On a Spring morning in Ridgeland Mississippi, which showcased rare Spring like temperatures, a collection of cyclist gathered at the water’s edge of the Ross Barnette Reservoir.
More than was anticipated, more than had ever gathered before: approximately 700 riders massed at the Starting Line to begin a journey that would span two counties, traverse portions of a historic scenic parkway, enter the heart of small towns, exit through winding rural roads that kiss a river bend, and then return to its point of origin.
This was the Natchez Trace Century Ride – 2016. Once again, the Central Mississippi Amateur Radio Association (CMSARA), with the help of the Jackson Amateur Radio Club (JARC), were on hand to provide tactical radio communications for the 25, 50, 62 and 100 mile course participants and coordinators.
The challenges to both cyclist and Amateur Radio Operator alike were obvious: four separate courses covering a grueling combined 237 miles through city congestion, rural isolation, with exposure to the elements that tests the limits of human endurance, while battling the ever-present race against the clock.
So large was the sheer land area needing radio communication coverage that one 2-meter repeater in Madison County and another in Rankin County had to be employed to ensure reliable, stable communication. Both were provided, courtesy of Jeff Corkren (W5PPB).
Seventeen radio operators, strategically located along the race routes, were directed by the talents of Twin Net Control Station Operators – Ben A. Waltman (KE5JKD) and Dana R. Pierce (KF5WDL).
Amateur Radio Operators transmitted reports ranging from the simple to the critical to race coordinators to help ensure the overall safety and success of this important event.
One particularly tense moment came when a radio operator reported that an auto vehicle had made contact with a cyclist.
Net control operator Waltman immediately went into action, asking and receiving very specific and pertinent information that helped race coordinator Wendy Bourdin get the appropriate medical personnel and equipment to the scene of the accident.
By law, Amateur Radio Operators do not charge for their communications as they donate them as a public service.
Recognition for Their Service is as follows:
1. Net Control Station #1: Ben Waltman (KE5JKD)
– assisted by his wife Cheryl (KE5WAC)
2. Net Control Station #2: Dana R. Pierce (KF5WDL)
3. Liaison to Race Coordinator: Pat Kelly (KF5TNV)
4. Natchez Trace Rest Stop: Steve Barr (KC5NJA)
5. Lead Vehicle: Terry Drake (KD5JPB)
6. Trail Vehicle #1 (50 mile) & APRS Test: Robert Errington (KF5IZ)
7. McClain Lodge: Ken Martin (KD5KHI)
8. Race Split & Public Affairs: Bob Bullock (K5RWB)
9. Gravel Pit: Brian Castleberry (AG5BC)
10. Bowman’s Grocery & APRS Test: James McCarty (AG5CL)
11. Lake Harbour Fire Station: Clyde Burnett (WW5O)
12. Trail Vehicle #1 (62 mile) & APRS Test: William Ray (KG5IIS)
13. Muscadine Park & APRS Test: Mike Flanagan (WM5A)
14. Trail Vehicle #2 (50/62 mile) & APRS Test: Mike Flanagan (WM5A)
15. Mary Grove Church: Bill Stanfill (K4YCD)
16. Farmhaven Fire House: Robert Hayes (KC5IMN)
17. River Bend (Natchez Trace): Don Porter (AF5QD)
Dana Pierce KF5WDL Vice President-Special Events
Slideshow of events: