[amsat-bb] WD9EWK's 17-22 July 2008 road trip report (long)
Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK)
amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Tue Jul 29 20:12:11 PDT 2008
This was a fun trip. Including a couple of days at the hamfest in
Williams, Arizona, I spent 6 days on the road and traveled a total
of 1603.5 miles/2580km. I operated from 10 different grids in and
around Arizona, and logged 169 contacts.
At the hamfest and throughout this trip, I used the same station from
the back of my Hyundai Santa Fe - an Icom IC-2720H 2m/70cm FM mobile
radio at either 5W or 15W output, into an Arrow Antennas handheld
2m/70cm Yagi. I used either KD2BD's PREDICT program or the AMSAT web
site to know when the passes would occur, coupled with the AO-27
Satellite Scheduler program to know when the AO-27 repeater would be
on during those passes.
Thursday (17 July) afternoon and evening, from grids DM35xg and
DM45ag east of Williams AZ:
Since I was heading to the hamfest in Williams a day early, and would
be doing demonstrations from there (grid DM35vg), I decided to spend
some time east of Williams on the DM35/DM45 boundary. I operated
from the same spot I used in mid-April, along old route 66 north of
the I-40 freeway about 10 miles/16km east of Williams. Lots of trees
and shade, and a great place to play radio.
I arrived in the area in time for a very high SO-50 pass at 1940 UTC,
and worked just 2 stations. After driving to a nearby truck stop to
get lunch, I returned for two AO-27 passes at 2051 and 2232 UTC. I
made 11 contacts between those two passes. I then drove to Williams,
to see where my AMSAT table would be at the hamfest, check into a
motel, and then returned to this spot for an evening AO-51 pass (0220
UTC, 18 July). I only made 8 contacts on the evening pass, not bad
for the first of several days on the road.
Friday (18 July) and Saturday (19 July), from grid DM35vg at the
Williams AZ hamfest:
AMSAT had a table in the vendor hall at the hamfest, which saw a lot
of traffic. Along with that, I did demonstrations from outside the
hall. I had good crowds for each of the 4 demonstrations I did. I
did demonstrations on AO-51 and AO-27 on Friday, and AO-51 and SO-50
on Saturday. I had hoped to do an AO-27 demonstration on Saturday
afternoon, but a thunderstorm cancelled that plan.
For the 4 passes, I made a total of 22 contacts. Not bad for those
demonstrations. I answered lots of questions from hams passing by
the table, so I considered this a successful hamfest. A regular on
the FM satellites, "Uncle" Larry WA6DIR, stopped by while traveling
east - nice to see him around the hamfest.
Sunday (20 July) morning, from grid DM46vr in Kayenta AZ:
Since the hamfest was only scheduled for Friday and Saturday, I had
thought about taking a road trip for a few days after the hamfest.
Some sightseeing, and - of course - some operating from wherever I
happened to go. I drove over 500 miles/800km this day, and was able
to operate from 4 different grids in northern Arizona and southern
Utah. I left Williams early, and about 2.5 hours and over 160
miles/257km later I stopped for lunch at Kayenta - a small town on
the Navajo Nation reservation in northeastern Arizona.
At this point, I was less than 50 miles/80km from the location I
hoped to operate from in the afternoon (the DM56ex/DM57ea boundary
near the Arizona/Utah state line), and about 40 minutes from an SO-50
pass. A gasoline station at the junction of US routes 160 and 163,
the southern approach to Monument Valley, was a good place to work
my first pass of this day.
After 8 contacts in 10 minutes during the pass, I packed my gear and
moved east to the next location I would operate from - as I finished
my lunch on the road.
Sunday (20 July) afternoon, from grids DM56ex and DM57ea in southern
After less than an hour, I reached the next spot I would operate
from - the line between grids DM56ex and DM57ea in southern Utah
along US route 191, just north of the Arizona/Utah border. The
Arizona/Utah state line at this point is just south of the grid
boundary, in San Juan County and still on the Navajo Nation. This
would be the only stop on my trip where I would operate from Utah.
