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Member Profile
Trucker communicates with the world through ham radio
Joe Weischedel
Limerick, PA

Joe Weischedel, OOIDA member from Limerick, PA, has been trucking for 10 years — seven years as an owner-operator. Joe divides his spare time between his family (wife Debbie and his 3-year-old son J.R.), operating ham radio, playing drums and dabbling with electronics and computers. But ham radio tops his list of favorites.

He has a DX station at home for long-distance communication and a semi-local 2-meter radio in his truck. The system in his truck reaches a 75-mile radius, but he can link the system to other networks and reach as far as seven or eight states away.

Joe Weischedel has a long-distance ham radio station in his basment (below) and a semi-loca l radio in his truck (above).

Joe says ham radio differs from CB radio, but doesn’t replace the CB. Anyway, Joe likes getting away from some of the stuff he hears on the CB radio. Ham operators frown on the use of obscenities. However, he still uses the CB in case someone needs help, or if he needs directions. He even enjoys chatting on the CB, but doesn’t keep his CB on full time anymore.

Even 3-year-old J.R. has already started to show a little interest in dad’s radio. Joe says, “He’s amazed I can talk to people on the other side of the Earth.”

On the ham radio in his truck, Joe has communicated with another ham operator in Asiatic Russia. From home, he has talked with an operator on Easter Island off the coast of Chile and an expedition near the North Pole. Most recently he talked with men in Kuwait and in Uzbekistan where some of the U.S. troops are stationed inside the borders of Afghanistan. In the past four years, Joe has communicated with operators in more than 150 countries.

Joe says his love for electronics and computers developed when he was growing up and his father bought electronic kits from the old Heathkit stores. With these electronic kits you could build your own scanners, radios, etc. Joe says his experience building electronics from kits is one of the reasons he got into ham radio. He built his own ham radio and antennas.

Joe received his ham license, or “ticket” as he and his fellow hams call it, in 1997. He houses his ham radio, an ICOM 76, in the basement. Next to his radio, he tracks his communications using a map with pushpins marking the location of each operator with whom he has communicated. He explained he and the other members of the “brotherhood of ham” trade communication confirmation cards like postcards or baseball cards, trying to get cards from all the different countries.

“Some countries are harder to get than others because these countries ban ham radios all together,” Joe says. “That makes it more interesting because you find people in these countries using pirate radios. During an uprising or if they change political entities, it counts as a new country. We have contests to see who contacts the most countries.”

Joe is an active member of the American Radio Relay League, a national organization for amateur radio operators. “ARRL does a lot for ham radio, like OOIDA does for trucking,” Joe says. “ARRL keeps ban space so cell phones don’t take over, fights for antenna rights, educates operators on space limitations near airports and tower restrictions, and solves problems like how to minimize television interference.” He says anyone getting into ham radio can get information from ARRL’s web site at www.arrl.org or at RadioShack, where you can purchase study guides on ham radios. He also recommends learning Morse code because it opens up possibilities for communication with rare and distant stations.

Although ham radio is a big part of his life, Joe also likes ’70s and ’80s rock music and plays drums, trombone and guitar. While waiting to load and unload at a dock, Joe can be seen in his truck flailing his arms around like a mad man, but he’s actually practicing the drums with an electronic practice pad.

Joe grew up in Philadelphia, where he spent most of his life except for a four-year stint in the Army. He comes from a long line of truckers on his father’s side. His grandfather drove before trucks had rubber tires, and seven out of his grandfather’s nine sons were truckers. Leased to Boyle Brothers of Morrelton, NJ, he hauls building materials all along the East Coast in his 1995 FLD Freightliner 70-inch flattop with a Detroit Series 60 engine and an Eaton 9-speed overdrive transmission. He says he is pretty strategically located for the northeast corridor and is home almost every weekend. He tried hauling produce early on, but didn’t like being out 10-14 days at a time. “I like being home too much,” Joe said. “But, what I do now is enjoyable because I get home time.”

— by René Tankersley, feature editor

Correction–
In November’s member profile, it was reported that Bert Martin’s son died of a heart attack in Bert’s truck. Actually, Bert’s son died in his own truck, not his dad’s truck. Also, Bert’s dog took offense at being called Mr. Jinx, because his name is Mr. Jiggs.

 

Why are amateur radio operators called hams?

Here’s what the Amateur Radio Relay League says about ham.

Ham: a poor operator, a plug.

That’s the definition of the word given in G. M. Dodge’s The Telegraph Instructor, even before radio. The definition has never changed. The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their old profession.

In those early days, spark was king and every station occupied the same wavelength. Government stations, ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators competed for time and signal supremacy. Many of the amateur stations were very powerful. Two amateurs, working across town, could effectively jam the other operators in the area. When this happened, frustrated commercial operators would call the ship whose weaker signals had been blotted out by the amateurs and say “SORRY, THOSE #&$!@ HAMS ARE JAMMING YOU.” 

Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves in true “Yankee Doodle” fashion and wore it with pride. As the years advanced, the original meaning completely disappeared.

Aug/Sept Digital Edition