Friday, November 27th

Had a good day in shack. Was able to get a good portion of it cleaned up. Filled up a trash bag and a big box of “stuff” I just do not need.

Fired up the HF rig and ran it through it’s paces. Had a Phone QSO with a station down in Costa Rica and worked a few stations around the US on PSK-31. Enough to let me know the rig is still working. Listened to my favorite bunch of old timers who meet weekday mornings (8AM) around 7.140 MHz. I’ve never joined in, but used to listen to them all the time from my mobile when my work hours were a bit different. Nowadays I don’t get the opportunity to hear them.

For the last few weeks I have been trying to square away my VHF/UHF setup. My embedded EchoIRLP node has consistently suffered from pulsing. I have tweaked about every software setting and radio setting possible but was unable to fix the issue. It looks like the pulsing generally correlates with my APRS signal. I use a Kenwood TM-D710A in the shack. A computer with UI-View32 is driving the left half of the TM-D710A, sending and receiving APRS data. The right side I usually dedicate to the EchoIRLP node which is normally set to a simplex UHF frequency. I started to notice that everytime UI-View32 sends out my position or weather report, my EchoIRLP node would pulse. I honestly think the rig is the issue.

What I like best about the TM-D710A is that I can use my one antenna that I have mounted off my chimney. The TM-D710A allows me to use both the APRS and EchoIRLP at the same time. But I think that pulsing issue will keep me off IRLP reflectors or Echolink conferences unless I disable UI-View32 and the TM-D710A’s TNC while I am using the reflector/conference.

I upgraded my version of fldigi. I made sure my log and settings were backed up and the upgrade went without significant issue. I was able to setup the WX macro function, which I have been meaning to do. The macro pulls the latest WX from Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and allows me to slide that into a PSK-31 QSO via macro. I wish it could pull the data right from my WX station. Not sure how to do that.

I setup my D-Star DV Access Point Dongle – hadn’t done that in a while. I am consistently unimpressed with the audio quality that I get listening to the D-Star reflector on my ICOM IC-92AD. The audio is very metallic and tinny.

APRS has taken up a bit of my time lately. I enjoy playing around with my Yaesu VX-8GR. I am amazed at the different ways you can send a message from the APRS system to an email address. I have improved my ability to work the VX-8GR to input text for a message.

I figured out how to get my UI-View32/TM-D-710A setup to only digipeat APRS packets from either my callsign or the XYLs. That comes in handy when I have the HT. One thing I have not been able to figure out is how to get my UI-View32/TM-D710A setup to digipeat packets destined for my HT’s SSID. For example, if I send a message from my HT, it is digipeated out through my UI-View32/TM-D710A setup and picked up by a nearby real digipeater. But when the “Ack” packet comes back, my HT won’t hear it and I am not sure how to get my UI-View32/TM-D710A to recognize that packet and digipeat it.

Did I mention the humidity sensor on the Davis Vantage Pro2 is not working properly?

I checked into a net tonight! We have an awesome daily email called Larry’s List that contains all kinds of interesting information about the amateur radio goings on in the greater Kansas City area. From swap and shop, to license testing, and opportunities to volunteer in support of public events to various club activities and nets…. Larry’s List is one stop shopping for anything you would want to know about what is happening. The list mentioned a net conducted from a repeater setup on top of the VA hospital in Kansas City (KC0VA). I decided to check in and was privileged to partake in a very interesting discussion about how to handle an emergency if it occurred during a net. I also learned about the Q-signal “QRRR”… which I had never heard or read of before.

Kay Everett Calls CQ

Vanguard Press; First Edition edition (1951)
Pick up your D-104 and Press To Talk for… ADVENTURE! I purchased this book a while back and I finally dug it off the shelf. Kay Everett Calls CQ, by Amelia Lobsenz, is about a young college girl who takes a summer road trip from North Carolina out to the West with three friends, a travel trailer, and ham radio. For me, this book has several things going for it: (1) strong female protagonist (I have two daughters), (2) HF mobile (I need to get my rig installed in my new vehicle), and (3) a travel trailer trip to Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, and the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The plot centers around a jewel thief, who is also roaming the West, and Kay learning about the amateur radio hobby. Ham radio plays a critical role in several places and the author has the main characters explore several aspects of the hobby (… they even go to a hamfest).

