Activating Plaines d’Abraham in Old Québec with the KX2 and AX1 combo

When we spend the summer in the province of Québec, we always set aside at least one day to hang out in Old Québec. This portion of the city of Québec is simply stunning: it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of French North America.

No other place in North America reminds me more of the years we lived in Europe than Old Québec.

We’ve been to Old Québec a countless number of times over the past two decades; we enjoy checking out the architecture, the window boxes full of flowers, and the numerous museums.

Old Québec is, of course, quite touristy–especially if you visit on a weekend. It can be incredibly busy and also challenging to find parking especially if, like us, you have a cargo box on top of your car (many parking decks have strict height restrictions).

On Tuesday, July 26, 2022, we decided to make a trip into Old Québec to visit some of our favorite book shops, small businesses, enjoy a lunch together, and soak in some of the amazing weather.

My wife encouraged me to find a nice POTA site and–wow–is one spoiled for choice! There are no fewer than 10 POTA parks in/around Old Québec. Check out the POTA map–each yellow dot is a park:

I know Québec City well enough to know that some of these parks wouldn’t be terribly easy to activate since they’re historic buildings and sites–I think it could be done, but you might need to seek permission in advance. I think it would be incredibly fun to set up a multi-park rove on foot; in fact, I’ve put that on my bucket list for a future trip!

The park I was eager to activate is the largest in central Québec City: The Plains of Abraham. It’s a beautiful and open urban park that overlooks the the St-Lawrence river. It’s Québec City’s version of Central Park.

Plaines d’Abraham (VE-1019)

I was very fortunate: after we dodged a little road construction, I found parallel parking on Ave Winfred-Laurier next to the Parc Jeanne d’Arc.

There was only one free parking space and it was ideally-located. After parking (and doing a little happy dance), I grabbed my backpack and we walked into the park.

Statue of Jeanne d’Arc.

The Plaines d’Abraham is an expansive park.

I couldn’t recall if there were picnic tables in the park so I was very pleased to see a number of them scattered about. There were also a number of park benches.

Yeah, let’s NOT use this bench for our activation!

Setting up

I was really consternated over which antenna to use for the activation.

This, again–and very much to my surprise–was an ATNO (All-Time New One) park. I would have felt pretty conspicuous putting an antenna in a tree there and didn’t know if the park staff would think that would be a big no-no.

I was pressed for time, so decided to rely on my trusty super low-profile, super stealthy Elecraft AX1 antenna.

The AX1 and KX2.

My wife and daughters went on a long walk together as I set up my Elecraft KX2 and AX1 at a picnic table under a tree.

Gear:

As with the last time I used my AX1 antenna in Québec City, it was quite gusty.

Handling wind is not the AX1’s strong suit, so I used the same trick I used at Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier and extended the whip antenna through the handle on my Tom Bihn backpack. Not the best solution, but it works. I do need to sort out a better approach for future gusty AX1 activations.

On The Air

Propagation was poor and a quick scan revealed just how empty and quiet the 20 meter band was, so I opted to do this activation with 10 watts to hopefully speed things up. I needed to keep this activation as short as possible because we had lunch plans in town and were looking forward to our walk through Old Québec.

Note that–outside of testing radios–this was the first time since the beginning of 2021 that I used more than 5 watts to validate a park activation.

My goal was to complete this activation in 30 minutes.

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters.

In sixteen minutes, I logged 7 stations: KA3ICJ, KG8YT, K3ES, N2ESE, WB4ZBI, W4TRA, and WD8RIF.

I was very pleased with these results considering band conditions and–once again–I was simply amazed by the magic of the AX1 (which, no doubt, was aided by the fact this park was at an ATNO!).

I knew 40 meters was completely washed out due to flaring, so next I moved up to the 17 meter band which, with the AX1, only required flipping the 20/17M switch on the side of the antenna, then using the KX2 internal ATU to sort out the rest of the match. Unlike moving to 40 meters, there’s no need to change the counterpoise for 17 meters.

I started calling CQ and within ten minutes I logged K8NWD, F4ILH, and DL4AX.

Had I not been pressed for time, I would have stayed on 17 meters a good 10-15 minutes longer. I believe I could have snagged a little more EU DX with some time and patience, but I didn’t want to intrude on family time.

