My Most Recent QSO's

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rookie Roundup

I'm sure everyone remembers all the anxiety about dropping the "code" requirement a few years ago. There were forecasts it would be the demise of Ham Radio. hasn't happened.

I received an e-mail, a few days ago, from the North American CW QRP Club (NAQCC) about an American Radio Relay League (ARRL) event encouraging new operators (licensed three years or less) to get their feet wet in contesting. A big part of this event was (you guessed it).........Morse Code.

Although I'm not a "serious" contester, I couldn't break myself away from this event.

I was astounded at the CW activity on the 40 meter band this evening.

Most of the activity occurred around the 7050 MHz frequency. It was a four hour event and I heard a variety of stations all along the "east coast" and as far west as the Mississippi River. (actually as far west as Iowa and Missouri)

My most exciting catch this evening was K3ROI in Aston Pennsylvania. James is thirteen years old and NAQCC member # 516.

Some of my other contacts were:

K8JD in Michigan (always proud to be involved in teaching CW to new users)

WA4YG in Georgia (an incredible signal)

KJ4VP in Tennessee

KD0JCX in Iowa (an exceptional contact at 579 miles) and I might add, an incredible patient person trying to pull my QRP signal out of a hive of swarming bee's.

W0AX in Missouri (an incredible operator that pulled me out of the swarm by "leading a series of dots to a quite place) Ward (W0AX) was 700 miles from me.

WK4U in Georgia

N4ZR in (of all places) my home state of West Virginia.

W1RM in Connecticut

N8XI in Michigan.

K1LKP in New Hampshire (636 miles).

As always, I used my Icom 703 (with no filters) and the indoor mounted Isotron antenna. This evening I was at 5 watts of power for the entire contest. I used my brass Brunnell straight key. I've started using the "full arm" method with this key and find it amazingly comfortable.

This was not a QRP event.

So much more the gratification to compete with lots of aluminium in the air and amplifiers.

I felt good about it....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Coasting Along in the Winter Months

I continue to make contacts at about the same distances on 20 meters this month. Most are weak signals but workable. I'm still amazed at the times I've heard KE7PZX (and also worked him) in the state of Washington. If there's any propagation at all, I seem to catch him on the 20 meter band. One of the other 'nicer' contacts (and at a much shorter distance) was a fellow transmitting from his motor home from Loxley Alabama. Seems his home in Texas is just a mail box and he's on the road full time.

I've also worked a few QRP stations this month. N5GW was in Vicksburg, Mississippi (20 meters) and on 40 meters (WB8AIZ). I also found KY4O in Nashville Tennessee using a QRP rig. I also found W2IFB QRP in Newfield NY.

Although no DX this month, I still continue to have fun on the bands and find it fulfilling to continue the hobby. The distance isn't important to me, it's still the music of a good fist that attracts me.

Just to mention a few; I've worked these stations this month.

N5GLU in Denton Texas
KE7PZX in Chelan Washington (3 times)
N5GW QRP in Vicksburg Mississippi
VA3AH in La Salle, Ontario Canada
WB8AIZ QRP in Mount Clemmons Michigan
KK4RF (nice call) in Suffolk, Virginia
KY4O QRP in Nashville Tennessee
WG3D in Willmington Delaware
W5VYN in Whitesboro Texas
KE7XU in American Fork Utah
WC7C in Ephrata, Washington

This morning, the weather turned really bad here in West Virginia. It forced me to spend more time than usual on the air. I worked another station in Florida. WB4VMH had an exceptional signal. My favorite today was working an old friend here in West Virginia. I've worked KC8MFF many times, and we always enjoy talking about his old stomping grounds here on the west side of Charleston.

I think the upcoming cold weather is going to force me indoors the rest of the month. It should be good time for radio.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Best QSO's

I've worked several 2,000 mile stations (on 20 meters) in the state of Washington recently.

I worked KE7PZX (twice) in the last 10 days and also worked WC7C. (in Washington). Some of the other stations I've worked have been in Texas and Florida. (W5VYN--W5GXV & K3RLL). I also worked VE9CQ in New Brunswick and VE1BA in Nova Scotia. All of which are at the 1,000 mile range using my QRP rig and the indoor Isotron antenna.

But I don't spend a lot of time on 20 meters because I find most of these contacts are very weak, and only allow the basic exchange of signal strength, name, and location. The CW speed is also seldom less than 15 wpm. (Most are at 25+ wpm and a little too quick for me).

I've worked 34 DX stations now with my QRP rig and simple wire antennas. Several have been at 4,000 miles (or more) but I only remember one station (in Germany) that took a few minutes to actually 'chat' with me. It was a 10 minute QSO and an extremely rare instance. I find it amusing when I make long distance contacts, (yes I enjoy them from time to time) but they're not the very "best". I guess there's different things for different people, but still, my biggest joy is making a contact with another QRP operator.

When I worked K3RLL, (QRP) in Daytona Beach Florida, his batteries were about to go. But I still made the contact as he used a little QRP rig and a simple wire antenna while operating from a city park. My contact in Nova Scotia (VE1BA) was also QRP but using a small beam.

As I look over my log book now, I see a little over 800 contacts. Of those, 182 stations have been North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) members.

Those QRP CW contacts are what I would call my "best QSO's".

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Revolving Map Gadget

Sometimes what appears to be progress isn't necessarily so.....This morning, I removed the "Revolving Map" from the blog because I found it slowed down, not only the loading time of my blog, but also my connection to other links. It was a beautiful application (visually) but just wasn't working out.

In a similar maze, the "elections" are over.

If there's anything positive about any of the results, it's that (at least for now) $142 million dollars can't buy a seat in the government, there's not a "witch" on board (this is meant to be funny) and our beloved Robert C Byrd (from West Virginia) wasn't replaced by a rich man who actually lives in Florida.

I'm still scratching my head and wondering "what now".

One candidate (who lost by more than 25 percentage points) brandished a "baseball bat" on stage at his concession speech. I was a little disappointed at least he could have held his breath until he passed out.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stealth Monkey

This is VERY funny. (cut and pasted from the Ham Radio Safari blog)

Friday, October 8, 2010

BBC Radio Player

I've developed a fondness for the British Broadcasting World Service. When I was a kid, I remember the sounds of Big Ben and their broadcast over the shortwave bands. I've always enjoyed their programing. I consider it one of the best in the world.

