Flight of the Bumblebees QRP Contest 2018

Here’s part of my logbook for the 2018 Bumblebee contest. You need to flip over the page to see the other two contacts. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Flight of the Bumblebees 2018 Contest

“I’m a flippin’ operator.”

I was proclaiming this as I stood over Jim Cluett, W1PID. He was sitting in the warm grass on a knoll on the flanks of Mt. Kearsarge. Jim and I were here with our mutual friend Dave Benson, K1SWL. The three of us were bumblebees out in the field trying to gather radio pollen.

We were participating in the annual Flight of the Bumblebees QRP contest hosted by the Adventure Radio Society. Just as bees flit around flower blossoms to gather nectar, we would be spinning the frequency knobs on our radios trying to collect as many contacts with other radio operators as possible.

It’s best if you bump into other bees who are also participating in the contest if you want to get a high score. I tend to be more interested in meeting other people face-to-face when we’re out operating instead of talking with people I can’t see.

The Boastful Bumblebee

I made that bumptious remark to Jim, my outdoor radio and CW mentor, because 90 minutes before I found myself on yet another plateau in my ongoing HF radio quest. I knew Jim would be happy because he’s been patiently pushing me for the past five years to become a respectable HF radio operator.

I love amateur radio but I don’t give it as high a priority in my life as Jim might like. “Just practice 15 minutes a day,” has been his mantra. Sadly I don’t follow that advice each day as some other shiny object seems to garner my attention.

Getting on the Air

When the three of us walked from the parking lot to the picnic area I peeled off first after eyeing a tree that was about 65-feet tall. It was perfect for my 29-foot wire antenna.

Here I am happy as a clam. I had already made four or five contacts and was thinking about how just two years ago I would have been thrilled with two! Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

The day before I had decided to get the antenna up as far as possible and connect a 25-foot coax cable to the 9:1 unun that was 15 feet in the air at the base of the 29-foot wire. I wanted the best possible chance for my signal to get out.

Not two minutes had passed and my antenna was up in the tree. Ninety seconds later I was on the air. I glanced over my right shoulder and noticed Jim and Dave were still in a discussion about where each of them was going to operate.

Go back four or five years ago and it would have taken me 15 minutes to get my antenna up into a tree and all my gear set up. Now it only takes me one underhanded throw to get my water bottle and the halyard line 60, or more, feet up and over tree branches.

Here’s Jim with his 44-foot twisted pair dipole antenna. It was nice and warm in the sun. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Radio Signals Galore!

I was stunned when I tuned my radio to the QRP (low-power) frequency on 20 meters. There were all sorts of stations calling! This past year propagation has been dismal and there have been times I’ve turned on the radio and heard just one, or two, signals.

Within a few minutes, I had already contacted two other bumblebee operators! After the third contact, I stopped and thought about how just three years ago I would have been thrilled with two contacts for an outing.

Can you Hear Morse Code?

But it gets better. I’m now at a level where I can hear a call sign the first time. Five months ago it would take me two or three times to capture the code and decipher it in my head. While I’m not able to copy at 20 words per minute (WPM), I’m comfortable at 15 WPM.

I feel within six months I’ll be head copying at 15 WPM with no trouble. Three years ago that milestone was not even on my radar. I never thought I could advance that far.

An Ironworker and the Family

About one hour after arriving, two motorcycles rumbled into the parking lot. The two couples made their way to the picnic area and sat at a table across from me. They were extremely curious as to why a wire was stretched up into the tree above me. It’s important to realize they were polite and didn’t bother me.

Jim called me on the radio and I answered him. The contact counted. But the rascal was only 150 feet away from me and gave me a miserable 449 signal report. One of Jim’s favorite pastimes is to yank my chain, some days harder than others.

“What’s the deal with the 449?” I yelled down to Jim who was sitting on the grass.

Here’s where Jim was set up. Why he didn’t ask for help to move a picnic table down here is a mystery. He had a stunning view to the north and east. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

“What’s 449 mean?” said one of the women motorcycle riders. I got up from my table and began a delightful 15-minute conversation.

I discovered her boyfriend was a retired ironworker from Massachusetts. He used to work the high steel and drive spud wrenches into the holes at the end of I-beams so the bolt holes would line up.

spud wrench

Here’s a spud wrench. Ironworkers have these in assorted sizes. I got this one back in the early 1970s at a construction site across from my home. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

The other motorcycle couple had just gotten back from a three-week cycle trip through many of the national parks in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

It’s fun talking to strangers. At least for me, it is.

As I walked back from visiting Jim, a middle-aged man was starting a fire in a granite-lined firepit. Moments later his wife walked by my table and said, “Hello! What have you got going on?”

Wires and strings dangling from trees are the best conversation starter I’ve ever discovered. Within minutes I was engaged in a delightful conversation about what I was doing.

It didn’t take me long to discover the husband was a financial advisor and he loved using the Peak Finder app on his smartphone to identify all the mountains we were looking at to the west, north, and east.

sandwich mountain nh

Here’s the profile of the view I have from my deck looking north. This is a very useful app if you like to hike where there are mountains! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

“There’s Mt. Ascutney in Windsor, VT,” he exclaimed. He then pointed his phone to the north and east and I could see the names and horizon profile of lots of familiar peaks in central New Hampshire. I downloaded that app as soon as I got home. What a neat and useful tool to have on future radio outings!

Eyeball QSOs Don’t Count

I looked at my watch and it was time to pack up and leave. As I met up with Jim and Dave near the cars, they both made it quite clear that all the time I wasted talking to the motorcyclists and the family wouldn’t count towards my score.

“Those eyeball QSOs don’t count buddy,” Jim said with an impish grin.

