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.

Ants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome, Sera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Girl is Gone

This is one of my favorite captures of The Girl. She was very happy that afternoon and grinned for us when Older Son dropped his hat on her head.

On the way home from Davis Saturday afternoon, I realized I had not written on my weblog in quite a while. After I got home, I was just too heartsick to even think about writing anything. I was, and am, in need of just processing the loss of The Girl and all that means to my world.

Last night, or this morning — I cannot remember — I looked at my weblog and realized it has been more than two months since I last wrote anything. The last thing I wrote was about Wife’s death seven years before and my fear that The Girl’s life was coming to an end. The first seizure was in December of last year. It was followed in January by another and then came February and there were several.

Near the end of February, Older Son and I drove The Girl over the hill to the U.C. Davis Veterinary Hospital for imaging and a workup. What we learned confirmed what the local vets told us — Ki had a brain tumor. However, the tumor was on the surface of her brain and the morphology was consistent with one of the less severe possibilities, a meningioma.

What this meant is that I had hope that with surgery and possibly some radiotherapy, The Girl might live another year or two. So, against my previous decision, I elected to move forward with surgery with the hope that I might get some more time.

Over the course of February and March, there were more seizures and a general deterioration of her condition. She had trouble walking, dragging her feet and losing balance, not aware of her space, and a continued loss of interest in our daily walks. It was clear to me that the surgery needed to happen sooner, rather than later.

Although it was scheduled for the first week of April, they moved it to last week. We drove over the hill again and pulled into the client parking lot. After I called the main number, a vet technician came to the rig and took Ki from me.

As they walked toward the hospital, Ki paused once and looked over her shoulder at me, making eye contact. She was asking two things: “Is this OK? Are you going to be there when I come back?”

It did not cross my mind until later that it would be the last time I saw her alive.

The resident called me in the morning before surgery and apprised me that, as expected, her liver enzymes were much higher. With the phenobarbital and prednisone I was not surprised. They did the surgery, which took six hours, and the resident called afterward with the after action report. The tumor was worse and had shifted a bit to the back. But they got it out, or most of it, and Ki was recovering well.

Friday I got a call that Ki was not waking, despite them giving her drugs to counteract any remaining sedation from the surgery and post-op recovery period. The did an MRI and found that evidence of bleeding. So she went back to surgery for some cleanup. There was some brain swelling that was treated and was acceptable.

Friday evening I got a call that, although she had woken briefly post-op, she had still not woken and stayed awake. The resident advised me that she was going off-duty and that Ki’s surgeon would be watching over her Friday night. The medical team was providing supportive care, but had done everything they could and it was up to Ki to recover.

The surgeon called me about 0500h Saturday morning. Ki was no longer breathing on her own. Her prognosis had declined to the point where she was not going to recover. Older Son and I dressed quickly and headed to the hospital, only a few minutes away.

She had died in the few minutes before we got there. We stood there next to her body for a few minutes, saying goodbye. I got to pet her a few last times before it was time to go. I wept for The Girl and for all the time I hoped we would have, walking, playing, eating, snuggling, and just spending our time together like we had for nearly nine years.

I made arrangements for a service to retrieve her body and cremate her remains. I will take them to one of our beloved spots and scatter her ashes, returning her to the earth from which we all come. I will say a prayer, be quiet, and weep for my lost love.

Now I am in the bereaved space once again. I knew this was coming. I suspected it back in December. I wrote about it in January. I watched all of February and March. I had a glimmer of hope that the surgeons could get us a little more time. I was just wrong.

It will take awhile to recover from this. The Girl and I were so close. I have always been close to the animals who live with me. This one was different because she watched over Wife during Wife’s terminal illness. Then she watched over me as I grieved Wife. Then we lived and loved for seven years.

Now The Girl is gone too. I miss you Ki. You will always have space in my heart. There is nothing left to say, except goodbye.

Enjoy Every Sandwich

When it’s warm in the 4Runner, many times The Girl falls asleep sitting up.

One of my favorite musicians, Warren Zevon, said some time before he died, “enjoy every sandwich.” Those words struck true to me when I read them (and saw the interview in which he shared them).

I cannot say that I am always successful at being so into the moment. But I am, sometimes.

Nearly a year ago, The Girl had a seizure which scared the poop out of me. I wrote about it back then, here. She recovered, mostly, and we have been living happily together and enjoying life. We walk, play, eat, love, and sleep together. It is a wonderful relationship.

