Monday, December 7, 2009

With 5 Watts, where do I go from here?

As Ham Radio Operators we are always looking at the latest and greatest equipment to color our latest versions of QST, CQ and other related publications. Always wondering what is new and what large full page advertisements we will see next. What's not to dream about? Hard to believe their is a market in our hobby for $10k HF radios. Way out of my league! Many of the equipment manufactures cater to the BIG guys. They are often toting world records while these stations are using "their" equipment. Well, it's not only about the radio. These guys have stacked arrays which top out at several hundred feet. Lets not forget the top notch operators and the miles of copper used for receiving antenna's. There is more to a world record than a radio. You just don't see many advertisements for a small station doing great things with "their" (equipment manufacturers) the much less expensive versions of "their" equipment. I have the highest respect for the BIG GUNS and their stations but from a little fish in a big pond, what's in it for us little fish?

I have really enjoyed learning about others in your hobby. Often times we are inspired by people to do different things. I have been impacted by others which lead me to operate everything from satellites to digital modes and from echolink and APRS! Once I experienced these different modes, I often times found them as a regular form of operating from my station.

Most recently, I have really taken a keen interest in QRP CW operating. Alaska brings with it many operating challenges and one of them is the propagation. Operating QRP from here can be as rough as our weather. I have been a member of the SKCC (Straight Key Century Club) for a few years and I have enjoyed that organization from the start. I operate a Navy Flameproof Straight Key and a few other straight keys. That involvement has peaked my interest in the NAQCC (North American QRP CW Club). I am a recent new member of that club so I'm just getting started and I have plans of operating in several of their contests during the winter. But, at the top of that list of others or organizations that I have been recently inspired by is wG0AT, Steve. (Another video guru is Randy, K7AGE)

Steve lives in a beautiful place and takes advantages of two things, his love of CW and radio and his love of the great outdoors. After watching Steve's numerous professional grade videos on YouTube, it got me to thinking. Since March of last year, I have been trying to get my health in check and what better way than to spend time outdoors, right? I find myself working behind a desk all day and then coming home to sitting behind a radio. Not the healthiest of lifestyles to say the least. Steve has two goat companions, Rooster and Peanut. Now, I don't have goats but I do have a Polaris 700 EFI. My wife (KL8SU), daughter, and myself along with friends, often times are riding and enjoying the millions of acres of non-Park Service land around our location. I can carry several pieces of equipment on my ATV (which I already do for our outdoor excursions) but it would be nothing to drag along some QRP equipment. Light bulb just went off!

So, where do I go from here? My daughter enjoys hiking so I hope to do lots more of that next summer. In the mean time, I plan on shopping and purchasing my first portable QRP set up. This will be the radio, antenna, keyer, battery packs, etc. I'm hoping that once summer returns to the Interior of Alaska, a new signal will enter the airwaves, that being KL8DX/p. What better way to combine a great hobby with some good exercise and make some contacts while I'm at it? I live in such a beautiful area and I enjoy sharing my experiences with other hams. Many have not been to Alaska before and are always curious about living and operating from the 49th. Bottom line is, don't be afraid to try new modes or new things. I can't afford a big contest station but I can sure have as much fun for much less money and enjoy some pretty awesome scenery at the same time.

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