The author, Amelia Lobsenz, was an experienced ham, licensed in 1941. After a stent in publishing, she ran her own public relations firm. She based some of the characters on her actual friends, to include Theresa Korn, K7JGU. In the story, Terry, a YL and pilot, takes two of the girls flying over Idaho (aeronautical mobile, where they end up directing smokejumpers into a wildfire). The protagonist, Kay, is named after Ms. Lobsenz’s own daughter.

Ms. Lobsenz used a 1940’s trip out West to serve as inspiration for Kay’s trip. Among the many places the girls go include:
National Elk Refuge National Wildlife Refuge
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Craters of the Moon National Monument
– The Great Salt Lake in Utah
Rocky Mountain National Park

Amelia became a Silent Key in 1992, but I think her written work will live on.

National Parks On The Air

From the ARRL: “Throughout 2016, Amateur Radio will be helping the National Park Service celebrate their 100th anniversary. Hams from across the country will activate NPS units, promote the National Park Service and showcase Amateur Radio to the public.”

This should be an exciting event for me. This past summer I got to enjoy some extended travels through a few of our national parks (visited a total of 5). This coming summer I am planning the same but hopefully am going to be able to visit even more.

While I do not intend to conduct any extended activations, I do plan on getting onto the HF bands from my mobile while I am at the parks.

I am getting closer to locking in my summer travel’s calendar. Most parks start taking reservations at six months out… just about there.

ARRL is already selling quite a bit of National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) swag. One item that I have ordered is the NPOTA map, which I’ll post in the room where I will do my trip planning.

I will need to think through how I cam going to do my logging. For QSL cards, I can use postcards from the park and stamp them with each park’s National Park Passport stamp.

Get crackalackin’

As Fall is here, it is time to put together a To Do list of everything I have been putting off all Summer and the beginning of the school year.


I have four of these rigs and they need some TLC. I need to make sure they have the updated firmware on the main unit, TNC, and operating panel.

The latest versions:
TNC: 1.02 – May 2011
Operating Panel: 2.12 – Janurary 2015
Main unit: 2.10 – May 2011

For the benifit of emergency operations, I have been performing the modificiation to the TM-D710As to open the frequency range.

Standard frequency plan. I developed a spreadsheet of the repeaters in the greater Kansas City area, frequecies for FRS/GMRS, the Kansas City Airport (MCI), Sherman Army Airfield, and various national park frequency plans. This is the first step in standardizing the configuration across all four of the TM-D710As. I can additionally take the spreadsheet and use it for programming my HTs. This should allow for a memory channel standardization that will make my life easier.

Weather Station

The current Davis Vantage Pro2 I have installed on the roof needs maintenance. Wouldn’t it be nice to get the top of the line version?

For some time I have been talking about finding a weather station setup that will work with a linux-based computer. That quest continues. I have read about a piece of software called Meteo that is suppose to work with Xastir.

And if I can’t get Xastir to work with the Vantage Pro2… is there another comparable weather station that WILL work with Xastir? Life would be a lot easier without Windows.

HF Antenna for home

I need to string up the Carolina Windom I have had sitting on the shelf for the last few years. The G5RV that is up now is showing its age (not to mention one of the legs is drooping badly). Now that the leaves have fallen, I should be able to get the Windom up there without too many problems (… famous last words).

HF setup in the mobile

Time to get going. I have all the materials I need. What I don’t have is an installation plan… mainly for the Tarheel antenna. I can’t do a hitch mount because I need the hitch for pulling my travel trailer. Two possible options: (a) get a swinging gate for the back bumper where you could mount a spare tire and a water can or (b) find some way to afix a mount coming out behind the left rear tire.

Lesson Learned #2 – Tinder, Kindling, Fuel

During our local camping experiences back in the summer and fall of 2014, I had to relearn how to make a campfire. Sad to admit it too, as I spent many years in the Boy Scouts and did earn my Eagle Scout. When we started camping (after we bought the travel trailer), I struggled to get a campfire going.

