Saturday, July 19, 2014

One-Room School House -- Cardington Township

Earlier in the summer I was out on the Triumph Scrambler on a ride to photograph a Mail Pouch Tobacco Barn.  As I usually like to do for the return trip I took a roundabout excursion into the countryside and stumbled upon another old school house for my collection.

This wood sided school house located in Cardington Township, Morrow County sits along a quiet country lane in slow decay.

Originally the structure may have been constructed with a slate roof but later a standing seam metal roof  was added.  While durable and long lasting standing seam won't last forever and it looks like high winds at some point tore off some of the material.  An obvious lack of paint on the outside also means this old schoolhouse's days are numbered.

I've mentioned before I'm saddened to see these examples of a simpler time withering away but the serendipity of coming across another one before it's too late always brings a smile.

See more early Ohio school houses by clicking the label below.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 4th MTB Ride -- Mohican SP

I spent the afternoon of the 4th in the woods on my all terrain bike.   Getting out on the trails has been a long time coming for me.  It's been rainy so I have been avoiding the trails until they dry out.  I hate to see trail damage and ruts from riding too soon.  Fortunately the ground is sandy and rocky in the Mohican State Park so aside from a few soft pockets the trail was firm and dry.

Of all the types of cycling I like to partake in mountain biking is one I really enjoy.  I've long since given up on going fast and instead I like to keep a slow to moderate pace and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world as it slides by.  Following the natural undulations of the terrain and being totally immersed in the organic surroundings is a totally different experience one can have on two wheels compared to other forms of cycling.  Trail conditions and surfaces can change quickly and technical challenges and obstacles keep things from getting mundane. 

 The unique thing from a fitness standpoint is that even if one rides conservatively or even pokes along the exertion paid out from the constant climbing and descending can be taxing if not brutal.  I rode about 17 miles of the single track loop and it was by far a much greater effort than the 50 mile road loop I did the other day.

Back in the early 1990's when I raced mtb I used bar ends on my handlebars.  For some reason bar ends seemed to have fallen from favor and I even rode my bikes a few years without them.  I may be letting my retrogrouch show but this year I put a set of old bar ends on my Motobecane and found they make a huge difference. 

These stubby bar ends are the last ones I bought years ago.  Made by Profile Designs they are only 3" long overall and stick out about 2 1/4" from the leading edge of the handlebar.  Last week I dug them out of my spare parts and stuck them on for a quick test ride around neighborhood.  Without them I never really felt totally secure with my grip on the bars.  When my hands are on the regular rubber grips I like how the bar ends contain the outside of my hands.  They make my grip on the bike feel more confident especially on rough fast descents.

On long rides bar ends offer a different hold position which is welcome when spending hours on an upright bike.  Canted forward as I have them the position approximates the feel of riding on the brake hoods of my road bike.

The original intended purpose of bar ends I think is to aid in climbing.  Moving my grip to the far ends of the bar opens up my upper body increasing leverage and just makes me feel more powerful when rocking the bike up the steeps.  I've also noticed that having a hold on the bike slightly forward of the leading edge of the bar seems to remove some of the twitchyness of the front end while navigating slow technical terrain.

People have asked me "Aren't you worried about hooking small trees with those?"  I suppose that there could be a small risk but in over two decades I've only caught a bar end on a tree once and that was a slow speed encounter so I wasn't launched over the bars.  With experience a rider just knows how wide he or she is and makes allowances for it.  Like walking through a doorway we position ourselves so we aren't banging a shoulder as we pass through.

Something I noticed while riding on tight twisty trails with trees close in is that occasionally I'll make contact with trees on the very end of my bar.  Just glancing blows not enough to cause a loss of control.  Without bar ends if my hand is hanging off the end of the grip just a little bit the pinch between the tree and bar can hurt.  On my ride yesterday the bar ends protected my hands a couple times as I bounced along between the trees.  The bar ends will stay on my bike. 

Eastern single track: Roots and rocks O'plenty!  After many years of riding hard tail mountain bikes I love my full suspension bike.  Sometimes I miss the quick agile handling and climbing prowess of my single speed hard tail but so far not enough to want to actually get it out and ride it on the trails.

As usual I spotted lots of wildlife.  Here's a Whitetail fawn that still has it's spots. 

Wood bridge decking is covered with a continuous length of chicken wire to provide grip.  In a moist forest environment it doesn't take long for bare wood surfaces to get very slippery.  The chicken wire works great to help keep the rubber side down.

