Category: Experimental Antennas

VA3SIE Bike Mobile Station

By , July 16, 2011 5:58 pm

I had to rebuilt my bicycle mobile antenna yesterday, the old one failed.  This was not unexpected I had made an error while building it and I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did (3 years).  So I thought this is a good opportunity to build it better and share the details.

The Design

The DBJ-2 (construction article here) is a roll-up dual-band J-pole.  It offers significant gain (7dB – 10dB+) compared to the stock rubber ducky antenna.  It is better than a ground plane for a bicycle because it does no need a counterpoise and the high current sections are higher up off the ground so there is less ground loss.  Also because it is a base loaded long antenna it is easy to mount on a bicycle.

Construction Plan

Construction Plan

This design is interesting!  While a standard 2m J-pole does resonate on 70cm, the radation pattern is not ideal.  Most of the energy is directed out at more than 45° elevation resulting in a 4dB to 6dB loss compared to a groundplane. 

This antenna design incorporates the following elements.  At the base is a (shorted) 15″ matching stub, tapped for 50Ω.  This stub is λ/4 on 2m and 3λ/4 on 70cm.  At the top of this matching stub is the first ¼″ notch.  This notch stops isolates the current on the other side of the twinlead, ensuring that the bottom 15″ does not radiate (since the RF current flows on both sides of the twinlead in this section).

Above that is a λ/2 UHF radiator.  Above that is a λ/4 shorted stub constructed from RG-174 coax.  This coax stub is open circuit at UHF.  At the top end of the coax stub is an additional 18″ of 300Ω twinlead which completes the λ/2 VHF radiating element (which includes the UHF radiating element, the coax stub and the remainder of the twin lead).

The coax stub is slightly inductive at VHF and the twinlead has a velocity factor, so the lengths shown above are all shorter than the value you might expect.

Construction Details

I constructed this antenna using TV twinlead from Princess Auto

Stage One

I started by completely removing the twinlead plastic from 1″ to 1 ½″ from the bottom of the coax and twisting together the wires at the bottom end of the coax.  This gives me a ½″ section to slide the feed wires along to find a good 50Ω match. 

Next, I removed the three ¼″ notches on the ground side of the twinlead.  But rather than snipping out both the wire and the plastic I snipped the plastic with a cutter at either end of the ¼″ notch and then slit it down the side with a hobby knife, pried the plastic open with a screw driver and pulled out the wire with needle-nodes pliers.  This way, when I tape up the plastic afterwards it is still very structurally strong.

 

Stage 1 Build (stripped matching section, twisted together base wires, cut notches

Stage 1 Build (stripped matching section, twisted together base wires, cut notches

 Stage Two

After that, I prepared the coax stub.  I clipped a 4¾″ section of RG-174 and I stripped the outer cover from ¼″ at each end to expose the shield.  At the top end, I pulled back the shield strands and straightened them out, and I removed the inner dielectric, then I pulled the shield strands back out to mingle with the inner strands.  Thus, the stub is shorted at the top end.  At the bottom end I pulled the shield strands out and then clipped them off, exposing the inner dielectric.  I removed ½ of the dielectricm exposing some of the coax inner wire.   I realized that during soldering ½ again of the exposed dielectric would melt back.  This completes the 4¼″ stub preparation.

I also clipped out two ¼″ notches and this time I removed the plastic, to expose two ¼″ wires to connect the stub between.

Finally, I soldered the stub into the twinlead and taped the ends securely.  In order to ensure a good connection, I did not twist any of the wires of the RG-174 inner/outer or the wires in the twinlead.  I mingled all the wires together and then soaked in some solder at 750º.  Capillary action created some nice strong sections without too much solder.  I then taped the notched areas securely.

Shorted the top stub end and exposed the inner on the bottom, notched twinlead then soldered stub in

Shorted the top stub end and exposed the inner on the bottom, notched twinlead then soldered stub in

 Stage Three

Finally, I prepared the RG-58 feed coax by exposing ¾″ of inner and outer separated by ⅛″ of dielectric and I trimmed some of the outer wires so that the outer and inner were roughly the same diameter, easier to work with.  Then I taped up all the remaining notches and weak points, and I connected the RG-58 feed point to the ½″ matching area, ready to perform the final testing & trimming.

