My Most Recent QSO's

Friday, March 27, 2009

Austin Texas at 1055 Miles

More than 10 years ago, I made my first Morse Code contact with a station in Palmer Lake Colorado and I'll never forget my sense of accomplishment as we exchanged our names, locations and signal strength. WOW....that's a long ways away from home, I thought. There are mountains out there nearly 12,000 ft and I talked to this guy from here in West Virginia! (with dots and dashes).

A friend of mine ( SK WD8ODE) loaned me an old Kenwood that had significant power output problems. I think it was only putting out about 15 watts and took some "loading up" and "tuning" to even get a signal out on the air. My antenna was a dipole draped off the roof of the house and ran to a fence post in the corner of the yard about 20 ft off the ground. But I was ecstatic about the contact!

Last night at about 0400z, I heard my call from K5CLC in Austin Texas. (I had repeatedly been calling a station in California but couldn't make the connection). Chris was loud and clear and sent me a 599 report. I was happy about that, but as the QSO continued, it became apparent I was his first 'real' CW contact. (At least for any length of time and meaning).
That made me much happier!

Like me (and my Palmer Lake Colorado contact) he was apologetic about his speed, character spacing, and all those "Q" abbreviations. We talked about our Bio's on, the weather, and how "great" it was to actually converse in CW, at a speed he could follow. He said he was enjoying CW more and more everyday and was encouraged with my patience to send slowly. It's wasn't often that he could copy at the speed most operators were sending these days.
Last weekend I was actually visiting friends in San Antonio, so I mentioned it to him while we were chatting back and forth. I think that really surprised him and I thought it a good conversation item. By the time we finished the QSO, almost an hour had passed, but it seemed like only a few minutes.
I know he enjoyed making that "first" good contact (I also remember mine). But, like mine, I never realized it was such a joy to be on the other side of the conversation until last night.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Belgium at 4,058 miles (ON4AOI)

I was confused when I heard an "unusual" station calling CQ on 20 meters this afternoon. The band seemed to be in "pretty good shape" and there was a "herd" of West Coast stations working SSB DX into Eastern Europe. There were many California, Washington, and Oregon stations having a "feast" as OS8A passed out "dozens" of contacts.

They were ALL very strong into West Virginia and I also heard Scotland and Lithuania in the distance and I even tried to make a SSB contact myself, although the Belgian station was concentrating on 6-7 and 0 calls.

There was way too much competition for me today, so I decided to tune to the CW portion of the band and send a few CQ's myself. (OR0A was actually pointed "over the pole" so my chances of a contact on the "east coast" were NOT very good).

At 1628z I was "shocked" when I heard ON4AOI sending CQ CQ CQ de ON4AOI LOTW USERS on 14.063 MHz. and it took me several minutes to make sense out of it. I know what "Log of the World" is...but never heard anyone sending it as a extra to their call sign. I was totally baffled (despite the fact he was clearly sending LOTW users)

This was NOT a "pile up", (where dozens of operators were trying to "bust" the pack) he was out there "in the clear" without a single response from anyone. After several minutes without a single response.... I couldn't stand it anymore (despite the fact I'm not set up for LOTW). I gave him a call with the vague hope he would respond.

I "fine tuned" once more and heard him send QRZ YA PSE AGN ? We exchanged RST's and he sent a TU. He sent something else but I didn't catch it due to QSB and NO other comments, but MY RST was a 569 and I sent him a 559 wid QSB. I assume he then moved to another frequency to try his luck once more. I never heard him again.

I sent him an e-mail to explain my confusion with the "LOTW" extra . I'm hoping I'll get a confirmation back so will be checking the e-mail closely the next few days. If he's using E-QSL or FISTS, I'll send a confirmation. The LOTW program is a great tool but I just haven't looked into it.

I didn't know his QTH was "Belgium" until I ran it on the data base!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spearfish South Dakota at 1226 Miles

Since I began this hobby, I've found that most Hams have a natural curiosity about History and Geography. I think it has to do, as much with the "magic" of skipping a signal across the sky, as it does with the "curiosity", of where the signal lands on earth. (I know when I make a contact with another operator, it definately makes me want to do a little reading about towns with strange names).

Last night, when I worked K0GZL in Spearfish, South Dakota, the unusual name of this town caused me to do a little history and geography reading about this place.

Geographically speaking, Spearfish is located only a few miles from the center of the United States. It's very close to the crossroads of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. My QRP signal bounced 1,226.5 miles and Bob (K0GZL) heard me at the 559 level. On forty meters, I really rejoice at contacts of more than a thousand miles. Yahoo!