Happy Trails!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

ARRL Field Day 2014

W8MDE homebrew 10 meter rotatable dipole

Some notes from Field Day 2014

10 meters (The band I chose to operate this year) was in the dumps -Nearly a complete lack of propagation of 28 MHz signals.  That's the nature of the beast with the fluctuating solar radio flux we have been experiencing as of late.  I only made one contact all day Saturday and that was a potato farmer out in Oklahoma who was inside playing with radios while he waited for rain to stop so he could return to his harvesting.  

Our luck changed by Sunday morning when the band suddenly opened and we made half a dozen CW (Morse Code) contacts with stations in Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida.

When I first tested my 10 meter rotatable dipole on the air I made contact with New Zealand over 8000 miles from my location in Ohio.  Because that was only three weeks ago I figured I would be flooded with CQ FD callers during the event on 10 meters but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be.

I spent some time tuning around the other bands and listened to my club mates making contacts on voice SSB or copied the digital back and forths on the laptop.  With our seven stations and antennas confined to a 1000 ft. diameter area they were easy to spot.  QSO counts were down for all the club members so I guess diminished propagation conditions affected all the bands to some degree.

Over all the weekend was a blast. Good food, friends and even the chance to explain and put on display our radio operating for a few of the local public that ventured out on Saturday.

Building an antenna specifically for the event is something that I have come to enjoy almost as much as Field Day itself.  Using my own workshop and materials easily sourced locally I find it very rewarding to craft the all important component of a radio circuit; the device that transforms a current in wire into a radiated electromagnetic wave.

I'm considering 80 meters for next year.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Recumbent Ride -- Willard Marsh Loop

Yesterday I spent a few quality hours on my recumbent bike touring the Ohio countryside.  I wanted to ride somewhere new but I didn't feel like loading up my bike on the car rack and driving just to ride.  The only problem with that is I have to ride for about an hour in any given direction just to get to roads I've never ridden.

From my driveway I headed north keeping to rural back roads I like to ride.  I didn't have a route planned I just ambled along choosing my route as I went.  My ride took me roughly twenty miles across my county and to the border of Huron County, about 30 miles south of Lake Erie.  Most of the country is farmland and with all the rain we've had the crops are growing well. 

On longer range rides I've taken to using my smartphone map to aid in navigation and it has made it easier to enjoy the ride more than flying blind trying to avoid the busier state highways.  In the old days I used to make a photo-copy of a section I planned to ride from a page in the Ohio Atlas & Gazetteer.  That analog map worked fine but occasionally I would ride off the paper and be back to guessing.  That's not always the best method when a couple hours from home and under your own power.

I wasn't planning a big ride but the conditions were perfect with just a slight breeze from the northwest and mild temperatures in the upper 70's.  I felt good and the miles kept adding up.  Consulting the map I found a place I never been that would put me about 25 miles north of home.  

Willard Marsh Wildlife Area is a 1,676-acre conservation area located a few miles southwest of Willard, Ohio in southern Huron County.  Access to the area is by gravel roads which line the perimeter of the park.  I try to avoid gravel if I can help it but the HP Velotechnik has no problem gobbling up gravel miles.  These roads were in super shape so going wasn't all that bad at all.  The scenery made it worth it.

From there I started the trip back to home and ended up with a satisfying 50 mile ride and new route entry for the logbook.

Bike:   HP Velotechnik
Ride Time:    3:49
Distance:    51.18 miles
Average Speed:    13.3 mph
Max Speed:    27.7 mph


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

W8MDE 10 Meter Rotatable Dipole

I spent Father's Day finishing up my 10 meter rotatable dipole antenna project for this year's ARRL Field Day which is coming up in a couple weeks.  I wanted to change things up and try working a different band other than 40 meters where I have operated the past few Field Days.  The sun is putting out as many sunspots as it's going to during this solar cycle so it has the 10 meter band coming open usually every day for world wide communication.  So this and the fact that our club's field day location has a lack of trees for antenna supports I decided to focus on the shortest of the high frequency wavelengths.

This is the second homebrew antenna project I've built since becoming a radio amateur in 2008 and I had a great time with it.  A dipole is a most basic type of antenna and is easy to build.  Dipoles are usually made of wire and strung up between two supports but aluminum tubing can be used for the elements which is what I used so the antenna would be self supporting.

