Jul 02

The fourth full weekend of June.  Those words have special meaning to those with amateur radio licenses in the USA.  It is always the weekend for ARRL Field Day.  This annual event is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.  It is a combination of a contest, an emergency communication exercise, and a social gathering.

For those who don’t know it, I am a licensed amateur radio operator with the callsign K8MIO.  Kieran and I participated in Field Day in 2008 and 2009 with the Arrow Communication Association in Ann Arbor.  After skipping the last two years we wanted to get back to it.  This year we accepted the invitation from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) to attend their Field Day.  I used to be a member of the defunct Edison Radio Amateurs Association with Gary Morgan, WA8TJA, who is now the SLAARC president.  I also knew that another former Edison member Bob Pratt, WD8AQX, would be attending the SLAARC event.

The SLAARC Field Day site is behind the Lyon Township municipal center.  It’s a very good site because it’s high.  The view is great in all directions.  So the radio waves propagate quite well too.  The site is on top of a former garbage dump along I-96 near Milford Road.

The members of the club setup a lot of the antennas on Friday.  We weren’t able to help with that.  However, we met the group at 8:00 am on Saturday morning for breakfast.  Then we headed to the site with everyone else to complete the setup of the tents and radios.  The on-air event starts at 2:00 pm and runs for 24 hours until the same time Sunday.

Gary had one of the old Edison club tents for use as an operating tent.  He put Kieran and I in charge of setting that up, but he helped too.  Those tents always used to give us grief back in the days of the old club.  It got easier when we used multiple colors of electrical tape to color code the various pole pieces during the final Edison years.  I was happy to see that the color coding was still on the poles.  It didn’t take too long and it was up.

So after all the setup is done, what do you do at Field Day?  Aside from socializing you spend as much time as possible on the radios.  The goal is to contact as many other stations around the United States and Canada who are also taking part in Field Day.  You exchange a specific set of information with each station.  Once that is done you record it in your computer log program and move on to the next station.  You can either tune around the radio bands looking for other stations to call or you can park yourself on a particular frequency and announce that you are waiting for others to call you.  Kieran and I did some of both.

I spent most of my time operating a radio, and Kieran spent the time logging the contacts into the computer.  We exchanged roles for a little while at one point, but he decided he liked logging better.  That’s not unusual for somebody who hasn’t done much operating before.  I’m sure as he does more, he’ll want to do more.  The good news is he really wants to get his own license before Field Day 2013.  I have my work cut out for me!

Here are some pictures of us in the 10/15/20 meter tent where we spent most of our time on the air.  Thanks to Bob Pratt for providing these pictures.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 1

This station had an excellent setup. The radio (Elecraft K3) and computer were connected which made logging even easier. We’re operating on a beam antenna so you see a rotator control box as well.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 2

That’s a rather serious look on my face.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 3

Looking through the window of the old Edison club tent.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 4

A better view of the N1MM logging software. All of the stations on the site were linked together via Wifi so we could see the contacts the other stations made.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 5

A beautiful sunset in the background while we keep on operating.

SLAARC Field Day - Phone 1

Kieran took this picture with my iPhone. I’m really glad he did. That’s Bob, WD8AQX, at the radio while I log. We had some disintegrating headphones and you can see the remnants all over my neck.

SLAARC Field Day 22

Here’s Gary, WA8TJA, operating and logging.

Now for some picture I took of the site.

SLAARC Field Day 6

The club banner that welcomes the public to the site.

SLAARC Field Day 23

You can almost see the entire Field Day operation in this picture.  That little tent closest to the camera on the right is where Kieran and I spent a few hours sleeping overnight.

SLAARC Field Day 1

On the left is the 40 meter dual inverted-V antenna. On the right is the 10/15/20 meter beam that Kieran and I spent most of our time on.

SLAARC Field Day 2

The blue tent is the 40 meter station.  The other tent is the one Gary brought.  It was originally owned by the ERAA and used at Field Day by that club when it existed.  The generators are behind the trailer on the right.

SLAARC Field Day 3

The vertical antenna that wouldn’t tune is in the middle.  The white canopy is the grub tent.  The red tent is the 80 meter station.  The blue canopy is the public information area.

SLAARC Field Day 4

The antenna on the left is an 80 meter dual inverted-V.  Beams for 6 and 2 meters are on the tower to the right.  There are two off-center fed dipoles extending from that tower as well.  You can see the baluns if you look closely.

