Friday, 29 August 2014

Lighthouse Activation.....

Point Atkinson
Plans are underway to activate the Point Atkinson Lighthouse, CAN-400 this coming Monday, September 1st.

Timings will be 1800 UTC till 2200 UTC.

Frequencies will be 7.250 and 14.250 to 14.260 -/+

Callsign in use will be VE3FCT/VE7.

Give a listen and hope the propagation is working.....

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Day Eight .......

The Keremeos Valley
Last day on the road today, and after all the rain and crappy weather I've had on the way across, today dawned bright and clear.  The final push to the coast was done under brilliant blue skies.

The drive from Grand Forks to the Coast was spectacular.  There was a good number of large hills and the old truck strained at times, but we made it.   I stopped for lunch in Keremeos, and then continued down the highway through Manning Park, Hope and Chilliwack.  Lots of changes to the road since the last time I was through this country.

Once again today I had no response to any of my calls on the local repeaters through the communities along highway 3.  So that means no 2m repeater contacts the whole width of BC.  Pretty sad!!

Plans are in the work to activate Point Atkinson Lighthouse and one of the local islands over the long weekend.  More details to follow.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Day Seven .......

It was a long day today, Fernie to Grand Forks.....with a small detour to Trail to see, Ann, an old family friend of my mother's.  I had not heard from Ann for over 30 years...until today...I found her, and had a great catch-up with her. 

Guess what? rained all day again.  I'm getting use to this "summer weather" I've been driving through.

The worst part of the day was driving the Salmo-Creston Summit.  It's 1781m at the top, and it's a heck of a drive to get up there!  The actual worst part was the drive down.  It's an 8% grade downhill for 15km, and then a further 6% grade for 6 Km.  My brakes sure took a kicking today!

A quiet day radio wise, once again I had no contacts on any of the 8 repeaters I called into, nor did I get a response on .52 simplex. 

My night spot tonight is Grand Forks and tomorrow afternoon I should be at my destination.

Day Six .......

The Cypress Hills
Rained all night in Swift Current and first thing in the morning I continued the journey to Bow Island, AB, and drove the 250 Km in the rain.  No contacts made on any of the three 2m repeaters in Swift Current.

The country between Swift Current and Lethbridge is a combination of cattle and grain.  Everyone seems to drive a pick-up truck and wear a big hat.....but there's some great scenery through the Cypress Hills.

Finally a 2m contact going through Medicine Hat, on the VE6HAT repeater.  I had a quick QSO with John-VE6KEE.  I had just passed the first sign for Bow Island and I had a great contact, Denis-VE6AGE on .52 simplex!!   This was the first simplex contact for the whole trip.  Denis, originally from Hearst, Ontario, "doesn't do repeaters" and hangs out on the simplex frequencies.  Had a great QSO until I was just about out of range, great to make that contact!

Arrived in Fernie, BC, late that afternoon.  First time "home" in BC in ten years.

The best sight of the day was not any of the scenery I drove through, it was in Medicine Hat, and here it is:

$1.08.9 a litre !!!!

By the way, did I mention they are calling for wet snow through Banff and Canmore tonight ???  Hmmm...........

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Day Five.....

Assiniboia River Valley
I hit the road pretty early today.  I wasn't feeling too well and wanted to get to the Clinic in Carlyle, SK, to see what was up.  The clinic was closed so I had to continue to Arcola, SK, and went to the emergency room there.  It turns out I drank some un-potable water....of course there were no signs to tell you this.

Just as I left Redvers another huge lightning storm hit with very heavy rain, and that lasted about until noon.  The rest of the day was nice, blue skies and a bit of heat.

The scenery around Assiniboia is spectacular.  This was the best of the trip so far.  There's a huge green valley just before you get to town and from the ridge line you can see for 30 km.  Just fantastic.

Gas prices have been holding steady at $1.26 for the past two days.

It's been a long day, and bad weather is coming in again, so I have detoured to Swift Current for the night and grabbed a motel.

Once again there were no 2m repeater contacts made, and nothing on 146.520 simplex either.  I hit every repeater along the route, and nothing but silence was heard.  I thought I might have made a contact in Weyburn, but that repeater is dead too.

Tomorrow I hope to make it to Fernie, BC.  Can't wait to see the mountains again.

Day Four......

Started the day trying to get out of Kenora.  There is so much road construction under way it's detour city, at the moment.   Very nice little town, and as usual heard no traffic on the local 2m repeater, nor were my calls answered.

