I am sometimes asked what the “WITCARS” on our blue caps means. Most often folks will ask if we are a NASCAR fan club or an antique car club. But we are neither of these. Everyone knows what “WIT” stands for but it is the “CARS” that causes the confusion. In our case it means Communications Amateur Radio Service.

       We are a WIT Special Interest Club which by now you realize is distinguished by our interest in ham radio. To be a member you must hold a valid Amateur Radio License issued by the Federal Communications Commission and of course be a current member of WIT. We are all experienced in communications procedures to one degree or another and most of us have at least one transmitting/receiving station installed in our motor homes.

        “At least one” you say? Frequently we will have two or even more independent “transceivers” on board. Typically these may be a small low-powered VHF or UHF handheld “walkie-talkie” type unit of a half watt or so, an installed much more powerful unit of perhaps 30 to 100 watts also operating on the VHF/UHF bands, or a multiband HF (high-frequency) rig with a separate outside antenna which has the capability of communicating with other hams around the world under good operating conditions. We can easily and consistently communicate most anywhere in the United States and Canada at any given time of day or night.

        Occasionally someone will say something like “Oh, you’re a ham? So is my brother/father/uncle/friend. Can you call him up so we can talk?” Now I must make it clear that for such a connection to take place, two appropriately licensed amateurs (hams) must both have their radios turned on and be on the same frequency at the same time. This is easily accomplished by means of a pre-arranged schedule, but without such an agreement it is totally potluck. It’s like stepping out of your doorway and calling a friends name who may be anywhere else on the campground, or gone into town, or may be taking a nap. Your chances of his hearing and responding to you are little to none unless he is standing next to you. Hence the requirement of making a schedule for an on-air meeting.

        So what do we WITCARS members do? We are basically a social group unified by our mutual interest in amateur radio. Before the advent of business band radios (by which the Winnebago staff now stay in touch), the old CB rigs that were in common use years ago, and now the popular FRS radios and cell phones which probably 99% of us RVers own, we hams had an exclusive with 2-way equipment on the rally grounds. So we were a natural for providing short-range emergency communications and message delivery for the rally-goers. This was a service we provided during the early years of the Grand National Rally until last year.

        After some discussion within our membership, and with the powers-that-be at WIT, we realized that at the core we are still basically communicators with the equipment and ability to quickly provide emergency communications if and whenever necessary at a moments notice in the event of ..... (whatever - you fill it in). Hams have historically been there in about every sort of situation to provide just such a service. In anything from our local March of Dimes 3 mile Walk-a-Thon to major disasters such as the Los Angeles earthquake of several years ago to the 9-11 tragedy, hams were there to volunteer their equipment and their help. Hams assisted during the terrible hurricanes in the southeast last summer for health and welfare reports and helped the Red Cross and other agencies. For many days they were the only means of communications from many areas out of touch with the outside world.

        So this is how we now view our role at GNR. We are a friendly group united by a common interest who are ready at a moments notice with our equipment and skills for any unforeseen situation where we can be of help. God forbid that anything of a major nature should arise, but the hams in Florida last summer didn’t expect anything either.

        If you haven’t sent in your reservation for GNR yet and you are a ham, please indicate that you want to park with the WITCARS group. You don’t have to be a member to park in our row, but if you are licensed, we will be glad to have you join us and make you an official member. All it takes is your $5 one-time membership fee (no annual dues). Even if you have already sent in your GNR sign-up form, you can request a change and come park with us. If you are not a ham but have thought about it, stop by the row and most any member can give you some information on how to proceed. Better yet, send an e-mail to newham@arrl.org and they will provide you with helpful advice on obtaining an Amateur Radio license. A basic license is really not very hard at all and now you don’t even have to learn Morse Code. See also www.arrl.org/hamradio.html the website of ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio for all kinds of interesting information.

        See you at GNR and 73, (ham talk for “best regards”)

            Ted Shelly, President, WITCARS email: k0ddb@arrl.net

            (p.s. the “0” in my e-mail is the numeral zero)

[Reprinted from February 2005 WIT Club News]