Tag Archives: Hamcation

Three busy weeks in Florida

Seventeen days we’ve spent in Florida this year.  While we miss Arizona, Florida has treated us very well.  Rain, what very little we’ve had, has come only in the wee hours of the morning.  Temperatures daily have averaged 75 degrees.

Okay, humidity is consistently above 70 percent and the palmetto bugs and lizards are conspiring to either lift our trailer to their favorite spot or invest in condos within.  These aren’t problems, yet.

We’ve been busy again!  Our first week we visited in Orlando with ham radio friends from all over the states.  Hamcation, organized by the Orlando Area Radio Club, is a fun hamfest with especially user-friendly features.

We parked our RVs in a cozy cluster alongside a pretty lake in the regional fairgrounds.  The professional vendors rented space in the fairground’s show buildings while tailgaters showed their wares throughout the twenty-odd acres of open field parking surrounding our RV area on three sides.

Our favorite aspects of this Hamcation “rally” are the daily socials with our WBCCI and RV Service Net friends and the proximity of the hamfest to the RVs.  We can saunter over to the vendor show, cruising the  tailgater area along our way, and shortly we slip back to our RVs awhile.

We can test our purchases, think them over, decide to double or return them, or return to the vendors and ask another question or three about something we didn’t think of (of course) while we were there.  Very very convenient and unlike any hamfest we’ve attended anywhere.  And we have a lot of fun!

Our second week we spent in Sarasota with the WBCCI Florida State Rally (FSR), again at fairgrounds.  Unlike our cozy cluster of fifty RVs in Hamcation’s rally area we now are part of 335 Airstreams packed tightly in four parking areas.  And in the Sarasota County Fairgrounds we are inundated by dust from a constant stream of cars and golf carts and RVs zipping by just in front of our parking space.

The FSR is a well-organized event with nightly entertainment, daily games, a petite but interesting vendor show (approx 25 vendors), and Airstream friends from all over U.S. and Canada.  Again we were active with our ham radio club friends too, hosting a couple of socials, participating in the FCC licensing exam and talking antennae and gear.

This week we enjoyed a dinner and Bible study at Cason Methodist in Delray Beach.  We studied a few dozen verses of Acts together after a nice meal together.  We’re camped behind St Paul’s Episcopal in probably the only rv parking allowed in the city.  The staff and congregation at St Paul’s have been wonderful hosts and we appreciate them greatly.

Yesterday we completed our NOMADS project’s first of three week in Lake Worth and Delray Beach.  Nine volunteers, including us, assembled Sunday afternoon to provide cleaning, repairs, and painting to Caring Kitchen and CROS Ministries.

We’ve painted a large breezeway and repaired damaged kitchen flooring and door hardware at Calvary Methodist in Lake Worth.  At Caring Kitchen we’ve  sorted and bagged vegetables and meat, helped prepare meals, handed out food bags, cleaned, painted, unloaded food trucks, cut and edged the lawn, trimmed shrubs, and cleaned the parking lot.

Nine people working six hours daily can accomplish amazing things.  A lot of work we are providing is a drop in the bucket compared to the agency’s needs.  A few improvements might last but Caring Kitchen depends upon constant daily input from many many volunteers.

I counted yesterday almost twenty volunteers at one time working to sustain the daily operation.  Only three paid staff members, tons of donated food, and dozens of volunteers all come together to provide over 100,000 meals annually to hungry people locally.  April, Guillermo, and Sister Mary Ann are incredible multi-taskers, orchestrating an amazing array of resources and needs to calmly and consistently keep this operation humming.

Debbie and I celebrated last night completing our first week’s work.  We walked throughout Delray Beach’s downtown business area.  Several blocks are saturated with restaurants, many with outdoor dining.  Interspersed are art galleries, high-end boutiques and clothing shops. We were interested to witness so much affluence only hours after helping serve so many very needy people.  What a contrast!

The sun’s up, Debbie’s not, I’m enjoying listening to the cocks crowing and the birds singing their good morning songs.  I’m on my second cup of tea, today’s the first day of our three-day weekend.  Life is good.  We’re in 75 degrees, skies are fair, we’re healthy and well-fed, we have a bed and shelter.  We have it so very good and we’re grateful.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

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Headin’ east

It’s time for us to turn eastward once again.  Tough to do, we’ll miss our Towerpoint and ham radio friends and all the great tennis and social events.  Duty calls and, hopefully, fair Florida weather will be welcoming too.

Friends from Calgary, JIm and Martha, were on an easterly course for Tallahassee FL from Las Vegas.  They arrived Wednesday afternoon at Towerpoint for a brief visit before they resumed their trip.  They’ll be joining an Airstream caravan about Florida a few days from now.  Our planned departure from Mesa was Thursday morning, a half day behind them.

