One Hand, No Other

I almost made a contact today on 40-meters. I set up my rig and my vertical antenna on the bleachers at Brentwood Park and got everything tuned and warmed up. Listened all over the band and decided to actually key down and try to make contacts.I tromped right into a silent pause of a regular net and got a quick, terse reply when I asked if the frequency was in use. So, at least the SnowbirdNet controller in Mississippi heard me, but no proper 2-way contact was established.

Later, I heard a CQ from a station W4UDX in Kentucky; had a lot of static on my end, but I tried to answer anyway at 100 watts. He wasn’t able to get all of my callsign due to the interference of a nearby shortwave music broadcast station, so the contact didn’t complete.

Radio is hard.

Also, today I learned: even if you have plenty of waiting time at the auto dealership to do so, if you set up your rig at the edge of the parking lot next to the train tracks that run parallel to a massive haul of high-tension power lines from the nearby substation, you will get swamped with power-induced noise all over any band you try. So don’t bother. Just stay away from power lines. Not even moving my counterpoise to be perpendicular to the lines helped.

This is starting to look like work; difficult, solitary work. I’m afraid I’ll lose interest if I can’t get any of those rewarding dopamine dumps from having things go right. I’m done with only talking about it; I want to actually do it, but doing it isn’t easy.

Radio is hard.

Dead Bands

As a holder of a Technician class license for amateur radio, I have full privileges on the 6-meter band and partial voice privileges on 10-meter (and Morse code privileges everywhere else, even though I don’t know code).

Unfortunately, due to being in the minimum part of the 11-year sunspot cycle, these are dead bands (sunspots ionize the atmosphere and increase radio wave bounce for longer distances). When a band is not able to sustain long-distance propagation, it’s not an attractive place for other hams to operate. That’s what makes it dead; nobody to talk to. It’s a lot like fishing; if a lake’s condition isn’t good (livestock, season, tide, etc.), it won’t have many fishermen on boats, and instead of little boat lights dotting the surface at night, it’s a dark lake. You’ll only see that one guy trolling for bottom-feeders.

6-meter dipole antenna, ready for use

Today’s experiment with my handmade 6-meter dipole antenna (and last weekend’s experiment with a 10-meter dipole) proves these are dead bands. That’s unfortunate for me. So, it behooves me to get my General license for full privileges on all the other bands, because the 40-meter band is where it’s at. It’s very, very active. Morse code everywhere, and lots and lots of Canadian and spanish-speaking conversations among the US and foreign contacts I listened to.

Time to study and upgrade.