Category Archives: Michigan

Real World Ham Radio Exercise – When All Else Fails…

I’ve had many people ask me, “So why did you get into Ham Radio?”

I tell them, “I got into it for local, regional, national, and global communications, among other things.”

Then they come back and say things like, “Get a cell phone or smart phone. Why use 50-100 year old technology?”

Sometimes, being “old fashioned” pays off.

Approximately on 2:30 AM EDT on July 7, 2017, a strong wind event occured taking out huge healthy trees, lots of power lines, leaves, etc. Sadly a lot of structures were damanged including a house in Grand Haven that sadly ended someone’s life.

I remember sitting in my basement listening to the strong west winds pushing on the glass of our walkout slider. I remember thinking, “Well, I’m sure I’ll lose my antennas or porch or worse…”

I was on my radio at the time checked into our SKYWARN net for Ottawa County. Before I continue, I want to give a huge shoutout to all the spotters and our net control that evening. The net ran super smoothly and considering it lasted from 2:30 AM until around 4:45 AM, we had about 8-10 people checked in giving reports from various areas in the county. Great job to the Ottawa County Skywarn Team! One of our spotters clocked a 69 MPH wind gust at his home station! Some areas had winds over 90MPH!

If you ever want to listen to the Holland Repeater that also serves as the Ottawa County Skywarn Repeater, Click Here. There’s a good net that meets on Monday night at 7:30 PM ET. So feel free to listen on in.

Anyway, after the worst of the storm passed, I walked outside to survey the damage (around 4AM) around the neighborhood. Other than a couple large branches, lots of twigs and tree debris, our yard and home was spared, including my antennas. I know others in my area did not fare so well. One of my neighbor’s HF antennas did not survie. It was crushed by a large tree. I did find some large umbrellas in the middle of the street so I moved those off to the side of the road. We were also the fortunate street in our area not to lose power but only for a few seconds during the storm event. Most people were without power for 72 hours! My sister and her husband were without power for approx 18 hours.

However, also around 4AM, I lost our Comcast connection so there went our TV, phone & internet service. Fortunately I had my cell phone so I could still text, make calls, and get online and I can “tether” my phone to my computer for internet access as well. But I knew that the cell tower must have lost electricity because my cellular performace was horrible. I only live about a half mile away from the closest tower. And after looking at an outage map, the tower was right in the middle of an outage zone. It was only a matter of time before the backup power failed at the cell site & that would end my cellular connectivity.

Sure enough, about 12 hours after the storm came through, the cell site’s emergency power died. It sucked because I was just in the middle of catching Pokemon. Haha! I also took that time to walk around the neighborhood to see the damage. I heard lots of generators running. You could tell who didn’t have power that’s for sure. I saw a huge tree down in someone’s yard. That was sad to see.

Here’s a photo I shot of someone’s downed tree.

So how did I survive being without internet and cell service for so long? That’s where Ham Radio comes into play.

I was able to talk to others as far south as Glenn, as far north as Muskegon, West as Holland, and East as Grand Rapids. I was able to get information about what roads were passible and where power lines were down, as well as find out what places had power.

I know most of the fast food places in the area did not have power. Only one McDonalds was open and the lines were out the door since most people didn’t have power and needed to eat. They even had to have other McDonalds in other counties come in to resupply them because they were going through inventory so fast.

Back to Ham Radio, so how did this “old fashioned” technology help me? Sure I was able to talk to people but what about letting family and friends know you were ok? And how could you inform them if they don’t have radios or are not licensed?

There are many ways, probably too many to mention, but there’s the NTS (National Traffic System) and others like it. It is fast and reliable but not instant as in the following below.

Thanks to VHF Packet, HF Winmor, and APRS, I was able to communicate with family and friends efficiently!

I was able to send email to my mom & dad to let them know I was fine and that we had no damage at the house using VHF Packet & HF Winor. Here’s a video tutorial showing HF Winmor and VHF Packet in action.

And I was also able to use a text messaging service to text family & friends using APRS on my radio! Video on that!

So as you can see, there are many ways to communicate with non-hams in an emergency situation.

Since I have been licensed, I’ve been participating in a event called Field Day. Individuals and clubs get together to test out equipment and make sure everything is in working order and ready just in case there is a disaster of any kind and we’re called upon to help serve the community. It’s also a fun time socializing and eating some delicious food! Yum!

Here’s what a Field Day station can look like:

If you want to learn more about ham radio and get licensed, go ahead and click here! You never know when being licensed can come in handy. It’s a good way to volunteer for your community & help others communicate around the globe. Also, if you want to see Ham Radio in action, find a Field Day site near you and check it on out. Everyone is welcome. You can even jump on the air and make some QSOs (Contacts) with someone next to you to show you the ropes. Field Day is always the Fourth weekend of June.