Prepared RG-58 coax, taped up points and attached feed point

Prepared RG-58 coax, taped up points and attached feed point

Installation

I connected the antenna to my bicycle.  It is supported at the back of the bicycle by two fiberglass sections of a Shakespeare Wonderpole TPS-20 fishing pole to which it is simply taped.  There is a coax balun in one of the bicycle panniers and then the coax runs to the front of the bicycle where it connects to my VX-8r H/T which is attached to the handlebars with bungee cords.  The microphone (and integrated GPS antenna) is also connected to the bicycle frame with a bungee cord.

Radio, Balun & Antenna installed on Bicycle

Radio, Balun & Antenna installed on Bicycle

Trimming

I used an MFJ-259B antenna analyzer (on loan from Anthony at the QRP Club – Thanks, Anthony!!) to analyze the antenna.  It was resonant at 136MHz.  I guess this is due to the velocity factor of the twin lead.  Moving the feed point across the ½″ sliding area produced no change in the resonant point but did change the SWR.  The SWR was better (around 1.2:1) at the top of the sliding range.  So I proceeded to trim off one inch at a time from the top of the antenna to bring it into the 2m band.  I ended up having to remove 7″ to get the resonant frequency to 147MHz.  With the feed point at the top of the sliding range, the match was 1.1:1.

Since I removed this length from the area above the UHF trap, I expect that the antenna is not a good match on UHF.  I estimate that it will be around 410MHz.  I don’t have a UHF analyzer to be able confirm this guess.  Next time I build this antenna I will scale the entire antenna to be 15% shorter in all the twinlead sections, assuming that I use the Princess Auto twinlead again.

Testing

Finally, I took it for a test drive on my bicycle!  I use a bluetooth headset to connect to the radio wirelessly, this offers superb freedom while cycling.  I compared the APRS map from this cycle trip with an identical trip with my old J-pole.  The results were encouraging.  Excluding some minor variations, the same digipeaters heard me as well as they used to.  Also I was able to hear some fairly distant repeaters and to have conversations on some close ones so the antenna was working and was working well!!

Microphone, Radio, APRS Map - Testing the Antenna

Microphone, Radio, APRS Map - Testing the Antenna

As an aside, as I approached the Rockliffe Airport, I monitored airband and heard 3 aircraft arranging themselves into a landing pattern for runway 09.  The end of runway 09 is right on the cycle path, so I stopped my bike there and continued to monitor.  A few minutes later and three aircraft all landed in succession right over my head.  I could hear the propeller blades feathering in the wind.  Wow!!  What fun! :mrgreen:

SOTA from Gatineau Park with Tom VA2EPR

By , June 14, 2011 9:16 am
Souvenir Photo

Souvenir Photo

Last Saturday, Tom VA3EPR and myself activated Summits On The Air summit VE2/OU-003 (McKinstry Peak) located in Gatineau Park.

We had posted an alert indicating that we would be on the air from 1500Z (11am).  We had arranged a sked with some other peaks on 40m at 1600Z (12pm).  I got confused :oops: and I thought that 1500Z was actually 10am local time and 1600Z was 11am.  Consequently I missed my sked :cry: …  but we did both manage a summit to summit contact anyway 8-)

J-Pole Experiment

We arrived at the Luskville falls trail-head at 8:15am with plenty of time to reach the summit.  I was trying an experiment today.  I knew that the digipeaters were 80-100km distant and especially difficult on the face of the escarpment, so I decided to try a roll-up J-pole.  I mounted it on two sections of fiberglass fishing pole on the side of my backpack.  This experiment enjoyed mixed success.  The J-pole kept catching on tree branches (not surprising really!) but on the other hand, the extra gain of this antenna meant that the digipeaters heard me very well, even on the upper portion of the escarpment face.   I did figure out that collapsing the fiberglass in the most heavily forested areas was possible.

The Video!

(Press the ‘Play’ icon in the center to view)

Climb Up

The trail climbs 800ft up the face of the Eardley Escarpment, first passing the Luskville falls then a short steep scramble climbs up to the pontiac lookout.  I found that VE3TST was the strongest repeater from the trailhead so I dialled that repeater in for the climb.  Part way up, I heard a call from Jim VE3XJ who is an Ottawa Valley QRP Society member,  it’s been a while since I’ve spoken with Jim so it was a welcome QSO.  Shortly thereafter, Ante VA2BBW figured out the CTCSS tone and joined Jim and I on the repeater.

