CQP 2011 Plans?

As I mentioned a few days ago, the NCCC awards meeting in March gets me fired up for upcoming events, such as ARRL Sweepstakes and CQP. Last year my CQP log was tossed out due to formatting issues with N3FJP’s CA QSO Party software. While I have not contacted Scott about this formatting issues, I guess N6RNO and volunteers who help for the CQP had seen it in the past. I don’t expect to use this software in the 2011 CQP.

Much like March 2010 I have grandiose plans for CQP. There is a good chance none of it will come to pass, but I have begun considering a mobile operation (again) for CQP. There is only one other mobile that has submitted a log the past few years, K6AQL (op: W0DI) operating. Unfortunately running only 100w with an FT-857 and an ATAS-120A probably puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. Up to now I have not had good luck operating mobile on a daily basis. Although the upswing in the solar cycle has made operating conditions better I have considered alternatives.

After speaking with Rick, N6RNO on Monday, he said putting together a mobile operation or a county expedition are two ways to “help” when it comes to CQP. His idea for a mobile operation could include driving up and down I-5. If you are start in San Diego county, you end up driving through 16 counties (still 8 short of what K6AQL did in 2010). But it’s not about how many counties you hit, it’s about “BIC” time and handing out counties in the contest. Of the 16 counties in the I-5 plan, 8 of these counties had 4 or less logs submitted in 2010. What is even more surprising, 5 counties submitted only 1 log (Del Norte,Lake, Mariposa, Napa and San Francisco). The I-5 route would encompass about 697 miles and 11 hours, 31 minutes of travel time, without stops.Looking at feasible routes, there are some options once north of Sacramento as to which counties you have a possibility of driving through. Not having driven the roads north of Sacramento during October I am not sure what sort of conditions to expect.

As for the mobile station, I have considering renting a 24′ RV for two days to make the road trip for CQP. I would turn my current shack into a rolling shack, using my FT-1000MP, a laptop and possibly the Alpha 76PA. Only problem I am running into with the linear is a 220v outlet. I could possibly convert the amp to 110v or use a step up/step down converter. Much like my plans this too is still in the early planning stages.

I haven’t really considered a county expedition…yet. I am sure I could hook up with the guys at N6RO, who always put out a good signal. There might be another option (if) when I am introduced to John Galli, W6JZH via email from Rusty, W6OAT. John has a great looking station from the outside, as I stare in awe of his antenna set up when I have driven by his house.

First 6M QSO

The past two days have seen me grab another first in the world of amateur radio. Since the installation of the Yaesu FT-857D in my 2007 Ford Ranger, I have yet to make any contacts. I am still in the process of bonding the truck with one inch and half inch copper braid. At this time I am able to tune 6M and 10M successfully. My grand plans include operating as a rover in the October, 2010 California QSO Party (CQP).

Yesterday, I head KG6OQK calling CQ on 6M (50.125). I answered Ed’s CQ call and made my first 6M QSO, as well as my first mobile QSO. Sure, Ed was only in Benecia, which from my location on Highway 4 was about 15 miles away. Regardless, the first 6M QSO was in the log.

Today, I made contact with N6ORB, Dave in Martinez, which borders Benecia. Dave came back to me with a signal report of ’54’ to my ’55’ while driving into Concord this morning. After which, I heard Dave make a few other contacts while on 50.125.

This was quite exciting, knowing I have a Force 12 EF-706 sitting, new in the box in my garage. Hopefully I can get some free time on my days off to build this antenna and get it up in the air. Oddly enough I heard N6ORB say he only has his moxon 13′ high! I have seen some of the spots from N6ORB on VHFDX.net and he has been quite active with a very good signal. With any luck I will see some of that success when I get the EF-706 up about 15′, mounted on a 4×4 post in the backyard.

While the FT-1000MP does not operate on 6M, I will be using the FT-857D, which is very easy to remove from the truck and put into the shack when I want to play on 6M. Regardless of HOW I get on 6M I am looking forward to the Sporadic-E season.

I Got a Driver!

So I received a phone call yesterday from my sister, who lives in Virginia. I had called her a month or so ago asking if she would be my driver for the CQP in October, which is sponsored by the Northern California Contest Club. She was my back up plan if my buddy in SoCal could now do it. She came through yesterday and said she would drive so I could participate in this yearly contest, which lasts for 30 hours. I am attempting to plan a 900 mile loop in Northern California that would take me through parts of 27 or the 58 California counties.

