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A few words from Rob K9RST…

Ham radio and making new friends

I am in the process of preparing for Field Day…a ritual that I have done for many years now.  I remember when I was asked to take over Field Day, many years ago, I picked up the club’s inventory of equipment from the person who had been running the event and I was surprised when he handed me three grocery bags of cable and wire!  Today, we have close to 30 storage tubs of antennas, coax, PR materials, tents - a complete movable feast.  In fact, we need a small truck to carry it all! My interest in Field Day started  partly from my days as a Boy Scout leader, when I had to manage the equipment for a growing troop with nearly 100 scouts. Field Day is considerably less complicated…or is it?  The best part of Field Day today is that we have developed one heck of a solid team of like-minded individuals who have really made the project fun.  We have a steering committee with at least 12 people – and a huge supporting cast of folks who come out to support Field Day.   Which brings me to the point of this month’s blog…ham radio is about making friends!  I never imagined that my interest in this hobby would introduce me to such a wonderfully diverse, bright group of people.  I know most of us come to the hobby to explore electronics or because we like talking on the radio, and over the years I have pursued those activities with vigor.

But the fringe benefit has been the great friends I have made along the way, from all walks of life.  I can count lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, librarians, businessmen, that have all been attracted to this hobby.  What has been truly marvelous is that while we all have strong political feelings,  that is not what draws us together.  We have plenty of great subjects to discuss without even considering what political or religious persuasion they might hold.   Of course, we can have those kinds of discussions as well,  but in these days of super polarized positions, it is kind of fun to remember what it is like to talk to someone about something other than politics or the economy!  They all may have started out as Elmers, but along the way, they became great friends.

This week, I ran into Bill Steffey, NY9H, a long time member of NSRC who was very active in the local ham radio community until he moved to Pennsylvania a few years ago.  Bill took his great enthusiasm for the hobby along with his huge tower and antennas and has slowly built a ham radio community around him at his new QTH.  He is now President and Field Day Chair for his local club, which has about 125 members.  And I recently saw Mike Anderson, WV7T, another long standing member of this club. When he and his wife moved to Colorado Springs, they took their hobby with them.  Mike is now the center of a robust community largely of his own making.  He has become a very active teacher for all ham license grades.  

These are just some of the folks that I have gotten to know locally, who now are in different parts of the country – still working the hobby.  This doesn’t include the growing number of operators around the world that I have also begun to get to know.  I am not the most aggressive DX’er, but I have done enough to have made friends in several countries, some of whom I have looked up while I was in Germany or France, for instance.

As I was talking to a new group of ham’s at Rich Davidson’s VE exam the other night, I was reflecting on the 10 VE’s who were there to help out, and the number of terrific people that this club and this hobby has brought into my life.  This is one of the fringe benefits of ham radio that I just never imagined would become so valued.  In fact, some of my ham radio buddies have become my best buddies.  Sometimes sharing a cup of coffee – having an eyeball QSO – has kept me off the radio, but make no mistake, ham radio is what brought us together in the first place.

So, get on the radio – make a friend for life.

See you all on Field Day.

Rob K9RST

Back to Dayton

When I first went to Dayton, many years now, I was certainly amazed by the scale and scope of the event.  In those heady days, I was building up my inventory of required gear, so it was always a rush to see how much I could buy in the few days I was there.  Since then, I have purchased less gear but have gained more knowledge.  I have gone to the forums, seminars and, for the past 4 years, I have been attending the activities at the “Four Days in May” QRP hotel.  This happened largely as a way to find a decent hotel, but I  have come to really enjoy the QRP event.  The seminars are first rate (although some beyond my knowledge…but good to stretch your brain a bit once in a while), and the displays and vendors are unique. 

In the early days, I would try to find the cheapest hotel I could…and I now know that that doesn’t get you much of a room in Dayton.  Tim McGuire and I shared a room that might have cost us each $35!  I don’t think they even changed the sheets but once a week!  The shower was a total disaster…the entire lower third of the shower stall had eroded and fallen away, so basically, you could see the bare walls around the outside of the shower.  The place was a total pit.  After that, I was determined to spend a few more dollars on accommodations and less on gear and I have been very happy with the choice.  

