Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dog, Radio, Vistas, and Photos

This afternoon, we had a bit of a fall wind storm role through the area. The lights went out in my Shop, and did not appear to be returning soon. So, I decided to take the opportunity to go play Radio and take photos in the Mountains.

A stop in route at Verlot,
along the Mountain Loop Highway
One of my favorite destination is a Rock Quarry on the east end of Mt Pilchuck range (2600'), actually it is on Bald Mountain. It is up a long winding graved access road, about 5 miles off the highway.

We stopped several times along the Loop Highway, to take photos and use the facilities.

On the way up, I heard several QSO's on 6 meters and then more on 10 meters. They were saying that 10 meters was open and I would have to agree - there was a lot of SSB chatter.

Tess at the edge of the cliff
at the Rock Quarry
Once parked at the Rock Quarry, I set up and configured the radio and antenna for 10 meters. I made several QSO's with people calling CQ, and answered many more that just did not hear me. My 5 watts was just not making it. I also rechecked 6 meters with only a little luck.

The Northwest Puget Sound Fall weather was great, it was a little damp and smelled of fresh rain. And of course, rain keeps the dust down on the mountain roads, which is nice. The weather was very unstable, one moment it was dark and threatening, and then next is was full of sun.

From the Rock Quarry,
looking Northeast, at Threatening Rain, . . .  
and then, the same area a few minutes later,
I was standing in warm sun.
We stayed at that the Rock Quarry for about two hours. I saw only two cars on the mountain, and one of them was the local Sheriff.

Hey, with a Dog, Radio, Vistas and Photos - What more could you ask !!?


Friday, September 16, 2011

Project Parts

I found a couple of inexpensive parts on eBay, which will be used for a planed and future projects.

Links and photos are bookmarked here for later reference.

16 X 2  LCD 

2-Bit Gray Code Rotary Encoders
with Push Button

I hope the sellers do not mind as the Photos were copied here from their eBay web page.

I found a interesting Post on Arduino and Encoders, saved here for later use:


Sunday, September 11, 2011

September ARRL VHF QSO at CN98

The September ARRL VHF QSO trip started early about 7:30am Saturday morning, I packed up the VAN with food, drink, radio gear, Tess (my Dog), and headed for Green Mountain CN98. I wanted to be on site early to setup the Boddipole Antenna and get the radio set up, and have time to attempt to get the computer working.

On the way up to the mountain, I heard several 6 meter QSO's so I figured it would be a good day for the contest. I had plans to work mostly 6 meters, and a fall back plan to work 2 meters.

At the selected 3200' site, I decided to configure the Boddipole as a 3 element beam, which I had not done before. I supposedly have all of the correct parts for at least a 2 element 6 meter beam. I have extra parts, that maybe I could use them to expand the configuration to include the third element. With a little hook-or-crook, the three element bean was up and adjusted via the MFJ-269 Analyzer for a perfect match. Note: later I plan to run the configuration into one of the antenna analyzer software packages.

At the Contest Start Time of 11:00am Local, the band came alive with lots of Calls on 50.125MHz and 50.145MHz. Most of the High Power Stations quickly exchanged Calls and Grids, and then it was the QRP stations turn. Because of my elevation (3200') most of the Puget Sound stations could be heard and my QRP 5Watts was heard by most that I called. There were several rovers that were more difficult to confirm, but I confirmed all stations that I could hear.

Tess chased Grasshopper and played fetch, but it was too hot to spend too much time in the sun, we kept the VAN running, parked facing North with the Air Conditioner on.

After about two hours on site, I decided to pack up and move to a second location about 10 mile West on Mt Pilchuck (at 2400'), a place called the bench. I would have an unobstructed view to the South, I wanted to see if I could work into California. The road to the bench is very ruff where low vehicles can not make the trip.

On the way down Green Mountain and to the second site, I met another vehicle coming up the hill with a rack of very long UHF beam antennas. The previous day I had heard the someone was planning to be on the mountain with some Microwave gear and I wanted to meet and check out their operation. The person in the vehicle was Ray - W7GLF, we stopped and chatted a bit, he was looking for the vista at the 2900' level and he had not been on the mountain before. I explained it was further up the mountain, but the site is very narrow with diminished view as the tree have grown. I asked if he would mind if I came along to watch his operation. He said I was welcome,  he would continue up and I would follow, but I had to continue down the hill until I could find a spot to turn around. The dust on the road was bad, and therefore our separation between vehicles would work to our advantage.

After passing the 2900' level, with a light trail of road dust continuing up the hill, I realized Ray must of not recognize the site (even though it is the only south facing vista). We continued up the hill to the next major vista at 3000', Jay was parked waiting for me. The problem with this site is that it only faces North, and therefore unusable for Microwave communications to the South and West. I explained there is another site at 3200' (which I had left earlier) with good vistas of most Puget Sound  and maybe some to the West. Of course, straight South is Mt Pilchuck which maybe a problem for a microwave path to he friends near Mt Rainier. We decide to try it anyway.

Back a my initial site, I set up the Buddipole as just a 6 meter dipole, while Ray set up his Tripod mounted 10GHz Microwave link and his car roof top mounted long boom UHF antennas. He wanted to park is car in the intended direction because the UHF arrays were currently tied to the top. This site has a large vista, but only a little window through the trees to the West and maybe he could work his friends in that direction with the portable Microwave Dish. After coordinating on 2 meters, the 10GHz Microwave link was just not going to work (too many trees). They decided to try a mountain bounce off of Mt Pilchuck. It would be a 90 deg bounce off of the West end of the mountain. With a little coordination on 2 meters, it was successful, a CW and then a SSB contact was made.

Then Ray and his other friends on Mt Rainier (South) tried the same - it was not going to work. They figured Mt Pilchuck was blocking all UHF signals, they thought they might be lucky and get a little edge refraction over the long West slope of the mountain, but NOT.

The view to Mt Rainier was almost straight South, through Mt Pilchuck!

While Ray was trying to work his magic on UHF, I made several more local 6 meter contacts.

We decided to move down the mountain to the West end (at 2900') where Mt Pilchuch would not block  the view to the South.

The view to Mt Rainier was almost straight South, around Mt Pilchuck!

I would lead the way to the new site and park where Ray could have the primary spot for the narrow view through the trees to the South, to set up this Long Boom UHF Antennas and the 10GHz Microwave Dish. Parking along the road shoulder is very narrow (with a 1000' cliff), and therefore Ray had to untie the Antenna Rack on top of the car to rotate the UHF Antenna Array. With very little coordination, UHF QSOs were logged with Ray's friends at Mt Rainier. They decided to try the 10GHz Microwave link, it required a little more pointing but was equally successful. I logged a few more contacts on 6 meters, this time using my long whip on the VAN.

The two Green Mountain sites are located at the ends of the line on the following map:
The first site at 3200' is on the right end of the line, the second at 2900' is on the left.

I did NOT make it over to the Bench on Mt Pilchuck, which was my intended second site, all of the day was on Green Mountain.

It was  a great Radio day, and I met another great Ham Friend - Ray W7GLF (Green Leaping Frogs).

My only regret, I forgot to take photos.

Tess and I got home late, we were both, hot, dusty and wonderfully DOG tired.

Confirmed Contacts on 6 Meters, at CN98:
  • N7EPD CN87
  • N6LB CN88
  • KX7L CN87
  • VE7AUL CN88
  • W7IF CN87
  • KE7KRT CN87
  • N7EHP CN86
  • N7EPD CN87
  • WA7TZ CN87
  • W7BBJ/R CN98
  • WA7ATZ CN87
  • AB7P CN97
  • K7JX CN87
  • WB7UZO CN78
  • AD7DR CN88
  • K7MDL/R CN97
  • W7GLF CN98
  • K7JX CN87
  • WW7LW CN96
  • KD7UO CN97
Confirmed Contacts on 2 Meters, at CN98:
  • W7PNA CN88
  • VE7DXG CN88


Monday, September 5, 2011

A Solution for the Solder Sponge - Cont'd

It has been 14 days since I soaked my Solder Sponge with Propylene Glycol (PG), see previous post.

After being soaked, excess PC was squeezed out of the Sponge, so the test was started with a ready-to-use moist Sponge at my Solder Station.

After 14 days, the results are very good, the Sponge is still slightly moist, pliable and readily accepts water (or more PG). Normally by this time, the Sponge would have shriveled to a water-repellent cinder - the Crispy Critter.

Propylene Glycol is cheap, non-toxic, and is readily available as a pink liquid from the Hardware and RV stores, as Potable Water Tank Antifreeze.

I consider the lessons learned, from my previously spilled PG event, a success.

CAUTION, Do not confuse PG with Ethylene Glycol (a toxic automotive antifreeze) which ingestion can result in death.