Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yesterday I went hilltopping at a local mall.

Hilltopping is taking a portable transciever to the highest hill in the area and going on the air. The weather was beautiful and I didn't want to waste it. I bought the PRC 320 just for that.

The original plan was to toss up a wire antenna and go for it and check into the YLISS net as I checked out of it from the homestead before I left.

Next to the mall there is a baseball field with a few light poles around it and the light poles looked perfect for a place to string the antenna wire. One shot with the slingshot lofted a piece of monofiliment perfectly over the pole. As I found out the shot was too perfect. The pole was creosoted wood and the line got snagged in the end grain and I lost my sinker. Here's where I screwed up. I didn't bring any spares.

There were a couple of other places I could have strung the antenna wire but I deemed them either too low or in a place where someone in a vehicle could hit the wire even though it is neon pink.

What? Neon pink?

Yeah. Neon pink. It sticks out and that is exactly what you want something like that to do, be seen so nobody trips over it.

Still, the thing could have a string of lights along it accompanied by sirens and horns blaring out that it was a death wire and still somebody would hit it and state that it is their God Given right to enter this ball field lot even though there are 'No Tresspassing' signs posted all over the place.

The signs are there mainly so that the police have a little leverage if someone like a group of unruly kids is hanging out there and it's a reasonable guess that the local gendarmes only selectively enforce it.

Still, there is a chance that some fuzzy cheeked rookie may amble up and attempt to make an issue of it but even that is somewhat doubtful. For one thing I am an older guy which generally means I am not likely to be up to something like vandalism or other dumb things. For another I have a ham ticket in my pocket and can simply explain thet I'm on an emergency communications drill, which in a sense I am.

We used to say about local rifle matches that they were simply just practice for Camp Perry and hilltopping in the same sense is just practice for if anything happens that requires emergency communications.

The likely scenario is that any policeman that does come to investigate is probably going to be more interested in checking out the equipment than much of anything else. Policemen by nature are curious and while it is likely that one will swing by, I doubt I'll get thrown out of the ball field.

While I could have done something else to set up an antenna wire, I decided to simply use the 2.5 meter battle whip and try my luck that way.

I set the rig up and fired it up using the external pbattery pack I made out of a couple of 12 volt batteries and a .50 cal ammo can. I was on the air in about a minute and tuned the whip up on the antenna tuner. Shortly thereafter I was talking to the net control of the YLISS net. The guy was in Florida.


A cruiser drove by, slowed up a bit and kept moving. I had called it. They have seen me there before so I guess they decided I wasn't worth checking out.

WHile the rig is somewhat underpowered and was using a very short antenna I was getting quite a few signals from all over the place. However, I am generally pretty loathe to bust in on someone's conversations so I tend to wait until the frequency is clear and try to pick up someone that has not either changed frequency or turned their set off.

I left 20 meters and went up to 17 meters and tuned the antenna.

I wasn't having a whole lot of luck but I was enjoying a beautiful day and that is always a good thing.

A fat lady pulled in and paid me little mind as she went over to a picnic table with her lunch. She must have been taking a late lunch hour.

I fooled around a bit and then heard someone calling any station. The call for that is CQ.

I answered his call and found myself yakking with a ham in Northern Ireland!

While it wasn't a full 5x5 signal, it was about a 4x4 at my end and I was speaking fairly loudly into the handset using the phonetic alphabet and general ham abbreviations and Q signals. I looked over and saw te lady was a bit nervous watching me. I guess I could understand why. It looked odd and out of place.

Playing with her head would simply be cruel. She had not bothered me in any way and all she wanted to do is sit about 50 feet away and eat her lunch. She had not been nosy or a pest in any way so after I finished my little chat with the guy in Northern Ireland I settled down fo a second and got calm again. I smiled at here and she relaxed.

It was a pretty good QSO and when it was over I decided to call it a day and go home with a win under my belt.

Northern Ireland on a PRC-320 using a 2.5 meter whai is pretty damned good if you ask me. I simply started packing my rig and headed for the barn.

When I got home as I was pulling into the driveway the officer that had shown up the other day while I was cutting my antenna pulled up behind me. He rolled down the window.

"I'm glad I caught you," he said. "I told my kid about your little space station project and he was real interested. How hard is it to get a license and how much does the radio cost?"

I told him about how fairly inexpensive 2 meter rigs are. Then I pulled the PRC 320 out and showed it to him and told him I had just contacted Ireland with it. He seemed impressed. I explained it was an old military rig I had picked up.

We chatted briefly about his son that seemed to be pretty sharp with a head for science. Then I told him that in order to get through the kid was going to have to work at it and wake up at odd hours.

He asked me what he thought he ought to do and I told him to do nothing until the kid gets a license because it will at least show some kind of commitment. He agreed, and he returned to car and his patrol duties.

A minute later Neighbor Bob showed up and wanted a beer. I handed him one but it was too early for me to join him so we sat and enjoyed some more of a great day.

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