Archive for May, 2013

It’s That Time of the Year — Tropo Band Openings. Here’s Two Links that can Help.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

   8am Tuesday

   This will be the first of two posts.  I learned last night that I’m calling the 144.240 net Wed. night, so I want to make an announcement about that shortly.

   Here are two links a lot of VHF’ers keep an eye on:
  1)  Shows real-time band conditions on 2m, based on reports from APRS signals.  This morning, that map has a nice red area of good band enhancement from western WI southwest into NE/IA/KS/MO.  There’s also another area in the central Gulf Coast, but this is primarily a Midwest/Great Lakes blog. 
   Experienced VHF’ers will debate the usefulness of the APRS map.  It does sometimes show false openings, based on factors I don’t fully understand (hint, hint, this would be an excellent place for someone more technical than I to submit a “comment” explaining those factors).  The APRS/mountainlake map also should *NOT* be used to tell you whether it’s worth getting on the air or not.  I see all kinds of nights where the map looks very dead, yet 2m SSB contacts are being made out to 200, 300, 400 miles.  
   But this is a useful tool, and it’s a good idea to study it at various times of the day, and during different weather patterns.  You learn things over time that way.  For complete beginners, there is often better propagation in the early to mid-morning, and again, toward sunset and into the overnight hours.  This subtle rise in propagation is most often noted on bands like 144, 222, 432 MHz and higher.  It is most likely to happen during periods of warm, humid, stagnant weather.  But it’s not limited to that.  There was a great weekend-long opening back in January of either 2010 or 2011.  Of course, it happened the weekend *before* the ARRL Jan VHF.  
   Don’t confuse tropo openings with sporadic E skip on 6m (50 MHz).  The mechanism that opens up 6 meters most often is sporadic E-skip, which has to do with the ionosphere and not weather conditions closer to the earth’s surface.  It’s a pleasant coincidence that sporadic Es is most common in May, June and July, and that tropo openings on the higher bands (tropo can also improve 6m conditions sometimes, too) tend to occur in the warmer months. 
   2)  Attempts to forecast band conditions up to 6 days in the future.  Some will also debate the usefulness of these forecasts.  Hang around hams long enough (or any kind of enthusiasts, whether its sports, politics, etc) and you will find just about everything gets debated.  
   I have been a lifelong weather geek so anyone who tries to forecast V/UHF band conditions much like a weather forecast is going to catch my eye.  The Hepburn forecast tropo maps have been around a long time. 
   What I will say is that if you notice a green, yellow or greater openings is consistently forecast for more than just a day or two in a row, it becomes more likely that it will actually happen.  I also have noticed that no major, widespread, long-lived tropo opening (where you can work 400, 600, sometimes 1000 miles on 144, 222, 432 MHz and higher bands, sometimes for hours or a few days on end) happens without being forecast ahead of time by these maps. 
    What we don’t want VHF’ers to do is this:  Take a quick look at the Hepburn map, see black everywhere and say, “Well that’s it, no point in getting on the air and calling CQ.”  Because there are plenty of times where the bands are at least normal, or slightly enhanced, and the Hepburn maps miss it. 
    Save these links to your radio favorites.

   If you know of other links, please share them using the “comment” feature at the bottom of every post.

Wed. 144.240 and Mon. 144.252 Net Reports

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

   8am Wed

   Last night with the 144.240 long-range net from WI, WB9LYH reported that propagation was not so good.  There was plenty of activity, though, and that’s always a good thing. 
   Mark reported 17 check-ins:  W9EWZ EN52;  N9OLT EN64;  W8SOL and N9YK EN71;  N9JBW and K9CCL EN61;  KF8QL EN72;  KC9BQA EN63;  WB9TFH EN53;  WA9BNZ and W9BBP EN40;  KG0SJ and WB0YNA EN22;  W0HXL EN21;  W0ANH EN47;  K0SIX EN35 and W0WFH EM48.   That’s a nice list of 2m SSB’ers in all directions.  There are so many loyal check-ins we’ve had these past 5 years… really want to thank all of you for helping.  

   In our continuing effort to expand the 144.240 activity to states/grids we can’t normally reach from WI, both K9LQZ and W0WFH got on 144.240 last night and called around for check-ins.  They do this from about 0120-0140Z, although they would surely stay on longer if things got busier.  We can always find ways to work with more activity — we like solving pleasant problems.  🙂 
   K9LQZ in EM68 heard from WD8CHR EN90.   W0WFH in EM48 worked W0FY EM48; W0HXL EN21; W0TSM EM38 (who is getting started on 2m SSB, congrats and welcome.)  W0WFH also heard from WB9LYH EN54 at the end of Mark’s net. 

