Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Congratulations on VUCC. Please sign the divorce papers.

Often after a disaster, the victims will look back and comment how it was such an ordinary day at first. Yesterday was such a day. It began with a simple phone call at work.

"Honey can you be home a bit early from work today. We've got company and I'm making this wonderful Chilean sea bass". My XYL of 26 years, Abby is both an understanding ham's wife, and a fantastic cook. Her skills in the kitchen inspired our son to become a chef, and their mutual passion is a source of much pride in our home.

"Oh...and on the way, can you pick up a new coffee maker, ours is acting up again". Ah! I saw a chance to impress her. In the dim corners of my mind, I knew that she'd be eying one of those commercial style Bunn coffee makers for weeks. A quick trip to the store on the way home, and coffee in 3 minutes would be within her reach.

On the way to the store, I switched on the Yaesu FT-857D in the truck. It's not much of a V/U set up. A 1/4 whip on six, and a small KU4AB loop for 2 Meters on the back. To my surprise, the Magic Band had awakened from it's two week nap, and a few Maryland stations were worked on the drive home. Nothing new, just the regular grids including CT, NY, and MD.

I switched over to 2 Meters...dead as usual, but there was THAT noise. You know the one, right? That strange brewing sound...and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Hmmm...

The coffee maker was purchased, and by the time I'd made it to our home, six meters was really hopping. More importantly, the grids I was working were moving closer to Alabama. Still nothing on 2, except for more of that sound...

I rushed in and greeted my niece and nephew, visiting from TN. My wife was thrilled with the new coffee pot, and I could smell the sea bass broiling in the oven. Fresh spinach and baby corn ears were simmering on the stove. I explained that six was open, and I had a feeling about 2 meters as well...My wife smiled and said, "Go ahead and see who you can work".

I rushed to the radio room and switched on both the Icom 756Pro III and the IC-910H. Six was open, but not booming. I tried to work a few CQ'ers on .125 but the QRM was getting extreme. Too many stations from multiple I announced that would QSY to .145.

Thus began the "Sea Bass Fiasco".

A quick CQ on .145 suddenly put me into the midst of a pileup! Stations were calling me like crazy. One after another...and I struggled to get up to speed. At first it was more of the familiar FN19's, and 20's. More Maryland stations, but then things began to shift. I was getting calls from PA, and then WV...and then VA! I turned up the volume on the IC-910H, trying to keep an ear on 2 Meters while working the pileup.

Then I was literally flooded with calls from VA, TN, GA, and KY. These stations were literally right on top of me. Some less than 300 miles away! Even with my limited experience, I knew this was no ordinary opening. I kept thinking, 2 Meters must be open.

I checked the APRS map...still nothing. The 144 logger...nothing except others noting the short skip on six and asking for noise on 2. More stations worked me, one after another. All within 500 miles...How could 2 Meters not be open???

The pileup was thrilling. I struggled to work stations, and had to resort to saying things like, "Ending in November", or "The Whiskey 2 Station only". To their credit, all the operators I heard would stand by and wait for their turn. I wanted to work them all, because I knew how rare this kind of short skip was.

One station in SC mentioned that he needed only Alabama for WAS on Six Meters. He had worked the state two years ago, but no amount of begging or SASE's had resulted in a card. Would I please QSL?

Yes, OM, I QSL 100%...He thanked me over and over for helping to make his dream of WAS on Six come true. He didn't know that being asked was a like a dream come true for me.

NC, SC, more GA stations...and then a flood of Tennessee stations filled the log. In the midst of it, I forgot to check my computer monitors to see what was going on on 2 Meters. I had my hands full with the pileup...

Then a polite tap on my shoulder. My wife smiled and said, "Dinner's ready". AHHH!!!!

I quickly came up with a plan. I turned down the volume on the 6 Meter rig, and turned up the volume on the IC-910H. If Two Meters opened, I'd be able to hear it in the dining room.

Dinner was spectacular. The Chilean sea bass had been marinated, pan seared, and then broiled briefly in the oven to finish. Fresh spinach leaves mixed with baby ears of corn danced in a ginger sauce. Hand whipped mash potatoes, and a creamy dish of fried corn chowder rounded out the meal.

Just as the first bite of fish and spinach melted in my mouth, I hear a loud voice on 2 Meters in the next room. I sprang from the chair and bolted into the room. 2 Meters was open! The APRS map showed a huge red star burst pattern right over the Southeast. And the 144 logger showed stations working all around me.

A quick CQ was answered but the station returning my call was just too weak. The operator called me again...I could make out my own callsign, but not his---KA--something. He switched to CW, "This guy is pro thank god!". I reached for the pencil and the bottom dropped out in the middle of my own callsign. No!! Damn it!!

I began twisting the beams and listening hard on 2 Meters....after about ten minutes, my wife brought the sea bass still steaming on the plate into the shack. More static and weak calls....had I missed the opening on two or had it simply skipped around EM63?

A few minutes later my cell phone wife answered it and brought it to me immediately. "It's Jimmy Long [W4ZRZ]...he says that there's someone on 432 who wants to work you".

Jimmy had been moving folks up to 432 from 2 meters---it had been his powerful signal that I heard on the speaker, not a E-Opening. Todd, N4QWZ in EM66 [TN] was coming in great tonight on 432...did I want to try to work him with my single Yagi? Sure!

I quickly QSY'ed to 432.1, and worked Todd on the first call. I think we were both surprised at how easy it was. I listened to Jimmy work several weak stations, most of them below my noise floor. Jimmy has a terrific new array of 15 element Yagi's, eight of them in all with a power divider from his mountaintop home. He's even louder on 432 now than 2 Meters!

Six and two died down after that...with little more heard until I switched them off and returned to our company.

My wife smiled and made small talk the rest of the evening...never once complaining. A bit later after I'd finished my evening exercise, I went to ask her about our dogs, and while she responded kindly...I got THAT look. You know the one.

In a flash, I realized exactly what I had done. AHHH!!! How could I be so stupid? She made this incredible dinner and I had deserted her and our guests and then never even apologized for it.

Even though it was nearly 1AM by then, I made a point to talk with her for almost another hour. Apologizing over and over for my mistake.

This morning the alarm went off at 6AM, and I got up to head towards the shack. My plan was to try to work some new grids on 2M via WSJT. As I approached the radios...I remembered that discretion is often the better part of valor...and decided not to switch the radios on at all.

Instead, I showered, then gathered up some laundry, stacked a few dishes in the dishwasher, and prepared our dogs for their vet appointment (which I volunteered to take them to). I even made sure that some fresh coffee was brewing in that new Bunn.

When I left, I apologized once more, and Abby smiled and said, "I understand...when the band is open, it's open. You have to work them when you can".

Isn't she great? But just to play it safe, if today brings the band opening of the century, you may not hear the N1LF callsign there. I've got some making up to do. And hey, let's face it. They'll always be another band opening, but there's just one Abby.

73 DE N1LF

1 comment:

Rod Scott - N1YZ said...

You understand true treasure my friend.

Very 73,
Rod, N1YZ