Troop 4014’s First Hike

I learned a new park today, thanks to the girls in Troop 4014. We had a lovely hike at Edgewood Park in Redwood City. I’d never been there, but I’ll be back.

Trail in Edgewood Park

The Scouts chose the route, did all of the map reading and direction finding, and got us back to the trailhead without any fuss. I carried a map, but only looked at it once.

Finding the route

We saw lots of wildflowers, a darkling beetle (one inch long), and three western fence lizards.

Edgewood park western fence lizard

Here is our track. It was 2.14 miles with an elevation gain of 435 feet. It was a nature hike with lots of stops, so we weren’t trying to eat up the miles.

Edgewood Park GPS track

See you on the trail!

Getting Started with Troop 4014

Starting a troop from scratch is a completely different experience from stepping into a functioning troop as Scoutmaster.

Founder strip

We’ve had our third meeting in four weeks. We are using the First Aid track of the BSA meeting plans for new troops. At the first meeting, I showed the girls the initial meeting plans from the Hiking and First Aid tracks and asked them to choose.

Right now, meeting planning is more Den Leader style but breaking in to pairs for them to teach each other from the handbook or other materials.

At the second meeting I brought some parachute cord for knot tying. We cut it into lengths, then I set up a camp stove to fuse the ends, with a cup of water to cool them off. They spent over a half hour melting rope and getting it just right. Big fun.

4014 is not chartered yet. We have a commitment from the charter org and we are linked with Troop 14. We had four 11 year old girls on Tuesday. We have a line on one more, plus two 5th graders who are interested. They’ll “age in” at the end of the school year, but I’ll probably invite them as guests. We have a guest female ASM/mom from another troop and two moms who we can probably sign up.

The Scout rank is a lot harder than the old Scout badge used to be. It used to be a one-meeting badge.

I’m astonished that whipping the ends of a rope is required. I’ll have to go buy some laid rope and whipping twine. Didn’t climbers start using kernmantle rope in the 1960s? Wow.

Scout Me In Neckerchief

My “Scout Me In” neckerchief arrived! I ordered one to show I’m supporting girls in Scouting and to have something to wear while we are getting Troop 4014 ready to charter.

Scout Me In necker

These were originally a restricted item, but now anyone can buy one. It isn’t in the online catalog, so you get it from the national Scout Shop by calling national supply and ordering on the phone (1-800-323-0736).

They quoted a 4-6 week lead time, but mine took about two weeks. It is a pretty fancy necker with a lot of sewing, so it isn’t cheap. With shipping, it was $40.86. I like it.

I’m an Amazon Influencer!

My most popular blog post has 7408 views in the 3+ years since I posted it. It mentions three things and I just saw those three things listed on Amazon under “Frequently bought together” when I visted the page for one of them.

Frequently bought together

These are not especially similar items and there are plenty of alternatives for each one. So these three together mean that Amazon is mining very, very deep into the long tail for similar items. 7408 page views might only mean 74 purchases. Or 15 purchases.

The original post is Better Yamaha CM500 Audio with PTT on Elecraft KX3. A clumsy title, yes, but it is descriptive. I wrote the post because I was tired of replying with the same information over and over again on mailing lists. Now, either on lists or Facebook, I link to the post.

What are the items?

  • A hand-held pushbutton, for turning on the transmitter (“push to talk” switch). This is the page I visited to see the “Frequently bought together” list.
  • A stereo to mono splitter cable. There are hundreds of these, all pretty much the same, but Amazon is showing the exact one I mentioned in my blog post.
  • The Yamaha CM500 headset, an affordable, popular headset for amateur radio use. There are lots of other choices cheaper and more expensive, so this is also a strong hint.

Mostly, there is no reason in the world to associate a hand-held pushbutton switch with these other two items. There are plenty of other hand switches, many of them pre-wired. There are many, many stereo to mono splitters.

Hint for savvy shoppers, the Hosa splitter was $6 when I wrote the article. It is $5 now.

Simple Base for Morse Code Key

I wanted to mount my Morse code key on a base so Scouts could use it at Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) this coming October. A $15 walnut “display base” from Amazon was just the right thing for that. Now we can set up a “Send your name in Morse code!” station.

Flameproof key 3

The key is a CTE-26003A “Navy Flameproof” that I bought when I was first licensed, back in the early 1970’s. I’ve never used it and it was never mounted on a base. It looks brand new. The “CTE” manufacturer code is for “Telephonics”, which matches the name on the key.

flameproof key manufacturer

A few hams offer nice bases for sale, but they were either too big or I was too cheap. This black crackle finish metal base is designed specifically for the Navy flameproof key and is reasonably priced at $30, but it is huge and weighs three pounds. Not quite was I was looking for. I also found some very nice exotic hardwood bases. Those were lovely, but I was looking for something more utilitarian.

