Tag Archives: Morse Code

A Glancing Blow for the POTA Babe

by Teri (KO4WFP)

by (Wednesday, May 15th, Glenn W4YES and I decided to activate a new park for me – Sansavilla Wildlife Management Area (US-3773), a wildlife management area (WMA) along the Altamaha River next door to my last activation – Penholoway Swamp WMA.

Google maps

We arrived at a decent hour (9 AM) and ahead of schedule. The entrance is off Highway 25 and across the railroad tracks. After passing a church, the road changes from pavement to dirt and the fun begins!

Sansavilla WMA Map – source: Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources
Morning band conditions. source: https://hamradiofornontechies.com/current-ham-radio-conditions/

We drove down what is Sansavilla Road almost until it dead-ends as I hoped to set up close to the Altamaha River. However, along this road ran a good set of power lines. Given I would run QRP, it was time for Plan B.

Road into the WMA
power lines running along Sansavilla Road

We backtracked, took a right onto River Road and then a right toward the river. This road dead-ends at a public boat landing inside the WMA. There is a pavilion with concrete benches and tables. A short distance beyond the pavilion is the landing to which we drove for a quick view of the river whose current moved at a rapid pace.

route to boat landing
credit: Glenn W4YES
boat landing. credit: Glenn W4YES
Altamaha River

Glenn joined me this activation and, given the last experience, we made some changes to his set-up. Instead of using my Yaesu FT-891, he brought the Yaesu FT-991A in his possession with which he familiarized himself over the past week. He dialed the power down from 75 to 5 watts. (Yes, he’d be working QRP!) He also switched antennas from the Pacific Antenna 2040 trap dipole to the Chelegance MC-750, hoping the set up would be easier and give him the flexibility of changing bands. Continue reading A Glancing Blow for the POTA Babe

The POTA Babe Resumes Pursuit of Her Goal

by Teri (KO4WFP)

Now that life has settled down, it is time to return to my 60 new-to-me park activations goal for 2024. I currently stand at 24 out of the 60. For #25 on the list, I chose Penholoway Swamp Wildlife Management Area (US-3767) outside of Jesup, Georgia.

This park is a one-and-a-half hour drive from my QTH. I set out around 8 AM this past Wednesday, May 8th for my activation. Rather than drive Interstate 95 most of the way, I opted to drive through rural Georgia which I prefer. The route took me through the communities of Hinesville (just outside of Fort Stewart, home of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division), Ludowici, and Jesup.

As I entered Jesup, I encountered a sizable manufacturing plant next to the Altamaha River. Owned by Rayonier, the plant is the largest speciality cellulose plant in the world, producing 330,000 metric tons a year.

Paper mills are big business in Georgia. According to georgiagrown.com, the state of Georgia accounts for 21% of all US exported pulp and paper (both newly milled & recycled products). I found a 2015 Georgia Forestry Commission report noting there are 22 pulp and paperboard mills in Georgia resulting in $12.5 billion in revenue.

Rayonier cellulose plant

Paper mills often produce a smell like rotten eggs or cabbage. In Savannah, there was the Union Camp paper mill (later purchased by International Paper) on the Savannah River. The joke I remember while growing up in Savannah was that when tourists asked what that smell was, you would reply “the smell of money.” The Savannah mill is still operating and produces a million tons of paper product every year which eventually gets made into cardboard boxes.

Penholoway Swamp Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a 10,500+ acre property near the Altamaha River with hunting opportunities. The WMA contains lots of pine stands including several stands of longleaf pines which are maintained by prescribed fire and mechanical thinning. As I mentioned in my Oliver Bridge WMA trip report, longleaf pine areas are important habitat for threatened species such as the gopher tortoise and indigo snake.

evidence of a controlled burn

I thought I would set up my station near the kiosk at the entrance. However, there was not much room and what little there was didn’t offer much shade. Looking at the map I printed from the GA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website, I decided to drive down Post Road to where it dead-ends into Hinson Road near the Altamaha River. Maybe that section of the park would be more secluded and offer some shade.

park entrance off River Road
Entrance area with kiosk
pine stands in the WMA
a road off the main drag (Post Road)

Sure enough, the section of Hinson Road off to the left of Post Road went a little way before being blocked off by a gate. Oaks, pines, and other trees created a canopy over the road and looked like a perfect QTH off the beaten path.

