Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Collins R-388

My old R-388 gets a lot of use. I use it to listen to a few stations in Colorado Springs and Denver. It also does a good job of providing an extra heat source for the shack.
I remember when I first saw this radio. I came home to NC on leave and my Dad, KB4OGI, had this monster in his shack. It took up a lot of space but I think he got a kick out of it. I was very familiar with the R-390 as I had used those for ten years as a SIGINT Operator at various locations, before they were replaced with the RACAL, but I had never seen a R-388. I remember asking Dad what he paid for it and he said 15 dollars. I laughed thinking that it did not work. I was wrong. It worked and it still works. Its calibration is not too far off and I have done nothing to it except drag it to Colorado from North Carolina.

Along with the radio was also the original manual and what was once 15 dollar hamfest junk is now one of most prized radios. It is nice to have a piece of Army Air Corps history in working order as part of my shack. Thanks Dad.

I had thought about restoring it but decided to leave it as is and just use it.

The rest of my shack is a little bit more modern. I am a big fan of Elecraft gear but before that I was always a Ten Tec and Kenwood owner. Ten Tec lost me with their lack of support for the Orion which  I had and sold to buy the K3. I also I recently sold my Kenwood TS-830 Line (AT-230, SP-230, SM-220, VFO-230). Although it took me a few years to build that station I did not use it much and while the TS-830S is still a fine radio it was never really optimized for CW so I sold it to someone that could get more use out of it. I am pleased with my station today but if I had to do it all over again I would just have the KX3 (not pictured) as my main radio instead of the K3. I still have two K2s, a KX1 and various handhelds and mobile radios. I have been trying to sell one of my K2s but I have not put too much effort into it since I do not mind keeping it.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

KC0YQF activates SOTA Summit W0C/FR-135

This is a quick one. With the weather outside I decided to do a video featuring the XYL as she did a great job activating W0C/FR-135 this weekend.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Buddipole Vertical

Surprisingly I get a lot of questions about the Buddipole vertical setup I use. I did not buy a standard antenna setup but rather purchased the parts to make what I wanted to meet my specific needs.

We have a deluxe Buddipole for our deployable HF station at work but I started using Buddipole products when I had a truck camper and they just fit well. At the time I did not need to setup and teardown quickly but did need a good antenna system and they performed that task well. As I started down the Summits On The Air path I wanted something I could setup anywhere quickly and that is how I came up with what I use.

I do not use the Buddipole system all the time but sometimes, when space is limited it is easier than running a random wire, especially with many people about, (think Pikes Peak).

I do not do "how to" videos as they take a lot of time to put together correctly so I just used the video from our recent SOTA activation on an unnamed summit called 10,808 for its altitude near the historic town of Victor Colorado.

I have no connection with Buddipole other than giving them money in order to play with their antennas and parts.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mount Herman, the hard way

The road to access the TH to Mount Herman is closed and the sign says it will be closed until 2 Jan 2015. Mount Herman is somewhat of a SOTA testbed in that it is close by and fun to hike and a great place to try out new equipment for portable work.

My good friend Steve asked me if I wanted to try an approach from the East side of Mount Herman. I always wanted to do that but have never really research the route but just looking at Mount Herman from the East and it looks like a tough one. Of course I said YES!

I took Friday off and Steve and I headed to the TH and off we went. It was steep, about 1700 feet in .9 miles. Wow! It was a real workout.

Besides doing a SOTA activation with Steve there were two other reasons to make this one a special activation. Steve took his LNR made FX-4 radio along and his new goat Boo came along with Peanut.

Boo is a young goat and very curious. He is not shy like Peanut so it made for a very interesting day.

Boo and Peanut waiting to ride in the "Goat Wagon

K0JQZ and Boo Selfie
The complete HF station with FX-4  (Photo by wG0AT)
Neatly Packed (Photo by wG0AT)
K0JQZ-7 APRS Beacon
Our route took us North of Mount Herman and South of Raspberry Mountain. I am not sure how long it took us to get to the summit (I would guess about 2 hours) but it was a nice, well marked trail.

Just before it starts to get vertical there is a memorial to a young man that died somewhere on Mount Herman not too long ago.

In memory of Alan Sauceda (I think, not sure if I am reading that correctly)
Peanut is always great on the trail. Sometimes you just forget Peanut is there but he always is. Boo is also an easy going hiker but he did give me an occasional push on the way down as I was holding him up. Boo, like Peanut and Rooster before him, follows Steve everywhere he goes. They really are great hiking companions.

Steve and Boo behind him (close to summit)
When we summited we found a spot out of the wind, which was keeping it very cool, and Steve got to work throwing the random wire into a tree. The random wire was tuned with an Elecraft T1 connected tot he LNR FX-4.

Antenna support (Photo by wG0AT)
Elecraft T1 (Photo by wG0AT)
FX-4 (Photo by wG0AT)
Here is the video of the activation:

The FX-4 is a first generation one which was recalled by LNR for a replacement/refund/repair or something to that effect. Kudos for LNR buying up all the faulty units.
close up
another closeup
There has been another run/release of the FX-4 but I was not able to get one. I really did not have a lot of time with this radio to tell much about it. It is not a KX3 but then again it is less than half the cost moreover, it is even cheaper than a FT-817. I think it is a good radio for those that do not want to build something and want to get on the air in portable fashion using SSB. It would take a little bit to get used to the menus but the limited exposure I had I could tell the menu was easier to learn than the FT-817. It is also lighter and more compact than the FT-817. I think the power consumption is about the same (not saying much as the FT-817 is a power hog). Maybe the second run improved that but I do not know that for a fact. I did feel like I had to yell into the mic to get the ALC going, very much like a FT-817.

As far as performance I would say the receiver is better than a FT-817 but not as good as an Elecraft KX3, I realize that is about a wide a margin as they come. The filters seemed to work great. I did not play with the delay but it was a little too long for CW as I was missing the call sign prefix of some of the quicker stations after a CQ. All in all I liked it and would consider one if they make them again which I doubt they will since they already released a new SDR radio that I am sure will take up time and resources.

The LNR FX-4 and their new radio is a good alternative for the SSB operator that does not want to settle for a FT-817 (and all the performance modifications to make it viable) and something cheaper than the KX3 with less capabilities. It is worth considering.


Bonus Video, a time lapse of Laternfest in Fountain Colorado on 1 Nov 2014:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The McNeil / Swisher Trail to Cheyenne Mountain

The McNeil Swisher Trail does not really go to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain but it gets you about a half mile away. The McNeil part of the trail is well marked and actually goes down in elevation at first so it is a little tough coming back up if you did the Swisher Trail. The Swisher Trail has several switchbacks and is a bear but is not that long. Once you get to the top you come up at an Aspen Grove and you follow it around to the West and South and make your way up the slope to the ridge that the Cheyenne Mountain geographical summit sits on.

Here is the actual trail.

Lynn and I had lunch just beyond the Aspen Grove and enjoyed the views and mild weather then headed back down.

Here is our route:
Our GPS Route
 And our APRS Track:
K0JQZ-7 APRS Track
Lynn on the trail

McNeil Trail
The commercial antenna farm
Lynn getting ready for lunch

Our usual route to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain for a SOTA activation would be almost straight on (East front he same TH) and very vertical. This is a much longer route (around 6 miles roundtrip). Lynn and I did close to 5.5 miles on this trip. I want to explore this area a little more either before the snow starts in or next spring.

While on the summit I sent an APRS email to my friend Mark, WA6MVT, and to myself and it worked fine. I did talk to K0NR briefly on two meter simplex on our way down but copy was rough so we cut it short.