But shortwave listening is becoming more difficult every year because of budget cuts, poor propagation, and increasing electrical interference. Some major international broadcasters have ceased transmitting all together, and many others are limiting their transmissions to the weekends.

For those reasons, I feel the future of most radio stations will be on the world wide web. There's both good and bad for this mode. Obviously, if you don't have web service, you don't have anything, and if someone decides to "pull the plug" on the electrical grid, we're all "up the creek". But what it is, is what it is....This is the wave of the future, weather we like it or not.

I found a neat gadget yesterday that allows you to choose many "different" streams of the BBC at the click of a button. I've added it to the right side of my blog. I usually have something playing in the background whenever I'm surfing the web.

I can't think of a better station to listen to. I hope you enjoy it also.

Friday, October 1, 2010

20 Meter DX Field Day

I spent this afternoon "out in the field" with my portable station. The solar flux was 90, the A index was 1, and the K index was 0....all the indicators for a good radio day, especially in the field, away from the electrical noise in town.

But I never dreamed it would be THAT good of a day!

I set up at a city park just outside of town, on the highest point, with some nice trees for an antenna support. As always, I set up for 30 meters with a dipole. Everything went perfect today. It was a "first shot" with the slingshot, and I had the antenna in the air in just a few minutes.
It took only a few more minutes to arrange my table and battery and I was on the air.

But not much on 30 meters....I heard a clear 3 watt beacon (W0ERE) and a station in Florida but not much else.

So I switched over to 20 meters and found it ALIVE with DX stations.

It took a few extra minutes to drop the 30 meter dipole and exchange it with my end fed Zepp. (some people call this antenna an end fed dipole), I re-tuned and immediately heard KN6ZA in Paradise California. Sounded just like he was beside me.

Right after this QSO, I heard WI5C in Arlington Texas. Fantastic signal and we chatted for a bit and then closed because I wanted to listen for some distant stations.

A few minutes later I heard IK6BGT in Italy with an even stronger signal. Justin was on the far side of the "boot" and coming in just like a local. He congratulated me on my QRP status.

A few minutes later, LY3X in Lithuania kicked my socks off...I was beginning to feel really proud of my portable station sitting on a hill in good old West Virginia.

Just when I thought I couldn't get much better, I worked UW5ZM in the Ukraine. Wow....what a day.

About that time, my cell phone rang. It was my brother coming home from work. He could hear the dots and dashes in the background, I said "Is this anything important" -- He said "No"--just wanted to say hello and sounds like you're on the radio---I said yes...having a blast up here in the park---I said-- "I got'a go, I'll call you right back". Then I listened in amazement as I heard a familiar K6AA calling from San Pedro California.

If you look back a few entries on my blog, you'll notice that call sign, as the one I worked a few weeks ago, while aboard the LST 325 (WW2LST) when I visited it, in Marietta Ohio. My Dad was with me and I was fortunate enough to use the ships radio for this contact.

Today....we must have talked for 15 minutes about this eerie "second meeting" on the band. It was spooky.....The club station was again on the air, we happened to be on the same frequency, at the same time. We re-hashed me walking the past club station a few years ago when my wife and I were walking to Huntington beach via an old railroad trail.

To make it more eerie, when I returned this afternoon, from my field operations, their QSL card was on the table.

Radio doesn't get any better than it was for me today. Maybe the dog bite, and the way it turned out had something to do with it?

Good Karma I suppose.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stealth Radio

I'm disappointed that some operators criticize the "stealth" mode of operation. I have several friends that operate this mode and see nothing wrong with preserving the skyline and the property values of my neighbors. And it's not necessary to have an unsightly array of aluminium tubing and steel wires running all over your property to have fun with this hobby. I call those "lightening rods".

I operate this mode because I'm forced to use an indoor antenna. It's a "must" due to restrictions in the "historic district" where I live. But I have a lot of fun with my station and the neighbors have no idea that I'm a ham radio operator. (other than seeing the 'tags' on my car).

I call this criticism "belated blathering" because it serves no purpose other than allowing the ham who has spent thousands of dollars on equipment, to justify themselves and feel successful in the hobby.

Some of us choose not to do that.

Every time I walk the shores of the Hudson River in New York City, I glance up at the skyscrapers with the hope of seeing one of my friends antennas. I've worked him a half dozen times with his random wire hanging out an apartment window. I have another friend that operates from hotel rooms, all over the east coast, from Florida to Pennsylvania. I recently worked a station in the mid west that was using his "rain gutters" for an antenna. I've worked stations in tents, sailboats, trains, and once listened to a pilot flying from Cancun to Phoenix at 35,000 feet. He was having a chat with a fellow in England.

The point I'm trying to make is that it's not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on equipment to have fun in this hobby. Some of us choose not to do so.

And that's OK.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Going to Live After All

After the "dog bite" Saturday afternoon, I made a doctor appointment this morning. There wasn't an infection at the bite site, but my calve muscle was still bruised, and was very sore this morning. I called the doctor at 9:00 am and got an appointment at 2:30pm. I arrived at 2:15 and saw a nurse. I saw the doctor at 3pm and was out of the office by 3:30.

My wife, and several of my friends and family members were worried about "rabies" and I thought it would be good to set their minds at ease. (and leave me alone) My sister is a professional sanitarian and has dealt with this on the job. I was beginning to feel like a squirrel on the first day of hunting season.

I got the "all clear" signal from the doctor today.

My temperature was actually a little below normal. (a very good sign) with little irritation in the bite area. Of course, the muscle is still bruised, but considering the size of the dog, it's to be expected. It's going to be sore for a few more days.

The Doc suggested keeping in touch with the owners for another week. She also suggested (if this ever happens again) to demand the Veterinarians name, address, and phone number and to personally contact the Vet to verify the information. (in other words, don't take anyones word for it) We reviewed my inoculation history going back the last several years and after looking at those, she agreed it would be difficult for me to catch the common cold in the next few years. My tetanus shot was still current so no booster necessary.

