ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 4 – Shamrock to ABQ

Canvas Art

Day 3 may have been one of the latest nights I pulled into the hotel, it was well after dark but an easy ride on I-40 the night before. Really friendly folks at the Holiday Inn in Shamrock and I knew with a 400+ mile day of driving ahead, I wanted to get a walk in before I started. So I pulled up to the Tesla Supercharger before sunrise and was pleasantly surprised to find the charger was behind the beautiful Conoco station you see above. It really does look like where Tow Mater from Cars is from, and you can see a truck peeking out from the end of the building. While I strolled around the streets of Shamrock, which has a Taco shop on one side of the street across from a Burrito building, I was able to catch the sunrise.

The sun was up when I started heading west on I-40 on a Thursday morning. I was in Amarillo by morning, the blustery wind and 50 degree temps stayed with me most of the day, so it was smart to wear shorts (eye-roll). It was a big roadside attraction day. The Helium Time Monument was interesting, I had no idea that Amarillo was a big helium town. I really like that it was not only 4 different time capsules, two of which have been opened, it was a sundial. Unfortunately no sun to give me the view of that.

Bug Ranch, which is some old VW beetles buried, was unimpressive. Maybe if you are a VW lover it’s worth a stop but otherwise pics will do. Cadillac Ranch is better, but don’t be fooled by the RV park like I was.

Trip Milestone: My first day more than a mile high on the trip, passing 7,000 feet on the pass into ABQ.

The next stop sets up events over the next 3 days in New Mexico. The National Museum of Nuclear History and Science is right near the gate of Sandia Labs in ABQ. The museum primarily focuses on the nuclear weapons aspect of atom-splitting but there are some other shout outs to things like Nuclear items in pop culture and Nuclear Medicine. It has a well done version of “The Gadget” which was the first nuclear bomb tested and replica of the tower used at the Trinity test site. It would have to be a replica because the original one went boom. I think what really surprised me was the breadth of ways that the US had created nuclear weapons, from backpacks to missiles to air burst (oh my!).

I was excited to buy a little piece of history at the Nuclear museum. When the test was conducted at the Trinity site, it created a glassy debris called trinitite. It’s fairly rare but they sell small samples at the museum. I bought 1.2 Ounces for about $60. Here’s my sample of nuclear waste.

Local pizza and a quiet hotel room (Holiday Inn Express) finished off the night.

PhotosSelected Day 4 Pictures

TikTok Archive – Day 4 Recap | Flashback – Blue Hole Stop 

ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 3 – Tulsa to Shamrock

Up in the morning and off to… Safelite. Remember that big rock that smashed my windshield on the way from Memphis to Little Rock? Well, I was able to make an appointment at Safelite in Broken Arrow OK and they were great! I was the first appointment of the day, they took my car back early and I was in and out in less than an hour! Gotta love it when you get good service, so mad props to them!

I had a brunch planned for the morning of day 3 with a friend of mine, but with Safelite done so early, I had a chance to get out and take some pictures along a different stretch of Route 66 in Tulsa. This one is my favorite, it’s a charector named “Buck Atom” and even though it was late September, he was dressed for halloween.

Canvas Art

If you like this picture, click on it and it will take you to the Fine Art America site when you can get prints and phone protectors and tea towels of it if you like. If you are interested in other photos from Route 66 in Tulsa I have an album on Google Photos.

So, brunch was a lovely diner style meal at a place called Savoy and I was off down the turnpike to Oklahoma City. I thought it was interesting that the only state on the whole trip that charged a toll was Oklahoma, in fact I payed more than $20 in tolls to go around OK. Now, you do get the benefit that some of those toll roads have an 80 MPH speed limit, but 75 and free would be OK with me.

Oklahoma Science Museum was the big stop of the day and let me tell you this is a top tier museum. Not only does it incorporate the STEM elements of a place like the museum in Little Rock it has some great exhibits. OKC being a railroad town I enjoyed seeing an old Pullman car and some of the exquisite model railroad work. A nice planetarium show that was interactive with the audience was something I didn’t expect to do but really enjoyed.

I loved the broad view of science and engineering. They have an enticing view of scientists that allows you to pick your favorite. I wanted to pick Tesla however they were sold out of those pins, so I settled for Newton. I really think there is something here for people from 5 to 15 to 50.

In addition to a giant Tesla coil, which I always get a charge out of, they had a really nice display of Apollo items, particularly focused on Apollo 10 and astronaut Tom Stafford. It was a big surprise to see Stafford and the other A-10 astros received an Emmy for an out of this world telecast.

I did not end up stopping at the OKC memorial. I could claim time as an issue, but I’m familiar enough with it and I just felt it was better personally to roll on.

