JANUARY 7th MONDAY
Left at 11:00 am and marked the mileage in the mileage book. It was a nice day with sunshine and got above freezing pretty early in the day. We had no problems with things freezing in the storage areas under the 5th as the heat ducts give off some heat. We talked to W7XU on two meters and on HF with N0ABE, AC0M and WA0ARZ. Later we talked to WA0ARZ on two meters and heard about his building story where it was not 14 foot clearance but 12.5 feet. We did pick up some wind and it pulled fairly hard.
We arrived at St Joseph MO for the evening. We did turn on I-229 rather than I-29 business so have to use the computer Map N Go and the Street Pilot to get back to where we were supposed to go. We parked at the Super Walmart which was very nice and I was able to send and get E-mail and we got some bottles of coke for 70 cents. It was still pretty chilly and we ran the furnace all night at about 50 degrees.
JANUARY 8th TUESDAY
We were underway by 7:00 am and stopped to change the coax back to the bug catcher and discovered we did not have flashers, brake lights and signal lights. Chris called Jayco and then used the Internet and we gave him zip code numbers. He found a Jayco dealer at Ziegler, Ill and I called the service tech Brian and he suggested checking the fuses for the towing package under the hood on the F-350 but they were OK. We then stopped at Flying J and got diesel for 97 cents a gallon and got a couple of bulbs for the trailer. The old one looked fine but did plug it in and out in case it had a poor connection but did fix the problem so we headed for the dealer at Ziegler. We talked to Arliss and told him we would not be able to stop for a grid as we needed to resolve our trailer problem as it was tough driving in KC and St Louis with no turn signals. We arrived at Larry's Trailer Sales in Ziegler at 3:00 pm meeting their request that we be there at that time. He pointed out the female plug that plugs into the male plug in the pickup can get spread contacts and make a poor connection. He then checked for voltage at the connector. He then checked things at the rear at the bulbs and found a solder lug on the base of the bulb was not very high and might not be making contact and also the bayonet seemed loose. Anyway we put in one of our new bulbs and it started working. The other one just seemed to have a poor connection as moving it around caused it to start working. It was covered under warranty and we were on our way.
We pushed on an stopped at the Super Walmart at Puducah, KY. I got two more bulbs at Walmart at 99 cent like Flying J using the Walmart lowest price guaranteed! We send and got our E-mail no problem. I figured out what grids we could give Arliss and Holly using map n go.
JANUARY 9th, WEDNESDAY
Since we had 577 miles to go to reach Chris and Carol we got up at 5:30 am and was on the road by 6:00 a.m. We got diesel fuel after a couple of false stops at gas only places and hit the road. KY was hilly and quite wooded and some rivers and KY Dam. It was dark for awhile but you could see enough to tell what it was like. Seen some small farms, haying, a little corn and cattle. It was pretty. We got a picture and stopped at the rest area and got a TN map and headed for Nashville. We talked to Chris and Ole at Nashville. On the way to Nashville it was still wooded but more open and more farming activity. We seen some real beautiful homes and horse farms south of Nashville. We did start picking up more evergreen trees. Before and after Nashville we seen some deep cuts in the rocks and spring coming out of them that had frozen water. We seen a few smaller cuts in MO and ILL and bigger ones in KY but they got bigger in TN. As we got south of Nashville we picked up more and more pine trees. We stopped at the rest area just into AB and got a map. There was a rocket at the rest area representing the space industry in AB. As we headed south we were surprised by all the pine forest in AB. We had a detour at Montgomery due to a tanker hitting a bridge. It was tricky getting the trailer around on the detour with all the traffic. We seen two trucks really have to jockey back and forth to make the corner ahead of us and a lady cut in along side of us and was getting pinched in as we were turning but fortunately we seen her mistake and stopped and she was able to get over enough so we could finish our turn. We got to the FL line as it was getting dark. It was a two lane road and no shoulder but it was very interesting. We seen some beautiful homes with fences and southern style and some pecan, peach and cattle but mostly forest. It seemed like nothing was ever torn down or discarded as lots of places had lots of old, old junk around it. We stopped and set up to work Arliss but never heard him on 20 meters so ended up tearing back down again and taking off. That took about 45 minutes.
We lost contact with everyone as we had changed to 40 meters as we were to close to work Chris on 20 but never go him on 40 meters. We did talk to the fellows on 14.339 with good success. We finally got into Shalimar about 6:45 pm and got Chris on 147.555 and he talked us in. We had a nice visit, some sandwiches and Chris and I went out and set up the trailer and plugged it in. We got a good nights sleep
We got into the house about 8:15 am and took a shower and Chris showed me some stuff in the radio room and I checked the bank account on the Internet but the electronic transfer we had been waiting for had not shown up. We then worked on the 5th wheel getting it de-winterized and ran the generator and made sure the hot water heater was working. It was nice to get water in the trailer and have the hot water heater working. We then decided to do some touring. Chris and Carol took us out on Oskalooska Is. It was very pretty along the beach with the white sand and the gulf. We ate at a very nice place looking out over the ocean and they showed us up and down the island. We looked at a building painted by an artist and the fishing boat harbor. It is the fourth largest fishing fleet in the USA. We learned about the islands that run from AB all the way to Panama City, FL. There is a passage here at Fort Walton beach which we rode over on the bridge. We got a key made for our trailer lock which we will need to take back as it did not work.