I spotted the Plymor Solid Walnut Rectangular Wood Display Base with Ogee Edge on Amazon and chose the 6 x 4 inch size as the best match for the key. I picked up some #6 screws and fiber washers, plus some vinyl feet to keep it from scooting around on the desk.

flameproof key parts

The official Navy name for the key is “KEY SIGNALLING SEARCHLIGHT TOTALLY ENCLOSED TYPE 26003A” (spelling is original). Maybe some of the signaling searchlights were acetylene, so they needed a flameproof key. It is a very nice straight key considering that it was designed for very slow Morse code.

After I collected all the parts, I found a very similar wood straight key base project. That one uses lead shot to weight the wooden base, then felt on the bottom.

Plastic Pipe Roof Antenna Support

I noticed a clever antenna mount on another ham’s roof, so I built one myself. Putting my VHF/UHF antenna at the highest point of the roof has really improved my ability to copy some of the far-flung participants in our weekly ARES/RACES net.

plastic pipe antenna mount close-up

A cradle built from two-inch ABS DWV (drain, waste, and vent) pipe sits across the ridge of the roof. Legs two feet long go down on each side and a two-foot section is a vertical antenna mast.

My antenna is a Diamond X50NA, same as the X50A, but with a weatherproof Type N connector. I did additional weatherproofing with 3M Temflex 2155 rubber splicing tape and Scotch Super 33+ electrical tape.

I had spotted an antenna mounted like this and contacted the ham at that address. Rolf Klibo, N6NFI, replied with an article he’d written for the SPARK newsletter describing the mount. With that, I was off to the hardware store.

I used two-inch ABS DWV (drain, waste, and vent) pipe in two-foot sections. I cut up two of them to make the four pipe sections that go along the ridge of the roof.

The X50NA mounting hardware fits masts up to 2 3/8 inch, which is why I used two inch pipe. For coax strain relief, I used a conduit hanger that fit. Zip ties attach a loop of coax to the hanger so the full weight of the feed line isn’t pulling on the connector. That can rip the coax right out of the connector, or harder to diagnose, pull just one of the shield or center connector loose.

Antenna mount 3 Antenna mount 4

For a commercial version, I’d look at the Rohn NPPK, a steel frame that fits over the roof peak. It is designed to have a rubber mat underneath and four 18 pound concrete blocks holding it down. I’m sure it is far more secure than my DIY plastic pipe mount.

Allergy-Friendly Trail Recipes

The cooking merit badge requires a Scout create menus “keeping in mind any special needs (such as food allergies)”, but doesn’t provide a source for allergy-friendly recipes. It does give a URL for FARE, but that doesn’t have an organized recipe section.

The next version of the merit badge pamphlet should reference Hiking Free: Allergy Friendly Recipes For The Outdoors because that is the only book I know of on the subject.

Hiking Free Kindle Cover

I’m not the right person to review it, because I don’t regularly have to deal with food allergies, but she created these recipes for her son’s food allergies. I’ll trust that. I do have several of Sarah Kirkconnell’s other books and recommend them highly.

The author describes it as:

110+ Recipes That Are Top 8 Allergen Free: No Gluten, Peanut, Tree Nuts, Soy, Seafood/Shellfish, Dairy & Egg. Recipes for backpacking, the great outdoors, camping, car trips, dorm living and travel, for anywhere you need easy to prep meals that are safe to eat.

You can buy it here, $12.99 for paperback, $7.99 for Kindle.

Also, the 2016 edition of the merit badge pamphlet keeps the dangerous trail cooking recipe that uses ground turkey breast. It just isn’t possible to safely store and transport that on the trail (see requirement 1c). I blogged that problem back in 2014 in the Cooking Merit Badge: Trail Cooking Fail post.

Update: Sarah has posted two of the recipes on her blog along with a longer story about how she came to create all the recipes.

Rig on a Board Update 1

The “rig on a board” is working well. I’m a little worried about it scratching the central console, so the next version should have a cloth surface there. I’ll probably use a thinner board with some carpet or corduroy covering it.

Rig on a board 1

A wider board, maybe 10-12 inches, would leave plenty of room for the mic.

The wood for the prototype is 11/16 x 7 (measured), about 20 inches long, cut close to the middle. I used a regular door hinge. It has a little bit of play, but not too bad. A piano (continuous) hinge might be a better choice, especially if I use a wider board.

While I’m mounting things, an external speaker would help. I’ve plugged in one that I use with my Lowe HF-150 shortwave receiver and that improved the audio.

Hmm, 1/2 (or 5/8) x 12 (or 10) x 20 seems like a job for some scrap plywood. Just need to find some scrap carpet.

The Best Hot Pad

I use what the professionals use, Tucker Burnguard hot pads. They are made of Nomex, with a vapor barrier, so they won’t melt and are less likely to cause steam burns when wet. They aren’t as flexible as other hot pads, so my wife doesn’t use them. But give them a try. If you like them, you are done with choosing hot pads for life.

Tucker burnguard 1

They aren’t exactly decorative and the label might burn, but the hot pad will protect you. And…it is about time to toss these in the laundry.

Oh, yeah, this is the Tucker Burnguard site. Here is a link to buy them at Chef’s Resource: Tucker 8″ Square Hot Pad with BurnGuard (Nomex)
. I’ve bought several things from Chef’s Resource, so I’m comfortable recommending them.