Great view of the sunset as I drove west. I mentioned in one of my TikTok’s that it was cool to be able to charge in places that are likely powered by alternative fuels. In Arkansas it was nuclear and in Western OK it was wind, they have very impressive wind farms. Rolled into Shamrock after dark and called it a night.

TikTok ArchiveAlternative Fuel Tesla Charging | Day 3 Recap

ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 2 – Memphis to Tulsa

Art Prints

My trip out of Memphis started on Interstate 40 now which meant trucks trucks trucks, mostly of the tandem Fed-Ex variety but they were not the only big rigs on the super slab. (I may have listened to “Convoy” once too often on the trip). The first stop was Little Rock once I could get into the rocking-chair for a few minutes. However, due to no fault of the trucks, but just an awful stretch of terribly maintained road, I had my first and only vehicle issue of the trip, a “lovely” rock chip in my windshield. It’s OK, that can be patched.

Big stop of the day was the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock. I was expecting more of an adult science museum but this was really targeted toward the younger set. I did get to see a nice tornado simulation there, and having been through a tornado while living in Wichita I give it a 8 out of 10 for pucker-factor accuracy. The big draw at the museum for me was a large Tesla Coil, but was off-line for repairs awaiting the Tesla Coil expert. That’s OK, I’ll catch a few more as I go along.

I enjoyed the remainder of my couple of hours in LR. I had a nice stroll around the riverfront area. They, not surprisingly call it the Are-can-saw River there, but in Wichita I learned it was really the Are-Kansas river. I liked seeing streetcars running along, a cool feature which I am kicking myself for not taking a few minutes to ride. I had hoped to spend a few minutes at The Clinton Library but it was not open due to COVID, I settled for a ride by.

On this trip I really wanted to be committed to seeing the strange and unusual roadside attractions, you know, things you see on billboards along the highway like “The Thing” along I-10 in Arizona. I did try to hit two, one was a Submarine off the turnpike in Oklahoma and another was a train station on the eastside of Arkansas but no both were closed, so an early arrival in Tulsa allowed for dinner and a trip downtown to see the Route 66 display.

Take a look at the picture above as just one example of the beautiful area the city has created from an original US-66 road bridge and plaza. I’m making several pictures available for purchase from this trip. Click on the image above to get info on pricing.

Trip Milestone – Tulsa was the northernmost city on the route. GPS says 36.14 Deg N.

TikTok Archive – No Luck On Roadside Stops | Day 2 Recap

2021 ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip – Day 1

Atlanta to Memphis

In the original plans day 1 started a little later than 6 AM ET, but I had something timely to do on Monday afternoon so off we went. Traffic through Atlanta was great and I think that helped to get things off on the right foot.

No roadside stops on Day 1, partially because of the time crunch, but partially because there didn’t seem to be much between Atlanta and Memphis.

Graceland. I had been there once about 10 years ago, and it was alike a little street scape before you went across to see the mansion. Now it’s a much better showcase of memorabelia and I was impressed by the music hall they have added too, I think that’s a wonderful idea. I thought $75 for the mansion and museum tour was a bit high, but I understand only so many people can go through at a time.

After going through Graceland a second time, I feel it’s right to advance the theory that Elvis is a HUGE nerd. I get into this a little more on TikTok. Look at this desk above, he’s got a Radio, TV and 8-Track all in one console. I totally think RCA, his record label, helped foster the idea because he ended up with over 50 TV’s. However, what better way to sell your stuff than to have the King of Rock and Roll behind it.

Crashed for the night at the Homewood Suites in Memphis. I probably wouldn’t stay there again. It’s right off the freeway and I heard that all night, plus I was not impressed with the upkeep.

Other TikTok’s – Day 1 Recap

I could drive 5,000 miles…

On Monday (September 24) I am going to hit the road for a 3-week, 5,000 mile road trip across the US from Atlanta to Los Angeles and back. It’s going to be a big vacation for me, with plenty of areospace related things to see.

If you want to follow me, the best place is my new TikTok channel. You can go there now and see prep for the run.

Planned Westbound Route

And the Eastbound Run

Happy Motoring!

Solving Family Problems with Technology – The Pi/Flip Dot Alert System

Maybe this is a solution in search of a problem, but there are use cases. On occasion I will be down stairs in my Tech Center rocking out on some Ham Radio DX or writing some code for a Raspberry Pi and oblivious to the world. Those are usually the times when my wife Tammy is trying to get ahold of me, but is worried about interrupting me.

Introducing the Jim Alert system. It starts with the button on this Raspberry Pi Zero.

Tammy pushes the button which writes a file to a server which trips the LED on the Pi. This allows her to know the alert has been triggered.

