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Greetings from Austin Texas...
Well, this will be my 10th day here in the US and due to mostly riding motorbikes at breakneck speeds round California I’ve had few chances to play radio.
I’m glad I brought the FT5D here for that reason. Plus it’s an easy radio to wideband. (There is just the one diode to remove to open up the radio to more frequencies.)
Below, you can read a little about the start of my trip where I left my bag and radio on a bench in a not so desirable part of LA.
In California I was told that I could operate as either K6/G5DOC or G5DOC/K but when travelling and sharing a room with two other guys it’s hard to dedicate the time to scanning the air. When we stopped it was - wash - eat - drink - sleep - wake - prep bike - ride …and so on.
But the radio stayed on in the bag allowing me to harvest the callsigns of fellow HAMs who I might pass at ???mph along some isolated road.
I’ve seen some impressive HF beams perched on top of huge towers on isolated properties. In the UK I would not hesitate to knock the door and introduce myself but I’m not sure how I might be received here.
Back in California I knocked the door of one (non ham radio) house and a 6ft 5in very stoned paranoid Samoan guy looked at me with terror in his eyes. After we chatted he relaxed confessing he thought I was another grower or law enforcement. I did not question what he meant. I just avoided knocking any more doors.
I’m sure the amateur radio crew would be much more welcoming. Especially if they spotted an FT5D in my hands.
I was really surprised at the number of repeaters in the states and Tracey informed me that up in the mountains they get a lot of use as GSM in not only patchy but sometimes the masts that are around suffer outages. Ham radio is a really important part of the infrastructure and many radio operators coordinate with emergency services on a regular basis. I asked him if that meant there was some government funding to assist in the upkeep of the repeaters. He just laughed and said “Sadly no”.
I’m now travelling alone 1400 miles away from LA in Austin Texas. My callsign here is W5/G5DOC and once again there are quite a few repeaters dotted around. Despite me asking for a room up high, my room appears to be facing the wrong way for most of the action.
Not to worry though as I had a plan.
My APRS is on most of the time and when I spot a local ham passing on the freeway I look them up on QRZ and email them.
One guy Ray K5BZI got straight back to me with some great info as to where I might get to chat with local radio operators. There is nothing quite like local knowledge.
He told me to call CQ on 146.520 FM simplex. I’d been previously been calling on 144.200 as that’s where the internet told me to go.
There is also 2m SSB 144.110 horizontal but I only have my FT5D with me.
KA5D.com belongs to Kyle who has an extensive repeater network on the north side of town so I might have a better chance after I move hotel tomorrow.
Ray also went on to list some of the local Austin nets:
SUN - 12m net. 3pm 28.410
MON - 6m net. 8pm 50.125
TUES - 2m simplex net (S. Austin) 8pm 146.555
WEDS - UT amateur radio club weekly net. 8pm (This net can be heard on the Oak system and the Ka5d system. They are linked together during the net)
THURS. - The Oak club net. 8pm. The Oak and ka5d
FRI - 9pm. Friday night trivia net on the Oak.
SAT - There is always someone activating POTA or SOTA, but right now almost every weekend there is a fox hidden. You can get more info about that at n5oak.org.
The Oak Hill Amateur Radio Club seems really well organised and has a great website. I’ll certainly be dipping into that during my stay.
A little while ago I stuck myself in the corner of the room to have another listen around. I saved a few local frequencies and repeaters with the PMG function on the FT5D which will monitor up to four channels and show me visually which one was active. As a result I had a great chat on the club repeater N5OAK with Rusty WZ5BBS. Love his website. WZ5BBS.com.
We talked about all kinds of things and he gave me great insight into the US amateur radio scene. When you are alone in a big city there is only so much time the bar staff or the person in the shop can chat before they have to get on with their work. I chatted with Rusty till the radio got so hot I felt it best to give it a rest.
A throughly enjoyably rag chew.
He also got me thinking about how well served the US was in regards to its repeater network.
I’ve had a look at the numbers and think I have a good idea. Please let me know if you have different stats and I will amend.
There are approximately 22,788 repeaters in the US serving 700,000 licensed hams.
That is 1 repeater for every 31 US licensed radio operators.
The UK has approximately 925 licensed repeaters for 75,000 licensed hams.
That’s about 1 repeater for every 81 UK licensed radio operators.
If the UK is 93,628 mi² and the US is 3,797,000 mi² then the US has 1 repeater for every 167 mi² and the UK has 1 repeater for every 101 mi².
So if these numbers are right ( I have just had a beer) there are more repeaters per licensed ham in the US but more repeaters per square mile in the UK.
I can hit about 20 repeaters from my home QTH. I wonder if that is comparable in the US. I do live in the flatlands though.
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While chatting with Rusty he called an older ham an ‘Elmer’. I pictured the dim witted Elmer Fudd but the term Elmer in the US is most certainly a term of endearment.
An Elmer is a man with honour and integrity, a man deserving respect. He loves his family and friends and is community minded, loyal, brave and humble.
I’d be interested to know if there is a female version as I have also known a few of them in my life. Either way it is certainly something we can all aspire to be.
Thanks for reading.
The HT is cooling down and charging up via a USB lead that plugs into the radio and steps up 5V to 12V. It takes ages. What I’d really like is some kind of compact USB-C powered clip on battery charger so I can charge the battery separately to the radio and use my spare. Does such a thing even exist?
Tomorrow I’m moving hotels. Who knows how different things might be in the city.
Not sure when i’ll next get to post.
73 de Christian G5DOC