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A few words from Rob K9RST…

North to Alaska

I am in the middle of packing for a two week trip to Alaska…and before anyone even asks, no, I am not bringing a radio. I know, I should, but as I have become one of the members of the medical team (for which I just took a 40 hours Wilderness Medicine Course), I am going to be burdened with several pounds of medical supplies. This course is terrific in that it really teaches you how to provide first aid, if needed. I also took an American Heart Association CPR and First Aid course and I found it very frustrating because for almost every single condition, they made it clear you should call 911 first, then apply an band-aid or do CPR (if needed). The point here is that we all live in communities that are powerfully connected to multiple health systems and getting care in Glenview, most of the time, should only take a few minutes. Where I am headed, professional medical care might be days away. So, the more first aid you really know, the more likely we can actually help someone. Of course, I am not planning on being bear bait…I don’t have enough gauze for that kind of encounter!

My granddaughter called the other day at 7 a.m. and asked if we could take her and her brother to the outdoor fair in Northbrook, at the Village Green Park. How can I say no to a seven year old? This is the same park where we used to hold our annual Field Day, until the village decided that they needed to have a very sizeable fee for its use. I presume the event organizers paid dearly for the abuse they caused to the lawn from the enormous foot traffic and large carnival equipment that had taken over the small park. Of course, she wanted to ride the Gravitron…it has been a while since I rode on any carnival ride, so I just said sure and went along. We got inside this capsule, which turned out to be a huge centrifuge. We spun around at tremendous speed, blasting my body against the wall. It was really a hoot, if not entirely disorienting but I survived and felt like the real hero grandparent!!! (Thank goodness she didn’t ask to go back, however). At one point, I left her with a couple of friends while I sought out a necessary room. As I was racing along trying to find the port-a-potties, an older guy grabs me and says, “Hey, are you a ham?” I was kind of taken aback. How did he know I was a ham? Did he know me from the Club? Field Day? He was quite friendly and we spoke very briefly…and, after I had found the rest room and was standing in front of one of those silly warped mirrors, it suddenly dawned on me why he knew me…I was wearing my Field Day shirt from 2006!! And here I thought maybe I was famous!

For me personally, this summer has shot by with several out of town trips, and ailing parents to care for, so ham radio other than Field Day has been an afterthought. So, I was grateful to the ham at the park who reminded me of the little community that is shaped by ham radio. I am in the middle of recruiting 110 hams to support the Chicago Marathon, and right now, our numbers are kind of low…then I got an email from one of our long time volunteers from Peoria stating that he would be glad to recruit more hams from his town, to serve two aid stations. It is this sort of thing that always pumps me up about the people who are in this hobby. Hams are indeed friendly as a group, but they are also quick to help when the time comes. We are as concerned about public service as we are about making DX contacts. For that, I am grateful to be part of this fine community. And, by the way, if you want to help out with the Marathon in October or the Evanston Century in September, just drop me a note and I will get you on the mailing lists.

73’s for now…back around the 18th of August, hopefully many photos and stories to tell! I will have to leave the radio work to you folks for now.


Field Day Reflections

In many ways this was our best overall Field Day performance ever. We had the best turn out for set up and take down; we had the most operators in some time; the food was terrific, the weather great, the camaraderie was fabulous. Personally, I got but a scant hour of restless sleep about 7 a.m., but for me, this was the best year operating. I worked the late night shift with Ron WM9Q. When Mark WA9IVH popped his head in the SSB tent at 6 am, I was thrilled to give up the operating chair. We had fabulous runs on 15, 40 and 80 meters through the night. For a while, California was booming into our location better than FM….and people were lined up to call us. It was just amazing being at this end of a pile up and trying to keep up. At one point while I was logging, I was backed up three deep…it was that crazy.

The leadership team is already meeting to discuss plans for next year…we see plenty of places to make improvements, but certainly, we would love to hear from you. What was your experience?

How can we do things better? How can we include more people? How can we involve more youth and local officials? In the end, that is the ultimate point of Field Day, to get others to see what ham radio is and what it can be when needed.

