Tag Archives: RV Service Net

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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Heavy RFI in Mesa

Radio Frequency Interference, or RFI, is a well-known and much documented problem. RFI hopefully is less common and disruptive than in the old days of amateur radio. Modern amateur radio equipment stays more tightly on frequency and is easier to tune. Modern television and radios are superior to the old ones at discriminating unwanted signal and receiving the desired stations. Why, then, an article now about RFI in Mesa?

We have discovered a pervasive source of RFI in TowerPoint Community in Mesa. The effect seems very strong and widespread throughout this community of over 1,000 people. We wonder it hasn’t been reported, but our research shows no notices on the RFI from in or near this Resort.

N4RTG Debbie and N5RTG Jim have been here eight days. These eight days have seen no (absolutely ZERO) participation by either of us on the regional or national ham radio nets. The week before we arrived to TowerPoint we were daily checking in on the 20 meter RV Service Nets (networks of home-based and mobile ham radio operators checking in and reporting on location, weather, health, and travel plans) out of Minnesota and Tennessee, and the 40 meter Pacific RV Service Nets from Longview, Washington and points in California. We cannot get on the nets due to the interference.

We were able, after just a little consideration and without any fox-hunting, to locate the source of the radio frequency interference. The answer should not have surprised us. Our good friend, W7IRY Bob, warned us of the likely interference problem before we arrived. Some things don’t go away even if you ignore them.

We have spent time, every morning and afternoon, at the TowerPoint Tennis Club. Our morning starts there before breakfast at 0700 hours when we hit for part of an hour before the Club activities consume all the courts. After breakfast we return to the courts to watch competition or team practices.

Monday (yesterday) we spent from 0645 hours until almost 1300 hours (over six hours) playing and watching. It was Jim’s first competition in two decades. He was paired with John H, a classy and very experienced player. They were facing a dynamic duo from a neighboring Resort and, the word was, the duo were undefeated last year. At least Jim would have some good experience from the match, even with the loss.

Jim and John played great together and hit a lot of good shots. Their very worthy opponents lost despite their good play and great chip lobs. Jim and John are looking forward to another match next week and many more over the next winters here. After their match, they grabbed some snacks from the Club kitchen and we watched the remainder of the Men’s and Women’s 3.5 League matches (our team won 12-5 against ViewPoint Resort).

Jim walked back to the courts yesterday late and watched another of the Resort’s teams practicing. He helped shag balls for the team captain and instructor so they could spend more time coaching. We are parked so close to the courts it is hard not to wander over and pick up a game or just watch.

This is a great tennis community with wonderful facilities and people. We’re enjoying more tennis at TowerPoint than we’ve had in many years. Which brings us back to the radio frequency interference.

Our ham radios are mobile, which means they are in our truck and rolling home. We can’t operate HF to reach the regional and national RV Service radio Nets from the tennis courts. Even if we could, we shouldn’t. All this great tennis is interfering considerably and frequently with our ham radio receiving and transmitting. If this isn’t a clear case of radio frequency interference, I’ll eat my hat with the callsign on it.

W7IRY calls the effect “the great sucking sound” of an activity pulling someone in completely. We were duly warned and have no one to blame. Nor would we. We’re having a great time, meeting lots of wonderful people, and getting much more physical activity than we might otherwise have taken. Thanks to the TowerPoint Tennis Club!

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Goose Island on the great Mississippi River

We are at Goose Island, five miles south of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Staying a few days to celebrate Jim’s birthday (today, July 12). You should be able to see a map of our location by clicking here. Thanks for your birthday greetings, Jim is sure your cards are heading from our mail forwarder (Livingston TX) to Clear Lake, Mn to await our mail pickup there next week.

Jim checked into the RV Service Net on his ham radio both these two mornings, pretty cool to be able to get wireless voice without cellphone towers from just about everywhere on this continent. Thanks to W8ACT Charlie for relaying Jim in! While on the amateur radio net, Charlie told Jim to check out the Memorial Park in Arcadia, Wi. A little later Jim received an email from Charlie with some more details. We’re looking forward to steering through Arcadia next.

Adam Kroner Hardware

Adam Kroner Hardware

After breakfast we drove downtown, parked the truck, and toured La Crosse on foot. Deb read from a self-guided tour pamphlet the features and uses of the preserved downtown buildings. Jim drew us into Adam Kroner’s hardware store, serving La Crosse for 140 years and still in the same family. Our purchases were very small for them but useful to us — we bought a packet of aluminum rivets and a phillips 0 pt pocket screwdriver (to disassemble the television/dvd player next time).

We were drawn, like a moth to flame or a falling body to the earth, from the sidewalk into a building by baking smells. We found the International Bakery with fresh coffee and big and fresh cinnamon buns and a copy of the daily newspaper. Why resist this? An hour later, properly fortified, we again launched our tour. We found several Richardsonian Romanesque Revival churches and buildings. We hadn’t previously heard of RRR design and found helpful information here.

Did ladies wear sunglasses in 1900?

Did ladies wear sunglasses in 1900?

Deb’s walking tours map showed a preserved home, The Hixon House. We stumbled upon the house in the midst of a summer ice cream social. People were dressed in 1900s period clothes, people were playing old-time lawn games, barbershop quartets sang from the back porch, and people were eating popcorn and ice cream. This was interesting but not what we were seeking. We could have skipped the cinnamon buns if only we had known.

The Hixon House, as it turned out, is a museum of the Hixon’s home as it would have looked in 1900. Over eighty-five percent (85%) of the furnishings are from the Gideon Hixon family. The Limoge china, the silver service, the library, the furniture, lamps (electric and gas), and even the bed linens have been preserved and are on display exactly as they would have been over one hundred years ago.

Hixon House, a great museum

Hixon House, a great museum

Some items did not survive so well and required careful treatment or replacement. The carpets, some wallpapers, and some upholstery have been replaced with the most authentic items available. It was surprising and amazing to find a house in which such a large amount of original possessions have been preserved intact. The admission price, normally $8.50/$7.50(seniors), doesn’t seem to come close to funding the kind of preservation and maintenance required for the Hixon House. The La Crosse Historical Society is doing a great job operating and funding the program. This museum is a gem for La Crosse and we highly recommend it to anyone.

cute babe at the overlook

cute babe at the overlook

We repaired to our truck and drove to Riverside Park, along the Mississippi River, for a really late picnic lunch on the lawn before driving up to Grandad’s Bluff. Grandad’s Bluff is an almost 600 feet high rock outcropping overlooking La Crosse and the river. Visible from the Bluff are Iowa, Minnesota, and, of course, Wisconsin. This reminded Jim of Chimney Rock, North Carolina, where as a boy he was told you could see SC, TN, VA, and NC — but he couldn’t see the state lines!

Wesley UMC built 1886

Wesley UMC built 1886

This morning we attended Wesley United Methodist Church in the 1886 sanctuary. What a testament to its construction and care. The stained glass windows are bright and beautiful, the deeply carved wood pews have a rich lustrous stained finish, and the congregation has apparently done a great job carefully modernizing the building without marring the historic appearance. One case in point is the relatively recent addition of three fan-coil cooling units.

Two are concealed by grills behind the altar and a third is visible but unobtrusive near the rear of the sanctuary. Fan coil units require no ductwork but have fans quietly blowing room air across the cooling fins then throughout the room. Very friendly members invited us, after the service, for coffee and pastry in their fellowship hall and we had a nice visit. We spoke at length after coffee fellowship with Rev. Don Iliff, Pastor. He described another interesting change completed this decade.

The church removed the choir loft from behind the altar and pulpit, added a raised semi-circular stage and pushed the altar and pulpit back toward the wall. The stage is accessed by two steps along the entire semi-circle except at the back right where a ramp affords accessibility. So the choir, as well as any others accessing the altar or pulpit, are not hindered by disabilities but have equal access. And it looks fanastic!

We’ve both enjoyed Jim’s big birthday present this year, our visit to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Goose Island Campground is a treat, and La Crosse is full of wonderful surprises. We’ll look forward to another visit here.

Thunderstorms Lead to Calming Weather

Yesterday started with me trying to check in to the RV Service 40 meter Net at 0730 hours. Band conditions and a terrific local thunderstorm made this doubly challenging so I waited until almost 0830 hours and checked in through a helping, or relay, station. I reported on the number of units at this WBCCI Region 3 Rally (80) and the weather conditions (skies clearing nicely and temperatures at 60 degrees) for Perry, Georgia yesterday morning.

Debbie and I walked to the meeting hall for pastry, fruit cup, and coffee and morning visiting with other Airstreamers. Ken and Ruth Dorn had room at their table so we joined them and enjoyed talking with them and with Dottie McElvine, Ruth’s mom. It turns out Ruth’s parents were Airstreamers 25 years ago and Ruth and Ken also had an Airstream. Ruth and Ken have recently purchased their first Airstream in many time, joined the Carolinas Unit of NC, and are attending their first rally in over twenty years.

We drove to Warner Robins Air Force Base to the Museum of Aviation. The first building required almost three hours for us to browse the first two floors. As we walked outside to attend to other exhibit halls we realized our tour time was expended and we needed to return to the rally campus. We were due to present a brief seminar on full-timing in less than one hour.

So we returned, ate a fresh tomato sandwich, and walked up to the meeting hall to greet all four attendees of our small seminar. No problem, we moved to a nice round table. We presented our perspectives on full-timing for almost an hour and facilitated another half-hour of discussion on full-timing issues. We enjoyed this and think the attendees did too. This was easier with only four people and is good practice for us. We’ll be presenting to ten times as many people in Madison, WI, in two months.

Enjoyed a cookout with some friends before we walked to the meeting hall for rally announcements, merit awards, entertainment, door prizes, and nightly ice cream. Entertainment last night was fabulous, a quartet from Columbus, GA, called Wynnbrook Quartet. We enjoyed them tremendously.

Two previous nights were cooler than last night. We opened our windows a little wider and put less covers on the bed. I was really looking forward to a good night’s sleep before a golf game in the morning.

No lightning and thunder, no rain, and no strong winds buffeted us this morning. We woke up to a beautiful orange sunrise and what seems like our first calm weather. This is a welcome change, even with the likelihood of warmer temperatures and more bugs. Jim has a golf outing and Debbie will join friends sightseeing.