2011 Texas QSO Party

Another Texas QSO party has come and gone.  This was my first Texas QSO Party since 2005 that I decided to do the single op thing.  In August I won a Flex 1500 as a door prize at the Summerfest DX Forums hosted by Central Texas DX and Contest Club.  My home station antenna situation is less than desirable and I haven’t figured out a way to do things that will work for both optimal performance and the owner of the home.  Regardless I likely will never have a contest station here in town and who would want to do QRP contesting and deal with the line noise?

Since winning the Flex I have been wanting to seriously get it on the air for a work our, I have had an interest in Software Defined Radios long before I won this one.  As  computer geek the concept of having a radio that is fully controlled by my computer has always been very intriguing to me.  Needless to say I was very surprised by the performance of the radio, and will touch more upon that later in this story.

Let’s take a step back, or many steps back.  In August 2008 I was hired to work on a goat farm, here I met a collection of wonderful people and many of us were involved with a non-profit organization that at one time was interested in using Amateur Radio for disaster response.  In October of 2008 we built an amateur radio station that consisted of a 40ft tour with a Cushcraft A3S and a G5RV also at about 40ft.  At the time there was also some Icom gear.  The radio was used during Haiti but after some changes in the organization their presence left “The Farm” and with that presence went the radio gear.  What stayed was the antennas which hadn’t been used in over a year.

After asking nicely if I could come out and use those antennas and make myself at home for the Texas QSO party I was invited out.  I arrived on Friday afternoon and had a lovely dinner that night with the owner’s of “The Farm” you can visit their website at http://old.mustangtexas.com/ (they are currently rebuilding the site) as well as a couple of other good friends.  We went to the Horny Toad Bar & Grill.  Horny Toad is great for cheap beer, the burgers aren’t wonderful but they certainly give the place the character that it has.  I was mostly bummed since the Juke Box was out of order.

Friday night I crashed rather earlier and got up for the contest Saturday.  I was hoping that I could finish working the kinks out of getting my logging software integrated with the Flex Radio and getting my FlexControl working within the first hour of the contest.  That turned out to not be the case and it ended up taking me the first 3 hours of the contest to get things going.  I am very appreciative of Dudley, WA5QPZ as well as the developers of the Flex Control K6TD and K6TU for contacting me back on a Saturday.  We were able to discover the issue was that the FlexControl was in boot state and a re-install of the latest version of the PowerSDR software fixed that.

The only thing not fully resolved was trying to get MMTTY working so that I could have tried to do some RTTY for the contest.  I will have to work on that some other time though as I do hope that I will be able to do some RTTY contesting in the future and I was hoping to get some mults on RTTY from the RTTY contest that was happening this weekend.

Another thing I did not know but discovered was that the Flex 1500 doesn’t do VOX, fortunately the Wallace family are musicians and so there was a Piano foot switch available to borrow that did the trick.  I will likely eventually get  foot switch.  Another thing I would like to figure out is how to auto voice keying with the Flex and the log software.

Once the contest was on track it was great.  Started out trying to chase Texas stations on 40 for the multipliers and ended up going to 15 when I started seeing that the band seemed opened.  Was surprised to work Europe with 5 watts though I spent way too much time trying to get this Russian station who never did hear me.  I had a fairly decent run on 15 and many guys told me that I sounded great for running 5 watts.  Another thing I really found very nice about the Flex 1500 was the built in EQ and I had guys commenting the entire contest about my good audio.

After 15 I tried 20 for a bit but it was just doing much so back to 40 for the remainder of the contest.  Things were slow the last 2 hours and broadcast was starting to get annoying.  All the guys calling CQ that I could hear I had already worked and I wasn’t getting much back to my CQ’s.  I was able to work WA6KHK who had emailed me prior to the contest and was hoping to get Bosque county so I am glad that we were able to meet up.  We also got lucky and met up Sunday as well on 20 meters.

I shut down about 10 minutes prior to the contest ending as I was tired and wanted my rest.  I ended up sleeping in Sunday morning and not getting on the radio till about 10AM.  things were slow for me on the second day and while I was hoping I could break 200 Q’s I ended with 164.  My full summary as well as pictures are below.

I will most certainly be going back out to Meridian again in the future for another QRP contest with the Flex.  I had a great time and thank you all for working me and for spotting me.  Now I must go and take a nap as I must be up in a few hours for my graveyard shift.

Summary:
Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs  Dig Qs
—————————-
160:   0       0      0
80:   0       0      0
40:   0     106      0
20:   0       9      0
15:   0      48      0
10:   0       1      0
6:   0       0      0
2:   0       0      0
UHF:   0       0      0
—————————-
Total:   0     164      0  Mults = 85  Total Score = 27,880

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