Friday, March 31, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - Ready to go!

Today I finished testing the radio, both headsets, logging tablet, keyboard, put the phone chargers in, and setup the voice memories in the IC-7100. I am always surprised how long this process takes. It included 2 of my re-purposed android phones downloading and updating multiple apps. One phone is used mainly for navigation and the other is running the Hamclock app/APRSDroid. I also use 2 voice recorders that pick up the QSO audio as backup devices in case I log something wrong or log while I drive. Usually when driving I search and pounce so after each contact I will say out loud something like "N0KTK at 2220z on 40 meters". The QSO is also logged in on the SD card in the IC-7100 so between the 3 logging recorders I usually can piece together the QSO after the event is over.

Interesting thing happened when I was checking the 2 voice recorders in that one of them showed low battery and I had replaced these batteries in December. So when I went to check the batteries in the recorder the batteries were starting to leak. When I checked the other one they were leaking also. Weird that they both failed that quick. I will now store them with the batteries removed.

After dinner I worked on Google Earth and Maps so I could have a custom map on the tablet for back up purposes or just for the entertainment value. Here is a screen shot of my Saturday locations.


Here are my Sunday locations.

Final picture of the bed of the truck. 



Items left to do:
Put together the food for Saturday
Load IC-706 in truck as a spare
Post my Saturday plans to the POTA Facebook group


Hope to work you during the event!



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 1 Day out

I took a vacation day to help prepare the truck. It rained on and off for most of the day but I was able to stay busy. The first break in the rain allowed me to tune the 20 and 40 meter resonators. Here are the antennas mounted.

20 meter antenna sweep


40 meter antenna sweep (much more narrow)



I decided to mount a 80 meter Diamond antenna and see how it tuned up. Very narrow banded so I added my Dentron Jr. manual tuner. This will help the 40 and 80 meter antennas to cover the entire phone portion of the band. 

80 meter antenna sweep

Using the RigExpert antenna analyzer with it's "Multi-SWR" mode, it can show you the SWR on 5 bands simultaneously. Here I was only interested in the 20 and 40 meter bands. 



Next was an experiment with a 40 meter dipole which used a product called a Horsefence Antenna. They are produced by KF4BWG in are available in different bands. They are not pretty and would never pass a HOA but they and very broad banded. I forgot to save the sweep but I set it up as an inverted V for NVIS operation. The SWR was 1.6 to 1 or better over the entire phone band. 





The ends of the dipole are 5 ft log broom handles with an adapter on top which gives me tie points for ropes. I have to be able to set this up myself so I worked on the ropes so that they all have D-rings on them and already tied to the tent pegs. Here is a picture of one of the four ropes that are ready to go. Also there is a picture of a very cheap rope tensioning clip I got off of Amazon. 


I do not plan to deploy the inverted V antenna at every spot but I hope that I can use it a couple of times. My schedule only has me at most locations for only 90 minutes. This setup make more sense for a 3+ hour event. 

Final picture is hard to see but I decided that I better guy the 20/40 meter resonators. I used mason string and the smallest bungee cords they make to add a slight tension to them. The mast will move if it hits something. The 80 meter antenna is to the left on this picture. This is my first time running this antenna setup. 


Tomorrow afternoon I have to get it all finished and there are many things on my list left to complete.





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 2 Days out

As luck would have it this was the nicest evening to work outside this week but things at work went a little long so I lost some daylight but managed to start on the antenna mount. The crude temporary mount has served me well on 2 trucks so far. It drops into the pockets built into the bed liner. I then use a couple of straps to help defy gravity in case of a large bump in the road or launching over a railroad track when I am not paying attention!

First picture shows the bottom side of the ball mount. Usually I would mount my AH-4 wire tuner next to the ball mount but this year I am going to try using the Hustler resonators.

(Told you it was crude)



Picture below shows the mount as it is first dropped into place. 



Next step is to connect the 2 side bonding straps and the strap that goes down to the frame. 1" stainless braid. Connection to the edge of the bed is all stainless hardware.




Then to put on the gravity defying straps. 



Last picture taken in the dark but you get the idea. It wins an ugly award. Let the antenna shammers bash away! 



I do hope to try a screwdriver antenna someday. I saw this setup at Dayton last year and would love to try it sometime.



Tomorrow it is supposed to rain throughout the day. Hopefully I will get the antennas tuned!



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 3 Days out

Visited the W0MA website tonight and saw that the MOQP map is filling in nicely. I was surprised to see St. Louis City as going unclaimed.


