Adventures with 1.5 watts

Friday, March 23, 2018

We made it!  It is spring!!  This is the beginning of a new Zulu day.  Friday.  This weekend is supposed to be full of snow and cold weather.  The ground hog was right for a change.  I used to go backpacking every first weekend of spring.  This weekend it seems I will just be looking out the window yet again and looking for a friendly QSO if possible.
On a brighter note, I opened the mail box today and found the reply QSL card I was hoping for from Australia!  That is my first Australian card and puts another QRP DX entity on   the map.  This QSO was on 30 meters using my Elecraft K2 at 5 watts.  It is a great card with such encouraging words on the back.  
Because of spring I am itching to operate outdoors again.  With that comes the thought of UIKEYINPUTDOWNARROWwhat is the best backpack radio?  There is a lot of things to consider when thinking of the radio that might be right for your situation.  When hauling a radio for a day or multiple days weight radio size and battery life creep up on the list.  My friends Gary NE1PP and Mike KQ9RP joined me last weekend and we measured the amperage use of my QRP radios just in receive mode.  The SW+40 made the top of the power sipping list at 30ma.  Next was my MFJ cub at 40ma and the MFJ 9040 measuring at 70ma.  The Elecraft K2 in battery mode consumes 190ma while receiving.  This was a lot of fun and helped confirm just how nice the single band CW radios are for the trail.  I know the mountain topper or Elecraft KX1 are right in line with the cub and SW+ and are even smaller but for now I plan to keep using what I have.  
Tonight I turned on the SW+ and tuned around.  The daily QSO came from Trenton, TX Joe K3PR.  Joe was calling CQ and I wanted to answer but another station started calling on top of him.  I wanted to reward Joe’s effort however so I called specifically for him and BINGO!  Joe answered me.  He surprised me by telling me he was QRP with his FT817.  It is always exciting to hear another QRPer.  We chatted a few rounds but the QRM was getting stronger and I think the band was also lessening toward our favor.  I lost Joe before giving him a proper good buy but I sure appreciate the QSO from TX with the SW+.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

I have not been blogging lately or writing much at all.  I’m sure we all get distracted by other things that catch our interest and also loose track of time.  I have been on the air plenty but just haven’t written about it.  One real reason is because the Bluetooth keyboard broke that I use with my iPad.  That is my main creating tool.  I have a laptop, but I only use it for contesting.  Typing on the iPad screen is not very accurate and has not got the feel a of a real keyboard.  Though not ham related, I am excited about my recent keyboard replacement.  I went for a Apple magic keyboard.  This keyboard is nice because it is full size.  My last one had smaller keys and was universal for android or apple.  It worked for a couple years and I got very used to throwing in my backpack with the iPad and taking it wherever I went, but now it won’t connect to any of my apple products.  Maybe it is due to updates to Apple’s software.  I’m not sure but I figure an Apple keyboard should work more years and pair up with any new iPads I might get in the future.  So with that I hope to record my ham radio activities more often and maybe write more in general.

Yesterday I had the pleasure to make a QSO with Sue N3SC in Venice FL.  Venice is not rare DX like .... well... Venice Italy, but I’ll take it in these band conditions.

I was using 5 watts as seems normal these days with me.  The 1.5 watt SW+ is more frustrating lately. My local CW friends were discussing with me that they have found 40 meters to be very quiet this week in particular.  I have noticed this as well.  The few QSO’s I made during the week were very short and not easy to find.  I don’t usually follow band conditions.  My friend Brian KB9BVN always tells me someone somewhere can hear you.  That keeps me calling CQ longer and does seem to result in a QSO even if not a long distance away it is always a friendly person using CW.

Last night I was using my MFJ 9040.  I really enjoy this radio for it’s minimalist aspects.  It is a lot like the SW+ but it also has AGC and mine has the internal keyer and 500hz filter.  Both I installed and was worth the investment.  I called CQ and quickly Sue replied.  She was using her Icom 718 and an old straight key.  What was extra special was that Sue let me know I am the first QSO she has had in a long time.  She didn’t mention how long, but it sure felt great to welcome someone back on the air.  I hope she enjoyed the 20 minute QSO and continues to find enjoyment in the fellowship of other CW operators.  

Venice, FL is a nice place.  As Sue said the temperature is always nice there.  It is called the “City on the Gulf”.  Located in south western FL.  Venice Island is located there which is accessed by bridges over artificially created intracoastal waterway.  It has an offshore coral freer and Caspersen Beach along with Multi-use trails.  It would be a fun vacation spot and popular with retirees escaping the cold of winter.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Add another town to QRP scooter adventures.  I took a day off from work to enjoy the great weather riding around the area.  I went to a friend’s house in the morning in Martinsville, IN.  We changed the oil and gear grease because I have hit 500 miles on the scooter.  Then we had lunch down town Martinsville.  That was a fun little ride.  Soon it was back home.  I filled the 1 gallon tank and then took off to a new location for me.  Danville, IN.  They have a very nice park.   
Mike W9ODX met me there.  

It was very crowded with football practice going on in the park and others had the same idea about spending time outdoors.  Mike knew of a nice little park in Cartersburg which is just south of  Danville a little ways.  We used Mike's MCHF radio and his hamstick with a elevated radial.  I didn’t have much hope with this low to the ground set up, but I answered WZ2J with Mike’s radio keyer speed set to 28wpm.  BINGO!  Vin WZ2J answered me and we had a very nice qso.  I din’t get a great signal report but it was enough with Vin’s IC-7600.  Vin is from Old Bridge, NJ.  He says he is a QRQ (high speed telegraphy).  We were moving right along and it was a joy to operate at a higher speed.  Many QSO’s I have hover around the 20wpm or slower.  QRP does not mean slow and operating at a speed that  makes me process more is a lot of fun.  Normally the faster the CW the weaker the signal sounds so Vin, thanks for really pulling me out at a quick speed.  Hats off to your skill and radio’s ability.  

I finally stopped torturing Vin and said Good evening to him.  Then Mike and I tuned low into the band.  There was a fantastic strong station at the bottom of 40 meters.  Mike’s MCHF radio is interesting because it has a built in live pan adaptor built in.  I could really get used to that feature.  You can see signals and noise while tuning around.  This signal at the bottom was super wide and strong!  We had to listen.  This operator was using all home brew equipment at a kilowatt.  He had a wonderful tone and very easy copy.  He was ragchewing to another stateside station with his beam pointing straight at the other station.  Hey, way more power than needed for the QSO but it sure is enjoyable to hear homebrew stations and we are all share the bands together.  It is fun to just tune around and listen to others enjoying time in conversation.

That was it.  It was getting dark and the park should be closed so we packed up and went south to a local McDonalds.  We enjoyed a drink and a little to eat and then it was time to ride home in the dark.  My first trip in the dark.  What a strange experience. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Yesterday’s Zulu time was Labor Day.  It is a day set aside to celebrate the contributions of workers in the United States and honors the American labor movement.  It was begun by the trade union.  I want to thank those that contribute and serve others in this country through daily work.  It goes un-noticed by most everyone that every day individuals spend more of their day with co-workers and at a work place to serve the needs of others than they do with their family and friends.  I go to work Monday through Friday but I want to remember that others also serve me and I am grateful.  Please take a moment and tell that person serving you a sincere thank you.  It might be the person at the drive thru window of a fast food restaurant or the cashier at your grocery store.  Your kids teacher or say a prayer for the anonymous person that packed your last Amazon purchase.  Remember we are all people working together to improve our lives. 
I have a new adventure to combine with QRP radio!  A couple of close friends of mine have small 49cc scooters.  Well I finally rode one and WOW was that fun!  So…. Yes I bought one and this was my first full weekend to ride.  I also got a 49cc scooter.  Why???  Well I want to ride with my friends and not ride past them.   What goes better with QRP that a QRP style scooter.  Riding with less.  Just like with QRP power radio it is amazing what I am discovering with my new QRP scooter.  I am getting VERY good mileage.  Close to 100 miles to the gallon.  In the state of Indiana this size scooter and smaller only requires it to be plated as a scooter.  It is very inexpensive and does not require a motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license and it does not need to be insured as a vehicle.  I probably rode about 200 miles over the three days I have had it.  I want to learn how practical this transportation is and I will be taking along my Elecraft K2 for the ride… or maybe the SW+.
Over the holiday weekend I went to Nashville, IN which is the center of craft crap U.S.A.  They have tons of craft shops that sell many things.  It was CROWDED.  My friend Dan (who did everything to get my scooter up and running) and I got some food and headed out of town back through the Morgan Monroe State Forest and then to Martinsville where Dan lives.  From there I rode home.  (My first solo trip). I am using non-ethanol gasoline and found a place near me that sells it.  It is not easy to find.  I have had many people look my new bike over and asking me questions about what exactly is it that I am driving.  
My last day I met with my other scooter friend, Gary and met Mike at Cataract Falls State Park.  Mike went there last last week to see how it might work for an outing and it was great for him.  Today was rather crowded. However, we did find a place to set up and get on the  air.  We ended up using Mike’s new radio the MCHF.  It worked out very nicely and we made a QSO to Santa Fe, NM on 20 meters.  Mike’s radio worked great hooked to my Buddistick antenna.  
All too soon it was time to head back home.  Mike hauled my radio for me and followed Gary and I.  I made a stop at the gas station and barely squeezed $2.00 of gas into my scooter.  Meanwhile a local ham saw Gary’s antenna on his scooter and had to walk up and say hello.   It is amazing how many people are willing to walk right up to us and talk.  When using my car no one talks to  me.  

