Sunday, March 17, 2024

Running for the Bacon

Today is St.Patrick's Day, and also today we have the "Run for the Bacon" CW sprint.  This sprint has been sponsored by the Flying Pigs QRP Club International for over 20 years now.  In it's heyday there would regularly be over 100 participants.  Over the years, participation has slowed down some, mainly due to the club not being as active as it once was. QRP is still very popular and we still have new member requests every week.  The club currently has just shy of 4900 members from all over the world.  

Club Founder Diz W8DIZ

We were hit with some very bad news this month when we learned of the passing of Dieter "Diz" Gentzow, the club founder.  Diz was a great guy, patient Elmer,  designer and purveyor of kits and parts for hams all over the world.  He and his beloved wife Nancy owned and operated for many years.  

With this news, efforts are being made to revive the club to a more active level, and tonight was the "Run for the Bacon Sprint".  I admit this is the first sprint I have participated in for many years, but I had a lot of fun with it, and I plan to make this monthly sprint a "must do" item on my calendar. 

I'd like to thank Dan Shepherd N8IE, and Jim Sheldon W0EB, for taking the bull by the horns and getting the website and the domain for the Flying Pigs secured.  We are all working on the website a little at a time to try and modernize some of the features, as well as stir up more interest in the club and club events. 

Check out the Flying Pigs QRP Club International.  One of the first virtual clubs on the web!

1. No Dues

2. No Rules

3. Just Fun

If we find something broken, we fix it. 

72 es OO de KB9BVN

Brian Murrey FP -57

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Revisit - Brown County State Park

Today we set a new record.  The record high temperature for March 13 was set in 1995 at 70F degrees. Today, March 13 2024 we hit 76F degrees, smashing an almost 30 year record.  Interestingly enough, the coldest March 13 was in 1960 at 0F am I glad that record didn't get smashed today! 

So I hadn't been to Brown County State Park since last October, I got off work a little bit early and headed 50 miles south of home to activate this park, known as K-2251.  I found a good place to operate from and got setup, and was on the air by 5:15PM.  I started out on 20m, running 14.061 Mhz for about a half an hour. Then moved to 40m on 7.065 Mhz for about 15 minutes.  I did manage to work Bill K4NYM down in Florida, he was at a park on 17m 18.089 Mhz, for a surprise Park to Park contact. 

Lookout Fort at North Gate- I operated from this area

Brown County State Park is the largest state park in Indiana, it covers a little over 16,000 acres, includes two lakes, campgrounds, a firetower, nature center, swimming pool, horse stable, mountain biking, hiking ranging from mild to rugged, and there is a nice Inn on the property with a sit down restaurant.  Located just outside Nashville Indiana off State Road 46.  

My view from my operating position - looking north

If you ever get out this way, you'd really enjoy spending a day shopping and sightseeing in Nashville, and visiting the park.  The next time I come I will bring some charcoal and grill some burgers and dogs.  They have grills and picnic tables all over the park. 

I was on the air about 45 minutes total, managed to log 21 contacts, of which two were other parks. Not a bad afternoon.  I wanted to get home before it got dark, so I packed up the POTA mobile and headed north. 

I did not get any European or South American DX today, the band seemed a lot weaker than it was yesterday, but I forgot to note the propagation index numbers to compare.  I need to try and do that in the future so I can make legitimate comparisons. 

The firetower is open to the public, and if you are so inclined you can climb up to the top level and see for miles and miles in all directions.  This is the highest point in the park, I think, and the DNR has a lot of antennas up there on top.  I did not climb the firetower, I did forty years ago and it was quite a sight. 

Here is the map of my contacts tonight.  I was running about 8 watts

My QSO Map from Brown County State Park

Until next trip!  
73 de KB9BVN

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Revisit - Stone Arch Lake and Chapel

Wow, another great day for getting outdoors. It didn't make it to 70 today but it got really close. Beautiful sunny, clear sky, and the best part is daylight savings time is in effect now so it is staying lighter later.  This is a good thing for after work POTA adventuring. 

So this afternoon I head back to Atterbury again, on a week night it is hard to beat since it is just thirty minutes from home.  The next closest park for me would be either Morgan Monroe State Forest K-4215, or Brown County State Park K-2251,coming in at 50 minutes each depending on which way the wind is blowing. One way. 

I decided to run over to Stone Arch Lake on the south and west end of Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area. I hadn't operated from there in about a year.  There was only one fishing boat in the water so I pretty much had the whole place to myself. 