Spearfish holds the "world record" for the fastest temperature change on earth! On January 22, 1943, at about 7:30 a.m. (MST), the temperature in Spearfish was -4° degrees (F)- (-20°C). A chinook wind picked up speed rapidly, and two minutes later (7:32 a.m.) the temperature was +45°F above zero (+7°C). The 49-degree rise (27°C) in two minutes set a world record that still holds today.

By 9:00 a.m., the temperature had risen to 54°F (12°C). Suddenly, the chinook died down and the temperature tumbled back to -4°F (-20°C). The 58-degree drop (32°C) took only 27 minutes.

In the earlier years, there was a "hint of gold" in this area that brought "thousands" of hopeful miners to this place. Once the gold rush started, the city was founded (1876) at the mouth of Spearfish Canyon. The name "Spearfish" was the result of Indians declaring this spot a "good place to spear fish".

I see similarities between this town and my own here in West Virginia. Coal mining is often called both a "blessing and a curse" by many living here. The early "gold mining", in the Spearfish area, was done with a process using "mercury" to remove the gold from the ore.

Coal is often called "black gold" in West Virginia. The process of "mountain top mining" is equally devastating.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Polar Bear In Illinois

Yesterday was an exceptional day for working QRP operators on the 7040 MHz frequency. I had no less than 6 QRP X QRP contacts, as I was doing some computer work with the radio "on" in the background. Every time I would hear a strong station, I'd stop what I was working on, and run into the next room, where I keep my rig and antenna's.

Towards the later afternoon, I heard fellow NAQCC member # 2015 sending CQ de N9SKN/P from Lombard, Illinois. Aaron was sitting at a picnic table, at the highest point in Lombard that he could find on this cold and frigid day.

Polar Bears are like that, Grrrrrrrr the colder the better!

I've got to admire these guys that operate "portable" in conditions like today.
Aaron is also Polar Bear # 126 of their club of "cold weather enthusiasts".

Aaron has a great "web site" via the page. You owe it to yourself to spend a little time looking over the information about QRP radio and portable operations. I found it very amusing to view the video clip about the "mystery radio".

Saturday, March 14, 2009

QRP 7040 Frequency

The weather has turned "cold and snowy" again so I'm forced to stay inside for most of the day. But this morning, I was proud to be the 8th contact for N1JER. (The call sign seemed very familiar but my log didn't show that I had previously worked him). Jeremy is located in Brooklyn, NY.

He was using a "kit" at 2.5 watts with a simple wire antenna.....

Hi John,

Just got off the 7.0395 with you! You were really coming in weak most of
the time, but occasionally were very strong. Then there was someone with a really
strong signal about 300hz away. It was rough! I am still learning the CW protocol
so thank you for your patience..The QSO with you today was my 8th CW contact :)I
am operating a Wilderness SST single band CW radio at about 2.5watts out of an
inverted V up about 30 feet.

73--Jeremy Chase, N1JER

So I decided to just leave the rig "on" in the background while working on the computer. I've made four quick contacts on the "7040 QRP frequency" while running back and forth as a signal gets loud enough to get my attention.

There's a tremendous amount of QRM on this frequency today. It's to be expected, because at the 5 watt (or less) level, it's easy to "step" on someone "not heard" in the distance. The band has shifted back and forth several times. Although I've worked two stations in Georgia this afternoon, I've only been able to copy the name and locations before loosing them QRM or QSB.

I've been hearing a lot of DX stations on 20 meters the last few days. Perhaps I'll leave the radio there for awhile and give one or two a shout? Most people think they need "big guns" to skip across the pond. It will be nice to catch a few with "light tackle".

The next time I hear the GMT signal on 10 Mhz (very loud), I'll throw my line in the water.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Getting Back Into the Routine

Slowly but surely, I'm making a few contacts again on the bands. Things still aren't back to "normal" but I'm getting there.... (After a long trip, there seems to be a million things to do to get the household back in order).

I had a "refreshing" QSO with a fellow FISTS member (WA8BIJ) this morning. Vince lives in Mount Clemens, Michigan. It's a short distance from me, as the crow flies (about 300 miles) and we both had a good copy on each other. Vince was looking at my "Bio" on QRZ and made a comment about the "view of the ocean" from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The picture I have on "QRZ.COM" was taken as I worked stations, with a G5RV antenna, from the balcony of a rental unit. I always take the QRP rig with me on our annual "beach trip" with relatives.

We agreed to exchange QSL cards, via the FISTS Buro, and also, at the last minute, exchanged "area codes" for the 100 Contacts FISTS award.

