KX3 Going to California

I shipped my KX3 back to the factory on Friday. It won’t arrive there until Thursday according to Fedex and that will begin the 15 to 20 week clock currently required for service and upgrades at Elecraft. It seems like a crazy amount of repair time, but such is the new world order. It’s not yet the 4th of July and the KX3 might be gone until we begin shopping for a Thanksgiving turkey…

Meanwhile, my order for a fully-loaded KX2 was placed ten days ago with an estimate of 12-16 weeks for delivery. I could have it in hand before the KX3 arrives back home.

All my portable activities now fall to the perfectly capable TX-500. It’s good to have back-up equipment, but now all my eggs are in that basket for any field work.


Field Day Results

My Field Day operation for 2022 went almost to plan. Working from the backyard using 50 watts and the portable CHA MPAS Lite antenna my intent was to put 100 Phone contacts in the log. That all worked as planned except it ended up being an all CW effort.

When the appointed hour arrived I had decided to test 20M with a quick CW contact or two and somehow that rolled into one after another until I saw that I was closing in on a hundred contacts after about three hours of work spent around a couple of breaks. With a hundred in the bank I decided to declare “success” and call it quits before I got any deeper into it.

Summary Results

First thing Sunday morning I submitted my totals to the ARRL and merged everything into my main log. LoTW wasn’t busy then as it processed the upload rather quickly for it being such a busy weekend of radio. And with that, another Field Day is in the can.

Random Thoughts on Field Day 2022

  • Boos and raspberries to those CW ops running 30-40wpm and spitting dits in every direction. They apparently don't understand what Field Day is or how diverse an audience tried to work them without success. You pop into FD running more than 20wpm and you're a LID. Plain and simple.
  • The bands (I used 40, 20, 15) were in decent shape although I experienced a lot of rapid QSB on 20 in the afternoon that made copy a little tougher. But even with my modest setup I managed to work the East coast, West coast, Canada, and Puerto Rico from here in Central Indiana.
  • The N3FJP logging software for Field Day was spectacular. It worked perfectly and not a hiccup was noted. I paid for the full package a few months ago which includes the main logging application plus access to all the contests and specialty events logging and I've never regretted it.
  • Jim, W1PID had the best low-impact Field Day setup imaginable. I'm going to copy his approach next year. I continue to invest in making my backyard more comfortable as I see it as the future of ham radio for me. 10 contacts from the backyard are worth 500 from the shack. Can't explain it, don't know why, but I suppose it's all mixed up with the joy that comes from playing radio in the great outdoors...

CSVHFS Conference

After consecutive pandemic cancellations the 2022 CSVHFS Conference will be “live” again in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

54th Annual Central States VHF Society Conference

Greetings VHF+ Operators!

After two years of postponement, the Conference’s host team cordially invite you to attend the 54th annual Central States VHF Society Conference, which is being held at the Radisson Hotel located on the beautiful riverfront of the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin on July 22nd and 23rd, 2022.

After years of missed events and social distancing, we know many of you are eager to see your ham radio friends–attending this conference is a great way to do that.

This year’s event will have all the great activities you’ve come to expect from a CSVHFS Conference: technical presentations, antenna range, noise figure lab, rover row and dish bowl, Thursday evening social activity, Friday evening trade-fest, dealer room, hospitality suite for evening socializing, fun family activities, and a closing banquet with a guest speaker and a prize table.

Get all the details here.


Field Day

It’s time for another Field Day weekend. The weather in these parts looks to be hot and dry for Saturday with a slight chance of thunder on Sunday though I wouldn’t worry, thunderstorms are rare as rubies around here anymore.

Field Day is ham radio’s open house. Every June, more than 40,000 hams throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate ham radio’s science, skill and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933, and remains the most popular event in ham radio.

You still have just enough time to bone-up on the rules or to find a local club participating in the event here.

Good luck, have fun, stay safe, use sunscreen, bug spray, and stay well hydrated. Field Day is supposed to be fun and no one should get sick or injured during amateur radio’s massive play date in the great outdoors!


DXCC POTA

I enjoy the Parks on the Air program. Though I’m not rabid about it whenver I hear a “CQ POTA” I respond and in so doing have worked (“Hunted”) over 200 operations. I’ve yet to activate a park which surprises me because I assumed that would become a regular activity after retiring, but some how I’ve managed to stay busy with other things and haven’t yet had the opportunity. I expect that will change soon enough.

