Saturday, 5:30 am CDT, not too bright and way too early, my alarm awoke me to get showered, to get breakfast and to be out the door by 6:30 am to make the trek from Girard to Ohlman Cemetery EM59ji to participate in the first weekend of the ARRL 10 GHz and Up contest. Since I had loaded the rig in my car the night before, all I had to do in the morning was to make a thermos of coffee, connect my 10 MHz OCXO to my car's 12 VDC so that it will be warmed up and stable when I arrived at the cemetery about 35 miles away.
By 7:45 am, I was not only up and running, but I was copying the WB9PNU beacon, 78.3 miles away, 599 +! A personal first for me! I tried to make a contact with Ron, W9ZIH, but I noticed that a juniper tree was directly in front of me about 70 yards. I moved west about 60 feet and Ron's signal went from no reception to 559! He was able to copy me at his QTH near Malta, IL EN51nv, 176.3 miles away at 8:15 am! I made a video of our QSO which is posted here, but the other two videos (WB9PNU/B and W9SZ are too large to upload to this blog site, but they can be seen on my Facebook page.
My next QSO was with Jim, N5MU in Missouri, EM48qf (109 miles away) with a 519 report at 8:22 am. Zack, W9SZ entered the log next with a 599 from EN50rl. Zack was roaring in here and I've never heard him louder at 9:10 am! I then tried to work Jim, W9SNR in EN62cc, 203.8 miles away, but we only heard bits and pieces of our signals - nowhere good enough to constitute a QSO. After these QSOs I was feeling stoked! I knew that Zack wasn't planning to operate on Sunday so, on the spur of the moment, I decided to drive to EN40 and EN50 to activate those grids!
An hour and a half later, I was set up in EN50aa and I worked Zack, W9SZ at 1:22 pm in EN50xf (102.5 miles away with a report of 589. He heard me just fine and then at 1:43 pm I made a two-way QSO with Steve, N4PZ in EN52gb (145 miles away with a 529 report. At 1:52, Ron, W9ZIH and I made a Q - a distance of 105 miles. Mike, AA9IL was not able to set up in EN52xi, so we were not able to try the path. Next time! Now on to EN40!
EN40 is only about a half of a mile away from my EN50aa spot, but trying to find a suitable microwave site proved to be quite a challenge. When I had scoped it out last November, there were soy bean fields, but now there were tall, corn fields. I spent the next 45 minutes driving around the countryside to find a good spot only to end up about a mile from the EN50aa location. In about ten minutes I was now QRV from EN40xa. It was flat and soybeans to the east and northeast, but tall corn to the north. I gave Zack, W9SZ a call and after some trial and error, I arose out of the noise and we worked each other at 3:20 pm with a 529 report - a distance of 106.9 miles! I tried calling Ron, W9ZIH on the phone, but he wasn 't home unfortunately. I tried Steve, N4PZ and he could tell I was there, but I wasn't able to copy his signals. The corn was just too tall and I didn't have a better spot to relocate. A nice farmer came by to inquire about the set up and he was glad to see the operation. After wishing me luck, he was on his way and I awaited Jim, W9SNR to arrive at his site. Unfortunately, thunderstorms kept him from getting on the hill and he decided to call it a day. By this time I was hot, tired and hungry, so I was ready to call it a day as well.
All in all, it was a great day to be out and about microwaving. I am seriously thinking about activating EM69 and EM68 for the second half of the contest this September. Debbie could visit her niece attending Indiana State U, as a freshman, in Terre Haute and she could also offer ops another call sign to work! We will see what my search of Google Maps reveals in terms of potentially high locations.