Once again, the Zombie Shuffle QRP contest coincided with the last trip of the year with our little travel trailer. I did slightly better than last year.
We again wrapped up our camping season at nearby French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pennsylvania. After setting up the trailer, my XYL and I had an errand to do. As a result, I got started a little later than I wanted to.
When we got back to the campsite, I hastily set up my 29.5-foot vertical about 25 feet away trailer. Since the weather was a bit breezy and chilly, I ran the coax into the trailer and set up the KX3 in there.
The campground was a little noisier (RF-wise) than usual but it didn’t stop me from making contacts. Fittingly, my first contact was with W0UFO on 20M. I managed to find 8 more zombies on 40M, including my friend, Ed WA3WSJ who lives fairly close to French Creek. I dropped down to 80M and bagged two more zombies there.
With 11 zombies in the log, I had my best year yet. Among those 11 zombies were 4 “Elvis” stations. This silly, laid-back contest is one of my favorite QRP events of the year. Many thanks to Paul NA5N and Jan N0QT for organizing the Shuffle. It’s always a fun time.
On a sadder note… It’s now time to Winterize the QRP camper and put it into hibernation until Spring. Hopefully, the Winter goes by fast.
I was pleased to be able to participate in the first-ever running of the Leaf Peepers QRP Contest. This new contest is the brainchild of Tim W3ATB. Although the Fall colors are barely getting started here in southeastern Pennsylvania, it was a good reason to get out and do some portable operating.
In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, I headed up to Evansburg State Park (K/KFF-1351) near Collegeville, Pennsylvania. I figured I would work the contest while making Parks on the Air (POTA) contacts. Although this park is only about 25 minutes away from my home, I have never done a POTA activation from there. Today was the day.
I found a nice parking spot across the road from some restrooms. (This is a major consideration for us old guys.) There were very few others nearby so I practically had the place to my self. I put my 19.5-foot vertical on the back of my truck and set up my KX3 in the cab.
I started out on 40M and found some fellow Leaf Peepers but the QSOs were coming at a “relaxed” pace. Given that there were 180 registered Leaf Peeper stations, I thought I would hear more activity. However, I was able to work stations from New Hampshire to Florida and out to Michigan on 40M. The band yielded 7 Leaf Peepers before I switched over to 20M.
On 20M, my CQs yielded one more Leaf Peeper. Since the SKCC QSO Party was underway, I put the KX3 in straight key mode and flipped my paddles on their side to create a straight key. It’s awkward but it works. I picked up two SKCC contacts before pulling the plug.
Here are some of today’s highlights:
My second QSO was with Tim W3ATB, creator of the contest and Leaf Peeper #1.
I had a park-to-park QSO with Joe N2CX. Joe was at Washington Crossing State Park (K-1634) over in New Jersey.
I had another SKCC QSO with Bert F6HKA. He always has a great signal and is usually able to pull my QRP signal out of the noise.
After a little less than 2 hours, I had to pack up to run some errands before heading home. All in all, it was a fun outing and my 10 contacts were enough to qualify as a POTA activation. I don’t know why I waited so long to activate this park.
Thanks to Tim W3ATB for coming up with this contest. I always enjoy these QRP field contests and I’m looking forward to operating in this one again next year.
Our reservations for a weekend of camping at Pine Grove Furnace State Park (K/KFF-1398) in south-central Pennsylvania coincided nicely with the New England QRP Club‘s (NEQRP) QRP Afield contest. Although I didn’t hear much QRP Afield activity there was a lot going on this weekend, radio-wise.
We had a great campsite this time. It was large and isolated from our neighbor campers. Behind our site, there was nothing but woods. This site was screaming for a larger antenna. I put up a 53-foot inverted “L” antenna about 25 feet tall. I ran the horizontal section back into the woods and tied it off in a pine tree. It only took two attempts to get my line where I wanted it. I’m embarrassed to say I missed the tree completely on my first toss!
When I fired up the KX3 Friday night, the bands sounded great. I made several SKCC contacts, including KA4RUR out in Missouri. Fred is a retired Coast Guard Radioman and a fellow Field Radio member. I also had a nice chat with Jim WT2W in New York on 60M. Jim told me he was a Navy Radioman on a “tin can” (destroyer). It was great to work these fellow former military radio operators.
The next day, I set up outside the trailer and got ready for the contest. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much QRP Afield activity on the bands. I only worked two stations — W0UFO in Minnesota and W1C at the Chowdercon QRP gathering. I briefly heard another station but couldn’t connect.
Despite the lack of QRP Afield activity, there was plenty of other stuff going on to keep me occupied. I worked several stations in the Washington State Salmon Run, Iowa, and New Jersey QSO parties. I had park-to-park contacts with VE2DDZ (VEFF-0365) and K5KJ (K-3031) and also worked 3 SOTA stations — N0TA, KX0R, and AC1Z.
My favorite QSO of the weekend, though, was a two-way QRP chat with UR5FA/MM. I heard Oleg calling CQ on 30M and gave him a call. He was aboard a Ukranian cargo ship in the Atlantic, west of Gibraltar and bound for Canada. After chatting for a bit about our respective set-ups, I wished Oleg a safe voyage and he wished me an enjoyable camping trip. I was pleased to add UR5FA/MM to my log once again. That contact sure brought a smile to my face.
Bzzz… All that buzzing you heard on the bands on Sunday was the annual running of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt contest. Happily, I got home from my recent vacation in time to join in the hunt.
The theme of this year’s contest was “water – the breeding ground for Skeeters!” In the spirit of the theme, I headed down to Upper Schuylkill Valley Park along the Schuylkill River near Royersford, Pennsylvania.
It had been raining all morning and it was drizzling when I got to the park and started setting up. Because of the inclement weather, I opted to operate from inside my truck. I put my usual 19-foot vertical on the back of the truck and fired up my KX3. I tested the rig on 40M by working a SOTA station in Vermont and a special event station in Illinois.
As I was operating, a fellow was curious about my antenna and walked over to ask about it. As I started to explain what I was doing, we both recognized each other. As it turns out, we were childhood friends and grew up less than a block away from each other. He happened to be visiting in the area and took his grand-kids fishing in the river. We hadn’t seen each other in more than 40 years, so we spent a half hour chatting and getting caught up. If he hadn’t been curious about my antenna, we never would have noticed each other. What an amazing coincidence!
Back to the contest… I operated for about an hour and a half. There was some deep fading on the bands but 20M eventually seemed to open up a bit. I bounced between 40M and 20M, alternating between CQing and search & pounce. When it started raining again, I figured it was a good time to wrap things up. I ended up with 20 QSOs (18 skeeters) in 11 SPCs.
Flight of the Bumblebees (FOBB) has always been one of my favorite QRP contests. Although I didn’t think I was going to be able to participate this year, I managed to get in on the first hour or so of the contest.
My (far) better half and I took our “QRP camper” up to French Creek State Park (PA) for the weekend. I figured we would be packing up and heading home about the time FOBB started, so I never signed up for a Bumblebee number. We ended up packing up most of our stuff in the morning, leaving my ham radio equipment for last. So, I was able to get in a little operating time before we had to vacate our campsite.
Without a Bumblebee number, I operated as a “Home” station, despite being portable. Although the bands seemed a little weak, my hour of work yielded 8 contacts, including 6 bumblebees. One of the highlights was working Ed WA3WSJ who was using the Boschveldt QRP Club callsign, W3BQC. Ed hiked up to Pulpit Rock on the Appalachian Trail for the event. Having operated as W3BQC during Field Day several times over the years, it was fun to be on the other end for a change.
Hopefully next year I’ll have more time to spend in the contest.
I alternated between making SKCC contacts and checking the IFRE calling frequencies. Most of my contacts were with SKCC stations on 40M. I didn’t hear much activity on 20M but I did make a 2-way QRP SKCC contact with Bobby AK4JA. Bobby was running a crystal-controlled tube rig and had a nice signal into Valley Forge.
After about an hour, the heat was starting to get to me and the static crashes from nearby storms were deafening. I moved my rig into the truck to get out of the direct sun and checked around 7.035 for IFRE stations and heard Dave W3DET calling CQ. I had previously worked Dave in the last IFRE and, as luck would have it, he is also an SKCC member. Two for the price of one.
After two hours or so, the static crashes were giving me a headache, so I packed up and headed home. I needed to get a few things together for a public service event the next day. I ended up with 10 SKCC contacts and the IFRE contact with W3DET.
On Sunday, I wrapped up my weekend supporting the French Creek Iron Tour with my local ARES-RACES group. The Iron Tour is a charity bike event benefiting the French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. This year, I provided communications for a rest stop in historic Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, the rain held off until I finished up and there were no major issues to deal with.
