Genoa Peak, W7N/TR-007, SOTA Activation

This is the Lake Tahoe view from Genoa Peak. I made the image on my way back down, totally beat but determined to get a few more images of the event.

Introduction: The middle of last week, our fearless leader sent out an email that our intended SOTA activation, Fred’s Peak, was not going to work. Another team member had scouted the area and found a locked gate blocking access to the area.

Therefore, an alternate site, Genoa Peak (W7N/TR-007 and an eight-pointer) would be the target if the group agreed.

I am generally agreeable and am interested more in the activity and the fellowship than the particulars of the event. I knew we would have fun. I knew it would be refreshingly different from my normal routine. I knew the sights would be beautiful. (Now can they not be with Lake Tahoe visible from the site???)

I managed to wrangle The Girl sufficiently to get a selfie at the top of Genoa Peak before we descended back to the staging area for the day.
I already had most of my radio gear ready to go, if not well organized. I intended to use the Elecraft KX2, the MiniPackerHF linear amplifier, the Bioenno 12Ah LFP battery and Genasun GV10 charge controller, and a Bioenno foldable 28w panel as the station equipment. I would log my contacts on paper.

What needed to be done was figure out provisions and water for The Girl and myself, get everything staged (so as not to forget something), and gather the last minute needs on departure.

I decided to take a small sandwich, the snacks that are always in my pack, plenty of water, and some iced tea. I would use the Yeti cooler to keep the cold-things cold and figured I would be able to hike back down to the 4Runner at the staging area to retrieve food and drink.

It has been hot here during the day and the west side of my unit is warm until at least 2200h local. So I do not go to bed until sometime between 2200h and 0000h. I knew that getting up early would be a challenge and that I would not get as much sleep, nor would I get an afternoon nap.

But, I got what sleep I could, woke about 0600h, and figured I would be good if I met the rest of the group at the departure area by 0800h. I puttered around a little, drinking some coffee, gathering up a few last things, and generally waking.

Sharon was looking at the Lake Tahoe overview. The combination of my friend and the lake demanded an image.

The Trip Out: Then I realized suddenly that it was 0700h and it was time to go! The Girl knew I was hustling about, so she woke and her energy level immediately came up. On these kinds of mornings, she will generally avoid food because our routine is that we are back home by noon and she eats a late breakfast. Well, not so this day…

I schlepped the remaining things to the 4Runner, loaded up The Girl, and made a last pass through the house to ensure I did not miss something. Then we headed for the fuel depot to refuel, get some ice for the cooler, and buy a sandwich and drinks for the day.

The cooler filled and secured, I used the iPhone McD’s app to order a couple of biscuits and another coffee. I was still running about a quart low. After I placed my order, I realized that the app put in my order at the north McD’s, not the south store, which took me out of my way. Poop!

So I drove to the north store and checked in for curbside pickup. Of course, it was my day for the s.l.o.w. service. The phone rang… it was Greg…

“How’s things? Are you still planning to come along to Genoa Peak?”

“Yep. I’m picking up a bite and should be there in about ten minutes.”

“Good, see you then.”

About that time, a server brought my goodies. I thanked her and we were off. The drive south through Carson City was a little slow. Carson Street is all torn up for construction. But at least there was little traffic. So I caught up to the group about on time.

We chatted for a few minutes and then were off. The Girl was doing her excited-bouncing-on-the-seat-and-back-seat-and-front-seat thing. I am hopeful that will wear off a little as she gains experience on our trips and gains a little age. But, we will see.

This is the view of Genoa Peak from the staging area. It was a short, steep hike to the peak and then a short hike beyond to a good operating area.
The trip up the hill to the trail was short and uneventful. Once on the trail, the dust was awful. Nevada is normally a dusty place; this powdery dust was worse than usual and my 4Runner looks like it. I think I blew dust from my nose for several days. But the trip was not bad except for a wrong turn that took us up a reasonably sketchy bit of trail. Mike’s pickup had a little trouble traversing one portion, but it was just rough, steep, and rocky other than that.

Setup and Operation: We arrived at the staging area. The hike was about what I expected, something short but fairly rough and steep. I hoped The Girl would not get into trouble on the way up. But there is only one way to learn to be a trail dog and that is to hike trails.

I grabbed my radio pack and then stuffed the battery and solar panel into it. I did not take time to repack the bag nor to examine what was in it before we headed up the trail. I learned an important lesson from this.

Most of our group was already on the trail to the peak by the time The Girl and I headed up. We readily caught up with Subrina and Sharon. Sharon was particularly struggling to get up the trail. I stayed with her a good part of the way to help her with some of the big steps that were required. As we walked together, I thought “It would not be good for her to fall.” The trail was rocky with plenty of scree and a fall (for any of us) would be a bad thing.

Sharon apologized for being slow so many times I finally had to tell her “Stop! I don’t mind walking with you and I’m not in a hurry.”

We laughed about that fact I might have to grab-a-handful-and-push several times on the hike up. We are both old enough and good enough friends that I would have immediately grabbed her had she slipped or failed to make the step. But, eventually she sent me on and I permitted it. She has a right to do things her way without an old man hovering.

A part of the crew was working on Greg’s DX Commander at the operating site. Carson Valley is in the background.

When I hit the summit, I took a moment to take it in. I was facing south. To my left was Carson Valley and to my right was Lake Tahoe and its basin. Both were stunning and well worth the trip, even if no radio happened.

