Monday, July 29, 2013

Hiking At Spangler Park

   The recent heat wave and rain has got the insect population thriving but this weekend conditions were mild and cool.  Generally in the heat of summer I avoid the deep woods with the annoying constant attack of mosquitoes and biting deer flies but when the weather cools it's always a treat to get out and enjoy the forest.  Taking advantage of this opportunity for adventure we strapped on our hiking boots and headed out.

Spangler Park is a 320 acre city park located about five miles west of Wooster, Ohio in the hills of Wayne County.  A walking trail network winds around steep ravines draining into a creek called Rathburn Run.  Crumbling Ohio shale is visible many places from the trail.

I always love hiking in a new place I've never been before.  The fun is wondering what sight lies just around the next bend or over the next rise.  As is the case with many parks and natural areas we have visited Spangler Park was teeming with animal and plant life and even some interesting fungus.  We had several encounters with whitetail deer and their little fawns at home in the forest.

At one point my son's sharp eye caught sight of some debris caught amid a rocky cut winding down a nearby hillside.  Countless years of runoff had eroded away the soil creating steep sided ravine filled with rocks and small boulders.  As we carefully climbed up the drainage we found all sorts of broken glass, pottery and a few rusty pieces of metal wedged among the rocks. 

In the previous century in rural America it was common practice for a homestead to create a dumping area in an out of the way corner of the property to dispose of no longer needed items.  In times past most people were much more thrifty than they are today and commonly saved and reused all sorts of household goods.  But even in lean times human activity still creates refuse and this is what we discovered; someones old trash pile. 
Antique blue glass from an old Mason jar and pottery shards.

Vintage Pepsi Bottle from the 1940's or 50's

In flatter areas these refuse piles can remain undisturbed in a quiet corner of a woodlot and all kinds of interesting things can be found.  Unfortunately the steep hillside and churning action of the rocks had broken up most of the bottles we saw but we did find a few unbroken examples of old brown glass Clorox bleach bottles, clear perfume bottles, small ornate white glass makeup containers  and porcelain Mason jar lid inserts. 

Some non-glass items we found included an early electric clothes iron and old boot heels and shoe leather.  Just everyday items cast off as junk by a family long ago.  An interesting little window back in time.  My son is big into television shows like American Pickers and Pawnstars so he is interested in antiques and old fashioned things.  He had a great time digging through this old stuff. 

The only piece I carried away was this little porcelain and glazed insulator.  It was part of a gang of three attached to a rusty iron bracket.  One of the three was missing and the second had some chips in the glazing so I left it behind keeping only the best one to put on display in my outdoor insulator collection.

A glade of Hemlocks growing on a cool shady hillside.
As we neared the end of our hike we came upon a roped off area.  Investigating further we found this abandoned well. It was covered with a metal wire grate to prevent someone falling In.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cycling Update

The month long spell of rainy days finally gave way a couple weeks ago and allowed me to spend some quality time with my bicycles.  Some would contest that the brutal heat wave that followed quick after the rains was reason enough to stay hidden inside in air conditioned comfort.  Not me I like the heat and while the first ride in ninety degree high humidity conditions left me feeling a bit sluggish I quickly acclimated.  Also those that ride bikes know that even in the hottest weather as long as you keep moving and create a breeze it's not that bad.

Urban Cruise
Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Distance:  10.55 miles
Ride Time:  53:14
Average Speed:  11.8 mph

A few weeks ago my Canon PowerShot finally broke down after one too many crashes to the ground.  In the interim before I got a new camera I was making due with my cell phone camera.  The pictures are grainy but better than no pictures I guess.  Look for the quality of the photography to be back to its normal quality soon.

  I took the opening shot of my recumbent just outside of town.  I live in a small community that is only three miles across so my idea of an "urban ride" may be completely different from bikers living in areas of larger population density.  For me pretty much any ride over five miles is going to involve some country scenery.

Northwest end of the Clear Fork Reservoir. Richland County, Ohio

On July 14th I rode the Clear Fork Loop on my Motobecane road bike for the first time this summer.  The CFL is one of my favorite local rides and I've written about it many times and took some great pictures along the way through the years. I decided to assign a label link to bring all my posts about this loop together.  The label is at the bottom of this post.

