Adventures in ham radio

Archive for the ‘HF contests’ Category

WW7D’s 2017 Salmon Run plan

WW7D will be mobile for the 2017 Salmon Run, activating 22 counties. This post discusses my route, schedule, and frequencies.

Route: My route will be much like last year’s. On Saturday, I’ll start out on the King–Pierce county line, and make my way west and south, ending near the Columbia River on the Clark–Skamania line. Here are the details for Saturday (time are PDT):

  1. King–Pierce: 9:00 AM — 10:30 AM
  2. Pierce: 10:30 AM — 11:05 AM
  3. Kitsap: 11:05 AM — 11:25 AM
  4. Kitsap–Mason: 11:25 AM — 12:10 PM
  5. Mason: 12:10 PM — 1:05 PM
  6. Grays Harbor: 1:05 PM — 2:10 PM
  7. Pacific–Grays Harbor: 2:10 PM — 3:40 PM
  8. Grays Harbor: 3:40 PM — 4:10 PM
  9. Thurston: 4:10 PM — 4:30 PM
  10. Thurston–Lewis: 4:30 PM — 6:00 PM
  11. Thurston: 6:00 PM — 6:10 PM
  12. Lewis: 6:10 PM — 6:40 PM
  13. Cowlitz: 6:40 PM — 7:25 PM
  14. Cowlitz–Wahkiakum: 7:25 PM — 8:55 PM
  15. Cowlitz: 8:55 PM — 9:40 PM
  16. Clark: 9:40 PM — 10:30 PM
  17. Clark–Skamania: 10:30 PM — 12:00 AM

Here is a picture of the route (same as last year):

Sunday, I’ll begin in the south part of central Washington, and make my way north:

  1. Yakima–Klickitat: 9:00 AM — 10:00 AM
  2. Klickitat: 10:00 AM — 10:10 AM
  3. Benton: 10:10 AM — 11:15 AM
  4. Franklin: 11:15 AM — 11:55 AM
  5. Franklin–Adams: 11:55 AM — 12:05 AM
  6. Adams: 12:05 AM — 1:00 PM
  7. Lincoln: 1:00 PM — 2:20 PM
  8. Grant: 2:20 PM — 2:35 PM
  9. Grant—Douglas: 2:35 PM — 3:20 PM
  10. Douglas: 3:20 PM — 3:35 PM
  11. Okanogan: 3:35 PM — 4:00 PM
  12. Okanogan–Ferry: 4:00 PM — 5:00 PM

Even if you get bored on Sunday afternoon, try to get on for the last two hours (2 PM to 5 PM), as I will cover five relatively rare counties.

Frequencies I’ll try to land on frequencies ending on a 7, when possible, except on 2m and 6m SSB.

CW

  • 3.547 MHz
  • 7.037 MHz
  • 14.047 MHz
  • 21.037 MHz
  • 28.037 MHz

SSB

  • 3.917 MHz
  • 7.247 MHz
  • 14.327 MHz
  • 21.367 MHz
  • 28.367 MHz
  • 50.125 MHz
  • 144.200 MHz

I’ll also monitor 146.52 MHz FM and 52.525 MHz FM.

Notice that 20m phone is much higher than the recommended frequency. I usually have a very difficult time finding an open spot on 20 phone, so I am just going to start out in the less populated part of the band. When the band dies down, I may move back down to 14.287 MHz or so.

I’ll have a rotatable hex beam on 6m (50.125 MHz) and a 4 element yagi on 2m (144.200 MHz), so don’t hesitate to move me to these frequencies if you are nearby.

Best wishes to everyone participating in the contest.

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.)

WW7D’s 2016 Idaho QSO party results

This is the 4th consecutive year that I have participated in the IDQP. The state’s landscape, geological features, roads, and weather still intrigue me. And the state rewards my attention with surprises and new experiences every time.

For this year, my objective was to hit 26 counties (like last year) and do a better balance between phone and CW. Last year I made only 161 SSB QSOs and 530 CW QSOs. In some sense this is good as CW QSOs are two points to an SSB QSO’s one point. But multipliers accumulate by mode. And for the IDQP, mobile stations start accumulating multipliers in each county. Therefore, providing a better balance between phone and CW should lead to lower point totals but more multipliers.

A second objective was to improve my mobile antenna set-up. I discuss that more below.

Station

My trusty 1988 Toyota pickup truck served as the mobile platform. The primary rig was a Kenwood TS-480SAT running 100W. I also had a couple of FT-857Ds along for the ride. I made a couple of QSOs on one of the Yaesus. The other one monitored 146.52 for reasons unrelated to the contest. Its contest function was to serve as a back-up for the other two HF rigs.

The radio equipment mounted in a rack in the passenger seat. The Kenwood is on the bottom and is not visible. Two Yaesu FT-857Ds are visible as well as an amp for 2m (not for the contest).

Remote heads were mounted on a sheet metal bracket in the center of the console. On top of the dash, a pair of cell phones provided a 24 hour clock and one phone ran the “WhereAmI” app that displays the current county. A Tom Tom GPS was programmed with the route.

The three remote heads are mounted on a sheet metal bracket. The bracket slides left and right for access to HVAC and other controls.

Antennas included three homebuilt screwdrivers that I refurbished last fall with better finger stock. Each antenna had a custom whip/hat set-up to cover two bands. Two of the antennas had home made capacitance hats, and I cut the top whip antennas to bring the total antenna height up to just under the 14′ legal limit when used on the lowest band. There was one antenna mounted in a rotor on a bracket on front of the truck. The other two antennas were mounted near the rear of the bed (left=driver’s side and right). Additionally, a 1/4 wave 10m whip antenna was mounted in the front of the bed on the left. (The two rotors that can be seen in the photos are for my VHF rover efforts.)

Rear antennas mounted in the bed.
Front antenna mounted in a rotor.

I planned a daytime and nighttime configuration for the screwdriver antennas. During the day, the front antenna would be on 40m, the right-rear antenna would be on 20m and the left-rear antenna on 15m. The front antenna could easily be moved to 80m if necessary during the day, if only because I could easily see the tuning mark. Once 40m started opening up, the night-time configuration would have the right rear set for 40m, front to 80m and left-rear to 20m.

A home built antenna switch allowed me to move antennas between the two rigs.

Route Overview

I worked hard to improve on the route from 2015. In particular, I tried working in an additional county in the same amount of time. But I couldn’t do that and end up in the western part of the state for my drive home. I did make a few minor changes to the stops and the timing of some stops. The schedule was posted here a few days before the contest.

