For the first time in several years, I decided to participate in a club Field Day operation. I headed to down Orlando, Florida to operate with WD4WDW, the Disney Emergency Amateur Radio Service (DEARS), of which my brother (KK4LWR) is the current club president. They had been planning to run a 2A, so I asked if they’d be interested in me running a free VHF station for 6m and 2m. Coming off June VHF, I saw this as an opportunity to get some more practice with my setup and try the antennas (6m Moxon and 5 element 2m yagi) with some more power. I checked the antennas and mast in a hard-side golf bag case on my Southwest flights to Orlando and back without any issues. Once at the site, I set up in the communal screened-in tent (many bugs in Florida) and used my brother’s Yaesu FT-857D as the radio. Although not as nice as my IC-705 in many perspectives, I appreciated the extra 10 dB this radio provided, and it certainly worked well for me.
After my experience in the 2020 June VHF contest, I decided to participate again this year with a better setup and more dedicated effort as a Single Operator Portable (SOP) station. After searching for good campsites around eastern Kansas, I booked a campsite at Fall River State Park (POTA K-2338) which is around 70 miles west of Wichita. This put me in a rural area with an open and secluded campsite to set up a mini Field Day operation for the contest right on the shore of Fall River Lake.
At the time of posting, I’m actually in the midst of changing my satellite gear so it is no longer my current setup. That said, I wanted to document it before I forgot about it and pass along my thoughts in case anyone else finds the information useful in the future.
In general, the radios and antennas for my ham radio satellite operations I’ve used have not changed since my last gear update (February 2020 Satellite Operations Gear). Check out that post for more details, but basically I use a Kenwood TH-D74 for a receive radio, an Yaesu FT-817ND as a transmit radio, an Arrow Antenna (now a custom-drilled version by WY7AA), with a variety of cables and adapters in between. In the last six months, I added a 3 Ah Bioenno battery pack to power the FT-817ND as well as a David Clark PC headset to replace the cheap PC headset I previously used.
Day three of my 4th of July rove – and the 4th of July itself – led me to Prairie Dog State Park, an interesting park that’s named after the creatures that inhabit the area. After arriving, I headed to the Prairie Dog Town, a field in the park that has tons of prairie dog holes spread all around starting only a few feet from the parking lot. This was the first time I’d every seen a prairie dog, and I was surprised to hear the chirping sound they make. Unfortunately I only had my iPhone camera and couldn’t get too close before they ran into their holes to hide, so the photos I grabbed weren’t too great. There was a nice pavilion overlooking Prairie Dog Town, which ended up being my operating location for my POTA activation. I had some time to kill before the first satellite pass, though, so I headed over to the nearby nature trail to walk around for a half hour or so and enjoy the beautiful day.
After spending the night in Concordia, Kansas (see my 7/2 activations for more information on the preceding stops), I headed toward Webster State Park on the morning of July 3rd to grab some of the FM passes. After arriving and driving around a bit, I found the park fairly full (which makes sense given it was 4th of July weekend), so there weren’t any areas with a shelter available for me to use for a few hours. I decided to park at the Archery Range which was empty and on a hillside. This is not the first POTA activation I’ve done from a state park archery range, and I often find these as decent options since they are rarely in use when I’m at the park. This one had a couple picnic tables but no shade, so I mostly hung around my car.
As the second stop on my 4th of July weekend rove after Lovewell State Park, Glen Elder State Park provided another nice place to give out the EM09 grid to many of my fellow satellite operators who needed it. I arrived in the middle of the day and quickly searched for a good operating position. As the AO-91 and AO-92 passes (the easy FM ones) coincided with my Lovewell activation, I knew this park could be a bit of a challenge to activate in a short amount of time. After leaving this park, I knew I had about another hour drive to my hotel in Concordia, KS which added to my desire to make this quick. I had already driven over four hours from the Kansas City area that morning, so I was tired to say the least.
This year for the 4th of July holiday weekend, I decided to do a four day rove to hit four new POTA parks (K-2343, K-2339, K-2354, K-2349) and four new grids (EM09, DM99, DN90, EN00) around northern Kansas. I’ll be posting a separate writeup for each park, so check out my overview page for links to the other activations. On Thursday the 2nd, I left my home in the Kansas City suburbs early in the morning for the approximately four hour drive. I decided to head north to St. Joseph and then travel US 36 almost the rest of the way which was a much nicer drive than the alternate I-70 option. I got to travel through a bunch of small towns and see a real beautiful part of rural Kansas. The drive up was mostly uneventful, although as I neared Lovewell, Google Maps routed me down a gravel road that soon turned to dirt. As I rounded a hill, the back end of my car started to slide around me, and although I didn’t spin out, I ended up in the mud and stuck. Using some of my snow driving skill learned during my Ohio upbringing, I switched off traction control, and my front wheel drive Honda Accord was able to make it on its way. I nearly got stuck two more times on that road before before hitting pavement again. A little rattled and worried if I’d miss my first planned pass at the park, I raced down the country roads in my now mud-caked sedan.
