I have taken my HF mobile install through a number of different iterations (the constant being the rig: an Icom IC-706MKIIG). Today I hope that I have finally reached a lasting, workable setup. Here is a quick re-cap of my trials and tribulations:
First attempt (2007):
What this install lacked in experience, it made up in effort. The successes were routing the powerline and the feedline. The antenna system was a different story. My combination of Hustler and Hamstick antennas (along with the unfortunate choice of putting an Icom AT-180 autotuner in the mix) met with mixed success. I did make contacts and enjoyed the mobiling. The rig itself was placed under the passenger seat. Placed side by side with my TM-D710A left very little room and little clearance between the seat and the floor. I came to realize that my 2005 Toyota Tundra lacked any real great locations to stash a rig. The drivers seat (no way), behind the back seat (nope), under the back seat (not going to happen).
Tarheel Model 75A and the stake pocket mount (2008):
I have not regreted going with the Tarheel Model 75A. I finally figure out that using an autotuner was a non-starter and a screwdriver offered a great solution. The stake pocket mount was a mixed success. The way the pocket was always had the antenna sticking up at a funny angle. It also did not seem very secure. I still made lots of contacts and had lots of fun.
Switched to MT-1(S) mount (2009):
Switching to the MT-1(S) mount did a lot to improve my operations. By having the antenna mounted right to the side of the bed, my ground (… and other half of the antenna) was greatly improved.
Using the iPortable (2009-2012):
I don’t usaully have a passenger in the front seat – just two kids in the back. But having a heavy weight passenger in the front seat was a no-go for IC-706 in the all too cramped location under the seat. The iPortable setup allowed me to consolidate the IC-706MKII and the TurboTuner in one spot. No more messy nest of wires. But the iPortable offered somewhat of an obstacle to the kids in the back seat.
Now the iPortable is in the large tool box mounted to the bed of the pickup.
The big task was to reroute all the cables: an extension to the powerline, pulling out the feedline, and moving the control cable for the Tarheel antenna. The IC-706 includes the AD5X fan modification.
I had to drill a hole on either side of tool box to route the cables in and out. So far, so good – everything works and I am getting a full 100 watts out on every band.
I did forget to run a line for a CW paddle… that is on the To Do List.
There are also a few additional improvements I would like to make.
- 12v booster to 13.8v
- Extra 12v battery
The road trip to Wisconsin went off without an issue. Despite the poor weather the night before, the skies generally cleared in the morning and I encountered only a few drops of rain during the first hour or so. By noon, the skies were blue and pleasant. The route was straightforward; I-35N, then I-90E.
I enjoyed using my mobile HF rig on the trip, mostly listening to pass the time but also having a few QSOs. There is a regional 40M net that occurs around 1100 AM (Central) that often has an NCS, Dave, KE0DL, who I talk to from time to time on the local repeater. I was able to check into the net and say hello to Dave. Then I made my way up to 17M and the band was hot with European DX for the rest of my trip: Hungary, Bosnia, Russia, Belgium, and Kaliningrad (a new one for me… I think). I was able to bust the pileups even with out adding the “mobile” to the end of my call.
This Saturday is the Armed Forces Day Crossband Test. The purpose of the event is to “give Amateur Radio operators and Short Wave Listeners (SWL) an opportunity to demonstrate their individual technical skills, and to receive recognition from the appropriate military radio station for their proven expertise.” Cooperation between civilian radio enthusiats and the military can trace its roots back to the Washington’s Birthday Amateur Relay Message back in Februrary 1916 in which a message was originated from the Army’s Rock Island Arsenal and was then passed over amateur relays around the country. Prior to and after WWII, the relationship between civilian amateurs and the military evolved to events more similar to what we see today with the Army Day and Navy Day messages from their respective service secretaries.
I have never participated in the Armed Forces Day Crossband Test but am hoping to this Saturday. I am going to try and copy the Secretary of Defense’s message via one of the digital modes. Once the message is copies, I can send in a copy (via mail) in order to receive a certificate. I think it will be fun to participate in this event – we will see how it goes.