I went out to the garage tonight and I was able to install the power-gate and battery into the passenger side floorboard. The power-gate keeps the battery fully charged when the engine is running. When I operate with the engine off the battery in the floorboard runs all the equipment. The DC to DC booster keeps the voltage to the radio at a constant 14.1vdc. This setup has worked very well for me and has been used on at least 15 different events. The Powerpole pigtail on the left side of the picture is the direct feed from the truck battery.
80 amp Power-Gate above

Battery box with DC booster



The audio and PTT wiring from the console was routed to the radio. Also the power and control cable were installed. Lots of wires but this setup only takes me about 15 minutes to setup or teardown. There is still the phone and tablet chargers to install plus the CIV cable which should finish up the front of the truck. 




The cables were connected to the radio and the radio was powered up. 


Time to move onto the antenna mount. Not sure if the weather is going to cooperate tomorrow evening. There is still mower work to complete. 


Monday, March 27, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 4 Days out

Sad to say that I do not have much to report today. My main progress tonight was on the mower which is good but not what I wanted to accomplish today. Enough with the whining.


POTA stands for Parks on the Air and the program is part of the larger WWFF or World Wide Flora and Fauna. These are the spots you see on the cluster that look like IFF-0920 or ONFF-0300. These are park designations and you make contact with them and awards are given to both the activator and the hunter. The US designations have a KFF-xxxx on the cluster. The US program has been around for about a year now but it would have been very confusing to push the new program while NPOTA was happening. The timing was right to start educating folks around the end of last year and to build on the NPOTA momentum. There are over 3000 park designations in the US program alone! Plenty of activations possible. Jason, W3AAX is the administrator for the US branch of the WWFF and does a wonderful job of pulling together volunteers to help manage the workload. He is open to new ideas on types of awards and produces high quality certificates. There is also a very active Facebook group for POTA. I will give an example below on how Jason has combined some awards with RaDAR.





RaDAR stands for Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. This is a program that originated overseas and now has a US branch of the program. RaDAR has rules setup to encourage quick deployments that require a minimum distance to be traveled between locations and it depends on whether you travel by car, bike or hiking. For example if I was participating in a RaDAR event and I was driving I would have to move at least 5km to reach my next spot. I would encourage people to check out the Google+ community hosted by Greg N4KGL.




So this brings me to my crazy MO QSO Party, POTA and RaDAR plan.

POTA and RaDAR have teamed up on some combined awards that helps promote both groups. The awards are based on how many POTA designations you can activate in a 24 hour period based on the RaDAR rules. So my MOQP plan is based on counties that have POTA locations. I should be able to hit 5 POTA locations each day of the QSO Party.

Saturday

Start at Hawn State Park in St. Genevieve county. KFF-1763
Move to St. Joe State Park in St. Francois county. KFF-1785
Move to Lake Wappapello State Park on the Butler/Wayne county line. KFF-1769
Move to Mingo Wildlife Refuge on the Bollinger/Stoddard county line.  KFF-0377
The last park will be the Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau county. KFF-1790

I will be driving towards home the last 2 hours of the MOQP operating mobile through Perry, Jefferson and St. Louis counties. My goal is to hit the IL/MO state line right at 11PM which is the end of the MOQP for Saturday. I need to get up early on Sunday for my next day of madness!

Sunday

Start at Robertsville State Park in Franklin county  KFF-1781
Move to Don Robinson State Park in Jefferson county.  KFF-1755
Next to Rt 66 State Park in St. Louis county. KFF-1783
Move to Castlewood State Park still in St. Louis county. KFF-1751
This should put me at 3PM which is the end of the MOQP. 
If I am up to it I will make the short drive to Babler State Park. KFF-1745

That is it for tonight. I will see how tomorrow unfolds. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 5 Days out

Now we know that the funeral for my wife's Aunt is Friday morning so I can plan around that time frame.

Limited time for ham radio today by the time we attended church, ate lunch out, and stopped by the auto parts store for oil and grease for the tractor and mower deck. I know the preparations of the mower have nothing to do with the MOQP but it is something that demands attention as a homeowner and it takes away from the ham radio stuff. Spent what little time I had this afternoon using the pressure washer cleaning the mower deck.


I did spend a couple of minutes setting the radio in the rear floorboard and connecting the grounding strap. The grounding strap goes under that door molding and is connected the truck body. When the radio is not installed I put the strap under the floor mat and you only see 1" of the strap.

