For my first time participating in the Kansas QSO Party, I decided to operate as W0V, a 1×1 rover station activating several counties at different state parks around Wichita. By operating from state parks, I figured I’d have decent locations to operate from that would also let me submit to the Parks on the Air (POTA) program for credit as well. This ended up being helpful in the end for standing out in some pile-ups.
I drove down to the Wichita area on Friday night and stayed in a hotel in anticipation for an early start the following morning. My plan was to be set up by around 8:30am so I could be on the air right at the start of the QSO party. I would visit three parks throughout Saturday, return to the same hotel for the night, then go to two more parks Sunday before driving home to Kansas City.
For this event, I sought to keep my equipment list simple and largely use what I already had on hand. The only new piece of gear I bought for this event was the Pacific Antenna Dual Band Trap Dipole kit for 20m and 40m as I planned to focus my operations there and wanted to be able to switch between bands without retuning anything. For antenna support, I used my Max-Gain Systems 25′ telescopic mast, which I have previously used for Field Day and the June VHF contest, to hold the antenna in an inverted-vee confguration. In my car, I put a shelving unit on my passenger seat which held my Icom IC-705, laptop, and Kenwood TH-D74 and 2m amplifier (for APRS tracking throughout the weekend).
I was able to leave the radio and computer set up while I drove with the exception of the keyboard mounted on my steering wheel with this neat little tray I found on Amazon. For power, I used a battery bank with built-in inverter, although I quickly found (not surprisingly) that the inverter introduced a lot of EMI on the HF radio, so I only charged the laptop up while in motion and used the internal laptop battery while stopped. The same battery pack did power the IC-705 giving me 10W of output power during the event. For logging, I used N3FJP’s fantastic software as I like to do for Field Day.
My first stop at Fall River State Park in Greenwood County was fairly uneventful. I arrived a bit later than I wanted but was able to find a decent spot in a corner of a parking lot near the campground restrooms. I set up my antenna and got on the air, only to have an incredibly hard time making contacts. I knew 10W would be a challenge, but it took me nearly an hour to make my first SSB contact! I originally planned to do FT8 as well, but I decided not to as I realized being a rover station on FT8 is difficult since exchanging my county would be very difficult. I ended up staying a few hours and making 10 contacts mostly on 20m. I then packed up and headed to my next stop in Woodson County.
For Cross Timbers State Park in Woodson County, I found an empty parking lot overlooking Toronto Lake as a nice and high place to set up. Unfortunately, by this time in the early afternoon, propagation was not in my favor. I was only able to make four contacts all on 20m. This was also a rather buggy spot, and since I was keeping my windows down and the car off to stay cool, I decided to cut this stop short after only about two hours.
My final stop for Saturday was El Dorado State Park in Butler County. Here, as pictured below, I was able to find a day use area that looked totally abandoned; there was a giant paved circle with tall grasses that appeared to be one of the higher parts of the park. I set up here and spent the remaining few hours until 9pm when the QSO party ended for the day. This spot ended up being a bit better for me from a propagation perspective. I was also able to hear a couple other 1×1 stations in neighboring counties, but my 10W was too weak for them to hear me. I made 18 QSOs here, most of which on 40m as the sun started going down. I also had two nice encounters with locals who stopped to see what I was up to!
Sunday morning, I again wanted to be on the air at 9am when the QSO Party started up again. My first park was planned to be Cheney State Park in Kingman County. I actually arrived early and set up only to realize I was in the wrong part of the park! Cheney State Park straddles three different counties, and I mistakenly parked in the wrong corner of the park. After tearing down and relocating, I was on the air, albeit about an hour late. My plan was to spend a few hours here and then go to the last park since the event ended at 3pm. However, it quickly became clear weather was a concern as a storm was moving in from the northwest. I stuck around until the wind whipped up and made nine contacts including OM2VL, my only non-Canadian DX of the weekend. I also worked several park-to-park POTA stations from this location. Adding “park-to-park” after my callsign seemed to help my near-QRP signal get picked out of the pileups, so I’m glad I had that tool to make up for my lack of power.
After the storm arrived and I tore down my mast, I made my way to my last planned park, Sand Hills State Park, in Reno County. This park is interesting as it does not seem to have the extensive infrastructure many other Kansas State Parks do. There was single loop for camping and a large parking lot nearby that had a trail or two heading into the woods. I sat in the parking lot for awhile keeping an eye on the weather. By 1pm, it was still pouring and looked like it wasn’t going to stop for at least another hour. As the event ended at 3pm, I had no desire to wait for maybe only 45 minutes on the air, especially with my anemic station. I called it quits and headed home with no QSOs in the log from this spot.
In the end, I totaled 41 QSOs with a multiplier of 21. 23 contacts were on 20m and 18 were on 40m which indicates to me that having a trap dipole was worth it compared to my backup plan of just using a single-band 20m dipole. Many of the stations I worked were in Ohio which was expected as the Ohio QSO Party is the same weekend. I only worked one other Kansas station which was a bit surprising though!
All in all, I had fun with the event, and I plan to participate again next year. However, I found that running 10W SSB was just not enough for an event like this which was not unexpected. I plan to use a 100W radio next year, but I think I’ll keep my 20/40m trap dipole and MGS mast as a part of my antenna system. That system seemed to work well in keeping setup fairly quick while also not being as much of a compromise as some of the loaded verticals which are popular alternatives. I also found that running APRS was largely a waste. I had an amp pumping out something like 50W, and it wasn’t enough for my trunk-mounted 1/4 wave vertical to reach digipeaters from most of the parks. Wichita has decent APRS coverage, but it fades quickly into the rural areas.
Thanks to those who worked me, and look for me again next year!