So I am heading back to Dayton again this year, leaving on Wednesday to attend the QRP event on Thursday.  Typically I hit the outdoor stalls on Friday and the seminars and inside vendors on Saturday.  For the past couple of years, I have had to come back Saturday night to attend family events on Sunday, and that will be the routine again this year.  Over the few years I have been going to Dayton, it has changed…the outdoor stalls are not nearly as jammed with gear as they once were…although I am glad to see the trend has moved away from selling tons of used computer junk and there are many more vintage radios on display, many way beyond what I can afford, but at least there are radios. 

The Arena is not holding its age well. Last year’s great sewage disaster was a total mess…some pipeline broke right in the middle of the outdoor lots and left a rather nasty, smelly affair that was difficult to avoid and harder to cross.  I went back indoors to avoid the stench outside.  Still, Dayton is the Mecca for anything ham radio, and even though the hobby has changed tremendously since I got back into the game, it is really terrific to see so many enthusiastic ham radio operators in attendance. 

I have been radio-silent for about two months now, since I have been working almost non-stop on a couple of pressing projects, so I am totally stoked about heading to that tired little town in Ohio.  For at least four days, Dayton is the center of the known universe for many of us who have come to love amateur radio.

Rob
K9RST

Hello from Mike WV7T

Many of you may not know Mike Anderson, WV7T. He is a long-standing member of the North Shore Radio Club who now lives with his wife Rhoda in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike when he was stationed here at the Great Lake Naval Base. In fact, Mike was my mentor for many things when I first was in the hobby. He taught me about building practical antennas out of almost anything. He was my first packet contact – and helped me build a packet station with parts that he had laying around his house.

Fact is, that is exactly what Mike is still doing now that he is officially retired. He is the unofficial ambassador for ham radio on the western front. I saw him recently when I was in Colorado Springs for a video project and I swung by his place. He lives just north of town in a small house that is completely wrapped in antennas. He has an antenna for almost every band and for almost every configuration that his small lot will allow. From his shack, he has worked WAS QRP and all sorts of other awards…so nothing has slowed him down. In his teaching, he now mentors all ham classes…and has just helped three people to the Extra. He told them that he never has taught Extra Class, but why should that stop him? Well, their success is testament to his ability to teach. I had forgotten what an amazingly generous person Mike can be…as he told me of his weekly schedule, helping hams around town with equipment, antennas or whatever. Some things never change, including his back office…totally filled from ceiling to floor with parts from computers that he is in the process of recovering and bringing back to life. Foolishly, I did not bring a camera, so I can’t show you pictures to prove that Mike is alive and well and available for QSO’s with any NSRC’er willing to aim a beam in his direction.

I hope you have all survived the huge solar flare that recently enveloped out atmosphere. I did unplug all of my antennas and was surprised this morning when I learned from the news that most services were not disrupted – except for certain ham radio frequencies! Ham radio frequencies? Do you mean there are still people using ham radio HF frequencies…I had to stop to make sure I heard the announcer right. We actually made the news!

I have been exceptionally busy with work projects, so I have had no time to work the bands, or even think about ham radio, sorry to say. So, I have to live vicariously through your own experiences.

73
K9RST

In the magazine section

I took a break from my daily routines to spend some time at a local book store (yes, there are still a few of those around, thank goodness!). I thought I would explore the magazine section, the ever dwindling magazine section, to see what radio communication magazines there were on sale. It was a tough problem. They were buried under the fashion magazine, next to the hobby and fishing section behind the home electronics magazines. You had to get on your knees and dig through the pile and discover them behind all of the other, more popular choices. There I found some interesting magazines…Monitoring Times and CQ Magazine. Now, I realize that ham radio was never a huge section, at most I would only find few pretty obvious titles: QST, CQ, Monitoring Times and some British magazines. Not that magazines are a barometer of the health of our hobby, but it says something about how visible our hobby is to the world. I mean, we’ve lost almost all of the retail storefronts. There are hardly any ham radio retail stores anymore, almost everything has moved to the Internet. Of course, that assumes that people know to look for such places there. My point is, we have a huge opportunity to tell our story.

