April through June 2007

April 2 thru April 8
A task that has been patiently waiting finally got started. With the possibility of operating the station in Bethel remotely it is more important now to get the third KAGV studio into operation. This will allow Kristan and Dave to both be recording/screening/editing etc without having to wait for studio time. Usually we postpone tasks we dread, in this case this was a task that was too good to consume. Karl loves this kind of work. Hopefully we can get all the supplies to complete it before Dave's return.

We are making progress getting the upper floor painted. We've got our primer on now and we should complete the first main coat soon.

Meanwhile outside our winter wonderland is dying a miserable death. As the Wicked Witch of the West once said "I'm melting". What a mess. We are used to seeing tender shoots from early crocus poking through fallen leaves, here we've got cigarette butts and doggy treats.

April 9 thru April 15
Well many of you may have heard about the flooding that occured at KAGV in the past. This is the time of the year when all the snow melts while the ground is still frozen solid and the water has no where to go. We have been checking the water levels each day and on Wednesday we saw that it was getting a little too close for comfort. We gave Rob a call and he brought his loader down and moved the stacks of snow around and made a new ditch that allowed the snow to melt safely and give the water a path that doesn't include a trip through the transmitter building.

This last week we have been painting at every opportunity we could find. By Saturday we had finished our third coat and it was time to clean up. All of the drywall mud, drywall dust, texture droppings, paint blobs and paint overspray had to be scraped and vacuumed up. The vacuuming lasted for quite a while but it was great to be able to walk around freely without white tracks everywhere.

With things cleaned up we got a chance to start laying out the kitchen. The cabinets really make the picture come together. Now there is plenty of plumbing hookup work but the kitchen is not that far away anymore.

With approximately half of the translator licenses expiring in June we are going to head out to complete a flurry of installations in the coming weeks. With Dave out on furlough we needed help to keep KAGV operating legally in our abscence. Jerry is an experienced radio volunteer who has been working a couple months each year for the past 5 years up at KIAM. This is his first time at KAGV since KAGV has begun operation. He is very excited about getting to help us out down here. After helping us work on our house he headed straight over to the radio studios to get familiar with the setup here. He started right away Monday morning and really enjoys being on the air.

April 16 thru April 19
We weren't around on Monday so the updates will be broken up a little different for a while but we'll keep them coming. During the week we had a power transformer go out here at KAGV so we were without power for about 3 hours. Not knowing that it was only going to be out for 3 hours all three of us decided to use the time connecting the KAGV transmitting facility to the backup generator. Jerry was a lot of help getting those stiff wires pulled through. We got it all up and running about 30 minutes after the power company finished up their work but we tested it out and everything worked fine so next time we should be able to stay on the air.

Back at the house in the evenings all of us made good progress together. The counter tops are nearly ready to finish installing. Here Karl and Jerry are making the cutouts for the sink and the stove top.

The electrical and the plumbing are all functional for the dishwasher. Hopefully we can get the counter tops finished up soon.

April 20 thru April 23
First driving and then flying we went North to install translators.

Our first stop was Monday morning in Hughes. The church where we were installing is right next to the runway so it was easy to get everything unloaded and underway. Here Adam and Rob are attaching the antenna feedline to the antenna support pole.

Adam got us there as our great pilot. Rob got the structure put together. Karl took care of soldering and the electronics configurations. Kristan was our public relations rep figuring out where we could get a ladder and letting people know that they could listen to the radio, "You mean like even on a little clock radio without a big antenna?"

With Hughes on the air and plenty of daylight left we headed North following the Koyokuk River to Allakaket.

In Allakaket we had a harder time finding locations to tie our guy wires so we ended up digging with a coffee can to bury a large piece of steel as an anchor. These tripod setups went up nicely, especially when we knew what to expect when we arrived and already had most of the parts delivered ahead of us.

The electronics found their new home right beside some other electronics in the Allakaket Tribal office.Given that we met at the plane in Nenana at 6:15am, having Hughes and Allakaket up and broadcasting by 9:15pm was a good day's work.

April 24 thru April 29
With generous help from Lake Clark Air we were able to get out to Perryville and get K232DJ on the air. Here you can see us winging our way past the St. Augustine volcano and then winding between mountains to get to Perryville.

Perryville is a beautiful little village nestled between the mountains and the ocean, protected from the ocean by a mountainous island.

With a little welding we were able to use an existing mount for our satellite dish.

The wiring made its way through the attic to the bedroom closet that made a new home for the electronic gear. Two guy wires to the eve and one to a concrete anchor we buried in the yard and we were on the air by suppertime.

Not having to leave until the following morning we got a chance to enjoy the village and our hosts. What a blessing to be able to visit!

Back home we still managed to make progress before the weekend was over. Here we installed a water filter to keep the particulates out of the house water. With the filter in, we finished installing the refridgerator so that we have water and ice now. The dishwasher and the ovens are fully functional too. The kitchen countertop went in pretty well and the sink and the stovetop shouldn't be too far in the future. A careful observer will notice that the sun is coming in the North window in the morning, Alaska is a different place and summer is on its way.

