Back in December of 2011 I got this email from my dad, Larry (KD6EUG) about the severe storm damage to his cabin in Mi-Wuk, California – located in the Sierra Nevadas:
The big pine tree that is located at the corner of the back deck, the one that we used as the center for all our antennas, split in two and about 90 ft of it landed on the back deck and cabin/garage. All the dining room windows and sliding doors are blown out. There is a 6″ separation between the garage and the kitchen. The PG&E power meter and feed lines to the power pole are ripped out. The wind had gusts of over 35mph.
Here are a few of the picture I received over the next few days showing the destruction:
My dad and I had a great field day from the cabin back in 2009. It was quite a blow to see what nature had delivered.
It has been a long path since December 2011. Through diligence and perseverance, my dad was able to revive the cabin. The work was finally completed this past summer.
We had another scare with the Rim Fire back in August and September. The fire actually came within a few miles of the cabin but fortunately the firefighters were successful in stopping it before it could do any damage.
My dad is now up there enjoying the California QSO Party from the cabin in Tuolumne County (…sometimes a pretty hard-to-get county in the CQP).
We have tried on several occasions to attempt HF QSOs while he has been at the cabin and I have either been here in Kansas or when I was stationed in Virginia. We never had much luck and have primarily used my EchoIRLP node as the best way to chat (IRLP Node 3553/EchoLink Node: KI4ODI-L 518994). Well, our luck changed today. We decided to give it a go prior to the CQP and started at 10Ms and worked down until we got to the 15M band. On 21.400 MHz we had brilliant success in carrying on an HF QSO. I’ve already send out the QSL card to confirm the contact.
With my coming retirement from the Army, I am going to have the opportunity to head back out to the California Sierra Nevadas this next June for Field Day 2014. I am looking forward to that!
My Field Day adventure started on Tuesday, 23 June. I finished the final touched to the eARSIB and then through every possible item I thought I might need (minus a 25 pin to 9 pin cable for a Kantronics KPC-3+ which I will talk about later) in a total of 3 footlockers. I packed up the truck, loaded up the dog and was on the road by 10:30am. There was good APRS coverage on my route along I-80 up until western Nebraska where I encountered an almost 200 mile gap. Once I hit Cheyenne, I was back in APRS coverage. My stop for the first night was Laramie, Wyoming, which I made before sunset.
The next day I pushed on west. While in western Wyoming I was able to check into the 40M Sparkle Net (7262 kHz) and talk with Dave, KE0DL, back in Leavenworth, Kansas. I also noticed on my GPS that one of the APRS stations was moving along I-80 the same direction that I was going. I gave a short call on the 2M National Simplex frequency and got a reply. We had both started the drive in Wyoming but parted ways in Salt Lake; he headed south on I-15 to Vegas, I kept west on I-80. I enjoyed the drive through eastern Utah. Park City, Utah is a place I had spent a lot of time skiing about twenty years ago. I’d been there often in the winter, but this was the first time seeing it during the summer.
Traffic was heavy through Salt Lake City and I did my best to make my way around the city as quickly as possible. West of the Great Salt Lake, I had an interesting HF QSO with a gentleman in Southern California who was using an Elecraft K3 with an the diminutive MT-1 antenna. My initial plan was to spend the night in Winnemucca, Nevada but upon arriving discovered they had me on the second floor in a non-pet room. Instead of hauling my footlockers up a flight of stairs I decided to push on to Fernley, Nevada (just east of Reno) where I found a great hotel with a first floor room I could practically back my truck up into. The dog liked it too.
Thursday morning I worked my way up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, listening to a few 40M nets. I reached the Sonora Pass around noon and enjoyed the view. The dog a I hiked up to a nearby plateau and took in the view.
After traveling down the western side of the mountains I was able to raise my dad, KD6EUG, on a repeater near his cabin in Mi-Wuk Village. California Hwy 108 wound its way down from Sonora Pass. The drive was spectacular along the scenic route and traffic was sparse. I rolled down the windows and opened the sun roof to take in gorgeous day. Reaching the cabin in Mi-Wuk, both the dog and I got to strech our legs and rest up. Thursday night we assembled the gear that would become a permanent station at the cabin: an IC-706MKIIG, LDG Z-11 Pro, RIGblaster PnP, IC-208H, all powered by an Icom PS-125. In addition to the radio gear, the station would also integrate a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station, beaconing the weather data view APRS.