The POTA program offers many awards and a new one appeared in my account this week. The DX Hunter award seen below. I assume this is a brand new award, but I could be wrong about that. I haven’t seen any announcement or explanation about it.

I have noticed that international park operations as part of the POTA program are on the increase:

We are up to 112 DX entities and still growing!!

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to work a handful of DX stations in what used to be a long list of domestic contacts only. Some of those that I’ve worked include Canada, England, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and St. Paul Island and now that there are more than a hundred entities participating in the program it looks like DXCC POTA might become another thing worthy of chase.


Era of Deprivation

Despite having several top-notch transceivers intended for field use, I’ve wanted to add a fully-loaded KX2 to the line-up for a long time. But every time I visit the Elecraft Web site intent on placing an order I’m faced with a reminder that it will be 12-16 weeks before it ships.

This has prompted me to pass on the purchase figuring eventually that long lead-time will be reduced to something more palatable.

Yet, availability has never improved. Not in a year or more at least, so I went ahead and placed an order and now stand in a long queue with everyone else. 12-16 weeks the order tells me. Had I placed an order when I first starting looking I would have already it so the deed is done, the order is placed, and now I wait.

Time spent on the Elecraft Web site got me thinking that I need to send my KX3 back to the factory for a minor repair and a full checkout. It’s an expensive bit a kit and I want to keep it in top-flight condition.

An email to support garnered a prompt reply with an estimate and a return authorization – and a request:

Please acknowledge the long lead time on the KX3 repair estimate.

I hadn’t paid attention, but re-reading the estimate I see this:

We are currently running 15 to 20 business weeks for upgrades and repairs after receiving your equipment.

Holy crap on a cracker!

I’m not just picking on Elecraft here, nothing is “fast” anymore. I’m on a year-long waiting list to purchase a new HF amplifier and earlier this year I went looking for a simple multi-band vertical and couldn’t find what I was looking for in stock anywhere. All the major dealers Web sites said “we expect deliveries of this item in August 2022” – that was in February.

I know, I know, there’s a chip shortage and a parts shortage and the high cost of diesel fuel plus the Covid shutdowns and you can’t hire anyone and my dog ate my homework… At this point I think it should just be assumed that we will never get back to “normal” and that this era of deprivation is the new normal.

Fortunately, ham radio items are a luxury and not a requirement for life on this planet. Long delays to have a transceiver repaired or upgraded is the very definition of a “first world problem” but it seems the only thing to be done about it is to maintain multiples of everything so when one requires service a year-long wait doesn’t upset the first world apple cart.


Growing Season

Summer in the Heartland is off to a bit of a rough start. The heat wave that visited us last week drove temperatures into the high 90s for days before cooling down over the weekend. This week we are heaed back up into the high 90s for another round of hot weather. This is unusual because it’s just June and summer doesn’t officially begin here until tomorrow.

We typically see high temperatures later in the season, like mid to late August. But the recent high temps have been 13 degrees higher than normal for this time of year and I’ve noticed my grass seems to have stopped growing, something not usually seen until August. In any other year I’d still be mowing twice a week right now, but the extreme heat has dried everything up and there’s almost no rain in the forecast.

We took a Sunday afternoon drive yesterday (yes, even with gas at five bucks a gallon!) out into farm country and noticed that the corn isn’t progressing as well as it should either. Conventional wisdom here is that the corn should be “knee-high” by the 4th of July and while there is still time to make that (two more weeks) it probably won’t without some additional rainfall. In fact, that bit of folk wisdom didn’t count on the impact of fertilizers and pesticides. These days the corn should be even taller owing to the chemicals used in modern farming.

We stopped at a couple of farmstands along the way and there wasn’t much being offered in the way of fresh vegetables for sale either and we recalled news in the spring about the high-cost of fertilizer this year that prompted many farmers to say that they wouldn’t be using nearly as much this season.

Looks like maybe they didn’t?

It’s tough to see how a nation as populous as this one can feed its people without heavy doses of fertilizer and a decent growing season. If farms underperform then prices are going to continue to climb at the grocery checkout. But that would be good news compared to a widespread crop failure that might make food difficult to obtain at any price…


Productive Week

Despite lackluster band conditions it’s been a good week. A few new confirmations have rolled my DXCC odometer to 121 worked and 110 confirmed (mixed) with more in the pipeline and hope for at least a few more confirmations over the coming days.

I noticed a couple of weak six meter openings over the last few days but no DX joy for me. I worked a handful of stations but only one new state in the log. It was frustrating to watch east coast stations working Europe one after another while I could only detect the domestic end of those contacts.

