Monday Radio Play

I needed a little radio play on Monday, so I took the Elecraft K1 for a spin.

Not having enough radio play on Sunday, I took along my Elecraft K1 radio on our outing Monday. The weather was nicer than Sunday, plenty warm (warm enough for shirtsleeves).

Again, after our walk, I setup a random wire antenna affixed to the 10m mast. The K1 was easy to setup and I found a place to sit on the ground as my table and chair were not in the rig.

The radio matched the antenna readily and I started hunting for SOTA and POTA activators. I worked five stations over an hour and a half, one of them in Florida, all with seven watts of output.

The mental exercise of copying and sending Morse Code is good for me. It provides an excellent change of pace from my normal work, which is highly analytical.

In addition, I get out of the house with The Girl, we have a good time working (I work her when we walk), and I often talk to Older Son or a friend while I walk.

I still have a lot to learn about the K1. It is a capable radio. It is still possible to find one, but that factory stand is nearly unobtanium. I managed to snag a couple of them.

Sunday Radio Play

I took the Elecraft KX1 out to play a little radio. What a great little radio it is.

It has been weeks since I operated one of my radios. Either the weather was not very good, I was too busy with other duties, or I just did not have the energy to take the radio out for a spin.

Almost all of my operations are portable. I have written many times about the noise level at home. Even if I could hear other operators, the constant hash is fatiguing and I cannot deal with it for very long before I have to leave the radio.

Sunday was a pretty day, a little cool, but with plenty of sunshine. So The Girl and I walked our usual route out at Silver Saddle Ranch, then returned to my parking spot at the upper staging area. I decided to get the Elecraft KX1 out of its case and see if I could make any contacts.

I setup a random wire with one end affixed to a 10m telescoping mast and the other to a 9:1 unun. I used a short jumper to the radio. What I learned is that the wire length I am using does not need the unun; the matching network in the radio is sufficient to make the impedance match between the radio and the antenna.

I learned something.

So I set aside the unun and tuned the KX1 to 7.2835MHz for the 40m Noon Net. It is an easy check on whether my radio is working and the net control operators will take check-ins from CW operators. (CW is the official term for Morse Code operations.)

One of my favorite features of the KX1 is that it has an adjustable filter and at the wide setting it is about 2KHz, which is plenty for listening to phone operators. It will also tune the entire 20m, 30m, 40m, and 80m bands, which means I can listen to both code and phone operators on those bands. In addition, it will receive CW, lower sideband, and upper sideband modes (switchable). That is a huge feature for such a small radio.

I was able to check-in to the net with about four watts of output, so the radio was working. I then turned my attention to SOTA (Summits on the Air) and POTA (Parks on the Air) activators to determine if I could hear any of them.

I worked four stations, three POTA activators and one SOTA activator. The setup and teardown of this station takes only about ten minutes each. So, for 20 minutes of work, I played for an hour or so and made a few contacts, all QRP (low power). It was a good day.

Working, Maybe Too Much

Most every morning, I make a cup of coffee… or two… but rarely three.
The year has already been busy. Late last year I was pressing to complete a report for one of my projects. That used a bunch of energy and left me with little motivation to do anything significant over the holidays, except remember why we celebrate them and try to recover a little.

Then the new year happened and work restarted, with me starting out on the backside of the power curve having left other projects languishing while I finished the report. In addition, I want to develop some new habits that are inviolate because they are good for me.

There are three components to this endeavor — The body, the mind, and the soul.

For the first, it includes attention to my body in terms of food and exercise. I injured my right leg last year, being a foolish old man, and am still paying for it. But The Girl needs, actually demands, a daily outing for her exercise and intellectual stimulation. So I continue walking but cannot carry my regular pack for now. I am stretching most days (needs to be every day) as well as getting in a couple of resistance sessions in each week.

My diet needs to change a bit as well. It is time to reduce my poor carbohydrate load and increase my good carbohydrate load, as well as increase my protein intake.

I believe that meditation is good for mind, body, and soul. It is a time to just be for a few minutes, listening to a guided meditation, and letting go of the mental busyness that plagues me daily. I do not need to think all the time. I do not need to be all up-in-my-head when there are other wonderful things to take in. Meditation, even a few minutes every day, helps me be more present when I am out with The Girl (and at other times). An side benefit is that the breathing exercises lower my blood pressure.

