I mounted my Alexloop to a picnic table and fired up my trusty KX3. Things got off to a slow start but I eventually connected with fellow SKCCer, K9FW, on 30M. Al always puts out a great signal from Indiana. The 40M band was tied up with Ohio QSO Party stations. I worked a few of them before loading up the bike to continue my ride.
There was nothing earth-shattering, radio-wise, but it was a beautiful day to be out cruising on my bike. I’ll take those mid-70s temperatures any day.
I explored another new (to me) trail this morning. I stopped during my bike ride to make some contacts and narrowly avoided getting “skunked.”
This morning I took a ride on the East Branch Brandywine Trail near Downingtown, Pennsylvania. This beautiful trail parallels the creek for which it’s named. It’s a multi-use trail that is paved and runs through some dense woods. If you couldn’t hear the road noise from a nearby road, you would think you were out in the middle of nowhere.
I started off from the trailhead just outside of Downingtown and rode south for a few miles. On the way back, I found a picnic table and stopped to set up the radio. The trail runs between two ridges and, with the dense foliage, I figured I would be in for a tough time today. Besides, a Tuesday morning isn’t exactly prime-time, either.
I ground-mounted my 19-foot vertical and tuned up my KX3 on 40 meters. I tuned around but didn’t hear any activity. Despite getting some good spots on the Reverse Beacon Network, I got no responses to my CQs. The 20 meter band was worse; I didn’t show up on RBN at all.
I finally dropped down to 30M and found some activity there. I heard Bill W9ZN calling CQ from Chicago and gave him a call. I have worked Bill numerous times over the years and he always has a great signal.
After I signed with Bill, I went back to 40M for a final check. I called CQ for a bit with no takers. I decided to pack up and get back to enjoying the trail.
With only one contact in the log, it wasn’t my best radio outing. The scenery on the ride back almost made me forget about that. Almost, but not quite.
With rainy weekends and other competing activities, I was way overdue for a bike ride. Of course, my ride today included a stop to make a few contacts.
This year, I’m making it a point to explore some new trails, instead of just sticking with my usual haunts. Today I chose to ride a section of the Perkiomen Trail near Graterford, Pennsylvania. I started off from the Graterford trailhead and rode north towards Central Perkiomen Park.
Although I enjoyed the scenic ride, it was a little shorter than I anticipated. As it turns out, the park was only a little over two miles from the trailhead. No worries; that just gave me more time for radio!
Central Perkiomen Park is a beautiful park and I appreciated the modern restrooms (an important consideration for us old guys). After cruising around the park, I set up on a picnic table under a shady tree. I clamped my 19-foot vertical to one of the benches and fired up my KX3.
I started out on 20M and found general bedlam from the WPX CW contest. That type of contest operating has never really appealed to me, so I made a couple of quick contacts (2 Canadian stations) and headed for the more peaceful waters of the 30M band.
I called CQ a few times and heard K4AHO calling from Florida. Jim was running 5 watts from an HB1B. We had a lot of fading but managed to complete the contact. I also a nice chat with Mark K4NC from North Carolina.
By this time, the weather was really starting to heat up, so I dropped down to 40M for one more contact. This time, I got a call from KC3RN who was running 5 watts from Pittsburgh. Kevin and I chatted for a bit before I packed up and loaded up the bike for the ride back.
I had used a straight key for most of the year, so far, so I really needed to get my paddle fist in shape before Field Day. I was definitely starting to get a bit rusty. Since most of my contacts this year have been short SKCC exchanges, it was also nice to have some casual rag chew contacts. Of course, a little exercise on the bike didn’t hurt, either.
Despite all the bad weather lately, we managed to get a weekend’s worth of half-decent weather. So, I brushed the cobwebs off my bike (literally) and went out for a spin on one of my favorite trails.
I rode the Schuylkill River Trail from the Oaks Trailhead up to the Perkiomen Trail and stopped in the Lower Perkiomen Valley Park for some bicycle-portable QRP. I parked next to a convenient bench and set up my KX3.
I did some experimenting with a mount I made to use my bike as a support for my portable vertical. That didn’t work out as planned so I ground-mounted my 19-foot vertical next to my bike, using a screwdriver shoved in the ground.
I started off looking for some SKCC QSOs on 40M but there wasn’t much activity there. I moved up to 30M and KO5Q in Georgia answered my CQ. After I finished chatting with Roger, I moved up to 20M and found W0RT in Kansas. Immediately after I signed with Rick, I got a call from a very loud NA3AR. Tony was just a few miles away in nearby Collegeville. That accounts for his very loud signal.
By the time I finished up with Tony, the wind had picked up and it was starting to get cold. So, I packed up the bike for the ride back to the trailhead.
It sure felt good to get out on the bike today. I’m a member of the Rails to Trails Conservancy, so I’m making it a point this year to explore more local trails with the bike. There will definitely be more bike-portable operations in my future.
I decided to take my AlexLoop along today. I’ve never really tried carrying the AlexLoop on my bike before. While it fits comfortably in my backpack, I don’t really like to ride with a backpack on. I’ve always found that uncomfortable, especially on hot and humid days.
