|A visitor from Germany|
printed in the Dec 1999 issue of the FRC Newsletter
It was in June '97 when I first met Alex/W2OX at the Friedrichshafen Hamfest in Germany. The DX-meeting had just started and only the hardcore contesters stayed at the BCC booth chatting over one or another beer. The 5 figures 'V47KP' certainly meant something to me and I quickly realized that he is one of those gentlemen making sure that your multiplier total in the CQ 160m Contests is just a little bit higher than the domestic country numbers. He explained to me why he is always so loud on topband and we talked about a couple of other topics when we found out that he is an Ophthalmologist and I'm a medical student!
Exactly two years later, having worked each other several times, I was surprised to see him again. He was taking pictures of many of his German friends holding up an FRC badge with their call letters and he seemed to enjoy himself. He immediately remembered me and wanted to know how I am doing in school and if I was planning to study in the US for some time. Actually I was working on an internship but it turned out that this needed extensive planning well ahead in time and I would not be able to come before spring 2000. We stayed in contact and he offered to talk to friends at Wills Eye where he was working for many years.
To make a long story short, Alex organized everything for me and it was on Saturday, October 4th when I entered American territory for the second time in my life after WRTC96 in San Francisco. I had planned to get into contact with the local contest scene but I certainly did not expect to get a tour of FRC contest stations, operate WAE and PA QSO Party and become FRC honorary member!
Alex probably made one big mistake when he showed me his shack the evening I arrived. While I was giving out points to DL fieldday stations and trying to configure his keyer for the NA sprint he must have said to himself: "OK Alex, how could you forget? You did not invite just someone, you invited a contester...".
After spending a most pleasant week with Alex, his family and many of you, a "busy" day during the week may have looked like this:
checking e-mail for any radio activities in the evening
Wills Eye hospital
meeting N3BNA for lunch
back to hospital (I'm late)
picked up by Alex for FRC meeting (I'm late again)
back to dormatory, socializing
preparing med stuff for next day
giving up on reading and QSY to bed
There was still plenty of time, however, to use the local sports facilities and hang around with other students in the evening. And, surprisingly enough for me, as I come from a small village and usually don't like big crowded cities, I loved Philadelphia from the first day on! The mixture of feeling a bit like an actor of an "american" movie but yet realizing that this all is reality certainly supported the feeling.
My learning curve at Wills was straight and it was a honor being tought by some of the premier eye specialists around. Obviously they enjoyed to have me as the only german student in their house and I did either. In fact I got pretty interested in eye care though my examining and diagnostic skills were more of a basic nature when I got started. Now, while attending my ophthalmology courses back home I really start to appreciate the training I received during my short one-month period!
One of the more interesting observations when visiting some of you was how you profit from being a club member. Most people seem to have a spare TH6 and Rohn tower sections somewhere in the backyard so that putting together a new station is not such a challenge with much of the hardware and man-power more easily available than here, with our "local" contest club virtually spread over the whole country. This allows many of you to fine-tune the operating position and compete at a very high level.
Operating from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean turned out to be more challenging than expected. When we work North Americans the stations are rather equally distributed to the different signal layers which means that many are loud and many are weak but the modest signals between these two categories are there too. Most of the time I had the impression that this hole is not filled with European signals. Only a few were really strong and the mass of them lost the rest of their Q5 readability somewhere on the way between the Beverage, the preamplifier and the headphones. So all of you must be very good on what you are doing!
Attending the Philadelphia meetings I noticed that you don't have many young members. While this is an issue in Germany as well I see a certain number of talented young operators getting on the bands with better propagation and we seem to be many enough to form a new ham generation when the time comes. Though winning the club category might be the main objective for you at the moment I also wish you good luck recruiting tomorrows FRC members and integrating those who are already there (ask W3BGN & K3ANS).
Thank you, Alex and Alice, for making it all possible and giving me such a warm welcome, Alex Jr for the inside Philadelphia tour and much more, Sig and Bill for inviting and hosting me during the contests, Chas, Steve (x2), John, Stew, Bob and Barry for showing me their stations, and everybody else who made my stay a memorable one.
You are a great group!
Stefan v. Baltz, DL1IAO