Grid Bandits Team EL08

K5N Grid Bandits Team treks to EL08 for a winter rare grid VHF DXpedition
By Dan Bates, N5TM
EL08, just southwest of San Antonio, Texas, although not extremely rare, is on the needed list by many hams looking for FFMA or just collecting grids. The decision was made to set up in EL08 from Thursday January 3rd through Monday, January 6th and tear down on the 7th.
The original idea was to find an RV park where we could operate, however EL08 is right in the middle of the Eagle Ford Shale region and every small town in the region is experiencing an oil boom. We suspected the RV parks would be full with oilfield workers. However, thanks to George, NR5M, we had a much better option. George volunteered the use of a family hilltop ranch near Pearsall, TX. He even had a high amperage AC outlet installed next to the driveway where we could park the RV station and plug right into the AC power.
Marshall, K5QE and Bill, N5YA drove the six and a half hours to the ranch on Thursday January 2nd where they met up with George, NR5M and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening setting up the 6 meter station.
Since we had received a number of requests for 2 meter operation from EL08 and EL18, I decided that instead of driving straight to the ranch, I would drop by EL18 on the way. I left Katy (Houston suburb) Thursday morning and drove the hour and a half down to EL18 just west of Bay City, Texas. I found a good spot in a park just over the EL28-EL18 line and set up the 2 meter station.
My portable 2 meter station consists of a K3 driving a TE1452G amp to 300W output into a pair of 2m7s stacked horizontally on a fiberglass boom.
I spent about four hours at the park in EL18 and completed three meteor scatter QSOs with W8BYA, W9RM, and N0LWF and attempted QSOs with Danny N5OMG and Phil N0KE. I left EL18 about 2:30pm and drove the three and a half hours to the ranch in EL08.
I arrived at the ranch after dark on Thursday night and proceeded to make several meteor scatter contacts on 2 meters, but the bulk of the operation did not start until Friday morning.
The portable 6 meter station consists of a 20ft tilt over tower mounted on the back of a pickup. There is a rotator in the bottom of the tower for azimuth and an elevation rotator mounted on the mast. Two 2m5 6 meter antennas are mounted horizontally on a very robust boom which allows for the elevation capability.

DSC_2813

DSC_2817

The six meter portable station is located inside a fifth wheel RV and consists of an ICOM 756 Pro 2 and using a pair of 6M 1K2 amplifiers which can output over a kilowatt continuous duty when running JT65 or FSK441.
We operated FSK441 through the morning on both 2 and 6 meters and switched to SSB and CW later in the day. Six meter band conditions were not spectacular by any means. It seemed we were just on the western edge of the Sporadic E openings. Both CW and SSB contacts were painful and took many calls to complete.
Friday afternoon was the peak of the very short-lived Quadrantids meteor shower and there were a number of solid pings heard on SSB and CW, however only one CW contact was completed. Although the number of meteors in the shower did not set any records, there were some good burns heard on both 6 and 2 meters. During the shower, I made some additional FSK441 contacts on 2 meters with a notable contact to Bill, ND0B in North Dakota (EN07) for 1285 miles.

N5TM, Dan EL08 two meter station.
One of the reasons for picking the weekend of Jan 4th was to coincide with excellent EME conditions, as degradation was predicted to be less than -2.0 for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th.
On Saturday morning, I decided to see if my small station could possibly work EME. So I pointed at moonrise and was astounded to see good decodes from EU stations with the best levels at -17. The decision was made to attempt some two meter EME contacts at moonset on Saturday and again at moonrise on Sunday.
On Saturday evening, about two hours before moonset, Marshall completed a six meter EME contact with Hal, N7NW and afterwards, using manual elevation and pointing, I completed EME QSOs with Mac, K7MAC and Hal, N7NW. On Sunday morning I completed another EME contact with I2FAK. Signals off the moon were exceptional with -17 and -18 signals seen on the portable station.
DSC_2822

DSC_2810

Moonset on Saturday night while working K7MAC and N7NW on 2 meters.

The longest two meter MS contact occurred on Sunday morning with Dennis, NV5T in North Dakota (EN08) for 1322 miles.
Although not as exotic or exciting as the EL84 trip to the Dry Tortugas last summer, this was a good winter trip, and I suspect we made quite a few hams happy, with some new grids. A total of 135 QSOs were made on 6 meters, and 25 QSOs on 2 meters.
These trips take a lot of planning and effort along with considerable expense. Without the diligent efforts of Marshall and Bill these trips would not happen. A great big thanks also goes to George for supplying a truly excellent operating location. Also, thank you to the supporters who have contributed funds to these efforts.

DSC_2832

From left to right, N5TM – Dan, N5YA – Bill, K5QE – Marshall, NR5M – George, N0UN – John

73, CU AGN, Dan N5TM