The Waffle House

An iconic American diner, the Waffle House. Shot with my Contax TVS on Kodak Gold 200. Exposure details not recorded.
Some decades ago, probably in the 1980s, my practice of long road trips began. They were mostly associated with traveling from where we lived to visit family in Missouri. However, with time (and age), they have morphed into long travels for a variety of reasons. I still visit my family, but have added to that list old friends. Then there are trips added to visit work sites and just because I want to go.

What I found is the Waffle House. I have eaten breakfast at these places all over that part of the country that the franchise serves. The food is decent. It is not bistro-quality, but the short-order kind of food. I really like the waffles, the batter they use is very good. And I found that pecans in my waffle is an added tasty treat.

There is a Waffle House a few miles north from Ozark, Missouri. I am here visiting with my kids and waiting for the camper to be repaired after the blown tire tore s#*$ up. The parts are in and the camper is in the shop. Before the next leg of my trip, it will be good to have the little house restored. I really prefer sleeping in my own space.

My most recent bout of GAS1 I wished I had brought along a couple of my film cameras. Specifically, I had a Nikon FA kit partly assembled and the Pentax 645 kit was mostly assembled. But, I ran out of time to get everything done before I needed to leave. So, I left my film cameras behind.

This I regretted enough that I bought a Contax TVS point-and-shoot. It is a little Vario-Sonar zoom based 35mm camera that is very good. I wanted the T2 version, but the wannabees have driven up the price of the prime-based Contax that they are no longer reasonable. The TVS is a kind of sleeper that makes solid images at some cost to control. It is a point-and-shoot, after all.

I have always wanted a mechanical Nikon camera. When I was a young man, I wanted a Nikon Photomic. It was a tool of the professional, with prices accordingly. I could not afford one. I can now, so a F2AS joined my inventory along with a couple of lenses that are not in my collection.

I have lusted wanted a Hasselblad 500-series camera for a very long time. They were always out of my price range. I might have been able to buy one four- or five-years ago, but then the prices were driven up because of the Hasselblad reputation, I suppose. I have a couple of the V-mount lenses in my collection. I suppose it is now time to sell them… because…

After substantial research, the Bronica S2A is an acceptable substitute for the 500-series Hasselblad. No, it is not the equivalent. But it is close, close enough. It will provide the 6x6cm experience (and challenges). The Nikkor glass for the camera is quite good. It is a mechanical camera that should run the rest of my life. If it needs repair, it is repairable.

One wandered into my life a few days ago. I still need to introduce it. I will.

So, now at the end of my mental wandering, the image can be explained. I was running a test roll through the Contax TVS and saw this scene. So I turned off the flash and made the capture. I love having access to a Waffle House from Ozark. I am often up early, so I can get out for breakfast at a favorite place. It can be an interesting place to make a few captures as well.

I like it. Life is good.

1Gear Acquisition Syndrome, an affliction of lust that many photographers succumb to that causes an increased load and a reduced bank account.

Daily Image: 23 January 2024 — Books

One of the stacks at Dixon Books in Fayetteville, AR. Shot with Fujifilm X100V 23mm f/2 at f/2.8 using the Tri-X film simulation.

My kids and I took a day trip down to Rogers and Fayetteville, Arkansas on Sunday. Despite the cold, winter day (but not as cold as it has been), we had a blast. We visited a Duluth Trading Company bricks and mortar store. There I bought The Girl a jacket for our cold outings (and to keep some of the rain off). I bought myself some gloves as those I have are insufficient when it gets this cold.

We drove into Fayetteville for a Mediterranean meal and the headed downtown to Dixon Books. I love used book stores and carried a camera inside with me.

Dixon Books is one of those rabbit-warren bookstores that has lots (and lots) of bookshelves and stacks of books with small aisles to traverse the stacks. I love it.

I carried the Fujifilm X100V in my hand and made many captures surreptitiously of other wanderers of the stacks. A couple of those might be worth sharing. I also carried the Nikon F2AS, but decided that it is a bit noisy for that environment. A quite rangefinder was just the trick. (The X100V is nearly silent.)

I did not buy any new books, not having a list with me. But, I hope there will be another (perhaps many) trips back to Fayetteville and the next visit I will have a list with me.

After the bookstore, there was coffee at Doomsday Coffee, just a couple of blocks away.

It was a good day. Life is good.

No Service

If you know, you know… Shot with the Contax TVS using Kodak Gold 200. Exposure data unrecorded.

Not long after I arrived here in Missouri, I made my first trip to Bedford Camera & Video in Springfield. I decided to see what the camera store here was like and whether it would be a good place to buy film and have my processing done.

My first experience was positive. I bought some film for my new-to-me Contax TVS point and shoot camera. It is a premium 35mm point and shoot with a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar zoom lens. The zoom range is not large, just two times. But the focal lengths are useful even if the lens is relatively slow.

The clerk loaded the battery for me (a CR123A) and I loaded a roll of Kodak Gold 200. The camera wound the film onto the take-up spool just fine and announced it was ready to go. I added a few more rolls of 35mm film to my order, checked out, and headed back to the rig.

I paused to make an image of the store front and then The Girl and I headed south towards home. I was hungry and decided to stop for a bit.

The first food I came across was the Burger King on South Campbell. I pulled into the lot and walked inside. There I waited at least five minutes without acknowledgement. None of the workers greeted me. None offered to take my order.

I shook my head and walked back to the rig. Clearly they are not interested in my business. I will not be stopping there again.

We drove south a few more blocks and found a Steak & Shake. I have always liked their food, so I parked and walked into the store. I was greeted fairly quickly and then seated. Although it took a few minutes for one of the staffers to take my order, they got it done. My food was delivered hot and was tasty. I really like the fries at Steak & Shake.

I took some with me, along with a bite of my sandwich, and gave them to The Girl. She was expecting a treat, as usual. And, she got one.

I was satisfied with my outing and determined to shoot the roll of film to complete my testing of the new camera.

A few days alter (yesterday), Older Son and I decided to get out of the house and check some of the pawn shops and thrift stores for film cameras. The first pawn shop we stopped at asked “Do they even develop film anymore?”

“Yes, they do.” I responded.

He suggested we visit the Springfield Trading Depot (STD) because all of the pawn brokers are only dealing in digital cameras now. We thanked him and headed out.

STD (yes, that is the acronym) was interesting enough, but there was nothing there I was interested in. It made an interesting photo opportunity anyway. I still need to download and process those images.

I had finished my roll of film, so we headed to Bedford to drop it off for processing, I bought a few rolls of 120 black and white film, and we headed off to pick up DiL. I wanted an early supper and a trip to Bass Pro to replace her collar. The transmitter finally failed after I repaired the rotary control one time. So, it is time to replace it. She sometimes needs it to stay out of trouble. She remains an impulsive Girl.

We took her into Bass Pro (they are dog friendly) and it is such a HUGE place. There were a lot of people there (and quite a few dogs), but she really behaved well and barked at other dogs only a couple of times.

We got what we came for and were looking at the toys when we heard THE SQUEAK. She knew exactly what she wanted.

We played with that for several minutes, all four of us laughing. So we gathered up a couple of new toys for her and headed to the check out line. She was a very excited Girl.

We stopped at a Korean restaurant on the way home for a bibimpap bowl. I had not had one before and it was very good. Win! While there, I received an email that my film had been processed and my scans were ready to download. Win!

We retrieved DiL’s rig and then stopped at Andy’s Frozen Yogurt for a treat and then on home.

Yes, The Girl got a pup-cup.

When I got home, I downloaded my scans. I have a couple of keepers in the lot. That is not bad.

It was a good day. Life is good.

New Years Eve 2023

My campsite at Lake Texoma — The Johnson Creek Recreation Area that is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Shot with my iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Today we mark the end of another year. There will be celebrations tonight and probably fireworks. The Girl is not particularly bothered by the fireworks, which is a good thing. So I will not have to be worried about her. When they happen, we will just play around it and she will ignore them.

I am here in Ozark, Missouri with Older Son and DiL. It has been a good visit. He has a couple of days off and will work a short week so we will have a couple more days, and the weekend, to spend together. The weather is cold, but not hard winter (yet). We are able to get The Girl out for walkies and play.

Yesterday we took the cassette from the camper and dumped it. While at Camper World, I asked about a repair for the camper. This is a long story.

The short version is that just west from Albuquerque, NM I blew a trailer tire. It was sudden and unexpected. I had checked them the day before and they were fine. I did not notice anything that morning when I recovered the camper and did my walk-around. One Interstate 40 eastbound, a passing motorist honked just as I noticed the camper was listing to starboard. A glance into the starboard mirrors determined that I had a flat and I watched (as I pulled to the shoulder) the carcass shed from the rim.

This was my first catastrophic tire failure, ever. Fortunately, I brought both a floor jack and a bottle jack along. The floor jack is preferred because it is more stable. But it took a lot of effort to get everything to work.

And then there is the lug wrench. I bought one of those cheap Chinese #$*t cross spinners from Harbor Freight. The sockets are too thick to fit properly into the alloy wheels of the camper. It took a lot of work to get the lugs loose as they were very tight. The jack had to be reset several times and I had to use blocks to get the rim off the ground.

But I got it loose. I retrieved the spare and checked it (again). I had to use a shovel to dig so I could mount the spare. Then I struggled with the lug wrench (again) to get everything tightened up.

This required an hour to get done. I was spent when I finished. I checked the pressure in the tires and then drove to the next exit. I had also discovered that the carcass had ripped the quick disconnect for the exterior grill from the supply hose, so I had turned off the propane (which serves the refrigerator).

I made a few calls looking for a propane repair house. I found one in Albuquerque and headed that way. The tire remained to be dealt with. The clerk at the propane house could not (both physically and by order) get under the camper. So, once again I wriggled under the camper, loosened the hose from the copper supply line, and retrieved it for him.

He went searching for a blind cap while I had the workers refill the propane tank. It took four gallons of fuel. The clerk gave me a fitting that would permit me to turn the propane back on.

I think picked a repair shop from the map and made a phone call. Phil said he was going to run some errands and would come retrieve me.

I waited about 20 minutes and called again. Just as I got off the phone with his office, a big white pickup pulled in and I was greeted by Phil. He led me to their shop and we started looking at the damage.

The wheel tub was gone. One of my spare boots was gone. One of my house shoes was gone. All of the electrics in the starboard side cabinet (where the wheel well was located) were gone or wrapped around the axle behind the brake drum.

In other words, I was F*#$($D. I had no heater, no hot water, and the igniter for the range was out. But, the pump was working so I had water and the range and refrigerator were still working, even if I had to light the range with a match.

Phil and Larry worked very hard to clear the electrics (so I would be safe) and fabricated a temporary wheel tub to keep things dry inside.

That took the remainder of the day and into Thursday morning. I was delayed a day.

But Phil took good care of me. He got me back on the road and I had a workable, if crippled, house. I spent the night in a Hampton Inn and headed out late Thursday morning. We spent the night at the Amarillo, TX KOA (recommended) and proceeded on to Mead, OK on Saturday.

I was able to spend the holiday with Younger Son, DiL, and her family. It was a good visit and well worth the trip.

I spent a couple more days there, got some work done, and then headed for Ozark, MO on Thursday. The goodbyes were hard, as usual. But, God-willing, I will be back for another visit.I got away late, so it was just getting dark when I arrived. We unloaded the few things I needed to sustain us that night, and went inside.

So, here we are in Ozark, MO. I filed an insurance claim and hope that the insurance company will pay for part of the repairs. I was going to do it myself, but in looking at it decided that it might be better to have a technician make the repairs because it looks like diagnosing the electrics might be a challenge and I have plenty of paying work to do.

There is the backstory. The image I captured was of the camper at the JCRE campground. We are safe, warm, and loved here in Ozark, MO. We will celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of another with family.

Life is good. I am grateful.

Daily Image — 29 October 2023

One of my favorite places along the Carson River — Mexican Ditch Trail on the Silver Saddle Ranch. Shot with the Fujifilm X100V at f/8 with the Portra film simulation. #SOOC

For the last number of weeks, my daily walks have mostly been on the job site in El Dorado National Forest. By the end of the day, I was pretty much done and getting in a half-hour walk for The Girl was about all I had left in me. I sometimes carried a camera, but the creative juice just was not there.

Now that I am recovering from that slog, I have time and energy to play a little radio, work a little in my house, and do something with a camera. I am also walking an hour or so for both The Girl and I. We love those times together.

Today was a treat for a couple of reasons. First was the image above. An irrigation structure on the Mexican Ditch often returns flow to the Carson River at this location. The flow crosses the road and I love the sound and sight that it makes. With the colder temperatures of the last few nights, the cottonwoods are dropping their leaves as the color leaves them. The sight this morning made me pause for a couple of captures. I like this one.

On the way back to the rig, I was keeping an eye out for other walkers/dogs and heard a whistle behind me. For a moment I thought of the Mockingjay whistle from The Hunger Games movies. That caused me to pause and I looked behind us.

Sera came to attention. When Timber and Lisa started calling her I said “Go! See you peeps!”

She blasted off, of course and I heard Lisa call “Watch your knees!” as she blew in to greet them. Sera was all wiggles and soft looks as she interacted with some of her favorite people.

I walked back to greet them and retrieve The Girl and we walked back to my rig. We paused to visit for a few minutes. I so enjoy them and it was good to spend a few minutes catching up.

The capture was made with my Fujifilm X100V and its lovely 23mm f/2 lens. The capture was made at f/8 using the Portra-400 film simulation. I am running a light diffusion filter on the camera, which provides a more filmic look.

It was a good day. Life is good.

A SOTA Weekend

The Girl passing by my KX1 station while we were on Hot Springs Mountain for a SOTA activation.

I wrote this over a year ago, but never got around to posting it. I am not sure why. Perhaps I set it aside to look for a photograph for the header. Or, perhaps I simply forgot about it. Nonetheless, it is not a bad story so I think I will tell it.

This weekend was a study in contrasts. Saturday, a friend and I drove up to the activation zone of Prison Hill, at the south side of Carson City. The trail to the top is no challenge for the 4Runner and I’m not a hard driver.

So I had the luxury of computer logging, full output power from the KX3, a table to work from, and a nice chair. The antenna was a kit-built EFHW in inverted-L using a SOTAbeams 10m travel mast. It was a fun afternoon with a friend and my dog, although neither of them participated in the radio fun (the friend is licensed; the dog is not).

This morning I decided I had so much fun yesterday that I would do it again, this time Hot Springs Mountain. It was just doggo and me. I attempted an approach from the west side, but the last half-mile was a rough trail of scrabble and I did not think the 4Runner would traverse it.

So I drove around to the south side and up a sand wash. The sand had a little moisture from the last snow and I was able to stay on top of the sand by keeping up my speed.

I expected the sand ravine near the top and there it was. I was sure I could get down to the bottom of the ravine, but figured that’s where I would stay.

So, I got out my KX1 kit (shack in a small Pelican box), a bottle of water, a 3Ah LFP battery (gives just a little more output power from the little KX1 and will run forever), and the SOTAbeams mast.

The SOTAbeams travel mast leaned up against a rock cairn atop Hot Springs Mountain. An end fed random wire is affixed to the top of the antenna for the activation.
Doggo has four-paw drive, but not so this old man. She sprinted back and forth urging me on while I trudged up the remaining quartile mile of trail, pausing now and again to catch my breath.

There was a cairn in the activation zone and I found a way to stabilize the mast against the cairn with a Voile strap I brought along, just in case. I stretched the wire I carry in the kit along the mast and threw the second bundle of wires I use for a counterpoise on the rocks.

The radio matched the antenna readily and the 40m noon net (7.2835MHz) NCO heard me. So I knew I had a working station.