The austral path continues to hold up its end of the bargain with VK’s and ZL’s worked daily at my sunrise. Exploring South America via radio has been a treat though I still need Paraguay and Bolivia so that travelogue is not quite complete.

My 22 contacts in the Friday afternoon SST was on par with my average performance in the K1USN event using 50 watts and a portable vertical (CHA MPAS Lite) from the patio. Working CT7AUP in the sprint was a real treat!

So it has been a good week here! With half the year nearly behind us my attention is turning to preparations for the DX contests that take place later in the year. And the upcoming DXpeditions including Sable Island, Crozet, and Bouvet Island.


Extended Forecast

If you like a good heat wave then you really should be enjoying this current bit of hell on earth. So far it’s been everything the weatherman said it would be. And while it’s easy enough to hide inside climate-controlled spaces for a few days, the extended forecast has this unnatural heat sticking around for at least the next ten days and you know what that means, a brutally hot Field Day.

The current local forecast is for mid to high 90F temps on the weekend of June 25-26. That’s not such bad news for me as I’ve been planning to do Field Day from my shack anyway. My goal is simple, I want to put 100 in the log during FD weekend using Phone only. It will be good practice for a mode that seldom makes a dent in my logbook, less than 2% so far this year.

Besides, I need just four contacts to complete the WAS Triple-Play award and I see that weekend as one possible opportunity to wrap it up. Missing on phone are AK, ID, SD, and UT. If I don’t knock out all four during FD then I’ll go the OMISS route (I’m #4381) and try to finish it that way.

2022 is all about wrapping up a lot of loose ends and this is another one that needs to be checked off the list.


Heat Wave

The heatwave that has been punishing the western United States has settled over the Heartland and from the looks of it, will stick around for several days. I did manage to get my 2.5 mile walk in this morning when it was a tad cooler, but I doubt I’ll make the effort tomorrow when it’s expected to be 99F. Severe thunderstorm warnings in the area for this evening so all the feed lines have been disconnected and things here are radio silent.

I subscribe to a few microwave mailing lists and the storms spawned by the heatwave have kept them popping with rainscatter opportunities at 10GHz.

I’m fortunate to live in a region where this facet of the hobby seems to be growing and I want to jump onboard too, which explains why I subscribe to those lists, but it’s such foreign territory for me that I’m not confident about getting started. I hope sooner or later to meet up with someone who will sufficiently enlighten me and I’ll be off on another new ham radio adventure.


Stamps and Seashells

Wayne Burdick, N6KR and co-founder of Elecraft shared a valuable allegory (or is it a metaphor?) about ham radio things in this post, Collecting stamps vs. seashells:

“Speaking of which, if you get tired of collecting stamps, let’s say with your VFO parked at 14.074 MHz, wander up or down the band and take a crack at doing things the hard way, using other modes. Listen. Search. Wade knee-deep among the hazards, taking chances, employing new skills…”


Friday Night Soapbox

I didn’t do so well in the Friday K1USN SST. Again. This is becoming a little too common. Once again, band conditions weren’t favorable and the hour-long sprint passed without much joy. Same score as last time. It’s a lot less fun when you work the same 20 stations repeatedly. That’s a risk you take working a sprint twice a week…


Recent DX Results

The bands haven’t been overly kind this week. For awhile it looked as though Cycle 25 might be heating up quickly, but over the last few days conditions have cooled a bit.

There have been a couple of Six Meter openings lately that have gotten my attention. While I’ve spent hours with those, none of it has paid off for me. No DX. The same ten US states over and over again. I might have to swear off 50MHz until I get that three-element beam assembled and installed. It’s been sitting (unopened) in the tool shed for nearly two years. Procrastination thy name is Jeff!

No new countries confirmed since I last reported, however, I have added ten more to my DXCC Challenge total.

Did I tell you the one about applying for DXCC and ordering the certificate only to have the postal service chew it up? The ARRL Awards desk was mortified by the delivery photo I sent them and they quickly provided a replacement (thank you Sharon!). It’s hanging proudly on the wall in the shack now ready for endorsement stickers to be applied liberally.

LoTW confirmations recently received include: JA8KSF, TF5B, JH2KVP, LZ9W, V31DL, SV1MNE, PJ2T, ZF1A, N6QEK/KL7, ZF2OO, KP2B, PY5ZHP, OP4K, PU2SCB, EA3ARO, EA4DB, CO2AME.

