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What I heard on a three day road trip... (not much)


WRHS218
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I just drove from Central California to the Texas-Louisiana border. I did the 1900 mile drive in three days. I had my handheld GMRS radio on and scanning for the whole trip. I heard one person talking on a repeater west of Phoenix, AZ. Somewhere in New Mexico I heard a couple of people talking car to car. I was stuck on I-10 in Houston for three hours due to an accident four miles in front of me and heard nothing. I also had a 2m/70cm handheld on, scanning, and heard very little traffic. Both radios, KG-905G, and Yaesu VX-6R, work perfectly. Interestingly enough, when I reached my destination I found a juvenile detention facility using GMRS radios. The facility is several miles from where I am.

I was surprised I didn't hear more traffic on either the GMRS or the HAM bands. I will reverse the trip next week and will keep the radios scanning.

As an aside, the 3200 mHa battery in the KG-905G lasted the whole trip scanning 12 hours a day for three days and is still showing over 8 volts.

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Time was a concern so we took the 10. I am neither encouraged or discouraged, this is just anecdotal information. I was surprised I didn't hear more in the Phoenix area both on GMRS and HAM. To me, radio is a tool, I have no emotional connection. I have had an amateur general ticket for years and had experienced the lack of use on long trips before. This is the first time I have had a chance to listen on GMRS. But, I am part of what is wrong with the HAM experience (at least that is what I have been told), as my use of the radio spectrum is utilitarian. I do enjoy the research, installation, and use of two way radios just not the way a lot of people do.  Now I have brought my lack of chattiness to the GMRS realm. I'll be scanning on the return trip.

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Time was a concern so we took the 10. I am neither encouraged or discouraged, this is just anecdotal information. I was surprised I didn't hear more in the Phoenix area both on GMRS and HAM. To me, radio is a tool, I have no emotional connection. I have had an amateur general ticket for years and had experienced the lack of use on long trips before. This is the first time I have had a chance to listen on GMRS. But, I am part of what is wrong with the HAM experience (at least that is what I have been told), as my use of the radio spectrum is utilitarian. I do enjoy the research, installation, and use of two way radios just not the way a lot of people do.  Now I have brought my lack of chattiness to the GMRS realm. I'll be scanning on the return trip.

I had my radio on for trip to and from SC memorial day weekend. I heard bubble pack radios off and on on the way down, but nothing on the way back, nothing repeater related. I also recently spent 24 hours in car two and from MN. The main traffic heard was between family in the caravan, plus third-party bubble-pack traffic. Again, nothing repeater related. Good traffic on the air around home in Cincinnati.


Michael
WRHS965
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9 hours ago, WRHS218 said:

Time was a concern so we took the 10. I am neither encouraged or discouraged, this is just anecdotal information. I was surprised I didn't hear more in the Phoenix area both on GMRS and HAM. To me, radio is a tool, I have no emotional connection. I have had an amateur general ticket for years and had experienced the lack of use on long trips before. This is the first time I have had a chance to listen on GMRS. But, I am part of what is wrong with the HAM experience (at least that is what I have been told), as my use of the radio spectrum is utilitarian. I do enjoy the research, installation, and use of two way radios just not the way a lot of people do.  Now I have brought my lack of chattiness to the GMRS realm. I'll be scanning on the return trip.

That's about how I read it too, so no worries.. .Maybe I've just gotten spoiled with some of the linked systems, both ham (local) and gmrs (via zello)...they seem to stay active pretty often, though I'm usually more listening than talking. 

 

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I found that an HT in a car without an external antenna suffers greatly. That same HT with a simple 1/4 wave mag mount pulls in far more signals and pushes out much further.

 

I have been scanning the FRS channels, 1-14 here in Anchorage Alaska and hear a fair amount. Just today in my 30 min ride home I heard  car to car communication, flaggers, kids in apartment buildings talking about a class and school mates, construction crews working on large buildings, a business warning it's employees about a bear near the porta-johns...

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I just got done driving from Dallas Texas to Montgomery Alabama and back, about 1200 miles round trip, and was monitoring 2m Call, 70cm Call and Scanning GMRS/FRS.  I heard more GMRS/FRS activity, mostly people on the road, a few businesses here and there.  

