Adventures in ham radio

WW7D/M’s 2016 7QP

The 7th call area QSO party (7QP) was held on Saturday, May 7th this year. This was my 6th consecutive 7QP as a mobile station. It is still 18 hours of frenzied ham radio fun.

Last year, my buddy David and I roved from central Montana to central Washington state, hitting a total of 30 counties. We considered running a similar route this year, but for several reasons opted to head back to Idaho and tweak our 2014 7QP route. Our hope was to add the rare Lemhi and Custer counties in exchange for Owyhee county.

The week of the 7QP, David came down with a nasty chest infection that pretty much ruled out three or four days on the road. This meant that I would do the 2016 7QP solo. My final schedule included a stop in Lemhi in exchange for Owyhee. I tried to work in Custer, but the county added a lot of time on an unfamiliar gravel road. That would have been okay with a driver, but was too much for my solo effort.

In past years, David and I acquired a late-model vehicle, which I would get a day or two in advance and do a no-holes, no damage installation. But without David, I would use my 1988 Toyota Pickup truck—the one that is approaching 240,000 miles. Consequently, the equipment set-up was almost identical to what I used in March for the 2016 IDQP.

David and I had planned on leaving on Thursday for the 12 hour drive to SE Idaho. We intended to do spend the night near the Oregon, Idaho border and do a joint SOTA (and possibly NPOTA) activation sometime on Friday. This is pretty much what I did, only solo.

I left Redmond at 5pm on Thursday, and stopped in Baker City, OR, for the night. The next morning, I drove to Idaho while chasing SOTA activations as a warm-up exercise for the 7QP. At Mountain Home, ID, I took a diversion north and headed to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. When I arrived in the afternoon, it was raining enough to put a damper on thoughts of a joint SOTA/NPOTA activation. But the skies were clear to the west, so I hung out for awhile and the rain stopped.

I took the break in the weather to hike to the summit of Big Cinder Butte (SOTA: W7I/CI-126, NPOTA: MN21 & PV05), and activate the summit and Craters.

I arrived at my motel in Driggs, ID with plenty of time to relax and hit the sack early.

Equipment

A Kenwood TS-480sat was the RF workhorse this contest. I also had a Yaesu FT-857 and an LDG Z100plus tuner set up as a spare and to monitor bands for openings. Additionally, another Yaesu FT-857 monitored 2m simplex for local QSOs. A home-built antenna switch using latching SMA relays was used to move different antennas among different rigs.

The remote heads were mounted on a panel in front of the center console. On the dash itself were two cell phones. One served as a 24 hr clock. The other ran the “WhereAmI” app that uses GPS to tell me what county I am in.

This is the Rover “dash board”.

Antennas were three homebuilt screwdriver antennas. The rear left antenna was on 15m by day and 20m by night. The rear right antenna was 20m by day and 40m by night. And antenna mounted in a rotor off the front of the truck (the rotor is just a mount…no rotation was necessary), was set for 40m by day and 80m by night. Finally a 10m 1/4 wave whip is mounted in the bed just behind the driver.

The antenna farm consists of three screwdriver antennas (one mounted at the front, and two in the rear bed), one 10m quarter wave whip near the front of the bed, and a 2m/432 MHz mount on top of the cab.

The Contest

The fun began on the Teton, ID and Teton WY, county/state line. Forty meters CW was hopping at the 7am MDT (1300z) start of the party. My very first QSO was with another rover, Dink, N7WA/M, who was on a county line in Washington state. That resulted in four QSOs (two counties to two counties). What a great way to start! Next was my buddy Gabor, VE7JH, one of the mighty VHF contesters of the Pacific Northwest. Soon after, I worked our 7QP host, Dick, N7XU/M, in Twin Falls, Idaho…perhaps at the same spot I would be at in the afternoon. I worked an Oregon county line station, AA5TL/7, for another 4 QSOs.

Sitting on the north end of the Wyoming–Idaho state line (N. Stateline rd).

After 25 minutes, I realized that every QSO except the one with VE7JH was a 7 call area QSO. They were not the folks who got the most benefit from my 12+ hour drive to the Idaho/Wyoming border. I switched to 20m CW and almost immediately worked N7WA/M, still on a county line–four more! I did manage to work an Iowa station before turning to 40m SSB. Here I did a quick search-and-pounce and found W7AFA in CA, K8TE in NM, and a bunch of 7-land stations, including three members of my local Radio Club of Redmond (WA), Steve, W7QC (portable in Boundary County, ID), Grant, KZ1W and John, K7RLD.

After 40 minutes, I had 50 QSOs in the log–most double-QSOs, and a few quadruple QSOs. It was time to drive.