Stone Arch Lake is the second biggest lake in the Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area, coming in at 25 acres, compared to 63 acres at Pisgah Lake.  According to the Indiana DNR stocking database, Stone Arch was last stocked in 2022 with 450 Channel Catfish.  It could use some help. It's beautiful, but not sure the fishing is that great. 

Stone Arch Lake - looking to the west

Stone Arch Lake is also next to the POW Chapel.  The Chapel was built by Italian POW's during WWII.  Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area used to be part of Camp Atterbury, which is still in existence just south of this location. The Camp served as a POW camp for Italian prisoners. 

Catholic POW Chapel built in 1946 by Italian prisoners

Today instead of the little AX1 antenna, I decided to deploy the Eagle One hitch mounted vertical.  This antenna collapses down to about 48 inches, I have been using it for the last  three years and it has done a great job.  Here's a picture of what the hitch mount looks like. I have two 30 foot radials clipped on the bracket holding the upright.  These make tuning on 40 meters, a breeze. 

Eagle One Hitch Mounted to the POTA Mobile 

I was running the KX-2 at 8 watts, Morse Code, and using the 3d printed paddles I got from Bruce N9DBJ.  They are taking a beating and they keep on working!  Started out on 20m frequency of 14.060 Mhz and was able to work coast to coast and up in to Canada.  Didn't get any European stations this evening.  Here is a map of where my signals were heard and worked.  

Contact Map for this outing - 20 contacts

So that's about it for today, weather supposed to be great again tomorrow, so I may try to get out and do it again after my work is done.  I can hear my grass starting to grow...UGH.  Spring is a week from today, can't get here fast enough.  

72 de KB9BVN
(72 is for low power 73's) 

Monday, March 4, 2024

Almost Spring!!


First good day above 70 degrees in the Hoosier Heartland!! GO POTA! 

So here is it Monday,the 4th of March and we're getting a beautiful top notch Spring like day, even though Spring is still fifteen days away.  As soon as the workday was over I got in the POTA mobile and headed to Pisgah Lake, located in the Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area, AKA K-4183. 

Pisgah Lake - 63 Acres in Atterbury Wildlife Area 

Pisgah Lake is 63 Acres in size, has a concrete boat ramp and you can access it from the north side or the south side of the lake.  At one time a very long time ago there was a bridge that linked the north side to the southside, but it has been gone for at least 50-55 years.

This lake is stocked by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and you will find Crappie, Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, and two or three varieties of Bullheads.  

The best time to fish here is in the early spring, by June the weeds are pretty thick and the bugs will carry you off into the woods and chew on you for days.  This evening I setup my station in the parking lot next to the boat ramp. 

Trail through the woods, over to the dam

The view from my operating position 

Earth Dam at Pisgah Lake

Tonight I setup the KX-2 radio and the AX-1 antenna, with a single 14 foot radial draped over the POTA Mobile.  Something was not working well as I could not get the antenna to properly tune for the 20m band.  So I packed up that antenna and broke out the 33 foot tall portable vertical antenna, the Eagle One. I deployed that with two 35 foot radials made out of 18g speaker wire (zipcord).  It was able to tune the radio and antenna just perfectly. I was running 8 watts tonight. 

I started out working other parks on 20m, these are called Park to Park contacts, and that means I am in a park and they are in a park.  The first of five parks were VA3KOT at a park in Ontario Canada, AB9CA at a park in New Mexico, N9MM at a park in Texas, KL7AC at a park in Arizona, and then KE5AKL at a park in New Mexico.  The band was working great to the west.

About that time a DNR ranger SUV pulled up and two of the park rangers and I chatted about radio and fishing, and how nice the day was for about a half hour.  They were surprised when I showed them my gear and explained that I had contacted hams in Europe, the Caribbean, and South America with my little antennas and 8 watts of power.  They told me to come by the dispatch office and show them how to do it because they can't hardly talk from one end of the property to the other at times.  I explained I was using shortwave frequencies, and they were using VHF or UHF...which is line of site, and doesn't penetrate trees very well.  Not sure it sunk in but we had a good chat and then they moved on.  I ended up with 10 more contacts, furthest was Washington State. 

This is my first POTA outing of the month.  March is always a crapshoot for weather around here.  It's March 4th today, Indiana has already had two EF1 tornadoes, one near Gary Indiana this weekend, and one near Jeffersonville Indiana about a week ago.  Forecast for tomorrow is everything from light  showers, to heavy thunderstorms, with high gusts, and potential for severe weather all afternoon.  I hope to have four more parks activated this month, and with daylight savings time returning next weekend, that'll give me more daylight at the end of the day so maybe I can get out and work from some other parks.  Atterbury is just super convenient to me, being less than 30 minutes away from home. 

