Miracles never cease

Last night, I stopped by my post office box to check it at 2 AM.  I was tired, a little cranky, and wasn’t expecting anything.  Instead, when I opened the box, there was a large envelope in it from the ARRL.  I opened it and I was into total shock in a good way!

Let me explain: last year, during the ARRL DX Contest, I was using a 40 meter “hamstick” dipole.  I wasn’t really enthused by the performance but I was bored and thought I’d just see what I could hear.  So I sat down and started working stations all over the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and even a station in the South Cook Islands.  After a few hours, I gave up because conditions were changing and propagation was getting really bad.  I seriously debated not sending in my log . . . but I did anyway.

I promptly forgot all about the contest.

So, imagine my surprise when I get the award last night of not only being my section leader for single-operator, 20 meter class, but my division leader also!  I am in the Delta Division which is Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.  I’m proud of myself (in a humble way) for achieving this award.  I  guess I’ll have to work the contests more often.

Here’s a picture of the award.

KD5COL's 2016 ARRL DX Contest Phone Award

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Back on the air

I was able to contact TG9IIN on 21.300 on Sunday.  Even through the S9-level noise floor from some local 60 Hz QRM, Ilias was very clear.  He had a really nice clear signal.  That was an unusual contact for me because I think this is the only time I’ve ever talked on 15 meters in a few years.  I was actually trying to see if my new tuner could work on 15 with the antenna and it can very nicely.

I’m planning on setting up another antenna like the one I have now only using 22 gauge wire to make the wind load on that transformer box a lot less.  I’d like to be able to get up into the mountains where it’s electrically quiet and make some contacts.  I’m thinking about heading up to the Round Knob Picnic Area in the Cherokee National Forest near my home.  (There is no campground there; I don’t know why it’s labeled as such on that map.  There is a large picnic area and then, if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle or don’t mind a steep walk, there is a primitive picnic area on the top of the knob itself.)  There’s plenty of trees to hang the end of my antenna in though I’ll have to bring a generator for the power.  I think it’d be a great way to spend a morning and early afternoon.

Thankfully there are plenty of places within an hour’s drive that would make for a most excellent operating site in Nature’s splendor.

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Finally, it all works!

I got around to replacing the old RG-58 (foam core) coax on my radio with the new Times Microwave LMR-300 RG-8U 20′ roll I bought off of Amazon.  To my surprise, as I pulled out the connector out of my antenna, the center conductor was broken off inside!  I could wiggle it around like a child losing a tooth.  I hooked everything back up and much to my relief, I am able to get 80 meters matched.  I am still going to add on another 20′ of wire to my antenna though just to be on the safe side.  Unfortunately, that’s about all of the wire I can add because of the short distance from my shack to the tree I’m using for support at about 120′ feet apart.

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New antenna matcher

I picked up a MFJ-949 Deluxe Versa Tuner II for $120, including shipping, off of QRZ.com last week.  The tuner arrived yesterday in excellent shape and was packed very well.  I set it up and it works great.  I’m still having problems getting 80 meter to match correctly so I’m going to add another 20-22′ of wire to the antenna to see if that helps this weekend.  On 40 meters and up, everything matches very nicely.  Just on 80, I can get it to barely tune to 2:5 to 1 which makes me think the antenna’s just a little too short.

Of course, 80 meters is what I’m wanting to use to contact a few fellow hams on the US East Coast because we’re so close.  So it’s still a work in progress.

I’m hoping to finish the wall on the shack and get drywall up so I have somewhere warm to operate from.  It gets kinda cold in the shed right now!

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On the air again

I didn’t realize that it’s been six months since I posted on the blog.  I’ve been very busy with my work and haven’t had much time until recently to get on the air.

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Moving along…

It’s been too hot to do much in my shack.  I need to finish putting up a wall and covering it with drywall then hanging a door so I can work on insulating the room.  I have an air conditioner installed in the window but it’s been over 90 degrees so often and with the high humidity, it’s been tough even thinking about leaving the comfort of air conditioning in the house.  Monday I am ordering the plastic base piece for my Mosley RV-4C so I can get it set up and get back on the air again.  Unfortunately the “hamstick dipole” is a rather poor antenna for anything other than 40 meters.  It works but I’m afraid that it’s just a lost cause.  Hopefully with the change of seasons, I’ll be able to move quickly and get the shack set up in time for winter.  It’s very small so I can heat it easily and spend more time in there.

Once I finish the room, I’d like to start working on getting caught up on all of the QSL cards I need to send out.  I have several years’ worth of cards I want to get out.  Unfortunately I have some gaping holes in my logbook and I will try to correct that.  If you are needing a QSL from me, please let me know!  I am starting a new logbook once I get the room finished and I’m hoping I’ll keep much better logs this time around…

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Working on the shack

I’ve been working on the shack again.  Here’s the latest setup below.  The laptop is a new acquisition.  It’s a HP Elitebook 6930p that I picked up for a great price.  It’s running Slackware 64 14.2.


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Better late than never

I mounted the hamstick dipole on a 10′ tall piece of aluminum conduit and mounted it to a wooden fencepost about three feet high.  I guyed it to the fence and to two large grounding stakes.  Using my antenna matcher, I’ve gotten the antenna to work on 15, 17, 20, and of course 40 meters.  I’ve been listening more than talking.  Work has been crazy for me lately and I just haven’t been in the mood to get on the air.  I am hoping to do so tomorrow morning and maybe, if I can hear them over the mains noise in the background, try to check into Norcars for the first time in forever.  I’ll try to get some updated pictures also of my new shack and the antenna.

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Tinkering with antennas

I’ve decided to try out the 40-meter “hamstick dipole” set up I bought once again now that I have my station set up semi-permanently and properly grounded.  I have just been really busy with work, working both day shifts, night shifts, and occasionally pulling a “double”, to have any time to “ham it up”.  Soon, though, I’ll be back on the air.  I’m also wanting to work on getting out all of these QSL cards sitting here…

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Making progress

Taking advantage of the beautiful (if occasionally stormy) weather this weekend, I set up a computer in the shack for my logging and callsign lookup purposes.  The computer itself is an old HP dc7700 ultra-slim desktop.  Very tiny computer and it fits perfectly on the laptop desk that I am using for my shack desk right now.  I am, of course, running Slackware 64 Linux 14.1 on it.  I scrounged up a very nice Dell 20″ widescreen monitor and my Logitech K400 wireless keyboard with touchpad on it to complement the setup.  I need to install all of the ham radio-specific software but that will come later today or this week.

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