WMA Map. source: https://georgiawildlife.com/penholoway-swamp-wma
a shady location

Before I left the house, I checked the GA DNR Hunting Regulations booklet as to what might be in season for this WMA. Turkey is currently being hunted, though I didn’t expect on a weekday to run into many hunters. Either way, I made sure to don my blaze orange hat and vest as well as put Daisy’s vest on her before setting up my equipment. Continue reading The POTA Babe Resumes Pursuit of Her Goal

The POTA Babe Gets a Partner!

Those of you that read the final article for my spring-break Florida POTA trip know that I recently reconciled with someone dear to me. This man, Glenn W4YES, has moved to Savannah, Georgia and we are in a relationship. He is a CW op and the person behind CW Innovations’ Comprehensive ICR course. He knows how much I love POTA and joined me Friday, May 3rd for an activation.

I could have resumed my quest for 60 new-to-me parks. However, I figured we had enough “new” stuff going on with a new activator and a different set up for Glenn. POTA tends to throw the unexpected at you already and the more variables you add, the more opportunities there are for mistakes (er, learning opportunities) and/or hilarity to ensue. So I chose to return to Evans County Fishing Lake (US-7464), a site already known to me, for our dual activation.

photo: Glenn W4YES

What a gorgeous day! Sunny skies and 71 degrees! The drive is a short (about 50 minutes) and easy one to this park.

Given Glenn would use QRO equipment and didn’t have a chair or knee board like myself, I chose one of the few spots with a picnic table. The site looks out on Bidd Sands lake. We could have shared my QRP set-up but decided to activate at the same time which necessitated two sets of equipment.

road in the park. photo: Glenn W4YES
boaters on the lake

I chose familiarity over reinventing the wheel when it came to picking equipment for Glenn – I grabbed my Yaesu FC-50 tuner and Yaesu FT-891 rig from my ham shack and the Pacific Antenna 2040 trap dipole antenna and SOTABeams travel mast from my equipment stash. This was the set-up I used for POTA before I went QRP with the KX2 and Tufteln EFRW last May. It wasn’t long before a station was set up on the picnic table for Glenn. However, the antenna was another matter.

Glenn’s set up

When I grabbed coax for the antenna, I forgot the connector is a BNC connector which is why I have a coil of RG-174 in my stash. Instead of grabbing that RG-174, I grabbed my 50’ coil of RG-8x. (Doh!) That coax is extremely heavy for the SOTABeams travel mast and, after adding an adapter for the BNC to SO-239 connector, the antenna was hanging over precipitously. It just goes to show how well-made and durable the SOTABeams travel mast is. I was mortified as I like the best possible arrangement for my antennas but Glenn wasn’t. He knew what we had was good enough for contacts (see his QSO map down below) and his thinking turned out to be correct.

20-40 Pacific Antenna

While Glenn finished getting everything in order for his activation, I began setting up for mine. I know this park allows antennas in the trees so it wasn’t long before the trusty Tufteln EFRW was installed. Daisy and I chose a shady location near the antenna, got comfortable, and began my activation.

attaching throw weight to arbor line. photo: Glenn W4YES
granny swing to snag the branch I want. photo: Glenn W4YES
getting down to business! photo: Glenn W4YES

As Glenn was running QRO (the power I usually run on my Yaesu FT-891 is 75 watts) on 20 meters, I began working other bands. I initially wondered if I would have any difficulty running a QRP station so close to a QRO set-up, but I didn’t. Continue reading The POTA Babe Gets a Partner!

