SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Thursday, August 12, 2021

My APRS Pico Balloon Flight, July 2021

I launched a pico balloon from Oklahoma on July 20th, 2021. It carried a Skytracker payload developed by Bill Brown, WB8ELK. I got APRS reports from it for ten days. The SSID was N4KGL-11. It cruised above 28,000 feet and gave us much entertainment. Boy, this pico balloon flight was fun!


The launch was over Keystone Lake at Keystone State Park, Oklahoma

The ten-day flight started in Oklahoma did a trip to Mexico and back, then to the Gulf of Mexico, and was last heard from in Colorado. 


This is the solar-powered Skytacker payload developed by Bill WB8ELK It only weighs 12 grams.


The balloon Bill supplied was similar to a party balloon. It was underinflated intentionally. I used a party tank of helium from Walmart. It had about three grams of free lift beyond the weight of the payload. 

A short launch video.

Here is a recorded talk for Beginner's Academy. I gave about the experience.



Saturday, August 7, 2021

Our Month-Long Camping and Ham Radio Adventure, July 2021

Linda, Suzy, and I took a month-long camping adventure that was a mash-up of camping, family, sightseeing, and ham radio. The primary motivation was to visit relatives in Kansas and Oklahoma. We camped in a 24-foot travel trailer. All our stops were at state parks. I planned the stops to be a little over two hundred miles apart to make the travel not so taxing. Of course, this was a great opportunity to activate each state park on the journey for the Parks On The Air (POTA) program.



I really had to make some choices among my rigs and antennas. Even the weight of the ham gear becomes a factor when towing a trailer. I choose the Icom 705 for QRP with an option to use the Elecraft KXPA100 to get to 100 watts. The antennas were the Alexloop mag loop, SOTABeams Band Hopper link dipole, and the N6BT Bravo 7K vertical. With this gear, I could pick and choose based and the time and space I had at each campsite. 

The 100-watt setup at Lake Lurleen State Park in Alabama

POTA is one of my favorite portable outdoor activities. I had a great time activating the state parks. I did thirteen activations among the nine state park stops for 482 contacts total. The POTA hunters were very appreciative of my activations. I appreciate their help. 

My POTA Activations



I was also chased by ham friends from Florida, Canada, and Colorado.

Contacts with friends via Ham Radio

Along the way, I operated in the Summer RaDAR Challenge from Stockton State Park Missouri, 


and the Flight of the Bumblebees from Keystone State Park, Oklahoma. 



The highlight of the trip was launching an APRS pico-balloon payload from Oklahoma. I tracked it on APRS for ten days. I'll do a separate post with the details.


Our goal was met with a week's stop in both Kansas and Oklahoma for visiting relatives. Linda and I also visited Elvis's Birthplace in Tupelo, Missippii, and his Graceland home in Memphis. We enjoyed the Museum of the Automobile next to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas.

A view of Lake Bailey at Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

Linda on the porch swing at Elvis's birthplace home in Tupelo, Missippii

Suzy had many walks to meet and greet other campers. She also claimed the bed and the couch in the trailer as hers.

Suzy in the trailer



73,

Linda and Greg




Tuesday, June 29, 2021

ARRL Field Day at East Bank Campground in Georgia

Linda and I are trailer camping during our retirement. So a campground was our Field Day venue. I chose East Bank COE Campground on Lake Seminole. It is not that close to Panama City or Dothan, but it did have ample green space for antennas. 


Site A-10 at East Bank Campground

Fortunately, Rick NZ2I came all the way from Callaway, Florida, to join me to make a two-person 1B GA entry.

Rick NZ2I, a great friend

We made use of a Clam Venture screen shelter that was very easy to set up and did fine. We also made use of an Icy Breeze portable air conditioner. We had one brief shower when setting up. Otherwise, the weather was good but hot. 

The new Clam Venture Screen Shelter


My setup this time was the Icom 7100 and three antennas, an Inverted L with the Icom AH-4, the SOTABeams 40-30-20 link dipole, and the Bravo 7K vertical. Rick NZ2I arrived about an hour before the start and helped finish the antenna installs.


The Bravo 7K vertical did great to the West Coast and Canada


During the day, we had plenty of contacts on 20 meters. Rick made some phone contacts. Each antenna did well, including the vertical. Unfortunately, the PL-259 on the AH-4 got erratic and then failed. The other two antennas carried on. Unusual for me, I had some success with PSK-31 on 20 meters. 

The Icom 7100 was the rig this year.

A prospective ham from nearby Grand Ridge came by. He saw us on the Field Day Locator. He has been doing quite a bit just receiving with a Baofeng, including satellites. We think he is pretty close to getting his license. 

We had a couple of visitors

We took a liberal supper break and had pizza. Rick cooked apple cinnamon dessert using his dutch oven. It was delicious. Then we got on 40 meters and finished out one hundred contacts, including Myron WV0H in Colorado on CW. 



On Sunday morning, we got sixty-six more contacts. 15 meters opened up, and that's always exciting. We had enough fun to call it done by 10 am. Rick needed to get back to Callaway, FL. My attempt for the satellite bonus failed. I tried the 70-degree elevation pass of AO-91. I heard myself briefly through the satellite but no luck with getting a contact.

