Mad scientist

I usually reread my previous posts, just before I begin to type each night.  Basically, to make sure I start up from the same place I left off.

It was a long post yesterday and I was tired toward the end, and I wan’t forgetting anything.  Yet, at the same time, not every detail can make it into a story – how could it?  Actually, a few times in the last week while driving I’ve had the thought cross my mind, to pick up a dictaphone or something so I could just speak my posts on the fly, rather than having to wait until I get back to my keyboard.

Oh, and I quickly discarded that idea, and I’ll tell you why.  You would think I’m crazy or something by the way I talk to myself.  Today, I thought I was crazy for a second.  In my car, installing the digipeater (version thirty two or something) and had a tangle of wires I was trying to sort through for the connection I was looking for.

Using both hands, pulling here, unlooping there, my left hand grabbed a wire my right hand was looking for, and I said to myself (just speaking in my mind) “No, that one is yours.” Then I handed myself the connection that my other hand was looking for. Anyway..

Last night, I hadn’t even thought to mention a father and daughter that had gone by my site on their bicycles from the right to the left.  To my left is the furthest side of my site, the direction I have my end-fed antenna pointed.  About sixty feet away on my site, to the left, is my forty foot telescoping mast which holds up the end of the antennas seventy three foot wire.  That wire connects to a transformer balun about ten feet away on my left, then through some coax, connects to my radio on the table to my left.

Most people about ninety percent, come by from left to right.  At first they’ll see the tall mast, then they’ll see my solar panels, last they’ll see me under my lean-to awning talking on my radio or on my laptop.  Usually by then I’ve spotted them and waved.  Most people, well some people really slow down and gander, from here to there, trying to figure out what’s going on.

The daughter, maybe seven or eight was in the lead on her bike, a good lead ahead of dad (I presumed,) jogging behind her.  He had looked over, and I made a comment out loud to him, that she was really setting the pace.  He nodded and half waved and maybe chuckled a bit, yet kept on trying to catch up.  The girl stopped at the far left end of my site atop the hill turning in the road to look back at her dad, checking distance, then looking up at he mast, then back at everything else.

Dad finally caught up and though to far to hear, she looked up at him inquisitively and I heard his response, “I think he’s a mad scientist”, with a smile to her, then they went on their way.

Okay, so I guess that actually finishes yesterday, though really, there is a lot that goes on each day that I don’t post.

This morning I woke up looking forward to not working on the digipeater.  I woke up with now usual routine, then went over to my radios and saw that I had a problem.  Everything was off- my portable fridge included.  Out of juice.

Going for my iPhone app to see the condition of the system, I saw that yesterdays cloudy day, had ruined my plan for power.  The first few days that I got here, I spent measuring the usage of the fridge, that is really the primary reason I “need” some amount of electricity.  Yes, my laptops too, though I could go charge them somewhere and return to use them for a few days.  The fridge needs four amps (at twelve volts) per hour, all day and all night long- almost twelve hundred watts each day.

I knew there was a short coming in the system after the measurements, hence I ordered and have already installed a third panel.  When I first arrived, my two deep cell lithium batteries were fully charged to fourteen point four.  A week later, charged by only two panels each day, they were hovering around twelve point three just before dawn, about thirty percent remaining, give or take.  Essentially, I was losing about ten percent of my capacity each day with the given inputs and outputs.

With the third panel, the first day was great, and it went up to forty percent.  Then yesterday was very cloudy and had almost no production at all and it went down to under ten percent.  That is where I have a cutoff setup for everything except the fridge.  It will run until it’s own internal shutoff of ten point five percent (deadly low for a normal battery, yet Lithium Ion batteries can be used to flat zero, and still take a full charge.) An hour after I woke up, it shut off too.

Ugh.  Great digipeater on the laptop, yet power hungry too, I don’t think that helped.  The forecast called for clouds, so I started to think what I would do to charge the batteries.  No generator, yet I do have the car.  Thinking to myself first, I could move the inverter to the car, then run the extension cords to the manual one hundred and ten volt lithium battery chargers.

It sounded like a lot of work and it was already almost nine, and today is Sunday, supposing to be the day of rest.  Yet, I couldn’t just leave the situation either.  Okay, time for breakfast and thought.  In the car to McDonalds. On the way, I jumped on the radio and got a come back from a local ham, KI5GKP.  Weather came up when I mentioned I was waiting to see the clouds break.  Not much chance of that, we’re going to be locked in tight today, he said.