Her idiopathic vestibular event frightened me — not the fear-for-my-life kind of scare, but the I’m-not-ready-for-this kind of scare.

I knew, when she came to live with us about 8-1/2 years ago, that there was a significant probability that she will die before I do. Intellectually, I am prepared for that.

As it turns out, I am not so sure I am emotionally prepared.

Last night, a little after 1900h, we had eaten and I was watching a little Netflix at my computer. I had a small cup of chocolate ice cream and a Cognac that I was enjoying for dessert. The Girl was sleeping on her bed under my worktable, as she often does in the evening. We are generally not very far apart.

I was startled by a “BLAM” and then she tumbled out of her bed onto the carpet protector under my office chair, convulsing. I kicked the chair away from us and knelt by her side. She was in a full-on seizure, paddling and foaming at the mouth.

I put my right hand on her side and began talking to her in a calm voice, projecting love and positive energy toward her as she fought herself. With my left hand, I reached up to the keyboard and stopped the stream. Then I got my phone and dialed the vet clinic, putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the table. Her rapid breathing and paddling had diminished. For a moment, I thought she was dying.

I continued to comfort her while I talked to the vet tech on the phone. She suddenly came to, as he said she would and was confused and disoriented. I simply wrapped my arms around her and held her to me while she flailed.

Once she regained her composure a little, I released her and quickly dressed. While I dressed, she bumbled about, still confused and uncoordinated. I moved the rig to the front door and carried her to the waiting, warming 4Runner.

The drive down and back was uneventful. The vet examined her, took a blood sample, and told me that if there was no metabolic abnormality it was most likely a brain tumor or lesion.

She was regaining her balance and awareness, but had some residual effect from the seizure. He indicated it should clear up in a few hours or maybe a day. He told me to be watchful for another event and to keep track. So I am now on seizure watch.

I am having a mental block on that word, “seizure.” Several times today I could not remember the word. I think it is so distasteful to me that my mind refuses to recognize the word.

I closed the bedroom door once we returned home and made a bed on the sofa. After pacing around the house (a normal post-seizure behavior) for about an hour, she hopped onto the sofa-bed and settled in.

There was no settling for me. I slept a little, but every time she moved I woke to check on her. I was in a hyper-vigilant state and did not rest much.

She slept until almost 1100h this morning. After going out and eating a little breakfast, she started asking for an outing. To be honest, sitting in the house was not doing me any good. So I drove us over to the Station 51 park and we made a couple of loops. She seemed fine, sniffing and playing like she always does.

I took advantage of the outing to reprovision the house. She seemed to tire at the grocery store, so I kept the trip as short as I could. Once home again, she stayed by me while I made a bite of lunch.

I was very tired, so I laid on the bed. It took only a few minutes before she hopped up next to me and snuggled. I put on a little music and we both slept. I slept an hour or so, she is still snoozing as I write.

I love those snuggles with The Girl. It is a wonderful thing to be so close to another being that we can share the heat our bodies generate and just enjoy being near one another. There is great comfort in that relationship. Dogs are wonderful creatures who are so intricately linked to humans that the connection baffles me.

It is unclear what the near future holds for her. I suspect the vet will adopt a watch and wait position to see if another seizure occurs. If one does, then there will be additional tests to run (probably a scan) to determine the cause and whether it can be treated. The vet suggested palliative care could be very useful and that brain tumors are generally slow growers.

In the meantime, I am reminded for Warren Zevon’s words — “Enjoy every sandwich.” I enjoy every moment I have with this wonderful creature that God brought into my life nearly nine-years ago. Last night was another reminder that life is short and it is wise to pay attention.

N.B. The image is one I captured of her a few days ago. Over the last few months, I have caught her falling asleep sitting up. She has FOMO and does not want to miss something. So she will continue to sit up even while falling asleep, much like a small human child will fall asleep sitting up and then… face-plant. She is such a hoot.

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.

NVQSOP Finale

Diana, KJ7GVY, wins the IRON WOMAN award for tent camping at sub-freezing temperatures. Photo credit KG7D.

Thursday night was COLD! Greg told me it was 11F when he rose Friday morning. Diana was tent camping!

I made some coffee and sat down at my table. I had not setup my radio yet so I put on some music, sat, and relaxed a bit before making some breakfast and setting up the station.