It is nice to hear wall-to-wall activity on HF. Ham radio is very much alive, CW phone and digital. So hopefully, every ham got a taste of Field Day. Make sure you got it covered next year. If you don't like the heat, there is always Winter Field Day. Bob KK4DIV and I have reservations for Pine Log State Forrest for Winter Field Day near Panama City. Come join us!

Sunset over Lake Seminole


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Camping, POTA, and a Ham Buddy Reunion, Mobile, Alabama

My camping plans for Meaher State Park this May at Spanish Fort, AL near Mobile, served several purposes. First, it was an opportunity to catch up with two of my ham buddies from my teenage days growing up in Dothan, AL. The Mobile Hamfest on Saturday was our gathering place. Forrest is a lawyer in Mobile and Curtis is a semi-retired broadcast engineer in Lucedale, MS. This reunion was fifty years in the making. It was very enjoyable to remember our early ham days and find out what these two have been doing since. My third buddy, Lionel, could not come this time, but another reunion is in order for all of us.

Teenage Ham Buddies: Left to right, Greg, Curtis, and Forrest

Meaher State Park is POTA reference K-1047. I set up my Icom 7100 and the SOTABeams 40-30-20 link dipole made fifty-eight SSB contacts for the park activation. 




Some research revealed that the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Wildlife Management Area, K-3699 starts right across the highway from Meaher. The Five Rivers Delta Resource Center is part of the wildlife area and that is where I set up. It just happens K-3699 had never been activated. My first activation of K-3699 was a test of the new Alexloop HamPack. I set up at a park bench and ran the Icom 705 at ten watts. I got nine SSB contacts and four CW contacts for the activation. See the YouTube video below for my experience with the Alexloop HamPack developed by Alex, PY1AHD. Later, I returned for a second K-3699 activation and got exactly one-hundred contacts, The bands were pretty good. I did a park to park with G-0022 Langstone Harbour Conservation Reserve in England.



So I guess this camping thing is working out. There is much more camping planned this summer. 

Linda and I enjoyed the sunset at Meaher.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Dennis Walker WA6QKN Is A Silent Key

It is a great sadness to learn that Dennis Walker, WA6QKN, passed away on June 12th, 2021. Dennis was 74 years old. He grew up in California and served in the Air Force. He worked many years at the Navy Lab in Panama City as a civil service employee. Dennis retired from the government but continued to work for defense contractors until recently. A number of years ago, Dennis overcame a severe bout with cancer. 


Dennis's favorite hobby was ham radio. He was involved with repeaters and packet radio in the past. In recent years, Dennis enjoyed operating amateur radio on the outdoors. Dennis and I enjoyed many outings together, putting parks and islands in the air. Dennis was the ultimate friend, a team player, and was always ready to help others. Dennis is survived by his wife, Lana.


If you follow this blog and my YouTube channel you have seen that Dennis and I had lots of fun together. He is greatly missed.

Greg N4KGL

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Florida QSO Party From Falling Waters State Park

The object of the Florida QSO Party is for all stations to work Florida and Florida stations to work everyone. Florida counties are multipliers. Some counties don't have hams active in the party. Mobiles usually operate in those counties as they rove across the state. Washington County is one of the more rare counties. Since I was camping in Washington County, I was in the Expedition Category. I got plenty of kudos for handing out Washington County. On Saturday, we had a heavy thunderstorm for the first few hours. After the storm passed, I operated from the truck since everything outside was wet. I got fifty SSB contacts. Sunday was a better weather day and I worked 122 more contacts. I had 23 Florida Counties, 39 states, Italy, and the US Virgin Islands. That was enough to feel like the portable station was doing well. I used the Icom 7100, an Icom AH-4 tuner, and a one-hundred-foot inverted-L antenna on 30-foot poles.

My portable setup with Suzy enjoying the sun.

I certainly will keep the Florida QSO party on my list. The setup is a good one for doing Parks on The Air while camping with our travel trailer.

 

My Icom AH-4 Remote Tuner



The poles supporting the Inverted L extend into an adjacent field.

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Friday, April 9, 2021

April 2021 RaDAR Challenge Report

For this RaDAR challenge,  I chose to operate from Solomon Park near my Dothan, Alabama home. The weather was perfect for operating outside. My video below shows my setup time was ten minutes. I used the SOTABeams Band Hopper link dipole supported by a SOTABeams Tactical 700 telescoping pole. It took a while to get my first five contacts. Conditions were not that good. Then I made a one-kilometer walk, returned to the park, and finished with five more contacts. 



On 20 meters CW, I worked John VA3KOT in Ontario. He was not operating portable due to their COVID lockdown. John suggests there could be a Canadian chapter of RaDAR. Sven VA3SVN sent a note he and a friend operated portable during the challenge. Chris VA3ECO had an adventurous RaDAR Challenge from his island location in Ontario. Please watch the videos below. 



Note, RaDAR is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio which originated in South Africa by Eddie ZS6BNE and his friends. Eddie gave a talk on RaDAR at the March 2021 QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo. Also, see http://radarops.co.za/


Chris VA3ECO