Was it really just a week ago when I wrote I hadn’t yet canceled plans to attend Hamvention?

Shortly after I posted that there was an announcement from the organizers of that event that said only that they were monitoring the situation but that the big show remained a go. I suspect that may change over the next few weeks as events like these have been scuttled from coast-to-coast due to the spreading global pandemic. Hamvention creates a special kind of health risk given the average age of most radio amateurs. The CDC released the following this week:

Americans over 60 should stock up on food and medications and avoid venturing out as the coronavirus spreads

“Over 60” is a significant portion of licensed radio amateurs in these United States and it seems a little dicey to bring 30,000 high-risk people from around the globe together in a Petri dish called Xenia. I can’t imagine what sudden good news might appear over the next 60 days that would make this an acceptable risk? I seriously doubt the event can be re-scheduled for later in the year so it seems possible, maybe even likely, that after all these decades the Dayton Hamvention might not happen in 2020.

In the event that the show goes on, I wish them well, but have decided to sit this one out.

In fact, I’ve canceled all my plans to attend any ham radio events for the rest of this year. I’ll miss seeing friends and the fraternal camaraderie, but travel and hanging out with crowds simply doesn’t seem like a good idea in these days of COVID-19.



I haven’t yet canceled my plans for Hamvention.

Having prepaid for much of the trip, I’m not anxious to toss in the towel too soon. If Hamvention were canceled I hope I would get most of what I’ve already paid back. And cancellation seems at least a possibility thanks to the Coronavirus. Some states have already banned public events with more than a thousand people. Large trade shows are being canceled or postponed around the globe.

The attendance last year in Xenia was reported at over 32,000 which, at a minimum, should put it on the disease control radar in Ohio. Air travel will be difficult, if not impossible, for those global radio enthusiasts, organization officials, and equipment vendors who make the annual trek to Dayton. Many others, like me, will doubtless skip this years event out of an abundance of caution. So even if the 2020 Hamvention takes place as planned, a much smaller crowd should be expected to attend.

Nothing has been announced by Hamvention officials. But with only 70 days to go before the big show kicks-off, any cancellation announcement should be made as soon as possible so plans can be adjusted accordingly.


Winter Fades

It seems winter may be giving up and will soon flee to wherever it hides during these days of perpetual warming. We had some snow and a short cold snap in the final week of February, but now that March has arrived, the forecast for the next 7-10 days all show high temps in the 50’s (F). And if this spring is anything like last, we’ll be running the air-conditioning in a few weeks. We don’t really have spring here anymore, we leap right from winter into hot and muggy. I’m never pleased about these abrupt transitions, I enjoy cold and snowy weather, but the longer days and milder temps means I can get to work sooner on the antenna farm.

Being fully persuaded that Cycle 25 will be every bit as miserable as this current solar cycle, I suspect the low-bands are going to become our permanent home address so an Inverted-L antenna configuration seems a good choice. Given the arrangement of my lot, I’ll need to be creative with the ground radials, but I have a few ideas that should work. I enjoyed great results on multiple bands, including TopBand, with an “L” when we lived in North Carolina. Those tall pine trees made for great natural supports. Here, I’m going to have to install artificial supports, like the Rohn H50 telescoping mast.

Beyond the antenna work at home, the change in season should permit a return to field operations and I’m looking forward to that. I’ve no specific goals for this year, other than to get outside and take a radio every chance I get. We’re even planning some vacation time around travel to select State Parks and a lakefront cottage or two. It will also provide opportunity for portable antenna experimentation in the backyard.

That’s always enjoyable and the extra preparation makes work in the field a little easier.


Turn the Page

It’s an all too common story in our hobby. I was licensed as a high school teen with a part-time job that paid a $1.70 per hour. A few extra bucks made their way into my pocket each week by mowing lawns in the neighborhood, but after filling the car (a ’72 Nova that could pass everything but a gas station) and a date night movie and pizza, I didn’t have enough disposable income to even consider any of the latest and greatest ham radio equipment.

