Free Range QRP DXing: Do Nothing Extra

QRP DXing is like riding a Penny Farthing: its both simple and hard

I received great news – it looks like I will be on the air with the Elecraft KX-2 and with the UrbanBeam up 65′ by the end of this weekend. I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s “Free Range QRP DXing Manifesto” blog post, and its now set – its simple, yet hard. Its simple, because like the rider above on the Penny Farthing – he has only what he needs to travel – there are no gears, bells and whistles, just wheels, a seat and his own personal power and ability to get up on the bike – and stay on it. He will travel under “his own steam”. Its hard – because he can’t just hop on a motorized vehicle and let someone or something else transport him.

Free Range Penny Farthing Riders

I’ve arrived at this point much like the way I arrive at many things in life. Take work for example – a year ago I tried to learn React and JavaScript, became overwhelmed because it seemed so “idiosyncratic” and also complex (too many moving parts), yet this summer, I have mastered this technology and really understand it in a way that makes it seem simple and not complex. Sometimes time turns the complex into simplicity . . . breaking a complex problem into bite sized understandable components is the key to that effort and success.

Sprocket Man – by R. Holoch (KY6R)

I love the Zen expression “Do Nothing Extra”. I’ve meditated on that quite a bit as I have gotten older. I’ve even asked myself “What if I do Nothing?”. You see, there are so many situations in life where we are pulled in many directions. And because we only live this life and now – we have to make choices. Its true – we will never pass this way again as far as this exact time and place and our being in this time and place is concerned. Not to get too deep now – maybe a better way to phrase this is “Make Hay While The Sun Shines”.

Preparing the Hay Harvest to Prepare for the Long Winter Months

When I started DXing in 2001, I am sooooo glad that I had a “twinge” and thought – WOW – this DXCC program is a bit “anachronistic” – my first reaction was “I better do this while we still can activate all of these ultra rare and costly / hard to get to places”. I also thought – “Better throw all firepower and antennas at the problem” – which was my “Young Man’s” (OK – well younger man’s) fancy. I have no regrets – in fact I feel pretty darned smart, and obviously have bragged about my accomplishments. After all – with this hobby and pursuit of DX – all we get is bragging rights, really.

Sometimes “Doing Nothing Extra” means its Complex

After swearing that I would never use more than 100 watts and wire to get to DXCC Honor Roll, I quickly got more complex and turned the dial up to 11 – and I then had a complex station – with radio, tuner, amp and tower with massive antenna. I remember thinking “Have I gone too far?”. And I asked myself “How Much is Enough?” – another corollary on “Do Nothing Extra”.

Now I have gotten that out of my system. A few years back I read about a fellow who earned DXCC Honor Roll using only QRP and a massive 5 element home brewed quad antenna. However, he started his pursuit many years before I did – and it took him a long time to earn that. In 2001 I knew time would be short on DXCC – that the sun would be setting on the program in many ways (Cost, Access and even just the average age of the DXer getting older geometrically each year). In fact – there is now a dearth of DXers willing and able to go on DXpeditions and to activate these places.

I’ve done Complex – it was necessary, but that phase of my DX-ing is now over for good – I’m on to Simple

I’ll never forget the three times where I really felt like an idiot running QRO:

  1. I almost started a fire in a field in Lafayette – when a cheaply made balun melted and dripped molten PVC on a bone dry field of hay
  2. I smoked an amplifier board and had to have it replaced
  3. I blew up a remote MFJ switch because I used it at the base of a 160M top hatted vertical and the voltage was several KV’s

Each one of these things felt like “a bridge too far”. I do remember thinking that I wish I could just run low power and get the job done. If I had started DXing back in 1973 – when I got my first ham ticket – I could have run low power – I would have time. As it turns out – I did what was required to get to HR in 11 years – but am at the point where I could be one of the first hams who will never be able to “work them all” – since I need Bouvet and Glorioso. It is possible that I will never work them.

SO, do I just complain that “Its over, Ham Radio and DX-ing is dying?”. Of course not. Instead, I have been thinking since VK0EK in 2016 – “What can I do to rekindle that great feeling of working an ATNO – but not feel redundant?”.

Yesterday’s Blog Post is my answer, and like 2001 – I’m doing the right thing at the right time in the right place. This time around less is more – when it comes to power output – but antenna wise – that needs to be as complex as it needs to be to make 5 watts seem like several hundred.

Less is More and Do Nothing Extra are very interesting things to contemplate, and QRP – like me selling my car and using a bike to get around for the past 2 years all seems to make more sense now than it would have in 2001.

5 Comments on “Free Range QRP DXing: Do Nothing Extra

  1. summertime, sked proposal
    Hallo Rich,
    Let me know when you are QRP ready and let’s try to make a telegraphy connection soon with 5watts on 40meters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Will do! In one month I expect 40M will really pick up into EU. Having my UrbanBeam at 65′ should make a very big difference. I’ll let you know once I hear more than I3VRN and DF2BO – hi hi


  2. Nice post!

    My own opinion, for whatever it’s worth (you know what you paid for it…), is that it’s kind of liberating to create an open ended set of goals for yourself. Are you likely to really work 300? Who knows? It’s kind of doubtful, given the reasons you cite, but so what?

    When you have the expectation and means to make the top of the Honor Roll, you feel a certain internal pressure to do so. But, really, it’s largely out of your control anyway. If a country isn’t on the air, it isn’t on the air. Even if you take it upon yourself to activate the country, you won’t be home to work it.

    When you create your own set of rules, the feeling is different. You push yourself to do the max, more or less, with your own defined min.

    I’ve even started to embrace this approach elsewhere in life. Example – I’ve rebooted taking pictures. Now, I’m using a “point and shoot” camera. Admittedly it’s not a bare bones $74 P&S, much like you’re not using an 18 foot vertical antenna ala Gotham, but it’s also not a DSLR with a backpack of lenses or a Hasselblad medium format camera, either. It’s even smaller than a KX2. Let’s see how well I can do. Now it’s even more up to me how the photos come out.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely! Going “Free Range” opens up many more options and possibilities. My other hobby is photography – so I am following along with your success. Something more than a Smart Phone, but not a big kit camera. I’ve seen several sealed lens P&S cameras that are fantastic – some of the Sony and Lumix (and others). 73


      • At least for now, I’m using the most recent Leica C-Lux. The V-Lux looks very, very appealing, though.

        It’s kind of like the differences between a KX2 and a KX3. The C-Lux is far easier to stick in my pack, but the V-Lux offers a few more practical capabilities. Namely the lens and the viewfinder.

        Liked by 1 person

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