Having logged the 10 contacts needed, I packed up my gear at the same time my wife and daughters returned from their stroll.

QSO Map

Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. Not too bad for such a wee aerial:

Activation Video

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:

Click here to watch on YouTube (please consider subscribing).

What fun!

I’ll admit that I really enjoyed this activation.

It was so much fun for me to hang out in one of my favorite cities in the world and play radio with such a low-profile setup. There were a lot of people enjoying the park that day and I doubt any of them would have guessed that I was sitting there at a table sending and receiving Morse Code and making contacts across the globe.

I say that, but anyone who passed by my picnic table would have no doubt heard a little code emanating from the KX2 speaker and I liked the thought of that, too!

Walking past the Radio-Canada house reminded me of a most memorable visit there when I was interviewed by NPR’s Scott Simon.

We had a brilliant time in town that Tuesday.

We offered to take our daughters to lunch at any one of the amazing restaurants in town. Turns out, they wanted some simple street food, so Poutine is was! (Then later in the afternoon some proper homemade ice cream!)

Not a good day to be on a diet.

We eventually circled back around to the Plains of Abraham and our parking spot by taking the Cap-Blanc stairs which date back to the 19th century.

Truly a memorable day in a remarkable city!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this 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)

13 thoughts on “Activating Plaines d’Abraham in Old Québec with the KX2 and AX1 combo”

  1. Thanks for the report now on to the video.
    That food looked good and something one could get in New Orleans.

    PS: And thx for the cw qso yesterday evening. You were booming into nwOhio ……finally the band was workable. I was using the kxpd2 that at last arrived, on the Kx2.

  2. I wouldn’t worry about those height restrictions as those roof boxes are incredibly bendy, don’t ask me how I know 🙂

    A bit of duct tape and 7 years later the roof box still lives and is regularly used for trips……

    Great write up and that poutine looks good, never had it with sausage before. My children want to try Beavertails?

    My wife has suggested a trip next year starting in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec and onwards to visit our relatives in Halifax. The children are up for it and after reading some of your reviews here so am I, May take the LEO FM sat gear and the FT-818 with an end fed. Let’s hope I get the leave!

  3. I haven’t had the success you’ve had with the AX-1… but it’s inspiring to see…. Great video.

    On a side note, I would like to submit an article for your review in QRPer. I have a draft prepared, and can email it to you in an attachment. Please advise and send me an email address I can send it..

    Thanks Thomas…

    de W7UDT Rand (dit dit)

  4. Any poor antenna can show poor band conditions. I’d never judge band conditions based on a AX1.

    Any antenna comments must be judged against a known antenna.

    73, ron, n9ee

    1. While it’s true that a compromised antenna will not yield the same RX results as a wide aperture resonant antenna, I do believe you can get a sense for band conditions by simply band scanning and listening. For example, QSB affects all types of field antennas. If you hear deep QSB, you’ll know conditions aren’t stable. Also, I know what a survey of the 20M band sounds like on an average day (regardless of antenna) because I spend a reasonable amount of time there and on the air. If this were a lab test, yes, the comparison would need to be made with some sort of benchmark, but for a gut feeling about band conditions, I think it’s fine to do a quick field assesment.

      In the end, band conditions never stop me from activating. 🙂 “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” I say!

  5. A wonderful city to explore, indeed. The Québec and Canadian government tourist boards should be thankful for your wonderful reports. Who reading this will now be putting Québec on their future travel itinerary?
    I’ve been many, many times on my own, with my family and as a supervisor on school trips. In Ontario, the Grade 7 History curriculum covers New France, so many schools take their students to Québec to experience living history. One activity on the trip is to reenact the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a turning point in Canadian history. Read about it here: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-the-plains-of-abraham

    1. And on a personal historical note, my grandfather immigrated to Canada from Scotland just before the Great War and because he had grown up on a farm, was familiar with horses. He was subsequently posted to the cavalry of Le Royal 22e Régiment, a francophone regiment of the Canadian Army with a legendary history, although he spoke not a word of French! He was stationed at the Citadel in Quebec City, still an active military base, but well worth the tour if visiting the city today. Next time, Thomas?

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