[amsat-bb] KB9BIT from DM86 and DM87 summary

Tom Laskowski tmlask at att.net
Tue Sep 22 18:51:05 PDT 2009

Hello all,

I just returned from my trip to DM86/87 and wanted to post a short bit of info about my adventures.

The main purpose for my trip was to attend the Okie-Tex Star Party just outside the tiny town of Kenton, OK in the far west part of the OK Panhandle.  At night I planned to do lots of stargazing from this incredibly dark location and during the day I wanted to work as many satellite passes as I could.  Kenton, with a population of about 23, is located in grid square DM86 and is just a few miles south of the OK-CO border and about 1 1/2 miles east of the OK-NM border.  (Kenton is the only town in Oklahoma on Mountain Time).  I also planned to make a few trips to the DM86/87 grid boundary to activate that rare grid.

On my way out west I had a planned stop Thursday night, 9/10, at Wilson State Park in Kansas, Grid EM08.  I had pass predictions for SO-50 and AO-51 but only ended up making 5 QSOs from this location on SO-50, as I was unaware that AO-51 had not been operating.  These QSOs were from N38° 55.452' W98° 29.523'

On Friday night, 9/11, I ended up staying just outside my final destination near Kenton at Black Mesa State Park in DM86 where I worked one pass of SO-50 and made 7 QSOs.  These QSOs were from N36° 50.587' W102° 52.942'

On Saturday morning, 9/12, I arrived at Camp Billy Joe where the star party was held at N36° 53.904' W102° 57.073'  All of my contacts from DM86, except the state park QSOs, were made from this location.  My satellite operating was mostly confined to mid-morning to early evening passes.  I had to work around the star party activities, meals and my sleep schedule.  During the 8 days I was here I made 44 QSOs on AO-51, SO-50 and AO-27 from DM86.

For my DM86/87 operating I had to travel only about 8 miles north to the CO-OK border.  My location was just about 500 feet east of the point where the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado have their common border.  I hoped to operate from this common border where there is a granite obelisk marking the tri-state point, but the coordinates of this point are N37° 00.012' W103° 00.139' thus it seemed to be located just north of the true grid boundary.  I ended up working all DM86/87 contacts from exactly N37° 00.000' W103° 00.000'  This point was easy enough to find, fortunately, because someone had created a small marker made from a pile of rocks to mark this convergence point.  I set my GPS on this rock pile and let it average for about 10 minutes to confirm that I was standing on the exact grid boundary.  To the best of my knowledge this point is smack dab on the Colorado-Oklahoma state line, or possibly just over the border in Colorado. (Google maps show this as being in Colorado, but it's pretty close to the true border, nonetheless).

The DM86/87 site was accessible from the star party by driving north on an unmarked but paved road just outside the entrance to the camp, around the east side of Black Mesa (the highest point in Oklahoma) then north to the Colorado border.  At the border the pavement ends and continues north into Colorado as a dirt road.  At this point I needed to head west about a mile down another dirt road, which leads to the tri-state marker.  My operating location was just about 50 feet north of this dirt road in the middle of an open field full of cactus, Yucca and sunflowers.

I made two trips to DM86/87.  Both were chosen to coincide with simultaneous AO-51 and SO-50 passes that were both high elevation passes and not far apart in time.  I ended up making a total of 34 QSOs from the two trips to the DM86/87 grid boundary.  It was a very fun experience hearing station after station calling me, sort of a mini pileup!  I was very surprised how well I could hear SO-50 even down near the horizon.  From home I usually can't hear SO-50 until it's at least 30 degrees above the horizon in the clear from the trees and buildings.  On the first SO-50 pass I worked from DM86/87 I could hear Patrick WD9EWK calling me very weakly but perfectly readable.  This was a few minutes before the Heavens-Above AOS prediction.  The satellite was at less than 10 degrees elevation at the time!

I ended up with exactly 90 QSOs total from all three locations for the week.  I have not tallied up how many different stations or grids I worked on my trip yet.

The Black Mesa area is a very beautiful and remote region.  My DM86/87 QSOs were especially memorable because they took place near sunset which really added to the experience and beauty of the area.  I plan to use some of the photos I took for making up the QSL cards.

As for QSLs, I have received a number of nice emails and had a pile of snail mail requests waiting for me when I got home.  I'll get QSLs out ASAP, hopefully within a few weeks.  If you need a card just send me an email or you can send a direct request to my QRZ address.  No SASE needed.

The only downsides of the whole trip was the speeding ticket I received in Keyes, OK, having one of my van's windows completely shattered by a rock that fell out of a dump truck on I-80 near Des Moines, Iowa on my way home, having only three clear nights out of eight at the star party and driving 2300 miles round trip.  On the plus side, one of the emails I received thanked me for the new grids and stated, "You've made my day."  Well, that email made my day too and made the whole trip all worth it.

73,  Tom  --  KB9BIT

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