In the 11 years I have been working our Club’s Field Day, this was our best team effort. But we all know we can do better and that is the passion that keeps feeding the day. I am currently working on a documentary in Guatemala …and I can’t work radio because I am laden with video gear…when I get home, I get to relive Field day all over again because everything was dumped in my garage! Field Day is fun, but it is also a ton of work for a few folks who hold down some key jobs…so I would like to thank the guys who worked the hardest to make this year’s event the success it was:

Randy K9OR, who does everything that no one else remembers to do, including tracking our scores and bringing tons of gear; Randy also served as our CW station captain with Pete AG3R, and Don KK9H. We were thrilled to have veteran CW op Bill W8LVN back behind the key this year. Mark WA9IVH served as SSB and RTTY captain. Doc K9JPE did a great job coaching the GOTA station. Dave N3BXY was always building something that needed to get made. Ron K9RH, Ron WM9Q, and Ed N9VTU were always around for prep, clean up and the nasty stuff. The great cooking team was headed by John KA9QJX, Larry AE9E, and Howard N9RUI. Al KC9EAA really took control of the hospital tent. Mike N9GHP and Al built a nice oasis in the middle of the site for visitors. Ed N9VTU did yeoman service getting fliers out to various libraries in the area…and Jordan W9QKE did all of the pre-event publicity. If I missed anyone, I apologize. It takes a village to raise a Field Day event…so thanks to all who participated this year.

Ham radio and making new friends

I am in the process of preparing for Field Day…a ritual that I have done for many years now.  I remember when I was asked to take over Field Day, many years ago, I picked up the club’s inventory of equipment from the person who had been running the event and I was surprised when he handed me three grocery bags of cable and wire!  Today, we have close to 30 storage tubs of antennas, coax, PR materials, tents - a complete movable feast.  In fact, we need a small truck to carry it all! My interest in Field Day started  partly from my days as a Boy Scout leader, when I had to manage the equipment for a growing troop with nearly 100 scouts. Field Day is considerably less complicated…or is it?  The best part of Field Day today is that we have developed one heck of a solid team of like-minded individuals who have really made the project fun.  We have a steering committee with at least 12 people – and a huge supporting cast of folks who come out to support Field Day.   Which brings me to the point of this month’s blog…ham radio is about making friends!  I never imagined that my interest in this hobby would introduce me to such a wonderfully diverse, bright group of people.  I know most of us come to the hobby to explore electronics or because we like talking on the radio, and over the years I have pursued those activities with vigor.

But the fringe benefit has been the great friends I have made along the way, from all walks of life.  I can count lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, librarians, businessmen, that have all been attracted to this hobby.  What has been truly marvelous is that while we all have strong political feelings,  that is not what draws us together.  We have plenty of great subjects to discuss without even considering what political or religious persuasion they might hold.   Of course, we can have those kinds of discussions as well,  but in these days of super polarized positions, it is kind of fun to remember what it is like to talk to someone about something other than politics or the economy!  They all may have started out as Elmers, but along the way, they became great friends.

This week, I ran into Bill Steffey, NY9H, a long time member of NSRC who was very active in the local ham radio community until he moved to Pennsylvania a few years ago.  Bill took his great enthusiasm for the hobby along with his huge tower and antennas and has slowly built a ham radio community around him at his new QTH.  He is now President and Field Day Chair for his local club, which has about 125 members.  And I recently saw Mike Anderson, WV7T, another long standing member of this club. When he and his wife moved to Colorado Springs, they took their hobby with them.  Mike is now the center of a robust community largely of his own making.  He has become a very active teacher for all ham license grades.  

These are just some of the folks that I have gotten to know locally, who now are in different parts of the country – still working the hobby.  This doesn’t include the growing number of operators around the world that I have also begun to get to know.  I am not the most aggressive DX’er, but I have done enough to have made friends in several countries, some of whom I have looked up while I was in Germany or France, for instance.

As I was talking to a new group of ham’s at Rich Davidson’s VE exam the other night, I was reflecting on the 10 VE’s who were there to help out, and the number of terrific people that this club and this hobby has brought into my life.  This is one of the fringe benefits of ham radio that I just never imagined would become so valued.  In fact, some of my ham radio buddies have become my best buddies.  Sometimes sharing a cup of coffee – having an eyeball QSO – has kept me off the radio, but make no mistake, ham radio is what brought us together in the first place.

So, get on the radio – make a friend for life.

See you all on Field Day.


Back to Dayton

When I first went to Dayton, many years now, I was certainly amazed by the scale and scope of the event.  In those heady days, I was building up my inventory of required gear, so it was always a rush to see how much I could buy in the few days I was there.  Since then, I have purchased less gear but have gained more knowledge.  I have gone to the forums, seminars and, for the past 4 years, I have been attending the activities at the “Four Days in May” QRP hotel.  This happened largely as a way to find a decent hotel, but I  have come to really enjoy the QRP event.  The seminars are first rate (although some beyond my knowledge…but good to stretch your brain a bit once in a while), and the displays and vendors are unique. 

