17 October 2011

Postcard from the road

17 October 2011

I'm stuck in PHX waiting for US Airways to clone an aircraft. Oh joy. I'm bored out of my mind so I thought I'd whine.

I'm on my way to Albuquerque for regular doctor & dentist appointments and, more importantly, to retrieve our Highlander. The truck is sick and we rented a car from Enterprise which we'll return when I get the Highlander back to Benson. The KIA Soul was a nice car, but we'd have liked it better if the suspension had springs with more than 4" of travel and mileage better than about 30 mpg. Guess it's not for old toots like us.

The airport delay doesn't threaten tomorrow's appointments, but it does mean I have to reschedule the shuttle. Bummer. I'm assuming all will go OK... this is my first time to use Sandia Shuttle Express. They don't take you to your home, but they stop at all the Roadrunner stops and there's one near the house. A 1 mile walk after sitting for way too many hours sounds just fine.

What a pain not having the truck! We'd planned to drive from Benson to Santa Fe so we both could have our teeth cleaned. Without the truck, we couldn't both fly because one of us had to stay with the dogs. Since the Admiral can't drive more than 30 minutes without falling asleep, that meant I was a better choice to fly, then drive back to Benson. Not bad duty since I enjoy driving anyway.

19 October 2011

The Sandia Shuttle Express turned out to be a great choice: $27 from the Sunport (ABQ) to the Railrunner South Capitol station in Santa Fe. I could have chosen any of several non-neighborhood drop off locations.

Been to the doctor (good for another 6 months) and to the dental hygienist today (yup... still got all 8 of 'em). Barbara has been cleaning my teeth for a few years now and we always take a few minutes to talk about photography. She's a really good photographer who has recently started doing weddings. She has a few prints hanging around the office. I especially liked the shot off the back of the Amtrak... Wow!

I was out of the chair at 1500 and on the road headed South on I-25. Stopped in Socorro for the nite, and tomorrow will take NM-26 from Hatch to Deming in order to bypass Las Cruces.

20 October 2011

I was awake at 0430 so I thought "What the hell? Might as well get going." I was on the road by 0500 and had an easy time getting to Deming on I-10 with nearly no traffic. Stopped in Lordsburg for gas and breakfast (Kranberry's... excellent fresh biscuits, but to my mind sausage gravy is supposed to have some sausage in it; still tasted good), then back on the road. I was at the Dog House by 10ish thanks to the time zone difference (AZ doesn't use daylight savings time). I was starting to fade as I got near Texas Canyon about 20 East of Benson, but the boulder-strewn landscape near the top of the pass is gorgeous and I was quickly alert again to finish the ride.

Tomorrow the KIA goes back. And it was a good thing we rented it. Not only did Celia use it to get me to the Tucson airport (TUS), she had to get Annie to the emergency vet in Tucson at 0100 on the 19th. The Admiral was afraid Annie might have bloat, a very real possibility with berners. It can only be corrected with surgery to remove the twist in the bowel. Turned out she had bad gas (Maalox with Simethicone did the trick), probably from the mesquite berries she sneaks while walking. The Admiral explained it was a $300 fart (cost of X-rays and exam), but better safe than sorry. With bloat you have about an hour to get to the vet for surgery or you'll lose your best friend.

iPad 2 and Google's Blogger editor

I started this post at the PHX airport using my iPad 2 and their WiFi hotspot. I could enter and save text to the blog OK, but it appears the Blogger editor is buggy in its iPad version. Everything was a continuous sentence with no line breaks, and it was like pulling eye teeth to get Blogger to edit what it had just saved. Disappointing. Come on Google... you can do better than that!. I've seen reference to an editor used by Blogspot bloggers traveling with their iPads and had thought it didn't apply to me. Oops! Guess I'd better track it down.

