[amsat-bb] WD9EWK's 16-22 July trip report (l-o-n-g!)

amsat-bb@wd9ewk.net amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Sun Jul 26 21:06:53 PDT 2009


After a few days, I am now taking time to put down into one message 
some details about my recent trip.  I posted daily updates to let 
everyone know of where I had been and where I planned to operate from
over that week.  Starting on 16 July at DM35xg/DM45ag near Flagstaff 
in northern Arizona until 22 July at DM25jx/DM26ja in Las Vegas, I 
made a total of 257 contacts with 103 different call signs.  I drove
1905 miles/3065km in my 7-day trip, operating from 14 different grids
in 3 states (Arizona, Nevada, and Utah).  I made a quick trip to 
Colorado along I-70 between a couple of passes on 20 July, long 
enough to make a couple of phone calls between two AO-27 passes I 
worked from DM58ix/DM59ia.  I had intended on a lot of work from the
rarely-heard Utah grids via satellite, and I think I was successful 
in that goal.  

For all of these passes, I used an Elk Antennas handheld 2m/70cm log 
periodic as my antenna.  On VO-52 at the hamfest, I used a pair of 
FT-817NDs.  For the FM satellites, I used an IC-2720H 2m/70cm FM 
mobile radio.  The radios were powered by a pair of 12V/20Ah 
jumpstart battery packs, so I would not have to tap my truck's power
system to run the radios.  While driving, I could recharge the packs
to keep them ready for more operating, or they could be recharged in
my motel room overnight.   

As I have done over the past year or so, I tried to operate on grid
boundaries when away from home.  This allows me to hand out QSOs for
more than 1 grid at a time, where at least one of the grids - or 
sometimes both - are considered "rare" on the satellites.  Thanks to
the way the roads ran across much of Utah, I was able to do this for
many passes.  I used the Google Earth software, the Google Maps web
site, and atlases I have for the 3 states I drove through to identify
potential stops.  Although I had a general idea of where I was going
to travel, I did not have a firm plan made out too far in advance.  I
would look at the map and pass predictions the every night, to see 
where I could be for passes each day, and made my plans accordingly.


Here is a summary of each stop where I worked satellites during this
trip.  I have listed the latitude and longitude from my Garmin GPS
receiver at each stop, in degrees and decimal minutes, which can be
put into Google Earth or Google Maps to visualize each location...

Thursday, 16 July - along old US-66 between Williams and Parks, 
Arizona, west of Flagstaff in Coconino County (grids DM35xg and 
35 15.570 N 112 0.000 W

This spot is one I have used a few times over the past year or so, 
in the Kaibab National Forest.  I drove up from Phoenix in the 
morning, before I had to be in Williams to set up the AMSAT booth for
the hamfest.  I worked a couple of AO-27 passes from here in the 
afternoon.  Twelve QSOs were made in the first 7-minute AO-27 pass at
2000 UTC, then 8 more on the 2141 UTC AO-27 pass.  After these two 
passes, I drove to Williams to get my motel room and then set up at 
the hamfest.  

Once I set up the AMSAT booth at the hamfest, I went back to this 
spot for an AO-51 pass in the late afternoon (0059 UTC, 1759 local). 
I worked 9 stations on this pass.  

This was the only day I operated in DM45.  Even with the several 
trips I've made up here, it still seems like either of these grids 
(or both of them) are new for someone on the passes.  As long as it 
is not snowing in northern Arizona, I can make day-trips up here to
operate from either grid - or both grids - for anyone needing them in
their log.  

Friday and Saturday, 17-18 July - ARRL/Arizona State Convention and 
Hamfest, at the Williams (Arizona) Rodeo Grounds in Coconino County -
grid DM35vg
35 15.511 N 112 11.105 W

Over these two days, I operated from outside the exhibit hall at the 
hamfest.  I manned an AMSAT table in the hall, with the assistance of
Ray W1OTH and Larry W7LB over these two days.  I was able to do on-
air demonstrations when either of these guys were around, and I had
lots of chances for that on 17 July.  I worked passes on all 3 FM 
satellites as well as two VO-52 passes, making a total of 34 QSOs.  

Since I was the only one at the table for much of Saturday morning, 
and storm clouds were in the area that afternoon, I was not able to 
work any passes that day.  I gave a presentation at the hamfest on 
Friday morning, and talked to lots of people who walked by the AMSAT 
table during the two-day event.  Larry WA6DIR and Glen NN6T, long-
time satellite operators, stopped by during the hamfest.    