This was on mobile radios not HTs. 

I didn't hear a single peep out of the VHF or UHF Calling frequencies during that trip.  When I commute to work I monitor 2m call plus 2 repeaters and a GMRS repeater and rarely hear anything on the HAM side.  The local GMRS repeater is pretty active though.  

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I have found more hams monitoring/working the local repeaters than the calling frequencies. I did a trip from Asheville to Shreveport and found the activity was almost always centered around the 2M repeaters. I used Repeater Book to find the local repeaters along the route I traveled.

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On 7/30/2021 at 3:38 AM, BoxCar said:

I have found more hams monitoring/working the local repeaters than the calling frequencies. I did a trip from Asheville to Shreveport and found the activity was almost always centered around the 2M repeaters. I used Repeater Book to find the local repeaters along the route I traveled.

If you subscribe to RFinder, it will allow you to select a route and will provide a list of repeaters along that route using the parameters you set. While not perfect, I find it to be quite helpful for trip planning. This is for amateur radios only, though, so unfortunately does not work with GMRS repeaters (as of now, at least).

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  • 2 weeks later...

For many people ( I am one of them) the radio is a tool.  Also, I learned RTP wearing a pickle suit, and we stayed off the air unless we had something to say.  Chatting wasn't something you do while running battalion level comms in the -3 shop.

Anyway, I have radios so that I CAN communicate with people when I need to do so.  I transmit enough to ensure my equipment works, and will be using the GMRS around the place with the family....CB monitoring when on the road and ham gear once a week on the local emergency net.  Other than that, I don't really have much to say to people, I don't need to talk to someone about my prostate or other health issues....

 

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1 hour ago, oneeyeross said:

For many people ( I am one of them) the radio is a tool.  Also, I learned RTP wearing a pickle suit, and we stayed off the air unless we had something to say.  Chatting wasn't something you do while running battalion level comms in the -3 shop.

Anyway, I have radios so that I CAN communicate with people when I need to do so.  I transmit enough to ensure my equipment works, and will be using the GMRS around the place with the family....CB monitoring when on the road and ham gear once a week on the local emergency net.  Other than that, I don't really have much to say to people, I don't need to talk to someone about my prostate or other health issues....

 

I have made the same point in some of my other posts. I use the radio as a tool, to get a message from point A to point B in the shortest, most comprehensible method. Started doing that on a sound powered phone aboard an aircraft carrier, continued in private industry and as an LEO. I never have been a chatty radio person on the HAM side or GMRS. The purpose of the post was the anecdotal result of my curiosity, a new radio, and a long trip. 

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Took a trip to Knotsville TN via Mountain City from Summerville, SC.

Besides a friend and I chatting we heard very, very little until we got between Knotsville and Mountain City.  During the weekend and it seemed to be about three to five buddies chatting on a repeater for the better part of an hour.

I keep my radio on SCAN mostly too.

Just not much traffic there with the cell phone available and on.

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  • 5 months later...

Honestly, I'm not surprised. An HT inside a car is a low performance radio (generally speaking) inside a big metal RF trap filled with RFI generating electronics.  Even if you had an external antenna, unless there are some repeaters in your path with good elevation, I would expect your range to be less than a mile.

 

If you were driving alone, I know how boring it can get. Unfortunately the radio choice in this case wasn't the best option if you were looking for company. When I travel alone, I usually use 20m and 40m.  You can find operators day or night.

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I get two repeaters where I live and travel but when scanning the most traffic on all channels is rest homes and elder care homes, schools and road work crews. The medical usage is very guarded in first names only when referring to patients specifically. I have yet to hear any traffic vehicle to vehicle unless it is one of ours on caravan to a off road area. Still enjoy the KG1000!

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I've got a hotel housekeeping on channel 16, and some amusement place on another, I want to say channel 15. 

Also have a couple repeaters in range, 2 on 16 with different tones, and one on 20 that's private. Heard a Convo on one of the ch 16 machines the other day, and flipped over to vfo and discovered I could hear one of the parties on the input, so they likely weren't too far away.