SLAARC Field Day 13

The generators under their rain protection. The trailer on the left kept the engine noise from disturbing the radio operators.

SLAARC Field Day 15

Here’s a better view of the 80 meter tent.  The blue tent on the left is the 6/2 meter station.  The blue tent to the right is the GOTA tent.  That’s short for Get On The Air.  This station is for unlicensed or inactive people to give things a try.

SLAARC Field Day 16

The food area and Wifi network hub. None of the people at Field Day went hungry. The food was quite good all weekend.

Kieran and I had a great time with the SLAARC members at Field Day.  We hope to do it again next year.  Our thanks to the members of the SLAARC who made Field Day possible!

Jul 01

When these boys get together…

Goofy Brothers 1 Goofy Brothers 2

Strange things often happen…

Goofy Brothers 3Goofy Brothers 4

Goofy Brothers 5Goofy Brothers 6

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Jun 29

Declan and Owen went to their first Cub Scout Fun Day last month.  This is a day when Camp Munhacke is open to the Cubs and their families.  There are lots of things for them to do.  The usual shooting sports stations are open as well as crafts, sports, and Minute To Win It games!

Walking Down the Back Road

The boys walking down the back road. Still early and a little chilly.

Obstacle Course Hurdle

Owen’s already over and Declan is about to clear the hurdle on the obstacle course

Obstacle Course Hoops

They had to put their whole body through the hoops.

Obstacle Course Wall

Climb the wall, and try to not fall down the other side!

On Their Way To Another Adventure

They’re on their way to the next adventure. Can Dad keep up?


Their first try at archery using real bows and arrows. Neither of them were that impressed this time.

Owen At BB Guns

Owen enjoyed the BB Guns. He hit the pie plate target a couple of times!

Declan At BB Guns

Declan also hit the target a couple of times. A very successful first attempt!

Stick the Landing Game

Kieran and the other Boy Scouts from Troop 240 were running the Minute To Win It game station during fun day. We finally got there by mid-day. Stick the Landing involves tossing a half full plastic water bottle and trying to get it to land upright on the table.

Apple Stacking

This Minute To Win It game involved stacking five apples on top of each other. All in one minute. Without them falling.

Declan's Wrist Rocket

Declan’s favorite station of the day was the wrist rockets. He shot a whole lot of dog food!

Owen's Wrist Rocket

Owen is really pulling that slingshot back.

It was a very fun day.  My compliments to the volunteers who made Cub Scout Fun Day happen.  My boys and I really appreciate how much effort you put into making our day memorable.

Oct 24

The date was June 6, 2011.  We went to the Lincoln Middle School Honors Assembly to watch as Kieran received recognition!  Way to go, Kieran!

Kieran's 6th Grade Honor Assembly

Kieran with his academic honors.

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Aug 09

Linda returned home on July 15th and noticed this turtle walking on our driveway.  So the whole family had to check it out.  After we all had a look we put him in a box and walked him over to the pond across the street.  When we released him there he scurried into the water pretty quickly.

Baby Turtle in our Driveway 1

When most of us saw him he was partway under the car in the driveway.

Baby Turtle in our Driveway 2

He looks a little disgusted doesn't he?

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May 28

Linda and I used to live fairly close to Lower Huron Metropark. We had picnics in the park. What I didn’t know was that it has a pretty nice group camping area. It’s specially for youth groups so the Boy Scouts fit right in. On the weekend of May 14-16 Troop 240 headed over there for a tent campout. We used the Troop’s tents. These are the tents from last year’s National Jamboree. We have 10 of them that we bought after Jambo was over.

We got to the campsite by about 6:00 on Friday evening. We got our camp setup and cooked dinner. The three patrols rotated cooking and cleaning duty. Kieran’s patrol had cooking duty for Friday dinner. They did a good job on the soft tacos. The evening was cut short by rain. The guys were ready to stop fighting the weather and retired to their tents early.

Around the Table

Kieran, Kyle, Jason, and Matthew paused for a picture

Saturday we got up at 7:00 am. French toast and scrambled eggs were prepared for breakfast. After the cleanup there was some scout skill sessions that helped our newer guys learn some of what they need to advance to higher ranks.