To simplify the APRS setup in the cabin, I decided to use a special add-on piece of equipment from Davis specifically designed to be used for APRS – the WeatherLink APRS streaming data logger. The data logger, once configured, streams weather data directly to a TNC, eliminating the need for a computer (or UI-View32). With this setup, it was not necessary to leave a computer running to keep the weather station pushing data to the TNC and VHF radio. The weather data is formated by the data logger to be ready for transmission into APRS. The station also has a laptop which I installed the WeatherLink software that would allow me to configure the APRS data logger. Configuring the data logger was pretty straight forward. Setting the parameters in the TNC to grab the data loggers APRS weather info proved a bit more challenging. The challenge was further compounded by my forgetting to pack the 25 pin to 9 pin cable that connects the laptop to the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC.
The real work started Friday. The first task was completing the installation of a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station on the cabin roof. That was done without much trouble.
The next step would be to get the weather data out via APRS using the IC-208H paired with the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC and the Davis APRS streaming data logger. With the lack of a good cable to use between the laptop and TNC as well as not knowing exactly what parameters were need in the TNC we decided that task would have to wait until after Field Day.
Now it was time to string some antennas. The first was a 132′ dipole which ran N/S. I’d packed my CVS19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher (aka tennis ball launcher) which helped us position the antenna up about 40′.
Next we strung a G5RV going E/W. This is the same G5RV I bought from a fellow ham when I lived back in Virginia. He had never used it and I had used the antenna only once while running a special event station at Fort Monroe.
It quickly became apparent that we could not both operate using both antennas due to their proximity to each other and surrounding powerlines prevented us from placing the antennas end to end in order to minimize interference. The solution: my dad’s Force 12 Sigma 5. The problem: the antenna was back in San Jose. So Friday night consisted of my dad traveling back to the Bay Area to retrieve the vertical antenna while I continued to configure the laptop (N3FJP Field Day networked logging software, Digipan for PSK-31, and the Davis Weatherlink program) in addition to setting up my operating position on the back deck of the cabin.
My operating position setup consisted of a 10′x10′ pop-up shelter (with mosquito net) and a large table with comfortable folding chair. Inside the shelter I placed a large table with the eARSIB and my station’s laptop.
I verified that the laptops at either operating position (the one inside the cabin and mine outside on the deck) could communicate via WiFi using the N3FJP software: it worked like a charm. The software allows two (or more) operating positions to share one log. Each operator gets to see the combined log and is notified of potential dupes.
Saturday morning my dad arrived back from the Bay Area and we setup the Sigma 5.
My operating position on the deck had the antenna connections for both the G5RV and the Sigma 5, my dad’s position had the 132′ ladderline-fed dipole. Interference between the two positions was sometimes a problem. I could use the Sigma 5 vertical on 20M, 15M, and 10M as long as my dad stayed on 80M or 40M (as long as I wasn’t on 15M). While this slowed down operations a bit, it gave us time to take plenty of breaks. My dad started Field Day by working PSK-31 on 20M. I worked phone contacts on 15M and 10M. Later my dad switched to phone, which he really started to enjoy.
10M and 15M were really incredible. I was able to work all the way to the East Coast and up and down the West Coast. For dinner, I BBQ’d some brauts. By midnight we were both exhausted and decided to get some rest.
I enjoyed using my eARSIB. This is the first time I used a foot pedal for my PTT – paired with a Heil headset. That worked great, allowing me to use both hands on the keyboard. I had been unable to configure the West Mountain RIGtalk to work on my laptop – not sure why. But it wasn’t too hard to just flip the band in the logging software. I had not used my Logikey CMOS4 Keyer in some time. I paired it with my Vibroplex paddle and the two worked well together. I enjoyed a few QRS CW QSOs – thank you for those who took the time to slow down for me. I had picked up a marine battery to use with my PWRgate and that worked well.
Sunday I got up after four hours of sleep and started working 80M using the G5RV.
The G5RV worked nicely and I contacted stations from Western Canada down to Southern California and Arizona. I moved up to 40M and expierenced similar results – but was also able to work a station in Japan. My dad was up soon and started to work on 80M and 40M with the 132′ dipole while I switched to the vertical and worked stations on 20M. By about 11:30am we were both pretty much spent. Overall we made about 250 contacts, mostly phone but also a few PSK-31 and CW…. and we had a great time!