   *Please remember that we are looking for 2m SSB’ers from the following areas on Wed. night, on 144.240:  W VA, western parts of PA, VA, NC and SC.  Much of GA, AL, MS.  All of KY, TN, MO, AR, KS and eastern NE.  And obviously, if the bands are really open, then let the DX roll in and say hello.* 

   On Monday nights, K8TQK calls his 144.252 net from EM89je at 8:30pm eastern.  Antenna pattern is to start N, then NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW over the next 45-60 minutes.  We still post his net reports because of his previous affiliation with us on Wed. nights.  I go to the chat archives and am able to access Bob’s list that way. 
   K8TQK had a big night on Monday.  I counted 25 check-ins.  KC9CLM/M EN81;  N8AIA EN82;  W8SOL EN71;  KB8TDA EN70;  VA3VEC FN14;  VE3YCU FN02;  NF8O and K8GDT EN91;  W2UAD FN13;  WD8CHR EN90;  K8RYU EM99;  AC3L/M FN00;  KB3TNZ FN10;  AA4DD and WB4IXU EM86;  KA2KQM EM74;  KY4MRG EM77;  KI4ROF EM55;  WA4REE EM65;  W4ZST EM84;  KB9RDS and WB8ART from EM79;  WB9LYH EN54 and N1GC EM95.  There was a 3rd check-in from EM79, but the text was clearly a typo.  I’m guessing it might have been K8DZ. 

    On Tuesday night, we had the national 222 MHz activity night.  I scan thru the chat archives and look for anything posted at the 222 MHz prop logger.  This past Tuesday was very quiet for postings, but I imagine there’s plenty of guys who get on, and you just don’t know it unless you are also on the air. 
   K5SW in EM25 has been a consistent 222 Tuesday promoter for years.  Sam reported working K5LLL EM10.   K5PHF in DM61, El Paso, TX, was also on/near 222.100, trying to make things happen.    Sounds like the best time to look around is from 0000-0200. 
   Here’s a post that explains 222 Tuesdays better:

WB9LYH EN54, K9LQZ EM68 and W0WFH EM48 144.240 Nets ON Tonight

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

  2pm Wed. 

  Man!  Where does the time go?  How did it get to be 2pm already? 

  *REMEMBER THE 6M SPRING SPRINT IS SAT. NIGHT, MAY 11TH.*  From 7-11pm eastern, 6-10pm central, 5-9pm mountain and 4-8 pm pacific.  6 has been open a fair amount this week so here’s hoping…  If you need more sprint info, go here:

    WB9LYH EN54cl and K9LQZ EM68ul will be on 144.240 tonight. 

   WB9LYH is the flagship net control, just like he has been for years now.  Located right in the middle of WI, near Wisconsin Rapids.  Mark gets on at 8pm central/9pm eastern and starts out with a quick look NE, then E, SE, S, SW, W, NW and N over the next hour or so.  With stacked 17B2’s and 500 watts from a mountaintop location (OK, I exaggerate a little, we don’t really have mountains in WI), he gets out a long, long ways and loves DX surprises.  Never hesitate to try checking in — especially as we head into warmer weather and better band conditions. 
    K9LQZ is a half hour NW of Louisville, KY and gets on from roughly 9:20-9:40pm eastern time.  His emphasis is to find activity we can’t reach from WI (without band enhancement).  Talking places like W VA, western PA, western VA, NC and SC.  All of KY, TN and MO.  Parts of GA, AL, MS, AR and also downstate IL, IN, and OH.   I can work Lowell on a 361.5 mile path most of the time, so I know he gets out a long ways, too.   We need 2m SSB’ers in the states I’ve mentioned to help us spread the word.  We’re looking for you on Wed. nights.  (K9LQZ will be unavailable next Wed.  He has a conflict every 3rd Wednesday of the month.  3 out of 4 isn’t bad at all.  🙂 )

     I see where W0WFH has a 70% chance of showers and storms tonight.  So our EM48 net control might not be able to get on.  But if you’re in MO,KS,AR,OK,KY,TN, MS  or downstate IL and you can safely get on tonight, please try for W0WFH.  If Bill is on 144.240, it will be from roughly 8:20-8:40pm central time.   His location is 20 miles southeast of Jefferson City, MO (about 80 miles west of St. Louis)  His emphasis is on activity to his E, SE, S, SW and W.  Talking places we can’t reach with WB9LYH from WI.

    Check back tomorrow for our net reports.  I’ll have 3 net reports, actually.  We still post K8TQK’s 144.252 net results (he’s now on Monday nights, at 8:30pm eastern), in addition to any 222 Tuesday activity I can track down, and of course, our own 144.240 net reports.

6 Nets Every Monday on 2m SSB + 432.100 Activity

Monday, May 6th, 2013

   2:45pm Monday

   Want readers to know that Monday is a big night for 2m SSB activity across much of the USA. 

   1)  K8TQK is on 144.252 at 8:30pm eastern time, from EM89je, south-central OH.  Giant signal that covers many states and VE-3.  Bob’s antenna pattern is to first look N, then NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW over the next 45-60 minutes.
   These other nets are farther away from WI, but with summer coming, there will be nights with enhancement, so it’s good to know all your options.  I’m sure there are other Monday nets, but I’m trying to stick within a Midwest/Great Lakes/Plains territory. 

   2)  W4TMW calls the North GA net from EM84ni on 144.210 at 8pm eastern.   His antenna pattern is to look *south* first, then SW, W, NW, N, NE, E, and SE over the next 30-60 minutes or so.   I’ve seen net reports of W4TMW’s and they include plenty of signals beyond 100-200 miles so this is a popular net with good range. 

   3)  W5VHF Net at 8pm central on 144.190.  Net control is KD5ZVE in EM26, OK.  K5SW Sam is the backup if Jimmy can’t go.  Not sure which directions they rotate in.   I’ve seen net reports where they have 30-35 check-ins, so again, this is an active, popular net with good reach. 

   4)  Rochester, NY net at 9pm eastern on 144.260.  Don’t know much at all about this one.  You could Google Rochester VHF Group and learn more that way. 

   5)  Guelph, ONT net at 9pm eastern on 144.245.  Net control is VE3XTM in EN93.    Because VE3XTM runs multiple nets on different bands and nights, there’s a post specifically about his nets.   Click here:

   6)  Rocky Mountain VHF runs a nice slate of nets on various bands and nights.  Visit for the full scoop.  Their 144.220 net is on Monday nights at 8pm mountain time, from the Denver area.

   7)  N4PZ in EN52gb (a little SW of Rockford, IL) calls for activity on 432.100 every Monday at 8pm central.  He has a box of yagis and QRO, so his 432 signal gets out a very long ways.  I’m told Steve starts out looking east, and I’m unsure what happens after that.  I would point my 432 yagi at EN52gb and simply wait to hear something.

Badger Contesters Looking for New Members

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

   10:45am Sunday

   This is a reprint of a post I made back on Jan. 19, 2013.

   I am a Badger Contester and I encourage you to join.  If you have even a mild interest in doing more on VHF/UHF, you should join.  The BC’ers are a low-key, low-stress outfit.  No dues, no formal meetings.  There’s one or two (voluntary) meet-ups at Milwaukee-area hamfests each year, plus the annual BC’ers pizza party at a hotel suite the weekend of AES Superfest.  (usually the first weekend in April)   
  I’m a Badger Contester so I can contribute my VHF contest scores toward the club effort.  
  The BC’ers also have an email reflector that comes alive at times, mostly around contests.  It’s a good way to stay connected.  

   The BC website is at  I’d especially like you to click on this link:  That link graphically shows the BC’ers 175-mile circle.  You will notice this circle extends into N ILL, W MI, NE IA and far SE MN, along with parts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.   (EDIT — this content added on May 5th, 2013 — My understanding is if you rove in part of this circle, you may be eligible to contribute your score to the BC group effort.  Read the ARRL rules carefully or ask a BC rover like W9FZ, who will be happy to help.)
   I extend an invitation to anyone reading this post who lives in that circle to join the Badger Contesters.  
   To join, follow the directions once you click on the “membership” link on the left side of the BC website.

New Categories Added in ARRL VHF Contests — Help Get the Word out to Joe Q. Ham. Plus, Link to VHF Contesting School Articles at the Bottom.

