Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Mini Paddle

Yesterday I received a kit I ordered from American Morse Company. I ordered the DCP Paddle kit which is a miniature iambic paddle made with aircraft grade aluminum. Once constructed the paddle it only  1 1/2 x 1 7/8 x 1 3/16. It's compact and lightweight, so it's perfect for backpacking and portable use. Thank you to Doug - W6AME for your great customer service and quick shipping of the kit! 

DCP Paddle Kit from American Morse

The kit was very well made and easy to put together. I had the entire thing done in less than 30 minutes and ready to operate.

Assembling the DCP Paddle

I really enjoy the raw aluminum finish and the overall look of the paddle. I am very excited to not only show this new paddle off to fellow hams tomorrow evening at our "CW meetup" but also to pack it up this week and take it along with my QRP radio to North Carolina where I plan to do some mountain top operating. I plan to share my experience with this paddle in a future post.

It's complete - I really enjoy how it looks

Building kits is a ton of fun, this is an easy one that I'm sure anyone can do at home. What do you like to build? Do you have a story about a recent kit you built that you would like to share? Please comment below.

Until next time, 72 de Mike W9ODX

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CQ Lunch

Ivin and I have discussed doing a "lunch hour" contest in an effort to encourage each other to get out and operate, even if it's just during a lunch break throughout the week. I then thought, if we were going to do this why not invite others to join us?

I have proposed the following to our local "QRP group" here in Central Indiana and I would like to share it with our blog readers as well. The event would last for one month and would be limited to one hour per day, your lunch hour. Please review the idea below and let us know what you think.

Purpose: To practice and encourage the use of portable/mobile amateur radio and operating at QRP power levels. Participants will drive to a remote location during their regular lunch hour, away from their home or work, and complete as many QSOs as possible using a portable/mobile station with a mobile antenna attached to their vehicle.

Dates: One Month (Monday - Friday)

Time: One Hour per day during your lunch hour
Modes: CW or SSB
Exchange: Call, RST, State (or Country if DX)

Special Rules: QRP power levels - 5w CW & 10w SSB

Points: 2 points for each CW QSO & 1 point for each SSB QSO

Multipliers: x2 points if other station is mobile & x2 points if other station is QRP

Do you know how we might make this more fun and interesting? Would you be interested in joining us? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

72 de Mike W9ODX

Sunday, October 8, 2017

SKCC Weekend Sprint

Looking for a fun way to practice your CW copy and speed? There are a variety of Sprints available throughout the month, including my favorite... the SKCC Weekend Sprint (WES).

Sprints - A great way to have fun with CW

This weekend was the October edition of the SKCC WES and even though I only participated for a few hours I had a blast! The bands were packed full of CW signals last night and I was able to complete QSOs from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in-between using just 5 watts and a simple antenna constructed from the gutters on my house. The more I use CW the more I am amazed at what I can do with it at such low power. Sprints are not only fun to participate in but also a great way for new CW operators to get on the air and practice their CW skills. The QSOs are short and simple, mostly just containing callsigns, RST report, QTH, and club numbers. In addition, the SKCC WES typically goes at a slower speed then most other contest making it more inviting for newer CW operators to join in the fun. I would encourage you to give it a try for yourself and see what I mean.

Would you like to find our more about SKCC or the SKCC Weekend Sprints? You can visit their webpage by CLICKING HERE or by directing your web browser to

The SKCC offers something for everyone, regardless of your skill level. With a variety of contest, awards, challenges and more there is always something to do to help keep operating CW fun. If you are brand new to CW there is even a beginners corner and elmer program available to you, just CLICK HERE to check out beginners corner.

What do you do or participate in that helps keep CW fun for you? Please share in the comments below.

Until next time, 72 de Mike W9ODX

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ham Lunch

Ham for Lunch

I had plans to do a "Ham Lunch" this week but Mother Nature had other ideas. The plan was to find a few parks within driving distance from work, setup a station, get on the air and complete some QSOs, and then head back to work all within the lunch hour. I could even pack a ham sandwich to eat while on the air. When I setup my plans I had no idea that we would see 3 straight days of rain this week. After all, we have had drought type conditions over the last 8 weeks here in Central Indiana with little to no rain. I don't want to complain though as we really do need the rain here. There is always next week, so plans are just going to have to wait until then. The forecast for late next week is looking great with fall temps arriving.