In the early days, I would try to find the cheapest hotel I could…and I now know that that doesn’t get you much of a room in Dayton.  Tim McGuire and I shared a room that might have cost us each $35!  I don’t think they even changed the sheets but once a week!  The shower was a total disaster…the entire lower third of the shower stall had eroded and fallen away, so basically, you could see the bare walls around the outside of the shower.  The place was a total pit.  After that, I was determined to spend a few more dollars on accommodations and less on gear and I have been very happy with the choice.  

So I am heading back to Dayton again this year, leaving on Wednesday to attend the QRP event on Thursday.  Typically I hit the outdoor stalls on Friday and the seminars and inside vendors on Saturday.  For the past couple of years, I have had to come back Saturday night to attend family events on Sunday, and that will be the routine again this year.  Over the few years I have been going to Dayton, it has changed…the outdoor stalls are not nearly as jammed with gear as they once were…although I am glad to see the trend has moved away from selling tons of used computer junk and there are many more vintage radios on display, many way beyond what I can afford, but at least there are radios. 

The Arena is not holding its age well. Last year’s great sewage disaster was a total mess…some pipeline broke right in the middle of the outdoor lots and left a rather nasty, smelly affair that was difficult to avoid and harder to cross.  I went back indoors to avoid the stench outside.  Still, Dayton is the Mecca for anything ham radio, and even though the hobby has changed tremendously since I got back into the game, it is really terrific to see so many enthusiastic ham radio operators in attendance. 

I have been radio-silent for about two months now, since I have been working almost non-stop on a couple of pressing projects, so I am totally stoked about heading to that tired little town in Ohio.  For at least four days, Dayton is the center of the known universe for many of us who have come to love amateur radio.


Hello from Mike WV7T

Many of you may not know Mike Anderson, WV7T. He is a long-standing member of the North Shore Radio Club who now lives with his wife Rhoda in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike when he was stationed here at the Great Lake Naval Base. In fact, Mike was my mentor for many things when I first was in the hobby. He taught me about building practical antennas out of almost anything. He was my first packet contact – and helped me build a packet station with parts that he had laying around his house.

Fact is, that is exactly what Mike is still doing now that he is officially retired. He is the unofficial ambassador for ham radio on the western front. I saw him recently when I was in Colorado Springs for a video project and I swung by his place. He lives just north of town in a small house that is completely wrapped in antennas. He has an antenna for almost every band and for almost every configuration that his small lot will allow. From his shack, he has worked WAS QRP and all sorts of other awards…so nothing has slowed him down. In his teaching, he now mentors all ham classes…and has just helped three people to the Extra. He told them that he never has taught Extra Class, but why should that stop him? Well, their success is testament to his ability to teach. I had forgotten what an amazingly generous person Mike can be…as he told me of his weekly schedule, helping hams around town with equipment, antennas or whatever. Some things never change, including his back office…totally filled from ceiling to floor with parts from computers that he is in the process of recovering and bringing back to life. Foolishly, I did not bring a camera, so I can’t show you pictures to prove that Mike is alive and well and available for QSO’s with any NSRC’er willing to aim a beam in his direction.

I hope you have all survived the huge solar flare that recently enveloped out atmosphere. I did unplug all of my antennas and was surprised this morning when I learned from the news that most services were not disrupted – except for certain ham radio frequencies! Ham radio frequencies? Do you mean there are still people using ham radio HF frequencies…I had to stop to make sure I heard the announcer right. We actually made the news!

I have been exceptionally busy with work projects, so I have had no time to work the bands, or even think about ham radio, sorry to say. So, I have to live vicariously through your own experiences.


In the magazine section

I took a break from my daily routines to spend some time at a local book store (yes, there are still a few of those around, thank goodness!). I thought I would explore the magazine section, the ever dwindling magazine section, to see what radio communication magazines there were on sale. It was a tough problem. They were buried under the fashion magazine, next to the hobby and fishing section behind the home electronics magazines. You had to get on your knees and dig through the pile and discover them behind all of the other, more popular choices. There I found some interesting magazines…Monitoring Times and CQ Magazine. Now, I realize that ham radio was never a huge section, at most I would only find few pretty obvious titles: QST, CQ, Monitoring Times and some British magazines. Not that magazines are a barometer of the health of our hobby, but it says something about how visible our hobby is to the world. I mean, we’ve lost almost all of the retail storefronts. There are hardly any ham radio retail stores anymore, almost everything has moved to the Internet. Of course, that assumes that people know to look for such places there. My point is, we have a huge opportunity to tell our story.