So, I bought Monitoring Times and was comforted by the very familiar stories it was presenting. I started out as a short wave listener, so their article on the Russian Woodpecker Array from the 70’s brought back some great memories of me trying to understand the nature of the sound and its purpose. It was widely believed be a jamming device – and fed my old Cold War phobias about nuclear doomsday scenarios. I grew up in a day when we would do nuclear attack drills in school. At the appointed hour, we would all get under our desks and…well, pray. I don’t know what the nuns thought they were protecting us from, because if there were a real nuclear blast, we would have been vaporized with our books. But, it did break up the day from the lesson plans, so we all went along with the drill. Turns out, the Woodpecker was really a radar early warning system that the Russians used to detect potential offensive strikes on their borders. That was what fascinated me about radio – it carried all sorts of mysterious sounds or mysterious languages and programming from around the globe. I loved to listen to other countries blasting our politics. Short wave provided a perspective to our everyday life that main stream television didn’t provide. Not sure much of that is around anymore…seems that China still maintains a pretty aggressive shortwave presence and the BBC has all but gone to the Internet, which has left the airwaves free for every type of religious programming, mostly from the US. There are some fascinating new things out there…like radio bloggers…people who have taken to the airwaves to just offer their POV on all sorts of things, mostly fairly extreme. So, shortwave still is around but it has just become less engaging, perhaps.

This issue of Monitoring Times was all about listening to various kinds of emergency traffic. They also had a fascinating article on antennas, showing some fun methods that cell phone companies have employed to hide their antennas. Seems that the world hates antennas! They also had a great little article on an antenna that was designed by an Artificial Intelligence computer for satellite service. Basically, they plugged in all of the parameters, power sources, uses and it came up with a shape that looked like the frame of a tiny tree you would use on a HO train model set! They are actually going to deploy the antenna in space!! So, there are still plenty of fun things to be explored by this hobby…somehow we need to be able to share our love of listening, antennas, knobs and buttons, electronics with younger (and even not so younger) generations. If we could get them to understand the power of discovering the world with their ears, we might have a chance of capturing the imagination of the next generation before we lose them entirely to the touchpad.

73 Rob K9RST

Steve Jobs and "KISS"

Many of you have heard me rail about my little grandson’s predilection for fiddling with my ham radio equipment, so let me pick on someone else in the family now! My mom called the other day…seems that Comcast had re-wired the TV cable system in her condo once again. (They can’t seem to agree on a method, so one tech comes in and undoes what the other had done.) Well, her TV still didn’t work! So what to do? Call in her ham radio trained son to stop by. I have seen this problem before – too many stupid remote control devices! She’s got one for the VCR, and one for the TV and one from Comcast and they all don’t play nice together. Sure, Comcast’s device allows you to control most of your equipment…but it means you have to have your TV set to the proper channel first. Took me about three minutes to solve her problem, but it really got me wondering what the future will be like when I am 82 years old. What crazy array of cobbled technology will I have to face and what friendly person will come in and show me how to turn my TV set on? The more complex things get, the most complex things get!

Which brings me to one of the books I have been reading lately. Steve Jobs’ biography. This book has been fascinating. First, it is amazing that he earned nearly $250 million by the time he was 25 years old! That’s enough right there to give you pause. I never really paid that much attention to the inner workings of Apple or Microsoft so it has been interesting to see how closely Bill Gates and Steve Jobs worked together on many things. What struck me most interesting though, is how much a role ham radio played in his life in the early days. Steve was not a ham, but he made friends with many people who were hams, and who had parts that he could borrow or purchase to build some of their early devices. Electronics, computers in the early 70’s was a very exciting time – it was the intersection of a new emerging field of computing with the ever evolving field of electronics. Steve and his buddy Wozniak were tinkerers. They enjoyed combining things in different ways that became the foundation for the company they would eventually start. The brilliance of Steve Jobs, perhaps wasn’t his engineering skills but his ability to see through the clutter to find a way to make technology simple. To make it work for the common man.

