Saturday, July 24, 2021

Interview with Rick Tejera


Rick is my elmer, my mentor, a teacher. He is the first person I made contact with when I received my Amateur License. I had purchased a Yaesu FT-3 and started reading the owner’s manual and programming the radio from RepeaterBook on the internet. I got to a point where I had programmed in a few repeaters that I knew would be popular. I went outside with my best antenna and called out, nothing.

I do social media, mostly Facebook so I went to a forum there and asked a question, “what is a popular repeater in Phoenix?” and I was quickly answered by a gentleman that said he would monitor it for my transmission. I dialed it in and called out, “CQ CQ, this is KJ7UCP” and was quickly answered by K7TEJ. I explained that he was my first contact on a new radio and with my new license. Rick gave me a polite reply that I sounded good, that there was a club that I should join and to monitor this repeater.

I joined the club and now I monitor that repeater frequently.

I don’t remember how we connected on social media, it doesn’t matter. I was doing APRS through the ISS and having fun with that but the ISS changed modes to crossband repeater voice. Rick suggested a full duplex radio for that, I didn’t have one. He suggested the TH-D72, I found a used one and purchased it. I already had a Kenwood radio and sort of knew the file architecture yet I knew Rick probably used software to program his. I promised myself not to program by software yet, I wanted to learn how to set the menu options by hand.

“Hey Rick, do you think you could upload a good batch of memory into my D72?” “Sure Adam, lets meet…” and after a couple of weeks, we meet at the library.

I was given a pretty thorough tutorial on satellite communications, tips that really helped and just a couple of weeks later, I found myself on vacation at the beach. I brought a book and my hand held antenna as well as my D74. I tried a couple of satellite passes but was meet with a big pile up of hams making QSO’s. I made a social media post of how frustrated I was but was not going to let it beat me. Rick read the post and I got a private message from him.

“There is a pass in a couple of hours, you want to try?” “Sure Rick, I’ll give it a shot.” Now mind you, I am in Imperial Beach (San Diego) and Rick is in Glendale (Phoenix) but the satellite we were going for was 400 miles up and moving at 17,000 mph. It was at a good angle for me but a not so good angle for Rick. 

The time came and I used my cheat sheet and called CQ. The pass moved pretty quick but Rick called out my call sign and grid, “Adam, you are in the books.” 

Another first for Rick and I.

A week later, I found myself at the ARRL Field Day in Flagstaff. Rick had invited me to Jack Lunsford’s home. I didn’t realize Rick was the Vice President of the club I had joined. He introduced me to the president and to Jack, a really cool and interesting old ham. We sat down at his satellite station and talked about the components of his station. A little later, he turned on the set and made about 6-7 QSO’s, one being Patrick Stoddard.

And with that, I will begin the interview.

Adam Trahan: Rick, I write these interviews in one piece and send them on to you. I’ve done about 50 or so now in all the different sports and activities that I do. I’m a writer and I use the power of the Internet to help track my progress in what ever it is I do. The interviews do a couple of things. They answer questions I have and they are sort of a reference where I can go back and re-read and learn again about the topic. I try to give the interview “flow” so it’s best you read it in it’s entirety first, then go ahead and answer the questions. Write as much as you want, I find the more you write, the better. When you are finished with it, send it back to me with some pictures that you might want with it and I’ll place it here.

I just finished the interview with Patrick Stoddard. I had no idea he was your Elmer, that is so cool. Everything I’ve read about him is interesting. Every time we are in contact, I learn something. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions here.

“How did you get into Amateur Radio?”

Rick Tejera: Short answer: On a dare. One of my other hobbies is Amateur Astronomy. I was up north near Dewey where we used to observe. It was well before dark, so me and two friends decided to do some geocaching (yet another hobby). While looking for a cache I noticed Steve had an HT on his belt. I asked and found out both he and Andrew were Hams. We talked a bit about it, but I kind of dismissed it a snot really needing another channel for disposable income. A few weeks later I was dropping my daughter off at a rehearsal and notice across the street a banner ”COMING SOON! HAM RADIO OUTLET. Well, I mentioned it to my friends and Steve threw down the gauntlet: Get you license and I’ll give you one of my old radios. . A day later the license study guide showed up at my door. I put it down and went to watch TV. My came home and a few minute later the book lands in my lap ”What’s this and how much is it going to cost?” The rest is, as they say History. I passed my licensing exam a month later, received the call KF7DYK, which I quickly changed to my current K7TEJ. True to his word a day later a Kenwood TH-D7A showed up on my doorstep. I still have it. I had my extra within 20 months.