Our 7-day Forecast

Thanks to Ivin - W9ILF for posting about our trip to Cages Mill Lake last weekend. The lake was very peaceful and fun to operate from. If you missed Ivin's post you can read it by CLICKING HERE. Ivin is a good friend who has been a great elmer to me during my CW learning process. He loves to operate outdoors as much as I do and I look forward to reading more about his adventures on this blog.

Ivin - W9ILF operating at Cages Mill Lake

Our view at Cages Mill Lake while operating

I am currently searching for a good "portable" or "mini" key to use while operating outdoors. My Vibroflex keyer is awesome, but it's also very heavy and over 50 years old. I'm looking for something more portable and lightweight that I can carry in my backpack along with the radio. If you have any suggestions please comment below.

Thanks for reading the blog. If you know someone who is interested in ham radio, CW, or operating outdoors please point them in this direction.

Until next time, 72 de Mike - W9ODX

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cagles Mill Lake


Hello,  This is my first post for the Adventures With CW.  My name is Ivin W9ILF.

I’m sure I will post more about what I do with QRP as time goes on.  Today, However I want to talk about the weekend.  

This weekend was POTA (Parks On The Air).  Parks on the air is sponsored by the ARRL and is similar to other outdoor operating entities.  What I appreciate about POTA is that there are more state parks in Indiana than there are Summits.  We have some nice state parks to visit within the state and this weekend it was.... FREE!!  So of course Mike - W9ODX started hatching the plan that we needed to go out to a lake and enjoy a day relaxing.  

We kicked lots of ideas around but settled on the park just north of Cataract falls.  Cagles Mill Lake.  We combined that with my other new hobby, scooter riding.  A couple ham friends Gary and Dan (Dan pictured riding) met at my house and we planned to meet Mike up at the lake.  It was a cold start but warmed up nicely and we sure enjoyed the ride.  Once we all found each other we rode through the park and chose a set up spot right off the lake.  There was a little place to park and just enough loose dirt in the asphalt to get the 40 meter hamstick stuck into the ground and 8 radials.

The band sounded good, but it was 2PM. On 40 meters experience tells me at QRP levels we might struggle.  We listened a lot, called CQ some.  Finally Mike took a break and walked away and just then... BINGO!  I got N2CX.  He was calling CQ POTA!  I copied 1375 which when I look it up is Linn Run State Park, PA.  I need to confirm that with a QSL.  It was a very short exchange but I let Joseph know we were at the state park as well and I will send him a picture.

Mike walked back and of course he missed the whole thing.  Ha ha... Before we knew, it was time to go and that ended up the only QSO of the event.  What a great day of being outdoors. I wish we had more success, but I am looking forward to sharing more pictures and information about QRP/scooter adventures in the future.  For now I encourage you to enjoy fresh air and operate outdoors.

72, Ivin

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Blog Updates & W9ILF

There are a few changes to the blog that I am excited to be able to share with you. The first update you may have already noticed, the physical appearance of the blog. I do my best to keep content fresh and current here, which also includes the way the blog looks. With the change of the season going from Summer to Fall, I felt like it was a great time to switch things up a little with the appearance. I will be doing this several times a year to go along with the seasons and any special events.

I have added a list of links to the page that you might find a useful resource. These links will have something to do with either CW, QRP or Operating Outdoors. You can find these links in the gadget bar on the right side of the blog. If you know of a website that I should add to this list of resources, please let me know. 

Lastly, I would like to welcome my friend and elmer Ivin - W9ILF to the Adventures with CW team! Ivin will be contributing to this blog as a co-author and posting about his adventures with CW as well. I am have been lucky enough to hear several of Ivin's stories in person and I look forward to reading about his future adventures here along with you. 

If you are unsure as to who wrote the blog post that you are reading, all you need to do is check the bottom of the post. As you can see in the photo below each post will tell you who it was "Posted by". 

This is just another way to keep the content here fresh and current and I'm glad to have Ivin on-board. Please comment below or drop me an email and let us know what you think of the blog. Do you have a suggestion for a future post? We'd like to hear those as well.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Friday, September 22, 2017

Extra Extra!

Extra Extra! Read all about it! Last night I took and passed my Amateur Extra Class exam!