Steve left us all too soon. I wish Steve were still around to help us improve the TV controller mess…well, actually, we have put ourselves in the middle of bunch of really big technological messes. Phones are too complex – and hardly even work like phones any more, in fact, they are more like cameras than phones. Sometimes it is good to step outside the box and look around to see if there is a better way to get things done. Schools don’t teach that skill directly…but some people have a knack for seeing the world in a different light. I think it is interesting that Steve Jobs never finished college…but took many courses that appear really off the wall - art, eastern philosophy, typography – all of which played a huge role in helping define the products that Apple would one day make. So before you coach your kids or grand kids about taking “practical” courses in college – think about Steve Jobs. Take a bite out of that apple!

Meanwhile, the bands are heating up – 10, 15, 20 meters are all humming again. Time to put the soldering iron down and hit the mic button or the CW key! See you on the bands.

Single Sideband and Grandkids

CQWWSSB – I had such good intentions.  My wife was leaving town to visit her parents and it looked like I would have the entire weekend to play with my ham radio.  My 4 year old grandson plays a huge part in this story, as you will find out.

Last week, we took Aiden to his first really big hobby show.  His already huge blue eyes were popping even brighter at the sight of all of the radio control devices - helicopters, blimps, planes, trains (even a complete Lego train set).  Well,  papa (that’s me) had to make sure that little Aiden could see all of these fun toys close up, so I pulled him up to my chest and held him high.  I mean, all grandparents do this!  His mouth was right next to my nose.  Well, I forgot about his cold and cough…as he blasted me all day with errant germ-like particles.  A week goes by, and I am fighting something off, but it was not enough to drop me to my knees…yet.

So I talk to Randy K9OR about the upcoming CQWWSSB contest and fire up the computer, the rig, the antennas…hey it is all working pretty well, or so it seemed.  I go to make a transmission to a DX station on a remote island…and I can’t be heard!? I dig around and can’t figure out what is up…everything is connected. What’s up?  Eventually I discover one of the mic switch buttons on the remote control for the Pro III is in the wrong position…off!  And then I remember, my grandson loves to climb into my shack and pull the mic down and hit all of the buttons on my rig (like his sister, he wants to be a rock star!).  He flipped a switch that basically took my mic off line.  By the time I solved the problem, the world discovered my little DX team and they got slammed with a mind numbing pileup.  So the next day…

…Friday morning, the day of the contest, I wake with a 102 degree temperature.  I have no voice!  I am totally clobbered with the cold that has taken me out for a full week.  I missed the contest and the opportunity to get on the air while the wife was out of town! This week, however, I am ready!! Where’s the next contest?

(Rob - dust off the key - CW Sweepstakes is ths weekend - starts 4p local Sat Nov 5 see http://www.arrl.org/sweepstakes - 73 Randy K9OR)

North Shore Century and Chicago Marathon

I just finished a couple of weeks of ham radio related public service projects. In all cases, it was very rewarding to see the number of hams step up to provide our unique service to some of these events. Yes, these were not natural disasters, but certainly they could be considered potentially life threatening, if not life challenging!