The "refreshing" part of the QSO was the "order" that we exchanged our QTH's. I had just attempted a contact with a station in Richmond, Virginia, a few minutes beforehand, and the station "vanished" into thin air. (It happens sometimes) The most recent event (on my side) was the result of a squirrel "shorting out a transformer" in the neighborhood. They sure make a big "bang" when they touch the wire and the transformer at the same time. The electric was off for about an hour after that fiasco.

I assumed Vince had heard the exchange so I sent a quick name, and my state. He did the same, and later in the QSO, we exchanged our cities. The QSO then went directly to the Bio info and the Buro. It was fun and refreshing....we never mentioned rig, antenna or weather.

I seem to be working the same "stations" since we returned from the trip. The last few days, I've worked KB9VTM (3), KI4RNY (4), and KM4LT (4). I've also worked another WV station near me on 80 meters. (KC8MFF).

It's really rare to work a station so close to me (100 miles). Bob lives in Buckhannon, WV. That's VERY near the site of the "Sago Mine Disaster". The only surviving miner in that group was Randal McCloy (KC8VKZ). I've never worked him, on the local repeater, but often think of the tragedy and the enormous strength and will power it took to overcome the death of his fellow workers.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

ARRL Good Operator Report

As I was attempting my second contact with an operator, near the California border, last month (see recent post) a station in Wisconsin dropped me an e-mail about my 599 signal into his part of the woods.

Frank (W9GOC) was a little over 500 miles from my QTH here in Charleston.
Although we didn't talk (he was getting ready to leave for work) he was amazed at my signal strength and followed up with a NICE card which I received in the mail upon my return home a few days ago. This isn't a QSL card, but I will always cherish this as one of my MOST prized possessions.
I take pride in communicating with a good "fist" and using good operating procedures. I always match the sending speed of the other operator and if given a weak report, I'll send the critical info at a much reduced speed and also send it "twice" to make sure it's copied correctly.
(I think the most important aspect of CW is communicating with the other station, NOT impressing them with my speed and command of abbrevations).
I'm by no means the BEST CW operator in the world (don't even come close on the SPEED issue) but to receive this card (completely unexpected) was a real treat to me.
Frank (W9GOC) didn't have to take the time, to look up my postal address, and go the expense of sending me this....that's what makes this card so precious!
I'll always display it proudly here in the shack.
The "Good Operator Report" is a function of "Official Observers" section of the Amateur Auxiliary to the FCC. I didn't know the group existed, but I'm happy it does....
Getting this card just "made my day".

Thursday, March 5, 2009

AM 630 "Radio Cook Islands"

You can tell from the date of my last journal entry that I've been away for awhile. My last entry was over a month ago. It's always good to be back home but I also enjoyed this trip VERY much. I've been here before and thought so much of the "simple lifestyle" that I just couldn't pass it again with stopping once more for a few days.

My first stop was an Island about half way between the United States and Australia. I quickly discovered there's not much "air" to listen to in this part of the world and was VERY surprised that I couldn't hear much, on even a small shortwave receiver that I always take along on long trips. (it's a very wide coverage Yeasu VR-120) I don't take along the HF rig because it's just TOO much trouble and the voltage in this area is 240 volts!

For several days, as we stayed on the Island of Rarotonga (one of 15 in the Cook Islands) this was the ONLY station I was able to hear: Radio Cook Islands

Yes, you can also listen too.... "live radio streaming" directly from the station. I've been listening to it as I type up this brief summary of my first stop of my trip. You'll hear two languages on this station but the vast majority is English. You will also hear a mix of "western" music along with the traditional "Cook Island Music". My preference is the rhythmic (very complex) percussion sounds of the local drummers. You owe it to yourself to listen to drummers!

Rarotonga is a beautiful, quite place, with lovely lagoons and great swimming and snorkeling. The local people call it Paradise and personally (for me) I'd have to agree. You can live off the land here (you've got to like fish and coconuts). The circumference is only 20 miles and it's possible to "bicycle" around it easily in a days time.

There's even "two" buses that travel continuously around the Island. One is "clockwise" and the other is "counter clockwise". Really, there's no need for anything but a bicycle here and a LOT of people travel in this mode.

The first thing I did when we returned to WV was to turn on the rig and listen for a few minutes. I've missed the radio and wondered if my CW would become a little "rusty". My fears were soon relived when I worked KB9VTM in Salem, Illinois. Jim and I have talked before and I mentioned being "away" for awhile. I also mentioned it sure felt good to have the "key" back in my hands.

If you get a chance, listen to the "Cook Islands" while you do a little surfing. Sometimes I wonder about the future of the standard "AM Radio". I think the future (upcoming generation) is going to be on the Internet.

Soon as I get the house back in order, I'll be posting regularly again.