had to use blocks to get the rim off the ground.
But I got it loose. I retrieved the spare and checked it (again). I had to use a shovel to dig so I could mount the spare. Then I struggled with the lug wrench (again) to get everything tightened up.
This required an hour to get done. I was spent when I finished. I checked the pressure in the tires and then drove to the next exit. I had also discovered that the carcass had ripped the quick disconnect for the exterior grill from the supply hose, so I had turned off the propane (which serves the refrigerator).
I made a few calls looking for a propane repair house. I found one in Albuquerque and headed that way. The tire remained to be dealt with. The clerk at the propane house could not (both physically and by order) get under the camper. So, once again I wriggled under the camper, loosened the hose from the copper supply line, and retrieved it for him.
He went searching for a blind cap while I had the workers refill the propane tank. It took four gallons of fuel. The clerk gave me a fitting that would permit me to turn the propane back on.
I think picked a repair shop from the map and made a phone call. Phil said he was going to run some errands and would come retrieve me.
I waited about 20 minutes and called again. Just as I got off the phone with his office, a big white pickup pulled in and I was greeted by Phil. He led me to their shop and we started looking at the damage.
The wheel tub was gone. One of my spare boots was gone. One of my house shoes was gone. All of the electrics in the starboard side cabinet (where the wheel well was located) were gone or wrapped around the axle behind the brake drum.
In other words, I was F*#$($D. I had no heater, no hot water, and the igniter for the range was out. But, the pump was working so I had water and the range and refrigerator were still working, even if I had to light the range with a match.
Phil and Larry worked very hard to clear the electrics (so I would be safe) and fabricated a temporary wheel tub to keep things dry inside.
That took the remainder of the day and into Thursday morning. I was delayed a day.
But Phil took good care of me. He got me back on the road and I had a workable, if crippled, house. I spent the night in a Hampton Inn and headed out late Thursday morning. We spent the night at the Amarillo, TX KOA (recommended) and proceeded on to Mead, OK on Saturday.
I was able to spend the holiday with Younger Son, DiL, and her family. It was a good visit and well worth the trip.
I spent a couple more days there, got some work done, and then headed for Ozark, MO on Thursday. The goodbyes were hard, as usual. But, God-willing, I will be back for another visit.I got away late, so it was just getting dark when I arrived. We unloaded the few things I needed to sustain us that night, and went inside.
So, here we are in Ozark, MO. I filed an insurance claim and hope that the insurance company will pay for part of the repairs. I was going to do it myself, but in looking at it decided that it might be better to have a technician make the repairs because it looks like diagnosing the electrics might be a challenge and I have plenty of paying work to do.
There is the backstory. The image I captured was of the camper at the JCRE campground. We are safe, warm, and loved here in Ozark, MO. We will celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of another with family.
Here I am in Ozark, Missouri (near Springfield) to spend a little time with Older Son and DiL. The trip from Durant, OK here yesterday was not bad, despite getting a late start. I did run in to some rain along the way, but not heavy rain. The alternate route I chose was a little slower than the fast route. It was a delay of less than a half hour.
I pulled in just after dark. The sun was still reddening the western sky.
What I did notice was that Google Maps insisted on offering me the “faster way” — the way that involved using toll roads. Furthermore, if I did not notice the offer, it would accept it for me.
This default mode of choosing the faster route for me pissed me off. In addition, I am having difficulty adjusting the Google Maps volume on my iPhone. Methinks that Apple does not want me using Google Maps.
In general, the entire Google Maps thing really pissed me off. I do not need nor want my technology making decisions for me. It should be helping me find my way when I choose a path I want to take. Adjusting the announcement volume should be trivial, even if on foreign hardware.
Now I need a cup of coffee. At least I have a nice capture of Sera to look at.
On my way to Sacramento, I stopped in Woodfords, California for lunch. The old Woodfords General Store used to be a bar and grill. Now it is more of a bistro than a bar.
Yes, beer is still available — in a bottle. But the pastrami and Swiss on rye was good and so was the potato salad. Although I no longer drink soft drinks (much), I decided to have a root beer. It was good, too.
This week I was tasked with travel to Southern California for a field walk. The project is just getting started and doing a site visit is a critical part of forensic engineering.
On the way down, I stopped at K-0845, Manzanar National Historic Site. In 2014, Ki and I visited Manzanar on our way back from Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, where I had a project. It was in January, so the weather was good for a visit to Death Valley, which we did. On the way north we spent an hour or so at Manzanar, walking the site and taking in what we, as a country, did to our Japanese-American fellow citizens. It was wrong. The site feels wrong.
