Salina Kansas

11-2-10 to 11-5-10

Phil Lee W6HCC

I traveled east to communicate with Bill, K0RZ at Louisville CO [DM79jx]. I planned to work from the EM29, EM28 grids near I70 west of Topeka KS and then south into Oklahoma for EM15. The GPS log showed a driving distance of 1718 miles for the trip.

I drove my Ford excursion with an improved system for432 Mhz. The 432 antennae are quad yagis stacked in a box of 4 on a 20 foot mast. The system is raised by a winch in the back of the Excursion. The hoisting cable runs over a pulley on an 8 foot A frame which is mounted to an I-beam secured to the trailer hitch.   The radio is an IC910 running 75 watts with no external power amplifier.   It takes about 40 minutes to set up or take down the system.

The route:
Day 1:  I traveled east on I-70 to Salina KS.  I spent the night Comfort Inn in Salina.  [I had enough points for 2 free nights, that was great!]  There is a Braum’s ice cream store next to the motel.  There cheeseburgers are great.  They also make some delightful ice cream dishes.   There is a truck stop across the freeway (I-135) where I can get clean diesel fuel for the excursion.

Day 2:  The next morning, after a good breakfast at the Inn, I traveled east on I-70 toward Topeka KS.  At exit 346 I took Carlson road north toward Rossville KS.  I noticed that the engine light on the panel had come on.  I was concerned and stopped in the small community of Willard to check.  A walk-around showed no obvious problems, and since the engine seemed to be running well, I continued north on Rossville road to CR62.

I had planned to operate from the road junction of Rossville road and CR62; however it was too low and obscured by trees.  (There are a lot of trees in the area.   It is hard to find an open area with a good view down boresite.)   CR62 seemed to go up hill.  Even though it went east and made the shot slightly longer, I opted for the high ground.  After a series of hills, each slightly higher than the previous, I came to an open field with a good view down boresite.  It was solid.   It had been disked and then the corn stalks had solidified into the soil.  I drove in with no problems.  There was a fair amount of traffic on CR62, but no one stopped, they just waved and went on.  Cell phone coverage in the area was good.  I had no problem with liaison.

I completed the contact in EM29AD and then headed for EM28AV.  The route took me back down Rossville road, to Calson road, past I-70 and south to the hamlet of Dover KS….Not much of a place, just a few houses and a C-store.   I turned south on Douglas road.  The road climbed steeply and came out on a small hill.   The site had looked good on the topo map, but the view to the west was obscured by trees.  I continues south and then turned west on Harveyville road.  The road turned south at a T.   There was a gravel road going north and up a small hill.  It looked good, but when I got to the top, there was a still taller hill to the west…. No good!!   I went back to the paved road and went south.  It went up a hill and came out on top with a clear shot to the west.  There was only a small turnout to get into the field and the field had been rough-plowed.  The black soil was hard, but had been turned with huge dirt clods.  I pulled in as far as I could and looked around.  The view to the west was good, but there was a low power line nearly on top of the excursion.   It was too close to be safe.  I put the excursion in 4×4 and backed into the dirt.   I got clear of the power line, but there was a second problem – wind!!  It was blowing about 30 mph and gusting 40 mph.  I was concerned about the strength of the mast and the 4x yagi array.   Working on the rough ground and in the wind was a challenge.   I managed to set up the system and thankfully the mast held.  I was very glad that I had designed a solid clamp at the top of the A frame.

After the contact, it was getting late and I was concerned about the engine light.  I considered going into Topeka KS to find a Ford dealer and check out the excursion.  Bill looked up the location of the agency and found that it was in the heart of downtown.  I decided to return to Salina.  At least there I had a place to stay.   I returned to Salina and was able to get into the local Ford agency with enough time to make an appointment for the next morning at 0700hrs.  I retired for the night at Comfort Inn and had dinner at the local Braum’s.

Day 3:  After another good breakfast at the Inn, I was at the Ford agency by 0700 CDT.  They got right to work and checked the excursion.  It was an alarm from the turbo.  When I first got the excursion, I had problems with the turbo.   They had replaced it once and then given it special lubrication.  It had not been a problem since.  The mechanic said there was no problem driving the vehicle and he reset the engine light.  I hoped it was an isolated instance of the problem.

I decided to head for EM15AX in Oklahoma.  I called Bill and told him that the shot was a go!     I traveled down I-135 to Wichita KS.   There I picked up I-35, the Kansas Turnpike.  It is a really nice road.  It is smooth and signed at 70 mph.  There was a moderate amount of traffic, but it was all moving smoothly.  I paid my $1.90 at the end and continued south on I-35.  I continued until I came to US64 which goes west to Enid OK.  There was a lot of construction on the road and at times I was slowed to 35 mph.  Not a good route!  At Enid, I turned south on US81.  It also had a lot of construction.  I continued to the town? of Dover OK.  There I wanted to go west on Boundary road.  I drove through town twice and could not find the road.  I finally took Red Fox road, which seemed to be the only paved road leading west.   It turned out to be the right road.  I continued west, crossed the Cimarron River and looked for a site.  The area I had chosen with the topo maps was obscured by trees.  (It seemed that all the fields were bordered by tall trees.)  I took CR E0720 west and came to a road which led to a gas well and some tanks.  The area around the tanks was firm and clear.   The view to the west was only fair, but it was the best that I could do.  I talked to Bill on the cell phone and told him I had finally found a site.  I pulled in and started to set up.  Soon a truck pulled in and the men seemed to be reading some of the recorders near the well site.  They came over to me and wanted to know what I was doing.  They were friendly and seemed interested to the long shot that I was attempting.  They went on their way and I finished the setup.  The wind was blowing, but not nearly as hard as the previous day.  We made contact on 432 MHz in about 30 minutes.

After the contact I decided to take a different way back to I-35.   I went north on US81 to Hennessey OK and turned east on OK51.  It was a good road signed at 65.  For a while I was followed by a local sheriff.  I locked cruise at 64 mph.   Finally he came to the end of his jurisdiction and turned around.  There were very few small towns on the road and it was a nice drive back to I-35.  From there, I retraced my path back to Wichita and on to Salina.

Day 4:   The next morning there was cold, 28 degrees at Salina.  At 0610 MDT, I headed for home via I-70.  As I traveled west, the temperature fell as low as 21 degrees just before sunrise.   I made some pit stops at rest areas and a food stop at Limon CO.  I arrived home at 1340.  The trip took about 7.5 hrs.

The contacts:

EM29AD:  I pulled into the field north of CR62.  The field was solid and there was plenty of room to set up the 432 array.  The setup went smoothly except the phasing of the 4 yagis.  At first, I got one on backwards.   I turned it around and raised the array.

The signals were typical tropo scatter.   There was a lot of QSB.  At times, even Bill’s big signal faded to nothing.  I was able to get some good peaks and copied calls and grid.

I sent to Bill.  He was able to detect my signal, but could not hear anything – much less copy code.  We worked for a while hoping for a good peak, but still nothing was heard.  We decided to try 3 tone FSK.   Perhaps that would be better.  No such luck!  The QSB tore up the FSK to the point that it was unreadable.

I connected the hand key to the IC910.  To use it, I had to put the system in ‘send’ with the keyer, then switch the IC910 to CW mode and send with the hand key.  Bill and I were not sure how the radio processed the CW offset.  Bill searched for my signal and could not find it.  I looked in the manual for the radio to see if I could determine how the CW offset worked.  I found everything I did not want to know, but no information that I needed.  Bill sent to me and I was able to find his signal.  He then moved down 200 Hz and the signal moved the correct amount on my Spectran display.  We determined that the radio in CW was operating in the USB mode.  Finally Bill found my signal.   I sent very long dits and dahs.  Bill was able to read some of the code.  Then we got a good peak.  Bill asked me to send faster.   I keyed the data with the hand key and we got the message through.  Bill came back with a string of R’s and 73.   His signal was very good.   We had a contact!! The range was 496 miles…. A new DX record for me on 432!

EM28AV:  I parked in a farmer’s field on the west side of Harveyville road.  I had to put the back wheels into the plowed area to get clear of the low overhead power lines.   I used 4×4 just to be sure.  The wind was very strong from the northwest.  I had to guide the array mast into the clamp at the top of the A frame.   Once I got it in and locked, I was concerned that the mast might buckle in the strong wind.

Signals on 432 still had a lot of QSB.  At first, I heard nothing from Bill.  Where was the big signal?  I checked that antenna array and found that the wind had turned it 90 degrees to boresite.  No wonder!!  I moved it back to path and locked it down firmly.  There was the signal as expected.  We were patient and we got some good peaks to complete the contact.  I took the array down as soon as I could.  There was no damage from the wind, but I was concerned the whole time of the contact.   The range was 497 miles….A new DX record for me on 432 MHz!!

EM15AX:   I set up near some oil tanks and a gas well on the north side of CR 0720.  The area was firm and there was plenty of room to park the excursion.  There was a moderate breeze, but not nearly as strong as yesterday.

Signals still had a lot of QSB.  This time, we got some good peaks.  I copied the data from Bill and sent to him.  At first he was unable to copy the high speed CW.  I switched to FSK and he copied my callsign.  At that point, he said that he could hear the signal.  I switched to high speed CW and we completed the contact.   He came back to me with 73 and ‘va’.  Signals peaked very well and we had an easy exchange at the end of the contact.  The range was 480 miles.

These contacts complete 95 grids on 432 MHz.