Monday, July 20, 2015

More fiddling with old style comms

A while back, I posted about mounting a CB radio on my old Ford Ranger.

I've done a good bit of listening since then. Lots of guys running illegal high power in far-flung places. Next to nothing as far as local traffic's concerned.

Occasionally, I'll hear a trucker pass on a local highway (I'm 12 miles or so from the nearest
Oldies But Goodies. Left to Right:
Yaesu FRG-7 General Coverage Receiver
Kenwood TS-520SE Transceiver
President Washington CB Base Station

That said, I'm now adding CB capability at home.

The inside rig's a President Washington base station. Bought it used a while back,  it's probably 20 years old or more. Receives well on the regular 40 channels as well as upper and lower side band. Transmit power is constrained to legal limits.

Over the weekend, I put up a Solarcon IMAX 2000 antenna. It's a 24 foot antenna that, for now, is up on a 10 foot steel fence rail vertical mast.  A whole new world of listening has opened up on CB, I can almost make out the truckers on Channel 19, but thus far, I'm still not hearing an "locals".

The antenna also seems to work well on the 10 meter amateur band , showing a SWR of about 1.4:1 on 10 meters (it's a flat 1:1 SWR on CB/11 meters). Reception seems on par with a 10 meter wire dipole I've been using on an old Kenwood 520-SE for over a year. I haven't had a chance yet to test transmission.

I've not done a lot with trying to make contacts on either band. For now, the antenna's in a compromised location, mounted among the trees in a distant, but higher elevation, part of my back yard at the end of a 140 foot cable run (mostly RG 213 coax). Stealth is a priority, I want a low profile, so I accept the compromise.

Tests between home and the Ranger, and even with less than ideal antennas on each radio, showed clear CB communications about three to 4 miles out, and that's with a lot of natural and structural obstruction. Range might improve somewhat if I get an additional 10 to 20 feet in antenna height to compensate for the "hole" my yard's in.  Right now, I have houses on three sides taller than the tip-top of the antenna.

I'm having fun with the old radios. They're fun to tinker with, they give practical experience in applying radio theory.  I'm an old school guy who thinks they'd have solid value in a grid down, or wireless down, situation.

Some may see the CB as a step backwards for someone who holds a technician class HAM license, but CB is more of an "every man" radio. If digital comms ever go down for an extended period, my hunch is some old CBs may spring back to life offering up sit reps from both near and far.

Next steps in my comms plan? Raise the Solarcon.  Or maybe spend some time tweaking the 2-meter base station I set up a year ago. I kinda got bored with it because today's 2-meters is mostly about communicating through repeaters.

I also have an oldie-but-goodie portable 6-meter QRP (low power) rig I fiddle with from time to time.

Maybe the Ranger needs a 6-meter whip?

Long term, I may go for a general class HAM ticket, and venture into lower bands. But for the time being, I have enough to keep me busy were I am.


  1. Hey Doug,

    The spousal unit had seen a "Code-8" sticker on the back of a truck and she has a question of what it was. I told her that it was a police call for a "piss break". I then told her that when I did CB radio's we used code 10 for piss and code 20 for #2. She commented about why would a person want a CB radio when there are cell phones. I then explained that CB's are a good TEOTWAWKI backup in case the cell towers goes down or there is a massive power failure. The funny thing was that she asked me this 5 minutes before I saw the post on your blog...
    I told her that I still have a Uniden CB radio in my Ranger and I had thought about getting a 3 foot Francis antenna and get active in CB radio's again and when Newton county offers a "Ham Cram". go to the course and get the ham radio licence and start me a base station. I told her that I used to do CB's in the early 80's and it was still good, but in the late 90's when I had a radio mounted in my F150, it was pure vulgar on the radio. in the old days the "CB" community was self policing and they would call out those that swore a lot on the air. But I heard lot lizards propositioning truckers on the air and other stuff and it really turned me off. I kinda want to get back into it as a SHTF plan.

  2. If interested in getting an entry level Technician class amateur license, I highly recommend this guy's study guide.

    The Technician study guide can be downloaded from the site for FREE. I spent about a week "cramming" with it, and passed the test. Earlier today, I ordered the same guy's new General Class study guide, and hope to upgrade my ticket by year's end (I'd really like to get active on High Frequency bands).