I'd like to be able to communicate via HF with a family member in Connecticut from California, but a huge tower or beam is not in the cards. Currently I have a 63ft dipole at 20-30ft high, and run barefoot with a manual tuner. This setup has worked fine for random QSO's. However, I don't ever receive signals from New England.
W1AW broadcasts every business afternoon and evening on an hourly schedule. http://www.arrl.org/w1aw-operating-schedule
IF you can not hear ARRL's W1AW, you will NEVER hear your relative.
USE the W1AW broadcasts as your BEACON, to improve your station's antenna system.