Working The U.P. Net (Upper Peninsula of Michigan)

In church we are counseled that God sometimes works in mysterious ways.  I’ve heard this termed as using tough times to harden us for good use later, a silver lining, etc..  Discovering and working the U.P. Net on 75 meters was one such instance of a wonderful thing happening in an otherwise not so wonderful situation.

There’s “not so wonderful” and then there’s “not so wonderful” if you catch my drift.  The situation I am talking about was, for me, a long commute to a pretty nice job in a corporate credit department.  The job, some 30 or so miles from my home QTH required a morning and evening commute.  Most of the time the commute was somewhat interesting, relaxing to downright boring.  Other times, during a Wisconsin winter ice storm or heavy snow event or even severe spring summer and / or fall storms – well – let’s just say things got interesting and leave it at that.

Having a ham radio in my car that can work frequencies from around 3 MHz to around 440 MHz proved to be a blessing for many drives.  In this particular instance this job came along somewhere close to when I decided to try out a Wolfe River Coil and 102” whip.  See my post elsewhere describing that hardware set-up along with a good number of photos.

On one of my drives I became bored with lack of radio traffic and the usual 2 meter frequencies.  I decided to give the Wolf River Coil and 102” whip a good test and just started tuning through many of the lower frequency bands.  Much like I had done in my SWL days (Short Wave Listening).  I happened upon some folks on one of my drives that were from the U.P. of Michigan – that part of the state near Canada where I was born and raised.  I came to find out that they happened to have a net active about the time I was driving home from work each night.

I used an MFJ Antenna Analyzer to tune the coil and whip combo to just about a perfect match on 3.921 Mhz.  On my next commute home I tried it out on the net.  Boy was I surprised by the signal reports I received from Net Control and some of the other members of the net.

This turned out to be a very special happening for me.  Living in Wisconsin most of my career I  didn’t think about being able to communicate, talk to, people in the U.P. much.  Especially from my mobile ham radio.  Truth is, I had spoken to people all over the world (well…  not EVERYWHERE, but – you know – around 78 countries or so).  I had been a ham for 5 or 6 years already before this happening came upon me.  It was quite a pleasure – not only to talk to people “from home” that were friendly and professional, but to learn the operating characteristics of this new mobile antenna system and radio band.  It was really something quite fascinating.

As I learned more about the net and the people that worked the net I got to know the voices, call signs, operating locations, equipment and personalities and general situations of the people I was dealing with.  I was astounded by some of the constantly outstanding signals and audio quality that several of the stations had over a long period of time.  Others – not so much, ya know?  One, somewhat west of my childhood home of Iron River, MI and one kinda sorta directly across Lake Michigan really stood out.

I also learned that this net had been operating for a LONG time!  I got my first level ham radio license in 2006 and progressed to the highest level of license and some operating knowledge of HF bands in the next couple of years.  Yes!  This was an exciting time for me.  After a foray into ham radio based severe storm spotting and ARES / RACES operations and management I stumbled upon what I thought would perhaps be solely a recreational band.  I was wrong!  This band was also used by Wisconsin State ARES / RACES for a weekly Sunday morning net among other things.  The experience of working the U.P. net gave me the operating confidence to professionally operate the ARES / RACES net among others.

I still strongly remember the day I discovered that my home computer, a Packard Bell, could connect to the internet (bulletin boards in those days) and realizing that the modem was a portal into a much larger world than just my little home office computer.  That, back in my Shopko Audit days.   This ham radio discovery was very similar to that.  It opened up an entirely new world of opportunity for my ham radio adventures, enjoyment and public service.  And for that I am more grateful than you know.

Anyway – I encourage you to try new antenna systems as budgets allow.  Try new bands.  Try new modes.  Find what works well for your interest and equipment.  Learn about them.  Become proficient at operating.  Enjoy it.  Tweak it.  Then try a sampling of something new.  You might be surprised what you find.  And yes – God does work in strange and wonderful ways!  For example – can anyone explain how dark matter interacts with and affects radio waves?  Looking forward to learning what that is all about…

Until next time – stay radio active!

73,

Jon E. Kreski – AB9NN

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