Although I have long been interested in electronics and short wave radio listening as hobbies, I did not know any hams while growing up in Rochester, New York, and so I never got bitten by the Ham Radio bug until later on. I "accidentally" got involved in ham radio when I took my son to classes sponsored by the Twin Cities Repeater Club (Burnsville, MN) many years ago. He dropped out before completing the course, but I kept going all the way and earned my first license, KB0ZEV as a Tech Plus (back when such a thing existed). I was never very proficient in CW (and still am pretty poor at it), but when the FCC dropped the CW requirement for higher classes of license I quickly moved up from Tech Plus to Extra in one night of exams courtesy of the Valley Amateur Radio Society's VE sessions in Apple Valley (after appropriate studying, of course).
My initial exposure to VHF and UHF repeaters with the TCRC led to weak-signal VHF and up interest with the Northern Lights Radio Society; and hanging out with that crowd motivated me to add more and more bands until the present, where I have all the bands from 50 MHz to 10368 MHz (in addition to HF, of course). Unfortunately, my home tower in Minnesota was a short roof-top tower on my garage, and my lot was heavily wooded and partly down in a hole, so the tower only had antennas for 50 through 1296 MHz. Anything higher at that point was only available when I was out as a rover. Now that I have purchased a home in New Braunfels, Texas, it is time to start over with erecting antennas. As of January 2017, I have no antennas in the air, but I have a hole dug in the ground, a concrete tower foundation poured and cured, and a tilt-over crank-up tower attached to the foundation. I still have plenty of work left to do to get back on the air, but I'm getting really excited that I'm getting closer to having a real tower on top of a high ridge with antennas for all the bands between 50 MHz and 10 GHz mounted to it.
When I retired from my job at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center after 33+ years of service in 2012, I figured I would finally have more time to devote to ham radio, since I would no longer have those 10-12 hour work days to keep me so busy. Well, I have stayed (too) busy even in retirement, so many of my ham projects are still unfinished. No boredom around here!
In January of 2012, my wife and I moved from Apple Valley (EN34js) to San Antonio (EL09ro) to be with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. We still owned our home in Apple Valley until October of 2014, and were spending summers (prime VHF contesting season) up in Minnesota. October through May were spent in San Antonio, where we faced highly restricted covenants on the property where my kids bought their home (where we lived, too), so I didn't have a home station in San Antonio. In October of 2014, we sold the Apple Valley home, and in December of 2014 we bought a house on a high ridge in the New Braunfels/Canyon Lake area of the Texas Hill Country, where there are no covenants and restrictions against antennas. Someday (hopefully soon) I will be able to put up a real antenna tower and antennas for the 10 VHF and up bands that I have (50 MHz through 10 GHz). Meanwhile, living in Texas has made a significant boost to my willingness to go out as a rover in the January VHF contest!
This is the outdoor view of my former (Minnesota) QTH, showing my (puny) rooftop tower.
My very first rover setup, which was for a UHF contest. The only band above 2 meters that I had at the time was 70cm, so I brought that out with one antenna for FM and one for SSB. I pointed the antennas by pointing the truck.
This was an evolution to a 6-band setup, 50 through 1296 MHz, for roving in a September VHF contest.
This was the rover setup for an ill-fated UHF contest. I never made it out of the driveway. After getting the vehicle all set up for 222-3456 MHz, the ignition switch broke, stuck in the on position with the engine not running. I had to dismantle all the ham gear and have the vehicle towed in to the repair shop on the following Monday to get a new ignition switch put in. Fortunately, the car was still under warranty, otherwise the expense would have been pretty significant and it would have aggravated me even more than missing out on most of the contest.
