Thursday, January 19, 2006

Over the hump...

First, the really good news: my dad's surgery went swimmingly, he has been out of the hospital since Tuesday, and he will have his surgical staples out tomorrow. He is already out and about and driving, so our work here in New Milford is done.

Second, the mostly good news: our satellite parts arrived, I was able to repair most of the dish hardware, and we are back on-line. I am now posting from our usual connection, and I have also updated the "where we are" map link on the home page that goes to our position on the DataStorm Users' Group map. There is, however, a hitch.

MotoSat sent me some RG179 solder-on F-connectors to replace the ones torn off in the accident, and I spent a very cold afternoon on the roof in below-freezing temperatures carefully stripping cable ends and soldering on the replacements. Unfortunately, the internet receive cable shows open intermittently, and the DirecTV cable shows open solid. My theory is that the force of the impact put the cables under extreme tension before the connectors gave way, and the tiny (24-gauge, I believe) 2-strand center conductors of the RG179's must have snapped in one or more places along their lengths.

I am now faced with the prospect of disassembling the fancy, motorized, three-axis mount to replace the pair of broken RG179 cables. Moreover, MotoSat, who does not want me (as an end-user) to disassemble the mount, will not sell me complete cable assemblies. There is one spare RG179 in the mount, nominally there for a second DirecTV receiver which we don't have (and can't use, since we have only three good RG6 cables going up to the roof out of the required, and originally installed, four). That cable has no F-connector on its LNB end -- it was missing when I bought the unit. It is possible that this cable is still good, and can be made usable simply by soldering a new F-connector onto it.

As soon as we are someplace warm and dry, I will try fixing the internet receive cable with this spare. If that works, I can then trim one of the two broken cables back to a point ahead of any break in the center conductor, connectorize the cable there, and use a separate 75-ohm jumper to go from that connector out to the DirecTV LNB. That might cost me a couple of dB in the DSS signal strength, but the TV is much less sensitive (and critical) than the internet receiver. That would at least get us operational again without having to break down the mount.

In the interim, we are operational on both internet and TV courtesy of a pair of 25-foot coax cables that I keep in the hook-up bay for connecting to "park cable" -- something we have never done since we acquired Odyssey. They are draped across the living room and out through the roof hatch, and connected directly to the LNB's. It looks kind of hokey, and we will have to pull them down in an electrical storm (since they lack the ground protection afforded by the bulkhead connectors on the standard set-up), but it works well enough to get us to warmer, drier climes.

As long as we are already here in the northeast, we have made arrangements with Chappaqua Transportation of Fishkill, NY to do some work on Odyssey next week. Chappaqua runs a fleet of Neoplans, and has more than a passing familiarity with them, including the German-built variety (which have since been rotated from their fleet). Last November, before I started blogging here regularly, Chappaqua bailed us out by installing the brand new driver windshield that we had just picked up from Neopart in Pennsylvania. We had cracked the darn thing somewhere in Montanna, and ordered the last remaining spare in the US for will-call. We had to rent a U-Haul truck in Pennsylvania to get the windshield to Fishkill after the original plan to have a local glazier install it in Honey Brook fell through. (By fell through, I mean that the glazier took one look at the massive $1,800 piece of glass, another look at Odyssey, and said he wasn't going to touch the job for any amount of money.)

In any case, Chappaqua did such a great job with the windshield, and impressed us so much with their familiarity with Neoplans, that they immediately jumped to the top of our list of preferred vendors to work on the chassis. They were also super-friendly and very kind to us, allowing us to live aboard in the shop for the three days the window repair needed, and even letting us paw through their warehouse of odd German parts, a number of which they simply gave us.

As it happens, we stopped again in Honey Brook on our way here, picking up a tag-axle steering damper to replace the bent one we discovered during our last alignment. We can think of no one better to install that, and we'll have them check the hubs and other running gear while Odyssey is over the pit. We will also ask them if they can help at all with our air leaks and coolant dribbles.

Since they can't get us in any earlier than Wednesday, we will use the next few days to drive up to Argyle, NY to visit my cousins.

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