It has been weeks since I operated one of my radios. Either the weather was not very good, I was too busy with other duties, or I just did not have the energy to take the radio out for a spin.
Almost all of my operations are portable. I have written many times about the noise level at home. Even if I could hear other operators, the constant hash is fatiguing and I cannot deal with it for very long before I have to leave the radio.
Sunday was a pretty day, a little cool, but with plenty of sunshine. So The Girl and I walked our usual route out at Silver Saddle Ranch, then returned to my parking spot at the upper staging area. I decided to get the Elecraft KX1 out of its case and see if I could make any contacts.
I setup a random wire with one end affixed to a 10m telescoping mast and the other to a 9:1 unun. I used a short jumper to the radio. What I learned is that the wire length I am using does not need the unun; the matching network in the radio is sufficient to make the impedance match between the radio and the antenna.
I learned something.
So I set aside the unun and tuned the KX1 to 7.2835MHz for the 40m Noon Net. It is an easy check on whether my radio is working and the net control operators will take check-ins from CW operators. (CW is the official term for Morse Code operations.)
One of my favorite features of the KX1 is that it has an adjustable filter and at the wide setting it is about 2KHz, which is plenty for listening to phone operators. It will also tune the entire 20m, 30m, 40m, and 80m bands, which means I can listen to both code and phone operators on those bands. In addition, it will receive CW, lower sideband, and upper sideband modes (switchable). That is a huge feature for such a small radio.
I was able to check-in to the net with about four watts of output, so the radio was working. I then turned my attention to SOTA (Summits on the Air) and POTA (Parks on the Air) activators to determine if I could hear any of them.
I worked four stations, three POTA activators and one SOTA activator. The setup and teardown of this station takes only about ten minutes each. So, for 20 minutes of work, I played for an hour or so and made a few contacts, all QRP (low power). It was a good day.
The year has already been busy. Late last year I was pressing to complete a report for one of my projects. That used a bunch of energy and left me with little motivation to do anything significant over the holidays, except remember why we celebrate them and try to recover a little.
Then the new year happened and work restarted, with me starting out on the backside of the power curve having left other projects languishing while I finished the report. In addition, I want to develop some new habits that are inviolate because they are good for me.
There are three components to this endeavor — The body, the mind, and the soul.
For the first, it includes attention to my body in terms of food and exercise. I injured my right leg last year, being a foolish old man, and am still paying for it. But The Girl needs, actually demands, a daily outing for her exercise and intellectual stimulation. So I continue walking but cannot carry my regular pack for now. I am stretching most days (needs to be every day) as well as getting in a couple of resistance sessions in each week.
My diet needs to change a bit as well. It is time to reduce my poor carbohydrate load and increase my good carbohydrate load, as well as increase my protein intake.
I believe that meditation is good for mind, body, and soul. It is a time to just be for a few minutes, listening to a guided meditation, and letting go of the mental busyness that plagues me daily. I do not need to think all the time. I do not need to be all up-in-my-head when there are other wonderful things to take in. Meditation, even a few minutes every day, helps me be more present when I am out with The Girl (and at other times). An side benefit is that the breathing exercises lower my blood pressure.
I am also committed to praying more. The benefits of prayer are documented in the professional literature. It does not matter whether one believes in God (I do) or a guiding force or whatever. The process of prayer is beneficial in and of itself (although I believe that God hears prayers and answers them). My intention is to spend a few minutes every day talking to God, and not just over meals. I have people and situations on my prayer list (I keep one) and remember them when I sit to pray. I also pray often when I am walking with The Girl. It helps me stay present in the moment when we are out and about.
There is one more intention that I have. It is to spend a few minutes each week (at least) putting a few words here on my parcel of the Internet. I have plenty of images that I can post and say a few words about. I like to post some images here. This post is a beginning. It remains to be seen whether I am able to maintain the habit or not.
Finally, I posted an image above. For a fun, creative work, I decided to work on a Project 365 this year. I often have one running on my Instagram account (User @drdbt). But this year I decided to post on the “official” Project 365 web page as well. I enjoy sharing the images I make and hope that others enjoy what I shoot.
