Friday, April 30, 2010

Hanging out with the "CAR"

On my recent trip back to Ohio, I found myself short of time to see everyone that I wanted to see. I knew I would be traveling by an old friends house in Castalia, Ohio (literally) on my trips over to Norwalk from Marblehead. I have always liked the "back roads" when it comes to traveling. It might take me a few more minutes to reach my destination but the drive is always more pleasant. With that in mind, I dropped a note to Dan, W8CAR letting him know I would be in the neighborhood a few times during my vacation. Dan invited me to drop a call when in the area and I did just that. On one of my trips through "Duck Town", I gave Dan a quick call and he invited me to come on over.

It was great to see Dan and also spend some time with him catching up. Dan is one of those hams who I have looked up to for many years and he has never hesitated to give me advice or help me when I needed a bit of direction. I would often times work Dan during HF, UHF, and VHF contests. Dan is a great DX'er and Contester. It was really fun to talk "shop" with Dan for a few hours, hang out in his shack, and simply talking radio.

Even though I live over 3 thousand miles away from Dan nowadays, I still catch Dan on the radio! That's what I love about this hobby. I also catch several members of Northern Ohio DX Association and the North Coast Contesters. Living farther away just makes our contacts a bit less frequent and non-existent on some bands (like 2 meters and 432, which I really miss). But I'm always looking for Dan as he puts in a great signal into Alaska on a regular basis. I get excited when I hear W8CAR come bouncing out of my speaker on CW or if Dan says "HI" while operating K8AZ during contests.

Contacts with Dan and any of my long time friends back east are worth more points than I can ever get in any contest. And to them I say, "Thanks for your friendship and keep those antennas pointed toward Alaska!"


Friday, April 23, 2010

Vacations over but the Goats were the best!

As you can tell, I have been away from the shack for a bit (a month anyhow). Work related travel followed by some vacation time kept me on the run. My wife and I ventured to the lower 48 and did a bit of traveling and catching up with friends and family. I wondered how I would survive without ham radio but I did manage to drag along my hand held. I made a few contacts while I was in St. Louis, MO and one of those contacts was with Jerry, K0TPP who I had worked on PSK31 back in December of 2009. I also was able to catch the FARA (Firelands Amateur Radio Association) net one Sunday evening while in Northern Ohio, my old stomping grounds. But the highlight of my ham radio portion of our vacation was meeting in person Steve, wG0AT, and his side kicks Rooster and Peanut.
My wife and I had wanted to venture to a state we had yet to experience and we chose Colorado. I had contacted Steve to let him know I would be in the area and was hoping I could meet with him. Steve answered my email almost immediately and was open to a eyeball QSO! Better yet, Steve mentioned a possible hike up Mount Herman where he operates frequently! To those that don't know of Steve, Rooster and Peanut, Steve is a QRP, backcountry, mountain climbing do it all kinda operator. I have followed Steve's adventures on YouTube and was able to work him on one of his Mount Herman adventures. Steve was the main person who inspired me to purchase an Icom 703Plus and put together a backcountry portable station. I will be using it several times throughout this summer for the first time. My goal is to work Steve from a mountain top here in Alaska.

When we arrived at Steve's QTH, I could not believe I was actually meeting Steve in person! Here I was meeting the man whom I have admired for many months. And I also got to meet Rooster and Peanut, his goats. After a short while chatting, my wife headed off to do some shopping and left Steve and I to our planned adventure of climbing Mt. Herman. I was unprepared as we had traveled heavy as we had planned to be gone for 3 weeks. Steve had an extra backpack and munchies and it was not long before Steve loaded up the goats and off we went to Mt. Herman. Steve drove us up pretty high on a very narrow road with extreme drop offs. Once we parked at the trail head, it was off on our journey to the top of Mt. Herman.

Now, one of the first things I noticed is that the air is thin in Colorado! Thankfully, Steve along with Rooster and Peanut kept a slow pace for this Alaskan. I'm sure it was a slower than usual ascent for Steve but with great conversation, wonderful views, it seemed we hit our operating location before I knew it. Steve set up his Icom 703 and Buddipole and it was not long before the sounds of CW were coming from his radio. Steve let me drive the rig and I tuned around listening to see what I could hear.
I was hearing stateside stations but as I tuned to the lower portion of 20 meters, some good European DX was heard! Some great signals out of Europe and Africa. I called a few and worked one who to my surprise, came back on the first call. Steve was capturing all of this on his camera and it is now featured on his YouTube channel. The sun was shining and propagation was great at 9,000 feet! Wow, if I could only get my antenna that high!

There was some thunderstorms in the area so eventually we called an end to operating as the rain drops started to arrive. We packed up the gear and headed down the mountain. We once again talked about ham radio and I enjoyed Steve's company along with Rooster and Peanut. We were back at the truck before I knew it (trust me, it's longer than it sounds) and we were headed back to Steve's QTH. Once there, my wife arrived shortly after and had her photo shoot with Steve, Rooster, and Peanut (yes, she is a ham fan, too).

I will be forever grateful for Steve's hospitality and for taking me along on one of the most fun ham radio adventures I have ever been on. It was a rough climb for this desk jockey but I survived! I did manage to leave my sunglasses on the mountain and Steve, being the kind person that he is, hiked back up there the next day and found my sunglasses! You will see Rooster wearing my sunglasses in the video and that is how he managed to get them. I have to say, Rooster looks better in them than I but if I told Rooster that, he may have not wanted to give them up.

In conclusion, the day I spent with Steve, Rooster, and Peanut was by far the highlight of our vacation. I can't thank Steve enough for his kindness and for the adventure. I can only hope that one day I can repay the favor by showing Steve around my backyard. I can't promise as good of propagation but I can promise some breathtaking views.