This weekend had too much stuff going on to do a full-out VHF contest effort. Saturday morning, my fiancee and I competed in an orienteering meet held at the LBJ National Grasslands near Decatur, TX. So, we began the contest in EM13, about an hour after the start, and drove back to Austin, working stations as we could.
The gear in the car is not well-suited to a VHF rover contest effort. It was an Icom IC-706MkIIG, a Larsen dual-band mobile whip on a trunk lip mount, and an MFJ six meter whip on a mag mount in the middle of the roof. When we first got rolling in EM13, I discovered that the six meter antenna had extremely high SWR, and did not put out any power, so I was limited to 2M and 70cm. I had brought a Super CMOS Keyer III I built years ago and some paddles, but despite checking out fine the night before, the keyer's keying line seemed to be shorted out. So, we went with phone-only. I started out using a brand-new Heil HS-706 headset mic, but it ceased working after just a half-day of use. I got it free with the purchase of the radio, so I suppose it's not a big deal that it died, but it reinforces my opinion on Heil's spotty record of mechanical quality.
Anyway, with a tiny, vertically-polarized antenna less than a meter off the ground, there were a limited number of stations I could work. I had anticipated this, and as I could only operate a portion of the contest period anyway, I figured I'd just work what I could. I was happy to be able to say I worked at least one station in every grid we travelled to, although I would have been sweating it had N5TIF not been such a consistently strong signal in EM11, even as far south as Temple. He was the only station heard in that grid.
As we drove into Austin, I heard not a single contester calling CQ. All of my CQs went completely unanswered until finally, less than ten miles from downtown and three minutes before we arrived at our destination, I heard W5DF/R. We tried to work each other for a couple of minutes, as we faded in and out of each others' receivers. Finally, we pulled up into the parking lot of our destination and all I can hear is one of the big gun stations in EM00 conversing with W5DF/R! He's telling the rover who I am, from which station I normally operate, etc., etc., and basically prevented me from completing a QSO with W5DF/R. I waited around as long as I reasonably could before getting out of the car, but he just wouldn't shut up. I never did hear W5DF/R again.
I got on again later in the evening on my drive to and from Georgetown (EM10,) where I put in a couple of hours in a multi-two effort in the North American QSO Party, and worked a couple more stations. On Sunday, we drove over to see friends near Johnson City, hitting EM00 in the process. We drove all the way through Austin and Dripping Springs, calling CQ on every hilltop, but heard nobody until we were almost at our destination. I was then able to work K5LLL on two meters, but we couldn't connect on 432, even though I heard him quite well on that band. It was weird - there was a sharp ridge right in front of our path to K5LLL, and sometimes he would peak to S6 or so - I guess the ridge diffractions were occasionally lining up just right. Much later in the evening, on the drive home, I worked another station on two bands in the last hour of the contest.
I don't know if I'll be rovering again or not. It wasn't something I'd put a lot of preparation into. I just figured as long as we were travelling through so many grids, I would make a few stations happy.
The real highlight of the weekend was working VP8THU on 15 meters phone :-)
Contest Logging was done with TR LOG contest logging software. The following reports and log were created using TR LOG's post-contest processor.
Last Updated 29 November 2018