The Amateur Amateur: Preparing for Field Day

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
June 2015

KB0H and go-bags

Which of these items is not ready for Field Day? (Hint: The one with the hat)

Are you going to do anything special for Field Day this year? You may go out and operate a station or you may just stay home and monitor the activity, but my guess is that you will do something. There's a good possibility that you'll visit a Field Day site, perhaps even more than one.

As for me, I'll be at one of them. The St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club site will include a table devoted to emergency communications, and I will be Mister ARES. (The club has always been very generous to our local team and we are very grateful.) I'll have lots of ARRL and emergency preparedness literature on the table. And as the ARES and SKYWARN banners waft gently above my head, I will be communicating with with yet another ARES site via packet radio.

That's the plan, anyway. But, as we in the Midwest know quite well, Mister Weather may have other ideas.

It's happened before. I've found myself cowering in the center of the shelter with everyone else as lightning crashed around us and hail tried to hammer its way through the roof. I've watched in dismay as horizontal rain drenched my go bags and winds carried my brochures off to the land of Oz.

The idea that day was (1) to survive, and (2) to learn from the experience.

So we plan for these things. I now now use river rocks to keep the brochures from flying away with errant breezes. All my bags have been waterproofed. And this year I think, just to be safe, I'll also take some tarps along with me.

And a cooler full of ice and water. If it doesn't rain during Field Day it's likely that it will be blazing hot. The chances of perfect weather are close to nil.

I know exactly what I'll need to take. It doesn't look like much when I peruse my check list, but that's deceptive. There's a lot of poundage involved. (Get that smirk off your face, I'm talking about my equipment.) I've confirmed that everything electrical and mechanical works. Yep, I'm all set. There's only one item that I'm uncertain about.


KB0H and medicines

One pill makes you taller, the other makes you small...

There's no other way to say this. I'm just not young any more. Even when I was young I was never athletic. For most of my life I've been a practicing sedentarianist (couch potato). I cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound. On a good day I might be able to tumble down the steps of a tall building.

There's more. No matter how good a shape you're in, when you reach my age something is wrong with you. More than likely several things are wrong with you (besides being bald and wrinkled, so again, wipe that smirk off your face). What happens then is that your doctor (after a certain age doctors, plural) start prescribing medications. Lots and lots of medications.

Everyone my age knows his pharmacist on a first name basis.

The thing about medications is that they may or may not help you, but they absolutely, positively will have side effects. Ooooohhh yes. I'll spare you the more gruesome details, but will warn you that no pill is going to make you young and strong. It will only make you feel young and strong. The next day you'll feel like a car wreck because you tried to jump over a tall building.

Okay, what does all this have to do with Field Day?

I'll refer back to my statement about poundage. I can't estimate how much my bags, equipment, and all the brochures weigh, but they certainly fill up the back of my SUV. And I have to move all of this stuff four times: (1) From my basement up to my SUV, (2) from my SUV to the ARES table at the Field Day site, (3) from the site back to my SUV at the end of the day, and (4) from my SUV back down into the basement.

(1) usually involves two stages. Once out of the basement, everything sits in the family room for a long time while I gasp for breath.

(2) can be arduous or quick, depending on whether I can illegally park next to the shelter long enough to unload. I have a hand truck, but the equation is pounds-times-distance. It doesn't matter whether I'm pushing, pulling, or carrying, I'll also be puffing, panting, and wheezing.

(3) likewise.

(4) everything sits in the SUV until the next day. I'm too pooped to do anything.

KB0H on exercise bike

Preparing myself for Field Day

Each of these four steps leaves me completely exhausted. Once at the site and unloaded, I have to take a looooong break before I can start setting up the table. People frequently stop, take one look at me, and offer to call an ambulance.

Yes, I am out of shape. I admit it. But I also blame a large share of my lack of stamina to the blasted pills. They do odd things to my body. I've lost hair and then grown hair, become bloated and then lost weight, and been the Energizer Bunny and then Sloth Man. I can never tell what the next day will bring. Every morning I get up, go to the bathroom, and peer into the mirror. I want to make sure I still have the correct number of features on my face.

With regards to the stamina problem, though, I narrowed the suspects down to a couple of medications. In both cases I'm sure that the originally prescribed dosages were "too much of a good thing" They reduced my too-high readings down, all right, right past the normal zone and into the too-low readings.

These days I am verrrrry careful about the dosages I take. And if I know that I'm going to be doing anything physical, I make sure to eat a good meal first.... and that it's well digested before I start.

And no, I haven't forgotten about my general health. I have an exercise bicycle in the basement and I'm trying hard to stay on a daily regimen of riding the bike and hoisting dumbbells to build up my arm strength. (I watch DVDs from The Great Courses during all of this feverish activity... gotta exercise the brain as well, you know.)

So is there a moral to this story? Yes, there are three:

  1. Don't get old.

  2. Get to know your pharmacist.

  3. If you're at the St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club Field Day site this year, please give me a hand.

E-mail Gary Ross Hoffman

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