North Shore Century

First, the Club has helped the Evanston Bike Club now for 5 years with their North Shore Century Bike Event. Basically, there are about 2000 registered bicyclists who sign up to do one of several possible routes, from 25 miles to 100. The course stretches from Dawes Park in Evanston all the way to Kenosha, Wisconsin and back. Having driven the course a few times as a member of the SAG (Support Team), I can tell you it is one very long way to go on a bike! Our duties have evolved over time - largely we help with SAG teams to find bicyclists who have called in to a help number and need assistance either with their bicycle or to be moved to a rest area. For a long time, this work was done with cell phones, and it proved to be a very difficult task. Not only was it hard to track the locations of the various cars, but many of the drivers never answered phones. They asked us a few years back to help them…using radios. Well, it was a perfect fit for our Club. We added a couple of interesting dimensions to the piece as time evolved. We have about 12 APRS tracker units that we have placed on the SAG vehicles so that we can immediately see where our resources are and have a pretty good idea of how to deploy them. Furthermore, using radios, we can dispatch messages to a larger pool of folks and find solutions more readily than if there were only one point of contact (you might have to make 10 phone calls to find out that one person is closer to a response call than another car). We also placed hams at all of the staged relief stations to help with supplies, and they also served as relays to the SAG cars. This year we had 24 ham radio people and about 14 bicycle people, which is a total response team of about 38. It is large project to keep all of the people deployed properly. The weather conditions this year were terrible for a bike event. It rained almost all day…and one of the problems with rain is that glass and sharp objects tend to stick to the tires more. We had a huge number of wheel related incidents this year. The other issue, that we still have not totally resolved, is how to track all of the events so that we are aware of what got done and what is still open. There were many times at the net control station when there was almost too much going on and it was tough to know how well we were managing the incidents. Every year, we handle about 100 calls for transport or assistance. We usually handle or hear about 3 or 4 serious accidents, requiring ambulance transport. Most of the serious accidents get handled with cell phones on the spot. So, while it might seem like fairly benign activity, it turns out that we have become crucial to the success of the event. I would like to thank the core team from the NSRC who worked this event and the number of good folks from Lake County RACES who jumped in to help at the last minute. It was great to show how Ham radio can be used to serve our community.

Hams support the Chicago Marathon

On a much larger scale, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon held its 35th annual run in October. For the third year, ham radio operators helped provide critical medical support from the 21 field hospitals to the ambulance dispatch service in the main event command tent. We had 120 ham radio operators from three states that provided support. Some drove long distances to help out (Peoria, Quincy, and Milwaukee, to name a few). This year, along with our usual medical traffic, we were asked to provide some medical metrics from the course to help the organizers manage their response. We kept track of the number of patients in each Aid Station and asked the doctors from each Aid Station to provide some sense of the “stress” they were facing…measured using a combination of patient numbers, supplies, and support. The reports were called back to net control on a half hour basis and entered into a Google Apps program so that it could be examined by a number of event officials. This year, the event was warm – not as hot as in previous years, but warm enough for us to need to carefully track runner conditions. Every year, we learn more about our abilities and our capabilities. There were certainly some failures along the way (we had a repeater that didn’t work as we had hoped), but by and large, we were a very organized team. After the event, the medical doc in charge of the entire team of 1200 medical professionals sang our collective praises. We were able to provide him a clear sense of how his medical teams were responding to the runners. Once again, the North Shore Radio Club was very well represented. We had almost 14 members in key positions, both on the leadership team and also in many of the operator positions along the 26.2 mile course. The remarkable part of this experience was how we as a ham community have responded. We had 8 repeater systems from many different clubs available for this assignment. We had hams representing almost 26 different organizations. Collectively, through this work, many key city officials have taken note of what we have done and have seen first-hand how the ham radio community can be an effective resource if needed. Planning has already begun for both events already for next year! Join us!

Rob
K9RST

A busy weekend for ham radio

This was a busy weekend for ham radio, for me anyway. Saturday I stopped by the W9DXCC convention at the Holiday Inn in Elk Grove Village.  This is always a well-attended event with lots of fun and learning.  This year was no different.  It is always amazing to hear the elaborate adventures some of these folks have done to light up a rare island or work a rare country.  This event has always inspired me to go on a DXpedition.  Basically, it’s Field Day with a boat or helicopter in the middle!  This group also seems to attract the more extreme adventurers in our hobby – they had one ham who was building an amateur radio contest station from the ground up, starting with the purchase of 20 acres of degraded farm land and then building 14 sixty-five foot towers to support all manner of antennas.  The best I could ever hope for might be to spend a weekend at this station too work some contest, but upon reflection, it strikes me as an interesting model for future hams.  With more and antenna restrictions, it might be the best way for us to get a really decent signal out. Perhaps hams in the future can buy timeshares on just such a remote antenna farm and connect to it with the various IP services out there to bring your home station to the remote site.  Well, like much of the W9DXCC, thought provoking.  I had to leave this event in order to prepare for another aspect of the hobby: a public service event.

