An Accidental Three-State POTA Rove
by Joshua (N5FY)
I often find myself playing radio in the evening when I travel out of state for work. I especially enjoy adding another state to my list of activations. So, a trip to the Sioux City area was great, as I could activate in South Dakota and Nebraska, both new states to add to my POTA activations.
Of course, you are wondering how one accidentally completes a 3 state POTA rove, so I’ll get into the details in a bit. Believe me though, it wasn’t because I had a fool-proof plan. I do believe that failing to plan is planning to fail. But in this case, a bit of luck and agility on my part, with the bands cooperating, and with the POTA hunter support, I did indeed complete 3 POTA activations, in 3 states, in under 2 hours!
To be honest, I rarely put much effort into planning an activation while traveling as I simply may not have any time get out to a park, and of course, playing radio is not the purpose of my trip. I often find myself spending just a couple minutes looking at POTA locations before a trip and even may look last minute after I land, before I get off the plane, looking for a good POTA location. Maybe I like the urgent planning excitement, or maybe I don’t want the disappointment of not having the chance to go activate after spending time planning the outing? Again, I do recommend a bit of planning, so don’t exactly follow my example here.
As a result of my minimal planning I typically find myself with a very impromptu, “wing it” style activation. This trip was certainly no exception. I only had one evening to check off both South Dakota and Nebraska. There were parks which seemed readily accessible, but I hadn’t really verified activation numbers or best location on the park property to setup. I did save a few parks in the 3-State area, including Iowa.
I already had an Iowa activation, so I wasn’t as worried about hitting the IA park.
Once my evening freed up, the first day I was in the area, it was already a late in the evening, so I was in a bit of a rush as I headed to the first park. I figured I would hit South Dakota first then drop down to Nebraska and spend a bit more time calling CQ there according to how much daylight I had left.
I arrived in the area of the first park–a state park land. As I approached the boundary, I found a horse trail parking lot with some nice-looking trees for a throw line and wire antenna. As I was in a hurry, not needing a hike, I knew this would work well. I’m not one to play radio from the car, but in this case, it would cut down a bit on the time needed so I could get to the second park.
I threw a line and pulled up my antenna. Within 10 minutes of parking, I had my station setup and scanned 20m to see what shape the band was in. I typically put up a 20m EFHW and hope for the best, and this usually doesn’t disappoint. I then setup my log and found a surprise.
What I failed to do, in the rush to get to my first park, was check which state the park was in. I had saved to my Google Maps, a park in all three states in the area. I indeed found myself in Iowa, the one state of the area where I didn’t need an activation.
It was Stone State Park (K-2321), which has a great drive through road with some nice views. As I was already setup, I went ahead and checked for some Park-to-Park contacts and then moved onto calling CQ. It seemed silly to not activate at this point.
In five minutes, I had 13 SSB QSOs on 20m, so I called QRT so I could move on to the next park. Hoping to find another “work from the car” radio deployment at the next park, I left the throwline on the floorboards and radio gear in the seat. This sure bugged my OCD a bit but, it worked out well.
As I had already spent extra time activating a state I didn’t intend to, I spent a few extra minutes making sure I was headed to the correct park next.
The South Dakota park was close and the Nebraska park a bit further out. I headed to the SD park and would follow up with the NE park last, and potentially call CQ, while there, for a bit longer.
The drive was short and as I pulled up to the next park, I was pleased to find more great “antenna” trees surrounding the parking lot.
If you are familiar, you know this is something you immediately recognize, even down to the limb when you first see a tree fit for this purpose.
This park, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve (K-7844) was a cool little park with lots to see and several trails with waterfront. Again, though, I wouldn’t have time to check out the park if I was to make it to the next activation site.
I deployed my antenna, my Tufteln 20m EFHW, and this time operated while standing at the back of the truck. I guess I just couldn’t sit in the car for another activation.
This activation was a tad slower and there was a good bit of noise on 20m. I imagine this was due to the neighborhood close by. After 10 minutes, I had 12 SSB QSOs on 20m and called QRT. Again, all the gear was thrown back in the front seat, and I headed onto the next park. This one a bit further out, about 35 minutes.
I pulled into Danish Alps State Recreation Area (K-9359) and quickly realized I would be working down in a bowl, unless I wanted to hike a bit, which I wasn’t interested in doing as it was getting dark soon.
After scoping out the park for a bit, I decided to head down to the lake where there was a pavilion with a decent tree to pull a line over. This would allow me to work from the picnic table which would be a bit more comfortable and I could then work a bit longer. As I suspected, the location was not the best to get my RF out; that and 20m was likely dying down a bit as we headed into the evening.
I still wanted to work a bit longer, but I wasn’t interested in deploying more wire to get on 40m. So, after 18 minutes I had 16 SSB QSOs on 20m and then called QRT.
This time, I packed up my throw line and radio kit properly.
There is always some learning involved when I go out and play radio.
On this trip, I got comfortable with my new Kimura SOLO headset. I use it with the standard separate 3.5mm TRS headphone and Microphone jacks with the TX500 supplied GX adaptor.
The headset is comfortable for this type of radio work and is, of course, very packable (my main reason for purchasing) and allows for much better audio reception (to the ears) while in the field.
It’s amazing how difficult it can be to hear a speaker with a little wind or other background noise. I highly recommend this headset.
Of course, I would recommend ensuring you know what park you are headed and to do some up-front planning.
Don’t make my mistake and end up in the wrong state!
But what I really took away from this is that even if you don’t have a solid plan, get out there and play radio anyway. Sure, this outing had some failures, and certainly could have even been a bust as far as activations go, but it worked out and I had an absolute blast!
Some people love to plan and have a solid one at that–this indeed can be enjoyable. But don’t miss out on getting out and hopping on the air because you don’t have a solid plan. Be sure you are safe, have means of communication, someone that knows where you are, pack your IFAK, and don’t forget the bug spray.
But get out, play radio, and have fun!
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