Durango CO

 DM56 and DM57

Phil Lee W6HCC

I traveled south to communicate with Bill, K0RZ at Louisville CO [DM79jx]. I planned to work from the DM57 near Durango Co and then DM56 in New Mexico near Aztec. The log showed a driving distance of 1001 miles for the trip.

I drove my Ford F250 with 432 MHz and 1296 MHz The 432 antenna is twin yagis stacked vertically on a 15 foot mast with a mast mounted preamp. The radio is a TS2000 running 60 watts with no external power amplifier. The 1296 system runs 30 watts and uses a 4’ dish with a dipole and splash plate feed. It takes about 15 minutes to set up or take down the system when I operate both bands.

The route:

Day 1: I traveled south on I-25 to Denver CO. There I took US285 south through Fairplay CO and on to Ponca Springs CO. I then took US50 over Monarch pass and on to Montrose CO. There I took US550 south through Ouray and on to Durango.

I found a field north of CR141, southwest of Durango and pulled in. I looked for my cell-phone to call Bill, but it was nowhere to be found. I had stopped to look at the topo map along the road about 5 miles back. I figured that I had dropped the phone there. I went back to the site and looked carefully, but still no phone! I started thinking that I would have to go back to Durango and get a new phone. I decided to have one more look, very carefully, in the truck. I pulled off by some mail boxes and searched again. I looked under the front seat and found the phone hidden under a plastic bag jammed down beside the seat. Crisis averted!! I called Bill and told him the story.

I returned and operated from DM57xe on 432 MHz in the field I had found previously. I completed the contact on 432, but before I could set up 1296, the local rancher came and asked me to leave. He said that elk hunters were in the area and I was not welcome. He said I could set up near his barn on the north side of CR141 nearly to CO140. I went to the barn to try 1296. As I walked up to the barn, his dog bit me on the leg. I was not pleased, but I was running out of daylight and I needed to make a try on 1296. I set up in his yard, but no signals were heard. I spent the night at Comfort Inn in Durango.

Day 2: The next morning, after a good breakfast at the Inn, I traveled down US550 heading south toward a site in New Mexico – DM56xv. The road was good and I arrived on site (The same site that I had previously used for x-band.) at about 0800. The site I had used for x-band was under a large high voltage power line. I moved about 100 yards north on a small, two wheel track road. The scrub junipers were so close that I had to retract the mirrors on the F250 to get through, Boresite DM56xv. Signals were good. 432 was easy copy and 1296 was only about 15 minutes.

Since signals were good on 1296, I decided to retry DM57 again. I drove west on Light Plant road and then up CO140. I traveled along the La Plata River, always behind the local hills. There was never a clear view to the northeast. I came to CR126 which goes northeast. It is a graded earth road. It is a bit rocky, but good enough for 40 mph. My topo map showed that it climbed out of the hills onto a wide plain. I followed the road and in about 4 miles it cleared the junipers and opened out on a plain covered with sage brush. I saw oil tanks about ¼ mile ahead. There was a wide driveway around the tanks. There was a small road which led to an oil well to the northwest which was not running. This was the place!! I set up on 1296 and soon saw Bill’s signal on Spectran. It was not strong enough to hear, but I knew that there should be enhancement from aircraft. We spent about an hour on the contact, but we made it.

After the contact, I returned to Durango, got fuel and lunch and at noon I headed for home. The weather was threatening to the south and I was glad to leave the area. I drove home via Alamosa and Walsenburg. I arrived home at about 1935. The road from Durango to Alamosa was much better than I had remembered. It was a much faster, although not as scenic, as the rout I had taken from home to Durango. The F250 averaged 19 miles/gallon for the latter part of the trip. This included several 10000 foot+ passes.

The contacts:

DM57xe-1: I took CR141 southwest from Durango. As I neared the area, I stopped to look at the topo map and stretch my legs a bit. I then continued west while I looked for a site. The road was busy and there were few places where I could get off the road to set up. I saw a turnout into a field on the north side of the road, but I was past it with no place to turn around. I was almost to C140 when I saw a barn with a wide driveway. I pulled in and turned around. I went back to the field and set up 432.

Bill’s signal was good and I copied the data immediately. My signal was fair and in about 10 minutes we had a contact. This contact completed ‘worked all Colorado’ on 432 MHz.

I started to set up 1296 MHz when the local rancher came along. He said that I must leave, since there were elk hunters in the area. I complied and loaded up the system and left. He said I could come and set up at his barn, which was the area where I had turned around. I went back to the barn and as I walked up to the area where he and others were working on a building foundation, his dog bit me on the leg. I showed him the bite and he said the dog never bit anyone. I did not make an issue of it, since it was getting late and I wanted to try 1296. I set up and ran for about 15 minutes, but no signals were heard. It was getting dark so I gave it up and left.

DM56XV: Signals on 432 were good from Bill. I got his data easily. When I sent to him, he copied fairly well. The contact took about 10 minutes.

I set up 1296 and we soon had a contact on that band. Signals were not as good as 432, but it only took about 15 minutes to get enough bursts to complete the data.

DM57WB-2: I set up near an oil tank on CR136. The weather was good with a light east breeze. The clouds were gathering to the south and I hoped to finish the contact quickly and head for home. I set up 1296. I saw a weak signal on Spectran, but not strong enough to hear. While I watched and listened for Bill’s signal, Bill was talking to his friend Reed, on HF. After about 40 minutes of weak enhancements, I finally got a strong burst that I could copy. I got the data from Bill and sent to him. The burst lasted long enough for the high speed keyer to get all the data both ways and also 73 and ‘va’. I was really pleased to make the contact. This contact completed ‘worked all Colorado’ on 1296 MHz.