Wow! Two weekends ago, Saturday, June 17th, 2017, the Monroe Amateur Radio Club assisted the Smoky Mountain Wheelman with communications for the Cherohala Challenge 2017! This race provides four courses for riders to participate on, ranging from 35 miles to 115 miles, through the beautiful mountains of Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. This course is primarily outside the service areas of cellular companies, and mostly all communication is via Amateur Radio or Public Safety communications.
This year was enjoyable and equally challenging! Our club provided Amateur Radio operators working as SAG’s and providing communications at rest stops along the routes. Our SAG’s relayed information to our Net Control Station (NCS) in Tellico Plains which provided communications to race officials, and our operators at rest stops relayed supply and food & drink requests to race officials.
A few Amateur Radio operators who participated with this event work in emergency services, and provided first aid care when needed. Throughout the day Amateur Radio operators stopped to provide assistance with bicyclists who needed repair tools, those who needed to be hauled back to the race starting point, and with medical treatment. One particular medical emergency was not involving a bicyclist, but a horseback rider who was injured while horseback riding on the Cherohala Skyway. Amateur Radio operators working in their emergency services capacity summoned assistance from EMS, and air medical response was summoned to provide a higher level or care, and faster transport time to a trauma center, than ground personnel could provide.
During this event our club was assisted by other area Amateur Radio clubs and operators. The two repeaters used were W4YJ, 145.250 & KK4KDW, 145.270 MHz. MHz The Roane County ARES provided a mobile repeater in North Carolina to link two repeaters together, providing a “blanket of coverage” along the race route for continued communications coverage. Members of Blount County ARES, and Loudon County ARES participated as SAG’s. The radio operators participating answered the call, overcoming obstacles to provide a superior level of coverage and help make this another exciting race for the bicyclists participating!