After going back and forth on plans for Field Day this year, I decided to do it as a satellite-only operation from Elk City State Park to double dip on my goal to activate all Kansas State Parks on satellites. I reserved one of the campsites right on the shore of the Elk City Reservoir which gave me a decent horizon around, although there was some terrain north of me facing away from the reservoir. I planned a 1B KS – Battery operation for the event.
After the nearly three hour drive down from Kansas City on Saturday, I got to the campsite around 2pm or 3pm and quickly set up my tent. The RV/camper section of the campsite was packed full, but the tent area where I set up was mostly empty. This was nice because it allowed me to operate without annoying any neighbors with my passes throughout the day. Unfortunately, I was too late to make some of the early FM satellite passes of the day, so I prepared for a long list of linear transponder satellites. My goal for this Field Day was to 1) activate the park for Parks on the Air, 2) have fun camping, and 3) get some more practice on the linear transponders. Looking back, I accomplished all three, but not without some frustrations. Additionally, the rules for ARRL Field Day, AMSAT Field Day, and POTA meant three separate logs that were all counted differently.
I’ve wanted to give a VHF contest a go for awhile, it never seemed like I could have a workable station for real weak signal VHF being an apartment dweller. With all my travel plans canceled this summer due to COVID-19 and plenty of time to experiment, I figured I might as well clear a few weekends to test a portable VHF setup and then work the ARRL June VHF Contest. I decided I’d largely use equipment I already had which meant entering the contest as Single Operator Portable (SOP) with only 5w.
Continuing my mission to activate all Kansas State Parks, I decided to take the Friday before Memorial Day (5/22/2020) off from work to travel down to Crawford State Park in southeast Kansas. This park is nicely situated around a lake and offers camping, boating, and fishing. At first arrival, I drove around the park looking for a good spot to activate from with a clear view of a the sky and away from campers who probably did not want to hear my yelling into my radio. As I started to loop around the lake, I encountered the spillway which also serves as part of the road. Since it had been raining all morning, the lake was high, and the spillway was, well, spilling over. Although I saw several SUVs and trucks drive through the moving water, I decided my Honda Accord may not be up to the task and took the long way around the lake. I ended up coming back near the park entrance for the satellite passes, but I did get to see the numerous campgrounds and lake access points during my initial exploration. As it was Memorial Day weekend, the campsites were mostly full.
I decided to operate in the parking lot that butts up to the beach and playground area, both of which were closed for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This spot provided a decent view of the sky in most directions. I planned for three satellite passes from this location, all FM birds. Although this location is fairly far from my apartment up near KC, it was just within my VUCC circle, so I was able to tack on some new grids as well. This was especially lucky as Mitch, AD0HJ, was roving through North Dakota at the time, and I got him on the DN76/77 grid line!
The passes I attempted were:
- AO-91 (1627z) – max 17 degree pass: 0 QSOs
- AO-92 (1655z) – max 86 degree pass: 9 QSOs
- AO-91 (1802z) – max 43 degree pass: 6 QSOs
Unfortunately the first pass didn’t yield any QSOs. It was a lowish pass to the east but also busy which made it difficult to get into the bird. I’m not sure if I heard myself at all on the downlink during that pass. The next two passes went very well despite being busy as usual.
After activating the park, I decided to drive over to the Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie about an hour and a half away to work the EM27/37 grid line. Although the grid line was not quite that far away directly, I prefer to use public parks/land for my roving as not to attract attention or worry locals who may see me pulled over on the side of the road. The prairie area just so happened to have a small gravel parking lot that perfectly straddles the grid line and afforded me a good place to hang out for an hour or so. From that location I worked two passes, PO-101 (a brand new satellite for me) at 2055z, and SO-50 (my least favorite) at 2122z. Both passes were successful with many QSOs, although PO-101 was fairly quiet and I even got to chat a bit, which is rare in my experience on the FM birds. In the end, I made six QSOs on PO-101 and 12 QSOs on SO-50 from the grid line.