By: Mark Abrams
Today we were heading north to install a new site on the Diga-Talk network. It was 5:30AM on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 when we headed to Mazourka Peak, a drive of over 250 miles. We intended to get to the site and start the installation as we knew that it would not be possible to complete the job in one day. The site presented many challenges to get the radio system to work properly, starting with the lack of any power from the power company. The site was completely solar powered so we needed to install the power system to run the repeaters. The building where we installed our equipment did not have any type of antenna structure, so we had to build the antenna structure. At most radio sites, we install the antennas on an existing tower or other type of antenna structure and we plug into the AC power from the building. This time, we needed to install the radios with the antenna system, but we had to build the antenna structure before we installed the antennas and we had to build the power system before we could power up the radios.
I headed north on Interstate 405 aka the San Diego Freeway at 0’dark30 in an attempt to beat the Los Angeles traffic. It took about an hour with minimal traffic delays to get to the Sylmar area when I knew that it would be free sailing for the rest of the trip, barring unforeseen issues. There were some unforeseen circumstances ahead, but none of them resulted in any significant delays in getting to Independence on schedule around 10:30AM where we met with the county sheriff deputy to drop off some equipment before heading up to the site. It was another 50 minute drive up to the site from the sheriff’s office to Mazourka Peak which seemed to fly by with ease after the 4 hour drive from Los Angeles to get to Independence.
The road to Mazourka is a fairly nice road compared to most mountain dirt roads. The road was about 20 miles long and mostly straight with some windy & twisty sections, but overall a decent road. Most of the road is well graded, but suffer from washboards in some areas. Some of the road was rough with ruts while other areas had millions of rocks that attempt to slice the sidewall of your tires which produce non-repairable punctures. Even though the road was better than the average mountain dirt road, it was a long road nonetheless which could be traveled at a better than average speed in most sections of the trek.
We arrived at the site around 11:30AM and proceeded to start the project. The first step was to unload the large construction materials on the ground while proceeding to organize the process so that each of the five of us kept busy working towards the common goal of completing the installation with quality and integrity. David was essentially in charge of the project deciding who was going to work on a particular task and the order of the tasks. So he worked with Chris and Nick to start building the antenna structure while Juan and I worked on building the battery system. Many of the materials that we needed were already up at the site because almost two weeks earlier, we had Nick and Juan drive the materials up to the site in a rented stake-bed truck which was another almost 16 hour day when include the drive time. So Juan and I got the rack out of the truck, opened the box and proceeded to assemble the rack that was ultimately supposed to hold the batteries. We worked outside on assembling the rack so that we were not in the way of the other guys who were mounting the strut to the side of the building. In order to have the strut be securely fastened to the building, we drill through the building wall and place the strut on the outside and the inside of the wall while essentially sandwiching the wall with the structural steel. We use galvanized steel hardware that bolts completely through the wall so that the strut will not pull off the wall under any circumstances. If the strut (which holds the antenna structure in place) comes down, the entire building is going with it. We wrapped the strut around the two side walls to increase the structural strength of the steel and the building.
Another task that needed to be done was to install the solar panels on the existing solar panel support structure. The existing solar panels from the building were falling off the structure so we had to repair the mounting of those panels. After securing those panels, we proceeded to mount our solar panels and secure them properly to the solar mounting rails. The mounting rails were not made for the size of our panels that were considerably larger than the existing solar panels. Our panels were high efficiency 1 x 2 meters in size that would generate 380 watts each for a total of 760 watts of power. This will keep the battery bank charged under normal conditions.
Once the guys reached a breaking point, we hauled the rack into the building. We looked at mounting the rack on the right side of the door, but we ran into issues with blocking access to the solar controller and power distribution system for the existing equipment. We tried to slide the rack forward and backward to eliminate the issue, but that created new issues. Finally, we decided to mount the battery system on the left side of the door close to the door which worked out well from a logistics standpoint. Now we needed to bolt down the rack so that it would remain in place during an earthquake which is essential to provide the reliability needed for the system. Since it was now about 1:30PM, we broke out the lunches that we had obtained in town before heading up to the mountain. So now it was time to take a break and have some lunch before continuing with the next set of tasks.