Over the next hour and a half I worked 17 stations on 40m, 30m, and 20m, including a couple of summit-to-summit operators. Doggo sat patiently next to me, enjoying the sun and the view.

I was on 20m when the antenna was blown over by the wind a second time. It had come up near the end of my operation.

I finished landing the fish I had on the line and announced my QRT, followed by a post to the SOTAwatch portal. It only took me a few minutes to tear down and head back down the hill.

I should mention that I used the backup key for this activation. The key I had been using failed during the first part of my activation. Fortunately, I keep the factory key in the kit as a backup. It’s not my favorite key, but it is a working key.

The contrast in the two ops is striking. Saturday was what I’ll GLOTA (glam-SOTA), with all the luxuries one could want in the field. Today I earned my contacts the hard way — by humping up the last, steepest, part of the hill.

Both days were good. Today was better. I’m whupped!

Another Weekend, Another Two Mountains — AAR

It’s not the best image, but it conveys the feel of looking out over the trail breakover on the way down from the Oreana Peak staging area. Sometimes these views give me the willies!

After another long week, I spent some time Friday afternoon looking for a summit to activate. Both Mt. Siegel (W7N/TR-003) and Oreana Peak (W7M/TR-004) were on my list from a previous search. Because of their proximity, they looked to be doable in a single trip.

So, the stage was set for a twin activation on Saturday morning, 13 August 2022.

I loaded up a few things to take with us, mostly water, a snack, and checked that I had radio equipment. I roused The Girl into the rig, locked the front door of the house, and we headed out. We made a quick stop at McD’s for a bite, a coffee, and a water and then headed south on US395. I stopped in Minden to refuel the rig and buy a sandwich.

We continued through Gardnerville and then took Pine Nut Road east for a few miles. I missed the turn and found myself at the transfer station, but that was not a big deal as it was only a quarter of a mile. We continued on an increasingly rough road to the Public Lands access. That road went on another mile or so and because Lone Pine Canyon Road.

That is, if it can be called a road. It is really just a two-track trail that varies from packed soil and sand to some rounded cobble to boulder size rocks. The pace declined to under ten miles per hour.

Yet, the trail was not particularly difficult. It was just rough. We continued to climb up the valley, in and out of the drainage, picking our way through the rocks when necessary and driving over them as needed.

We entered a burned out area, the Manzanite standing skeletal with burned bark and bare white limbs stretched to the sky in a dying supplication for mercy that did not come. The grasses were already returning, but the shrubs will be a long time before they grow again.

This part of the drive out was just a slog. I stopped a couple of times to let The Girl out to sniff and pee. I will say I took advantage of the stops a time or two myself. I guess the coffee was working.

As we turned south along Buckeye Creek, there were places that the trail crossed old flood outwashes. These could be trip-enders with very angular (and sharp) outcrops of rocks. They could tear a sidewall easily. I took care crossing through these areas and worked to keep my head clear of the usual woolgathering I do when driving boring roads.

The trail up to Mt. Siegel is obvious in this image. That trail was not bad, but care was required to protect the tires.

I hit the intersection of the trail to Oreana Peak and paused. I could see the trail up to Oreana Peak and it looked easier than the one up to Mt. Siegel. Given how far out I was, I wanted to do both peaks on this trip.

The trail up to Mr. Siegel was not too bad. The 4Runner crawled up just fine. But I was very careful to watch for rocks. It would be easy to tear a sidewall on this trail. There were just enough loose rocks that the rig slipped a bit now and again. A torn sidewall would have been a very bad afternoon.

Oreana Peak is on the far right. I think that is Smith Valley in the background.
There is a small staging area at the top of the Mt. Siegel trail. I found a place to park the 4Runner off the trail and paused for a look around. This gave The Girl an opportunity to sniff around as well as a chance for me to catch my bearings.

I might have been able to drive the 4Runner up a bit farther. I decided to hike it.
The Girl and I headed up the two-track toward the summit. I had my pack that contained my station plus water for both of us. The sun was quite hot even if the air temperature was moderate. That, combined with the altitude (about 9,200ft) had me puffing a bit as i worked my way up the slope.

I looked around a bit and noticed the 4Runner down at the staging area. That called for a pause for an image. So I made it.

Yep, that is the 4Runner down at the staging area.
We walked around the rock-pile summit and I found a place where I could set up the station. I used the Elecraft KX2 and an end-fed random wire antenna to a very light six-meter carbon fiber mast. I had the station setup in a few minutes. I then gave both of us some water.

My cell service was a little iffy, but I did get a spot out for my location. I started calling and made a number of contacts right away, including a few summit-to-summit contacts. It was not difficult to get my quota.

But, I noticed that running my iPhone with the screen bright and the lock time set to five minutes was a problem. The sun shining down on us was overheating more than The Girl and I — it was overheating my iPhone. Given I log my contacts on my phone this could be a problem.

As happened during my activation of Chickadee Ridge, my phone was turning down the screen brightness to reduce heat. Given I had my quota, I decided to call it and get ready to do the other peak.

Here’s the Elecraft KX2, the factory key, a microphone (yes, I did operate phone), and the water bottle. The yellow wire is the antenna.

I gave The Girl some more water and we headed back down the two-track. It was not a long hike, but care was required as the trail was fairly steep and rocky. A fall would not be a good thing.

While working my way down the trail, I paused to capture an image of Orean Peak. The trail to Mt. Siegel is in the foreground. The trail to Oreana Peak is in the midground with the peak in the background. It is quite breathtaking.

The Mt. Siegel trail is in the foreground. Oreana Peak and its trail is in the midground and background.

At the Mt. Siegel staging area, I looked out over Carson Valley and saw that someone had put up a cross. I did not check to see if it marked a grave.
I put The Girl and my gear into the rig and climbed in myself. I knew the trip back down the Mt. Siegel trail would require care to protect the tires.

I was not disappointed. The rig skittered and slid a bit on the way down, even in low-low. I had to work the brakes a bit and be careful to avoid a slide-out and tire damage. So I took my time and was very careful.

I made it down with no problem. I made the right to the Oreana Peak trail along Buckeye Creek (not much of a creek at this location) and headed back up.

When we got up to the Oreana Peak staging area, it was clear this was another bare summit with no shade. There was not enough rock outcrop to make shade. And the sun was just miserable. And, I was getting tired from the required focus, the altitude, and the heat.

So I put up the antenna, setup the radio, and made my contacts. The Girl was so hot she was crowding me trying to get into my shade. That wreaked a bit of havoc on my sending. I do not need help with that, particularly with the Elecraft key!

I kept the iPhone in my shade and that helped keep it from overheating again. I now carry a notebook and a pen in a cargo pocket. I can always log contacts on paper.

Yes, she was hot. No, I did not take a picture of the deployed station. I was hot too.

While we were sitting there, resting a bit (and she trying to crowd into my shade still), I heard something that sounded like a pickup scrabbling up the trail to the staging area.

“That’s strange,” I thought, “I did not see a vehicle approaching up the trail.”

Then the wind hit us. It was a strong gust and I was glad that the mast was put away. It might have been damaged. The wind was strong enough to rattle the rocks on the slopes of Oreana Peak.

As I headed down the trail from Oreana Peak to the staging area, I made this image of the rig and Mt. Siegel. Carson Valley is in the distant background.
I reloaded the pack we started back down to the staging area and the rig. Four-legs ran ahead, undaunted. The old man, however, picked his way carefully down the trail. Nothing good would come from a fall at this point in the trip. The view of the rig on the staging area with Mt. Siegel in the background struck me. I made the capture.

It was not long and we were back at the rig. I got out more water for The Girl. I dumped the pack into the rig. I drank water myself. I was gassed… not completely, but I was damned tired.

So I put us back into the rig and we started the long trail back home. It was about two hours from US395 to where we were. It would be about two hours back. And I needed to be focused for the drive.

On the way down from Oreana Peak, this is the trail (after the steep part). Mt. Siegel and its trail are in the background.

But we made it. As were were exiting Lone Pine Canyon, my buddy Greg called. “Are you home yet?”