“You could have had another 15 contacts if you hadn’t talked to all those people,” he added. Dave was backing him up 150 percent.

“Listen, I know you don’t like talking to people, but I do. I discovered all sorts of things about spud wrenches and I know where Mt. Ascutney is.”

“What? Where’s Mt. Ascutney?”

“Forget about it. I’m not telling you. Go ask that man if you’re so interested.”

We all laughed and Jim put his arm around me saying, “I still love you.”

He meant it and the feeling is mutual. Each time we all go out I have more and more fun and today was one of my best outings ever.

Odiorne State Park Ham Radio Adventure

odiorne state park

This is the rocky beach of Odiorne State Park in Portsmouth, NH. During fierce storms, water crashes over this low stone wall. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Odiorne State Park, Kites, and Ham Radio

Jim Cluett, W1PID, and I finally got to the beach yesterday at Odiorne State Park in Portsmouth, NH. We had talked and talked about this outing for years, but my new roof, my new deck, a scenic train and other obstacles got in our way.

The previous five days were fraught with rain and the forecast for yesterday was pleasant weather in the morning with a chance of rain in the afternoon. We were both itching to go and were not disappointed.

Related Link

VHF Along NH Seacoast in the Rain

How Can a Kite Lift a Radio Antenna?

The plan all along was to make contacts using a kite to keep a 29-foot antenna wire aloft. The park was crowded but we snared a parking spot in the shade. As soon as we exited my Volvo V70-XC the intoxicating aroma of the salt air filled our lungs. Jim and I both commented on the elixir as we made our way towards a picnic table in the shade.

This is the tree we sat under for lunch. The ocean is to my back and Jim is at the table under the tree. I threw my water bottle over it so I could get on the air immediately. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

I didn’t waste a moment’s time getting on the air and decided to put my 29-foot wire antenna up in a tree. I attach the wire to a small 9:1 unun to get the impedance in the wire down to a reasonable number that the internal tuner in my Elecraft KX2 can handle.

Jim was more interested in eating lunch while I was setting up the radio and he and I knew there wasn’t yet enough wind to hold the kite up in the air.

Within minutes I had completed a quick exchange with KW7D. Paul was in New Mexico and it was thrilling to avoid the proverbial skunk using just 7 watts. That’s all you need to make a nightlight glow!

odiorne state park ham radio

Here I am not too long after making my contact with Paul, KW7D. My wide-brimmed hat keeps the sun off my face. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

What Radio Did You Use?

We decided to share my Elecraft KX2 equipped with replacement iambic paddles I had just received the day before. You use these to send Morse code. My original ones were malfunctioning and Elecraft had sent out a new set under warranty. They worked perfectly.

elecraft kx2

Jim has finished lunch and he was itching to get on the air. It took him about 30 minutes before he finally made a contact. He tried and tried to make contact with GM0HCQ/MM, but Mike Gloistein, the operator, on the ship couldn’t hear Jim. He was on the RRS James Clark Ross well above the Arctic Circle! 76N, 29E! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Just after hearing his callsign and his coordinates, I decided to see where Mike was while Jim continued to throw out his callsign. Sadly we didn’t make contact. Copyright 2018, Google, Inc.

Mike was on the gorgeous RRS James Clark Ross. I hope it was good WX where he was! Copyright 2108 Mike Gloistein

Jim continued to make a few more contacts as did I, but I was more interested in just soaking in the sea breeze and watching a bunch of small children construct a rocket from a two-liter soda bottle with the help of their day-camp counselors.

After an hour or so, the wind seemed to come up. We tried to get the kite to fly, but there just wasn’t enough wind. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

After nearly two hours of relaxed operations and our failed attempt to fly the kite, we decided to pack up and head home. As we walked away we decided to explore a little more of the park near the shoreline.

Quickly we discovered we had picked the worst table to sit at as it was in a depression and the stone wall had been blocking our view of the water. Soon we were walking on a path next to some daylilies and there was a magnificent view of the ocean with picnic tables galore!

Look at that picnic table just to the right of me! What an IDIOT I was not to look around first before deciding where to set up. You can bet I’m going back to this spot next time. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

odiorne state park

This WW II coastal artillery gun mount was immediately adjacent to the picnic table. Not too far up the river feeding water into the Portsmouth, NH harbor was a naval ship-building yard and the 155 mm cannons were aimed at German U-boats that tried to sink US ships. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

This is what you might have seen at the gun mount Jim and I were flying the kite had you been here back in 1943. Photo courtesy of some unknown photographer.

We immediately noticed a strong wind was blowing and decided to fly the kite and get back on the air!

odiorne state park kite

It only took minutes to get the kite in the air. We both worked as a team and the kite lept 80 feet into the air in seconds! It was quite exciting to see the antenna wire hang vertically down to the large artillery gun mount. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Here I am getting ready to make my first contact using an antenna supported by a kite! I was able to make contact with Eugene, EA5EL who was doing an Islands on the Air activation! He was at EU093 Tabarca Island! Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

Jim got on the KX2 before I did and made a fast contact with a Russian operator. We were both ecstatic! The kite adventure was a success and we only wish we had found this spot from the beginning. No worries, we’ll be back!

Tiger Tail Antenna

ht antenna

The yellow wire is a tiger tail antenna. It may not look pretty, but it dramatically increases the performance of the HT. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

“It’s probably best to just use a length of 19 and 1/4 inches to put you right about in the middle of the 2-meter frequencies.”

A Tiger Tail Antenna Boosts HT Output – HT on Steroids!

A tiger tail antenna is a short piece of flexible wire that connects to the ground side of your handheld transceiver (HT). They are easy to make and this simple additional wire will increase the outgoing strength of your signals.

