I have a new callsign and a new location for Spinning & Grinning. Please head over to www.ni0l.com … 73!
Another Field Day is around the corner, June 28th – 29th. This year I have the opportunity to head back to my home state of California.
This trip is going to be a bit longer with more time on the road as well as spending more time in California. I am now the proud owner of a 2014 Coachmen Clipper travel trailer… it is like a travel trailer, only smaller. But small is good, my Toyota Tundra is not rated to tow a whole lot. So this adventure is going to involve some camping and somewhat more of a leisurely pace in the daily mileage heading out there.
The site for this field day will again be up at my dad’s cabin at Mi-Wuk Village in the central portion of the Sierra Nevadas. My dad, KD6EUG, has done some station upgrades to his shack at the cabin to include the addition of a hex beam and a yet to be used Icom PW-1. I will be using my IC-7000 with my Buddipole.
Now is the time I need to shake out my equipment to see if I have everything. I have not used the IC-7000 in quite a while and I need to make sure I have everything I need to set up two Buddipoles at the same time.
For logging, I think our choice will be to use the N3FJP Field Day software. I was really impressed with how it worked last time.
The static crashes were coming more frequently now and I could see the lightning off in the distance. I had been driving since the early afternoon and only had about two hours left until I arrived home. The sun had set an hour ago but the moon was not up yet and it was dark as pitch. My headlights cut through the night. Shortly before the Autumn sunset, the clouds moved in from the west with the winds gusting against my pickup truck as I headed south. The rain was off and on, more of a nuisance than an impediment to driving.
It had been a long day of meetings and I looked forward to getting behind the wheel. My mobile setup in the pickup is simple: an IC-706MKIIG and a screwdriver antenna – just 100 watts. It was relaxing to hear the rush of white noise as the rig powered up and my screwdriver antenna spun up to a good match for 40 meters. I had enjoyed a few QSOs as I barreled down US Interstate 29. Traffic was light. After the sun set, the band started to go long and decided to drop down 75 meters. The screwdriver antenna coil whirled again, sending the whip up a bit higher.
As I slowly spun the dial, I heard a call coming just above the S5 noise level. “CQ CQ CQ, this is W0XRR, Whiskey Zero X-ray Romeo Romeo, calling CQ and listening.”
Gripping the handmike, I replied to the call, “W0XRR, this is Kilo Delta Seven Papa Juliet Quebec, KD7PJQ, the name is Scott and I am mobile, south on I-29.” Releasing the Push To Talk button, the noise rushed back to fill the cab of my pickup. The rain started to pick up, beating against the roof and windshield as I continued south.
“NI0L, Scott, fine business and thank you for answering my call. Name here is Bert, Bravo Echo Romeo Tango. My QTH is just outside of Atchison, Kansas – Atchison, Kansas. Good signal tonight, I would not have guessed you were mobile. Ok Scott, back to you.” Bert’s signal had gotten stronger and I easily copied him through the noise. His audio quality was as smooth as silk… no processing.
“Solid copy all Bert, you’ve got a solid signal tonight, started off a bit weak but has picked up to a solid 57 to 58. Ok on your QTH in Atchison. I am headed south on I-29. Just passed Hamburg and crossed into Missouri from Iowa. My destination is not far from your QTH. I am headed to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Back to you, Bert.” Despite the poor weather on the road, I was anticipating this was going to be a good QSO and hoped our ragchew would keeping me company on a pretty miserable evening to be out on the road.
“Well Scott, I am glad to make the contact. The weather is bad here and I imagine it is worse up your way. I was down here in my basement shack and decided I would warm up the tubes and see what I could find on the bands. Ok on Fort Leavenworth, just a bit south from here. I have not been out to the fort for a number of years but know it well. I retired sometime back and now spend a lot more time down here in the basement either spinning the dial or tinkering with one project or another. Lets hear from you, Scott. What’s put you out on the road tonight?” Bert asked.