A comedy of errors!

We managed to complete the 800ft climb to the fire tower in 1 hour, we got there by 9:20am and (since my brain was not working) I thought that we only had 40 minutes to get to the summit and get on the air.  Actually we had 1 hour 40 minutes… :oops:    Suddenly I realized that I had left my spare H/T battery at home, so I had only one battery to last all day… :oops:   So I decided to select low power.  But I couldn’t remember how much power the different levels represent.  I chose to set the radio to the L1 setting.  Jim and Ante had trouble hearing me.  Not surprisingly!  When I got back to the house I checked and L1 is 0.05W (1/20th of a watt!) … :oops: .  Serious QRP8-)

On the Trail

On the Trail

The Hike

It’s a 2.5km hike along Ridge Road (trail #1) from the fire tower to McKinstry cabin and the summit lies ½km further along the trail.    The ridge road trail is mixed use, in Summer it is mostly used by mountain bikers.  The trail passes by a beautiful lake which I didn’t notice on the way in but which I spotted on the way out.  Maybe a place to swim?  Perhaps not.  As we walked towards the summit, we saw hundreds of dragonflies sunning themselves on the road.  Hmm, what do dragonflies eat?  There must be a lot of dragonfly food up here.  erm…  dragonfiles eat mosquitoes!  The mosquitoes were horrendous.  Both Tom and I liberally applied DEET and I still got bitten many times.

Activation Zone

The VE2/OU-003 summit is at 422m and the VE2 SOTA association manual allows for operation within 25m of the summit.   The ridge road trail intersects the southern limit of the 400m contour line and this portion of the trail is therefore valid for a SOTA activation.  This is a good thing for two reasons.  (1) The summit is heavily forested, it would not be possible to get a horizontal antenna up at the summit.  (2) The Eardley Escarpment is a fragile ecology;  It is a unique microclimate.  The southern exposure and lack of moisture produce the growth of atypical plants for this area and a recent study (the Gatineau Park Ecosystem Conservation Plan) places the summit in the “Integral Conservation Zone” so we don’t want to undertake a damaging bushwhack.

Playing Radio

Playing Radio

Playing Radio

I had prepared two W3EDP antennas for Tom and myself (84′ of wire with a pair of 16′ and 32′ counterpoise wires).  I used fishing weights and nylon string and I was able to get Tom’s antenna up as an end-fed inverted-vee with the center at 45′ and my own up as an inverted-L at 50′.  This is the highest I have been able to get antennas… ever and I think it’s the fishing weights which made all the difference.  The only reason that we were able to get the antennas up so high was because we used tall trees lining the sides of the trail.  We set our stations a few feet into the bush to not get in the way of the mountain bikers.

We arrived at the zone at 10:05 local and we were set up and on the air around 10:30 local.  My brain wasn’t working and I thought that we  were half an our late (we alerted for 1500Z) and we had half an hour until our S2S skeds (planned for 1600Z) but of course I was confused :oops: .   Actually we beat our alerted time by 30 minutes and we had an hour and a half before our sked.

I spent some time with Tom at the beginning and did some listening around to kill time before our sked.  Then an hour early ( :oops: ) I spent a half hour calling CQ on 7.032MHz and never got any replies while Tom was operating on 20m.  I heard Tom stop calling CQ on 20m at 1530Z so I QSYed up to 20m and made a super quick series of contacts with fellow SOTA activators and chasers and the icing on the cake was a summit to summit QSO with Chuck K4QS who was up on The Pinnacle (W4/SH-005), a Summits on the Air Summit in Shenandoah Park, Virginia.  Excellent!  :mrgreen:

Tom @ Firetower

Tom @ Firetower

Since this was Tom’s first SOTA outing, I really wanted him to experience Summit-to-Summit so I dropped my radio the instant I signed with Chuck and dashed over to Tom’s position.  Just as Tom got him tuned in, he quit, so I went back to my station and left 20m to Tom.  I tuned back to 40m and who was there but Chuck!  Cool!  I popped off a quick QRPSPOTS SMS to alert the chaser community and then I dashed back to Tom’s locartion.  This time, Tom was able to get Chuck in his log – Yay!!  :mrgreen:

 

A break for lunch and then back to the radio, but my QSO rate dropped considerably after lunch.

