The Amateur Amateur: The Junkman Cometh, Part III

By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
Contributing Editor
July 16, 2003

To recap, my brother Chris, K1KC, was in town for a visit. He is often called "the junkman."

Junk at hamfest

If it's junk, the Junkman wants it.

My brother Chris stayed with us for a week. While he was here, St Louis Repeaters held "Winterfest," its annual hamfest. Naturally, the Junkman wanted to attend. My wife Nancy, N0NJ, also wanted to attend, but she figured she would leave earlier than Chris and I, so she took her own car.

Our merry little caravan set out early in the morning--with the sun in our eyes, of course. Winterfest was being held just over the Mississippi River in Illinois. Nancy and I had attended the previous year, but I couldn't quite remember the way, so I used a computer-generated travel planner to create a map.

Nancy led the way in her new Toyota. By "new" I mean that I hadn't had a chance to install any radios in it. But we were just taking a short ride across the Mississippi, so we didn't figure that radio communication was essential. Chris and I followed in his behemoth of a truck, talking about guy stuff.

As we neared the hamfest, we started to see other vehicles sporting Amateur Radio license plates. Some of the drivers were clearly lost, because they'd pass Chris's truck and pull in behind Nancy's car, which also had an Amateur Radio plate. (Although my brother's truck had hundreds of antennas, it did not look like a civilian vehicle. It looked more like it had gotten separated from a military convoy.) By the time we reached our exit, Nancy's car had become the lead vehicle of its own convoy.

"Next, exit," I told Chris. Dutifully, he turned.

Nancy at Winterfest 2003

My wife Nancy, N0NJ, stood out in the crowd. (Men, never underestimate your wives!)

Nancy and her convoy did not.

"Oh crud, she missed the exit!" I told Chris.

There was no way for us to catch up with her and no way for us to contact her by radio. We pulled over to the shoulder and waited for her to realize her mistake and come back. We waited for a long time.

"Well, either she's having a hard time getting turned around, or she gave up and decided to go home," I said after 20 minutes had passed. "Let's go on to the hamfest."

So we pulled back onto the road and continued. We made the next turn, as indicated by the map, then got thoroughly lost. The computer-generated route was wrong! The street names were all wrong and the distances were all wrong. Eventually we did get to the hamfest, but it was about 50 times the distance indicated on my map. As we pulled wearily into the parking lot, we immediately spotted Nancy's car--in a primo parking space.

We went inside. Nancy was waiting for us. "Where were you guys?" she asked. She had remembered the correct route from the previous year. Graciously, she already had purchased tickets for all of us. (Men, never underestimate your wives.)

I wanted to introduce Chris to some of my friends I thought might also be attending Winterfest. I looked around, and sure enough, I spotted a few. I walked over and said, "Hi guys! I'd like to introduce you to my brother."

As they looked at me expectantly, I turned to find that Chris already had disappeared into the crowds.

"Well, you can't miss him," I said. "He's kind of heavyset, and he's wearing a baseball cap."

Friends at Winterfest

My friends chortling, "He's heavyset and wearing a baseball cap? Oh, that'll make him easy to spot!"

Given that my description fit about 90 percent of the attendees, my friends just smiled at me in a kind display of mild pity.

I left them in search of my brother, whom I found. But then I lost sight of my friends. Later I found them, but had lost sight of Chris again. This ping pong game went on for a while, but we eventually did all get together in the same spot.

As it happened, I saw quite a few people I knew at Winterfest. Chris also knew a lot of folks there, but most of his acquaintances were behind the tables rather than in the aisles in front of them. These were people from he'd bought junk from or sold to at other hamfests. I suspect more than a few deals were struck that day as well.

I did go to the hamfest intent on buying one item. I spotted what I needed and tried to catch the vendor's attention. Unfortunately, a largish fellow was standing next to me playing with a hand-held radio. He had its squelch turned all the way down and its volume turned all the way up. Not content with the amount of noise he was making, he bellowed, "Hey! What frequency are you on?" to a friend of his who was standing on the other side of me. Since I was between the two of them, the largish fellow yelled even louder, possibly in an effort to make my head explode and leave him a clear line of sight.

Somehow I still managed to catch the eye (if not the ear) of the vendor and was able to make my purchase.

Later I ran into my brother again. He asked if I'd bought anything. I showed him the adapter I'd gotten.

"How much did you pay?" asked Chris.

I told him.

"Oh man!" he wailed. "I just paid twice that much for the same thing!"

What can I say? Sometimes even the amateur amateur gets lucky.

Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, of Florissant, Missouri, has been a ham since 1995 and an ARRLWeb contributing editor since 2001. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail, [email protected].

© 2003 American Radio Relay League

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