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On The Road Again

bob raynor (N4JTE) on June 30, 2008
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N4JTE; On the Road Again

Where there is a will; there is a way!

Thoughts on getting an antenna up and working in challenging situations

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I am in the construction industry and with the economy in major upheaval I had to leave behind a very nice antenna farm in my backyard in upstate NY and get on the road to pay the bills.

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Yep, there is an antenna or two in there, trust me!

First stop was Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a couple of months R&R and a lame attempt at a job search while enjoying the view and the ocean. I missed ham radio and decided to attempt to lasso a nice 70 foot palm tree next to my triplex on the beach and enjoy the best of all worlds, ham radio and the ocean, alas it was not to be as my attempt to get a line over the tree ended up circumnavigating 2 hotels further down the street and sending about 200 yards of fishing line over their roofs, landlady was not too pleased, never liked her anyway.

Next stop, Panama City Beach, Fl. and due to the largesse of my new client I was stuck in a Sleep Inn on the second floor with no way of sticking any antenna out the window so it was time to get a little more adventurous, which is, finally, the point of this article . My goal was to get a decent 40 meter wire up to run from my parked truck and reacquaint myself with many friends from the OMISS net, I say wire because I have never been a real mobile operator and appreciate the operators who do it well on a consistent basis. First attempt was a wire vertical on a fiberglass pushup mast right on the Gulf with 4 radials, tie wrapped to a stop sign at the boat launch ramp, expected big reports and solid qso's, actually on first CQ I was told my signal though strong, was totally distorted. Major disappointment but I have never been too good with verticals and then I figured out my battery connection and wire was pretty amateurish with obvious problems. So I took a drive around and spotted what looked like a demolished building site about one mile from my hotel with a For Sale sign, abandoned parking lot and a few trees that looked promising.

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Add a little wire, couple of trees or light posts, instant antenna.

A quick trip to home depot for a 500 ft roll of #12 insulated wire and good old radio shack for some RG 58 feedline and off to my new backyard for some antenna hoisting. Keeping a wary eye out for the antenna police I strung up a basic 40 meter dipole between two trees about 50ft high with my trusty fishing rod and masonry string and made a couple of contacts, audio was fine and signal strength was reported as 5/9 in Colorado at 3pm CST, now we're cooking!

On a happy roll I figured why not try a reflector behind the dipole and threw one up using the same trees with around 20 ft. of spacing and voila when it got dark it worked so well I was told my signal at 100 watts fixed mobile rivaled my home installation in NY with a 2 element 40 meter quad and the AL 1500. Yeah I know, it's all about propagation and the salt water but it was sure nice to be heard again with a decent signal.

Very rewarding to be able to run a WAS net again on 40 meters during a major contest but of course as any antenna nut knows there is always the challenge to make it better so in my case I wanted to get back on 75 meters with a decent signal, so after surveying the present available trees I figured any wires I might add would interfere with the 40 meter wire beam. On the road again to the next available site, which happened to be a parking lot near the hotel for a college, Gulf Coast Community College, low and behold it's usually empty at night and it had 2 appropriately spaced light posts about 40 ft high and 130 ft apart.

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If you are afraid of the dark don't try this, it's not like sitting at home with the air conditioning on and the amp cranking along. All Battery All the time.

I put together a dipole in the hotel room and drove over to my second new backyard, unlike the 40 meter location, this one has got to be temporary and easy to put up and take down in the dark. With a 2 ounce lead sinker attached to masonry string it was no problem to get over both light posts on the first try, pulled up the 75 meter wire and had a blast on 75 for the first time in months. So what happens now is whenever and wherever I might be driving, I am on the lookout for potential temporary antenna sites. Probably not a bad idea if you are into emergency communications and want to practice your means and methods for getting a signal out during the real thing. Since submitting this article 3 or 4 weeks ago I have added another element, a director, to the 40 meter wire configuration and I am having very consistent results all over the states. Yes it has blown down a couple of times in the very gusty winds of the Gulf of Mexico but for a total investment of less than $75 for a 40 meter beam and a few minutes re stringing it up occasionally I'm not complaining.

I am now situated in the concrete jungle of West Ft. Lauderdale and ensconced in another hotel, so I am taking my own advice and looking around for possible new temporary wire antenna sites.

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Right in the unused part of parking lot of my hotel, could be good north south dipole on 40 meters.

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Whoa! This one across the street at Broward Mall looks good, think I'll ask the Mall manager for permission to try it out at night when mall is closed, will keep you posted if I make bail.

If you are stuck in a restricted apartment, hotel or other RF limited environment, take heart and take a drive, you never know what might be available for a temporary wire antenna experiment, just remember; It's always easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Tnx for reading,


Member Comments:
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On The Road Again  
by XW1B on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
HA!!!!!! Tnx for a very entertaining clip Bob! I admire your daring and creativity in order to get on the air. Having lived in FL for 50yrs (AA4XR) I know some of the places you mentioned.....which makes me laugh even more!

