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April On The Air Podcast Script

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April On The Air Podcast Script

 

On the Air Podcast Transcript, Episode 16, April 8, 2021

Parks On The Air is one of the most popular activities in amateur radio today. This episode of the On the Air podcast is a chat with Audrey Hance, KN4TMU, who recently enjoyed her first Parks On The Air activation.  

Welcome to the On the Air podcast, a companion to On the Air magazine, a bimonthly magazine from ARRL for beginner to intermediate ham radio licensees. I’m your host Steve Ford, WB8IMY.

Every month, the On the Air podcast extends material found in On the Air magazine, to help you learn more about the many things the ham radio service and hobby has to offer. The On the Air podcast is sponsored by Icom, for the love of ham radio.

[music fades out]

In the March/April 2021 issue of On the Air, you’ll find an article about Parks On The Air, better known simply by its acronym, P-O-T-A, or just POTA. This is a very popular program that encourages hams to get on the air from parks and other sites throughout the world. The park operators are known as Activators, and the hams who contact them are Hunters. Parks On The Air has an excellent web page at www.parksontheair.com. Registration is free, and there are many attractive awards available for both Hunters and Activators. There’s also a very active Parks On The Air group on Facebook.

In the article, you’ll see a photo of Audrey Hance, KN4TMU, taken during an activation she and her husband, KI4OTR, carried out at Panther Creek State Park in Tennessee. As luck would have it, I was able to contact Audrey for this podcast.

OTA: Good evening, Audrey.          

KN4TMU: Good evening, Steve.          

OTA: Well tell me, how long have you been licensed?          

KN4TMU: I’ve actually been only a ham operator for about 2 years now, so it’s not been very long.          

OTA: And how did you discover Parks On The Air? Was that soon after you got licensed, or later?          

KN4TMU: No, that was way later. When it actually happened was with my husband. We like to hike, so we hike a lot. We hike Panther Creek; we hiked House Mountain that day. And he was actually looking at his radio, and he was saying park numbers, and I had no clue exactly what he was talking about. So he started walking me through it, trying to help me understand Parks On The Air. So House Mountain, House Mountain actually is located around Corrington, Tennessee. It’s about 8 miles north of Knoxville. So, when we’re hiking and stuff, he’s talking to me and helping me understand it, and I’m concentrating on the views, but [both laugh] but yeah, he’s trying to break me into it, and it just confused me in the beginning. But then, when I started understanding it, I just knew that oh, this is pretty cool, y’know? It helped us to incorporate our love of hiking and kayaking into the need of the ham radio. So then, of course, that led to Panther Creek.          

OTA: Well, tell me about that operation at Panther Creek. I mean, a lot of people have seen that photo in the March/April issue of On the Air magazine, with you sitting there on the radio, I see what looks like an SUV on the road in the background, so how did you set that up? Where did you set it up?          

KN4TMU: Well, there’s a bunch of park tables and things up there, and we just chose one. Previously before that actual operation, a few of the other ham radio operator guys, they helped me out, they helped me understand a little bit better. But that particular day, we went on a hike and I was like, “Hey, we need to set this up. We brought it with us, we have everything in our bags with us.” So we set it up. My husband actually helped me set it up, ’cause, I mean, I’m still fairly new at all this.          

OTA: [Laughs]

KN4TMU: So, the radio, I mean, he had actually had it out on the desk, and I told him, I said, “Hey, that’s my radio.” I was like, “We need to go hook that up at Panther Creek so I can learn a little more about it that way.” It’s an Icom 7100, and the antenna we used was a Wolf River coil. How he hooked it up, I was confused, ’cause of course I’m still new at this [both laugh]. So he helped me hook it up and try to figure out where to set the radials and things like that. The battery was a Bioenno Power 12-volt, 12-amp per hour. So, I’m still trying to get used to it. There’s still a lot of things on the radio that I don’t understand, but watching him do it every night on the radio, it’s helped him a lot.

OTA: When you were at the park, I noticed in the photo you were holding a microphone. Were you mostly using single sideband to make your contacts?          

KN4TMU: Yeah, those were all single sideband.          

OTA: And with the battery, were you able to still run that radio at full power, or did you have to kind of crank that back?          

KN4TMU: We started at about 50 watts, and then we moved up to 100 watts ’cause Panther Creek’s just pretty much in our backyard, and I had actually wondered -- I was like, “Wait, is this gonna use all this battery?” And he was like, “No, we’re good,” [laughs] and I’m like, “Okay.”          

