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June Benelux Expedition


#1

I have a work trip to Aachen, Germany in early June (10-12) and I’ll be bagging a few summits before and after. The chance to bag summits in PA, LX & ON is too good to miss. I regularly visit The Netherlands. But sadly I languish in the lounges of Schipol Airport (just about every flight from Edinburgh involves flying via Schipol, or CdG or Frankfurt or Heathrow). But I haven’t actually set foot in the country proper since 2003. I’ve been to Luxembourg once in 1999 on the way to Friedrichshafen, it was shut! Well it was 1am. Likewise I’ve not set foot in Belgium since 2003 either since I was working in Leuven for Philips RCS.

So my plan is something PA on the way to Aachen and LX / ON & maybe F over the weekend before flying back to Scotland. Why no DM summits if I’m in Germany? Well I’ll be in Germany again 2 weeks later for the Friedrichshafen rally and I can bag something then and this leaves this trip to hoover up 3 new associations which takes me to 11 and Silver on the Mountain Explorer award. With DM later and hopefully business trips to EI & W7 later this Autumn I’m nearly up to Gold level.

I’ve put some tentative alerts up. Bands will mainly be 20m with maybe 17/15. Sorry no 10m/6m.


#2

I am looking forward to it Andy! By the way, do you recognize the former
Philips site in Leuven? http://www.sportoase.be/philipssite


#3

A colleague from our Leuven office was telling me how much it has changed there. I used to get a bus from near the wonderful Town Hall in Leuven and then my mind goes blank. I can’t remember the bus trip other than it wound about Leuven a bit then onto the industrial estate. I used to have a sleep on the bus I think!

I do remember there were hundreds of students on bicycles riding about and more bars than Glasgow. Oh and the Leuven policeman were all super cool and friendly. It’s one of the few places were I felt completely safe wandering about at any time of day or night.


#4

OK well that’s PA/PA-002 and LX/LX-001 activated. 26C on LX-001 this afternoon and the odd rumble of thunder which meant I packed up sooner rather than later. Huge amounts of static noise on 20m. Don G0RQL was the only SSB QSO on LX-001 despite calling for some time. ODX was KA1R.

I haven’t made definite plans yet for tomorrow but I’m hoping for another LX summit early (0800Z) then a summit in France which has not yet been activated finishing off with an ON summit.

I’ll post a more detailed plan when I have something to eat down in the town.


#5

Thanks for the contact today Andy hope conditions will be better for you tomorrow. 73 Don G0RQL.


#6

Hi Andy, I have listened for you each time that you have spotted on SSB, but so far no luck. I can hear others working you, but not your signal. Oh well, here’s hoping for better luck from Luxembourg.

73 Ed.


#7

Enjoy your meal Sir, and thank you for the QSO…


#8

Meal enjoyed down in Luxembourg City… gosh what a lot of pretty ladies there are in Luxembourg :wink:

Time to enter some logs and plan tomorrow…

UPDATE: Ah, I seem to have reached Silver level on the Mountain Explorer Award

:wink:


#9

Congrats on the Silver Mountain Explorer Andy,

Ed DD5LP

P.S. listened for you again when you were spotted today but unfortunately nothing heard here - too close for 20m I think.


#10

Thanks Ed, just a bit of nonsense as I don’t eagerly chase awards but when the opportunity arises it’s rude not to have a go.

ON/MM0FMF


#11

I also like the Mountain Explorer part of SOTA. Is there an easy way to extract a list of platinum explorers from the database?

73, Hans PB2T


#12

Not easily, I’ll have a think.


#13

I know that LX1NO is doing very well. Just curious if there is more competition. Enjoy your trip

Hans


#14

Thanks Hans. It’s been great fun to visit.

Today was a day of relaxation and a chance to meet Peter ON4UP who I have exchanged many emails with etc. but never met. I also got to visit Leuven again, 12 years after I lived there for a short period. It’s changed a lot in that time. But it’s still full of pretty young ladies riding bicycles :wink:

I’m just enjoying a cold beer in the hotel bar and fully (ab)using the hotel WiFi. The beer will be a little more expensive than downtown but if I drove downtown I couldn’t really have a drink. I’d certainly save money that way.

Andy
PA/MM0FMF


#15

Good to read that you arrived well at you next stop Andy. It was a great pleasure to meet you in Leuven. I was very happy I could offer you some sunshine :sunglasses:

For those of you who are interested to visit the city of Leuven: http://www.leuven.be/en/tourism/ or send me an e-mail.


#16

I had a scary moment when I tried to buy petrol, my credit card was refused by the terminal. I was expecting to have to ring the UK and ask them to “be a darling and turn my card back on ASAP”. I tried another and that was refused. It turned out the terminals were down and I could pay in the kiosk. Phew!

