Saturday, June 04, 2016

Vacation with amateur radio #ARRL #hamradio

It was the BEST of times!  

Leaving Altus on Thursday to arrive in Pensacola on Friday and reversing the trip on Thursday meant that five non-hams were subjected to amateur radio operation on D-Star, APRS, and analog.

Most of the trip was on simplex.  While some stations were heard, most of the conversation was confined to the van.

We did Louisiana after Katrina.  This was educational.  There are some folks still recovering from that storm after all these years.  For example, one vacationer reported that there are homes in her neighborhood that have still set empty.  Another example was a worker in Alexandria who is still looking for loved ones after all this time.  

Those are hard stories to report.  If we have not learned anything after Katrina and Sandy, personal accountability is important.  Personal Planning is important.  Having that 72-hour "Go-kit" is important.  One CAN take a vacation at the Start of Hurricane season and survive!  Go ahead and get your amateur radio license.  One may need it when communicating with family while evacuating.

The folks in the Pensacola area were great!  The D-Star repeater allowed communication, using callsign routing, back to Oklahoma.  Echolink, on the Weather Talk Conference, also proved worthwhile.  Even All-Star link was useful.

The net down there asks for checkins on the Automatic Packet Reporting System.  That is a novel use of APRS.  The Oklahoma APRS net does something similar.  One net, at another time and place, allows for SMS checkin on cell phone.  It seems hams are coming to communicate in a digital world.  Please remember APRS is more than maps. Two-way communication is the objective.

The America the Beautiful pass proved worthwhile for the trip to Fort Pickens.  The local club had just put the area on National Parks on the Air the week before the visit.  The Fort, as it turns out, did not fall to the Yankees in the War of Northern Aggression.  The Navy guy at the right reported captured ships helped keep the fort supplied and the captured sailors were interred at an island south of Biloxi, MS.

Housing was easy with HomeAway.  Not only was the owner communication great, the owner was happy to help make our stay pleasant.  Save your gas and ride the trolley.  The stops are close to the property and the drivers are friendly.  They are experts on the Island.  

It's a small world when one is an amateur radio operator.  Another vacationer saw the #ARRL #hamradio T-Shirt.  It was an instant conversation starter.  His wife commented that he is normally quiet until he starts talking about ham radio.  

The boat cruise chosen this trip was worthwhile.  The Captain had been navigating the waters since he was 12.  The morning time is the best since the Dolphins are most active then.  There is also a Blue Angels tour when the Blue Angels are flying.  The tour included the water view of Fort Pickens and the USS Massachusetts.  

Sadly, the ham club meeting was the night our our departure.  Maybe next trip the meeting can occur.

Also, sadly, the Blue Angels had a crash the day after our visit to Pensacola Naval Air Station.  The air show was worth a visit.  Our prayers go up for the family of Marine Captain Jeff  Kuss.  

Finally, traveling without being weather aware is tough.  One lady seemed to be terrified of the thought of traveling west because of the storms her weather application was reporting.  Educating her on the Enhanced Digital Display from the National Weather Service seemed to put her at ease.  The travel tool produces a current condition as well as alerts along the route.  It's a good tool for deployment travel.  Along with this tool, the RepeaterBook and Rfinder tools are helpful to the amateur radio vacationer.  Please keep your LOCAL resources up to date in both.  

If you see this couple from Kansas, tell them hello from us.  

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