Postcard from New Mexico- 7 *

29 September 2011, Santa Fe

We’re close to heading for our winter hangout. We’ll be staying at the SKP Saguaro Co-op a little South of Benson, AZ. Barring a calamity we should be on our way 1 October with a one-niter somewhere. We’ve been keeping ourselves busy fixing problems and creating more, but I think we’ll be ready by Saturday.

Along with maintenance chores I’ve gotten busy installing our ham radio station. That’s occupied nearly all my available time for a couple weeks now…

Radio Station
Installation of the radio station happened really quickly. So far I’ve:

  • installed a removable mast (1-1/4″ thin wall conduit from Home Depot) supported by a mount (need something better),
  • installed the new Scorpion SA-680 screwdriver antenna,
  • routed cables and installed support items,
  • drilled holes in the side of the entertainment slide (*that* was a nerve wracking!),
  • mounted weather covers over the holes to feed the wiring inside and keep weather & bugs out,
  • installed an MFJ-1924 screwdriver-antenna controller (with memory… pretty cool!),
  • installed a monstrosity of a swing arm (RAM-Mount… *ugly*) to mount the radio when stopped,
  • installed my old Daiwa 505SS power supply,
  • installed my old West Mountain Radio RIGrunner 4010S power strip to distribute 12VDC power,
  • installed my old Heil ClearSpeech comm speaker (out of production),
  • wired everything, and
  • checked it out.
Scorpion SA-680 with just the 17m counterpoise

Installation of the hardware is (pretty much) complete and I’m reasonably happy except for the ugly swing arm and the support for the antenna mast. But the work is by no means finished. I still have to tune the length of each of the counterpoise antennas… a long and tedious job. There are 8 antenna arranged in opposing pairs covering 4-bands: 80m, 40m, 20m and 17m. No way to get the tuning done before leaving on 1 Oct, so that job will have to wait till we get to Benson.

I did take time to download and install the latest firmware for the Elecraft K3.. our radio was way behind. The K3 is a software defined radio and the designer (Wayne Burdick/N6KR) is forever improving its operation. Wayne seems to work a 26-hr day!

Getting the antenna set up is a big deal, so it’ll only happen when I know we’re going to be somewhere for awhile. The antenna weighs just under 20 lbs, but there’s also the metal mast, an RF choke. All together there’s probably 30#-35#. Not too heavy until you stand it up and lift it onto the base of the FlagPoleBuddy mount. Any breath of air and it’s pretty much out of control. Then after the mast + antenna are up I can add the counterpoise antennas.

Pre-departure Maintenance
Sitting or moving, there’s always something that needs attention. In this case it was the wheel bearings. Fortunately our Montana is fitted Zerk fittings on the axles. Lubing the bearings can be done with a grease gun filled with wheel bearing grease. The bearings are supposed to get attention every 5,000 miles and this seemed like a good time to get it done.

The debacle with the tires back in June/July, which left us with broken landing gear, taught me that I need to have the Montana connected to the truck, move the landing gear clear of the ground, jack the frame first, then lift the wheel off the ground with a jack under the single axle. That’s what I did and it worked great. But the fussing around in order to get the bottle jacks positioned and everything blocked is a giant PITA. All together it took about 3 hours: 20 minutes lubing the bearing plus 2hr 40min screwing around with jacks. Humbug! The next rig will have leveling jacks!

Now the bearings are serviced plus I reinstalled the trim piece I’d left off one wheel during the tire change. Still have to drain the water from the fresh water tank, stow the antenna and take several hundred pounds of crap to the house. We leave Saturday morning… a week late thanks to the late delivery of prescriptions from MedCo (the company I love to hate!).

Trip Planning
Haven’t had time to decide where to stay on the trip South. There’s only one stop before Benson… Las Cruces? Lordsburg? Deming? Dunno yet. This is unlike me… I tend to over-plan and to make reservations too far ahead. But we’ve been too busy to do the usual.

This evening, however, I updated the GPS we use for RV travel (we have lifetime maps for all our Garmin GPSs). Took about 4 hrs and the file was 1.5 GB. Yikes! But the deed is done and I’m hoping they’ve fixed a few things in our nüvi 465T. The 465 is designed for use with commercial trucks and RVs and is height-restriction aware. So far so good, and hopefully it will continue to keep us out of trouble.

About bruce10b

Celia and I are full-time RVers wintering (and now summering!) in southeast AZ. Our 2 Bernese Mountain Dogs, Annie & Kelly, prompted the name of this blog but sadly are gone because of kidney failure. They will live forever in our hearts.
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