“Nope. I’m still working my way down the trail. I’m about 15 or 20 minutes from the highway.”

“I thought you’d be home by now!”

“No… it is a long way out there and the trail is pretty rough. But I’ll be home soon. Thanks so much for calling and checking on me.”

We chatted a bit. Then he headed off for supper. I continued the drive.

Before long the trail turned into a road. Then the road got better. I no longer had to be as focused on navigating rocks and other obstacles. The Girl was settled into her seat, after having a couple of bouts with FOMO that there might be critters out there.

As I drove into Gardnerville, I started to think about supper… and the day. It was a learning experience for me. It was a long day. It was completely worth taking the time to do the second peak because of the long drive out there. I was hungry and tired.

On the way home I decided to stop at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Francisco’s. Some hot chow and una Margarita Grande sounded so good. Well, maybe dos Margaritas…

As I continue to activate SOTA peaks, I continue to learn things about operating and the support equipment I need to make this more fun. This outing was satisfying, but not fun.

  • The issue of the iPhone overheating is a problem. It is my primary logging tool for portable operations. I need a way to keep it shaded so it does not overheat. Or, I need to change the way I log contacts such that the iPhone is no longer part of the system.
  • The radio also gets hot. To date, it has not gotten hot enough to shut down. But, it might. That would be a show-stopper. I need to mind the radio temperature. Some shade would keep it a lot cooler.
  • Sitting on a rock is not fun for this skinny-assed old man. I have a foldable chair. It has to go into the pack so I have a place to sit.
  • A (very) small table would make summit operating a lot more comfortable. The portable table I have is to heavy to pack. That is a problem with a solution.
  • The factory key for the Elecraft radios (the KX2 and KX3) does not work well for me. That might be a topic for another weblog entry. Nonetheless, it is a decent backup (for now), but should not be my primary key.
  • The AME key works reasonably well for a field key. Holding it in my hand is not the best answer. The leg strap is better, but not perfect.
  • I am afraid to be strapped to the radio. Sera can be impulsive and I might need to move quickly before she can get into trouble. I am not sure how to solve this problem.
  • Although I really like running the antenna directly from the radio, this has its own issues. If the wind rises suddenly, the pressure on the mast creates a risk of dragging the radio off its perch. A hard landing might damage a (very) expensive radio. I need to think about this problem and develop a solution.
  • Francisco’s is not a bad way to end a SOTA (or POTA) day!
This is a favorite place in the summer. The Girl and I sit on the patio. She is very good.

Washoe Lake SP, K-2640, AAR 11 Sept 2022

It begins…

I intended to drive up to Washoe Lake SP Saturday evening to get out of the house. The Girl is always ready for an outing. I thought I might buy a cheeseburger from DQ and a Blizzard, share both with her, and then play a little radio.

But, the Mosquito Fire had different plans for me. The cheeseburger and Blizzard were good and both made the Girl happy. But when we drove over the summit into Washoe Valley, I knew the outing was done. I exited I-580 at Bellevue Road and could not see the lake for the smoke. So, I turned around and drove home.

When I rose Sunday morning, the air was much clearer. So after getting a bite and a coffee, The Girl and I headed north to Washoe Lake. The temperature was much cooler than it had been for weeks. The walk was nice. But on the way back I realized I left two liters of water on the counter at home.

So we drove over the the east side of the lake, where there is a fuel depot and convenience store. I bought a couple bottles of water and a bag of beef jerky. Then we were back off to the operating area.

I decided to erect a SOTAbeams Bandsprnger that was in my inventory. I have a number of end-fed random wire antennas in my kit that I built. So this unit languished. But I wrote a few weeks about about the abortive attempt of a good friend to deploy his Bandspringer. So I thought I would set my instance up and test it.

Aside: The Bandspringer is an end-fed random wire (EFRW) antenna. That is, it is not a resonant antenna. Therefore, it presents an impedance of around 250-350 ohms at the feedpoint, an impedance that the antenna matching unit in many transceivers can accommodate (up to a SWR of about 3:1).

In contrast, and end-fed half wave (EFHW) antenna is a resonant antenna that will present a low SWR at its fundamental and multiples of the fundamental frequency. It will present a very high impedance at the feedpoint, something on the order of 2,500 ohms or more. Therefore, some kind of matching transformer is required at the feedpoint to bring the impedance down to a value the internal (or external) antenna matching unit of the transceiver can match.

The two antenna types are quite different, even if they appear to be similar.

I ran a simple station for this outing. It was the Elecraft KX2 to an end fed random wire in an inverted vee configuration. The battery is a 4.5Ah Bioenno LFP and the key is the Begali Dual Adventurer. I was running ten watts.
The directions for the antenna are not very good. But I use this type of antenna often and knew what to do. I ran the radiating wire out in the direction I wanted to deploy the antenna. I ran the counterpoise wire out parallel to it but a few feet away. I then setup a six meter carbon fiber mast that is super quick to deploy, ran the tip through the fixture used to attach the wire to the mast, and spaced things out so the mast was the right distance from the radio table.

I staked the distal end of the radiating wire and walked back to the operating point. I staked the radiator at a point about three feet upstream from the feed point to provide some strain relief at the radio should the wind blow.

It was then a matter of connecting the antenna to the radio, affixing the key to the radio, and connecting a power supply.

Total setup time was about 15 minutes. I checked in to the 40m Noontime Net with ten watts phone and then played around hunting other activators. They were not hearing me.

I decided that meant I should just run a frequency. So I gave The Girl some water and got some for myself. I found a jar of honey-roasted peanuts in the rig and had a snack (The Girl begged some peanuts as well). I picked a frequency on the 20m band and spotted myself.

After a few calls I started working callers. I had a couple of small pile-ups that were fun to work. When the responses stopped coming, I switched to the 17m band and worked a few more. I decided to try the 15m band, but when I listened there the noise level was S5 (that is pretty high for a rural area).

I went back to the 20m band and worked a few more stations. Then I shut down the radio and just sat back for a moment.

We had a good walk before I set up the station. As I prepared to put the kit away, I stopped for a selfie with The Girl, who was happily napping.

About that time my buddy Dick called. “Man, I’ve been busting my ass to get this done while you were still activating so I could test it with you!. Then I saw you go QRT [cease operations] and said ‘Aw man!’.”

“I can turn the radio back on.” I did, but someone had occupied the frequency I was using on 20m. So I tuned a few kiloHertz to the left and found an open frequency. “Call me on 14.063MHz. I’m listening.”

I heard his call loud and clear, so I responded and we made the exchange. Then we chatted a moment (in Morse Code).

After tearing down the station, I took a few minutes to watch the smoke front approach from the west. This was the view to the north end of Washoe Lake.

I then looked up from the radio and noticed smoke. What I saw was the first image at the top of this entry.

“Wow! You should see the smoke rolling over the mountains. Something must have changed. It’s time for me to put things away. I have time, but the smoke is coming and I don’t want to have to be in it.”

We continued chatting while I put everything away. That took me about 15 minutes. The smoke continued to increase as time passed.

Slide Mountain is behind the smoke to the left.

Slide Mountain was invisible in the smoke as I put the last of my equipment in the back of the rig. I gave Sera a bit more water, then put her in the rig. I then stepped around the rig to look to the south.

This is the south end of Washoe Valley about where I-580 crosses into Carson City,

What I saw was smoke rolling over I-580 and through the gap between the Sierra and the Virginia Range, into Carson City. I put myself into the 4Runner, started the engine, glanced around one last time to be sure nothing was left behind, and started the A/C. We headed west along the trail to I-580. As we approached the east end of Bellevue Road, the next (and final) image is what I saw.

After tearing down the station, The Girl and I headed out. As we approached I-580, the smoke front was just crossing the highway.

The smoke front obliterated the view of the highway! I was certainly happy to be in the rig and headed home.

I said my goodbyes and drove on. When I crossed the summit into Carson City, the smoke front bisected the city from the northwest to the southeast, intersecting the mountains at the north end of the Prison Hill Complex.

