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Texas State Parks On The Air – Lost Maples State Natural Area

After finding out about Texas State Parks On The Air (http://www.tspota.com/) I decided to start trying to activate some of the parks as time permits.  This past weekend I started this with an operation from Lost Maples State Natural Area in Vanderpool, Texas (Bandera County).  It was a very casual operation, I made about 70 contacts SSB and PSK mostly on 20 meters.  I was on 10 and 15 for a bit Saturday evening but 20 was the most active and the antenna seemed to work best on 20.  Furthest contact was with the Canary Islands.  There was loud ZL2 on 20 Friday evening but he had a big pile-up and I was too lazy to try to bust any pile-ups this weekend.

Added a couple more of the W1AW stations (/1 and /4) to the log.  Handed out some points for those folks in Washington and South Carolina in their respective QSO Parties.  Overall a successfull weekend contact wise.

Antenna was a 33ft wire attached to the EARC HF End-Fed Matchbox (http://www.earchi.org/proj_homebrew.html) up about 18ft at the peak and sloping down to a tree about 6 ft in the air.  It seemed to do okay for a really easy to deploy antenna.

The park itself was great, the park police did ask me what the mast was for but had no issues with it when I told him it was for an amateur radio antenna. Some say you should ask for permission from the park first, I tend to go with the do now ask for forgiveness later routine.  Was a pretty crowded weekend with the start of Texas camping season but I was able to get a good spot so there wasn’t too much noise.

Was off the air a bit Saturday as I went on a short hike (.8 miles) along one of the trails.  Pictures from that are available on flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kj5t/sets/72157647824555706/)

2012 CQ WPX SSB @ NX5M

Contest: CQWW WPX CONTEST, SSB
Class: M/M HP
QTH: TX
Operating time: 48

Summary:
Band QSOs
————
160: 120
80: 511
40: 1449
20: 2193
15: 2106
10: 635
————
Total: 7014 Prefixes = 1464
Total Score = 20,910,312

Another great CQ WPX SSB contest. In 2011 we operated this one from NX5M with Four operators and ended up with 17 million points so we decided to try it again this year and get a few more operators and see what we could do. We ended up with nearly 21 million points which was a great result. I spent most of my time on 15 meters but also helped out on 20, 10, and a little bit of 80 meters. 10 meters wasn’t nearly as hot as we had hoped but we did exceed the 2011 numbers. 15 was awesome along with 20 meters and 40 meters. We also exceeded our goals on 80 but was short on out 160 goals.

It was a pleasure to operate with some operators that I had not operated with in the past and also get the chance to operate with a couple of guys whom I had not operated with in quite some time. As always the food was good, Saturday Bob picked up a large BBQ meal consisting of Brisket, Sausage, and Potatoes. The usual Pizza on Sunday and plenty of Dr. Pepper to help keep my fueled.

Probably the highlight of the contest was actually when I was sitting on 10 meters Saturday morning around 10AM CDT and I worked a JA6, I went on to work Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong all on 10 meters that late in the morning. I worked South Africa pretty much all day both days on 10 meters. There is certainly some life coming back on 10 meters. I can’t wait till the band is good enough that I can work the JA’s and Southest Asia on 10 meters with my dipole and 20 meters portable. We will see what Cycle 24 has to offer.

The beginning of the contest was very exhilarating working a whopping 481 contacts in first hour, the second hour dropped down but was still an impressive 369 contacts. The team did great and based on the claimed results we are number one in the United States and number 7 in the world with our score. This is a major accomplishment from Texas considering we don’t have the same advantage to the west as the West Coast guys or to Europe as the East Coast guys. We can work South America all day on 10 which helps but the real points is running JA’s and Europe like the coastal stations can do. Without revealing secrets our key is the great team leaders (NX5M and KU5B) whom while may give me a hard time for my loud voice and my love of a solid sleep have helped build our team into being extremely competitive.

Spontanous Camping Trip – Pace Bend Park in Travis County, TX

When I initially decided to start blogging again I intended to include tales of my travels.  I started the blog in August of last year, since that time I have done a little bit of traveling which has included trips to Waco to see family, a trip to San Antonio or two for Six Flags and couple of contests that I did but didn’t end up blogging about a Colorado trip that would have resulted in a very fun series of entries had I had the time to do so.

