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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

KEY to new Adventures

Good morning! I'm excited to tell you about something that just came in the mail yesterday and which will hopefully be a "KEY to new Adventures with CW".

Friend and elmer Greg - N9NWO has been listening to my CW adventures and passing along advice to me since this all started. I talk with Greg most mornings during my commute to work on a local UHF repeater. Greg heard that I was looking for a good single lever paddle that I can use at the shack when operating CW, so after finding this one online, he decided to have it shipped directly to my house and surprise me with it. How awesome is that? You can really meet some good guys and make some great friends on ham radio.

Vibroplex single lever paddle from the 60's

Well, here it is! Sure, it needs a good bath and a few parts replaced but isn't it beautiful? There were a few modifications made to this key that will need to be changed back to make it more original (like the homebrew red paddle) but I can't wait to get on the air with it. Thank you to Ivin - W9ILF for helping me with getting this key operational.

Just think about the places this key has been, all the contacts it help make around the world, and the stories it could tell from the last 50 years! Ivin and I were joking around last night when imagining where it has been, the funniest one being when we said it could have been on the lunar module with Neil Armstrong. I really want to respect this history of this key while hopefully using it for another 50 years, before it moves on to someone else's adventure. I will keep you guys updated on the restoration process and which lucky station will be my first QSO with this wonderful device. Thank you Greg and Ivin for your help with this project.

What key or paddle do you use? Please share in the comment section below.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Half-way there!

Welcome back! I have some exciting news to share tonight. I went through my log tonight as I was catching up on sending QSL cards and I noticed that after I added AD0AB to the log I hit a milestone. I am now officially half-way to completing my "Work all States QRP/CW" goal with 25 states contacted and 25 left to go. 

Map of my WAS QRP/CW Progress (25 states with completed QSO's)

I share this with you so that you can know you don't need an expensive radio, big amplifier, and huge antennas to have fun with ham radio. Both rigs I used to make these contacts were QRP rigs only capable of 5 watts. My antennas have been a wide variety including simple wire dipoles, verticals, and even my rain gutters on the 2nd story of the house. Yes, you heard me correct... my rain gutters. The only thing you need to have fun with ham radio is a good attitude and a desire to want to learn.

Tonight I completed a local QSO with Jermaine - KD9GZJ in Indianapolis. I met Jermaine a couple of weekends ago at our "Coffee & CW" event in the park. Jermaine is a perfect example of a ham that has a good attitude, loves to have fun and has a big desire to learn. I'm excited for Jermaine as he starts his own Adventure with CW. After spending 5 minutes with Jermaine, you can't help but smile. Good luck Jermaine, I know you'll have fun!

Jermaine - KD9GZJ

Why not start your own Adventure with CW? I'd be happy to help get you connected with elmers and resources in your area. Email me anytime!

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Monday, August 14, 2017

SKCC Weekend Sprint Recap

I hope everyone had a great weekend? Mine was jam packed full of things to do, including squeezing in some time for the SKCC WES (weekend sprint). The weekend went by in a flash and now it's Monday. My activity was limited to 30 minutes here and there, however thanks to the FT-817 it was much easier to navigate up and down the bands. I have had a blast trying this radio out for the last 10 days or so and have made numerous contacts on multiple bands.

Lenexa Kansas

I was able to add a new state to my Work all States - QRP CW effort on Sunday when I connected with James - AD0AB from Lenexa Kansas. James is a retired electrical engineer that worked in commercial radio and has been an amateur radio operator since 1961. Lenexa is a suburb of Kansas City and about 480 miles to the west of my location. Thanks for the QSO James, I believe you have helped  me cross the halfway point of 25 states. I will double check my numbers tonight and update my WAS map.

Cooper was unavailable for our celebratory high five this time, maybe next time buddy.