Lake Tahoe is always beautiful. After a long day on the mountain and ready to be back at the staging area and heading for home, it was still beautiful and was worth taking a few moments just to enjoy the view.

The KX2 station is setup and ready to operate.
I set myself to setting up my station. I found a relatively flat rock not far from a large boulder that I thought would support my telescoping antenna mast. I got out the linked dipole (20-30-40m bands) and started unspooling the wire and coaxial cable from the wire winders. I then affixed the center support and balun to the top of the mast and ran it up. I secured the mast by wedging it next to the large boulder with some smaller rock and walked out the antenna. It was easy to find brush or boulders to secure the ends.

I assembled the KX2 and linear amplifier, added the battery, DC distribution block (fused), and the solar panel. With everything connected, I tested the station and everything was working. I was ready to operate.

The KX2 station was setup, tested, and ready to go. I learned that I need a table or better surface to operate from.

In the meantime, the other part of the crew were busy assembling Greg’s DX Commander, an all-band vertical antenna that does not (when properly constructed) require an antenna matching unit, or tuner.

I puttered with the radio a little, sending some Morse Code to determine if a frequency was in use. I checked into the 40m noontime net (via phone). The other station was coming together and they did not need my help.

The Girl and I headed back down the hill to get a bite to eat and some water. The others were kind enough to give her some water from their supply, but I needed water and the bottle I mooched was not sufficient.

So down the hill we went. The Girl scampered ahead, looking for lizards and the chipmunks that live on the summit. I called her back several times because I am so much slower than she is. All-wheel drive is a thing.

We took time to rest a little, or rather I rested while she hunted lizards around the staging area. I made sure she got plenty of water while we were there and decided to carry a liter back up the hill with me.

So we humped it back up the hill, this time with water.

The remainder of the group was ready to go. They got started while Greg headed back for lunch while others activated the mountain.

The Girl was hungry. As usual, she ignored breakfast in her excitement to get on with the day. Sharon is an animal-lover, so she asked “Can she have some cheese?”

“Of course, just make her behave.”

Being hungry, Sera was a little grabby, so I told Sharon how to handle that. “Just palm it if she’s grabby. She knows how to behave, but sometimes needs some instruction.”

The Girl does not get a lot of people food, but she gets a lot of little bits as a treat. I think this also bonds her to her people because we share our food with her. She understands.

When my turn came to operate the radio, I fired up my KX2 and got started calling CQ SOTA. I made several contacts after Greg spotted me on the SOTA network (we had cell service). All of my contacts were phone. I am still too chicken to call CQ with Morse Code. I made my quota quickly and even had a couple of summit-to-summit contacts. Those are fun, even if sometimes difficult to work, and give double points.

After I turned operation over to the next operator, I realized that my linear amplifier was in bypass mode. I could not see the front panel well and missed it. So my contacts were made with five watts — I was in QRP mode. Hah!

Mike got into a rag chew with an operator in San Diego. Most SOTA operators do not get into rag chews, preferring to make the exchange and move on. Not Mike, though. They talked about all kinds of things, especially about vehicles. I was amused.

I got a second shot at operating and this time made sure the linear was inline. That gave me 35 watts and made it a lot easier for other stations to hear me. I made a few more contacts and one more summit-to-summit and then the well went dry.

Teardown and Return: So I turned off the rig, satisfied with the day. It did not take me long to tear down and prepare to repack my pack. This time I took everything out and packed it properly. That made the trip down the summit easier because my load was balanced and the weight low and close to my back.

After our descent from the operating position, a kindly person who was enjoying the afternoon at the staging area made this capture of The Girl and me. I was bushed, ready for some water and rest, and ready for some food. The Girl was definitely ready for food.
At the bottom of the hill and at the staging area, for the last time this trip, I paused, wanting a photograph of The Girl and myself at the end of the trip. Another group were standing around visiting and enjoying the day. So I asked.

“Would one of you please take a couple of pictures of my dog and me?”

A large man smiled and stepped over to us, “Sure.”

“I assume you know how to run one of these,” I asked as I passed my iPhone over to him. He smiled and nodded. Then he proceeded to make a few images of my dog and me. She was still in patrol mode, but we got one good one of her looking at the camera.

He handed back my iPhone and The Girl immediately began greeting the group. They asked me all about her, what breed was she, where she came from. So I told her story, at least what part of it I know, while she absorbed all the attention and affection.

[Soapbox] People think pit bulls, and all the bully breeds, are nothing but aggressive dogs who should be banned and destroyed. Those who know the breeds understand their breed traits and work with those traits to help these dogs become the wonderful companions that they can be. [End soapbox]

They went back to their visiting. A couple of other groups drove in, stayed a bit, and wandered off. I waited.

Before much time passed, I saw the rest of the group heading over the summit and back down the trail. The two female members of the group struggled with the steepness of the trail. I was particularly concerned about Sharon. But she had help, took her time, and made it just fine.

They stowed their gear and we headed back down the trail, this time avoiding the sketchy portion for the better trail. Once down in the trees, Greg found a wide spot in the trail and pulled off.

“Who wants wine?” I had to laugh. I have not been known to turn down a glass of red wine. Greg likes red wine, too. I pulled out a folding chair from the back of the rig and plopped into it. The Girl immediately took to hunting. So I watched to make sure she did not wander off too far. She is doing really well.

We talked and laughed and drank a little wine and enjoyed the coolness of the forest after all the sun of the day. My knees were a little sunburned given they do not get much sun on my daily outings. Well, they did this day.

