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[3830] ARRL June VHF K2EZ/R Rover LP

To: 3830@contesting.com, k2ez@arrl.net
Subject: [3830] ARRL June VHF K2EZ/R Rover LP
From: webform@b4h.net
Reply-to: k2ez@arrl.net
Date: Sun, 21 Jun 2020 18:05:24 +0000
List-post: <mailto:3830@contesting.com>
                    ARRL June VHF Contest - 2020

Call: K2EZ/R
Operator(s): K2EZ
Station: K2EZ/R

Class: Rover LP
Operating Time (hrs): 30

 Band  QSOs  Mults
    6:  166    44
    2:  155    16
  222:  121    15
  432:  131    15
  903:   73    12
  1.2:   73    14
  2.3:   43    12
  3.4:   36    11
Total:  798   154  Total Score = 215,908

Club: Mt Airy VHF Radio Club


I was running 8 bands like in January, but this time no snow or ice.  Only
activated 15 grids this time.  Due to some delays, my potential end of contests
destinations became to iffy to reach.  My rove started in Southeast of San
Antonio TX and finished just outside Tulsa OK.  

A surprising amount of this was only loosely planned.  I did plan to meet up
with a few of the Texas rovers hence my starting location.  And I planned to
work my way up to where the OK Rovers were active.  Pretty much nothing in
between went anywhere close to how I thought it might.  And as mentioned before,
I had to scrap my final run chasing multipliers and fresh Qs which was either
going to be towards Memphis, TN or St. Louis, MO.  

Unlike other parts of the country, 6m seemed to be inert in the West Gulf region
Saturday.  The only stations heard on 6m were ones that I, or someone else,
QSYed to the band.  I heard some FT8, but I was unable to run that at the time. 

Sunday, I heard some out of area 6m activity for a short bit mid-day when I was
in Oklahoma.  I also heard the occasional distant voice that faded in and out. 
Fortunately, for the last few hours of the contest, 6m opened very strongly on
this allowed me to pile on multipliers and extra Qs that made up somewhat for
having to cancel the final run.  More on that later.

As for technical issues these were rather minor except for one incident that I
was able to resolve.  This occurred very early in the contest.  I was using my
air conditioning sparingly due to some problems with the AC compressor.  This
was only a small discomfort for me, but I started to realize there was a problem
when the tablet for my logging system became sluggish and was running slow.  A
restart didn’t help.

It was just occurring to me that maybe the temperature had something to do with
the slow performance.  At that point I remembered I had a temperature problem
before with both the Flex Radio and the tablet I use for its console.  No sooner
do I think this, the tablet for the Flex Radio console shuts off as if it read
my mind.  I go looking in the back and the Flex Radio starts to indicate over
temperature shutdown as well.  This had the effect of taking all four of my
microwave bands off the air.

To get it all cooled down, I was forced to run the AC continuously.  My already
unhappy compressor was screaming like a jet engine.  This is Texas and what I
could get away with up north with AC off, or running intermittently, just
wasn’t enough here.  Despite all the noise, the air conditioning did work. 
After about 20 minutes, the tablet and Flex Radio cooled enough that I got the
micros back up.  The sluggishness in my logging system also went away with the
cooler temps.

The other technical issue was minor.  For some reason my little USB GPS module
wouldn’t sync again so I couldn’t get time lock for digital modes.  I could
do a reasonable manual setting if my iphone clock would show seconds, but
waiting for it to change to the next minute to manually sync is sloppy.  I’ve
done it but it takes multiple tries and it is never right on.  That has been one
irritation about this iphone.  I suppose I could get a third-party app to
resolve it.  Anyway, digital modes would have been nice to run on the otherwise
dead 6m Saturday, especially while moving, but it was what it was.  I was more
focused on the micros.

For the start of the contest I met up with some of the TX rovers KA5D/R,
KD5IKG/R and W5TN/R.  These gentlemen were invaluable helping me with the local
information about this part of Texas. 

Tim KD5IKG had some new hardware for the microwave bands giving us both eight
bands.  Unfortunately he had some teething pains and this gave us some headaches
early in the contest when trying to work each other.  There seemed to be an
intermittent in the switching.  So we ended up working thru those headaches
which likely cost us opportunities to catch some other stations. 

One of my favorite times during the contest was when there were four of us
rovers headed towards a hilltop spot called the “Devil’s Backbone”
southwest of Austin.  We were going to meet up there for dinner as well as some
operating.  We were proceeding at different times and some had different routes.
 I was very much the late one and somewhat lost.  During this period, we ended
up in some different grids in a piecemeal fashion so had opportunities to work
each other as well as work a number of the fixed stations that were following
us.  It was a very active time for all of us.

Thanks to the rovers, I discovered that Texas (and later Oklahoma) does have
some big hills.

Much of my time on that hilltop was socializing with the other rovers and some
curiosity seekers.  It was a bit hard for more than one of us to operate anyway
and I was ready for a break.  I was the late one still up on the hill after 9pm
while the other rovers were headed home for the overnight.  Once they left the
hilltop, I started my operation there seriously.  