As some of you may know in November I started a new job with a growing software company called Zenoss Inc. (www.zenoss.com).  We build monitoring software that will keep track of infrastructure, networks, and services.  My current position is Client Support Engineer and I work closely with our customers to ensure that they have working software and that it is configured for their needs.  This keeps me pretty busy during the week.  I decided after my Colorado trip that I wanted to travel more and see more.  Now that I am working for Zenoss I actually have the benefit of getting real vacation time and not some silly PTO that is simply tied into my sick time and limited to 5 days a year.  I am planning a number of adventures including Ham-Com in June in Plano, Ham-Holiday in July in Oklahoma City, MFJ’s Day In A Park in Starkville, Mississippi in October and scattered in between I want to do some other weekend trips including camping trips, the Texas Steak Cook-Off, contests, and visiting friends out of town.  While some of these adventures won’t include a blog I do hope that I will have photos from upcoming events and stories to tell.

This past weekend was one of the most amazing weekends I have had since my Colorado trip.  Saturday morning after getting up at 6AM to attend an amateur radio breakfast and go shopping for a project I am doing for portable amateur radio operations my girlfriend (Taleena) passed her Technician Class amateur radio license exam.  We than went shopping for camping gear.  We have been talking about camping for some time, and so we went and bought the camping gear and it was still light outside so we decided to go camping.

I had been looking at Pace Bend Park, it is located about an hour west of Austin, I won’t bore you with the details about the park itself as you can get all the information you want on their website http://www.co.travis.tx.us/tnr/parks/pace_bend.asp.  We decided to try it out.  We found a nice spot to set-up up camp which allowed me to have the car close by fort operating the radio since I haven’t finished my portable set-up yet.  As you can see in the very low quality smartphone camera photos the set-up worked out nicely.  I only worked about 20 stations between helping Taleena grill and visiting with her and sleeping.  However, with those 20 Q’s one was Japan and the other Australia.

Taleena also took her turn at the Microphone and worked KC0W, ND0S, and K9DIG using my call.  She should have her call soon and I will be getting her on 10 and 6 meters until she upgrades to General and can play the rest of HF.  It unfortunately started to rain Sunday morning and so we left fairly early after eating our breakfast which for me consisted of Bacon and Beer.  Overall the camping gear worked out well and I am looking forward to our next camping trip.  I will take suggestions for camping spots within a couple of hours of Austin for weekend camping and also suggestions for places further away for future road trips.  I am also looking for any input on portable antennas to try during my adventures.  I am going to be testing out some hamsticks soon and also looking to build a ham-stick dipole antenna.  So listen for KJ5T on the air and also once Taleena get’s her call I will mention it in a future blog posting which will likely be next month after the Belton HamExpo which is surely to include high quality photos from the DSLR.

73 Steve/KJ5T

2012 ARRL DX Phone @ NR5M

This was my second time visiting NR5M, last time I was there was for the CQWW DX Phone contest in 2009. I arrived a little late as I left the office later than I wanted and I had a lot of traffic to get through on my way out of Austin. I enjoyed getting to work a few DX stations from the mobile on the way there. I arrived at around 8PM, the gate was closed and I had forgotten the gate code since I had not had it since 2009. I pressed the call button on the gate… waited…. waited I pressed it again waited some more. Tried one more time with no luck. So I decided to see if I could find where they were on 20 meters, I called them from the mobile and they opened the gate. I got in and shortly after I got settled I took over on the 20 meter station. I operated the 20 meter station from around 8:30 until 6AM when I decided I should get a few hours of sleep. The most exciting station I think that I worked was a VU2 who was running 100 watts, he was weak and when he first started calling I thought a VE2 was calling which of course wouldn’t count for any points though when I finally heard the VU I confirmed that it was India and logged it. I am not sure if I have worked a VU station from a contest station before, I know we have worked them before in previous operations that I have done but not sure I ever was the op who made the contact.

I slept from 6 till about 10AM and than got up and enjoyed the great breakfast of Eggs, Bacon, Sausage and Biscuits (this is Texas after all) with a nice tall coffee. I operated on and off during the day while getting the chance to sit down with W0UN and listen to him share the stories from his very interesting radio experiences over the years. I spent some time taking pictures of both the operators and the antennas, I had previously taken photos of the antennas but when I was there before I was using a different lens so I wanted to see what my 28mm lens would do for the antenna shots. I later operated for a couple of hours on 20 before dinner, sometime after dinner I hopped on 75 meters for a bit and than we switched 75 meter operators and I spent some time catching up with KU5B and NX5M who came out to visit and operate a little bit on Saturday afternoon. These are the guys that gave me my start in serious multi-operation contesting and I have operated from their station numerous times.

