The RV Radio Network rolled into Superior this week from destinations across the country for a rally that runs through Saturday, Sept. 14.
The group of RV and ham radio enthusiasts is set up at the Head of the Lakes fairgrounds and kicked off the four-day rally Wednesday, Sept. 11.
The group is smaller than some rallies that have been held in Douglas County, but it’s a nice group, a nice caliber of people, Douglas County Board Supervisor Pat Ryan said. She said there are several new people among the group.
Ryan, a longtime member of the RV Radio Network, helped organize the rally.
The group has about two rallies a year in different locations around the country.
Hank and Selene Montgomery, full-time travelers, were working in Michigan over the summer, so the trip to Superior was relatively easy, Selene Montgomery said.
The couple, married 53 years, last resided in Raleigh, North Carolina, but sold their home in 2014, after going on the road full time. Their legal residence — established by a mail service — is in Florida. It’s a lifestyle they say they’ve enjoyed for the last seven years.
“It’s just the people, getting to see old friends … make new friends,” Selene said of their reason for coming to the rally. “There’s a lot of other things that go on, but to us that’s the main reason we go. It’s just special to catch up with them, get together.”
When there isn’t a rally, Selene Montgomery said she and her husband keep in touch with friends using the ham radio in their rig. While they’ve only been part of the network since 2011, she said she’s been operating ham radios since 2002, and her husband, Hank, since the 1970s.
During the four-day event, the group will share meals, hold meetings and seminars, and explore the area.
The group was welcomed to Superior by Mayor Jim Paine, County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert and Councilor Jenny Van Sickle during the opening dinner of the event.
The mayor apologized that the weather wasn’t being a “good ambassador,” but encouraged people to put on a coat and explore the areas parks, businesses and other amenities.
“We just left 95-degree weather,” said Calvin Means of Rocky Face, Georgia, who traveled to the rally with his wife, Jane. “I had to go buy a sweatshirt today because I was freezing to death.”
Galen Erickson of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, said he traveled to the rally with a friend, David Ventura of Minneapolis, to explain a new version of low-powered radio, digital mobile radio during one of the seminars.
“It’s 5 watts and all I have to do is change the channel on here, and I can talk anywhere in the world,” Erickson said. “It sounds like they’re right next to you because it’s digital … there’s no static.”
Erickson said he creates the software that makes the internet-based radios work and there are 30 repeaters for it available in Minnesota.
Ventura said the one drawback of the digital radios is that they rely on the internet, something he saw when he worked auxiliary communications during the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
“Just from the sheer number of people in town, the internet kept going down,” he said.
“This is more than a hobby for a lot of these guys,” David’s wife, Susan, said. She said she got involved as a “marital obligation,” but the majority of ham operators get involved as kids.
Dan Squier of Charles City, Iowa, is no kid, but he is new to the network. He said he got involved with ham radios last year because of an interest in Morse code.
“In our old age, we try to keep our brain active, and I’ve always been intrigued by Morse code,” Squier said. “That’s the main reason I got in.”
Learning it was the easy part, he said. He said it’s taken him about a year, but he’s finally getting to where he can understand it.
“It’s a challenge and it takes lots of practice,” Squier said. In addition to RVing and ham radios, Squier said he enjoys geocaching and a geocaching event is planned for Saturday morning with Bill and Char Kraft of the Eau Claire area.
Bill Kraft said he got his start in ham radio courtesy of the U.S. Army. Both as a teacher and a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, he’s been licensed with the Federal Communications Commission since 1960. He said he has been fascinated since one of his early instructors demonstrated how electrons could light a bulb by keying a transmitter.
“It fascinated me that when I tapped a key, I could communicate with the ether,” Kraft said. “I could communicate with other human beings, and they with me. I know it sounds strange, but it seemed like it was a miracle.”
David Ventura said he volunteers in auxiliary communications in Hennepin County, providing communications in situations where traditional means of communications breaks down.
“The only reason ham radio exists is for public service,” he said.
The low-powered radios can transmit voice, text, images and data. A 40-year veteran of amateur radio, Ventura said he’s been able to transmit documents in emergencies.
“We’re the super-geeks,” he said.