Sunday, February 28, 2021

Day 74, 75, 76, 77 - Lakehills, TX - TT

Thursday (74) - Today was a travel day. It was 280 miles from Harlingen to Medina Lake TT near Lakehills, TX. This campground is about 45 minutes west of San Antonio. We have a 30amp full-hookup site and it looks like reasonable Verizon signal though the upload speed is over 10x more than the download speed. I guess a lot of people are watching Netflix. I keyed the DMR radio and it sent an digital-APRS position report. I looked up on and it registered my location. This also demonstrated, to me, that the Internet connection through my iPad was still working.

As part of our planning for what to do this summer, we are assuming that the Canadian border will still be closed at the beginning of the summer so I went ahead and booked passage on the Alaska State Ferry system between Bellingham, WA, and Whittier, AK. This route bypasses Canada completely. I am just bringing the Prius and will look for somewhere to store the RV. In case you are interested, the fare for the car, one senior citizen (me), and a two-berth (no bathroom) room is $2600. Kind of steep but I do get a 4-day trip out of it. This is part of the boarding pass for the car showing 16 feet long and disembarking at Whittier.

Friday (75) - This will be "home" for the next three weeks. They are still working on repairing some of the infrastructure from the freeze and snows of the last week. They put out a notice that water may be off during the day but will be turned back on by sundown. And strongly suggested boiling any drinking water. We arrived with a full water tank (120 gal) so we should be fine through the weekend. 

It's only 51°F today but there is no wind. Kind of a nice change from the continuous winds in Harlingen. Speedtests showed download speeds varying all over the place from marginal to pretty good. But during the day it’s dismal so I won’t be assisting with the amateur radio exams. Just not enough download bandwidth for Zoom video. 

Saturday (76)
 - Before we left Harlingen, we met Michelle and Brian who have an entertaining YouTube RV channel. This is their new-to-them Airstream that they downsized to from their diesel pusher, class A motor home. I don’t know how they fit everything in there. I had forgotten to post this picture last Thursday. 

We went into town so Bridget could get her COVID test (PCR) and we had lunch at IHOP. We hadn’t been there in quite a while. We though About getting some groceries at HEB but it was extremely crowded. I did pick up a minimal RV water filter as they have been working on the water pipes this past week. It should be sufficient to filter out sand or other particulate matter. 

Sunday (77)
 - It’s a humid morning (90%) and I’m sitting near the pool (closed) because there is WiFi available. I figured that I should at least try it out. It seems decent enough for free and I may try and connect the Ubiquity radio to it. 

Yesterday, we met another couple that has an RV YouTube channel but I hadn’t seen any of their videos before. But did recognize their name from some YouTube live stream comments. 

This is a four-day post. About as long a period without posting. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Day 72, 73 - Harlingen, TX - RPI

Tuesday (72) - Quite the change from last week. I’m enjoying the pool again between test sessions. I also went to Walmart this morning to pick up some groceries. The only item that I wanted but they didn’t have were eggs. There was enough of just about anything else.  And no one had overflowing carts. In some cases, I ended up getting a more expensive version of an item.

The last test had a candidate testing from outside the country. He was a U.S. citizen but at a university in Europe. I learned how to enter this info into the FCC batch file that gets uploaded. I’m participating in all the sessions until we move on Thursday. From what I remember, Verizon was kind of barely there at our next location, Medina Lake TT. It’s about an hour west of San Antonio. 

Since we will be traveling with a full water tank, I started up the engine and used the engine-driven air compressor to fill all of the rear tires to the same air pressure. The engine started up easily (no smoke!) and I filled up the four rear tires to 100psi on the gauge. I'm not sure what the TPMS system will say but I tried to make them consistent. The engine-driven compressor inflates those tires much faster than the little 12volt compressor I usually use.

Wednesday (73) - It’s another warm day. The low last night was 70°F so the A/C ended up running (not continuously) all night. It’s 11am and very nice in the pool. We are starting to get ready to head north and west. The next stop is Medina Lake TT. This park has a lot of infrastructure issues such as roads and electric but it’s a nice location. And about 45 minutes from San Antonio. 

There have been numerous updates to the HomeAssistant software that I have been running for the last 9 months or so on a Raspberry Pi 3. I haven't added anything for a while but I have had to rebuild the server after some updates. I have an idea for another addition. I may have some time while in Medina Lake but it sort of depends on if there is sufficient Internet.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Day 68, 69, 70 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Saturday (68) - Things are looking up in southern TX today. At noon, it's already 64°F and just a little bit breezy. I'm still glad that we opted to stay here for several more days as the infrastructure still needs time to recover. Especially given the state of the grocery stores yesterday afternoon. I've heard that power has been restored through much of the state and the windmills are no longer covered with ice.

