Rediscovering the Thrill


By Dale Holloway, K4EQ

38 Special on Bencher Dust Cover
QRP operation (5 watts or less) has always held a certain fascination for me. Back in 1980 I even got half way serious about it by building a Heathkit HW-8 and joining the Michigan QRP Club. I got excited quickly when my first contact was with DK4KK. Now, there's nothing noteworthy about working Germany under normal circumstances. It's certainly isn't an exotic QTH for a DXpedition. But with 2 watts? I was ecstatic. My next contact was a KV4, a few days later a KL7, then a JA2, an RK1, and the list goes on.

You bet. I was having FUN! However, a year later we returned to Honduras for a few years and I put aside my QRP interest temporarily. Or so I thought. Temporarily turned out to be nearly 16 years.

But that all changed back in early 1997 when I ordered a NorCal 38 Special. It's a 300 mW (I did the 5-watt mod), 30-meter transceiver with a hot little superhet receiver in it. For $25 I knew I couldn't go wrong. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to building it until a few months later, but it was sure worth the wait.

On July 19 I heard KCØGT calling CQ. I was thrilled when he answered my call to him and gave me a 559 out of Florida. That was just the beginning. In the next two months of only slightly more than casual operating, I worked 29 countries and 24 states with that little rig. I have since increased my QRP DXCC total to well over the 100 mark.

Nearly all my contacts were on my Cushcraft R7 vertical which was attached to our back deck. However, I took it down on Labor Day to do some work on it. Now I was off the air. Or was I? Because of antenna restrictions in our subdivision (I had permission for the vertical), I had to hide an antenna for 80 meters. So I put an 80-meter loop on the roof (black insulated wire on black shingles) and fed it with 450-ohm ladder line. You couldn't see it unless you were looking hard for it. I decided to tune the loop for 30 meters and see what I could do with my QRP rig. Believe it or not, I worked Florida and a UK4 in the Ukraine. That's 5 watts into an 80-meter loop tacked to the roof shingles. I was pleased!

My most memorable contact that summer was probably 5N3/SP5XAR in Nigeria. He was working a pileup and I thought I'd join the multitude calling him. Whenever I'd sense a lull, I'd throw in my call sign. After about a half dozen calls, he came back to K4EQ. I was thrilled. No, I was ecstatic. The fact is, I nearly fell out of my chair with excitement. I hadn't had so much fun since I was a Novice in 1960.

If you're looking for something to juice up your hamming, try QRP. It may not be your "cup of tea" but it's worth a shot. I rarely turn on my 100-watt transceiver these days. It's sort of in the way. I've rediscovered the thrill of working what was easy DX. And I actually do some rag chewing now--something I've never particularly enjoyed.

Yup! I've rediscovered the thrill of ham radio. And it's all because I built a little QRP rig. When I work them now, I bathe in a real sense of genuine pride in my accomplishment. Why not join in the fun?