‘OnStar’ via APRS and HF Mobile

Easter Weekend 2014

Captain MarshMellow (my faithful sidekick mini-Aussie) and I packed up and headed out from Silicon Valley, Billings.MT-or-Bust, to check out and possibly purchase and tow back our now-present 2004 30 foot Airstream Classic.   Our second unit to replace our ’86 Excella.  ‘Cappy’ had his stash of “bully sticks” and chew toys, me with jerky and fiber bars…

Departing home I checked in with my friends on a 440-repeater system and advised of the trip. Two questions came back:  “Do you have APRS? Do you have HF?”

Yes and yes.

“Good, we’ll follow you and let’s arrange calling frequencies.  We’ve (Ralph, AF7DX and Bill, W6CBS) been on that route many times.”

And there it was – APRS tracking confirmed. 40, 20 and 17 meter frequencies and schedule laid-out.  Positive contact acquired on 20m and we were good to go.

Once I drove out of UHF-linked-system coverage going over the Sierras, HF and cellular were our only contact with the “real world.”

Prior to and as we cleared Wells, NV the shortcut route was determined – Hwy 93. Next stop per fuel and driver stamina was Twin Falls, ID.  I needed a puppy-friendly place to stay. Ralph checked two options, called ahead and reserved me one of them. Kewl

Enroute I was informed of a couple of places to stop for coffee – one probably not suitable for families.  😉  A good night’s rest and then travels and HF contact resumed.

Out of Twin Falls and further suggested route instructions. Spot on.  Approaching Billings, MT I confirmed location of the Airstream, invited to late Easter dinner leftovers and staying overnight in the trailer. Score 2!

The HF banter turned ‘dark’ – what if we had traveled all this way and there wasn’t really an Airstream at the other end?  What if the deal couldn’t be made?  Thanks guys!

I should not leave out the parts about encountering some of the most awesome scenery, especially once departing I-80.  Dang there’s a lot of nothing PLUS very impressive mountain ranges along the way.

Arrived at “the location.” Indeed there really was a shiny Airstream in the driveway, for sale, and good, nice, honest people at the end of the journey. A quick inspection of the Airstream then leftover ham and beans for dinner. We were set.

After dinner more Airstream discussion, inspection, worked out the deal, plans for the morning, bank, hitch up, make yourself comfy on the bunk, grabbed sleeping bag. ALl good.

Up early the next AM, found coffee, headed to the bank, completed the deal, back to the trailer to hitch up. Learned about the included Hensley Hitch. Lights work. Off we go.

APRS and HF contact confirmed.  Next stop was Idaho Falls, first Lowe’s for some hardware, grocery for food, then a nice campground.  I was stuck on a remote-work conference call for too many hours Tuesday AM and hit the road as a storm was coming in. The trailer and Hensley hitch held through the gusts and rain – impressive.

Made it to a camp along I-80 in the dark, rested and off again, still APRS-tracked and HF for company along the way on the last part of the route back through Reno to Sacramento adding UHF system communications to the mix and on to home.

Quite a trip. Two Airstreams at home. Time to clean up #1 and sell – and it was snatched up by a couple in Australia with an equally interesting tale and long-trip getting the Excella to a new home.

Cannot say enough in favor of having APRS running, VHF/UHF for local comms, and HF for “no place like home” contact with familiars.  Ham radio and RV-ing are meant for each other!



About NO1PC

I grew up with technology, radio, general electronics and gadgets. I have been and am an amateur radio operator, NO1PC, since 1970. I have worked in a wide variety of electronics and technology from paging and two-way radios systems, public safety radio, broadcast, medical instrumentation, scientific research and forensic instruments, digital and computer technology, technical and consumer software.. My technology interests have driven or provided a number of volunteer community service activities most notably as a volunteer firefighter for 8 years in Texas (I signed up to maintain their radios and apparatus and got thrown in the fire so to speak) and as a technical lead with the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. With those I have certainly come to understand critical communications. I have been fortunate to work with numerous educators, mentors, engineers and a broad "user base" to acquire, learn, understand, enjoy and deliver a lot of great technology. I look forward to encountering new mentors every day and making the most of what they have to offer. I am also an accomplished technical author and columnist, starting with a modest PC how-to book inspired by my mentors and experiences to everyday aspects of computing in our lives, from command-lines to WiFi. The perspective of gathering and sharing and giving back with information available to me continues to drive work, hobby and volunteer services. My interests and desire in this blog are to share and capture various nuances and best practices from and for hobby to life-safety aspects of communications and ham radio.
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