And a couple that came via the bureau: EA5WI (2020), YV1KK (2015).


Ghost Sighting

It was interesting to run across a ghost sighting - a mention of the P3E satellite on the AMSAT-DL forum when a member asked about its current status. P3Express was the next development project following P3D (AO-40) which died on orbit during its shakedown phase.

Best I recall, the notion behind P3E was a return to a simpler design, like AO-13, only with modern components and a frame suitable for the launch equipment of the day. It never was launched due to 9/11 and the vagaries of the changing launch business of that era. There was one plan for it to be launched by the German government along with P5A - what would have been amateur radio’s first excursion to Mars, but all these plans fell apart and P3E went into deep storage.

Almost fifteen years later there was some scuttlebutt about it being moved to the University of Virginia to be modified and sent to HEO by the US government, but that fell apart too.

According to AMSAT-DL President Peter Guelzow, DB2OS:

“So far, P3-E is still in Bochum, as it was reported in AMSAT-DL Journal and otherwise”

After so long a passage of time it’s difficult to believe that there remains any chance of building and obtaining a launch for an amateur radio satellite to HEO or GEO. Some opportunity may one day present itself to add an amateur radio transponder(s) onto a commercial satellite much like the opportunity presented with QO-100. Still, the recent mention of the old bird brought back a lot of warm memories of a wonderful bygone era.


Future Plans

I got lucky and booked a room at the Hope Hotel for Dayton 2023 despite the slight kerfuffle over the reservation process. Word had previously gone out to “not call the hotel prior to 9am” on June 6th. As it happened, the hotel began taking reservations at 7:30am and by 9:00am all the rooms with two beds were taken. By noon the hotel was sold-out which says something about the popularity of the venue and the events that take place there.

I don’t intend to visit the fairgrounds in Xenia next year though I am planning to attend some of the off-site activities conducted over the extended weekend. I’ve been to Hamvention 39 times and have concluded that’s enough for one lifetime.

With accommodations for 2023 covered, I still need to make a quick decision about whether to attend W9DXCC or W4DXCC later this year.

Or maybe neither, pending the virus situation.

Hamvention became a superspreader event last month with hundreds (thousands?) going home sick and I’m a little concerned about the potential for that to happen at these regional gatherings too. The infection rate had been skyrocketing in the weeks leading up to Hamvention though now they have started falling again.

Who knows where things will stand come September?


Six Meters Last Night

I jumped into the Friday evening edition of the SST intent on redeeming my previous poor showing. Unfortunately, I was much more prepared than the bands and this adventure had fail written all over it. Fifteen minutes in I had worked just two stations, and it’s worth noting, these were the strongest signals heard on 20 meters. Everyone else was much weaker - almost like there was a solar event in progress. 40 meters was no better so I tossed in the towel and didn’t even report my two contacts.

After dinner I got an email from a buddy in Cincinnati who said six meters was open. I gave a look and sure enough, the Magic Band was filled with FT8 activity. Given that I need almost everything on the band I jumped in with both feet. It was easily the busiest I’ve seen the band since the advent of WSJT-X though it was devoid of DX, at least for me. I saw some calling a few J’s though I didn’t copy the DX. I did copy 4U1UN and called once without success.

My state and grid totals edged higher as the east coast was open first and I made a dozen contacts with stations in MA, CT, and ME. Not long after a path began to build for me into the upper midwest where I worked several stations in Minnesota, SD, and Manitoba. After that there were stations worked in OK and TX followed by a new path into the southeast.

It just kept going and soon I had 75 in the log and was getting tired of the keyboard activity though I could have kept going.

It reminded me of the time my Dad and I had gone crappie fishing on Tee Lake in Lewiston, Michigan and we caught so many fish that we literally got tired of taking them off the hook. We quit then too and last night was just like that.

Great opening, but no great DX for me and eventually I got tired of taking them off the hook. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I closed the station with the 6 meter waterfall still filled with stations calling.

Now THAT was an all time new one for me…


Rig in a Box

The DX Forum at Hamvention was conducted on Saturday afternoon and by that time I was packing up to head home. I hated to miss it, but fortunately, this and various other presentations are available for viewing online and yesterday I made time to catch up with what I had missed at the DX Forum.

One of several presentations was given by W6IZT about the evolution of the “Rig in Box” concept that has been floating around for at least a few years. I didn’t think I would have an interest as I thought this was yet another project intended to automate the radio operator completely out of the equation.

