A Ham and a Burger With Fries
- Dick, KN4IFK, and I, Larry AL4B, went to the local Maryville Tennessee Five Guys hamburger shop. Actually, Dick had introduced me to Five Guys some ten years earlier in North Carolina. I liked the concept; sort of like a pizza parlor where you order a pizza, a blank slate, and then make it your own with your choice of toppings. You really can “have it your way.” Over a double cheeseburger with bacon and Swiss cheese and a side of fries Dick and I talked about ham radio.
- Q: How long have you been an amateur radio operator? From what age?
- A: I am new to amateur radio. I have been very active in many other areas such as boating, fishing and RV traveling. After retirement, to combine my love of boats and fishing, I acquired a very nice Grady White center council boat and passed the Coast Guard licensing requirements and was a charter boat skipper. I was very active in the Tampa Bay area for a long time. After the wife and I relocated to the Village in Central Florida, I also did some work of the Atlantic Coast for a period of time. However, as with all of us, age is catching up and I have had to cut back on the more strenuous activities as well as some of the more expensive ones as well. About two years ago I considered ham radio as a substitute for many of the activities I have had to leave behind. I had to study quite hard as amateur radio was all new. I did have an FCC license for the marine radio on my boat but that is just fill in a form that comes in the box with the radio; plug it in a push to talk. I earned my Tech license in December of 2017 and hit the books again and earned the General Class license in February of 2018.
- Q: What piqued your interest, what inspired you to become a ham?
- A: In the sense of “use it or lose it,” I feel it is necessary to keep the mind active, learning new things, solving problems in order to keep it fit. To use an old TV advertising slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Somehow I could not fathom an existence planted in front of the television screen and just vegetate my senior years away. I had known for a long time that my friend, Larry, AL4B, was a ham radio operator. Slowly but surely, he rubbed off on me and I became interested in amateur radio as a way to “use it so I wouldn’t lose it.” During a visit, he sat me down in front of his stack of mysterious black boxes, twisted a few knobs and soon he had me saying hello to people in places I had never heard of. I was hooked. I knew I wanted to do that. It would be a great entertaining and learning past time and fulfill the need to keep mentally active. Then we talked about what I needed to do to learn how to do that.
Also, as I have cut back on my other, more strenuous activities such as sport fishing and charter captaining, I noticed that my circle of friends grew smaller. There was little interaction to broaden the friendship circle. Since I ave become interested in ham radio my circle of friends and associates has grown larger than ever before. To gain many new friends in a wonderful thing.
- Q: Did you have an Elmer?
- A: Larry, AL4B, was my first mentor, my Elmer. He is always available for a phone call or email question. We only see each other about twice a year (we live 500 miles apart) usually when the wife and I are traveling between our home in The Villages and out cabin in Michigan. We manage to fit a lot of Elmer time into those visits. But I have to tell you one of the best pieces of advice he has given me was to join my local amateur radio club. I did join the local club, The Villages Amateur radio Club. I now have a club full of Elmers. They are a great bunch of men and women and all are willing and capable advisors whenever I have a question or problem. Your local amateur radio club is an amazing resource.
- Q: What are your favorite modes of operation? Why?
- A: As a new-comer to amateur radio, i.e., no code, phone operation is limited. I started with a VHF-UHF hand-held so I could check into the club nets and practice good radio procedure while I studied for the General Class License. I did learn from that participation in club activities is good for the club as well as for oneself. I have also started to use a hybrid mode, ECHLOINK. With ECHOLINK I can check in and participate in the Village Amateur Radio Club net when I am traveling or spending time away from the primary residence..
I studied hard for the General License because I very much wanted to be able to sit down in front of my radio, twist a few knobs and then talk to people in places with strange sounding names I had never heard of before.
To that extent I would have to say that my favorite mode now is HF single side band operation. I am still learning the ropes as it were but I am looking at other mode sometime in the future.
- Q: Besides operating your station, how else are you involved with amateur radio? Are you Skywarn? ARES? NTS? MARS? Other Public Service?
- A: I am still very new to amateur radio. As I mentioned, the radio hobby is replacing some other activities that have for various reasons gone by the wayside. That does not mean that I am not still very active. The wife and I travel and spend time away from home. I have made acquaintances with ARES folk in Michigan and Central Florida. When I become more conversant with the hobby aspects of amateur radio and comfortable with my abilities I will look to be a participant in the local ARES networks. Much of Florida could be rightfully called the “Lightning Capitol of the USA.” Thunderstorms are frequent and violent and often spawn tornadoes. I think participation in the SKYWARN program would be an important contribution that I could make.
- Although I have not yet given back to the community as a whole, I have contributed to my local club, The Villages Amateur Radio Club. They have been such a wonderful bunch providing help and encouragement during some frustrating moments. To say thank you to my fellow club members, over the last two years I have set up a lunch line at the Orlando Hamcation for my club members. They seem to really appreciate a burger and a brat along with a cold drink and I feel good about giving back to them for all of their help.
- Q: What are your working conditions; radio gear, antenna(s), base station, mobile?
- A: As a Tech studying for the General, I let it be known that I was in the market for a used HF rig. I was soon the proud owner of a Kenwood TS-530. I listened to it a lot, learning the rope by just listening, knowing that one day I would be able to use it for real. It is a very nice radio, in excellent condition and I consider it a great purchase. It occurred to me that I would need a radio for the base station and another radio for traveling in the RV and at the Michigan cabin. At the 2018 HamCation in Orlando I went on a shopping spree. I bought an ICOM 7300 and an Ameritron ALS-600S amplifier. I also bought a Tarheel Antenna and accessories for the RV. So far it is working out quite well.
- Q: Tell me about your base station antenna? Are you in an antenna restricted area? How do you cope with the restrictions?
- A: As for the base station antenna in The Villages, Florida… Developers have managed to secure from the legislature some strict laws favoring the powers of Home Owner Associations and the associated covenants. Florida has some of the best legislators money can buy. Ostensibly to protect the property values and convince prospective buyers the value of their home will stay high, the rules can be a crushing burden. When the last unit has been sold the developers move on leaving the HOA in the hand of a few of the tenants or entities with the sole purpose of enforcing sometimes outdated HOA rules and regulations.. All too often those with the power to enforce the HOA covenants are guided by their petty personal ideas rather than the will of the majority. All too often there are newspaper reports of malicious persecution of residents. I certainly hope that the Amateur Radio Parity Act becomes a reality and brings some sanity and reality to chaos.
The Villages, my home turf, does indeed have some pretty restrictive covenants and amateur radio antennas are a no-no. I found that the VFH and UHF antennas work well enough from inside the attic crawl space. Flag poles are permitted so I chose to use one as my main HF antenna. (I can set up my J-pole on a take-apart mast or my Buddipole in the back yard for short sessions and quickly take it down for the night.) I have had some teething problems with it but the addition of a stealth loading coil will probably do the trick and ma ke it resonate on most of my favorite bands.
- The burgers from Five Guys were just as good as I remember from back in 2007 when Dick and Cheryl took us to the local Five Guys in Mooresville, North Carolina. It has the same French fries in a cup and the stacks of burlap bags full of help-yourself peanuts. The food seems to be of good quality, the stores are clean and well maintained. That would make it a good place to go but I suppose that the wide variety of toppings that you select are what make it a rather exceptional place to talk to a ham and get a burger and fries.