I setup my radio on the dinette table, put the (very heavy) AGM batteries on the seat across from my operating position, and then started working outside. I assembled my portable vertical antenna and tuned it for the 40m band. I decided to put up my end-fed wire antenna as well. The intent was to provide both vertical and horizontal polarization for the outbound signal. So I threw ropes over two juniper trees and hoisted the wire antenna up to about 12 ft off the ground.

My campsite and vertical antenna. Photo credit KG7D.

I setup the solar panel to keep the station batteries charged. As soon as I connected the charge controller to the panel and batteries, the controller showed that current was passing to the batteries. This was confirmed by meters I installed in-line on both the input and output sides of the system. I now have solar power for my station.

I crawled up on the front storage box of my camper and assembled the mesh network antennas and router. We used the Broadband-HamNet software flashed to old Linksys home WiFi access points/routers so we could use a networked contact logging software, N1MM+. In testing, the mesh nodes permitted communications locally through the mesh net and the intent was to allow all of us to work stations and log contacts to a common database and under Greg’s callsign.

After connecting everything else and double-checking all the connects, I powered up the radio, the panadapter, and the station computer. Everything seemed to be working and I was able to check into one of the nets that was operating.

The mesh node and antenna at the KJ7GVY camp.
I headed down to the Greg/Subrina camp to see if help was needed down there. They had everything under control so Greg sent me up to Diana’s camp to help setup her mesh node and antenna. This required some jury-rigging to get the antenna up high enough for line-of-sight with minimum interference from vegetation. Duct-tape always works. Because of the relatively high frequency, the cable run from the mesh router to the antenna has to be short, so I had to “hang” the router from the antenna mast.

After some fiddling and a few trips back and forth, we had a working mesh network. It was time for a lunch break and a rest. Then it would soon be time to start operating for the Nevada QSO Party.

My operating position, plus some coffee ready to drink. Photo credit KG7D.

For the next couple of days, I played some search-and-pounce (listen/look for signals and then call for a contact) and also called CQ many times. The voice recording feature of my K3 was wonderful because I could transmit a standard call and then call using my voice and microphone every few calls to keep from being bored to death and to provide some variety in my calls.

Friday and Saturday nights we gathered at the Greg/Subrina camp to share meal, take break, and fellowship. Then it was back to the stations and try for a few more contacts.

I slept really well. The camper’s heater kept us plenty warm. The Girl and I got enough exercise walking between camps over the rough ground. Some care was required because we found a few cacti that grow really close to the ground, are almost invisible, and have nasty spines. One of those in The Girl’s foot would have made a very bad day.

As the event wound down Sunday afternoon, the contacts dried up. I had been calling CQ for awhile when a voice broke in during my pause to listen.

“Are you going to answer all those foreign stations calling for North America?” came the call.

“If I could hear them, I would!”

“You goin’ to sit on this frequency all day?”

About that time my noise level came up and I could no longer hear the caller. He did not give his call sign and was therefore in violation of Part 97 of the CFR (the rules that govern amateur radio).

Yes, I did camp on the frequency the remainder of the day. We had been spotted by another station and had as much right to the frequency as anyone else. I made a few more contacts before the end of the event.

Sunday night we gathered at Camp Greg/Subrina, broke bread together, and drank a little wine in celebration of the weekend. It was a successful event. We made contacts. We solved problems. We spent time outdoors with people who matter.

I never could get my wire antenna working. It needs some work and measuring to figure out what I did wrong. I will be working on that.

We broke camp lazily Monday morning and headed for home. The trip home was largely uneventful, with the exception that Diana’s handheld radio stopped working.

I parked the camper in my driveway and then unloaded. It was nearly dark but I do not relax well until the bulk of the unloading is complete. But once I was done, I poured myself a Cognac, sat in a comfortable chair, and relaxed.

It was a good trip and a good experience. And now that experience is shared.

A Long Way Round

This is my little camper setup at Lake Texoma near Durant, Oklahoma. It worked well on the long road trip.

Now that I am back home again, I can write about my long roadtrip and the first long trip out with the new (to me) camper.

Much earlier this year, I started seriously looking at a camper. The requirements were straightforward — housing for The Girl and me, perhaps one other (most likely Older Son), not too heavy for my 4Runner, a galley, and a bathroom.

