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

Friday, February 9, 2018

Kickapoo State Recreation Area- KFF-4097 activation

On February 3rd I was in the area of Danville IL with a couple of hours on my hands so I made the short drive west to the Kickapoo State Recreation Area. The park was pretty quiet with it being winter but the area has a lot to offer folks in the warmer weather. Today it served this ham radio portable operator! I set up in the truck again and used my Wolf River coil with about a 10ft rod along with 3 ground radials. Since the coil was still tuned for 20 meters from my last activation I decided to start there.

20 meters

20 meters was a battle from the start and I only made 5 contacts as that band was up and down. It reminded me of 6 meter openings where you better make the contact quick.  Folks in the WWFF Facebook group were waiting for me to go to 40 meters so I gave up on 20 meters.

40 meters

I found a spot on 40 meters, started calling CQ plus spotted myself on the Facebook group. 40 was much better but it was also up and down somewhat. I made 45 contacts and then my wife texted me that I could pick her up anytime. I had planned to operate at least 2 hours but since I also once again picked a frequency that the foreign broadcasts use and I was slowly starting to have trouble making contacts. My 50 contacts satisfied my ham radio itch for the day so I packed up to retrieve my wife and go to dinner. 

I doubt I am ever back to activate the park again but is was a good place to operate from and easy to get to. 

Operating spot is the blue circle.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Winter Field Day 2018

New plan for 2018!

The past few years Winter Field Day has been at my house either in my basement or in a tent on my deck. Last year Kyle-N0KTK joined me at my house and we operated from the tent so we could claim the outdoor bonus points. We realized that 2 people trying to cover the entire 24 hour event was close to impossible so we made plans for at least 3 people for 2018. We also decided to move to a state park so we could help drive up the QSO rate with the Parks on the Air program. We thought about the plan throughout the year and here is how the new plan unfolded. 


Kyle recruited Justin- KE0HXL for this years WFD. Kyle and Justin have been working together on portable deployments for years and they definitely have the setup sequence down to a science. I tried to stay out of their way as much as possible but probably still slowed them down. Justin brought a RV that we used to get some sleep and do some cooking. They had scoped out the campground at Babler State Park in St. Louis County MO and had reserved 2 spots which each had electric and concrete pads. This gave us room for multiple trucks, the camper and the operating tents. Also the campground folks understood what we were doing and gave us their blessing on putting up antennas in the trees. 

Camper and generator (far left)

Operating tents- ladder line and balun in lower right corner

Operating positions

This was a 2 Outdoor operation which means we could only have 2 stations on the air at a time. We planned that one person would be handling logistics or sleeping so we stuck with 2O. The larger tent had ICOM equipment and the smaller red tent had Kyle's Flex setup. The red tent is for ice fishing and it is somewhat insulated and very easy to heat compared to the larger tent. Sorry that I forgot to take pictures of the operating stations. 


Our main antennas were a 10-80m Windom up at about 40 feet. Kyle ran almost the entire time on this antenna. We also had a 80m horizontal loop that was over uneven ground and had various tree heights. On average I would say that it was up about 30 feet and in a rectangle shape. Justin and I mainly used this antenna. This was my first event using a loop and it worked great. A 160m trapped dipole went up but none of us could get it to tune so we did not get any 160m multipliers this year. We will need to solve this for next year. A vertical with a ICOM AH-4 tuner was set up for band scanning and for some digital operations. 
Sky loop antenna if you look hard enough!

ND9E 2O MO on the air!

We used my call mainly so I could get credit for the Parks on the Air and Grid Chase programs. Kyle was the main QSO machine for the entire event. He mainly ran the whole time he operated. Justin and I took turns looking for multipliers and I had a small run on 80 meter phone. I did some PSK31 runs also after Justin got my FLDIGI working with N1MM. Kyle and Justin and very versed in N1MM and this was only my second time running it. 

IC-7100 failure

Late Saturday afternoon as I was getting up from sitting on a plastic chair while at a plastic table.  I touched the back of my IC-7100 control head and received a static shock. I thought at the time, "that was not cool" and went to do something else. When I returned to the radio I noticed that I no longer had any transmit audio (or power) on phone. Digital and CW still worked fine. Needless to say I was not happy now with my situation. I thought about it for awhile and decided to do a partial reset from the main menu. It worked! Now I had transmit audio and power while learning a lesson on controlling static for the future. 

