My trailer arrived. it looks really nice. Solid and sturdy, despite it’s tiny 16-inch wheels.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to get up to speed on the fancy-schmancy radio I picked up. I’ve played with packet radio in the past quite a bit and it’s all coming back. I hooked up some old gear I still have to experiment, but it’s not a lot of help. APRS is quite different than simple packet and the method of operation, while looking similar, is also different. Packet is a point-to-point connection, even with relays in the middle, while APRS is connectionless. The information just bounces around and hopefully everyone hears what they need one time or the next. If you’re familiar with TCP/IP networking, it’s like the difference between TCP and UDP protocols. But at only 1200 baud!

But as a voice radio, it’s pretty standard and will always be useful that way as well. It even has a weather alert function, which I found out when it went off in the middle of one of our Robotics meetings due to a snow storm advisory! I didn’t know how to turn it off at first.

I also received a big package of maps from the Adventure Cycling Association. Everyone raves about these maps and they are quite nice and detailed, but I’m not sure they are worth the $170 I spent on them. They are waterproof, though, which is something I can’t duplicate by printing a map from Google.

They also sent them to my post office box, even though I thought I was certain I had requested they be sent to my home address. If they are that inattentive to details, I’m not sure I’d want to try to have some sent ahead to a general delivery on my ride. [See comments. They are attentive to details. Way more than I expected!]

So, I am making progress. I’m almost certain I will try the ride from Lockport, through Erie, Pittsburgh, down the GAP Trail to the C&O into Washington DC. Probably after Robotics is done in late April. If that goes well, I’ll see about the rest of the summer.

I’ve had some comments on the Bicycle Mobile Hams of America mail list too. I had posted a request for advice and ideas regarding my solar panel and radio setup. What I got was quite interesting, not anything earth-shatteringly new, but some good advice along with some naysayers.

One person was adamantly opposed to the trailer, telling me I’d hate it and should travel as light as possible. Well, that’s all well and good for him, but I was pretty clear on what I want to do and that doesn’t include being quite that minimalist. In fact, if I wanted to travel that light, one of the first things I’d leave behind would be the Ham Radio gear.

I did do the one short overnight trip last summer with just my panniers and I know that while I can do it that way, I’m really restricted as to what I can take and while the trailer will let me take more, it will also let me carry less in the panniers and on the back wheel. That is the one weakness of the trike, as I see it, for touring. While a two wheel bike can put low riders on the front and balance things out, it’s nearly impossible to move any of your load forward on the trike and the poor rear wheel looks like it’s taking all the strain. I can’t wait to find out what the trailer is like.

So right now, I’m pretty tied up with the robotics activities and will be for the next 6 weeks. After that I’ll have time to work on the solar stuff and get that ready. I’ll be in Pittsburgh one weekend in March and St. Louis in early April for robotics competitions, but the weekdays will be free then.