A little further in the drive, I made a couple HF, contacts; one with a ham from Chicago named Dennis. As it turned out, Dennis was operating portable in a park close to where he lives - conditions must have been decent because we were both running "barefoot" on compromised antenna's - I on my mobile whip and he on a wire he had slung over a tree in the park. That’s what ham radio is all about!
After a couple other contacts I jumped onto a local repeater near the end of trip, and was told about a great restaurant by one of the local guys - it was just the thing after the long drive. If anyone happens to ever be in the Westminster, MA area, I can strongly recommend The Old Mill.
I'll have more project updates soon, so stay tuned!