Bob takes a look at the (tr)uSDX

Many thanks to Bob (K7ZB) for sharing the following guest post:


A CW Operator’s First Look at the (tr)uSDX by Malahit

by Bob Houf  (K7ZB)  

April 22, 2024 – Gilbert, AZ

I recently bought an assembled (tr)uSDX from Amazon.com [affiliate link] in April, 2024, the mainboard is version 1.2 and the RF board is version 1.0.

Due to antenna limitations – a 17-foot wire antenna with a 6-foot counterpoise hanging from a second-floor condo balcony, matched through a Tokyo Hi-Power antenna coupler for an SWR well below 2:1 – I’ve been operating exclusively on the 20-meter band.

A short coax run into the dining room has given me some great on-air time over the weekend, with good band conditions for 20-meter CW.

The radio powers up when 13VDC is applied and I quickly figured out the menu structure with the minimal documentation available from DL2MAN.

I’ve learned that the filter is best set to 500Hz and it is effective for the conditions, and as the band gets hot with all the various weekend contests, I drop in a little attenuation and soon the radio begins to sound good – actually, for the money, it sounds really good.

QSK set to ON allows my keyer in Iambic B to do a good job and I don’t miss any contacts which are forthcoming across the US from Oregon out to the East coast, on down to the Virgin Islands and then, quite a surprise, my Magnificent 7 Watts is heard for a choice contact with a VK2 down under.

I pound out contest QSO’s all up and down the band, adding in a few SOTA and POTA stations and very few have trouble copying me – I certainly had no problem copying weak signals from them.

I do notice that this is not a $1,500 transceiver, especially in the receiver performance, but for the price the satisfaction derived from effortlessly working CW makes up for any limitations.

During the MST contest, as I write this, stations were piled on top of each other. I found that tightening the filter down to 50Hz wasn’t ideal – 500Hz worked better for my ears. Signals filled the band from 14.030 to nearly 14.050, ranging from very weak to extremely strong. Thankfully, the well-behaved AGC prevented any ear-splitting surprises.

I also tested SSB mode briefly and it works and sounds good, though I’m unlikely to use it much myself.

Overall, this little gem is far from a toy. With its filters, AGC, attenuator, and fine-tuning, it should bring a smile to any CW operator’s face.

Caregiving and QSOs: Returning to a Favorite POTA Site

Those of you who’ve been following my field reports for a few years might have noticed something different:  I haven’t been activating some of my favorite POTA sites as often.  Here’s the reason why, and how I’m working to get back on the air at these special locations:

Most notably:

  • Lake James SP (US-2739),
  • South Mountains SP (US-2753),
  • Lake Norman (US-2740),
  • Fort Dobbs (US-6839),
  • and Tuttle Educational State Forest (US-4861)

These parks are all in or around Hickory, NC, where I used to travel weekly to care for my mom and take her to oncology appointments.

Sadly, she passed away in January. Since my sister has moved in with my dad, my trips to Hickory are now often day trips with the family, squeezed into busy afternoons.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t left much time for radio activations.

I’ve been longing to return to these parks! As an activator, you get attached to familiar spots–at least, I do–they become a home-away-from-home. These parks have definitely been calling me.

Two weeks ago, however, I started driving to Hickory again daily. My father was hospitalized, and I needed to be there for him. Thankfully, he’s much more stable now, in physical therapy rehab, and making progress.

These trips back to Hickory have allowed me to fit in some “radio therapy” at my favorite POTA sites.

On Thursday, April 25, 2024, I finally returned to the one I miss most: Tuttle Educational State Forest (US-4861).

Tuttle is an ideal POTA site: plenty of setup spots, a two-mile loop trail, and incredibly supportive staff. They’ve encouraged me to put up any antenna I want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other visitors. Plus, Tuttle is usually quiet, which I also love.

It was nice to see Tuttle’s entrance sign again!

Once on-site, I picked out a picnic site with shade. It was a sunny spring day and I forgot to bring my wide-brimmed hat (it was in the other car!).

It wasn’t a problem, though, as most of the picnic area at Tuttle is shaded.

