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. 


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