We got home and checked out wiring the 220 vac into the shack and came up with a plan after looking in the attic and at the panel outside. We went to Lowes but could not find everything we wanted so we will check tomorrow at some other stores. We got home and Chris showed me how XP Ware worked on RTTY.
JANUARY 11TH, FRIDAY
We went to Home Depot and Lowes and got supplies for the 220vac hamshack wiring project and started in. Edith and Carol went shopping. Edith got the key worked on for the Kingpin lock on the 5th. We got it made the day before but it did not work. The fellow first thought it was a registered key but it was not. It was double sided and he said it would be a hard lock to pick.
Chris and I got the wiring installed in about 3 hours and fired up the Ten TECH amp and everything worked fine. He then kicked it to HV and it blew a fuse. It kept blowing fuses so we took it apart but could not find anything. It was time to cook the turkey in Peanut oil for the ham get to gather on Saturday so we started on that which went well. Edith and Carol got home and we decided to do some chicken we had which went well. We had a great supper I talked to the guys on 14.339. We worked on QSL card printing.
JANUARY 12TH SATURDAY
We did some things to get ready for the ham get to gather and finished up the QSL project. Dave-KB4ET, Terry Granger-W4TMM, Earl Johnson-W4LlX, Bill Turney-KS4Y, Joe Williams-K2BG. We had a great meal and visit. We were able to show our AK and Ghana pictures and find out quite a bit about each of the fellows. We also worked on AC0M's amp and discovered there must be a short in the 28 V. supply in the power supply. We worked on some computer things in the evening and I listened to the SDSU basketball game with SDSU
January 13th SUNDAY
We went to the Methodist church and when we got back Chris and Carol were back and we had a brunch and worked on Writelog and the tail lights on the 5th. The girls went to a flea market at Crestville with a couple of friends of Carol. Chris and I went down to the Radio Club and had a great visit with a number of hams who came down. It is a weekly tradition for a number of hams to gather at the radio club on Sunday afternoon. The have a nice meeting room and radio room. They were listening to CW and also slow scan and had a good computer and could get on the Internet so it was impressive. They had a tri-bander up about 40 feet for an antenna. They had several radios. One fellow brought down a very short 40 meter antenna about 30 inches long. The web site on constructing it was W0KPH. We headed home and had supper and watched some football. I read about the Hex Beam and helped Chris get Writelog working on CW.
JANUARY 14TH, MONDAY
It rained all night so I needed to get the wet hex beam box out of the back of the F-350 so the instructions did not get wet. In unpacking it I found there was a bunch of stuff missing. So we called Jim at Burghardts as Chris wanted to discuss getting his amp fixed and I wanted to find out what we were going to do about the missing parts for the hex beam. Chris decided to send in the amp to Burghardts to get it fixed and Jim said he forgot to give me a box that went with the hex beam and he would send it out over-night UPS Red air. We then spent the morning getting the amp packed and sent off. I was shocked the it cost $17 for a bag of packing peanuts and how much the UPS charges were.
In the afternoon we went to Saber Sails and I got a bag ordered to carry and store the hex beam in. Chris showed me where Joe K2BG, Earl W4LLX and Hap K4? lived. We did some work to get logic so it would send CW for Chris and went out for ribs for supper at Sonny's. It rained and was cloudy all day.
JANUARY 15TH TUESDAY
We toured today and went west to Navarre and then along the barrier islands to Pensacola, Fl. We stopped along the way a couple of times and walked along the gulf and fed the sea gulls and got lots of nice pictures. We also picked up some sea shells. It is very pretty with the white sand and sea oats growing out of the dunes. It was interesting how they had to blade the white sand off the parking lots and road and how they used fences to stop the sand just like snow fences. We had a nice dinner on the island and headed home. We stopped to pick up the bag for the hex beam but they made it to short so they will re do it. At home we found the package from Burghardts with the rest of the hex beam parts so we got started on that. We got a piece of pipe and some paint, cut a piece of steel and made arrangements with Bill WS4Y to put it together at his place where we can be away from the power lines. Tomorrow morning we will get some welding done. We heard some good DX on 80 meters. We went to Radio Club that evening and had a good time. The Hex Beam parts came in from Burghardts.