I am also committed to praying more. The benefits of prayer are documented in the professional literature. It does not matter whether one believes in God (I do) or a guiding force or whatever. The process of prayer is beneficial in and of itself (although I believe that God hears prayers and answers them). My intention is to spend a few minutes every day talking to God, and not just over meals. I have people and situations on my prayer list (I keep one) and remember them when I sit to pray. I also pray often when I am walking with The Girl. It helps me stay present in the moment when we are out and about.

There is one more intention that I have. It is to spend a few minutes each week (at least) putting a few words here on my parcel of the Internet. I have plenty of images that I can post and say a few words about. I like to post some images here. This post is a beginning. It remains to be seen whether I am able to maintain the habit or not.

Finally, I posted an image above. For a fun, creative work, I decided to work on a Project 365 this year. I often have one running on my Instagram account (User @drdbt). But this year I decided to post on the “official” Project 365 web page as well. I enjoy sharing the images I make and hope that others enjoy what I shoot.

New Year 2022

This is a test shot with the new (to me) Sony A7S. I used a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 at f/4 and an ISO of 25k. The test subject was Sera in my backyard, playing in the snow.

In the evening of Christmas Day, Sera needed to go out before we hit the rack. I bought a Sony A7S (first generation) a month or so ago for use as a low-light camera. This Sony model (the A7S and its progenitors) is considered the queen of the low-light cameras. The 12.1MP sensor resolution is fine for most of what I do, plus does not take up so much disk space on the computer and its backup drives.

Work kept me from doing much with the camera and will for awhile yet. But I wanted to do some test shots. So I took it into the backyard with us, with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 mounted to the camera. (Yes, that is a legacy manual focus lens.) I set the ISO to 25k and made a few captures of Sera playing in the snow.

I like this one the best of the lot. There’s a lot of detail in the image. I am impressed.

This week I continued working on my review of 2021. What I came away with is that of the things I should do, my self-care suffered in favor of the work. The work is good too, but I really need to spend some time every day working on myself, including the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects.

Work continues to keep me busy. In fact, I intended to publish this on Christmas, but here we are more than a week later.

Sera and I are walking and enjoying each other quite a lot. She loves our daily walks and the time to work off-lead. I require her to check in every minute or two and do not like her to be out of sight for long. There are coyotes in the field and she would think they were like domestic canines. That could be bad.

Happy New Year, all.

Christmas Reflections 2021

I made this capture in 2006 at the Lubbock Barnes & Noble.

On January 22, 2006, Wife and I drove over to the Lubbock Barnes & Noble for an outing. She was looking for a browse, perhaps to find a new book. I bought a cup of coffee and sat down at a table near the front of the store.

This was the old B&N on the east side of Slide Road in the strip center, before they moved to a new location. It was a store we visited often, before B&N became more of a toy store and less of a bookstore.

I sat there, enjoying my coffee and looking at a book or magazine — I do not recall which. But I had a camera with me and was always looking for a good capture.

Since my 20s (a long time ago) I have almost always had a camera at hand. In the beginning, it was a film camera. All I had at first was a 35mm film camera, so that is what I carried. It usually had black and white film in it, either Tri-X or Plus-X.

Later, the cameras became digital and smaller. On this particular day I am unsure what I was carrying. It might have been an Olympus Camedia, as they were the best prosumer camera at the time.

It doesn’t matter. What mattered was the light coming from behind me and shining on Wife’s face. I saw that light and knew it made for a good image. I grabbed up the camera, turned it on, then quickly pointed, composed, and got the shot.

Wife began her protest about having her photograph made and I just about caught the peak of the action with my informal portrait. Her expression captured (pun intended) her usual reaction to my pointing of a camera at her. (Aside: She had several other reactions as well… some not appropriate for mixed company.)

This image remains another of my favorite captures of Wife. A bit of her personality is caught in the frame and that playful protest was fun. I had a good laugh about it as did she.

I spent a bit of time this morning reflecting on the year. At the end of each year, I like to look back at the year and assess what I did well and what I did not do so well. I want to learn from the experience and make choices about how to spend my time the coming year.

I do not make resolutions. Resolutions fade away without structure to see they are implemented. Instead, I set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. I decided what habits I want to cultivate and those that I want to reduce. I decide how to structure my time so that I can make the changes that will be good for me.

And then I set out to execute those plans. I am not always successful. But I remain mindful of the goals I want to achieve.

