June 2015 was the first VHF contest that I took place in… in fact it was pretty much the first contest outside of one CQWW, and a handful of Field Day events that I had participated in – while that was a mere 4 years ago, a lot has changed in that time. I had minimal equipment, an Icom IC-7100 as my main rig (still is) to get me through 6m, 2m, and 70cm, with a Yaesu VX-7 HT that I had recently added to replace my Baofeng filling in for 220. I was in college still, didn’t really have any disposable income to part with for any of my hobbies – not that I have a ton now, but knowing a deal, and how to buy and sell is something that has come over time too.
This was the first iteration of the rover – I utilized bungee cords with fiberglass masts off of the front grill of my Jeep, and a pair of 2m and 70cm Moxon Antennas I had been using for the last year in my dorm, and had just setup in my new apartment. Using the top of the mast and a nearby tree, I strung a 6m dipole, but having not tested it beforehand, I noticed that the SWR was through the roof, I tweaked it a little to get it down to a reasonable point. The 2015 contest really just became a little day and a half road trip from Niagara Falls, to Erie PA, as I didn’t really plot much of a course other than the next grid. As evidenced by the photo here I had no clue what I was doing, this was in Whirlpool Park on the Niagara Escarpment – loads of trees in the way, worked maybe four stations? I made maybe two dozen contacts in the entirety of the contest, and completely forgot to even submit a log as I paper and pen logged, and missed the deadline. While I didn’t really put any of the time or effort into this, it just gave me the itch to try this again with a little effort.
June 2016 unfortunately didn’t yield much better results, however the setup didn’t really change, the effort however did. I hit three grids, and actually put in some operating time… well kind of. I was still using my Moxon for 2m/432, and a dipole for 6, but I also had a vertical on the front of my Jeep at the time, and with the right opening that helped pickup some unique grids! For 223, I was still utilizing a Yaesu HT, but my mobile antenna at least supported 220, so I had a bit more gain. In this contest I also had the advantage of having picked up a hitch mast holder, and while I didn’t have it setup in a way I could leave it up while moving, meaning at least 20 mins of setup time a stop, I at least wasn’t using bungee cords, and scuffing up the grill on the front of my Wrangler! For this contest, given it was only my second go around, I took those 2100 points with stride. For such a small setup, I didn’t think that was half bad for a new Limited Rover!
June 2017 was a little better – having been in our apartment for a little while I decided that our storage compartment could hold a 14 element 2m beam easily…. well… I drastically underestimated how large a 14 element beam was… the package alone would barely fit in the doorway. I did find a way to disassemble it just enough to get it in and out of the door for testing, but the tear down and setup of that at each stop was a bit much. I did it anyways, but as soon as the wind picked up, my dipole for 6m broke from catching on the 2m when it took a gust, I just called it a contest then. I was also roving with a broken rear window at the time due to needing to change a hinge at the top and having it shatter in my hands while trying to fix it.
June 2017 actually wasn’t half bad either, and while I did do the Grid Blitz with my club, for some reason I thought I may have a chance to place well within the Limited Rover category, so I submitted all of those contacts as a Check Log, so they did not go towards my score, but served as contact verification for my club members as we utilized additional bands. Looking back this was a huge mistake, and I probably could have wound up with a half way decent score. I was looking at this as improvement though, I more than tripled my score in 2017, ending up at 6,408 in the limited rover category. The coolest part of this contest though was the 6m contact that I made – way out to DM32 on that little dipole! This would be my last contest as KD2CJR – in December of 2017 I was granted the Vanity Call, K2ET.
Fun fact: my drivers side door also broke during this contest – when I arrived to FN03, and decided that it was too windy to try to balance the 2m antenna to put it up, I hadn’t fully closed the door. A wind gust caught the door and blew it so hard, the strap that kept it from flying a full 180 degrees open snapped, and the door banged into the front fender..
Moving into 2018 I wanted to push this effort and expand, I now have a half of an idea of how to go about all this…. but… I was now having car troubles. I figured it still had a bit of time in it, but little did I know that this would be my last contest in the old Wrangler. In 2018 I participated in my first January contest. Borrowing a microwave setup for 2304, and 5g, not wanting to fumble with that 14 element beam again… especially in a WNY Winter… so I went back to the moxon for 2m/432, and had built one up for 223 as well.
I had picked up a 902/903 radio back in September from a club member, and had a small beam to work that with, and was borrowing an Icom ID1 for 1296 that I merely used a mag mount for.