However, I did get a call back from John-VE4OL on the Hadashville repeater, just before Winnipeg.  John told me that he heard my call on his scanner but didn't think it was that repeater, as nobody has heard a call on it for over a year!!!!  Why keep it up then??  A big thanks to John for keeping me company for a while.

Not much to see on he road to Winnipeg except trees and more trees.  About 100 km from Winnipeg it started to get very foggy, and that fog stayed with me until I was about 30 km past Winnipeg on Hwy 2.

Once the fog lifted the scenery was great, wide open prairie, just miles and miles of wheat fields.

The destination today is Redvers, Saskatchewan, a small town of about 100 people who have a neat municipal campground on the edge of town.  This campsite is very clean and very well maintained.  It was very expensive.....$10 for the night.  You can't miss the place, it's by the carved HUGE Mountie sitting on his horse, it's a good 30' tall.

After supper I set up the HF gear with the 31' vertical as the antenna, and managed to work Tim-VA3TIC, Ron-VE3GO, Dave-VE3DZE, and Don-VE3MNE, all the boys from Kingston.  It was great to hear their voices on the air.  Signals were 56 to 58 but there was a bit of QSB.

Later in the evening about 10:00 PM, you could see a huge lightening storm off to the west of us.  I got everything ready for when it hit, and hit it did about 6 hours later.  High winds and tonnes of rain.  I survived and managed to stay fairly dry in the back of the truck.
Off to Gull Lake, SK, tomorrow.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Day Three.....

Rainbow Falls campsite
A wet and a cold start to the day at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park.   It's a pretty nice park, very clean and well laid out.  The only issue is that the main train tracks are about 200m from the park, and we had train noise most of the night.

The whole trip today was done in fog and drizzle, so I didn't get to see too much.  Well, I did get to see about 5 million trees......

Now, some people may find this hard to believe, but the price of gas in Upsala at noon today was..........................$1.59.9!!!!  Needless to say I didn't gas up, I just pushed on to Dryden were the price was a more believable $1.28.9.

And another pleasant surprise today was an actual 2m contact!!  Yes, it's true, the guys in Dryden are actually very active on their repeater.  I had a great QSO with Scott-VA3EXT on the way through town.  Scott told me about the extensive repeater system they have here in the North West Ontario.  Have a look at THIS page to see the details.

Tomorrow night I'll be in Redvers, Saskatchewan.  Hopefully the weather will be better.

Sunset over Superior

Day Two......

Day two of the trip started out with beautiful skies and a cool temperature.  After packing up and leaving Massey, I headed for the Town of Spanish about 15 minutes up the road and had breakfast at the Spanish River Inn...highly recommended if you're in Spanish.

After breakfast it was off to Echo Bay an hour up the road, and an eyeball QSO with Dave-VE3EGC.  Dave and I have been chatting on the Trans-Provincial Net (TPN) for many years, but we had never met.  We have now!  Thanks to Dave and his XYL Jacki for a great time socializing and touring his extensive antenna farm....and then, all too soon, it was back on the road to Rainbow Falls Provincial Park....717 km away.

Dave will take your check-ins on the TPN - phone or CW - Monday and Tuesday, 1400 to 1500 UTC on 7.055....tell him VE3CLQ sent you.

Once again, other than Dave talking me into his QTH, not a soul was heard on any of the 2m repeaters along the way, not even in the Sault.

The scenery along the north shore of Lake Superior is fantastic!   The price of gas was out of this world at $1.49.9 in White River.  Lots of construction on the roads and too many retarded drivers to even mention....and not an OPP car to be seen all day.

After 10 hours of driving the tired truck and driver pulled up at the park, set up camp and went to sleep.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

First day is done

We're 682 km closer to our destination right now.  Not much to write about today except that it rained, heavily, for most of it.   Most expensive gas put in the tank today was $1.51 a litre, and that was at French River on Hwy 69 North.

On the way here I monitored several 2m repeaters, Belleville, Trenton, Uxbridge, Lindsay, Orillia, Parry Sound, Alban, and Sudbury.  Not a thing was heard on any of them, and nobody answered my calls on them. One can't help wonder why we have so many 2m repeaters when nobody seems to use them??

The weather looks better tomorrow so hopefully I will have a more interesting day. 

Tomorrow will be a 670 km day, ending at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, which is just past Schreiber on Hwy 17 West.

Friday, 15 August 2014

And......we're loaded

Tomorrow morning the VE3CLQ wagon rolls westward with a planned departure time of 0700 local. 