Recognizing my shortcoming, I went back to the manual.

What I had forgotten was the tinder and the kindling. Before the larger logs that serve as the main fuel for a campfire can actually be used, very small tinder must be used to ignite kindling. For tinder, I mostly use paper. I found that while traveling this past summer is that I would get a fair amount of paper from the different campgrounds and visitor centers. I would use that as the tinder. I brought kindling with me. Stored in a box, I collected very small, dry sticks that were broken up into small pieces.

My lesson learned is that I need to maintain and bring a box with tinder and kindling.

Another lesson I learned (on our most recent campout to Perry Lake) was that after a campfire has initially started and it is a campfire that I am going to use to cook food, then dump coals on it. I had a bag of coal in the trailer that I had been given by a British couple when we camped at Glacier National Park. They were wrapping up their trip and I took it off their hands. I used the coals in conjunction with using a pie iron to cook dinner on our last campout of 2015. The coal worked really well (as coal does) in keeping a nice even temperature for cooking.

Lessons Learned #1 – Coffee Production

I am going to capture many of the lessons that I learned on my 2015 Summer Trip.

The first lesson I learned is that while boondocking (camping without electrical and water hookups), making coffee in the morning becomes a bit more complicated. When we do have power, we have a regular coffee maker that can be prepared the night before. The morning, just plug it in, push the start button, and there you go…. coffee!

Without power, I considered a few options. A percolator? I tried it and the coffee taste was hard to get right. A french press? Maybe. I settled on The product description says this:

The Clever Coffee Dripper combines the best features of French Press and filter drip brewing, eliminating the drawbacks of each. By adding a stopper to a filtercone, the Clever Coffee Dripper combines control over steeping time with a sediment free cup. The dripper will fit on cups and thermoses with tops wider than 1.5″ and less than 3.75″ in diameter. Of course, if you put the dripper on a very narrow thermos you should make sure it is stable. Cleaning: Cleaning the Clever Coffee Dripper is very easy. Just dispose of the used grounds and filter and rinse. Do not allow residue to build up in the filter. Lightly scrub the cone with very hot water and a sponge or brush, taking care to clean shut off mechanism lightly from the top. If necessary, use a detergent-free cleaner designed for carafes and filtercones.

It ends up being a great solution. I can easily heat water in a kettle on the stove inside the trailer (or on a camp stove outside). Add a filter with three scoops of coffee in it. Then fill up to the top with boiling water. Let sit for 15-20 minutes (that is the hard part). Then you just set the whole device on top of your mug and the coffee drips down into the mug. Awesome (and tasty).

The problem: it only makes enough coffee to fill one mug. This is a serious issue if you have more than one coffee drinker.

The solution: buy another Clever Coffee Dripper. With two, coffee can be prepared for two immediately (well… 15-20 minutes after the water boils). Once the first round is poured, the Clever Coffee Dripper can be prepared again for a second round of coffee. I now have the second Clever Coffee Dripper and will test out this solution in April or May 2016 during a test-run campout.

2016: The Grand Tour

The travel trailer is now winterized and back in storage. I was also able to get the water heater fixed and get the hitch on the tow vehicle lowered (the Land Cruiser’s hitch was about 4″ higher than that of the Tundra).

It is time to put the plans together for the 2016 Summer Trip! Only 208 days until we roll out.

I am looking at a few different possible itineraries. Much will depend on if I am able to get reservations where I need to get them.

The mission will be similar to last year’s: exploring our National Parks. The wife has never been to Yosemite (gasp!) and it would be nice to spend some time there early in the season. I have never been to the Grand Canyon (gasp!) or any of the other major national parks in Utah and Colorado.

I really enjoyed my time at Glacier National Park and would like to spend more time there. We didn’t get to see all of Yellowstone.

For reservations, I already have them for Yellowstone and Grand Teton. They start accepting reservations two years out. Yosemite is a gamble. It is hard to get reservations there and I have to wait until January or February to try. Pretty much all the rest of the parks do not take reservations until 6 months out. That puts me at the end of November and the beginning of December to get my reservations in.

