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 Saturday 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.

Nevada QSO Party Expedition

The county line. Photo credit Greg KG7D.
A few weeks ago, Greg KG7D, mentioned to me and Diana KJ7GVY that it was time to plan our expedition for the Nevada QSO Party. He is very organized (a good thing) and selected a potential campsite/radio operation site in eastern Nevada.

For those who do not know what a QSO party might be, here is an explanation. The Q-code, QSO, stands for a contact or conversation between to operators. It derives from the telegrapher’s shorthand. A QSO party occurs when a group of operators put together a plan for operations on the amateur radio bands with the intent of making many contacts, receiving points for each contact (depending on location and operation mode), and then competing for the most points collected over the party period.

This is similar to the radio contests but has a little less pressure associated with it. It is newbie-friendly in that regard. It is also an opportunity to practice radio operation and copy skills under varying conditions. These are good skills for radio operators for those times when normal communications are interrupted and amateur operators are called upon to pass traffic.

So we were headed east to the White Pine/Lincoln County line. Each contact we made was worth two because we were activating two Nevada counties. We were also operating in an area where there are not many amateur radio operators. We should have been rare DX (desirable contacts).

It took me a few days to prepare the camper, collect necessities and food, and gather/pack the equipment I would use.

I intended to go out to the area a couple weeks before all of us headed east to scout for a good campsite. But work kept me from my intention and we headed out blind.

We gathered at the staging area about 0600h on Thursday 10 October. After milling about a few minutes, we mounted up and headed east on U.S. Highway 50, America’s Loneliest Road. All of use have VHF radios in our vehicles, even if only handhelds connected to external antennas. So there was plenty of chatter as we drove east through the gathering light. There were no mishaps on the route out and we made a few stops to pay the rent on coffee and to take on fuel.

At Ely, Greg called, “ Do you know a good place to eat. We’ll stop at Love’s for fuel.”rdquo;

“Let me think a moment.” I spent some time in Ely a couple years ago and had a couple of places in mind. “There’s a Mexican place a half-mile before Love’s that is pretty good.”

“Is there parking for the trailers?””

“I think there is.” And we moved through Ely toward the east side of town. Sure enough, I called the location of the restaurant. Greg and Diana turned off into the residential area near the restaurant. I pulled ahead to the Ramada Inn and casino, found a large graveled area suitable for parking semi-trucks, and called out the location while I parked my rig.

All of us parked, we walked across the highway to the restaurant. It was as good as I recalled.

Fed and rested after the break, we remounted, drove to the fuel depot, and refueled the vehicles. We were then off to the east to find our way to the operating point. An hour later (and after some rough roads), we were at the White Pine/Lincoln County line. Unfortunately, the original location was not acceptable for camping. There was not enough room.

We sent Diana to scout a trail we saw that broke off the main road to the northeast. The topographic map on Greg’s GPS unit showed that the trail crossed the county line about a half-mile east from the original choice. After a few minutes, Diana called that the road was rough but passable and that there were reasonable campsites located in the pine and cedar trees. So Greg and I turned our rigs around and headed for the trail. A couple hundred yards in Greg suggested I move ahead and check the trail to be sure he could get his rig turned around. (He was driving a 1-ton Ford truck and pulling a toy hauler.)

I found a place where I thought he could get turned around, although it might take several moves and I found a place where I could park my camper. Greg came up the trail. I was right about the several moves. After a half hour of work, some clearing of brush, and many moves, he got his rig turned around and parked in a decent place.

The view from my campsite.

He helped me get my camper located and then walked back down the trail to set up his camp. It took me a few minutes to get myself situated. Subrina brought a level up to my site and I dug a small hole to level my rig side-to-side. I completed the leveling with the tongue jack. I had my rig setup in about a half-hour.

I walked down the trail to help Greg and Subrina with their campsite. Subrina worked inside while I helped Greg outside.

We nearly ran out of daylight before camp was setup. As the sun fell, the temperature fell rapidly as well. I think it was at freezing about the time the sun set.

Everyone was tired and ready to turn in. But we gathered at Greg/Subrina’s camp to share a meal and some fellowship before retiring for the day.

KG7D and KI7OAL working on their campsite.

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.

Wandering

This old highway atlas was one of two that I found in my cache of odd things in the garage when I sold my house. It dates from the 1980s and is seriously out of date. Yet, I used it a great deal when I was wandering a couple of years ago.

The highways are still there. It is possible to navigate without GPS. What that means is there will be wrong turns and some confusion about finding the next highway. What it also means is serendipity in finding places that I would not otherwise see.

I would pull up the rig at a turn or a turn out, roll down the windows for fresh air (if they were not already down), and pull out this atlas. I have another paper atlas that is current and has more detail, but there is something about this far-away view that attracts me. But I digress. I would find my location, more or less, and look at the highways and towns nearby. Then I would make a decision about direction and move out.

Many times on these pauses I would step out of the rig, camera or binoculars in hand, and just look around. The Girl would sniff about doing doggie-things while I did human-things.