The plan for day one begins on the Lemhi–Clark county line on the Salmon highway followed by an eastbound trek to the Madison–Teton county line. From there, the route backtracks a bit before heading south, eventually taking a short spur into Twin Falls county. From there the route zig-zags north to Blaine county and then west through Camas, Elmore and ending at a motel in Boise (Ada county).

WW7D/M's 2015 IDQP Route, Day 1
WW7D/M’s 2015 IDQP Route, Day 1 (click for larger image)

Sunday morning begins before sunrise with a trip up to the Boise–Gem county line located several miles down a dirt road off of highway 55. The route backtracks from there through Ada county into Canyon, takes a detour through Owyhee county and then north through Canyon, Payette and ends on the Payette–Washington county line.

WW7D/M's 2015 IDQP Route, Day 2
WW7D/M’s 2015 IDQP Route, Day 2 (click for larger image)

Getting There

The trip to Idaho Falls started on Friday morning just after 9am. This is about a 12 hour direct trip through Oregon, following interstate highways to Idaho Falls. I took a side route through a national park that allowed me to activate a National Park for the ARRL’s National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) program. I left for Idaho with all of the antennas deployed. The primary reason was that I wanted to practice using the radio and antennas as warm-up for the contest. Along the way I chased Summits on the Air (SOTA) activations, and managed to work about a half dozen of these QRP stations.

It was getting dark out about the time I hit Boise, ID. Between Boise and Mountain Home, one of the screwdriver antennas broke. This is the third or forth time I’ve had one of the screwdrivers fail in this way. My screwdrivers are built pretty much like the W6AAQ plans. This includes a PVC slip bushing at the base with a 3/4″ copper pipe reducer threaded into the bottom. The PVC slip bushing is the weak link. One screwdriver fails in this way every two or three contests. The 15m antenna bit it this time. Fortunately, failures are non-events. A heavy ground wire, coax and motor control cable held the downed antenna inside the bed of the truck.

At Mountain Home (after removing the screwdriver), I took a diversion north on Hwy 20 and followed the margin between the upper Snake River Plain and the southern Sawtooth National Forest. This led me to the north end of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. I stopped in a park parking lot and spent an hour handing out pairs of NPOTA QSOs–pair because I was in both a national preserve and a monument simultaneously. For me, it was a great warm-up for the forthcoming IDQP.

Activating Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve on Friday night.

Saturday morning I stopped by a hardware store on the way to my starting point to pick up a new slip bushing for the broken screwdriver. As I approached my starting point on the Lemhi–Clark county line, there was another car parked just past the sigh. “Oh-oh,” I though, “someone has the same idea for a starting point.” Alas, it turned out to be some people photographing the mountains to the west. I repaired the broken screwdriver and the scanned the bands in preparation for the start.

The Contest

At the start of the contest, 20m was the only band that appeared to be open, and that seemed a little slow. Consequently there were only 21 stations who worked me in Lemhi County, all but three QSOs were on 20m the rest on 15m.

On the Clark–Lemhi line, waiting for the contest to start.

The 20m band gradually opened up as I moved to Butte, Jefferson, and Madison. I skipped stopping in Fremont on my east-bound trip, as I was occupied with traffic in the town of Teton.

The Butte–Clark county line.

The 20m band was pretty productive by the time I hit the Madison–Teton county line. Here I got my longest 15m run of eleven QSOs (times 2 because I was on a county line). The band was largely out of play for the rest of the day, and most of Sunday.

Sitting on a road that is divided between Madison and Teton counties.

I backtracked toward I-15 and stopped for about 25 minutes in Fremont County. Sometime after 2300 UTC, I made a few 15m and 20m QSOs, and then 20m fizzled out and 40m started opening up. I hit Bonneville County at 2348 UTC and had a heck of a time raising anyone. I ended up with only 6 QSOs by the time I reached Bingham county at 0008 UTC. My last 20m QSO of the day was at 0010.

Fortunately, 40m was moderately productive after 20m closed down. I even got a fair 80m run going while in Power county, working stations from VA to NE to OR. At the Bannock–Power county line, I exited onto US 30 and then onto a railroad frontage road that had a county line intersection. That 30 minute stop was moderately productive, but the noise levels were high in this industrial area.

The next stop was supposed to be the Cassia–Minidoka county line. But I had fallen about 15 minutes behind schedule, so I sailed through Minidoka making 21 QSOs in the 15 minutes it took to traverse the county. That got me to Jerome County 15 minutes ahead of schedule and in the dark. About half way through the county I took a diversion south, across the Snake River and into Twin Falls County, where I stopped at a scenic overlook (that isn’t at all scenic in pitch black). It was here that 75m yielded something of a run.

From Twin Falls County, I was back in Jerome County for a spell. By the time I reached Gooding County, it started raining and the QSO rate started to taper off. Gooding County produced seven QSOs in 25 minutes. Lincoln produced 10 QSOs in 30 minutes. After a few unsuccessful moments calling CQ on the Lincoln–Blaine county line, the cold rain convinced me that my progress might be slowed by weather. Indeed, once I hit about 5,000 feet, the rain turned to slushy snow. The snow continued, at times in near white-out intensities through parts of Blaine, all of Camas and parts of Elmore counties. Fortunately the snow was melting when it hit the road, except for a couple of slushy patches.

I was able to focus almost entirely on driving during my trek over 5000′ AGL as the CW keyer’s endless stream of CQs bore little fruit. In all, there were four Blaine County QSOs, only three in Camas County and a mere two in Elmore County. I got one more QSO in Ada County before arriving at the motel around 12:30am MST for a few hours of sleep.

Five hours later, I was back behind the wheel, heading north to the foothills north of Bosie and west of the Boise Mountains to the intersection of Gem and Boise Counties. While still in Ada County, I managed to work one station each on 20m, 40m and 80m, and the same station again on 80m before I went QRT while driving the mud road to the county line.

In the 70 minutes I sat on the Gem–Boise line, I made 39 pairs of QSOs, primarily on 20m, but a pair on 80m and a few on 15m. This location has provided a much higher yield in past contests, but I’ll take what I can get. A nice surprise was working a handful of German stations.

Sitting on the Gem–Boise county line on a mud road in the rain.

I retraced my steps back to Ada County, which has very high noise levels. I only managed four 20m QSOs before hitting Canyon County with about 13 QSOs for 13 minutes. Here, again, I worked four German stations. I crossed the Snake River into Owyhee County and sat in a river-side park parking lot just over the bridge. The rate picked up to about one QSO per minute. The DL stations were joined by one HA stations.

For the next 50 minutes, I traveled through Canyon County (20 min) and Payette County (30 min) that yielded 8 and 24 QSOs respectively, the majority on 20m phone. DX included SM, DL and KL.