Just got a free beer from the hotel, I hate to wait longer than normal for my food, so “please have a free beer”. The thing was it didn’t matter to me, I was waiting for an injection to do its magic so the wait was no problem. But who would say no to FREE BEER :beer:

Free beer and a free upgrade on my hire car (Citroen/Peugeot supermini upgraded to Mini Cooper)!! Oh do I I like The Netherlands. I shall have to come back soon.


#17

Men are simple creatures.
This is a good example of how easy making us happy can be. Isn’t it?
Enjoy your trip, Andy.
Best 73 de Guru


#18

I should say I had zero problems taking two 4000mAH LiPOs and 817 in my carry on luggage. Each LiPOs traveled in its own LiPO Safe Bag (get them on eBay). My airline (KLM) says if you don’t have the original packing, seal the terminals with tape and place each in a plastic bag. That done they traveled in the laptop rucksack which contained:

Laptop + charger + mouse, tablet + tablet key pad, 817, 2x LiPO, 4 USB cables, USB car charger, diabetic syringe needles, pre-filled diabetic syringe, syringe cool pack, blood sugar test meter and lancets!

At Edinburgh I was taken for further screening, the 817 was swabbed and tested. Took about 2mins to be processed. Nobody was bothered at Amsterdam other than I saw the guy on the X-Ray machine have a good look at the image of my bag. But nobody gave a damn about the LiPOs. Amsterdam now uses TerraHerz backscatter radar for body scanning and that is sensitive. The metal anti-forgery strips in a few hundred Euros in my pocket was flagged as was the metal foil in the wrapper of a tube of (sugar free) mints!

I did have a printout of the “restricted items” webpage for KLM with me and printouts of my ham licence and CEPT TR6101 along with 12WPM Morse certificate (for France but I think they don’t care about that anymore). Also the 817 had a NiCd pack in it and I had a rubber duck. I could demonstrate the 817 receiving FM radio if needed.

A few minutes preparation payed off.


#19

Activations reports for PA/PA-002, LX/LX-001,F/ NO-070, ON/ON-006, F/NO-047

PA/PA-002 Vrouwenheide

10-Jun-2015
This summit is a few km from Ubachsberg which is a few km from the city of Heerlen, Netherlands and sits on the Dutch/German border. I found Ubashberg easily but there are lots of roadworks and my tablet’s GPS/map combo was needed to find my way past closed roads. There is a car park in the woods but the gate to it was closed. I parked by the gate where there is space for 3 cars. It takes almost 5minutes to reach the summit marker but the AZ is huge so I operated from a clearing nearer the (closed) car park.

Conditions were not good and I realised that 20/17m may be an excellent choice to activate with in GM but in PA the skip was to areas of few chasers. I did manage KA1R on 17m but one hour netted me 2 QSOs. No points, but enough QSOs to claim the unique summit for a new country towards the next level of the Mountain Explorer Award. It took no time at all to drive from here to my hotel in Aachen.

Summit trig point.

LX/LX-001 Steekammchen

12-Jun-2015

Business trip to Aachen finished, I left at around 2.00pm and made for LX-001. My hire car had been upgraded FOC to a Mini Cooper which was really rather quick and had a lots of grip. Best of all it had a fabulous “connected” GPS which meant I could enter the names of the roads the summits lay on and the nice lady told me how to get there. A godsend when someone has convinced everyone to drive on the wrong side of the road! It got me to with 150m of the summit and did a better job than in PA when it didn’t know about the roadworks.

The summit lies above Erpeldange and the GPS knew of the road named An de Gewaann and took me right to where the tarmac stops and the gravel begins. It’s an excellent gravel road and you can drive easily on it. As soon as the road started to descend, I parked up and wandered off to the summit. Big walk must be 150/200m to the where I operated from. Again 20m 1st and conditions were much better with a fair amount of short skip so I was able to complete with G0RQL in Devon on SSB. It was very hot and overcast with lots of static bangs. When I heard rumbles of thunder nearby I did a rapid takedown and was back at the car just as the rain drops started. Then I noticed I’d left some clips at the summit and had to go back all that way. So I did the walk twice, must be nearly 500m in all!

Operating position at the summit of LX-001.

The summit clearing. If you walk to the log pile and then down past the trees you come to where you can park off the gravel road.

My trusty steed for a trip around Northern Europe. Huge fun to drive, best part was paying for a Peugeot 208 and being upgraded for free to this pocket rocket :smile:

#LX/LX-004 Widderbierg
13-Jun-2015

I cancelled this summit. I stayed overnight in Luxembourg City and when I woke the predicted rain was falling. Very heavy rain still falling at 9.00am. So I breakfasted in a local cafe on coffee and croissants (and pain de chocolait). I decided that whilst it was only 10km from where I was, I would be better having a more leisurely drive to France.

F/NO-070 Le Haut Mont

13-Jun-2015

By the time I got here the rain was long gone and the sun was shining. It was about 23C (31C in Luxembourg Friday was too hot). The AZ is massive so I didn’t make the true summit. Just as well as it involved walk past a crop of peas or beans of some kind and the waist high plants were very wet still. I parked the car just off the road in some woods, walked back up the hill and set up on a clearing. This time 20m was in my favour with lots of good short skip. I could have done with suncreme as it was very sun when I packed up. I did have a hat though.

Lots of puzzled drivers drove past wondering what was going on. They looked at me and I mouthed “Bonjour” and always got a smile. Nobody reported a strange man with a Dutch car doing funny things by the road which was good. By the time I packed up it was a really nice sunny day. I’d stocked up on essential supplies in a supermarket in Luxembourg (buns, coke, apples, peaches, peanuts) so I didn’t bother stopping for lunch on the next drive.

Part of the AZ. The true summit is 200m from here but where I was standing is well in the AZ.

Enjoying the rays! It was very pleasant operating from here. Maybe a black T-Shirt is not the best choice for French summers and it was quite warm.

ON/ON-006 La Croix Saile

The drive to here from France across The Ardennes was glorious. Nice summer day, AC blasting away, sporty car with Go-Kart type grip and performance, wonderful scenary, all I needed was a blonde sat next to me and stop for a long lunch and some fine wine. Well the blonde was back in Scotland and the drink limits in Europe are 50mg like Scotland so no booze. Trees? Are there enough trees in The Ardenne? Yes. When they say it’s a forest they are not telling lies.

Anyway, ON-006 was reached with no issue… the nice lady never put a foot wrong after PA-002. Or maybe I now knew how it to program it better! There is a big car park here as there are many walks/bike rides in the forest. There is also a huge tower/viewing platform to commemorate the Millenium. And an shop selling coffer and Ice Cream. One Magnum Classic later (very naughty but it was 26C now) I set off. The car park is in the AZ. A huge amount of France and Belgium is in the AZ. I walked along the road then turned off into the forest following Phil G4OBK’s route. I had my phone GPS / Google maps running and I meandered along lanes until the GPS showed me on the French/Belgian border. Time to play.

I set up on the Belgian side of a track in the shade. The skip was now wrong and it was hard work to qualify the summit. There were more flies than I have ever seen, a midge net would be wise. But I qualified it eventually. Then I moved my gear to the other side of the track into France and …

The viewing tower. Worth the effort as the views are good.

The track can be seen in the middle of the picture. I operated from where the light green and dark green trees meet.

F/NO-047 Moulin de Thilay

13-Jun-2015

Well this is the same summit. Although the database recorded summit is a few km along the ridge in France. The actual highest point is back in Belgian. It’s the same summit with 2 refs and really only the Belgian refs is the valid one. But it is in the DB and valid until it gets removed with other Border summit dupes and so it would be rude to pass by the chance of another unique.

Well I got the unique but no points as I spent 45mins struggling to get 3 QSOs in the log. After that my stomach was rumbling and I need beer, the flies were driving me insane so it was back to the car for a look up the tower and then the hotel.

My GPS suggests this track is on the French/Belgian border. Belgium is to the left and France is to the right.

I was meeting Peter ON4UP the next day. We had discussed activating summits or spending time chatting whilst eating and drinking in Leuven. Beer won!

I managed to visit 5 countries in the following order in 6 days, Scotland > Netherlands > Germany > Belgium > Luxembourg > Belgium > France > Belgium > France > Belgium > Netherlands > Scotland and drove about 1200kms. The Mini averaged 48mpg which was nice but the boot(trunk) is tiny. 2 people with luggage would need the back seat lowering. I used my FT-817 barefoot, a 5m travel pole, a Buddistick clone antenna for 20/17m. A single 4000mAhr LiPo powered the rig.

A huge amount of fun had and some really nice bits of Europe discovered. I think a long weekend in Luxembourg with Mrs. FMF is needed as it was very pretty (and so cheap!) along with a holliday in The Ardennes. Thanks to everyone who worked me and I think Mark KA1R wins the “worked Andy on every physical summit” award. Also thanks to Peter ON4UP for a nice day in Leuven and to Phil G4OBK for suggestions and route advice.

This was very, very easy to do and anyone in the UK fancying some easy “foreign” SOTAing that is more adventurous than GI/EI/GD, should consider a bagging session in this area.