JANUARY 16th WEDNESDAY
Today we worked on the Hex Beam. In the morning we got pipe and went to the welding shop and got a mount made. We then went out to Bill-WS4Y and looked over his towers and ham shack and shop and then started to work on the Hex Beam. It really went quite well and then we ran a coax into Bill's ham shack and did some A/B switch testing and made some contacts. Given the HEX BEAM was only at about 15 feet it did very well on all five bands.
Edith and Carol went shopping and met us a Bills late in the afternoon. We also heard and worked S92JHF which was a new one for Edith. We then went out to eat and I had Grouper and Edith had grilled shrimp. We had a great visit and Bill told us about his and LaNell's sailing and also Chris talked about the Navy days.
JANUARY 17TH THURSDAY
We checked E-mail and got ready to go to Joe-K2BG for a boat ride. We toured the bayou's and seen lots and lots of great homes and boats. We then went out to the pass and found some dolphins and spend about 45 minutes right among them and got lots of good pictures. It was quite a treat. We got back and toured Joes-shack and had a nice visit. We then put up a sloper for 80 out to the west. Chris's tower goes up and down real nice with the motorized winch.
JANUARY 18TH FRIDAY
We worked on installing the six meter amplifier. We had to make some runs for parts but it all went well and we made a good install. It took about 3/4's of a day. We also worked on packaging and mounting the Hex Beam. That night I listened to SDSU basketball.
JANUARY 19TH SATURDAY
We went to the Dxers breakfast at Denny's and had a great visit with Earl-W4LLX, Bill-WS4Y, Terry-W4LMM and Hatz K4JUZ
We went to Lowes and got supplies for a wiring project for Chris and put in two outlets on the north side of the house and a light. Chris listened for the VP8 South Sandwich but they were not coming in other than very, very weakly on 30 meters. We watched the football playoffs, checked E-mail, etc. I listened to SDSU basketball.
JANUARY 20TH SUNDAY
We went to church, got back and had brunch, checked the e-mail and got ready to travel. Edith and Carol went shopping and Edith got on Eglin and went to the PX with Carol. Chris and I watched football We left about 3 pm and had a nice chat with Bill-WS4Y and Ear l-W4LLX on the way out. We were able to dump at the rest area just into AL. We checked a FL rest area but they did not have a dump. We found a Super Walmart at Mobile and had a great parking place in back but the security guard made us move as he felt we would be safer up front. We parked up there and settled in for the night. Earlier we did some shopping at Walmart for Edith.
JANUARY 21ST MONDAY
We got an early start from Mobile, the Walmart lot worked out the poorest of any we stayed in. We were right out where everybody came in and out to Walmart and right among several other RV/s who ran their generators until about 10 pm which is acceptable but it was noisy and we could not run our bedroom slide out which makes it crowded in the bedroom and hard to get in and out to go to the bathroom, etc. Not running the other slide out is not much of a problem, yes it is nice to but can get by OK for just a night without sliding it out. We were on the road by 6 am and made good time. It was mild and rainy but never rained hard. By the time we got into MS the traffic picked up and it was busy the rest of the way. We talked to WB0WOE about 60 miles east of Houston, TX and right then we hit a traffic jam which lasted for 1.5 hours to go just a couple of miles. This put us into Houston at rush hour but since it was Martin Luther King day that helped. It is the biggest town, with the most traffic we have driven the trailer through, bar none! We did have to try a turn for Alt 90 a second time as we did not go far enough down the exit and turned of to quickly.
We were going to go back north a little on Highway 59 but it did not work out and traffic was picking up again so we headed south and the traffic was bad for quite a ways. We got by Richmond and Edith found a Walmart in the directory but by then the laptop was dead to check on the location so we pulled into a Home Depot and it took a lot of looking but finally found the street. Map N Go did not show this Walmart. They are supposed to have them all but this one is missing. We fortunately spotted it as it would of been easy to miss as it was farther of the road than we expected. We got into the lot and found a good spot and so far the security guy has been by and did not say anything so looks like we are OK. It appears the secret it to park in the front lot or of to the side but not toward the back of the store. We had a great supper and will be able to have the bedroom slide out as we are parked so that is out over a vacant lot beyond the curb.
Go and E-mail typed up and off in four minutes flat so I am learning who to connect with. The bug catcher is all I have been using. BTW the PSK was good on 20 and 30 meters last night.
We are going to go get some ice cream from Walmarts superstore and then get to bed early so we can hit the road at daylight and get south out of the rest of the Houston traffic which should be coming in and we will be going out. Did talk to the fellows on 14.339 tonight and Chris in Houston.
JANUARY 22ND TUESDAY
We were on the road by about 6:30 am. The spot was great except the train whistle was pretty close to the north and sounded several times during the night and there was a vacuum that made a lot of noise cleaning the yard. The security guard patrolled all night.