That morning, I loaded one of my radio packs with gear and packed my Index Labs QRP Plus.

I was eager to put my Index Labs QRP Plus back on the air at a park. This radio holds sentimental value, taking me back to visiting my first amateur radio field activity in 1997! I paired it with my MM0OPX End-Fed Half-Wave for multi-band operation (40, 20, 15, and 10 meters).

You can almost see the MM0OPX EFHW in this photo!

I decided to pair the QRP Plus with an End-Fed Half-Wave which would give me 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters without needing an external ATU (I had packed my Elecraft T1 as well, but I really didn’t need it).

I had a little over an hour to perform this activation, then head back to the QTH to be with my wife and daughters. It was “Star Trek” night, so I couldn’t be late (priorities–!).

Gear

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On The Air

Even though propagation has been very unstable lately, I’ve gotten some surprising openings on the higher bands, so I decided to start this activation on 10 meters, then work my way down the band until I hit activity. Continue reading Caregiving and QSOs: Returning to a Favorite POTA Site

Antenna Versatility: Pairing my Linked EFHW and the TR-45L Skinny at Lake Powhatan!

On Tuesday, April 23, 2024, I had a bit of time in the middle of the day to perform a park activation, but I couldn’t go too far afield because I needed to pick up my daughters from school around 3:00 PM.

Where to go?

I didn’t want to activate the same spots I’ve been activating a lot lately; I wanted to find a new spot, but my window of time limited my options.

Here in the Asheville area, we only have a few POTA entities within, say, a 25-30 minute drive of downtown, but a few of the sites we do have are vast. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, and Pisgah Game Land are massive and it would be easy to activate every day of your life and set up at a different site each time if you’re willing to bring your own chair and table/kneeboard..

It was such a beautiful day, I ideally wanted to find a spot with a picnic table under the shade of a tree. I know of a couple sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I’d activated them recently. Also there was the Vance Birthplace, but again, I’d been there a lot lately.

Then it dawned on me that Lake Powhatan, in Pisgah National Forest (US-4510), might be a good option. It’s close to Asheville, a beautiful site, and I was almost certain I remembered seeing picnic tables there when I camped there with friends some two years ago. I made a quick call to the park office and confirmed.

Lake Powhatan requires a day use permit of $5 per person–you pay at the entrance and then have access to the lake and beach area for the full day. I didn’t mind paying this fee at all because I will typically leave that same amount in the donation box of many of the state parks I frequent anyway.

It’s a really short walk from the parking area to the lake and picnic sites.

I grabbed my TR-45L Skinny (in its padded camera pack) and my GoRuck GR1 backpack that had all of my antenna supplies and even my Elecraft KX2 inside.

Had this been a summer day, the lake would have been packed with families!

Why bring two radios? I really wanted to use the TR-45L, but I also thought about testing the waters on the 15, 12, and 10 meter bands. Since the TR-45L only covers 80, 40, 30, 20, and 17 meters, I needed another option.

Lots of picnic table options around the lake.

Turns out, the higher bands weren’t in great shape, so I didn’t need to use the KX2 after all.

I didn’t pair the TR-45L Skinny with an ATU, thus I needed an antenna option that would be resonant or matched on each of the bands I planned to operate. I decided to deploy my KM4CFT EFHW that I’d cut as a 30 meter end-fed half-wave with a 40 meter extension. This antenna would give me all of the bands of the TR-45L (save 80M). As a 30M EFHW, I’d have 30 and 17 meters, then by adding the 40M extension, I’d have both 40 and 20 meters as well.

Setup was quick and easy (even though it took several tries with my throw line to hit the branches I wanted).

Gear:

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On The Air

I deployed the antenna as a 30 meter EFHW and started calling CQ POTA on the 17 meter band.

I quickly found out that 17 meters was not in great shape. I did work N5PJ after a few minutes (thanks, Perry!) but didn’t hang around 17 meters much longer.

The poor state of 17 meters was likely a good indicator of what the higher bands might be like, so I abandoned the idea of going up to 10 meters. Instead, I QSY’d to the 30 meter band.

30 meters was in better shape. I worked five more stations in short order, then there was a lull in activity for several minutes. My thinking was that the bulk of the POTA activity would be on 20 meters, so I lowered part of my antenna, connected the 40M link, and raised it again.

Turns out, 20 meters was pretty active.

I ended up adding 16 stations to the logs including at least one Park-to-Park with AC9OT (thank you!).

All-in-all, I logged 22 stations on three bands. Propagation was a bit rough for sure, but the activation was a lot of fun!

Here are my logs:

QSO Map

Here’s what this five-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click image to enlarge):

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

An Idyllic Site

I’m so glad I decided to give Lake Powhatan a try. I’m very tempted to pay $40 for an annual pass.

There are several other picnic sites in/around the lake that I’d like to try and, frankly, next time I think I’ll bring my mountain bike! There are loads of trails on-site that also connect up to the (very popular) Bent Creek network.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this peaceful 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 not a requirement, as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo makes it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have a brilliant week!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 3

Day 3 of my spring-break Florida POTA trip began well. Those of you who read my “A Confession from the POTA Babe” article know my personal life has been anything but settled as of late. Two weeks prior to the trip, I experienced a traumatic break with a close friend and partner. I hoped this trip would help me move past that event and began putting my life back together.  This was the first morning I woke in two and a half weeks feeling like myself and ready for whatever POTA adventures lay ahead of me.

Day 3 of my spring-break 2024 Florida trip

Participating in the pilot session of CW Innovation’s Comprehensive ICR course in October 2022 introduced me to the concept of a code buddy. A code buddy is someone with  whom you have regular CW QSOs, a trusted friend who keeps you active on the air and with whom you grow your skills. I have two code buddies currently – Caryn KD2GUT and Charles W4CLW. Charles and I usually meet Tuesday mornings at 8 AM EDT and I thought why not try to meet up during the trip.

As noted in my article about the first day of this trip, I had to take down the EFRW at my campsite as per park regulations. I pulled out the Chelegance MC-750 as I thought it might stand a better chance than the AX1 with any noise in the campground. As Charles’ QTH was only 232 miles from my campsite, I figured 40 meters would be the only option for us.

I turned on the KX2 and the noise was horrible. However, Charles cleared a frequency and called QRL. He was a 599 on my end but when it was my turn, he could not hear me at all. Oh well. We at least tried.

I figured since I already had my equipment up and running, why not have an impromptu activation?

I spotted myself on the POTA website and began calling CQ. Within 40 minutes, I had a valid activation. Thirty meters gave me four contacts and 20 meters eight contacts including Manuel WP4TZ in Puerto Rico, another member of the Comprehensive ICR course I am currently facilitating with CW Innovations.

I also had one park-to-park QSO with Dave KQ4CW who was activating US-0567 in Virginia. At this point, it was time to pack up my equipment and head south to Cedar Key Scrub Preserve (US-3611).

QSO Map for Manatee Springs 4-2-24 Activation Source: http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

On the drive southward, I noticed lots of yellow flowers (I think dandelions) along the road as well as wild verbena. I enjoyed the encounters with the natural world I had on this trip. The previous day, I had several different caterpillar species visit me during my activations. They ended up on my clothes as well as my equipment.

During today’s impromptu activation at the campsite, three deer walked  through the area. Nature galore!

a tussock moth caterpillar
a Tent caterpillar
possibly a salt marsh moth caterpillar

Daisy and I arrived at Cedar Key Scrub Preserve (US-3611) around 11:30 AM. It was fairly warm at this hour of the day so I set up in the shade generated by Kai and some overhead trees. I chose to work with the Chelegance MC-750 again.

This activation proved to be a busy one, all on twenty meters. Over the course of 50 minutes, I logged 32 contacts including one DX with Chris F6EAZ in France, a QSO with another team member in my class – Pat K2SCH, and one park-to-park QSO with Jeff KF4VE at US-4857 in Virginia.