So, I bought Monitoring Times and was comforted by the very familiar stories it was presenting. I started out as a short wave listener, so their article on the Russian Woodpecker Array from the 70’s brought back some great memories of me trying to understand the nature of the sound and its purpose. It was widely believed be a jamming device – and fed my old Cold War phobias about nuclear doomsday scenarios. I grew up in a day when we would do nuclear attack drills in school. At the appointed hour, we would all get under our desks and…well, pray. I don’t know what the nuns thought they were protecting us from, because if there were a real nuclear blast, we would have been vaporized with our books. But, it did break up the day from the lesson plans, so we all went along with the drill. Turns out, the Woodpecker was really a radar early warning system that the Russians used to detect potential offensive strikes on their borders. That was what fascinated me about radio – it carried all sorts of mysterious sounds or mysterious languages and programming from around the globe. I loved to listen to other countries blasting our politics. Short wave provided a perspective to our everyday life that main stream television didn’t provide. Not sure much of that is around anymore…seems that China still maintains a pretty aggressive shortwave presence and the BBC has all but gone to the Internet, which has left the airwaves free for every type of religious programming, mostly from the US. There are some fascinating new things out there…like radio bloggers…people who have taken to the airwaves to just offer their POV on all sorts of things, mostly fairly extreme. So, shortwave still is around but it has just become less engaging, perhaps.

This issue of Monitoring Times was all about listening to various kinds of emergency traffic. They also had a fascinating article on antennas, showing some fun methods that cell phone companies have employed to hide their antennas. Seems that the world hates antennas! They also had a great little article on an antenna that was designed by an Artificial Intelligence computer for satellite service. Basically, they plugged in all of the parameters, power sources, uses and it came up with a shape that looked like the frame of a tiny tree you would use on a HO train model set! They are actually going to deploy the antenna in space!! So, there are still plenty of fun things to be explored by this hobby…somehow we need to be able to share our love of listening, antennas, knobs and buttons, electronics with younger (and even not so younger) generations. If we could get them to understand the power of discovering the world with their ears, we might have a chance of capturing the imagination of the next generation before we lose them entirely to the touchpad.

73 Rob K9RST

Steve Jobs and "KISS"

Many of you have heard me rail about my little grandson’s predilection for fiddling with my ham radio equipment, so let me pick on someone else in the family now! My mom called the other day…seems that Comcast had re-wired the TV cable system in her condo once again. (They can’t seem to agree on a method, so one tech comes in and undoes what the other had done.) Well, her TV still didn’t work! So what to do? Call in her ham radio trained son to stop by. I have seen this problem before – too many stupid remote control devices! She’s got one for the VCR, and one for the TV and one from Comcast and they all don’t play nice together. Sure, Comcast’s device allows you to control most of your equipment…but it means you have to have your TV set to the proper channel first. Took me about three minutes to solve her problem, but it really got me wondering what the future will be like when I am 82 years old. What crazy array of cobbled technology will I have to face and what friendly person will come in and show me how to turn my TV set on? The more complex things get, the most complex things get!

Which brings me to one of the books I have been reading lately. Steve Jobs’ biography. This book has been fascinating. First, it is amazing that he earned nearly $250 million by the time he was 25 years old! That’s enough right there to give you pause. I never really paid that much attention to the inner workings of Apple or Microsoft so it has been interesting to see how closely Bill Gates and Steve Jobs worked together on many things. What struck me most interesting though, is how much a role ham radio played in his life in the early days. Steve was not a ham, but he made friends with many people who were hams, and who had parts that he could borrow or purchase to build some of their early devices. Electronics, computers in the early 70’s was a very exciting time – it was the intersection of a new emerging field of computing with the ever evolving field of electronics. Steve and his buddy Wozniak were tinkerers. They enjoyed combining things in different ways that became the foundation for the company they would eventually start. The brilliance of Steve Jobs, perhaps wasn’t his engineering skills but his ability to see through the clutter to find a way to make technology simple. To make it work for the common man.

Steve left us all too soon. I wish Steve were still around to help us improve the TV controller mess…well, actually, we have put ourselves in the middle of bunch of really big technological messes. Phones are too complex – and hardly even work like phones any more, in fact, they are more like cameras than phones. Sometimes it is good to step outside the box and look around to see if there is a better way to get things done. Schools don’t teach that skill directly…but some people have a knack for seeing the world in a different light. I think it is interesting that Steve Jobs never finished college…but took many courses that appear really off the wall - art, eastern philosophy, typography – all of which played a huge role in helping define the products that Apple would one day make. So before you coach your kids or grand kids about taking “practical” courses in college – think about Steve Jobs. Take a bite out of that apple!

