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[3830] CaQP N6DE SOCntyExp LP

To: 3830@contesting.com
Subject: [3830] CaQP N6DE SOCntyExp LP
From: webform@b4h.net
Reply-to: n6de@comcast.net
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 22:41:08 -0700
List-post: <mailto:3830@contesting.com>
                    California QSO Party

Call: N6DE
Operator(s): N6DE
Station: N6DE

Class: SOCntyExp LP
Operating Time (hrs): 24

 Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs
   80:   67    102
   40:  205     60
   20:  317    303
   15:  230    225
Total:  819    690  Mults = 57  Total Score = 218,709

Club: Northern California Contest Club


Kenwood TS-850
C3S tribander
Inv-Vees for 40m and 80m
Honda EU2000i generator
Tower trailer

Check out some pictures of the expedition at:

Many thanks to the people who made this expedition possible:
Bob N6TV for the generator
Marc W6ZZZ and West Valley ARA for the tower trailer

Also thanks to Greg WB6FZH for his input about operating from Trinity, and N6XI
for confirmation about CW keying with Direct/IO and an IBM Thinkpad T42.  And
thank you Google Earth for a program that proved to be an enormous help.

This was my first ever S/O effort in CQP.  I was going to just casually operate
in CQP this year from the W6YX Multi-op.  That was until two weeks before CQP
when Alan K6SRZ announced he was having emergency heart surgery and wouldn't be
able to activate Trinity County this year in CQP.  I did some research on the
web and found N6NT's report on cq-contest from 1995 when he operated CQP from
the Trinity/Shasta County line.  Then I dug around in Google Earth to see if I
could find this location or any other good radio locations in Trinity.  I found
what appeared to be a great county line, downsloping ridge location at 4800'
elevation, except at 100 degrees where there was a nearby taller peak.  I drove
275 miles (one way from my house) up to the site the Saturday before CQP.  It
was perfect for an expedition and the dirt road was good enough to support
towing a tower trailer.  I later called the BLM Redding office to ask who owned
that exact spot of land.  It turns out that it's right on the boundary of BLM
land and National Park land (for a camping CQP expedition: BLM land = good;
National Park land = bad).  I bought a BLM map of that area in case anyone gave
me a hard time at the site.

At this point, I asked myself whether I really wanted to do this expedition.  I
would probably have to go myself, and although I had most everything I needed
somewhere in my garage to go on the expedition, I needed a generator and a
tower trailer.  When those fell into place from N6TV and W6ZZZ/WVARA, I decided
this was still totally nuts, but what the hell... I'll do it!!

I met with W6ZZZ in advance to pick up the tower trailer, and am really
fortunate that I did!  After we checked out the trailer, got it ready for
towing, and went over its operation, we checked the tire air pressure.  It
turned out that one tire was totally flat (though it didn't appear flat)!  We
were able to take the trailer it to Marc's house nearby to use his air
compressor and hurried to inflate both tires because it happened to be raining
at the time.  As I was ready to leave, Marc noticed a round area of foam and
bubbles that was accumulating on the top of the tire that was previously flat! 
There was obviously a hole in the tire, but there was no nail visible.  What
were the odds that it would be raining when I picked up the tower trailer, that
I parked the trailer in such a position that the hole in the flat tire was
directly on top so that rain could hit it, and that Marc happened to see it
when I was inflating the tires?  Whatever they were, I'm glad it happened! 
Marc told me the location of the nearest Wheel Works, where he just happened to
have visited the previous week due to a flat with his own car!  He also knew it
had a large parking lot, big enough for me to navigate a tower trailer around
and through.  So I went straight there and had the tire patched.  They found a
finishing nail deep inside the tire.  

I got a late start out of the Bay Area on Wednesday, and I checked into a hotel
in Redding at 2:30am Thursday.  After breakfast, a trip to Home Depot to pick up
some power cables I forgot at home, and a 30 mile drive to the site, I arrived
after noon.  This turned out to be perfect timing because it had just stopped
raining.  I was worried about the condition of the dirt road after the rain all
day Wednesday and Thursday morning, but the road was fine, and I didn't even
need to put my Explorer into 4x4 mode.

This area in far northern California is strikingly gorgeous.  From the site, I
could see Mt. Shasta, the Trinity Alps, a few lakes, and the lights from
Redding.  Driving by the Whiskeytown Lake on 299 during the daytime is

I built the tent, set up the tower trailer, and mostly finished assembling the
C3S on Thursday before darkness.  On Friday I mounted the C3S and wires to the
tower trailer, cranked it up, set up the generator and the radio, and
everything worked great except for one thing... there was S7 line noise on
20-80m, and S5 on 10 and 15m!!  It HAD to be the generator, right?  This was
the middle of nowhere with no visible power lines anywhere.  I thought the
generator was the only logical conclusion... I called N6TV on the cell phone
where he listened to the noise and we talked about things to try.  I turned off
the generator, hooked up the 850 to my car battery, and discovered the line
noise was still there.  Friggin unbelievable.  Well, there's not much I could
do about it at that point.  I figured I'd at least make some Qs that weekend
and activate Trinity for the guys chasing a sweep.  Anyway, after all that, it
was almost dark on Friday, and I just started to launch some line into the
trees for a 75m resonant wire.  I left the rest for Saturday morning, and did
the CQP practice on Friday night.

