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Wildwood Fading

This month, I say goodbye to one of my most cherished hobbies: TV DXing. It started with me as it did for many younger DXers: I was raised without cable. Add to this a little curiosity about why channels 2-6 are a garbled mess some days in the summer and why the ABC affiliate 400 miles away came came in crystal clear last night and -PRESTO!- casual TV DXer. When the casual DXer starts a logbook, readies his VCR and DX-only tape, and joins a club called the Worldwide TV-FM DX Association... the 'casual' part is kinda gone.

In 1997, I began setting videotapes aside just for recording DX. Eleven seasons later, five T-120 tapes were filled.

Okay, so WHY throw in the towel? I didn't expect to so soon, but that's how I decided it should happen. The (ahem) forced switch to digital broadcasting next February was a big reason, but hardly the only reason. Yes, 8VSB can be DXed - as many loggings we were never sure we'd see have shown; and yes, international targets - notably from Latin America - will still be there for several years. At the beginning of this year, I planned on staying active through at least the 2009 season, and I wasn't sure how I felt about chasing only international targets.. truth is: I rarely saw them, even after moving to Florida. Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean never became part of the hobby for me; eventually, I guess my mind just became locked in domestic mode. I do consider the United States to have the best targets: we're an easy country to ID, since our culture in broadcasting was, for a long time, to use privately-owned stations with big, unique logos and strong local identities... e-skip doesn't always cooperate when all you can hope for is small text flashing on once every twenty-four hours... if the station even offers that much. Unfortunately recent CBS, FOX, and CW network mandates are trying to make station-logos as similar to each other as possible. Not very sporting, in this DXers opinion. Other reasons are personal and less defined. My life has changed since I lived in Patchogue. Armed with a drivers license, I have the freedom to drive to the cities the signals are coming from (whereas I originally looked to DX as something of a unique viewing opportunity). I haven't had a yagi since I left New York. Since I'm not living in a house, one's not very practical, either. That means rabbit ears (rather, a dipole on a 10' PVC pipe). While I've gotten by with them, I have to rotate by hand and, in Florida's summer humidity, that makes it quite a chore. The final (and surprising) discovery was boredom... To sum up the personal reasons: I may still be able to capture stations, but they don't seem to capture me as well anymore.

With the peak of e-skip gone and trops in the rear-view mirror, I plan to finalize my logbook for Fort Myers sometime in September. Past that point, anything I happen to DX won't count toward my statistics. I'm in the process of organizing my catches (especially those on tape) from Patchogue, North Massapequa, and Fort Myers. The old QTHes' logs have been reorganized on this site. I have a little over ten hours of video recordings, which I will condense to about 115 minutes and make into a DVD.