With that, I will close this entry with a hearty Merry Christmas. I remember that we celebrate today the birth of the Christ child. It does not matter when Jesus was born; only that he was. And it only matters that what God said about him is true. I am grateful for that gift, the best of all.

Happy 69th Birthday, Old Girl

I took a few minutes Sunday afternoon to set up a radio and play a little. It was a gorgeous day.

I will say a bit more about the image a bit farther down the page. My main thought for the day is that it is Wife’s 69th birthday. Had she lived, I would be teasing her about being a cradle-robber or a cougar now that she is older than me again.

It was a fun exchange we shared over many years, even before we were married.

And we are approaching the holiday season. There are many things I love about the holidays and shared that love with Wife. I never cared for the outward appurtenances, but for the deeper meaning of gratefulness for God’s provision to our forbears and to us. The former is in terms of the Thanksgiving Day celebration and the latter the time we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

I still feel deeply about these celebrations and their true significance. But I also remember that Wife loved these holidays and the time spent together, with family, and with friends. I also remember that it was during this season that she suffered so much before she died.

So there is the knife-edge balance of joy and melancholy in this season. It requires some mental discipline to avoid too much of the latter and focus on the joy and thankfulness of the season. I work on this every year and so I will again this year.

What about the image? Well, on Sunday afternoon after The Girl and I finished a very nice walk, I decided to play a little radio. I stopped at the north end of the Prison Hill Complex, a network of trails and parks here in Carson City and pulled into the staging area. I setup a telescoping mast, a wire antenna, and the Elecraft KX2. I was able to check in to the 40m Noontime Net (7.2835MHz) and also heard a SOTA (Summits On The Air) activator calling, so I worked him too.

It was a good day, spending part of it with The Girl and our usual outing, loving the sun and warmth of a fall afternoon, and then returning home for food and rest. The radio part was an bit of lagniappe and an opportunity to practice a little code.

Springfield Layover

I found this thistle on morning walkies. It practically begged me to make the shot. So, I did. Postprocessing in Snapseed on my iPhone.

So much has happened over the last couple of weeks. I changed my mind about dragging the camper to Missouri. I made the repairs the camper needed. I prepared everything for my trip out here, including enough projects to keep me busy for a month. Then, a day late, I made the trip out here, attended my 50th high school reunion, and returned to Springfield to recover.

There were three repairs to the camper.

  1. Swap out the left tire with the spare, check the bearings, and move the worn tire to the spare.
  2. Troubleshoot the electrical problem with the ceiling lights and the Fantastic fan.
  3. Remove the microwave from its cubbyhole and repurpose the area for storage.

I think my tire problem was from chronic underinflation. On reading the sidewall, I think the tires are about at maximum load. Therefore, I need to keep them at 50psi unless I am on-trail and need to air down for ride and flotation.

The electrical problem was not the converter; it was a loose spade connector on the interrupt switch at the front of the camper. There is a switch that disconnects the ceiling lights and Fantastic fan when the lid is down. I was lucky to find it. It is the kind of problem that can be maddening.

I do not use the camper’s microwave. In fact, I do not use a microwave that much at all. I will use it to warm soup, stew, or chili at home. But I generally reheat food in a pan and just watch my fire so I do not burn my dinner. The same is true in the camper. I reheat food in a pot or pan and monitor it so I do not ruin it (or make a mess in the pan).

Removing the microwave increased my storage space by about 30 percent. That was a huge gain and means I can keep more things put away.

All that took me a couple of days. With the smoke, both my health and my energy level were affected. I had a hard time being motivated and feeling well enough to do this work. But it had to be done and I pressed forward.

Then I assembled everything I wanted to bring with me. I have several radio projects that need some attention, including a repair of the PX3 panadapter for my Elecraft KX3 system. The main encoder is worn out. I have a replacement and the tools to make the repair. I just have not had time or motivation at home.

There are several small antenna projects I want to work on. Older Son is a good candidate to help with those because he is both a ham and is interested. Those are good builds for both of us.

I also brought some work with me. I still have work to do on a couple of reports and am guiding work on a new project in the Tahoe basin. I am spending time each day on that work.

Sera, AKA The Girl, also needs attention and exercise. Both of those are good for me as well.

In any event, I got through the preparation, got the camper and the rig loaded, and we left Sunday morning after a walk and a shower. I dry-camped the first night (and that was absolutely gorgeous) west from Ely, Nevada. The second night I planned to camp just north from Delta, Colorado. But when I approached the campsite, I saw that there was work on US 50 east from Montrose. When I checked the website, I learned that the road was open for the weekend, but open only three hours each day during the week.

