September 27, 2022
Trio Treks for Texas QSO Party
Hearing the contest call for field operations, Ron Reeves, NN5R, Kevin Grantham, N5KRG, and Tom Yenny, K5LOL, ventured forth to Fort Richardson State Park in Jack County, just south of Jacksboro. Fort Richardson has a few air-conditioned cabins. They rented one that had a big back yard for wire antennas. On Friday, September 17, Ron was first to arrive. He secured the cabin and scoped out the antenna layout.
Kevin was next to arrive just before dark due to work challenges. This revealed a major logistical planning failure. Kevin brought two of the tables and three of the chairs, so Ron had nowhere to set up his equipment! Nothing to do but head into Jacksboro for dinner.
Tom arrived Saturday morning and the three headed to breakfast at the nearby Village Restaurant. Having had nourishment, they started setting up antennas. Ron’s 20-meter painter pole-supported wire dipole was first. Kevin had the enviable job of standing in the hot sun holding the painter pole while Ron and Tom crawled through the underbrush to find their throw-weights and pull up the antenna. Ron ran his coax through a window, set up his station, and started making contacts.
Kevin and Tom then began setting up Tom’s MFJ multiband end fed antenna; all 130 feet of it. This also involved crashing around in the thicket, stringing across two cabin sites and into a third, and great hilarity. With it finally up, Tom set up his table, set up his station, ran his feedline, and was able to get on the air.
Kevin—who still had not been able to enjoy the air conditioning or set anything up yet—assembled and fired up a propane grill. As the acrid, noxious, and undoubtedly poisonous “manufacturing chemicals” burned off the grill, Kevin was able to move his station inside the cabin.
When the grill was safe, Kevin grilled burgers and lunch was served. After lunch, Kevin set up his DX Commander Expedition fan vertical antenna. This went up reasonably quickly. Kevin stayed in the sun a little longer than he would have liked. With the help of Ron and Tom, the antenna was ready, the coax was run, and Kevin was able to get on the air.
Jack County was chosen because there are plenty of stations operating from Denton and Dallas counties, and they wanted a county not too far away that would be a desirable contact for other participants. The more counties, the more points, and folks are always looking for rare counties. Using KB5A, the MARS club call sign, they operated as a “2” class station since someone was always taking a break or a nap or something. It worked out well.
The bands were really hopping! Kevin made most of his contacts on 15m including one contact to Northern Ireland! Because it was a vertical, there weren’t many Texas stations he could work. Ron was wire-bound so he worked 20m and did very well. Tom picked 40m and it rocked pretty much all day and all night.
Thanks to switchable bandpass filters, no one detected cross-station interference or phase noise, even between the 15m and 40m stations whose bands are harmonically related. Bandpass filters are the key for multi-op, multi-band events.
Dinner on Saturday was pizza from a local eatery, to minimize the disruption to the operating cadence.
They were able—well, Tom was able—to sweet talk the park ranger into a late checkout. Ron departed Saturday night and took down his antenna and equipment. He was having so much fun he had to be reminded three times that if he didn’t get the antenna down before dark, he would probably meet something with fangs and a bad attitude when he tried to crawl into the thicket to recover his antenna!
Sunday morning it was back to the Village Restaurant for another delicious breakfast, and back to operating for Tom and Kevin. Around noon both operators decided to call it a day. The event was scheduled until 3:00 PM and there was still activity but all of the stations had already been logged and the pickings were thin.
As Tom was tuning around to see if he could find stations on other bands such as 80m and 10m, his SWR went straight into the bucket—on all bands—including the band he was just working!
He and Kevin investigated and found that the “park host” (cleanup guy) had spotted the orange paracord in the far cabin site, gone into the thicket, found the neatly rolled up ball of excess paracord, and decided to cut it loose. When the now-free end streaked into the sky, he realized
he might have done something wrong so he quietly moved to the next cabin and began cleaning up. Kevin and Tom recovered the cut end of paracord and tried to run it to another tree in a different direction so that it wouldn’t be cut again, but the SWR wasn’t good.
They gave him a tour of the cabin, explained to him what they were doing, and talked about how to become a ham radio operator. Kevin and Tom reattached the paracord and got Tom’s antenna back to its previous excellent operation.
The team turned in a fine score of 9,632 for the Texas QSO Party: 86 contacts with 29 Texas counties and 26 states. But that’s not all! They logged contacts with the Washington State Salmon Run (9), the New Jersey QSO Party (6), the Iowa Party (2), the New Hampshire Party (1), Parks on the Air (12), and the Route 66 Special Event (6). They also got the N7GV Titan Missile Site Special Event, W1AW (ARRL HQ), and K4MIA/5 Special Event for the second year.
With everything packed up the intrepid team set out for home. A good time was had by all, and the team wishes to express their deep appreciation to the Metrocrest Amateur Radio Society and to Jerry Mabray N5ZW for the use of the KB5A call sign for this event.
[Ed—Many thanks to Kevin, Ron and Tom for contributing this article.]