Saturday, May 12, 2018

Arkansas QSO Party

This was the first time participating in the Arkansas QSO Party. I did not get to spend as much time as I had hoped but it worked out since 40 meters was not that great until the last 2 hours of the contest. Being located in southern IL 40 and 80 meters were my only choices. My plan was to put up a NVIS 80 meter doublet but some stuff came up at work so I ran just on my 31 foot vertical.

I enjoyed working W5Z throughout the contest as he was mobile through a bunch of counties. Vern's callsign is AE0TT and he has been very active as a mobile in the state QSO parties that border Missouri. Great work Vern! I really like their rule where a mobile gets points for working from a county with a minimum number of contacts. I wish IL and MO QSO Parties would adopt that rule.

I also tried though the day to stir up interest on PSK31 but only made 3 digital contacts the entire contest.

Summary below is from N3FJP. Claimed score with bonus station was 2024.

Arkansas QSO Party, see you next year!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

ND9E upgrades for portable/mobile operation Part 2

Breedlove mount

This year my plan is to have a way to get on 80 meters while mobile so I purchased a screwdriver antenna made by Diamond. I picked this one due to cost compared to a Scorpion and that it mounted with a PL-259/SO-239 connection. With this mount I have more options available such as hamsticks, antennas with PL-259 connectors or I can use the mount for an external connection without running coax through the door of the truck. This is a Breedlove part number 910. 

The installation on the 2015 Colorado requires that you unsnap the black trim along the top of the bed and cut out the section that covers the stake pocket. Then you need to plan your coax route down along the inner wall of the bed and how to get it into the cab. Mine came with the SO-239 mount but you can request the 3/8 x 24 or the NMO style mounts.

Below is the mount installed in my 2015 Colorado. It is a little tricky installing this mount as you must keep upward pressure while tightening the screws evenly. 

What is not seen is the choke kit that is zip tied under the bed along the gas tank filler pipe. The choke kit is sold by KF7P. The product name is W1HIS Excellent choke kit. I have been using one of these for 2 years on my AH-4 tuner with great results. So this choke is sealed inside a piece of 2" PVC pipe with end caps. The coax exits the choke and enters the cab floor through a grommet. 


Saturday, April 14, 2018

ND9E upgrades for portable/mobile operation Part 1

Most of my portable operations are from my truck so maybe some of these are mobile upgrades but you get the idea.

Ground Ring for radials

My old set up was to gather up all the ends of the tape measures and clamp them together but sometimes it became like trying to dress a one year old child. Here is a picture of the old way. Note the blue handled spring clamp below the bumper. 

The new way

This is not an original idea as I saw this somewhere on the WWW so I am not claiming this as my idea. I used a stainless steel toilet flange and added stainless steel braided pigtails to it. The pigtails connect to my tape measure radials, the ground side of the tuner and the connection to the truck frame. I also have been wounded many times by stabbing myself with the ends of the stainless braid so I dipped each exposed end in a plastic/rubber dip solution. Popular names of this stuff is Plasti-dip or Liquid Tape. So far it also has helped from fraying of the ends and no wounds! I am using binder clips to hold the tape measures which works well enough that I can clip the tape measures to the stainless braid and walk the tape measure out. Here are some pictures from this past weekend during the Missouri QSO Party. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

2018 Missouri QSO Party

Montgomery County-ND9E

The Missouri QSO Party was held on April 7th and 8th with this contest being another interesting outing. Here are how things went for ND9E.

Preparations began about 3 weeks prior with me being undecided on whether to do another rover operation or try a fixed portable type of operation. All the driving can make for a long day especially when you are in a single operator category. Because of a work emergency I lost the vacation day I was going to use to scout out the fixed location so with 1 week to go it was determined to be another rover outing.

Route planning

Google Earth was again used to pick possible locations with many being repeat locations that I knew worked well. I have about a 50% success rate of picking good spots with Google Earth but I always try to plan alternates locations. So over the last 5 years I have a good list of locations that work meaning they are a RF low noise, low traffic and safe spot to operate. Since the Saturday portion of the contest goes to 11PM I have to consider the night time location for all the above reasons plus can I set up an antenna for 80 meters. The final plan was:
Start at the Mississippi / New Madrid county line-
Next the Pemiscot/Dunklin county line-
Then the Bollinger / Stoddard county line-
Finish at the Wayne / Butler county line and then operate on the move til the end of the contest and only be 40 minutes from home. 

Execution- Saturday

I left home at 6AM with the plan to arrive at the Mississippi/New Madrid location at 8:45. Mother nature decided that the further south I drove that the temperature should drop and the rain would change to snow. I reached the Scott County area and cars were off in the median and ditches so my travel slowed down. I arrived at my first spot and a heavy wet snow was falling so I decided to just run with the truck mounted antenna. Worked the strong stations and decided to head onto the PEM/DUN spot ahead of schedule. 

Once at PEM/DUN I realized that this location will not work due to high noise levels and there was a 30mph wind blowing at 35 degrees so I wimped out and worked from the truck antennas again. 40 meters was really long now so I only made about 10 contacts. Again I left this spot ahead of schedule and hoped that things would improve as I drove north to the Bollinger/Stoddard line. 

Now at BOL/STD the wind died down, the sun came out and I was at a known low noise/low traffic area. I set up my 31 ft mast with 40 feet of wire spiral wound on the mast. Laid out 4 radials and I was in business with 20, 40 and 80 meters. This location is also part of the WWFF Parks on the Air program and I knew that would drive in QSO's that I could also claim for MOQP so I spotted myself on the POTA pages and worked a pile up on 20 and 40m for about 2.5 hours. This run at this location would anchor my overall score. Reluctantly I had to head to my next spot so I could set up in the remaining daylight. 