Later that evening I hopped back on 75 meters till about 4AM, worked a number of JA stations but other than that 75 was pretty dead. At 4AM I decided to go crash again, I ended up crashing hard and sleeping till 12:30PM. After getting up I took over on 15 for a couple of hours, we had a pretty decent EU run on 15 before we traded operators again. I didn’t operate again till I got on 20 for the last hour and a half of the contest. There was an XU7 at the end of the very end of the contest but I wasn’t able to work him. Overall very exciting contest and we did pretty a pretty good job with over 5.8 million points claimed.

2011 ARRL November Sweepstakes SSB SOHP Unlimited KJ5T(@NX5M/KU5B)

I had the pleasure to once again be invited to single op this contest from the KU5B/NX5M contest station in Somerville, TX.  Probably learned the most during this contest about the improvements I need to make in my strategy.  While my 1500 Q’s is the most I have ever had in a single operator effort it was 500 Q’s short of my goal of 2000.  This I believe was due to some poor choices in switching bands, or example I started on 10 but should have gone to 15 when the rate dropped.  I should have gone from 15 to 20 instead of getting on 40 when I did as I believe had I found a good spot on 20 I could have had some good rate.

BAND   QSO DUP SECT  POINTS

—————————–
160     0   0    0       0
80   150   1    4     300
40   210   0    6     420
20   652   6    7    1304
15   282   2   18     564
10   227   2   45     454
—————————–
TOTAL  1521  11   80    3042
=============================
TOTAL SCORE : 243 360

It was a very fun contest but the bottom line is I have a lot to learn about strategy and how to maximize rate.  I was roughly 20 Q’s per hour short of my goal, had I made better choices rather than to call CQ when I wasn’t producing I could have gotten my goal.   My other issue is that if I am using the cluster in the unlimited category than I need to take advantage of that,  I think most of the contest I was too focused on calling CQ and not focused enough on picking up stations though the band.  A solid mixture of S&P and calling would have yielded better results.  I am looking forward to trying my hand out in 2012 and hoping to compete with the pro’s, in the meantime, I will work on strategy and be happy that I got sweeps.

 

2011 CQWW DX SSB / W5CT@K5NA/K5DU

Over this last weekend I was invited by Susan, K5DU and Richard, K5NA to attend their “open house” for the CQWW DX SSB contest.This contest is one of the major DX contests of the year and the idea this year was to have a training event for new contesters.

Susan and Richard were extremely gracious hosts, I arrived Friday evening to have a wonderful spaghetti dinner prior to the contest.At contest time we started the evening on 10, 15, 20 and 40 meters.  I was at the 20 meter station and found a nice run station and had an initial string of calls.  15 and 10 were surprisily good for the time of the evening and plenty of contacts were made.

Later in the  evening we went to 75 and 160 meters and remained on 40 and 20 meters.  I stayed on 20 meters until around 0400z when I took a break and than came back and manned the 75 meter station till I fell asleep in the chair after previously working a Graveyard shift.  Fortunately Richard and Susan have great sleeping quarters for the operating team and so I was able to crash and get plenty of sleep before hopping back on 20 the next morning just in time to have a good string of Pacific stations calling and to be ready for the EU opening.

Saturday between operating 20 meters I spent a lot of time catching up with the visitors.  It was a great opportunity to meet some hams that I have not met before and to catch up with others who I haven’t seen in some time.  I spent Saturday evening on 20 meters and than tried my hand on 160 meters. I have not had much operating practice with 160 meters and it is a very fun band, the key is to listen hard and to understand how to utilize the beverage antennas for optimal receiving.  I could hear many stations calling but despite my best effort I only worked U.S. stations on 160 and decided around 0530z to head to bed in order to rest before Sunday.

Sunday was another great day as we were greeted with even more visitors, I took the opportunity when there were plenty of bodies to operate to check out the massive antenna array that Richard and Susan have.  Sunday afternoon brought some very nice rates on 10 and 15 meters with a lot of DX pouring in.  I sat on 20 for the rest of the contest Sunday evening and ended up getting several callers from Zone 37 to round out working all 40 zones on 20 meters.

Sunday evening winded down with another great dinner from Susan, one thing is for sure we were kept well fed.  In the end we had over 5 million points which is great considering that we had operators who had never done contesting mixed in with those of us who do a lot of contesting.  I had a great time and thank you both Richard and Susan for the invite.

2011 Texas QSO Party

Another Texas QSO party has come and gone.  This was my first Texas QSO Party since 2005 that I decided to do the single op thing.  In August I won a Flex 1500 as a door prize at the Summerfest DX Forums hosted by Central Texas DX and Contest Club.  My home station antenna situation is less than desirable and I haven’t figured out a way to do things that will work for both optimal performance and the owner of the home.  Regardless I likely will never have a contest station here in town and who would want to do QRP contesting and deal with the line noise?