James was one of a handful of QSO's I had when participating in the SKCC WES over the weekend using the FT-817 pushing 5 watts through my inverted L gutter antenna. The SKCC has a weekend sprint every month with a different theme. I look forward to participating in more of these sprints moving forward. If you are new to CW and looking for a group to join to help you grow with this part of the hobby, the SKCC is one of a few clubs that I highly recommend you join. They offer a variety of services including elmers who will help you along with your adventure and it's free to join!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

West Coast QSO's

Last night I got home pretty late and was not quite ready for bed so I figured why not fire up the FT-817 and see where the little guy wanted to take me. Up until now my QSO's have been limited to the Eastern half the the United States with the exception of Montana and Arizona, so I was hungry for some West Coast QSO's!

California Dreaming

It didn't take long before I heard a K6 call sign down in the noise. After a little patience, tuning, and filtering I was able to copy Jerry - K6III from Grass Valley California, just northwest of Sacramento and a little over 1,800 miles away from my QTH. My excitement level jumped to a new CW high as I knew I wasn't going to be able to go to bed without trying to complete a QSO with Jerry. I tapped my paddle as hard as I could, thinking it might help my weak 5 watt signal some how reach California better, and hoped for the best! 40 meters was very noisy last night but I heard the sound that all CW ops love to hear, my call sign being sent back to me as confirmation that Jerry could hear me. I smiled from ear to ear as Jerry and I fought the QSB to exchange information. Some how some way the QRP signal coming from my inverted L gutter antenna held up long enough to complete the QSO and send 73 to Jerry. Afterwards I high five'd my dog Cooper as we celebrated  the contact together! Thank you very much Jerry for fighting the QSB and noisy band to complete the QSO with me. 1,828 miles is my new personal best for distance with a QRP CW signal of 5 watts or less. I look forward to hearing your call again when conditions are better. I did a quick google search on Grass Valley California and found that it was home of California's oldest continuous running hotel, the Holbrooke Hotel, built in 1851. That was before Samuel Morse even came up with Morse code, wow! I'm sure that hotel has some stories it could share.

The Holbrooke Hotel, built in 1851

At this point, there is no way I'm going to bed without trying to complete another West Coast QSO now, so I grab a cup of coffee and call out again. This time I connected with Tom - WB7EUK from Joseph Oregon, a small town in northeastern Oregon that is surrounded by the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. Tom and I exchanged information and I thanked him for being my first Oregon contact. A quick google search on the Wallowa Whitman National Forest will show you breath taking photos of why I'm certain Tom chose to live in northeastern Oregon. Looks like a great place to bring a KX3, a backpack, and a SOTA flag. Tom, thanks again for the QSO and I wish you all the best.

Wallowa Whitman National Forest

Wow, who would have ever thought that 5 watts could bring me to two places so awesome? Jerry and Tom, QSL cards will be sent out this week and I look forward to receiving yours in return as I add two new states to my Worked all States adventure.

Want to start your own adventure? CW is so much fun, you wont regret learning this mode at all. The key to learning CW is not counting dots and dashes or doing any other kind of visual memorization or flow charts. The key is listening to the code, you can even close your eyes if you need to. Listen for the rhythm or melody of each character and associate the sound with the letter. Once you get that down you will start hearing simple words and continue to grow from there. Once you get your letters and numbers down, just get on the air. Everyone was slow at one time and everyone has made mistakes when sending CW. That is all part of the learning curve and the fun. There is no better feeling then completing your first couple of QSO's. I'm up to 25 or so and I still get excited. The more you use it, the better you will get, I promise. I hope to hear you on the air soon!

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dit Dit Podcast

I have been extremely busy with work the last few days, so I have not had many opportunities to get on the air to complete QSO's. I did however come across a podcast that I would like to share with you that covers all topics around the world of Morse code and CW.

The podcast is called "Dit Dit" and can be downloaded onto Apple podcast and Google play. The host of the Dit Dit podcast is Bruce - N9WKE. This podcast if for old CW ops and new with interesting content for everyone. At this time, I am about 4 episodes into the 9 episodes available. I've learned so much listening to Bruce and his guest and I really enjoy the content of the program. If you are new to CW, you will really want to listen to this podcast.

