Saturday, July 25, 2015

Recumbent Update

The summer got off to rainy start for sure here in Ohio.  Fortunately my area escaped the violent storms that hit other areas of the country but we have received plenty of rain.  Creeks and rivers have been swollen and while farmer's crops have been growing great they will lose a little bit of their yield due to standing water in the low spots.

 Other than my regular commuting on the upright Ti GP bike I've been riding almost exclusively on my HP Velotechnik recumbent bike.  A couple weeks ago I hit a notable milestone and logged 4000 miles on the clock.  It's safe to say the bike is broke in now.  I've not had any problems in all those miles and I love this bike more now I think than when I first got it.

If Jesus were around today I think he'd like bicycles.  Recumbents especially; they would go fine with his beard and sandals.  I bet he'd ride on water too.

Here's a shot from a week ago while I was riding the flatlands of Marion County. Note the water in the field.

Last Monday I wanted to stretch my legs a bit and do a longer ride.  I mapped out a route that utilized the B&O trail that I've ridden countless times but to add something new I added a 13 mile loop off the southern end of the trail.  

 Sometimes I ride east from the trail's end at Butler, Ohio a short distance to Mohican State Park and enjoy a big helping of hill country.  But I wasn't feeling like covering the same ground I've been over before.  Luckily it's hilly in every direction from Butler so I struck out east and then headed south on a country way called Bunker Hill Road that travels through southern Richland County .

I love exploring new places and it's always interesting the things one finds along the way.  Soon I came upon a miniature horse ranch and found this guy munching some fresh green grass.  He couldn't see me because he was wearing his mask to keep the flies out of his eyes but he heard me pull up.

Spread around the picturesque hills are little homesteads.  Some of them are modern and some have been around a while.  Below it's easy to spot the Amish farms because they have no electrical lines running to the property.

On that ride I finally accomplished something that I've always struggled with.  The first 25 miles of the ride was smooth sailing on the bike trail.  On the relatively flat surface of a rail trail it's always tough to hold back and not get rolling too fast.  I occasionally glanced down at my cycle computer and backed off the effort every time I drifted up over 14 mph.  I haven't used a heart rate monitor in years but I'm sure my system was running a pretty low BPM.

That all changed when I hit the hills.  Contrary to the rumors recumbents can climb hills just fine.  They don't climb fast but they'll climb.  The first few miles didn't feel so good but after a while I got into my groove and started even to enjoy the climbs.  And of course climbing big hills has a sweet payoff; that's descending down the other side.  On the decent into Butler on the last hill I hit a top speed of 45 mph.

Back on the bike path I noticed I had plenty of gas left in the tank and held 16 mph for the last 12 miles.  This was another benefit of the conservative effort expended during the first part of the ride.    


 This morning with coffee I was watching the second to the last stage of the tour.  I wasn't planning to ride today but needless to say watching the riders racing the stage that determines the winner of the tour in the Alps struggle along a route culminating with a climb up the Alpe d'Huez I had to go ride my bike.

Periodically I like to do a time trial style ride where I put it all out and go as hard as I can for time. Kind of a test to gauge my fitness over the long haul.  Usually I ride my road bike when doing and all out effort but I've not even got on my road bike this year so I said hell with it and loaded up the recumbent.  

I headed to the B&O trail which even on a Saturday isn't terribly crowded and provides the greatest distances between automobile crossings.  I decided the distance would be 30 miles and started from the northern end of the trail.  This time instead of holding back on the southern slightly downhill leg of the trip I easily managed 20 mph cruising speed and even with the crossings and slowing down for safety around other trail users I managed 18.3 mph average speed for the first 15 miles.

Of course I knew the going wouldn't be so easy going the other way but I persevered and contemplated on the spectacle I had just witnessed on the tour and figured my ride would be a simple warm up or the equivalent of a ride to the store for those guys.  But the inspiration payed off and I logged the best time I've ever ridden on the recumbent even bettering many of the times I set on the road bike.

 30 Mile Time Trial
Ride Time:  1:43:43
Distance:  30 miles
Avg Speed:  17.3 mph


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Aerial Views from the Heart of Ohio Trail

On the fourth of July My son and I went south to Centerburg, Ohio to ride the Heart of Ohio Trail.  The Last time I rode the HOOT I found out about this observation tower being built around an old smokestack.  I wanted to make a point to return for the opening event so I planned our ride putting the park at the midpoint of the journey.

The observation platform makes an excellent vantage point from which to look down on the newly constructed Ariel - Foundation Park located in Mount Vernon, Ohio and the surrounding Knox County. 

Being flatlanders it is always a big deal to have something tall to climb.  Up, up and around we went. Climbing the steel steps was a thrill.  Naturally when climbing steps one has to look down or eventually stumble.  Because the steps were nothing more than steel grates it was easy to see directly below perfectly negating the old saying "Don't look down!" 

If it were up to me these spiral stairs would wind their way to the very top of the smokestack but once we reached the top we found the views and vertigo satisfying enough.

The park grounds look a little shabby but the weather has not been the greatest for growing new grass.  I'm sure it be much greener in a year or two.  Ariel - Foundation Park lies on an old industrial complex that was home to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Works #11 which operated from 1907 to 1976.  The factory produced a host of glass products from bottles to architectural plate to automotive glass in later years. 

