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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?”
“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.
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.[/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.[/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.
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.