Friday, April 20, 2018

POTA #1: Cagles Mill Lake at Lieber State Park

Welcome back to the blog, thank you for taking the time to stop by and check in. This blog was created to share my adventures with doing amateur radio outdoors. Now that Spring has finally arrived to Central Indiana I am able to pack up the gear, get some fresh air and have fun!

I made it! Cagles Mill Lake at Lieber State Park

This past Wednesday I traveled down to Cagles Mill Lake at Lieber State Park after work. The park is located about 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis just outside of the small town of Cataract. This is a decent size lake measured in at just over 1,400 acres and home of a very well known bald eagles nest. I operated from this park last summer and I was excited to return again to attempt to activate the park for Parks on the Air. You can find out all about Parks on the Air by visiting their website, just CLICK HERE.

The weather on the way down was awesome! Sunny skies, temperatures in the low 60s and a light breeze... perfect for a quick trip to the lake right? That is what I thought too... There is an old saying around Indiana that goes something like this: "If you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes". Well, I was about to find out what that saying really meant on this adventure!

Several minutes after arriving at the park clouds started building, the temperature started to drop fast and the wind started gusting 20-30 mph. The weather was deteriorating quickly, but I kept reminding myself of how nice it was down by the lake and how much I was looking forward to operating on the lake shore. Mother Nature however was not done surprising me on this trip though. Once I arrived to down to the lake shore area I had planned on operating from I quickly found out that it was completely under water due to the recent heavy rains we had (see below). My perfect operating location, under 6 feet of water. You win this round Mother Nature, but I'm not giving up yet!

This was the area I had originally planned on operating from. Unfortunately it was completely under water.

After escaping the flooded lake shore and making my way up to higher ground I began to come up with "plan-b"... looking for another place to operate from that still had a decent view of the lake. After driving around the park for several minutes I came across a large picnic area with several tables and a nice view overlooking the lake. Not the best location, but it was still better then being surrounded by the four walls in a ham shack.

Plan-B... this will have to do!

The view from my new operating location overlooking a corner of the lake.

I was able to park the car pretty close to the picnic area and start unloading my gear. I had the entire picnic area to myself due to the weather I am sure. Since the winds were continuing to increase with the incoming cold front I decided to leave the dipole in the car and go with a simple vertical antenna instead. My vertical antenna was made up of a 40m hamstick with several radials laying out on the ground. Not a perfect antenna by any means, but thanks again to Mother Nature, it would have to do.

My simple hamstick vertical antenna for 40m.

The rest of my portable station consisted of my mcHF SDR QRP radio, American Morse company mini CW paddle, dell laptop computer, and a lead acid battery for power. I found a nice picnic table to set everything up on and within 5 minutes I was on the air sending "CQ POTA".

My operating location for Parks on the Air adventure #1


The temperatures were continuing to drop, it was getting very cold very quickly! If only I had left work early a little earlier in the day I might have been more successful. I was able to squeeze out 4 QSOs, 6 shy of the required 10 needed for a successful activation before Mother Nature finally won the war. I quickly wrapped everything up and retreated to the warmth of my car. The funny thing is that on my way to the park from work it was warm enough that I had the air conditioner on in the car and now less than two hours later I am rubbing my hands together attempting to get warm with the car heater on full blast. Good ole Indiana weather!

Feeling defeated by Mother Nature I called up my friend and elmer Ivin W9ILF to see if he wanted to meet me at a local McDonalds on the way back home so that I could share my story with him and bury my sorrows in an order of Chicken McNuggets. Ivin and I have discussed doing several activations together this Summer and I am really looking forward to those adventures. I have learned a most everything I know about QRP and operating CW from Ivin and I always have a blast operating together with him. Stay tuned...

This activation may have not been a success, but any time I can get a chance to spend a little time outdoors it's a win for me! The icing on the cake was the beautiful sunset I was able to enjoy when leaving the park, it made the entire trip worth it in the end. I pulled the car over and took a quick photo so that I could share the sunset with you here. It was a great reminder for me to be thankful for what I have and the time I get to spend doing what I really enjoy doing, like ham radio outdoors!