1992
  • My family moves to a house in Patchogue, NY. It came with a VU-90XR yagi pointed toward the locals in New York City. We didn't get cable until 1998.
1993
  • "Channel Surfing Rebellion": I discover local channels in the UHF band (WNYE 25, then-WNYC 31, and then-WLIG 55) that my parents never watched.
1994
-/-
  • I notice that then-WNJM 50, listed in our local TV Guide, only comes in some of the time. Curious, I also discover out-of-area channels going in and out. This is the first year I consider myself to have been a DXer (at the tender age of 12).
1995
1/-
  • First written logs, but I forgot to date them! Reception from Norfolk, Virginia (330 miles) was a big deal. My dad thinks it's low power stations in NYC.
  • First (pocket) TV
  • Recordings onto audio cassette
  • Only one log with a date from this year: WMPT 22 on 9/7 (no time).
1996
3/2
  • "Channel Music" tapes record the audio of DXed stations.
  • Logs recorded onto small slips of paper... not very organized yet but it was something.
  • First e-skip IDs nearly give me a heart attack (and I thought Virginia was far!)
  • First, scattered recordings onto videotape using clunky VCR that had to be adjusted for every UHF channel (anybody remember those?).
  • I ask for a larger VU-110XR antenna for my birthday, adding a rotor with my birthday money.
1997
50/3
  • First DX-only videotape, no more audio-only recording.
  • The videotape catalog serves as a type of logbook, I'm slightly more organized now.
  • WTAT 24 catch on 8/27 is my all-time tropo record at 654 miles.
1998
67/14
  • First time browsing the internet. I discover that all those distant stations have websites!
  • I start calling the phenomenon "Improved Reception."
  • First DX-only videotape full; I start a second ;-)
1999
96/23
  • I use the internet to search for others with my crazy hobby, learn that it's called "DXing" and find the WTFDA. After receiving a sample issue of the VHF-UHF Digest, I sign up as a member.
  • I finally start a proper logbook. The same red notebook is still in use today.
  • This was among my better years for tropo. Several of my most common DX targets "premiere" (are recorded as IDed stations) late because I never thought to log them before.
  • KLNE 03 catch on 6/17 is my all-time e-skip/distance record at 1,386 miles.
  • First submission to Eastern TV-DX column in the VHF-UHF Digest.
  • QSLs received from WPBT 02 and KEMV 06 (both PBS stations via E-skip)
  • I start a third DX-only videotape.
  • DXing is an aspect of my new website.
2000
112/38
  • This was among my better years for e-skip.
  • Recovering from ankle surgery gives me ample DXing time in July.
  • Simultaneous catches of WMC and WTVF on channel 5, a normally uneventful channel, inspire me to create the Logo Gallery to help speed up logo-based IDs.
2001
113/40
  • Rotor burns out after five years. Antenna is stuck pointing north.
  • First college internship reduces free-time in the summer.
2002
114/40
  • Free-time drops lower as college activities and work hours increase.
  • Vermont becomes the last new state logged in Patchogue (I was hoping I would log that one; unfortunately, still never saw NH or Maine).
2003
114/43
  • A relatively active year between two dead ones. A month-long delay in the start of my third internship frees up some quality time and then I'm told we're moving. I commit to squeezing in a few last catches before my first QTH goes to the history books.
2004
114/43
  • This was my only full-year in North Massapequa, NY. This was also my only year without a single logging.
  • In an attempt to organize my many personal projects, my DXing efforts fall under the name "Project Wildwood"... named for WMGM 40's city of license.
  • A chimney-mounted VU-90XR with rotor goes up in November, too late for much more than local bandscanning.
2005
122/45
  • As DXing season begins, I decide to move to Florida. All catches in North Massapequa are made within my last 45 days there, all IDed stations already having been seen in Patchogue.
  • I move to Cape Coral, FL then Fort Myers: only seven miles away. Cape Coral logs count as Fort Myers.
  • In lieu of a yagi, I put a set of rabbit-ears on a 10' PVC pipe and zip-tie it to my balcony.
2006
156/53
  • Fourth DX-tape
  • This was my best year for tropo in Florida and the only time I saw Cuba.
  • WAPT 16 catch on 4/3 (642-mile Gulf Tropo!) is only 12 miles short of breaking Patchogue's Tropo Record, a very-secure All-Time second. WAPT was also the fifth QTH record-breaker within a two-hour period!
2007
158/54
  • Surprisingly dead year for both trops and Es, in spite of heavy monitoring.
2008
159/64
  • I decide that I won't pursue digital DXing, but will remain active through '09 to see what international targets present themselves. Logo Gallery maintenance ends w/out a 2008 update.
  • Most intense monitoring since '00, since this is the last year before the analog shutoff. Still, only one decent tropo opening seen.
  • Change in plans: I decide that this will be my last season monitoring.
  • Fifth DX-tape started.
  • Fortunately, my low expectations for e-skip fall through. This was my best year for e-skip in Florida and the only time I saw Mexico.
  • XHY 02 catch on 7/18 is my all-time short-hop record at 625 miles.
  • Active monitoring ends in August. Plans to finalize logbook and dissolve DXing as a personal project in September.

I'm not sure to what degree TV DXing will ever get out of my system, or to what degree I ever want it to. In a way, I'll always be a DXer. No reason I can't put up whatever antenna I have and do some bandscanning in the future. But, like pruning a plant, sometimes I need to take away the old so that the new can fall into bloom. Though DXing isn't generally considered a childhood hobby, it certainly was a part of my childhood and I don't mind saying that I'll miss it. Maybe I'll be back, you never know.

DX/Radio Page
Fort Myers Logs
Logo Gallery

 

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EGRABOW.COM and its original content Copyright 1999-2018 Ryan Grabow. May be reproduced in good faith unless otherwise stated.
EGRABOW.COM and its original content Copyright 1999-2018 Ryan Grabow. May be reproduced in good faith unless otherwise stated.