Materials I gathered from my spare parts bin and local hardware store.  I also used a new to me vendor; DX Engineering, to supply some high quality saddle clamps for the mast to Lexan plate connection and fiberglass tubing for the mast.  DX Engineering is located here in Ohio so I can consider all my antenna components for this project locally sourced.  The Lexan sheeting was a scrap piece from work and I fabricated a small aluminum angled bracket to mount the coaxial connector.  The antenna elements are made from anodized aluminum tubing I got at the hardware store.  

The jumper wires are #14 braided copper with crimped and soldered connectors.  The white PVC pipe acts as a support sleeve for the aluminum antenna elements.  I drilled a small hole on each side so a stainless steel sheet metal screw can provide secure electrical contact between the jumper wire and the aluminum tubing.  The feed line attaches at the bottom of the bracket.  In the picture the connector is wrapped with self vulcanizing tape and a cable tie to weather proof it.  Shortly after taking the picture I placed a blob of RTV 100% silicon on the top of the coax socket to further protect the exposed solder joint.  The ground side of the dipole attaches via a ring terminal connected to one of the socket mounting screws.

The cool thing about half wavelength dipoles is that the physical length can be approximated by a simple formula:  468(ft) / frequency (MHz).  I wanted my antenna to be resonant on 28.050 MHz so 468 divided by 28.050 equals 16.684 feet. That number should be close to the overall length of the antenna.

I designed the antenna elements using 6 ft sections of tubing with a smaller diameter 3 foot section that telescopes into the bigger piece.  This allows me to adjust the length of the element legs in or out to set the point of resonance of the antenna just where I want it.

With the help of my antenna analyzer I noted the SWR then extended the ends a couple inches at a time and rechecked the antenna with the meter.  After repeating this process a few times I observed the low point of the SWR curve move right into the area of frequency I plan to operate.  I locked the element tips down tight with a small hose clamp.
SWR Curve

27.062     1.5
27.303     1.4
27.573     1.3
27.955     1.2
27.968     1.1
28.197     1.1
28.208     1.2
28.622     1.3
28.902     1.4
29.180     1.5

I'm sure most hams would agree the most exciting part about making your own antennas is hooking up the rig and seeing if one can actually make a contact using the homebrew equipment.  It was late in the afternoon when testing was complete and I headed inside to my operating position to hook up the antenna to my transceiver.

Right away I heard signals coming in so that was a good sign.  I set my dial to 28.076 MHz and sent out some CQ calls using the digital mode JT-65.  After a few tries with no response I looked for a station who was calling.  Up popped a ZL prefix station on the decode screen which I recognized as one from New Zealand. It took two tries and on the second go ZL4AD received my signal and we completed the quick JT-65 contact spanning 8,811 miles between us.  

With that as a first contact I'm going to call this antenna project a success and I think the thing will work fine for making a few local stateside contacts during the Field Day event.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mail Pouch Tobacco Barn

Morrow County, Ohio

I noticed this old barn earlier in the year and finally got out on the motorbike to snap a picture for my collection here on the blog.  The old structure has seen better days and the paint is weathered but at least it won't degrade any more here in digital form.

It's been a hectic and busy spring here and it's kept me away from blogging.  I've got lots of activities going on which are generating some good content so slow but sure I'll get some more stuff documented here at RCT.

Monday, May 19, 2014

B & O Trail with Mohican S. P. Extension

Peaceful Farm - Richland County

Spring is in full swing here in Ohio so when dawn broke cool and clear I knew I was going for a recumbent ride.  I decided to ride the B & O Trail which is my local trail and a staple in this blog.  Early on it was cool and almost fair to say cold.  I wore long tights with my jacket and even a thin helmet liner.  Spring has been a bit late here in these parts but things are finally shaping up.  Over the last couple weeks we've had a load of rain and the trees have all sprouted their greenery.  Next to the crisp days of autumn it is my favorite time for bike riding.

I've been up and down this bike trail at least a hundred times but I never stopped to read this sign posted along the trail in the small town of Bellville, Ohio.  Today I wasn't interested in racing the clock so I pulled over to check it out.

McClure Cabin

Site of the first settlement in Jefferson Township and the second in Richland County.  James, Thomas and Samuel McClure and Jonathan Oldfield cut a trail from Fredericktown in 1808, and built a log cabin here on the banks of the Clear Fork!
 That's pretty cool.  The United States was only 32 years old at that point. Ohio was indeed the wild frontier.
The log cabin is not in existence anymore but I bet the view out front of the McClure brother's cabin looked a lot like this 200 years ago:

I continued on from north to south covering all 18 miles of the trail as it warmed up and I could shed my extra layers.  When I rolled into Butler at the end of the trail it was too nice of a morning to just turn around so I decided on the fly to add a loop and tour through the Mohican State Park which lies about 7 miles to the east from Butler.

