Just went and checked the FCC database, and I am officially an Amateur Extra! Now the real fun begins.
Also, my youngest son just got his call sign. He is now: KEØMHY
That’s right! In the past month, not only was I able to study hard enough to pass the General, I became good enough on the practice tests and studied for the Extra. This morning, I went to the Central Dakota Amateur Radio Club Hamfest in Bismarck for the “main” purpose of testing.
I was pretty confident about passing the General, since I was actually hitting 90% or higher on each practice test I took. Once they graded my General and let me know that I passed, I immediately started on the Extra Test. As I was taking the test, my youngest son was notified that he had passed his Technician test. Super proud!
Once they graded my General test, Bob (NoTC) told me that he had some “bad news” for me. Then he said that it looks like I’d be spending a lot more money, soon, and congratulated me on passing.
Now, it looks like I need to spend some more money. In the end, Bob was right.
A while back, I purchased a used 10/12 meter radio. I found a really good deal on a Ranger RCI-2985DX. It’s the low powered little brother of the 2995dx. While the big brother will do 150+ watts, the one I have will do 25+ watts. It’s definitely not a fancy, modern HF radio, but for me, it’s a step in that direction. Sure… It would be nice to have a Kenwood TS-990S, but at this point, I have no use for it. Even if I was able to afford it (I don’t have $6,800.00 laying around), the thing would just sit there, for the most part, until I upgraded my license. Right now, I can legally get on SSB between 28.3 and 28.5MHz. Hopefully at the end of February, I’ll be able to expand that out to the full 10 & 12 meter bands.
As it sits right now, though, I am still waiting until spring, before I can throw up another antenna without worrying about sliding off the roof. I’m just listening to it using a temporary antenna, right now.
Today, I also received another radio in my mailbox. I found a Realistic HTX-202 for $27, and couldn’t pass it up. It was the first kind of HT that I owned, back in 1997, when I got my first license. The guy that I bought it from even sent me an Icom HM-46L speaker/mic. I quickly realized why it was such a low price and why he sent the speaker/mic, though. The internal mic doesn’t work. It’s not a huge deal, and I may rip it open and see if I can fix or replace it, at some point.
For now, though, I decided to use it as the receiver for the Broadcastify feed that I provide. It can be directly powered by 12 volts, so there’s no transformer or step-down converter to use. I used to have a small ground loop buzz on my feed, when I was using the scanner, and there was really no way to completely get rid of it. Now, the feed sounds a whole lot cleaner than it used to. Because of that, the audio is quite a bit louder and easier to hear.
I suppose that’s it, for now. Until next time…
I’m planning on going to the CDARC 2017 Hamfest in Bismarck that will be held on February 25, 2017. As of right now, my youngest son and I will be heading over there on Feb. 24th (leaving in the afternoon) and staying in a hotel, so we can get up bright and early on Saturday. Things open up at 7:00am on Saturday.
If anybody in the area would also like to go, and needs a ride, get in touch with me. I have a comfortable, full sized van and a lot of room for more people. I’m also a very careful driver. I would not expect any money for gas (since I’ll be using the gas whether you go, or not). You’d have to get your own hotel room (and food), though. If you get in touch, I’ll let you know where we’ll be staying on Friday night. There’s also a few other hotels in the same general area, so you could shop around, a bit, if you wanted, and I would (of course) do the drop off and pick up.
My main reason for going is to take a stab at the General test. My son will be trying for his Tech ticket, also. I’m not sure if either of us will be “ready” by then, but we’ll give it a shot, anyway. The secondary reason is just for the experience. This will actually be the first hamfest that I’ll be attending.
The holiday season has now come and gone, and I haven’t posed an update since the day before Halloween. I have talked to a few different people that are not from the area, since then. There were a couple people that were “passing through” or in the area for other things. Doug, from Texas was driving down the interstate and keyed up on the repeater. We talked for a short time, and left it at that. Robert, from Bismarck was also passing through, and we talked for a bit. He and I realized that he was one of the VEs that was there when I passed my test, last summer.
Besides talking to the “normal” locals (using that term loosely, hihi), I have recently had QSOs with a couple other people from the area. A few days ago, Randall, from Bismarck, was actually getting into the local repeater from about 70 or 80 miles away. We talked for a while, before saying 73s. For such a long distance to the repeater, I heard him loud and clear. He told me he was using a vertical (not sure on the wattage) to hit it. I would have expected that he would be using a yagi to cover that distance, but I was wrong.
