POTA Activation #3 - Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove (DC) (3/4/2022)
On March 4th my daughter had a day off from school for a teacher workday. Whenever she has the day off, I try to take the day off too and do something fun with her. We like being outside and going on hikes, so I thought I could show her how this POTA thing works, maybe get her on the air a little (under my call sign), and then go for a hike together along the banks of the Potomac River.
On my last POTA outing I heard a station operating from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove in Washington, DC and although I was unable to be heard by him, he inspired me to try an activation from there. The park is located on Columbia Island just across the Boundary Channel from the Pentagon. Due to the way that the border was defined between Maryland and Virginia, any island in the Potomac is part of Maryland (and thus to DC in the area that was given for the creation of the District of Columbia). If you drive down the George Washington Memorial Parkway, you may not realize you entered DC -- most people think of the District as being on the other side of the Potomac River, across the 14th Street Bridge. However, from the moment you get onto the Humpback Bridge just North of the 14th Street Bridge, you are, in fact, in the District of Columbia,
I am very familiar with this park. As a frequent bike commuter into DC, I would often take the footbridge from the grounds of the Pentagon over to the park if I was doing something in Crystal City, or even if I was looking for a bit of a detour to take in a bit of peace and tranquility. LBJ enjoyed the spot as a quick getaway from the city for quiet reflection and the views of the city certainly do not disappoint. There is a monument to LBJ in the grove along with some verdant grounds and a few picnic tables. Adjacent to the grove is Columbia Island Marina where many boats are docked and small restaurant is located.
I saw a picnic table in the sun a respectful distance North of the monument by a copse of trees and I started setting up my gear. You may remember from an earlier post that I had a bit of trouble with my Buddistick Pro antenna before, likely due to a capacitive coupling with the hiking pole I used to suspend the radial the antenna uses. Thankfully, the Internet was there to give some more information, and I discovered that many Buddistick Pro users had found that an electric fence post did a good job of holding up the radial. Buddipole says the radial should be about 4 feet off the ground ... conveniently, the post is 4 feet tall. The electric fence post, being for an electric fence, was also gloriously non-conductive. The only metal bit is on the base, where a metal spike gives you an easy way to get it to stay put in the ground. Additionally, being a fence post, it was designed to hold things up, so there are convenient attachment points along the length of the post perfect for attaching the radial. Although the Home Depot by me didn't have one in stock, they were able to get it shipped to store for free for the low price of $3.48. A bargain. And best of all, as soon as I used it, the antenna tuned up just as you'd expect by following the manual. Success!
I got the Buddistick Pro with the intent of using it in places where tossing a line in a tree was impossible, impractical, or forbidden. This was to be the first practical test of it. Because I was there with my daughter, my intention was for it to be a relatively short activation. I was hoping to make at least 10 QSOs and give the new antenna a good test. So, after putting K-0784 into the logs and hooking up our headphones I started calling CQ on 20m at 14.282. In short order I made a couple contacts before moving down to 14.258 due to some QRM. I got a Park to Park with NG9B out in Wisconsin, and then I got the biggest surprise of the day. Just above the noise floor, I heard a station that was trying to make a contact. It took a lot of commitment on both sides, but I was eventually able to pull his information out of the hash and make the QSO with EA1GIB in Vilagarcía de Arousa, Spain! My mind was blown -- with 10 W, the Buddistick Pro, and some determination we were able to work clear across the Atlantic ocean. Incredible! Manuel gave me a signal report of 55, which also amazed me. He was down around a 22 for me, but I was so excited when we were able to make the QSO. The Buddistick Pro definitely showed what it could do.
After that I was able to make another Park to Park with a ham radio YouTube celebrity, KB9VBR, all the way over in Wisconsin, and with two parks to boot. I finished out the activation by doing a little hunting, and then I decided to call it a day so that my daughter and I could get some lunch at the marina and soak in the scenery by the Potomac river. All told I made 16 contacts in MO, WI, GA, IL, ME, FL, and SPAIN! I could tell good things were in store for this new antenna.
Gear used in this activation
- Icom IC-705
- Buddipole Buddistick Pro
- LDG Z100 Plus
- RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
- Icom LC-192
- Jackery Explorer 500
- Sony Headphones
- Samsung Galaxy S6 Lite Tablet
- Logitech K380 Bluetooth Keyboard
- Rite in the Rain Notebook
- Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil