Tuesday, October 23, 2018

2018 Illinois QSO Party recap

Alexander/Pulaski County line

The day started out with a 2.5 hour drive to the bottom of the state to an area called Mounds IL. There is a parking lot that has the Alexander and Pulaski county line passing through it. This will be the second year for this location and it also is part of the WWFF park program. The park designation is KFF-0283 Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. I arrived about 30 minutes late as I made a wrong turn due to trust issues with the directions from Garmin since it was a different route from last year. I started setting up at 10:30AM and was done by 11:10 so that gave me time to eat lunch and record canned CQ phone scripts into the IC-7100 radio. My plan was to operate 2.5 hours from this location.

Antenna was a low 40 meter doublet. The picture below would make you wonder why the center was not higher. I forgot that I had shortened the ladder line so I raised the center until I ran out of ladder line. I need to make an extension for next time.

40 meters was a little long at the start of the contest as I made a test with W9W up at Rend Lake and 40 meters would not work but 80 meters worked great. Too bad most folks think 80 meters is only good once it starts getting dark. If you can't make 40 meters work for local communications you should try 80 meters. I never did make it up to 20 meters and as you can see from the picture above I was sitting in a hole.

Above is a picture of the AH-4 tuner with the ladder line feed.

Massac/Johnson/Pulaski County line

This is my 5th year of operating from this location. Luckily the farmer had just finished with the bean harvest there but it sure was dusty. This location no longer allows a safe deployment of a dipole/doublet without working in the roadway or trespassing on the farmers property. I have a 12 foot wide farm road to operate on so I park on the corner and run a wire to the north. It is set up as an inverted L. 25 feet vertical section with about 50 feet of horizontal section. This set up has worked great now for two years. It is easier to set up than the doublet. 

I operated here about 3.5 hours and made my last contact about 15 minutes before the end of the contest. Everything was torn down and packed up by 8:30 PM and then I was off for my McDonald's drive thru feast in Vienna IL. 

I have not processed my log yet but I had fewer multipliers than last year but had a higher score mostly due to working more CW this year. 

Looks like my claimed score will be around 90K for this year and if that score holds up to the scoring folks this will be my best score yet for ILQP. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

2018 Illinois QSO Party prep

This is be mostly pictures with captions. The ILQP is Sunday the 21st starting at 1700z and ends at 0100z. Looks like a good weather day so at least we won't get soaked like last year!

I will be doing the same route as last year as a rover station. This means I can be mobile and still operate from county lines and corners. Operation will be mostly 20 and 40 phone.

I will start at the Pulaski/Alexander county line in an area that is also KFF- 0283 Cypress Creek for WWFF. I will then move to the county corner of Pulaski, Johnson and Massac which is KFF-4112 Cache River.  Operation will be mostly 40 and 80 phone.

There will be an update sometime early next week on how the contest went.

Took my LED headlamp out of the center console of my truck and I guess someone forgot to remove the batteries again. Vinegar and alcohol fixed it up. 

SOTA wire winders are great for cables and ropes. Here are my guy ropes for the pushup mast on the left and on the right is my end fed wire for my Inverted L. The Inverted L will be fed by an AH-4 tuner.

The 40 meter doublet all nice a neat in its bag. It will not look like this tomorrow evening but that is what Monday is for. Winding up all the ropes and wires. 

The mobile contesting console installed on the left. The rats nest on the right is a 35ah battery, DC booster and powergate. This ensures that the IC-7100 always has 14 volts and full power output even if I shut the engine off for awhile. Not seen in these pictures is the 110 watt GE RangR VHF radio that will primarily be used for any simplex contacts and chat with others in the area on the repeaters. This radio has its own 35ah battery in the rear seat floorboard. 

Push-up mast, 2 painters poles, 2 meter antenna, AH-4 tuner and concrete blocks. I find setting up 3 masts by yourself is enough of a challenge and trying to get the stakes for the end guys in the right spot is hard for me so this year I am going to try using only the concrete blocks. I needed the blocks for my second operating location anyway because it is all rock and I can't get a stake driven through the rocks. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Beaver Dam State Park KFF-0981

My plan for the day was to attend the West Central Illinois Hamfest located in Carlinville IL. and then head to Beaver Dam State Park for a parks activation.

At the hamfest I got to meet Jim N9JF who is a very active park activator and ILQP big-wig. It was great to swap ILQP stories about the miserable rain we endured last year and to discuss the upcoming IL200 Challenge. This is the bi-centennial for the state and there is a program starting on Aug 9th to activate and chase every IL county by December. More on this hopefully in later posts.

I drove about 15 minutes from the hamfest to the park and made a slow drive around it looking for a parking spot I could back in to and stay out of peoples camping and picnic spots. I found a spot by an empty pavilion and got setup. Unfortunately I had little cell service so I could not spot myself like I had wanted so I started on 40 meters and only got 10 in the log in the first hour. This was going to be a long activation to get at least 44 contacts. I switched to 20 meters and someone spotted me but I never could get a run started. I made around 20 contacts on 20 meters and then was able to see some Facebook posts that said folks couldn't hear me on 20 meters so I switched back to 40 meters. I finally had to start begging for any contact to get my 44. Amazing when you announce "last call" for anyone listening you start knocking off the contacts. Maybe next time instead of calling CQ CQ I will start with "last call everyone"!

It took 2.5 hours to get 46 contacts. Still a great day hamming.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Peabody River King State Fish Wildlife Area KFF- 4148

After a poor outing yesterday I decided to try my luck again this morning since the truck was still loaded. I headed out to the Peabody River King State Fish & Wildlife Area located about 50 minutes south of home in a town called New Athens IL. This area of southern IL saw a lot of strip mining and this park was created from reclaimed coal mining operations. Looks like a great area for bird watching and fishing. Plenty of folks were fishing today. 

I setup on the end of a road to stay away from folks trying to park their boat trailers. Had a few curious folks but once I put up the amateur radio sign in the window they steered clear of me. I started at 15:20 UTC by working W8MSC at KFF-3322 and then worked the dynamic duo of K8VOX/W8TAM at KFF-1491. Then I found a spot on 40 meters, put out one spot on Facebook and then it was self feeding from there! I had a good run with 63 contacts on 40 meters and then I moved to 20 meters. There on 20 meters I had another good run making 73 contacts with an ending time of 17:16 UTC.

So today's activation was as good as yesterday's was bad. Just play the hand you are dealt. Luckily I had put a first aid kit in the truck about a month ago. As I was deploying my tape measure radials somehow I was running the tape across one of my knuckles and received a cut that made me look like I was bleeding out. I had blood everywhere on my arm and both hands. I was able to clean it up and put a bandage on it. Stuff happens!

136 contacts
116 minutes operating time
3 Park to Park contacts
2 DX contacts
1 wound

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pere Marquette State Park KFF-1015

I decided that sometime during the Memorial Day holiday weekend I would go north about an hour from home to activate the Pere Marquette State Park. I did my usual scouting via Google Earth and picked a spot on top of the bluff and about as high as you can get in that park. The low end of the park is at the Mississippi River level which is around 400 feet with my operating location at around 850 feet. I headed up on Sunday afternoon with thunderstorms being way to the south of St. Louis which I figured would be OK. We also set a record high temperature of 96 degrees. I should have known there would be weather problems but I went anyway.

I started on 20 meters so the static crashes would not be as bad. 20 must have been very long because I self spotted, called CQ for 30 minutes and could only get 3 California stations. After that I switched to 40 meters and the static crashes were horrific. I managed to grab 27 more contacts before the clouds started to darken and weather alerts were going nuts on my phone. I was planning a nice long activation and I probably could have taken an hour break and checked conditions again but I decided to head back home. Still a good day hamming!

I did have a park to park contact with Kent K7CAR. He was at KFF-4428 in AZ.

I will get back to this park again maybe in the fall.

Next day revelation: I now realize that I had my noise blanker turned off. I always have to run it while the engine is running. The static crashes were still worse than the engine noise so it probably didn't matter.

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!

ARQP webpage

This shows that you need to send in your log no matter how small!

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.