I hit Washington County with 70 min left in the contest and parked on the county line for the duration. The rate picked up a bit here, with about 50 pairs of QSOs and a good mix of phone and CW. Most QSOs were on 20m, but I switched to 15m with 15 minutes remaining in the contest for seven additional pairs of QSOs.

Score

Work was busy for me, so it took a week to get the paper logs into the computer and complete the scoring. And then it took another ten days to finish this write-up. I finished with 719 valid QSOs (not including 19 dups). Last year the total came to 691 valid QSOs, so I slightly improved on my previous score (but nothing compared to the 802 QSOs from 2014).

The breakdown by mode was 467 CW and 252 phone QSOs. I accomplished a much better balance this year compared to 530 CW and 161 phone QSOs last year.

Multipliers accumulate by county for mobile stations, so I ended up with 317 CW and 183 phone for a total of 501 multipliers. Last year the numbers were 365 CW and 119 Phone multipliers for a total of 484. So the strategy of bumping up the fraction of SSB QSOs did work to increase total multipliers.

The final score is found by multiplying points by multipliers giving 594,186. This was only a slight improvement over last year’s score of 590,964.

The number of unique stations was 271, slightly down from 296 last year. Here is the QSO and multiplier breakdown by county.

County Mults CW QSOs PH QSOs Points
ADA 7 8 0 16
BAN 18 12 11 35
BIN 16 20 2 42
BLA 4 4 0 8
BNV 6 4 2 10
BOI 23 35 6 76
BUT 13 8 9 25
CAM 3 3 0 6
CAN 16 14 8 36
CAS 23 18 17 53
CLA 31 26 21 73
ELM 2 2 0 4
FRE 16 14 7 35
GEM 23 33 6 72
GOO 7 7 0 14
JEF 22 30 5 65
JER 20 16 9 41
LEM 17 19 2 40
LIN 7 10 0 20
MAD 41 23 40 86
MIN 15 13 7 33
OWY 19 20 7 47
PAY 44 39 31 109
POW 25 26 12 64
TET 30 17 23 57
TWI 16 10 10 30
WAS 37 36 18 90
TOTAL 501 467 253 1187

I appreciate every single QSO, of course, but there were some stations who followed my progress and showed up as I hit new counties–they were my traveling buddies and I am grateful to them. Here are the stations with QSO counts in the double-digits:

Call
QSOs
NA2X
30
N4JT
20
N8II
19
N4VA
17
KM4FO
16
KS5A
15
KI0I
15
W4YDY
13
W1DWA
13
AA8R
12
VA3ATT
10

Looking out the window
Looking out the window on the Lemhi–Clark county line

Conclusion

I had a great time this year running mobile for the IDQP. Conditions seemed slightly down from last year, if only based on a much lower DX count this year. Still, participation was good. My station and truck held together and both worked well, making the driving and operating a pleasure.

(Short link to this post)

WW7D/M’s Idaho QSO Party Adventure (2015)

This is the third year I’ve participated as a mobile station in the annual Idaho QSO Party (IDQP), and this one was at least as enjoyable as the first two.

My first trip in 2013 took me through Western Idaho from Elmore county north to Bonner county through 13 counties in total. I had never been in any of the counties south of Nez Perce county, so it was fun exploring new territories. Then, in 2014, I undertook an ambitious 26 county trek beginning in Teton county in east Idaho and ending on the Payette–Washington line in west Idaho, and covering all southern Idaho counties less four in the SE corner of the state.

For 2015, my intent was to improve the 2014 route, execute the plan better and do so with a better mobile station.

2015 Route

In the months leading up to the 2015 IDQP, I spent a lot of time with mapping software trying to squeeze in a few more counties. My main constraint was to end close to the Washington or Oregon border to facilitate a drive home on Sunday night. The best I could find was to trade off a bit of sleep in order to add a single new county (Lemhi) to the mix. I made a few other minor changes to the route and stops, and changed the timing of some stops.

The plan for day one begins on the Lemhi–Clark county line on the Salmon highway followed by an eastbound trek to the Madison–Teton county line. From there, the route backtracks a bit before heading south, eventually taking a short spur into Twin Falls county. From there the route zig-zags north to Blaine county and then west through Camas, Elmore and ending at a motel in Boise (Ada county).

WW7D/M's 2015 IDQP Route, Day 1
WW7D/M’s 2015 IDQP Route, Day 1 (click for larger image)

Sunday morning begins before sunrise with a trip up to the Boise–Gem county line located several miles down a dirt road off of highway 55. The route backtracks from there through Ada county into Canyon, takes a detour through Owyhee county and then north through Canyon, Payette and ends on the Payette–Washington county line.

WW7D/M's 2015 IDQP Route, Day 2
WW7D/M’s 2015 IDQP Route, Day 2 (click for larger image)

Equipment

The primary radio was a Kenwood TS-480SAT putting out 100 watts. Additionally, two Yaesu FT-857Ds were available as back-up rigs and for some special purposes (discussed below). As it turned out, the two Yaesus got almost no use.

The rover vehicle was my trusty 1988 4WD Toyota pickup truck. I purchased this vehicle with almost 200,000 miles on it in 2013 just before using it in my first IDQP.

Four antennas were used for the contest. Three antennas were homebuilt screwdriver antennas. Two screwdrivers were mounted toward the rear of the bed.

The three rear antennas
The three rear antennas

Each screwdriver had a daytime configuration and a nighttime configuration. The passenger-side rear antenna had a stinger with a small capacitance hat on it about two thirds of the way up. This antenna was my primary 20m antenna during the day and could go to 40m at night. The driver-side rear antenna had a stinger with no capacitance hat. This antenna was primarily used for 15m during the day and 20m at night.

Just behind the driver, toward the front of the cab was a 1/4 wave 10m whip. This antenna was for 10m, and connected to a Yaesu with an LDG antenna tuner. The antenna was a perfect match without the tuner, but the tuner would allow me to use the whip on 15m or 20m, should the need arise. Why would the need arise, you ask? Well…suppose a low hanging branch took out a couple of screwdrivers… The antenna was only used for 10m, but rather fruitlessly.

Another view of the three rear antennas
Another view of the three rear antennas

The third screwdriver antenna was on the front of the truck, mounted in an Alliance HD-73 rotor. The rotor is normally used for VHF and UHF rover operations, but it makes a fine platform for mounting one screwdriver antenna. This antenna had a large capacitance had made of stainless steel wire and an aluminum central hub. A stout 3.5′ stainless stinger supports the hat and allows the antenna to be tuned from 80m down to 20m. It was used as a 40m antenna for the day configuration and an 80m antenna for the night configuration. A cross-over switch was used to swap the front screwdriver and the rear driver’s side antennas between the other FT-857 and the Kenwood. That allowed me to use the FT-857 to, say, hunt for 40m stations while 15m was still open on Saturday. Or look for 15m activities on the FT-857 early on Sunday morning while using the front antenna on 40m with the TS-480.