I knew I would not get through and did not want to backtrack, so we pressed on through Delta and Montrose to Gunnison. There I was too tired to camp so I rented a hotel (Rodeway) for too much money, got a shower, and slept. At least the breakfast was decent.

I used municipal campgrounds the remainder of the way to Missouri. I find many small towns have a small campground where one can rend a space, usually with electricity and often with water, for ten bucks a night. This is good for the community because campers will spend a little money in town and the cost to the town is minimal.

Sera and I spent one night in Springfield, Missouri, with my kids. Then I headed to St. James for my 50th reunion. My best high school buddy and his wife camped at the Meramac Springs campground, so that is where I stayed. It is a gorgeous campground and the camper was comfortable with shore power to run the air conditioner.

I enjoyed a meal with my friends and with another friend from high school. Some of my classmates treated me well when I was in high school. A few were openly hostile. Most just ignored me. It was all good.

We participated in the St. James Grape and Fall Festival parade. Yes, I rode the float with my class t-shirt on. I laughed with a few of my compatriots and waved at a few folks that I recognized along the route. It was worth the effort.

The reunion supper gathering was what I expected. Most of the class have mates and the couples gathered with their respective friends. I sat with my buddy, his wife, and another friend for supper. We talked and told stories and laughed through the meal. I visited with a couple of my classmates that I specifically wanted to see after 50 years. It was good.

Now I am back in Springfield, working a little, enjoying my kids, and enjoying my dog. I am waiting for a contract to be executed so I can make a field visit in south Texas before I think about heading home. Actually, I can stay here for a few weeks if I want to. There is no pressing obligation back home at the moment. I have plenty to do and I have what I need to do it.

For the last couple of days, I have been recovering. It was a lot to get ready and get here. The weekend was pretty intense.

I am really satisfied that I decided to come to the reunion. It was a good thing.

Working on the Elecraft KX1 Kit

The Elecraft KX1 in its new case with a couple of new random wire antennas.

I’ve had my Elecraft KX1 for awhile now. It is a solid little radio. In fact, it is one of my favorite radios. It does so much with so little.

It is Morse Code only, but has enough filter width to handle both USB and LSB phone signals. That means I can listen to the 40m Noontime Net (7.2835MHz) with this radio and then check in to the net. Many of the net control operators copy code.

The radio makes about four watts with a good battery and will operate on the 20-, 30-, 40-, and 80-meter amateur radio bands. It will receive over the entire band and has a decent general receiver in it as well. That means I can listen to the broadcast shortwave bands if I want to.

The internal antenna tuner (ATU; which is really a matching network — it does not “tune” the antenna) is capable, quick, and quiet. It draws 50ma or so when receiving and about 700ma or so when transmitting. That means it is stingy with power and will run on the internal batteries or an external battery for hours.

I have been working on an antenna for it for a few weeks now. I was using the counterpoise wires for the Elecraft AX1 and AXE initially, but learned that the wire for the AXE was a little too close to a half-wave on the 20m band. So there is a better solution.

I built an end-fed random wire antenna, but the radio’s internal tuner was not getting a good match without an external matching transformer.

After some additional research, I decided to cut the random wire to 36-ft and built a second random wire antenna with a radiator length of 28-ft and a triple counterpoise of 16-, 12-, and 8-ft. The Elecraft documentation for the KX1 ATU suggests a radiator of 24-28-ft and a counterpoise of 1/8 wavelength on the bands of interest. So that became the second antenna for the radio.

I received a very nice 9:1 UNUN (unbalanced-unbalanced matching transformer) from Balun Designs in the mail last week. I am so glad I ordered it because their website says they are not making transformers now because of a supply hitch in the toroids (inductors) used for their builds.

I bought a Pelican 1060 case to house the radio and support equipment. The radio, antenna, BNC/banana jack adapter (plugs directly into the radio), headphones, and power cable all fit nicely. I printed and laminated a cheat sheet for the radio and velcro’d it to the inside of the top of the case. I’ll hand letter a list of QRP watering holes on 20-, 30-, 40-, and 80-m and tape it to the inside of the lid as well. All that I need to add to the kit is a battery, key, and maybe a telescoping mast.

That finished my work on the kit for Saturday. What remained to do is to test everything.

