Initial post - some history

I got my Technician ticket in 2000 as KG6BKG. I'd actually studied for the test years before, but couldn't get my head around morse code at a speed that would pass a test. I bought an HT, and primarily used the radio while offroading. A couple people in the group had Ham licenses, so we'd space ourselves out in the group of vehicles and keep in touch, while the others would chime in with their CB's as far as they'd reach.

Fast forward to 10 years later, and the old friend that encouraged me to get my Technician showed me what HF was about, so I studied a bunch, and I got my General. I picked up some older Yaesu gear (an FT-301, speaker/power supply, antenna tuner, and oscilloscope) at a swap meet. Set up a quick 20M dipole in the yard, and tried it out. Come to find out it was all pretty flaky, I could hear a bit, but only with headphones. Antenna tuner doesn't work, and I never figured the oscilloscope out for more than simple waveforms. Oh, and it appeared to transmit, but no real audio went out. Still, I spent a couple months listening to what I could, and figured I'd eventually get a working radio and them might refurbish the 301 to working order (doubt I'll ever get around to that now). But, we moved, and the gear got stowed. I still used the HT (a Yaesu Vx-5, which continues to work flawlessly), but no HF.

Our new place had a ton of room for antennas, and a prior owner even had a 8" pipe sunk in concrete in the middle of the yard. The YL wouldn't let me mount an antenna from it, given it was right in the middle of the only view from the living room. More years passed, with only my trusty Vx-5 seeing any airtime, and then only when traveling.

I built a barn in 2015, and had a corner set aside for an eventual ham shack, but spent my time/spare cash on tools for the shop.

Finally in late 2018, I decided it was time. I was going to get a new HF station set up. Started reading everything I could (I'd subscribed to QST since I was first licensed). Decided I couldn't go wrong with an IC-7300, and HRO had it on sale. Also bought a GAP Challenger antenna, figuring it covered enough bands, I could at least get started. And, since I was opening the checkbook, grabbed a Yaesu 9800 so I could check out the local 2M scene.

Finally got it all wired up in January 2019, and started listening again. Got up the nerve to finally check into a net ( in February. And, the floodgates were open! It helped that the GAP antenna is a GEM on 20 & 40 meters. From coastal California mid-way between San Francisco and the Oregon border, I was hitting northern Washington, Arizona, and Montana with ease. On 2M/70cm the GAP was really poor, hitting only the repeater a couple miles up the road. I threw up a J-Pole I won at an event, and $50 later (mostly spent on coax) with a galvanized pipe 30' in the air, and I can easily reach out 40 miles on 2M, hills and trees permitting.

Here's a shot of the GAP and the first iteration of the shack (I'll do a current shack post eventually)...

Started listening on weekends, found contest stations, learned how to figure out call and response in various contests. Found more nets I had time to hear. Found the local hams working on a local repeater.

So now I'm on the radio 4-5 days a week, sometimes just to check in to a net and make sure everything's working, but still on-air. I have an APRS station broadcasting my weather 24/7, I often set it up with the 9800 as a digipeater as well, and got an antenna mounted in the truck, but haven't decided if I'll go through the effort of getting a mobile installed in the truck, or just build a mobile HF/VHF/UHF go box that can be used from the truck, or elsewhere. Currently leaning towards the latter, since I'm also working with local Hams on emergency preparedness for our easily isolated communities.

Recently, our local club hosted a testing session, and although I was waiting for the new Extra test to come out in 2020, figured I'd give it a shot. I dove in and spent much of my free time studying all the material for 3 weeks, and passed the exam! I then read about getting a 2x1/1x2 callsign, and realized that was a long-shot. Having to research when they were cancelled, when the 2 year clock expired, and then hoping you requested it early enough. Worse (for me), as a California native, I wanted to keep my '6' designator, but the state has a lot more people since I was born, and by extrapolation, a lot of Extras seeking short callsigns.

Oddly, there was one callsign whose two year clock ended in September, and it had no applications referencing it. It also happened to have my initials as the first two letters! was it meant to be? The day I got the FCC notice of my Extra being filed (12/18/19), I applied. Yesterday, Jan 3 at 11:00PM PT, I got the notice I had a new callsign!

I registered a new domain name, and decided maybe I'd start posting about my various Ham-related projects and setup information. I know if I do it primarily for me to remember how I set something up, and the steps I went through, it'll at least be a good notebook for me.

That's enough for now, a 20 year journey that hopefully will continue for a while longer...


© 2020 Ken Wallich 2020Jan04 


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