I kept the fact that I have been studying for this test a little bit of a secret as I was unsure what was going to happen with my busy schedule. Thank you to all of you that have helped me out along the way. I am extremely fortunate to have had several elmers who have always been there for me to answer my questions along the way as I passed my General exam earlier this Spring and now the Extra exam. I look forward to paying it forward and being an elmer myself one day.

So now what? Well, I can tell you that I plan to spend much more time working on the parts of the hobby that I really enjoy like CW. My goal it to be efficient enough with Morse code to be a valuable team member for Field Day next summer, which means I really need to focus on my copy speed and accuracy. I can also tell you that my callsign will be changing to a shorter and more CW friendly callsign as well. Other than that, I plan to still do what I do and that is enjoy ham radio outdoors and share my Adventures with CW here with you. I hope you have been enjoying the ride along with me?

I would like to give a shout out to the guys at Indiana Elmer Network. This group has been with me all year as I upgraded to General and now Extra. I have had the opportunity to attend a number of free classes this past year and I'm very thankful to have this great resource available to me here in Central Indiana. If you are interested in finding out more about the Indiana Elmer Network you can visit their website by CLICKING HERE and you can also follow them on Facebook by CLICKING HERE. The Indiana Elmer Network is a great resource for anyone interested in amateur radio and I would encourage you to check them out.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of the blog and what I am posting about. I have several events planned for this fall that I plan to blog about as well.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SOTA, Route 66 & Salmon

Today was a little warmer than normal here in Central Indiana with temps in the mid to upper 80's. While it was not really the best day for operating outdoors, I was in need of a little fresh air this afternoon so I swung by Ivin's house for a little "QRP therapy". After arriving, Ivin and I set up a simple station consisting of my mcHF QRP radio pushing 5 watts through the feedline and out Ivin's vertical antenna located in the backyard. We fired up the radio and found several stations calling CQ on the 20 meter band.

Summits on the Air

Our first stop was in Louisville Colorado where we found John - N0TA calling "CQ SOTA". If you are not familiar with SOTA, it stands for Summits on the Air. SOTA is an amateur radio award program launched in Great Britain in 2002. SOTA's aim is to encourage ham radio operators to operate from mountain top locations across the globe. Points are awarded based upon factors like the height and location of the summit. Anyone can join SOTA and there is no fee to participate. For more information on SOTA you can CLICK HERE. I hope to do some "mountain top ham radio" next month when in North Carolina and I will share my adventures here. John is very active with the SOTA program. According to the SOTA website, John was operating from the summit on Pinkham Mountain which is located just south of the Wyoming and Colorado state line. Pinkham Mountain's peak is a little over 9,200 feet above sea level. John is my first CW QSO from the state of Colorado and also my first SOTA QSO as well. I really look forward to exchanging QSL cards with John and adding the state of Colorado to my WAS effort.

Route 66 / New Mexico

Next we traveled down south to Rio Rancho New Mexico and found Bill - W6H calling CQ. W6H is a special event station celebrating Route 66, America's mother road. Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, was established in 1926 and quickly became America's most popular highway stretching out over 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. You can find out more about this special event station by CLICKING HERE. I've always wanted to travel Route 66 and experience this true piece of American history. I still hope to do it one day soon, but until that happens it was nice to be able to participate in "Route 66 on the Air" honoring the Main Street of America. Thanks Bill! Your signal sounded great here in Central Indiana.

Salmon Run

After getting my kicks on Route 66 we traveled north to the state of Washington where there was a party going on. The Washington State QSO party was in full swing this afternoon with stations calling "CQ SR" for Salmon Run. Apparently the winner not only gets a really cool plaque, but a boat load of fresh salmon delivered to their house as well. How awesome is that? Not sure what we would give away here in Indiana... maybe a truck load of corn? On second thought, that's not such a great idea after all. I was very excited to participate in this QSO party because up until now I have yet to complete a QSO with any stations in Washington. I was lucky enough to have my QRP signal heard by not one, but three stations. I completed QSO's with John - K7LVJ, Dan - W7WA and Doug N7NM, all of who were a little over 2,000 miles away from our location. I really look forward to exchanging QSL cards with these 3 stations and adding the state of Washington to my WAS effort as well. Thanks guys, and good luck with winning the load of salmon!