It was time to move the batteries from the center of the room where they had been placed two weeks earlier when our two men had driven many of the materials to the site and have been in our way since we started working today. We had 4 shelves in the rack and I had counted 36 batteries. Simple math indicated that we needed to place 9 batteries on each shelf which represented about 720 pounds per shelf. The shelf was rated at 1500 pounds according to the advertisement on the box and on the instructions, so we felt that we would be in good shape with less than a 50% load on each shelf. We picked up the first battery which was the approximate size and weight of a large car battery and placed it on the top shelf. We then proceeded to place another 2 batteries on the same shelf. However, the shelf was just above eye level which made it difficult to see what was happening to the shelf surface which was a wire metal grate. We then started to load batteries onto the bottom shelf and after placing 3 batteries on that shelf, we could see the wire metal grate bending under the weight of the load. We stopped loading the shelves because it was clear to us that the wire grate was not strong enough to hold the weight of the batteries. We examined the shelf brackets which appeared to be sufficiently strong, so now we needed to do something about the shelf surface. We felt that ¾” plywood would work out well for our purposes, but for some reason, there was no lumber yard on top of this remote mountain top. Now we were faced with the problem of locating the required lumber before we could continue building the battery bank to store the power needed to run the radio equipment.
I called down the hill to the sheriff station to find out from our contact where we could find a lumber yard. He informed me that there was no lumber yard in Independence, so we needed to get to Long Pine to get the two sheets of plywood that it would require to fix the problem. He gave me the name, location and phone number of the lumber yard at which time I called them to find out if they had the lumber in stock. The clerk confirmed that they had the lumber. Then I asked if they could cut the plywood for us because we did not have good facilities to cut the lumber and make a straight professional looking cut of the plywood. We needed the two 4’ x 8’ sheets cut in half lengthwise to be 2’ wide and then cut the length of the 4 pieces down to 6’ from the 8’ length. This would give us four 2’ x 6’ shelves. I got the person at the lumber yard to start working on cutting the lumber even though they had not been paid because it was a small town and people were nicer and more cooperative here. However, I still needed to get down the hill and get to the lumber yard before they close at 5PM. It was 10 minutes after 3PM and with almost an hour drive to get down the hill and another 15-20 minutes to Lone Pine from Independence, we did not have a lot of time to spare.
I took off from the site hauling down the hill at a brisk clip while the other guys started wrapping up their activities for the evening, securing the construction materials for the night and locking up the building after taking the rack of radio equipment out of Nick’s van and bringing it into the building where its final resting place was planned. Then they took off from the site chasing my tail from afar while I was attempting to get to the lumber yard before it closed for the night. The lumber yard would open again at 8AM the next morning, but that would in theory delay the start of our work the next morning, putting us behind schedule. Although I felt that we had made decent progress today, each day brings the opportunity for something else to go wrong and put us behind schedule so it is imperative that I should get to the lumber yard before it closed. I made good time heading down the hill while avoiding any malady and got to US395. I turned left and headed south to the next town of Lone Pine and arrived around 4:30PM. The lumber yard was at the south end of town, so that required another 5 minutes which would place me there in plenty of time to pick up the lumber. However, upon arrival, the person at the lumber yard was there by himself and he was helping another customer. So I waited another 15 minutes which gave Nick and Juan time to catch up to me since we planned to put the wood shelves into Nick’s van. David stopped at the Best Western Motel to get us checked in where we would stay for the next two nights. Once the lumber man finished with the previous customer, we went out to the cutting area where we assisted him in making the cuts in the wood to complete the job we requested. We then paid for the material and took off for the motel to check into the room and clean up before dinner.