The wine bottle empty, the snacks gone, and everyone tired we saddled up for the short drive (for some of us) home. I stopped by the Aloha liquor store and bought a sixpack of Coronas and a bottle of Cognac. I intended to celebrate the day a little after I got home, stowed the equipment, and showered.

Lessons Learned: I learned a few things on this activation. They are:

  • Always, always, always carry some water. Even for a short trip from the rig.
  • The pack carried a lot better on the way down, after I unloaded and repacked everything. I need to mind my pack and how it is loaded.
  • I can probably do these activations with a lot less radio. I think I should try working with just the KX2 and a wire antenna. I could do an end-fed half wave or just a random wire. I would still need a mast for many locations, but it would lighten my load a lot.
  • Operating a SOTA activation with more than one radio is difficult. We could not both operate at the same time. My KX2 would bypass the receiver to protect the itself.
  • I should put some orange tape on the cap of the telescoping mast. A black cap is easily lost in the shadows of gray rocks.
  • I should wrap the bottom section of the telescoping mast with something protective. I have a roll of orange Gorilla Tape that would work and would make the mast easy to see if I put it on the ground.
  • I need some kind of platform to work on. I could not see the front panel of the linear, so I made a few mistakes along the way. A working platform would also mean I could have a low chair to work from.
  • I need water bottle carriers on the sides of my radio pack. I should carry at least a couple of liters of water and a foldable dog bowl… always.
  • I should have completed my activation while the others were assembling the second station. I could easily have filled my quota for the day and then torn down my station and just played. DoH!

It was a great day, a good activation, and I am grateful. I leave the story with a view of Carson Valley from my operating position.

The view of Carson Valley from my operating position was just gorgeous. The views alone made the trip worthwhile. That I got to play radio was icing on the cake.

Getting After It!

Older Son and The Girl played hard that January 2018 morning. She loved him, he loved her, and I love them both. She loved to play with her people.

One morning nearly three years ago, DiL, Older Son, The Girl, and I headed over to the Station 51 park for a morning outing, to get some exercise, and to enjoy the winter Sun. I carried my Sony A7R with the old Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 zoom lens. That old lens is legendary in its price-performance ratio. Vivitar had some excellent designs that competed with the factory glass and this was one of those lenses. (I believe this is one of the Komine builds.)

I was fortunate that The Girl and Older Son played so I could make a few captures. Little did I know that in a couple of years The Girl would fade and die over the period of a few months. I am so glad that I made images of her with me and our family and her doing doggie-things over the time we were together. She was my constant companion and a huge part of my life.

I will always miss her. The New Girl (now known just as The Girl — why not?) is quickly becoming a big part of my life as well. She is not a replacement, being a completely different and unique being. But we are building a life together and our relationship is similar, but different, in the way that relationships between different individuals are, well, different.

In any event, I am so grateful that I had Ki in my life all those years. I am grateful for how she integrated into my family and watched over each of us in her own way. I am particularly grateful (and I know I go on about this) for Ki’s overwatch of Wife while she was so ill.

Ki may be gone, but she will never be forgotten nor will her love ever be lost. We will be together at the Rainbow Bridge, when my time comes.

Carson River

The Girl and I walked a little longer one morning so I had an opportunity to capture Mexican Dam from another perspective.

The Carson River is a desert lifeline. It begins on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada probably 50 miles from my home. From the mountain snowmelt, water moves through eastern California into Nevada, through Carson Valley, Carson City, Dayton, on to the Lahontan Reservoir, through Fallon, and to the terminal wetland northeast from Fallon, Nevada. It brings water to all these areas, communities, wildlife, and ranch lands.

The Girl (see note below) and I often walk the portion of Carson River from the River Road bridge to the Mexican Dam (and sometimes more). She loves water and with the hot weather will take dips in the river and the Mexican Ditch several times along the way. When she does, she will bring her wet body up close to me and shake vigorously.

I always thank her for the shower. It is a good thing I do not mind.

At this time of year the water in the river is near the seasonal low. The snow is mostly gone. Irrigation demand is relatively high. There is always a little flow at Mexican Dam, though. When irrigation seasons ends in a couple of months, the flow will increase as irrigation ceases.

I really love walking the river. Although I understand the need to allocate the river’s water, I sure wish there was more flow this time of year.

I also love making photographs along the river. I often see a blue heron, or a great white egret, or a pair of ospreys working the river. There are a multitude of raptors and smaller birds in the area. We even still have some waterfowl living along the reach we walk.

So long as I can, I will walk the Carson River with The Girl. Ki loved walking the river with me, although she was definitely NOT a water dog. She still loved to run, sniff, and chase lizards and squirrels. Sera does all of those things with abandon. But she also loves the water and is not afraid to swim. She makes me happy, watching her joy in the field.

Life is good.

Snowy Ki in Orange

This was shot in January 2020 while we were on walkies. She had her orange hoodie on and still wanted to walk.

Ki will always be The Original Girl, even as I begin calling Sera The Girl.

I found this image on the memory card of my Fuji X-T1 camera this afternoon. I was doing a couple of test shots with an old Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 manual focus lens. When I grabbed the SD card from the camera, this was on the card. I do not recall making the shot, though I do remember the day.

She was not feeling well after a couple of really bad seizures. But she still wanted to get out and walk and she so loved the snow. So we took her out for a walk — as long a walk as she wanted.

I was thinking about her this morning. I do not recall what made me think of her, perhaps it was my play with Sera. Sera and I have been playing tug with the old rope Ki and I used. Plus I bought her a new Kong squeaky-stick, which is a toy that Ki also loved to play with.

