It’s June…time for another re-cap~!

So, right after Dayton, it was time to head South and West–to South Texas, specifically.

I’d been corresponding with Curt, WG5H, for several months, selecting/designing a setup which would meet his needs. We had decided 120-ft of 55G for HF, along with a small 25G tower for his VHF needs. Hill Radio had delivered the items, and Curt had done the base and anchors, so it only remained for us to show up, build the beams, and haul everything up in to place.

There was considerable concern on both our parts because the XM-240 had arrived with the box broken, festooned with “RATTLE OKAY” stickers, and various ominous sounds coming from it whenever it was moved. Curt’s inventory seemed to show most all the parts were there, but one section of tubing had been inserted into another (to minimize shipping, of course) and was simply stuck. No amount of PB Blaster would free it. In desperation, Curt had ordered the Cushcraft rotatable dipole (which would prove to be an excellent source of parts), simply as a backup antenna.

We headed to the Atlanta area, for a commercial (LPFM) install first. That went well but clearly the engineer or whoever had done their tech work had not counted on the close proximity of the two FM antennas, one a highly directional array and the new omni we installed. The top (directional) array wiped out the omni. Talking with the engineers at Shively (builders of the omni)  was interesting, as they clearly knew and understand my ham background, and suggested the only solution to the problem was a bandpass filter. Since the transmitter was not scheduled to go live for another few weeks, we wrapped up and headed on to Texas.

I was also hauling an Alpha 77SX to NR5M, who just happened to be on the way to WG5H’s Freer TX location. Joe wandered around the yard there in awe at the 23 tower super-station. His real kick was working two new countries from there–the Z3 and KV4 EME expeditions. George seemed tickled to have someone else to share his EME enthusiasm with, too! We overnighted at the Round Mountain Radio Ranch, then continued Southward.

Once down in Freer, we found Curt’s ranch location okay (346 acres!) and set about building the beams. We assembled the Skyhawk first, as we were pretty sure there would be no surprises, and we were right. Quality product, packaged right, and so forth. Then Joe began working on the VHF stuff, while I got serious with the damn XM-240. I was never able to separate the jammed tubing, so I cobbled parts from the dipole. The center of the driven element was the sticking point–the XM uses three sections of telescoped tubing, while the dipole, which is less robust, uses only two sections telescoped together. I spent a lot of time assembling these parts, using rivets and machine screws to hopefully hold everything together, despite being a little bit weaker. Because of that, I decided to mount the XM at the bottom of the mast, with the Skyhawk up top, thinking it was more prone to potential future failure. Then  I dis-assembled it and we carted it out to the tower site.

Tuesday morning dawned and the Orozcos Crane Service arrived an hour early, but we were fortunately also early. They were ready to go quickly at the 25G tower site and we had that tower up in 30 minutes, then they made their way over to the 55G location.  The crane was a 160-footer, and we utilized the extra height to slide the cable in between the Skyhawk elements (the three drivers are all bunched together) so we could get the XM up close to the mast. We managed to wrap everything up in four hours. All things considered, I thought that was pretty good, especially in light on 100-degree temperature.

The next day we trammed up all the VHF antennas, ran the feedlines and control cables, which took most of the day. The following morning, we installed the grounding, finished the Ameritron switchbox install, hooked up everything in the shack and re-tested (with real RF, not just the analyzer) everything. Curt was working DX, running outside to tell us about it, then scooting back in the shack. He seemed especially intrigued by the idea of presenting a rare grid to folks on VHF; he’s in EL-07.

Then began the long trek home to NC, 23 hours on the road, whew…way too old to be doing stuff like this, ya know…? Local jobs take precedence next.

stay tuned…

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