We went to visit Jo and Bev from Fairbanks at their RV park as Bridget was learning a new craft from Bev. There was a test session scheduled around noon but there were plenty of VEs so I opted out of the session. On our way back, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for dinner as we were both hungry. I had the sampler with country ham, meatloaf, chicken & dumplings, fried okra, baked potato, and turnip greens. Needless to say, I have a full to-go box. The standout items are the greens and ham. I had never had their meatloaf or chicken and dumplings before. They were fine but not as good as some other items.

Sunday (69) - It’s 72°F on Sunday morning with wind. In other words, something approaching “normal”. We have an unusual amateur radio test this afternoon with thirteen applicants. This will be a challenge for our our small VEC. Other groups have been doing large sessions but there have been some shortcuts such as not reporting the actual testing location. This simplifies the batch file uploads to the FCC. 

I thought I’d get a pool visit in earlier in the day. Now time for a meatloaf or ham sandwich before the test session.

Monday (70) - Wow, day 70 already. It seems like I was back in Fairbanks just a short while ago. With the short extension, we will have been at this RV park for almost a month. It doesn't seem like it has been that long. Last night, we went to dinner with Galen and Cindy again. He found a really fabulous Mexican restaurant in downtown Harlingen. We had to wait for a table but it was definitely worth it. The beef fajitas with caramelized onions and mushrooms was truly the tastiest I've ever had. They headed out this morning for Arizona. 

Like most days, I'm typing up this post while waiting for a amateur radio test session to start. Yesterday's afternoon 

On my walk this morning, I met Brian from the Livin' RVision YouTube channel. They just arrived last night after a long 11 hour driving day. We have been watching their videos for about a year and their personalities make them very entertaining. We knew that they were heading to southern TX and hoped that our paths would cross sometime.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Day 64, 65, 66, 67 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Tuesday (64) - It didn't get as cold last night probably because there wasn't the high wind. RVs don't have a lot of insulation and they could lose a lot of heat with wind. Right now, it's 36°F and getting warmer. I reconnected all of the utilities but the campground water pressure is only 20psi. There must still be be water leaks somewhere in the park. Yesterday, the maintenance guy mentioned that he had fixed over twenty broken pipes. 

Today seemed like a good day to be running the convection oven so I made some cornbread and cookies. This is the same cornbread recipe that I used before except I added some thawed, frozen corn and used the cast iron pan that I had brought back from home in December. It's been getting regular use especially to sear after sous vide.

At 3:30, it has warmed up to 43°F and the low temperature isn't supposed to be much below that. These temperatures are apparently causing a lot of problems in this area since most houses rely on their heat pumps (electric) for heat. And they don't really do that well when the temperature drops below ~40°F.

Wednesday (65) - It seems that people in Texas are panicking due to the cold temperatures. Bridget went to get gas in the car this morning and the first station she went to had run out of gas. Now, she's waiting in line at another station. We had dinner with Galen and Cindy last night and they mentioned that store shelves were emptied out of things like water.

The weather forecast is for the highs approaching 60°F today and into the 70s (°F) by the weekend. Hopefully, things improve dramatically up north by Monday as that's when we plan on heading to Georgetown, TX. Just a little bit north of Austin.  

Until now, I wasn't sure that the Anytone HT was working on analog frequencies. I had configured up about six VHF frequency pairs on the radio but had not heard any traffic. There was a local net at 7pm on one of the repeaters and there were dozens and dozens of people joining in. So, at least I now know that the radio works on analog VHF. Though the standard antenna may be a bit lacking. I ordered up a Nagoya 771 but due to the weather, who knows when it'll get shipped.

Thursday (66) - Due to infrastructure problems here in Texas, we may delay leaving the area. This is the Texas DOT map showing closures. The grey are snow reports. I just checked the weather in Georgetown and it's currently snowing. It is also snowing at Medina Lake TT which is where we are planning to be in a week. Much of this area is also having rolling power outages. What a mess…

I picked up an Amazon box this morning from the mail room and was told that most of the distribution centers were shut down due to power outages. She was surprised to see that my box was delivered. My package had sat in San Antonio for a couple of days according to the USPS tracking. Nothing exciting. Black tank chemical…

Friday (67) - Sunny and breezy is the condition today. We decided to postpone our trip to Georgetown and stick around here for three more days. We are headed for Medina Lake TT which is about an hour west of San Antonio. The hope is that everything will be getting back to normal by then. 

But the best part is they unlocked the gates to to pool area. I think people have complained about having them locked. Especially since it wasn’t that cold. The management may disagree about that considering how many broken water pipes they had to fix. 