We forgot to check the signal lights on the trailer so we went to the lot at Home Depot where we were last night getting our bearings and checked and found the left signal was not working which explains why people would not let me move lanes when I though I was signaling. I moved things around a scraped and it now works fine. I am going to have Lynn and I work on it here and see if we can figure out what the deal is! We need that to be reliable.
We talked to Chris at 10:00 am and also Lynn to give him an ETA and the traveling went very smooth today. We mis-understood the signs a couple of times and made a wrong turn but was able to get back on track very easily! Diesel was about $1.13 average today. We got Lynn on .52 simplex as we entered Pharr, TX and he talked us in. He had reservations for us and had his hand held and they had us listed at the gate. We met him and he took us to the office and we got signed up for four days and can lengthen if we want. We got set up and had a good visit and had some ice tea and then went out to eat Chinese. We seen McAllen and Pharr and also the park they are in. They have a ham club in the park.
When we got back I got on and did some Internet banking and checked and sent E-mail. We then came over to our trailer and I am typing this and checking out the addresses for Stiefvaters and Telkamps down here. Tomorrow we will work on the lights and go listen to some music.
JANUARY 23RD WEDNESDAY
We had a nice visit with Lynn and Lorraine. I took some pictures and "burned" a CD for them of the pictures we had taken so far on the trip. Lorraine had a doctors appointment so we decided to call Steifvaters and Telkamps. We got it lined up to go to Telkamps today and to Stiefvaters on Friday. The Fed Ex truck came and we got the envelope from Tom. We got diesel fuel and then came back to wait for the activities director to get back from lunch as she could notarize my signature. I had directions from the Fed Ex driver where we could return the envelope. We found that OK and then got on I-83 east to go to Telkamps. The towns east of Pharr are Alamo, Donna, Weslaco, Mercedes and the La Feria. To the west is McAllen and then Mission. We had a great visit with the Telkamps, they were glad to see us! He told us the story of how George West got its name from a rancher who rode a long horn steer. The steer is mounted and they seen it at the court house. The steer did some tours, and was to Russia a couple of times. We got back to Tropic Star and go ready to head for a music jam in Mission at the Circle T RV park. Lynn and Lorraine had friends there and old classmate of Lorraine. We got back about 9:30 pm. It was very hot, about 85 degrees which everyone says is March WX and it was very windy which everyone said was much above normal although it does blow a lot down here. It has been warm, fairly humid and very windy out of the south the two days we have been here. They say toward evening there is a cool breeze of the gulf. They have been in a 10 year drought down here.
JANUARY 24TH THURSDAY
Lynn took us to Progresso, Mexico and we seen a lot of shops. It seemed cleaner than Nogales and the blankets seemed cheaper. Lynn mentioned if you buy medicine not to buy to much so they would not question that you were trying to re-sell. We found a great pastry shop and had a coke. It seems that less of the vendors know English than is Nogales. We found out to get a tourist card you needed your passport. It cost 25 cents to get into Mexico and 25 cents to get back out. We seen a lot of beggars. We also seen a fellow that just had a car battery blow up in his face. I seen it in the car and the whole top was blown off the batter. On the way back we ate at Donna., TX. We drove back on Business 83 which is the original route. That was very interesting going through Donna, Alamo and then Pharr. There were some rural areas and you could see it is not a real wide strip with everything being along the road. When we go back I showed Lynn our stuff and we worked on the signal lights and then had supper. The Clam Chowder was excellent. We then went and did laundry. I learned from Lynn about a strip to put on the propane tank to see the level of propane, confirmed they have plugs, to put tin foil in the exhaust vents of the hot water heater and furnace to keep wasps out, talked about guying the bug catcher with fish line, worked on the tail lights, thermometer to put on the window,that the refrigerator can be some out of level, especially for one day and to not turn it up anymore than necessary. It was warm and windy but after dinner the wind switched to the northwest and about 4:00 pm the temperature started dropping and it dropped from 80 degrees to 60 degrees in about an hour. I checked my e-mail on Lynn's connection over the Internet and had a message from Tom that he got the papers I had sent him Fed Ex
JANUARY 25 FRIDAY
It was much cooler last night. I would say it got into the low 50's.. The wind blew during the night and is still blowing this morning. Definitely a lot cooler today. It only got up to the mid 60's and there was a cool breeze but toward evening the wind died down. We had a nice visit with John and Liz. They took us to a hand ferry across the Rio Grande River and we ate at Rio Grande City and then went north to the Rio Grande livestock auction. They sell the livestock one head at a time so they really go fast. The auctioneer was hard to understand but some of the lighter weights were selling for over $1.00 a pound. As we went farther north and then east we came to a place called McCook and there was a lot of dry land farming, mostly milo. There were several grain handling facilities that had gone broke. We came into Mission from the north. We got back to Pleasant Valley Ranchr park and went up to the rec center and had some refreshments and bars. Their park is west of Mission and as you go west you see and HEB store and go l mile more and watch for Restfall Valley Ranch and then a sign for Valley West Plaza and the gate is right there. If you miss it you can take the next street north. They are in spot #153 and the address is Pleasant Valley Ranch, 7320 W. Expressway 83, Mission, TX 78572 and the telephone is 956 581 8158.
