Shipshape & Bristol Fashion

Last week the Tundra got a make over. Besides the normal oil change, tire rotation, and alignment I had the drive belt replaced, repairs made to the front axle seal, a CV boot, the top brake light, and one of the license plate lights. The brakes are good. The vibration in the driver’s side mirror is fixed. The Tundra is up to 111k miles but is still going strong.

The travel trailer is done with it’s (second) service. The leak behind the toilet (a bad valve) is fixed. A bad stabilizer jack has been replaced. Brakes adjusted.

Tomorrow we will start packing her up for this weekend.

Bananas Foster

I got my Coleman stove out to (1) make sure it works, as we are (knock on wood) going camping this weekend and (2) try out more aluminum foil recipes.

Tonight I took a square of foil, added butter, sliced up a banana, and sprinkled (liberally) with brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon.

I cooked it on high for 10 minutes. The Coleman heats up quick. If I am unable to be successful at the campsite with getting a fire suitable for aluminum foil cooking, I know my Coleman will do the trick. After 10 minutes, I put on my thermal gloves and scooped off the aluminum packet.

The smell was promising. I opened it up and it looked great. Four bowls were quickly produced and the family enjoyed the bananas with a bit of vanilla ice cream. I think we found a winner.

I was thinking of a possible variation where I add some Pillsbury dough and make it into some type of a banana fritter. We will see.

Practice cooking

A good part of camping is about cooking. While I was a Boy Scout, our troop mostly did overnight backpack trips. For dinner, we woul have the frozen plastic packet of a Lean Cuisine meal. All you had to do was throw it in a small pot of boiling water, wait, and yor done. In the Army, about as fancy as we got was adding Tobasco sauce to your MRE and heating it with this pouch chemical heater.

With two girls on a camping trip, I need to up my game. We started practicing here at home by making hobo-style meals and cooking them on the grill. A square of aluminum foil, a seasoned chick thigh, cut up onions, potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and you wrap it up and toss it on the grill. Delicious!

Dessert? Another square of foil, apple slices, brown sugar, cinnamon, and I spread out a biscuit from a tube of Pilsbury dough. Real tasty and the girls liked it.

Talking Back To Home

Having an EchoIRLP node here at home allows me the option of communicating with the XYL (who holds a Tech license) when I am on the road. I found this very useful when I was stationed in Korea. With the time difference, the end of my day was the beginning of hers. I could check APRS to see when she started her morning commute and then connect to my home node. This allowed me to check in with her as well as saying “Hi” to the kids.

With the Summer Trip, the XYL will not be with us the whole time. Therefore, IRLP may well offer a solution.

Time change will not be a significant factor – which means the best times to schedule IRLP QSOs with the XYL would be during the commute times. That should work fairly well because I do not plan to be on the road either too early in the morning or much past the late afternoon.

What is the availability of IRLP nodes along the route I am taking and will they be near our overnight stops? Enter the ARRL’s Repeater Directory. I remember my dad almost always having the shirt-pocket version of this directory by his easy chair along with his HT and a mechanical pencil that he used to make notes. I have consistently followed his lead, although I usually keep a copy in my truck as I am not too much of an HT guy. Another difference is my excitement about the Desktop Edition of the Repeater Directory. I find the shirt pocket edition way too tiny and difficult to use. The Desktop Edition is the Business Class of directories…. spacious, roomy, and comfortable.

I took advantage of ARRL’s birthday coupon to purchase the 2015-2016 directory and am using that to start my IRLP node research. Without digging up my maps and looking too much at the surrounding areas, here is what I found:

Sioux Falls, SD, IRLP Node #7346, 444.2, 82.5
Gillette, WY, IRLP Node #3307, 449.75, 123
Cody, WY, IRLP Node #7194, 146.85, 103.5
Great Falls, MT, IRLP #7908, 147.3
Great Falls, MT, IRLP #5670, 147.36, 100
Bozeman, MT, IRLP #3692, 448.35, 100
Billings, MT, IRLP #3398, 449.75, 100

What I will probably do is use my home node to connect to these nodes to see if they are in operation and get an idea as to what their coverage areas are.

Smells Like Victory

Bill Murray’s Stripes was one of my favorite movies growing up. Could it have even influenced my career choice later in life? Perhaps the most engaging piece of the film was the EM-50, the Army’s Top Secret armored personnel carrier that looked like an RV. The EM-50 was based on GMC’s 1976 motorhome.

Stripes culminates with our protagonist taking the EM-50 across the Iron Curtain to rescue his fellow soldiers. Unlike the production model of the ’76 motorhome, the EM-50 packed a bunch of firepower that allowed it to take on all threats.

As so often in life when the truth is stranger than fiction, the Army did use a GMC motorhome to support the color guard that support the American Freedom Train. I would be curious to know if whoever wrote the script bumped into this vehicle along the Freedom Trains route.

Back in 1987 I actually spent 6 weeks at Fort Knox, KY where the movie was filmed. The rumor circulating around was that in one of the barracks latrine there was graffiti on the inside of a stall door that said “Bill Murray Was Here.” I never did find it. And that’s a fact, Jack.

Packing List

I would say I have a problem with over-packing. An early example that stands out in my mind is Scout camp. Camp Oljato, located in the California Sierra Nevadas east of Fresno, lies on the far side of picturesque Huntington Lake. To get to the Camp Oljato, you load boats, make a one mile trip across the lake, and arrive at the camp’s dock. All this initial travel is not too tough. We have our backpacking packs and one or two other bags. These bags are transported by car up to the mountains and then handed off into the boat. Once we get to the other side, everything you have you need to be able to carry to our day’s final destination – one of the camp’s campsite. The trail was dusty and steep. My pack weighed a ton and bore down on my shoulders. The extra bag or two that I had was dangling from my hand’s sweaty grip. Sweat forming on my head, dripping into my eyes. Stinging. Eventually I made it.

