Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Recumbent Ride - Heart of Ohio Trail

Last week a reader named Dave from Columbus mentioned that he had recently been riding on the Heart of Ohio Trail that runs from Centerburg, northeast to Mt. Vernon.  I know a trail that runs into Mt. Vernon but it's on the other side and it has a different name.  I've been riding the Kokosing Gap Trail for a few years and it is one of my favorites.  

Kokosing Gap Trail 2 1/2 miles east of Mt. Vernon
 I had no idea there was another rail trail in the Mt. Vernon area.  Thanks Dave!  As much as I love the Kokosing it's only 13 miles long end to end. I always start at Mt. Vernon and ride to the far end then back for a total of 26 miles.  While always a relaxing and scenic ride at 26 miles it's just a little more than a warm up when riding my recumbent bike so often I'm hesitant to make the hour long trip by car to get to the trail head.  

It seems that with every passing year I am growing less and less fond of sharing the roads with ever increasing car traffic and their inattentive drivers.  So in order to find solace and safety on the rail trail I'm willing to accept a bit of four-wheeled purgatory to get there.  Now with the discovery of a second trail radiating out from Mt. Vernon the thought of combining the two resulting in a 50 mile day makes the drive much more worth it. 

Yesterday I decided to give it go and motored to the small town of Danville that is the eastern terminus of the Kokosing Gap Trail.  From there I'd ride west to Mt. Vernon covering trail I'd been up and down many times for a warm up before going into adventure mode once I located the beginning of the HOOT trail.

I used the map on my smart phone to help navigate a couple miles of suburban streets across the southern end of Mt. Vernon and shortly I found the trail.  The map showed the trail starting right where I was but new looking trail pavement headed east back towards the center of Mt. Vernon so I decided I would explore that way on the return trip. 

As it shows in the opening picture I only had to pedal about a hundred feet and I was back in the shady peacefulness of the trees starting my first journey on the Heart of Ohio Trail.  I love exploring new trails where I've never been.  It's fun to see what's along the way.  After a mile or two the trees opened up and I saw this 1/4 mile drag strip. 

The HOOT trail follows a portion of the Cleveland, Mt. Vernon & Columbus Railroad and a few examples of its old iron is all that is left besides the grade itself. 

These bridges cross Dry Creek several times Although it didn't look particularly dry when I passed over.

This one had an active hornet's nest attached so I didn't hang around too long.

Before I got on down the trail I did notice this plant growing on the railing with its interesting spiny seedpods.  Not sure what it is.

The HOOT trail shot straight as an arrow for long stretches sharing the valley with State Route 36 and passed picturesque small farms and woodlands.

Another clue that a railroad once existed; glass telegraph insulators.  There was quite a few rotting poles along the trail but the pins were all bare except for this one which I'm sure is the one Dave mentioned in his comment.

 Eventually I pulled into Centerburg and the end of the paved trail.  Centerburg has its name because it actually is the geographic center of the state.  

On longer rides I carry a small snack to refuel at the half way point.  Some salty pretzels and a little can of Coke hit the spot.  One of the greatest things about cycling is how good food seems to taste both during and afterwords. I relaxed and finished my snack under the shade of a tree in a park before saddling up for the return trip.

When I was still a few miles out from Mt. Vernon while checking for traffic at a cross road I noticed this old brick building mostly obscured by trees.  I hadn't noticed it on the way out so I turned around and pedaled up to investigate.


As I got closer I could see the structure was most definitely abandoned and in a sad state of disrepair.

I could tell it was an institution of some kind as I did a walk around of the grounds. Later I learned the place was known as the Knox County Poorhouse. First a residence for the county's less fortunate and later served as an infirmary and even a bible college before being abandoned for good.

