The Quest for USA-CA 2nd Time



Page Two - The Chase

Counties Worked QRO QRP QRPp
January 1, 1998 1833 616 121

The 2,500 Plateau QRO - March 1998

Any seasoned county hunter knows that the first 2,500 counties come relatively easily. It is just a matter of taking the time in front of the rig. They also know that the vast majority of counties will come from the mobiles who drive around our great county with a rig in their car to give out counties to those who need them.

With that attitude I began to chase the counties QRO, QRP, and QRPp in earnest. I do have other priorities, like earning a living and getting three kids though school, so unlike some it was hopeless for me to entertain the idea of completing the counties in much less than five years. I was also curious just how much longer it would take to work the counties QRP than to work them QRO. I can't really make a fair evaluation of the QRO/QRP comparison as I decided at the beginning that getting the counties the 2nd time was more important than getting them QRP. But even with that constrain what I found was enlightening. In the end it was not that much harder to get them QRP than to get them QRO. Now getting them at half a watt, that is another story.

In March 1999 I reach the 2,500 county plateau QRO. That was about two and a quarter years. My strategy was mostly one of working the CW county hunter's net for new counties. I learned that if the S-meter on the TS-570D said I had the mobile at about an S5 or better I could usually get him with 500 mWatts. If he was a bit worst than S5 on the meter then QRP was a better shot. If he was very weak I'd go for the full 100 watts. I won't vouch for the accuracy of the S-meter on the rig. The system worked. The s-unit comparison is not at all surprising. If one take the traditional view that each S-Unit represents about 6 db, then going from 100 watts to 5 watts cost about two S-units. Going to 500 mWatts costs another two S-units. When I do the math a 599 at 100 watts comes in at 559 at 500 mWatts.

The PA, CA, GA, and FL are particularly good sources for getting new counties. Usually I'd end up doing them QRP as I could get most of the counties with 5 watts. Some times I went even lower. In the spring of 1998 I built an OHR-100A for 20 meters. This rig has a pot accessible from the back of the rig that allow the power to be adjusted. I turned it down to 50 mWatts for the FL QSO party just to see what I could do. It was simply the case of if it can be done, so why not try it. In the end I ran off about 30 QSOs and picked up about 25 counties.

The OHR 100A never became a mainstay of the shack. I liked the Sierra a bit too much. Besides by just switching band modules I could hit what ever band I wanted. There just was no reason to swap out a multiband rig for one that would serve only one band. However my experience with he OHR 100A in the FL QSO party got me into trying even lower power levels. 500 mWatts was no longer quite as acceptable. So in Augusts of 1998 I build a little attenuator that would cut my 500 mWatts down to 30 mWatts. Then in April of 1999, just after reaching the 2,500 level QRO, I found a Ten Tec 290 step attenuator for sale on the local packet cluster and picked it up. It gave me even greater flexibility on what power I could put out.

Oak Hills Research 100A for 20 Meters

The Oak Hills Research 100A

Counties Worked QRO QRP QRPp
March 26, 1999 2500 1807 952

The 2,500 Plateau QRP - October 2000

It took another year and a half reach 2,500 counties QRP. It had taken be two and a quarter years to reach that level at 100 watt, it took three and a quarter years to do it QRP. The QRP count was gaining on the QRO count. When I started working the counties QRP I was 1,400 counties behind, now I was only 300 counties behind. When I heard a county on the air that I had worked QRO I could go after it running 5 watts. Once I had it in the log at 5 watts I could go after it running 500 mWatts. After that any power was fair game. I quickly got into the game of seeing just how low I could go.

Homebrew Attenuator

The Homebrew

TenTec 290 Step Attenuator

The Ten Tec 290

The real test of how low I could go came in the 1999 county hunter contest. The same fellow who started me playing the counties QRPp by giving me so many counties in MS at 500 mWatts made it into the log at 2 mWatts. That was Ken, KC4UG, from his home county of Lamar, MS. Just to prove that was not a fluke the next day I had W4VQ in FL and K4BAI in GA both in the log at 2 mWatts.

Counties Worked QRO QRP QRPp
October 7, 2000 2903 2500 1615

Going Mobile QRP

I began to realize my QRP county hunting was being held up by the inability to work the counties QRP while I was out mobile. When was out waiting for my kids at one of their baseball or soccer practices or after one of their school activities I would bring along one of my small QRP rigs. But what really hurt was not being able to run QRP while out giving out the counties. I had no intention of running the counties QRP, just working them that way. Finally in August 1998 I figured out a way to modify the TS-50 to run 5 watts. It has stayed that way ever since. Of course every now and then I would forget to turn the power back up after working someone QRP and end up running the county QRP. There were a few times when I did it on purpose. The most memorable was on the way to the annual county hunter convention in TN in October of 2000. I had just left home an hour earlier and was in King George County, VA. I've run that county so many time I had no intention of running it. Besides it was still quite early in the morning. So early that most guys would not be up and listening for the mobiles. Then I heard VK4BS work a mobile. I thought, 'I wonder if I could get him QRP', so I ran King George county at 5 watts and sure enough he came back to me. Now working Australia is fun anytime. It is a lot more fun doing it from the mobile while running only five watts. I have managed to work him two more times since running 5 watts from the mobile.

The First Rigs Used QRP Mobile

For size note the quarter on top of each rig
Wilderness Radio SST Rig

SST - Wilderness Radio

Small Wonders Lab DSW Rig

DSW - Small Wonder Labs

Running QRP from the mobile got to be so much fun I started making at least one QSO for each county I drove through when I had the chance. Now I can claim to have transmitted from 164 counties in 11 states while running QRP mobile. In addition I have over 40 counties worked from the mobile while running 500 mWatts. And there is the memory of working Bob, N4CD/M from the mobile from the parking lot at work when he was on the county line of Kalawao and Maui, HI in his mobile in November of 2000. Those QSOs were at 5 watts.

HI all QRP

The mobile QRP paid of big time for HI. I picked up Honolulu and Maui counties form fixed stations. Hawaii County came from K4QFK/M in February of 2000. The last two counties had to wait until Bob's, N4CD/M Trip to HI in November of 2000. I picked him up first in Kauai County on evening from home. But getting Kalawao was a problem. The timing just did not match up. Finally I picked him up at lunch one day from the mobile setup in the parking lot at work. In the end I worked Bob QRP in four of the five HI counties. I missed only Honolulu county. That was the first county he ran and I spent the time trying to get him with 500 mWatts. Had I known I was going to work him later in the other four counties I would have turned up the power to pick him up in Honolulu as well QRP.

Counties Worked QRO QRP QRPp
January 1, 2001 2962 2651 1813

Page Three - Closing in on the Last Ones

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