Have a nice day and pay the receptionist before you leave the building.

No...I'm only kidding about that.

Actually, I use the Veterans Administration for my health care (the government run socialized medicine program). And while I have the podium, let me put in a good word for them. I use the VA clinic, not because it's the cheapest (which it is by far) but because it's the BEST medical care in this valley.

It's VERY well managed.

If I had gone to a "private doctor"...

#1. I would have been in the waiting room (for at least an hour) filling out an insurance form.
#2. I would have then seen a (pretend to be a nurse) who would have taken another 15 minutes taking a detailed medical history.
#3. I would then be taken back to the waiting room and forced to watch "FOX" news on the giant large screen TV.
#4. I'd get to see the doctor (if I was lucky) in another hour.
#5. I'd see the doctor and he would have given me a tetanus shot, an antibiotic shot, and scheduled me for an x-ray. (to keep from being sued in court)

Then the receptionist would demand about $150 bucks for services rendered. the way, I'd get another bill for the x-ray, and another bill from the person that "read" the X-ray.

I'd be really lucky to get in and out of a "private office" in under two hours.

I won't "spell it out" but you should get where I'm coming from with this entry. I don't have a problem with "socialized medicine".

Getting back to the dogs, I didn't want to appear overly confident, but they were well groomed, sheltered, and obviously healthy . The owners were genuinely concerned about me, cleansed the wound, and offered bandages etc. That's a pretty good sign they're honest and good folks.

I guess today was just a "safety check".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dog Bite in the Country

I took off on the bike this morning with the intentions of riding a few miles in the city. But the weather was so cool, and I felt so good, I headed "out in the country" a few miles towards a little town just outside the city limits. For safety, I traveled the back roads as much as possible. It's about a 20 mile ride (round trip) to this little town.

As with most country rides, there's usually a "bad" section of road between small cities. Today was no exception and I needed to brave a major highway with very little bike space between it and the guard rail. Traffic being light, when I entered a major intersection, I sprinted as quickly as possible to the next exit. I had a sense of confidence as I exited the highway without a mishap.

I spent a few moments in the town, exploring the side streets along the river, and then rode out of this town and through some beautiful pasture land where a herd of cows gathered under a tall sycamore tree.

I was now in real country.

On the return trip, I hated the thought of braving that busy traffic on the highway again, so I decided to explore another avenue with the hopes of riding down the railroad tracks or along the river.

That was my first mistake.

Life is different in the country. It's common for country people to have a dog or two on a farm and as I approached the river, the road came to an abrupt halt. There was nothing to do except stop, dismount, and back track my path towards the busy highway.

That was my second mistake.

Across the field, I saw two large dogs approaching me. I wasn't alarmed. I'm comfortable with most dogs and consider myself a decent judge of character when it comes to body language. I was off the bike and didn't have time to turn and ride off quickly. I should have stooped down and grabbed a hand full of rocks.

That was my third mistake.

It could have been much worse. I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to maneuver myself into a better position to avoid the dogs. I could have defended myself, if it had been only one, but two big dogs were a bit too much for me. One of them got me on the right calve around knee high as I attempted to place the bike in a defensive position. After the bite, I was able to gather a hand full of rocks and send them both scattering for home.

I just wasn't quick enough.

The strange thing about this attack was there wasn't so much as a bark. It really caught me off guard. The body language didn't indicate a confrontation. The smaller one circled behind me and just "bit"......just for the hell of it.

As I stood there for a few moments, cursing the situation and tossing a few more rocks, off in the distance I noticed a small boy on a bike heading my way. I could tell he was concerned about me. I discovered quickly it was his dog and fortunately, (according to his parents) had been vaccinated.

It wasn't a bad bite. (this is sort of thing is like an occupational hazard with bicyclist in the country) It's not the first time I've been bit. I guess the really sad thing about this event was that I didn't have my "dog spray" with me. A good dose of "spray" on the end of the nose, and into the eyes, will stop even the most vicious of dogs. It's harmless for the most part and would have worked in this situation.

The father, mother, son and I talked for awhile as they poured plenty of hydrogen peroxide over the bite area. There's a very small puncture wound in my right calve muscle and some other small marks just under my knee. It's pretty mild for such a large dog. We cleaned the entire area with some paper towels. They offered some band-aids but I felt it better to air the wound.

I guess I'm more embarrassed than anything else because of this incident. This was a "territorial dispute" and nothing more. People in the country can't always pick up the phone and call the sheriff in an emergency. Dogs are one of the best burglar alarms money can buy in the country.

They will watch the dog for a few days while keeping him chained close to the house. I don't expect any problems. I travel a lot and have current immunizations for everything except the common cold. I've had a recent tetanus shot and unless I see signs of infection, I'll ignore it for the most part. The calve muscle is a little sore this evening but that's to be expected.

My next bicycle ride in the country will include a new can of "pepper spray". It's the best thing for both me and the dog.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

25,000 Hits

I started this blog, the very last of 2008, as a way to encourage others to enter the ham radio hobby. I've been licensed for a little over 15 years but didn't get "radio active" until retirement. What a difference that has made....

My stat counter jumped to a little over "25,000 hits" this morning, and I get a good percentage of return readers. That's encouraging to me, and I feel I may have helped a few people to enter this hobby. There are SO many different modes of radio, and SO much room for fun. Morse code is by no means the only mode available to hams today. There are dozens.

I wanted to take a few moments and thank those that regularly read about my enthusiasm with radio and simple stations. It's nice to know you're listening. I'm sort of fixed on code at the moment and rarely use a microphone. But everyone has their "place" in this hobby.

As an example:

There's a little small caption on the current band-plan charts now. It states that CW can be used on any portion of the radio spectrum. Few take advantage of the "fine print" on the charts.

I awoke early this morning, around 2:30 am, and tuned into upper portion of the 40 meters CW band. There were a couple of SSB stations there. I switched to the SSB mode, set the radio in the "split mode"--with SSB on the first VFO, and CW on the second.