To date I have about 300 miles of the journey planned out using a .KMZ file and Google Earth. There are still many logistics and details to work out. While I have the mobile radio installed (Yaesu FT-857D) along with the antenna (ATAS-120A) I might need to add a few more antennas to the back of the truck for this contest specifically. I will be limited to 100 watts, but should be able to secure some mountain top locations from which to call.

I have no idea on the number of contacts I could make, but I would like to estimate a figure that would make this all worth my while. One of the other problems I am facing is the fact the cab of my 2007 Ford Ranger is rather tight and limited on space. So being able to take more equipment with me is not a real possibility, but I am still working on how to organize the cab. So lots going on as we move towards October.

CQP: Planning Continues

I have modified a few different routes the past week or so, now that the 2009 CQP scores have been posted and all the awards have been handed out at last week’s NCCC meeting. October is an iffy month in California and I had considered going south to Bakersfield before going north on Highway 395. That plan has been changed and instead I will spend a majority of my time north and west of of Contra Costa County.

None of the preliminary 2010 information has been posted on the CQP.org site, but depending on county activations, I could change my plan and possibly activate a county. I still like the idea of operating mobile, but I could run into some other issues. The major issue is something to ride/drive with me. I checked with the XYL and she is not keen on spending 30 hours in a truck (okay 24 hours, minus 6 in a hotel). I talked to a good friend, unfortunately he has a bad back and probably would be in more pain than anything else.

Thankfully the contest is still months away and I am still working on a route itinerary. I even went so far to e-mail W0BH, Bob harder, who is a rather die hard when it comes to operating as a mobile in a QSO part. In fact I was looking for him today on 20M during the Oklahoma QSO Party, as he hit parts of 30 counties. Never did find him. But I am looking forward to reading his response.

My other concern is my mobile antenna, the ATAS-120A. Currently it is lacking on 20/40m, but I believe that is mostly due to bonding the truck. I have been able to tune 6/10/12M. In fact there were a few good openings this Saturday afternoon, I was able to hear K4BJ and KG4YDD in Florida, as well as AY8A in Argentina. KG4YDD was able to copy “victor mobile” when I called him a few times, but I gave up so he could work other stations.

If I can get the truck bonded better and the ATAS-120A working effectively, then I will have a renewed confidence in operating mobile. I would like to add an amplifier for the CQP, but they all seem so damn high, in terms of price, which means I am running 100 watts. That could prove very difficult and challenging. While the antenna doesn’t scare me any other antenna (if I went that route) would require a tuner, which is another added cost. Hopefully solar cycle 24 continues on the upswing and we see better solar conditions come the last few months of the year.

All in all it would still be a learning experience and something unique to do. This is the first time I will have participated in the CQP so I am looking very forward to the event, regardless of how or where I operate from. I had thought about joining a big gun, like N6RO, but still being new to the world of contesting I enjoy working full contests and logging new contacts.

Preliminary CQP Plans

As I mentioned yesterday I am already excited about the California QSO Party (CQP) that will take place October 2-3. This will be the first year I will put in an effort into the contest, sponsored by the NCCC. Unlike a traditional effort I am looking at doing something unique, if for nothing else to see if I can do it. I am considering operating 30 hours as a mobile station attempting to work from 30 different counties. No, that is not a typo I have an initial route planned that would take me though 30 of the 58 California counties. That equates to 1300 miles and 26 hours.

Can this plan be achieved successfully? I believe it could under the right conditions. Since the contest takes place in October, there is a good chance an early snow could cause some road closures on a portion of the route. This would require a contingency plan. Initially I would start out in Oakley (Contra Costa) and head east to Manteca (San Joaquin) south through Stanilaus, Merced, Madera, Kings, Tulare and arriving in Bakersfield (Kern).

The next leg of the loop would see me head northeast through Kern into Inyo, north on Highway 395 through Mono, Alpine heading west to Calaveras, Tuolumne, Amador, El Dorado, Placer and finally to Nevada, home of Grass Valley.

The final leg of the trip would take me west through Yuba, Sutter, Sacramento, Yolo, Colusa, Lake and Mendicino before turning south through Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and finally ending up in Santa Clara before heading back to Oakley for a grand total of 32 counties.

Again, can it be done? I don’t know I would like to think it can be and that I will have a good time attempting this 32 county loop. There are still many logistics to plan, as well as well as working on the mobile setup. I also need a co-pilot who would come with me, mostly for driving but possibly for some logging time as well. I will be posting more details and information as I continue to work on it.