After some antenna testing, I put everything to support the portable station, except a battery, in the box.
Sunday morning I rose, worked through my morning routine, then put the radio kit into my pack and got The Girl out for a walk. At our usual place, Silver Saddle Ranch, there were a few cars but not as many as Saturday. We parked at the upper staging area and I let her out to hunt lizards while I got my pack, HT, and her lead.

We had a nice hike while I talked to Older Son on the phone. The smoke was a little less intense than many previous mornings, so I was able to walk without an N95 mask. We met some of the usuals on the trail and greeted them as we passed. Sera enjoyed a brief dip into the (very low) Carson River for a drink and to cool off.

I’ve been parking in the maintenance yard for several weeks for some portable operations. So far I have not been challenged but expect that the ranger will wander by one morning and ask me what I’m doing. I have a story prepared should that happen. I am not sharing (yet).

I parked the rig under a tree for shade, then got out my radio kit, a mast, a battery, a key, and my antenna analyzer. I set up the first antenna and checked the impedance/SWR. The 36ft random wire is still a bit high, even with a matching transformer (9:1 UNUN). So is the 28ft radiator. Both of them will work with the KX1 internal ATU (automatic matching network), but I am not quite satisfied.

I think I will do another test, with a little better setup. I will actually collect some data (measurements) so I can do some analysis of my results. I also think I will cut another radiator 53ft long and maybe a couple more counterpoise wires as well. Then I can test different radiator lengths (28ft, 36ft, and 53ft) with some counterpoise wires of 8ft to 16ft. I can also elevate the counterpoise to see if that makes any difference.

The final test was to connect the antenna to my radio and see if I could make contacts. I connected the 36ft radiator to the matching transformer and tuned 7.29MHz. No one was on that frequency, so I engaged the ATU and it readily found a match. So I returned the radio to 7.2835MHz and checked into the 40m Noontime Net. A relay got me checked in, so the antenna was working.

I chased a few SOTA and POTA stations and finally worked KX0R on a peak in Colorado with about 4w of output power.

Then the smoke rolled in seriously. So I packed up and The Girl and I headed home for a bite of lunch, a shower (for me), and a nap (for both of us). It was a good day.

Kenwood TH-F6A Handie-Talkie

This Kenwood TH-F6A HT came to live with me last week. I am learning how to use it and it is proving to be a great little radio.

My first radio was a BTECH UV-5×3, a slightly rebranded Baofeng radio. I bought it before my license was granted so I could learn how to program the memories and listen to traffic on the local repeaters.

The UV-5×3 is neither a bad radio nor a good radio. They got a bad rap because they are not expensive (less that $100, but not nearly as cheap as the UV-5R), so unlicensed individuals bought them and operated illegally. Furthermore, as they came from the factory they would transmit outside the amateur bands. And finally, they are not as pure spectrally as they should be to comply with FCC regulations. That is, the harmonics off the transmitting frequency are not suppressed sufficiently.

Although the last statement is true, things are not quite that simple. So, those disparaging those radios ignore the fact that those spurious emissions are not strong signals. The radio only makes about five watts. So those “spurs” are less than a milliwatt. It is unlikely that they will cause problems, even if outside of the regulations.

All that said, for a new ham or as a backup HT, these inexpensive (cheap) Chinese radios are not bad. Experience needs time and practice to develop. With experience, every operator learns more about the equipment and what they want to accomplish with that equipment.

A few months after receiving my grant (my license), I was at breakfast with a group of hams. One of them brought in a small plastic security box. In it was a Kenwood TH-D7A(G). This is an HT from more than 20 years ago. He had a number of accessories for it and the asking price was reasonable. The other hams all looked at the radio. When it came my turn, I had already looked it up on the Internet (using my iPhone) and knew it was a solid radio. I asked him “What do you want for it?”

He thought for a moment, then said “How about 350 bucks?”

“Make it $300 and I’ll take it.”

“Done.” So I bought my first brand-name HT. I knew I wanted a better radio than the BTECH. I also knew I did not want to buy a top-shelf radio with a lot of features (such as digital voice modes) without more experience. So the Kenwood was in that sweet spot as far as technology goes.

What I learned is that the audio output of the Kenwood is in best-of-class. The radio is relatively easy to program from the front panel. It has two receivers so two frequencies could be monitored. It has other features that I never used.

The principal drawbacks of the TH-D7A(G) are: 1) It is a large, heavy HT and 2) it requires 19VDC to operate the charger and 3) the battery cannot be charged through the radio. The former made it too heavy to carry in my pocket. A belt clip does not work for me because I often carry a pack in the field. Plus I find an antenna tapping me on the side or back annoying.

