This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU/KD8ABX

This was a great weekend for ham radio!

First thing Saturday morning, ARROW held their monthly breakfast at the Old Country Buffet. We once again had a couple dozen members show up, and we talked about all kinds of things, including aviation, the upcoming presidential election, and even some ham radio.

Afterwards, I was supposed to head over to the house of KD8ABX to help him with an antenna. He got busy with some other things, though, so that left me free operate. There were two events going on Saturday afternoon—the Texas QSO Party and the Blue Ridge Bonanza. They were both fun.

I made about a dozen contacts in the TX QP, but it was even more fun to operate the Blue Ridge Bonanza. The Roanoke Valley Amateur Club (VA) and The Forsythe Amateur Radio Club (NC) sponsored this event, which spanned the length of the Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a 469-mile highway that runs from the Shenandoah National Park at its north end to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at its south end. In between, is some of the most beautiful country in the USA.

Before I got back into ham radio in a big way six years ago, I used to bicycle quite a bit. I’ve biked the northernmost part of the Parkway, from mile 0 to mile 45.6, and part of the southern part around Asheville, NC. I’d still love to go back sometime and bike its entire length.

For this event, there were thirteen stations set up along the Parkway, nine in Virgina that used the callsign W4CA and four in North Carolina that used the callsign W4NC. The Roanoke Valley ARC operated five stations in Virginia, the Forsythe ARC operated two stations in NC. Several other clubs participated in the event to man the other stations.

I managed to work nine of the thirteen stations, aided by the fact that band conditions were excellent between Michigan and VA/NC Saturday afternoon. I especially enjoyed working the Buena Vista station. I stayed overnight there once on a 1,300-mile bike tour.

On Sunday, I drove over to the QTH of Zoltan, KD8ABX, to help him get his 40m dipole back up in the air. I say “back in the air” because we’d done this once before in the spring, but it came down several weeks ago in a wind storm. For some reason, we never got around to testing it when we put it up, and Zoltan got busy with other things (mainly raising his cute little daughter, Kinga), so he’d never gotten on the air at the time.

This time was different. We replaced the bit of rope that had broken and hoisted the antenna back up into the air. There was some interference from some tree branches, but that was quickly taken care of with the branch trimmer, which I zipped home to retrieve.

Next, we connected it up to his antenna analyzer (the Autek that I sold him after buying the Palstar) and determined that it was a bit long. At first, I guessed at taking a foot off each side, but had second thoughts, and only shortened the antenna by 18 inches. I should have gone with my gut. 18 inches got the resonant point into the band, but way down in the CW portion of the band.

No worries, though. Zoltan had an antenna tuner that I’d lent him. I showed him how to use the antenna analyzer to tune the antenna, we hooked it up to Zoltan’s I-735, and we were off and running. We’d set the antenna tuner for a 1:1 SWR at 7225, which just happened to be the frequency for the Blue Ridge Bonanza mile 0 station. There was a big pileup there, so I tuned downband a bit and found WA3GDH calling CQ. Gerd was our first QSO with the new antenna.

After a short QSO with Gerd, we did work W4CA on 7225 and 7230 (the mile 45.6 Buena Vista station). Finally, I called CQ around 7217 and had a nice chat with W4AXT in Lebanon, TN. Band conditions were really great—all of the stations we worked were S9+, and we got similar reports.

We did have one disappointment. About a year ago, I’d purchased an AT-150, the antenna tuner companion to the IC-735. We tried getting that to work with the rig, but it didn’t seem to want to play. We’re going to have to work on that.

At any rate, KD8ABX is on the air. Look for him on 40m SSB and on 40m PSK. He has a cute, little SignaLink USB interface, and he’s hot to get on PSK. In the future, look for him on CW as well. I’m going to work on him to learn the code.

DX on 40m
But, wait, there’s more! I had a lot of fun working all these domestic stations, but there was quite a bit of DX to be worked as well. Saturday evening, I worked 4X4FC on 7007, and on Sunday evening, I worked TF/DL2RJM/P. F3NB also answered one of my CQs. Andy, F3NB, and I must have some kind of pipeline between us; we’ve worked almost a dozen times now on 40m.

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