Freeze Your Buns Off 2000
One of my favorite contests is the FYBO.  Put on by the Arizona Scorpions QRP Club, the FYBO is a winter field day event.  It is the only contest where you can get multiplier points based on the frigid temperature at which you “Freeze Your Buns Off”.

Winter weather conditions on the central coast of California are not really amenable to an outdoor radio adventure. Seasonal storms bring rain and high winds and are notoriously unpredictable.  In addition, our relatively mild temperatures are not very conducive to high multipliers for the contest.  Knowing the odds were against us, yet never the less optimistic, Tom, KQ6DV, Ron, K6EXT, and myself, Jeff, AC6KW set out to plan our best FYBO yet. Our plan was to get up early on the day of the contest, travel to a nearby mountaintop, set up our stations and play the day away.

We chose to go to Mount Madonna County Park.  The park is nearby and we had previously worked the 1999 Bumblebee contest there.  We knew of a really good location in the park to set up our antenna.  A special place, a place with “The Branch”.

Tom was off work on the Friday before the event and set out to score the site for us.  Friday began as a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and it was fairly warm, but as the day progressed the weather turned dismal.  To make matters worse Tom discovered that our beloved site was in a portion of the park that was closed for the winter.  He would have to find us another location.  He did a fine job of securing another location for us with a branch similar to the one we knew and loved.  Using a slingshot, Tom placed two ropes over the branch and left them hanging overnight to give us a head start on set up in the morning.

The weather report for Saturday was for rain, wind, and more rain.  A late night decision was made that we would persevere.  Anyhow, we all know how accurate weather reports are:  maybe they would be wrong.
Saturday morning was as all early morning outings are.  Out of the comfort of a warm bed and into cold damp morning mist, constant thoughts of crawling back into bed running through my head.  During the trip to Mount Madonna, we discussed our plan of attack.  The first thing that we would do was set up the station’s main antenna; a 100-foot flat top center fed with 300-ohm ribbon cable.  Then I would get on the air and “get the show on the road” while Tom and Ron would set up a tarp over the operator’s position, and then string up a random wire antenna for Ron’s station.  Ron elected to go it alone with his new Alinco DX70TH portable HF station.  Working as a team Tom and I would take turns at the helm of my station.

The sun was just starting to rise as we approached the foot of Mount Madonna, and although it was overcast the horizon was clear and to our surprise a rainbow formed over the valley.  Not just any rainbow, but a double rainbow with hints of a third ring.  “And where did the rainbow end?” you ask.  It ended at the campground at the county park: probably at our site.  We took this as a good omen.

We arrived at the campground and as per our plan got the station antenna up and I began operating.  The rig was my Elecraft K2. With its new internal ATU, we were able to get a perfect match on all the bands that we would be operating on.
The sun was now rising, the sky was clearing, and 15 meters was hot.  We thought about not putting the tarp up, as the weather seemed to be clearing, but decided to play it safe.  This proved to be a wise decision for as soon as we finished hanging up the tarp the clouds started piling up.  Then the drips started.  First one at a time, then two, then buckets.  The tarp was working well.  We were dry and the temperature was 47F.  Not cold by mid-western standards, but perhaps cold enough to put us in the running.  Then came the wind, not just a spring breeze, but the kind of wind that makes rain fall sideways.  Now we were getting wet.  Tom and Ron made the decision that the table would need to be moved to the far end of the tarp in order for us to stay dry.  So they picked up the table and started moving it.  The only problem was I was in mid-QSO!  I started to protest, but Tom simply said “No problem, just sign QRP mobile!”

We worked on through the day managing to stay fairly dry and a bit warmer than hypothermic.  As 5:00 came around, the ranger came by and hinted that she would need to be closing the park soon.  We told her we were just finishing up.  A bit later, she drove by and flashed her lights at us.  Tom said, “Just 2 more QSO’s.  At about 5:45, with the ranger standing at our campsite tapping her foot on the ground, we decided it was time to quit.  By the time we finished breaking camp at 6:00, it was pitch black, the fog had rolled in and we were really starting to get cold.

All and all we had lots of fun.  With 5 watts, a 3AH battery, and a field antenna, we made QSO’s from Alaska to Florida, and from New York to California.  Seventy-five QSO’s in all, and with our multipliers for the temperature, alternative power, and field operation, we had plenty of points to keep us in the running.  This years FYBO turned out to be quite a blast.  Now it is on to the next QRP contest.