Today was a busy one with the final preparations being carried out and finally loading the truck. I wasn't sure how it was all going to fit in to be honest, between the camping gear and the radio gear there's a lot of gear.  Anyway, it's all loaded and there's plenty of room left.

The destination for tomorrow night is Chutes Provincial Park near Massey, Ontario.  That's about 98 Kms west of Sudbury.  So far the weather forecast isn't the greatest but we always hope for the best!

The route tomorrow will be East on Hwy 1 to Hwy 12 North to Hwy 400 / 69 North, and eventually to Hwy 17 West.  I'll be monitoring all the 2m repeaters between Kingston and Massey along the route, as well as 146.520 simplex. 

And.................we're off!!

The Solar Panel in action.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Preparations Continue.....

There are six days left till I leave on the great western adventure and I've been pretty busy getting the radio and camping equipment sorted out and ready to go.

I have my FT-857D ready to go in the Go-Box, along with the FTL meter and the YT-100 tuner.  Power for the radio will be provided by a 12v 110 amp deep cycle battery that will be kept topped up with a 7w solar panel.  

Mounted in my truck I have an FT-8800, and all the repeaters along the routes I will be taking are already programmed in it.  Finding all of those repeaters took quite a bit of research as no matter what list you find on Google, you'll find another one tomorrow with different frequencies, different off-sets, or totally different PL tones.  In the end I had to search out each local club on line and use what their websites listed.

For antennas I have a 5/8 whip for my 2m rig along with a 1/4 whip for UHF.  These two antennas are fed from the FT-8800 through a diplexer.  There are not very many 440 repeaters along my route, but I have the capability anyway.

HF wise I'm taking three antennas.  The first one is my portable 31' Chillycon Special, and the second one is my Buddipole system.  I've also packed a 66' long wire and a 9:1 balun.  These antennas should do me just fine in my quest for DX.

There are a few more things to pick up this week, such as my Blue Cross coverage, and a phone roaming package.  Apart from those two items I think I'm just about ready to roll out of here.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Red Coat Trail

The Red Coat Trail is a 1,300 km (810 mi) route that approximates the path taken in 1874 by the North-West Mounted Police in their quest to bring law and order to the Canadian West, and this is the route I'll be following on my trip out west.

I've travelled across Canada a number of time over the past 20 years, but I've always gone by the Trans-Canada Hwy, so this will be a great opportunity to see parts of Canada that the average Canadian never would in their travels.

The truck is heading into the garage tomorrow morning for a major servicing in preparation for the trip.  Hopefully things will go as smooth as it possibly can, and let's hope the weather remains good.  I have had a warning that the bugs are still bad along the North Shore of Lake that might prove interesting.

This trip is a holiday for me, not a 'cannon ball run', so I'm looking at about 5 hours driving a day and doing a lot of touristy things along the way.  It should be a fun trip.

The route I'll be following

I'll write more on the radio equipment I'm taking along later in the week.....well, there had to be something about ham radio in this article......

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend

The International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend is the weekend of August 16th & 17th this year.  My local club will be activating two lighthouses, Nine Mile Point Lighthouse, CAN-578 on Simcoe Island, and Point Petre Lighthouse, CAN-788 in Prince Edward County.

This is the fifth year the club has activated theese lights for the contest, it's always a great time, the weather is usually good, and the DX normally rolls in pretty good.

If you've never activated a Lighthouse before get out and do it!!  It's lots of fun, and a great way to expose the hobby to the general public.

For the first time since we started activating these lights I won't be around to help out.  I'm leaving Kingston for a 29 day solo holiday, leaving the wife and the rest of the family here in Kingston, while I drive out west visiting friends along the way.

The portable antennas have been tweaked to perfection, extra parts purchased, 12v, 110 amp battery charged, and the go boxes ready for loading.  It's going to be a great adventure and I plan on uploading blog entries as often as I can find wifi along the way.  Stay tuned for "Bill's Most Excellent Adventure".........

Friday, 1 August 2014

New Portable Antenna

A few weeks ago I was in touch with Bob, VA3QV, to see what he's up to now that he no longer keeps his Blog up to date.  Bob's doing well, and as per usual is up to no good. 

One of the items on his page was a reference to the antenna he is currently using at home.  It's a longwire up as an inverted V, and he's just about finished his DXCC using it.

Here it is, corrected from the diagram on the QRZ page, as per Bob's instructions:

I'm planning on using one of these one my upcoming four week road trip (more on that later).   I will try it with both a 4:1 and 9:1 UnUn just to see what the difference is.  I'll post my results in a future posting.   If you make one, let Bob and I know how it performs for you.