September 1998 ARRL VHF QSO Party

Bdale's Report

John and I started talking a week or so before the contest about mounting a rover expedition. While cleaning out the basement to prepare for concrete sawing to connect the basements under the new additions, I managed to get all the relevant pieces in a couple of boxes near the door of the shed. For 6m, my TS-430S would link up with the Ten-Tec 6m transverter kit I won at CSVHFS '95, and first fired up in the back yard in the June contest this year. The quad wasn't going to move easily, though, so we didn't have an antenna. For 2m, my TS-790A would get a 4-element Cushcraft 2m yagi from the garage. For 70cm, I had an un-deployed 11-element K1FO from Rutland Arrays that I bought a while back for a 56kb digital link we never put up, and the TS-790A. For 23cm, I had the band module in the TS-790A, but no antenna. John offered to try putting one of the Kent Britain "cheap yagis" together using dimensions from the proceedings of CSVHFS '94.

So, the only preparation work we did was John's fabrication of the antenna, my getting all the maybe-useful pieces together in one place in my shed, and a few good ideas from the Rover Forum at CSVHFS '98.

Saturday morning, I took my daughter to her violin lessons. John arrived about 12:30, and we sat down over lunch to figure out what we were going to do. We put the roof rails on my Trooper, and played with my new $50 Harbor Freight drill press and an 8' 1x4, ending up with the 1x4 wire-tied to the cross rails, sticking out over the back of the Trooper a couple of feet on the right side, and with a notch in the end that we could stand some Radio Shack antenna mast up through, pinning it into place so that it would stay up and could be rotated by hand. I had 2 5' sections of mast, and John brought one from his garage, so we had 15' of mast.

We stared at the 6m quad for a while, then gave in to reality and decided what we really needed was a dipole. I found a 10' section of PVC, a couple of short pieces, some end caps, and a couple of tees... plus some 10-gauge insulated copper wire, and a 15' piece of RG-58 with a BNC on one end. We ended up with a dipole that we could shove into the top of the RS mast, and with a bit of tape, keep it from twisting in the wind. So, of the 4 antennas we used, two were commercial kits, one was a pre-contest hack, and one was a during-contest hack.

We stacked up the antennas in the driveway, got the mast vertical, and found suitable lengths of RG-58 with BNC's from my pile of scrap thin-lan cabling. Everything else was either bad RG-8, long 9913 runs, or a long heliax run. We maxed out the adapter combinations getting everything wired up, and then tried to test things out. Another round of cable fabrication ensued to get power to the rigs from the binding posts up front under the passenger seat, and we were ready to test.

After a very long time spent scratching our heads, we found a BNC-N adapter that the center pin had pulled apart on, and were up and running on all four bands. By this time, it was mid afternoon, 6m was open and we could hear what we think was a Cuban working a Mexican, and everyone got excited including the carpenters working on my house! Just then, a serious downpour rolled in, scrubbing the construction crew's efforts, and causing us to decide to punt until Sunday, still with no contacts.

Sunday morning I spent moving boxes out of the basement to the shed trying to finish getting ready for the impending concrete sawing, and John took care of some errands. He arrived at my place at 11am or so. We tore the antennas down, rigged for travel, and headed out. After a stop for gas, fluids, and munchies, we drove northeast into the southwest corner of DM89. My house is near the south edge of DM79, and we had to drive into DM78, then back across the very southeast corner of DM79 to get to DM89. While we were driving through DM78, we worked N0SWV on both 2m and 70cm FM simplex, and set up a sked for our arrival in DM89.

We found a fairly nice little hill with some road construction at the apex that gave us a nice wide area next to the road to park on with no weeds and therefore no bugs to bother us. It took 15-20 minutes to get everything set up and get on the air. We worked N0SWV as scheduled on 2m and then 6m, and then picked up several other stations in the Denver area that heard us. They were busy working N0LL in EM09 on 144.200, so we spun the beams around and managed to work him on both 2m and 70cm SSB! Exciting stuff! W6OAL had the honor of being our first-ever 1296 contact, and his reaction on hearing that we were running 5w into 15' of RG-58 to 11 elements was worth the drive... [grin]. By the time we left, we'd worked 7 stations in 4 grids on 4 bands, and felt like things had been a success already!

The dirt road we were on ran due north-south. So, we headed south for a half hour or so, crossing into DM88. We scouted a better site in DM89 along the way, which we marked for next time! I gather DM88 isn't lit unless a rover goes there, as there was quite a bit of interest in us when we got set up, this time in about 10-15 minutes. We worked 12 stations on 2m, and 7 of them on 70cm. The 6m setup was giving us fits, with RF getting into the HF rig's processor and driving it crazy every time we keyed. We played with the antenna, moved ferrites around, and never really got it working well again. We got 7 grids, including DM67, EM09, DN70, and DM98. Again, loads of fun. The 23cm to Denver was dead, the problem with EM88 is that there just aren't any good hills that we could see in the corner we were in...

From there, we jogged north a touch and then west into the northeast corner of DM78. We found a nice turn-out into a sunflower field on a ridge and set up in well under 10 minutes. Practice, and all that! By this time it was about 5:30pm local, thunderstorms were north and east of us, and some stations had apparently shut down until the storms passed. Even with all that, we worked 9 stations in 4 grids on 2m, and 4 of them on 70cm as well, including N0KM again in DM67... that was cool given the terrain in between us!

It was getting late, and the rain was headed our way, so we tore down and headed back for my place. On the way home, we found N0SWV again on 70cm FM simplex, and told him we were headed for home in DM79. We indicated that we could set up briefly on the high point of the road around my neighborhood in Black Forest if anyone was still around, and he encouraged us to do so. So, we set up a mile or so from the house up on top of the hill, and worked 4 stations in DM78 and DM79, all on 2m and 70cm, and two of them on 1296, all in about 5 minutes after setting up! By this time it was nearly 8pm local, it was dark, it was cold (I had shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, and no jacket!), and we'd had enough. So, we packed it up and headed to the house.

I haven't filled out the forms or added up the score yet, and I don't really care! We had a blast, and are already talking about adding 220 and 902 before January... plus maybe working on the 6m setup to cure the HF rig funnies. This was a first-time rover experience for both of us, and I think we're hooked!

A few thoughts for next time. Wear long pants, the bug bites on my legs are annoying. Take a couple of chairs. Take more munchies and fluids. Drive less, operate more around the 4-grid corner. Fix the 6m RF problem! Get up on 222 and 902... both would have gotten us more contacts. Put preamps at the antennas! Scrounge something better than RG-58... but keep the BNC's if we can, they were just too easy to take on and off. Another five feet of mast? Definitely need it if we add two more bands. Announce to the locals when we're leaving the house via 70cm FM, they'll be ready when we get to the first grid.

John's Photos

Our Score

Call Used:		N3EUA
Grid(s) Activated:	DM78 DM89 DM88 DM79 
Entry Type:		Rover

                QSOs    Pts/QSO   QSO Pts   Mult
50 MHz           2       1         2         1 
144 MHz          31      1         31        8 
432 MHz          23      2         46        6 
1296 MHz         4       3         12        2 

All Bands        60                91        17 

GRIDS ACTIVATED                              4        Rover Scoring Used


Bdale Garbee, $Id: index.html,v 1.3 1999/04/13 20:00:36 bdale Exp $