Postcard from New Mexico- 6

Santa Fe

I just added one more big chore to do before we leave. I’m way overdue to install our ham radio on the Montana (Celia is K5CMB and I’m NM5B). I may not finish everything before we leave for Benson, but I’ve got the radio sitting beside me and have have kluged the power line so I could at least see if it still operates after sitting for 2 years. Indeed it does and I’ve since downloaded 2 major revisions to the firmware.

Elecraft K3 hf transceiver (100 W)

Our radio is an Elecraft K3 100W hf (160m-6m) transceiver with all the early bells & whistles including the sub-receiver. Ours is #00136… part of the very early batch. Since we left to go play “RVers”, Wayne/N6KR (he’s a co-founder & head of technology) at Elecraft has added some really cool stuff like a panadapter and a 500W linear amp to name just 2.

The only thing we really need at the moment is an antenna. Several years ago I bought an Outbacker (mfd in Australia, but cut to US bands) portable/mobile antenna. We used this bullet-proof portable antenna in Santa Fe till I could install the larger 1/4 wave tunable-vertical from SteppIR Antennas. I used the SteppIR for several years on 40m-6m but always wished it covered the 80m band as well. When SteppIR came out with their Mk III vertical which could cover 80m-6m (basically added an optional loading coil), I switched to that newer model.

Our Outreach 500 and Outpost tripod

SteppIR verticals are great antennas but they’re pretty big (33′) and inappropriate for our use on an RV as they don’t disassemble easily for thransport when we’re moving the rig. However, our old Outbacker antenna (Outreach 500 model) stows easily in 2-pieces in its 4′ bag. When I bought the Outbacker in 2003, I also bought an Outpost tripod (made by Alpha Delta) which was designed for Outbacker antennas and works quite well (useable on other mobile or portable antennas too). In the photo, the 2 pieces of the antenna (black) are each about 4′, though the assembled length of the Outreach is about 11′ 5″ with the stinger extended.

Outpost with Outreach antenna

The odd looking aluminum contraption in the photo is the Outpost tripod which ends up unfolding a la a child’s “transformer”. Not exactly human-engineered when it comes to deployment, but once everything is properly extended and a couple spikes are driven through the holes in the 3′ long feet, it’s a very stable platform that usually negates the need for added radials.

So that’s what will get us started. But the rules in most RV parks require any ham gear be attached to the RV and the Outbacker/Outpost don’t meet that criteria. So our long term solution will be to use a mobile antenna (a screwdriver design) mounted on the rear of the Montana. I have a Scorpion SA-680 coming from Ron Douglass/NI7J. I ordered his Home Package version which includes n adapter plus a set of 8 radials in matching pairs for 40m, 20m, 17m and 10m. If that works as I expect, I’ll replace the 8-port adapter with a 16 port and add 4 more bands (80m, 60m, 15m and 12m).

Anyway, that’s the plan. The biggest issue is committing to putting a hole in the Montana!

A Couple Repairs

No matter whether you’re traveling or parked, things on an RV break. This time 2 things happened at the same time: the water valve on the Thetford toilet started leaking, and the drive belt on the Splendide dryer both broke. Again. Splendide got the belt here in 2 days, but Thetford sent the replacement valve to a place only they know about.

Repairs on our rig are generally Blue jobs (along with vacuuming and washing dishes), but I’d never have been able to get it done without help from the Pink team. The dryer weighs less than Splendide says it does (it’s less than the 67# Splendide states), but it’s impossible to reconnect the dryer exhaust hose while holding the dryer. Lots of expletives, but now the dryer is repaired: an hour to replace the belt, then 2 hours of frustration getting the dryer back in place atop the washer.

If the water valve ever gets here we’ll have a properly working toilet again. I think it would have been better to have bought the Thetford parts from PPL or someplace similar.

About bruce10b

Celia and I are full-time RVers wintering (and now summering!) in Benson, AZ. The 2 bernese mountain dogs that initiated the name of this blog are gone but forever alive in our memory.
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