Ida-Ho-Hey, Hamming in Charlotte

The Idaho QSO Party paid off for me and that state is now in my log.

I returned from the Charlotte Hamfest Saturday and had to run some errands before I could get in the shack. It was after 6 p.m. here when I finally switched on the rig and tuned around for about an hour. There were many interesting foreign stations but nothing from Idaho. Eventually, an Idaho station, AB7HP, the Hewlett Packard Amateur Radio Club based in Boise, showed up on the DX cluster on 20 meters.

I could hear him, but just barely above the noise. I decided to hold off on a QSO attempt and wait to see if band conditions improved. I left the rig on AB7HP’s frequency and set about programming the new Baofeng UV-3R+ I picked up in Charlotte for $39.

Not sure whether the Boise station turned their antenna or the band shifted, but suddenly the station came through my rig at a signal level around S7. I keyed up and tossed out my call and the operator came back to me on the first shot with a perfect copy on my call.

A second Idaho station, N7UVH, showed up on the cluster on 20 meters,  so I tuned over and found him managing a small pile-up. He was a solid S9. I managed to get heard after 2-3 tries and we exchanged locations and signal reports. Since N7UVH is an LOTW user, our contact was nearly instantly QSLed, bringing me one step closer to Worked All States basic.

Some notes on Charlotte:

  • The Hamfest was almost a duplicate of last year’s event. Same location, same setup, same vendors, some of the same junk, er, boat anchors for sale, some of the same faces and friends too.
  • Despite speaking with the Flex Radio vendor for quite some time about buying a Flex 1500, I decided to move on and not purchase the SDR QRP rig. It’s a neat piece of kit, but not at $600. I’d much rather have something from Elecraft.
  • I did buy a 12 volt sealed lead-acid battery rated for 8 aH. I should be able to power my FT-817 for a while on this.
  • As mentioned above, I did contribute to the economy of China by purchasing one of the infamous handhelds. The Baofeng is not a bad rig at all. It’s a simple radio and doesn’t have a lot of needless bells and whistles, so programming it is easy. It has 3 watts output, it’s very lightweight and it’s so small it fits in the palm of my hand, or in a jacket pocket. I actually took it to work today in the inner pocket of my sport coat. Receive audio is good and it hits the club repeater without any problem. I was talking with some friends within seconds of getting it up and running. Best of all, it was only $39. I really enjoy using this little radio, and it’s just too darned cute…
  • The highlight of the Charlotte trip was the Summits on the Air presentation. It got me excited about SOTA all over again. Naturally, the really interesting portion was when 4-5 of the local SOTA heavy-hitters showed off some of the gear they use. I spotted several end-fed antennas (The PAR EndFedz company owner was actually in the audience), we saw a demo of the Alex Loop antenna, a KX1, a Hendricks CW transceiver kit, a “Mountain Topper” built into an Altoids tin, and of course, the KX3. I e-mailed the presenter today (Christian, KF4LXB) and he graciously provided me with the Powerpoint presentation he gave. I may present something similar at our club later this year, seeing as how I’m responsible for organizing at least one program.
  • The Yaesu guys were there. They were giving out those stylish black ball caps again and I snagged one. I’ve been missing mine since I gave it to a guy on the streets of Atlanta back during Dragon*Con last year. The new hat is a slightly different design — white letters that simply says, “Yaesu, The Radio.” Hehe.

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