A lot of the green that was here when we arrived is now “less green”. But it’s warm with just a gentle breeze so it’s hard to complain. 

Bridget ended up stopping at Walmart and asked about groceries. I wasn’t planning to look for groceries until next week. Others around the park mentioned that people were buying a months worth of food not even knowing when they were going to get power restored. I don’t really understand the panic buying. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Day 61, 62, 63 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Saturday (61) -  From this temperature map, maybe we should've gone to Florida this winter. The forecast is for a low of 23°F on Monday. Yesterday, I went ahead and swapped the heated water hose along with the cheap pressure regulator. No use breaking things so soon after I got the replacement. Since it has been below 40°F both yesterday and today, we are using a combination of propane furnace and the electric radiator for heat. So far, it's doing pretty good. Way better than it's been in the past. The electric radiator is in the front living area and it adds enough heat so the furnace isn't running all the time. After this weekend, we will probably need to fill up the propane tank sometime next week. 

We went out to Chili's for dinner with Galen and Cindy. With the cold weather coming in, they extended their stay an additional week. They have what I consider the ideal heating system. A diesel fuel boiler with heated floors. No propane in their RV at all.

Sunday (62)
 - Someone has a new favorite spot today. It’s only 37°F for today’s high temperature and the forecast is for the mid-20s (°F) tonight. I disconnected from the campground water and sewer this morning and closed up the opening in the wet bay. From the photo below, you can see that it makes quite a difference in the temperature of that compartment. 

It is still windy outside and between that and the humidity, it feels a whole lot colder than the temperature suggests. I believe the forecast is for winds tonight of 20mph with gusts up to 40mph. 

We also brought in our large slide and it feels a lot warmer. There isn't a lot of insulation in the floor and ceiling of the slides.
Monday (63)
 - I thought that southern TX was supposed to be warm. Or at least warmer than this. We are really burning through the propane this weekend. We are at 35% down from 70% last week. I nabbed the propane guy and picked up one of his signs. You just put it into the front windshield and he'll stop and fill up the tank. A bit more expensive than Love's but way more convenient. As you can see from the screenshot, it's supposed to start getting warmer starting tomorrow with pool temperatures by the end of the week.

I'm waiting for another test session to start right now. Bridget read that there are a lot of power outages in the state including  some int the county where we are. The only way we'll know if there is a power outage is if the refrigerator switches back to propane. Just about everything we can see in the main living area will run off of the inverter.

That last sentence reminded me to switch the electric heater to an outlet that isn't powered off of the inverter. Just in case…

Now time for a walk before the second session...

Friday, February 12, 2021

Day 58, 59, 60 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Wednesday (58) - Hot and humid today. Walked a bit this morning before another remote radio test. Then headed for the pool to relax before the next test. The VE (volunteer examiners) group has been getting into DMR (digital mobile radio) and we even have an informal talk group. DMR could be very confusing but one member of the group has been helping others get started.

The RD-5R radio that I’ve been using for the last couple of years has a lot of limitations. The programming software is difficult to use and some things aren’t even addressed. I ordered a new dmr handheld from Bridgecom systems that has quite a few features that are missing on the RD-5R. Lots of memory, GPS, both analog and digital APRS, digital text messages and more. According to UPS, it’s supposed to be delivered tomorrow. We'll see.

Thursday (59)
 - Today's high temperature was this morning at 6am. And it'll be dropping all day long. By Sunday, the low will be below freezing. I heard that there were some major accidents in northern TX due to the icy roads. I guess that's why my delivery was delayed. By the time we leave this park, the forecast is for warm temperatures.

According to the UPS app, my package is out for delivery right now which probably means late afternoon at the earliest. 

Friday (60)
 - The UPS package arrived around 9:15pm. I didn't think they ran that late. I unpacked the box and set up the charger as the battery is shipped only partially charged. The small device is a Bluetooth push-to-talk button with a velcro strap. It's designed to attach to something such as the steering wheel if you want to use it hands-free. The Bluetooth can be paired to headsets or even your car stereo.

This morning, I imported the Brandmeister Talkgroups (around a thousand or so) and the world-wide database of dmr users (about 180,000). The Talkgroups list will make it easier to program and the user list will display name, call sign, and location on the radio screen instead of just the 6-7 digit dmr id. The RD-5R didn't have this ability and I could never remember the call signs. Easier to just look at the display.