Take a listen, then comment below and let me know what you think. Thank you Bruce for offering this program to your listeners and me!  I will be posting a link to the Dit Dit podcast here on the blog, you can also get to it by CLICKING HERE

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Monday, August 7, 2017

More Adventures with CW

I had a surprise today waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home. Well, actually it was four surprises in the form of QSL cards from Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana. If you did not read my blog post about keeping the tradition of QSL cards going, you can find it by CLICKING HERE.

 Most recent QSL cards

I look forward to receiving more QSL cards this week and I will continue to share them with you. I hope we can keep this vital part of ham radio history alive and well for many years. Thank you to the operators out there who are taking time to send cards back to me, I really do appreciate you helping me with my "Worked all States - QRP CW" goal.

Moose in Maine

Speaking about Working all States, tonight I added a new state to my list of contacts by completing a QSO with ED - K1EDG from Gray Maine. Gray is about 880 miles to the northeast of my station between the Atlantic Ocean and the White Mountains. Ed was first licensed as a ham in 1959 at the age of 11 and he enjoys chasing DX in a variety of modes including CW. Ed, thank you for taking the time to complete a QSO with me anf for picking my QRP signal out from the noise tonight.

I've recently received some positive feedback about this blog and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to let me know how much they enjoy reading about my Adventures with CW. I look forward to continuing to hear from more of you as time goes on. Please comment below or drop me an email sometime to let me know you are here. I'd love to answer any questions you might have about how to start your own adventure.

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Sunday, August 6, 2017

NA QSO Party

Last night I went over to the the home of Ivin -W9ILF to participate in my first CW contest, the North American QSO Party. Wow, I've never heard that much CW traffic on a band at one time since starting this adventure, it was awesome! I did learn one lesson after listening to the band for just a few minutes though... my copy speed is still very slow. I now know what the Coyote felt like after all of those years spent trying to catch the Road Runner on Saturday mornings!

"Beep beep" or should we say "Dit dit"

Not wanting to be the guy slowing everyone down by sending at 10 words per minute, it was suggested to me that I park on a frequency and listen to a station's exchange several times, picking out characters that I could hear, and then waiting until I had the complete exchange to then answer the CQ. I thought that was a great idea and really gave me great opportunity to practice my ability to copy very fast CW. I am able to send much faster then I can copy at this time, so once I got the entire exchange I was able to complete QSO's with two stations, both on 20 meters.

My first QRP CW QSO was with Bud - N7CW from Prescott Arizona, which is over 1,400 miles away. If that's not a great way to start I'm not sure what is. Bud, thanks for the QSO and helping me with my Work all States effort by adding the state of Arizona to my list.

My second QRP CW QSO was with Niz - K0NM from Sugarland Texas. Niz builds and designs PET scanners used to detect cancer. Niz has also written several articles for QST on antenna building. I'll have to check them out.

Completing the two QSO's sure did help me work up an appetite, so Ivin grilled us up some brats and burgers on the grill. After eating I was able to relax while watch Ivin rack up the contacts on his end. Contesting may not be my thing at this time, but I did have a blast learning! Field Day 2018 will be here before we know it. 

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Coffee & CW in the Park

Our first attempt with "Coffee & CW in the Park" was a success! Thank you to everyone who came out to participate. The idea behind this gathering was to give local hams a chance to get together and swap some stories, test out their portable equipment, get on the air and have fun. Our hope was that newer hams would show up and we would have the opportunity to introduce them to QRP and CW operations. We had eight local hams show up and it looked like everyone had a great time with plenty of coffee & donuts to go around. The plan is to make this a regular gathering throughout the year moving forward.

