Many thanks to Alan (W2AEW) who shares the following guest post:
New AX1 POTA Activation
by Alan (W2AEW)
I have to admit, I have been bitten “hard” by the POTA bug! (I blame Thomas!) It started for me in August 2022 while I was on vacation at the Jersey shore. Since that time, I have completed 48 activations at 19 different parks. All of these have been QRP, and almost exclusively on CW. This story is about one of my recent activations, which was unique for a couple of reasons. Read on…
My job puts me on the road, covering a large portion of the northeastern United States. When my schedule permits, I’ll hit the road earlier than needed in order to potentially stop for a quick activation along the way (usually giving up a lunch-on-the-road stop in favor of a bit of QRP CW operation at a park).
This particular park was not your typical state park. It wasn’t a nature preserve, or a mountain lake, or a hiking or picnic paradise. No, this park is decidedly urban, occupying 2 blocks in the city of Holyoke, MA. This is K-2439, Holyoke Heritage State Park. According to the state park website, this park celebrates the rich industrial heritage of the city of Holyoke. The park also includes a Children’s Museum, a Volleyball Hall of Fame and a restored antique Merry-Go-Round.
The park is situated along a canal that once powered some of the mills that were located on the property.
It certainly is not like any other state park that I’ve been to!
One of the reasons I chose to stop at this park is that it had only been activated 4 times in the past. In retrospect, I suppose this could’ve been because of the city/industrial setting. Was it going to be noisy? Maybe this was a bad idea.. Thankfully, it wasn’t… Another thing that appealed to me is that it had not been activated on CW before. So, my activation would be a CW ATNO (All Time New One) for this park, which is kind of cool.
A New Antenna
Largely due to Thomas extolling the virtues of the Elecraft AX1 compact vertical antenna, I “had to” purchase one for myself. This activation would be its maiden deployment.
Since this park doesn’t have your typical picnic area and the weather was near the freezing mark, I knew that I was going to run the activation from the warmth of the car. So, the question was, how to setup the AX1 antenna?
I remembered that many years ago, I had made a window-mount bracket with BNC connectors to use my VHF HT in the car with the antenna mounted outside. So, I dug through the closet and found it. Looks like it should work well with the AX1.
The only thing that it need was a way to attach a counterpoise wire. I was able to cut a pair of notches with my sheet metal nibblers to accommodate a female spade-type quick disconnect terminal. I dug through the junk box and found one that would accommodate the mini-banana plug that is used for the Elecraft KX2 ground connection, inserted into the “wire end” of the terminal. I believe the terminal was designed for 14 AWG wire.
Mounting the AX1 on this bracket worked extremely well!
The light blue ground / counterpoise wire connected easily, and was just laid down on the ground (parking lot) next to the car. I used a 25 foot length of RG-174 cable to connect to the antenna. The bulk of the coax was stretched out on the ground around the car, so the shield provided an additional counterpoise. And, the metal bracket provided some capacitive coupling to the body of the vehicle, further enhancing the ground plane.
The working surface is a “steering wheel desk”, but works equally well as lap work surface.
I only had about an hour for “lunch”, so that was my operating window. I was easily able setup the station, make my contacts, and get back on the road inside of the hour. After about 45 minutes of operating, I was able to put 20 QSOs in the log. Most of them were in the US, east of the Mississippi River. I had 1 DX station out of Poland – wow! Amazing performance (magic?) for an antenna that is only about 4 feet tall, and being fed with just 5W of power. Great fun, and a nice way to relax and regroup before heading to my meeting. Here is a map of the contacts:
The Parks On The Air program continues to be a great source of fun, and takes me to a wide variety of interesting parks – ranging from traditional hiking/picnic/family parks, to antique Lighthouses, to wildlife preserves, sporting lakes and rivers, and even a tiny urban state park in an industrial city!
72 de W2AEW
Readers: Check out Alan’s amazing YouTube channel that is simply chock-full of radio goodness!
Also, check out this short video of Alan’s first POTA activation. His dog makes a guest appearance: