Yesterday was the 2015 Flight of the Bumblebees. It’s a fun short contest put on by the Adventure Radio Society. Richard Fisher, KI6SN does most / all of the heavy lifting to make it happen. For that, I and many other hams who participate, are grateful.
“So you’re going out to be a bumblebee? What’s that all about?”
My wife Kathy was snickering as she said it. She loves poking fun at me, all of it in good spirit. That’s how it is after nearly 41 years of marriage.
“Well, just as bumblebees go away from their nests to gather pollen, so we radio bumblebees travel outdoors to gather QSOs.”
It was the best analogy I could come up with on the fly.
I was late leaving my house as the contest was already underway for 50 minutes.
No doubt my CW and outdoor radio mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID, had already scored twenty or more QSOs. He’s so very good at outdoor radio and can hear Morse at up to speeds of 35 words per minute (WPM) or so. I’m a pathetic 10 WPM on my best day.
But I’m having fun and getting better all the time. I just need to spend more time doing it. Jim has a 57-year head start on me. But I digress.
To be a bumblebee you need to be outdoors. The weather here in central New Hampshire was dismal. It was cloudy and rain felt like it could fall at any time. The cloud ceiling was well below 1,000 feet.
I had decided to drive to a 90-acre parcel I own and operate from the top of a grand hill. There I could erect a sloper antenna pointing to the west and southwest where most of the other bees would be.
My plan was to get up there, set up, get a Q or two and then call Jim to come up and work with me. He lives just twenty minutes away. That’s a short drive in central NH!
But Jim must have ESP. He foiled my scheme!
(Imagine Morse code ring tone now of: W1PID)
“What’s up?” I was in shock he was calling me and I was only on the road for about ten minutes.
“What are you doing? I’ve been operating for nearly 40 minutes and having virtually no luck.”
“I’m on my way to my land to set up.”
“WHAT? And you didn’t call me?”
“I was going to call you once I was up there and set up with a couple of Q’s under my belt. You can’t be a bumblebee operating at home you know! Why don’t you come up and join me?”
“I’ll be there in 30 minutes.”
I was both happy and disappointed at the same time – disappointed that my plan had been spoiled.
It turns out that happiness ruled the rest of the day.
Once up at my land, it took virtually no time to set up my par EndFedz multi-band 10/20/40-meter antenna as a sloper. The top end of the antenna was a good 30 feet in the air and the matchbox end with my RG-174 coax cable was about 8 feet off the ground.
I had it sloping to the SSW.
Jim arrived just as I was about to move my truck so I could extend the coax cable into the cab. The mosquitos were thick and hungry and it seemed it could pour at any moment.
“Are you just putting your stuff away?” Jim knew better.
“No, I’m just getting set up. I only had a 15-minute head start to get here once you called me.”
Within a few moments we were on the air with my trusty HB-1B.
We tried my little portable speaker so we both could listen, but the internal battery was low and it was causing all sorts of RF with the radio. Out came the earbuds and we each shared one.
20 meters was alive.
“Wow, I couldn’t hear ANYTHING at my house. This setup on the hill is making a big difference.”
Within two minutes I had worked K4BAI.
Hah, I say “I” but it was “us”.
Jim was logging and using his SUPERIOR listening skills to capture call signs and all else the first time.
It normally would take me a few minutes to *hear* a fellow ham’s call sign as I often can only get one letter or two in a string at a time.
Jim has often scolded me about me sending kelp to someone who’s in distress needing *help*.
We were both in the truck cab laughing and having a great time.
Within ten minutes we had another Q. N9A
It was then time for a break. Often during breaks we shoot guns.
When we had our fill of lead and smoke, we operated again.
I switched to 40 meters and BOOM there was N3AO.
“That’s Carter!” Jim was talking about Carter Craige, the husband of the president of the ARRL, Kay Craige. Jim and Carter are old friends and I got to meet him last summer at the ARRL Centennial Convention.
I sent him my call, but he didn’t recognize it.
Jim took my micro Pico paddles after I signed off with Carter and all of a sudden they stopped sending dah.
The cable had gone bad.
How experienced is Jim? He immediately put the paddle on it’s side and used the dit side as a straight key to complete the QSO with Carter.
I was in awe.
I dug into my plastic box and pulled out a spare cable to make the Pico paddles work again.
We then worked N4HAY – I say we, but it was all Jim as he heard him first time.
By then it was time to pack up and leave.
I have to say that yesterday was in the top three of all my outdoor outings with Jim. I had a blast and felt good about hearing lots of what was sent by the other hams.
I’ll never be as good as Jim, well maybe I will, but it doesn’t matter.
What matters at the end of the day is just friendship and having fun – no matter what the speed.
Author’s Note: I do have a goal to get to 18-20 WPM. When I’m really proficient at that speed, I’ll be ordering an Elecraft KX3 as a present for myself.
Who knows, by then it may be the KX4!