The Twin Cities Cheetah Run

Living way up north in Minnesota, specifically Ely, we have two State Parks nearby. For me to do a close-to-home “cheetah run” (working from 5 KFF-designated parks) would take a long time with a lot of driving, mosquitoes, negative temps, snow, and other typical Minnesota obstacles. Fortunately, Range Regional Airport is not too far from home and has a Delta flight that leaves to Minneapolis at 7am which opens up the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul for me to explore.

Brian Martin’s Cheetah Run Award

I got to Minneapolis Airport and got my rental car, I grabbed a Fajita Wrap from a gas station because it seemed like a healthy breakfast. I was set, my mind was already coming up with strategy for this Cheetah Run.


So here is where we break down what I traveled with. The rig is a 10 watt Elecraft KX2 powered by a 6 amp hour Bioenno Power LifePo4 Battery. The Antenna was the Packtenna 9:1 Random Wire. I would be keying CW with the Te-Ne-Ke Iambic Paddle. It should be noted I switched from thumb-dahs to thumb-dits recently and it feels like learning to write with the other hand or trying to drive a golf ball opposite of your dominant side.

Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge KFF-0364
I arrived to the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center which looked pretty desolate I was pretty close to the airport so I figured a Fish and Game Officer would come question me…or another uniformed officer. The Toyota Yaris probably kept me looking like I was studying birds or something.

Highlights of this activation: DX with IW2NXI and working  K0EAP in Minnesota on 20m SSB…probably groundwave.  24 total QSOS.

Fort Snelling State Park KFF-2482
The next park was Fort Snelling State Park. I saw the chapel where I think I attended a wedding as a kid, I was a ring bearer. Fort Snelling is pretty neat…it’s home to a National Cemetery where my grandfather (US Army) and grandmother (US Marines) are buried. This was a big parking lot which made the activation pretty easy, once again, it was near the airport and I wasn’t bothered by anyone in uniform.

Highlights of this activation: I worked Park to Park Contacts with W9WB, N9MM, W5MIG, and N4EX. 19 total QSOS.

Mississippi River KFF-3381
This was my first time activating a river and where the heck could I find a place to activate close enough to follow the rules for the Parks on the Air program? A map showed I could get close enough at Harriet Island.

Let’s go back in time to July 4, 1990 when New Kids on the Block were on The Magic Summer Tour. My mom took me to Harriet Island, something or someone bumped into my face and I got a bloody nose which ruined my night until someone brought me a Coca Cola (who sponsored this tour).

Brings back the 90s huh?

Parked at Harriet Island.

Highlights of this activation: Seeing someone from back home walk by. A Park to Park with N4EX. 18 total QSOs.

I had a great brisket sandwich from Whole Foods Market. I don’t live anywhere near a Whole Foods market and they have a great deli area with numerous options for a good meal. KO4SB Chuck told me I needed to eat faster and get to my next park but the sandwich was too good.

St. Croix River KFF-0673
The last time I was at this location, it was after midnight at my brother’s bachelor party so I knew I would have the -100′ to river spot. This spot was in Hudson Wisconsin at a boat launch on the St. Croix River. I set up my mast and my fingers were frozen. 20m had an S5 noise on it so I was dependent on stronger signals. While pounding out CW, some kid decided it would be fun to go do doughnuts in the parking lot with just a little bit of snow in it. After giving him the stink eye, he left, and was dealt with by Hudson Police Department. The Hudson officer then approached my vehicle and didn’t ask any questions but I was prepared to tell him I was investigating sonar signals that were being given off by carp.

Parked at St. Croix River in Hudson Wisconsin.

Highlights for this activation: A park to park with N4EX. 16 total QSOs.

Afton State Park KFF-2466
This is my stomping grounds! This is where I lived for the first 8 years of my life so being able to activate this park was special. As a young cub scout I planted trees and had my first scout camping experience here. Fast forward 23 years and I am putting up an antenna and getting on the air. This area was high and noise level was down.  My antenna was not meant for 80m but it loads up with a low SWR so I figured why not. WØIS was located in the Twin Cities so I was not surprised to get him but the big surprise was KØATZ Brian Martin in Missouri.

Parked at Afton State Park.

Highlights of this activation: A 5w to 5w 40m SSB QSO with WA3O who was on a BitX40 andPark to Park contacts with N5PHT and W5MIG. 25 total QSOs.

While leaving this park, I learned my brother Mike crashed his dirt bike so a sit down dinner with my dad and family would not be happening. I got to my dad’s house which is about 7 minutes from the park and hopped in his truck, went to the emergency room, and got a Jimmy John’s sandwich for dinner. Mike was okay and it turned out, he had a bruised knee.

I drove to my hotel which was conveniently located across the highway from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. I unloaded the car and noted my antenna mast was not in the car or my suitcase. Luckily it was dark and collapsed so there was a good chance that it was not removed by a thief or someone else with curiosity. I called my dad and he was able to go grab it off the fence post. Lucky for me, my dad works at the airport so he delivered it to me before he went to work.

The next morning, I was slinging my shoulder pack over my shoulder and grabbing my laptop after getting through security, when I dropped my laptop. The laptop landed perfectly on its corner and the LCD assembly had dented and the display was cracked. So much for being able to watch TV or a movie on the plane…or keep typing this blog post.

The WØPHX Cheetah Run MVPs
VE6UX and KØATZ for getting me at all 5 parks!
KC3IVK for getting me at 4 parks!

Final Thoughts
I was not too sure how this was going to play out…would I get 10 QSOs at every park or would my batteries last on my radio and laptop? I probably could have run another 5 parks with both my rig and laptop. The Dell XPS 13 is a workhorse! CW is a must if you depend on logging QSOs for an activity such as POTA and SOTA while working QRP. CW is like insurance and it will spot you on the Reverse Beacon Network if you are lacking cell coverage. To those that worked me, you were part of the equation that makes QRP work. It takes two good operators, two good antennas, and sometimes one set of good ears!

Find some good friends who will spot you on Facebook, clusters, and will make others aware you are out there because if you need a QSO or two they can help you.

No matter if you bring out 5 watts or 100 watts, if you have fun, that is all that matters!

73 de WØPHX