One other question: Is there even enough 2 meter ssb activity to make it worth the trouble and expense of setting up for it? I certainly never hear anything through my copper j-pole. I realize the conditions aren't great right now for any band but when they are is there much activity?
This is a little bit like saying, "Should I bother getting on 20 meters? I listen there without an antenna connected and really don't hear anything."
A j-pole (vertical) is likely to hear absolutely nothing
on 2m SSB, no matter where you are. It's a waaaaaay less than "0 dB gain" antenna, which actually has about 20 dB or more loss when used on SSB, because everyone on SSB is horizontally polarized.
I hear lots of activity on 2m SSB (at night) using a 12 element Yagi up 62' on a tower. If I switch my my "6 dBi" gain omnidirectional vertical collinear, all that goes away and I hear basically nothing. I keep the vertical for FM, of course, where everything is vertically polarized and my horizontally polarized beam works very poorly.
The tricks to 2m SSB are:
-Horizontal polarization is a must
-A well elevated antenna, high above local obstructions like houses and trees is a must
-A low loss transmission line is a must
-Being able to operate when there's the most activity (typically from late afternoon through late evening) is very helpful -- there's also usually some activity on weekend mornings
-Being able to "aim" your beam at local activity centers, which are usually in and around the most densely populated areas, is extremely helpful
-Run 100W PEP output power if possible, as that's about what most are using
-Know and understand where the activity is: Generally around 144.200, but other frequencies are in common use, depending where you live
-Get on to the VHF weak signal nets and make contacts there to find out more about your local activity