Category Archives: amateur radio

Way To Go, Stud

I thought this evening I’d grab my slingshot and spool of fishing line and rig a 73′ ham radio wire antenna when we returned to our trailer this afternoon. We’d been at a wonderful luncheon with our local unit of the Wally Byam Airstream Club and I told them what I wanted to do when we got back. I’d love to have that great antenna working in the morning between 7am and 9am for the daily 40 meter net session. But something more appealing came up after the luncheon before we even left Winston-Salem.

Yesterday morning one of the two gas struts supporting my truck’s tonneau cover broke. The gas strut’s fine but the attachment at one end broke from the tonneau cover’s supporting arm. Hatch doors on SUVs and SAVs and some vans have two gas struts to lift and hold that hatch door. One won’t do the job. It’s the same with my tonneau cover – two gas struts, working properly and together, just barely get the job done. One strut alone leaves you with a truck bed cover that you’re going to need a prop stick for, if you can even get the tonneau cover open.

Pretty much anything with gas struts has ball studs. The ball studs are the attachment point for the ends of the gas strut. The ball studs are under a tremendous force and may break off. Mine did over a week ago (after a mere eleven years daily service). I sort of fixed it but the repair didn’t hold and yesterday I realized I needed to find the right parts to really fix this.

8mm ball studs

A good friend suggested I might find at an AutoZone auto parts store the gas strut ball stud I needed for my tonneau cover. I’ve never bought one before. I didn’t even know how they’re packaged or who would sell them. Last night I searched on line and found it’s sort of a specialty item despite tens of thousands (way more?) cars and trucks use this. But Randy is right (by the way, he says Camping World also sells these). AutoZone on Country Club Drive in Winston-Salem had one package of 8mm ball studs. A pair of them set me back less than $4 with tax. Thanks Randy for the spot on referral.

I didn’t realize what the 8mm or 10mm label on ball stud packaging referred to or I might have worried I wouldn’t have the tools I wanted. Turns out, the measurement refers to the threaded portion. Not realizing this, I pulled out my grab bag of threading taps and found one to match the threads on the ball stud. Guess what, it’s an 8mm tap. The correct drill bit size is embossed on the side of the tap. I was delighted to find the requisite 17/64″ drill bit (very slightly larger than 1/4″). I have a drill, bit, and tap. Okay, what I didn’t know or plan hasn’t hurt me so far.

One of the gas strut’s ball stud had yanked clean out of the tonneau cover’s hinged support arm. The hole was too small for the 8mm shank of the new ball stud. I could have drilled out the hole to 5/16″, slid the new shank in and secured it with the included nut. But I decided it would be stronger (and a little bit of fun) to drill and tap the support arm for the 8mm shank to thread into plus put a nut on the extra length of shank on the other side. It looks like this:

ball stud threaded through support arm and secured with nut

The gas strut snaps onto the ball after I pry the spring release open. I made a mistake and pried too far. The spring popped off and landed in the truck’s pretty messy bed. Once I found it I realized what a mistake it was to pop it off. Much harder to put this spring on than to open and close it. I’ll be more careful in the future to only pry it open enough to release from the ball. Here’s a picture of the gas strut snapped properly onto the new ball.

gas strut snapped onto new ball

I’m no mechanic. I’m just lucky enough to have some tools I’ve collected over time and a tiny bit of mechanical aptitude. I’ll admit I have no idea if this installation method, tapping threads in the support arm, is better than making a larger hole and slipping the threaded shank through. But it was fun to do this and, like a puzzle completed, it’s satisfying to have the pieces fit together. This took me 15 minutes to complete once I had the tools out and the drill plugged into the power receptacle. Here’s a picture of the not so many tools I needed and used today for this quick and easy project to keep my tonneau cover easy to lift and hold open.

all the tools needed for this job

The oddest thing is to figure why I have an 8mm threading tap. I guess it’s from 1978-79 when I was keeping my Toyota Hi-Lux truck going. I never thought the tap took up space I needed for something else. It’s approx 5/16″ diameter by 2.5″ long. Of course, this is one of how many threading taps I have in the toolbox? Debbie doesn’t worry too much about what’s in the truck or under the trailer as long as I find things to do outside when she wants inside space. And you wondered how two of us live full-time more than ten years in this small Airstream trailer?