At this point, the sun had overtaken Daisy and I. We were beginning to roast so it was time to call QRT.

QSO Map for Cedar Key Scrub Preserve Source: http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/
USA Only QSO Map for Cedar Key Scrub Preserve Source: http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

I had planned to take a walk at Cedar Key Scrub Preserve but due to the warm temperatures and foliage that would not provide much shade, I scrubbed (yes, you can groan) that plan, packed up, and headed further south to Cedar Key.

The town of Cedar Key is made of small islands (called keys) linked together by bridges. We navigated over them to Cedar Key Museum State Park (US-3610).

Unfortunately, the museum was closed for maintenance. But, as I surveyed the site, I saw a shady bench beckoning me.

A QTH with potential!

I set up the Chelegance MC-750, Daisy sprawled out for a nap, and I got down to business.

This activation ran slower than the previous one. I ended up with 25 QSOs on 20 meters in an hour. However, it was pleasant to relax in the shade, enjoy the breeze, and not be in a rush. In fact, after the activation and everything was packed up, Daisy and I relaxed at this spot for a good thirty minutes, soaking in the experience.

On the drive back to my campsite, I received an unexpected call. It was the close friend and partner I thought I had lost several weeks ago.  I pulled off to the side of the road. The conversation was a heart-felt and cathartic one.

I had a choice to make. There were three days remaining in my trip and potentially four more parks I could activate toward my 60 new-to-me activation goal.  Or I could choose to step through the door that just opened. It didn’t take me long to decide.

This spring-break Florida trip was a productive one. I activated six parks toward my goal, used two antennas with which I was not very familiar, and camped on my own. I also did what I set out to do in my “A Confession from the POTA Babe” article – savor the beauty around me, think, reflect, and be. I cancelled the remainder of the trip to visit this cherished person with the joy of reconciliation.

It doesn’t matter if it is POTA or your personal life; relationships are what matter. This POTA Babe has learned her lesson and has her priorities in the correct order now. Thanks to all of you who continue to share my adventures. They are far from over.

Equipment Used

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The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 2

Day 2 of my spring-break Florida POTA trip began well. The night before, I left the rain fly off one corner of the tent, the one out of which I could look when lying on my Thermarest pad listening to the bird song all around us. There must be something about being outside because I had the soundest and most sleep I’d experienced in several weeks.

someone is not ready to get out of bed yet
Day 2 of my April Florida trip

We headed to the Nature Coast State Trail first as I was concerned about the temperature due to the sunny forecast. We found the Old Town trailhead, parked, and walked toward the trail’s bridge over the Suwannee River. Not far from the bridge, I spied a bench with an overhang and thought it would make a great QTH.

Old Town trailhead parking area
the trail
flowers along the trail
potential QTH

I had left the Chelegance MC-750 in the car as I wished to work with the AX1 today. It wasn’t long before I had it installed on the Joby Gorillapod ready for 40 meters. I turned on the KX2, put on my earbuds, and was greeted by NOISE, S5-S7 noise.

Well, noise happens and I typically find it on 40 meters than any other band when I activate. Undaunted, I tweaked the AX1 and moved to 30 meters. I found less noise (S3-S4) but no one answered my CQ. Now I was getting worried.

I removed the 40 meter coil from the AX1 and tried 20 meters. Now 20 meters didn’t sound that noisy; however, I had no callers. I found the same on 17 meters. What the heck?

And then I noticed the power lines across the road. How they had escaped my notice I have no idea. They weren’t just your typical power lines but also high-voltage power lines. That had to be the source of the noise. I felt like an idiot not even noticing them. The AX1 is a compromised antenna to begin with and, in those conditions, I don’t think it stood a chance.  Note: I later learned the band conditions were not great that morning either.

Deflated, I packed everything up and walked a little ways up the trail to the bridge crossing the Suwanne River. After a few moments to enjoy the view, I headed toward my second park – Fanning Springs State Park. It was but a 5 minute drive from the Old Town trailhead. I began  looking for somewhere to set up. Good news – not many power lines.