After these 3 days, the serious travel began....

Sunday, 19 July - east of Goulding, Utah, at the intersection of 
US-163 and Monument Valley Road, on the Navajo Nation reservation in
San Juan County (grids DM46vx and DM47va)
37 0.000 N 110 10.448 W

After I left Williams early in the morning, I tried to get to some 
point in Utah before I would start working the satellites.  I also 
had a phone call to make, participating in an ARISS telebridge 
contact at 1550 UTC.  With the early departure, I was able to find 
this spot just north of the Arizona/Utah border next to the Monument
Valley park 40 minutes before that phone call.  I was near this 
location last year, operating from points east (DM56ex/DM57ea, along
US-191 between Monument Valley and the Four Corners monument) and 
west (DM46fx/DM47fa, along US-89 next to Lake Powell) near the 
Arizona/Utah border, and planned to only be here for one pass.  

SO-50 was passing by around 1642 UTC, and I was ready for it.  It was
a high pass, going from my north toward the southeast, covering much
of North America.  I was able to log 14 QSOs with stations across the
USA and Mexico.  Thanks to everyone who was on there, for cooperating
and allowing lots of stations to work these two rare grids - DM46 in 
particular, since this was the only chance to work it on my trip. 

Sunday, 19 July - between Goulding and Mexican Hat, Utah, southeast 
of US-163 on county route 425, on the Navajo Nation reservation in 
San Juan County (grids DM47xb and DM57ab)
37 4.980 N 110 0.000 W

Only a short drive northeast of the earlier stop, I was able to park
on this grid boundary for a total of 3 passes.  I wanted to find a 
safe spot to park, off the US-163 highway, where I could get a good
view of the sky for satellite work.  With the quick drive, I was able
to work 3 passes - one on SO-50, followed by a pair of AO-27 passes.
In between these passes, I was able to drive around this part of Utah
to get more pictures.  

The SO-50 pass around 1823 UTC was generally following the US west 
coast - a good way for me to see how this would work for a later 
AO-27 pass in this direction.  I worked 6 stations on this pass, all
of the stations I heard on there.  After the pass, I had a lot of 
time to drive around before returning for the AO-27 passes. 

The first of the AO-27 passes came at 2015 UTC.  The first few 
seconds of the 7-minute pass were chaotic, with many stations trying
unsuccessfully to be heard through the transponder.  Once that moment
of chaos passed, the "business" of making contacts commenced.  In
about 6 1/2 minutes on that pass, I worked 17 stations across the USA
and Canada.  Being this was a Sunday and an eastern (for me) pass 
that covered most of North America, I expected a lot of activity.  To
make 17 QSOs during an AO-27 pass is pretty good. 

In between the two AO-27 passes, there was more driving around and 
taking more pictures.  It was still warm up in that area, approaching
100F/38C, so my truck's air conditioning was running to keep me cool.
I made my way back to this location for the western AO-27 pass at 
2155 UTC, and proceeded to work a total of 10 more stations in the 
western USA and Mexico.  This brought the QSO count at this location
to 33, a good effort for almost 4 hours out there. 

Sunday, 19 July - near White Mesa, Utah, along US-191 on the Ute
Mountain Indian reservation, between Bluff and Blanding in San Juan
County (grid DM57gk)
37 26.279 N 109 28.211 W

I was driving north to the DM57/DM58 grid boundary, but knew about 
an AO-51 pass at 2303 UTC.  It was going to be a tough pass to work, 
with only 4 degrees maximum elevation across the northeastern sky.  I
was able to make this pass work, thanks to the local terrain - no 
hills or mountains from east to north, in the direction I needed for 
this pass.  This turned out to be the most surprising pass of the 
entire trip.  

Despite the low transmitter output on AO-51's 435.300 MHz downlink 
(below 300mW), I was able to hear the satellite when it had at least
.5 degree elevation at the start and end of the pass.  I worked 8
stations, all east of the Mississippi River, in the span of almost 7
minutes.  For a pass I had almost decided not to even attempt, I am
glad I tried it.  

Sunday and Monday, 19-20 July - north of Montebello, Utah, on county
route 321 east of US-191 in San Juan County (grids DM57ix and DM58ia)
38 0.000 N 109 19.150 W

Up until this stop, I had been operating from grids I previously 
worked from.  This was the first time I operated from a new grid on
this trip, DM58.  I had to do some driving east of US-191, to avoid 
being in a small "canyon" with no visibility of the western or 
eastern sky for satellite operating.  This spot was at just over 
7000 feet/2133m elevation, with a good clear view in all directions.

The first of the Sunday evening AO-51 passes at this location was, as
expected, crowded.  This was probably the most difficult pass for me
to work during the trip, with the volume of stations on the pass and 
moments where some operators were calling me as I was trying to 
complete QSOs with other stations.  Following simple guidelines like
"If you can't hear the satellite's downlink, don't transmit." and "If
you hear a station call any call sign that is not yours, this is 
probably *not* the time to call that station" would have allowed for 
a few more QSOs on that pass.  Even with that, I was able to work 15 
stations across much of the USA and Mexico.  

At 0220 UTC, I had a good AO-51 pass to the west.  Not many were on
the pass, and I was able to work 6 more stations in Arizona and 
California.  I spent the night in Monticello, and then returned to 
this spot Monday morning before heading north toward DM59.  I was 
able to work one SO-50 pass from this spot on Monday morning.  Ten 
more QSOs went in the log, including one with the Canadian special-
event station VE3MOON in Ottawa.

I logged a total of 31 QSOs at the DM57ix/DM58ia boundary.  I could 
have stayed here for a while and still make QSOs where either or both
of these grids would be new ones for the stations worked, but I still
had much more driving to do this day.

Monday, 20 July - north of Moab, Utah, on Blue Hills Road west of
US-191, next to Moab Airport in Grand County (grid DM58dr)
38 44.932 N 109 44.525 W

I was watching the clock and my surroundings, knowing there was an
SO-50 pass coming by around 1710 UTC.  In Moab, being in a canyon 
with the Colorado River running through it, I could not have worked
this pass.  I was able to drive about 15 miles/25km north of Moab and
reach a spot with a good view of the western sky.  

Once I parked and set up my gear, I only heard 3 stations on this 
pass (in Arizona, California, and Oregon).  I worked all 3, and had
a couple of hours to get lunch and find the spot I would work from on
the upcoming AO-27 passes. 

Monday, 20 July - northeast of Cisco, Utah, along old US-6 south of 
I-70 in Grand County (grids DM58ix and DM59ia)
39 0.000 N 109 17.648 W

With AO-51 transmitting the special AMSAT transmission commemorating 
the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in the evening, 
this would be the last location I would operate from on this day.  
For many, both DM58 and DM59 were grids missing from many satellite
operators' logs.  This would be the only stop where I would work from
grid DM59.  I pulled off the old road, took lots of pictures 
including the photos of my station and GPS receiver, and waited for
AO-27 to turn on at 1946 UTC.

During this 7-minute pass, I worked 13 stations - a very good number
for a weekday afternoon pass.  No Mexican or Canadian stations, just
stations across much of the USA.  Twelve more were logged on the pass
to the west at 2127 UTC, this time with stations from across the USA
plus VA6BMJ in western Canada.  

After these two AO-27 passes, I drove west along I-70 and US-6 
toward Provo, and then south approximately 30 miles/50km from Provo 
to the town of Nephi.  While approaching Provo on US-6, I was able to
hear parts of the AO-51 pass at 0003 UTC with the special Apollo 11 
transmission.  On the next pass at 0141 UTC, I was able to hear it 
and record it from outside the motel I stopped at for the night.  

Tuesday, 21 July - Nephi, Utah, along county route 1814 west of I-15
in Juab County (grid DM49bq)
39 40.514 N 111 51.237 W

By stopping here, this set up my Tuesday travel perfectly.  From 
here, I could drive down through DM3x and DM4x grids after spending a
couple of days mostly working from DM5x grids in eastern Utah.  I 
woke up early this morning, and had a chance to work an AO-51 pass
going directly overhead before I set out toward southern Utah. 

