Sunday, May 10, 2015

Annual Armed Forces Day Crossband Military / Amateur Radio Communications Test (9-10 May 2015)

I look forward to this event every year. I am hoping that I can participate from the USNORTHCOM MARS Station one day in the future but my efforts to secure a permanent location have not been successful so far.

This was the 65th celebration of the Anniversary of Armed Forces Day and the 90th anniversary celebration of the creation of MARS (Military Affiliated Radio System).

Basically it works like this: The MARS Stations transmit on one of their approved frequencies (out side the Amateur bands) and they listen on the Amateur band. That way Amateurs can make contact with the different MARS Stations participating in the event. In most cases the MARS operators are also Hams but that is not always the case.

I was able to work three MARS Stations, WUG-2 in Memphis TN, NPD in Memphis TN and NWVC in Evansville IN. I really wanted to work AAZ in AZ but it was not to be. The frustration is there are several frequencies publish but they tend to sit on the freq closest to 20 meters for the whole event, at least that has been my observation. Also I never heard any Air Force Stations which was disappointing. I am re-working my shack or have been for the last few months and do not have any digital capability so I was unable to copy the digital transmission from Ash Carter, Sec Def.

Message from Ash Carter

I think the last time I put this much effort into the event was over ten years ago in 2004 and here is the QSL card I received from that event.

A few videos about the USNORTHCOM MARS Station and operators.

72, Frank K0JQZ / AAM8N

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The "GOAT GUY" and the "OTHER GUY" do the summit of 10650 for Summits On The Air

I have been having some difficult times at work so this was just what I needed. Steve, WG0AT and I decided to tackle the un-named summit of 10650. I was on this summit in Aug of last year and it is much easier when there is no snow. It is less than a mile and less than 1000 foot vertical gain but when it is covered in 2 to 3 feet of snow you have to work for those points.

The "GOAT GUY" (wG0AT) leading the way

The "OTHER GUY" (K0JQZ) trailing behind (Photo by WG0AT)
The was pretty much the path we took

My APRS beacon track
The road once we crossed into Teller County, was in rough shape. It was nothing but pot holes and slow going. I hope they fix it before it gets too late in the season but I do not have confidence that will happen.

Vews from the tree covered summit

The summit registry is under that rock

Another view from the summit

We came across a flat spot a few meters from the summit and that is where we setup two stations. I used the MTR with EFHW and Steve was rocking the KX3 and 58 foot EF random wire.

This mint tin houses my matching circuit for the linked EF for 20 and 30 meters (Photo by WG0AT)

Pico Paddles (Photo by WG0AT)

Power source for the MTR (Photo by WG0AT)

Mountain Topper Radio or MTR for 20 and 30 meters  (Photo by WG0AT)

K0JQZ in the shack (Photo by WG0AT)

I only worked four stations on 30 meters. I am not sure why but RBN (Reverse Beacon Network) never picked me up but N6KZ found my weak signal and posted my spot to the SOTA Watch web site which produced 3 more QSOs. My QSOs included N6KZ, N0EVH, N9KW and K0LAF. I had to work for them and I thought after Steve got done I would jump on 20 meter CW. That never happened due to weather coming in. I think we would had been ok but I do not think either one of us wanted to take that chance. I started thinking about the rough drive coming in, the hike down and the possibility of an electrical component and I decided to pack up my station and listen to Steve run the pileup. 

This was the forth activation using the 9 volt Energizer Advanced Lithium and it just dropped under 9 volts to 8.990 volts. I think it has a few activations left in it. I really want to see how long I can go on different 9 volt batteries. The last one (a Duracell) lasted four activations but I misplaced it so I will test another one after I exhaust this one. It is nice to know that I can take the radio with me on a plane or anywhere and not have to worry about a power source as I can pickup a 9 volt anywhere.

WG0AT under tarp shelter during snow

The KX3 right at home on the summit

WG0AT working the pileup on 15 Meters
The Goat Guy got a few summit to summits stations and at least 4 DX stations! 15 Meters was open! There did seem to be some deep QSB but he had a good run. I was satisfied that I was able to work 4 stations on 30 Meters but started to think I may need to check everything over again. That was the first time RBN did not hear me and it bothers me.

At the end of our activation I was getting very cold. Before the hike I took my heavy winter gear out of my pack and wish I didn't but I still had a jacket, rain gear and gloves so that really saved me. I just wish we could had sent more time on the summit. When the sun was out it was very pleasant but when the clouds moved in and the snow started back up it was time to go.

It was a great day.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

An Ozarkcon Inspired Propagation Indicator

The weather has been somewhat unpredictable. I mowed my yard for the first time this season on Wednesday. The yard and bushes are coming in good and I get a lot of enjoyment from doing stuff like that. I think I enjoy it because it is measurable work. In other words, when I mow the yard, move rocks, plant a garden etc I can see the result of my labor at the end of the day. There is a lot to be said for that. On Thursday I had to drive to Denver for a meeting and it took me three hours to get up there mostly due to rain, snow and hail. Friday was much of the same as well as Saturday and to a lesser extent Sunday. Wednesday I am mowing the yard and Friday I am shoveling snow in the driveway.... Colorado!