I did not want a pop-up camper with the tent bedrooms. I wanted a hardside.

I looked at a new Forest River Rockwood hardside, but did not want to pay new price only to find out I did not like it. But I found a used unit in Los Angeles, so I bought it. Older Son and I did a short, fast roadtrip to LA and back to pick it up.

We used it on Field Day as housing for our operation. It was only a couple of days in the field, so that outing was not a proper test.

But on this trip I left the house on 10 July. I returned home on 05 August and I think that was a suitable shake-down trip.

The first leg was from Carson City to Lubbock, Texas. On the way out I stayed at KOA campgrounds. I made the choice, but it was expeditious. My friends in Lubbock were planning a get-together of old friends and I wanted to be there on time.

Of course, I did not plan well and did not understand how long it would take me to assemble the kit for the new camper. So I was a day late in my departure. The trip out took me through Ely, Nevada (a favorite place), where I spent my first night. It was then off through Green River and Moab, Utah, and on to Cortez, Colorado where I spent my second night. Both KOA campgrounds were better than expected. I also began learning how to setup my camper quickly so that it would be easy to take down the next morning without too much fussing.

My third night I stopped at a state campground, Oasis State Park, near Portales, New Mexico. That was a real treat. The sites were much farther apart and it was very quiet. I liked that quite a lot. The showers were nearly new and because there are not too many sites at the campground, they are not heavily used.

I set up my radio and listened to a number of calls. I made a couple contacts before settling down for the night.

I set up the camper in my friends’ front yard between Lubbock and Tahoka, hooked up to their electricity and water. It was a hard test for my camper because it was in direct sun. I learned that the camper air conditioner will struggle with temperatures approaching 100F and when the unit is in direct sunlight. But it does fine after sunset even with elevated temperatures.

I was busy almost the entire time in Texas. I scheduled meals with most of my closet friends, missing only a couple of those I wanted to see. I will go again, God willing, and spend a little more time there. I really need to stay at least two weeks, but a month is better.

I learned that my favorite pastor and wife team, John and Sylvia, sold their place and bought a motor home. They were in Lubbock for medical care before heading out on the road. I got to spend some time with them, time always well spent.

Older Son was in Lubbock visiting with DiL’s family. I picked him up and we headed for Durant, Oklahoma, to spend time with my youngest and his girlfriend. It was a hot, uneventful leg from Lubbock to Durant. We spent a few days in Durant, went to the movies a couple of times (rare for me), and had a great visit.

My SiL graciously allowed me to park the camper in her yard. I had plenty of room and a tree in which to hang an antenna.
We left Durant and went north across Oklahoma to the southeastern corner of Kansas, where we found a municipal campground with power and water for a ten-buck fee. The power at the first site I chose did not work. On closer inspection, the utility box appeared to have been submerged, probably over the winter or with spring floodwaters in the adjacent river. A quick check revealed another site that was slightly (a couple of feet) higher with a clear utility box. We moved the rig and had power and water. Those jurisdictional campgrounds can be very inexpensive and have decent services. Plus they are not as developed as the commercial campgrounds, meaning the spaces are generally farther apart.

We met my uncle in Springfield, Missouri for breakfast the following morning. It was a good visit and I try to pass through there anytime I’m in the area to check in with my extended family.

The drive to Rolla was short (a couple of hours) and uneventful. Older Son and I found a decent spot at my SiL’s place and got the camper setup. We were able to get it level and used my generator to power the air conditioner. The weather was really humid, especially for a desert boy.

It was good to see family and I had all three of my children and both of my grandchildren together for the first time since Wife died. We had lots of laughs and lots of talk.

Too soon it was time to leave. We said out goodbyes and headed out. Older Son and I crossed Kansas on U.S. and state highways. I dropped him in Denver, said “hi/bye” to DiL, and headed north towards Wyoming to avoid the steep grades in the front range of the Rockies. Of course, there was an accident on I-25 north from Denver, so I stopped for the night at the KOA at Wellington, Colorado.

The camp is too close to the Interstate. Although I do not know if there was anything management could do about it, the campground was infested with common houseflies. It was bad enough that I had several get into my camper during the short time it took to raise the roof and sides. But the campground was available (I got the last spot) and I was tired. So it was a good stop.