I told Bert how I had been at a conference on Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The event had ended a day early and I was trying to make my way back home to see the family and enjoy a full weekend. I explained how I had been in the Army for over two decades, had originally gotten my call when I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, and had recently been transferred to Fort Leavenworth with my family. “We really enjoy the area. I am thinking about retiring there in Leavenworth. Back to you, Bert,” my index finger released the PTT.
Bert came back to me with his signal competing with the noise floor. “Fine business all, Scott. I used to be in the Signal Corps and did 30 years in the Army. Was stationed out there at the fort for my last assignment as well. Good posting there at Leavenworth. Glad to hear you and your family are enjoying it.” He told me about how he used to support an air defense unit that was stationed on Fort Leavenworth. His signal detachment was responsible for integrating all the communications for the Nike missile batteries in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. We continued to trade war stories for another twenty minutes or so. Then his signal began to fade.
“I am starting to loose you Bert, so I better wrap this up. I really appreciate the QSO and to make the contact. Any chance you will be at the hamfest in Raytown coming up the Saturday after next? A few miles southeast of Kansas City? It would be a great opportunity for an eyeball QSO… and I am buying the coffee. What do you say? Back to you, Bert.” The rain was a constant downpour now, rolling across the road in front of me.
No reply was heard except for a few static crashes from the lightning. “W0XRR, this is KD7PJQ, thanks again for the contact, 73 Bert!”
It was a sunny Saturday morning with early November’s crisp Fall air. Attendance at the hamfest looked good and my parking spot was a good walk to the door. Although I knew I would spend the majority of my time browsing the aisles, I did need to pick up some Anderson PowerPole connectors as well one of those Nifty! Reference Guides for my IC-706. The guide would help me out on remembering some of the more obscure settings for the rig when I was out on the road.
I had begun making my deliberate ‘s’ pattern through the rows of gear (… and, lets be honest, junk) when I saw a table with some nice Collins gear. There was the transmitter (a 32S-3A), a receiver (75S-3C), and even a Collins 30L-1 amplifier. The bearded oldtimer manning the table had his undivided attention focused on a breakfast burrito and it took a moment for him to wash down a deliberate bite with a drink of coffee.
“Good morning. Nice Collins S-Line! These are in great shape – looks like they’ve been well cared for. You don’t see these everyday. Why are you selling them?” I heard older hams talk about these Collins rigs, but I had never seen them before.
“Good morning… sorry you caught me in the middle of breakfast. Yup, this is a nice set. Not mine actually. We’re selling it for the widow of a Silent Key. I’ve got more boxes here of his stuff. I think all the manuals are in one of these,” the gentleman said as he turned in his seat a leaned over to pull an open box towards him.
“The lady gave us a call to come and clear out the ham shack. He’d passed away last year but it took her until now to finally part with the gear. We picked everything up earlier in the week. Took us two trips. Here’s one of the manuals,” he said as he handed me the manual for the 75S-3C, yellowed with age but well cared for.
I flipped through the book, noticing the margin notes,,, and then a QSL card fell out between the pages and onto the table. I looked at the callsign on the card – …W0XRR. Bert McKenzie, Atchison, Kansas. There was a picture of a Nike-Hercules black and white missile elevated at 45 degrees on a launch platform as well as the crossed semaphore flags of the Signal Corps.
“Wait… who’s gear was this? What was the call of the Silent Key?”
“Well, there’s his QSL card!” The oldtimer pointed to the card on the table. “This gear belonged to Bert… W0XRR,” the oldtimer picked up the QSL card from the table.
“But when was it you said he passed away?” I was confused and trying to sort out what I was hearing.
The oldtimer stroked his beard as he set the QSL card down, with the image of the Nike missile towards the table. “Let’s see… it’s been a little over a year now. Bert passed away last year around the end of October.”
I looked down again at the QSL card on the table. This side of the card had the blanks for QSO specifics. There was handwriting on it and I tentatively lifted the card up to get a better look. On it I saw my call, KD7PJQ…. 75 meters, the date of our QSO (… less than two weeks ago), a 5-7 signal report… and a circle around “PSE QSL”. The card slipped out of my hand and onto the table.