OTA: [Laughs] And I have to ask the million-dollar question, which is, how many contacts did you make?

KN4TMU: Oh, I made 14. There was about two or three that I couldn’t pick up or anything. The furthest that I talked to was Canada. I thought it was pretty cool that the first guy that came back to me, it was W3BAS, and I kinda remember him ’cause one: it’s my first contact [laughs] and, two: we’re, y’know, BAS, it reminds me of fish, so that reminded me of my dad, so it was meant to be! [Both laugh]          

OTA: Were you primarily on one band, or did you change frequencies and bands?   

KN4TMU: I remember only being on one band and, I really couldn’t -- I’m still new at this [laughs]. So I am trying to understand all the information about bands. [laughs].

OTA: Well, it looks like you were doing well. As some people may or may not know, in the Parks On The Air program -- and correct me if I’m wrong, Audrey -- but I believe you have to have at least 10 contacts for a park activation to count. Is that correct?

KN4TMU: I’m pretty sure that’s correct, and I think, the day that my husband was talking to me, he wanted to make sure he at least got 12, to make sure that he would get in there.

OTA: Was this your very first activation, then?

KN4TMU: This was my very first activation, other than just watching my husband do it.

OTA: Have you done any since?          

KN4TMU: We haven’t been able to get out. COVID’s trying to really keep us, and then he ended up going back to school, so we’ve been really...not been able to get out. Though when we do, I mean, we always have a radio with us.          

OTA: So you think you’ll do more park activations?          

KN4TMU: I think we will! I think I will. I enjoy Parks On The Air so much more than I thought I would. Just sitting at home on the radio, it’s kinda like, “Okay, I’m at home, I’m on the radio.” But when you get out there and you see nature, you see where you’re at, you see what you can do with an antenna and with a radio, it’s amazing to see what you can bring with you, what you can put in two or three bags. We’ve got boxes for the radio, and I’m like, talking to my husband, I’m like, “Okay, we need to have this smaller, more compact, easier to carry,” so he’s really helped me out with that.          

OTA: Oh, so you’re already up on that stuff, then, at least as it applies to hiking and everything else.          

KN4TMU: Yes.          

OTA: I made a recording, Audrey, of a recent POTA operation that was taking place on 40 meters. I’m gonna give listeners about 30 seconds of what it sounds like, well, right now. [Audio clip of on-air contacts.] How long were you at the park during your activation?          

KN4TMU: We was there for about maybe a couple of hours. Two or three hours maybe, um, it was cold that day. After we hiked, we sat down, and then the wind was kinda blowing a little bit, but not bad at all.          

OTA: You don’t look too cold in the photo. [Laughs] You just looked very busy.          

KN4TMU: Yeah, I was busy, but getting on the radio, I mean, I still get nervous. Um, we have LARC, Lakeway Amateur Radio Club every night at 8 o’clock, and, um, I still get nervous. The guys on there, they’re like, “Just take your time, just breathe a little bit, you’re fine, you’re doing great.”         

OTA: Now is that a net on a local repeater?          

KN4TMU: Um, it is, um, it is on the 147.030, the tone’s 156.7. We just hold the daily safety net twice a day, 8 AM and 8 PM. I currently do the second and the fourth Tuesday of the month, and we had started because of the pandemic. We couldn’t get out, and we couldn’t meet everyone, we couldn’t see everyone. So, I mean, it helped us connect and keep everybody safe. Um, I know Tuesdays actually started more, like, with the weather. I feel like it kinda goes more into SKYWARN, which is interesting. But then it kinda developed into just making sure everybody’s safe, making sure the radio’s working fine, the antennas are working fine, so yeah. It’s helped me get out of my shell of being shy, and really just talk. [Laughs]          

OTA: Well that’s a great idea. So you’re a net control station? Is that right?          

KN4TMU: Yeah! Yeah, it’s a safety net.          

OTA: Okay.          

KN4TMU: The W2IQ repeater.          

OTA: That’s excellent. How long does the net last?          

KN4TMU: Um, I think the longest I’ve went is about maybe 30 minutes. Um, the most contacts that I’ve gotten, I think it’s been around 24-25 contacts. Um, like tonight, we’ll have one tonight.          

OTA: And getting back to Parks On The Air for a moment, what sort of advice would you have for somebody who hasn’t done it, but is thinking about doing it? Something you might have done differently, or what?          

KN4TMU: My biggest thing would be just get on there and just go with it, because after you do your first contact, it’s exciting to be able to talk to all kinds of different people and just different parts of the world, parts of the United States, anywhere. I mean it’s just amazing to see what people can do on there. Don’t be shy, and just talk, I mean...it’s a lot easier than what I thought it was gonna be, um, and all the technical stuff, I mean, I’m still learning, you’re gonna learn that as you go.          

OTA: Oh, sure.

KN4TMU: Don’t forget to- don’t forget to take your tests. [Both laugh]          

OTA: As part of your operations, I guess you also bring along food and water and everything else?          

KN4TMU: Oh yeah definitely, um, you probably saw, I’m not a coffee drinker, so I have to have a Coke, so I told my husband, I was like, “The Coke’s in the photo!” I bring a Coke wherever I go. [Both laugh]          

OTA: And did you find, uh, when you were talking to people, did it ever get a little overwhelming? In other words, did you ever, for example, have a couple of stations calling you at once? Anything like that?          

KN4TMU: Oh, definitely. Yes, um, that happens most of the time on the Lakeway Amateur Radio Club net too, and I’m like “I just have to take a pause,” and I have my husband there, and he’ll be like, “Okay, this is what it was.” I’m like, “Okay, I do not see how, I do not know how you heard that, but okay, let’s try this again.” If I don’t understand, then I can come back. I can ask them to repeat it. One of the biggest things that kind of -- “No, I can’t ask them to repeat it,” and he’s like, “No, you can,” and I’m like, “Okay, I’ve gotta make sure this is right.” [Laughs]          

OTA: In my own experience with Parks On The Air, I think the vast majority of the people are pretty friendly and patient, the ones I’ve encountered.          

KN4TMU: Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, they’re there for the same reason; to connect with people, to make sure everybody’s safe, so definitely.          

OTA: In addition to the activation you’ve done, do you ever get on and then hunt for other activations? Become a hunter rather than an activator?          

KN4TMU: I actually have not done the hunting thing. Um, so, I enjoy getting out to the park and coming, I guess, from that side of it. But don’t get me wrong, I wanna get into that and continue to work on Parks On The Air.          

OTA: They have a remarkable website, and I noticed that they have a tremendous number of awards and beautiful certificates. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them, but, uh, gorgeous certificates that they do for various things like working so many parks and all of that. Also, they have an extensive map of all the parks in the United States and throughout the world, and all their different park numbers, I suppose you would call them. Have you had any ideas about where you might want to go for another activation?          

KN4TMU: Um, there are a few places in Asheville, North Carolina that are interesting. And then, we had just went to Fall Creek Falls, um, I’m not sure if that’s an activation or not. But, yeah, I do get on that map, and I look at different parks. Um, there are some parks on there that...I wanna go to the park, I’m like, “Oh wait, that’s not an activation,” so I’m always trying to scout out one that has the activation along with it.

OTA: Yeah, you’re right. I’ve noticed that myself, where sometimes I’ll see a park, but it’s not yet eligible for Parks On The Air, so I -- “Oh, okay, not that one, well I’ll have to pick another one,” or I’ll see a park that, uh, I guess because I’m lazy; unlike you, I don’t hike that much, I wanna have a park where I can drive to, y’know? I just operate from my car. [Both laugh] But obviously, you like to get out in the woods, y’know, take your radios with you and all that.          

KN4TMU: Oh yes, definitely. Yup.          

OTA: Well that’s great, Audrey. I’m glad you had a good time with us, and I’m hoping that as we get into warmer weather here, we’ll hear you on the air again!          

KN4TMU: Oh, definitely! Yes, I will be there!          

OTA: [Both laugh] Okay! Well, thank you very much, Audrey.          

KN4TMU: Thank you so much.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, which took a deeper dive into the material found in the March/April 2021 issue of On the Air magazine. I’ll be back next month with items to discuss from the May/June issue.

In the meantime, feel free to send comments about On the Air to ota@arrl.org, read our blog at arrl.org/ota hyphen blog, or learn more about ARRL membership at arrl.org. Until then, I’m Steve Ford, WB8IMY. 73!    

ARRL Resources for Learning More

Amateur Radio Contesting for Beginners
http://www.arrl.org/shop/Amateur-Radio-Contesting-for-Beginners/

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