February was a busy month for my car and mobile ham station! I mentioned last month that I did not complete my station overhaul and tower project in time to participate in the January VHF contest. The pressure to finish the job was eased, but only a little. I was invited to take my mobile station to HamCation in Orlando, FL to display it with Emergency Communications (EmComm) vehicles. With a plan to leave Virginia on the Tuesday before the show so that I could visit friends along the way, I still needed to finish the overhaul and make the car show-ready as weather allowed. Sure, HamCation is not a car show, but I still wanted everything to be ready for a good exhibition!
I opted to transport the tower in my cargo trailer instead of driving with the tower, Yagis, and nine vertical antennas mounted atop my car. I also thought that the trailer might be a comfortable place to relax for brief periods at HamCation. You see, as an exhibition vehicle, the car had to be in place before 8am and remain until 5pm each day. So, there was no escaping the show for lunch or hiding inside the car. However, there was no room in the trailer since it housed the car’s every day contents that would have prevented me from displaying the car with its equipment doors open during the show. Later, I learned that I’d have no time for breaks!
Unpacking the trailer and mounting the roof equipment took about an hour, then I got my exterior setup completed before the gates opened to the public at 9am. I was still working on my interior displays as crowds started gathering around the car and asking questions. I even had a YouTuber interview me before I was ready. HAHA! I worked on my setup between questions and may have finally felt comfortable with my exhibit by noon or so. Friday brought a constant stream of visitors and questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction and hardly had time to see anything other than those around my car.
I had four YouTubers interview me on Friday and then two more over the rest of the weekend. I’ve collected five of the videos on this playlist. Saturday was busy, but not as hectic as Friday. Sunday was a very slow day. That gave me plenty of time to walk the indoor exhibits and flea market. It’s probably good that I didn’t have much time to spend in the vendor areas. After building my mobile setup, I did NOT need to spend even more money during my visit! 😀 The wind had picked-up to around 25 mph by the time the show ended at 1pm (see the storm clouds in this photo). Handling my 75-lb tower module is challenging enough without the wind making everything even more unruly.
I decided that it would be safer to drive 800 miles home with the entire setup on my roof, even with the trailer in tow. Aside from a bit of noise and my fuel economy dipping as low as 16 mpg, I think the drive went very well! Average fuel economy for the two-way trip was around 19-mpg. Overall, the best way for me to describe HamCation is “overwhelming!” I’ve shared a wrap-up video that answers some frequently asked questions. Once I got home, I went straight to stripping the roof of all antennas and the roof rack to prepare my car for its annual ceramic coat maintenance. So, the rack was off the car for about a week, then everything was returned for the next show. BTW, I stopped at a Buc-ee’s near Daytona on my way home. Three other hams had spotted me and wanted to take some pictures. They recommended the brisket: It was the best I had ever had! NO LIE!
The next weekend, I met my daughter in Raleigh for Winter Volksfest and Southeast Eurofest, which is a pair of indoor car shows where I showed my car with its “abbreviated exhibition” setup. I left the tower at home since I wasn’t sure about tree coverage in the area or the overhead clearance at the indoor venue. It turns out that my tower will fit just fine. This venue is the same as RARSFest. So, expect to see my full exhibition there on April 8th. I certainly won’t need to worry about wind at this venue! 😉
Saturday’s Winter Volksfest is an all-VW show that’s often dominated by classic VWs, though modern car attendance seems to be increasing. My car was in the middle of the venue. Finding it in the crowd was very easy with the tall antennas. 😀 I won a Top 40 award in 2022, but had no expectation of winning anything with my kooky setup and so many beautiful cars in attendance in 2023. I was happy to just have a great parking spot and answer some questions about my communications setup. The cars that stayed for Sunday’s Southeast Eurofest were allowed to move forward and spend the night indoors.
Eurofest is an all-European car show. Most of the classic VWs from Saturday had left, as did plenty of the modern cars. Still, it was a good turnout with most European brands represented. My car was placed on the front row where it was among the first to be seen as visitors entered the venue. I jokingly said that it allowed them to experience their “WTF Moment” early in their visit! 😉 Eurofest features a Top 20 award, something I KNEW I wouldn’t get. I was shocked to called forward to receive an award for “Best Workmanship!” Sure, I’ve done good work, but I still didn’t see that coming since there were some interesting projects present. It was an honor to be recognized, especially since my exhibit is quite out of the norm for a car show. See photos of a few other show cars in a write-up on my other website.