When I left for Korea, I had to pull out the HF installation on my truck… as the truck was staying in Kansas and I was not. Pulling out the rig and tuner was easy. The Tarheel antenna was also fairly simple. A disconnect at the base and then I coiled up the feedline and the cable that powers the screwdriver so they would be mostly out of the elements.
I returned back to Kansas last June but did not reinstall my HF setup in the truck. My only real modification was swapping out my VHF/UHF antenna with a fold-over. The new house afords me the opportunity to park in the garage(!) but rather than unscrewing the antenna every time I enter the garage, now I just have to pull it down. Works great.
My assignment here in Kansas has me traveling quite a bit and this week I am headed up to Wisconsin. I have only driven through Wisconsin once so instead of flying, I am going to make the 9 hour drive. This had me thinking that if I am on the road for 9 hours, I need my HF rig. So today I put the radio back in and reattached the Tarheel antenna.
Everything was set – I fired up the rig and heard the Turbo Tunner beep that it was on and ready. I hit the 706′s tuner button but the screwdriver failed to turn. Troubleshooting time. I took the base of the antenna down to the bench. Then I dug out the original rocker switch that came with the Tarheel. I hooked it up to the bench power supply and then hit the switch. Nothing. After a bit of jiggeling and wiggeling, the screwdriver engaged. I guess the almost two year siesta had taken a bit of a toll.
After a test drive today, it appears as if the mobile HF rig is working FB!… one QSO with North Carolina and another with Massachusetts. So look for me (AD7MI-9) as I make my way to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin and maybe I will catch you on 20M.
I recently took a trip back to the states to attend an exercise at Fort Hood, Texas. I arrived a day early and had a free Saturday. Checking the ARRL website for nearby hamfests, I saw that there was one scheduled in town of Lufkin. Early Saturday morning I hoped in my rental car and sped east along Texas Hwy 7. I arrived around 10am. The hamfest was held at a church and I parked in the front lot along with a healthy population of vehicles bristling with antenna.
Making my way to the rear entrance of the church building, I saw that there was a small group of tailgaters with their wares out. I headed inside to the entrance table where I was told there was no charge to attend. Excellent! Now, this wasn’t a huge hamfest – but what it lacked in size, it made up in spirit and the friendliness of the local hams.
I perused the tables inside, arrayed around an indoor basketball court, not seeing anything that immediately caught my eye. Then again, I really wasn’t in the market for anything. There was a MARS booth – which impressed me that they would be present at a small event like this. In one corner the hamfest organizers were selling Lufkin Hamfest t-shirts. I scooped one of those up. Next I ran across some late 1990s issues of QRPp, the journal of the Northern California QRP Club, which I picked up for 50 cents each.
I always enjoy cruising the parking lot at a hamfest to see the variety of mobile installations. I had never seen such a large HF antenna mounted on a sedan before. The antenna mount was rock solid and I imagine this ham enjoys his mobile HF QSOs.
I have been unhappy with the installation of my IC-706MKIIG and TM-D700A in my 2005 Toyota Tundra. Unlike some of the more recent models, my Tundra has little to no room to squeeze in radios. I have had both radios under the passenger seat, which was a very tight squeeze and also prevented me from easily moving the seat forwards or back. The Turbo Tuner would not fit under the seat and had to be placed on the floor behind it. This really made it difficult to seat anyone in the backseat behind the passenger seat.
Then I saw the field communication stands from iPORTABLE. My plan was to get their smaller stand (without the speaker) and mount the IC-706MKIIG along with the Turbo Tuner inside it.
The iPORTABLE box arrived Friday and this morning I took it down to the workbench.
The box came pre-wired with a PowerPole connection on the outside of the box, two 20 amp fused lines inside the box, a rack mountable shelf, and covers for the front and back.
I attached PowerPole connectors to the power lines inside the box and secured the IC-706MKIIG to the shelf.
Underneath the shelf, I secured the Turbo Tuner using two zip ties.