I was glad to get home, but also glad to have gone out.

As always, I have a few lessons learnt.

  • Always check that I have water in the rig. I got distracted and failed to check. It was not a catastrophic failure, but an error nonetheless.
  • The Bandspringer is just another end-fed random wire antenna. It is just like others I built as I experimented. It is well-built, but the instructions could use some work. I do not need it in my inventory.
  • I was not able to get an impedance match for the 30m band. I suspect that I had some capacitive coupling between the radiator and counterpoise, probably because both were near the top of my small camp table, which is made of aluminum.
  • End-fed random wire antennas can be affixed directly to the radio output *if* the radio has a good antenna matching unit built in. If not, then an external antenna matching unit is needed with a sufficient range to match a wide range of impedance presented by the antenna.
  • The Elecraft matching units are very good and will match a wide range of feed point impedances.
  • It was good that I noticed the smoke. It would have been unhealthy to be in that smoke very long without a mask.
  • I keep a N95 mask in my pack for just such a case. Unfortunately, along with the water, I left my pack at home. Hmmm…
  • Regardless of the smoke, it was a good day. After a number of weekends of too much heat, a day in the 80Fs was nice.

A Tale of Two Summits — AAR

Wider view of the Bald Mountain activation point.

With a hat tip to Mr. Dickens, I offer an after-action report for two very different Summits on the Air (SOTA) activations. The first was an activation of Bald Mountain, W7N/TR-005 on Saturday 6 August 2022. The second was an activation of Chickadee Ridge, W7N/WC-005 on Sunday 7 August 2022.

Bald Mountain, W7N/TR-005:

Last week I was fairly busy, once again. I knew that I wanted to get out for some radio play on the weekend, but had not decided what to do. So, I waffled.

I think it was Thursday that I received an email from my friend Greg that there was a Summits on the Air (SOTA) activity for Saturday. He wanted a piece of the action and was considering activating Prison Hill. Prison Hill is easy access from our home and there are several good places to setup a station (and more).

But, I already activated Prison Hill this year, so there would be no points for me. I suggested another of the peaks we were thinking about and we started looking around a bit more. Eventually we settled on W7N/TR-005 — Bald Mountain that is an hour or so south of us.

We quickly planned a route to the site. The area around the peak looked reasonably level, enough so that we could put up shade and run a full-power station. Greg planned to bring a grill and grill hamburgers for lunch. Of course, there would be wine and treats as well.

As arranged, I picked up Diana and we stopped at the McD’s to pick up some breakfast sandwiches. We then made the short drive to Greg’s Place. I called Mike on the SNARS repeater system and they were headed south from Reno to meet us. They were a half-hour out, so I knew I had plenty of time to make the trip.

We hit Greg’s Place about 0700h and they were in the front, finishing their loadout. We passed out the breakfast sandwiches about the time that the rest of our party pulled up.

We chatted a bit while finishing food and everyone had a chance to love on Sera. We then mounted up, did a radio check, and headed out.

Greg had a route loaded into his GPSr (and so did I). He had me take lead and we headed south on US 395. He called the turn off, but I missed it. He called again that it was blocked and I missed the second turn off. But there was a big pullout area on the right, so I pulled off the highway, paused, and turned around. The second turn off point for the track was open.

We turned east there.

I stayed in the lead as we passed through a burned area. I think it was burned two-years ago. The trees were still burned-out trunks, but the grasses were beginning to return. The road had some puddles from the recent showers (we’ve been in a monsoon pattern for a week or two now). The trail was not bad and not too steep. There were a few stretches where the trail had washed out. But the firefighters left a path adjacent to the trail and we had no trouble working our way up to the summit.

Part of the Bald Mountain SOTA crew.
I made one wrong turn on the trail up, but it was just a short distance before we knew of it. The remainder of the trip up was not bad. Once out of the burn area, the landscape was lovely. We found a heard of sheep being watched over by a burro and a Great Pyranees. The shepherd’s camp was below the summit.

After a short confab, we chose a site within the activation zone, parked the rigs, and began to deploy our equipment. The two EZ-ups went first and were secured. Tables were setup and a group of us began assembling the DX Commander antenna. It was the second time I setup this antenna, with the first being when I helped Greg assemble it and cut the antenna wires a couple of years ago. So there was a bit of scrambling to get all the parts together in the right order. Eventually we got it together and Greg checked it.

Telephoto shot of the activation point.

We complied with the SOTA rules in that our station was independent of the vehicles and carried to the operating point. SOTA is intended to be inclusive. So, although drive-ups are permitted, they are not particularly encouraged. Yet, we were within the rules.

I consider this kind of SOTA operation as a GLOTA expedition — GLamour SOTA, which includes shade, food, wine, and lots of chairs.

I let the other operators play a long time. I sat in the sun (it was cool at 9,000ft) with a cover on and kept track of Sera. She is a tenderfoot and I need to keep an eye on her or she will wander off or start running in pursuit of a critter. I do not want another foot injury. I do not want her to get lost. We were not far from the shepherd’s camp and he had several border collies with him.

There were lots of good reasons to keep Sera close. So, I did.

After most of the others made their contacts, I took a turn at the Icom 7000. Greg found an adapter for my key. We figured out how to set the power and character speed. I started making my call and logging the contacts as they were made.

The bands were pretty busy and I needed a narrow filter. Greg helped me find it on his rig. That made signal copy a bit easier.

I recall one caller I just could not copy. I sat back in my chair and exclaimed “I can’t copy this!!!!!” Everyone looked at me.

One asked “Are we too noisy?”

“No… the code is so poorly formed I can’t make it out.”

The group looked relieved, but quieted down. I continued working on the call and eventually got it. The operator must have been using a straight key and the characters were poorly formed. There are a lot of reasons this might be the case, including a lot of physical reasons. In any event, the exchange was completed and logged.

The other operators finished lunch and made a few more contacts. Greg took another turn at the radio and completed his activation.

“You want another run at it?” he asked me.

“Sure, I’ll do a little more.” So I did. I made about 25 contacts, using 25w to 50w of power and a radio I did not know.

We chatted for a bit longer in the group. One memory that stands out is the group talking about my sending. The characters form patterns, which we learn to recognize in groups of characters, just like we learn words. One of them was singing some of the characters in my sidetone. It was interesting to listen to them as I sent out my call.

It was time to tear down and head home. With so many hands, this did not take long. The trip down was not bad and we got some more photographs along the way.

One of my goals for Sera is to train her to alert me if my blood sugar falls. Part of her training is to stay on place when at a restaurant. She’s practicing on the patio at Francisco’s Mexican Restaurant in Carson City, Nevada.
As we approached the north end of Carson Valley, Greg called and we all said our goodbyes. I think everyone was tired from all the fun and air. I know I enjoyed the cool up on Bald Mountain and made my contacts as well.

On the way into Carson, Diana asked “Do you want a snack?”

I thought about it for a moment, then decided that an early (not very much, really) supper was in order. We chatted a couple of minutes about potentials.

“Let’s do Francisco’s. The Tacos de asada are very good and you will probably like them.”

Also, there is a patio where Sera is welcome. I want her to practice her place and being able to ignore the traffic and hustle/bustle when out and about.

I am always reminded of my time in Bolivia. The city of Tarija is typical of third-world cities, where the sewers are combined. That is, the underground sewers convey both sewage and storm-water runoff. There is a wet well for a grinder pump near the Francisco’s patio. The occasional waft of sewer gas can be smelled.

Some people might be offended by it. It is not strong and simply serves as a reminder of my time in Bolivia. I also smile when I hear the pump turn on and I get a drift of that smell.

Lake Tahoe view from Chickadee Ridge.

Chickadee Ridge, W7N/WC-005:

I rested well Saturday night. When I woke Sunday morning, I was not ready for the weekend to be over. I was also thinking about the afternoon, when the heat would rise and it would be warm in the house. Plus I just wanted to get out and away from the norm.

I decided to do another summit. I chose a summit and not a park because I wanted the cool of elevation. In addition, I wanted a bit of a physical challenge to test myself.