The highlight of my evening, enjoying this beautiful sunset while leaving the park.

Cagles Mill Lake, Lieber State Park... I will be back! And when I return it will be a whole new adventure complete with a successful Parks on the Air (POTA) activation.

Please take a moment to leave me a comment and tell me what you think about my first POTA advenutre. Do you have a funny POTA story to share? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Until next time, 72 de Mike KQ9RP

Saturday, April 14, 2018

W9VW Open House

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending an open house event at the Innovation in DX and Contesting club station W9VW. The open house event was for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Amateur Radio Club who's members operate the special event station W9IMS from this location.

Welcome to W9VW - Innovation in DX and Contesting!

Founded in 2015, Innovation in DX and Contesting's club station is located on 3 acres of farmland in Greenfield Indiana. When you arrive, the first thing you notice is the impressive antenna farm located out behind the barn. The tower farm includes a variety of towers and antennas for every band including a 180' rotatable tower (seen on the right in the photo below). There were so many towers and antennas outside it was impossible for me to get them all in one photo, but I tried my best!

W9VW - Innovation in DX and Contesting's Antenna Farm

Once inside I was greeted by a very friendly and welcoming group of amateur radio operators from both clubs. After introductions were made I was given a tour of this wonderful station from one of it's founding members and trustee, Hank K9LZJ. It did not take long for me to figure out how passionate Hank was for what they have been able to build over the last few years. The unique and interesting thing about W9VW is that everything inside and out can either be operated locally or remotely from anywhere in the world. Hank took the time to show me each and every element of the station including several projects they are working on at this time. I could have listened to him talk all day, I was really learning a lot from Hank and I appreciate him taking time out of his day to give me a personal tour of the station. After the tour I enjoyed a cold drink and day dreamed about how cool it would have been to get my little QRP radio out of the trunk of my car, connect it to the 20m beam up on the 180' rotatable tower and start pounding out CQ on my vibrokeyer with all 5 watts! Maybe one day... 

Do you want to know more about W9VW? Check out the video below that Hank posted on YouTube and enjoy the tour!

You can also learn more about W9VW by visiting their QRZ page, just CLICK HERE. 

If you would like to find out more about the special event station W9IMS, operated from W9VW, check out their QRZ page by CLICKING HERE. Members of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Amateur Radio Club will be operating on multiple bands for both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 races this year. Special QSL cards can be earned for each race by completing a QSO.

Today's tip is something that was shared with me early on when learning morse code and for that I am very thankful. When learning morse code, learn each character at a faster speed and leave more time or spacing in-between your characters allowing you to think about what you just heard. This way once you learn all of your characters and become more comfortable with copying, all you will have to do to speed up your copy ability is decrease the amount of time or spacing in-between your characters. This is called the Farnsworth Method for learning CW.

A quick google search will give you all sorts of information about the Farnsworth Method. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help you out as well.

Thanks for stopping by the blog and I hope to hear you on the air sometime. Please take a moment to leave a comment below and let me know what you think of the blog. The weather is improving and I will be operating outdoors before you know it! I am excited to share those adventures with you here when they happen.

Until next time, 72 de Mike KQ9RP

Monday, April 9, 2018

Parks on the Air (POTA)

Spring has finally arrived! This winter season has dragged on long enough with the cold and snow and we finally have 70 degree temperatures in our 7 day forecast! I am really looking forward to operating outdoors again.

I follow several hams online that are very active in groups like Summits on the Air (SOTA). I often daydream about what it would be like to climb up a mountain, take in the view from the summit and enjoy operating from several thousand feet above sea level... but there is just one little problem, we don't have any mountains here in Indiana! Luckily for me though I am not out of options and today I will am going to share one of these options with you. 