Fire Starting

One of the Scout Skills stations was fire starting

Fire Starting 2

Kieran and Christian are really getting into their fire starting

We had intended to roast hotdogs for our lunchtime chili dogs over the fire. However, it was raining again so we resorted to the camp stoves for lunch. We did get a fire going later and had some really good pork chops grilled over the fire for dinner.

Tents In A Row

Our tents were all lined up along the tree line. Gear and grub areas down there at the end.

Artists and Chops

Kieran and Jason are in the background going over anime art techniques while pork chops cook over the fire for dinner.

Leaders Waiting For Dinner

Here are the Scoutmasters waiting for those chops to be done

Discussion Drain

This drain was a popular place for this gang to hang out

We had a nice time around the campfire Saturday night. Lots of conversation and the cracker-barrel. Since Friday’s cracker-barrel was rained out we doubled it up on Saturday. We had crackers and a cheeseball plus s’mores.

Unfortunately, the rain came back during the night while we were sleeping. It didn’t let up at all Sunday morning. We prepared breakfast. We had perogi, beef sticks, and fruit cups. The group that was using the pavillion was nice enough to let us cook and eat breakfast under it. That made it much easier with the rain. After breakfast was cleaned up it was time to break camp. We had to put everything away wet. So the tents and other Troop gear went home with the various leaders to get setup and dried out over the next couple of days.

Everybody said they had a good time on this campout. I know Kieran and I did!

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May 27

Sometimes there are books that the twins really want Kieran to read to them.  Thankfully, he doesn’t mind.

Kieran Reads To His Brothers

Kieran reads Power Rangers to Declan and Owen

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May 26

On Easter while Linda had the boys in a photo taking mood and me with the camera she wanted pictures with each of them.

Mom and Kieran

She almost couldn't convince Kieran to pose

Mom and Owen

Owen knows how to strike a pose

Mom and Declan

Declan's always ready for a picture

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May 25

Easter was not a huge to do this year.  Just a very nice meal enjoyed by a happy family.  That’s enough isn’t it?

Easter Dinner

Owen appears to be very happy about the dinner Mom made for Easter

Here’s the centerpiece Linda created for the dining room.

Easter Centerpiece

Candles, flowers, and eggs - the colored and the peanut butter kind

It’s not often that all of us guys put on something that isn’t a t-shirt.  So when it happens there must be a picture.

All Dressed Up For Easter

Family photo from Easter 2011

Thanks to this picture I finally replaced the old banner image for this site.  This one is much better.  Hope you had a nice Easter.

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Oct 02

We took a little vacation to Ludington over the Labor Day weekend. Linda and I used to visit Ludington quite a bit. Even after Kieran was born we went a number of times. We even camped in the state park back then. However, we haven’t been back to Ludington for a stay since we became a family of five. It was nice to be back!

We surrounded our one night in Ludington with nights in Reed City. So we headed up to Reed City on Friday night. We had dinner at home and then hit the road. We thought maybe Declan and Owen would sleep in the car if we got a later start. That didn’t work all that well, but it was worth a try. Saturday we got ourselves over to Wrights Bake Shop for breakfast. We got enough to take with us for the next day too. It’s always great to visit Wrights!

We made the hour drive to Ludington and got there around lunch time.  What to do for lunch?!  Linda got a brilliant idea.  She suggested we got to Bortell’s.  If you ever go to Ludington during the Summer you must eat at Bortells.  We were introduced to it by the proprietors of Bed and Breakfast at Ludington where we used to stay.  It’s a little way out of town, but quite popular.  They do seafood.  You pick what you want from their display case, then they take it out and fry it up right in front of you.  Oh it is good!

Bortells Fisheries

Bortells is on South Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan outside Ludington. There isn't much parking in the lot.

Bortells Street Parking

Because Bortells is so popular, there are usually cars parked along the road.

Bortells Outdoor Seating

There is no inside seating at Bortells. If you want to sit down and eat, there are picnic tables outside.

Bortells Food

We got two orders of whitefish, an order of shrimp, an order of fried mushrooms, and an order of fries. Yum!

Bortells Fish Sign

Something's fishy

Since there are five of us these days, our favorite B&B isn’t as good an option any more.  So we opted to rent a cottage for the night.  The Lakeview Cottages owners were nice enough to rent to us for a single night at the last minute.  It was the end of the season so they helped us out.  Our cottage (#3) was nice.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s good.  The kids weren’t sure about the lack of TV, but that’s just fine for Linda and I.  It does have Wifi which works for the two of us.