Then I mounted the shelf inside the box and connected the cables between the radio and Turbo Tuner. Here is a pic of the front and back:
From here I brought the box out to the truck, attached the remote cable to the front of the IC-706MKIIG and then screwed on the front cover. On the backside, I connected the antenna feedline to the Turbo Tuner, the remote speaker connection, and the control cable for the Turbo Tuner. I left the back cover off the box to allow these cables to run out the rear of the box. I then placed the box behind the passenger seat and connect the external PowerPole connector to the power distribution block under the seat.
After a test run, everything was working great.
I am pretty happy with my new setup. Now if someone needs to sit in the backseat, I can easily remove the iPORTABLE box. I can also now use this rig for portable operations without much fuss.
I’ve had QSOs with W1AW when they’ve been at the Dayton Hamfest as well as other locations around the country, but I had never logged the home station back in Connecticut. That is until I was on my way back from the National World War I Museum where we had an offsite class followed by a guided tour of the museum. I’d been to the museum twice before without a guide and it was great having a guide this time. Our seminar leader is a colonel in the German Army, one of our classmates is from the British Army, and our PhD for this block is from Australia – so it was great getting an international perspective to WWI. As Americans, we tend to be myopic about WWI, not realizing that we only entered at the very end of the war. While our contribution was critical, it was a small sacrifice compared to how Europe had suffered. The museum is excellent – half is devoted to the war before US entry and the other covering the American Expeditionary Force.
But I digress – yes… the QSO with W1AW. I was on my way back to Leavenworth from the museum in Kansas City and was tuning around 20M. Up pops W1AW, the guest op was Mark from southern California, with a booming signal. I got him on the second call and am now happily in the log.
I am looking forward to the arrival of my new QSL cards so I can send one out (along with the SASE) to get a QSL card from W1AW.
My Field Day adventure started on Tuesday, 23 June. I finished the final touched to the eARSIB and then through every possible item I thought I might need (minus a 25 pin to 9 pin cable for a Kantronics KPC-3+ which I will talk about later) in a total of 3 footlockers. I packed up the truck, loaded up the dog and was on the road by 10:30am. There was good APRS coverage on my route along I-80 up until western Nebraska where I encountered an almost 200 mile gap. Once I hit Cheyenne, I was back in APRS coverage. My stop for the first night was Laramie, Wyoming, which I made before sunset.
The next day I pushed on west. While in western Wyoming I was able to check into the 40M Sparkle Net (7262 kHz) and talk with Dave, KE0DL, back in Leavenworth, Kansas. I also noticed on my GPS that one of the APRS stations was moving along I-80 the same direction that I was going. I gave a short call on the 2M National Simplex frequency and got a reply. We had both started the drive in Wyoming but parted ways in Salt Lake; he headed south on I-15 to Vegas, I kept west on I-80. I enjoyed the drive through eastern Utah. Park City, Utah is a place I had spent a lot of time skiing about twenty years ago. I’d been there often in the winter, but this was the first time seeing it during the summer.
Traffic was heavy through Salt Lake City and I did my best to make my way around the city as quickly as possible. West of the Great Salt Lake, I had an interesting HF QSO with a gentleman in Southern California who was using an Elecraft K3 with an the diminutive MT-1 antenna. My initial plan was to spend the night in Winnemucca, Nevada but upon arriving discovered they had me on the second floor in a non-pet room. Instead of hauling my footlockers up a flight of stairs I decided to push on to Fernley, Nevada (just east of Reno) where I found a great hotel with a first floor room I could practically back my truck up into. The dog liked it too.
Thursday morning I worked my way up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, listening to a few 40M nets. I reached the Sonora Pass around noon and enjoyed the view. The dog a I hiked up to a nearby plateau and took in the view.
