Starting early at 6 AM VARC members met for a hearty breakfast before the 2012 Century Bike Ride. The Valdosta/Lowndes Parks and Recreation usually puts on this event during the first weekend in March. Several riders from all over the U.S. come to participate in one of the four routes. The shorter routes are the 29 mile, 48 mile, and 77 mile. The longest is of course is just over 100 miles.
VARC members support this yearly event by providing both voice communications and GPS tracking support. Voice communications are carried out on one of the local repeaters. High tech GPS tracking is provided by APRS configured radios (radio-robots) that are temporary installed in the each of the routes “sag wagon” or the vehicle that follows behind the last rider. Like some of their human counter parts these “radio-robots” can operate very dependably under various adverse conditions in order to carry out their mission. A good part of this mission is to transmit GPS location data to area digi-peaters as the sag wagon moves about. The GPS data is then funneled to a local iGATE station that is connected to the internet. The data is then farther relayed via the web cloud to the www.APRS.fi website located in Finland. Net control operators for the bike event can then view the GPS location data on a Google Earth interface which allows them to track the vehicle positions. They can also overlay real time weather information on the same map in order to support the riders and event personal with up to the minute weather data for the various routes.
Due to the severe weather present during this particular ride the weather information was highly important. Safety of the rider is paramount for these type of events and the actions executed today by VARC members played a very vital role in its assurance. As tornado watches, warnings, and other severe weather struck the bike route areas several mobile members and radio-robots along with control operators feverishly worked together to ensure voice and data information flowed to the correct locations and event leaders. As a result of this heroic support effort of VARC team everyone made it through each route safely! The Parks and Recreation leadership once again expressed their appreciation to the VARC for its continued radio communications support and its dedication to the community at large. Super work VARC team!