So a couple of weekends ago I went up to Wildcat Mountain State Park on a misty, chilly morning to try out the back-of-the-minivan setup that I had assembled. Few QSOs resulted, but it was a great learning experience.
Very early in the morning I posted my proposed activation on the POTA site and made my first mistake: I posted as operating on 14185 instead of 14285 (QRP SSB calling frequency) … this error persisted all day! I found out about it when I got home and found an email advising me of this from someone who heard me CQing there.
I set up the Buddipole as a 20 meter vertical as described in NE1RD’s “Buddipole in the Field” book, which I bought at Dayton several years ago. This setup served me well when I activated this park back in June, because it is self-supporting and very well suited to parking-lot use. I set up the Xiegu X6100 on the table in the back, spotted myself, and started calling. It was really hard to hear anything because of the S5 – S6 background noise! Well, the solution for that was clear: shut off the engine! This, of course, led to other issues; no heat, and no 12 volt power from the outlet in back. The 6100 had topped up its charge while plugged in, and I had my 18650 batteries, so the power issues were solved, but the lack of heat would be more of a problem in Wisconsin winter weather. The good news was that the RF noise dropped to almost nothing! That brought the next issue to the front: the band was fading in & out wildly. So many partial contacts!
40 degrees and 100% humidity kept me either chilly-and-operating or warm-and-standing-by in the driver’s seat. Huge waste of operating time!
A view of the Kickapoo Valley from the Observation Point … and a view of the thermometer hanging from the Buddipole.
Finally got too cold and the batteries got too low so I took down the antenna and drove home to enjoy a couple of bowls of hot soup.
Things I learned:
- I need to run 12 volt power direct from the battery to the back seat. Down in the basement I have a big spool of 12 gauge x 2 conductor cable that will be perfect for the job. This will also allow me to operate higher power when that might be useful.
- I don’t need to start so early; I don’t start to hear other parks on the air until around 10 am. Park-to-park has always been one of my best sources for QSOs, other parks have really motivated operators, just like me. Starting at or near dawn has carried over from hiking, I think; I really enjoy having the whole park to myself before anyone else is out and about.
- I need to figure out an alternate source of heat so I don’t need to periodically run the engine. No idea what that’s going to be, right now.
- QRP SSB calling frequency is 14285!
- And (of course!) I need to sharpen up my CW skills so I can quit SSB! QRP phone operation always seems like having one foot in a bucket of concrete.
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