Adam Trahan: I have carried a radio in one form or another for decades however, I only transmitted on bands that I was allowed. But now that morse code is not required, I studied and passed my test and here I am.

I really enjoy how I can pick it up or leave it alone. But I really like how most people I meet in Amateur Radio are so kind, polite and helpful. I like that I can pick out an aspect of radio communications and figure it out knowing that if I get stuck, there is always someone willing to help, I just have to ask.

“What do you like about Amateur Radio? I know you enjoy satellite communications but is there something else? Is it the people? The community? Can you tell us a little bit about what drives you to do it?”

Rick Tejera: A bit of everything. Amateur radio is the most diverse hobby I’ve ever had. There are so many ways to participate, it is unlikely that al will appeal to everyone, you can pick what interests you and have fun with it. I know hams who hardly every key up a mic. For them the fun is restoring boat anchors or just building stuff. I know friend who says he has never had a mic on an HF rig. For him it Morse code. For me satellites were a natural fit given my lifelong interest in space travel and astronomy. I also enjoy HF operating including phone & Digital operations like FT8 & PSK and other digital modeless traveled. While I’m not the handiest person around, I do enjoy Homebrewing antennas. I’ve built several, including satellite and HF antennas. One of the most satisfying things you can do is hear a faraway signal come through an antenna you built yourself.

Over the years I’ve made quite a few friends, some of whom I’ve yet to meet in person. As a rule, hams are an outgoing and friendly group, always willing to share their knowledge. As you saw at Field Day, it’s more than just radio. I’ve had quite a few Elmers over the years, Including Patrick WD9EWK, Steve N1NM, Andrew KE7DNT (SK). All of the had Elmers willing to spend time passing on knowledge, and I believe in paying forward as well. It’s easy for me, as my wife says, I’ve never met a conversation I didn’t like.

Adam Trahan: Rick, I see you have other interests. I do too. We have some common interests in Astronomy and in our youth, model rocketry.

 "Can you tell us a little bit about that?"

Rick Tejera: I’m a child of the Apollo Era. Spaceflight has always fascinated me. I idolized the NASA astronauts the way most kids my age idolized athletes. My teachers encouraged this, in fact my 4th grade teacher often had me narrate what was happening as we watched the launches. This naturally led to me building model rockets. My pride and joy was the Saturn V I got for Christmas in 1975. Took me 6 months to build, I finished it on July 4th 1976 to ring in the Bicentennial. I flew a month later. Somewhere there is 8mm footage of that flight. Astronomy was always something that interested me, but I didn’t really get into it, until my gave me a telescope for Christmas one year. I didn’t ask for it, she just thought I’d like it. Little did she know.

I took it out on the balcony of our apartment that still had two feet of snow on it and started to look around. I pointed it at the greenish yellow thing in the southeast. When I focused I realized I had just discovered Saturn! I could clearly see the rings and this other little dot nearby, which I later learned was it’s moon Titan. I called sue out and excitedly showed her Saturn. Her response? “That’s nice, I’m glad you like you telescope.” And she went inside. A few minutes later I hear the tea kettle and realized this was going to be a solitary pursuit.

A few years later , we moved to Arizona and now out of the massive skyglow of the New York Mero area, I found dark Skies and the Saguaro Astronomy Club (, an organization Of which I’ve been a member for 26 years.

Adam Trahan: Wow, we do have some common backgrounds. I took a couple of Astronomy classes in high school and college. The math involved is very interesting. Math is not one of my favorites but it really peaked my interest to know how far something was away and by breaking it down to a known distance and then how many times far that star or whatever is. And size, same thing, we can understand how big Arizona is, how large the United States is, the earth etc. And then just how large some of the stars that we can see in the sky is, or even how large our sun is.

 "What fascinates you about Astronomy?"