KD9GZJ preparing to call CQ on 40m

We had three stations set up in the park today. Station #1 was an Elecraft K2 connected to a buddy pole vertical antenna, Station #2 was en Elecraft KX2 connected to an end fed wire and Station #3 was a portable APRS station connected to an HT. After getting our fill of coffee and donuts we sat down to make some QRP contacts using just 5 watts on CW and 10 watts on SSB. I was really impressed to see the skill that Jermaine - KD9GZJ had with the straight key this morning. Jermaine is a recently upgraded Genral class ham that just started sending CW and was sending like he has been doing it for years with his straight key. Jermaine gets credit for logging our first QSO of the event by connecting with Allen - KA5TJS from San Augustine Texas on 40 meters.

KD9GZJ & W9ILF - First QSO of the morning!

Bruce - KD9AGH used his Elecraft KX2 to get on 20 meters and complete a SSB QSO with a station in Maryland. We must have had a 20 meter opening happening as the station in Maryland was reporting back to Bruce that he was at least 10 over on the signal report. Great job Bruce, and on just 10 watts too!

KD9AGH's Elecraft KX2

I was able to take a turn at the key as well this morning. After calling CQ I was greeted with back to back QSO's on 40 meters. I was not able to get any photos of myself operating today,  but I will work on getting that done next time. My first QSO was with Rich - K4DJ from Hickory North Carolina. Rich has been a ham for 67 years and was nice enough to take a couple minutes out of his morning to exchange information with me. Thanks Rich! My second QSO was with Larry - AH6AX from Sykesville Maryland who's signal was booming into the park. Larry has also been a ham for some time now and is retired from the US Navy. Larry, thank you for your service and thank you for the QSO today. It was great to meet both Rich and Larry today and I hope to have the chance to meet you one day on the air as well.

All in all it was a great morning and a ton of fun to hang out with these guys today. You can learn a bunch from hanging out with fellow hams and I always enjoy having the opportunity to do so.

Afterwards we had plenty of donuts left over, so I expect to see more of you next time for "Coffee and CW in the Park" ...location to be determined.

Who's going to take home the left overs?

Now it's time for a quick nap and before I head over to my location for the NA QSO party later today. Maybe we'll meet on the air during the QSO party?

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Friday, August 4, 2017

Yaesu FT-817 and Special QSO

Tonight the MFJ 9040 took a rest and I was able to operate a Yaesu FT-817 on loan for the weekend from friend and fellow ham Lonnie - N9IUI. The Yaesu will give me an opportunity to access more bands and hopefully make more QSO's this weekend, just in time for the North American QSO Party tomorrow.

Yaesu FT-817 pictured with the MFJ 9040 in my shack tonight

Tonight I was able to complete three QSO's using the FT-817 pushing 5 watts through my inverted L gutter antenna. First stop was Warrenton Virginia where I met Harv - K2PI, fellow SKCC member. Warrenton is about 470 miles to the east of my location and home of the Warren Green Hotel which was originally built in 1819 and still stands today. Harv has been a ham since 1977 and served our country in the United States Marine Corp. Thank you for your service Harv, I hope we get to have a QSO again another day.

My second QSO of the evening was with Roy KF5YU who is from Fredricksburg Texas but was located in Whitefish Montana for this QSO. Roy and his wife RV full time and travel the country. What a great way to see the country! I was unable to get an exact distance from my station to Whitefish, but it appears to be over 1,500 miles away located in the far Northwestern corner of Montana very close to Glacier National Park. After pulling up photos from the Whitefish area I can see why Roy and his wife would want to spend the summer there in an RV. The photos are amazing, I can only imagine what it looks like in person. Maybe I'll get to see for myself one day? Thanks Roy for helping me capture the state of Montana for my goal of working all states with QRP CW. 

