Overnight Road Trip to Columbia; 7/8 September 2021

After the busy Labor Day Holiday at work, I decided to decompress with a visit to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC and some aircraft watching at North Auxiliary Field in North, SC. Wednesday morning was quite autumn-like, fog was just clearing off of the Saluda river as I drove into the zoo’s parking lot, making for a picturesque scene. The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are beginning to moderate; I can’t wait for autumn to fully arrive. While things weren’t quite what I’d hoped for on the visit to the North Field area, it still turned out to be a fun trip radio-wise.

Riverbanks Zoo

The Labor Day weekend was a busy one at work, so a trip to visit the Riverbanks Zoo was just the thing to help me decompress. Unfortunately, the gorillas weren’t on exhibit, but almost everything else was out and about on an autumn-like morning in Columbia. As usual, I was listening in on the Zoo’s radios and it sounded like they were waiting to put the gorilla troop on exhibit until one of them was done with a veterinary appointment (see the radio information later in this post for the frequencies). The lions were just cats being cats, rubbing, scratching, and playing with enrichment items in the exhibit. One of the grizzly bears had just emerged and was looking around its exhibit for food. The otters were as playful as always, having a wrestling match in the water. The koalas were napping, seeming oblivious to the visitors watching them. The giraffes and rhinos were having breakfast. The wallabies were having breakfast while the kangaroos seemed to be unwilling to get out of bed just yet. The seals and sea lions were having a morning swim. The tiger was out a bit late, but was patrolling its exhibit; as always, a meeting of the eyes with a tiger will make you feel quite insignificant.

Military Monitoring

Unfortunately, the stops by North Auxiliary Field did not go as planned. Hoping to get some C-17 photos, I stopped by twice during daylight but on both occasions nothing was using the airfield at the time. I also stopped by once after dark and caught EPIC 41 (C-17A, 92-3294, 145th AW) and DAWG 08 (C-130H3, 94-6708, 165th AW) using the airfield on 120.475. It was too dark for photos but it was still fun watching the C-17 make some high-bank turns that you wouldn’t see it doing at a normal airfield. On both days, there was the usual activity in the Bulldog MOA. As usual, the Fort Jackson sites of the US Army TRS were active as well. On Wednesday, however, I heard two things that I haven’t heard in quite a while: a JSTARS working with fighters and an AWACS controlling fighters. While on the way from the Riverbanks Zoo to lunch, I heard VULTURE (E-8C backend, 116th/461st ACW) working 79th FS flights from Shaw AFB on 324.650 and 395.150. I’m not sure where they were working at, but the fighters were mostly loud and clear while VULTURE was weak but mostly readable. After lunch on my way down US-321 back to Savannah, I caught CHALICE (E-3, 963rd ACCS) controlling some 55th FS flights in the DOUBLESHOT op areas off of Charleston.

For those who enjoy listening to MilCom, if you’re in South Carolina it’s worth listening to talkgroup 27871 on the Palmetto 800 statewide trunked repeater system. It’s South Carolina National Guard Ops and it’s used like an Ops frequency by South Carolina National Guard helicopters. On Wednesday morning, I heard CHINOOK 765 (CH-47F, 08-08765, 2-238th AVN SC ARNG) and CHINOOK 781 (CH-47F, 09-08781, 2-238th AVN SC ARNG) checking in with GREENVILLE OPS while they were airborne in the Columbia area.

Columbia/McEntire ANGB
124.150/133.400/285.600/338.200 - Columbia TRACON
120.475/235.775 - North Field CCT

Shaw AFB
125.400/318.100 - Shaw AFB TRACON
311.200 - 55th FS Ops "SHOOTER OPS"
228.800 - 55th FS Air-to-Air
236.125 - 55th FS Air-to-Air
320.525 - 79th FS Ops "TIGER OPS"
270.900 - 79th FS Air-to-Air
276.150 - 79th FS Air-to-Air
299.300 - 79th FS Air-to-Air

Fort Jackson
US Army TRS (Fort Jackson sites)
 TG 555 - Fort Jackson Fire Control; enc
 TG 576 - Fort Jackson Unknown; enc
 TG 594 - Fort Jackson Unknown; unenc
 TG 613 - Staff Duty
 TG 631 - Fort Jackson Unknown; unenc
 TG 644 - Fort Jackson Unknown; unenc
 TG 737 - Fort Jackson Range Control; unenc
 TG 770 - Fortt Jackson DPW
 TG 780 - Fort Jackson Central Issue; unenc
 TG 784 - Motor Pool
 TG 790 - B Company, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment?; unenc
 TG 793 - Fort Jackson Unknown; unenc