I also do a lot of portable operating. I dry camp out in the public lands for fun and for special radio events. I love it out in the desert, especially with friends sharing the campsite and the fellowship that comes with that. I could make 120VAC with an inverter (and keep one in the rig), but it is another piece of equipment to handle and another possible point of failure.

Eventually, I decided I wanted a newer radio. As I read about the Kenwood radios, I learned that Kenwood added a general coverage receiver to their HTs (although it requires an external antenna) that will receive the AM broadcast band and the HF amateur bands, plus the shortwave listening bands. Kenwood also added the 1.25m amateur band to their HT line and eventually added APRS and D-STAR modes.

I still have no use for those modes, but am interested in the 1.25m band (around 220MHz). I am also interested in a smaller radio that will charge from the station power supply. What I found is that the Kenwood TH-F6A is a smaller radio, has the three bands, has a general coverage receiver that will decode AM, SSB, and CW, and will charge from the station power supply (it uses a lithium-ion battery).

Later models introduced those features I still do not care about. Plus, they are more expensive. The current top-line radio is the TH-D74A. It is a lot of radio. Because of the semiconductor shortage and the high demand for radios, they are scarce as hen’s teeth.

I started watching for Kenwood radios on fleaBay. When available, asking price for the D74A radios was north of $750US. I saw them selling for upwards of $1,000US. For that price, a capable HF radio can be bought. I just thought it was ridiculous for me to think about one of these radios and the feature set given where I am and how I operate a HT.

I found the older TH-F6A radio has those features I want. It is a tri-band radio with a general coverage receiver. I also found it has the NOAA weather radio frequencies pre-programmed into it (just like my mobile radio, also a Kenwood). This is a great feature when out of cellular coverage. And it will charge the battery in the radio with a station power supply. That means I could charge it from my LFP batteries when operating portable or dry camping.

Finally, because it is an older radio, the selling prices are much lower than the current offerings. I watched fleaBay for awhile and saw a couple of nice outfits sell for $350–$500US. The latter had almost everything one might want and I regret (slightly) not buying it outright. I finally bought on for about $200US plus shipping.

It arrived last week. The programming cable for my BTECH will allow me to connect the radio to my computer. CHIRP (a freely available software for programming HTs) allows programming the memory of the radio. It charges the battery from main power with the battery attached to the radio (it has an internal battery charger). I have a spare battery (cheap Chinese) and charger. The latter will run of station power.

The TH-F6A is relatively easy to program from the front panel. Operation is similar to my experience with the TH-D7A(G) and the audio quality appears to be just as good. The little radio is a chunk, but can be carried in a cargo pocket. It fits into the top pocket of my Osprey pack with the antenna sticking out above my head. Carried this way, the antenna does not tap on the brim of my hat. (That is extremely annoying to me!)

With a week of experience with this radio, I am already pleased with my purchase. The Kenwood speaker/mike works perfectly with the radio. I clip the speaker/mike to the sternum strap of my pack. I have some things to learn about operating the radio (there are features I have not explored), but I can already tell this was a good upgrade for me. My couple of years of experience since my first Kenwood HT purchase gave me some insight into how I want to use a handheld (I use one quite a lot, really) and what features I require in a handheld.

I ordered a new cover for the right-side ports and a new glass for the LCD. The former was missing (very common) and the latter will replace the existing glass. It has a few scratches on it. I will replace them when the parts arrive.

I will enjoy learning to use this new-to-me radio. I think it is a good move for me. Soon I will offer the older TH-D7A(G) radios for sale. (I have two of them. One served as the mobile radio in my 4Runner for a year or more.) I will likely pick up a second TH-F6A as a backup radio, although I always have the BTECH UV-5×3 as a fallback.

Here is what I think:

  • It is a tri-band radio, 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm.
  • It has a general coverage receiver and will receive AM, SSB, and CW as well as FM.
  • It has the NOAA WX channels pre-programmed for those times when I am out of cell service.
  • It uses a lithium-ion battery, which makes the radio smaller without sacrificing operating time.
  • That lithium-ion battery can be charged from the station power supply (13.8VDC).
  • It is relatively easy to program from the front panel and CHIRP supports the radio.

In short, the features of this radio punches the items on my list that are important to me. These are things I learned over the last couple of years of operating. The 1.25m band is nice, but not a requirement. I am interested in learning more about that band. We (amateur radio operators) need to use the allocation or we will lose it.