Wow, what a fun afternoon! Hanging out with Ivin is always fun and I always learn a bunch from watching him operate. Who said QRP CW is no fun? I had a blast traveling across the western half of our country and look forward to doing it again very soon as I continue to work all states with QRP CW. I'm also really looking forward to several trips I have planned for this fall. Stay tuned for more adventures to come!

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

National Traffic System

I have not posted much this past week as work has kept me very busy. I am definitely looking forward to taking a little time off in October! Tonight I checked in and participated with my very first CW net, so I thought I would share that experience here.

The net I checked into is called the Indiana Slow Net. From what I have been able to gather the Indiana Slow Net was originally created to help teach amateur radio operators in Indiana how to check into a net and also how to pass traffic, also known as Radiograms.

ARRL Radiogram

The history of passing traffic can be dated back to 1914 when Hiram Percy Maxim from Hartford Connecticut attempted to send a message to a ham radio station in Springfield Massachusetts. Unable to do so, Hiram remembered that he knew an amateur radio operator that was located about half-way and reached out to him instead. Hiram's message was then forwarded to the station it was intended for in Springfield. At this time, the maximum range for a station was just a few hundred miles so Maxim realized that there was a great need for an organized relay system for amateur radio operators.  Later that year, Maxim and others went on to establish the American Radio Relay League which was originally created for the purpose of passing traffic.

Hiram Percy Maxim / Co-Founder of the ARRL

Participating with the National Traffic System (NTS) not only sounds like another great way of helping to preserve the history of amateur radio, but it also sounds like a lot of fun too. Tonight's net was on 80 meters and my 5 watt QRP signal was heard across the state. I will admit, I was a nervous wreck checking in. It was almost like my first CW QSO in a way, but somehow I managed to work through the nervousness and complete my check-in. I had a blast and I look forward to continuing to participate in this net and hopefully the Indiana Traffic Net one day as well.

The icing on the cake this evening was hearing my friends and elmers join me by checking into the net as well. I took advantage of the fact that one of my good friends and elmer Brian - KB9BVN was on 80m as well tonight. Brian and I were able to QSY to a different frequency after the net and complete a local QSO which was very cool. Brian lives about 26 miles away from me as the crow flies and I'm excited to now have a reason to send him a QSL card. Brian is a fellow blogger known by many and a legend in the QRP world. You can read more about Brian by checking out his blog, just CLICK HERE to check it out for yourself.

Well, I guess that is it for tonight. I need to fill out several QSL cards and get them in the mail. To date I have 26 confirmed QSO's (via QSL card) in my WAS QRP CW effort.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pioneer Park

Last night after work I dodged rain showers to meet Ivin and Gary at Pioneer Park in Mooresville Indiana for a little QRP radio adventure. This is a location that we had thought about having another gathering for QRP/CW in the Park so we wanted to check the park out. Joining us as well was Jeff - KD9FTA. Jeff is a well known local ham that has recently taken more of an interest in QRP/CW and it was great to have him join us last night.

Our QRP station for the evening

The weather was a little chilly last night with temps in the upper 60's and we were keeping and eye to the sky with scattered rain showers across the state. Ivin and Gary arrived first and set up our station for the evening, Ivin's K2 using just 5 watts and his buddi-stick antenna which he simply secured to a grill next to the park shelter. When I arrived to Pioneer Park Ivin and Gary were already on the air and Ivin was in a QSO with a station in Missouri. I took advantage of the free time and took a quick walk around the park. 

Pioneer Park - Mooresville Indiana

Pioneer Park - Mooresville Indiana
Pioneer Park is a small and quiet park in the town of Mooresville Indiana, which was founded in 1824 by Samuel Moore. Moore's family moved from North Carolina in 1818 to Washington County, Indiana, settling near the town of Salem. Samuel moved away from his family and settled in Morgan County in 1822. Moore built a trading post in Brown Township which flourished with business and in 1823 he purchased 20 acres of land close to White Lick Creek. In 1824 Moore platted out the land and developed the town now known as Mooresville.

Samuel Moore's original plan for the town of Mooresville

In 1917 in the Indiana General Assembly adopted in Indiana State Flag that we still use today. The flag was designed by Paul Hadley from Mooresville Indiana as part of Indiana's Centennial Celebration Flag Design contest.