And lastly, all of the methods of communication I have mentioned, with the exeption of HF Winmor, only need a Technician License. That’s the first out of three licenses. The exam is easy. 35 questions total, multiple choice and get 27 correct to pass. If you want to use HF Winmor, you’ll need to upgrade from Technician to General, which is also a 35 question multiple choice exam and 27 correct to pass.

From AARL:

The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for most new ham radio operators. To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. The license gives access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz, allowing these licensees the ability to communicate locally and most often within North America. It also allows for some limited privileges on the HF (also called “short wave”) bands used for international communications

The General class license grants some operating privileges on all Amateur Radio bands and all operating modes. This license opens the door to world-wide communications. Earning the General class license requires passing a 35 question examination. General class licensees must also have passed the Technician written examination.

The Amateur Extra class license conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes. Earning the license is more difficult; it requires passing a thorough 50 question examination. Extra class licensees must also have passed all previous license class written examinations.

I hope you find this useful and see how Amateur Radio can assist in emergency communications. No so old fashioned after all!

73s! & see you on the air!

Northern Michigan Fire – Duck Lake

I haven’t been watching a lot of TV since I’ve been on vacation at my cottage, but I have heard that news of this fire has gone national via the internet and television airwaves.  FOX News and CBS News have talked about it I’ve heard.  

In case you are not aware, there is a massive wild fire spreading through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the Tahquamenon Falls area, specifically around Duck Lake.  It is about 14 miles north of Newberry, MI.  

Firefighters who got into the burned out areas have come back and given some damage estimates:

34 homes / cabins

22 garages

22 sheds / outbuildings

17 campers

1 store

1 motel

About 23,000 acres of land is now burned.  Fire crews are still working trying to maintain the fire, specifically at its southern end where a blowout has pushed the fire over State Highway 123.  

Vacationers and property owners are being let back into the region on a limited basis to quickly grab any surviving valuables and assessing damage at this point.  The last I heard, groups of 15 were being let in at a time.  Many were forced to evacuate on Wednesday / Thursday of last week.  

Governor Snyder declared a state of disaster for the two counties the fire is in last Saturday.  The decree states that here is an open flame fire ban (no camp fires are allowed) in 49 counties across the Upper Peninsula and parts of Lower Michigan as well.  Those counties are:

Alcona, Alger, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Baraga, Bay, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Clare, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Gladwin, Gogebic, Grand Traverse, Houghton, Iosco, Iron, Isabella, Kalkaska, Keweenaw, Lake, Leelanau, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Marquette, Mason, Mecosta, Menominee, Midland, Missaukee, Montmorency, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, Schoolcraft and Wexford.

There’s also a fireworks ban in the counties surrounding the fire area.  So if you’re up camping, please no fires.  It’s so beautiful up here, I’d hate to see this region look like a barren waste land.  

I’d like to send out a huge thank you to the Michigan DNR and the firefighters helping out in this bad fire!  

Have you been effected by this fire in any way, shape, or form?  Feel free to comment below.  

Here are some pictures of the fire as well as a video.  Pictures and video courtesy of the Michigan DNR website.  

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Northern Michigan Wine Tasting

Last night, I attended my first official wine tasting event help at a place called Bayside Dining on Drummond Island, MI.  I’m normally not a foodie nor am I a wine snob.  But I thought I’d share with you what kind of food to expect at a fine dining experience in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  

Everything was just perfect.  The atmosphere, setting, mother nature in all its glory in the background, a perfect evening.  

To top that off, you had awesome company, food, and beverages to match.  

The food & drink theme was “A Touch of The Deep South.”  

Our first course was frog legs.  I love frog legs.  It was very delicious.  And the wine paring was perfect.  Trignon Roussane, a honey & elegant white wine.  

I apologize for the half eaten frog leg in this picture.  I thought I snapped a picture with my camera before hand, but apparently I didn’t.  

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Next up was the No-Bite Snapper Turtle soup!  Delicious!  But it is very spicy!  If you have any allergies to pepper, stay away from this soup!  The wine paring was a Sacromonte red wine, a floral and spiced wine.  Only 100 cases were brought into the United States!  So I felt very fortunate to have a sample of this wine!

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The third course was a Blueberry Sorbet to cleanse the palate.  It had a sour flavoring, but also sweet.  A true journey for your taste buds!  No wine for this part.  

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Fourth course was a Southern Salad with grilled prawns!  Very delicious!  No fishy taste at all!  Grilled to perfection as well!  Wine paring was a Lola Kay white wine, a peach and honeydew flavor!  A fabulous paring!  

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Our last course was a Roasted duck leg and thigh confit!  I haven’t had duck in a while so I was very happy to have it again.  Also cooked very well!  The roasted pecans really brought out the flavor of the duck!  The wine further enhanced it.  The wine was a Haywood Zinfandel, a red wine!  I never had a red zin before, so I was intrigued.  Sadly, the picture didn’t turn out very well for this wine.  My apologies.  