Advertisements

Living Together in Tiny Spaces – Hobbies and Agreements

We enjoyed a fabulous gathering of aluminized folks at John Leake’s Alumalina Rally at Palmetto Cove Park in Cleveland SC. Approx 120 Airstreams, members and non-members of the Airstream Club, didn’t matter – everyone seemed to have a great time in wonderful Fall weather.

The drive back to Ashe County was accentuated by Blue Ridge Parkway trip from Blowing Rock to Deep Gap. Whatever the experts say, this afternoon was PEAK COLOR on that stretch of the BRP! Just gorgeous.

Just returned to Woodland Ridge, our spot in Ashe County this afternoon and glad rain hasn’t started yet. We want rain, but nice to have opportunity to park the Airstream, arrange everything, get settled without dealing with rain too. Let it rain tonight!

This was a “contest” weekend for ham radio everywhere. No matter where I dial in, multiple ham radio operators from all over the world trying to connect with each other. On one hand, sort of amazing so many people are involved in ham radio. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) reports more licensed hams in USA than ever before, and something like 18K new ones each year. Sure seemed like it all this weekend, whenever I turned on the radio.

So, it didn’t matter we had relatively weak reception in Palmetto Cove, tucked down below mountains all around. I was able to check into the RV Service Net ham radio net at 8:15 Fri morning, thanks to a relay from friend Garry W8OI in Huntington WV (Garry’s been a licensed ham radio operator for 62 years!) Even in difficult conditions, ham radio always works.

This afternoon I raised my G5RVjr dipole antenna (it’s 55′ up, between a pair of trees 70′ apart) and re-installed my tuner to optimize using that antenna. Now I have choices for HF ham radio of screwdriver antenna on the Airstream’s roof, G5RVjr (oriented north to south, so strongest signal east-west,) and 74′ end-fed wire. Capable and fun!

While at the RV gathering in South Carolina this weekend there was an open house of many of the Airstreams including ours. Lots of questions asked about how we have room in a 8.5′ X 23′ cabin to live year-round. Complicating the question is our sort of full-featured ham radio station and other stuff we like in our lives. Folks naturally are curious about how we fit all our interests into a <200sf cabin and live without getting in each other's way. Many consider our space tiny, and it is smaller than many Tiny Houses. We neither feel cramped nor crowded despite supporting trappings for our varied interests.

A couple living together, with or without children, makes agreements ALL THE TIME. Another word sometimes heard is, compromises. It's what being together is about for us. We're in this together. If one of us isn't suited then something's wrong for us both. We don't look at compromises as a reduction in stock for one of us, but try to make it a win for us both. I've kidded before about the genesis of moving the ham radio station from in the truck's dash to on the dinette table. Debbie expressed reservations but I promised to make it work well for us. It did, although she's not sure if this latest iteration is fully okay.

I added the bottom component today. It's a ham radio antenna tuner with three knobs, a meter, and three buttons. It essentially doubles the ham radio footprint on the table. One, it's on my side of the dinette table, except when we share our table with friends. Then it's "our" side of the table. Two, this component IS removable. Unscrewing two cable connectors and one small power wire on the back lets me slip this tuner out and store it. Debbie's being very sporting about going along with it for now, and I'm okay with moving it out of sight if helpful.

Here's what my "big" ham radio station now looks like in this full timer's cabin:

Our HF station

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com

Spare Parts for Full-Timing

Last post I said, “Next post may be about spare parts — what else do we carry?”

It’s taken awhile to get around to this post. I’ve been writing elsewhere about our adventures on our land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of N.C. While thinking about this post, I just didn’t get to writing it.

We’ve addressed previously the gear list of our truck and trailer on our dreamstreamr.com web pages.

This post is to talk about spare parts we carry. We try to be self-sufficient as much as we can. If we can, we’ll fix what breaks. Sometimes things wear out or break. Some things are more important than others. If we lose refrigeration of our food it’s not quite disastrous. We have dry goods, and usually are within a reasonable drive to a grocery store. But if our hitch fails, we’re stopped. If our trailer’s electrical system stops working, we might be uncomfortable.

