The ARMs ride

The Amateur Radio Motorcyclists (ARMs) ride again!

I started motorcycling about two years ago on a 2005 Triumph Bonneville America, but I never found a group of guys to ride with until I got involved in amateur radio.

Saturday, the Amateur Radio Motorcylists (ARMs) met up early and rode out for breakfast, then on to the weekend’s VE session. It was the second time I’d ridden with Ronnie (Past president of the Columbia Amateur Radio Club) and Carl as a trio. We met up with Steve, my partner in crime for Field Day 2012, at the restaurant. The range of bikes in our club is diverse. I’m on the British bike, Ronnie, a Valkyrie, Carl, a Yamaha, and Steve, a Sportster.

More members of the VE team arrived (on four wheels) and we enjoyed breakfast, hamspeak, and fellowship, before rolling over to the testing site. Testing groups have been large in the past. I can recall taking Element 2 back in August of last year and being amazed at how many other folks were there. The same was true in December when I took Element 3. The club’s VE team also passed a record number of new hams last summer during a massive session that made ARRL news.

But Saturday, only four candidates arrived for testing. It was unusual in that all four were there to take the Extra-class exam. One of them happened to be my uncle, KG4ITV.

In contrast, we had a whopping 13 VEs present. At least 4-5 of them (myself included) had never participated in a VE session before and we there observing. I was shadowing Ronnie, and ended up writing up CSCEs — which is really great, because the CSCE is like a golden ticket for a candidate who has just passed an element. I was glad to have a part in creating happy hams, hehe.

We had three folks pass Element 4, including my uncle. Family members aren’t allowed to administer each other’s exams, but it was my pleasure to give him the news that he’d passed and present him with a fresh CSCE confirming his /AE status.

Overall a great day of ham radio. Ironically, I didn’t turn on a radio all day!

In other news, I’m continuing my exploration of digital modes in my ramp-up for Field Day 2012. PSK has become more natural and I’m having great luck calling CQ on 14.070 and making contacts at 5 watts. So far most of them have been stateside.

JT65 remains a pleasant experience. I’ve altered my technique a bit to “run” on a segment of the frequency and just make contact after contact. Basically, after I complete a QSO, I flip-flop my even/odd transmit sequence and immediately start calling CQ again, which keeps that segment of the frequency occupied so someone doesn’t see a gap in the waterfall and start transmitting over me.

For example, I’ve been transmitting on even minutes and I complete a QSO from CQ to the final 73. I quickly log the QSO, immediately switch the transmit to odd minutes, hit the CQ macro and go back to transmitting. I don’t know if this is good etiquette, but it sure beats having to wait a minute to start CQing again on the even/odd minute, then having someone transmit over you on the next pass because they think the band portion isn’t occupied.

Steve and I are going to man a digital QRP station on 15 meters (PSK and maybe RTTY), and I suppose where ever else we can go. I’m very keen on remaining QRP and being as self-contained as possible. Although Field Day is considered a “contest that’s not really a contest” I’m going to try to be as competitive as possible to represent the club.

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