I took US 287 north to Laramie, Wyoming the next morning. It is a stretch of road I love and the grades are not too steep. I took a few minutes to drive through Laramie, wondering if it was a place I could live if I decide to leave Nevada. Who knows, I might (leave Nevada)…

Sunset from the Lyman, Wyoming KOA.

I had planned to stop for the night in Lyman, Wyoming. There is a KOA campground there. It is one of the smaller KOAs I visited, but was far enough away from the highway to be quiet. It was also not full and that added to the quiet. It was nice enough that I spent an extra night to recharge a little.

I drove on to Wendover, Nevada then turned south to Ely, Nevada where I spent my last night on the road. The Ely KOA is pretty good. It is clean, quiet, and the spaces are far enough apart (not far, but far enough). I did a hasty setup and did not unhook from the 4Runner because I knew I would leave early to get home.

The Girl and walked a few rounds around the perimeter of the campground. Both of us needed some outside time.

I woke early, of course, hit the head, then got The Girl out (who looked at me like I was crazy being up so early). She brightened when she learned we would walk as we made a round about the campground perimeter. I finished loading out the rig, dropped the camper into travel mode, and we headed into town. It was a quick stop to refuel the 4Runner and grab a biscuit from McDonalds before we left town.

The drive home was uneventful. I turned on my handy-talkie when we approached Fallon, Nevada, thinking I might be able to hear the Mount Rose repeater. I was just in time to hear the Sierra Nevada Amateur Radio Service noon net. I was surprised that I could talk to the repeater with my HT and the magnetic antenna mounted to the roof of my rig.

I was able to check in and confirm that we would run the new operators workshop the following Saturday. My signal was not great (a little scratchy, no surprise), but copyable.

Another operator and I run a workshop for newly-licensed amateur operators every couple of months. We give them a chance to operate their handheld radios with assistance (and encouragement) from a couple of more experienced radio operators. It is common for new licensees to have mike fright. The only way to gain experience operating the radio is to operate the radio. The regular nets are there partly to provide operators experience in running their radios.

After another hour or so, I backed the camper into my driveway and unhooked. Before I unloaded, I got my air conditioner out of the garage and put it in my workroom. I do not need central air conditioning so long as I can keep one room cool. If I have a place to cool off, I am good.

It is good to be home.

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.

Three Men, One Dog, One Mountain

I shot this image from the portable operating station for the Mount Davidson SOTA activation. The view was spectacular.

A few weeks ago, my friend and amateur operator suggested we do another Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation. He had chosen a mountain not far from Carson City.

Yesterday, Older Son and I had just started our walk with The Girl out at the Mexican Ditch Trail on Silver Saddle Ranch. I had a handheld radio with me (of course) and called another friend to see if he was walking his dog.

My SOTA-hunting friend responded to my call and we chatted about a group meeting he had been to when he asked if I was interested in the SOTA activation we discussed a few weeks ago.

“When would you like to do that?”

“How about today?”

I looked at Older Son, he nodded. “We just started walking The Girl. We’ll go pick up a sandwich, load up some radio equipment, and give you a heads-up.” We shortened our walk a little because I knew there would be plenty of exercise for everyone. On the way home, we stopped at Subway for a couple of sandwiches, then went home, ate, and gathered up my radio gear.

We met where the pavement ends on Goni Road. After a pause for an introduction and rough plan, we headed out with our friend in the lead. The first part of the road is well-maintained. But it turned to a trail after a mile or so.

The trail varied in condition but was not technically difficult, with the exception of one short segment. Just before we reached the aspen grove, there was a snowbank. At this time of year, the snow is very dense. I had some trepidation about it, watching the Scout cross gingerly. So, I headed down the trail and crossed the snow crabwise with little traction to steer or slow. I knew there was nothing to be gained by hitting the brakes except to exacerbate the slippage and find myself stuck sideways off the trail — or worse.

After traversing the snow, I knew there would be no going back that way for my 4Runner. Our friend called on the radio “We’ll find another way back. We have options.”

We crossed the intersection of Jumbo and Ophir Grades and he told us how the Bonanza writers got much of the history of the area right. Before long we started up the last bit of grade, which had a couple of rough places but nothing the 4Runner could not handle.

There is a turn-around/staging area a couple hundred yards from the summit of Mount Davidson. We pulled up there.

Older Son and I are setting up my portable vertical antenna for the Mount Davidson SOTA activation.
“Should we just haul gear up or go scout first?” he asked.

