Dayton/FDIM 2010 – Days 4 and 5

Hamvention Balloon Launch

Once again, I owe you an apology for the great delay in getting my Dayton/FDIM posts published. It has been over a month since the event, which is far too long. Preparing for the arrival of the baby has taken up all of my spare time. This will be my final Dayton/FDIM post. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday started off with me hanging out at the Hamvention flea market. On Friday, I had seen approximately half of the flea market stalls, so I made it my goal to visit the rest of them on Saturday. It took me most of the morning to see the rest of the incredibly huge flea market. My feet could attest to the amount of travel it took to visit all of the flea market vendors. I didn't score anything particularly earth shattering, but then I wasn't really on the lookout for any equipment like I would be at a local hamfest. After getting an appropriate amount of blisters, I decided to take it easy by parking my butt at N8ZM's flea market spot and reading my newly acquired copy of The Complete DXer (signed by W9KNI, no less). Between reading stints, I wandered the halls of Hamvention a bit, not looking for anything in particular, just taking more time to examine the things that I breezed through on the first day.

No lids, no kids, no...

Sometime around noon, a high altitude balloon was launched on the back side of Hara, right around the corner from the N8ZM flea market spot. When I arrived the launch team was just finishing filling up the balloon in the loading dock on the back of Hara (to quite a large audience). Once that was done, they got the payload hooked up fairly quickly, then a team of guys holding various portions of the payload line maneuvered the balloon outside and let 'er rip. We even had our own cosplay astronaut to bless the voyage. I don't recall how high the balloon ended up getting, but it sounds like the mission was fairly successful. I believe that they payload was recovered somewhere near Columbus.

After a fairly relaxed day at Hamvention, it was time for the big FDIM banquet back in Fairborn. Fortunately, I managed to avoid the previous day's SNAFU by securing transportation in a timely fashion (many thanks to N8ZM for allowing a near stranger to borrow his pickup!). I arrived fairly early and picked a table near the back of the room like a true introvert. The tables were slowly occupied until the banquet room was nearly full, which was quite impressive. My table ended up being filled mostly with hams who were strangers to each other. I had the opportunity to meet some nice gentlemen and have some pleasant talk about this and that. Somehow I also got lucky and found my name on the pre-drawn door prize list for a shiny new 2010 ARRL Handbook. That was a bit of a shock, as I very rarely win anything by chance (except perhaps poker).

Dinner was served, and we had the pretty standard hotel banquet dinner. It wasn't too bad...nothing to write home about, but I've had much worse. After dessert, the awards ceremony was started in short order. I won't bore you with the tedium of all of the details, but there were some incredible moments that I won't forget. The first was when Rex Harper, W1REX accepted the QRP Hall of Fame induction on behalf of his silent key friend Dave Ingram, K4TWJ. Poor Rex was choked up through most of his acceptance speech. You could tell how hard he was impacted by the emotions of the whole things. I certainly can't blame him, I doubt I could have kept it together under the same circumstances. A bigger shock came even later, when QRP ARCI announced that Rex himself would also be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Rex came backup to the podium and gave a very touching, heartfelt acceptance speech.

After announcing the winners of the various homebrew contest winners, they finally got around to announcing the winner of the 72 Part Challenge. After seeing the competition I was up against two days previously, I knew I wasn't going to win but that didn't really matter to me. It turned out that the big winner was Harold Smith, KE6TI, with an 80 meter transceiver with a very wide tuning range. An amazing bit of work and a well deserved victory! The rest of the competitors (NM0S, NC9H, KD1JV, and myself) all got very nice framed honorable mention certificates, along with a modest bit of prize money. Certainly more than I expected. The judges (W4QO, G3RJV, and W1RFI) stated that it was a very difficult decision for them and they thought that all of the competitors brought worthy radios. There's no doubt that it's an honor to stand as an equal amongst such notable QRPers. The whole contest was an incredible experience in which to participate.

The banquet, and FDIM itself, wound down with some after dinner talk with some of the folks who stuck around in the banquet room. We had a nice bluegrass jam as our background music while we got to shoot the BS with new and old friends. I stuck around for an hour or so, then made back for N8ZM's house with his truck before I made him too nervous! Another 18 hour day of ham radio insanity under my belt.

Sunday was the day for me to lick my wounds and do my last little bit of wandering around Hamvention. I stuck around the N8ZM flea market spot for a good portion of the day, and made multiple trips to the wonderful smelling pizza stand placed strategically placed 20 feet away from the our flea market spot. Of course, I also had to partake one last time in the bratwurst that the cowgirl roping team was selling just a few rows away. There was a bit more browsing through Hamvention, but I felt like I had already seen most of what I wanted to see. By the end of the day (really 2 PM or so), I was ready to go. Truly, I had reached my saturation point.

When I got back to N8ZM's house, I managed to snag a real bed, as some of his other guests had already left. My head hit that pillow and I was out cold for about 12 hours or so. I woke up hungry at some point in the middle of the night because I had slept right through dinner, so I raided the fridge, then proceeded to hibernate some more. I think that N8ZM and W8NF were getting a little bit concerned, but I needed the sleep badly!

Our flight out was on Monday evening, so I got to spend most of the day on Monday just relaxing at N8ZM's house until it was time for our flight. I won't bore you with the details of my uncomfortable flight back; all that matters is that we all made it back home in one piece.

I don't have any profound wisdom for my conclusion. The experience had many wonderful moments and a few that left me gritting my teeth and wanting to pull my hair out (if I had any left up top). I'm really happy that I managed to make it work out, regardless of any bumps in the road that I encountered. Next time (which will probably be many years from now), I think I'm going to focus on FDIM even more and stay in the FDIM hotel. That's where I had the most fun. Not that Hamvention wasn't great as well, but for me it was more about connecting with my fellow QRPers and homebrewers, not checking out all of the shiny new stuff at the booths. And perhaps next time, I'll have a little budding homebrewer in tow.