2013 Waco Wild West 100 Bike Tour

HOTARC provided radio communications in support of this very popular annual event sponsored by the Waco Bicycle Club that involves about a thousand participants and volunteers. This year's WWW100 was Saturday, September 28, 2013 at Indian Springs Park in downtown Waco, starting at 8:00 am. This day-long event accommodates riders of many abilities with courses of varied lengths: 10 miles, 25 miles, 50 miles, 65 miles, and 100 miles—all of which are supported by rest stops, support vehicles ("SAG"), and—courtesy of HOTARC—radio communications.

This event involves many volunteers around the course. Amateur radio operators at each rest stop relay timely progress information as well as break-downs and injuries, need for supplies, and so forth. This year we also had a "tracking" ham radio in over fifteen SAG vehicles and the 100-mile pace car. In each of these we installed an APRS tracker automatically sending real-time position reports to the APRS network. Using APRSISCE/32 running on a laptop in the trailer, we could quickly identify the closest SAG vehicle to a need reported to us. Clint AE5CA did an awesome job organizing and coordinating this successful APRS effort!

Riders away for the 2013 WWW100! HOTARC trailer on University Parks Drive

Click for link to 2013 course maps.

For APRS, we used 147.50 MHz and our own array of digipeaters (at AE5CA's QTH, the W5NCD-15 tower, and a temporary station installed on a tall building in downtown Waco), with the data iGate'd up to the Internet, so anyone can see the current tracker locations, e.g., on aprs.fi or openaprs.net. The trackers are programmed for time-slotting: when switched to secondary mode, it transmits every 3 minutes, at a pre-determined time-slot to avoid collisions.

For voice communications, we relied on our own wide coverage 145.15 MHz repeater. After overcoming a few difficulties with the trailer's antenna connectors (Murphy's Law), other than the well-known dead-zone down in the river bottoms near Mother Neff Park, we enjoyed excellent coverage by the 2-meter repeaters throughout the course.

Although this event is well "planned," with the route and rest stops known well in advance, there are still plenty of challenges for us every year, and it is a great chance to use our radio abilities to serve the community. And, of course, it is an excellent training opportunity for a real emergency situation requiring radio communications from several remote and mobile stations coordinated with a portable Net Control station.

As for the bikers, this year's event went smoothly, with Mother Nature even providing some cool-down for the 100-milers, with the mid-afternoon arrival of rain. The rain also helped us at the HOTARC trailer: loosening a mud-dobber nest embeded into the air-conditioning unit, that had rendered it unusable for the first part of the day!

Click here to see the 2013 station assignments.

Waco Wild West 100 Wrap-Up
by Clint Anderson, AE5CA

I would like to thank everyone who participated in any way with the Waco Wild West on Saturday. It was very obvious that HOTARC performed at an extreme level of professionalism in providing communications for this event. We did have challenges, but we were able to rise above them and overcome the obstacles we faced.

In our first test of the expanded APRS fleet, we had outstanding results. We did have a couple trackers (including one of mine!) that were never heard, but that is to be expected. But overall, when a rider called in to request help, we knew where the majority of the SAGS were located, and could quickly call the nearest SAG for assistance. I believe this year's response time for SAG vehicles was cut dramatically. So, thanks to all those who lent us their trackers for the ride. The successful APRS network noted above could not have happened without you.

We also owe a big "Thank You" again this year to Larry Bush W5NCD. Larry led the effort to build the trackers we used. He took down his 147.240 repeater and provided the main digipeater to allow us to have a tall digipeater site covering most of the county. As you probably know, his tower also hosts the Club's W5ZDN 145.15 repeater used for this event. So, without his help and technical expertise, we would not have been able to provide the professional level of communications for the Waco Wild West 100 that we did. Thank you, Larry!

I would also like to thank everyone who manned a rest stop this year. Without you folks out there, we would have no idea what is happening on the course. Your input to Net Control is invaluable. You are also really "the face of HOTARC and amateur radio" to the public, the riders on bikes, and the volunteer workers at rest stops. Again, thanks for your time and sincere efforts!

Keith W5TTL also did a great job in the lead vehicle—making sure we knew where the lead 100-mile riders were. He also helped to install a pivotal digipeater downtown to ensure we had good coverage for our APRS Network in the eastern and downtown Waco portion of the courses.

Finally, the team players at Net Control did a fantastic job handling the volume of information that passed through there. It gets pretty crazy in the beginning hours of a big event like this! I don't believe you could ask for a better group at Net Control!

Overall it was very impressive to witness the professional level of communications expertise that was demonstrated by the whole HOTARC team at the Waco Wild West event. Thanks again to each of you!

Clint Anderson, AE5CA
President, Heart 'O Texas Amateur Radio Club

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