I am using the same training approach with Sera that I did with Ki. My friend Anna taught me to use the tug to teach them to manage their energy. Both of them get (got) very excited by the tug. So we tug for a bit, then I ask for a release and tease them with the frayed end of the tug, but require them to leave it.

Ki got it and it helped her a lot. This morning Sera was getting it. She wanted to continue to play, but listened to me and it was a good session.

I love working with dogs. They are such wonderful creatures.

Yesterday afternoon I sat on the couch in the cool living room to rest and read a little. It was not long before The Girl showed up, oozed up onto the sofa, and stuck her face right up against mine.

After checking on me, she laid down next to me and put her head on my thigh. It was not long before she was sleeping. Her relaxation and sleep sounds made me put down my book before I dropped it. I then fell asleep too.

I only woke because my legs went to sleep. Otherwise I might have slept a couple of hours.

I loved how Ki shared her life and energy with me. I miss her and always will. She was a unique personality who was a huge part of my life.

And guess what, The Girl is a huge part of my life and is a unique personality who came into my life at the exact moment that I needed her. We need each other and will have a good life together, full of love, play, and even a little work. God willing, Sera will be as well traveled as Ki was and have experiences that only a few dogs ever do.

I love dogs, working with them, living with them, having them be part of my life.

Elecraft KX1 Repair

I have one of my KX1 radios torn down for minor repairs.

One of my wonderful little Elecraft KX1 radios needs a little love. The AF Gain potentiometer is no longer smooth, but drags over certain portions of its range of travel. The RF Gain potentiometer also feels a little rough and its effect on gain is limited to the last 20 percent of its travel. I also discovered that one of the faceplate screws was sheared below the faceplate. So a few repairs are needed.

So I ordered some parts and have been consulting the Elecraft KX Reflector for advice on how to proceed. It seems I might need to peak the receiver section of the radio as well as replace the pots.

I pulled the radio apart yesterday to start work and found that the desoldering pump does not work on the potentiometer pins. So I ordered some desoldering braid (a wick) and will pick up the work later this week.

I have another of these small radios in my inventory that is a three-bander (20m, 30m, and 40m). I bought the four-band module for it and will pull the 30m module and replace it with a 30m/80m module. Then I’ll have a second four-band KX1 in my inventory.

These are Morse Code only (CW Mode) radios. They will receive CW Mode and SSB (both LSB and USB) very nicely, but only transmit in CW Mode. That means one needs to know Morse Code to transmit with the radio.

So I have been learning Morse Code. My copy speed is between 8 and 10 words per minute at this time. I’m continuing to work on my copy speed to get to the point where I can operate well. I’m still several months out. But I am learning.

Watching

The last time DiL came to visit, we went to the Station 51 Park to play with The Girl. I captured this image of DiL looking on at Older Son and The Girl as they played in the park.

Although it was a couple of years ago, this image still speaks to me. DiL was here to visit with Older Son and I so enjoyed having her around. In so many ways, I am a blessed old man. DiL is such a love and I always love having her around.

While she was here, she spent a lot of her time relaxing and reading. On this particular morning, we all went over to the Station 51 Park to get The Girl out for some exercise. The benefit of that is that we get some exercise as well.

I took along the Sony A7R I added to my collection a couple of years ago so I could use my vintage 35mm glass on a full-frame body. The A7R is still a good camera, although the technology continues to advance. I might sell a number of my other bodies, but so long as I keep some legacy glass, the A7R will be in my inventory.

I believe I had the Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4 manual focus lens on the body. Vivitar marketed some very nice glass and their Series 1 line competed well with that from the manufacturers. I have a number of these lenses in my collection and they never fail to produce, if I do my job.

Older Son and The Girl played and played that morning. She loved all of us, but she really loved Older Son. She would spend much time with him while he was here visiting us.

So, although I would normally be the one playing with her, on this day she played with him. This gave me an opportunity to shoot a few frames of them playing. This was a blessing, as it turns out.

I am so happy I made this image. I love the energy of her watching along as they play, drinking her coffee. I am so happy to have a few captures of The Girl playing with Older Son. They love each other. I believe she still loves him although she is no longer physically with us.

She waits for us at the other end of the Rainbow Bridge.

Ants

I have problems with these little buggers every summer. They invade the house, hunting for sweets. Terro will get them.

Every summer I have been in my little place, these small black ants have invaded. They usually invade the kitchen, looking for sweets.

Some years ago, someone recommended Terro Ant Killer for the little buggers. When I researched it, I learned it is just Borax, which is non-toxic to humans and dogs. So that is what I use.

I really dislike killing them. I do not care to kill God’s creatures unless necessary for the most part.

There are a few exceptions to this rule — Black Widow spiders and wasps in my house or around my house die as soon as I see them. I have had too many bad encounters with those (in the house). Away from the house, I leave them alone. Sometimes a wasp will get after me. If they will not leave me alone, they die.

This year, the little black ants have invaded my living room. I did not notice them until one of them bit me. Their bite is not bad, just a small pinch that I noticed. So, I tracked them down and found them running across the top of one of the rear channel speakers. It took me a bit to track down my supply of Terro and put out some of the poison.

If they had left me alone, I would not care if they were in the house. But they became an irritant so now they have to go.

I still do not care to kill them. But I do not know of another way of making them go away. So, they will have to die. Pity.

Field Day 2020

This panorama shows my Dry Lake camp, the 80m OCFD antenna, and a good portion of the area surrounding my camp.