07 October 2011

Postcard from Arizona- 2 *

7 October 2011

Benson, AZ
Back in 1965 when I was working at UTC Div of United Aircraft (now Chemical Systems Div of United Technologies Corp), I worked with a guy named Jerry Yaezel. Jerry was a very calm individual who always kept his head and never said an angry word (are there still people like that?!). UTC built rocket motors and we tested samples at the Coyote, CA facility where I worked. Working with rocket motors, whether solid or liquid, there were always opportunities to get really, really, really excited. Like when a motor blew up (which happened with alarming regularity with experimental motors). Jerry kept his cool through all these things. The foreman in the test bay was Frank Reed and he was not put together with the same DNA as Jerry. Frank liked to tease Jerry and one day claimed he heard Jerry so upset he said "Hell, damn, poop!" Somehow I doubt that ever happened, but I never forgot the story and wondered if I could ever take things as calmly as Jerry always did. Well, yesterday, 46 years later, I had a hell-damn-poop moment.

Recall that we had the great bad-injector-debacle on Monday. Then a neighbor suggested it might be the air filter, so I had a go at cleaning it. I simply blew out the air filter with the compressor, then tried the truck. It ran OK, but the drive to Safeway was short and the truck never got up to operating temperature. I had significant reservations that things were really fixed, so yesterday I took the truck onto the I-10 and drove about 20 miles. Well... hell, damn, poop. The truck runs like a champ.

In the process of getting the filter out of the housing I managed to damaged the screening which covers the paper pleats. Now I have to get a replacement plus some of the spray-on cleaner and the oil (?) that's to be applied after cleaning (it attracts dust to improve cleaning). The filters are expensive ($200? more?) but it's a damn sight cheaper than having injectors replaced!

12 October

Benson, AZ
It's official... fussed with the antenna today and got it working OK, but only OK. But it was enought to log the first QSO (contact) with KZ7ZZ near Seattle, WA on 40m. Then I tuned up a little and listened to Roberto/I2VRN near Milan, Italy. Yikes! He created quite a jam with a bunch of retired hams who don't have to get up in the morning clamoring to be heard. You'd think it was a contest!

So I guess the antenna is going to be at least OK. Mrs. Bowman's little boy is grinning from ear-to-ear!

05 October 2011

Postcard from Arizona

5 October 2011

'The Eagle has landed', but not without falling on its ass. I'll explain...

Lordsburg, NM
We did a one-niter at KOA in Lordsburg, NM. Lordsburg is an easy stop and far enough on the South side of town that I-10 traffic isn't a problem. Weeeell... at least when you're as tired as we were. There's a Valero station 4 blocks away on the main drag that has diesel, so it was easy to get refueled. Lordsburg happens to be home to Kranberry's family restaurant, so, if you're food-deprived, you can have someone fill you with tasty food and fattening desserts for a nominal fee. Sadly the Admiral has us on a Weight Watchers program (thanks a lot, Dr. Oz!) and we abstained.

I fiddled with the power settings on the Banks controller all the way from Santa Fe to Socorro where I finally gave up. I settled on #3 (again!) and used that the rest of the way to Benson. To the uninitiated,10.6 mpg may sound awful (and it is!), but it's actually a significant improvement - about 18% on this trip - compared to what we got prior to having the Banks Engineering mods installed.

Interesting Garmin incident along the way: our Garmin 465T is optimized for commercial trucks and is aware of highways that have restrictions (weight, height, whatever). For whatever reason Mrs. Garmin decided that NM-26, the shortcut to Deming on I-10 from Hatch on I-25 which bypasses Las Cruces, is a no-no. We (and any number of very large commercial trucks) didn't agree, so we soldiered-on avoiding the extra 45 miles and heavy Las Cruces traffic... with Mrs. Garmin complaining the whole way.

Btw, we passed a huge solar farm between Hatch & Deming. I'm going to guess there were 32 panels in each array and each array was installed on its own 2-axis tracking mount (azimuth & elevation). There were maybe 24 mounts in the farm. Photos will have to wait for the next time we pass thru here (in a few days when we retrieve the car).