Band conditions were a bit strange.  I was hearing all stations very strong both on 20m and 40m.  But invariably my signal report was terrible, RST 339 being typical.  Didn’t seem to matter which states.  That’s rather odd – more absorption on signals travelling South vs signals travelling North?  Maybe I should check my finals with a power meter 8-)   Still thanks to the hard work of the chasers, I did manage to get 10 QSOs into the log.

The Return Trip

The clouds started to come over and they were looking rather gray.  Forecast was for rain starting at 4pm local time so Tom and I bugged out at 2:30pm.  On the way back, Tom mentioned that the June ARRL VHF contest was underway so when we reached the edge of the escarpment, I raised my J-pole to maximum extension and put out a call on 146.520MHz.  I got a call back from Jamie VA3JME, he was driving through Almonte, Ontario heading for the West Carleton Club‘s VHF contest site.  He was RST 53 over a 40km path, not bad.  He mentioned that WCC were monitoring 146.580MHz so I put out a few calls there but never heard any reply.

We made good time back to the car and the rain started when we got back home.

We both had a super fun time activating VE2/OU-003, despite the bugs :lol:

Log

Time Call Band Mode Notes
15:30z W4MPS 14MHz CW Thanks Marc, Hope to work you when you are /P in Éire some day!
15:32z NG9D 14MHz CW Super signal!
15:34z W7CNL 14MHz CW Nice to work you again, Jack!
15:36z W5ESE 14MHz CW Thanks, Scott. I love your Wilderness QRP website!
15:40z KT5X 14MHz CW Nice to work a fellow activator…
15:50z K4QS 14MHz CW Thanks for S2S, Chuck. Hope you had fun on the Pinnacle W4/SH-005
16:40z KE5AKL 14MHz CW Another fellow activator :-)
16:45z KG8YT 7MHz CW Hmm, I *think* this was 40m… correct me if wrong please!
16:50z W4HEX 14MHz CW Nice long QSO, Thanks Will.
17:15z NS7P 14MHz CW Thanks Phil!

Multiband antenna shootout… EZNEC style. 88′ doublet the victor!

By , September 16, 2010 4:57 pm

I have tried many different multiband ‘quick deploy’ portable/temporary antennas over the years.  I have an idea of which ones seemed to work better than others, and I was interested to see if EZNEC agrees.  I used the version 5 demo program of Roy Lewallen W7EL’s excellent antenna modeling software EZNEC to model these antennas.

The exercise:  I created EZNEC models of several different multiband ‘quick deploy’ portable/temporary antennas which I have used in the field and then compared a vertical slice of the far-field radiation pattern along the azimuth bearing of the highest gain of all the antennas.  For this exercise I chose antennas which cover 80m, 40m, 30m and 20m, are easy to set up and can be supported on a single Jackite 31′ pole.

The antennas were modeled with #26 AWG teflon coated copper wire at 1 foot over a high accuracy very poor quality ground using a split current source of 2W power.  The transmission line was not modeled.

The Antennas

Wire models of 7 antennas

The Contenders - Wire models of 7 antennas

The antennas:

I chose to model two vertical antennas.  One 28′ long vertical and one 50′ vertical.  28′ has a low enough impedance for most tuners to be able to tune it on 20m and it can be tunes on 30m and 40m also.  It’s a bit short for 80m.  50′ is about the longest practical vertical I would consider in the field, it’s tough to find tree branches higher than that.  It’s long enough to be easily matched on 80m as well.

For doublets, I chose four designs.  The 88′ doublet is a favorite of antenna guru L. B. Cebik W4RNL.  On 20m, an 88′ doublet forms an extended double zepp (EDZ), an antenna with at least 3dB gain over a dipole, so it performs particularly well on that band, and can be casually tuned on 30m and 40m as well.  With a good tuner, it can also be tuned on 80m where is performs surprisingly well for it’s limited length.  I also modeled a 132′ off center fed dipole fed at the 44′ point.  This is a popular antenna is sold commercially as the buckmaster OCF dipole.  I modeled both the horizontal and inverted-vee variants of those with the center at 31′ (e.g. supported by a Jackite 31′ pole), and in the inverted vee I took the ends down to 6′ above ground (supported by 6ft driveway markers).

