As far as hams go, I guess I am just a youngster. I was introduced to amateur radio in 2007 through one of my other hobbies, off-roading. CBs are still the de facto standard in 4x4 circles and are almost always on the list of required equipment for a 4x4 club. They are okay when you are together in a group but once you get spread out or have groups on different trails, their deficiencies start to crop up. Several members of our club decided to give 2 meters a try and after some quick exam cramming, we sat for our Technician licenses and passed. Eventually most of our 4x4 club got licensed and we enjoyed the increased range, reliability and better sound quality of our new radios.
I had always had a passing interest in amateur radio but had never had pursued it for some reason. I can't say it was because of the code requirement, because I wasn't really even aware of that at the time. But, shortly after I got my Technician class license, the impending drop of the code requirement really got my interest piqued. Although much of it was still sounded like a foreign language, I started studying very hard and got to know the material backwards and forwards over the coming weeks. I showed up at the Red Cross center for the first, and extremely crowded, no-code General licensing exam. I whipped through that exam in nothing flat and walked out with my license upgraded to General. I guess you could say I was the first no-code General in Greenville, S.C.
I was proud to have my new privileges, but unfortunately, I had no means to actually use them. I thought long and hard about what I wanted for my first radio, and more importantly, what I could afford. Like many others I have seen over my short career as a ham, I entertained the thought of the all-band low power wonder, the Yaesu FT-817. But, the idea of low power just seemed like I would be starting at such a disadvantage and the Yaesu FT-857 sounded like it would fit the bill nicely. A new FT-857 was out of my price range, so I looked around at area ham shows for a month or two, always discouraged by the high prices everyone wanted for their used radios.
Time went by and one day while having a conversation with my boss, he told me that he had been trying to get rid of some radio equipment that had belonged to his father-in-law. I said I was interested and he said he would give me a great deal. I had no idea what he had (and neither did he) so I dropped by the next Saturday afternoon to take a look. There was a box with some miscellaneous junk, log books, catalogs and a dusty Swan 350 and matching power supply (but no mic). Some of the stuff in the box was much newer vintage than the Swan and my boss said there was another box. Well, in the other box was a nice, clean, large box with Icom printed on the top flap. I knew this had to be a hidden gem. And there it was, a pristine Icom IC-756 which had been barely used. My boss said then told me that there was an antenna outside, with a bunch of wire. Okay, so there is a wire antenna folded up in a pile I am thinking. We walk around the side of the house and there was a pile of aluminum poles tangled up with some wire. I had no idea what I was looking at! Apparently, the father-in-law had been out of radio for twenty years or so until they moved down south in the mid 90s and he had decided to buy all new equipment. At this point, I was getting very afraid of finding out what the asking price was going to be and if I could afford it. I was stunned when he asked for $250!! I said I couldn't do that and gave him $400. Someone else had told him it was worth $250, but I am thinking that was really just for the older Swan rig. I still really didn't know what I had, but my boss was happy to free up some space, so we loaded it all up in my pickup and I went home with my pile of new gear.
When I got home and started going through the boxes, I saw the very detailed notes scribbled in the mid-nineties catalogs, from when he had been shopping for his new equipment. Then I found the receipts for all the purchases and realized what a bargain I had gotten. What is the opposite of buyer's remorse? The pile of aluminum poles turned out to be a GAP Titan vertical and it was going to need a little rejuvenation before I could use it, but I had a great foundation for my first HF setup. I ordered some replacement parts from GAP and figured out how to put everything back together. My first HF contact was YU1XA, Blagomir in Serbia.
The GAP Titan worked pretty well - until the day I drug one of the guy wires around the yard with the lawn mower! I had a full size G5RV I had bought previously and never gotten hung. I recruited the tree guys one day when they were doing some work for us, to get that wire up as high as possible. I don't know for sure, but I would guess the center was up around 60-65 foot and the ends of the legs were around 30 foot. It worked quite well and lasted until an ice storm took out some branches, which then took out the antenna.