Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dayton 2013

It's been a while since I posted anything on this blog, so please forgive my inability to stick to a writing schedule!!

The Four Days In May (FDIM) is an annual gathering of QRP operators (those stalwart radio hams that voluntarily use no more than 5 watts of RF power) at the Holiday Inn in Fairburn, OH coinciding with the Dayton HamVention, held in mid-May each year. Don Keith, N4KC and Dave Kuechenmister, N4KD, accompanied me on the drive up to Dayton. We had a great time driving up and back from the ham fest. Don was selling a number of his books (he's a prolific writer, an outstanding conversationalist and just a "fun dude" to be around). Check out his website: www.donkeith.com. Dave is a retired USMC major who flew right seat in the Marine Corps A-6 Intruder aircraft and has a whole bunch of very interesting stories to tell about flying in combat!

This was the 7th time I had attended and my 3rd time being a speaker/presenter at the HARA venue speaking on QRP. This year's turnout was larger than the previous two years, which is always gratifying. This year my topic centered on antennas used for QRP. Primarily concentrating on wire antennas which are inexpensive to build, easy to erect and are extremely effective, even when using power levels 13dB lower than a standard 100W transceiver.

After my 45 minutes of fame on the podium, I started out trying to cover as much of the flea market as possible. Along with me was Frank, KL0SW, who had flown in from Big Bear, CA. Having never actually toured the huge flea market at the HARA venue I was totally amazed at the shear amount of tail-gaters. While not looking for anything in particular for my station (except an Astatic D-104 microphone), we were on the look out for a Drake MN-4 antenna tuning unit (ATU) for Frank's "new" Drake TR-4 station. We found one and managed to get the seller down to $30! What a great find. 

Thursday evening was vender's night at the FDIM venue and was very well attended. I managed to procure a few of my QRP books from the ARRL booth earlier in the day and set up shop next to Don's table. I should mention at this point that Don has a number of books in print about submarines. It just so happened Colin Turner, G3VTT, an old friend from the UK had arrived at the FDIM with George Dobbs, G3RJV, the head honcho of the G-QRP-Club. Colin and I have been friends for over 30 years and he was the man who rekindled my interests in WWII US Navy "fleet boats", more commonly called diesel-electric submarines.

As a "Welcome to America" present for Colin, I had obtained a copy of Don's book, "Undersea Warrior", the story of Dudly "Mush" Morton the unparalleled sub commander of the Wahoo. Colin and I had discussed Mush Morton quite a bit while I was in the UK and I knew that anything to do with Mush or the Wahoo would definitely grab his attention. Boy! Was that an understatement. I had Don personally autograph my copy of the book and I presented it to Colin. He was genuinely impressed. About 30 seconds later I introduced him to the author (Don) who had been sitting about 5 feet away from Colin all evening long! That pretty much tied up the evening for those two!

It was great seeing George, G3RJV, and Colin. George, his wife Jo, and my wife, Patricia, had conspired to throw me a surprise birthday party at the RJV QTH, on March 6th, 1983. About 25 G-QRP member were in attendance and, after copious amounts of single malt had been ingested, I was presented with not one,  not two, but THREE Haggis....courtesy of George Burt, GM3OXX, and Ronny Marshall, GM4JJG, who braved the trip down from Scotland, Haggis in hand.

To make a long story short, I survived the Haggis, the party, and had a great time, thanks to the blokes from the G-QRP Club.

Friday was another day cruising the flea market and the HARA venue looking at all the neat toys us ham radio operators just have to have. Friday evening at the FDIM venue was a "show and tell" featuring many homebrew rigs and accessories. Many of these home made pieces of gear were entered in the building competition. The innovation that is shown on some of these radios and accessories is truly amazing.

Saturday was more of the same: running around HARA watching all the demos and looking things over. I ran into Bob Lusby, K9FOH, one of the guys I use to work with at RAF Mildenhall back in the early 80s. Once Bob and I sit down and start talking about the "good old days" when were were both in the USAF, it always brings up some very strong and wonderful memories of that time of my life. I can truthfully say that my 5+ years in the UK with the USAF were the most productive years of my USAF career.

Saturday evening was the QRP Banquet. Awards for the homebrew contest were presented and, of course, the prize drawings. The FLying Pigs were in attendance, led by one of the nicest guys I know, Ed Hare, W1RFI, who just happens to be the ARRL HQ Lab supervisor. What are the "Flying Pigs"? To define it in one word: "Entertainment!"

Dino Papas, KL0S, was at our banquet table, along with Bob, K8FOH, Dave, K4KD, Don, N4KC, just to name a few. Dino, an avid homebewer, is always a pleasure to talk with. He's had articles published i Popular Communications, and is a real go-getter when it comes to building gear.

The banquet wrapped up about 2300 and a bunch of us continued our discussions in the bar of the hotel. Finally,  I needed to get some sleep as Don, Dave and I were leaving about 0900 in the morning to return to Atlanta and Birmingham.

All in all it was a great four days. I always complain about how I really don't like crowds....and REALLY I don't, but when you combine the FDIM and the Dayton HamVention you have enough things to keep a person busy without worrying about crowded conditions. Plenty to do and see, that is for sure. I hope to be going again next year, if the Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise!

The next big venue is the Huntsville (AL) hamfest August 17-18, 2013 (http://www.hamfest.org/). Don, N4KC, has already indicated he would be going, ditto for David, N4KD. It looks like I will be presenting at this gathering, also. It promises to be a fun time. Not only that....there is the NASA museum close by, so I know where I am going to be hanging out!!

Look for me running K7SZ/QRP on mainly 40 meters (CW) and possibly 20 meters (CW & Phone) this upcoming weekend. I'll be running a K3 with some hastily erected wire antennas in my back yard.

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