This past weekend I drove up to Chicago and attended the the W9DXCC Contest U on Friday and the convention on Sat. On the way back I hit the Peoria Superfest on Sunday.
My week started out on Wed with the drive up to Chicago. I was betting that I could use an app called "hotels tonight" to snag a cheap hotel in downtown Chicago for a few days before but didn't have any luck. There was a huge manufacturing show going on and downtown hotels were 350+. Typically you can find hotels on that app for less than $120 a night for downtown, so I had to go with plan B.
Instead of driving into downtown, I found a cheap hotel in Joliet, IL and decided to hit Starved Rock State Park on the way up. This was right on the IL river and had some really great views of the river and lock and dam. Lots of steps if your thinking about hiking any of the trails.
Pano from Eagle's Point
Thursday I got up early, drove to a CTA "L" park-n-ride site near Schaumburg, took the train in, and spent the day in the city. I love Chicago, it has the big city feel, but it's still spread out enough to have that midwest feel. Chicago just opened most of their Riverwalk, where you can walk from Lake Michigan to Franklin Street bridge all along the Illinois River, never touching a city street. Later in the day I made my way out to the Field Notes store, The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co and the American Science & Surplus store.
Pano from Lake Michigan
For the convention, I booked a hotel in Schaumburg near the venue Thur through Sat. I got lucky and found a hotel with a grand opening for $60 a night less than a mile away from the convention center. Schaumburg is a nice area. Lots of good restaurants, micro breweries and things to do in the area.
Friday was Contest U. I was really excited to ask questions and absorb as much info from the presentations as possible. Some of the presentations talked about RTTY, propagation, contesting hardware and software, etc. The presentation were great, but socializing with everybody there was the best. I learned more from asking questions to my peers than I did from the whole presentations combined. Friday night we all had dinner and talked about contesting strategies and operating procedures. Lots of talk about N1MM and how to get the most out of that program.
Saturday was filled with general DXpeditions presentations of Palmyra, Heard and South Sandwich Islands. There was a short presentation around the sunspots and future of the bands. Flex also did a short 45 min presentation around how to use the 6000 series for contesting, which really didn't provide any new info to me, but confirmed they are serious about making a great contesting rig. The door prizes were unbelievable, as almost everybody came out with some type of door prize. Prizes ranged from an Icom ball cap to a new set of Radiosport mic and headphones. I didn't win anything, but because I was the youngest person in attendance on Friday, Tim Duffy (K3LR) gave me his prize, which was a 2 year subscription to the DX magazine. Thanks Tim!
I liked how the Society of Midwest Contesters had a large presence at the convention and showed all the benefits to joining their group. Every Aug they have an annual meeting which they have presentations and just talk contesting. I'm thinking about going next year, as it's held in Bloomington IL.
Saturday night I drove from Chicago down to Peoria to attend Superfest on Sunday morning. I stayed in an Extended Stay hotel and learned they don't provide towels! What hotel doesn't provide their guests towels!?!
Sunday I walked around the flea market at Superfest and the two buildings with vendors in them. Superfest was really just "Fest" without the "Super". There was maybe 20 vendors and the same in the flea market area. Not really the greatest showing as it looks like this hamfest is dying. I did purchase some PVC tubes for my military mast and Anderson Power Pole connectors, so it wasn't a wasted trip, but will not be on my list to attend next year.
I met so many neat people during the weekend, I hope they show up next year to check up on what they have accomplished within the year.