It has been a challenge having radio of any kind in the valley my home sits in. The hills on either side are so steep and tall that very little radio gets in or out. Even AM/FM is a challenge: only one or two stations that come from the north that give us the least bit of advertisement-interrupted music. Even though the high-bands have trouble, 160m-40m does okay on my 204′ dipole. I suspect that a vertical might do better on 40m-10m and plan to purchase one up this year or next. I’ll update this section as I experiment.
I first tested for my Technician ticket in December of 2010. I mostly listened to the VHF repeaters outside of Seattle for more than a year before my first-ever QSO. At the time, I had an Icom 2200 2m I was given by uncle Fairbanks. His promise was, “If you get your license, I’ll get you a radio.” That hand-me-down mobile has been great. I still have it.
A quick, but well-needed review: Due to a ‘packaging error’ on my part when I put the 2200 in storage, it sat in a box that had been near a very leaky window. The plastic bag that I poorly wrapped the radio in caught the rain water and was almost filled. The 2200 sat in a full bag of water…for two months. Catching myself on the way to the dumpster, I figured I might as well try the unit just to see the sparks fly before I chuck it. I opened it up and let it dry in the sun for a few days. It turned on. It transmitted (into a dummy load). It appeared to be functioning perfectly! I am afraid to transmit on the air with it, but I am going to keep it and test it sometime – just in case. Maybe this isn’t as much of a miracle as I think it is, but I still find it neat. I am worried about a few drops from my jacket sleeve falling onto the screen of my Kenwood – and here is the Icom still working after soaking for two months.
In 2013 I completed my General and Brandon KG7HBU got his Tech. I currently run barefoot on an Icom 735 (usually around 35w) into a True-Talk 204′ dipole in an inverted-vee pattern (∠135°). An MFJ-941 manual tuner completes the HF system. A 100w PV panel keeps the single 12VDC deep cycle battery topped off, though this is a challenge by itself. The battery is old and weak and the panel doesn’t get much sun in winter.
I have a Yaesu 2900 that I have kept in the house but I am not impressed with it for a variety of reasons. There is a Kenwood 218 in the truck that also isn’t doing too well. It is rated as mil-spec for ruggedness, but I think the dust has taken a toll on the circuity. An Icom V-80 sport rounds out the amateur equipment showcase. I am not impressed with this unit as a whole, but this is my “Baofeng”. It does perform the job I bought it for. (Maybe I just can’t be impressed with any radio?)
As of May 2016, I am now an Amateur Extra. After reading that damned book cover-to-cover (twice) and help from online study tools, I successfully completely the Amateur Extra test just under the wire for the new question pool.
I am excited for the future of amateur radio on the homestead. Currently, it is not far from a duct tape production. As equipment is upgraded and better systems are installed, I’ll be sure to update this section.
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