Be that as it may, Manzanar is also a designated Parks on the Air park. I wanted to activate it. And time spent outside the rig for a few minutes is always good on a long trip. Sera got out of the rig for a run around while I got out the station. It was hot enough and there was enough traffic that I put her back in the rig.
I setup my folding table and chair under the rear hatch. Sera found a spot in the back out of the sun. It did not take long to put out an antenna and get the station on the air. In less than an hour I made my activation running 15 watts. I put everything away, gave Sera a drink, got one myself, and we got back on the road.
We spent the night at a Best Western in Sherman Oaks. It was noisy with city energy and the neighbors had a small dog that barked. This irritated Sera… she growled and grumbled several times that night. I rested some, enough to be up early to deal with accumulated email and the market.
There is a Denny’s in the facility, so I got some coffee and breakfast. Of course, I took The Girl some of my bacon and sausage, plus a couple of scrambled eggs for her breakfast.
It took about 45 minutes to get to the site and a couple of hours to see what I needed to see. I visited with my clients a bit, then headed back home.
Wisely, I had a reservation for a hotel in Lone Pine, California. This is about halfway between the site and home. I knew I would not want to drive all the way home after spending the morning on the site. So I did the easy thing and stayed over.
I checked out early Friday morning, got Sera out for a little constitutional, and then bought a biscuit and a coffee from McD’s. I shared my biscuit with Sera and drove over to K-8300, Alabama Hills National Scenic Area, another designated park. I found a spot to setup the station, got Sera out for a bit. Again, there was a little too much traffic so she had to stay in the rig. But it was cool in the morning so it was not too bad.
Again, I had my quota after about 45 minutes. The 20-meter band was the go to band for this activation. I worked an Indonesian station and that surprised me. But DX is always welcome.
I put away the station and was able to make a meeting (virtual) using my iPhone at 1100h local. That did not last long, so Sera and I puttered a bit before heading north towards home.
At the north end of Independence, California (I think) is a BBQ place called the Copper Top. It was lunch time as we passed, so I turned back and bought a tri-tip sandwich. With pickles, onion (red onion), and a few jalapeños (and some sauce) it was good. But it was not as good a slow-cooked Texas brisket. I shared a bite of sandwich with Sera, of course.
Then it was time to slug out the home stretch. I was tired, of course. I stopped a few times to stretch, give Sera some water, and get her out of the rig. Still, it was a tough slog.
I learned a few things, of course.
I need to either add another set of blue Voile straps, or add a longer set of Voile straps to the antenna kit. The blue straps were not long enough to go around the 4×4 or 6×6 posts at the Alabama Hills site. I had to double the blue straps and then find a rock to keep the mast in place.
I really think it would be better to log on the computer than my iPhone, particularly for POTA activations. The larger screen of the computer is simply easier to see.
In addition, I was checking the Reverse Beacon Network for my spots. RBN is a great way for CW and digital operators to determine whether their signal is getting out to the spotter stations. The spotter stations decode the signals they hear and post the calling stations callsign, mode, signal strength, and speed to the webpage. If I am spotted, then I know the station is working because other stations are receiving my transmissions. It would be a lot easier to have multiple browser tabs open on the computer than it is to flip back and forth between tabs on my iPhone.
I prefer a more leisurely activation, one where I have (and take) time to operate multiple modes and work through all the open bands to take the calls of the park hunters.
But, when traveling, it is also a good break to stop for an hour, make at least ten contacts, be out of the rig for awhile, and get Sera out too. This type of activation has a place as well as the more deliberate, longer activation.
In all, the radio play was a nice break from the drive. I gave a few hunters an opportunity to chase a couple more parks. And Sera got a chance to be out of the rig for a while too. It was good. Life is good.
I am on my way home from a site walk in Topanga, California. The site walk was a long time coming. I suppose it was because there are so many parties involved in the case. But it was good to get to see it.
I knew it would be too long of a trip to drive all the way back home after walking the site all morning. There was a lot of Los Angeles to traverse and traffic is always bad. So I planned on stopping midway and that turned out to be Lone Pine, California.
The hotel is decent enough if expensive. But it is the Fourth of July weekend and it also seems that since The Shutdown hotels are a lot more expensive than they were pre-virus. Nonetheless, I have a room.
The clerk gave me a heads-up that there are four restaurants in Lone Pine with outdoor seating that will accommodate my companion. I initially chose the Mt. Whitney cafe. But they ignored me.
I traveled a couple of blocks south and stopped in to The Grill. I was greeted as Sera and I approached the pavilion. The server greeted Sera, asked to pet, and brought water.
The proprietor came out, asked about Sera, and told me about his dogs.
I thought “this is the right place. I’m glad I was ignored at the other!”
So I ordered a Cobb salad and a Corona with lime. He brought me a beer glass, but I am old school and just dropped the lime in the bottle like I would at home.
