or: This Was The Decade That Was.
And with little fanfare I made my return to the HF bands in 2009. This, in keeping with the tradition I seem to have of always coming back to HF near the absolute ass end of a sunspot cycle after a prolonged absence during the peaks. The last time this happened was October 1995 when I went QRV at the tail end of Cycle 22 after being off the air for almost 6 years. Now I'm just in time to experience Cycle 24 which some predict will be the least active solar cycle in the history of this universe and all others, or some such. My lucky stars!
How long has it been this time? My logbook shows that other than sporadic activity (9 QSOs) between January 2001 and March 2002, I've been out of the game for over 10 years -- my last contest from Closter, NJ was CQ WPX Phone in March 1999. Before that, my last spurt of activity lasted for 42 months (Oct. 95 to Mar. 99) during which time I worked a lot of mobile HF; discovered the joy of computerized logging during contests; discovered the further joy of losing copious amounts of computerized log data to the fickle whims of that third-rate, so-called "operating system" known as Windows (Win98, I believe it was that did my logs in....); I worked some CW contests for the first time; and got a new call, relegating that godawful N2HIE to the trash heap of bad-CW-call history. I was tanned, rested and ready for Cycle 23.
Then I got distracted -- work took up more of my time, I got married, moved 4 times around northern New Jersey, got sidetracked by other hobbies (astronomy, photography, a brief and futile affair with model trains), spent 2+ years gutting and remodeling my mom's house, then finally made the big move to Texas in August 2008.
Yet all during this time I never really let ham radio drift too far away. I may not have put a signal on the air but I had some or all of my radios set up at both my Bergenfield (2001) and Lake Wallkill (2002-2008) QTHs and did quite a bit of listening. Even had an FT-817 in my car for a spell and used to listen to 20m and 40m during my commute. I picked up a few key elements of my current station like a second NRD-515 receiver, a NCS Multi-RX audio mixer and a Heil Classic 5 mic; put an FT-7800 dual-bander in my Jeep; ordered and built my KX1 QRP transceiver; and got a new HF rig, the insanely great K3, in January 2008.
The only missing piece was an antenna and that came in June of this year in the unlikely form of a Tarheel screwdriver antenna (a hex beam or phased verticals being out of the question at the current QTH). And with that, on June 16th, WW2PT was back on HF. By the end of 2009 I had:
- Installed Ham Radio Deluxe and DM780 and set up (grudgingly...) a Windoze machine for logging and digi-modes.
- Deciphered the needlessly complex Logbook of the World registration process and got that up and running, and also joined up with eQSL to cover all the electronic verification bases.
- Started working PSK and several other digital modes.
- Started listening to more CW towards the end of the year (in preparation for Resolution #1, see previous post), but I only worked up the courage to touch the paddles for one QSO (HK1X).
- Played in a few contests -- IARU HF, IOTA, CQ WWDX Phone, WAE RTTY, PSK DeathMatch.
...and just over 6 months later I had worked all 50 states, 78 DXCC countries and 25 CQ zones -- that's a whopping 103 DX Marathon points! (tnx AE5X for the reminder...) QSLs have been trickling in, too, giving me 47 countries and all states confirmed in 2009. The final tallies for the year (as of 31-Dec-09) are...
Bring on Cycle 24.