 

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For mobile use and handheld radios, this is where having a quality antenna can be very helpful. In my part of the country, I see even first response vehicles that have several fender and trunk mounted antennas that are not cut to frequency, are too short to be useful (going for looks instead of function), and installs that look like old shop stock was used to clear inventory. As others have mentioned, cars are an RF cage and cuts signal a great deal. On another note, there is an old saying with radio, that the more you are scanning the less you are hearing. I know some that try to scan an entire band (VHF or UHF, and UHF has different meanings to different people/type of training). Limiting your scanning to less channels/frequencies, and parts of band may help. Some radios scan faster than others, and it is still recommended that dedicated scanners be used over radios set to scan. You will still see many Uniden scanners in law enforcement vehicles for example, as they scan faster than the radio on their hip, or the mobile installed next to it in the console.

Like you, I recently went on an extended road trip. I only heard a few construction teams, some calls for price checks near shopping malls, and what may have been some hospice/nursing home activity. During an extended traffic stop, there was some chatter on old school CB, but even that was limited talking. People said what they needed to and got off. The few amateur conversations (on 2m) was about antennas and how to tweak them for better function. I only hear extended radio communications on HF bands, and then during scheduled net check-ins. Keep trying and stay the course, you may hear something interesting, and more conversations in time. 

There is activity in Phoenix and Mesa, there is a joke at my current work, that those two areas have sucked up all the VHF/UHF spectrum. I can't even request any more UHF frequency pairs, and 800 MHz is limited as the cell phone companies own much of that, with the remaining being used by public safety. I administer a combined ASTRO/Trbo network there that covers VHF/UHF/and 7/800MHz, but that would require a trunk tracking scanner or a radio set to non-affiliate scan. Very different than GMRS and CB or amateur use to hear. Good luck on your return trip.

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4 hours ago, marcspaz said:

If you were driving alone, I know how boring it can get. Unfortunately the radio choice in this case wasn't the best option if you were looking for company. When I travel alone, I usually use 20m and 40m.  You can find operators day or night.

I was driving a vehicle that doesn't have a mobile radio. I have a HAM and GMRS mobile in my truck. I have never been a "rag chewer" on the amateur side or GMRS. I have always used radios as a tool as I did in my professions. The post was just about what I heard along the way.

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Hobby radio is going by the wayside.  It sucks, but it's still the truth.  GMRS is not a lot different than ham in this respect.  I realize it's not 'hobby radio' in the sense that ham is but it's not really commercial either.  Commercial gets boosted as subscribers and reaccuring fee's keep many businesses away from going cellular but everyone else has gone to cell phones.  And you can't blame them.  The manufactures are marketing Android based radios now that will act as a phone in certain situations and they are making radios that work on the cellular network for those that really miss Nextel. 

All I can say is if you enjoy GMRS / Ham Radio or both, stay with it and don't worry about others not seeing a use for it.  Phones work great until they don't.  Radios will most likely work after the cell network is cold if something drastic happens, but don't let that be the only reason you are messing with radios.  It really takes the fun out of it.

 

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11 minutes ago, WRKC935 said:

... I realize it's not 'hobby radio' in the sense that ham is but it's not really commercial either.

 

Not trying to derail the topic too much, but this is a huge pain point for me.  Amateur radio is not a "hobby".  There are hobby aspects to it, 100%, just like there are hobby aspects of GMRS and FRS.  However, its really intended for non-commercial exchange of messages, experimentation, private recreation and emergency communication.  It has origins dating back to the 1800's and the birth of radio as we know it.  There are huge amounts of technology that exist due to amateur radio, such as microphones and even cell phones.  In fact, the antenna type used in every smartphone in the world was invented by an amateur radio operator that is still very active in Ham radio.

 

Just a little something to think about.

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16 minutes ago, marcspaz said:

 

Not trying to derail the topic too much, but this is a huge pain point for me.  Amateur radio is not a "hobby".  There are hobby aspects to it, 100%, just like there are hobby aspects of GMRS and FRS.  However, its really intended for non-commercial exchange of messages, experimentation, private recreation and emergency communication.  It has origins dating back to the 1800's and the birth of radio as we know it.  There are huge amounts of technology that exist due to amateur radio, such as microphones and even cell phones.  In fact, the antenna type used in every smartphone in the world was invented by an amateur radio operator that is still very active in Ham radio.