I better post this one and move along.  I will talk more about how outings go for me when I go out.  Who knows where I might operate next.  72/72 for now.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I was looking for a new county tonight calling CQ on 40 meters.  The answer to my call came from VA3YG.  Not a new county but a QSO is a QSO and beggars can’t be choosers in these band conditions.  What a pleasant QSO!  Brent lives on the shore of Lake Huron in South Ampton, ON.  Brent promotes the use of simple QRP radios.  I second that!  I enjoy my Elecraft K2 very much, but as I have mentioned I also have a great time with my single band radios.  Tonight Brent was running 300 watts with a new vertical antenna.  Maybe conditions are making many of us turn to QRO power.  

Southampton is a small town and Bruce says his family has lived there for over 80 years.  It has a post office and road signs It’s primary employment is agriculture.  It sounds a lot like where I live in Eminence, except we don’t have a huge lake or light house. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I got my QRP QSO today at 0100z just as the Zulu day started.  I have been using my Elecraft K2 radio most of the time.  The SW+ at 1.5 watts just seems like torture for those copying me.  I’m looking for conversation more than just the state or county.  I haven’t given up on it though.  I will keep working on WAS with that radio but at the bottom of the sun spot cycle just a little more seems like what is on everyone’s minds.  I read another QRPer’s blog last night and he bought a 100 watt amp for his QRP radio due to the dismal conditions.  I’m not that far gone…..  He wrote that this was his first sunspot low using QRP.  I am a seasoned veteran. I have been using QRP since 2005 and have been through a sunspot minimum before.  This is the time I am finding nice state side QSO’s and mostly stick to 40 meters.  It is best to enjoy what we can get.  I am back working on county hunting.  It’s great for what we have in band conditions.  If you have never county hunted before I highly recommend it.  Some states have tons of counties while others may have only a few.  Either way I have not yet worked any state’s entire counties.  Some are as rare as hen’s teeth!
The QSO came from Salem, NH.  Carmen K1LKP.  Carmen served on a submarine in our U.S. Navy.  He also serves the Lord (as in Christianity), keeps fantastic records, and is a proud ham!  Salem is in Rockingham Co.  That is not a new county for me unfortunately.  Carmen told me our only two QSO’s before this was in 2006.  He even had my age logged at that time.  Ha ha… I said at that time I must have been using my TS-520 radio.  He corrected me and said no, it was the IC-703.  WOW!  I don’t have that radio any more but I sure loved it.  It is Icom’s full featured QRP radio.  I got into contesting with that radio and took it hiking in the woods.  I also flew kites with magnet wire hooked to it.  I didn’t know static would build on the wire which burned up my finals not once, but twice.  The Icom service center told me to stop doing that.  Ha ha…  I sold it to help fund my Elecraft K2 when that opportunity came along.  Of course I still have the Elecraft and it serves as my main radio.  He sure brought back memories of when I got into CW.  At the end of the QSO Carmen wished me God’s blessings and to my loved ones.  I did the same.  If you have not been listening to CW QSO’s much it is very common to say “God Bless” at the end of a QSO.  I found that pleasant but strange at first, however, I have come to find many CW ops will say this and I do it as well.  

So to end this blog post I want to say God Bless to all of you and Dit Dit.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I haven’t been on the air a lot lately but I’m catching up.  There has been little hiking or bicycling much this summer.  It’s funny that I can’t really tell you what I have been doing.  I guess working and doing other activities.  I play the cello and I set time aside each day to practice.  Days just go by I guess.  Within the hobby of ham radio I have been spending time with a new ham and friend Mike W9ODX.  Mike received a 1969 Vibrokeyer key from a nice fellow radio enthusiast.  It needed a little TLC so we put new finger pieces on it and replaced the underside hardware with correct screws.  It also got a new foot because one was cracked.  This key is a left handed paddle which no one would know except that Vibrokeyers are reminiscent of a Vibroplex bug which do function either right or left handed. I primarily use a Vibrokeyer paddle also so I am very familiar with this key.  Mike’s is jeweled and has a super smooth feel.  I’m sure he will get a lifetime of enjoyment out of his new to him key.
     This morning I set up in the back yard waiting for Mike to come and receive the key and had a nice QSO with it to K2OGT/Bob in Gouldsboro, PA.  Gouldsboro is located within the Pocono mountains It is a small town and named after Jay Gould who made his fortune with the railroad.  Jay Gould was not well liked but made wised investments in the Railroad and ended up in control of the Erie Railroad.  Gouldsboro has recently restored its train depot.  As for me I doubt I will ever be an investment tycoon.  I seem to invest in ham radio equipment and things that bring me personal enjoyment.  Maybe I should get a lottery ticket tonight.  The powerball is getting pretty big!

While I ended my fun QSO with Bob, Mike pulled into my driveway and I gave my 73 and goodby.  Mike and I had a nice visit and then went out for pizza and talked about CW traffic nets and DX.