Samuel Morse Killed The Pony Express

I am getting ready to head out for my road trip west. I recently got an opportunity to visit the Pony Express National Museum and am going to tailor my route west to follow (for the most part) the Pony Express route.

The Pony Express was a fast mail service crossing the North American continent from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, from April 1860 to October 1861. It became the nation’s most direct means of east-west communication before the telegraph and was vital for tying California closely with the Union just before the American Civil War.

Once telegraph service was extended between Sacramento and Salt Lake City, the Pony Express was no longer viable as a money making operation. So in a way – Morse Code killed the Pony Express.

I am going to try to stop at some of the original Pony Express stops as well as other points of interest (like Fort Kearny, NE).

For those interested in following my progress west from the Missouri River to the California Sierra Nevada, I will be using APRS. I will also be looking for HF contacts to keep me entertained on the drive, so keep an ear out for me on 40M and 20M.

Departure time is set for early Tuesday morning. Tomorrow I need to pack.

Mi-Wuk Bound

I am linking up with my dad, KD6EUG, for this year’s Field Day. He has a cabin up in the California Sierra’s in Mi-Wuk Village, located just above Sonora. Our planning for this event has been ongoing for some time. There are really own a few days left and I am trying to lay out all the remaining tasks to accomplish in order to set conditions for a super Field Day experience.

Phase I: Planning and preparation. We’re in this phase now.

Phase II: Travel to California. My love of a good roadtrip has inspired me to drive from Kansas to California for Field Day.

Phase III: Field Day setup. We are going to setup a station that will become permanent up at the cabin. I will operate another station that I am going to setup outside.

Phase IV: Field Day. Have fun! This will be the first Field Day that my dad and I have operated together.

Phase V: Clean up and station tweaks. We will spend the Monday after Field Day cleaning up and making any necessary adjustments to the cabin’s station.

For planning and preparation I need to:
– Make a packing list. There is a lot of “stuff” I need to haul out to California and once we are up at the cabin in the Sierra’s it will be a little difficult to make a run to RadioShack (let alone the Ham Radio Outlet in Sunnyvale).
– Cabin station equipment. I believe I have all the pieces and parts that will make up the cabin station. What I need to do is lay out everything and do a test run. One of the station components includes a laptop. Not only will the laptop running logging software, it will also run all the digital modes. I anticipate setting up the laptop will take a lot of time.
– eARSIB. I need to complete my renovation of the eARSIB. Parts wise the only thing I am missing is a shipment from Mouser which should arrive soon. Minus those parts, I need to finish putting everything together and testing it. This includes interfacing the eARSIB with another laptop (my laptop). All this will take some time.
– Items left to purchase. There isn’t much left to get. A pop-up shelter and a 12v marine battery… a quick trip to Walmart should solve all this.
Roadtrip plan. I have my route generally planned but I need to make my reservations for my overnight stays enroute to California (… and the return trip).

Come Monday, I hope to get most of the planning and prep tasks complete.

Field Day Is Coming! Field Day Is Coming!

The clock is ticking and the time is now to get ready for Field Day. My station will consist of the eARSIB: Enhanced Amateur Radio Station In a Box. The entire station fits in an airtight, waterproof box that can be carried with one hand. An FT-817nd makes up the core of the station. To assist the QRP rig in getting up to 100 watts, there is an Tokyo Hy-Power amplifier. The LDG Z-11Pro autotuner and a power supply round out the box’s main components. I’ve redone the shelving system to give the main components a bit more room and stability. One of the big improvements will be to mount a RIGrunner inside the shelving system and clean up the power wiring. Another new edition will be a connection panel that will allow me to easily connect cables for rig control, a Heil headset, CW paddle, and a RIGblaster Plug & Play digital interface. I am also hoping to add in a PWRgate with an external powerpole connection for a battery backup. The final improvement will be a few 12v fans installed in the rear to keep everything cool. I hope to have everything assembled tomorrow for a backyard patio smoke test.

SolderSmoke: A Global Adventure in Radio Electronics, by Bill Meara, N2CQR

SolderSmoke: A Global Adventure in Radio Electronics, by Bill Meara, N2CQR, takes the reader on a journey into the magic of radio and the essence of the amateur radio hobby. The book is both a personal journal and a workbench notebook. Bill weaves together his exploration of radio through both his experiences since joining the hobby as a boy and the continual development of his conceptualization and resulting understanding of the basics of electronics. With a liberal arts education, Bill’s exploration of electronics becomes a passionate pursuit driven by questions not easily explained by standard text book answers. Anyone who has enjoyed listening to a SolderSmoke podcast knows that Bill is a wonderful storyteller. His narrative traces his development in the hobby: early years as a boy, an Army private at Fort Gordon, GA experiencing the Signal Corps school, his reemergence in the hobby upon the start of a State Department posting in the Dominican Republic, followed by tours in the Azores, London, and Rome. Bill’s interests in amateur radio covers many of its facets. He makes contact with a Russian OSCAR satellite, talks to an astronaut aboard MIR, and catches the homebrewing bug – building an AM rig, a dual side-band rig that he uses on 17M and other completely homebrewed projects. His job with the State Department allows him to enjoy the hobby from exotic locations around the globe. The fellow hams he meets (both on air and locals) adds to his adventures. Whether a fellow homebrewer is sending him a hard to get part or he works a local ham in the Dominican Republic via a satellite-based VHF repeater, Bill brings to life the camaraderie of the amateur radio fellowship. His journey takes him beyond the basic equations of electronic theory and explores some of the fundamental questions behind the formulas. I would recommend this book for anyone who views amateur radio gear as more than just a collection of transistors, capacitors, diodes, and solder. SolderSmoke (the book) is one man’s journey into the soul of ham radio. It is a wonderful, amazing quest to unlock the magic of the electron.
The book [softbound, 195 pages] is self-published and available from Lulu or for $22.99.

Achieved the vision…

It has been a long time goal to be able to sit in a comfy deck chair out in the backyard and have CW QSOs using my Elecraft KX1. Tonight it happen!
Last weekend I routed a feedline from an antenna switch down in the ham shack up to the deck in the backyard. I played around with it a bit, using the internal tuner to get a nice SWR on 80M, 40M, 30M and 20M. I listened around and tossed out my callsign a few times but didn’t have any takers.
I found myself back out in the backyard after dinner tonight, enjoying a wonderful evening. I broke out the KX1 (when I should of been doing my homework) and was listening around on the former 40M novice CW band…. I heard WA0TYS ably using a straight key and a Heathkit rig, calling CQ at a speed I could comfortably handle. I answered and Craig picked me up after a few tries. It was a short QSO, but I was elated. I hope to repeat this performance on a regular basis – it goes along way in maintaining my sanity.