Road Trip Report – Overnight Trip to Columbia, SC; 11/12 July 2021

On Sunday morning, I left Savannah on an overnight trip to Columbia, SC to visit the South Carolina State Museum and the Riverbanks Zoo. On this trip, I decided to try to going to Columbia via US-321 instead of I-95 and I-26. Quite honestly, I-95 in South Carolina is a mess; it’s only two lanes and is frequently slowed to a standstill. The trip up and down US-321 may have been a bit longer time-wise, but it was a much more pleasant drive. US-321 also takes you by North Auxiliary Field where Joint Base Charleston C-17s train at (although there weren’t any working there on Monday as I made my way back to Savannah). I also found a great Mexican restaurant in Swansea; it’s not unusual to find better food in small towns on the smaller highways than on Interstate exits.

South Carolina State Museum

The South Carolina State Museum’s planetarium is back open and I’ve been wanting to see their Black Hole presentation. They also had a temporary exhibit on Early American Face Vessels (an intriguing form of pottery that began in the early 1800s in the Edgefield, SC area) that I was interested in seeing (its last day was Sunday, so I made it just in time). They also have a temporary exhibit on sound that I found quite interesting. One of the displays in it demonstrates how sound can’t travel in a vacuum; an alarm clock starts going off and you can hear the alarm grow softer and finally disappear as the air is vacuumed from the chamber that it’s in. One of the permanent displays is about broadcast radio and television in South Carolina and includes displays of equipment used in some of the first TV stations in South Carolina, including a Dumont Electronicam that was developed by a Greenville, SC native, Thomas T. Goldsmith. The Electronicam was a device that allowed TV stations to broadcast programming on 35mm film through their cameras.

Riverbanks Zoo

It was a hot July day and most of the animals were seeking the shade, but it was still a pretty good day at the Zoo. The otters were out and wrestling with each other. The lions were photogenic as always. I’m not always lucky at catching the koalas, but they were out and one was even awake and moving around. I brought the 300-500mm zoom lens for the DSLR and caught some better photos of the seals and sea lions. I also got some nice photos of the Riverbanks Zoo’s Silverback Gorilla and one of his progeny.

It wasn’t a particularly active radio trip this time around, partly due to the more rural areas I was driving through on Sunday by using US-321 instead of I-95 and I-26. I didn’t hear any amateur radio activity until I got close to Columbia, but once I got in the area the 443.500 DStar repeater in Leesville was very active (on Monday, as well). There was little MilAir activity to hear on Sunday or Monday morning before I left Columbia, but I did catch a flight of VMFA-312 F/A-18s, CHECK 61/62, in east central Georgia’s Bulldog MOA from the Columbia area on Sunday afternoon and EAGLE 63 (C-17A, 10-0214, 15th AS) refueling with DREW 17 (KC-135R, 61-0308, 6th AMW/927th ARW) on Monday afternoon while on the way back to Savannah. On Sunday afternoon, the Columbia Fire Department was busy with a two-alarm apartment complex fire and on Monday morning, both the Columbia Fire Department and Lexington County Fire Services were very busy with some major crashes on the highways.

Amateur Radio

146.670 (PL 156.7) - St Matthews
146.715 (PL 91.5) - Columbia
147.330 (PL 156.7) - Columbia
442.875 (DCS 315) - Columbia
443.300 (DCS 315) - Sumter
443.650 (DCS 315) - Blythewood
444.875 (PL 91.5) - Columbia
146.655 (DStar) - Leesville
443.500 (DStar) - Leesville (very active)


235.775 - North Auxiliary Field
322.325 - Atlanta Center Augusta Low
343.750 - Bulldog MOA
299.275 - VMFA-312 Tac 1
324.600 - AR-207

US Army TRS (Fort Jackson sites)
 TG 555 - Fort Jackson FD Dispatch; enc
 TG 576 - Unknown; enc
 TG 594 - Fort Jackson Unknown; unenc
 TG 780 - Fort Jackson Central Issue; unenc

Public Safety

151.0250 (PL 118.8) - Calhoun County FD Dispatch
155.6250 (PL 91.5) - Orangeburg County FD Central Dispatch
155.7900 (PL 91.5) - Orangeburg County FD West Dispatch
159.3300 (DCS 271) - South Carolina Forestry Lake Murray

Palmetto 800 TRS
 TG 6541 - Jasper County FD Dispatch
 TG 6543 - Jasper County FD Tac 2
 TG 24531 - Lexington County FS Ops 1
 TG 24532 - Lexington County FS Ops 2
 TG 24535 - Lexington County FS Ops 5
 TG 24536 - Lexington County FS Ops 6
 TG 24542 - Lexington County FS Dispatch
 TG 25053 - Orangeburg County FD Dispatch
 TG 25057 - Orangeburg County FD Page
 TG 25552 - Columbia FD Dispatch
 TG 25553 - Columbia FD Ops 1
 TG 25556 - Columbia FD Ops 4
 TG 25557 - Columbia FD Ops 5
 TG 25559 - Columbia FD Command 1
 TG 25561 - Columbia FD Admin
 TG 25569 - Richmond County ESD5
 TG 26101 - Sumter County FD Dispatch
 TG 27505 - DHEC Hospital Net Main
 TG 32065 - Hampton Co FD Dispatch


160.4100 - AAR 20, CSX BC Dispatch (Columbia, SC area)
161.3700 - AAR 84, CSX AP Dispatch (Columbia, SC area)
161.1000 - AAR 66, CSX Road/Yard (Columbia, SC area)

453.3125 (DCS 051) - Riverbanks Zoo Maintenance
453.3250 (DCS 071) - Riverbanks Zoo Ops
462.5250 (DCS 125) - Riverbanks Zoo Public Safety

Nagoya NA-701 Handheld Antenna

A few weeks ago, the original stock antenna on my Uniden BCD436HP broke. I replaced it with a Nagoya NA-701, which is an 8-inch long dual band 2m/70cm amateur radio antenna. This trip was a good opportunity to put the antenna through its paces as a scanner antenna for public safety frequencies. Where I stayed at was in an area where the coverage areas of the Lexington simulcast site and the Richland County simulcast site of the Palmetto 800 system meet and neither came in particularly strong inside the hotel. The NA-701 performed just as good as the 800 MHz BNC antenna that I use on my BCD325P2. That comparison carried on as I traveled around; the NA-701 performed surprisingly well on 700/800 MHz. Unsurprisingly, given that the 2m amateur band isn’t far from the VHF public safety band, it did quite well on the VHF fire dispatch repeaters. For most of the trip, I was too far away from the US Army TRS sites at Fort Jackson to try the NA-701 with 380 MHz systems. It’s also done pretty good on the VHF airband and the UHF MilAir band, maybe not quite as good as the longer Diamond RH-77, but very good for a antenna that’s of a manageable size.


The great Mexican restaurant I found on US-321 in Swansea is Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant. I stopped in around 1230 on Sunday and it was already getting packed; it was a good sign that the food would be good and it was. I had the Burritos Mexicanos (one beef/bean burrito and one chicken/bean burrito) and it was excellent. Overall, Pedro’s is great food at a good price, I’ll be keeping it in mind on future trips up US-321 to Columbia.

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