Rick Tejera: I refer to my telescope to guests at our public events as a time machine. I point out that even the image of the moon you are looking at is as it was 1.3 second ago. If it is visible I will put the crab nebulae in the eyepiece and tell them that this is a remnant of a supernova that was visible in daylight in 1054AD, and the progenitor star actually blew up around 600 B.C. and what you are seeing is how it looked in 400 AD. That usually gets an OOOH. Then there is the scale of the universe, I tell them to put a 1 foot beachball at home plate at chase field. Earth is a marble, just past the pitcher’s mound. Jupiter would be a golf ball in deep center field. The nearest star is another 1 foot beach ball in Newfoundland Canada! The sheer scale of the universe is fascinating to me, But there is really nothing more relaxing than being out under a canopy of star under a truly dark sky, it puts a lot into perspective

Adam Trahan: Very cool. Seems like we are the same age as well. In the 60's and 70's and on to current times, I've always been interested in our space program, NASA. As a young boy, I lived a short walk from the Centuri factory, a model rocket warehouse. I remember walking over there and looking into the back loading door of their facility and seeing all kinds of boxes of rockets. My grandfather helped me build my first one and when we lit it, as a young boy in the early 70's, man that thing took off!

I was hooked!

My favorite model rocket was actually a rocket glider, much like the German ME-163 or the Space Shuttle or Virgin Galactic's Space Ship III. I like parachutes and I also like gliders but a gliding recovery rocket just seemed so cool, even back then.

"I understand you enjoy model rocketry, can you tell us about it?"

Rick Tejera: Well as I said earlier, as a teenager I built a lot of rockets with my best friend. We would launch them from a nearby school yard on days off from school. We kept pretty detailed records of each flight. If we could get other friends, we’d have them work homebuilt trackers and then later figure out the altitude each flight made. We had some spectacular failures as well, Lost a few that we intentionally over-powered. I did have one that had a movie film cartridge. We only had flight with the film cartridge, as they were expensive, and you had to send it back to Estes to get it processed. The film was pretty cool. We use a film editor to figure out things like acceleration and altitude. I actually bought a rocket a few years ago with a digital video camera in it but have yet to fly it. Maybe we can take it out one day.

Adam Trahan: I will probably pick out a couple of rockets in the future to build and launch. I was limited as a child and the size of our small field. As an adult? I will probably go bit with a simple set up...

I had a simple telescope as a young adult, it looked like a pirate sort of thing, straight tube, I really didn't like it because it didn't show much more than the things I could see with a binocular. I gave it up pretty quickly because of that. I gave my son a telescope that was quite a bit more. You lined it up with three known stars or planets, then the computer would take over and take you to what ever it was that you dialed in. Super cool and not very expensive.

I have a friend that is a physician and takes Astronomy photographs. I've talked with him a little bit about getting into astronomy with a telescope.

"Rick, can you tell us about the telescopes you use? And what do you do with them?"

Rick Tejera: Well, the first telescope that my wife gave me was a 60mm refractor. What we refer to today as a dime-store refractor. It wasn’t the best, but it did light the fire. After moving to Arizona, I bought an 8” Newtonian reflector on a Dobsonian mount. I still have it, though I need to replace the secondary which came off the stalk and broke, fortunately it didn’t take the primary with it. I also have a Meade ETX60, a 600 Rich field refractor. It wasn’t a big commercia success, Meade dumped them on Costco (which is where I got mine), My good friend Tom Polakis says it is the most use ETX 60 in existence. I have successfully completed a Messier Marathon with it. I also have a small 4” Newtonian that was made by noted Arizona telescope maker Pierre Schwaar. I hardly use it, but it is more of a sentimental thing as Pierre passed away on 2000, with it I can say I own a Schwaar built scope

I’m going to go off on a tangent here, but I think you’ll appreciate this. You mentioned the telescope where you align by finding several stars and then the telescope can go to objects directly. That alignment process has direct roots in how Apollo navigated to the moon.

Before any maneuver, the crew had to make sure the guidance platform which defined up/down/left/right, fore/aft, was properly aligned. To do this the Command Module Pilot would pull up a computer program called P51. It would tell him to select a navigation star and turn the spacecraft to a certain attitude. And set the sextant to a certain angle. He then would then look through the sextant and the star, in theory should be centered. If not he would adjust the sextant to center the star and press enter. This was repeated with a second star, and the computer the calculated based on where it thought the stars actually were to where they actually where to realign the platform. This is the exact same process modern telescopes with Go To use to align them. When I align my telescopes, I channel my inner astronaut and do a P51.

Adam Trahan: I really enjoy the Amateur Radio club that you suggested that I joined.

"Can you tell us about the Astronomy Club you belong to? What kind of things do you do in the club?"