What Is the Tiger Tail Antenna?

The tiger tail is the other side of a dipole antenna. The rubber duck antenna that comes with most HTs, or a good 1/4-wave high-gain whip antenna, is the positive side of the dipole. You create a high-performance antenna for your modest HT by attaching a matched length of wire to the negative, or ground, side of your antenna post.

How Long is the Tiger Tail Antenna?

You need to match the length of the tiger tail to the frequency you’ll be using on your HT. If you’re transmitting in the allowed portions of the 2-meter band in the USA, you’ll be between 144.00 and 148.00 MHz.

I used the ground plane calculator at Buxcomm.com to calculate it.

tiger tail antenna

Look at the last value at the bottom: Radial Length (inches). That’s what you want. Copyright 2018 Buxcomm.com

Here are the lengths you’d need to cover the entire 2-meter band. It’s probably best to just use a length of 19 and 1/4 inches to put you right about in the middle of the 2-meter frequencies.

144.00 MHz 19.50 inches
145.00 MHz 19.36 inches
146.00 MHz 19.23 inches
147.00 MHz 19.10 inches
148.00 MHz 18.97 inches
tiger tail antenna tools

A tiger tail antenna requires simple wire, a wire cutter/stripper, a tape measure, and solder. I’m using 26-gauge stranded wire for mine. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna wire

I stripped off 1.5 inches of insulation and twisted the strands of wire together. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna

A standard pencil creates the perfect sized loop diameter for the tiger tail antenna. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna

The loop is completed by wrapping the excess wire onto itself. All that’s left is to put a drop of molten solder on it so the loop stays intact. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

tiger tail antenna loop

I still need to solder the loop, but you start your measurement for the tiger tail antenna at the base of the loop, NOT at the far end of the loop at the left. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

Ham Radio Antenna Orientation

ht antenna

The 1/4-wave dual-band high-gain whip antenna is oriented correctly. It’s pointing to the sky. The yellow wire is a tiger tail counterpoise that helps increase the output signal of the small low-powered radio. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter W3ATB

Ham Radio Antenna Orientation  – Very Important for 2-Meter Communications

Your ham radio will transmit and receive much better if you have the antenna in the proper orientation. Watch this video to get a good understanding of how important ham radio antenna orientation is.

What is the Antenna Orientation for 2 Meters?

You should hold your handheld transceiver (HT) so the antenna is pointing to the sky. Do not hold it sideways so the antenna is parallel with the ground.

Is It a Bad Idea to Put My HT on my Belt?

Yes, it’s a bad idea to put your HT on your belt. Much of the signal coming from the antenna is driven into your body.

Can You Use an HT in a Car or Truck?

It’s not a good idea to use an HT in a car or truck. The metal body of the vehicle acts like a Faraday cage. The 2-meter wave trying to get out the windows is taller than the windows.

If you must use an HT in a car, hold the radio next to the window to get the best reception and for most of your transmission to get out of the vehicle.

Can You Make a Simple Dipole for an HT?

Yes, all you have to do is add a 19-inch length of wire to the ground connection of the antenna stub. Some call this a counterpoise or the negative side of the dipole.

Read my column about a tiger tail antenna to see how easy it is to make one.

How To Cross Band Repeat Ham Radio

cross band repeat

How to cross band repeat using the Yaesu FT-8900R. Note the left side of the radio is on a 2-meter VHF frequency and the right side is tuned to the UHF frequency of 445.875 Mhz. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

How To Cross Band Repeat – It’s Easy To Do

You may want to know how to set up cross band repeat on your mobile radio. It’s not as hard as you might think.

I happen to have a Yaesu FT-8900R and it only takes about five seconds to set up the radio once you have your receiving and transmitting frequencies set.

How To Set Up Cross Band Repeat Video

Watch this video to see how easy it is to get a Yaesu FT-8900R to be in cross band repeat mode.

Can you Cross Band Repeat on the Same Band?

You can cross band repeat on the same band (2 meters in and 2 meters out) if you have a powerful repeater that might be up on a mountain or tall building, but small mobile radios with cross band repeat functionality are designed to repeat signals on different bands.

My Yaesu FT-8900R has no trouble retransmitting my UHF 440 Mhz signal out on VHF 145 Mhz, the normal 2-meter frequency.

Here’s another video showing you how it’s done.

What Radios Can Cross Band Repeat?

There’s a good chance ICOM, Kenwood and other modern mobile transceivers can operate in the cross band mode. Often it’s buried in the manual and the marketing managers don’t promote it as well as they should

When Should I Cross Band Repeat?

There are all sorts of situations where you can, and should, cross band repeat.

Let’s say you go on a hike and your mobile radio is left at the trailhead. You can set up the mobile radio to hear your handheld radio. If you get hurt on the trail, your tiny HT all of a sudden can reach out via your 50-watt mobile radio to get help.

You may do public service work and need more power to transmit a much greater distance than your small handheld HT will do. I happen to work the New England Forest Rally every year and cross band repeat allows me to communicate with the Finish Line when I’m miles away at the Start Line.

Read my story about Ham Radio and the New England Forest Rally to see why cross band repeat is so important and useful.

Carter Mountain Road Meadow

carter mountain road

This is a 180-degree panorama shot of the view from the top of Carter Mountain Road in New Hampton, NH. Unfortunately, because this photo has been reduced in size you can’t really see the majesty of what my own eyes saw. CLICK HERE to see all the high-resolution photos of this adventure to Carter Mountain Road.  Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 was the second day of glorious spring here in central New Hampshire. Winters are typically long in Northern New England and just one week before we were dealing with a wretched sleet, ice and freezing-rain storm that spanned two days. We thought spring was never going to show up.