The plans for a Field Day 2020 expedition started a couple of months ago. Greg, KG7D, was (and is) our fearless leader, as always. The plan was to head out to camp at Smith’s Creek Dry Lake on Thursday, set up camp, relax Thursday evening, set up radio stations and test on Friday, rest Friday evening, and commence operations Saturday morning, running through Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon would be an opportunity to rest and socialize a little and then tear down stations in preparation for a Monday morning departure.

I started my preparation for FD2020 a couple of months ago. There was some new equipment I wanted to bring online after my experience last year. So, the equipment was bought and was delivered over the course of a couple of weeks. Then followed several rounds of assembly, testing, and adjustment over the period of a few weeks.

Work intensified during the two weeks before FD2020. I repaired a lot of power and coaxial cables, assembled the power systems (solar panels, charge controllers, batteries, and cabling), and tested everything. I deployed and tested a new antenna a couple of times because of an issue with coupling of the antenna and the new mast.

Then there was food preparation, loading everything into the camper and 4Runner, and making sure that I did not forget some important component. It was all done Wednesday evening, with the exception of loading my personal kit.

Thursday morning I woke, made some coffee and a little breakfast, and puttered around a little bit. Then I hooked up the camper, loaded the dog, and we headed east from Carson City on US50 toward Middlegate, Nevada.

On the way out, I listened to some chatter on the SNARS repeater system. The Mt. Rose machine was available to me all the way past Fallon, Nevada. I heard KG7D call so I called him when he finished his conversation. He was about a half-hour behind me.

I made a brief stop in Fallon to pick up some iced tea (bottled) and a sandwich. I got Sera out for a brief walk and then we passed through Fallon and east past Sand Mountain. After a couple more basins and ranges, we arrived at Middlegate Station, Nevada. I pulled into the lot of the bar and grill, went inside, and ordered myself a bar burger and a beer.

Then I went back to the rig and retrieved Sera. We sat down at an outside table and looked at the surrounding terrain and did a little people watching. A small group of cruiser-riders was gathered at the station, which is common as it has quite a reputation as a great way-stop.

One of the riders wandered over with a beer. He asked (which I really appreciate) to pet my dog. Of course, Sera was all about that. She is such a people person, like all of the APBTs I have known. He asked to sit down as my food arrived and I invited Rick to sit and visit a bit. It was one of those pleasant interactions I often have on the road.

Greg arrived shortly thereafter and came over to visit. Rick asked if he should leave, but we both said “no, that’s not necessary.”

My burger was great, of course, and I shared my fries with Sera. She loves fries and got the last bite of my burger as well.

This is the view of Smith Creek Dry Lake from NV722. It doesn’t look like much.
We saddled up and headed east the short distance to NV722. I think that is the old US50 and it runs through Eastgate, then up into the mountains again. After a few more miles, we arrived at the entrance to Smith Creek Ranch and shortly after that the turn off to the Dry Lake. As one turns onto the access road for the playa it does not look like much. However, there is a group of “islands” that I called “hummocks” near the middle of the playa that provides an excellent area to camp and set up radio stations. Because of the hummocks, it is unlikely that vehicles will be driving out there and that they will be running fast. That is a good thing.

Two other members of our party were already on-site and set up. Wes and Eric had their camps established and I saw antenna masts as were approach the camp area. Greg pulled in to a likely location and I moved on toward where I camped last year. It did not take me long to set up my camper and deploy the solar panel to keep the house battery charged.

I climbed into my camper and moved the equipment stowed inside my “house” outside to make my space livable. Once that was done, Sera and I walked over to the other camps to check in with our compadres. We had a short visit as everyone was busy getting organized and then returned home to our camp.

I set up my solar panels so that the batteries would charge. The house battery is charged by a single 160W Renogy panel through a Genasun GV10 configured for lead-acid battery chemistry. The station battery is charged by a pair of Bioenno 60W panels through a Buddipole Mini that was part of my new equipment acquisition. The Mini will display the input voltage, current, and power from the panel and the battery voltage, current, and power used by whatever is attached to it. I am an engineer and I want to know these data so I can evaluate how well my system is working and whether adjustments are needed to improve the performance of the power system.

I also pulled out my radio equipment and station computer. It did not take long to set up the station inside the camper. I had time to deploy the vertical antenna so I could play a little radio in the evening after sunset. The remaining equipment — a military mast and 80m off-center-fed-dipole — would have to wait until Friday morning for setup.

For this deployment I brought the Elecraft KX3 with the PX3 panadapter and the KXPA100 amplifier. This system is completely integrated and operates as a signal unit. It can produce up to 100w of radio frequency energy and the radio operates in all modes and on all the standard amateur bands. The radio has an excellent receiver as well.

Even old men deployed on Field Day have to eat! This is my station and operating position for Field Day 2020.
All that done, I warmed a little supper of chicken and rice and sat down at my operating position to listen to the radio while I ate supper. Supper was cooked before departure, the chicken in the slow-cooker and the rice in my relatively new rice cooker. I recently bought a Japanese rice cooker and it does such a great job with the rice. There are a few appliances in my inventory that I consider essentials — a slow-cooker (crockpot), a toaster oven, and a rice cooker. The remainder might be useful, but they are not essential. While I ate, Sera ate her kibbles (seasoned with a little chicken and rice from my supper, of course), then climbed onto the bed to watch me eat (and hope I might drop something).

I tuned the bands a little while eating my supper. I heard a ZL station (New Zealand) calling and talking to other operators. He was working the pile-up well. During a pause in the action, I answered his call and he heard me! So, I worked my first New Zealand station the first night out.