On Sunday, 24 ham radio operators from the NSRC and Lake County RACES joined forces to assist bicyclists who rode the Evanston Bicycle Club’s North Shore Century.  The hams provided radio communication and APRS coverage for the SAG (Support and Gear) cars.  While the story is partly about the heroics of serving – many of the hams were dispatched to some far off parks and provided support to the rest area teams out there - the real story was the way that a group of ham radio operators were able to use their resources and skills to provide some top quality, professional support to the event.  Cyclists called in from routes as far away as Racine, seeking support from the club. Broken tires or broken people (we had 4 emergency calls), we handled them all.  We dispatched cars to the callers and by using APRS, we were able to see which of our cars was closest to the incident. Actually, the technology worked very well.  Certainly, the more events we do like this, the better our skills become.  Having spent half of the day in the net control tent, I can’t stress enough the need for clear, concise communications at public service events.  It is interesting to see the different traffic handling styles.  You have the reporters, who tell you much more than you need to know and you have the speed clippers, who only answer the questions you ask.  For this fairly informal event both styles were fine, but from the net control perspective,  you would be amazed how tiring it gets to hear complicated reports, especially when you are juggling phone calls, other radio calls and handling orders.  Not unlike working DX, I learned that timing is as important as broadcasting.  You need to get the attention of the person you are speaking with before communication can occur.  Hats off to the entire team for doing such fine work.

Rob
K9RST

Back from Kenya

Had my sponsors explained the full details of my trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I am not sure I would have gone.  I knew we were heading off to the far north bush country of Kenya to meet up with some tribal people…I knew that we would not have electricity, water or any measure of creature comforts…what I was not prepared for was the incredible dust that filled every crevice and was a constant nuisance to the camera, or that I had to ford a river by walking through it (I did lose my still camera to that one). The hardships were real: snakes, scorpions and mosquitoes all around us…but the beauty of the people and the landscape far made up for the hardships.  I was there on a documentary project hired by the Christian Orthodox church to create a short video that showed the work they are doing in this part of the world. It was an amazing journey, the details of which I will save for another blog. What I wanted to share with you here was my experience with the wireless world I thought I had left behind.

In the old days of missionary work, it was quite common for a minister to get his ham license so he could talk to his colleagues back home. This was not only for health and welfare traffic, but really provided a simple social network for the men in the field.  In fact, I was talking to someone from the Divine Word Missionary (the place where we house some of our repeaters) and was told that it was common for the priests there to get their ham ticket before they departed for their ultimate mission destinations.  That is no longer the case.  Ham radio has been replaced by cell phones.

Yes, after driving 5 hours in the absolute bush, through dusty, misshapen roads, when we arrived at our tribal village that was to be our home, we were able to get cell service!  Largely this was for text messaging (I suspect because the cost is high for a voice call).  And, to be sure, it was not the indigenous people using the phones, it was members of our team.  All Land Rovers, in this part of the world, come equipped with a monster HF whip antenna mounted to the front bumper…but I never saw a single radio!  The airports had lots of HF antennas, so I know they are used for something, but the common person uses his cell phone.  Even the Archbishop in Nairobi, with whom we met and interviewed, spent most of his time texting to people in the field.  That is how the church works these days!

Meanwhile, back to one of my first challenges - getting power to charge my video camera batteries. Originally, I was told that we would be dropped off by a driver and then left in the back country for several days to camp.  With no Jeep, we would have no power.  Eventually, that changed, but I had to prepare a plan where I could be completely independent of truck batteries.  It took awhile, but I eventually I found a gentleman in Boston who specializes in making solar battery systems for the film and video industry.  In fact, he was making a set for a team going to shoot on K2 when we spoke.  He agreed to help me out – we worked out the specs for the project and I left him to it.  Two days before I was to leave, I had not heard from him and I was getting concerned.  I called and he said he was just putting the finishing touches on the unit and would ship it out FedEx for overnight delivery. It arrived the next day…with a note from him apologizing for the shipping cost.  Turns out overnight express for the charger and the panel was half the cost of the system!  Ouch.  Anyway, he delivered a brilliant little self contained charging system…20 watt solar panel that feeds into a smart control panel that manages the power to the battery.  The output was three cigarette lighter plugs…because that is what many of the commercial camera battery chargers use.  Well, the system worked great.  I charged all of my batteries everyday and on some occasions, even helped charge the cell phone my colleagues had brought.  Now I have a terrific little system that I can use to power a QRP station!  I am eager to find new ways to torture test this little device!

