I don’t exactly know the occasion, but it seems like everybody showed up last evening to join the Old Timer and I for our customary Thursday evening brew. There was Sunspot Louie, his cousin Red Eyed Louie, a couple of the Palos Verdes Dancers, and several Hunters and Activators. Only thing I could think was they were a day early for Donna’s birthday. Discussion quickly headed in the direction of Those Horrible Band Conditions, but the Palos Verdes Dancers were hearing none of that– having spent all week stomping away in preparation for this weekend’s DX Contest–and quickly changed the subject. “Has everyone had a great time chasing the 3D2 and all of the Parks lately?” ”Oh yeah,” replied one of the Hunters. “That N4CD has really been at it, first in Oklahoma, then in east Texas. And I’ve been able to work the 3D2 on three bands. It’s been Great!” Another added, “And a bunch of others have been out activating too.” The Palos Verdes Dancers were sitting back smiling, knowing that despite all the talk, they had stomped up enough sunspots to keep Activating and Hunting fun. Another Hunter quickly jumped in, “But operating isn’t all that easy. It me hours of listening and calling to get the 3D2 on 15, and sometimes I never hear Bob until has made a couple of band changes.” An Activator added, “Yeah, there were several times it took over two hours to get my 44 contacts.” The Old Timer, having had enough of the negativity, intervened, “The fun should be in the challenge. Ole Sole always Changes with Time making the challenges the greatest part of Hunting Parks and DX.” Unbelievably, everyone nodded in agreement. Meanwhile Parks People everywhere are Standing Tall withstanding Ole Sol’s challenges and wondering if Donna really admits to having Birthdays.
We are currently working through the research and addition of National Forests throughout the United States. We have been working to provide a simultaneous announcement of new parks, updated KFF County File and updated PARKSpot app filesets. Each time we add newly approved parks in the WWFF system we will make the announcements on our WWFF-KFF Facebook page.
So when you were out activating with Randy and Jerry, what it like? Did you do anything beyond operate?
N9MM: Oh yeah. We spent a lot of time sitting around chatting about this and that. Both have had nice business careers which they retired from. And both have interesting family stories. But we talked a lot about radio too.
Like what kind of stuff?
N9MM: Well, some of the operating tricks I’ve learned over the years an a DXer and contester.
N9MM: I think its really important to be enthusiastic, or at least pretend to be, especially on SSB where the tone of your voice is easily heard.
That make sense. I’ve heard special event stations with operators who sounded like they didn’t really want to be there. I’m sure they did, but they didn’t sound like it on the air.
N9MM: I know. I believe enthusiasm draws a crowd. You almost always hear it in DXpedition operators and contesters. Both are a big operating drag, though, where the ops get really tired, but the they fight through it and make it sound like they really want to work you.
N9MM: One of the best ways to sound enthusiastic is to have a quick voice cadence. Talk much faster than you normally would. That’s what radio and TV people do. And get as far from a monotone voice as possible. Oh, and to be more engaging I usually call people by name.
N9MM: Everybody loves being recognized. I learned that years ago in business. Call a customer by name, and they’ll love you. Works for Activations too.
I’m no good at names. I could never do that.
N9MM: Me neither. I’m terrible at names, but in the beginning, I spent time memorizing names of guys that I expected to work. Started with the most obvious, like Jess. Later I started using software to assist, which is one reason I use N1MM+ even though other programs are easier for POTA. N1MM+ has a feature called Call History. In that file, I populate call signs/names, so that when I enter a call sign, a name appears, I know the ops name before replying. This has been a nice tool to help me learn names of the most active Hunters, but it’s a nice crutch for those more casual Hunters. I think I have upward to 2000 station/name combinations in the Call History file now, and it grows with each Activation of course.
That’s cheating. Here all this time thought you were a Name Genius.
N9MM: Better living through software. But kidding aside, I think recognizing people by name on the air is a really important part of being a good activator.
N9MM: Another thing, when calling CQ on SSB, giving the park name seems to help. I think people like to know who and/or where they are calling. For those Hunters with a directional antenna, it helps them know where to point. Plus giving the name gives the Activation a feeling of a special event station. Some people like to work them who might pass aside a CQ POTA call. I know it slows things down with a longer CQ, but if you’re calling CQ, then things are already slow. Just saying. So my SSB CQ goes something like this, “CQ CQ Parks of the Air from November Nine Mexico in Huntsville State Park in Texas Nancy Nine Mike Mike.” Make sure to take a breath before starting or you will for sure run br gasping by end!