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And to finish off an fantastic meal, you gotta have a good southern dessert, right?  Well we had one and it was delicious!  A peach Streusel!  Very delicious.  It’s kind of like a strudel but in a mini pie form, almost like a tart.  And the dessert wine of choice…a Lodali Moscato, a sparking wine!  I love sparkling wines!  It was a fruity wine.  Most wine people don’t’ go for the sparkling, but I love sparkling wine!  I’ll be buying a bottle of this wine for sure! 

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Well I hope you enjoyed my food journey.  As I said, I’m normally not a foodie or wine snob, but I thought I’d share this with you just in case you’re ever interested in attending a wine tasting.  They are a lot of fun and you can meet some very interesting people.  

Now wipe that drool off your keyboard and / or screen and go find a wine tasting near you, especially if you’d like to get into wines.  

Feel free to leave a comment and / or ask a question and I’ll reply as soon as possible.  

Happy tasting!  

What Deer Hunting Is Really About

Good evening everyone!  Hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful fall we have.

I have many traditions I like to do in the fall such as Thanksgiving with the family, going to apple orchards, drinking lots and lots of apple cider, eating lots of pumpkin & apple pies, and, of course, deer hunting.

Yeah, I know, I’m probably going to get spammed with comments like, “you’re evil for hunting,” etc, etc.  I’ve heard it all before so don’t waste your broadband bandwidth telling me those things.

I’m going to try my best to explain deer hunting and what it really means to me.

Yes, it is about spotting that perfect buck and killing it for it’s meat.  Venison is a fantastic meat and it cooks really nicely.  It’s a lean meat too, so it’s better for you than that from cows.  We usually have it made into Summer Sausage, steak, or even jerky!

But it goes beyond that.  There are other aspects to deer hunting that I really enjoy the most.  First off, there’s good male bonding time.

When I go hunting, I go with my dad.  He’s an expert when it comes to the wildlife around and knows how to find it.  But there is something about sitting in the woods, just watching the woods, waiting for that buck to cross your line of fire, listening to the wildlife around you, and just enjoying being around someone else who also enjoys the same things you do.

My dad told me that we might not see any deer this year (due to the, I presume, poor deer control management up on the island), but that’s ok.  Just heading out into the the woods at 6 AM is something in itself to enjoy.  Then we’ll watch the woods light up as the sun rises and listen to the woods calm down after the morning breeze.  Then we’ll head on out around 9 or 10 AM and catch up on sleep.  Then we’ll head out again later in the day and see what comes our way.

My dad and I will be sitting out there, in our deer blinds, in silence, listening for the deer to head our way.  While we wait, we’ll probably have some quiet small talk or we’ll be messing around with our iPhone 4’s (Thank you Apple for bluetooth multiplayer gaming capabilities).

If you like hunting or you really enjoy nature, I encourage all of you to try deer hunting.  Or, if that’s not your thing, get (or borrow) a deer blind and just go out and sit in the woods.  You don’t need a gun to enjoy nature and everything around you.

If you do go out and hunt, be safe and responsible.

Enjoy the season everyone!

Vacation Time – Away From Crazy Life

Hello everyone! If any college students are on spring break, I hope you are enjoying it. For those not on break yet, I hope your time comes soon.

I’ve been enjoying my break a lot. It started off with a relaxing weekend at my apartment. We didn’t do too much other than watch movies, Simpsons, and the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. It was fun just to relax and hang out.

Monday, I went to my cousin’s house and stayed there for a couple days. We had to take his car into the shop for repairs. More on that later. We hung out with his sister while thier mom (my aunt) worked. We had fun watching Looney Tunes via Netflix streaming. (I’m hoping to see it in iPhones and iPads).  We just stayed at home and relaxed, which is always good especially if your life is hectic and chaotic.

Thursday, my aunt took us to my parent’s house and we began our trip up to my cottage with a stop off at La Señorita, a fantastic mexican restaurant if you are journeying in Northern Michigan.  After the long journey, we were finally able to continue relaxing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  It is a wonderful feeling to be able to just relax and not worry about the rest of the world.  And even when you are here in Michigan, especially in the wilderness, you are able to escape the rest of the world.  Sure, I have internet here and satellite TV, but I get to spend time with my family and just hang out with them.

We did get an update on my cousin’s car.  There is a transmission fluid leak somewhere and they are trying to fix it.  Let’s hope that’s the only problem and a new transmission, or a new car, won’t be necessary.

We’ll be making our long Journey back home on Sunday.  I just need to remember to make sure I grab some more bed padding since my aerobed popped last week.  That’s another blog rant for another time.

I hope you all have a refreshing weekend.  Take it easy and I’ll blog some more when I have more time on my hands.  🙂