In the evening of Christmas Day, Sera needed to go out before we hit the rack. I bought a Sony A7S (first generation) a month or so ago for use as a low-light camera. This Sony model (the A7S and its progenitors) is considered the queen of the low-light cameras. The 12.1MP sensor resolution is fine for most of what I do, plus does not take up so much disk space on the computer and its backup drives.
Work kept me from doing much with the camera and will for awhile yet. But I wanted to do some test shots. So I took it into the backyard with us, with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 mounted to the camera. (Yes, that is a legacy manual focus lens.) I set the ISO to 25k and made a few captures of Sera playing in the snow.
I like this one the best of the lot. There’s a lot of detail in the image. I am impressed.
This week I continued working on my review of 2021. What I came away with is that of the things I should do, my self-care suffered in favor of the work. The work is good too, but I really need to spend some time every day working on myself, including the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects.
Work continues to keep me busy. In fact, I intended to publish this on Christmas, but here we are more than a week later.
Sera and I are walking and enjoying each other quite a lot. She loves our daily walks and the time to work off-lead. I require her to check in every minute or two and do not like her to be out of sight for long. There are coyotes in the field and she would think they were like domestic canines. That could be bad.
On January 22, 2006, Wife and I drove over to the Lubbock Barnes & Noble for an outing. She was looking for a browse, perhaps to find a new book. I bought a cup of coffee and sat down at a table near the front of the store.
This was the old B&N on the east side of Slide Road in the strip center, before they moved to a new location. It was a store we visited often, before B&N became more of a toy store and less of a bookstore.
I sat there, enjoying my coffee and looking at a book or magazine — I do not recall which. But I had a camera with me and was always looking for a good capture.
Since my 20s (a long time ago) I have almost always had a camera at hand. In the beginning, it was a film camera. All I had at first was a 35mm film camera, so that is what I carried. It usually had black and white film in it, either Tri-X or Plus-X.
Later, the cameras became digital and smaller. On this particular day I am unsure what I was carrying. It might have been an Olympus Camedia, as they were the best prosumer camera at the time.
It doesn’t matter. What mattered was the light coming from behind me and shining on Wife’s face. I saw that light and knew it made for a good image. I grabbed up the camera, turned it on, then quickly pointed, composed, and got the shot.
Wife began her protest about having her photograph made and I just about caught the peak of the action with my informal portrait. Her expression captured (pun intended) her usual reaction to my pointing of a camera at her. (Aside: She had several other reactions as well… some not appropriate for mixed company.)
This image remains another of my favorite captures of Wife. A bit of her personality is caught in the frame and that playful protest was fun. I had a good laugh about it as did she.
I spent a bit of time this morning reflecting on the year. At the end of each year, I like to look back at the year and assess what I did well and what I did not do so well. I want to learn from the experience and make choices about how to spend my time the coming year.
I do not make resolutions. Resolutions fade away without structure to see they are implemented. Instead, I set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. I decided what habits I want to cultivate and those that I want to reduce. I decide how to structure my time so that I can make the changes that will be good for me.
And then I set out to execute those plans. I am not always successful. But I remain mindful of the goals I want to achieve.
With that, I will close this entry with a hearty Merry Christmas. I remember that we celebrate today the birth of the Christ child. It does not matter when Jesus was born; only that he was. And it only matters that what God said about him is true. I am grateful for that gift, the best of all.
I will say a bit more about the image a bit farther down the page. My main thought for the day is that it is Wife’s 69th birthday. Had she lived, I would be teasing her about being a cradle-robber or a cougar now that she is older than me again.
It was a fun exchange we shared over many years, even before we were married.
And we are approaching the holiday season. There are many things I love about the holidays and shared that love with Wife. I never cared for the outward appurtenances, but for the deeper meaning of gratefulness for God’s provision to our forbears and to us. The former is in terms of the Thanksgiving Day celebration and the latter the time we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.