I chose W7N/WC-005, Chickadee Ridge, as my target. I plotted a route from the staging area at Tahoe Meadows to the summit (and back). With the route loaded into the GPSr, I grabbed my pack, refilled the Camelbak and bottles, checked the contents, and loaded Sera into the rig.

We headed out. I stopped at Maverick to top off the fuel tank and grab a breakfast sandwich and something for lunch. Then, on the way north, I called Young Son and chatted with him a bit.

Once I turned west on Mt. Rose highway, I told Young Son “I’ll probably lose you soon; I’m heading up the hill.” Sure enough, as we chatted, I dropped signal. I drove on in the quiet, Sera and I.

There was a lot of traffic Sunday morning. I guess folks were headed out from Reno for a drive or to spend the day up at Lake Tahoe. We soon crested the Mt. Rose summit and the staging area there was pretty full. It was only a couple more miles to Tahoe Meadows and the staging area for our hike.

There was no room on the south side of the highway. So I parked on the north side, knowing that it meant we would cross the highway. I do not care for that much, but sometimes it is necessary.

During the trip through the twisties, I heard something slide in the back of the rig. I thought it was probably my lunch but thought no more about it. Then, at the staging area, while Sera chirped and trilled in her excitement to get out, I could not find my lunch! Search as I might, my sandwich was missing.

I put the Elecraft KX2, an antenna, and the six-meter carbon fiber mast into my pack. I then set the GPSr to my trail, shared the map on Mapshare, and put Sera on leash. With the highway traffic and the foot traffic, she needed to be on-leash.

We crossed and headed south on the boardwalk through Tahoe Meadows to our trail. I have not hiked the Tahoe Ridge Trail, but from the mapping I thought the trail would not be too difficult and the climb at the hill would be doable. I did find one error in my track where I missed a loop in the trail. But that was not too bad.

There was enough traffic that I kept Sera on-lead most of the way out on the trail. I decided to sidehill up to a saddle between Chickadee Ridge and an unnamed peak. I was able to release her from the lead and she ran about the hill hunting chipmunks.

I looked at the map on my GPSr and then the hillside… boulders. I decided to start up the slope and it was a boulder climb. I am glad that I wear my pack regularly — a lot of hikers do not wear a pack regularly and are unaccustomed to the change in balance that the pack causes. This might have been a problem for me as I scrambled over the boulders. But, because of my practice, it was not.

The climb was not overly difficult, but was a challenge for me. That is a good thing. It also made me think I chose the wrong route. Sera paused a couple of times, but with a little encouragement she climbed right up.

Sera on Chickadee Ridge, with the random wire antenna and mast in the view.
The activation zone was a mix of granite boulders and DG sand. I deployed the antenna as a sloped random wire to the six-meter mast. I setup the KX2, external battery, key, and microphone. I retrieved Sera’s bowl from my pack, gave her water, and got myself a drink as well.

I put her in the shade of a boulder and sat down at the radio. I was able to check in to the 40m Noon Net on phone. The station was working.

I started calling CQ on 40m phone. I made several contacts, including some summits. I also had a nice short chat with a couple of other operators. Then I switched to CW mode and continued calling. I worked a few summits, then noticed my iPhone was hot and the screen was dimming.

It became more and more difficult to read the screen so I could log my contacts. I struggled for a bit, then set the phone aside and changed to the 30m band.

My intent was to work my up from 40m to 15m, calling on by phone and CW modes as I went. It was early enough in the afternoon that I had time. My overheating phone, though, was a problem. I did not have ready access to an alternate log.

I picked up my iPhone again and worked a station on 30m. It was hard copy with his signal dropping into the noise and then back up again with the QSB (fading). When I completed that call, I could barely read the iPhone’s screen.

In frustration, I decided to call it. I had enough contacts for my activation. I decided to post myself done (QRT) after the phone cooled off. I started to put away the station.

When I picked up the KX2, it was hot! It was not hot enough for it to shut itself down, but it was warmer than I wanted to handle. I think it was a good thing to stop.

We paused (for a moment) on the way down Chickadee Ridge for a selfie. Sera was still hunting chipmunks, but permitted the capture.
I gave The Girl another drink, gathered up my pack, and we started down the hill. I elected to stay to the north and not retrace my path over the boulders. I was convinced that there had to be a better approach.

I was right. The path north was all DG with a few boulders that were easily bypassed. The route was steep and would not be an easy climb. But it was a better route than boulder scrambling.

At the saddle, we paused and Sera permitted me to make a selfie of us. She was still focused on chipmunks more than she was on me. That is OK.

We had a little more of the steeper slope to get down to the trail. That was not too bad. A woman with a young Golden Retriever was on the trail. The dog barked at us, then ran partway up the slope toward us, despite the calls of its handler.

Sera was perfect, staying next to me (although on-lead), although focused on the other dog. It eventually broke off and returned to its handler.

We continued down the trail until we arrived back at Ophir Creek. There I had The Girl get into the water to cool off and get a drink. She puttered about, splashing and sniffing until a group of people walked up. I put her back on lead and we headed to the rig.

When we got there, I wondered about my sandwich. I decided to check one more time.

There, in the side pocket of the door, was my sandwich. It had slid off the deck into the side pocket. Me, not expecting it to be there, looked everywhere else.

I started to rig to get the air conditioner running. Then I gobbled my sandwich. I was hungry. I did save a bite for Sera, though, which she also munched. I think she was hungry too.

The trip home was uneventful. I arrived home tired and sore. I knew I would be more sore in a couple of days. I was right.

Lessons learned:

  • I must have a way to shade my equipment. I have to pick a shaded spot or bring something to make shade.
  • My iPhone is a great logging tool. HAMRS has templates for both SOTA and POTA. That makes uploading my contacts trivial. However, I need a backup for those cases where the iPhone fails. In this case, the iPhone got too hot and turned off the screen to reduce current use.
  • I need to pay more attention to my routing. I made a small error on the trail. I made a bigger error on my choice of route up the side of the hill. It worked out alright in this case, but in a different case I might have been faced with a climb I could not do.
  • When I heard something slide around in the back of the rig, I should have checked the side pockets of the rear doors. If I had on this trip, I would have had my sandwich with me on the hilltop. That would have improved my outlook on the situation — food always helps.
  • The latter lesson is also a lesson to expect the unexpected. I could not have known the sandwich slid into the side pocket of the door. It did. I looked everywhere but there. My lesson — pay attention.
  • I elected to test myself physically on Sunday by hiking the summit. (It was not driveable anyway.) I learned that I can do a four-mile hike with elevation. I might be slow. I might be tired. I might be sore. But, when I returned to the rig, I was not spent. I had reserves and could have done more. It was OK that I did not, but it is also good to know that I could.
  • When operating in a group environment, headphones or earbuds are appropriate. They would not have helped my copy of the poor code. They would certainly have helped keep the background chatter, which was completely understandable and normal, reduced so I could focus more on the signal.

I really like POTA and SOTA activations. I am outside. It is away from my normal environment, which can be a distraction (and often is). I can get cooler if I go higher.

It was a good weekend.

Sera and I paused at Ophir Creek — me for a photo and she to play in the creek.

Field Day 2022 AAR

Early morning view of my camp at Smith Creek Dry Lake

Field Day 2022 is a long story, as these expeditions tend to have both a lot of moving parts and a lot of events. I would like to at least hit the high points of the story and describe some of the things that I learned. Perhaps one day there will be no more lessons… but I doubt it.

My intent was to leave Carson City on Thursday morning, have a leisurely drive for a couple of hours east to Dry Lake, and then set up camp and enjoy some solitude. However, the life of a consultant (consulting engineer) does not always lend itself to such plans. In any event, for this instance work interjected itself into the equation (it is a chaotic-dynamic system after all) and I was unable to prepare and leave as planned.

