View from the plane on our way in from San Fransisco

A short time after returning from Scotland we were already thinking about next year's holiday. Some of the places we were thinking about were Hawaii and Alaska. After checking flight schedules and looking for basic information about the areas we choose Alaska. By the time we were sure that this would be our destination it was December 1997. I subscribed to the Alaska news group and posted a few questions, I also did some searches on the net and came up with addresses of Visitors Bureaus all over 'the biggest state of the union' so we could start writing for information. One thing that worried me was the fact that Alaska was going to be 'extremely busy' during the summer months meaning that we would have to make a lot of reservations months in advance.

The Christmas holidays were spend looking through brochures and books so that by year's end we had made a provisional itinerary. A few days later the final dates for the holidays were agreed upon at my workplace and reservations were made for flights, RV rental , the Valdez to Whittier ferry and the Denali park bus.

Flights were already a problem in January. Our first choice of return date was not available, we would have to stay an extra day.... big problem... NOT!!!

We booked a 23ft RV with Great Alaskan Holidays and the Valdez to Whittier ferry was booked with Alaska Marine Highway System .

As we counted the days I was listening on 17 meter on March 28th when I stumbled across my first KL7. I waited patiently for him to finish his QSO and gave him a call. I was not alone..... but managed to talk to KL7J eventually. Only a week later I was on 20 meter listening to another KL7. I heard him say that he would go to 17 meter , As fast as I could I QSYd to the announced frequency and started to call. Seconds later I was talking to KL7AC , Andre in North Pole, only 15 miles east of Fairbanks. He gave me lots of information (especially weather conditions) and even invited us to come and visit. Over the next months we kept in touch via radio and e-mail.

KL7AC, Andre

KL7AC, Andre, is preparing dinner for the hungry Belgians visiting him and Shana in North Pole, AK.

July 24th 1998. Finally we left on holiday. At 07.30 we left Brussels airport to London Heathrow on British Midland where we changed planes for a flight with United Airlines to San Francisco. Our scheduled 4 hour stopover increased to 4.45 hours before we boarded the B-757 to Anchorage. We made up the lost time and landed after 22 hours of travel at our final destination. Anchorage is not a 'JFK/LAX' type of airport so we were on our way outside in about 15 minutes. A 5 minute taxi ride later we stopped at Great Alaskan Holidays where our RV was waiting for us. The office was closed but arrangements were made to have the key available. We went for a quick snack next door and by 10pm we we asleep. The next day we were up early (jet lag maybe??). we had our breakfast and had unpacked by the moment the office opened (8am). After the necessary paperwork we were on our way, a quiet day in Anchorage, just to adapt to the climate and time difference.

I planned to get the TS-50S running that evening. That's where Murphy came in. I mounted the Outbacker Perth on the hood of the RV. While checking the SWR I saw the lights of the cruise control flash and on top of that SWR was going up and down. Something was wrong.. I didn't want to mess with the electronics of the RV so I decided that the antenna would have to be mounted elsewhere. I choose the rear bumper for that. At least that would be a nice piece of metal. No such luck... Impossible to get SWR low enough to even start tuning. Beside that, I couldn't reach the front of the RV with my coax (23ft is a big distance to get to the antenna). I decided not to loose more time and operate only during evenings for the rest of the holiday.

After putting up the antenna (took just 5 minutes) I switched on the transceiver and found 20 meter full of signals. Of course.. IOTA contest was on... I worked W3SE (NA-144 southern CA) and W7UG in Oregon. I hoped that this was not going to be the 'best DX' for the rest of the time. At least I heard a few Europeans...

RV with dipole on the FTT

When parked in the evenings I mounted a 10 meter (33 ft) fiberglass telescopic tower at the back of the RV. Sometimes I put up a dipole (2*20 meter) other times I used 12 meter of helical wound wire and 20 meter wire at the earth side. It worked great on 80-10 meter (tuned with MFJ-941E).

On Sunday 26th July we left Anchorage for Denali . We booked an RV park in advance since this park is the main tourist attraction in Alaska. Contrary to what we were told the roads were not crowded (compared to Europe). That evening I put up the antenna again and the band was less crowded but there was heavy QRM. I soon discovered that unplugging the electrical hookup cured the problem. Probably the 115 v to 12 v system was making all the noise. I unplugged the hookup and started listening on 20 meter and found DK8DV calling CQ. This was my chance... Christian could hear me, very weak... but at least he heard me... my hopes were up. After repeating my call sign several times he suddenly had all the info, and more... Andre was also on frequency and even though he couldn't copy me (we were to close) he knew that the KL7/ON**** that Christian was trying to copy would have to be me... Andre and Christian talked for a moment and a sked was made to call Andre on 80 meter. 130 miles is a great distance for 80 m so talking to Andre was no problem. We made arrangements to meet at 6.00 UTC every day on 80. After switching off I went outside to plug in the electric hookup and found myself standing about 15 feet away from a moose. Alaska IS wilderness.

Next day, Monday we had reservations for a trip to Wonder Lake on a National Park Service bus. We were hoping to see some wildlife on this 9.5 hour trip. We would not be disappointed.

Bears

We saw these two bears in Denali Nat. Park.

It's a mother with 2 year old cub.

We didn't feed them....

That evening we returned to the RV park and I quickly set up the antenna. Not a lot was happening so I stayed on 40 meter for a while. Later I went to 20 meter and heard OM3EY. This was my chance... I made contact and asked Edward to put me on the cluster. At last everything worked out. ON6KD , Karel , was first. Even with the low signal strength I was being heard.... After 5 minutes of updates (where are you now? how's the weather? ..) I worked a few other Belgians from our local radio club. I made QSO with Andre on 80m to arrange a meeting on 2 meter the next day when we would be in Fairbanks.

The following day we only drove 130 miles to Fairbanks. After going to the Visitor center we made a short walk downtown and then went on to Alaskaland. This is a theme park telling the story of the final frontier. From here I called Andre on 2 meter. We already planned to visit Santaland North Pole and we were thinking of staying in their RV park while in the area. However, Andre invited us over to 'camp' in front of his house and, as an extra bonus, use his station for the daily sked with Belgium. How could I refuse..... a beam instead of wire antennas....

Andre guided us to his house via 2 meter. When we arrived on his driveway we were greeted by Andre and two 'furry creatures' that turned out to be very friendly.

Ken playing with 'Wiley the dog'

Our son, Ken (6y), was very happy to find 2 dogs to play with. Later that evening the dogs were totally worn out.

KL7/ON4BAM

Why settle for a mobile setup when you can play with this??

TS-850S

FL-7000 400 W

TH11 DX

The group
The group just before our ways parted
L to R: Shana, Feta (sitting), Andre, Wiley (sitting) Ken, Jeanny,Maurice

All good things must come to an end. After staying with Andre and Shana they drove with us from North Pole to Glennallen. This photograph was taken at a camp place where they would stay the night while we drove on for an extra hour and camped in Chitina.

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