Once every minute (for now) my flip dot clock will check for that file. If it finds it, it will trigger a custom message on the clock and an alert sound. (Literally, ALERT in Morse Code). Here’s what it looks like…

Once the alert displays, the LED on the Pi Zero goes off and it clears from the Flip Dot in about 30 seconds, at the top of the next minute.

A possible future enhancement might be to add multiple Pi’s and show the room the alert came from.

For more on my Flip Dot project, read here:

Why I am leaving Amazon Sidewalk on.

Lots of stories about how Amazon is activating their Sidewalk network this week. I think that will really benefit people, here’s why.

It’s Open Source.

It’s not just a network for Amazon, it is a network for IOT devices. Several non-Amazon companies like Tile will have the same access to the same network.

It’s Double Encrypted

Both individual packets and the connection are encrypted. So even if the security of the network is breached, the data is still locked.

It’s not proprietary data.

This data is going to be anonymous, there is no PII data in the packet. Just something saying “I’m here” or “No Mail Yet.”

It’s not for web surfing.

The maximum amount of bandwidth used is low, and there are caps on how much is used per month. It is not going to slow you down and it is not going to eat up your bandwidth cap.

It’s way more efficient than Cellular

The low power aspect to this is very appealing. To use trackers with Wifi or Cellular would suck down your batteries. Think of being able to out solar power weather stations all over the neighborhood

You are probably already doing this.

Have an iPhone? It is probably sending tracker data back from air tags via your connection.

It’s more bandwidth efficient.

Sending data over the cellular network is expensive on a cost per bit basis. Your home internet connection is a fraction of that. Having this data go on the home network frees cell data for other things that may be more important to you.

No apologies for Amazon on how they are rolling this out. An opt-out option is challenging to make people aware of. An opt-in model lacks scale. These are the types of things a network manager needs to take into consideration.

So, for bandwidth efficiency, broad scale and robust security of low fidelity telemetry type data, I feel this network benefits way beyond the stumble Amazon has had with it’s launch

AP: Who’s an astronaut?

I wrote in a previous blog post that non-professional space travelers (space tourists) should have a term other than “Astronaut.” This AP article takes on the topic.

The dividing line for me seems to be, “are you going to work for a public or private space agency.” If yes, Astronaut, if no, Astrotaxedia is my preferred term.

Bill Nelson current NASA admin and former shuttle rider, Astrotaxedia

Inspiration 4 crew Astrotaxedia

Pilot of Virgin Galactic Spaceplane Astronaut

Passenger on Virgin Galactic Spaceplane Astrotaxedia

Proposed: Space Tourists should be named Astrotaxida for “Space Wanderer”

With several new commerical space trips coming on the agenda, particularly the SpaceX Inspiration 4 and the new Virgin Galactic “Spaceship 3”, I’d like to discuss the use of the word “Astronaut” (and I guess “Cosmonaut”) would fit too.

Wikipedia defines Astronaut as :

An astronaut (from the Greek “astron” (ἄστρον), meaning “star”, and “nautes” (ναύτης), meaning “sailor”) is a person trained, equipped, and deployed by a human spaceflight program to serve as a commander or crew member aboard a spacecraft.

I’m glad that people are getting to live their dreams of going to the stars. However I think it’s time we distinguish someone who paid for their seat or are a “space tourist” with someone like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin or Chris Hadfield who make their careers going into space. So, to differientiate I propose the following:

An astrotaxida (from the Greek “astron” (ἄστρον), meaning “star”, and “taxida” (ταξίδια), meaning “wanderer”) is a non-crew person traveling via a human spaceflight program.

I’m not trying to diminish anyone who goes to space, but I do think we should have unique terms for those who work among the stars. We distinguish between airplane pilots and airplane passengers. Let’s move that distinction to the space realm.

I would love to hear your thoughts, find me on Twitter at @n4bfr or Reddit at /u/N4BFR.

Kenwood THD-74A and DVAP Dongle

I wanted to see if I could add my DVAP Dongle hotspot to the DR list of repeaters on my Kenwood TH-D74A handheld. I could find the settings for an ICOM radio but not a Kenwood so I did a little experimenting. Here’s what worked for me:

Part of the trick was using the DIRECT tag in RPT1 and RPT2. This allows me to link and unlink repeaters using the DR mode, tested on 30C and it came right through. This works with DVAP Tool V1.04 that I am running on my Raspberry Pi.

The only functionality that doesn’t seem to work is INFO and ECHO since the DVAP is looking for “DVAP I” vs. just the “I” command and “DVAP E” versus “E”. To keep that functionality, I put it in as a repeater memory.

Now I have DVAP access both ways, memory channel or DR mode. Hope this helps someone figure it out.