One of the best parts of being part of the Chicago Marathon Ham radio team has been the camaraderie from others around the country. About a month back, I spent two hours on the phone talking to the ham radio folks who supported the Boston Marathon. They grilled me on all manner of logistic issues and common concerns. Amazingly, these folks conduct a weekly business phone call every week two months before the event. There were 8 team leads on the call. It was great sharing best practices and discussing mutual concerns. The Boston Marathon this year turned out to be a real sloppy, rainy mess. We have been blessed with several race years with reasonably dry weather, but my fear is the all-day rain event. That would really kick the spirit of the volunteers and could prove to be disastrous for the event. We have been lucky because you know it will only be a matter of time before that happens.
At one of our last events, a young man came to the Forward Command tent and asked if we needed any help. He had been on one of the mobile triage teams and looking at his youthful energy, I immediately said, “Yes!” You must understand at the end of the Marathon, people are generally totally spent. Most of us had been up since 3 am. and had a full day managing radio traffic. In talking to this young 30 something, I asked how he found his way to our event? Todd Johnson, KD9BNQ, lives in Springfield and was in town to visit his aunt. Plus, he wanted to participate in a large ham radio community event. Since he was about half the age of many of the other ham radio volunteers, I was eager to learn why he came to Chicago? Turns out he is an IT engineer at a university and was now the President of a radio club in Springfield and wanted to broaden his experience. I was hooked. I offered to come down to his club any time to talk about the Marathon, ham radio or whatever. Be careful what you promise, especially to young people. He called me in January to schedule a date and so that is how I found myself talking to their club in mid- April.
The Sangamon Radio Club has a great 70-year tradition (and I thought we were doing pretty good with 39 years or so!) They recently took over the top floor of the local Red Cross building for their meetings and club house. I have posted pictures from my tour on my Smug Mug account for anyone interested in seeing the place. (https://roborr.smugmug.com/Sangamon-Radio-Club-visit). They keep all their member badges in a common holder at the door, so you pull your badge as you enter. They were all very cordial and listened attentively to my talk. Afterwards, they gave me a tour around their club house. They have three radio positions…. two for HF and often available for members to come in and play radio. The other position is for their VHF/UHF work and digital stations. It was fun to discuss their experience with Fusion or D-Star and other projects they had been trying. It was clear that these were my kind of people: experimenters, socially engaged, eager to share their experiences. I was a little envious that they had a real space to display their history and give their members (and the public) a chance to get on the radio. They seemed to be a very active group. Involved with public service, training and new technology…just like our club. It was a real honor to be invited and tell the Chicago Marathon Story.
Part of the hospitality included meeting up with two club members who offered me a room in their very spacious house. Roger Whitaker and his wife have been leaders in the ham radio community there for many years. Vicky currently serves the State ARES team with helpful advice for public information officers. She publishes a monthly newsletter, which we get. It is often loaded with helpful information and tips. She used to be a news reporter in New York and so she brings a world of experience to the job. So here I am in Springfield…largely farm country and they open their house, their ham shack and their daily print edition of the New York Times. I really felt quite at home.
You quickly realize the bond that holds all of us ham radio folks together…and it is rewarding to meet new faces. That is partly what Dayton is for me. A chance to meet up with many of the ham folks I have gotten to know over the years. So, while it was perhaps one of the wildest months in recent times for me (business travel combined with family funerals), it was also one of the more rewarding. Ham radio is alive and doing well.