Rick Tejera: Again as I mentioned Earlier, I am a proud member of the saguaro Astronomy Club. I found them not long after I bought my 8” scope. They do a public star party at Thunderbird Park twice a year. I live a mile from there, so when I saw it advertised, I went. That nigh just happened to have a total lunar eclipse and Comet Hale-Bopp was near it’s closest approach. We had almost 2000 people show up. Not unlike hams Astronomers love to share their joy of astronomy and I spoke with several member, was welcomed and joined the next month. Over the years I had several Astro-Elmer’s who helped me become a better observer. I served as newsletter editor for ten years and president for two.

The club is mainly observing centric, member like to get out and actually observe (another local club I looked at was more about talking about astronomy rather than doing astronomy). We offer several observing programs for all skill levels. We are most known for our deep sky database, which has been use as the basis for several commercial planetarium programs and The All Arizona Messier Marathon (Which I am coordinator). The Messier Marathon is an observing event where participants try to see all 110 objects in the Messier catalogue in one evening. This is only possible around the vernal equinox, so it occurs around the end of March. Most clubs hold one, it is a popular event. Ours is the most successful. Over the years we have had more folks complete the marathon than any other club. I’ve done it twice, myself.

 Adam Trahan: Astronomy and Amateur Radio really seem to go together. For me, it's a interest of vision and thought provoking activities. I know I'm not so odd in this, they made a movie about it, "Contact" which is one of my all time favorites. Personally, I think there is way more to that movie than it is given credit for. As we move forward into the future, I really think that we might just be repeating what is in that movie. Theoretical Physics is science based. The notion of little green men is way off base. If anything, humans may be the little green men in the future...

"What do you think? Is Astronomy and Amateur Radio pretty common for people to be interested in both?"

Rick Tejera: Definitely, quite a few of my astronomy friends are hams, as I mentioned, it was two of my Astro buddies who got me into ham radio. I refer to folks who participate in both as astrohams.

I agree about Contact, it was a good film. Going back to the scale of the universe, I find it shortsighted to proclaim we are alone, let alone the most advanced. I discount the “Roswell” type Alien and stories of abduction. It always seems to me that these reports all seem to follow a pattern: Well, Bubba and was comin’ home from the Honky Tonk when we saw this here light”. … I just can’t take that seriously, but if it keeps Betty-Lou from braining you with a skillet, good for you. That said I have seen some things I can’t explain and I keep an open mind on the subject.

Adam Trahan: I like the way you think. Rick, you spoke briefly about SOTA, summits on the air.

 "Can you tell us about your experiences with SOTA? Why is it so interesting and what equipment did you use?"

Rick Tejera: Well as it’s name implies, SOTA is operating from the summit of a mountain. Qualifying summits are given point values and you earn points for either activating a summit or chasing (Or both). It is an awards program, so earn points get wallpaper. .My interest stemmed from a desire to get some exercise. While there are summits that you can drive to, most require some hiking. My participation as an activator has been limited to drive ups since I had suffered a mile stoke two years ago, but I still participate as a chaser, with the occasional drive-up activation.

The challenge is figuring out how much station you need to do what you want to do. The main point is “How much are you willing to lug up to the summit? (and back down again). Most SOTA operators operate minimal stations. For me, I use an I-com IC-7000 all band all mode radio. It’s a little on the heavy side, but it is what I have, I also have a LiFefPo 10ah battery which is 3lbs, less than half the half of the AGM battery I used to use. I have an End fed hav wave antenna, which is really not much more that a 66 foot wire and matching network, and I support it with a portable 22 ft collapsible mast. My pack has a 3 liter hydration bladder, which I don’t need to tell you, is a must in Arizona. All told, my pack is about 20 lbs. When it starts to feel heavy, I remind myself of my friend’s son who was a Marine and routinely carried 100 Lbs., uphill, Under fire. That make it seem lighter.

Adam Trahan: I'm aspiring to put together a kit that is a little bit more than a HT with a hand held antenna for Satellite work. I'm hoping I can make it work for SOTA however, I know that a HT and a hand held antenna can really reach out too.

I would like to discuss a little bit about the system you use for satellite communications. I really like what you do. I am moving towards using a tripod for my antenna, a small table and a mobile radio. It seems that all the hams that are successful at it have some sort of system they develop to their likening.

"What do you like to use?"