I had received a recommendation that we should eat at Seasons Restaurant which was located at the intersection of the only stoplight in town. So we headed there for a sumptuous meal and drink while we discussed the game plan for the next day. Two rounds of drinks made the long day feel like things weren’t so bad in spite of the fact that Nick had sliced the sidewall of his tire and had to change a flat tire. This meant that we had to get the tire repaired before he headed back up the mountain. Going to a mountain top far from civilization on a dirt road is not a wise thing to do. Flat tires are far too common to risk having a flat without a spare tire and neither my vehicle nor David’s vehicle had the same kind of tires as Nick’s van. The tire shop in Lone Pine was closed for the evening so we had to deal with the flat tire in the morning. After finishing the meal, we walked around town visiting some of the local shops and the guys decided to buy some more beer to round out the evening. We all returned to the hotel and I retired to my room to take care of emails while the others got together to watch some baseball while partying and finally retire for the evening.
It was a beautiful day Thursday morning when we got up and prepared ourselves for another day on the mountain. The price of the room included breakfast, so we met at 7AM to eat our morning meal. After finishing breakfast, David, Nick and Chris took off to get Nick’s tire fixed for his van while I packed up and checked out of the motel. I had decided to head north after work today and stay the night in Mammoth at the house. So I went to the front desk to check out of my room which they had expected me to stay until Friday. So I waited while they processed the refund and printed the receipt. I then headed to the restroom to take care of business before heading to my vehicle with Juan. We then pulled out of the motel and started heading up the highway towards Independence. We were almost there when we spotted David and Nick heading south towards Lone Pine. I called David on the radio to find out what was happening at which time he informed me that they had left Lone Pine because the tire shop would not open until 8AM, so they thought it would make sense and save time to get the tire replaced in Independence. However, there is no tire shop in Independence, so they were heading back to Lone Pine to get the tire fixed. I needed to fill up with gas, so we headed a mile past Independence to the Fort Independence Piute gas station (and casino) where the price of gas is more economical than in Independence. I had two bottles of cold water that I left in the room and remembered that they were in the room about the time we were leaving the city limits of Lone Pine so I felt that it would take too much time to go back to the hotel and try to convince them to let me back into my old room to retrieve two water bottles. So I filled up the gas tank at the station and purchased two large cold waters to take to the mountain which was better than the room temperature water that I had in the car with me.
Now we were ready to head up the mountain so I called David to find out their status. They were waiting for the tire replacement to be finished since the tire could not be repaired. Rather than standing around, I told him that we would head up the mountain and get started with the work. So now Juan and I were headed up the mountain taking the same road that we traveled the day before. We worked our way up the dirt road while attempting to dodge the rocks and the ruts, drive over the washboards and the pot holes while attempting to avoid the inevitable damage that eventually happens to all vehicles that travel these roads. Today was another lucky day in which I managed to beat the odds and put off the vehicle damage for another day.
We arrived at the site and proceeded to open up the building to start the work for the day. Since the plywood shelves were in Nick’s van, we could not start working on the battery system. We took the supplies out of the building and laid them on the ground and on the work table (after we set up the table) to get ready for the day’s work. We then proceeded to mount the pipe mounting brackets into the strut to get them ready for the guys when they arrived to mount the pipes for the antenna structure. We lined up the brackets the best we could to have them straight and ready for the pipes to be inserted into the brackets. After completing the brackets, we started to rummage through the pipes to figure out which pipe would go in each location when the guys arrived at the site with the shelves for the battery rack. So Juan and I proceeded to grab the plywood shelves and bring them into the building while David, Nick and Chris started working on the antenna structure. The first thing we needed to do was to remove the batteries from the rack so that we could place the wood on the shelves which fit exactly as planned. Now we could proceed with loading the shelves with the batteries and building the battery system. It takes a lot of work to put all 38 batteries on the shelf and move them around until we were satisfied that we had placed them correctly on the shelf. We rearranged the batteries several times before we were satisfied with the result taking into account the weight distribution on the shelves, power distribution, space economy and aesthetics.