Most likely I will dash out to the West first. That will take four days of driving. If I can’t get reservations in Yosemite, I could always go to neighboring Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Parks. I have never been to either.

The fastest approach would probably be taking I-70 west until hitting I-15 in Utah. Then heading towards Las Vegas, take I-15 until I hit Barstow, CA. Alternatively, I could head south first, down to I-40 and make my way to Barstow, CA by way of Albuquerque and Flagstaff.

In California, we can stay either in Yosemite, Kings Canyon, or Sequoia. This would allow us to take a day trip (or overnight) out to the Bay Area to see relatives. I most likely would come in from the south through the San Joaquin Valley and approach from the west. Alternatively, I could head north up the eastern side of the Sierras to Lee Vining, CA. From there I could take Tioga Pass into Yosemite. But that would mean that Tioga Pass was open in early June and I had reservations for Yosemite. We will see.

Yosemite National Park

After California, I will head south and then east to Las Vegas, back up I-15 and head for Zion National Park. From Yosemite to Zion is 650 miles, making this leg a two day trip.

North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

After spending a few days at Zion, it is a 125 mile jog south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Zion National Park

A few days here and then up to Bryce Canyon National Park, a 150 miles north.

Bryce Canyon National Park

After Bryce Canyon, I can hop back on to I-15 and make my way towards Glacier National Park. This will be a three day trip with stops in Pocatello and Great Falls. It would be nice to spend two full weeks at Glacier. Probably mostly on the east side, but maybe the west too.

Logan Point Visitors Center on The Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park

From Glacier it will take one or two days down to Yellowstone. I have reservations for the Canyon Campground. I think this should put at us for a good location for exploring. We need to devote some time to see Mammoth Hot Springs. I think we could spend the day there, head east having dinner at Roosevelt Lodge near tower and then spend an early evening watching in wildlife in the Lamar Valley.

June 2015 – Bison in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park

After Yellowstone, a week in Grand Teton exploring much of went unexplored before is in order. Then generally heading the direction of home, perhaps a few days in Rocky Mountain National Park? When all is said and done, this could be a seven week trip – but could be tailored for less if needed.

End of the season

That’s it. It is over. We were lucky enough to spend Columbus Day weekend at Perry Lake State Park near Lawrence, Kansas. The weather was great and the camping was fun. No problems with the trailer. The heater worked… it was pretty cold on the first night. The water heater worked without issue.

A new edition to the camping equipment was my grandfather’s Coleman two-burner stove. He had it in the basement of his cabin up in the California Sierra Nevadas and it had never been used. I would guess the stove is at least 20 years old, maybe older. The stove works like a champ. I got a griddle for it and used it to cook hamburgers for dinner one evening and french toast for a breakfast meal.

Another test subject during the trip was the new tow vehicle: a Toyota Land Cruiser. Compared to the older Tundra, the Land Cruiser has twice the towing capacity as well as a bigger engine. It is not quite as tall as the Tundra and quite a bit shorter (which means it is a lot easier to maneuver, park, and turn around). The towing performance was great. Even with a heavy Kansas side wind on the way home, the towing stability was great despite the shorter wheel-base of the Land Cruiser.

The travel trailer is now getting winterized and I have to start thinking about what I want to get done before I cast off for next summer’s trip:
(1) Replace three of the stabilizer jacks. I already replaced one. The other three are either rusted, bent, or both.
(2) Get the black water sensor repaired. This should have been repaired went I took my travel trailer to Camping World last spring, but Camping World ended up doing more damage to the trailer than actual repairing anything.
(3) Repair the spring latch on the screen door.
(4) Get the water heater serviced. There were many on this past summer’s trip where the water heater worked inconsistently. Either it had trouble lighting or would not stay lit.
(5) Get the roof inspected.
(6) Repack the bearings and replace the tires.
(7) Get the trailer brakes adjusted.
(8) Get a torque wrench for tightening the trailer tire lug nuts.
(9) Develop a plan for carrying the bicycles. Without a truck bed, I am going to have to get creative.

