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.
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.
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
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
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.