After supper, I stepped outside to look at the sunset and stretch. This also gave Sera a chance to exercise a little and relieve herself before we settled in for the evening.

Friday morning started early. I woke with the opening of morning twilight and stepped outside to look at the morning sky. It was cool, so I was happy I brought a heavy sweatshirt. Sera looked up at me as I opened the door and went back to sleep. I can only imagine what she must have thought.

I made some coffee to help me wake and listened to the radio a little. There was not much traffic, but I heard a few stations chatting, particularly on the 80m band. That is a noisy band much of the day, but it is often quiet in the morning. I heard the usual Asian broadcast stations on the upper part of the 40m band. I cannot tell if they are Chinese or Japanese from the language. I do not know the differences well enough to identify them.

We had a bite of breakfast and then I started the last of my setup. I put up the military mast, which is a repurposed support for military camouflage. My kit is about 32ft tall and is raised by pivoting on a spike driven into the ground. I guy off two of the three lines, walk up the mast (with additional guys and a pulley to raise the wire antenna), then walk out the third guy line and tie it off. I can then walk the three guy points to tension and straighten up the mast.

With the mast erected and secure, I raised the 80m OFCD antenna. I checked the antenna for resonance and it was not working correctly. I made a couple of adjustments but could not get it working. So I did what any intelligent operator would do. Sera and I walked down to Greg’s place to confer with my smarter brother.

Wes and Eric were already there, visiting a little. When I described my problem, Wes said “it is your coaxial cable.” I was fortunate that Greg had a 100ft run of spare cable along, so I took that and Sera and returned to camp for me to try again.

Sera enjoyed hunting these hummocks all around the campsite. She ranged over the entire group of them and only once ventured out into the open area of the lake.
That fixed my problem. The antenna does not have great SWR, but it is certainly good enough to operate.

The remainder of Friday was spent playing a little radio, resting, walking Sera through the hummocks, and visiting with our friends. In the late afternoon, a meeting was called to partake of some QSO-enhancing elixir made by and provided by Greg. We also spent time relaxing and shooting the bull.

Sufficiently elixed, Sera and I headed back to camp to make a little supper and settle in for the evening. I walked her to the north edge of the hummocky-area so she could exercise and burn of some energy. The walk is always good for me as well. I had done a lot of heavy lifting the last few days in preparation for the trip and in the morning wrangling the military mast and antenna.

As the afternoon waned into evening, I stepped back for a few moments to reflect on the beauty of the location. Sera continued her hunt for the local rodents while I ruminated a bit. I also just enjoyed the view and listening to her chuff and run about.

This is my campsite Friday evening before Field Day. I really like the Dry Lake area. The moon is visible in the upper left.

I decided to test the tiny shower in my camper, so I turned on the water heater and assembled the shower curtain. There is not much room in the latrine and it feels even more claustrophobic with the curtain installed.

Unfortunately, I did not wait long enough for hot water, but it was not well-water cold. I was able to get wet, soapy, and rinsed without using much water. I am really spooky about water use in the desert, but it was so good to be clean.

The shower works.

This is the view of our campsite in the middle of Dry Lake. My camp is almost directly below the drone.

Saturday morning came, with much the same routine as Friday morning only without the work. I rose, started water for coffee, and stepped outside to greet the morning Sun. I made some breakfast and poured most of my bacon fat over Sera’s kibbles. Yes, she is spoiled — just a little. We got out of the camper and walked the hummocks, giving Sera a chance to hunt and burn off her morning energy. We visited our fellow operators’ camps and enjoyed the companionship.

A little before 1100h local, I started listening for calls. I worked CW mode for quite a while. I am not very fast, but given enough repetitions I can get a callsign and exchange. Then I can send my callsign and see if I can make the exchange.

I do not make a lot of contacts this way because it takes time to get the information before making the call. But it is a way for me to learn Morse Code and so it is worth the investment.

I worked CW until my brain rebelled and switched over to phone. I could have set up on a frequency and ran the frequency, but I was having fun just searching-and-pouncing. I worked phone until I broke for a bite of lunch.

The wind was coming up, as forecast. I knew it was going to be windy. I did not know how windy it might be. Well… it got WINDY… and DUSTY. The wind blew so hard that I stepped out of the camper to check the guy lines on the mast. I walked the anchors and tightened up the taut-line hitches I had tied. I also made sure (I thought) that the solar panels and other equipment outside were properly lashed down. Then I went back to operating.

I cannot remember if it was lunch or supper, but I received an invite to share a meal with the group at Greg’s Place. I had not expected a communal meal, but I did have an extra bottle of Cabernet along with me so that was my contribution to the event. Again, it was good food and fellowship.

It was also hot, particularly in the small camper. I decided to fire up the generator and run the air conditioner a little to keep my camper cool. Sera was panting and I was sweating, so it seemed the thing to do.

But the generator would not start. Fortunately, Greg came up and gave me hand diagnosing the problem. After futzing about for a bit, he suggested I check the oil. I had changed the oil before the trip and was fairly sure I had put enough in it, but we had eliminated everything else and the Honda does have an oil sensor.

It was a D’Oh moment for me. The oil level was just low enough to trigger to the low oil sensor and prevent the engine from starting. With the oil topped off (yes, I had some), the engine started and so did the air conditioner. I was grateful for my friend and for the cool air. So I went back to operating.

I worked until about 2300h local then called it a night. With the falling of the Sun, the wind fell as well. I slept well as did Sera.