KD6EUG Brags About The Number of QSOs He Made
We slept well Sunday night and Monday morning had me back working on the Kantronics KPC-3+/Davis weather station. The biggest problem I was having was figuring out what value to use for the GPSHEAD parameter. Without the correct value, the KPC-3+ was not grabbing the weather data. GPSHEAD would pull in the data a place it in LT (a buffer). LPT setup the APRS path. BLT setup the amount of time in between the TNC initiating a beacon transmission containing weather data.
After a few calls to the Davis headquarters, I was able to figure out that “@” was the magic value for GPSHEAD. Now the weather station is up and operational.
It was then back on the road, up and over the Sonora Pass. I was able to talk to my dad, operating from the Mi-Wuk cabin station, on 80M from the top of the pass. I spent the night in Carson City, Nevada and the next day headed east on I-80. I had made the decision to take I-70 back to Kansas in order to try something different as well as seeing a part of Colorado I had never seen before. It was a long haul to Grand Junction, Colorado – I arrived around midnight. After a few hours of sleep, I was on the road again heading east through some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip. Aspen and Veil were beautiful cities – I hope I get a chance to go back there someday. But while the drive was scenic, the going was slowed and progress was not nearly as quick as I had experienced before while moving through Wyoming and Nebraska.
I finally emerged from the Rockies and headed into Denver, stopping at the Ham Radio Outlet located there. Terry, KC0VFO, and I talked about our Field Day experiences – he operated mobile. His call sign looked familiar and sure enough, I had worked Terry on 15M during Field Day.
Moving east through Denver I was back on the open road, moving rapidly along I-70. I heard a call coming over the 2M National Simplex frequency. It was a gentleman operating from the Mt. Evans Observatory – we had an enjoyable QSO and he went on to work others. The Canada Day contest was also underway and I started to hand out contacts from the mobile. I had planned to make it all the way back to Leavenworth, Kansas but realized I was too tired and needed to spend the night somewhere. I crossed the Colorado/Kansas border and arrived in Goodland, Kansas were I found a hotel room and promptly fell fast asleep.
My final day on the road was pretty easy driving. When you think about Kansas, it is usually what you see in western Kansas along I-70. Flat terrain, lots of farms, not much else. For some reason, the speed limit max in Kansas drops to 70mph (Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado all have a max of 75mph). I listened to some of the morning HF nets on 80M and 40M, then made contact with K2L, a special events station in Charleston, South Carolina. I was also able to check into the Sparkle Net on 40M and then later worked two stations on 17M, both located in and around the western border area between North and South Carolina. Soon I was back home, arriving before 3pm.
I am getting ready to head out for my road trip west. I recently got an opportunity to visit the Pony Express National Museum and am going to tailor my route west to follow (for the most part) the Pony Express route.
The Pony Express was a fast mail service crossing the North American continent from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, from April 1860 to October 1861. It became the nation’s most direct means of east-west communication before the telegraph and was vital for tying California closely with the Union just before the American Civil War.
Once telegraph service was extended between Sacramento and Salt Lake City, the Pony Express was no longer viable as a money making operation. So in a way – Morse Code killed the Pony Express.
I am going to try to stop at some of the original Pony Express stops as well as other points of interest (like Fort Kearny, NE).
For those interested in following my progress west from the Missouri River to the California Sierra Nevada, I will be using APRS. I will also be looking for HF contacts to keep me entertained on the drive, so keep an ear out for me on 40M and 20M.
Departure time is set for early Tuesday morning. Tomorrow I need to pack.
I am linking up with my dad, KD6EUG, for this year’s Field Day. He has a cabin up in the California Sierra’s in Mi-Wuk Village, located just above Sonora. Our planning for this event has been ongoing for some time. There are really own a few days left and I am trying to lay out all the remaining tasks to accomplish in order to set conditions for a super Field Day experience.
Phase I: Planning and preparation. We’re in this phase now.
Phase II: Travel to California. My love of a good roadtrip has inspired me to drive from Kansas to California for Field Day.
Phase III: Field Day setup. We are going to setup a station that will become permanent up at the cabin. I will operate another station that I am going to setup outside.
Phase IV: Field Day. Have fun! This will be the first Field Day that my dad and I have operated together.
