Gotcha!

I love the look on Ki’s face in this capture. Older Son had just gotten after that ass and she was both surprised and ready to continue the play.

This capture is another from that series I made in January 2018 at the Station 51 park. DiL, Older Son, Ki, and I were at the park for an outing. Ki loved that park and loved the play and friends we met there.

The weather was cool, but not cold. But it was cold enough to make her very playful. She loved Older Son and the way he interacted with her. They were playing, which gave me the opportunity to run the camera.

In this case it was a Sony A7R with a wonderful legacy Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 zoom lens. As I have written many times, this lens far outperformed its price point and is still a good lens.

There is something more cinematic or flavorful about the best of the vintage lenses. There was a warmth to the images made with them, in many respects superior to the more sterile images from the highly refined lenses made today. The newest generation of lenses might be sharper and have fewer optical issues. But in that continued search for the perfect optic, it seems that something was lost and that quantity is in the image quality. I find it difficult to describe, but I can see it in many images.

This capture of my son and my dog is one of those images.

When Ki died earlier this year, I was heartbroken. We had been together for so long. I really was not ready to say “goodbye” — but then it was not up to me. I still miss her and I think I always will.

It is not the same, but it is similar to the way I miss Wife. She is gone now more than seven-years ago. While the pain of her departure has waned, I still miss Wife. I wonder what our life would be together now, in the current circumstances.

But that is not something I can know. I can wonder all I want; but I cannot know. I do know that I miss her, and I miss Ki, The Girl.

But I certainly have a lot of great memories and a few good photographs.

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.

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.

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.

Burnt Cabin Summit Moonrise

Just before supper, I captured the moon rising over the northern Nevada desert near Burnt Cabin Summit. Image captured with iPhone XS Max.

A week ago (yeah, it has been a week) I drove out to Burnt Cabin Summit where my friends Greg and Subrina were camping. Greg asked if I wanted to come help with the antenna we’ve been working on.

So of course I drove out there.

We worked on the antenna most of the afternoon. I think it is working on all the bands (that he wanted) with the exception of 80-meters. For some reason, the element won’t tune properly. We worked on that a long time.

As the sun drifted below the mountains to the west, we put away tools and equipment. I paused for a moment to make a couple of images with my iPhone. To the east, the moon was rising over the northern Nevada desert. I liked the light, so I made this capture.

“How about chicken alfredo for supper?” my friend asked, “I think I have enough wine for two glasses.”

“Of course,” I replied, it didn’t take me long to think about it.

We enjoyed supper in their camper, The Girl resting on the floor where it was warmer than in my 4Runner. The food, wine, and fellowship was fun and I enjoyed it.

The Girl and I then headed home for the evening. It was a little later than I am usually out (about 2130h when we got home), but it was totally worth it.

…A Day Makes

Seemingly overnight, the fall colors were gone.
A few days ago I reveled in the luscious colors of fall along the Carson River. The Girl and I walked the Mexican Ditch Trail nearly every day. Those times we could not do the long walk, we drove over to Riverview Park and made a shorter walk, but still near the river.

Then, seemingly overnight (actually a day or maybe two), the cottonwoods shed their color, but not their leaves — at least not all of them. The trees took on their winter colors, conserving their energy for the coming spring.

I love the turn of the seasons. The extremes of summer and winter are harder, but I love the change and I can keep cool or warm as the season demands. There is something magical in the seasons and when I am aware I marvel at that regular pattern and am grateful to experience it.

Winter comes… what a difference a day makes.

Mexican Dam Color — Fall 2019

The fall colors are sure pretty these days.

The fall colors were sure pretty this year. A couple of days ago The Girl and I were walking the Mexican Ditch Trail along the Carson River. She enjoyed doing doggie-things and I enjoyed being outdoors and the fall color.

When I reached the Mexican Dam, I was treated to a combination of color and reflection. I was carrying the Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens. It’s a good combination.

Mead Cafe

I am sitting in my (new-to-me) camper at the KOA Journey in Lyman, Wyoming this afternoon. I am heading home after a long roadtrip that took me to Lubbock, Texas, to Duran, Oklahoma, to Rolla, Missouri, to Denver, Colorado, and now the last leg back to Carson City.

I have been on the road for more than three weeks. All of my nights were spent in my camper, a 2017 Forest River Rockwood. It is an A-Frame that folds down and is compact in the down position. The 4Runner pulls is pretty will, slowing only on the steepest hills. I will write more about it later.

I am learning a lot about the camper lifestyle. There is a lot for me to learn about setting up my rig. It is interesting to think about a small house and how to make it work for me efficiently.

One thing I learned is that there are many campgrounds operated by county and municipal governments that are very inexpensive. I stayed at a number of municipal campgrounds where I had both electricity and water for about ten bucks a night. That is a bargain compared to what I was paying for lodging.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I want to write about an interaction I had with Marylinn and Anna, who work the floor at the Mead Cafe. The Mead Cafe is located between Durant and Lake Texoma. Older Son and I stayed at one of the Corps of Engineers campgrounds at the lake. That was an interesting experience in and of itself that bears some additional writing, too.

We met Young Son and his girl at the Mead Cafe on a Saturday morning for breakfast. I was sufficiently impressed that it became our go-to breakfast place during our stay there.

On our last morning in Oklahoma, Older Son and I stopped in for breakfast. It was a quiet morning and both women working the floor stopped to chat several times while Older Son and I drank coffee and prepared for our day.

The younger, Anna, told us about the dog she lost to an automobile and the new dog she had taken in. She asked many questions about The Girl and her service work. It was my pleasure to listen to her story, share her grief for her lost companion, and share her joy with her new companion.

The older, Marylinn, told me stories about “service dogs” — one in particular about a dog whose handler put her plate on the floor for the dog. (Yes, that caused even my eyebrows to rise!) She asked many questions about The Girl, as well. She told me that she would not have known The Girl was there but for Anna telling her there was a dog under our table.

The Girl is the real deal. She is not perfect, but neither am I. We are a good team. She knows her job and she knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. She knows what I will do before I do and anticipates our comings and goings. She knows to stay out of sight when working and she knows to play like all hell is loose when we play.

Again this morning, while I had breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe near my campsite, one of the young women working the floor came by. She told me “If I had not seen her come in, I would not have known there was a dog in here.” The Girl looked at her from the top of her eyes, staying on the flood near my feet like she always does.

After breakfast, The Girl and I drove to the Lyman Cemetery. I figured there would be a geocache there and we both needed some outside time. While I was searching for the geocache, The Girl got all rowdy, running around me on the grass like a crazy dog.

I paused my search, crouched, and said “I’m gonna get you…” and we had a great chase there on the grass. Finally, exhausted, she laid on the grass, panting and enjoying the coolness of the green.

I found my geocache, signed the log, and we headed off to Fort Bridger to walk the site and enjoy some of the history of the area.

Yes, she knows how to work and how to play. She is a good teacher for me and the best companion I could ask for.