I flew the Mavic Mini once over Dry Lake. The altitude was too much for the little drone, but I managed a few captures before it decided to land.

I woke early Sunday, again. When the light rises, so do I. As before, I started water for coffee and stepped outdoors to greet the day. Although the image was made early Monday, this was my view each morning on Dry Lake.

I turned on the radio, enjoyed my coffee, and made a couple of contacts. I made breakfast for us again and got Sera out for a short walk and some exercise. I knew it was going to be windy again Sunday, perhaps worse than Saturday. So I check my equipment again to be sure it was secure.

I operated a combination of phone and CW the remainder of the morning. About 1030h local I was tired and done. I shut down the radio and Sera and I got out for a walk and a visit. The others were gathered at Greg’s Place and the wind was UP!

It was a good visit. Eric and Wes were mostly torn down and getting ready to leave for home. Greg and I were not about to wrangle out camps in the wind and dust so were prepared to stay over until Monday. I contemplated staying and extra day and enjoying camping. I was not really ready to go home.

Sunday afternoon was pretty rough. The trailer rocked and buffeted in the wind. There was a lot of dust blowing in great clouds as well. My part of the event ended at 1100h local, so I turned on the generator, ran the air conditioner a little, took a nap, listened to music, and read.

One of the solar panels blew over, even though it was lashed to the camper. The second set of panels blew over as well, damaging the props a little. Everything still functioned, but I laid them flat on the ground to prevent them falling again.

Greg came up for a visit, bringing cookies! I shared some of my treats with him and we visited about the weekend and things. It was a good visit, again, and one of the reasons I continue to go out on expeditions with these friends. They are good people and good operators.

The wind fell a little with the Sun, so I got Sera out and we made another pass through the hummocks for some exercise. The sunset was gorgeous again and I saw a smear of smoke to the northwest, at a high altitude. That meant there was a fire out there somewhere.

Fire is a big hazard in the west. I remember them from my childhood in California. There have been several since I came to Nevada. It is a danger of living here and one to take seriously.

I listened to the radio a little more Sunday evening. I heard an Australian station calling and taking calls. After he worked a big pileup, I called and he answered. We had a nice chat for a few minutes. He asked a lot of questions about Nevada. It was fun.

I turned in, satisfied with the Field Day operations and thinking about whether to stay another day or go home.

As Sera and I made our last circuit around the camp area for this trip, I stopped and made this capture of the area and my rig, all ready to go.

Monday morning came and there was little wind. I made coffee and breakfast and then dressed to go take down the military mast and wire antenna. I decided to go home while sleeping Sunday night. I could tell that Greg was ahead of me and sure enough he came by about 0930h to check on me. After confirming that my 4Runner would start, he headed out for home.

Sera puttered about the hummocks while I finished taking down the equipment. In the process of lowering the mast, it got away from me and split two of the fiberglass segments. They will have to be repaired or replaced. But everything else went fairly well, if a little slowly.

These old bones were at the camp area last year. They are a little more scattered this year. Sera enjoyed them.
With everything loaded up and the camper hooked up to the 4Runner, I decided to make one last walk around the campsite. Given we were alone, I took off my shirt to get a little sun on this old white body and started my tracker. Sera was so excited. We started off toward the south and walked along the perimeter of the hummocky-area. She darted from hummock to hummock, returning on call. She is such a happy dog and a joy to have in my life.

With the work done, I could relax and just enjoy the site. So, that is what I did. The weather was about perfect. The sun was warm, but the air temperature was about 55F. Without the sun I would have been cold without a shirt. With the sun shining so brightly, it was wonderful.

I noticed this “monument” last year. I do not know what the significance might be.
After the boneyard, we came across this monument. It was there last year when we camped here at Dry Lake. I do not know what the significance might be. But it is certainly interesting and worth a photograph. I actually think this would be a good site for a geocache.

Sera ran all over the hummocks. I followed along, keeping an eye on her and enjoying watching her run to and fro. When called in, she got a little scratch or pat on the head or butt (or both), then ran away again to go back to the hunt.

I enjoyed walking the perimeter. I stopped and made a few photographs with my iPhone as we walked. The sky was just gorgeous and the contrast of the white clay with the blue sky was striking.

I also thought about the lessons I learned from the trip. There are always lessons to be learned. Here are some lessons I learned:

  • Be sure that the generator has enough oil in it after an oil change.
  • Bring extra oil for the generator (I did).
  • Bring spares for the generator. (I have them; put them in the kit.)
  • Assemble a small mechanics toolkit for the camper. It should include both SAE and metric wrenches and sockets. Some appropriate screwdrivers and maybe some simple test equipment would be useful.
  • Work on my technique for lowering the mast. I think it was more operator error than anything else. I also think I can do better on lowering the mast.
  • Bring spare charge controllers for the camper and the station. I had a spare for the station and that was a good thing.
  • Have a set of jumper cables in the 4Runner.

The failure of the Buddipole Mini was not expected. I knew I would have to call about that. I also knew I would want that unit or a similar unit in my inventory so I can track my station power usage and determine if I have enough battery and charge capacity for my application.

As we drew back to the 4Runner and camper, I knew this trip was about over. Sera was ready for some water and to get into the rig. I was ready for some water and to head home. I would not be satisfied until the rig was unloaded, or mostly unloaded when we got home. I also wanted a shower and some downtime after all the busy-ness of the last few weeks. But, I was (and am) a happy old man.