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

   9:45am Sunday

   The info in this post should be made available to every ham in the USA and Canada.   Please do your part to help.   Make sure you share the VHF Contesting School articles at the bottom of this post with hams everywhere.  There’s never been a better time to introduce Joe/Jane Q. Ham to VHF/UHF Contesting, thanks to the recent ARRL rule changes, creating the 3-band and FM-only categories. 

   Because we run our own nets and promote other nets 52 weeks a year, a casual visitor to might think I’m all about nets.  Actually, I’m more into the contests.  Go back thru the blog archives at in the months of January, June, July, August and September.  You will see I fire up at contest time.   I love the contests because it’s the one time where the SSB/CW portions of the VHF/UHF ham bands come alive with signals you might not hear at any other time. 

   I’m continually amazed at how few hams have tried a V/UHF contest.   
   ARRL and other promoters of ham radio love to talk about how there have never been more licensed amateurs in the USA.  Guess it’s well over 700,00 by now.   In theory, nearly all those hams should at least have 2m or 6m capability, right?    ARRL has now made it a lot easier for Joe or Jane Q. Ham to enjoy a VHF contest.   These rule changes are most welcome.  They should help — if weak-signal V/U enthusiasts will share the info with other hams. 

    Behold the 3-band and FM-only categories.  These are changes that every one of the 700,000+ hams should know about.  Please help me by spreading the word to your clubs, ham buddies, via your ham newsletters, email groups, etc, etc. 

   From the ARRL June VHF Contest rules:    (at )
3.3. Single Operator, 3-Band:

            3.3.1. Restricted to 50, 144 and 432 MHz.

            3.3.2. Power limits are 100 W PEP on 50 and 144 MHz, 50 W PEP on 432 MHz.

3.4. Single Operator, FM Only

            3.3.1. All QSOs must be made using Frequency Modulation (FM).

            3.3.2. Restricted to 50, 144, 222 and 440 MHz.

            3.3. Power limits are 100 W on all bands.

    You know the 1000’s of all-bands-in-one-box rigs out there?  160m on up to 70cm?  Now there’s a great reason to use the VHF/UHF portion of your multi-band rig.  Plus you will be playing on a level field.  Put up some decent antennas for 6m, 2m and 70cm, and see how you stack up.   We look forward to working you on 50, 144 and 432 MHz. 

    You know the 1000’s and 1000’s of mobile, FM-only rigs?  The HT’s, the base stations the repeater guys use?  They now have their own category in a VHF contest, too.    We already saw an impressive turnout in the Chicago area with the new FM-only category in the January contest.  Some hams got motivated, helped spread the word and made a splash.   FM groups everywhere need to know the welcome mat has been rolled out.   Hopefully some will become even more curious and will investigate the DX potential using SSB and CW.  

    No idea how a VHF contest works?  Don’t know where to start?  I didn’t either, 10 years ago.   Read my series of articles called VHF Contesting School.  They are broken down into bite-sized pieces and are available here:   Take 5-10 minutes a day with one article and in no time, you’ll have learned about an exciting aspect of ham radio.  You are welcome to share any/all of this info with hams everywhere.

2013 Summer VHF/UHF Contest Calendar

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

   8:45am Sunday —

   When discussing V/U contests, remember that ARRL has made intelligent changes to the rules, creating some new categories that will attract newer or non-traditional V/UHF’ers.   I have made a post about those rule changes; click here: 

   Here’s the full V/UHF Contest Calendar for Summer 2013:

   June 8-9 — ARRL June VHF Contest.  In the central time zone, this starts at 1pm on Sat., June 8th and runs 33 hours until 10pm on Sun., June 9th.  All bands 50 MHz on up thru the microwaves are in play.  Talking 50, 144, 222, 432, 902/3, 1296, 2304, 3456 MHz,  plus 5, 10 and 24 GHz, if you’re into that sort of thing.  
   This contest has soared in popularity.  Activity has taken off on 6 meters, and the June contest is likely to have widespread 6m openings across much of the US, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean.  We can tell many HF’ers have taken to the Magic Band.  They’re the guys who don’t have any bands higher than 50 MHz.   I can’t blame them as 6 is truly a blast, but we also need more signals on 144, 222 and 432 MHz. 
   Link to the ARRL June VHF contest page