Yes, you really cannot take me nice places.
In the end, the food was good, the treatment was stellar, and Sera met new friends.
It was a good day, a good evening, and life is good.
So much has happened over the last couple of weeks. I changed my mind about dragging the camper to Missouri. I made the repairs the camper needed. I prepared everything for my trip out here, including enough projects to keep me busy for a month. Then, a day late, I made the trip out here, attended my 50th high school reunion, and returned to Springfield to recover.
There were three repairs to the camper.
Swap out the left tire with the spare, check the bearings, and move the worn tire to the spare.
Troubleshoot the electrical problem with the ceiling lights and the Fantastic fan.
Remove the microwave from its cubbyhole and repurpose the area for storage.
I think my tire problem was from chronic underinflation. On reading the sidewall, I think the tires are about at maximum load. Therefore, I need to keep them at 50psi unless I am on-trail and need to air down for ride and flotation.
The electrical problem was not the converter; it was a loose spade connector on the interrupt switch at the front of the camper. There is a switch that disconnects the ceiling lights and Fantastic fan when the lid is down. I was lucky to find it. It is the kind of problem that can be maddening.
I do not use the camper’s microwave. In fact, I do not use a microwave that much at all. I will use it to warm soup, stew, or chili at home. But I generally reheat food in a pan and just watch my fire so I do not burn my dinner. The same is true in the camper. I reheat food in a pot or pan and monitor it so I do not ruin it (or make a mess in the pan).
Removing the microwave increased my storage space by about 30 percent. That was a huge gain and means I can keep more things put away.
All that took me a couple of days. With the smoke, both my health and my energy level were affected. I had a hard time being motivated and feeling well enough to do this work. But it had to be done and I pressed forward.
Then I assembled everything I wanted to bring with me. I have several radio projects that need some attention, including a repair of the PX3 panadapter for my Elecraft KX3 system. The main encoder is worn out. I have a replacement and the tools to make the repair. I just have not had time or motivation at home.
There are several small antenna projects I want to work on. Older Son is a good candidate to help with those because he is both a ham and is interested. Those are good builds for both of us.
I also brought some work with me. I still have work to do on a couple of reports and am guiding work on a new project in the Tahoe basin. I am spending time each day on that work.
Sera, AKA The Girl, also needs attention and exercise. Both of those are good for me as well.
In any event, I got through the preparation, got the camper and the rig loaded, and we left Sunday morning after a walk and a shower. I dry-camped the first night (and that was absolutely gorgeous) west from Ely, Nevada. The second night I planned to camp just north from Delta, Colorado. But when I approached the campsite, I saw that there was work on US 50 east from Montrose. When I checked the website, I learned that the road was open for the weekend, but open only three hours each day during the week.
I knew I would not get through and did not want to backtrack, so we pressed on through Delta and Montrose to Gunnison. There I was too tired to camp so I rented a hotel (Rodeway) for too much money, got a shower, and slept. At least the breakfast was decent.
I used municipal campgrounds the remainder of the way to Missouri. I find many small towns have a small campground where one can rend a space, usually with electricity and often with water, for ten bucks a night. This is good for the community because campers will spend a little money in town and the cost to the town is minimal.
Sera and I spent one night in Springfield, Missouri, with my kids. Then I headed to St. James for my 50th reunion. My best high school buddy and his wife camped at the Meramac Springs campground, so that is where I stayed. It is a gorgeous campground and the camper was comfortable with shore power to run the air conditioner.
I enjoyed a meal with my friends and with another friend from high school. Some of my classmates treated me well when I was in high school. A few were openly hostile. Most just ignored me. It was all good.
We participated in the St. James Grape and Fall Festival parade. Yes, I rode the float with my class t-shirt on. I laughed with a few of my compatriots and waved at a few folks that I recognized along the route. It was worth the effort.
The reunion supper gathering was what I expected. Most of the class have mates and the couples gathered with their respective friends. I sat with my buddy, his wife, and another friend for supper. We talked and told stories and laughed through the meal. I visited with a couple of my classmates that I specifically wanted to see after 50 years. It was good.
Now I am back in Springfield, working a little, enjoying my kids, and enjoying my dog. I am waiting for a contract to be executed so I can make a field visit in south Texas before I think about heading home. Actually, I can stay here for a few weeks if I want to. There is no pressing obligation back home at the moment. I have plenty to do and I have what I need to do it.
For the last couple of days, I have been recovering. It was a lot to get ready and get here. The weekend was pretty intense.
I am really satisfied that I decided to come to the reunion. It was a good thing.
Greetings from Lubbock, Texas. I am at the KOA here in Lubbock for a couple more days. I stopped here to visit some friends and to pause before the trip back home.
