2018 South Dakota – Rush Trip

June 12 through June 17, 2018 – 3200 road miles over 4 driving days!

I was monitoring:

  • Brandmeister TG 3100 most of the time (unless it got too busy).
  • If too busy, I was monitoring TG 312525.
  • APRS VOICE-ALERT – 144.390 w/ PL100 (then qsy)
  • Also 146.52 and 446.1 simplex.

TRIP EQUIPMENT

I just got a new car so the antenna installation was with mag-mounts. The new car does not lend itself to an antenna farm, so “discrete” is the word of the day. Like my friend said when I drilled a hole in the Mercedes (now wife’s car) trunk for a NMO mount – “That’s just messed up!” So 3 mag mounts with duplexers would do for the trip.

  • APRS was supplied by an Alinco DR-135 with built-in Argentdata TNC into an Austin dual band short antenna.
  • Mobile APRS I-Gate was run by a Microsat WX3in1 and an old Alinco HT as receiver.
  • Analog voice was with a Yaesu FT-8900 for VHF/UHF into an Austin dual band antenna.
  • DMR hotspot was from a SharkRF Openspot. The HT was a Hytera PD362 due to its small size. A trusty Moto XPR6550 and MD390 was in the car somewhere available.
  • Data Networking was supplied and coordinated through a Pepwave Pepmax BR1 with dual auto-switch sim (Verizon & AT&T) data service. This data network supplied Internet to DMR Hotspot, APRS I-Gate, iPad(s) and Laptop(s).
  • HF and DMR mobiles was not be a part of this trip since I did not have enough time for installations in the new car. However, since the best traffic/road condition reports still are via CB, a basic CB for ch 19 was laying on the seat.
  • 12v DC Power Network was the only design area which I had time to complete. It originated off the Mercedes GLK350 standby battery (car has 2 batteries) through a automatic voltage sensor. Power was supposed to be available when the alternator is running until 15 minutes after the engine stops. However, I learned the aux battery charger drops the voltage as the charge level comes up and the 15 minute timer would drop the power randomly. I had to run the system in override. The 12Vdc distribution is through a fused PowerPole distribution panel. A power cable runs to the center console with a second smaller PowerPole distribution block. This allows any radio to be conveniently plugged in and removed.

CONCLUSION

One 14 hour day on the road followed by 10 hour day. Lots of time to work ham radios. I had downloaded VHF and UHF repeaters (about 500!) along the road into my FT-8900 memory. Sad to say, but useless. I spent countless hours switching up and down the channels with about 5% luck. Occasionally I could kerchunk a repeater and even more seldom get a QSO in. Next to useless! Now if one could get a mobile radio with a GPS which would flip channel zones as you drive along, maybe we would have something? Not sure what the answer is, but I ended up monitoring 146.52 and had one QSO in Iowa as I saw an approaching vehicle with APRS. This gentleman was surprised when I called out and wondered how I knew – was it his 146.52 decal or APRS? DMR and the hotspot became the entertainment with reliable connectivity. With this said, I found it crucial to have an external 4G/LTE antenna on the car for the best throughput of data in rural areas.

FUTURE WISH

Seems RF based travel info is about useless other than CB. Maybe a regional DMR Talkgroups could become the new travel info? Maybe MURS “Ch 1”, however the limited simplex range may make it useless?