How about on CW?
N9MM: Of course adding the park name makes CW too long so I skip it there. But I have learned a trick that helps when signals are weak and suffering with QSB. After the exchange I usually I try and repeat how the guy ends is exchange. For instance if he sends TU es 73, I send the same TU & 73 back. It helps reinforce the QSO and let’s the other guy know I copied, and that he is in the log. When signals are strong, it just seems like a friendlier way to terminate the QSO instead of a consistent, machine-like ending.
That’s interesting. I’ve never paid any attention to that.
N9MM: I’ve mentioned it in passing a couple times, but I want to emphasis what an important part N1MM+ logging software plays. The two things it does that really matters is the Partial Call Lookup and Call History files. It’s not unusual to get a partial call, and with the help of memory and N1MM I can usually figure it out without asking for repeats which helps everybody. Second, I can’t emphasis enough how important it is to call people by names. N1MM+ does both of these well. In September I started paying more attention to the call history. Now, between the September trip and this one, I have over 2,500 unique calls I’ve worked. N1MM+ is a little more trouble, but it pays dividends. And yes, I’ll share my call history with anyone that wants it.
What about pileups? What is the best way to handle them?
Old Timer: That’s easy. Make everyone in the pileup think they are next.
N9MM: The Old Timer is right about that. The trick, however, is being able to do it. My best advice is “No Drama” and “Work ‘em Fast.” Never chew out a pileup for it will send you to a place you don’t want to go. And set a pace. If you can’t get a whole call, then go for a partial, but keep a rhythm. That helps keep things under control.
N9MM: Part of that is to speed up and slow down based on callers. If there are multiple callers, be as quick, and brief, as possible. “W4JL 59”, “73 N9MM”, “KO4SB 57”, “73 N9MM” etc. Nothing wasted. Then “W4JL hi Dave 59” when things are slower. Or “W4JL hi Dave Nice Signal 59” when things are even slower. Always be friendly, but being friendly with multiple callers is not making people wait.
This all seems to be really good advice. I suppose you shared this with Jerry and Randy.
N9MM: Yes I did. I wish there was somewhere to write it down so others could benefit.
Let me ask, what would you like to do differently?
N9MM: Be louder. I want more people to be able to hear me longer during the band openings. I have a crappy signal into Europe. 100 watts and a simple vertical doesn’t cut it in these marginal band conditions. I know many struggle to hear me. I hate, hate, hate that.
N9MM: Let me take a minute to talk about QRP. First, a very good friend of mine plays with QRP a lot. I think he holds some QRP contest records, but he has very good antennas. Jim, K5RX, has a pair of 185’ towers supporting wires for 40, 80, and 160. On 160m he has four full sized verticals in an array. With five watts he is able to break pileups on 160 because of his antennas. But he pairs QRP with good antennas. Too many people pair QRP with bad antennas which is where hardship begins.
N9MM: Talking about QRP Jim explains that with low power, the openings are a lot shorter than with higher power. Have you ever wondered how the big dogs in contest work so many QSOs? Its because their big stations allow them to have longer openings, oh, and they are stronger, so more S&P types can hear them. Where an opening may last hours for the big dogs, the openings may only be a half hour with QRP. Jim says the skill is in being able to find that half hour.
N9MM: I think there is a parallel here for QRP Activators. Shorter openings, fewer Hunters hearing them making for Activation struggles. Randy, N6MMA, who was once a QRP guy (maybe still is under some circumstances) has been quite outspoken these days about combining QRP with a good antenna. I agree. If you really want a challenge, run QRP with a highly compromised antenna in a hole or canyon. Thinking that wouldn’t be a very rewarding combination. Just saying.
That’s quite interesting. I’ve never really thought about QRP that way.
N9MM: Look, I’m too old to fight a war with QRPers. There’s a place for everything.
Are you bothered at all by the mess going on with some in the US and WWFF. It makes me, and a lot of others both confused and frustrated.
N9MM: Of course, at times. But then I remind myself to keep on doing what I do, visiting great parks, and making QSOs. It will work itself out.