All perfectly legal since 7125 MHz was in my "general portion" of the band. (He could have been right in the middle of the normal SSB section too and it's still a legal transmission on my part). I tried several times to work F5VTY in Southern France (couldn't find the call in a data base) but he either didn't hear me, or wasn't a CW operator. I've heard several European and Caribbean SSB stations in this portion of the bands over the last several months.

It's a shame more SSB ops either can't, or won't, acknowledge the call sign of a distant operator using Morse code. (I actually dropped my membership in one club because of this) I don't think it's difficult to set the radio into a split mode using two VFO's.

I did it successfully, many years ago, on a 40 meter Canadian Maritime net. The net control operator called for any station, any mode, for check in's for the shipping net in Canadian waters and I jumped at the chance to make a contact with Morse code. He felt the same, and we were both elated with the contact. He got a real "kick" out of my QRP station being able to communicate with him and the other ships.

That little caption about CW use covering the entire radio spectrum can be a BIG deal under the right conditions.

Thanks again to all those who read this blog regularly, your're missing a lot of fun if you don't pursue this hobby. It's the greatest hobby in the world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tired of AM Radio--Here's an Alternative

I've recently ranted about the "drivel" on AM radio on this blog. There are many ham operators that are also AM radio broadcasters, but broadcasting and ham radio, are two totally different things. On a small scale, I'm considering becoming another addition to these ranks.

The drivel being transmitted on the local stations here is just nauseating. It's not factual, it's misleading (I'm being kind with these words) and it's become a cesspool that's sucking the life out of this state. In other words, AM radio has become an exclusive "propaganda machine" for one political party. It's not a democratic voice; it's terrible for our country. Our only alternative now is "satellite radio" but not everyone has this service or can afford it.

Several years ago, there were a couple of hams that operated a "community radio station" in a nearby town with a 10 watt transmitter. They played 50's and 60's music and I loved this station. I'd drive out of my way, to get within range of the transmitters "10 mile target area". But they didn't last long and they never re-applied for their license after it expired.

Looking at comments and information on the web, I've been alarmed that even a small AM stations "start up costs" could reach $100, 000. I'm retired--- never made "that" kind of money, and I'm not looking to create a corporation to borrow money and begin a questionable new business. I don't want another full time job. And the permitting process (even for a simple 10 watt community radio station) can take many, many months, if it's granted at all, by the FCC.

There's an answer to this problem now. It's called "part 15" low power hobby broadcasting and it doesn't cost much to put it on the air. I first became aware of it through an article in a recent radio magazine. Being perfectly legal, it gives the operator a 'fingerprint' of about a square mile.

I can reach several thousand people with that signal.

I'm looking at this very closely. I realize it's a very limited target area. I would only operate in the morning and evening hours. I'd use "local" musicians instead of "mass marketed musicians". I think there's a big market for this in this valley. In addition, using multiple transmitters, it's possible to cover the entire valley of more than 50,000 people. I have a local college and several hundred politicians in this immediate area too.

We have quite a variety of music here. There's Folk, Celtic, Cajun, Americana, Soft Rock, Gospel, and Symphonic music. We're blessed with an abundance of music and local people are always looking for an avenue to display their wares .

On the politics side....mountaintop mining is a big issue here. I'm not against all mining, just the mining that blows off the tops of mountains and shoves them into the hollows and pollutes our streams. It's important to have the proper people standing up for us in Congress and I'll address that issue with this station. And at the national level, I'll air an alternative voice to those that will listen. I'll be democratic in my ideology and offer some fresh air in this valley. Something that's not happening now....

My time line is around the first of the new year. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day

Anyone who reads this blog, even casually, knows that I'm a born and bred West Virginian. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that I think the late Senator Robert C Byrd could "walk on water" if he choose to do so. I absolutely loved this man, and his passing this year was a blow to the entire nation. He is the end of an "era" and there will never be another like him.

Forgive me, if this entry is more "politics" than radio. (it isn't radio related at all)
But today is "Constitution Day". It was establish and passed by congress in 2004.
(I'm sure you all knew that).

In my opinion, the Constitution has taken quite a battering these last few decades. Everyone loves it, as long as it fit's their corporate needs. If it doesn't, there's a Supreme Court justice that will re-affirm they're views for them. Personally, I feel our government is no longer responsive to the electorate. The important thing seems to be the will of lobbyist for special interest groups.

This, and partisan party bickering, is destroying this nation.

Senator Byrd was the champion of the Constitution and was a deeply religious man. He was always known for carrying a copy of the Constitution in his pocket. He could quote the Constitution and most of the Bible from memory. And I don't think there has ever been another legislator who earned their law degree attending college at night, after long hours in Congress.

He was a brilliant man.

There was a ceremony today at the Madison County Courthouse. (probably won't make the evening news). There's also a ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Charleston today.

Forgive me for the rant but today IS the day to focus on the Constitution. Since the former Senator Byrd was the champion in this instrument, I thought they both deserved a word or two.

Picture's used with permission of "Good News Mountaineer Garage". (

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Trespassing Sign

I can understand some people getting a little "fussy" about their property rights. But I thought this sign was a little "over the edge" as far as getting the point across. If you're wondering why the picture is a little "fuzzy"'s because I wasn't about to get out of the car and argue about it.
I shot it (pun intended) right through the windshield as I drove down this lonely country road.

I was looking for a "radio spot" as I drove through the mountains and away from the valley.
On the topo maps, there was an isolated "peak" in this area at a little over 2,500 feet elevation. It was a "long shot" (and I was within a rifle shot from their front porch), but always worth the effort to get a little advantage with some height and no electrical noise.

I'm always looking for a good transmission point with my portable station.

I don't expect to explore this hollow anymore, since "both" of the country roads in this area "dead ended" onto someones property. It was difficult to turn the car around at the end of the road without using their driveways and driving here forced me to move slowly. It's easy to read the license plate on my car with a cheap pair of binoculars.

I love this hobby...... but I'd hate to get "shot for trespassing" on private property.

I always respect property rights but don't think (if I were the owner) I'd go to this extreme.

I think they got the point across.......