Another recent contact that I’ve had (a few of them, actually) is a newly licensed amateur in the area. Austin is very young, compared to some of the others around here, and that’s actually pretty exciting to me! From the things that we’ve talked about, he seems really interested in radio. That’s something that you don’t find a lot of, these days. I’m not going to blame the lack of interest of most other “younger” people on electronics, because in all actuality a lot of those electronics were made possible by radio amateurs. It’s nice when the ones that have an interest in how it works get into it, and really begin to realize the new things that are out there, and that there’s a lot of new stuff on the way. Some of the amazing new radio technology that is right around the corner will become the future of radio, and 99% of the population doesn’t realize where it’s going.
Twenty years from now, the average hamshack will be able to do things that seem unthinkable, now.
While I was at work, tonight, made a completely random “eyeball QSO” with an amateur radio operator that I had never met, before. I work in a hotel, which gives me the opportunity to meet a “lot” of new people on a daily basis. I happened to be helping out at the front desk, tonight, when I saw a truck pull up under the front canopy. On the other side of the truck, I noticed what looked to me like a screwdriver antenna (when you’re a ham, antennas catch your eye). The base of the antenna was obscured by the bed of the truck, so I couldn’t see the whole thing.
As the man walked in the front doors, I asked him if that was a screwdriver antenna on the back of his truck, before I even looked at him. As I was finishing the question, I turned my eyes to him, and realized that he was wearing an ARRL shirt. Of course, we shook hands, and exchanged call signs, and he told me that it was actually a hamstick. He also told me that his wife was a ham, and told me her call sign (though I didn’t get to meet her).
I had my HT in the back room, and threw out my call on 146.52 and the local repeater a couple times, after that, but never heard from him on the radio. I’m sure he was in town for the rodeo finals, and I just assume that he wasn’t actually monitoring the radio because of that.
It was still pretty cool how virtually perfect strangers are able to connect because of a common interest. Even though I never actually talked to him on the radio, should I put it in the log book?
Sometimes I feel like I might be stretching myself a little thin. Between my personal life, work, and hobbies, there doesn’t seem to be enough time for all of it. One must always focus on the important things, and the other stuff will just happen when it happens. For now, I can still have the ideas in my head and on paper. I’ll just have to wait until the right time comes along to justify throwing money at the “less important” things.
Tonight, I realized (I’ve never actually looked, before) that a person can actually build a single band repeater (not a simplex repeater) without using any kind of duplexers or actual “repeater” hardware. The cost of doing this is relatively low, compared to what a person could spend on building a repeater. I still don’t exactly know the guidelines surrounding around setting this up, but I plan on looking into it over the next few weeks. I always want to stay on the legal side of things, so I need to make sure that setting up a “permanent” repeater is something I can do. Need to make sure I’m not bending any rules, at all.
I have the perfect place already picked out in my mind. The total overall cost would be about $800 to $1000. Justifying spending that much money for something that might not get used much, at all, though, is another story. I would be putting up a repeater in the 2 meter band in an area that already has a really wide coverage repeater which hardly gets used at all. There’s also a 70cm repeater in the same town that gets used even less. Because I live in a town that is in the middle of a huge rural area (35 miles from a smaller town and 100 miles from the nearest larger town), I’m not sure that another repeater would be a good idea.
Maybe the idea that I have is more of an interest in being able to actually “do it”, than that of necessity. In that case, I keep going back to the thought that I should just save the money and put it in more useful areas… like a new radio?
Back on October 13th, I bought a new vehicle (more info here). Since I bought it, I have been working on some electrical “quirks”. Well, today I got enough of them worked out and fixed that I was also able to get the quad-band (10m/6m/2m/70cm) radio and the SSB 11m (CB), radio installed. I’m pretty happy with the installation of both. There’s just a few extras that I’ll need to add.
I mounted the quad-band radio near the mid section of the van and ran the antenna out to the back. Right now, I’m using a Tram dual band (1/4 wave 2m) mag mount, and it does pretty well. The control head of the radio is mounted above the windshield, directly in front of, and slightly to the right, as I sit in the driver’s seat. The display is easy to see and control as I drive. The microphone hooks to it’s mount on the ceiling, just to the right of the driver’s seat.
I mounted the CB radio just below the drink holder that protrudes from the top of the dog house. I used some custom mounts, so that the radio tilts up a little more than it would have with the stock mount that it came with. I wanted to mount it so that the face of the radio would “aim” at me while I sat in the driver’s seat, but instead decided that it looked better “flat”… or facing directly at the back of the van. The display is big enough and easy enough to read, and all of the controls are easy to use, so mounting it that way made more sense.