Twenty meters was now pretty open as I drove through the counties of Teton, Madison, Fremont, back into Madison, and into Jefferson. Occasionally, I would try 40m, but it didn’t last that long, and I was back on 20m. Fifteen meters was a big disappointment. I managed a single 15m QSO while driving through Clark county to the Clark–Lemhi county line.

I spent 55 minutes on the Clark-Lemhi county line, and it yielded 104 non-duplicate QSOs (mostly double QSOs, but one quadruple QSO). That felt good! Six of the QSOs were on 15m.

The Clark–Lemhi county line.
The Clark–Lemhi county line.

After a short drive back through Clark county, I landed on the Butte–Jefferson county line. Fifty minutes here produced 94 QSOs. Not too shabby! Twenty of the QSOs were on 15m. That was the only real “run” for that band. In fact, 1817z was the last 15m QSO for the contest.

The Butte–Jefferson county line

While sitting on the Butte–Jefferson line, I noticed that, in my haste to redo the trip as a solo effort, I had messed up on the travel time between two counties–I put zero minutes where I should have had 30 minutes. The error meant I would be about 30 minutes behind schedule. I decided to skip a few short stops along Interstate 15 to make up for the time. I sailed through Jefferson, Bonneville, Bingham, Bannock, Power, Cassia and Minnidoka, finally stopping on the Minidoka–Jerome county line. During this adventure I pretty much camped on 20m with some 40m QSOs sprinkled in.

After a 10 minute stop, the journey continued into Jerome and took at diversion south to Twin Falls county, were a 30 minute stop yielded 25 QSOs. Forty meters provided a few QSOs, but the majority were on 20 CW and a handful on 20 SSB.

Back on the road, I finished Jerome county, headed north through Gooding county and into Lincoln county. The 60 minute trip produced 58 QSOs, before I stopped on the Lincoln–Blaine county line. There I got a 20m SSB run going that produced 36 QSOs in 20 minutes.

Back on the road in Blaine county, I headed north to US 20 and headed west through Camas and into Elmore county. Beginning around 0000z, and for the next 2 hours, I transitioned from 20m to 40m as the money band. During this same period, the rain started. And the rain occasionally turned violent with electrical storms and brief episodes of BB-sized hail.

By the time I hit Ada county, 20m was fizzling out. At the Ada–Boise county line I made an unplanned stop. The rain was very heavy, and there was heavy lightening activity, seemingly, a few miles north of me to where I was headed. My plans had been to take a dirt road about 5 miles to the Boise–Gem county line. I’ve done this spur numerous times, including in March for the IDQP, but never with heavy rain. The road was rutted and I would be fairly exposed to lightening with few trees and rolling hills. Instead, I decided to work the Ada–Boise line and take a small diversion to Gem county from Payette county.

Ada–Boise produced 43 QSOs for a 30 minute stop. Through the rain and darkness, I headed through Ada county and then Canyon county into Payette county, where I parked at the north end of Labor Camp road, on the Payette–Gem county line. This was a spot I had used during the IDQP several years ago. After spending a few minutes on 40m, I switched to 80m (at 0415z) and got something of a run going. I left after 25 minutes and 48 QSOs, and then headed through Payette county for 30 minutes to the Payette-Washington county line.

After a few QSOs on 40m, I went to 80m (0525z) and stayed there for the remaining 95 minutes of the contest. I left the Payette–Washington county line after 20 minutes and 30 QSOs, with 75 minutes remaining in the 7QP. I made a dash through Washington, Idaho into Malheur county, Oregon, and then into Baker county, finishing the contest close to Baker City, where I stopped for the night.

Results

In the end, I activated all 29 planned counties, although I made but a single QSO in Bannock county. After removing duplicates, we ended up with 750 CW QSOs and 130 Phone QSOs for a total of 880 QSOs. Last year I made 1,019 QSOs, but that was with a driver. Here is the distribution of QSOs by band and mode:

Band
CW
Phone
80
104
4
40
184
23
20
435
103
15
27
0
Total
750
130

In all, 329 unique calls were worked. Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs and counties:

Call
QSOs
Counties
N6MU
21
18
N7WA/M
15
6
WA2VYA
13
13
N8II
13
9
VE7JH
12
10
W6AFA
11
11
KD7H
10
10
N5AU
10
9

Total multipliers were 52. This included 45 states (all but DE, LA, ND, NE, and SC), four VE provinces (BC, ON, QC, and SK), and three DX entities (DL, HA, and JA). Thus, 750 CW QSOs and 130 Phone QSOs the claimed score is:

52*(750*3 + 130*2) = 130,520.

(Shortcut to this post.)

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Comments on: "WW7D/M’s 2016 7QP" (1)

  1. […] route this year was slightly tweaked from what I did last year, basically roving through 29 counties, mostly in Idaho. Again, I roved in my trusty 1988 Toyota […]

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