We headed back and stopped a Campers World in Mission on Bryan and got a state and province map for the camper, thermometer for the camper window, gas plug and gas fill indicator strip and dishpan. We got them all installed and it looks good. It cooled off fast and will likely get into the 40's tonight. I guess it is supposed to warm up before some more cold air next week.
JANUARY 26 SATURDAY
We paid for one more day at Tropic Star and got ready to go to South Padre Is. We tried to get a map at Brownsville tourist info but they did not have one but a tourist there said she got her's at the South Padre Is. visitors center. We crossed the bridge to S. Padre and found the visitors center and got the map. We then went north on the island which is very pretty. The sand is tan in color. We got to the end of the road where it is drifted under with sand and got some good pictures. We got some shells on the shore side, there was no over-night parking at this area but other areas looked like they had over-night parking but would be very tough to get at without getting stuck. We met a couple from Sioux Falls. On the gulf side we found lots of shells but they were much smaller but were pretty. Many were polished by the sand. We saw a Chev. 4x4 stuck and someone pulled it out. Edith gots lots of shells. It was solid to drive right along the beach right by wet sand. Not to dry or to wet. We stopped at the visitors center on the way out and got a smaller map and a sheet on shells. We ate dinner at Furrs in Brownsville. On the way back at Harlinger, TX we seen the Iwo Jima statue which was the original one. We got back and washed shells, sat outside, it was 69 degrees and hardly any wind. As it got dark it dropped about 10 degrees. I checked the Internet and found the Jacks girls and boys both beat the U. We worked in our trailer drying the shells and working on the route for heading to Big Bend. We will go over to the Wallaces for a while. We will go to church here and then get ready to go and leave about noon and go as far as Larado, TX to Walmart.
JANUARY 27TH SUNDAY
We got up about 7:30 pm and worked on packing up. We dumped and flushed the tanks, did the normal get on the road stuff and have added checking the signal lights. We dumped the trash, added air to all the tires going a little above ratings, ie 70# on the trailer, 80# on back tires and 60# on front tires. It seemed to drive more stable. We headed out and traffic was not bad until we got west of Rio Grande City and there seemed to be a lot of local traffic and lots of signal lights. It was slow going all the way thru Lorado, TX as it seemed built up a lot of the way as we were close to the border. We had a new experience at Pilot in north Lorado, TX. You had to get a ticket to enter the gate and if you stayed over 4 hours it cost $6.00 and then there were rates for more time. You had to call in from the pump and give them info before they would turn the pump on. Since it was the truckers bay everything was up high. One good thing is the F-350 will take the big truckers diesel nozzle. We had a good road from Lorado to Del Rio and there were few towns and few stop lights. We used the laptop and found the Walmart location. Edith looked at the wrong ID on the Map N Go but we eventually got it figured out.
One experience on the way over was at a picnic area with a couple who only knew Spanish and wanted some water for their mother. We got it figured out.
We listened to the playoffs on the radio and finished up on TV which was in Spanish. We found a place to park where we could run the slideouts but it is close to the road so will be noisy. We got the E-mail and had several returns due to changes of E-mail addresses. I think I have them all fixed except I am not sure about why N0ABE is coming back. Supper was ready so started eating as they were finishing up and did not notice that I had one about my Mom until after supper. Come to find out see was riding in a car that was in a wreck. It happened about 24 hours ago and got word from Brett and Shawn which we really appreciate who got word to Curt.
We called Mom and talked to her. The nurse said she was doing good. She did have a little low blood pressure problem earlier but was doing fine. She is real sore! I got another E-mail from Curt and Shellie and they got the word that I had called Mom and also got word to Brett and Shawn via E-mail. I will need to send another E-mail tomorrow!
JANUARY 28, 2002 MONDAY
We got up about 7:30 am at Del Rio, had breakfast and went to Walmart and got milk and salad dressing and called Rod Schaffer about the Principal money. It eventually showed up at the bank about 11 days after it had been mailed but by that time they had stopped payment on it and sent another one last Thursday, January 24th. Hopefully it will get there before the end of the month so I can pay off the loan which is due then rather than having to extend it.