Phase V: Clean up and station tweaks. We will spend the Monday after Field Day cleaning up and making any necessary adjustments to the cabin’s station.
For planning and preparation I need to:
- Make a packing list. There is a lot of “stuff” I need to haul out to California and once we are up at the cabin in the Sierra’s it will be a little difficult to make a run to RadioShack (let alone the Ham Radio Outlet in Sunnyvale).
- Cabin station equipment. I believe I have all the pieces and parts that will make up the cabin station. What I need to do is lay out everything and do a test run. One of the station components includes a laptop. Not only will the laptop running logging software, it will also run all the digital modes. I anticipate setting up the laptop will take a lot of time.
- eARSIB. I need to complete my renovation of the eARSIB. Parts wise the only thing I am missing is a shipment from Mouser which should arrive soon. Minus those parts, I need to finish putting everything together and testing it. This includes interfacing the eARSIB with another laptop (my laptop). All this will take some time.
- Items left to purchase. There isn’t much left to get. A pop-up shelter and a 12v marine battery… a quick trip to Walmart should solve all this.
- Roadtrip plan. I have my route generally planned but I need to make my reservations for my overnight stays enroute to California (… and the return trip).
Come Monday, I hope to get most of the planning and prep tasks complete.
The clock is ticking and the time is now to get ready for Field Day. My station will consist of the eARSIB: Enhanced Amateur Radio Station In a Box. The entire station fits in an airtight, waterproof box that can be carried with one hand. An FT-817nd makes up the core of the station. To assist the QRP rig in getting up to 100 watts, there is an Tokyo Hy-Power amplifier. The LDG Z-11Pro autotuner and a power supply round out the box’s main components. I’ve redone the shelving system to give the main components a bit more room and stability. One of the big improvements will be to mount a RIGrunner inside the shelving system and clean up the power wiring. Another new edition will be a connection panel that will allow me to easily connect cables for rig control, a Heil headset, CW paddle, and a RIGblaster Plug & Play digital interface. I am also hoping to add in a PWRgate with an external powerpole connection for a battery backup. The final improvement will be a few 12v fans installed in the rear to keep everything cool. I hope to have everything assembled tomorrow for a backyard patio smoke test.
It has been a cold, rainy Sunday. We are on short final for the delivery of child number two… about 12 more days. Spent part of the day finishing the fixes to the nursery. Despite the rain, I BBQ’d two excellent steaks for dinner. I spent a good amount of time at Fort Lewis, WA so BBQing in the rain is no big deal.
Yesterday I mounted a bike seat for my daughter (age 3) on the back of my underused Trek bicycle. The weather was pretty nice, sun and a little cool. I decided to take along my TH-D7A and mounted my Garmin eTrex on the handlebars… I was APRS bicycle mobile again (with a small passenger). I kept the power setting at EL (50mW) and had good luck getting digipeated by N7FTM, which is nearby. To get a little better coverage and maintain the low draw on the battery, I configured the home TM-D710A to digipeat only the packets from my TH-D7A. I hope the weather improves soon so I can do some more bicycle mobile testing. A speaker-mic would also be a great addition to the setup.
I have been doing a little more reading on APRS (when I should be working on homework). One item that I found very intriguing was CQSRVR. There is a good run down of that feature here and Bob “Mr. APRS” Bruninga’s, WB4APR, recent article in QST. What amazes me is that the CQSRVR feature is not used more often. I have also had a great time playing with aprs.fi. I am a long time user of findu.com, but aprs.fi is just a wonderful tool to use in looking at APRS data.
It is time to get ready for Field Day. The plan is to road trip out California and link up with my dad, KD6EUG, at his cabin in Mi-Wuk (near Sonora, up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We will be a 2A operation. My rig will consist of my resurrected ARSIB (Amateur Radio Station In a Box). The ARSIB is based around the FT-817ND. To give the FT-817ND a boost, I’ve paired it with a 100W Tokyo HyPower amplifier. The tuner remains the LDG Z-11 PRO. I would like to have both a rig control interface and control cable from the radio to the amp but the the FT-817 has only one ACC input. Enter the CAT MATE – I am hoping this will solve the ACC input limitation. For a logging program I think we will go with the N3FJP logging software. It offers the ability to have two (or more) seperate stations have a combined log. It also features a software-based voice and CW keyer, which may come in handy. The downside is it is a Windows only program and it does not have integrated PSK-31. This will require a manual work around to add PSK-31 QSOs. I need to get all the pieces and parts together and start testing everything out to make sure there are no surprises. We will be busy enough stringing antennas and I want to minimize any adjustments I need to make to my own equipment during actual operation.