Sunday, September 12, 2010

WW2LST Contact with California

Yes...that's me in the photo.

Yesterday, I took a quick drive out of the valley to visit an old WW2 warship that was docked on the river at Marietta Ohio. LST 325 is home ported in Evansville Indiana, but the ship traveled here for festivities associated with the Ohio River Stern-wheel Festival. I consider the LST to be the worst riding ship on the seas, due to its long flat bottom. It was designed to transport tanks and troops during World War Two. It rode worse than a destroyer....., and that's saying a lot.

I was a signalman on a Destroyer during the Vietnam conflict, so can identify with these small ships. I've also enjoyed making radio contacts with these history makers. My log book lists an old Coast Guard cutter up on the Great Lakes, a battleship in North Carolina, an old Destroyer in Baton Rouge, and a Submarine near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

As I exited the Bridge on LST-325 (these ships had no names), I asked one of the Crew Members if the radio room was still functional. To my amazement, he stated there were several hams aboard who kept it alive and well. Could I possibly see it? I asked. Better than that, he explained, they were actually on the air. And yes, let me show you where it's located.

I thought (being a ham) ....does it get any better than this? Well actually does.

Let me explain.....

As I was escorted back onto the bridge, the crew member led me into the "radio room" which was behind the Helm and Engine Order Telegraphs.

I was in Radio Heaven now.

I met Bob Pointer in the radio room (N9XAW) and we talked for a few minutes about the 600 watt transmitter and antenna's on the ship while dits and dots filled the background of the room.

Would you like to operate the radio? He asked me.

Are you serious?.... I responded.

I was ecstatic. So.......

Being a QRP operator, and thinking of 40 meters, I sent out the ships call (WW2LST) on 7040 a few times but got no response. I then tried the 40 meter FISTS frequency of 7058.

Hummmm....nothing on either frequency.

Bob suggested I try 20 meters and re-tuned to 14.027 (I didn't know the intricacies of the buttons, dials, SWR needles on the tuner etc) but he had it tuned perfectly in only a few moments.

I sent the ships call out again, and this time, the " K6AA Club Station" answered from San Pedro California.

It was a weak signal, with heavy QSB, but we managed to exchange the basic information. John stated they were a "club station" near Los Angeles California, and on the coast. When I stated earlier in this post "does it get any better than this? Well actually does", here's the explanation.

My wife and I were in Los Angeles a few years ago, awaiting a long flight, and we stayed in a Hotel near Huntington Beach. Several times we walked down an old "rail to trail" path from there to the shore to watch the volleyball players. (This beach is famous for Volleyball).
As we approached the shore, I noticed a large white building with dozens of wire antenna's and a large beam on the roof. I specifically mentioned to her that "I'd love to get my hands on that transmitter and those antenna's someday".

I assumed it was a Coast Guard Station.

But if you've clicked on the links to the "K6AA Club Station" , (on this post) by now, you'll see the "Maritime Museum". It's an enormous white building with lots and lots of antenna's on the roof. I remembered it immediately when I saw it from Google Earth program and all the things around it.

We walked right by this station and I made those comments. This was the station I worked today with the ships call (WW2LST).

Thanks again to Bob Pointer ((N9XAM) for a wonderful chance to operate the radio. I had no idea I was talking with a west coast station, that I was actually familiar with, from several years ago.

I'll remember this contact for years to come.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

50 Fools

Why do we allow 50 people to represent the entire United States?

That's hardly a gnat in this nation of 3o7 million yet our media has pasted this grain size group on every newspaper in America. And now it's spread all over the world.

I'll bet every reader of this blog knows exactly whom I'm referring to when I associate it with the upcoming anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.'s the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida.

My very soul demands a statement on this group as I can no longer sit passively by when hate groups inflame and incite violence against others in the world.

The attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 was indeed a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. There were people from many nationalities killed on this day in America.

Some were Muslims.

There are also Muslims serving in our military and dying on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Although our Constitution demands "freedom of speech" as an ordinance for a functional government, I'm ashamed when I see 50 people allowing us to be smeared with such bad ink.

They don't represent me.

The ignorance in this country is absolutely astounding at times.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What Does Radio Mean to You?

I've been in the Untied Kingdom the last several weeks, so no time to spend writing about the ham radio hobby. (hence the big gap on the blog) Since I've been gone, several of my friends have given up on blogging. It's caused me to wonder why I spend time writing. To those of us who are battered with rising noise levels and operate under less than favorable conditions, this hobby has become more of a challenge everyday. I can understand why they're discouraged.

But I still can't deny my fascination with skipping signals into the sky, and never knowing where they will land, and to whom I will have a nice chat, and learn about their lives in the cities, towns and country where they live. For me, getting on the radio and talking to others is similar to traveling in the world. It doesn't make any difference if they're 50 miles or 5,000 miles away.

I've heard many shortwave stations while visiting distant places in the world. While on this trip to the United Kingdom, I stayed across the street from the BBC in London for a few days. One night I listened to a GREAT program about the guitar player Les Paul which was hosted by another guitar player named Dwayne Eddie. (I take along a little Grundig SWL pocket radio)

I can't imagine living without access to the worlds radio waves. Perhaps it's a form of paranoia but I consider radio fundamental to a thriving and prosperous society. Listening to radio (in any form) is like looking into the eyes and the minds of it's people.

But it's only "accurate" when programing is objective and allowed to flourish without undue monopolization of limited airspace. I thought often about the difference between programing in the United Kingdom and here in the United States on this trip. It was wonderful to actually hear "music" in England, and a well done documentary, about a variety of different subjects. Other than National Public Radio, here in the US, there's no comparison to the drivel heard on our AM stations.

I had a great time while traveling from the tip of Scotland, down through Whales, and into England. (actually it was a coach with a VERY good driver familiar with the left side of the road)

I was especially impressed with the city of London.

I'm disappointed that some of my blogging friends have decided not to write any more. I'd like to read more about their daily lives regardless of their radio contacts. Knowing we have the common bond of radio enhances our lives in so many ways.