Carter Mountain Road – Not My Mountain

The sun was out, it was just about 70 F, ticks were scurrying about, birds were singing and the famous Robinson Falls in Blake Brook could be heard as the remaining patches of snow were being delivered to the pristine Pemigewasset River just three-quarters of a mile away. In other words, it was a day that helps restore the soul.


Jim, W1PID, and I had lunch before we went on the radio adventure. It was our first time eating outdoors since early last fall! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

W1PID and I decided to set up and operate at a new location at the end of Carter Mountain Road in New Hampton, New Hampshire. Unbeknownst to me, as I had only been up this road twice before – and never to the end, it had a stunning view to the west and south.

My guess is the road was named after one of the two bumps you pass on your right as you drive up the road. Some long-ago settler named Carter must have lived in the hollow and one of the high points was named in his honor. If we’re related, I’m not aware of the connection.

The blue dot marks the spot where Jim and I were set up. CLICK HERE to see all the high-resolution photos of this adventure. Copyright 2018, Google, Inc.

Within the past two years, the property owner had clear-cut about forty acres of land sending the trees to the local lumber mills and the power plants that make electricity burning wood chips. Much to our surprise, four trees were left standing in the wasteland. Two were aligned about ten degrees east of true north and were about 85 feet apart.

This was perfect for the 44-foot dipole antenna we had 30 feet up in the air within minutes of arrival. We had decided to just share Jim’s Elecraft KX3. Jim was enjoying the warmth and the view so much that he at first attached his short coax cable to the radio instead of the required small banana BNC connector for the dipole antenna twisted-pair wire leads.

elecraft KX3

I’ve got my own Elecraft KX3, but we decided to use Jim’s. It’s the gold standard of portable outdoor radios. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Germany, France, and Ohio

After connecting the Bioenno Power 4.5 Ah LFP battery, Jim was turning the large VFO knob hunting for a strong signal on 20 meters. At first, there was nothing. Within a minute or so Jim heard Joe, DL4KCA calling from a suburb of Cologne, Germany.

I’m right at the cusp of being able to head copy Morse, but Jim’s been there for decades. Jim worked him first and got a 549 signal report. I then used Jim’s miniature Pico Paddles and got a 559 from Joe. Leading a pure and simple life has its benefits I’ve come to discover.

Next up was Bert in France. Bert, F6HKA, and Jim are old-time friends. Bert seems to be on the air from France every day as Jim has talked with him countless times. I’ve had the pleasure of working Bert at least two or three other times from out in the field.


Here’s Jim happy as a clam. The ticks had not yet found him. He was enjoying the day too much to be bothered taking a photo of me operating. Perhaps next time… Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Jim was being his usual polite self and signed off to Bert, “Merci” and then handed the paddles to me.

I wandered off to get my water bottle from my truck and Jim worked another station or two. When I got back to the soft moss we had set up on, I had one last QSO with Bud, W8HOG in Ohio on 40 meters. He was very strong to me and I gave him a 589 but his report about my signal was only 339. I blame Jim for this because his end of the antenna was pointing towards Bud.

We packed up our gear and decided to get on with our day. I had to scurry home to help make a birthday cake and dinner for my wife Kathy. I have no clue how Jim spent the rest of the day, but no doubt he was drumming his fingers waiting for me to publish this story.

I’m lucky to have him as a friend and we do have a grand time outdoors. Usually there’s lots of laughter and anyone who sees or hears us is jealous of the happiness that we generate.

Lady the Dog

Lady the Dog – July 27, 2008 | March 12, 2018

I remember when Meghan, Brent, and I first held you. You had that puppy-fat belly and wanted to get down to run and play with your sister. Do you remember jumping off that retaining wall only to hurt your shoulder?

I remember how happy Mom was to see you at the airport when she picked you up. The Delta Airlines Freight employees thought you were a super cute puppy. Yeah, you were.

I remember Mom telling me how you and she went for walks in French Park down by the creek.

I remember when I’d get home after sixteen hours of driving from New Hampshire to see you and Mom. I’d growl at the back door, you’d do that puppy-courage bark, I’d make the monster sound hiding around the corner, you’d pee yourself and then run back into the family room to huddle next to Mom.

I remember how Mom took you to training classes and you’d do the lazy sit.

I remember how Mom trained you to lay down, turn around and look at us.

I remember when you’d play orange ball but not give it back.

I remember when you’d bark and bite at the waves in the lake.

I remember you scratching me while we swam together.

I remember you crying like a baby when we locked you in the house as we’d walk down the hill to go kayaking. You knew you couldn’t swim that far silly dog!

I remember when you’d be a troll at the top of the steps not letting the cats up to their food.

I remember you being Nala’s tool. She’d peer at you looking under the couch, see what way you were facing and then dart right past you like greased lightning. Your whimpers, while you chased after her, were pathetic.

I remember you licking the empty peanut butter jars and you warning me not to try to take it away from you. I knew better. But you let Mom have the jar anytime she wanted it. You trusted her.

I remember you taking naps on frosty winter mornings as the warm sun would stream into my basement office.

Meghan remembers how much you loved swimming in the lake, even when the water was freezing cold.

Meghan and Brent remember you swimming far out into the lake as they paddleboarded. When you were tired, you tried to climb up on their boards to rest.

Achilles, Meghan and Brent’s fierce cat, had no use for you.

Meghan remembers how happy you were to see her when she’d come back home to visit. You’d not stop jumping or nipping at her for close to half an hour it seemed like.

Meghan remembers when she’d come home, you’d sleep right next to her like you were her own personal bodyguard. And if Meghan woke up during the night, you’d nuzzle her to be pet.

Meghan remembers sneaking treats to you.