This is a very remote spot, a location that several regular satellite
operators told me they needed for their logbooks.
Once I confirmed the location with my GPS receiver and took some
pictures, I set up for the SO-50 pass at 1925 UTC. This pass only
covered the west coast of North America, and I made just 4 contacts.
After this pass, I drove around this area to look around before the
upcoming AO-27 passes.
When AO-27 turned on at 2106 UTC for the first pass of the afternoon
at this location, to the east of my location, it was busy as usual.
Once stations heard my location, I started working them quickly.
Seventeen stations logged in 7 minutes! This might have been a
personal record, and I thank all of the stations on that pass for
cooperating with my attempt to hand out contacts from this location
as quickly as possible.
I had hoped to work the next (western) AO-27 pass from here, before
driving to my next stop for the night. A thunderstorm with lots of
rain and lightning near me changed that plan. I packed my gear, and
Sunday (20 July) evening and Monday (21 July) morning, from grids
DM46fx and DM47fa near Page AZ:
Over 150 miles/250km of driving from DM56ex/DM57ea brought me to Lake
Powell, on the Arizona/Utah border. Once again, the Arizona/Utah
state line was not the grid boundary. This time, the grid boundary
was on the Arizona side of the state line. I found the spot I wanted
to work from, near US route 89 south of the state line and Lake
Powell, and waited for the AO-51 pass this evening (0200 UTC Monday).
This pass was virtually overhead, so I planned to work only this pass
this evening. These two grids are another pair of rare grids on the
satellites, and the overhead pass meant lots of stations to hear and
work. I worked a total of 19 stations from central Mexico to Alaska
and Canada's Northwest Territories (the first time I've ever worked a
VE8 station, on any band or mode!). After the pass, it was time to
find a motel for the night and rest up before another day's drive. I
had driven over 500 miles/800km today.
I was able to work another AO-51 pass on Monday morning just before
1600 UTC, logging 4 more contacts. With 23 contacts from these two
grids during 2 passes, I thought that was a good effort.
Monday (21 July), midday, from grid DM36pu west of Fredonia AZ:
On my way west toward Las Vegas, I stopped along Arizona route 389
west of the small town of Fredonia for an SO-50 pass. I wanted to
put grid DM36 on the air as much as possible, before reaching Las
Vegas later in the day, and this was a convenient stopping point. I
did not want to go further west, as I would get closer to a wall of
mountains to the north. Since there was a gasoline station near this
spot, I went there to get some snacks and something to drink before
the pass. This area is called the "Arizona Strip", between the North
Rim of the Grand Canyon and the Utah state line, where very few
When SO-50 was audible around 1814 UTC, I was surprised to hear
several stations on a pass during the middle of a weekday. I logged
7 contacts from this spot, before moving to another location on the
west edge of DM36.
Monday (21 July) afternoon, from grid DM36at near Scenic AZ and
I was driving hard to get to this area before the two AO-27 passes
this afternoon, and saw a tall line of mountains to the east. I did
not have time to get to the DM26/DM36 grid boundary in this area for
the first AO-27 pass, a shallow eastern pass. I was hoping to get on
from DM36 for these passes, as I knew I could be on from DM26 later
in the day at Las Vegas.
When I parked at this spot, next to the I-15 freeway a few miles/km
east of the Arizona/Nevada state line in Mohave County, I was ready
at the scheduled start of the AO-27 pass. Due to those mountains, I
lost the first 30 seconds or so of the pass, before the satellite was
clear of those mountains. Even with that, I was able to work 11
stations across the continental USA and Mexico.
After the pass, I went to get lunch and then return to this area - to
find a better spot on the DM26/DM36 boundary before the next AO-27
Monday (21 July) afternoon, from grids DM26xt and DM36at in Scenic
Before the later AO-27 pass to the west, I found this spot on the
DM26/DM36 grid boundary east of the Arizona/Nevada state line. I
could find a spot and not worry about the mountains to the east, and
still put DM36 on the air one more time before heading down the I-15
freeway to Las Vegas.
I set up my station, and proceeded to work 9 stations from central
Mexico to western Canada during this 7-minute pass. A total of 27
contacts from 3 different locations in DM36 today. Not bad. On to
Monday (21 July) evening and Tuesday (22 July) morning, from DM25jx
and DM26ja in Las Vegas NV:
Before this trip, I looked at maps and saw the DM25/DM26 grid
boundary passed through the south side of the Las Vegas metropolitan
area. This would be a good way to put the unusual DM25 grid on the
air along with the more-common DM26 grid. Along this part of the Las
Vegas Strip (Las Vegas Blvd.), there were lots of empty spaces.
Perfect places to set up for satellite passes. I drove less today,
covering over 345 miles/556km from Lake Powell to Las Vegas - still a
lot of driving in one day with the stops.
Once I found this spot, I set up for the first of 2 AO-51 passes this
evening (0122 UTC Tuesday). I was ready, and the activity was steady
throughout the pass. I logged contacts with 22 different stations
from central Mexico to western Canada on this pass! Again, thanks to
all who were on that pass for making this a very successful effort -
and more contacts on one pass than I've ever worked before.
Later in the evening, I worked the western AO-51 pass from the same
spot starting at 0302 UTC. After hearing a couple of stations who
did not respond to my calls, I worked 8 other stations. I was able
to work an SO-50 pass Tuesday morning just after 1700 UTC before
leaving Las Vegas, logging just 2 contacts. A total of 32 contacts
during 3 passes from DM25/DM26 - a very good show!
Tuesday (22 July) afternoon, from DM24qx and DM25qa in Camp Mohave
This was my last day on the road, and I wanted to try for grid DM24
at least once. Time permitting, and depending how I felt, I hoped to
also try for possibly grid DM23. There was an overhead AO-27 pass
this afternoon, and I decided to drive south from Las Vegas to this
area along the Arizona (east) side of the Colorado River, south of
the cities of Laughlin NV and Bullhead City AZ in Mohave County.
Despite the mountains on both sides of the Colorado River, I had a
good view of the sky in all directions. The AO-27 pass I intended to
work was another virtually overhead pass. I parked my truck to shade
me as much as possible from the 107F/42C heat, and prepared for the
When the AO-27 repeater switched on at 2149 UTC, I went to work.
Again working stations from central Mexico to western Canada, I
logged 15 contacts in the first 5 minutes of the 7-minute pass. I
may sound like a broken record by now, but I have to thank the other
stations on that pass for allowing so many quick contacts to happen
in the limited time on AO-27.
After this pass, I decided to end my radio operating and just drive
home. I still had about 4 hours to go before returning to Phoenix,
and with the sun still getting warmer as the afternoon went on... I
decided to disassemble my Yagi and pack everything up for the drive
home (247.5 miles/398km from Camp Mohave to Phoenix).
During my trip, there were stations who worked me from many of the
grids I stopped in. Here's a summary of the callsigns I worked from
the most grids while I was on the road...
All 10 grids: K7RST, W6ASL, W6ZQ, XE1AO
9 grids: N3TL, WA4NVM
8 grids: N5AFV, XE2RV
7 grids: KD8CAO
6 grids: VE7JRX, W5VG, XE1BMG, XE2BHL
5 grids: KE7SAK, VA7VW, WA4SCA, WA8SME, XE2YW
Even though the price of fuel was high - prices from $3.959/gallon
($1.046/liter) in western Arizona up to $5.19/gallon ($1.374/liter)
in Needles CA near the borders of Nevada and Arizona - I was able to
cover this distance and not single-handedly prop up some of the oil-
producing countries. I had a $50 Shell gift card I won at my office,
that was used during this trip - plus good performance from my
vehicle on the open road.
When I returned home, I had already received some QSL requests. I
will get some cards printed for each stop on my trip, and I should
have them soon.
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