   July 20-21 — CQ WW VHF Contest.  6m and 2m only.  In the central time zone, this starts at 1pm on Sat., July 20th and runs 27 hours until 4pm on Sun., July 21st.  I love this contest.  I love that it concentrates on the basic, bread-and-butter VHF bands of 50 MHz and 144 MHz.  6 meters is often open for business and 2m often has band enhancement in the morning or later in the evening.   I remember staying up all night for the 2006 July contest, because it was boiling hot and there was widespread enhancement all across the Midwest and Plains.  I ended up working guys on 146 MHz FM, on simplex, from Terre Haute, IN to Minneapolis.   Also worked over 150 grids on 6m, because that was open with E skip (which is not weather dependent, it has to do with the “E” layer of the ionosphere becoming ionized and reflecting radio signals back to earth, rather than allowing them to pass thru and escape to outer space.)   That 2006 CQ WW VHF Contest is still the most fun I’ve ever had. 
   I know a lot of casual VHF’ers won’t step up to 222 or 432 MHz, much less monkey around with microwave bands like 902/3, 1296 and higher.  But those guys will get on 6m and 2m, and this contest rewards that.   If I could point a ham with only a lukewarm interest in VHF to one contest, it would be this one. 
    Link to the CQ WW VHF contest page

   August 3-4 — ARRL UHF Contest.  In the central time zone, this starts at 1pm on Sat., August 3rd and runs 24 hours, until 1pm on Sun., August 4th.  In the UHF contest, all bands from 222 MHz on up are in play.  Talking 222, 432, 902/3, 1296, 2304, 3456, 5, 10 Gig and higher.  This contest needs a lot of support.   If you have, (or are interested in) bands above 144 MHz, please do everything you can to help out the August UHF contest. 
  My own station has had 222 and 432 MHz from the start (I got on the air in late 2003/early 2004).  I added 902, 1296 and 2304 MHz in 2005/06 as I learned I was missing out on a fair amount of activity from rovers and some fixed stations.  (My 2304 no longer works, but I’m still good on 900 and 1296) I’m glad I added those bands, but I’m sorry to report that for the past 3-4 years, the UHF contest has been getting slower and slower.   Something needs to change and I can’t do it by myself.  
   I cannot tell you how frustrated I am that the UHF contest is on the decline.  Again, please do everything you can to help.  Having lots of rovers again would be a huge help.   So would moving it to a different time of year.  There are far too many V/U activities all crammed together in the summer months.  Guys just get burned out.  Dayton, Memorial Day,  Field Day, July 4th, the 4 V/U contests I’ve listed here, PLUS the 10G contest runs TWO weekends in late summer, which directly takes away from the UHF’ers.  Something needs to move to May or early October, to ease the logjam.  Unless something changes, the UHF contest will be gone in less than 10 years, probably 5, actually.  Which will be a shame. 

   September 14-15 — ARRL September VHF Contest.  Just like the June and January ARRL VHF Contests, in the central time zone, this one starts at 1pm Sat., Sept 14th and runs 33 hours until 10pm Sun., Sept 15th.  As a practical matter, very little happens overnight, so don’t worry that these contests are like the ones on HF, where you go into sleep deprivation.  V/UHF contests are a lot more laid back than the HF ones.  
    Like the June and January ARRL VHF contests, all bands from 50 MHz on up are in play.  Because 6 meters is not usually open (for long, anyway) in September, this is a more well-rounded contest.  You can surely still work guys out to 200-400 miles on 6m, via normal, everyday propagation (if you have good yagis up high and at least 50-100 watts), but you can do the same on 2m, 222, 432 and the higher bands.  It wasn’t too long ago that the Sept. and Jan. V/UHF contests were the most popular ones.  That has changed.  Now it’s the June contest that is King and the others are getting increasingly slower.  *WE NEED TO DEVELOP MORE MULTI-BAND VHF/UHF CONTESTERS AND ROVERS*. 

   While this is a summer V/U contest calendar, you should also be aware of the ARRL Jan VHF contest on the 3rd or 4th weekend of every January.   That contest, plus the 4 above, are the major, multi-band VHF/UHF contests each year.

Six Meters (50 MHz) Has Been Starting to Open Up

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

  8:35am Sunday 

   Back on Friday, May 3rd, I posted info about the 50 MHz Spring Sprint, which will be on Saturday, May 11th, from 6-10pm central time, 7-11pm eastern, 5-9 mountain and 4-8 pacific.  Six meters has been opening up some the past 3-4 days with sporadic E skip.  Sporadic E skip is the primary propagation mechanism that “opens” 50 MHz up for much of the time in May, June and July.  (Yes, openings can occur at other times of the year, but I’m going to keep it simple in this post)   Google sporadic E skip if you want to do more research.  

