Monday, February 23, 2015

Ham Radio Provides A History Lesson

While looking for an island where I could operate on May 9 for US Island's One-Day Getaway, I was gobsmacked to discover that the island I found has some associated history.  Or more accurately, the area near the island has some associated history.

Bowers Lake (where "my" island is located), along with the nearby Storrs Lake, are both part of what the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources calls the Storrs Lake Wildlife Area.  According to the DNR web site:
In 1832, Storrs Lake was recorded as an overnight campsite for Brigadier General Henry Atkinson and 4,500 soldiers in pursuit of Chief Black Hawk and his Sac Indian community. Among Atkinson's soldiers were his chief of staff, Lt. Albert Sidney Johnston, later a famous Confederate General in the U.S. Civil War, and a 23-year old mounted scout on 30-day enlistment by the name of Abraham Lincoln.
I listen to audio books during my commute to and from work and my current "read" is Volume One of Shelby Foote's trilogy on the American Civil War.  Lincoln's service in the Blackhawk War is mentioned and considerable time is spent on Albert Sidney Johnston, who was killed at the battle of Shiloh.  What wasn't mentioned was their connection to where I plan to operate.

Ham radio has something to offer people with a wide variety of interests, but I never thought that a local history lesson would be one of them.  What a great hobby!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ham Radio and Vacations

My XYL Diana and I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise, the first cruise we’ve taken in 13 years.  After last winter’s “polar vortex” and predictions for similar conditions this winter, we decided that getting away to some warmer weather was a great idea.  And it was - we had a wonderful time!

Shortly before we left, my good friend Dave N9GQ, one of our Saturday morning ham breakfast regulars, asked if I was bringing along a small station so that I could operate aboard ship.  He often takes his K2 along on trips and has operated from some beautiful locations.  Even though the idea is appealing, I didn’t hesitate to tell him that I wouldn’t be bringing a radio along.  I’ve seen posts on QRP-L from hams who frequently operate while cruising, and my reaction has always been Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?

No offense meant to those who enjoy this activity - different strokes for different folks - but I just can’t personally justify spending large sums of money to enjoy shipboard life and then using that time to play radio while stuck in a cabin or some out of the way spot on deck.  I’d return home almost as pale as when I left!  And of course there’s the ever-present potential of ill will generated between me and my spouse.  She’s always been very supportive of my hobby but, after all, this is her vacation too.  If I was going to spend my free time on the radio, she might as well go on a singles cruise.

One idea for combining vacations and ham radio that I do find very appealing is NE1RD’s 100 pound DXpedition.  His 2010 presentation at FDIM was a real eye opener for me.  The general concept is to combine a vacation in a tropical paradise with a popular contest or operating event.  Personally, I don't think that I'd want to do this during a major 2 day contest like CQWW, but something less intense would be ideal.  As the name suggests, a minimal station setup is brought along - perfect for us QRP types.  A small transceiver, a power supply, headset and paddles, a notebook computer for logging, a portable antenna or two and Zingo Bingo! ... I become the DX!

As I recall from his presentation, it goes something like this.  You rent private accommodations - perhaps a condo or villa with a good location and view - and plan your arrival a day or so ahead of the start of operations.  That gives you enough time to get settled and erect an antenna or two.  While your spouse is relaxing around the pool or out shopping, you can operate to your heart’s content.  Take a break every once in a while for a dip in the pool, grilling something for dinner, or cocktails at sunset.  Whatever suits your lifestyle, and many contests require some time off anyway.  Once the contest is over, the station is packed up and the remainder of the vacation is radio-free and enjoyable for both of you.

There’s more information on NE1RD’s website at, including his free PDF book that reviews in detail a number of antennas for a 100 pound DXpedition.  He also has a free PDF of posts from his now discontinued 100 pound DXpedition blog that is chock full of good information.  And, if you are a commercial Buddipole user, his Buddipole in the Field book is also available as a free PDF and is highly recommended to get the most out of the antenna.

72, Jim - K0RGI

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Hello and welcome to my blog.

The world - even the ham world - hardly needs another blog, but I'm going to forge ahead anyway.  I hope to occasionally post something that you'll find entertaining or informative...or both!

This will be a pretty low frequency (not to be confused with the 30-300 KHz region) effort on my part and I suspect weeks will go by between posts.  No one wants to know what I'm doing or thinking multiple times a day.  If that was the case, I'd just get a Twitter account and bore everyone to death in 140 characters or less.

Most things I post will be directly or indirectly related to QRP operating in the great outdoors.  Being occasionally a somewhat curmudgeonly type - my XYL sometimes calls me a cranky old man - I'll probably comment once in a while on something earth shattering in the ham world, but I promise to not make political or social statements unless sorely pressed. ;-)

72 and I hope you enjoy, Jim - K0RGI