I have my HF mobile up and operational again. The setup I had last summer was with a stake pocket mount with my Tarheel Stubby 75 towards the rear of my Toyota Tundra’s bed. The problem with the stake pocket mount is that the Stubby 75 kept coming loose. I ordered the MT-1(S) mount from Tarheel. I had the MT-1(S) mounted on the inside of the bed of the truck towards the rear. The trick is getting the thing secured to the side. For this task I enlisted the help of the local body shop which did the job for under $40. The mount and antenna are now incredibly secure. I have to redo the PL-259 connector connector from the feedline to the base of the Stubby 75 – should have time to do it after school on Friday. Oh… and this picture is not actually of my install but thought it looked like some good intentions gone wrong. I will try to take some pics of my mobile install and post them this weekend.
In other news… EI9FVB emailed me confirming his receipt of his YI9MI QSL card. That’s great – hopefully the others will be receiving their cards soon (if not already).
… last but not least, it looks like the ARRL store has field day shwag for sale.
I have devoted a significant amount of time to plow through QSL cards for my YI9MI operation in Iraq last year. The highlight was getting a few cards with actual valid CW contacts. The hard part was sending QSL cards back to folks who had contacts with the CW pirate station. I know this isn’t a news flash, but why does the Post Office never know what to do with an IRC? I handed over a stack and it took a few phone calls before the postman working the counter said I could get one 0.94 airmail stamp for each IRC. I know that is not the right answer, but at least I got the QSL cards in the mail. So now all the direct QSLs have been taken care of and I will get the QSL BURO cards finished by the end of the week. I have never used the ARRL’s outgoing QSL bureau before, so this will be a learning experience.
I have been reviewing the rules this year’s field day. It looks like my dad and I will be running a 2B field day site. Now we have to figure out what antennas we are going to use. I would like to try a wire vertical in addition to the flattop dipole we are putting up.
When I learned Morse Code, I learned just enough to pass the 5wpm exam. My approach back then has not set me up for success with CW now. I can function at the 5wpm level, but I really want to do better. I am trying to shed myself of some bad habits… counting dits and dahs or thinking “A Light is Lit” for “L” or “Kiss a Ewe” for “U”…. don’t get me started on “Dog Did It”.
Starting from ground zero I am trying the Koch Method. There is a Linux program called Aldo that works well and I just discovered a website called Learn CW Online. Learn CW Online does a great job of tracking your progress and keeping you motivated. With Koch, you start fast and stay fast.
It’s time to dust off the Amateur Radio Station In a Box (ARSIB) and get it ready for field day.
Back in 2006 I was inspired by other hams who had put together portable stations that were built inside waterproof containers, capable of multimode (phone, CW, digital) HF, VHF, or UHF operation, easily powered by 110v/220v AC or a 12v source, able to carry with one hand, and ready for immediate operation with minimal setup.
My prototype was the ARSIB which I used on several occasions.
The ARSIB was based around my FT-817 to provide complete flexibility of a minimalist operation on AA batteries if need be. For normal operations, the 100W Tokyo HyPower amplifier gets me were I need to be. I had a lot of fun with the ARSIB using it during an RV DXpedition and for a lighthouse activation.
I now want to take the ARSIB to the next level – fine tune the design a bit. In searching around I have found several sources of inspiration:
For my second generation ARSIB, I would like to improve the inner shelving structure supporting the radio equipment. Another goal of mine is not to put any holes in the waterproof container, which has limited some of my arrangements inside the box. I also want all the equipment to be able to travel well, without worry of damage. I also need to clean up the wiring; power, audio, and antenna. Some more ascetically pleasing, but functional.
I think the Dell Mini will serve as the perfect companion for the eARSIB.
Ultimately I hope to use the eARSIB (“e” is for enhanced) for Field Day 2009. The plan now is to link with KD6EUG, Larry, up in the Sierra Nevada’s for Field Day. In addition to participating in the event, we will string up an antenna or two for his cabin/shack… and maybe even get an APRS weather station operational as well.