I'll miss reading and seeing pictures about their lives on their radio blogs.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Great Ride

It’s not often I see such a perfect example of my favorite mode of communication. I almost expected to see the NAQCC banner or a big telegraph key beside these big letters. My first thoughts about the paint job on this vehicle was my love of Radio.

But these are actually the call letters of a local television station. (WQCW)
I was riding the bike around town when I discovered it sitting behind their business office.

I assume this vehicle will fast approach it’s useful life and be replaced by another shiny new model in just a few years. Someone with a good eye and artist brush skills could turn this into a great radio car.

You might be able to replace the big guy in the picture, with a picture of yourself and your own Ham radio station.

It would make a dandy of a vehicle for a CW operator!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Same 'ol Shtick

While driving from the airport in Des Moines Iowa, I tuned into their local AM radio station on the car radio. They have a big 50,000 watt station that can be heard in my home city. They’re around 700 miles from Charleston, and during the night hours, I can hear them loud and clear.

Clear Channel Communications owns this station and is the largest owner of high power AM and FM radio stations in the United States. A few years ago, they owned 1200 stations, and in addition to these, they now own and operate 12 satellite radio (XM radio) channels.

That troubles me.

The framers of our constitution saw great dangers, when power was concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people, and went to great lengths to establish a system of checks and balances to guard against monopolies in our capitalistic economy and our legislative process.

Critics claim large radio corporations like this one have abused their market position.

When I hear these super stations, I hear a constant barrage of the same programming. It’s “coast to coast” on the AM radio band every night. Sort of like the same song played over and over on a broken record player.

As some would say, the same shtick, on a different station, but still the same old shtick.

I’m not picking on this station. It’s just one of many with the same programming every night. I’m picking on the system that allows this kind of mundane programming. I find little variety and little opposing opinion. It’s no wonder that some broadcasters are desperately trying to create a different format.

If you haven’t read the current issue of “Monitoring Times”, you’re missing a great article about “Pirate Radio” written by Ken Reitz (KS4ZR). It’s a brilliant piece of writing.

Pirate radios broadcasters all have one thing in common.

They believe in “freedom of speech”. They also believe that “freedom of speech” is denied when the limited number of frequencies on the AM, FM (and the shortwave bands) are owned and operated by the same company.

As the problems of monopolistic owners become a greater problem every year, I can see more of these stations appearing on the bands.

The FCC is really going to have their hands full trying to control them.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New NAQCC Banner

As anyone realizes, that has read this blog for very long, I'm a strong advocate of learning and using Morse Code. I have a microphone, somewhere in the house, but I'd have to look for it if I decided to use it again. I might drag it out to make a contact with a "special event station" but if given the choice between a CW contact and a SSB contact, I'll go for the "key" just about 99% of the time. I'm not into the "digital" modes either. To each their own, but I just LOVE Morse Code. Communicating with another operator with a "good fist" is like listening to a good Symphony to me.

It's SO simple and SO efficient and the satisfaction and camaraderie that exists between CW operators is something difficult to put into words. I get an enormous sense of accomplishment when using the "dots and dashes" to communicate.

I've been a member of the North American QRP CW Club for several years now. They've created a new "banner" to express their enthusiasm for CW.

I like it!

There's a link to the club on the right side of this blog. They promote communications with QRP power, and of course, CW.

Check out the web site.

Read the free monthly newsletter.

There's no membership dues.


Learn CW and join in the fun!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

1,736 Miles With Your Rain Gutters

Those of us who live in "challenging" radio locations are often amazed at the contacts we occasionally make on the bands. Although this contact is less than 2,000 miles, (actually 1,736 miles) Jim (KK7YJ) in Missoula Montana, was a fine catch. Both our signals were weak but we were able to exchange SKCC numbers.

What's so unusual about this contact?

Jim is also faced with "antenna restrictions" in his community. He loaded up the "gutters" on his home and made this contact with me here in West Virginia. Like me, the neighbors don't even know we run a Ham radio station at our homes.

I prize this catch as much as a long distance DX contact.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I'm really NOT a contester, but I can't help "joining in" when ALL the CW's ops are using 5 watts of power. Last night, I had original intentions of only passing out a few "quick contacts" for West Virginia but found myself so engrossed in the activity, that I worked the entire contest. I just couldn't stop and it ran away with me.

It was a great way to work other QRP club operators and get those "numbers" increased in the log book. Last night was a "good night" for me using my indoor antenna. I think the best ever.

Here are the results: NAQCC Jun 2010 Sprint

I don't get BIG numbers, in any contest, using a "simple wire antenna" in this valley (in the middle of town) but that's NOT important to me. I had "tons" of fun listening to and working 10 different stations in 10 different states in a period of two hours.

For me, it was a nice accomplishment, and I'm sure many in the contest, were surprised to see my antenna classification listed as an "Indoor Isotron" on the contest page. Despite criticism from many people, I still defend this antenna as a VERY good alternative for those forced to operate in a "very restricted area". It's my only alternative here and works MUCH better than a "random wire".

I worked QRP stations in New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Ohio. Two of them were what I would call "beginners" and I made a "special effort" to work them. (I can remember well those first few times I listened to a "swarm of bees" and felt I could never "compete" with any of them).

Getting back to "contesting".....or maybe I should say "not getting back into contesting", I've become a fan of "long conversations". (Not to say working a lot of "quick contacts" isn't the "cup of tea" for many folks). But my biggest joy on the radio bands these days is working another CW QRP operator, and actually getting to know them. Not just any operator, but those with a "good fist". I put a little "flag" with their call signs when I list them in my log book.

Last week, a fellow blogger (W2LJ) wrote about the same joy of "communicating" with another "good fist" who takes the time to match your speed (whatever that might be), use proper spacing, use logical sentence structure, sensible abbreviations, and uniform lengths with their dots and dashes. Too often, CW ops run words together and make it nearly impossible to "copy" their QSO's. I've worked a few operators at 20+ wpm and copied every word. I've also copied (or tried to) work some operators at 5 wpm and not copy a thing they've sent.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is "it's not the quantity, it's the quality" of the contact.

Last night, most of the operators were using "straight keys" and I heard many of them at 15+wpm. It was easy to list them in the log book. The quality of the NAQCC ops was excellent.

