by William Eric McFadden

Flight of the Bumblebees RATpedition!

From the Strouds Run State Park website:

Located outside of the city of Athens and within easy driving distance of Ohio University, Strouds Run State Park surrounds Dow Lake and draws a mix of trail and lake users. Miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding provide scenic views from rugged trails. The lake offers boating, paddling, swimming and a shaded campground.



The park sign On Sunday, July 31, 2022, one member of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team performed a successful activation of Strouds Run State Park (K-1994) as part of the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program while also participating in the Adventure Radio Society's Flight of the Bumblebees (FoBB) field operating event as Bumblebee #11.

Within the event, "Bumblebees" are encouraged to use human-power to get to their operating locations. After considering various bicycle-accessible locations within Strouds Run State Park, Lake Hope State Park, and Zaleski State Forest, Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, decided to perform a bicycle-portable activation of Strouds Run State Park at the park's Bulldog Shelter, choosing this location because of the available covered picnic shelter, cell-signal, and toilet.

This was to be the first time that Eric bicycled with his newly-built KX3 Mini Travel Kit, a complete KX3 CW station in a LowePro Nova 1 bag. This was also to be the first time that Eric had ridden with his carbon-fiber mast strapped to his bicycle's top-tube instead of sticking awkwardly out of his bicycle's rear pannier.

When Eric had checked the weather forecast on Saturday evening, the forecast for Sunday called for a 30% chance of rain. On Sunday morning, however, the forecast called for a 90% chance of rain until 1pm—and rain it did, all morning, until just about 1pm, the start-time of the four-hour FoBB event. Not relishing the idea of bicycling in the rain, Eric delayed the start of his ride until after the rain had stopped. Because the ride from home to the Bulldog Shelder would take Eric almost an hour to complete, waiting for the rain to stop meant he had lost at least an hour of operating time in the four-hour FoBB event.

Eric arrived at the Bulldog Shelter within Strouds Run State Park at about 1800 UTC—a full hour after the start of FoBB—and was happy to find that the picnic shelter was unoccupied. Eric took some photos and then set up his station as quickly as he could, strapping his Goture Red Fox Super Hard 720 carbon-fiber mast securely between his bicycle's second water-bottle cage and his bicycle's top-tube and deploying his 28½' end-fed wire antenna as a sloper between the top of the mast and his Elecraft KX3 set up on a picnic table within the picnic shelter. Eric was on the air at about 1820 UTC.

As expected, Eric found he had good cell-signal at this location and would be able to spot himself on the POTA Spots website and to use POTA Spots to identify possible Park-to-Park (P2P) QSOs. However, he decided to concentrate first in making FoBB QSOs and resort to POTA Spots only if he had trouble making the ten QSOs to validate the activation of Strouds Run State Park.

Fully expecting 40m to be useless due to the ongoing solar storm, Eric began operations on 20m by hunting for FoBB "Bumblebees". The 20m band was generous, and Eric managed to work six Bumblebees on 20m within eighteen minutes.

Finding his own frequency to run on 20m, Eric began calling "CQ BB" and his first and only QSO in this run came at 1848 UTC with W2GIW in New Jersey, who was not participating in FoBB, and was running 100 watts.

Station Time (UTC) SPC BB # / PWR
NX1K 1824 WI 52
NQ9RP 1828 WI 26
N0SS 1833 MO 38
WO9B 1836 WI 34
AA7LNW 1838 UT 79
N5GW 1842 MS 53
W2GIW 1848 NJ 100w

After several minutes of fruitless calling, Eric spotted himself to POTA Spots, but this failed to produce any additional QSOs on 20m.

Switching to 40m at 1901 UTC to hunt FoBB and POTA stations, Eric immediately completed a P2P QSO with KN3A who was performing a POTA activation of Samuel S Lewis State Park (K-1418) in Pennsylvania. At 1905 UTC Eric completed a P2P QSO with K3RTA who was performing a POTA activation of White Clay Creek National Wild and Scenic River (K-0898) in Delaware. At 1910 UTC, Eric completed a P2P QSO with K2EAG who was performing a POTA two-fer activation of Sampson State Park (K-2133) and Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor National Park Reserve (K-6532) in New York. Finally, Eric completed a P2P QSO with K3UQ who was performing a POTA two-fer activation of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (K-0015) and Potomac Heritage Trail National Scenic Trail (K-4564).

Station Time (UTC) SPC BB # / PWR
KN3A 1901 PA K-1418
K3RTA 1905 DE K-0898
K2EAG 1910 NY K-2133 + K-6532
K3UQ 1915 K-0015 + K-4564

Finding his own frequency to run on 40m, Eric updated his spot on POTA Spots and began calling CQ. Eric's first QSO in this run came at 1920 UTC with W2BXR in Pennsylvania. The 40m band turned out to be surprisingly good and QSOs came very quickly, with Eric's seventh QSO in this run coming at 1926 UTC with AC3IU in Pennsylvania. This run included QSOs with POTA hunters located in Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (3), New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

Station Time (UTC) SPC BB # / PWR
W2BXR 1920 PA
K4DJG 1922 VA
K2KS 1923 NJ
K9IS 1924 WI
K3VAT 1924 VA
KT4UE 1925 VA
AC3IU 1926 PA

Because he was looking at almost an hour of bicycle ride to get home, Eric chose to finish his operation at this point, happy to have completed seven FoBB QSOs on 20m and eleven POTA QSOs on 40m.

In all, Eric made eighteen FoBB-eligible QSOs in just about an hour of operating time. (And, because the two P2P two-fer QSOs each count as two QSOs, these eighteen QSOs count as twenty QSOs within POTA.) All of Eric's QSOs were CW and were made at five watts output.

With the eighteen QSOs and six Bumblebees as multipliers, Eric's calculated score is 324 points.

Eric also submitted his log to the World Wide Flora and Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF; link) program for an operation at Strouds Run State Park, KFF-1994.

Eric was pleased to find that his new KX3 Mini Travel Kit traveled well on the bicycle, even on the steep hills. Eric was also pleased to find that the Goture Red Fox Super Hard 720 carbon-fiber mast traveled well on his bicycle's top-tube, particularly if the thinner end is pointing toward the back of the bicycle. The only problem found with the rest of the KX3 Mini Travel Kit is that the CW paddle picks up some RF during transmit when the 28½' wire and three 17' counterpoise wires are fed through the 4:1 balun. (Would a 4:1 unun work better than a balun in this situation? Eric thinks so and will do some experimentation.)

Round-trip, Eric bicycled 18 miles, climbing 1,484 feet, on his ride from his home to the Bulldog Shelter and back to his home. View the map of the ride: