This is not the Tardis


No travel, no vaccine, no toilet paper, no eating out and for some no work but for me these deprivations come with copious amounts of time to reflect on life and turn this into something positive.

Maybe it would easier to just rent a house.

Even if you find one that looks promising, it’s still quite possible that it’s cramped, or noisy or worst still, the spectacular mountain view that the owner is convinced is a deal closer, blocks those weak singles that this is all about.

We are all creatures of comfort and having spent countless hours clamoring to remote and sometimes hostile peaks, setting up and operating under the elements, the idea of a Jeep seemed so obvious and seductively appealing. What could be simpler, thought this perennial optimist.

After all, a cooler can come filled with beer, cheese and crackers. Sleeping in the Jeep offers a quicker deployment solution to a tent and far more practical in defending against scorpions, snakes and bears.

I’m chastising myself for not seeing this sooner but lock downs has our mind set skewed.

As a wilderness mountain top radio guy, I’ve gone beyond awe, as to the practically of the Elecraft KX3 radio system. It’s modular, you can add a gizmo (PX3) to visualize the airwaves ensuring I find contacts quickly and I can be a real player with the outboard signal amplifier (KXPA100).

I’d sort of refined this almost to the absurd on a trip to St Kitts in March 2020.

Taking the two KX3s to the absurd level in St Kitts as V47P

It’s a long drive up 395 east of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Dust bowls that were once lakes come and go. Whitney is straining to ensure you see it really is the high point in the lower 48 and Mt Rainier is simply a wannabe. A solitary guard tower is a reminder to a different mind set in a different era. Marijuana is available on tribal land just off of 395 and eventually the road lurches east across the state line and into Nevada.

Time counts in contest.

Borrowing One by One callsigns is a fun privilege with the added advantage of declaring yourself quicker than saying W6PNG or M0SNA.

My real player station isn’t really that. I’ve compromise on antennas and one is an abject failure.

My Jeep dash looks cool with the KX3 and PX3 plus a great view. However, the sun is relentless and with my nose facing west to admire the view, the afternoon progressively becomes more and more brutal.

First attempt operating from within my Jeep…room with a view

My less than stellar performance in Nevada as K7E hasn’t really deterred me. Years ago, Ken Zaremba, my then boss described me as tenacious. As it came with a smile, I said thanks and promptly looked the would up in the dictionary. I liked the descriptor.

Four Days in Purgatory…W6E in the Mojave Desert at 98F

Game on and the KX3 is replaced by its more manly sibling the K3s, the puny 100 watt amplifier by an equally manly 500 watt beast and my menagerie of imitation antennas by at least one real antenna, a 10/15/20 HexBeam supported by something that wouldn’t deliver a repeat of my afternoon telescoping, from 30 ft to 6ft in 3 seconds.

I find myself not sitting with my radio in my Jeep at 8,000ft on Frazier Mountain but rather in the flat, arid Mojave desert. Summer 2020 in California has been fire after fire after fire, to the point that I wonder if after a decade more of this if anything of California’s wilderness will be left. I’m still in the front seat but with my nose pointing east and neither my radio nor super sized amp are anywhere less inconvenient than the drivers seat.

I make futile attempts to block the sun with clothing, bedding etc but I’ve never so wanted the sun to set.

A T shirt as a make shift sun shield
Sleeping bag liner and water as another make shift sun shield
Exited purgatory to somewhere better….first place in our category in CQP 2020

Starring into Scott’s ex TV van makes me realize my Jeep is really just a mobile ghetto that is in need of some serious …..

I’m inspired by a Cow that is Scott’s Wilderness Lounge

Interior (so neat) of Scot’s well appointed ex TV van
A veritable Tardis inside with a coffee maker and space for floor sleeping

The 35″ tires aren’t really necessary especially if your lead scout for a TV van designed for modest off pavement work. Truth is a Rubicon just looks more convincing with them. However, the batwing awning is a real plus and over time I add side panels.

Awnings and a roof rack are the first essential improvements. 35″ tires entirely unecccsary but look cool

With shade and additional stowage addressed, my attention turns to a better operating location. My preference is still the front passenger seat but space isn’t practically available to mount the K3/P3/KPA500 without “removing” them and at the time the K3/0 was (and still is) a piece of unobtanium.