State of Indiana Flag

The rain had picked up in intensity so it was time to seek shelter with Ivin and Gary. Ivin had just finished up his QSO and it was my turn to start calling CQ. I did not have much luck as band conditions were not very good on 40 meters last night so I went with plan B, scan the band and look for someone else calling CQ. As I scanned the band I came across Alan - W4AMV calling CQ and quickly responded to his call. Alan had a strong signal coming into Pioneer Park and I sent him a 599. Unfortunately Alan had a little more difficulty hearing my signal but he was able to copy good enough to complete the QSO. Alan is from Raleigh North Carolina which was about a 500 mile trip for my 5 watt QRP signal to travel. Raleigh is home of North Carolina University so it's safe to say you wont find many Duke fans there. I checked out Alan's QRZ page and found that he has several projects going on and he is really into home-brewing equipment to use. I shared with Alan that I was QRP operating outdoors. Since conditions were not great, I decided to cut the QSO short so that Alan would not need to strain to hear me through the noise. We exchanged 73/72's and signed off. Alan, thanks for the QSO! It was great to meet you and I look forward to doing it again when conditions improve. I will be mailing you a QSL card this week.

After my QSO with Alan the rain had stopped and we were surprised to find a double rainbow behind us that made a very nice backdrop for Ivin's buddi-stick antenna.

Double rainbow - I wonder if there is a pile of radios at the other end?

The sun was setting and the wind was changing from chilly to cold so we decided to pack things up for the evening and grab a bite to eat. Pounding on a CW key sure makes a guy hungry! Once we got everything packed up we decided to meet at a local McDonald's less than 10 minutes down the street. We often meet at this McDonald's throughout the week for coffee or a quick burger and have and opportunity to talk about what we are all up to. We've had several other local hams joins us there from time to time and it's been a great opportunity to network with others, so it seemed like the perfect place to wrap up the evening.

Our local McDonald's on a rainy summer night

The cheeseburger, fries and apple pie hit the spot! You can't beat a meal with friends for less than $5.00. 

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Return trip to Cataract Falls State Park

My last post about my trip to Cataract Falls State Park quickly turned into my most viewed blog entry since creating this blog earlier this summer. Friend and elmer Ivin - W9ILF really enjoyed the photos and wanted to check it out for himself. So we took advantage of the fact that we both had Labor Day off work and made the trip down to Cataract Falls. I must say though, Ivin's mode of travel looked to be much more enjoyable than mine as he recently purchased a Scooter. Ivn enjoyed taking the back roads across the Indiana countryside while I stuck with the highways. Joining Ivin and myself was Gary - KA9ZYL who also rode "scooter mobile" to the falls.

Once we arrived we discovered that unlike my trip last week when I was the only one at the falls other than a few fisherman, everyone from this side of Indiana decided to join us for the holiday and spend time at the falls as well. As crowded as it was we were able to find an empty table close to the upper falls and set up station.

Ivin - W9ILF

So, two months into this project and I've realized something. I have yet to post any photos of myself operating. I guess that because I'm the one always taking the photos? I'll make more of an effort to pass the camera around next time or come up with some kind of ham radio selfie stick when I'm going solo. Anyways, here is a photo of Ivin - W9ILF who was first up to call CQ. 40 meters was not very active so we set up Ivin's buddi-pole antenna for 20 meters and connected the feedline to my mcHF SDR QRP rig. After scanning up and down the band we found Fred KT5X from Sante Fe New Mexico and connected with him. Fred was booming into Central Indiana with a 599 RST and he sent a 579 RST back to us. Ivin and Fred chatted for a while. Fred was sharing with Ivin about how much he enjoys the outdoors, ham radio, and activating SOTA (Summits on the Air). I hope to do some SOTA work in when I travel to the mountains of North Carolina this fall. After Ivin and Fred were done chatting I was able to complete a quick QSO with Fred as well, which was awesome because New Mexico is a new state for me and my WAS QRP CW effort. I shared with Fred how nice it was to be operating outdoors and thanked him for the QSO. Fred, if you get a chance to read this, thanks again! I hope to catch you on the air again another day and hear more about what you are doing with SOTA.

