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FD2014 Recap

posted Jul 10, 2014, 5:10 PM by Charles Boling   [ updated Jul 10, 2014, 5:34 PM ]

Charles Boling (AD7UF) made it to 4 Field Day sites this year; here's his travel log w/ a brief summary of each stop.

To see more pictures from each of the sites, see the online photo album.


Making J-poles

Colton, OR is a long way from Kalama, but Field Day w/ the Cascade Amateur Radio Society at the ranch of Lonny Johnson (N7CGI) is always a family favorite.  Light on the contesting but heavy on the fun and family fellowship.   Due to the wet weather (and, more particularly, KF7JZN not wanting to deal w/ soggy tents, muddy cranky kids, etc.) we didn't camp overnight Friday as we usually do; neither did the whole family come this year.  Instead, Mama stayed home w/ the little ones, while I and the rest of the hams (KF7ZIK/KF7ZIL/KF7ZIM/KG7MRE) headed out at 6AM Saturday to catch breakfast with the gang.

I didn't realize until too late that the GOTA radio in Lonny's trailer wasn't set up to tune lower than 40m, so I failed to make my usual report to the NWNA ERC Net, and we all missed the Mercury NW Roundtable net on 75m. 

After cleanup and milling around a bit checking out everyone's toys, I helped Lonny set up for a workshop where people were making J-poles from copper pipe.  Lonny didn't seem to have an official helper, so I stuck around and tried my best to assisted with the workshop, which lasted most of the day.

I felt bad because I had planned to host a couple of good hunts with a bit of training beforehand, and several of the kids were really looking forward to them, but I ended up spending so long in the J-pole class that I finally asked Alexander (KF7ZIM) to grab the "bunny beacon" and start one himself.  He and Matthew (KF7ZIL) put on a couple of small fox hunts; many people had either already left or were participating in the workshop.

CCARC (part 1)

Radio operators
We left Colton while there was still much fun to be had, and headed North, hoping to reach the Clark County Amateur Radio Club's site at SEH America in Vancouver before all of the 3rd party exhibits closed down (the best time to catch the fun w/ County agencies, etc. is usually run from about noon-4PM on Saturday).  We arrived before 4:00, but there wasn't much there besides the core group of Amateurs; apparently the rain had scared quite a few would-be participants away.

This is a "real" Field Day site, with W7AIA (the club's call) always running multiple contest stations around the clock.  They use logging software that allows the stations to be linked together for a properly-coordinated effort.  Lots of antennas (including a monster 160m this year) for the various stations, and as always their trailer-mounted tower with a multi-band beam on top.

On the way here, I realized that I was missing my cell phone; Alex had borrowed it to provide someone with some repeater info, and had left it in Lonny's trailer.  Oops!   Finding our way to the next destination was fun, since I hadn't written the address on paper -- it was in an email on the lost phone!  Meanwhile, the power had gone out at home, leaving my email server inaccessible.   After a brief stop in a church parking lot to use the Wi-Ii connection to look up the approximate location, we started driving and kept our eyes peeled for antennas....

BP Hams
A Boar-B-Q!

I first heard about this newly-organized group a few weeks ago, and was invited to stop by.  'Twas a fine site, and pretty impressive for a small group.  The large crane sporting a Yagi and an American flag helped us find the right spot, and the lady of the house directed us to the parking in back.

Unlike the main CCARC group that is organized as a large single effort, the Brush Prairie Hams went for the "loose association" of independent operators.  When we arrived, I found roughly 8 RVs were parked in a circle, most with radios set up in front of them.  In the middle was a common area w/ the expected picnic table, Boar-B-Q grill (cute, eh?), etc.

I got the idea that most of the folks here were members of CCARC, but just wanted to have a little different FD experience -- a little smaller and less formal -- and, for those who care, no rules against booze.  (I understand where they're coming from; it's kind of like when we moved our overnight camping from Vancouver to Colton a few years ago -- it was just a little more our style, esp. w/ the kids, who wanted to run around and play with different things, and could be disruptive to the more serious W7AIA environment.  Having other families with kids, a forest to run around and play in, etc. kept them out of trouble.)  I certainly saw no sign of animosity or competition between the two groups -- in fact I heard that the W7AIA group was advertising the BP Hams and encouraging people to go check them out.

Though some of the names were familiar, I didn't really know any of the folks here when we first arrived.  In no time we were welcomed and invited to share some homemade ice cream that had been made.  Mmmm, strawberry sundaes!   Need to borrow a complete stranger's cell phone and hand out his number so someone can call you back? No problem!  (During this time, I was trying to connect with a fine fellow who lived in Vancouver and had my phone with him.  Don't ask why we couldn't just use the radio...)  Shana (KF7ZIK), meanwhile, was enjoying climbing all the trees shading the area.

We wanted to get back to CCARC in time for the big BBQ/potluck, so after dropping off a little food for the gang here, where they too were just starting dinner fixings, we took off, again wishing we could spend more time, and agreeing that we'd have to keep them in mind next year!  With the difficulty in packing so much into one weekend, CARS is considering splitting their activities next year into two separate events: a family camp-out and a "real" FD operation, held on different dates, so maybe next year we'll do two camp-outs and make some new friends!

CCARC (part 2)

When we got back to the field by Larsen Electronics, I thought we had arrived at the wrong time -- there weren't very many people there!  In spite of the fact that we enjoyed fine sunshine and only a gentle breeze for our dinner, roughly half of the usual crowd were scared off by the threat of rain and made other plans.  As a result, there was plenty of food and seating for those brave enough to attend!

As usual, we enjoyed Larry's cooking and had a good time trying out everyone's dishes, catching up w/ old acquaintances and getting to know others better.

It's also nice to let the kids get a taste of a large Field Day setup, and to watch the operators in action.  Alexander was even invited to take over the 10m station when the previous operator left!


The Clubhouse
Feeling stuffed, but not quite ready to return home without rounding out our adventure, we drove past Kalama and headed for the hills above Longview.  There were a couple of catnaps had on the drive up, but everyone was happy to get out of the car and have some more fun.  This year, instead of "tenting it", the event was back at the organization's clubhouse above Columbia Heights. (Since the commercial broadcast station that they lease the land from was bought by a big national concern, they're on a "month-to-month" plan, and we can only hope that they get to keep the clubhouse for a good long time.)

No sooner had we exited the vehicle than we were greeted by Rick (WA7RPM), Mike (KG7IRB) and Carl (K7ECW), all members of our net, but the first two who I'd never gotten to meet in person!  We enjoyed a brief "eyeball QSO" outside and I snapped a picture of the trio so that Michele, stuck at home, might likewise be able to put faces with names when she next talked to them.

We headed into the clubhouse, where, like CCARC, they had radios dedicated to different bands.  It was past 10PM by this time, though, and it was pretty space people-wise.  It's always fun to look around there, with the antiques on display, what's left of the repeater equipment (When they lost their lease, they moved the 2m repeater to another location so that it didn't risk ending up homeless should they be asked to vacate in a hurry), the backup 911 equipment, all the radios, and everything else.

We hung out for a while, enjoying conversing with our "local folks" after our long day abroad, then we called it quits and headed home to get unpacked and cleaned up before Sunday, knowing that our bodies weren't going to be too excited about having to get up early for church the next morning!   While parts were a bit rushed, it was a satisfying day, and everyone in the family had a good time.  We saw a lot of variations on the Field Day celebration, and everyone's looking forward to next year's adventures!