The front screwdriver antenna
The front screwdriver antenna

For solo operations, one must not only make QSOs and log, but also drive safely and navigate accurately. An old Android cell phone provided a UTC date and time function using the GPS Test+ application. Another cell phone ran the Where am I? application that displays a small map and names the current county. This application requires a data connection and tends to chew up one’s data allotment. A GPS was programmed with county line crossings and stops as waypoints. I recently purchased a TomTom GO 500 GPS, and used it for the first time as a rover in the January VHF contest. It worked well enough that I felt I could rely on it for the IDQP. It didn’t let me down. In fact, I loved the right sidebar function that shows linear distance to waypoints and displays gas stations. Last year, I had an anxious 30 minutes after I missed a gas stop and proceed to consume all but one gallon of gas in the tank before finding a gas station. (This year, I also carried a jerrycan with 5 gallons of fuel…just in case.)

All logging was done on paper, using a clip board firmly attached to my right leg and mechanical pencils with stout 0.9mm lead. Driving and logging isn’t for everyone. It takes much careful practice, but one can learn to operate a radio and log safely while driving. Usually I stick to CW while driving because it ends up being less distracting (don’t ask me why…it is just that way).

The Contest

The contest began for me on Friday morning, in Redmond, WA, with a 12 hour drive to Idaho Falls. I didn’t quite have my station completely assembled, and the antennas were stowed in the back of the truck for this part of the trip. Speeds of 70 or 80 MPH put wear and tear on the screwdriver antennas, particularly the finger stock, so I didn’t want to add to this unnecessarily.

Fortunately, the contest begins at 1pm local time, giving me plenty of time to sleep-in, finish station and antenna assembly and get to my starting point. On Saturday morning, I drove to a parking area near the Clark–Butte county line that I remembered from past contests. I arrived with three hours to kill, with a 20 minute trip to the Lehmi–Clark starting line. That was plenty of time to install antennas, tidy up wires, set up log sheets, eat, make a few phone calls, monitor the bands, check the oil, and kick the tires.

The Lehmi–Clark line had plenty of room to safely park on the county line. Twenty meters CW seemed like a good place to start. My buddy Doug, AC7T, immediately came back to my CQs. Of course, it helped that I had been on the phone with him an hour earlier, killing time before the start. But I only worked one more station before switching to 20 phone. This also yielded only a couple of QSOs.

On the Lemhi--Clark county line at the start of the IDQP
On the Lemhi–Clark county line at the start of the IDQP

Fifteen meters was in better shape and I managed a couple of short runs on both CW and phone, including a handful of European stations. Aside for a brief 15m run on the Clark–Butte line, the band was never really as productive as 20m for the rest of the IDQP. Twenty meters CW and phone became relatively productive as I traversed Clark, Butte, Jefferson, Madison, Fremont, and Madison again on my way to Teton; still, I could tell conditions were significantly down compared to the two previous years.

By the time I left Jefferson county for the final time, almost 300 QSOs had been logged (including a couple dozen duplicates), and 185 multipliers. One of the fun things about the IDQP (relative to, say, the Salmon Run or 7QP) is that mobile stations accumulate multiliers anew with each county and by mode. Hence, I tried to spend time working phone and CW in each county.

Traveling through Bonneville, Bingham and Bannock counties produced moderate QSO rates on 20m. I hit Power county at about 0100 UTC, and 20m was fading; but 40m wasn’t quite ripe yet. The QSO rate went way down through Cassia and Minidonka counties, with a mix of 20cw and 40cw. Perhaps the only saving grace was the kick of working OM2VL in both counties…on 40m, no less! Fourty meters improved a bit in Jerome county. Again, I worked OM2VL. The QSOs came one per minute (phone and CW) after crossing into Twin Falls county for a 30 minute stay.

Back in Jerome county at 0350 GMT, the first 80m QSOs came through with W7GF in Oregon and KG7E in Custer county, ID. But it was back to 40m CW for a rate of about 0.5 QSOs per min. The rate slightly improved and 80m showed some improvement in Gooding and Lincoln counties. Fourty meters was fading during a brief stay on the Lincoln–Blaine line. A big surprise was working OM2VL (again!) at 0529 UTC on 40m CW as I got rolling through Blaine. Shortly after that, it was all 75m and 80m for the evening, and the rates were pretty low for the 2:45 minute trek through Camas, Elmore, and Ada counties. Essentially, each QSO took 12 minutes. I deeply appreciate the few people (esp. W7GKF, KB7N, NU0Q) that stayed up late and followed me for across these counties.

Sunday morning I was on the road by 1315 GMT (7:15 MDT) some 30 minutes before sunrise. There was no activity on 15m or 20m, but I managed a pair of 40m CW QSOs while en route through Ada county. I arrived on the Boise–Gem county line just a few minutes late. This is my favorite county line in Idaho, being on a dirt road at 4,200′ in the middle of the rolling Boise Mountains.

On the Boise--Gem county line Sunday morning
On the Boise–Gem county line Sunday morning

It was difficult to scare up QSOs this particular Sunday morning. I finally managed to get a small run going on 20m phone, followed by 20m CW. CQing on 40m got a single response from Doug, AC7T. I only managed a handful of other QSOs on 15m and 20m before my hour was up. In all, the Boise–Gem line produced 38 QSOs in one hour, which was a bit disappointing. Last year, I arrived at the same time, stayed for a little over an hour, and made 116 QSOs—mostly on 20m, but including 12 QSOs on 40m and 32 QSOs on 15m. I think this exemplifies the difference in conditions between last year and this year. But don’t take this as a complaint…the entire challenge of radiosport is taking the conditions you have and maximizing one’s score.

By 1600 UTC, I had passed through ADA and into Canyon county, and 20m started showing more life. Rates returned to almost normal in Owyhee county where a 50 minute stay produced 40 QSOs, primarily on 20m. Last year I spent a few minutes longer than that in Owyhee and came away with 60 QSOs split between 20m and 15m. Fifteen meters continued its lackluster performance for the rest of the contest, as I worked my way through Canyon county again, and through Payette up to the Washington–Payette county line.

On the Payette-Washington county line
On the Payette–Washington county line for the last hour of the 2015 IDQP

The last hour of the contest was pretty good. I made 39 QSOs x 2, all on 20m. I tried 15 and 10 meters as well, but there was nothing doing. Last year, I spent the last 35 minutes in the same spot and worked 38 x 2 QSOs. For the last few minutes of the IDQP, I went into search and pounce mode for the first time in order to work some strong WIQP stations on 20m phone and CW.