Cataract General Store - Today

Cataract General Store - Date Unknown

The weather was getting hot and with storms in the forecast for the evening. We decided to close our station and head back over to Ivin's QTH to get his new Scooter put away before the storms arrived. Since I was moving a little fast in my Jeep, I had time to take a short detour and check out the Cataract General Store which was founded in 1860. What a great piece of Indiana history less than a mile away from the falls. I enjoyed walking around and checking this old building out. I went inside and got myself a cold drink for the drive back to Ivin's. What was it you ask? Well, it was a Choc-ola of course. The Cataract General Store has a good selection of unique sodas that were all ice cold, but for some reason this can of Choc-ola was calling my name, it tasted great!

Nothing quenches your thirst on a hot summer day like Choc-ola

Thanks for coming along on this return trip to Cataract Falls. Even with the crowds I still had a great time and would recommend everyone check this place out... just not on Labor Day! I have another fun trip planned for later this week, so stay tuned to hear all about it.

If you would like to follow Ivin - W9ILF and his adventures on the "QRP Scooter" you can find his blog by CLICKING HERE. (he will soon be updating his blog to reflect his Scooter adventures.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cataract Falls State Park

The weather was sunny with temp's in the low 80's yesterday afternoon and I was in need of a little time away after work so I packed up the mcHF SDR radio and drove out to Cataract Falls State Park. I've been to several State Parks across Indiana, but this is one I had yet to visit. The area was first settled on by Theodore Jennings in the early 1800's. Jennings was traveling by horseback from Louisville to Greencastle when he heard the sound of the falls and was immediately drawn to it. He returned later to build a home, saw and flour mill, and blacksmith shop. After spending just 10 minutes at the falls, I could tell already why Jennings was drawn so quickly to them.

Cataract Falls Covered Bridge

Cataract Falls consist of two sets of waterfalls along Mill Creek that are about a mile apart and both have a series of falls. The total height of the upper falls is approximately 45 feet or so and the height of the lower falls is a little more than 30 feet. Downstream from the falls sits Cagles Mill Lake and Lieber State Park. I plan to travel over to the lake and park soon and will share my adventure there as well, stay tuned!

I took several photographs of the falls in hopes that it will help you to visualize the setting in which I was lucky enough to operate from yesterday. 

Upper Falls

Upper Falls

Which way do I go?

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

The photo above shows you the view from the location of which I had choosen to set up my station and get on the air, overlooking the lower falls. So I got my gear out of the car and began to set my portable station up. Man was I pumped up, ham radio with a view!

Ham radio with a view

My station was a mcHF SDR QRP rig and a 40 meter "hamstick dipole" antenna. I had the rig ready to go and went to deploy my antenna when I realized that I had made my first rookie mistake, and it was a big one for sure! In the excitement and rush of packing everything into the car after work so that I could get out to the falls, I forgot to pack the tripod for my hamstick dipole. Oh no! I was a little over an hour away from home and did not have enough daylight left in the day to go home, get my tripod, and return. Fighting the urge to throw the hamstick into the creek as a sacrifice I sat down and thought to myself, what can I do? I mean, I'm the guy known locally now for loading his gutters at home because of HOA restrictions and talking across the country, certainly I can come up with something? Then it came to me, I see a shelter house about 400 feet away from me. I wonder... Once I got to the shelter house I found the answer to me problem! Open access to the rafters supporting the roof to the park shelter. The perfect place to throw my hamstick dipole up into and get on the air. So, that's exactly what I did!

It's not pretty, BUT it worked - Problem solved!

After a little tuning I was calling CQ on 40 meters. I was not sure how far my signal would actually reach due to my unconventional approach to my antenna placement, but it only took a few minutes before I was able to connect with Richard - W3CUV from Erie Pennsylvania.  Eire is located almost 500 miles away from my location at Cataract Falls, not bad with just 5 watts! Richard and I had a short QSO as I listened to the water falling over the rocks just a few hundred feet away. I told Richard where I was and what I was doing. I'm still slow and mess up from time to time when sending CW, but that's all part of learning and Richard was very patient with me. After our QSO I sent 73/72 to Richard and noticed that I was smiling from ear to ear with what I hd just accomplished. It was not pretty, but I did it! My first solo portable station was a success. Richard I hope to have the chance to QSO with you again, thank you for your time and patience. 

