This afternoon Jeff and I hiked to the top of Rancho San Antonio, and brought our hand held radios and a repeater book. From this hill in Los Altos, we just started to try and hit repeaters throughout the Valley. Overall, we did pretty good.
We hit all the Sunnyvale / Los Altos / other local repeaters no problem. We managed to hit Berkeley, which is pretty cool. But then we started thinking bigger. We started dialing up repeaters in Napa! By god, we managed to hit one. There was even someone on it to talk to us. They were in the middle of a rag chew in Napa, so we didn't get to talk to them or trade call signs, but just getting a signal strength from him was pretty cool. That's a good 60-70 miles straight shot.
We tried farther and farther repeaters until we just couldn't get anything more. In some directions, we were loosing our subadible tone, which tells the repeater to transmit, so we could be understood, but the repeater intermittently dropped us for not having the subtone. With other repeaters we were able to key them up fine, but couldn't get a legible signal through to save our lives. We managed to key up a repeater near Clear Lake; a good 120 miles away. With one of us talking, the other could definitely tell that the repeater was picking up, but all we could hear was static.
That is why I'm studying Morse code. With Morse code, just being able to tell that a signal is there is all you need to communicate. Overall it was a very fun afternoon, with some excercise, and I completely lost track of time and missed dinner.
Note: Keep in mind that we were doing all of this with manufacturers rubber duckies, so we weren't using any special antennas or anything. At some point this summer, I'm likely going to build a J pole antenna and we can see what I can get out of that.