Texas New Mexico and Oklahoma

DM75, DM85, DM95, EM06
11-13 & 11-14 2007

Phil Lee W6HCC

I left home at 0555 hours and traveled down I-25. I planned to contact Bill, K0RZ in Louisville CO. (DM79jx) from new grids in New Mexico, Texas (new state) and Oklahoma. The freeway was fairly busy for that early in the morning. As I approached 120th Street in Denver everything stopped! I was in stop-go traffic until I cleared the Denver Tech Center. That took about an extra 45 minutes. I arrived at Raton NM at about 1130 and stopped for a snack. I continued on to Wagon Mound NM. There I refueled and continued on NM-120 to the site. NM-120 is north of the grid boundary (DM75). The road goes east from Wagon Mound and then dips south into the grid as it crosses some low hills. When I reached the grid, I found two problems. I had no shot back to the north without a local hill in the way and I had no cell-phone service. Bummer!! I decided to continue on east on NM-120 to Roy NM. The web site for Verizon showed service in Roy and on NM-39 which runs north-south along the eastern boundary of DM75. NM-120 is a good 2 lane road. It crosses the canyon of the Canadian River. The canyon is deep with huge jutting boulders on each side. The scenery is very pretty. The road is a steep 6% to 7% grade down and up the other side — easy in tow-haul mode for the Excursion.

I arrived in Roy and much to my dismay; I had no cell-phone service. I tried several times to call Bill, but to no avail. I decided to head north on NM-39 and see if there was any better service as I went higher in elevation. I drove north until I ran out of the grid, but nothing improved. I was getting worried. No phone – no contact!

Time for plan B
I crossed back into the grid, and parked along the road on the broad shoulder on the east side of the NM-39. I set up the yagi for 433.1 MHz with the mast mounted receive preamp. The wind was very strong from the north. It was about 30 mph gusting 40 mph. I normally use 2, 5 foot mast sections on top of the Excursion. Here, I used only one!! I pointed the yagi to the proper heading and called Bill. At first nothing was heard, then he came back to me loud and clear. No liaison problems!

I set up the 4’ dish. (I wore my hard-hat to be safe) The gusty wind was a problem, so I put extra clamps on the swing arm to be sure that nothing blew away. I asked Bill to send a carrier. At first I saw nothing on Spectran. I sent Bill’s call and he got a good aircraft scatter burst and copied. A few minutes later he got both calls and the grid. Now we needed and ‘R’. It took almost an hour to get enough signal to complete Bill’s side of the contact. We then had several good bursts and I was able to copy Bill’s call, my call, his grid and an R. The distance for the contact was 281 miles. After the contact was completed, Bill sent a signal and I saw a weak but steady baseline signal. Not loud enough to hear, but a broad line with no Doppler. There were several good aircraft Doppler signals as well.

I carefully packed up the system. The wind was still blowing, but not as hard as before. I decided to drive to Dumas Texas for the night. I traveled up NM-39 to US-56. Along the road I saw a large flock of wild turkeys. I went east to Clayton NM. It was getting dark and I lost an hour when I went into central time zone. I got to Dalhart Texas and decided to stop for the night. I stayed at a Comfort Inn. I had a good buffet supper at the local Pizza Hut and retired for the night.

The next morning I arose at 0530 MST, had a nice breakfast at the Inn, and went on my way toward Dumas TX. I traveled down US-87 and across to Dumas. I arrived at about 0730. On the way, I saw an armadillo in the road. I had never seen one before. I checked the cell-phone and it had service. I traveled north on US-287 to CR-E. This is nearly on the border between DM85 and DM95. I planned to set up near the border and then move into the adjacent grid after completing the contact in the first. I drove west on CR-E and was surprised to find the grid border only a few hundred yards west of US-287. I stopped and took a compass sighting and found that it was clear with a good horizon to the northwest. The road was adjacent to a cotton field which had been plowed and there was an easy access from the road through a shallow ditch. The field was solid and I pulled off into the field. I the system. The wind was still blowing hard and it was cold. My fingers were about numb when I finally got the small SMA connectors between the PA and dish head in place. It was really nice to retire to the Excursion and attempt the contact.

As often happens, when Bill put up a carrier, I heard nothing. I adjusted elevation and azimuth on the dish and heard a few aircraft bursts. I sent my grid and Bill copied. Bill sent his data and I got a good burst and copied both our calls, grid and R’s. I sent my data to Bill and at 1520Z he had a full copy. The contact was at a range of 327 miles.

To move to a new grid, I usually had to take down the dish, pack up the system and drive up to 120 miles. Here, I was on the border between DM85 and DM95. I was able to move slowly along the plowed field with the dish and system in place. Then all I had to do was park the Excursion at about the same angle as during the previous contact and make slight azimuth corrections to the dish. It was the easiest move between grids that I have ever made.

DM85xx was a re-run of DM95ax. The DM85 boresite. It took about 19 minutes to complete the contact. There were several good aircraft bursts. I copied calls, grid and R’s from Bill. He copied the data from me. The contact ended at 1545Z and was again at a range of 327 miles.

I turned the Excursion in to the wind. It was still strong, and I wanted the wind shadow of the vehicle to ease the wind pressure on the dish. I carefully packed up and headed for Oklahoma and EM06.

I traveled north on US-287 to Stratford TX where I turned northeast on US-54. I continued northeast until I arrived at Hooker OK. There I refueled, turned east on US-270 and continued to US-283. The road was good with a posted speed limit of 65 mph. As I approached US-283 I passed through the small community of Gate OK. It was in a wide valley. I was concerned that I would still be in the valley when I reached EM06. Fortunately, I climbed out of the valley before I reached US-283. I drove a few miles north on US-283 and stopped to check for cell-phone service. I called Bill and the service was intermittent.. The site maps from Verizon showed the service to be better east of US-283. I turned east on CR-10 and drove toward higher ground. I passed CR-173 and continued east. I found 2 wheel tracks leading up to an oil well. I went to the well, only to find that I was behind a local hill to the northwest. I returned to CR-10 and went back to CR-173. The land rose to the north along CR-173. I went a mile or so and found an area with a plowed field with a good view to the northwest. The field was a little soft, but no problem for the Excursion. I called Bill and found good cell-phone service. I pulled off into the field and set up. The wind was still blowing, but the temperature was now about 55 degrees and working outside was no problem.

At first, no signals were heard. We were now at a range of 353 miles and we needed an aircraft in just the right place for communication. At 2001Z I copied both calls from Bill. A few minutes later we got a very strong and long duration burst. It had no Doppler shift on it and we were able to complete the contact at 2013Z. This was grid #51. (My high school graduation year) We continued operating and made some signal recordings using Spectran. In the next 30 minutes, we never got a burst strong enough to hear; just small signals on Spectran.

At 1415 MST I headed for home. I traveled up US-283 to Dodge City KS and on north to WaKeeney KS. Here I took I-70 and returned home. I arrived home at 2207 MST.

This was the last ‘grid quest’ for 2007. This summer Bill and I have worked 26 new grids and added 2 new states (New Mexico and Texas) to the list of contacts on 10368 MHz. The grid total is now 51. Next year, I think there are several more grids that are possible. We shall see!!!