Rick Tejera: You’ve seen my main satellite station, a Yeasu FT8900R with an ELK LP antenna on a modified telescope equatorial mount. I also use my Kenwood D72A, mainly for working the ISS and other digipeaters, including the 9.6K digi on FalconSat3. I’ve also used the D72A as an uplink radio and my SDRPlay SDR receiver as the downlink for the digipeaters. My next goal is to figure out how to work the linear satellites. I have a Kenwood TS2000 for that, but have yet to find my downlink. One of these days, I’ll corral Patrick for some one on one elmering.

My main station is undergoing renovations as I had to share the shack with work when we went to a work from home model. When it’s said and done it is an I-Com IC7000 (the same one I use for SOTA) and the TS2000, both are set up to work the digital modes. I have a bit of antenna farm in my HOA lot, but they are well cammoed. Took them 1- years to find one and only because I had to change the COAX and didn’t paint it quick enough. I‘ve got an 18’ vertical for 10-80M. a G5RV under the eaves that I mainly use for the WARC Bands, a V2000 vertical for VHF, and a Home brew 6m Moxon. Since the shack has been closed, I’ve set thing up temporarily in the living room and us my SOTA antenna.

Adam Trahan: I was able to purchase and begin to work the kinks out of my own system based on a few observations and a lot of reading. I really like books. Although they are no longer necessary if you have access to the Internet, I still enjoy books to review. I have purchased a few books on Satellite Communications, and they are all excellent. As I get deeper into it, I see the people that are successful in this corner of Amateur Radio suggest the same books as I have collected. There aren't many books from what I can see on this subject, maybe only a dozen or two? I don't know.

"What do you think of books when it comes to an interest in Amateur Radio?"

Rick Tejera: There are plenty of books on most ham topics. Probably the best for satellites is “Getting Started in Amateur Satellites, By Gould Smith WA4SXM." It gets regular updates, so it stays relevant. The Amateur Radio handbook and antenna handbooks from ARRL are valuable references for any ham and should be a part of your library. Probably the most popular topic I see in Ham radio books are on antennas, which should be no real surprise, given the antenna is probably the most important part of a station, yet one of the easiest to experiment with.

Adam Trahan: I really enjoyed the presentation on Tangerine last week at the TBARC meeting. It was really a good overview of a really new type of weather information gathering technology. I see a lot of new directions coming out of inventor/hams. They are really so smart and they just geek out focusing on a new aspect or direction of what they can imagine then build with electronic devices. The presentation really got into the meat and potatoes of building a new electronic device. Where the components are sourced, how much, how small, how they are connected and packaged, super cool for me to understand this.

"Where do you think we are going next in Amateur Radio?"

Rick Tejera: The state of the art is (and has been) moving towards digital and computers, as you saw at the meeting. There will always be a place for old school radio, like CW and good old phone. In fact when they removed the requirement to pass a code test to get a license, a lot of folks though it would be the death knell for CW. In fact, learning CW has become a badge of honor.

In the 12 years I’ve been a ham the biggest development of technology has been the move to SDR (Software Defined Radio), By taking the signal processing out of the hardware and putting it software has enable a lot more flexibility in what radios can do. I don’t see going back.

Adam Trahan: I'm really pretty happy to just focus on communicating through satellites and surface communications. It's a lot of fun. I'm just not ready to go any farther away from that right now. I do enjoy the Internet but I'm really not ready to go there, I don't know if I ever will be. Perhaps on a prepackaged scale, don't know.

But that is just me. I like it that others are going in that direction.

For me, I want to learn on a radio that is or can be powered by a battery. It can be used "off grid" so to speak. I'm not a prepper or anything like that. I just like the idea of being able to communicate without having a infrastructure that requires so much like the internet does...

Maybe in the future, my interests will take me there.

Rick, I really appreciate you. I'm getting to know other enthusiasts by communicating with them on regular nets. But you are the first "ham" that I am able to have regular conversations with. I appreciate who you are. I have so many interests but Amateur Radio has really got me hooked.

"How many people have you helped get into radio?"

Rick Tejera: Hard to say, I’ve always encouraged people with an interest to get involved and always offered my knowledge (such as it is) to help them get on their way. I’ve been fortunate to know hams who’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know.

Adam Trahan: I aspire to get others into it. I hope I am able to help even just a little bit if people read my web site, what I write. I hope people enjoy these interviews and I hope that they get something out of them. I know I really enjoy it.

"Please use this time to say anything you want, ask a question, close the interview. Thank you Rick."

Rick Tejera: I’m glad you’re enjoying the hobby so far and glad that I was able to help and encourage you along. Thanks for your time.

73 K7TEJ