I still feel deeply about these celebrations and their true significance. But I also remember that Wife loved these holidays and the time spent together, with family, and with friends. I also remember that it was during this season that she suffered so much before she died.
So there is the knife-edge balance of joy and melancholy in this season. It requires some mental discipline to avoid too much of the latter and focus on the joy and thankfulness of the season. I work on this every year and so I will again this year.
What about the image? Well, on Sunday afternoon after The Girl and I finished a very nice walk, I decided to play a little radio. I stopped at the north end of the Prison Hill Complex, a network of trails and parks here in Carson City and pulled into the staging area. I setup a telescoping mast, a wire antenna, and the Elecraft KX2. I was able to check in to the 40m Noontime Net (7.2835MHz) and also heard a SOTA (Summits On The Air) activator calling, so I worked him too.
It was a good day, spending part of it with The Girl and our usual outing, loving the sun and warmth of a fall afternoon, and then returning home for food and rest. The radio part was an bit of lagniappe and an opportunity to practice a little code.
So much has happened over the last couple of weeks. I changed my mind about dragging the camper to Missouri. I made the repairs the camper needed. I prepared everything for my trip out here, including enough projects to keep me busy for a month. Then, a day late, I made the trip out here, attended my 50th high school reunion, and returned to Springfield to recover.
There were three repairs to the camper.
Swap out the left tire with the spare, check the bearings, and move the worn tire to the spare.
Troubleshoot the electrical problem with the ceiling lights and the Fantastic fan.
Remove the microwave from its cubbyhole and repurpose the area for storage.
I think my tire problem was from chronic underinflation. On reading the sidewall, I think the tires are about at maximum load. Therefore, I need to keep them at 50psi unless I am on-trail and need to air down for ride and flotation.
The electrical problem was not the converter; it was a loose spade connector on the interrupt switch at the front of the camper. There is a switch that disconnects the ceiling lights and Fantastic fan when the lid is down. I was lucky to find it. It is the kind of problem that can be maddening.
I do not use the camper’s microwave. In fact, I do not use a microwave that much at all. I will use it to warm soup, stew, or chili at home. But I generally reheat food in a pan and just watch my fire so I do not burn my dinner. The same is true in the camper. I reheat food in a pot or pan and monitor it so I do not ruin it (or make a mess in the pan).
Removing the microwave increased my storage space by about 30 percent. That was a huge gain and means I can keep more things put away.
All that took me a couple of days. With the smoke, both my health and my energy level were affected. I had a hard time being motivated and feeling well enough to do this work. But it had to be done and I pressed forward.
Then I assembled everything I wanted to bring with me. I have several radio projects that need some attention, including a repair of the PX3 panadapter for my Elecraft KX3 system. The main encoder is worn out. I have a replacement and the tools to make the repair. I just have not had time or motivation at home.
There are several small antenna projects I want to work on. Older Son is a good candidate to help with those because he is both a ham and is interested. Those are good builds for both of us.
I also brought some work with me. I still have work to do on a couple of reports and am guiding work on a new project in the Tahoe basin. I am spending time each day on that work.
Sera, AKA The Girl, also needs attention and exercise. Both of those are good for me as well.
In any event, I got through the preparation, got the camper and the rig loaded, and we left Sunday morning after a walk and a shower. I dry-camped the first night (and that was absolutely gorgeous) west from Ely, Nevada. The second night I planned to camp just north from Delta, Colorado. But when I approached the campsite, I saw that there was work on US 50 east from Montrose. When I checked the website, I learned that the road was open for the weekend, but open only three hours each day during the week.
I knew I would not get through and did not want to backtrack, so we pressed on through Delta and Montrose to Gunnison. There I was too tired to camp so I rented a hotel (Rodeway) for too much money, got a shower, and slept. At least the breakfast was decent.
I used municipal campgrounds the remainder of the way to Missouri. I find many small towns have a small campground where one can rend a space, usually with electricity and often with water, for ten bucks a night. This is good for the community because campers will spend a little money in town and the cost to the town is minimal.