I know a route that uses seldom traveled rural roads so I can avoid the busy state highway that leads to the park.  For a short while the country lanes follow the Clear Fork valley and the steadily flowing river.  

Within a mile or two from the end of the bike trail I get to the hill country.  My recumbent bike climbs just fine and I actually like the experience pushing off the firm seat back putting 100% of my effort into the cranks.  The loop circles around to the north of the park.  The views are nice.

Eventually the Clear Fork River flows into Pleasant Hill Lake which was formed when the Army Corps of Engineers built a damn.  

The level of the lake is maintained at the damn and excess water is directed through a spillway and continues on its path through the valley.  A glimpse of the water can be seen just above my bike in the picture.  From this point on the stream is called the Black Fork.  It flows roughly east through the Mohican-Memorial State Forest for a few miles until its confluence with the Mohican River at Loudenville, Ohio.

In the above photo is the pump house and spillway.  In the background is the end of the 850 acre lake.  Continuing on the loop took me into the state park and down into the gorge along the park road.  I've rode in this area and photographed the natural beauty of the gorge from my mountain bike on the 25 mile single track circuit.  It is fantastic on a knobby tire bike.

Both the park road and the mountain bike trail meet up at this covered bridge to cross  the Black Fork.  I took a break here and ate a bag of pistachios before starting the mile long climb back up the south side of the gorge.  I exited the park on the south side and eventually caught back up with the country roads I was on leading out of butler and made my way back to the B & O Trail.

The formula of this ride is one I really like.  18 miles of flat rail trail to get warmed up before a serious 22 miles of hilly beat down followed by another 18 mile of smooth sailing back up the rail trail.

Ride Time:  4:45
Distance:  58.46 miles 
Average Speed:  12.2 mph
Max Speed:  40.6 mph

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Revving My Engine At Mid Ohio

 I don't normally ride charity rides but when I do it's the Mid Ohio Walk, Run or Ride event put on by Summit Therapy Charities. I really enjoy this one and what makes it special is the venue.  I've ridden here before but the last time was on my recumbent bike.  The Mid Ohio Sports Car Course hosts world class racing of sports cars and  motorcycles. Everything from Indy car and super bike, amateur racing and vintage bikes and autos.

The 2.2 mile circuit is laid out on the south slope of the Clear Fork Valley and this makes the track a challenging ride on a bicycle.  Quite a bit of the course is uphill and the first time I rode I was dismayed at my speed dropping to into the single digits while aboard the recumbent.  Back then I told myself the next time I would ride the Motobecane road bike and take advantage of its faster climbing ability.
Gassed up and heading out of the pits.
 This time around the RoadQueen met me at the track and agreed to be my photographer.  I tried to talk her into bringing her bike but she thought it was a serious type of ride which of course it is not.  This year they did have a competitive 5K running race but aside from that the promoters put the emphasis on a do it at your own pace fun type of event.  

Even so its a race track and I can't help but not stomp on the accelerator.  I like to simply race the clock and see what kind of performance I can get out of myself.  Normally I'm taking pictures of the things I see along the ride but in this case since I have a photographer I'll treat you my dear readers to some photos of my awesome form around the track! It is my blog after all.

The weather forecast was bleak for the weekend but things ended up being ideal for a bike ride.  The sun broke free from the cloud cover later in the evening.  Around my tenth lap a gentleman caught up to me who was riding a Lynskey titanium bike.  We had a nice chat for a couple miles then I had to drop off the back. I just couldn't hang with his pace.  

Much easier to dodge the slower riders and pedestrians on a thirty foot wide race track than on the bike trail.  

Rolling into the pits after twelve laps. 

Ride Time:  1:36
Distance:  26.7 miles
Average Speed:  16.6 mph
Max Speed:  32.9 mph
12 laps -- Average Lap Time: 8 minutes

Friday, May 9, 2014

Go Fly A Kite!

Interacting with the natural world around me is something I have always been drawn to and found interesting and fun.  The past few years I've had a blast creating electromagnetic waves with my ham radio equipment and sending them off skipping along the atmosphere and all around the Earth.  Another way I've been harnessing the forces of nature for amusement has been kite flying.  

