N9RLA/R After Action Report

2002 ARRL June VHF QSO Party

Well I finally got the log finished up and ready to submit. I log all of my FM QSO's while in motion on a tape recorder. This works well, but is a real pain after the contest. This time out I made a couple of dozen FM QSO's, which really made a significant difference to my score:-)

In the 2001 June contest I had my best score ever, so my goal for this years contest was to top that score. To help achieve that goal I added an extra band [432] and planned to activate two more grids [10 in all].

I started out Saturday deep in the heart of Kentucky in EM88cd. Thanks to Bob Burns, K4RXR, for locating a very good site at the Bath County High School parking lot. Running behind as usual, we managed to get on the air just in time for my 1830z sked. Unfortunately, band conditions were pretty flat, and we didn't make near as many contacts as I had hoped. All the equipment seemed to be working well, except for my 2 meter yagi which mysteriously developed an SWR of about 2.5:1. One pleasant surprise was my "new" DEM 432 transverter which, even with low power, netted me a bunch of QSO's. One mistake that I have a habit of making is staying in a grid too long, and I did it again here. This was a very good site, but the QSO's were coming really slow. But I stayed for a few hours hoping for better conditions that just didn't happen.

When we finally gave up on EM88, Bob and I made a quick trip over to another good site he had found in EM87ew, a hilltop cemetery just outside of Frenchburg, KY. This was a very peaceful site, and none of the tenants complained, so we stayed here for a few hours as well:-) I still had trouble with the 2 meter yagi, so I had to run with reduced power. As in EM88, QSO's were hard to come by. What happened to all of the folks that were supposed to be on down in Tennessee? After spending too much time in this grid as well, we picked up and headed for EM77.

After a quick trip that crossed back through the corners of EM88 and EM78, we stopped in EM77vx in Winchester, KY. It was getting pretty late in the evening by this time, so we were going to have to make this a quick grid. Instead of finding a better site, we chose to setup in the parking lot of a nearly empty shopping center. This turned out to be a pretty poor site mainly due to a tremendous noise level on 2 meters, but we did manage to pick up a few QSO's. Just at the edge of dark we started getting a little 6 meter eskip. It was pretty weak, and several stations were in just long enough for me to get "The rover station, again ple......ssssss", but I did manage to snag a few good mults. Then we had a visit from a member of the local law enforcement community. Several times while I have been Roving I've been checked out, but on every occasion as soon as the officer's curiosity was satisfied, and he saw that I wasn't "up to anything," they would move on. Not this gentleman. He told us he was checking us out because of a complaint about suspicious activity, then mentioned 9-11 a couple of times and that for all he knew we may be "leading in jet liners"... I guess this is to be expected from now on. But what was really annoying was his attitude about whether or not I had a police scanner with me. I assured him that I didn't have a police scanner, but even if I had as a licensed amateur radio operator I would be exempted from the KY scanner law. He really didn't like that part, and although he admitted that he didn't know the exact wording of the law, I have no doubt that if I would have had a police scanner with me, or if I had volunteered the info that my Icom 746 would indeed tune police frequencies if I chose to do so, my Rover trip would have been over real quick. And lord knows what kind of hassle I would have had to go through. I really wish there was some easy way to educate these fellas about amateur radio and the scanner law. And no, I don't think having a printed copy of the state law would have really helped [although Bob did, if he had decided to press the point]. After all of this the eskip was gone, it was well after dark, I was about 3 hours away from home, and I was more than ready to call it a day. So due to time restraints, I skipped EM67 all together and headed home. By my original schedule, I planned to operate in EM78 for a few hours but as it was nearly midnight I decided to go to bed and pick up EM78 at the end of the contest.

After a little more sleep than I had intended, I was getting a late start again. Before leaving Sunday morning I decided that I needed to switch to the backup 2 meter antenna. My little 4 element CushCraft yagi isn't great as far as gain goes, but it is a veteran of many Rover trips and always works well. While changing out the 2 meter antenna I discovered my 6 meter Moxon rectangle had sustained quite a bit of damage so I decided to go to the backup antenna on 6 as well, my little square loop ala K0FF, another Rover veteran antenna. With antenna problems solved, I get started Sunday morning several hours behind from my original plan. So instead of heading straight up to EM69, I decided to hit the closer grid of EM68 for a few hours first.

EM68 went rather well. Band conditions were still nothing to brag about, but activity seemed to have increased and I made quite a few QSO's from my spot near Salem IN. Kicking myself now for staying so long in the first couple of grids, I didn't stay very long here and soon headed up to one of my favorite spots in EM69.

By the time I reached EM69 in Brown County State Park near Nashville, IN, band conditions were getting pretty bad. I had a rough time working even the big guns like K8GP, KG4BMH, or AA4ZZ. And many of the small stations had either given up, or I just couldn't hear them at all. With band conditions as poor as they were, I didn't stay long in EM69 and headed for EN70.

In EN70 I setup in the parking lot of a shopping center on the east side of Noblesville, IN. This is an OK spot, as the land in this area is pretty darn flat, so have decent range from here. I stopped long enough to work several of the big guns. It's getting pretty late in the afternoon by this time and activity is really dropping so I pick up soon and head for EN60.

Just accross the grid border in EN60 I found another shopping center parking lot. Again I work most of the big stations, but I had a HUGE noise level on 6, so that cost me several QSO's. One highlight from EN60 was finding K4TO down in EM77 and working him on 2 and 432! Not bad for 11 elements at 30' with 10 watts out:-) K4TO has a huge signal. I had to work him with the attenuators on while I was down in KY. After a little while in EN60 it was starting to get dark, and I was nearly exhausted, so I took everything down and pointed the Rover Ranger back to the south.

I had intended to make a couple more quick stops while passing through EM79 and EM78, but by the time I reached the EM79 area, I was so tired that I stopped just long enough to work some of the locals on 6 and 2 FM. And did the same when I passed into EM78. I appologize if anyone was looking for me in those grids, but I was just too tired raise the antennas:-)

So that it. I just now finished putting all of the FM QSO's in the log. I also discovered I had forgotten to set the date and time on the laptop, so I had to correct that as well, yuch... So here is the bottom line:

³ 50 MHz ³ 58 ³ 1 ³ 58 ³ 17 ³ 986 ³

³ 144 MHz ³ 68 ³ 1 ³ 68 ³ 15 ³ 1020 ³

³ 222 MHz ³ 0 ³ 2 ³ 0 ³ 0 ³ 0 ³

432MHz 25 ³ 2 ³ 50 ³ 9 ³ 450

³Grids Activated--Rovers Only ³ 9 ³ ³

³ TOTAL ³ 151 ³°°°°°°³ 176 ³ 50 ³ 8800 ³Claimed score

In 700 miles, that is about 12.57 pts/mile. Anyone care for a pts/mile competition??:-)

Not great, but not bad. Considering small antennas, low power on 432, and not much in the way of propagation. Plus, I beat my former personal best score by about 1000 points, so I made my goal. Next time, 5 digits:-)

I have a whole list of station improvements that need made. The biggest of which is better antennas. I've got some ideas for 6, but instead of homebrew for 2 I think I will likely try to find something like a 2m9ssb.

I also want to look into finding some better operating spots in EM77, EM67, EN60, and may look into heading on up to EN61 and EN71....

And next time, I will stick to my schedule. I will stick to my schedule. I will stick to my schedule. I will stick to my schedule. I will stick to my schedule.

73 all, and I hope you had as much fun as I did.