Since winning the Flex I have been wanting to seriously get it on the air for a work our, I have had an interest in Software Defined Radios long before I won this one.  As  computer geek the concept of having a radio that is fully controlled by my computer has always been very intriguing to me.  Needless to say I was very surprised by the performance of the radio, and will touch more upon that later in this story.

Let’s take a step back, or many steps back.  In August 2008 I was hired to work on a goat farm, here I met a collection of wonderful people and many of us were involved with a non-profit organization that at one time was interested in using Amateur Radio for disaster response.  In October of 2008 we built an amateur radio station that consisted of a 40ft tour with a Cushcraft A3S and a G5RV also at about 40ft.  At the time there was also some Icom gear.  The radio was used during Haiti but after some changes in the organization their presence left “The Farm” and with that presence went the radio gear.  What stayed was the antennas which hadn’t been used in over a year.

After asking nicely if I could come out and use those antennas and make myself at home for the Texas QSO party I was invited out.  I arrived on Friday afternoon and had a lovely dinner that night with the owner’s of “The Farm” you can visit their website at http://old.mustangtexas.com/ (they are currently rebuilding the site) as well as a couple of other good friends.  We went to the Horny Toad Bar & Grill.  Horny Toad is great for cheap beer, the burgers aren’t wonderful but they certainly give the place the character that it has.  I was mostly bummed since the Juke Box was out of order.

Friday night I crashed rather earlier and got up for the contest Saturday.  I was hoping that I could finish working the kinks out of getting my logging software integrated with the Flex Radio and getting my FlexControl working within the first hour of the contest.  That turned out to not be the case and it ended up taking me the first 3 hours of the contest to get things going.  I am very appreciative of Dudley, WA5QPZ as well as the developers of the Flex Control K6TD and K6TU for contacting me back on a Saturday.  We were able to discover the issue was that the FlexControl was in boot state and a re-install of the latest version of the PowerSDR software fixed that.

The only thing not fully resolved was trying to get MMTTY working so that I could have tried to do some RTTY for the contest.  I will have to work on that some other time though as I do hope that I will be able to do some RTTY contesting in the future and I was hoping to get some mults on RTTY from the RTTY contest that was happening this weekend.

Another thing I did not know but discovered was that the Flex 1500 doesn’t do VOX, fortunately the Wallace family are musicians and so there was a Piano foot switch available to borrow that did the trick.  I will likely eventually get  foot switch.  Another thing I would like to figure out is how to auto voice keying with the Flex and the log software.

Once the contest was on track it was great.  Started out trying to chase Texas stations on 40 for the multipliers and ended up going to 15 when I started seeing that the band seemed opened.  Was surprised to work Europe with 5 watts though I spent way too much time trying to get this Russian station who never did hear me.  I had a fairly decent run on 15 and many guys told me that I sounded great for running 5 watts.  Another thing I really found very nice about the Flex 1500 was the built in EQ and I had guys commenting the entire contest about my good audio.

After 15 I tried 20 for a bit but it was just doing much so back to 40 for the remainder of the contest.  Things were slow the last 2 hours and broadcast was starting to get annoying.  All the guys calling CQ that I could hear I had already worked and I wasn’t getting much back to my CQ’s.  I was able to work WA6KHK who had emailed me prior to the contest and was hoping to get Bosque county so I am glad that we were able to meet up.  We also got lucky and met up Sunday as well on 20 meters.

I shut down about 10 minutes prior to the contest ending as I was tired and wanted my rest.  I ended up sleeping in Sunday morning and not getting on the radio till about 10AM.  things were slow for me on the second day and while I was hoping I could break 200 Q’s I ended with 164.  My full summary as well as pictures are below.

I will most certainly be going back out to Meridian again in the future for another QRP contest with the Flex.  I had a great time and thank you all for working me and for spotting me.  Now I must go and take a nap as I must be up in a few hours for my graveyard shift.

Summary:
Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs  Dig Qs
—————————-
160:   0       0      0
80:   0       0      0
40:   0     106      0
20:   0       9      0
15:   0      48      0
10:   0       1      0
6:   0       0      0
2:   0       0      0
UHF:   0       0      0
—————————-
Total:   0     164      0  Mults = 85  Total Score = 27,880

2011 August NAQP SSB @ NX5M

The 2011 August NAQP SSB contest has come and gone.  This was my first August NAQP since 2009 and Bob, NX5M and Colin KU5B were generous enough to invite me out to participate in their Mutli-Two operation.  This is one of my favorite contests, it is only 12 hours long which means strategy is very important to the scoring to make as many points as possible in the limited time.  If my calculations are correct this was my 10th contest at the NX5M station in Somerville, TX since 2007.

