Two weekends ago, my wife and I went up to Kansas to visit her family and see our new niece. Since she is only days old, it doesn’t take much to tire her out. While my wife was spending time with her sisters and sleeping niece, I took the opportunity to go activate a park.
Cheney State Park is a thirty minute drive away from Wichita, making it far enough to get out of town completely yet close enough so that it only takes half an afternoon to get out and activate. When I got there, I was surprised to find the lake frozen over. Of course, I threw a grapefruit sized rock at it and discovered that it was still several inches thick. This southern boy rarely gets to see such sights.
Last time I was digging around in boxes, I discovered a project that had been shelved: a QRPGuys Tri-Band Vertical. It was completely built and the wires had been cut. All I had to do was tune it, so it made the trip up to Kansas with me.
Once I had it up, I hooked it up to the antenna analyzer and it read 1.7:1 on 20m with the dip where it should have been. Foreseeing semi-high SWRs, I pulled out four snap-on mix 31 ferrite chokes from Palomar Engineering and placed them on the antenna end of the feedline. Like magic, the SWR dropped to 1.45:1. For kicks, I switched the coax so that the choke would be at the radio end. The SWR climbed back up to 1.7:1, confirming that chokes on verticals belong at the antenna feedpoint. The SWRs on 30m was a little high, but still below 2:1. 40m still needed a lot of work at 2.5:1 so I decided that I would leave that for another day.
Since it was windy and drizzling, I operated from inside the camper shell of my truck. A way to get out of the weather was something that I hoped would one day come in handy while in a park.
Once I got completely set up, I switched the MTR3b over to 20 and called CQ. I called for about 15 minutes with no takers so I thought I would try my luck on 30m.
It’s harder to make contacts on 20m when your antenna is loaded for 40m. It’s also not good for the finals of your radio either.
Switches down in their correct positions for 20m, I went back to the truck and tried again. Sure enough, I called twice and got my first contact of the day, W4KN at 20:48z. Within the first ten minutes, I had four contacts in the books.
After activating the park in thirty five minutes, I switched bands to 30m. There were no takers on 30m after ten minutes and no RBN spots either, so I packed it all up.
The resonant 20m portion of the antenna works great, but the loaded portions still need a little fine tuning. I will say that I am hopeful that I can get them working. The lure of a lightweight vertical antenna system has a strong pull for me since the 17ft fishing pole is more packable and light weight than the 31ft Jackite mast. Time will tell as to whether the 30m and 40m portions will work well at QRP power levels.
Before dinner at the big house, my mother in law pulls out a relic from 1918, when their house was built.
It is a load center from the early days of electrification. I’m glad it was kept when the previous owners decided to upgrade the electrical in the house. I gotta say, it looks gorgeous … and dangerous. I would not want to reach in there among those bare bus bars to change a fuse, let alone cut power to the house. Thankfully, safer equipment exists these days.