K9ZF/R Rover re-cap
The 2004 ARRL June VHF QSO Party
subtitled: 6 meters, what a rush!
After nearly a year of planning, two weeks before the contest it was clear that most of my plans were going to have to be scrapped. Seemingly countless 60 to 70 hour weeks at work had left me almost no time to prepare for the huge Rover trip I was planning. I had no time to:
Build a IF switch to select transverters.
Build a new equipment rack to ergonomically accommodate all the new equipment.
Assemble and test my 222 yagi.
Configure the new laptop for HamIM.
Configure the new laptop for voice & cw keying.
Try out new logging software and configure the GPS interface.
Order signs to put on the Rover truck.
Make up a pamphlet about Roving for the curious.
Scout sites in new grids.
Test new push up mast and determine antenna placement.
Put everything together for a trial run.
With all of that unfinished work, plus the $2/gal gas prices, I decided to give up the previously planned 12+ grid marathon route. Giving up on a personal record setting run, I decided to put together what I could Saturday morning and do a short, 4 grid “home” route. This would keep the milage down to around 200 to help the budget, and keep me close to home in case of equipment failures.
Murphy strikes, repeatedly.
While putting together the equipment rack, I discovered that I had overlooked the need for a DC power cord for my new ThinkPad laptop. DOHH! No computer... Paper logging, no keyers, no score tracking... I wish now that I had kept my old Dell 386 that I had used for a backup for so many years. Lesson learned.
I also discovered that my recently aquired DEM 222 transverter now has no power out. Aarrgghh! It worked the last time I checked it out, but not now. I discovered that my Heathkit Cantenna is now showing 1.3K ohm instead of 50 ohms... So that's probably what happened to the transverter. Back on the “needs repaired” shelf until I can get time to troubleshoot it. No 222 for this contest. That shelf is getting crowded. The transverter, the dummy load, an old Kenwood TR9130 that shuts down the power supply when connected, and various other equipment waiting for that round tuit. Well, at least now I don't have to worry about the 222 yagi or the IF switch box.
I finished putting together the equipment rack without incident and start converting my Ford Ranger into a rolling radio platform. I had completed wiring up the rigs, and was about to start on the antennas when a line of thunderstorms rolled in. I was just beginning to think I would miss much of the contest, when mother nature put me on a 2 hour delay! But in time the storms passed, and I finished the antennas, and headed for my first stop in EM68.
Photo link 1, ready to roll.
Finally some good news.
I roll up to my favorite site in EM68wo, a city park at about 900' [for you mountain folk, that's huge in Indiana]elevation and a good horizon.
Photo link 2, ready to QSO!
I raise the antennas, turn on the rig, and BAM! 6 meters is hopping! So I grabbed a notebook, pen, and the mic, and at 23:30z KC5SME is my first QSO. Only 5.5 hours into the contest! I don't know when the opening started, but it went on for several hours, and I racked up a long list of EM10's, EM20's, EM30's, and a few DM xx's, DN xx's, and with a little happy dance, ZF1DC in EK99!! It was a wild opening, I once worked DM93, then EL29, then FM19, and within a couple of QSO's I was back to DM62. The new Par Moxon Rectangle performed very well. I worked most stations on the first call, and received quite a few “good signal” complements. Although calling CQ didn't seem to work very well. Probably because my transmit power was dropping pretty fast. I only brought along one deep cycle battery this time, and my Icom 746 starts cutting back power very fast with dropping supply voltage. After about the first hour, I was down to around 60 watts out. The 746 really wants 13.8vdc. By the time your battery is at 13.0vdc, the power has started dropping. Solving this puzzle will be an issue for future trips. I decided to stay in EM68 for several hours and put off going to EM78 until morning, because I really hate to move while 6 meters is open. Understandibly, activity was slim on 2m and 432 as everyone was running 6.
Sunday, day 2.
No hurry here, this is a scaled back, mini-rove. I have no intention of setting any records. So after a good nights sleep, I head to my favorite site in EM78bp, a parking lot in national park at 1000' elevation. It's at great elevation, but surrounded by trees. But with only 6, 2, and 432, this is usually a great spot for me. So I raise the antennas and make my first QSO at 12:58z. I run the bands with W8ULC, K4EFD/R, and K9NS, and then BAMM!! 6 opens again! Not as wide this time, but I think I worked every 6 meter station in Florida! And the highlight of the contest, ZF1DC calls me!! And soon there after, I pick up T49C as well! 6 meters rules!! All of you big gun guys keep in mind this was with 2 elements at 20' overtop of my pickup, and something less than 100 watts. I stayed in EM78 for a few hours. Longer than I had planned, but hey, 6 was open! Plus I worked more on 2 and 432, so things were going good. After a few hours, it was becoming hard to find new Florida stations to work, so e-skip or not, it's time to Rove.
It took a couple of hours to get to the next site in EM79bf. No elevation here, just a shopping center parking lot with annoying rfi in a couple of directions. And, as luck would have it, no more e-skip. 6 did pop open a few times long enough for me to pick up K5TR, and W5KFT, but not much else. I did hear K1TOL for just a moment, but he was gone before I could make the QSO. On the bright side, with the e-skip gone the local activity had picked up quite a bit. After about an hour and a half, it was time to move.
For my forth and last grid, I headed up to Brown County state park, and EM69vd. Fire Tower hill is over 1000' and one of the highest points in the state. Normally a very good site.
Photo link 3, QRZ DX DE K9ZF/R
There is a ton of other rf equipment up here, but I haven't had any interferance problems on my 3 bands. Unfortunately, still no more e-skip, and by now it's getting late in the afternoon and QSO's are getting hard to come by. I spent the next few hours scratching out as many contacts as possible. Most of the stations ran all 3 of my bands with me. The new amp and big yagi on 432 has made a huge difference. Although it's now painfully obvious that my AR40 rotator has some problems. I can't get it to settle in any given direction, it just rocks band and forth. Which really makes it tough to find stations on 432. Other than replacing some bearings, I haven't had much experience working on rotors, but I'm guessing the potentiometer is bad. Another item for the repair shelf. I'm considering not only replacing the potentiometer, but also rebuilding the control box to hopefully get improved pointing accuracy. I hate to spend big bucks on a rotor, when the AR40 is more than enough, if I can just get it to point where I want it to. A power supply, a potentiometer, and a meter, hmmm... Anyway, after a few hours here, another thunderstorm is heading my way. Not wanting to get caught in a storm on top of the hill, I call it quits and head for home.
Well, here is the summary. This was to be a “scaled back” mini-rove, just for fun. I didn't even try to set any personal bests, but darn near did anyway thanks to 6 meters! I can only imagine how things would have gone with all of the planned accessories, a forth band, and 8 more grids activated, but hey there is always next year.
A couple more good photos:
RoverLog Score Summary, Using new rover rules:
Band QSOs Value QSOPts Mults
50 91 1 91 34
144 49 1 49 15
222 0 2 0 0
432 37 2 74 8
Grids activated: 4
Totals: 177 214 61
Claimed Score: 13054
I hope to be better prepared, and out again in the July CQWW-VHF, and the September VHF! But now I'm still working on Field Day...