Benson, AZ
We arrived at SKP Saguaro at 1130 AM only to find the office closed. After grumping about how the staff had gone to lunch early, we finally realized "Oops! Today's Sunday!" October is still on a shortened schedule as leaseholders and JARs (JAR = Just A Renter... that's us) don't start arriving till the end of October.

Since we have an annual rental site, we went ahead and parked in our space. The dogs were in the truck while we set up and I left the engine idling so we could keep the AC running and keep them cool. We were interrupted by the across-the-street neighbor saying 'Hi!', then a few do-overs in setup, but eventually (45 minutes later?) we got things variously disconnected and connected and are settled in our site.

Electricity is expensive everywhere. Here at the SKP park it's $0.14/kW-hr, so (at current propane prices) it's cheaper to use propane whenever we can. I spent a lot of time last year tramping back and forth to Barnett's propane in Benson refilling our 7-gal tanks. This year we want to get a larger tank that is refilled monthly. That way we can use propane not only for the furnace but also for the fridge and the water heater. Off we went to Barnett's Sierra Vista office to sign the necessary paperwork for a 125-gal tank ($40/yr for the tank rental + cost of propane). About 2 miles into the 30+ mile trip I noticed what I thought might be a misfire in the diesel. And this is why I said the Eagle may have landed but it has fallen on its ass.

The misfire feels a lot like what we experienced in Florida when an injector crapped out after the truck had idled for a very long time. On that earlier experience it was a simple case of shutting off the engine then restarting it (that failure turned out to be an intermittent electrical problem inside the injector). Not so lucky this time. The further we drove the worse the misfire got. Shutting down and restarting changed nothing The truck idles smoothly, but at any throttle setting above idle it is a distinct problem until it gets to full throttle where it seems to be smoother. I tried driving at higher speed for awhile, but with all the police watching for speeders during commute traffic it was hopeless. So now we need a local mechanic who can run diagnostics and do necessary repairs.

I asked at the office and got a couple suggestions for a mechanic to help us, then I also asked a neighbor about local mechanics. When he got home, Lorel asked her hubbie Gene what he thought and he immediately suggested our problem might be the air cleaner. It didn't cost anything, so I used our compressor to blow out the filter. I must admit that, at least before the engine gets all the way to operating temperature (that would be over 194 deg F), there seems to be no misfire. I'll drive on the Interstate to be sure cuz my gut tells me it can't possibly be this simple:
  • the filter wasn't super dirty.
  • I've never spent $0 to repair this truck! 
The jury is still out and the truck is in the penalty box, but maybe I'm wrong (and I sincerely hope that's the case!).

And the newest rule for the Dog House on Wheels is that we won't let the truck idle for long periods just in case that caused a problem for the injectors.

Btw, I found a tiny stone (1/8"-1/4") caught in the folds of the filter. Had a filter not been there, we would be buying a new turbo charger and probably having the engine rebuilt. Yikes!

Ham Radio Stuff
Some more photos of the radio installation (odd how the red numerals of the antenna controller refuse to be in focus even though the case is... ???).

17m counterpoise antennas... 3 pair to go!
Scorpion SA-680 on its mast attached to the ladder
World's ugliest swing arm... yuck!
The Office
MFJ-1924 screwdriver antenna controller

Heil ClearSpeech powered speaker
Slide-penetrations for RF cable and antenna control

That Heil ClearSpeech speaker is really nice. It has a small amp as well as DSP filtering. Sadly it's an orphan as it's no longer being built.

The MFJ-1924 screwdriver antenna controller looks pretty fancy, but the reality is that it's just a turns-counter with 10 memories. There's no automatic tuning going on. You must have an SWR meter somewhere to detect null. The Elecraft K3 has that ability, so it's useful as there's really no way to repeat antenna position without something that counts turns. There is a controller called a TurboTuner (I think!) which does find null and stops screwdriver movement, but Ron Douglass, creator of the Scorpion antennas, tells me the design doesn't work well with his drive-motor.

I'll be tuning the counterpoise antennas over the next few days, so even though the parts are all in place it still isn't a working ham station.