Dayton Hamvention next week

I’m headed to Dayton, hopefully on Friday, for the Hamvention. It’s the largest gathering of Hams in the world, and I generally make it every other year. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s new in equipment, and in spending some time at the Contest Forum and Contest Dinner on Saturday night. Through the years I’ve learned to focus on what I want to see, and not spend days wandering the aisles and wearing myself out.

I’ll try to take some photos and videos and add them to the blog when I get back, but no promises.

Ham radio and Mini Coopers

I spent the last few days at one of the country’s largest Mini Cooper enthusiast events, Minis on the Dragon in Fontana, NC. There were over 800 cars at the event, and I counted at least six hams. If you watch the video of the run in the this post, you will hear the chatter between the different people on the run using FMRS.

I ran into a group from California who were all new hams, and were proud to be using ham radio, rather than FMRS, to communicate within their group during runs. I heard them preaching the benefits, and ease of getting a license, to other people at the event. They said for their club runs in Northern California, FMRS doesn’t work very well if they get strung out, and they’ve found ham radio to be much better. They said they are working to get everyone in their club licensed. One of the three I talked to was really taken with ham radio, and planned to start studying for her General, but wanted to do it the right way by learning the answers, not memorizing them.

I gave them encouragement, and talked about how they could take it to the next level with APRS. How many car enthusiast/rally clubs are there out there who are using FMRS and would be excited about stepping up to ham radio?

Lining up for the group shot. I made it to the front row with my ham plates.

Michigan QSO party QRP style

This weekend there were several state QSO parties running — Michigan, Ontario and South Dakota, plus a DX contest centered in South America. Saturday night I came down to the shack to see what I could do in the three, but when I started messing with the K3, the AF gain (volume) knob broke. I was thinking about running the contests by using the shaft with no knob, but that looked like an exercise in pain so I turned on the KX1 QRP (low power) radio.

I heard a station calling from Bolivia on 40 meters, and thought “why not try” and worked him on the first call — with 4 watts and my Steppir vertical. Cool.

I switched to the Michigan QSO party and started working everyone I could find. It often took three or four calls, and a couple guys had to really work to hear my report, but I kept working stations. By the end of the evening I’d worked 30 stations in Michigan, 10 in Ontario, and 5 in South America, mostly on 40 meters with a few contacts on 20 and 80. For 80 I switched to the K2 at 5 watts, but most of my contacts were made with the KX1.

This is much different from my normal contesting mode of running 500 watts and seeing how high a rate — how many contacts per hour — I can reach. But it was just as much fun, I used a lot less power, and it was much lower key than most contests I run.

For any hams out there who think “life is too short for QRP,” you are missing a big part of the hobby. To work Boliva and Brazil with 4 watts — that is exciting.

So that was my hamming for the weekend. I’ll go into more detail on my broken knob on the K3 later.


QRP fun with the Elecraft KX1

Elecraft KX1 is a minimialist QRP radio with high performance.

When talking about my radios, I often overlook the QRP gear. I have several QRP — low power below 5 watts — radios that I used to be very active with, but in the past few years with bad band conditions I’ve gotten out of the QRP habit.

I’m spending a week in a cabin in North Carolina in a couple weeks, and am planning on taking a small radio and portable antenna. So today I got out the Elecraft KX1 and fired it up on 20 meters. I hadn’t had it on the air for a while, and after this afternoon, i wonder why I’ve forgotten QRP.

The Georgia QSO party was in full swing on 20 meters, so it was a good chance to see if the QRP signal would reach them. During the afternoon I worked 20 different Georgia stations with no problem.

Then I tuned down the band and heard W1VDE calling CQ from Oregon. I answered and talked to him for a while. He said my 4 watt signal was loud in Oregon — 20 db over S9 for you hams out there. That’s about as good as it gets.

Then I moved up to the QRP calling frequency, 14.060 and called CQ. On the first try N1DN came back to me, and he was operating QRP from Connecticut. So I basically worked coast to coast this afternoon with 4 watts. I’ve got the QRP bug again.

Here is a good review of the KX1 by another blogger.


DX on mobile CW

Tuesday was a great day for mobile CW. On the drive into work I had a long chat with Marty, K1WC, in northern Maine. I’ve talked to Marty a few times and he has a great fist — that means he sends good code — and he’s a good conversationalist on CW. We talked for about 40 minutes of my drive in and then I turned off the radio and listened to NPR.

