MEN OF ADVENTURE by Dan Caesar NI9Y PB #218

These last two Polar Bear adventure radio sprints in January and February was quite an experience operating QRP (5 watts or less) outside in the snow. I never thought I would never do anything like this in freezing weather. There I was knee deep in snow; with a wind chill around 15 degrees, under an open air shelter at Cobus Creek Park, located in the northwest corner of Elkhart County in January. I was invited by Bob, KB9IVA, who said it would be fun. So I got my portable gear and winter parka and headed out to the site. When I arrived Bob wasn’t there. I got out of the warm car and looked over the snow covered picnic table. The bright sun reflected off the stone on the side of the building helped warm things up a bit.

initial setup

First one gets the warmest spot!

Then the sun disappeared and it became colder.  The heated outhouse was open so I warmed up for a few minutes.

QRP in the parking lot!

QRP in the parking lot!

It was too cold for me to set up outside so I operated in my mobile on 40 meters.  Bob arrived in a snowmobile outfit with a bag full of tools, and his ICOM-703 and MP-1 portable all band vertical antenna.

The antenna would not tune properly so I ran 25 feet of RG-59U coax from my mobile antenna to the picnic table.  Then the portable battery pack ran out of juice.  So I took my emergency car starter battery and hay wired a connection to the ICOM-703 and we were back on the air.  When it’s cold radios and batteries don’t work properly.  Wires become stiff, batteries quickly discharge, and the straight key was difficult to use.  Not to mention your exposed fingers feel frostbitten.  I had forgotten my gloves but you couldn’t send CW with them on anyway.

antenna vertical

Our vertical in the park!

Cold stiff hands on a very cold key! YIKES!

Cold stiff hands on a very cold key! YIKES!

I was more prepared for the February sprint but didn’t count on blowing snow.  Participating in this sprint was, Bob, WA9S Keith, and Steve KB9ZVJ and I Ni9Y.  Keith arrived late and operated inside his Jeep.  I Made a half-dozen contacts from Utah to Colorado to the East coast with my HB1-A 4 watt transceiver using a 50’ end-fed wire only 27 inches high.  Then the wires snapped off my battery pack.  So we quickly repaired the pack with a new connector and we were back in business again.

Snowy Location for the PBMME

2 Cold QRP Guys operate in the Feb 2010 PBMME

Bob had his IC-703.  His headphone band cracked in two in the cold.  Bob’s straight key was almost brittle and hard to use with gloves on.  Steve operated SSB with his Yaesu rig, powered by a riding mower battery, feeding a sloping 20 meter dipole about 5 feet high.

A snow proof antenna for 20m

A snow proof antenna for 20m

Last man sending!

Last man sending!

It was getting too cold for me so I packed up and left as the snow began to really come down. Steve saw me packing so he packed up and so did Bob.  Keith stayed behind moving to the picnic table and made more contacts in a small blizzard.  Then Park Ranger paid a surprise visit to find out what in the world was going on.  The ranger was satisfied that we weren’t suspicious characters after Keith explained the situation.  The ranger failed to notice Keith had wrapped his antenna rope around the door handle on women’s entrance to the outhouse. There was no way anyone could open that door.   The ranger probably thought we were a bunch of nuts playing radio in the snow.  It was fun and we probably will do it again next season.  Only next time I will be more prepared for polar bear weather.  Oh yes I forgot to say this was the POLAR BEAR MOONLIGHT MADNESS event.  You can read all about on their website  Polar Bears all over the country and in Europe participated in the madness.  The final polar bear event was held March 20th but I took a pass on that one because all the snow is gone so it wouldn’t be as much fun operating in warm spring weather!!!

The MEN OF ADVENTURE will soon take off again.  Barry, WD4MSM says “QRP To The Field” has just been announced for 2010.   He recalled that we took part in the 2009 version that had as its theme “The Great Depression.”  We operated from the WPA site of Monkey Island in Mishawaka (the bridge to Monkey Island was built by the WPA).

This looks as if it might be an ideal outing for us.  Saturday, April 24, 2010
Spicer Lake Nature Preserve
Small picnic shelter available; Trees for antenna support if needed;
Restrooms (heated and immaculate) just steps away; Ample parking for hundreds!
Just minutes from South Bend; Plenty to do for family members and visitors (trails, grills, visitor center, two lakes, etc.); Handicap accessible trails and parking immediately next to the suggested operating position.

You to can join the MEN OF ADVENTURE even if you don’t have a QRP rig.  Just show up to learn about portable operation and how to put up antennas where they don’t belong.  Who knows maybe you to will be just as nuts as the other members of the group are?  Present company accepted.

That’s it for this edition.

73’s Dan, email DAN

p.s. Consider operating the special event KØS Strange Antenna Challenge Special Event — May 29-31, 2010.
Start Date & Time: Saturday, May 29, 2010, 1000Z
End Date & Time: Monday, May 31, 2010 at midnight (local time zones)
This is not a serious event.   We are all out here for fun!  K0S will employ out-of-the-ordinary antennas to promote Amateur Radio and making do with what might be available during an emergency.  Individuals and clubs may participate as “satellite stations” by using anything but wire or pipe for a radiating element and adding “/K0S” to their call signs. Details are on the KØS, Strange Antenna Challenge Web site. Strange antennas used in past events, dating back to 2002, have included folding chairs, paint easels, ladders, tape measures, dog kennels, fences, cots and chicken fencing with a trampoline as a ground plane. “More people share in the fun each year,” says Erik Weaver, N0EW, a Strange Antenna Challenge founder. “I hope you give me a call this year with your very own strange antenna. Now let’s play radio!”

Then the sun disappeared and it became colder.  The heated outhouse was open so I warmed up for a few minutes.
Kelly McClelland, K4UPG, is a regular contributor to and writes from Florida, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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