Sera and I spent one night in Springfield, Missouri, with my kids. Then I headed to St. James for my 50th reunion. My best high school buddy and his wife camped at the Meramac Springs campground, so that is where I stayed. It is a gorgeous campground and the camper was comfortable with shore power to run the air conditioner.
I enjoyed a meal with my friends and with another friend from high school. Some of my classmates treated me well when I was in high school. A few were openly hostile. Most just ignored me. It was all good.
We participated in the St. James Grape and Fall Festival parade. Yes, I rode the float with my class t-shirt on. I laughed with a few of my compatriots and waved at a few folks that I recognized along the route. It was worth the effort.
The reunion supper gathering was what I expected. Most of the class have mates and the couples gathered with their respective friends. I sat with my buddy, his wife, and another friend for supper. We talked and told stories and laughed through the meal. I visited with a couple of my classmates that I specifically wanted to see after 50 years. It was good.
Now I am back in Springfield, working a little, enjoying my kids, and enjoying my dog. I am waiting for a contract to be executed so I can make a field visit in south Texas before I think about heading home. Actually, I can stay here for a few weeks if I want to. There is no pressing obligation back home at the moment. I have plenty to do and I have what I need to do it.
For the last couple of days, I have been recovering. It was a lot to get ready and get here. The weekend was pretty intense.
I am really satisfied that I decided to come to the reunion. It was a good thing.
After walkies on Friday morning I met Tom for a radio demonstration. He wanted to see my RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) setup and see my Elecraft KX3 in action.
Tom is interested in portable operations and that is about all I do. Lately I setup my little radio, the Elecraft KX1 (a four-band CW-only transceiver), with a random wire antenna to a 6m mast. I use the counterpoise wires from the Elecraft AX1/AXE portable antenna as the radiator (40m counterpoise) and counterpoise (20m counterpoise) to form the random wire antenna.
So I used this approach with the KX3 setup. When I checked into the 40m Noon Net (7.2835MHz), I noticed the KX3 threw a “High Current” warning and rolled the power back to 5w. That sent me on a hunting expedition later in the day.
I think the 40m counterpoise from the AXE is too close to 10m long, which is one-quarter wavelength at 40m and a half-wavelength at 20m. That’s not going to work because a half wavelength will be resonant and the impedance will be too high at the end of the wire.
I remembered seeing some work on random wire antennas (which really are not so random in length) so I retraced my path through the Internet. Mike, AB3AP (https://udel.edu/~mm/ham/randomWire/), wrote a small C program and a Matlab/Octave script to calculate the wire lengths NOT near a half wavelength.
I tried to get the Octave code working once before, but failed. This morning was too smoky to be outdoors, so I worked on it some more. I was able to get the code working and calculated the wire lengths that will work for my application. I decided on a 17ft counterpoise and a 42ft radiating element. That should work for 10m–40m on the ham bands.
With the target length of wire, I gathered up my materials (wire, open terminals, shrink tube, mast ring, and link) and tools (diagonal cutters, pliers, wire stripper, crimper, soldering gun and solder) and laid my 100ft tape measure on the floor of the garage. The counterpoise (17ft long) was easy and readily completed.
The radiating element required a little more engineering. I wanted to affix a tab that will fit on the top section of my telescoping masts. I also wanted to affix a link and leave a leader so I can add another 42ft of wire if I want an 80m antenna.
I decided to use a larkshead knot with shrink tube to make the antenna-to-mast connection and also a larkshead knot and shrink tube to fasten the tag to the link. If I add another section of wire for 80m, then I can use the link for strain relieve and an Anderson Powerpole connector or a pair of alligator clips to connect the two segments. I think the 80m add-on radiator will be something I deploy occasionally so I want the ability to attach and detach it when needed.
After a couple of hours of work, I had the antenna assembled and ready to test. It was too hot and smoky this afternoon, so I will probably test it in the morning after we walk.
It was a fun little project to build. I have a couple more of these planned, including a lightweight end-fed halfwave antenna. I have the matching transformer for that antenna. I just have to work out how I want to engineer the remaining parts.
