Category Archives: Ham Radio

8-11 February 2017: Hamcation

One of my hobbies is amateur radio (call sign K4EAK). I have a nice little setup in the house in LaGrange, from where I’ve spoken to people in all 50 states and several hundred different countries. I even once spoke to guys in Europe by using special equipment to bounce a radio signal off the moon! Our local club assists first responders with communications during severe weather outages, as well as doing other public service tasks. I have a pretty good mobile setup in the truck, and from time to time I even play on the radio while we travel around in ACE. There’s an amateur radio chapter in our motorhome association, and a few times we’ve met up with them in various locations, like this trip back in 2014. All of this is pretty geeky, and most people would (rightly) assume that ham radio guys are mostly nerdish dweebs, who generally keep their noses stuck in various electronical gizmos,  and who for the most part have only marginal interpersonal skills. Think of Big Bang Theory come to life.

If you’ve gotten this far, this part of our Florida trip involved a descent into the deepest, darkest possible recesses of nerdism: the second-largest “hamfest” in the world, a place where thousands (literally) of hams congregate to buy and sell new and used equipment, attend seminars on various communications topics, and “socialize” (using a generous definition of the term).

A panorama view of Central Florida Fairgrounds (Orlando), where hundreds of RVs and thousands of ham radio guys have congregated for the 2017 “Hamcation.”

 

 

The “swap meet” (the indoor version, but there’s also an outdoor “tailgate” version with hundreds of sellers) and the vendor area (where dealers and manufacturers peddle their latest wares).

And since a couple dozen members of the motorhome club were in attendance, we also set up one night for a potluck supper:

About 36 members and guests from the “Family Motor Coach Association” Amateur Radio Chapter set up between a couple rows of member’s motorhomes.

I know what you’re thinking: what was poor Wendy doing during all of this, seeing as how she has a mostly normal personality and finds my ham radio activities about as dull as a fence post? My answer is, who cares? No, I’m kidding. That was a joke. I’m actually very grateful that she puts up with these little eccentricities of mine with little (well, mostly little) objection. She did spend one day visiting our son-in-law’s parents down in Lakeland, where she was able to do the Frank Lloyd Wright tour at Florida Central College, a college that has been described as the most beautiful campus in the United States. As the tour website puts it, “The story of how a Methodist college with no endowment – during the Great Depression and World War II – was able to not only convince one of the most sought after architects of the time to draw plans for their school, but was also able to afford to build them, is a wonderfully entertaining story.”

And we both enjoyed the evening get-togethers of the ham radio club. For all of the nerd-jokes that attend an event such as this, the people are actually friendly, welcoming, and interesting. Next stop: Fort Wilderness and Walt Disney World! Woo hoo!

 

21-23 March 2014: FMCA Amateur Radio Club

Right after the FMCA convention, we headed across the street to the Fair Harbor RV Park for a gathering of the FMCA Amateur Radio Club. What a great time! Fun people, interesting conversation, and a lot of time to talk about how to operate portable from the MH.

My radio setup consisted of an IC-718 (temporarily, pending moving my IC-706MkII-G out of the truck), an LDG AT100-Pro autotuner, and a Samlex 35 amp power supply, all of which was mounted in a custom box that also serves as my portable setup, such as on Field Day.
20130321 IMG_0924 (Custom)
The setup fits quite nicely in the fold-out desk on the passenger side (my computer goes in front of the box) and I simply run the coax out through the window and to the antenna. This works just fine and, with headphones, I don’t disturb the XYL.

I’ve been thinking that using a simple hamstick dipole (or maybe a BuddiPole) is the way to go … acceptable performance, no worry about insolvable RF ground problems, and easy enough setup and takedown. I have a 15′ expandable painter’s pole with the hamstick adapter mounted at the top. So, all I would have to do is screw in the hamsticks, attach the coax, and mount the painter’s pole in the flag pole mount already attached to the MH ladder.

IMG_0860 (Custom)

I operated that way on 20m for a few hours and got about a dozen contacts, including W1AW-New Mexico (!). 40m didn’t seem to work as well (barely made contact with the RV Service Net), but that may have been an imbalance in the two sides of the antenna. Further investigation to follow. After talking to folks here who know a lot more than I do, I’m convinced that is indeed my best option, at least for a while.

All things considered, I’m OK.

Overall statistics for the combined FMCA Convention/ARC trip:
283 miles
Fair Harbor RV Park cost: $44 x 2 nights
Fuel costs: $167.34
Average mileage: 6.72 mpg (only towed 1/2-way due to problem with transmission pump)