Monday Morning

39F with windy, rainy conditions this morning put the kibosh on my walking and any hope for gathering more leaves.

Walking into the shack with the first cup of Joe I hit 40 CW where I copied a couple of stations calling CQ (a rarity!), but couldn’t raise either of them. Signals were weak and then I read today’s propagation report from W3LPL that began, “Propagation crossing low, mid and high latitudes is likely to be mildly degraded through Tuesday November 21st“. I concurred and moved to FT8 on 30 meters where things weren’t quite abysmal, but I copied no DX there unless you count a few VEs. Afterwards, I refilled the coffee and spun the dial up to 7.153 to ride along with the Treasure Coasters for a bit. Signals were down there too, but where propagation was lacking copious amounts of power permitted me to hear most everyone on the net.

A note in today’s Daily DX newsletter informed that OQRS on Club Log is now open for the TX7L operation. I worked them on 10 CW one day last week and could use that confirmation so I made the necessary arrangements.

I received a short-stack of printed cards from the bureau over the weekend: P44X, JA6BDB, IZ2FOS, DA0HQ, DA23WARD, DL2ARD, and SM7PEV.

Confirmations received via LoTW over the last few days included: A25R, YV5JLO, PY5EJ, CO2RQ, G6GLP, LU2BA, GI5RPG, 5W1SA, and P41E.


For most of the last few months my CW activity has centered on hunting POTA and a few SOTA stations and steadily adding them to my log. Though I wasn’t on a mission from God like Jake and Elwood, I found it pretty easy to work three or four of them while the coffee was brewing. Six a day seemed a nice clip. And then there were the regular CW practice sessions. You know, the weekly SST and CWT events. It was easy to snag another 20-30 contacts for the log with each of these. Add to these a few monthly sprints and the occasional big contest and working a lot of CW isn’t particularly difficult.

If you think about it for even a moment you begin to realize this is spending my life, time I can never get back, exchanging ten seconds of data with masses doing the same thing. I made a public comment recently about POTA being like a “contest” and immediately drew friendly fire from all around. Some folks want to believe that contesting is an unclean activity while hunting POTA is more noble, but that notion is built on a shaky ladder of facts. Speaking as a ‘hunter’ I visit a Web page to see who is operating and where, then I spin the VFO and call them. We exchange signal reports and SPC and more infrequently, a quick 72 or 73 and it’s over. Tell me how the hell that’s the least bit different than a typical contest exchange? In a few cases it may be even shorter than a contest exchange. And the POTA pile-ups have grown to insane levels — just to work some guy sitting on a park bench in Alabama. I’ll sit in a pile to try and work a guy on Bouvet, but Alabama? Look, I enjoy POTA, it has revitalized outdoor radio activity in America, but if you truly believe it’s more than just another contest you probably also believe Field Day is something more than a contest — but you still keep score.

Actually, I think I do have a mission in piling up CW contacts: Contrition. I’ve been working a lot of FT modes while chasing DX lately. My station is modest, but my goals are oversized and it’s been easier to use digital than CW in this quest. Even with these currently good band conditions. Especially with these good conditions. A hundred watts and a vertical is considerably more potent using FT4 or FT8 and I have been taking full advantage. So while the digital side of the ledger grows I think I have been attempting to balance the CW side with piles of trite CW contacts. I tell myself it’s still good practice, a CW man can never have too much practice, right?

My feeling of guilt about all this having been exacerbated by recent diary comments from K3WWP.

John has implied on several recent occasions that it’s getting much tougher to find anyone with which to have an actual CW QSO. He’s been using CW POTA contacts and practice sessions (SST) to help continue his long streak of making a QRP CW contact a day and I get the feeling this has been unsatisfying. He would obviously prefer a little more conversation than is gleaned from a hundred rapid fire RST/SPC exchanges that is all that can be found on CW these days. To test his theory, I just spent eight days without sprints, POTA, or SOTA and I gotta be honest, John isn’t wrong. CW has become a desolate land if you exclude those activities. But if you spout off about that in any of your social media spaces you too will draw rapid fire. Almost everyone will insist that CW is alive and well and growing and if by that they mean that more people have figured out how to send and decode “599 TU 73” they might be right.

