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Dayton (Xenia) Report

For me, my Dayton trip has evolved into a small odyssey. It starts a couple days before, running through the shack looking for items to sell. Strangely, I have been trying to sell the same boat anchors for a number of years now and I might have to surrender this effort to the web. I typically head off on Wednesday for the QRP seminar on Thursday.

For the past couple of years, I have partnered up with Bill Steffey, NY9H, who used to live around here but now lives in Prosperity, PA. (Yes, that is the name of the town!). If you know Bill at all, you know he is a tireless advocate for the hobby and a great promoter. He seems to have single handedly invigorated the ham community in his town and often brings along a couple of his new hams for their initial tour of Hamvention. We take a dorm suite at the University of Dayton, which can easily accommodate 6. So, Bill brought some folks from PA and I brought a few folks from Chicago: Greg Karlove, Ron Steinberg, Casey Diers and Randy Brothers.

The QRP event is always a highlight of the trip. The all day seminar is not only about operating QRP, but it is about building, electronics, new inventions, and some good practical ideas for the hobby. This year, every single topic was terrific…from Ed Hare’s (W1RFI) talk on the impact of man-made noise on the hobby to proper ways to tackle rebuilding those old boat anchor radios safely to learning about some of the newest WSRP strategies out there. The best talk was Howard Zehr’s (K4LXY) discussion on some experimental builds on his own magnetic loop antennas. Loops seem to be all the rage these days, as the QRP flea market at the conference was loaded with several commercial offerings. As an aside, I picked up a loop that was donated to the club a few years ago and dragged it over to Greg Karlove’s place. We tore it apart and cleaned out the zillions of bees that made the hollow tube a welcome home. In fact, it was so packed with bees; their nest prevented any of the tuning capacitors to work. Greg did some testing with the refurbished loop and we found it had similar characteristic as was described in this talk. Directional, extremely narrow banded but effective. The loop was one of the antennas of choice for Joe Everhart, N2CX, who activated several national parks, as part of the NPOTA program this past year. He demonstrated some of his successes for the 200 QRP attendees.

The QRP seminar is one of many pre-Dayton seminars you can join. Randy Brothers, for instance, went to Contest University…he must be working on his PhD! I have never gone, but for those who have, this seminar garners equal rave reviews.

Friday is the Hamvention itself. I was filled with anxiety about access and parking…and my anxiety was quickly realized. The turn lane to get off Route 35 to Trebien Road was back up for miles. The light, unaccustomed to this much traffic, was only allowing 3 or 4 cars through at each change. Once through the light, heavy traffic led us to the various country road turns to the new location. There were police cars at every turn, but there wasn’t much traffic control. And one member of our party had an accident with someone who did not stop for the light. Once we got closer to the actual site itself, parking traffic seemed to flow better. We pulled into the larger flea market area…all freshly lined out and nicely marked with the smallest flags. You had to get out of the car to find you flag and slot. I ended up walking until I found our spot.

It was a bit chaotic, but not unlike any event that is setting up for the day. There were disputes over territory and grumpy people who just abandoned their car and blocked others from getting it etc. Unfortunately, the person bringing our tents, tables and chairs was late to arrive. So, we threw our wares on the ground over a tarp and tried to stay out of the blazing and steamy morning sun. We discovered later that Bill’s buddy had a serious accident on the way over and arrived about 10 a.m….well past when they allowed vehicles to enter the park. Fortunately, the organizer escorted him to our site without fuss! Selling in the morning was slow. Seemed like no one was in the park. I learned later that the parking was a very long hike from where our booth stood. We were at the opposite ends. People would go to the convention buildings first and then come to the flea market. The afternoon was much more robust and I sold most of the smaller things I had hoped to release. I was not able to walk around much until Saturday. I did see an issue, however. Since parking was such a long hike, people seemed reluctant to buy boat anchors….anything heavy. Although, we all learned that Dayton provided cart pickup for folks who needed to transport heavy gear, dragging heavy stuff still seemed a tough sell. Eventually, the grass field turned into mud. It rained both Friday and Saturday, only compounding the mess.

Saturday, I stopped selling to focus on my own journey. I went to the NSRC booth. Nice location and terrific set up by Al Hovey and Robert Landgren. The new Hamvention location is a marked improvement over Hara…it is smaller, so the vender buildings were tightly packed, and when it rained, they were jammed with people. The seminar building was air conditioned and a huge improvement over Hara. Clean, comfortable seats and decent sound systems. I only went to a couple of seminars, as I wanted to check out some of my favorite venders. Of course, all of the major radio manufacturers were there. All with new toys to show off.

On Saturday, I caught up with a young man I know from the video business who decided he wanted to get into ham radio. So, I showed him around the place and armed him with some books. It was great to see new folks entering into the hobby. His reactions to the place reminded me of my own very first days coming to Dayton and the feeling of being totally overwhelmed by all of the technology and options.
In general, Dayton was terrific. Muddy, yes! Hot, yes. Cold, yes! It is a place of great contrasts!! But great fun seeing old friends and making new ones. I only ran into a few NSRCers…but I know we were well represented. I agree with Mark Klocksin. Kudos to the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) for making the quick switch to a decent location. Of course, there were issues, but they will work out the kinks and hopefully the grass will recover! It is a good venue, if not somewhat smaller than what we have grown used to in the past. Still the old sure fire ingredients were in place: old friends, new friends and lots of toys to examine.

The drive home almost became harrowing. I was merrily playing loud music when the radio erupted with those annoying weather bulletin announcements. Well, turns out I was within 4 miles of a sited tornado. I pulled off the road and sought shelter in the nearest gas station. The rain came down in curtains. The wind rocked the canopy over the gas pumps. It was a little frightening…but it left as quickly as it came…and I arrived home safely. Sign me up for Dayton next year. It is a great adventure.

73, Rob