Category Archives: I & M Canal

The Best Made Plans …

Sometimes the stars don’t align in the correct manner and regardless of what your meticulously prepared plans, just doesn’t turn out as expected.

As a amateur radio ham I am (or at least want to) participate in the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by operating portable in an official park.  There are several hundred of these locations.  The objective is to contact as many other hams as possible.  When you are operating in a park, then you are an activator.

The Chicago Portage is an affiliated area in this event, and it’s an easy drive from downtown.  I’ve been there dozens of times as it is an integral part of the I&M Canal and the history of Chicago.  Marquette and Joliet first traveled through this area in the late 1600’s.

So, I pack up my radio, antenna and other equipment and head out.  Setting up my Buddistick antenna was time consuming, even though I had a very good antenna analyzer to help.  I tried setting after setting, which on this antenna involves moving a clip on a coil of wire, up one turn, down another, etc. to get the perfect adjustment.

Finally, I’ve got it.

Antenna set and ready to go after a long period of adjustment.
Antenna set and ready to go after a long period of adjustment.
Needed: 13.6v and 100 amps.
Ready to jump start. I’m in the outhouse waiting.

Next I attach my radio to the antenna and hit the power on switch.  Nothing happens!  After a short while I realize that I left the headlights on in the car.  To power the radio I have to put the ignition in the ACC position, but that also leave accessories on. I remembered the AC and courtesy lights, but the headlamps!!!

OK, so I’m dead in the water.  No transmitting, no AC, no starting the car.  Thanks to AAA they were there in under 30 minutes.  We jumped and figured it best to just pack up and leave.  I’ll get this park activated or else, but next time I’m using an alternative battery source.

National Parks on the Air – NPOTA

I’ve been a licensed amateur radio operator (KB9CZ) for many years, but for the last 20 years have been inactive except for a few occasional times using a small hand held radio for local contacts.  I’d like to get back in the hobby but the interference at our condo pretty much eliminates that option.  The solution may be a portable location, i.e. operating at a temporary site where conditions are more favorable.  I did it once at my son’s home in Douglasville, GA.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the national trade association for hams like myself.  They sponsor a number of contests where operators try to make contacts under certain controlled conditions such as a particular time period, frequency of transmission, location, etc.  Beginning January 1, 2016 there is a one-year contest to celebrate the National Park Service.  Operators will set up at one or more designated National Park locations and other hams will try to contact as many locations possible.

I think I’ve now got the incentive to construct a portable station that can be set up in a park or forest preserve.  One of the National Parks locations is the Marquette and Joliet portage park just west of theCity — a location I’ve been to many times in my I&M Canal explorations.

More to follow …

The Missing Link

The I&M Canal offers many interesting and beautiful miles of riding. There are numerous options between Willowbrook all the way to the Joliet Iron Works. From Channahon to the end at Peru is well marked. It’s the portion between Joliet to Channahon that was unknown, that is until we took this ride on a beautiful Fall day.

The trail is well marked at Bradon on to Channahon, but it turned out to be a bit rocky due to some wet weather. Between the Joliet Iron Works to Bradon is pretty much city streets and traffic, especially once you cross over the river from the east side. There are locks at Bradon and what appeared to be a large parking lot, so perhaps a few options may be in order. Much of the I&M has been filled in or crossed for the sake of providing access to much of the industry that lines the sides of the canal. There are no services once you leave Bradon.

Even though I brought my DSLR, we thought that only the wide angle lens would be useful. Well, we have tons of pictures with the canal running from top to bottom and lamented that a telephoto would have been of greater value in catching the wild life along the ride. Also, with the trail in poor condition we limited our photo stops. There’s always a next time.

Channahon to Morris Along the I&M Canal

Channahon is the “official” trailhead for the I&M Canal Path, but the path in reality starts up around Willowbrook and proceeds south to Lemont, Lockport, and Joliet.  I have ridden my motorcycle along much of the route using local roads, but this was the first time on a bicycle.

Little did I know at the time, but my brand new Dahon Mu 8 folding bicycle needs the handlebars lowered and requires two hands when riding on rough surface. I took a spill in Morris, had lunch, rode 15 miles back, and then drove an hour to get home. I didn’t break anything, but was I ever sore for a few weeks.

This section of the trail is very scenic and encompasses two lock tender’s homes, an aqueduct, and the grave of Chief Shabbona.  There are no facilities between these two points, so the ride most often is from Channahon to Morris where one has lunch and then a return.