We headed west of Del Rio and seen the north side of the dam over the Rio Grande. The dam is Amistad Dam which is a huge lake. The road north and west was good and the traffic was very light. It was really poor ground with someplaces being almost barren. We seen mostly goats and sheep in these real poor areas. As we got farther north and west we seen some cattle and it go more hilly with canyons and mountains to the south in Mexico. We got more and more hilly and we could see Santiago Peak which is just north of Big Bend Park and south of Marathon. Hwy 385 leading into the park goes all the way north to Hot Springs by Roger. It cost $10.00 per vehicle to enter the park, it is good for 7 days. One can get an annual pass or Golden Age passes, etc. We traveled on the the park HQ at Panther Jct. and got a hiking map and ideas of some things to see. Just west of there is the road up into the mountains. In the easterly direction is Rio Grande City and to the west and then south is Cottonwood Campgrounds, road to Study Butte, and the canyon that the river goes through. The road here has one switchback and a couple of steep downhills and one steep climb but with a good rig it is absolutely no problem. We settled into the campground about 4 pm. It was about 85 degrees with a warm breeze and a bit hotter than one would like but sone it cooled a bit to 80 degrees and the wind went down some and it was very, very nice. We put up the awning, the 20 meter dipole and I had to repair the coax connector on the coax out of the pickup box. Since it is a no generator park I used the inverter for the soldering gun and it worked fine. It was nice sitting outside drinking ice tea. I had a great visit with Roger and Bob with great signal reports. After that I got and sent E-Mails and then I got the Bug Catcher moved to 40 meters for the schedule at 8:00 pm with Curt which worked good. I could definitely hear him better than he could hear me. I need to get the 40 meter dipole up in the air. I also need to find other stations to send E-mail via as I am using the California stations and as I go west I will be to close.
Roger gave us some tips on places to see. He said he stayed in behind the motel and Chevron station at Study Buttes and they went to Maverick Jct. for coffee in the mornings. The rode in the park most everyday the WX was OK. They did have a lot of wet WX that year, 92-93 when they stayed from the first part of November through the end of March before heading for Rapid City.
He said we should take 170 west of Study Buttes west along the Rio Grande with just the pickup.
JANUARY 29, 2002 TUESDAY
Today I need to get up a 40 meter dipole, check on other E-mail stations and find a spot to work Arliss and Holly on six meters. I could put the Bug Catcher on the back of the F-350. We talked to Mom today and she is doing OK and the money finally arrived from Principal so we called the bank and got the checking account debited to pay the loan off. We traveled to Santa Elena canyon and I hiked up the canyon as far as I could go. It is a very, very deep cut and the Rio Grande gets very narrow. We then took the gravel road to Maverick Jct. which was very wash board and some rocks! We then went to Study Butte and seen where Roger and Lois stayed. We then took Hwy 170 to the west to Lajetas and then west along the Rio Grande. There were lots of different rocks, canyons, and finally an agricultural area on the Mexico side. We then came back to Study Butte and called Mom and found the money had finally arrived as mentioned. We then went up to the basin turn off and found a place to work Arliss and Holly. We also found a place about 20 minutes from Cottonwood camp on a lookout toward Santa Elena. We then went to Castonol and then across the Rio Grande to Santa Elena and ate. The boat across is $2.00 each and free coming back. We ate at a place clear at the end of main street just before the school on the right side, toward the west. It was a nice place and she spoke a little English, anyway we got by! We then came back and talked to some Park Service volunteers who were going to Santa Elena to take some pictures and work on the writeup for the Big Bend Park Service.
We found the bag with the hex beam got another hole from vibration against sharp points so we moved it under the bed. Had a good schedule on 14.339 and going to put up the dipole for 40 meters. Arliss checked in and we moved the six meter sked to Thursday morning. The fellows all gave me a great signal report.
JANUARY 30th, 2002 WEDNESDAY
We got up about 7:45 am as it is really quiet here and down along the Rio Grande with the high mountains around it does not get light until about 7:30 am. I checked the 40 meter antenna and it looked good so looked at the maps, checked the E-mail and did some work on who I can connect to in the morning. Water is holding out good and black water tank is not filling very fast so we should be in good shape. This is important as the nearest dump is about 50 miles away at Study Butte. It has been warm when we go to bed but by the middle of the night you need some blankets but definitely don't need the furnace in the morning as it is in the low 50's and warms up very, very quickly. We have been in the 70's to low 80's everyday and very little wind. We headed for the basin but as we went north the smoke pollution was the worst we have seen it so we decided to head for Rio Grande City. We passed a RV and was being followed very closely be a park ranger who came out of nowhere. Anyway after I passed the RV he passed and stopped me and gave me a warning ticket for speeding. Apparently the speed limit in the park is 45 MPH which I could hardly believe. He must of believed me since I only got a warning. One REALLY HAS to watch it in the parks as we noticed this in Canada also the rangers all seem to have radar and the have a very low speed limit. Certainly glad we just got a warning!