Clear Fork Loop
Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion
Distance:  30.0 miles
Ride Time:  1:49:59
Average Speed:  16.3 mph

Last week I took off one night after work for a ride on the road bike and did an extended version of a route I call the Candlewood Lake Loop.  This 34 mile loop covers roads in various states of disrepair in 3 different counties.  It had been a while since I rode the extended section which passes along a road long since closed to through traffic.  An old iron bridge spanning a small creek was deemed unsafe at some point before I ever discovered it.  Because of the lack of residences along the rural road the county just closed it rather than spend the money to maintain the little travelled passage.  In previous years the roadway was clear and I could simply lift my bike over the barricades and go on my way.

This time I found downed trees making the way almost impassible.  The temperature was about 96 degrees F and very humid.  As soon as I stopped to snap a picture the sweat instantly began to flow and was stinging my eyes.  To make matters worse hordes of mosquitoes were soon closing on my position from the woods along each side of the abandoned road.

In a hurry I threaded myself and my bike through the tangle of branches and trunks and got back underway as quickly as possible.

Here is a shot of Candlewood Lake from the west end.  Built in the early 1970's Candlewood Lake is a 1500-acre gated community north of Mt. Gilead, Ohio.  A-250 acre stream fed lake is the centerpiece providing scenic views and recreation for the property owners.

Candlewood Lake Loop
Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion
Distance:  34.5 miles
Ride Time:  2:08:23
Average Speed:  16.0 mph

During the weekend I got together with the RoadQueen and we did some riding.  Friday we went for a short out and back spin to visit a nearby one-room schoolhouse.  For this ride I used my recumbent bike.  When I'm getting in lots of riding one of the things I like about the bent is how the riding position is different from my upright bikes.  I like to alternate between the two styles of bikes and the slightly different muscle groups utilized for each bike varies the workout and makes me a better cyclist overall. Besides sometimes it's just nice to get away from the wedgie seat.

Friday Ride
Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Distance:  20.0 miles
Ride Time:  1:26:40
Average Speed:  13.8 mph

After the back to back rides Thursday and Friday I had 54 miles in and was feeling a little fatigued so we took a rest day on Saturday and just relaxed around the house.  The RoadQueen just started pedaling bikes earlier in the spring and she is developing well.  She said she has been itching to break over the 14 mph average on her Giant hybrid.  We decided to ride on the B & O rail trail and I figured that would be an ideal place to see if we could nudge her overall speed up a bit.  Not only did she cover the entire trail end to end and back but she posted her highest average speed well above 14 mph. Way to go RoadQueen!

B & O Trail Complete
Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion
Distance:  36.8 miles
Ride Time:  2:23:07
Average Speed:  15.4 mph

Last night I used the map on my smart phone to discover a new loop that took me to the northwest into the countryside of Crawford County.  This route travels some smooth and picturesque rural roads with a few rolling hills along the northern leg where the road parallels the Sandusky River.  I found some unique stuff along the way on a couple roads I have not ridden before.  Another old one-room schoolhouse and an Ohio historical site marker makes a great excuse to do the ride again and this time with my camera.  I forgot my memory card at work so unfortunately I didn't have a camera and I'm done messing with the cell phone camera.

Parcher Road-Stetzer Road Loop
Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Distance:  26.55 miles
Ride Time:  1:50:38
Average Speed:  14.4 mph

Quite a bit of riding lately and I've been feeling great because of it.  The recumbent is comfortable and functioning flawlessly as always and I'm digging the Rubino Pro slicks on the roadbike for sure.  Those new tires have really made me excited to get out and hammer away on the Motobecane.

The incessant rain fall earlier in the season has my overall mileage for the year down but I'm quickly making up for it.  Last night's ride was really nice and I look forward to heading out on that route again soon.  At 26 miles it's the perfect distance for an after work ride.

Monday, July 15, 2013

News From A.R.S. W8MDE

There is always something interesting going on at Recumbent Conspiracy Headquarters and this weekend it was the Straight Key Century Club Week End Sprint.  I took a few hours out of my busy weekend schedule and got on the air for some casual contesting.  Dividing my time up between three different sessions I made a few contacts starting on Saturday night; followed by a few more with my coffee Sunday morning, and later in the evening as the sprint wore down to the finishing time.

For July the theme of the sprint was "A Revolutionary Sprintathon"  Earlier this month America celebrated her Independence and to apply this to the sprint in an interesting way a bonus of 25 extra points could be won by establishing contact with stations in each of the original 13 colonies plus Britain and France.  I never made a connection across the pond but I ended up with 27 contacts in 19 different states eight of which were in one of the original thirteen.

July 2013 SKCC Week End Sprint Log

7.054 MHz    WK2S    New Jersey*
7.115 MHz    AK4JA    Georgia*
7.121 MHz    N1DN    Connecticut*
7.117 MHz    K5DP    Oklahoma
7.117 MHz    N5JPX    Mississippi
7.117 MHz    KB1NHV    Vermont
7.112 MHz    AC2C    Maryland*
7.057 MHz    K3RHJ    North Carolina*
7.109 MHz    WA3RF/qrp    Maryland
7.113 MHz    KI0I    Missouri
7.052 MHz    K8NS    Florida
7.056 MHz    WA1HFF    Massachusetts*
7.057 MHz    K0CW    Missouri
7.050 MHz    K2OGT    New York*
7.053 MHz    KJ4LEN    Florida 
7.055 MHz    W7GVE    Arizona
7.054 MHz    KB3KJS    Maryland
7.051 MHz    K8WSN    Michigan
7.054 MHz    K0SKC    Missouri
7.054 MHz    K4ZGB    Alabama
7.057 MHz    WU1V    Massachusetts
7.115 MHz    N8KZH    West Virginia
7.050 MHz    WB0PYF    Missouri
7.052 MHz    W9CC    Indiana
7.054 MHz    K2DEP    Maryland
7.058 MHz    KW3F    Pennsylvania* 
7.048 MHz    W9DLN    Wisconsin 

*Original thirteen colonies.  Only one bonus of 25 points can be taken per colony.  Multiple contacts with other stations in the same colony do not count as additional bonuses.  Too bad to as I hit three different stations in Maryland.


As often happens my mind experiences Morse Code overload and I need a break but I'm still in the mood to make contacts with my ham radio.  During the sprint I did check for signals on 20 meters (14 MHz) and the band seemed uncharacteristically dead for some reason. On my way back down to 7 MHz I stopped and had a listen on the digital/CW only band 30 meters.  The amateur service is considered a secondary user on this interesting little sliver of radio spectrum between the frequencies of 10.000 and 10.150 MHz.  What this means is we can use the band for amateur activities as long as we do not interfere with the bands primary users which are probably made up of governmental, military or scientific services.

30 meters is a cool place to operate which shares propagation attributes of both the 40 meter and 20 meter bands which lie both above and below.  Because of our status as secondary users 30 meters is off limits for contesting so the band is a nice place to go for quiet low power experimentation and ragchews away from the traditional ham bands which can be a flurry of activity on busy contest weekends.

I could hear some radio teletype signals and see that their traces were quite strong on my band scope so I knew propagation was in good shape.  I set my transceiver to 10.140 MHz which is considered a PSK-31 "calling frequency" and sent out some CQs to see if anyone could hear me.  After sending out ten or fifteen calls I was just about to give up when a strong signal appeared in answer and I settled in for a nice conversation with an operator named Don in Peoria, Illinois.  

PSK-31 is a great mode for casual ragchewing and it's a real bonus if you know your way around a keyboard.   The digital software in my laptop keys the transceiver into transmit and converts keystrokes of data into audible tones which are then sent out through space by my radio.  It really is amazing and what modern amateur radio is all about.  If you can type at all you can easily stay ahead of the buffer and watch your characters stream out in real time just as you can watch the incoming text appear on your monitor from the other operator. Instant messaging via high frequency radio waves.

On the screen of my laptop among other information provided by the digital program is what is called the "Receive Window"  In this area the incoming signals decoded by the software are displayed as text so the operator can see whats going on.  Outgoing text is also displayed in this window and unlike voice or CW (Morse Code) modes the software basically records both sides of the conversation.  This is an interesting and handy feature as it allows an operator to scroll back through a contact to find information or keep the conversation on track.  

People always ask what us hams talk about on our radios so here is a fine example.  I simply copied and pasted the whole QSO from the receive window and stuck it here on the blog.  I left it just as it was so a few little decode errors appear like typos in the text but over all the exchanges are pretty clear.



Good Morning and thanks for the call.  Name here is Mike Mike. QTH is Galion, Ohio  Galion, Ohio.  about midway between Columbus and Cleveland.  How copy?BTU KB9UMT DE W8MDE K

W8MDE de KB9UMT all 100% Mike  TU for ur information  ur report 579 579 579 
name hr is Don Don   QTH is Peoria IL  Peoria IL  loc EN50dp
nice to meet you this morning on 30m  btu Mike W8MDE de KB9UMT btt  i u   N 

FB Don and nice to meet you.  Your sigs are 599 599 Nice bright trace.  I was playing in the SKCC week end sprint but got a bit bored so I thought I'd try this band. I knew it was open because I heard some RTTY signals. Weather here is beautiful I just came in from the patio and it feels like it is going to get hot today.  Bright clear skies.

Rig is Icom 718 running about 30 watts to 66 foot horizontal wire end fed. I am using a auto-tuner.  Age is 42 years and been a ham since 2008.

RRR all 100%   yes reading your QRZ Bio and also your blog  hey, nice shots hi  vy nice station  I like the ic718 gud little rig and small enough to be on the go too   ur wire working FB    I like your hK ®ebrew 40m vert top load  very  nice   rig here ic756pro2, mixw, 20w, ant is homebrew 2 ele yagi    age 51  btu Mike W8MDE de KB9UMT Y      a

FB All copy solid here Don.  OK if you saw my blog you saw this years set up at Field Day. That is why I built that 40 meter short vertical for field day so I would not be dependent on trees. It works pretty well for its size. I have done side by side comparisons with the 40 meter wire and the signal is just down a bit.  It was a fun project and I learned a bunch from it.
Your station is working well also.  I just saw in the new QST magazine plans  for a full size 30 meter 2 element Yagi that looks great. My lot is pretty small so I'm not too sure how that would work out but it sure looks like that would be a fun one to build.

ne   RRR all 100%   yes ur project for FD a good one  looks good but if it works good even better hi   of course vert to horz wire very different depending on who you want to work hi  vy nice    yes I noticed that and actually this 2 ele is a basterized tri bander that was beat up at a Hamfest for $20 so I have about $60 in this antenna   my lot 100 by 80  so tight for me  really too big but had to try it    works well but with the ice and wind might go back to the rotatable dipole after 5 yrs up it really has been fun but wx getting worse it seems   also noticed ur a 30 meter digital group 30MDG member so nice to meet another member btu Mike W8MDE de KB9UMT baweovTt

R R  Sig looks good. I like 30 meters it is a very stable band with little qsb.  Your sig is very steady.  My 30MDG # is 5229  I used to have fldigi loaded on my old shack computer and enjoyed playing around with some of the other modes but got a new laptop recently and just running Digipan now. I like the larger waterfall at the bottom on Digipan. Mainly I just use it as a bandscope and to help zerobeat other stations on CW.

As you can see I got a full plate. I have a bunch of hobbies and interests.  My son is 12 years old so we have been doing a lot of shooting. He started with .22 rimfire and been doing that for a few years. This last trip out was his first time shooting centerfire rifle and he loved it!  We shoot pistol and rifle and air guns also target archery.  there is just somthing fun about shooting things Hi Hi!
ok will let the rig cool for a minute.  What are you into Don besides radio?

RRR all 100%   vy nice  fx on ur son and shared hobbies  always nice to be busy   keep the kids busy in things you want them in or they will be busy in things you don't want them in hi   between work and kids/family   radio and watching or helping the kids in sports keeps me busy   that and my interests are promoting 30m band here  great band  tu for ur 30MDG #  FB   my 30MDG#0001   so always like working other members  btu Mike and we do have some o9B so hope still cpy W8MDE de KB9UMT bkr
e( enm
Still good copy Don.  Wow you have a low number!  Hi.  Yes he stays busy. He has gotten involved with Boy Scouts this year and he reeally likes the structure and uniform stuff so I'm happy about that.  Ok I'll say 73 and thanks for a great ragchew on 30 meters Don. I hope to run into you again soon.

RRR all solid print   my pleasure   I like to ragchew more than short macro contacts which I can get on other bands but here on 30m always fun to actually 'meet' someone    we will look forward to the next time and see you in other modes so have FLDIGI ready hi   love to experiment   keep your son going on what you hv  grt job thus far   have fun TU agn  73 Mike W8MDE de KB9UMT skord o   zo

Great! FB Don take care and enjoy the rest of the beautiful weekend. CUL
TU Mike bye bye 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Shooting Bench -- Ruger Mini-14

My son has been wanting to shoot the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle in .223 caliber for a while and he has been asking lately with increasing frequency.  After lunch today I quietly gathered up our shooting gear and told him to get his shoes on and get in the car.  I thought I would surprise him with a trip to the range and besides its been many years since I've put any lead down the barrel of this handy little carbine.    I've been a Ruger fan ever since my dad took me shooting when I was young lad so it was natural that I would end up with the Mini-14 when it came time for me to own a center fire carbine.  In the gun world the AR-15 platform is all the rage and has been for a while now.  While it is a very good system the AR rifles just don't don't appeal to my eye and sense of style.  As a history buff and a gun guy I can appreciate the design of the Mini-14 directly taken from the military M1 Garand rotating bolt gas operated action.  Like the later M14 military rifle the Mini-14 feeds from a magazine loaded from the bottom instead of the top loaded stripper clip system of the earlier M1.  In fact that is how the little carbine got its name; It is really a scaled down M14.

After a quick stop at the local gun shop for some ammo we headed to the sportsman's club and set up on the  40 meter range.  This trip was Wyatt's first time shooting a full power center fire weapon and he was loving it.  The bang from the Ruger is quite loud but the recoil from the .223 cartridge is very manageable and he shot well.

As well as trying out some new ammunition this was also an opportunity to test out a couple 10 round magazines that I picked up a while back.  The Mini-14 comes with a 5 round mag that fits flush with the bottom of the stock and is ideal for hunting situations but when out punching paper I like to shoot 10 shot strings.  In all we shot about 70 rounds and feed and function was flawless with two brands of ammo.  I had some older Remmington soft point 55 grain loads that Wyatt burned up first.  The new stuff pictured above was American Eagle brand 50 grain with a poly tip designed for varmint hunting.

The Mini-14 is not a tack driver; It wasn't designed to be, but instead a handy and lightweight carbine and I am happy with its performance as such.  It's a fun little shooter and very satisfying to stand to the side and watch the open bolt work back and forth as it cycled the rounds.  40 meters steps out to about 133 feet and sighting with a ghost ring and front blade iron sights I'm pleased to keep ten rounds inside the 8-ring.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Road Bike Ride

In between the near daily thunderstorms we've been getting here in the Ohio valley I managed to get out for a ride this past Saturday.  I really wanted to ride and figured I'd get wet if I had too but I got lucky and had some sunshine and partly cloudy skies. Otherwise ideal conditions for a ride.  I loaded up the Motobecane Le Champion and headed over the B & O rail trail parking at the Millsboro Rd. parking lot about 2 miles from the northern end of the trail.

I'm not the first bike blogger to refer to my love of the bicycle and riding as an essential component to physical and emotional well being. If I go too long without riding I get cranky.  I was looking forward to getting out and spinning a bit and I'm happy to report I'm still riding high from this weekend's therapy session.

While I'm not a racer I am a fan of bike racing and of course the month of July means Tour De France.  Like any good cycling Fred I get caught up in the world's greatest bike racing spectacle and I can't help but be inspired and and go test my mettle on my own go-fast bike.  I wasn't really planning on doing a big throw down ride but as usually happens once I got into the ride I noticed I was feeling great and fast.  After about 16 miles I arrived at the end of the trail and noticed I was running about 18.5 miles per hour average.  

Because I've ridden this trail many times over the past fifteen years I know not to get my hopes up about  keeping such a high average speed for the return leg back to the north.   The second half the ride from Butler, Ohio back towards Mansfield travels up the Clear Fork Valley ever so slightly up hill.  Because the B & O Trail is actually an old railroad bed it was graded very smooth with the least elevation change as possible.  Just standing on the trail the gradient is imperceptible to the eye but when you're on a bike pedaling north you can tell it's there.  A "false flat" as it is known in cycling parlance.  My average speed usually drops a couple miles and hour on the return trip and I know from experience my overall average ends up in the high 16's or 17 mph.

Surprising myself I seemed to have an abundance of power and kept the cranks turning.  At the 30 mile point my elapsed ride time was 1:37:43.  I haven't seen it that low in a long time.  I knew I was scooting along pretty well but seeing that time for the 30 mile split provided renewed determination to dig down and blast out the last couple miles.  

On the second half of my ride I only lost two tenths of a mph of average speed. Go me!

I saw this very cool looking fat bike in the parking lot.  You don't see these too often in my neck of the woods.  I sure would like to take a spin on one of these sometime.  They look like a lot of fun.

B & O Trail
Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion
Distance:  32.6 miles
Ride Time:  1:46:33
Average Speed:  18.3 mph