It was time to cable the battery system. The battery system had been in use for about a year at another site in San Diego County for another solar powered site. We recently decommissioned that site and used the materials from that site to build out our new site at Mazourka Peak. The physical arrangements were different at the old site, so I needed to inventory the battery cables to determine what I had on hand, what I needed in the way of battery cables and what I was missing and would ultimately have to make to complete the battery system. I sorted the cables by length and by the red & black colors. Our battery system operates at 12 volts, so we needed to parallel up the batteries. Each battery was 110aH which meant that the entire battery system would total over 4000aH, sufficient capacity to keep the system operating for 2 weeks without any sun. I started by installing the cables that I had working from one end of the battery bank to the other end of the bank starting at the top shelf that had batteries and working my way to the floor. Cabling the battery system is tedious work. One needs to be extremely careful and meticulous to avoid shorting any battery terminals. The resulting arcing could draw hundreds of amps from the batteries and weld the wires together which could cause a complete meltdown of the battery bank. The distance between shelves did not provide for a large and spacious working area which increases the possibility of making a mistake. I decided that I needed to remove my wedding ring and my watch that had a metal wrist band to prevent an accidental short circuit. A friend of mine once got his metal wrist between the 12 volt battery post in a car and ground. The wrist band turned red hot in a fraction of a second and gave him a 3rd degree burn which took weeks to heal, so I did not want to repeat his experience. Cable after cable was carefully laid out and connected from one battery to the next until all of the cables were installed that would fit in the configuration that we had laid out with the batteries.
While I was working on the batteries, the others were working on the antenna structure getting it installed and level. This presented many challenges considering some of our materials had been bent during its previous use in San Diego. Once they had the vertical pipes installed and level in the brackets that Juan and I installed, they built a top rail to connect the three pipes together to give them additional rigidity. Although it worked in one direction, it failed to give us the rigidity that we wanted in the other direction. So now they were faced with solving the problem to give the antenna structure the structural strength that it needed. They decided to install two diagonal braces which they manufactured from two mounting rails. It required installing additional strut on the sides of the building and then connected to the top of the antenna structure. After installing the braces, we now had the rigidity that was needed to support the antennas.
After building the antenna structure, it was time to install the antennas. We needed two transmit antennas and one receive antenna for the system. The receive antenna needed to be installed higher than the transmit antennas to provide the isolation between the receive system and transmit antennas. A basic principal of antenna systems is that a small amount of vertical separation is equal to a large amount of horizontal separation. Therefore, we mounted the receive antenna on a 15 foot pipe which was extended above the transmit antennas to achieve the isolation required for the system to operate without the transmit interfering with the receive antenna system. After getting the antennas mounted, the guys attached the feedlines to the antennas and brought them down to the side of the building where they would enter the building.
They continued with their work while it was time for me to make the new cables that I was missing. I had at least 20 more cables, but I could not use them because of the fact that they were too short to make the connection between the points that needed to be connected. So one cable at a time, I measured the lengths that I needed so that I could cut the cable to the proper length. We had a terminal crimper and copper terminal lugs for the battery cables which had to be installed. After using my Buck knife to strip the insulation off the ends of the wire and crimping the terminals onto the end of the cables, I would then use heatshrink tubing of a matching color to finish off the cables. After that was done, I could then install the cable to finish another section of the battery bank. I found one cable that was long enough to make two of the longer cables that I needed, so I cut the cable in half and installed new terminals on the cut ends along with making several more of the same length. Many more cables of a different length needed to be made, so I cut 8 more red cables and 8 more black cables the same length to finish off the wiring. One at a time I stripped the ends of the cables, crimped the terminals on the end of the cables and shrunk the heatshrink tubing to finish off the cables. I finished ½ of the red cables and ½ of the black cables then proceeded to install each jumper one at a time on the middle level of the battery bank while being careful not to create any short circuit. By the time I finished this portion of the battery system; the guys had installed the cable entry port on the side of the building and had brought the cables into the building.