On Tuesday, 27 July 2021, I woke to relatively clear air. The smoke was so bad for so many days (and nights). There were nights when I either would not open the windows or when I woke during the night smelling smoke. On those nights, I rose, walked the house, and closed any open windows.
I know we do not have it as badly as those either near or directly affected by the fires. Yet I am careful with my respiratory health having had asthma as a child.
I miss those evenings with the windows open. It cools here about 2200h local and I can shut off the air conditioner and let nature cool the house. So many mornings I will need a blanket because of the wide temperature spread of the high desert. It is one of the things I love about the west.
So Tuesday morning was better regarding smoke. Some overnight clouds kept the temperature from falling as much as it might. But the lingering clouds meant that the sun would not be beating down during morning walkies. So I rose, made coffee, and began my day.
I got The Girl out about 0700h to go walk. She is always excited about our walks and I really enjoy walking her and working with her. We had a good walk, pausing a few times for a little water before we returned to the rig.
With our walk done early and the pleasant morning, I decided to go play radio a little. It was a year ago that I activated Prison Hill, which is not far from my home. I decided it might be fun to do it again this year. So off we went.
I inadvertently took the long way up to the top of the hill and traversed a few parts of the trail that a pickup truck would not be able to do (too long). But the 4Runner is a beast and had no difficulty making the slope changes and crawling up the steep parts. It was a little nerve-wracking though as I intended to find a place to operate the radio and not play on the trails.
Nonetheless, we made it to the activation zone about 1000h. I decided to go simple, so I got out the Elecraft KX1 (a code-only radio), a telescoping mast, and some Bongo ties. I keep a couple pieces of wire in the case with the KX1, so I used a random wire antenna, with one end affixed to the top of the mast with a Bongo tie and the second connected directly to the radio. A short piece of wire served as the counterpoise (the other part of the antenna).
I called QRL? (is the frequency in use) a couple of times on 40m at 7.060MHz. Hearing nothing, I began the process of spotting myself. I knew with only four watts I would not be loud. So some Internet assistance would be useful.
Then I thought the 40m noon net might be warming up, so I tuned to 7.2835MHz. Sure enough, they were taking early check-ins. So in a gap, I sent my callsign. Someone stepped on me. So I sent it again. The Net Control Operator heard me calling, so he said “There’s a CW station trying to check in. Everyone else be quiet while I try to copy him.” It took a few tries before Net Control copied my signal and signed me in. That meant that everything was working well enough. Those 40m Noon Net operators are all very good operators.
So I returned to 7.060MHz, listened a bit to ensure the frequency was not in use, and spotted myself on the SOTA website. I took a deep breath, and called CQ CQ CQ SOTA de AG7TX AG7TX AR. That means I’ll take a call from anyone working SOTA stations and am waiting for a call.
It did not take long before my call was answered. A small pile-up got started and I worked the stations one by one. I admit I was a little bucky and had to call for a few repeats.
I heard an S2S, which means summit-to-summit (highly desirable) so I sent S2S in return and waited for the callsign. He was faint, so I adjusted the filter to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. He was very readable and I recognized the callsign as an active SOTA operator. We made the exchange (which made me quite happy) and I sent TU 73, which means thank you and best regards.
This went on for awhile. My code copy was pretty ragged as was my sending. The copy was because I have not been doing much radio the last couple of months. The sending was just ragged.
I logged 11 contacts. I decided to stop for the morning and not switch to another band. Had I more time, I would definitely have run 30m and 20m. That would have given some chasers an opportunity to hear me and then call. But I had a 1300h appointment and did not want to be pressed for time. I knew I still had to get down off the hill, get home, and prepare myself for my appointment.
So what did I learn?
I need to make a lapdesk or something similar. That will give me a better platform from which to send.
A lapdesk would also make logging with either my iPhone or a paper log easier.
A short length of coaxial cable (maybe even three feet) would take some pressure off the BNC connector of the radio and I would not feel like the antenna was trying to drag off the radio.
A lapdesk would also provide a solid place to hold the radio.
