Luxembourg (1997): A total Fiasco.




The LX9EG Fiasco: 


I drove my RV (camper) to Darmstadt, where I picked up Hartumt, DJ1AT.  We continued on to our destination, the Scouts Home in Belvedere, Dudelange, Luxembourg. There we met Norby, LX1NO, who gave us the keys and a quick briefing on the logistics of the QTH.  


We launched the contest operation with "Gruenbacher Weissbier" (the official beer of the Bavarian Contest Club) which Norby loved, followed by a bottle of LX "Vin Blanc".   


After Norby left, Hartmut and I planned our Antenna farm.  An FB53 (5 el. beam)  on a 20m tower was already there, but tied down, unable to be rotated.  We would have to climb the tower and untie the ropes securing it from the weather.  From the top of the tower, we would string a heavy duty rope to a flagpole, directly south-east of the tower.  We would use this rope as a flexible tie point for the centers of a Carolina Windom (160m~10m), a "Corner-fed" 40m delta loop, and an 80m dipole rotated 90 degrees from the Windom.

Well at least, that was the plan.

At 05:00 GMT I woke Hartmut and by first light, we laid out all the antennas and chose the material best suited for each antenna.  At 09:30 GMT we attacked the tower - Hartmut first, and then me. 20m (66 ft.) is a big tower when you're climbing it in a snow storm.  It was about +2 degrees Celcius, foggy, windy, and snowing - perfect for climbing towers!  


We spent about 30 minutes on top of the tower, untying the FB53, and securing ropes and pulleys for the other antennas.  At some point in time, Hartmut said, "Do you realize there are 110 years up here?"  Hartmut and I were old timers totaling over 110 years of age and over 75 years of ham radio experience.  That must have been some kind of a record, at least for that tower.  


By 10:15 GMT, we were back on the ground.  My legs were shaky but my spirits were high - the hardest part was done.  "It's all downhill now" I told Hartmut.  


The next task was to string the rope from the top of the tower, to the flagpole across the street.  I attached the pulley and rope for the feed point of Carolina Windom to this rope and as Hartmut walked with one rope towards the flagpole, I headed down some wet, slipery stairs with the other rope. At approximately 10:30 GMT, Hartmut yelled "Rick".  As I turned to answer "what", I took my eyes off the steep wet stairs.  A Hollywood stunt man could not have looked better - as I fell backwards, sliding down the wet stairs on my back (and backside).  While falling, I remember thinking "this must look pretty stupid - this can't be happening".  It was stupid and it did happen. 


I tried to get up but fell back to the ground in pain.  I tried to yell for Hartmut but couldn't yell loud enough due to the pain.  Hartmut says one second he saw me, and the next second I had vanished. Eventually Hartmut came looking for me, but he did not manage to get me to my feet.  I only managed to make it to a sitting position on the stairs.  I could not get up. Thank God for mobile phones.  11:00 GMT: "Ta-Tu-Ta-Ta"  (that's the noise ambulances make here in Europe).  


Hartmut took pictures of me with those three lovely LX YL's (“sanitaeters”), sitting in the back of the ambulance.   


11:30 GMT, hospital, X-Rays (darn that hurt, turning from side to side - but nothing was broken except my pride).  

Taxi !  12:30 GMT, arrival back at the LX9EG QTH and straight to bed.  I could find no way to lie which didn't hurt.  14:00 GMT, arrival LX1NO.  I sat up (man that really hurt).  We (Norby, Hartmut, and Rick) evaluated the situation.  It would be dark soon.  No antennas were up and the first op was totally incapacitated. 


Norby asked, "what hurts more, laying down, or sitting up?" 

I said, "both the same". 

"Then you can work the contest", he said. 

Hartmut insisted.  I submitted.

"Plan B":  Single Op, single band: 40m (my favorite).  

As Norby unpacked my equipment, Hartmut put up the 40m dipole alone.  Using the pulley which we had attached to the top of the tower, he hoisted the center of the dipole, together with a 100m piece of Aircell7 coax up about 20 meters.  With the help of the famous DJ0IP "Schmeissenstein" (throwing rock), he sent the ends of the dipole flying over their respective trees.  Result: Resonance outside the band.


The antenna was last used at 4U1VIC (CQWW CW, 1992) where it had been hanging 100+ meters high.  At 20 meters height, its  resonance had moved quite a lot. I hate matchboxes, but Murphy always makes me use them.  It was simply too late and too dark to send Hartmut back out to work on the antennas. 

Equipment:  Ten Tec Omni VI, Ameritron ALS-600 (500w Output), MFJ-986 differential tuner, and a homebrew DL7AV "QSK Platine" (to time-sequence the keying of the Omni and the Linear).

Starting a contest with busted up ribs and less than 5 hours sleep, 4 nights in a row is not exactly a strategic advantage.  But as the old Mississippi paddleboat gamblers used to say: "you have to play the hand you were dealt". 

Let's see...if I want to stay awake, I'd better drink lots of coffee.  If I drink coffee, I have to go to the “QWC”.  Each time I QWC I need at least 10 minutes because of the pain and the time it takes to get up and down and move inch by inch towards the bathroom.  More contest decisions: Shall I search and pounce multis, or run pile ups? Shall I drink coffee and run....., or shall I not drink coffee and fall asleep?


That was the good news.  Now the bad news:

Somehow I had to get my truck back to Munich.  I couldn't drive. Hartmut informed me that driving trucks is not a part of the 2nd Op's job description.  He didn't feel comfortable with driving such a large truck.   So I called my "Honey". Sibylle (my YL) had planned to spend the weekend with her daddy celebrating his birthday.  With me having spent so much time working (QRL) during the past few months, she had not been particularly happy with me anyway.  Being very polite, using my very best QRP voice, I explained the situation to her.  She's a real doll!  On Saturday she rode the train for over 8 hours to Luxembourg City. 


Assessing the situation, I told Hartmut we had better go QRT and take down the antenna, and pack away all the equipment before she arrives.  Notice I said "we".  Actually I meant "he".  I drank a Gruenbacher Weissbier while he did all that.


Norby and his YL, Manu (LX2LX) met Sibylle at the train station in Luxembourg City and drove her to our QTH.  We all went to dinner at a local Italian restaurant and returned to the truck for a couple of bottles of Vin Blanc from LX.  I have to admit, the Luxembourg wine was a pretty good pain killer.

My contest results were pathetic: 40,000 points. 

All things are relative.

That's about 1 million points less than I had planned for, yet 40,000 points more than I thought I would make as I was riding in the ambulance on my way to the hospital.

Needless to say, the long trip back to Munich, bouncing around in the back of the truck, was the worst trip in my life.  I thought the pain would never stop.


Back home, I had my own doctor check me over. The doctor in Luxembourg had checked me over and released me from the hospital, but I had no idea what I had.  I didn’t speak French.  As it turns out, all I had were major bruises including bruises to the kidney.  Nothing was broken, but it sure hurt for several days. 


Yes, ham radio contesting can sometimes be a contact sport.


Little did I know that one year later I would end up in the hospital again due to CQWW contest. But that's another story.