Having looked closely at what we carry (and don’t), I’ve decided to eliminate some of the stuff we thought we needed. What’s the worst that happens if you lack the spare? How many years do you carry something before you decide it’s surplus?

This is the list of spare parts we carry on our travels:

Quickbite Coupler and Equalizer hitch parts –
1 pair Equalizer L-pins
1 pair Equalizer socket pins
1 pair Quickbite hitch jaw pins
2 5/16″ hitch ball
hitch head pin and clip

Dometic Fridge –
thermistor (interior temperature sensor)
thermocouple (flame proving sensor)
gas burner jet

Atwood Water heater –
Thermal Cut-Off (TCO) replacement
Drain plugs (plastic, threaded)

Casework –
cabinet door latches

Electrical –
LED 5 watt G4 bipin bulbs
LED 10 watt G4 bipin bulbs
CFL 9-watt bulb for dinette lamp
ATC fuses 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 amp
80 amp class-T fuse (for inverter)
wire, insulated stranded and solid, 22 gauge to 8 gauge
7-way receptacle, complete spare
battery cable tubular lug rings

Plumbing –
bushings 1/4″ IPT, brass
ells, short nipples, plugs 1/4″ IPT, galv
fresh water tank petcock

Radio –
UHF PL-259 connectors
Double UHF female connectors
shrink tubing, various diameters
AGC fuses (0.5 – 30a)

Let’s see what your spare parts lists are, and what you think of mine.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com

Troubles on the Road

There’s no perpetual motion machine, no unbreakable machine, no way to escape certain things like maintenance and repairs. We may try to avoid working on things that are still “sort of working”, but we’ll eventually get our hands dirty. Many of us are, consciously or unconsciously, aware of deferred maintenance, known more familiarly as procrastination.

Debbie and I try to keep up with all the required and advisable maintenance on our truck and Airstream trailer. In ten years, we’ve had very few problems, maybe not ten in all until our travels this summer. This story is one of my longer ones — Sometimes, like everyone else, we learn we missed something important. In this case, more than several things:

(1) Two months ago we learned our trailer brakes were broken. Fortunately we discovered the damage in Airstream’s excellent service facility in Jackson Center OH. The great folks in the service shop were going to do a quick brake adjustment. But it turned out to be more — much more.

Short story, Airstream replaced the electric brake magnets on all four wheels, turned all four drums, and put our brakes back together again for us. Ouch! We didn’t even know they were coming apart. Airstream Service DOES IT RIGHT! We’re good now, thanks to them.

(2) Both the charge converter and the solar charger quit charging the batteries on our way to the Region 2 Rally in early June. We need these to keep the trailer’s batteries up to keep our lighting, music, fans, and water pump working.

We were using the lights and fans, so we seemed to have battery power. But the battery monitor, a really cool Trimetric 2025, showed the batteries were discharging and not getting any juice from the chargers. Strange.

Finally I turned off the charge converter on the 120vac breaker panel in the trailer. The trailer’s lights and fan died immediately. I pulled the 12 volt system main (30a) fuses. They looked okay and I put them back in place. Everything turned back on and the batteries were getting a charge from the charge converter. The contacts for the two small 30 amp fuses for the 12 volt system weren’t letting juice get through the contacts until I removed and reinserted them. Okay — fixed.

(3) Next, our solar charge controller had stopped noticing sunlight. Instead of the soft amber light signaling everything is copacetic, we now had a bright red indicator light. No more charging from our solar panels, no matter how great the sunlight. We’d replaced our solar charge controller before, but only after it had a stunning smelly electrical circuit board failure.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, I pulled the fuses on all the power connections to solar power system, took the solar charge controller out, and took it apart. Apparently all the smoke was still inside. This time there were no smelly surprises, no charred diodes. I carefully cleaned the contacts, board and components, reassembled the solar charge controller, and put power back to it. It works perfectly. Yep! I probably only needed to do a power reset on it in the first place. We’ll call the extra work preventive maintenance.

