This past weekend was a good one for radio. I managed to squeak in two activations of Cuyahoga Valley National Park – K-0020. Along with that, I tried something new with my mast and my bike.
On Saturday, I drove out to the park. There were still stray bands of the ragged edge of the hurricane finding their way to Ohio. I planned to bike out to the park, but my wife and kids were marching in a parade and she told me that if I drove to the park, there’s no way it would rain. I needed to take one for the team. So I did.
The park was, as usual in the spot I enjoy, pretty quiet. I used my arborists line to get my EndFedz 10/20/40 dipole up into a tree. I was quickly reminded that this is really my best antenna when it comes to portable operation. It’s not as flexible as the Chameleon setup I have, but it does so well that I don’t mind not being able to switch to other bands as much.
I worked FT8 primarily because it was nice and quiet at the park and I didn’t feel like putting in headphones and talking. I racked up 42 contacts. That included Russia, Azores, The Dominican Republic, and Portugal. I had more than a couple of pileups despite not being able to self-spot (it seems the cell coverage at THAT picnic table is not good). It was a great activation and a lot of fun. And, of course, no rain.
Sunday, my wife said she’d ride out to the park with me if I still wanted to ride. Who am I to say no to a bike ride on a sunny day in October? We’d planned to go to the far side of the park just to get in a few more miles on the bikes and make the riding part a little longer. But the winds were, frankly, ridiculous. She called an audible and we pulled into the Octogon where I usually operate. This is where it gets fun with gear stuff.
The Sotabeams 10m Travel Mast is well made and tall enough to take the EndFedz exactly where it needs to be for extremely effective operation. For me, the worst part of any mast is guying it out and getting it set up solo. For some time now, I’ve wanted to expedite that process and as a result, I’ve done a lot of “Side Yard Activations” to test different methods. I came across what I thought was a brilliant idea and it turned out that, this time, it was!
As a bit of a side note, cycling to the park has been a total winner. It allows for just the right amount of gear and mixes two hobbies. With the Jeep, there’s the tendency to want to load up everything Just In Case and that sort of flies in the face of the fun for portable operating. With my bike, I have two panniers and a place to strap either the mast or my whip if needed. But what I discovered is that the bike itself could be very useful in a field deployment.
Crawling around the internet to chase the brilliant idea mentioned above, I found crab clamps. They look like this:
Essentially, one can clamp one end to the seatpost of the bike and the other to the mast making guying it out unnecessary. The windy conditions this past weekend tested that and this setup passed wtih flying colors.
The bike itself makes a very robust stand and was going to be hanging out there anyway. This simple tool makes for a very quick deployment of the mast and provides an excellent place to hang the antenna in any setting. And yes, there were tons of trees around that would have been fine to hang the antenna, but this was fun and proved a point!
With this activation, I only grabbed about 14 contacts due to time constraints. It was very windy and we didn’t want to hang around too long. Packing up was fast and we were back on the trail home.
Here’s the QSO map for Saturday’s activation.
And here’s the map for Sunday.
This was a great deal of fun and I plan to use this strategy in the future. This niftly little clamp will go with me no matter where I take my mast. I can see it being really useful to attach the mast to many objects and reducing the footprint of my setup, which is something I try to mind carefully.