I was a Novice for almost 1 year when I upgraded to General. My code speed at that time was up around 20 wpm, at least that is what the F.C.C. examiner told me.
My radio was a Swan 240 which I had to add the cw mod. to and, yes, the drift was bad not to mention the key clicks. My antenna was a 14 AVQ at about 30 feet with 4 radials for 40 meters.
When I received my General license in the mail my first contact was on 20 meter CW. I stayed on CW for quite a few months before getting on phone. CW was just so much fun and 20 meters was a new band with lots of new DX.
One night in the 40 meter Novice band I made contact with a gentleman who was on a sail boat. He and his wife had just left San Diego. They were headed to the Panama Canal. I asked him where he was headed to after they went through the Panama Canal. He said he didn`t know but he wanted to explore the world. Both he and his wife had quit their jobs and sold their house to explore the world. I believe, if I remember right, they were both Teachers. We kept in contact most nights on 40 meters for quite a while. He had his Advanced license and some nights he would operate on phone, in the phone band, and he would listen to me on cw. Split freq. I lost track of him when he was very close to the Panama Canal. I became worried after about a week. Not long after that I got a QSL card from him. His boat had almost sunk and his radio was out. All due to a storm. I never heard from him again and have always wondered where he ended up in the world. I should get out my old logs and look him up and see if his call is still active. I`ll put that on my list of things to do.
Thanks to my novice days CW is stuck in my head for life. The Novice days really were the best days of my 36 years of being licensed.