I thought that this was a pretty tidy setup, and something that I could carry over to any vehicle, I glued a piece of shelving to a bin lid, and was able to secure the control heads and any external speakers to this. Any full sized radios would go below the control heads, and this left room for a laptop, and paper and pen… as well as a coffee. The back of a car can be a little cramped, but with no back seat, there’s pleny of room to sprawl out, and make it work. This was my first contest Digitally logging as well, and while I did not have any issues with the software, I did have some battery issues – and just for sheer entertainment value, since it was such a sunny contest which is a complete oddity for WNY, I ran the laptop via a Solar Trickle Charge.
While I didn’t quite put the effort into setup that I would have liked, I did however commit the operating time. I wound up scoring over 34k points in this contest which I was incredibly happy with, and remains my best score to date of any VHF contest!
The old Wrangler frame was to a point where it probably shouldn’t be driven anymore by May (still for sale if anybody is interested!), which was awful come June. Luckily, I was able to borrow a vehicle to still get on for the contest (thanks to my dad, N2OA)! Now this was by far the most pieced together iteration of the rover to date as I had absolutely no clue what I was doing here, and knew nothing was going to be a fixture by any means, and building something specific made no sense as I had no clue what the car situation was going to be. This was one of those, grab what I can, and throw it on the air times.
This started off with a nice 6m Moxon on the top of the mast, and while I had the larger 2m antenna, that was just a bear to haul, especially when you’re trying not to scuff up the vehicle you’re borrowing! So it was over to Moxon’s for 2m/440, and 223, and running beams for 902, and 1296, but also using a mag mount as backup. Sadly the 6m Moxon just didn’t have the integrity utilizing smaller PVC to make it light, so it was back to the 6m Dipole pretty quickly… which then started to give me troubles, and I wound up just giving up on 6m entirely.
I somehow (absolutely no clue how) was able to eek out a score over 21,000 with the monstrosity that was solidly held together by gorilla tape, and sheer will… though as you can see below the desktop style setup carried over nicely here, too! For more on this contest, click here: It’s Over, Rover – a Detailed Summary of the June VHF Contest 2018 from K2ET/R
This year, 2019, I was in the middle of moving, and didn’t have much of a desire to get on for the contest in January, but a fellow club member encouraged that I should get on to push the club effort since it’s our 70th Anniversary. With a new car, and no plans I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do. The same club member that lent me the 2304 and 5g setup offered to build up a roof rack, and lend me a rotor, and Log Periodic Antenna to cover from 2m-1296, all I had to do was figure out 6m, throw the 902 antenna up there for additional gain, and I was set! I said I’m in! So, as soon as that was constructed, I drilled out the holes to feed U-bolts through to fix this to the luggage rack of my new vehicle (2014 Jeep Patriot – purchased with roving in mind!), and we were set!
Since he built this up for me, I figured I should definitely put in the effort to try and maximize my score for the good of the club! Mother nature had a slightly different idea. Western NY was under a travel ban for the entirety of the contest… did that stop me? No.
Did it prevent me from attending our little Eastern Grid Blitz? Yes. But that’s okay, I found a few nice spots in the local two grids to hammer out contacts, and truly only activated three grids, but I did attend our Western Grid Blitz eeking in a fourth. After some logging hiccups with utilizing Roverlog on a different computer than normal, and log checking reports with this, I wound up with a score just over 21k. A 13k point drop from the previous January, but I’ll just blame my eternal 6m problems, and mother nature for that one… and somehow my log switching over to manual time keeping instead of automatic. For more on this past January Contest, click here: January VHF 2019: Day 2 and Summary
While I had big plans for this June, it seemed like stuff just kept getting in the way.. I won’t go into too much detail about the June contest, as you can read about it here June VHF 2019: Poor Score, Fun Run, but the setup used in January was broken out again, and this time I utilized a 3-element beam for 6m. This was a huge advantage compared to previous years, the beam actually has gain, and… well.. it didn’t malfunction! What this past June did show me is that it’s time to upgrade the Coax. I’ve been using RG-8X everywhere, and while that’s okay on 6m, for the other bands it’s time to start feeding it with something like LMR-400, especially if I’m planning on getting into the microwave bands a little more.
This year, so long as all plans stay as they are now, I’m planning on participating in my first September VHF contest as well. I know activity tends to be a little less (based upon research of past logs), but with all functioning well, and assuming I don’t lose much operating time in this one, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of score I can post, and if I can find spots in some unique (at least to me) grids to activate..
2020 will mark 5 years of doing this, and I’m planning on doing a few little different things to change this up, stay tuned!