May 9
We have travelled North to Nenana planning to install translators in Coldfoot and Prudhoe Bay. Both install plans fell apart at the last minute so instead of Coldfoot and Prudhoe Bay we are now on our way to the town of Eagle, North of the Alcan Highway close to Canada. Tonight we are staying in Tok. Sorry for the lack of pictures and the late update. We were in Nenana over the weekend where Kristan covered radio shifts allowing Brian to take a day off to recreate with his family. The Internet connection to the village of Nenana died sometime on Saturday and wasn't functional at all until Tuesday afternoon. Stay tuned for news from Eagle.

May 10 thru May 13
As we headed out on the highway to Eagle some of the signs of spring were starting to show. Flowers are just starting to poke up and highway travellers getting in or out of the state were dressed in all the spirit of self inflicted adventure.

After leaving the Alcan highway just after Tok, we travelled the Taylor highway toward Eagle. A Taylor Highway visit wouldn't be complete without a little poultry sledding in Chicken, AK. Continuing on through beautiful mountains and valleys past historical mining districts and many treacherous pathways we made our way toward Eagle.

At around 4:30 in the afternoon we arrived where the Taylor highway ends at the Yukon River in the town of Eagle, AK. We found the Eagle Bible Chapel where we started our installation.

Don and Dewey from Westwood Baptist Church in Olympia, Washington have been volunteering with VFCM for over 20 years. They are always a crackup to work with and they came to help us with these translator installations. Here we are getting the dish mount bolted together and leveling out the base.

Next we've got to get the antenna put together and mounted on the base as well. All said and done, we were on the air before 9:00pm.

The next morning our host gave us the treat of a personal tour of historical Fort Egbert and some of the Eagle museums. My personal favorite was this functional 1913, 4 wheel drive, 4 wheel steering...well ...uh... thing.

Heading out of Eagle was actually even more treacherous than getting there. Our two wheel drive Suburban pulling our fuel trailer wasn't always able to keep solid traction in all the snow that had fallen and was falling. But another 11 hours on the road and we were back to Nenana.

May 14 thru May 20
Well, where should we start with this update? It seems as if many things have suddenly become urgent when in reality, only one thing has come up that was unexpected in this last week. It just so happens that the one thing is very LARGE in size and will take God's provision to get completed. Here it goes. . .to make a long story short, our satellite provider is changing the particular bird (communications satellite) that we use to take our radio signal from KIAM in Nenana to all of our other stations and translators. This means that each dish and satellite signal receiver in each of the 15 VFCM locations will need to be manually changed between June 1 and June30. In addition, in order for this change to occur, we will need to get a second uplink from Nenana functional to avoid any I AM Radio Network "down time" on any of our stations or translators. Here are some pictures of the uplink equipment in Nenana that will hopefully be duplicated by the end of next week.

Needless to say, our translator installation project cannot be stopped during the month of June in order to concentrate on the satellite change. We still have FCC deadlines to meet by the beginning of November this year. On Tuesday, we were able to do a survey trip to the village of Ambler. Adam graciously flew us out from Nenana to Ambler in his Maule. On a survey trip, we meet the contact person in the village and try to get to know them better. We also scout out the best location to set up the dish, satellite signal receiver, radio exciter, and radio antenna. This type of survey allows for a smoother installation. Our plan is to install the equipment at a local church parsonage that is occupied by the pastor during the winter months, but vacant during the summer. We hope that this installation in Ambler will happen during July.

After our successful trip out to Ambler, Don and Dewey (affectionately known as the Bobsey Twins), accompanied us back home to Houston, Alaska. This past weekend, we cooked our first meals in our new kitchen and the Bobsey Twins and Karl were able to construct and install all three flights of stairs needed in our house. Since Karl had never built stairs before, it was nice to have Don with some stair building experience lead the way. We are grateful to the Bobsey Twins for all of their expertise and laughs while they visited and hope they enjoy their flight back home.

Also, this past week, we said goodbye to Jerry Wilmes. Jerry has been here in Houston (for the last 5 weeks) at KAGV operating the radio station. This was a wonderful blessing as it allowed us to be free to get the translators of Allakaket, Hughes, Perryville, and Eagle installed as well as the survey trip to Ambler. Jerry, you ROCK! Thank you for your dedication and excellent radio operation! Oh, yeah! By the way, we also were visted by a mother moose and her calf in our backyard pond.

May 21 thru June 4
Well the last couple of weeks have been a little busy. Right before we headed to Nenana for board meetings we managed to get the flooring installed in our master bathroom.

It seems like everything these days is having to do with satellite dishes. Here we are unloading a crate of dishes that will each be sent to a different village to recieve the signal from KIAM. Also with our provider changing which satellite we are using, we had to remove an older dish at KIAM to make room to mount a new dish to reach the new satellite while we keep broadcasting on the old one to minimize interuptions.