I've always liked the North American QRP CW Club and find participating in their "contests" a real joy. There's some excellent operators in this group.

Last night, my last contact was a fellow in Salem, Ohio. He was not a member of the club. I took a few special minutes to tell him about the activity with the hopes that one day he might join the club.

I really don't understand why CW ops don't join a "free club".

They produce a monthly "online" newsletter, special club activities, and have awards geared towards the "QRP" operator. They're all a great bunch of people.

This is a great club!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Music in the Mountains

You'd be amazed at the guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddlers in this state. It seems they're up every hollow, mountain, and valley. There's always dozens of them just waiting for the Vandalia Gathering near the state capitol building. It was a short walk just up the street from home.

As you can see, I'm a "happy camper" in this crowd. I played with small group of musicians in the "jam tent" and wondered around the lawn with the tall shady trees. I enjoyed the music very much and am looking forward to next year.

You won't find me on the "main stage", but I have fun just the same.

I'm the same way with radio.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Field Day Battery Source

For what it's worth...

Perhaps there will be a new "operating class" for this years "Field Day"? It seems the new "Hybrid's" on the market contain a 30 KW DC generator that can be tapped for power by using a DC to AC inverter ?

According to the article in this months issue of "Popular Communications Magazine" , some owners of these Hybrid vehicles use their "cars" for emergency generators when the power goes out in bad weather. They power their homes (lights and refrigerators) with them.

What a novel idea....

A tent, transporter, and air conditioner all built into one.

(written by Kirk Kleinschmidt (NT0Z)

I'm would you classify this mode on field day?
How should I sign....

N8ZYA / QRP Hybrid IMI

Thursday, May 20, 2010

30 Meters on the Hudson River

I’ve been near New York City this week to attend a granddaughters graduation ceremony at Suny Albany and I've got into the habit of taking the QRP rig along on trips with the hopes of getting a few hours "free time" to spend on the air. This afternoon I was able to set up my little station at a city park on the Hudson River in the town of Haverstraw NY.

I had originally planned to hang the dipole as an inverted Vee but after pulling the center portion over a low tree limb, it was easy to arrange flat and oriented East and West.

Today’s solar flux was 68 (terrible for 30 meters) but after listening for just a few moments, I found a “special event station” in Italy (IU3AC) pounding out CQ’s and a vast swarm of bees trying to work him. I didn’t waste much time with this because I could tell the band was unstable and I didn’t hear any strong US stations attempting a contact. (Lets face reality, I’m only running 5 watts of power).

Soon afterwards, I heard KA4KSB in New Bern, NC (and was able to briefly work him) but the band shifted and we were not able to continue the QSO.

Another strong signal came from N4QLB in Anniston Alabama but I couldn’t make the contact.

I was beginning to think the band “just wasn’t there” when I heard K9JQ in Chicago Illinois call CQ with a very strong signal. We chatted for several minutes as I explained my operating location on the Hudson River.

I love operating like this and look forward to more of the same as the summer season approaches. I’ll again make up a special card for this contact since Jim has a current e-mail address.

It was really enjoyable to chat with others from this location. It’s a beautiful spot on the river where I can see sail boats and freighters as they enter the channel towards New York City.

This, to me, is what portable radio is all about.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Special QSL Card to Florida Station

As I've mentioned in earlier posts...while out in the field, I've started sending "special" QSL Cards to those I've worked with my new 30 meter dipole . I've sent a copy of this one to the Pensacola Florida station that I worked from the rental home near Duck North Carolina.

They aren't hard to do and it's a visual memory of the contact for the both of us. This one is created with the "paint program" that comes with the basic Microsoft software.

They can print it or save it to their hard drive.
I prefer to save them on a "memory stick".

The other Florida station didn't have a current e-mail address.

Slim Pickings Last Week

Last week, while at the beach in North Carolina, I couldn't find time (or a good location) for the radio.

It's a two day drive to the coast, and there was a "strong geomagnetic storm" brewing on the bands . To make matters worse, there were a few thunderstorms in the area (lightening and wires don't work well together) and I had a "poor" location to to place a dipole antenna.

During the next week, I was only able to operate once, for a few hours, when I strung the 30 meter dipole from the top balcony railing of a rental home and into a small pine tree. (I hate pine trees because of the sap that seems to cover everything they touch). The antenna was "sloped" significantly towards the South.

But I was able to work two stations in Florida. (N4ZMP and WA2PAY). One was in Pensacola and the other in Saint Augustine.

I usually take my Isotrons but didn't bring them because of the expectations of working more stations on 30 meters with the new dipole. Looking backward now, for portable operations and simplicity, the Isotrons are VERY hard to beat.

I had a good time while at the Outer Banks of North Carolina but it wasn't a good year for radio. It was great to be around family and we enjoyed the long walks along the shore in the morning and evening hours. We also rode our bikes into the little town of Duck several times.

On our first day here, we watched a "humpback whale" for nearly 20 minutes as it slapped its tail and fins on the water. I never expected to see that on the east coast.

For radio next year, it will be back to the Isotrons.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another 30 Meter Field Day

Another wonderful day in the woods at the city park near my home. The band wasn't "up" but I listened to a station in Lumberton, Texas and another in "The Village" in central Florida.

Near the same 30 meter frequency, I heard AA5KV in Shreveport Louisiana and decided to see if my 5 watt QRP signal would reach him at about 800 miles. (my RST 449)

We had a delightful talk about his TenTec Argosy and his QRP excursions in the summertime with his K1. Sunny and pleasant at both locations. Both of us retired and enjoying the nice day.

It's always worth the effort to string up the antenna, orient it east and west, and spend a little time using the "dot's and dashes". My neighbor was interested in the radio, so was along as an interested party. Perhaps one day he will get the bug and work on a license.

I absolutely love the 30 meter band. Made up this card after returning home and will send it to my Louisiana friend via e-mail as a memory of the QSO.

I'll be at the Outer Banks of North Carolina next week and will be taking along the radio. With a little luck, I'll make some contacts from one of the "lighthouses" . No activation.......just fun with the QRP rig.

