Monday, January 29, 2018

Motorcycling trip with QRP - the plan so far

A couple of years ago I rode a dual-sport motorcycle (Suzuki DR650) from Tennessee to Utah, mostly off-road the whole way, on the Trans American Trail. I had a QRP rig along for the fun and used it to hurl dots and dashes from my tent each night that I camped. Photos from that trip are here.
Cochise and me in 1970, Tyler TX

Over the past 6 months or so I've been reading a number of books regarding events of American-Indian history here in Texas and they've put me in the mood for another two-wheeled road trip - this time on pavement with my Kawasaki, which will henceforth be known as Cochise II - because I'm a sentimental old fart. The plan is to visit certain areas mentioned in the books as a way of giving structure to what would otherwise be a random ride.

Through the course of planning this ride, I've spent much time debating whether or not to operate FT8 or stick to the KX2's native CW/phone modes. Having such a portable radio like the KX2 and not taking it along would almost be sacrilegious since it's very purpose is to allow portable operation. Thanks to Tim KA9EAK's tutelage, I've been able to make several FT8 QSO's with the KX2 - but I think I'm going to leave the laptop at home and stick to CW/phone for this trip.

Two questions remain: specific dates and what to take for a motorcycle-friendly antenna (that can be used in the treeless Trans-Pecos region and other areas without trees) though most operation will likely be in cheap-ass motels with open-able windows for antenna wire. This will be a solo trip and my standards of what constitutes an acceptable hotel can be remarkably low when I don't have family in need of accommodation, though I will try to avoid hotels that have tenants with names like Trixie or  Bubbles.

The weather forecast will settle the date question and I expect the trip to take 5 to 8 days. When motorcycle riding, I don't like freezing my giblets off in the cold and I don't like baking in the heat. Picky, ain't I? It's looking like sometime in March, possibly early April.

As for an antenna, Wolf River makes a Take-It-Along antenna that is compact and has its own tripod. On my numerous camping trips with QRP back when I was a young whipper-snapper, I always camped in areas that had trees. Wire antennas were the order of the day back then but I'm on new ground now and gladly entertaining suggestions...
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8 comments:

  1. Along similar lines, I've been happy with the PAC-12 over the years.
    http://www.qrpkits.com/pac12.html

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    1. Hi Ron - good to hear from you! I had not heard of this antenna (or the company) and will take a look this evening. Thanks much and 73,

      John

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    2. I have both a KX2 and a PAC-12. It's a good antenna for what it is (a loaded short vertical), but I've found my favorite antenna (when trees are not an option) is simply 29 feet of wire up a Packtenna mast, with a similar wire as a counterpoise on the ground. Matches well almost anywhere with the built-in ATU. I picked the Packtenna mast because their 32 foot model collapses to 26 inches and is light. I'll bet you could lash it to your (parked) bike easily enough to keep it upright when you're camping. I used shrink tubing to attach one end of the wire to an old pen cap, and just put that over the end of the pole as I erect it. I find that simple antenna to be simpler and work better than any short loaded vertical that I've tried.
      By the way, I really enjoy your blog - I check it most days. Even on those days where there's no updates from you, it serves as kind of a 'home page' of links to several other interesting blogs that mirror some of my interests. One of these days I may even try my hand with a blog, as I do enjoy reading yours and others.
      73 de W0ZF

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    3. Thanks for the nice words and for the info about the mast. I've known about these fiberglass masts for a while now - not sure why their use didn't occur to me when considering antennas for this purpose. From 26" to 32 feet - that's definitely motorcycle friendly. What works for the SOTA ops (who often operate above treeline) will work for me I suppose.

      I emailed Wolf River yesterday to see if they'd sell me a Take-It-Along antenna minus the coil since I already have one for the mobile antenna) and they said they would - but I like this idea better since it makes use of a longer radiating element and the KX2's built in tuner. I think I need to make a test run to a local park and try out the 29' wire antenna with tree supports. If the KX2 is happy with it, I'll probably get the mast.

      Thanks again and I'm looking forward to reading your blog.
      73 - John

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  2. If you are into history and motorcycles, you might have already seen this retracing of the Pony Express route on AdvRider. A fun read.

    http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/big-bike-solo-on-the-pony-express-trail-mo-ks-ne-co-wy.382552/

    Looking forward to your ride report.

    Steven N5NAA

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    1. Hi Steve,

      Thanks for the link - I'll start reading it in a few minutes. I have an account on ADV Rider myself. I'm not one of them, but there are certainly some great riders and photographers there and a lot of them really satisfy the armchair traveler in many of us. Not ham related but here is a great report from a rider in your neck of the woods:

      http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/lonestars-adventure-to-south-america.1254521/

      73 - John

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  3. John, I tend to favor wire antennas. SOTABEAMS offer a collabsible pole that has very short sections. This makes it a tiny bit heavier than a Jackite, etc. but allows it to more easily pack into a suitcase, backpack, or saddlebags.

    Tim N9PUZ

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    1. Well the jury's still out - I just got back home after riding 15 miles on wet roads in drizzly weather before turning around and coming home. The KX2, wire antenna and other doodads were in the saddlebags but it's no fun riding in those conditions. The sun will be out late this afternoon but it'll be too late by then.

      I will try these suggestions soon though and appreciate hearing of the experiences of you guys.

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