I never really learned my lesson. This tendency to over-pack continued and continued. College – too much stuff. Heading off to war – way too much stuff. The plus side is that I never had to want for much. But the downside… if you can’t carry your bags without assistance, then you have too much! I know this, but seldom practice it. With my last assignment before I retired from the Army, I traveled quite a bit. Instead of slimming down my packing list, I got two large, hard-sided roller suitcases. I could wheel both these bags everywhere. Which seemed to have given me the Green Light to over pack. I would take my large laptop with me (in addition to my work laptop). When I went to Hawaii, I had three laptops. I brought my ham radio laptop to log contacts (as well as a duffel bag full of my Buddipole antenna). There was no real forcing function for me to lighten my bags because traveling with the military meant my bags could usually exceed the weight restriction without having to pay any additional cost.

With the travel trailer, I definitely have a weight restriction. I need to think seriously about each item I am taking as to if I truly need it. The plan will be to list out and prioritize items. However, I know I will be challenged when faced with bringing some of our favorite board games (Gobblet, Backgammon, Cathedral) and books. I have obtained the habit of buying used hardback books from Amazon. They are great because they end up costing about $4 each and have the sturdy feel of a book when read. Those hardbacks add up in weight. I don’t need to be a quasi-Bookmobile. Kitchen (or galley) equipment is another area that adds up quickly to the wight total. Coffee maker, frying pan, pot. Do I bring a Dutch Oven? Heavy stuff. Plastic plates or go with paper? Just one set of silverware or go with four titanium camping sporks? One or two folding tables?

Taking one or two short camping trips before the “Big Trip” will help sort things out. I would even like to have a camping trip where we don’t plug into shore power and need to only use battery power while practicing recharging using the solar panel.

In The Midst of Preparation

The countdown is on and the Summer Trip awaits. I am in my second year of travel trailer ownership and am certainly still in learning mode. After a series of unfortunate events with an RV service center east of Kansas City, I have been able to add to my travel trailer fix-it knowledge.

Most of the actual planning for the Summer Trip is complete. I have almost all my campsite reservations and I have my National Park discount card. The route has been decided. The goal is NOT to put in any high mileage days. My highest mileage day looks like it will be the first at 361 miles. Not too bad and all interstate.

All the camping we are doing at Yellowstone and Glacier National Park is dry camping…. no electrical hook ups, no water hook ups. Not having electric for multiple days made me look into swapping out my trailers 12v battery for two deep cycle 6v batteries. I need to check the amp hour difference, but it is significant. Another action I took to conserve or limit the amount of power we will be consuming is to swap out the inside light bulbs with LED bulbs. These should draw considerably less power. Another advantage (when camping in warmer climbs) is that these bulbs also give off much less heat. But heat is another concern… heat for us inside the trailer at night. Temperatures may fall to the mid-30sF. The trailer has a propane furnace and I don’t imagine I will have a problem obtaining propane. I will also carry a spare 20lbs propane tank should the need arise. However, the rub with using the furnace is that it uses a blower fan, which does consume battery power. In order to help keep the 6v batteries nice and charged, I have a solar panel I can hook up. The trailer came equipped with an external plug that allows me to attach the solar panel and charge the batteries directly. I have not tested this out yet and look forward to doing it. The next step is to get a battery box that will fit both the 6v batteries together and secure it to A-frame trailer behind the propane tank. Easier said then done because it is a fairly narrow area.

I have gotten the bearings repacked on the trailer’s single axle, the brakes checked and adjusted, as well as replacing the stock tires with a pair that are a little more robust.

I replaced the plastic cover that goes over the controls for the refrigerator. The original was broken on one of last summer’s camping trips.

The (current) major problem is a leak in the water system. This weekend when I hooked up the city water connection, a small stream of water started to originate from the back of the trailer (behind the toilet) a was making its way towards the front. There was also a small amount of water that was coming out of the bottom of the trailer at a spot marked “low point drain”. I turned off the water and toweled up the water inside. It looked like it may be a problem with the connection to the back of the toilet. Water problems give me pause because I just imagine all the potential damage water could cause. I decided to call to make an appointment to take the travel trailer in to the dealership where I bought it. I just need to know without a shadow of a doubt that the trailer’s onboard water system works without flaw.

Unfortunately that means that the short camping trip to a nearby lake next weekend is off. However, that gives me a bit more breathing room to take care of the near-term To Do List: (1) come up with a battery box solution, get the two 6v batteries installed and working, (2) get the travel trailer and truck weighed to figure out the trailer weight, tongue weight, and truck weight to see how close I am to the recommended limits, and (3) get an onboard packing/storage plan.

The onboard packing/storage plan may end up being a fairly significant deal. The travel trailer’s GVWR is 3626 lbs which includes 791 lbs of “stuff” I can bring onboard. Right from the start, over 100 lbs is taken up by the two 6v batteries (those guys are HEAVY). I am going to avoid traveling with the water tanks full. Water could easily take up another 250 lbs. The rest of the weight is going to be a matter of nickel and dime computations… folding chairs, tables, fishing poles, clothes, food, dishes, pots, etc. I just get the feeling that 791 lbs of “stuff” will not be hard to accumulate into the confines of the trailer.