Old Timer: Remember when everyone thought DXCC would fall apart when Bob White retired in ’76? I guess some won’t, or maybe most won’t. But believe me, it was traumatic when the rudder of the program left.
One final question, then I need to get home. XYL, bless her sweet heart has, a list of chores for me. How long have you and the Old Timer known each other? It seems like it must be a long time.
N9MM: Yes, it has. Hugh Cassidy, WA6AUD, introduced us back in the early ‘70s, maybe ’73 or ’74.
Old Timer: I hardly remember him from back then. Norm was an ordinary QRP DXer. But to his credit, he has stayed with it.
N9MM: Yeah, I was running a SB-101 barefoot with a TH-6 tribander. Worked a lot of DX back then, and started operating DX contest to find, and work, new countries. Then one thing led to another. Operated some long yagis and tall towers and big amplifiers, but now I’m bare foot again with a K3 and excited to work common European countries again. Kind of funny how it has worked out.
N9MM: Glad you could drop by this evening. I hope you understand that I’m doing nothing special that most can replicate.
Old Timer: And remember, POTA People always Stand Tall, some just taller than others.
With that, we got a knowing smile from the QRP Activator, and he bounded out the door with new purpose for the New Year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL…de N9MM and The Old Timer
I have to ask, how do you make so many QSOs. Your numbers so ridiculous.
N9MM: Well the simplest answer is because I want to. I’m not saying a QRP Activator who is struggling to make 10 doesn’t want to make more QSOs, but everything I do is pointed in that direction.
What do you mean?
N9MM: Before I go there, there’s a couple other things I want to accomplish which fits in with making lots of QSOs. These concepts have their root in DXpeditions. First, I want to Work Everyone Who Wants to Work Me, or at least those make an effort. Second, I want to be Easy to Work.
Old Timer: That’s exactly what the big DXpeditions do. They’ll go out and work 100,000 plus contacts over three weeks with three stations all with amplifiers. By the end they are on the bands calling CQ without answers. They have pretty much worked everybody by then, even the guys with 100w and back yard verticals. Even the local QRP DXers are in the log.
I get that. I even worked Peter I a few years ago, but how do you do it?
N9MM: Well I’m lucky in that I have time. I know there are European Hunters wanting to work KFF. It’s the easiest way to grow their already huge numbers, so I’m on the band, and on CW, when the band is most likely open to Europe. Here in the winter time that’s, 30 minutes before sunrise. I’ll stay there for at least an hour. The rates are horrible, but I’m working the Hunters that really want to work me. The calls are familiar: I5FLN, IK1GPG, F1BLL, DL1EBR, ON7VT, ON4ON, ON4NN, ON7NQ, EA1DR. About the only shot they have is early morning my time. So I’m on the band then. Usually I’ll work Curt, CG3ZN, then too, plus some other NE US stations. By then, the 20 has opened nicely to the east coast.
N9MM: Then I’ll go to 20 SSB and work the guys over on the east coast. I’ll pick up a bunch of the regulars then too. And the rates improve dramatically.
So what is a good rate for you?
N9MM: The best rates are always on 20m SSB, where I work a mix of POTA People and casual passers-by. I like both, because some of the passers-by have turned into POTA People. But to answer your question, my best 10-minute quantity is 35, and for one hour its 109. On CW I’ll often work 25 in my first 20 minutes on the band.
Old Timer: I’d like to point out that there is a little contester hidden inside of Norm who sometimes shows up as I’ve listened to him.
N9MM: Yeah, that’s true. I was pretty serious about that a long time ago.
N9MM: No not really. Jerry hit 77/hour during our Hill Country Great Adventure, and Randy has sustained over 60/hour for several hours. Those are numbers within reach of most. Remember Randy, as a QRP Activator struggled for 10 before. But it’s not always like that. Sometimes it is necessary to slug it out at 30/hour, which seems really slow. The problem is that you have a hard time knowing when its going to be fast. Your just have to be there when it happens.
N9MM: One more point. I set a goal. On my overnight stays, I now shoot for 200 in the log. It used to be 150, but there is more activity lately, so I bumped the number. I want a standard, or goal, so that when it gets slow, I’m motivated to keep going.
I see, but that’s lots of QSOs.
