[amsat-bb] Yesterday at DM31...

Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK) amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Sun Dec 19 14:08:12 PST 2010


Yesterday's quick trip down to Lukeville at grid DM31 in southern 
Arizona was a perfect day for radio.  After leaving a pre-sunrise 
rain shower in the Phoenix area on my way down there, it was only
sunshine for the rest of the day and about 68F/20C in the 
afternoon.  Much better to be there in December, than in the 
summertime when it can be well over 100F/38C in the shade.  I
worked 12 passes while I was down there - three passes on SO-50, 
one on VO-52, and two each on the others (AO-27, AO-51, FO-29, and

I left Phoenix around 0615 local (1315 UTC), after making a 
stop to get some breakfast for the drive out of the city.  I 
was running my new TH-D72A HT as my APRS tracker and to 
monitor repeaters on the drive, but planned to use my normal
radio setup for the satellites - IC-2820H on FM, two FT-817NDs
for SSB - with my Elk log periodic.  After a quick stop at the 
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument visitor center about 5 
miles/8km north of Lukeville and the USA/Mexico border, I made 
it to the parking lot at "Gringo Pass", the group of shops and 
fuel station just before the border crossing, a few minutes past
1600 UTC.  This opened up one more pass I could work from
DM31, a VO-52 pass just before 1700 UTC to the west. 

Due to the security situation along this part of the USA/Mexico
border, almost all of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
west of the AZ-85 highway was closed to the public.  There are
mountains all around that area, and going as far south as I 
could - without crossing the border - would give me the best
chances to work shallow passes.  I operated from the same spot
I used in 2009, a parking lot on the west side of AZ-85 in grid
DM31ov (31.88192 N 112.81712 W).  During the day, I was visited
by US Border Patrol agents patrolling in vehicles and on foot.
I was asked a few times if I saw people walking north from the
border (I didn't, other than Border Patrol agents), and near the 
end of the day one agent took an interest in my radio gear and 
chatted for about 10 minutes.  Considering where I was and their
jobs, I was happy they would pass by while I was sitting down 

I was ready for VO-52 when it popped up, and that was a great
pass to start the day.  Four QSOs went in the log, starting with 
Kerry WC7V warming up the 145.910 MHz downlink that I stayed 
around for the pass.  :-)  Since Kerry was calling CQ there when 
I came on, I was going to QSY.  Kerry said I could stay there, 
and so I did.  Then it was time to set up the IC-2820H for the 
HO-68 pass at 1751 UTC.  This was busy, despite the satellite 
moving away from the east coast.  I was able to log 20 QSOs with 
stations all over the USA on this pass, then get lunch at the 
restaurant before the second HO-68 pass.  Even though HO-68 
barely popped up over the mountains to my northwest, I was able 
to log 4 QSOs in a 5-minute span.  

The first pass I worked that was good for stations along all of the 
US east coast was on AO-27 at 1952 UTC.  I was not able to hear the 
20-second data burst before the repeater switched on, but I did hear 
Drew KO4MA calling me in the first few seconds after the data burst.  
I answered his call, and then went on to work 16 more stations on 
that pass.  My log already had 45 QSOs for the first 4 passes, but 
there were more passes to work in the afternoon.  

There was an hour after that AO-27 pass until the next couple of 
passes - first SO-50 on a shallow pass to my north, then the west-
coast AO-27 pass.  Four QSOs on SO-50, and 8 on AO-27.  Then almost 
an hour until the next group of passes on 3 different satellites 
(FO-29, SO-50, AO-51).  

The FO-29 pass had a maximum elevation of 10 degrees to my east.
Not a lot, but enough to clear the mountains in that direction
and still hear it OK.  Four QSOs in 10 minutes, not a bad count
considering there are fewer working SSB via satellite than FM.
The SO-50 pass went up almost over my head, with maximum elevation
of 73 degrees.  Eight QSOs there, including one with another 
satellite ham using the new TH-D72A for FM satellite work (Ramon
XE1KK, in Mexico City).  We briefly chatted about the new HT.  
Ramon said he was happy with the radio.  He used to travel and 
work satellites from many different locations, and maybe we can 
hear him on from there (grid EK09) and maybe other places as he 
travels all over.  

At 2300 UTC, I had two passes I could work.  AO-7 was still in
mode B, or I could work AO-51 with its V/US configuration that
was turned on for a few days.  Both were to my east, but AO-51 
was higher in the sky.  Even though I enjoy working AO-7 mode B 
with my QRP SSB satellite station, and I'd be able to work it 
just before the change to mode A, I went with the AO-51 pass.  
Six more QSOs for the log, with stations from both the eastern
and western USA.  

After that AO-51 pass, I had an hour before the last group of 3
passes I'd work before driving home.  FO-29 was still to my east,
but up to a maximum elevation of 78 degrees.  Four more QSOs there,
then a very shallow SO-50 pass to the southwest.  Thanks to Don
W6AJP for also being there for a QSO.  I started packing up my
SSB gear at this point, since I had about 15 minutes until the 
last pass I would work, an AO-51 pass.  Six more QSOs on that 
pass wrapped up my operating for the day.  

Of the 12 passes I worked from DM31, four had maximum elevation
of 10 degrees or less.  Even though those passes yielded few QSOs,
there were stations worked on those four passes I didn't hear at
any other time in the day.  It's a fun challenge to work these 
passes, to see how low I can go and still hear the satellite. 

Thanks to everyone for all the QSOs yesterday.  As with many other
grids anywhere, I could go back to DM31 periodically and it would
still be a new grid for someone.  I have already been asked about
my next trip there, and I may try to go back there before next 
summer.  As with my other trips, there's no need to send me a QSL 
card or SASE to get a DM31 QSL card from me.  Just an e-mail with 
QSO details is sufficient.  I need to print more QSL cards for 
yesterday's trip, and those will go to the post office in the next 
week or two. 



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