Great to hear about your VHF/UHF radio activity Neal and well done with what you accomplish.
I did get quite into VHF/UHF for a while and have only recently dug out all my gear for it again. (Packed during the re-roofing and window replacement shenanigans earlier this year.) My initial start when first licensed was quite exciting and you'd be surprised at the distances you can achieve especially with tropospheric conditions. Unfortunately my first 2m SSB involvement on a 'contest' night saw me being verbally slated for not knowing it was a contest and weirdly being questioned as to whether I was an RSGB member?
Sort of put me off.
FM was also exciting especially when signals came in from further afield with Yorkshire, Leeds, Birmingham and even Wales on one occasion being contactable from my QTH. Most times through the local repeater with a 'lift on' because weirdly not many want to try simplex even when conditions are good. Once calling on the FM simplex channel I had someone scream "The frequency is in use!" but without any call sign or identifier. If it actually was then they should have moved off the calling channel?!?!
I may try again thanks to your prompt but it does all feel rather 'clubby' up there. At least clubs are keeping the frequencies in use with such contests.
Like you I wonder why the frequencies aren't used more often for 'local' DX activities being impressed with my own London UHF contact and VHF Liverpool contacts which however where never reciprocated with a QSL confirmation.
Probably not all helped by a local ass-wipe who relishes scanning such frequencies so that he can key over, whistle, blow, roger-beep and DTMF punch to his own delight and everyone else's misfortune which might explain the bands lacklustre usage around here.
Anyway, I was supposed to be sorting my audio interface for some VHF FT8 action bit still haven't got around to it. About time I kicked my own backside into some action!
Brilliant posting there Neal and hope it enthuses some into the fact that there is more to life than just HF. We're lucky having HF at Foundation but let's not forget those frequencies that once upon a time we'd have had no choice but to use.
All the best,