Now it was time to clean up for the day. We gathered the items that needed to be stored inside the building and carefully placed them in an appropriate location to preserve the materials and keep the area safe to work. Tools were gathered up and put away in the vehicles and the large pipes and strut were tied together and left outside the building for our work the next day. We closed and locked the building and proceeded to head down the mountain. I led the way down the mountain with my vehicle as I was planning to head north for a 2 hour trip to Mammoth and it was already 4PM. David and Nick proceeded a bit more slowly since David had a larger truck and Nick had a van that was designed primarily for street use. If Nick got too aggressive driving down the mountain, he could compromise the van and dump the contents of his parts bins that were not designed to handle this amount of shaking during the drive down the mountain. So they drove at a more conservative pace while I drove my vehicle which was designed for this type of road at a more brisk clip. While we were heading down the hill, David asked me to stop in Bishop and pick up a microwave dish and radio from our WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) since the one that we had available was older and was giving us some issues. So now we called over to the WISP to make the arrangements for me to pickup the materials once I arrived in Bishop. They said that they could have it ready for us the next morning, but that would cause us some delays since they do not open until 9AM and I planned to be leaving the Bishop area the next morning by 7:30AM. So now I had to be a bit insistent and pushy to get the equipment available and set up for us that evening.
I arrived in Bishop around 5:30PM in time to get to their offices before they close at 6:00PM. The owner was not around and the two workers that were there were less familiar with our situation. I described what we wanted and he looked around the office, but he did not find what we were looking to obtain. So he called “the boss” and he talked them through finding the correct device for us and managed to get it configured for our use. I left there around 6:15PM with the new microwave radio and dish antenna proceeding north from Bishop to Mammoth. It is about 40 minutes to Mammoth driving at the speed limit which was not a problem this time of year since there was no snow on the ground. Another 30 days later in the year the snow could be possible to cause problems, but not today. I proceeded up the hill past Tom’s Place and arrived in Mammoth around 7PM. I headed over to the house to open it up for occupancy including turning on the water circulation pump, turning up the water heater and turning up the temperature in the house from 55 degrees to 63 degrees. I then went to dinner at Burgers, a well known local dive that just opened up a 2nd floor with a full bar and a killer view around the town. Dinner was great and I headed back to the house around 8:15PM. It was time to handle emails, get ready for bed and watch a bit of TV before retiring for the evening.
The next morning arrived early at 6:00AM when it was time to shower, shave close up the house and head south for the day’s work. I stopped at The New York Deli to order a bagel breakfast sandwich for the road. I wasn’t sure if the road was hungry, but I sure was ready for breakfast. So after my breakfast sandwich was ready, I left town and headed south on US395 towards Bishop. I did not need to stop in Bishop for the microwave dish antenna because I already got that handled the previous evening, but I wanted to stop at Mahogany Smoked Meats to pick up some beef jerky and other treats to take to the boys up on the mountain and to bring some of them back to the people in the shop So I purchased a reasonable supply of the “goodies” and then proceeded south again on US395 towards Fort Independence where I needed to make a pit stop and fill up the gas tank for the trip up the hill and eventually the trip home after we would finish the job later in the day.
I checked with David who was up on the hill to see if they needed anything before I headed up the hill. He indicated that they were good and I should proceed directly up the hill. So I proceeded to drive south through the town of Independence and turned onto Mazourka Canyon Road and proceeded up to the site. It took me about 50 minutes to get up the mountain and found that the guys had the equipment rack mounted, the cable entry port installed, the connectors on the cables and they were working on installing the circuit breakers and running the large battery cables from the battery system to the rack of radio equipment. They had finished building the last 4 red cables and 4 black cables for me and wanted me to get to work installing these jumpers to finish the battery system. So I got down on the floor to work on the bottom shelf of the rack where these final jumpers needed to be installed and worked on the final wiring of the battery bank. After installing the last of the jumpers, it was time to tighten all the connections on the batteries so that we do not have any loose connections. There were only 78 terminal connections that had to be tightened and checked for quality.