So, I am now back on home turf.  Had to spend my first days repairing my wire antennas that had been dropped by falling tree limbs while I was gone!  Now that I am almost back to normal (jet lag bothered me for about a day), I am recharged and set to go out again.  BTW, I was thrilled to be able to contact my wife by text messaging a few times myself, so I am a believer – the world is getting smaller thanks to wireless technologies.  Also, turns out that in this part of the world, electricity is difficult to come by, even in the large cities.  In parts of Tanzania, they had to ration electrical power because of a water shortage (they relied on hydro power and the water levels were too low to produce enough juice for the city).  Power would go out randomly…and, of course, people adapted…almost every business has their own diesel or smaller power plant!  Made for a noisy, smelly city.

Glad to be home and very grateful for what I have.

73’s
K9RST
Rob

What I did on the 4th! Or how to exercise my parkway freedoms

As many of you know, just before Field Day, we had several monster storms pass through town.  Virtually all of my wire antennas came down, largely because the trees supporting them fell over. 

It took a long while to try to collect the parts from the broken tree branches, but to my surprise, most of the antenna elements survived.  Of course, Field Day got in between me and the trees…and Ed Burckart kindly took my Super Sling Shot string and cleaned it up. So I get all of my gear back on the 4thof July and set out to put up my antennas.  But where to go with them?  The old trees were now gone! 

Well, I looked a little farther down the line, and there was an even taller cottonwood sitting on the parkway (the space between my property and the city/county)…almost a no man’s land.  So, I set out to install my antennas.  Turns out, to shoot the trees was not going to be all that easy, since on the one side the weight and lead string could land on Lake Ave (and into busy traffic)…and I didn’t want to be on Lake Ave with my trusty over- sized sling shot shooting back toward my yard.  That’s all I’d need is the Glenview Police investigating some guy with an 8 foot sling shot!  Who knows what weapons charges I would face.  So I did everything stealthy and from my yard.  I did have to climb atop my garage to make the one shot…but in almost all cases, I was a one-shot wonder.  Aim, shoot and direct hit.  I was deadly, if I may say so myself.  

The problem was as a one man band, I had to shoot the tree, load the heavier rope, pull the rope, bring up the antenna, avoid the neighbors’ trees, climb the ladder, jump on the roof, etc.  The point is, it took most the day on the 4th.  I got to thinking, while I was doing all of this, how wonderful this country is that I could even be doing any of this sort of work. I mean there are still countries where you cannot use radios, of course, there are places in our country where you cannot put up antennas.  That’s a different problem…and was not part of my stream of conscious inner dialogue.  Well, 3 p.m.  I got all of the antennas back up before the grandkids showed up —-if I had left them on the ground, I am sure my little grandson would have found some crazy project to make them into! A fort. Tug of war rope…who knows. After Field Day, it was good to get back to fixing the antennas in my own back yard.

Speaking of Field Day, it was really a wonderful experience.  I met some wonderful new people, many of whom want to get into the hobby.  I worked a bunch of folks while on the SSB station.  I had a couple of great 80 meter runs that were actually fun to be part of.  You call out CQ and people come bounding back to you!  How often do we get to work the other end of a pile up?  It was great to see so many folks attend our picnic.  The weather was perfect and the park was spectacular.  Basically, we showed that we can have a Field Day in a remote park and, with the right advertising, the people will come.  Thanks to the many hands who helped make this year’s Field Day so special.

Rob
K9RST