Well, that was what I needed to know.  No sunshine meant I had to do the car/inverter project and really there would be no way to do that and mass, what to do.  I don’t go to mass regularly anymore, with my injuries, I haven’t even been required most of the year. Yet, I had a donation to make today, that I have been carrying all week. So after eating in the next door dirt parking lot, I drove back down Front Street, took the right and left, and stopped right next to Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

It was nine thirty, with the next mass at ten.  I went in hoping to see the local priest to thank him for my time here and ask if he knew any good parishes in New Mexico.  The church appeared empty as I went in, dipping into the holy water, then proceeding into the nave.  Down to the alter and – with my cane, I haven’t touched it since last Sunday, yet it seemed appropriate again – I was able to genuflect and rise again otherwise unassisted.

Hearing something to my right, I looked again and saw two women behind an organ.  Going over I asked for the Father, yet he was not there.  Actually their local priest, Father Peter, has been out of town, in India, visiting family.  The priest (and his homily) that I enjoyed last week, was a visiting priest, and today’s priest was still finishing a mass a town or two over- they were hoping he’d get there in time.

I mentioned I was a traveller and had a question for him, yet in his absence I asked them.  Any good parishes in New Mexico?

The younger of the two, the singer – and by younger of the two, still a few decades ahead of me, gave an odd smile, saw my straight face hoping for an answer, paused, then said “Not a parish, though my brother in law in a baptist minister over there.”

We talked some more and I apologized to them that I would be missing mass and asked if father was gone, if the donation baskets were still present – another odd look.  “Ah, yes, maybe over there.. if you had a donation, I could take if for you”, she offered. I thanked her and handed her the bill.  “Would you like a receipt?”  No thanks, not necessary.  I told her in fact, “If you need it more than the church, please keep it.”

We chatted a bit more when she next interjected, “We were about to practice the responsorial psalm, if you’d like to join us?” What a polite way to keep on her schedule, it was nine forty now.  I thanked her and sat in the pew to sing the psalm and alleluia before I left, genuflecting again on the way out.

Back to camp I started with the inverter, taking it to the car, staring at it well, deciding what wires to use to connect it.  Maybe the jumper cables will work?  Not really.  Okay, let’s sit and think.  Over to my chair.  Maybe five or ten minutes went by and the sun began to peak out, checking the app, the batteries were starting to take a decent change- at least half as much as my efforts would have delivered.  Lets see what happens I said, as I pulled out my laptop.

Over the next hour, the clouds broke, the sun came out, and my batteries were charging fully.  I was happy.  I kind of felt like I shorted mass, yet I did not feel that I shorted my Lord at all.  I was happy.  Eleven am, the morning out of the way, I could relax until my night mile.  Well, I really do want to start a morning mile, I’ve been saying that for a few days.

Just about then, that same little girl from last night came riding by on her bike alone, left to right (the usual direction) all the way around my site.  Playful kids.  Back to the laptop, a few minutes later: a second lap.  This time looking tired, zig zagging across the pavement.  I hollered, “You must really like excersise!”, she smiled and yelled “I do!” exuberantly, and sped up her pace.

I really wish I had that energy.  I have been walking, around my site, to the stores shopping, and my mile each night.. yet, the last few days, I keep thinking about that morning mile I’m not doing.  Exercise is supposed to be fun, not a painful chore.

Third lap, here she came jogging, apparently tired of the bike yet still with more energy.  And laughing along her way, stopping to look into the woods, picking a flower, then running on.  I wish I could enjoy walking, it hurts though.  I do stop and stretch and take breaks, like the scenic lookout.. though I’m not really having fun.

Fourth lap, jogging slowly as if exhausted yet counting each step, “ninety nine, one hundred, one hundred and one”.  Kids can make a game out of anything I thought, that’s what the difference is. I thought of my neighbors to the right- about the only people in the park I haven’t talked to.  Tried once with the gentleman, yet he did not seem interested.  They walk together, the woman has a cane and wears a back brace.  I’m sure we could share stories, yet not everyone is interested in that.

It would be nice to have someone to walk with, at my pace, yet I don’t even know my pace yet.  Walking and talking makes the walking go by faster with your mind off from it I think, at least for me.

Fifth lap- the little girl was more walking than jogging now, as she had brought her friends: a handful of dolls to converse with.

