A POTA DAY WITH TOM THE PILOT (W4ID)
Now one would ordinarily expect that a retired airline pilot with considerable flying hours in both military and civilian commercial aircraft would have no problem doing “pre-flight” check lists.
And, one could also reasonably surmise that a pota activation would be a “milk run” for such experience; however, attempting a five park activation with W4ID proved to be a bit unnerving of one’s faith in what’s flying around up there.
It was a dark and stormy night (well not really but that’s how these things normally begin).
Anyway I was asked if I would like to accompany Tom (W4ID) to activate several parks from Aiken, of all places, down to some park around Barnwell Co. Folks who know me, will tell you I don’t travel well. I did find the request humbling that he’d want to be in my company that long and thought ardently about how I could get out of that without hurting his feelings. You see, he’d asked about a trip similar to that once before and I turned him down flat. So, this time, I thought I’d be as tactful as I could. That was asking a lot of me in the first place, but with determination I bought a little time to think it over and hatched a plan to simply redirect the pain somewhat by persuading him to do alternate parks that would not require such a lengthy travel itinerary, or so I thought.
Consequently, I proposed we do TWO(2) parks, Poinsette and Manchester. They were close and I thought we could activate them in fairly short order and I’d be home by lunch at the latest.
Ah, but the best laid plans of mice and men, don’t you know? It seems Hickory Top was directly in front of a detour we were forced to take, and of course, in slowing for the turn the big green sign announcing we were in front of yet another pota designated site was just too big to miss….or for Tom to ignore. Immediately, I saw a light bulb above his head that was so bright it blotted out the early morning sun. “Say, we could catch this one on the way back”, he said. “ Why yes, yes we surely could,” I replied. All the while under my breath I’m saying “grrrrrr”. Ok, so what’s one more and, after all, it WAS on the way back.
So, undeterred, we proceeded to Poinsette, activated it, without being able to check the antenna swr because the experienced pilot, used to check lists before take-off, failed to have an analyzer with a charged battery, and, DESPITE being asked before we ever left, if he had one.
Ok, on to Manchester where we were in danger of being either strafed by F-16’s or bombing victims from practice bombs. Part of the park is used as a practice range for jets from Shaw AFB. Tom, in a matter of fact voice, clarified that the prehistoric noise, which sounded as if his vehicle was about to fall apart, was merely the sound of “gatling guns” aboard the jets. He described the noise simply as the sound of freedom and went on about the business of setting up his wolf river coil and me looking for a bunker from which to set up the computer log.
That activation went pretty well, albeit a little harder to hear call signs.
Ah Ha, now remember the Hickory Top place that was on the way back? Well, into that dismal swamp we proceeded and the road wasn’t exactly one on which you’d want a “pavement princess” to travel. To insure the undercarriage stayed with us, speed was limited to a snail’s pace. In fact, a turtle crossed in front of us faster than we could go to even think about being worried about running over him.
Once at the far end of this desolate and isolated outpost, the antenna was again set up and cq’s called with no response. After checking to see that we were in fact spotted and all connections were tight and in their correct positions, I noticed the swr’s were off the scale. Nothing seemed to work and the conclusion was made the feedline may be bad. But, once again our intrepid experienced pilot, yes the one used to check lists before take-offs, had once again failed to bring a spare feedline, and DESPITE BEING ASKED ABOUT THAT TOO BEFORE DEPARTURE! No multimeter to check anything, no analyzer with a charged working battery, no spare feedline, I mean GEESH! I do think he got the message however, that he may need a 4wd pickup. It could be the road may have had something to do with the bug in the gear but with nothing to check who knows? We did complete the activation by dumb luck. Our fearless Sky Captain, coincidentally had a mount on his hatchback and a separate dedicated feedline for that. That saved the activation.
The last two he cajoled me into were relatively smooth activations and after nearly 8 hrs I finally made it to the home QTH. I probably should have gone to Aiken and I’d have been home sooner.
Oh well, POTA is about fun, and I did have fun even if it was with a POTA PILOT that doesn’t do check lists.
Seriously, this little article was just an extension of the fun. Tom is a great guy with whom to activate. Those little snags mentioned above are all part of it. You have got to be able to laugh at yourself sometimes.
Come join the POTA fun, get “radioactive”,…… but don’t forget your extra feedline!