My portable station set up on the picnic table under the park shelter, just a couple hundred feet away from the falls

Wow! QRP CW is where the fun is at and nothing beats ham radio with a view. I may never transmit from my shack ever again! Well, at least until winter rolls around that is. I am already looking forward to my next adventure and I hope to encourage you to do the same. This is a great hobby and you can do so much with just 5 watts, a simple antenna, and a desire to want to learn and have fun.

See you on the next adventure. 72 for now, de W9ODX

Monday, August 28, 2017

Finally... a new state!

Just a quick post to share some excitement for the evening, after a dry spell for a while I completed a QSO with a new state tonight! I just finished with Jim - KA0CSW from Litchfield Minnesota, about 550 miles to the north of my QTH. My station tonight was the mcHF portable SDR radio that was pushing 5 watts through my inverted L gutter antenna on the house. Jim is a member of the Meeker Amateur Radio Club and has received recognition for QRP operations in the Minnesota QSO party last year. Litchfield Minnesota is home of the Litchfiled Opera House built at the turn of the century in 1900. The building was designed by St. Paul architect William T. Towner and has hosted a variety of music, theater, and dancing events over the last 117 years. The Opera House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 1984 and is still operational today.

Family stopping for a photo in front of the Opera House in 1910

Jim, thank you for taking time out of your evening to have a quick QSO with me. I hope to do it again when band conditions are a little better. It's my pleasure to have you as my first MN contact. I'll be mailing you a QSL card very soon!

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

CW Ragchew

Today I received a really cool email that I would like to share. Steve - W5BIB from Irvington Alabama sent me an email telling me that he how much he enjoyed reading through my blog and following along in my adventure. Steve has been a CW operator for over 56 years and he thinks my blog is cool? That's awesome!

Steve - W5BIB

Steve has started out his career by serving in the United States Navy, where he first learned CW. After retiring from the Navy he worked a variety of jobs including working as commercial CW operator for a marine mobile group, working in commercial radio, and working over the road. Steve has earned numerous awards in amateur radio and recently had a QSO with a CW station in Cuba earlier this month. Steve, you are one cool dude! Thank you for your email and thank you for reading my blog. I hope that others new to ham radio and CW will take a few minutes to look you up as well. You can find Steve online by search for W5BIB on QRZ.

The reason why I wanted to introduce you to Steve and share his email to me is so that I could post a little about CW "ragchewing". While it's not for everyone, it's a great way to meet others who have similar interest in yourself and make some great friends, or in Steve's case, keep in touch with old friends. After 56 years of CW Steve is able to read the morning paper in his camper while "ragchewing" (having a conversation over ham radio) with his old Navy friend Mike - WB0SND from Missouri. QSO's don't need to be limited to just a quick exchange of RST, name & QTH. Share a little bit about the station you are using, parts of the hobby you are most interested in, or just simply what is going on in "your neck of the woods". Who knows what you might find out and who you might meet next time you call CQ? Have fun!

Steve gave me permission to share a video of his QSO he recently had with Mike - WB0SND, while he was reading the paper and enjoying his morning. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Sunday, August 27, 2017

CW Trainer

By now you have read several of my blog post about the fun I am having using CW. My hope is that by reading about the people I've met and the places I've visited over the air, it has encouraged you to want to start your own adventure with CW. Last month I posted about how I went about learning Morse code, you can find that blog post by CLICKING HERE. I hope you found it useful? Now I would like to share with you one of the very best Morse code trainers available, and it's free!

Ray Goff - G4FON from England has developed what I believe to be one of the best CW training tools around. Not only can you adjust the speed of the characters and spacing, but you can also adjust noise levels, signal strength, pitch and more. You can also add things like QSB and QRM to what you are attempting to copy giving you a very realistic sound.

Screenshot of the G4FON CW Trainer

You can find out more about this free CW trainer by CLICKING HERE and going to Ray's webpage. I will also be adding a link to his page on my links column as well.

Thank you Ray for this program, I still use it on a daily basis. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Comment below with your thoughts about this CW trainer or others. I'd love to hear about what you are using.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Planning some Adventures

I have been extremely busy with work lately so I haven't had much free time to do any "adventure radio" outdoors... BUT I am planning some outings for September & October as I type this, including a trip to North Carolina in late October where I hope to do some sort of SOTA activation while I'm there.

The Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina

I am really looking forward to these trips, autumn is my favorite time of the year. I have several weekend trips planned locally as well and will be sharing all of these adventures right here, stay tuned.

Toledo Ohio

Tonight I powered up the new mcHF SDR radio and called CQ on 40m from my shack here at the house. After a few calls I heard Rick - K8PRG from Toledo Ohio returning back to me. Rick has been a ham since 2014, but learned Morse code back in 1967 while serving our country in the United States Marine Corps. After returning home from Vietnam Rick thought he'd never hear CW again, however fate had other plans for Rick. His grandson was taking a big interest in the hobby of ham radio. When Rick drove his grandson to an all day tech class, Rick decided to stay as well. They both passed their exams soon after that class. Congrats to both you and your grandson Rick! I wish you both many years of fun and happiness with ham radio. I hope you are passing along your CW wisdom to him as well and look forward to having another QSO with you again soon. Thank you for your service to our country!

Adventure is right around the corner, don't leave! 

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Special Delivery

I came home Monday and found a box on my door step. I wonder what it could be? 

Special Delivery

For months I have been researching options for a portable HF radio that I could use outdoors in a variety of settings. The radio would have to be small in size, be able to be operated from battery power, include a variety of filters for CW use, and fit within my budget. So for months I was lucky enough to be able to test a variety of radios including MFJ QRP rigs, Yaesu FT-817, Elecraft KX3/KX2 and a variety of other rigs including the one that is waiting for me inside this box. Every radio I tested was good in it's own way and all were very fun to operate.

Well, I guess I should let you know which one I chose right? Drum roll please...

mcHF QRP SDR Transceiver

I chose the mcHF QRP SDR Transceiver originally developed by Chris - M0NKA from England. This HF radio met all of my needs while fitting within my budget. It's a very fun radio to operate and the SDR elements help to enhance the overall experience. I couldn't wait to get this little guy on the air, so I swung by friend and elmer Ivin - W9ILF's house after work. After going through the menus and setting everything up, we connected the new radio to Ivin's vertical antenna and started to call CQ on 40 meters. The band was very active with a variety of stations from all over completing QSO's. It didn't take very long before my 5 watt signal reached Joshua - KE8EAS in Athens Ohio, about 240 miles to the east of my location. Josh and I had a great QSO that started with a simple exchange and turned into a little ragchew. Josh is only 30 years old and new to ham radio but he has already collected a variety of awards to showcase including 2nd place in the ARRL Rookie Roundup. Congratulations Joshua and thanks for being my very first QSO on this fun new radio. I see you play the banjo Joshua, I play the guitar. Maybe one day we can get together and play some classic country music? I look forward to another QSO with you down the log.

The radio worked great! I am still learning about all of the options this radio offers but I like what I see so far. This will not be a radio that sits in the shack, it will be a radio that gets thrown into a backpack and gets plenty of fresh air accompanying me on several CW adventures to come. 

Adventure ham radio... with a view!

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Vibroplex Restoration

This morning I stopped by Ivin - W9ILF's house to pick up the Vibroplex keyer that he was helping me restore. Our goal was to keep as much of this key orginal as we could, so the restoration was limited to repairing a few damaged parts and removing some modifications done to the key over the last 50 years.



As you can see Ivin did a great job and the key looks just as nice now as it did 50 years ago. This is a very fun key to operate on as well, very smooth action, it feels great! I couldn't leave without trying to complete a QSO first, so Ivin fired up the K2 outside and we scanned through the 40m band. After calling CQ a few times I finally heard a station answering my CQ, it was Curt - WB8YYY from Maryland. Curt and I exchanged signal reports and SKCC numbers before signing off with 73/72. We were operating the K2 at 5 watts and using a simple wire dipole, QRP!

Backyard QSO with WB8YYY

Thanks for the QSO Curt. I looked you up on the log and confirmed that you were my first solo CW QSO earlier this summer. Now you also get the honor of being my first contact with this beautiful 50 year old key. A QSL card will be mailed this week.

My key is about 50 years old, but did you know that the Vibroplex company has been around for over 100 years? That's right, the original Vibroplex bug has been in production for over 100 years. When my key was made in the 1960's they were being manufactured in New York. The Vibroplex headquarters today is located in Knoxville Tennessee and they are selling more than 27 varieties of bugs, keys, and paddles.

Thanks for following along in my Adventure with CW. I have another surprise planned for later this week. You won't want to miss out on seeing it so stay tuned!

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX