Category Archives: Communicating

Kickstarter for Alumination, a feature-length documentary

We’d never contributed to a Kickstarter campaign. We’d never even browsed their web site. Kickstarter claims 15 diverse categories and thousands of projects. I’d wondered what was the motivation to contribute to a campaign. Someone I know kicked in on a project a few years ago. He received a handful of the items when it went successfully to production and he gave us one. Still I wondered, why get involved in this?

Eric Bricker is a friend we first met at Alumaflamingo (Sarasota FL) several years ago. We’ve since met with him several times in other locations. He’s each time impressed us with his enthusiasm for the Wally Byam Airstream Club and all things Airstream. Clearly he’s done his homework about our Club and community. This morning we opened Eric’s invitation to look at his Kickstarter campaign for “ALUMINATION, a feature-length documentary”. We love it and we’re all in!

This film is something all Airstreamers can look forward to enjoying. Eric’s trailer will give you a pretty good understanding of his feel for our Aluminum community. I’m interested in supporting this project because of his demonstrated talent, hard work, and successful portrayal of something I believe in – the Airstream lifestyle. I hope you’ll agree his project is worth supporting, and you’ll open your wallets to kickstart it like we have.


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Stittsville News article

We had a delightful interview with John Curry, news editor of the Stittsville News. He found us at the Ontario Airstream Club’s rally in Richmond Ontario. In fairness, he could have filled two more pages about the rally’s crowd, entertainment and great dining.

The Ontario Unit of the Wally Byam Airstream Club is one of the largest, with almost two hundred members. Their rally attendance sometimes has seventy Airstreams, so this rally was a little small at nearly fifty rigs.

More later, wanted to share the fun interview we read today in the Stittsville News online. We hope you have fun reading it too.


A wonderful Thanksgiving message from South Africa

I didn’t write this post but really like it and thought you might. This one seems the perfect Thanksgiving message. I’m thankful for so much, and glad I found Tom’s uplifting message about thankfulness. My sister asks if it’s a chicken and egg thing. Tom seems to be saying thankfulness is the start and, perhaps the end too. See what you think.

An Attitude of Gratitude, by Tom Basson
So often when preaching on a topic I find myself having to really live it out in the weeks before… This Sunday my wife & I are both preaching on giving thanks in ALL situations, and in the last 10 days the following has happened: I have broken my foot, requiring painful surgery. I’ve had to cough […]

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

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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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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!


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™
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Red Kidney Beans and Junk Phone Calls

How many hits did I get when I looked up robocall?  Over 20 million! (And incidentally, it took .55 seconds to get the results)  Did you know you can buy a robo call plan to call all your frenemies or potential customers or whomever for as little as two cents a call?  This could cost me over a dollar if I called all my friends daily for four days in a row.  Just kidding, it would be over two dollars.

The robocall companies apparently are doing just a little more than calling their ten best friends.  One article (WSJ, FTC: Judge Orders Halt To Robocalls Selling Deceptive Warranties, May 15, 2009) reported on a little telemarketing company making 1.8 million dials per day and that he had done more than $40 million worth of dialing for extended warranty companies, including one billion dials on behalf of his largest client.

We still get junk phone calls. Can you believe they know where to call us?!!! Often we detect it is a robo call.  This despite how smooth they are and darned quick on their “feet”.  You can just barely make out the very slightly mechanized pace or lack of real inflection.  It’s just too even to be human, so sometimes we’re onto them. (Great, now they’ll fix that and we won’t know anymore!)

They’re selling dental insurance, Medicare Gap, extended warranty for our 2006 truck, gutters, satellite TV receivers, you name it.

We’ve started asking the robo caller questions like “Do you have red kidney beans?”, or “What’s the market doing today?”. You can almost hear the gears whirring and clanking as they process the unexpected responses.  They double back, ask their question again as if they had not heard our irreverent query. Okay, we’ll try it again. They hang up. Need new algorithms.

It’s a lot more fun than acting angry or just hanging up.  Besides, as my mom chided me, everyone has to work for a living and those guys are just doing their job. And won’t this provide programmers even more work as they develop and implement algorithms to address these smart alecks?

There are probably more constructive solutions you may consider.  Two include getting and keeping track of details from the caller, if possible; and contacting the Do Not Call Registry.  The former is a nice article written by a former telemarketing person who has been on both sides now.  The latter is a good thing to check, although it seems just a little fruitless at this point.  Why fruitless?

The telemarketers are sort of like the bad guys who aren’t supposed to have guns.  You know what I mean.  In the USA convicted felons are prohibited by law from owning or carrying guns.  Let’s see, this proscription resulted from them breaking a law, right?  And they’re going to pay attention to this added bother?  Don’t think so — I remember the first time, decades ago, I saw the bumper sticker, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

Okay, this does apply to some telemarketers – not all by any means, but some who operate outside the law.  If they do things the law doesn’t allow, they might profit wildly unless and until they are “caught.”  How does $40 million of calls sound, against a calculated risk of being caught, prosecuted, sentenced, and going back at it with new smarts?

Sounds like we might switch to ham radio for all our calls.  I never get a call on the radio offering dental insurance, Medicare Gap, extended warranty for our 2006 truck, gutters, or satellite TV receivers. And if the phone call is from a telemarketer, I might spin it out a bit, take some of their precious time too. It slows them down (they might not get down the list to your number then) and I might find some reportable information to report to the regulators.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
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Staying on the Warm Side of the Door

We’re in Kannapolis NC, home of the fabled textile giant, Cannon Mills. This morning we awoke to 11 degrees Fahrenheit!  We aren’t here for the weather, right? Very cold, dry days are great for some things, but we’re not here for those.

We have a fun backpacking book entitled Pleasure Packing.  The author, Robert Wood, strongly makes the case to daydream your way through the difficult segments of a hike by thinking of your favorite places. We’re trying just that, thinking of warmer times past and future.

I started this morning to complete posting about our nice warm sunny trip to the NC Outer Banks this past fall.  We traveled south on the Outer Banks to Ocracoke, had a neat visit, and no one has heard further about the the trip.

This cold morning seemed so appropriate to think and write of warm places I’d rather be.  Until our mail arrived.  Then I wanted to talk about the cool package from perhaps colder places than NC. I’ll get back to the warm, sunny coastline of NC another post.

We received an envelope this morning from the QSL Card Processing of American Radio Relay League.  QSL cards are the written confirmation of a radio conversation between two amateur radio operators, or hams.  We receive cards infrequently, maybe once a year, and we receive between three and five QSL cards.

QSL cards don’t describe text of the conversation, only the date, time, what radio band we used, and how well we could hear each other.  The cards are often colorful and usually from across one of the oceans although sometimes from USA or Canada.

The Bulgarian card is a special card dedicated in honor of Bulgarian Saint Kozma Zografski. It is probably the prettiest QSL card we’ve received. It also was the most enigmatic, and prompted me to try, unsuccessfully, to learn a bit about Saint Kozma Zografski.


The special call sign LZ1323SKZ, by the Blagovestnik Radio Club in Voinyagovo, Bulgaria, (near Sofia, 43 degrees Fahrenheit today) is part of a program their club does for “All Bulgarian Saints” award and for another award as well. Here’s the map showing their location:


The three cards this morning are from last March 2013 and are from some talking I (Jim) did from a county park in southwest Miami from our trailer.  The two Ukraine ones are from Alexey and Yarik, individuals I spoke with at their respective home stations.


The icy-looking card is from UW7LL in Kharkiv Ukraine (7 degrees today).  You can see where his station is in this picture, below:


The other Ukrainian card is from UR5GDX in Nova Kakhovka (14 degrees F)  along the  Dnieper River in southern Ukraine.


Nova Kakhovka was built to house workers for the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in the 1950s.  Nova Kakovka seems most similar in intent to Boulder City Nevada.  Both cities were intended to be model cities built to house workers in clean, attractive, safe communities.  Nova Kakhovka became known as The Pearl of Lower Dnieper and The Monument of Architecture.


Full time RVing has vastly improved our knowledge of North American geography.  Amateur radio has done the same for my knowledge of places across the globe, if their amateur radio operators talk to me.  (e.g., none so far from China, Kazakhstan, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Iraq, or Egypt, among many I have not reached)  I would automatically have figured Bulgaria and Ukraine were much colder than we (in North Carolina).  Maybe it’s the “any given day” rule.  I’ll just have to check back in with these guys, see how’s the wx!

People often ask us about our Airstream trailer, “Do they still make those?”   Similarly we get the question about amateur radio, “Do people still use those?”  Two good yes answers are these: There are more licensed amateur radio operators in the USA than ever in its history; and I have spoken to amateur radio operators in every European country, several Russian countries, Israel, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, a couple in Central America, and several South American ones.

And I am a casual radio operator, often just getting on the radio a few times a month.  Yes, amateur radio is still both effective and fun.  For more info see this link about ARRL, the Amateur Radio Relay League.

As soon as we get back to “our house” I will dig out my QSL cards and mail one to each of these guys.  Hopefully it won’t take ten months for them to receive.  Ham radio, at the speed of light, is much faster than the mail, eh?

See you down the road!

Jim N5RTG and Debbie N4RTG
dreamstreamr odyssey™

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