Author Archive | Chris

First Cub Scout Campout

This was the first campout for the boys as Cub Scouts, a “District Camporee”. Cub Scouts, from what I understand, do not camp as often as Boy Scouts, and have age-appropriate restrictions on the types of activities they can participate in and the weather conditions they can camp in. This was also my first BSA campout since leaving Central Florida. Troop 508 hosted us, providing cooked meals and resources we needed as a Pack.

Camp Pellissippi is one of two camps operated by the Great Smoky Mountain Council, BSA. It was established in the 1930s as the main camp for the council, and in 1970 a fire destroyed their dining hall and a portion of the camp. Volunteers have since rebuilt much of the camp using donated supplies and equipment. While the camp is rustic, it has some nice facilities with electricity, bath houses, and showers.

Our Pack was assigned to the “Carter Cabin” which has a loft and a wood stove. Because of the number of people camping with us and the mix of men and women in the group, I opted to set up my own tent and canopy, for privacy and organization.

The first night, the camporee host-Troop sponsored a “Cracker Barrel” of hot dogs, chilli, nachos, cookies, candy, popcorn, and beverage. I think it was one of the best cracker barrels I had ever attended. With the heavy rain outside, this opening event was a warm welcome – I only wish we could have hung out longer.

It rained all night, but we stayed dry in our tent thanks to the Kelty Noah tarp shelter I erected over our tent – one of the best investments I’ve made in camping gear. In addition our tent features a tub style floor, which also helped to keep things dry. Other families in our Pack were not so fortunate in the their tent experience. I slept high and dry on a cot while my two boys slept on a foam mattress pad.

Breakfast by Troop 508 was excellent. Their boys cooked up some nice options for breakfast burritos. It was interesting listening to their boys discuss seasoning options for the food. They took it very seriously.

As mother nature would have it, the rain would not let up – and up to four inches more rain was expected through the next two days. Floor watches and warning started coming out, and our camporee activities were cancelled – so, the Pack decided we needed to break camp and head home. I had the option to stay, as the Troop offered up on of their campsite’s adirondack shelters to us, and we could have used the Carter Cabin and had it all to ourself, but the realization that I was in the front wheel drive family van on some fairly rough roads soon swayed me to get out of dodge before the roads became impassible.

We headed home with wet gear and I turned around the boys’ disappointment by having them set up their tents on our porch at home for another night of “camping”.

Camp Pellissippi
262 Boy Scout Camp Rd
Andersonville, TN 37705

Miles travelled: 113.1 miles
Nights camping: 1


1937 Zenith 5S127 Radio Restoration

1938 Zenith 5S127

1938 Zenith 5S127

I found this little project via a local estate auction. Got it for next to nothing – like $7.50. I bid based only on a couple of photos I had seen of it. It looks like someone started the project and was never able to finish it. The cabinet finish was stripped, the speaker was torn badly, but it looked like most of the parts were all there.

March 23, 2017 Initial findings: It is a 1937 Zenith 5-S-127 “tombstone” tabletop radio on a 5-tube 5516 chassis. The cabinet is stripped and possibly sanded, and some minor veneer chips need repaired. The speaker cone is badly torn. The metal dial clips are missing. The power cord insulation is brittle and falling apart. The dial cord is missing, with monofilament in its place. Tube 6K7’s filament is open. Old repairs are evident – the large electrolytic capacitors were bypassed below chassis with Sprague Atoms, paralleled across the metal-can originals. Power transformer primary checks good. Speaker field coil and voice coil check good.

1938 Zenith 5S127March 29, 2017 Update: I have replaced the electrolytic capacitors, choosing to install them below chassis and bypass the original above-chassis cans – leaving them in place for appearance sake. Also replaced all the cardboard capacitors. Tube 6K7 was replaced due to the bad filament in the original. I also found that the antenna-resonator variable-capacitor’s adjustment screw is missing. With all the capacitors replaced, I powered it up through a variac to bring it back to life. The main power switch is bad – so I’ve bypassed it for now. The dial lights came on, and the temporarily repaired speaker cone came alive with a loud hum. The hum was caused by a rechargeable LED light I was using nearby – once I turned it off and moved it away, the hum went completely away. But that was it. No stations could be tuned. No static could be heard. So…time to dig deeper.

March 30, 2017 Update: It dawned on me last night, being new to antique radios, that I may have needed to connect an antenna in order to receive anything. So, to test my theory I first wanted to reinstall the tube shields, but in doing so the 6A8 1st Detector/Oscillator tube broke while pulling the grid cap. Ugh, shut down, and replacement 6A8 tubes are expensive!!!! There went any hopes of working on this project over the weekend – or so I thought. It hit me this morning that I might have a 6A8 in a 1939 Zenith 6-S-249 Chairside I found at a local pawn shop a couple of days ago – same manufacturer, only one model year newer. And sure enough, it has one! It’s not the glass version, but it should work nonetheless. I finished installing the tube shields, replaced the broken 6A8, and added an antenna wire. It works! And more so than it did yesterday. In retrospect I think my 6A8 might have been bad to begin with. The tube should not have broken with as little force as I was using to pull the grid cap, and when it did break, it wasn’t dramatic, no pop – instead it was like the glass just pulled off the top, as if the tube may already have been compromised. Now, with or without the antenna wire, I can pull in faint stations. The reception is not great, and the selectivity is poor, but we haven’t tuned this yet. Just made my day, and I’ve now heard my first audio from an antique radio that I brought back to life!


Hiking Challenge

Great Smoky Mountains National Park joins parks, programs and partners across the country to encourage everyone to find their park and share their stories online at

Great Smoky Mountains National Park joins parks, programs and partners across the country to encourage everyone to find their park and share their stories online at

I grew up going camping in the Smoky Mountain National Park every fall. Some years we would camp in Elkmont, some years at Smokemont, and a couple of times we actually got to camp at Cades Cove. You see, Cades Coves seemed like the holy grail of camp sites – we loved their scenic loop and the chance to see wild animals, but the campground was always full in the fall. These annual visits to the park ingrained the Smoky Mountains in me.

In late 2015 I moved to Speedwell, TN. I wanted so badly, when we did finally relocate, to be close to the Smoky Mountains. We’re now approximately 2 hours away. With the National Park Service celebrating it’s 100th anniversary in 2016, and with their Find Your Park campaign, I knew that I would find myself visiting the park on a regular basis.

Hike100 PinIn early 2016, the Smoky Mountain National Park announced the Smokies Centennial Challenge – Hike 100, a challenge to hike 100 miles on any trail in the park – and if successful, I could earn a unique pin commemorating the achievement. Just what I needed, an excuse to get motivated.

I announced my goal to my friends on Facebook and got the family’s commitment to allow me a once-per-month visit to the park to put in some miles.

Stay tuned for updates on this exciting journey.


Beginning my Amateur Radio Technician Ticket

Realistic RadioWhen I was younger I spent many hours looking through catalogs from Radio Shack and Heathkit at all the cool 2-way radios. My 8th Grade year in Middle School my dad promised to buy me anything of my choice if I would finish with straight A’s in all my classes. I just knew I would get one of those cool radios. Though I did finish with straight A’s, I ended up with a very large electronics bench for building and experimenting – something which is now rewarding more me so than a radio would have.

So, in my ever growing list of hobbies, I’m going for the Technician Class amateur radio license – something I have always wanted to do. Looking forward to my own call sign. My study book is on its way from ARRL, and I’ve already learned the NATO phonetic alphabet.

What will I do with my ticket? I like to listen. I think I would like SOTA-like (Summits on the Air) activities. I’m in love with the Buddipole system. I could see traveling and DXing with the world. So many choices of equipment, it is bewildering.