Now we had to finish the final wiring inside the building. This is easy if you do not care how it looks, but we feel that the aesthetics of the installation are just as important as the electrical performance. There is an old saying that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Aside from the issue of pride in our work, a neat installation is easier to troubleshoot and repair than a messy installation. Also a messy job is easy to pull out a wire or cable from a connection or create some other malady compared to a neat installation. So now it was time to install the cable brackets on the equipment rack and neatly tie down the cables into the brackets. The side of the rack that was close to the wall was difficult to put the cables in the brackets because the space was so limited which caused us to spend at least 5 times as much time to do the job as if there were more space to get our hands into the area to work freely. We continued to pursue excellence and finally got all the cables properly tied down on that side of the rack. I had installed cable brackets on the other side of the rack where Chris was finishing the cleanup of the battery wiring from the battery bank. This side of the rack was easy to tie down as there was nothing in the way of free access to the cable brackets.
It was now time to check the performance of the antennas. I went to my vehicle to get the Anritsu antenna analyzer and brought it into the building. I unzipped the case and got the instrument out so that I could turn it on. I pressed the on/off power button and the instrument started to boot up, so I set it down while I assisted Chris with a couple of the cables that needed to be tied down. I turned to pick up the antenna analyzer and it was turned off. I pressed the power button to turn it on again and it started to boot up again and then shut down. Apparently, the battery was dead. I grabbed the charger, but there was no outlet to plug in the charger because this was strictly a solar installation. So now I was trying to figure out how to get the battery charged when Nick indicated that he had a sine wave inverter in his van that he uses when he needs AC power. So I took the instrument over to his van and left it on charge for about 30 minutes. After it was charged up to about 50%, I took the instrument back inside and used it to test all 3 of our two-way radio antennas. Each one of the antennas met or exceeded performance requirements according to the instrument. So I turned it off set it on the battery rack shelf while we finished other items in the building.
While we were tying down the cables, we connected the solar panels to the charge controller. The voltage from the panels seemed to be intermittent as it would be good one minute and then would start dropping to an unacceptably low level. We took off the cover to the solar controller where the connections were made and found that the problem seemed to be up at the panels. So Chris and David went outside to look at the solar panel connections. Since the panels and cables had been used down in San Diego at a previous location, it seemed like it was possible that we had a poor connection. The solar panel connectors were very tough to separate when the site in San Diego was removed and it appears that the part of the connector that prevents the connector from inadvertently separating was damaged slightly and the connector from the solar panel was not fully plugged into the cable running into the building. They secured the connector and the solar panels started providing the power to run the solar charge controller. We were now seeing the solar panels charge the batteries.
Now it was time for David to get out the microwave dish and radio from the box and get it installed so that we could get our network connection. He and Chris mounted the antenna and aimed the dish to the source of our internet which was about 100 yards away. This was an easy shot and easy to aim. They had already run the CAT5 cable into the building when they ran the antenna cables and the solar panel power wires earlier in the day. They assembled the antenna, mounted it on the antenna structure, plugged it into the cable after installing the RJ45 plug and proceeded to check out the network connection. Although the dish was preconfigured, there were still some issues with the radio configuration which had to be resolved with the WISP. So we proceeded to spend the next 45-60 minutes on the phone with the WISP while they made changes to the radio configuration and provisioned the service so that we could get our connection through their equipment. While this was proceeding, David installed the Raspberry Pi (as described below) so that we could run comprehensive circuit testing for the quality of our network connection. Finally, we were finished with the WISP and had our network connection. Now it was time for our people to configure the network connection with a VPN so that we maintain network security. It took some time to get the VPN tunnels configured and built, but eventually our IT department had it done and we were ready to have Dave (our network manager) connect the site to the network. There were many configurations that needed to be entered into the network such as programming the site adjacencies so that the subscriber radios are informed about the new site on the network and adding the site to the appropriate classes of service so that the proper radio fleets had access to the site. Once that was finished, it was time to activate the site with the appropriate checkbox on the correct screen. The site popped on and immediately started to function. Our radios logged onto the site at which time we tested the different channels from Los Angeles to the site in Independence. Everything checked out OK with our portable and mobile radios, a complete success.
