Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Missouri QSO Party/ POTA/ RaDAR run- recap

The MOQP wrapped up on Sunday and I have been "recovering" the last couple of days. Here is a rundown of what happened, what failed and what needs to improve.

Saturday

Started at Hawn State Park as planned and was on the air right at 1400z. Since I did not have much room around my parking spot I elected to just use the mobile antennas. I noticed that as I spun the dial that I was not hearing any MO stations,,,,,,hmmmn, that's odd. I made 11 contacts from this park. As I was leaving the park I looked over and someone was setting up an antenna behind their truck and I thought, "there is one of our kind" so I stopped to say hello. I met Wayne KD0NEO and gave a quick introduction and then left him alone since he was working on a cable problem. 

I moved over to St. Joe State Park and again I could not hear any MO counties. Dang this was going to be a rough day unless thing improve. Luckily most contacts I made were more interested in the POTA credit. I had a couple of mushroom hunters that were suspicious of what I was doing but I explained it to them and they thought I was the weird one. I made 17 contacts. 

After an hour and a half drive I was at Lake Wappapello State Park. This time I had room for a better antenna so I put up the 31ft vertical with 2 ground radials. By now I decided that 40 meters was just going to be long for the day and I had better milk the state and park contacts the best I could. I made 35 contacts from the 2 county line of Butler and Wayne counties. I tried a 80 meter mobile antenna and heard just noise. Maybe later. 

Then it was a 30 minute drive to the Mingo Wildlife Refuge which has the Bollinger/Stoddard county line running through it. Conditions were improving on 40 meters and I had my best run of the day by making 70 contacts. I should have spent some time on 20 meters but I was having fun on 40. I did get one MO county from here. Again I used the 31 ft vertical. 

Next was the drive to Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau County. I arrived  after dark just before the park closed but I found a parking spot next to the outside of the gate. There was not room to setup the vertical so I tried to run with the mobile antennas. No luck on 40 meters after calling CQ for about 20 minutes and I could not spot because of no cell coverage. I tried the 80 meter mobile antenna again and I could hear lots of MO stations but none could hear me. I have to get this
80 meter thing figured out. I left there with no contacts so I decided to start the 2 hour drive home. Arrived home at 11:15PM, did a quick trash clean out of the truck and dropped into bed. 

Sunday

I started on time at the Robertsville State Park in Franklin County and expected to hear the big signal from W0S since we were in the same county but conditions were still the same with 40 meters being long. I used the 31 ft vertical again and had to explain to another mushroom hunter that I was not doing surveillance on his spot. I made 14 contacts from here. 

I tried to find Ron Robinson State Park using Google Maps but never could find a park entrance so rather than hunting for it I headed to my planned 3rd stop which was RT 66 State Park.

At RT 66 State Park conditions were not too bad but 40 meters was still too long. I made 28 contacts between 20 and 40 meters including 2 DX contacts while using the 31 ft vertical. Lots of dog walkers were giving me the "eye" as they walked by. Below is a picture with the vertical deployed.



At this time I was considering changing my plan as I as still waiting to hear if someone had activated St. Louis City or not so I went onto Babler State Park. 

At Babler I found a nice secluded spot where I could try setting up the NVIS dipole even though the conditions were not favoring NVIS operations but I needed to practice setting this up by myself. My practice session in the driveway helped a bunch as I was able to set this up in under 15 minutes. I did a quick check of the SWR and it looked great but the noise level on the radio sounded funny. Hmmmnnn, what did I do wrong? I checked 20 meters but still sounded weird. Connections were checked and still no change so I put up the vertical but had the same result. I am thinking, did the apocalypse happen and I missed it? I checked my phone and it had no service so what do I do? Time for lunch! While eating lunch I was spinning the dial on 40 and heard one weak station and it was W0S. He was a S1 signal but why not try it. We managed a contact and since he was on a 3 county line I got counties number 3, 4 and 5! At this point I had had enough so I bailed out 2 hours before the end of the MOQP and decided I better go home and cut the grass. As I was leaving the park my cell service came back and I saw on Twitter that we had just experienced a large solar flare so now I know what happened. As I drove home listening to 40 meters the signals started coming back around 2:45PM. Here is a picture of the 40 meter NVIS setup. 


Overall is was still a good weekend. Band conditions were poor for a state QSO party but workable for the POTA. 

My 31 ft vertical is still my go-to antenna while roving. 

I need to make some improvements to the truck antennas especially for 80 meters. 

Thanks to the BEARS group (W0MA) for hosting the QSO Party and to the admins of the WWFF program. 


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