[amsat-bb] WD9EWK @ Radio Society of Tucson hamfest, & other operating on 26-27 March (long)

Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK) amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Thu Mar 31 03:52:19 UTC 2016


Last Saturday (26 March), I had an AMSAT table at the Radio Society of
Tucson's annual hamfest. This year's hamfest was at a new location, at a
Target store on the east end of that city. Even with the new location,
there was a nice turnout. And, unlike most hamfests in Arizona, the
organizers were most truthful with the hours for the hamfest - 6am (1300
UTC), which was just before sunrise, until 11am (1800 UTC) when most are
leaving for lunch or to pick up with the rest of their weekends. I took
advantage of this, and will go into my post-hamfest activities in a bit.

I arrived in Tucson the night before the hamfest, and saw a tweet asking
if anyone would be on an AO-85 pass just before 0500 UTC. I had arrived
in Tucson about 90 minutes before that pass, saw a Wal-Mart store near my
motel, and decided to give it a try. A nice pass, where I worked Fernando
NP4JV about 60 miles south of me and Paul N8HM in Washington DC. I also
copied telemetry, which I uploaded after the pass back in the motel room.
A good pass, and a good way to start this rapid-fire trip to Tucson and

The hamfest had a crowd showing up just after 5am (1200 UTC), including me.
I had my AMSAT table ready, and my station set for the first of two AO-85
passes at 1330 UTC. I worked stations from coast to (almost) coast, using
my IC-2730A FM mobile radio as the transmitter and my SDRplay SDR receiver
and 8-inch Windows tablet as the receiver. As with other recent events,
using an SDR receiver brings out lots of questions. For Saturday morning,
this meant I missed working the 3 XW-2 satellites that were passing by
after this pass. After talking about SDR, and mentioning I would use the
SDRplay on the second AO-85 pass a few minutes after 1500 UTC, I had a
larger crowd around for that pass. Not as many stations on as with the
earlier pass, but still enough to demonstrate satellite operating and how
well the SDR receiver worked with the AO-85 downlink.

With the earlier ending time for the hamfest, I saw an AO-73 pass after
1630 UTC that would be another pass I wanted to work as a demonstration.
Even though the Tucson morning was comfortable outside, not requiring a
jacket, I left my Windows tablet outside in the sunlight. By the time of
the AO-73 pass, it shut down due to overheating. Instead of using the
SDRplay on another pass, I quickly brought out my second Yaesu FT-817ND
to go with the FT-817ND I already had out as my transmitter on the AO-73
pass. I was able to work a few stations, and then answer the differences
in operating on a linear transponder in SSB compared to an FM satellite.
I worked 3 stations, almost coast to coast across the continental USA,
on this AO-73 pass.

With the early end to the hamfest, I was able to start driving a little
earlier toward my goal for the afternoon - a point about 15 miles/25km
west of the New Mexico town of Deming, on the DM52/DM62 grid boundary.
On the way out there, I made two stops to work FO-29 passes. The first
FO-29 pass, just after 1900 UTC, was a quick stop in the hopes of working
Paul N8HM on the National Mall in Washington DC. I stopped at an exit off
I-10 about 25 miles/40km southeast of Tucson, still in the same grid DM42
as the hamfest, and was able to work Paul and Clayton W5PFG on that pass.
I did not stick around to work the entire pass, as I was trying to make
the 200-mile/320km drive from Tucson to that spot outside of Deming in
time to work some SO-50 passes starting in the mid-afternoon.

Just after crossing the Arizona/New Mexico state line, a few minutes before
2100 UTC, was another FO-29 pass. I stopped at a place I have operated from
in the past, the small "town" of Road Forks, about 5 miles/8km east of the
state line. Road Forks is pretty much what the name implies - a fork in the
road for the old US-80, which ran through this part of the country before
the interstate highways were built. I parked at an old truck stop, and
worked a few stations from here. Road Forks is in grid DM52, just over 60
miles/100km west of the DM52/DM62 grid boundary, so I still had to do more
driving to reach the grid boundary.

