I made my first real QSOs with the K2 this week! Last weekend Rob (AK6L) and I did some experimenting trying to make contact on various bands, and finally had success on 40m. Given that he just lives across the bay in Berkeley, it made sense that 40m worked because my loop antenna is 42 meters long. Theoretically, a loop that is less than 2 wavelengths will mostly radiate upward, whereas one that is 2 or more wavelengths long will radiate more off the sides. So on 40m I have a "cloud warmer" that causes signals to come back down near me. Good for local contacts like Rob.
At that time I was trying to use a PC headset mic that I have, with a pre-amp circuit that I cobbled together, and he said he couldn't hear any treble in my voice. After that I resolved to take vice grips to the non-standard connector on the mic he gave me, get the damn thing off even if I ruined it, and then wire up the standard connectors and cable that I had bought. It turned out that the 8 pin chassis connector I bought was too big for the hole on the mic base, so I hard-wired the new cable and female connector. I'll just need to get some strain relief for it.
Yesterday I was tuning around on 40m and I heard what sounded like an old man net – three or four old guys talking about brushing their teeth, doing chores, and one talking about putting on his artificial leg (it uses suction to stay attached). During a break in the chatter, I keyed up and said, "KJ6AKQ looking for a signal report…" One guy said, "…what?" Another said, "Sounded like he was looking for a signal report – there's a bunch of us out here, but go ahead and jump in if you want!" So I said, "I'm surprised you can hear me but I'd love a signal report if possible." He replied, "This is N6UGY, I'm in Red Bluff, California. Go ahead and transmit for a bit and I'll give you a report." So I told him that I'm in San Francisco, using a new K2 that I just completed, only putting out 15 watts, and using an antenna that I expected to be pretty inefficient. He said that he had about S7 noise and I was fading in and out of it, but copyable. "I'd say you're doing pretty well for 15 watts!" So I thanked him and checked out, not wanting to slow them down with my weak signal. San Francisco to Red Bluff is around 175 miles away, but that's a good start!
Today my friend Joe (N1QD) in Boston IMed me to say that 15m was open to CA right now. 20 was looking open also, but although we tried both we weren't able to make contact. Tuning around, the bands were jam packed, and it turned out that this weekend is the ARRL SSB/phone Sweepstakes contest, so everyone was out in force. I was hearing CT, VA, and lots of other states as everyone tried to rack up points. I tried to QSO with one guy in Calgary but he couldn't hear me. After doing some chores and coming back, I heard KL7RA in Alaska calling CQ on 20m and tried him. He heard me right off the bat! I had to repeat my call a couple of times for him to get it, but then we exchanged contest info no problem. San Francisco to Kenai, AK is 2024 miles! With 15 watts and a crappy antenna! Wow… I am hooked.