Aside: I kept the UV-5×3 in part as a backup, but more to be used as a loaner for new hams who do not have a radio. It has gotten service in several new-ham workshops over the last couple of years.

AAR: 2021 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt

My station for the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

The NJQRP Club hosts an annual event for low-power (QRP) radio amateurs. The event lasts four hours and the objective is to make as many contacts with other low-power operators as possible.

QRP generally means five watts or less for CW Mode (Morse Code) operators and 10w or less for voice (phone) operators. Operations can be home or portable.

With only a few watts to work with, signals can be very weak and operating in a low noise environment with a good antenna becomes important to making contacts. Because of the noise at my home, I usually operate portable. I have some favorite places to set up my portable station and play radio.

This morning I woke about my normal time, rose, made a cup of coffee, and working through my morning routine. I decided to get out and walk Sera, then go up in the Pinion Hills and set up a station and play a little.

It was smoky this morning, but not as bad as it has been. The day promised to be smoky and hot, with afternoon temperatures near 100F. We got in a good walk and then headed for the operating point just after 0930h local.

On the way, I decided to deploy my kit-built EFHW in an inverted “L” configuration using a 10m telescopic mast. I found a anchor point for the mast (an old juniper tree that was cut off at about 4ft. I ran the wire from the wire winder along the mast, tied it off near the top of the mast, and then lashed the mast (and vertical portion of the wire) to the juniper. I tied a bit of cordage to the end of the wire and used that to tie off on another juniper, forming the leg of the inverted “L.”

This is a good antenna and is reasonably tuned to resonate on 10m, 15m, 20m, and 40m. The 30m band was not in the band plan for the event, so there was no loss not having access to the 30m band.

I deployed my Elecraft KX2 with power from a 4.5Ah Bioenno LFP battery and a PowerFilm foldable solar panel. (I was not sure of the state of charge of the battery.) Given I was going to run only 5w, I knew that power usage would be minimal. My station was set up in the shade of the open hatch of my 4Runner.

Doggo was tired and hot, so she laid in the dust out of the sun. I moved an old furniture blanket to give her some relief from the dust. I also retrieved water and her bowl from the rig and both of us got a drink.

I was about an hour late getting started. I am not a serious contester anyway. I just like to play some radio. I started by searching for a few SOTA (Summits on the Air) activators, but quickly noticed two things: First, some kind of contest was ongoing and there were a lot of stations on the air. Second, I heard a couple of stations calling “CQ BZZ” and that meant I could hear Skeeters!

So I abandoned the SOTA chase and focused on the skeeters! I had not prepared a digital log, so paper would have to do. I worked the runners steadily, looking for the loudest first since they were easier to copy. The operators were patient with me as my code skills are still developing. I noticed that a few operators were running slowly, so I added some space between characters to give them a chance to copy my callsign and information. Good operators accommodate slower operators. It is the right thing to do.

Over the course of the next three hours, I logged a dozen contacts. The farthest was in Florida, which is not bad for five watts. I spent most of my time on the 20m band as that is where I heard them. I checked 40m and 15m, but heard no skeeters calling.

Tired, hot, and hungry, I shut down about 1350h local. There was only another ten minutes and I was ready to be out of the heat. So was The Girl.

I took my time packing the station, gave The Girl some more water and drank some myself. The smoke had worsened as the day wore on.

I put the transfer case in 4L and we eased back down the trail to the pavement. Then I switched back to AWD and we drove over to DQ for a bite and a treat. Of course, I ate dessert first (love me some Blizzard) and shared with The Girl. (I always share with her.) Then I nibbled at some chicken strips and shared those with her as well.

It was a good day, despite the heat and smoke. Some of the contacts were difficult, requiring multiple repeats. The signal would fade into the noise and I could only copy part of the exchange. But we worked the radio waves and made the exchange.

One operator called me over the runner’s frequency just as I finished working the station. I thought “how rude!” (oh my, that sounded like Jar Jar Binks!) and did not answer the call. I am not quite sure how I should have handled that call. Perhaps I should have sent “up one” and changed the frequency. I do not know but will ask one of my more experienced operator friends.

In all, I made 12 contacts in 10 different states/provinces. The KX2 performed. I practiced my code. I had fun, even if some of the exchanges were a challenge. I think that is part of the fun or radio and QRP (low power).