But I had it all wrong…

In a nutshell, it’s a climate-controlled, sealed container that includes a Flex Radio 6700 and amplifiers capable of operating on multiple bands and modes at the same time. This station is controlled by up to six operators over Ethernet or radio link.

Imagine that a team travels by ship to some exotic island location carrying one of these “boxes”. They transport it to the island and set it up along with the necessary antennas and gas-powered generators. They turn it all on and then retreat to the comfort of the ship where they will operate the now remote equipment for the duration of the DXpedition.

The RIB is a complete 1 kW station in a box. It can be remote controlled, either locally via Ethernet or via a 900 MHz wireless link. The RIB serves two goals: speed up and simplify DXpediton set-up, and it allows remote operation from the boat in places where authorities restrict access on environmental or safety grounds, or do not allow camping or overnight stays.

The benefits are legion beginning with the reduction of freight normally required to shelter and feed the same number of operators who would make camp on the island perhaps for weeks.

The environmental impact to these often delicate regions would be minimized without the need for an army of humans who require latrines and generate trash while trampling over the grounds upsetting local wildlife and fauna. After setting up the “Rig in Box” an operator might only visit daily to make sure all is well and to refuel the generators.

It’s a far cry from the way we do things today and in addition to the benefits derived from a lighter touch of humanity, there is a significant overall cost reduction. Perhaps by as much as half or more given that a chunk of the DXpedition budget is typically allocated to the logistics of transporting temporary housing and supplies from the ship to an entire team camped out on location.

To further make his case, Gregg pointed out that if you have ever worked C6AGU you have already worked a “Rig in a Box”. A quick log check shows I have worked that station, twice, and didn’t know I was working an RIB…

But don’t take my word for it, go watch the video and get the entire view on this compelling concept for yourself.


Triple Play

I’ve been spending more time than usual digging thru the log and have found multiple opportunities to collect some low-hanging fruit.

For instance, I’ve never paid much attention to the ARRL Triple-Play (WAS) award. It requires LoTW confirmation for working each of the 50 states using voice, CW, and digital modes. A quick check reveals I’m lacking only four phone contacts to qualify for this award. Missing are Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah.

I guess it’s time to find a microphone and see if I can collect this one yet this summer season. I’ve already missed this year’s state QSO parties for all except South Dakota (October), but Field Day is coming up and seems like a good opportunity to pick up a few select states. Maybe a phone only effort this year?

According to my log, phone accounts for less than 3% of all contacts made this year and I’d prefer a more balanced portfolio of operation.

I’ll be hanging this wallpaper before the next turning of the leaves…


Recent DX Results

It’s always enjoyable in the wake of a big contest weekend to watch the LoTW confirmations wash across the account.

4U1UN, the United Nations Headquarters station was the very first station I worked in the WPX CW contest last weekend. I wouldn’t call it “rare” but it is number 66 on the Club Log Most Wanted List and it was an all time new one for me so you can imagine my smile when confirmation for it hit my LoTW account.

And though it was my only ATNO of the contest, fifteen additional new LoTW QSLs bumped my DXCC Challenge totals a bit higher.

With the addition of a couple other non-contest related ATNO’s my DXCC totals now stands at 121 worked and 107 confirmed. It’s been a good week on the DX farm. My sincere thanks to all those worked and who have confirmed.

LoTW confirmations recently received include: 4U1UN, 9H1AE, SV5AZK, YL2KF, XQ3MCC, EA8AT, VK7DW, IZ8VYU, CE3SOC, IS0KNG, XE1CL, ZL1BQD, JA6BZI, 9K2NO, ER5DX, PZ2YT, SP7DE, OE3UKW, IZ8VYU, CR6K, HA1AH, DP6A, PR2E, LU5OM, AH6KO, FG1AG.


Ham Radio Quilt

Saw this in the ARRL booth at Hamvention and sent this photo to my wife. She’s into quilting and I suggested that I’d love to have something like this myself. Time will tell if she took the hint.

QUILT made by Janie Yonally, KB8YPW of Lexington, Ohio as a gift to her husband Scott Yonally, N8SY ARRL Vice Director Great Lakes Division.


K1USN SST Results

A rather uninspired performance in the K1USN SST on Sunday evening (Monday UTC) wrapped up my weekend on the radio. Band conditions were pretty unremarkable and while I usually spend more time on 20 meters in this one, I decided fairly early on that a switch to 40 was going to be required if I was going to break into double digits.