Saturday morning came around, and I decided to sleep in late and forget about
the 75m wire!  I checked the noise on the bands and it was still there.  Ugh,
it peaked S9 at 70 degrees on 20m.  When I turned the beam to JA, it went down
to S3.  I found that the 850 noise blanker took out most of the noise on 20m
and 40m, but not on 80m, as the noise sounded different.  I turned the beam to
45 degrees, operated with the noise blanker enabled on Saturday, and called CQ
high or low in the band so I wouldn't get hammered by strong signals due to the
noise blanker.  Then magically on Sunday, the noise disappeared!  I praised the
gods at that point, as I was able to work guys who were S0 and S1 on Sunday and
take advantage of a quiet location.

I started the contest on 15 SSB and still did not have a QSO after 4 minutes
and having tried two different frequencies.  This was a disappointing start,
which I thought may be a sign of a long weekend.  I went to 15 CW and then
suddenly I was off to the races.

I stopped for the night at 12:45am and had dinner at 1am after warming it up
with my camping stove.  It was quite cold on Thursday and Friday nights, less
so on Saturday night, and beautiful on Sunday night.  I was prepared for the
cold weather, but never imagined I'd need a fan during the daytime on Saturday
and Sunday!  It was actually pleasant inside the tent, but my Astron switching
power supply was burning up.  There was not much breeze the entire weekend, so
opening the tent doors didn't help much.  Several times throughout the contest,
I had to decrease my power to 50W, or take a break, to allow the Astron to cool
down a little bit.  I was concerned that it was going to shut down any minute,
but luckily it kept running the whole weekend.  I need to figure out why the
supply is getting so hot.

I resumed at 6am Sunday still needing HI, RI, MT, and NT.  W1WIU called in on
15m SSB for RI, and then later again on 20m SSB.  I couldn't believe that I was
still missing Montana, so I went to 40m SSB, worked some guys, and found a net
in progress.  I asked if anyone on the net was from Montana, and there was!  We
moved up the band for a QSO and MT was in the log!  But of course, two other MT
stations called me on 20m SSB later in the day.  KH6GMP called me on 20m SSB
with 2 hours left.  That left NT as the one mult I missed, which I never heard
all weekend.  I had 5 AK QSOs, and lots of VE7, but no VY1.  I was surprised to
hear so many DE and SC stations, which in past years have been rare.  I actually
felt happy to make it to 57 mults.  I had 3 VT QSOs and was lucky to contact VE5
early in the contest.  I was surprised that 30 Europeans answered my CQs, some
after 2pm on Sunday!  Several JAs called, and 9J2BO was an unexpected QSO, as
well as CU2JT on two bands.  It seems like there were a lot of stations outside
of CA that got a CA county sweep this year.  I would not be surprised if there
were more outside-CA stations with a county sweep this year than inside-CA
stations with a US/VE mult sweep!

Signing a county line caused mass confusion.  Here's a collection of actual
responses: how do I log a county line QSO, my logging program doesn't let me
log a duplicate QSO in the other county, my software only has room for 4
characters in the county, my logging software has room but gives a question
mark when I type SHAS/TRIN, I'll log both counties, I'll just log Shasta since
it's the first county and I don't need the mult, I need the Trinity mult so
I'll just log that instead of Shasta, will the log checkers ding me for this,
are you a mobile or a portable or a rover, what's your next county in the
mobile, does this count for one contact or two, is Shasta-and-Trinity one
county or two, we don't allow it that way in the xyz QSO Party, I'm gonna have
to write this down on paper and fix it later so could you please give me the
counties again, I just blew away the QSO trying to fix the counties so what was
the serial number again, what's the new county abbreviation for both of those
counties (the abbreviations were the same as last year for Shasta and
Trinity!), where exactly are you on the county line, "that's cool, I'm going to
do that next year," "well that woke me up," "your county again?," and the often
sent phrase on CW: CTY?  There must have been 100 people who asked me for
clarification.  No exaggeration.  

Despite all that, I had a real blast!  Making over 1500 QSOs low power S/O on
an expedition was FAR beyond my expectations.  I thought I would have a hard
time reaching 1000 QSOs low power in this contest.  Craig N6ED said I could do
it, but I wasn't so sure.  So I made a deal with Craig N6ED that I would buy
him a six-pack of beer if I made it to 1000 QSOs.  He would buy if I didn't
make it.  When I contacted him on 80m Saturday night, I had over 900, to which
he responded that I am going to owe him beers.  I told him that if I made it to
1500, I'd have to buy him two six-packs of his choice. I made it to 1509, so it
looks like I need to stop by BevMo and fly down to SoCal to deliver the goods!

The VE3s and Contest Club Ontario were amazing!  It was obvious they were well
organized and highly motivated.  Great job, CCO!

Although I thought I was at a remote site, there were actually a lot of people
who traveled on the dirt road past me while I was there!  I was constantly
waving at people passing by.  There are lots of great stories about people
stopping by to visit and wondered what was going on.  There were only a couple
of weeks until the end of deer hunting season, so there were quite a few
hunters around.  I had a good chat with a couple of great guys who were deer
hunting.  It turned out that one guy's dad is a ham, and he took a few pictures
of my setup to show his dad later!  Then a US National Park geologist stopped by
and asked "What the hell is that?"  He left saying "That's really cool."  Then
during a raging pileup on 20m, a couple that owns private land nearby stopped
by, I put the headphones down, and we had a good chat for about 10 minutes. 
They even offered for me to stop by their place later for a beer!  The tower
trailer is an instant conversation starter.  I even had a great conversation
with the guy at Wheel Works about it before the trip.  Even my neighbor asked
whether it was going to be a prop for Halloween this year!  Hmmm... park it in
the driveway, crank that baby up, and hang a giant Grim Reaper from it!  Now
THAT would be cool!

This turned out to be a memorable expedition, and I hope all of you had as much
fun in CQP as I did!  Thanks to everyone for all the QSOs!

-Dean - N6DE

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