Do I have anymore excuses?  I didn’t think I had any, only reasons I wasn’t walking my morning mile, yet a child – in joy and in prevention of boredom can just run circles all day.  Enough.  Enough.  I won’t die, at least not on the first mile.

I stood up, checked my things, grabbed my radio and went to walk.  If she can do five laps, I can do five laps.  And I’m not going to wait until she does six.  She was well past my driveway by time I made it to my car and as soon as I passed it and kept heading to the road, my neighbor on the right ran out of her trailer up the road to meet the little girl.  I don’t know who knows who, though I thought it odd, and kept walking in the same direction.

There is a hill that goes up that way, and when they were at the top, the woman looked back at me with a disgusted look on her face.  All of a sudden I was pretty sure what was in her mind.  I kept walking, by time I made it to the top of the hill, I couldn’t see anyone, turning right I kept going around the block.  Five laps.  This much walking is different on the asphalt than the trail.  Bigger hills, yet all smoother.  The trail works my ankles as each step is at a different angle it seems.

As I came back around to my place finishing the fourth, I saw the neighbors get in their vehicle and leave.  One more lap.  At the half way point of my block where I would turn again to return and be finished, I saw the father up ahead a site or two, and thought I should introduce myself.  I walked up with a “Hello, I’m the mad scientist.” with a smile reaching out my hand.  He stood sternly and said “Okay..”

“I wanted to introduce myself and thank you, or rather your daughter for inspiring me to actually get up and walk this morning.” I gave the quickest synopsis of my journey to date, “I came here as part of my recovery to do my PT outside the land of snow.” I continued with my lack of motivation, and the inspiration from the five laps.

Then I just stopped and waited for his response.  He paused, thought, waited a second.  Then he was pretty open with what the woman had just told him, her neighbor was trying to follow the girl and she didn’t like it.  In fact, she was pretty petrified he said, then explaining that she also had daughters.  I was really glad he was open, so much easier to agree with him.  I told him I was pretty sure of that already, and pretty much the reason I thought I should introduce myself.

He got much less stern, and introduced himself as Chris, then we shook hands.  He said he was sorry, didn’t mean any offense, yet in today’s world.. and I kind of cut him off there, no offense and no apology necessary.  I hoped you thanked her- that is an example of what we should all be doing.  He looked at me confused.  I went on, she saw something she didn’t like and she didn’t stand down, she interjected herself into the situation, I added I hope nothing frighted his daughter.

He said she was fine, had come back with her new friend, who then just to him gave the explanation, that’s great I said, so kind.

He apologized again and said, really no offense you just look..

That’s okay I said, I understand, I’m just learning how to walk again, so I can imagine what I look like to others. (A drunken sailer, not a real drunken sailor, just the common misperception.) Then I just wished him a good day and started to turn to go.

“Well.. what did happen?” he asked and as he kind of looked me up and down.

I smiled and turned back to face him and began my story again.  Chris and his family (wife and a younger son) are also living a campground life this winter, though for different reasons.  We chatted some more and I told him about New Mexico with the free water only camp sites and he seemed pretty interested.  We talked more, I mentioned the radio’s he had already seen and invited him to come down anytime.  I hope to see him before I go – or maybe in New Mexico.  We would have talked longer, yet I told him, after my then four and half laps, I really needed to go sit.

That was tense for the first minute or two, yet I’m really glad I had that conversation and so was he, he told me.

After that, it has been a nice restful day.  The camp digipeater done, I made a second one for when I go mobile- in between camps. As that one will have solid internet, I could make few different design choices.  I kept trying to make one that would do everything I needed it to, yet now I have two.  Then shopping, now with the fridge cold again (and cleaned it out.)  My list is getting simple.  Package of steaks, packages of salad, milk and cereal.  This is literally the healthiest I’ve eaten in years.

Back at camp, I really played with the idea of not taking the night mile.. I really didn’t know if I could handle it.  Then I just had to ask, what was gonna happen?  Fall in a heap and not finish?  Sleep in the woods?  Come on just do it.  So I did.

And set a PR taking five minutes off my time, now twenty eight minutes and fourteen seconds for one mile.

Evening came with some radio time and a call from one of the local hams I’ve met on the air, AD5MX, Falco.  He and his wife have been out of town the last few days, and he was hoping I hadn’t gone yet when he called.  I came back quickly for the QSO and amongst other chatter, he told me of a great local pizza place, and suggested we might have a meal before I go.

I great idea I told him, my schedule open, just let me know.

Time to rest.