This year’s Hamvention adventure stared Wednesday, when I picked up my partner in crime, Kevin Bess KK4BFN at his home in Edgewater around 7:30 am. Kevin accompanied me for last year’s trip, and STILL decided to come along again! The traffic on I-95, I-10, and I-75 was very light all the way to our stopover just North of Chattanooga, TN. We checked in, ate dinner, hit the racks and were up and out Thursday morning by 8:00 am.
We drove to the convention center in Xenia to scope out the site. We noticed the downtown and streets were really small and narrow – both of us commented about getting 25K of folks and 10K plus of cars in and out of the area – a real challenge from what we saw. We got on site around 4pm and there was pretty much no one there. My good friend Rick Lloyd AA4W, who works at the Buddipole table, was still there and soaked with sweat. We figured they hadn’t turned on the A/C as the show was the next day??? We visited a few minutes, then headed to Fairborn, OH stopping by the Holiday Inn that was hosting the Four Days in May event that runs concurrent with Hamvention. We wanted to check-in and grab our registration stuff. Kevin’s wasn’t there, even though he had a confirmation. No biggie, they took care of it while we waited. Then we headed to our hotel, emptied the car, checked in, grabbed dinner – and headed back for FDIM Vendor Night at the Holiday Inn at 7:30pm. Saw some friends, visited, and I bought a few minor QRP items. We headed back to the hotel around 9:30pm.
My phone alarm did not go off Friday morning at 6AM like it was set for – sometime during the night I got a message and it locked the phone out from the alarm. We got up at 6:45, hustled showers and breakfast, and headed to Hamvention at 7:45am for the 30 minute drive. Yeah, think again.
While the traffic was light all the way in, the traffic was an absolute nightmare just outside of the convention center. One hour, 40 minutes to finish the last 1.5 miles to the facility. Two lane residential streets. No traffic control at all. There were a few deputy and cars, but they just stood around or sat in the cars. As I have done this special event planning/staffing for a living (think Daytona 500 – I’m right now in the planning stages for 25K of Shirners coming to Daytona Beach in July), I made some not too kind comments to Kevin on what appeared to be no traffic planning and a serious lack of traffic management. It was so bad, they closed downtown Xenia because of the traffic gridlock. Several muddy parking sites, and not really any “bus route” from the few satellite parking lots. Lotsa’ complaining and really negative comments (FM simplex was rife with “observations” – the fella on the talk-in was getting hammered). We got into the facility at 9:25am – and I missed the ARRL group photo. Once settled in – we realized with the exception of the forums buildings, there was no air conditioning in the buildings – and it got really warm after about an hour. So bad I actually had to go outside a few times to “cool off and catch my breath”. The “circus tents” that were erected had no A/C either, and worse, no interior lighting. It rained Friday mid-day and it was dark in the tents. The rain ran down the center of the tents where the electrical and other cabling was. More not so nice “observations” from attendees, and really loud griping from some vendors. We left around 5pm, and later met up with the Orlando Radio club folks for dinner – 8 of them – several club officers and Hamcation chairs making the trip to review the new site and operations (really, to spy – Hamvention and DARA folks were at Orlando earlier this year doing the same! Really, they mutually compare notes for the benefit of the vendors and attendess to make thing s better). We had a great time. OARC people are the BEST! Lotsa talk and laughing, lotsa observations about the first day.
My alarm worked Saturday morning, so we had a nice breakfast – we left at 7:25am, and they got the traffic worked out – much better in the moving and parking. The sheriff’s deputies were actually out and and directing traffic……. I’m guessing some “butts were chewed” by the local leaders of the constabulary from the previous day’s traffic debacle. When we arrived just after 8am, and there was a huge line waiting to in; I had an exhibitor pass so it wasn’t a wait for me. By 8:30am, my estimate was several hundred waiting to get in, and they opened the gate early at 8:40am. Probably a good idea, as it was quite cool (my car temp reading was 58 deg) with a light wind, and many were in T-shirts. It was NOT comfortable, and there were no food/beverage vendors on the outside – and the tailgate area was INSIDE the fence!
It was cool in the morning, so the A/C wasn’t a problem. But by mid-day, it was again pretty hot and humid, and the interior tents and buildings was pretty warm. My guess is there were about half of the crowd you would expect at Dayton Hamvention. While the food was good, there were not many vendors, and the lines were quite long – a few commented the wait was about 30-45 minutes to get to the order window. And….few places to sit and eat. Some picnic tables – I counted 4 – and some “aluminum bleachers” between two buildings, right next to a set of port-o-lets (about 8), that they had to “drain” around noon. When they started that process, the smell was so bad it cleared the bleachers area, and you could smell it in the two adjacent buildings for around 10 feet in. Phew! Not good. I did get to visit many groups (SKCC, QCWA, 10-10) sign-in and say, “Hello” – and was able to make the SKCC photo shoot at 1pm.
Walking around, I got to purchase a satellite antenna (2M/70CM) I’ve been looking for. But no real big purchases this year – I don’t need anything! By mid-afternoon, the crowds were very light. It started to lightly rain just after 1pm on and off. And it started to rain as we left at 4:00pm, and I mean rain. It came down pretty hard. We got soaked to the bone walking back to the car. Later that night, we drove to the FDIM banquet. Food was good, and as usual, Kevin won a door prize. As usual, I won nothing. After dinner we bailed out and drove back to the hotel, stopping at a nearby Wendy’s for a Frosty before we got to the room. We both crashed from all the running around (and sitting in the car!) for the last three days.
It rained the rest of the evening, all night, and stopped around 6am. Yep, you guessed it – they closed all of the adjacent parking lots as they were mud pits swallowing up every vehicle that entered trying to park! They had to divert all the traffic on those two lane roads, and listening to all of the various “comments” on the talk-in and simplex frequencies was comical and highly entertaining.
We didn’t even return to the convention center Sunday; we just ate breakfast, checked out late, and left for our stopover in Cleveland TN (where we spent the night on our way home last year). I feel really bad for DARA and Hamcation, as the weather and new site issues really made for some serious challenges. BUT….with portable air units, some portable lights, a few more food vendors and improved traffic management they will do fine. I’m sure they took copious notes and will “work out the bugs”. Kevin and I both agreed it was all salvageable, and after all, it was their first year in a smaller venue. Both of us talked that up to folks, and we also heard many on the radio saying the same. Everything gets better with experience! Best wishes for next year’s event!
On the way to the hotel, we stopped for gas in Corbin, and visited the Col. Harland Sanders “shrine” there – didn’t know it, but the KFC king actually started with a bed and breakfast, Sanders Cafe! A motor court too. Was interesting, we got to see his office and the kitchen where it all started. We ate lunch, took some pics, and I got a button that reads, “I ate where it all began!” We both agreed it was worth the extra two miles and time to make the visit. I got my picture taken with the Colonel! (well, his likeness anyway).
We proceeded to the hotel and checked in, then drove around the area to find a suitable place to operate from – the Flying Pig’s Run for the Bacon was that evening! After dinner, we drove to a local community college parking lot, and setup my Elecraft KX-3 to a 20M hamstick on the top of my car (mag mount). The conditions at the start of the contest were, to say the least, dismal. We heard pretty much nothing. Swapped to a 40M ‘stick, heard some weak and watery signals (with bad QSB), and after 30 minutes we were able to work one fella (in TN). At least we didn’t get skunked! We returned to the hotel, got a good nights sleep, and drove the remainder of the trip home Monday without event.
It was a good time with a great travel companion……..BUT….will I go again next year? I just don’t know. I guess I’ll decide that NEXT YEAR!
73 to all!