Suwannee River

I found a grassy field/parking area off to the side and set up there. My riding instructor would always say “Set your horse up for success.” Well, this I thought was a more successful situation for the AX1 (at least I hoped it would be). Once the AX1 was installed on top of my car, I got down to business.

AX1 on top of the car on Joby Gorillapod

I didn’t do well on 40 meters (only one caller in Florida) or 30 meters (no response). I removed the 40 meter coil and set up shop on 20 meters. Would anyone hear me today? YES! Over the next 20 minutes, I logged eight contacts including Dan N0ZT who is in my current Comprehensive ICR class for CW Innovations.

At this point, I only had nine total contacts, not enough for a valid activation. Hearing no more responses to my CQ on 20 meters, I headed to 17. After a while, Craig KC3TRT responded to my CQ. Over the next ten minutes, nine ops had a QSO with me including Raffaele IK4IDF in Italy. Whew – a valid activation.

QSO Map for Fanning Springs State Park
QSO Map (USA contacts) for Fanning Springs State Park
The springs (as close as we could get as dogs are not allowed near them)

By now I was worn out and decided to regroup back at the campsite. I felt kicked in the keister over the failed activation in the morning. There are five trailheads for the Nature Coast State Trail. Maybe I could find a section without power lines (not likely) and maybe the conditions in the late afternoon/early evening would be better.

After an early supper and a few minutes to read, Daisy and I headed back to the trail for another attempt. Yes, there were power lines (but not high voltage ones) near the trailhead I chose in Chiefland. It was peaceful on this section of the trail. We ambled along until I found another bench like I saw that morning.

AX1 with radials

I opted to sit instead in my Helinox chair on the ground with Daisy to my right and the AX1 to my left. There was thick foliage in front of me as well as a park area that I hoped would provide a buffer from any RFI from the businesses on that side of the trail. I took a breath and called QRL. I picked 20 meters thinking that might be my best bet this time of day, around 6 PM.

Guess what? The AX1 delivered!

I had 18 contacts in 30 minutes including a QRP-to-QRP QSO with Karl K5KHK in New York. I also had one park-to-park QSO with David WN1E at US-0897. I practically floated back to the car and then celebrated with a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone from Dairy Queen.

QSO Map for Nature Coast State Trail
Way more ice cream than I needed but it was good!

People don’t talk about the emotional component that comes with morse code. My life has been an emotional rollercoaster as of late and that failed activation felt like another punch in the gut.

You know the ops that I see make the most progress, in general and in the class I facilitate with CW Innovations? Those with determination.

They don’t give up but persevere despite their struggles. Life is really tough for me right now but I have to hang in there as I did with this activation. You never know when success or for what you are waiting will be around the corner.

For day 3, I’ll head south toward Cedar Key. What antenna will I choose to use and how will those activations go? Stay tuned…

Equipment Used

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16th Floor QRP: Coffee break portable at the office

Many thanks to Bill (KG4FXG) who shares the following guest post:


Return to the Office:  Operating portable during coffee breaks (Atlanta to England)

by Bill Carter (KG4FXG)

Have you ever thought about operating from your work location?  Perhaps during lunch or a coffee break?  What if that location was downtown in a big city?

In my case, I work in a 17 floor Skyscraper.

The building has several large outside balconies on the 5th, 10th, and 17 floors.  There is also a green space on the 5th floor that is a grassy area with a lawn and trees.  What are all the possibilities here for portable operation? Let’s find out!

Amateur Radio is about learning, and to that end we may build antennas, perhaps QRP Rigs, and other things.  I’ve been building many QRPGuys and Tufteln antennas.  I also use a few that I’ve purchased, such as the Chelegance MC-750, AX1, Gabil Vertical Antenna GRA-7350TC [gear links below].

Sometimes, the weather does not play nice and I’m forced to try operating indoors.  Here I am using the Chelegance MC-750 on the 16th floor where I have clearance all the way to the top of the 17th floor.

