Saturday, April 29, 2023

Have fun

It's been a week (just about) since Visalia -- the International DX Convention in Visalia, CA.

I was extremely fortunate to have the time off from work to make a trip down to this convention.

The way I planned it out is I would camp along the way (working 10 meters from my mobile/portable station) and eventually find myself in Visalia.   That's exactly what I did.

On the way down from Seattle towards California, I camped along the edge of Mount Shasta and then made a side trip into Los Angeles to visit some family.  I stopped by Ham Radio Outlet to pick up some gear I needed and then headed back north to Visalia.  I stayed at the Lemon Cove campground just 15 miles outside of town.  It was a perfect spot -- nearly flat in the near horizon and I was able to work the radio quite nicely from the RV.

In the convention, I happened to meet and talk with a long list of DX'ers and DX'pedition experts.  I just filled a notebook with advice, information, and checklists of things to follow up.   It was really way beyond what I expected.   I made some friends and established contact with those who I think might be good people to talk to in the future.   

In particular, I had the opportunity to meet Rusty W6OAT and his friends from the Western Washington DX Club (K6UFO, N7QT, and others).   I think the talk/presentation put on by Tom ND2T was really important.  

A lot of "take-aways" from the tutorials and sessions.   I don't think I'll be able to capture all of it coherently in notes, but I will try in the weeks ahead.

At any rate, once I arrived back home near Seattle, Rusty and I made contact via email and I took him up on an invitation to visit his QTH --- a bit of a drive out west towards the Olympic Peninsula, but once there found a friendly face and an simple and efficient station.

Rusty and I worked out some details for how we might cooperate on some up-coming contests -- and this is important because contesting is something (as I learned in Visalia) can help train the aspiring DX'peditioner how to deal with a host of issues that are similar to a DX'pedition -- spots, pileups, certain software applications, and being efficient with time spent on a frequency, working stations and then moving on, and more.    Plus, we discussed at length a lot of the practice and procedure that goes into a contest operation -- which again proves to be useful to have in mind when considering a DX'pedition.   I had to scribble many pages of notes as we discussed the software/application setup and I will need another round of explanation because there was just a lot to take in.

I cannot thank him enough for the time he spent with me.

In the evening, I arrived back home and approached my own station (not that different than Rusty except he has a beam antenna that can be directed quite nicely while my wire-loop is always "there").

I approached my station and realized that there were already things I can do differently to work new DX.  So that is what I set out to do. 

I logged a few new ones on 40 meters.  Not rare, but ones that I just happened to need for 40 meters.    Rusty is also fluent at CW at top speed and this reminded me that I also love to work CW -- except for the fact that I am still a bit rough at it.  I can probably copy 15-17 WPM so I send that fast.   And even now when I CQ on the CW portion I get that pang of fear that I will have to discern the call that comes back.  But, you know -- learning by doing is how it gets done and I don't care anymore at all about making mistakes.  I'm going to get better if I keep trying.  I saw that 20 meters wasn't completely dead, but had some signs of life so I threw out a CQ DX for a while -- and got spotted for trying.  Maybe it wasn't actually the best evening to work 20 meters.   But it was sure exciting to get that paddle warmed up again.

The point here is:  Have fun. 

If I can focus on that (and I am), then by having fun, it doesn't matter.  We're not trying to score big points, or log all new ones --- the goal is to have fun.   As I make contacts it will get easier and more fun.   Put another way, the more I can use CW and work CW with new DX -- - that really makes me excited about the amateur radio experience.

Visalia turned me around on a whole long list of assumptions I had about DX'ing and I'm really fortunate to have had the opportunity to go, listen, watch and then internalize it.    I've said it many times already and they may be tired of hearing it -- but for those who I met -- thanks.  Really, you don't know just how much it means to me.   I promise to share what I learn and I promise to use what I learn to be a better DX'er and gain skills to make myself useful for any future DX'pedition.   I need some time still, (don't call me just yet.. hihi).    One step at a time.

