2001 ARRL June VHF QSO Party

After Action Report, N9RLA/R


Hi All,

The big contest is done. All the preparations are over, the contest is
done, all of the contacts are in the log, and the log has been submitted.

I spent more time preparing for this contest than any other I have been in.
For almost a year, I saved and scrounged to buy a new rig. I finally bought
my new Icom 746 at Dayton, with one month to go! The past couple of
contests have been experiments trying out different antenna arrangements.
My Dad's old van finally died, so I have to use my Ford Ranger for a Rover
now. That makes it very difficult to haul around many antennas. I finally
settled on a K0FF loop for 6 meters, and a 4 element CC yagi for 2 meters.
These are mounted on a 5' mast with a rotor to the tool box in the bed of
the Ranger. I loose a lot of antenna gain by not having big beams, but for
Roving solo the ability to operate on the fly and having "no setup time"
makes it worthwhile.

I started updating the Rover Resource Page for the contest back in February!
Plans submissions were down quite a bit this year, but the page had several
hundred hits in the weeks before the contest so there are still quite a few
folks using the plans lists. I'll continue to do the lists as long as folks
find it useful.

With the new rig, new Rover vehicle, and new antenna setup, I wanted to make
this my best contest yet. So I set this as my goal for the contest. In
keeping with this goal, I planned out a route that would cover 8 grids.
Previously, the most I had ever done was 5. I got out my maps and picked my
spots. I figured out the time tables and finalized my plans. I then wrote
up a summary and posted on the Rover Resource Page, and sent it out to the
reflectors. Everything was falling into place.

I work third shift, so I finished my work week early Friday morning. I came
home and started putting the final touches on the Ranger to make sure it was
ready for the excursion. Nothing major, just an oil change, and a gas fill
up [ouch!]. I also ran a new DC power supply line to the battery. I never
had a 100 watt rig in the Rover before, so I figured it was time to get
serious. I ran a pair of 8 gauge wires directly to the battery dedicated
for use by the Rover rig. I then re-mounted the antennas and homebrewed an
operating desk to hold all the gear securely in the passenger seat while I'm
in motion. Well let's see, the truck's ready, I've got power, got rigs and
accessories, got antennas, Yep....I'm ready.

Saturday morning....The Adventure Begins. I get up way too early. I finish
reading yesterday's email and do a couple of last minute updates to the
Rover Resource Page. I packed a cooler with sandwiches and pop and I'm
ready to go. I discover the batteries in my camera are dead! About 3 hours
before contest time, I hit the road and headed north. Destination: EN70,
just outside of Noblesville IN, roughly 125 miles from home. I made good
time heading up I65 in spite of a couple of sections of road construction,
the traffic was pretty light for a Saturday. I eased along with the cruise
control set at the speed limit. No hurry here, plus I didn't want to
subject the antennas to much more than 65MPH. Along the way I listened
mostly to 6 meters in hopes of hearing some pre-contest activity. It was
looking good, the band was starting to show signs of opening up:-) Plus I
kept hearing partial callsigns when the band would pop open just for a
moment. Oh, Pings! Someone mentioned a meteor shower this weekend, that
must be what it is...

Contest time.... I rolled into Noblesville with about 30 minutes to go.
Yep, this is where the grid boundary should be, so I drove a couple more
miles for good measure. Sure wish I had one of those GPS gadgets. But I
just bought a new rig, so it will likely be a couple of years before I can
buy any more gadgets! After a while I find a nice shopping center with a
big parking lot where I can start the contest. I pull in and get
comfortable. Still got a few minutes. I turn on 6 meters and bingo! Eskip
to Colorado! Talk about good timing:-) I try to make a few pre-contest
QSO's and whoa, the SWR is high. Where did that come from? That never
happened during my test run... I look around, what changed?? I have
rotated the beam. Sure enough, when I rotate the loop with the gamma match
closer to the cab of the truck the SWR rises to almost 3:1, but with the
gamma away from the truck it runs about 1.2:1. I decide I'll try to keep
the loop in the optimal direction, and use the tuner when necessary. I
start up the computer, tune into WWV on the 746, and sync the computer
clock. Just a couple more minutes left, and then CQ CQ Contest from W1XE
in DN80. I give him a call and bang, he's in the log. I then pick up K0GU
DN70, W0BJ DN91, K7VNU DN50. I try going to 50.161 and calling CQ. No
takers. I tune around pick up a couple more and the band fades away. Darn!
I spend the rest of the first hour tuning around and picking up close-by
stations, then GEE, WHAT'S THAT NOISE?? Turns out to be W9ICE about s9+a
ton, I work him on both bands off the back of the beam. Could likely have
unplugged the antenna and worked them! I try to the north and pick up K9RN
in EN52. Aren't there any hams in Chicago? I finish up the first hour in
EN70, and it's time to roll.

I back track a few miles and find a nice parking lot in EN60. 6 isn't
wanting to cooperate now, but I did manage to pick up K0GU again:-) I say
hi to W9ICE, and K9RU on both bands again. Pick up a few more close-by
stations, but not much action from EN60. Second hours up, time to roll

While rolling south, I pass into EM79. I find W9ICE and K9RU again and say
hello on both bands. They are starting to enjoy this now:-) Worked a few
locals on FM, and then into EM69.

EM69 is one of my favorite spots. I always head for a hilltop in a National
Park just outside of Nashville IN. It's one of the highest points in
Indiana, and has plenty of space where I can park and operate. I find
W9ICE and K9RU again. They're really starting to enjoy this now, 8 QSO's
apiece in just a few hours:-) From this spot I can finally start reaching
out to some of the distant grids. I spend the rest of the afternoon and
early evening here.

As evening starts to draw on, I'm regretting getting up so darned early! I
finally quit EM69 and head for home. Not long after I cross into EM78 I
find W9ICE and give them a couple more:-) But I can't find K9RU this time.
I work a few locals on FM and call it a night. Yep, I hear I missed a late
night 6 meter opening...

Before daylight Sunday morning I'm rolling toward EM68. I get to a hilltop
outside of Salem IN and start making a few QSO's, but it's slow going. Even
took me awhile to find W9ICE. I get a few calls from my CQ's, but it's
mostly search and pounce. 6 comes and goes, but just a few Q's at a time.
Along about this time I spot the "check engine" light coming on in the
Ranger. ARRGH, now what?? It comes on, goes off, comes on, goes off.
Never stays on long, but enough to make me nervous. My next grid is
supposed to be EM67, way down in Kentucky...

I decide to do EM78 instead, another National Park hilltop just outside of
Henryville, IN. It's much closer to home in case of a problem. My
apologies to K8TQK for missing our sked in EM67, but I was afraid to try it.
I pick up quite a bit from here in EM78, including of course, W9ICE. 6
comes and goes some more, this time to the northeast. It was from here
while in QSO with some local friends that I find out that my 2 meter signal
seems to be about equal strength on vertical as horizontal. Hmmmm, this
isn't good. This is probably why activity seems so down this contest. Lord
knows what kind of pattern the beam is showing. There's that darn check
engine light again. Looks like it's time to call it quits. I head home a
little disappointed, not sure what kind of a score I have. Half the log is
on the tape recorder to be transcribed later...

As it turns out, I made my goal, but just barely. I had 144 QSO's, 49
Grids, with 6 grids activated, for a total score of 7056. Not much for
sure, but still a personal best for me believe it or not. My hat is off to
the gang at W9ICE, every grid, every band. Thanks a bunch guys!

Now it looks like I have some antenna work to do. I believe the problem is
being too close to the top of the truck. I'm planning to replace the 5'
mast with an 8 or 10 foot one. To do this will require a bit of work. I'm
thinking about mounting a bearing to the bed of the truck, and fixing the
mast to that, then pass the mast up through the rotor that is mounted to the
tool box. Would probably work for the 8' mast. Or, mounting a roof-top
tripod in the bed of the truck. This would likely handle the 10' mast OK.
Although it may be tough to get comfortable driving down the road with 10'
of antennas sticking up over my truck.

I'll have something ready to road test from a couple of grids in the
CQWW-VHF next month:-) And I'll likely try to do at least the 8 grid route
in September!

Dan Evans N9RLA
444 Lynhurst St.
Scottsburg, IN 47170
1/2 of the N9RLA /R no budget Rover Team
Check out the Rover Resource Page at:
InHam list administrator
QRP-l #1269