California QSO Party (CQP)
Alpine County Expedition - 2004


QSL N6A via:

Don Mc Dougal, W6OA
744 Camelia Dr.
Livermore, CA 94550

2004 CQP for Alpine County began with the usual planning, using the usual equipment, with the usual folks showing up at their more or less usual times. NOAA was predicting the usual weather, and the automated station about 2 miles from our camp was showing the usual readings on the Internet. I had some stuff to deliver to our youngest son in Sparks on Wednesday, so I went up then. Larry (W4UAT -- ex NF6S) and Don, W6OA, were coming up on Thursday, along with Rich, NU6T. I arrived about noon on Wednesday, and set up the tent trailer. It was at this point that "usual" ended, although I wouldn't know it until the next day.

I had just completed a new Elecraft K2 and brought it along to see if I could get it aligned. Thunderstorms arose in the afternoon bringing rain, then hail, then snow for awhile. I fooled with the K2, ate dinner, fired up the little Honda 1KVA generator, turned on the electric blanket, and finally went to bed, toasty warm.

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How it Went (cont'd from above)

Thursday dawned bright and clear, if a bit chilly. My wife had been away to a needlepoint convention before I left, and today was the day she would return home. Noon passed, and still alone, I ate some lunch. Around 4PM, I sat on the "special rock" overlooking the Carson Valley where the cell phone will work, and called home, to find that Larry had left a message while we were both gone. Calling him revealed:

  1. A man who had not slept in perhaps 40 hours.

  2. A severe crisis at his place of employment.

  3. Virtually no chance that he could make it to the camp in time to set up and start the contest.

  4. News that Don was not going to be able to make it either due to a last minute emergency

About this time, Rich, NU6T, arrived. With no equipment except a 10W unaligned K2 and a 40M dipole a few feet off the ground (except for Aspens, there are no tall "organic towers" that far above the timber line, and there aren't any Aspens right near our camp anyway) it looked pretty bleak. After careful consideration and some dinner, we decided we'd abandon the attempt. Larry got word to NCCC and arrangements began to have some of the rovers reroute their itineraries to get Alpine County on the air. Rich and I spent the night, he in a new truck tent in his new truck, and we packed up and split the Fri morning.

I made it back home by about 5PM, hastily got set up on the home station, and operated CQP from Placer County. I think there were three of us on from the county, me, Jack (KF6T), and our Section Manager Jetti (W6RFF). I managed about 940 QSO's, but of course, Jack blew me away ... in more ways that just score -- his QTH is 1.7 miles LOS from mine. At least one of the rovers (Rusty, W6OAT and crew) managed to get inside the county, and on Sunday, still with very little sleep, Larry got his work crisis put to bed, dashed over State Route 4, and operated off the tailgate of his truck until the 2200Z end of the contest. I think there also may have been a second rover. I am not certain, given all the last minute changes, but I believe in total, possibly 400 - 500 Alpine County QSO's were doled out.

Lessons Learned

Plan B: A good friend of mine, an engineer and philosopher, says, "The problem with 'Lessons Learned' is that they never are." I was an engineer, and I've experienced combat ... two places where not being ready to execute your "Plan B" can be a disaster. I thought briefly about bringing a rig, a trap dipole, 2 20' aluminum irrigation pipe sections, and a laptop for logging (all of which I have), but quickly decided it was a lot of work, and besides, there was no chance that I'd need it!

Our normal equipment/antenna setup is pretty much optimum, and we always do well. Being the only station in the county helps, of course. However, a less than optimum Plan B setup would still have netted a great number of QSO's. Rich and I could have swapped shifts between CW and Phone, and when Larry ultimately made it up on Sunday, there'd have been three of us.

Communications: Each year we converge on Monitor Pass from several different, widely separated origins. Cell phones work there, but only if you are sitting on the "Magic Rock." Had my wife been home on Wednesday, I would have gotten Larry's message that afternoon, and would have had time to dash back home, grab some gear, and make it back up in time for the Saturday start. Not much we could have done about that however. But, we could have arranged for some form of communications between us because I did know that no one would be home at my place. Again, it's gone so smoothly and clean in past years, I just assumed it would this year too.

Apologies and Thanks

So, to all of you non-Californians who turn out for this contest, thanks, and my sincere apologies to those who did not snag Alpine County. To my comrades in NCCC who scrambled last minute changes to get some stations on the air from Alpine, thanks for rescuing us. And to Larry, W4UAT, who did get up on Sunday, thanks and thanks again ... that was above and beyond given the chaos you'd just been through. Next year will see a Plan B in place, and Alpine County will be represented in the CQP.


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