Tristan remembers when Mom and I would leave you for a week to travel back to see Grandpa. Right after we left, you’d lay up next to the front door for hours. Tristan said eventually you’d come down and lay quietly next to him until we got back.

Tristan remembers you laying on the warm basement floor in your cozy dog bed.

Tristan remembers you trying to mooch peanut butter after midnight. Holding up your paw was a dirty trick.

I remember you tangling with the porcupine the day Kelly and I took you for a walk.

I remember you getting too close to the skunk.

I remember you chasing deer.

I remember you chasing squirrels.

I remember the chipmunk chatter driving you crazy.

I remember you digging to China to get the chipmunks. That’s how you skinned your nose.

I remember you biting bees.

I remember that dark night you went chasing after some animal up the big hill above the house. Your barking became fainter and fainter until I could barely hear you.  I whistled and whistled for you to come back. I thought you lost your way. But you didn’t. I was so very happy to see you on the porch.

I remember you barking each night at the invisible animals outside.

I remember making hoot owl sounds that would make you bark. Mom wasn’t happy when I did it inside.

I remember us playing snow.

I remember us playing water.

I remember you making it very hard to wash my truck.

I remember you making it nearly impossible to shovel snow.

I remember how you used to tell us how hard it was snowing by the amount you brought back in on your jet-black fur.

I remember looking through the man-cave window down at your tracks in the fresh snow. Some days you’d roll in the snow taking a snow-bath. Now nothing’s going to disturb the white carpet.

I remember how angry you got at the central vacuum. You would bark and want to bite the brush. I think you didn’t like the rushing air.

I remember how many thousands of times I opened and closed the gate so the cats could rest without you bothering them.

I remember how much you loved romaine lettuce stalks.

I remember how well your hearing was. No matter how slowly and carefully I’d try to open the stiff cellophane bag of mini-pretzels while you were downstairs or in the other room, you’d be next to me within seconds looking up at me for your share.

I remember how you’d loiter in the kitchen each night as dinner was made wandering ’round and ’round the island. You knew someone would drop something.

I remember never having to sweep the kitchen floor because you ate every crumb and morsel that ever touched the floor.

I remember you helping me load the dishwasher. You’d lick the plates and silverware trying to do your best to keep the septic tank in great shape. The men at Rowell’s told me you did an excellent job.

I remember being upset with you some days telling you to run away. You know I didn’t mean it and you always forgave me.

I remember when you, Mr. Cluett and I went for a hike. Mr. Cluett loved you too.

Mom remembers that you weren’t really a Lady, but more like a bull in a china shop.

Mom and I remember when you’d go outside just to eat bird food.

I remember you making your nest in the mulch at the end of the sidewalk to lay in the warm sun.

I remember you jumping up into Brian’s UPS truck.

I remember you having no manners with Brian insisting he give you three or four dog biscuits. He’s going to miss you too.

I remember boxes on the front porch with a dog biscuit left on top for you.

I remember you coming up in the morning with me to the man cave and putting your head against my leg.

I remember how forlorn you’d look when you saw me come out of the bedroom with my carry-on bag. You were so smart and knew I was leaving, but not for how long.

I remember getting back from business trips and how you’d knock me over on the front sidewalk you were so happy to see me. Not once did you ever scold me for staying away so long.

I remember all your fur. Everywhere.

I remember you being my shadow.

I remember you always pushing the door open. You just had to be first to check out what the cats had been doing.

I remember you and me sitting in the living room waiting for Mom to come up and start dinner. It was always so quiet there with you at my feet.

I remember you telling me you were hungry. Those were the only times I ever heard you complain.

I remember Mom getting angry at me because we’d sham fight before dinner. “Take it outside you two!”, she’d shout.

I remember you biting me when we’d play, but only so hard to let me know you could tear me apart if you wanted to.

I remember you being outside the bedroom door laying on your back against the wall in the morning.

I remember when you’d go for a morning swim.

I remember you laying in your comfy bed chair.

I remember how you hated getting your picture taken by me, but Kelly could do it anytime she wanted.

Kelly remembers how much you loved to go to the beach with her, especially to watch the sun kiss the clouds goodnight.

Kelly remembers taking lots of photos with you, especially toe-to-toe.

I remember whenever I’d lace up my boots, you’d come over and nuzzle against my hands because you knew we were going outside. You love love loved going outside, didn’t you?

I remember saying, “Let’s go up to the mailbox!” and you’d follow me each time.

I remember how you smelled like dog. I know you don’t believe me, but I’m going to miss that too.

I remember how every winter morning when we’d go into the garage so I could get up to the man cave I’d have to tell you why I couldn’t leave the garage door open for you. You always turned left wanting to go outside. You were so predictable. 😉

I remember how each Sunday when I pulled the car into the garage after arriving home from church Mom would make me wait for you. She’d open the front door, let you out, and you’d come bounding around the corner saying in dog speak, “Welcome home! I thought you’d never get back!” Your ears were flattened and you were so happy to see Mom and me. I was so very happy to see you too. That’s why I always waited and exclaimed, “What took you so long to get here?”

I remember how much you loved me to massage your paws in the morning.

I remember how each morning you go outside and anytime you came back in you’d want to follow me. But lately I noticed you had a tough time climbing the steps to the man cave. I just thought your hips were bothering you. I now think you didn’t have the energy.

I remember saying goodnight to you before I’d go to bed.

I remember many a day before dawn when I was in that halfway place between sleep and awake you’d move to a new resting position outside the bedroom door. You’d let out that slow groan from sleeping on the hardwood floor for who-knows-how-long as you protected Mom and me from intruders. As you got to a new comfortable position, your dog tags would jingle and clank on the floor.

