I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda was up shortly thereafter. I left all three thermostats on last night but had them dialed back so I turned them up to approximately 70 degrees F. I say approximately because the dials are marked in Celsius every five degrees. I fed the cats, washed a few dishes, and made our morning coffee. We lingered with our iPads longer than normal and delayed breakfast as we would be leaving before noon, skipping lunch, and having an early dinner. Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice.
After breakfast we both took showers and got dressed. Linda went for a long walk with her iPod (she listens to audiobooks). I worked at my computer, taking a break to empty the catch bowl in the utility bay and spread some more Spectracide Fire Ant Killer on mounds around our coach. Linda got back from her walk at 11:15 and we got ready to leave.
We left at 11:30 AM for Bruce and Linda Whitney’s new place southeast of Brooksville, Florida. We drove down US-41 through Dunnellon, Hernando, and Inverness, stopping at a Publix in Inverness for house warming flowers and the adjacent Panera for a bagel and coffee. We continued on US-41 to Brooksville at which point we let the GPS take over and route us through a series of back roads to their place. We got there a little after 1:30 PM.
Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) are fellow “hams” (amateur radio operators) from our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) back home. Linda retired around the same time I did and although Bruce is still working they have, like many of us, grown weary of winter in the north. They found a 24 acre place southeast of Brooksville with five good size towers already in place—a dream location for a serious ham—and decided to buy it. (Three of the towers are 200 feet tall.) Bruce successfully got his employer to agree to let him change his work location to Florida and work from home. That’s a good deal if your employer considers you valuable enough to let you do it. Bruce has deep knowledge of power transmission technology along with his equally deep knowledge of RF phenomena. He also has a deep understanding of the power utility industry, and his employer (ITC) clearly recognizes that unique combination of knowledge sets.
We got a tour of the house and property and I got a thorough tour of the antenna farm and ham shack. Bruce has plans to add on to the ham shack at the southeast corner of the house and to add a covered pool to the east side of the house. He also plans to build a barn and put in an RV pad next to it with a 50 Amp electrical service.
The house was very nice and located in the center of the property, which is rectangular but close to being a square. Except for the house, which is surrounded with plants, there are no trees or other plants, just a grass that can be harvested for hay. Bruce has arranged with a neighbor to harvest the grass. The neighbor will maintain the field in exchange for the harvested material. It will be a good deal for both of them; Bruce won’t have to mow it and neighbor will clear at least $7K from each harvest, typically getting at least two per year.
We sat in the living room and chatted for a while. Linda (K8LMF) wanted to see the various plants around the house so the ladies went outside to look at them. Bruce (W8RA) and I went to the ham shack, which is a far cry from the setup he has back in Michigan, to operate. Using his spotting software he noticed a station operating from Swaziland and decided to try contacting them. He turned the stacked 40 M beam to 104 degrees and tuned in the station. There was a huge pileup trying to work this guy and we noticed in his QRZ.com listing that he was one of only four licensed amateur radio operators in Swaziland. That does not automatically mean that Swaziland is a rare contact—it depends on how active these four hams are—but it does mean that opportunities are more limited than with most countries where thousands of hams are active and dozens to hundreds might be on the air at any one time.
We wrapped up what we were doing at 4 PM and drove to Papa Joe’s for dinner. Papa Joe’s was six miles NNE of their house, closer to I-75 and Williston, so we drove separately. That worked out well as we left from there after dinner and headed back via Cortez Blvd to I-75 and they had to drive to the grocery store at Cortez and I-75.
We took our time with dinner and left the restaurant at 6:30 PM. We arrived back at our rig about 7:45 PM, completing the 76 mile trip in 75 minutes. We did not turn on the TV and spent the rest of the evening reading. I did not feel like working on this post so I read the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal. Linda headed off to bed around 11 PM and I turned in at 11:15. I went right to sleep while she continued to read, a reversal of our normal pattern, but she was deeply engaged in a book.