My Most Recent QSO's

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My 2014 Summary of the Year

In summary of last year, I've reached a point in my life where my enjoyment of QRP radio is something I want to share with all my friends and family. Ham radio, IMHO, is the greatest hobby in the world. I sincerely wish more people would enter the hobby and meet the fine folks we all know, blog with, and talk to on the air everyday. There's something for everyone in this hobby.

Spare time is at a premium this year but I still love every radio minute. I've been a ham nearly 25 years now and still find the same enthusiasm for the hobby as I did the day I made my first contact. The older I get, the more important I find keeping the mind sharp is essential for a happy life. I can't think of a better "senior" exercise than Morse Code to keep the old brain functioning.

I wasn't on the air as much in 2014, as the year before, but I still managed to work an average of at least one station a day; my total contacts for the year of 2014 was actually 413 QSOs, and I enjoyed every one of them. My log book now has 2,847 entries with 505 NAQCC members and a total of 816 DX contacts. I actually worked a couple of new DXCC countries on Christmas eve this year which brought my total to 107. I'm amazed every day that I work DX with QRP power and an indoor random wire antenna. Last year I put my QRP rig behind an enormous beam antenna, but found working DX like shooting fish in a bucket. Where's the challenge?

I challenge all those who work those long distance stations with a KW and a massive antenna to experience the exhilaration of doing the same thing with 5 watts and a piece of random wire. Twice this year, with stations in Japan and Slovenia, I've had DX stations "stop" a "pile up" after seeing my "cluster post" with "QRP" in the remarks section. (I never send QRP at the end of my call sign when working a long distance DX station). When a sending station takes that extra minute to acknowledged me with a return call (they're actually calling me) a few moments afterwards, the congratulatory "well done" brings me the greatest sense of accomplishment in all of radio land.

I've had more responsibilities with the family this year. My dad is now 94 years old and still living independently and still driving his car. One of my grand kids is learning to drive now, and the others are involved in sports. My youngest grand son will begin school soon. Four cats and a small dog also keep me busy. The dog rules....

I took the position of VP and Treasurer of the NAQCC  club this year. I'm the leader of the West Virginia Chapter and try to schedule an outing each month. We have a breakfast meeting each month. I do a weekly QRS net and write a monthly article about the WV activities for the club newsletter . I also do a monthly mass e-mailing highlighting the "monthly challenge ".

I knew I would not be on the air as often this year when I took on the responsibilities of the Vice Presidency of the club. It was a conscious decision and I have no regrets. I hope to use the position as a way to to share my hobby with more and more people through the NAQCC club. Some of the ways I've learned to maximize my diminished "air time" is by using a laptop or my tablet when I'm traveling out of town. The learning experience has actually been a good thing.

When I'm traveling and can't take the QRP rig with me, I use a CW program on the laptop and send dots and dashes to hams all over the world. I enjoy using "software defined receivers " on the web to keep track of activity on the bands. There's also a variety of ham radio programs on the web which I enjoy when using the laptop. All these options fit well with my basic philosophy of portability and QRP radio.

The winter months are a bit too cold for much outdoor activity now, but as soon as the opportunity presents itself, you can be sure I'll be doing more camping. I had forgotten the joy of watching the stars from the woods and chatting with friends on the 40 meter band. Despite my age, I've learned how to tolerate the hard surface of the ground while camping. It's a small price to pay considering the sights and sounds of nature all around me. Yes...even bears, bobcats and coyotes.

Staying connected to the earth is a wholesome and worthy activity. Simplicity and QRP radio fit my basic philosophy of keeping everything "as simple as possible". I'm looking forward to the year 2015.

Even though I may not be on the "air" as often this year, I still find this hobby the best in the world. My advice to everyone about ham radio, in the forthcoming year, would be the phrase coined by W2LJ -- "do more with less".  Doing so, you will find, is a great pleasure. 


Dick said...

Happy New Year, John. Your dad looks in great shape I like his Amish whiskers. The one-a-day QSO has been my ritual, also. Well, most days. I believe some sort of study was undertaken regarding maintenance of mental clarity though the use of Morse code. Apparently the mental exercise helps. 73 Dick

Unknown said...

Happy New Year, John! I feel the same way, I enjoy the hobby just as much today (probably more) than my first nervous CW QSO many years ago. I too have had a very busy year but hope that 2015 will allow a bit more time for our great hobby. My goal for this year is to finally get outdoors and operate more portable.

Wishing you the very best in 2015 and I hope many more DX contacts find their way into your logbook. Thanks for sharing your adventures. 73, Phil AK7DD

Jspiker said...

Hello Dick,

Glad to see you're still hanging around the bands. Sorry to hear about the tragedy in Paris. Hope you're safe and sound my friend.

Paul Stam PAØK said...

Hi John, you are more active than I am. Just what Dick says, 1 qso a day is enough for me too. And in summertime I am less active. I's remarkable to have your dad still around. 94 is a respectable age. Enjoy the hobby and will do more CW this year to keep the skills. 73 Paul PC4T

Jspiker said...

Hello Phil,

Operating portable is a great joy! I'd much prefer to be outside instead of sitting in a windowless room, or come to think of it, any indoor room. Hi Hi

The new DX slowly moves forward but I always listen for a great band opening. One of our club members has 212 countries with QRP. There's always hope!

Jspiker said...

Hello Paul,

My Dad is an amazing man. At the age of 91, he drove his car to the west coast and back two different times. He's fiercely independent and prefers to live on his own terms. -- BTW/ Still got that camping trip planned for the US this summer?

VE9KK said...

Good morning John and a belated happy new year to you. Very nice reading your post of what has happened over the year and what is planned. NIce to see your dad is enjoying great health! I did click on your CW link and was not sure how the program worked. At this time I am on a Mac and not Chrome as they suggested. I seems like a very interesting site. All the best in this new year John and always very nice to read your blog.

Jspiker said...

Hello Mike,

The program only works with the "google chrome" browser. It takes a little time to get used to, but when traveling without a radio, it's the next best thing to a real QSO. It's written for a speed of about 15 wpm.

Great for those wanting to learn Morse Code with the letters spelled out on the right hand side....nice to see everything deciphered and printed out on the computer screen too.

I need a CW "fix" at least once a day. Don't think I could get by without it now that I'm in my senior years. Hi Hi -- Good for the brain!

It's 9 degrees this morning in Charleston. I will be most grateful when I can get outside with the radio again. I miss my bike too.

Unknown said...

That was a great read. Sounds like you just about have a full plate.
Hope 2015 is a gud year for you and Family.
Also look forward to the warmer days of winter here in Central Texas, where the nippy days of the Mid 50's will warm up so I don't have to wear a light Jacket to mow the green grass. but that's just until May when the mercury runs up very quickly into the Century mark. Oh so much for those two week of winter.

Look forward to working you on the bands someday.

73, Danny N5DRG
NAQCC Central Texas Chapter

Jspiker said...

Hello Danny,

It's been a pleasure getting to know you through the NAQCC Club. I hope to work you also from the Huntington Radio Museum this coming Saturday. I'll be pointing the beam your way....