I also added an inverted-L, a 31′ vertical run and then a 90′ horizontal run, fed against the same pair of 16′ and 32′ counterpoises as the verticals.  I call this one ‘The Bear’.  Dunno why :lol:

Finally, Bob VA3QV asked me about how the 88′ doublet compares to a W3EDP, so I did a separate 88′ doublet vs W3EDP comparison (both Bob’s twinlead counterpoise version and the standard version):

3 styles of W3EDP

3 styles of W3EDP

So how do they compare?

20m Far Field

20m Far Field Elevation Patterns

20m Far Field Elevation Patterns

The horizontal 88′ doublet (as an extended double-zepp EDZ) was the clear winner on 20m with a maximum gain of 9.3dBi at 30° elevation broadside to the antenna, which is a good 2dB higher than the 132′ off center fed doublet and the 121′ inverted-L.  Bringing the ends of both doublets down to 6ft above the ground makes a big difference also, the there is 4dB less gain from the 88′ inverted-vee than if it is horizontal.  Interestingly, the horizontal 88′ doublet at 31′ has higher gain at lower elevations (3°-15°) than either of the verticals (with only 2 counterpoise wires).

So it looks like the horizontal 88′ doublet is a good choice for maximizing my 1.5W input signal as long as I do not need an omni-directional pattern.

How does the W3EDP compare to the horizontal 88′ doublet on 80m?

88ft EDZ vs W3EDP

88ft EDZ vs W3EDP

So, the 88′ EDZ is still coming out ahead of the W3EDP by a wide margin,  but the W3EDP has a little more gain than an inverted-vee 88′ EDZ.  Compared to the 132′ horizontal doublet and the 121′ inverted-L the W3EDP is in the same ballpark but it does have a little more gain that either of them at lower elevation angles.

40m Far Field

40m Far Field Elevation Patterns

80m Far Field Elevation Patterns

The 88′ horizontal doublet has marginally more overall gain than the 132′ horizontal doublet but the pattern of the 132′ horizontal doublet could mean less noise (since there’s less gain at 90°), and its more omnidirectional.  So while the 132′ horizontal doublet may be a better antenna on 40m, the 88′ horizontal doublet is still a very strong contender, and since it’s much better on 20m I think I will still favor the 88′ horizontal doublet on 40m.  All the other antenna designs are down at least 3dB from those two.

How about the 88′ horizontal doublet versus the W3EDP on 40m?

88' Doublet vs 84' W3EDP on 40m

The twinlead counterpoise version of the W3EDP is almost equivalent (<1dB) to the 88′ horizontal doublet and is certainly easier to erect, but since the 20m pattern is more favourable I would still prefer to erect an 88′ horizontal doublet is I was planning on operating on both bands.

80m Far Field

80m Far Field Elevation Patterns

80m Far Field Elevation Patterns

On 80m, the 132′ horizontal off-center fed doublet is marginally better for overall gain than the 88′ doublet, but it’s very close (<1dB).  The 121′ inverted-L is quite a bit down (2.5dB) from the 132′ horizontal off-center fed doublet.  The antenna choice for this band is less clear-cut.  With an antenna tuning unit with a good matching range, the 88′ doublet is probably the best all-around choice, since it works so well on 20m and is also near the top of the pack on 40m.  But my KX1 has a limited matching range on 80m and will not tune an 88ft doublet there.  So for me, taking down one end and adding 44′ on 80m is probably the best solution.

What about the W3EDP?

88ft Doublet vs W3EDP

88ft Doublet vs W3EDP

EZNEC predicts a 2.5dB difference between the 88′ doublet and the twinlead version of the W3EDP, with the 88′ doublet being the better of the two.  The W3EDP had better low angle radiation so should be a little better for DX.

Conclusion

As un-scientific as this is 8-) …  The conclusion that I draw is that as long as I use an external tuner on my KX1, the 88′ doublet is the best overall choice for an easy to deploy multiband portable antenna as long as I intend to operate on 2 or 3 bands.  It’s also a great antenna for 20m single-band operations.  For operation on 40m/80m there are better options, but the 88′ is nearly as good.