Meanwhile, the bands are heating up – 10, 15, 20 meters are all humming again. Time to put the soldering iron down and hit the mic button or the CW key! See you on the bands.

Single Sideband and Grandkids

CQWWSSB – I had such good intentions.  My wife was leaving town to visit her parents and it looked like I would have the entire weekend to play with my ham radio.  My 4 year old grandson plays a huge part in this story, as you will find out.

Last week, we took Aiden to his first really big hobby show.  His already huge blue eyes were popping even brighter at the sight of all of the radio control devices - helicopters, blimps, planes, trains (even a complete Lego train set).  Well,  papa (that’s me) had to make sure that little Aiden could see all of these fun toys close up, so I pulled him up to my chest and held him high.  I mean, all grandparents do this!  His mouth was right next to my nose.  Well, I forgot about his cold and cough…as he blasted me all day with errant germ-like particles.  A week goes by, and I am fighting something off, but it was not enough to drop me to my knees…yet.

So I talk to Randy K9OR about the upcoming CQWWSSB contest and fire up the computer, the rig, the antennas…hey it is all working pretty well, or so it seemed.  I go to make a transmission to a DX station on a remote island…and I can’t be heard!? I dig around and can’t figure out what is up…everything is connected. What’s up?  Eventually I discover one of the mic switch buttons on the remote control for the Pro III is in the wrong position…off!  And then I remember, my grandson loves to climb into my shack and pull the mic down and hit all of the buttons on my rig (like his sister, he wants to be a rock star!).  He flipped a switch that basically took my mic off line.  By the time I solved the problem, the world discovered my little DX team and they got slammed with a mind numbing pileup.  So the next day…

…Friday morning, the day of the contest, I wake with a 102 degree temperature.  I have no voice!  I am totally clobbered with the cold that has taken me out for a full week.  I missed the contest and the opportunity to get on the air while the wife was out of town! This week, however, I am ready!! Where’s the next contest?

(Rob - dust off the key - CW Sweepstakes is ths weekend - starts 4p local Sat Nov 5 see - 73 Randy K9OR)

North Shore Century and Chicago Marathon

I just finished a couple of weeks of ham radio related public service projects. In all cases, it was very rewarding to see the number of hams step up to provide our unique service to some of these events. Yes, these were not natural disasters, but certainly they could be considered potentially life threatening, if not life challenging!

North Shore Century

First, the Club has helped the Evanston Bike Club now for 5 years with their North Shore Century Bike Event. Basically, there are about 2000 registered bicyclists who sign up to do one of several possible routes, from 25 miles to 100. The course stretches from Dawes Park in Evanston all the way to Kenosha, Wisconsin and back. Having driven the course a few times as a member of the SAG (Support Team), I can tell you it is one very long way to go on a bike! Our duties have evolved over time - largely we help with SAG teams to find bicyclists who have called in to a help number and need assistance either with their bicycle or to be moved to a rest area. For a long time, this work was done with cell phones, and it proved to be a very difficult task. Not only was it hard to track the locations of the various cars, but many of the drivers never answered phones. They asked us a few years back to help them…using radios. Well, it was a perfect fit for our Club. We added a couple of interesting dimensions to the piece as time evolved. We have about 12 APRS tracker units that we have placed on the SAG vehicles so that we can immediately see where our resources are and have a pretty good idea of how to deploy them. Furthermore, using radios, we can dispatch messages to a larger pool of folks and find solutions more readily than if there were only one point of contact (you might have to make 10 phone calls to find out that one person is closer to a response call than another car). We also placed hams at all of the staged relief stations to help with supplies, and they also served as relays to the SAG cars. This year we had 24 ham radio people and about 14 bicycle people, which is a total response team of about 38. It is large project to keep all of the people deployed properly. The weather conditions this year were terrible for a bike event. It rained almost all day…and one of the problems with rain is that glass and sharp objects tend to stick to the tires more. We had a huge number of wheel related incidents this year. The other issue, that we still have not totally resolved, is how to track all of the events so that we are aware of what got done and what is still open. There were many times at the net control station when there was almost too much going on and it was tough to know how well we were managing the incidents. Every year, we handle about 100 calls for transport or assistance. We usually handle or hear about 3 or 4 serious accidents, requiring ambulance transport. Most of the serious accidents get handled with cell phones on the spot. So, while it might seem like fairly benign activity, it turns out that we have become crucial to the success of the event. I would like to thank the core team from the NSRC who worked this event and the number of good folks from Lake County RACES who jumped in to help at the last minute. It was great to show how Ham radio can be used to serve our community.