So, with Thursday not possible, Friday morning I threw some food, clothes, and gear into the camper and got out of town around noon. I did take time to make a grocery run the evening before, so I had a couple of sandwiches and some drinks in addition to breakfast and supper makings. I stopped at the Maverick on the east side of Carson City, refueled the 4Runner (gulp, gulp), did my final walk-around, and we (Sera and I) headed east.

On the way I chatted with a couple of operators through the SNARS (Sierra Nevada Amateur Radio Society — the Reno club) repeater network. I had a pretty good signal into the Mt. Rose repeater that is located southwest from Reno. It has a big footprint and I can hear it far to the east, especially when crossing the ridges in the basin and range territory.

I exited U.S. 50 onto NV 722 and drove through Eastgate, where I then started up the hill to cross the range into Smith Creek Valley, or whatever it is called. The grade is not bad and the air cooled with elevation. I put down the windows to enjoy the air and The Girl sniffed and whuffled as she smelled the things only she can smell.

I caught up with a one-ton truck dragging a trailer full of cattle. The 4Runner pulling the camper does not have the torque to pass on the uphill grade. But, I did not have to follow long because he pulled off the road before the summit. On the other side of the summit, I caught up with a heavy truck pulling a trailer and wagon full of cattle and moving very s-l-o-w-l-y. But I was not in a big hurry and followed a ways behind (you know why) until the driver turned off onto a ranch road and left me with an open highway.

Except… there were cattle on the highway. So I kept my speed down, not trusting them to stay out of my path and threaded my way through the herd.

Past the cattle-jam, it was only a few more miles to my turn off for Dry Lake. I took the first turn off, which is a good gravel road more than half way to the lake before it turns into a trail. The trail was quite passable if a little slow and dusty.

I called my friends two-meter simplex for directions to the camp site. I had a pin dropped in the GPSr I take with me, but they might have had to relocate camp. They confirmed their location and guided me through the collection of land sailors to our camp area. On site, I stopped by to see Greg and Subrina, who were finishing camp setup. I could see where Tom was setup and where Joe’s group was set up, so I took off to the northwest and chose a spot about 1,000ft from Greg’s Place.

I then dropped the camper and began deployment of my camp and antennas. It does not take long to set up the camper, maybe 15 minutes or so. Once the roof is up and the sides are in place, it is only a few more minutes to drop the stabilizers and deploy the solar panels that keep the camper batteries charged. The sun was so good that my panels were generating about 110 watts. They are rated for 120 watts. The sun was good out at Dry Lake.

I decided to use the home built doublet my son and I made a couple of years ago. Each leg is 22 feet long and we built open wire feed line. The open wire terminates at about the window level of the camper, where I place a 4:1 balun to a short coaxial cable run for the last few feet to the radio.

I also deployed a twinlead J-Pole for local two-meter simplex operation. With our group so far apart and the fact that my camper is a Faraday cage (as far as HT use is concerned), I wanted an external two-meter antenna. I eventually deployed the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 vertical for the main station. I find that sometimes the vertical will bring in a signal better than the inverted-V doublet.

I power my station with a 60Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery. It has enough capacity to run a couple of radios, the station computer, and charge smaller batteries. To keep it supplied, I run another set of panels that are rated for 120w through a Genasun GV-10 MPPT charge controller. Eventually I plan to install the station battery under the bed. I would also like to move the camper batteries under the bed.

I eventually deployed three antennas. The two in this image, a J-Pole for 2m/70cm and the doublet for HF. I also deployed the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 vertical later in the day.

All of that took about an hour and a half to complete. I was then ready to settle in, so The Girl and I walked over to Greg’s Place to socialize a little. She needed a walk (and really wanted to hunt the hammocks that litter the dry lake bed) and so did I. I was hot and sweaty and knew that a shower was going to be really good that evening. I checked in with my friends, who were still working on their camp, and then proceeded on to the next camp, Tom’s place.

Tom was setup and relaxing in his tent, but roused when we approached and came out to visit and play with Sera. Like all canines, Sera knows dog-people and readily takes up with Tom. As we visited, Greg rode over on his motorcycle and we continued to visit until it got dusky.

The visit complete, we returned to our camp, getting credit for a nice walk. I fed The Girl then got myself some supper and began settling in for the night. I was tired, hot, and sweaty. The camper was cooling down with the sun behind the mountains and the fan running. So I got a shower and listened to the radio a bit. Then I hit the rack, knowing I would be up as soon as the morning twilight came.

This is my galley. I was working up my second cup of coffee and cooking some bacon. The Girl gets the bacon fat and then I make some eggs. She generally gets a nibble of my bacon and maybe a bite of egg as well.
Sure enough, I was up as the sky brightened in the east. I rolled out of bed, stepped outside to relieve myself and enjoy the sky, then returned to the camper to make a cup of coffee. While I worked through my first cup, I turned on the radio to listen for any stations. The upper part of the 40m band was full of Asian broadcast stations, as usual. There were some other stations working in the phone portion of the band below that. I heard nothing I was interested in working, so I just enjoyed listening to the stations.

I made another mug of coffee and started breakfast. It was my usual camp fare — bacon and eggs. I can tell that I am my father’s son. I think he ate bacon and eggs almost every morning, at least as long as I knew him.

Of course, I pour the bacon fat over The Girl’s kibbles. That is her treat and once it cools a bit, she eats it. Then she wanders over to see what I have and if I will share.

After breakfast I wandered through the adjacent camps, in part to visit and check on folks and in part to get in a walk for both of us. Tom was just finishing his breakfast and gave a bite to Sera. It was not long before Greg wandered over and all chatted (yes, the bull was shot) for awhile.

As starting time approached, I headed back to my rig. I moved the station outdoors, thinking I would operate outside under the shade of the 4Runner’s hatch. I really prefer being outdoors.

Greg organized a local net, knowing the craziness that occurs during the first hour of an international event (like Field Day). I do not recall why, but after making the circuit on the two-meter band (simplex), Greg excused himself and handed off “net control” to me. So we worked 70cm, then turned to 10m, and then those of us who know Morse Code exchanged information on 10m CW mode.

I had an issue with my logging program when we moved to the 10m band (which was the KX3). (The VHF/UHF exchanges were on the FT-897D, which was not connected to the computer and logging software.) So it took me a couple of minutes to solve the problem. This was good, because I would be logging with this software for the duration of Field Day.

Not long after Field Day 2022 started, a small shower approached and drove me indoors. I saw it coming, so I had plenty of time to move the equipment. What I didn’t know is what happened to others in our expedition.
As we concluded, I noticed a shower moving in from the south, so I tore down my outside deployment and moved the equipment indoors. As I was finishing putting away the folding table and chair, the wind gusted and a few drops of rain fell. Everything outdoors that could be impacted by rain was moved indoors or to cover.

I moved indoors.

I sat down at my station and listened for calling station and chased a few of the runners. I was listening to our shared frequency on 2m and heard a call.

“Are you alright?” came the call.

“Yes, I’m in the camper running the radio.”

“I was just checking. Tom’s tent and EZ-up folded up in the wind.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

After the rain drove me indoors, this was my station for Field Day 2022, including the Yaesu FT-897D used for local communications on 2m.
As it turned out, our group lost two EZ-ups and a tent. I had no problems at my camp and neither did the other group. But it was the end of the road for one of our group, who showed up at my camp to wish me well. He had a wadded up mess in the back of his pickup. I could only shake my head.

“At least this gives me a chance at a new tent,” he said. I nodded.

Another part of our group reported sparking of equipment in their trailer. They took down their antennas and sheltered inside.

At my place, I had some light “ticking” heard on the radio and could feel some static electricity. I was getting some static buildup from the wind blowing on the wire.

About suppertime Greg pulled up outside on his bike. “You have any supper plans?”

“Not really.”

“You’re welcome to bring supper up and eat with us. I’m going to grill a steak. I’d offer you one, but we only brought enough for ourselves.”

“I have a couple of hamburger patties that need to be cooked. Would you mind?”

“Of course not, bring them over.”