Saturday Hamtenna & Bike Mobile

By , March 7, 2010 12:30 pm

Wow!  That was so much fun!  I packed my panniers and a small backpack with my QRP HF radio station and accessories, some energy bars, extra water and some warm clothes.   I re-inflated the tires on my bike and off I went… it was good to be cycling again, I never cycled much last year due to a medical problem, and I was itching to get into the saddle again now that spring is here (well not officially, but it sure feels like Spring!).

Bob VA3QV puts the Hamtenna together – *fast!*
VA3SIE on the bike

Cycling with the new VX-8r!

I was wearing my Yaesu VX-8r clipped to my backpack chest strap with a 15″ dual-band extended rubber duck antenna (a Diamond SRH77CA), with the speaker microphone.  Most of the antenna was shadowed by my shoulder, maybe 5″ poked up above my shoulder.  I was beaconing APRS as I was cycling, with my symbol set to ‘bicycle‘…  woo hoo!  8-)   I’ve wanted to do that for some time!

It wasn’t too long before Bob VA3QV appeared on the VE3MPC repeater, Bob was on his way to Starbucks to fill up his thermos flask.  It was fun chatting on the repeater while cycling, holding the left handlebar with my left hand and holding the speaker microphone with my right hand.  It’s quite challenging, I may need to get the bluetooth option.

The ride over was a hair over 9km and I completed it in 40 minutes, a fairly leisurely pace.  It was cool, according to the VA3UW weather station, around 0°C.  I arrived at Weston park just as Bob was arriving at 9:30am, with a half hour to spare before the pot hole net starts at 10am.  I shot some video of Bob as he erected the hamtenna and we chatted about how easy the antenna was to work with.  Only took about 10 minutes from start to finish.  I remembered a really fun video that Steve, WG0AT made as he built his buddipole up and I thought I could have a go at making the same kind of thing.

It was good to see how all the pieces fit together.  The antenna packs up surprisingly small.  This kind of antenna would be advantageous if there was no trees to support a wire antenna.

Bob operating the Hamtenna in 80m vertical configuration.

EMRG – Whatever works!

I set up my station by throwing a 28′ wire (24 AWG silver-plated teflon coated) with a weight attached to the end by a rubber band up into a tree, down to a park bench.  It never ceases to amaze me that the wire is able to seek a branch which is at exactly the correct height such that the wire is fully extended with the connector at the right height to attach to the radio.  For counterpoise, I used similair wire – #26AWG in this case.  Two lengths, one of 16′ and one of 32′ running along the ground.  I unpacked the radio, paddles, earphones and batteries and hooked it all up with a few minutes left to the start of the net.

Ed VE3GX and Ernie VE3EJJ showed up on frequency and Bob fine tuned his radio and chatted with Ed, and at that point I realized that I had left my ponoma BNC-to-banana plug adapter at home :cry: …   so I McGuyver‘ed it by removing the solder-less banana plugs, stuffing the wire into the BNC socket and securing it with electricians tape, so I was able to check in to the net on time after all :mrgreen:  It was good to be checking into that net, it’s been too long!

I picked up Frank VE3YY on the VE3MPC repeater but partway through our QSO, the repeater died mid-QSO, and it never came back 8-O

After the net, Harold VA3UNK arrived for a visit.  It was great to grill ask Harold about the radio operations at the 44th Canadian Ski Marathon.  My wife and I were driving through from Ottawa to the Laurentians as few weeks ago while the ski marathon was going on, and we thoroughly enjoyed monitoring Jamie VA3JME controlling the repeater communications taking place on the VE2CRA repeater at Camp Fortune, and the VE2RBH repeater in Rigaud.

Martin operating his KX1 from a park bench

Martin VA3SIE/P and his KX1

In fact my wife asked me to volunteer us to help out next year.  So I appreciated the chance to find out more about it.  Harold mentioned he is planning to design and build an NVIS antenna for his vehicle which will provide a reliable communications path for sending email without using VHF packet or pactor.  Interesting stuff!