(4) A few days later at a rally with the Airstream club’s Region 2 folks near Penn State, we had another surprise. Thanks to John Hussar for doing a propane safety check on our trailer (and even our gas grill!) One of the hoses showed a slight leak on a crimped fitting, according to John’s very sensitive meter. During our stay in Albuquerque NM we had Randy at R and L Propane Service make us a new set of hoses to connect the propane tanks to the gas regulator.

(5) Next, our shower head stopped working. Nothing but a dribble out of it. While we were at the Airstream Service facility I felt courageous enough to tear into the shower plumbing. I’d tried cleaning the shower head but didn’t find anything in it. I wondered about the long flexible hose. Killing two birds with one stone, I replaced the kitchen faucet with the shower hose. Great flow! Years ago a friend told me he’d removed his shower’s vacuum breaker. It’s at the bottom of the hose, where the water comes through the shower wall in a nice chrome elbow. These come in all shapes, ours looked like this:

FullSizeRender-7

Okay, not the cut-off valve, not the hose, not the shower head. I took off the vacuum breaker, reconnected the shower hose and the most amazing thing happened. We have incredibly great flow and pressure, like never before. Why didn’t I do this ten years ago? Good grief!

(6) Shortly after, Debbie’s vanity lights went dim. These are pretty high tech LED super-bright (205 lumens) lights (similar to these.) They seem 1.5X brighter than 12 diode pucks, even though they’re only 3 LEDs. Expensive too, at $19 each through Camping World (you can find them cheaper but might not receive warranty replacement at on-line stores.) Fortunately there’s a Camping World next door to Randy’s Propane Service place and they stock these. Okay, another problem fixed on this trip.

(7) Then, our kitchen cabinet door just barely worked. I’d tightened the Grass hinge screws but the screws wouldn’t stay tight. The door became really sloppy. I’d tighten the two hinges and the door worked perfectly. For a few days, then loose again. I finally took the hinges off, inserted big round toothpicks in the woodwork’s screw holes, and reattached the hinges. A month later and still okay.

1-nexis

(8) On our I-40 voyage into New Mexico I was blowing my horns to say HI in morse code (dit dit dit dit dah dah) to W5AOX Jim while talking on the ham radio with him as we crossed paths East and West. When I keyed the microphone, the horns died, the ham radio quit, and the GPS went blank. No power to any of these accessory loads. I’d overloaded the circuit because the new air horn compressor is a power hog and so is the ham radio when I’m talking full power. Short fix, replaced the 25 amp blade fuse for the accessory circuit and good to go. Project for later – add a dedicated fused line from the battery to the air compressor.

(9) During our stay in New Mexico, the truck’s air horn system completely died. The dash switch had power and I detected power to the relay. Oddly, the primary line only had 11.5 volts compared to the truck’s 12.5+ volts. Instead, I waited until I could get into the project mentioned at the bottom of number (8) above.

If I’d remembered how the line was connected I might sooner have figured out the problem and easily made a temporary repair (just as well I didn’t.) Here’s what I used when I had spliced the air compressor’s line power:

Solderless Wire Quick Splice Connector

Solderless Wire Quick Splice Connector

As soon as I removed the tape from the joint and saw this connector I knew why voltage was low and no current could get to the load — the inexpensive splice connector didn’t hold up. I removed the splice and installed a new (fused) wire straight to the battery. Everything is good. Many of you are probably saying, “He should have run a line direct from the battery in the first place.” You’re right. That’s what I did for the ham radio because we always do that for ham radios.

(10) On our way back from NM, I reached up to turn one of the reading lamps above our bed. It fell loose into my hand, tethered only by the 12vdc wires. Granted, the shelf it’s screwed into is a thin material but heck, I was just re-aiming it! For a long time I’ve wondered if I could, some day, get the squeak out of the ball joint that allows aiming these neat little lights.

FullSizeRender-6

I squirted a tiny spray of Boeshield T-9 onto the ball joint and the swivel. Wowzers, I should’ve done this years ago! The light head swivels and aims silently and smoothly. Just one more case where deferring maintenance probably hastened the attachment failure. Oh yeah, and I reattached the lamp to the shelf in new holes.