Unfortunately, I was once again unable to participate in was the annual Cookie Crumble Contest due to a conflict with the bike event. Hopefully, I’ll be able to participate in this fun QRP contest next year.
There’s an old saying that goes: “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.” I think that was the case for me 23 years ago.
As I was submitting my meager entry for last week’s QRP to the Field (QTTF) Contest, it made me think back to the very first QTTF contest in April of 1995. I’ve never considered myself a serious contester; not by a long stretch. Somehow, though, I actually placed 1st overall in the NorCal QRP Club’s inaugural QTTF. I actually did it with a most unlikely setup, too.
A local ham, Rolf N3LA (SK), graciously allowed me to operate my modest QRP station from his rural property. I operated from my truck with my antenna supported by one of Rolf’s trees.
My antenna was simply a 40M inverted vee that I made from #22 stranded hook-up wire. I fed it with about 30-feet of RG-174 coax. The center of the antenna was only about 12 to 15 feet high. One end was tied off to a bush about 4 feet off the ground. The other end ran into a fenced-in area that was home to a ram with a bad attitude. I had to wait until the ram was otherwise pre-occupied to tie-off that end of the antenna. That end was only a foot or two off the ground.
My rig was a Small Wonder Labs SW-40 running 950mW. This was from the first batch of kits offered by Dave Benson’s (K3SWL) former company. I was also using a keyer built from an old NorCal kit, which used the classic Curtis keyer chip. I used a set of paddles that I had cobbled together from stuff in my junk box. The whole station was powered by a 7 A-H gel cell battery that was almost as big as the rest of the equipment combined.
Over the course the afternoon, I worked a steady stream of QRPers. I was in QRP heaven. Even Rolf, who was monitoring from inside his house, was amazed at the number of contacts I was producing with less than a watt.
QRP to the Field 1995 - WB3GCK (950mW)
1615 K4XY VA
1641 WA9MTO MD
1646 KG8FL OH
1653 KI2L MA
1655 VE3VAW ONT
1659 W2RPH NJ 1W
1701 K2SJB NY
1706 VY2MP PEI
1710 N1OZL MA
1715 VY2MP PEI (DUPE)
1723 WQ1T NH
1728 VE3FRF ONT
1740 KC1FB CT
1743 W3TS PA 1W
1745 AC4WC VA 4W
1749 K1PUG CT 1W
1807 WK8S MI
1810 WA8IBT OH
1827 N7ANT VA
1836 W3EEK PA
1840 W2TFL NY
1841 VE3UWL ONT
1844 KB8GAE OH
1848 AA3GN PA
1851 K2MV NJ
1855 WA0JTL MI
1858 WB8EEL MA
1903 N4JEO VA
1905 NO1E NH
1913 AA2PF NY
1915 K4XY VA (DUPE)
1917 N2CX NJ
1929 AA2NL NJ
1930 AA4YZ/8 OH
2038 W2QUV NY 5W
2048 KD4PUP VA
2050 KT3A PA <1W
2054 KA4GVA VA
2056 W03B MD 250mW
2101 W8MVN OH 4W
2117 AA2WJ NY
2129 KZ4D VA 2W
2137 WA8LCZ MI
2139 AA1EX NH
2141 WQ1F VT 4W
2144 KC1FB CT (DUPE)
2146 K2JT NJ
2204 K0JPL MO
2209 KA3WTF PA 5W
I specifically remember a couple of the contacts. I worked Joe N2CX, who was testing a new antenna over in New Jersey. Joe later mentioned that QSO in an article about his antenna in QRP Quarterly. I also remember working Ernie W8MVN (SK) in Ohio. Back in the day, Ernie ran a pair of phased, full-wave 40M delta loops on top of a 60-foot tower. He called me with an ear-splitting QRP signal that had me scrambling for the RF gain control on my rig. I think my ears are still ringing from his incredibly loud signal.
Even though I only operated on one band with my 950mW rig, I managed to log 46 contacts (plus a few dupes) that day. With my QRPp multiplier, I ended up in first place out of a field of 50 stations.
I haven’t done that well in a QRP field contest since. (I did, however, place 2nd in the New England QRP Club’s QRP Afield contest using the same equipment later that year.) Rather than skill or prowess as a contester, I have always attributed my win to a combination of great propagation and lots of plain old dumb luck.
If your callsign is in the log above, thank you for helping this blind squirrel find a nut!
