The Dayton OH Hamvention is sort of the World's Fair of ham radio. For some reason, 25,000+ hams converge there each year to walk through endless tables of old electronic junk outside in the flea market area, juxtaposed with trips to the inside exhibits of the latest top o' the line new ham gear from the commercial vendors - which, of course, 20 years from now will be old electronic junk showing up out in the flea market area.
I used to make the pilgrimage regulary, but haven't been to Dayton since something like 1991 or so. This year Jim WA3UHY and Ken WA3WHE and I drove to Colombus OH to stay with Rick K8SV and go to the Hamfest on Saturday. We loaded up my Subaru Outback and drove 420 miles to Rick and Maggie's house, where Rick grilled some steaks and showed us his fancy schmancy plasma TV. It took an electronic engineer, a rocket scientist, a geologist and a stored power test equipment specialist to operate the 17 remote controls in order to ascertain that there was actually nothing at all on cable TV worth watching - let alone worth watching in HDTV.
Ken WA3WHE, Jim WA3UHY, JOHN K3TN, LOUIS WA3YMH and Rick K8SV. The three on the left each have two kids, the two on the right have none - who looks happier?
The next morning Rick rudely woke us all up at o' dark hundred, made us eat a healthy breakfast vs. little white powdered donuts and we drove the 70 miles to Dayton, admiring the fine crop of billboards along the highway. We paid $7 to park at a nearby church and joined all the other odd interesting looking people walking over to the Hamfest.
Once they opened the gates, we spent the first hour walking through the outdoor flea market, pointing at radios we used to own and saying "that's a good price for muffin fans" etc. At 0900 the inside vendor ehxibits opened, and I made a bee-line for the Begali Morse key booth.
Begali had the new Mono Sculpture single paddle key on display. I tried it out and my CW sending hand just went "Oooh, buy this for me, buy this for me" while the right side of my brain kept saying "That key costs more than your first two week paycheck after graduating college." But my CW hand replied "Please - that was a million years ago, inflation is your friend, you need this key." To shut the voices up, I ran away from the Begali booth and went and looked at software defined radios, microphones and slow scan TV equipment that I didn't want.
Meanwhile, outdoors the Hara Arena experienced a violent UOO flato, that resulted in the following headline in the Dayton Daily News:
DAYTON — Shoppers and vendors in a section of a flea market outside Hara Arena were forced to move Saturday when sewage from a ruptured line bubbled to the surface, officials said.
“They had a crew out to clean it up pretty quickly,” said Henry Ruminski, spokesman for Hamvention, an annual gathering of amateur radio enthusiasts. By 3 p.m., trucks were pumping off the sewage and vendors relocated elsewhere in the lot, Ruminski said.
“Business went on as usual, other than for the people that had to move,” he said.
The event, which draws up to 20,000 amateur radio operators, continues through Sunday.
Video here (Warning: video of UOO flato damage is not pretty. Think of the movie "Pink Flamingos'.)
We met up with Louis WA3YMH, who we hadn't seen in 20 years (not counting Facebook) and we all made various small scale purchases of antenna wire and connectors - except for Jim and Rick who made extraordinarily expensive purchases of SW receivers and 2M rigs respectively. Seeing that, my CW hand dragged me back to the Begali booth where I played with the Mono Sculpture paddle some more - and the right side of my brain gave up. I went to buy the key but it turned out they wouldn't take a credit card and I had forgotten to bring a check. Phew.
However, Ken decided to facilitate my CW hand's addiction and gave it a micro-loan in the form of a check. Badda bing, badda boom - I had a gorgeous new CW key in my possession. Big deal - I wouldn't be able to pay for food for my family, but my Morse code would be silky smooth.
The ham radio equivalent of having a Porsche and a Ferrari in your garage. The Begali Morse Sculpture on the left and the N3ZN ZN-8 on the right.
I had originally planned to stay late to go to the contesting hospitality suites later Saturday night, but we we were all wiped by 4pm and headed back to Columbus. We had a fine meal at the Wildflower Cafe, Rick made us watch Stripperalla on his fancy schmancy home entertainment system (after we recruited a quantum physicist, a nutritionist and a candlestick maker to help us figure out how to do Netflix online through his system) and off to bed. On the drive back Sunday, we fulfilled one of Jim's lifelong goals and and ate enormous breakfasts at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Morgantown WV and then we were home.
Business travel took me away immediately, but this coming weekend I should get to play with the new key.