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QRP Parkpeditions

Column #99 by John K3WWP. As a take-off on the term DXpedition which itself is a take-off on the word expedition, we've coined the term Parkpedition. Who is we and what is a Parkpedition? That's what I'm going to talk about here in this column.

First of all, we refers to members of the NAQCC WPA Chapter, mainly Mike KC2EGL, Don K3RLL, Tom WY3H, and me. Parkpedition refers to taking our CW/QRP equipment to the local Kittanning Community Park to operate for something like two to four hours or so in late morning and/or afternoon. According to my "Other Calls" log which lists my QSOs over the years that I made using calls other than K3WWP such as WA3IXO which I held for a couple years for my apartment in Pittsburgh, NAQCC club calls N3AQC and N3A, etc., our first Parkpedition was on September 2, 2009 although the term Parkpedition wasn't coined yet. That was with KC2EGL and me using N3AQC.

About a month later, Mike and I activiated our NAQCC special event call of N3A during our club anniversary celebration. That one on Columbus Day October 12, 2009 was a memorable one. That's when we just about froze, and our fingers became so numb from the cold we had trouble keying our rigs and had to pack up and come home early. It was also the one when we had our first visitor, Bob W3BBO who drove down from Erie to check us out. However he didn't make it before we closed up shop. He did catch us though, as Mike and I were taking my neighbor's dog Joe for a walk. Someone pulled up behind us and said something like, "Get a real dog". So after we took Joe back home, Bob visited for a while and looked at my home station. Then he went up to the park and worked us from there before he headed back to Erie.

Since those initial Parkpeditions, we've made probably 4 or 5 each summer as well as our one on Columbus Day each year for the NAQCC anniversary celebration. They include me and Mike and/or Don when Don is up here from Florida during June-September each year.

Our most recent one on Columbus Day was our most successful ever with 76 QSOs made by Mike and me in four hours. We've also done contests from the park including the Skeeter Hunt this past summer. Although not really Parkpeditions, we've also operated a few times portable from WY3H's hilltop property and his yard. This year's FD was a real blast there. With CW/QRP only we outdid the local ham radio club with their high power and voice.

As far as the Community Park, it is a wonderful quiet location. The noise level there is virtually nil compared to my home QTH. It's so quiet, I have worked stations that you could say were RST 509. You can even hear distant thunderstorms clearly which get lost in my local noise at home. It would be nice if I could get some property near there and build a house, but that's dreaming......

We've used various rigs up there including a KX1, K2, PFR, but the latest rig of choice is our KX3s. As you know from my bragging on it, it's the greatest rig I've ever used, an opinion shared by many KX3 users. It has made operating at Parkpeditions as easy as the proverbial "falling off a log" with its marvelous design, especially the great display. Also its auto-tuner will tune practically any antenna we throw at it.

Speaking of antennas, the park is an excellent place to experiment with antennas, something I can't do at home with my limited space. We've tried a variety of antennas. I can't even remember them all, but they have included an end fed 110' wire as well as shorter end fed wires in a horizontal or sloping orientation. Also some sort of mobile whip or other vertically oriented antenna. But the one that outshone all others is what we call the K3RLL jumper dipole. I'll give you a couple links where you can see more info about Parkpeditions and the design of the jumper dipole, but basically it is just what it says. the overall length when the jumpers are engaged makes a 40 (or in a longer version 80) meters dipole. Then to use higher bands, you just disengage the appropriate jumper(s). Very simple but a very effective multi-band antenna. It's simply fed with coax.

There is no source of electricity in the park so rigs are powered with batteries. I use a 7 Ah Gel Cell which easily gives me 4 hours of operating time with the KX3 at 5 watts output. Mike has the built in batteries and charger in his KX3 which give him about 2 hours operating time, after which he switches off to his relatively massive 12 Ah rechargable battery which is so powerful it can start a car or power his 9.5 inch telescope. We can even run both rigs at the same time off that monster if need be.

I really enjoy these portable operations although they make me realize just how noisy a location I have here at home. As I said, the noise level at the park is virtually nil, not even moving the S meter on the KX3. In fact, unless I turn up the volume, I can't tell the difference between having an antenna connected or not. Here at home, my noise level is almost always at least an S5, most of the time even higher than that. To see more about Parkpeditions, you can check out the diary on my web site at http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/ or the past newsletters on the NAQCC web site at http://naqcc.info/. If you've never operated portable out in the field somewhere, you don't know what fun you're missing, especially if you can do it with good friends as I do with Mike, Don, and Tom.

Thanks for reading these columns and giving all the great feedback via email, letter, or on the air contacts. They are appreciated and make my time and effort worthwhile in producing them. Hard to believe the next one will be #100. Whew! - 73 and -30-