The Quest for USA-CA 2nd Time



The Start

While working for USA-CA I came to reguard running as a mobile as something akin to running QRP. My logic was that the compromise antenna used by the mobile was much the same as reducing output power. So when I finished up USA-CA in late 1996 and began to work on them for the second time I considered playing around a bit with QRP. Little did I know where it would take me.

There was one major problem. I did not have a rig that would go below 10 watts. My basic rig up to that point had been an Icom 735 in the shack and a TS-50 for the mobile. Both rigs bottom out at 10 watts. So quite naturally I started out working the counties the second time QRO at my normal 100 watts.

In the spring 1997 QST had an article with plans for a small QRP transmitter - the micronaut. I build an 80 meter version of the transmitter. After many struggles I finally set up a sked with a good friend of mine down the road a bit, Richard, WK3I, and we managed to complete a QSO over a distance of less than 20 miles. I now had my first county worked QRP and my first county worked QRPp. Of course I had been hard at work getting the counties a second time QRO and already had 715 of the 3076 counties worked - I was almost 25% done. I don't recommend this as the micornaut was only putting out about 7 mWatts. So this was not only the first QRP QSO it was also the first QRPp QSO. I did eventually put the 40 meter version of the micronaut on the air in October of that year and worked four stations hitting TN, OH, NJ, and NY with a more respectable 20 mWatts.

Using 20 mWatts is not the way to start playing with QRP. The micornaut was really more of a toy than anything serious. About then I stumbled across the QRP-L group on the internet and found that the Norcal group was putting out a small 30 meter rig in kit format. It was the 38 special. Never having build anything before I figured I could risk the $25 it cost. So I purchased that kit and put together. To my pleasure it worked. So my second and third QRP/QRPp QSOs were with this little rig hitting K5ID in AR and WS4S in TN with 300 mWatts. I now had three counties worked QRP - all with less than a watt. 300mWatts is a vast improvement over 20 mWatts. But it is still not the way to start serious QRP work. And on 30 meters counties are not going to come very fast.

micronaut rig

The Micronauts for 40 and 80 Meters

Norcal 38 Special for 30 Meters

The Norcal 38 Special for 30 Meters

First Steps

By then it was early April of 1997 and I has just received my plaque for Five Band DXCC. I reward myself with a new TS-570D. It was capable of going all the way down to 5 watts. So now I could do real QRP work. The first test came in a small QRP contest at the end of April 1997 when I worked about 80 stations in about 25 states while running a true 5 watts.

After discovering the fun of building my own rig with the 38 special I was ready to get a bit more serious about building a better QRP rig. My choice was the Sierra put out by Wilderness Radio. This a multiband rig that comes in kit format. I build the basic rig and put it on the air for it's first real workout at the club Field Day in late June of 1997. At that time I had only put together the one band module for 20 meters. It worked well. I don't remember how may QSOs I ran off with the rig. I really was not concerned with that as our club treats Field Day more as a social event than as a contest.

At home I still did most of my QRP work with the TS-570D at a full five watts. By the end of August I had put together the 40 meter module for the Sierra, but I still had not gotten into chasing the counties QRP. QRO was still the name of the game. QRP was more of a side activity/interest. By August I had 1171 counties worked, about 40$, but only 100 were in the log QRP. It was not until October that I finally got serious about working the counties QRP.

Wilderness Sierra
Wilderness Sierra - Inside View

The Sierra By Wilderness Radio

Into County Hunting QRP Style

A real county hunter must go out mobile. My first QRP QSOs form the mobile also came in the fall of 1997. I could not turn the TS-50 mobile rig down to 5 watts, so I would take one of my small QRP rigs and would play QRP while I waited at soccer or baseball practice for one of my kids. It was a year later when I modified the TS-50 to put out 5 watts. I opened up the rig and turned one of the pots down so now it run 5, 50, or 100 watts depending on the power setting. I had changed the 10 watt setting to 5 watts. I did it mostly because I did not want to miss the counties QRP while I was on the road giving out counties to others.

I decided I would run the counties QRO as that is for the benefit of other. I worked them QRP when I could as that was for my. I also decided that getting the counties QRP would not get in the way of getting them completed for the second time. We do have to establish our priorities.

Into County Hunting QRPp Style

The next big step was getting back into running milliwatts. QRPp refers to transmitting with under 1 watt. Usually I played around with QRPp because the QRP contests had a category for it and you got extra points if you ran very low power. I didn't care so much about winning a contest. I picked 500 mWatts as below that level the output of the Sierra was not as clean as it should be. My first foray into QRPp contesting was actually in the August 1997 running of the NA QSO party where I turned the power down to 0.9 watts and managed to run off about 60 QSOs.

The first mobile into the log QRPp was Jeff, W9MSE/M. I picked him up when running just under one watt while I was playing around in a small QRP contest with the rig set up in the front yard and a temporary dipole strung up in the trees. He was in Scott county, IA. The next QRPp QSO with a mobile didn't come until December 23, 1997. Bob, N4CD/M made it into the log from St Lucie county, FL. He gave my half a watt a 559. A half an hour later it was Ken, KC4UG/M, from Pike County, MS. He have me a 579 and I was hooked. It did help that over the course of the next four days Ken gave me 33 counties in MS while I was running 500 mWatts and only once did I get a signal report under a 559. I even got a couple of 599s. Within ten days I had 100 counties in the log QRPp. Ken has gone on to give me 77 of the 82 counties in MS when I was running half a watt or less.

So just after a year after I started working the counties for the second time I found myself committed to working them QRP and QRPp. I did set some standards for myself. First getting the counties was more important than getting the QRP. Getting the counties QRP was more important QRPp. As I never expected to get very many QRPp I did set one additional standard. As most county hunter know there is an acceptable relay system for getting the counties. The net control can relay the call sign, but he must verify that both stations correctly copied the signal report. So each station must repeat back what the heard before it is considered a valid QSO. I simply decided that first off it was very difficult to discourage the use of the relay system. Some mobiles rely on it just to simply the copying of weaker signal. I then decided that I would not accept relays as long as I was running under one watt. This only made the QRPp quest more difficult. But that is fine with me.

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

Page Two - The Chase

The WD3P Home Page

Contact WD3P at

Valid XHTML 1.0!