It was about a 20 minute drive to my spot on the Wayne/Butler county line. I quickly setup and went to 80 meters as it was about 7PM. I made a few contacts and then I checked in with Kyle at the W0W expedition class station. He let me know that no one had been to Washington county yet so I decided to pack up and make a detour to Washington on my way home to hopefully make some multiplier hunters happy. 

Now at a spot in Washington county I tried to use 80m on the screwdriver antenna I had installed a few days prior. I could receive many stations coming in at S9+10 but none of them could hear me. I knew 80m was tough from a vehicle but I did not expect this result. I could have tried a different antenna like a hamstick but I was starting the drag #@% so I headed for home. No contacts made from Washington county. Sorry folks!


I decided on the way home on Saturday that getting up after 4 hours of sleep did not sound appealing so I went with an alternate plan to put St. Louis City (STL) on the air. So I slept in until 7AM, left the house by 8:15AM and found a place to setup by Forest Park. I was able to make 20 contacts before I headed west to the Callaway/ Audrain county line. I did have to cut this one a little short and should have spent more time on 20m. 

It was a quick 10 minute drive to Montgomery county and made 39 contacts. I ended the contest there and began the 2 hour drive home. 

40 vs. 80 thoughts

It seems that the herd mentality is that by 10AM you must abandon 80 meters(me included). After I still couldn't contact anyone in-state on 40 and sent a message to W0W and W0D that I was trying 80 at 2PM! We were able to make the contact and I started a short run on 80 but I picked up probably 6 to 8 multipliers in the last 30 minutes. Everyone always starts the contest on 40 and we probably should all start the contest on 80 instead of 40. Something to remember for 2018. 

The numbers for ND9E

436 contacts
71 multipliers
29 MO counties
42 states
31,156 claimed score
Operated from 12 counties
Operated from KFF-0377 Mingo Wildlife Area
Operated from 5 different grid squares
Drove 752 miles
It snowed

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lincoln Trail Homestead Park KFF-4098

My last adventure to Central IL for awhile as my wife is done with her piano duties for one of the local high school show choirs. I had a short window of time for this activation so I went with my 32ft vertical this time which works great on 40 meters and was hoping it help with a quick batch of contacts. Hard to see the mast but it is the green thing rising up from the back of the truck. This park is closed and looks like it has been closed for at least the winter season if not longer. It may be one of the parks that the state decided to close since it is out of money.

I started out on 20 meters and again it was hard to get anything going and since I was on a tight schedule I switched to 40 meters. I was able to make a total of 50 contacts in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Not NPOTA type run rates but easily managed. I had park to park contacts with K7CAR and W8MSC. A P2P was almost completed with KB3WAV but the band took a fade and Kerri was gone. 

It was a nice not getting rained or snowed on this time out!

Here are some supporting photos including a selfie for those of you that like them!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Iroquois County State Wildlife Area KFF-4132

March 10, 2018 Activation by ND9E

Once again I had the chance to activate a location far from home as I was playing chauffeur for my wife as she played piano for a high school group in the area. The Iroquois County State Wildlife Area is about a 3.5 hour drive from my home QTH putting this place 70 miles south of Chicago.  I had planned to show the driving route via APRS but it turns out there is a large area without digi-peaters so the map doesn't look very good but I did mark my operating spot by using a APRS app on my Android phone. 

The activation had the normal little issues that one has to work through such as I tried a different antenna whip arrangement which seemed to work ok on 20 meters but not 40. I did notice for the first time that my charging of the logging computer added about 3 S-units of noise on 20 meters. I will have to work on that later. I had trouble getting much action on 20 meters but I also seemed to forget that 14.195 is not available to the General class folks so I did move up the band after a while. I only made 5 contacts on 20 meters. 

Next I went to 40 meters and tried the same antenna setup as 20 meters and could not get the SWR below 1.8 to 1. I went back to a known setup consisting of the 4 ft Hustler mast, Wolf River Coil and 8 ft whip. I also found that my computer charger doesn't produce any noise in the 40 meter band so that problem seems solvable. I made 50 contacts on 40 meters with at least one P2P contact with K7CAR. I believe I made a P2P with someone in Michigan but they gave me the NPOTA designation of HP20. I will figure this out later. Thank you to the chasers for being out there and I hope to get back soon to some activations using a better antenna system. 73 and 44

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Moraine View State Recreation Area- KFF-4099 activation

Once again I found myself in Central IL with time to kill so I went to the Moraine View State Park located outside of Bloomington. As you can see we had a little bit of snow with temperatures around 32 degrees. There was no snow when I started the activation but it came down fast for about an hour. Just enough to make everything look pretty and the roads slick!

I started on 40 meters and quickly racked up 57 contacts in about 45 minutes. By this time the snow had fallen and I sat there debating whether to retune the antenna for 20 meters. Finally I retuned for 20 and began calling CQ and spotting on the Facebook thread. In 20 minutes I managed only 1 contact. I know that during the one 20 meter QSO the signal was up and down so maybe the band conditions were not the best or at least not good with my antenna set up. I usually like to use a 31 foot mast for my vertical but the type of trip I was on I needed to have nothing in the bed of the truck so I was using a shorter whip with the Wolf River coil. The noise level on 40 meters was S0 to S1 so this was a nice spot to operate. 

All of my tape measure radials and antenna whip/coil are wet so my next task is to dry off everything and spray with WD40. Hopefully I will have another road trip with an activation in a couple of weeks. 73 & 44