“I’m always in favor of scouting so there is a plan,” I suggested. So, we added a layer of clothing because the wind was fast and cold and started up the slope.

It is not a particularly difficult hike, but there is some elevation gain and many sharp rocks to deal with. I worried a little about The Girl, because she is sometimes not the brightest bulb in the box and could fall on some of the steeper sections. But she proved to be mostly careful and does have full-time four-wheel drive. She needed a little encouragement/help at a couple of locations and I kept an eye on her the remainder of time lest she wander off and fall.

The summit of Mount Davidson is interesting. There are remnants of a couple of antennas up there, perhaps from either temporary installations or old repeater locations. But of significant interest is an old flagpole that was first installed in the late 1800s. At some point, the pole bent about 10-15 feet above the base and was repaired by placing a second pole (or the remnants of the first) adjacent to the base and tying them together. There are many names and dates embossed on the steel of the flagpole. We spent a few minutes looking at that and then planning our station.

We then humped it back down the hill, retrieved the appropriate equipment from the rigs, and hauled it all back up the hill. Older Son and I began assembling my antenna (a vertical all-band base-loaded whip with a lot of ground radials) while the third component of our little company assembled the station.

The Girl stayed on overwatch and made sure no gnarly squirrels or other riffraff ambushed the company.

We tuned up the antenna for the 40-meter band and gathered around the radio. Fortunately, I brought log materials and Older Son brought water, so we were ready to go.

This is the operating point for the Mount Davidson SOTA activation. The Mount Davidson repeater is in the background.
As we prepared to begin operations, Older Son pulled a packet of Lorna Doones from his kit. Before he could get the wrapper opened, The Girl was sitting in front of him in her please sit, looking at him, and humming. We know what that means, “I can has cookie???”

Of course. We all shared some of the cookies.

Our leader called CQ-SOTA several times and got an answer from a British Columbia station. I had log duty and made the log entry. He called several more times and then offered me a shift on the radio.

The Girl came back in from perimeter duty and sat next to us, shivering a little. Older Son called her over to snuggle and warm up. We had some sun and shelter from the wind, so it was cool but not cold.

While I called CQ-SOTA, he logged into the SOTA website and “spotted” us. That means he logged an entry that we were working the Mount Davidson SOTA site so other operators could find us. I then proceeded to make five contacts, some of them contacts I had made before, some of them new contacts. I needed four contacts to log the activation (and get the points).

I handed the microphone back to our leader and took up my position with the log.

Not long after he took up operations, The Girl sat on a flat spot and looked at Older Son and I. I know my dog. She was sending a definite message. She said “I’m done now. The perimeter is patrolled and there is nothing to do. I’m ready to go home. Why are we still here? Don’t you understand, I’m done — I’m ready to go home. Take me home.”

He made another contact before the battery went dry. He and Older Son started over the hill to retrieve my battery. I stayed on the summit with The Girl and the gear. It was not long before their voices grew louder. I knew they were returning.

“We’re losing daylight,” our leader said, “I hate to give up, but we better tear down and pack out.”

On the way down from Mount Davidson, we paused at potential operating area to look back where we had been. The staging area is to the left of the rocky outcrop and we operated from near the peak.
On the way down from Mount Davidson, we paused at potential operating area to look back where we had been. The staging area is to the left of the rocky outcrop and we operated from near the peak.[/caption]It did not take long to pack up the gear and haul it down to the staging area. It was portable operations, after all. I have enough repetitions with my gear that I know what order to do things and how to pack it up. Before long we were headed back down the trail. At the Jumbo-Ophir junction, we turned east toward Virginia City on the Ophir Grade.

We chatted over the radio now and again as out leader pointed out various sights along the way. At the bottom of the hill we pulled up. “I’m whooped,” he said, “coffee will have to be another time.”

We said our goodbyes, he teased me about “stealing the glory” on this one, and we headed down the hill.

I still wanted coffee and pie, so Older Son and I drove through Carson City to Bodine’s Casino and hit the restaurant there. I like it because the coffee is good and they have a wonderful berry cobbler. I was also hungry, so I ordered off the plate menu (and bargain) and gobbled my food. It was a lot of work in the cool air to set up and run that SOTA activation.

Filled with warm food, coffee, water, and cobbler, Older Son and I headed home to pack it in. We got home about 2200h. It was a good day.