Photos after summary
Jan 2002 VHF SS Contest
Rod Blocksome, K0DAS
Bill Caldwell, N0LNO and I teamed again on a rover expedition for this contest. We had last used the equipment in the Sept. VHF QSO Party, however, there were several antenna failures and rig problems that had to be repaired before this rove. Last January we installed everything into Bill's Van, he drove, and I operated. This year we reversed the roles; we took my van, I drove and Bill operated N0LNO/R.
I started driving my old 84 GMC van to work the previous week to make sure it was going to run ok. It has about 144,000 miles on it and is getting a little long in the tooth. Friday Bill and I assembled the antennas, started assembling the station and deciding on how certain problems were to be solved. Later, I completed a 144/28 MHz transverter and installed it into the 2304 transverter. This made band changing consistent with the rest of the station thereby cutting down on operator error.
Saturday morning, we install everything in the van. Bill is cabling things and I'm thinking the van is way overdue for an oil change. Without thinking, I stomp on the emergency brake and crawl under the van and drain the oil. It's now 12:30 PM and we hit the road for the four corners of EN 41, 42, 31, 32 to meet KA0YSQ/R and NA0IA/R and begin a three-rover-four-corner "dance" that we had carefully optimized mathematically a few days earlier.
Two miles down the interstate and the van starts vibrating. Pull off, rear driver side wheel is hot - brakes are dragging. Shake the van, hammer on the drum, beat on the brake cable - seems better so we drive on. A few miles later, same thing happens again. Two gas stations later, we find a fellow willing to pull the wheel and release the stuck brake. One hour and $40 later, we are back on the road making tracks for Newhall, Iowa when the same thing happens again. If the speed is kept low, it doesn't shake. Drive all the way back home at 30 mph.
Bill and I pull the wheel and decide the only reasonable solution is to cut the brake cable and remove the emergency brake hardware. It takes 15 minutes to saw through the cable (the cable steel is as hard as the hacksaw blade). A couple more minutes of prying until two springs and three parts fall out of the brake. Reassemble the wheel, go for a test drive, an viola - they work ok.
We are now in the contest only 3 1/2 hours late. For the next 6 hours we do the "dance" out west of Newhall. A few hours after sundown, we are parked in the entrance of a country cemetery on a hill top. A car stopped and I had an interview with a Benton county deputy sheriff. He said we had the farmers in the area nervous - three calls on us in the last 10-minutes and one on a beige sedan (Bryan's rover). I squealed on both Bryan and Steve - told him what they were driving and where they were located. Also gave him a 3-minute summary of ham radio, contests, and why it necessitated us running around this particular piece of real estate. I think they got another call on us while he was checking out my drivers license and vehicle tag. Finally he asked how much longer we planned to be in the area. I said another 2 hours at the rate we were going. He suggested we turn off our lights when we are parked off the road - be less visible.
While the deputy is talking back to his dispatcher, Bill is in the van hammering out the Q's on 7 bands - 50 through 2304 MHz. Privately, I was hoping we weren't screwing up the deputy's radio communications.
The 4-corner dance took much longer than anticipated. A side benefit to this was we went home at midnight to sleep rather than bunking down in a motel. It was wheels up next morning at 7:00 AM. We ran up to Rochester, MN and then on to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Daylight roving brought lots of stares and questions from the curious but no visits from law enforcement.
The target 4-corners was EN24, 25, 34, 35 located about 35 miles west of Minneapolis. We did the dance in a record setting 4 hours this time. All three rovers sat in EN24 during the waning hours of the contest and created something akin to kicking a bee hive. The bands were alive with stations from the cities trying to work all three rovers on all the bands. It was pandemonium in the grandest of style. Bill was nearing saturation - a couple times he gave his call wrong to the other station. Even then, when the other station asked for Bill's call phonetically, he gave it as "November Zero Lima Oscar November". That was an example of when the driver had to step in and salvage the QSO. I think there may have been a time or two when a contact on one band got "rogered" on another band due to picking up the wrong microphone.
We ended the contest a little south of the cities making tracks for Iowa on I-35. We arrived home at 2:30 AM Monday morning. Scores will be posted later when we recover enough to figure out the logs.