2020 South Dakota Trip Planning

Original post: 9/18/20
Updated: 9/20/20, 9/28/20, 10/15/20


The Covid numbers are climbing in the midwest and some counties where we are going are worse than most areas we live and travel. It may put a indefinite delay on the trip. More to come.


A family situation combined with an antique Honda Goldwing gifted to my son from his late god-father is the foundation for a 3200 mile round-trip run. As a part of the run is also a need for a trailer to carry the Goldwing. After a lot of thinking and rethinking I decided to buy a new aluminum utility trailer in the midwest to save fuel and road tolls and thus be able to upgrade the purchase. Thus, the search was on.

I found a Aluma 638 aluminum utility trailer with bifold tailgate in Des Moines IA where our friends live. With an empty weight of 390 Ibs it is ideal for the MB GLK350 4matic. The low profile should also be ideal for long-haul. The store was cooperative and paperwork sent to CT so we can bring a license plate. The trailer has already been picket up by our friends in Des Moines and is waiting for us. Now we can do the 1600 mile trip leisurely in 3 stages, Berks to South Bend, IN, then to Des Moines to finish on day 3 in SD. 12 hours followed by 6 and another 6. 25 hours in the car, one in hotel and one with friends. Great plan!

Granted, we have at least one obligatory stop at Iowa80 Truck-stop west of Davenport. My wife and I have learned over the many years of doing this trip, and beyond, that there are so many cool truck stops along the roads. We enjoy so many of them, but only for a quick 20 minute gas-up and a bite to take in the car.

COVID19 is certainly a concern for the trip, but we have learned social distancing since we live in the North-East. Masks, frequent hand wash and disinfecting wipes are a part for the course. Brand name hotels should keep us good at night.

Then in SD we will load the now antique Goldwing and bring it back to CT for full restoration. The route plan for the return is back via Des Moines and our friends, then a long day as far as we can tolerate. This is usually 12-14 hours, but anything past Cleveland will be good. 

Ham Radio Setup

During the 2018 Branson trip the setup looked like this>>>
From the top down:

  • iPad with APRS or Road Maps
  • Connect Systems CS800D Analog and DMR. 
  • OpenSpot 1 DMR HotSpot
  • Factory GPS Mapping
  • iPhone with miscellaneous travel apps
  • CB Mobile Radio “in the trunk” for rapid deployment. It was put in use as we came up on a multi-hour traffic backup in PA due to a fatal truck accident with detours. Information only available from monitoring trucks was invaluable in planning our exit and detour.
  • PepWave PepMax BR1 Router with LTE for wired and wireless network.

2020 Plan has a couple of additions. From top down we’ll have:

  • iPad with APRS or Maps (same)
  • Connect Systems CS800D Analog and DMR. This will run a “Travel Scan” on simplex analog including APRS Alert, DMR Simplex and GMRS Travel Channel (upgraded to part90 motherboard).
  • Motorola XPR4550 control head mounted (double sided tape) in front of the factory GPS Mapping  with the radio behind the driver’s seat. It probably doesn’t look the best, but I use this radio daily roaming DMR networks. The XPR series radios have become my main DMR radios on both ham and commercial frequencies. We will have a few XPR6550 type radios for family comms on licensed Itinerant Commercial Frequencies. 
  • OpenSpot 1 DMR HotSpot. This is my go-to hotspot for all occasions. It will most likely monitor BrandMeister 31252 (Berkshires) and of course my direct call of 3109400. I like the DMR audio better on the XPR4550 rather than the CS800D, so the XPR4550 will most likely be monitoring the OpenSpot in low power mode.
  • The ham hand held will be the Anytone D-878 with both standard and hi-gain antenna.
  • iPhone with miscellaneous travel apps
  • New is a mini mobile CB President Bill FCC version for this trip. It should be small enough the it can be temporarily mounted on the side of the center console with velcro. The antenna is a Browning 27mhz NMO mag-mount. All antennas I use are NMO mount type for interchangability.
  • PepWave PepMax BR1 Router with LTE for wired and wireless network.
  • AT&T Rural Internet at Home mode attached to the PepWave. We have had this service for a few years at out Berkshire house (now has fiber service). It is great using AT&T LTE service. The beauty is the 250G (yes!) service. This allows for the increase internet use we will see in the car between our normal internet use and the movies I can forecast my wife will watch. YouTube TV will also let her watch some of the daily shows. All of this without maxing out our cellphone plans. Problem is the power supply is a 5Vdc through a mini coax plug.
    • I took the sim card from the AT&T box and put in the PepMax to see if the service would work with my data modem. No. Although the PepMax would connect to AT&T I could not get an IP Address. I will still bring the AT&T box so we have service on arrival, but probably useless while enroute.
  • 300W sinus wave inverter to power the above ATT Rural Internet device. This also enables other 115Vac devices to be used.

Additional Preparation

The goal would be to build a XPR4550 DMR roam code plug for I-90 from Boston (we join in the Berkshires) westbound to South Dakota (and maybe beyond). Searching the internet does not seem to produce much information. One website, dmr-montana visitors (outside our route), has the ideal travel information, but no such luck for the states I was searching between MA and SD. Suggestions to clubs and groups – Look at DMR-MONTANA’s website and take their idea. It is great for the traveller!

The easy way out is to simply use the hotspot in the car, but that is not very challenging…….

Thus I am spending a fair amount of spare time (hard to come by) researching the random websites available of Google to see if there is a logical way to build a road code plug for I-90 from New England to the midwest and beyond. Jury is still out, but the odds are not favorable.