Dazed, I lurched away from the table. I needed fresh air and sunlight.
The oldtimer called after me, “Hey! You interested in the rig? Go ahead and make an offer.”
Author’s note: This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, call signs, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Back in December of 2011 I got this email from my dad, Larry (KD6EUG) about the severe storm damage to his cabin in Mi-Wuk, California – located in the Sierra Nevadas:
The big pine tree that is located at the corner of the back deck, the one that we used as the center for all our antennas, split in two and about 90 ft of it landed on the back deck and cabin/garage. All the dining room windows and sliding doors are blown out. There is a 6″ separation between the garage and the kitchen. The PG&E power meter and feed lines to the power pole are ripped out. The wind had gusts of over 35mph.
Here are a few of the picture I received over the next few days showing the destruction:
My dad and I had a great field day from the cabin back in 2009. It was quite a blow to see what nature had delivered.
It has been a long path since December 2011. Through diligence and perseverance, my dad was able to revive the cabin. The work was finally completed this past summer.
We had another scare with the Rim Fire back in August and September. The fire actually came within a few miles of the cabin but fortunately the firefighters were successful in stopping it before it could do any damage.
My dad is now up there enjoying the California QSO Party from the cabin in Tuolumne County (…sometimes a pretty hard-to-get county in the CQP).
We have tried on several occasions to attempt HF QSOs while he has been at the cabin and I have either been here in Kansas or when I was stationed in Virginia. We never had much luck and have primarily used my EchoIRLP node as the best way to chat (IRLP Node 3553/EchoLink Node: KI4ODI-L 518994). Well, our luck changed today. We decided to give it a go prior to the CQP and started at 10Ms and worked down until we got to the 15M band. On 21.400 MHz we had brilliant success in carrying on an HF QSO. I’ve already send out the QSL card to confirm the contact.
With my coming retirement from the Army, I am going to have the opportunity to head back out to the California Sierra Nevadas this next June for Field Day 2014. I am looking forward to that!
I have taken my HF mobile install through a number of different iterations (the constant being the rig: an Icom IC-706MKIIG). Today I hope that I have finally reached a lasting, workable setup. Here is a quick re-cap of my trials and tribulations:
First attempt (2007):
What this install lacked in experience, it made up in effort. The successes were routing the powerline and the feedline. The antenna system was a different story. My combination of Hustler and Hamstick antennas (along with the unfortunate choice of putting an Icom AT-180 autotuner in the mix) met with mixed success. I did make contacts and enjoyed the mobiling. The rig itself was placed under the passenger seat. Placed side by side with my TM-D710A left very little room and little clearance between the seat and the floor. I came to realize that my 2005 Toyota Tundra lacked any real great locations to stash a rig. The drivers seat (no way), behind the back seat (nope), under the back seat (not going to happen).
Tarheel Model 75A and the stake pocket mount (2008):
I have not regreted going with the Tarheel Model 75A. I finally figure out that using an autotuner was a non-starter and a screwdriver offered a great solution. The stake pocket mount was a mixed success. The way the pocket was always had the antenna sticking up at a funny angle. It also did not seem very secure. I still made lots of contacts and had lots of fun.
Switched to MT-1(S) mount (2009):
Switching to the MT-1(S) mount did a lot to improve my operations. By having the antenna mounted right to the side of the bed, my ground (… and other half of the antenna) was greatly improved.
Using the iPortable (2009-2012):
I don’t usaully have a passenger in the front seat – just two kids in the back. But having a heavy weight passenger in the front seat was a no-go for IC-706 in the all too cramped location under the seat. The iPortable setup allowed me to consolidate the IC-706MKII and the TurboTuner in one spot. No more messy nest of wires. But the iPortable offered somewhat of an obstacle to the kids in the back seat.
Current (…and final?) install (2013):
I have had the TM-D710A installed for a while. The AVMAP makes a good pairing and you can find my location via APRS here.
Now the iPortable is in the large tool box mounted to the bed of the pickup.
The big task was to reroute all the cables: an extension to the powerline, pulling out the feedline, and moving the control cable for the Tarheel antenna. The IC-706 includes the AD5X fan modification.