This AO-51 pass started around 1346 UTC, and there was a conversation
going on as I started to clearly hear the downlink.  I was able to 
make quick contacts with 10 stations in 9 minutes, mostly in the 
western USA and Canada.  I did not plan on staying here for later 
passes; I wanted to get to a grid boundary for passes later in the 

Tuesday, 21 July - Redmond, Utah, west of US-89 in Sevier County 
(grids DM48bx and DM49ba)
39 0.000 N 111 51.855 W

I saw on the map there could be two options for parking on this grid
boundary.  After quickly driving around the area, I settled on this
location that was off either of the 2 numbered highways in this small
central Utah town.  Other than at the Williams hamfest, this would be
the only spot where I worked passes on all 3 FM satellites.  

There was a western AO-51 pass at 1527 UTC, and the first chance for
me to work from this spot.  Two Canadians and one station in 
California were all I heard, and I worked all 3.  About 25 minutes
later at 1559 UTC, a nice SO-50 pass that would cover much of the USA
and Canada went by.  Nine stations, spanning from western Canada to 
south Florida, were worked.  The next SO-50 pass going down the 
Pacific coast at 1743 UTC only had 2 stations in California on; both 
were worked.  

At this point, I had about 90 minutes until a very shallow (7 degrees
maximum elevation) AO-27 pass at 1917 UTC.  I had a choice - stay 
here for one more pass, or move southwest to my next planned stop.  I
stayed here, since I had a better view of the northeastern sky where
AO-27 would be.  I'm glad I did!  

Even without being able to hear the first 2 minutes or so of the 7-
minute pass, I worked 9 stations in a 3-minute span.  For all 4 
passes on these 3 satellites at this location, I made 23 QSOs.  

Tuesday, 21 July - Sigurd, Utah, along Substation Road between I-70 
and UT-118 in Sevier County (grids DM38xu and DM48au)
38 50.542 N 112 0.000 W

I did not have to go far from DM48bx/DM49ba to this spot, less than
30 minutes.  I quickly saw why this road was named Substation Road -
I was near an electrical substation.  This did not cause any problems
with my radio, but it was cloudy in this area.  I could see rain to 
the southwest, and some lightning way off in the distance.  Other 
than some raindrops, I had no problems with the weather.  

The first of the two AO-27 passes I had at this location came at 2058
UTC.  This pass covered much of North America, and I could easily 
hear the satellite for all 7 minutes of the pass.  In 3 out of the 7
minutes, I worked 8 stations.  Not a big number, but OK for a weekday
afternoon pass.  The next pass at 2240 UTC added 4 more QSOs, which
included my first Alaska QSO from Utah (Dale KL7XJ).  

Tuesday, 21 July - between Beaver and Parowan, Utah, on the I-15 west
frontage road north of milepost 89 in Iron County (grids DM37px and
38 0.000 N 112 43.622 W

I knew AO-51 would pass almost directly over Utah at 1900 local (0100
UTC on 22 July), so I wanted to get to the next grid south of the 
last location I stopped at.  This would be the first time I operated 
from DM37, and the only time I would do so on this trip.  To safely 
stop here, I had to exit the I-15 freeway 6 miles/10km north of this
spot, and then drive on the unpaved frontage road.  It took almost 90 
minutes to get from DM38xu/DM48au to this location, but I had 30 
minutes to prepare for this pass.  Once I parked on the spot and took
the obligatory photos of the area and my station and GPS receiver, I 
waited for the pass to start.  

When AO-51 came up above the mountains to my south, I started making
contacts.  In 10 minutes, I worked 13 stations across much of the 
USA, western Canada, and Alaska.  I lost the last 3 minutes of the 
pass due to the mountains north of me, but 13 QSOs in the part of the
pass I could work was very good.  

I did not stay here for the last AO-51 pass to the west around 0240 
UTC, as I needed to drive south to find a place to spend the night 
before the final day of my trip.  I had planned to stop in St. George
north of the Arizona/Utah border, but decided to keep driving through
the small part of I-15 that passes through Arizona to the town of 
Mesquite, Nevada.  Mesquite is at the Arizona/Nevada border along 
I-15, a good place to stop that would be close to where I would 
operate from next.  

Wednesday, 22 July - Scenic, Arizona, at the intersection of Scenic
Blvd. and Spring Rain Drive, east of I-15 in Mohave County (grids 
DM26xt and DM36at)
36 48.099 N 114 0.000 W

I stopped in this area last year, working a few passes on that trip.
Since I needed to be home at the end of this day, I only planned to
work one pass from here plus one later pass before focusing on the 
drive back to Phoenix.  This corner of Arizona is part of the 
"Arizona Strip", north of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.
To get here from the rest of Arizona requires driving into a 
neighboring state.  Mesquite, where I stopped for the night, was
less than 10 minutes away from here.  