Rather than bulldoze the area flat removing all trace of the industry that once flourished here the park planners wisely incorporated materials and structures from the glass works into the park to serve as sort of a memorial.  I think it was a great idea and naturally I appreciate the designs being a fan of history.

Long term readers of this blog will know I have a soft spot for the blue shiny stuff.  I saw this pile from a mile away. 

 We found this graphic in the visitor center that shows what the plant looked like in the 1950- 60's and which structures remain today shaded in blue.

This building was converted into a pavilion style amphitheater for hosting different events.

My son and I had fun strolling around the new park on it's opening day but to me it's also bittersweet.  I'd almost rather see a factory at work putting out a product; fueling the economy and providing jobs for local people.  But parks are nice too and this one is a great example of good land stewardship not only providing public green space for a community to enjoy but at the same time providing a historical perspective of the importance of industry to our country.

On our way back we stopped at a pretty place along Dry Creek where a waterfall of sorts splashed over the edge of the bedrock of the creek bed.  While not a cataract of Niagra proportions the sound of rushing water was peaceful and oh so cool on hot feet just liberated from cycling shoes.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 ARRL Field Day

Basic 20 meter inverted Vee dipole at 25 feet.

This past weekend I took part in my amateur radio club's Field Day activities as usual.  This year the big factor was the weather.  I had planned on just using a pop up shelter to better enjoy the outdoors but after watching the weather forecast for a week before hand I decided to err on the side of caution and go ahead and break out the extreme weather tent.  

I am so glad I did too. It was pleasant and dry Friday night when we set up but soon after we arrived back at the site Saturday it started raining and it never did let up.  Along with gusty winds we ended up with 3.5" of precipitation before all was said and done.  Dealing with the weather is what Field Day is all about.  While it did add quite a challenge my old gear and some new pieces came through with flying colors

In the above picture at the far left is a small shelter I constructed to keep the elements off my new 1000 watt inverter generator. 

Inverter generators are a relatively recent technology that work great for powering sensitive electronic gear like amateur radios.  The generator works by first producing AC power output like a traditional generator but next converts the current to DC then back to AC.  This "inversion" creates a clean output with a true sine wave at the required voltage and frequency.  

The engine is a four stroke so no premix fuel is required and a feature I really like that this little gen-set has is called Auto-Idle.  Unlike a traditional generator that always runs at full throttle this unit idles down and then increases engine speed based on the load applied.  This does two things. First it saves fuel and second with a light load such as my ham station the generator barely came off idle.  With a 100 ft extension cord between the generator and the operating position the generator could not be heard.

We used maybe a gallon and half of gas for the 18 hours of time we spent on the air.

A couple months ago when the club's sign up sheet came around I signed up for the 20 meter (14.000MHz) band and CW (Continuous Wave Morse Code) of course.  In the past years I had to tear down my permanent station and transport it to the Field Day site.  I have several ancillary devices like computer interface, antenna tuner and electronic keyer connected to the rig in my home station and it was always a bit of a pain to disconnect all this stuff.  

I've been active in the amateur radio hobby now for seven years. I figure it's something that's here to stay so I decided to add another new piece of gear to the station.  Something to make the logistics of portable operations easier.  I took a trip down to Columbus Ohio to visit Universal Radio where I source most of my radio gear and picked up a Yaesu FT857D  amateur transceiver.  The 857 is a full power HF, VHF and UHF multimode radio that has most of the features found in a full sized rig but comes in a very small package aimed at mobile use.

The pink cell phone and glassed belong to my lovely assistant the RoadQueen, who handled the logging chores on a spreadsheet program she created herself with a dupe checker even so we wouldn't waste time and effort working a station we had already contacted.  In contesting these are called "Duplicates" and are to be avoided because duplicate contacts to same station cannot be counted for points.

 The only other thing I added to the Yaesu was a Collins 300Hz mechanical filter to help navigate the busy and crowded Field Day band conditions.  Most amateur transceivers come without filters which can then be added as needed depending on the type of activity the operator persues.  

In the upper right hand corner of the circuit board are two slots where filters can be installed.  One space for CW and the other for SSB (Single Side Band) voice mode.  The Yaesu is set up with simple push pin sockets so I didn't even have to warm up my soldering iron.

What the filter does is drastically narrow the receiver's passband.  When the band is crowded with lots of stations operating side by side close in frequency to one another the operator can engage the filter and as a result of the narrower passband only hear one or two station instead of several.  A radio's receiver without a filter in line normally samples a segment of spectrum that can contain four or five or more CW stations all transmitting at once. Each station is transmitting on a slightly different frequency which makes the tone of the signals a little different in pitch but it still ends up being a wild cacophony of senseless noise.  

In preparation for Field Day I limited all my operating to using CW only and the 857 to not only learn the new rig but to hone my CW skills for the event.  It all paid off and I set a new personal best logging 159 contacts with stations in 34 different states, three Canadian provinces, the island of Puerto Rico and Argentina way down south.

Unfortunately the weekend wasn't without incident as wind driven rain did invade some club member's tents and curtail operations while soaked ground loosened the guy wire stakes of the 6 meter antenna causing it to come crashing back to Earth sometime during the night.  But I can happily report no loss of life or limb and we all managed to have a good time and eat lots of great food as is one of our clubs main objectives.

Did I mention it was wet?