Back home for about a week we took the opportunity to put the flooring in in the master bedroom. Things are coming along, slowly but surely.

June 5 thru June 11
The first half of this week was spent waiting for the new satellite uplink equipment to arrive in Nenana. On Wednesday night, we headed up the highway to install the new uplink dish and electronic equipment needed to avoid "down time" on the I AM Radio Network. We were able to go together since Dave and his family returned from their furlough. On Thursday and Friday, Karl and I installed the new dish in the cold and the rain. The weather only made for exciting conditions over 30 feet in the air. Here Karl and Elliott are on the scissor lift tightening down the dish.

After the new uplink was installed, the race began. Since there are 15 VFCM locations that need to be adjusted before the end of this month, Saturday was spent flying out to Eagle. There Karl and Adam realigned the satellite dish, reprogrammed the satellite receiver, and fixed an antenna problem. The village of Eagle is located on the Yukon River. One down, 14 more to go!

June 12 thru June 25
These past two weeks have been filled with satellite dish and receiver re-adjustments and changes to accommodate our satellite provider. On Monday (two weeks ago) Karl and Adam flew to the villages of Bettles, Hughes, Allakaket, Ruby, and Tanana to make the changes.

Then on Tuesday, they were off to McCarthy.

Wednesday evening, the road trip began to install the Prudhoe Bay translator. After driving all through the night the translator was installed late on Thursday, just ten days before the FCC deadline. Thank you Lord!

While the guys were driving back down to Nenana, Kristan took a commercial flight to Bethel. Her trip was designed to send off the Skillmans to their home in Ohio and to thank them for their service with VFCM. In addition, she had the privilege of welcoming Bill and Bonnie to their temporary summer home in Bethel. Bill and Bonnie will serve as volunteers who will be responsible for the operation of KYKD until September.

After returning from Prudhoe Bay on Saturday and recovering from their trip, Karl and Adam flew out to Bethel to pick up Kristan. Following satellite equipment adjustments at KYKD, the three of us were off to our affiliate radio station KAKN in Naknek, AK to adjust their satellite dish and receiver on Wednesday 06/20/07.

We are steadily being reminded that God is in ultimate control of every step that we make. We spent an entire day in Naknek, AK waiting for the weather to clear. Our plan was to continue flying down the Aleutian chain to visit our translators in Chignik, Perryville, and Sandpoint to change their satellite equipment. When the weather didn't clear, we headed towards Nenana and were able to spend this last weekend in our home in Houston, AK. Oh, well. We will try again this next week. God knows that these last three places need to be visited before the end of June. He will provide the perfect time!

June 26 thru July 1
After fitting in a HughesNet satellite Internet installer certification on Monday we were headed out along the Pacific side of the Alaskan Peninsula toward the Aleutians to finish the adjustments in Chignik Bay, Perryville and Sand Point before the June 30 deadline. We found and repaired some technical issues in Chignik Bay and we made the necessary adjustments in Perryville before arriving in Sand Point around midnight on Tuesday. While we only came to Sand Point to adjust the satellite dish we soon found out that due to weather conditions we were going to be spending some extra time there. Even though Sand Point is not currently broadcasting, while licensing issues are being settled, we wanted to use this opportunity to get the broadcast setup into the best condition possible. We made an adjustment to the antenna height and reconditioned a few other items in hopes of being able to be able to have our contact there complete the adjustments and get back on the air on their own saving the mission the cost of an unplanned flight. The AvGas alone to get to this location and back is nearly $2000.

We can't really think of a better place to be socked in by weather than the Hodges Bed and Breakfast where the Sand Point translator is located. We got to enjoy three days of terrific hospitality and a wonderful apartment with puzzles and movies provided. Interestingly enough, for Karl's birthday his parents sent him some movies too. We enjoyed watching "Swiss Family Robinson", it was good to know we aren't the only people who have been stranded on an island.

Part of the difficulty in getting good flying weather from Sand Point is its remote location. On the Pacific side of the Alaskan Peninsula the only other automated weather reporting station is in Chignik Bay. The day after we left Chignik Bay the generator that powers the village died and that took out the automated weather service. This left the next closest weather report about 400miles away in Kodiak. To make sure our flight would be a safe one we relied heavily on satellite images and waited for our contact in Chignik Bay (who works night shift at the cannery) to be able to give a visual report on the ground in Chignik. With all reports looking good we were airborne again.

Well not to let things get boring we had some extra adventure as we flew over Perryville. Here one ofthe cracks in a window decided to take some action and we lost a chunk of our window. We were able to use the handyman's secret weapon while topping off our wing tanks with the fuel we were carrying when we stopped in Chignik.

Really the flight out and back was just gorgeous. The Pacific side of the Alaskan Peninsula has beautiful volcanoes, islands and beaches all demonstrating just a glimpse of our Mighty Creator. After plenty more flying Adam dropped us off at the Big Lake airport near our home before he headed back to Nenana.