W9FZ/m 2017 Minnesota QSO Party Travelogue
"Honey, it's smoking!"

Click on ANY image for a larger version. Previous MNQP travels:  2013 MNQP   2014 MNQP   2015 MNQP   2016 MNQP

Ahhh, February! Time for Minnesota QSO Party again! We are working toward eventually activating all 87 counties of the state. But a promotion at work means I have less schedule flexibility than I used to have. We tend to like to activate 8 counties per year. That gives a good mix of operating time and drive-time when we take a break from the radio.

As the contest approached. We developed a plan to activate 8 counties starting at our home and working westward through the Twin Cities out to Kandiyohi County about 50 miles to the west. The day before the contest, Delta called me for a 2-day trip that would return me home about 11am on MNQP day. Darn! So the 8 county plan was out the door. But what could we salvage getting home at 11am?? For one thing, setting up the rig in the car did not happen while I was away on the trip.

On Saturday of MNQP, Janice picked me up at the airport at about 10:30am. We got home at 11am and I got out of my uniform and in to normal clothes for a day of MNQP. I gathered up the PVC pipe full of "Hamsticks", the FT-897, two position coax switch, and coax jumpers. I had a little trouble finding the board to which we tie the FT-897. We set the edge of that board on the floor in front of the front passenger seat and tip it up. Then we tie it in place so that it stays secure if we brake suddenly. Janice's legs and knees pass over the rig. We have the LDG-897 tuner attached to the rig.

Janice prepped the clipboard with logsheets and was ready to operate as soon as I had the car ready. We were parked in the driveway of our townhouse which is where we would start for Washington County.

For antennas, we primarily use a mag-mount hamstick on 20m. But we also have a 3/8-24 mount for a MFJ-1664 screw driver antenna if we ever operated on 40m. Anyways, I got the coaxes run to the coax switch and then the coax jumper from the switch to the rig.

In the picture above, we've arrived in Ramsey County--our second county. This is at the Battle Creek Park (Ramsey County) near Lower Afton Rd and McKnight.

"Smoke" Test: FAIL!   I felt we were ready and I had Janice get in and ready to operate. I pressed tune on the LDG tuner and it found a match. "Ok, Janice, start CQ'ing." She CQ'd and got no replies. Janice thought she saw a whiff of smoke. I dismissed it and said, "No, keep CQ'ing." I had her change frequency a bit and we hit "tune" again. During the tune, it REALLY DID smoke! Janice exclaimed "It's SMOKING! Disconnect it!" We quickly pulled power to the rig AND jumped out of the car! I began to investigate. I found that I had not hooked the coax jumper to the proper SO-239. I had hooked it up to the VHF/UHF output on the FT-897 and not the "HF out" on the LDG 897 tuner. The tuner had found a match for an "open"! No wonder we weren't being heard! So I hooked up the jumper to the proper port and, yes, we heard many more signals. Now we had to find an open freq and retune. It found a match. I had her make a couple of test transmissions. Everything looked ok so I had her CQ again and now we started getting answers! I may have let "some" smoke out--but not enough to knock us off the air for the day. (Yes, when time permits, I'll open up the tuner and inspect. I suspect the load resistors will not be the right color. I'll replace them if I need to.)

So we were off and running! We normally like to spend about 45 minutes operating in each county. On 20m that's what it takes for most of the stations to find us and then the rate falls off. We pulled out of our driveway and went just a few miles over to Ramsey County. We used Battle Creek Park which is in St Paul near the intersection of Lower Afton Rd and McKnight Rd.

After 45 minutes there, we got on the interstate and worked our way to the southwest part of the Twin Cities in Eden Prairie. In a business park near the gas station we knocked out Hennepin County. KC0RET, also in Hennepin, found us on 20 meters for one of our few in-state county multipliers. After Hennepin, it was westward to Carver County. A church parking lot sufficed for our 45 minutes here. We noticed that 20m was starting to soften and have just west coast stations.

Lastly, we zipped out to McLeod County-just south of Winsted. Only 16 Q's here despite having about 45 minutes of operating time. We took a few minutes for more pictures. Winsted brought to mind a highlight for our roving and mobile work. On previous VHF roves, when we've been near Winsted, we've made a point to stop at "V's Grill" for broasted chicken. All-you-can-eat for $10 is tough to beat! So when the MNQP was over, we headed north to Winsted and a post-contest dinner. If you are ever out that way, we encourage you to check it out.

Here is the special QSL card we will send out this year. I make a small "limited edition" printing run.

We upload to LOTW. We build locations in each of the counties that we operate. We sign our logs as W9FZ, W9FZ/m, and as W9FZ/XXX. Looking in LOTW, of the 133 QSOs, I see 49 QSL'd QSOs. 24 to W9FZ, 23 to W9FZ/m, and 2 to W9FZ/XXX.

Please know that we will gladly QSL any of our QSO's (and we'll probably send your SASE back to you).

Like past years, we focussed mainly on 20m SSB. We find that with a hamstick and 100 watts we can hold a frequency and seem to be heard well enough in most parts of the country. But we know that if we only work states as multipliers, we are missing many mults. We did not even bother with 40m this year.

We were glad to work W7GKF, W3MBC, VE3QZ, NW5Q, NU7J, KI7DG, KG7MRA, KD5RHR, K7SEN, K7DBN, K0GW, and AC3AH from two counties.

We were even more glad to work W1KDA and K1RO from three counties.

And our STAR this year was NM5WB for finding us in four counties! Thanks Bill!

                   MN QSOPARTY Summary Sheet       

    CallSign Used : W9FZ
      Operator(s) : W9FZ KA9VVQ

Operator Category : MULTI-OP Mobile
             Band : ALL
            Power : LOW
             Mode : SSB
 Default Exchange : JAN MN
     ARRL Section : MN
        Club/Team : Northern Lights Radio Society

        Band    QSOs     Pts   Mul
         14      133     266   
	 Total   133     266    31    8246

This year, the weather was unusually mild! Barely any snow was visible. That made finding places to park much easier. Temperatures topped out in the mid-30s. Very pleasant!

Q's per county:

WSH  28
RAM  26
HEN  21
CRV  29
MCL  16

We are quite pleased with the day of radio. Pleasant weather. Good rates when we found a clear frequency. Thanks to all the stations who found us and worked us.

If you would like a QSL card, just let us know.

See you in just under a year!
Bruce W9FZ and Janice KA9VVQ

w9fz (at) w9fz.com