Some of my earliest memories are kite flying with my dad on a warm and breezy spring afternoons long ago.  Many of my kites were inexpensive tradition shaped versions and I even built my own as young boy using newspaper and a couple crossed sticks.  These paper kites flew great but never lasted long.  On very windy days my sister and I would attach empty bread bags to a spool of kite string and surprisingly if you could get it to fill with air the bag would fly as well as any kite.  Fascination with the sky and flight is just one of those cool things that are ingrained in us as humans.  I think the birds are pretty much responsible for that.  For ages man has stood grounded to Mother Earth and marveled at the sparrow who so easily takes flight or a group vultures lazily riding the air currents high above barely flapping their wings for minutes on end.  I know I have.

One day I was browsing around the hobby store and I noticed a rack of kites.  All my life I've only flown simple single string kites.  With traditional kites the learning curve is pretty easy; hold it up, let it go and let out more string. That's about it.  What caught my eye was this delta wing shaped kite known as a sport kite or stunt kite made by Premier Kites of Hyattsville, Maryland.  On trips to the ocean I've seen these double string wonders in action above the beach were steady breezes are plentiful.  Having always wanted to try one out I bought that kite on the spot and waited for the windy days of spring to arrive. 

A few weeks ago that day finally came and after work I headed out to my favorite flying spot to give the new kite a try.  My first two attempts lasted about two seconds with the kite shooting up like a rocket then looping around violently and plummeting back to the ground.  The instructions state: "The most common problem a beginner has is over controlling their kite" And that is indeed the truth.  Just the slightest pull on one of the control lines will turn the kite and instantly send it into a dive.  In a fit of panic it's very easy to jerk the other cord overcompensating and send the kite equally out of control in the other direction. 

I like to think I'm fairly coordinated and soon enough I had the kite doing lazy sideways figure eights or soaring stationary straight up above my head.  It's easy to remember pull the left string to turn the kite left and right to go right.  It's another thing altogether to keep it straight when the kite is careening wildly out of control.  In time I became more relaxed and found that slightly turning my shoulders rather than pulling my arms provided smooth control to the kite.

The RoadQueen accompanied me to the flying field my second time out this past weekend.  To say it was windy was an understatement.  We estimated a steady 20 mph wind with gusts well higher than that.  It was perfect for the stunt kite.  Variable winds and lulls don't provide ideal conditions for this kind of kite.  That reason explains the popularity of their use along coastal regions and larger lakes.

RoadQueen at the controls with Jake the dog as ground crew.
We had a great time and spent nearly four hours flying before heading back to town for lunch.  learning to fly the sport kite has been a lot of fun and certainly a thrill.  With the double control lines and being able to use your whole upper body to maneuver the kite it really seems more like flying an aircraft and not just passively standing there holding a single string kite.  My only regret is not getting one years ago.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Finally Springtime has rolled around and I actually look forward to cleaning up my commuter bike.  I try to keep it out of the worst of the winter mess but it ends up grimy and salty no matter what.  A couple years ago I started using an Automotive washing soap in my bucket of hot water instead of the dish soap from the kitchen.  I read something somewhere about the sulfates in dish soap being bad for paint and clear coats but I don't have to worry about that with bare titanium tubes.  The difference I have noticed is that the the car wash stuff cuts the grease and rim brake dust much more effectively than it's kitchen cousin.

Flossing the cogs!

I use a wax based lube on my chain. It doesn't last like a wet lube so it has to be regularly reapplied. The one downside to overzealous lubrication is that it tends to gum up between the cogs.  A piece of old cotton sock drenched in a solvent like WD-40 makes an ideal floss to clean those sprockets.  Positioning the hub against my bucket and with my feet boxing in the tire I use a side to side motion with the cloth to work down between the gears.  The pull to the left spins the freewheel about an eighth of a turn.  Sliding back to the right engages the pawls locking the sprocket and allowing the rag to do its thing.  With some experimentation the thickness of the cloth can be found that best slides between the teeth without snagging and with a little practice eight or ten back and forth cycles between each gear leaves them all clean and polished.

I picked up a new Park chain tool last year and finally had a chance to use it to putting on a fresh drive chain.  

A clean drivetrain is a quiet drivetrain.  And that makes me a happy rider.

The Ti General Purpose Bike serviceable and ready for commuting duty.