We headed for Rio Grande City and went up to Boquilla Canyon and hiked up it and looked of at Boquilla , Mexico. We seen where there was a tram to haul The Rio Grande was pretty here. We then looked over the campgounds at Rio Grande Village. The hook up one was full but the one that has no hook ups but allows generators had room. They also had a dump. We then headed back and checked out the Old Ore road but it looked pretty rocky and pretty much dessert. There is a water hole and fossil site up north on it a ways which would be interesting. It is called Ernst Basin.
We then checked out Hot Springs and seen some painting on the cliffs and also hiked down along the Rio Grande to the Hot Springs which were some wood tubs right on the edge of the Rio Grande and the over-flow went into the river. It is a rocky, bumpy road down to the parking lot but well worth it.
We then got diesel at Panther Jct. and headed for the basin. It is quite a climb up into the Chisos Mt. As we climbed we started getting into trees so the higher elevation provides for lower temperatures and more rainfall. There is a nice campground but I would say there size recommendations for the road are about right. They do have a dump there. It is definitely the high point of the park and there are all kinds of hiking trails out of there and the "WINDOW" to the west is neat. If one were tenting and liked to hike or had a small camper this would be the top spot for hiking. One could spend a week here easily.
We then headed down and south to Castolon and did stop at the Burro Mesa Pour off which has an oil road down to the trail head. We got back to camp and found someone fortunately had rolled up our awning as the wind was really blowing. We were blessed and have to remember to never go to bed or leave camp without putting the awning up!!!! I adjusted the 40 meter antenna a little but the mast looked good. Worked with the computer, got E-mail and made the 6:00 pm schedule and will make the one with Curt on 40 metes. Hope to work on the fuel mileage book and get the watch set for the 6 meter sked in the morning.
JANUARY 31ST THURSDAY
I got up at 5 am to travel north to sol vista look out to work Arliss and Holly on six meters. Since they have 8 pm to 8 am quiet hours in the park I was concerned about the noise from the diesel but idled out with just the park lights on at there was lots of moon light. Nobody stirred and nobody said anything later so got by OK. Next time I should drive it down to the gate the night before but it is unhandy as we lose our battery bank if we do that. It took about 45 minutes to get there and get set up. It was about 44 degrees with a stiff north wind and I forgot my cap or hooded sweat shirt which would of been nice. At least I had a coat. Did not hear anything the first six minutes and then heard lots. Later Arliss told me he did not have the antenna aimed corrrectly at first. I heard lots of stuff, I believe every sequence I heard something and lots of loud, long bursts. I completed with W7XU, N0QJM and N0LAN. It was 1045 miles and really went well. I took my time getting back so I did not come in until after 8 am when quiet hours went off. Lounged around the camp today which was nice and met Jim who put up my awning for me and thanked him profusely! We met a number of winter Texans who spend the winter in the park. One couple was their fourth year here. The said as long as the lot is not full you can stay as long as you want and they do not enforce the 14 day limit. They told us you can stay free at the primative sites but you do have to get a free permit up to 24 hours ahead of time. You can stay one place for 14 days. They said after you get into one you can move to another making an advance reservation but you can not make the first one ahead. This stops you from getting one before you get here. They suggested some you can get a 5th wheel or motor home to. The had been to Labrador so gained insight on our trip there next summer.
I worked on ideas for the dipoles and decided a standoff would work good. Also getting the dipole on the correct side so you can pull the dipole away from the pole depending on where you can tie to. I also found you can use the coax to pull the antenna wire away from the pole. I also can make a holder to mount a pole on the front of the 5th and can attach the 40 meter dipole to it. It would be best if it was an insulated one. I will need to work on that at Curts. I talked to Chris twice and Ole once and have a sked for 10 am tomorrow. I also had a good time on .339 again with good signals. We finally seen some javalinas and got some pictures. Found a few more stations for E-mail and worked on the computer. Will look at grid squares map for Arliss & Holly and maybe look for some primative sites tomorrow. We also got the dishnetwork going today.
Talked to my mom on the telephone and looked at the ranger exhibits at Castolon.
FEBRUARY 1ST FRIDAY
It got down to about 42 degrees but warmed up quickly after the sun came up. We did our e-mail and had a 10 am sked with Ole and Chris. The javalena's were back and we got some great pictures. We had a nice visit with the fellow next to us. He could not figure out how we could run so much stuff for that many days. I showed him the battery box and he was impressed. He says he has been to Big Bend about 5 times over 20 years and he said it is hard to beat for nice weather in the winter. Edith and I discussed staying longer or heading out but since Arliss should be available the next two morning for grids they need we decided to head out for Marfa, TX and try and get on the grid line for Saturday morning. Edith did not think she would want to come back to Big Bend for more than 14 days so no need to check out the primative sites. We headed out and had very light traffic. We seen the place where they look for the Marfa Mystery lights off to the southwest and picked up some literature in Alpine where Lois and Roger got groceries when they stayed at Study Butte. We parked in an RV park south of town but could not find anyone around. We headed south and found a spot on the line to operate from in the morning. We headed back and settled in for the night. If someone from the RV place wants to collect they will have to come knocking. We will check again in the morning. The place pretty much looks out of business. Tomorrow we will go up to Fort Davis and check out the McDonald observatory and hopefully stay over-night in the state park and then on Sunday head on up to Carlsbad Caveran.