After traveling down the western side of the mountains I was able to raise my dad, KD6EUG, on a repeater near his cabin in Mi-Wuk Village. California Hwy 108 wound its way down from Sonora Pass. The drive was spectacular along the scenic route and traffic was sparse. I rolled down the windows and opened the sun roof to take in gorgeous day. Reaching the cabin in Mi-Wuk, both the dog and I got to strech our legs and rest up. Thursday night we assembled the gear that would become a permanent station at the cabin: an IC-706MKIIG, LDG Z-11 Pro, RIGblaster PnP, IC-208H, all powered by an Icom PS-125. In addition to the radio gear, the station would also integrate a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station, beaconing the weather data view APRS.
To simplify the APRS setup in the cabin, I decided to use a special add-on piece of equipment from Davis specifically designed to be used for APRS – the WeatherLink APRS streaming data logger. The data logger, once configured, streams weather data directly to a TNC, eliminating the need for a computer (or UI-View32). With this setup, it was not necessary to leave a computer running to keep the weather station pushing data to the TNC and VHF radio. The weather data is formated by the data logger to be ready for transmission into APRS. The station also has a laptop which I installed the WeatherLink software that would allow me to configure the APRS data logger. Configuring the data logger was pretty straight forward. Setting the parameters in the TNC to grab the data loggers APRS weather info proved a bit more challenging. The challenge was further compounded by my forgetting to pack the 25 pin to 9 pin cable that connects the laptop to the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC.
The real work started Friday. The first task was completing the installation of a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station on the cabin roof. That was done without much trouble.
The next step would be to get the weather data out via APRS using the IC-208H paired with the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC and the Davis APRS streaming data logger. With the lack of a good cable to use between the laptop and TNC as well as not knowing exactly what parameters were need in the TNC we decided that task would have to wait until after Field Day.
Now it was time to string some antennas. The first was a 132′ dipole which ran N/S. I’d packed my CVS19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher (aka tennis ball launcher) which helped us position the antenna up about 40′.
Next we strung a G5RV going E/W. This is the same G5RV I bought from a fellow ham when I lived back in Virginia. He had never used it and I had used the antenna only once while running a special event station at Fort Monroe.
It quickly became apparent that we could not both operate using both antennas due to their proximity to each other and surrounding powerlines prevented us from placing the antennas end to end in order to minimize interference. The solution: my dad’s Force 12 Sigma 5. The problem: the antenna was back in San Jose. So Friday night consisted of my dad traveling back to the Bay Area to retrieve the vertical antenna while I continued to configure the laptop (N3FJP Field Day networked logging software, Digipan for PSK-31, and the Davis Weatherlink program) in addition to setting up my operating position on the back deck of the cabin.
My operating position setup consisted of a 10′x10′ pop-up shelter (with mosquito net) and a large table with comfortable folding chair. Inside the shelter I placed a large table with the eARSIB and my station’s laptop.
I verified that the laptops at either operating position (the one inside the cabin and mine outside on the deck) could communicate via WiFi using the N3FJP software: it worked like a charm. The software allows two (or more) operating positions to share one log. Each operator gets to see the combined log and is notified of potential dupes.
Saturday morning my dad arrived back from the Bay Area and we setup the Sigma 5.
My operating position on the deck had the antenna connections for both the G5RV and the Sigma 5, my dad’s position had the 132′ ladderline-fed dipole. Interference between the two positions was sometimes a problem. I could use the Sigma 5 vertical on 20M, 15M, and 10M as long as my dad stayed on 80M or 40M (as long as I wasn’t on 15M). While this slowed down operations a bit, it gave us time to take plenty of breaks. My dad started Field Day by working PSK-31 on 20M. I worked phone contacts on 15M and 10M. Later my dad switched to phone, which he really started to enjoy.
10M and 15M were really incredible. I was able to work all the way to the East Coast and up and down the West Coast. For dinner, I BBQ’d some brauts. By midnight we were both exhausted and decided to get some rest.
I enjoyed using my eARSIB. This is the first time I used a foot pedal for my PTT – paired with a Heil headset. That worked great, allowing me to use both hands on the keyboard. I had been unable to configure the West Mountain RIGtalk to work on my laptop – not sure why. But it wasn’t too hard to just flip the band in the logging software. I had not used my Logikey CMOS4 Keyer in some time. I paired it with my Vibroplex paddle and the two worked well together. I enjoyed a few QRS CW QSOs – thank you for those who took the time to slow down for me. I had picked up a marine battery to use with my PWRgate and that worked well.
