2022 NEQP – AF1R/m Adventures!

New England QSO Party 2022

-Leandra MacLennan, AF1R

2022 – Another New England QSO Party- NEQP. How should I participate this year?

Last year I was a mobile and split my roving up into two different loops. I was not able to find a place to stay in Northern New England, so I did a Saturday loop within eastern Massachusetts, stayed overnight at my house in the Boston suburbs, and did a long daytrip up to Vermont and back.

This year I wanted to activate the rare northern Vermont counties. The only way for me to do this was to stay overnight in Vermont. I knew I was not going to win in the mobile class, since I would only be working SSB, so my goal was to turn this into an adventure exploring the northern Vermont and have fun handing out QSOs from “rare” counties. I haven’t been to Montpelier in years, so NEQP became a good excuse to revisit a scenic town in central Vermont. My plan was to work the counties south of Montpelier on Saturday evening, and work the counties north of Montpelier during the day on Sunday.

I found a B&B in East Montpelier for Saturday night. My plan was set!

Two days before the weekend the weather forecast for the weekend looked great! I was doing this for fun, so poor weather would have minimized my radio operation.

Friday night I loaded up the car. My IC-7300 was placed on the passenger seat. My 40Ah Bioenno battery went into the car, along with my laptop. I put my 5 inch mag mount antenna base on top of the car. I’ve had success with hamsticks and Wolf River coils antennas, so the hamsticks, the large Wolf River Coil with with pre-tuned taps for 80 and 40M, and the small Wolf River Coil small coil pretuned for 20M went into the antenna bag. I knew my laptop battery would not last a whole day, so in addition to the 120V charger, I brought a 12V DC charger. Two 100 inch extendable whips (in case I broke one), my RigExpert antenna analyzer (for tuning the Wolf River Coils) and a spare mag mount also went into the antenna bag.

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day. I finished packing my car Saturday morning, filled it up with gas and made a note of the mileage. I was on the road by 11:00 A.M. I wanted to get to Montpelier by mid-afternoon, check in to the B&B, have an early dinner and head out to work the counties south of Montpelier, then head back north and work Washington county, where Montpelier was located, on my way back to the B&B for the evening.

On my way to Vermont I stopped at the I-89 rest area just north of White River Junction. This rest area had been under construction for several years and now has a beautiful building. There was an extensive help desk filled with dozens of Vermont state highways maps. Not only did this map show the highways, it showed the county boundaries. This was going to be a great resource for the weekend. I picked up two Vermont state highway maps.

I made it to Montpelier by 2:30 P.M., filled the car with gas and found the B&B high up on a hill at the end of a dirt road. There was a spectacular view from the B&B. I checked in with the hostess and discovered my room was not ready at 3:00 P.M. Not a problem. I needed to head off to an early dinner. I took a minute to admire the view and headed back down the hill to Montpelier to get a good Italian dinner at Sarducci’s before heading out.

I had a nice dinner, but it ran late and by the time I got back into my car, it was 4:15 P.M., 15 minutes after the contest started. I needed at another 45 minutes to get to my first stop in Orange county. I drove south on Route 12, and unknowing missed the right turn in Northfield Center to stay on Route 12, and instead headed directly south on Route 65. A stroke of good luck! Five minutes on this road and off to my left I saw a sign indicating I was in Orange County. Time to find a spot to park and activate this county. Baker’s Pond, a fishing area with a large parking lot appeared on my right. That was good enough. I parked the car and set up the 20M Wolf River coils antenna.

At 5:17 P.M. local time I started calling CQ on 20M SSB. There was no cell phone service to spot myself. This would be a common theme at most of my operating locations over the weekend. Anyone looking for me would just have to stumble over my CQ. I knew I would only be able to work 3 counties over the evening, and it was only 5 P.M. so I was not in a hurry to leave. That was a good thing because I only worked 12 stations in the first hour. I was torn between leaving or trying for more stations. Then all of a sudden I got a pileup. From 6:22 to 6:42 P.M. local time I worked another 15 stations. The pileup disappeared. 27 contacts from Orange County. OK, it’s now time to move on to the next county.

I noticed on my Vermont highway map, a short section of Route 12 south, in the town of East Granville, goes through Addison County. I headed north to find the turn I missed, then south on Route 12 to find East Granville to see if there was a safe space to pull over for an hour to operate.

Yes, there was a large field on the right side of the road in East Granville. There was still lots of activity on 20M so I tried it first. I put the 20M coil and the 100 inch whip on the car.

7:23 P.M. I started operating from Addison County. No cell service, so let’s see who can hear me. It took 4 minutes to make my first contact. Two minutes to make the next contact, 5 minutes for the following one, and a long 15 minutes to make the fourth contact. 20M was not working for me.

I realized East Granville was in a river valley with high ridges on the east and west. 20M was not getting down to my car. Last year I had good luck with 40M being able to get into a valley. Let’s see if 40M can bail me out again this year. I swapped the 20M Wolf River coil for the 40M Wolf River coil. Two minutes to my first contact on 40, five minutes to the next one, then a pile-up! From 8:12 to 8:33 P.M. local time I worked them as fast I could log them! 30 contacts! And I got one more when I made my final CQ. 39 contacts from Addison County.