The "Woody Factor Index" was the result of some discussion at Ozarkcon about propagation index and predictions. Woody, WD9F, was the catalyst behind John, N0EVH, coming up with the Woody Factor or WF (named in honor of Woody, WD9F). What does this thing do? Well, it uses the WF Formula is to come up with an indicator which tells you if it is worth operating or not during a given period. With a WF near zero and you might as well read a book or do yard work. A WF of more than zero then it is safe to operate. This would be specifically valuable to SOTA operators.

The finished product

WF says do not operate

Early testing had both lights coming on as the WF approached zero

Small, Light and Invaluable

The Indicator in an Altoids Tin

WF is RED then do not operate

RED means fire up the soldering iron and do something else
The circuit
No more trying to figure out all those complex solar index numbers and counting sunspots. Just press a button and you know instantly. WD9F, N0EVH, WA8REI, KD0MQO and WG0AT all had a hand in this and all the credit and or blame goes to them.


Monday, April 13, 2015

"Goat Man" and the "Other Guy" do Ozarkcon 2015

Unfortunately Lynn, KC0YQF, my XYL, could not join us so it was just me and Steve, wG0AT, heading to Ozarkcon in Branson MO.

Everyone knows Steve as the guy that hikes with Goats, Boo and Peanut. Steve has done a tremendous job of promoting QRP and the outdoors though his pack goats and I think it is a testament to Steve's marketing skills as to why he and the goats are so widely known. People even know the names of Steve's pack goats and love their adventures and commentary. I am usually referred to as the "other guy" and my name is remembered (sometimes a good thing). That fact always makes me chuckle.  We decided that the billing for this event would be the "Goat Man and the Other Guy"..... We had a blast with that.

First of all, I do not attend a lot of these type of events but this was by far the best.  I may explore attending this one again A lot of the enjoyment of an event has to do with the company. Steve and I chatted most of the 1600 mile journey so time went by fast, even I-70 in Kansas. The company at the event was also fantastic and I got to put a face and personality to the callsigns.

Special thanks to Terry WA0ITP for the event.

To to the following:

N0EVH, John
KD0MQO, Frank
WD9F, Woody
G3JRH, Peter
W0MNA/W0ERI, Gary/Martha

and the many people that put on this event...... presenters, organizers, host hotel, the top notch awards distribution / suppliers and the 4 State QRP Group as a whole.

The fellowship alone was worth the price of admission but we did manage to activate a few summits. I will not say the summits in MO and AR are cheap but Steve and I did a short hike one evening to make up for the guilt of claiming such easy SOTA points.

Kudos to Ken, WA8ERI, for his first SOTA activation. Ken is a top notch CW and QRP Operator and it was good to see him run the pileup. Hopefully we can find a summit for him in Colorado when he ventures out here.

Enough talk, pictures are always better:

 The SOTA Activations

20 and 30 Meter MTR of K0JQZ

K0JQZ Station

The Goat Man's EF setup (very slick)

KD0MQO QRO Station

Peter and Woody team up for some QSOs

wG0AT taming the RF

Woody, WD9F, running a CW pileup

K0JQZ, enjoying the ultimate SOTA radio, the KX3 (Photo by N0EVH). I am hoping Lynn will let me borrow hers next year!

Peter, G3RJH running the pileup on 20 meter CW

Frank, KD0MQO on Webster County HP

WG0AT and K0JQZ on Kennedy Mountain (Photo by N0EVH)

The crew: KD0MQO, N0EVH, K0JQZ, WA8REI, WG0AT, W0MNA (Casey in front) and W0ERI (photo by N0EVH)


The sign says it all!

Inside the swap area
Frank KD0MQO and John N0EVH demonstrate the "Sled Kite" for me
Sled Kite unwrapped
Ready to launch
Run faster John!
I really wanted to lift an antenna with the Sled Kite but the winds would not cooperate with us. It is a lot more involved than having someone run down the street in order to gain altitude. Thank you Frank and John for bringing it and letting me check it out. I was very impressed.

Steve and his Ozarkcon take aways

Cool, vintage QRP and some odds and ends (photo by wG0AT)

Ken, Frank and Woody discuss the "Woody Propagation Index"

Woody, WD9F, holds the only propagation formula you will ever need

Gary, W0MNA won just about every category of show and tell he entered which goes to show you the caliber of Hams that are involved in this QRP event.

John, N0EVH earned the coveted "W.A.F. or "Worked All Frank" Award.

Woody, WD9F is the nexus behind a new propagation index and we found out that with an "A" Index of 36 you can still make QSOs with QRP.

Steve, wG0AT, earned a special WA8REI certificate for a recent milliwatt QRPp QSO with Ken.
Ken and I exchanged QSL cards in person which was a special thrill.


I had a blast but it is good to be back in Colorado with the air just at the right thickness and the Rocky Mountain wilderness close by.