  • Step 1 is have fun.
  • Step 2 is refer to step 1

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Good DX


(W7BRS operating the N6V special event station at the International DX Convention in Visalia, CA 2023)

(Antenna tower with 20 meter hex-beam)

Initial Observations

From what I can tell, the International DX Convention in Visalia is a big deal. But, you wouldn't know it by the size of the crowd.  It is not a large crowd -- a few hundred attended.   

I had not ever been among so many well experienced and notable amateur radio DX'ers and DX'p.
The experience at the Convention has exceeded my expectation.  It has been so far one of the most interesting and exciting things I've done with amateur radio.

For example, I had a great conversation with Mark K6UFO, a DX'er who has worked them all.  And Oliver W6NV who used to live on St. Helena Island.

The Highlights

I was able to have the opportunity to listen to a talk from Tom ND2T. His talk was simply titled "So, you want to go on a DX'pedition?"    It was a message delivered for about an hour that dove into the main point that there are two roles -- the leader and the follower.   To be part of a team (being the follower) means just that -- Followership.

That was a session that really made the trip to Visalia worth it.

Another presentation given was from Robert N7QT went over the good and the bad things that happened on Palau T88WA.    The tale that Robert told was quite frank about the benefits of preparation confronting the reality of there are events always out of your control.   Weather, politics, and the under-table machinery with local officials.

Near the end of the first day of the convention Friday April 21st my energy level was draining but there was more on the schedule.  A "Attitude Re-adjustment" (which is essentially a cocktail party) was held on the courtyard.  I almost didn't attend but as I walked through the hall, I noticed a person who fit the description of a DX'er who I had followed for years, Bob Schmieder KK6EK.  I had first contacted Bob by email to inquire his advice about a DX'p that I wanted to plan.  That was in 2011.   I've since had to shelve the plan for reasons, but his book (DX Aku) embraced a philosophical discourse on DX'ing.  I was able to meet the man and that was indeed a treat.

Last example was meeting Mark K6UFO.   He walked to me during the day and made a comment about a question that I asked in a session with Tom ND2T.   The question I asked had to do with the reality that if "so you want to go on a DX'p" what about the metric of Time.  Time to do that is the tent-pole.  Money, skill, etc.. -- those can be mitigated.  But Time cannot really be mitigated.   Mark and I shared a drink in the Courtyard and he and I shared "eye-ball" QSO cards.    Later, we were joined by his friend Oliver W6NV and by happy cooincidence Mark suggested we head out for dinner near the Convention.

So we did.  We were joined by another pair of hams and we had dinner at a resturant that pretended to offer Greek food.  (We won't go there).

Anyway -- what this means.   Turn left or right and the outcome is whether or not you meet an expert in DX'ing, or whether you bump into some new friends who take you out to dinner and share their knowledge of DX.   I cannot express just how special that was.    It was also remarkable in learning after the fact that Mark was a DXCC Honor Roll #1.  Number 1.   And, and he has a great sense of humor.

On Saturday morning I visited the Event Station (N6V) and sat at the K4 HD radio on the table.  It is connected to a hex-beam antenna for 20 meters.  I was allowed to work the radio and make CQ calls for the special event station call.  I logged about a dozen or so contacts and some DX too (VE and XE).

The few minutes of working the tiny pile up was fun, and reminded me of the adrenelin rush of contesting.  But the cliche of working the pile-up of stations had a new sense of fun -- it was happing at the DX Convention.

I don't know if you (reading this) are at all interested in DX'ing or going to DX Conventions, but the experience of being in Visalia for the IDXC has changed my thinking about DX -- the things I've learned so far, people I've met, and the wrong-assumptions cast aside because of the perspectives I've picked up has made the trip exceed all my expectations.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

In Visalia

The long road from home QTH wound through Anaheim.  I had to stop in southern California to see my original Elmer Art, WA6SLI.  His ailing health was the main concern.  While in the area, I went to Ham Radio Outlet and saw they had a GAP mono-band antenna for 20 meters.