N9MM: Well yes, but to Work Everyone That Wants to Work You, you have to be on the band, and being on the band goes hand-in-hand with making QSOs. Remember, propagation is somewhat selective most of the time, so you have to be on the band as propagation moves around to different parts of the country. Also, people have things to do. Many even have jobs, so you have to be on the band to give those guys a shot too. I’ll try to be on 20 morning, early afternoon, and again late afternoon. Plus 30/40 for Late Shift. Looking at today’s log of 220 QSOs (less dups), there are 196 unique call signs according to N1MM+.
N9MM: But let me back up a little bit. Relative to being easy to work, being able to identify stations that are weak and in QSB is an important factor. It’s important to be able to identify stations even though you don’t have the full call. Nobody wants to repeat their call signs over and over while the operator on the other end struggles. Its frustrating for everybody. I’ve made an effort to memorize call signs.
N9MM: Some are obvious, like W??en. Its not hard to know that’s W6LEN. I hear that, and I respond with the full call just as if I’d copied it all. Sometimes I guess wrong, but not too often. There are many very familiar calls too, but in the beginning I sat down with my logs and tried to memorize the calls. I also depend on software.
N9MM: And don’t forget about the part about putting a good signal on the air. Another part of being Easy to Work is putting a good signal on the air. Easy to Work means not making people struggle to hear you. This means no compromises within the range of possibilities equipment wise. A good antenna, power and a hill top. I so much wish I could Activate with 1500w, a tall tower and a long yagi!
…to be continued
Written By Norman Myers, N9MM. Used with Permission
Hey its so great to run into you guys. I feel honored to be in the presence of such Wisdom.
Old Timer: Relax, its nothing. We are you, but have just been around a lot longer. Age matters you know. Before long your kids will be grown up and gone. And you and XYL will be sitting in your quiet, empty house wondering what to do with yourselves. Your shack wall will be full of certificates, including a DXCC Honor Roll plaque. Then you’ll just reinvent your ham life just as Norm has. Simple as that.
Geez I hope so. The quiet part sounds really good right now with the kids off from school. It would be nice to do some Activations, but that isn’t going to happen with the family obligations.
Norm, I’ve been watching you do your activations. I struggle to get 10 QSOs, and I read where you sometimes get 44 within 30 minutes. That’s crazy.
Old Timer: You know, the key to working lots of stations is to make sure stations can hear you. Simple as that.
N9MM: I do everything I can to get the best signal on the air as possible. First I run 100 watts, and wish I could run more. Maybe someday. Next, I use the Best Antenna I know for portable operations. To me the Best Antenna is the one that puts out a good signal at a relatively low angle of radiation, even if it is more work to set up and change bands. This forces me into fewer band changes, which isn’t all bad. Easier for Hunters to find me. Plus, high ground matters. Sometimes I find a location with huge drop offs to the east and northeast to Europe. Those always work out well.
Lots of people are using end feed wires. Do you have any experience with them?
N9MM: No not really. I’ve modeled them, and I don’t like what the models say. The end is very high impedance in the range of 2000-3000 ohms and that’s hard to match. And then I got to see a side-by-side comparison with W5MIG’s. He doesn’t use his anymore if that says anything. But they are convenient if that is what you are looking for.
That was some trip with you and Jerry. How did that happen?
N9MM: No kidding. I love hanging out with Good Guys, and Jerry is certainly one of those. Randy, N6MMA too. He and I had a great time too. In both cases, they were the result of just chatting over the air, and figuring out how to hook up.
You were out on the solar eclipse day with Randy weren’t you?
N9MM: Yeah, that day was something with all the activity on the band. Randy made over 300 QSOs in five or six hours. That was fun to watch. He hasn’t been the same since I don’t think. Probably when he became a Vertzilla groupie.
N9MM: Randy and I did a little antenna testing too. I had a 20m dipole in the attic back home and had made comparisons with the vertical antenna. Interestingly, the vertical almost always beat it which I kind of expected because the radiation angle of a 20’ high dipole isn’t very good. Then during the trip back east last spring a friend give me seven of those five-foot poles to use with the RV. So Randy and I erected the 35’ of mast, which had a small side arm and pully, and raised an inverted vee. To our surprise the dipole was so noisy from local power line noise that is wasn’t usable. The few signals we did hear didn’t enough real evidence, but the vertical did seem to be better. Later I realized that Randy and I hadn’t been careful with the vee’s orientation, and it may have had its ends pointing east/west instead of north/south. Maybe that was the reason the vertical was better.