(11) On the way home from New Mexico two weeks ago we drove eastward through two days of hard rain on I-40. On the second day we realized neither the fridge nor the water heater would light on propane. The water heater’s never given us a minute of trouble and the control board is potted in some kind of epoxy so looks really waterproof. The fridge, on the other hand, has been troublesome off and on for all ten years of travels.

Good news, the fridge still worked on electric (110vac) and our inverter and batteries can handle the load. The drain on the batteries wouldn’t be a big issue for short drives but we were driving Farmington NM to Charlotte NC in four days, averaging 450 miles daily.

Dinosaur P-711 board

Dinosaur P-711 board

Also good news, we have Dinosaur Electronic’s P-711 control board for Dometic fridges and Dinosaur has GREAT customer and tech phone support. I talked with Chris at Dinosaur who determined the board was functioning but perhaps it’s the thermocouple?

fridge thermocouple

fridge thermocouple

On the way to Camping World the next day, the water heater and fridge both fired up perfectly. We’ve been asked a few times what spare parts we carry for our RV. Just added a (spare) thermocouple for the fridge — Chris at Dinosaur may have been right and we’ll be ready.

We had more maintenance issues in June and July this year than in the ten previous years. We should be good now, everything’s been fixed. Now, everything works perfectly and we don’t have to do any maintenance until the next thing happens — or maybe we should? I think yes we should.

Next post may be about spare parts — what else do we carry?

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com

Lucky Contacts in Pennsylvania

This is our Airstream’s first time in Pennsylvania. Various interests have pulled us all over the continent except, until now, the North Atlantic regions. The Airstream Club invited us to attend a region rally in Centre Hall (it really is in the “centre” of Pennsylvania.) We stopped first for a few days in Penn Wood Airstream Park. Thanks to Rorie, the Park President, for allowing us in despite a very busy Memorial Day weekend in the Park. And thanks to the many folks we met this weekend for their friendliness. We’ve had a great stay in their home park and look forward to our next visit.

HAM RADIO
The space Rorie found for us is at the top edge of Penn Wood (maybe she was hiding us?) It is a pretty and very quiet site. Our roof-mounted ham radio antenna works well here, better than many places we’ve visited. The nearby trees are fabulously tall white pines. I couldn’t resist hanging another antenna over the top of a great tree on this hill.

Good antennas plus good atmospheric conditions provide opportunities for long range conversations on the ham radio. The last couple of nights I’ve talked to hams in Slovenia, Geneva, Aruba, San Diego, Mille Lacs Lake (MN) and Rentz (GA.) The wire antenna I was using, the site we were in, and great conditions all combined for easy and fun work on the radio.

I’ve tried a lot of different portable antennas and wasn’t thrilled with many of them. I have a favorite antenna now. I learned a couple of years ago about a simple antenna from an article on the internet. The antenna consists of one 71′ piece of 12 gauge wire and an electronic box at the bottom. The box is an auto coupler, or auto tuner, and sits on the aluminum roof of our Airstream. The wire attaches to it, and a coaxial cable (similar to cablevision for your television) connects to the radio inside our Airstream.

Sometimes the wire attracts attention, often it doesn’t. The wire’s insulation is grayish brown and the wire isn’t large. The rope pulling the wire steeply upward toward the tree is smaller than the wire. Combined they are over ninety feet long and go very high up to the tall white pine across the driveway. If you look carefully at this picture, you might see the wire sloping upward away from the trailer.

end fed antenna

Two nights ago I turned on the radio, tuned up, and bang! I heard the station in Slovenia calling for North America. A few minutes later I heard the Geneva station then the one in Aruba. Last night I was listening for a few minutes and trying to reach a Naples station I heard. The Naples station fell silent and I heard a person asking, “Is the frequency in use?”

I waited while he tuned up and answered when he called “CQ, CQ, anyone anywhere?” Gordie was visiting Mille Lacs Lake and trying out his very old radio with good luck. I don’t think the radio is quite as old as Gordie though — he’s 92 and says he’s been a ham for 75 years. I started too late to ever match that! We had an enjoyable conversation for almost a half hour. Doesn’t happen often but is nice when it does.