I already had a jig to mount a vertical off the RV, so I thought, why not!

A couple days later I pull into Visalia, arrive at campground.  Begin the simple process of putting it up.  Except.  The antenna was missing a key part -- the bloody GAP insulator.  Without it, it doesn't work.  

HRO will make it right, but later.  Not for this trip.  Anyway, back to the 10 meter Moonraker then.

Weather is perfect, camp site is perfect, and soon I'll be settled.  Next thing to do is get the Elecraft K3 out and start listening.

It is and has been a great trip so far, 20m antenna FUBAR not withstanding. Hihi.

Monday, April 17, 2023


The "RV" in QRV...

On my way, but camping in California wilderness.

I can run 10m SSB and digital modes.

I'm running off solar panels (250W generated on sunny day!)

I have plenty of power and battery system to invert to power after sundown.

If you hear me calling... 

Good morning ..

Friday, April 7, 2023

Countdown to Visalia

So about a week to go before I hit the road for the International DX Convention in Visalia, CA.  Packing list almost done, and a few odds and ends to sort out.  Mainly testing some antenna gear and tuners.   Need to fabricate some last minute mounting for antenna mast.  Also need to wire-brush up the Buddy-pole contacts -- get them shiny and new looking again.

I'm taking the long way -- going to do some camping and see some sites in California before I wind up in Visalia.

First stop is in Glendale to see on my dear great uncle Art, WA7SLI who needs some good stories to cheer him up.   I have a box full of stories to tell him.  Then depart for Visalia.

I am really looking forward to the Convention -- hoping to see some talks/demonstrations, hoping to learn a lot from the presentations and also try to have an eyeball QSO with a few people who've I've only known on the HF bands the last few years.

It's going to be really special.  My first time at any big time ham convention.

I will be "QRV" while on the road, trying out some portable antennas.  A mono-bander for 10m and going to give a new try on an inverted V on a 47' fiber-glass mast.  We'll see how that goes.  My vehicle is solar powered and roomy.  I'll be a small house on wheels with power to spare.   

Listen for me on 10 meters at 28.410 in the evenings around 7pm to 10pm Pacific time.

I will also try to work 17 or 20 meters SSB and CW.  April 15, 16, 17,  20 - 23rd.

  • 14.160 to 14.197 SSB 
  • 18.140 to 18.160 SSB
  • 14.055 to 14.060 CW
  • 28.040 to 28.044 CW
  • 28.380 to 28.410 SSB


I had to test out the 160m band and sure enough it was working just fine.

But the surprise was hearing from local ham, K7RLD who was wrapping up with WA7WQV and had remarkable signals each.

I had all but written off 160 for a while due to the S-6 noise, but tonight it was fairly quiet enough -- didn't matter though.  Each of them were shaking the pine cones with 59+ signals.   Yep, they're already close, but nonetheless, the band is working.

Just hoping I can work some more stations on 160m.  It's a short list of stations in my log under 160m.

Give it a try, it's just a bit more wire...  a wee bit.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Friends in High Places

An acquaintance of mine, Randy KK7TV (whom I met years ago while trying to get some sort of handle on my audio, along with the rest of the characters on 14.178 -- thanks)  jumped in while Stan "Stax" KE5EE was doling out 59s to EU and every which way from his Stacks of Yagi.    20 meters.

How it went, paraphrasing:

Randy> "Stan, can I work that UK8FAI?"
Stan> 'Sure, UK8FAI you're gonna get a call from Randy, KK7TV."
Randy> "Don't worry, he'll hear me...."

And he did.  

Randy> '#306, new one.'

I love this kind of thing.  I wish there was more of it.  Really nice DX and good stuff.  I appreciate knowing that this cooperation exists.   To Stan, Randy and the rest of them.  Thanks for the example.

It's certainly good to have friends in high (tower) places..

Things happening

It has been a busy few months since I hung up my software-spurs. On deck -- DX'pedition for Lord Howe Island Lord Howe Island (July 202...