It was a great trip in many ways and sad in a couple more. I might elaborate later on some parts of the trip. I certainly have a few more images to share.
But for this morning, this is it. I’ll share an image I made as the kids and I left Ozark, Missouri on our way to Durant, Oklahoma and then on to Lubbock. The kids came to visit my DiL’s folks and I was headed this way anyway, so we shared the road together.
We stopped over at Durant to visit Young Son and DiL-to-be. I enjoyed the night at Lake Texoma, where I camped before.
Older Son has his Technician license, so we were able to chat 2-meter simplex all the way. It was a reason why I think an amateur radio operator’s license is a good investment of time and energy. The Technician license is not difficult to acquire and provides privileges at 50MHz and above.
Now I need a late breakfast. The Girl needs an outing.
Thursday night was COLD! Greg told me it was 11F when he rose Friday morning. Diana was tent camping!
I made some coffee and sat down at my table. I had not setup my radio yet so I put on some music, sat, and relaxed a bit before making some breakfast and setting up the station.
I setup my radio on the dinette table, put the (very heavy) AGM batteries on the seat across from my operating position, and then started working outside. I assembled my portable vertical antenna and tuned it for the 40m band. I decided to put up my end-fed wire antenna as well. The intent was to provide both vertical and horizontal polarization for the outbound signal. So I threw ropes over two juniper trees and hoisted the wire antenna up to about 12 ft off the ground.
I setup the solar panel to keep the station batteries charged. As soon as I connected the charge controller to the panel and batteries, the controller showed that current was passing to the batteries. This was confirmed by meters I installed in-line on both the input and output sides of the system. I now have solar power for my station.
I crawled up on the front storage box of my camper and assembled the mesh network antennas and router. We used the Broadband-HamNet software flashed to old Linksys home WiFi access points/routers so we could use a networked contact logging software, N1MM+. In testing, the mesh nodes permitted communications locally through the mesh net and the intent was to allow all of us to work stations and log contacts to a common database and under Greg’s callsign.
After connecting everything else and double-checking all the connects, I powered up the radio, the panadapter, and the station computer. Everything seemed to be working and I was able to check into one of the nets that was operating.
I headed down to the Greg/Subrina camp to see if help was needed down there. They had everything under control so Greg sent me up to Diana’s camp to help setup her mesh node and antenna. This required some jury-rigging to get the antenna up high enough for line-of-sight with minimum interference from vegetation. Duct-tape always works. Because of the relatively high frequency, the cable run from the mesh router to the antenna has to be short, so I had to “hang” the router from the antenna mast.
After some fiddling and a few trips back and forth, we had a working mesh network. It was time for a lunch break and a rest. Then it would soon be time to start operating for the Nevada QSO Party.
For the next couple of days, I played some search-and-pounce (listen/look for signals and then call for a contact) and also called CQ many times. The voice recording feature of my K3 was wonderful because I could transmit a standard call and then call using my voice and microphone every few calls to keep from being bored to death and to provide some variety in my calls.
Friday and Saturday nights we gathered at the Greg/Subrina camp to share meal, take break, and fellowship. Then it was back to the stations and try for a few more contacts.
I slept really well. The camper’s heater kept us plenty warm. The Girl and I got enough exercise walking between camps over the rough ground. Some care was required because we found a few cacti that grow really close to the ground, are almost invisible, and have nasty spines. One of those in The Girl’s foot would have made a very bad day.
As the event wound down Sunday afternoon, the contacts dried up. I had been calling CQ for awhile when a voice broke in during my pause to listen.
“Are you going to answer all those foreign stations calling for North America?” came the call.
“If I could hear them, I would!”
“You goin’ to sit on this frequency all day?”
About that time my noise level came up and I could no longer hear the caller. He did not give his call sign and was therefore in violation of Part 97 of the CFR (the rules that govern amateur radio).
Yes, I did camp on the frequency the remainder of the day. We had been spotted by another station and had as much right to the frequency as anyone else. I made a few more contacts before the end of the event.
Sunday night we gathered at Camp Greg/Subrina, broke bread together, and drank a little wine in celebration of the weekend. It was a successful event. We made contacts. We solved problems. We spent time outdoors with people who matter.
I never could get my wire antenna working. It needs some work and measuring to figure out what I did wrong. I will be working on that.
We broke camp lazily Monday morning and headed for home. The trip home was largely uneventful, with the exception that Diana’s handheld radio stopped working.
I parked the camper in my driveway and then unloaded. It was nearly dark but I do not relax well until the bulk of the unloading is complete. But once I was done, I poured myself a Cognac, sat in a comfortable chair, and relaxed.
It was a good trip and a good experience. And now that experience is shared.