Last week I made the trip to Dayton, OH for the annual Hamvention held in May. Originally, I was not planning on going, but in early April I was reading about some of the forums and presentations that were going to be presented, so I asked my roommate, also a ham, if he wanted to go and he said sure, so the planning started. Since we live in Minnesota it is not a short drive, but it is a short flight, so after the hotel reservations were made we had to decide how to get there. Well, after looking at flight options and considering the flexibility if we just drove, we made the decision to go for it. We new it would be about twelve hours of driving each way, so we planned on leaving early Thursday morning and probably returning on Sunday, we did take Monday off just in case we changed our minds. Oh, did I mention that I had never been to the Dayton Hamvention before, so this was a first for me. I have been to a number of local hamfests, but those are tiny in comparison.
Thursday about 6:00 AM we set off on our journey to Dayton. For the most part the first half of the trip was quiet and there was not much going on. We did hear an aeronautical mobile station on 146.520 on his way to the Hamvention also. We stopped for lunch in Janesville, WI and continued on. Just before we got into Champaign IL I heard a call sign on 146.520 that was someone I knew from the Mankato, MN area also on their way to Dayton, we ended traveling most of the rest of the trip about ten to fifteen minutes behind them and chatted a bit. It turns out they had left about the same time we did, but came down a different route and we just happened to hear each other shortly after or paths converged. Latter on not too far from the Ohio board we were scanning all of the repeater outputs on both 2 M and 70 CM and ran across another station that we knew also, so we chatted with him for a while as we were only a few miles behind them. We pulled into the hotel just south of Dayton, OH about 8:30 Eastern, about thirteen and half hours after we left. We stopped for gas twice and both lunch a dinner. It was a good trip, a bit of a long drive, but I was worth it as I was excited to see what the next day would hold.
The next morning we left the hotel a bit before 7 AM and found breakfast and headed toward the old Salem Mall, where the off site parking for the Hamvention was. Oh, yeah it was very foggy that morning so the combination of not being able to see more than maybe a couple hundred feet along, with not knowing where I was going for sure and a GPS that sent me to not quite the right spot made finding the parking a bit of challenge. Not, so much of a challenge that I needed to ask, as there were many people on 146.520 in the area. We got parked picked up our bus passes and board the shuttle bus to the Hara Arena. It was a quick bus ride and we were there. We then purchased our tickets and waited a few minutes for the flea market to open. Once we go in we headed toward the back and started checking out what was there. I didn’t end up buying anything in the flea market and it was not do to a lack of options, just nothing that I knew I needed when I saw it. As the day went on we headed inside to see what was inside as well as to take in a bit of the Ham Nation recording that was going on. We did manage to get through most of the inside and outside on a first pass the first day. About 4:30 or so we left and headed back to the hotel. We hit up a local Mexican Restaurant for dinner before headed to the D-Star forum that was taking place at a local hotel that evening. Overall the first day was fin and tiring as we did not make it back to the hotel until close to 10 PM.
Saturday was a new day, we left about the same time and had breakfast before heading to park and catch the bus. We arrived at the arena about 8 AM and started thought the flea market again. There were some vendors that had not been there they day before and there were sections that we had not spend much time at on Friday, so we spent some time around there. Saturday morning it did start to rain, we did hand out outside for a while, but eventually headed inside and spent some time and money with the commercial dealers. By the time the rain had stopped it my arms were full and it was lunch time, so we decided to head back to the car and go and find lunch. Well, finding lunch close to where we were parked turned out to not leave us with many options, we found a place and got some food quick and headed back. In the afternoon we attended a session on Embedded Linux and Micro-Controllers for Ham Radio, there was some good information that I picked up, but it was very warm in the presentation room. Once that was over we made a few more stops and took off for the day. When we left we know that we were not planning on returning for the Sunday events. We did manage to meet up with another group from Minnesota for dinner and had a good time.
Sunday about 7 Eastern we left the hotel and headed back. We saw a number of call sign plates on the way back and chatted with a few of them on 146.520. We were also scanning all fo the repeater outputs again and that turned out to be useful just as we left Illinois and crossed in to Wisconsin, as there were storms moving into the area. We ended up ahead of the storms in Southern Wisconsin and behind the storms close to home as we progressed back. We did hear the same aeronautical mobile station that we had heard on the way down while we were in Wisconsin on the way back also. We pulled into the house about 8 PM Central, it took us a bit longer to get back due to a couple of extra stops and an accident on the freeway as we were entering Wisconsin.
Overall, I had a great time and never really had any downtime over the four days. I would go again and I would probably drive again as that is part of the fun, at least in my mind. I spend enough time flying for work that I was nice to take off and see some of the country side and to be in control of my schedule. I know that it has been said many times, but if your are a ham radio operator or electronics enthusiast you have to go to the Dayton Hamvnetion at least once.