Parks on the Air (POTA) is a group that were inspired by the outstanding work of Sean Kutzko KX9X and Norm Fusaro W3IZ from the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). Throughout 2016, the ARRL was helping the National Park Service celebrate their 100th anniversary. Amateur radio operators from across the country were activating parks to help promote the National Park Service, showcase amateur radio to the public and encourage operating outdoors. Today, Parks on the Air (POTA) keeps the spirit of this fun and exciting activity alive and well by sharing those same goals. Points are awarded for those who are activating the parks and those who are chasing the activators and completing the QSOs. To find out more about how you can participate as an activator or chaser, check out the POTA website by CLICKING HERE.

Map of Parks on the Air (POTA) Locations

I mentioned earlier that we don't have any mountains here in Indiana, however thanks to POTA I now have a variety of forest, parks, lakes, monuments and more that I can activate. In fact, there are currently over 4,000 locations I can operate from across the country to earn points toward some really great awards! Whether I am going for a hike on the weekend or simply enjoying my lunch break outdoors and away from the office I can participate.

This week I will be working on setting up a "go bag" that I can bring to work with me that will include a small QRP radio, simple antenna and power source. With warmer temperatures predicted for later this week I am looking forward to enjoying my lunch in the park. Stay tuned, more to come on this soon. 

Tip: Once you learn your letters, numbers and simple punctuation get on the air! There is no better way to practice and get better than getting on the air. Start slow, never send faster than you can receive. Most operators will slow down to you speed to complete the QSO. It's okay if you make a mistake, we all do. Don't be afraid to ask for a repeat. The important thing it to just get on the air and practice. You'll be glad that you did!

I look forward to sharing my POTA adventures with you soon and I hope you will do the same. Take a minute to click on the comment button below and share your own POTA adventure. 

Until next time, 72 de Mike KQ9RP

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Welcome to the Blog

Welcome to the new and improved KQ9RP blog!

Thank you to those of you that followed me on my previous blog. I appreciate your patience with me as I took a little time off over the winter. For those of you that are new to the blog, WELCOME! This blog was created as a way to share my adventures with amateur radio with you and I hope you enjoy following along and joining in the adventures.

My name is Mike and I live in Central Indiana just outside of Indianapolis. I have been an amateur radio operator for a little over 4 years and I hold an Extra class license. I really enjoy combining the hobby of amateur radio with my love for the outdoors. There is no better way to do ham radio than outdoors with fresh air and a great view! I discovered two things rather quickly by doing this though, if I was going to operate outdoors I would need to do so with reduced power and I was going to need to learn morse code. So last Spring I began learning the dits and the dahs. I was eager and highly motivated to learn so it did not take long for me to learn the letters and numbers. It also didn't take long before my friend and elmer Ivin W9ILF tricked me into getting on the air, with his help of course, and completing my very first CW QSO. My other blog started about the same time and was a way for me to chronicle the adventure with learning morse code and operating CW for the first time. My hope was that by sharing my adventures with learning morse code and operating CW it would help motivate others to do the same thing. I really enjoyed reading the stories and emails that you all would share back with me about your own adventures with CW as well.

I hope that we can continue to do the same thing with this new blog and keep the buzz about CW alive and well. Please help me by inviting anyone and everyone you know who enjoys the outdoors, QRP, CW or ham radio in general to follow along with the blog. In addition to sharing my adventures about ham radio outdoors I also plan to share tips and tricks handed down to me by several of my elmers that will hopefully help those wanting to learn morse code and operate CW for the first time. Thanks again for checking out the blog, I hope you can make it back on a regular basis. 

Please take a minute to click on the comment section below the post and introduce yourself. I enjoy getting to know others who share the same interest as I do. 

Tip: When I very first started learning morse code I caught myself counting the dits and dahs for each character. While this was an effective way to learn the character at first, ultimately it ended up limiting my ability to be able to copy with any speed at all because I was always counting. Instead try learning each character by remembering the way it sounds. Morse code can have a very melodic sound to it, very similar to music.

Example: The letter Q (dah dah dit dah) sounds to many like "here comes the train" ... take a listen next time you hear a train crossing the street. Many times they will sound their horn with a series of long-long-short-long blast. This is done to get our attention and let us know to look for the train, just like someone calling CQ over the air is trying to get your attention as well. I hope this tip helps you as much as it helped me.

Until next time,

72 de Mike KQ9RP