   6 meters has been very popular for many decades.  Many call it the Magic Band, because it can open up just like *that*.   When 6 is open, even guys with compromise antennas will hear some DX from 500-1500 miles away.  Sometimes there’s double-hop skip and contacts are made from one side of the US/Canada to the other.  6 can also open up to the Caribbean and occasionally overseas, but again, that’s beyond the scope of this post.  
   You want more 6m info?   This is a good website: .   I would especially pay attention to this page at the SMIRK website:  At that “opaids” page, there’s a wealth of information on how to be a smart 6 meter operator.  Take some time and get familiar with the rules of the road on the Magic Band. 

    You can also follow along with the very active 6m chat page at  It’s exciting to see who is working who, where the band is open to, and learning how veterans operate on 50 MHz. 
    The main thing to know (and the reason I got interested in V/UHF) is that 6 is the one VHF band where you can work dozens of states and over 100 grids in a single weekend.  Hams who say V/UHF is boring are missing out — especially when it comes to 6 meters.

We Need More V/UHF Contesters and Especially Rovers

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

   8:30am Sunday

   Glad I made the post about the June contest (item #5 in the May 3rd post).  I’ve already heard from a new roving prospect, which is exactly what we need around here.  In fact, we need about a couple dozen rovers, scattered across IA, WI, MN, MI and IL.   I have had contests where as many as 8-10 rovers were within range (50-200 miles) and they were the most enjoyable contests I can recall.  Tracking rovers and running bands, racking up QSO’s and new grids… it just makes me smile, remembering it.   Time flies by in busy contests, and rovers do more to increase overall activity than anything else. 

   If you are considering roving, get out there and give it a try.  Remember I have some advice, including links to other rover sites, at these posts: and  These are part of the VHF Contesting School articles I wrote a few years back.  The articles are designed to get any ham comfortable with trying out a V/UHF contest.  The link to all 9 articles is here:  You are encouraged to spread the VHF Contesting School articles to hams everywhere. 

   If you are a ham with a strong interest in V/UHF and you have a lousy QTH or antenna restrictions, going mobile and roving in the contests can really change the rules in your favor.  You can find great locations, set up yagis and become the DX everyone is looking for.  Let me know if you are considering roving.   I can help.

Several Items to Put on Your VHF/UHF Calendar

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

   10:30am Friday 

   Been meaning to make this post for a few days.  

   There are several V/UHF events coming up. 

   1)  Aurora — which is a gathering of VHF’ers from MN and surrounding states.  Technical programs, antenna range, show and tell, the whole 9 yards.  It’s on May 11th, in White Bear Lake, MN (Twin Cities).   Go here for full info:  

   2)  Central States VHF Society will  hold their annual conference in suburban Chicago again this year.   It will be on July 25-27th, in Elk Grove Village, IL.   I was able to attend the 2009 CSVHFS conference in Elk Grove Village, and it was very well done.   Put this one on your calendar.   Go here for more info.   I am a Central States VHF Society member and this event has a proud tradition, going back at least 45-50 years.  Take some time at the CSVHFS website and decide if it’s for you —

   3)  Microwave Spring Sprint (All bands from 902 MHz and higher) is tomorrow morning, Sat., May 4th, from 7am-1pm.    If you need more sprint info, go here:   
   4)  The 50 MHz sprint is on Sat. evening, May 11th, from 2300Z until 0300Z on Sun., May 12th.  In the central time zone, this is 6-10pm Sat. night.

   5)  ARRL June VHF Contest is barely a month away.  It’s on the weekend of June 8-9th, 2013.  This is the first big V/UHF contest of the year, all bands from 50 MHz on up are in play.   More info is here: 
    If you have no idea how to “do” a VHF contest, I understand.  I was in the same boat 10 years ago.  That’s why I wrote a series of articles I call VHF Contesting School.  The articles are not fast food, but I have broken them down into bite-sized pieces.  If you take an hour or two to go over the material, I think you’ll feel comfortable sitting at the mic and enjoying the single-most exciting time to be on the air.  
    The VHF Contesting School articles are here:  You are free to share them with hams everywhere.