I could wind the antenna wire around the mast to stabilize the wire. The short length of coaxial cable would permit me to sit near the base of the antenna and everything would be more secure.
I should sit in my chair. I would be more comfortable. I know this would improve my sending and might improve my copy as well.
I need to get back to practice copying Morse Code. I also need to operate more.
All in all, I still had fun. I had only one station who called that I just could not get an exchange. It was not all my fault either. His/her sending was choppy and irregular, so I suspect he/she was not an experienced operator… or they were having a rough day like I was.
What a good day it was. The air was much clearer than it had been. The temperature was pleasant. The sun was at bay. Sera was wonderful.
This old farm house, now abandoned, falling apart from the mistreatment of the previous occupants, is a ghost. I recall there was so much life in this house. It was the home of a family — a father, mother, and three girls. Now it is only an empty shell.
As far as I know, the Deans built it in the first half of the 20th Century. I seem to remember a mark somewhere on the concrete with a name and a date. But that memory has long departed. The father and mother bought the house and surrounding farm sometime in the 1950’s.
There they raised three girls, one of whom became my wife. I had no idea when I first met them. Neither did they… I was just a boy from California.
One morning, not long after we moved to the place just west from them, the two younger girls walked up past our place. Dad and I were headed out to work on fence on the tractor. At 15-years old, I was not (yet) much interested in girls, so I paid little mind.
But Dad would not let it go. He nudged me with his elbow, “What do you think, son?” he asked with a nod towards the two girls, a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye.
“They sure grow them big back here,” was my terse response. Dad laughed and laughed as we rolled down the road on that old Case tractor.
I do not recall exactly how my relationship with that family first developed. I know I eventually met them and the oldest became the object of my affection. I started helping Wife’s dad in the hayfield the best I could, given I was not a big boy. But I could help load the bottom tier of hay and I could drive a tractor. I could help pitch bales off the wagons and trailer. And I did.
I spent a lot of time in that house. Moreso as I became part of the family.
After Wife and I married, we spent a lot of time in that house. She loved her family, as did I. When I was at university in Rolla, during hay season I would head out to the farm after my university obligations were finished and start in the hayfield. I learned to rake hay into windrows so Dad could run the bailer. Once he started bailing, I would get the other tractor and a wagon or trailer and start picking up the bails. We left the outer row for after Dad finished bailing because those bails were always extra heavy and took two men to lift them to the trailer.
The youngest of the three sisters sometimes drove the tractor. It was better if Wife did not.
I sure enjoyed the meals and fellowship of that time. Mom was such a great cook and Dad and I shared a lot of laughs while we ate supper and rested for a few minutes before heading back to the field to finish the job.
I recall watching the women cleaning up after supper one evening, all with the backs turned to us. “I can sure see the family resemblence,” I mentioned to Dad. He said nothing, but howled with laughter, slapping his knee as he sometimes did.
Somehow I survived. Perhaps they did not hear me.
After our first child was born, we spent a week or two with Mom and Dad so Mom could help with Daughter. Wife was recovering from her C-section and we had no idea of what we were doing.
I was convinced that I would never sleep again. We were up every couple of hours dealing with a colicky baby.
One night Wife checked Daughter and then headed for the lavatory. Of course, Daughter began screaming as soon as Wife departed. I sat on the edge of the bed, doing my best to comfort Daughter, knowing she wanted to be fed.
Mom stepped to the door and exclaimed “Oh, David!” noticing me sitting there in the tighty-whities. Exhausted and never having been very modest, I turned to her and said “I’m covered and I don’t care. I’m just not sure what Daughter needs…” The thought occurred to me that it was not like Mom had never seen a man before. She came over and retrieved Daughter to check her, comfort her, and walk the floor a bit. I think I fell back asleep.
After our initial foray into parenthood, we returned to our apartment. When Wife had to return to work, Mom spent part of her days at our apartment and we took Daughter out to the farm on other days. Daughter spent a lot of time with her grandma and grandpa and I still think that was a good thing.