Now ask the next guy you work via CW if he has had to rake many leaves this year and it’s likely you will draw a quick gotta go 73 because he has no clue what you just sent…

Going to California

Made up my mind to make a new start
Going to California with an aching in my heart
Someone told me there’s a girl out there
With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair

Not long after I was born one of my Dad’s brothers moved from Muncie, Indiana to Southern California. This would have been around 1961. He got a better job making more money and told all his brothers and sisters he could get them all jobs too. Over the next few years all of them moved out there. Except for my Dad. We stayed put. That set us on a course for making that long annual trek in a station wagon without air-conditioning and only an AM radio to spend our vacations with our now west coast relatives. The first few trips were made on the Mother Road, Route 66. Three long days on the road out there, three long days back home.

I’m not sure how we survived it. I remember on one trip we overheated on the two-hundred mile stretch from Needles to San Bernardino. A truck driver stopped, gave us water for the radiator, and told us to go back to Needles get a hotel for the day and wait to make the final run after it was dark, and cooler. We did. I spent the day in the hotel pool while Mom and Dad slept. We always stayed with Dad’s relatives when we were there. Hotel money was saved for the journey itself, not the destination. My aunts and uncles (and so many cousins) had all settled around Riverside and Orange. We visited Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland in Anaheim before there was a ‘World’ in Orlando. These were especially good times for me and I remember making that trip four times. My parents repeated that journey without me a couple more times as I had started to work in my teen years and didn’t want to go with them.

I’m telling you all that because I always saw California as a special place. A land of beauty and adventure. A place where my Uncle could pull fresh lemons off the trees in his backyard. Given all the magic that place conjured in my head it’s surprising I never moved there. Years later, in the 1990’s I worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for six months and got my fill of traffic jams and overpopulation. Fortunately, my client footed the bill for everything so I never had to complain about the high cost of living there. Perhaps because of my frequent musings about my time spent in a charming land, my youngest son and his wife decided to vacation in Northern California a few years ago and they came back with nightmare stories of panhandlers, drug addicts, and mounds of discarded needles in the streets of San Francisco. They won’t ever go back, I probably won’t either.

Like smoke escaping a blown capacitor the magic fled California decades ago.

But when I got my Novice license (1977) it was still a beguiling location to me and the occasional CW contact with any 6-call would give me more joy than working rare DX. That my radio signal was traversing thousands of miles at the touch of the key was special in a way that’s difficult to dissect. It took us three long days of driving to get to California and here my HW-16 was doing it almost instantly. I’d touch the key and imagine my RF speeding down Route 66.

How could I not see that as magic?

These days a 6-call doesn’t mean what it once did, but I still give deference to them. Like an indelible stamp on my soul, working a station in California is still special for me to this very day. If I see a pile of strong signals from all around the world while working the FT modes I tend to always call those in California first. I know things have changed. A lot. But somewhere deep in my long ago California will always be that enchanted place where we once traveled as a family and it’s where my radio signals follow a similar path on almost a daily basis.

It’s still magic, to me…

On the Air

I granted myself the entire day off yesterday. No chores, no yard work, no housework. Not even radio made the cut. It was just family, food, and football. The kids came over along with their kids, and we enjoyed a nice day of rest that was sorely needed. All good things end, however, and this morning we were back in the grind. I took my early morning walk in the chilly 40F air and by the time I got back home it was time for Brenda to go to work while I, being the retired guy, spent the next several hours playing on the radio.

With my SKCC quest having turned to Senator, I spawned a new log to keep track of just those contacts. I worked three qualifying contacts and need 197 more.

I stopped by the POTA spots page to see who was in the field and managed to hunt down seven of them before giving up and making myself a pumpkin spice latte. Break time is important!

During the afternoon I did a lot of listening. Just spinning the dial and eavesdropping on conversations while making note of procedures used. These change from time to time and they probably shouldn’t. Your Novice Accent And What To Do About It remains the seminal work on the basics of CW procedures. I used to believe that so long as both operators understand each other then procedures were for graybeards. But now that I are one, I suddenly see the value.

It’s kinda like how my Dad got smarter the older I got…

I also caught AA7OY on a SOTA adventure in New Mexico this afternoon. He was on 20 meter (CW) and sounding every bit the part of a QRP station on some yonder mountain, which of course he was. I prefer chasing Summits on the Air operators because nearly all of them are using QRP gear. I find that more challenging and perhaps a bit more interesting to review the locations where these folks gain some altitude.