I think we had all hoped on our climb into Cycle 25 that we’d get some brilliant propagation, stable conditions, and the opportunity to use less power and yield more DX. Who doesn’t want that?
But we get what we get from our local star and the theme this year is that it is indeed showing some positive indicators, but at the same time–this summer, especially–it’s spitting stuff toward our pale blue dot that makes a mess of the ionosphere.
Lately, each time I head out the door to activate a park, I never know what to expect. It’s part of the fun. Will band conditions be in the dumps, or will the ionosphere provide the perfect platform for my QRP signals–?
On Thursday July 7, 2022 it was the former rather than the latter.
My family decided to head into Québec City that day to visit one of our favorite used book stores (in search of some Bandes Desinées–read more about that at the bottom of this post) and other errands.
I checked the POTA Map and discovered a park we’d never visited in the past, so it looked like a good candidate for a POTA activation!
Digging deeper, I also discovered it was an ATNO (All-Time New One) and had never been activated for POTA before. Hard to believe given its location, but there you go!
I put my POTA backpack in the car and we hit the road!
Parc des Moulins (VE-5068)
After a little searching, we finally found a good parking spot at the park. There was a LOT of construction going on around the grounds.
Parc des Moulins, like many of the parks I’d recently activated in/around Québec City, is a proper urban park with manicured paths and gardens. It’s a beautiful little park!
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Elecraft AX1 packed in a Maxpedition Fatty Pouch
- tufteln EFRW QRP Antenna Long Wire
(with 31′ radiator and 17′ counterpoise)
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera (affiliate link)
Site #1 with the Elecraft AX1
Not too far from the park entrance, I found a picnic table sitting out in the open and decided to set up my most simple station option: the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 antenna.
By using the AX1 on a picnic table, I knew I’d be fairly low-profile and my antenna wouldn’t get in the way of children playing frisbee nearby.
I brought my action camera along to film the activation, but decided against using it (actually, I started a video, then almost immediately shut it off). I knew my wife and daughters would be joining me at the picnic table once they’d walked the park and I wanted them to be able to talk freely at the table. Having a camera rolling puts a damper on family conversation.
Looking back, I wish I would have recorded the whole thing, though, just to show how sometimes things just don’t go according to plan.
QRM and Rough Prop
As soon as I turned on the KX2, I noticed some significant QRM on 20 and 17 meters; the two bands I’d hoped to use to complete this activation. The radio interference was likely coming from either a power line or something on the active construction site within a stone’s throw of my picnic table.
Part of me knew I should pack up and relocated to a different corner of the park, but my wife and daughters were out and about walking and would not have been able to find me if I relocated. So I made do for the time being.
I started the activation on 20 meters and almost immediately worked N4RKK.
I then proceeded to call CQ POTA for another 20 minutes with no callbacks at all. The QRM was likely drowning out all signals below S7 and reports on Twitter were that band conditions were deteriorating.
As soon as my wife and daughters returned, I packed up all of my gear and we moved to the opposite end of the park. They spotted a much better place to set up and noted that I could deploy a wire antenna there without worrying about park guests tripping over it. As a bonus, there was a picnic table under the trees.
Site #2 with the Tufteln Random Wire
My family gave me a thumbs up for recording an activation video, so I pulled out my action camera and pressed record after deploying the antenna.
Speaking of antennas, I decided to switch to my trusty Tufteln 9:1 random wire antenna so that I could have a bit of frequency agility. I wanted to give 30 meters a shot and that’s not possible with the AX1.
Deployment was quick and I immediately hopped on the air.
The QRM was all but nonexistent. It’s amazing how moving to the other end of the park had such a dramatic effect.
Within 5 minutes of calling CQ POTA on 20 meters, I had logged five stations: W8EWH, NE4TN, EC1R, F4ILR, and KG8HZ.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was not expecting a little European DX in the mix with conditions as poor as they were.
I was then met with silence, so I QSYed to the 30 meter band. After a lot of CQs, I finally worked K2KS.
Including the contact with he AX1, I now had seven stations bagged. I could tell getting my last three would take some time, though!
I eventually moved back to the 20 meter band and slowly started working more stations. I logged AA0Z, EC5CSW, and WA3TMR–this gave me the total of ten stations I needed to validate this park activation. Woo hoo!
I planned to pack it up, but glanced over at my wife who was in the midst of making a water color painting. She nodded and I knew I had at least a few more minutes to play radio.
I decided to give SSB a go. Up to this point, all of my contacts were CW and all with 5 watts; I bumped up the power to 10 watts and started calling CQ on 14,268 kHz.
It took a while, but I was very pleased to work Mike (KB0MPV) with the KX2’s built-in microphone. As of today, he’s still the only SSB hunter to have logged and confirmed VE-5068!
My wife and daughters were started to pack up their art supplies, so I hopped off the air and packed up my field kit.
Looking at the logs, I was actually very pleased with the results, especially given the challenging band conditions and only pushing 5 watts.
Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In fact, this one was done in one take:
I’ll admit: although it was slow-going and required moving sites, this was a very enjoyable activation.
It was fun to work some QRP DX into France and Spain and log a few POTA friends State side too. Plus, this tuned out to be an ATNO and there’s always a bit of fun in that!
After packing up, my wife and daughters took me on a walk through the park before we hopped in the car and made our way to Ordi Livres!
Thank you for joining me on this urban park activation!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
In fact, your support is what has made this extended family road trip to Canada possible. I apply any funds above and beyond the costs of running the website, producing the videos, and purchasing review equipment, to our family travel fund. This not only gives me an opportunity to play radio well outside my home area, but my family also gets to benefit from the work I put into producing activation videos and content on QRPer.com.
Thank you so very much!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)
Postscript: Les Bandes Dessinées
For the 5% of you who are still reading this report: I mentioned at the top of the page (and I believe also in a couple activation videos) that I’m a big fan of French comic books/graphic novels referred to as Les Bandes Dessinées (Les BD).
I first learned about les BD, as an undergraduate student at the Université de Grenoble in France.
In my literature class I was assigned some pretty challenging reading (classic/historic novels, etc.) that basically required having the novel open in one hand and a French dictionary open in the other. It was a struggle not to fall asleep. They were difficult to read and, frankly, I think they almost had a negative impact on my confidence as a French reader.
Then one day I walked by one of Grenoble’s neighborhood libraries and they had a display in the window of the classic Bande Desinée series, Tintin by Hergé. I walked inside, checked out a few, and when I got back to my room I simply devoured them.
Not only were they so much easier to read, but I loved the artwork and the stories. I became a huge fan of Hergé and started purchasing used copies of these books to take back to the States.
To this day, anytime we visit a French-speaking country, I search bookstores for les BD and always bring a few back home. I love discovering new series.
I’m incredibly grateful to the husband and wife team who would visit our local farmer’s market in St-Ferréol-les-Neiges with their used book store built into a VW campervan. For such a small mobile used bookstore, it had loads of variety. Plus, a campervan bookstore? Doesn’t get any cooler than that in my world!
The husband introduced me to the semi-autobiographical “Paul” series by Montréal native, Michel Rabagliati. I purchased a copy of Paul au parc and immediately fell in love. Since then, I’ve order a few more from sellers on eBay.
Many of the popular BD series have been translated into multiple languages (Tintin, for example, has been translated into over 50 languages).
I know this is way off the topic of radio, but I am curious if there are other fans of Les Bandes Dessinées and similar graphic novels. Please comment!