73 de KB9BVN

Friday, February 23, 2024

RadioActive At K-4183


I feel like I am off to a good start so far this year.  I just completed my 3rd park activation for the year.  All three have been at Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area in central Indiana, just north of Camp Atterbury.  My first trip this month was on February 11th when we got a day of unseasonal weather, meaning it was warm and sunny!  I was able to setup the KX2 and the AX-1 antenna and I worked 18 contacts, with four of them being Park to Park contacts. This was set up at the Parking Area 11A down by Stone Arch Lake, and it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  I got started at about 1PM and pulled stakes and headed back home at about 2PM, as the temperature was starting to drop again.  I was even visited by a flock of grouse, that started drumming and startled me pretty good!  

Parking Area 11 by Stone Arch Lake
My second activation at this location was on February  22, I ran down to the park when I got off work at 4PM.  By 5PM I was setup and operating, same setup using the KX2 and the AX-1 antenna.  I was able to work 24 stations in about 30 minutes, before it started getting dark. Best DX was Iggy EA2BD calling me from Pamplona Spain!! He gave me a 449 for the report and I was pretty happy to log that one!  This was a quick run down and a quick run back home.  Didn't see another person the whole time I was down there.  It's still pretty chilly and too cold to go fishing, at least for now.  My next activation at Atterbury was February 23rd, this evening. Once again I headed down right after work.  

This time I decided to try a new spot, new this year anyway, and I set up at Beaver Bottom Lake.  I was also happy to see the Indiana DNR had already dropped the Porta Potty at this location!  I was in position in the parking lot, with the KX-2 and the AX-1 antenna once again.  The AX-1 Antenna works on 17m and 20m.  I have been using it pretty much only on 20m the last few outings.  I still like to use my hitch mounted Eagle One vertical but when in a hurry the AX-1 can't be beat for ultra quick set up and tear down. 

Fishing Docks at Beaver Bottom
Beaver Bottom Lake at Atterbury

So tonight I operated from about 4:40PM to about 5:10PM, the going was much slower than the day before, best DX was Utah and Arizona.  The best contact was with Jay AJ4AY.  I met Jay almost 25 years ago, at a Flying Pigs QRP Club Field Day event at Caesar Creek State Park in Ohio.  He drove all the way up from Mobile Alabama to hang out with the Flying Pigs that weekend. 
We had the best time, and I've QSO'd with Jay a few times over the years.   It was great to hear his fist, and knowing we were both still above ground, and walking around.  One of the coolest things about amateur radio is you never know who you will bump into.  Thanks for working me Jay!  I loved it!!

Anyway that about wraps it up, I ended up with 14 contacts, and the breeze blowing off that lake was cold, so I packed it up until next time.  I am shooting for 30 activations this year, will try to do Atterbury one more time before March.  Once DST comes back on the 10th of March, I'll have more daylight to work with, and will start going out further to some other parks. 

73 de KB9BVN from K-4183 - Beaver Bottom Lake

BTW I LOVE those little 3D printed paddles that Bruce N9DBJ gave me.  They are great in the outdoors and hold up very well. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

POTA - I finally got to 1000!!!

Well it's been a few months since I blogged and I blame it on the weather, having too many things to get done this winter around the house, and taking care of my wife after her successful surgery.  Turned the page on another birthday, hoping to be retired by this time next year, God willing and the creek don't rise. 

This morning I worked my 1000th different park in the Parks on the Air program.  The next award is at 1500... which seems like a long long way off.  I started in POTA in June of 2020.  Last year I had 15 park activations, which means I took my portable station to 15 different parks, and made at least 10 contacts each outing.  That brings my total up to 33 activations.  My goal this year is to hit 25 parks, and I already knocked one down last weekend. 

My hunting began about a week after my first POTA activation in June 2020.  I am not tearing it up or setting the POTA world on fire.  POTA has over 43,000 registered radio amateurs out there hunting, and activating.  I am BARELY in the top 2500. 

I am very happy to hit this milestone. I am ready to start plotting my other 24 park outings for this year. The Elecraft KX-2 with the AX-1 antenna is working out very well.  I can now carry my entire setup in a padded Lowe bag and it weighs less than 5 lbs.  I can have it setup in less than 5 minutes.  The AX-1 only works 17m and 20m bands, so I still have the Eagle One hitch mounted vertical to work the other bands. 

Glad to have that one in the logbook.  

73 de KB9BVN