A Wasted Trip Thoroughly Unwasted

Last Saturday I picked up Andrew (KCØYFY) and his wife Joleen (KDØDOT) at 8:00 A.M. and headed for the monthly meeting of the West Central Minnesota Amateur Radio Club. It’s a 45 minute drive from Granite Falls, so we had plenty of time to talk. But once we got to the location of the meeting, our conversation took an abrupt turn. We were the only ones there!

Andrew asked, “You don’t think the meeting got canceled because of Easter weekend?”

I groaned. No way! “Here,” I said, grabbing my cellphone, “let me give Dean a call.” Dean (NYØI), the fellow who first invited me to join the club, is the Energizer bunny rabbit of ham radio — especially when it comes to building and maintaining the VHF/UHF repeaters out our way. But we quickly discovered that none of us had his phone number.

“Wait a minute!” I said. “We’re HAMS! Let’s call somebody on the radio!” What a novel idea. To think of using a radio instead of a cell phone to call another ham! I put down my cellphone and grabbed my HT. “NØIP monitoring,” I called on the local repeater.

“NYØI,” came back Dean! “The meeting has been rescheduled to next Saturday,” he explained when I inquired. “We published it on our Facebook page and announced it on the net. Sorry!” Again, I groaned. Down in Granite Falls I can’t hear the repeater they use for their net, and I long ago suspended my infernal Facebook account. “But how about I meet you for breakfast?” Dean asked.

I looked at Andrew and Joleen, who nodded. “Sure!” I replied. “Where do you want to meet?”

After getting directions to a small-town diner just up the street, we headed there and found a table. Within minutes, Dean arrived. When the waitress came by, he asked, “What’s your birthday special?”

“It’s your birthday?!” I asked. Sure enough, it was his birthday, and he had dropped everything to meet us at a moment’s notice. What a guy!

After a great conversation that ranged from ham radio to church life, Dean invited us up to the repeater site on the edge of town. We piled into our cars and headed over to the tower of the local FM broadcast station, where Dean pointed out three verticals mounted partway up. These were the antennas for the two repeaters he had there, he explained. Two huts crouched at the foot of the tower; one was the FM broadcast station’s, and the other the local sheriff’s (for their own repeater which used an antenna at the very top of the tower). Dean took us into this second hut, which also contained his two repeaters — one on 2 meters, and the other on 75 cm.

I had never seen a repeater in my life. Dean explained how they worked, and he told us about past equipment and current plans to improve what they had. Having been an HF CW guy all my life, I felt like a tourist in a foreign country — and I enjoyed every minute of it! After thanking Dean, the three of us headed back to Granite Falls.

On the long drive home, we continued the conversation we’d begun on the way there. The local ARES® Emergency Coordinator position is open, and Andrew is wondering if I might consider taking it. I promised him I’d contact the DEC and learn more about what is involved. Lots to think about!

As far as attending the club meeting that never happened, I suppose it was a wasted trip. But thanks to Andrew, Joleen, and Dean it most definitely was not wasted! After all these years as a ham, I’m finally meeting fellow hams in person. I wish I’d done it sooner.

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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