During Harolds visit, Bob tried out the hamtenna on a bunch of bands.  10m and 12m were pretty dead, but 15m was alive with SSB contest activity.  Bob made a handful of QRP contacts, including some DX, a good test of the hamtenna, which it passed with flying colors.  Weston park has one small issue – no evergreen trees for privacy :oops:   …so I took off by bicycle to the nearby mall for a comfort stop.  A good chance to grab a coffee and a sandwich.  Luckily I had electrical tape in my backpack, and it came in really handy to seal the holes in my coffee cup for the ride back to the park :-)

Upon my return, Harold left and then Patrick VA3CMD popped by.  We scanned the 20m band at Bob’s FT-817 but it was too crowded with kilowatt stations for QRP to stand any chance.  I went over to the bench and my KX1 and Patrick popped one earbud in, then I called CQ around 14.061MHz and almost right away, an answer from Jack, W7CNL in Boise, Idaho.  Must have been around 2pm.  The propagation wasn’t that great at the beginning, but it got stronger throughout the QSO,  We started by exchanging RST 559/569 then a little later we were reporting RST 579/589 and then at one point, Jack’s 5W was ringing my earbuds, then by the end of the QSO we were back to RST 559.  Jack’s monoband yagi was doing a great job, and it was a really enjoyable QSO sitting on the park bench and warmed by the sun.  Jack asked about the state of the snow, and I reported that it had started melting away…  we chatted about polar bears, compared notes on our QRP stations.

9.1km from home to park, 10km from park to home.

9.1km from home to park, 10km from park to home.

After Patrick left, David VE3ZZU was on the VE3TWO repeater, and he was having some issues with a new GPS option on the VX-8r.  We ran through the menus and compared notes but we couldn’t come up with an explanation as to why David’s digipeated packets (his callsign was showing up on his station list, so he was being digipeated!) but were not being IGATE’ed over to APRS-IS.  Whenever a local digipeater digipeats my APRS beacons, they get gated to APRS-IS every time, without fail.

On that subject though, I noticed that I had not seen my callsign being digipeated all day, either on the ride to the park or during my stay at the park.  On the ride home, I stopped on the bridge over Riverside Drive between Smythe road and Main street and sent a beacon just to test out my radio, and it got digipeated fine.  I realize looking at the map that only a handful of my APRS beacons were picked up by APRS-IS.  2 from Weston Park (these were heard by VE3WCC-1), a handful of packets from Starbucks at the Elmvale mall (these were picked up by VE2REH-3) a couple of beacons at Smythe & Saunderson, and 2 beacons on the bridge, all of which were copied first by VE2REH-3-3.  I realize that in all cases these were heard when I was holding the VX-8r up away from my body.

Patrick visiting...

Bob VA3QV and Patrick VA3CMD

So I need to improve my bike antenna!  Those digipeaters are not close by, and you need a decent antenna and some power to be reliably digipeated.  Thanks to a chance encounter on the ride home, I have some ideas about how to do that!  After Patrick and then Bob left, I spent another hour in the park mostly just listening around on the KX1.  At one point, I heard Paul W0RW/PM on 20m 14.059MHz but despite returning to Pauls CQ about 15 times in 10 minutes he could not hear me this time around.  So I left the park and stopped at Starbucks for another coffee, comfort break and to put all my warm clothes back in the bags.

On the way home, I heard another bike mobile station on VE3RIX repeater.  Mike ‘on the bike’, VE3BUP was out cycling and chatting on the repeater, and he was on Main, heading back towards Smythe, so we were minutes away from crossing paths.  As I cycled over the bridge, and down onto Main street with one hand on the handlebars and the other holding my microphone, I was a little distracted by the traffic, and when Mike hailed me I missed him calling to me :roll:   I hadn’t realized we were quite that close to passing each other, so when I released the P.T.T. Mike said ‘you just passed me!’ … anyway, we got turned around and had a good chat in person on the sidewalk.  It was fun to see Mike’s bike mobile setup with a SLAB attached to the bike frame, along with an amplifier and a half-wave vertical antenna on the rack.  Quite a setup, Mike!

The remainder of the ride home, Mike VE3MPM was driving back down to Ottawa from Gatineau Park, so Mike, Mike and I chatted on the repeater, Jamie VE3JME also popped in.  It was a fun conversation and sure helped pass the time cycling home and packing everything away.

Digipeaters far away!

Digipeaters far away!

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