Rover Report - January 2002 VHF SS Contest - Bryan McCoy, KA0YSQ
Here is what I remember from the contest. Since it is from my perspective, your mileage may very. Speaking of mileage, it wasn't as bad as we first thought it would be. My trip odometer read 752 miles, but that is a conclusion, not the real story in sequence.
Joe Culwell - WB0YFL and I started Tuesday evening setting radios on the bench, and applying power. We looked at output spectrum, and attempted to tweek the LO rock to something close to center. I had earlier in the year glued one of those PTC resistor thingies on each rock, but netting in the crystal had yet to be completed. We worked quickly for four hours, and still had 6, 2, 432, and 1296 MHz not checked. This also included not exercising any of the receive paths. I knew then that Saturday at 1 PM would come way too quickly.
Wednesday evening, I stacked up the IF rigs, measured voltages on each CW key line and figured out a way to wire up one CW key to work with all radios. It also let me see how huge the IF stack would be, and what to do for shelving in the car. Thursday I had a meeting, and got nothing done. Friday, I took half a day off work, got new tires, a belt for the dryer (home maintenance) and started working on the vehicle end of things. Joe (WB0YFL) showed up after work, as did Dan Veerhusen who extracted the front seat out of the Stanza. Joe worked on radios, and I worked on masts, antennas, and cabling. Joe was quickly able to shift to shelf duty, then back to radios, while I fruitlessly searched for the control harness, which selects which transverter the IF is keying. Nuts to that. New IF relay switching and new control harnesses were created, with an interest this time to quick and error free band switching capability. Dan Veerhusen left somewhere early evening, and Joe left around ten, and I kept puttering away. Somewhere in there my wife left me. :)
She had Continuing Education class in Des Moines that weekend and would miss all the fun. This happened last year, which is why I missed the contest completely. Kid duties and all. This year, I pleaded and we were able to do local child placement. Stacy during this portion was at an away game, and came home at 2 am. A perfect start to a rover weekend, way short on sleep. To complicate things, I am taking a EE grad class, and there were a lot of problems due monday. Since I had used every waking moment to get rover hardware working, I knew that school was going to be interesting. Saturday AM came, Joe rolled in quite early and it looked like we were going to make it.
The mast on the rear trailer hitch is a two piece-er, made out of aluminum uni-strut, with a lower section of about 6 feet, and an upper section, also about 6 feet. The upper section with the antennas could be mounted at any location along the lower fixed portion. We hung the upper section from the roof of the garage so that the coaxes could be bent to the vehicle, and things really started coming together. We decide to pull'er outside and stand it all up, which would basically make it road ready. Joe was holding the upper section, and I pulled the car out of the garage. That is when things really started to come apart. Apparently a 6 foot fixed section mounted one foot in the air on the hitch is just slightly taller than the garage door clearance. Somehow I remember doing the same thing last time. Joe, who had perfect 50 yardline seats for this event never made a sound, something about running to keep up with the car.
A little action with a C-clamp and the mast was back in action. Slam the trunk lid on the coaxes and we would be off. I had raised the trunk latch as high as it would go, as we did last time, to provide a gap to let the coaxes out of the trunk, but we couldn't seem to get it latched. After crawling through the tilt down back seat with a flashlight, I could see that the latch was close, really really close. Try a little harder. With all of Joe bouncing up and down on the trunk, we got it latched, and knew that we wouldn't need in there again during the weekend. We hit the road maybe 20 minutes late on contest time, and went looking for Rod (K0DAS), who wouldn't answer the radio or the phone or the cell phone, which he had so carefully made sure everyone had the number of. Like all radios, you have to turn it on. We didn't find him in Robins, Iowa or the local shops on the way to the Interstate I-380, so we decided to start without him. Barry Buelow (WA0RJT) showed up on band, and then on location as well as Mark Kovalan (K8XK). Always good to have someone to work. They roved with us for much of the early event, driving around the local grid square (EN42) in the exact order that the log required. It wasn't necessarily the least miles, but certainly the fewest number of page turns in the log. Hey, whatever works.
Ron Luse (KD9KX) showed up early evening with his typically massive 6-meter signal. Later in the afternoon, things began to get predictable, so I started the homework. Joe would poke me with a logging pencil and let me know when I had to move to a new grid. Four hours of homework later, I had only gotten through problem six out of 17, and just couldn't get the sleep depredated brain to math problems. Good thing all combinations had been worked, and we could go home. Somewhere during the evening, our 222 MHz transverter died mostly. If you were within about 100 feet, you could make a contact. So as the two ships were passing in the night, we would quickly make a contact. It only seemed to work when we were in the same grid.
We got home, I pulled the 222 MHz transverter, put a battery charger on the car leaving all the equipment powered up, puttered around a bit, and hit the hay. Much to my surprise, the two dogs went off at 5:45 AM just as Joe rolled in. We did some quick clean up of the rover station, fed the 222 MHz transverter a transistor, and were on the road about 20 minutes late, dragging the battery charger down the driveway. It was going to be a fine day.
It seemed very important to get all the bands working that had failed the night before, so checking other things on the car didn't get done. As we were flying up Interstate I-380 to catch the other guys, Joe looked up the array through the back window to verify that it was still there. Yup, sure enough we were missing the 1296 MHz loop. The 0.141 semi-ridged hard-line had broken the solder joint and had fallen out of the SMA. Dave (WD0BWQ) was on the air from Waterloo, Iowa and we coerced him into creating a very sexy monopole on an N connector flange. After a most interesting tour of his domicile, we again were playing catchup to the rest of the crowd. From that point on, it was just contacts and moving, contacts and moving. We didn't get stuck in the snow, we didn't visit any constabulary, and nothing really significant broke, except for a fuse in Steves rover system, but that is his story.
There are 224 contacts per grid dance page, (not that we got them all) plus 85 some contacts elsewhere, making my score not quite 0.7 contacts per mile. Could be worse.
QSO points: 1724 multipliers 66 + 9 grids roved to.
50 MHz -- 96 Q's, 9 grids
144 MHz -- 130 Q's 11 grids
222 MHz -- 80 Q's, 10 grids
432 MHz -- 99 Q's, 9 grids
902 MHz -- 72 Q's, 9 grids
1296 MHz -- 84 Q's, 9 grids
2304 MHz -- 72 Q's, 9 grids
1724 * 75 = 129,300 points?
73s - Bryan McCoy, KA0YSQ
Last Update: February 20, 2002
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