Great thread, Tim. I hope to learn more as I go. I'm pretty quick to call/PM/text Nakman whenever I have a HAM question. My setup and mounting location are where they are because I copied his. Nakman has offered to help with my setup (and others), lent me antennas to try, and been a steward to those of us new to the hobby.
DaveinDenver, who I've never even met has been helpful in answering my questions as well.
I am a total novice to HAM radio. I've had my license for about a year now. My setup is a Yaesu FT-7900, a Diamond NR72BNMO antenna, a cheap $10 speaker and a Gamiviti antenna mount. I purchased everything brand new from HRO and spent a little under $500. It's more radio than I probably need and I'm still not very familiar with it. It's one of those things that you need to use often to become familiar with. Every once in a while I fire it up and have a conversation, but I mostly use it on club runs.
The main reason I don't use it more is that its pretty confusing to me. I've been through the manual a few times. I even programmed some frequencies but I can't figure out how to pull them back up. I'm no stranger to talking on frequencies and I understand proper phraseology, but there is a lot of HAM radio talk that is way over my head. The more you understand, the more fun you can have.
All of that being said, I've become a HAM snob. I hate using the CB anymore. The sound quality between the two is equivalent to sitting in a quiet room face to face with someone, or a long piece of string and two soup cans.