Sunday I got up after four hours of sleep and started working 80M using the G5RV.
The G5RV worked nicely and I contacted stations from Western Canada down to Southern California and Arizona. I moved up to 40M and expierenced similar results – but was also able to work a station in Japan. My dad was up soon and started to work on 80M and 40M with the 132′ dipole while I switched to the vertical and worked stations on 20M. By about 11:30am we were both pretty much spent. Overall we made about 250 contacts, mostly phone but also a few PSK-31 and CW…. and we had a great time!
KD6EUG Brags About The Number of QSOs He Made
We slept well Sunday night and Monday morning had me back working on the Kantronics KPC-3+/Davis weather station. The biggest problem I was having was figuring out what value to use for the GPSHEAD parameter. Without the correct value, the KPC-3+ was not grabbing the weather data. GPSHEAD would pull in the data a place it in LT (a buffer). LPT setup the APRS path. BLT setup the amount of time in between the TNC initiating a beacon transmission containing weather data.
After a few calls to the Davis headquarters, I was able to figure out that “@” was the magic value for GPSHEAD. Now the weather station is up and operational.
It was then back on the road, up and over the Sonora Pass. I was able to talk to my dad, operating from the Mi-Wuk cabin station, on 80M from the top of the pass. I spent the night in Carson City, Nevada and the next day headed east on I-80. I had made the decision to take I-70 back to Kansas in order to try something different as well as seeing a part of Colorado I had never seen before. It was a long haul to Grand Junction, Colorado – I arrived around midnight. After a few hours of sleep, I was on the road again heading east through some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip. Aspen and Veil were beautiful cities – I hope I get a chance to go back there someday. But while the drive was scenic, the going was slowed and progress was not nearly as quick as I had experienced before while moving through Wyoming and Nebraska.
I finally emerged from the Rockies and headed into Denver, stopping at the Ham Radio Outlet located there. Terry, KC0VFO, and I talked about our Field Day experiences – he operated mobile. His call sign looked familiar and sure enough, I had worked Terry on 15M during Field Day.
Moving east through Denver I was back on the open road, moving rapidly along I-70. I heard a call coming over the 2M National Simplex frequency. It was a gentleman operating from the Mt. Evans Observatory – we had an enjoyable QSO and he went on to work others. The Canada Day contest was also underway and I started to hand out contacts from the mobile. I had planned to make it all the way back to Leavenworth, Kansas but realized I was too tired and needed to spend the night somewhere. I crossed the Colorado/Kansas border and arrived in Goodland, Kansas were I found a hotel room and promptly fell fast asleep.
My final day on the road was pretty easy driving. When you think about Kansas, it is usually what you see in western Kansas along I-70. Flat terrain, lots of farms, not much else. For some reason, the speed limit max in Kansas drops to 70mph (Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado all have a max of 75mph). I listened to some of the morning HF nets on 80M and 40M, then made contact with K2L, a special events station in Charleston, South Carolina. I was also able to check into the Sparkle Net on 40M and then later worked two stations on 17M, both located in and around the western border area between North and South Carolina. Soon I was back home, arriving before 3pm.
I am getting ready to head out for my road trip west. I recently got an opportunity to visit the Pony Express National Museum and am going to tailor my route west to follow (for the most part) the Pony Express route.
The Pony Express was a fast mail service crossing the North American continent from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, from April 1860 to October 1861. It became the nation’s most direct means of east-west communication before the telegraph and was vital for tying California closely with the Union just before the American Civil War.
Once telegraph service was extended between Sacramento and Salt Lake City, the Pony Express was no longer viable as a money making operation. So in a way – Morse Code killed the Pony Express.
I am going to try to stop at some of the original Pony Express stops as well as other points of interest (like Fort Kearny, NE).
