It all started with the 11-meter band. Wait! Don't touch that dial . . . .
This was back in the early 60s. My parents belonged to the
"Five-Watter's Club" in Chicago. We even held the FCC-issued call
18A9961 and exchanged QSL cards. Of course, those contacts were made
across town via groundwave, but we proudly displayed them on the wall
above the old rig. My Uncle Hank, W9IUO, was a ham, and he would
sometimes be on the radio when we went for a visit. This was my only
exposure to ham radio growing up. At night, when the am radio stations
began coming in from hundreds of miles away, I would lie in bed
with my 7-transistor shirt-pocket radio and listen to see what distant
stations I could hear. One station I remember was KAAY in Arkansas.
That's a long way from Chicago. Somewhere in all this the mystery of
radio and how invisible energy waves can travel so far became
rooted forever in me.
I moved from the suburbs of Chicago to the mountains of Colorado in
1974. It wasn't until the mid 1980s that I returned to my radio
interests. During a casual trip to a local department store, I found a
portable shortwave radio that seemed to have my name on it. That
evening I pulled out the long whip antenna and the first ever DX
station I heard was HCJB in Ecuador. This was soon followed by radio
Australia and the BBC. There was no turning back. I had the radio bug.
I built a Heathkit VLF converter, and from the plans of Steve McDonald,
VE7SL, I wound 250 feet of wire around a five-foot wood frame and
began recording low frequency NDBs (non directional beacons) heard from
my basement (no room for the antenna upstairs).
By 1987 I was taking ham radio classes, and that year I became
KBØAPA. As a technician-class ham I had voice privileges on ten
meters and made some nice contacts with a used FT-101Z. In 1988 I was
working 12-hour days, raising three young kids and going to night
classes for five hours earning an AS degree in electronics. With
virtually no spare time, radio again faded to the background.
In 1998, coincidentally during the time of a rising solar cycle 23, I
became active again and have not stopped since. One hundred watts and a
Hamstick antenna on the rear bumper of my truck became my ham shack.
Ten meters was in good shape and I "worked the world." In 2000 I upgraded to General, then Extra Class and became NØLX.
In the second
year of the Millennium I found the USIsland group on the Internet. They
take boats or cross bridges and operate on islands. Not just the ones
on the coasts but on rivers and lakes in all fifty states. I bought a
small boat and on September 23, 2001 I took my mobile radio, a copper
pipe vertical for 20 meters and a huge marine battery to a high
mountain lake and rowed nearly a mile to reach two islands.
The next-big-thing was discovering the HFpack group. They're a bunch of
hams who operate small rigs strapped to a backpack or bicycle or
kayak. Ahhh. Here were my people.
A most memorable QSO was with a college professor in Illinois. He was
Rollerblading around campus with a radio on his side and a whip antenna
strapped on his back. That's when I also discovered the joy and
challenge of QRP operating. The rest, as they say, is history, and the
of this website.