The antenna almost touches the ceiling on the 17th floor.  I was able to make a contact in England: John G4RCG.  His location was in Kirkhamgate, Wakefield–about 11 miles from Leeds. We were able to exchange names but that was about it on 20M.

This antenna is amazing, I can’t wait to try it outside in our green space.

I was using the Elecraft KX2 but I have several QRP Rigs that I have brought to the office.  Such as the Norcal 40, Elecraft K1, both of which were kits I built.  I started QRP back in 1999 before there was POTA.  Back then, you had to build your radio.  Most did back then.

Learning about propagation has been interesting.  It is not ideal to operate indoors.  One simple way I test conditions is to see if I can hit the reverse beacon network.

Here’s a screenshot of the Reverse Beacon (below) while I was using the Chelegance MC-750 on 20 meters:

(Click to enlarge)

Simple Office Setup

I work for the railroad.  You will notice my mug says Taggart.  Some humor here, but that is from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Story about a railroad and so much more.

Here is the Green Space on the 5th floor.  Could you use this space for portable operations?

Here is pictured where I operated off the 10th floor balcony.  The view is amazing!

For the balcony, I just throw a wire over the glass railing.  The balcony is huge with many tables and chairs for lunch.  I have used K4SWL’s Speaker Wire antenna build here.

My hours are very unusual.  I normally work from 2AM to 5PM and I leave to drive home at 11AM.  I love telecommuting for work these days.  So, when I operate, it is around 3AM or 4AM.  Not ideal times for POTA, but a great time of day to work DX!

I have so much more to try.  I have a Spiderbeam Pole and SOTABEAMS Pole that I am playing with as well.  I also have the Alex Loop Antenna that I will try from work.

Another operating position: here I am inside running RG-316 through the door to the 10th Floor Balcony.  I am using Thomas’s Speaker Wire antenna here.

One of the challenges that I face at 3AM is cold temperatures and wind.  There can be wind around these large buildings that can make operating difficult.  In cases of cold weather, I just opt for the little table and chair next to the door.  Besides, the coffee stays warmer longer inside!

New buildings make it very difficult if not impossible to get an RF signal out.  Getting an antenna outside is key.  And even then, that does not guarantee success.  The building’s corners have glass conference rooms.  You feel like you are outside, but I haven’t found a really good location for QRP.  That said, there are many more options to try.

Have you tried operating from your work location, perhaps at lunch?  Maybe as a POTA chaser?  What is your go-to method and set up?  Check out more of my shack on QRZ.

Bill KG4FXG

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1

In pursuit of my 60 new-to-me park activations, I headed back to Florida for six days the first week of April. The weather forecast looked promising – high temps in the upper 70s falling to the upper 60s by the end of the week. Rain might dampen my spirits on Wednesday but otherwise, the sun was likely to shine during my journey.

Day 1 of my April 2024 Florida Trip

Daisy and I packed up the car and headed out early Sunday, May 31st. It was an easy journey – three and a half hours south down I-95 and then southwest across Florida. Of course, we stopped at the Florida welcome center and got our picture snapped, this time just the two of us.

Here we again in Florida!

We arrived in Branford which actually did look like a nice place to live. Lafayette Forest Wildlife & Environmental Area (US-6315) is just outside the town. Unlike the wildlife management areas in Georgia I’ve visited, this one looked more manicured. The road into the park could have been the entrance into some genteel Southern plantation.

Not far inside, we found a fenced-in parking area and kiosk. I figured this would be the easiest place to set up. Checking the kiosk, I confirmed we were out of hunting season though we would still wear our blaze orange items for our walk after the activation. (Before we arrived at the park, we actually saw a turkey crossing the road.)

Map of Lafayette WMA

I opted to use the Chelegance MC-750 on the tripod mount because I need more practice with it. That proved to be a good choice as I had to re-read the instructions to set it up – hi hi. This is what happens when you don’t use equipment on a regular basis.  Continue reading The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1