The day started with lunch at Mama’s Kitchen, an NX5M contest crew favorite for good home cooking in Somerville.  Generally our lunch consists of fine cooking and planning for the contest.  The operations began on schedule with us on 20 and 15 meters.  The pile-ups started strong and within in the first hour we had already beaten the previous year’s multiplier count on 15 meters.  15 proved to be a good band but after it faded out we made a quick jump to 10 meters where we worked a few stations for a chance to get a couple of 10 meter multipliers.

The early evening hours brought a move to 40 meters which was a very noisy band Saturday night, jam packed with contesters, rag-chewers and of course the eventual AM broadcast we kept a pretty good rate on 40 but didn’t make as many contacts on that band as the previous year.  We made up for it with 80 meters though which started strong quickly working many multipliers.  Our short stint on 160 earned us 19 contacts and 17 multipliers (gotta love that ratio).

The key to success at NX5M is the beverages on the low bands, we can hear stations calling on 160 that many other stations never do hear.  Bob did run into some issues with one of his beverages and a broken headset but that didn’t hold him back and he did far more on 160 than expected.  We ended the contest with a few beers and the next day were delighted to discover that we have claimed the high score for the 2011 NAQP SSB contest in the multi-single category.

Thanks to Bob/NX5M, Mike/N5XJ, and Colin/KU5B for a wonderful contest and we will look forward to January when we do NAQP again for what is generally a very different contest band wise but once again just as fun.

www.ham-eo.net

I want to preface this story by stating that not all radio amateurs smoke crack or have mental disorders.  On Monday I made my twice weekly visit down to the post office, generally there I find a NetFlix DVD, bills, junk mail and the occasional QSL card.  This week there was something different, an envelope.  It was addressed to me with my ham radio callsign, at first I thought a stack of cards but after opening it and seeing the Dilbert Cartoon I thought maybe it had something to do with morse code since I had posted on QRZ.com that I was looking to re-learn the code.  Upon further inspection I found out that what was in the envelope really made no sense and after Googling a bit I see I am not the only ham to get this very strange piece of mail.

Inside was a couple of CDs containing what appear to be an assortment of random pictures and some videos that I didn’t want to spend any time watching.  There was a couple of executable files that I didn’t dare run on my system and many random text files.  I suppose I will save the CDs and use them as a decoration as they have the pretty little stars on them.  There was a strange picture of Kirk, Bones, and Spock on the back of the Dilbert comic  Spock is holding a book that says “Eugenics: A Slow Kill” and Kirk has what appears to be a phaser.  Bones is holding a bag labeled “Chemo” and front of him is a vile of “H1N1″.

Probably the most interesting part is the wording “In 2012 [you can see where the author has written over the words “by 2010″] the US and world economy will be completely destroyed, and the (PTB) Powers_The_be will crate the North American Union, NAU.  The NAU will be merged with the European Union, African Union, and Asia-Pacific Union to create World Government, a police-state USSR (New World Order).  In this world-wide Emergency, surely HAM_Radio people can use a few days of their time to learn and teach the easy, grammar-coded, world-language of “HAM_Esperanto”.  There is no better, yet peaceful way to: (1) Wake-Up, (2) Wake-up others, (3) Think for yourself, (4) Strive for a free and better world for your children, (5) Fight for your rights – with dicipline and morals, and (6) Resist Tyranny.”

It goes on but I didn’t want to bore you all.  This is by far the most strange thing I have ever been mailed, it was like Mel Gibson in the movie “Conspiracy Theory” mated an idea with Alex Jones and than someone took that idea and indulged in a fair amount of acid and decided to make up some new language.  I surely hope that there was somee joke here or perhaps that this is something tongue-in-cheek that I am just not smart enough to understand.
Aduon.

Hello world!

Welcome to KJ5T.net.  I have been meaning to build a website for a while with an overview of my amateur radio activities.  I hope to use this site to share stories from the last 10 years in my radio career and share stories of the future.  I will be show casing my photography on this site as well.  My goal is to share my experience with my journey through learning code, my antenna projects, my DXing and contesting as well as anything else that I can come up with to share with anyone who is interested in reading.  I hope to have at some point at wealth of information both useful and of course the not-so-useful but interesting tidbits.  I hope that you will enjoy your visit here and check back often for updates as I hope to dedicated time each day to build this site into something worth visiting.