I then got the antennas out of the attic and started putting them together. This will be my first year trying to run with the Hustler Resonators. Probably will just use the 20m and 40m coils.


Am I the only person that thinks their trash and recycling bins make a great working surface?

Emergency box for truck (ham emergencies)

Since I had this box out I included these pictures. I used to carry massive amount of spares and parts with me on these outings but slowly learned to scale back on these items. No need to carry soldering equipment and connectors when just bringing around a few extra cables make more sense. The box has adapters, fuses, fuse holders, 3/8-24 hardware, ferrite chokes, electrical connectors, allen wrenches and jumper leads. 



Tomorrow I will see how work goes and how much time I have free in the evening.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run - 6 Days out

Started today with the news that one of my wife's Aunts passed away. We are waiting to hear the final funeral arrangements. I got started in the garage by getting the mower deck out of storage and started to scrap out the bottom side.

I brought the IC-7100 radio up from the basement for preparation of the installation. I leave it mounted to that board so it doesn't get as hot sitting in the floorboard.  Next I removed the side panel of the center console on the truck which allows me access to a mounting bolt that I use with my drop in radio console (I don't know what to call it). The radio recessed in the truck console is a GE MVS remote head setup operating on 2 meters. The main radio is installed under the back seat.


This radio console was originally designed for my other truck but it was adapted for this 2015 Colorado. It drops into the dual cup holder and is supported by the diagonal brace you see in the picture below. What was I thinking when I eliminated both cup holders! You can also see the coiled up wiring that runs to the IC-7100 radio in the rear floorboard. There I pickup both HF and VHF PTT lines in the 13 pin ACC plug. I also get the discriminator audio the feeds a headset amplifier in that gray box. This is so I have separate volume controls for the headset and main speaker. Yes, I can and do run both a speaker and headset at the same time. 



Below you will see that I installed the IC-7100 control head on the console. The console also has an old Android phone that I use for running the HamClock app. There is also the gray box with the headset amplifier, volume control and a nice big red PTT button. With this setup I can use the PTT buttons on the headset, the one on the console and any external PTT switch. At the top of the console is the tablet mount that I use for mapping and spotting when stationary. I can put my right arm on the armrest of the center console and my hand lands at the control head and PTT switch. 

Tonight I was printing out my routes sheets and list of county codes. 

Tomorrows plan is to continue with the radio installation and antenna. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Countdown to Missouri QSO Party/ POTA run - 7 Days out

These posts will be a little different for me since I will try to post everyday with the preparations for the Missouri QSO Party which will include an activation of 8 to 10 state parks that are part of the World Wide Flora and Fauna program. The dates of this QSO Party are April 1st and 2nd. Usually I operate the QSO Party with a special event call but this year I will be using my ND9E/0 call. I will be a mobile/rover.

Delayed preparations

I have planned to operate in this QSO Party for a long time but the preparations were stalled due to a hail storm that hit my home location on Feb 28th. This storm hit around 5:35 PM just after I got home from work. The hail was slightly bigger than a golf ball and was very jagged. This barrage lasted about 1 or 2 minutes. Now my truck (mobile operating platform) with only 6000 miles on it looks like a golf ball. We wound up with 3 damaged vehicles and now need new roofs, siding and window screens. The insurance claim process has taken a bunch of time and I was not sure if my truck may be in a body shop during the QSO Party. No fear of that now as the body shops in the area are backed up for months. I was fortunate to get an appointment in June!

7 days out

Tonight I finalized my plan and the counties that will be activated and uploaded the plan to the W0MA website. 

All of my latitude and longitudes have been documented in Google Earth and in my phone using the Waze Android app. Here is a screen shot of my locations stored in the Waze favorites. Waze is an excellent navigation app which I like better than Google Maps even though Google bought out Waze. I like the looks of the screens better plus Waze gives you more notice for turns then Google Maps. 


The next step was sort through all of the flip cards I made for the MO counties. I use these as I drive through counties and flip to the new county as I enter it. They have the county name, 3 digit designation and the phonetics. Why the phonetics? Yes I know the proper phonetics but when I start hitting the 10th or 11th hour of the event my mind gets numb and I still have to drive. Sometimes I am lucky to remember my call sign. 

That is all for tonight. Tomorrow I start taking equipment from the basement and the attic of the garage to start transforming my truck (mobile operating platform) that looks like a red golf ball!

P.S. Sometime this week I also have to get the tractor ready for grass mowing season!