I remember coming out in the morning most days, kneeling down next to you in your bed chair and stroking your nose. I’d whisper to you how it was going to be a great day. You always looked me in the eyes and agreed.

I remember your unconditional love and affection.

I remember this last sunrise we shared together. We both stood so quietly on the deck. I had no idea days later you’d be gone.

I remember the happy look on your face when you grabbed the green ball from the snow minutes before you collapsed and got dizzy.

I remember you walked to the end of the sidewalk because you thought I was leaving you forever without saying “Goodbye, sweetheart”, didn’t you? I was just moving my truck so we could race you to Dr. Julie. You had such a relieved look in your eyes when you saw me walk over to pick you up and lay you gently in the back of Mom’s car.

I remember you crying one last time in Mom’s car as we rushed you to see Dr. Julie.

I remember Mom softly stroking your head as you took your last breath. I stood helplessly hoping in shock while Dr. Julie did all she could to save you.

I remember how warm and peaceful you were when I held you that last time.

I remember that loving look in your eyes before Mom and I walked out of the room.

I remember thinking how dreadful today would be.

I remember trying to eat dinner and looking for you under the dining room table before I moved my legs. But you weren’t there and my heart sank.

I remember not wanting to come out of the bedroom the next day because I knew you’d not be there.

I remember thinking how hard it would be not to see you, but not this hard.

I knew I loved you, but didn’t quite understand how much until now.

I’ll never ever forget you Lady the Dog.

I can’t wait until I see you again.

Kathy, the kids and I want to thank Dr. Julie and the entire staff of the Interlakes Animal Hospital for their great skills in doing all possible to save Lady the Dog. We deeply appreciate their compassion and love in allowing us to say a very private goodbye to Lady. Thank you Dr. Julie.

Potter Place – First Outdoor Radio 2018

potter place

Potter Place station. The railroad tracks for the old Boston & Maine RR were between the picnic table and the station. It’s a remarkable preserved building including the telegrapher’s desk! The snow was deep! It was almost up to the heght of the table bench seats. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

“Listen, I’ll get on your shoulders and I can reach it using the shovel.”

Jim Cluett, W1PID, was serious. But keep in mind he’s 71 and I’m a spry 65 years of age and there were at least 12 inches of snow on the ground.

No, we weren’t reenacting a segment of some old Laurel and Hardy movie, but anyone watching us might have thought so.

Jim, Dave Benson, K1SWL, and I had decided a few days earlier to take advantage of the balmy 43 F weather in central New Hampshire. The first thing to realize is temperatures like this might not be felt until the end of March so we didn’t hesitate to do our first outing of 2018.


I’m on the left, Dave Benson, K1SWL, is in the middle and my mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID is on the right. Jim loves Potter Place and visits here regularly with his wife to ride bikes along the old railroad line that’s now the delightful 60-mile-long Northern Rail Trail. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Potter Place Is Perfect

We agreed to operate at the restored Potter Place railroad station in Andover, NH. Not too many decades ago quite a few Boston and Maine steam trains would race by or stop at the station platform just a few yards from where we were set up on a picnic table.

On this day, we just had one or two snowmobiles putter by on the railroad bed that’s now the Northern Rail Trail bike and hiking path stretching from Franklin NH to Lebanon, NH.

Potter Place is a great halfway point for Jim and me to meet Dave as he lives west of Andover and Jim and I live east.

The Errant Water Bottle

Jim decided to set up on a box under the roof overhang of the station. Dave and I chose to use a picnic table Dave had cleared of ice and snow the day before as he happened to drive by Potter Place.

It’s important to realize it was my job to deploy my 29-foot vertical wire antenna attached to a 9:1 unun and a 15-foot counterpoise wire. I got out my bright green halyard line, spread it out and tied it to my handy 8-ounce water bottle. Rotating it with my arm I made a perfect launch up into a bare oak tree. The bottle soared up about 45 feet and I expected it to fall to the ground as it always does.


You can see me starting to swing my rock-filled water bottle. I’ve spied the perfect branch and this should be a routine halyard deployment. Rarely do I have an issue. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

It didn’t. Somehow the line got snagged on some tree wart on a branch. Jim had taught me years ago to tug gently on the line to try to get the bottle to overcome the resistance.

It didn’t work. I got frustrated and started pulling hard on the polyester cord, the bottle jammed in a notch about 35 feet up in the tree and the cord broke.

Damn it! I hate losing water bottles.

The same thing happened to me at my own house back in October as I was relocating my shack dipole antenna. That’s a story for another day.

Dave got out his padlock and parachute cord and moments later the antenna was up, but I wasn’t a happy camper.

Gravity Works

We decided to use my Elecraft KX2 and within a few minutes, we were on the air. Jim had already scored at least two QSOs as I struggled with the antenna setup.

elecraft kx2

Here’s the radio setup. It’s an Elecraft KX2 powered today with a BioennoPower 3 Ahr LiFePhos battery. I store everything in the orange Pelican 1200 case. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

After a few minutes, Dave said, “Hey look, the water bottle’s almost down!”

I couldn’t believe it and rotated my head to see the rock-filled bottle about 12 feet up in the air!

Dave had a round-point shovel in his truck and the game was on.

Jim came over from the train station and started to toss the shovel up at the bottle hoping to coax it down the rest of the way.

His throws didn’t work and I tried to do the same with hapless results.

The Plan

“Listen, if I get up on your shoulders that will give me enough height to swat at the bottle,” mused Jim.

I thought, “Hmm. I think I can support his weight in this snow. I want the bottle back. Let’s go for it.”

Moments later Jim climbed up onto the picnic table and a moment later he was balanced on my shoulders. I only did this because if I dropped him, we’d both fall in the soft 12-inch snow cover.