This was the inside of a typical rover setup in this vehicle. The IC-706 is the IF rig for 144 (in a VHF contest), 222, 2304, and 3456 MHz. The IC-251A is the IF rig for 902 and 1296 MHz. Not visible (on the shelf below what you see here) is the FT-847 which provided 50 (for a VHF contest) and 432 MHz. When I bring out 5.7 and 10 GHz, they are on separate tripods. The eventual plan is to use my Flex-1500 Software-Defined Radio as the IF for 222 through 10368 MHz. But I have to build the Down East Microwave 2 meter transverter kit first (DOH!) and work on the interface to all those bands. I have also been playing with a different Software-Defined Radio, the STM32-SDR. It uses a SoftRock Ensemble RxTx tuned to 10/12/15 meters, which could also control the (as-yet unbuilt) 144-28 MHz transverter and then the microwave bands. The STM32-SDR eliminates the need to bring along a computer, not even a laptop, as it has a Cortex-M4F microprocessor to perform the DSP functions and a small touch-sensitive LCD display and two rotary encoders to provide the user interface. I'm also working with another SDR platform called a HackRF which is the RF part of an SDR that covers 10 MHz (or less) to 6 GHz (or more). And I have ordered an even newer SDR called a Lime SDR that has some significant advantages over the HackRF, but it has not yet been delivered. I really want to teach myself how to write SDR software. As I said, no boredom around here.
Speaking of 10 GHz, here is my 10 GHz rig on an Ax-Man surplus tripod, with a homebrewed PVC pipe mounting platform. The IF radio is an IC-706MkIIg on the back left side (since swapped with an IC-706MkII), and there is a MFJ electronic keyer to its right. Although the Icom radio has a built-in keyer, the external keyer allows me to use a PC keyboard to send CW more accurately than I can with paddles.
This was my second time roving in a January VHF contest, both times in Texas where snowfall and -40 degree Fahrenheit temperatures are not problems like they were in Minnesota. This time out, I was a (very) limited rover, with a borrowed 2 meter rover antenna (thank you K0MHC!) and a home-brewed 4-element 6 meter Moxon that was severely damaged by low-hanging trees. My repairs to the antenna were insufficient to bring it up to reasonable performance, so a lot of QSO's were missed as a result. But it was fun to get out and play anyway. Put on a lot of miles between San Antonio, Texas and Ardmore, Oklahoma, and back.
This should give you an inkling of why I never roved in the January VHF contest until I moved to Texas. ;^) Yeah, I know, I'm a wimp. I did try to go out roving once in a January VHF contest in MN when there was no snow on the ground, but standing on the roof of my GMC Safari Van (see earlier pictures) in the -30 degree F weather chased me inside before I could get all the antennas mounted. So I stayed home for that one.
For my third January VHF rover attempt in Texas (2014), I had a borrowed 6 meter stressed Moxon (thank you, K0MHC), and compact yagis for 2 meters, 135cm, and 70cm. Murphy rode along, as usual, and so my score was pretty poor due to equipment problems.
I have usually been the VHF/UHF/Satellite Station operator for the TCRC Field Day event most years. Most years I managed to snag the 100 point satellite bonus, thanks to some elmering by N0BEL many years ago. Some years I have brought out only a few band (50, 144, 432), and other years I have brought out as many as 7 bands (50, 144, 222, 432, 902, 1296, 10368 MHz). One of these days, I may insist on working the 20 meter phone station instead! In 2014, I was too involved with the process of selling my home and emptying it out in preparation for the sale to participate in Field Day. For 2015 and beyond, my plans are uncertain, but I probably won't be travelling to Minnesota for 4 months each summer now that we don't own a house there any longer. Tentative plans are to visit from the August weekend of the 10 GHz and Up Cumulative Contest to the September weekend of the same contest, so I can play 10 GHz with my NLRS friends (and have a month in Minnesota to visit friends and family), so I probably won't be there for the June Field Day event any longer.
Here is a view of the new QTH in New Braunfels, Texas (EL09vu). As mentioned above, the antenna tower is in place at this time, but none of the antennas have been installed.
And here is the view from my back porch looking Northward towards such areas of Amateur Radio activity such as Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth, TX. Being at a higher elevation than almost everything else in view is a nice feeling!
7832324 Last modified: 2017-01-15 00:30:15, 10262 bytes
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