I ended the hour with 8 contacts on 20 meters and 9 contacts on 40 meters along with 6 multipliers on each band for a total score of 204, one of my poorest showings in this event.

Participation was way down this time, perhaps due to radio fatigue from the just concluded WPX contest or because it’s a long holiday weekend and a lot of people were away from home. Maybe both? Checking the online scores this morning there were less than a hundred reporting their results which is off the normal pace by a fairly wide margin.

On a side note, I attended the DX Dinner while at Hamvention a few weeks ago where, as it turned out, several members of the K1USN club who organize the SST were seated at the same table as I allowing me the privilege of meeting Pi, K1RV along with Tom, K1TH and Chuck, WS1L. What a special treat that was for me as these guys share sprint duties operating the K1USN call sign as operator “Watson” an I have worked them many times in this event.


CQ WW WPX CW - Epilogue

Conditions for the CQ WW WPX CW Contest this weekend weren’t great. The bands had been much more cooperative only a few days earlier, but propagation rarely respects the calendar. It’s a major radio contest with call sign prefixes as valued multipliers. Though not one of my favorites, I had a plan. I would check-in a few times over the course of the 48 hour event and cherry pick as many ATNO’s as I could find searching and pouncing without concern for contest scoring.

When I jumped in on Saturday morning the very first station I worked was 4U1UN, an all time new one for me. With that one in the log I was thinking my “plan” was going to be a big success.

Turns out, that early score was the only ATNO logged in the roughly three hours I participated. 20 and 15 meters were the only ground hunted, but mediocre band conditions prevented me from digging out any other needed DX. With things not panning out the way I had hoped, I spent a little time contesting. I managed just 54 contacts for a claimed score of 5,100 with these prefixes:

4U1 9A1 AA5 AC6 AH6 CR6 DP6 DP9 ES9 HA1 HG0 IQ2 K4 KC7 KH6 KL7 KN7 KS7 KT7 KX2 KY0 LU5 LZ9 N3 N4 N6 N7 NA6 NR6 NR7 NS7 NT6 NX5 NX6 OL3 OM7 PJ2 PR2 PV2 SN7 VC2 VC7 VE7 VX7 W7 WA8 WC7 WN1 WT7 ZF1 ZX5

These results convince me that my strategy needs re-thinking.

It was a mistake to waste this once a year contest in this kind of effort. I should have fully engaged in the contest and worried about the results later. Maybe while sipping bourbon and sifting thru the log looking for ATNO’s and slot fillers. That sort of shotgun approach has worked reasonably well for me in the past, but not being a good contest operator it’s easy to be intimidated by the big scores. I am reminded of that every time I send a sequential number of “50” and the fellow on the other end responds with “2117”.

It’s a humbling sort of perspective.

Good contesters make better DXers so I need to work on that.

Station improvements aren’t just hardware and antennas. After all, the operator has to be better than the gear being used otherwise what’s the point?


The Long Road to DXCC

I have resumed the chase for DX…

Being just a kid when I got my ham radio license, chasing exotic DX was mostly the stuff of daydreams and the occasional clever advertisement in ham radio magazines. I had neither the time or the money to assemble a station capable of chasing that dream. And sorry if this bursts a few bubbles, but no one ever made Honor Roll using a converted military surplus BC receiver and a single-tube 6L6 transmitter - despite the ‘Getting Started in Amateur Radio’ manual suggesting that possibility.

Years passed and though I stayed busy in the hobby it wasn’t chasing DX or entering radio contests.

When I finally had a little time and a little more jingle I decided to jump into the DX game. We didn’t have DX University back then so there was a steep learning curve to comprehend how this game was played. Using seventy-five watts and wire antennas I slowly gained ground until I had reached 176 worked and had QSL cards to confirm 154 of them. It was considerably more difficult to obtain confirmations than it was to work someone.

Despite having a shoebox full of cards I never applied for DXCC. I didn’t understand the card checking process and didn’t want to let my ignorance be known. Besides, by that point I had become distracted by other facets of the hobby that didn’t require a fixation on the mailbox and the arrival of those elusive cards.

Then one day we moved to a new QTH. Hard decisions had to be made about what to keep and what to chuck and those old QSL cards didn’t make the cut. I recall thinking that my interest in DXing had long since evaporated and I would never again need to collect QSL cards. As it turned out, I wasn’t wrong. I haven’t exchanged actual, printed QSL cards for many years now and have no plans to resume that practice.