Experiments to display P3 output and use a KPOD for tuning with K3s in rear of Jeep but I really need a K3/0
Tried sitting in back of Jeep but beyond uncomfortable for hours on end

After experimenting with being a bit of Jeep baggage in the stowage section its clear neither that works nor the front passenger seat.

A more boutique solution is required.

Having flown in excess of 2.5 million miles, tray tables occupy an odd space in my pysche. The drop down ones make me think of too many hours in rif-raf class but some variation of that seems appropriate given my space constraints are similar to what the tyranny of airline executives hath wrought on passengers.

My neighbor Mark loves to brainstorm “construction” solutions.

We’ve had fun with T20 aluminum before and I have a surplus to draw on!!

Our first attempt is actually quite effective and a million times better than upfront in the gold fish bowl in purgatory.

Iteration 1 of T20 table, April 2022

Mojave Desert shake down during CQWW WPX CW May 2022

Desert conference centre with Drew N7DA
Panels easily zip into difference locations….follow the sun
First “live test” …..success!!
however, the amp and tuner in the back didn’t work….couldn’t easily tell “real” power out

CQP 2022 – Frazier Mountain

K3s is close but manageable….P3 VGA monitor is useful but more stuff to bring….
A lot of stuff deployed
and a lot of stuff when ready to roll….

Littering the desert and mountain camp sites

At first I thought it was odd.

Pink boxes here, yellow ones there, black ones, small ones, large ones and a cooler almost as large as my Jeep are scattered around the desert and the mountain. The choice of color aids quick identification and presumably pink is one tenth the cost of a manly black or classic yellow SAR.

Boxes littering the desert
and even more boxes litter the mountain top…
Scott N6MI.. relaxing after a successful box deployment

Jeep interior is small and certainly not Dr Who’s Tardis

After two trips I realize the wisdom of pink boxes in the desert as I seem to spend for ever moving things around the Jeep either to find something or to relocate while something is put in its “permanent” place such as the radios, amp or even my sleeping mattress.

It doesn’t work. Too much time and energy are spent and I need to transport things roughly where they will be deployed. Better still I should bring less as I don’t quite have the room Scott has for boxes galore.

Table iteration two..wires in situ, mounting points for tablets

It’s almost three years since my epiphany and summer plans dictate that any CQP 2023 refinements be done now.

After re-thinking Drew N7DA and Matt K0BBC time with the table, I felt that keeping the back seats fully up would give people more room to slide out from directly in front of the in flight dinning table.

Speed of deployment was another goal by reducing the time spent rummaging for (and packing back up) wires, connectors etc. It seems trivial but truth is setting up the station with antennas can take 4-8 hours and any savings especially if in many areas add up to something meaningful and much appreciated under the cruel bright western USA sun.

Mark doing what he loves to do…fabricating solutions
Recycled my St Kitts stand to hold P3 monitor and “backup” N1MM tablet…..too much stuff!!
Shelf for Station Master to drive BPF selection, enables M/2 and adds rotator control
Ready for CQP 2023
69 Design arms folded down for transportation (behind passenger seat)

A huge science project with no limits nor end?

Clearly this is a direct result of Covid as in a better would it would have been St Kitts again, or Saba or St Martin and not the back of a Jeep but I’ve done something tangible to expand my operating options away from my RF challenged home.

With that in mind, I need to draw the evolution of the Jeep station to a close and enjoy what I have.

….but I’m a dreamer and an optimist and still have flights of fantasy around an “how easy” an M/2 HP setup would be, however my “Fields of Dreams” has been a hard sell to others particularly around the Jeep being fine for one but possibly not two.

What’s clearly apparent to me is I love making things, learning about new areas including station design and automation, as much as I do operating what I’ve built or learnt about. It truly is that the joy is the journey as much as the destination.

We’re hurtling toward the peak of Cycle 25 possibly 3 years away and then its downhill into the abyss of limited propagation and even more limited easier long distance contacts.

I don’t want to look back saying I could’a, I should’a…

Cramped for one, impossible for two…remoting to another vehicle using recently acquired K3/0 from Matt K0BBC
One day….M/2 HP when the Jeep is a Tardis

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.