Score

I spent a few days entering paper logs into the computer and doing the scoring. In the end, I had 724 QSOs minus 33 dupes for 691 valid QSOs; of these, 530 were CW and 161 were Phone. For mobile stations, multipliers accumulate for each new county and by mode. There were 365 CW and 119 Phone multipliers for a total of 484.

Last year’s efforts produced 802 QSOs and 491 multipliers. So there was a 14% decrease in QSOs but only a tiny decrease in multipliers. Some of the decrease in QSOs resulted from trying to do more phone QSOs in order to bump up the number of multipliers.

The following table shows the breakdown of multipliers, CW QSOs and phone QSOs by county activated.

County Mults CW QSOs PH QSOs Points
ADA 11 12 0 24
BAN 14 18 0 36
BIN 28 25 15 65
BLA 5 6 0 12
BNV 12 6 11 23
BOI 19 12 10 34
BUT 23 27 4 58
CAM 5 4 2 10
CAN 18 25 1 51
CAS 9 12 0 24
CLA 38 42 15 99
ELM 4 3 2 8
FRE 16 25 0 50
GEM 17 9 10 28
GOO 8 8 4 20
JEF 25 32 5 69
JER 15 20 3 43
LEM 16 9 10 28
LIN 10 12 0 24
MAD 36 46 15 107
MIN 6 10 0 20
OWY 28 24 15 63
PAY 28 39 5 83
POW 16 19 8 46
TET 31 26 15 67
TWI 21 24 8 56
WAS 25 35 3 73
TOTAL 484 530 161 1221

The final score is found by multiplying points by multipliers giving 590,964. This is down a bit from my score of 715,387 last year, but no complaints. It felt like everything worked better in 2015 (except the atmosphere) and I am very happy with the station improvements, plan execution and the score.

Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs:

Call
QSOs
W7GF
23
W9PL
14
NA2X
14
AC7T
14
WQ7A
12
OM2VL
12
K0PFV
12
K0HNC
12
WB0PYF
10
K2CVW
10
KN4Y
10

Looking out the window
Looking out the window on the Lemhi–Clark county line

Conclusion

As I did last year, I must conclude that the IDQP is a blast to work mobile. Idaho has small counties, outstanding roads, and stunning scenery. If you’ve ever wanted to do a mobile HF contest, this one definitely should be at the top of your list.

The RF conditions were rather down this year, but last year’s conditions seems spectacular. The weather cooperated, with only a few sprinkles. The skies were mostly overcast, which is perfect for my old truck without AC.

Many thanks to everyone who participated within state and outside of Idaho. I had a great time.

(Short link to this post)

WW7D/M does the 2014 Salmon Run

It seems like just a few weeks ago that I was writing up the 2013 Salmon Run results. But it’s true: the 2014 Salmon Run has come and gone. And what a run it was!

Personally, it was one of my best contest efforts, in the sense of station set-up and reliability, ease of operations, planning, and execution. Unfortunately, the propagation fairies were having some fun playing tricks on us. Even so, I get the sense that many of us were still having a good time. Although I didn’t top my score from last year, I am still pretty pleased with the results.

Route

The route is pretty much a tweaked version of the one I ran last year. I posted the details for this year here. Basically, I worked Western Washington counties (KING, PIE, KITS, MAS, GRAY, PAC, THU, LEW, COW, WAH, CLAR, and SKAM) Saturday, and Eastern Washington counties (YAK, KLI, BEN, FRA, ADA, LIN, GRAN, OKA, FER, and DOU) on Sunday.

As it turned out, I kept to the route and stuck closely to the schedule. Doing the route for a second time has its advantages—this time there were no wrong turns or other unwanted excursions.

Platform

The Salmon Run comes at a very busy time of the year for the mobile contester. The week before the Salmon Run is the ARRL September VHF Contest. The Monday after the Salmon Run is a 2m VHF Sprint. On top of that, the Salmon Run happens just as things get very busy for me at the University of Washington, as we ramp up for the school year that starts the next week.

The Salmon Run platform was a little more complicated than necessary because it included stuff left over from the VHF contest and allowed me to quickly set up for the sprint the Monday after.

Last year, I did the Salmon Run in my 1988 Toyota pickup truck, with two homebuilt screwdrivers in the back of the bed on each side, a Hustler stalk toward the cab, and a front rotor with a short 2m yagi and 6m hex beam on the front. The VHF antennas were good for a few QSOs with Gabor, VE7JH, who I knew would be on a mountain top location with good reach into Western Washington. But I hadn’t heard from Gabor about a Salmon Run effort this year. Additionally, I had built a third screwdriver that I wanted to mount on the front. That would mean I could go Hustler-free for the Salmon Run.

So, I again installed two screwdrivers on the back (with an unused rotor in place for the Monday sprint):

Rear antennas

For the front antenna mount, a chunk of aluminum bar was fashioned into an antenna mount using the rotor:

The front antenna using an antenna rotor for mounting.

The large coil of coax is two lengths of LMR-240 that would feed antennas on top of a 25′ mast for the VHF sprint. One of them fed the screwdriver antenna.

Additionally, magnet mount verticals were used for 6m and 2m…just in case someone wanted to try these bands.

The antenna farm.

The front screwdriver had a whip length that made it useful for 10m to 75m. The rear driver-side antenna worked on 15m to 80m, and the rear passenger side antenna had a whip with a capacitance hat that allowed it to work very well from 20m though 80m. With three screwdrivers, it would give me the ability to move between 15m, 20m, and 40m during the day with no antenna reconfiguration, and between 20m, 40m, and 80m at night.

Inside the truck was a rack of gear that included two Yaeus FT-857Ds, one as a second HF rig (with an LDG tuner) and one for 6m and 2m, a Kenwood TS-480SAT as the primary HF rig, an Alinco 2m FM rig, and 170w bricks for 6m and 2m. To the left of the rack can be seen an antenna relay control box that allowed me to switch antennas between the Kenwood and Yaesu rigs, and between the VHF equipment, and a paddle, a Tascam DR-1 digital recorder, a K1EL Winkeyer, and a switch to move the keyer between three rigs. A rotor control box—not used for this contest—can be seen in front of the pantry. One dual antenna control box for the rear antennas and a single control box for the front antenna can be seen near the midline.

The shack.

The operating position included heads for both HF rigs and two cell phones. One phone acted as a 24 hr clock. The other phone ran an application (“Where Am I”) that continuously reports the current county—just in case I got confused about my location.

The operating position.

Behind the passenger seat sat a second battery in a fiberglass box, an N8XJK Super Booster, and an antenna relay box.

The Contest

Saturday

I left Redmond, WA about 7:30 am (PDT) for the 9:00 am contest start, and arrived on the KING–PIE starting point about 30 minutes early. That gave me plenty of time to test out the equipment, get the antennas set up, and listen to the bands. I found that 20m was in fantastic shape with lots of Scandinavian stations booming in for the CW Scandinavian Activity Contest. I could hear some activity on 40m and 15m.

As 9:00 am approached, 20m seemed to fade a bit. I spent the first 20 minutes trying to work Scandinavian stations, but only managed four before N6MU found me on CW. We also worked 20m Phone, a pattern that would continue through the contest. After 20m phone failed to provide many QSOs, I went to 15m CW and managed to work a couple of stations in the SC QSO party. Before leaving the county line, I tried 40m and managed to work BC and a few WA stations.

To give you an idea of the band conditions, last year from this spot, I made 36 contacts (times 2 because of the county line), although 4 of these were with VE7JH on 2m and 6m SSB and CW. So, let’s say 32 contacts, about 2/3rds on 20m. This year I made 15 QSOs, 2/3rds of them on 20m. The one interesting difference is that this year I worked Sweden, Finland and Norway. Last year produced only North America QSOs at that first stop.

Twenty meters was modestly productive for the next few counties. I arrived at the Grays Harbor–Pacific county line at 2:10 pm, and finally got a serious run going, but on 40m. Twenty continued to be marginal. At 4:00 pm, driving through Grays Harbor, a few Japanese stations popped up on 15m along with a handful of U.S. stations. Twenty meters seemed to open up around 5:00 pm while I was on the Thurston—Lewis county line. An hour or so later, it became unproductive.

Sitting on the Grays Harbor–Pacific county line

Speaking of the Thurston—Lewis county line…. When I got to the county line, I was backing my truck up to be on top of the line. The rear passenger screwdriver—the one with the capacitance hat—snagged a road-side sign. As I continued to back up, it bent the antenna forward and broke it at the base. And it was my best antenna, but I still had two screwdriver antennas to work with. The repair is pretty simple…if I had carried a spare part, I probably could have fixed the antenna in about 10 or 15 minutes.

Down goes one screwdriver antenna.

Eighty meters opened up about 7:30 pm (PDT) while I was on the Wahkiakum–Cowlitz county line. I got a run going on CW and then an even better run on Phone, and it was pretty much just 80m for the rest of the evening.

At midnight, I was in the hills above the Columbia River on the Clark–Skamania county line. In previous years, I would stop at a hotel in Washougal, WA about 20 minutes West of me, and then wake up at an obscene hour for a 3 hour drive to E. Washington. I’m definitely not a morning person, so I’d rather drive late at night, than get up early. So this year, I decided to do some of the driving at night. I drove 1.5 hours to The Dalles, Oregon to spend the night in a hotel.

Tucked in at the Skamania–Clark county line.

Sunday

I was out of the hotel parking lot by 7:00 am (PDT) for a 2 hour drive to the Klikitat–Yakima county line.

Sun rise over the Columbia River on Sunday morning.

The fuel gauge read a little under 1/2, but I decided to get gas closer to my first stop of the day, because that way I could make it through the day without refueling again. That was a mistake. After crossing back into Washington, I came across a sign saying there was no gas for 85 miles.

That brought back memories from last year, where I was getting low (but not critically low) on gas by the time I hit Prosser. I had less fuel in the tank this year. My gut feeling and my calculations on fuel range suggested that, if I drove for fuel economy, I should just be able to make it to Prosser—but with little reserve. Hence, I prioritized fuel economy. All I really had to do was make it within 2 miles of Prosser, since that last 2 miles was a steep, winding descent into the city, where I could coast within reasonable walking distance of a gas station.

I arrived at the Klikitat–Yakima county line with about 10 minutes to spare, and spent the time re-configuring the two remaining screwdriver antennas. At 9:00 am, the fun began on 20m with a long run of QSOs, including stations from Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Hawaii, and Japan!

After leaving the Klikitat–Yakima county line, the schedule called for a long, non-stop drive through Benton, Franklin, Adams, Lincoln and Grant counties before stopping again on the Okanogan–Ferry county line. Although gasoline was the first thing on my mind, I did manage to work a pile of stations on 20 CW in Benton County before the long descent into Prosser.

About to make the 2 mile descent into Prosser, on a gravel road.

I recalled from last year, that the gas station took a long time to come across just following my route, so I headed to the center of town looking for a fuel station. Spotting no fuel stations, I chose to park and find out where a nearby station could be found before I ran out of fuel. I got out of the truck to call a friend who could look it up more quickly than I could on my cell phone. The friend didn’t answer, but in the few feet I walked, I spotted a gas station right around the corner. Problem solved.

My error in fuel planning put me about 12 minutes behind schedule. I was able to make that up en route, and was back on schedule before Grant County.

With only one exception for 15m, I stuck to 20m CW and phone as I worked my way North. Conditions were fair to good on 20m, just not spectacular.

I had planned for it to take about an hour from the Grant County line to the Okanogan–Ferry county line. In reality, this took only 30 minutes. After a 20 minute run on 20m, I went to 40m, and after a slow start managed a good run on CW and then phone. I left the county line 25 minutes early to head for the last stop of the day, the Grant–Douglas county line.

Sitting on the Okanogan–Ferry county line

Twenty minutes later, on the Grant–Douglas county line, I had a small run going on 40m, and finished off with a small 20m run (that included working Iceland, for a new multiplier). The last 15 minutes proved almost totally unproductive. I worked W6AFA on phone, but couldn’t get any responses to my CQs. Still, I finished with a smile, knowing that everything went pretty darned well.

Results

The next week was spent entering QSOs into the computer, checking for typos and dupes, scoring, and hand-creating the Cabrillo file.

The result was 824 QSOs, 549 CW and 275 phone.

For multipliers, I worked 43 states, missing LA, MA, ME, NE, RI and VT. I only worked four Canadian regions, BC, MAN, MAR and ON. Thirty three of 39 counties showed up in the log, the missing counties being BEN, DOU, FER, JEFF, LIN, and WAH. And there were 11 DX multipliers: DL, G, HA, I, JA, LA, OH, OM, SM, SP and TF. The net was 91 multipliers.

Last year I worked 972 QSOs (775 CW and 197 phone). But what was lost in QSOs, was nearly made up in multipliers: last year I worked the same number of states, one more Canadian region, seven fewer counties, and seven fewer DX entities.

The final score this year is 200,927 (including a 1,000 point bonus for working W7DX on two modes). Last year, the final score was 213,082 (including a 1,000 point bonus).

Here is the final tally of QSOs by band

Band
CW
Phone
80
46
80
40
102
137
20
382
58
15
19
0
10
0
0
Total
549
275

Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs:

Call
QSOs
N6MU
43
VE7CV
20
N7EPD
17
KB7N
13
OM2VL
12
NT2A
11
W5ASP
10
K9CW
10
K4BAI
10

QSL: I will eventually upload the contest QSOs to LOTW. If you want confirmation via LOTW for a contest QSO, please use WW7D/M for my call. Paper QSLs are good via mail or bureau.

(Shortcut link)

WW7D/M Salmon Run plans

Once again, WW7D/M will be running in the Salmon Run. This post covers my plans, both the schedule and frequencies. I may update this as necessary before the start of the contest. Route My route will be much like last year’s route but, with a few refinements. On Saturday, I’ll start out on the King–Pierce county line, and make my way west and south, ending on the Columbia River on the Clark–Skamania line. Here are the details for Saturday (time are PDT):

  1. King–Pierce: 9:00 AM — 10:30 AM
  2. Pierce: 10:30 AM — 11:05 AM
  3. Kitsap: 11:05 AM — 11:25 AM
  4. Kitsap–Mason: 11:25 AM — 12:10 PM
  5. Mason: 12:10 PM — 1:05 PM
  6. Grays Harbor: 1:05 PM — 2:10 PM
  7. Pacific–Grays Harbor: 2:10 PM — 3:40 PM
  8. Grays Harbor: 3:40 PM — 4:10 PM
  9. Thurston: 4:10 PM — 4:30 PM
  10. Thurston–Lewis: 4:30 PM — 6:00 PM
  11. Thurston: 6:00 PM — 6:10 PM
  12. Lewis: 6:10 PM — 6:40 PM
  13. Cowlitz: 6:40 PM — 7:25 PM
  14. Cowlitz–Wahkiakum: 7:25 PM — 8:55 PM
  15. Cowlitz: 8:55 PM — 9:40 PM
  16. Clark: 9:40 PM — 10:30 PM
  17. Clark–Skamania: 10:30 PM — 12:00 AM

Here is a picture of the route: Sunday, I’ll begin in the south part of central Washington, and make my way north:

  1. Yakima–Klickitat: 9:00 AM — 10:00 AM
  2. Klickitat: 10:00 AM — 10:10 AM
  3. Benton: 10:10 AM — 11:10 AM
  4. Franklin: 11:10 AM — 11:50 AM
  5. Adams: 11:50 AM — 12:45 PM
  6. Lincoln: 12:45 PM — 2:05 PM
  7. Grant: 02:05 PM — 2:45 PM
  8. Okanogan: 2:45 PM — 3:05 PM
  9. Okanogan–Ferry: 3:05 PM — 4:10 PM
  10. Okanogan: 4:10 PM — 4:30 PM
  11. Grant: 4:30 PM — 4:40 PM
  12. Grant-Douglas: 4:40 PM — 5:00 PM

Ignoring point L, here is the map: Frequencies Giving out fixed frequencies is almost silly for a single operator station. But here are the frequencies I will first try to grab. Notice the digit preference for ending on a 7. I’ll stick to that when possible, except on 2m and 6m SSB. CW

  • 3.547 MHz
  • 7.037 MHz
  • 14.047 MHz
  • 21.037 MHz
  • 28.037 MHz
  • 50.097 MHz
  • 144.097 MHz

SSB

  • 3.917 MHz
  • 7.247 MHz
  • 14.327 MHz
  • 21.367 MHz
  • 28.367 MHz
  • 50.125 MHz
  • 144.200 MHz

Notice that 20m phone is much higher than the recommended frequency. I usually have a very difficult time finding an open spot on 20 phone, so I am just going to start out in the less populated part of the band. Best wishes to everyone participating in the contest.

WW7D/M’s excellent 2014 7QP adventure

The 7QP is one of the great operating events in the western U.S. I look forward to it every year. And after my IDQP adventure earlier this year, I was looking forward to re-running a similar route, but one that included a Wyoming county and a couple of Oregon counties, in addition to 26 Idaho counties.

The other great thing about the 7QP is that I have a driver. My buddy Dave insists on joining me for, what has become, a three-day journey through the northwestern U.S. Dave drives and takes pictures, while I work the radios and periodically blurt out random bits of conversations and commentary.

The adventure begins a few days before. This year, a generous friend made available to us a 2014 Dodge Ram pickup truck. It was very much like the Toyota Tundra that we had last year, and the installation wasn’t much different. I got the Ram home on Wednesday afternoon for our Friday morning departure.

Truck Preparations

The installation took place Wednesday mid-afternoon into the evening, and Thursday night.

Power from the truck battery to a second battery, enclosed in a fiberglass battery box secured behind the driver’s seat, was straightforward. The Ram has good-sized body plugs located in convenient locations under the cab, and the cable came up through a split in the carpet under the driver’s seat. Thirty amp fuses were installed on both poles at the battery. An N8XJK Super Booster sat between the power and the rigs.

Coax et al.: The Dodge Ram has a sliding rear electric window. So I used the same sandwich of plexiglass sheets that served me last year. The feed-through hole is a short piece of PVC pipe with rubber plumbing splices slipped on on each side. Plastic rebar caps (“mushrooms”) are used as pliable plugs around the wires to keep wind and water out. A total of 6 pieces of coax and three antenna control boxes ran through the feed-through.

Antenna Mounts: Last year’s vehicle had a row of threaded inserts along the top inside sidewalls of the bed to which I bolted two 6′ pieces of angle steel. But the Ram had a bed-liner, and I didn’t want to remove it. Instead, I cut the pieces of angle steel and bolted them across the bed using the built-in eyes near each corner. I added a longitudinal (front to rear) piece of angle iron at the centers. This worked pretty well, as the slight flex in the angle steel reduced the stress on the antennas themselves. The antenna mounting can be seen here, here and here.

Equipment

Antennas: Last year I used two screwdriver antennas and a couple of Hustler resonators. The screwdriver antennas worked so much better than the Hustlers that I decided to add a third screwdriver. I finished building the screwdriver the week before the contest. Thus, there were three screwdrivers tuned to three different bands, at any one time. One of the antennas had a homemade capacitance hat that is new since last year. The hat allowed the antenna to resonate from 80m to 20m, and this antenna was usually kept at the band with the longest wavelength at any point in the contest. The other two screwdrivers were used from 10m through 40m. The new screwdriver antenna worked well, except that it didn’t seem to like 15m. Go figure.