Where I miscalculated was in assuming I would never again be interested in chasing DX. But here I am, fired-up to continue this adventure only this time we have LoTW which, theoretically, makes the confirmation process cheaper and easier. Of course, I tossed out what would have been a really nice head start in this process and am forced to begin again from scratch. So I did.

I recently surpassed the 100 confirmation threshold to qualify for DXCC (Mixed) via LoTW only. I applied for the award electronically and it was easy enough for even an old guy like me to figure out the online forms. Now I’m just waiting on the wallpaper to arrive. It comes at a cost, but I think it well worth the price:

But the quest for DXCC doesn’t end with working a hundred entities, this is only the beginning. The first hundred are easy and obtainable with modest equipment. I’ve worked 68 73 entities so far this year using a portable antenna and fifty-watts. The next hundred will be more difficult which is why I continue planning and plotting improvements to my station and operating techniques.

I need to up my game if I am to succeed in this endeavor…


Indy Hamfest Canceled

The Indianapolis Hamfest for 2022 has been canceled, perhaps never to return. Oddly enough, the 50-year event wasn’t terminated due to the pandemic or lack of attendance. In a published note on the Hamfest site current organizers say they have been unable to find volunteers under the age of 70 to assume the work required to continue the event.


Michigan QSO Party

Spent a few hours (3) in the Michigan QSO Party yesterday afternoon. I intended to make a 40M only run using Phone as my log hasn’t seen much SSB activity in 2022. But I quickly ran into the “wall” that exists between bordering states on 40 meters on a sunny afternoon. It was just “too close” for good props to help out and after only one Phone contact in 30 minutes I gave up and moved to CW where I didn’t do much better managing only 26 CW contacts for a total of 27 Qs and a measly 1060 points.

It’s been said that even a bad day of fishing is better than a good day of working - I still had fun! The paperwork is finished, the log submitted, and I look forward to a shot at redemption in the next Michigan QSO Party.


POTA DX

I don’t usually think about across the pond DX when hunting POTA stations. Not that it hasn’t happened a few times, but it’s been an exception and not the rule for me. Probably because field participants often use less than ideal antennas with less than usual power available. And the majority of my park contacts have been on 40 meters during daylight hours.

But as the solar cycle has moved from rock bottom to more enhanced conditions, the higher bands are frequently opening providing opportunities for more distant day time radio contacts using less than ideal equipment and antennas.

I was hunting POTA stations on 15 earlier this week when I seemed to have fished out the available school of CW stations so I began looking for SSB spots when I found G7WKX/P operating from G-0369 the Bold Forest Park Country Park near Liverpool in the UK.

He was quickly in the log and I continued my hunt though we later followed up our QSO via email in which he sent me photos and a detailed description of his setup.

Simon was using batteries to power a Yaesu FT-818 and a small 40 watt amplifier. The antenna was a linked dipole for 17/15 supported by a 19-foot fishing pole. His time was cut short by a sudden storm that moved thru the area causing a fast retreat, but not before we made contact.

After a few years of ignoring 21MHz due to the propagation drought it’s certainly become very productive of late and is putting smiles on a lot of faces, including my own.


Joy of DX

Having set up the new portable antenna in the backyard on Monday evening, I left it in place so I could take it for another spin on Tuesday morning. I had few expectations though a ham radio friend here in town had been telling me of his recent morning DX success on 15 meters. That was enough to have me curious and a ground mounted vertical was just off the patio…

There was another motivation — hunting POTA action. I had come to enjoy that during the lock-down days of the pandemic and though I got off to a good start in this New Year, the calculus has changed a bit for me and I haven’t been engaged lately. The thought of operators using trail-friendly equipment to make radio contacts from the woods is pretty compelling.

More recently the practice seems to have evolved into a less primitive form of radio than in earlier days. I suppose this was to be expected as the popularity of this activity skyrocketed and signs of famine has come to a place where CW enthusiasts once feasted with FT8 now accounting for more of the activity.

I visited the POTA spot page and saw that there were twenty-three activations underway and applying the CW filter that number shrunk to four. Good enough, I began hunting them using the KX3 at ten watts into the CHA-MPAS Lite antenna in the vertical configuration. In less than thirty-minutes I had bagged three stations before moving on to checkout 15 meters.