Rig on a Board Prototype

This is a first cut at a removable mount for my VHF/UHF rig. Until now, the radio has been sitting on the passenger seat, but that is far from ideal. So I put together something simple that holds the rig steady and puts the display and controls at a better angle.

One end of the hinged board goes between the seat and the center console. The other end holds the radio. The power cable is dressed with a velcro tie behind the radio.

Rig on a board 4

I grabbed a scrap board (I think it is pre-painted house siding), sawed it into two chunks, installed a hinge in the middle, and mounted the radio bracket on one side. I screwed down a velcro cable wrap to keep the excess power cable from flopping around.

Rig on a board 2

So far, I like it a lot. I need to figure out a bracket to hang the hand mic, though.

Rig on a board 3

I’ll probably modify this a bit more before rebuilding it with a nicer piece of wood. I was thinking of securing it to the seat back with a strap, but it seems pretty secure as it is.

Using a Mobile Antenna as a Temporary Base Antenna

For our July Fourth Safety Watch this year, I used my dual-band mobile antenna on a ground plane mount on a camera tripod. I’d purchased a Nagoya GPK-01 NMO Ground Plane Kit ($28) to test my NMO mobile antenna, because my mag mount seemed flaky.

As I was drifting off to sleep one night, I thought that the 1/4-20 screw on my camera tripod might fit the holes on the ground plane kit. It did, so now I have a robust, free-standing, dual-band antenna for em-comm use.

IMG 4753

The antenna is a Comet SBB-5NMO with 3 dB of gain on 2 m. Not a flamethrower, but a solid antenna when used with a good ground plane.

The radials unscrew from the mount, so the ground plane kit packs up small.

IMG 4750

Our station was up on a hill, so we had great line of sight to the whole valley. We ran a mobile rig (Yaesu FT-8900R) at 50 W from a battery, so we had a great signal. We could also hear the other stations clearly, so our station was net control.

IMG 4748

The only thing I’ll change next time is to use 1/4-20 wingnuts instead of regular nuts. I might paint them orange, too. I was sure that I would drop a nut in the grass and never find it.

And yes, that is a classic Gitzo Reporter aluminum tripod. If needed, I could extend the center column to get the radials above eye level.

Voile Ski Straps

Better than bungee cords! I purchased a few of these, thinking they might work for strapping my fiberglass radio mast to posts and stuff. They are great. Stretchy, adjustable, and super easy to fasten and unfasten. After I tighten a strap, just releasing the tension almost always catches a hole on the buckle to secure it. Lovely design.

Here is one of the two I used to strap my mast to a railing on top of Mt. Umunhum for a SOTA activation. My shortest straps are red and 15 inches long.

Voile 1

Earlier, I used a longer blue one (20 inches) and two of the red ones, linked, to strap the same mast to a walkway post for ARRL Field Day.

Voile 2

A red strap held the balun to the top of the mast to take stress off the connectors.

Voile 3

I started with this variety pack of three sizes ($16.50 at Amazon), then stuck with the same color scheme for ordering more.

I’ll be taking these on every field radio outing. That means I’ll have swap them back and forth between my emcomm go bag and my SOTA gear. I think I can manage that.

Bargain Ultralight: Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT

Want to try a single-wall ultralight tent without spending a lot? How about the Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT, a two-person shelter that weighs less than two pounds for $100?

Mountain shelter lt 5

I used to recommend the Black Diamond Betamid for this, but BD stopped making it. Now Mountainsmith is making a very similar shelter. It sets up with two trekking poles, like a small circus tent. It is lighter than the Betamid, probably because Mountainsmith used silnylon instead of the urethane-coated ripstop in the BD shelter.

The Section Hiker review of the Mountain Shelter LT does a really good job of describing the tent. I’m seriously tempted to buy one, even though I have more than enough shelters.

The list price is $129 and it is available for a bit under $100. Links are from the Section Hiker blog.

This tent doesn’t have a floor, so you’ll need a groundsheet. My favorite thrifty and ultralight groundsheet is plastic window film. It costs five to ten dollars and weighs an ounce or two, depending on the size. For this tent, two one-person sheets might be good. Two popular products are Duck Brand and Frost King. I’ve never worn out one of these sheets, though I’ve been in danger of having them blow away. They are really, really light.

The Section Hiker blog has a nice article on ground sheets, including window film and Tyvek.

I wrote about my son’s experience with the Betamid at Philmont. He’s still fond of that tent. I hope a whole bunch of Scouts become fond of this one.

Whip Antenna Support for KX3

A Nite Ize Gear Tie seems to do a decent job of supporting the MFJ-1820T 20 m whip antenna on my Elecraft KX3. I first tried forming it into a bipod, but then got the idea of attaching it to the SideKX endplates. Success!

KX3 gear tie 1

I’m using a Nite Ize Gear Tie 12 inch because I had one. The fatter one didn’t really fit through the handles.

The whole setup is pretty cheap. $25 for the antenna and $6 for two gear ties. It isn’t as efficient as a 20 m dipole, but it is kind of cute.