For the Love of DX

While on a business trip to Germany in 1999, I had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful, quaint old hotel about 300 feet from the Rhine river. What a wonderful view! This being my fourth trip to Germany, I had toured most of the sights surrounding the area on my previous visits. Since the CEPT agreement had just been completed for the US, I brought along (for the first time) my IC 706 G, a portable paddle, a small and inexpensive manual antenna tuner, and a long wire. This could help me occupy a few quiet evenings and maybe give me a better perspective on European DX.

         After scouting the 'lay of the land' one morning, I thought I had the perfect solution for antenna installation: I could simply run the line out the balcony, over the back entrance of the hotel, over a tree and terminate in the heavily wooded garden.  A small voice in my head said,  “Hey, this may actually work!”, and I thought that pretty soon I would be on the air working all that great DX!

 Since the owner/manager, a proper old gentleman, inspected the property several times during the day and night, I figured I could stealthily install this system in the evening after sunset, and neither I nor the antenna would be spotted.  That evening, after darkness had set, I was ready.  The only weight I had for launching the antenna was a roll of electrical tape.  I tied some string to the tape, tied the other end of the string to the antenna wire, got out on the balcony, and made my throw. It cleared the entrance but didn't clear the tree and landed in the parking lot.  I retrieved it and tried three more times without success.  I just couldn't clear that tree from my distant balcony.  I left the tape and string where I had thrown it in the parking lot and thought that maybe I could throw it over the tree from there.  Heading out to the parking lot, my heart jumped into my mouth when I spotted the owner taking one of his many evening strolls around the property.  To make matters worse, the lights from the hallway and rear entrance of the hotel illuminated the entire parking lot.  I acted as if I were also strolling, said good evening and kept walking.  I couldn't believe that he didn't spot the tape and the string about 50 feet from where he was standing.

 With the lighting so bright, both my plan and I would be exposed if I continued.  I returned to the parking lot about ten minutes later and just at the moment I was getting ready to gather it all in and abandon all hope of operating, all the lights 'mysteriously' went out and I was free, for the moment, to continue.  I picked up the tape, pulled more string toward me, and made a Brooklyn Dodger throw way over the tree and into the dark garden.  I quickly ran into the garden, pulled all the slack and then continued to pull the  all the string until the wire was in my hand.  I found a tall bush to tie the end of the  antenna to with a bit of string acting as the insulator.

 At this point, the only thing on my mind now was setting up a counterpoise and tuning the antenna.  Boy, I was envisioning great DX contacts!  Counterpoise set, I tuned the rig to the 40 meters cw,  listened quickly on 7.020 and ran the output at about 10 watts to tune it.  The tuner worked perfectly and, once the SWR was flat, I cranked up the power to about 50 watts.  Nervously I listened, heard a lot of background noise, then tuned around for a cq to answer or just a qso to tail end.  I heard an RA calling cq at about 7.030 and, when he finished, gave him a call.  He replied with qrz so I called him again signing DL0/K8NY. He heard me and returned with a 539 signal report.  I copied him at about s6 and was very happy to have this qso. That was my first European cw qso from Europe and I was on my way.

By the end of the evening I had worked five stations including three Russians, a German and a French station.  I was happy to see the experiment working even without strong signal reports.  Still, they were qso's, and my cw addiction was satisfied! Since I was in fear of being 'spotted' the next morning, I ran down to the garden that night, disconnected the string from the bush and pulled the antenna back in.  I repeated the installation process the following evening and was surprised to notice that the lights were out again temporarily.  I launched the bundled array successfully from the parking lot and, in quick order, was back on the air.  I worked 8 more dx stations and finally pulled in my antenna for the final time as I was leaving the next morning for Stuttgart.

The owner/manager of the property handled my check-out that morning and asked me if my stay had been pleasant and enjoyable.  I told him I had a great time and looked forward to returning.  As I was heading out the door, he said in broken English and with a big grin, “You know, I love to listen to my short wave receiver at night to the stations from all around the world—especially the United States.” 

I said, “So do I and I also talk to many of them as well because I'm an amateur radio operator.”  I then said good-bye again and quickly headed through the doorway with my luggage as I was running late and didn't want to miss the train.  After boarding the train, seeing to the luggage and settling down in my compartment, I thought about the old gentleman and what he had said.  I thought about how he had somehow ‘missed’ seeing the tape and string in the parking lot and how lights mysteriously went out at just the right time so that I could finish putting up the antenna.  I thought about how such coincidences can make an ordinary trip so extraordinary. Funny how many DX lovers there are all around the world!

©2001 Robert F Senesi  all rights reserved

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