It was close to 10 PM when I decided to roll off the hill.  My idea that I might
continue up the gridline on the west side of the DFW metroplex went out the
window as I had a morning appointment in Oklahoma too far to the east.

So, after rolling off the hill, I needed a more direct route.  That appeared to
be a run up I35 thru Austin, then Waco, before branching on I35E towards the
Dallas side of the metroplex.  This didn’t let me optimize the number of grids
I activated, but my goal for the night was already a solid 5 hours away.  It
wasn’t looking like I would get too much sleep.  

I worked a number of fixed stations during the first hour or so of that travel,
but fixes stations were calling it a night.  That included Ron K5LLL which would
have been easy to get 7 or 8 bands for the next couple grids.

K5TR however was working late into the night and seemed to be tracking me on
APRS.  Not long after I would cross a grid, I could pretty much count on hearing
CQ from K5TR on SSB in what was otherwise dead time for all but the diehard ops
mostly running meteor scatter.  The only other station I heard really late was
K5QE.  These two stations insured I was able to activate the grids I was passing
thru during those nightime hours.  

When I got into my desired overnight area, I discovered that some event had
caused all the lodging to be booked.  After killing a half hour with no luck,
and seeing my available sleep time dwindle to less than 3 hours, it just became
impractical to get a room.  

Even if I found a place, by the time I checked in, got my stuff in a room, got
to bed, and then the time I needed in the morning, my sleep time would be too
little to make it worthwhile.  At this point I decided it was best to go back to
the ole sleep in the car routine.  That would give me more sleep even if not as
comfortable.  I found a distant corner of a Buc-ee’s parking lot where the
lighting wasn’t so bright.

The bad part of this plan was that it was hot.  Yes hot, this is Texas.  Outside
temps had dropped down to mid-70s which was better than normal, but the vehicle
was just hot from running all day.  Even though the AC had been on, as soon as I
turned the engine off, the interior temp climbed.  I didn’t want to sit parked
with car running to keep the AC running.  Keeping windows closed and doors
locked for security quickly became a non-option if I wanted an sleep.  

I tried opening the windows and inch or too get some air flow while making it
very difficult, if not impossible to reach in.  This got a slight cross breeze,
but it was still too hot.  I opened the windows some more, but it was still was
too hot.  At this point I was still trying to justify that while the widows were
open more, it still offered some degree of security.  Yes, someone could reach
in and unlock the door, but it would take some time and if they were just trying
to grab something it would be a hard reach.  

Eventually fatigue and the heat took its toll.  I decided that the risk of
getting murdered or having stuff stolen while I slept was worth it if I could
get just some sleep.  I rolled the windows all the way down.  This improved the
cross breeze significantly and I finally got the temp down to a tolerable level.
 With one arm hang hanging out a window for extra cooling I finally fell asleep.

I woke after dawn, about 6am not having been murdered.  As far as I could tell,
nothing was taken either.  There was already a good amount of activity on 2m.  I
went into Buc-ee’s where I quickly washed up as well as I could.  I also
changed into some fresh clothes and brushed my teeth.  Then I was off again
continuing north.  

As is typical, the early morning time was fairly busy with lots of fresh
stations to work.  Even though I was on the north side of Dallas now, I still
heard K5TR calling CQ regularly and we were able to work on a few bands.

I caught up with two of the OK rovers, N0LD/R and KB0YHT/R, about 10:30am.  I
ended up sticking with them thru lunch and up to the grid corner in the Tulsa. 
They showed me a couple of their hilltop locations where we were able to work a
number of the fixed stations.  Time just seemed to vanish and it wasn’t long
before it was clear that I couldn’t make my MO or TN targets without too much
risk of falling short.  

My last stop with them was a huge hilltop overlooking Tulsa.  There was a bit
less than 3 hours left in the contest.  6m had opened wide at this point.  I
never heard 6m open like this before.  With so many stations coming in from so
many areas, it actually made operation more difficult on SSB than less strong

The Pacific northwest, Midwest, and East coast were all coming in strong.  The
crowding was so bad I had very limited luck o SSB so I went to CW which was
better.  I appreciated Randy N0LD giving digital modes a break to let me work
some multipliers.  The constant carrier was completely blanking out 6m when they
transmitted.  I eventually moved off the hilltop to a spot about a half mile
down the road to avoid the mutual interference.  

With about 90 minutes left in the contest, and band still hot, I interrupted
operation for some photos as the OK rovers were starting their run back towards
home.  This ended up being about 40 minutes of chatting as curious public came
up to ask questions.  Public relations is something most every rover has to deal
with at one time or another.  Be it answering the curiosity seeker’s
questions, or trying to calm the nerves of the suspicious.  

When I finally got back to operating the band had cooled.  The southeast was now
coming in a little, but much of the northeast was no longer being heard.  The up
side to this is that SSB became more productive and I alternated between SSB and
CW for the last 45 minutes working stations as I found them.

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