Photo taken in the area of Whitefish Montana

I saved my favorite QSO of the evening for last. Tonight I was able to do one of the coolest things I've done since starting this Adventure with CW several months ago. Tonight I completed a QSO with my friend and elmer Ivin - W9ILF. Ivin and I live about 40 minutes away from each other, so meeting on 40 meters was never a possibility when QRP. However, thanks to the Yaesu FT-817 I now have access to 80 meters which is much more favorable for local QSO's. We exchanged information including signal reports and SKCC numbers, we talked about the rig I was using and how it sounded, and we even talked about the fact that both of us have to be up early tomorrow morning to do "Coffee and CW" in the park. It's an event that allows us all to get together, have some donuts and coffee, get on the air, and help introduce others to the fun of QRP and CW. Man, I had a blast talking to Ivin and did my best to keep up. I was laughing and smiling the entire QSO and I'm sure he could tell I was nervous. Thanks Ivin, for being my friend and elmer. I look forward to filling out your QSL card now.

Good luck to everyone who is participating in the NA QSO Party tomorrow. I'll be sharing photos and stories from the Coffee event and the QSO party tomorrow. 

Until then, 72 de W9ODX

QSL Cards

With so much modern technology out there today we should all do what we can to help preserve our history and where we've been. Maybe that is why I like CW so much? To think about the impact that Morse Code and CW has had for over 100 years. They stories about how and why it was created, how it aided in saving thousands of lives at sea, how our military forces used it to communicate, and how it's still being used today by amateur radio operators around the world even though we've all be told it's obsolete. Just like CW, another very important part of ham radio history is exchanging of QSL cards.

QSL card from W9CGZ sent in 1940

QSL cards have been around since the early 1920's when listeners would send in reception reports to radio stations around the world and the radio station would return the favor by sending a report or postcard back to the listener. It wouldn't take long before amateur radio operators would start to do the same thing. The early QSL cards exchanged by hams included the station call sign, time and date of QSO, what frequency and mode were used and a signal report. Today QSL cards have evolved into expressions of individual creativity. Often they include photos of the operator, the station or the city and surroundings. Some hams even include letters going into more detail about who they are, what their station is comprised of, and whatever adventure they might be on at the time. It's a great way to make the QSO more personable and help develop relationships with other hams around the world. 

Some hams choose to display QSL cards on the wall of their station

While other hams prefer to display them in an album

In today's digital world we are offered different ways of exchanging signal reports and verifying QSO's with other hams. I'm not here to try and discourage anyone from using modern technology to make our lives easier. All I'm presenting to you is that after you log your QSO online, take a extra few minutes to write out a QSL card that displays your own individuality and thank the other ham for taking time of out of his or her life to have a QSO with you. Let's all do our part to help keep this part of amateur radio history alive and well for years to come.

Over the last several days I've sent out over 20 QSL cards and I'm excited to see what I get in return! I will share more photos and stories when they arrive. 

Until next time, 72 de W9ODX

Thursday, August 3, 2017

4 More States - 17 Total

Good evening! Well, I've had five more QSO's including four new states since my last post that I am excited to tell you about. Again, all five QSO's were completed using the MFJ 9040 QRP rig pushing 5 watts up to my inverted L gutter antenna on the top of my house.

17 states down, plenty to go!

The first two QSO's were last night, the first being with Mike - WI5H from San Angelo Texas over 960 miles away and home of Texas Tech University. The band was very noisy last night but Mike and I were able to complete our QSO and exchange 73's through the noise.

About 30 minutes later I was able to connect with Alton - N4IDH from Dothan Alabama, just under 600 miles away in the southeastern corner of the state. Alton is retired now but has been a ham since the age of 13. He also served in the US Navy from 1978-1984 as a Nuclear Mechanic aboard the USS Daniel Boone.

USS Daniel Boone SSBN 629

Thank you for your service to our country Alton. It was my pleasure to have a short QSO with you, and I hope we get to do it again soon when conditions are better. Thanks for helping me with my goal of Working All States with QRP CW. 