But don’t weep for me. I somehow managed to accumulate enough used equipment to get on the air. What I couldn’t afford to buy, I built. A proper entry into this avocation by any account.

Next came education. After that, a career, then a family and it seemed there was always something else that demanded any extra cash we might accumulate. Doctor bills, new tires, prescriptions, furnace repairs, and eventually, an education for our children. The decades passed, the kids flew the coup, we burned the mortgage. I could finally afford to buy whatever ham radio equipment I wanted, and I did. An indulgent collection of brand new transceivers with large, stunning displays, bursting with colorful views of desirable radio signals being lofted by the magic of the aether.

But as the having slowly began to equal the wanting, something was still lacking. Forty-five years into this silly game I started wanting other things. Like a clean Drake 2B and a 2NT transmitter to match. I’d pay a kings ransom for a pristine HW-16 with the HG-10B that I had in 1978. Same goes for the Hallicrafters SX-140 receiver that I had before anything else, including a license.

What can I say? Life is weird beyond words and the heart wants what the heart wants. Turn the page, once again the hobby takes an unexpected twist and apparently, I’m simply along for the ride…



I’m home from a few nights in Toledo where a lot of snow was expected, but only a portion of it showed up. It snowed for 36-48 hours without stop but the ground was warm enough that most of it melted on contact. There was about three-inches on the ground when I left there this morning, but it had stopped falling.

But somewhere on the three-hour drive home I passed through a 10 mile area that was a complete whiteout. Visibility was nil with many cars and trucks having slipped off the road. When I emerged on the other side, it was all sunshine and clear skies.

I see where plans for another DX operation are being changed due to Coronavirus quarantines. The CDC now says it’s inevitable that the pandemic will visit the US and probably in a big way so they are telling people to “be prepared” which sounds like good advice but I’m not sure exactly what we can do? Suggestions from a multitude of articles on the subject say things like stock-up on hand sanitizer and make plans to stay home for 14 days which all seem a little weak to me.

The federal government seems minimally engaged at this point as Trump is more concerned that negative news will tank the stock market and that could cost him votes in November. So the threat is being downplayed which has set off all kinds of alarms in my head. If Trump says it’s not bad then it’s probably already terrible and we’re facing viral Armageddon…

Despite having prepaid for a lot of Hamvention related activities, I’m going to wait and see how things look before deciding for certain to hangout in close contact with 30,000 radio enthusiasts from around the globe.


Solder Smoke

In the latest edition of the SolderSmoke podcast, host Bill Meara, N2CQR put out a plea for listeners to drop him a note and let him know how you listen, via direct download, iTunes, Stitcher, etc.

I’ve been listening to SolderSmoke since it launched, the only ham radio program I can make that claim about. Intended for low-power enthusiasts, home brewers, and boat anchor aficionados, the personality and delivery make it the most highly anticipated program in all of hamdom. Sometimes I wish it was produced more frequently, but its semi-scarcity is one of its many charms.

Also be sure to visit the SolderSmoke daily news blog.


Selling Out

I’d like to sell all my modern transceivers, along with all the accessories that go with them. That includes the IC-7610, IC-9700, and the IC-7300. At least that’s the plan.

But one of my least favorite things to do is to sell almost anything. It’s hard work. If it were only a matter of taking photos, listing online, boxing it up and shipping it, that would be easy. It’s the other stuff that makes me sweat.

Five years ago I sold my TenTec Eagle.

The Eagle was a very simple to operate HF transceiver. There were only a few knobs and buttons to contend with. I sold it to some fellow who continued to contact me for months afterwards with endless questions; “How do I make it do this, how do I make it do that, I can’t get it to transmit in CW – are you sure you didn’t sell me a defective transceiver?”

Being unpaid product support is not for me and I vowed never to sell anything of significant value again.

I’d rather take used equipment to the dump than deal with that again. Imagine my consternation at listing stuff for sale that’s considerably more complex than that old Eagle! So I’m looking for alternatives. One of those being to trade it all in for store credit. That’s still not ideal, but it beats putting it into storage, or something worse.