I glanced down and my chat window had opened. Who was it but W1DDI, Mark Persson.
Mark is the repeater coordinator for the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club and he was planning a trip to the club’s W1JY 147.3000 FM repeater and the W1VN 449.6750 D-Star digital voice repeater site, to see why the D-STAR connectivity suddenly stopped working.
Mark was going to go with Jim Cluett, W1PID, as they both are in the early stages of dipping themselves in the magic waters of D-STAR. They’ll both tell you it’s a fascinating aspect of the digital part of amateur radio.
After watching their demonstration of D-STAR at the last club meeting I have to say I’m in full agreement. I’ll be getting a D-STAR radio within a few months if all goes well.
“Do you mind if I tag along?” I’ve got an interest in the club’s repeaters and had never seen where the Franklin repeater is located.
“Heck no, grab your snowshoes as we’ll be hiking to the top of the hill,” Mark said.
Mark contacted Jim and it was decided we’d try to meet at the parking lot of the Veterans Memorial Ski Area on Flaghole Road in Franklin, NH at 2:15 p.m.
I carpooled with Jim to the site. We rode in his sweet red Subaru Outback, one of my top three colors. As usual, I tried to to a Vulcan mind meld trying to suck as much knowledge from Jim as possible in the short ride as we drove south on NH State Route 127 from Sanbornton to Franklin.
Suffice it to say it’s not hard, as he’s only too happy to foster the sharing of hard-earned tips about the ham radio hobby.
“It’s a marvelous day, isn’t it?” Jim exclaimed as we made our way up the ice-encrusted-normally-gravel Flaghole Road. His AWD Subaru maintained steady footing with Jim at a safe speed.
“Mud season is going to be wicked with as deep as the frost has penetrated this year,” Jim said while rounding a bend.
I remember my first mud season in New Hampshire back in March of 2009. When I saw a temporary warning sign emblazoned with ROAD IMPASSABLE – Travel at Own Risk placed where the blacktop stopped just 100 feet from where I turned onto my street, I realized NH mud deserves respect. Staring at 12-inch-deep ruts in the gooey stone-and-sand stew, my mud season baptism was official.
As we drove to the repeater site, Mark and Jim were in radio contact. Mark had a five-minute lead and was getting his gear out when Jim and I pulled into the parking lot.
“I don’t think I need poles, what do you guys think?” Mark was emulating Johnny Cash dressed completely in black with his stylish snow pants, black hat, and black Hollywood sunglasses standing in his black Ram truck that Darth Vader would covet.
“We don’t need no stinkin’ poles,” I replied as I was confident the snow grooming machine had compacted the snow so it would be easy walking both up and down the slope. We proceeded up the hill staying along the edges of the ski areas so as to not be in the way of skiers.
This quaint ski area is a hidden gem. It’s off the beaten path and is what many small ski areas in New Hampshire used to be like in the 1950’s and 60’s. You feel like you’ve stepped out of a time machine when you walk into the cozy lodge with the picnic tables, snack bar and roaring fire. The entire operation is staffed by volunteers, just like our ham radio club.
In no time we were at the top. As I pulled up the rear I looked over to my left and saw a woman in the telltale red ski patrol jacket with the white cross. She was with another man and I could tell they wanted to say something.
I gave them strong eye contact and pulled my Baofeng UV-5R HT from the pocket of my lime-green heated jacket with the 3M reflective stripes to communicate we were on a mission. They quickly skied down the small slope to talk with me.
“Hi! I’m a ham radio operator and my buddies and I are checking on one of our repeaters,” I said to Ellen and Dave Coulter, wife and husband team, who were now next to me.
“Oh, all of us on the hill were talking on our radios wondering who you were as the three of you clawed your way to the top. Too bad you didn’t bring skis. You could have used the lift and then glided back to the bottom,” Ellen said in a very cheery voice.
By the time I made it to the repeater shack, Mark and Jim were inside troubleshooting. For at least a week they were unable to make the D-STAR components connect to the Interweb allowing them to fully utilize their sweet ICOM D-STAR radios.
It didn’t take them long to narrow down the problem to the USB modem.
There wasn’t much to do after that so Mark locked up the shed and decided to see if his tongue would stick to the cold 60-foot-tall antenna mast. Much to his surprise it almost did!
As we started back down to the base area, we gazed to the north at the stunning view of the White Mountains. No doubt I was looking at snow-capped Mt. Lafayette in the distance. Too bad I was so distracted as to not get a photo!
“I’ve come here with Judy to toboggan. You’d be surprised how fast you get going on that slope just in front of the lodge over there,” Jim stated as we got closer to the parking lot.
Minutes later we were back at the vehicles with the fried USB modem in Mark’s pocket. He intended to put it on his test bench to determine why it might have failed.
It was a grand excursion and everyone was in a great mood. You can bet if we go up again in the winter on a weekend, I’ll have my K2’s, boots and poles with me!
I’m going to ski down that hill, not walk!