Lakeview Cottages Sign

Our cottage was actually the back portion of this corner building.

Kids at Lakeview Cottage #3

Here are the boys outside our cottage door.

After we got our stuff unloaded we walked a couple of blocks down to Stearns Park.  That’s the city’s lakefront park.  The wind was pretty strong, and it had been for a while.  It had blown lots of sand off the beach across the parking lot into the grassy part of the park.  It was also causing big waves that were crashing up over the north breakwater.  We thought it was crazy that there were actually people out on the breakwater while those waves were present.  Our common sense was right.  On Monday, after we’d returned home, a tourist was out on the breakwater and a big wave swept him right off into the lake and he drowned.  You should never underestimate the power of the lake!

Waves Over the Ludington North Breakwater

The waves are crashing over the breakwater and common sense is apparently absent.

Stearns Park Sky

I thought the sky was amazing.

Stearns Park Sand

Just a small sample of the sand blown off the beach. The city spent the next week putting it back.

After we walked the length of the park we were at Ludington Avenue.  So we headed up the street and checked out some of the shops.  It didn’t take long for the kids to get bored with that.  We had dinner at the Jamesport Brewing Company.  A walk in the dark back to our cottage was fun.  When the kids weren’t being raucous we could hear Lake Michigan a couple of blocks away.

Sunday was Big Sable Point day.  We had the Wrights goodies that we brought with us for breakfast, picked up some lunch at Subway, and then drove out to Ludington State Park.  We parked at the Lake Michigan beach and started our walk to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse.  To get to the light you either have to walk along the beach or a state park road.  You cannot drive out to it.  The walk along the beach is much more fun so we do that.  On the way out there was much “I cannot walk one more step” heard from the children.  It got better once we walked far enough for the top of the lighthouse to come into view.

Walk to Big Sable Point 1

Kieran and Mom had lots to talk about on the way to the lighthouse. You can just see the top of it over the grass.

Walk to Big Sable Point 2

A little further down the beach, now it looks like a lighthouse.

Walk to Big Sable Point 3

Now the color bands are more visible. The kids were getting more excited at this point.

Walk to Big Sable Point 4

The fog signal is visible on the left now.

Walk to Big Sable Point 5

Keepers quarters starting to rise out of the grass.

Looking Up Big Sable Point Lighthouse

This view gives quite a different perspective. I didn't realize somebody was looking down at me until after I took the picture.

Bottom of the Big Sable Stairs

We paid the keepers and climbed those stairs to the top of the tower.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse - At the Top

Hold on to your hats! It's windy up at the top of the lighthouse.

Lake View From Big Sable Lighthouse

Looking toward the lake from the top of the lighthouse. The replica fog signal structure doesn't actually have a fog signal in it.

Behind the Big Sable Lighthouse

This is the view behind the lighthouse from up top.

Big Sable Keepers Quarters From Above

Looking down at the Keepers Quarters from the top of the lighthouse.

Looking Back Where We Came From Atop Lighthouse

This is the view back in the direction we came from.

Ludington State Park Beach Near Lighthouse

Looking down the beach we walk to get to the lighthouse.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse Lunch

We sat down for lunch in the shadow of the tower, but the shadow moved.

Big Sable Lighthouse in the Sun's Glow

From the shadow of the tower the sun cast a bright glow from behind the top of the tower.

Big Sable Point Outhouse

There's no bathroom in the Keeper's Quarters, but there is a very fancy outhouse.

Big Sable Big Tree Stump

This huge tree stump is between the lighthouse and the outhouse

Freighter and Sail Boats

As we started to walk back from Big Sable Lighthouse I spotted this out on the lake.

Playing in the Sand

On the way back from the lighthouse everybody eventually removed their shoes and walked close along the water.

Lake Michigan Sand Play

Just can't resist the sand.

Our Beach Walking Kite

One of us was holding this kite for our walk out and back to the lighthouse. There's no better place to fly a kite.

It was a beautiful day to walk along the water.  The sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot or cold.

We made it back to Reed City for dinner with Grandma and Grandpa who came up that day.  After a nice evening with them the kids slept well.  The fresh air and walking helps with that.  Monday it was time to head home.  It was a short vacation, but a great end to the Summer.

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