CFF Ride for Life 2017

Spent the day today with fellow CARS club members helping out with communications support for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Ride for Life event today.

2017 CFF Ride start/finish
2017 CFF Ride start/finish

CARS has been helping out with the event for the past few years, and today was my second time participating. It’s a pretty easy and laid back event to work out in an area where some of the spots have marginal cell service.

This year I was at the start/finish line helping out with the net control duties. Had a pretty good turnout of hams to help out with the ride this year. 7 rest stations on the course, with 6 of them having at least one amateur radio operator, one motorcycle mobile ham, one in a SAG vehicle and one more participating in the ride. We had pretty good coverage of the entire course.

Tom/K4WJC motorcycle mobile
Tom/K4WJC motorcycle mobile

The day started pretty early with riders on the 100 mile route starting off at 7AM.

100 mile riders
100 mile riders

They were followed by the 65 and 30 mile riders about 45 minutes later.

CFF Ride 65 and 30 mile riders
CFF Ride 65 and 30 mile riders

We were able to keep tabs on where riders were along the course and kept the race director informed of the riders’ progress. Aside from someone getting a flat tire, there were fortunately no incidents throughout the day.

The event lasted a few hours longer than I anticipated, with the final rider rolling in just before 3:30PM. Everybody came in under their own power, and nobody needed a ride back. All in all, a very well run event and a nice easy event to work, especially if you’re just getting into the public service part of amateur radio.

Note for next year: Bring a chair and see about getting an earpiece for my HT.

2m dipole performance

The 2m dipole attachment I made for my monopod seems to be working well. It’s a definite improvement over the Diamond SRH77CA and SRH999 antennas (which already work fairly well) when it comes to receive. I can receive a pretty clear signal from the repeaters from inside the house, whereas with the Diamond antennas, the repeater signal was on the scratchy and noisy side. When I’m outside, all of the antennas perform pretty well.

The two repeaters closest to the house that I can reach (and use) are about 7-8 miles away, so they’re a bit of a reach to hit standing on the ground with a 5W HT. The repeater beeps at me after I transmit, so I think I’m hitting the repeater with the dipole attachment, although I’m not sure how well I’m getting in. The repeater has a voice playback function, but I still need to learn how to use it.

In any case, the dipole attachment seems to be a success, and I can at least monitor some of the repeater activity more easily.

Time to start planning for a dual band VHF/UHF radio for the house.

The new Top Bands

US amateur radio operators will soon have access to small slivers of the 630 m and 2200 m bands as secondary users. The 630 meter allocation goes from 472-479 kHz (a little bit below the US AM broadcast band, 530 – 1700 kHz) while the 2200 meter allocation goes from 135.7-137.8 kHz (not a heck of a lot).

Although the new allocation was announced several months ago, now access to the bands is only a form submission and 30 days away.

Before being allowed to operate, hams will be required to notify the Utilities Technology Council. Notification can be done online, and involves submitting name, contact info, call sign, lat/long of your antenna location(s) and the bands you’re planning on operating on. If you don’t hear anything back within 30 days, you’re supposedly good to go.

Even if you have no immediate plans to operate on the new bands, you might still want to notify the UTC in case you decide to operate there later. If there’s no objection to your notification, and a utility later wants to deploy or modify a PLC system near you, they’ll have to use a frequency range other than one you’ve indicated on your notification.

If an electric utility seeks to deploy a new or modified PLC system on a transmission line that is within one kilometer of a previously coordinated amateur station, the electric utility must employ a frequency in the 9-490 kHz range that has not been included in the amateur station’s notification, as ARRL suggests.  If the previously coordinated amateur station no longer operates in the band, the electric utility may deploy a PLC system in that band.

Now, how to build an antenna for 2200 m…

Tennessee QSO Party 2017

Spent a few hours playing in the Tennessee QSO Party over the weekend.

As expected, all the TN stations I was able to hear were on 40 m. Made a few more contacts than I did last time, but I think more counties this time. Wasn’t able to find the bonus station though.

 Band     QSOs     Pts  Mul  Pt/Q
     7      27      81   21   3.0
 Total      27      81   21   3.0
Score: 1,801
1 Mult = 1.3 Q's

Wasn’t hearing a whole lot of activity across the bands in general, but the 40m shortwave broadcast stations that usually show up in the upper portion of 40m late afternoon/early evening seemed extra loud when they appeared.

It’s nice having the shack back up and running, even if setting up and taking down the antenna means it takes a little more time to get set up.

NA and Eclipse QSO parties

Got the antenna up this weekend to participate in a couple of events. It’s the first significant amount of radio activity I’ve done at the house since moving from the old house.

On Saturday I spent a few hours tuning around the bands working the NAQP SSB contest. Managed a couple dozen contacts casually spinning the dial around on 20 m and 40 m.

On eclipse day, I managed to get a few contacts in the Solar Eclipse QSO Party in the morning. Didn’t hear too many stations on 20m, but there were a few. I heard a couple of stations out in Washington State, but couldn’t get through the pileup they had going. Made contacts with three other stations participating in the eclipse QSO party and made periodic checks on the WWV broadcasts (heard 10 MHz faintly at times, but 15 MHz was coming in loud and clear).

Sadly I had to shut everything down due to a thunderstorm moving in just before the eclipse started so I wasn’t able to make any more contacts or monitor the bands as the eclipse happened.

Good weekend on the air.