Nice to have repairs:
(1) Replace the connecting cable from the trailer to the tow vehicle. The Land Cruiser’s towing electrical connection is in a position which requires the connecting cable to be a bit longer. Right now I have an extension cable for the connection but would prefer just one cable completing the connection.
(2) Replace the propane tank to trailer hose. With my installation of the two 6v batteries, the path of the propane hose was slightly disrupted. A longer hose would fix the issue.
(3) Replace the water pump with something more electrically efficient.
(4) Install and inline water filter for the galley sink.
(5) Figure out an efficient way to carry our fishing poles.

Monarch Watch

A butterfly in front of the University of Kansas’ Monarch Waystation

We had a chance to head over to the University of Kansas and attend their open house concerning the annual Monarch butterfly migration. They have been tracking the huge decline in the Monarch butterfly population and are trying to raise awareness to how we can help restore the population.

Sarah and Emily examine some caterpillars in the garden behind Foley Hall.

Toyota Transition

This blog started in conjunction with my return to the United States in 2005 and purchase of a Toyota Tundra. After being away from the US for four years, I celebrated my return by the purchase of the new truck and a (mostly) circumnavigation of the lower 48. My first encounter with Toyota was through my friend Robb and a 1980s Toyota 4×4 he had. Robb was going to school at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Robb was fond of taking his truck to Pismo Beach and enjoying the beach and dune experience. Robb loved his truck.

After spending a year in Monterrey, CA learning Russian at the Defense Language Institute and a few months honing my listening abilities at Goodfellow Air Force Base near San Angelo, TX, I got my follow on orders to Fairbanks, Alaska (Fort Wainwright). I didn’t have a car. I was an enlisted Army soldier making not a whole lot of money. Heading way, way up north. I figured I needed a 4-wheel drive vehicle to make my life a bit more comfortable. My first thought was a Ford Ranger. But it ended up being too expensive. The most reasonable costing 4-wheel drive vehicle was a Toyota 4×4. It was 1993 and the Tacoma had not come along yet. 1993 Toyota 4×4. Manual locking hubs. Manual windows. AM/FM radio. Bench seat. No A/C. 4 cylinders. That truck was to go on to perform flawlessly in Alaska, transported me from Alaska to Georgia and several cross-country trips. Arizona. Washington State. Texas. And California. For seven years, that truck never let me down. I was heading off to Korea for a year to be followed by three in Germany. I sold the truck.

1993 Toyota 4×4, driving across western Arizona with my pet iguana
1993 Toyota 4×4, California – just before I had to sell the truck, ~December 2000
1993 Toyota 4×4, exploring south eastern Arizona near Fort Huachuca

When I was planning my return to the US, I knew I wanted to get another Toyota. I settled on the Tundra. But instead of the minimum package, I was able to swing a 2005 Toyota Tundra Limited Double Cab 4×4. This truck offered to support a newly forming family. I broke the truck in with a trip around the US. I continually upgraded my ham radio installation in the truck, further enhancing my mobile enjoyment. The Tundra performed flawlessly. Never an issue.

2005 Toyota Tundra, Fort Story, Virginia
2005 Toyota Tundra, Leavenworth, Kansas – the snowy winter of 2010

The Tundra proved to be the hero of the 2015 Summer trip. Five national parks. From Kansas to Montana, Wyoming, out to California and back. Pulling a travel trailer. No issues, no problems. Over 120,000 miles.

2005 Toyota Tundra, Lansing, Kansas – January, 2013

It was time to think about the future. A future of summer travel. Exploration of national parks in the west. Colorado. Arizona. Utah. Maybe an upgrade to the travel trailer. The 2005 Tundra had an older drive train and a towing capacity topping out at 4,200 lbs. Comparing the aging 2005 Tundra to the current available 4x4s… the 2005 had a hard time measuring up.

I wanted to find something that was as reliable and dependable. Offered increase towing capability. But maybe smaller? Truth be told, I often had difficulty parking the Tundra. The turning radius was… challenging. Was there something available in a smaller package, yet offering increased performance and towing capabilities? Oh… did I mention that it has to be a Toyota?