I'll be taking some pictures and will be making up some new cards for the contacts.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Nice Inverted Vee Solution in the Mountains

I got a nice card from Pierre (VE2PID) from my contact while on the "Scenic Highway" a few weeks ago. He was one of my first 30 meter contacts and was also QRP from Sherbrooke, Canada. He was about 700 miles from my Richwood QTH at 4,000 feet. (I hope the snow has melted up there and they have the trees off the road by now).

I've always been concerned about getting a "dipole" in the air when you're up above the "tree line". This seems to be the answer when you choose to use your dipole as an inverted Vee. Pierre's signal was 599 at about 700 miles with 5 watts of power. He uses a collapsible pole and attaches it to the bike mount on his car.

I'll be experimenting with this configuration on the next "elevation" location. Although the maximum elevation is only a little over 4500 feet here in WV, finding two good tall trees can sometimes be a problem.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My 30 Meter QSL CARDS

As I noted in my previous entry, I've started sending QSL cards that are "specially designed" for my "portable contacts" and I've received nice comments from those I've sent while operating on 30 meters while out in the field.

They're pretty simple, and in this digital age, easily created by using a simple picture and then "editing" it with the "paint program" included in all Microsoft software. It's a simple matter of adding text with the proper font, size and colors.

You'll see these pictures in some of my previous entries while operating at North Bend State Park, the Scenic Highway near Richwood WV, and my latest excursion to a local park near Charleston.
This isn't a new idea.

I received a "nice" card from K2RFP in Long Island NY just a few days ago that I thought was "unique". In addition, he created a re-usable SASE "return envelope" for one of my cards. You can download the free application from his site. I still enjoy receiving "paper cards" but think they're unnecessary because of postage fees. (especially those DX contacts)

But I think this is a nice way to show my contacts the exact location where I transmit and it seems to go over well. It's a nice memory for both of us. I don't mind the extra work it takes to make up one of these cards since I'm not into "short 30 second contacts". I usually chat for awhile....

Many of these people also have accounts with E-QSL (and I send them a confirmation from that site also). My "E-QSL" card is a generic kind of thing that shows me sitting on the front porch of a cabin with my guitar. I always respond to those requests.

I take the extra step to make sure they have a current e-mail account and send them along as an attachment to the e-mail so they can either "save it" or (if they choose to use it as "wallpaper") print it out on their home computer.

I always enjoy a more "personal" card from my contacts. I think those that receive these cards feel the same way.

In the future, those with a current e-mail account, can expect to have one of these cards sent to them as confirmation for the contact.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Fun on 30 Meters

I've been working as much "portable" as at home the last few weeks. Today I was able to get out for a few hours, and arrange the 30 meter antenna as an inverted Vee by hanging it from a convenient tree limb. It seemed to work fine. I drove to nearby "Little Creek Park" in South Charleston.

Several years ago, a major "shopping complex" was built in South Charleston and this park is the result of all those business taxes. It's quite a mecca for softball and soccer fans here in the valley. There's also some really nice hiking trails here in Trace Fork Canyon. Hiking in the canyon along this stream is very quiet. Something you would not think being this close to town.

I was a little disappointed in the band today but still made two nice contacts at about 600 miles.
The first was another QRP station in Sandersville, Mississippi who was also using an Icom 703 @ 5 watts. K5RZK is also a fellow NAQCC member. But I was operating in the early afternoon so didn't expect to hear much. Most local people are still at work now.

I seem to be on a run with NAQCC QRP operators on 30 meters.

The other station was N2DCP near Ocala Florida. He surprised me with his QTH and the #2 call. We have relatives in this area of Florida.

I've started taking a few pictures on my portable operations. (today was the first with me in the view). I took it by setting the timer in a little camera and attaching it to a roll of string that I use to hang the antenna.

I've started sending them as QSL cards with a "personal note" and have got nice comments from them. I'm sending them as attachments to e-mails. Sort of like the cards I use on E-QSL.

I'll post a copy of a few of them on the next entry.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

30 Meters @ North Bend State Park

North Bend State Park is near a little town called Cairo in West Virginia. It's on the Hughes River and the site of a new lake. The dam was created just a few years ago.

We traveled here this weekend to spend time with a hiking group we've been members of for many years. (Marilyn and I actually met while hiking with this group). I took the QRP station and my 30 meter antenna with the hopes of spending a few hours on the air.

I set it up near "base" of the dam (elevation about 900 ft) along a stream and was fortunate to arrange the antenna as a "sloper" that was slightly oriented towards the west. Here's a picture of the lake seen from a trail as we hiked above it.

This is the second time I've been able to experiment with my new 30 meter antenna and I like this band more every time I use it. I desperately attempted to work AE5KA in Spain because he was the "strongest" station I heard on the band. He was calling DX and working a slew of stations using a split. I must have spent 15 minutes trying to get his attention and transmitting on the frequency I was hearing others working him.

I had a nice QSO with KD5RSS in Haskell, Oklahoma, at about 800 miles, with a decent report. It was raining there and he was using a G5RV antenna. Butch was concerned that I might find myself in a rain when I explained my station sitting next to the base of the dam.

I like this band and have found some unusual characteristics while operating here in the field. I hear a lot of weak signals and I hear a LOT of them. I hear some REALLY good DX stations that I know are only running 200 watts. Before I took down the antenna and broke down the station I was able to hear VK6AU in Western Australia. He wasn't very loud but he was readable. I emailed him about hearing him and got a nice e-mail back this afternoon.

He was a little over 10,000 miles from me and was the first Australian station I've heard on the bands.

I'll be setting up and operating on this band a lot more now. I brought along a compass to help me orient the antenna this time, and will try to arrange it as an inverted Vee this next time. I copied this sign near an old "railroad tunnel" as we hiking along a "rail trail" near the edge of the park. I rode my bike through 6 of these old tunnels the last time I was here. I hope to spend more time at this park this summer and will bring along the radio to operate more on 30 meters.

The "North Bend Rail Trail" is about 80 miles in West Virginia and is incorporated into the "American Discovery Trail". The American Discovery trail is a "coast to coast"
trail of about 3,000 miles.