After the first test session, I went to the jacuzzi as it was above 40°F (barely). I only stayed for about 20 minutes as it was pretty windy. Not at all like Chena Hot Springs.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Day 57 - Nuevo Progreso

We ventured into Mexico with Galen and Cindy this morning. We were both told to avoid crossing at Brownsville so we went about twenty miles west on I-2 and parked across from Nuevo Progreso. Parking was $2/car and the pedestrian toll on the bridge was $1. None of us really had a shopping list or anything like that.

After crossing, you are inundated with people trying to get you into prescription drug stores, dentist offices, salons, and other shops. I had never seen that density of dental offices ever. 

I did stop and get a haircut. Only $6! We did have a nice lunch. I enjoyed the time with Galen and Cindy but being constantly hounded to buy things or for hand outs got old really fast. The return bridge toll was 25¢. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Day 53, 54, 55, 56 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Friday (53) - Walked a couple of miles this morning and there were quite a few spoonbills around the small pond in the campground. Unlike the last campground, two miles was only a fraction of the streets within the RV park. 

I replaced the gas struts on the bed platform. They were about ¼" shorter than the old ones but they work fine. The last maintenance item for now is the fresh water check valve on the city water line. 

Saturday (54) - A couple of more test sessions today. It is a breezy, overcast day so nothing else was planned. Last night, we met up with Galen and Cindy and went out to dinner at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen. We had met them last summer in Seaside, Whaler’s Rest and South Jetty campgrounds. I had the ribs and coconut shrimp. Fantastic food and excellent company. 

The maintenance task of the day was cleaning out the dryer vent hose. I suspected that it had come loose from either the dryer or outside vent. The wall panel between the closet and the washer/dryer came off easily with a handful of screws and the hose had fallen off of the dryer. Lots of lint inside of the hose so it’s a good thing that we cleaned it. 

Sunday (55) - It’s back to sunny and warm again. High temp today is 80°F with a light wind. This morning, I started waxing the RV. Kind of like painting a house. I did the front and about half of one side. I’ll continue when the sun moves to the other side of the RV. The weather stripping on the bottom of the screen door was coming loose so instead of double stick tape, I just screwed it in place. 

Later, we went to Galen and Cindy’s rig and watched the Super Bowl on their satellite TV. 

Monday (56) - Back to overcast again. Cloudy, warm, and muggy. The A/C is on even though it's only 75°F due to the 80% humidity. I walked a couple of loops around the smaller RV park side that we are in which is around 1.5 miles. Far enough with the humidity.

Two more test sessions today with a visit to the pool between sessions. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Day 49, 50, 51, 52 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Monday (49) - A long travel day today. Maybe five miles. We moved to a different RV park here in Harlingen. It’s the same one that we stayed at for a couple of weeks last year. This time, we are here for three weeks. It’s very RV park-ish but has a couple of pools and actual activities. With food trucks.

Tuesday (50) - A nice 2.5 mile walk this morning at a wonderful 64°F and sunny. I have more tests scheduled for today though the WiFi was useless. It was pretty good last year but it seemed like the AP kept loosing its uplink. It would work fine the stop working. Their tech support was worthless. So I canceled and we will just rely on Verizon. 

There are tests scheduled for today. The first one at 11, then 12:30, 4:30, and 5:00. The testing group is pretty flexible. 

Wednesday (51)
 - Another nice day. High temperatures around 80°F but a little bit windy. Two more test sessions today and I participated in the first sitting outside. But there was some wind noise being picked up by Zoom. So I'm back inside for the second session. We did visit the other (larger) pool and it is surrounded on three sides so it's pretty well protected from the wind. More familiar faces here. We met with Galen and Cindy this morning. We had met them at Seaside and Whaler's Rest in Oregon last summer. Also a couple of other RVs from the last RV park. 

There is also another ham radio operator that I had initially met in Lake Texoma last April. He has an impressive screwdriver antenna on the roof with a linear actuator to raise and lower the mast. He told me that it looks more impressive than it works.

Thursday (52)
 - One of the morning projects was replacing the rear A/C shroud that was broken when a large branch fell on it last September. The temporary fix with a Rubbermaid plastic lid and Gorilla tape held up just fine for a few thousand miles and five months. 

The new shroud is an aftermarket brand but it seems to be much sturdier. I guess being sixteen years newer doesn’t hurt. It didn’t fit as nicely as the original but it is flexible enough to adapt and I needed to drill new mounting holes as the holes in the new cover were all about an inch off. 

Another item in my Amazon order was a programming cable for the RD-5R dmr radio. I don't know how I can lose something within the RV but I managed. There wasn't a cable listed for my particular radio but I found something that I thought would work as I needed a cable without a usb chip embedded in the cable. It works and now that I have a new one, the old cable should show up at any moment. 

More repairs tomorrow...