FEBRUARY 2nd, SATURDAY
We got up early and packed up and left Marfa. We got some pictures of the courthouse which is right in the middle of the street going north. We seen three large tomato, hydropondic plants between Marfa and Fort Davis! We were able to get into the Fort Davis State Park right away so we set up and we do have a water hook up so we took a long, hot shower and will take another one in the morning. We then headed up to McDonald Observatory and saw the sun and some sun spots and went on a tour. Tonight we will go to the "Star Party" which lasts about 1.5 hours. We then went to Fort Davis, got some grocery's and found a spot to operate 6 meters in the morning. Got water and checked out the dump site. We had good success with E-Mail. We had pizza for supper. We will head for Carlsbad in the morning, planning to camp at Pine Springs, TX
FEBRUARY 3RD, SUNDAY
We made the schedule with Arliss, Holly & Nolan in good shape, it only took about 15 minutes. We then headed back to the 5th and ate breakfast and started packing up. We filled our water jugs, filled our tank and dumped. We then headed toward Carlsbad, the road up to I-10 is windy and hilly but pulled it in good shape. I-10 was not very busy and we fueled up east of Van Horn and then turned north at Van Horn and arrived at Guadaloupe National Park and found the park host was a ham. The problem we discovered is snow is supposed to move in tonight and snow on Monday and Tuesday and be in the 20's so there is a concern about freezing our pipes and of course the roads are a real concern with the 5th wheel.
If we go north toward Carlsbad and park we will be at a lower elevation but we won't be in the grid Arliss and Holly need and sometime we need to come back over the pass to get on toward AZ. We decided to go toward El Paso and park just inside DM 71 and see if we can get the Super Bowl on Fox out of El Paso. We are parked and set up and are getting audio and a poor picture out of El Paso, TX on channel 14 FOX and are set up for the six meter schedule in the morning. We will just have to see what the weather does and decide if we want to go back to Carlsbad, try and catch it on the way home or do it another year. Temperature at Guadaloupe was about 33 degrees. Here, east of El Paso it is 44 degrees but I am sure will drop to into the 30's tonight.
FEBRUARY 4TH, MONDAY
We got up at 5:30 a.m. and set up for the schedule with Arliss and Holly over in DM71. After that we got ready to head for Carlsbad Caverans. It was foggy after we went east aways for about a 20 mile stretch and then cleared on the road but was still a low ceiling. We headed back up the road we came from Guadalupe yesterday. When we got to Guadalupe there was snow on the ground and up on top some snow on the road and about 3 inches on the ground but is was just above freezing and it was about 10 a.m so thinks looked good for the return trip. Going north of the park there was more snow so apparently the elevation was higher than south of the mountain. We were happy to get diesel at White City going into the park as we did not have enough to make it back and would of had to drive on up to Carlsbad. We arrived at the caveran about 11:30 am our time or 10:30 mountain time. We took the walk in cave entrance tour and got the tape machine that gives you a commentary as you walk along. We had our flashlights along to look in some of the holes, etc but of course it is adequately lighted and they have did a good job in having lighting to show off the different formations in the cave. It certainly is a huge place and the walk is easy and you have to take the elevator out. After we got out I got some screen savers and a book by Jim White one of the earlier ones exploring and giving tours. We viewed a tape on the bats as they are gone to Mexico in the winter. We had a good trip home as most of the snow had melted and it was not raining much. We got back about 4:30 pm and I hiked up on Hueco Tanks to check out the Pictograph site the ranger told us about. I found it and got some good pictures. I hiked to the headquarters as I had visited with a fellow from WI who had retired a couple of years ago and had been to Ak and goes south in Jan-March who told me there was going to be a guided tour tomorrow. The ranger said he had said the wrong day and in reality it was going to be Wednesday. I got back to the 5th and made the 6 pm schedule with great signals and got my E-mail and confirmation on the Wednesday schedule and Holly said they finally got all my E-mails.
We had a great supper and I did some research for the next few days. I found the 6 volt battery in series with the 12 volts apparently does not equalize which means from time to time I will have to charge it with a battery charger when I exercise the generator or possible can do it with the inverter. I also noted the voltage from the battery bank was low. In checking it appears there are accumulated loses in various connections as the battery bank checked good and the wire to the trailer checked with 12.78 volts. I also checked the wire on the alternator for charging the batteries and it was good. I need to work with the grounding to be sure it is good. The best plan may be to run a ground wire all the way to the battery box grounds. I should also look at improving the connection from the positive wire from the battery bank to the knife switch.