Soon came graduate school and Older Son. My mom and dad moved from the farmhouse up the road to Kansas City where Dad worked. So we moved into the farmhouse while I worked on a Master’s degree.
We spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad. Dad and I worked the hayfields in the summer and cut heating wood in the fall and winter. We hunted and fished whenever possible.
My in-laws were the most supportive people I have ever known. They were, and are, just as much family as my blood.
Soon university ended and it came time to work, so we moved to where the work was. But we were always drawn back to that old farmhouse where the family lived. Holidays were almost always spent there. I made sure that Wife and kids got plenty of time there with the family every summer. I would take a couple of days, drive them all there, visit as long as I could, then return home to work.
There was so much life and love in that old house.
Later, Mom and Dad decided to put a manufactured house on a basement just up the road from the old farmhouse. They wanted a little more modern place and they loved the spot next to the pond. So they rented out the old farmhouse. The new place became the gathering point for family and friends and served just as well.
But I still loved that old farmhouse. I loved the view of the field across the county road.
As Mom and Dad grew older, it came time to move to town where there was not so much work. Eventually, they needed more care and that involved another move.
Now Mom is gone. She lived her life on her terms and we all love her and miss her. I expect Dad will follow soon enough, missing his beloved as much as he does. When he goes, a great hole will be left in the world as the two of them lived their faith; they did not talk about it.
As I stood at gate to the yard of that old farmhouse, I saw the derelict it is and the vital home it was superposed in my mind. I made the image as a testament to the family that lived and grew there. But the old house is no longer that vital place; it is only a ghost that contains all those memories.
After being gone for more than a month, it took me nearly two weeks to regroup. At first, the heat was oppressive here in Carson City. I have one cool room in my house, the living room. The portable A/C is sufficient to keep that room cool, but not the remainder of my house. In general, I am able to cool the rest of my place by opening the windows at night and drawing in the cool evening air.
But on 16 July 2021, the Tamarack Fire bloomed from a single isolated tree to a raging wild fire. I happened to be in Gardnerville to have Sera’s ears checked. I could not get a vet to see her, so we left. As I stepped outside the office, I saw the plume rising in the south and the winds blowing it over the Pine Nut Mountains. I had no idea how bad it would get.
Over the next few days the fire grew as the crews sought to protect structures in and around Markleeville. The aggressiveness of the fire and the rough landscape made fighting it difficult. Winds from the southwest blew the smoke into Carson Valley, Carson City, Washoe Valley, and Reno. At times, Mount Scott is invisible from my house, just a couple miles away.
The air quality has been in the very bad range. We had a few reprieves when the winds turned westerly and moved the plume to the east (poor folks east from us). The management team projects they will have things under control by the end of August. That is a long time to deal with this smoke.
We continue to walk in the morning. I am rising earlier to get us out before the heat rises. Sera does not handle the heat well. So I carry water for her as well as myself. So far, I have not felt the impact of the smoke too much. I can tell it affects me, but not badly.
My friend called and asked to to meet him, his bride, and another couple at Stampede Reservoir Saturday. I was concerned that the smoke would be bad, but agreed anyway. The worst case scenario would be I turned around and returned home. So I agreed.
Sera and I got an early walk Saturday, then I loaded the rig. I made a mistake of driving SH 28 along the northeast side of Lake Tahoe. Traffic was awful and unnecessarily slow. I knew much of the route because I have a project on the Truckee River near Boca Reservoir. It is a pleasant route once off the Interstate.
Boca was very busy with the campgrounds and dispersed camping fairly full. However, because it is a little farther out, Stampede Reservoir was not bad. There were a few rigs down by the water and a few watercraft on the lake.
I found a copse of trees to shelter in. The smoke was bad, but less so than at home. I parked the rig, set up my radio, and watched Sera chase the local squirrels. I made a couple of contacts with SOTA activators before my friends arrived.
I turned off the radio and visited the remainder of the afternoon. We got a little westerly wind and the smoke was a little better. The wind also provided a little cooling.
Before we broke up to head back home, I made a capture of the lake through the trees. It was my only photograph of the day.