Monday, April 15, 2024

Getting Ready - SKP

Sunday - Another warm, muggy day. We need to get the RV ready to travel again. I noticed that the air intake hose had come loose again. It is a large, flex hose from the air cleaner intake to a large air box built into the rear fiberglass cap. This allows cooler, air from outside the engine compartment to be brought into the engine. Cooler air, higher density, slightly more power. I don’t know when the hose came off as I usually don’t look up when checking the engine oil. It went back on with less hassle than the last time I needed to put it back on. 

I also put my most of my tools back into the RV. I feel more comfortable having them with me while traveling. Overall, we probably lightened the RV by at least 500 lbs due to stuff being left in the shed. We are only going to be gone for a week. Most of our basement storage is about a third full. I still have a few more chores to do before we can take off. 

Monday - More “getting ready” tasks. Added air to the front RV tires to 110psi. Disconnected the bulk propane line. Put the TPMS sensors on the Jeep. Installed a 20A/40A switch to the DC-DC charger (I’ve only run it on 20A as we rarely need charging from the engine). Brought in the two potentially problematic slides (no problems). Switched the basement freezer to run off of DC. Filled the fresh water tank about half full. Rolled up the window awnings. Removed the ladder extension from the back. Removed tire covers. Pack the folding chairs and tables. Move the dash cam to the RV. Clean and pack up the Blackstone.

All that’s left is dumping the tanks, windshield sun screen and driver side Reflectix, disconnecting water and power, and pulling in the last two slides. 

I’m sure we are forgetting something. But that’s why we are starting early.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tour de Castroville

Friday - Actually rode the Ural a bit yesterday to pick up some stuff to support the Tour de Castroville bike ride tomorrow. I need a clipboard to hold the paperwork I'm supposed to be filling out during the event and some paper to record the bib numbers of the riders as they ride through the checkpoint. 

We had a pleasant surprise yesterday. A colleague and friend from Fairbanks stopped by. WalkerW grew up in the area and was in San Antonio for a work-related conference. The conference ended so he is visiting friends and family. We had a great visit, went to the local steak house for dinner, and he drove us around the area showing us where he grew up. It really was a surprise as I had known Walker since the mid-90s and he was one of the most technically competent IT individuals at the university. Bridget taught his kids at the elementary school so there was a lot to catch up on.

This morning, while waiting for the morning test session, I played around with APRS some more. Since the Anytone does have a GPS, I set it up to beacon my location. The radio GPS is -5 and the phone GPS is both the blue dot and the -4. The -5 location is off by about 100'. The -4 differs from the blue dot since I've been walking around and the phone is connected to the TNC via BT. 

RMarx and I traveled the bicycle route this afternoon and tested our radios making contact with the Castroville repeater. Since I only have a handheld 2M radio, they switched our locations. I’m now at rest stop #1. It’s in a much more open location and I didn’t have any problem hitting the repeater even with just the regular antenna on the handheld. 

Saturday - The event started early-ish as I was at the rest stop around 7:45. Initially, I set up on the west side where the bikes came in on their way around the loop. But I moved to the east side and recorded the bib numbers as they left the rest stop. 

There were 250 riders but I missed at least a quarter of the riders as I couldn’t read the numbers. I was out there until around 1pm. Pretty warm day but it was a fun, community service activity. The ham radio club gets community service credit. 

Afterwards, we met back at the park in Castroville for a discussion on what should be changed for next year. 

We went to Whataburger, a Texas fast food chain. Their smash burger is pretty good (in my opinion). Plus, they have sugar free lemonade which I mix with unsweetened ice tea.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Post Eclipse - SKP

Tuesday - It's kind of quiet around here today. Many of the visitors when came for the eclipse have left. BTW, it is scattered clouds with quite a bit of blue sky today. One of the other VEs took this eclipse photo in Maine yesterday. He said that they had unseasonably cloudless skies.

A new ham radio project arrived yesterday. This is something that I've been curious about ever since I got my license. I picked up a Mobilinkd TNC (terminal node controller). It is a small device that has an internal rechargeable battery and connects to my handheld radio in the audio ports with a special cable. The connector has PTT (push to talk) connections as well. And, it connects using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) with my phone. There are two applications I'm interested in trying. Winlink and Winlink is an email client and is a location posting and receiving app. Both give you the option to use the TNC for transport. For APRS, you just tune the radio to 144.39mHz, the North American APRS frequency, and the app will send out periodic position information over VHF.

I already tried the Winlink app using telnet as a transport and verified that my email address ( works. The nearest Winlink stations are in San Antonio and Kerrville. A bit far for my VHF handheld. 

Wednesday - This morning, I replaced the tube in the rear of the Ural. The screw did quite a number on the old tube. Ripped a huge hole and the valve stem was pulled out. Fortunately, I have several spare tubes. 

   After replacing the tube in the pusher, I rode out to my checkpoint to see if the radio worked on the Castroville repeater. I could hear the code identifying the station but never got a response to me “radio check”. But APRS worked and I could hit the Hondo repeater easily. And the Castroville one was even closer. 

It was pretty windy on the ride. Headwind and crosswind on the way back to the RV with some pretty significant gusts. So I stopped for lunch in Hondo at my new favorite fast food place. Whataburger. Tasty smash-burgers with plenty of veggies. 

While I was having lunch, I thought about the torn out valve stem. I didn’t remember actually looking at the valve stem. After arriving back at the RV, I removed the pusher, removed one bead and the inner tube and searched for the valve stem inside the tire. I’ve had enough practice over the years that it only took about 15 minutes. 

Found it…

Monday, April 8, 2024

Total Eclipse 2024 - SKP

Monday - The day started out with breakfast so I was in the clubhouse at 6:30 making sausage patties and eggs for breakfast biscuits. The RV park had several events such as this presentation by a NASA educator. She was a daughter-in-law of our neighbors. The ham radio club had numerous members scattered around the area and reported using the local VHF repeater. There were some reports of heavy traffic and full parking lots in a few areas. Several of us shared one tactical ID as we were all sitting in the same area. We had 100% cloud cover for most of the day. 

But it did get dark at the predicted time. And, it was amazing how quickly it seemed to transition to dark. It did cool off during totality. 

Here is the output from our solar panels during the eclipse. 

The special dinner was pulled pork with all the standard sides. A couple of days ago, they made the smoked pork on the parks smoker. It smelled fantastic for several days after wards. 

After dinner they had karaoke and door prizes. I stuck around for a short time just to be sociable.