For the drive home, I listened on 40 meters but didn’t hear much on. So I switched to 20 meters, hit the tune button, and the antenna retuned itself for 20 meters. The first thing I heard was a loud signal, GR100MGY. From the G prefix I figured it was England, but that is a strange call so it sounded like something special. He also was working split — transmitting on one frequency and listening up 2 or 3 Khz. So I set up for split while driving 70 miles per hour — I turned the RIT on the radio to -2.50 kHz and tuned up until I heard the station. I knew I was transmitting up 2.5, but had no idea who else was up 2.5 calling him. So I started throwing out my call, and after about 10 tries I worked him. That’s neat to bust a pileup running mobile.

Then I tuned up the band a little, I didn’t hear much, so I called CQ. I was answered by WP4L. I knew that was Puerto Rico, and actually had a nice QSO with Angleo.

After that I tuned around a little and heard a faint CQ froom G0KDJ. I thought “why not try” and answered his call and worked Jim in Liverpool, England. So I worked three DX stations on the way home. Not a bad day.

When I got home I looked up GR100MGY. It was a special event station marking the 100th anniversary of the voyage of the Titanic. It was only going to be on 5 days, and had just gone on the air that day. Hence the pileup that I broke through.

Minis On The Dragon

I’ll be attending Minis on the Dragon in three weeks. My only regret is that I don’t have HF mobile in the Mini Cooper Clubman, so I’ll have to settle for 2 meters/440 instead. That’s ok, there’s a lot going on and not a lot of hamming time anyway and when you’re driving, you need both hands on the wheel in that area.

Testing one two three…..

Mike check. Seeing if link to facebook works.

New paddle from CT599

The CT599 paddle.

I had been admiring the paddles made by Yuri CKM on Ebay and I finally pulled the trigger and purchased one a couple weeks ago. It arrived last Thursday, and after a weekend’s use, I will say it has exceeded my expectations. It’s not quite as nice as the Begali, but it’s close. And for half the price of the Begali, I can’t complain. It is very nice looking solid brass, very heavy, and has a very smoothe feel to it. I’ve been using it all weekend and have gotten used to it and it’s grown on me.

Tonight I was having a conversation with Steve, W9SN, and we were moving along around 35 words per minute. That’s about as fast as I can send on the Begali, and I was worried if I could reach that speed on the new paddle, but I did. By the end of the contact I was sold.

I’ve been using the Heathkit twins a lot, and they have really grown on me as well. They are from the early ’80s, but make a very nice little CW vintage station.  And they look so nice up there with their red dials. It’s hard to describe the joy of sitting here having a nice converstation on morse code with someone across the country, talking about the weather, radios, work, and life in general. You can’t get to detailed at 30 words per minute, but you can carry on a nice conversation. To me, that’s the joy of ham radio.

Another good mobile cw day

This afternoon I was downstairs playing with the radios and noticed that 20 meters was wide open to Europe, with lots of stations coming in. I worked a couple, but then thought “I wonder how it would be from the mobile.

Last week was a busy week and I never drove the car to Rockford, so I never have had any operating time with the new control head setup. So I went out in the car, headed west on I 88 and tuned around 20 meters. I answered a DL (Germany) CQ, did a short contact, signed, and had a pileup calling me. In the next 20 minutes I probably worked 10 different stations, but I didn’t have scratch paper with me, so I have no log of it. After a while I turned around to come home, then realized I had the little logger on my iPhone. I made one more contact after that, with Guatamala, and managed to get it logged.

Oh well, it was a blast having all the EU stations calling me. I’m really, really impressed with the Little Tarheel antenna.


More on Icom IC 7000 mobile installation

I promised more photos of the installation, and here they are. I was at the AES Superfest in Milwaukee yesterday and bought a mobile mounting bracket that bolts down on the floor using the bolt that holds the seat down. I used the passenger seat bolt for the bracket, and installed the head for the Icom 7000 on that bracket.


This is a much cleaner way to mount the control head -- no more coffee spills.

Earlier I had the control head Velcroed — I gues that’s a word — to the center console between the gearshift and the cupholder. That worked ok, but it was awfully low to look at while driving and worse, it was too close to the cupholder. I discoverd it was easy to spill coffee — or worse — onto the control head with it in that position. So I moved it up out of harm’s way.

Little Tarheel on left, 2 meter/440 on right.

While at AES I also picked up a new SMO antenna mount and replaced the 2 meter/440 antenna that I had on car earlier. It had seen several years of use on the Chevy Equinox I traded in, and one thing I’ve learned about antenna mounts living in the rust belt — they don’t last forever. I generally switch out antenna mounts every few years, and in between I check them often for corrosion. The new mount looks better, is much lower profile than the old.

So listen for me on 40 meters on Tuesdays and Thursdays from approximately 6:30 to 8 in the morning and 5 to 6:30 in evenings, CDT.