Rover Report - January 2001 VHF SS Contest - Rod Blocksome, K0DAS
This rover expedition went so well it was almost spooky. The first indication was that Bill, N0LNO and I made it out to the Four corners west of Cedar Rapids (EN41, EN42, EN31, and EN32) exactly 5 minutes before the contest started with a fully functioning rover - something that has never happend before with our JIT mode of doing things.
Friday afternoon and evening was spent in final cabling and testing the rack of equipment that I built up out of PVC pipe. This held all the PA's, transverters, switch boxes, and 12 VDC power buss interfaces. Everything tested ok except the 902 MHz Transverter IF was intermittent. It took me 2 hours to track it down to a bad solder joint on an MMIC.
Saturday Morning, Bill came over at 8:30 AM and we did the final cables and some more power output checks then loaded everything into his van for the first time. The Icom IC-706 and Yaesu FT-840 stack was placed on the dash with a 2-inch diameter bundle of cables running from them to the rack lashed down amid ships behind the front seats. This cable bundle was too short to lay on the floor so at the last minute Bill found a broken shovel handle in my garage which we quickly lashed between the rack and the rigs to support the cables.
The station consisted of the Icom IC-706 on 50, 144, and 432 MHz driving SS PAs on 144 and 432 giving 100 W, 180 W, and 100 W respectively. The Yaseu FT-840 drove transverters on 222 MHz (35W), 902 MHz (45W), 1296 MHz (15W), and 2304 MHz (0.1W). Antennas were all mounted on a single mast attached to the trailer hitch and were: "V" dipoles on 50, 144, 222, 432 MHz and dual stacked Quad loops on 902 and 1296 MHz and a 10 dBi horn (hand held) on 2304 MHz. Two marine deep cycle batteries provided +24 VDC for the surplus coax relays and the 902 MHz PA.
The most outstanding ingredient of our rove: we had a really good driver/navigator - Bill, N0LNO. He also handled the public relations very well - explaining what we were doing at midnight hanging around a farmer's property and later, at about 2 AM, to another fellow in a pick-up that pulled up along side. No visits from Law enforcement on this rove - unless you count the three police cars jammed into the small parking lot of the Motel when we woke up. Turns out they had someone else cornered in the motel, so we fired up and drove to Denny's for breakfast.
Buying gas at 2:30 AM out west of Minneapolis, Minnesota brought many repeated questions from the station attendant. I think he got a little nervous when the second rover vehicle pulled in minutes after the first.
We used a GPS to identify the grid line crossings. The rest of the navigation was done with DeLorme maps.
We experienced a failure in the 902 MHz transverter the first time we tried to use it in EN 32 so we lost that band for the contest duration. After the "cold soak" in Minneapolis at the Motel, the FT-840 external PTT line refused to work and the plastic broke on my Heil headset. So we had to manually key the 222, 1296, and 2304 MHz transverters for the rest of the contest. Plastic tape held the Heil earpiece together.
We ran 2304 MHz with Gary, W0GHZ Sunday morning on our way toward Wisconsin. Bill picked out a nice high hill that turned out to have a parking lot (Imation County) that sat right on the EN34/EN35 grid line. We worked Gary from both grids on 2304 MHz.
On the trip into Wisconsin, folks passing us on Interstate I-94 gave varied reactions (mostly puzzelment on their faces) at the sight of the Van. One very good looking gal flashed a big smile and gave us the thumbs up sign - obviously knew what quality ham radio was all about!
Later, Jeff gets an invitation for an eyeball from a ham who lived "just off the interstate". It was an interesting diversion.
We had our "dance around the four corners" down to a science by the time we got to EN44/EN54/EN43/EN53. We did 80 Q's in exactly 55 minutes for all 16 combinations of grid locations for the two rovers.
Coming home, the 2 meter band got really good late afternoon and early evening. Some aurora was briefly heard around 7 PM. We ended the contest just as we pulled into Robins, working Bryan - KA0YSQ on 1296 MHz as the last contest contact - a fitting end to a really looooong rove.
I'll post our score as soon as I get if figured out.
Last Update: February 20, 2002
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