[amsat-bb] Saturday at the Tucson Hamfest & driving around Arizona...

Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK) amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Mon Nov 9 03:42:46 UTC 2015


Yesterday was a busy, and fun, day. Between the Tucson Hamfest in the
morning and over 300 miles of driving after the hamfest to operate from
3 other locations in 2 southern Arizona grids, it made for a fun day.
A good hamfest for AMSAT in the morning, and a long loop through southern
Arizona including a stop at one of the rarest grids in the continental
USA added to the fun.

I drove down to the hamfest, hosted at a school about 25 miles northwest
of downtown Tucson in the suburb of Marana, early in the morning. I was
setting up around 5am (1200 UTC), so I could be ready for the early-
morning crowds and also work the early SO-50 and LilacSat-2 passes from
the hamfest site. I was able to do that, and also work a couple of AO-73
passes later in the morning. During the morning, my AMSAT table was
visited by a group of students from the University of Arizona. They were
interested in learning about AMSAT's Fox project, as they are about to
start their own CubeSat project. Maybe we'll hear about their project in
the near future. Thanks to the Oro Valley Amateur Radio Club, the club that
hosted the hamfest, for providing AMSAT a space at the hamfest - a nice
space with a good view of the eastern sky, for the demonstrations.

After the hamfest and a quick stop for lunch, I decided to make a long
drive from the Tucson area out to the rarely-heard grid DM31. Since I
didn't leave the hamfest until almost 12 noon (1900 UTC), I knew I would
miss some really good passes that covered the east coast, but I still
wanted to make a run out that way. I have not been to DM31 in almost 5
years, and it turned out to be a perfect day to drive around southern
Arizona and be outside to work satellites.

On my way to DM31, I stopped along a highway in grid DM32re to work SO-50
and FO-29 passes just after 2100 UTC. The SO-50 pass was a shallow pass
favoring the east coast, and FO-29 basically went right over my head. I
stopped along a highway where I was not right next to the highway, and
worked these two passes. This location was on the western edge of the
Tohono O'Odham Nation reservation, which covers a large chunk of southern
Arizona. These passes went well, and I wasted no time stowing my gear after
the FO-29 pass went away to make it to my next stop.

I only had to drive about 45 minutes to reach my destination in DM31, the
visitor center at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This spot is
about 5 miles north of the USA/Mexico border, but a few miles inside DM31.
In my two previous trips to this grid, I operated at the Lukeville border
crossing, very close to the USA/Mexico border fence. Seeing so many Border
Patrol vehicles on the highways after leaving Tucson, and knowing the
situation just over the border in that area, I decided not to drive all the
way to the border crossing. Operating from the national monument's visitor
center was OK, even with the hills to the west that meant the most shallow
western passes were not workable.

At DM31, I worked 4 passes - two SO-50 passes, and one pass each on FO-29
and XW-2F. The first SO-50 pass, around 2245 UTC, was a high pass, but did
not stretch all the way to the east coast. I worked 13 station on this
pass. FO-29 came by about 15 minutes after the SO-50 pass, and this was a
shallow pass with maximum elevation of 5 degrees. I heard K8YSE/7 on this
pass, but did not work anyone. The last SO-50 pass around 0030 UTC added
just 2 more QSOs to the log. XW-2F, just after 0100 UTC, was probably the
best chance to work some stations further away from me to the east. I used
my SDRplay SDR receiver to hear the downlink, transmitting from one of my
FT-817NDs. I worked 4 stations, and then packed up. It was just after
sunset, and I did not want to stick around this area after dark - even at
the visitor center.

Before the last SO-50 pass I worked at 0030 UTC, I was visited by a US Park
Ranger - the law enforcement at national parks and monuments. We had a nice
15-minute chat, and I was never asked to produce any ID or paperwork for
my radio gear. Normally, when I operate from this area or other locations
near the USA/Mexico border, I'm visited by Border Patrol agents, but not
this time. As I was about to leave this area, a Border Patrol helicopter
flew very low over the visitor center heading away from the border area.

The drive from the Organ Pipe national monument to Gila Bend, a small town
along the I-8 freeway, is a 75-mile drive. On the way north, there are two
Border Patrol highway checkpoints, plus the road (Arizona 85) cuts through
the east end of an Air Force bombing range where stopping is not allowed
except for emergencies. I made the drive in about an hour and a half, and
that let me work two AO-85 passes from a McDonald's parking lot near I-8
in Gila Bend to wrap up the day's radio operating. Gila Bend is at the
north edge of grid DM32, the grid I worked from earlier in the afternoon
before I made it to DM31.

The first AO-85 pass I worked, just after 0300 UTC, was probably the
busiest AO-85 pass I have worked. I logged QSOs with 11 different stations,
and heard a few others I did not work. I used my SDRplay SDR receiver and
HDSDR software to hear the downlink, transmitting with my IC-2820H. I made
an RF recording of the pass, so I could decode telemetry and upload it
later. After the 0300 UTC pass, I had dinner, and then worked the western
pass at 0445 UTC for my final pass of the day. Four stations showed up at
that hour. When I ran the RF recordings from these passes through FoxTelem
this morning, I uploaded a total of 97 data frames to the AMSAT server -
a little more than half of them came from the earlier of the two passes.

When I made it home just before midnight (0700 UTC), I had driven 416 miles
since leaving home at 2.45am (0945 UTC). If I had only driven to the
hamfest and back home, I would have had less than 200 miles on the car. The
extra driving was nice, especially with the afternoon temperature staying
around 80F. I logged 24 QSOs at the hamfest on 6 passes (2 each on AO-73,
SO-50, and LilacSat-2), 15 QSOs when I stopped along that highway in grid
DM32 on SO-50 and FO-29, 19 QSOs on 3 passes in DM31 (2 SO-50 passes, plus
an XW-2F pass), and 15 QSOs on the two AO-85 passes in Gila Bend (DM32pw)
in the evening. I enjoy going to hamfests representing AMSAT, and the post-
hamfest road trip was a lot of fun.

I know there are a few who had hoped I could have made it to DM31 for
earlier passes yesterday. With the hamfest being the main reason I was in
southern Arizona, the post-hamfest travel was a bonus. I made sure to
stretch that into the evening, and that let me operate from a couple of
other grids (DM31, DM32) besides the grid the hamfest was in (DM42). I will
try to make another run to DM31, when I can work more passes that reach
both coasts.

All of my QSOs from yesterday's passes have been uploaded to Logbook of the
World. If you would like to receive a QSL card for QSOs with me, please
e-mail me directly with the QSO details. If you're in the log, I will send
a card. I have also posted my RF recordings and other files related to the
AO-85 and XW-2F passes I worked yesterday, available at:


Hit the refresh button, or press the F5 key, if the file/folder listing
doesn't appear immediately. Other photos from throughout the day were
posted on my @WD9EWK Twitter account. If you don't use Twitter, you can
still see those photos and other tweets in a web browser:


Thanks for the QSOs, and 73!

Twitter: @WD9EWK

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