I found myself in Santa Fe, NM, for Field Day this year to attend a conference. As I have shared before, I have mixed feelings about Field Day, but this was a genuinely good time. I first checked ARRL’s Field Day finder map and the local club’s web site for activity. Zilch. So, I remembered staying at the Fort Marcy Hotel Suites on several previous visits to Santa Fe. These condos are up on a hill overlooking town. Across the street is Hillside Park, with a couple of scraggly trees that might be suitable for antennas.
Instead of bringing the “usual” portable station, I brought a Small Wonder Labs SW-40, a K1EL K12 memory keyer (assembled especially for this trip), Palm Mini paddles, a 40-meter dipole, and a AA battery pack. The whole station took up less space in my luggage than my notebook computer and set up in 15 minutes. I got the dipole center about 4-5 meters off the ground and the ends sloped down to about 2-3 meters high…just enough to allow cars and small trucks to pass under them in the parking lot. Apologies for the photographs…they were taken with my cell phone (which is a regular old “dumb” phone).
The SW-40 did not appear to be transmitting correctly when I first hooked everything up. So, I pulled the cover off (packing a Leatherman tool is another good reason to check a bag) and wiggled some wires around until it fired up. Not an auspicious sign.
But, I did manage to operate for about an hour and make 12 or 15 QSOs. They’re logged in a notebook, but I haven’t looked at it since making the contacts. Virtually every QSO was a struggle. Low power (1.5 watts), wrong band (20 meters would have been better), a low antenna, and the fact that I hadn’t used the SW-40 for any QSOs in over 10 years, conspired to make thing difficult. Most operators pulled me right out once I was in the clear and zero beat (which I think was a serious challenge with the slightly drifty and definitely touchy SW-40).
My final QSO was with my old radio club from my college days, W8FT. The operator was my good friend Bill, AD8P, who worked hard to pull me out once he got my call right. After I packed up, I noticed that I had a missed call on my phone…sure enough it was from Bill. So, I gave him a call and we talked for a couple of minutes. “When he answered the phone, he said, `New Mexico?!?! I told Kelsey (N8ET) that’s what I had copied.’” We had a nice chat as I hiked back down the hillside into town and he pulled into his driveway after his FD shift.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so delighted with a Field Day effort of so few QSOs (except maybe my first Field Day, which was much more work for about twice the number of QSOs). Including the walk from my hotel to the park, setup, tear-down, and operating, I think the whole exercise took about 3 hours, and was tremendously FUN.