Radio Check

Fortunately I recovered from my crash well enough to not bail on this past weekend’s van excursion. A group of five of us (plus one wife) trekked up to Maine to experiment with HF radio communication on the New England Forest Rally’s South Arm and Icicle Brook stages. Communication on the traditional 2 meter band has always been problematic, with a big hill in the middle of the stage blocking direct contact between the start and finish. There’s no rally this year, which means it’s the perfect time to go out to the stage to test alternative communication, with no pressure of holding up rally cars and such.

I turned this half-day activity into a weekend van trip. Although I’d wanted to explore some dispersed camping near Bethel, Maine, a lack of time and a need to complete some RideApart writing led me to spend the night in the Oxford Casino parking lot. It’s only an hour away from our meeting point in Newry, and had an excellent fast data connection for me to do my work. It’s not a glamorous campsite, but it served its purpose.

The following morning I drove to Newry, accidentally meeting up with one of the other radio people in the process. We chattered on the radio as we drove. I won’t bore you with the details of the test itself, but if you’re interested you can read all about it on W3ATB’s website. 80 meter NVIS worked beautifully, and 10 meters was a failure. That’s okay — we found something that works, and today was the day to experiment and fail.

After the test we had a late lunch, discussed the results, and went our separate ways. I tried getting more writing done in the Irving parking lot, but while my signal strength was excellent, my data rate was unusable. Bethel was absolutely slammed with people, and they were probably all trying to use the same data connection, rendering it useless. Between the crowds (not a good idea during COVID) and the unusable data, I decided to get out of there and find a place to camp for the night.

I followed a suggestion one of the other radio people had given me and ended up driving down another rally stage in Grafton Township. Eventually I found a nice little hideaway tucked off the road to call home for the night. It soon rained, so I didn’t set up any camp outside of the van. Instead I watched the clouds roll in, then left the lights off after dark to enjoy a spectacular lightning show all around me. This spot was so remote I opened all of my shades to enjoy the panoramic view of the lightning.

There was no cell signal here, so I went to sleep early, then woke up early to get back to civilization and get my writing done in time for my morning article to publish. I drove 20 miles down a dirt road to get to Berlin, New Hampshire. This shook things up in the van a bit, so much that I’m going to have to rearrange my setup slightly and get things like my Jackery battery and my five-gallon water bottle tied down more securely. Any van build is a constant evolution of finding out what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs fixing. I’d planned to take a leisurely route home, but circumstances caused me to hop on the highway and take the fast way home. It’s okay — I got the getaway and mind reset I needed after dealing with a motorcycle crash, losing my day job, and a family funeral the week before.

Speaking of which, I’m wide open to additional freelance writing opportunities at this point. If you know of anything, please let me know.

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