After Greg’s departure and me finishing the loadout, Sera and I walked around the campsite one last time. The sun was warm and no one was around, so I went shirtless.

Welcome, Sera

This beautiful young woman came to live with me this week. She is an absolute babe in all possible ways. I already love her.

My beloved Ki died four weeks ago. The brain tumor got her. I grieved my dog months before she died, knowing that she would most likely not survive but electing to move forward with the surgery just in case. In the end, though, I was right and she did not survive.

Several good friends who are dog people counseled me to wait months before adopting a new pup. But I did not want to go very long with some canine energy in my life. I began a light search a couple week after Ki died, but did not know how far I would pursue the search.

I found a couple of likely candidates. One, in particular, caught my eye. She is called Serendipity and is a young dog. I sent a request asking about Serendipity. I then moved on with other things, which included missing Ki.

By the end of a couple of weeks my grief abated. I know griefwork and I knew that I was healing. However, I had a hole in my heart that asked for another dog to be in my life. I filled out the adoption application for Serendipity and filed it. It took me a couple of tries to get it completely filled out (I do not do well with forms) and then waited.

Last week a call came from the rescue and we chatted a few minutes about dogs and things. The call terminated with my understanding that my application would continue to be reviewed.

On Friday I received another call and my application was approved and I was selected as the potential adopter of Serendipity. So I made arrangements to travel to a location near Fresno to meet her and potentially to bring her home with me.

I will admit some trepidation at taking on a new canine friend. It is a significant commitment to take care of an animal. But the rewards are also significant and I think I was just second-guessing myself.

Older Son and I rose early Monday and drove over to the rescue. It was a couple-hundred miles over and back. We arrived shortly after noon and met the lady who runs the rescue. She took us to the backyard and we waited for Sera to come out.

Sera immediately play-bowed and then ran around crazy for a few minutes, interacting with us and enjoying the outdoors. She is bigger than Ki and is not quite two years-old. It did not take me long to sign the foster contract and prepare to head home.

Cindy, who runs the rescue, told me she stopped traffic in Fresno when she saw Sera running on the highway. She was able to coax her into the vehicle and take her home. No one claimed Sera.

Older Son and I cannot fathom what would make someone let Sera go. She is a very sweet girl and very attentive. She wants to please.

Sera got into the 4Runner with a little help and we headed home, leaving a tearful rescuer behind. Shortly after we left, a text message arrived that Cindy had not gotten an adoption photograph. So we turned around and returned for a couple of photographs. There was no reason not to.

She did well enough on the way home. I think she was a little carsick in the mountain twisties because she drooled a little. We made a couple of pee-stops, gave her water, and enjoyed the company. Sera spent the return trip either in Older Son’s lap or stretched over the console from the back so she could interact with us. It was so cute.

In the few days she has been here, she is readily settling in to my home and routine. I do not know if she slept with her previous owner, but she learned how to sleep with a human easily. She is very snuggly and wants to be close. She will bark at the noisy neighbors, but is learning the sounds of her new home and is less likely to bark when they move around.

She had her first day in the desert yesterday. I think her paws were a little sore, so I checked them, put a little paw-tector salve on them, and trimmed her nails a little. She permitted me to do this without a lot of protest.

I was really tired and hit the rack about 2100h. She had gotten a second-wind, though, and was a little playful. So we had a little light play before lights out. She likes a rubbery chew-toy in my inventory and the old tug-rope that I also have. She chewed her bone a little as well. Then she was a little playful and mouthy when I went lights out. She will stop her mouthiness if I demand it, but I play a fine line there between permitting the puppy-play and correcting the behavior. It is not serious and she is paying attention.

We both slept better last night. That is partly because she is learning the sounds of her new home and partly because she is learning the ways of her new partner. I know that she enjoys the touch of me reaching out to stroke her side or hip and ruffling her ears when I wake. I know that I enjoy having her there within reach.

This morning we went out back for her morning outside time. She immediately checked to see if the buttholes next door were out and at the fence. She has a line of hair that rises on the back of her neck, just like Ki had. But they were not out, so she relieved herself and we had a play with a toy. We went back indoors so I could have some coffee, but there was also some play with the tug-rope.

I love to get on the floor with her and play with one of her toys. She is so engaged and loves to pursue her toys.

In the end, I was ready for a new companion to come live with me. I will miss Ki forever because she was a great dog and a best friend. Sera will not replace her, because Sera is her own person. She is different and I like that difference. We will forge another partnership and be team, not just like Ki and I were a team, but a different team with different strengths. But, we will be a team and are well on our way.

Welcome home, Sera. God willing, this will be your forever home.

News Coming Soon

This Girl came home with me on 20 April 2020. Her given name is Serendipity, but she is and will be called Sera. She is a rescue dog that I found at a shelter near Fresno, California.

Serendipity, who will be called Sera, came home with Older Son and me on 20 April 2020. After Ki died, I gave myself a few weeks before I started a serious search for another companion. Much of my griefwork was done by the time Ki died, but I needed a little time to celebrate her life with me before adopting a new companion.

I could tell last week that I was ready for some canine energy in my life and had an outstanding application with a rescue near Fresno, California. Everything was approved and arranged, so Older Son and I did a day-trip to the rescue, met Sera, finished the paperwork, and returned home.

So, the big news is that Sera is now in my life. I am under a three-month foster/adoption contract, but I am almost certain the adoption will be finalized. She has only lived with me about a day, but I already can tell that this is the one.

I will have a story to tell and more photographs coming in the next days. So, please stand by…