I had an SO-50 pass at 1448 UTC from this location, passing from the
north to the east.  There were mountains to the east that would block
the last few minutes of the pass, but the view to the north and 
northeast was good enough for the 19-degree pass.  This would be the 
only time I would operate from DM36 on this trip.  I made 7 QSOs in 5
minutes, working stations across the USA and Canada, then I packed up
for the drive down I-15 to Las Vegas.  

Wednesday, 22 July - Las Vegas, Nevada, east of the intersection of 
Las Vegas Blvd. and Cactus Avenue in Clark County (grids DM25jx and 
36 0.000 N 115 10.228 W

I worked a few passes from this spot last year, so I knew the area.  
I had a few hours before the AO-27 pass I wanted to work at 2029 UTC,
and met up with Jeff WB3JFS for lunch not far from this spot.  Thanks
for the chance to meet you!  After lunch, I went to this spot and 
waited for AO-27.

Even though there have been resident hams on the satellites from both
of the grids covering metropolitan Las Vegas (DM25 and DM26) over the
past few months, plus NN6T occasionally on from DM25 in northwestern 
Arizona, I still had a nice pileup calling me on this pass.  I worked
15 stations across the USA and Canada during the 7-minute pass.  


During my trip, many callsigns were heard more than a few times.  I
went through my log, to see if anyone worked me from all 14 of the 
grids I visited.  I know that some of these grids were not "new" for
the stations I worked, but they were showing up frequently in my log.
Here's what I found, looking for callsigns I worked from at least 5 
of the 14 grids I visited:

14 grids - K8YSE
13 grids - KI6YAA
12 grids - WA4NVM
11 grids - KC0ZHF, W8KHP
10 grids - N3TL, N5AFV
 8 grids - KG6NUB, WD8DOT
 7 grids - W6ZKH, WB3JFS
 6 grids - AA5PK, K8GI/p, ND9M, VA6BMJ, WA5KBH
 5 grids - K4DLG, N5ZNL, VA7VW, VE3MWA, WA7HQD

I worked K5E a few times, under the callsigns K5E operated by Tim 
N3TL as well as K8YSE/K5E and WA4NVM/K5E.  


Some thank-yous... 

1. AMSAT's AO-51 Operations Group, for having a 2m/70cm FM voice 
repeater available on AO-51 for virtually all 7 days of my trip.  The
Apollo 11 transmission was very nice, and being able to count on 
AO-51 being on the air for the rest of my trip helped me to have many 
opportunities to make QSOs from this part of the country. 

2. Ray Fobes W1OTH and Larry Brown W7LB, AMSAT members who helped me
with the AMSAT booth at the Williams hamfest.  

3. Amateur Radio Council of Arizona, and in particular Grant Hays 
WB6OTS, for providing AMSAT a space in the main exhibit hall during 
the Williams hamfest.  

4. My "crew" that helped me during the trip - John K8YSE, Rick 
WA4NVM, and Tim N3TL.  These guys were like the pilot stations that
help DXpeditions on HF.  I sent them e-mails in advance of my trip,
seeking comments on my plans.  Tim, in particular, sent e-mails to 
the AMSAT-BB when I didn't have the time or access to the Internet to
do this myself.  During my trip, I received feedback from them on how
I was doing on the air from day to day, and sometimes called them to
confirm what I was seeing on maps or to make sure they knew I would
be on from a particular spot.  

5. All the stations making contacts with WD9EWK.  This is one reason 
operators like me will go out to unusual places and work satellites -
to help others who are looking for a new grid, county, state, etc. 
for their logbooks.  With the 3 FM satellites and their passes 
happening throughout the day and early evening, it was easy to work
passes and travel between passes to maximize the number of passes I
could work and grids I could work from each day.  


I am working on the QSL cards for the locations I operated from on my
trip.  I have already received a few e-mails with listings of QSOs 
made with WD9EWK during this trip, plus several envelopes in my 
mailbox since I've returned home.  Sending me a QSL request to my PO
box is not mandatory to get my card(s) from this trip.  I appreciate
those who have sent me SASEs, which will help me with postage costs.  
I hope to have the cards ready to go out in the next week or two.  



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