Here is the best information I could find with a quick search:

In the 1912 "Past and Present of Knox County Ohio" Volume 1 on Page 80, the section on The Knox County Infirmary in part reads:  "from an early date (Knox County) had charity and compassion on its unfortunate poor. In 1842, the county commissioners bought 132 acres in southwest corner of Liberty township as its first poor farm. In 1874, it became necessary to provide better quarters for the poor of the county due to an increase in the number of poor. After several difficulties, the new building was completed in 1877. The institution is located on section 2, Liberty township, on a beautiful elevation of ground on the south side of Dry Creek, near Bangs Station along the line of the Cleveland, Mt. Vernon & Columbus railway. The original building is 75 by 127 feet, with an open court in the rear 34 by 55 feet. It is four stories high with a tower rising 65 feet above the roof. Over one million bricks were used in the construction. It has three water tanks on the upper floor holding 40 barrels of water each. The building was heated by steam throughout. There were 100 good rooms, accommodating easily 125 inmates. The tax-payers of Knox county have ever cared for her soldiers and other unfortunate citizens." 

Structural damage and decay is happening to several sections of the building.

At the rear of the house is this huge chimney which must have vented an incinerator or the steam boiler.  On the northwest corner of the structure I found a marble plaque with the date of construction and the county officials behind the project.

I'm glad I happened upon the place and was able to have a look around and take a few pictures. Like so much of Ohio's earlier architecture I think this place's existence is drawing to a close.

I rolled back towards Mt. Vernon and passed the point where I started on the HOOT and kept riding east.  This section of the trail was very new having been just recently paved.  I passed by an old industrial area where a large factory complex once stood. All that was left was a couple smaller building frames and this huge smokestack.

The trail eventually came to an end where it intersected an active train track running perpendicular to the old line.  Across the tracks I spotted the Mt. Vernon Station.  The trail section in my photo ends at State Route 13 just before the old iron bridge in the background.  Eventually the trail will continue on and link up with the Kokosing Gap Trail. 

Cyclists and other trail users in Knox County have a real prize in their midst with these two trails.

Kokosing Gap Trail - Heart of Ohio Trail
Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Ride Time:  4:04:54
Distance:  55.69 Miles
Average Speed:  13.6 mph

Thursday, September 4, 2014

News from Amateur Radio Station W8MDE

As usual radio-activity ebbs to its lowest over the summer months here at W8MDE.  Other interests like bike riding and maintenance on my yard keeps me outside while the weather is nice.  I've not totally disregarded my station though and have a couple upgrades to discuss.

With autumn comes the shorter days and colder temperatures and that's when I like to start concentrating on radio operations.
Since I set up my station at my current location I've utilized an old TV tower on the side of my house as a support for my main antenna.  I've hung various end fed half-wave wire antennas in this position using a tree in the back corner of the property to support the other end with great effect.  I like the end fed wire antenna because it works well on my small lot and unlike a standard half-wave dipole which is fed in the center I don't have a feed line drooping down into the middle of the backyard.

Not long into my ham radio career I joined the SKCC or Straight Key Century Club. Through this outstanding club I ran into a  couple Morse Code radio-telegraphy enthusiasts who happen to run a machine shop called LnR Precision located in Randleman, North Carolina.  Back in 2010 LnR purchased the Par End Fedz line of wire antennas from Par Electronics and has been manufacturing them since.

"LNR will be far better equipped to manufacture and expand the EndFedz line of antennas" and "will have much larger manufacturing capabilities and thus amateurs will benefit from much faster order filling. I wish to thank the many thousands of amateurs who have bought EndFedz and whom I think of as friends." - Dale W4OP

A couple weeks ago I installed a brand new antenna from LnR called the EF-Quad.  This is a unique wire antenna that can operate on four bands; 10, 15, 20 and 40 meters with a 200 watt power limit.  My average power usage is about 50 watts or less for most of my operating so there's no danger of burning out the matchbox of the antenna where the coax feedline attaches.

Early in the spring I cut down the two Maple trees in the back of my yard because they had grown too big for the property.  Because severe storms seem to be becoming the norm I decided not to push my luck with the potential damage risk the big trees posed and had them removed.  I wasn't sure how I was going to like loosing my backyard shade but I've adjusted and found the benefits far outweigh the negative.  I now enjoy a full view of the beautiful night sky and this fall I won't be spending hours raking up leaves. My neighbor was even happy with my decision because he noticed he was no longer constantly cleaning out small twigs, leaves and other detritus from his swimming pool.