 

Just a little something to think about.

Uhh, yeah.... they told me that too almost 30 years ago when I got licensed. 

 

I realize that if you read the FCC rules pertaining to ham radio that's what it says.  But the emcomm thing, and expermentation (most new hams aren't even qualified to operate appliances so I will NOT refer to them as appliance operators) is about done.  Mind you I am also a commercial radio tech and have been for 13 years now.  I keep seeing more and more government entities getting away from ANY reliance on ham radio operators and going other directions.  And I am seeing this as they are actively looking for alternate methods, buying equipment to fill those needs and removing ham gear from their operations centers.  Rather or not I agree with it, I am seeing it in my day to day as a commercial tech.

Oh, and when you are at the ARRL booth at Hamvention... stay away from the Koolaid.  Just saying

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7 hours ago, marcspaz said:

 

Not trying to derail the topic too much, but this is a huge pain point for me.  Amateur radio is not a "hobby".  There are hobby aspects to it, 100%, just like there are hobby aspects of GMRS and FRS.  However, its really intended for non-commercial exchange of messages, experimentation, private recreation and emergency communication.  It has origins dating back to the 1800's and the birth of radio as we know it.  There are huge amounts of technology that exist due to amateur radio, such as microphones and even cell phones.  In fact, the antenna type used in every smartphone in the world was invented by an amateur radio operator that is still very active in Ham radio.

 

Just a little something to think about.

GMRS is not a hobby for me, it's a survival tool with a longer reach than a cell phone. A satellite can be shut down with the flip of a switch or three key strokes on a computer. I don't care to chat with someone I don't know or ask some 'good buddy' how it looks over his shoulder. Nor do I care for idle chit-chat about what kind of antenna I'm using or why I haven't bothered to get a ham license. I'm retired and do a lot of off roading and overlanding here in Arizona where you lose a cell phone signal almost as soon as you leave a paved road. Before GMRS all I had was a CB radio that was sketchy at best. At 75 years of age I had to ask myself how far in did I want to go that I would be willing to walk out from. Well, with GMRS I have been able to make radio contact everywhere I've been so far and found it amazing how many others I have made contact with in similar remote areas as well as folks sitting at home on a base station that could contact emergency services if necessary. So yeah, GMRS is a great tool and I highly recommend it for adventurers.

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9 minutes ago, wrop206 said:

I had to ask myself how far in did I want to go that I would be willing to walk out from. Well, with GMRS I have been able to make radio contact everywhere I've been

I agree with this part, as I was having to do the same thing. Working in commercial/military radio for thirty years and doing amateur/GMRS for much of that, I needed something better than a cell phone when in the wilderness. Having a background in satcom, i also carried a satellite phone and later a satellite beacon that can sync to my cell phone to send messages. However, it is the GMRS radio that is cheap and common enough that I almost always make contact with someone when out and about. 

Like others have mentioned though, I have also experienced the end of many auxiliary communications services and emcomm entities in Oregon, as they only bring radio experience to the table much of the time. While they help with parades, and disaster comms, in my area of the country, they often lack the Incident Command Structure (ICS) training, and miss many of the collaborative training opportunities with city, county, and tribal elements. My advice to emcomm people still doing that work, stay engaged or you may be replaced with technology, and foster the relationships with Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), local fire and law enforcement and emergency medical professionals......take that first aid class or learn to teach CPS with AED. Take the ICS certification classes and show up, and you may keep that "seat at the table" when the decision is made on interoperability and inclusion.

Washington State in contrast, does appear to keep emcomm volunteers, and engage CERT, ARES, RACES, and AFMARS, combining the efforts of the state military department, and civilian emergency management along with some coordination with FEMA Region Ten headquarters....while keeping the line between state/county/city/tribal and federal apart. Representing the corporate side of the house, I also partake in a weekly check-in via HF and UHF nets, which is in use as both commercial and hobby radio comms....but with some emergency management aspects added in for those that wish to participate. 

The cool thing with radio and the many aspects of it, is that you can participate at whichever level you want to, be it commercial, military (even for civilians - Military Affiliate Radio is not just for the military), public safety, hobby use, and emergency use. All are useful.

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