Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 ARRL 10 GHz and Up Contest - Round 2

Saturday, September 20, 2014 the alarm wakes me up at 5:30 am.  I slowly drag myself out of bed, shower and start to pack our Dodge minivan with my 10 GHz rig, my Kenwood TS 2000X, my mast, 2 meter loop and seven element 70 cm rig. By 8:00 am Debbie and I are on the road to Mt. Sterling, IL EN40.  But first, I had to stop at a sporting goods store along the way to purchase another engineering compass.  I had misplaced mine from an earlier outing and I also needed to pick up a piping hot, venti Starbucks coffee!  Kip also insisted on her Starbucks, "Pupachino."

 About two weeks earlier, I had chatted on FM simplex with Larry, W9LEM about the Mound Cemetery possibly being a good microwave site.  He said the cemetery was good in all directions except towards St. Louis.  The hilltop would be better and he told me who to contact to secure permission to operate from there.  Although, Google Maps Directions claimed that driving time would be one hour and forty-five minutes, due to a apple fair and some road closures/detours it took Debbie and I over two and a half hours to get there.  As it turns out, Google Maps road names do not match what is actually there.  The town of Mound Station is really called Timewell, IL.  None of the road signs indicate Mound Station.  Route 2, which takes you to the cemetery, is not called that at all.  Debbie and I found a local, who was exceptionally nice, and he informed us that he's never heard of any road with a two in it.  When he asked us where we were going, he immediately pointed us in the direction of the Mound Cemetery blacktop. "You take this here road west, until you see some anhydrous tanks.  I don't mean to be rude, but do you know what anhydrous tanks look like?"  We assured him that we do, and then he told us to make a right and that would be the  Mound Cemetery blacktop, AKA, in Google Maps, as Route 2.  His directions were fine, and we found the cemetery.  It is a good spot, as Larry suggested, but it was indeed not good back to St. Louis.  The cemetery is on the northeast downhill slope of the hill top.  The hill top, of which the cemetery is a part of, was covered in unharvested corn stalks thereby rendering it useless for microwave.  However, a half mile away from the cemetery was a farm house was on an even higher hill with a view in all directions!

 By this time a large number of ops were gathered back in St. Louis to work Debbie and I and we were already about an hour overdue. The hilltop farmer's wife gave us permission to operate and in my haste to hook up my gear, I cross polarized my power clips to my battery.  I blew out the internal fuse to my MFJ battery booster.  I brought tools, but my tool kit didn't have any screwdrivers.  It didn't matter much.  I didn't have a fuse for it anyway.  Lessons learned.  I bypassed my booster and I did get the rig going, but it was 4 volts underpowered.  Twenty minutes later, I couldn't hear the beacon and I was unable to hear the ops back at the YMCA in St. Louis a distance of 94.6 miles.  They were unable to hear me.  Next I tried Ron, W9ZIH in EN51nv, a distance of 166.4 miles and he was roaring in at 599!  However with ZIH's rubidium standard he is always on .100, but I found him up at .115 and I was drifting.  Ron couldn't hear me.  Being under powered, I am sure my power was down considerably and no telling where I was at in frequency from a poorly heated TXCO.   Okay, lessons learned.  Debbie and I drove to the Peoria Hamfest where I bought some tools, some fuses, some adapters and some other parts, if needed to fix my booster.

 Debbie and I stayed overnight in Peoria and I was able to use our bed as a workbench and five minutes later the booster was repaired and everything was working correctly!  We were back on for Sunday!  On Sunday morning, we made the under 20 mile trek to Craig, K9CT's super contest station for Debbie to see and then we went on a quest to find a suitable microwave site to activate EN50.  This turned out to be no small task.  That area is close to EN40xr and EN50ar, but it is hilly, corn covered and there is an abundance of trees.  Most of Illinois is flat, but this area is not.  We spent two hours looking for suitable sites.  We had fun sightseeing, but crisscrossing the countryside takes up time.  Finally about 8 miles outside of Peoria we found a soybean field with a good view towards ZIH.  I gave Ron a call from EN50dq.  Ron was soon on the air and almost immediately we made a two-way 3 cm QSO - a distance of 94.1 miles.  Afterwards, I did try to hear the WB9PNU/b, but there just were too many obstructions between us.

As it turns out, this wasn't a productive trip in terms of making QSOs, but I did learn a lot and I had a lot of fun.  I need to make sure that I have a good tool kit, plenty of spare fuses for both the rig and the booster, lots of time to scout the area out and at least 45 minutes for my TXCO to stabilize. 

I wish to thank all the SLAM members that came out to work me.  We will do it again gents and this time, if I can again get permission from the farmer, I will activate EN40 for you from a good hill top!  Debbie and I made it back to Girard, IL around 5:00 pm, tired, but all-in-all a great weekend!

 EN40na hilltop looking back towards St. Louis.  Too bad I blew out my battery booster.  As it turns out with my TXCO not heating properly, signals shifted 15 to 25 kc higher on my FT 817.  I did tune, but maybe not high enough to hear the ops back in EM48sq.  Next time!

                                          EN40na wooly worm predicting a harsh winter

                    Me getting ready to listen for Ron W9ZIH.  I heard him but he didn't hear me.

 Another wooly worm predicting a less harsh winter.  He was about six feet from the other wooly.  Must be microclimate forecasting...

                                      Mound Cemetery, EN40na.  Good towards the west.

                               Mound Cemetery, EN40na towards St. Louis...not so good.

                               Mound Cemetery, EN40na looking towards the southeast, I believe.

                        Mound Cemetery, EN40na looking towards W9ZIH whic is northeast.

KC9ULA and Kip relaxing in the motel after a long day of microwaving.  This motel bed also served as my workbench to get my battery booster working again which allowed us to be QRV on Sunday.

                       Part of Craig, K9CT's super contest station in EN50 near Trivoli, IL

                                                  Looking north from K9CT's station.

                                                               K9CT's EME array.

                                            K9CT's antenna farm in EN50

                   My station operating on Sunday, 9-21-14 from EN50dq looking towards W9ZIH (northeast)  in EN51nv about 94 miles away.

                     It was a challenge to find a flat, "treeless" field to in which to operate 3 cm in EN50.

                                                          KC9ULA and Kip at EN50dq

                      EN50dq looking back towards St. Louis.  Not so good in this direction.