[3830] TxQP K5END SO CW Mobile LP

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Thu Sep 30 19:57:10 PDT 2010

                    Texas QSO Party

Call: K5END
Operator(s): K5END
Station: K5END

Class: SO CW Mobile LP
QTH: Spring, TX
Operating Time (hrs): 7

 Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs  Dig Qs
   40:  125              
   20:    6              
Total:  131     0       0  Mults = 54  Total Score = 31,722

Club: Northwest Amateur Radio Society


We had a lot of fun this year, and I learned a lot. No damage to anything and we
stayed safe, so it fits my definition of success. For the first time in my
mobile contesting career the equipment was actually ready and working in time
to start the contest and we had only some minor equipment problems during the

The biggest technical and operating problem I had during the contest was power
line noise. Much later it dawned on me, duh, I have not installed elecraft's
noise blanker or audio DSP filter in my new K2. So those are two upcoming
projects for the mobile effort, along with some more vehicle bonding and better
wiring harnesses for a more permanent, radio-ready vehicle. And I think I need
to write some letters about that power line noise. Bee County was especially
bad, with a constant BUZZ-Z-Z-Z over most of our path through that county...no
kidding. I think someone in Bee County may have a very cruel and sick sense of
humor. It ain't funny. 

At this stage of my experience what I can "bring to the party" is to fill in
here and there and make sure I activate my Singleton ("Singleton" is a
term--coined by N05W I believe--to indicate a county for which only one mobile
has in his published route, with no other stations planning to activate) and
low activity counties. Last year I had 3 or so Singletons, which I made, and
this year only one...all the way down in Starr County. I stopped at the
McMullen county line to activate it for CW and at Jim Hogg as well because it
was a bit rare and along the way for a short piece of our route. I only
activated one other mobile in 5 of his counties, but a few other stations
worked me in 5 or more counties. So it was a day for me to hand out some bonus
points for a few others. We had some other circumstances arise later Saturday
and I was able to work but about 7 hours during the whole event, with zero time
on Sunday. However we did cover 844 miles in one day to activate our Singleton.

Several folks had admonished us to exercise caution near the border. So I sent
some emails and made some phone calls to Austin and to the Valley to get the
real story. The truth is there are some dangerous areas, but with common sense,
paved roads and daylight, we didn't have much to worry about. Still, I looked up
the 2 meter repeaters and simplex calling frequencies for the valley and printed
a list. We got APRS working, but 2 m 1200 BAUD FM APRS stations were few between
Alice, TX and the Rio Grande Valley (now I'm looking into what it takes to do 30
meter 300 BAUD LSB APRS for the next QSOP in sparse areas.) I'd also made an
antenna for 120 MHz in case all else failed in a true emergency and I needed to
call for help on the Aviation distress channels in AM mode. I never even had to
turn that radio on. Never even thought about it really. The drive through
Hidalgo and Starr counties was beautiful, peaceful and uneventful. 

We did have a mildly interesting encounter when we met the Border Patrol in
Brooks County on our northbound leg. Because of my nearly dozen trips to Big
Bend National Park to feed my addiction for the Chisos and that beautiful,
enchanted area, plus past visits to family in Weslaco, Premont and
Harlingen--and even to the Mercado across the border when things were safer in
the old days--it was not my first Border Patrol encounter. I'm glad they're out
there, frankly. Even after having seen them apprehend people in a not so gentle
way on the roadside, I've never felt uncomfortable around them. So, we waited
in line at the "All Vehicles Must Stop" roadside station and watched the German
Shepherds with their handlers, sniffing the cars mostly (the dogs, not the
handlers.) There were quite a few agents and a lot of activity. When it was our
turn we pulled up and rolled the windows down. The young man asked if we were U.
S. Citizens. I resisted the urge to respond with "Si." He seemed like a nice
enough fella, but I didn't want to test his sense of humor. 

He and 3 other agents were looking over the HiQ-with its odd looking capacity
hat reminiscent of a low-budget 1950's-era sci-fi movie, the two 2 meter
antennas mag mounted to the roof, the 120 MHz antenna, laptop, 3 radios,
antenna controller, MFJ-269, APRS TT4 TNC with LEDs a-blinking like a Christmas
tree, GPS wires to the hockey puck antennas on the sunroof...oh, and my
headphones I had obtusely forgotten to take off, and then he asked straight
out, "what are y'all looking for?"
I answered, "we are participating in an Amateur Radio event." 
He nodded in an ostensibly knowing manner, as if he didn't want to admit he had
no idea what I was talking about. But he didn't even get a chance to pause and
draw a breath for his next question. 
My wife, possessing that invaluable woman's intuition and therefore
anticipating a series of more in-depth questions, said with tactical,
perfectly-timed precision, abruptly, emphatically and with a hint of feigned
contempt, "HE...is participating in an Amateur Radio event. I'M just DRIVING."
The agent laughed and said, "you don't seem too enthusiastic about it."
We all laughed and he said, "y'all have a nice evening."
The entire interview lasted less than half a minute. 

My wife has a 10th degree black belt in verbal judo. 

As we drove away I heard 2 other agents ask him, "what WAS that?" 
All I could hear of his response before we were out of earshot was, "Amateur

There, so we got some mystique-oriented publicity for Amateur Radio and TQP, at
taxpayer expense.

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