January and February were busy months for my car and mobile ham station! My previous post detailed the completion of a “micro tower” on the roof. Next, I worked on my amplifier and feed line installation. I shared that project on my new ham radio website, KE4WMF.com. I had hoped to finish prior to the VHF Contest in late-January. Supply delays kept that from happening. The pressure to finish the job was eased, but only a little. I was invited to take my mobile station to HamCation in Orlando, FL in early-February to display it with Emergency Communications (EmComm) vehicles. I still needed to finish the overhaul to be show-ready. HamCation is not a car show, but I still wanted to present a good exhibition!
I opted to transport the tower in my cargo trailer instead of driving with the tower, Yagis, and nine vertical antennas mounted atop my car. I also thought that the trailer might be a comfortable place to relax for brief periods at HamCation. You see, as an exhibit vehicle, the car had to be in place before 8am and remain until 5pm each day. So, there was no escaping the show for lunch or hiding inside the car. However, there was no room in the trailer since it housed the car’s every day contents that would have prevented me from displaying the car with its equipment doors open during the show. Later, I learned that I’d have no time for breaks!
Unpacking the trailer and mounting the roof equipment took about an hour, then I got my exterior setup completed before the gates opened to the public at 9am. I was still working on my interior displays as crowds started gathering around the car and asking questions. I even had a YouTuber interview me before I was ready. HAHA! I worked on my setup between questions and may have finally felt comfortable with my exhibit by noon or so. Friday brought a constant stream of visitors and questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction and hardly had time to see anything other than those around my car.
I had four YouTubers interview me on Friday and then two more over the rest of the weekend. I’ve collected five of the videos on this playlist. Saturday was busy, but not as hectic as Friday. Sunday was a very slow day. That gave me plenty of time to walk the indoor exhibits and flea market. It’s probably good that I didn’t have much time to spend in the vendor areas. After building my mobile setup, I did NOT need to spend even more money during my visit! 😀 The wind had picked-up to around 25 mph by the time the show ended at 1pm (see the storm clouds in this photo). Handling my 75-lb tower module is challenging enough without the wind making everything even more unruly.
I decided that it would be safer to drive 800 miles home with the entire setup on my roof, even with the trailer in tow. Aside from a bit of noise and my fuel economy dipping as low as 16 mpg, I think the drive went very well! Average fuel economy for the two-way trip was around 19-mpg. Overall, the best way for me to describe HamCation is “overwhelming!” I’ve shared a wrap-up video that answers some frequently asked questions. Once I got home, I went straight to stripping the roof of all antennas and the roof rack to prepare my car for its annual ceramic coat maintenance. So, the rack was off the car for about a week, then everything was returned to the car for the next show.
The next weekend, I met my daughter in Raleigh for Winter Volksfest and Southeast Eurofest, which is a pair of indoor car shows where I showed my car with its “abbreviated exhibition” setup. I left the tower at home since I wasn’t sure about tree coverage in the area or the overhead clearance at the indoor venue. Saturday’s Winter Volksfest is an all-VW show that’s often dominated by classic VWs, though modern car attendance seems to be increasing. My car was in the middle of the venue. Finding it in the crowd was very easy with the tall antennas. 😀
My daughter’s car was the booth car for Lost Boyz. Her car has an OEM+ style to it; so, nothing too crazy. She’s done an excellent job with tasteful mods and has created a good looking car that can be described as a “GTI clone” (my description, not necessarily her goal). I won a Top 40 award in 2022, but had no expectation of winning anything with my kooky setup and so many beautiful cars in attendance in 2023. I was happy to just have a great parking spot and answer some questions about my communications setup.
The cars that stayed for Sunday’s Southeast Eurofest were allowed to move forward and spend the night indoors. Eurofest is an all-European car show. Most of the classic VWs from Saturday had left, as did plenty of the modern cars. Still, it was a good turnout with most European brands represented. I didn’t take many photos over the weekend, but I’ve shared what I have in the album below. Spending the night inside on Saturday allowed me to avoid a rainy drive to the venue on Sunday. My car was placed on the front row where it was among the first to be seen as visitors entered the venue. I jokingly said that it allowed them to experience their “WTF Moment” early in their visit! 😉
Having learned from last year’s events, I added supplemental lighting to my interior displays. The lighting drew people to look into the car and see things that might have been overlooked without it. Eurofest features a Top 20 award, something I KNEW I wouldn’t get. I heard a “Kid’s Choice” award, where younger visitors vote for their favorite car, which gives me an idea to consider for next year. As I was mulling some thoughts about it, I was shocked to called forward to receive an award for “Best Workmanship!” Sure, I’ve done good work, but I still didn’t see that coming since there were some interesting projects present. I wonder if the fact that I did my own work was part of the judge’s decision to choose me for the award? Regardless, it was an honor to be recognized, especially since my exhibit is quite out of the norm for a car show. Perhaps I’ll take the full setup to Maggie Valley!