Tonight I got home from taking our dog Cooper to his training class and had time to get on the air for an hour or so before going to bed. I was in luck, the band was in much better shape tonight even though it was still a little noisy. The first place the MFJ brought me to tonight was 250 miles to the northwest of Indiana and the banks of the Mississippi River in Bettendorf Iowa. 

Mississippi River in Bettendorf Iowa

In Bettendorf I connected with Mark - K0NIA who is originally from the State of Indiana about 30 minutes north of my hometown. Mark is a Hoosier graduate and a real joy to talk to on the air. Mark is really big into QRP and homebrew equipment. I knew I liked this guy for a reason, right? I told Mark about my "gutter antenna" and sure I got a laugh from it, but a homebrew guy like Mark understands the need to try something out to see how it works. I look forward to having the opportunity to talk with Mark more in the future. Iowa is now added to my list of states worked, thanks Mark.

Downtown Kansas City

Next QSO was with Joe - KF0XV from 440 miles to the west of me in Kansas City Kansas. I heard Joe earlier in the evening sending CW from his homebrew CW transmitter. By the time we connected he had switched back to his Flex 1500 QRP rig. There is definitely something rewarding about working a station QRP to QRP. Thanks for the QSO Joe and helping me Work all States by adding Kansas to the list.

Sweet Georgia Peaches

My last QSO of the evening was with Russ - KK4WX from Tifton Georgia, the friendly city. I've driven through the town of Tifton on I-75 many times, but never stopped. Southern Georgia, home of sweet Georgia peaches and pecans. I think I should stop next time I drive through, what do you think? Maybe Russ can send peaches up with his QSL card? I'd gladly send a SASE for some of those! Anyways Russ, thanks for the QSO and helping me Work all States by adding Georgia to the list.

Well, that brings my total up to 17 states worked now with QRP CW. I have two events this weekend that I plan to attend which will give me even more chances to get on the air. Saturday morning I am organizing a "Coffee and Donuts in the Park" event to invite other hams to come out and join the fun by starting their own Adventure with CW. The second is the NAQSO Party whch starts at 2PM local time here in Indiana. I am really looking forward to doing both of these events and I will absolutely post updates with photos on this blog. 

I think I'll end it here for now as my eyes are getting heavy, it's been a long week. I'm look forward to the weekend for sure this week. If you are interested in learning more about QRP CW, reach out to me anytime. 

72 for now, de W9ODX

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Love A Rainy Night

Eddie Rabbitt - Country Music Performer

Back in the mid 70's Eddie Rabbitt released a song called "I Love A Rainy Night". The song was very popular and still being played today on a variety of radio stations. Now, while I do agree with Eddie that there is not many things better than a good rainy summer night, it sure does make things very noisy on 40m, creating a tough environment for completing QSO's. I was able to complete one QSO before calling it a night and it just so happens to be a new state!

Union Hotel - Flemington NJ

My only QSO tonight was with Kurt - KR2C from Flemington New Jersey, 620 miles away from my station. Kurt gave me a RST of 579 from the 5 watts my MFJ 9040 was throwing through my inverted L gutter antenna. The band was very noisy still from the storm, however we were able to exchange all the necessary information to complete the QSO. Flemington is home of the historic Union Hotel wish was first constructed in 1814, over 200 years ago. The hotel is believed to be haunted and was slated for demolition earlier this year but those plans were changed.  After Kurt and I exchanged 73's I heard two other stations coming back to me, including a station in Nevada. I ried a few times to get through the noise but the band conditions were getting worse and I decided that it was time to call it a night.

Thunderstruck book

What do you do when you can't play radio on a summer rainy night? You read a book! Thunderstruck was a book recommended to me from friend and elmer Ivin - W9ILF. This is a book that tells the story of Murderer Hawley Crippen and Wireless Inventor Guglielmo Marconi and how their lives crossed aboard a ship called the Montrose. I plan to do a full review of this book once I have finished it. There are several mentions of Marconi operators, Morse code, and other CW references in this book.

Well I guess that's it for now. Until next time 72 de W9ODX