Hams support the Chicago Marathon

On a much larger scale, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon held its 35th annual run in October. For the third year, ham radio operators helped provide critical medical support from the 21 field hospitals to the ambulance dispatch service in the main event command tent. We had 120 ham radio operators from three states that provided support. Some drove long distances to help out (Peoria, Quincy, and Milwaukee, to name a few). This year, along with our usual medical traffic, we were asked to provide some medical metrics from the course to help the organizers manage their response. We kept track of the number of patients in each Aid Station and asked the doctors from each Aid Station to provide some sense of the “stress” they were facing…measured using a combination of patient numbers, supplies, and support. The reports were called back to net control on a half hour basis and entered into a Google Apps program so that it could be examined by a number of event officials. This year, the event was warm – not as hot as in previous years, but warm enough for us to need to carefully track runner conditions. Every year, we learn more about our abilities and our capabilities. There were certainly some failures along the way (we had a repeater that didn’t work as we had hoped), but by and large, we were a very organized team. After the event, the medical doc in charge of the entire team of 1200 medical professionals sang our collective praises. We were able to provide him a clear sense of how his medical teams were responding to the runners. Once again, the North Shore Radio Club was very well represented. We had almost 14 members in key positions, both on the leadership team and also in many of the operator positions along the 26.2 mile course. The remarkable part of this experience was how we as a ham community have responded. We had 8 repeater systems from many different clubs available for this assignment. We had hams representing almost 26 different organizations. Collectively, through this work, many key city officials have taken note of what we have done and have seen first-hand how the ham radio community can be an effective resource if needed. Planning has already begun for both events already for next year! Join us!


A busy weekend for ham radio

This was a busy weekend for ham radio, for me anyway. Saturday I stopped by the W9DXCC convention at the Holiday Inn in Elk Grove Village.  This is always a well-attended event with lots of fun and learning.  This year was no different.  It is always amazing to hear the elaborate adventures some of these folks have done to light up a rare island or work a rare country.  This event has always inspired me to go on a DXpedition.  Basically, it’s Field Day with a boat or helicopter in the middle!  This group also seems to attract the more extreme adventurers in our hobby – they had one ham who was building an amateur radio contest station from the ground up, starting with the purchase of 20 acres of degraded farm land and then building 14 sixty-five foot towers to support all manner of antennas.  The best I could ever hope for might be to spend a weekend at this station too work some contest, but upon reflection, it strikes me as an interesting model for future hams.  With more and antenna restrictions, it might be the best way for us to get a really decent signal out. Perhaps hams in the future can buy timeshares on just such a remote antenna farm and connect to it with the various IP services out there to bring your home station to the remote site.  Well, like much of the W9DXCC, thought provoking.  I had to leave this event in order to prepare for another aspect of the hobby: a public service event.

On Sunday, 24 ham radio operators from the NSRC and Lake County RACES joined forces to assist bicyclists who rode the Evanston Bicycle Club’s North Shore Century.  The hams provided radio communication and APRS coverage for the SAG (Support and Gear) cars.  While the story is partly about the heroics of serving – many of the hams were dispatched to some far off parks and provided support to the rest area teams out there - the real story was the way that a group of ham radio operators were able to use their resources and skills to provide some top quality, professional support to the event.  Cyclists called in from routes as far away as Racine, seeking support from the club. Broken tires or broken people (we had 4 emergency calls), we handled them all.  We dispatched cars to the callers and by using APRS, we were able to see which of our cars was closest to the incident. Actually, the technology worked very well.  Certainly, the more events we do like this, the better our skills become.  Having spent half of the day in the net control tent, I can’t stress enough the need for clear, concise communications at public service events.  It is interesting to see the different traffic handling styles.  You have the reporters, who tell you much more than you need to know and you have the speed clippers, who only answer the questions you ask.  For this fairly informal event both styles were fine, but from the net control perspective,  you would be amazed how tiring it gets to hear complicated reports, especially when you are juggling phone calls, other radio calls and handling orders.  Not unlike working DX, I learned that timing is as important as broadcasting.  You need to get the attention of the person you are speaking with before communication can occur.  Hats off to the entire team for doing such fine work.