I rolled into Irvine,
CA at 4 AM this morning a happy camper after another really fun and satisfying
Grid Trip; my fourth and last as the Es season now seems to be fading fast.
During these trips, I was on the air in 96 grids driving
nearly 11,500 miles; sometimes with terrific openings and others times with not
one QSO logged. 6 Meters will always be an exciting
“who-knows-what-you’re-going-to-get” Box of Chocolate. I hit
a lot of semi-rare and rare grids so it was fun to stir up a lot of 6 Meters,
FFMA, and WSJT meteor scatter activity.
My rig was a Yaesu
FT-450AT into the driven element of a 6M7JHV yagi mounted about 2 ½ feet above
the luggage rack of my Saturn SUV. When I stopped to set up
for an extended operation, I had a 3el M2 Starter Series 6M3SS up 20
feet. This little antenna proved to be an awesome performer
and an easy to put together perfect grid trip antenna.
I did put up my 7el
6M7JHV on the mobile tilt up mast once, but that proved to be a bit more than my
muscles and nerves could take. Being a certified ham
radio obsessive compulsive kinda guy, I had to try it, though, since one of my
mottos is “Anything Worth Doing, is Worth Overdoing.”
However, my primary motto is “True Adventure Requires an Uncertain
Outcome” so I did need to give it a try!
The four trips
have been such good post-Cancer therapy for me. I am so
grateful that I am a ham and have this hobby and my many friends in it to assist
me find myself and “engage” in life once again.
The initial source of
my interest in grid trips was generated last year at the Central States VHF
Conference - before I knew I had Cancer, of course. I sat
with Mark KM0A, a meteor scatter friend of many years, and his wife at the
conference banquet. After learning of Mark’s FFMA quest, I decided to commit to
activate all of his remaining grids during the 2011 summer Es
season. When the news of the Cancer diagnosis hit me, I
recall thinking it was going to squash that commitment. I guess I was too dumb
to worry more about my life than Mark’s FFMA! It turns out
that commitment was the core focus that put me behind the wheel of four
incredibly therapeutic grid trips after many months of successful Cancer chemo
and radiation treatment in the last 6 months of 2010 extending into the first
months of 2011
First Trip – Idaho,
Nevada, Oregon – 15 Grids
for this trip was a hamfest in Boise. The trip up to Idaho was incredibly
difficult for me because my mind and body muscles were a total mess after the
many months of chemo and radiation therapy. While the last
treatment was in mid-February, the recovery that included 3 times a week
physical therapy had been slow and at times painful. What I
needed was a reason to work my body and this first grid trip was the perfect
excuse to get me out of bed, the house and a bad mental outlook.
The 3el yagi was
strapped on the luggage rack so taking it down and getting it up 20’ or more
into the air was an agonizing experience that often meant groans of pain and a
wet eye from time to time. But, I was doing what I love most;
doing ham radio stuff. The challenges were easily justified in my mind and
proved just the right medicine to begin the process of rebuilding my body.
This trip occurred in
late April and early May so nearly all QSOs were via meteor scatter because the
Es had not yet fired up for this summer.
My wife joined me for
this trip – she was still needed to keep an eye on me as I struggled to find my
many new “boundaries”. This first trip, however, proved to be
too much for her watching me struggle along so she opted out of the rest of them
this summer. While I missed her company, her decision allowed me to put my ACOM
HF+6 amplifier in her passenger seat that, combined with a loaner Honda 2K
generator, proved to be an excellent Grid Trip travel companion!
KM0A needed DN00 that
was covered with a full two days of effort without successes...sigh.
He was too far for meteor scatter and the Es did not appear.
Thankfully, he scored this one a month and one half later.
Second Trip –
California, Oregon, Washington– 16 Grids
The second trip
centered on a hamfest I needed to attend in Seaside, OR. I
used what I learned from my first trip and had a pretty good trip now that the
summer Es had begun in earnest. I was more aware of the FFMA
Leader Board needs now and focused heavily on trying to score them some new
I made it my mission
to sit for a couple days on the CN77/78 grid line far up in WA to see if I could
take that one down a few notches with a particular determined effort to make
sure that Mark KM0A logged these two grids that were on his very short Short
List towards achieving FFMA….a mission that was happily
Third Trip – CA off
shore grid CM93
CM93 was one of the
grids KM0A needed when I made my commitment last year to activate all his Needed
Grids. I confidently made that commitment knowing I had some
good contacts in the United States Power Squadron – an international group that
has over 400 hams in its ranks. I did make just the right
contact with a great guy who had a new 36’ motor cruiser. As
I began my recovery this Spring, I renewed the contact and received a positive
response to do the trip out to Santa Rosa Island. I asked my
buddy Barry KS7DX to join me on the trip since it was obvious this trip was
going to be too much for me to do by myself after deal with the Cancer
We did the grid
“cruise” mid-June. We decided to do the operation entirely from the boat
anchored off the island due to the regulations and logistics that make it almost
impossible to run a KW from the island itself. Despite nasty weather and seas
that cut the trip time in half, we did work two-thirds of the people listed on
the FFMA Leader Board needing this Rarest of Rare grids thanks to some double
hop Es that extended until 1AM for us.
This grid no longer
occupies the top of the Need List – a fact Barry and I are very proud
about. Now…to do the same thing to DM02 next year
Fourth Trip –
Arizona, California, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South
Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming – 64 Grids
In the movie,
“Forrest Gump”, he starts running and almost doesn’t stop.
During this trip, I started driving….and almost didn’t stop!
The trip started as a run up to Montana to attend the Glacier-Waterton
Hamfest but was soon extended to attend the W0DXCC meeting in Kansas City the
following weekend. I saw some beautiful country and
experienced weather below freezing all the way up to 117 F.
What an adventure from the Canadian border to the Mexican border…the
ultimate grid trip, indeed.
Over 1,500 QSOs
generated a huge pile of QSL requests waiting for me upon my return this
morning. The stories of encounters with the local citizens,
Police, Border Patrol, TSA agents, deer, road runner little animals, Javelina
pigs, low flying birds, a steer and a donkey will feed my humor for years to
come! After numerous unsuccessful times trying to explain why
I was stopped and had that fun antenna thing in the air, I just agreed with
whatever they wanted me to be including a Storm Chaser and an Air Quality
Inspector…it was just easier that way!
KM0A is now the proud
holder of FFMA No.4 and others are much closer partially due to sharing these
really fun trips with me.
I thank all of
you old and now many new friends for the fun. Your patience
easily exceeded mine numerous times as the sleep deprivation, hot weather,
humidity, and hunger pangs controlled my mood at times. I find myself now
significantly advanced with my mental and physical recovery and pretty much
ready to re-enter the mainstream of life thanks to these great adventures with
I cannot wait for the
Es to appear once again next year! Again, Thank You.