Eight members of the Roxton Rallye de Paris crew spent the weekend practicing communication for the next rally coming up this next Thanksgiving weekend. Well, okay there were only 7 ˝ members of the crew present as Jewel is only 6.
Any way, we always support the Tour de Paris bicycle rally every July by going to Paris and providing logistical support for over 800 people who bicycle 70 miles in the Texas heat. That means lots of water and ice. We take 3 pickups and make sure every rest stop, or as we keep calling them, check point is adequately re-supplied during the day. A large part of making this work is good communications. As those of you who attended the last Roxton Rallye de Paris may remember, we lost over an hour when our radio net collapsed. So our chief net controller, Roger Jones along with Lowell Allen made arrangements to borrow a repeater from the Garland amateur radio club. They also took a 50 foot pole to mount the antenna on. By the way, this is the same machine that was used for the recovery efforts when the space shuttle Columbia went down over Texas.
Leaving the Dallas area at 5 AM, both guys got to Roxton at 7 and started to set up. This is when the first problem happened. Fifty feet of fiber glass is too much to support itself as it is being raised. About half the sections broke and collapsed. In the true tradition of ham radio, Lowell and Roger pushed on regardless. They took the remaining sections and assembled a 25 foot pole. We got that raised, the repeater tuned up and started making the rounds of the rest stops as directed by Roger who was in full contact with the main rally net run by the Red River Valley Amateur Radio Club. This group also provides support for the RRdP. The main net took requests for supplies and sag wagons from the rest stops and passed that information on to the appropriate people.
Well, the shortened antenna pole was not the only hurdle that had to be over come. About an hour into the bike rally, the repeater died. Juanita and I were out on course and thought maybe we were just being ignored as we tried to call in on 3 different radios. Again, in the best POR spirit, the 2 guys pulled out the mobile from Lowell’s car, set it to reverse repeater operation and resumed communication.
All in all, over 600 pounds of ice and 150 gallons of water were delivered. The sag guys ferried several people smart enough to request a ride back to Paris. The rest stop communicators kept on top of conditions. Even the county sheriff deputies and constables were busy scouring the countryside for wayward riders.
We also met and talked with county officials and they are all glad we are planning to return this coming Thanksgiving.
Moral of the story: Practice makes perfect. Without Roger’s work with the Red Cross and Lowell’s work with the Garland ARC, they wouldn’t have thought of the work arounds. All communicators need practice. For those who work only 1 or 2 events a year, it is harder to both remember how to work your radio and what to do when it seems the radio isn’t working. Note that this applies to car rallies, bicycle rallies, foot races and Sky Warn operations. No matter which is your favorite, work all the events you can so you can excel at the one that is your passion.
Thanks to the Roxton Rallye de Paris crew who helped with the Tour de Paris: Roger Jones (KD5UJL), Lowell Allen (KD5RFD), John Camp (N5GRE) and his daughter Joy and granddaughter Jewel, Brad (KE5FIH) and Debbie (KE5FII) Fast and, Richard (KD5PXM) and Juanita (KD5PXN) Miller even if we are thanking ourselves. And a special thanks to the Red River Amateur Radio Club.