I will keep this old atlas. I have a feeling that there will be another wander sometime in the not distant future. I might decide to put my things back into storage or just get rid of the lot. I might decide to buy an RV or a motor coach and give up a permanent place. I do not know yet. But in the meantime, this old atlas is in the rig, waiting, perhaps calling, and that wanderlust is still within me, in the background, waiting, perhaps calling.

The potential is always there.

Rocks on Driftwood

I found these stones stacked on a piece of driftwood on the Pacific Coast of Oregon.

A couple of years ago I drove up to Washington state to visit some friends and wander around. On my way home, I drove through the Olympic Peninsula, spending a few days working my way back south. I camped some and I stayed in hotels.

As I drove one morning, I came upon a bit of state beach on a cool, foggy morning. The Girl and I wandered down the path to the beach, enjoying the cool, moist sea air. Once on the beach, we found a lot of driftwood piled up from recent storms. I supposed we wandered around the beach for an hour, interacting with some fishermen working the surf and making photographs.

On the way back to the rig, I came on this group of stones that someone stacked on a log. In many ways, it is a stock image. I have seen many similar captures. But there was something about being there on that Pacific beach, finding something that someone else left behind. The image was not staged. The fog provided a wonderful background.

So, I made the capture. It was a good day.

A Pause by the River

On my trip to Washington state last year, I paused at Greenwaters Park along the Williamette River for a pit stop for both The Girl and myself. I got her out and we walked around the park, pausing at the river bank (or at least me) to watch the play of light on the water’s surface and to listen to the sound of moving water.

I never tire of the sound of moving water. I suppose I’ll never tire of the sight of moving water, either. Aside from the physics of flowing water, I just like it. I thought I should share.

Street

He was looking at something…

It was a year ago… actually a bit more than a year ago. I drove out to Denver from Carson City, leaving Carson on Nevada Day and heading east on U.S. 50.

The purpose was to visit the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science Center in Denver for an interview. I made the cut for a senior position in the center and so was scheduled for a face-to-face interview.

While there I spent a few days with my kids. One afternoon Older Son and I walked around a bit. I carried a camera for some street photography (or whatever). I managed this capture that afternoon.

I don’t know why I am just now processing this image. Well, actually I know… 2017 was a pretty busy year. After the USGS job didn’t happen, I moved into a small place in Carson City. The move and setup took a bit of time. Then 2017 brought plenty of work that kept me busy.

As 2017 comes to a close and 2018 looms, I know that I will work through the bulk of this work and have time to devote to the photography and other things that are important to me.

So, I’ll leave a wish for a safe New Year’s Eve and a Happy 2018 to those who wander by.

Crystal, Nevada

On the road to Pahrump, there is a little town called Crystal, Nevada.

On the road down to Pahrump, Nevada, we paused for a leg stretch and to watch the Sun set. Everyone else was hurrying on their way to wherever they were going. We watched them rush by while The Girl and Older Son puttered around the desolate landscape.

There are some odd places in this part of Nevada. Hoy’s “Lovership” appears to be one of them. [shudders] No, we didn’t stop there.

This morning it will be time to head back to the house. I think we accomplished what needed to be done here. Now it is time for me to work on the project and finish it up.

I’m going to enjoy the drive home. I love Nevada.

Pahrump

After a fun play, The Girl posed for me.

Work once again brings me to Pahrump, Nevada. I’ll have field work to do for the next couple of days. Then we’ll head back home again.

The drive down was uneventful, for which I’m thankful. The weather was good and the Sun felt good on my body. The Girl snoozed most of the way here, which means she slept most of the day. We did take a couple of breaks to get out of the rig and move around.

But she had quite a lot of pent-up energy. So after getting settled into our room (Older Son is with us), we had a big-old play on the floor. She bounced between Older Son and me, and we roughed her up really well. She was mildly mouthy, which is unusual for her, but she was so gentle that I couldn’t bring myself to admonish her.

In the end, she posed for me before I got out her food for the evening. She was hungry, having forgone breakfast in the nervousness of impending travel.

We then walked over to the sports bar and got supper for the big dogs. I really enjoyed my salad.

I had to correct several personnel there about how to *not* deal with a service dog. Everyone seems to think they can just approach a working dog and engage. So, once again I found myself having to train service personnel on the proper way to (not) interact with working dogs.

I’m pretty good at it. I’m not one of those handlers who loses their mind if someone looks at their dog. (There are many who will.) So I’m a good one for untrained service personnel to interact with.

It was good.

After a long time, our server finally reappeared with the check. She said “Sorry it took me so long. I had to break the bartender.”

I looked at her, raising my eyebrows, “Break the bartender,” with visions of her actually *breaking* someone. I began to laugh.

“No, no, no… I gave the bartender a break,” regardless of me giving her a hard time, she remained (mostly) nonplussed.

I laughed quite a lot. “You look pretty strong… I’ll bet you could break the bartender.”

I was still laughing about this as we paid the bill and headed back to the room. Normally, someone “verbifying” a noun makes me crazy. In this case, I thought it was hysterically funny.

I still think it’s funny.