What’s He Building in There?

From the Tom Waits MTV Video of the title name

When I first moved to Orinda, I put down some radials, stapled to the grass, and put up a vertical. My next door neighbor came up to the fence (we have practically wooded lots) and asked if I was with the CIA. Another neighbor came from across the creek to mention he heard some Morse Code on his stereo. He uses a siphon pump to pump water from the creek to water his lawn.

12 years passed without a peep. Until a month ago. Then, the water pumpers wife stopped by to ask if I could fix the stereo RFI. You see, I had just put up the 60′ 80M vertical and was testing it. The last time I had a resonant 80M antenna was in Lafayette! I have only been on 80M these past 12 years to check into The Mission Trail Net which takes about 10 seconds total. It was always with some inadequate non resonant antenna. You see, I never liked 80 or 75M, but lately decided at the bottom of the cycle to try liking it. I had earned DXCC Honor Roll and 160M DXCC here in Orinda. I had already earned 8BDXCC in my old Lafayette QTH, including 80M.

At my DXCC peak, I even had a 28′ boom 45′ wingspan N6BT DXU-32 up 50′ and ran 1500 watts on 40 and 20M

It’s amazing that I (by total coincidence), stayed off 80M for all these years. The last 3 weeks I stayed off 80M. I had given the lady my phone number and email and told her to let me know if I interfered again.

Total silence…

I learned that it’s best to give your phone and email and do what I did. I also learned not to say or do too much – no one wants to hear explanations these days. Oddly enough, the woman said her father used to do the same “tap tap tap” thing, with an annoyance in her voice like it brought back bad memories. She was very confused and couldn’t explain her father being a ham or even her husband very well. I was just as nice and understanding that I could be and economized on my words.

I realized I must look like a weirdo with antennas and using Morse Code! Anyway, in this case, (even though I did buy a Bencher YA-1 Low Pass Filter), abstinence from 80M might be the best solution. I also learned they only play their stereo near dinner time, so early mornings would be a safe bet for 80M DXing.

Summer DX Patterns

Tonight, 40M sounds a lot like mid summer conditions – when EU fades (F5IN – a veritable beacon on CW during the Winter and Equinoxes is not heard as usual tonight). Dany, ZS3D was weak – but he is always weaker than Bill, ZS6CCY – whom I haven’t seen spotted for a while now. I need to check the morning Long Path to see how that is doing.

There is some lightning in Colorado and Florida, but I don’t hear any real crashes. The aurora is weak, and I do hear what I think is 9A2AJ – but in the noise. I2VRN is S9 tonight – so whatever he does, he’s the best DX on the band.

I plan on mostly monitoring 40M this Summer – and perhaps we will get something at night on 20M. But my bets are more on 40M.

SteppIR UrbanBeam Testing

Yesterday, solar conditions were quite good, so I jumped from band to band playing with the UrbanBeam.

These days will become fewer and far between. Expect about 2 years of days where the MUF will be lower than 30M. Your “saving grace” will be 40 Meters.

My UrbanBeam is only up 32-ish feet. It’s low for 40M, almost good for 30M, but plenty fine for 20M and above. I worked 3B7A on 40M with the UrbanBeam, which is a surprise – but I am very glad that I also have the DX Engineering DV-40-P.

Its hard to say if and when Bouvet will be activated, and I know that Glorioso is the French equivalent of the US F&W Navassa situation. I also know that the French team activates a new place every 2 years, so I don’t expect Glorioso or Bouvet to be activated until 2020 – ish. This is a good thing – since we might be coming out of a deep null sunspot wise – but even if we are still in the dregs, 40M will be it for sure.

3Y0I still states that they will activate Bouvet at the end of 2018 – but I can only hope. The Bouvet path is easier than the Glorioso path, Bouvet will be workable on more bands too.

You know – it is actually good to have these last two DXCC ATNO’s that I need. And its also nice to know that there is no rush at all. I have to admit – the lead up to these epic DXpeditions is always more exciting than after all is said and done – so to have a carrot or two dangling out there is good for the DX soul.

DXCC on Top Band is Rare

Lately I’ve downplayed my DXCC achievement on 160M because one night I made one QSO from an East Coast(ish) remote. I have atoned for my sins and redacted that QSO from my award points (I didn’t send that card to the ARRL to have it checked).  The remote heard so much more 160M DX in Tennessee than anything I’ve ever heard on the West Coast. That’s when I realized just making 100 on 160M on the West Coast is indeed a big deal. I received the little 160M plate the other day and added it to my 5BDXCC plaque, bringing the total up to 9BDXCC.

Almost by accident, I looked at this DXCC certificate, and holy smokes, not many have made DXCC on Top Band on either coasts. Statistics wise, this might just end up being a bigger deal than my Honor Roll or 9BDXCC award. I know for a fact that 160M on the West Coast is very hard to do when it’s 100% from your own back yard. A nice surprise for a gorgeous spring day here in the East Bay near San Francisco.

I wonder if any news will come out of IDXC – things have been quite boring since the first quarter in 2016, when 5 out of 10 top 10 Most Wanted were activated. I think that quarter was a record. What a time!

When Bouvet is Finally Activated . . .

When we get close to an actual Bouvet activation, I might pull the trigger on this bugger. ACOM makes my favorite amplifiers – and I like their TRI tuning circuitry. When you have to tune manually – you don’t miss potential problems that you do when you have a solid state amp with an auto tuner. On top of that – tube amps seem much more forgiving than solid state amps.

The biggest problem for me right now is that the last two that I need probably won’t be activated anytime soon. Its not really a problem – because there’s no hurry to make a decision, but I have to admit, i was pretty excited about 3Y0Z. The big question for me is whether or not its even worth purchasing an amplifier for 2 QSO’s. But the “force is strong within me” as far as earning HR #1 from my own back yard. That has been my goal since July 2001 – and I think I am one of the last to be able to do this sort of thing.

The Best is Yet to Come

I woke up with this Cy Coleman song in my head, immortalized by my parents favorite, and fellow New Jersian, Frank Sinatra. It was written in 1959, the year I was born at Passaic General Hospital – where William Carlos Williams was the head Pediatrician at the time. So much NJ Name Dropping! I won’t mention The Feelies, Yo La Tengo or the Bongos . . .  Ooooops . . .

Lately at work, I’ve been doing some of my best work in my 37 year career. I have 8 years until I retire, so it’s very reassuring that I’m loving working at Credit Karma and doing so well.

I just finished my DXCC goals, but still have two last ATNOs to work them all, so it’s not over … Yet. Its “icing on the cake” time! Funny fact, I’ve been a DXer one year longer than my first marriage. I feel especially lucky to have met Kat, my life’s soul mate.

I’ve lost 10 pounds after starting weight training just over 11 weeks ago.

Just when you think something is over, if you look carefully, you can find that the indeed, the best is yet to come.

VK0EK – Heard Island DXpedition, Two Years Later

Its hard to believe its already been 2 years since the VK0EK Team ended their epic journey in Perth, Australia. I’ve been thinking about fund raising and how much work we put into it, and the “hype machine” I created – where we kept the “buzz” in everyone’s ear. We easily made budget, and I am especially proud of that – because I believe when all is said and done – making budget is an important part of the DXpedition. These things are only getting more expensive . . .

Heard Island is down at #31 on the Most Wanted List, and I expect it will stay out of the Top 10 for at least another 8 years. It usually takes between 10 – 15 years to climb back up after a mega DX-pedition nets as many QSO’s as VK0EK did.

I’ve moved on big time since then – I’ve made all of my DXCC Goals and VK0EK was my “swan song” as far as co-organizing a DXpedition. It was the only time I was in that role – and it still gives me a great feeling when I remember all of the hard work of the team and how we ended up with great press coverage and DXpedition of the Year.