Saturday, November 07, 2009

Early Morning Rising

"I have to go in to work in the morning, so wake me up at 5:00am," my wife said to me before turning in. Six hours later with my wristwatch pegged at 5:00am, I was out of bed and hit the floor running, well not quite running. I did not get much of a response from my wife as I left the bedroom, and I suspected that she would not be getting to work by 6:00am. I left home somewhat earlier than I normally would, however there was a early pass of AO51 due on the horizon at 13:05 zulu. This would give me just enough time to hit the drive-thru at MacDonald's, where I would pick-up a coffee and something to eat. What, you don't like my choice of restaurants? Well, I was in a hurry, and besides, MacDonald's had been bragging about their new re-invented gourmet coffee, that they were pinning their hopes on, to give Starbucks and Tim Horton's a run for their money in the coffee wars. With 5:45am showing on the display of my Kenwood TM-710, I was able to relax as I cleared the eastern city limits. By 6:00am I was coming up on secondary highway 792, where I made the turn south and pulled in to a approach several hundred meters further down the road. I quickly set up my radios in preparation for AO51 to come up over the horizon that was racing southward towards AOS (Acquisition Of Signal) at 28,000 kph and closing fast. Pointing my yagi antenna at the north-eastern horizon, I was pleased to hear the downlink from AO51 in my earphones just as the blip that represented AO51 appeared on the screen of my PDA. The display glowed softly in the darkened interior of my truck along with the radio displays and the various other components that make up my radio stack. I had command of the satellite as my friend John-K8YSE came on board, and we passed pleasantries back and forth before more Ham's began making their presence known. Headed south once more, I was keeping a close watch on the eastern horizon where the dawn was breaking nicely with a crystal clear sky from horizon to horizon. From time to time I pulled over to snap a pic in the early morning dawn as the sky took on wonderful hues with a promise of more to come. As I worked my way south towards the crossing on the Bow River, I became aware of chatter that was coming from the speaker of my HF radio on a frequency of 3737mhz. Listening for a break, my opportunity came when this round-robin group of Hams all signed (gave their call signs) in turn. I seized the opportunity to key my mic and announced my presence. One of the guy's who turned out to be Bill-WA6Q located in Northern California came back to me. I spent a pleasant time talking with the group who were all located through-out California. I was pleased when they all commented in turn as to the good signal that my mobile was putting out, and they all gave me a 10 over 9 report. I soon had to clear with them, as a photo-op was just ahead and with a promise to return, I hung up the mic and reached for my camera. Soon after reaching the crossing on the Bow River, I turned down a side-road that then allowed me access to a trail that bordered the river. Having been down this way before, I was hoping to find a Great-Blue-Heron, as they frequent this area that also has a GBH-Rookery that in the spring has many nesting herons. If you have not seen a Great-Blue-Heron before, they can reach 4 feet in height and have wingspans of nearly 6 feet, Impressive needless to say. Rounding a corner in the early morning light, I was pleased when I spotted the familiar shape of a GBH who was roosting at the top of a Cottonwood tree that bordered the river. I pulled my truck up before I spooked him, although I have found that they are quite approachable when they are roosting. I had my one camera ready to go with my long-lens in place and after approaching as close as possible, I was able to shoot photos of the GBH who after starring at me for a time and realizing that I was not a threat then ignored me. With the sun having just broken the horizon, I realized that the wind had picked up, and this was apparent in my viewfinder, as the Great Blue Heron's crest was being whipped about by the wind. Pleased with my captures of the GBH and with the GBH having tucked his head under his wing for some shut-eye, I decided to move on further south. As I climbed out of the river-breaks, I heard Gary-VE6ACO who lives in Lethbridge, talking to Bill-WA6Q in California on 3737mhz. I checked in and said hello to Gary as I drove south on highway 24 towards the junction of 23 where I would swing west towards High River. I also worked another pass of AO51 that was now passing over the western side of the continent and allowed me to work Jeff-K7WIN who was at his home in Arizona. I also picked up Ron-VA7VW in Vernon BC, as well as Kerry-WC7V from his home in Livingstone Montana. I should have mentioned earlier that my destination was the town of High River, where I planned on having coffee with some of my Ham friends. I had planned on exactly that a week ago, but that plan went array at the last moment as you are well aware if you read my last weeks post. I decided that I had time to work the pass of SO67, the new South African satellite that was put in to space by SunSpace. This new satellite is still being commissioned and today, SO67 would be turned on as it passed over Canada and the US. I expected it to be a busy and was not surprised as it came up over the horizon. It was bedlam as every ham in the 6000 kilometer footprint tried to make a contact. I was pleased to make contact with my friends John-K8YSE, and Egon-VE6EGN. With my first contacts on SO67 a done deal, I drove the last few kilometers in to High River and pulled up at the Heritage Inn where I would swill coffee and swap stories with the guy's before heading back to Calgary.

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