For those interested in following my progress west from the Missouri River to the California Sierra Nevada, I will be using APRS. I will also be looking for HF contacts to keep me entertained on the drive, so keep an ear out for me on 40M and 20M.
Departure time is set for early Tuesday morning. Tomorrow I need to pack.
Joseph Sheehan Bicycle Road Race: Today I helped support a 52.9 mile bicycle race between Leavenworth and Atchison, KS. The weather was miserable. A cold morning to begin with. Then rain… and sleet. Even snow. I was positioned at a intersection that crossed the highway which served as about the 10 mile mark and then 40 mile mark on the route back. 52 cyclist made it to the 10 mile point and not more than 20 went on to finish the race. I couldn’t believe that many of the guys hung with it. Those were some dedicated folks.
There were four of us supporting the race, positioned at key spots along the route (inside our nice, warm vehicles). I was able to have several “lessons learned” for this event. I had a distinct lack of planning and preparation.
(1) I didn’t fully check my rig prior to the event. I was at the event site trying to do a radio check with net control with no results.
(2) When it is time to troubleshoot, you have to use logic. When time is short (because of lack of preparation) and problems come up, you have to keep your head. Troubleshooting a radio system is pretty basic. Start from one end and work to the other. Finding that the antenna feedline isn’t properly connected to the rig should be an easy fix.
(3) Having an HT as backup is good. Knowing how to change the settings on it is critical. One of those Nifty manuals or smart cards does the trick.
That being said, thanks to the quick thinking of the net control I was able to initially talk to him on my HT using a repeater that didn’t require a tone (I’d forgotten how to change the tone setting on my Kenwood TH-D7A). I eventually figured out how to set the tone and was on the repeater with the other folks. Then with a bit more thought and troubleshooting, I discovered my feedline connection to the rig had come loose and with that fixed I was back in business. Part of the problem is that I have a relatively new rig in the truck, the Kenwood TM-D710A. It is a very complicated rig and I have only scratched the surface on how to operate it. I was able to interface it with the Garmin Nuvi 350 thanks to a cable from Argent Data Systems. The cable allows the D710A to pass APRS data to the Nuvi and the Nuvi plots the data as waypoints. It works pretty well.
Big week ahead. I mentioned before that I have some specific graduation requirements for the course I am in at Fort Leavenworth. This week I should be able to complete another of the requirements: speak to a community group, school, or other organized gathering of citizens. I have put together a presentation concerning my operations of both amateur radio and MARS station while in Iraq and will be giving the presentation to one of the local amateur radio clubs. The presentation, in addition to my operations, covers the history of the US Army and amateur radio while deployed overseas. It has been fascinating researching the operations of previous Army hams from WWII (Germany and Japan), Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. I also cover the history of amateur radio in Iraq from the early days in the 1920s through the Saddam period and then today. Once I get my slides spiffied up a bit more and add some notes, I will post a link here so those who are interested can take a look. My final requirement is: write professionally by submitting a letter to the editor, Op-Ed piece, or article for publication. My intent is to turn the presentation into an article and then send it to ARRL’s QST. Most of the article is done – I hope to get it completed this week as well.
I have my HF mobile up and operational again. The setup I had last summer was with a stake pocket mount with my Tarheel Stubby 75 towards the rear of my Toyota Tundra’s bed. The problem with the stake pocket mount is that the Stubby 75 kept coming loose. I ordered the MT-1(S) mount from Tarheel. I had the MT-1(S) mounted on the inside of the bed of the truck towards the rear. The trick is getting the thing secured to the side. For this task I enlisted the help of the local body shop which did the job for under $40. The mount and antenna are now incredibly secure. I have to redo the PL-259 connector connector from the feedline to the base of the Stubby 75 – should have time to do it after school on Friday. Oh… and this picture is not actually of my install but thought it looked like some good intentions gone wrong. I will try to take some pics of my mobile install and post them this weekend.
In other news… EI9FVB emailed me confirming his receipt of his YI9MI QSL card. That’s great – hopefully the others will be receiving their cards soon (if not already).
… last but not least, it looks like the ARRL store has field day shwag for sale.