Today, I arranged the three support pieces of the loop side-by-side. I used the velcro straps on the back of the tuning box to help hold the three sections together. Then I placed the sections in an over-sized nylon stuff sack. Taking care not to bend the antenna’s feed loop, I strapped the loop components and my tripod on the rear rack of my bike. I put the coax part of the loop in one of my panniers, along with my LiFePO4 battery. I put my KX3 in the other pannier bag. This turned out to be a workable solution.
After loading up the bike, I rode about 2.75 miles to the Exton County Park. I found a picnic table in a remote section of the park and set up the AlexLoop and KX3. I was out in an open area, so the wind was strong at times. I used a bungee cord to secure the tripod to the seat of the picnic table.
I started off calling CQ on 20 meters and quickly received a call from N5GW. Gene was on vacation in Tennessee and was putting a great signal into southeastern Pennsylvania. After chatting for a bit, I signed with Ken and moved down to 30 meters. There were no takers there, so I gave 40 meters a try. N1KK gave me a call. Ken was operating QRP-portable from his summer home in Narragansett, Rhode Island. By the time Ken and I finished our QSO, the lack of shade was starting to get to me, so I packed up the bike and got back on the trail.
I rode another mile or so further before turning around and heading back to the trailhead. I really enjoyed this trail and I’ll definitely be doing this ride again in the near future.
I was happy with the AlexLoop arrangement on the bike but I’m sure there’s room for improvement.
I’d like to wish all of my friends here in the U.S. a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.
Carrying on from the initial testing I did last week, I went out for a bike ride yesterday and took my experimental vertical along. (I gave a general description of this antenna project in my previous post.) I rode a few miles up the Schuylkill River Trail and on to a park along the Perkiomen Trail.
I set up in a remote section of the picnic area and quickly took some readings on 40 and 30 meters with my antenna analyzer. I had done some tweaking to the loading coil but, unfortunately, both bands were still resonating too low.
I set up my KX3, intending to make some contacts. This, however, was not to be. There was a background noise level that was higher than I had encountered on a previous visit to this park. As I was tuning around, I looked over and saw that the wind had blown my antenna over. I neglected to bring anything along that I could use to stabilize the antenna and tripod. I set it back up but it wasn’t long before the antenna was on the ground again. After it blew over a 3rd time, I gave up. I packed up the bike and rode back down the trail to my truck.
This morning I made another adjustment to the antenna’s loading coil and headed over to Valley Forge Park to test it. Like yesterday, it was somewhat breezy. This time, I hung my backpack from a hook on the bottom of the tripod to make sure the antenna stayed upright.
I took some antenna analyzer readings and found that the 40-meter band was now resonating right where I wanted it. I saw some improvement on 30 meters but it was still resonating below the band. Obviously, the tap for the 30-meter band is in the wrong place.
As I tuned around, it the bands seemed better this morning. I worked N5P in Texas on 20 meters. N5P was participating in the Museum Ships Weekend event from the National Museum of the Pacific War. I moved down to 30 meters and heard a couple of strong stations. I didn’t make any contacts there, though.
I called CQ on 40 meters and quickly got a call from N1PVP in Massachusetts. I remembered working Marino a couple of weeks ago. He always has a very strong signal into Pennsylvania. I wrapped up with a two-way QRP QSO with Alan AC8AP in Ohio.
Antenna-wise, I have to do some thinking about how to proceed with my experimental vertical. As I see it, I have a few options:
I could continue to tweak the existing coil. If I remove turns from the bottom of the coil while adding the same number of turns to the top of the coil, this would effectively move the tap point for the 30-meter band.
It might be easier to just re-wind the coil and add a few more tap points. I could do some testing to see which tap works the best.
I could always invoke the “do nothing” option. The SWR on 30 meters is only about 4.3:1, which is a trivial match for the KX3’s internal tuner.
In any event, the antenna is useful as it stands. I’ll take some time this week to consider my next move.
I took advantage of this sunny Spring day to get in my first bike ride of the year. The Straight Key Century Club’s Weekend Sprintathon (WES) was in progress, I figured I would stop along the way to make a few contacts.
I rode a few miles down the Schuylkill River and Perkiomen Trails and set up in a park. I’ve operated from this spot on many occasions. The ground was still muddy from recent rains but, fortunately, there’s a convenient bench there.
My antenna launching arm was a bit rusty. It took a few tries to get my line over the tree branch I was aiming for. I set up the radio on the park bench and tuned around. The bands seemed a bit quiet for a contest weekend.
I alternated between calling, “CQ WES,” and searching around for other SKCC stations. I wasn’t having much luck. I got my phone out and checked a couple of propagation sites and wasn’t encouraged by what I saw. I checked RBN and saw that I wasn’t getting many spots. I was also getting an S4 noise level on 40 meters. There was a park building about 100 yards away from me. I’m guessing that something over there was causing the noise. All-in-all, this wasn’t shaping up to be a memorable day for QRP operating.
Fortunately, W8IQ heard me in Ohio and rescued me from getting skunked today. Sometimes there are days when it would have been more productive to pack a fishing rod instead of a radio.
Anyway, it was a great day to get back out on the bike and loosen up these old knees of mine.