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Surfin’: Some Ham With My Pancakes


By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ successfully makes a connection between radio jacks and flapjacks. 

We made our annual trek up I-91 to Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, to lunch at Polly’s Pancake Parlor, which is a 440-miles round trip through some of the prettiest country in New England, if not the New World.

Polly’s became an annual thing to do when we began vacationing at Lake Winnipesaukee before the turn of the century. Looking for something different to do at Lake Winnie, I recalled Polly’s thumbnail ads in Yankee magazine and we agreed to check out the establishment while we were in the neighborhood visiting the Flume Gorge, Franconia Notch and the dearly departed Old Man of the Mountain.

Polly’s was an instant hit with the family due to its excellent food, cool dining facility, moose encounters and spectacular view of the Presidential Range. We were so satisfied with the experience, that whenever we vacationed at Winnipesaukee, we visited Polly’s. Those years when we did not vacation at Lake Winnie, we picked a nice day in the spring, summer or fall and make a day trip to Polly’s, as we did on Wednesday.

We left Downtown Wolcott at 8 AM Wednesday  and pulled into a parking space at Polly’s just past noon. As we arrived, I noticed a red helicopter parked in the field across the road. We all wondered what was up with that.

Inside, we sat next to a table with three guys in baseball caps (their caps were on frontwards, so we knew they were my age or older). About halfway through our dining experience, the three guys left, crossed the road and boarded the helicopter. A few minutes passed, and then the helicopter was airborne heading in an easterly direction toward the Presidentials.

A minute or two later, it turned north and flew parallel to the mountains. Soon the 60 foot aircraft was just a red dot passing in front of the mountains. Another minute or so later, the red dot disappeared and the only sign of the aircraft was an occasional glimpse of its flashing white light, but that eventually disappeared, too.

I learned something new that day: In all my previous visits to Polly’s, I always assumed that the Presidentials were just a hop, skip and a jump east of the line of trees at the opposite end of the field across the street from the restaurant. The disappearing helicopter put things in perspective. The mountains were much farther away and they were much bigger than I had thought.

I looked it up at the Infoplease’s Distance Calculator and was surprised that Mount Washington, the crown jewel of the Presidentials, was 50 miles away (the closer mountains, like Cannon Mountain, were still an impressive 30 miles east). Wow!

As I sat eating pancakes at Polly’s and looking out at the Presidentials with my new perspective, I recalled my radio adventures in that neck of the woods. I have gone to the top of Mount Washington -- the highest point in the Northeast -- three times.

My first trip was back in June 1985 on a beautiful day at the base of the mountain -- which turned into an icy drizzle at the top of the mountain. At the summit, we were in the clouds and could not see 10 feet in front of us, so I decided to forgo any radio operations and helped my 7-month pregnant wife back into the Subaru and followed a sanding truck back down the mountain.

On the second trip, we left the driving to them and paid for a van trip up the hill with the radio equipment installed in the Subaru at the bottom of the hill, so there was no radio that trip either.

For the third trip, we took the radio-equipped land barge up the mountain on a partly cloudy day (at both the base and the summit). When I turned on the VHF and UHF radios at 6288 feet, RF swamped the receiver and nothing intelligent could be discerned. I don’t know for sure what was the cause of the overloading, but I suspect the source was the various radio installations atop the mountain.

I did have APRS on that trip and later when I checked FindU, I discovered that the APRS network did detect my APRS packets all the way up and down the mountain, so my radio operations were not a complete washout on Mount Washington!

Until next time, keep on surfin’.

Editor note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, likes coconut corn meal pancakes. To contact Stan, send him e-mail or add comments to his blog.



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