The one problem I did have to overcome was loosing my antenna support.  In the meantime I simply pounded in an 8' metal T-post and tied off the antenna support cord to it.  This changed the orientation of the wire antenna into what we call a sloper in ham radio but showed little or no change to the performance of the antenna I had up at the time.

For a more permanent solution the RoadQueen helped me sink a 16' treated four by four in the corner of the lot to attached the support cord and raise the far end of the antenna up into the air a little bit higher than the T-post.    

The matchbox up on the tower is at a height of about 38' and the end insulator is now at 17' above ground.  Ham radio antennas work best when they're up as high as possible and in the clear.

At the top of the post I screwed in a stainless steel eye bolt along with stainless carabiner and pulley to make it quick and easy to lower the antenna for tuning or other maintenance.  At about the four foot level I screwed in a cleat to make fast the support line.

The antenna was cut nearly perfect and was working fine right away.  I made some contacts on 15, 20  and 40 meters but have not yet found an opportunity with 10 meters open to try that band.

Local stateside stations within about 1,000 miles boom in loud and clear due to the relatively low height of the wire.  Working DX is not out of the question either and I had some good fun contacting a few foreign stations using the EF-Quad.

                    40m    PA3BUD    Rotterdam, Netherlands
                    40m    OE3DMA    Altenburg, Austria 
                    40m    VA3PAW    Toronto, Canada
                    15m    F1USC    Chennevieres Sur Marne, France
                    15m    CE4SFG    San Fernando, Chile
                    15m    YL3BF    Liepaja, Latvia
                    20m    R3GMT    Lipetsk, Russia
                    20m    UY2LA    Kharkov, Ukraine
                    20m    DG1LHM  Berkenthin, Germany


Another recent addition to the station is this fine NT9K Pro-Pump Standard long lever Morse Code key also made by LnR Precision.


Here's a short blurb I wrote about the key for my bio page:

"This key is the latest addition to my key collection and is my first choice if I wish to send with a hand key.  The Pro-Pump was built by LnR Precision of North Carolina, USA.  Its design was inspired by and closely resembles the legendary Amplidan Professional Marine Key sadly no longer in production.

I enjoy straight key sending. I have tried many different keys and in my opinion the long lever design is superior when it comes to hand keys. Sure I've only been pounding the brass for a short six years and was never formally trained as a radio officer but I appreciate quality tools and fine craftsmanship. I know it when I see it.  The precise and solid feel of the Pro-Pump allows me to send the cleanest code of all my keys. I use "arm off the table" European style of sending which I believe yields the most crisp and accurate code. Prior to acquiring this key I used the SKCC version  of the NT9K Pro-Pump.  That key was virtually the same but with highly polished brass and a decorative painted base. I prefer the more business like appearance of the Pro-Pump Standard model. A very handsome addition to my shack."

Last week I put the key on the air and had a blast participating in the 2-hour Straight Key Sprint held once a month by the SKCC.  These short weeknight sprints are great fun and the speeds are a comfortable 15 to 20 words per minute just right for hand key brass pounding.

                    20m    K7CHS    Arizona
                    20m    K7UM    Washington State
                    20m    W1LIC    Florida
                    20m    N0TA    Colorado
                    20m    W7GVE    Arizona
                    40m    K2HT    Missouri
                    40m    KA3OCS    Virginia
                    40m    N8KR    Ohio
                    40m    WN4AT    Alabama
                    40m    KK0I    Wisconsin
                    40m    K8TEZ    Ohio
                    20m    WB7EUX    Oregon
                    20m    N0CVW    Kansas
                    20m    AE5S    Nebraska

So now with the function tests accomplished I'm all set for the cold, dark days of winter where I can sit cozy and warm by the glow of my rig and enjoy the fine fraternity of my amateur radio brothers around the world.