Several times a year the ARRL sponsors a VHF contest. This January my brother Kourt KB5PRZ and I decided to participate. Kourt recently acquired a Volkwagen Westfalia camper van, and we set about equipping it for VHF rover work in the “limited rover” category. Kourt put a great deal of effort into making the van road-worthy, comfortable, and capable of providing power for the radio station. This was its inaugural trip as a mobile radio contesting station. My son came along to learn how it’s done.
Our strategy: start in Austin and drive to the high points of four maidenhead grid squares (EM10, EL19, EL09, EM00). The more squares we transmit from, the more points we get. We’d use simple omni antennas while en route, then set up directional antennas once we reached our transmitting points, operating in the 6m, 2m, and 70cm bands SSB voice. In Central Texas, we’re fortunate to have the confluence of four grid squares near Wimberley, TX, as well as many hilltops to from which to operate.
We started by working from EM10 at the highest point in Austin. From there, we proceeded to EL19 in San Marcos. Along the way, there was an E-skip opening on 6 meters that enabled us to work Arizona with a 102″ whip. As the sun fell, we proceeded to a roadside park near Fischer, TX in grid square EL09 and set up camp for the night. With all the creature comforts of the Westie, including heat, running water, electricity, solar & battery power, we enjoyed an evening cooking lentil soup and venison sausage, followed by a restful night with the top popped up. Kourt, KB5PRZ, gives a more detailed description of the work put into the van on the Samba forum.
As the sun rose, we were treated to a fine panoramic view of the Devil’s Backbone. Morning is a great time to take advantage of tropospheric ducting on VHF bands. With the weather being warmer than usual, the chances were good. With our directional antennas we were able to reach as far as the Louisiana border on two meters and Florida on six meters. Satisfied with the morning’s results, we packed up camp and moved on to grid square EM00 on a high ridge between Blanco and Henly. It was the highest point of our trip. From there we continued to work stations as far as the DFW area, Toledo Bend, and Rocksprings.
Given our budget and a general desire to do more with less, we were pleased with the performance of the station. More importantly, we had a chance to enjoy a beautiful weekend in the country. It wouldn’t matter much if we had no contacts at all; the Westie was a blast to camp in, and Kourt makes the van very much like a tiny home. We were entertained by the many double-takes as passers-by looked, waved, and wondered what we were doing. We look forward to more contests in the future.