Monday, August 23, 2010

KL1SF & KL1MF via APRS, The Final Alaskan Chapter

I spent a large part of today watching as Sean (KL1SF) and Mindy (KL1MF) made their final rounds in Fairbanks. Sean has been heavily involved in APRS for several years and ironically, it's APRS that really made me realize that they were not returning (lump in throat moment). Yes, we have talked about their new jobs and them relocating for the past few months but today, it really hit home. Watching them leave Fairbanks for the last time (as noted in the APRS map screen shot) really drove it home for me that they were on their way to beginning their new life in the lower 48.

Good friends can be hard to come by but Sean and Mindy have been just that. Extremely sad to see them go but we totally understand why. Sean and I met back in the early to mid 90's at the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office in Northern Ohio. I worked there as a Deputy Sheriff and ironically, Mindy's father was my boss. It seemed that Sean and I were destined to be friends from the beginning.

The story we enjoy telling about the beginning of our friendship all stems from ham radio and Skywarn.  I belonged to Skywarn in Ottawa County and I had a new alpha pager I carried with me. For those that remember, when pagers first made it big, they were a small unit that displayed only numbers. Then, with modern technology, pagers became alphanumeric. I could receive text messages on my pager as well as weather information. Since we were known to have several severe storms throughout any given summer, I really enjoyed this new device. Being involved with Skywarn at the time even gave me a few bucks off the monthly bill! It also fit right in my with law enforcement and fire / EMS duties. 

Anyhow, Sean saw that I carried this "cool" pager and we started to talk about radios and electronics. Sean was not involved with ham radio as yet but it was obvious to me he sure would make a great ham! The friendship we have enjoyed all these years began way back which was instigated by a small paging device.

Sean became involved with ham radio and he actually lived at the opposite end of the county that I lived in (Ottawa). We worked the same shift (midnights) so if we were not talking on the radio at work, we were talking on the radio while at home. I went on to work for other agencies but the Sheriff's Office happened to dispatch for all that I worked for (Sean was a dispatcher). Sean and I would work UHF/VHF contests together and he would leave me in the dust most of the time. Sean had the 222 advantage. I only operated 2 and 432 but I never did mind losing to "the homey".

At the time, my sister and her family lived in Iceland. I had been to visit my sister before but asked Sean if he wanted to accompany me on my next trip. Sean and I got licenses from Iceland with the help of KE4HTS, who was stationed there working with my brother-in-law at the time. It just so happened that Sean accompanied me on my next two trips! We had lots of fun and Sean drug his portable station with him so we could operate from Keflavik. Other than now being in Alaska, that was my only other experience at being "DX".

Sean and Mindy left for Alaska back in 2000 and I remember being extremely bummed that my close friend was going to live so far away. I was excited to communicate with Sean on 17 meters for most of their trip across the lower 48 as they headed to Washington where they were catching the ferry in Bellingham. The bands did not favor any further communications until Sean got his station going after they had arrived in Alaska. After hearing of their adventures and keeping in close touch with Sean and Mindy (not to mention their photos) we decided to head up to Alaska and visit them during the summer of 2002.

When my wife, youngest daughter and I headed for Alaska, we flew into Anchorage and I remember how taken back I was with the landscape as we left the airport to start out trek north.  The drive was just breathtaking and we arrived at Denali very late. Sean was working the afternoon / late shift in the dispatch center so the timing could not have been more perfect. We followed Sean home and the next several days we spent with them seeing all the sights in and around Denali, not to mention Seward! We had hoped to see Mount McKinley (Denali) but the weather just did not cooperate. On the day that we left Alaska, Denali showed itself in all its glory! The south side of the mountain was visible all the way to Anchorage. My daughter made the comment, "I think it's a sign we should stay". Well, she knew something, as it was about a year and a few months later we arrived to Alaska.

We have had many fun adventures in Alaska with Sean and Mindy and we have watched their family grow. They have two boys and we are so glad we had the last 7 years with them. So many great memories and lots of fun times in the Alaskan backcountry. We know that we will see them again at some point as our lives will hopefully take us on similar adventures. Our paths will cross as fate will be in our favor, unlike the propagation in Alaska.

So, to the Fielding's, thanks for the wonderful memories, best of luck at your new jobs and keep in touch. Ham radio has been the apex of this great adventure and I have the photos and QSL cards to prove it.

The Bus at Cody Pass, 2010

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