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Traveling Ham Radio

Traveling Ham Radio
By Joe Phillips Dear Me
Traveling Ham Radio
By Joe Phillips Dear Me

Another mystery.

A long ago road trip to Kansas was made easier and smoother by the help of local Amateur Radio Operators, otherwise known as Hams, who are ready to untangle the mess of a fellow traveling amateur.

To be clear on terms a guy using a Citizens Band radio is not a “Ham.”

CB-ers are not required to take an FCC exam nor show any proficiency in anything. They often use excessive power and language. They are not called upon in disasters.

In some towns, Hams leave the radio running in the background while puttering. They are sort of the standby force ready to give guidance and local information to people who are GPS illiterate or driving a vehicle without one installed.

I finally gave up on using a cell or a tablet as a GPS until I can be brought up to speed by a grandchild.

Community Ham radio frequencies are usually busy, but one frequency on my trip near Kansas City sounded like a traffic control station.

A local guy “Beryl” (WB0EJJ) was directing a lost soul through town.

When they had finished, I asked Beryl if he could handle one more request and recommend a barbecue place.

He was helpful and patient. He directed me to watch for Prospect Street and turn north on it and look for a tire shop at the corner. Then he directed me to make a left and the barbecue will be three blocks on the left. He was spot on.

There was nothing unusual in this sequence of exchanges, Ham Radio Operators are helpful to travelers.

Beryl talked about his work as a tool room machinist for Bendix Allied Signal. He created tools and parts using lathes and other precision machine tools.

There is just one thing. Beryl was blind. He had a mind full of maps and spent his retirement days directing people around town via Ham Radio on streets he had never seen.

Beryl died a number of years ago. While working my way on I-70, I happened upon W9MOA (Keith), who helped me with a shortcut around construction.

Keith dropped off the earth, it seemed. I tried to reconnect with him to thank him for his help, but his call sign had gone “inactive.” That is usually the sign of what Hams call a “Silent Key.”

I was pleased to learn yesterday that Keith is still alive and active on Ham radio but using a newer call sign after upgrading his license.

There is always something new to do on Ham radio, but biggest mystery of all was Beryl. How did he do it?

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