Postcard from Arizona

5 October 2011

‘The Eagle has landed’, but not without falling on its ass. I’ll explain…

Lordsburg, NM
We did a one-niter at KOA in Lordsburg, NM. Lordsburg is an easy stop and far enough on the South side of town that I-10 traffic isn’t a problem. Weeeell… at least when you’re as tired as we were. There’s a Valero station 4 blocks away on the main drag that has diesel, so it was easy to get refueled. Lordsburg happens to be home to Kranberry’s family restaurant, so, if you’re food-deprived, you can have someone fill you with tasty food and fattening desserts for a nominal fee. Sadly the Admiral has us on a Weight Watchers program (thanks a lot, Dr. Oz!) and we abstained.

I fiddled with the power settings on the Banks controller all the way from Santa Fe to Socorro where I finally gave up. I settled on #3 (again!) and used that the rest of the way to Benson. To the uninitiated,10.6 mpg may sound awful (and it is!), but it’s actually a significant improvement – about 18% on this trip – compared to what we got prior to having the Banks Engineering mods installed.

Interesting Garmin incident along the way: our Garmin 465T is optimized for commercial trucks and is aware of highways that have restrictions (weight, height, whatever). For whatever reason Mrs. Garmin decided that NM-26, the shortcut to Deming on I-10 from Hatch on I-25 which bypasses Las Cruces, is a no-no. We (and any number of very large commercial trucks) didn’t agree, so we soldiered-on avoiding the extra 45 miles and heavy Las Cruces traffic… with Mrs. Garmin complaining the whole way.

Btw, we passed a huge solar farm between Hatch & Deming. I’m going to guess there were 32 panels in each array and each array was installed on its own 2-axis tracking mount (azimuth & elevation). There were maybe 24 mounts in the farm. Photos will have to wait for the next time we pass thru here (in a few days when we retrieve the car).

Benson, AZ
We arrived at SKP Saguaro at 1130 AM only to find the office closed. After grumping about how the staff had gone to lunch early, we finally realized “Oops! Today’s Sunday!” October is still on a shortened schedule as leaseholders and JARs (JAR = Just A Renter… that’s us) don’t start arriving till the end of October.

Since we have an annual rental site, we went ahead and parked in our space. The dogs were in the truck while we set up and I left the engine idling so we could keep the AC running and keep them cool. We were interrupted by the across-the-street neighbor saying ‘Hi!’, then a few do-overs in setup, but eventually (45 minutes later?) we got things variously disconnected and connected and are settled in our site.

Electricity is expensive everywhere. Here at the SKP park it’s $0.14/kW-hr, so (at current propane prices) it’s cheaper to use propane whenever we can. I spent a lot of time last year tramping back and forth to Barnett’s propane in Benson refilling our 7-gal tanks. This year we want to get a larger tank that is refilled monthly. That way we can use propane not only for the furnace but also for the fridge and the water heater. Off we went to Barnett’s Sierra Vista office to sign the necessary paperwork for a 125-gal tank ($40/yr for the tank rental + cost of propane). About 2 miles into the 30+ mile trip I noticed what I thought might be a misfire in the diesel. And this is why I said the Eagle may have landed but it has fallen on its ass.

Truck-whine
The misfire feels a lot like what we experienced in Florida when an injector crapped out after the truck had idled for a very long time. On that earlier experience it was a simple case of shutting off the engine then restarting it (that failure turned out to be an intermittent electrical problem inside the injector). Not so lucky this time. The further we drove the worse the misfire got. Shutting down and restarting changed nothing The truck idles smoothly, but at any throttle setting above idle it is a distinct problem until it gets to full throttle where it seems to be smoother. I tried driving at higher speed for awhile, but with all the police watching for speeders during commute traffic it was hopeless. So now we need a local mechanic who can run diagnostics and do necessary repairs.

I asked at the office and got a couple suggestions for a mechanic to help us, then I also asked a neighbor about local mechanics. When he got home, Lorel asked her hubbie Gene what he thought and he immediately suggested our problem might be the air cleaner. It didn’t cost anything, so I used our compressor to blow out the filter. I must admit that, at least before the engine gets all the way to operating temperature (that would be over 194 deg F), there seems to be no misfire. I’ll drive on the Interstate to be sure cuz my gut tells me it can’t possibly be this simple:

  • the filter wasn’t super dirty.
  • I’ve never spent $0 to repair this truck! 

The jury is still out and the truck is in the penalty box, but maybe I’m wrong (and I sincerely hope that’s the case!).

And the newest rule for the Dog House on Wheels is that we won’t let the truck idle for long periods just in case that caused a problem for the injectors.

Btw, I found a tiny stone (1/8″-1/4″) caught in the folds of the filter. Had a filter not been there, we would be buying a new turbo charger and probably having the engine rebuilt. Yikes!

Ham Radio Stuff
Some more photos of the radio installation (odd how the red numerals of the antenna controller refuse to be in focus even though the case is… ???).

17m counterpoise antennas… 3 pair to go!
Scorpion SA-680 on its mast attached to the ladder
World’s ugliest swing arm… yuck!
The Office
MFJ-1924 screwdriver antenna controller
Heil ClearSpeech powered speaker
Slide-penetrations for RF cable and antenna control

That Heil ClearSpeech speaker is really nice. It has a small amp as well as DSP filtering. Sadly it’s an orphan as it’s no longer being built.

The MFJ-1924 screwdriver antenna controller looks pretty fancy, but the reality is that it’s just a turns-counter with 10 memories. There’s no automatic tuning going on. You must have an SWR meter somewhere to detect null. The Elecraft K3 has that ability, so it’s useful as there’s really no way to repeat antenna position without something that counts turns. There is a controller called a TurboTuner (I think!) which does find null and stops screwdriver movement, but Ron Douglass, creator of the Scorpion antennas, tells me the design doesn’t work well with his drive-motor.

I’ll be tuning the counterpoise antennas over the next few days, so even though the parts are all in place it still isn’t a working ham station.

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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