He headed back to camp and I grabbed some food. Sera and I walked over to their camp. The grill was about ready to receive our dinner meat and Greg graciously cooked my hamburger patties. It was certainly good to get away from the radio for a bit.

I guess I was hungry because I ate both patties. After supper we visited for a bit before Sera and I headed back to our camp. I continued working stations until about midnight, when I called it a day. I took Sera outside to relieve herself and looked up at the sky while she sniffed about. It is dark out at Smith Creek Dry Lake and the stars are gorgeous. I heard coyotes calling and they did not sound too far away. Sera looked intently in the direction of the sound. “Leave it!” I demanded and decided it would be better to retreat to the camper.

Here is my rig and a morning crescent Moon.
As the eastern sky brightened, I woke. I made a cup of coffee and enjoyed the sunrise.

After getting The Girl out for a short walk, I returned to the radio and worked stations until about 1000h. By that time I had enough and decided to shut down. The Girl and I walked down to Greg’s Place and checked in with our friends.

As the day wore on, I took a break and caught a nap. Sera is (almost) always willing to nap with me. It is one of the things I love about dogs. They are such wonderful companions.

After Field Day 2022 ended, we celebrated the weekend and the fellowship. The remainder of our group had already departed. We stayed over.
After Field Day 2022 ended, we celebrated the weekend and the fellowship. The remainder of our group had already departed. We stayed over.[/caption]It was time to gather for our Field Day 2022 celebration. When we are on expedition, we always gather for a close-out party of some kind. Greg and Subrina graciously provided hamburgers. I brought what I had (at least a bottle of wine). And we visited, laughed, and shared a meal.

It was just the three of us plus Sera. The remainder of our group had left. That is alright — it is often the four of who do things together. Others come and go from our circle, but the four of us are a constant.

We decided to drive around the playa. We intended to use the hot spring. When we arrived at the hot spring, someone had drained the tank. The water was too hot to get in without it having time to cool. So, our Nevada hot spring bath would have to wait.

Greg wanted to check out the smaller dry lake north of the larger one, so we headed out that way. It would also make a good operating spot and would not have any land sailors to deal with. (Although they have never been a problem.)

We split and headed to camp. I began to put away the doublet I had setup and the J-pole I was using for local 2-meter communications. I put away the Yaesu FT-897D as well. But I left the Elecraft KX3 out and left the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 setup so I could play a little more radio before calling it an expedition.

It was break time for me. I wandered over to Greg’s Place, brought my supper along, and then we relaxed with a campfire before The Girl and I headed home.
It was break time for me. I wandered over to Greg’s Place, brought my supper along, and then we relaxed with a campfire before The Girl and I headed home.[/caption]As dusk approached, I needed a cover and wanted to feed Sera. So I fed her and then we headed over to Greg’s Place to complete our celebration of Field Day 2022. Greg built a campfire in his burn barrel. The wind was cooperative (for a change) and did not blow smoke at us (most of the time). I kept Sera close because it is very dark.

I woke early, again, made some coffee (while Sera looked at me for a moment, sleepily), and stepped outside. The morning horizon was so beautiful. As I finished my coffee, I got the small drone out to see if I could get some video or stills.

Once again, the DJI Mini refused to fly reliably. There was little wind, but it just would not maintain altitude. I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong, but I was disappointed to leave without some aerial images.

So I made another coffee, played a little radio (mostly just listened), and prepared for the final tear down of camp and loading up of everything. It only took me about an hour to get done and I was just finishing up when Greg/Subrina pulled up.

It was mid-morning, or a bit later. We were not in a hurry. We headed out, but I noticed the vent hatch on their trailer was flopping. It needed to be secured, so I called them (radios are great) and we stopped so they could secure it.

As we climbed over the hill, Subrina called… “Is it too soon for lunch? I was thinking we should stop at Middlegate.”

“I’m always up for some Middlegate.”

“Very good… let’s do it.”

“Roger, roger!” I smiled. One of my favorite places in Nevada is the Middlegate Station bar/grill. It is a favorite stop for all sorts of travelers through central Nevada. I stop there whenever I am out that way and it is about lunchtime.

Middlegate Station, a favorite place for a respite in the “middle of nowhere.”

What was even better is that Subrina was buying! Instead of my usual cheeseburger (very good), I ordered a pastrami melt. It was super good and the home fries were excellent. I do not eat as many potatoes now as I used to, but I get them and share them with Sera.

Too soon, once again, it was time to go. We headed out to the rigs and then on down the road, west on U.S. 50 to Fallon and then on to Carson City.

I called and told Greg/Subrina that I needed to refuel. Greg suggested the Speedway in Fallon but indicated that there was now a Maverick store there. He did not know where.

As we entered Fallon, the Maverick store is near the Speedway location. So I stopped there to refuel. I cleaned up the windows as well. And, I noticed an RV dump there that I could use. So I took a few minutes to empty the blackwater tank and then wash my hands.

Greg/Subrina had continued on. They were going to refuel and dump in Carson City. On my way west, I called them a couple of times and we could hilltop. They were a few miles ahead of me. I did catch them at the Maverick in Carson City, where I stopped to say my goodbyes and thanks for the weekend.

I really, really did not want it to end. These people are family to me. They might as well be blood.

It was only a short final hop to the house. I backed the camper into my driveway, unhooked, parked the rig, and raised the camper. With Sera secured in the house, it took only about a half-hour to unload those things necessary to unload. I then got myself a glass of wine, let the swamp cooler do its thing, and relaxed.

Field Day 2022 was over. It was time to think about cleaning up after the trip and to think about finished the work in front of me.

As I always do, I learned a few things during Field Day 2022. Here are a few of them:

  • The Yaesu FT-897D is a great radio. It is also a big radio. It takes up too much space on my work table (the dinette) for use as only a two-meter radio.
  • Using an external antenna for two-meters (the J-pole) is an excellent idea. The camper is almost a Faraday cage, especially for the two-meter band. My HT will just not get out. Given the FT-897D is too big for what I want, a smaller, dedicated two-meter rig in the camper would be a great addition to my portable station.
  • I have a Kenwood TM-V71A in my 4Runner as my mobile 2m/70cm FM radio. It is a winner in my view. While it is only FM mode, it has excellent audio, adequate power (50w), and is very easy to program from the front panel. In fact, I like the radio so much that I bought another for use at home in my workroom. I should put one of these radios in the camper and then either put a permanent mount on top of the dormer (above the galley), or use a J-pole on a telescoping mast like I did for Field Day.
  • The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is excellent as a portable logging computer. It is small enough to be easy to carry but large enough to be able to read. It also has a smallish but workable keyboard/cover. It does not use a lot of power. It is powerful enough for some light photographic editing and will probably serve well enough for digital modes.
  • The home built doublet continues to be a solid performer for portable operations. I lengthened the cordage at the end of the legs to get them a bit higher off the ground for this deployment. The best I could tell, there was no difference on receive between the doublet and the vertical antennas. I think some additional experimentation is in order. /li
  • The current doublet is built with 16ga THHN I bought at the local hardware. Although it is stranded wire, it is very stiff and difficult to stow on the line-winder without kinking it. Plus, the home built ladder line (made of the same wire) is difficult to wrangle in the field. It would be a lot easier to manage with some 16ga flexweave wire for the elements and some window line for the feed. I have a design in mind that I want to try. The THHN elements and home built ladder line would be fine for a semi-permanent installation; but not so much for a field deployment.
  • Weather will always be a potential issue. I now have a ground rod for my camper station. I need to finish preparation of a place to ground the rod to the camper chassis and provide a ground for the station. That would eliminate any static collection and is likely to improve station performance.
  • I am satisfied with my Field Day 2022 deployment. My equipment worked as planned. I had plenty to eat. I had great fellowship with my friends. It was a good deployment despite the fact that we lost two easy-ups and a tent.

I am looking forward to our next expedition. I do not know when it might be or where. But I know that I am ready and looking forward to spending time in the field with my friends.

Life is good. I am grateful.

Sunset, Field Day 2022, Smith’s Creek Dry Lake, Austin, Nevada.