Just as we thought that we were done, we were looking at the mass of materials and tools that needed to be cleaned up and loaded into our vehicles. This took us about 45 minutes to put everything away where it belonged, tie down the left over steel on the overhead rack on David’s truck, load the excess cable and materials into our vehicles and get ready to leave the site. A last system check revealed that the solar panel charge controller was still having difficulty. It seemed like the connection at the solar panel was still giving us trouble, so David and Chris went back up on top of the building to fix the connection. They completely disassembled the connection this time and found that the connector contact had been bent which was preventing a reliable connection. So they had to repair the contact by bending it back into the proper shape, clean the connection, snap it together securely and secure the cable so that it would not blow around in the wind. Now the solar charge controller was reading correctly and working at a much higher charge rate which gave us confidence that it was finally fixed correctly. We watched it for a few more minutes and decided that it was good enough to leave the site with confidence that we would not have to return for the same problem.
We left the site knowing that we had done a suberb job and proceeded to head down the hill. I took the lead again while David and Nick rounded up the rear of the caravan. As I drove down the hill, I decided to head north again to test the coverage up towards Big Pine. It was in the opposite direction of home, but I wanted to be certain that we had not missed anything. David and Nick would head south when they got to the bottom of the hill. When I reached the bottom, I had a crate that I had to return to the sheriff’s office so I stopped there to return the crate. Once David got to the bottom of the road, he met me at the sheriff’s office to give me a Raspberry Pi miniature computer (about the size of a pack of cigarettes) which we use to conduct exhaustive testing of our data circuits. I got the materials from David and proceeded to go back inside to install the computer. David and Chris took off to head south on US395 towards home following well behind Nick and Juan while I was installing the Raspberry Pi. I could not easily get access to the back of the cabinet where our equipment was located, but I figured out that I could remove the receive multicoupler from the front of the cabinet and be able to reach the power connection and access a location to install the computer. This required a Phillips screwdriver which meant that I had to go to the car to get it. That was the easy part as I had to leave through the secure door and then had to go through the security procedure to reenter the building. I went back to the equipment rack and proceeded to hook up the Pi. I called Dave on the phone and he verified that he had access to the Pi and he started a circuit test. I buttoned up the receive system, remounted it and closed and locked the cabinet.
Now it was time to leave and head north for the coverage test. I have two mobile radios, so I set one of them to Mazourka Peak and the other radio to the existing Independence site. I also had my portable radio that I had set to Mazourka Peak and placed it in maintenance mode to read out the signal strength in hard numbers instead of the analog bar graph that is on the front of the radio. As I drove north on US395, it was clear that the site was performing well. I took many measurements and compared the two sites which covered similar territory. The new site out-performed the Independence site which was expected since it was many thousands of feet higher than the Independence site. I continued north until I passed the Poverty Hills which is a few miles south of Big Pine. The signal level was great and convinced me that the new site was performing properly and was working as well as we had predicted. So now it was time to turn around and head south to go home. So I waited for the first opportunity to turn around and I took it. I drove south to Independence and got there around 6PM. That meant that I had another 4+ hours to get home. So as I headed south on US395, I continued to monitor the signal strength and compare it to the Independence site. I was quite pleased.
As I drove south, I called to speak to Jared to let him know how well the site was working. He wanted me to stop and take a signal measurement at Coso Junction. I arrived there about 45 minutes later and determined that the site would work from there, a place that is known to be marginal coverage from Mazourka Peak which verified that the site was performing well. I then continued south until I met with Jared at Indian Wells where I programmed a new feature into his radio. Now it was time to head home without any further work stops. Home was still 3 hours away and I can say for certain that the bed at home was a welcome sight as I arrived home, got undressed and went to bed. I then proceeded to inspect the inside of my eyelids for the rest of the night……………