A nice piece! Best wishes and much success!
73 from Central LAOS. de Bruce XW1B (ex AA4XR)
RE: On The Road Again  
by KW4JX on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Great article and pics Bob and best wishes for contracts.
Buffalo Gil W2/G3LBS NY State
On The Road Again  
by N9GXA on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Hey Bob. Thanks for the great article and inspiration!! Glad to know you...
RE: On The Road Again  
by W3LK on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Looks like my vehicle when the grandchildren get through with it. :)


Lon - W3LK
Naugatuck, Connecticut
On The Road Again  
by N9GC on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I will cease immediately complaining about my "inferior" indoor attic-mounted W9INN dipole (deed restrictions of the Peoples' Republic of Pond Hollow). Now we know how you had such a good signal down there, Bob. Way to go.

73, Carl WCØV
RE: On The Road Again  
by NO9E on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
When you try to attach something to light poles:

1.How do you using the slingshot so as not to hit the lights accidentally?

2. What do you use for support from the other side? Do you attempt to hide it?

I usually use wire gauge 26-28 + fishing line to make the setup invisible. But it would be too light for a beam.

Ignacy, NO9E

RE: On The Road Again  
by WI7B on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

Bob N4JTE,

Absolutely phantastic!!! In the best spirit of ham radio.


---* Ken
RE: On The Road Again  
by KC2RGU on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
N4JTE - Bob. How come you didn't feed the 80m dipole with balance line? That way you could have run both (and more) bands on the one antenna? If all you had was coax then remember that the 80m net is the important one! :)

On The Road Again  
by KC5CQD on June 30, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
N4JTE said;

"I am in the construction industry....."

And as a veteran twenty year construction electrician, I say....."Yeah, right."

On The Road Again  
by W4VR on July 1, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Good show Bob. I trust you ask permission before you use those light poles. No wonder you have a good signal no matter where you are these days. Ron
RE: On The Road Again  
by N4JTE on July 1, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Appreciate all the kind comments and kc5cqd if you doubt I'm in the "construction industry" a quick look at my company website might enlighten you. Heading back to Miami next week for another project, that's gonna be a really tricky area to get back on the air! I will have to learn; "wires? what wires ?" in Spanish.
Take care all,
RE: On The Road Again  
by KG6WLS on July 1, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
>RE: On The Road Again Reply
by N4JTE on July 1, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I will have to learn; "wires? what wires ?" in Spanish.<

:: I'll take a shot at it. My spanish is a little rusty though. After all, this is America that we live in.

Alambre? Qué alambre?

Adios, Amigo!!

Sietre Tres

RE: On The Road Again  
by W7ARE on July 1, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
¿Alambres? ¿Qué ata con alambre? ¡No tenemos ninguna alambres que apestan!

Just in case the antenna police in Miami get you!
RE: On The Road Again  
by W7ARE on July 1, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
At least, that is what babel fish translates as meaning: "Wires? What wires? We don't got no stinkin' wires!"....or something to that effect.....
RE: On The Road Again  
by W4LGH on July 1, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Now thats what I call "REAL HAM RADIO"!!! I keep a radio station "In a Box" with me, when traveling. Its built into a Craftsman 24" tool box and contains all tools necessary, plugs, connectors, several antennas and even a 12VDC soldering iron. It also has a 7amp/12vdc gelcell installed, so I can use a small PS to keep the radio going. The radio of choice used, the compact Yaesu FT-857D.

This setup can be used anywhere, anytime, and is great for playing "Field Day", any day!! Would also be ready in times of Emergencies. It has 2 cigar lighter sockets, flush mounted on the back side to run any needed accessories, and battery capasity can always be increased if needed. Thats why I call it my "Radio Station in a Box", ready to go anywhere, whenever the mood strikes you.

Why wait all year for Field Day, when you can play portable radio anytime!! It can be seen on my website, under the virtual tour section. It shows a Yaesu FT-817 on it, but that has been replaced with the FT-857D, for full power operations.

73 de W4LGH - Alan

See you on the Radio!
On The Road Again  
by KG4ZVA on July 5, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article on the "can-do" spirit of ham radio!
However, I dont agree with using other peoples property for your adventures. Just because you are a ham, doesnt give you the right to trespass, much less run wires through someone elses trees.
It seems to me that if you are so interested in getting back on the air, you could put all that ingenuity and effort into a better mobile setup.
RE: On The Road Again  
by KU1V on July 5, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Bob, That is really a kool article. We miss you at OMISS. Regards & 73.
RE: On The Road Again  
by KW4JX on July 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
This article is a refreshing change from verbal excess. A picture is worth a thousand words. I will close now because I don't have one.
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