JACKSON CENTER OH
Last week we were at the Airstream factory and at the Airstream Club central offices, both in Jackson Center OH. Enjoyed working with other members of the Club’s leadership on budget for next FY and plans for next year’s big summer rally. Membership is rising again, no doubt helped by the prodigious increases in production and sales from the Airstream factory and dealers. This year’s Airstream Club President Joe Perryman deserves a lot of credit too. He worked collaboratively two years ago with a team of very interested members to develop an action plan for the Club.

Joe and his team have a lot of great ideas to improve the club. They arrived at a series of priority issues to accomplish during his leadership year. Under Joe’s watch the Club has implemented a digital directory (“Big Red Numbers Lookup”, some friends call it.) Joe relaxed the dress code for business meetings. He reinstated the electronic newsletter, “News and Views”; issued a survey of Club membership; hired a new Corporate Manager; has continued support for modernizing the Club’s administrative processes and has pushed for on line registration and renewals. It’s been a good year, and things are looking up for the Airstream Club!

While at the Airstream factory we asked the service center to do an annual tune-up on our trailer brakes. It turned out to be a little more than expected. The excellent service techs found a problem with two of our wheels’ brakes and quickly adjusted their work plans for the afternoon to finish this up and get us going before closing time.

Nothing is without a cost, though. I was hoping for a brake adjustment and repacking the trailer’s wheel bearings. Sometimes this work has cost us under $100. This time the techs showed us damaged drum faces and ruined brake magnets in our wheels apparently caused by a pair of lost retaining clips. They explained very well what must be done. Our bill was $1,000 to bring everything up to safe working order.

It’s a relief to have the brakes and bearings in best condition and ready for another year on the road. An interesting thing about the Airstream factory service center technicians — they work ten years in the Airstream assembly plant before eligibility for joining the service center. Pretty good credentials, we think! We try to stop by every year or two and catch up on needed repairs.

REPAIRS ON THE ROAD
This afternoon found me begging to tackle anything productive. Our solar charge controller quit working ten days ago, displaying one bright red light and doing no work at all. We don’t have specific plans for boon docking in the near future. We’ve found over the past eight years the solar power system is very convenient to keep our batteries up no matter where we go. This charge controller’s only four years old and should be good for many more years but just stopped working. I had lined up a replacement unit identical to this one (BZ Products 2500HV) and decided to take a look before I ordered the new one.

2-P1000119

Pulled the fuse from the solar panels, carefully removed all the mounting screws to release the control box from it’s mounting spot. I took the unit out into bright sunlight and Debbie and I examined it very closely for any cold solder joints or blown components on the circuit board. The circuit board was dirty but everything looked fine to our unpracticed eyes.

1-P1000109

I carefully dusted off the board and realized I might have gotten by with just resetting power to the board to clear the failure. It hadn’t occurred to me earlier because I expected to find a blown capacitor on the board or a loose connection. Crossing my fingers as much as I could while wielding a screwdriver, I reassembled the control box and reinstalled it with all the electrical connections.

When I reconnected the fuse the charge controller worked again. Four more years trouble-free service? I hope so. Having the solar collectors and charging is very handy and has allowed us lengthy stays in Quartzite, NC mountains, and elsewhere without any commercial power connections. Even when we’re connected to shore power, the solar charging system reduces our demand on the grid. Nice to have.

This reminds me of another problem we corrected a few days ago. We’re connected to an old park power system and apparently are on the long end of it. Voltage is low and power is almost non-existent. We can’t run the microwave without going below 108vac. The low power tends to make me hyper aware of potential problems.

I was probing around, just looking for another problem when I realized our batteries weren’t doing anything. We’re connected to shore power, the park’s 110vac system. We generally assume the batteries are ready to go too. I turned off the trailer’s main 110vac breaker, and everything turned off. Not s’posed to happen!