Palmetto 800 Military 
 TG 27871 - SC National Guard Ops

Joint Base Charleston
134.100/349.400 - "PALMETTO OPS"

Op Areas
343.750 - Bulldog MOA Discrete
258.400 - Doubleshot Discrete
279.725 - Doubleshot Discrete

Misc MilCom
324.600 - AR-207
225.450 - 71st RQS Ops
324.650 - JSTARS Discrete
395.150 - JSTARS Discrete

Jacksonville ARTCC
269.550/124.700 - Jax Center Columbia Low
278.300/134.975 - Jax Center Ridgeway Ultra High
306.300/133.450 - Jax Center Florence Low
319.200/127.875 - Jax Center Aiken High

Public Safety

As far as Public Safety monitoring goes, the Palmetto 800 sites in the Columbia area were busy as always. With the exception of some forestry traffic, everything I heard in the Columbia area was on the Palmetto 800 system. While going through Orangeburg County on US-321, I noted that Orangeburg County FD dispatch was simulcast on the Palmetto 800 system and their VHF repeaters. For the rest of the trip up and down US-321 between Savannah and Columbia, the counties are a mix of Palmetto 800 and VHF repeaters.

While I was visiting the Riverbanks Zoo, I listened to their frequencies and heard references to “4” and “5” which I could not find. I’ll be going again at some point in the future when the weather’s cooler, so I’ll set aside some time for searching while I’m there and I’ll do some FCC database research beforehand. The frequencies below are from 2 different licenses, so perhaps there’s another one floating around out there. If you’re interested in listening to the zoo while you visit, Zoo Ops (453.325) is the best one to listen too, it’s where the keeping and veterinary care comms are at.

Conventional Public Safety
159.2475 (DPL 115) - SC Forestry Okatie
159.3300 (DCS 271) - SC Forestry Lake Murray
154.3700 (PL 162.2) - Bamberg County FD
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

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

Palmetto 800
 TG 6541 - Jasper County FD Dispatch
 TG 10392 - Meducare
 TG 20022 - SC Regional Government 1
 TG 23541 - Kershaw County FD Dispatch
 TG 24531 - Lexington County FS Ops 1
 TG 24532 - Lexington County FS Ops 2
 TG 24536 - Lexington County FS Ops 6
 TG 24542 - Lexington County FS Dispatch
 TG 24566 - Lexington County EMS 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 25554 - Columbia FD Ops 2
 TG 25556 - Columbia FD Ops 4
 TG 24557 - Columbia FD Ops 5
 TG 25569 - Richland County ESD Hazmat/Fire Marshal/Coroner
 TG 26101 - Sumter County FD 1
 TG 27505 - DHEC Hospital Net Main
 TG 28609 - SC LifeNet (Medevac Helicopter)
 TG 32065 - Hampton Co FD

Amateur Radio

My route of travel on this trip was up through the middle of South Carolina on US-321 instead of I-95 to I-26. It’s a much more pleasant trip than the interstates are; although you have to slow down going through the small towns along the way, it’s a lot more scenic and you don’t have to deal with stop and go traffic every time even the most minor incident occurs (once again, South Carolina – please widen I-95 and I-26). There wasn’t much to hear on amateur radio on the southern part of my drive, but as I got closer to Columbia, the activity picked up considerably. The 443.500 D-Star repeater out of Leesville is particularly busy.

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)


During this trip to Columbia I had to great meals and one outstanding meal. This time around, I decided to try some new places instead of going to restaurants I’ve been to before. On Tuesday evening, I went to San Jose Mexican Restaurant on Dreher Rd in West Columbia. For breakfast on Wednesday, I went to George’s Southside Restaurant in Cayce and for lunch I went to Railroad BBQ in Columbia. At San Jose Mexican Restaurant, I enjoyed their Tornado Burrito, which had chicken, beef tips, ground beef, beans, and rice and was covered with sauce, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. The service was equally good – quick and friendly. With the drink included, it cost just over $10. For breakfast at George’s, I had their Gyro Omelet, which is basically a gyro in an omelet instead of a pita. It was quite good and was a great value; with hash browns, toast, and a glass of water it was just under $10. The great omelet was matched by their great service.

By far the best meal I had on this trip was lunch at Railroad BBQ in Columbia. I had their “The Passenger” sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw and a side of green beans. The pork was some of the best smoked pork I’ve had in a long time; moist and fall apart on the fork tender with great smoke flavor. The green beans were excellent as well. The inside walls are practically a civil rights, music, and Columbia area Democratic Party and sports museum. The owners and staff are friendly and the service is great. If you find yourself in the Downtown-Midtown area of Columbia, it’s a must stop for great BBQ! Their motto is “The best darn BBQ on both sides of the tracks” and they proved it to me.

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