Participating in a radio contest actively was something I had yet to do before the VHF / UHF contest in January. With some inspiration from Rick (W6KKO) who was at the time actively preparing his home station to participate as single operator came the discussion of driving to the different grid squares and making contact. It was at that time I was told about rover stations. I decided that with all the stations in the area putting forth the effort and improving their stations, I would add two more radios to my truck and at least help them get more points. I never intended on keeping my score, as I was working solo and some of the contacts may come while I was moving. You never know, an operator from the Central Valley may be recognized as the winner, I thought.
After reading Ron’s (N6MTS) experience of operating as a Roving station and some inspiration from John (K6MI), I thought I would share the experience of my roving during the UHF / VHF contest. Approximately one week before the contest I began the search for a 220 Mhz FM mobile and 6 meter FM mobile radios. I decided to add the Alinco DR-06 and Jetstream 220 to the already installed Kenwood TM-710. Two more quarter wave mobile antennas for the 220 and 6 meters were also added. Unfortunately, one of the mounts did not ship in time for me to install it correctly so I was left with mag mounts. Looking at the set up I thought, this is not a contest station. However, as I discussed the subject with Rick, I quickly found the benefit. This would be how the truck operates most of the time and lets just see how well this radio set up works.
Saturday afternoon I departed. My destination, the four grid square area that is in the vicinity of Highway 145 and River Road. I worked several stations as I drove out of the DM06 grid. Using my iPad to ensure that I was in the correct grid square, I crossed into DM07. More contacts. As fast as I could change between radios, the calls kept coming. Mostly with the same operators but none the less more points for them.
As I continued further to the west, I realized that the terrain gets lower and lower. I was starting to lose signals that were strong in the Highway 145 and Highway 41 area. Every elevated cut that the roadway dipped behind was met with a grimaced look. Made it to Island Drive and I found a small rise on the side of the roadway next to an orchard. Drove to the apex and began calling CQ again. This time I was making contacts again. Did not stay there long as most of the stations were still in the Fresno area and I had already worked them in grid DM07. Time to move.
I drove to Hwy 145 and Raymond Road. Now in grid CM96 I continued to call CQ with the new grid square. I did make some contacts from this grid. However, the quantity was dropping off some. Continued north on Road 28 ½ and into CM97. Some contacts from the Merced area and a few from the Fresno area. I did contact Ron as he worked from the top of Bear Mountain. This is where I could hear Ron but his radios were deaf from the amount of RF in the area.
I continued to operate and listen as I began to make my way home. It had been almost four hours since I set out on this little experiment. I had a great time working with what I would be working with most of the time anyway. Learned a great deal about the local area from the capabilities of the radio signals, from where to park and operate from, to my mobile stations capabilities.
I drove a total of 180 miles and used the APRS to log some of the locations I was at. I did turn off the APRS since I needed that side of the radio for the contest.
This was the first time I had actively participated in any contest. While I did not keep score or log my contacts, roving was beneficial for the other stations. Next contest I would encourage those to drive from one grid to another and make some contacts. You never know, you could just learn something.