I thought vertical antennas were more noisy than horizontal ones.
N9MM: Certainly wasn’t the case there. Maybe it was because there was more capture area that for the vertical. I don’t know. But the vee was too noisy to use, and we made several hundred contacts on Vertzilla.
Wow, not what I would have expected.
N9MM: Me either.
Have you repeated the test?
N9MM: Yes, Jerry and I set the mast and vee up again. This time, the noise level was still higher on the vee, but it was usable. Plus we had the orientation NW/SE so we were sure it was broadside NE. After a bunch of receiving comparisons is was a mixed bag, each having stronger signals at times. They were connected to the two antenna inputs on the K3 which made for easy switching.
Did you see any difference on transmit?
N9MM: Again yes. I did a number of on air A/B comparisons, and they were mixed, but in the end, I used Vertizalla because it heard better with less noise. And I think that more saw advantage in favor of the vertical.
I always thought that a dipole was supposed to beat verticals because of ground reflection gain. Are you going to do any more testing?
N9MM: Maybe, but it would have to be in a better controlled environment where we weren’t wasting on-air time in a park. Maybe at K5IU’s house in Prosper [ed. TX]. But twice I have set up both, and twice I ended up operating on the vertical. That says something in itself.
So it seems like you are going to stay with Vertizalla?
N9MM: Until I find something better. I like Jerry’s version better where he uses a push up mask to support quarter wave wires. That configuration would allow me to run more power if that day ever comes. Plus it is more efficient, especially on 40m.
…to be continued
Written by Norman Myers, N9MM. Used With Permission.
One of the local DXers and contesters that I’ve known for a very long time dropped by last evening while the Old Timer and I were enjoying a New Year’s Eve brew. After we exchanged the usual pleasantries, he asked what I’ve been up to since last March when we last passed through DFW. Was I still out operating from parks? Oh yeah, Donna and I have had a few Great Adventures since then, and we’ve had a fabulous year. Very enjoyable seeing the country, and staying in state parks is the thing to do when traveling. And then there’s the radio side of it. I’ve had a ball operating. Don’t you miss your tall tower and long yagis? I do, but as Garrison Keiller used to say, Life is What You Make of It. I’ve made a ton of QSOs this year, and have become friends with many of the other operators. And just like a kid, I’m excited to work any European. That’s been a fun challenge. And its been fun being around young hams again. Quite a year! Sounds like it. Are you going to continue next year? I thought a minute, not wanting to reveal any plans prematurely. Finally I responded, 2017 was such a great year hunting and activating parks, I see no reason to quit now. It’s a great group of guys out there. And they treated me well chasing me around on bands and modes. Even one of the hard core CW guys would occasionally come work me on SSB! Great guys out there. The Old Timer finally spoke up, you know one of the greatest parts of ham radio is its ability to build friendships, and there is nothing better in this world that a friend. The local DXer and I both smiled for it was ham radio that brought us together all those many years ago. With that the Old Timer finished his brew and sauntered away.
To all the Park Hunters and Activators, thank you for a great 2017, and here’s to many new Friendships in 2018! Happy New Year.
Written by Norman Myers, N9MM. Used with permission.
First off, on behalf of the WWFF-KFF team, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous 2018. May all your activations have great propagation!
It have been a week since the new KFF team was put together an in that week, with major contributions from KA2LHO and N9MM, we have put together the WWFF-KFF rules and created the new awards. Samples of the new awards will be revealed soon on the website.
The new rules for WWFF-KFF put us in-line with the global WWFF program and other countries. The major change you will see is that starting Jan 1, 2018 at 0000 UTC you will need 44 QSOs to get credit for an activation. The 10 park activation was a holdover from NPOTA and put our activators at a disadvantage for the global awards and activation credits. All previous credited activations to Jan 1, 2018 are grandfathered in.
One thing we do ask, even if you do not hit the 44 needed for an activation, please, upload your logs. The chasers only get credit if the activators upload their logs. And remember, you do not have to get all 44 QSOs in one activation. You can do it over multiple activations.
I hope your logbooks are full in 2018 and that you will be in mine!
Happy New Year,