40M	KD9FM	WI	Harrington Beach State Park	K-1454
20M	WC1N	MA	Massasoit State Park 	K-2446
40M	WW4N	TN	Manhattan Project (Oak Ridge) K-4376

It was chilly with enough of a breeze on the patio that I wasn’t looking for a long session. One scan up and down the band would sate my desire to visit 21 MHz. I was surprised to find several QSOs already in progress. I tuned across these but stopped at a really big signal calling CQ that turned out to be Frank, DL5UZ.

I gave him a call and we chatted. Really chatted. This was not the typical “599 TU” contact. It was my first actual rag chew with a DX station in at least two years and I couldn’t have been more delighted. I felt bad that it was me who finally brought our QSO to a close due to it being nearly time to meet a friend for lunch.

That simple 15 meter CW contact with a fellow ham across the Atlantic was enough to keep a smile on my face for the rest of the day. I can’t explain it. In some ways it is magic and it’s what has kept me in this hobby for more than forty-years…


MPAS Lite Antenna Arrives

The Chameleon Modular Portable Antenna System (MPAS) Lite finally arrived after having been backordered about a month. Its claim to fame is as a little brother to the MPAS 2.0 that the manufacturer claims is “the most popular modular portable HF antenna system in the world”.

The MPAS Lite Antenna System is an extremely well-made bit of military-grade hardware. Although the system can be installed in different configurations, my interest was in using it in the field as a ground mounted vertical. Rugged construction with quick setup and tear-down was my criteria and the MPAS Lite meets that with room to spare.

I ordered it mostly due to this video from Tom, K4SWL who uses it often during his many POTA operations.

The winter weather here is showing the normal swings of February in Central Indiana. My mom used to call this “pneumonia weather” because of the tendency for it to be 65F one day and 10F the next.

Still, it looks like the new antenna might see a little action before the end of the month. I’ll pair it with the KX3 for its first outing which reminds me I still need to purchase an annual State Park pass for 2022.

Look for a follow-up as the pneumonia weather permits.


KH6B SK

I just learned that Dean Manley, KH6B became a Silent Key a few months ago. Dean was an avid QRPer and was my first confirmed 5W contact with KH6. In fact, he’s in my log about a dozen times, often during a Spartan Sprint. It was my good fortune to spend time with Dean during a couple of FDIM events in Dayton over the years. He was genuinely a good guy with a reliable QRP CW signal from Hawaii. Rest in peace and aloha my friend.

Dean W. Manley, 89, of Hilo died October 22nd at home. Born in Michigan, he was a retired machinist/electrical technician for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. He had a passion for ham radio (Call sign KH6B) and was a member of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the Hawaii QRP Club, and the Hilo Amateur Radio Club.


Ten. Done. Logged.

A few days ago I noticed that the VOL control on my KX3 wasn’t working. No matter how much I turned it the volume level never changed. It’s a multi-control encoder that in normal mode handles the volume but with a quick press it becomes the RF control and with a long-press it controls the Monitor level.

I’ve read these encoders are notorious for failure though this was the first time I had seen any indication of a problem. My first inclination was to order a few new encoders from Elecraft so I could replace the problem control and have a few to keep on hand. Replacing it is just a solder job and I figured to do it myself.

But the more I thought about it the more I decided to send it back to the factory for the replacement and for a complete checkout to make certain it’s in tip-top condition. After all, time is short until I retire (19 days) and while it would be gone 4-6 weeks for service I would appreciate knowing all is well with my favorite transceiver.

Before sending it off I wanted to look a little more closely to see if there were any other problems to report so I set it up with a battery and the little AX2 portable antenna on the kitchen table and turned it on. 20 meters was slammed with a big contest, the CW edition of the North American QSO Party as it turned out.

You see where this is headed…

All these loud stations calling CQ, and here I was with five watts and a small, portable antenna perched on the kitchen table. What’s a fellow to do? I called one of them. Boom. Done. Logged. It happened so fast and was so easy that it occurred to me that I could probably work three in total and the circumstances and contest entry soapbox would be chuckle-worthy.

So I worked three. Done. Logged. That took all of two minutes and then I thought, five. I’ll work five. Done. Logged. Then I thought if five was that easy, why not ten? Five more in the log. Ten. Done. Logged.

By that point I was convinced I could work twenty, thirty, or maybe even fifty. But this was getting me nowhere with regards to potential problems with the KX3. Besides, now the VOL control seemed to be working properly and I was doubting my initial observation. Was the problem intermittent or had it been my imagination all along?

In the end I decided not to ship the transceiver back to the factory, but will just keep an eye on it – though I did order a couple of replacement encoders. At five bucks a pop why not, just in case.