Saturday, September 24, 2011

A dash of reality

In roughly two years of half-way intense DXing with 100 watts, a hexbeam, a 43-foot vertical, and a G5RV, I’m at 272 countries worked. I say “half-way intense” because I rarely make myself wake up in the middle of the night to chase a country (although it has been known to happen), I’m out of town a good bit and, thus, miss a lot of opportunites, and I still put family priorities ahead of radio fun.

If I owned a 70-foot tower and had a lot of aluminum on top of it, I might think that 272 countries doesn’t look very impressive. And it isn’t about looking ‘impressive’; it’s about accomplishing a goal. Even with my very modest station I can work DXCC in one weekend. Now the going is a lot tougher. There’s fewer countries that I need and fewer opportunities to find them on the air.

So, reality has set in. If I want to make 300 countries, which I’ve set as my immediate goal, I’m probably going to have to make some changes. Not changes that involve buying a new radio, the 590 is proving to be one heck of a good choice. I need to make changes in my antenna system AND I need to put more time in. The last part I can control and change right away with not very much investment.

Here’s what isn’t going to happen. I’m not going to buy and install a tower. I’m not going to buy an amplifier. I’m confident that I can make 300 countries without either. Beyond 300, who knows?

So, I’m mostly working with what I have. For starters, with fall and winter just around the corner, I’m installing a beverage antenna. I have the space and it’s something I should’ve done last year and didn’t. That’ll help tremendously on 40 and 80, perhaps even a little bit on 30. When the leaves fall and the snakes hit the road, it’s as good as in. Next, I’m making a dedicated antenna for 30 meters. More on that in another post. Finally, I’m raising my hexbeam. For a very brief time I had it at 40 feet. That didn’t last very long, for several reasons. Bottom line, it’s been sitting at about 27 feet for a year and a half. I have the means to raise it to 45 feet but that’s on hold until my arm heals. I managed to rip my bicep muscle in my left arm and I’ve got about 4 or 5 more weeks of “non-use” following surgery to reattach it. I do, however, believe that the increased height will make a difference. Most tout that 40-45 feet is optimum for a hex. It also needs some maintenance performed when I lower it.

Also, despite the wonderful upsurge in sunspot activity lately, you’ll notice that I’m mostly concentrating on the low bands with winter approaching. I hope that proves to be a wise decision.

Here’s what many of you probably won’t understand, but some will. I don’t want to hit 300 countries right away. That’ll mean that I’ll have to come up with a whole new strategy for the next few. I also don’t want a station that I can turn on and have the DX in my log in 15 minutes (or less). Again, I know that flies in the face of many. I’m not going to explain that because you either know what I mean or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’ll never understand.

I want these next countries to mean just as much, if not more than the first 100 and the second 100 did, and I want them to require considerable effort. Because I know that I could rush out and buy all the items to make it happen really quick. Then I would have convinced myself that I really needed that amplifier and that tower to make it happen.


VE3WDM said...

Good afternoon Ed, they sound like some very reasonable goals you have set. I am like you I don't want a station that is just like picking up the cell phone and making a call. I too like to have the challenge. Good luck with the adventure to 300 and do post how you are coming along....

w4kaz said...

The low bands are a lot different from the high bands. Have fun with both by having a separate goal for 17m/15m/12m/10m than your goals for 160-20m.

More fun is more fun.

The last week has been great on 15m up, at least in comparison to the last six years. Harvest the HF wheat while it is ripe and the solar wx is good.

Not to say the low bands should be ignored. Good conditions will frequently still be found there too. You will really enjoy using a beverage on those noisy nights.

Hope your arm heals up and you are back in action soon.

73 de w4kaz

Jspiker said...

Hi Ed,

Thought you had given up on the hobby. Glad to see you writing again! Keep up the great posts.

Ed N4EMG said...

Oh no, John, I've never considered giving up on the hobby, I'd just taken a break from posting on the blog. As it is, I am as active as ever on the air, but I write if I feel like it. If I don't, I'll just wait until I do. I see a lot of blogs where it's clear they're reaching for topics, as if they think they HAVE to write every single day and they apologize if they don't. I felt that way a little and it became a chore, no fun. Nice to hear from everyone though. Keith, the arm is healing nicely, thanks for the well wishes! And, Mike, I'm still a ways from 300, those last few are gonna take a while :)