My (far) better half and I spent our first camping trip of the year at nearby French Creek State Park here in southeastern Pennsylvania. We were in a campsite that we have used many times over the years. Radio-wise, I used my 29.5-foot vertical and 9:1 unun. Since we were having an unusually chilly and windy April day, I wimped out and operated from inside our little travel trailer.
In between some beginning-of-the-season maintenance tasks on the trailer, I planned to get on the radio for some QTTF fun. Sadly, there wasn’t much fun to be had. Reportedly, there was a G2-level geomagnetic storm on Friday with effects that appeared to last through the weekend. I haven’t seen the bands that bad in a while. To make matters worse, our little trailer had some larger RVs for neighbors this weekend and all of their electrical doo-dads were causing some horrendous noise levels on the bands. The 40M band was the worst with near-constant S9 noise levels.
My high noise levels and weak signals on the bands made for a frustrating day. My contacts were few and far between. A few times, I just had to walk away from the rig and do something else. At the end of the day, I had worked only 2 other QTTF stations and 2 International Marconi Day (IMD) special event stations.
My apologies to those who tried to work me and to those who suffered through my requests for repeats. I hope things go better next year.
I braved the chilly temperatures yesterday to operate in the annual Freeze Your B— Off (FYBO) contest. It’s always fun to get out for some QRP-portable but the contest itself left me cold (pun intended).
I went back to the same spot I used for my impromptu outing a few days ago. (Truth be told, I like this spot in the Winter primarily because it’s one of the few local parks that has a year-round Porta-Pottie.) I used my usual setup with the KX3 at 5 watts into my 19-foot vertical on the back of the truck. It was about 30° F outside with a steady breeze. Inside the truck, it was a balmy 35° F or so.
There was a lot of contest activity going on but no specific FYBO activity that I could find. I worked several QSO party stations from Minnesota and Vermont. I was pleased with how well I was getting into Minnesota on 40M. I also received a very nice signal report on 20M from K5C, a Space Shuttle Columbia special event station in Texas. I ended up with 10 contacts in the log before my toes started going numb.
But where were the FYBO stations?
Ever since 2016, the FYBO rules include a “Work Anyone” rule. Since you can work other contests or participate in activities such as POTA and SOTA and submit those contacts as FYBO contacts, there’s no real incentive for anyone to actually call “CQ FYBO.” As a result, I didn’t hear a single FYBO station yesterday. For me, this rule takes the fun out of operating in a QRP contest.
Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate that the Arizona ScQRPions take the time and effort to run the contest. It’s just that, for me, part of the fun of a QRP field contest is working other QRPers. In this contest, that’s less likely to happen. In any event, it still gives you a reason to shake off that cabin fever and get out for some portable operating.
I had every intention of doing something special for Winter Field Day (WFD) this year but Life-in-General got in the way. I hadn’t made any particular plans, so I decided to do a little operating from some local parks.
I drove out to nearby Upper Schuylkill Valley Park for a few hours on Saturday afternoon and parked in a spot with a nice view of the Schuylkill River. We were experiencing some above average temperatures this weekend (it was 55° F today), so I actually had my window rolled down.
I set up my 19-foot vertical in the back of the truck and my KX3 in the cab of the truck just in time for the start of the contest. I operated in the Outdoor category (1O), running QRP CW only.
In just under 2 hours, I logged 21 stations on 40 and 20 meters. Part of that time was spent chatting with a curious passerby. I spent about 10 minutes talking about ham radio with him. After he left, I made a few more contacts before heading home for the evening.
What a difference a day makes. On Sunday morning, I operated from Black Rock Sanctuary, just outside Phoenixville. While the temperature was still fairly moderate (47° F), it rained steadily all morning. I had to cover up my antenna components with plastic to keep everything dry.
The 40M band was in pretty good shape, so I spent most of my time there. I checked 20M once or twice but there was another contest going on and I didn’t hear any Winter Field Day CW activity.
After about 1.5 hours, I matched yesterday’s effort with another 21 contacts. I even dragged out the microphone (gasp!) and made 4 SSB contacts. One of the SSB contacts was with WW1USA from the World War I museum in Missouri. He was also giving out WFD exchanges.
Overall, I worked 42 stations in 24 sections and 21 states. I’m certainly not a threat to win but I’m happy with the results of my meager effort. It was great to hear all the CW activity this year.
I didn’t spend a lot of time on WFD this year but it certainly was fun. Maybe next year I’ll do something more adventurous like Winter camping. We’ll see.