Western Kansas

DM98, DM97 and DM96

8-4-03 and 8-5-03

Phil Lee W6HCC

On Aug 4, 2003 I traveled to Weskan Kansas for a shot from DM98AV. I left home at 0845 hrs and arrived on site about 1345. The route was I70, then US 40 to Limon and on to Kit Carson and Cheyenne Wells. Crossing into Kansas, the first town is Weskan KS. As I traveled, there was a large thunder storm to the south and east. It had moved through the area of Weskan and it had rained hard. The roads in the back country northwest of town were like a mud pie!! I was driving the white truck a ’94 Ford F250 (4X2)with a 6′ dish. The 902 rig runs 40 watts CW, (class C PA). The 2304, 3456, and 5760 rigs use a TWT providing 8, 12, and 18 watts respectively. The 10 GHz rig runs one watt. The exciter is a multi-band unit using plugins for each band. The IF is 2 meters using an old Icom radio.

I had to be really careful of the roads. I did not want to get stuck. At one point, I started down a road and found that I was sinking into the mud about 2 inches. I very carefully backed out of that road! With the 6′ dish, I have a very limited field of fire. I need to have the back of the truck just about on bore sight. On the muddy roads, there was no good place to do this. I took a road marked ‘dead end’ which ended in a farmer’s front yard. There was a pair of wheel tracks leading into a field. These tracks were grassy and the soil was firm underneath. I was able to pull off into this area and aim the truck at about 300 deg. T. I set up the system. During operation, the farmer came by, waved, but did not stop.

Liaison on 433.1 was good. At 1422 I made contact with Bill (K0RZ) in Louisville CO. After the CW exchange on 902 MHz, I listened for Don (N0UGY) and heard a CW carrier from him. He was not able to hear me. At that point something went wrong. I was unable to hear or be heard on 902. The power meter indicated that I was transmitting, but no one heard me. Before the trip I upgraded the tri-band rig to include a plugin for 902 MHz. It converts the 2302 output from the tri-band rig to 902 using a 1400 MHz offset generated in the plugin. I thought that the brick generating the 1400 MHz might have broken lock. (I had no lock indicator on the brick.) We decided that we should go on the 2304.

2304 MHz was no better than 902. I made power, but no one heard me and I could not hear anything. I figured that the 2160 brick in the tri-band rig must be out of lock. The temperature was very hot and it was humid after the rain. I was wringing wet after setting up the system.

I took the tri-band rig out of the rack and re-adjusted the cavity in the 2160 brick. It was in fact out of lock. I left the cover off the rig to give it a little more air. No further lock problems were experienced. To remove the rig, I had to lower the 433.1 antenna and place the pole on the ground. That made it about 4 feet lower than when it is in the truck. Bill noted that my 433.1 signal was down. Upon replacing the mast in the truck, the signal was back up. Even in a mobile setup, height is important!

Now 2304 was working! At 1543 we made the contact with no problems. The big dish is great for sending and receiving signals, but it is really slow to set up the TWT and other systems required for operation. I am getting better at the setup, but it is still slow.

We moved on to 5760 MHz. At 1604 we made contact. It was a pleasant surprise, considering all the problems we had in the past on this band. My signal was Q5S3 to Bill and we completed the CW contact with ease.

The final band was 10 GHz. Now the big dish really has some gain, but the pointing is more critical. The beam width is about 1.5 degrees. Signals were fluttery, but a CW contact was made at 1639. My signals were Q5S1 to Bill.

I put the system into travel mode and headed on down the road. The sun had dried the roads and it was no problem getting back to US40. I turned south on KS27. It is a good road and I arrived at Syracuse KS for the night. It is not much of a place, but it had one motel which is the Syracuse Inn. It is clean and OK, but not outstanding. The weather was still hot and muggy. At 2030 it was still 89 degrees. I called my daughter, Lori, on the cell phone. It is a roving area! Bah! After dinner, I took a drive south on KS27. There is a good dirt road about 2 miles south of town which heads west along the rise in the land south of the Arkansas River. I figured this would be a good place to start the next day.

The next day, August 5th, I went west on the dirt road. About 5 miles away, I could see a commercial radio tower with 6 large “sugar scoop” antennae. I went to the tower and found enough area to set up with the truck pointing at about 330 degrees True. The GPS said the grid was DM97bw. I was on the air on 433.1 at 0700 hrs. Liaison was good. At 0711 we had a contact. My signals were Q5S3 and it was easy CW. I set up for 2304 and at 0742 we made the contact. Good CW with a Q5S1 report. At 0751 we made a 5760 contact. Signals were good and my report was Q5S2. It was nice to make a 5760 contact with little effort. In the past, this band has been a problem. The final band was 10 GHz. Signals were Q5S2 and easy CW. By 0900 I was packed up and ready to travel. We decided to try to go to DM96. That would be about 75 miles on down KS27.

The road, KS27, is good and the speed limit is 65 mph. I went south to Elkhart KS and crossed over into Oklahoma. I found numerous roads among the oil wells southwest of Elkhart. The land is very flat. There are a few small hills, but no real high spots. I drove around and saw what looked like a good spot, but there were no roads to it. I went a little further, and found a road to a non-operating oil well. I figured there must be an area where I could point the truck in the right direction by the pump. The area was flat and I was able to point the truck at about 340 degrees True. The grid was DM96ax.

I was on the air at 1100 and we had a Q5S3 CW contact on 902 by 1119. We moved to 2304. Here the signals were not good. With many repeats we managed a contact with a Q3S1 report. We tried 5760 and Bill could just hear me at the noise and I heard him only occasionally, just in the noise. No contact was possible on 5760 MHz. We wondered if it was worth trying x-band. We decided to give it a try and to our pleasant surprise, we could both hear signals. The level was at the noise, but there was QSB and at one point I got a burst for about 5 seconds just as Bill was sending calls and grid. No problem! With many repeats and the headphones, we managed a contact at 1340. At times the signal peaked Q5S2! Again, without the big dish, this probably would not have worked.

I went back to town to get food and fuel. I drove home with a supper stop in Kit Carson. I arrived home just after 2105. The distance to the site in OK is 410 road miles. The LOS distance is about 276 miles from Louisville CO.