Our travels have previously been altered by thunderstorms and snowstorms but this is the first time we’ve delayed a departure.  Thursday’s forecast for our trip’s first leg called for 3 to 11 degrees (Fahrenheit) overnight and snow and high temperatures in the high teens.  Our previous trip from Mesa to the east (Dec 2009) was so fast-paced we dedicated ourselves this time to planning an extra two days into the itinerary.  We looked at this weather outlook and dispensed with one of our zero days.  The weather would be better one day later.

We mentioned the weather outlook to Jim and Martha and they decided to wait their departure until Friday morning because the trip’s overnights would be too chilly.  They gained a relaxing Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday in Mesa.  We joined Bob and Faith for a farewell celebration at Organ Stop Pizza .

Organ Stop is a must-see in Mesa, it has the world’s largest Wurlitzer organ complete with 23 ranks and an entire set of 32 feet long wood pipes. Wonderful organists do a wonderful job showcasing the organ by playing several sets of tunes including requests from customers.  We all enjoyed good pizza, salad, and wonderful music at Organ Stop Pizza.

The evening was still young and across the street is Pros Ranch Market, the largest Mexican grocery store we’ve visited.  Panederia, salsa bar, tortilleria, taqueria, cremeria, carniceria, and all sorts of produce we’d never seen are presented in colorful and appealing displays.  The sweet rolls and cookies are really tempting, the fresh tamales are excellent, the salsas are fresh and fantastic, and if we can catch the store with short check-out lines we enjoy sampling treats from Pros Ranch.

Towerpoint Resort’s gate guard welcomed us to a completely and very dark resort.  Colder than usual temperatures greatly increased electrical demand throughout the east valley and wreaked havoc with the local utility’s power distribution plan.  Rolling blackouts ensued and the resort’s power did not successfully reconnect.  People in some sections of the resort spent  several days without power.  Thursday evening everyone apparently was “in the dark” from before 2100 hours until sometime after 0400 hours.

It’s nice to wake up to full power.  And even nicer is our fully self-contained home.  Regardless of local utility power issues our batteries power lights, heat, fans, and  electronics.  Unfortunately for our park model (mobile home) neighbors their lights and heat are completely dependent upon local utility electrical power.  A few have gas furnaces, but their gas furnaces require 110vac to drive the fans and controls, whereas our furnace is battery-powered.

Good news is on the horizon for Towerpoint folks — their weather forecast is for 70 degrees by Super Bowl Sunday.  Wish we were there!  We have had a wonderful winter in Towerpoint with friends on and off the tennis court, and our Mesa weather overall was fabulous.  No matter how cool the temperatures the hot tubs were still steamy hot and it’s never too cold to play tennis.  Several of us gathered for a couple hours of tennis Thursday morning.  The captains had cancelled our inter-resort league match due to cold temperatures.  Our friendly game, an hour later, was very nice in sub-40 degree temperatures.

Our first travel day we left Mesa at 0530 hours caravanning with Jim and Martha.  We arrived almost fourteen hours later in chilly (27F) Fort Stockton TX.  Saturday morning we left at 0630 hours and drove just past Houston — at 545 miles a much shorter drive than Friday.  Houston is much warmer than Fort Stockton, we arrived to 60 degrees.  Sunday and Monday we’ll also have 400 mile drives, weather permitting.  We’re heading for Orlando FL for Hamcation, the best hamfest in the southeast.

We’ve been “out west” since June 2010, it’s time to head east again.  Even as much as we’ll miss everything western, the food, the weather, tennis, and especially friends, we have family and friends and doin’s back east.  And hopefully we can find our way westward later this year.

[Sorry no pictures this time — posting on the road with battery power only, glad to get the alphabet on this post.  Will post pictures of Organ Stop party later.]

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Hamcation 2010 with RV Service Net

We spent last week at Orlando Amateur Radio Club’s annual hamfest, Hamcation. Our third year attending, we knew the ropes and easily relaxed into the experience. We didn’t know there would be record attendance by our group, the RV Service Net hams.

The past couple of years RV Service Net has had around 25 to 30 RVs attending this large hamfest. This year we had at least 49 rigs — wow! We arrived at the gates before 1130 hours on Wednesday two days before the hamfest would begin. And we were easily 100 back in the RVers queue.

In front of us were many tailgaters or flea market sales folks as well as vendors who find RV travel perfect for managing their work at the shows. We sympathize with the vendors who move from hamfest to hamfest, displaying and showing their products for two or three days at each whistlestop. They can sleep in their own bed every night only if they are RVers, whereas the hotel/motel crowd are in a different room and bed every week or two.

The gates opened on time and parking was handled smoothly and expertly by our group’s own AA8Q Jack Mitchell. Again this year the RV Service Net folks had RV parking at Lake Lawne’s edge, a pretty site within 300 yards of the indoor sales areas but out of the main flow of traffic. Our group had so many rigs parked we established our own small community.

This year, our third, we were less the newcomers. We have met many of these hams in our previous two visits to Hamcation or at Hamvention in Dayton last year. Some we only have met on the air, talking on the RV Service Net’s daily 40 meter morning nets. It was nice to meet them in person and have face-to-face conversations with everyone.

You might wonder, why were we there? One compelling reason is for Jim to represent the Club’s leadership, as upcoming President. He has spent the past two years learning the ropes as 2nd, and 1st VP, and this summer he may become President. One of the primary duties is attendance at Hamcation and at the WBCCI (Airstream owners association) annual rally.

But an even better reason for attending Hamcation is because this is a really fun hamfest for us. This is the largest hamfest in the southeast U.S. and enjoys a large number of new equipment vendors. There are typically over a hundred tailgaters outdoors selling a tremendous variety of gear, new and used, from their tables or trailers or tailgates.

Best of all is the Orlando, Fl, weather and very enjoyable camaraderie of the RV Service Net’s members. This year we enjoyed the crowd a lot. The weather left a lot to be desired, it wasn’t warm at all. Cool weather seems hardly worth complaining about when every state in the Union was receiving snow. But heck, we’re in Florida and it’s supposed to be warm and sunny.

It was cold and rainy all day Friday until sunset. Really cold and rainy. Friday was the opening day of the hamfest so a lot of us braved the rain and were in the buildings when the clouds just burst and poured down the rain. Stuck inside with our credit cards and all these great vendors selling ham radio gear and accessories. Darn, what are we going to do now?

We made the best of it, of course. The vendors give away waterproof shopping bags, so we won’t need to worry with keeping our purchases dry. Our goal for the opening day, though, was scoping out which vendors were present and what parts of their product line they brought. They cannot bring everything to every show, so we browse and scheme what we’ll do without and what we need to buy.

This decision process is crucial, a real challenge for us. Hamcation represents our one golden opportunity for the year to stimulate the economy and supply our electronics gear needs for the next year. Or at least until the next hamfest. Jim will have to make do awhile with whatever he can secure while we’re here. He stocks up on wire and connectors of several sizes, coax cable and ends, various small fittings for the radios or antennae, and sometimes solder, tape, and even rivets. We take the most time poring over the variety of new radios, antennae, software, and amplifiers.

Deb browses cool electronics stuff at Hamcation

This isn’t just for the vendors’ benefit, but is how we learn about so much of the equipment. We can look at pictures and read descriptions all year long. We can sometimes find a amateur radio store but not often. The hamfest gives us a great opportunity to browse, touch the gear, ask questions about this feature or that, and try to assimilate all this information into a shape we can remember.

Ham station in our house

We have enough amateur radio gear for our rolling house and our truck. We have long distance and middle distance and short range capabilities on the ham bands. We have a very nifty antenna mounted atop the Airstream that folds down electrically for travel or to avoid lightning or falling limbs. We have good antennae to allow one of us in the truck to call the other in the trailer when we are anywhere from a block away to up to 50 miles separated.

HF antenna on our roof

What else do we need? Well, it’s not so much need, is it? Do you need jewelry? Do you need a good looking truck? Of course not, it’s more about necessity! You may have heard before, “When all else fails, Ham Radio works”. This is more than a slogan, it represents a truth demonstrated many times every year across the continent. We are just a small couple of cogs in this wide network of ham radio operators who may, some day, provide essential relaying of communications into or out of an area stricken with loss of normal communications.

So it’s our duty to keep on buying really cool radio gear and learning how to use it so we can help you. You see, it’s not really about us at all, it’s all about serving you. Wow, I’m getting into this, I think I should take a break and go browse a ham radio equipment catalog and see how much more I can help you.

I guess I was getting a little sidetracked. Where was I? Oh yeah, the reason we go to hamfests. We check the new radios and antennas and think, “When we have a much bigger house (than our current 188 square feet) we could get this radio and that amplifier and this power supply and rig it to this really tall antenna on a huge tower and . . .

A bunch of the best Net Controllers anywhere -- RV SVC NET

But the best reason to attend the hamfest with the RV Service Net is the RV Service Net people. From anywhere we set up in North America we can reach friends on the RV Service Net at scheduled ham radio nets any day of the week. The daily nets are directed by volunteer net controllers from all over the U.S. and Canada. And a special treat for us was to meet so many of the net controllers face to face last week.

We talk to these folks We enjoy visiting with them, talking with them, eating with them and, with many of them, traveling too. RV Service Net is a one of many many great groups of ham radio operators. We enjoy being able to reach one of our group’s nets from almost anywhere on the continent. And it is especially neat to spend the week in Orlando with so many hams from this group.

You probably wonder what we purchased at this Hamcation? Jim bought wire, microswitches, grounding strap, and we bought a couple of microphones. Is this not a wonderful demonstration of our unselfish quest to better serve you in any communications failures?

We’re making a little fun about what is really a very serious matter. For all the enjoyment we have, Jim especially, with ham radio the premise for the amateur radio licensing system is to promote advancement of emergency communications capability. And we do take this seriously and continue to carefully hone our skills and equipment for best radio communications.

Jim and Debbie
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