Hmm, did low voltage mess up our charger? Are our batteries shot? Calmly, I pulled the trailer’s 12vdc two main fuses, one at a time, and put them back in (you can see the pair of 30a main fuses in the below picture.) The second one was apparently a little corroded, because when I plugged it back in everything powered up. A little strange. . . I’ll be tightening up all the 12vdc and 120vac terminals on our power system today!

1-P1170663

We feel very fortunate to have everything working well so much of the time. Bouncing down the road more than 100,000 miles in ten years is what the Airstream trailer is made for, but it can’t be easy. That’s a lot of shaking and braking, and fortunately not so much breaking. We often do routine maintenance and cleaning and try to keep a sharp eye and ear out for trouble. A well-built RV helps reduce problems. A little luck helps too.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Dreamstreamr

Other Views of the World’s Largest Ham Radio Convention

We left NC to attend the world’s largest ham radio convention, Hamvention, in Dayton OH. Weather was very very mixed — rain, cold, frozen rain, rain, sunny. Our wardrobes were well tested in the few days of this big show. This is our third year as volunteer shuttle drivers.

driving a shuttle cart at Hamvention 2014

Many hams have big and bigger antennas, and some organizations can afford even larger ones. This one is top of the line, shown here by the well-heeled local amateur radio society. I think this big antenna tower is attached to the top of the white van.

A typical sight at Hamvention -- BIG BEAM

Not everything in Dayton was about amateur radio, though. Our friends invited us to dinner at The Engineer’s Club, a 100 year old Dayton establishment. The tech men and women of Dayton were (and are) just incredibly talented and imaginative. What a great bunch of brains! Those engineering folks did a great job accommodating fine dining and friendships too.

IMG_1979

Full-timers can’t pack just anything in their portable home. We shed a lot of furniture and possessions when we sold our house and moved into this 188 sf home. You have priorities, you know what is worth carrying, and when to bring it out. How big is the cellar in that rig?

Party? What party?

Work awhile, play awhile, it’s even better with friends. This fun group of friends gathered in John Bryan State Park a little NE of Dayton, for an early Memorial Day picnic. We enjoyed fantastic weather for several days in this gorgeous state park. Celebrating with our friends is best!

Memorial Day Picnic, a week early

After the partying, we seriously needed exercise. John Bryan State Park is cleverly situated adjacent to Clifton Gorge, a very nifty and sometimes stunning walk in the woods. We donned our backpacks, stuffed full of junk to create training weight for our August backpacking trip, and walked the length of the trail along Clifton Gorge and back. No pictures of how we look afterward!

Narrows at the Clifton Gorge

Next up? Let’s go to greater Indianapolis IN the same weekend another 1/2 million people do, and see how we can stay out of their way.

See you there!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr

If You See Our Whip . . .

On our way from Fletcher NC, site of the great 2014 Region 3 Rally, two weeks ago we stopped to torque our wheel nuts. Torqued the trailer’s four wheels and happened to look up. And said, “Oh crap!”

The tall roof-top amateur radio antenna was no longer tall. In fact, over six feet of antenna was missing. Hmm, nine feet from ground to top of trailer, then almost four feet of antenna motorized base column, then 6′ of antenna whip, that’s almost twenty feet total height. So we ALWAYS lower it before towing the engine.

Except the last time. 421 times in the past seven years we lowered the antenna to horizontal position before towing days. This puts the antenna at lower height than the air conditioner, which is only 12.5 feet above ground level. But the last time, the antenna was waving around at over 20′ until the first bridge on I-26 southbound.

Somewhere out there is our 6′ whip, a very nicely machined quick-connect and solid brass mounting disc. This rendered the antenna, normally perfect for worldwide two-way radio communications, completely useless.

There’s a bright side to this though. The whip and hardware, when ripped out by some stupid bridge, cleared the trailer and didn’t strike the trailer or the solar panels. No collateral damage is good. I have a spare whip, the manufacturer (High Sierra, Heath Tech) shipped a spare brass disc to our friends house in Dayton OH, and I was able to reassemble the antenna in a couple of hours.

We're back in touch

We’re back in touch

Today the antenna is back on the roof (in travel position unless I’m using it). And we’ll not soon forget to look UP before hitching up the trailer to the truck on towing days.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr