Offline Hootie

  • Written Word Wrangler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1190
  • Karma: 43
  • Just another day gardening in the heat of texas
    • Frozen Gardener
« on: April 17, 2012, 11:01:59 PM »
 The Survival Podcast

SERIES:        TSP
EPISODE:      877
DATE:            April 10, 2012
SPEAKERS:    Jack Spirko & Clay Vitis



     Clay Vitis is a long haul truck driver who uses CB both in his daily work and as a fellow prepper.  Clay is also a licensed HAM however he spends most of his time on the CB bands.  He joins us today to discuss the ins and outs of CB radio communications for every day prepping.
     Note to all HAMs, today’s show is NOT why CB is better than HAM or vice versa, it is about CB as a technology for preppers.  We have a HAM radio episode planned with Expert Council Member Tim Glance scheduled in the future.

     It is my belief that HAM and CB both have their places and HAM is far more specialized, making it practical for the specialist and not quite so practical for the guy that doesn’t turn a radio very often other than for specific events or while traveling.

Offline Hootie

  • Written Word Wrangler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1190
  • Karma: 43
  • Just another day gardening in the heat of texas
    • Frozen Gardener
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2012, 11:06:01 PM »
 <Intro song “Revolution is You” by Gregg Yows>

Jack Spirko: Let’s go and introduce our special guest. Our special guest today is Clay Vitis. He’s been using CB and ham radio for awful long time. He’s actually joining us today from a truck stop in New Mexico. He had kind of a hole in his day. He’s stuck there and going to be stuck there for a while. He got in touch with me, said, "I know you are looking for a CB guy. If you can do it today, I can do it today, without making any special arrangements." So, actually I did this video last Friday that why we changed the schedule up a little bit. So, hey Clay, welcome to The Survival Podcast.

Clay Vitis: Hey Jack, thanks for having me on.

Jack Spirko: I was really happy to have you volunteer to come and do this, because I've wanted to have a show in on CB because I think it is great option for peppers. And I think it's a great easy option, low cost option, to get started with some level of communications beyond the cell phone, the landline and the walkie-talkie. But you've been doing this stuff for a long time, both as an amateur radio guy and as a CB'er. You're right now hanging out at a truck stop or something like that, while you are chatting with us?

Clay Vitis: Yeah, right now I'm driving a truck for a living for the moment. And I am kind of stuck in Moriarty, New Mexico. At a TA truck stop with no flush toilets, but man, it's a bit of an adventure.

Jack Spirko: <laughs> I actually think we can learn a lot from guys that drive, especially over the road stuff, about prepping, because you guys do end up stuck in places from time to time. You got to have a kind of a self-reliant bent to you I think to do that kind of work.

Clay Vitis: Yeah, I think you're right. A lot of us are just kind of helpless when that kind of stuff happens. And you hear a lot about snowstorms and things like that. Guys will get stuck at a truck stop for a week and a half, because the road's closed. And truck stop runs out of supplies too, because no trucks are getting in, so there are not getting their stuff. <laughs> I think these guys think—

Jack Spirko: Well, I guess the smart thing to do is transfer food. <laughs> I know this isn't the subject leading off, but I've often thought, that the guy has like a trailer full of food heading for Public's, and if the shit really hits the fan would he just go home with it?

Clay Vitis: Yes, I've considered that, and I've also wondered what kind of anarchy is going to ensue at a truck stop that was basically shut down like that?

Jack Spirko: Oh wow!

Clay Vitis: I have heard of people breaking into people's trailers and stealing their stuff

Jack Spirko: With that, you'd want to be able to talk to people, especially if phones were down and all or in any instance where primary communications are offline. So CB is an option. I think one of the things that makes people really attracted to Citizen Band is that it's not real expensive. Since you use this daily, how much does a person really need to spend on the equipment to get something that'll work decently?

Clay Vitis: Well, the CB that I'm using currently, I paid $50 for and that included an antenna and coax.

Jack Spirko: Oh wow.

Clay Vitis: That was on the extreme low end. This thing is an absolutely no frills radio. It's got two knobs and two buttons and a channel display. And I think it got an LED that lights when it's transmitting and one when it's receiving. That’s basically it.

Jack Spirko: What model is that?

Clay Vitis: I'm not sure. I think it is a Midlands. It is a Midlands and it's a 77-092.

Jack Spirko: Ok.

Clay Vitis: I don't know if that's still available. It’s basically, as far as cheap radios go, it's really as cheap as it can get and still be something that works. And that was a deal that I haggled. I haggled out that deal at the CB shop.

Jack Spirko: Gotcha. So obviously you don't think people need to go out and spend $500 on gear to get started with CB radio?

Clay Vitis: No, actually that could be quite counterproductive, especially for a prepper, because what you end up with is something that is monumentally expensive and monumentally complicated. If it's not something you're going to use every single day, you don't want to get the thing out of the box and try to throw it on your car and then figure out how to use it. You've got 15 knobs and 20 switches and what does all this do? I just to talk to somebody.

Jack Spirko: Sure. I think that is a big attraction for a lot of people. That’s what they want to do. But then we get into this, the American thing is, "The more features the better". You start looking at this big list of stuff and if you don't know what it means—ot makes me think of remember when VCRs first came out and they started putting all these preprogrammed features and all in it? And people ended up putting black tape over the blinking 12:00 just because all they wanted to do was record and watch. That was it.

Clay Vitis: <laughs> That’s right.

Jack Spirko: In that low end you've got a Midland. I've heard good things about them. I've heard good things about Cobra. Are there certain brands that we can look to that are those lower end or lower cost models that are considered good for what they are?

Clay Vitis: Yeah, pretty much if you are looking at brands, pretty much if you walk into a truck stop and look at what brands they're selling, or walk into Radio Shack. Well, Radio Shack really rebrands everybody else's name, but the truck stops will sell the name brands. The three out there, and there are exceptions to this, but the main three are Midlands, Cobra and Galaxy. You can go outside of that, but usually what you're getting is a rebranded radio generally made by Cobra.

Jack Spirko: Ok. What are your thoughts on Cobra? Because I've heard good things about them. Are they ok as a lower-end cost or do you consider them maybe a mid-tier radio or something?

Clay Vitis: I would consider them a low-end radio. You can get the (Cobra) 29 LTD. It is kind of the standard. It's the old standby radio. They've been producing that radio in various incarnations for the last, I think 25 years. They've recently gone in and kind of changed the insides of it, but they make it still look just like the (Cobra) 29 LTD and they call that the "Classic". It’s a no frills, less than $100. Even at the truck stops, where they mark it up severely. It does most of what anybody would ever want to do.
The main thing is with CBs, as long as you're getting a decent brand. Not that I am all fixed on brands, but if you're getting something really super cheap with a Chinese brand name, there's a really good chance it's not going to last very long. But if you get something with an actual name brand, it should be around for 10 to 15 years if you're not abusing it.
Anyway, the cool thing with CBs is everything's limited to 5 watts at 100% modulation. So, you don't really need to go looking for something that makes more power than that, because that's illegal. So, it kind of puts everybody on an even playing field and you can really kind of just go out and price features at that point.

Jack Spirko: When we start looking at CB radio, I think everybody thinks of the trucker with a CB radio rolling down the road, but there's really three kind of flavors of CB radio, right?

Clay Vitis: Oh? Uhhhh???

Jack Spirko: Maybe “flavors” is not the right word. I'm thinking base station, mobile and handheld?

Clay Vitis: Oh! Yeah, and I have opinions about that especially from a prepper point of view. My personal opinion is really mobile is the only way to go. It's the most versatile. You're not really going to carry it on your person. That would be really heavy because you've got to carry a 12-volt battery to power it. But you can put it in a car or put it in your house with a transformer that'll switch from line voltage down to 12-volt. So the same radio can be extremely versatile.
Personally when I'm recommending a CB to somebody, I'm going to tell them to stay away from the handheld CBs. They don't have the range and they don't have the battery life. And I'm not liking the base stations because they are a dedicated base station, you have to plug them into the wall.
Mobile, as in a car mobile, is really as far as I'm concerned, the only real option. And there's also from what I've seen the largest array of options. That can be used both in a car and in a house because you going to plug it into your cigarette lighter or you attach it to your battery in your car. Or in a house, just get a 12-volt power supply, you can plug it into the wall and use it there

Jack Spirko: On that note though, like with base stations, one of the things that I've seen like being the biggest advantage is that if somebody wants to, and wants to put the effort into it, they can put in a much higher and more effective antenna. So, that person could then go ahead and build that antenna infrastructure and bring that radio in and hook up to it and still get that same advantage—

Clay Vitis: Yeah.

Jack Spirko: Or is it not as big deal as people that write the books about it make it out to be?

Clay Vitis: Well, the thing is with a base station you still have—now you've got a big box that's almost a piece of furniture at that point.

Jack Spirko: I'm not talking about a base station unit, Clay. I'm talking about building an antenna that's permanent for the home, that you just bring that mobile into and hook into it.

Clay Vitis: Oh, absolutely! There's a lot of different things you can do there. There's antennas, you can get the great big huge antennas that everybody hates. You know, the HOAs will throw you out on your ear if they see it kind of antennas, all the way down to—
I've built antennas using electric fence wire and insulators. You can hide that anywhere. You can run it up a tree, you can run it through the rafters of your attic and have it be completely invisible. You can run it over the top of your house and it just kind of, like if anybody sees it there's just a little wire running across the peak of your house. Nobody really notices it.
You can tune that to aspecific channel, so if you've got somebody—if you live in Oregon and you want to talk to somebody in Florida and you want to shoot skip on the upper and lower sideband, which we'll get into a little later, then you can tune that antenna to exactly the frequency you're always going to meet that person on. You can really maximize your range that way.

Jack Spirko: Wow. I think that's like a capability. Like you said, maybe we will get into that more toward the end. For the single sideband and some of the things that lets you do and I think there is a time of the year issue as well or time of day issue there as well. But CB without breaking the law, right, can go beyond what a lot of people, I believe, think that it's capable of.

Clay Vitis: It is really affected by, well, like you said, time of day. Daylight hours really restricts your effective range, just because the sun is a great big radio transmitter broadband.
And then there's solar cycles too. When you get into amateur radio you start getting into all that kind of stuff. Right now actually, I understand where the solar maximum is. I haven't been on the radio on the amateur side very much at all lately. But during solar maximums you can really get a lot of skip off the upper atmosphere and really extend your signal. I have in fact on regular AM, let's see, I was in Eugene, Oregon and I was talking to people in Iowa as if they were across the parking lot from me.

Jack Spirko: Oh, wow!

Clay Vitis: It was a weird atmospheric anomaly that allowed a full spectrum AM signal to skip all the way across. It was really cool.

Jack Spirko: That's really neat when stuff like that happens. I know sometimes if there's a lot if it, it can clog up a channel, but it's also kind of cool. It’s almost like before Internet, where you're talking to people and you really don't know who they are, but it's cool cause you find out where they're at and you have this common bond of communications.

Clay Vitis: Yeah. The other really cool thing about CB is that basically everybody has it. It's not an exclusive club, which also has its downside. When it's not an exclusive club any clown with a CB can get on there and disrupt life for everybody. But for the most part it's—I see it as a better option than amateur radio, for somebody that who's not going to go full-bore into it.

Jack Spirko: Yeah, I tend to agree. I'm not saying it's a better technology, I'm saying it's a better option for the person that just wants a way to communicate. Maybe we'll wrap up with that thought. I want to kind of keep moving down your outline here though. So, kind of wrapping up the lower-end equipment, what kind of capability should we expect from low-end equipment?

Clay Vitis: From the lowest-end equipment, I expect 5 miles.

Jack Spirko: Ok.

Clay Vitis: That just a full amp. That is most of what anybody would ever need if they're caravanning up and down the freeway or if they're just going down the road and trying to find what kind of things are going on up ahead of them. That's about the best you can expect really from the cheap stuff. Again it really depends on your antenna. There' a lot we could go into with antennas.

Jack Spirko: Ok.

Clay Vitis: I like to say five miles front to rear.

Jack Spirko: Ok, cool. As we kind of move into more like the upper end options, something we consider a good radio. That's something that is very, I don't know, like subjective the term good. So, from someone that actually uses this gear, what constitutes like a quote "good radio" or a "good CB"?

Clay Vitis: Well, it's like you say it is very subjective. A good CB radio would be something that you can modify easily and something that's serviceable. If something breaks you can fix it. It is not considered a disposable unit. Something you can take to a truck stop pretty much anywhere in the US and find a CB guy. A lot of truck stops have CB shops right next door. And find someone who can, "Oh yeah, that’s a 29 LD. I've got final drive trams right here. Do you want it to be legal or do you want it to be better?"

Jack Spirko: <laughs> Ok.

Clay Vitis: Other than that let's get into it a little bit more. If it's something going to ruin your life with. I am sorry; I didn't mean it quite that way. If it's something you're going to dedicate a lot of time to, then you're going to want to look at radios that more of the options you want to be involved in, especially upper and lower sideband. A lot of radios include an SWR meter so you don't have to buy that separately, which can be really handy, especially for somebody who isn't trying to get into it completely. Having an integral SWR meter, would be a good thing, I think.

Jack Spirko: Could you talk a little bit about exactly what SWR is and why people need to care?

Clay Vitis: SWR stands for Standing Wave Ratio. It's a measure of antenna efficiency. The way an antenna works is it's radiating out the radius a radio signal. You want to tune your antenna to the frequency or something very close to the frequency that you’re talking on, so that you have the least amount of radio energy reflected back through your system. It'll actually bounce kind of out to the end of the antenna and straight back through the wire into the radio and generate a lot of heat.
It's generally not a huge issue, especially in the lower equipment, because the manufacturers put in tough enough electronics that it doesn't blow up, unless you are using it for a long period of time with a really bad match, unless it's got a direct short, because they don't want the warranty returns all the time. So they have to make their stuff able do deal with the paint. That the better your match is, the more range you have, the more efficiently you're going to use the power that you do have to get out.

Jack Spirko: Ok, you mentioned like CB shops at truck stops and all. In your opinion what's the best place to buy upper end equipment? Is it at a truck stop? Is it a dedicated shop? Is it do your research it and then buy online? What would you do if you were going to buy some really what you would consider mid-grade to high-grade gear tomorrow morning? Where would you go and why?

Clay Vitis: If I were to go out and buy, say a Galaxy 959, tomorrow morning. Well, I have the option of stopping everywhere between Moriarty, New Mexico and Adesta, California tomorrow, so I have lots of options. I can stop at all kinds of places. I could look on eBay and I can look on Amazon, and kind of shop for the best price. Generally Amazon's got about the best deals. eBay, I don't really like because you don't necessarily know what you're getting. If you've got the cash in hand and you're not in a hurry to make a purchase then you could do your shopping and really do your homework and find the best deal. Then when you see it and know it's the best deal, you could just jump on it right then.

Jack Spirko: Because you're kind of looking at well, if it is an XYZ model, it doesn't matter who you buy it from, as far as the radio itself. It is what it is.

Clay Vitis: Absolutely

Jack Spirko: Are your thoughts like should the average person go ahead and just put this in their vehicle and start figuring it out on their own? Or does it make sense to go see someone and have them do your tuning for you, or what have you?

Clay Vitis: That kind of depends on the individual, Jack. I got to tell you, I'm the kind of the classic hacker kind of guy. If I see something and I want to know how it works, I'm going to figure it out. I am not going to go ask somebody, with a few exceptions. If it is something that can kill me, then I'm probably going to ask for some expert advice. But a CB radio, as long as you've got an antenna plugged into it's not going to hurt you. There really isn't anything it can do to harm you. There's really not a whole lot you can reasonably do that's going to harm it.

Jack Spirko: Ok.

Clay Vitis: I would totally just jump in and figure it out

Jack Spirko: Ok, that makes sense to me. Why do you think, maybe—'cause I get this feeling from you that upper end CBs are maybe not the best use of your dollar, that maybe you are better off with a lower end radio?

Clay Vitis: If it's something you are not going to use a lot. If you're looking for—I'm speaking from my kind of prepper mindset. If you're looking at something that you're not going to really use, you just want to have it so if the shit hits the fan you know it's there and you know you can plug it in and fire it up and go. I don't want to invest a whole lot of money in it. I don't want to spend whole lot of time messing with and trying to figure it out when I do what to get it going. Yeah, I like the lower stuff for the casual user

Jack Spirko: Ok. A lot of times, those lower end things, we think we are getting what we are paying for. But if you're only paying for features, the more features I put into an electronic device, the more moving parts so to speak, even though generally they're not actually moving, but the more points of prospective failure so a lot of times a lower end device, if it's a well built lower end device, to me is more reliable and less likely to actually break.

Clay Vitis: Yeah, that's the way I see it also.

Jack Spirko: Ok cool. Now we mentioned real quick upper and lower sideband. We kind of explained sort of what it is. Can you just talk a little bit about what it is and why might the everyday prepper want it or say no, I don't even want to mess with this?

Clay Vitis: Upper and lower sideband are basically you take a wave. If you draw a wave on a piece of paper, a radio wave, an emission wave, it's shaped, kind of like a circle split in half and moved over. That wave is the carrier. It's how the data is transmitted. I really not very good at explaining this, this morning. If you basically cut off half of it and just dedicate all your energy to either the upper half of the wave of the lower half of the wave, then you're getting better distance out of it and you're also oddly getting some better coverage penetration. Basically what upper and lower sideband is you've split the radio signal kind of in half and you're only using either the upper half or the lower half of the bandwidth allocated to that channel.

Jack Spirko: Hold on, let me restate that. Cause you say you're not good at explaining it, but I think for the first time I get it. What you’re saying is if I think of a wave that I've have drawn on a piece of paper going up and down, up and down, up and down, if I'm using the frequency itself I'm using that whole thing as a carrier. When I'm using say upper sideband, I'm using more up along the peaks of the upside. If I'm using lower sideband, I'm using more down the valleys of the lower sideband and that's giving me a different level of range. It's giving me a different—I won't likely be heard in the people using the main part of the frequency and it just gives me a different means of communication using the same frequency in a different manner. Is that right?

Clay Vitis: Essentially yes.

Jack Spirko: Cool.

Clay Vitis: Now, you said some really cool things. It allows better penetration through coverage, so foliage, sometimes building and things like that. Not as much as you'd hope for, but it can give you a little bit of help. It does for some reason allow better skip options. Usually those are the signals that will bounce off the ionosphere more readily. It has an odd thing, it's kind of like using a cell phone verses using Skype. You're using Skype, you're getting a better range of sound because you're using more bandwidth. That's the same thing as versus cell phones where they've got everything compressed down and you end up sounding like I sound right now.
It's the same kind of deal. AM has better sound quality. Sideband has a lot lower sound quality because it's using a lot less bandwidth, but you're able to compress a lot more into that. There's some weird things that go on too with that. The receive radio I need to have a clarifier because there's some frequency drifting goes on and so you need to be able to tune you in, in order to understand what you're saying. And if somebody's on AM listening to somebody on sideband, they're only getting part of the picture and by the time it come out of their speaker it sounds basically like trash.

Jack Spirko: I gotcha. That makes since because it's almost like with AM I've got this great big target to receive and with SSB I've got this much more narrow target. So my receiver side of my transceiver has to be more tuned to catch that narrow wave verses that much more broad wave. It actually makes more sense to me now than it ever has before. So thank you

Clay Vitis: Wow, I'm glad I could do something right.

Jack Spirko: Now, I've heard a lot of people that I've talked to about this tell me that if you're going to invest money, invest it in your antenna versus your radio. That your antenna is as important as or more important than the radio itself. What kind of antenna options are there available for mobiles and base station use?

Clay Vitis: There are tons of options out there for mobiles. I can speak to base stations, just basically say there's big antennas and then there's little antennas and you can build antennas. Building antennas is a really cool and fun thing to experiment with. I would recommend highly that somebody go out and get a book on antenna building, if they're going to build an antenna for home use.
As far as for mobile, you know that's really where the options open up for the CB user. There are so many antenna options out there, it's really kind of dizzying. You walk into a CB shop and it's like, "Here is the antennas you have to choose from." And oh what?! Kind of a mainstay for a typical mobile, say a 4-wheeler, somebody that goes out and pounds around in the bush, would be like a Firestik and those are extremely flexible. I understand they have a warranty that if you break it then they bought it, but I am not completely sure on that.
But it's a fiberglass whip. It's about 3/8 of an inch in diameter. I've seen people tie those things in a kind of a loose knot and not have them break. That's a good option for somebody who is going to be abusing their antennas.
There's other options out there. You can have a magnet mount antenna. Those are extremely popular. I like those a lot, but you need to make sure you get a really big magnet that's really, really strong. Or you'll one day find yourself going 75 miles an hour down the freeway with dangling an antenna along the side of your car, probably running it over.

Jack Spirko: <laughs> And making your fellow motorists very unhappy.

Clay Vitis: Which by the way, really, really sucks when you run over your own antenna at 75. I've done it.
They have some really cool industrial looking magnet mounts and if you're going to go with a magnet mount, that's really what you want. You're going to spend $35 to $50 on a good magnet.
Some of the other options out there is K40; they make an antenna that's removable, only the base remains. I have had several of those over the years. Those have been really good antennas. It's a quarter turn and you take the load coil and the whip off and just stuff it in your car when you walk into the mall. They're not as visible. They're really a high quality antenna, you get really good range with those.
Another option is, and this is my very favorite in the world and this is what I do on my own vehicles when I mount antennas, is a Motorola 3/4 inch NMO mount. It actually requires you to drill a 3/4 hole in your sheet metal and it's a very permanent mount that the antenna itself with the load coil screws on or unscrews. So it's removable and then when you get rid of the car you just leave—it looks like when you buy a police car, it's got a little brass button on the roof where you can just plug the hole. A lot of people don't like to drill holes in their sheet metal and I understand that, but it really gives you the best contact for your ground plane.

Jack Spirko: Would you say for the person that doesn't want to do that, that just I'm not going to do it, that it's their attitude? That a really good magnetic mount would be their best option then?

Clay Vitis: Absolutely.

Jack Spirko: Ok. My understanding is that we really want to get that antenna on the vehicle as close to the center roof as we can. As we do things like, I've seen fender mounts, but we change the shape of the signal. So we're not going to get out as well in certain directions as others. We'll get the most uniform unidirectional transmission if we go with the center of the vehicle because, correct me if I am wrong, but the vehicle itself actually becomes part of the antenna is that correct?

Clay Vitis: It does, yes. The metal in vehicle becomes the ground plane for the antenna. Yes, generally most vehicles, the center is the your best option because you get the most range fore and aft, so to the front and to the rear, because that's where the metal extends out the most. You get a little less going out to the sides because the vehicle is limited by the length of 8 feet, so you're only going to get 4 feet in each direction from the middle of the car. Most cars are really only to get about 2.5 feet.
Yes, generally you do want the very middle if you're going to do a permanent mount. If you're going to do a magnet mount and you know which way you're going to be talking to people, you want to be talking to people ahead of you, then you might want to put it more towards the rear of the car so that you get a little more boost towards the front.

Jack Spirko: Ok, that makes sense. You've also talked a little bit about how you could do some antennas with your home brewing up on your roof that would not even look like an antenna. I know there's ways to even do that with mobile antennas to make them look more like a regular radio antenna. Do you think that's a good idea, especially from a prepper standpoint kind of an operational security thing? And what are your thoughts on some ways that could be done?

Clay Vitis: As far as in a car, for a mobile really I don't see a lot of really good ways to do it. Unless you are going to park somewhere, then you can run bare wire up into the tree or up along a pole or something like that.
But in a house environment you've got inside your rafters, you've got just outside the peak of the house. I've seen people run antennas down fence lines and they're basically completely invisible at that point. But you're using things like electric fence wire. I've seen people go out and get 50 feet of Romex and just strip the copper out and leave the insulator on, and just run that as an antenna. For CB you're going to go about 32 feet in each direction. One is going to be the transmit side and the other is going to be the ground plane.
There are tons of options. Like I said there's a lot of options or a lot of information out on the Internet as far as antenna building. If somebody's going to go that way, I can kind of give you a basic idea of how it's going to work here today. But if somebody is going to go that direction they really need to research it really well and figure out exactly what's going to work best for them, based on what they want they're trying to accomplish.

Jack Spirko: I'll add to that a resource. In prep for doing this show, I read a book called "The World of CB Radio" written by two authors, Bonnie Crystal and Jeffrey Keating. It was written back in like '89, so some of the concepts are a little bit out of date because there's a lot more emphasis on emergency use than we would generally think of as a commonplace thing. Because not everybody walked around with a cell phone in 1989, as hard as that may be for us to remember. But it was a great book. There's a huge section on different antenna builds so that's a reference that I would definitely recommend. It sells for like $10 on Amazon or something like that and I'll include a link to it in today's show notes.

Clay Vitis: I might actually have to pick that up myself and read it. It sounds like an interesting read.

Jack Spirko: I got the Kindle edition. It was one of those things when I saw all the diagrams for the antenna builds and all that I went this would have been better to get in paperback, just for all of the illustrations. Because Kindles are great for reading, they're not—or even like I have the Kindle app on my iPhone and it's not as great for looking at diagrams and understanding things that are pictorial. I would pick the paper copy of this one up, if I was going to buy it again. I probably won't just to do that, but if I had it all to do over, if I had a Mulligan, I'd switch to paper on it.

Clay Vitis: All right.

Jack Spirko: I'll make sure there's a link in the show notes so you can grab it too if you want to. You've got a little bit about optional equipment in your outline. You had tuning meters. Are we talking about SWR there, or are we talking about something else?

Clay Vitis: No, we're talking about SWR

Jack Spirko: So we've kind of covered that, but do want to maybe say a little more on it?

Clay Vitis: Yeah. You can pick up a really cheap one for about $20. You can spend more. If you want something that gives you way more information than you really need, then you can spend a lot more money on it. The most I've ever seen for CB SWR is about $80, but I'm sure you can spend more than that.

Jack Spirko: What are your thoughts on just going ahead and getting a radio that has a built in one? Is that good or bad? Is it another point of failure or you know?

Clay Vitis: Well, it may be another point of failure, but if it breaks inside your radio all you need is an external SWR meter at that point. So you're out $20, and you still have a working radio. It's not going to be as accurate. If you're really looking to tune something in, you probably want something with a bigger display on it. But for somebody who's just looking for something that they're not going to use everyday, or even if they are going to use it every day but they're not looking for the extreme, they're not trying to get to the extremes, I would just get one that has one it in. I sorry, get a radio that has one in it.

Jack Spirko: Ok, I gotcha. That makes sense to me and that's kind of what I've been thinking, because I told you before we started, I'm looking to buy some gear and I'm trying to not take forever to figure out what I'm going to buy. But that was my thought, is it's there, it's a feature. If you want better, you can have better later, but least its there from the beginning. It seems like a fairly important feature to me.

Clay Vitis: Well, like you said before, most of the radios out there are not going to blow up just because you key up with an out of tune antenna. And it can be pretty seriously out of tune and still work. You're not going to get the transmission range and if you key up for a long period of time you get the duty cycle issue here. Basically it's high heat for a long duty cycle is going to burn it up. But high heat for a really low duty cycle, if you're just saying a few words and getting off the radio and letting it cool down while they are talking back to you, it's not as big a deal as people think.

Jack Spirko: Ok. On some other optional equipment the thing that always comes up, on like every chat board forum everything I've ever looked at and seems to be there's guys that even feel like if you don't do this you're not legit, but it's linear amplification. Which as far as I know is illegal, but not highly enforced. What are your thoughts on that world?

Clay Vitis: It is illegal and I have never seen personally any enforcement of it. My situation is a little bit different. I do have a call sign so not on CB, but on ham. I can have up to 1500 watts and it's perfectly legal. I've personally known a lot of guys that run 1.5 KW on a CB and have never had a problem. I think really the issue comes in is if you've got a base station. You're some place all the time and your neighbors complain because when you key that thing up, you're turning lights on in their house that they didn't want on and they can't watch TV any more.

Jack Spirko: <laughs> Sure.

Clay Vitis: It can be really destructive for your neighbors and it can really piss people off. But generally, as long as you're not an idiot, if it's an emergency thing, you know I've got this 150 watt amplifier because I go out into the woods and I might be down in a ravine somewhere with no way to get out at 5 watts, so I want something extra to get me out. I think that's really more prudent than anything else

Jack Spirko: Gotcha. But in day-to-day practice our official stance, from the show, is don't do it. That's what I am going to say anyway. But I think it's one of those things to know about and know how to use because things are as they are now and they're not always necessarily going to be this way and to me, it's a tool that may be usable someday. But I'm going to give a disclaimer. Technically if it's in your possession then you're breaking the law if you have a radio at the same time, even if they are not hooked up. I just want everybody to know that. And then we're all grown men, we all make our own decisions from here.

Clay Vitis: Is that truly the case or is it—?

Jack Spirko: No, that's truly the case. Let's say you were driving down the road and FCC really wanted to check you out for some reason and had probable cause to do so. And they pulled you over and you had a linear amplifier under the seat that was not hooked up, but was there and able to be hooked up. Technically that would put you in violation of the law, the way that it's written on the books. Like you said, that doesn't mean that it's enforced that way. It doesn't mean they're running safety checks and pulling people over and going, "Do you have a linear amplifier?" But, as I read the law anyway, and I am not a lawyer, and from opinions of others, that is actually the case.

Clay Vitis: Ok. Well, that gives me something to look at. I learned something today. I'll have to research that and make sure that I am actually as legal as I thought. Like I said, my situation is a little bit different. I have a call sign so maybe that puts me in a different category or maybe I have to have 10 meter next to my 11 meter before I can carry an amplifier in the car. I don't know. I'm just going to have to look at that.

Jack Spirko: I have no idea. I can't go there, cause I don't anything about the ham world other then the basic chatter that I've heard about it from the outside, because I don't have a call sign. I haven't gotten my license or whatever yet. But that is my understanding as I read the law.
Now I do know there's things that we can do specifically with antennas and tuning where we can really improve the range of CB radio without violating the law. When we talk about gain from an antenna that's different than trying to gain the wattage output from the radio.

Clay Vitis: Well, that gets into some really complicated stuff. But basically the better your antenna, the farther you're going to go and you can do it on really, really low wattage. Let’s see, how do I want to say this? Most of the antennas out there for mobile use are going to be 1/4 or 5/8 wave antennas. There's a lot of hype involved in that, so really the best advice I can give anybody is to just buy a decent antenna and tune it really well.

Jack Spirko: Ok. What are some of the ways we can just have some fun with CBs?

Clay Vitis: I used to do this thing called CB tag. The ham guys do it and they call it a foxhunt. I guess 'cause they have to sound more sophisticated or something. But basically you've got a guy with a radio and the minimum requirements to this is a radio with a signal meter on it. And actually you don't really even need that, but it's really hard without it. You get a group of people together with CBs and they agree on a channel that they're going to be on and then they give a guy 10 or 15 minutes to go hide. So he hides with his whole car. He goes and hides somewhere and in 10 minutes he says, "Ok, I'm hidden. I'm ready." And then he gives clues on a map or people will ask questions. Anyway, you just kind of home in on this guy and you're watching your signal meter and waiting for that to go fully red or to maximum range or whatever. That kind of tells you're close enough, you need to start looking visually for the guy.
I used to do that a lot when I was in college. It probably contributed to me failing. <laughs> It was really a good way to learn the town that I lived in too because you've got a map in your hand, you're driving all the streets. You do that for, once a week for a couple of months and pretty soon you know the whole stink'n town and you know it really well.

Jack Spirko: That sounds like a really cool, let’s call it game, for let's say if we had a local community group together that were all preppers to play with their CBs. Because they're getting to know each other, they're getting to experience their comms, they’re getting to know their local area, they're getting to work as a group. It's something I never heard of and I grew up in a family where every vehicle had, had a CB in it back in the day. That was back of course when like almost everybody had CB in the 70's and 80's. That was standard equipment with a Monte Carlo was a CB radio.

Clay Vitis: Yeah. <laughs> It is a lot of fun, especially if you can find a group of like-minded individuals to do it with. So you don't end up with the occasional jerk out there.

Jack Spirko: Yeah. I know that there are some of that out there. I know we have a huge contingent of hams. The guy on the other end of this conversation is a ham as well folks, so it's not a versus issue here. But there's people on the CBs that cause problems. That doesn't mean that CB is bad it means that those people are jerks and there's jerks everywhere. So I mean you guys that are on the CB try to do a little bit of self-policing when you can.
What I remember anyway, even when a channel was really jacked up with tons of comms, there was always, if you found somebody you wanted to talk to, you could kick up or down to a different frequency and you could usually find someplace you could get your comms through. I actually would think that that would be more true today. I could be wrong because I haven't been on the radio for so long. But it should be more true today because I think there's less use of CB today than there was in 1979. Maybe if you're on the air it doesn't seem that way, but like I said, I remember when we would come into our neighborhood and you could see an antenna on 1 in 10 cars, and I just don't see that anymore.

Clay Vitis: It really does seem like the channels are a little bit more empty now. The two big channels are 17 and 19 and those seem to end up being the local channels in some of the larger towns too. So you just stay away from those. If you're just looking for somebody to talk to, see if you can grab somebody off one of those and go to a different channel. But anymore, especially trucking companies, the drivers will agree amongst themselves that we're going to hang out on channel 2 and that's kind of going to be the company channel or channel 10. The two companies that I've driven for was like that, one was channel 10 and the other was channel 2. If you see another driver with same name on the side of the truck then you call him up on that channel. It's just a lot cleaner. But yes, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that everybody has a cell phone so what do you need a CB for?

Jack Spirko: Yeah I know. That's what I was saying when I recommend that book. There was an awful lot of talk about using, I think channel 9 is the emergency channel, to contact law enforcement and others for roadside assistance and all. I'm sure it's still done, but it would seem to me in like, let's go to the way back to1985. That would have been one of the most likely ways that law enforcement would have found out 2 miles down the road, dude, there's somebody in really bad shape. Where today like as everybody's driving by they're whipping out cell phones hitting 911. But again, to me part of that is, well that's the daily grind, so to speak. That's the way things are when everything is swell and everything's not always swell. We can all remember 9/11 trying to get cell phone calls through. Once I contacted my family, I basically just shut my cell phone down and decided everybody knew I was ok so I was going to be one less person on the 'net dragging it down. But there's other ways that communications can fail, so I think it's still highly relevant. On that note—

Clay Vitis: Sorry to interrupt.

Jack Spirko: Go ahead

Clay Vitis: I will say it has been my personal experience in last two years trying to get a hold of anybody with any kind of authority using channel 9, gets you nowhere. Now that may change in the event of an actual dramatic regional emergency, but in everyday life if you want to call the police you better have a phone.

Jack Spirko: I remember back in the day, like you don't get near channel 9. You don't use 8, you don't use 10. You leave that whole band alone was kind of the rules, because it was so heavily used. And I guess you're right. But I would also think that if you did have everything go down, that all of these guys, these first responders do have usually CB access. And that man, that would be kind of a switched on thing right away.

Clay Vitis: I would hope that it would be. What I was trying to say was in the current state where everything is just kind of going the way it normally does, nobody's monitoring that anymore, not regularly. I'm sure that if something bad happens, I imagine that goes right back on their priority list.

Jack Spirko: Yep.

Clay Vitis: But for now I really don't see that it is. I was on I5, which is over here on the West coast, and there were some kids throwing stuff off of an overpass at cars. Things like bricks and rocks and—

Jack Spirko: Oh man.

Clay Vitis: —nobody could get a hold of anybody on the CB to fix that. They ended up, somebody had to have a phone to call.

Jack Spirko: I am going to do a little PSA on that note before we go on to wrapping up here. That stuff is dangerous, folks, and if you see it, do get a hold of law enforcement. While I was living in Pennsylvania near Allentown, there were some kids that thought it was funny and they were dropping basically giant ice balls. They called them snowballs, but you know how the snow gets when it's wet. One went through the window of a minivan and killed a man's wife in the passenger seat with her husband there, two kids are in the back and this lady is dead. And these kids, their life is forever changed, both from they're under serious charges and living with that. So, if you see that going on it's not a joke, it's extremely dangerous.

Clay Vitis: It is absolutely deadly. And not only that, but even if they miss, everybody is going 75 miles an hour. They're going to be dodging what ever they're throwing off and running into each other. And then you've got a pile up and the potential carnage that arises from that.

Jack Spirko: Yes, so definitely report that stuff. I'm not going to go there off on a side note now. Anyway, what I kind of want to finish up with is from my opinion so far, and I understand that I'm not an amateur radio guy, so I don't know the technology. That's part of why I feel this way that I think CB is more practical for the average prepper. I almost say like if you do get community going together, if you've got 1 or 2 or a group of 20 guys or 20 families, and 1 or 2 are hams then that's their specialty, so to speak. But for the average guy, I just think this is more practical. Am I nuts there? Do you agree? And if so why?

Clay Vitis: Here's the thing with ham radio. With amateur radio it will ruin your life. You will do nothing but work on radios and research radios. And wife? Oh that's that lady who lives down the hall from me. Oh yeah, I remember her. We had a special day, 20 years ago or whatever.
CB is great because you can buy it, it works off the shelf. Everybody's got one and it's simple. You don't have to spend a lot of money or know a whole lot to make it work. I think that's a great advantage for somebody who's trying to grow their own food, work a job, and have a family because you don't have to dedicate anytime to it. It's still there. You can buy all the equipment; hook it up once so you know how it works. Try it out, talk to somebody driving down the road and then put it all back in a box, stick it in a garbage can and seal it up so if there's an EMP it's still ok. Or whatever your particular vent is, in that regard.

Jack Spirko: Sure

Clay Vitis: With amateur radio you have to know it. It has to become part of your life. Once you get to a certain point and decide you don't want to go any further, yeah you can back off of it. That's really what I've done is I got to a certain point, I understand how to use two meter, I know how to get on a repeater. You know what? I could ruin my life, but I got other stuff to do. So, why keep pushing it? Why keep being required to learn it and why maintain a license? The CB works everyday.

Jack Spirko: Yeah. And I mean I kind of look at it this way, it's not like that doesn't mean it's not practical to some people. If you are a radio nut and that makes you happy, I think you should go nuts with it. But I kind of look at it, like if somebody says to me, "Jack I'm thinking about buying this rifle for self-defense. And I am thinking about buying an AR." Well great, it's a good rife go buy one. They say, "Well, I'm going to get one of these custom made Katanas and all." Unless you train everyday as a security force specialist the off-the-rack rifle is everything you need, because you have other things to be doing in your life. And you'll never exceed the capabilities of good quality stock weapon. So, anything you do to beyond that, other than basic reliability is almost wasted overhead and wasted expense, because you can't outshoot the weapon.
Now if you ever get to where you can outshoot that weapon, and you want to go further, then you can go buy the $10,000 custom made rig. But it doesn't make sense. I kind of see that not just in radio, not just in weapons, but all things. And I tried to use something totally different than a radio to explain it, because that's how I feel.
Like the ham guy is the specialist guy. The ham guys always say to me, but this is like having a full toolbox instead of just a hammer. Well, that’s great, but I just want a hammer. I just want to knock the nail in and go on about my life. That's how I personally feel and that's not putting the ham guy down. That's just saying that's great for you, but I drive a F-350 Super Duty does that mean you should buy one too? Or you're happy with your Volkswagen Jetta, fine go drive that. That's kind of my view.

« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 10:32:20 PM by Shadowrider »

Offline Hootie

  • Written Word Wrangler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1190
  • Karma: 43
  • Just another day gardening in the heat of texas
    • Frozen Gardener
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2012, 11:14:22 PM »
Clay Vitis: Yeah, I agree with that. Here's the thing about the ham guys. The typical ham guy who's really involved in it, is really involved with it because he likes it and it excites him. He thinks everybody else should have that same joy that he has. And I can see that's kind of how I got into it. Somebody wanted me to get involved in it 'cause they really liked it and that's what got me started. And I got really excited about it and I wanted to get my wife involved in it. She said, "Aw, I think that's nerdy" <laughs>
Yeah, that's kind of why that's what the hams are all like. They're really excited about what they do and they don't think there's any better way to do it. This is the way to do it. We invent all the stuff that becomes mainstream, and all this. And you hear a lot of weird stuff. But the point is that you're really excited about it, and you can be really excited about anything. But if you're not looking for something that's going to take over your life, if you are looking for a good solid way to communicate with somebody, I really think CB is the best way to go.

Jack Spirko: Very cool. Well hey man, Clay. I know this is kind of like I just threw it out there, but I need somebody to come on and talk about this and you're one of the guys who put your hand up. I think you did a great job and I appreciate you being with us here with us today. I hope you get out of that truck stop sometime soon, man. Or at least they fix the toilets, one or the other, man.

Clay Vitis: <laughs> Hey, thanks for the opportunity, Jack. I really enjoyed this and appreciate to talk to you.

Jack Spirko: All right folks, and with that this has been Jack Spirko today along with Clay Vitis. Helping you figure out how to live that better life, if times get tough or even if they don't.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 10:33:56 PM by Shadowrider »

Offline Shadowrider

  • Survivor
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Karma: 25
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2012, 02:56:43 PM »
877 is proofed.

Good job, Hootie!   :happydance:

The final versions are found here, with thanks to Archer:

And thanks to Mr. Bill for cleaning up this thread.