Jim is about to grasp the shovel out of the snow to bat at the water bottle. We were crazy to do this for a $3 water bottle. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

The bottle was dangling about ten feet away from the table and I made my way over there. Jim was bobbing back and forth on my back as his outstretched arm with the shovel in it tried to hook the bottle so he could pull it down.

It didn’t work and I was rapidly running out of muscle power to continue to hold Jim up. I kneeled down and no one got hurt, including the water bottle.

The Garbage Can

“Listen, let’s stand on the garbage can that’s over at the station. Surely that will give us enough height.” Jim always has good ideas.

He went over, pulled out the plastic liner and brought the heavy can to the bottle retrieval area.

All the while Dave was just immersed in watching us bumble about trying to snare a $3 water bottle. No doubt he was laughing, but being the polite soul he is, he kept his thoughts to himself.

Jim clambered up onto the can first and had no luck. I got on and within a few moments was able to swat it with enough strength to bring it down out of the tree.


After the celebration ended I finally got on the air and made three QSOs, two of them DX.

Tim Carter W3ATB

Here I am spinning the VFO dial on the Elecraft KX2 trying to find a strong signal. This photo was shot by Dave Benson, K1SWL. I’ve notified him that there’s a defect in the camera that seems to create round fleshy-colored spots in the photos. I didn’t have time to photoshop this image to produce a true representation of what the camera saw. (cough, cough) Copyright 2018 Tim Carter


Here are my three contacts.

F5NTV 1905Z 599 10.111 Mhz
S57V 1907Z 579 10.117 Mhz
N2CX 1909Z 579 10.116 Mhz

Dave and I shared the KX2 and had great success on 30 meters.

Just before packing up we were very lucky to hear Joe Everhart, N2CX, who was outdoors as well in New Jersey doing a Parks on the Air activation.

All three of us each had a short Morse code conversation with Joe exchanging signal reports and pleasantries. 

We were all in a great mood and the outing was far better than any had guessed it might be. I feel we would have been happy having just two contacts each and not getting back in the car and truck frostbitten.

I never was cold at all and am blessed that I can still continue to learn more about outdoor radio and QRP from the two legends that allow me to tag along.

Words of Wisdom From Jim Cluett

Driving home Jim said, “Water bottles are like old friends. They’ve worked hard for you on past outings and it’s hard to leave them alone stranded up in trees.”

Truer words have never been spoken. I’m glad my water bottle is safely in my backpack waiting for the next outing!

Pemigewasset River and Profile Falls Outdoor Radio

text message

Jim Cluett, W1PID (messages in green) wanted to go to the Pemigewasset River just east of Profile Falls on this late winter day. The temperature was already above 40 F, so it shouldn’t be too bad. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Just as I was getting ready to move two water softener drain lines, I got a text message from my friend Jim Cluett, W1PID.

The plan was to set up along the shore of the Pemigewasset River just east of Profile Falls. Profile Falls is one of New Hampshire’s many dramatic waterfalls and is located about two miles south of Bristol, NH.

The weather was warm for this time of year in central New Hampshire. It was above 40 F by mid-morning when Jim texted me.

The Icy Trail to the Pemigewasset River

Late February in central New Hampshire can be icy. Daytime thawing freezes at night. Add to that we were going to a Corps of Engineers flood control basin where January flooding created massive sheets of ice we needed to navigate to get to the river.

river flood ice

Hundreds of acres of land next to the river had flooded seven weeks ago during bitter cold WX (weather). While the water as still at flood stage it froze. The fractured ice you see is about six inches thick. When the liquid water under the ice receded, the ice sheets collapsed down to the soil, but there are many places where there are voids. You can see all the footprints in the snow on the trail. That’s a woman dressed in orange walking her dog. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

The Towering Pine Tree

A towering majestic pine tree that’s at the top of the riverbank is about 1/3 of a mile from the parking lot. Jim and I were headed there to sit at picnic tables. The trail is very level, but had a layer of soft snow covering the ice that was suspended 16 inches or more in places above the frozen soil.

W1PID Jim Cluett

This friendly pine tree loves to help us harvest QSOs (QSO = a conversation with another radio operator) out of the ether. It’s hard to get a halyard line tangled in this tree. Jim is being careful on the slippery trail. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

I didn’t waste any time getting my antenna into the huge pine tree. On my first throw, my water bottle soared over a branch about 40 feet in the air and dropped down perfectly straight just 7 feet from the corner of the picnic table.

In minutes I was on the air while Jim was playing patty-cake with his complex antenna, a design developed by W3EDP.

“What’s he doing? For goodness sake, I’ll have my first QSO before he even gets his radio out! This will be a first. He’s ALWAYS beat me in the past getting set up and making a Q (a singular QSO).”

That’s the thought that popped into my head as I was turning on my radio all while Jim was mumbling and cursing as he walked back and forth and back and forth across the ice between two trees.

W1PID Jim Cluett

Minutes after this photo was shot, Jim would be staring up into the branches contemplating how he was going to get a wire up, down and sideways in all these branches. You can see the glare ice he had to deal with. I’m sure that slowed him down. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Sure enough, my first QSO happened within three minutes of getting on the air. It was a DX (international) contact with Bruno, F5NTV in France. Thousands of operators in the Midwest and Western USA are jealous of us because we can get international (DX) contacts as easy as we work those west of us across the fruited plain of the USA.

Jim’s worked Bruno many times before, but he wouldn’t today.