Final results

We operated about 18 hours of the 24 hour event. If we had 160 meters working we might have had an incentive to stay up the entire time. We operated right up til the end of the event and immediately began tearing down. We were packed up in about 2 hours and on our way.

Only about 10 ARRL sections short!

17,810 was our raw score with low power

Final claimed score with bonus
1500 points - remote
1500 points- emergency power
1500 points- outdoors
13 multipliers
22,310 claimed final score


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Bohm Woods Nature Preserve KFF-4111 activation

This was the first activation of this nature preserve as part of WWFF. It is located only about 15 minutes from my house but there is only parking for 2 or 3 cars. It is deer season and hunting is allowed in these woods so I have been staying away from this location. There were no hunters present so I pulled into the parking area and got set up.

Bohm Woods Nature Preserve

As you can see from the picture this property was given to the state of Illinois by the Bohm family to preserve these woods. The is the last "old growth" forest in this area especially for an urban area. This also borders the Southern IL University at Edwardsville campus. My son Simon has spent time in these woods for biology classes and has pictures of trees over 100 feet tall and several feet in diameter. 

Due to the small parking area I could not put out the radials like I normally do especially for 
40 meters. I started on 20 meters and boy was it a struggle to get 30 contacts even with frequent spots. 20 meters was good to the east coast and Canada. It was surprising that I only had one 20 meter contact to the west. After I switched to 40 meters things got moving! I made 60 contacts on 40 meters with a nice steady pace. Thanks for the spots and Facebook chatter to keep the run going. 

Final results
  • 91 contacts
  • 33 - 20 meter contacts
  • 59 - 40 meter contacts
  • 95 minutes on the air
  • 7 Canadian contacts
  • 1 DX contact with SA2CLU- He gets kudos for staying patient with me!
  • No park to park contacts today. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

KFF-0996 Giant City State Park

November 18, 2017

I had traveled to the southern part of Illinois so my better half could attend a music festival so that left me with some free time before I retrieved her so I planned to activate the Giant City State Park. This is a beautiful park with interesting rock formations and many hiking trails. I hope to return for another visit sometime especially during the fall colors. 

A spot was selected by using Google Earth with the GPS coordinates entered into my WAZE app. As I started to wind through the park I would drop cell coverage therefore the mapping would freeze. I eventually made it close to my selected spot but this was also deer season and this park must be treasured by the hunters as the sides of the road had pickup trucks all along them so I figured that parking in a secluded spot in the woods during deer season was not the safest plan. I backtracked to a public playground area that also had cell coverage so I set up there. 

Normally I use a 31 foot fiberglass mast with an AH-4 tuner but the mount is large and since I was spending the night at a hotel I did not want to have to put the mount inside the truck over night so I tried out a different arrangement. I used a trailer hitch mount with a 3/8 x 24 antenna mount, the 
4 foot Hustler extension, Wolf River Silver Bullet 1000 coil and a 16 foot MFJ telescoping mast. This takes up less room inside the truck when traveling. 

Unfortunately there was a wind advisory this day and the weather folks got it right as we had 40 mph gusts and no way could I fully extend the mast so I only extended the MFJ mast to 102" as I had already tested this at home. I used my antenna analyzer and quickly was set up on 40 meter phone. I started running on 40 meter phone and quickly reached 20 contacts and then I could not hear anyone else as I had a S7 noise level. I retuned the antenna and radials for 20 meter phone and began running again. I was having much better luck here as my noise level was S2. The rest of the activation was on 20 meters. 

Final results

20 contacts on 40 meter phone
48 contacts on 20 meter phone
0 park to park contacts
1 DX contact
Had a great time!

Lessons learned (or re-learned)

Know your grid square and the county you are operating from for when people ask. Sorry folks, I was in EM57 and Jackson County. 

Save you maps in your phone in the off-line mode for when you lose cell coverage. I have taught myself this lesson at least 3 times but it is not sinking into the ol' noggin. 

Truck engine is noisy on 40 meters so I need to work on that some more. Next I will try to add bonding to the hood.