The one thing that I know that I’ll need to add, at this point, is an external speaker for the ham radio. Since the radio sits about 3 feet behind me, near the floor, the speaker is a little hard to hear, unless I really turn up the volume. If I do that, and there’s passengers in the back, they might get really disturbed. Even the passenger gets the audio from the speaker louder than I do, now. An external speaker should mount just to the left of my head, and slightly behind, without getting in the way, at all.
The next thing (which may be down the road, a bit) is a couple NMO mount antennas. Right now, they are both magnet mount antennas, but they do the job. The NMO mount antennas will look much cleaner on the outside, and should perform better than either of the ones I have, now. At that time, I’ll feel much better about getting a 5/8 wave 2 meter antenna.
There’s still a lot of other things that I want to change/add on the van. I’m also learning a lot about how the whole van is wired for power. I’m starting to feel a lot better about removing and/or changing circuits to do different things than they do, now. I might want to wait until I get the second battery and the isolator installed, though, before I change too much.
The title might suggest an anti-amateur radio stance, but that’s far from what I mean. There are certain places on the ham bands that seem to be the exact opposite of what the hobby is all about, though. One of these is 3840.00kHz, lower sideband. While there are some good conversations and ragchew, once in a while, there is also a lot of crap.
Here’s a sample from October 8, 2016 (NSFW):
A lot of the things that I hear on this frequency (luckily, it seems to be mostly limited to this frequency) are reminiscent of the way some people on CB radio used to be, back in the 1970’s and early 80’s. On 3840 kHz, it seems like nobody obeys the rules of amateur radio. Almost nobody identifies themselves… especially any “troublemakers”.
Definitely gives a bad name to ham radio, and everybody that plays by the rules. This is not how most amateur radio operators act, though.
Here’s another sample from the same night (again NSFW):
Do you have any other examples of people giving ham radio a bad name?
From my last post, you know that I bought a new vehicle. I am selling my old vehicle, the 1997 Dodge Dakota, to my youngest son. When I had that truck, I had a Cobra 29 in there with a top loaded magnet mount antenna on the roof. I planned on getting a different CB radio with SSB, anyway, so I figured I would pass the radio down to him. There’s not a lot of activity in the area, so I’m sure he’s not finding it too interesting, at this point.
My new CB should be here on Tuesday, though, so at least he’ll have somebody to talk to. He also told me, yesterday, that one of his friends plans on getting one, too. I know from experience that CB is the gateway radio drug, so things are looking good. He already seems to have some interest in studying for his tech license, which I said that I’d help him with.
Back on October 12th, I talked to my brother who lives in Wisconsin. During the conversation, we got on to the topic of radio, and he let me know that he still has his CB with SSB, and just talking about it made him want to throw up his antenna and git it on the air, again. I, of course, made the pitch that he should think about amateur radio, but I figured that a first step back was exactly that… a step toward the next. After talking with him, that day, I wanted to find a good SSB CB radio that I might be able to use to talk to him. I found what looks like one of the best on the market, right now.. the Uniden Bearcat 980SSB. I ordered it and a 35″ K30 and they should both be here by Tuesday.
I’m still looking at the options of where to mount the radio in the new van, but hopefully I can have everything up and running by Friday. My “weird” power problems still exist in the van, but I’ll run the wiring and leave myself enough room to attach everything to a second battery, once I get that installed. I’ll be adding a Stinger battery isolator and a couple Optima Yellow-Top batteries, so I’ll have plenty of power for everything I have planed in the future.
For now (before I install any NMO mounts), I’ll be routing the antenna wire through the third taillight that’s on the top of the van, and running them to the magnet mount antennas that I currently have. The mid-section of the van’s headliner should be able to drop down and allow me to run the cables to the back, while still remaining “out of view”. If not, I’ll run them down the side trim, all the way back.
I don’t actually plan on converting the van, right away. Next summer (after a trip to Colorado), I should be able to start taking things out, and really making some changes. The wife and I are taking three of our grandkids to Colorado, so I want to keep the interior pretty much intact, until after that trip. The chairs, seatbelts, and bed/couch all work the way they should, so for the safety of the kids, we’ll keep it that way, for now. After I convert it, it will still be safe, but it will be more “geared” to just the two of us, and our maximum enjoyment.