John’s KH1 Redeems an Otherwise “Frustrating” Start to a Cross-Country POTA Rove

Many thanks to John (NS6X) who shares the following field report:

Frustrating rove from California QTH to OzarkCon in Branson, MO.

by John (NS6X)

I had great plans for a radio-centric, POTA activation road trip from my home in Camarillo, CA (outside Los Angeles) to my first visit to OzarkCon in Branson, MO. The Four State QRP Club hosts the two-day conference. I recently became a kitter (I put together one of the kits) for the club, assembling the parts and shipping the Cricket20 (see kits a

I had the parks planned out along I-40 where I would stop, overnight stops for my little trailer, and my traveling companion Sachiko (Agnes), my Tortie cat.

Long story, but my wife of 48 years died three years ago from ovarian cancer, so I now enjoy traveling alone. I am calling my trip story, “Traveling with Agnes,” a shout out to John Steinbeck and Traveling With Charley. I seldom plan ahead, so to have night stops, parks planned, and such was something for me.

I packed my Elecraft KX2, KH1, FT-891, Penntek TR-35L, and my 22-year-old KX1. I have multiple Bioenno batteries for power, that I packed in an official bag and placed next to the door.

I should have stepped out of the door and put it in my truck or trailer, as I left the batteries at home. I did have a Bioenno solar “generator”, but it doesn’t have power pole output connectors, and I haven’t made power pole-adapted cables for it. And of course, I left my power pole crimpers and connectors at home, too. I didn’t discover this until I stopped at my first POTA park, the US-1058, Homolovi Ruins State Park in Arizona, just outside of Winslow.

My KX2 had a partially charged battery, so after futzing about with the power sources, I set up my KX2 and AX1 antenna. I was able to make 7 QSOs in a little less than an hour, even after spotting myself, but did not have the time to stay longer to complete the activation. My campsite was at a KOA in Albuquerque; it was raining/snowing/hailing, and my next stop at the Petrified Forest was out, too. I was discouraged, so packed up and took off.

I had watched Thomas’, K4SWL’s videos and read about the KH1 being used as a radio for an activation, but after my limited number of contacts in Arizona, I wasn’t too positive about it. However, coming from a suburban lot in a housing tract, the lack of QRN/M noise in the Arizona desert was amazing. I didn’t think that I had turned on the radio, seriously.

So, driving through New Mexico, and part of Texas, into Oklahoma for the evening, stopping at a Harvest Host location for the night, I decided I would listen to the bands, using the KH1. I heard a few signals. My stop was only a few miles from the Washita County Wildlife Management Area, US-8661, so I decided to take the KH1 and mosey over to the POTA site.

I told myself why not, spotted myself on 20 meters at 14.058.2, called CQ and was I surprised. LOUD signals came back. Many stations were calling me. I completed my activation with 12 QSOs in 16 minutes, using the KH1, putting out 4.6 watts. The SWR was about 1.1:1. I was impressed with the stations from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Missouri, and North Carolina that called me. Did I say they were LOUD? And no noise.

I just finished the activation – forgot to take photos. I was a photojournalism major (although my career was as a firefighter and paramedic). How could I keep forgetting to take photos?

My takeaway and lesson learned was to pack ahead of time, with a checklist (I am never that organized), and that the KH1 is a real radio, able to do things like be used for a POTA activation.

It didn’t hurt that I had a zero noise level, and that there were QRO stations calling me, as well as the spotting system that makes POTA and other similar activities workable, and fun.

After becoming first licensed in 1966 at 11 years old, I am once again excited about ham radio. The social aspect of ham radio is a real positive. The fun of POTA and SOTA is invigorating my radio life. I am back contesting, and putting up a better antenna at my house: the CC&Rs are no longer valid as they haven’t been enforced for more than 35 years, no HOA, and the city issued a permit to me.

I will be back at another Oklahoma park in the morning. I am writing this in the early evening after getting back to my trailer. My KH1 battery is charged, ready to go, if anyone else is ready at 8 AM.

Off to Joplin, MO tomorrow, then Branson, MO for the conference on Thursday, beginning Friday morning. The conference is over Sunday. I did make a reservation for Sunday night in Branson to hang over and watch the eclipse as the sun passes over Branson on Monday.

72’s, NS6X, John Kitchens

9 thoughts on “John’s KH1 Redeems an Otherwise “Frustrating” Start to a Cross-Country POTA Rove”

  1. Thank You John. I loved your report for its ‘human’ qualities. Yesterday i went out to the park in SW Florida and heard excellent signals on 20m from AZ, NY, WI.. My rig was a Elecraft K1 with their antenna on a tripod and 3 13′ radials on the ground. Well sir, i could not answer because i had no keyer/paddle. Yup it was sitting at home by the door ! So this morning i felt better when i read your report.
    Armin VA3YB/W4

  2. John-So sorry for the loss of your YL of many yrs. Thanks for your nice & honest write-up. Also, I learned the hard way about leaving important things behind….like the battery when I drove over a hour into the boonies of South Carolina…Vince VE6LK has great checklists on his website. Plus, Vince has a great motto: “One is none; & two is one !” Like you, just getting used to the KH1 & did first activations Monday….but got to see a Momma Bald Eagle & her chicks at one park. Have a great trip & will look for your spots. 73 de K4RLC Bob

    1. I have been influenced by Thomas and George, as well as Vince, doing the deep dive into bags. And pencils/pens. That is why I was so proud of myself for having the batteries and chargers in an HRWB and hard bottom bag. This is all new to me: bags, organization, planning (except I do like having things kept in the same place. As a paramedic and firefighter in Los Angeles, busy, I didn’t have time to think about trying to find what I needed. It needed to be there, and stocked). I even made little pockets to hold the batteries so they would not bounce about in the bag. I had 4 9ah, a12ah and 3ah bioennos

  3. Leaving things at home — yes, it happens. The other day I had to come home from a park with an empty log because I forgot to bring the little connector that joins one BNC male to another. On the workbench but not in the car (oh well 🙂 .

    Glad the KH-1 came to the rescue.

  4. I think one reason for the emphasis on this site for the development of field kits is so you always have what you need in the kit. Although, I understand that some items are too expensive or scarce to dedicate to only one kit – hence your great idea about a checklist.
    I always include a second method of providing power to the radio – usually a cigarette lighter plug with a PowerPole connection since if you are in a car, you always have 12V DC.

    1. Well, guess what I will be doing when I get home, after the DX Convention?
      I have another, longer trip planned, leaving early May for FDIM/Hamvention, go about the country ending up at LobsterCon at Thomas Pointe Beach Campground in Maine. Maybe to the central states VHF conference on the way home, and as many hamfests as I can squeeze in between peaceful, restful camping spots.

  5. Hi John. Sounds like a great trip for you and your feline companion. Enjoy OzarkCon and the POTA activation’s. Miss our times mountain topping during the VHF contests. Safe travels, my friend.


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