I made it to the DM52/DM62 grid boundary in a little less than an hour's
drive from Road Forks, and spent a few minutes getting situated to take the
obligatory photos to document my location on the grid boundary. Along with
photos I tweeted, my TH-D72A HT was able to transmit my location to the
APRS network in this part of the country showing where I parked. In doing
this, I did not have a chance to work an AO-7 pass that started just after
2200 UTC, but was definitely able to work an SO-50 pass starting around
2222 UTC. In fact, I was able to wake up SO-50 very early in the pass, as I
was in a location where the nearest hills and mountains were very far in
the distance. In the next 10 minutes, I worked 13 stations from coast to
coast in the continental USA, and Dani TG9AMD in Guatemala City. A mostly
good pass, with my activity along with Dave KG5CCI and Clayton W5PFG also
working portable (KG5CCI in EM24/Oklahoma, W5PFG in EM02/Texas).

With a heavy wind blowing across the desert, and not wanting to be out in
the southwestern New Mexico desert after dark, I decided to only work one
other pass, a western SO-50 pass just after 0000 UTC. But before that pass,
I saw a tractor-trailer come off the I-10 freeway with its trailer heavily
damaged. The center of the trailer looked like something heavy dropped on
top of it, collapsing the trailer's roof. I also saw an interesting car
chase speed by on the I-10, with 3 New Mexico state troopers chasing a Fiat
westbound - and I'd see those troopers, and a couple of others, with that
car later on when I started driving back to Arizona.

The later SO-50 pass started around 0004 UTC, 6.04pm local time in New
Mexico. Although I only worked stations as far east as Arkansas and
Tennessee, I was able to work a total of 12 stations on this pass. Mostly
stations along the west coast and west of the Rockies. It was nice to hand
out contacts with these stations, since almost nobody gets on the birds
from these two grids any more unless someone travels to or through them.

After this SO-50 pass, I started my drive back home - a drive of over 250
miles/400km. After passing by the spot where that car chase ended a few
miles west of the DM52/DM62 grid boundary (the Fiat looked like it spun out
into the median, where the state troopers surrounded it), I kept going west
on I-10 about 150 miles/250km until I reached the small Arizona town of
Benson. This town, about 40 miles/65km southeast of Tucson, was a good
place for me to get a late dinner, fuel for my car, and there were two more
passes I wanted to work to wrap up my operating on this trip. Benson is on
the north edge of grid DM41, and I saw I could work both AO-73 and AO-85 in
the span of about 25 minutes around 0330 UTC from this spot.

The AO-73 pass was quieter than I expected, but I worked 3 stations - Nick
KE8AKW in Ohio, Hector W5CBF in Louisiana, and Brent VE5SWL in Saskatchewan
who had tweeted he would be on this pass. AO-85 came by a few minutes after
the AO-73 pass, and I added two more stations to the log (Jerry N0JY in
Texas, Frank K6FW in California). With this, and that late dinner I needed,
I went back on the I-10 to finish my drive. Benson was almost exactly the
halfway point between the DM52/DM62 grid boundary and home, and the last
150 miles/250km went by in about 2 hours. Speed limits on the rural parts
of I-10 in Arizona and New Mexico are 75mph or 120 km/h, in case anyone
was concerned that I tried to set new land speed records for my driving on
I-10. :-)

Thanks to everyone who called and worked WD9EWK during the passes I worked
from the hamfest! I do this on a regular basis, and many of you already
give more than just a call sign and grid locator - your city/town and
state, a brief rundown on your station, etc. which the crowd is listening
to and appreciates hearing. All of my QSOs from this trip to southern
Arizona and over to New Mexico are in Logbook of the World from 4 different
grid locators (DM41, DM42, DM52, DM62), and I am happy to send QSL cards to
anyone interested in a confirmation of a QSO from this trip. Please e-mail
me directly with the QSO details. If you're in my log, I will be happy to
send you a card. No need to first send me a card or SASE to get my card
from this trip.


Twitter: @WD9EWK

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