W3ATB Tim Carter

Here I am happy as a clam after my QSO with F5NTV. I’m keeping my hands warm with my Morse muff made by Ms. Margaret Lohmann, one of my AsktheBuilder.com newsletter subscribers. My head is warm with my SOTA (Summits on the Air) hat. It’s amazing Jim had the composure to take this photo after futzing around for fifteen minutes with his antenna. Copyright 2018 Jim “Grumpy” Cluett

The Howling Wind By the Pemigewasset River

Walking to the river the air was calm, we were both warm and it was delightful. But once I started to set up on the one table, I noticed the wind.

It was gusting and biting. When the WX starts to get your attention, it’s never a good thing. At one point a gust blew my Rite-in-the-Rain log book and launched my pen into the mud.

Within 30 minutes Jim and I were packing up to walk back to his car. My hands got cold because I had to take them out of my wool Morse muff to spin the VFO dial and write in my log book. Jim complained that everything on him was cold.

I made three QSOs in just under twenty-five minutes and was thrilled. Here’s my log for the outing:

F5NTV 579 1803Z 10.110Mhz (megahertz)
KB4GY 579 1815Z 7.041 Mhz
N1KW 579 1825Z 10.121 Mhz
pemigewasset river

Here’s the mighty Pemigewasset River as it flows next to us when we come to this peaceful place. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Even though we were chilled, Jim and I agreed it was great to get out. The weather forecast for the next two weeks is promising. Let’s hope for some sunlight next time!

Winter Field Day 2018 Acadia National Park

acadia np amateur radio

Winter field day 2018 at Acadia National Park started gloomy, but ended quite well. Wind and a balmy temperature of 42 F took away some of the pain. Minutes after taking this photo I had my 29-foot wire antenna hanging from the top of the birch tree with no leaves. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Winter Field Day 2018 – All Alone at Acadia National Park

Today was another first for me in this amazing hobby. I was one of a handful of people at the most magnificent USA National Park east of the Mississippi River – Acadia National Park.

There was no doubt in my mind I was the only amateur radio operator there planning to participate in Winter Field Day.

I decided to setup operations with a view to the Atlantic Ocean and found a deserted parking lot just south of the Gorham Mountain trailhead along the stunning one-way ocean drive. I was about one mile south of Sand Beach.

CLICK THIS IMAGE – or CLICK HERE –  to watch a video of what I saw and where I was set up. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

“Well that’s odd. Why won’t the connector attach to the radio?”

I thought that as I tried to rotate the outer ring of the male BNC connector to my Elecraft KX2. Normally the BNC connector slides on, rotates and locks into position.

After two attempts, I took it off and looked at the end.

“How did the center male pin get bent? No worries, I’ll straighten it with my knife.”

I pulled out my Sog Flash II and proceeded to not only straighten the center core of the connector but then snap it off completely. It’s my favorite pocket knife of all time and I’ve yet to tame its power.

“Are you kidding me? (Shaking head, but maintaining my cool.)

Related Links

My First Real Contest Success – Zombie Shuffle

Summer Field Day Prank

No Spare Parts – Last Time That Will Happen

It all happened so fast I was still in shock. Don’t tell me I’m not going to be able to get on the air! I didn’t have a spare PL-259 female / BNC male adapter even though there’s more than enough room in my Pelican 1200 case for one.

Heavy sigh…..

Something inside me said to text my mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID. God does work in mysterious ways. Little did I know it but he was minutes away from walking out his door back in central New Hampshire to go on a walk with his lovely wife Judy.

I moaned in the text what had happened and how my day was now ruined.

Seconds later my phone rang.

“Listen. You can just use a piece of wire to save the day. Strip the end and shove it into the tiny hole on the side of the radio. Wrap the other end around the center of the large coax cable. Take another piece of wire and attach it to the side screw on the body of the KX2 for a counterpoise. I’ll call you when I get back from my walk.”


bnc connector hack

Here’s my hack for the broken BNC connector. Believe it or not, it worked and worked well.  The small stub of yellow wire is the counterpoise that extended from the radio out on the ground about 15 feet. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

It worked! While it took about 15 minutes to get the right combination of folded wire strands to fit snugly into the female receptor on the side of the radio, it was worth it.

I powered up the radio and it tuned perfectly on 40 meters. There were quite a few stations calling CQ WFD. It was time to hunt.

winter field day 2018

I’m all set to make a few contacts just 250 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. The only thing that could have been better was blue sky and 75 F. Oh, it would be great if my wife Kathy was there too! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Within a few minutes I scored my first QSO and just over the border to Canada. What fun!

Operator Exchange Time Zulu
VE2CRO 4H QC 1940
K9LJN 1I IL 1947
VE2CWI 2O QC 2001
KN2X 1O ENY 2006
N4FR 4O TN 2014
N3CU 1H EPA 2029

After an hour of fun, I looked at my watch and thought I’d better break down. With the deep overcast, it was going to get dark in a hurry.

winter field day 2018

This was my view from my truck. The bright yellow cord is the halyard holding up my thin 26-gauge yellow wire. The wire is attached to a 9:1 unun. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Moments later my phone rang and it was Jim.

“How’d you do?”

I told him it was a successful day and that just three years ago I’d never have been able to do a contest like this.

“Hah, three years ago you would have had negative QSOs. Operators would have told you NOT to send them QSL cards because you were such a poor operator.”

We both laughed quite hard. Jim can get away with ribbing me because he labored through the dismal times of me clawing my way up on the CW curve. He’s earned the right to poke fun so the memory of my single-digit word-per-minute (WPM) speed never fades.

But now I’m not such a dreadful operator . Am I great?


Am I respectable?

I think so but absolutely have a long way to go.

Am I having fun and getting better each outing?

Yes you bet I am.

Fun and not getting skunked are my primary goals each time I operate outdoors. If I make it to 20 WPM some day, all the better.

But by gosh bring spare parts next time!