2009 Michigan QSO Party Photos

and Stories

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The Team W8RU Multi-County Road-Trip

Team W8RU (for lack of a better name) has tried a number of entry categories in the MiQP over the past few years.  In 2009 we opted for another multi-county road trip, but scaled back to 3 counties instead of the five we did in 2008.

Our approach is really a portable operation because we don't operate as we drive.   Rather, we drive to a pre-determined spot in each county, stop, set-up dipoles, and operate in a Field Day fashion.  After a couple hours of operating we break everything down and move to the next county.  There isn't a rover category in MiQP and that's OK with us.  We just submit a separate log for each county we activate.  The challenge for us is to quickly setup a decent station and keep inter-county travel times as short as possible.

The 2009 team consisted of Ed (AB8OJ), Bill (KC8VGG), and Ron (W8RU).  We decided to activate Branch, Calhoun, and Jackson Counties.  Because the three of us live in the Ann Arbor area, we planned to start the contest in Branch, the county farthest west from our QTHs.  In that way we'd work our way eastward through the day and have a relatively short drive home after the last county.

We used a number of online mapping/imaging services, like Google Maps, to locate candidate operating spots.  In Branch, we identified a good-sized city park in Coldwater.  It had a good mix of trees and open areas and was close to the freeway we would be using.  In Calhoun and Jackson Counties, we chose freeway rest areas.  We had good luck from the Calhoun County rest area along I-94 in 2008.  All three spots had rest rooms, which are a nice convenience to have when you're on a road trip.

We planned to put three separate stations on the air at each stop:  KC8VGG took 80m, AB8OJ ran 40m, and W8RU was on 20m.  We used inverted-V antennas supported by portable center masts.  Each operator brought his own station, operating table, 12v battery, and accessories.  We used a variety of base supports for the center masts.  The best of the bunch was the Penninger Radio TP-24 portable tipping base.  The TP-24 is extremely well-made, quick to set up, and quite stable.  We put 21ft of army-surplus fiberglass mast in the TP-24 and a couple 20lb shot bags on the legs for added stability.  The other base supports were a 9ft TV tripod and a homebrew pair of crossed 4x6s.

Most expeditions that involve Ron (W8RU) get off to a late start, and 2009 was no exception.  We arrived at the park in Coldwater at 1615utc, chose our operating spot, and had the 40m station on the air by 1640.  The weather was simply gorgeous: warm temperatures, blue skies, light breezes, and no bugs.  The 80m station was operational about 10min later.  40m and 80m were the money bands for us.  We operated about 1.5hrs in Branch and made 126 QSOs.  We had things broken down and were on the road in about 20 minutes, taking a lunch break on our way out of Coldwater.  The photo at left shows Ed (AB8OJ) at his operating position with the 40m support in the foreground.

The next stop was Calhoun County and the rest area on westbound I-94.  We set up in the picnic area that divides the car and truck parking.  We were able to get the 80m station on the air in about 15 minutes and the 40m station a few minutes later.  The elapsed time between our last QSO in Branch County and our first QSO in Calhoun (including lunch) was 2hrs.  We operated about 1.5hrs and made 102 QSOs.  The photo below shows AB8OJ and the 40m dipole in the foreground, and KC8VGG and the top of 80m dipole in the background toward the lower left of the frame.

 The last stop on the tour was a rest area on eastbound I-94 in Jackson County.  We arrived about 7pm local time and setup the 40m station in about 20 minutes.  The elapsed time between our last QSO in Calhoun County and our first QSO in Jackson County was 1.5hrs.  To our great dismay we found that there was broadband noise, S9+20dB, across the entire band.  When the 80m station went active about 10min later it had the same noise problem.  We tried moving the legs of the dipoles to no avail, and the noise blankers in the radios were ineffective.  We think that the noise was coming from the mercury vapor lamps around and inside the building housing the bathrooms.  We struggled to make 17 contacts over the next hour and then threw in the towel.   It was too late in the day to break camp and move to new location.

Multiple-portable operations are pretty demanding because of the physical effort to setup and breakdown multiple times.  Having dipoles on a band really helps your signal stand out, and that means more QSOs.  No, we didn't break any QSO records.  As compared to 2008, though, we did at least 2x better overall. 

We've been blessed with excellent weather in Southeast Michigan for MiQP for two years in a row.  Doing a multi-portable in bad weather would be much more difficult and physically stressful if it were raining -- or snowing!

One other problem we encountered was voltage droop in the 12v marine batteries.  It only takes about an hour of operating for the voltage to fall to 11v under transmit load which, in turn, drops your output power.  AB8OJ used an N8XJK battery booster and that worked well, so we will be adding those to the other two stations if we do this again in 2010.

W8RU received nearly two dozen QSL requests for Branch and Calhoun Counties, so thanks to the County Hunters that were active.  We hope to work you all again next year.



Marty, K8HVI at the daytime "al fresco" operating position for the N8LC multi-op in Huron County

Doug, N8PYN manning the rig at the nighttime indoors operating position at N8LC


MiQP Chairman K8CC on 40M at the K8MQP multi-op, Livingston County


Ted, W8UE working 80M at K8MQP

K8GT on 20M at K8MQP


N8KR Pounding Brass From The Skies Over Michigan


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