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.

 Placed 3rd in the Rover category. 

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. 


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

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