Getting back into Ham Radio after a 10 year hiatus

I was originally licensed at 16 and was pretty active at the time. I built a 2 meter ground plane antenna out of an SO-239 chassis mount connector and 1/8 inch copper rod. I pulled it up into a 100 ft pine tree. I worked stations simplex on it 40-60 miles away. It was fun.

When I was away at summer camp that tree which was right next to the front door of our house got hit by lightning. It messed up a few things in the house but mostly it just scared the hell out of my little sister and Mom who were the only ones at the house at that time. The fire department came and eventually we had to take the tree down, much to the dismay of our insurance company which wanted to "save" the tree and thus not have to pay for its removal.

My family and I still disagree on the role of the antenna and coaxial cable in the lightning strike. In my studies I thought it said that the highest objects are hit but they blamed the metal antenna in the tree.

I also built a six meter Ten-Tek T-Kit FM transciever one summer and used it to work stations all over the US during sporadic E band openings. It was a blast. I still have that radio but the power amplifier in it is burned out. I tried to fix it once but it burned out again. I will fix it though.

I also worked FM satellites like UO-14, AO-27 and SO-35. I had an Arrow handheld antenna, two HTs (hand held radios) (one for uplink and one for downlink) plus a tape recorder to record the pass. I would go out at night for a 12-15 minute satellite pass with all this gear and my Mom would laugh at me saying I looked like some sort of spy or something. Then I would endure the mosquitos while contacting stations all over the US, Canada and even a little bit of the Northern part of South America. It was a lot of fun.

Eventually I went off to college and while I took my HT with me I didn't use it much. It's hard to setup a station in a dorm room, plus in college you have a lot of new things to do and ham radio can easily fall on the way side among all those new things.

After a ten year hiatus with ham radio I have gotten back into it since Fall 2011. Around 2007 the morse code/CW requirement was dropped by the FCC. I and many other Technician class hams were automatically bumped up to Technician Plus licences. This licence gives you the ability to get on HF SSB but only on 10 meters.

My Dad let me borrow his Radio Shack HTX-10 radio and a dipole which I strung up behind my apartment. Unfortunately at the time the only thing I heard was a CW beacon. I didn't know CW so I copied down each dih and dah on paper and tried to translate it. I am pretty sure it was the K4JDR beacon which is just one county over from me. So that was a bust.

Fast forward to Fall 2011 when my Dad showed me that 10 meters was open to Europe every day. So I hooked that radio and dipole back up and was working Europe stations and US stations every morning when the band opened. That got me itching to get on more HF bands and this January I passed my General. I think it's all downhill from here...