Working in The Heart of Dixie

While Alabama can claim several “mottos” for itself, the tried-and-true “Heart of Dixie” is my favorite. And that’s where I found myself this  week–specifically, in Tuskegee, AL, home of Tuskegee University. Where the task was to install a small rooftop tower and some 2M/440 Yagis atop it, with an AZ-EL rotator.

I’d made an earlier trip, but the students had not finished building the beams, plus the AZ-EL mount required the fabrication of some sort of truss support, since no mast would extend up, above the boom, such as found in a “normal” install. Plus, it was decided we should feed the antennas with Heliax, So, I had to make a return visit.

We’d used an old satellite dish base on which to mount the tower, somewhat odd, in that it meant the tower base was seven feet off the roof. The second odd part was that one section of the 25G tower had been assembled with the Z-bracing installed upside down! While this likely did not in any way weaken that section structurally, it did wreak havoc with my muscle memory, meaning I had to watch my feet as I climbed, since I had to shift positions from how I’d normally climb.  University personnel had installed some anchors for guys on the roof, so things were more-or-less normal, once I got used to that funky section.

This trip, I discovered the students had still not finished the antennas. There was no phasing hardware installed. And then I had to install the truss setup I’d built here at home. But eventually everything was ready to go up. Despite carefully adjusting each antenna so that the boom-to-mast plate was at the Yagi’s center of gravity, once they were on the fiberglass boom, attached to the Yaesu 5400 AZ-EL rotator, the combination titled vertical at once.  It was therefore simplest to remove two guys and hoist the whole assembly straight up the tower. Once past the guy bracket, it was simply a matter of reconnecting those guys, and then climbing back up.

At that point, it began to rain. And I still had to hook up the coax jumpers to the Heliax, and connect the AZ-EL rotator. Here’s where things got a tad touchy, as the rotator cables must pass through these little boxes Yaesu uses to WX-proof the connections. But no one apparently knew or thought of that, so I had to send them back down, so the terminals could be cut off, the cables inserted, new terminals crimped and soldered, and then back up and so forth. Frustrating, while getting wet aloft, simply waiting.  But it all worked out, the VSWRs seemed okay, and then it was time to pack up and head for home.

Interestingly enough, the Professor, Sharan Asundi, demands each student in his class pass the license exam in order to earn an A in the class. They’ve all done that. He had me speak to them about HF, but alas, no one really seemed to be too interested.  Admittedly, in today’s “instant access” smart phone world, that’s understandable. But sad. With even such a short tower atop a five story building, they could do well on HF, I’d think.

This time, the bypass around Atlanta was not so terribly crowded and I was able to circumvent the huge traffic delays often encountered there and get home in eight hours.

stay tuned…

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