I also installed one hustler mount for an 75m resonator that could be used during the day. In addition, I added 2m and 6m magnet mount whips to the mix, although I ended up not working any VHF during the contest.

Rigs: The primary rig was a Kenwood TS-480SAT. This is really all I need for mobile contesting. But I put one of the screwdrivers on a Yaesu FT-857D, and that did allow me to do some tuning around when the Kenwood was busy. Finally, a second FT-857D served as a back-up rig, and monitored 6m and 2m for activity. In practice, most QSOs were from the Kenwood. The rigs were mounted in a rack that was bolted to a sheet of plywood. The whole thing was held in place with the seat belt.

Operating Position: A plywood operating table at the center console held the TS-480 head and one FT-857D head, a Winkeyer, switches to switch a headset mic and key between rigs, and a audio mixer (which didn’t really work out on account of RF feedback on 15m). The second Kenwood head was mounted above the dash with a suction cup mount. Finally, a plywood table slid into the arm rest and held the paddle. The total set-up was comfortable and worked very well.

The Schedule

I posted the schedule before the contest. For the most part, we stuck right to it. A few adjustments along the way helped keep us in the box.

The Journey

We left Friday morning for the eleven hour drive to Driggs, Idaho. Last year, we traveled to Driggs via the southern route–through Oregon and Idaho. This time, we went the Northern route, through Idaho, into Montana, and back into Idaho. I haven’t been through that part of Montana in many years, and it has me thinking about alternative 7QP routes….

On Saturday morning, we were up before 6am (MDT) and out the door to a beautiful skyline…

…with plenty of time to travel the 20 minutes to the Teton, WY/Teton, ID county (and state) line. The line itself is on a gravel road that had no other traffic.

The start of the contest was slow. I started out of 15m CW and noted that there was “a bunch of crap” on the band. And nobody answered my CQs. On 20m, a couple of minutes of CQing finally got a response from N5AU in Texas. After seven more minutes of fruitless calling, I did some search-n-pounce for a few minutesbefore going back to calling CQ. Things picked up a bit, but 30 minutes into it, the 20m responses dried up and I went to 40m CW. Here I got a pretty solid 20 minute run in.

My first impression was that the bands were rather noisy–even with the ignition turned off. Noise would remain a difficulty throughout the contest, suggesting that, perhaps, a bit of chassis/body panel bonding on the truck might have helped out.

Once we hit Madison county, Idaho, things picked up substantially. Fifteen meters was open to Europe, and 20m was reliably snagging domestic contacts. After almost three hours, we arrived on the Clark–Butte county line, and things got hot. The next hour produced just shy of 120 QSOs, mostly on 20m and 15m CW, but with some 20m phone thrown in, too. This put us a few minutes behind schedule, as the schedule called for a 45 minute stop. But it was definitely worth the delay.

Back in motion, we undertook a long journey following I-15 and I-86 through eight counties. The only stop was for 30 minutes on the Jerome–Minnedoka line. For this entire part of the route, the QSO rate was brisk, but not spectacular, and almost entirely on 20m and 15m. We left the interstate and dipped down into Twin Falls county, ID at a scenic overlook on the Snake River. This was the view that I didn’t see, but David caught on digital media:

From Twin Falls, we headed back into Jerome county, and then started working our way north through Gooding, Lincoln, Blaine, and Camas, stopping briefly on a few of the county lines. I dabbled a bit on 40m during this part of the trip, and 40m became increasingly viable for the rest of the contest.

From there, we took the Sun Valley highway (US 20) west into Elmore county and then descended past Bennett mountain down to Mountain Home, Idaho. We proceeded NW on I-84 to Ada county, and departed toward the north on Hwy 55 into Boise county. A side trip about three miles down a dirt road brought us to the Gem county–Boise county line in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.

I found this location for the 2014 IDQP and began there on the second morning of the contest. It was incredibly productive (and surreal) then. This time is was pretty productive, giving us about 100 QSOs in 45 minutes. It was dusk as we wandered the dirt road back to the highway.

Back in Ada county, the noise levels on 20m dove me to 40m and then, for the first time all contest, to 80m. We next hit Canyon county (for the first time). Domestic stations were scarce on 20m, but I worked a bunch of Europeans and Hawaii. We took Hwy 55 south over the Snake River into Owyhee county, where we stopped at a river-side park for about 20 minutes. My last 20m QSO was with DL3HSS at 04:35 UTC.

We continued briefly through Owyhee county and headed up US 95 and back into Canyon county. Eighty meters was quite productive and 40m was losing out to noise with about 2 hours remaining in the contest. Once we hit Payette county, it was all 80m except for one QSY back to 40 to work N6MU from Washington county—and that was a rough QSO. We hit the Washington, ID–Malheur, OR county/state lines with one hour to go. Thirty minutes was mostly CW on 80m and produced about 20 QSOs. Things dried up, so the last 30 minutes was search-n-pounce on 80 phone for another 10 QSOs. Baker City was twenty miles ahead, and we headed there for a hotel.

The next morning began with a late breakfast followed by a leisurely trip back to Redmond, WA.

Results

The big task ahead was entering my paper logs into the computer. It took me a week or so.

We activated 29 counties in three states. The final results were 760 CW QSOs and 79 Phone QSOs, for 839 total QSOs. For multipliers, we worked a total of 64, that included all states except Alaska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, seven Provinces (AB, BC, MB, NS, ON, QC, and SK) and all ten DX entities. The final score was 156,032.

Last year we did much better for QSOs: 814 CW and 118 phone for 932 total. But we had far fewer multipliers—only 58. So this year we came out a little ahead of last year’s score of 155,324. My feeling is that conditions were better last year, but the installation in the Dodge Ram may have resulted in excessive noise.

Here is the final tally of QSOs by band

Band
CW
Phone
80
84
11
40
161
14
20
302
52
15
213
2
10
0
0
Total
814
118

Here are the top stations worked by number of QSOs and counties:

Call
QSOs
Counties
N6MU
29
23
AF6O
25
23
K8MFO
24
17
W0BH
19
16
N8II
17
14
K2SSS
15
15
K0IO
14
12
W6AFA
12
12
K2DSW
10
10

QSL: Paper QSLs are good via mail or bureau. I will eventually upload the contest QSOs to LOTW. If you want confirmation via LOTW for a contest QSO, please use WW7D/M for my call.

Conclusion: The 7QP is both fun and challenging, beginning with the initial route planning, to a complete installation in a new vehicle, to the actual contest. As with last year, everything came together and worked reasonably well. We had an excellent adventure!

(Short link to this post.)

Tag Cloud