Washington County was next. My plan was to work from the parking lot at the Montpelier airport, the highest spot in Montpelier.

I drove by the Montpelier airport parking lot twice before I realized the tiny building next to the runway was the terminal building. No one else was there at 9:30 P.M. and there was plenty of parking.

At 9:42 P.M. local time I got on 40M. There was cell service here, but it was late and I just wanted to get on the air. It took about 3 minutes to make each contact for the first

five contacts, and 5 minutes to make the 6th contact. I changed to the 80M tap on the antenna coil. I made another 7 contacts on 80M in the next 16 minutes. Before leaving I thought I’d try 20M, and made 4 more contacts. I finished at 11:15 P.M. 19 contacts from Washington County. Back to the B&B to get some sleep for the long drive up to the northern Vermont counties on Sunday.

Sunday morning I got up at 8:00 A.M. but after my breakfast, a long talk with the inn keepers and admiring the view, I didn’t leave until 10:30 A.M. My destination was Hardwick, which I noticed was near a corner of Lamoille, Orleans and Caledonia Counties.

From Hardwick I headed west to the Lamoille County line. Just over the county line I found the Fuller Covered Railroad Bridge park and pulled in. This would be my Lamoille location. It was a good parking spot, but not a good radio location. It was below the surrounding terrain and below the nearby road. I didn’t know how far I would need to drive to find another operating location in Lamoille County so I stayed where I was. It was 11:45 A.M., so I tried 20M first. It took 5 minutes to make the first contact, 3 minutes for the next one and 10 minutes for the next one. 20M was not working. So, I tried 40M and hoped it would bail me out like it did for me in Addison County the night before. It took a lot of calling to make the first 40M contact, then made 6 more contacts in the next 12 minutes. 12 hard earned contacts from Lamoille County. Time to give up. It was 12:40 P.M.

I headed 2 miles back east to Hardwick, in Caledonia County, and found a parking area at a hiking trail trailhead. It was mid-day, but I tried 40M again. I made my first contact here at 12:53, then two more quick contacts, but it took 14 minutes to make the next contact. I tried 20M again. I didn’t do much better. It took 5 minutes to make the first contact, 7 minutes for the next and 14 minutes for the next contact. Only 6 contacts from Caledonia County. It was 1:26 P.M.

Greenboro, in Orleans county, was 7 miles north. I headed up there over what turned out to be an arrow straight road that went up and down 5 hills, just like a roller coaster, for 7 miles. I found a parking spot at a recreation field just south of Greensboro.

At 2:00 P.M. I started with 20M. 3 minutes for my first contact, 4 minutes for the next, then a huge pileup. Everyone wanted this rare county, one of the three northernmost counties in Vermont! I worked them as fast I could from 2:15 to 2:29 P.M. Then, before leaving I tried 40M. One call and I got a pileup on 40, too. At this location I got 41 contacts in 50 minutes, my best rate so far. It was 3:00 P.M.– on to the next county.

Essex County is another of the northernmost counties in Vermont. But, to get there I had to drive across the width of the Caledonia County. I headed to Concord and Concord Center. These turned out to be tiny towns with no safe place to pull off the road. The only safe place to pull off the road and park was on a turn-off 2 miles south of Concord Center.

I decided to start with 40M. At 4:52 P.M. I made my first contact. Just like the other locations it took about 10 minutes to make the first two contacts before I got another pile-up: 22 contacts in 15 minutes. I switched over to 20M to get another 6 contacts in 12 minutes. 29 contacts from Essex County.

It was 5:40 P.M., less than 2 ½ hours left in the contest. Time to hustle 65 miles south on I-91 to Windham county.

At 7:00 P.M. I made it to the town of Norwich, in Windsor County, Vermont. I made my first contact at 7:04 P.M. on 40M and then 3 more quick ones. I moved to 20M to make two more contacts and at 7:25 P.M. left to move on to my last county. 6 quick contacts from Windsor County. Only 35 minutes remaining in the contest.

I remembered last year I worked from the high parking lot at the Lebanon airport in Lebanon, NH, Grafton County. I got there at 7:45 P.M. 15 minutes remaining in the contest. There were no clear SSB frequencies on 40M. I couldn’t find a spot to call CQ in all of the final activity for NEQP. But I was able to call 6 stations on 40M before the end of the contest at 8 P.M.

My NEQP road trip by the numbers:

  • 9 counties total
    • 8 counties in Vermont
    • 1 county in New Hampshire
  • 185 SSB contacts
    • 8 on 80M
    • 101 on 40M
    • 76 on 20M
    • 35 states
    • 16 DX contacts from 5 countries
    • 32 counties in New England
  • 571 miles of driving
  • 14 hours driving time
  • 31 amp/hours used from my 40 amp/hour Bioenno battery powering the radio

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