Dash! to Juba, Bor, Wau, Maridi and beyond

Could STØ be the Prefix of The Year?

Dash! The Dog-Faced Ham's DX Avatar got madly chuffed when briefed about his booking via Nairobi for South Sudan -- 2011's bouncing newborn DXCC entity.

We cloned several copies of the peripatetic DXpeditioning postcard as a hedge against the vagaries of off-grid travel and placed our Mini-Dash! cadre in the charge of a seasoned sojourner, one well accustomed to places most of us know only from the news.

Here's our Dash! DX Avatar over South Sudan, second-guessing the bulk of the crew's navigational decisions, based on his hundreds of hours logged in Microsoft FlightSim, most of it nose up down in Lake Michigan, just north of Miegs Field. Too, from his vantage point, Dash! would like to see a few more instruments with hands instead of LCDs, not to mention radios with reassuring rooster head knobs. A Prosumer Passenger since childhood, Dash! recalls his glory days flying Mohawk Airlines' DC-3s to Newark and regales his epauleted near-peers on the flight deck with memorable mission details, but is rudely interrupted by sudden turbulence and/or a violent maneuver of the aircraft that shuts the cockpit door for the duration of the flight.

Oddly enough, without further intervention by Dash!, their flight arrives without further incident at Juba, Central Equatoria State, captial of South Sudan and home of 98.6 SRS FM.

"Hey, I worked in radio too!" pipes-up Dash! "I'll never forget that consarn Gates board with rotary pots big as bread and butter plates. By Gee, I think I have an aircheck on me somewhere." Oddly enough, the gracious SRS staff are unable to locate a reel-to-reel deck, so they suggest that Dash! go home, re-dub his air check to digital format and attach the file to an email resume. Dash! quizzically replies, "What?"

At this point, the patient SRS Board Op physically invites Dash! to enjoy a better view from the studio window sill, out of the way and farther off-mike, not that his rambling reminiscences are a tiresome distraction. Dash! takes the opportunity to recall how this studio window was just like one between Studio A and Studio B of his old rompin' stompin' 5KW AM powerhouse, "1590 On The Dial!" he chuckles as he's discretely ushered out by the scruff of his skinny little Avatar's neck.

On the way to Bor, Jonglei State, they pass a local banner emblematic of South Sudan's turbulent history. Try as he might, Dash! is unable to relate a single thread from this complex tapestry of cultural upheaval and geopolitical intrigue to his lifetime obsession with himself and all things hobby radio. Stymied, he turns his keen mind to matters at once existential and geographic, rhetorically asking the eternal question, "Are we there yet?" Ignored by his minder, Dash! repeatedly, plaintively, allows that he could go for nice cool Pepsi in a very big way, eventually sulking himself to sleep.

Rousted awake after a snooze of Biblical proportions, Dash! finds himself at the entrance to Voice of Hope studios in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal State. There are no reel-to-reel decks here either, no way to audition the charming old dubber's 40 year-old aircheck. This sends Dash! into a tailspin, fearing the broadcast world has passed him by. Stateside, at Dashtoons HQ, we returned his frantic satellite call reminding the Dog-Faced Ham that the broadcast world passed him by in 1973, several years prior to his first and last job in radio. This eases him into a wistfully contemplative mood, followed by another nap.

Awakened once again, Dash! is presented with a bucolic South Sudanese scene. Here are friendly people on a family farm, with traditional housing, supplemented by a non-traditional tarp not unlike the one he draped over his own house once when a racoon ate a hole his roof, as big as his head. Look at those lush gardens of mysterious vegetables, that cool long horned livestock, all so mostly richly different from anything he has ever known, and he's thinks -- I wish my KWM2A wasn't made of paper. I wish I could pitch some wire into that tree and get on 10 meters and give several hundred thousand ham radio operators a gold star to stick on their DXCC certificates, ever-more suitable for framing because those hams fought tooth and nail to exchange heartfelt alpha numerics with me to win their glittering gum label spangles.

When thinking, Dash! always had a habit of systematically searching for the box inside the box, and then thinking inside that claustrophobic little echo chamber. So it's no surprise that here, on a distant continent, in a new land rich in all the peril and promise the 21st century will dish out, his 2D Avatar thinks of QSL photography. With some difficulty, as 4 by 6 inch card stock, he pivots his way to a crook in a tree and imagines this scene on the walls of radio shacks and short wave rumpus rooms from Finland to Frisco...Hokkaido to Hohokus...Dusseldorf to Darwin...all the places where, so to speak, the Crazy Train of ham radio still runs on time and someplaces (gasp!) more than ever.

Where is this going?

Lost in radio reverie, Dash! succumbs to another wistfully contemplative mood and finally such Rapid Eye Movement as that which a glossy postcard is capable and must pass for sleep, under such circumstances at these most outer limits of oddity for all concerned.

Pocketed, set aside for serious business, Dash! surfaces here and there for the balance of the trip -- passed around like a monkey business card, amusing like a clown those with whom he poses. Dash! sees towers and dishes and more digital studios within steps of conical thatched roofs. He meditates on the usual suspect cliches that percolate in the brain of a typically accidental electromagnetic tourist out of his vintage suburban bubble.

Are we ALL becoming hams of a sort, Dash! wonders? All of us, with our funny little boxes, keeping in touch by means of exchanges limited to 140 characters, collecting Facebook friends like DXCC countries, assembling wallpapers of apps thick as QSLs, such that the thirst for it is now common as that for water.

And slaking that thirst, even as they make us ever more thirsty, the devices multiply -- all sorts of things on the air, just as drones are in the air. And then there's the rustle of robots creeping among us in the bushes, scuttling beneath the leaves and twigs on little bugs' feet.

These days, Dash! muses, nobody is in Kansas anymore.



















DFH airborne over South Sudan

Our Dash!2South Sudan

You may recall we first launched our wee scrap of proxy fun earlier 2011 on a passage to Darjeeling, India. Here, Dash! enjoyed his room with a VU and a honkin' half of Kangchenjunga, made possible by assistance above and beyond from photographer/ Dash!Chum Jonas Caufield.

During our latest outing, under the indulgent wing of Media Pro About The Planet/ Dash!Chum Stu Leigh, our DX Avatar toured broadcasting facilities at several South Sudan locations we thought might be of passing interest, given the decidedly cosmopolitan skew of Dashtoons' wise apple hepcat insider audience of savvy rogue sophisticates -- possibly the most interesting radio sporting enthusiasts in the world, my friend.

Are you a Ramblin' Guy or Gal? Might you be planning a vacay or a business trip to One or Many Lands? Do you have a slice of space in your attractive luggage for our lightweight Little Wanderer? If you take and send us pictures posed like these and we post them, we'll ply you with Dash!Goods and praise you publicly or conceal your identity whichever you please. No need to be a licensed ham or packin' a battered Leica, just snap your best and we'll write the rest. Of course, if you're a ham, and you're also going to be on the air, perhaps mounting a real live DXpedition of any magnitude, or you actually make your shack in some far distant, frightfully exotic locale we'd love to steal a little of your thunder all the more.

Just drag this image of our DX Avatar to your desktop and print it on 6x4 photo paper. Then pack it with your Brownie in your bags and hit the road, Dash!Chum!

Dash!Chums Make All The Difference...