I had to drill a hole on either side of tool box to route the cables in and out. So far, so good – everything works and I am getting a full 100 watts out on every band.
I did forget to run a line for a CW paddle… that is on the To Do List.
There are also a few additional improvements I would like to make.
- 12v booster to 13.8v
- Extra 12v battery
My favorite amateur radio blog comes from Jeff Davis, KE9V. If you have been following Jeff’s blog through the years you’ll have seen a constant evolution of his site and content. In addition to his ponderings of the current state of ham radio, Jeff has produced a number of engaging podcasts. Long Delayed Echoes was Jeff’s podcast series that covered a great deal of the early history of amateur radio. It featured selections from Clinton B. DeSoto’s 200 Meters & Down as well as other significant historical sources of ham history. In addition to his written contributions to QST (see the May 2005 issue on page 56) Jeff has also shared his talent for fiction with us. He has several other ham radio related stories that he posts now and again on his blog (… it is worth checking his blog frequently because once in a blue moon he will put links up to his stories… my favorites are QRP Christmas and Tragedy on the Trail).
Jeff combined his podcast talents along with his fiction writing skills with the production of Cornbread Road. All 13 episodes of the serial are currently available and on the 30th of September, Jeff has promised us a final installment. I’m looking forward to that!
… there was Hugo Gernsback. Here are a few of his contributions:
- Established one of the first companies to sell equipment to radio amateurs in 1904.
- Founded the Wireless Association of America in 1909.
- Published two amateur radio oriented magazines: Modern Electrics in 1908 and The Electrical Experimenter in 1913.
- Initially proposed the idea of allocating 200 meters and down to amateur radio in 1912.
Why don’t we know more about Hugo Gernsback and his early contributions to the hobby? At what point did the momentum shift from Hugo and his Wirless Association of America to Hiram Maxim and his ARRL? … and why?
My intent for this blog is to serve primarily as a notebook – a place where I can capture important details concerning my amateur radio activities and then refer back to them if needed. This includes interesting websites, hamshack successes and failures, equipment settings, as well as plans for the future. Occasionally the subject matter on the blog opens a bit broader… beyond amateur radio
The cliche about some long time hams of having life “take over” at some point in a ham career is a cliche for a good reason. Sometimes the balance tips and radios are put on the backshelf. I’m at a mid-life career transition point, retiring from the military and moving into “the next phase”. Plan A is to become an elementary school teacher. None of my previous academic work really supports this transition and despite popular misconceptions, in the state of Kansas… you can’t just show up and say “Hey, I’d like to be a teacher!” It is actually a somewhat difficult process. Fortunately a nearby university has a well respected program that I am not too far from completing. The program is time intensive (this semester I am taking 13 credit hours… while working full-time). This is my last semester behind the desk. I start my retirement transition at the end of December and in January I start student teaching.
One of the great aspects to the program I am in is that I get plenty of time inside elementary grade classrooms so I have a clear idea of what I am getting into. Over the last 12 months I have had the opportunities to visit numerous classrooms seeing various grade levels and teaching styles. It is great going into this transition with my eyes wide open.
However, this educational experience (along with work) has been time-intensive. My time in front of the radio (or submitting blog entries) has been seriously limited. The hamshack has become somewhat of a dumping ground (for my other hobbies of O gauge model trains and 80′s arcade games) and only recently was I able to did a path out from the door to the operating desk. My goal is to adjust the balance just a bit and spend a little more time with the radios. We’ll see how it goes.
This place looks like fun but is out there on the final frontier… well, maybe not the final frontier but is 240 miles away from Kansas City in Hutchinson, KS. Not an ideal day trip but perhaps a weekend destination. There is a lot to do and see and I think my girls would enjoy it.
Not quite as far, but still a good distance is the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum.
This place really fires the imagination. Martin and Osa have a great story to tell. I am sure this museum would be a hit to explore. I think this couple could have taught both Marlin Perkins and Ernest Hemingway a bit about adventuring.